Friday, July 31, 2009

Bogden Renominated for Nevada US Attorney

It looks like Harry Reid may get his way after all. Only eight days after The Sun wrote about former US Attorney Daniel Bogden possibly being passed over for his old job, we find out that he will return after all.

A day after it was revealed that Bush administration strategist Karl Rove had played a greater role than previously acknowledged in the political purges of U.S. Attorneys, the Obama administration announced that it is nominating one of those Bush-era casualties back to his post.

On Friday, the White House announced the nomination of four U.S. Attorneys, including Daniel G. Bogden for the District of Nevada. Bogden's bio, as submitted by the White House, glossed over the controversial episode in which he lost his job several years ago. He was listed as "a partner in the Nevada law firm of McDonald Carano Wilson" who had "previously served as United States Attorney for the District of Nevada from 2001 to 2007."

But for those who followed the dismissal of U.S. attorneys in late 2006, Bogden's name is quite familiar. He was one of seven or eight U.S. attorneys who was dismissed by the Bush White House for what is widely believed to be political motivations, such as the unwillingness to investigate weak charges of voter fraud or political corruption.

Bogden, like his other fired colleagues, had initially been appointed by President Bush, which suggests that he is a Republican (there are no records of Bogden making political donations). That he would be reinstated by a Democratic administration to the position he lost is undoubtedly meant to be a message from the Obama White House that they are elevating law above politics, or at least removing partisanship from the Department of Justice.

Good on Obama and Reid. Bogden was unfairly fired by Bush for simply doing his job. He clearly deserves his job back. A US Attorney should be concerned about defending our Constitution, not allowing politicians to destroy it.

Yay for Health Care Deal? UPDATED!

Original 9:50 AM post:

For me, the jury's still out on this emerging health care deal in the House Energy & Commerce Committee. On one hand, it looks like progressives got some subsidies to working poor families reinstated as a Republican attempt to again attack women's reproductive rights failed. However, the public option still looks weakened and many House progressives are still concerned about the remaining Blue Dog approved reductions in aid to low and middle-income working families.

The liberal lawmakers voiced concern that the agreement would reduce federal subsidies intended to help people with low or moderate incomes buy insurance. In addition, they contended that the deal would weaken the proposed new government health insurance plan, which would compete with private insurers.

Moreover, the liberals also expressed a political concern, saying House leaders had compromised too early. “Under the agreement, private insurers are coming off unscathed,” said Representative Peter Welch, Democrat of Vermont.

He added, “They do quite well — too well, frankly.”

Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York, said, “The public plan was eviscerated” under the deal announced Wednesday to get the bill moving again in the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Mr. Engel was less than enthusiastic about the resulting legislation. “It’s not a terrible bill,” he said, “but it’s not what I had hoped for.”

Meanwhile, some freshman Democrats still act like they have to be afraid of something that a strong majority of Americans support. It seems they still don't realize that if they can't support health care reform, then there's no point in running for reelection. Now is the time to get it done, and now is the time to enact a comprehensive solution that will get most everyone covered, ensure that we the consumers get the most out of what we pay, and lower costs across the board.

So hopefully, the final House bill will still be worth supporting. And hopefully, it will be able to push the final conference bill to the left, which means to actual sanity. I guess I'm still encouraged, but I'm also definitely keeping a watchful eye on these negotiations.

UPDATE: More details have emerged on the new House Energy & Commerce deal on health care. And fortunately, it looks like progressives are improving it.

[M]any liberals on Waxman's panel balked at some of the concessions, particularly an agreement that cut subsidies to low- and middle-income families for insurance premiums. This provided potentially more than $50 billion in savings to the overall cost of the legislation, but at the cost of cutting into working-class earners' ability to get affordable insurance.

"That added insult to injury," said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), who helped negotiate the deal reached Friday morning.

The new deal, expected to be agreed to in an amendment to the 1,000-page package Friday afternoon, would find savings in part by forcing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to pay claims electronically and by allowing the federal government to negotiate prescription drug prices under the Medicare program.

Calling this a "unity amendment," the liberal and conservative Democrats hope to steer those savings back into subsidies for lower-income people in a health insurance exchange.

"We don't want to take that out of the hide of middle- and lower-class people," DeGette said.

DeGette said the original deal cut too deeply into the legislation's government-financed public plan, in which liberals had hoped to tie payments for health-care providers to Medicare rates, which are generally lower than what private insurers pay out. That deal forced the public plan to negotiate its payments with doctors and hospitals similar to the way private insurance companies currently do. The conservative Democrats who pushed for the arrangement argued that Medicare's rates traditionally were lower to rural hospitals and doctors as opposed to urban hospitals.

Hopefully, this means progressives are taking control of the health care debate and making Democratic leadership pass a good bill.

Wherein The Washington Post Jumps the Shark

Seriously, have you seen this? How is this funny?

OK, so my favorite HOTlanta housewives are always funny! However, Dana Milbank & Chris Cilizza are not. I don't even want to embed the YouTube video here, as it's a racist, sexist, and all around disgusting. Come on, it makes VH1 & Bravo look classy! But if you must click, downrate while you're watching it to let The Washington Post know that misogyny is never "cool".

NV-03: Dina Titus Answers My Questions

OK, this is what I was waiting for. Dina Titus finally answered my questions on health care! Was it what I was hoping for? Not exactly, but hopefully she's being honest when she says she hasn't already decided to block HR 3200.

July 31, 2009

Andrew Davey


Henderson, NV 89074

Dear Andrew,

Thank you for contacting me about health insurance reform. Americans across the country are struggling to afford the high price of health care or lack access to the care they need, and I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns.

In Nevada nearly a quarter of 18- to 64-year-olds go without health care coverage, and as the effects of the recession continue to grip our region, more Nevadans are losing their insurance or are finding it harder to keep up with rising costs. Nevada's small businesses are also feeling the strain, as the high cost of health care is making them less competitive and dragging them down at a time when they are struggling to stay afloat.

As the health care debate in Washington, D.C., continues, one thing is clear: The status quo is unacceptable. In my 20 years in the Nevada Legislature and in my short time in Congress, I have strongly supported health insurance reform. I campaigned on the issue, President Barack Obama has promised it, the people have demanded it, and the country needs it.

The average American family pays an extra $1,100 a year in premiums to support the uninsured. And with premiums having doubled in nine years and growing three times as fast as wages, now is the time to act.

But to make health insurance reform a success, we must do it right. Nevada and our nation need health insurance reform that lowers costs, improves the quality of care and allows those who like their doctor or current plan to keep both. I want people to be in control of their health care, not insurance company CEOs or government.

Reforming our health care system is a critical component of our nation's long-term fiscal health, and we must ensure that the steps we take do not unfairly burden small businesses. Small businesses are the engines of growth in our economy, and their recovery will be critical to our efforts to pull Nevada out of this recession and create jobs that put people back to work.

Many positive aspects of health insurance reform were included in legislation that came before the House Education and Labor Committee on which I serve. Ending the practice of denial based on preexisting conditions and preventing insurance companies from placing a cap or limit on the benefits they will cover are critical reforms that we must pursue. I also support proposals to eliminate co-pays for preventive care.

But I also have concerns about the effect the legislation could have on our small businesses. I want to make it very clear that my opposition to this bill in the committee was not to protect the rich or put the needs of the few above the needs of the many, but to say that we can do better.

Businesses in Southern Nevada are struggling, making it harder for Nevadans to find jobs, let alone ones that provide health care. The current version of this legislation increases taxes that could hurt our small businesses and slow economic recovery at a time when we must do all that we can to strengthen the businesses that are the backbone of our economy.

It is also critical that Congress continues to explore other options to pay for health insurance reform, looking at every alternative before turning to increased taxes. This includes cutting back on waste, fraud and abuse in the system. We should invest in health information technology, which will make health care more efficient and affordable by reducing administrative costs and duplicative tests.

We also need to invest more in preventive care and wellness and control skyrocketing drug prices. There is still room for additional concessions from private insurers and pharmaceutical companies as well.

As the effort to reform our health care system continues, I look forward to seeing a final bill that meets the critical principles of controlling costs, providing choice, expanding access and strengthening the competitiveness of our small businesses. Only then will we have real health insurance reform that will give people the coverage and peace of mind they need.

Thank you again for taking the time to get involved. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of future service.


Dina Titus
Member of Congress

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Why Steve Wynn Doesn't Make a Good Politician

Sorry, but he doesn't. Yes, he runs two beautiful casinos on The Strip. Yes, I love to visit them, gamble in them, and dine at the wonderful restaurants in them. Yes, Wynn runs a very LGBT-friendly company and I thank him for that. However, he just doesn't get what's going on in Washington.

Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn today used the forum of a telephone conference call about his company's quarterly finances to criticize President Obama.

Critical of the current presidential administration for months, Wynn, chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts, voiced more criticism today in a conference call to investors, analysts and reporters.

“Right now we are more afraid of Washington than we are of the economy. We’ve got people on our backs saying don’t go to Las Vegas which is preposterous,” Wynn said. “People are beginning to ignore some of this bombastic rhetoric from the White House and that’s encouraging.” [...]

“We’ve got the government on our back. Not just Las Vegas but all business. There’s a very definite bias in this administration that business is bad,” Wynn said. “I don’t know how long it’s going to take for them to get over this but it’s awful.” [...]

“In America, we have a government that has decided anybody who creates jobs must be bad; that the job creators must have a target on their back. What a remarkable misunderstanding,” Wynn said. “That’s not the case in Macau and it’s not the case in The People’s Republic of China and maybe we can all learn a lesson on what happens there.”

Wynn was also critical of President Obama’s health care proposal, calling the plan a “train wreck.”

Excuse me, but... HUH??!! First off, need we still talk about President Obama's critique of Wall Street bailouts gone amok from last February? That speech was NOT saying "don't go to Las Vegas", but rather telling corporate executives to stop wasting our tax dollars on their pleasure trips to wherever! I'm sorry, but I'd rather have my tax money be spent on our health care and our economic recovery than giving some stupid, overpaid MBA jocks "play money" to waste at The Palazzo.

And really, does Steve Wynn want to be US President? What are his ideas for tackling corporate corruption (which was what that Obama speech was really about) or getting health care reform passed?

Now don't get me wrong, President Obama has irritated me at times for being overly conciliatory with Republicans and "Blue Dog" Democrats(?) and allowing Wall Street to continue pillaging our Treasury as they whine about how we can't "afford health care". However, I'd still take him any day over someone who messes with card dealers' tips while claiming that he can't afford to pay them all fair wages.

I really don't know if Steve Wynn is deliberately trying to mislead people or if he's so distraught over his new divorce from Elaine that he can't think clearly. Whatever it is, he needs to think twice before putting his foot in his mouth (again!). I really wish Wynn can focus on what he does best, which is running fine Vegas casinos, because he obviously doesn't know much about politics.

What Harry Reid Really Thinks About Health Care

Wow! I just got a letter back from Harry Reid's Senate office on health care. And better yet, he's finally giving us the Nevada voters some specifics on what he wants seen in the final Senate bill. I just hope this means he'll fight like hell for something that looks more like the HELP Committee bill and not the Baucus Caucus crap.

Perhaps we need to drop him another line and encourage him to keep up the good work on health care. Again, I don't mind the wait until September just so long as we get something good out of the wait.

July 30, 2009

Mr. Andrew Davey



Henderson, Nevada 89074

Dear Mr. Davey:

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts regarding health care reform. I appreciate hearing from you.

In America today, concerns about our health care system have been rightly brought to the forefront of the national consciousness. Many of us are familiar with the reports of 47 million uninsured Americans, escalating prescription drug prices, and declining health insurance benefits. Unfortunately, for too many across Nevada and the country, these facts and statistics are not anonymous findings removed from daily life. As a fellow Nevadan, and as the Senate Majority Leader, I know that millions like you are struggling with the reality of America's health care crisis.

Amid our health care crisis, however, I believe there are opportunities for members of Congress, the President and his Administration, the private sector, and other stakeholders to work together for the benefit of the American people. It is my hope that the solutions we develop and enact will ensure quality, affordable health care coverage for all Americans-regardless of their age, income, employment, or health status. I share your dismay about the state of health care in this country, and as we work toward comprehensive reform, I am also mindful of minimizing disruptions for those fortunate enough to have good coverage. Therefore, I believe that if you prefer the coverage you have, you should be able to keep it. I also support the creation of a public option that would keep the insurance companies honest and provide care that puts patients first. Real reform will also eliminate pre-existing condition exclusions, guarantee coverage to everyone regardless of health status or gender, and strictly limit age rating.

During the 111th session of Congress, we have already made significant improvements to our healthcare and public health systems. For example, in February we passed an expansion and extension of the vital Children's Health Insurance Program (P.L. 111-3), known as Nevada Check Up in our state. This legislation will expand coverage to an additional 4.1 million low-income children across our country. I am also pleased that as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5), billions of dollars have been allocated for health information technology, the National Institute of Health for research and development, and for prevention and wellness programs. In addition, the federal matching payments for state Medicaid programs have been increased, and a temporary subsidy for COBRA premiums has been implemented to help ease the burden for hard-working families affected by the economic crisis. Finally, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (P.L. 111-31) was signed into law by President Obama on June 22, 2009. This legislation, which I cosponsored, gives the FDA the legal authority necessary to reduce youth smoking, prevent the sale of tobacco to minors, help current smokers quit, reduce the toxicity of tobacco products, and stop the tobacco industry from misleading the public with their understated claims about the dangers of using tobacco products.

We have taken the first steps in a long, arduous journey towards reform, and there is still much more to be done. Please know that as we move forward, I will keep your ideas and concerns in mind. It is my hope that we can make affordable, comprehensive health coverage a reality for so many Americans who are currently struggling to pay their medical bills, and make ends meet.

Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. For more information about my work for Nevada, my role in the United States Senate Leadership, or to subscribe to regular e-mail updates on the issues that interest you, please visit my Web site at I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

My best wishes to you.



United States Senator


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

House Reaches Compromise on Health Care... UPDATED!

Original 10:37 AM story:

Yes, it looks like HR 3200 will finally reach the House floor. However, it won't be until September. From TPM DC:

After a week or so of canceled hearings, the Energy and Commerce Committee will continue to mark up House health care legislation this afternoon, and pass a bill by the end of the week. On substance, the exemption from penalties to small businesses that do not provide health care to workers has been raised slightly to include small businesses with payrolls of $500,000 per year or less.

The public option hasn't gone away, and remains in tact. States will be able to erect health care co-operatives if they choose, but that would be in addition to the public option.

I'm still not entirely clear where the $100 billion cost cut comes from, and, as before, it's hard to know what will happen to the politics of this over the August recess. But there will almost certainly be a bill ready for a vote when the House comes back into session in September.

So the bad news is that $100 billion will be cut from something... Unless it's (hopefully!) money being cut from the insurance industry giveaways, although I doubt we'll see many cuts from there.

Still, there's some good news. The public option looks safe and sound. The employer mandate has NOT been stripped (unlike the Baucus Caucus POS bill). And best yet, it looks like the final version of HR 3200 will avoid becoming a harmful unfunded individual mandate.

See, this is what happens with effective Democratic leadership! Kudos to Nancy Pelosi and Henry Waxman from my old home state, along with all the other Dem leaders who stood their ground. I wonder if Harry Reid will get the message.

UPDATE: Whoops, I may have spoken too soon.

House liberals have quickly rejected a healthcare compromise their leaders forged with centrist Blue Dogs, putting the deal on shaky ground only hours after it was announced.

"It's unacceptable," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. "We're not going to vote for anything that doesn't have a robust public plan."

The Progressive Caucus has 83 members. Members are circulating a letter for signatures protesting the deal.

Woolsey said liberals cannot accept that the public plan will not be linked to Medicare, and said subsidies have been cut to the point where the plan won't help the middle class.

Uh oh. I may need to do some more research. New details have emerged on this compromise, and now they're not looking so good. The public option is still there, but it's been weakened in this Blue Dog approved "compromise" by cutting ties to Medicare (thereby leaving it more vulnerable if, say, a future President Palin or Jindal decided to undo health care and slash funding) and reducing subsidies for middle-class families. This sucks. If this is what the final House bill will really look like, I may need to rethink whether I actually want Dina Titus to vote for it.

NV-03: Dina Titus' Office on Her Cosponsoring DADT Repeal

This just in from Dina Titus' office. Again, this is great news. Another of Nevada's Congresscritters is taking action to end military discrimination and strengthen America's security. I just hope we can get the final bill passed and signed into law ASAP so we don't see any more good soldiers fired for no good reason.

Congresswoman Dina Titus announced today that she has signed on to cosponsor H.R. 1283, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which repeals the military’s policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“I am proud to cosponsor this important legislation that will end this policy that has only served to weaken our Armed Forces and institutionalize discrimination against brave men and women in the LBGT community who want to serve their country,” Congresswoman Titus said. “Gay and lesbian service members make the same sacrifice as their straight counterparts when they put on our nation’s uniform and march into battle, and they should receive the same respect and dignity.”

The20“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy has cost our nation more than 13,000 qualified servicemen and women.& nbsp;20This includes more than 800 medics, fighter pilots, and others deemed to be “mission critical” according to a 2005 GAO report at a time when our Armed Forces are stretched thin. In addition, 58 Arabic linguists who would be translating vital information that is critical to our national security have been discharged under the law.

Congresswoman Titus is joined in her support to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by more than 100 retired generals and admirals, including former Secretary of the Army Clifford Alexander, who have sent a letter to Congress urging the repeal of this law. In addition, more than 4,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have signed a petition calling on President Obama to end this policy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Uh Oh, Station Casinos Goes Chapter 11

That is, Station is going bankrupt. However, they insist it will only be "reorganization" and it won't affect employees or gamblers.

Station officials today said the company's casino operating subsidiaries did not file for bankruptcy and that the company will continue normal operations at all of its properties under the direction of its existing management. In addition to cash generated from its operating subsidiaries and affiliates, the company has in place an agreement with its senior secured lenders that, subject to court approval, permits it to borrow, as needed, up to $150 million of cash from one of its non-operating subsidiaries. [...]

"All of our casinos will continue to operate as usual and we will continue to provide our guests with the same great value and entertainment choices they have always enjoyed at our properties," said Kevin Kelley, chief operating officer of Station Casinos. "From our loose slots, to honoring points earned in our Boarding Pass program, to our great promotions and contests ... it’s business as usual at Station Casinos."

Because of reductions in cash flow tied to the recession, the company is having difficulty serving its debt load of $5.74 billion and in February started negotiating with key bondholders regarding a proposed prepackaged bankruptcy filing in which bondholders would have made concessions and Station's owners, the Fertitta family and Colony Capital, would invest another $244 million in the company and remain in control of Station.

So for now, I guess I won't have to worry about the points I earn at Green Valley Ranch or my friend who works at Sunset Station. However, we'll probably need to keep a close eye on this one. Bondholders and others have been pressuring the Fertitta family for quite a while to sell some or all Station properties to Boyd Gaming. One bondholder even tried suing Station executives over possible debt restructuring. I don't know how likely it is that the Fertittas will keep their hold on this company, but I guess this is their last chance to keep the company in their family.

Hopefully whatever comes out of bankruptcy, it won't cause any more pain to Greater Las Vegas.

Survey Sez: Nevadans More Accepting of LGBT Civil Rights

According to Columbia University, there's been major movement nationwide on public opinion of LGBT civil rights. Throughout the nation, more and more Americans in more and more states now favor full civil marriage rights, anti-discrimination protections, same-sex family adoptions, and domestic partner health benefits. And you know what the really great news is? Even our own Silver State is finally coming into the 21st Century!

Support in Nevada for:

- 2nd parent adoption is 48%

- hate crimes protection is 73%

- domestic partner health benefits is 63%

- anti-discrimination protection for housing is 78%

- anti-discrimination protection for jobs is 65%

- civil unions (aka domestic partnerships [DPs]) is 55%

- full civil marriage equality is 46%

Yes, Nevada has really come a long way. We finally got DPs passed this year, along with some stronger anti-discrimination laws. However, those laws still don't cover transgender Nevadans. A number of public and private employers still don't offer full DP benefits. And yes, we still don't yet have full civil marriage rights.

Obviously, we still have plenty of work to do. It's at least heartening to see public opinion move in the right direction. I just wonder how Jimmy "LuvGuv" Gibbons and Johnny "Casino" Ensign can look at these numbers and think they're truly representing Nevada by being such big homophobes.

More Ensign Woes

No, it won't stop... "Ensign-gate" just gets weirder and weirder.

First to go were the interns.

Days after Republican Sen. John Ensign admitted an affair, e-mail from his office intercepted by The Washington Post asked if any others on the Hill had room for “some really great interns that want to relocate to another office.”

Last week Ensign announced a wholesale shake-up of his top staff.

Ensign’s chief of staff, John Lopez, is stepping down after spending much of his professional career with the senator, as is his communications director, Tory Mazzola.

Yes, even more Ensign staffers are headed for the hills! And who's to blame them? They know Johnny Casino's a political goner... Even if he doesn't.

Oh, and I'm pretty sure I know why more and more staffers are fleeing. Apparently, the scandaliciousness is getting even juicier!

Questions remain unanswered about the senator’s relationship with Cynthia Hampton, a campaign staffer when the affair started in late 2007. Her husband, Doug Hampton, was a top Ensign aide at the time. The affair ended in August 2008.

And new questions are emerging.

The latest is why Mazzola received a 50 percent salary increase during the six months from April 2008 to September 2008, about the time the Hamptons stopped working for the senator.

In April the senator’s parents paid $96,000 to the Hampton family — a payment Ensign’s attorney said is a gift but an ethics group wants investigated.

Senate records show Mazzola was paid nearly $35,000 for the half-year from spring to fall in 2007, and again for the six months from fall 2007 to spring 2008, according to

But for April to September 2008, the spokesman’s pay shot up to nearly $53,000 without an overt change in job title.

Those familiar with Senate office pay structure said the sudden increase could have been for various reasons: New duties, accumulated vacation pay or a bonus. One-time bonuses, especially at the holidays or end of the fiscal year as this was, are common.

Salaries are set at the discretion of the office, so long as they do not exceed the senator’s pay.

During the next reporting period, from October 2008 to April 2009, Mazzola’s salary dropped to $45,000, or about 15 percent.

Ensign’s office on Monday declined to respond to questions about the salary boost.

So what's with all that extra money for Tory Mazzola? What was it, more hush money? Something else? Johnny has some (MORE!) explaining to do.

The Truth About "Co-op" Health Care

Desert Beacon does a great job of debunking the myths and deconstructing the spin behind the latest "centrist compromise" proposal. I just hope this isn't the final proposal. If it is, then I'll actually want Dina Titus to vote against it!

Believe it or not, no health bill would actually be better than an unfunded individual mandate and worthless "co-ops" that would do nothing other than bail out the "sick care" industry.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Stonewall Democrats Thank Harry Reid for Standing Strong on DADT

I just got this message from the National Stonewall Democrats. I guess, at least for now, we have some reason to be proud of our Senior Senator. Harry Reid seems to be growing some spine on LGBT civil rights. I hope he follows through, and I hope he doesn't give in on health care.

But enough of my ranting, let's talk good news today. :-)

Stonewall Democrats applauds Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for his recent leadership on issues of importance to LGBT and allied Democrats. Senator Reid's public call for a "permanent" moratorium on the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and his saavy handling of a successful cloture vote on the Matthew Shepard Actwere strong demonstrations of his commitment to the LGBT community, and are worthy of commendation.

The 1993 law known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" bars gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. Since the inception of the policy, more than 13,000 people have been discharged solely on the basis of sexual orientation, including many with specialized or unique skills and language training.

When asked about a proposal being offered by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) that would suspend the discharge of gay and lesbian service members for 18 months, Senator Reid declared his support, and then went even further - he stated that he would like to see a full repeal of the ban, saying "If Kirsten offers this amendment I will support it... my only difference I would have is I would make it permanent."

In addition, Senator Reid's strong leadership and impassioned rhetoric on behalf of the Matthew Shepard Act were instrumental in the bill's passage.

"For the last decade, Matthew Shepard's name has been associated with hate crimes. When this bill passes, his name wil thereafter be associated with justice," Senator Reid said.

Stonewall Democrats Communications Director Jenna Lowenstein commented: "Stonewall Democrats congratulates Senator Reid for taking such a principled stand on these issues of critical importance to LGBT and allied people. His position on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" indicates an understanding that the law is both an affront to fairness and equality and detrimental to our national security. And his eloquent statements on behalf of hate crimes legislation were heartfelt and important to the bill's success."

She added, "The Stonewall Democrats of Southern Nevada a long history of supporting Senator Reid and working with him on important issues. Such strong actions from the Senator are a validation of the chapter's past and future work on his behalf."

In addition to doing direct voter contact for his past reelection campaigns, the chapter and its members have hosted several successful LGBT-focused fundraisers for Senator Reid. In addition, past work of the Stonewall Democrats of Southern Nevada has been instrumental in shaping Senator Reid's views on LGBT issues, including his opposition to the federal marriage amendment in 2004.

With more than 120 local chapters, including Stonewall Democrats of Southern Nevada, National Stonewall Democrats is the national organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and allied Democrats. Stonewall Democrats works to elect pro-equality Democrats to public office and improve the Democratic Party on issues important to pro-equality Americans.

New Home Sales Show Sign of Recovery?

Maybe... But not so fast. Remember that this is being fueled by "bargain hunters" looking for deeply discounted foreclosure and short sale homes. Hopefully the buying spree will continue, but I don't know how it can if unemployment goes higher and wages fall lower.

The Commerce Department reported that sales of new single-family homes rose 11 percent in June, an increase that dwarfed economists’ expectations of a 3 percent increase. The pace of home sales rose to a seasonally adjusted rate of 384,000 a year, the highest level since November.

But the figures offered no sign that the housing market had returned to health.

Despite the monthly increase, sales of new homes were still down 21 percent from June 2008. The market is still swamped by a glut of for-sale houses. And new homes, facing competition from cheap foreclosures, are sitting on the market for close to a year before they sell, compared with a median time of six months on the market in 2007.

The Reality of "Canada Care"

OK, OK, I did it again. I jumped into a heated discussion on health care in the comment section of today's Sun story. I can't help it!

But hey, at least one of the smart commenters noted today's HuffPo diary from an American experiencing that horrid right-wing nightmare that is "Canadian Socialized Medicine". And guess what? He's still alive & kicking!

And O by the way did you know that according to the largest survey on primary health care ever conducted in Canada that most people have high praise for their family doctor and a staggering 92% would recommend their physician to a relative or friend; that they have excellent access to primary care and experience relatively short wait times for treatment and that the concept of prevention is strongly built into the public's understanding of viable and efficient national health care?

And they're not teeth-gnashing, flag-waving Red menaces. Well, maybe during the Stanley Cup playoffs they are.

For you see, Canadians enjoy a quality of health care (and, subsequently, quality of life) that has been demonized by the bitter mouthpieces for the corporate health cabal in these United States, who themselves have much to lose if American citizens choose a national health care plan:

Firstly, they would lose all the profits wrung from an aging and increasingly unfit population (66% of Americans over age 20 are overweight or obese) which is dependent on exorbitantly priced medications.

Secondly, they would lose their power to influence political policies involving unregulated production or research into more affordable medicines, policies which ultimately favor them and their fellow capitalisto fuck-buddies over the ailing and elderly.

And thirdly, what I just said but double.

The radical right always tries to scare us with the Canadian, British, and French "socialized medicine bogeymen", but never tell us that in all 3 of these nations, along with all other developed nations with single-payer health care, that they all have overall higher life expectancy and a better standard of living. (Hint: Look beyond the initial per capita income to see what they can pay for with their money as we toil away at our work just to barely get by and pay for the HMO plan, prescription drugs, other out-of-pocket expenses, etc.).

And for all the usual arguments that "America has the best health care system in the world" and "people from all over the world come here for good care", they also forget to give us a little caveat. "America's best health care" is only available to the super-wealthy that can afford it! What other developed society has so many of its people rely on the emergency room for primary care, has so many uninsured people, so many "insured people" who still pay through the nose for inadequate care, and so many damned diseases ravaging the population?

If Obama, Reid, and Pelosi really wanted to solve our health care crisis and truly bring about universal health care, they'd just push for a "Medicare for All" American single-payer program that would take the best of the British, Canadian, and French programs, then adapt them for this country. But alas, the "sick care" industry would never allow that! And worse yet, it's been like pulling teeth just to get "centrist" (read "corporatist") Democrats & Republicans to even allow a public option that would let us choose a public plan over the usual HMO crap.

It's too bad that what most Americans usually hear about a Canadian style single-payer system is how "scary" it is when the truth is far from scary. Really, why should we be so afraid of lower costs, better care, and longer life expectancy? If we were to ignore the whining and screaming from the "sick care" industry and enact a real universal health care system, we'd be far better off. O' Canada, indeed.

"Food, Inc." Now Showing in Las Vegas

As I've said before, I'm not a one-trick pony. I have many different interests, with food being one of the top. I LOVE cooking my own meals. I feel so blessed to now have a kitchen big enough and modern enough (don't ask about my old digs in SoCal!) to give me the opportunity to experiment more with my cooking.

However, I must also admit that I enjoy the occasional night out. And yes, when I go out I sometimes like to go "all out" and check out one of those "fancy schmancy dancy" places that get all those rave reviews. That's why I always check out local restaurant John Curtas' wonderful Eating Las Vegas blog before making my next fine dining reservation.

So anyway, I noticed yesterday that John Curtas mentioned "Food, Inc." coming to town. I was quite excited in learning this... Until I found out it's only showing at the Regal theater on Sahara in Summerlin South. Still, I want to make the effort to trek across town to see it. I hope you can, too.

Why? I'll let Mr. Curtas explain:

The message of Food Inc. is that the giant corporations that control our food supply don’t want us to know what we’re eating. Ignorance is bliss to their corporate thinking, and the less we know about how that chicken was raised, or the predatory practices of soybean farming, the more we will continue blissfully strolling down the center aisles of our supermarkets, shoving processed corn, soy and wheat products into our pieholes to their everloving profits and our everlasting doom.

If you’ve read Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation or Michael Pollan’s Ominvore’s Dilemma or In Defense of Food, nothing on the screen will be news to you. But watching an overweight, diabetes-ridden poor family fill up on cheap protein from a fast food window drives home the point that we have sold our souls to high-fructose corn-syrup, genetically-adulterated soy-fed-white-meat-bred-botched-bovine-mad-cow-corporate madness. The thinking of which goes something like: because we can do something (and make a healthy profit) we should do it. [...]

The facts are we are the most unhealthy first world country on the planet – one in five children born after 2000 will suffer from juvenile diabetes – one in two if they come from a minority background.

There is a direct cause and effect between the over-sugared, fat and carb-laden meals that lower income families can feast on, and these statistics. Food Inc. drives home the point that back in the fifties, government subsidies allowed the wheat, corn and soybean mega-farms to produce such an abundance of these easily storable commodities, that it was only a matter of time until food scientists figured out how to adulterate them into virtually every kind of food imaginable. And it’s a short hop from artificially low production costs to a 99 cent Happy Meal.

This is why I mostly stopped eating fast food long, long ago. (And even when I occasionally do, I'm careful about where I order it.) Believe it or not, humans were not made to survive on high-fructose corn syrup, bleached flour, and grease alone. Actually, we shouldn't be having too much of any of that. But thanks to an outdated agricultural regime that refers to corporate agribusiness as "family farmers" as they give them subsidy after subsidy to keep producing this garbage that plagues many communities (especially poorer inner city communities) in nearby fast-food joints and convenience stores, we now have an obesity epidemic and scores of health problems that were unimaginable not that long ago.

Sometimes, I feel guilty that I can go to Trader Joe's and buy fresh, local, and organic produce while even some in my family (especially the ones living in poorer inner city areas in places like San Francisco & Orange County) say they usually can only afford that greasy "McMeal Combo" or pre-packaged convenience store sandwich. It's sad that the inequality in this society even extends to the very food we eat. Many of us can enjoy the better food in life while others are pretty much forced to eat this synthetic crap.

So anyway, please see "Food, Inc." at the Regal theater in Summerlin South. And once you're done seeing the film, consider doing something to give more people access to the good food that so many of us take for granted.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Some Recovery Is Better Than None?

I guess that's how I feel right now about the federal stimulus. I'm still not sure we're actually spending enough on job creation. I still think too much was spent on corporate tax breaks and not enough on direct aid.

However, there's at least some direct aid and it looks like Nevada will get at least 34,000 saved or newly created jobs out of it. Hey, it's better than nothing.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Johnny Casino Touring the World @ "The Family's" Expense

Ewww, creepy!

Republican Sen. John Ensign took three trips paid for by an arm of the religious group The Family, which operates the C Street house that has been at the center of recent sex scandals involving the Nevadan and other elected officials.

The trips Ensign took in 2003 and 2004 to Tokyo and the Middle East were apparently allowed under congressional ethics laws that have since been rewritten to restrict privately funded travel.

But the trips have come to light as questions have arisen about the secretive group and its work with elected officials.

Ensign and Republican South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford have admitted to extramarital affairs. Both have ties to C Street. Former Republican Rep. Chip Pickering has been accused of an affair while he lived there.

Author Jeff Sharlet, whose book “The Family” includes insight from his month spent living with the organization, wrote that “The Family acts today like the most powerful lobby in America that isn’t registered as a lobby — and is thus immune from the scrutiny attending the other powerful organizations.”

Sharlet wrote this week on that the group sends its members around the world to spread what he calls Biblical capitalism — a brand of fiscal conservatism rooted in the philosophy of the group’s founder, who believed the Great Depression was God’s punishment for the socialist leanings of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In the group’s earlier days, it was supportive of the anti-communist campaign of Indonesian dictator Suharto, and “sent delegations of congressmen and oil executives to pray to Jesus with the Muslim leader,” Sharlet said.

OK, so this was legal back when Ensign made these trips. But still, it doesn't look right. Is he really serving us the people of Nevada? Or is he just a tool of these C Street fanatics?

The more answers emerge, the more questions we need answered.

No Health Care Legislation Ready by August Break?

Cheese, louise. Our "representatives" in Washington have it way too easy.

The Senate will not vote on health care legislation before leaving for its summer recess on Aug. 8, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said on Thursday, finally acknowledging publicly the inescapable political reality that has been clear for several days.

Mr. Reid, speaking at a weekly news conference, said he expected a bipartisan deal on health care legislation to emerge from the Senate Finance Committee before the summer recess begins, and that he would spend the break merging that bill with legislation previously approved by the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. [...]

But at the news conference on Thursday, Mr. Reid shrugged at a question about the timetable and told reporters that it should come as no surprise to anyone that the health care legislation would not be ready, though he also tried to put the blame for the delay on Republicans – saying that they had asked for time.

“Working with the Republicans, one of the things that they asked for was to have more time,” Mr. Reid said. “A decision was made to give them more time for the Finance Committee.” He added: “I don’t think it’s unreasonable. This is a complex, difficult issue.”

Republicans may be saying "go slow", but they really mean "no go". If we can't get health care passed this year, I don't know if we ever will. Reid really needs to crack that whip and stop ConservaDems like Max Baucus (D?-Montana) and Kent Conrad (D?-North Dakota) from giving away the whole shop to the GOP as they keep delaying this and delaying this to the never approachable future.

NV-03: Maybe Dina Is Finally Seeing the Light?

There's still hope, I guess. H/T to Desert Beacon for pointing out The Sun's piece on "Dina's Folly" where she said that she may now support a modified "millionaire's tax" that would only levy a surtax on incomes of over $1 million per year, and that she may even vote for the final bill if the current tax structure is still left in place. It's progress, and it's obviously a sign that our pressure on Dina Titus is working.

Keep calling (202) 225-3252 and ask the staffers to tell Dina that we elected her to office last year on the promise that she would deliver on health care reform. And if they're still not giving good enough answers, keep leaving messages on her email contact form. Let's flood her office with our messages until we know for sure that she will vote for a bill with a strong public option, real regulatory reform that will help consumers, and a sane & sensible way to finance all of this.

I haven't lost hope on her. I know deep down, she wants to do the right thing. She just needs to stop listening to the "political advisers" telling her to be Republican-lite and remember who sent her to Congress in the first place.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Common Sense Prevailed in the Senate... Really??!!

Yes, believe it or not, the latest right-wing attempt to dismantle gun safety laws on the state level was defeated.

The Senate on Wednesday turned aside the latest attempt by gun advocates to expand the rights of gun owners, narrowly voting down a provision that would have allowed gun owners with valid permits from one state to carry concealed weapons in other states as well.

A group comprising mostly Republicans, along with some influential Democrats, had tried to attach the gun amendment to the annual defense authorization bill, a must-pass piece of legislation. But the provision got only 58 votes, two short of the 6o votes needed for passage under Senate rules.

Two Republicans, Senators Richard Lugar of Indiana and George Voinovich of Ohio, joined with 37 Democrats to reject the amendment, which was bitterly opposed by a number of big-city mayors, including Michael R. Bloomberg of New York. “Lives have been saved with the defeat of this amendment. The passage of this amendment would have done more to threaten the safety of New Yorkers than anything since the repeal of the assault weapons ban,” Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York and a leading opponent of the amendment, said in a statement.

The provision was pushed by Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, but was co-sponsored by several Democrats from states where gun rights are broadly supported, like Montana, where Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester both favored it. The Senate’s majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada — who is up for re-election in 2010 — also supported the amendment. [...]

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, and generally a supporter of gun rights, said she opposed Mr. Thune’s amendment because it infringed on states and cities. “The Thune amendment would invite chaos in our cities,” she said. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, as well as Mr. Schumer, also took the floor with speeches railing against the amendment.

Sorry, but why should people from one state ignore the laws of the other state on something as important as a gun permit? California cities, like Los Angeles and San Diego, are facing major gang violence headaches thanks to the ease of these criminal groups to purchase weapons here in Nevada and in Arizona, then carry them across state lines. And for that matter, any other violent nutcase can now get whatever assault weapons he/she wants here and take them to states like California that otherwise have stricter gun laws. And now we want to make it easier to ignore the provisions in state laws (like California's) that ensures concealed weapon permits don't fall into the wrong hands?

I've lately been pleasantly surprised by Harry Reid, but I guess it's back to the usual disappointment today. Who is he to tell states like California and New York not to do what they can to keep residents safe? Maybe most Nevadans don't mind the lax gun laws here, but that doesn't mean we should be imposing our standards on other states.

And really, Republicans like John Thune that pushed this nonsense are hypocrites. Don't they talk about "states' rights" all the time? Yet when states want to do something like allow marriage equality, legalize marijuana, or enact better gun safety laws, all of a sudden they have no rights in the GOP's eyes. So I guess "states' rights" only matter to them when certain states want more conservative policies?

So This Health Care Reform Is "Anti-Business"?

Viola! Who knew that Colorado Congressman Jared Polis' (CO-02) would have the answer? I found the reason behind Dina Titus' vote at his web site! I also spoke with someone close to "Team Titus" last night who seemed to confirm this. Dina signed onto this letter opposing the "millionaires' surtax" that would tax income above $1 million at 45%.

Wait... Huh?! Oh, but they're claiming that "this will hurt small businesses". Oh jeez, how many small business owners are really in this top bracket of very high-income earners?

And really, look at our past and notice how we had similar "millionaires' surtaxes" that worked. Why shouldn't they pay their fair share? And why shouldn't those proceeds go toward universal health care?

I can understand that otherwise good Congresscritters like Jared Polis and Dina Titus don't want to cause any more pain to small businesses. But come on, it doesn't help small businesses that they pay so much in health care costs! Meanwhile, 96% of small businesses will see no new taxes under this proposal.

So hopefully, someone can explain this to Polis and Titus. They say they support universal health care. So how do we pay for it? Why not tax the very highest income earners to help pay for it? It's not really "anti-business".

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

ACTION ALERT: Ask Dina Titus (NV-03) to Support Real Health Care Reform

OK, I told you earlier about this snippet of not-so-good news from Dina Titus on health care. I just couldn't believe it when I first saw it. I didn't know whether to be sad or furious.

But then, a light came on in my head. We need to take action. We need to inundate her office with calls and emails until she hears us loudly and clearly on health care!

I just got off the phone with a staffer in Dina's DC office, and I don't know what to think. First off, she gave no explanation on DIna's vote against the part of the health care package presented in her committee. And likewise, she couldn't tell me whether or not Dina will support the final health care package and a strong public option included in it. So really, either Dina Titus actually hasn't made up her mind on this universal health care plan or she's holding her cards closely and doesn't want to reveal to us her strategy.

So now, I propose a homework assignment for all of us. First, call (202) 225-3252 NOW and ask whichever staffer you get for Dina's position on health care, and especially the public option. And if they don't answer you like they didn't answer me, go to her email contact form and write her your questions. I'm about to do that. Let's hammer this home until Dina gives us real answers.

As I said last week, the last thing we need is more money being pulled out of our economy. And let's face it, all the money we waste on craptastic "sick care" isn't stimulating our economy. That money that lines the HMO executives' pockets at our expense can be better used, and our people really deserve better care.

So why won't Dina Titus just say this if some silly Republican tries to revive the old "Dina Taxes" meme that didn't work last year? She shouldn't be afraid to support something that will help us save money and live better lives. Go forth and ask her to truly represent us.

NV-03: There's Something (Wrong) About Dina

First, it was the comments about "deficit spending". And now, we have a vote against the health care bill in committee. (The Sun) What's happened to the Dina Titus we knew and loved? What should we expect next?

When we sent Dina to Congress, we expected her to fight for us, not the HMO lobbyists. And really, the "deficit" excuse doesn't cut it when so many Nevada families are suffering. We need quality, affordable health care now, not "Hoover-nomics".

Whichever political consultant told Dina Titus to say no to the needs of working families needs to be fired ASAP. If NV-03 residents wanted a Republican, we would have just sent Jon Porter back to Congress for another term.

Still, I have hope we can convince Dina Titus to do the right thing and back universal health care with a strong public option. We need more health care choices, not fewer. I thought our Congressperson got that. I guess we need to call her office and give her a gentle reminder who she works for.

Monday, July 20, 2009

FBI to Investigate Ensign?

The Justice Department's public integrity office has just asked CREW to ask the FBI to investigate the possible financial wrongdoing in the Ensign Affair. CREW's submitted their request with them, so let's see where this goes. At the very least, Johnny Casino shouldn't expect an easy way out of this mess he made himself.

A Lesson to Learn for Nevada

I just wrote this for OC Progressive, but I think this should resonate here as well. We lucked out here in Nevada, to a certain extent. No one wanted Gibbons' Folly, so the main fight was over how much of a tax adjustment we'd get and how much the cuts would be.

But still, the accounting tricks and budget gimmicks can only last for so long. Ultimately, Nevada will have a "California Moment" where we'll either need to implement serious reform or face a full-on fiscal disaster. Whether Barbara Buckley or Rory Reid will be the final Democrat in the 2010 Governor's Election, he/she will need to serious talk about what the state must do in 2011 to avert a California-esque financial nightmare.

So with that being said, read this and take it as a warning:

It looks like a budget deal may finally be made. Yes, yes, I know I've been saying that for a while. But now, it really looks like Arnold is caving on eliminating CalWORKS as Democrats cave on stopping cuts-only madness. While it could have been even worse, this will nonetheless take the cake as a horrendous "deal" that will cause massive pain in many people's lives.

Arnold looks to be getting his desired enrollment cap on Healthy Families, California's S-CHIP program. While other states are actually expanding health care coverage for children of working families, kids will be turned away from the doctors' offices and health clinics here. Oh, and it gets worse. Home health care services for disabled people will be gutted. State parks may be closed. More state workers will be fired.

And you know what makes this even worse? We'll be paying for these cuts long into the future. Remember that it costs more to care for sick people in the emergency room than at the health clinic. It costs more to turn away tourists and day-trippers from state parks than to keep the parks open. It costs more to throw troubled kids in jail than to prevent future crime with good education and after-school programs.

So all in all, "Arnold's Folly" will deeply hurt all of us. And really, this isn't just his folly. Karen Bass [California's Democratic Assembly Speaker] and Darrell Steinberg [California's Democratic Senate Leader] must also share the blame for not doing more to present a progressive alternative. The corporate establishment also shares the blame for refusing to pay their fair share of taxes while still expecting giveaway after giveaway after giveaway. And ultimately, we the people also share the blame for living in la-la land for far too long in expecting all the amenities in the world and refusing to think about paying for any of them.

Thanks to the many silly gimmicks, false accounting, and empty rhetoric in "The Age of Arnold", "The California Dream" now looks to be nothing more than an illusion. Will we ever see it again?

Yay, Nevada's #1 Again...

This time, in distress! No really, Nevada is the most distressed state in the nation!

[...] Nevada has the most “distressed economy” in the nation. The measure, done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, combines the number of foreclosures per housing unit (one in 64), the increase in unemployment and the growth in numbers of people on food stamps. In the last measure, Nevada was the second fastest-growing.

David Rousseau, director of, said Nevada has topped the list since January, when it bumped Florida from the No. 1 position.

Service providers, meanwhile, are being stretched between falling tax revenues and budget cuts on one side and the increase in demand on the other. They worry how governments will pay for these services if the numbers needing them continue to grow.

Those seeking services are increasing faster than the recent grim projections made during the legislative session, according to Mike Willden, director of the state Health and Human Services Department.

About 209,000 Nevadans were on Medicaid in May, almost 5,000 more than the Legislature had approved funding for.

“If our assumptions all remain the same, and the caseloads are running higher, we’re obviously in extreme trouble,” Willden said.

This is just sad. And if there were any sense of justice here, social justice, we wouldn't have allowed those deep budget cuts that passed earlier this year and are already starting to cause extra pain to the "newly working poor" who now need that social safety net more than ever before. I know, I know, Gibbons wanted more and this was "the best we could get" with Raggio still pulling strings in the State Senate. But still, it sucks that we couldn't get real, progressive budget reform, and instead all we got was a little less distress than we otherwise would have had under Gibbons' plan.

Well, this still looks like a whole lot of distress to me.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Next Time "Ensign-Gate" Comes Up in Your Dinner Table Conversation...

Please, please bring up this article in today's Sun! Jeff Sharlet has been following John Ensign's bizarre "C Street" Christianist power cult for a number of years, so he has gained some real insight into the real Ensign behind the public facade he lets us "non chosen ones" see.

Take a look at this quote from Sharlet.

When you vote for someone, you want to know that they are their own man, you want to know they make decisions for themselves. More important, we want to see to what end this group applies its beliefs.

Doug Coe, David Coe’s father and leader of The Family fellowship going back to the mid ’60s, likes to call The Family “The Christian Mafia.” I knew Coe when I was part of The Family. He explained what it means to be a chosen politician.

Talking to another man, he said, “Let me explain to you the concept of ‘chosen.’ Suppose I hear you raped three little girls. What would I think of you?”

The man says, “You would think I was awful, a monster.”

And Doug Coe said, “No, I would not, because you’re chosen, and when you’re chosen, the normal rules don’t apply.”

I think that’s important for the voters of Nevada to know.

... And pay really close attention to this snippet from Sharlet.

I’m saying this not just to the voters of Nevada, but to all the Christian conservatives in Nevada who voted for Ensign because he presented himself as a Christian. Perhaps they would like to know what he means by Christian.

Does he read the New Testament and think it is only about power, and then does he apply that in the world?

One of the things that has come out is that when we look at Ensign’s travel records and Coburn’s travel records, we find them traveling around the world, doing official government business on The Family dime.

In other words, they’re representing U.S. interests, but they are going overseas, paid for by The Family and talking about this Family theology with foreign leaders. That becomes almost a national security issue.

Doug Coe in one presentation talked about Nazi Germany and the allegiance many Germans had to the Nazis. He said it was something of a role model for the approach that Family members need to have to their organization.

David Coe, a former assistant to George W. Bush at the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, told NBC Nightly News last year that Doug Coe’s references to Nazis in his sermons were really a metaphor, a metaphor for commitment.

I don’t think Jesus used a metaphor of genocidal maniacs for commitment. I know David Coe and like him, but I think this is where you really get to the heart of the problem with The Family, this confusion over what their faith is about. Doug Coe will go so far as to say that he is not a Christian, that Christianity has got it all wrong.

The group began during the Great Depression because the founder thought that God came to him and revealed a vision that the New Deal was satanically inspired and that Christianity was getting it wrong for 2000 years by focusing on the poor, the weak, the suffering.

He said God came one night in April 1935 and said, “I want you to be a minister to not the down and out, but the up and out,” he called them, the powerful. And God’s going to choose a few powerful people, he’ll work through those people, and those people will distribute the blessings to the rest of us.

It sort of becomes this trickle-down fundamentalism that’s all about the fetishization of strength.

Hitler is not an appropriate metaphor for the teachings of Jesus; neither is Stalin or Mao.

When I was at the C Street house with Coe in a counseling session with Congressman Todd Tiahrt (Kansas Republican), he offered as examples Osama bin Laden and Pol Pot.

These were men, Coe said, who knew how to wield power, and we should wield power that way, too, except we should do it for Christ.

They say it’s the means, not the ends.

But when I look at Hitler I have trouble with both the means and the ends. I think any sane human being does.

If this doesn't scare you, I don't know what will. Oh hell, I think I actually do!

So please bring this up next time you hear someone talk about Poor Lil' Johnny Casino.

Friday, July 17, 2009

My Rant on "The Ensign Defenders"

OK, I can't help it. I sometimes find it frustrating how anyone can keep making excuses for Johnny "Casino" Ensign. Why is it that we working-class folks need "personal responsibility" but he doesn't? Should the super-rich really be held to a different standard?

Here's what I wrote at The Sun:

It's the hypocrisy of these fundie wingnuts that infuriate us. How dare they tell you that you should have no control over your personal health decisions or tell me that I can't marry the man I love when they don't even live up to their own moral standards! And furthermore, how dare they forsake their duty to their constituents (and in Ensign's case, violate the very laws he swore to protect and defend!).

Oh yes, and whatever happened to the "conservative mantra" of personal responsibility? I find it funny that none of the Ensign defenders here bring that up. Doesn't Johnny Casino have some responsibility to honor his marriage vows and keep his libido in check? Doesn't he have some responsibility to ensure he complies with campaign finance laws? How is it that all of us working-class folks need to be held "responsible" sometimes for things that aren't our fault while poor lil' Johnny Casino can get away with blaming his own moral and legal failings on the Hampton family?

Think about it. The religious right always tells us we don't need to be open about who we are or ever use any type of "controversial" health care options if we follow their advice on our sex lives. The corporate right always tells us we don't need no stinkin' "welfare state" if we just "pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps".

But really, why is it that Ensign needed a $96,000 bailout from his parents? Why should we automatically "forgive and forget" after he did exactly what he always tells us not to do? Sorry, but I can't forget and I don't think I can forgive. As The Dixie Chicks would say, I'm not ready to make nice.

Ensign clearly hasn't learned anything from this experience. He still doesn't think he needs to be held accountable for his actions. He still won't even support hate crimes protections for LGBT people, let alone full civil rights.

I see no reason to show any mercy on this sleazebag. He needs to go. Either he resigns now or we defeat him in 2012.

Nevada Unemployment at 12%??!!

Yes, believe it or not, we're at 12% unemployment (link will be provided as soon as everyone else catches up with me- KLAS TV just reported it on air). This is depression level. I'm not kidding.

And again, this is what I was talking about yesterday about the need for more stimulus. With this much pain and suffering, the last thing we need is a pullout of public investment akin to what Republicans are calling for.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Support the Utah "Kiss-in"

How sad that people are still arrested in this country for something that so many people take for granted.

Protesters are planning a second "kiss-in" near the Salt Lake City Temple to support two gay men who said they were stopped by LDS Church security after one man kissed the other on the cheek.

The event will take place at noon Sunday, according to a listing on Facebook. At 12:15 p.m., organizers will sound a whistle or bell as a signal to step onto a former public easement and kiss.

Supporters of Derek Jones and Matthew Aune staged a similar show of support July 12, when about 100 people gathered at Main Street plaza for "gentle" displays of public affection. Church security watched the protesters, and called police when they crossed onto the property, but there were no altercations.

Jones and Aune argued with guards July 8 after they were stopped at about 10 p.m. on Main Street Plaza, and later were cited for trespassing by police. The LDS Church has said the two men were stopped for "inappropriate behavior" and treated like any other couple.

So if you know anyone in the Salt Lake area, let them know about this action. When did a kiss on the cheek become so "inappropriate"?

Dina Titus Concerned About Deficit... And Hopefully Economic Recovery?

(Also at OC Progressive)

Honestly, I can understand why she'd say this.

Freshman Democrats, worried that the ballooning budget deficit is stoking voter anxiety, are urging House leaders to put forward a “credible” plan this year to cut it.

They say the need is urgent and a serious deficit-reduction measure must be added by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other leaders to an already jam-packed legislative agenda.

“My constituents are very concerned about the deficit,” said freshman Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), elected with 47 percent of the vote in a swing district last year. “This is really starting to resonate.”

The corporate media are relentlessly pushing this story about "big government spending". And of course, the Republicans are trying to make "The Obama Recession Debt Deficit Enslavement" into some political boon in 2010 and 2012.

If we were to believe them, then all this "big government spending" is really scary business. But in reality, it's not. In fact, we need this government investment in our economy to offset all the money that the private sector's been pulling out and stimulate economic activity. While I've had my own critiques of President Obama's stimulus package (mainly that it wasn't big enough and overloaded with too many corporate tax cuts), I just can't overlook that we will have been far worse off by the end of this year without it.

So maybe, just maybe, this may be the one time I'll criticize Dina Titus. I know she needs to "talk tough on deficit spending" to sound "moderate" enough to keep winning over voters next year. And yes, I do think reducing deficit spending should be an important priority once our economic house was back in order. If President Clinton could do it 15 years ago, we can do it again! However, the last thing our economy needs right now is any further loss of investment.

If anything, we need more investment to stimulate our economy, not less!

Policymakers in Washington should thus not be fooled by the slowed increase in unemployment numbers; they have to keep doing things that will get people back to work. The most important trigger for economic recovery over the last century has been the growth of aggregate demand for consumer goods--which comes primarily from employed workers. If the number of employed workers declines, then there is a corresponding decline in income and demand. In a recession, that kind of decline can degenerate into a vicious spiral, as those who are still employed, seeing the threat of unemployment looming, choose to save rather than spend. As a result, demand is further reduced, more people are laid off, and the downward spiral continues.

So employment numbers aren't just a good sign of whether we are headed upwards or downwards; increasing employment through government spending is the most important way that the White House and Congress can get us out of this slump. That's worth remembering as Republicans and renegade Democrats call for budget cuts. This is not a time for cuts--it's time to begin thinking about whether a second stimulus program will be necessary.

As long as people keep losing their homes and their jobs, we shouldn't be talking about counteracting the good benefits we're just starting to see from increased government investment by pulling back some of that very needed investment. Again, we can talk about deficit reduction when unemployment's back below 5%, the foreclosure crisis has become a thing of the past, and most working families are no longer worrying over whether they have enough money to pay the bills. But until then, we need more stimulus, not less, (along with many more needed reforms, like universal health care and re-regulation of the financial industry) to get this nation out of this horrid Great Recession.

No Surprise: Rory Reid Likely to Run for Governor

I'm listening to KNPR's "State of Nevada" right now. Today's special guest is Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid (D).

For the first few minutes, he and "State of Nevada" host Dave Berns were talking about various Clark County issues. And thankfully, Reid, Jr., declined to endorse a bailout of the boondoggle "Las Vegas Monorail" when asked about transit issues and instead endorsed a possible light rail line along the old Union Pacific right-of-way from Henderson to Downtown Las Vegas. He also explained his proposal for a citizen task force to determine what needs to be done to "fix Clark County government".

Oh yeah, and did I forget to mention that Rory Reid will most likely run for Governor? He didn't just say it, but he dropped enough hints that this is what he wants to do. He disputed the rumor that "two Reids on the same ballot won't help either one". He also said that change in Washington isn't enough, and how we now need to change Carson City.

So far, Reid's still mostly talking about Las Vegas/Clark County issues. I'll provide another update here if he provides some answers to questions on statewide issues. Oh yes, and I'll post an audio link as soon as it's up on the KNPR web site.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harry Reid Doing the Right Thing (Again)??!!

Wow! Who gave our Senate Majority Leader some serious spine? I'm impressed!

With a possible fight brewing in Congress over repeal of the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, came down on Tuesday solidly in favor of eliminating the ban.

“We’re having trouble getting people into the military,” Mr. Reid told reporters when questioned about whether he could support an 18-month moratorium on enforcing a prohibition on gays in the armed forces. “And I think that we shouldn’t turn down anybody that’s willing to fight for our country, certainly based on sexual orientation.”

Mr. Reid said he would go the proposal, being considered by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, one better and support a permanent repeal of the ban. [...]

To make his case for that proposal, Mr. Reid was accompanied Tuesday by Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student who was tied to a fence, beaten and left to die in 1998. The bill will be named for him.

“For the last decade, Matthew Shepard’s name has been associated with hate crimes,” Mr. Reid said. “When this bill passes, his name will thereafter be associated with justice.”

So not only is Harry Reid finally ready to do something about hate crimes, and not only would he support a moratorium on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" enforcement, but he may even be ready to end the military service ban once and for all. I just hope he follows through and makes it happen. It seems that he, Nancy Pelosi, and President Obama have been playing this sick game of "chicken" on LGBT civil rights for far too long. Hopefully now, the game will end and we'll see some real action.

Keep It Klassy, LuvGuv!

Apparently amidst all the continuing drama of the Ensign Affair, we forgot to notice some big news. Our dear LuvGuv, Jim Gibbons, not only announced his reelection campaign, but also launched a Facebook page! And because this is Gibbons' Facebook page, it wasn't short on hilarious gaffes.

Among the more interesting things to note on the page is Gibbons' relationship status: "It's complicated." Gibbons is in the middle of a divorce from First Lady Dawn Gibbons.

Gibbons also became a member of the "Recall Raggio?" Facebook group, which was launched by state Senate candidate Todd "Taxpayer" Bailey. The group seeks to recruit members of Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio's Senate district to launch a recall because of his support of tax increases.

But don't worry, Gibbons apparently doesn't really want Bill Raggio recalled... Or at least, that's what his campaign manager said. Still, I can't help but ROTFLMAO over his inability to even control his own Facebook page. I'm sure if Dawn Gibbons had her own Facebook page, she'd also be laughing right now. ;-)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

For Once, We're Only #2

Yes, America, Nevada for once doesn't win a "worst government" award! Nope, we're only the second most dysfunctional state with New York taking top (dis)honors in the National Journal survey of state governments.

The magazine said the rankings are based on interviews with state political experts who looked at four criteria: quality of leadership (legislature and governor), any criminality in the state's political leadership, the severity of any policy challenges the state is facing and the intensity of the media circus surrounding state government.

Each category was graded on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst. Those scores were averaged to produce the ranking, the magazine said.

As for Nevada, the magazine gave its leadership problems a "10" and its criminality, statewide challenges and media circus each a "7," leaving it with a dysfunction rating of 7.75.

But hey, at least we beat out California (#6) and Illinois (#3)! Our dear "Luv Guv Gibbons" can out-embarrass Arnie and Blago any time!

Johnny Casino, Still Delusional as Ever

Republican Sen. John Ensign said Monday that not only does he have no intention of resigning in light of his affair and his parents’ payout to the woman’s family, he plans to seek reelection when his term is up in 2012.[...]

“I fully plan on running for reelection,” Ensign said late Monday evening. “I’m going to work to earn their respect back.”

Yes, believe it or not, Johnny Casino still thinks he can be reelected in 2012. It's OK. If he really wants Democrats to beat him into the ground that much, then we should oblige him that wish. ;-)

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Root of the Ensign Problem

Nevada Senator John Ensign "admitted" to an affair with his aide Cynthia Hampton after he was caught red handed. Can one admit to something after one is caught in the act? In any case, remember that Ensign was vocal in demanding that President Clinton step down from office for his sexual indiscretions. This moral stance did not prevent Ensign from pursuing some side nookie himself, however. He now feels remorse that he "violated the vows" of marriage in diddling someone other than his wife. Do ya think? Even creepier, if that is possible, his lover's husband was a top aide in Ensign's office in the Senate. Ignoring his own advice to Clinton, Ensign does not plan to resign.

In addressing the real ugliness behind "Ensign-gate" at HuffPo today, Jeff Schweitzer hit the nail on the head.

Only when we remove the false certainly that comes with claiming god is on our side can we truly confront the moral issues and ethical dilemmas that we face in our society. This epidemic of moral failure in the Republican Party is a clear symptom of the disease of intolerance; and such intolerance is an inevitable consequence of an appeal to divine insight. Why compromise when god says you're right?

We cure this disease by adopting a moral code completely divorced from religion. That task is easier than it would first appear. Religious morality has a poor track record; we can do better. The bar has been set fairly low.

Traits that we view as moral are deeply embedded in the human psyche. Honesty, fidelity, trustworthiness, kindness to others, and reciprocity are primeval characteristics that helped our ancestors survive. In a world of dangerous predators, we can speculate that early man could thrive only in cooperative groups. Good behavior likely strengthened the tribal bonds that were essential to survival. What we now call morality is really a suite of behaviors favored by natural selection in an animal weak alone but strong in numbers. We need to re-discover and appeal to this inner good derived from our biology and evolutionary history rather than to the myth of an invisible man in the sky with magical powers as a sound basis for our moral guidance.

This is how I've explained to friends and family how I, and many others who are atheist, address moral issues. It's not necessarily about which god(s) we want to believe in, but about what kind of people we want to be. We don't need Bible-bashing (or any other type of religious fantacism) to make ourselves better people.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not anti-religion. If a religion helps someone in his/her life journey, then how can I deny that to someone? It's just that religious beliefs alone don't automatically make someone a better person.

And obviously in John Ensign's case, it didn't help that the bizarre and secretive "C Street" radical right Christianist gang that he was a part of encouraged him to disregard whatever concerns he might have had over his moral hypocrisy. Instead, they just reassured him that "he was chosen by God to be great". Now talk about delusions of grandeur!

So I guess this is the frightening drama I see behind the pure comedy of Republican/religious right hypocrisy that John Ensign has taken to new levels. Once again we see how the religious right thinks they can have as many moral failings as they want, but just so long as they force us all to accept their version of "Jeezis" as our angry, belligerent "savior". Obviously, their view of "salvation" shouldn't equate to our society standard of morals.

The Reality of Bush-Arnold Era Shock Doctrine in California

(Originally at OC Progressive)

We need not look further than The Sacramento Bee's interactive map of California job losses to see how bad policies in Washington and Sacramento have really made an impact... In a negative way. Fortunately, there may be signs of life in other parts of the country as President Obama's stimulus spending finally starts to kick in here in Nevada and elsewhere. However, the federal stimulus will likely be offset next door in California by even more massive cuts to the very social safety net that's badly needed to survive a recession.

And with "Arnold Antoinette" pushing for even more brutal slashing of social safety net, California may very well face even worse economic conditions... And threatens to drag Nevada and the entire rest of the nation further down with it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Climate Bill By Copenhagen? I Hope So... I Think?

(Also at OC Progressive)

Late last week, we found out that Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) wants to delay her committee's vote on the Senate climate & energy bill and move it to September. And furthermore, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) supports this move as he'll have more time to round up votes. However, we don't really know if this is good news or bad news.

The delay bodes ill for passing a climate bill this year. It shows leaders are not confident they would have enough votes to pass the bill and want as much time as possible to rally support. Boxer also noted that many key senators with a role in crafting climate policy are also leading the debate over health care, another major congressional priority for this year.

[...] Several environmental groups have written in to say that they think today’s announcement is good news for climate legislation.

“We don’t think that this is a problem at all,” said Josh Dorner, spokesman for Sierra Club. “In fact, we think it’s a good thing. It’s a huge organizing opportunity, both here in D.C. and in the field. It also shows they are taking the time to make some meaningful, positive changes to the bill.”

Environmental Defense Fund was equally optimistic. “From our perspective, this is the right decision,” said Tony Kreindler, media director for climate at EDF. “It gives senators more time to review and understand the historic bill just passed by the House. It signals a serious intent to seek agreements on key issues going forward. And it gives Boxer and her colleagues on both sides of the aisle more time to reach those agreements. After all, the chairman has the ability to move forward today if the goal were simply to push any bill through.”

Honestly, I don't mind the delay that much... So long as this delay results in a stronger bill with more votes in time for the international climate change summit in Copenhagen this December. Let me explain my thoughts some more down below.

Last month, I explained why I feel we need to take serious action on the climate crisis.

New Orleans may sink into the sea by 2100. Much of Florida may also be underwater by then. Drought will likely become the norm out West, meaning California could no longer provide the food we depend upon. Las Vegas may become downright inhabitable.

No, I'm not fabricating any of this. These will be the consequences of inaction if we continue to delay implementing the solutions we need to solve the coming climate crisis. But for some reason, may of our supposedly wise lawmakers in Capitol Hill are either willfully ignorant of the facts or downright lying about our future.

Seriously, we can't allow any more of this.

However, the bill we ended up with in the House was badly weakened. And if the Senate passes an even weaker and more meaningless climate bill, then we might as well scrap "ACESA" and restart from scratch. After all if we were make a truly honest effort to prevent any more worsening of the climate crisis, we'd just implement a carbon tax.

Unfortunately, it seems that Democratic leadership is afraid of pushing for something as bold and effective as a simple carbon tax. But fortunately, there may still be a chance of at least strengthening the carbon caps and getting a better bill out of Senate EPW. Barbara Boxer has always been solid on environmental issues, and several more pro-environment Senators sit on EPW.

Still, we have challenges. Even though evidence has proven that renewable energy and energy conservation are our best and only hopes for a brighter energy future, Senate Republicans are already hinting that they will completely oppose ACESA if it isn't porked up with funding for dirty nuclear power. And of course, we'll again face the "clean coal" myth, the ridiculous opposition to efficiency measures that would actually save consumers money, and the typical "big government, big tax, big spending" crap that Republicans can't help but throw around.

This is why we must fight like hell to refute the "climate skeptics", point out the fallacies in the fossil fuel industry's disinformation campaign, convince the Blue Dog "ConservaDems" to stop stonewalling and start doing something good for a change, and encourage environmentalist leaders and Democratic leaders to fight for a better bill. Our future is at stake... Literally! We can not afford any more inaction, and we can not afford a bunch of half-measures that add up to a whole bunch of nothing.

So if this delay in the Senate's consideration of ACESA can result in a stronger bill that will be passed by the end of this year, then I welcome the extra time for us to organize and mobilize. I'm not sure if this is exactly what President Obama and Senators Boxer & Reid have in mind, but this is what we need them to do. Let's remind Obama & Reid that we expect more than just bragging rights for Copenhagen.