Tuesday, March 30, 2010

NV-Sen: Suzy Lowdown Gets "Truthy" on "Government Bailouts"

Another day, another Suzy Lowdown scandal in the making... Put this one in the "I'm not for socialism, except when it makes me more money" files.

Remember when Ms. Suzy proclaimed her outright hatred of the TARP bailouts last October, even going as far as to claim that she "never received any bailout or stimulus money"? And how she immediately back-tracked and flip-flopped in January?

Lowden had different reactions to the bank bail-out legislation and the stimulus package.

On bail-out spending: “It's easy to say, no, I wouldn't have voted for it. But people were panicked, we were facing collapse — that's what they were saying. It's easy to say from a distance I would have voted no, but I can't do that.”

On the stimulus, she said she would have been a definite no: “All you're doing is taking money from one person and putting it in the pocket of another person. They should have put money into people's pockets.”

Oh yes, that's right. We all know how Suzy Lowdown loves to put other people's money in her own pocket, no matter how illegal or unethical it is. And when remembering this, we discover why Suzy Lowdown keeps flip-flopping on TARP.

Colonial BancGroup claimed to have received $550 billion in TARP "bailout" funds in December 2008. OK, so why is this important? Suzy Lowdown's Archon Corporation received a $29 million credit line with Colonial in May 2008. This would have been impossible for Colonial to maintain if they were not asking for TARP funds.

But wait, Suzy Lowdown asked for Archon's line of credit in May 2008. There's no way she would have known it would later ask for a government bailout... Right? WRONG! She served on Colonial's board, so she very well knew about it. (Even though it was later revealed that Colonial did not qualify for TARP funds... So where was Ms. Suzy then and why did she allow the company whose board of directors she sat on to outright lie about receiving TARP funds??!!)

And hold on, it gets even worse. Colonial actually did end up receiving a government bailout, but only in the form of the FDIC stepping in when the bank failed, absorbing its losses, and selling its assets to BB&T. Now BB&T had already received $3.1 billion in TARP funds, and right after BB&T absorbed all of Colonial's client's accounts, none other than Suzy Lowdown reappears and gets Archon approved for another $29 million line of credit... Just 2 months before Ms. Suzy would jet over to Elko and claim that she "never received any bailout or stimulus money"!

And now? Oh now, Ms. Suzy's media people are claiming, “Sue would not have voted for the TARP or any of the other bailout bills in Congress ... period.” Oh no, Suzy Lowdown doesn't roll like that... She just claims not to support "government bailouts" while her own company benefits from those very "government bailouts"! I guess Jon Ralston didn't (yet) even know half of this story.

And by the way, my dear blog followers, it would have been super easy to just cut and paste the Reid campaign's latest dossier on Suzy Lowdown's bailout hypocrisy here... But because I love you more than that, I did my own research before posting any of this here. After all, this isn't some Republican propaganda outfit. We appreciate the real facts here, and I'll keep doing my best to provide the facts and "call 'em as I see 'em". :-)

Las Vegas Sands in Trouble Over Chinese Mob Ties?

Today's Sun caught a hidden bombshell of a Reuters report on Las Vegas Sands' business in Macau. While most of the Macau controversy lately has centered around MGM Mirage having to leave New Jersey over that state's regulators decrying its joint venture with Pansy Ho, until recently hardly a peep had been said over Las Vegas Sands and its heavy ties to Macau gaming (with Sheldon Adelson even proclaiming that his company is now "an Asian company doing some business in America"!)... Until now.

At first, the men had been ordered to break the arms and legs of a dealer at Sands Macau suspected of helping a patron cheat millions of dollars from the business. Later, a call went out to murder the dealer, court records show. But then one of the gangsters balked and reported the plans to authorities.

The plot's mastermind, according to testimony in previously undisclosed court transcripts obtained by Reuters, was Cheung Chi-tai. At trial a witness identified Cheung as a leader of the Wo Hop To -- one of the organized crime groups in the region known as triads. Another witness, a senior inspector with the Hong Kong police called to testify because he is an expert on the triads, identified Cheung by name as someone who would commit crimes for money. Cheung's organized crime affiliation was corroborated in interviews for this article with law enforcement and security officials intimately familiar with the gaming industry in Macau.

The murder-for-hire case sheds light on the links between China's secretive triad societies and Macau's booming gambling industry. It also raises potentially troubling questions about one of the world's largest gaming companies, Las Vegas Sands, which plans to open a $5.5 billion Singapore casino resort in late April.

Cheung was not just named as a triad member but also, according to a regular casino patron testifying in the trial, "the person in charge" of one of the VIP rooms at the Sands Macau, the first of three casinos run here by Las Vegas Sands. In addition, Cheung has been a major investor in the Neptune Group, a publicly traded company involved in casino junkets -- the middlemen who bring wealthy clients to Macau's gambling halls. Documents show that his investment allowed him a share in the profits from a VIP gambling room at the casino.

An examination of Hong Kong court records, U.S. depositions from the former president of Sands, and interviews with law enforcement and security officials in both the U.S. and Macau, reveals a connection between Las Vegas Sands and Cheung -- ties that could potentially put Sands in violation of Nevada gaming laws.

Donde los yikes??!! This isn't looking too pretty... But does this really mean legal problems for Las Vegas Sands in the near future? And nasty consequences for their American operations? We don't know yet.

U.S. casinos operating in Macau are all headquartered in Nevada and must comply with that state's laws which prohibit "unsuitable" associations that "discredit" its gaming industry. Those laws are meant to keep organized crime figures out of the casinos. [...]

Randall Sayre, a member of the Nevada Gaming Control Board that monitors casino compliance, declined to comment specifically on Sands Macau, writing in an email that the state "takes no public position on suitability ... without a full investigative work-up."

A gaming official, who insisted upon anonymity, said: "This relationship (with Cheung) would be of concern to Nevada authorities. You're talking about direct ties to bad guys." Another said the agency is monitoring the situation.

However, we do know for sure that Macau's gaming industry today operates in a more "Old Las Vegas" way than we do in Las Vegas! The mob may no longer play a major role in gaming here, but it still does there... Even if they have a lower profile today due to major multinational corporations like Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts, and MGM Mirage coming to town and running big casinos. This lower profile helps keep Macau from looking "too gritty" to scare away tourists, and has recently helped LVS, Wynn, and MGM in staying on good terms with most US gaming regulators (even if New Jersey is getting tougher on them)... But does this change things?

Legally, it may not. Like it or not, Stanley Ho still has a strong grip on Macau, the triads (Chinese mafia) do as well, and any gaming companies doing business in Macau (like Las Vegas Sands and MGM Mirage) will sooner or later be involved with Stanley Ho and the triads.

However, this may very well shake up American politics this year. Remember when Floyd Brown attempted to make hay over Dubai World's 50% stake in CityCenter and (unsuccessfully) turn it into a political hot potato for Harry Reid and MGM Mirage? Well, this new LVS Macau development will make sure this backfires on Republicans, as we know how much the teabaggers hate "socialism" and "communism"... And they probably won't like the fact that LVS CEO Sheldon Adelson has been donating heavily to Suzy Lowdown's Senate campaign. So when will we start hearing the teabaggers calling on Ms. Suzy to return all of Sheldon Adelson's Communist-tinged donations?

Again, I don't see this as a very big deal so long as these gaming companies aren't participating in any crimes with the triads... But if the Republicans keep trying to turn this into a campaign issue to beat Harry Reid over, they'd better expect some serious blowback.

Harry Reid to "Appear" on Dawn Gibbons' New Radio Show TODAY!

Hey, there! If you'd like to hear our Senator chat with Nevada's former First Lady (whom we wish was still in The Governor's Mansion instead of her lyin', cheatin' ex), click here then click on "Listen Live". This should really be an interesting show... For both of them!

And in case you miss it today, I'll see if there are any audio archives to post here later.

Monday, March 29, 2010

NV-Sen: Best. Fundraising. Ask. EVAH!

WOW! I didn't know Harry Reid had this in him. This is quite witty. Thumbs up from me (and I guess I'll also have to get out my wallet :-D ).

Dear Andrew,
This weekend Sarah Palin and the Tea Party came to Searchlight and held a rally. You might have seen it on the news.
I wasn't there, but I'm told there were speeches, some signage featuring questionable assertions, and a lot of calling Democrats "socialists." I guess it's better not to let the facts get in the way of a good rally sign.
I double checked the definition of 'socialism,' and it's defined as a political philosophy that advocates for government ownership of private industryAbsolutely needless to say, not a view I agree with in the least.
My first thought was that we could hold a fundraising drive to buy dictionaries for all these folks and mail them out lickity split. But my campaign manager rightly pointed out that with the first quarter coming to an endwe should raise money for the campaign in dictionary-sized increments instead.
Donate today!Calling me a 'socialist' has as much basis in fact as calling health reform a 'government takeover' -- none at all. I'm making light of this nonsense today, but these attacks reveal a troubling reality. These folks are standing in strong opposition to progress for our economy at a time when Nevadans are struggling to make ends meet.
If you agree that passing health insurance reform was a great thing for our country, and that passing two bipartisan jobs bills in the last two months was a good start, then I'm asking you to invest in my campaign today.
I'm dedicated to fighting for the values we share in the U.S. Senate. With your help, I'll continue doing just that in years to come. President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and I have a lot to do -- and we can't produce the change we know we need without your help.
Thanks so much for your support,
This email was sent to: atdnext@gmail.com
To unsubscribe, go to: http://www.harryreid.com/unsubscribe
Paid for by Friends For Harry Reid

Casinos: What Next for Station?

So last week, we found out about how Station Casinos will look once it emerges from bankruptcy reorganization. Basically, it will be a "leaner, meaner" company as it only holds onto Palace Station, Boulder Station, Sunset Station, Red Rock Resort, Wild Wild West (where its "Viva" casino/entertainment complex redevelopment plan has been on hold lately), and a plot of land at Las Vegas Blvd. and Catcus Ave. slated for a future casino. And the rest?

The plan, if approved, would lead to the sale of the remaining company assets.

The assets include Indian casino management contracts as well as Texas Station, Santa Fe Station, Fiesta Rancho, Fiesta Henderson, Wildfire Rancho, Wildfire Boulder, the Gold Rush, Lake Mead Casino and the company's 50 percent interest in Green Valley Ranch Resort, Aliante Station and the smaller Barley's, the Greens and Wildfire Lanes.

The assets to be sold include extensive land holdings in California (1,321 acres), the Reno area (200 acres) and at key gaming-entitled sites in the Las Vegas Valley at Durango Road and the southern Las Vegas Beltway, Town Center Dive and the Beltway and in Henderson's Inspirada development. The land holdings also include 52 acres south of Palace Station planned as a retail, entertainment and residential development.

So what does this mean for the future of Las Vegas gaming? Quite a lot, really. Station Casinos and Boyd Gaming were quite close to holding a "duopoly" over the locals' casino market. Almost all the casinos up here in Henderson are Station, and the same can be said of many other areas outside The Strip and Downtown. But with this shedding of assets, we will likely see a major game change... And this can go one of two ways.

If Boyd manages to buy most or all of these soon-to-be former Station assets, it will emerge as the new leader in locals' casinos. And what would that look like? Downtown is probably the best indicator (where Boyd dominates), along with the Coast Casinos scattered around the valley. I'd also be interested in seeing if their experience with Borgata in Atlantic City has prepared them for a more upscale Las Vegas locals' casino like Green Valley Ranch.

However, this doesn't have to be the case. If Nevada gaming regulators manage to show some concern over one company controlling so many casinos in town (and it's admittedly a crap shoot over whether they will care enough to do something), they may not allow Boyd to suck up all these casinos. If that happens, this will leave quite the opening for a "renaissance" of independent and small chain operators (like the Maloofs of Palms fame and Cannery Casinos) to emerge as more powerful players in town. Perhaps we'll see more M Resort like casinos in our future? Or maybe Tony Marnell himself will want to expand his empire? Or maybe Michael Gaughan (formerly of Coast Casinos, now running South Point) will reemerge as a big locals' market player? The possibilities are endless, and it would be quite the sight to see.

And what will become of the Fertittas? Well, they will still hold 46% of the new, smaller Station while Colony Capital retains 4%. And while they will let go of most of Station's current assets, the remaining assets will still be quite the company with "crown jewel" Red Rock, "the original" Palace, and Boulder & Sunset in key parts of town. And by holding onto the Cactus plot of land, they'll at least keep their foot in the door for a possible future Station Casino in the still unfinished southern stretch of the valley near Silverado Ranch and Southern Highlands.

So whatever happens next, this will change Station Casinos and change the state of locals' casinos here in Vegas. It's like watching the fall of a great empire. We'll just have to wait and see whether it means the start of a new great empire (Boyd) or a return to a more decentralized and level playing field, as well as how the new Station fits into everything.

What Happened at The JJ Dinner

It was a bit of culture shock for me on Saturday... To start the day "welcoming" the teabaggers to Searchlight, and end it hobnobbing with a number of the state's key power players at the Clark County Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner at The Rio.

We saw a number of fantastic speakers that evening. Al Gore rocked the house with his speech, and Dina Titus and Shelley Berkley had a great response to Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter hanging around with nutjobs (mostly from out of state) over here last weekend. Kim Wallin, Catherine Cortez Masto, and Kate Marshall all brought the house down with their speeches... And reminded us how fortunate we are to have some smart, sane people in Carson City keeping the state running (and keeping "Luv-Guv Gibbons" in line).

Oh, and when Harry Reid spoke, he gave an update on Lana and Landra. It's good to know they're recovering, but Landra will need more surgery for her facial and back injuries. And it was really powerful in reminding us why it was so important to get health care reform moving this year. When he spoke of the bills, I could tell good things are on the way for Nevada and the country.

OK, so I didn't really take notes and all I had was my camera phone. Sorry about that. But hey, after everything in Searchlight I needed to take it a little easier!

And by the way, major props to Progress Now Nevada for selecting me as one of their "blogger winners" to sit at their table on Saturday night! It was great to finally meet Erin Neff in person, and what our table lacked in closeness to the front stage we more than made up for in intelligent conversation and all around good times. Thanks! :-)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"Showdown in Searchlight": My Take, Unplugged & Unfiltered

Phew! Wasn't yesterday something? I was on a whirlwind... At some times, LITERALLY! (I really was close to being blown off the sidewalk during the heavy winds yesterday morning in Searchlight.)

We saw plenty of talk, plenty of pomp and circumstance, plenty of sloganeering, and plenty of raw politicking at the "Showdown in Searchlight"... And later that evening at the Clark County Democrats' Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Las Vegas. I'll get to the fun stuff at The JJ Dinner later, as I just want to offer my take today on yesterday's events in Searchlight.

Honestly, I wasn't originally planning to go. Teabagging isn't my cup of tea, and I didn't know if I could handle all the shouting and fighting and canned slogans from Sarah Palin. But hey, history called and I ultimately didn't want to be left out of it. I carpooled with a bunch of other local Democrats (we had two shuttle vans leave from Las Vegas in addition to all the people who drove on their own from Vegas and Laughlin) up to Searchlight, where we staged our own not-so-little rally.

Yes, we probably had a few hundred Southern Nevada locals, so we weren't as big as the "tea party" a mile up Highway 95. However we also didn't bus and "caravan" in thousands of folks from other , so that should be taken into consideration.

To their credit, most of the "tea party" folks driving up the 95 from California and Arizona (with a few Texans, Utahns, Montanans, and other states thrown in the mix) just gave us thumbs down and didn't try to start a fight. Just a few drivers made the effort to roll down their windows and shout, but those who did used some language that good parents wouldn't let their kids hear. There were claims at the teabaggers' event that we had thrown eggs at one of the Tea Party Express bus, but I did not witness anyone in our group throw eggs (or do anything else violent, for that matter) and our friends at Progress Now Nevada (who will soon be releasing their video footage of the teabaggers' rally) reported seeing no crushed eggs on the Tea Party Express buses.

So how did the "tea party" in Searchlight go? Well, they certainly brought in a big crowd... But it wasn't the 10,000 organizers had originally hoped for, and nowhere near the 20,000 they were claiming yesterday (more like 7-8,000). The big draw for their event was really Sarah Palin, as she got most of the attention and the biggest crowds. Multiple reports so far confirm that after Palin left the stage (and before most of the Nevada GOP candidates were set to speak), the crowds started emptying the valley they were occupying. When I was with the pro-Reid rally in town, about 90% of the cars heading to the "tea party" rally were from out of state (with, again, the bulk of those being California and Arizona righties). And when our shuttle was leaving town on the way back up to Vegas, about 80% of the cars parked along and near Highway 95 for the "tea party" rally were from out of state.

So now let's talk about "the progressive resistance" meeting at The Searchlight Nugget in support ofhe progressive Senator Harry Reid. Most of us there were from Las Vegas, but there was also a good chunk of Searchlight locals who "testified" of Reid's humble roots, hard work for Nevada, and caring for the local community at our rally. We also saw some folks drive in from Laughlin, Boulder City, and even Mesquite (!!). We just had a few hundred folks there, but we were all locals and we definitely had high spirits when we met Reid's Searchlight neighbors and saw all the Reid signs they had along the 95 in town.

So what does this all mean? I'm sure you've read Jon Ralston's take (quite accurate) by now, and I hope you've also had a chance to read Steve Friess' report (Yes, he also reports on politics... And he really hit this one out of the park with his honest and witty take on all the wild & crazy events yesterday). They added their $0.02, and now it's my turn.

Make no mistake, the teabaggers are here to stay this year and they will continue to blame all of our country's woes on "socialism" and the supposed "Communists" Obama, Reid, and Pelosi. They will continue to make their mark on today's Republican Party... But I doubt they will entirely be of help to the GOP. As I said on Thursday, the "tea party" has successfully moved the GOP to become "The Party of 'HELL NO, YOU CAN'T!'", and I don't think that will appeal to the majority of Nevada (and American) voters looking for real solutions. The "tea party" is also not as unified as they claim, as a split emerges between the faction set to neatly merge into the Republican Party (largely the corporate-funded groups) and the faction "declaring independence" from the GOP and set to chart its own course on its own terms (largely a mix of Ron Paul fans, libertarians, and other outfits unhappy with the GOP's own support for "socialism"). If nothing else, all the teabagger infighting gives Harry Reid the opening all the DC pundits thought was impossible just at the start of this year.

And now, this gives me a chance to swerve back to our side of things. Certainly the Democratic reponse to yesterday's "tea party showdown" in Searchlight was just a hint of what's to come. This won't be easy, but Nevada Democrats certainly aren't about to sit back while the teabaggers attack, attack, and attack some more. And with health care reform now a reality and more economic relief on the way, the progressive base finally has reason to believe again. I myself was angry in January when it seemed like Democratic leaders were (yet again) wasting a great opportunity to make change happen as they were basically letting the Republicans get away with torpedoing President Obama's entire domestic agenda. But all of a sudden, President Obama "got his groove back" and the push for health care reform seems to be a major turning point that now has the DC pundits wondering if they were writing off Democrats too early.

The key is action... Action that helps working people. The teabaggers were picking up steam last year because they were able to drive the media narrative that Democrats supported big bailouts and they were "for the people". But now, the early signs of success on health care and banking reform illustrate just how much public opinion can change when people see their President and their Congress actually working for them. This is the challenge that Democrats must be up to if we want to see success this November and in 2012. We must urge the President and our Congresscritters to stay focused on delivering on what matters to working people. Health care is only the start. We need more jobs, more action on climate change (which means even more jobs for us in Nevada!), more oversight of Wall Street, and all in all more action that shows that government is working for working people again.

The whole premise of the "tea party" is that government doesn't work. And not that long ago, they would have been correct. However, they either don't realize or don't want to admit that government didn't work during "The Bush Era" because the Republican plan all along was to defund government and deregulate to the point where it couldn't work. As long as Democrats can make the case that government can and will work, 2010 won't be all that scary here.

This is why I still hope. I'm finally seeing the change I was hoping for in 2008. I know the folks who packed that valley north of Searchlight are afraid of it, but most Americans won't as long as they see the results.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Our Vegas: Then & Now

It's Thursday night. Relax and take a tour of The Strip...

In 1957:

And 2009:

Ain't our lil' jewel in the desert amazing? :-)

Health Care: It's Over? It's Really Over?

Yes, my dears... OK, no, it's not over yet... But almost. The Senate finally passed the reconciliation fixes in a 56-43 vote, but because the Senate Parliamentarian ruled that a few minor fixes were needed in the education provisions in the reconciliation bill, the House will have to approve the amended bill before President Obama can sign this one into law. However, the changes are minor and the House is expected to approve the amended bill by this weekend.

Finally, we have ourselves health care reform. And Harry Reid can breathe a little more easily going into this weekend's teabagger madness. I'm sure it will be a fun time watching them attempt to remain relevant by continuing to horrify the rest of the country with their insanity.


And on a personal note, I'm still trying to figure out if I will be in Searchlight on Saturday to witness the madness myself. If I am, I'll let you know tomorrow. And if not, expect me to report from the scene at what should be a much more upbeat Democratic event in Henderson.

And whatever the case, I'll be reporting from The Rio on Saturday night at the Clark County Democrats' Jefferson Jackson Dinner. Other than the few deranged teabaggers outside attempting to crash the party, it should be a fun night.

So until Saturday, I hope you don't mind while I celebrate our health care victory by taking a much-needed 36 hour sanity break. :-)

Yay! Green Valley Really IS Becoming "Queer Valley"! And More "Gay Hotspots" in Vegas You Didn't Realize...

Steve Friess has a great piece in this week's Las Vegas Weekly on "the gayest 'hoods in Vegas", measured by the number of registered Nevada domestic partners in the zip code. His zip, 89121, was #1 in the state... And mine, 89074, happened to make the Top 10 as well!

And I always wondered why I felt so at home here in Green Valley... :-D

Republicans: The Party of "Hell No, You Can't!"

Harry Reid explains why all the ridiculous GOoPer obstruction is just that:

This is an even clearer explanation of what today's GOP is all about:

"Hell no, you can't!"

That's the rallying cry of the teabaggers. That's what they'll be shouting at our faces in Searchlight and in Las Vegas on Saturday. They don't believe in hope. They'd rather not see change.

The tax cuts for the super-wealthy were working for their big corporate sponsors just fine. Along with the corporate giveaways. And the war profiteering. And the HMOs gaming the "health insurance market". And the oil and coal companies continuing to block progress on climate change to make a few more bucks.

"Hell no, you can't!"

That's all the radical right has left. Obstruction. Violence. Madness. Even some of their own are starting to run away from the runaway "Teabagger Batsh*t Crazy Express".

Even some Senate Republicans are giving indications that they want to peel off from their pack and work with Democrats to end big bank bailouts. Sens. Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Bob Corker (R-TN) said they expect Wall Street reform to pass this year. “I don’t think people realize that this is an issue that almost every American wants to see passed,” Corker said, arguing that the GOP made a “strategic error” by refusing to work in a bipartisan manner on the bill.

“There are Republicans I serve with in the Senate who frankly don’t want to ‘just say no‘ policy when it comes to major legislative initiatives,” Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) said yesterday. “And they would like to be part of this debate and offer constructive ideas to this proposal.” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) has made clear, however, that it would fine with him if financial reform didn’t pass this year.

But don't they know? If you're a Republican...

"Hell no, you can't!"

The difference couldn't be any clearer.

So Much for Republicans Praising "Tort Reform"

Isn't it funny how Republicans always complain about "frivolous law suits"... Until they start filing their own? That's what I'm thinking about this new GOoPer plan to have a bunch of wingnut GOoPer state Attorneys General (AGs) file law suits against health care reform. They claim it's unconstitutional, but Steve Sebelius has already pointed out they're not on solid legal ground.

Although ["Luv-Guv"] Gibbons seems confident that the health-care bill is unconstitutional, many people disagree with him (not least of whom is President Obama himself, a Harvard-trained former law professor). Health-care supporters make a strong case that the bill they championed is allowed under the Constitution’s language empowering Congress to provide for the general welfare, the so-called elastic clause, which allows Congress to enact laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the powers to provide for the general welfare, and to regulate commerce among the several states. To those people, an argument on Tenth Amendment grounds — that the power to enact health-care reform or require residents to buy health insurance is reserved to the states or the people — is baseless, since the Constitution specifically delegates to Congress the power to provide for the general welfare and regulate interstate commerce.

And yes, you heard him right... "Luv-Guv" Gibbons is trying to force our AG, Catherine Cortez Masto (D), to join the law suit. Unfortunately for him however (and fortunately for all of us!), she's not interested in his ridiculous political games.

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto on Wednesday pushed back against calls to sue the federal government over health care reform, saying she will evaluate the bill and won’t make a decision until completing a “thorough legal analysis.”

Gov. Jim Gibbons has called on Masto, a Democrat, to sue, saying state law gives him the authority to direct the attorney general to take legal action.

But Cortez Masto, in a response sent Wednesday, said that the state’s constitution created her office to be the state’s chief legal officer.

“I must be satisfied in my own professional judgment that the case has merit and should be filed,” she wrote. “I also have the responsibility to decide how and when litigation is conducted.”

She also wrote that she must follow professional standards. “As an attorney yourself,” she wrote Gibbons, “you understand an attorney must certify that any litigation is warranted by existing law or by non-frivolous argument and that any pleading presented to a court cannot be presented for any improper purpose.”

And good on AG Cortez Masto for being the sane voice in Carson City! I know Mr. Sebelius doesn't mind seeing this law suit progress its way through the courts (until it finally has no more legal legs to stand upon!), but I'm glad he also sees that enough teabagger wannabes have already filed suit that there's no need for the State of Nevada to waste our tax dollars on this overtly political ploy to smear Harry Reid and make President Obama look bad.

Yes, you heard me right. The GOoPers don't give a rat's @ss about the Constitution. If they did, they would have challenged George W. Bush all the times when he overstepped his authority to declare war or torture or wiretap without a court warrant. Rather, it's all about politics for them. It's all about appeasing the teabaggers by throwing baseless attacks at Democrats.

Whatever. I feel for all the residents in those other states where their AGs are wasting their tax dollars to fight much needed health care reform. Still, I'm glad it's looking like we won't have to suffer the same fate. Thanks, Attorney General Cortez Masto, for making this decision on the merits of the law and not the political whims of the Nevada GOP.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Message from Cleve Jones on Passing ENDA

(Also at Stonewall)

Robin McGehee of GetEQUAL will be one of our special guests at our next Stonewall Mixer at The Arts Factory in Las Vegas on April 5. They're currently working on getting Congress to pass ENDA. And while our Nevada Democratic delegation has come forward in strong support, we need for them and Democratic leaders to urge their colleagues to get moving. A special request from legendary LGBTQ equality activist Cleve Jones is below:

We would like to share with you this open letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi from Cleve Jones, a pioneering equal rights activist featured in the film "MILK," creator of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and Senior Advisor to the Courage Campaign. Last week, 10 people were arrested for peacefully sitting in Speaker Pelosi's office - one group in DC, and another group in her San Francisco district office - for refusing to leave without a commitment to bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to the House floor for a vote this month.

Please click here if you would like to join GetEQUAL and our friends at the Courage Campaign in signing on to Cleve's letter and petition to Speaker Pelosi asking her to prioritize the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act:


Robin McGehee, Kip Williams, and the GetEQUAL crew

Dear Speaker Pelosi --

I would like to express my deep appreciation and gratitude for your relentless perseverance in the passage of health care reform. Along with President Obama, your steadfast leadership and personal commitment has fundamentally changed the lives of millions of Americans.

You and I have known each other for a long time, since we first met as political organizers in San Francisco. I was proud when you were elected Speaker and proud again on Sunday night when you gave a powerful speech on the floor of the House of Representatives about the meaning of health care reform, eloquently asserting that:

"When it comes to health care for all Americans, 'All politics is personal.' It's personal for the family that wrote to me who had to choose between buying groceries and seeing a doctor. It's personal to the family who was refused coverage because their child had a pre-existing condition..."

This profound statement about the power of politics to change the lives of everyday people touched me deeply. And it reminded me of the opportunity we have right now to transform the lives of Americans again -- the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

As shocking as it may be to believe in the year 2010, LGBT people can still legally be fired from their jobs in at least 29 states of our country simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. That's why the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is so vitally important.

Once passed, ENDA would provide to all Americans basic protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. As my friends at Pride at Work describe it, ENDA is "based on the labor principle that every worker should be judged solely on his or her merits as a worker" and is similar in nature to other federal civil rights laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

We've seen the passion you've brought to the challenge of passing health care reform. Now more than ever, we need your passion and skill to achieve the passage of ENDA.

As you know, many Americans in the LGBT community -- especially young people -- are increasingly frustrated and cynical about the pace of progress in Washington.

We want you to show them that cynicism is not the response at this time. They need to believe in the process, Madame Speaker, and you can restore their faith in this process by moving expeditiously to bring ENDA to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.

I know your values, Madame Speaker, and I know that you strongly support ENDA. Now I want these young people to know what is in your heart.

With the knowledge that health care reform has been achieved and that enough votes now exist in the House today to pass ENDA, will you work with Rep. George Miller, Chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor, to ensure that ENDA is passed out of committee and brought to the floor of the house immediately?

I am writing this open letter to you and sharing it with my friends in the Courage Campaign and GetEQUAL communities, thousands of whom will sign a petition to you asking that ENDA be prioritized for passage now. You can read the petition -- and Americans can sign on to it -- here:


Congratulations again on your historic achievement. Along with thousands of other people reading this letter, I wish you the best.

Cleve Jones

Senior Advisor, Courage Campaign

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Republicans in Trouble?

So the Republicans really want to run on repealing health care reform because it's so "unpopular"? Oops.

Americans by 9 percentage points have a favorable view of the health care overhaul that President Obama signed into law Tuesday, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, a notable turnaround from surveys before the vote that showed a plurality against it.

By 49%-40% those surveyed say it was "a good thing" rather than a bad one that Congress passed the bill. Half describe their reaction in positive terms, as "enthusiastic" or "pleased," while about four in 10 describe it in negative ways, as "disappointed" or "angry."

The largest single group, 48%, calls the bill "a good first step" that should be followed by more action on health care. An additional 4% also have a favorable view, saying the bill makes the most important changes needed in the nation's health care system.

It hasn't even been 48 hours since the House passed the health care reform package and 12 hours since the President signed the Senate bill into law. For poll numbers to shift this much this quickly is amazing. And no, it's not good news for John McCain.

Even "Big Business Spokesguy" Jack Welch admitted on CNBC this morning that Republicans will "be in for an awful shock" if they think a campaign for repealing health care reform will be a winner. (If you can't handle all the far right commentary crap, skip the first 15 minutes.)

And Jack Welch isn't the only one realizing this (even if he's one of the only ones weeping over it):

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Need I say more? Well, I guess I'll have to when they crap all over Southern Nevada this weekend.

Thoughts on President Obama Signing Health Care Reform into Law

And just like that, we see a much needed overhaul of our broken health care system become law.

With the stroke of President Obama’s pen, his health care overhaul — the most sweeping social legislation enacted in decades — became law on Tuesday.

Mr. Obama affixed his curlicue signature, almost letter by letter, to the measure, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, surrounded by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and a raft of other lawmakers who spent the past year on a legislative roller-coaster ride trying to pass it. Aides said he would pass out the 20 pens he used as mementoes.

The ceremony included two special guests: Vicki Kennedy, the widow of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who had been a driving force for health care legislation before his death last year, and Connie Anderson, the sister of Natoma Canfield, the Ohio cancer survivor whose struggle to pay skyrocketing health insurance premiums became a touchstone of Mr. Obama’s campaign to overhaul the system.

Yes, yes, we know the work isn't over yet. Rather, it's just beginning.

The Senate still needs to approve the reconciliation fixes passed in the House on Sunday. We still need to fight the ridiculous lies and distortions coming from the radical right. And yes, we still need to make more fixes to this legislation, such as removing the unfair anti-choice provision hindering many women's abilities to make their own reproductive health care decisions, and adding a public option that will provide another better choice for consumers looking for quality, affordable coverage.

Still, this is quite the momentous occasion. Finally, FINALLY, the framework has been set for universal health care here in America.

And ultimately, The Sun hit the nail on the head in its editorial this morning.

This is a moral issue. Is it right that millions of Americans can’t get proper health care because they lost a job or were denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition like asthma or hypertension? Not that insurance is a cure-all. The number of bankruptcies due to medical bills is up, even for those with insurance.

The current system is broken. It costs Americans more than $2 trillion a year with costs growing at a rate of 7 percent. With the number of uninsured growing, the costs are increasing as well. When the uninsured go to the hospital, the cost of care is passed on to people with insurance through higher premiums and the taxpayers through payments for public hospitals.

The Republicans don’t seem to care. Instead, they have stirred people up and obscured the real issues in the hope they can win an election.

Contrary to what Republicans have said, the proposal in Washington ultimately would provide access to health care to nearly all Americans, including those who have been denied because of pre-existing conditions. The plan would give people who have lost their jobs the ability to buy affordable health insurance and it is expected to reduce many premiums. The legislation also provides relief for people on Medicare from the gap in their prescription coverage referred to as the “doughnut hole.”

And they're right about this.

Still, Republicans say they’ll work to overturn the legislation, and if this isn’t really about politics, shouldn’t they be consistent and work to overturn Medicare, Medicaid and Veterans Affairs, which all provide government-supported health care or insurance? Of course they wouldn’t dare do that. It would affect too many voters.

The times call for political courage. Republicans would be wise to recall the words of Sen. Everett Dirksen, who led the party in the Senate during the 1960s and rallied his party to deliver the needed votes for key civil rights legislation.

“We are confronted with a moral issue,” Dirksen said in a speech to break a filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “Today let us not be found wanting in whatever it takes by way of moral and spiritual substance to face up to the issue.”

Indeed. It is time to step up and do the right thing by passing health care reform.

I'd just add that I also want to see more Democrats show more courage in the future by working to make the improvements that I mentioned above. President Obama, Senator Reid, and Representatives Berkley and Titus should all be applauded for their hard work on health care reform and their success in seeing it to the end and passing this historic legislation. I hope they keep up the great work.

And the Republicans? Well, to quote Dina Titus, unless they change course and offer meaningful solutions on health care (and other issues, for that matter), they're f*cked.

So Health Care is (Almost) Done... How 'Bout Some Equality?

(Also at Stonewall)

I know, I know. I've been slacking off. Sorry.

But in my defense, it's hard to argue that health care didn't suck all the energy out of the room and didn't cause us to set aside most everything else lately.

However, this will soon change.

For many months, LGBTQ equality activists have urged The White House and Congress to get moving on ENDA, an important measure that, if passed, will finally protect LGBTQ Americans from unfair discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Nancy Pelosi may have deemed it too "controversial" to do late last year, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) insists they have the votes for ENDA.

Baldwin does believe the votes are in place in the House to pass ENDA and a DADT repeal bill.

“As someone who has actually counted the votes, I believe that there are,” Baldwin said. “That’s one of the things the LGBT Equality Caucus does is to [focus] attention to making sure we can tell [House] leadership, with accuracy, what the vote would be if they bring the measures up to the floor.”

The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus is a group of legislators in the House who are strong supporters of equal rights for LGBT people. The caucus is organized similarly to the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Baldwin and Rep. Barney Frank established the LGBT Equality Caucus in June 2008. It now includes nearly 90 members of Congress.

President Barack Obama has recently met with both the Congressional Black and Congressional Hispanic caucuses, but not yet with the LGBT one. Baldwin says this is because “we haven’t put a spotlight on it of late.” She said the group “probably” would press for a meeting with the president in the future.

And it's not just ENDA.

Pressure has grown dramatically in recent days for a spotlight on LGBT-related issues in Congress.

On Thursday, March 18, the same day Congress began reviewing a report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimating the costs of health care reform, gay civil rights activists, frustrated that Congress has yet to take a vote on ENDA or repealing DADT, staged peaceful acts of civil disobedience at both the Capitol and the White House.

Lt. Dan Choi, who is being discharged from the Army because he identified himself as gay, and former Capt. James Pietrangelo II handcuffed themselves to the wrought iron fence surrounding the White House. Both were arrested, along with California activist Robin McGehee of a new group called GetEqual, who assisted them.

Despite claims from the religious right that repealing DADT would be harmful for our military, they have yet to provide any evidence of that happening. I mean, wouldn't countries like Australia that starting allowing open military serive long ago be collapsing over allowing LGBTQ citizens to serve openly? (NOT!)

Our community has been waiting and waiting and waiting... And it doesn't look like we're willing to sit idly by and wait any longer.

Now Dina Titus has already cosponsored ENDA and the DADT repeal along with LGBT Equality Caucus member Shelley Berkley. Harry Reid has promised action on DADT, and it now looks like the Senate has the votes to pass ENDA. I know our Nevada Democrats have been supportive of LGBTQ equality, but now is the time to put the pedal to the medal and get them working to actually get it passed this year!

So now that health care reform is wrapping up, we need to remind Congress that there are no more excuses for inaction. We can not tolerate any more "legalized" discrimination, and LGBTQ Americans can no longer be spat upon as second-class citizens. ENDA needs to be passed. DADT needs to be repealed. And we need to make it happen this year!

Wherein the "Tea Party" Cannibalizes Itself

Once more, we're seeing some nasty brewing over in Teabagger-land. This time, the folks who claim to be all about "freedom" are trying to block one of their own from being on the November ballot.

The conservative Independent American Party's U.S. Senate candidate sued today to remove a fellow U.S. Senate candidate running under the Tea Party of Nevada from the ballot.

Tim Fasano, of Fernley, filed the lawsuit in Carson City District Court, arguing that Tea Party of Nevada candidate Jon Scott Ashjian should be removed from November's ballot because he failed to change his party affiliation until after he filed for office. Also, according to the complaint, Ashjian is not affiliated with the state or national Tea Party organizations that have risen up to protest government spending and Washington, D.C., overreach.

Fasano said, "I think he inappropriately stole the Tea Party name." Plus, he added, Ashjian's place on November's ballot potentially helps Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"Potentially, he'll take votes from me and take votes from the Republican. Against Reid, we need all the votes we can get," Fasano said.

So they're trying to throw Scott Ashjian off the ballot on a technicality? That's what it's looking like. And better yet, they're admitting this is all about tossing competition off the ballot.

Oh, and they're still peddling the already refuted claim that somehow Harry Reid is behind Ashjian and the "Tea Party of Nevada".

Whatever. Let them keep wasting money in court trying to fight this. They're only making their "movement" look all the more ridiculous.

If these teabaggers really want to know who's responsible for imperiling their chances against Harry Reid this fall, all they need to do is look in the mirror.

Monday, March 22, 2010

So Health Care Reform Is Here: What's in It for Us?

So most of the health care reform package has passed, and we're just waiting for the Senate to pass the reconciliation fixes this week. So what's in it for us? Quite a bit, in fact. Here's a rundown from Crooks & Liars on which reforms take place starting this year.

Adult children may remain as dependents on their parents’ policy until their 27th birthday

Children under age 19 may not be excluded for pre-existing conditions

No more lifetime or annual caps on coverage

Free preventative care for all

Adults with pre-existing conditions may buy into a national high-risk pool until the exchanges come online.

While these will not be cheap, they’re still better than total exclusion and get some benefit from a wider pool of insureds.

Small businesses will be entitled to a tax credit for 2009 and 2010, which could be as much as 50% of what they pay for employees’ health insurance.

The “donut hole” closes for Medicare patients, making prescription medications more affordable for seniors.

Requirement that all insurers must post their balance sheets on the Internet and fully disclose administrative costs, executive compensation packages, and benefit payments.

Authorizes early funding of community health centers in all 50 states (Bernie Sanders’ amendment). Community health centers provide primary, dental and vision services to people in the community, based on a sliding scale for payment according to ability to pay.

AND no more rescissions. Effective immediately, you can't lose your insurance because you get sick.

All of these are quite important, and some will really come into use this year as they come online. I'm especially excited about the community health clinics.

Now all the other big changes, including the creation of the insurance exchange, the individual mandate, the employer mandate, and the affordability tax credits, will come online starting in 2014.

But what happens in the mean time? And what if Republicans are serious about their threats to repeal health care reform? No matter how serious they are, it's not very likely.

Conservatives have been hinting at a campaign to repeal the newly-passed bill for weeks. But actually having to run one is their worst nightmare. They never wanted to get to this point. They know that repealing the legislation will be far more difficult than passing it was, and by now, Americans fully realize how arduous the journey to last night was. At this point, repeal is fantasy.

For starters, Republicans simply don’t have the numbers in either chamber. It’s doubtful that even Democrats who voted with them last night, would support a repeal of their President’s signature achievement. Pelosi may have allowed a few members in difficult districts to sit this one out, but she certainly wouldn’t allow them to actively undermine her. Moreover, Republicans are far short of the requisite 60 votes in the Senate. And besides, its become abundantly clear over the past year that having the votes in the Senate is a very different proposition than having the party unity to exercise them.

More significant though is the political difficulty of arguing against the benefits of the bill, especially the ones that kick in early. Republicans will have to tell people with pre-existing conditions that their new ability to access coverage will be withdrawn. They’ll have to tell young people and their parents that young folks won’t be able to stay on the family plan. They’ll have to tell Americans that they’re fighting to allow insurance companies to drop sick people from their rolls once more. Those aren’t easy fights to have. Health care reform was much easier to dog before it actually becomes law. [Emphasis mine.]

Of course Republicans can argue that they’d repeal the package but reinstate certain popular provisions, but Democrats have two easy rejoinders. First, the country can’t afford to force insurers to keep people on their rolls without also expanding the entire pool of insured people. And without the cost cutting measures, the bill is just a spending bill. Second, after years of controlling Congress and not acting on health care, Republican’s [sic] don’t have a lot of credibility on the issue.

Need I say more? They had their chance to do something, but Republicans preferred to do nothing. So I doubt voters will trust them this time when they make empty promises to "start over" after they "kill the bill" that's now becoming law.

So most likely, the Senate will soon pass the reconciliation fix this week and the whole health care reform package should become law by the end of the month. Some benefits, like the exchange, will have to wait until 2014. Meanwhile, other benefits, like the community health centers, will be seen as early as this fall. And while this final package isn't perfect (we've talked about this extensively), it looks to withstand Republican attacks and start working for those who need help the most.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

NV-03: Dina Titus' Speech in Support of Health Care Reform

Thank you, Dina. You did do what's in our best interest, and we'll make sure to be there for you this year. :-)

BREAKING: HR 4872 HCR Reconciliation Fix Passes!

The vote is 217-205 right now, so we know it will pass. This is the reconciliation package that the House will send to the Senate. It nixes the "pork giveaways" in the Senate bill while strengthening some insurance regulations and increasing subsidies to help working families afford health insurance.

The final vote is 220-211. The bill is passed!

It's all up to our Harry Reid now to get the job done. I know he will. :-)

Motion to Recommit on Health Care FAILS

As I'm watching CSPAN now with 10 minutes to spare, we have 219 votes (all Democrats, by the way) against the Republican motion to recommit... Or gum up health care reform by sending the bill back to committee. Well, it's not happening.

Thank gawd!

And by the way, this was supposedly about "protecting life". Yeah, "pro-life" my ass! As if destroying health care reform that saves American lives is "pro-life"?

And by the way, the final vote is 199-232 and the motion to recommit FAILS!

And the teabagging GOP opposition is EPIC FAIL! :-D

BREAKING: Health Care Reform PASSES!

Finally! Democrats got 217 votes. We're still waiting on a few stragglers, but history is being made NOW!

And now, the final tally is 219 Ayes, 212 Nays. The margin was close, but the Senate health care reform bill has passed and is on its way to President Obama for his signature. This is the first major progressive policy achievement since The Great Society & The New Deal. For nearly 100 years we couldn't fix our broken health care system...

But now, we're on our way.




Btw, the Roll Call tally is now up. All the GOoPers and ConservaDems who tried to sabotage health care reform are now on notice.

Meanwhile, Outside the Capitol...

The teabaggers got so many protesters today... Wait, you mean those weren't teabaggers?

More than 200,000 people gathered on the National Mall today to participate in March for America, a rally advocating comprehensive immigration reform.

Organized by Reform Immigration for America, the rally brought together groups from around the country — including Service Employees International Union, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Democracia Ahora and the Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles — to send a message to lawmakers: "The time for immigration reform is now."

President Obama delivered a message from the big screens in the crowd in which he assured the demonstrators of his commitment to passing comprehensive immigration reform.

And these weren't teabaggers.

And these weren't teabaggers (though a number of them are "fighting the establishment").

Oh yes, the teabaggers have been in full force this last week. Yeah, keep freeping those R-J & Sun comment sections!

GOP, "Tea Party" Have Become Party of Hate

So what is Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) talking about? This.

Civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and fellow Congressional Black Caucus member Andre Carson (D-IN) related a particularly jarring encounter with a large crowd of protesters screaming "kill the bill"... and punctuating their chants with the word "nigger."

Standing next to Lewis, emerging from a Democratic caucus meeting with President Obama, Carson said people in the crowd yelled, "kill the bill and then the N-word" several times, while he and Lewis were exiting the Cannon House office building.

"People have been just downright mean," Lewis added.

And that wasn't an isolated incident. Early this afternoon, standing outside a Democratic whip meeting in the Longworth House office building, I watched Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) make his way out the door, en route to the neighboring Rayburn building. As he rounded the corner toward the exit, wading through a huge crowd of tea partiers and other health care protesters, an elderly white man screamed "Barney, you faggot"--a line that caused dozens of his confederates to erupt in laughter.

After that incident, Capitol police threatened to expel the protesters from the building, but were outnumbered and quickly overwhelmed. Tea party protesters equipped with high-end video cameras were summoned to film the encounter and the officers ultimately relented. [...]

"I do think the leaders of the movement, and this was true of some of the Republicans last year, that they think they are benefiting from this rancor. I mean there are a couple who--you know, Michele Bachmann's rhetoric is inflamatory as well as wholly baseless. And I think there are people there, a few that encourage it."

"If this was my cause, and I saw this angry group yelling and shouting and being so abusive to people, I would ask them to please stop it," Frank concluded. "I think they do more harm than good."

But guess what? They're not.

This is the Republicans' plan for the rest of this year. They think they're scoring political points by stoking this ugly hatred. However, all they're really doing is revealing the emptiness of what their political arguments and total ignorance of health care policy.

BREAKING: House Votes to Approve HCR Rules 224-206!

And it passes! OK, not yet... This was just over the rules to be set for the rest of the day's health care reform votes. However, this is a key test vote that shows Democrats DO have the votes to pass the final health care reform bills (the Senate bill and the reconciliation fix to the Senate bill) pass.

The vote was 224 in favor to 206 against. 28 ConservaDems voted against.

BREAKING: Stupak Agreement Reached, HCR NOW Set to Pass

Here's the text of the agreement with President Obama. Democrats are now assured the votes to pass.

And looking at the agreement, here's what I'm seeing so far.

- The Hyde Amendment stands, prohibiting federal funds for reproductive health care that includes abortion related services.

- The community health clinics (CHCs) that will be established and supported under this legislation must comply with Hyde rules.

- While there's an explicit prohibition on use of federal funds, there doesn't seem to be any ban on CHCs offering any abortion services.

- And the language of Obama's executive order doesn't look to resurrect the original Stupak language prohibiting health insurance policies included in the exchange from offering abortions if necessary. (They just have to separate federal funds from other funding.)

So the original language of the Senate bill that Harry Reid negotiated with anti-choice Senate Democrats Bob Casey and Ben Nelson, along with pro-choice Democrats like Barbara Boxer, stands. I guess Stupak gets his moment in the sun, but ultimately it looks like Harry Reid is vindicated yet again. :-)

House Passes Through Next Point of Order Hurdle on HCR

The House is now voting 227-198 to set aside another point of order, this time over earmarks. Republicans never seemed to have a problem with earmarks when they were in power, but now they're saying the health care reform legislation has all this "pork" and "bribes".

Yeah. Right.

The reconciliation fix is all about cleaning up the Senate bill. Yet again, we have another delay tactic over nothing. And yet again, most of the House isn't buying it.

First Vote on HCR Rules: Passing with 228 Votes!

Score one for health care reform! Republican Rep. Paul Ryan from Wisconsin forced a point of order vote on setting the rules for the rest of the health care voting today. This is the important first vote that also serves as a "test vote" on whether the package will ultimately pass. The vote is now 228-195.

So far, so good. :-)

HCR Voting Starts NOW!

Follow me at Twitter @atdleft and/or Facebook for updates. I'll post more here as we find out who votes which way.

BREAKING: House Democrats Have (At Least) 216 Votes to Pass

It's pretty much confirmed. MSNBC just reported that infamous anti-choice holdout Bart Stupak will vote for the health care reform package, and he will urge the 6 other Reps remaining in "The Stupak Bloc" to do the same.

When Ohio Democrat and Stupak ally Marci Kaptur turned "Aye", things were really looking up. But now with Stupak on board, the health care bills today should pass with at least 216 votes.

Stay tuned here for more as I'll be watching the House all day today...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

BREAKING: "Deem & Pass" Dropped, but Health Care Bills Still on Track for Tomorrow

OK, so that's not happening. So are we in trouble? Not exactly.

Now, they'll just have to hold three separate but interdependent votes tomorrow:

1. to set the terms of debate (how much time, how many [if any] amendments allowed, etc.)

2. on the reconciliation "sidecar" bill including all the House-approved fixes to the Senate bill

3. on the Senate bill that will be fixed by the above sidecar bill if both pass

And apparently, House Democratic leadership is confident that all the "Yes" votes they've collected so far will stay put and vote in the affirmative for all three, while this new plan to help win over the last remaining undecided Dems who were afraid of "deem & pass" (despite the Republicans constantly using this when they were in power).

NV-01: Shelley Berkley Officially Endorses Health Care Bill (HR 4872)

Now I was expecting this, but it's nice to see Shelley make it official.

“We are in a healthcare crisis, and the burden it is placing on families and businesses in Nevada must be lifted. That is why I will vote for health reform legislation this weekend.

“While not perfect, this bill addresses key obstacles that continue to plague the system. The cost of healthcare premiums is skyrocketing out of control, creating an atmosphere where only insurance companies can and will prosper and prevail. Without this reform, our individual citizens and businesses will continue to be devastated by unsustainable costs or barriers to coverage.

“Reforming the broken healthcare system is a critical element in our nation’s economic recovery. Healthcare costs must be controlled, access to coverage must be expanded and the quality of coverage for those who are currently covered must be improved. No one with or without health insurance should be forced into bankruptcy because of medical bills, or worry they will not be covered if they lose or change their jobs.

And let's not forget this:

Key healthcare reform benefits for Nevada’s First Congressional District:

• Extend coverage to 155,500 uninsured residents.
• Protect 3,800 families from bankruptcy due to unaffordable healthcare costs.
• Improve Medicare for 90,000 beneficiaries, including closing the donut hole.
• Guarantee that 26,200 residents with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage.
• Reduce the cost of uncompensated care for hospitals and other healthcare providers by $74
million annually.
• Give tax credits and other assistance to up to 201,000 families and 16,700 small businesses to
help them afford coverage.
• Allow 63,000 young adults to obtain coverage on their parents’ insurance plans.

Thanks, Shelley! I knew she would do the right thing. :-)

Health Care: Is This the Kind of America We Want?

I still cringe when I see this video from earlier this week of a group of Columbus, OH, teabaggers mocked someone with Parkinson's Disease, hurled all sorts of verbal insults at him, and even threw dollar bills at him. Disgusting!

Well, now he explains why he was willing to put himself in the line of fire.

And Lancaster Sunday News editor & columnist Gil Smart explains very well the method to their madness.

And today, we learn of this (H/T this DKos diary):

The "Slaughter Solution" on health care isn't the only thing that has come under attack in U.S. Rep. Louise M. Slaughter's world this week. Sometime early this morning, someone threw a brick through the front window of her Pine Avenue office.

The damage was discovered about 12:30 a.m., city police said.

The brick put a hole in the outer-most window at the office at 1910 Pine Ave., but did not damage a second interior window, police reported. A piece of broken brick believed to have caused the damage was found at the scene.

I just hope the police will be ready to deal with whatever riots break out at the teabagger events in Searchlight and Henderson next Saturday.

But anyway, isn't it horrifying to see this kind of hate and vitriol manifest itself so violently? When did it become OK to harass someone with Parkinson's? When did it become OK to throw bricks through windows? When Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and the whole Faux News crew said so?

These kinds of actions reveal the thinking of today's radical right. They will stop at nothing to make their "statement", even resorting to violence if it gets them their desired attention. And now, they're resorting to this selfish "MINE, MINE, MINE!!!" argument to veil the reality of them essentially shilling for the insurance companies and the GOP. But still, when did we become a country that neglects its own? When did Lady Liberty stop accepting the sick, the tired, the poor, and the weary, and started telling them, "Don't tread on me! Go fuck yourselves!"?

I just hope this weekend is the last gasp of relevancy for the teabaggers. They may have been entertaining to watch before, but now it's just sad to see their ugly temper tantrums go haywire like this.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Progress Now Sez Ensign's Got to Go!

And I could not agree more!

ProgressNow Nevada

Dear Andrew,

What began as a political soap opera has turned into a full-blown symphony of slime.

And the king of this smutty scandal, Sen. John Ensign, still thinks enough of himself to phone voters in Dina Titus' district urging them to pressure the congresswoman's vote on health care.

(Lot of good that did as Titus will vote yes!)

Ensign still thinks he's cock of the walk of the conservative roost.

But we view this latest news as evidence he's a different form of poultry.

Last year we had already seen enough.

The ensuing months have only unveiled more sordid details. This screams of ethical misdeeds and increasingly looks criminal.

Even as Ensign was on the autodialer trying to sink health care reform, a federal grand jury was issuing subpoenas that may sink Nevada businesses.

Many of you have said it makes no sense for Ensign to resign since Jim Gibbons would appoint a replacement.

But this week's news makes us too sick to endure any more of the senator's blatant cockiness. It appears Jon Ralston has finally seen enough, too.

Take action today - tell Ensign it's time to go!

Tell Ensign you've seen enough. Nevada needs a representative that is more concerned about jobs and health care than he is about shutting up his girlfriend's husband.

We've seen enough. Ensign must resign!

For Nevada, for progress,

Erin Neff
Executive Director
ProgressNow Nevada

BREAKING: Dina Titus Will Vote FOR Health Care Reform!

Thank you, Dina!

“For nearly a year, I have talked with the people of District Three about the need for health care reform,” Titus said. “I have heard horror stories from small business owners who had to lay off workers because of rising health care costs and families that could not get insurance because of a pre-existing condition. While the legislation the House will vote on this weekend is not perfect, it makes critical reforms that provide common sense rules of the road that will give families and small businesses more control over their health care – not government bureaucrats or insurance company CEOs.”

“From the beginning, I have said I support legislation that reduces costs, strengthens Medicare, and increases choice,” Titus continued. “This legislation meets those goals, and where flaws still exist, I will continue to push for additional reforms. This bill will make real progress by preventing insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, closing the donut hole for prescription drugs, and giving families and small businesses the largest health care tax break in history.”

Titus had expressed concern about the Senate health care bill and wanted to see key changes to the legislation to benefit the Third District. The changes that have been included in the bill are closing the donut hole, removing special deals for certain states, changing the “Cadillac tax” so that it goes into effect later and has a higher threshold, and stronger consumer protections against discrimination for pre-existing conditions.

“During this process, the people of District Three have seen a barrage of ads paid for by special-interest money from insurance companies and those that benefit from the status quo,” said Titus. “I have always made my decisions based on what I believe is in the best interests of the people of District Three; and even in the face of more than $1 million of special-interest ads, this time is no different.”

Often when members of Congress are elected and make the sojourn to DC, they sometimes forget who sent them there in the first place. They sometimes forget who they're supposed to be working for. I'm glad that Dina Titus hasn't forgotten who's she working for.

I'm glad Dina hasn't forgotten who sent her to Washington. We the people did, NOT the HMOs, PhRMA, and the Chamber of Commerce! They may throw money into trashy ads attacking her for this, but we the people know why Dina is doing this and we will reward her accordingly.

So thank you, Dina! Those of us who actually live in the district and don't need insurance company talking points to speak will stand with you and make sure you're reelected this year so you can keep fighting for Southern Nevada's working families.