Thursday, April 28, 2011

First Thoughts on Democratic Redistricting Gerrymander (?)

Wow. Just wow. This came out of left field!

Here's what's different:

- The Democrats' plan draws lines almost entirely according to city and county lines. In addition, other "natural boundaries" are respected.

- More minority-majority districts are created, including 5 districts where Asian-American candidates can presumably win.

- This plan is the very first "nesting" proposal here in Nevada! This means that 2 Assembly Districts will fit entirely within 1 Senate District. This allows for more overlapping boundaries, cleaner lines, and more communities of interest sharing the same legislators.

All in all, this seems like a map that either dares Brian Sandoval to call Democrats something other than "fair" in drawing districts that look awfully "fair" and clean"...

Or it's an overt plea to The Nevada Supreme Court to hear their side of the story, should legislators not reach in agreement on the budget and redistricting.

Either way, I'm surprised and intrigued by this Democratic map. Now I can't wait to see how they redrew Nevada's Congressional map! ;-)

First Thoughts on Republican Redistricting Gerrymander

So Republicans now have their new redistricting proposals released. And so far, here's what I'm thinking:

- They seem to be relinquishing any hopes of regaining either house of The Nevada Legislature. So far, it sounds like The Assembly maintains its current partisan divide (26 Dems/16 GOPers) while The Senate provides more Democratic pickup opportunities.

- Meanwhile, they seem to be saving all their cannon fire for Congressional redistricting. It looks to cement a 2-2 split with 2 districts favoring Republicans, 1 district favoring Democrats, and one heavily Democratic Latino majority district.

- Greg Brower's (formerly Bill Raggio's) Senate district looks to go bye-bye and get swallowed up by a Democratic leaning Washoe County Senate district, but two Washoe Assembly Democrats may become more vulnerable.

- And Elizabeth Halseth gets a slightly safer Senate district, but Doc Hardy has to swallow a district with a slight Democratic edge as Barbara Cegavske's district becomes more Democratic leaning and Clark County gets a new Silverado Ranch/Green Valley (???) Senate district with a slight Democratic edge.

All in all, it seems like Republicans are prepared to negotiate away The Legislature (or at least, any chance of regaining a majority in either house) to grab that extra Congressional seat... And pack Latinos into as few seats as possible??!!

I'll continue poring over the numbers here, and I'm awaiting the Democratic proposal to be released later this afternoon. I'll also have first reactions on that tonight, as well as a more thorough redistricting roundup this weekend.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

NV-Sen: Heller's Choice

So it's now official. Whoop-tee-doodle. Who didn't know?

But now... Oh yes, but now the fun really begins!

[Harry] Reid had only innocuous words of welcome for [Dean] Heller at the news of his appointment.

"I welcome Dean to the Senate,” Reid said in a statement. “As his responsibilities shift to representing all Nevadans, rather than a single district of our state, I am confident he will work with me and members of both parties to address the serious challenges facing Nevada and the nation."

But only a few minutes before Sandoval announced his decision to appoint Heller, Reid announced he planned to bring up a vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s fiscal 2012 budget in the Senate -- a bill he and most Democrats despise, and have openly derided as a secret plan to kill Medicare.

The move is pure politics, aimed at putting Republican senators -- now including Heller -- on record as often as possible backing initiatives such as altering social spending programs, that presumptive Democratic nominee Shelley Berkley has said she “absolutely” intends to make the focus of her campaign.

Of course, how well those political tactics work depend on how the electorate reads those votes.

Heller hasn’t apologized or shied from his votes in favor of Ryan’s proposal, which he says are necessary to save the program -- and believes the voting population of Nevada will agree.

Over 327,000 Nevadans, or about 13% of our entire state's population, are enrolled in Medicare. And under the new Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, Medicare recipients are eligible for new prescription drug coverage and discounts.

Oh, and there's even more coming for seniors on Medicare...

UNLESS the Ryan Budget passes! As we've talked about before, the Republican budget proposal spearheaded by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Douchebag) would completely destroy Medicare and Medicaid if enacted. This would completely devastate Nevada if enacted, especially since so many Nevadans depend on Medicare and Medicaid for health care and survival! However, don't tell that to Dean Heller. He voted for the Ryan plan in The House...

Hmmm, I wonder what Heller will now do in The Senate...

Also considering how certain tea-tinged Republicans want to build on the devastating cuts to green collar jobs programs passed earlier this year. Nevada needs green jobs more than ever before to diversify our economy while also shifting to living in the desert more sustainably. Green jobs are a huge deal here in Nevada, but Dean Heller hasn't really cared about that. In The House this year, he voted against green jobs development... Even as he later voted to continue bailouts for oil companies!

On February 19th, Congressman Heller voted to eliminate funding in the renewable energy loan guarantee program by supporting H.R. 1, the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011. The program, also known as Section 1705 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, helps large clean energy projects move forward by providing government-backed loans vetted by Department of Energy experts. These loans are the catalyst for private investment in promising technologies and job creation.

Then, on March 1st, Congressman Heller voted against a “motion to recommit” by Representative Bill Keating (D-MA) to eliminate tax breaks for big oil companies. Eliminating those giveaways would have brought in $53 billion in deficit relief and allowed full funding for Nevada-based businesses through the loan guarantee program. Congressman Heller chose tax breaks for the richest of corporations instead of helping to develop Nevada’s growing clean energy economy.

Several projects in Nevada, including the 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes solar project outside of Tonopah, are moving through the process of securing the renewable energy loan guarantees. The Crescent Dunes solar array would create 600 on-site jobs, and provide energy for 75,000 homes in the state. Six other projects are also moving through the process and would provide thousands of jobs for Nevadans.

“Jobs are being created and the Clean Energy Economy is moving forward thanks in part to the federal renewable energy loan guarantee program. The question for Dean Heller is whether he wants these jobs here in Nevada or if he’d like to outsource them to China,” said Lydia Ball, Executive Director for the Clean Energy Project. “So far he’s casting his votes for out-of-state oil and gas companies and against thousands of clean energy jobs for Nevada.”

So now that Dean Heller is officially moving to The Senate, will he continue his obstinance on green collar jobs and sensible climate solutions? Or will he suddenly "see the light" and do what's right for Nevada?

On these and other issues, Heller will have some tough choices. He can no longer hide behind John Boehner's spray tan salon. Heller now represents the entire state, so he now has to choose whether to actually do his new job or continue pandering to teabagger extremists.

True Lies

[... A]fter another beautifully choreographed maneuver Tuesday, a near-perfect synergy of politics and policy, the administration has served notice to some apparently overmatched legislative opponents that he is playing in a different league. After adding back nearly $50 million in social service programs Tuesday, Sandoval will announce next week that an estimated $100 million-plus of additional funding from renewed economic projections will pour into education.

And then, five weeks from the end of the regular session, the governor will essentially smile, look across the courtyard and say, “I have been beneficent. I have salvaged social service programs and diminished the education cuts. For you, my dear Democratic friends, it’s either take that or show the world all you care about is raising taxes.”

It is beautifully horrific, like the Peckinpah ballet of violence at the end of “The Wild Bunch.” You stand back and admire the skill and craftsmanship, trying to forget the carnage left in its wake.

Team Sandoval gathered reporters Tuesday afternoon to take us through a panoply of programs being restored because of found money, mostly in Medicaid, that came from reduced caseloads and federal changes. The inestimable Mike Willden, the Health and Human Services boss, checked off the programs being restored, showing clear satisfaction that what he called “core services” were being resurrected.

But as he went through the list, I smiled knowingly as I saw that key rural programs were in the mix — programs certain GOP lawmakers who might be pressured to raise taxes to preserve them needed to have returned to the budget. If you believe this is a coincidence, you also think Donald Trump is a serious man.

I wanted to applaud, but it seemed inappropriate.

So Jon Ralston is admiring the "beautiful carnage" of Brian Sandoval's budget of "true lies". So Sandoval can now have everything he wants and have us all worship at his feet? Are we all supposed to be blinded by Brian Sandoval's "political mastery" and ignore the butchery of his plan to destroy Nevada as we know it?

Maybe not? Maybe the budget isn't yet a done deal?

Asked whether Sandoval’s moves would weaken their leverage, Democrats were quick to point out that the budget is in their hands now.

“The budget is being developed by this body and these are just his recommendations,” said Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, chairwoman of Ways and Means.

Some Republicans agree. Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, who was among those lobbying Sandoval to rethink his cuts to autism treatment, said he’s pleased Sandoval is still involved in the process.

“But it’s up to the Legislature to decide how to plug it back in,” Kieckhefer added.

As for not negotiating with Democrats, Kieckhefer said “the ability to negotiate add backs is contingent on an ability to locate the money.”

In other words, Democrats need to stop playing coy with their revenue plans.

Still, Democrats have enough of a majority to make the ultimate decision on where additional revenue goes.

As for Republicans who may want to rely on the governor: “They may be in for a surprise,” Leslie said.

Indeed, The Legislature ultimately has final authority on what's in the budget and what is allocated where. Republicans can't just count on Sandoval to spare their districts while pointing his red ink pens at urban areas.

Are we supposed to ignore what's actually happening throughout the state? Are we supposed to accept this bizarre suspension of belief in Carson City? Are we supposed to accept, "They don't get it. We don't care." as a legitimate position on keeping the state functioning?

Are we now supposed to accept this for "state government"? Or will we say enough to "Arnold Sandoval" and his true lies?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

NV-Sen: Boom Goes the Backfire?

Ha. Ha. It looks like Brian Sandoval's sweetheart back room deal with Dean Heller continues to backfire on them. PPP just polled Nevada again, and Dean Heller's lead in the Senate race (according to them) dropped from 13% to just 4%. Why? There are a number of factors, but here's something in particular to watch.

One thing that may end up actually hurting Heller in the long run is being appointed to the Senate vacancy created by the early resignation of John Ensign. 53% of voters think that Ensign's seat should be filled by a special election, compared to only 44% who think Brian Sandoval should appoint Ensign's replacement. Democrats will certainly try to make a Heller appointment smell bad and these numbers suggest that they have the public behind them in their opposition to Sandoval giving Heller a head start.

Heh. Serves them right.

Sandoval really thought this blatant snubbing of Nevadans would be glossed over as just another instance of "politics as usual". However, so far it looks like we the people want to take a closer look and ask why Dean Heller deserves a "head start" in next year's Senate election, and why we the people should be forced to pay for a special election to replace Heller exactly when Sandoval wants to slash public education to death, force elderly & disabled Nevadans onto the streets, and endanger Nevada's fragile economic recovery.

What, are Carson City political games more important than the lives of real Nevadans? Is this what Brian Sandoval meant by "shared sacrifice"? And is this just another instance of Dean Heller practicing something far different from what he preaches? Is it more important to cheat against Shelley Berkley than to actually focus on what their respective jobs are supposed to be?

Oh, and one more thing: Despite what some might say, PPP's results may be too good to be true... For Republicans! Mark Mellman was among the very few to get Nevada right last fall, and that's mainly because he figured out the secrets of polling Nevada. So when he shows Shelley Berkley ahead by 4%, those numbers can be taken to the bank. Most public pollsters are notorious for undersampling Latinos, young voters, and other demographic groups that usually vote Democratic here in Nevada, and they often don't get Clark County right. That's why Republicans shouldn't take too much comfort in any public pollster (especially one that got Nevada wrong these last two cycles) showing Dean Heller with a minuscule 4% lead.

Just saying. Heh. ;-)

NV-02: Sandoval's & Heller's Sharron Angle Problem

So Brian Sandoval is determined to fart in our faces and continue with his plan to hand our US Senate seat to Dean Heller, which is also supposed to give a "good ol' boy" party line Republican an easy special election waltz into NV-02 as Heller tangos his way to The Senate, as he continues to play silly political games. Well, guess who's ready to fart back and blow up the whole neat plan?

Nevada Republican Sharron Angle would consider waging an independent bid for Congress if she were passed over by party insiders in a potential special election for Rep. Dean Heller's (R-Nev.) House seat, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) is expected to make an appointment by the end of the week to fill the seat of Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), whose resignation is effective May 3. Sandoval is widely expected to pick Heller, who is already in the 2012 race for Ensign's seat.

That pick would set the stage for a special election to fill Heller's vacant House seat, but state elections officials are still trying to determine whether the candidates would be selected by party officials or would run in an open election.

If party insiders were to select the nominee, Angle would be at an immediate disadvantage, and, if shunned, could wage an independent bid.

Finally, Sharrrrrrrrrrrrrrron Angle has proven to be useful! As batshit crazy as she is, even she can rip off the veil of "legitimacy" to reveal what's really happening here. And of course, she's doing this because she knows Sandoval and Heller are trying to screw her out of that Congressional seat (in addition to trying to shore up Heller for next year).

It's nice to see this lovely little scheme already start to backfire on Sandoval and Heller. Serves them right. ;-)

Monday, April 25, 2011

NV-Sen: Sandoval Snubs Nevadans

This pretty much says it all.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has two simple criteria for the candidate he’ll appoint to replace U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., when he resigns on Tuesday: be ready to work on day one and reflect Ensign’s political ideology.

But don’t expect Sandoval to seek much public input on who best fits those categories.

Sandoval’s senior advisor Dale Erquiaga said today that the governor will try to best follow the will of the voters by appointing someone who not only is Republican, but matches Ensign’s “political ideology,” a term he declined to define.

“Sen. Ensign’s politics are fairly clear,” Erquiaga said.

Erquiaga dismissed an effort by Democrats in the Legislature to establish an “open, fair and public process” to select the appointment.

How fitting for a Governor who refuses to listen to the public and do anything that's not part of his own agenda to pursue more political power. And how is Brian Sandoval different from Jim Gibbons? Oh yes, that's right. He occasionally calls Bob Miller for "advice" and says nice things about John Oceguera and Steven Horsford. Whoop-tee-doodle.

Think about it: Have Jim Gibbons and John Ensign really left the building?

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Day Full of Pride

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Yesterday was a little extra gay for me. I started off with Stonewall at UNLV Pride. We reminded folks of the upcoming election, of important legislation pending in Carson City, and what else is happening in the community.

And later in the evening, I did Third Thursday with HRC Las Vegas and QVegas at my new favorite Strip hangout (more on that later at Bite of Vegas!). Hard working HRC intern, and recently minted MTV reality star, Mike Manning dropped by to chat with us... And so did Dina Titus! And considering everything in the news this week, there was plenty to talk about.

All in all, it was great to see folks young and old throughout our community get involved yesterday, both at UNLV and at Wynn. It was a nice end to an otherwise insanely hectic week!

So enjoy the Passover/Easter/Earth Day holiday this weekend, and I'll be back next week with even more on the ongoing developments in Carson City.

NV-02: Brower In... And Angle, Too?

Ah, another tweet heard 'round the world (of Nevada politics). Ralston confirmed that Greg Brower is running for Congress in The 2nd District... And he's preparing for the special election this year. And of course, this means he's in for another epic battle against Sharron Angle...

Or is he?

Election law isn't exactly crystal clear here in Nevada, and at first glance it seemed like the Nevada GOP could just do away with Angle by ensuring she can't get their nomination. However, that may not actually be the case.

Some lawyers argue the law allows multiple major party candidates to file for the election, instead of putting the nominating decision to the parties' central committees. In that case, several Republicans and several Democrats could vie for the seat on the same ballot.

Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller said he will make a decision on the process after reviewing all of the applicable laws if Heller is appointed.

So their Angle problem really won't go away?

Interestingly, Angle actually carried the most Republican district in the state, in the 2010 Senate race. However, her latest campaign is already off to a rough and controversial start, such as when she said that the Veterans of Foreign Wars PAC "betrayed America" when it endorsed Reid. Dealing with Angle's baggage is probably not a job the Nevada GOP wants.

So what happens if she gets snubbed by the party? Could she launch an independent bid? Would her base stay home, rather than support the establishment candidate? And even if another GOP nominee did win, would Angle continue out on the trail in a primary challenge?

There's only one way to find out!

So Sharrrrrrrrrrrrrron can't be stopped? It probably all depends on The Secretary of State's ruling... And how serious Democrats are about competing there.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Johnny Casino's Final One Finger Salute to You

How fitting.

Embattled Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) is resigning from his seat in the U.S. Senate. In a statement released by his office Thursday evening, Ensign said his last day as a Senator will be May 3.

"It is with tremendous sadness that I officially hand over the Senate seat that I have held for eleven years," Ensign said in the statement. "The turbulence of these last few years is greatly surpassed by the incredible privilege that I feel to have been entrusted to serve the people of Nevada. I can honestly say that being a United States Senator has been the honor of my life."

Ensign had already announced he wouldn't be seeking a third term in 2012, after his current term was marred by scandal involving an affair with the wife of a longtime friend and former staffer. The scandal put Ensign in the sights of the Senate Ethics Committee.

Now, it seems, Ensign will bring his time in the Senate to an end even earlier than had been expected. In his statement, Ensign eluded to the numerous investigations that have plagued him since he publicly admitted an extramarital affair in 2009.

Really. How fitting.

Ensign has hardly ever shown respect for "we the people" in his votes and actions in DC, so we should not be surprised that he's now showing utter disrespect to Nevada voters by quitting now after insisting he wouldn't do this. And if
what The Sun is reporting turns out to be true, then this is nothing more than a craven plot by Nevada Republicans to install Dean Heller as Senator now so that he can be favored in next year's election.

Why should Brian Sandoval, Dean Heller, and John Ensign be allowed to get away with this? This stunt forces Nevada to pay for a special election in the 2nd Congressional District. Why should we essentially pay for Heller to quit his current job and attempt to game the rules in his favor?

Remember this, Nevada. Remember this whenever Nevada Republicans talk about "respecting the will of the people". Clearly, they don't! And Brian Sandoval and Dean Heller can share in the disgrace that John Ensign has caused himself in this whole sorry affair.

Californication... Is Here?

Here we go again. Republicans scream when Shelley Berkley tries to talk sense into them.

“I’m very careful not to criticize people in this room,” Berkley said, noting the debate that stretched almost until midnight on Tuesday. “But in my mind, gutting our education system is shortchanging our children and almost as importantly as that, it is undermining our ability to diversify our economy.”

Sandoval attended the speech but was unavailable after to give a reaction to Berkley’s comments.

Talking to reporters after her speech, Berkley said lawmakers can’t let revenue challenges deprive “an entire generation of people” of an education and stressed the importance of diverting federal dollars into Nevada’s education system.

And The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce (!!!) tries to do the same.

Seems the conservative folks over at Keystone Corporation are not happy that the supposedly conservative folks over at the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce are open to tax increases if certain reforms are enacted, that the chamber believes the budget cuts are deep and severe.

So they're out to sic Bob List on them? Wait, isn't he already busy trying to shove nuclear waste down our throats?

Wait a minute... Haven't we been down this road before? And is this getting way too familiar?

But at bottom there’s still the same old question: How much pain and inconvenience will taxpayers have to suffer before they understand that there’s no such thing as a free lunch? How many potholes and unsafe bridges; how many cancelled university classes; how high the tuition; how short the school calendar; how slow the response from the fire department, how long the wait at the DMV? Or do we simply not care?

The [-----], said GOP Assembly leader [-----], is trying to scare people by trying to tell them that the budget deficit either requires even more severe cuts than the state has already made or the tax extensions the governor wants.

That’s a false choice, quoth [---], "It's disingenuous to scare people." You can fix it all with fiddles and efficiency. And pigs can fly.

The [------] and [---] fellow Democrats say they’re not trying to scare people, just going to tell the facts, though he’s also said -- as he did at a meeting of the Service Employees International Union the other day -- that the worst case scenario [meaning no tax extensions] would be really ugly. He also says he’s going to focus on Republican districts and is urging his backers to “hug” a Republican. That’s not quite like saying kiss a frog, hoping he’ll turn back into a prince, but close enough.

[-------], the president pro-tem of the Senate, meanwhile, is saying he won’t support closing all of the remaining $15 billion budget gap with just cuts alone.

These blanks can easily be filled with the likes of Pete Goicoechea and Mark Sherwood on the GOP side, and by Steven Horsford and Sheila Leslie on the Democratic side. But guess what? It's an article about California's budget crisis!

Yep, that's right. Republicans here always make scary comments about this state becoming some sort of "Little California", but their very obstruction on the budget and diabolical brinksmanship games with state government are turning us into California!

Sometimes, I really do wonder if Republican legislators are spending time that should be used working on a budget deal to instead study up on how California Republicans have turned Sacramento into an endless game of "Mortal Combat"... Where the folks who get killed off are kids in need of education, and seniors & disabled in need of health care. Read Calitics' budget diaries and notice the strange air of familiarity to them.

It seems like both at the federal level and in other states, Republicans are exporting the California model of obstructing their way to broken government to the rest of the country.

So why are they obstructing? Why are they willing to drive Nevada off the cliff, California-style? As always, Desert Beacon has the answer.

Truth be told, federal income taxes on the American middle class are now at an historically low level. [CBPP] This begs the question, if federal taxes on middle income Americans are at an historically low level, and the Nevada "tax burden" is one of the lowest in the nation especially as measured by "business climate" criteria [TTF]  -- then who is doing all the whining?

The answer to that question should be relatively apparent by now: Corporate Interests and Upper Income Earners. Thus, we are not speaking of "taxing people out of their homes," (middle income earners having the lowest rate since Presley was singing "That's All Right Mama"), and we're not speaking to "taxing people out of their businesses" (if indeed the Tax Foundation is correct and Nevada is ranked 4th in the nation in business climate).  Assemblyman Livermore, and his GOP cohorts, are evidently more concerned with the revenue side of the corporate world than with the revenue side of the state government balance sheet.  There's no particular reason that the Assembly debate on the state budget would end any other way than in a stalemate  [LVSun] since Republicans like Assemblyman [Pete] Livermore (R-Carson City) have adopted an ideological stance at variance with economic reality.  When the mantra "No New Taxes" morphs into "No Taxes At All" it's hard to move the discussion forward.

What makes the argument about "taxing people from their homes and businesses" ultimately risible is the drift of the tax burden away from the ultra-wealthy in this country toward middle income Americans: "This diminished tax burden on the wealthiest has contributed to the historically low federal revenue levels we are seeing today, and in turn, to higher deficits. The Congressional Budget Office projects federal revenue in 2011 will total 14.8% of GDP—the lowest level since 1950. At the same time that the tax burden has shifted away from the wealthy, this same top income group has enjoyed  massively disproportionate income gains.  Between 1992 and 2007, a time in which income for the average household and top one percent grew 13% and 123%, respectively, the income for the top 400 households grew fully 399%." [EPI ]

It's really about ideology. California Republicans do it all the time and try to get away with it by hiding behind undemocratic supermajority rules and procedures, and Nevada Republicans now look to be doing the same.

However, the ending hasn't yet been written for this "True Hollywood Story".

"Our review (of Gov. Brian Sandoval's budget) has led us to believe additional tax revenue may be necessary," wrote Hugh Anderson, chair of the Government Affairs Committee in a letter released this afternoon. "However, let me be clear: The Chamber's willingness to support additional tax revenue is absolutely dependent on the passage this year of significant and meaningful reforms that will fix systemic problems that are plaguing our state."

The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce has been seen as key to providing political cover for Republicans in the Assembly and Senate. Democrats need at least some support to pass a tax increase. [...]

Anderson laid out the effect of some of Sandoval's proposed cuts. It said class sizes would increase in grades 1 to 12 by two students, on average. It also said school district personnel would take a 7.8 percent pay reduction. It said core degrees would be eliminated from higher education.

If even The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce (!!!) is willing to come to the table and support badly needed revenues to keep our state alive, then Republicans need to be brought to the table. And as I said yesterday, this is the part where we go in and take them there.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Assembly Republicans Afraid to "Face the Budget"

“I ask you and I beg of you to think about the people you serve,” Assemblywoman April Mastroluca, D-Henderson, said. “Tell them we worked together to come up with a compromise to do what we thought was best...” [...]

Republican lawmakers did their own fair share of browbeating, accusing Democrats of putting on a disingenuous show for the public.

“The compromise and what you want is convenient when we have a forum and you try to paint these guys as hating kids,” Assemblyman Mark Sherwood, R-Henderson, said. “This is a farce.”

Republicans have accused Democrats of refusing to come to the table to debate reform measures on their priorities — an accusation that is flat wrong, according to Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas.

“Let’s name the bills you wish to have available,” Oceguera replied to Sherwood. “I believe that the construction defect bill, I have that bill, it is still alive. A (public employee retirement) reform bill, it’s still alive. Prevailing wage, we have that bill. Still alive. Tell me your other reforms. I think I answered all these questions.”

So last night, The Assembly was stuck at a stalemate over the budget. Despite all the public hearings, all the negotiations over other legislation, and all the public and private pleas for compromise, Republicans just said no and just walked away.

I wonder if they would have done the same if the very people they and Brian Sandoval are threatening would have been there in person.

I guess they need more of this...

And more of your input! Please keep sending messages to your legislators. It may seem "pointless" at first glance, but it really isn't. Let me tell you why.

Ultimately, these legislators have to face "we the people" in their next election. And while in Carson, they have to keep a running tab on who's contacting them on what. They only know that we're here when we tell them, and they only feel the pressure to come to the table when we apply that pressure.

As we've talked about before, it's long past due for the greedy, tax-evading mining corporations and "mega-box" multinational corporations to pay their fair share after making us "endure the pain" all by ourselves for far too long. And as we've talked about before, we need to get involved and stay involved to make a difference. So don't give up. Make these Republican legislators come to the table!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Majority for Marriage (Equality)?

I missed this a little earlier, but it's really intriguing me now.

In the [new CNN] poll, 51% of adult Americans said they thought same sex marriages should be recognized by law, while 47% said they should not. That's a significant reversal from the same poll two years ago when Americans opposed same sex marriage by a 10-point spread, with 44% in favor and 54% against.

It's the second time in as many months that a pollster has for the first time found majority support for legalizing same sex marriage. In March, a Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that 53% of adults supported legalizing same sex marriage, while 44% opposed it.

The finding comes just months after the Obama administration announced that it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) -- the law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages -- in court. Republicans, including some potential presidential candidates like Mike Huckabee, decried that decision, saying Obama was going against public opinion. But recent polls show Americans are steadily growing more supportive of legal recognition for same sex couples.

Wow. Just wow. This seems to echo what's been happening in other countries as legal, civil marriage equality has become more common.

But even as more and more Americans express support for marriage equality, House Republicans want to waste up to $500,000 of our tax dollars to pay George Bush's last Solicitor General (and his legal firm) $520 per hour to defend DOMA in court! How further out of touch can they get? DOMA denies many thousands of legally married couples the federal rights and responsibilities afforded to other spouses simply because they're gay and lesbian couples.

It seems as more Americans become more familiar with their fellow Americans who happen to be LGBTQ, they understand that we are indeed all created equal, and that we all deserve equal rights under the law. But even though "we the people" may get it, many in Congress don't. John Boehner and fellow House Republicans would rather waste our tax dollars to defend unconstitutional discrimination in court than do anything sane or relevant.

Hopefully, this groundswell of support for fuller LGBTQ equality will better materialize next year at the polls.

Obama to Campaign in Reno... Again

For the first time since his election in 2008, President Obama will be returning to Northern Nevada this week. So what are we to expect? Agence France-Presse & TPM give the details.

In his travels, Obama will "speak directly to the American people about his vision for reducing our debt and bringing down our deficit, based on the values of shared responsibility and shared prosperity," the White House said. [...]

On Wednesday, he [will be] off to Palo Alto, and a day later to Reno, Nevada, another battleground.

Obama had cited Facebook in his January State of the Union speech as an example of innovative US companies that can help the world's richest country overcome its dreary present economic circumstances and "win the future."

The US president has taken pains to contrast his vision with Republican calls to slash government spending and roll back regulations while lowering tax rates on the richest Americans and corporations.

In public speeches and exhortations to supporters behind closed doors, Obama has made Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's blueprint for cutting some $4.4 trillion from the deficit over 10 years into a political punching bag some 18 months before the November 2012 elections.

Obama -- who says his approach will slice some $4 trillion in 12 years or less -- has notably accused Ryan of looking to gut the Medicare and Medicaid programs for the elderly and the poor.

And a local business in Reno will have the great fortune of hosting Mr. President.

It’s not every day that a business gets invited to play host to a presidential visit.

For ElectraTherm Inc., a small renewable energy company in Reno, that day comes Thursday when President Barack Obama stops by for an invitation-only town hall-style visit.

“It’s really fantastic for a small company,” Chief Executive Officer John Fox said Monday. “I think we’re hopefully getting recognized for starting to make some headway in green energy in Northern Nevada with the struggling economy, and hiring people and getting a Department of Energy award last year.”

“It’s an honor to have our facility portrayed in this light,” Fox said of the company near Reno-Tahoe International Airport.

The Reno visit is part of a Western trip that the New York Times calls “the first campaign-style tour” for Obama since last week’s deficit debate over raising taxes, cutting spending and changing entitlements programs.

Hopefully, we'll hear more details from Obama on how he intends to counter the insani-TEA from House Republicans and work on a budget that values Nevada workers. We have so many opportunities here with renewable energy and green technology, but we'll never reap the rewards if we don't make the investment.

Even with the unemployment rate finally declining, 13.2% of our workforce is still out of work. If there's a true "deficit crisis" here, it's a deficit of jobs. The President really needs to reiterate that Thursday.

This Thursday's stop in Reno will probably be the first of many more Nevada visits by President Obama as the 2012 Election heats up. Hopefully, our economy will continue to warm up as well.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Good Day for Equality: AB 211 Passed Assembly

(Also at Nevada Stonewall)

Here's some actual good news to come out of Carson City today: AB 211 passed!

OK... So? So... This.

As of today, it's still "legal" to fire transgender people from work for no good reason. AB 211 will change that if passed and signed into law. We're now about 1/3 of the way there with Assembly passage, so now we need full Senate passage, then preferably a signature from The Governor. (If Sandoval vetoes, then we need at least 2/3 support from each house of The Legislature to override.)

So now is the perfect time to contact your State Senator and let them know you want AB 211 passed.

Scenes from the Campaign Trail: AIDS Walk Las Vegas

It was a hot Sunday morning in Las Vegas, and over 8,000 people showed up to walk... To raise awareness, and raise money, to help Nevadans fighting HIV/AIDS. AFAN puts together the walk every year, and this time was simply amazing. There were a number of high-profile celebrities helping the cause, such as Penn & Teller (who show up every year!), Holly Madison, and 8 News Now's Chris Saldana.

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And of course, we also had some fabulous elected officials join the party (and the cause) as well. State Senators David Parks (D-Paradise) & Ruben Kihuen (D-North Las Vegas), Assembly Member Elliot Anderson (D-Paradise), and Clark County Commissioner (and Las Vegas Mayoral Candidate!) Chris Giunchigliani (D-Las Vegas) all showed up, and they all had their walking shoes ready to go the distance with us!

And of course, our favorite Congresswoman was also there! And now that she's also running for US Senate, I'll suspect we'll be seeing plenty more of Shelley Berkley throughout the state in the weeks and months to come.

We even enjoyed some live entertainment... In addition to all the politicians' speeches. ;-)

The Jersey Boys came to perform (even a capella!)...

And so did Jabbawockeez!

All in all, we had a great time yesterday. And even better, we made a difference. I have quite a few dear friends living with HIV/AIDS, so I know they don't have easy lives. Trying to stay alive certainly isn't cheap. And while we've come a long way in the last 30 years, we still have to fight the stigma, the discrimination, and now the state & federal budget cuts threatening the lives of many thousands here in Nevada and millions more throughout the country.

That's why I walked yesterday.

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And that's why I was so delighted to see so many other folks throughout the community walk as well. Together, we really can make a difference.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Scenes from the Campaign Trail: Old Henderson

Another great day meeting #Henderson voters & talking abo... on Twitpic

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Often when we think about Henderson today, our minds immediately ascend to well manicured, white-collar suburban enclaves like Green Valley and Anthem. However, we often forget about the history of Henderson, especially the living history still standing in Old Henderson.

Old Henderson definitely has a different vibe to it. Walking the streets, one can observe how the neighborhoods have matured since being built 50-70 years ago as housing for industrial workers. It's still very much a blue-collar area, and the older, less uniform houses and apartment complexes stand in stark contrast to the master plans and HOA drama of newer, more glamorous parts of town.

Yesterday, Sam Bateman knocked doors in Old Henderson after marching in the local Heritage Parade. And of course, I joined along, as I was curious to see what voters here were thinking. There were complaints about the police not doing their job here, concerns about rude neighbors throwing loud parties at night, and mistrust of certain politicians that have long neglected this part of the city.

You see, we have our own inner city problems to tackle here in Henderson. It's not all "Real Housewives" style drama in gated McMansion communities here. We also have an urban core in need of attention, and really in need of some old fashioned TLC. I must admit I was glad to see Sam knocking on doors here and listening to the residents, especially as someone running in Ward 4, an area better known for our culture of white-collar suburbia.

Hopefully Sam and other local Henderson leaders remember that we really are a diverse city full of neighborhoods with their own unique needs. Old Henderson doesn't end at Water Street and Lake Mead Parkway. There's more work to be done, and locals there are hoping for the city and local businesses to work alongside them.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Scenes from the Campaign Trail: Stonewall @ Arts Factory

On Wednesday, Stonewall had its monthly meeting at The Arts Factory in Downtown Las Vegas. And as expected, there were some interesting guests. Coming off last week's nail-biter of a primary, Chris Giunchigliani dropped by to chat with folks on the state of the race and why she's "in it to win it".

She explained her commitment to "building a community a neighborhood at a time", why she was concerned about AB 548, getting film production studios to make more movies and TV shows in Las Vegas, and much more. When she's on a roll talking good policy, one just doesn't want her to stop.

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Las Vegas Council candidate Bob Coffin also stopped by, and he also went into detail on some local policy matters on his mind. In particular, he was discussing the need to keep The 18b Arts District on the front burner as Downtown rehabilitation and renovation continues. Even as Fremont East is becoming the city's new "urban hot spot", Coffin was reminding the crowd that there are people and small businesses there in 18b that still need some TLC from the city.

Another interesting guest at Wednesday's gathering was Henderson City Council candidate Sam Bateman. He stopped by to thank Henderson members for supporting him, and to remind everyone that Ward 4 will be on the ballot again in June. He also discussed inner city redevelopment in Henderson, non-discrimination policies, and local government transparency.

Heh. And you thought everyone would be asking them about marriage and "Glee". ;-)

See, we queer folk can think bigger and more broadly. And it was nice to hear all this fun local policy talk at the Stonewall meeting. My ears kept ringing for joy!

Alas, if only the rest of the campaign season could be like this...

Home Means Nevada: Redistricting Congress "Fairly"

(Also at Swing State Project)

In our previous glimpses into redistricting Nevada's Congressional Districts, we discussed what would happen if The Legislature redraws the lines based on certain politicians' future aspirations. But this time, I'm throwing a curveball at you. What happens if The Legislature can't agree on a map?

Today, the fun really begins with a glimpse of a possible court drawn map.

Yes, you heard me right. Two law suits have already been filed, one by the Nevada Democratic Party and another by the Nevada GOP, and more legal action may follow if The Legislature drags on without a map ready for 2012. If the increasingly brutal state budget battle drags on to Summer Special Session with no agreement in sight, there's a good chance the gridlock will also extend to redistricting. And as much as Nevada Supreme Court justices do NOT want to wade into redistricting, I've been hearing that both they and the major parties are seeing it as more of a real possibility.

So what happens? Let's take a look at just that, as a few angry judges throw out the political memos and guide a nonpartisan team to draw "fair" lines.

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NV-02 (The Dark Green District)

Population: 674,932
69.3% White (73.7% VAP)

The State of Play

As you can see above, this is still a Washoe County based district. The good news for Republicans is that Washoe's flirtations with Democrats can be offset by heavily Republican rural areas like Elko, Douglas, and Lyon Counties. However, the bad news is that swingy Mineral County and Carson City are also included. All in all, The 2nd District becomes slightly more Democratic.

Who's All In?

Now that Kirk Lippold and Sharron Angle are officially in, let the tea-nuttery begin! It will be to fun to see those two out-crazy each other, then watch as "poor" Mark Amodei and Brian Krolicki try to get some of those teabagger votes without going too far off the deep end.

On the Democratic side, State Treasurer Kate Marshall is sounding more and more like a real candidate.

The Wild Cards

However, Marshall may not be alone. 2006 and 2008 NV-02 Democratic nominee Jill Derby is also looking at the race, along with Assembly Member Debbie Smith (D-Sparks) and Reno City Council Member Jessica Sferrazza. Now that all out madness is ensuing on the GOP side, Washoe Dems are increasingly liking their chances here... But it still won't be an easy ride. Why? See below.

Estimated 2008 Results: 49-50% Obama (D)

Early Race Rating: Leans Republican for now, Tossup if Angle or Lippold wins the GOP primary

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NV-04 (The Purple District)

Population: 675,314
61.9% White (65.2% VAP)

The State of Play

Now here's where things start to get wild! Notice some changes? For one, it's the new district that now gets drawn into the rurals. The new 4th District starts in rural Churchill County (Fallon gets placed in NV-02 because it can be argued it shares a community of interest with the other Reno exurbs), but otherwise the other rural counties are left whole as the district stretches from Ely down to Pahrump, then finally to Clark County. And once the district crosses into Clark, it takes in northern rural areas, from Indian Springs to Overton & Mesquite, then drops into the valley to take in the once rapidly expanding Northwest and Southwest Las Vegas suburbs, as well as all of Summerlin and some whiter West Side neighborhoods.

In essence, this is THE classic swing district with a unique mix of rural Republican strongholds, urban Democratic bases, and a whole lot of evenly divided suburban battlegrounds that can very well go either way next year... And that's how the court will want it.

Who's All In?

Notice something else? There's no incumbent here! Even though there technically is one in Shelley Berkley, we all now know what she's up to. So in her absence, there should be a wild ride on both sides in vying for this seat.

On the Republican side, State Senator Barbara Cegavske's (R-Summerlin) wish will finally be fulfilled as she now has an open seat to compete in. But then again, she may get an unwanted surprise if local teabagger groups rally behind the newly crowned, tea-tinged superstar in State Senator Elizabeth Halseth (R-Northwest Vegas). State Assembly Member Scott Hammond (R-Northwest Vegas) may also feel the temptation.

On the Democratic side, Assembly Member Marcus Conklin (D-Northwest Vegas) may be real opportunity here. And considering his gracious concession earlier this month and offer to endorse Chris Giunchigliani for Las Vegas Mayor after 15 votes separated them in the primary, Larry Brown is busy re-earning goodwill that may come in handy should he run for Congress next year. (By the way, in case you were wondering, he's also apologized for the confusion over his support for SB 283 and domestic partnerships for LGBTQ families.) And unless the Nevada GOP can sideline Cegavske and Halseth in favor of a more mainstream nominee, Dems may very well like their chances here.

The Wild Cards

Hey, isn't it wild enough already!

Estimated 2008 Results: 51-54% Obama (D)

Early Race Rating: Tossup

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NV-01 (The Blue District)

Population: 674,765
47.0% Latino (41.2% VAP), 29.1% White (34.5% VAP), 14.6% African American (14.8% VAP)

The State of Play

Even if Shelley Berkley wasn't running for Senate, the court would not care where she lives or where she "wants" to represent. But now that she's definitely out of the picture, all bets are off! The 1st District contracts to just (all of) North Las Vegas and the older, more Latino and African American heavy parts of The City of Las Vegas, as well as a few heavily Latino unincorporated Clark County areas and the northern half of The Strip.

Who's All In?

State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) hasn't done a great job of hiding his desire to head to DC. And thankfully for him, a court drawn map doesn't prevent that, as this is designed to be a VRA protected minority-majority coalition district.

However, the path isn't too clear for him. After all, this is a strong Latino plurality district, and State Senator Ruben Kihuen (D-North Las Vegas) is a fierce fighter who's gaining broader appeal as a strong, progressive voice in The Legislature. Since this district overlaps with nearly all of his current Senate district, Kihuen definitely can't be counted out.

The Wild Cards

State Senator John Lee (D-North Las Vegas) isn't stupid, so perhaps he can't entirely be counted out yet. But as I've said before, he's acting far too conservative this session to really gain traction in a Democratic primary here.

And sorry, Republicans, but there's really no GOPer who can compete here.

Estimated 2008 Results: 67-68% Obama (D)

Early Race Rating: Safe Democratic

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NV-03 (The Red District)

Population: 675,520
56.2% White (60.3% VAP), 23.1% Latino (19.8% VAP), 9.6% Asian American (10.0% VAP)

The State of Play

Now here's where things get really crazy! Remember, the court is overseeing the drawing of this map. The judges don't care what Joe Heck wants or who he wants to represent. All they care about are population equity and fair boundaries. So unfortunately for him, he's forced to accept a Henderson based district that keeps the entire city intact while stretching north into the strongly Democratic East Side (which can be argued shares a community of interest with most of Henderson), and west across The Strip to heavily Democratic Spring Valley (which can be argued shares a community of interest with The East Side, and is needed for population equity), and across Eastern Avenue to Democratic leaning Silverado Ranch.

However, Democrats shouldn't get too giddy here. Remember, ALL of Henderson is kept in here, including Joe Heck's own MacDonald Ranch/Roma Hills base as well as the opulent, affulent, & Republican dominant Anthem & Seven Hills communities. Also kept in are more GOP heavy Boulder City, along with the rural communities of Searchlight and Laughlin further south (as well as Primm, added in from NV-02).

Who's All In?

Obviously, Joe Heck wants another term. However, he will really have to rethink his strategy if The Legislature deadlocks on the state budget and redistricting gets determined in court. Since he's likely to be kept in what will at least be a Democratic tilting district, he will need far more crossover support than he got in 2010 to survive next year in a district President Obama will probably win by double digits again.

So obviously, Heck looks to be an inviting target for Assembly Speaker John Oceguera (D-Silverado Ranch). He's survived tough battles before, and he's in the fight of his life now over the state budget. He may feel ready to take on Heck...

But there's someone else waiting in the wings, someone who will have waited a year for the rematch she's been looking for. Dina Titus definitely shouldn't be counted out, especially since she only barely lost last time... And this time, many of the areas where she performed worst have been removed. Meanwhile, her East Side base is left intact, along with the Green Valley (Henderson) neighborhoods where she beat Heck.

The Wild Cards

Byron Georgiou has quickly turned from welcomed Democratic fundraiser to unwelcome Democratic pariah. Both Shelley Berkley and Harry Reid want him out of the Senate race, and rumors have surfaced about him possibly running for House instead. So will it be here? Or in the new NV-04 seat? Or maybe even NV-01? Whatever the case, a whole lot of Democratic strategists nervously await where Georgiou will land.

And of course, depending on what Joe Heck does, particularly how he votes in The House, there's a chance of him being called for "tea time" in the GOP primary.

Estimated 2008 Results: 55-57% Obama (D)

Early Race Rating: Tossup for now, Leans Democratic if Heck has primary woes & Dems get a top notch nominee

So there you have it. This is just one scenario of what might happen if redistricting Nevada's Congressional Districts is tossed to the courts for judges to decide and nonpartisan players to draw. An incumbent is thrown into jeopardy, two open seats lead to total feeding frenzies, and an epic rematch may be coming to doorsteps near me soon.

Time for Us to "Face the Budget"

OK, so you've already been hearing plenty from me on the state of our state. So today, I won't preach at you again. Instead, listen to these fine Nevadans...

Then join Nevada Values Coalition in making their voices and our voices heard in Carson City! And remember to Click to Tweet so that all your friends on Twitter see this as well. Oh, and it may also be a good idea to send these videos to your legislators. Just saying...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Power Away from the People?

At the last minute, AB 548 has come out of hiding. OK, so what's the big deal? And what is this exactly?

If passed, AB 548 would take away our right to vote for members of the Nevada State Board of Education that are supposed to supervise and guide K-12 public education statewide. This would essentially take power away from the people and concentrate it in the hands of a few. In this bill, state board members are instead appointed by The Governor.

Hear that? And get it? This is really nothing more than a thinly veiled power grab by Brian Sandoval and his "Tea Party, Inc." friends out to deform public education.

Don't believe me yet? Chris Miller from NSDC explains further.

Some other points to note:

1. AB548 would be taking away the right of the citizen voter for elected representation by REGION.
2. Most appointed positions are given to white males and are not reflective of demographics. Current board is comprised of 5 women and 4 men. Ethnically, there are 2 African Americans, 3 Hispanics and 5 Caucasian members.
3. AB548 would give the Governor a 'rubber stamp' Education Board to make curricula. textbook and policy decisions.

The last is important because last year in Texas, the conservative Texas State Board of Education approved new textbooks. Among the changes form the old books: Students would be required to learn about the “unintended consequences” of Title IX, affirmative action, and the Great Society, and would need to study conservative icons like Phyllis Schlafly, the Heritage Foundation, and the Moral Majority. The slave trade would be renamed the “Atlantic triangular trade,” American “imperialism” changed to “expansionism,” and all references to “capitalism” have been replaced with “free enterprise.” The role of Thomas Jefferson – who argued for the separation of church and state – is minimized in several places, and the standards would emphasize the degree to which the Founding Fathers were driven by Christian principles.

This is where things get really freaky. If the religious righties cause enough of a stink to scare Sandoval into throwing them some bones in appointing their own to the state board, we may end up with a Texas/Kansas like disaster of board members injecting radical right politics into public education. Do we want our kids subjected to religious dogma being preached in "science class"? Do we want them "learning" that "homosexuality is a crime against God"? Do we want them to "know" that "feminism is of Satan" and that "slavery is OK because it's in The Bible"?

Don't laugh it off. Not that long ago, folks thought it was impossible for extremists to take over the Texas and Kansas Boards of Education. But now not only has that happened, but sound education is under attack in even more states. It can clearly happen here, so it's imperative for us to protect our schools from partisan politicking in Carson City.

Even if that nightmare scenario doesn't occur, it would be bad enough to replace elected officials accountable to "We the People" with unelected cronies "friends of The Governor". While folks like Elaine Wynn and Punam Mathur may be genuinely concerned about our schools, the fact of the matter is that they were never elected by us, they're not accountable to us, and it's ridiculous for Sandoval to try to make us forfeit our power to let our voices be heard on public education, just so he can feel more "in charge" and place his "friends" on the state board.

Please take a look at Chris' list of legislators to contact and let them know AB 548 does nothing to help public education, and that we don't want them to play power politics with our schools.

NV-Sen, NV-02: Shelley Is In... And So Is Kirk Lippold?

Let the game of political musical chairs continue!

I am hearing ex-USS Cole Commander Kirk Lippold is going to announce today he is running as GOPer for Heller's seat. @SharronAngle also in.

After flirting with a Senate run in 2010, Kirk Lippold now seems serious about running in The 2nd District... Against a growing GOP field that includes Brian Krolicki, Mark Amodei, and (of course!) Sharrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrron!

This certainly makes the GOP primary there even more uncertain! You can look at this one of three ways:

1. Lippold splits the teabagger vote with Sharrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrron Angle, helping Brian Krolicki win in a crowded field.

2. Lippold splits the anti-Angle vote with Krolicki, Mark Amodei, and others, helping Sharrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrron win in a crowded field.

3. GOP voters desperate for "a change from the career politicians" are revolted enough by all the other choices to give Lippold a surprise win.

I guess it all really depends now on how hard Chuck Muth pushes for him.

In the mean time, we have an even bigger announcement released that's long been in the works.

Rep. Shelley Berkley will run for US Senate, source close to her confirms.

Is anyone really surprised here? Yeah, I thought not.

Rep. Shelley Berkley has decided she will run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Sen. John Ensign, Sun columnist Jon Ralston reported this morning.

Ralston said a close source to the Democrat confirmed she will enter the race. The source said Berkley had been agonizing about the decision, but the opportunity was too appealing to pass up.

She could face Republican Dean Heller, who officially jumped into the race last month for the seat being vacated by the retiring Ensign.

“Dean Heller will be a very formidable candidate no matter what he runs for,” Berkley told Ralston last month amid speculation she might enter the race. “But as I said before, my opponent will not be a deciding factor. I am seriously looking at the Senate seat.”

So she needs to update her web site, plan more rural trips, and keep reminding naysayers of those poll numbers proving them wrong. I honestly had my doubts at first, but I can now see Shelley Berkley defeating Dean Heller next year. Obama's on track to win Nevada easily again, Heller isn't known for his campaigning skills, yet Shelley most certainly is. There clearly is a path for her.

And without a doubt, 2012 looks to be another wild ride for Nevada voters!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Obama's Homerun?

"There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires," Mr. Obama said of budget proposals put forward by Republicans in the House. "There's nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don't have any clout on Capitol Hill. And this is not a vision of the America I know."

In his remarks, delivered at George Washington University, Mr. Obama offered an impassioned defense of the popular Medicare and Medicaid programs against Republican proposals for sweeping changes in them. "We are a better country because of these commitments," he said of the programs. "I'll go further - we would not be a great country without those commitments."

See. I told you this would happen. Of course, this also happened.

Anticipating criticism of his plan from his Democratic supporters, Mr. Obama pleaded for understanding as he pursues cuts to government spending and seeks changes to programs like Medicare.

"If we truly believe in a progressive vision of our society, we have the obligation to prove that we can afford our commitments," he said.

Rather than change Medicare to a voucher program, Mr. Obama proposes broad reforms that he says would save hundreds of billions of dollars over the next 12 years and more than $1 trillion in the following decade.

But again, as I said earlier, this is the consequence of divided government. There has to be some give and take. But thankfully, President Obama avoided a huge demoralizing moment by sticking to his commitment to protect America's social safety net.

And really, Obama is playing smart politics here. By offering a realistic deficit plan, albeit one that isn't ideal for progressives looking for more effective ways to encourage more economic recovery and job creation while tackling real waste in military spending, he looks to be above the fray of the messy warfare in Congress. And if House Republicans really follow through on their threat to initiate a global economic catastrophe if they don't get their way on impoverishing millions of American seniors, they only stand to lose radically.

Jed Lewison of DKos probably sums it up best.

My quick take: it was a terrific speech, and offered a credible approach to long-term fiscal policy. It did an effective job of making the case for not just a progressive revenue stream, but a progressive government, and properly framed the GOP proposal as antithetical to the vision of America shared by most of the people in this country. He framed fiscal policy, properly, as being the way by which we fund government so that it can do what we want it to do, in contrast to the GOP's vision of fiscal policy, which seems to mean nothing but "cut government." Obviously, the true test here isn't just President Obama's speech today, but also what he manages to accomplish in the coming months and years as this debate unfolds. But at least in my view, today was a great way to start.

Thankfully, Obama hit it out of the park today. He rightfully blasted Paul Ryan's dreams of more bailouts for billionaires while working families die on the streets as anything but "courageous". He explained beautifully the need for tax fairness, then turned the tables on Republicans by demanding they come to the bargaining table after he's already been negotiating and compromising with them. Now this is the way to take on both the deficit and Republican intransigence!

If this is the Barack Obama we see in the next five months as debt and deficits are being debated, then we're in much better shape than I had originally imagined.

The "Bipartisan Deals" No One Likes

It's been said that the hallmark of a good bipartisan compromise on legislation is that it irritates broad swaths of folks across the ideological spectrum. If that's the case, then we have a real winner in the budget deal President Obama made with Congressional Republicans... As well as the next deal about to be made on next year's budget and the debt ceiling!

From RedState:

It is becoming more and more clear that Republicans got played in the budget deal. Likewise, envirowackos have gone totally wild.

From National Review:

"Friday’s much-heralded budget deal is a pyrrhic victory for deficit hawks....Obama was able to preserve many, if not most, of his pet projects, like Pell Grants, Planned Parenthood funding, and Americorps. It’s not clear who should be licking their wounds today."

From Paul Krugman:

I realize that with hostile Republicans controlling the House, there’s not much Mr. Obama can get done in the way of concrete policy. Arguably, all he has left is the bully pulpit. But he isn’t even using that — or, rather, he’s using it to reinforce his enemies’ narrative.
His remarks after last week’s budget deal were a case in point.

Maybe that terrible deal, in which Republicans ended up getting more than their opening bid, was the best he could achieve — although it looks from here as if the president’s idea of how to bargain is to start by negotiating with himself, making pre-emptive concessions, then pursue a second round of negotiation with the G.O.P., leading to further concessions...

And from Joan McCarter at Daily Kos:

Democrats once again fail Budget Negotiation 101. With the White House apparently at the very least flirting with the catfood commission (we need a Magic 8 Ball on this one, because just hours ago, the story was different), the House Dems have gone all in. [...]

Apparently, they're ignoring the advice of Leader Nancy Pelosi, who has argued that Democrts need to do what they did when Bush was trying to privatize Social Security in 1995: don't take the bait. The bait has been swallowed.

In rhetorically embracing the demonstrably right-wing catfood commission as the "reasonable" middle, even without endorsing all of its non-proposals, Dems start these upcoming negotiations having ceded important ideological ground from the get-go. Van Hollen did make some good points, according to this TPM story, including the fact that the non-report from the commission's chairs assumed that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy would expire. The non-report also failed to address in any kind of substantive way the spending and cost drivers for Medicare and Medicaid—cost drivers for the entire federal budget—continuing rising health care costs. But it is nowhere near a progressive, even a traditional Democratic, plan.

It really underscores Obama's challenge tonight in presenting a "balanced approach" to balancing the budget. Even as he faces huge challenges abroad with Middle East unrest and continued fallout from Japan's huge earthquake and tsunami, the key challenge now really looks to be domestic. The teabaggers on the extreme right will be pleased by nothing (other than perhaps Obama being impeached on fictitious charges, then replaced by "President Donald Trump"), and now the left is becoming more vociferous in drawing a line in the sand. Meanwhile, folks from across the blogosphere keep yelling and screaming and taunting Obama as "weak".

It's interesting to see all these complaints now, and to see the glories of our dysfunctional system at work. Congress has to agree on a budget, but hardly anyone wants to make the tough choices and tougher compromises. And as the debt ceiling quickly approaches, some Republicans in Congress are enjoying flirting with total annihilation. Still, we need to recognize good policy and fight for it... And hopefully, Obama will do just that tonight.

Still, let this be a lesson learned (so far) that no one can get everything one wants with a divided government.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Obama's Rubicon?

May this be the ultimate defining moment of The Obama Administration? Will it really all come down to this?

President Obama will call for shrinking the nation's long-term deficits by raising taxes on wealthier Americans and requiring them to pay more into Social Security, drawing a barbed contrast with a Republican plan to save money by deeply slashing Medicare, Medicaid and other domestic spending.

Obama will offer some spending cuts, including trims to the Pentagon's budget, but his speech Wednesday is likely to provide Americans with a vivid choice between higher taxes or fewer benefits, issues that will color the national debate straight through the 2012 election.

So what will President Obama say? The LA Times may be offering a hint...

Democrats hope to repeat the experience of 2005, in which President George W. Bush's proposal to privatize parts of Social Security proved to be a staggering miscalculation that cost his party heavily in the next year's election. They think voters will not accept a Republican proposal put forward by Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) that would replace guaranteed Medicare benefits with a limited voucher. [...]

"We strongly disagree with the lack of balance in Congressman Ryan's approach," [White House Press Secretary Jay] Carney said. "It simply is not appropriate and it would not be supported by the American people to have a fiscal plan that relies on dramatic restructuring, reform of the kind of programs that provide security and health security to seniors and to poor people and to disabled people, and at the same time gives enormous tax relief, tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans."

Though The Washington Post suggests something different, and The PCCC is already organizing AGAINST Obama and flirting with the possibility of a primary challenge next year. So is Obama preparing to do the unthinkable in slashing and burning The New Deal and Great Society? Is this "Nixon Goes to China" for Obama?

Or is this something else? Ezra Klein tweeted that The White House directly told him so, and Greg Sargent is suddenly... GASP!... Feeling more hopeful about tomorrow evening's Presidential Speech.

At the White House press briefing today, spokesman Jay Carney hinted that all the reporting out there today is wrong, and insisted Obama’s vision would not be based solely on any particular plan.

“He has said very clearly that he supports the efforts of the so-called Gang of Six and others who are addressing these challenges in a very serious way,”Carney said. “That’s a healthy, good thing, and it’s reflective of the environment that was created by the president’s fiscal commission after it reported last year...He will provide his vision tomorrow.”

I could be wrong, but that sounds to me like the White House actively doesn’t want Obama’s eventual vision to be seen as anything but his own, despite commentary to the contrary. Obama intended the fiscal commission to start a conversation, not set his final blueprint for him. “It will be his,” Carney said. [...]

As The Post reports today, “letting others take the lead on complex problems has become a hallmark of the Obama presidency.” But it’s also a hallmark of the Obama presidency for him to step in just when such chatter is at its peak and articulate a vision that, by his lights, represents the best of what others contributed to the debate while he waited in the wings. So we'll see.

So what can we expect tomorrow? Maybe we need to stop reading into Obama what we want to see?

Honestly, I think it was the biggest mistake far too many voters made in 2008. They looked at the nebulous promise of "hope" and "change", and read into it whatever they wanted: that Obama would be a great "Progressive Messiah" ushering in a golden age of public works programs, single-payer health care, and marriage equality; or that Obama would be some "Crazy Communist" out to socialize everything in sight; or that Obama would be playing hoops with Lamar Odom and doing photo shoots with Scarlett Johansen all day. Seriously, Barack Obama isn't the kind of politician that likes to be boxed in by ideological labels or branded as some part of some specific DC clique.

Rather, what Obama has been trying to do this whole time he's been in office so far is to make his own unique mark on the major legislative hurdles of our time. And he wants to do so on his terms. That's why I'm willing to hear him out tomorrow.

After all, this may be the pivotal moment of truth for Obama. Does he want to be known as the President conveying the wrong message at the wrong time? Does he want to be known as someone who threw the country back into total economic misery by cutting the poor, disabled, and elderly to death? Or does he want to be known as someone who brought about lasting change that put America firmly into economic recovery and beyond the doldrums of "Bush's Great Recession"?

This may really be President Obama's Rubicon Moment. And believe it or not, I'm thinking he will put extra thought into what he does and understand we can't forget what we value the most.