Saturday, July 30, 2011

Republicans Stand Tall Against... REPUBLICAN Ideas!

When did this...



Become this?





When a Democrat became President?

Of course, Boner's capitulation to crazy teabaggers died in The Senate last night... And Boner is looking increasingly irrelevant in this whole debt ceiling fiasco.

The events of the past 24 hours have been beyond bizarre. We have, in effect, been conducting a legislative thought experiment around the question, “What is the least conservative debt-ceiling bill that can pass without Democratic votes in the House?” A few minutes ago, we learned the answer. But the answer doesn’t matter.

There is exactly one question worth asking now: What is the debt-ceiling compromise that can win the support of the House, Senate and the White House? That means winning the support of Democrats as well as Republicans. That’s what every effort in every chamber should be oriented toward. Instead, Boehner has spent the past two days wasting his political capital assembling an irrelevant coalition of conservatives. [...]

To govern is to compromise. And when you’re in charge, you have to govern. [Emphasis mine.] [...]

Lately, Boehner has not been governing. After he failed to pass a conservative resolution to the debt crisis without Democratic votes, he should have begun cutting the deals and making the concessions necessary to gain Democratic votes. That, after all, is what he will ultimately have to do. It’s what all this is supposed to be leading up to.

But Boehner went in the opposite direction. He made his bill more conservative. He indulged his members in the fantasy that they wouldn’t have to make compromises. It’s as if Pelosi, facing criticism for dropping the public option, had tried to shore up her support by bringing a single-payer health-care bill to the floor. Even if that would have pleased her left wing, what good would it have done her? Her job was to prepare her members to take a vote that could lead to a successful outcome.

This is what a few crazed Congressional Republicans have caused.

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


So what are we supposed to do? Throw ourselves into a likely Constitutional Crisis? Play with platinum coins? How on earth can the supposedly greatest nation on earth conduct its official business like this? Now wonder why the rest of the world is either laughing at us and looking at us with total disgust and disdain.

So why didn't teabaggers object to George Bush's reckless spending on billionaire (tax cut) bailouts, bank bailouts, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and pharmaceutical industry bailouts (Medicare Part D as passed in 2003)? And why didn't teabaggers object to Ronald Reagan raising the debt ceiling twice as fast as Barack Obama has? And why didn't teabaggers demand an illogical and irrational "Balanced Budget Amendment" (that never accounts for recessions, natural disasters, wars, etc.) during any Republican Presidency?

So get ready for it. I'll have to repeat myself again. This is madness!

And get ready to do it again.

Joe Heck: Email, Phone (202) 225-3252

Dean Heller: Email, Phone (202) 224-6244

These Republicans need to stop flip-flopping on their own fiscal policy and stop letting crazed teabaggers hold America hostage. They need to raise the debt ceiling and do so without threatening Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and/or any other cuts to the vulnerable who can least afford it.






















Friday, July 29, 2011

Dean Heller's Roll of the Dice... On OUR Dime!

This is what Dean Heller stands for.



While our other Senator is working hard to avoid a disastrous debt default and the government shutdown, deeper recession, and global financial catastrophe that would follow, Heller would rather play Russian Roulette with the full faith and credit of the USA.



In case you missed it in the video, here's some of the text of Harry Reid's speech this morning.

A Band-Aid approach to a world crisis is an embarrassment to Congress, to this country and to the world.

United Senate Democrats – all 53 of us – have informed the Speaker that his legislation was doomed in the Senate, because we would not vote for a short-term extension of the debt ceiling. It would put our great nation on the path to another default extravaganza in a few weeks.

Virtually every expert – every economist, every rating agency, every market analyst – has said the kind of short-term plan the Speaker proposed was no answer to the crisis Republicans have created. If we are trying to avert the kind of financial calamity default would bring, the Republicans’ plan is not was not a solution.

As the experts say, all too soon we would be back in the midst of partisan wrangling, with our economy once again held prisoner by extremist Tea Party Republicans.

Our economy cannot bear this kind of uncertainty any longer.

Congress and the White House are on lockdown, and the business of the country is not being conducted.

I say no, not again will we fight another battled like the one in which we are now engaged.

But default is not an option, either. And we cannot wait for the House any longer.

It is time for Republicans to stop the political games and embrace compromise.

No matter how long Republicans delay, the deadline will not move. We have hours – I repeat, hours – to act.

At least Reid is ready to act... Even if his bill also contains more than enough cuts to harm economic recovery. The unfortunate reality is that some sort of compromise has to be reached, and Dean Heller simply can't keep running to the press and claim he won't vote for anything that's "not good enough" for him.

Guess what? None of these plans is "good enough" for me, or even for the American economy. But if we don't see a deal emerge this weekend, the devastation that will soon emerge is sure to sink our economy, along with the rest of the world.

Even Republican Senators are now decrying the extremist, hostage-taking insanity that's crippling The House and threatening all the rest of us. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) explained this morning how forcing another hostage crisis over the winter would hurt us.

[...] I do agree with the, fact that, you know, having these debates in the middle of an economic downturn that we’re having right now is not healthy, and there’s no question that business people, those people that hire employees all across our country watch this and become uncertain.

So, in a perfect world — and I know we’re not in a perfect world — but if we can get worked out over the next several days something that actually achieves all those on the front end and extends the debt limit beyond this next election, to me that would be a perfect solution and I hope we can do that.

And another Republican Senator, John Kyl from next door (Arizona), is asking the House TEA-nuts to drop the "BBA hostage taking".



Of course, neither one of them wants to admit the full truth. Conservative Republican economic policy adviser Bruce Bartlett (who served Presidents Reagan & GHW Bush) called out the obvious on MSNBC yesterday.



This is reality. George W. Bush's billionaire bailouts (the 2001 & 2003 tax cuts for the super-rich), wars of profit (for private military contractors), pharmaceutical industry bailouts (the Medicare Part D plan that passed in 2003), and TARP bank bailouts all led to the federal budget deficit we face now. And last winter, President Obama agreed to keep Bush's billionaire bailouts going. And this summer, Obama has agreed to cut domestic spending instead of undoing Bush's bailouts/tax cuts. We've already seen intense compromises from Democrats... In fact, many progressives are getting sick and tired of it.



(And for the record, their rally in DC yesterday was much better attended than the teabagger rally on Wednesday.)

But instead of doing the obvious and going to the bargaining table, Dean Heller instead wants to cheer on the hostage taking extremists and threaten not to vote for anything that's "not good enough" for him? Well, that's not good enough for Nevada! We deserve better.

Joe Heck: Email, Phone (202) 225-3252

Dean Heller: Email, Phone (202) 224-6244

Call Heller, along with fellow Nevada's House Republican, Joe Heck, and tell them to stop this madness and work with fellow Nevadan Harry Reid to stop a ridiculously preventable debt default.






Thursday, July 28, 2011

NV-02: Mark Amodei's Two Faces

We have a campaign that's rapidly heating up! Take a look at Kate Marshall's new ads.





I knew this was coming. Mark Amodei invited it.

Mark Amodei is trying to sail in the winds of Tea Party extreme conservatism that has swept the nation. He’s not alone. Somehow the GOP has regressed into a pissing contest over who are really the authentic conservatives.

Mark Amodei, Brian Sandoval, Dean Heller and John McCain all used to be different. Each has played a much more moderate tune in the past. Some of their moves would just not be acceptable today, perhaps even warranting raised eyebrows, questions of patriotism or accusations of socialism. At the very least, their past behavior is just not acceptable in the Republican Party anymore.

Today, Kate Marshall highlighted this phenomenon in a television commercial, targeting her opponent’s record on taxes. He did indeed sponsor a tax increase to the tune of a billion dollars in 2003. Socialist! You can argue all you want about what Kate Marshall would have done, but if you don’t see the inherent hypocrisy in Mark Amodei’s rhetoric today, you are missing the point entirely.

Does he just expect all of us to forget his own words and deeds in 2003? All of a sudden, he's become a born-again teabagger?

It's just pathetic to watch Mark Amodei run away from his own record. He can run, but can he really hide? Kate Marshall seems to be making sure he can't.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

If Debt Deal Is "Not Good Enough" for Dean Heller, He'll Crash & Burn Our Economy



No really, read for yourself.

Nevada Sen. Dean Heller hasn’t finished reading through the fine print of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s and House Speaker John Boehner’s competing proposals to raise the debt limit. But already, he seems to be trying to carve out a space for himself to vote “no.”

“Nothing good is going to come out of these speeches and nothing is going to come out good for Nevada if interest rates go up and we don’t pass something by August 2nd,” Heller said Tuesday afternoon.

“I do believe it’s a critical date,” he said. “But that’s not to say that I’ll vote for any of these plans if they’re not good enough.”

So is Heller that eager to wage war against fellow Nevadan Harry Reid? And for that matter, is Heller also that eager to wage war against his fellow Republicans?



Maybe if the consequences of debt default weren't so dire, I'd be sitting back, munching on popcorn, and enjoying yet another round of Republicans eating their own. But right now, this is getting dangerous. We're perilously close to wrecking our own economy, and it's all because some crazed teabaggers refuse to agree to ANYTHING reasonable and responsible.

The tea party is so hell-bent on [supposedly] getting America's finances in order, they're willing to suffer the personal consequences of a government default. That's according to leaders of the Tea Party Patriots, who spoke with reporters in Washington this morning as the city remains gripped in debt ceiling stalemate.

Jenny Beth Martin, a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots (the grassrootsier wing of the movement) agreed that default -- and the requisite end in government payments for the programs that go with it -- could hurt the thousands of tea party voters she represents. But she said her members are willing to take the hit. [...]

"As somebody who has gone through bankruptcy, I don't want to see our country into trouble that my family went through." she said. "I understand that means that you've got to sit there and look at: 'What can you do different? Can we sell anything? How can we get out of this mess?' And that's what our government needs to be looking at."

Oh, great. So now we're supposed to take macroeconomic advice from a bunch of fringe looney tunes who can't even keep their own checkbooks balanced?! Frankly, I've never bought the "treat government like personal finances" analogies, but the hypocrisy here simply can't be avoided.

So what do Dean Heller and his new teabagger BFFs actually want to do to our country? Force us into default? Cut off Social Security and Medicare benefits to Nevada seniors? Shut down the national parks? Give Moody's and S&P reason to downgrade our treasury bonds, which would likely forever reduce global confidence in the US economy?

Believe it or not, this is providing "inspiration" for Congressional Republicans.



According to the Washington Post, the House GOP leadership played a short clip from the Ben Affleck movie “The Town” to rally their caucus around Boehner’s debt plan [...]

In the movie, the characters then put on hockey masks and bludgeon two men with sticks, then shoot one man in the leg.

In real life, Boehner has since decided to rewrite his plan and delayed a vote until “Thursday or Friday,” after failing to secure enough support for the current version. [Emphasis mine.]

Even some Republicans are now pulling back and wondering if they've gone too far... Including their own 2008 Presidential Nominee.



So why are Dean Heller and other "Rogue Republican Rebels" so willing to crash and burn the American economy?



This madness has gotten way too out of hand. It needs to stop, and Dean Heller and Joe Heck need to tell their Republican colleagues that this must stop.

Joe Heck: Email, Phone (202) 225-3252

Dean Heller: Email, Phone (202) 224-6244


Do they really want to be part of the blame if America is forced into debt default and a "Second Great Depression"?



And call Harry Reid's office at 1(866) 736-7343, and email him here, to thank him for being responsible and encourage him not to cave into these extremists' irrational demands.



Tuesday, July 26, 2011

OK, We Ranted. Now, Let's Act!

Below is the message I wrote to Joe Heck. Please write to him as well, and call his office at (702) 387-4941 or (202) 225-3252.

---

Our fellow Nevadan and our Senator, Harry Reid, has proposed a plan to raise the debt ceiling while cutting $2.7 trillion from the federal budget. This plan includes $1.2 trillion in discretionary cuts, which is actually a larger amount than what House Speaker John Boehner has been proposing. This plan seriously tackles the budget deficit while helping America avoid the catastrophic consequences of defaulting on our national debt.

Please support Senator Reid's balanced approach to avoiding debt default, and please urge your fellow Republicans to allow for a fair up or down vote on Reid's plan, and to support Reid's plan as well. This is our last chance to avoid disaster, and I hope you will vote to prevent Nevadans from suffering the consequences of this preventable disaster.

---

Also call Dean Heller's office at (202) 224-6244, (702) 388-6605, or (775) 686-5770, and email him here to let him know Nevadans demand an end to this political hostage taking. Oh, and make sure to thank Harry Reid and Shelley Berkley when you have time today for doing the right thing. Now it's up to "We the People" to stop the madness on Capitol Hill!

UPDATE 10:00 AM: I just called Heck and Heller. Heck's office says he hasn't made a decision yet, other than he doesn't support debt default. Meanwhile, Heller's office says his position is whatever the most recent press releases and statements posted on his Senate web site say. Neither would commit to either the Boehner plan (which is looking less likely to pass) or the Reid plan (which can pass, and makes sure not to touch Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid), so keep the calls going. Also call 1(866) 736-7343, thank Senator Reid for all the work he is doing on this, and urge him not to give up on passing his plan (which IMHO is the best of this whole sorry bunch).

Free the Hostages Already

It wasn't pretty last night, but it needed to be done.



Speaking from the East Room of the White House, President Obama gave his official endorsement to Sen. Harry Reid’s debt limit plan, channeling his signature compassionate academic style in a speech that was much a helpful primer to the nation on debt ceilings, financial markets and congressional budgets as it was a chance for him to frame the debate as a battle between right and wrong.

“The debate right now isn’t about whether we need to make tough choices ... the debate is about how it should be done,” Obama said. “Most Americans, regardless of political party, don’t understand how we can ask a senior citizen to pay more for her Medicare before we ask a corporate jet owner or the oil companies to give up tax breaks that other companies don’t get.

Why? What, this isn't enough for you?



Maybe that's why Americans seem to be increasingly angry at everyone in Washington these days?

And in a bizarre twist of fate, the IMF is now lecturing America on how to handle its wallet (after decades of the US joining the IMF in doing it to developing nations)!

Tick tock. With a week to go until Uncle Sam runs out of cash, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that enough was enough yesterday, calling on politicians to stop bickering and act urgently to stave off global financial meltdown by raising their country's debt ceiling.

The government of the United States will move more than $14.3 trillion (£8.7trn) into the red next Tuesday, surpassing an upper limit on the national debt and therefore preventing the Treasury from being able to pay its bills. That would leave the US unable to service its debt, leading to economic chaos.

The IMF published a harshly worded review of the US economy yesterday, calling for an immediate increase in borrowing limits followed by a "comprehensive solution" which will allow the US to reduce its public borrowing in the medium term by cutting spending and increasing the government's revenues.

But first, they must avoid what would be an unnecessary default. "Directors [of the IMF] highlighted the urgency of raising the federal debt ceiling and agreeing on the specifics of a comprehensive medium-term consolidation programme," said

Again, why are we even here? What is the point of this? This is nothing more than a political crisis. If Congress were to just raise the debt ceiling now and take care of progressive tax reform soon, we wouldn't have this problem. But since that is anathema to teabaggers, we're at this zenith of stupid.

So why can't Congress just raise the debt ceiling already? This hostage crisis may be fun and games to them, but everyone else is sick and tired of it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Capitol Hill: Land of Dysfunction, Home of Crazy?

(Also at Daily Kos)

Over the weekend, rage was all the rage.

On Saturday night, aided by "a nice pinot noir," the tech and business-of-news writer Jeff Jarvis started to tweet.

"Hey, Washington assholes," he wrote, "it's our country, our economy, our money. Stop fucking with it."

He started rolling. Inspiration struck. "Can we start a Twitter chant: FUCK YOU, WASHINGTON! Pass it on." He willed the chant into existence.

Eventually, another tweeter set Jarvis straight and crafted this into a hashtag. We could see where this was going. Jarvis, one of the smartest promoters and meme-catchers out there, cultivated and curated a wave of angry tweets, retweeting the best ones, eventually harshing on the censorship that stopped his Howard Beale hashtag from trending. Most of the tweets came from liberals angry at the debt impasse. A small sample:
@mcullen546: #FuckYouWashington for calling programs that we pay for entitlements

@mwynn: We see through your public pension theft conspiracy so #fuckyouwashington

@Mr_Pettapucci #fuckyouwashington or letting corporations steal our natural resources and sell them back to the people for profit.

@rogldr5 #fuckyouwashington for all this posturing to assure your reelection.

@bguthro: #FuckYouWashington for playing russian roulette with the world's economic stability

And the rage isn't limited to this side of "the pond".

The [British] business secretary, Vince Cable, broke the unwritten rule of non-intervention in other countries' domestic disputes on Sunday by describing diehard Republicans as "nutters".

Cable, appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr show, said: "The irony of the situation at the moment, with markets opening tomorrow morning, is that the biggest threat to the world financial system comes from a few rightwing nutters in the American Congress rather than the eurozone."

Until now, market traders had appeared confident that agreement would eventually be reached but US legislators fear that, following the collapse of talks on Friday, there could be the first signs of panic when Wall Street opens on Monday as well as other markets round the world.

And he's not the only one worried about the worldwide effects of a US debt default. Yet even as Capitol Hill is buzzing over arguments over whether Republicans are actually winning or losing this debt fight, the rest of the world simply wonders if we Americans have lost our minds.

Think about it. Why are we on the brink of defaulting on our debt? Why are the richest few asked to pay so little while the (growing masses of) working poor are lectured to sacrifice more and more and more?

And why are Congressional Republicans refusing to Harry Reid's most recent offer that gives them exactly the amount of cuts they've been demanding?

What Harry Reid did yesterday was essentially call the GOP’s bluff by outlining a plan that raises the debt ceiling by $2.7 trillion and includes $2.7 trillion in spending cuts, a healthy share of which comes from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Republicans are rejecting this even though it nominally meets their demands. Why? Because it doesn’t achieve either of their two real objectives. In particular, the plan doesn’t cut Medicare, which means that Democratic party candidates for office in November 2012 and 2014 can accurately remind voters of the content of the Republican budget plan. In case you forgot, this plans repeals Medicare. Having repealed Medicare, it then gives seniors vouchers to purchase more expensive private health insurance. And having replaced Medicare with a voucher system, it then ensures that the vouchers will grow steadily stingier over time. It was only after voting for this plan that Republicans seem to have realized that repealing Medicare is unpopular. Since that time, they’ve been trying to entrap Democrats into reaching some kind of Medicare d├ętente with them, which would immunize them from criticism. Reid’s plan doesn’t do that.

Second, while Reid’s plan doesn’t raise taxes, it also doesn’t take tax increases off the table. Currently, the Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire in 2012. If Reid’s all-cuts plan passes, that still leaves the door open to significant revenue increases. Now that doesn’t mean this is brilliant 11-dimensional chess. The Reid Plan is consistent with substantial revenues coming online in 2012, but that will only happen if President Obama and Senate Democrats stand firm and play hardball on the tax issue. Back in December 2010, they utterly failed to do so.

Oh, that's right. This would cut military spending and withdraw our troops from wars we need not fight. We just couldn't possibly do that, not when we can instead threaten Granny's Social Security and Medicare, cut my student financial aid, and really do little, if anything at all, about the deficit. Damn that Harry Reid and his fiscal smarts!

So why are we even here? Why are we edging closer and closer toward complete economic ruin? Why are Republican leaders so willing to flirt with committing the ultimate economic murder-suicide on the entire world (Note: linked article is in French)?

Why are we here? Why are we on the brink of economic collapse? Why are we on the verge of crashing the global economy along with our own? And why can't we agree on any sort of sensible solution to this uniquely political problem?

This is the unfortunate reality. Common sense macroeconomics would lead us to recognize we need more public sector investment to stimulate economic growth and job creation. However House Republican leaders refuse to recognize common sense macroeconomics, and House & Senate Democratic leaders worry over the effects of a protracted debt fight that would lead to debt default. So how do we want our pain? Do we want a little hurt or a lot? Do we want to counteract past stimulus efforts, or do we just want to blow up the entire world economy?

This is the madness our federal government has descended into. So what can we do about it? Well, maybe we need to think twice about just "throwing the bums out", and think more about why we really need people in Congress who are willing to look at "the big picture" and pass smart policy.







An Evening With Young Democrats

Last Friday night, Clark County Young Democrats had our inaugural meeting at the outdoor amphitheater overlooking Pittman Wash in Henderson. As you can see below, our meeting grew quite lively.

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There was free flowing discussion, an exchange of ideas and experiences, and real, honest dialogue that was a refreshing break from the "politics as usual" that I encounter throughout the week. Oh, and did I mention yet that John Oceguera stopped by early to chat with the group? OK, so the politics did ratchet up at some point... But even that was done in a way not typically found in most political club meetings.

There was talk of "why we are Democrats". I heard plenty of support for basic principles of equality and working for the greater good. I couldn't help but think of the madness infecting Washington as we were all discussing progressive values, and it made the evening gathering that much more poignant.

It's so easy to look upon current events and be discouraged. But upon leaving the gathering Friday night, I was suddenly feeling encouraged. Perhaps we don't have to fall into further madness. Perhaps our future leaders really do want to make this world a better place, and perhaps they understand how best to make it happen.

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Hopefully, this will develop into a much celebrated and beloved monthly tradition. Keep tabs on CCYD's Facebook page to keep up with what's happening and find out about future events. You seriously won't regret it.





Sunday, July 24, 2011

One Wash, One Spring, One Big Deal

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So Pittman Wash is turning out to be one big f*cking deal. Why? The neighbors love it, the wildlife live in it, and the City of Henderson may now be realizing the city is better off preserving it.

As summer has progressed, it feels like we've been witnessing a critical mass forming. Project GREEN has been speaking up, and local residents have been paying attention. And this has made the real difference here.

We're finally seeing progress as both the City of Henderson Public Works Department and Clark County Regional Flood Control District are seriously considering better alternatives to concretization. Believe it or not, there truly are other options available that can secure the bluffs abutting the wash while still preserving the glorious natural beauty that makes Pittman Wash so special and so unique.

Pittman Wash is one of only six natural riparian habitats left in Clark County, and the spring flowing at the railroad trestle is one of the only ones left in the entire valley. Take a look for yourself.



Now think about where else we can see something like this. And think of what would happen if this were replaced by concrete. Think of what would happen if we start to see this unique stretch of wilderness in the desert vanish away.

This is why it's critical to keep the calls and emails coming. Please thank our Henderson City Council members for considering alternatives to full concretization.

Mayor Andy Hafen: andy.hafen@cityofhenderson.com

Council Member Gerri Schroder (Ward 1): gerri.schroder@cityofhenderson.com

Council Member Debra March (Ward 2): debra.march@cityofhenderson.com

Council Member Kathleen Boutin (Ward 3): kathleen.boutin@cityofhenderson.com

Council Member Sam Bateman (Ward 4): sam.bateman@cityofhenderson.com

And please ask Clark County Regional Flood Control members to support alternatives to concretizing Pittman Wash. In particular, make sure to thank Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani for her efforts to ensure Regional Flood Control looks at alternatives that are less environmentally intrusive.

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani (District E- Paradise/Las Vegas): ccdiste@clarkcountynv.gov

Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown (District C- Las Vegas): ccdistc@clarkcountynv.gov

Las Vegas City Council Member Steve Ross: Email Contact Form

North Las Vegas City Council Member Robert Eliason: Email Contact Form

Boulder City Mayor Roger Tobler: Email Contact Form

This is just too big of a deal to lose. We need to preserve and protect Pittman Wash so we can continue to experience the wondrous beauty of the Mojave Desert in which we live.

(And by the way, many thanks to Project GREEN for last night's nature walk exploring the spring at the center of all this controversy. As you can see, the spring can explain for itself why this is such a big deal.)

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Madness

Just plain madness.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) abruptly withdrew from debt talks with the White House late Friday, ending renewed hopes for a grand deficit-reduction deal to raise the debt limit.

"I have decided to end discussions with the White House," Boehner said in a letter being sent to the entire GOP House membership.

Republican officials said a week of renewed discussions broke down as the White House insisted on revenues from new taxes.

"In the end, we couldn't connect," Boehner wrote.

With just days remaining to meet an Aug. 2 deadline to avoid a federal default, the speaker is working with Senate leaders to devise a new proposal to be presented to the House and Senate by Monday.

Madness.

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


Madness.



Speaking with ThinkProgress today, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) offered a take on the reasons behind House Republicans’ obstinacy on the debt ceiling. Describing it as the “the party of denial,” Moran compared the current GOP to the historical, nativist “Know-Nothing party” that, incidentally, wanted to restrict types of immigrants and have daily bible readings in public schools. Moran said Republicans “don’t know enough to know what they don’t know,” including “how serious lifting the debt ceiling it,” or “the results of any of their own actions.” “They just don’t know, they don’t care,” Moran said, adding that “a majority of the House Republicans ran on the basis that government doesn’t work. And now that they’re elected they’re determined to prove it.”

Madness.

The more the sales drop, the more the corporations constrict to meet current demand, the more the corporations constrict by either not filling vacant positions, or reducing their workforces, and the greater the downward pressure on effective demand. We’ve experienced one ‘deflation scare’ recently, and we don’t need to replicate it.

If corporations don’t want their workers to unionize and bargain for better wages, then they should not lament the lack of consumers for their goods and services. The globalization of trade has heightened the rift between productivity and wages, where we once might have reasonably expected increased productivity to be at least associated with increased wages, that cord has been cut. It’s not likely to be reattached in the near future.

We, the people, now find ourselves being ‘info-mercialed’ in regard to all manner of dire crises — The Debt Ceiling! The Debt Ceiling! Government Spending! Government Spending! — while the real, tangible, and most potentially destructive crisis is literally right in our very own neighborhoods, it may be immediately next door or down the hall. It’s the unemployment level in our states and communities, while not a single JOBS bill has passed in our House of Representatives, and they’ve been all too busy symbolically “repealing” measures that might alleviate the situation. Increasing employment in these United States will require deeds — not drama.

And that's the real problem here. Unemployment is creeping upward again, and government budget cuts are already taking their toll as public sector layoffs send the unemployment rate soaring again. Instead of investing in economic recovery, state and local governments are being forced to divest... And we're now starting to see the results of that.

So what are we hearing at the federal level? "Austerity." "Feel the pain." "Tough choices."

Well, guess what? Here in Nevada, we're already seeing the results of "austerity". They're not looking pretty. And it seems few on Capitol Hill really seem to get that.



Good Bye, Good Riddance!

It's here. It's finally here.

President Obama certified on Friday the repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell," which bans gays from serving openly in the military.

"Today, we have taken the final major step toward ending the discriminatory ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ law that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality," Obama said in a statement. "In accordance with the legislation that I signed into law last December, I have certified and notified Congress that the requirements for repeal have been met. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will end, once and for all, in 60 days — on September 20, 2011." [...]

"I want to thank all our men and women in uniform, including those who are gay or lesbian, for their professionalism and patriotism during this transition," Obama continued. "Every American can be proud that our extraordinary troops and their families, like earlier generations that have adapted to other changes, will only grow stronger and remain the best fighting force in the world and a reflection of the values of justice and equality that the define us as Americans." [...]

In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hailed the certification.

"From now on, our military commanders and our nation can be sure we will have the best and brightest service members defending our nation, regardless of ethnicity, creed, or sexual orientation. This is a great victory for justice, civil rights and our national security," Reid said.

This long nightmare is finally coming to an end. Soldiers can simply serve their country, regardless of who they are and who they love. This is most definitely long past due, and it's a great high note ending an otherwise difficult and confusing week on Capitol Hill.

This reminds me that all really is not lost here in America. Good bye, DADT & military discrimination. Go ahead and let the door hit your ass on the way out. :-D

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Break Today... But More Coming Tomorrow

Don't worry. I'm not abandoning you. ;-)

Expect more good stuff this weekend on Pittman Wash, redistricting, the federal debt ceiling, and more. I can't keep my mouth shut forever. I just need a breath of fresh air now. ;-)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Redistricting Nevada: NV-0X & The Politicians Who Crave It


In case you haven't yet heard, all the "kool kidz" on Twitter are using NV-0X to describe the current Nevada Congressional campaigns that can't yet point to actual districts... Since we don't have any new district lines yet. But even though we don't have any actual Congressional Districts ready for 2012, that isn't stopping what's quickly becoming a wild game of political musical chairs.

Joe Heck is now trying to look more "moderate" and "Nevadan". Meanwhile on the Democratic side, Nevada Assembly Speaker John Oceguera is now running for US House in a "yet to be determined district"... Except that it feels like he's already determined he's ready to take on Joe Heck. And not to be outdone by anyone else, Dina Titus is already making a big splash in her latest comeback campaign. And rumors continue swirling about Nevada Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas), State Senator Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas), State Senator John Lee (D?-North Las Vegas), and others making the jump.

However, there's a problem. And if you haven't already noticed, let me remind you. Nevada will have four Congressional Districts starting in 2013. One of them will most assuredly be up north (where Kate Marshall is already running in the special election this year). So that leaves us with three Clark County based districts, yet we have two already announced Democratic candidates and at least three likely candidates. This is where the musical chairs analogy comes into play. With only three seats available and five candidates eyeing them, either a couple will have to "drop out before they even run", or we will be seeing some fierce primary action in the next year.

So here is where redistricting comes into play. The law suit is now in Carson City district court, but it may very well ultimately be decided by the Nevada Supreme Court. And since the courts are not supposed to take partisan politics into consideration, they probably won't be keen on any "baconmanders".

So let's take a look at probable redistricting scenarios, and how Nevada's Democratic candidates will respond accordingly.

In my first scenario, which I proposed back in May, Democrats won't be too happy. Neither will Republicans, but the Nevada GOP must recognize this is the best they can hope for after deliberately punting redistricting to the courts.

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In this map, Clark County Latinos get a favorable (41.2% CVAP) minority-majority (and heavily Democratic) NV-01, while NV-03 remains slightly Democratic leaning but very swingy, NV-04 is drawn as a pure tossup seat, and NV-02 is Republican leaning but prone to become increasingly swingy. This may be enough to entice Ruben Kihuen to run in NV-01 (and make Steven Horsford think twice about running here), while Dina Titus and John Oceguera are forced to primary each other in NV-03 for the honor to face Joe Heck in the general election, and NV-04 just sits there and waits for some brave Democrat to face the steep challenge ahead.

NV-01 (Blue):

US-Pres 2008
Obama (D) 69.1%
McCain (R) 28.8%

Estimated NV-Sen 2010
Harry Reid (D) 65%
Sharron Angle (R) 30%

Estimated NV-Gov 2010
Rory Reid (D) 58%
Brian Sandoval (R) 37%

NV-02 (Green):

US-Pres 2008
Obama (D) 49.4%
McCain (R) 48.2%

Estimated NV-Sen 2010
Sharron Angle (R) 50%
Harry Reid (D) 43%

Estimated NV-Gov 2010
Brian Sandoval (R) 63%
Rory Reid (D) 34%

(And I'm only showing it here because it hardly even changes in the other two maps.)

NV-03 (Purple):

US-Pres 2008
Obama (D) 55.7%
McCain (R) 42.2%

Estimated NV-Sen 2010
Harry Reid (D) 52%
Sharron Angle (R) 43%

Estimated NV-Gov 2010
Brian Sandoval (R) 52%
Rory Reid (D) 45%

NV-04 (Red):

US-Pres 2008
Obama (D) 51.6%
McCain (R) 46.2%

Estimated NV-Sen 2010
Sharron Angle (R) 48%
Harry Reid (D) 48%

Estimated NV-Gov 2010
Brian Sandoval (R) 56%
Rory Reid (D) 40%

---

But what if this doesn't happen? What if the judges have different ideas on how to divvy up Clark County? If that happens, Nevada Democrats will rejoice. But depending on how the lines are specifically redrawn, some will rejoice more than others.

In my second scenario, the court takes a more nuanced approach to the VRA and city boundaries. Since it's virtually impossible to create any sort of neatly drawn 50%+ Latino CVAP district, the court then sides with the Democrats in allowing for multiple "opportunity districts" instead. So instead of just one heavily Democratic district and two swing districts, Clark County instead gets one strongly Democratic district, one Democratic leaning district (which a much heftier lean), and one tossup district. NV-03 is now 36.9% Latino CVAP, and is one "Big Blue Blob" extending from the (heavily Latino) east end of North Las Vegas all the way south (through Downtown Las Vegas and UNLV) to Henderson's Green Valley and Green Valley Ranch. NV-01 is now "L-shaped" and extends from Cheyenne Ave in North Las Vegas to Southern Highlands, then jumps The 15 to take in Silverado Ranch, Henderson's Anthem, and Old Henderson. And NV-04 now takes in the bulk of Northwest Vegas, Summerlin, North Las Vegas north of Cheyenne Ave, Boulder City, and all the outlying Clark County rural areas.

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In this scenario, Dina Titus gets the district of her dreams, as she gets much of her old base (East Side and Green Valley) without most of the pesky Republican heavy turf causing her endless headaches in 2008 and 2010. John Oceguera then gets his own Silverado Ranch based district that he can fairly easily kick Joe Heck out of (unless Steven Horsford really wants to fight him for a district that stretches that far south and includes Joe Heck's Roma Hills mansion), and John Lee finally gets a moderate district with enough North Las Vegas in it that he can run in. Sadly for Ruben Kihuen, he's left without a chair once the music stops.

NV-01 (Purple):

US-Pres 2008
Obama (D) 58.8%
McCain (R) 39.2%

Estimated NV-Sen 2010
Harry Reid (D) 55%
Sharron Angle (R) 40%

Estimated NV-Gov 2010
Brian Sandoval (R) 49%
Rory Reid (D) 48%

NV-03 (Blue):

US-Pres 2008
Obama (D) 63.7%
McCain (R) 34.0%

Estimated NV-Sen 2010:
Harry Reid (D) 60%
Sharron Angle (R) 35%

Estimated NV-Gov 2010
Rory Reid (D) 53%
Brian Sandoval (R) 44%

NV-04 (Red):

US Pres 2008
Obama (D) 52.0%
McCain (R) 45.8%

Estimated NV-Sen 2010
Harry Reid (D) 47%
Sharron Angle (R) 47%

Estimated NV-Gov 2010
Brian Sandoval (R) 57%
Rory Reid (D) 39%

---

But wait, there's more!

In my third scenario, the court takes a similar approach to the second scenario... Except that instead of Northwest Vegas and North Las Vegas, NV-04 swoops in to take Southwest Vegas and most of Henderson south of The 215/Lake Mead Parkway. NV-03, meanwhile, is now 37.6% Latino CVAP (and 57.4% minority majority CVAP overall), but still extends from Nellis Air Force Base all the way south to Green Valley Ranch. And NV-01 now is confined west of The 15 (with a couple small exceptions in Downtown Las Vegas) and stretches from Aliante (the northern edge of North Las Vegas) and Northwest Vegas to West Las Vegas and Summerlin.

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In this scenario, Dina Titus still gets the district of her dreams with a NV-03 that looks tailor made for her. But now with NV-01 taking in North Las Vegas, Steven Horsford may have the upper hand here. Local Democrats will feel no pressure to accept a ConservaDem like John Lee in a district this Democratic, but perhaps a Summerlin area Democrat (paging Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown?) could give Horsford some heartburn in the primary. Meanwhile in NV-04, John Oceguera must now face Joe Heck in a tougher district that Heck just might have the upper hand in. And again, Ruben Kihuen is left without a chair once the music stops.

NV-01 (Purple):

US-Pres 2008
Obama (D) 58.9%
McCain (R) 39.2%

Estimated NV-Sen 2010
Harry Reid (D) 55%
Sharron Angle (R) 40%

Estimated NV-Gov 2010
Brian Sandoval (R) 49%
Rory Reid (D) 48%

NV-03 (Blue):

US-Pres 2008
Obama (D) 63.9%
McCain (R) 33.8%

Estimated NV-Sen 2010:
Harry Reid (D) 60%
Sharron Angle (R) 35%

Estimated NV-Gov 2010
Rory Reid (D) 53%
Brian Sandoval (R) 44%

NV-04 (Red):

US Pres 2008
Obama (D) 51.3%
McCain (R) 46.4%

Estimated NV-Sen 2010
Harry Reid (D) 47%
Sharron Angle (R) 47%

Estimated NV-Gov 2010
Brian Sandoval (R) 58%
Rory Reid (D) 38%

Redistricting may very well change the dynamics of next year's Congressional elections here in Nevada, especially among a core group of powerful Clark County Democrats. Depending on the way the lines are drawn, either the State Senate Majority Leader or the State Assembly Speaker will have a tough time making the climb to Capitol Hill. And depending on the contours of the final map, either a rising young progressive star gets the promotion of a lifetime or a long time progressive stalwart gets the ultimate comeback.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Quick Programming Note

Considering all the recent hubbub over the 2012 House races, I'll be talking more about what the candidates face in the year ahead... And why one legal battle pending in Carson City can upend all their respective strategies.

There will also be more coming on the ongoing Pittman Wash saga here in Henderson.

Sorry that's it's been fairly quiet so far this month, but it's just my "typical lazy summer" and there will be more coming soon.

Monday, July 18, 2011

NV-0X: Oceguera Is In. And So Is Titus!

Wow. We don't even have redrawn districts yet, and we're already getting US House candidates pop up for next year!

Nevada Democratic Assembly Speaker John Oceguera is officially launching his bid for Congress.

Oceguera is termed out from seeking re-election in the state Assembly, and his announcement Monday was widely anticipated.

What remains unknown is which district he'll run in.

Nevada gains a fourth U.S. House seat in next year's election, but the boundaries have yet to be drawn.

No really, he's in.

In Nevada, we have a strong sense of hard work, independence, and community —working together to find common sense solutions, to move Nevada forward. Whether it’s balancing the budget, enacting meaningful education reform, or fighting to create jobs, Nevadans have the resolve to stand up for the middle-class in tough times.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for Washington, DC.

As Washington politicians try to take away seniors’ hard-earned right to Medicare — some even calling Social Security a “Pyramid Scheme” – and instead give special tax breaks to oil companies and insurance companies, I’ll fight for what’s right. I’ll fight to protect Medicare, create jobs, and get our economy back on track.

I’m running for Congress because we need people who’ll stand up to Washington and get results, not be part of the problem. I took on the special interests in Carson City, working across party lines to balance the budget and enact meaningful education reform. I’ll be just as tough on Washington.

And he may not be the only one... Ralston is hinting (and I spoke with someone earlier who's confirming!) that Dina Titus will make her campaign official this week as well.

And already, there are rumors of even more Democrats chomping at the bit to run. Ruben Kihuen, John Lee, and others are rumored to be considering running. It all depends on what the final map looks like.

And speaking of the map, I'm reminded of this map I drew back in May. If the court agrees to a map like this, Steven Horsford and Ruben Kihuen would have to fight over the minority heavy and strongly Democratic 1st District, while Dina Titus and John Oceguera would have to fight over who would take on Joe Heck in the slightly Democratic leaning 3rd District, and the 4th District would be awaiting someone up to the challenge of a tough tossup seat. (Would John Lee be up to moving to Summerlin or Centennial Hills?)

I guess we didn't have to wait all that long for the 2012 Congressional campaigns to start up and heat up. We don't even have a map yet, and the campaigns are jumping on board! Fasten your seat belts, Nevadans. We'll be in for a wild ride.

UPDATE (4:25 PM): Dina Titus is announcing her resignation from the US Civil Rights Commission... And she pretty much admitted to The R-J that she will be running for Congress again. The heat is ON!

BREAKING: Las Vegas Enters 21st Century, Markets to LGBTQ Tourists

I have been wondering for some time when the Las Vegas gaming/tourism powers that be would wake up and smell the lavender. I guess they're finally getting there.

Print ads, websites and YouTube spots tout the offerings of Wynn Las Vegas, Paris, Luxor, Mandalay Bay and several other Strip operators that have steadily increased their efforts to lure dollars that reflexively went to the traditionally open-minded resort destinations of Palm Springs, Key West, Miami Beach and Provincetown. The LVCVA produces suggestive ads—two women with shapely legs playing footsie, a pair of fit young men holding hands on a golf course as Wynn Las Vegas looms in the background. They’re alluring images at the start of what Wynn Las Vegas marketer Michael Weaver dubs the “post-gay consumer marketing world,” a period when ad agencies seek to reach individual customers with the promise of luxury, entertainment, good food and sensuality—a classic quartet of offerings on the modern-day Strip.

Las Vegas consistently ranks among the top business and leisure destinations for the 4,296 LGBT travelers surveyed by Community Marketing. New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas typically hold the top three spots, with lesbians between the ages of 18 and 54 choosing Las Vegas as their favorite getaway. Gay men widely preferred New York City and San Francisco. “Las Vegas is really show-driven and those shows have a very gay spin—Cher, Bette Midler, Cirque du Soleil, Elton John. It’s good for Las Vegas to bring them in,” says Community Marketing’s [David] Paisley.

“Las Vegas is its own animal. It’s true that Vegas doesn’t have its own gay neighborhood like other cities do,” Paisley says, “but from a tourism perspective, Las Vegas is about the Strip. Gays and lesbians are coming to Las Vegas for the same reason everyone is coming to Las Vegas.”

So LVCVA finally has a full LGBTQ travel site up, and other casinos and tourist attractions are catching up to what Caesars, Wynn, and MGM have been learning over the last decade.

Speaking as a gay person myself who follows what's happening on The Strip, I can tell you there's still far more work to be done to let queer folk feel comfortable enough to visit Las Vegas and visit more often. Even though I often walk blithely around my Henderson 'hood with an "I <3 Castro" or HRC t-shirt, many gay couples are still afraid to hold hands while walking Las Vegas Blvd. What's wrong with this picture? Unfortunately, part of the reason why many LGBTQ tourists still feel ambivalent about Vegas is because of the huge mistake Nevada embarked upon a decade ago when Question 2 passed and discrimination was written into the Nevada Constitution. And though we've now somewhat corrected the situation with domestic partnerships and long awaited progress on transgender civil rights, that's still far from full equality.

Another part of the problem is that until very recently, there was never really talk of a comprehensive plan to fully market Vegas as "THE gay travel destination". Even local business leaders recognize we have a problem. We are more than just nightclub revelers and kinky sex machines. We want to sleep, we want to eat, we want to shop, and we want to explore.

At least we're now seeing LVCVA make the effort. That's a big start, and we're now moving in the right direction. Now if we can only get rid of that pesky Question 2...


Thursday, July 14, 2011

So Pittman Wash Really Does Matter to the Locals

What do you call this?



According to City of Henderson Public Works, it's apparently a big nuisance.

"Some of it is just ground water. The channel has eroded down to the ground water level," says Robert Herr, the Assistant Director of Public Works for the City of Henderson.

He says that erosion is coming dangerously close to sewer lines and has the potential to cause serious damage to the channel in the event of a hundred year flood.

"We have done analysis of different alternatives and they just don't pan out," says Herr.

Take another look at that video. Does that look like "just ground water" to you? Or does it look like a stream that some city engineers want to simply pave over?

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I guess that's why so many locals turned out at last night's hearing.

"I think they're probably very surprised that we're all here," says neighbor September Ventura, speaking to the turnout.

Residents are concerned that the current stream that runs through the wash will be paved over and much of the vegetation removed.

"I'm very concerned about the habitat. I love the quail and the bunnies and all the other birds," says neighbor Pat Roberts. "I don't want to see another ugly concrete channel."

I was one of them. I paid attention to what city engineers were saying. I listened as they were building their case for concretization.

I then asked them one important question, a question they would continue to be asked all evening. "Have you considered the alternatives?" Interestingly enough, the only options they ever considered were a trapezoidal concrete channel and a rectangular concrete channel. So all along, the only options they've cared to look at are concrete and even more concrete.

Never mind that articulated concrete blocks may be cheaper and allow for the reintroduction of more native flora. Never mind that gabion upgrades may also be much cheaper and more efficient. And never mind that in Arizona, both Maricopa and Pima Counties have long managed to balance needed flood control with environmental responsibility and sensitivity to neighborhood needs for open space.

That's really all that local residents were asking the City of Henderson last night. We live in Green Valley, we regularly use Pittman Wash, and we don't want to see this great community resource vanish in a sea of concrete.

Last night, hundreds turned out on a warm Wednesday night to speak out. It's clearly not to late to make one's voice heard on this issue.

Mayor Andy Hafen: andy.hafen@cityofhenderson.com

Council Member Gerri Schroder (Ward 1): gerri.schroder@cityofhenderson.com

Council Member Debra March (Ward 2): debra.march@cityofhenderson.com

Council Member Kathleen Boutin (Ward 3): kathleen.boutin@cityofhenderson.com

Council Member Sam Bateman (Ward 4): sam.bateman@cityofhenderson.com

And "like" Project GREEN on Facebook for continued updates on Pittman Wash and what we can do to save one of the last natural riparian habitats in all of Clark County.

Monday, July 11, 2011

DFA Academy: How the West Will Be Won

(Also at Daily Kos)

Over the weekend, I witnessed something amazing. DFA Training Academy came to town, and many dozens of local progressive activists came in to learn more about how campaigns work. And while we were all at the local SEIU hall this past weekend, we experienced something perhaps no one was really expecting.

@jayhenders & @AndySzekeres chatting w/ #Vegas #nvp2 acti... on Twitpic

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Our local activists come from all walks of life. We had "old school" folks who remember the 60s, and we had new "Dream Team" kids who got their start organizing in local Latino communities on everything from the DREAM Act to state education. We had experienced union organizers, and we had rising LGBTQ equality superstars. We had folks from Mesquite, from North Las Vegas, and from Henderson.

Long story short, we had a wide variety of activists show up. We saw "the big tent" of the Democratic Party, up close and personal. And what made this even better is that we learned from each other just as much as we learned from the trainers.

Of course, the trainers did a great job and we now have a better idea on how to craft an effective "get out the vote" (GOTV) plan, how to raise money more efficiently, and how to create the messages we need to actually "win the media cycle". What made this even better is that we also talked with each other on what field strategies worked on our last campaigns, what media strategies didn't work on our last campaigns, how we built our social media profiles, how we run our web sites, and so much more.

#DFAVegas organizer Teresa Crawford helped make this @dfatrai... on Twitpic

Victoria @DFATraining talking w/ #DFAVegas on "setting s... on Twitpic

Fired up & ready to go @DFAaction @nvdems #DFAVegas #nvp2... on Twitpic

Over the course of two days, we learned more than enough from the trainers and from each other to start undoing the damage from the last election and moving our country (and our state, and our county) forward again. This is what DFA Campaign Academy is really all about.

Even if you think you already know everything about campaigns and elections, you can always learn more at the academy. Lordy knows I did, and I did DFA Academy four years ago in California! See the schedule for the rest of 2011, think about signing up for a training, and in the mean time check out the academy "night school" archive to get an early start.

We need to start preparing now if we want to win next year and win future elections. Making progressive change isn't easy. We've already been learning that the hard way. We're recharged and ready for action here in Nevada again. One of our previous "trainees" is now a state Assembly Member. Others are now veterans of a host of successful, winning campaigns. This stuff really works.

Now let's get your community ready.

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(Btw, many thanks to Teresa & Marla for sharing photos!)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Who's Going to DFA Campaign Academy This Weekend?

I'll be back! No really, I will be returning home this Saturday for DFA Campaign Academy. Why?

Well, I want to hear more about how progressives can win next year. I want to know more about the inner workings of campaigns. I want to learn more about how candidates can run for office.

Let's face it. We've seen more than enough disappointments on the national and state levels in the last eight months to realize that something has to change. Teabaggers are running amok in Congress, and they nearly forced Nevada into total calamity (and succeeded in forcing us to kick the can down the road yet again on fixing what's ailing our state). We can't just sit back, mope around, and wail in despair. We need to learn to not just fight back, but to actually win that fight.

At DFA Campaign Academy, there will be trainers there to show you the ropes on everything from precinct data to fundraising to media and much more. Oh, and all the cool kids will be there, too!

And after a day of plentiful learning opportunities, you can hang out with fellow "DFA alumni" at The Gin Mill (which just happens to be up the block from my house!) afterward!

So what are you waiting for? If you haven't signed up already, do so now before admission is raised $10. Trust me. What you learn this weekend is worth far more than the cost of admission. You will learn how to move America (and Nevada) forward.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thoughts on Christianity Flame Wars... From a Jaded Ex-Fundamentalist

(Originally from Daily Kos)

OK. I must admit it. Even though I try to deliberately avoid the religion flame wars of late, I sometimes feel compelled to read a few of the diaries anyway. However, I'm nonetheless saddened by all this nasty infighting. It's really compelled me to open up and talk about a personal experience I don't always share too many details about.

Believe it or not, it helps me put into proper perspective all the flame wars here over Christianity and progressive values.

I grew up as a frightened, closeted gay kid in a scary fundamentalist church. I was constantly told I would go to hell if I were to live my life as the person I really felt I was. I tried to repress what I was feeling inside. After all, I knew how the church felt about "those wicked perverts".

You see, my family was part of no ordinary church. My mother was "saved" there, and she subsequently placed me in "Christian School" there. She listened dutifully to the wise pastors and did as they told her. But when I started to question what I was being indoctrinated "taught", she became very concerned.

She took me to pastors for brainwashing "counseling". She had friends pray over me to "remove the demons". At one point, she even removed me from school, had us fleeing from our own home, and then did the unthinkable: She hit me with her cane, then called the police and falsely accused me of attempted murder. County social services later removed me from my mother's custody, and my relationship with her has never been the same since.

Why, you ask? Why would a mother turn on her own child like this? The pastors at Calvary Chapel encouraged her to give me this "radical treatment" because I didn't conform to the church's "godly standard" of a typical straight Republican blindly following every command sermon given from the pulpit. And instead of recognizing my mother's mental health problems stemming from unresolved issues over her mother's death, they allowed her to engage in destructive "spiritual warfare" conspiracy theories that ultimately resulted to permanent division in my family.

Needless to say, I did not have a great church experience growing up. And though I tried and tried and tried again in my early college years (after coming out as gay) to rediscover Christianity, I ultimately found solace in Julia Sweeney's musings and allowed myself to let go of god.

So why am I not comdemning all churches and calling Christianity the greatest evil known to humankind? Let me explain.

In the last five years, I've come to experience another side of Christianity. When I still lived in Orange County, I found plenty of comfort in another Costa Mesa church... And attended LGBTQ community meetings at the local Irvine UCC.

And when I moved to that dreaded Sin City two years ago, I continued meeting new friends who I now call part of my family. Some of them are atheists, some of them are Jewish, some of them are Muslim... And yes, some of them are Christians.

One of the most important things I learned out of my painful Calvary Chapel experience is the constant need to think critically. And strangely enough, I see this lacking in the comment sections of far too many religious pie fights here at Daily Kos.

When I read this from commonmass...

I have a great deal of understanding about why some people are angry with religion in general, and Christianity in specific. It's not like we have a stellar record when it comes to human rights and other things most progressives hold dear.

However, in this day and age, some of us--Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, Lutheran and others--are standing up for human rights, including LGBTQ rights, standing up for the end of war, for a human, fair solution to issues in Palestine/Gaza, for a lot of things. We're working hard on social issues. We're committed to them. Jesus demands it.

We may not be "you", but we stand with you. We stand for peace, justice, love, equality, representative democracy, you name it. We--at least here on Anglican Kossacks--ARE you. We are us.

I knew what he was saying, because I've seen it in action myself. Just because we're all on our own respective spiritual journeys doesn't mean some of us are "holier" or "smarter" than others here.

Just because I found comfort in letting go of god doesn't mean my Christian friends and family are wrong in finding comfort in embracing god. Again, we're all on our own respective spiritual journeys. I learned the hard way the consequences of blind allegiance to one set of beliefs.

All I ask is that we remember to think for ourselves and treat others with respect and dignity when we discuss matters of faith.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Red, White, Blue... & Green? Thinking of the Beach on July 4

Wow. I feel like I've been taking a trip down Memory Lane since arriving here in Orange County. In many ways, I really have. I visited an old favorite yesterday, and I was reminded of something.

We experienced @VisitLaguna yesterday! It&#039;s my fave #sum... on Twitpic

Moi enjoying @VisitLaguna @Anaheim_OC #California yesterday. ... on Twitpic

Perfection @VisitLaguna @Anaheim_OC #California #fb on Twitpic

If it weren't for the foresight and resolve of a few "radical activists", it wouldn't be like this today.

In 1964, Laguna Beach developed the first access standards in an early effort to prevent over development in the hillsides and canyons. While it may have been too late to stop soon-to-be calamitous developments like Bluebird Canyon, it did begin to slow development into other parts of town. In 1967, a group of local activists founded Laguna Greenbelt, an organization that wanted to build upon these access standards, and preserve all the remaining hillsides, canyons, lakes, and open space around Laguna. And though the rest of the county was then laughing at Laguna's "eccentric" ways back then, they would soon come to appreciate all this "eccentricity".

Through the 1980s, Laguna Greenbelt and other environmentalists pushed and pushed and pushed to establish the open space around Laguna as parkland for everyone to enjoy. Heck, they even tried to get Congress to declare Laguna Canyon as a national park! However, they could not seem to find success...

Until 1990, when the Irvine Company agreed to give up its plans for development and sell the land. And oh yes, in November of that year 80% of Laguna voters agreed to tax themselves in order for their city to chip into the purchase of this last chunk of Laguna Canyon in order for the entire canyon to be preserved as parkland for all to enjoy.

In 1991, local environmentalists then established the Laguna Canyon Foundation to ensure the good stewardship of the new Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. And since then, Laguna has continued to carry the gold standard of environmental protection and preservation in Orange County. Local activists truly have been able to work with local government, regional developers, and Laguna residents to ensure that Laguna remains as wild and wonderful as ever.

(Yes, I really wrote that in March 2007!)

Ironically enough, the stereotypical "conservative bastion" of Orange County is home to such amazing environmental treasures like Laguna Beach, the Bolsa Chica Wetlands, Crystal Cove, and Trestles because of "radical" conservationists who recognized the need to preserve these unique natural wonders for future generations. They saw these places for what they were, and they realized the consequences of letting them forever vanish.

I was thinking about this as the battle over Lake Tahoe continues to heat up. Apparently, the usual suspects in the gaming-mining-lobbyist industrial complex are now throwing insults and calling Brian Bahouth & me "the professional environmental industry". Oh, really? So does this now make me eligible for an official "professional left" membership card?

It seems like the the usual suspects in the gaming-mining-lobbyist industrial complex have not yet learned what developers and the greater community in Orange County had to learn the hard way. People do not go to natural beauties like Lake Tahoe and Laguna Beach simply to go to the mall, look at McMansions, and/or gaze at massive casino hotels. They go for the beaches!

Think about it. One can get malls, McMansions, and casinos anywhere around Reno or Las Vegas. Where else can one find a clear lake like Tahoe surrounded by lush forests and stunning mountains?

Funny enough, the very same forces pushing for more residential and commercial development in Crystal Cove and Laguna Beach now embrace the protected public lands and essentially use them for good PR! I still hope that one day, the developers at Lake Tahoe will also recognize this. Good environmental stewardship doesn't have to mean "bad for business".

So why am I writing this rant on July 4? Let me explain. First off, I am visiting my old stomping grounds, so all of this is fresh in my mind again. And secondly, I felt the need to correct the assumptions often made about "enviro-nazis" ruining America and preventing "free enterprise" from improving Lake Tahoe.

I love America, and I love Nevada. I want to see Lake Tahoe thrive. And I'm sure that for many who live in Northern Nevada and Northern California, they see it as their patriotic duty to protect and defend what makes America great. And let's face it, where would we be without our great beaches, deserts, mountains, forests, and lakes?

Frankly, I'm peeved that environmentalists are always derided as "commie loving extremists" when we just want to save the natural beauty of our country. That's why the environmental grassroots activists worked over the years to preserve natural treasures in Orange County and across California. And hopefully, we still have time to stop what would be the horrific undoing of what has made Lake Tahoe so great.