Saturday, December 31, 2011

10 of 11: Meta... & Long Overdue Shoutouts!

So here we are. This is the very last diary of 2011. A new year is about to begin.

So what better way to send away the old year and ring in the new than reflect on all the changes to Nevada's progressive blogosphere in the last year?! Ah, where should I begin?

For one, The Nevada View is now here to stay. Congrats to the TNV team for offering more news and views reflecting the real concerns of the 99%.

I also must give big props to @LauraKMM for her online @ss kicking at The Sausage Factory. There's a reason why (despite her not posting as often as we'd like) she's now officially one of our state's best.

And where, oh where, would any of us be without Desert Beacon? She moved her platform to Wordpress earlier this year, and it only seems to have made her blog even better. And in a time and place where it can be awfully difficult to find real, fact-based insight and analysis, Desert Beacon is always THE reliable source for Nevadans "in the know".

Another valuable resource deserving more attention is Nevada State Employee Focus. At a time when public servants are all too often falsely and unjustly villainized, Jim Pierce has been doing an amazing job fighting back and calling out the radical right's malicious and lie-fueled attacks on the working class for exactly what they are. And seriously, I can't thank him enough for exposing the weird anti-worker "Mary Kate" troll... As my current Republican Assembly Member who recently announced he won't be running for reelection (because my new district is too Democratic for him, ha)!

And before I go, I must give a big shout-out to the #nvp2 tweeters who make political blogging in this state that much more fun:

- @LauraKMM, as mentioned above

- @iamderekw, for some of the most entertaining Twitter wars with "journalists" who like to play fast and loose with the facts

- @RepAmodei, for setting up perhaps the best Twitter (PARODY!) page for any of our Congresscritters (hehe) ;-)

- @JimRogersNevada, for telling it like it is... And having a big enough platform for media pundits to actually pay attention (it helps that he owns one of them)

- Oh yes, and @KenKraftNV always has great facts and figures and data and analysis. And of course, "numbers nerds" always excite me.

And of course, there are many more that I just can't list now. But hey, there's always hope you'll be on our 2012 list!

Happy New Year, everyone! :-D

Thursday, December 29, 2011

10 of 11: Is It 2012 Yet?

Funny enough, one of the biggest stories of this past year has been about... NEXT YEAR??!! Yep, that's right. Since hardly anything could be accomplished in Congress as our own Legislature kept kicking the can further down the road, focus turned quickly to the big election year that will begin in just 5 days in the snowy fields of Iowa. And back here in Nevada, the G-O-TEA is in full panic mode after the last R-J/8 News/UNLV poll delivered plenty of holiday cheer for President Obama and Shelley Berkley. Meanwhile, news broke this morning about another big ballot battle coming to a polling place near you in 2012.

The initiative, which would change state law, will be based on the “margins tax” proposed by Democrats during the 2011 Legislature, according to a source. That tax proposal was modeled after Texas’ “franchise tax,” which was levied on business gross receipts.

Proponents will have to collect 72,000 signatures — 18,000 in each of the state’s four congressional districts. If successful, the proposal would go to the Legislature for consideration in 2013. If the lawmakers don’t pass it within 40 days, it will go to the ballot in 2014 for voters to decide.

Advocates for changing the state’s tax structure and increasing the funding for social services and education hope to build a coalition of support among business leaders, gaming, mining, teachers and labor. [...]

However, the state’s power brokers, including gaming, mining, the teachers union and AFL-CIO, have been talking about changing the state’s tax structure since the 2011 session ended in June. The challenge: to close the state’s budget deficit of more than $1 billion.

At the end of that session, the Legislature re-extended taxes passed in 2009, but did nothing to change the tax structure, which critics say is too dependent on gaming and sales tax.

That led to widespread frustration in the Nevada establishment and a consensus that no tax, even one that was revenue neutral, could pass the Legislature, where it takes a two-thirds majority to raise a tax or fee. (A ballot question only requires a simple majority of voters for it to pass.)

Apparently, we truly are coming around full circle and "Californication" has arrived in Nevada. After several disappointing sessions full of dashed hopes and so much kicking the can down the road, the can now looks to land in our laps. And perhaps 2012 will be the perfect year to do it. After all, these folks in Chicago are feeling increasingly confident about "The Map".

Remember when Jim Messina came here in August to discuss the restart of the Obama campaign? When he was explaining how OFA was about to lay the foundation for this campaign, even some on the left were asking how on earth Obama could expect to regain the trust of Americans when so much seemed to look so wrong.

Last night, Messina acknowledged that this may be their biggest challenge going forward. So much really has been accomplished by the Obama Administration, but will the American people really care? And why should they care when the unemployment rate is still over 9%, people are still losing their homes to foreclosure, and three wars are still being waged abroad while Congress breaks for recess after debating whether or not to end Social Security & Medicare as we know it?

Now we're getting a clearer picture... And Jim Messina doesn't sound so crazy, after all. While Mitt Romney brags about his plan to force commercials onto "Sesame Street" and Ron Paul embraces pro "death penalty for teh gayzzz!!!" Christ-o-fascists, OFA has quietly been building a strong operation from the grassroots upward. And when no one was noticing, the economy started to heal and now the President isn't looking so bad after all.

Just over a year ago, hardly anyone was expecting this. But sometimes, one just has to expect and accept the unexpected. Between the changing tide (yet again) of public opinion, the revival of the Obama campaign, the new awareness surrounding "The 99%", and the huge curveball that redistricting turned out to be, Nevada in 2012 may prove to be the ultimate opportunity for progressives to rescue this state... And perhaps take this state in a bold, new direction.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

10 of 11: Education Matters?

Last week, we noted the channeling of growing angst over inequality into the still maturing Occupy/99% movement. This week, I want to remind you that #Occupy was foreshadowed right here in Nevada. Remember "Sandoville"?

Remember the largest protest in Carson City's history?

And remember what was discussed right here on this blog on the heels of that historic rally?

How many more times must I explain this? With inadequate schools, new companies won't move here. Businesses are now looking for a more educated workforce, and Nevada can't provide that with underfunded, overcrowded, underperforming, overburdened, and all around collapsing K-12 schools and colleges. Without good schools, we'll never have the foundation needed for a more stable economy and lasting jobs.

But do enough legislators understand this? Do they really want to continue being penny wise and pound foolish? Do they want to force Clark County School District to sue them for inadequate funding? Do they really want to "beggar thy neighbor" by forcing unfunded mandates onto local governments? Or are they finally ready to make a change and do the right thing?

Everything we "know" on the budget is wrong. The revenue is there. The mining industry can certainly afford to pay its fair share, and so can other large multinational corporations taking advantage of our consumer dollars while refusing to pay what we pay. Our system is broken, our state is failing, and we can no longer afford to ignore this crisis.

Yep. It's STILL the schools, stupid.

It seemed like despite all the growing body of evidence showing exactly how Nevada fails because we fail to properly invest in public education, some in Carson City continued to stick their heads in the sand and hope for something that won't ever (and really shouldn't ever) come back to Nevada. In March, I was asking why we would want to kill ourselves like this

As we've talked about before, many thousands of students from throughout the state have begged Brian Sandoval and The Legislature to let them continue learning. Under Sandoval's proposed budget, entire departments are set to be eliminated from UNLV and UNR, UNLV will likely go bankrupt, and entire colleges, like Western Nevada College in Carson City and Nevada State College in Henderson, may be permanently closed. Now what would that say about our state planning ahead for a better economic future?

As I've repeatedly exclaimed here before, the ONLY way for Nevada to survive is for us to diversify our economy and bring in companies looking for an educated workforce. But as long as we continue to defund our schools, Nevada will be nothing other than a third world society slowly unraveling as casino conglomerates look elsewhere to profit off gambling going global.

This year's budget really is a life or death decision for Nevada. Will we decide on economic and social murder-suicide by way of destroying what little public infrastructure we have? Or will we choose life? Will we decide to build on that very public infrastructure that the vast majority of the private sector has told us is critical for them to do business here?

Sadly, Brian Sandoval continued to drown out the crying and raging masses while the Legislature continued to suffer under partisan stalemate (thanks to the more extreme G-O-TEA caucus). On May 26, I asked how much longer "we the people" could be ignored.

For far too long, we have been told to "suck it up" and "celebrate the free market". Look where that has taken us. Even though we have the cheapest state government and one of the lowest tax burdens in the nation, we have the highest unemployment rate in the nation and an economy unraveling due to casinos investing more offshore and the real estate bubble bursting. The Nevada "success story" of the past has been found to be just a mirage, an illusion, a trick.

Can we be ignored?

We know what we need to fix our economy and put our state back on track. While Sandogibbons continues to dream of making it big time, many Nevadans' dreams of making it to the next day fade away. There were so many people in Grant Sawyer yesterday testifying of how they're trying to do the right thing by staying in school, working on college degrees, and aspiring for real, stable jobs. But as Sandogibbons and his merry band of cannibalistic teabaggers continue to pull the rug out from under them (by way of forcing class eliminations, school closures, further health care rationing, etc.), they don't know if they can survive here. [...]

Can we be ignored? Or is Nevada about to get a brutal wake-up call?

And funny enough, on that exact same day a "Deus ex machina" appeared... In the form of a Nevada Supreme Court ruling that was almost literally released at the 11th hour and just barely in time to stop the Legislature from collapsing without a budget agreement. Yet despite that, we only ended up with the usual political games of how much more to cut and how little to tax to keep funding schools at the ridiculously low levels they've always been. However, not all hope is lost. As we discussed at the start of this series, there may be efforts in the new year to finally get Nevada to invest in its people again. It may ultimately have to go to the ballot box, but at this point we may need to do that just so we no longer have to endure Carson City dragging its feet on making our schools work.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

10 of 11: Redistricting!

This is probably the quirkiest and funniest story of 2011. At the start of the year, everyone was wondering what kind of deal would be made to please most incumbents and share the treasures of Congressional gerrymandering. Honestly, that's what I was thinking when I released my first scenario for changing Nevada's Congressional map. I mean, come on... Nevada's Legislature had always been able to agree to a bipartisan gerrymander that kept most happy. Couldn't they do it again?

By April, the answer was starting to sound like one big fat "NO!" And as spring sprang and the budget brawl was becoming increasingly brutal, Nevada's pundit class was finally starting to realize that a huge "game change" was in the works. And despite the Legislature brokering a budget deal in late May (once the state Supreme Court forced it), a compromise gerrymander was looking increasingly impossible. And once sine die was reached in early June, the legal fight officially became a battle royale... And I noted that it wasn't exactly a bad thing.

Maybe this really isn't a bad thing? After all, the current districts we have are a result of a bipartisan "incumbent protection" gerrymander. Perhaps now that judges will decide the new district boundaries rather than politicians looking to protect their own behinds and/or use redistricting as a bargaining chip for something else, we'll see Congressional and legislative districts that actually make more sense. Here's to hope!

In August, redistricting took a weird turn when Judge James Todd Russell appointed "special masters" to handle the map drawing... And decide all the legal issues that he was supposed to rule on! By October, Secretary of State Ross Miller rushed to the Nevada Supreme Court to beg our state's highest court to end what seemed to be turning into a fiasco. By then, most of our state's politicos were begging Governor Sandoval and the legislators to try one more time to agree on some sort of redistricting compromise. Jon Ralston most notably asked the Gube and the Leg to "make them (Judge Russell and the "special masters") irrelevant", but I wasn't ready to give up on our new bold experiment just yet.

So is independent redistricting perfect? Nope, just look at what's happening next door. But by the same token, we can also look next door and see an overall better functioning process that gives voters more control than the usual powers that be. And that would be quite the "special" departure from the usual politics that surrounds redistricting here in Nevada.

I honestly don't know if the current judiciary mess or retrying the Legislature is the better path to take for this current round of redistricting here. But moving forward, we really need to reexamine our State Constitution (which currently requires the Legislature to redraw its own districts and Congressional Districts) and ask if we really want to endure this kind of nonsense ten years from now.

I noted that despite many legal and political hiccups, both Arizona and California ultimately ended up with fairer and more logical Congressional and Legislature maps. Maybe if we just let this process work, Nevada could also be as lucky?

Oh, we certainly ended up so! The new maps were released in mid October, and the new state of play suddenly sent a whole lot of politicians scrambling. And in addition to Congress, the Legislature also saw a huge overhaul as both Assembly and Senate districts shifted southward.

Of course, this made the Nevada GOP furious. Funny enough, they were originally pushing for court drawn maps in the hope of the redistricting law suit landing on the lap of a Republican friendly judge. And of course, they got that! However, they still threw a temper tantrum once the new maps emerged. Why? Oh, it wasn't a gerrymander... And all of a sudden, they were forced to acknowledge the shift of the balance of power from rural white Republicans to multicultural and multi-ethnic urban and suburban Democrats.

Huh? When did the Voting Rights Act ever elevate "population minorities" to the same legally protected status as racial minorities? Is [Assembly Member Pete] Goicoechea [R-Eureka] really trying to claim that rural Nevada is "discriminated against" when it has the most subsidized government services of any of us? I dare Pete Goicoechea to go to West Las Vegas and talk with the residents who remember the "Mississippi of the West" days, when no African-Americans were allowed to even step in the front door of any Strip casinos! And I dare him to go to East Las Vegas and talk with the residents who are still enduring the anti-Latin@ xenophobia that his party's US Senate candidate tried to tap into to win last year. [...]

So what's the real objection here? Simple: Population. And Power.

For decades, rural Nevada, along with Washoe County, has had disproportionate power and control over state affairs. Even though Clark became the most populous county in the state in 1960, we still haven't yet seen Clark become all that much of a force in Carson City. Again, look at the distribution of state college funds, and the distribution of public safety funds, and the constant resistance to progressive tax reform despite growing support statewide.

This really looks to be "The Cow Counties' Last Stand". Deep down, they know that Nevada is changing. Not only is Nevada's population growing more diverse, but it's also becoming more urban as Greater Las Vegas continues to reinvent itself. As we talked about on Monday, the "Bonanza" vision of Nevada is fading as the state makes the transition from bucolic desert wonderland to dynamic urban destination. And as we make that transition, our attitudes are changing on issues like taxes, land use, environmental stewardship, civil rights, and the overall needs for government.

In the end, only minor changes were made to the Legislature maps and the Nevada Supremes ultimately green-lighted the new maps this past fall. So in addition to the wide open Legislature races, we now have a red hot (even if deep blue) Democratic primary in NV-01, a real barnburner of a general election coming to Joe Heck in NV-03, and Barbara Cegavske's increasingly comical delusions of grandeur in NV-04. And who knows, maybe at some point NV-02 will join in on the fun and games next year as well.

Monday, December 26, 2011

10 of 11: #Equality

Not so long ago, LGBTQ equality seemed a distant dream. Hell, much of the community was excluded not that long ago as even many community leaders would only talk of "gay rights". But over the course of the last decade, this would change in a radical way. And in 2011 here in Nevada, we saw some big changes.

The year started with some uncertainty as pro-equality bills like AB 211 were being overshadowed by the bigger budget brawl. In March, the vote counting was still very much underway in Carson City. But in May, we saw a breakthough when AB 211 finally passed the Legislature and Brian Sandoval agreed to sign it into law. Never before in Carson could any transgender rights bill even reach the Assembly or Senate floor. But now, transgender Nevadans can finally work without fear of easy firing because of who they are. We also saw bills addressing housing discrimination, school bullying, public accommodations, and kids in foster care become law to the benefit of the entire community.

It seems like in the course of just three years, Nevada has made a great leap forward in treating its LGBTQ residents as full human beings. However, we still saw reminders this year that we've not reached full equality just yet. While the LVCVA took the long awaited step of marketing more to LGBTQ tourists, many of the powers that be in this state still can't admit that issues like marriage discrimination hold us back. And in October, the RGJ actually published a smart and insightful story on the hardships local LGBTQ families still face in this state.

[Joe] Edson said that, as a couple, [he and registered domestic partner Mike Hardie] have "jumped through all the legal hoops backwards" to get many of the same rights and protections that come to opposite-sex couples. That includes legal powers of attorney for health issues and revocable trusts. Edson said he had to be treated for colon cancer in 2004 and that helped propel the decision to get family rights.

"Any drunk heterosexual couple can wander into an Elvis chapel in Las Vegas and get all of these rights automatically," Edson said. "We have the education and the financial wherewithal to get those kinds of rights documented. A lot of our friends do not."

While domestic partnerships certainly offer more legal protections, rights, and responsibilities than the great heap of nothing we had before 2009, they're still not marriage. But even with this, there's hope emerging. The Prop 8 case in California is still making its way through federal courts. And if Judge Walker's overturning of the California marriage equality ban continues to stand, then it sets an encouraging federal precedent that will likely lead the way to the end of our own Question 2 marriage ban, as well as other discriminatory marriage bans across the country.

And speaking of federal matters, another encouraging development was the end of DADT. Last year, our own Harry Reid helped lay the foundation for its ultimate demise. And this year, homophobia fueled discrimination in America's armed forces finally landed where it belongs, in the dustbin of history. It's just too bad that the G-O-TEA still refuses to enter the 21st century.

Wow. Has the Republican Party really sunk that low? Apparently so. Remember, a bunch of Florida Republicans attending last night's debate in Orlando booed an active duty soldier, and did so simply because he's gay and he wanted to ask the Republican Presidential Candidates about reviving DADT.

And you know what makes this even more disgusting? Only two Republican candidates (neither of them with any real chance of getting the nomination), Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, rose to defend Stephen Hill and the end of DADT. Apparently, the rest of the GOP "clown car candidates" think discrimination is fabulous.

What really makes this appalling is that the Florida Republican audience at that debate last night showed complete and utter disrespect for an active duty soldier. They essentially booed our military and showed contempt for our country. Think about it. For as long as I can remember, the Republican Party has tried to position itself as "the patriotic party", the party that believes in the sanctity of the flag and everything it represents. Yet last night, we didn't see that party. Rather, we saw the continuation of a trend in the unveiling of a "new Republican Party" that's been hijacked by "TEA Party" extremists who care more about radical ideology than even the well being of our military and our very national security.

And therein lies our continuing challenge. But hopefully one day soon, we shall finally overcome bigotry's last stand and achieve full equality.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Did Santa Come Early (for Nevada Democrats)?

In case you were wondering, our 10 of 11 series will continue after Christmas. Don't worry about that. But in the mean time, I just have to interrupt our reminiscing to show you the 8 News Now/R-J UNLV poll that's giving Nevada Republicans "the vapors". (Trust me, we'll tie it all together at the end of this diary!)

President Barack Obama would handily defeat any of the Republican presidential candidates in Nevada if the election were held now, according to an 8 News Now/Las Vegas Review-Journal poll conducted by UNLV's Cannon Survey Center.

With a sample size of 600 registered voters and a 4 percent margin of error, Democrat Obama would defeat his closest rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 45.7 percent to 39.8 percent.

In a presidential caucus, Republicans favor Romney but his closest foe, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, trails within the 6.5 percent margin of error in that particular contest. This result reflects registered voters, but not likely caucus-goers.

The telephone poll, conducted Dec. 12 through Dec. 20, had Obama topping Texas Congressman Ron Paul 45.4 percent to 35.7 percent, Gingrich 47.3 to 35.4, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum 49.3 to 30.9, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman 48.8 to 30.1, Texas Gov. Rick Perry 50.8 to 31.1 and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann 50.2 to 27.1.

Whoops. I guess Americans really are getting tired of "tea party" madness... And realizing that sanity really is a good thing. Hell, the G-O-TEA is now turning voters AWAY (especially if they're gay or not super-rich)!

But wait, it gets worse for Nevada Republicans. It also turns out that Dean Heller isn't all that popular, either.

Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley would defeat Republican Sen. Dean Heller in a nail-biter to represent Nevada in the U.S. Senate if the election were held now, according to an 8 News Now/Las Vegas Review-Journal poll conducted by UNLV's Cannon Survey Center.

The poll of 600 registered Nevada voters showed Berkley edging Heller 44.4 percent to 43.2 percent. But the contest, which will be decided in the November 2012 general election, is well within the poll's 4 percent margin of error. The telephone poll was conducted Dec. 12 through Dec. 20.

Now Heller isn't doing as poorly as Romney-Gingrich-Paul at the top of the ticket, but he's nonetheless in real danger. As we noted on Tuesday, he's fallen from a double digit lead to a tie... And now, perhaps falling behind Shelley Berkley in the US Senate race. Hmmm, I wonder why?

Apparently, Nevadans are smart enough to realize his unbalanced nonsense means less work and more suffering. And they're smart enough to know that the source of Washington's problems lies on Capitol Hill (not The White House). So maybe 2012 won't bring the G-O-TEA another "Red Tide" after all? And in the mean time, Nevada Democrats should probably enjoy these nice stocking stuffers from Santa Claus... Then work their behinds off in 2012 to really make it come true.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

10 of 11: #Occupy

After "The Arab Spring" and Europe's summer of discontent, many were wondering why America couldn't protest what we supposedly couldn't stand. Well, we all now know what happened next...

"The American Autumn" began, and it came here in full force.

It probably doesn't help that despite economists marking the official end of "The Great Recession", household income continued to fall nearly 7%. No matter how much we say the recession is over, for many Americans, and a whole lot of Nevadans, it rages on as they live in fear of losing everything. But in the last couple of years, that fear has been turning into anger. In the beginning, "Tea Party, Inc." was hoping to co-opt that anger and direct it at "LIB-RULZZZ!!!" But now that Occupy Together is offering a non-corporate alternative to the "tea party" corporate front groups, people are realizing they now have a chance to redirect their anger at the forces that really caused this mess. [...]

This is why Americans are angry, and this is why Occupy Wall Street may become more than just one protest. People want jobs, but Congress does nothing. People are feeling ignored. Even while the 99% suffer, no one cares as long as the top 1% continues to prosper. Though people are demanding real economic solutions now, all they're seeing on Capitol Hill is more bickering about policies that do nothing to help formerly middle class workers.

This is why Americans are angry. They feel like the system is broken. And really, can we blame them? Can we blame them for being angry at Koch Industries buying as much "free speech" as they want with each upcoming campaign while they were continually ignored?

It even came here and reached us locally. Down south it seemed to hit a climax in October, when the G-O-TEA thought they were just going to see a debate and do a conference inside. They didn't expect an uprising outside.

Yes, there were a few conspiracy nuts. And there were some Ron Paul fans. And there were some genuine socialists.

However, there were also unemployed workers. And there were frustrated students. And there were union workers. And there were angry seniors. And there was an amazing cross-section of Southern Nevada present outside The Venetian. For all of Wall Street's efforts to smear and denigrate the Occupy/99% movement, there's obviously far more to it than just the small radical fringes that's really resonating with the strong majority of Americans. And that scares the corporate powers that be.

This is what scares them.

They just can't lump together all the Occupy/99% protesters as "crazies". It's easy to zoom in on one person and try it, but it's not so easy to dismiss this kind of crowd. And it's not easy to dismiss the policy ideas that most in Occupy support that most Americans also support, such as making the super-rich pay their fair share so we can make better investments in taking care of our seniors, putting people back to work, and educating our future leaders. The big corporate powers that be simply can't spin that as "fringe" or "extreme", and that scares them.

It seemed like The 99% Movement was about to "go big" and reshape American politics, but then it hit a snag. Winter was fast approaching (btw, Happy Solstice!), and so were the cops. And in the process, it seemed like Occupy was losing steam. Honestly, I was getting concerned.

However, I am concerned about The 99% Movement going forward. Is apathy laced diaspora the best approach to this next election? An election that can take this country in a radically different direction? An election that will again prominently feature the Supreme Court? An election that may feature [Mitt Romney or Paul-Gingrich-Perry-???], both of whom holding nothing but contempt for the 99%, as the Republicans' Presidential Nominee? An election that will either get Congress working for the 99%, or result in a Congress that's even more hostile to the 99%? When much is at stake here, I don't see the use in progressives sitting out this election to engage in street theater... While "Tea Party, Inc.", is set to spend however much it takes to take full control of the government.

If one wants to change the system, one can't just sit back as a bystander. One must work to create that change. And while protests are fine and dandy and a great way to express one's right to free speech, protests alone will not solve our problems. We have to remember to vote, too.

But then this happened, she came back, and I saw reason to hope again.

It can be quite easy to become discouraged by the whole process. And it can be quite easy to become distracted by the endless media hype and speculation over meaningless "dog and pony shows". And it be quite easy to become disgusted by all the dirty corporate money thrown around. Sometimes, it's quite difficult to remember what really matters.

However, we just can't forget. We can't forget the importance of getting involved, contacting our members of Congress, building a real movement, and ultimately using our votes to change what we don't like. That's the beauty of our system, and that's something we should never feel compelled to give up.

We can't wait for job creation. And we can't wait for an end to Congress' charade games that keep threatening middle class families. We need real, bold action on job creation. And if the current G-O-TEA House majority prevents Congress from acting, then we need to change Congress by occupying the vote.

Hopefully, this will finally come to fruition in 2012.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

10 of 11: The Rise & Fall of the "New" Nevada GOP

Without a doubt, 2011 was a dramatic year for our friends and foes across the aisle. They started off on a high... Despite failing last year to "take out" their top target. In fact, it seemed like Brian Sandoval's early success in blocking needed revenue lifted them up to Cloud 9 where they could enjoy their AFP/"Tea Party, Inc." funded orgy. And even though the Nevada Supreme Court ultimately nipped that G-O-TEA fantasy in the bud in late May, they were still optimistic. And hey, why not when their biggest thorn in the side was finally magically erased?

But then, something funny happened on the way to Dean Heller's "coronation". Just as Brian Sandoval tried to essentially hand him our US Senate seat, they both got a loud reality check in April. Remember when we first talked about it?

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?

When PPP and Mellman first showed a tightening Senate race, the pundits were shocked. But now that it's still tight (PPP's last poll showed a tie race), they expect another barnburner of a Senate race in the coming year. Whoops.

But wait, what about Mark Amodei? Yes, what about him. He went from facing a potentially scary upset (for him) to an easy win. And yes, both his political resiliency and Kate Marshall's shocking crashing & burning of her own campaign forced a nasty "gut check moment" for Democrats in Tonopah this past September.

As I wrote then...

Of course, last night's special election results weren't good for Obama or Congressional Democrats, but on the other hand many in DC are forgetting the local dynamics of both races. Here in Nevada, Kate Marshall positioned herself to essentially run against Obama, which demoralized the Democratic base and caused the entire election to be played on the Nevada GOP's turf. And in New York, Orthodox Jews and older white "Reagan Democrats" turned hard Republicans made that election into a referendum on Israel, social issues, and internal Brooklyn & Queens political drama. And while special elections tend to produce dramatic results as of late, they rarely provide a clear forecast of the political climate of the following election cycle.

What will be far more telling in the coming weeks and months, however, is what happens to the economy next, how politicians and political parties react to the state of the economy, and how voters respond to the politicians' reactions.

And that's when the tide turned yet again.

In August, the G-O-TEA seemed to be flying high again after "The Great Debt Ceiling Debacle of 2011". Democrats again seemed demoralized (see above note on Kate Marshall's campaign), the "tea party" looked to take control of the narrative, and we all just needed to shut up and embrace our "bright future" ahead with Mitt Romney. But then (again), something funny happened on the way to Romney's "coronation" and the Nevada GOP's "reascendancy". He told us to "drop dead", but it was really only the local G-O-TEA outlet that followed through. Ralston couldn't contain himself as he saw them turn to slow-motion implosion, but I wasn't too surprised, as I saw for myself the dreaded "Obama-Reid Machine" rise again while the G-O-TEA were arguing over how irrelevant their caucus was to be.

As we discussed back in late October when the Nevada GOP sealed the deal on the "Great RNC-New Hampshire Cave-in of 2011":

Too late, Mrs. Tark Shark. It's already been a huge debacle, an unnecessary distraction, and a way for New Hampshire politicians to use our state as their personal pinata. Maybe you avoided getting deposed as Nevada GOP Chair, but you've already lost as your party has just become the national laughingstock. [...]

While OFA and Nevada Democrats are busy being... Well, productive, in registering voters and calling to recruit more volunteers, Nevada Republicans were too busy chickening out to New Hampshire teabaggers and sacrificing our state's dignity to pay for Florida's original sin [in moving their primary to January 31, triggering the chaos that led to the RNC forcing the Nevada GOP to push back their caucus to February 4 so New Hampshire can do their primary exactly when they want it]. So there you have it. This may very well be the moment that clinches Nevada, and perhaps the overall 2012 election, for President Obama next year.

What? You think I'm crazy? I think everyone needs to review what happened in last year's Senate election. Welcome to deja vu. The spirit of Sharrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrron lives on in the Nevada Republican Party. [...]

Funny enough, the usual "Sharrontology Fan Club" TEA-nut conspiracy theorists were trying to claim, "Big Bad Harry Reid HIJACKED!!!!!" their pointless central committee meeting, but that's just crazy talk. Neither he nor Obama needed to. Nevada Republicans are doing a great job losing the upcoming election all by themselves!

And here's where it all comes full circle. Just as they blew it last year in picking the ultimate extremist to lose to Harry Reid and muck up their own message in the process, the Nevada GOP are set to lose more elections all on their own all over again. They threw a hissy fit over the nonpartisan judicial redistricting results that they supposedly wanted. They focused on stupid "CUL'CHUR WARZZZ!!!" crap when people were asking for jobs. Dean Heller and Joe Heck were too busy catering to "Tea Party, Inc." and nutty extremists to notice their constituents protesting outside their local offices.

And as all of this was happening all around them, Nevada GOP "leaders" couldn't realize the turmoil at their own doorstep because they were too busy believing Barbara Cegavske's delusions of grandeur! Hey, how else can we explain what they did this year? They rose so high, only to fall so fast.

Sorry, Nevada GOP. Apparently Democrats won't be so easy to beat after all.

Two new major national polls show President Obama’s approval ratings making solid improvement, and putting him close to the 50% threshold that is seen as key for an incumbent seeking reelection. In addition, the polls suggest that Obama could be doing better than the Congressional Republicans in their ongoing political fights. [...]

The CNN poll had only a simple version of [a question on the economy and how Obama can handle it], with a very good result for Obama: “Do you have more confidence in President Obama or in the Republicans in Congress to deal with the major issues facing the country today?”

The numbers: Obama 50%, Republicans 31%.

Monday, December 19, 2011

10 of 11: Gabby... & Jared

Even though this clip is from 2010, it's a lurid foreshadow of how 2011 was to begin:

And yes, sadly, there's a Nevada Angle to this story.

While she may not have been the main cause of the Tucson massacre that killed six people and wounded nineteen others, including US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona), Sharron Angle's and the tea party's increasingly violent rhetoric certainly helped to create the environment that encouraged fringe radicals like Jared Lee Loughner to use "Second Amendment Remedies". Back in January, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik pointed it out.

“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And, unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.” [...]

“We need to do some soul searching … It’s the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business. People tend to pooh-pooh this business about the vitriol that inflames American public opinion by the people who make a living off of that. That may be free speech but it’s not without consequences.”

And the Southern Poverty Law Center researched the origins of the conspiracy theories Loughner embraced, and found some startling clues for what motivated him to turn violent.

At one point, Loughner refers disparagingly to “currency that’s not backed by gold or silver.” The idea that silver and gold are the only “constitutional” money is widespread in the antigovernment “Patriot” movement that produced so much violence in the 1990s. It’s linked to the core Patriot theory that the Federal Reserve is actually a private corporation run for the benefit of unnamed international bankers. So-called Patriots say paper money — what they refer to with a sneer as “Federal Reserve notes” — is not lawful.

At another, Loughner makes extraordinarily obscure comments about language and grammar, suggesting that the government engages in “mind control on the people by controlling grammar.” That’s not the kind of idea that’s very common out there, even on the Internet. In fact, I think it’s pretty clear that Loughner is taking ideas from Patriot conspiracy theorist David Wynn Miller of Milwaukee. Miller claims that the government uses grammar to “enslave” Americans and offers up his truly weird “Truth-language” as an antidote. For example, he says that if you add colons and hyphens to your name in a certain way, you are no longer taxable. Miller may be mad as a hatter, but he has a real following on the right.

Loughner talks about how you “can’t trust the government” and someone burns a U.S. flag in one of his videos. Although certain right-wing websites are already using that (and his listing of The Communist Manifesto as one of his favorite books) to claim that Loughner was a “left-winger,” that does not strike me as true. The main enemy of the Patriot movement is certainly the federal government. And so-called Patriots have certainly engaged in acts like burning the flag.

And if you think this is all just "crazy talk", tell that to Iowa. According to PPP, Ron Paul has now taken the lead there as the Iowa Caucus is fast approaching. Remember, Ron Paul has repeatedly winked and nodded at these conspiracy theories as he's trying to turn the fringe into mainstream. And it's not just Paul. The whole radical right likes to play footsie with this kind of crazy... Until something like this occurs, when they then try to rewrite history.

As I wrote back in January...

OK, so Loughner may have been dabbling in some looney tunes nonsense, possibly even including a known white supremacist hate group. What does this have to do with Glenn Beck... Or Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle for that matter? Well, it comes back to the ["tea party"]. The "tea party" is a sort of umbrella classification of a number of far right organizations and politicians, but there is definitely strong evidence to show that leading "tea party" figures are trying to legitimize the same extreme ideology of the extreme right that influenced past terrorists, like Timothy McVeigh.

And worse, as Glenn Beck warns of supposed "conspiracies of the left" to bring about "imminent violent revolution", and as Sarah Palin tells her followers, "never retreat, instead RELOAD!", and as Sharron Angle suggests "Second Amendment Remedies" to take care of "enemies in our own system... in the walls of Congress"...

Far too many media pundits and politicians in DC have been far too willing to simply dismiss this as "politics as usual". This is NOT "politics as usual". This is an ever escalating culture of political violence that must stop!

Again, I had feared something like this would eventually happen. Last year, I feared Harry Reid would be the victim. I had seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears the teabaggers' unplugged, unfiltered, and unfettered irrational hatred of Harry Reid... As well as President Barack Obama, for that matter. While "Tea Party, Inc." consultants in California were just focusing on building enough opposition to win an election, the opposition among many teabaggers ran far deeper.

And that January, we found out the hard way how deep that was.

Yet while we saw the far right turn increasingly radical, we also saw glimmers of hope as folks in The Southwest turned away from it. Pay attention again to Gabby's own words.

Strangely enough, Giffords talked with an long time Republican friend about starting a campaign to tone down the increasingly extreme rhetoric in today's politics right before her "Congress on Your Corner" town hall that turned so bloody. Yet while Giffords herself ultimately couldn't lead on this, others soon filled that void. Extreme anti-immigrant Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now facing his own legal troubles for politicizing law enforcement there. Russell Pearce, the state senator who briefly turned Arizona's legislature into a breeding ground for "tea party" extremism, was recalled by his own constituents just last month. Jan Brewer, the Arizona Governor that signed the SB 1070 "papers, please" law and campaigned for reelection on it, is now seeing her popularity fade fast in light of a failed redistricting power grab. And in another twist of fate, Daniel Hernandez, the intern who helped to save Gabby Giffords' life, won election to a seat on the local Tuscon school board.

So maybe there is hope, after all. Gabby Giffords herself continues to recover. She's showing remarkable progress for someone who suffered that kind of brain injury, and is showing interest in running for reelection to Congress.

I'll leave you with this from Time.

There was much to hate about politics this year, especially the amount of hate that seemed to poison it. But if there was an antidote, it came from one of the victims: Gabrielle Giffords, vibrant and valiant member of Congress from Arizona, gunned down when a deranged shooter outside a supermarket put a bullet through her brain. That she survived at all was a miracle; that she recovers — slowly, stubbornly, each day a search for another word, another milestone — is a model. "You have to have hope and faith," she says at the end of Gabby, the book she wrote with her husband and fellow warrior against all odds and expectations, astronaut Mark Kelly. "I will get stronger. I will return."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

10 of 11: In the Capitol... And from California to Here

Yesterday, I hinted at the strange dynamics of state government this year. Believe it or not, Nevada wasn't accustomed to the hurly burly of intense, combative, highly partisan "contact sport" politics... Until this year. Yes, for a moment it looked like Nevadans' worst nightmares were coming true and we really were turning into California (albeit led by the radical right that supposedly hates our next door neighbors so much).

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.

However, I still sensed something different. When I arrived in the capital city myself, I saw it with my own eyes.

There really is an intriguing game of political chess happening in Carson City right now. Democratic leadership is figuring out where to find the votes to pass an actual balanced budget, and Republican leadership is trying to find "cover" so they can provide enough votes for a budget that won't anger "we the people" too much.

I had a chance to talk with three of my favorite legislators this week on what's happening up north. My Senator, Shirley Breeden (D-Henderson),is busy doing her "homework", studying the numbers, and pressing for a final budget that keeps kids in school and keeps our hope for a better economy alive. David Parks (D-Paradise) is working hard on a number of LGBTQ equality bills (that you will be hearing more from me on soon!) and hopes for agreement on these as well as the budget. And as part of the new wave of Latin@ legislators providing some much needed representation in Carson, Ruben Kihuen is already off to an amazing start in The Senate... He even expressed some hope that his fellow legislators, especially on The Senate side, can work together this session.

Interestingly enough, there may actually be some opportunities for just that. That Republican legislator I spoke with was willing to keep an open mind on AB 211, the transgender inclusive workplace non-discrimination bill. Another Republican legislator apparently expressed concern over Sandoval's proposed budget cuts this week, and signaled support for the LGBTQ equality bills. And even though GOP leadership are playing "hard to get" right now in demanding some of the same union busting run amok in Wisconsin and Michigan, they may also be realizing that they can only ask for so much, and that it may not be too smart to antagonize working Nevadans when they've already sacrificed plenty and are ready to share in even more sacrifice this year.

Hopefully, what I saw behind the scenes in Carson City this week are real signs of hope that our Legislature will be working on actual solutions that will make Nevada an even better state. The "sausage making process" may be messy, but let's keep pushing them to ensure the final product is safe for human consumption.

Well, at least the final product wasn't totally lethal. And thanks to a last minute court decision, the logjam was finally broken. And looking beyond the budget, we did score big victories on the LGBTQ equality front with legislation passed to address housing discrimination, school bullying, public accommodations for all, and a long desired win for transgender equality at work. That was the major bright spot that at least somewhat made up for the idiotic Trash Tahoe bill, the ugly continuing attacks on our public servants, and the ridiculous final state budget that was yet another pile of patches, band-aids, and "quick fixes" that are destined to combust all over again in 2013 (if not sooner).

But funny enough, the postscript is still being written. And coming around full circle, Californication may indeed continue next year... But this time, it may actually be for the better. I'll leave you with these words from June, which may yet come to fruition on our ballots next year.

Either way, Nevada's governance will start to look a lot more like California's, and more like other Western states (such as Arizona) that have become accustomed to partisan turf wars, ballot box budgeting, and "direct democracy gone wild". It's now a question of whether Nevada will keep sputtering on its way to the bottom, or if progressives can turn this around and take advantage of this unique opportunity to inject more common sense into our state government. The days of Kenny Guinn and Barbara Buckley and Bill Raggio making "grand bargains" seem to be long gone. Term limits are taking away experienced legislators. Meanwhile, the power vacuum is being filled by corporate lobbyists, party central committees, and other outside forces.

So what can we do? In the long term, I still believe it's in our best interest that progressives work toward reforming state government to make it more responsive to the people and less beholden to special corporate interests. But in the mean time, we can't wait on the sidelines for the next [year] while Nevada's people continue to suffer inadequate public education, health care, transportation, and other infrastructure necessary to make our state whole again.

So now, we have to ask ourselves not whether and when we will go to the ballot and ask the people to save our state, but how we will do so and who we will build coalitions with. Should we work with gaming and mining on a broad-based business tax? Should we work with other progressive activists on a corporate income tax? Should we push for some sort of mining tax reform? 2012 may seem like a long hike away, but it really isn't [especially with the Presidential Caucuses right around the corner and just a month away for Democrats!]. We need to start planning now to take the first necessary steps to save our state and bring real progressive reform to Nevada government.

Friday, December 16, 2011

10 of 11: Shutdown

As we start our "10 of 11" series and look back on the big stories of 2011, I want to start with the story that's already in the news again... And one that's likely to play a big role in 2012. Once upon a time, it would have been "unthinkable" to shut down the government over petty political disagreements. But now, it's become commonplace. This is really one scary instance of us becoming accustomed to dysfunctional government.

Really, think about it. When the G-O-TEA turned the debate on extending the payroll tax cut for middle class families into yet another high stakes death match, did anyone express shock? That may be the problem here: We've become too used to "brinksmanship/disaster governing".

Already, we've seen this happen at least three times. First we saw a budget battle royale in April, and total shutdown was threatened. Then in July, we saw not only a threat of shutdown, but of total explosion of the global economy, when the G-O-TEA threatened not to raise the debt ceiling and extend the full faith and credit of the USA. That episode led to the game of charades often referred to as "The Supercommittee"... And as we all should have expected, it failed, and it did just that thanks to the usual G-O-TEA brinksmanship games. But thankfully that time, there was an automatic fail-safe "trigger" built in to render that whole experiment as neutered navel gazing.

And now, there's this. When did it become so hard to simply fund our government? And by the way, it wasn't just happening on the federal level. This brutal reality started hitting home this year, as well as an interesting foreshadowing of the Occupy/99% Movement to sprout up later this year (which we'll tackle in a future diary). In 2011, we learned that not even Nevada is totally immune from this type of legislative breakdown.

So for now, I'll leave you with this diary I wrote back in April. It really summarizes how I started feeling about this whole shutdown madness.

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! [...]

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 [which became "The Arab Spring" and resulted in Obama's two great foreign policy achievements: killing Osama bin Laden and letting Libya get rid of Kaddafi] and continued fallout from Japan's huge earthquake and tsunami [substitute Europe's continuing economic earthquakes and political upheaval today], 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 [Newt Gingrich]"), 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.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pity Reno? Maybe Vegas Should.

As more holidays draw closer, I wanted to spread some good cheer. But alas, Coolican is playing Grinch again. This time, he's laughing at poor Reno's despair.

In the new Muppet movie, Reno appears as a sad sack dump for Fozzie Bear's failed solo career. The TV show “Reno 911” has long mocked the city’s police department, and to add insult to injury, the show isn’t even filmed in Reno — where this week two bins of “Toys for Tots” were stolen from a Walmart only to be returned.

And then on “Saturday Night Live” last week, “Weekend Update” host Seth Meyers had this to say: “According to a new list, the least happiest city in America is St. Petersburg, Fla. But that’s only because Reno, Nevada, finally killed itself.” (Las Vegas is actually the suicide capital of America, but moving on ...)

Well, Reno is fighting back!

Some genius in an editors’ meeting of the Reno Gazette-Journal decided he’d had enough. (Somehow I know it was a he.) The paper asked its readers to contribute to an “open letter to Seth Meyers” that will be published Sunday from the people of Reno, a city known for the purity of its methamphetamine.

(Note: The SNL joke on Reno starts just after 9:00 here.)

But wait, it gets worse. RGJ editors started a campaign earlier this week to fight back by turning the joke on Seth Meyers, but Coolican won't have any of that.

The problem here is that these aren’t funny. In fact, the whole flaw in this plan, as I noted on Twitter on Tuesday (@jpcoolican), is that Seth Meyers is funny. Whereas the people of Reno — where the dirt flooring of the homes serves for both sleeping and eating — and the editors of the Reno Gazette Journal are not funny.

If they were funny, they wouldn’t be living in Reno, where we all hope girls will be permitted to go to school someday. They’d be in New York City getting paid to be funny. (Same goes with me, s’pose.)

Wait, how does that old saying go about people who live glass houses throwing stones? Remember all the sturm und drang over Mindy Kaling saying something stupid about Downtown Las Vegas and Luv-It Frozen Custard? And remember all the fire and brimstone being directed at President Obama for speaking obvious common sense in decrying gambling with our tax dollars or our kids' college funds?

Yes, Coolican, we have our own moments of embarrassing overreactions to otherwise inoccuous comments. For heaven's sake, we were even criticizing the President of the United States for criticizing banks misuing taxpayer supported TARP bailout funds on Las Vegas pleasure junkets! So maybe, just maybe, we should lay off Reno as they're engaging in their own moment of overreaction to silly throwaway comments by far away celebrities.

Sure, I understand that perhaps a few tourists really do base their travel decisions on shit Seth Meyers or Mindy Kaling says. And maybe some big multinational banks really were pressured out of wasting Americans' tax dollars on another "conference" on The Strip after President Obama chided them for misusing TARP funds. But seriously, Las Vegas, Reno, and really all of Nevada have bigger problems than shit celebrities say. I mean, come on, we all deserve to be the punchline of jokes when we don't take investing in our own people and our own success all that seriously. Maybe we should actually reform our 19th century tax code to start giving our kids the 21st century education they deserve so we no longer invite the rest of the country to declare us "The Armpit of America"?

Oh, but who am I to point out Nevada's unique talent of sparking "OUTRAGE!" over others pointing out our own shortcomings? And who is anyone in The South to mock The North for taking a well worn page out of our playbook? Sometimes, a joke is just a joke. Lighten up.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

As 2011 Comes to a Close...

I've been holed up and sick for the last week, and I can tell you it hasn't been fun. I've also been spending time with family (no, it really isn't an excuse for avoiding some budding nonexistent sex scandal!) as we're dealing with some difficult changes. I apologize for not spending as much time here as I'd like, and I promise major improvements as 2012 begins.

Still, I won't be completely absent in the next few days. I'll be keeping an eye out for important stories as they develop. And in the mean time, I'll soon bring back the "10 of..." series by highlighting the ten most fascinating and game-changing stories we discussed here this year. Stay tuned for that.

Thanks so much for reading, and I hope our amazing journey at Nevada Progressive continues in the coming new year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Did Nevada GOP Destroy Mittens' Last Chance?

After posting yesterday's diary, I've been thinking more about all the drama in the GOP primary. And then this morning, it dawned on me. Not only did the Nevada GOP piss off Jon Ralston, but they may have also dashed the Presidential hopes and dreams of their "Favored Nephew", Mitt Romney. No really, think about this.

Taking a step back from the various state polls, and looking at the flow of the calendar itself, something starts to become clear: If a person had sat down to write a primary calendar, designed around the goal of making things hard for Romney, they could not do much better than the current one.

It is, of course, too early to know what will happen. But on the other hand, if the current trends do end up continuing — and if his new main rival, Newt Gingrich, does not collapse — Romney may be on the verge, despite his long march of running for president in 2008 to now, of having a very rough time in January.

The earliest contests in January are mostly in territory that is simply not a natural fit for Romney. Things turn around in February, with primaries and caucuses that could be better for him — but by then, if current polling trends holds out, the damage could be irreparable.

So let's take a look at the first states.

- Iowa, January 3: Newt Gingrich is leading all the polls, with Ron Paul increasingly taking 2nd place.

- New Hampshire, January 8: The Granite State still looks like a bright spot for Romney, but this small light may dim if Newt continues to nip at his heels and whittle away Mitt's lead.

- South Carolina, January 21: Gingrich now looks to be running away with this primary, and an especially crushing loss for Romney may deliver a potentially fatal blow to what's left of Romney's "air of inevitability".

Now before we go on, let's take a closer look at what's missing. Remember the original plan of both the RNC and DNC to ensure the "First Four" states' place at the top of the primary calendar? Yes, I know, it seems like an eternity ago. But now, this is where "The Great Nevada GOP Fold of 2011" comes in to stomp on Mitt Romney's campaign. At this point, a momentum boosting Nevada caucus win would look awfully attractive to Team Mittens. But since RNC poohbahs teamed up with New Hampshire election officials to essentially bully Nevada Republicans into paying the price of Florida's original sin (remember, it was Florida jumping the gun yet again that started this mess), our GOP caucus is now scheduled for February 4. And as we're about to see...

- Florida, January 31: Newt Gingrich may end up thanking his lucky stars for Amy Tarkanian's folly! He now sports a commanding lead in all the recent primary polls, and winning Florida's media-centric primary may be the perfect way to wrap up a great January for the new "tea party darling".

Again, Nevada's GOP caucus isn't until February 4. And by then, the damage may already be too great for Romney to recover. What was once a sure bet for Romney to gain momentum and bragging rights will probably turn into much ado about nothing. And what was once touted as a potential showcase for local Republicans may end up turning into President Obama's last laugh.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gotcha, Mittens.

In case you were too busy enjoying your Saturday night, here's the soundbite that has the Beltway pundit crowd a-Twitter...

Mitt Romney, meet Sue Lowden.

She learned the hard way about the side effects of "foot-in-mouth disease".

But wait, why are we even talking about this? Why does this matter? How does this elevate the tone of the campaign?

Let me explain.

Just how long have we had to hear Mitt Romney claim he has "real economic experience"? And how long have we had to endure endless media blathering about Romney being so "electable" because he supposedly has "the right message on the economy"? As much as I'd personally like for him to be exposed simply due to the (lack of) merits of his economic policies alone, today's media orchestrated circus just doesn't work like that... And that's what Romney was counting upon.

But just as "Tea Party, Inc.", took advantage of Sue Lowden exposing her own politically fatal flaws last year, Romney is undoing his own political house of cards and allowing his opponents a great opportunity to use this moment to highlight the building narrative of "out-of-touch poor lil' rich guy Mittens". And just as Lowden exposed herself as clueless on any of the real issues impacting working class families, Romney is now doing the same.

DNC officials, starting with press secretary Melanie Roussell, began tweeting a #What10kbuys hashtag to amplify their message, with items like a year of daycare for the average family. Within less than a half hour of the debate’s end, it was one of the top trending topics not just in Iowa, or in the United States, but around the world, according to Twitter.

“I’ll bet you ten thousand beers Mitt lives to regret that $10K bet line,” Democratic strategist Paul Begala tweeted.

The episode recalled Romney’s “corporations are people” moment at an Iowa event, which Democrats pounced on in similar fashion. Romney responded to that episode, which many observers interpreted as a gaffe at the time, by doubling down on the line and using it again on the trail and in his official economic plan.

I'll bet you 10,000 blog diaries that Mitt Romney can no longer hide his disdain for policies that help working class families or his allegiance to failed "trickle down economics" nonsense behind a slick ad campaign.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Are We Whistling Past Our Own Graveyard?

Something quite scary is happening... And sadly enough, you probably aren't seeing it on the evening news. If you think our freaky weather is bad now, you "ain't seen nothing yet".

“Warming and associated loss of snowpack will persist over much of the western United States,” Assistant DOI secretary Anne Castle said in her written testimony to the water and power subcommittee of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. A recent Bureau of Reclamation report, Castle said, has concluded that “this loss of snowpack storage is expected to result in a decrease in the amount of reliable water supply in areas where snow has been a major component of the hydrologic system.”

The Senate subcommittee hearing comes a week after the Global Climate Project reported that worldwide carbon dioxide emissions from the combusion of fossil fuels had risen by 5.9 percent in 2010, the biggest annual increase in history.

Climate change is already producing dramatic changes in the water cycle in the U.S., and more changes are coming, according to the U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program’s 2009 report on climate change impacts.

“Evidence is mounting that human-induced climate change is already altering many many of the exsiting patterns of precipitation in the United States, including when, where, how much, and what kind of precipitation falls,” the report says. And it predicts that “dry areas will become drier and and wet areas wetter,” with particularly severe effects in the Southwest which is expected to have more severe and more prolonged droughts.

Here in Nevada (and especially down south in Clark County), we rely on that melting snowpack for the bulk of our water supply. Without that water filling the Colorado River, we're really screwed.

Yet again, we're reminded of the dangers we face with unchecked climate change. And yet again, the increasingly extreme weather we're already seeing shows us that we can't keep ignoring this real crisis. And despite constant efforts to make us forget this, Americans are realizing just how dangerous this climate crisis is.

So why aren't we seeing real action on climate change? We really need to do some soul searching on that. And the LA Times is asking us just that.

Climate change is no longer a theoretical concept to be debated at symposiums by science nerds. It is happening right here, right now. Thirteen of the warmest years on record worldwide have happened in the past 15 years. In the U.S., 12 weather-related disasters this year have caused in excess of $1 billion in damage each, a record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Although many expected the global economic downturn to slow the output of greenhouse gases, emissions actually have been accelerating at an alarming rate, growing 5.9% in 2010 — the biggest jump since 2003. The American response? Fiddling around. [...]

The U.S. position at the [UN climate] talks [in Durban, South Africa] can be described as, well, nuanced. Chief climate negotiator Todd Stern says that he favors a legally binding treaty to replace Kyoto (which the U.S. Senate never ratified), but only if it holds developing nations such as China and India to the same mandatory standards as industrialized countries such as the U.S. Yet he acknowledges that those nations will never go along with such a deal, so countries should just make voluntary pledges to cut emissions and hold themselves accountable. In other words: "I will now perform Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major. Does anybody else smell smoke?"

The voluntary approach isn't getting us far. At last year's climate conference in Cancun, the world agreed to limit the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius higher than the pre-industrial norm. Yet that goal can't be met under the current global pledges of voluntary reductions, leading to predictions of up to 4 degrees of warming by the end of the century. That would mean catastrophic sea-level rise, drought, famine and weather-related carnage. Fortunately, we'll all be dead by then. But our progeny will not thank us.

Indeed, they won't if we continue with our (thus far) inadequate response to climate change. And they surely won't if we continue to pay attention to "leaders" who refuse to lead on this critical issue.

So when will we truly start to take the lead on this? Again, we're already seeing the results of past inaction. This year's wildfires, such as the Caughlin fire in Reno last month, should have been another wake-up call. When will we wake up and do something?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Breaking: Nevadans "Occupy Congress"

Wow. So the 99% ARE paying attention?

Brian from ProgressNow is in DC this week to cover Occupy Congress. As you can see in the video above, many people are there to make their voices heard in The Beltway. And thankfully, they couldn't be there at a better time.

I suspect our senior Senator and upper chamber Majority Leader appreciates the growing pushback on this.

Sen. Harry Reid is serious about making sure Congress doesn’t give middle-class Americans the heartfelt holiday gift of a tax increase. So serious that he’ll cancel Christmas if he has to, to make sure a payroll tax cut bill gets passed.

“We will make sure we pass this tax cut for the middle class,” Reid said. “We can do it the easy way, or we can do it the hard way.”

President Barack Obama is on board with Reid’s plan: “He said, ‘Michelle and the girls are going to have a great time in Hawaii, they don’t need me there,’ ” Reid informed reporters Tuesday. [...]

“(They) continue to squander valuable time by trying to appease the Tea Party. The choice is up to the Republicans,” Reid said. “They have these softballs floating around out there and they can’t even see them ... if they could just relax for a minute and catch one of these softballs floating around, I think everybody would be better off.”

But as usual, the G-O-TEA sycophants in Congress are blocking this. They're holding middle class tax cuts hostage in hopes of getting more billionaire bailouts, along with rollbacks of health care reform and fast-tracking the proposed Keystone XL Canadian tar sands pipeline. And as usual, none of the G-O-TEA's priorities would do anything to help our economy.

And folks in The Beltway wonder why Americans are so angry right now? They're angry that far too many "representatives" refuse to truly represent them. And they're afraid of losing what's left of "The American Dream".

At least now we're seeing more of the 99% realize how to change this. We must go directly to the source.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why Aren't We on This?

This morning, The Sun published a poignant editorial on what happened today (70 years ago) and why it still matters.

As we look back and remember Pearl Harbor and honor the sacrifices of those who died, were wounded and fought on that day — as well as those who fought in World War II — we can’t forget the sacrifices of the entire nation.

After Pearl Harbor, the country staged a unified and prolonged war effort. Everyone sacrificed. Food, fuel and goods were rationed to support the war. People planted “victory gardens” to increase the food supply.

Such an effort hasn’t been matched, and it arguably hasn’t been needed, since then. But what’s noticeably absent today is any larger sense of sacrifice.

A decade ago, the 9/11 attacks seared current generations of Americans, rallying the nation together. Like Pearl Harbor, America embarked on a war. Although it is a very different type of war — it blurs national lines and runs along ideology — it is arguably far more dangerous because there aren’t clear battle lines, nor are there clearly defined enemies.

However, Americans have far less direct involvement in the war effort than they did during World War II. In World War II, there was a military draft. Today, the military is an all-volunteer force, and only a tiny percentage of Americans have actually fought overseas in Iraq or Afghanistan, much less been in the service.

And the sacrifices of scrimping and saving to pay for the war effort? Americans haven’t been asked to sacrifice this time. Instead, the war on terrorism has been added to the nation’s debt.

Unfortunately, this rings very true today. After 9/11, we were just told to go shopping. And when the Iraq War began, Americans were told to be "patriotic" by slapping yellow ribbon magnets on the backs of their SUVs (and remember not to say anything derogatory about George W. Bush... Or else...).

But today, we have an opportunity to invest in a brighter future. And this time, all we have to sacrifice are pollution and an addiction to a certain black substance we import from abroad. And believe it or not, Warren Buffett is ready to take action on it!

Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings company has agreed to buy a giant, 550-megawatt photovoltaic farm currently under construction in San Luis Obispo County for $2 billion, giving a huge boost to the solar industry that could spur investment by other major players.

The "utility-scale" facility MidAmerican is purchasing is being built by First Solar Inc. of Tempe, Ariz. A spokesman for First Solar, Alan Bernheimer, said the farm would produce enough power to provide for the energy needs of 160,000 California homes. But the investment had deeper meaning for an industry that still has only a small footprint in the nation's energy mix and has been battered by recent bankruptcies.

"In a lot of ways, this is classic Warren Buffett," said Bruce Bullock, executive director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University. "He comes in to an industry that is starving for capital investment. At the same time, this is something that also tells people it's time to take solar power seriously."

Solar power currently provides just 1% of the nation's renewable power generation, according to the Energy Department. But it is also the nation's fastest-growing energy generation platform, said Michelle Kinman, a clean-energy advocate for Environment California.

"Solar is a sound investment," Kinman said, "a fact bolstered by MidAmerican's announcement today."

Before Buffett's big announcement, global investment in renewable energy already surpassed $1 trillion. And now that Buffett is in, that number only stands to increase. Yet as many in the private sector realize the fortune to be made in the green economy, we see continued inaction in the public arena.


Remember when this ad was on the air?

Now, Newt Gingrich tries to act like it didn't happen. And Jon Huntsman keeps flipping on his climate flop. All of a sudden, climate science has become total "taboo".

And as the G-O-TEA continues its war on science, our country continues to fall behind in the race for a greener future. Republicans in Congress are fighting renewable energy tax credits and overall investment in clean technology. Even as millions of Americans are still looking for work, the G-O-TEA is out to kill more jobs and further hurt our economy.

We know the problem. And we know the solutions we need to implement. And we know that the solutions won't just help us escape the climate crisis, but also help us kick our addiction to the fossil fuels swirling at the center of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, as well as many more of our foreign policy challenges.

Just as "The Greatest Generation" had unique challenges to rise above with The Great Depression and World War II, we have our challenges to face with the current global economy and the worsening climate crisis. We need to take action, and do so soon. Are we up for it?