Saturday, June 29, 2013


Last night, wedding bells were heard across California. While the US Supreme Court's dismissal of the Prop 8 law suit is now widely known, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision to vacate the stay yesterday came as an interesting surprise. And once that happened, marriage equality finally returned to California for good.

Four years ago, I still had raw wounds over what had occurred.

Prop H8 had passed in California. And even though I didn't have any immediate marriage plans, I nonetheless felt like all my future hopes and dreams were ripped away from me. I didn't know what to do... Until I got active in working to undo the damage.

Yet even though I'm seeing progress in my new home state, I still have raw feelings about what happened in California last fall. I still have wounds that are only starting to heal.

The yard signs that were stolen from my front yard. The homophobic insults coming from my own family. The belligerent Yes on H8 paid canvassers trying to bully my dad into taking away my civil rights. The "urine yellow" Yes on H8 signs being sprinkled all over my neighborhood by the anti-equality churches. These are my memories from the campaign.

The married couples wondering if their marriages were still "legally valid". The couples that waited too long and missed the chance to get a "limited edition marriage". The kids who were bullied in school before and after the election. These are still memories I have from the first days after Prop H8 passed.

Beating myself up constantly about why I didn't do more to stop this oncoming tragedy. This is the guilt I still have over my failure to do enough to stop Prop H8 from passing.

This was the ghost that was constantly haunting me. That's why I was taken aback when this happened.

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This week's marriage equality rulings have already been incredibly momentous. Yet even though they do remind us of all the work that must still be done to secure full equality in Nevada and nationwide, I must admit that yesterday's big news finally provided some major closure for me.

Shortly after the 2008 election, I felt sub-human at times. Why was it OK to campaign to strip away my civil rights and the civil rights of so many other Californians? That's why Judge Walker's 2010 ruling was so monumental... And why Wednesday's SCOTUS decision was such a relief. It finally provided closure.

One political campaign over one ballot initiative may not seem all that life changing at first. But when one looks at Prop 8 and all the other marriage ban initiatives, it's incredibly difficult to continue thinking that. Even though I was not in a relationship at the time, I truly felt like my dream was stolen from me. And I wondered when I could ever have it back.

That's truly the message of these discriminatory initiatives. These votes to take away people's rights dehumanize people. There's a reason why LGBTQ youth suicides and anti-LGBTQ hate crimes spiked after Prop 8's passage. That's why this one political campaign over this one ballot initiative mattered so much. It threatened not just the well being of families, but also the lives of many others with dreams of starting their own families in the future.

Now, I live in another state with its own marriage ban initiative that needs to be overturned or repealed. And one day, that will happen. And one day, LGBTQ Americans across the country will be able to fulfill their dreams. But at least for now, I'm finally experiencing some closure.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The People Behind the Policy... And the Politics Behind the Positioning

I know, I know. We've been talking quite a bit lately about the politics of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). However, there's also the humanity behind the policy. Jon Ralston actually reminded us of this last night.

So did US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Searchlight). He told the amazing story of (superstar community organizer) Astrid Silva and her family on the Senate floor. I have to wonder if there were any dry eyes in the chamber yesterday.

Again, keep in mind that we're talking about real people here. And we're considering the future of real families, real American families. This isn't discussed as often as it should be.

And this is why I laughed a sickening laugh this morning when I saw this Beltway tripe proclaiming, "It's Hell Being Joe Heck." Really? Really? On what f**king planet?!

When has his family been at risk of being ripped apart? When has he had to worry about his kids' education? And he still won't declare his position on immigration reform. His Southern Nevada staff could only offer generic platitudes and comment forms when they were confronted by people whose lives are at stake.

And this inevitably leads us back to the complicated politics of CIR. Last month, a number of Republicans were hoping that "Scandal-mania" would distract Americans from their burgeoning civil war over CIR. But now that the once sizzling "Scandal-mania" is quickly fizzling, House G-O-TEA "leaders" looking for new excuses to kill CIR.

And already, the 21st Century Know Nothings are offering this (wildly insane fantasy) to them. Supposedly, "demographic destiny" isn't really a problem for Republicans. And why not? Oh, they can just run up the score even more among white voters!

No really, they're going there. And of course, Steve Benen is trying to inject some actual logic into this argument.

How would the Republican Party increase its share of the white vote to 70%? I don't know. In fact, the more I think about it, I'm not sure I want to know. But for Trende, that's not really the point -- if the GOP pulls that off, the demographic time bomb is put off until around 2040.

As a matter of statistics, I suppose it's a reasonable enough argument, but there are some relevant troubles with the thesis.

For one thing, there's the question of heightened polarization. The more the GOP takes deliberate steps to pander to white voters to boost white turnout -- or as Kilgore put it, double down on being the "White Man's Party" -- the more it risks alienating everyone else, including moderate and liberal whites.

There's also a generational issue -- for [Sean] Trende's thesis to work in the coming years, white turnout would have to go up quite a bit, but younger whites tend to be more liberal and Democratic. In other words, the GOP would need more votes from the very folks who are, at the risk of sounding indelicate, dying off.

With this in mind, it would seem Republicans have to choose between figuring out how to squeeze more votes out of elderly white folks and repairing their relationship with everyone else. The answer should be obvious, but there's no guarantee that will matter.

Ouch. We can all see the real political peril the Republican Party will face in future election cycles if it continues to alienate minority voters. And it increasingly looks like Senator Dean Heller (R-46%) is now realizing this as well. It remains to be seen if Rep. Joe Heck (R-"TEA" Curious?) will soon.

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But again, what about the real people being affected by this policy? Putting aside political strategy for a moment, what about the people who stand to gain if CIR passes (and lose so much if CIR fails)? Do they truly want to be responsible for breaking up families and causing real economic hardship? Do they actually want to hurt all these real families, all these real American families?

And now, let's bring political strategy back into the mix. How on earth will Republicans ultimately benefit from alienating a growing pool of voters here in Nevada and nationwide? Sure, they can continue in their efforts to max out on white voters. It may even win a few more elections here and there. But in a diversifying Nevada and America overall, there's no way on earth this is a viable path to winning the Presidency and/or Nevada statewide elections in the future.

Now, we just have to wait and see how well Rep. Heck and his House leadership can actually comprehend this fast approaching reality.

The Long Road Ahead

This week has been an incredibly momentous one for LGBTQ civil rights. As soon as the US Supreme Court issued its rulings on two critical marriage equality cases, Americans across the country (and here in Nevada) celebrated. Locally, we've been reminded of the continuing struggle for marriage equality here.

And yesterday, Jon Ralston provided another reminder. Specifically, Ralston was speculating on what might happen under a worst case scenario of a Republican takeover of the Nevada State Senate in 2014 and a loss of Senator Ben Kieckhefer (R-Reno, and the lone GOP Senator to vote for SJR 13 this year) to higher office or a primary challenge. Under this worst case scenario, what should otherwise be a re-passing of something that already passed could quickly become an ugly demise for equality.

This is a stark reminder of the high stakes and fragile road ahead for equality here in Nevada.

Sure, the Nevada Legislature is not the only path forward for marriage equality. As we speak now, Sevcik v. Sandoval is still pending in the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, which is the same court that ruled on Prop 8 early last year. But as we saw with the Prop 8 and DOMA cases, federal law suits take a long time to resolve. And while the DOMA case especially sets a good precedent for LGBTQ civil rights going forward, it's still a gamble to speculate on how the US Supreme Court will specifically rule on Nevada's marriage suit.

So there are two paths forward to full civil marriage equality. Both are doable, but neither is 100% guaranteed. One likely requires Democratic control of both houses of the Nevada Legislature in 2015, while the other requires an amenable US Supreme Court with a majority inclined to use US v. Windsor (the DOMA suit) as precedent in Sevcik v. Sandoval. Equality activists will need to prepare to continue traveling up that long road ahead.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Are They Listening?

Not too long ago, this was the scene on the US Senate floor. Oh, yes. That's right. S 744 comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) finally passed.

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So it's a done deal... Right? Wrong.

Its key tradeoff is a plan to send thousands of agents to the U.S.-Mexico border while simultaneously placing millions of current immigrants on a pathway to citizenship. But it also creates a highly regulated guest worker program, and a high-skilled worker visa program, and strict rules governing how immigrants already in the country can turn the promise of citizenship into reality.

But the House isn’t poised to pass anything similar, let alone adopt the Senate bill full stop. On Thursday, [House Speaker John] Boehner [R-Ohio] reiterated, and expanded, a standard for passing immigration reform legislation that will result in either a narrower, more conservative bill than Boehner outlined in November or no bill at all.

“The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes,” he told reporters. “We’re going to do our own bill through regular order, and there’ll be legislation that reflects the will of our majority and the will of the American people. For any legislation, including a conference report, to pass the house, it’s going to have to be a bill that has the support of a majority of our members.”

Far from making progress toward a “comprehensive” bill, Boehner boasted of piecemeal efforts underway in standing committees of the House. “Chairman McCaul’s done a good job passing a border security bill, Chairman Goodlatte’s doing good work in the Judiciary Committee.”

If House Republicans can ultimately reach negotiations with the Senate, it will require real movement on their part to agree to anything resembling comprehensive reform that also has the support of a majority of their conference.

Ultimately, Senator Dean Heller (R-46%) voted for S 744, along with 13 other Senate Republicans. So there's that. However, it's still no guarantee for securing the support of Reps. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) and/or Mark Amodei (R-Carson City).

And right now, it looks like both of them are still hiding behind House G-O-TEA leaders' intransigence on cooperating on CIR. Even now, even as the Senate just easily passed a CIR bill, they still won't budge. Already, a key Gang of 8 Republican (and 2008 GOP Presidential Nominee) is begging his House colleagues to reconsider their knee-jerk opposition to reform.

TPM also asked [Senator John] McCain [R-Arizona] if he believes it’s important for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who has all but rejected the Senate immigration bill, to stand by his principle that any legislation must have the support of a majority of House Republicans in order to come to a vote.

“I can’t tell the Speaker what to do,” he said. “I trust him and he’s a friend of mine and I have great confidence in his leadership.”

McCain responded to claims by the National Republican Senatorial Committee that it plans to campaign against some Democrats over their immigration reform votes.

“All I can say is that maybe they ought to look back at what happened in 2012 and 2008 with the Hispanic voters and then maybe they ought to reevaluate what they are saying,” he said. “There’s plenty of issues that separate Republicans and Democrats but … 70, 80 percent, depending on which polls you judge by, are in favor of what we’re trying to do.”

Are they listening? Are they willing to listen?

"Phony Poser"?

Yesterday was certainly a major news day. And yes, there was also big news on comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) as Senator Dean Heller (R) finally announced his support for S 744... After he and a few other Republican Senators got their way on extra pork border security. Now, the US Senate is on the verge of passing S 744 by an overwhelming margin. The final Senate vote may happen as soon as 1:00 PM today.

Yet while Senator Heller has been trying to bask in the glow of the moment in DC, a prominent media pundit back home began pointing out the radioactivity of the glow.

Whoops. But hey, Ralston isn't wrong. It wasn't all that long ago when Senator Dean Heller pulled this stunt.

Does Dean Heller really think Latin@ voters are that stupid? He claims he will work with fellow Republican and Latin Chamber of Commerce President Otto Merida to craft a "mutually agreeable reform bill". Ummm... Hello, Dean Heller! That "mutually agreeable reform bill" would be the same comprehensive immigration legislation that Republicans like recent Republican standard bearers George W. Bush and John McCain supported!

Of course, this isn't new for Dean Heller. He's regularly scapegoated Latinos for basically every perceived moral wrong one can think of! He's regularly twisted the facts and engaged in disgusting demagoguery to win the hearts and minds of paranoid teabaggers. But now that he's managed to show up at Hispanics in Politics and spew out a bunch of "moderate" hot air, we're supposed to forget about what he's actually done in Congress to block progress on comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act?

Oh, and by the way, Latin@s care about more than just immigration. They want health care. They want education. They want opportunities to succeed just as much as the rest of us. So how on earth are they supposed to cheer on Dean Heller cheering on Wall Street robber barons as he proposes more painful, job killing, and all in all economically destructive "austerity" on all of us in the other 99%?

But then again, at least Senator Heller flip-flopped "evolved" on CIR just in time to pass S 744. Many House Republicans, on the other hand, aren't even there. And even as the bill heads toward easy Senate passage, it's (yet again) in jeopardy in the House.

As the Gang of Eight immigration reform bill slogs towards final passage in the Senate, most observers have been almost entirely focused on Republican sentiments on the legislation. Is the “road to citizenship” rocky enough? Are the border enforcement provisions vicious enough? Pro-reform pundits have cheered each time some cranky reactionary has allowed as how the legislation now has the right minimum element of sheer hatefulness. The peak, of course, has come with the Corker-Hoeven “border surge” amendment, which aside from its conservative-bait evocation of the Iraq War (which many on the Right consider a great American victory), is being praised by proponents as creating totalitarian police state conditions on the border.

And now, assuming House Republicans continue to be unimpressed by the “toughening” of the Gang of Eight bill, we’ll probably hear more calls for compromise by reform advocates. But at some point the whole coalition supporting comprehensive immigration reform is going to begin to crumble, and as the New York Times’ Fernanda Santos reports, that point may have already arrived [...]

It’s possible, of course, that congressional Democrats, the White House, and business lobbyists could say “no mas” and present the Senate bill as already amended as representing a “final offer,” since in reality there’s no bill providing a “path to citizenship” that is going to win over a majority of House Republicans. If the projected end-game is a decision by House conservatives to let John Boehner keep his gavel even as he allows House Democrats with a smattering of Republicans pass something like the Senate bill, why should there be any further talk of compromise?

That's why CIR advocates gathered outside Rep. Joe Heck's (R-Henderson) office on Monday. They wanted him to feel the pressure.

But then again, the 21st Century Know Nothings also showed up on Monday. And they're upset with Senator Heller over his flip-flop evolution. That's why House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is already running scared. And this may ultimately be the escape hatch that Rep. Heck and other House Republicans are counting on.

And ultimately, this is the dilemma Congressional Republicans still face. In their blatantly political about-faces, Gang of 8 friendly Republicans like Heller are hoping to score political points and make voters forget the entire 2012 campaign. Oh, and they also want a politically expedient way to pass pork projects off as "national security". Yet while they're hoping for mass amnesia, the G-O-TEA base refuses to forget. And that's why S 744 still faces such a treacherous future in the House.

Last night, Ralston called Senator Heller a "phony poser". He really isn't far off. But then again, this isn't limited to Heller. And this is why CIR has had such a wild ride in Congress so far this year.

The Journey Continues.

Yesterday, we saw history made. Even though the US Supreme Court did not "go full throttle" to endorse nationwide LGBTQ equality, civil rights did advance in a big way with the scrapping of DOMA Section 3 and invalidation of California's Prop 8 marriage ban. And even though the rulings don't directly (legally) affect most Nevada families, Southern Nevada's LGBTQ community nonetheless found reason to celebrate the historic occasion at The Center.

Owly Images

Owly Images

And there were a number of special guests stopping by to celebrate with the community. Several Nevada legislators spoke, including State Senator Justin Jones (D-Enterprise). He came with his brother-in-law, and reminded the audience of the many reasons why today's rulings and the ongoing effort for SJR 13 matter.

And that wasn't all. Several other legislators spoke, including the sole Assembly Republican to cross the aisle to support SJR 13. And not only that, but Assembly Member Michele Fiore (R-Las Vegas) took to the stage with her mother! Now that's what I call real family values.

We saw many poignant moments at The Center yesterday. It was particularly moving to see longtime community advocates take the stage to take in what had just occurred. After all, they remember the (not so) long ago days when queer folk had to fight like hell just for the right to exist.

Owly Images

Owly Images

Long before Assembly Member James Healey (D-Enterprise) and State Senator David Parks (D-Paradise) were elected to serve in Carson City, they were fighting for equality. Obviously, they've never stopped doing so. And they certainly had something to say about it yesterday.

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And so did Senator Pat Spearman (D-North Las Vegas), as she's also been working on this for some time.

As we discussed yesterday, this was a long time coming. Yet with that being said, we still have a long way to go to reach full equality in Nevada and nationwide.

There were many reasons to celebrate yesterday. Overall, the nation inched ever so closer in the direction of full equality. And for LGBTQ families in California, the long and harrowing nightmare of Prop 8 finally began coming to a close.

I should know. After Prop 8 first passed, I fell into incredibly deep depression. It took days for me to leave the house again. But ultimately, I had to pick myself up and realize what needed to be done next.

In many ways, what happened yesterday felt like closure to me. Finally, that horrifying nightmare was over. Finally, I felt more human again. Finally, I felt more equal again.

However, this journey is still far from over. There's still more to be done here in Nevada, and all the speakers at The Center yesterday reinforced that message. Relief and jubilation were quite palpable in that very hot parking lot, but so was the drive to continue the journey to full equality.

Some on that stage yesterday had to fight a number of political obstacles to advance LGBTQ civil rights in Carson City. Many in the crowd have had to overcome intense bigotry and discrimination to reach The Center and its very hot parking lot. There's been plenty of progress over the years, and yesterday marked another promising milestone of progress. Yet today, the journey continues. This story isn't finished just yet for us.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Still Far from Over...

This past Monday, comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) advocates rallied outside Rep. Joe Heck's office and asked him to support S 744. Next Monday, Senator Harry Reid will be reinforcing the message himself. We don't know yet if Rep. Heck got it... But did Senator Dean Heller?

Perhaps so... And perhaps the latest bout of Republican pork pandering "Border Surge" did as well.

So finally, Senator Heller has announced his support for S 744. It took a whole lot of bribery cajoling protests public shaming work, but he finally saw the light.

So what will it take for Rep. Heck to follow suit? Or is he so enthralled by the toxic "TEA" that he can't realize the reality outside his office door?

CIR helps our economy. CIR helps reunite families. CIR is what's needed to clean up the immigration system. And on top of all this, the bill is bloated with "border security" pork! What's a sane Republican not to love here?


Stay tuned, since this story is still far from over....

Long Time Coming... But Still Long Road Ahead

Today, something amazing happened. Today, I felt a little more equal under the law. And I wasn't alone.

Edie Windsor was stuck with a $300,000 tax bill after her wife passed away. She and her lawyer decided to do something about it.

And as a result, not only does Edie Windsor have to worry about that $300,000 tax bill, but she's also just set incredible legal precedent for LGBTQ equality going forward.

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It can and will be used exactly that way, and for marriage-equality supporters, it suggests the DOMA ruling in U.S. v. Windsor is not only a breakthrough victory today, but it will continue to offer opportunities for further victories fairly soon.

Note, the Supreme Court had some options, even once the majority agreed to strike DOMA down. In fact, while the outcome was widely expected, many predicted a narrow ruling -- the justices would point to federalists principles, and say that if a marriage is legal at the state level, the federal government will recognize it, too.

But the majority went considerably further than this, saying that DOMA didn't just violate principles related to states' rights, but also that the law was discriminatory.

There are legal scholars who can speak to this in more detail, but it appears that every state with anti-gay laws has a real problem on its hands. Windsor didn't establish marriage equality in all 50 states, but it did hand a meaningful legal precedent to everyone challenging discriminatory state laws.

Going forward, any and all laws challenged as discriminatory against LGBTQ Americans will face strict scrutiny in federal courts. And yes, this is a big f**king deal. Even though SCOTUS didn't enact nationwide marriage equality today, the days of marriage discrimination in America are likely numbered.

Yet with this being said, the Prop 8 ruling was still bittersweet. LGBTQ families here in Nevada and in the 37 other states without marriage equality will still have to wait for their day in court. At least we in Nevada can look forward to progress on the Sevcik case, that will take a while. How much longer will families here and in the other 37 less fortunate states have to wait for full equality under the law?

Still, even this is progress. Less than five years ago, the "great liberal Blue State" of California narrowly voted to ban marriage equality just months after marriages began. I had to live through that, and so did many others. But now, finally, marriage equality will be restored to California. And this truly does further the momentum for marriage equality nationwide.

We've come a long way to reach this point. However, we're far from finishing the beautiful struggle for equality. This was a long time coming, but we still have a long road ahead.

So What Happened to Prop 8?

We continue to get more details on what just happened... And what will happen going forward. Here's SCOTUS Blog (via Maddow Blog) on what will happen in California going forward.

"After the two same-sex couples filed their challenge to Proposition 8 in federal court in California, the California government officials who would normally have defended the law in court, declined to do so. So the proponents of Proposition 8 stepped in to defend the law, and the California Supreme Court (in response to a request by the lower court) ruled that they could do so under state law. But today the Supreme Court held that the proponents do not have the legal right to defend the law in court. As a result, it held, the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the intermediate appellate court, has no legal force, and it sent the case back to that court with instructions for it to dismiss the case."

So what now? Again, marriages will soon resume in California. It may even happen as soon as today!

What The Court ultimately did was to invalidate the Ninth Circuit Court ruling and essentially revert all the way back to (then) Judge Vaughn Walker's historic ruling that struck down California's marriage ban on broad 14th Amendment equal protection grounds. While there may be some early confusion at some County Clerk offices in California (since there's no binding legal order just yet to mandate marriage equality), we will likely see marriages happen somewhere in The Golden State soon.

However, wedding bells won't ring here in Nevada... Just yet. But with the Sevcik v. Sandoval now pending in the Ninth Circuit, it may not be too much longer before marriage equality again makes a splash at SCOTUS.

So today, LGBTQ civil rights activists didn't score a complete victory. However, they still won battles big and small. And this story is still far from finished.

SCOTUS Marriage Equality Liveblog

We've been waiting... And waiting... And waiting. But now, it's finally here. The US Supreme Court has dropped its final rulings, and two of them are on marriage equality.


7:03 AM: SCOTUS just ruled DOMA unconstitutional! In a 5-4 ruling, The Court explicitly described DOMA as discriminatory & illegal. There's more to come soon.

7:23 AM: After a few minutes of rumors and confusion, we now have a better idea of what's happening to Prop 8.

NorahODonnell: .@JanCBS: #SCOTUS suggesting it doesn't have jurisdiction for ruling on Prop 8; same-sex marriages likely to resume in CA @CBSNews

We're not 100% sure just yet, but it looks like SCOTUS is about to restore marriage equality to California this year! We in Nevada (and elsewhere) will have to wait a little longer.

Stay tuned here for more breaking news and more in-depth analysis on what's happening today.

7:27 AM: This was another 5-4 ruling. But in this case, Chief Justice Roberts joined the progressive Justices. And yes, we now know for sure marriage equality will soon resume in California!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Unaffordable Fiction

We've been talking about this for some time here. But for some reason, the 21st Century Know Nothings (and their media enablers) continue pretending as if it's not happening. Yet regardless of their fantasies, climate change is indeed happening... And it's threatening the future of all humanity.

So today, President Obama spoke up on the greatest global security crisis of our time. And below is what he said.

Embracing an issue that could define his legacy but also ignite new battles with Republicans, Mr. Obama said he would use his executive powers to require reductions in the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the nation’s power plants.

That was the centerpiece of a three-part plan that includes new federal spending to advance renewable energy technology, as well as spending to protect cities and states from the ravages of storms and droughts that are exacerbated by a changing climate.

Saying science had put to rest the debate over whether human activity was warming the earth, Mr. Obama said, “The question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it is too late.”

“As a president, as a father and as an American, I am here to say, we need to act,” he said to students and others gathered in a sunbaked quadrangle at Georgetown University. “I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that is beyond saving.”

Environmental justice advocates have been waiting for some time for President Obama to announce action. But last week, news finally broke of the President's decision announce executive action on climate change. Since the current Congress has no plans to take on any comprehensive climate legislation, The White House must go it alone on this one.

We've known for some time that action must be taken very soon. Recent extremely severe weather has served even more reminders of this. We just can't afford to deny reality any more.

And this is why Congress is still not off the hook, not even after today's big announcement. After all, they still need to cooperate to guarantee further action (to ensure future human survival).

[... T]he President should not let Congress off the hook. Obama is following through on the promise in his Inaugural Address that if Congress didn’t act on global warming, he would. The fact remains, however, that the most impactful and lasting changes in America’s energy and climate policies require action by Congress, including a price on carbon.

It has proven futile to bludgeon the current Congress into acknowledging the reality of climate change, let alone doing something about it. President Obama should turn the nation’s attention to next year’s mid-term election. If the American people want to curb climate change – and opinion polls show a large majority of the people do — it will take a regime change on Capitol Hill. As the mid-term election approaches, President Obama and his Cabinet should continue driving home that we already are going to suffer a lot more of what we’re getting today – floods, drought, strong hurricanes, wildfires – but that without action, it will get unimaginably worse.

President Obama should not let opponents get away with the tired argument that climate action costs jobs, or weakens the economy, or diverts Washington from the issues that are highest on the public’s priority list. As repeated research has shown, America’s transition to a clean energy economy will be a huge job and business creator, engaging the United States in the largest emerging global market in history.

As we have discussed here many times before, Nevada and the nation stand to gain more jobs and better economic development as the result of strong climate action. So why would any one in Congress (and especially any one representing this state) want to stand in the way of this? Oh wait, that's right. Some there continue to show more interest in fictional scandals than actual policies.

We just can't afford to live in fiction any more. Today has been a very stark reminder of that. President Obama took another major step to solve the climate crisis. We simply can't afford to turn back now.

Deliver on the Vow.

Earlier today, the US Supreme Court threatened four decades worth of civil rights advancements by overturning Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and demanding a redo from Congress. And unless and until Congress comes up with a new VRA Section 4, victims of ballot box discrimination will be forced to endure a much more difficult legal process to pursue justice. So is this what we have to endure going forward?

Perhaps not. Already, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) is promising swift action on restoring the full VRA.

"Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has protected minorities of all races from discriminatory practices in voting for nearly 50 years, yet the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the coverage formula effectively guts the ability of Section 5 to protect voters from discriminatory practices. I could not disagree more with this result or the majority's rationale. The Voting Rights Act has been upheld five times by the Supreme Court on prior occasions, and Section 5 was reauthorized and signed into law by a Republican President in 2006 after a thorough and bipartisan process in which Congress overwhelmingly determined that the law was still vital to protecting minority voting rights and that the coverage formula determining the jurisdictions to be covered was still applicable. Several lower court decisions in recent years have found violations of the Voting Rights Act and evidence of intentional discrimination in covered jurisdictions. Despite this sound record, and the weight of history, a narrow majority has decided today to substitute its own judgment over the exhaustive legislative findings of Congress.

As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I intend to take immediate action to ensure that we will have a strong and reconstituted Voting Rights Act that protects against racial discrimination in voting."

And that's not all. Senator Leahy already has the support of Mr. Majority Leader...

SenatorReid: Congress needs to right the wrong of this #VRA opinion and ensure that we do not turn back the clock on America’s democratic progress.

And that's not all, either. Civil rights hero and current Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) is vowing to press on to restore the VRA.

“These men that voted to strip the Voting Rights Act of its power, they never stood in unmovable lines,” Lewis told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “They never had to pass a so-called literacy test. It took us almost 100 years to get where we are today. So will it take another 100 years to fix it, to change it?” he asked.

Congress voted to renew the Voting Rights Act in 1970, 1975, 1982, and 2006, each time with increasingly larger margins.

Twenty Republican senators who are still serving in Congress supported re-authorization in 2006 and only 33 members in the House voted against it.“It is going to be very difficult,” to pass legislation in this Congress, Lewis admitted, “but people said the same thing in 1965.” “I think what happened today with the Supreme Court will motivate hundreds and thousands of people, African American, latino, white, Asian American, Native Americans, men, women, students, to come out. The vote is precious.”

And that's not even all! Back in March, even the former Republican House Judiciary Committee Chair vowed to restore the VRA if SCOTUS were to overturn any parts of it. Now, it's time for him to deliver on that vow.

This nation is supposed to provide "liberty and justice for all". Yet how is this even possible if millions of Americans can't even vote? How is this even possible when millions of Americans are constantly threatened by draconian voter suppression laws meant to prevent them from exercising this most basic right? It's time for Congress remember the most basic vow this country makes to its citizens.

How SCOTUS Is Forcing Congress to Save the Voting Rights Act

Over the years, we've looked at attacks on voting rights throughout the nation. We know many Americans still face hardships in even reaching the ballot box. But apparently, the US Supreme Court (majority) is again ignoring reality. In a "party line" 5-4 vote, SCOTUS overturned Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.

So why is this important? Southern Poverty Law Center Founder Morris Dees explains.

Section 5 was enacted because Congress concluded that prior anti-discrimination laws were not strong enough to overcome the resistance of state and local officials determined to deny African Americans the ability to exercise the right to vote.  Those officials were concentrated in the South.  All too often, they would play games with the Justice Department, adopting new discriminatory voting schemes as soon as old ones were challenged. Section 5 put an end to the game playing.  It requires jurisdictions with a history of egregious voter discrimination – jurisdictions like Alabama – to submit proposed voting changes to the Justice Department or a federal court for review before the changes can be implemented.

Section 5 does not prohibit voting changes.  It simply provides protections against changes that are discriminatory.  Section 5 does not require covered jurisdictions to forever submit proposed changes to the Justice Department.  Those with a ten-year clean bill of health can avail themselves of the “bailout” provisions and remove themselves from Section 5’s coverage. [...]

The racial polarization in the presidential election was not unusual for my home state.  In the history of voting in Alabama, not a single black candidate has been able to defeat a white incumbent or win an open seat in a statewide race.  In majority white local jurisdictions, black political success is still rare.  Today, for example, not a single black sheriff or probate judge serves in a predominantly white Alabama county.  As a result of the high degree of white racial bloc voting, black office holders in Alabama are confined almost exclusively to minority districts created as a result of lawsuits like the one I filed in 1970 to ensure that black voters are not completely subsumed by majority white districts hostile to their interests.

The fact that voting is racially polarized does not mean that only racists can win elections in Alabama.  My state has seen many progressive white office holders over the years.  But, in a democracy, elected officials tend, over time, to be responsive to the interests of the electorate.  And in the state of Alabama, the electorate is still highly polarized along racial lines.  That polarization distorts the political process in ways that retard the growth of multiracial coalitions and give the majority the ability to dominate the minority. Given Alabama’s racial history and its reality of racially polarized voting today, the potential for electoral game playing still exists.  It’s that potential that Section 5 was designed to address.

In a way, civil rights activists dodged what would have been the deadliest bullet to progress on racial equality. The Court let Section 5 itself stand...

Or did it? After all, Section 5 (pre-clearance of voting laws in identified discriminatory trouble spots) can only be carried out with Section 4. And this is because Section 4 sets up the map of discriminatory trouble spots!

So what happens now? SCOTUS is sending this matter back to Congress. Wait... WHAT?!

Earlier today, the Supreme Court declared Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional. Section 4 is the formula which determines which jurisdictions are subject to “preclearance” under the law, meaning that new voting laws in those jurisdictions must be reviewed by the Justice Department or a federal court before they can take effect. Although today’s opinion ostensibly would permit Congress to revive the preclearance regime by enacting a new formula that complies with today’s decision, that would require a functioning Congress — so the likely impact of today’s decision is that many areas that were unable to enact voter suppression laws under the Voting Rights Act will now be able to put those laws into effect.

That's why many civil rights activists are afraid. Congress will have to write a new Section 4 in order to enforce Section 5. So can Congress do that?

I think you already know the answer. So it's time to start asking Senator Dean Heller and Rep. Joe Heck. And it's time for President Obama and Senator Harry Reid to figure out how to actually make Congress work to save something that's so critical to saving our democracy. After all, how can our democracy function if many of our citizens can't even vote?

Monday, June 24, 2013

(Conflicting) Clarion Calls

Early today, both supporters and opponents of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) formed crowds outside Rep. Joe Heck's office near Henderson to let their voices be heard. And of course, Heck's office staff responded by passing out comment forms. Perhaps the jury is still out on where Rep. Heck will land on the CIR debate.

But later today, the epicenter of the CIR political drama returned to Capitol Hill. And not just that, but the US Senate again became the center of attention as the long awaited border security amendment finally reached the Senate floor. And not only that, but it then sailed to a very easy 67-27 passage! Even Senator Dean Heller (R) voted for it, which now has more pro-reform activists feeling confident about finally securing his support for the final bill.

So does this mean CIR will finally happen this year? Not so fast. Even as this latest legislative breakthrough was underway, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) flip-flopped on her support of/opposition to S 744. And so did Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), who's now vowing to fight against the very legislation he promised to work on earlier this year. And the ongoing G-O-TEA civil war over immigration reform only worsens as various high-profile right wing publications duel over S 744.

Over the weekend, President Obama made the case (again) for some sort of Congressional action on CIR. So of course, he acknowledged that now means S 744 must pass. So will it? Can it?

If it can, then it means the likes of Dean Heller and Joe Heck will have to turn their backs on the G-O-TEA base. Even though 71% of Nevadans support CIR with a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and 64% specifically support S 744, the "tea party" continues to fight against reform. Will the "TEA" tinged clarion calls be enough for Heller & Heck to resist, especially since 71% of Nevadans stand on the other side of this divide?

That remains to be seen (especially for Rep. Heck).

No Quiet Wait

It wasn't supposed to be this way... Or was it? Perhaps this was just bound to happen.

In February, Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) suggested he could vote for a comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill. But earlier this month, he essentially voted to kill CIR by voting to pass an amendment to deport DREAMers. What a turn of events in the matter of just four months.

Owly Images

Owly Images

Owly Images

So this morning, local immigrant rights activists rallied outside Heck's new Henderson adjacent office to demand a 180 on CIR. And that's not all. Some special guests arrived with a special message for Rep. Heck.

One was Carla Hernandez. She's a DREAMer who's starting college and studying to become a physical therapist. She almost exclusively speaks English and only knows of life in Southern Nevada. Why did Joe Heck just vote to deport her?

Another guest was Aurora Aguilar. She herself emigrated from Cuba, while her husband came from Mexico. But because he crossed the border after tiring of the long lines and high costs (of "doing it the legal way"), he was deported. And as of now, ICE is barring him from living with his own family and watching his own children grow up.

However, we didn't just see CIR supporters gather outside Rep. Heck's office. Local "tea party" outfits also showed up to decry any type of CIR. And true to 21st Century Know Nothing form, they decried the myth of "amnesty".

Owly Images

Owly Images

The G-O-TEA base was out in full force this morning. And all Heck's staffers could tell both sides was to fill comment forms and view his latest video explaining his latest vote to deport DREAMers stance on immigration issues.

Meanwhile, everyone continues to wait for Congress' next move on CIR. It just looks like both sides aren't waiting quietly.

Mixed Bag from SCOTUS

So we finally got some big (US) Supreme Court news this morning. It wasn't quite what many were waiting for, but it's still incredibly important. Why?

First off, the nation's highest court continued to gut workers' rights and endanger American workers at risk of discrimination by issuing an opinion suggesting employers are only liable for workplace harrassment if the offender has direct hiring & firing power over the victim(s). Really? It's rulings like this one that has many Americans asking what planet the majority of Supreme Court Justices are living on.

However, that wasn't all. The Court also ruled on affirmative action. But here, The Court went in a somewhat different direction.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck a compromise in its first test of university affirmative action in a decade, telling a federal appeals court to give tougher scrutiny to a University of Texas admissions program.

In a 7-1 ruling, the court left intact a 2003 decision that reaffirmed the right of universities to use race as an admissions factor. The majority instead said a federal appeals court hadn’t properly applied the standards laid out in the 2003 ruling. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented.

The U.S. Supreme Court told a federal appeals court to give tougher scrutiny to a University of Texas affirmative action program in a limited victory for opponents of racial preferences. The 7-1 ruling represents a compromise in one of the court’s highest-profile cases.

Today’s decision gives a limited victory to opponents of racial preferences by requiring tougher court review. The majority said universities must prove that their means of attaining diversity meet a demanding constitutional test known as “strict scrutiny.”“Strict scrutiny imposes on the university the ultimate burden of demonstrating, before turning to racial classifications, that available, workable race-neutral alternatives do not suffice,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.

So in this case, the SCOTUS majority essentially struck a compromise... And the compromise meant punting back to lower courts. Yet even here, there will be major implications going forward.

On one hand, colleges and universities will continue to face challenges in ensuring equal opportunity and a diverse student body. Thanks to the many inequities in contemporary American society, minority students still face major burdens in reaching college. Affirmative action was supposed to help correct this, but in recent years it's been rolled back and curtailed.

Yet today, some sort of affirmative action still stands. But with another case on this topic set to reach The Court next term, we still don't know yet what will be left of it in the more distant future.

What's really fascinating about this case is that The Court reached a broad compromise (7-1!)... But narrow decision. Is this a sign of what's to come on the big marriage equality cases that are still awaiting public rulings? Has The Court found a "restrained" way to rule in favor of LGBTQ equality? We don't know for sure just yet, but the latest tea leaves seem to be pointing to a fine tap dance to undo DOMA and narrow (for now) restoration of marriage equality to California.

But again, we still don't know for sure just yet. And with more release dates for rulings possible, we will have to wait either another day or another three days Still, it seems so weird to simultaneously scream in anger, breathe a sigh of relief, and eagerly await a reason to celebrate. It's so far looking like a decidedly mixed bag from SCOTUS.

Big Week Ahead

I know we just enjoyed a quiet, extended summer solstice weekend. So are you feeling better now? I am, so I know it's now time to get back to work!

This will be a busy week here at Nevada Progressive. We are expecting some huge Supreme Court rulings, big votes in Congress, and even a final chance to reflect on the major events in Carson City this year.

So what's coming up? First, immigration reform will be back in the news as the border security deal that emerged last week finally comes up for a vote on the Senate floor.

The fate of the Senate's immigration bill likely comes down to a vote today. If it fails, it will all but guarantee that immigration reform is dead. If it passes, it will all but ensure a clear path to the finish line in the Senate, which has struggled for years to find a compromise on the controversial and emotional issue.

The pivotal vote is on a border security compromise chiefly drafted by Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota. “The offering of this amendment is a turning point,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Friday. “We’ve always known there would be large numbers of Democrats to support final passage of this bill in the Senate. But this amendment gives us a real chance of getting a very significant number of our Republican colleagues.”

This may finally reveal to us where Senator Dean Heller (R) will fall on S 744. If this amendment passes, he won't have any more excuses to dither on announcing his support for the overall bill. So just how strongly does he support this amendment?

But wait, there's more! The US Supreme Court will rule on not one, but two critical marriage equality cases this week. So what's at stake? Towleroad's Ari Ezra Waldman lets us know what to watch for.

1. Standing and Jurisdiction: Are the cases properly before the Court? Remember, the question in the Prop 8 case is whether the California citizens who wrote Prop 8 (the "proponents") had standing to appeal Judge Walker's original ruling declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional. The questions in the DOMA case are (a) whether Edie Windsor, having won at the Second Circuit, can both win and appeal, and (b) whether House Republicans are properly taking the role of defending DOMA. If the answer to any of those questions is NO, then the cases get tossed and the Court doesn't have to rule on anything substantive. We still win, sort of.

2. Scrutiny: The first substantive question is about the level of scrutiny, which is like asking: OK, before we see if you passed the test, we have to determine the passing grade. It's obviously a lot easier to pass when all you have to do is get a 50/100, and harder when you need a 90. If the Court takes the unlikely step of agreeing with President Obama (and rational legal thought) that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation demands heightened scrutiny" (say, an 80 on the test), then look for DOMA and Prop 8 to be declared unconstitutional. Notably, denying already married couples federal benefits and preventing them from marrying in the first place are both so irrationally ridiculous, look for a substantive holding -- if the Court gets there -- that rejects the laws under any standard.

3. Equal Protection: This will be the basis for any substantive holding: that DOMA and Prop 8 fail to treat similar people equally for no good reason. We know this argument well, and even the Prop 8 Proponents' main witness, David Blankenhorn, recanted his views and now agrees that all couples, gay or straight, should be treated equally. One thing to look out for in this part of the decision is the fate of the "slutty heterosexual" argument. This is the argument that we need marriage only for straight people because they are the only ones that can have "accidental pregnancies." Gay couples cannot. The logic of that as a rationale for denying gay couples the honor of marriage doesn't pass the laugh test, but it is a notable argument because it turns the stereotype of the sex-crazed gay man around and places that noose around the the straight people!

4. Breadth of the Decisions: How far did the Court go? It could get rid of DOMA entirely, or keep us in this strange state of flux where DOMA is ok in some places and unconstitutional in others. In Perry, the Court could restrict its decision to California, or it could reach those seven other states that having "everything but" marriage, or it could hand down a national right to marry. In addition to this narrow way of looking at the decision -- what lawyers call the "holding" -- take note of the Court's language and its statements, or lack thereof, touching on gay equality and membership in American society. These are the words, coupled with the holdings, that will serve as the bases for future victories. The broader the language -- "Our system of government does not countenance discrimination on the basis of status," for example -- the stronger precent it will be in the future.

Got all that?

This is (one reason) why all eyes are on SCOTUS this week. The lives of many LGBTQ families are at stake. And the nation's highest court may expedite the arrival of full legal equality... Or further delay it.

But ultimately, equality will come. It's just a matter of if the Supreme Court has found just the right legal argument to do so now.

And finally, pay close attention to Chris Kluwe. He's not just a NFL superstar. He also gets how American society and our system of communities is supposed to work.

John Galt talks about intelligence and education without discussing who will pay for the schools, who will teach the teachers. John Galt has no thought for his children, or their children, or what kind of world they will have to occupy when the mines run out and the streams dry up. John Galt expects an army to protect him but has no concern about how it’s funded or staffed. John Galt spends his time in a valley where no disasters occur, no accidents happen, and no real life takes place.

John Galt lives in a giant fantasy that’s no different from an idealistic communist paradise or an anarchist’s playground or a capitalist utopia. His world is flat and two-dimensional. His world is not real, and that is the huge, glaring flaw with objectivism.

John Galt does not live in reality. In reality, hurricanes hit coastlines, earthquakes knock down buildings, people crash cars or trip over rocks or get sick and miss work. In reality, humans make good choices and bad choices based on forces even they sometimes don’t understand. To live with other human beings, to live in society, requires that we understand that shit happens and sometimes people need a safety net. Empathy teaches us that contributing to this safety net is beneficial for all, because we never know when it will be our turn.

So who is John Galt? Perhaps he's just an unrealistic and incredibly selfish fantasy who Nevada should stop trying to emulate.

So stay tuned for all of this and more this week. Oh, and Happy Summer!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Mythology of "TEA"

In recent days, we've seen plenty of movement on immigration reform. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates S 744, the comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill. We have even more evidence showing CIR will help the economy. And we're even seeing a breakthrough in the works on the border security provision on S 744.

Yet despite all this, the 21st Century Know Nothings are doubling down on their campaign to kill the bill. Why?

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Of course, they keep crying about the great "AMNESTY!!!" myth. Never mind that even conservative Republicans, such as Former Nevada Governor Bob List (R), have disputed their mythology. And never mind that public opinion is quite strongly on the side of CIR.

Of course, silly facts and figures and reality won't let fearful G-O-TEA politicians get in the way of placating their base.

Who else shares his skepticism that this bill is unreformable? Pretty much that whole “base” of Republican voters that Republican politicians are so scared of and vote “no” on everything because of.The Base. They were on Capitol Hill yesterday, for a sad nostalgia Tea Party revival.

They reacted angrily to any mention of the CBO. They booed a reporter asking for specific criticisms of CBO methodology, at a press conference. The CBO score, to them, was just a thick, fresh layer of bullshit atop the pile. Most likely, the CBO report will cause opponents to annoy their senators’ staffers with livid phone calls more, demanding they remain resolute in opposing the bill in the face of such pressure. They do not want a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

The last time we heard sizable crowds of people loudly boo at faint allusions to CBO methodology was at these same Tea Party rallies three years ago, during the Obamacare debate. Why wouldn’t they do so now? Say what you will of the Tea Party Patriots, but they’re consistent in this. They consider the CBO to be a fraudulent conspiracy of liberal innumerates who don’t understand that this bill will give each illegal immigration $10 trillion in welfare per year, regardless of what it says. And all of the Senate Republican backers of immigration reform today were saying to them — feeding to them, in fact — the same things about the CBO when Obamacare was the big legislative fish. It’s a perfectly fair question for conservatives to ask of them, what nerve do you have to wave a CBO top-line number in our faces today and expect us to engage with it?

It’s possible that the Senate will still get that 70-80 votes it wants next week, since senators’ top priority is passing whatever it is the leaders want passed before they can swoop over to Reagan National and catch a plane for a vacation weekend. Even so, none of that “momentum” would transfer to a House that’s more in touch with the every whims of “the base,” a body of trigger-happy-primariers that no CBO score or anything else will persuade into supporting Obamnesty or whatever they’re gotten around to calling it. The divisions remain wide, and entrenched.

And no matter what excuse(s) Dean Heller, Joe Heck, and Mark Amodei use to explain why they still haven't yet taken a position on S 744, we quite clearly see the true reason here. They fear their own base. It's now only a matter of whether they fear their own "TEA" fueled base more than the "demographic death spiral" their party will continue to swirl down if they kill the bill this summer...

Unless they themselves start buying into the mythology. After all, why bother with actual reality when they can live in the "TEA" tinged mythology of mile high border walls and an America centered around angry old straight white men?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Austerity & Apple

Early this week, leaders of the eight greatest developed economies met in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland (UK), for the G-8 Summit. At the G-8, President Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and others tackled a number of thorny issues, such as the ongoing civil war in Syria. Another major issue tackled this week was corporate tax evasion.

So what did everyone ultimately agree to?

Has the G8 made progress cracking down on multinationals playing off one regime against another to lower its tax bills?

The world leaders have called on the OECD, the body that draws up international guidelines on tax, to draft a template for multinationals to report the tax they pay to taxing authorities in each jurisdiction in which they operate. Cameron claims this will "identify where multinational companies are earning their profits and paying their taxes so we can track and expose those who aren't paying their fair share". Tax campaigners, however, suggest it does not go nearly far enough. There was no commitment for this information to be made public or for companies to provide greater disclosure on other economic activity on a country-by-country basis.

What about closing loopholes in international tax rules exploited by firms such as Google, Apple and Amazon?

Several issues around taxing multinationals are being worked on furiously by the OECD before a wider G20 meeting of finance ministers next month. The G8 promised to "take the necessary individual and collective action" to back up any recommendations from recasting the rules. As a broad statement of intent the G8 leaders said: "Countries should change rules that let companies shift their profits across borders to avoid taxes."

So G-8 leaders agreed to share more information. Otherwise, they mostly just agreed they and other countries "should do something" on corporate tax evasion. We'll see how far this goes.

But hey, at least they acted embarrassed over this. Here in Nevada, however, our state and local governments have rewarded Apple's "unbelievable chutzpah" by showering the multinational corporation with corporate welfare! Even as the rest of the world has become increasingly outraged over Apple stiffing public coffers by exploiting as maby tax loopholes as possible, Governor Brian Sandoval keeps heralding Apple's corporate welfare as "economic development".

But really, is that true? Does Nevada truly benefit from rewarding companies that come here just to avoid paying taxes elsewhere? When did crippling austerity become "economic development"?

Think about it. There's a reason why G-8 leaders were shamed into bringing up corporate tax evasion. While these powerful multinational, multi-billion dollar companies come to Nevada and go elsewhere to avoid paying their bills, real people are suffering the consequences of austerity. Since they don't pay their fair share, we're paying for their sins instead.

Can we afford any more of this?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The War They Just Can't Quit

Today has been another doozy of a day on the House floor. And Rep. Dina Titus (D-Paradise) had something to say about it. Here, take a look.

So what was Rep. Titus talking about? Surprise, the G-O-TEA War on Women is back! And this time, they're (again) out to destroy women's reproductive rights.

The [20 week abortion ban] is likely to pass the GOP-led House and die in the Democratic-led Senate. It’s largely a messaging device to energize social conservatives whom Republicans rely on in elections. But Democrats are equally eager to cite the vote as another example of a Republican “war on women” and chip away at the party’s standing with female voters. [...]

“Republican men think they can hand this bill off to a woman legislator to soften the blow — and frankly, that’s insulting,” said Marcy Stech, a spokeswoman for the pro-choice group EMILY’s List. “But as we’ve seen recently, rebranding won’t work when the GOP holds onto the same backwards policies and loose-lipped leaders. No matter the messenger, women voters will continue to see this ban for exactly what it is — an extreme bill designed to threaten the rights and safety of women across the nation.”

Essentially, the 21st Century Know Nothings are wasting Congress' time on unscientific and unconstitutional legislation. And they're doing so in an(other) attempt to placate their batshit crazy base. And they expect us not to notice this latest outburst of insani-TEA?

Senator Dean Heller (R-46%) and Rep. Joe Heck (R-"TEA" Powered) continue to hope that Nevada women won't notice their participation in the ongoing "TEA" powered War on Women. After all, most Nevadans and most Americans overall don't support their extreme agenda. Yet despite this, and despite actual pressing concerns on matters like economic growth, climate change, and immigration reform, Congressional Republicans just can't quit their war on women and their civil rights.

I guess they just don't care about the US Constitution, good science, basic human decency, improving health care... Or even winning women's votes in the next election. I guess they will just have to keep learning the hard way.

Why Not Act Already?

Amidst all the recent talk of scandal and conflict and endless "crisis", we've yet to see Congress act on the greatest global security crisis of our time. In addition, we've yet to see what President Obama plans to do on climate change if Congress still can't act. But now, that's about to change. The White House may finally act soon.

The Obama administration is considering a sweeping initiative to address climate change, including the first-ever limits on carbon dioxide from power plants, the country's biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The White House has yet to settle on specific measures, but "we're hearing that existing power plants are definitely in the mix," said a person with knowledge of the deliberations, who, like others, asked not to be identified to talk about White House discussions. An announcement could come by mid-July.

Power plants account for about a third of the country's greenhouse gas emissions, with most of the carbon dioxide coming from coal-fired plants and, to a lesser extent, natural gas generation. Issuing rules to curtail their pollution would almost certainly touch off a battle in the courts and Congress."

There are only a few substantive, meaningful actions the administration can take short of dealing with existing power plants," said S. William Becker, executive director of the National Assn. of Clean Air Agencies, a group of local and state air pollution regulators. "So I'd be extremely surprised if existing power plants weren't one of the top priorities the administration is pursuing."

As long as we've been delaying action on the climate crisis, we've been losing precious time and making necessary change more costly and difficult than it has to be. Perhaps that’s what President Obama has been thinking about lately. If we are to have any chance at future survival, we must act on the climate crisis... And do so very soon.

And then, there's this. Surprise, surprise. Investment in tomorrow's energy pays off.

On Thursday, the Center for American Progress released a newreport that outlines plan for jobs, business, and a growing economy called “300 Million Engines of Growth.”

It notes that climate change’s “costs to businesses, families, and government are often hidden but are becoming less so.” The report goes on to detail ways in which climate solutions “offer massive new economic opportunities.” Just as important, any infrastructure investments should reflect the impact of the consequences of climate change like extreme weather and climate change.

Transitioning from an energy system reliant on energy that gets more expensive as we use it up, to one that gets cheaper the more we use it is a winner for the economy:

"The United States is dependent on imported foreign oil, is subject to volatile energy prices, and is starting to face the high costs of climate change. Each of these pressures creates a drag on economic growth. In 2012 roughly 6 percent of our electricity came from renewables, and the United States imported $313 billion in oil. Our country must capture the multitrillion-dollar opportunity of clean energy by stimulating demand, ensuring effective financing, building efficient transmission infrastructure, and prioritizing efficiency. Our goal is for the United States to have clean, sustainable, and economical energy sources — quadrupling renewable use between 2008 and 2020 and slashing oil imports in half — in order to fuel economic growth."

As we know very well right here in Nevada, going green earns us green. So why wait any longer? Why not act already?

Our fossil fuel addiction is already costing us dearly. And the promise of a lean, mean, clean, and green super machine of a healthier economy won't ever materialize if we don't act soon. So why wait any longer? Why not act already?

Fall in the Divide

Today, I'll be flying back home. Yet today, it looks like I'm getting one more "thrill" out of my old stomping grounds. A local Member of Congress (known for scandal and all out insani-TEA), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), just made the most explicit threat yet to House Speaker John Boehner's leadership position.

"If Speaker Boehner moves forward and permits this to come to a vote even though the majority of the Republicans in the House—and that’s if they do—oppose whatever it is that’s coming to a vote, he should be removed as Speaker,” Rohrabacher said on World Net Daily radio, according to Politico.

Rohrabacher added that he would consider such a move to be "a betrayal of the Republican members of the House and a betrayal of the Republicans throughout the country."

Oh, yes. That's right. He really went there.

So who's actually surprised? We've been warning for some time of the 21st Century Know Nothing campaign to kill comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). But now, the Beltway pundits are finally starting to notice the toxic "TEA" brewing on Capitol Hill.

And that's not all. Another Republican is stepping forward to derail S 744. This time, it's 2016 Presidential Hopeful, "tea party" darling, and current US Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) threatening to blow up CIR.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) will introduce a series of amendments to the Senate immigration reform bill that would position him for a potential Republican presidential primary bid, The Hill reported Tuesday.

Paul's most prominent measure would eliminate a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants while lifting a cap on guest workers, Senate aides familiar with the proposals told The Hill. Under that amendment, to be introduced this week, employers who demonstrate need would be provided with immigrant workers while the workers themselves would have to apply for permanent residency and citizenship according to the policies of their native countries.

Early this year, the Republican Party's embrace of CIR was supposed to rebrand and revive the GOP. Instead, the reemergence of the G-O-TEA and its campaign to kill CIR are reminding everyone of why the Republican Party faces even more difficulties ahead.

And in the mean time, we have S 744. And at least for now, its fate in the 113th Congress is tied to the outcome of the Republicans' civil war over their own future. And it may ultimately turn on where our Members of Congress fall in this divide.