Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Have Yourself a Big Happy Thanksgiving!

Believe it or not, we do have reasons to be thankful this week. So go ahead and be thankful, dammit!

We will be. And that's why we'll be taking the rest of the week off here. But don't worry, we won't be gone for too long (especially not if there's any breaking news this week, which we will still be on the lookout for just in case).

In the mean time, please check out the great blogs featured on the sidebars to the right. We're thankful for our fellow progressive bloggers in Nevada and elsewhere who are reporting news and/or cutting through spin like no one else can.

We'll be back in December to cover the usual year-end stories. We'll also recap 10 of the most memorable stories of 2013. So enjoy the holiday, then come on back next week to end the year the right left way here with us.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Don't Tell Us. Show Us.

He wants it. He really wants it! Or at least, that's what Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) wants us to believe regarding comprehensive immigration reform (CIR).

In an interview with the Las Vegas Sun, Rep. Heck cried about how the "Big, Bad, Meanie Democrats & Unions!!!" have been attacking him for not supporting something he already supports! Why are all the "Big, Bad, Meanie LIB'RULZZZ!!!" being so big and bad and mean?

Maybe this is due to the whole premise of this story being false? Seriously, when did telling the truth become "big, bad, & mean"?

When Rep. Joe Heck whines to local media about "LIB'RUL ATACKZZZ!!!", he fails to mention everything he can do to move CIR forward... Yet for some reason still refuses to do. While he lambasts HR 15 due to its "elements that he can not support", he fails to mention that HR 15 was modeled after S 744, the bipartisan Senate CIR bill that Nevada’s own Dean Heller (R) supported. So if S 744 was ultimately good enough for Dean Heller (& 13 other Senate Republicans) and HR 15 is good enough for 3 House Republicans to cross over to cosponsor, why isn't HR 15 good enough for Rep. Heck?

Rep. Heck also made the excuse that if he were to cosponsor HR 15, it wouldn't change anything. Actually, it would. It would bring HR 15 another step closer to officially garnering majority support. And if House G-O-TEA "leaders" were to refuse to bring HR 15 for a floor vote, Rep. Heck and other CIR supporters could then start a discharge petition.

So why isn't Rep. Heck doing any of this? Why is he instead only offering empty words? And did he really implicitly admit he's just a powerless backbencher who only does what House G-O-TEA "leaders" tell him to do?

Funny enough, the only "solution" Rep. Heck offered was the "piecemeal approach" that "leadership" approves of. Of course, this is the very approach to immigration reform that has failed to produce any actual legislation... Except for that one amendment calling to deport DREAMers. Rep. Heck voted for that amendment. Is that what he means when he says he "supports reform"?

Rep. Heck likes to tell us how much he "supports reform". Yet when it comes time to match his words with concrete action, he fails to do so. If he truly supports CIR and wants to convince Nevadans of it, he needs to stop telling us... And start showing us.

Green Shoots

This week, Nevada is making history HERstory. And this time, it's in a good way. We now have a Rhodes Scholar!

Clarke Knight graduated from Green Valley High School in 2010. She's now a Senior at the prestigious Smith College. And soon, she plans to go to Oxford.

What's even more impressive is what Ms. Knight plans to do with her Rhodes Scholarship and Oxford education.

The 21-year-old chemistry major said she wants to deal with climate change as a scientist after attending Oxford University beginning next October. She would like to see "evidence-based" policy on climate change and the U.S. take the lead on addressing the issue, she said.

"I really hope I can continue as a hard scientist who's committed to policy, and I really hope we can rectify climate change and the problems we've caused with the environment," Knight told The Associated Press.

"I really want to be a bridge between the two cultures of science and policymakers. They need a translator and I want to be that person," she added.

In recent weeks, we've become accustomed to cutting through the manufactured crises and haute faux scandals to get to the real story. And frankly, the real story hasn't always looked encouraging.

That's why our eyebrows were raised (in a good way!) when we spotted this in the morning paper. There are many doors that have opened to Clarke Knight now that she's a Rhodes Scholar. And she wants to take the door involving climate change policy? Wow. She's brave.

And that's not all. New evidence suggests recent global climate compacts are having an impact on greenhouse gas emissions. And President Obama's executive actions promise further progress here in the US. Believe it or not, there's actually some good news to be thankful for this week.

Of course, we're still quite far from out of the woods. As we noted last week, America is one of several nations that has yet to implement robust climate action that's needed for future survival. And it doesn't help that far too many in Congress refuse to even acknowledge the reality of climate change (let alone take action).

Still, we figured these recent green shoots should be noticed. After all, it's Thanksgiving Week. And it's always nice to uncover reasons to be thankful.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Breaking Point

So it's happening. Nuclear warfare has erupted... But it's not in the Middle East. Rather, it's happening on Capitol Hill.

Remember the many fights that became slow, tortuous death matches once a filibuster was invoked and sustained? Even more of them have been occurring in the US Senate in recent days, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Patience) has finally had it.

Today, Senator Reid took to the Senate floor to announce what many progressives have been demanding for nearly 5 years.

As we've discussed before, Senator Reid has always been committed to preserving Senate tradition. That's why he had originally been so hesitant to radically alter the filibuster. And even when he was becoming increasingly frustrated by epic G-O-TEA obstruction, he didn't (yet) have enough Democratic Senators on board for major filibuster reform.

Back in July, Senator Reid brokered a deal with Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) and a few other (not extreme) Senate Republicans to allow for more executive and judicial confirmations. That was supposed to ease the epic gridlock of the upper chamber of Congress. And while it did for a few days, Senate Republican "leaders" simply whipped their caucus back into epic obstruction shortly after that fleeting, temporary breakthrough.

This is how Senator Reid and 51 other Senate Democrats finally reached their breaking point. And the numerous executive and judicial vacancies (due to the G-O-TEA filibusters) explain why. This is not how government is supposed to work. And at some point, something had to change.

And it now has. The breaking point has finally arrived. And after the long wait, Congress can finally become a bit more functional (well, at least the upper branch).

We've Come a Long Way.

Believe it or not, we're commemorating another anniversary this week. And yes, it's another civil rights landmark. 10 years ago this week, the Massachusetts Supreme Court issued a ruling that would forever change the way we view civil marriage policy.

In the last decade since the Massachusetts Supreme Court declared a gay marriage ban unconstitutional on Nov. 18, 2003, marriage equality has made significant gains with public opinion and within state legislatures. Now 14 other states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. Illinois is expected to join those states Wednesday with Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature to legislation approving same-sex marriage for his state.

“A decade after marriage equality arrived in Massachusetts, support for gay and lesbian Americans continues to rise to historic levels,” GLAAD’s Wilson Cruz told msnbc. “Anti-gay activists said the sky would fall, but the sun has shone; they said marriage would become weaker and that Americans would turn their backs on our nation’s founding principle of equality for all, but we’ve only moved closer.”

Indeed, a September poll this year found that 85% of Massachusetts voters saw a positive or little to no impact from gay marriages in the commonwealth. In the poll, voters in the state support legalizing gay marriage 60% to 29%. Nationally, support for marriage equality has almost doubled since 1996 when a Gallup poll found 27% of Americans thought same-sex marriage should be legal. In 2013, that figure jumped up to 53%.

It's important to look back at our history HERstory to understand what happened, where we are now, and how to move forward. Just 10 years ago, marriage equality was considered "radical" and "dangerous". And just 5 years ago, marriage equality was considered "too controversial" for the mainstream... And even the vast majority of Blue States!

But now, marriage equality has majority nationwide support, is finally recognized by the federal government, and is now the law of the land in 16 states and DC. Just this month, Hawaii became #15 and Illinois became #16. And more are likely on the way.

And let's not forget what's happening in our own state. Here in Nevada, SJR 13 passed Round 1 in the Legislature this year while Sevcik v. Sandoval (Nevada’s federal marriage law suit) has reached the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals. After waiting a number of years and suffering a number of painful defeats along the way, Nevada is finally on the road to equality.

And 10 years ago, none of this was considered possible. Even in Massachusetts, then Governor Mitt Romney (R) requested a constitutional marriage ban! While we've run into plenty of obstacles in the past decade, we've nonetheless experienced a whole lot of progress.

Who would have thought a decade ago that opposition to marriage equality would one day become a political liability? We've come a long way, baby.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

We're #43!

We like to think of ourselves as world leaders. We like to think of America as #1 at everything a nation should aspire to. We like to think of this land of ours as "The Land of the Free & Home of the Brave".

So why should we be content with #43? Yes, believe it or not, the US is #43 on a list we ought to be ranked higher on.

Recently, there's been some good news when it comes to US greenhouse gas emissions: They're actually going down. The bad news, though, is that despite this progress, we still only rank 43rd in the world for the overall effectiveness of our climate policies.

That's the upshot of a new report by the Climate Action Network Europe and Germanwatch, a public policy think tank with offices in Bonn and Berlin. The two groups release an annual Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) to assess how much individual countries are contributing to the global carbon problem, and how much they're trying to do about it. The rankings include the globe's 58 leading countries for greenhouse gas emissions—countries that, together, account for 90 percent of the globe's carbon emissions from fossil energy use. Each country is assessed based its emissions trends, its energy efficiency, its progress on renewable energy, and its overall climate policies.

The US ranked 43rd last year and ranks 43rd this year as well, right between New Zealand and Croatia. We get particularly good marks for our 8-percent decrease in carbon emissions from energy sources in the last half decade, but we still fall well short of a stance that could be considered truly progressive or proactive on climate and energy. Still, if we want to gloat then it's easy to compare ourselves to our northern neighbor, Canada, which was "the worst performer of all industrialised countries" and only fared better than Iran, Kazakhstan, and Saudi Arabia.

Hooray, we beat Canada! And we beat Iran & Saudi Arabia! Isn't that awesome?!

Not really. Now yes, we've actually made some progress on tackling climate change. And now that President Obama's executive actions are kicking in, that should help some more.

But why are we still ranked so low? Here's a hint: Congress. Because the G-O-TEA run House and chronically logjammed Senate won't consider any climate legislation (except for stuff that would worsen the crisis), we have a major impediment to serious action on Capitol Hill.

Here in Nevada, we know all too well the promise of action... And the perils of inaction. And while we've seen some progress on the state level, we badly need more federal action to finally rise above #43... And rise to the occasion.

Are we willing to rise to this occasion? Are we ready to take on this challenge. We will need to be ready, willing, and able very soon. After all, it's not just about bragging rights (though come on, being #43 on this sucks). It's about our future survival.

WoW Is DOA in ABQ?

This past January, we commemorated the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and remembered how far we've come since then. Of course, we also noticed the challenges that remain as women’s reproductive rights face more attacks.

In recent weeks, a new line of attack emerged. What made this (even more) surprising is that it emerged in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Anti-choice activists from across the nation descended upon The Duke City to push a citywide referendum on late-term abortion. This was part of their new "all politics is local" strategy... But this first test didn't go so well for them.

Albuquerque voters on Tuesday defeated a measure to ban abortion at 20 weeks, issuing a major blow to antiabortion activists who had hoped to use the city to test a new strategy to restrict the procedure at the municipal level.

As Salon has previously reported, the effort to get the measure on the ballot was led by Bud and Tara Shaver, two self-described Christian missionaries and extreme antiabortion activists who moved from Kansas to New Mexico with the sole intent of shuttering the Southwestern Women’s Options clinic, one of two late-term abortion providers in the area. [...]

“The voters of Albuquerque showed that they care about women’s health and respect the private medical decisions they make,” Physicians for Reproductive Health Board Chair Nancy Stanwood, MD, MPH, said in a statement.

“They saw through this deceptive initiative and defeated a measure that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks, with only the narrowest of exceptions, legislation that would have stripped women of the ability to make the best decision for themselves and their families. … With the defeat of this ballot measure, the voters of Albuquerque affirm that women deserve the best care and deserve privacy and respect.”

OK, so Albuquerque voters rejected a late-term abortion ban yesterday. Why are we talking about it here and now? Perhaps because this has major national implications?

It’s not just about one city though. Albuquerque is home to the only late-term abortion clinics in the state, including Southwestern Women’s Options, one of just a handful of clinics left in the whole country that do very late abortions. (The clinic has become the target of some scary anti-choice harassment and the providers there are featured in the new documentary After Tiller, which you should definitely see.) So a ban there would affect all the folks who travel to the city for abortion care from rural areas elsewhere in the state–and across the US. Micaela Cadena, who is part of the Respect ABQ Women campaign fighting the measure,explained, ”Albuquerque voters are voting for the whole state of New Mexico and also for the rest of the country.” No wonder anti-choice groups have been spending big bucks to get this ban passed."

In recent years, anti-choice G-O-TEA Culture Warriors have been waging the War on Women in Congress and in state legislatures across the nation. And they've succeeded in passing epic hurdles to reproductive health care in a number of states while directing the US House to spend seemingly endless amounts of time on proposed abortion and contraception restrictions. It's forced pro-choice activists to play defense across the nation.

But last night, Albuquerque voters delivered a direct rebuke of this attempt to surreptitiously expand the War on Women into New Mexico. So not only do public opinion pills show a pro-choice majority, but we're finally seeing real election results demonstrating this as well.

So why is Congress still wasting time on attempts to limit abortion and contraception access? Why are the likes of Senator Dean Heller (R-What?) and Rep. Joe Heck (R-Why?) ignoring what's happening in their own backyard? Why is the War on Women continuing despite mounting opposition?

What happened in Albuquerque may very well be a turning point... But it will likely take more public rebukes like this one to end the War on Women once and for all.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Unfinished Work

It's amazing to think of all the change this nation has endured during the past century and a half. Back then, there was no such thing as the internet! Jeez, how were people able to post their selfies to Twitter back then? (/snark)

One can only wonder what then President Abraham Lincoln would have posted to Twitter and Facebook. Yet seven score and a decade ago, President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address made news without being spread all over social media. While many things have changed in the past 150 years, this speech reminds us of what's constant.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

While we're not literally at war with each other, it sometimes feels like the Civil War never really ended. After all, the Republican Party is now plagued by epic infighting. And the overall nation can't seem to escape this Culture War that the 21st Century Know Nothings are determined to win (despite everyone else recognizing they're losing).

Why is this happening? Is it due to underlying geographic loyalty? Is it because of economic turmoil that's fanning the flames of xenophobia? Is it simply because some still refuse to accept the final outcome of the Civil War? Why has it been so difficult for this nation to move forward and embrace the future?

History often tends to repeat itself. We can't help but think of this as major civil rights issues, like immigration reform, women's reproductive rights, and LGBTQ equality, continue to be fought over today. But as another legendary figure has reminded us, the arc of history may be long... But it bends toward justice.

There's plenty of unfinished work ahead of us. And there are plenty of bloody battlefields behind us. But right now, there is progress. That's the story of America, and that's the hope that keeps us moving forward. There's unfinished work that needs to be finished, but there's also the undying hope that it will... And determination to make it happen.

Now, about that selfie we just saw on Instagram...


Martin Martinez was never considered to be a "criminal" before. He worked and paid taxes. And he was providing for his family.

So why was he recently detained in the Henderson Detention Center? He fled gang violence and extortion in El Salvador in 2006. And he arrived in the US undocumented.

“I work and I pay taxes. I care for my family,” Martinez said. “Then, when I start to try to legalize my status, I’m detained. So I’m not working, and meanwhile the government is paying to lock me up. Now, if they deport me, who will take care of my wife and son, who are U.S. citizens? They’ll be public charges. It makes no sense.”

So he was sent to jail over a lack of papers... But why was he sent to Henderson?

With an average detainee population of more than 200 per day, the Henderson Detention Center has been the primary facility in Nevada for housing federally detained immigrants since early 2011, according to ICE documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The federal contract has been a windfall for city coffers, with annual revenues between $10 million and $11 million. The contract has generated revenues above expenses ranging from $5 million to $6 million annually, with the surplus money going into the city’s general fund.

A report from UNLV’s immigration law clinic, being released today and already reviewed by the Sun, argues that the Henderson Detention Center has failed to comply with federal detention standards and procedures, including reasonable access to medical care and legal assistance. After conducting interviews with dozens of immigrant detainees at the facility earlier this year, the report’s authors are a calling for an independent review of the city jail.

To be fair, not all detainees have complained about conditions at the Henderson Detention Center. However, that's missing the point. Why are all these resources being used to incarcerate people who are productive and making positive contributions to society?

These raids typically don't work. New evidence suggests that immigration crackdowns (like the ongoing one here in Southern Nevada) just tend to scare high-skilled and productive documented and undocumented immigrants... Into other municipalities that don't conduct such crackdowns. Meanwhile, the immigrants who are locked up can't work. Local economies lose productivity, and federal, state, & local governments have to spend money to incarcerate people who committed the "crime" of acting on their desire for a better life.

Apparently, this ICE contract has generated at least $5 million in annual revenue for the City of Henderson. But at what cost to others is this windfall for Henderson City Hall? How much have Clark County and the City of Las Vegas spent to enforce federal immigration law? How many families have been torn apart? And how many communities have been losing business?

Of course, this brings up an issue that's currently held captive in some dark back room on Capitol Hill. If Congressional Republican "leaders" were to stop trying to duck & cover from comprehensive immigration reform (CIR), they could see how the failing immigration system of present is both cruel and inefficient. Perhaps we'd be wasting less money by simply flushing it down the toilet.

This should be a wake-up call for Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson). He says he wants CIR, but he's yet to sign onto HR 15. If he's looking for a "fiscally responsible" reason to push CIR, he only needs to look just beyond his own backyard.

And in the mean time, local governments in Southern Nevada need to reevaluate their decision to spend so much on enforcing federal immigration law. So far, it looks like Henderson City Hall's boon is becoming everyone else's boondoggle.

Monday, November 18, 2013

FAIL Family Feud

Every so often, this happens. Worlds collide. Feuds erupt. And the "political media" behave like Hollywood paparazzi.

We're seeing it again today. But this time, there's an interesting policy twist. And that's (the only reason) why we're talking about it here.

No, we're not talking about Kanye West's bizarre tirade against President Obama. Rather, we're looking at the fast erupting Cheney family feud.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and his family are back in the headlines today after his daughter, Liz Cheney, went on "Fox News Sunday" to promote her Wyoming US Senate campaign. When Liz stated her opposition to marriage equality on national TV, that sparked the anger of the Former Vice President's other daughter, Mary Cheney. Even his daughter-in-law and Mary's wife, Heather Poe, joined the fray!

Things erupted on Sunday when Mary Cheney, a lesbian, and her wife were at home watching “Fox News Sunday” — their usual weekend ritual. Liz Cheney appeared on the show and said that she opposed same-sex marriage, describing it as “just an area where we disagree,” referring to her sister. Taken aback and hurt, Mary Cheney took to her Facebook page to blast back: “Liz — this isn’t just an issue on which we disagree you’re just wrong — and on the wrong side of history.”

But then Mary Cheney’s wife, Heather Poe, went further, touching on Liz Cheney’s relocation from Northern Virginia to Wyoming to seek office. (Liz Cheney is already battling accusations of carpetbagging in the race.)

“I can’t help but wonder how Liz would feel if as she moved from state to state, she discovered that her family was protected in one but not the other,” Ms. Poe wrote on her Facebook page. “Yes, Liz,” she added, “in fifteen states and the District of Columbia you are my sister-in-law.”

The feud reveals tensions not just within the family but in the Republican Party more broadly as it seeks to respond to both a changing America and an energized, fervently conservative base.

We never thought we would say this, but Liz Cheney’s "Fox News Sunday" fiasco may be even worse than Governor Brian Sandoval's (R-Dios Mio) Univision Las Vegas interview in April that made news for all the wrong reasons. Governor Sandoval had wanted to use it to celebrate his (late) embrace of comprehensive immigration reform, but it instead grabbed headlines because he reiterated his opposition to marriage equality. Yet as awful as that convoluted statement on civil rights was, it pales in comparison to a TV interview sparking a family feud that's reminding the entire nation of the Republican Party's Culture War full of FAIL.

While the Cheney family feud may be the story everyone is talking about, it gives us a chance to notice what other prominent Republicans are saying about LGBTQ Americans. In Michigan, they're tapping discredited "experts" to lie "testify" in court about LGBTQ families. In Indiana, they're pushing a marriage ban that most voters there oppose. In Illinois, they're planning a massive exorcism in a last ditch effort to stop marriage equality (no, really). And in Colorado & California, they're still attacking transgender youth.

And let's not forget who's setting the example from on top. On Capitol Hill, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Burnt to a Crisp) still leads the way in H8... And in FAIL.

Just a day after House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) claimed the LGBT workplace protections are “unnecessary,” he [made] sure that an anti-gay group has a place to meet on Capitol Hill.

The World Congress of Families (WCF) is an Illinois-based group that believes homosexuality is a “deviation” from sexual norms comparable to pornography, promiscuity, and incest, and it has been directly responsible for exporting American homophobia to countries like Russia, organizing trips for anti-gay leaders like the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown to go speak with Russian lawmakers. They had planned a meeting today in a Senate office building that features three anti-gay voices: Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), Janice Shaw Crouse of Concerned Women for America, and Steven Mosher of the Population Research Institute. The session, called “The Family in America,” is specifically geared toward sharing lessons learned from successful anti-gay campaigns in other countries — like Russia.

On Thursday, Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, who represents WCF’s home state of Illinois, realized that his office had booked the space being used for this anti-gay symposium and canceled access to the meeting room. A spokesman for Kirk’s office told BuzzFeed that the Senator “doesn’t affiliate with groups that discriminate.” As of Friday morning, it seemed that the event would not be able to proceed.

That was, at least, until Speaker Boehner stepped in and secured new meeting space for the group on the Hill.

So not only did the House Speaker diss LGBTQ workers while lying about ENDA, but he also intervened to save space on Capitol Hill for a H8 group meeting! He supposedly has no time for comprehensive immigration reform, but he always seems to make time to spread the message of bigotry. How precious (NOT).

And Republicans wonder why Senator Harry Reid (D-Fierce) is telling them to pull themselves together? Their behavior has been sickening, but not in a good way. Perhaps "spreppy" is a better description.

The Cheney family feud is really just the surface of the larger G-O-TEA Culture War FAIL. It remains to be seen how many more Republican politicians embarrass themselves and each other on TV before they realize just how FAIL-o-rific their support for discrimination is.

Duck & Cover

Today's edition of The Hill features an interview with Rep. Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas). The interview covered a wide range of topics, including Horsford's rise to power in Carson City before leaving for DC.

The article also jumped into the hot topics on Capitol Hill today. Any guesses as to what came up? Fortunately for us, Rep. Horsford didn't hold back.

In Congress, Horsford has been an eager supporter of comprehensive immigration reform [CIR] and was one of the five original sponsors of a House bill similar to the one that passed the Senate last summer. While speaking with The Hill, he described his experience in Washington as “frustrating” due to what he sees as deliberate evasion by Republican leadership on the issue.

He criticized House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for refusing to consider the Senate’s comprehensive bill while also not bringing forward any of the piecemeal measures Republicans have suggested they’d prefer.

“[If you want multiple bills,] well then, do that, bring something forward,” Horsford said. “But to suggest that nothing can be done is irresponsible, and it is reckless, and it shows no courage on the pressing issues that are facing this country.” [...]

“It only takes 15 minutes to pass a bill once they decide to bring it for a vote,” he said. “There is bipartisan support for many bills, but right now we have a Speaker who is choosing to only govern based on what a faction of his caucus supports, rather than a majority of the body.”

Earlier today, we examined the policy centered root of the Republican Party's current mid-life crisis. Of course, that root includes immigration. And as long as House Republican "leaders" keep trying to duck CIR, the more they worsen their party's mid-life crisis.

Rep. Horsford and other House Democrats working on HR 15 have reached out to their Republican colleagues. So far, three of them have signed on as cosponsors. And the content of HR 15 is widely popular. So why not act on HR 15 already?

This is something that House Republican "leaders" continue to struggle with. They've been offering plenty of excuses to try to cover their behinds. What they still haven't offered is any sort of concrete action. And as long as Republicans who claim to support CIR (cough- Joe Heck- cough) fail to match their words with any concrete action, nothing will ever happen.

What are any of these House Republicans accomplishing with their silly "duck & cover" games? Immigration reform isn't going away. Neither are the American families affected by current policies. They can't duck and cover and hide from reality, and neither can Congress.

(They) Got Problems

Someone had to say it. We've been doing so for a while. But at least now, a Republican is coming forward to warn his own party.

“Republicans need to understand that their political problems are neither tactical nor transitory,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) said, as quoted by the Washington Post. “They are structural and demographic. The hard truth is the GOP coalition constitutes a shrinking portion of the electorate. To change that daunting reality, Republicans must appeal to groups that are currently outside their ranks or risk becoming a permanent minority.”

Finally, a top House Republican admits the obvious. His party has a serious demographic problem.

And that's not all. What worsens the demographic problem is a major policy problem. Because so many Republican politicians are so captive to the whims and fancies of the 21st Century Know Nothings, they're embracing policies that alienate most Americans.

We've seen it with the War on Women. We've been seeing it with comprehensive immigration reform. And we're seeing it again with LGBTQ civil rights. Republican "leaders" just haven't been able to stop their party from waging this Culture War that's only succeeding in making the Republican Party look like something direct from the Stone Age.

They're making excuses. They're resorting to outlandish spin. Some of them are even disowning family members. But as long as they ignore the root of their woes, Republicans won't be able to overcome them.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Put Up or Shut Up.

Just when we thought there was some sort of synergy happening, the bubble just had to burst. Ralston just had to tweet out some sympathy for "poor" Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson). He figured that since Steve Sebelius is ready to give Rep. Heck a free pass on comprehensive immigration reform (CIR), everyone else should as well.

Stop right there. There's a reason why the AFL-CIO, SEIU, & other CIR advocates are not giving Rep. Heck a free pass on CIR. That reason is HR 15.

Earlier this week, Rep. Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) joined with Rep. Jeff Denham (R-California) and Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Florida) to discuss why they're cosponsoring HR 15. Here's a hint: They actually want to show some leadership. And they actually want to finish the job on CIR.

(Skip to about 44:30 for the good stuff.)

Two other House Republicans, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) and David Valadao (R-California) have already joined Rep. Denham in backing HR 15. And remember that HR 15 closely resembles S 744, the bipartisan Senate CIR bill that Senator Dean Heller (R) crossed over to support. So what's keeping Rep. Heck from supporting HR 15?

Rep. Heck can't honestly say he's "doing everything possible" to pass CIR when he's not actually doing everything possible to pass CIR. It's time for him, and for other House Republicans trying to have it both ways on reform, to put up or shut up. Either they actually do whatever they can to allow a floor vote on HR 15 or they admit that all the G-O-TEA House "leaders" will do on immigration reform is support deporting DREAMers.

The American families and communities who are suffering due to the broken immigration system of today have had enough of the double-talk on Capitol Hill. It's time to put up or shut up.

What Can Be Done

This week, we've been jumping back into issues closer to home. And yes, there's one issue in particular that's raising our eyebrows and getting us thinking. Here's a hint: T. E. I.

We're not the only ones thinking about it. In a letter to the editor published in today's Las Vegas Sun, Las Vegas elementary school teacher Angie Sullivan summed up the sorry state of perhaps the most important part of Nevada's public infrastructure... And what must be done to fix it.

Nevadans should vote for the Teacher’s Education Initiative in one year. The initiative will tax businesses that profit $1 million or more.

For over a decade, Nevada’s public schools have been teaching, testing, reteaching, tutoring, testing, testing and failing as public schools endured $1 billion in cuts.

Some have tried to use teachers as scapegoats. This is very puzzling to those of us who serve above and beyond for the students. Frankly, teachers are struggling with too many needy students, not enough supplies, not enough support, and obstacles such as poverty.

Bottom line: We know our students are failing. We have data to prove this. We also know that Nevada does not fund our schools adequately.

This is what we've been saying here all along. What politicians in Carson City can't do is what voters must do. And The Education Initiative (TEI) finally gives voters the opportunity to do what must be done.

As usual, Ralston mourns the policy failures that have grown out of the dysfunctional politics of this state. And in quite a few aspects, he's right on the money. But now, we have a chance to move beyond mourning over what can't be done. We finally have a chance to seize what can be done.

So what can be done? Remember these three letters: T. E. I.

We've had it with the overcrowded schools, overburdened teachers, and underfunded public infrastructure. And yes, we've had it with the usual hand-wringing and empty rhetoric. We now have The Education Initiative on next year's general election ballot, and we know it can (and must!) be done.

If we want Nevada to succeed in building a better economy and a brighter future, we have to look beyond what hasn't been done and realize what must be done. Then, we have to recognize that it can be done. And of course, we then have to just do it already.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Real Scandal

As of late, we've seen plenty of media pundits fall over each other to obsess over the latest haute faux scandals. Perhaps they're just gearing up for the next G-O-TEA induced manufactured crisis? Yet while the usual politicians and pundits are catching the vapors over manufactured crises and haute faux scandals, a very real scandal continues to threaten our very existence.

So what is this scandal? Step outside and feel it.

This year is on track to be one of the hottest since record keeping began, according to a report released Wednesday by the World Meteorological Association (WMO). The report also found that global sea levels reached a record high in March 2013 and extreme weather events continued to devastate communities around the world. [...]

“Although individual tropical cyclones cannot be directly attributed to climate change, higher sea levels are already making coastal populations more vulnerable to storm surges. We saw this with tragic consequences in the Philippines,” Michel Jarraud, head of the WMO, told Agence France-Presse." [...]

The agency said it anticipates greenhouse gases will reach an unprecedented level in 2013 yet again and as humans continue to pump increasing amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the risk of severe climate-driven impacts will only become more acute. “The risk is getting much, much higher, and vulnerability is getting higher,” said Jarraud.

Along with a greater frequency of destructive weather events, experts predict a host of other impacts that will accompany climate change, including water shortages, decreased food supplies, and disease — impacts that will hit the most vulnerable populations hardest.

Here it is. Here's the real scandal.

And at least someone on Capitol Hill is noticing. Yesterday, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) delivered his 50th speech on climate change. This is his 50th climate themed Senate floor speech in the past 50 weeks.


To be fair, he's not alone. Nevada's own Harry Reid (D) has spoken up on climate change, along with a few others on Capitol Hill. It's just too bad that too many of their colleagues are so distracted by faux scandals that they fail to notice the real one(s) staring us down.

The real scandal is the struggle that's underway to make America take bold action on the climate crisis. Why is it so hard for us to act? We're seeing the evidence all around us, even here in Nevada.

While far too many in The Beltway are obsessing over fake scandals, they're missing the real scandal that threatens all of us. And that should have all of us worried.

Yes, It Is Necessary.

Once again, he's going to great lengths to demonstrate how out of touch he and his "leadership team" are with the American people. Of course, we're talking about Rep. John Boehner (R-??!!) and his House G-O-TEA "leadership team". Moments ago, he was "talking jobs"...

And by "talking jobs", we mean he was talking about how little he cares about people who lose their jobs just because of who they are.

"I am opposed to discrimination of any kind in the work place and any place else," Boehner told reporters on Capitol Hill. "But I think this legislation that I've dealt with as chairman of the Educational Workforce Committee long before I was back into leadership, is unnecessary and would provide a basis for frivolous lawsuits.

"It, people are already protected in the work place," he added. "So I am, I'm opposed to continuing this. Listen, I understand people have different opinions on this issue and I respect those opinions but it is someone who worked in this employment law area for all of my years in the statehouse and all of my years here, I see no basis or no need for this.

Actually, Speaker Boehner, they're not. Try saying that to LGBTQ workers in the 33 states that still allow some sort of wrongful discrimination against them. And to make matters even worse, 29 of those 33 states don't have any sort of ENDA on the books. This is why a federal ENDA is sorely needed.

So why is Speaker Boehner not only refusing to even consider ENDA, but also denying basic reality? Is he that tone deaf? Or is he just paying extra attention to the TEA flavored "conservatives" who are far more offended by the LGBTQ Pride Flag than by the Confederate Flag? Let's not forget the issue at heart of this.

Earlier this month, Senator Harry Reid (D-Fierce) delivered on his promise to bring ENDA to the Senate floor this year. Not only did he do that, but he passed it. And while he has no control over the House floor, he's been sensing that the House can pass ENDA as well... If Speaker Boehner allows it on the floor.

There's been plenty of buzz on Capitol Hill lately regarding a bunch of haute faux scandals. It serves absolutely no purpose (other than perhaps giving media pundits something to shout about?). If they wanted to, House Republican "leaders" could do something productive for a change and work on necessary legislation. Can they drop the petty political games and "TEA" powered obstruction agenda for long enough to notice this?

No Intention?

He's back. And once again, he has something to say about the big policy proposal... That has yet to see the light of day in House chambers. Of course, we're talking about comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). And of course, Senator Harry Reid (D) was again urging House Republican "leaders" to make a move on CIR already (or at least be honest about their plans to kill it).

“I'm stunned,” Nevada senator told Fusion in an interview at the Capitol on Wednesday. “How could anybody in good conscience tell one group he's trying to do immigration reform, and a few minutes later, say 'I'm not going to do anything about a conference?'"

[House Speaker John] Boehner [R-??!!] irked immigration-reform advocates earlier in the day by saying House Republicans have “no intention” of merging any of their immigration bills with a broad bipartisan proposal passed by the Senate this summer. The Senate measure would offer undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.

The Ohio Republican was also in the news for telling two young activists with family members who have faced deportation that he is “trying to find some way to get this thing done.”

“It’s, uh, you know, not easy—not gonna be an easy path forward,” the Speaker said. “But I’ve made it clear since the day after the election that it’s time to get this done.”

Earlier this week, Speaker Boehner was confronted by two young CIR activists. One was worrying about her father facing deportation threats. Speaker Boehner told them he wants to pass something. But yesterday, he told the media he has "no intention" of finishing the job on CIR any time soon.

Instead, Republican "leaders" want to focus on truly important issues, like abortion bans, "gagging" over interracial marriage, year-old federal Sandy aid, and (of course!) more haute faux scandals. Isn't that precious? Instead of doing something to help people, they're just trying to help their own political careers in the most craven way possible.

And herein lies their biggest problem. Far too many Republicans keep missing the big picture. They're so hyped up over "winning the day's media cycle" that they're glossing over their party's serious policy and organizational woes.

Let's also keep in mind that real people are being affected by this ongoing policy FAIL. Real American families are being torn apart. And this is happening because Congress has yet to finish CIR. If Republican "leaders" truly have "no intention" of offering any real policy solutions, they won't be able to get away with it forever.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Make That Decision.

Why does it feel so deja vu today? Why does it feel like we've seen this scandalicious, tumultuous, and downright crazy story before?

Perhaps it's because we have. The Nation's Rick Perlstein just released a thought provoking article on the rather long history of "TEA" spilling into the Republican Party. Mother Jones' Kevin Drum then picked it up and added his own history lesson.

I don't doubt for a second that the racial component of the latest right-wing fluorescence is stronger because Obama is black. But it's only modestly stronger, and you hardly need to go back to JFK to see this. It's easy to think of Bill Clinton today as a cuddly, beloved elder statesman, but anyone over the age of 40 knows that Clinton lived through an eruption of right-wing rage that was every bit as bad as what Obama has gone through. Even the specific obsessions of the wingers weren't even very different. Health care socialism? Check. Economy-killing taxes? Check. Gay rights destroying America as we know it? Check. Supposed juvenile drug use? Check. Endless faux scandals and corruption? Check. Government shutdown? Check. Deficit hysteria? Check. Ball-busting wife? Check. The similarities, frankly, are pretty stunning.

Oh yes, they are. And we don't even have to stop there. Remember, there's a reason why we use the term "21st Century Know Nothings" around these parts.

[... D]uring this period, we saw another foreshadow of what was to come. During this era, what we now call the "Know Nothing Party" gained strength. At one point, it even seemed to be on the cusp of becoming a leading national party as the Whigs were quickly heading toward the dustbin of history.

But wait, why would a party otherwise best known for members responding, "I know nothing", when asked about their party become such a hot national political fad? Simply put, they struck while the iron was hot on matters of immigration policy. The Know Nothings opposed allowing Catholic immigrants into the US, as Catholics were seen as a threat to what they considered the longstanding White Anglo-Saxon Protestant tradition of the country. And amidst the turmoil of the run-up to The Civil War and the beginning of the industrialization & urbanization of America, voters who feared change were willing to give the Know Nothings a chance... Until they were ripped apart over slavery and soon joined the Whigs in that very dustbin of history.

So why are we talking about the Know Nothings and 1850's America now? Think about it. America continues to change. We're an even more diverse nation than we were 160 years ago. State policies continue to diverge on matters of civil rights, even though the general trend is moving in favor of equality. And once again, demagogue politicians are fearmongering on matters of immigration.

So in many ways, this is nothing new. Their ideology is anything but new. What is new, however, is the level of obstruction they've climbed to just in order to delegitimize the President.

We've been discussing at length the frustrating political hurdles facing comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). And each time we've examined the reason why CIR is stalled in the House, we've come back to this.

This morning, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Scared) had to face a girl whose father may be deported soon if CIR isn't finished. He didn't have the nerve to say to her face that he's blocking CIR for petty political reasons. If he had, he would have at least been honest.

Meanwhile closer to home, Rep. Mark Amodei (R-What?) continues to offer tossed word salads as Rep. Joe Heck (R-Why?) is Feeling the heat. It doesn't have to be this way. If they and a few more House Republicans agree to take action on bipartisan CIR legislation ready & waiting for them, this wouldn't be a problem. But of course, that would put them in the position of rebuking the 21st Century Know Nothings.

Ultimately, they will have to make a decision. Either enough Congressional Republicans decide to make DC semi - functional again, or they continue to obstruct for the sake of ideological "purity" (and other reasons). The former may cause them primary woes next year, but the latter is hurting millions of Americans now. Sooner or later, they will have to make that decision.

It Doesn't Have to Be This Way.

We weren't trying to be mean. No really, we weren't. It's just that Jon Ralston's fantasy of tax reform is just that: a fantasy.

And yesterday, the Washoe County Commission reminded us why it's a fantasy... And why we must come to grips with reality.

Commissioner Kitty Jung began to cry when she explained why she was for Assembly Bill 46.

“We just have to work on continuing to build on the momentum generated from this,” Jung said.

The proposed bill would have applied a sales tax increase of a quarter of a percent and 5 cents per $100 assessed in property values.

The Nevada Legislature passed AB 46 along with the "GovRec Budget" this past spring. And of course, Governor Brian Sandoval (R) signed both. The budget locked in most of the past two sessions' worth of cuts to an already underfunded public education system, while AB 46 passed the buck on raising taxes to better fund Reno area K-12 schools to the Washoe County Commission.

And now, most Washoe Commissioners seem to be content with dropping the buck. Is anyone actually surprised by this? Governor Sandoval did not want to be seen as a "tax raiser" (despite evidence to the contrary)... And neither do 3 of the 5 Washoe County Commissioners.

So where does that leave Washoe County Schools? Now, they're having to consider extra budget cuts. How lively (not).

It doesn't have to be this way. No really, it doesn't. It just confirms what we were saying yesterday. If we want change, we will have to do it ourselves by passing The Education Initiative (TEI) next year.

Know Nothing... Or Do Something?

2013 is nearly over. And what does Congress have to show for it? No really, think about that.

And then, look at this. According to a new poll done by Basswood Research and Jon Lerner (which was commissioned by FWD.us), strong majorities of voters in 20 Republican held Congressional Districts want Congress to finish the job on comprehensive immigration reform (CIR).

The poll indicated that likely voters in the 20 congressional districts want to see movement on immigration, with 70 percent saying it is "very important" to deal with the issue and another 23 percent saying it is "somewhat important." A strong majority -- 77 percent -- said they would prefer even an imperfect solution to nothing at all.

A majority of those polled voiced support for the general principles of comprehensive immigration reform plans. Eighty percent supported the E-Verify program to check whether would-be employees are legally authorized to work in the U.S., and 78 percent supported a provision to allow legal status for undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children. Seventy-one percent of those polled supported an "earned pathway to citizenship." The poll found high support as well for increasing fines for employers who hire undocumented immigrants, upping border patrol and fencing, and allowing for more high-tech legal immigration.

In sum, 76 percent of those polled favored a pathway to citizenship, with 50 percent saying it should include substantial increases to border security and 26 percent saying they would support it without such measures. Seventeen percent opposed a pathway to citizenship in general, according to the poll.

The kind of reform that S 744 and HR 15 embody enjoys widespread popularity. So why is CIR still stuck in the deep, dark closet in the House (where bills are usually sent to die)?

Once again, the answer lies with the 21st Century Know Nothings. They simply don't want any kind of CIR. And because House Republican "leaders" fear a "TEA" powered coup, they are doing whatever they can to mollify the G-O-TEA Culture Warriors.

Yet while they're doing that, they're going against the wishes of the rest of the nation. And instead of seeing progress on this or any other issue, Congress is stuck on a hamster wheel of seemingly never ending manufactured crises. Any wonder why Congress is so unpopular right now?

Of course, they can do something about it. But of course, that means doing something. And that means Congressional Republican "leaders" will have to give up their "Do Nothing Strategy". And in the mean time, it means more House Republicans (cough- Joe Heck- cough) must speak up and encourage doing something.

Either this happens, or we're in for another year of nothing.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Signs All Around Us

As of late, we've been hearing about all sorts of "SCANDAL!!!" on Capitol Hill. Apparently, there's even an uproar over donuts. Yep, the desperate G-O-TEA search for anything to distract us from their failure to govern "SCANDAL!!!" continues.

Yet while many on Capitol Hill are fixated on the latest haute faux scandal(s), there's a very real scandal brewing dangerously close to home. Believe it or not, most states' disaster mitigation plans do not properly account for climate change. And sadly for us, Nevada is one of those states.

We should know better. After all, we've been experiencing epic drought and a frightening chain of major wildfires. It's become increasingly difficult to miss the signs of climate change emerging all around us.

Unfortunately, as many as 500,000 people in The Philippines are displaced as a result of Typhoon Haiyan. And at least 2,000 people have died. And the damage is not even over yet, as Haiyan is now hitting Vietnam and China.

The Philippines has endured a horrific wakeup call. And now, it's leaders want to wake us up.

"We cannot sit and stay helpless staring at this international climate stalemate. It is now time to take action. We need an emergency climate pathway," said Yeb Sano, head of the government's delegation to the UN climate talks, in an article for the Guardian, in which he challenged climate sceptics to "get off their ivory towers" to see the impacts of climate change firsthand.

Sano, whose family comes from the devastated town of Tacloban where the typhoon Haiyan made landfall on Friday, said that countries such as the Philippines did not have time to wait for an international climate deal, which countries have agreed to reach in Paris in 2015.

"What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness," he told delagates from 190 countries, as UN climate negotiations get underway for a fortnight today in Warsaw. "The climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness. Right here in Warsaw. Typhoons such as Haiyan and its impacts represent a sobering reminder to the international community that we cannot afford to procrastinate on climate action.

"Science tells us that simply, climate change will mean more intense tropical storms. As the Earth warms up, that would include the oceans. The energy that is stored in the waters off the Philippines will increase the intensity of typhoons and the trend we now see is that more destructive storms will be the new norm."

Whether it's an extreme super typhoon in The Philippines or extreme wildfires in the exurban fringes of Nevada's major population centers, we can see the signs all around us. So what will we do now? Unless we take serious action very soon, this climate crisis will only continue to worsen.

We can no longer afford to fret over imaginary threats to donuts while real people are harmed by real disasters. We can no longer afford to ignore the signs all around us. And we can no longer treat climate change like some esoteric topic to be left for debate societies to postulate on.

Be Productive.

Is it dead? Is it alive? Is it in limbo? Or is it just too hard for this Congress to swallow?

Of course, we're talking about the arduous journey of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) in the 113th Congress. CIR advocates refuse to give up. After all, they succeeded in securing the Senate's passage of S 744 in June. Yet when it comes to HR 15, it's yet to see the light of day on the House floor despite growing bipartisan support.

But now, a top Republican CIR supporter is preparing to admit defeat. Why?

"I agree with what they said that it's unlikely that it's going to happen in the remaining days this year,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Florida) said during an interview with Fusion’s Jorge Ramos. "And I also think that if we don't get it done by early next year, it's frankly—you know—potentially dead."

Diaz-Balart’s GOP colleagues have pumped the brakes on immigration reform in the House.

Leaders won’t take up a sweeping overhaul passed by the Senate in June. Moreover, they say no bill will get to the floor without the support of a majority of Republican lawmakers. That’s a tough task for the GOP conference, which is deeply divided over immigration.

He's only admitting to what his party's "leaders" have been signaling since July. As the G-O-TEA Civil War rages on, House Republican "leaders" fear the wrath of the 21st Century Know Nothings. And they actually seem to fear this more than losing future general elections. And that's led to this weird conundrum of some top Republicans pushing for CIR while others keep doing all they can to kill it.

Deep down, Rep. Diaz-Balart and other PRO CIR Republicans know that the only way CIR succeeds is if the House passes HR 15 like the Senate passed S 744 (in a truly comprehensive and bipartisan manner). But in order for that to happen, either House Republican "leaders" will have to show some leadership or more rank-and-file (cough- Joe Heck- cough) will have to stick their necks out in demanding a floor vote for HR 15.

Instead of wasting even more time on even more pointless crap, that lower House of Congress can actually be productive for a change. But if "leaders" there truly don't care about being productive, then they need to be prepared to live with the consequences in 2014 and 2016.

Reality Check

Over the weekend, something interesting happened. Jon Ralston announced his campaign for Governor. Wait... What??!!

Calm down. Ralston is not actually running for Governor next year. Rather, he was just fantasizing his ideal Gubernatorial Campaign. And he imagined a kick-off speech starting like this.

It’s time to believe in a new Nevada – a place where education is valued, where fair share really is fair and where silly tax pledges are replaced with thoughtful public policy.

We have been a state of half-measures – nay, quarter- or eighth-measures – for too long. When I hear the governor’s administration say it is pleased with this national education report card, I am shocked. And, yes, I am ashamed.

As we all should be. So far, so good.

Ralston's imaginary campaign kickoff speech also touched on the trap that the Governor and Legislature have always been falling into with each passing biennium. It's the same trap that manifested itself yet again during the 77th session of the Nevada Legislature earlier this year. And it's the same trap that only leads to even more trouble for this state.

So now, we're back at Square One. We're back at "Gov Rec" and everyone's favorite silly Sunset Taxes. And we're back to our regularly scheduled chronic underfunding of our public infrastructure.

Of course, Governor "Magic Man" is hailing this as a huge victory. And yes, it's a major political victory for him. But for the people of this state, it's another in a very long string of policy FAILs. The most "juiced up" corporate special interests will continue paying just above nothing while We the People continue to suffer overcrowded & dilapidated schools, severely strained health care, transportation in disrepair, and more.

But at least this time, we can still hold onto the promise of a better tomorrow. Sure, it won't actually come tomorrow. But with The Education Initiative on next year's general election ballot, We the People will finally have the opportunity to do what the Governor and many legislators simply refuse to do. We the People will finally have the chance to begin fixing our anachronous, broken tax system while also mending our tattered social safety net. And frankly, it's long past time for We the People to carpe diem.

Oh, yes. That's right. We went there... In May.

And frankly, that's the truth. The only way we will accomplish meaningful tax reform in the immediate future is by passing The Education Initiative (TEI) next year.

But of course, here's where Ralston & I part ways.

The margin tax, which the governor makes sound like the apocalypse, is not the answer. But who can blame anyone for supporting it because of the governor no-tax pledge, which has as many asterisks as the baseball record book, the Legislature’s serial inaction, compounded by buck-passing "enabling" tax measures.

I have thought long and hard about this, and I will not vote for the margin tax. Setting tax policy at the ballot box is a terrible last resort, and I’m here to tell you I have another plan.

This is perhaps the wildest fantasy in Ralston's fantasy campaign speech. Frankly, there is no other realistic plan for actual tax reform. Governor Brian Sandoval (R-Denial) isn't offering one, and we've yet to see a Democratic challenger emerge with one.

So where does that leaves us. It leaves us with three letters... And a certain 2014 ballot initiative.

Yes, "ballot box budgeting" can be messy. I know from personal experience. Ralston seems to buy into Pete Ernaut's spin... Even though he's had to admit that what just happened was a complete clusterf**k!

For all the wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth over the fears of California style direct democracy coming to Nevada, we must ask this: Is it really a bad thing? California now has a budget surplus and additional education funding thanks to Prop 30. And Prop 30 was pursued because an extreme obstructionist minority refused to cooperate on realistic budget solutions. [...]

Sure, in an ideal world, this wouldn't have to happen. However, we're not in an ideal world. We're in Nevada. In order to make this state a better place, we must build a more stable and diversified economy. And in order to do that, we must better invest in our public infrastructure. And if the Governor and Legislature can't act to make that happen, then we the people must.

I wrote those words in March. I stick by those words now. And I'll likely be repeating these same words throughout 2014.

Sure, Ralston has a point about this not being an ideal situation. Honestly, it's not. We elect legislators and a Governor to enact budgets and determine state funding.

But really, is the status quo an ideal situation? Come on, we all know the honest answer to that. (Which is: Hell, no!)

In an ideal world, TEI would have never gone as far as it has. However, we don't live in an ideal world We live in 2014 Nevada with a tax code still stuck in 1864.

This is why TEI will be on our ballot next year. Our state's "political elite" are in sore need of a cold, hard reality check. And right now, the only way for that reality check to arrive in Carson City is if the voters deliver it directly to them in November 2014.

While Ralston's weekend column made for a nice fantasy, it's time for a reality check. And yes, it's time for TEI.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Face the Future

Here he goes again. Senator Harry Reid (D-Fierce) has been on a roll lately. And he still isn't letting up.

In recent years, he's come around to not only accept LGBTQ Nevadans, but also work hard on a number of LGBTQ civil rights issues. He's evolved on marriage equality. He played a major role in ending the military's ban on out servicemembers. And now, Senator Harry Reid is taking on ENDA.

This morning, The New York Times ran an interesting story on the role various Mormon Senators have had in ENDA's successful Senate passage yesterday. It ended with these words from Senator Reid.

In an interview on Thursday, he recalled how he once considered sexual orientation “kind of an environmental thing,” but said he later realized that orientation was not in fact a choice.

He has a lesbian niece who he said had “helped us work our way through the issues.” He recalled having two neighbors in Nevada he always called “the bachelors.” Thinking of them now, he said, he realizes they must have been gay. “Let’s assume they got married. What difference would it make to me and my family? Zero. None. None,” Mr. Reid said.

He has already been to two same-sex weddings this year, including one where he gave a toast to the grooms.

Mormons, who have seen their own share of bias, should be especially sensitive, he said. “I would think that members of the church should understand that one of the things that should be paramount in their minds,” he said, “is how they’ve been treated.”

While he hasn't evolved quite as much as Senator Reid, Senator Dean Heller (R) did ultimately carry ENDA over the finish line this month. And he wasn't alone. 9 other Senate Republicans contributed to that wide 64-32 ENDA win. Even next door neighbor Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) voted for ENDA.

So why are House Republican "leaders" so adamant in halting ENDA's progress there? We've been exploring this sordid situation all this week. And today, Salon's Brian Beutler has something to add to this.

[ENDA] passed [the Senate], yes. But the majority of Republicans continue to support the proposition that employers should be allowed to fire (or refuse to hire) people on the basis of their sexual orientations. And all but two Senate Republicans voted for an amendment that would have created a loophole in the bill big enough to drive the Westboro Baptist Church through. After it failed, only ten broke ranks to help pass the final Senate legislation. Eight of them were among the same members of the GOP conference who helped pass immigration reform legislation earlier this year.

This splinter group of Senate Republicans recognizes that the right can’t fight the changing demographic tide any longer. But they haven’t won that argument with the rest of the party. In fact, they are House Speaker John Boehner’s second biggest problem. Every politically potent piece of legislation they help Democrats pass paints him deeper into a corner. It clarifies that he, and House Republicans generally, stand alone in the way of efforts to improve the lives of constituencies that Republicans know they can’t keep alienating — minorities, women, immigrants, the LGBT community.

And that brings us back to the issue at heart. There may actually be enough House votes to pass ENDA in that chamber. But because Speaker John Boehner (R-Scared) fears the wrath of the 21st Century Know Nothings, he won't allow a floor vote. And the Culture War that's become the G-O-TEA Civil War rages on.

We've seen the likes of Senator Reid and President Obama evolve on LGBTQ civil rights. The whole nation has been doing that for some time. Yet because some Republicans still don't want to evolve into the future, ENDA is stuck.

This isn't sustainable. Americans don't get it. Sooner or later, Republican "leaders" will have to face the future.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

On Notice

Just who is he paying attention to? So far, he seems to be rejecting Senator Harry Reid's (D) helpful advice on how to be more productive. So just who is House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) listening to?

Here's a hint: King of Crazy. Oh, yes. That's right. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) is still calling the shots.

"John Boehner has been stronger throughout this partial shutdown and the debt ceiling than most everybody thought he would be. He did serve to unify the conference better than I thought," King said in an interview with Newsmax.

But King, a staunch opponent of immigration reform, said he may feel differently about Boehner's future if the speaker pushes for a vote on comprehensive immigration reform.

"We'll have to see how the future issues play out," King said. "For example, if immigration comes before the House, it would be the most divisive thing that could be brought up by Republicans in the House. Then I would have a different answer to that question."

Again, this is why we had to endure that 17 day long manufactured crisis full of unnecessary drama. And this is why comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) is still going nowhere in the House despite easy Senate passage. House Republican "leaders" are too afraid to lead.

There's ample evidence that CIR can pass the House if it's given a floor vote. That's why three House Republicans have broken the G-O-TEA party line to cosponsor HR 15. And that's why SEIU just dropped a new ad here in Southern Nevada. Once again, Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) is on notice.

As we had discussed earlier, civil rights is the issue at heart of the current G-O-TEA Civil War. Passing CIR would make a major difference in helping the Republican Party become more compatible with 21st Century America. But as long as they continue taking orders from the 21st Century Know Nothings, nothing will be accomplished.

So now, CIR advocates have no choice but to put Republican Congresscritters on notice... Especially the ones who have yet to match their pro-reform rhetoric with actual votes (cough- Joe Heck- cough). Steve King may be relishing the great accomplishment of nothing, but the rest of America demands action.

Issue at Heart

Here's a news flash from the Department of the Painfully Obvious. In the wake of the recent Pat Hickey, Jim Wheeler, and Washoe County Republican Party follies, the Nevada Republican Party is enduring another restless round of soul-searching. And yet again, a great divide is forming on the right.

Oh, and the s**t is really starting to hit the fan... And land into the local media.

“I was so incensed I couldn’t even believe it,” [Washoe County Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler] said Wednesday. “I get angry at the Washoe (Republican) Party. Taber and Dickman were sitting, listening and neither one said, ‘Wait a minute. We have some really good women in public office.’ ” [...]

“Their comments do not reflect the vast majority of men and women in our party,” she wrote. “I was proud to work on the campaign of the late Congresswoman Barbara Vucanovich. Back then, I saw what the Republican Party looked like. We were the party that encouraged women to work and run for office.”

Eric Herzik, the chairman of the political science department at the University of Nevada, Reno and a Republican, said establishment members of the GOP such as Sandoval and Heller are pushing back against state and county GOP officials who have aligned closer to the conservative tea party movement.

“This has been around for a while,” Herzik said. “It’s not something new. What you are starting to see is ... people like Sandoval and people who were aligned with (the late state Sen. Bill) Raggio who have just been vilified by the Tea Party folks.”

This was bound to happen. Republicans here and nationally have been struggling... With each other. The Great G-O-TEA Civil War of 2013 continues ro rage on. And it continues to cause Republican politicians to utter words and cast votes that cause their campaign managers to reach for the extra strength Pepto Bismol.

And of course, all this G-O-TEA angst has led to the stalling of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) in Congress. Never mind that the Senate already passed a bipartisan CIR bill in June. Because the 21st Century Know Nothings don't want to believe reality, House Republican "leaders" are pretending that big, bipartisan Senate CIR vote never happened.

Is ENDA about to meet the same fate? The workplace anti-discrimination bill secured final Senate passage just moments ago. The vote was 64-32.

But already, House Republican "leaders" are threatening to do to ENDA what they're doing to CIR. That's why Senator Harry Reid (D-Fierce) has been so quick to fight back. Earlier this week, he made a very personal case for the House to finish what the Senate started.

“For me to feel any differently about this, they wouldn’t feel proud of their grandfather,” Reid said. “It’s just with my five children, it’s a non-issue, but for my three adult grandchildren, it’s a non-non-non-issue. They can’t imagine why anyone gives a damn.”

Reid disclosed in an earlier conversation with reporters that he had a lesbian niece. Asked whether he had spoken to her since Senate movement on ENDA, Reid said he hadn’t.

“She called me, left a message when we were able to open the government,” Reid said. “She’s, of course, proud of her uncle. But she and I don’t need to dwell on the issue, she’s just like everybody else.”

This is the issue at heart of this whole G-O-TEA Culture War. Queer people exist. And so do women who work. And so do Latin@ American families. These are the fabrics that make the beautiful quilt that is America today.

The likes of Pat Hickey and Jim Wheeler and the Washoe Republican Party chiefs are only looking at the political short term. They're only trying to please the immediate desires of the 21st Century Know Nothings. They're missing the big picture of what their party has to do in order to remain relevant in 21st Century America. And of course, they're encouraging their party to continue missing opportunities to actually help people and do the right thing.

This is the issue at heart of all the recent Nevada Republican controversies. And it will take more than just a few cosmetic enhancements to actually fix this problem.