Thursday, January 30, 2014

Reform for Real

Earlier this month, Las Vegas Country Club experienced quite a lot of action. House Speaker John Boehner (R-¡Díos Mio!) had come to town to raise money for Rep. Joe Heck (R-¿Por qué?). And a whole lot of frustrated constituents were outside to ask them why they couldn't get their house of Congress working on anything worthwhile for a change.

Did that strike (some more) fear in the heart of Speaker Boehner? All of a sudden, his "leadership team" will release principles for immigration reform".

Oh, really. So what might be in those "principles"? Whatever they are, they're not real comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). After all, this is the same line that Speaker Boehner has used before for the past year. And it's the same line Rep. Joe Heck used last summer in an attempt to quell local demands for CIR.

What has their preferred "step by step" approach delivered so far? Nothing, other than a House passed amendment to deport DREAMers. So why are we supposed to believe differently this time, especially when the 21st Century Know Nothings are already mobilizing to kill whatever bill House Republican "leaders" ultimately settle upon?

The G-O-TEA Civil War is probably set to worsen in the coming days. And if Speaker Boehner indeed vows to double down on his "principles", those "principles" will only succeed in killing CIR for the foreseeable future. Is that the real goal here? Are these "principles" just another attempt to deflect blame onto someone else?

There's a reason why Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-No Really, He's Still There!) is quietly suggesting that Republicans stop fighting CIR. And there's a reason why HR 15 has 3 Republican cosponsors. And there's a reason why S 744 attracted the support of Senator Dean Heller (R-Sí, Se Puede).

Here's a hint: The status quo has failed us. Too many American families are being torn apart. And too many economic opportunities are being missed. So why waste any more time trying to prop up the status quo?

Sure, House Republican "leaders" now want us to believe they have "principles for immigration reform". But why are we supposed to believe them if they keep rejecting the one feasible path for real reform? Here's some advice for them: Don't tell us. Show us.

Not the ENDA It

Today, we're supposed to believe House Republican "leaders" are all too willing to "work with President Obama" on a "number of issues". It just so happens that the "number of issues" that House "leaders" want to "work with President Obama" on are the very ("TEA" flavored) issues that the President has vowed to veto and the Senate simply won't pass (so they never even have a chance of reaching President Obama's desk). So much for that "Republican spirit of cooperation".

But wait, there's more! House Speaker John Boehner (R-Country Club) really wants everyone in America to know just how willing he is to work with the President. And how so? Oh, he's just promised again to block legislation that would give LGBTQ workers a fair shake.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told attendees last week at his first-ever meeting with the LGBT Equality Caucus there was “no way” the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would pass this year, according to a gay lawmaker who attended the meeting.

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), who’s gay and one of the caucus co-chairs, volunteered information Tuesday night about the meeting in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol when the Washington Blade asked him about his views on the absence of the ENDA from the State of the Union address.

“A number of us did meet with, actually the caucus met with Speaker Boehner,” Takano said. “He said no way was it going to get done in this session.”

Once again, we're seeing "Republican rebranding" at its finest. We're supposed to be wowed by the fact that Speaker Boehner actually meeting with the House LGBT Equality Caucus for the first time ever. What he failed to realize is that actions speak louder than words. And when even the words sound awful, that just worsens the problem.

Why are we supposed to believe Speaker Boehner's promises to cooperate with The White House and the Senate when he refuses to cooperate with them on bipartisan legislation like ENDA. It not only passed the Senate last November, but did so on a solid 64-32 bipartisan vote that included the likes of Senator Dean Heller (R-Remember Him?). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Fierce) has already offered Speaker Boehner one sickening olive branch. Why is Boehner so quick to throw it back, and do so with so much shade?

It's not as if ENDA has no chance of passing passing the House if it were allowed a floor vote. Au contraire, the bill now has 200 cosponsors in the House! Just this week, the now (in)famous Michael Grimm (R-Ummm, He's No Pushover?) became the 200th overall cosponsor and 6th Republican cosponsor. Why wouldn't Speaker Boehner bring to the floor a bill with this much bipartisan support in both houses of Congress?

Is he truly having trouble with "basic plumbing lessons"? Does he actually believe freedom from wrongful discrimination is "unnecessary"? Or is he really so afraid of the 21st Century Know Nothings that he'll scuttle yet another bipartisan backed bill in another desperate, futile attempt to placate them?

Whatever the case, this isn't the end of ENDA... Far from it.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words.

Last week, we looked at the increasingly evident failure of the Republican Party's "rebranding campaign". Even as party "leaders" have attempted to "soften their image" and "change the optics" of the Republican brand, the 21st Century Know Nothings have been pulling G-O-TEA politicians in the opposite direction. And so far, it looks like the 21st Century Know Nothings have the upper hand.

Case in point: Sharron Angle. She refuses to go away. Instead, she's become the de facto leader of Nevada Republicans. And now that she's hawking a brand new voter ID voter suppression initiative, Nevada Republicans will have an even harder time trying to convince minority voters that they "care about all Nevadans" and actually care about earning their votes. Why bother with that when Sharron Angle can just prevent them from voting in the first place?

And that brings us back to Sue Wagner. Her departure from the Republican Party should serve as a wake-up call. Once upon a time, she was considered to be the rising star most likely to become Nevada's first female Governor. But now, she's just another example of Republicans' rebranding FAIL.

On Tuesday, Republican "leaders" were hoping that Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' (R-Washington) "official Republican response" (as opposed to all the other ones) would help quell all the talk of their party's "rebranding" failure. Instead, it's been overshadowed by this Republican response.

Rep. Michael Grimm's shocking, violent confrontation of a reporter has not just turned the media's attention to Grimm's own troubled past, but also to the Republican Party's troubled present. This week was supposed to be all about the "new face of the party". Yet ironically enough, the "new faces" shown this week look an awful lot like the old ones we've come to recognize.

This week, the usual crew of "Republican leaders" are claiming their party is not trying to shove some crazed Culture War down Americans' throats, the critical mass of their own party continue to prove the opposite. After all, actions speak louder than words.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Justin Time

Normally, we don't wade into stories like this one. But today, we must. Why? You'll understand later.

Last week, the world was shocked when Miami Beach police arrested Justin Bieber for drag racing (obviously not the legal kind!), drunk driving, and driving without a license. While many people weren't shocked by another incident of "Bieber Behaving Badly", they were shocked by the emerging possibility of Justin Bieber facing deportation. Wait... What??!!

No really, it's a possibility. While it's not looking likely just yet, that equation may change depending on how many criminal offenses the young pop star is convicted of. And why is that? He's a Canadian citizen who's living in the US on a special work visa mean for immigrants with "special talent(s) in the performing arts". And now, President Obama will have to answer a petition on calling for Bieber's deportation.

In case you haven't figured it out yet, here's where we pivot back to important policy. While the growing debate over Justin Bieber has brought more attention to Justin Bieber, it's also managed to return attention to the one issue House Speaker John Boehner (R-Sunny D) has tried so hard to spin far away from Capitol Hill. This is the same issue that President Obama brought to attention (again) during his State of the Union address last night.

And this is the same issue that G-O-TEA backbenchers like Rep. Joe Heck (R-Remember That Dude?) have been attempting to have both ways on. They've said they want reform. But when push comes to shove, they quickly run away to their favorite political "safe place"... You know, somewhere like good ol' "BENGHAZIEEEEEEEE!!!!!"

But now, this actually important issue is back at center stage. And to a certain extent, we can thank Justin Bieber for it. (Snark?)

Here's what's so jarring about what's happening this week. Justin Bieber isn't in jail now, unlike the many immigrants who are sent to Henderson Detention Center for less severe charges. And he has a very expensive and juiced-up legal team representing him in court, unlike the many immigrants who can't afford any legal representation. And he's a celebrity who easily commands media attention, unlike the millions of American families who live in constant fear of being torn apart.

While it's unclear how much more executive power President Obama can wield over immigration policy, it's crystal clear that the G-O-TEA run House has failed to do what most House members probably support, the vast majority of Americans definitely support, the Senate already passed last year, and the President wants to sign into law this year.

So what's the wait? When will be a better time to finally get this done? However one feels about Justin Bieber, it's critical to remember that his legal saga only touches the surface of the mountain of reasons why Congress can't avoid comprehensive immigration reform.

Troubled State of Their Disunion

Once upon a time, the State of Nevada elected its very first female Lieutenant Governor. Her name was Sue Wagner. And she had previously made history HERstory by working across the aisle on a number of issues affecting women & children during her service in the Nevada Legislature.

Unfortunately, Sue Wagner's political career was cut short just as it was starting to take off. Why? She was a victim of a horrifying plane crash near Fallon on Labor Day in 1990. Though she survived that crash and was elected Lt. Governor later that fall, her subsequent health problems prevented her from running for elected office again.

But now, Sue Wagner is making headlines and rocking Nevada's political scene yet again. How so? This time, it's for different reasons. And this time, it's due to the (failing) health of the Republican Party.

Just as President Obama was giving his State of the Union speech last night, the Reno Gazette Journal's Ray Hagar dropped this bomb from Sue Wagner.

Wagner, 73, registered as a nonpartisan voter a few days ago and said she’ll miss is voting in the primary election.

Wagner said she has grown tired of the GOP’s shift to the far right.

“I did it as a symbol, I guess, that I do not like the Republican Party and what they stand for today,” Wagner said. “I’ve been a Republican all my life. My dad was active (in the GOP) in the state of Maine where I was born. It was more of a moderate, liberal Republican Party.”

“It’s grown so conservative and tea-party orientated and I just can’t buy into that,” Wagner said. “I’ve left the Republican Party and it’s left me, at the same time.”

And speaking of the State of the Union, Republicans tried to spin away their own War on Women with a response from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington). And how did that go? Let's just say that in the future, we'll probably be talking more about last night's other Republican responses.

And then, there's this "pre-buttal response" to the Republican responses from Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman (R). She didn't even try mincing words when she described the troubled state of her party.

It's hard for me to phrase this politely. Sometimes Republicans think that just putting a woman up front means somehow that women are going to feel good about the party. It is not about the messenger. It's about the message. And until we figure that one out, while it's nice that we have a woman as a spokesperson, if the message itself doesn't get changed a bit, it's not going to work. But I think it is an attempt to say we've got prominent, articulate women, and she will certainly fill that role. And that's great. But that's not going to be enough to win over women at the polls. [...]

We should stop doing things like putting up another anti-abortion thing, and constantly trying to fight against the ability under the new healthcare law to provide birth control for women. If we really care about less government, let's get them out of the bedroom. Let's not say things like, “A woman's libido needs to have government there to help control it.” That kind of thing just reaffirms a sort of condescending attitude toward women.


Oh, and here's another big ouch. In 1990, Sue Wagner led the fight for Question 7, which sealed in place Nevada's abortion laws. And in 1995, national Republicans tapped then-Governor Christine Todd Whitman to deliver the Republican response to then-President Bill Clinton's State of the Union address. Would today's Republican Party allow such prominent roles for outspoken, pro-choice, non-"TEA" drinking women as Christine Todd Whitman, Sue Wagner, Dema Guinn, and Dawn Gibbons?

Both Wagner and Whitman remind us of the real problem facing today's Republican Party. And no, it can't be solved by simply tapping some woman to deliver one of the Republican #SOTU responses. (Nowadays, Republicans have several of them.) Rather, it's a severe policy problem in need of a serious policy answer.

Most Americans may very well soon forget what Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said last night. However, it will be much harder for Americans to forget what Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said last week about "Uncle Sugar", "libido", and contraception.

And why is that? Just look at what Republicans in Congress continue wasting their time on. And no matter how often they take to the media to deny their War on Women, they continue waging war on women by advancing extreme anti-choice policies. And they only make their own matters worse by provoking fights over issues like the definition of rape and working mothers.

Once upon a time, women like Sue Wagner had a place to call home in the Republican Party. Now, they don't. And if Republicans continue to ignore the troubled state of their disunion, they're doomed to make it even worse.

Step Into the Future

We've said this before. And we'll say this again today. In order to solve the great crises that climate change, we must start with some simple steps.

Perhaps President Obama has been thinking about this. Last night, he surprised many media pundits with his climate proposals during his State of the Union address.

The President aggressively defended his administration's new rules on power plant emissions, then vowed to step up his administration's fuel efficiency standards for trucks. And he flat out rejected the climate denialism that continues to pollute the halls of Congress. The President made it clear that America can't afford to waste any more time trying to dismiss proven science, and that our time will be much better spent pursuing a smarter energy future.

So what about that smarter energy future? Will the President's plan live up to last night's hype? Well, it's complicated. While he indeed made a cogent case for climate action last night, he also somewhat negated his own message by reiterating his support for an "all of the above" strategy.

Can we truly afford "all of the above"? The US is currently ranked 43rd in the world in climate policy effectiveness. Last year was one of the hottest on record. And the UN Climate Chief has recently declared global renewable energy investment must triple in order to meet global greenhouse has emissions targets. Can we truly afford an "all of the above" strategy that includes dirty fossil fuels?

Contrary to inaccurate media reports, the renewable energy sector is humming along quite well. If anything, the fossil fuel industry keeps running into more trouble. So why continue propping it up with an "all of the above" strategy and with rules that favor fossil fuel conglomerates over renewables?

Instead of "all of the above", we need the best of the above. And that means we must invest more in the energy of the future. That also means we must be more efficient with the energy we already have.

Overall, this administration has made progress on climate change. It's even managed to do so despite a recalcitrant Congress. It would be horrifically tragic if that progress is offset by additional efforts to "Drill Baby Drill" into the dark money pit of fossil fuels. We need to finally break from that dirty past and step into the future.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tonight's Challenge

It's that time of the year again. We're about to end the first month of the new year. And we're entering the sixth year of Barack Obama's Presidency.

So of course, we will all be treated to another State of the Union address. So what will be in tonight's speech? And what should President Obama say to Congress & to the American people?

Does the President need to directly confront Republican "leaders" over their record of indulging G-O-TEA obstruction fantasies? Does he need to "go big" and offer bold policy proposals that will probably never pass through this Congress? Or does he need to go beyond just the reputation of the 113th Congress?

Every so often, we're reminded that economic inequality remains a serious problem. And not only is it just any problem, but it's a particularly dangerous threat to the future of this nation. Why? Our economy is built on the foundation of a solid middle class. Without that, we've lost the foundation.

And now, that foundation is more unstable than ever before. And even more attacks to that foundation lie ahead. As Congress continues to tear into the very social safety net meant to keep Americans out of poverty, more Americans are now at risk of falling deep into poverty.

To be fair, not all the news on this front is bad. Thanks to Obamacare (aka the ACA), the poorest Americans will see their incomes rise due to health care savings. Lower unemployment obviously means more people are working today (than during the depths of the Great Recession 5 years ago). Hard fought tax reform in recent years is resulting in a more progressive tax system. And if President Obama indeed vows to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors, that will help in reducing extreme poverty & inequality.

Still, there's far more to do to restore the foundation of America's economy... And the American people's trust in it. That's tonight's challenge for the President. Can he rise to this occasion?

Double Down?

Last week, it was thrust back into the spotlight. A state and a hospital were refusing to grant a woman her last wish. A former Governor declared that women must do better at "controlling their libidos". And a number of G-O-TEA pundits (including a couple former Members of Congress) have resorted to blaming women for everything from extramarital affairs to "bad parenting" (for daring to work outside the home).

Oh, yes. That's right. The G-O-TEA War on Women rages on, and it shows no signs of letting up any time soon.

Not only have they been sinking to new lows to attack progressives who dare to challenge their assertion that "family values" require devaluing women, but they're even resorting to attacking their own. Why? Even when they claim the War on Women is over, they keep fighting. Why is that? Why are they so determined to insult American women again and again and again and again?

Is this what we're to expect from the Republican Party going forward? Is this the inevitable conclusion of their "rebranding campaign"?

But on the self-pitying right, you can never lose by blaming the media for coddling awful Democrats. [Senator Rand] Paul’s [R-Kentucky] brilliant declaration about women winning the war on women was likewise fact-challenged and paranoid. “I don’t see so much that women are downtrodden. I see women rising up and doing great things,” he told David Gregory. “In fact, I worry about our young men sometimes because I think the women are out-competing the men in our world.”

Never mind that women still make less than men and are more likely to live in poverty. Even more cruelly, the man who opposes legal abortion and the contraception-coverage mandate also suggested last Thursday that women who have “too many” children should lose welfare support. “Maybe we have to say, ‘Enough’s enough, you shouldn’t be having kids after a certain amount,’” Paul said Thursday. He backed off a bit on CNN Sunday morning, telling Candy Crowley: “I mused about how you’d have a government policy, but I actually came down saying it would be very difficult to have a government policy,” Paul said.

Only last week reasonably smart people declared that Paul was the beneficiary of Chris Christie’s implosion. The Atlantic’s Peter Beinart called him the new “front-runner,” and Andrew Sullivan endorsed Beinart’s piece, tweeting, “Those who dismiss Rand Paul’s chances are missing something, I think — a revival of true small-gov’t conservatism.”

Believe it or not, Rand Paul now stands a real chance at becoming Republicans' 2016 Presidential Nominee. It remains to be seen whether his recent War on Women remarks will make more Republicans uncomfortable with his likely candidcacy... Or if this will only strengthen his appeal with the 21st Century Know Nothings who comprise the base of today's Republican Party.

And it remains to be seen how much longer these G-O-TEA politicians will continue their War on Women. Will they ever realize the folly of antagonizing over 50% of the nation? Or will they try doubling down (yet again) all the way to Las Vegas in 2016?

Monday, January 27, 2014

There's More to That FAIL

Last Wednesday, we couldn't help but chuckle a bit (actually, quite a lot) over the State of Nevada's absolutely batshit crazy eye-popping brief to the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in the latest round of Sevcik v. Sandoval. It went to great lengths to defend the state’s history of "promoting traditional marriage", even though our state's history has proven anything but that. Oh, and it also took outrageous and downright nonsensical detours into the territory of incest and bigotry.

And now, it's close to ending a political career. And surprisingly (actually, not really), it's not Governor Brian Sandoval's (R-Still Unaware That It's 2014). Perhaps because he was expected to do something this stupid, he hasn't received much blowback (other than from yours truly here).

Instead, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D-??!!) looks to be receiving quite the farewell party from Carson City. Why? Her office went along with Sandoval's request for this brief. And nearly everyone expected better from her.

Her office initially suggested she was just "following orders". Really? So "following orders" is more important than paying attention to what's actually in the US Constitution? Keep in mind that the first and foremost duty of Attorneys General is to protect & defend the Constitution.

So why didn't Catherine Cortez Masto remember her own oath of office? Why did our Attorney General just go along with the Governor? And why is either one of them bothering to defend an indefensible denial of civil rights? Both are trained lawyers, and Sandoval previously served as Attorney General before being appointed as a federal judge.

While I don't always see eye to eye with Jon Ralston, he's totally correct on this case. Both the Governor and the Attorney General blew it when they decided to defend discrimination & inequality rather than remember their own oaths of office. And ironically enough, whatever political calculation they made to do this has only resulted in a major "EPIC FAIL" moment and one hell of a backfire.

The Reality of Gun Violence

2013 was a memorable year for numerous reasons. Perhaps one of the saddest reasons was the increasing frequency of mass shootings. And already, 2014 is off to an incredibly dangerous start.

From movie theaters to restaurants to neighborhood strip malls and even the famous Las Vegas Strip, the fear of gun violence penetrated deep into our daily lives. Even our schools have sometimes transformed into armed battlefields.

So what can we do about this? How can we reverse this alarming trend? This is what several Nevadans discussed during a special summit on gun violence prevention that was hosted by the Center for American Progress and ProgressNow Nevada.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

When we talk about gun violence, we often encounter a number of misconceptions and wrong assumptions. One is that the debate is between "big guv'mint loony lib'rul gun grabbbers" and "gun totin' freedom lovin' conservatives". Unlike the caricatures we see in the media and from certain politicians, reality doesn't resemble the simple caricatures. And local gun owner Dwayne Morton came to the summit to explain this to the audience.

Actually, most gun owners support common sense efforts to reduce gun violence. Don't believe us? Believe this new PPP poll. Overall, 78% of Nevadans support expanding background checks for gun purchases. And 54% of that sample were gun owners.

So why do many in the media still resort to inaccurate caricatures when talking about gun violence? That's a good question. And it's one that Peter Ambler inadvertently brought to the forefront during his presentation. Before he went to work at Americans for Responsible Solutions, he started working for (then) Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona) just days before she was shot at the Tucson massacre.

Both Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, are gun owners. Giffords even enjoyed favorable grades from the NRA during her service in Congress. So what changed? They became victims of gun violence, and they later concluded that America is ready to move beyond the inaccurate caricatures and have a real discussion on the reality of gun violence.

Of course, the reality of gun violence isn't limited to other states. It's also come home to Nevada, and we can no longer ignore the dangerous consequences of inaction.

That's why ProgressNow Nevada's Annette Magnus & Teresa Crawford took to the stage at the summit. They reminded the audience of what occurred in Downtown Las Vegas on January 4, 2010. Security officer Stanley Cooper and US Marshal Richard Gardner were shot on duty at the Lloyd George Federal Building. Johnny Lee Wicks shot both of them with a gun he purchased without a background check at a gun show. Gardner ultimately survived the attack, but Cooper passed away.

Sadly, tragedies like this have become all too common in Nevada and throughout the nation. Believe it or not, 20 kids are hospitalized every day on average in this nation due to firearms injuries. And domestic violence victims now face more danger due to easy & lax gun laws (which allow abusers to access firearms).

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

The reality of gun violence isn't sexy. It isn't always simple. It's never really limited to just "over there" and/or "not here". And it should never be forced into false caricatures.

Last year, very basic gun safety reform proposals were on the table in Congress and the Nevada Legislature. Both were ultimately smothered to death by the gun lobby. And we're all still living the consequences of that.

The reality of gun violence is quite lethal, yet it can be changed. Are we willing to change it? Are we ready to save lives? This is reality, but it doesn't have to remain this way.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Little Resolution That Could

Normally, Nevada State Democratic Party Central Committee meetings are not exciting. There are no conspiracy theories. There are no endorsement hijinks. And there are no ideological "purity" battles that are part of a larger intra-party civil war.

No, Nevada Democrats typically don't have to worry about that kind of drama. But yesterday, something interesting happened. An uprising occurred. A grassroots movement was heard. And once the voting was done, something surprisingly wound up with the party's seal of approval.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Yesterday, the state party had a resolution to vote on. And it wasn't just any resolution. This was to have the party formally endorse The Education Initiative (TEI).

Oh, yes. That's right. The party was confronted with the very initiative most state legislators didn't want to confront at all.

But yesterday, everyone at Central Committee had to confront reality. And the one & only Dan Hart (from the TEI campaign) showed up to start the reality check.

He attempted a "pre-buttal" of opponents' arguments that TEI is some "job killing TAX!!!" and/or "flawed measure" that's "poorly designed". If the "low tax/no tax" official mantra of this state really works in creating jobs and building a good economy, then why isn't it working? And if TEI is such a "flawed measure", then why has no one else offered a realistic alternative tax plan?

And that returned the audience's attention to the other elephant in the room: the many broken promises of tax reform. Some opponents of the resolution even seemed to agree with TEI supporters that public education is "grossly underfunded" in this state. But then, they pivoted to argue that TEI is somehow "fatally flawed" and/or "job killing" and/or "too divisive for the party to take sides on". And some suggested that we just nip this inconvenient initiative in the bud so Carson City can have a chance to get it right next time.

And that's when the fireworks really blasted off. Local parent Erin Neff reminded the audience of what's happened every time we left this to Carson City. (Here's a hint: Nothing.) She also called on the Democrats in the room to remember their party's spirit of social justice & platform of progressive values.

Throughout the day, opponents of the pro-TEI resolution tried just about every parliamentary tactic available to sink it. They asked to delay the vote until the June (state party) convention because "we need more information". They called for a vote to move it to the platform committee so it can be "considered there" until the June convention. They even attempted to nullify the results when their motion to move the TEI resolution to the platform committee narrowly failed.

Despite all the attempts to manipulate Robert's Rules of Order into killing the pro-TEI resolution, education activists refused to relent. Even as the Central Committee meeting dragged on and people were becoming frustrated & exhausted, activists managed to keep enough members in the room to defeat all the hostile amendments and motions. And finally, local teacher Lisa Muntean channeled her inner "Norma Rae" and made a compelling, passionate case for the resolution (and for TEI).

Needless to say, it worked. After a dragged out battle over Skype spanning from the IBEW 357 union hall in Las Vegas to the Washoe County Democratic Party headquarters in Reno, the Nevada State Democratic Party Central Committee voted 92-78 to endorse TEI. Despite all the big money and numerous parliamentary maneuvers used to stop this little resolution that could, it nonetheless passed.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

And now, the Nevada State Democratic Party is on record supporting a ballot initiative based on a tax reform plan that Democratic leaders in Carson City proposed less than three years ago. And it's a plan that's far from "extreme". And it's only going to voters this year because a critical mass of citizens finally became sick & tired of the status quo in Carson City.

It remains to be seen where this little resolution that could will go next. Perhaps it will give hope to the little ballot initiative that could? At the very least, it's reminding Nevada Democrats that a little excitement at Central Committee meetings isn't always a bad thing.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Necessity of Simple Steps

Feeling the heat yet? We all are, really. According to NASA, 2013 was the 7th hottest year on record. And according to NOAA, last year was the 4th hottest on record. Whoever is closer to the truth here, it's undeniable that 2013 was one brutally hot year.

And already, the meteorological drama continues in 2014. Just next door, California has declared an emergency due to extreme drought. Meanwhile on the other end of the nation, Winter Storm Janus is dropping even more heavy snow in a region that's still trying to dig out of the last couple of massive snowstorms. And throughout the world, Dust-Bowl-ification may already be worsening food insecurity and political instability.

There's no denying the real danger of climate change. It's here, and it's already begun to wreak havoc around the world and here at home. And this is why calls to action are being made everywhere from Davos to DC.

When we look at climate change and examine ways to solve this growing crisis, we often discuss broad, global solutions. But today, we're thinking globally... And acting locally. And climate solutions can truly start with simple moves like changing light bulbs and improving home insulation.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

This is what local Sierra Club organizers and volunteers were talking about last night as they were looking at the next steps to take to finally move Beyond Coal and into a cleaner & greener energy future. While solving climate change as a whole may seem like a daunting task ahead, taking simple steps to improve energy efficiency really isn't difficult. And if we're to ever start saving our own behinds, we must start with those simple steps.

Fortunately, Nevada made some major steps in that cleaner & greener direction last year when the Legislature and NV Energy agreed to SB 123. Finally, the infamous Reid-Gardner Coal Plant on Moapa Paiute tribal land would be retired while NV Energy invests in more locally produced renewable energy.

However, the twisted saga of Reid-Gardner isn't over quite yet. Last night, Moapa Paiute Tribal Council Member Vickie Simmons talked of the new challenge being posed by natural gas (power plant) developers.

As we've discussed before, natural gas is far from ideal. It isn't completely "clean". And it won't magically make all pollution and climate change go away.

This is why local Sierra Club organizer Elspeth DiMarzio moved on to explain the mechanics and the necessity of energy efficiency.

Again, these seem to be simple steps we can all make. However, they're more than just that. They're absolutely necessary for us to begin saving our communities and our planet.

Remember that the less energy we use, the less we need fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. And that means we will have an easier time turning to renewables to fulfill more of our needs.

And no, efficiency doesn't mean we all have to live in the dark. It means we can be smarter about how much energy we use to enjoy 21st century living.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

After the speakers wrapped up, the volunteers broke into groups to strategize. Somehow, the media group managed to attract a paleontologist who really wanted to dig deep into the specifics of energy policy. There were also a couple of architectural design students on hand to offer their know-how as well. Meanwhile just a few feet away, the community outreach group was brainstorming partnerships... And found someone who's interested in making a short film on Reid-Gardner, SB 123, and the future of energy in Nevada.

This will probably all be necessary in the days ahead. The Nevada Legislature now has a Interim Energy Committee, and they'll soon be looking for citizen input on SB 123 implementation and more. And when it comes to more, the state can use more of a clear path forward on efficiency. This state's energy usage has skyrocketed in recent years, so we need to set guidelines on track to meet our goal of building cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable communities.

Last year, we saw a breakthrough in Carson City in moving beyond coal and in a greener direction. However, last year was nonetheless one of the hottest on record. There's still more to do to step up to the challenge of climate change. And believe it or not, it all starts with a few simple steps.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Let It Go.

How would you feel if your last wishes were not granted... Or even considered? How would you feel if your family members had to go to court and beg a judge to let them grant your last wishes? How would you feel if you were left to become a national laughingstock, and you couldn't even utter a single word in your own defense?

Believe it or not, this garish nightmare has become reality for the family of Marlise Munoz.

Erick and Marlise Munoz were both paramedics, and had discussed her wishes that she not be on "life-sustaining" measures if she were to become brain dead.

John Peter Smith Hospital says that they are just trying to follow Texas law that states Texas law that says "you cannot withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment for a pregnant patient."

Mr. Munoz has filed an emergency motion with the court, and a complaint against John Peter Smith Hospital that he hopes will allow him to have the hospital disconnect the machines "so that her family can take her body and give her a proper burial."

"Marlise Munoz is legally dead, and to further conduct surgical procedures on a deceased body is nothing short of outrageous," her husband says in the motion.

Marlise Munoz has been legally dead since November 26, yet a hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, is keeping her corpse "alive" against the wishes of Munoz and her family. Why? The hospital claims it's obeying Texas law.

Never mind that the fetus has been described as "severely abnormal" and has no guarantee of surviving childhood. And never mind that this fetus is inside a legally dead body. Apparently, this Fort Worth hospital and the State of Texas are more interested in playing Frankenstein games than respecting the family's wishes (as well as those of Marlise Munoz herself).

When did this ever become acceptable behavior? When did it become acceptable to deny a dying woman her final wish to rest in peace? And when did a party supposedly espousing values of "freedom, personal responsibility, and individual liberty" become the party of forced birth under any & all circumstances... Even dead ones?

Perhaps Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R) can clue us in?

"If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government then so be it! Let us take that discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be," Huckabee said.

Huckabee argued that Democrats "think that women are nothing more than helpless and hopeless creatures whose only goal in life is to have the government provide for them birth control medication."

No, Huckster. You got it completely wrong. You and your fellow G-O-TEA politicians continue insulting the women of America by declaring that you have complete control over all American women's bodies and health care decisions. Seriously, who decided to make you the judge, jury, executioner, doctor, pharmacist, and deity (all rolled into one sleazy politician) ruling over all American women?

Sadly, Mike Huckabee, some Texas G-O-TEA yahoos, and the Washoe County Republican Party are not alone in their desire to escalate the G-O-TEA's War on Women. This weekend, the Republican National Committee (RNC) looks set to double down (again) on its extreme anti-choice agenda. And that's coming on the heels of Rep. Steve Pearce (R-New Mexico) "enlightening America" with his thoughts on marriage. And of course, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Yep, Texas) sharing his thoughts on women and "servitude". And then, we can't forget their House G-O-TEA colleagues' proposed bill to force the IRS to audit rape victims.

And they wonder why their party has trouble connecting with American women? Have they tried refraining from constant threats to take away their civil rights?

This brings us back to Fort Worth, Texas, and the horrifying case of Marlise Munoz. It's saddening enough for her family that they had to find her unconscious on the kitchen floor. It's even worse to see her declared legally dead. And it's downright cruel and unusual punishment to force this family through such a disgusting legal clusterfuck, just so some G-O-TEA politicians can strut their stuff in front of their extreme(ly deranged) base.

And to think, some G-O-TEA players want to put their party's latest & greatest Culture Warriors on full display here in Nevada in 2016? Can Las Vegas truly handle that? Perhaps we should just let that one go.

Manufacture This!

And we're back. No really, we're going back. We're going all the way back to last October. Remember when we were approaching the brink of Armageddon?

Apparently, Congressional Republicans have either forgotten their own manufactured crisis... Or they remember, and they already want a sequel. Oh, yes. That's right. They're going there (again).

The GOP's apparent desire for another debt ceiling fight is confounding after the party forced one last fall and surrendered one day before the deadline without extracting any concessions. President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders insist they won't negotiate or give up anything to raise the debt ceiling, and Republicans raised (or suspended) the borrowing limit twice last year without extracting any policy concessions -- after initially threatening not to both times.

It's also notable because Republicans and Democrats wrapped up a $1.012 trillion spending bill last week, which passed on an overwhelming bipartisan vote. The debt limit has to be raised in order to finance that spending.

The remarks from Boehner's office and other top Republicans suggest that leaders will have a hard time persuading their members not to pick another battle, even if it is futile. The Speaker said last year on Oct. 6 that the House was "not going to pass a clean debt limit increase" because there weren't enough votes to pass one. Ten days later, he brought up a clean debt limit hike and it easily passed the House, with mostly Democratic votes. Democrats don't take GOP threats of default seriously after they've proven they aren't willing to shoot the hostage.

But wait, there's more! Not only are Republican "leaders" caving into G-O-TEA Culture Warriors' demand for another manufactured crisis, but they're also launching yet another attempt to sabotage Obamacare (aka the ACA/Affordable Care Act). This time, they're demanding the repeal of a key provision of the ACA that stabilizes the insurance market and prevents health insurance premiums from skyrocketing. Oh, and this very risk corridor provision that G-O-TEA politicians now (falsely) decry as a "bailout" was actually originated by Republicans when they proposed Medicare Part D 11 years ago!

But wait, there's even more! In case this latest anti-Obamacare political stunt isn't enough hypocrisy for you, there's also this. Remember that Ryan-Murray Budget Deal that attracted plenty of Republican votes? And remember how "Ryan-Murray 2.0" had to include earmarks in order to pass (for real, this time!) earlier this month? So now, those very same Republicans who (twice) passed a budget, then added a little "pork" to make the second passage easier, now don't want to pay for their own spending? They don't even want to pay for their own beloved/hated earmarks?

How does any of this make any sense? Here's a clue: It doesn't. Congress can't pass a new budget and order new federal investment, then deny the very mechanism needed to pay for the investment. This would be like me going to the grocery store, filling my cart with all sorts of yummy goodies, then refusing to provide my credit/debit card at checkout because "I just can't afford all this." That wouldn't make sense, and neither would Congress refusing to pay for its own damned budget.

And that's why this latest & greatest G-O-TEA manufactured crisis is destined to end like the previous ones did. And we all remember those. Why is the G-O-TEA so hell-bent on losing more elections? And is this why House Speaker John Boehner (R-Sautéed to Golden) & Rep. Joe Heck (R-Known for His Constituent Service) refused to take questions from the constituents outside Las Vegas Country Club last Friday?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Ultimate "Rebranding" FAIL

This morning, we couldn't help but take another glance at that terrific "Republican rebranding" campaign underway. Ain't it something to behold?

Apparently, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval (R-Still Doesn't Know It's 2014) wants to add his own contribution to the "Republican rebranding" campaign. But how so? Oh, he's continuing to fight against marriage equality in federal court. No really, he had the Attorney General's office file this brief with the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals.

So what does it say? Get a load of this.

State's brief: "The institution of traditional marriage pervades Nevada law and society... (has) a defining effect on Nevada’s society." [...]

NV brief: "Nevada law that defines marriage to be between a man and a woman is legitimate..under equal protection or due process standards." [...]

Followed by: "interest of the State in defining marriage ..motivated by the state’s desire to protect and perpetuate traditional marriage."

"Institution of traditional marriage"? What does Governor Sandoval mean by that? Is he talking about the "institution" Britney Spears flew into town a decade ago to indulge in for a grand 55 hours? (Don't worry, Brit Brit. We still love you!)

And let's talk about that "interest of the state". In 1931, the "interest of the state" involved attracting more dollars into the state and finding a way to ride out The Great Depression. That's why "quickie weddings" and "easy divorces" came into existence and made a lasting mark on Nevada marriage laws.

So who's Governor Sandoval kidding here with his talk of "traditional marriage"? We already know he's on very shaky legal ground. And in the wake of the Ninth Circuit's recent decision to adopt the "heightened scrutiny" standard for cases of anti-LGBTQ discrimination, Governor Sandoval is now standing on incredibly unstable ground.

Dare we ask, who is he getting his advice from? This season's "Bachelor"? Dave Agema? Perhaps Sherri Shepard? Or was it just someone who was trying to compete with the comedic platinum that we're finding in this hot mess of a brief brought to us by the usual suspects?

So how's that "Republican rebranding" coming along, Nevada G-O-TEA? We see you're still trying to deny what's increasingly undeniable. And you're still twisting yourselves into knots to try to defend the indefensible. And you wonder why your recruitment campaign is increasingly looking like this?

RIP, CityLife??!!

When we started the conversation on this little blog of ours nearly five years ago, we did occasionally wonder whether this site was actually necessary. After all, this damned thing is on Blogger! And it's a site slapped together by someone who came here because he didn't always like writing by certain other people's rules.

Oops, did I really just air some of my (quite old) dirty laundry?

Enough of that. Today, we have more important things to talk about. Believe it or not, another one is close to biting the dust. And what might that "another one" be?

Here's a hint: Go back to September and remember what we said about a little law suit involving the viability of the Las Vegas Sun?

[... W]ith the rise of TV newsrooms and online news sites, there are at least theoretically alternatives to the one "newspaper" left standing...

Except that's in theory. What about reality? Just how invested are the local TV stations in supporting real journalism? And can a few scrappy web sites truly make up for losing what was once a great paper?

For now, Southern Nevada still has two newspapers in circulation. We just don't know how much longer this will last. In so many ways, the slow and ugly decline of The Sun reflects the brutal reality of print journalism's dilemma in The Digital Age. And both the recent tabloid-ization of The Sun & the decimated reputation of the other "newspaper" remind us of what happens when corporate profit seeking gets in the way of reporting the news. We may be nearing the end of an era for Southern Nevada, but this is only the continuation of a disturbing trend in journalism.

Last fall, we received a rude awakening. The Sun was already becoming a shell of its former self, but it still had value as a newspaper reporting on real news. What would happen if it were to fully decease?

Even before it started becoming obvious that The Sun's days are numbered, we were concerned about the lack of independent voices in our local media. All too often, both major papers seemed to advocate a certain point of view that looked to be all too convenient for the powers-that-be in this state. Where could we find the news and views that the powers-that-be try to prevent us from seeing?

This is typically where Las Vegas CityLife steps in. For over two decades, CityLife has been more than willing to go places the "traditional media" in this town have refused to go. And even though CityLife has shared the same owner as the "newspaper" for some time, it's somehow avoided to catch the same disease the "newspaper" has refused to cure itself of.

But very soon, this will be no more. Why? Stephens Media recently decided to discontinue its publishing of Las Vegas CityLife. Next week's issue is supposed to be the last.

And this brings us back to where we started this discussion. I honestly never thought I'd be placed in such an awkward position. I've been accustomed to being a tiny electronic cog in much bigger alternative media machine. I never imagined the day when I'd be among the few alternative, independent voices left.

As we've mentioned before, this scrappy little site that was slapped together by some punky little online rabble-rouser just can't replace an entire newspaper. And I know we're not the only ones who realize this. As we speak, a MoveOn petition (calling for Stephens Media to let CityLife live on) is collecting signatures. Who knows, maybe Stephens corporate bosses aren't fully immune from public outrage?

But if that isn't the case, someone will need to fill the void left by a dead CityLife. Paging Vegas Seven?

In the mean time, we'll still be here. We just didn't want to become necessary this way. And we just don't have an entire office to publish an entire newspaper. That's supposed to be where actual newspapers step in. When did it become acceptable for shortsighted corporate greed to kill all this journalism?

Living With the Consequences

Why must we still talk about this? But how can we possibly avoid it? Oh, when will it ever be resolved?

Yesterday, we explained why a Vegas Vacation can't magically make the G-O-TEA Civil War go away. No amount of political airbrushing can permanently hide the gruesome reality of a Republican Party stuck in the midst of a crippling identity crisis. And sadly, that identity crisis continues its threats to cripple our economy.

Last Friday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) tried... No, wait. He didn't even try to paint a pretty face on the extreme G-O-TEA agenda his lower house of Congress continues to regurgitate. He just darted into Las Vegas Country Club to pour more money into Rep. Joe Heck's campaign. For some reason, they didn't want to talk to the media and the constituents outside about all the amazing accomplishments of the 113th Congress.

We wonder why. After all, they managed to... No, wait. The House still hasn't passed comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). And millions of American families must continue to live in legal limbo because of Boehner's refusal to allow any vote on CIR (& Heck's refusal to do anything about this).

But hold on, they did... No, wait. Congress still hasn't passed any #4jobs legislation. Instead, they're forcing another round of cruel, painful austerity on the nation.

Come on, now. We know they... No, wait. Instead of passing any legislation that could actually create more jobs, Speaker Boehner's House (of FAIL) has only brought forth legislation to endanger the health of our people & our planet. And of course, they have to top that off with more War on Women. And if that's not enough, they'll add more "BENGHAZIEEEEEEEE!!!" to the mix. And they'll spice that up some more with more manufactured crises.

No wonder why Reps. Boehner & Heck declined to address the public before or after their quaint $2,600 per plate luncheon. Even after all their bluster of "Republican rebranding" that had become the talk of the town (DC, that is) around this time last year, Republican "leaders" have failed to change anything. And keep in mind, they're supposed to be "leaders"! Why can't they drag their own party into the 21st Century?

Are they really that afraid of the 21st Century Know Nothings? Are they willing to let their entire party choke on the xenophobic bile of their "New Southern Strategy"? Are they truly that afraid of the reality of America in 2014?

We've discussed this numerous times before. Yet as long as the Republican Party continues failing to adapt to 21st Century America, we'll have to keep talking about this. After all, we're all living with the consequences of it.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Maybe a Vegas Vacation Can't Cure Everything?

This should be fun. Pundits all over are chirping over the selection of Former Rep. Enid Greene Mickelsen (R-Utah) to head the convention site selection committee for the Republican National Committee (RNC). Does this mean the 2016 Republican National Convention might just come here after all?

Not so fast. Keep in mind that there are still 22 other cities vying for #RNC2016. And one of them just happens to be the capital of Utah's other next door neighbor. Kansas City, Chicago, and all 3 major Ohio cities (!!!) are also among the contenders, so @LV2016 boosters should expect a fierce competition ahead.

Already, national Republican "leaders" are honing in on better "optics" for future election cycles. That's why local @LV2016 fans are calling on the RNC to "embrace the diversity of Las Vegas". But will they?

We've been down this road before. Sure, this may be the first time that Republicans have seriously considered bringing their national showcase event to Southern Nevada. However, this isn't the first time they've tried to woo us by whispering sweet nothings into our ears.

And then, there's that whole matter of "embracing diversity". How's that working out? Oh yes, that's right. The RNC looks set to double down (again) on the G-O-TEA War on Women. Meanwhile, top Republicans in Oklahoma, Indiana, Arizona, New Jersey (we'll get back to him shortly), and elsewhere continue their crusade against LGBTQ civil rights. And then, there are Republicans' "great ideas" for Latin@ outreach. And of course, we can't forget the G-O-TEA Florida Legislature candidate who wants President Obama executed.

This is how today's G-O-TEA has been embarking on "embracing diversity". No wonder why "Republican insiders" are so worried about their party's electoral future. And with "Great White Hope" Chris Christie's 2016 poll numbers turning south (in the wake of Bridge-gate), they have even more to worry about now.

Perhaps some Republicans are hoping a fun field trip to Las Vegas will cure their party of all these woes. Perhaps they'll even get their way this time. They just can't realistically expect a lavish Vegas Vacation to wash away their party's severe disconnect from reality.

Embrace the Weed

Well, isn't this interesting? Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) dropped quite the bomb during his interview with Las Vegas Sun's Karoun Demirjian. So what was this bong bomb? Go ask Mary Jane about it.

No really, Senator Reid said he's down with medical marijuana. This marks another major policy evolution for the Senator. He's never even tried pot before. And not that long ago, he was a willing "Drug Warrior". But now, he says it's time for a change.

And why not? SB 374 is now the law of the land here in Nevada. Medical studies have shown that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, and that there are legitimate health benefits of medical marijuana. Oh, and most Americans now support full legalization of (medical & recreational) marijuana.

Even President Obama now seems to be accepting the science... And society's changing attitudes. So why are Las Vegas & Henderson dragging their feet on allowing medical marijuana dispensaries? Patients need it. The state will soon officially sanction dispensaries to provide it. Why are Nevada's two largest cities pretending that it's some sort of "evil weed"?

Apparently, they're afraid of "the feds". And to be fair, they're still a problem. Even though President Obama and reality now seem to disagree, federal law enforcement is still cracking down on any & all marijuana. And local law enforcement still seems to be following the feds' lead... Even with state law saying otherwise.

Unfortunately, medical marijuana patients and other marijuana users are still caught in the middle of all this hot legal mess. And if they happen to be caught "inhaling while dark skinned", they get quite the heavy book thrown at them.

So what are we to do about this hot legal mess? Usually, we're not into letting out gardens go. But in this case, our OCD weeding is far more detrimental than the actual weed itself. Perhaps it's time for us to finally embrace the weed (provided it's properly regulated).

Friday, January 17, 2014

Quite the Country Club Luncheon

Today, an extra special guest drove into the Las Vegas Country Club. Guess who? Here's a hint: Mr. Speaker.

Yes, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is in town today to raise money for Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson). They enjoyed lovely $2,600 per plate lunches and chatted about what's happening in Congress.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Meanwhile, many of the people standing outside Las Vegas Country Club are constantly reminded of what Speaker John Boehner refuses to let happen in his house of Congress. That's why they (including activists from PLAN, the Culinary Union, DREAM Big Vegas, ProgressNow Nevada, and elsewhere) showed up today. They were not going to let Speaker Boehner come to Vegas without getting a sense of what Nevadans really think about the 113th Congress.

Over 100 people stood outside Las Vegas Country Club this morning. Many even managed to stay until Speaker Boehner arrived at the Country Club. Many were upset over the lack of progress on comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). Many were also upset over Congress' failure to extend unemployment insurance (UI). All were frustrated with the sloth that's come to define Boehner's House of FAIL.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

After the protest began, Rep. Joe Heck's campaign manager emerged from Las Vegas Country Club to try to spin away the frustration across the street. Yet even as he was trying to spin it all away, some Teamsters were picketing just steps away. Why? Apparently, Las Vegas Country Club sidestepped its usual union crew to use non-union workers for today's $2,600 per plate G-O-TEA luncheon.

Without a doubt, this wasn't the typical country club luncheon.