Monday, June 30, 2014

Ugly Numbers Game

Last week, it was soccer. No really, it was soocer. The 21st Century Know Nothings declared their opposition to soccer because the World Cup is actually something the entire world participates in (and more Americans are just discovering "the beautiful game").

Now, it's children. No really, it's children. The 21st Century Know Nothings are so enraged by Central American immigrant children that they want to deport them all. And even though President Obama is planning to move ahead with deportation for at least most of these children, Congressional G-O-TEA Culture Warriors still plan to impeach President Obama for something he did not do.

On Saturday, Rep. Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) joined House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas) to tour a detention facility in Vela's Brownsville district that's housing many of these immigrant children. And there, they made the case for strong action... For these children, and eventually for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) as well.

But now, these children have become the latest excuse for House Republican "leaders" to kill CIR. They've tried #Benghazi. They've tried #IRS. They've tried #VA07. And yes, they've even tried #Bergdahl. And all of that was before they turned to children and soccer.

Now, as always, Congressional G-O-TEA "leaders" are blaming President Obama for their own shortcomings. And even though President Obama has overseen the deportation of about 2 million immigrants during his time in office, and even as his administration is about to order even more deportations, they're now attacking the President for "not enforcing the law"... Even when he has.

And of course, they're now attacking the President just as he's about to announce further executive action to curb the record pace of deportations. Millions of American families and numerous American communities risk being ripped apart and decimated if this record high pace of deportations continues. Yet because the lower House of Congress refuses to finish what the upper house (aka the Senate) started, President Obama must now figure out how many more to deport and how much more executive action to take to limit future deportations. It's an ugly numbers game. And it's actually an unnecessary numbers game...

That we wouldn't have to consider if supposedly pro-reform House Republicans (cough- Joe Heck- cough) had simply allowed a floor vote for HR 15. They know recent consideration of CIR has had nothing to do with the arrival of the immigrant children from Central America. They know the other "#ObamaScandal" excuses carry no weight. And they know they'll find their "principles for reform" in HR 15, especially since a few of them crossed over to cosponsor it!

So now, they expect us to play this ugly numbers game while they play politics with people's lives. And they expect us to cheer them when they threaten to impeach sue President Obama and invade Mexico. Apparently, they still haven't realized we're not interested in their petty political games.

This Is Why Elections Matter.

This morning, the US Supreme Court decided to tinker with workers' right to unionize... And the very survival of the American labor movement... And women's rights at work... And employers' ability to dictate their workers' health care decisions.

Both decisions were allegedly narrow, but they have the potential to set very dangerous precedents. Oh, and both decisions were 5-4. Who could have guessed the Roberts Court is so extremely ideologically divided?

In Harris v. Quinn, the 5 conservative Justices ruled in favor of a handful of home health care workers who did not want to pay union dues to enjoy the benefits of union negotiations. In order to curb "free riders", non - union workers were required to pay some sort of reimbursement fees to the unions for negotiating higher pay and better benefits for them. But now, 5 Justices (guess who!) just punctured a hole in this arrangement.

Now, they claim there's a separate class of workers who are "public employees" but are not really "public employees". Confused yet? Try Andy Kroll's Mother Jones primer for Harris. Suffice to say, today's ruling doesn't completely eviscerate the American labor movement... But it does bruise workers and threatens more pain ahead.

And then, there's Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby. Once again, we have a 5-4 ruling. Once again, we have a troubling precedent that threatens workers' rights. And once again, we have theoretical "religious freedom" valued over real women's health.

In Hobby Lobby, 5 Justices (guess who!) ruled that "closely held corporations" (essentially family run enterprises) can claim "religious objections" when denying workers contraception and other forms of reproductive health care. Strangely enough, some progressives are breathing sighs of relief today because this rather jumbled ruling actually gave plenty of room for the federal government to step in and provide reproductive health care to affected workers. The ruling was also designed to be narrow enough to avoid threatening other health care benefits (like blood transfusions and vaccinations) and/or legalizing workplace discrimination.

Still, this sets a frightening precedent. What if the hardest of hard-line conservative Justices just had one or two more votes on the Supreme Court? The message from Justice Samuel Alito (who authored both majority opinions) seems to be that he's waiting for just this to go even further in the direction of undoing the entire past century of progress on workers' rights and women's rights.

Here's a helpful hint: This is why elections matter. Presidents appoint and Senators confirm Supreme Court Justices. And there's a good chance we'll see at least one more vacancy this decade. Imagine the difference one vote could have made today.

This is why elections matter.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Something Different

Ever since her arrival in Carson City, she's been making waves. And now, she's ready to bring a tsunami into the Lieutenant Governor's Office.

Assembly Member Lucy Flores (D-North Las Vegas) knows she's doing something different. She's represented a minority-majority inner city district since 2011. She hasn't been afraid to take on issues like sex education, LGBTQ civil rights, mental health care, public school funding, and even medical marijuana (along with the legislative process). Clearly, she's not following "standard operating procedure" on "how to succeed on the Nevada political scene".

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Yet now, Lucy Flores is running for Lt. Governor. She's running to provide a different perspective. She's running to represent those who often aren't even heard in Carson City.

Last weekend at the Nevada State Democratic Party Convention in Reno, Lucy Flores explained why she's running and why she's not afraid to offer something different to the table.

We know this whole race has turned out to be something quite different. With the "official top of the ticket" not being contested, the Lt. Governor race has become the "de facto top of the ticket". And even though the Lieutenant Governor's Office may not seem important at first glance, this year's election has turned into a different kind of choice.

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But then again, is it all that different of a choice? There's Lucy Flores, someone who has overcome multiple life challenges and knows the challenges working class Nevada families face. And then, there's this.

Lucy Flores is offering something different this fall. And this Lt. Governor race should keep things interesting this year.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Today marks a major anniversary. Just a year ago today, the US Supreme Court issued its ruling on US v. Windsor. And ever since then, we've seen a flurry of federal court rulings throughout the nation in favor of marriage equality.

Earlier today, Rep. Dina Titus (D-Paradise) took to the House floor to celebrate the anniversary.

However, she didn't stop there. In recent weeks, Rep. Titus has also been speaking up and demanding full equality for LGBTQ veterans.

LGBTQ families still face difficulties in securing the veterans' benefits they earned. And while "Don't Ask Don't Tell" may be over for gay, lesbian, and bisexual soldiers, trans* soldiers still can't serve their nation openly. There's still plenty of unfinished business in and out of The Pentagon when it comes to LGBTQ civil rights...

So why can't Rep. Joe Heck (R-What?!) and Senator Dean Heller (R-Why?) see this? Rep. Heck still can't serve anything other than a tossed word salad. And Senator Heller? Well, he... He... He... Actually, we'll let Ralston try to explain this one.

What does @SenDeanHeller mean? He's against gay marriage, but there are "variations" in marriage between a man and a woman? Jabberwocky.

Now we'll give credit where credit is due. Last November, Senator Dean Heller did ultimately vote for ENDA. He has made some progress in accepting LGBTQ civil rights. So why is it so difficult for Senator Heller to accept what Rep. Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) now celebrates, Senator Harry Reid (D) cheers on, and most other Nevadans now strongly support?

Do he and Rep. Heck share the same "political issues" with Adam Laxalt? Are they just as confused about "segregation laws" as Cresent Hardy? Or do they actually believe "Republican rebranding" can magically make this inconvenient "political issue" go away?

This may be an inconvenient "political issue" for G-O-TEA politicians like Heller, Heck, & Hardy. But for Americans like Yaz’min Shancez and Brittany-Nicole Kidd-Stergis, this literally means life or death. For millions of American workers, this means dollars and sense. For millions of American families, this means love and honor. And for a number of American veterans and active servicemembers, this means dignity & respect.

Senator Heller and other G-O-TEA politicians might like to believe there are "different variations" of equality, but the only true type of equality is actual equality. How many "different variations" of this simple message must spread before they finally get it?


Right now, a whole lot of Americans are watching the World Cup. And why not? Team USA is performing surprisingly well in Brazil. And right now, millions of Americans are trying to figure out whatever excuse they can latch onto in order to watch the games.

So we have a whole lot of Americans rooting for the American soccer team. How much more patriotic can we get? According to G-O-TEA soccer team reject washed up troll soon-to-be-unemployed circus clown pundit extraordinaire Ann Coulter, this isn't patriotic at all. And why's that? Oh, Latin@ Americans immigrants love soccer! And of course, this column wouldn't be from Ann Coulter unless it had some extra xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, and plain old stupidity tossed in for "good measure".

Believe it or not, Ann Coulter and her fellow fire breathing G-O-TEA pundits from hell are dictating immigration policy in the lower House of Congress. Of course, this is not really a surprise to those of us who have been keeping track of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Marlboro) smoke signals. It's been evident for some time that House G-O-TEA "leaders" care more about their pyrrhic political victories than they do about accomplishing anything in their chamber. Even though it's now been a year since the US Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform (CIR), they've made it clear that they'd rather waste taxpayers' time & money trying to impeach President Obama on frivolous law suits.

And speaking of those frivolous law suits, it's increasingly looking like they will be targeting DACA. Oh, yes. That's right. They're going there again. They're once again demanding the deportations of DREAMers.

Never mind that these Americans want the same opportunity to succeed that all the rest of us take for granted. Never mind that American families continue to be torn apart while the House continues to block bipartisan legislation that the Senate passed a year ago. And never mind that passing CIR would actually benefit our economy. No, House G-O-TEA "leaders" would rather continue pandering to their 21st Century Know Nothing base with dirty underwear, vendettas against Spanish language media, and attacks on the entire Latin American region (??!!) than accomplish anything worthwhile.

Oh, and of course, they're now attacking soccer... Because immigration. Yet in a bizarre way, it makes sense why they now hate soccer. They just don't their foul called out.

Mack the Gun

We know 2006 may seem like an eternity ago, but please pay attention. And please do join us on this little stroll down Memory Lane.

In 2006, Darren Mack was undergoing a bitter divorce with his soon-to-be-ex-wife, Charla. He was incensed when Washoe County Family Court Judge Chuck Weller ordered Darren to pay Charla $10,000 per month in spousal support in addition to $849 per month in child support. He didn't like Judge Weller's ruling, so Darren Mack responded by "standing his ground". He stabbed Charla to death, then he shot Weller in a sniper style attack.

Even though Darren Mack ultimately plead guilty to the murder of Charla and attempted murder of Judge Weller at a Las Vegas courthouse in 2007, he later recanted his guilty plea. And even though the Nevada Supreme Court ultimately rejected his appeal, Darren Mack is trying again. And wait for this, he believed he was justified in shooting who he saw as a "corrupt judge" and exercising "self defense" against his wife.

Sound familiar yet? During the murder trial, state & national media shined a spotlight on the heinous nature of Mack's crimes. Even today, one can find shows on cable TV detailing every lurid and horrid aspect of the Mack case. Yet now, it doesn't seem that extraordinary. It doesn't seem all that far-fetched. It doesn't seem all that shocking.

Since Darren Mack's name and face were splashed all over the front pages in Las Vegas & Reno, we've seen the rise of the "Stand Your Ground" Doctrine that can at least theoretically be used to justify Darren Mack's crimes. Hey, Wayne Burgarello went ahead and "stood his ground" against someone who didn't even know he was trespassing. And Johnny Lee Wicks "stood his ground" against a US Marshal and a courthouse security officer who had nothing to do with his denied Social Security claim. (And even if they did, was that shooting really justified?)

We've also seen the rise of Cliven Bundy and "TEA" powered "Range War" against state & federal law. Because the Bundy Gang don't like civil society, they think they can unilaterally impose armed madness upon everyone else.

And of course, this has aided the rise of "sovereign citizen" and "Patriot Movement" violence. Up north, Brent Douglas Cole opened fire on law enforcement agents on federal land. Down south, Jerad & Amanda Miller shot dead two Metro Police Officers and a civilian at a Las Vegas strip mall. And in other parts of the nation, "sovereign citizens" have sought armed conflict with the law... Because all of them refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of our nation of laws.

We can't help but wonder if Darren Mack has been noticing recent events. Back in 2006, and even in 2008, his crimes were almost universally condemned. But now, we have an entire "movement" of "patriots" and "sovereign citizens" who champion the kind of crimes Darren Mack committed. And we have the NRA backing them up. And we even have a number of G-O-TEA politicians standing in the way of any effort to rein in the gun violence these extremists regularly partake in.

While Darren Mack's latest appeal doesn't seem likely to succeed, it's frightening to think he even has a tiny opening today. And he has the "sovereign revolutionaries", their cheerleaders at the NRA, and their ideological soulmates to thank for this.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Impeachment Games

And it's on! We always suspected this is what they've been aiming for. But now, it's increasingly clear what their ultimate goal has been all along.

Benghazi. IRS. Bergdahl. And all the G-O-TEA's other haute faux "OBAMA SCANDALZZZ!!!111111!!!!!!1" They never really cared about any of that, especially since there's never actually been "any there there". No, they've just wanted some excuse, any excuse, to impeach President Obama.

Earlier today, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Jack Daniel's) announced a law suit against President Obama. For what? And why? He doesn't know yet, but he'll get back to us when he figures it out.

Wow. Perhaps this is why even Fox "News" pundits are questioning the utility of this law suit over nothing...

Except that we know that it's not for nothing. Rather, we know the real goal of this suit. We know the real goal is a little thing called impeachment. Remember the 1990s? Go ahead and feel the deja vu.

Yet while House G-O-TEA "leaders" want "Impeachapalooza: The Sequel", the rest of the nation wants something else. Here's a hint: #4jobs. And for all those 3 million+ Americans who are still seeking jobs, they just want a chance to survive.

While House G-O-TEA "leaders" are obsessing over scoring political points with campaign tactics that used to be considered actual punishment for real high crimes and misdemeanors, Rep. Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas), Rep. Dina Titus (D-Paradise), and a bipartisan group of other House Members are introducing the same #RenewUI.

It's been nearly 6 months since Congress let the federal extension of unemployment insurance (UI) expire. Since then, over 37,000 Nevadans and 3 million Americans have been forced into unnecessary hardship. And even though the Senate has already passed bipartisan legislation to #RenewUI, House G-O-TEA "leaders" have still refused to bring it to the floor.

Instead, they're now playing impeachment games. It's nice for them that they don't have to worry about how they'll be paying the bills. Unfortunately for all the rest of us, we don't have the luxury of all this time & money to waste on impeachment games.

Some "Issues"

This morning, 3 very important judicial decisions dropped. So let's take a look at them.

In Denver, the 10th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling overturning Utah's ban on marriage equality. And in doing so, the 10th made a very critical announcement. In their ruling, the majority of 10th Circuit Justices made a major declaration that may end up further accelerating the arrival of nationwide marriage equality.

“Today’s ruling marks the first time a federal court of appeals has ruled that excluding same-sex couples from the freedom to marry is unconstitutional," said NCLR executive director Kate Kendell in a statement. "The court makes clear that the promise of equality embedded in our revered U.S. Constitution includes the lives and loves of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans. That recognition marks an indelible milestone in our nation’s journey to full inclusion — and one that will undoubtedly influence other courts in the months to come.”

Attorney Peggy Tomsic, who presented the arguments on behalf of the Utah couples — Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge, and Karen Archer and Kate Call — noted the far-reaching consequences of a federal appeals court's involvement.

"The court’s ruling is a victory not only for the courageous couples who brought this case," Tomsic said in a statement, "but for our entire state and every state within the 10th Circuit.”

The 10th Circuit includes Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming. In its opinion, the 10th Circuit noted that the Windsor case "left open the question presented to us now in full bloom: May a State of the Union constitutionally deny a citizen the benefit or protection of the laws of the State based solely upon the sex of the person that citizen chooses to marry?" Then it sided unequivocally against the ban. "Having heard and carefully considered the argument of the litigants, we conclude that, consistent with the United States Constitution, the State of Utah may not do so. We hold that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry, establish a family, raise children, and enjoy the full protection of a state’s marital laws. A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union."

Every so often, we've examined the awfully strong Constitutional case for marriage equality. None other than 5 US Supreme Court Justices hinted at it in their Windsor ruling almost exactly a year ago. In fact, several federal district judges have cited Windsor in their rulings striking down state marriage bans...

Including the latest one in Indiana. Judge Richard L. Young didn't mince words when ruling in favor of couples seeking the freedom to marry. And while it's unclear how soon marriages will begin in Indiana, this ruling just adds to the favorable trend for equality in federal court.

And speaking of federal court, let's take a glance at some big news happening closer to home. In San Francisco, the full 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals rejected an en banc (or full court) review of an earlier decision requiring heightened scrutiny in all cases regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation. Remember that Sevcik v. Sandoval is now in the 9th as it awaits a November hearing. And even before this confirmation, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) & Governor Brian Sandoval (R) had already abandoned their legal defense of Nevada's marriage ban. So today's announcement further signals the arrival of marriage equality to Nevada is no longer a question of if, but when.

So today, we have 3 more federal court rulings in favor of LGBTQ equality. And all 3 suggest Question 2's stoppage of marriage equality in Nevada are numbered. Attorney General candidate Adam Laxalt (R) and his "TEA" tinged ideological soulmates may have "political issues" with this, but judges who actually interpret the US Constitution for a living only seem to have issues with those who want to deny millions of loving families their b civil rights.

Up in Flames

It's hot outside. And it's quite dry. Yep, it's awfully dry outside.

How dry? Take a look at this map. The drought continues to worsen. And as the drought worsens, so does risk of more epic wildfires burning across Nevada.

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Mount Charleston, as well as the Las Vegas Valley below, were seriously threatened by the Carpenter 1 Fire nearly a year ago. Chris Giunchigliani understands this quite well, as she spends plenty of time with her neighbors & constituents in Las Vegas and at her mountain house on Mount Charleston. Chris Giunchigliani has experienced firsthand the effects of climate change, and she urged others in Southern Nevada to take this threat seriously.

From Wall Street titans to mayors across the nation and The Pentagon, Americans want strong action to take on climate change. And Nevada, the rest of the nation, and the rest of the world stand to benefit from strong climate change.

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But of course, Cliven Bundy and his merry gang of "outlaw cowboys" refuse to accept this. The Bundy Gang are too busy "going Hollywood" to worry about such things as climate change.

Yet while they're cashing in on breaking the law and pandering to dangerous extremists, BLM Southern Nevada Fire Management Officer Mike Haydon has to focus on protecting our public lands from not only dangerous extremists with "Range War" fantasies, but also climate change.

Representatives from Rep. Steven Horsford's (D-North Las Vegas, and his district includes Mount Charleston) office, Rep. Dina Titus' (D-Paradise) office, and Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown's (D-Las Vegas) office also dropped by yesterday's event at Mount Charleston because they're concerned about what lies ahead for Southern Nevada... Especially if we don't take enough action to take on climate change.

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This s--t is serious. It's not something to mock. It's not something to blithely dismiss. And it's certainly not something to deny just to "score political points".

Don't believe us? Remember what happened at Mount Charleston almost a year ago. It can happen again. And we likely will see more of those large wildfires at some point soon. Either we can take action to save ourselves, or we can let our future burn up in flames.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Giant Wakeup Call

Nearly a year ago, it was in flames. And its smoke darkened the Las Vegas Valley below. The Carpenter 1 Fire was a frighteningly giant wakeup call for Southern Nevada.

Our state, along with the rest of the America. West, has been stuck in drought for several years. And with the land hotter and drier than ever before, it's become ideal ground for epic wildfires. Even today, Mount Charleston was placed at high risk for another wildfire.

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As the drought worsens and the heat reaches record levels, we're left wondering how many more startling signs we must notice before we take further action on climate change. How many more wildfires must burn? How much more drought must we endure?

President Obama's climate action program will aid in curbing this and other effects of climate change. However, we can't stop here. We need further action just to avoid the worst case scenario.

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Nevada's economy depends on our terrain. Las Vegas & Reno depend on tourism. The rural areas depend on farming & ranching. The entire state depends on the little amount of water we receive in precipitation every year.

While some question the cost of robust climate action and others question the very existence of climate change, all the "TEA" fueled deniers are missing the giant wakeup call outside. Go ahead and step outside. Feel the heat, and feel the dry.

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It's real. It's happening. And we can no longer deny it. It's our giant wakeup call. Are we now ready to jump out of bed and take action?

Ready for the Job

Every so often, this has reemerged. Back in 2012, an outgoing G-O-TEA legislator hinted at it. In 2013, State Senator Barbara Cegavske (R) and her usual G-O-TEA allies tried to turn meaningful election reform into it. Later that year, Assembly Member Pat Hickey (R) joked about it. And earlier this year, none other than Sharron Angle tried to toss it onto the ballot.

Voting rights is something we should take seriously. But for Barbara Cegavske, voter suppression is great and the Secretary of State's office is just another political stepping stone.

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Outgoing Secretary of State Ross Miller (D) has big shoes to fill. And so far, Kate Marshall (D) looks set to fill those shoes. She's already been serving the state as Treasurer. But now, she's ready to pivot to protecting people's right to vote and oversee new business coming to Nevada.

(Below is her speech from the Nevada State Democratic Party Convention in Reno last Saturday.)

And it's really not that dramatic of a pivot. Kate Marshall has already been keeping close watch on our public dollars. She's a trained lawyer. And she seems to care about a little thing called public service.

And Barbara Cegavske? Barbara Cegavske? Barbara Cegavske? Barbara Cegavske? Ain't she grand?

But is she ready for the job?

Work for Us

What? How? Why? Really?

Those were some of the reactions when the keynote speaker was announced for the Nevada State Democratic Party 2014 Convention. But when Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) took the stage in Reno last Saturday, the only question on people's minds was, "When will she come back?" Well, that and, "For the Caucus?"

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On Saturday, Senator Klobuchar fired up the crowd in Reno by making it clear what she, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) are fighting for. (Hint: It's the same agenda Rep. Steven Horsford [D-North Las Vegas] is fighting for in that other House of Congress, as well as the same agenda President Obama is advancing in The White House.)

Why must young Americans be shackled down by student loans? Why must the working poor work to remain poor? Why must workers live in fear of losing it all for simply being who they are? Why must American families live in fear of being torn apart? And why must American women be required to take so much crap?

Why can't we change things for the better?

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What? How? Why? Really?

Must we simply accept a raw deal? Must we simply accept that Congress can't work? Or should we try to make Congress work for us? Senator Klobuchar really got us thinking last weekend.

Monday, June 23, 2014

From #gunfail to #GunSense

Just over a year ago, the unthinkable happened. Governor Brian Sandoval (R-NRA) vetoed SB 221. In doing so, Governor Sandoval denied Nevada the chance to close the back doors that dangerous criminals utilize to obtain dangerous weapons.

Since Governor Sandoval's veto of SB 221, we've experienced the consequences of that. We witnessed the embarrassing Reno Police back alley gun sale. We noticed the shocking near miss at Thunder Down Under on the Las Vegas Strip. We experienced the horrific slaughter of Las Vegas Metro Police Officers Alyn Beck & Igor Soldo and civilian Joseph Robert Wilcox. And these are just a few high profile examples of what happens when we allow so many lethal weapons to fall into all the wrong hands.

For years, we've been accustomed to the NRA calling the shots in Carson City. But now, there's a chance that may soon change.

And why's that? While we were in Reno last Friday, gun safety advocates filed a petition with the Secretary of State's Las Vegas office for a background checks initiative with language very similar to that of SB 221.

Last year, the NRA & its G-O-TEA allies pulled every political stunt imaginable to smother SB 221 to death. And when none of that worked, Governor Sandoval vetoed it. They won't be able to try any of that this time.

This time, especially should gun safety advocates collect enough signatures to submit this to the Legislature next year, they won't be able to do that. This time, they will have to address the actual policy at hand instead of hiding behind straw men. And this time, they will need to answer to the long trail of #gunfail that they've enabled by doing nothing as so many Nevadans were losing their lives to senseless gun violence.

There's a good chance that at least 101,667 Nevadans have had it with the rampant #gunfail. And there's a good chance even more are ready to do what Governor Sandoval refused to do, which is to allow for some #GunSense to start saving lives.

One More Step

In 2011, a constitutional amendment was introduced in the Nevada Legislature. And somehow, it managed to pass that year despite the acrimony and frustration that came to define the 76th session.

Fast forward to 2013. Even though SJR 15 had managed to pass Round 1, Round 2 was suddenly in doubt. The mining industry had doubled up its lobbying campaign, and it looked like that was about to reap mining conglomerates a huge payday. But then, another strange twist occurred.

As soon as it became a rather eye-popping attempt at "Republican rebranding" and a "no brainer" tax reform plan with actual bipartisan support, Legislature leaders had no choice but to stand back and let SJR 15 sail its way onto the 2014 general election ballot.

Today, the Interim Legislative Commission approved the final ballot language for SJR 15. Despite some last minute mining industry shenanigans and an awkward argument over the physical impact of mining, the Commission ultimately approved the SJR 15 ballot language 11-1.

So now, there's just one more step left for SJR 15. "We the People" must vote on it this fall.

Ever since the founding of this state, the issue of mining taxation has been a rather contentious, irritating, and occasionally even nauseating one. In a way, it's quite fitting that the 150th anniversary of Nevada statehood will be remembered for the people's vote on fixing a long debated error in our state's Constitution. How better to celebrate 150 years of Nevada than to take one more step to on the path to a functioning state government and a more equitable tax system?

Do Just That

He may very well be one of the hardest working members of Congress. He's delivered packages. He's served cupcakes. He's helped constituents sort their way through the federal government. And he's worked to keep American families together and in their homes.

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) has been trying his hardest to serve his constituents in NV-04. And believe it or not, he has reaped some results. It's just been difficult for him to push more actual legislation through the 113th Congress...

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But that doesn't mean he won't stop trying. Rather, Rep. Horsford made clear he wants to continue pushing to secure House passage of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR), ENDA, real jobs bills, and more. At the Nevada State Democratic Party Convention this past weekend, Rep. Horsford made it clear that he won't let G-O-TEA obstruction stop him from continuing to work on legislation that so many Nevadans and other Americans would benefit from.

While House G-O-TEA "leaders" are debating when (not if?!) to embark on another Shutdown Shitfest and how little they intend to accomplish by the end of the year, Rep. Steven Horsford is actually reaching out to other Members of Congress who also want to accomplish something. And they're out to do just that.

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Rep. Horsford's first term in Congress hasn't always been an easy one. Obstructionism has reached new lows. Vitriol has occasionally reached new highs. And we're all still enduring this.

Yet through it all, Rep. Horsford has been focusing on being productive and delivering the real goods for his constituents. And whenever he's been able to find an opening, he's found ways to do just that. We suspect NV-04 constituents are noticing.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Ross Miller Has "Issues".

What an exciting weekend this has been. Back home in Vegasland, the Electric Daisy Carnival was rocking. However, that didn't mean sparks weren't flying up here in Reno. (Get it? Sparks!)

The Nevada State Democratic Party held its 2014 Convention in Reno this weekend. Democrats from across the state came here to "The Biggest Little City in the World" to meet each other, meet their candidates for this fall, and take care of party business.

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One of Nevada Democrats' candidates for this fall is Ross Miller. He's our outgoing Secretary of State. And he's now running for Attorney General.

Oh, and Ross Miller isn't one to back down when he sees a wrong that must be made right. So when it was his turn to address the convention, he didn't hold back. In fact, he specifically addressed his issues with Adam Laxalt's "political issues".

Adam Laxalt may have "political issues" with marriage equality and LGBTQ civil rights in general, but Ross Miller certainly does not. Rather, he has issues with those who have "political issues" with human rights

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We swear, sparks flew during that barn-burner of a speech. He's actually had to implement SB 283. He's actually had to fly with friends to California to take them to their wedding. And when the unthinkable happened, he had to help a friend cope with the unimaginable.

For G-O-TEA politicians like Adam Laxalt, LGBTQ civil rights may be "political issues" he prefers to blithely dismiss. But for Ross Miller, we are human beings who deserve the same respect & dignity that everyone else takes for granted. It looks to us like he takes his oath of office seriously. And it's looking like he values the US Constitution more than some mere "political issues".

Please take notes, Mr. Laxalt.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Political Paradox

We're now used to hearing about "the next big march in DC". How many times have we heard this from the usual G-O-TEA suspects? Anyone remember "Operation American Spring"?

They're already back. But this time, they're doing the #March4Marriage. All those tens of 21st Century Know Nothings descended upon the nation's capital to try to stop marriage equality. No, we're not kidding. This actually happened.

But why? Why did this have to happen? Why are G-O-TEA Culture Warriors still fighting against civil rights? Are they truly that threatened by parents like Jason Hanna & Joe Riggs raising their children?

Are they that afraid of American innovators like Martine Rothblatt making even more positive contributions to science, medicine, and society?

Or are they just too caught up in Adam Laxalt's "political issues" and Cresent Hardy's "segregation laws" to realize we're all living in the 21st century now?

Here's the strange paradox of the G-O-TEA's relationship with LGBTQ civil rights. They're trying so hard to make us believe "Republican rebranding" as some real phenomenon, yet they keep following the marching orders of an ever shrinking yet somehow still quite vocal minority who refuse to accept LGBTQ Americans as real people. They're trying so hard to make us believe politicians like Rick Perry, Daryl Metcalfe, Kevin Cramer, and Joe Heck have "rebranded" their way to being "refreshed and renewed"... When they're simply supporting the same old agenda of bigotry and discrimination.

There were only tens of #March4Marriage agitators on Capitol Hill. So why are they still allowed to dictate nationwide policy? Why do they still have so much juice in Congress? And why must we still take them seriously?

How can so few have so much power to discriminate against so many? Perhaps this is the great political paradox of our time.

Yo, Dean

Yo. Yo! Yo?

No really, Yo. It's the hottest mobile app to hit the app stores this week. And it's reigniting debate on whether Silicon Valley is entering the next golden age of high tech innovation... Or another "bubble" that's this close to bursting (a la the 1990s' ".com Bubble").

We must admit, Yo has us thinking. What's the difference between "a simplistic yet revolutionary idea" and just another crazy fad that will expire once its 15 minutes of fame are up?

Back in 2011, we were thinking about this as well. Back then, Senator Dean Heller (R) unleashed perhaps the most ridiculous gimmick ever to roam Capitol Hill. It's an austerity powered train wreck that would wreck our economy if enacted. And Senator Heller refuses to let go of it because he thinks "it polls well".

In 2012, Senator Heller then tried to one-up himself with a gimmick that's so outrageous it's unconstitutional. But because "it polls well", Heller keeps riding this one trick pony whenever he thinks it will throw his name back into headline news.

Senator Heller still refuses to give up either ridiculous gimmick. Instead, he's taking his "No Scruples No Sense" hobby horse out for another ride... To the point of voting against much needed budget legislation. Oh, and only 2 of the most radical G-O-TEA Senators (Rand Paul [R-Kentucky] & Mike Lee [R-Utah]) joined Senator Heller in his pointless filibuster over his unconstitutional proposal.

It's debatable whether Yo is useful. However, it's not really debatable whether Senator Heller's fiscal gimmicks are useful. They're not. And there are far better ways for Senator Heller to be spending our time.

Now, if only there was a way for us to condense this message into a "yo" to send to Senator Heller...

Worth the Wait?

Just over a year ago, Governor Brian Sandoval (R) signed SB 374 into law. This finally provided patients with a legal way to obtain medical marijuana.

Yet while we'll need to wait a little longer before any actual medical marijuana dispensaries open here in Nevada, "The Great Green Rush" is already underway. Entrepreneurs are rushing in to cash in on the new green sensation.

Yet already, some controversy has emerged... But not over the actual medicine. No, we're seeing growing controversy at Clark County Government Center because of how the county has been selecting finalists for medical marijuana licenses.

We'll admit we had some harsh words for the City of Henderson when the City Council decided to enact a year long moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries. Why deny residents the medicine they need? And why deny businesses the opportunity to capitalize on this while also providing a necessary service?

But now, we're wondering if there was perhaps a method to the madness at Henderson City Hall. In trying to avoid the drama that's come to define the Clark County licensing process, the Henderson City Council just gave their first green light to a tentative set of regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries. So was the wait worth it?

Perhaps. Back in May, we stated that "state & municipal authorities need to adopt wise regulations to ensure a fair market place". Now, we're wondering if perhaps Henderson's draft dispensary regulations are worth the wait.

We can understand why we've seen some awkward situations lately. Nevada has entered previously uncharted territory. So of course, there will be some missteps as we climb up the ladder to some sort of sensible marijuana policy.

But now, several weeks after Clark County and the City of Las Vegas jumped head first into the medical marijuana business, Henderson is taking a dip. And now, Henderson seems to be offering regulations that might actually be fair and sensible. Maybe, just maybe, this was worth the wait.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

War Games

We witnessed yet another one yesterday. And it came right on the heels of another one in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

This time, it happened at a campground near Nevada City, California, and Lake Tahoe. Brent Douglas Cole opened fire on a BLM ranger and California Highway Patrol officer. Both the BLM ranger and Cole had to be hospitalized for their injuries.

Brent Douglas Cole considered himself a "sovereign citizen". Remember the "sovereign citizen movement"? We've been seeing it on full display here lately.

Cliven Bundy and his gang of "outlaw cowboys" may view their armed madness "Range War" as just good old fashioned "fun & games", but "revolutionaries" like Jerad & Amanda Miller took this far more seriously. They viewed it as war games.

Before he finally attained the violent showdown he desired, Jerad Miller had taken to radical conspiracy web sites to discuss important issues... Like killing police officers. Who could have guessed?

And now, we have the Nevada City incident. And we have the Kalamazoo incident. And we have the Cumming courthouse shooting. And we have a possible Portland murder. And we have this ongoing affair in Montana.

These war games may seem comical at times. They often look farcical to those of us who operate in civilized society. But when certain elected officials bestow a shroud of legitimacy upon a "movement" built on criminality, terrible consequences ensue. After all, war is hell. And these games they're playing aren't for fun.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Sound of Silence

Yesterday, we saw a major breakthrough. President Obama announced he was preparing an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBTQ workers. While this is no substitute for a nationwide ENDA, it will fill some gaps.

Since President Obama's announcement, Congressional Republicans have responded with...

Actually, not completely. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) wants more "religious exemptions"... You know, so the Southern Baptists won't "feel too offended".

Oh yes, since outstanding parents, workers, and all around good Americans like Willy Wilkinson are so "offensive". How dare these American families raise kids and be such productive members of society!

And speaking of families, Freedom Nevada recently announced its advisory committee and first endorsements. Senator Harry Reid (D) and Reps. Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) & Dina Titus (D-Paradise) are all on board for marriage equality here in Nevada.

Notice anyone missing? Senator Dean Heller (R)? Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson)? Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City)? Where are they?

Are they stuck in Cresent Hardy's "segregation laws"? Are they trapped in Adam Laxalt's "political issues"? Or are they just too chicken to stand up to Rush Limbaugh and his army of 21st Century Know Nothings?

Oh, wait. It's probably just more "Republican rebranding". But wait, how does one "rebrand" silence? Is silence actually a legitimate policy position? Or is silence just another attempt at an "easy way out"? Whatever the case, silence is certainly not a polite way to wish us a happy PRIDE Month.

The Answer Is Simple

There's a reason why constituents asked Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) about it this past February. There's a reason why many constituents railed against Senator Dean Heller's (R) vote against it in April. And there's a reason why a number of Southern Nevada's fast food workers took part in #FastFoodGlobal last month.

Hint: The minimum wage is too damned low. It's not enough for most workers to survive. And the longer we wait to #RaiseTheWage, the more unnecessary pain we're causing ourselves.

Don't believe us? Believe the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Addressing the U.S.’s persistently high poverty rates, the report lauds the U.S.’s expansion of health care coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act, then argues for two separate policy fixes to further aid in the reduction of poverty: expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to cover more low-income people and raising the minimum wage.

“An expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit—to apply to households without children, to older workers, and to low income youth—would be [an] effective tool to raise living standards for the very poor,” the report states. “Similarly, the government should make permanent the various extensions of the EITC and the improvements in the Child Tax Credit that are due to expire in 2017.

“[G]iven its current low level (compared both to U.S. history and international standards), the minimum wage should be increased,” it goes on. “This would help raise incomes for millions of working poor and would have strong complementarities with the suggested improvements in the EITC, working in tandem to ensure a meaningful increase in after-tax earnings for the nation’s poorest households.”

Back in February, Rep. Heck suggested expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) as an alternative to raising the minimum wage. However, many of his G-O-TEA colleagues don't even want to do that (cough- Mitt Romney- cough). And now, the IMF is urging us to do both to address our inequality crisis.

Wage growth has been minimal since the onset of The Great Recession, even as overall economic growth has resumed. The working poor are indeed working, and many of them happen to have families to support. Yet even as they're working, their wages haven't kept up with the cost of living. And even some Wall Street titans are starting to admit there are negative consequences to rising income inequality.

So what can we do to start filling the inequality gap? How can we ensure that hard work actually pays? And how can we stimulate more economic growth while also pulling Americans out of poverty? The answer is simple: #RaiseTheWage.

Perhaps when Congress comes back from another recess, it can actually try passing something #4jobs? That answer should be simple...

The Shadows

Please pardon the lighting in our photos and videos below. The lighting wasn't great at the theater. It felt like we were all caught in the shadows.

In a way, it was actually quite fitting. We had all just seen "Documented". Last night, PLAN hosted a screening at Town Square of Jose Antonio Vargas' autobiographical documentary.

When he was 12, Jose Antonio Vargas was flown to America. He moved in with his grandparents. He was excelling in school. He was integrating into American society.

But when he attempted to obtain a driver's license 4 years later, he discovered a terrible secret. It just happens to be the same secret 11 million other Americans have had to grapple with. It's a secret we prefer to keep in the shadows, even though it's perhaps one of the nation's worst kept secrets.

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Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. He's worked for such prestigious institutions as The Washington Post and Huffington Post. Yet because he's undocumented, politicians like Mitt Romney want him to "self-deport" and "wait in line" for 18 years or longer for something that would likely never come to pass.

After the screening, local immigrants shared their stories. Blanca is about to earn her second bachelor's degree at UNLV, and she's about to start law school. Rafi is already an accomplished organizer, and he's about to earn his bachelor's in psychology at UNLV. Both have lived in Nevada since they were babies. Yet because they came here undocumented, politicians like Rep. Joe Heck (R-Flip-flop) claim they're being "bullied into amnesty" as Americans like Blanca & Rafi simply ask for a chance to succeed in the place they call home.

G-O-TEA politicians like Steve King (R-Crazy) have engaged in demagoguery in their effort to kill comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). They've succeeded in convincing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Coward) to suffocate the bipartisan CIR legislation that the Senate passed nearly a year ago. However, they haven't succeeded in scaring all immigrants back into the shadows. These Americans are sick & tired of the craven games being played on Capitol Hill, and they're simply asking for a chance to stay out of the shadows for good.

A number of G-O-TEA politicians like to talk about "family values". Yet while they talk about "family values", they continue voting to break up millions of American families. They continue threatening American families who simply want to come out of the shadows and live normal lives.

Jared wants a normal life for his family. He just wants to stay with his mother. Why should we force them into the shadows just to try to avoid being torn apart?

11 million Americans have had to endure living in the shadows just survive. Even as they've gone onto build successful careers and strong families, they've had to stay in the shadows to avoid revealing a dangerous secret. Must we continue trying to keep this secret that's already spilled? Must we continue shoving people into the shadows to avoid confronting our own truth? Or is it time to dispense of the shadows, let go of the secret, and finally let these 11 million Americans come into the light?

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Little Closer

Earlier this month, we experienced a breakthrough in the federal government. Medicare's ban on covering transition related medical procedures had been lifted. And while that alone was welcomed by transgender Americans, was it also a sign of further good news to come?

Perhaps so. Just last week, federal employees learned that their employer lifted its ban on insurance coverage of transition related health care. This morning, the Army finally rectified its wrongful discharge of Lisa Weiszmiller 35 years after booting her because she's a lesbian. And now, President Obama is releasing an executive order requiring all federal contractors to refrain from discriminating against workers due to sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression.

Last November, the US Senate passed ENDA. Both of Nevada's Senators, Harry Reid (D) & Dean Heller (R), voted for ENDA along with 62 other Senators. Yet despite this big bipartisan vote, ENDA has been stalled in the lower House of Congress.

But why so? Oh, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Courvoisier) called ENDA "unnecessary". Rep. Joe Heck (R-___) had nothing but "soft lighting" in response to a question about LGBTQ civil rights. And NV-04 candidate Cresent Hardy (R-Stupid) is still trying to explain his philosophy on "segregation laws".

This is why President Obama had to finally agree to the executive order. While G-O-TEA "leaders" in Congress continue to pander to the 21st Century Know Nothings, something needs to be done to address the fact that LGBTQ workers in 33 states continue to face some sort of "legal" wrongful discrimination. And while this is no substitute for a universal nationwide ENDA, at least a larger group of workers nationwide will be able to work without worrying about negative repercussions simply because of who they are.

As we've been noting throughout this LGBTQ PRIDE Month, we've experienced plenty of progress in recent years. And yes, the future looks quite bright. President Obama's big announcement today reminds us of this.

We just have further to go before we finally reach full equality. We have further to go before both houses of Congress finally recognize that we all deserve basic human rights. But at least today, we're a little closer to that final goal.