Thursday, December 23, 2010

10 of '10: The #1 Story of 2010- YOU!

Yes, that's right. I'm finishing off this series with you. YOU were the biggest story of 2010.

You decided this election. You spent even more time volunteering than I! You helped your fellow Nevadans in need. You spoke out when necessary. And you will be essential in shaping Nevada's future in 2011 and beyond.

We've heard so many stories of what we supposedly are. Apparently we're stupid, uncaring, lazy, and violent... If we're to believe some of the media coverage of us over the course of this year.

And let's face it, it's much easier to believe the stereotypes of Nevadans than to take the time to really get to know us. It's easy to look at the numbers, but it's harder to look at the stories behind the numbers.

I actually did that. I met the kids who confronted Sharron Angle at Rancho High School over her race-baiting ads. I met my typically Republican neighbors in Henderson who voted early for Harry Reid. I met people who drove many miles to Dina Titus' campaign office because they believed she was "the real deal". I met folks pissed off at everyone and everyone, because they felt "overwhelmed" by all the negative campaign ads. I met volunteers who tuned out the political insanity as they were collecting food for the hungry, keeping community centers open, making parks and trails accessible to all the neighbors to use, and keeping the local libraries running with new and interesting knowledge just around the corner. Oh yes, and I even met a few teabaggers who are still in shock over the final election results.

All of us here in Nevada were able to catch what most of the public polls couldn't. We were able to listen to what Nevadans were actually saying, as opposed to what Nate Silver and Chris Matthews thought they were hearing.

I heard from parents frightened about their kids' future. I heard outrage over the all the cuts to public education. I heard from unemployed workers wondering where (and when) they will find work again. I heard frustration over all the broken promises of a better and more stable economy. And I heard from people still clinging onto hope that somehow, someday, our state will survive this and be a better place.

2010 was a very challenging year. The casinos couldn't make all our problems go away. The recession wasn't so much a "temporary blip" as it was a long overdue reality check that's forcing us to rethink everything.

Over the years, many authors have come to "investigate" Nevada and uncover all our "deep, dark secrets". We've been called everything from "The New American Dream" to the most evil, corrupt hellhole on the planet. However, you showed me that reality is quite different from any fairy tale or horror story shared by outsiders. You showed me that Nevada can be rough, but the people can be awfully tough.

You made me realize that my own preconceptions of life in The Silver State were wrong. You mean I can live near all these slot machines and life will go on? You mean not everyone here is a sex-addicted, gambling-addicted alcoholic doing raves and poker tourneys every night?

It's easy for outsiders to stereotype you, and it's easy for them to ignore what you're trying to say... Except when your statement shatters what was "expected", then they suddenly don't know what to say next. Were the polls wrong? Were they swayed at the last minute? Where did the "momentum" go? What are these people thinking?

You made me listen to you in 2010... And I'm looking forward to what you have to say in 2011.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

10 of '10: Roots 2 Roots

Because I'm sick and ornery right now, and because these really helped me in recovering from the post-election doldrums and looking ahead to the challenges and opportunities of the future, I'm reposting my post Netroots California diary, followed my post RootsCamp Nevada diary.

OK, so I've had more time to process what happened. And I had a chance to talk with my old Cali friends at Netroots California last Saturday. And I came out surprisingly hopeful about our future.

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While we did have some rough losses in Nevada, overall the picture here was much brighter than the rest of the country. Come on, all the incumbent statewide elected Democrats are reelected while Harry Reid won by over 5.6%! Reid outperformed almost all the public polls. What happened? How come "The Great Red Tide" that destroyed many Dems in many states east of The Rockies was barely a ripple here?

Basically, it comes down to what Harry Reid and Nevada Democrats did right. They invested in getting out the vote. They made our progressive message clear and concise AND accessible to regular voters. And they reached out to minority communities and actually IMPROVED Latin@ turnout over 2006 AND 2008!

It really comes down to this. Even in "wave elections", "the wave" doesn't have to be a monstrous tsunami. Good campaigns still matter. Good field still matters. And good messaging still matters. Harry Reid made all this happen and more.

Ralston explained this on Sunday.

The Reid organization’s Terminator-like single-mindedness, relentlessness and discipline turned preparation into the most satisfying victory of Reid’s career, a resurrection unthinkable most of the year by the Beltway cognoscenti. Combined with an Angle campaign that was thoroughly unprepared for the post-primary onslaught — think of a Little League batter facing Roy Halladay — that by the time the GOP nominee brought in some D.C. pros, the damage was insurmountable.

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Interestingly, a similar dynamic appeared in California last Tuesday. More Latin@ voters turned out than ever before. And while Jerry Brown's campaign (for CA Governor) didn't exactly "strike while the iron was hot" on delivering his message or attacking Meg Whitman's record, California unions did. And they delivered, big time!

And Barbara Boxer followed a very similar strategy to Reid's in defining Carly Fiorina early as quite the unacceptable choice, delivering a progressive message in a practical way to attract voters (Hint: Make it real. Make it tangible. Make it about one's pocketbook/wallet/purse.), and turning out Dem voters like crazy.

Again, it comes down to whether Democrats can field good candidates, deliver a good message, and turn out as many allied voters as possible. It worked in California and Nevada... But because the national Democratic groups failed in these categories and many other state parties were in turmoil, that's why the results were so bad elsewhere.

Why didn't other Senate candidates try to turn health care reform and good climate policy into winning arguments? Why didn't other state parties invest more in good GOTV infrastructure? Why didn't the DCCC and DSCC take a closer look at the winning arguments being made by Reid and Boxer?

That's the challenge moving forward. President Obama needs to rethink his messaging. Democrats need to work harder on showing how good progressive policy means more and better jobs. And Democrats nationally need to look at places like Nevada and California to learn how to rebuild good, strong GOTV infrastructure. And if Obama can turn his numbers around and offer a strong and appealing progressive message that reveals the crap the GOP is truly offering and explains how to truly get our nation back on track, he can win handily again and Democrats can soon retake the House and keep the Senate.

It really comes down to that. Oh, and I had a great time in SF...



Then I had the joy of doing Roots Camp here in Las Vegas with many of the great progressive friends I've met along the campaign trail over the last six months.

And in these last few days, I've been able to think some more about what to do moving forward. In the next few days I'll be writing more about federal legislation, but tonight I want to talk about the state of our state.


So how is the state of our state?

Do you really need me to tell you?

That's what I thought.

Now I won't candy coat things. We're facing as much as a $3 billion deficit, and many corporate "powers that be" in this state are already telling lawmakers that the solution lies in more cuts. Yes, you heard me correctly. Even more devastating budget cuts are on the table.

Have you faced extraordinarily long lines at the DMV? Have your classes at UNLV and/or CSN been cut? Are your neighborhood parks in complete disrepair... Or even worse, closed? And are your neighborhood's roads in shambles?

This is our community here. This is our state. This is our life. This is our future.

Right now, Nevada is at a crossroads. For far too long, our Legislature has postponed so many critical decisions regarding the badly needed infrastructure our state needs and how to fund the basic services we all rely upon.

And yes, we all rely upon such essentials as schools, roads, and parks. And I'm sure you have your own horror stories of what's happened to them thanks to all the state and local budget cuts... Or perhaps these stories have happy endings, thanks to the much needed funds from the Recovery Act coming to our rescue.

So do I. And so do many of the people I talked to on Saturday. And in the coming days, I'll be talking more about the stories we all need to share. Since the corporate right will be speaking up plenty in the next few months about how such profit making clients like Wal-Mart and Kroger simply can't afford to simply pay their fair share of taxes like all the rest of us do, we need to respond by raising our voices.

We need to speak up if we want to save our state.



10 of '10: Wild About Harry

Come on, you really thought we couldn't mention him (again) in our Top 10 countdown? This was the race that consumed so much of our attention. This is the contest the entire country was obsessing over. And of course, this was the election that the Beltway pundits thought they already knew the results of many months in advance... Only to emerge shellshocked by the actual final results.

Again, they didn't see what I saw.

[T]hat's what I've been finding on the ground here in Southern Nevada. Sure, teabaggers pop up here and there occasionally with their protests of everything "government" (except when they want it, go figure). But with the exception of all those thousands of people who drove in or bussed in from out of state for that "Showdown in Searchlight", I still haven't seen any massive "grassroots" outpouring of "tea party" support.

Instead, what I see and hear is concern about when more Nevadans will get back to work, concern about access to good education, concern about the family member(s) dangerously close to foreclosure... Basically, what I'm hearing from real Nevadans is real concern about how to get our state back on track. [...]

[W]ithout a doubt, most of the people I've spoken with here agree that our only chance of moving forward is with Harry Reid as our Senate Majority Leader. And I know I'm not alone. That's what the Beltway pundits are missing. This isn't a game to us. We're dealing with our very lives here, and we can't afford the insane and dangerous extremism of Sharron Angle.

I want to be able to finish school at UNLV and get a good job. My unemployed friends depended on unemployment insurance, and need good jobs soon. My friend who came close to foreclosure needed someone to help him negotiate with the bank to keep his home. My parents depend on Social Security to survive. And guess who's been helping us?

Again, this isn't a game to us. And I think this is what's closing "the enthusiasm gap". And at the end of the day, I think a whole lot of folks will be surprised by the final election results.

And again, they were! Hell, I was even surprised when I saw that Harry Reid won MY precinct!

And while I was certainly frustrated with him at times, at the end of the day I knew his heart and his head were in the right place. There was really no other choice.

Nope, we don't need this kind of crazy. We need someone who can deliver good results. Harry Reid can. Sharron Angle can't.

Now I know he isn't perfect. Trust me, I know.

But right now, we don't have "perfection" on the ballot. (And frankly, I wonder if "perfection" can win in a volatile climate like this.)

We have Harry Reid. And he's not just our best choice... He's really our only choice to get this state and this country back on track.

He may not be the most glamorous politician around...

But he's done plenty to help Nevada in our time of need.

We can't afford to lose the Majority Leader. We can't afford to lose someone who's listening to us. We can't afford to lose the kind of expertise that Reid has on all things Nevada.

We need Harry Reid... It's really as simple as that.

This has been quite the brutal election, but thanks to Reid's brilliant campaign, Nevada emerged much more intact than most of the rest of the country. And Nevada will still have the most powerful advocate in Washington that we've ever seen.

And Harry Reid's journey is far from over.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

10 of '10: Dina Titus, Comeback Queen?

She's strong. She's principled. She's brassy. She's determined.

And she's never afraid to ruffle feathers. Dina Titus has endured plenty in her political career here in Nevada, including an excruciatingly narrow NV-03 reelection loss...

But is it the end of the road for Dina? Actually, NO! She will soon be on the esteemed US Civil Rights Commission... And she may one day be back in Congress. Nevada is now guaranteed to get a 4th Congressional District, and Dina hasn't done a good job hiding her intention to come back. Again.

And why should she? Just 1,923 votes separated her from another term. And in her one term in Congress, she helped Nevadans save their homes, fought to end childhood hunger, worked to make health care reform work for Nevada, spoke loudly for LGBTQ equality, and was overall a superb Representative in Congress.

I won't forget when she came to our Stonewall BBQ, right across Pittman Wash from my humble Henderson abode. I just couldn't sit on the sidelines when so much was at stake. And although Dina didn't quite make it, I'm still proud of her campaign and what she did for us in NV-03.

This is our loss... For now. But hopefully, we'll see her again soon. ;-)

10 of '10: Scandaliciousness (& The Solution)

Scandal. We've heard plenty about it this year. How many politicians were caught with their hands in the cookie jar when they weren't supposed to be anywhere near it? How many accusations, true, false, and sometimes downright bizarre, have we heard this year? It's been pure insanity...

But amidst all the usual complaints of "corruption", how often do we hear about actual solutions? Any takers?

Back in August, I wrote this. Let's take another look, and perhaps offer this challenge to anyone claiming to "fight corruption" in 2011. Next time one complains about the problem, one also needs to address real solutions like the one I highlight below.


Oh goody, Ralston is back... And he hits hard on the new "scandal" everyone in Carson City is talking about.

I have been ruminating on what the proper reaction is to Steven Horsford’s “Money for Something and Your Access Ain’t Free” fundraising pitch. Or what the proper reaction to the reaction might be. [...]

What Horsford did was crass, heavy-handed and arrogant. But it takes a spectacular naiveté or a willful ignorance — and there is much more of the latter than the former in much of the reaction — not to realize this is just par for a course where membership is reserved only for a closed circle and where the entry fee for influence is often too rich for almost anyone without a Las Vegas Boulevard South address.

Of course, Ralston is talking about State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford (D) sending out a ridiculous letter recently promising special meals with him for big contributions. He even promised meals and extra "quality time" with Committee Chairs, apparently without even asking them if they wanted to do this!

It was pathetic. It was lame. It was dirty... And oh boy, it was clumsy!

So what exactly were the Republicans criticizing?

I smiled when I read of state Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio tut-tutting about Horsford’s solicitation, suggesting his counterpart had been intimidating lobbyists not to contribute to Republicans during the campaign season. This is laugh-out-loud funny, folks.

Raggio is the anti-Horsford, but not in the way he implied. When he was majority leader, Raggio was anything but blunt. A master of finesse, he knew how to inspire fear with a carefully chosen word or two, or perhaps by using someone else to send a message.

Don’t misunderstand: I don’t suggest Raggio ever did anything unethical. But when a consummate insider, a man who served on gaming and managed care boards while being the most powerful legislator in the state for decades, expresses disdain for Horsford’s blunt instrument, I figured he must be muttering, “That young man needs to learn a little subtlety.”

Even better, state GOP Chairman Mark Amodei’s sense of outrage was comically outrageous. “We never operated that way when we were in the majority,” Amodei told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Probably no laws were broken, but it sends a bad sign about the whole process. You need to raise money, but you don’t do that.”

This from the man who, while a state senator, auditioned for a job as the mining association’s top lobbyist and formed a political action committee with business interests he regulated. A sense of irony is always helpful, Mr. Chairman.

So Raggio and Amodei bash Horsford over his clumsy letter and want us to forget everything they did when in the majority? Seriously? And they want us to ignore their newest scandal involving their "Star Senator" Barbara Cegavske?

And if anyone is truly serious in uprooting Carson City corruption, why not discuss possible solutions? Solutions like clean money campaigning?

It's already being implemented in several states, and the results so far have been clear. If we really want to solve this problem, let's get to the root of it.

So what's the real root of this problem? It's MONEY, as in the corporate money that buys access in Carson City. Take the big corporate money out, and none of this has to happen any more. For many decades now, it's been standard operating practice that the "big bid'nis'eez" with the best connected lobbyists, best parties, and biggest campaign contributions get the most access in state government. If we really want to do something about this problem, let's get to the source of it by ridding our election system of all this corporate corruption.

So when will we ever get a serious discussion on clean money campaigns and serious election reform? When will we demand that our elected officials listen to us instead of the big corporate powers that be?

Monday, December 20, 2010

10 of '10: DADT, Dan, & Harry

In light of last weekend's very encouraging news, I'd like to repost a diary I wrote in July after witnessing the event that many still are in shock over. So come on over and take the time warp back with me to July 27 and the famous Netroots Nation session that was a sign of the major LGBTQ equality breakthrough that was to come.


So today, I get a nice little message from Lt. Dan Choi and GetEQUAL. I read they want to "keep Sen. Reid accountable to his promise" to ensure the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell". OK, I agree with that. I'll toast to that.

I just want to say that this should be easier than some expect. In the last year that I've lived here in Southern Nevada, I've learned things about Harry Reid that I never knew before.

Netroots Nation,NN10,Las Vegas,Nevada,Democrats,progressive values,Harry Reid,Stonewall

Before I moved here last year, I just assumed that Reid was just "Mr. Mormon Limp Dick" who didn't know what he was doing. But as soon as I moved here, I learned things I had never realized before. Reid's a master vote counter who can count his way to a win better than anyone else I know. He's the best friend Nevada's LGBTQ community has had, and the door is always open for us to go and ask about what's happening with ENDA or DADT. And for being so "conservative", he's much better than past "Democrats" elected as Senators here (Pat McCarran was a notorious McCarthy ally, Howard Cannon lost his touch with the locals, Richard Bryan was never interested in anything progressive).

There's an interesting back story on Reid that I've been learning since I moved here, and the more I know the more I come to love "Grampa Harry". He's not perfect, but he's our Senator and he's done a damned good job for us.

Netroots Nation,NN10,Las Vegas,Nevada,Democrats,progressive values,Harry Reid,Stonewall

Because Harry Reid is Mormon, it's often assumed he's a "homophobe". Maybe in the distant past there were problems, but today that couldn't be further from the truth. He received plenty of flak from his church when he publicly disagreed with the church leadership's decision to finance California's Yes on H8 campaign to repeal marriage equality. When the National Equality March went to DC last October, Harry Reid proudly endorsed it.

Las Vegas,Nevada,LGBTQ,queer,Las Vegas PRIDE

Plus, I can tell you about what I've observed since I moved here to Vegas. Whenever we at the Stonewall Democratic Club (Disclosure: I'm the Secretary & Political Director) have wanted to talk to him about ENDA or DADT or hate crimes, the door has always been open and he's always been on the same page. When the Las Vegas LGBT Center needed help with a new TV for the youth program, Reid's office got it for them. When we were preparing for Las Vegas PRIDE in early May, Reid's office was there for us and made sure we had enough resources to do voter registration and be a major presence.

OK, so Reid isn't perfect. Who is? I wasn't impressed at first... Hey, I was used to calling Barbara Boxer my Senator! But you know what? It was all these little things, combined with some really important big things, that created the soft spot I have for Harry Reid.

And this is why I know we can count on him to fulfill his end of the promise to end "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and make sure what happened to good soldiers like Dan Choi won't happen to anyone else again. I think my change in attitude toward Reid is similar to his evolving relationship with our community. As he's come to know all of our LGBTQ families in Las Vegas, in Reno, in Winnemucca, in Pahrump, and all around our great state of Nevada, he's become more of a friend to us.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not making excuses. And I'm not saying it's wrong for GetEQUAL or any other LGBTQ advocacy group to demand full equality. As a gay person myself, I'm 110% there with you! I'm just saying that Harry Reid is NOT the enemy, but rather a friend who I know wants to do the right thing. Sometimes we need to give him the extra push and "make him do it", as both he and Nancy Pelosi said on Saturday at Netroots Nation. But in the end, it's important to keep building these relationships, holding leaders like Reid and Pelosi accountable when necessary, but also remembering that these are our friends and we don't have to fight against them.

OK, enough of my rambling rant. I have some phone calls and door knocking to get back to. ;-)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

LATE BREAKING: DADT Repeal Moves to Senate Passage!

After a 17-year struggle, the Senate on Saturday cleared the way for repealing the Pentagon’s ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military.

By a bipartisan vote of 63 to 33, the Senate acted to cut off debate on a measure that would allow President Obama to declare an end to the Clinton-era policy, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which allows gay members of the armed forces to serve only if they keep their sexual orientation a secret.

The vote was a historic moment that some equated with the decision to end racial segregation in the military. It followed a review by the Pentagon that found little concern in the military about ending the ban and was backed by Pentagon officials as a better alternative to a court-ordered end.

Backers of the repeal said that it was long past time to end what they saw as a discriminatory practice that cost the military valuable personnel and forced American troops to lie in order to serve their country.

“I don’t care who you love,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said as debate opened. “If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are.”

And by the way, Senator Wyden postponed his own surgery to take care of his prostate cancer. He did that so he could vote today. Now that is determination!

And so is this.

Today’s historic vote means that thanks to the leadership of Nevada’s Senator Harry Reid, the discriminatory policy of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is going to be repealed once and for all. Though the opponents of equality did everything possible to keep delaying this vote through cynical political maneuvers, Senator Reid’s extraordinary leadership ensured that they did not succeed.

The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is not only the right thing to do, it is critical for our nation’s national security. It will end the discriminatory policy of forcing gay service members out of the military even though they are willing to serve and die for their country. In fact, the Pentagon released an in-depth study at the end of November finding that repealing the ban would not harm long-term effectiveness. The vast majority of the country also supports the repeal of DADT with poll after poll showing a huge pro-repeal sentiment. Last week, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that almost 8 in 10 Americans favor repealing DADT.

We are proud to have worked hard on Senator Reid’s reelection efforts because we have always trusted that when it comes to doing what’s right for America, the “Man from Searchlight” will lead the battle and today he did.

And so am I. Thank you again, Senator Reid. And thanks to the other 62 Senators who voted to do the right thing today.

10 of '10: Bock, Bock, Barter-gate!

It seemed like the whole US Senate campaign turned on its head when Sue Lowden spoke those words that would soon doom her campaign for good. While she had turned up the crazy far before before April 6, this just took the cake... Well, more like the chicken.

Simply put, Sue Lowden long ago forgot what we "plebes" have to endure just to access the health care we need. Because she was pandering to teabaggers (who would then ditch her for "the real deal") in bashing health care reform, she felt compelled to offer an "alternative"... An "alternative" that simply doesn't work in 21st Century America!

So instead of either acknowledging the many great new features of health care reform or offering any sort of meaningful alternative to it, Sue Lowden just offered this garbage. And she actually expected us to just accept it as "rational"! And then instead of clarifying what she said or offering any sort of apology for being so crude and callous, Lowden then doubled down, tripled down, and quadrupled down on this nonsense.

It actually turned out to be a sign of what was to come from Nevada Republicans this year. Remember this doozy from Sharron Angle?

Sadly for Nevada Republicans, Sue Lowden pretty much secured the carte blanche that Sharron Angle would then use to continue spewing out nonsensical "policy" during an election when Nevadans were desperately looking for real solutions. And it looks like neither is going away any time soon. In fact, look who will now be on the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners!

Former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sue Lowden has been named to the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners.

Gov. Jim Gibbons announced Lowden's appointment Tuesday. She replaces Van Hefner, who resigned. Her term will expire in June 2014.

A wealthy casino executive, former state senator and television news anchor, Lowden was a perceived front-runner among 12 GOP candidates who sought to challenge Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

But her campaign sputtered when she suggested bartering with doctors - like bringing a chicken to the doctor as they did in the olden days - was a valid health care option.

Lowden lost the GOP primary to tea party-backed Sharron Angle, and Reid was re-elected to a fifth term in November.

Pure insanity. And the beat goes on...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

10 of '10: "It's TEA Time"

Of all the factors that went into making the 2010 Election so wild and crazy, none quite shaped it and turned it in such a batshit crazy direction as "the tea party".

I was at the "Showdown in Searchlight" in March, and I saw for myself what actually happened.

So how did the "tea party" in Searchlight go? Well, they certainly brought in a big crowd... But it wasn't the 10,000 organizers had originally hoped for, and nowhere near the 20,000 they were claiming yesterday (more like 7-8,000). The big draw for their event was really Sarah Palin, as she got most of the attention and the biggest crowds. Multiple reports so far confirm that after Palin left the stage (and before most of the Nevada GOP candidates were set to speak), the crowds started emptying the valley they were occupying. When I was with the pro-Reid rally in town, about 90% of the cars heading to the "tea party" rally were from out of state (with, again, the bulk of those being California and Arizona righties). And when our shuttle was leaving town on the way back up to Vegas, about 80% of the cars parked along and near Highway 95 for the "tea party" rally were from out of state.

Basically, a few big money corporate lobby groups bankrolled it and led "caravans" of out of state teabaggers into Searchlight.

And really, it set the tone for the entire rest of the year. Just as it looked like the Nevada GOP establishment had settled on Sue Lowden to win the US Senate nomination, Tea Party Express and Club for Growth then rushed in to lavish millions of dollars of ads to buy the GOP nomination for Sharron Angle.

In July, we ripped open the thin veneer of "grassroots enthusiasm" to uncover who was really behind Sharron Angle's meteoric rise to political superstardom. Behind the "blue collar" looking "tea party activists" with their misspelled signs and ragtag "rallies", a slick group of California Republican operatives were pulling the strings for (and OF, for that matter!) Sharron Angle the whole damned time.

So they lied about Bush's war in Iraq, they lied about what they actually saw there, they lied their way into the California Recall [special election in 2003] that saddled that state with "Arnold", and now they're lying about what their little "tea party" is really up to.

Oh, and now they're trying to dupe us into believ[ing] Harry Reid is some sort of "Satan Incarnate" and Sharrontology is our only way to salvation. But when we look behind the curtain, we have to notice the corporate fat cats funding the "Tea Party, Inc." gravy train supporting Sharrontology.

They may claim to be "helping the grassroots defeat Harry Reid", but what Sal Russo and his band of corporate funded California Republican PR operatives, along with their high profile national cheerleaders like Sarah Palin, are really up to is a national campaign to replace Democrats like Harry Reid who can think for themselves and help working families in their states with corporate tools like Sharron Angle who will do as they say, NOT as we Nevadans would like.

So was it really that much of a surprise that, in the wake of "Barter-gate", Sue Lowden's campaign imploded when forced to go against "Tea Party, Inc."?

And was that really that much of a surprise that our lovely "newspaper" would cover the entire Senate race like this?

Bullshit, crap, more crap, blow job for Ronald Reagan, miss old Ronnie, hate Harry, bullshit, more bullshit, pure unadulterated crap, derivative crap, insightful conservative hate speech, more crap, small turds, bigger turds, little rat publisher flatulence, bla, bla bla, love the governor, all lies about the governor, the governor didn't do any of that, apologist, flatulence, still hate Reid, both of them, Shelley Berkley, lucky she's in that gerrymandered district, more flatulence, Dina Taxes is in trouble, she won but she's in trouble, hate democrats, love the tea baggers, love the conservatives, lovin Ronnie Reagan, George who?, bullshit, crap, more crap, the only thing I like about the beltway is the name, damn people speeding, crap, bla, crap, bla, shit, bla ffffffffffftttttttt(a tribute to Mad Magazine!)

So after the primary, Sharrrrrrrrrrrrrron then tried an "extreme makeover"... But hardly anyone was buying it, not even many of her fellow Republicans! One key turning point was the sudden swelling of "Republicans for Reid" over the course of the year, a trend that seemed to accelerate once Sharron Angle won the GOP nomination.

And from there, Sharron Angle's campaign just spun out of control. She flip-flopped on her "juice". She insulted autistic kids. She insulted cancer survivors. She insulted basically the entire Las Vegas Strip...

And the teabaggers were cheering her on the whole entire way. No matter what she said or what she did, she was their "angel" and Harry Reid was some variation of "devil". It didn't matter what facts got in the way...

And that's how "Tea Party, Inc." liked it.

But thankfully, most Nevadans weren't buying it. However, we didn't totally escape unscathed. Harry Reid may have prevailed, but there was some carnage further down the ballot. And moving forward, we need to be able to point out the vapidity of "the tea party", just as Reid did.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

10 of '10: Gibbons Be Gone?

While much of the attention (especially among the out of state "politicos") was focused on the topsy turvy US Senate race (and we'll get to that later), probably one of the big stories of 2010 that many just seemed to shrug off was the slow motion collapse of Jim Gibbons' political career.

Back in February, I looked at his last ditch effort to save his political career. Remember what he did? He took his "no new taxes" mantra to such ridiculous lows it would have been laughable...

Oh, joy. He's back to cause more damage and destroy this state. Why is it that it seems like no one is doing anything to stop him?

We all know that "Luv-Guv Gibbons" doesn't give a sh*t about our state. This is all just a grand political game for him. It's his last chance to win the GOP nomination for reelection.

He cares nothing about slashing the social safety net to shreds, denying people badly needed health care, destroying what's left of our education system once and for all, and all around reducing our state to the equivalent of a small, underdeveloped third-world country.

And for what? For a failed far right ideology? For a failed Republican campaign slogan?

If it hadn't worked.

Of course, his "no new taxes" promise was just another lie. He had no problems raising fees on the poor and middle class, so long as it meant sparing the super-rich from paying anything close to their fair share. But even though everyone in Carson City wanted to distance oneself from Gibbons the failed politician, hardly anyone seemed to muster the courage to call out Gibbon's ridiculous policies for the failures they are.

And then, all of a sudden, Gibbons' poll numbers rose. Might the "walking dead man" be in for a resurrection? Perhaps GOP primary voters were responding positively to his "no new taxes" BS, his law suit against federal health care reform, his naked pandering to crazed, xenophobic teabaggers, and all the rest of his political street theater?

Nope, they ultimately didn't...

Or did they?

It seems the Nevada GOoP wanted the appearance of "cleaning house" by removing Gibbons in the primary, but in reality the "moderate" Sandoval has had to flip-flop so far to the right that he's made himself into essentially a carbon copy of Jimbo the Gube (sans scandaliciousness). We'll have to see in the coming weeks and months whether Nevadans want to give Gibbons a second chance... Vicariously, through Sandoval.

I had to stare down this new reality in August, when I read between the lines of all the flowery rhetoric Brian Sandoval was spewing.

Behind Brian Sandoval's flowery rhetoric was something truly frightening. Naomi Klein wrote an amazing book three years ago, called "The Shock Doctrine", that explains how the radical right has used disasters and times of upheaval to sneak through their corporate right agenda of deregulation and privatization. And reading between the lines of Sandoval's statements last night, it became crystal clear he and his economic team are looking to "shock doctrine" Nevada by using our recession and budget crisis to slash public education, starve our entire public infrastructure, and let the corporate welfare agenda roll. [...]

We all know we can't cut our way out of this problem. As we've talked about before, there's hardly anything left to cut! And more and more state legislators are now saying the obvious that we have no choice but to look at new revenue. We know the mining industry can afford to pay its fair share, and we know corporate giants like Wal-Mart and Target have avoided paying their fair share for decades. It's time to finally address this and institute fair and progressive tax reform to save our state.

Pink Floyd summed it up best: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

And what made this even more depressing is that Rory Reid could hardly put up a fight. By the time this ad hit the airwaves...

His fate was sealed.

So now, we're stuck with Brian Sandoval, who is already doing his darndest to become "Gibbons 2.0".

So what does Brian Sandoval want to do? Placate his new teabagger friends by starving the state to death? Or listen to actual knowledgeable people who are urging us to finally make that down payment on diversifying our economy and creating a better Nevada?

Meet the new Gube, same as the old Gube...

But can this story get a different ending? Jon Ralston hinted on Sunday that the demand for a new direction is real...

One of the state’s most successful businessmen was on the phone and he was beside himself — as he said others are — about the upcoming legislative session. But, specifically, about Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval.

“There are a lot of very smart people, and we are all just shaking our heads,” said the business leader, to whom I granted anonymity so he would talk freely. “There were a lot of people who thought he (Sandoval) would get elected and soften his rhetoric.”

Trust me, dear readers, this man is no tax-happy lunatic. He is a thoughtful guy whose business has taken a gigantic hit during the Great Recession. But he — and he says several others who have been meeting to discuss the state’s future — are concerned that the governor-elect’s inflexibility on new revenue could be an impediment to the state’s economic future, especially if cuts in education are implemented.

“The business community is speaking as much as ever with one voice,” he told me. “It’s happening.”

I have heard about this convergence for months, with gaming and mining and chamber types realizing that the lack of a long-term plan while enacting devastating cuts could … obviate the need for a long-term plan.

“If those cuts happen, we’ve gone so far back,” he lamented before his frustration resurfaced. He fretted “people will not stay engaged” and that it “will take 20 years to get back” to a low level of service.

I have picked up on this frustration from other engaged business types, who are sick of the partisan maneuvering and the binary “to tax or not to tax” discussion. And they were counting on Sandoval to be the leader who could move the state beyond it.

But it's increasingly looking like Sandoval won't be the one to provide it. So who will? Look around you. We will have to.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Nevada Progressive 2.0... And OMG, We're Getting a Spinoff??!!

Yes, my kids. We're shaking things up here at Nevada Progressive.

For one, now that the election is long gone and I have a little more time on my hands, there will be more policy talk here. Aren't you excited??!! Our "10 of '10" series focusing on the other nine big stories of 2010 (you can read the first installment here) will continue, and pretty soon I'll have more thoughts on what to expect next year out of Carson City and DC.

Also, we now have our own official URL:

Good times, I'm telling you.

Oh, and here's the REALLY big news (!!!) I just have to tell you: I finally mustered the courage to start my own food blog!

Since Nevada Progressive will be more policy wonk oriented (with the occasional political punditry being allowed/snuck in), I figured it will be more appropriate to create another place where we can talk food, and everything from cooking it to eating it to buying it to lusting after it.

So here it is: Bite of Vegas!

Honestly, I'm still nervous about doing this. I don't want to step on the toes of our already awesome local food bloggers, such as John Curtas, Mike Dobranski, Max Jacobson, and Al Mancini. Maybe it will help that I won't try to copy any of them. This will be where I come to share my dining experiences, where you will hopefully feel comfortable to talk with me about your dining experiences, and we can all discuss what we're cooking and what we're buying (at the grocery store).

Hell, maybe we'll even mock those Food Network shows we love to hate (or is it hate to love?) and make bets on who will win "Top Chef"! ;-)

This is a totally new adventure for me, and I hope you'll be joining me on this.

Friday, December 10, 2010

WTF??!! I'm Right Again?

This week, we've had some great news on the economic front. Las Vegas October 2010 visitation numbers rose 5.7% over October 2009, and Nevada casino winnings rose a whopping 11% in October 2010 over October 2009. So are we really there yet? Are we recovering?

Perhaps so, but don't expect everything to come up roses just yet.

Gaming industry leaders are confident visitors will return in greater numbers in 2011, benefitting hotels, restaurants and resort amenities, but they’re less confident about whether their casinos will see a similar increase.

“I feel good about the pricing environment and rates in ’11,” said Jonathan Halkyard, senior vice president and chief financial officer of Caesars Entertainment. “But it won’t even be close to what we had in 2007.” [...]

“It’s a little more difficult to predict what will happen with gaming, but it’s not looking great right now,” Halkyard said.

The reason is that most consumers have seen their net worth or those of close friends and family members plummet, he said. The downturn in gaming revenue correlates more with consumer net worth and what has happened to the housing market than today’s unemployment rate, he said.

“We’re going into ’11 cautiously, but as far as gaming is concerned, I think we’re in for more tough sledding,” he said.

Again, The Great Recession has changed many consumers' spending habits. These people used to be able to visit Las Vegas perhaps three or four times a year, but now they're lucky if they've been able to come any time since 2008.

Come on, let's face it. Feeding the family, trying to avoid foreclosure, and saving some cash just in case that dreaded pink slip arrives may be far more important priorities for most Americans than fitting in another Las Vegas or Reno/Tahoe vacation. That's just the awful truth of our "new (economic) reality".

So what can we do? Well, haven't we talked about this before? Seriously.

And guess who agrees with me now?

“Touting ourselves as a low tax state as the only reason people want to come here has proved to be a failure,” said John Restrepo, principal of Restrepo Consulting Group and a member of the study group. “If low taxes were all we needed, and we have been touting that, we wouldn’t have a 15 percent unemployment rate.”

The group’s report, “Nevada: 50th in the Nation for Education,” emanated from a round-table discussion among representatives of banking, architecture, law enforcement, education, real estate and government.

They met in August under the sponsorship of UNLV’s Lied Institute for Real Estate Studies and have published their findings. Dominant among them: Nevada won’t diversify its economy and prevent another deep recession unless education is valued in the community and more money is invested in public schools and colleges.

People and businesses leave Nevada or never move here because the educational system fails to meet their needs. The region is particularly off-putting to innovative, cutting-edge employers who seek excellent schools, the report said.

“We can no longer shortchange the state’s public schools, colleges and universities because of a lack of financial, political, social and economic will,” the report said. “To do so is shortsighted and will simply find us falling further behind Arizona, California, New Mexico, Utah and other states in the push to lure the innovative entrepreneurs, investors and workers of the coming decades. To do so will relegate Nevadans to continued cycles of boom and bust that are heavily dependent upon the uncertain fortunes of the gaming, construction and government-employment sectors.” [Emphasis mine.]

Get it now? We have to. We have no other choice at this point.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

10 of '10: Are We There Yet?

This week, I'm introducing 10 of '10, aka the ten most memorable Nevada stories covered here in 2010. Haven't we been through a lot this year?

And without a doubt, one of the biggest ongoing stories of 2010 was our brutal recession and whatever signs emerged of potential recovery. It seems the worst is finally over, but that's cold comfort to those here in Nevada who still can't find jobs.

Back in January, there was our first sign of hope when Goldman Sachs turned bullish on MGM Resorts as Vegas visitation numbers started rising again.

So is everything looking up from here? Apparently.

But is all the bad news over yet? Not so fast. Room rates are still hovering under $93 per night, and total spending is still down.

But at the very least, more signs are finally appearing and telling us that the worst is over and recovery is arriving. This is the third month in a row with year-over-year gains in tourist volume, and this is the first time since 2007 that Nevada casino winnings have actually seen year-over-year gains. Also remember that this is for November 2009... Before CityCenter opened!

And now with Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs betting on MGM Mirage's and Las Vegas' overall success, it's no longer looking so "crazy" to invest in Southern Nevada's future.

But still, we've had to deal with the changing dynamics of this town. In March, I wrote about the challenges posed by casinos investing more in emerging markets and less here in Nevada.

It's the law of diminishing marginal returns, plain and simple. As the 1990s Strip construction boom came to a close and the 2000s "luxury megaresort craze" began, Las Vegas began to reach the point of saturation with high-end megaresort casinos. The law of diminishing marginal returns began to take hold as the potential for profit decreased as the number of megaresorts vying for tourist dollars continued to increase.

This is why the Las Vegas of 2010 is a whole new ball game. We're no longer that tiny outlaw outpost in The High Mojave, but rather a maturing resort destination that already attracts over 37 million visitors annually. And while there are still some possibilities to expand that tourist pool, we don't have as much growth potential in gaming these days, like we did in 1950 or 1990. [...]

Now contrast this to newer markets, like Florida and Pennsylvania domestically and Macau globally. Pennsylvania and Macau are nowhere near full saturation yet, and Florida is a potential gold mine with already desirable tourist destinations that haven't yet been tapped by casinos. Now we can see why all the big casino companies are rushing to build abroad as they only agree to minor spruce-ups at their respective Las Vegas home bases.

So what does this mean? No, it's not the end of the world! Las Vegas will go on, albeit now as a more mature gaming destination rather than some place with unrealistic "limitless" growth potential.

And two days later, I wrote the rant I just can't stop using.

[... T]he casinos can no longer be counted upon as a "free ride". We can't just expect new casino construction to prop up demand for construction jobs, which props up demand for new housing, which props up demand for housing construction, which props up the rest of Southern Nevada's economy. We may have lucked out in seeing this model work from 1989 to 2007, but all it really did was hide the weaknesses in this shaky economic model that ended up being exposed when "The Great Recession" hit and all the artificial demand for new casinos, new homes, new whatever fell like a row of dominoes. [...]

Yes, there are signs of hope here. We're no longer seeing the mountain of foreclosures that seemed so mind-numbingly painful a year ago. We're no longer seeing the unemployment rate rocketing up to dangerous new highs, even though it's bad enough that it's still hovering around an already too high 13.8%. We are starting to see a return of economic growth, however so slight and lagging behind the rest of the country it is.

But again, I have to point out that we are lagging behind. We're especially lagging behind metro areas that have better PreK-16 education systems and more stable employment sources. Salt Lake City and Ogden, Utah, both have GMP (gross metro product) growth rates exceeding the national average and unemployment below the national average. Same goes for Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs, Colorado. So why is this? All of these areas boast a highly educated workforce employed in stable sectors like high-tech and biotech, and none were as dependent on the housing bubble and artificial "construction for the sake of construction" as Southwest areas, like Las Vegas and Phoenix (which is also lagging behind in economic growth).

So again and again, we come back to this dilemma. As long as our education system is broken and as long as we continue to make ourselves overdependent on the casinos and casino-fueled development, Las Vegas will continue to suffer under this radical boom and bust cycle that lives and dies on discretionary consumer spending. Sorry, but this is not how a major metropolitan area with 2 million residents and a state with over 2.7 million residents can survive!

So it all comes back to this. Will Nevada remember the lessons learned the hard way during The Great Recession? I have a feeling we have no other choice. Gaming revenue likely won't return to pre-recession levels until 2014. And moving forward, there's no more chance of "limitless" "growth for the sake of growth", as there just isn't much room left for The Strip to grow and competition can now be found almost everywhere.

Looking forward to 2011 and beyond, Nevada needs to look to more stable job sectors to find the stable economy we've always been looking for.