Monday, January 31, 2011

Whatever Happened to "No Legislating from the Bench"?

I guess when far right Republican appointed judges issue opinions that makes teabaggers jump for joy, it's A-O-K.

A federal district court judge in Florida ruled today that a key provision in the new health care law is unconstitutional, and that the entire law must be voided.

Roger Vinson, a Ronald Reagan appointee, agreed with the 26 state-government plaintiffs that Congress exceeded its authority by passing a law penalizing individuals who do not have health insurance.

"I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the Act with the individual mandate," Vinson writes. "Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void."

Even if it has no real legal footing.

The judge has the chutzpah to cite McCollough v. Maryland:
[S]hould congress, in the execution of its powers, adopt measures which are prohibited by the constitution; or should congress, under the pretext of executing its powers, pass laws for the accomplishment of objects not intrusted to the government; it would become the painful duty of this tribunal, should a case requiring such a decision come before it, to say, that such an act was not the law of the land. McCulloch, supra, 17 U.S. at 421, 423.
Is the individual mandate "prohibited" by the Constitution? Is it being use to accomplish an object not intrusted to the government? This citation is nonsensical. The judge argues:
[T[he means used to serve [the health bill's] end must be “appropriate,” “plainly adapted,” and not “prohibited” or inconsistent “with the letter and spirit of the constitution.” [.. .] The Necessary and Proper Clause cannot be utilized to “pass laws for the accomplishment of objects” that are not within Congress’ enumerated powers. As the previous analysis of the defendants’ Commerce Clause argument reveals, the individual mandate is neither within the letter nor the spirit of the Constitution.
This reasoning turns McCollough on its head. The issue is not whether the Constitution empowers Congress to enact an individual mandate, but rather whether the object of Congress' use of the individual mandate is a purpose permitted by the Constitution. The judge concedes the object is Constitutional and that the Constitution does not prohibit an individual mandate. Thus, the reasoning even this judge applies compels a finding that the individual mandate is in fact constitutional.
In the end, the judge bootstraps the individual mandate to declare the entire health bill unconstitutional because, the judge argues, the mandate is essential to the functioning of the entire scheme. How this squares with the mandate not being "necessary and proper" is beyond me.
The decision however, has a better chance of succeeding in higher courts precisely because of the non-severability decision. The insurance companies will be happy with this decision, as opposed to the Virginia decision which struck down the mandate but not the health bill.
That said, I doubt any of these decisions survive.

Believe it or not, there is precedent for this. In the past, hard-right conservative judges struck down the Voting Rights Act, Civil Rights Act, Minimum Wage, and even Social Security, only for The Supreme Court to later rule all these bills Constitutional and upheld them as law of the land.

And hopefully, this will come to pass again.

The [Commerce C]lause as written gives Congress the power to regulate economic decisions and there is a long line of Supreme Court cases that reinforce Congress’ broad power to enact laws that substantially affect prices, marketplaces, or other economic transactions. Health care comprises some 17 percent of the national economy and the failure to purchase health insurance — the very passivity that Vinson is referring to — is having a significant impact on national health care spending and growing costs.

But this too is an argument that he rejects. “If impact [of the uninsured] on interstate commerce were to be expressed and calculated mathematically, the status of being uninsured would necessarily be represented by zero. Of course, any other figure multiplied by zero is also zero. Consequently, the impact must be zero, and of no effect on interstate commerce.” Caring for the uninsured, in other words, is free and creates no cost shifts throughout the system.

That’s just not true (doctors and hospitals and treat the uninsured for free) and the argument unravels further when Vinson completely dismisses the Necessary and Proper Clause by arguing that it’s subservient to the Commerce Clause. That Clause, Vinson writes “is not really a separate inquiry, but rather is part and parcel of the Commerce Clause analysis as it augments that enumerated power by authorizing Congress ‘To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper’ to regulate interstate commerce.”

This is the kind of distortion that really undermines the entire decision and sets Vinson apart as an activist who has decided that Congress has no power to regulate insurance companies, establish exchanges, extend drug discounts to seniors, and give small businesses tax credits to help purchase insurance are all unconstitutional. Conservatives should be outraged.

Isn't it funny how teabaggers often praise The Constitution... Except when they don't like it? The Commmerce Clause was included in Article I, Section 8, for a reason. Congress has the authority to make laws to ensure a fair and orderly marketplace. And in this case, Congress passed health care reform last year to make health care more affordable and accessible. There's really nothing in The Constitution making this "illegal", and teabaggers are really grasping at straws in hoping that these overtly political decisions from a small handful of "activist" conservative judges are somehow upheld.

Let's see what The Supreme Court Justices have to say when this case ends up in their hands.

On "Nevada Being Nevada Again": Last Word on Saturday's Town Halls

Over the weekend, Governor Brian Sandoval enjoyed himself at inaugural balls in Las Vegas and Reno. He and his guests had a great time at both parties, as the champagne was flowing freely and spirits were quite high.

Perhaps Sandoval should have stayed here in Las Vegas Saturday morning to hear some of these people testify at The Legislature's town hall on his proposed budget.

My friend and neighbor, Tera, was there, alongside her husband John. They both lost their jobs in the construction industry, and both are now back in school. John is in CSN and studying to become a nurse, while Tera is now at UNLV and studying to become an accountant.

Both spoke so eloquently on the challenges they face daily. They're not "spoiled". They're not "lazy". In fact, against incredible odds of tight family budgets and three kids to raise, they're working to improve their lives and set a great example for their kids.

Tera spoke of adapting to the new economy. This is something I've been begging The Governor and The Legislature to do for our state for quite some time. The real estate speculation and debt fueled "boom times" of the last decade are long gone, so we need to stop acting like we can return to those "good old days".

Numerous ordinary Nevadans have already seen the writing on the wall. "Easy" construction jobs are no longer all that easy to get, and "plentiful" casino jobs are no longer all that plentiful, especially now that the casinos are increasingly investing in foreign markets and less so in new Nevada properties. That's why more and more of them are doing what Tera and John are doing. They're going back to school, working on advanced degrees, and doing what they need to do to access the jobs of the future.

So why can't Brian Sandoval see this? I'm sure he didn't hear any stories like this one at either of his inaugural balls last weekend, so why couldn't he take the time to stop at the town hall at Grant Sawyer on Saturday to listen?

More and more Nevadans realize that the only real way to "let Nevada be Nevada again" is for Nevada not to repeat the mistakes made in the past. The days of "easy money" in gaming and "growth" are behind us. We now have to adapt our economy for the new reality. What are we doing to adapt?

Despite (or maybe because of?) having the second lowest tax rate in the country and the cheapest state government in the country, we also have the fourth WORST business climate in the country. Why is that? Maybe we should listen to the ever increasing chorus of local economists and respected think thanks, like The Brookings Institution and The London School of Economics, telling us that we need to invest in much needed public infrastructure like higher education in order to diversify our economy and break this painful cycle of extreme booms and busts. (And by the way, in case you were wondering, this paragraph is what I brought up when I testified on Saturday.)

Brian Sandoval can talk all he wants about "Nevada being Nevada again" as he smiles and exudes optimism and speaks wistfully of Ronald Reagan, but none of that will put our broken, failed state back together. We need to stop being afraid of having an honest discussion on taxes, and start showing some of the courage of everyday citizens like my neighbor Tera in adapting to the new economy and investing in the infrastructure we need to succeed in it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Programming Note: What's Coming Up This Week

Yes, believe it or not, I'll have even more stories from yesterday's town halls tomorrow. I think it's quite important that we not forget those who spoke truth to power, and I hope I can also share a few more stories that might not have received the attention they deserved from the corporate "mainstream media". I hope you've been appreciating this.

And as we move closer to the start of The 76th Session of The Nevada Legislature, I'll keep my ear out for what's being talked about in Carson City... And how we can inject some common sense back into the conversation.

Perhaps there will be some DC talk as well. Stay tuned...

More Voices from the Town Halls

These were a few more of the many who testified at yesterday's budget town hall at Grant Sawyer...

Brandi Stengeland and her husband, Eric, told how they had gotten autism treatment for their son Zander, who turns 4 in two weeks, with the help of $1,500 a month from the state's self-directed autism funding.

That money would be cut under Sandoval's budget, Brandi Stengeland said, leaving the total $3,000-a-month treatment to the family. She described how her son had gone from developing normally to becoming non-verbal, refusing to make eye contact.

With the help of the state funding, Zander was now speaking and labeling things.

"After four months of treatment, he put his hands on my face and looked me in the eye and said, 'Mom,'" she told the Legislature. "He told me he was in there. My little boy. What kind of a state would we be if we didn't help people like that?"

"We're in the unenviable situation of having to tell the sickest of the sick that we cannot give them rent assistance," said Barbara Aranosian, a Clark County social worker, at the budget hearing in Las Vegas. "My fellow social workers and I find this abhorrent."

Heather Richardson, who works with foster children, said her caseload is now up to 40 children, or double what's recommended by experts.

Curtis Heald, a former construction worker now at the College of Southern Nevada, said he's on a Ramen diet and a Ramen budget, referring to the inexpensive noodle dish. "Until I asked for financial aid, I never asked for anything in life but opportunity." He said he fears further budget cuts at CSN would hurt his chance at an education and a new job.

I was there. I could feel the pain of the families there. They've learned the hard way that cuts really do hurt, and that continued cutting won't allow our state to heal and grow again.

This was also largely the sentiment of the crowd at the Washoe County Commission chambers in Reno yesterday.

The [Reno] meeting lasted 5.5 hours and attracted at least 600 citizens. A similar meeting in Las Vegas attracted about 800 people, said Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, and chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee.

"There is a tremendous amount of interest both north and south," Smith said. "The attendance was probably double from the last town hall we had. People are very concerned about the budget, and there are a lot of different opinions."

Many of the speakers were students, concerned about Sandoval's proposed cuts to the higher education budget. Others were concerned about K-12 education and health issues, such as the elimination of mental health triage centers in Reno and Las Vegas. Some expressed dismay over the cutting of funds for children with autism.

"It is always a good reality check when people speak," said state Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, and chairwomen of the state Senate Revenue Committee. "What I am taking away from this is generally people are not in favor of the governor's budget. They are very concerned about education and the cuts to mental health and they think we can do better." [...]

Many college students are concerned that tuition will be raised and they will be driven out of college before they earn their degrees, said Charlie Jose, the president of the Associated Students of the University of Nevada.

"We have students who have incurred years worth of loans to pay for school but may not finish their programs and not have a means to pay back those funds," Jose said. "We have first-generation students who may not finish their degrees and become the symbol of hope and prosperity for their families."

Paulette Batayola, the student body president of Great Basin College in Elko, recalled one of Sandoval's lines in a speech.

"I keep hearing, 'Let's make Nevada Nevada again' but I can't help but ask myself and ask you how is Nevada going to be Nevada again when I can feel we are headed to a Nevada of no return?"

Ain't that the truth.

Our state is hurting, and the last thing we need right now is even more cuts to the very lifelines we are depending upon for a better future. The people of Nevada made that known yesterday, and it seemed some of the legislators in Vegas and Reno were listening. Will they remember when the legislative session begins soon in Carson City?

They have to. We can't let them forget. We won't let them forget. Our state's survival is at stake. Our kids' future is at stake.

Can Nevada ever be Nevada again if our people are cut to death? That's what these budget cuts mean. That's what happens when schools don't function, when people can't access the health care they need, when infrastructure continues to be neglected. How about letting our state and our people heal for a change?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

First Thoughts on Today's Town Hall

Yes, I was there today. And yes, I even testified... But I will get to that later.

Right now, I want to share the stories I heard at today's budget hearings. While there were rallies and TV cameras all over the place early on outside, there was compelling testimony happening throughout the day inside.

Jim Morrow, a professor at UNLV whose parents also served Nevada as teachers, reminded us all that "we fund what we value, we cut what we don't". He shared with us what he's seen on campus in terms of students not knowing if they can continue to afford school, and whether he can continue to access the resources he needs to teach. And he reminded us that we students are the future of this state. With no higher education, Nevada is screwed. For good.

Brandon Fraleigh, of Nevada Youth Coalition, wanted to let us all know that "there are kids who care about our education". He told the legislators his heart-wrenching story of his mother being disabled, his sisters dropping out of school after giving up hope, having to skip meals often due to inadequate food stamp aid, the bus he uses being constantly congested and slow, and the teachers at school constantly feeling frustrated due to their own workplace woes. All of this would be more than enough for others to just give up, but Brandon decided his education was far too important to give up because of his own personal difficulties. But yet again, his future is now being threatened... But this time, it may be The State of Nevada threatening his future if The Legislature agrees to Brian Sandoval's budget.

Brian Boothe is a middle school teacher and family man doing his part to educate our kids... Even as he's underpaid and underwater on his Northwest house. He's determined to keep teaching despite his family's hardships, but he warned the legislators that he won't be able to do this forever... And that Nevada only stands to lose even more educated professionals, and our hope for a better economy along with them, if we keep neglecting our schools. "We must stop cutting our future." He reminded us that even Brian Sandoval's #1 hero, Ronald Reagan, recognized he could not slash the schools to death as Governor of California, so he pushed for a, GASP!!!, TAX INCREASE!!!! in order to keep California's world class institutes of higher learning easily accessible and affordable to all residents. So why can't Sandoval follow Reagan's example?

Believe it or not, these were just a few of many compelling real life stories told today at The Grant Sawyer Building. Tomorrow, I will be sharing even more stories... Including my own. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

State of the Union: The Rhetoric & The Reality.

What’s more, we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea – the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That is why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here. It’s why our students don’t just memorize equations, but answer questions like “What do you think of that idea? What would you change about the world? What do you want to be when you grow up?”

The future is ours to win. But to get there, we can’t just stand still. As Robert Kennedy told us, “The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.” Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age.

Now it’s our turn. We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our deficit, and reform our government. That’s how our people will prosper. That’s how we’ll win the future. And tonight, I’d like to talk about how we get there.

Last night, I was listening to President Obama's State of the Union Address...

And yes, I saw the complete teabagger train wreck that followed...

So did it all mean? Well, let's start with the good news:

- Obama is proposing a robust clean energy plan to make 80% of our energy sources renewable by 2035.

- He reminded everyone that government investment is necessary to fuel capitalistic achievement.

- He's not in the mood to slash education, and it seems he wants to do more to encourage the kind of robust investment in K-12 and college education that we need for sustained economic recovery and growth.

- To my surprise yesterday, he addressed comprehensive immigration reform.

- And finally, Obama gave the impassioned defense of health care reform that was long overdue. It's too bad he wasn't on offense with this a year ago, but late is nearly always better than never. And now, it will be critical to ensure reform isn't dismantled and/or defunded this year.

Wow. President Obama seemingly took a very difficult hand of a fragile economic recovery and more hostile Congress, and turned it around to use it to his advantage to find common ground on important progressive goals like climate solutions & renewable energy, and education. Again, he reminded us all that government indeed must invest in our economy in order for us all to reap good returns. And interestingly enough, he sought to frame it in a way that boxes Congressional Republicans into a corner. Do they want to cooperate with Obama on investing in continued economic recovery, or do they want to continue obstructing everything and reopening old floor fights on issues like health care reform?

However, not everything was coming up roses last night. Maven gives us a reality check.

Tonight we heard all the usual rhetoric … very well delivered. All designed to put the Republicans on the defensive, if that’s possible since they’re beaming in from an as yet undiscovered planet (can you say Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI ?). Yup, we’re all gonna have flying electric cars one day, and mag-lev rail between Reno and the Bay Area. Right. We’re gonna get all this done with a “spending freeze”.
Gawd help us.
Obama starts out patting himself on the back, for what? Extending tax cuts. Tax cuts create jobs, you know. Sigh. This is simply buying into the ‘new centrism’ and GOP mythology. (Note below, that even individual tax rates in the U. S. aren’t exactly going through the roof.)
The President goes on to talk about cutting discretionary spending to levels not seen since the Eisenhower Administration. I’ve got news for the President, if Eisenhower had seen what we’re dealing with right now, he’d have increased spending. Eisenhower wasn’t stupid.
Typically, no where in the speech was it mentioned that the bulk of our “discretionary spending” is for the military-industrial complex, AKA ‘The War On Terror’, AKA wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I cite,

So here's the bad news:

- Obama seemed way too willing to buy into the GOP/"tea party" "austerity" BS. Here's the problem: We're just emerging from the worst recession since The Great Depression! The last thing our economy needs right now is a "spending freeze" that will just stop the kind of investment we were talking about above, the kind of investment we need to create more jobs.

- Not once in all the talk of "wasteful spending" was war spending mentioned. Speaking of President Eisenhower, he warned us in his now famous 1961 Farewell Address about the dangers of embracing "the military-industrial complex".

Look where we are now. We're mired in two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And "the military-industrial complex" has put us in a more precarious situation than ever before.

- Embedded in Obama's call for more renewable energy was yet another embrace of the "clean coal & nuclear" myth.

Sorry, but it's true. Coal and nuclear are far from "clean", and it makes absolutely no sense to include them as part of our clean energy portfolio.

- And finally, we heard plenty of bluster last night about earmarks. What is often forgotten is that Congress has Constitutional authority over the purse strings, NOT The President. So why should Congress be forced to give up its legal mandate to direct federal funds? Earmarks have virtually no impact on the federal budget, yet they do have a huge impact in ensuring we in
Nevada get our fair share of our tax dollars

Earmarks, otherwise known as “pork barrel” spending, have come to represent the excesses of special interests and cronyism in Washington, especially through spending projects like Alaska’s Bridge to Nowhere, or Sparks’ infamous $225,000 pool.
In Nevada, they’ve also been behind projects like the Veterans Hospital in North Las Vegas, opening this year.
“We don’t think that a service for 50,000 veterans is pork barrel,” said Wayne Leroy, Nevada chairman of the Elks National Service Commission. (Nevada Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley secured a $350 million earmark in 2008 to help fund the $600 million project.) “That was about the only way that the hospital could get established,” Leroy said. “Now I’m sure this sort of project will be more difficult to do, if we’re able to at all.”

In 2010, Nevada ranked 11th in the country in earmark per capita spending, according to a survey of the 50 states and the District of Columbia by the anti-earmark spending group Citizens Against Government Waste. Its $58.50 per head threshold is still a far cry from chart-topping Hawaii’s $251.78, but it still puts it in the top tier — targeted spending largely credited to the influence of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Earmarks are “our bread and butter, and the most time-tested model of how you win re-election,” UNLV political science professor David Damore said.
Reid certainly seems to think so.

“It’s a lot of pretty talk,” Reid said of the president’s pledge to, as Obama said later Tuesday, assure the American people “that special interests aren’t larding up legislation with pet projects” by vetoing any bill with an earmark in it.
“It is only giving the president more power,” Reid said. “He’s got enough power already.”

Again, we're talking about stripping much of Congress' Constitutional authority over the budget, and all for what amounts to less than 1% of federal spending and 100% political grandstanding.

So what's my final take on President Obama's speech last night? Basically, he offered some glimmers of hope for a more progressive vision of a better, stronger America. And he made a strong case for tried and true Keynesian economics. That's a good start.

However, what troubled me was Obama's validation of so many "tea party" memes of "big, bad government". I know he had to delicately thread the needle to get some Republican cooperation, so I understand he had to throw them some bones. Still, don't try to prove their bad, failed ideas right... And don't repeat the same mistakes that got us into this mess in the first place.

And by the way, I don't have anything else to say on the two GOP/teabagger responses. Both of them were total sideshows.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Programming Note: I'll Be Live Tweeting State of the Union Tonight

Like last night, I'll be tweeting live @atdleft. And tomorrow morning, I'll share my thoughts on President Obama's speech, the Republican response, and what really needs to be done to make the state of our union stronger. We'll chat more soon. :-)

Shorter State of the State: Deja Vu. "We're Not California". We're Just Repeating All Their Mistakes.

Yep. That's what he said.

“It’s as if the collective Nevada family has gathered around the table — each member leaning forward in his or her chair, eager to hear the news,” he said during Monday’s hourlong speech.

In it, he worked to build on his image as a thoughtful leader who will take care of the state.

Yet while he asked Nevadans to trust his lead, he also asked them not to look to government, particularly the state budget, to see them through the recession.

“Some believe government is the only solution to our current plight,” he said. “I disagree. Unemployment, foreclosures, bankruptcy — the cure is not more government spending, but helping businesses create jobs.”

OK, that sounds all happy and sunny and Reagan-y... But how about some reality? Hey, I told you so. All the flowery language in the world can't hide a turd... And Sandoval's proposed budget is one real turd.

What was surprising was that his budget, unveiled Monday, looks much like the one proposed by his predecessor, Jim Gibbons, in 2009 that was rejected by the Legislature: short on bold initiatives, long on kicking the proverbial can down the road by dodging permanent solutions.

Sandoval — who arrived at the state Capitol with a stellar reputation, an experienced staff and the endorsement of more voters than any other politician in November — not only kept his promise not to raise taxes but actually lowered them for Nevada’s largest employers.

He failed to keep his promise of limiting general fund spending to under $5.3 billion — the amount of tax revenue projected by the state’s official forecasters. (Total general fund spending would be $5.8 billion under his spending plan.)

How did he accomplish his task? With cuts to K-12 schools, higher education, state worker pay, combined with the sleights of hand that have become familiar in recent years. The Sandoval administration called them $1 billion in “revenue reallocations.”

In other words, meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

And for me, it also feels like deja vu.

I've seen this train leave the station so many times before in California. I've seen the devastating cuts that do nothing to help, and actually hurt economic recovery. I've seen the teabaggers (and their ideological predecessors) hold the budget hostage as they propose no realistic solutions. What I saw from Brian Sandoval in Carson City last night didn't seem all that different from what I experienced when Arnold Schwarzenegger ruled Sacramento. And I've seen far too many instances of legislators taking the easy road of toying with ridiculous budgetary gimmicks (moving money from this fund to that fund, calling taxes something else, playing games with bonds, stealing local funds to pay state bills, etc.) instead of solving the actual problems at hand. And funny enough, it's often the teabaggers here whining about "Nevada becoming California".

Already, Sandoval has released an "education plan" that's legally redundant and nonsensical. He talked plenty about "diversifying our economy", but he proposed a budget that would dismantle the very colleges that are crucial to educating the workforce we need for a healthy, sustainable, and diversified economy. Sandoval even bragged about "restoring cuts" to critical health care services ordered by Jim Gibbons just before leaving office last month, but he was just playing numerical chicanery by "robbing Peter to pay Paul" (that is, stealing money from certain programs to fund other programs). Oh, and what Sandoval wants still isn't keeping up with population growth that occurred in the last decade and certainly isn't keeping up with increased demand caused by "The Great Recession".

Dreams of Californication, right?

Can we just make Jerry Brown our Governor, move all our legislators to Sacramento, and call it a day?

Or can we leave behind the mistakes made in California and Arizona and elsewhere, avoid all our own past mistakes, and move forward with new ideas that might actually make our economy healthier and make our state more sustainable? And perhaps take those ideas from elsewhere that work and make them work here?

Perhaps instead of listening to Brian Sandoval make taxes and revenue some sort of "scary bogeymen", we need to get real about the solutions we need to our problems and ensure we preserve and protect the public infrastructure, like schools and roads, that we need for a healthy economy and a climate that will bring more jobs to Nevada. Perhaps we need to leave behind our antiquated 19th century tax structure once and for all, and work on the kind of solutions necessary to make Nevada work in the 21st century.

“We believe the size and scope of Nevada’s financial difficulties are greater than the governor indicated and demand still more thought if the job is to be done right,” [Assembly Speaker-elect John] Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said from Carson City.

“Let’s level with Nevadans,” Oceguera said. “Reducing the cost and size of government, promoting business growth, rebuilding our infrastructure and improving our schools will not be enough to balance our budget.

“The situation is more severe, and (the) facts and figures unveiled through open, public legislative hearings and a rigorous examination will make that clear,” he said.
Oceguera said that because “Nevada could not find the will to repair” its weak financial structure when it was able during good economic times, “we find ourselves obligated to fix it now during hard times when we must.”

“Rebuilding and investing in Nevada will cost us,” he said. “But putting off solutions, which are right in front of us, will cost us dearly. We get what we pay for.”

I hope Oceguera and the rest of our lawmakers are up to the task. They have to be. We can't afford to fall back into the same trap.

Monday, January 24, 2011

"State of the State" Coverage Tonight & Tomorrow

Tonight's the night we've been waiting for... Or is it? It's not as if Governor Sandoval will be giving us reality tonight. Instead, it will probably be some sort of self-congratulatory BS. Whatever.

Anyway, I'll be watching the whole thing tonight with our friends at SEIU and PLAN, and I will be live tweeting @atdleft, and tomorrow morning I'll have deeper analysis up over here. Just be ready not to hear any real answers. We may need to supply some for Carson City ourselves.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hey, Brian. Where's the "Shared Sacrifice"?

There's a heartbreaking story in today's Sun about real people whose lives will become real hell. Highly recommended reading...

But unlike other sad stories that seem unsolvable, we can solve this one. It just involves giving Brian Sandoval a much needed reality check.

During the boom, Nevadans, from the executive suites of the Strip to the suburbs with their inflated home prices, were building tremendous wealth. There were fights about what to fund and who should pay, but as long as Reno and Las Vegas kept stretching into the desert, there were resources.

Now, the state is left with largely the same problems — in some cases they’re a little worse, in some cases a little better (see accompanying chart). Employment, hours worked, wages and wealth have all plummeted. This has created surging demand for services such as Medicaid and food stamps, as government’s ability to deal with the same old problems, let alone the new ones, is diminished.

Brian Sandoval's proposed solution to this is "shared sacrifice"... That is, we plebes do all the sacrificing while his ultra rich BFFs continue raping and pillaging Nevada taking advantage of Nevada's lack of taxes. Even though many have thought Sandoval would soon wake up and smell the coffee, it seems now he's going completely in the other direction and embracing the delusional insanity of "no new taxes" BS.

Elliott Parker, an economist at UNR, said both spending cuts and tax increases have a negative effect on a state’s gross domestic product during times of recession. But, in particular, a cut in existing government spending is the worse alternative.

“There’s a big difference between doing something in a recession and doing something in a boom,” he said. “When the economy is going great guns, you can cut the government sector and pretty easily make up the difference in the overall sector.” [...]

The experience of the past two years underscores why talk of bright futures must turn to how the state improves fundamental services such as education.

It’s hard to sell CEOs on a state when you can’t assure them that their children and their employees’ children will receive a good education.

“If we do not close educational attainment gaps, nothing else will attract business,” said Robert Lang, director of Brookings Mountain West, a public policy think tank at UNLV.

“At some point we are just going to have to invest in our own future and say it’s in all our best interests to spend the money,” said Jeremy Aguero, principal of the consulting firm Applied Analysis.

Will someone in Carson City please start believing them? They don't have to believe me. Just believe the experts who are now begging us to get real.

If Brian Sandoval is so serious about "shared sacrifice", why won't he ask his fully loaded multinational corporate buddies to pay their fair share so that people don't get kicked out of their homes, thrown out of school, and left all alone to suffer in "Third World Nevada"? I know we can do better. We have to do better. We don't have any other choice, so go tell Brian that.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Real State of Our State

(H/T Gleaner)

If you actually want to do something about it, check out Nevada Values Coalition. Nevada's future is in our hands. Let's save our state!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Joe Heck Starts His Next Campaign... And Says We Can't Have Health Care

I told you so. This was all pomp and circumstance.

The House of Representatives voted Wednesday evening to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- President Obama's signature accomplishment and the single most consequential piece of legislation Democrats passed in the 111th Congress. [...]

The vote fulfills one of the GOP's main promises to its base ahead of the November midterms, when they retook control of the House from the Democrats. But it's a Pyrrhic victory for conservatives. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has signaled he won't hold a vote on repeal, and any effort by the GOP to force that vote will be met with fierce resistance by Democrats who still hold a majority in the upper chamber.

After being drubbed for supporting the law in the months before the elections, Democrats have regrouped, with a reform-friendly caucus, and are finally fighting back.

Armed with polling data that suggests that the public isn't staunchly in the GOP's corner on this issue, Democrats are challenging the Republicans to contend with the fact that repeal now means rescinding benefits voters are already enjoying.

We've already talked about how Nevada will benefit from health care reform. (And btw, Desert Beacon has even more facts and figures on health care today!) We've seen how the nation will benefit from health care reform.

And yet, Joe Heck decides to ignore all of this. Why? Read between the lines of all the usual "Tea Party, Inc." talking points he crammed into his floor speech today.

He's probably already confident that The Legislature will redraw NV-03 in a way that will make the district safer (meaning more GOP friendly) in 2012, so he's bashing health care reform in order to keep currying the teabaggers' favor so he can enjoy an easy primary win when he runs for another office in 2014 or 2016. Again, it's all about electoral politics. Good policy clearly doesn't matter here.

And in the near term, House Republicans know this is going nowhere. Again, Harry Reid has no interest in wasting The Senate's time on this nonsense. After all, repealing reform would just increase the federal deficit and increase costs for us the consumers.

Again, this is all pomp and circumstance. Instead of offering any ideas on economic recovery and job creation, or even improving health care reform for that matter, House GOPers are playing political games with our health care. And Joe Heck is playing along with it. Ridiculous.

Repeal Vote Coming Today

Oh, my goodness! What's about to happen?

Well, let me tell you. Yes, I can actually tell the future here. The House today will vote to repeal health care reform passed just last year... But The Senate won't dare touch this bill, and President Obama won't even have to veto it because it won't get anywhere in The Senate. (Thanks, Harry!)

So what is this all about? Politics, my dear, election year politics. But wait, didn't we just have an election? Yes, but 2012 is right around the corner, and Republicans are looking to continue demonizing reform to make it into a horrid liability next year as Democrats look to fix past messaging mistakes in explaining why reform works and turning it into a major asset next year.

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So what's really at stake? All of this.

A Stronger Health Care System for Nevada:

518,000 residents who are uninsured and 132,000 residents who have individual market insurance will gain access to affordable coverage.
311,000 residents will qualify for premium tax credits to help them purchase health coverage.
328,000 seniors will receive free preventive services and 58,200 seniors will have their drug costs in the Medicare Part D “donut hole” covered over time.
30,300 small businesses will be eligible for tax credits for premiums.
9,400 young adults will be eligible for quality affordable coverage through their parents

Premium Tax Credits to Expand Private Insurance Coverage in Nevada:

Reform will provide $5 billion in premium tax credits and cost-sharing tax credits for residents in Nevada from 2014 to 2019 to purchase private health insurance.

Reduced Premiums:

Health insurance reform will lower premiums in the nongroup market by 14 to 20% for the same benefits – premium savings of $1,380 to $1,970 for a family in Nevada.

Increased Medicaid Support:

The Federal government will fully fund the coverage expansion for the first three years of the policy, and continue substantial support, paying for 90% of costs after 2020, compared to Nevada’s current FMAP of 50.2%.
In total, Nevada could receive $3.6 billion more dollars in federal funds for Medicaid as a result of the expansion from 2014 to 2019.

Improved Value for Medicare Advantage:

The 228,000 seniors in Nevada who are not enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan will no longer cross subsidize these private plans, saving $45 in premium costs per year.
The proposal will gradually move toward a fair payment system that rewards performance.

Again, we're talking about real help for real Nevadans. This is what's at stake. Remember this as talk of repealing health care reform in the "mainstream media" swirls down the drain of 2012 politics and ignores the actual policy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tuesday Reads

Before I leave the door this morning, I just wanted to share some stories I'm keeping my eye on:

- Rep. Joe Heck (R-WAY uphill from my house) gets another mention in today's Sun. Basically, he's basking in the glow of all the media attention and love from GOP leadership. Sounds nice, I guess, but will he remember that District 3 needs a representative in Congress (not just another politician looking to use this seat to jump to higher office)?

- Justin McAfee, of The Nevada View, wonders if the "tea party" can really last much longer. It seems whenever times are turbulent, American politics gets shaken up by extremists and/or opportunists hoping to benefit from populist rage. Will the teabaggers eventually join the likes of The Know-nothings, The Populists, and Ross Perot's Reform Party in the dustbin of history?

- Today's Reno Gazette Journal has an interesting article on Bill Raggio, "The Lion of the Legislature", who was forced by a foot injury to retire from The State Senate. Wow. He's been winning and losing elections almost as long as my dad has been alive!

- And finally, it sounds like Maven was feeling as frustrated as I was yesterday. Really, what have we done with Dr. King's dream?

In the next week, I'll continue to track the aftermath of the Arizona Tragedy, what's coming up in the 2011 session of The Nevada Legislature, and take a look at what Nevada's members of Congress are up to. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Where Has the Dream Gone?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had a dream. All too often, we don't talk about the entire dream. And all too often, we don't want to talk about our failures over the last four decades to get anywhere close to that dream.

So where are we? And what has happened to King's dream? When did the dream become this nightmare?

Not that long ago, it was easy to just laugh off "tea party" extremism as silly... But look at what's happened. And for far too long, questions of inequality have been placed aside. And as we wonder when our occupation of Iraq will end, when our occupation of Afghanistan will come to a close, and when another military invasion and occupation might ensue, we must wonder if we've become far too much of a culture of violence.

When did we forget this...

And embrace this?

What happened? What happened to Dr. King's dream? Where have we gone wrong in the last 43 years? Why are so many of our people still treated as "second class citizens"? Why do we never have the resources to help our people help themselves, but we somehow always have more money to wage more wars? Why have we become so violent toward each other?

These are the questions I have today. As six people have been buried in Tucson, our country is still mired in two wars abroad, Congress is set to debate (again) why we should or shouldn't have access to affordable health care, and federal courts consider whether queer folk actually have Constitutional rights, we need to ask ourselves what happened to Dr. King's dream... And how we can finally turn the dream deferred into the dream fulfilled.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Our Schools, Our Future

You've heard me talk about it for ages. So this morning, I'll let you read about our legislators actually seeing it for themselves.

The lawmakers got an ear and an eye full as they were quick-marched, among other classes, through a risk-management class, an advanced-placement government class, and an elementary school mathematics class where second-graders sang about “My Hero, the Zero.”

It was also an opportunity for School District officials to lobby a captive audience of legislators. Lauren Kohut-Rost, deputy superintendent of instruction, asked the assemblymen on the bus, “What is $189 million?”

When no one knew, she answered her own question: “That’s the dollar amount the Class of 2010 at Clark High School won in scholarships last year.”

There are some amazing kids doing amazing things at our schools... But that may change, and not for the better, if school budgets are further slashed to death.

Hey, don't just take my word for it... Desert Beacon has the facts and figures to back it up.

We get what we pay for. Do we want a smarter workforce or fuller prisons? We need to rethink our priorities.

If politics were principle based, we could get a lot more done. Since we all agree that our efforts would be better spent teaching a man to fish than just handing him one, perhaps we should agree to keep our education system accessible and affordable so all people can learn to fish. [...]

While our tax environment in Nevada is one of the best in the nation for businesses, our overall business environment is horrible because of our poorly funded education system. Ikea and other businesses will continue to pass up coming here if we refuse to change.

The very conservative neighbor state of Arizona has more taxes and spends more on education than we do because they see business opportunity over ideological stubbornness. If we truly want to be business friendly, we need to provide services in this state that attract business. Education is number one on that list. To do this, conservatives need to write their legislators and tell them that education is too important to cut.

Will we?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Shelley Berkley's "Congress on the Corner"

Usually, this would be just another chance to talk with (one of our) local member(s) of Congress about the issues on our mind. But in light of what's been happening this last week, this was quite special.

People were there to thank Shelley for what she's been doing, ask her about upcoming legislation, ask for help with various federal agencies. Again, at any point last year this would have been considered just another day at Shelley's office in Las Vegas. But today, this means something more. Today, this means our democracy is getting back to work.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

After the Attack: Can We Change? Will We Change?

When I saw this, I was frustrated... Yet again. Why don't they get it?

Tom Danehy at Tucson Weekly makes a really good point.

I would never say that the Tea Party wanted somebody to put a bullet in Gabrielle Giffords' head, but at the same time, you can't tell me that everybody in that movement feels bad that it happened.

I would never claim that talk-show lemmings—who leapfrog each other in a desperate attempt to be the one who is most out there—are giving secret orders to listeners to go out and shoot members of Congress, but at the same time, you can't tell me that the ratcheting up of the vile content by some of these creeps isn't enough to push some Travis Bickle-wannabe over the edge.

And I don't believe that Sarah Palin wanted Gabby Giffords to get shot, but damn you if you try to claim that putting a bulls-eye over the district of a United States congresswoman is all just good, clean fun.

This all goes way past disingenuous. You can't build a bonfire in a clearing and then deny any culpability when the embers get caught in the breeze and ignite dry tinder somewhere downwind. You don't have to ascribe to chaos theory to make that connection. You do, however, have to practice self-delusion on a grand scale to claim that the connection doesn't exist.

As Rush Limbaugh himself loves to say, words mean things; words are important. Messages tend to morph and degrade as they are passed along from one person to the next, even if they are done so on a word-for-word basis. It should surprise no one that hate speech that is spewed as self-congratulatory cleverness can, after a few iterations, become an insistent whisper in some nut-job's head.

Many Tucsonans understand this. After all, they've been living this nightmare for the last week. And they saw firsthand the build-up of anger from all the diatribes of the last two years.

Words matter. People matter. Actions matter. That's why it's critical for all of us to lead by example.

Gabby Giffords understands that. I'm reminded again of her victory speech last November.

And I'm reminded of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's speech last night. Yes, you heard me right. I've had plenty of policy disagreements with her before, but that's just it. Those disagreements over policy should not negate someone's human value and should not prevent us from finding common ground.

I appreciate what Governor Brewer is doing there, as well as President Obama's words yesterday. Hopefully, we can all continue to learn from their example.

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Gabby Giffords is healing and recovering... And perhaps our democracy can, too. I guess some on the extreme right, a few on the far left, and others will continue slinging mud and hurling dung until the cows come home, but that doesn't mean our government has to plagued with vitriol and reduced to paralysis just because the "tea party" demands its pound of flesh and no one wants to negotiate in good faith.

We need to learn from this. Danehy concludes his essay with this.

I'm actually proud to live in a community that reacted the way it did, from the woman who grabbed a spare magazine away from the shooter, to the emergency-response teams and medical personnel who all did their jobs heroically. I'm especially proud of Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who spoke his mind and did his job while wearing his emotions on his sleeve. He focused in with laser-like precision and told all the Tree of Liberty jackasses what they could do with their cooler heads.

I don't want to hear about "senseless tragedy." This was a calculated act with a cause and an effect. Let's just hope that part of that effect is to admit that the cause exists—and to take peaceful steps to deal with it.

Perhaps we can all learn from the good people of Tucson.

Here It Comes... & Here We Go Again

I guess House GOP leadership won't be waiting for Gabby Giffords to be discharged from the hospital to embark on this.

Staff for Eric Cantor informs Greg Sargent that the "Dems want to kill jobs and your grandma Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act" has been scheduled for next week. (And they are not changing the name, no matter how crass and inflammatory it is after the Giffords shooting.)

I was really hoping that after the horrific tragedy of last week, that perhaps Speaker Boehner would reconsider this. After what happened, the last thing we need is any more inflammatory crap. We all know repeal of health care reform will likely pass in the new House, but we also know repeal will likely fail in The Senate, and that Obama wouldn't sign it anyway. But even more important than internal Congressional politics, repealing health care reform would add to the budget deficit, hurt our economy, and allow the insurance industry to again abuse the system to charge us more and give us less health care.

At a Congressional town hall in Ohio this week, local constituents were asking why reform should be repealed.

And once we take a closer look at the numerous benefits of health care reform, I hope more of us here in Nevada will ask the same question.

A Stronger Health Care System for Nevada:

518,000 residents who are uninsured and 132,000 residents who have individual market insurance will gain access to affordable coverage.
311,000 residents will qualify for premium tax credits to help them purchase health coverage.
328,000 seniors will receive free preventive services and 58,200 seniors will have their drug costs in the Medicare Part D “donut hole” covered over time.
30,300 small businesses will be eligible for tax credits for premiums.
9,400 young adults will be eligible for quality affordable coverage through their parents

Premium Tax Credits to Expand Private Insurance Coverage in Nevada:

Reform will provide $5 billion in premium tax credits and cost-sharing tax credits for residents in Nevada from 2014 to 2019 to purchase private health insurance.

Reduced Premiums:

Health insurance reform will lower premiums in the nongroup market by 14 to 20% for the same benefits – premium savings of $1,380 to $1,970 for a family in Nevada.

Increased Medicaid Support:

The Federal government will fully fund the coverage expansion for the first three years of the policy, and continue substantial support, paying for 90% of costs after 2020, compared to Nevada’s current FMAP of 50.2%.
In total, Nevada could receive $3.6 billion more dollars in federal funds for Medicaid as a result of the expansion from 2014 to 2019.

Improved Value for Medicare Advantage:

The 228,000 seniors in Nevada who are not enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan will no longer cross subsidize these private plans, saving $45 in premium costs per year.
The proposal will gradually move toward a fair payment system that rewards performance.

We are talking about real help for real Nevadans.

So why is it necessary for Congress to engage in some ridiculous pomp and circumstance over legislation that would hurt our budget, hurt our families, hurt our economy, and hurt health care consumers? So some Republican politicians can score political points with the teabaggers? How about Congress working on real legislation that might allow for real progress for our country for a change?

After the Attack: Hope Restored? Change Coming?

I watched and listened as President Obama spoke in Tucson last night. And I came away with the kind of sentiment that Joan Walsh expressed at last night.

The event billed as a memorial service for victims of the Tucson, Ariz., massacre turned into what critics called a "pep rally," with cheering and hooting and hollering crowds. I don't understand what bothered people, because it was clear to me from the start: The University of Arizona crowd was celebrating the heroism that was on display last Saturday, when ordinary people became heroes and saved lives. And they were cheering the very idea of America.

There it was, folks, Saturday morning and again Wednesday night: our country, as good as it gets. Remember how great it looked and felt and sounded, when things inevitably get ugly again. Reagan-appointed Supreme Court Justice Sandra O'Connor, now retired, sat admiringly next to Daniel Hernandez Jr., the 20-year-old Gabrielle Giffords intern who helped save her life Saturday (who happens to be gay and Mexican American). Attorney General Eric Holder was side by side with Gov. Jan Brewer, whose racial profiling law he's fighting. The service began with an Indian blessing from Dr. Carlos Gonzales, who described his mother as Mexican, his father as a Yaqui survivor of "genocide," and his son as a soldier in Afghanistan, who praised "this great country, where a poor barrio kid from the south side of Tucson could get an education at a fine institution like the University of Arizona -- and then, even better, come back and teach here."

Like it or not, that's American history: We are imperfect, descended from people who took land from Indians and Mexicans and who held slaves, but also from people who fought for equal rights for everyone, and who, over time, managed to create laws and values and customs that (mostly) do that. Daniel Hernandez began his speech with the words "e pluribus unum" -- out of many, one -- and even if it's not an ideal we always live up to, it's the best idea we've ever had as a nation. President Obama delivered what I think was his best speech ever, but for a while Wednesday night, Hernandez stole the show, reminding us "what defines us is not difference ... we are all Americans," and rejecting the label "hero," since he said, "The real heroes are those who have dedicated their lives to public service." Obama correctly differed with Hernandez, congratulating him as a hero for helping to save Giffords' life.

E pluribus unum. When did we lose this? And how can we get it back? President Obama's speech last night gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, we can find our way again.

Last night, Gabrielle Giffords opened her eyes for the first time since last Saturday. So far, her recovery has been remarkable. Just 10% of those shot in the head survive this kind of injury, and even fewer make the kind of full recovery that Giffords' doctors now say may be possible for her.

It's already encouraging to see Giffords recover, but I hope that as she recovers, our representative democracy also recovers. For far too long, our system has been ripped apart. People have been intimidated out of participating. Congress has often descended to a madhouse of constant "political warfare". We have to get past this.

So will we? Will we see the kind of change that Americans have been longing for so long? Will we see our government work? Will we see inflammatory rhetoric on caustic politics replaced with honest dialogue on good policy? I think this may very well be the best way we can honor Gabby Giffords, the other survivors of last Saturday's attack, and all those we've lost.

Below is the video from last night's ceremony.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

They Still Don't Get It

Just as Americans keep asking what happened last weekend and what we can do to stop the madness, the "mad hatters" of the "tea party" continue to be more preoccupied with gaining some sort of "political advantage" after this.

"ZOMG, Obama's approval is up again! We can't allow that. Let's nip that in the bud!"

"Clarabelle Dopenik." That's what one wit on the popular conservative Web site called Clarence Dupnik, the Pima County, Arizona sheriff who turns 75 this week. Elected continuously since 1980, he is the public face of the investigation into the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and 19 others. He is also, according to bloggers on that site, "an incompetent unhinged sonofabitch" and "a jerk" "using this tragedy for baseless, cheap political shots."

Sheriff Dupnik's crime was decrying

"the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.... When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government -- the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on this country is getting to be outrageous, and unfortunately Arizona has become sort of the capital.... People tend to pooh-pooh this business about all the vitriol we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that. That may be free speech, but it's not without consequences."

The problem with Sheriff Dupnik's calling out vitriol, blogged one conservative, was that it was actually "calling out Rush, Glen[n], Sean and Fox!!!!!" Dupnik was, wrote another, "inciting violence accusing Rush, tea parties, Palin, and Republicans of bigotry and murder."

What threatened the right the most was losing control of the national political narrative. Until the slayings in the Safeway parking lot, the master story had been the triumphant G.O.P. sweeping into Congress to repeal "the job-killing health care bill." But as of Saturday, the new story connected the dots between the inflammatory rhetoric of McCain/Palin events in 2008, the ugly confrontations at congressional town halls in the summer of 2009, the "lock and load" cackling of the 2010 campaign - and the cultural climate of the Tucson murders. Within the space of a few hours, the story had been transformed from a revenge narrative (Obama brought low) to a soul-searching meta-narrative: How has our society come to this season in hell, and what must be done to heal us?

So now Sharron Angle tries to rewrite history.

Former Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle has spoken out against the shootings in Tucson this weekend that included Rep. Gabrielle Giffords -- who remains in critical condition after being shot in the head -- saying that "expanding the context of the attack to blame and to infringe upon the people's Constitutional liberties is both dangerous and ignorant."

Angle has been repeatedly mentioned by the media in the wake of the shootings, for her comments during the campaign: "People are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying, my goodness, what can we do to turn this country around? I'll tell you, the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out."

Politico reports that Angle now says that "the irresponsible assignment of blame to me, Sarah Palin or the TEA Party movement by commentators and elected officials puts all who gather to redress grievances in danger." [...]

She continued: "Finger-pointing towards political figures is an audience-rating game and contradicts the facts as they are known - that the shooter was obsessed with his twisted plans long before the TEA Party movement began."

Angle added that the shooting "is a horrifying and senseless tragedy, and should be condemned as a single act of violence by a single unstable individual" and that she has "consistently called for reasonable political dialogue on policy issues to encourage civil political education and debate."

And Sarah Palin is joining her in doing the same... And making sure we know that SHE is somehow the real victim here.

After nearly a week of silence and waves of bad press, Sarah Palin finally speaks. To Facebook.

Since journalists and pundits are manufacturing "blood libel," the former Alaskan governer must want to speak directly to the people. However, as The Guardian points out, she probably could've picked a better phrase to describe the media's unified attack against her use of violent rhetoric -- most notably putting Giffords in the crosshairs on a campaign poster distributed before the shootings.

"Blood libel" according to Wikipedia:

"Blood libel (also blood accusation) refers to a false accusation or claim that religious minorities, almost always Jews, murder children to use their blood in certain aspects of their religious rituals and holidays. Historically, these claims have–alongside those of well poisoning and host desecration–been a major theme in European persecution of Jews."

Also, Gabrielle Giffords is Jewish. Oh dear.

Really, Sarah? Really, Sharron? So everything is all hunky dory and coming up rainbows because Palin never actually took out a pistol to duel with Joe Biden during the 2008 Vice Presidential Debate? And it's obvious that Angle has always been about "reasonable political dialogue on policy issues" because she didn't actually take out her "best friends, Smith and Wesson" when she was debating Harry Reid last fall?

Give me a break!

Leo Gerard has a good point here.

[... I]t's difficult to directly link violent political rhetoric like Sarah Palin's illustration showing gun sight cross hairs on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' Arizona district to the shattering of Giffords' office door after her vote for health insurance reform last March or Jared L. Loughner's shooting spree last weekend that left six dead and Giffords and 13 others wounded.

What is clear, however, is that vile and threatening communication that becomes so repetitive that it's routine has the effect of sanctioning an atmosphere of violence.

Conservatives are yammering that they're not the only ones who engage in brutal rhetoric. That's true. But in a contest for production of violent words and images, Republicans would, to use their words, "kill" the Democrats.

The Department of Homeland Security concluded in an April 2009 internal report that right-wing extremism, with a growing potential for violence, was on the rise. That was followed last spring by Capitol security officials reporting a tripling of threats against members of Congress -- almost all from opponents of health care reform -- in other words, from Republicans, right-wingers or people influenced by GOP TV and radio front men who personally profit from the hostile climate they generate.

I remember that report. And I remember the teabaggers whining about how that report was trying to "criminalize politics". So that report was ignored... And this happened...

"Read what Jefferson said about the 'tree of liberty'. It's coming."

"It's time to water the tree of liberty."

This isn't even about health care any more with these radical righties. For them, it's all about racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia... To sum it up in one word, hate. And how sick are the GOP & sick care industry to actually use this thinly veiled hate to rile up these people and encourage them to start violence!

I actually don't mind debating the merits of universal health care with rational conservatives that want to talk about the economics of health care. Where are they? Has today's Republican leadership scared them all out of the party? Are the GOP, the HMOs, and the pharmaceutical companies so afraid of rational discussion of health care that they have to resort to this?

Violence should NOT be condoned, and xenophobia should not be celebrated. If the GOP wants to debate us on health care, then I encourage it. I'm not afraid or making good arguments, and I know many more progressives who feel the same. However, I am afraid of this "teabagger/birther/deather" cult, fully funded by the GOP and the sick care industry, becoming increasingly violent.

I wrote that back in August 2009. And I was already starting to fear what would eventually bear fruit in January 2011. And for Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, and others to blithely ignore the consequences of "politics" turning violent is nothing short of horrifying.

Maybe we need to pay more attention to Gabrielle Giffords herself, and to outgoing Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R).

The friendly email Republican Trey Grayson got from Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) last Friday night, congratulating him on a new job, came amid a flood of similar messages. The Kentucky Secretary of State, and erstwhile Senate candidate, recently accepted a position as director of Harvard University's Institute of Politics. It was only the next day that Giffords' message took on a particular significance.

"After you get settled, I would love to talk about what we can do to promote centrism and moderation," Giffords wrote. "I am one of only 12 Dems left in a GOP district (the only woman) and think that we need to figure out how to tone our rhetoric and partisanship down."

On Saturday, Giffords was shot in the head at an event in Tucson, by a gunman who killed six and wounded 13 others. Giffords miraculously survived, but remains in critical condition. As the national conversation turned to what role, if any, violent political rhetoric played in the shooting, Grayson's office released Giffords' email.

"If we could honor Gabby, honor other victims, by having this conversation, and actually doing it, it's a way to honor them," Grayson told TPM in a phone interview.

Grayson, who said he was "really disturbed by how it immediately became political on both sides" after the shooting, said he and Giffords spoke often about the need for more civil discourse. Friday's message was just the latest dispatch in a years-long back and forth of texts and emails.

"We want to have good Republicans and want to have good Democrats," he said, citing the close relationship between the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as an example. "If we would show that a little more publicly, maybe, maybe that would help."

I hope we can learn and we can stop repeating these scary mistakes.