Category Archives: Nevada politics

Think of the Children

ChildrenSpare me the piteous cries of, “Think of the children and grandchildren!” emanating from the right wing when any allocation of resources is mentioned which could possibly help darn the holes in our social safety net programs.  IT (whatever it might be) will burden them with the horrible no good awful national debt — unless, of course we’re talking about reducing taxes for millionaires, billionaires, oil companies, hedge fund managers, and ….  Nevada’s managed, yet again, to hit the bottom in the Child Well Being category. [RGJ]

One of the nice things about thinking in ideological generalities is that one’s not required to consider the practical, all too real, consequences.  For example, that Nevada ranks 48th in the child well being category in the Kids Count analysis. (pdf)

That would be 48th in overall ranking, 47th in economic well being, 50th in education, 47th in health, and 44th in family/community rank.

These rankings aren’t something to dismiss out of hand. First, the Annie E. Casey Foundation is a private philanthropy based in Baltimore, MD, that specializes in compiling statistics on children’s environments, and promoting cost effective solutions for legislative and community consideration — and it’s been doing this since its inception in 1948.

Nor is the Foundation merely a font of doom and gloom, when speaking of trends in child welfare, they note some progress in the overall safety and well being of children since they started their Data Book project in 1990:

“There also is a positive trend in parental education that benefits kids: A smaller percentage of children live in families in which no parent has a high school diploma — from 22% in 1990 to 15% in 2012. In addition, the teen birth rate is at a historic low and the death rates for children and teens has fallen as a result of medical advances and increased usage of seat belts, car seats and bike helmets.”  [AEC]

So, how did Nevada get into negative territory? In 2008 the number of children in the state whose parents at least 35 hours per week for 50 weeks per year (classified as employment insecurity) was approximately 173,000, or about 26%.  By 2012 that number increased to 226,000 or 34%.  In 2008 there were 54,000 children living in Nevada homes in which at least one parent was unemployed.  In 2012 the number was 79,000, or about 12%.  [AECF]

Measuring by the number of children living in homes in which the family income was less than twice the official federal poverty level and at least one parent was working at least 50 weeks per year (defined as low income working families), Nevada had 68,000 children in that category in 2008, a number which increased to 88,000 four years later. [AECF]

Have we been mentioning that what this state needs are JOBS? Once more, spare me the “we can’t afford it” wailing when we speak to the necessity of maintaining and improving our state infrastructure — and thus creating JOBS.  When the 2007-08 Recession pounded the state of Nevada, Las Vegas lost 1,053 public sector jobs, while the state pared down a total of 2,170. [CEPR] In the Pie/Sky ideological generalities of the right wing this would be a good thing — fewer public employees — but when the brass tacks are counted this means fewer teacher’s aides, librarians, educational special services, kitchen employees, road maintenance workers, parks and recreation employees, police officers, firefighters, and so on. In other words — these aren’t the “bureaucrats” so belittled by the conservatives, they are the people who do jobs which improve communities.

We’ve lost about 4.08% of our state workforce, another 10.77% of our local workforce, and 9.03% of those classified as “state/local” since the Recession. [Governing]

Another grating refrain is the moan that we are “transferring money from the private sector to the public.”   In the rarefied atmosphere of ultra-conservative thinking this means that tax revenue is collected from private sources and used for public services, which is somehow determined to be a “bad” idea.  Since when was it “bad” to have well maintained roads, well stocked libraries, pleasant and useful parks, good schools, safe neighborhoods, responsive fire departments, and all those features which real estate agents tout as part of the “excellent location” of the houses they are trying to sell?

Or, to look at it from the other angle — what effect does it have on a person’s property value to have failing schools, unkempt parks, inadequate libraries, and slow response times from fire and police services?  In this realm, the ultra-conservatives fall easily into the Something for Nothing crowd; they certainly don’t want declining property values, but they don’t want to pay the taxes necessary to keep the value of their property increasing.  They want the assets which factor into their property value — they just don’t want to pay for them.

Private sector employment has done better in the Silver State. Nevada’s climbed up from a dismal 10% unemployment rate this time last year to a 7. 7% unemployment rate as of June 2014. [BLS] That’s a nice 2.3% increase, putting us in the running for the most private sector jobs created in the last year.  If we’d decide to do something about our 149 high hazard dams, our $2.7 billion worth of drinking water infrastructure needs in the next two decades, our $2.9 billion in waste water treatment needs in the same period, our 40 structurally deficient bridges, and the 20% of our roads which are classified as in poor or mediocre condition [ACE] perhaps our employment numbers would be even better?

Perhaps if more parents were working we’d not see the disparity in the numbers of youngsters attending pre-schools?  The number of children from families functioning on less than 200% of the federal poverty level who are not getting some sort of early childhood education increased from 24,000 in 2005-07, to 31,000 between 2010-12.  The number of preschoolers from families in which the income was above 200% of the federal poverty line who were enrolled in some form of early childhood education increased. In 2005-07 about 67% of the kids were not enrolled, a percentage which improved to 60% by the 2010-12 period. [AECF]

The specific indicators on which Nevada’s rankings were based are available online at this location.   As with all compilations, there’s good news and bad news, gaps and spaces.

However, finding indicators of improvement should not divert us from trying to do something about those miserable national rankings.

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Filed under Economy, Nevada politics, Politics

The Toy Soldiers’ Tantrums

Bundy RidersThey aren’t just amusing toy soldiers, costumed and ready for a puerile re-enactment of childish gun-games.  The ‘protestors’ who showed up waving their banners and showing their guns in Las Vegas, want us to know they are “seriously” opposing immigration reform, and against applying current law to the refugee children and families from Central America. [Photos @ NVProgressive]

As with the childhood game narratives of days past, these toy soldiers in the war to win America have their own story. The story doesn’t have to make sense — what improvised tale of Cowboys and Indians ever did? — it simply has to provide an opportunity for them to feel good about expressing their opinions and reinforce their distorted view of patriotism.

The dissonance between their claim that the ‘government is lawless’ while denouncing the application of existing law to Central American migrants doesn’t bother them.  Their point isn’t centered on rational inquiry and disquisition into immigration policy, it’s an expression of how they feel, their emotional reaction to their circumstances.

There are many threads woven into the fabric of their banners. (1) Good old fashioned racism, (2) Imperiled sense of entitlement, (3) Discouragement about economic prospects, and perhaps (4) the Tendency to adopt simplistic conspiracy theories in lieu of protracted, complicated, and often nuanced policy arguments.  However, when they act, it might not matter what the origin might be — their proclivity toward violence is what makes them dangerous.*

Myths Are Dangerous

They are an amusing sideshow, promoted by a sensationalist press and not worthy of public attention.   While the incidents do tend to promote “If It Bleeds It Leads” journalism, the violence wrought by these groups and their affiliates isn’t child’s play. Witness the recent execution of two law enforcement officers in Las Vegas, NV. [LVRJ] Right wing extremists killed 34 victims between September 11, 2001 and April 2014. [CNN]  Further, while the groups may not be organized in traditional ways, they are coordinated.  Those who believe that the incidents related to the stand off at the Bundy Ranch were spontaneous would do well to review the information available from the SPLC’s “War in the West,” report. (pdf) And, it bears repeating, there was nothing ‘sideshow’ about the deadly attack on the Federal Building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh and associates.

The right wing extremists are only trying to ‘do their own thing’ and the government should leave them alone.  Doing their own thing doesn’t necessarily mean they are law-abiding when not actually shooting at someone.   In 2010 two Sovereign Citizens in Sacramento, CA, cooked up an insurance scam in which they sold policies which did not come close to satisfying the requirements for insurance sold to the public in that state — or for that matter, in any other.  Numerous accidents, paltry payments, and several court cases later, the two were indicted and convicted of fraud and money laundering. [FBI]  Extremists from Kansas, Missouri, and Nevada launched a “Diplomatic Identification” scam; the three found themselves convicted of fraud in 2009. [FBI] Other sales schemes have included vehicle license plates, phony driver’s licenses, and even currency. [FBI]  More Sovereign Citizens have been sentenced for their fraudulent “treasury scheme.” [RS 7/14]

They’re just interested in protecting their 2nd Amendment rights and keeping the values of a Christian nation.  Fine, except when we notice that the number of militia groups has grown from 149 in January 2009 to approximately 1,274 today. What’s changed? Could this have something to do with the fact that the President of the United States happens to be an African-American?  As for “values,” the number of hate groups has seen a similar increase, from 604 in 2000 to about 1,000 today. [Grio] The SPLC puts the number at 939. [SPLC]  Neither racism, nor exclusionism, is a traditional American value.

What to do?

Support your local sheriff.  Most extremists come to the attention of local law enforcement officials before they rise to the awareness of national agencies.  Local law enforcement budgets should be augmented to include adequate funding for the surveillance of domestic terror/hate groups.  Local jurisdictions should have adequate resources to investigate, and prosecute, offenders for related crimes (fraud, assaults, etc.). When local candidates for law enforcement positions tout their budget restraint positions, make certain this doesn’t mean cutting funding or allocations for watching/prosecuting the extremists among us.

Support efforts to coordinate law enforcement activities.  NRS Chapter 239C authorizes the creation of a Nevada Homeland Security Commission, which reports to the Governor.  Enacted in the wake of the 9/11/01 attacks, it focuses on threat assessment and communications inter-operability.  The current mission statement appears to be trapped in this time slot:

“The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security (OHS) acts as the Cabinet-level State office for the prevention of and preparation for a potential terrorist event. Nevada OHS directs and coordinates a comprehensive counter terrorism and “all threats-all hazards” approach in its prevention, preparedness and response strategies.”

The thrust of the public documents available offers the perspective of an organization focused on major events, without actually defining what such an event might be — perhaps it is understood given the origin of the group that it would prevent or respond to foreign acts of aggression such as attacks on infrastructure, facilities,  or communications.   On the other hand, it does publish an “active shooter” booklet (pdf) the contents of which emphasize common sense: Evacuate or Hide.

Without knowing what activities might be garnering the attention of the organization, and the penalties for unauthorized disclosure of Commission materials are stringent, it’s hard to gauge how effectively the Commission is attending to home grown extremist organizations and their activities.

A Commission which is taking in a full view of the potential threats to the security and safety of Nevada residents should (1) promote the active assessment of domestic threats,  (2) periodically report to the public on its threat assessment, and (3) inform the general public what measures it is taking to secure Nevada residents, their infrastructure, and their facilities from both domestic and foreign sourced threats.

The minutes of the March 21, 2014 meeting (last available online pdf) indicate decreased funding for the Commission activities, and a ranking of priorities which places cyber-security first, and “Intelligence and Information Sharing” second.  Not to be looking askance at the need to prevent cyber-security problems, but in light of the activities at the Bundy Ranch, and the propensity of lone wolf  extremists to target law enforcement officers in this state, the gathering of intelligence concerning extremists and sharing that throughout the law enforcement community would seem to be of more immediate concern.

Support private and non-profit groups which address and publicize the problems associated with domestic extremism.  For example,  objections to programs which promote tolerance in schools and other institutions should be met with equal levels of  advocacy.  Any efforts made by educational institutions to mitigate the toxic combination of ‘entitlement’ and ‘victimhood’ should be promoted. Programs which seek to alleviate bullying, racial discrimination, and sexism should be encouraged.

Local programs promoting civic pride, from all segments of the community, should be a priority.  Whether these events and activities are large and highly organized or small and relatively informal, local broadcast and other media should be encouraged to give these as much publicity as possible.

The most effective way to diminish the threat of domestic terror is to support local efforts to identify the sources, coordinate investigations and prosecutions, and take advantage of any and all opportunities to alleviate the forces which drive the toy soldiers into their frenzy of emotional reactions to a world in which they feel uncomfortable.

——-

*Christian Right secession fantasy, Salon, July 1, 2014. Anti-government extremists stir an unhealthy political brew, Newsday, June 18, 2014. Sources of anti-government extremism, Consortium News, May 27, 2013.  What drives anti-government extremists?, Huffington Post, June 10, 2014, from CNN, June 10, 2014.  The Sovereign Citizen Movement, FBI, April 13, 2010.  Statement before Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI, September 19, 2012.  Focus on Militia Extremism, FBI, September 22, 2011.  U.S. right-wing more dangerous than jihadists, CNN, April 15, 2014.

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Filed under anti-immigration, Nevada politics, Politics

Amodei and the Perils of the Second Question

Amodei 3I lasted for two questions and Amodeian Answers during last evening’s telephone town hall session.  The Second Question I  heard was from “Dorothy from Fernley” asking: “I live in Lyon County, what does the government plan to do to bring jobs…”

The previous post described the nature of any response on offer from Nevada’s 2nd District Congressman, Mark Amodei (R-NV2).  So, imagine the serpentine syntax and the following reply:

Representative Amodei was quick to let the caller know that the House had just passed a Jobs Bill, one that was a “general measure, instead of extending unemployment benefits.”

The Congressman didn’t specify what bill that was, but might have been referring to the Highway Trust Fund bill, or to the Federal Register Act, but those aren’t generally classified as “jobs” bills by the Republican leadership.  The bill to which he was most likely referring was H.R. 4718, amending the IRS code to make bonus depreciation permanent.  The bill “generally” helps businesses, and is an exemplar of Trickle Down in its almost pure form.

The bill passed on an almost  party line vote 258-160. [roll call 404] The Nevada delegation supported the measure. So, what would it do?

One rather brutal way to describe the bill is that it adds some $287 billion to the Federal budget deficit without doing much more than allowing businesses to write off the costs of capital improvements and investments more quickly.  [HuffPo]

If a person is waiting for a job in Yerington, Fernley, or Silver Springs — this bill doesn’t shorten the time. First, the corporation would have to make a capital investment or improvement, and the investment would have to be an expansion, and if it were an expansion, then it would have to expand in Lyon County…. you get the picture.  Describing the bill as “generally” promoting jobs is generous indeed.

More importantly, under the Austerian/Trickle Down Theory of Republican economics this kind of measure is supposed to have an overall stimulative effect.  First, bonus depreciation breaks have been in effect from 2008 to 2013.  Secondly, according to the Congressional Research Service report, (pdf) they weren’t all that stimulative:

“A temporary investment subsidy was expected to be more effective than a permanent one for short-term stimulus, encouraging firms to invest while the benefit was in place. Its temporary nature is critical to its effectiveness. Yet, research suggests that bonus depreciation was not very effective, and probably less effective than the tax cuts or spending increases that have now lapsed.”

It was a bust.  However, it was a tax break and Republicans believe, as an article of faith, that all tax breaks have a stimulative effect on the economy.

Not only was it a bust, but at the moment it is an expensive bust; again according to the CRS analysis:

“If bonus depreciation is made permanent, it increases accelerated depreciation for equipment, contributing to lower, and in some cases more negative, effective tax rates. In contrast, prominent tax reform proposals would reduce accelerated depreciation. Making bonus depreciation a permanent provision would significantly increase its budgetary cost.”

Remember how all those major corporations are forever telling us that the are paying the highest corporate tax rate in the Universe and that they can’t compete with other corporations based in foreign lands?  Well, here’s a tax break they can enjoy:

“Compared to a statutory corporate tax rate of 35%, bonus depreciation lowers the effective tax rate for equipment from an estimated 26% rate to a 15% rate. Buildings are taxed approximately at the statutory rate. Total tax rates would be slightly higher because of stockholder taxes. Because nominal interest is deducted, however, effective tax rates with debt finance can be negative. For equity assets taxed at an effective rate of 35%, the effective tax rate on debt-financed investment is a negative 5%. The rate on equipment without bonus depreciation is minus 19%; with bonus depreciation it is minus 37%.”  [CRS pdf]

Someone has to love the part wherein the capital improvements or investments are financed, the interest is deducted, and the effective tax rate can be a negative — what’s not to love? Except:

#1. The tax break was supposed to be a temporary stimulus for business expansion, with a temporary incentive for business spending.

#2. The way the current bill is drafted it’s going to cost the Federal government about $263 billion in lost revenue — from corporations, not the little guys.

#3. The CBPP informs us: ” Under current law, companies pay far less than the statutory 35 percent corporate tax rate on the profits flowing from those investments.  In some cases, they pay nothing and actually receive a tax subsidy.  Bonus depreciation only increases this favorable tax treatment.”

While the residents of Lyon County, Nevada are waiting for some business to expand and start hiring — the accountants at the corporate HQ of Soakem & Runn, Inc.  are tasked with finding yet more ways they can reduce their federal tax liability.  Therefore, the Lyon County residents must wait for the corporation to take its deductions, decide to use the money saved to expand the business, decide to locate the firm’s new improvements in the county, and take the plunge to build or expand operations.  Please do not hold your breath during this process.

Meanwhile, the extension of unemployment benefits, so disparaged by Representative Amodei have a far more immediate stimulative effect on the economy.

When we were discussing the extension of unemployment benefits back in 2011, the Congressional Budget Office estimated (pdf) that the cost of the extension would be approximately $44.1 billion during the first year. [Roosevelt Inst]  Yes, there is a cost, but the money circulates back into state and local economies.  The Congressional Budget Office estimated more recently that not extending unemployment benefits puts an approximate 0.2% “drag” on the overall economy. [CNN]  The percentage may not sound like much but when we consider that our gross national product is $17,268.7 billion [FRED] that isn’t chump change.

Instead of waiting for Soakem & Runn, Inc. to decide whether to use the new tax break for any expansion, and to determine what kind of expansion that will be, and if it will actually be in the county — Lyon County citizens might pin their hopes more realistically on the continued growth in the American GNP:

US GNP

With all due respect, they’ll have a shorter wait watching the GNP and GDP charts than they’ll have waiting for the corporations to decide how to apply their new tax breaks.  However, there’s more, as Representative Amodei tried to get more specific about Lyon County.

He referred to the need to pass the “Yerington Bill” which would create jobs and passed in the 112th Congress, but not in the present 113th.  Again, we’ll have to speculate that he meant the bill to assist the Pumpkin Hollow Mining operations, [PHM] one which has previously gotten itself mired in partisan politics, wherein an amendment was attached allowing Border Patrol agents to bypass environmental laws they deemed too restrictive.  [LVSun]

Representative Horsford (D-NV4) and Senator Heller (R-NV) are both supportive of the bill so it may have some future… but again the residents of Lyon County will have to wait.   It’s July 16th, and the House is only scheduled to be in session for nine more days until the month long August break, after which the House will have ten working days in September, another two in October, seven in November, and finally another eight working days in December. [House Cal. pdf]  That leaves a total of 36 legislative working days from now until the end of the year.  Again, Lyon County residents might want to just keep watching the GNP and GDP trends.

 

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Filed under Amodei, Congress, corporate taxes, Economy, Nevada economy, Nevada politics, Politics, tax revenue, Taxation

Amodei Does The Phone Thing: Immigration Edition

Amodei 3Please don’t ask me to transcribe what I heard during Representative Mark Amodei’s (R-NV2) Telephone Townhall thing he had tonight, during the dinner hour.  I always seem to be contacted while the “town hall is already in progress,” and Amodei’s dismaying propensity for scrambling his answers into disjointed phrases interspersed with touching attempts to give the questioner reason to believe he might have heard and understood the question, combined with hunger, means I rarely stay for the whole performance.

I got in just as “Linda from Reno” was posing a direct question: “When are we going to close the borders? Don’t you think we ought to close the borders?

There’s nothing nuanced about this inquiry.  It’s about as straight forward as it gets. Closed border good?  Representative Amodei responded, as he nearly always does, by starting a sentence — shifting to an independent clause — shifting to another thought — reverting to the initial topic long enough to — insert another qualifier, before — circling back to touch on whatever it was that made him think of — another qualifying statement, leading to the beginning of another sentence.

As nearly as I can guess, Representative Amodei believes that the current crisis of too many undocumented and unaccompanied children at our border detention facilities means we have no control over our borders.

Whoa — if we didn’t have control over our borders then they wouldn’t be in DHS Border Patrol detention facilities would they?

The obvious point that if the southern border were “open” these children would be “all over the place” instead of in detention and case processing facilities stipulated, the notion that the opposite might be the case leads Representative Amodei to suggest that deploying the National Guard should be implemented.

For what? We have 21,000 border patrol agents, local, state, and tribal governments have programs funded by the Federal government to assist in border security, and we need the National Guard? According to Representative Amodei (I think, from my notes with arrows and lines trying to track his answer) this is necessary to have “absolute control of the border.”  I’ll return to this point in a moment, but first there’s a need to be more specific about the difference between the question from Reno and the answer from Amodei.

Closed Minds and Borders

Let’s pause for a moment, because Representative Amodei really isn’t offering a direct answer to “Linda’s” direct question.  She wasn’t talking about controlling the border she was advocating closing the borders. Closed borders have serious consequences, consequences “Linda” may not have considered when expressing her desire to stop all immigration.

First, and most obviously, a closed border works both ways. While closing the borders would prevent immigration, it also prevents trade and tourism.  If country A closes down its border with country B, B always reacts.  The reactions, and the economic implications thereof, create a plethora of issues which often have consequences intended and unintended.

The most obvious example of a closed border in recent memory is that between East and West Germany.  The destruction of the Berlin Wall provided iconic images, but the process of reunification was far more problematic.  For example, East Germany had been considered one of the more prosperous Eastern Bloc countries, but without Russian assistance/hegemony, and without a universally valued currency, when the wall fell so did the East German economy.  Further, there were those, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher included, who saw a re-unified Germany as a threat to European security and urged the Russians to prevent the process as much as possible.  However, a central point to remember is that for all the drama associated with PM Thatcher’s practice of carrying a 1937 map of German borders in her handbag, or the complex problem of what to do with East German industrial subsidies, the closed border between the two Germany-s before 1990 allowed the economy on the East side of the line to paper over serious economic flaws and abysmal infrastructure.

In other, simpler terms, closed borders hide and obscure as much as they secure.

Secondly, borders don’t exist in the imagination, they define regions, and in doing so they create “border areas,” those sections on either side of a closed border which create social, political, and economic environments simply because they are border areas.  There’s another European example of the consequences of closed borders as they apply to border regions.

In 2005 a study was conducted of the consequences of the Emerald Curtain, i.e. the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. [The Emerald Curtain pdf] Unlike it’s German counterpart, the Emerald Curtain didn’t come as a response to any specific migratory or economic trends, it accreted over time.  Established in 1921, and discussed intermittently until 1925, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is a “tale of unintended and unforeseen consequences.”

One of those unintended consequences was the creation of a border area, without major urban areas, and without any robust trade, which engendered dependence on agriculture, under-employment, lack of market access, lack of transport, and the inaccessibility of services like education.   The areas on both sides of the Emerald Curtain tended not to be amenable to economic diversification, which in turn exacerbated social and economic trends including low disposable incomes and higher levels of illiteracy.  Even the “Irish Tiger” boom period, didn’t have the same impact in the southern border regions as it did further south.

For all the attention, verbiage, studies, plans, and parliamentary speeches about improving the Emerald Curtain border regions — the area in 2005 was still characterized as “lagging behind national benchmarks for growth, employment, and development.” [The Emerald Curtain pdf]

The Emerald Curtain isn’t even drawn that tightly shut, but still Ireland’s largest customer is the United States, followed by the UK, Belgium, Germany, and France. Most Irish imports are from the UK, followed by the U.S., Germany, Netherlands, and China in that order. [MIT.edu]  Meanwhile, the economy in Ulster moves forward, with most trade between the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The economy in the north is still tied to the economy of the UK. [Belfast Telegraph]

Whether “Linda in Reno” is advocating a militarized tightly controlled border like the Iron Curtain, or a softer, less organized one like its Emerald counterpart, the results are essentially the same.  The fencing may obfuscate and render opaque issues which will cause major problems over time, and may as easily create regions in which economic activity is stunted or diminished.

Good fences may make good neighbors, but they tend not to encourage economic growth and development.

Absolute Control

As promised earlier, it’s time to get down to an item on Representative Amodei’s wish list: US absolute control of its borders.   This sounds good — it’s also meaningless.  But wait, meaningless is good, especially for the Republican talking point generators and distributors.

By oversimplification and sloganeering complicated and thorny issues can be reduced to ‘sound bites,’ easily digested and something of a Rorschach Test for the listener.  “Linda in Reno” may come away from her portion of the Amodei Word Salad Shooter Session believing that when he says “absolute control of the border” he’s espousing her version of a closed, militarized, border — or a softer more informal one, as might be characterized by a line between two groups of people not yet completely over the Battle of the Boyne.  The beauty of the oversimplified, and thus meaningless, sound bite is that whatever interpretation might be applied to it, the politician using it can pivot at any point and walk away … “I really didn’t mean precisely That…” Whatever “that” might have been.

Yes, Representative Amodei wants “absolute control of the border,” BUT not so much that the Mexican government responds with a closure on its side?  Or, BUT not so much that cities like Brownsville, Nogales, El Paso, and Laredo suffer economic declines from a lack of cross border trade?  Or, BUT not so much that the flow of international trade, commerce, and currency is disrupted?

What is “absolute” control?  Does that mean not a single solitary migrant moving over the borders without a visa is to be found?  Or, is there an acceptable level of ‘leakage?” If so, what’s the level? Once again, the Rorschach Test comes into play. The message means whatever the listener wants to hear.

Who do we intend to “control?” Another Rorschach Test — are we ‘controlling’ for racial or ethnic characteristics? Political or ideological perspectives?  Does “control” mean keeping lower income, ethnic minority populations, at bay?  Does it mean deporting PhD candidates in the field of applied physics? In order for there to be “control” there must be something, someone, under that control.  Who or what that might be is left to the interpretation of the listener.  These little bits of meaninglessness are handy for politicians who don’t want to specify policy positions or describe their legislative proposals.  They are also incredibly useful for criticizing the proposals of opponents.

Using sound bite slogans makes it an easy task to critique the elements of S. 744 by saying it “doesn’t provide absolute control over the borders.” Whatever that might mean. Or, “it doesn’t require enough from those applying for naturalization? Whatever “enough” could be. Or, “it’s too close to amnesty.”  What’s amnesty and what’s too close?

In the final segment, Representative Amodei wanted to reassure “Linda from Reno” that he’d contacted the Department of Homeland Security and they had indicated to him that there were no federal facilities in Nevada to which the unaccompanied children or families would be transported. Hint: There’s no need to round up the pick up trucks, letter the signs, and power up the bull horns?  Once up this easy grade, Representative Amodei got entangled in his explanation of how the federal government couldn’t insure that private organizations in Nevada, especially churches, wouldn’t accept detainees during processing. If I were to attempt to translate my notes this paragraph would read:

“Something, something, Federal Government can’t tell churches what to do, something, something, especially in light of the Supreme Court decision, which I agree with, something, something, it’s a sticky wicket, trying to tell churches what to do, something, something, government should stay out of church business. ”  I’m guessing he’s referring to the Hobby Lobby decision. I’m guessing he’s telling “Linda from Reno” that if a church or private non-profit organization wants to house detainees during processing there’s nothing he can do about it.

I lasted one more question and answer, and then the desire to return to dinner overwhelmed my inclination to try to make intelligible notes from Representative Amodei’s Word Salad Shooter.  Each one of these sessions makes me all the more appreciative of the members of the local press in Nevada who have the Herculean task, as a part of their job, to make sense of Representative Amodei’s verbal barrages, interminable regressions, and equally predictable sloganeering.   Somewhere there is a Salad Shooter spewing Scrabble tiles that needs a hug.

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Filed under Amodei, anti-immigration, Immigration, Nevada politics, Politics

The Economic Idiocy of Immigration Protests

Earlier this month Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) commented on the House Republican refusal to move on the Comprehensive Immigration Policy Reform bill stalled on their side of the Congress:

“Comprehensive immigration reform would have added an average of 121,000 more jobs per year over the next 10 years,” Reid said. “Unfortunately, House Republicans, under the influence of the Tea Party, refused to bring it up for a vote. Their refusal is costing our economy added growth that we need.” [The Hill]

The comment underpins a simple concept:  Refusal to consider comprehensive immigration policy reform comes at the cost of American economic growth.  The figures cited by Senator Reid are fairly common.

“Numerous studies and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the Senate’s bill would lead to significant economic growth as immigrants fully enter into our society and economy. Over the next 10 years, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, S. 744, would increase our gross domestic product, or GDP, by 3.3 percent and would raise the wages of all Americans by a cumulative $470 billion, while creating on average 121,000 jobs each year.” [CAP]

Where does this come from? Once more, we have to look at the demand side of the supply/demand equation.  Tired of having me call it “aggregate demand?”  The total demand for goods and services, can also be described clumsily as  the willingness on the part of people to part with their wealth in order to possess some goods or receive some services.  Put in the simplest possible terms, the more people the more demand.

However, it’s not just the addition of more human beings that factors into economic growth, it’s how much wealth or income they have available to part with at the check out counter which factors in as well.

Here’s the point at which the ‘They’re Taking Our Jobs” Crowd of screamers has missed the macro-econ bus by at least an hour.  If Congress were to enact S. 744, the Comprehensive Immigration bill as it passed the Senate, we’d have about 10.4 million new legal U.S. residents — who need cars, kitchen tables, television sets, toothbrushes, towels, shoes, homes, rugs, lamps, sofas, and all the other Stuff of Life — who would be permanent residents. [CBO]   Therefore, those purchases and payments would not be interrupted by temporary status.  That’s money into the economy! Money into the economy equates to economic growth.  It doesn’t get much simpler.

The “They’re Making Our Wages Lower” Crowd is similarly out of touch with reality.  Currently our undocumented residents are part of the Shadow Economy, and being in the shadows means that about 8 million people are working in a system in which their earnings are not declared.  If as an employer my avarice exceeds my common sense, then I can keep “wages depressed” by hiring undocumented individuals for less than what I should have to pay a fully qualified resident — the fact that as an employer I have the option to function in the shadows depresses wages.  The wages paid is not an option for the worker — it’s a decision on the part of the employer, and the greediest among us will opt for the expedient of hiring someone for whom earnings aren’t declared.

Immigration protest graffiti

Bring people out of the shadow economy, bring their earnings out of the shadows, and watch the increase in money available to be spent in our commercial and retail sectors.   Again, the more money, the more spending, the more spending the more economic growth.   It’s hard to miss this point but several individuals who seem to be challenged by the spelling of illegal (“illeagle”) have done so.

And, by the way, declared earnings are taxable, thus adding to the funding of Social Security, etc., and apply toward the reduction of the debt and deficit some people are perpetually bellowing about.

In short, we’re losing about $80 billion annually in terms of economic output by stalling on Comprehensive Immigration Policy reform, along with absorbing an estimated $40 billion in annual budget deficits.  Additionally, we risk losing some 40,000 STEM graduates — in fields we really shouldn’t want to vacate for competitors.  [WH]

It might be interesting to find out how the following question would poll:

Do you believe that the United States should continue to operate with $80 billion in lost economic output and risk the loss of 40,000 STEM university graduates or should the Congress take action?

OK, that’s a question in the Push Poll manner of pseudo-research, but it makes the point — continued opposition to Comprehensive Immigration Policy reform makes no sense.

At least it makes no sense in economic terms, but the right wing conservatives seem incapable of contemplating the issue in economic terms in either the macro or micro realms.  It appears to have become a tribal, racial, emotional, primitive reaction to Us vs. Them.  At the least it’s xenophobic in the classic manifestation of NINA signs, and outlawing German language classes during World War I.

NINA

At the worst, it’s racist, harkening back to the faces of anti-integration supporters during the modern Civil Rights Movement.  I’ll repost this image for emphasis:

Murrieta Little Rock

* There’s more from DB back issues:  Here, here, and here.  For the human, and humanitarian side click over to the Nevada Progressive.

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Filed under Economy, Immigration, Nevada politics, Politics

Protecting Nevada Victims of Domestic Violence and Stalking: We Could Be Doing A Better Job

By almost any common sense standard Ronald E. Haskell should not have had a firearm. By almost any ethical standard he should not have had access to a firearm considering his past behavior towards his ex-wife, and by any moral standard he should not have taken his gun and assassinated six people in Spring, TX, and attempted to murder a seventh. There are three pieces of legislation in Congress which might have prevented this tragedy — and all three are opposed by the National Rifle Association and the gun manufacturers who support it.  [MJ]

It doesn’t do to sit out here in the Nevada sage brush and lament the problems far away in Texas without considering our own situation in regard to domestic violence and gun ownership.

In 2011, 35% of female homicide victims were killed during a domestic violence incident, and firearms accounted for the deaths of 214 women between 2001 and 2010. [CAP pdf] Let’s approach this rationally.

First, do we have a problem with domestic violence in the State?  Figures from the Nevada Department of Public Safety may indicate that we do. The latest general report available online (pdf) shows the number of domestic violence incidents — of all types — increasing during the period from 2000 to 2005.  There were 20,653 DVIs in 2000, followed by 26,417 in 2001. There were 26,691 in 2002 and another 27,915 in 2003.  2004 totals were 29,233 and in 2005 there were 31,247.  Evidently, things didn’t get much better by 2009.

When the Violence Policy Center rated states according to females murdered by males in single victim homicides by rate, Nevada came up #1, with a 2.70, beating out Alabama with a 2.64 rate and Louisiana with a rate of 1.99. [VPC pdf]  The Nevada Legislature took some serious steps to correct the dismal statistics in the early 2000′s in 2007, [DB] and we have seen some improvement.

Happily, by 2011 the Nevada ranking had dropped to 16th with a rating of 1.48. [VPC pdf] The bad news is that this ranking is still in the “Top 20″ nationally. We obviously have room for improvement to reach Illinois at 0.27, Massachusetts at 0.53, and Vermont at 0.36. [VPC pdf]  We do know that during the period 2003 and 2012 there were 221 domestic violence homicides in Nevada and 52.9% of the fatalities were caused by guns. [CAP pdf]  There are some steps we could take to improve our numbers.

What can be done to improve the situation?  As noted many times in this venue, Nevada should have universal background checks to determine if any of the categories of persons who are proscribed from firearm ownership are attempting to purchase weaponry.   The sorry history of S. 221 was most recently discussed here in an article about the Background Check Initiative.  In short, without at least a cursory background check there is little way to determine if the buyer is subject to the restrictions on firearm possession set forth in NRS 33.031 and NRS 33.033.

The permissive language in NRS 33.031 is also a potential loophole through which a miscreant could retain or acquire firearms.  The statute says, “a court MAY include” within an NRS 33.030 extended restraining order the provision that the “adverse party” will surrender firearms, and cannot possess them while the order is in effect.  In order to attach this proviso, the court must decide that the “adverse party” has a (1) documented history of domestic violence, (2) Has used or threatened to use a firearm to injure or harass the applicant, a minor child or any other person, or (3) Has used a firearm in the commission or attempted commission of any crime.  First, it doesn’t appear that this provision can be applied during a temporary restraining order — the first one issued after the violent incident.  Secondly, the firearm surrender requirement is spoken of only in terms of the extended order of protection.  Granted this gives the “adverse party” some representational rights, since the temporary order might not include the presence of our “adverse party,” in court.  However, it also presents some practical issues.

A Nevada Court has one “judicial” day to consider a temporary restraining order of protection, but it has 45 days in the instance of an application for an extended order. [NRS 33.020]  Thus we have a potential circumstance in which a person with a documented history of domestic violence, one who has used or threatened to shoot the applicant, the children, or others, or has already used a firearm in the commission of a crime — has more than a month of “free” firearm possession in this State. That’s certainly sufficient time for the “adverse party” to locate and endanger the remainder of the family.

One possible solution to the problem might be to eliminate the permissive “may”  from the provisions regarding an extended order of protection and simply say that if the “adverse party” meets the three criteria then law enforcement “will” take custody of the individual’s firearms.  Additionally, if the court finds that there is ample evidence of previous incidents of domestic violence, or clear and present danger from immediate threats, then it “may” remove the firearms during the period covered by the temporary restraining order.

There is no intent in this suggestion to permanently deprive any individual of his 2nd Amendment entertainment devices, merely to secure them while a domestic situation remains volatile.  Nor is this a “blank check” for government to “take guns away” without Constitutional protections — the permissive language (may) pertaining to the temporary restraining order gives the court some latitude to determine the extent of the volatility, and to protect the victim, and, to no small extent, protect our “adverse party” from doing something in the heat of the moment he might regret for the rest of his life.

There is also some elasticity in Nevada laws which place some women and children at risk.  NRS 200.575 discusses stalking, which is a misdemeanor for the first offense, and a gross misdemeanor for the second.  Nevada adds a category of “aggravated stalking:”

“A person who commits the crime of stalking and in conjunction therewith threatens the person with the intent to cause the person to be placed in reasonable fear of death or substantial bodily harm commits the crime of aggravated stalking. A person who commits the crime of aggravated stalking shall be punished for a category B felony by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 2 years and a maximum term of not more than 15 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $5,000.”

It is only when the stalker adds threats of death and substantial bodily harm that he would be committing a felony, and thus ineligible to possess firearms under Nevada law.  This sounds reasonable until we run into the problematic nature of stalker mentalities.  After a conviction for a first and second offense the individual may still acquire firearms, if the victim can’t prove a fear of “death or substantial bodily harm,” beyond a reasonable doubt.  The background check would not exclude the individual unless he’s already convicted of felonious, or “aggravated” stalking since stalking convictions are misdemeanors for the first two offenses.

Another suggestion:  Make the imposition of an order of protection mandatory in all cases of stalking. In the instance of a first conviction the court “may” include the surrender of firearms in the order, and “shall” include it in the case of a second conviction; especially if the stalking is done to the same victim as in the first case.   Current law (NRS 200.591) permits a court to issue a temporary or extended order of protection but doesn’t require it.  Might women and families be safer if the temporary order were applied for the first offense, with the provision that the court “may” include the surrender of deadly weapons?  They would certainly seem to be safer if an extended order was immediately applied after the second conviction, and proscribed the possession of firearms for the duration of the order.

The slippage in the system comes, of course, when there is no background check required for all gun sales, such that after the misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor convictions the stalker can simply purchase a firearm at a gun show and move on to the felony he may have been contemplating.

Spare me the “law abiding citizens” argument from the 2nd Amendment extremists.  A person who commits domestic violence has broken the law. A person who stalks another person in the state of Nevada has broken the law.  This is not law-abiding behavior.  When a person’s behavior is classified as a misdemeanor, a gross misdemeanor, or a class B felony — it is not law-abiding. Period.

Spare me the “Big Plot To Take Guns” argument. No one is speaking of temporary or extended orders of protection which deprive the non-law-abiding of their 2nd Amendment playthings in perpetuity. When the stalker hits the B Felony grade he’s done it to himself; if he’s still in the misdemeanor range the surrender of firearms lasts only as long as the orders of protection.

And, finally, spare us the misery of a rendition of the Spring, TX massacre in the Silver State.

 

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Filed under Gun Issues, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, women, Women's Issues

The Unsportsmanlike Act

Duck StampThe Bipartisan Sportsman’s Act of 2014 (S. 2363) sailed through the first cloture roadblock on an 82-12 vote [roll call 218] and then sank in the mire of Senate obstructionism.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pulled the plug in the face of Republican squabbling over amendments. [The Hill]  What started out as a simple two title bill got entangled in …. Guns.

Title I of the original bill would have allowed hunters to get duck stamps online, and allowed target practice on federal lands, among other improvements for those who truly are into hunting. Title II concerned conservation of various habitats. [S. 2363]  And then things got complicated.

Guns Galore!

Thirty eight amendments were offered to the bill.  Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) wanted to add his “Second Amendment Enforcement Act” to the bill, which would have gutted gun regulations in the District of Columbia, and just about everywhere else for that matter. [CR S4283]  He also proposed allowing firearms in postal facilities. [CR S4283] Nothing like encouraging the customers to, in a phrase from a bygone era, “go postal?”

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) joined Senator Paul in his efforts to add the proposed “Second Amendment Enforcement Act” to the bill, [CR S4283]  and he, too, wanted to extend firearm privileges in postal facilities. Lee’s three amendments essentially proposed the same extensions of Paul’s expansion of gun ‘rights.’

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TX) offered his “Second Amendment Enforcement Act” to the original bill, and Senator Jefferson Beauregard Session (R-Old South) chimed in with his rendition.  Not to be outdone, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) wanted a “Second Amendment Enforcement Act included in the three amendments he filed, as did Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Idaho Republican Senator Mike Crapo, Richard Burr (R-NC), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) in three amendments, and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), and Nevada’s own Senator Dean Heller.

There’s nothing new about this “Second Amendment Enforcement Act,” it was drafted by the National Rifle Association, and was introduced by Senators McCain (R-GreenRoom) and Tester (D-MT) as a response to gun regulations in the District of Columbia. [OV.com] By the lights of the NRA there shouldn’t be any.  It also showed up in the 110th Congress (2008) in the form of H.R. 6691.  It appeared in Representative Mike Ross’s H.R. 645 in 2011 [NRA] where it died in Committee in February 2011. [GovTrack]

If the fish can’t live in the water, why are you fishing there?

Senator Heller also signed on to Senator Barrasso’s amendment which deviated from the chorus of ‘gun rights’ and headed into the Clean Water Act.  SA 3453 took the regulation out of regulations concerning the identification of waters protected by the Clean Water Act:

“SEC. 1__XX. IDENTIFICATION OF WATERS PROTECTED BY THE CLEAN WATER ACT.
(a) In General.–Neither the Secretary of the Army nor the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency shall– (1) finalize the proposed rule entitled “Definition of `Waters of the United States’ Under the Clean Water Act” (79 Fed. Reg. 22188 (April 21, 2014)); or
(2) use the proposed rule described in paragraph (1), or any substantially similar proposed rule or guidance, as the basis for any rulemaking or any decision regarding the scope or enforcement of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.).  (b) Rules.–The use of the proposed rule described in subsection (a)(1), or any substantially similar proposed rule or guidance, as the basis for any rulemaking or any decision regarding the scope or enforcement of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) shall be grounds for vacation of the final rule, decision, or enforcement action.”

That’s simple, if the Army and the EPA can’t finalize rules regarding the definition of protected water under the Clean Water Act, there’s no clean water? This unpleasant notion was also put forward by Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), and  Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO).

It’s rather difficult to imagine a bill intended to encourage hunting and fishing including a proposal to allow more pollution of hunting and fishing realms. However, several Republican Senators managed to do it.  This “Polluted Waters Act of 2014″ didn’t quite mesh with Senator Cardin’s (D-DE) amendment to enact the National Fish Habitat Action Plan.  Nor does it seem particularly appealing to someone like myself who thoroughly enjoys fly fishing — imagine all the fun of standing in a mountain stream watching what gray slime doesn’t attach to the waders float along downstream?

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was disappointed there wasn’t an “amendment process,” [The Hill] but with the “Second Amendment Solutions” attached, and the specter of the Dirty Water Fishing Act of 2014 included, we shouldn’t be too disappointed that this little bill didn’t make it past the Senate Obstruction Machine.

It would have been nice if the hunters could have gotten their duck stamps online…

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Filed under Congress, ecology, Gun Issues, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics

Heck’s Hobby Lobby Hopes Dashed By SCOTUS

Joe HeckNevada’s 3rd District Representative, Joe Heck (R), made this remark concerning the Hobby Lobby Decision:

“Heck said he agreed with the U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday in the Hobby Lobby case. The high court said businesses that are family owned or closely held don’t have to provide health care coverage for birth control because the companies have religious objections.

Heck said the ruling was narrowly written to accommodate religious beliefs that life begins at conception and he didn’t believe it should be broadly interpreted to apply to companies that aren’t closely held.” [LVRJ]

Here’s what makes the Congressman’s commentary unreasonable.

#1.  What is the standard for “religious objections?  Since the Hobby Lobby Decision as crafted by Justice Samuel Alito doesn’t specify a standard by which the merits of a religious objection are to be discerned, we might safely assume that a mere assertion of a religious objection is sufficient.  This is certainly at odds with the most obvious “religious objection” standard in another part of the federal government — the military.

In order to attain a “1-O” status with the U.S. military, there is a strenuous test for religious convictions.  According to the American Bar Association:

“Applicants must demonstrate that their beliefs upon which their conscientious objection is based are the primary controlling force in their lives. They must produce evidence in their written application (and during their subsequent hearing before an officer) demonstrating that neither the avoidance of military service nor expediency is the motivating factor in their claim. To this end, DoD Directive 1300.6 lists numerous factors to consider in examining the merits of a servicemember’s application, such as his or her training in the home and church, participation in religious activities, and general demeanor and pattern of conduct.”

The revised DoD Directive 1300.6 (pdf) which replaced the 1968 version in 2007, goes on for some twenty pages of specifications regarding the applicants’ qualifications for conscientious objector status.  One of the more common phrases associated with the qualification is that the beliefs must be “firm, fixed, sincere, and deeply held.”

In the case of a member of the Armed Services who wishes separation or reassignment based on religious scruples there is a process which begins with an extensive interview with a service chaplain, followed by a review by an investigating officer; there will be consultation with the Staff JAG, and then a hearing. Following the informal hearing, the investigating officer will file a report which will be forwarded to the commander.  The report and recommendations flow through the chain of command to the officer designated with the authority to make a final decision on the matter.  The separation from service or reassignment may be granted if it is concluded during the process that the individual’s beliefs are “firm, fixed, sincere, and deeply held.”

No such test appears to have been applied to the objections of Conestoga or Hobby Lobby.  Hobby Lobby simply asserted that its religious beliefs precluded funding for insurance benefits which included birth control and abortion.

If there is no test or evaluative process by which my religious objections — to anything — may be reviewed, then what is to prevent me from asserting that my religious beliefs prevent me from considering anyone for employment who is of a faith other than my own?  May I assert my ‘religious conviction’ that those who don’t keep Kosher (or Halal) are impure, unclean or otherwise unemployable. May I cut off from service any  who “partakes of any blood?” (Lev 7:22)

Who is to determine if my beliefs are “firm, fixed, sincere, and deeply held,” or if they are a simply an expedient way to refuse service to Jews or Muslims?  Or, might my objections (see Leviticus) be such that I can refuse service or employment to Basque Christians, on the grounds that many of them  make and consume blood sausage.

If this argument sounds frivolous, it is no more so than the case cited by Justice Ginsberg in her dissent — Newman vs. Piggie Park Enterprises.  The proprietors of Piggie Park (restaurant chain) objected to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 partially on the grounds that it “contravened the Will of God.” “Defendant Bessinger further contends that the Act violates his freedom of religion under the First Amendment “since his religious beliefs compel him to oppose any integration of the races whatever.” [USDC -DColumbia]  The Supreme Court ruled against Piggie Park Enterprises in March 1968.

Herein we have a closely held family business, the patriarch of which had religious objections to integration, who contended that religion trumped the application of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  If this sounds close to the characteristics of the Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Cases it’s because they share obvious elements — just entirely different conclusions.  In short, without a test or process by which religion can be separated from convenient religiosity the adjudication of religious objections becomes highly subjective.

#2.  The decision was neither narrow, nor tightly drawn.  For all the palaver in the decision about the “narrow-ness” of the judgment, the reasoning left the door wide open to further litigation concerning the applicability of religious objections to contraception, as evidenced by some 30 cases piling up in the judicial system in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision.  [DMN]

Immediately in line after the ‘closely held businesses,’ are the non-profit organizations, such as Wheaton College, Notre Dame University, and others for whom even filling out the form to take advantage of the Administration’s accommodation for them is ‘unconscionable.’ [WaPo]  It should be asked — if the Hobby Lobby decision was such a narrow thing, then why did the Supreme Court almost immediately grant an injuction against the contraception mandate accommodation on behalf of non-profit Wheaton College?  Representative Heck hopes, or at least asserts, that the Hobby Lobby ruling only applies to closely held firms — but in its action on behalf of Wheaton, the line immediately shifted out from under Representative Heck’s assertion and right into the realm of non-profit organizations.

#3. The decision blurs the understanding of earned benefits.  The objections from those who describe themselves as religious to procuring health insurance plans which cover contraception for their employees appear to contend that they are being forced to subsidize medication of which they do not approve.

This has several unfortunate threads entangled in it. Contraceptive prescriptions are subject to approval by the FDA, not the Chamber of Commerce.  They are used for many other reasons that simply to avoid pregnancy.  Are we allowing a corporation to determine that even though a female employee has endometriosis, menorrhagia, or polycystic ovarian syndrome the medication prescribed by her physician is not to be covered because of the employer’s objections? [DB]

The health insurance offered to company employees is part of the total compensation package.  The company may pay for part of the premiums, the employee also contributes.  Does the company’s contribution determine who will control the inclusions in the insurance benefit, or the employee?  In the Hobby Lobby Decision the Supreme Court ruled that the employer’s money speaks louder than the employee’s contribution…even though the insurance may be handled by a third party administrator.

#4. The ruling broadly asserts the efficacy of one and only one religious perspective on life.  If a person happens to believe that life begins at conception then the judgment of the Court is acceptable. However, there are those who hold that life doesn’t begin until the newborn takes its first independent breath.   There’s nothing narrow about a Supreme Court decision which sanctions the view of one particular religion, thus denigrating the views of others.

In short, the decision combined with the Wheaton injunction allows corporations and non-profit entities to require their employees to either follow the proscriptions of the institutional faith or individually procure health insurance benefits on their own.  This is close to, if not identical with, forcing employees to follow the faith of their employers — and not their own individual consciences. Such an imposition is hardly the prescription for religious liberty.

As much as Representative Heck may wish to place a happy, non-threatening spin, on the Hobby Lobby decision, he whiffed on this one while the Supreme Court moved home plate.

***

See also:  Department of Defense Instruction, 1300.6, May 31, 2007. (pdf) John P. Jurden, Conscientious  Objectors, GPSolo, Jan-Feb 2005.  Newman, Neal, Mungin v. Piggie Park Enterprises, 256 F.Supp. 941 (1966), July 28, 1966. Newman, Neal, Mungin v. Piggie Park Enterprises, 377 F.2d 433 (1967), April 24, 1967.

Sherman & Zoll, “After Hobby Lobby…”, Dallas Morning News, July 6, 2014. Jonathan Adler, Supreme Court grants Wheaton College an injunction against contraception mandate accommodation,” WaPo, July 3, 2014.  “Joe Heck calls Hobby Lobby Decision Reasonable,” Nevada Democratic Party, and Las Vegas Review Journal, July 1, 2014.

 

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Filed under civil liberties, conservatism, family issues, Health Care, Heck, Nevada politics, Politics, religion, women, Women's Issues

NRA: Protect Your Local Stalker

NRA Stalker

The National Rifle Association seems set upon a course to convince most sentient creatures that is has completely lost the plot.  Its Flying Monkey Brigade is out to kill a bill that would prevent those convicted of stalking from purchasing firearms. [RS] The Association issued a letter opposing the bill proposed by former prosecutor Amy Klobuchar (D-MN):

“In the letter, the NRA argued that the legislation “manipulates emotionally compelling issues such as ‘domestic violence’ and ‘stalking’ simply to cast as wide a net as possible for firearm prohibitions.” [RS]

Translation: Members of Congress should not enact any legislation about which people have some passionate views, especially when those views concern the personal safety of themselves and their loved ones?  Or, are we too read this as, members of Congress should not enact bills which restrict the access of gun ownership to anyone, no matter how inappropriate or unsafe the circumstances?

The letter went further:

“The NRA is also concerned that the definition of “stalking” is too broad to warrant any abridging of the Second Amendment. “‘Stalking’ offenses do not necessarily include violent or even threatening behavior,” the letter read.

“Under federal law, for example, stalking includes ‘a course of conduct’ that never involves any personal contact whatsoever, occurs wholly through the mail, online media, or telephone service, is undertaken with the intent to ‘harass’ and would be reasonably expected to cause (even if it doesn’t succeed in causing) ‘substantial emotional distress’ to another person.” [RS]

So, Gee — if there wasn’t any physical contact — this isn’t really really threatening behavior? This doesn’t cause any ‘real’ fear, any ‘real’ concern for personal or family safety?  There’s nothing to say that the behavior might escalate?

The Bureau of Justice Statistics issued a report in 2009 (pdf) which offers another view of the issue.  The report found that stalkers also engaged in property damage, illegal entry and burglary, battery, rape, sexual assault, attacks on family members, on children, and on family pets. Most stalking victims reported threats of physical harm, threats to kill, threats to harm another family member or to harm a pet. There were threats of suicide, harming co-workers, and the use of weapons.   All of this does not sound like a “course of conduct” which would be mitigated by the addition of firearms.

How do we deal with the NRA charge that ‘stalking’ is too vague a term, and just another excuse to take guns away?  Nevada’s statutes offer a fair example of how stalking is defined:

“A person who, without lawful authority, willfully or maliciously engages in a course of conduct that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, harassed or fearful for the immediate safety of a family or household member, and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, harassed or fearful for the immediate safety of a family or household member, commits the crime of stalking.”

Where the NRA simply omits the list of things that stalkers do to terrify their prey — and dismisses it as something that might not even be scary — the state of Nevada explains that if the stalker causes an otherwise reasonable person to feel “terrorized, frightened, intimidated, harassed, or fearful for immediate safety,” this constitutes stalking.  In short, the NRA displays a thorough disregard for the victims of stalking , and focuses solely on the ‘poor’ stalker — who might not have done any physical harm (yet) — being unable to hop down to the gun shop and procure whatever weapon desired.  This state of affairs is unlikely to alleviate the situation of the victim.

46% of the victims of the stalkers report fearing “what would happen next,” exactly the frame of mind the stalker sought to induce. 29% feared the stalking would never stop. One in eight stalking victims lost time at work, and one in seven found it necessary to move because of a stalker. [VOC] And then there’s the health end of the problem:

“The prevalence of anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression is much higher among stalking victims than the general population, especially if the stalking involves being followed or having one’s property destroyed. [Eric Blauuw et al. "The Toll of Stalking," Journal of Interpersonal Violence 17, no. 1(2002):50-63.]

There’s also that “emotionally compelling” issue of domestic violence, which the NRA intimates ought not to deprive a batterer of “his rights.”  Nevada has addressed this issue head on.

Nevada takes domestic violence seriously.  There’s nothing vague about the provisions of NRS 33.018. Domestic violence is domestic violence, and there are penalties for it. Neither is there anything incomprehensible about NRS 200.485 which delineates the elements of a domestic violence battery. If a person uses “willful and unlawful force or violence upon the person of another,” that’s a battery. [NVLeg] And, if a person commits an act of domestic violence, the state of Nevada provides for injunctions to protect the victim, including two sections in the statutes addressing firearms. [NRS 33.031 & NRS 33.033]

The 2007 Nevada Legislature passed AB 194, signed by the Governor on June 7, 2007, and from that time forward a court may issue an extended order of protection which requires that an ‘adverse’ party give up their firearms.  The votes in the Legislature weren’t even close — the Assembly vote was 41-0, and the Senate vote was 20-1.   There was a reason for that — some appalling numbers which put Nevada at the top of some lists which weren’t all that positive.

During testimony on AB 194 (pdf) the Assembly Judiciary Committee heard testimony stating:

“Since 1999, Nevada has consistently rated among the top five states for domestic violence homicides of women. In 2004, Nevada had 2.21 female homicides per 100,000 women, and the national average is 1.37. Statistics show that 55 to 67 percent of domestic violence homicides are committed with the use of firearms. Out of the 25 homicides in Nevada in 2004, 15 were killed with firearms, six were beaten to death, and four were killed with knives. That shows about 60 percent being killed with firearms. When firearms are used in domestic violence assaults, it is 12 times more likely to result in death than assaults without firearms involved. It is clear that firearms and domestic violence are a deadly combination.” (page 25)

Until the NRA ceases to lobby for the sales of firearms to stalkers and domestic abusers, there’s no reason to take them seriously.

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Filed under Gun Issues, health, Health Care, Nevada politics, Politics

Nevada: Vote Like Your Right To Vote Depends On It

Ballot BoxThere’s one Nevada political race which hasn’t attracted as much limelight as might be justified.  That would be the race for Secretary of State.  The Secretary of State’s office has authority over elections and voting, and the implementation of Nevada election laws and regulations.  The Nevada Republican Party has already put citizens on notice that it intends to flog the Election Integrity Mule all the way to the polls.

Here’s their 2014 election platform statement:

“We advocate proof of U.S. citizenship and residency at the time of voter registration and requiring government issued photo ID at the time of voting.  We oppose same day voter registration to preserve election integrity.  We strongly support all electronic voting systems having a voter verified paper audit trail, used in the event of a recount.”

Look closely at the first sentence.  Yes, everyone supports the idea that a person is a U.S. citizen, and is a resident for the purposes of voting.  And, yes if a person does the registration paperwork to vote in Nevada a government issued ID or driver’s license is required. [NVSoS] If a person doesn’t have a government issued ID or driver’s license then the individual must register in person at the county election office, clerk or registrar. [NVSoS]

Once the paperwork is filed and the voter is included among those eligible to vote in Nevada, when a person goes to the polls the burden of proof to refuse that individual a ballot is on the government — not the individual.  It is up to the government to demonstrate you are not eligible to vote — it is not up to you to prove that you are.

So, here the second part of that sentence comes into play.  Under the Nevada Republican scheme of things, not only does a person have to prove citizenship and residency during the registration process, BUT the person must also prove he or she is eligible to vote at the polling place.  In other, unminced words, the burden of proof is now shifted from “you are eligible to vote unless the government can prove you aren’t” to “you are not eligible to vote until you prove you are.”

Since voting irregularities are illegal, what the Nevada Republican Party is advocating is a system in which you are NOT presumed  innocent until you are proven guilty, you are presumed guilty until you can prove you aren’t.  [Extended discussion here]

The second sentence doesn’t make much sense. If you have proof of citizenship and residency a few days before an election, wouldn’t you have it on election day?  Should there be issues regarding either element there’s always recourse to the provisional ballot.  The only thing that same day registration actually does is make voting easier and more convenient.

And all this in the interest of providing ‘election integrity.’  Nor is this a recent idea.  ALEC and its allies have been shoving the concept of increased corporate influence and decreased citizen participation for some time — and they do have Nevada allies. [DB]

There was an effort during the 2011 legislative season to enact a voter photo ID law. [DB] Legislators Roberson, Hardy, Hansen, Woodbury, Stewart, and Hambrick were the Suppression Six.  Among the bills they sponsored or supported were AB 327, AB 341, AB 425, AB 434, and SB 374.

State Senator Barbara Cegavske added her own bill to the mix, AB 311 jointly sponsored by Hardy, Sherwood, Hansen, Munford, Gustavson, and Halseth.  The bill would have eliminated all early voting in Nevada elections.

Another bit of red, white, and blue fearmongering was addressed in 2011 by SB 178, sponsored by Gustavson, Hardy, McGinness, Roberson, Settelmeyer, Hansen, Ellison, Goedhart, Goicoechea, Hambrick, Kirner, and McArthur.  The bill was a rather blatant bit of immigrant bashing, with whispers of “illegals” voting in the toxic mixture.

During the 2013 session of the state legislature there were another spate of bills regarding photo ID statutes and other means of making voting less convenient and more restrictive.  There was SB 63 (photo ID), SB 367 (repetition of immigrant bashing  SB 178/2011) , AB 216 (Photo ID) sponsored by Sen. Gustavson, Hansen, Wheeler, Ellison, Hambrick, Fiore, P. Anderson, Grady, Livermore, and Stewart.  AB 319 (Photo ID) sponsored by Stewart, Hambrick, Hansen, Duncan, Grady, Hardy, Hickey, Kirner, and Livermore.

And what of making voting more convenient?  During the 2013 legislative session, AB 440 was passed which would have extended the period for voter registration. The bill passed the Assembly on a 25-16 vote. [NVLeg] It passed the Nevada Senate on a 11-10 vote.  The Nay votes came from Brower, Cegavske, Pete Goicoechea, Gustavson, Hammond, Hardy, Hutchison, Ben Kieckhefer, Roberson, and Settelmeyer. [NVLeg]  The bill was vetoed by Governor Sandoval.

There appear to be two outcomes the Nevada Republican Party would very much like to see in the upcoming 2014 elections.  The first would be to control the State Senate, and the second might very well be to elect State Senator Barbara Cegavske as the new Secretary of State.

Democrats in Nevada would be well advised to vote in 2014 as if their right to vote depended on it — given the platform, the previous legislative efforts, and the voting records of Nevada Republicans in the Legislature, Senator Barbara Cegavske in particular — it might.

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Filed under Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting