Category Archives: Heller

Waffles Heller, Heller Waffles

Heller spine poster.jpgThere are non-apology apologies (see Orange Blossom’s clumsy Hostage Video) and then there are non-disavowal disavowals (see Senator Dean ‘Clutching Papa’s Pants Leg’ Heller).

“Heller has been slow to criticize Trump as he looks to defend one of the most coveted GOP Senate seats in the country, and stopped well short of criticizing the president in a statementreleased late Monday afternoon.

“While I am not opposed to a dialogue between the two leaders, I trust our intelligence community’s assessment on Russian interference, not Vladimir Putin’s,” Heller said throu spokeswoman. “He is no friend of the United States and I don’t trust him.”  [RGJ]

Oh please!  I’ve tried to stretch the effect of a limited number of tea bags in a jar of sun tea and come out with less tepid ,,results.  Perhaps if the last line had directly pertained to the Orange Blossom, “He is no friend of the United States, and I don’t trust him,”  I’d have accepted this statement with more enthusiasm?

In the wake of the Charlottesville debacle there was a photo floating about of Senator Dean Heller and Peter Cvjetanovic, one of the Tiki Torch Nazis and a UNR student.  Heller responded in Trumpian fashion on Twitter: “I don’t know this person & condemn the outrageous racism, hatred and violence. It’s unacceptable & shameful. No room for it in this country.” [SacBee]  And Senator Heller said of the Orange Blossom?  Orange Blossom read one of his specially prepared on-paper ‘clarifications’ and promptly went right back off the rails with his Very Fine People.

Senator Heller’s spine made a brief reappearance in mid-June during the height of the Trump manufactured immigrant family crisis.  Thirteen Senators, among them Senator Dean Heller, wrote to the Mis-administration saying, in part:

“We support the administration’s efforts to enforce our immigration laws, but we cannot support implementation of a policy that results in the categorical forced separation of minor children from their parents,” the Republican senators wrote.

“We therefore ask you to halt implementation of the Department’s zero tolerance policy while Congress works out a solution that enables faster processing of individuals who enter our country illegally without requiring the forced, inhumane separation of children from their parents,” the senators continued. [TheHill]

Good. Now insert the following search terms into Google: “Nevada Senator Visits Border.” Who shows up in the search results?  Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV).  During a June fundraiser with the *president, who got the crowd to chant “Build The Wall,” Senator Heller, “by contrast, spoke for under three minutes and didn’t mention immigration or the separation of children from parents at the border.” [LATimes]  Senator Cortez-Masto and Representative Jacky Rosen visited the border, Senator Heller’s spine went missing yet again.

This is the third instance, in a third major issue, in which Senator Heller has demonstrated his reluctance to take a firm stand — and we might note there’s a tendency on his part to take flexible positions on many other issues —  and to stick to it, even when there is an obvious and palpable reason to STAND for a crucial American attribute.  Charlottesville, Immigration, and now the Helsinki Debacle…strike one, strike two, strike three.

This might explain the following tidbit from the RJ? “Since announcing her candidacy in July 2017, Rosen has outraised Heller $8.3 million to $5.3 million.”  Granted Heller has a cash-on-hand advantage, but fundraising is often a measure of enthusiasm, and it’s hard to get enthusiastic about waffles. They are nice, you can serve them for breakfast, brunch, or lunch, put just about anything on them and they’ll soak it up; it’s just hard to get all that thrilled about them.

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The Tapestry of Our Lives

The thunder and lightning have passed, and it’s time to get back to the blog.  Not that the thunder and lightning in the country have abated in any significant way.  Senator Dean Heller seems to have attracted one strike:

The National Rifle Association has endorsed Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller and three other Republican candidates for Congress ahead of the June 12 primary elections.  Heller received an “A” rating from the NRA, which is given to pro-gun candidates who support the organization’s positions on key votes or who have a record of supporting Second Amendment.  The gun-rights group also endorsed Republican Rep. Rep. Mark Amodei who is seeking re-election in Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District. [NVIndy/News4]

May 18, 2018 10 people were killed and 13 injured in a mass shooting in Santa Fe, Texas.  Another month, another mass shooting in a school.  Once more the NRA wants to talk about anything except the guns.  It’s violent video games. It’s mental health. It’s Ritalin. It’s anything anything anything except the easy access to guns.  Sometimes we tend to express regret for the loss of talent as the tally of gun violence victims increases, but we might be missing an important point.  It’s the details that matter.  Perhaps there were or were not individuals who would have gone on to do great and notable things, that’s debatable. However, we do know that there were losses represented by the victim counts.

We may have lost an electrician?  A barber? A receptionist.  Someone who would have gotten up every morning to put in a days work, and come home every evening to be incorporated into the life of their family.

April 22, 2018, 4 people died and 3 others injured in a Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee.  We lost a musician, we lost college students, we lost more threads in the fabric of our lives. We found a hero, an unarmed young man who stopped the shooter at great peril to his own life, and then went on to donate donations to his social media account to the families of victims.  We didn’t find a fantasy hero “good guy with a gun,” rather we found a good guy with courage, compassion, and the ultimate in civic responsibility.  We found James Shaw Jr.

April 18, 2018 a mother and her children died in a hail of gun fire from an ex-boyfriend in Asheville, North Carolina. The children loved to run track and to dance. We’ll never know if we lost a future Olympic medalist that day, we do know that we lost a family.  We lost a mother who was so scrupulous about housekeeping friends and family said, “You could eat off her floors.”  A mother who took her children to church every Sunday.  [ATC] We lost a family.

February 14, 2018, we lost 17 lives, with another 17 injured at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. They’ve Marched for their Lives. They’ve organized voter registration drives, they’ve appealed to the better angels of our nature.  They’ve warned politicians like Heller and Amodei that NRA endorsements aren’t what they used to be. We’ve lost and shattered too many families.

Every day the death toll mounts from mass and individual shootings, from suicides and accidents, we continue to lose plumbers, secretaries, mechanics, cooks, and soldiers.

February 10, 2018 a family of four was massacred in a murder-suicide in Johnson County, Kentucky. [lex18]  We continue to lose parents and grandparents.

Each time more victims are added to the lists we’ve lost more firefighters, carpenters, solar panel installers, roofers, landscapers, bookkeepers, and bus drivers.

November 5, 2017 27 people died, another 20 were injured in a church in Sunderland Springs, Texas.  Each time we add victims to the list we lose more truck drivers, reporters, day care providers, steelworkers, pilots, housekeepers, and file clerks.

October 1, 2017, a mass killing cost us 58 victims and 441 injured at a music concert in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Each time we add victims to the list we extinguish the lives of more people who matter. We lost a man shielding his wife on their wedding anniversary.  We lost a health care management major, a commercial fisherman, a kindergarten teacher, a police department records technician, a registered nurse, a member of the US Navy, a waitress, a soldier, a teacher, a secretary, a family law attorney, a contractor, an office manager, a financial adviser, a home contractor, a librarian, a make up artist, a corrections officer, … girlfriends, wives, mothers, grandmothers, boyfriends, husbands, fathers, grandfathers…

Our economic fabric is in the details.  We are a composite of the electrician, barber, receptionist, plumbers, secretaries, mechanics, cooks, soldiers, firefighters, carpenters, solar panel installers, roofers, landscapers, bookkeepers, bus drivers,  truck drivers, reporters, day care providers, steelworkers, pilots, housekeepers,  file clerks,  health care management personnel, commercial fisherman,  kindergarten teacher,  police department records technician,  registered nurse,  member of the US Navy,  waitress,  soldier,  teacher,  secretary,  family law attorney,  contractor,  office manager,  financial adviser,  home contractor,  librarian,  make up artist,  corrections officer…

Reduce the numbers of the people who make our economy run, eliminate the waitress at the small diner who brings that first cup of coffee with a smile to start the day, make the auto mechanic who figures out why there’s a persistent problem with the fuel injection system vanish, and we are all reduced as the power in our multiplicity of economic gears is reduced by one.

Our social fabric is in the details, in the relationships between boy friends and girl friends, wives and husbands, mothers and fathers, children, grandparents, grandchildren, neighbors, friends, and co-workers.  Eliminate any of these relationships in our communities, and we are all reduced by the unraveling of all those tiny threads which combined together form the incredibly complex and beautiful tapestry of our social lives in this nation.

No “endorsement,” no pandering for a few votes, is worth the grains of sand in our economic gears as grain by grain we add problems by reducing our numbers.  No “endorsement,” no pandering for a few votes is worth the unraveling of the tapestry of our lives, the loss of each loved one pulling at loose threads until we fray from the edges.

Politicians Heller and Amodei may take pleasure in their A ratings from the NRA, I am only sorry they cannot take as much pleasure in the defense of the lives of our children, our boyfriends and girl friends, our wives and husbands, our parents and grandparents; in the wonderfully interwoven tapestry of American life.

 

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The Ladies of the Senate Scrape Facebook

The Zuckerberg Apology tour (Version 2018) continues today in Washington, DC. Yesterday, Nevada Senators Heller and Cortez-Masto had their opportunity to ask questons. Heller’s questions were well intentioned, but reduced in impact because his premise included the notion Facebook sells user information. It doesn’t. It sells advertising.(1)  [NVIndy] Understanding the questions from Cortez-Masto requires a bit of background.

Senator Cortez-Masto referred to the 2011 Consent Decree between the FTC and Facebook.

“I appreciate you being here, I appreciate the apology, but stop apologizing and make the change,” she said. “The skepticism that I have, and I’m hoping you can help me with this, is over the last seven years…I haven’t seen really much change in ensuring that the privacy is there and that individual users have control over their data.” [NVIndy]

She has reason for her skepticism, here’s what the FTC required as of November 29. 2011:

Specifically, under the proposed settlement, Facebook is:

  • barred from making misrepresentations about the privacy or security of consumers’ personal information;

  • required to obtain consumers’ affirmative express consent before enacting changes that override their privacy preferences;

  • required to prevent anyone from accessing a user’s material more than 30 days after the user has deleted his or her account;

  • required to establish and maintain a comprehensive privacy program designed to address privacy risks associated with the development and management of new and existing products and services, and to protect the privacy and confidentiality of consumers’ information; and

  • required, within 180 days, and every two years after that for the next 20 years, to obtain independent, third-party audits certifying that it has a privacy program in place that meets or exceeds the requirements of the FTC order, and to ensure that the privacy of consumers’ information is protected.

It doesn’t require too much mental effort to comprehend that Facebook’s response to the provision that it is “required to establish and maintain a comprehensive privacy program designed to address privacy risks associated with the development and management of new and existing products and services, and to protect the privacy and confidentiality of consumers’ information;” to see there’s been precious little progress made by Facebook in terms of a comprehensive privacy program. (2) Although Zuckerberg described his company’s response as “robust.” (3)  Robust is not a term I might apply to Facebook’s efforts since November 29, 2011, especially in regard to the implementation of comprehensive privacy policy development and subsequent audits.  Senator Cortez-Masto is correct in assuming we would not be discussing Cambridge Analytica had Facebook complied fully with the 2011 settlement terms.

There are deeper weeds to explore, a trail launched by Senator Maria Cantwell’s inquiry about Palantir. [BI]

“One of the oddest and most uncomfortable moments in the questioning of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg by the Senate on Tuesday was when Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) started asking about Palantir.  “Do you think Palantir ever scraped data from Facebook?” She asked. Zuckerberg, looked nonplussed and answered. “Senator, I’m not aware of that.”  She asked, “Do you know who Palantir is?” Zuckerberg admitted that he did. And he should. Palantir is a company that was founded by his early investor and long-time board member Peter Thiel. [BI]

There was nothing “odd” about the moment, if one assumes Senators had done some homework.

A connection between Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and Palantir is strongly suggested by this reporting in Business Insider:

“We learned today that an employee, in 2013-2014, engaged in an entirely personal capacity with people associated with Cambridge Analytica,” Palantir told The Times. “We are looking into this and will take the appropriate action.”

The employee was Alfredas Chmieliauskas, according to The Times. His LinkedIn shows that he is a business-development staffer at Palantir in London. He suggested that Cambridge Analytica create a personality-quiz app to harvest data from Facebook users, The Times said. Cambridge Analytica eventually used a similar method to obtain data from about 50 million Facebook users it could then sell.

Sure enough, Cambridge Analytica appropriated the idea, and the collections began.

“Cambridge ultimately took a similar approach. By early summer, the company found a university researcher to harvest data using a personality questionnaire and Facebook app. The researcher scraped private data from over 50 million Facebook users — and Cambridge Analytica went into business selling so-called psychometric profiles of American voters, setting itself on a collision course with regulators and lawmakers in the United States and Britain.”  [NYT]

That 50 million number keeps increasing. Given Facebook wants to sell advertising based on access to people, their friends, the friends of their friends, and the friends of the friends of their friends — it isn’t too difficult to assume the number of those affected will move upward.  It would have been helpful if Facebook user’s were advised before they took the little “quiz app” that the information from their account would be “scraped” for use by psychometric efforts.  Little wonder, then, that Mr. Zuckerberg was nonplussed by Senator Cantwell’s questions.

A couple of efforts seem to be in order.  The first is an investigation into Facebook’s compliance with the terms of the November 2011 settlement with the FTC; the second is a thorough investigation into the links between Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, Palantir,  CubeYou, and similar data accumulation and analysis entities. (4)

In short, it’s time to have some follow up questions from the ladies in the Senate.

(1) See Sheryl Sandberg’s explanation and comments in this INC article.  (2) The original FTC complaint [PDF] can be found here. (3) To see the precise terms of the 2011 settlement with the FTC see this PDF document. (4) For additional information on CubeYou, see CNBC.

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The Sound of Silence: Heller and Mass Shootings — Sandy Hook to Parkland

October 2, 2017:  A statement from Senator Dean Heller’s office:

“Nevada families are waking up to the shocking news of the tragic events that occurred last night in Las Vegas. Our communities are all in mourning as we try to understand this senseless massacre on the Strip,” said Heller. “I want to thank our first responders for their swift actions and efforts that without a doubt saved numerous lives. I’ve been in contact with the White House and Governor Sandoval, and I will continue to monitor the situation as this horrific event unfolds. Lynne and I are praying for all of the victims and their families who are experiencing immense pain and grave, shocking loss that cannot be measured.”

Let us parse.

“Nevada families are waking up to the shocking news of the tragic events that occurred last night in Las Vegas. Our communities are all in mourning as we try to understand this senseless massacre on the Strip,”

tragic events?”  It was a Shooting.  A man armed with a small arsenal rented a room with a view to kill concert-goers.  He used a bump stock to increase the lethality of his weaponry.  59 dead and 851 injured.  It was an event — singular, and singularly lethal.

as we try to understand…”  What is it we don’t understand?  When the shooting stopped there were 58 dead people, one more if we count the shooter.  Perhaps we don’t know the killer’s motive, but when the body count is 58 there’s not much more we need to comprehend other than the murderous SOB assembled his arsenal, loaded his weapons, and voluntarily fired into a crowd of concert attendees.  Jury duty training tells us there was a crime; the individual in question perpetrated the criminal act; and he did it with good old fashioned malice aforethought.  There doesn’t seem to be much more we need to understand.

praying for the victims and their families…” Yes that’s appropriate.  What we’d like to find out is what our Senator thinks should be done after we finish with the thoughts and prayers portion of the formulaic Republican/NRA response to this horror.

October 5, 2017: Senator Heller answers questions about what might be done to mitigate the lethality of the next mass shooting event, and his response

“Let me be clear, I’m not interested in watering down the Second Amendment,” Mr Heller, Nevada Republican, said on Fox News.  Mr. Heller was asked if he would support a ban on a device called a “bump stock,” which authorities now say the gunman used.  “You show me the law that would stop that, not only will I support it, I will be an advocate for that law,” he said.”

There’s a lack of clarity in this statement, i.e. what is “that?”  Was the Senator saying if we want to stop the sale of bump stocks he will be an advocate? Or, was he saying if a single law could have prevented the mass killing he would support it?  We do know that he’s previously not wanted to “water down” 2nd Amendment absolutism.  We know what he did in April 2013.

“On the weekend after Nevada Sen. Dean Heller joined 15 fellow Republicans to kill a GOP-led filibuster of gun-control legislation, he returned to his hometown of Carson City and ate with his family at an IHOP restaurant—the same one where a gunman went on a rampage in 2011, killing four people and injuring more than a dozen others before killing himself. In the process, the gunman unloaded a 30-round magazine clip and rocked the sense of safety in the small Nevada community.”

Did the Senator join with others to alleviate the carnage in the wake of the Sandy Hook Mssacre?

“But when the Senate began to take up individual pieces of gun-control legislation earlier this week, Heller joined with nearly all Republicans and several Democrats to vote no—no on an amendment to ban assault weapons, no on a measure to limit magazine capacity, and no on the Manchin-Toomey amendment to expand background checks for gun sales.” [TDB]

The original Machin-Toomey bill went down to a GOP filibuster 54-46.  If we drill down a little further the form of Senator Heller’s objections — his defense of the absolutism of the 2nd Amendment — become clearer.  The following votes were taken on April 17, 2013.

Vote 97 (113th Congress) Senator Heller votes “nay” on the Manchin Amendment to “protect Second Amendment rights, ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and provide a responsible and consistent background check process.”

Vote 98 (113th Congress) Senator Heller votes “yea” on the Grassley Amendment, which purported to improve the background check system and prevent straw purchases and gun trafficking.  However, the poison pill in the Grassley-Cruz amendment was that while it did address trafficking, it also made it easier to purchase and carry guns across state lines. [WaPo]

Vote 99 (113th Congress) Senator Heller also voted “nay” on the Leahy Amendment “To increase public safety by punishing and deterring firearms trafficking.”  Not only did our Senator not seem to want to “water down” the 2nd Amendment, he even voted against an amendment which the NRA supported after the language was changed to allow for easy transfer of guns as gifts and prizes.  [WaPo]

Vote 100 (113th Congress) Senator Heller was among those voting “yea” on the Cornyn Amendment to facilitate reciprocity for concealed carry across state lines.  In other words, to create a situation in which the least restrictive states would inform how all other states regulate concealed carry issues.

Vote 101 (113th Congress) Senator Heller was one of the forty US Senators to vote against the Feinstein Amendment to “regulate assault weapons, to ensure that the right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited, and for other purposes.”  There wasn’t much hope that the assault weapon  would be passed, but Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) had promised Senator Feinstein he would bring the amendment to the floor.

Vote 102 (113th Congress) Senator Heller voted “yea” on the Burr Amendment to “protect” the gun rights of veterans and military families.  This is an interesting vote because it contains issues pertinent to today’s debate.  Original language in the proposed legislation said that veterans receiving disability benefits who are deemed unable to manage their own financial affairs would be precluded from owning firearms.  Opponents of this amendment argued that the proposed language would make it easier for mentally ill individuals to obtain firearms.

Vote 103 (113th Congress) Senator Heller voted “nay” on the Lautenberg Amendment to regulate large capacity ammunition feeding devices.

Vote 104 (113th Congress) Senator Heller voted in favor of the Barrasso Amendment to  withhold 5 percent of Community Oriented Policing Services program Federal funding from States and local governments that release sensitive and confidential information on law-abiding gun owners and victims of domestic violence.  Senator Barrasso was disturbed that a New York newspaper had compiled a list of gun owners from county information sources.

What did the 113th Congress do? It did agree to provide more funding for mental health services.   There was a pattern evident in the 2013 votes in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.  Republicans were focused on ‘gun rights’ without restriction and in favor of passing legislation (without mentioning the word ‘gun’) concerning mental health.  Not to put too fine a point to it but when the shooters are white there is a voluminous amount of palaver concerning mental health; when the shooter is Muslim there is a chorus of indignation about terrorism; and, when the shooter is Black the GOP conversations shifts to “broken homes,” “lifestyles,” and “gangs.” Whether it’s mental health, terrorism, or broken homes — the GOP result is the same and the debate is diverted away from guns and toward some security or societal issue.   This pattern would test the Republicans in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting in December 2015.

On December 2, 2015 14 people were killed and another 22 seriously injured in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. On June 12, 2016 49 people were killed and another 58 wounded at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  During June 2016 a bipartisan group of Senators proposed a “No Fly, No Buy” bill prohibiting those on the TSA No Fly List for terrorism suspects from purchasing firearms. [NYT]  Subsequent attempts to apply “No Fly No Buy” became entangled in the appropriations bill for the Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies during the 114th Congress.  The following votes are of particular interest:

Vote 103 (114th Congress) Senator Heller votes “nay” on a cloture vote to bring up S Amendment 4751 to address gun violence and improve the availability of records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.  This element of the No Fly No Buy fails on a 53-47 vote.

Vote 106 (114th Congress) Senator Heller again votes “nay” on a cloture vote to bring up S Amendment 4720 to authorize the Attorney General to deny requests to transfer a firearm to known or suspected terrorists.

And thus ended the attempt to prevent those on the terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms in the United States of America. It was over on June 20, 2016.

March 3, 2018:  The White House hosted a “listening” session on gun violence in the wake of the Parkland, Florida killing of 17 people at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School.  Senator Heller did not attend.

“The office of Nevada’s senior senator, Republican Dean Heller, would not say why did he did not attend the White House meeting. Heller, who is facing a tough re-election fight, has avoided the spotlight in the subsequent days as well, declining to address specifics about his positions on gun legislation.”

Heller spokeswoman Megan Taylor declined to say whether the senator supported universal background checks, raising the age for gun purchases to 21, or provisions to ban high-capacity magazines and assault rifles, all ideas tossed out by lawmakers or President Trump in recent days.

“He looks forward to continuing discussions with his colleagues as Congress explores ways to enhance compliance with existing law and keep our communities safe,” Taylor said.

Heller has signed on to legislation known as “Fix NICS,” a modest measure supported by the NRA and intended to encourage better participation in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. It was one of the few gun bills to find bipartisan support and appeared poised to move ahead, only to be sidelined.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who has said little about the gun debate in recent days, said Thursday that no gun-related legislation would be heard in the coming week. [TDB] [RGJ]

No more formulaic GOP press responses from Senator Heller. This massacre warranted  a tweet. “Lynne and I are heartbroken for those impacted by the senseless act of violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. We are praying for the victims and their families, the school’s students and faculty, as well the entire Parkland, FL community,” Heller wrote.” [NVIndy]  The only response less informative came from Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2): “The first thing that needs to be done is find out what the story is with this guy…so we have a 360-degree picture and then we’ll go from there,” Amodei said.” [NVIndy]

Perhaps in light of the Academy acknowledgment of an award winning rendition of Winston Churchill last evening, a quote from the Prime Minister is appropriate:

“It’s no use saying, ”We are doing our best.” You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Monitoring and Messaging: Russians Coming? They’re Already Here

Perhaps before we exchange “Hail to the Chief” with “Troika, from the Lt. Kije Suite,” it would be nice for the Oval Office oaf to consider giving his NSA the word to DO something about the current Russian interference problem:

While Rogers pushed back on the notion that the administration has done nothing to counter Russian interference, he acknowledged that the response so far—which has included sanctions passed by Congress—has been insufficient in deterring such behavior.  “They haven’t paid a price, at least, that has significantly changed their behavior,” Rogers said.

First, those sanctions passed by Congress on overwhelming (veto-proof) majorities, and signed into law (PL 115-44) last August 2nd, have not been implemented.  Not only have those sanctions not been enforced, the rationale borders on bizarre.

“So to recap, the head of America’s foreign intelligence agency (Pompeo) is suggesting Russia will attempt to do what it did in the 2016 election again in 2018 and that he hasn’t “seen a significant decrease in their activity.” But then the State Department announces that it doesn’t need to impose the sanctions that were meant to punish that behavior because the legislation is already serving as a deterrent?”  (January 30, 2018)

The administration’s insistence upon interpreting PL 115-44 as a “deterrent” rather than the punishment it was meant to be is reflected in Senator Dean Heller’s (R-NV) comments: “… the Administration announced that the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act is deterring malicious Russian behavior and new sanctions will not be imposed at this time.”  And, he’s happy with that.  To which we might ask: Deterring What?  Both the NSA and the CIA are telling us the Russians are happily carrying on without a significant change in their nefarious behavior.

But the Treasury Department issued a list of possible Russian citizens who might be targeted — yes, and by all accounts the list was simply a compilation from Forbes Magazine’s list of rich Ruskies.  A high school student with a tablet could have produced this! In a couple of minutes.  Somehow this doesn’t inspire a surfeit of confidence on my part.

But wait, there’s more —

The Russians are also pleased to be violating the sanctions against North Korea. Their actions could be directly approved by Moscow or the product of profit keen oil dealers, or both, but either way the Russians have been ignoring maritime sanctions on oil.  Surely the administration in D.C. would have something to say about this?

On Friday, the Trump administration issued a new set of sanctions that aimed to crack down on North Korea’s ability to profit from maritime activities. The new sanctions targeted one person, 27 companies and 28 vessels located or registered in countries such as China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tanzania and Panama, among others. The sanctions did not target Russia. [Newsweek]

The “sanctions did not target Russia.”  It appears not only are we not imposing the sanctions enacted by Congress on Russia, we aren’t even imposing penalties on Russians for trading with North Korea.  However, at present Senator Heller seems content to “monitor” the situation.  At this juncture that could be tantamount to watching the bank robbers remove the safe deposit box contents in the hope they won’t take the loot out the door?

The administration’s various excuses for not only doing practically nothing about Russian interference, but doing even less to prevent further incursions, are becoming more tenuous by the day.   Those explanations make less sense than the constant barrage of tweets about witch hunts, and other aspersions cast at the investigation of any and all suggestions of Russian activities against the interests of the United States.  Each day passing offers both a challenge and a choice.

The challenge for Republicans in Congress is to maintain support for the White House without making the choice to be an enabler of extremely untoward conduct.

Senator Heller, and others of his party, are rapidly approaching the point at which their choice will serve to augment the attraction of their challengers.

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Heller’s Making Hay, Just Without a Business License

The Reno Gazette Journal informs us today that Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) has a hay farm in Smith Valley (180 acres) for which he’d not bothered to get a business license.  The royal irony herein is that Heller is a former Secretary of State, and so a person presumed to have some knowledge of business licenses in this state.  What’s wrong with this picture?

His excuse is that it’s a home based business which doesn’t make a profit.  Okay.  Many family farms and ranches are home based.  Most have business licenses.   The business license costs are minimal, $200.00.   The last time I looked hay was going for about $170 per ton.  [hay price check here]  I’m having a bit of trouble figuring out how a hay operation in Smith Valley is running in the red.  Unless of course that’s a deliberate business plan for tax purposes?  If it is, that’s not a good look for a “fiscally responsible” US Senator.

We can reasonably assume a crop of about 7 tons per acre, and Heller has 180 acres. Perhaps he’s getting about 1,260 tons?  At $170 per ton that’s $214,200 gross.  He’s going to have irrigation, pest management, and fertilization expenses like every other farmer. Additionally there are going to be expenses for labor, equipment, harvesting operations, and vehicles.  It’s a little hard to imagine he’s racked up over $200,000 in expenses?  If he isn’t making a profit — then (a) why’s he in the business? or (b) why is he continuing with a business operations plan which is losing money?  Less gently, he’s either in the business to get some breaks, or he’s one of the state’s worst hay farmers.

Either way, he’s not been one of the state’s best Senators.  His opposition to consumer protections from the financial sector (see his consistent opposition to the Dodd-Frank Act, and Sarbanes-Oxley) and his support for just about any proposal Wall Street has to offer make him more the Bankers Boy than a Nevada small farmer’s friend.

 

 

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Heller’s Tele-Somethings Redux

Senator Dean Heller is fond of his Telephone Town Halls, which, as we’ve noted previously are more telephonics than town halls.  [Here, and especially here]

Perhaps he’s addressed the transparency problems associated with his previous telephone conference calls, but maybe not:

“Senator Heller has employed this one in the not so distant past.  It goes like this.  Have a telephone conference call from which questions are solicited from the public.  However, the fog descends almost immediately. Are the questions pre-screened?  There’s no way to know with absolute certainty, but someone has to be taking the calls like a radio call-in broadcast so chaos doesn’t happen.  Thus, it isn’t too hard to imagine that some pre-screening is happening.

These town halls can also be re-cycled.  The contact with the constituent begins with “You are invited to participate in Senator Sludgepump’s telephone town hall. If you have a question for the Senator press (number) and give your name and address…)

It doesn’t take too many conversations to figure out that if Constituent A heard the town hall on Monday evening, and Constituent B heard the same town hall on Tuesday evening, then we can assume people have been listening to a canned recycling of a political campaign pitch.  Hardly a town hall.”

Therefore, a person would be excused from being a little skeptical about the current iterations of Senator Heller’s open mic nights.   Thanks to the Nevada Independent we have a taste of the latest town hall:

“Asked why he supported Trump after the president reportedly called some African nations, Haiti and El Salvador “s**hole” countries, described his forceful sexual advances in an Access Hollywood tape and called outlets such as the BBC “fake news,” Heller told the caller that she probably supported Democratic presidents with similar problems.”

This is nothing more than a thinly disguised “kill the messenger” motif.  Don’t like the message, then play the Whataboutit” card — what about Clinton (inserting the foil of the day) to which one might add what about — Grover Cleveland? Warren G. Harding? Franklin D. Roosevelt?    Thence comes the exceptionally vague pivot:

“What I’m trying to do is get issues done. That’s what I’m looking for is what’s best for the state of Nevada, and whether I’m standing behind the president or whether I’m standing in right field, it doesn’t matter. Literally doesn’t matter.”

I’d assert Senator Heller is, indeed, standing out in right field, but that’s beside the point.  One unfortunate way to translate this Hellerian side step is to assume he means that no matter the moral depravity of the occupant of the White House Heller will support anyone who advocates what Heller believes is in the best interest of the state of Nevada.

The problem is that the reprobate in the Oval Office doesn’t have any clear ideological principles.  How Heller can divine precisely what the administration’s position is on any given topic is beyond most analysts.  We might guess that the administration proposals on immigration range from “a bill of love” to “build a wall.” We might guess that the issues related to banking run the gamut from “take care of the middle class” to “let bankers be bankers.”  And so on.

It should matter to Senator Heller, and to any other citizen of Nevada (and the other 49) whether or not the administration has the moral fiber necessary to inform the proposed policies.  Moral fiber tends to filter out the self-serving, the grifting, and the unconscionable — without the filter there’s little space left for anything other than the moral relativism of pure opportunism.  Surely this is not what Senator Heller has in mind?

 

 

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