Category Archives: Nevada Congressional Representatives

Amodei’s Explanation?

February 15, 2018: Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) cast his “yes” vote for HR 620, the Americans with Disabilities Education and Reform Act.

Here’s Section 3 of that bill:

(Sec. 3) The bill prohibits civil actions based on the failure to remove an architectural barrier to access into an existing public accommodation unless: (1) the aggrieved person has provided to the owners or operators a written notice specific enough to identify the barrier, and (2) the owners or operators fail to provide the person with a written description outlining improvements that will be made to improve the barrier or they fail to remove the barrier or make substantial progress after providing such a description. The aggrieved person’s notice must specify: (1) the address of the property, (2) the specific ADA sections alleged to have been violated, (3) whether a request for assistance in removing an architectural barrier was made, and (4) whether the barrier was permanent or temporary.

And this summation from Newsweek describes the bill’s possible consequences:

“The bill would effectively gut the ADA, detractors argue. Without a fear of being sued, businesses might be inclined to ignore ADA compliance rules. Critics of the bill also believe people with disabilities should not bear the responsibility of making sure businesses are compliant with the law.

“Instead of expecting businesses to own the responsibility of complying with civil rights laws, it shifts the burden to the individual who is being denied access,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wrote in a letter to congressional representatives on Thursday.

The ACLU called the bill unacceptable. “This scheme removes the business’s incentive to proactively ensure that it is accessible to people with disabilities,” it said. “Instead, businesses will simply wait until someone’s right to access is violated and notification is received before making the change they were already obligated to make.” (emphasis added)

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), argued businesses were subjected to “drive by” lawsuits concerning implementation of ADA requirements, and therefore “reform” was necessary.   However, shifting the burden of proof from the entity charged with denying appropriate access to the person making the complaint is a rather blunt instrument for assisting the disabled, and a boon to those who make accessibility difficult if not impossible.  And Representative Mark Amodei voted “yes.”  He’s fine with turning the ADA on its head.

He might want to explain this vote to the 108,054 (2015 AFB) people in Nevada who are significantly visually impaired?  There are other people to whom Representative Amodei might wish to explain his vote —  The Institute on Disability (University of New Hampshire) estimates that between 1.0% and 2.1% of Nevadans under 5 years of age were disabled, 5.7%-6.1% of those aged 5 to 17; 10.7% – 12.5% aged 18 to 64; and 33% to 35.1% over age 65. (pdf)  But Amodei’s protecting businesses from a gazillion frivolous lawsuits, right?…. Maybe not so much.

About those ‘frivolous” lawsuits, let’s hear from an advocate for the disabled:

“To be fair, I vehemently oppose frivolous ADA lawsuits for monetary gain. I cherish this law and hate hearing that some misuse it. However, frivolous lawsuits are not as prevalent as some believe. An analysis of ADA lawsuits in 2016 identified just 12 individuals and one organization that have filed more than 100 lawsuits each. And these lawsuits are not an ADA issue; they are a state and court problem. Indeed, ethics rules bar attorneys from bringing frivolous lawsuits. Rather than go after people with disabilities, attention should be focused on stopping these few bad attorneys.”

We can reasonably conclude that House Republicans have decided to “protect” businesses at the risk of targeting the disabled instead of unscrupulous attorneys.  Some explication is required.  At least it would be polite for Representative Amodei to offer one.

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Filed under Amodei, Nevada Congressional Representatives, Nevada politics, Politics

The Happy Hackers Bill approved by House Republicans

One of the major ironies of the past few days is that the administration’s fraudulent anti-voting fraud commission is asking for bundles of private voter information from the 50 states, all the while dismissing Russian interference in the 2016 election as a hoax, AND submitting a budget which we’ve known for some time would eliminate the ONE federal agency tasked with assisting state and local governments with election security.

“House Republicans are taking aim at a small federal agency that helps provide election oversight and guidance, saying its functions are no longer necessary.

A spending bill from the House Appropriations Committee unveiled Thursday would give the Election Assistance Commission 60 days to terminate itself. The small agency was created after the tightly contested 2000 presidential election. It has an annual budget of about $10 million and had just 31 employees on its rolls as of March. The agency writes election management guidelines and develops specifications for testing and certifying voting systems, among other tasks.” [GovExec]

The bill, introduced by Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), would hand the powers and duties of the Election Assistance Commission to the Federal Election Commission, and the little agency responsible for “developing specifications for testing and certifying voting systems” would fold up and go away under the terms of HR 634.

The tribulations and gridlock in the Federal Election Commission are well known and documented: Investigations stalled, dark money flowing freely, enforcement delayed and denied. In short a scene of “dysfunction and deadlock.”  [NYT]  Failures to investigate, and 3-3 vote ties stifling further investigations. [NBC] Thus, the Harper bill would deliver election security responsibilities to a commission already in the throes of partisan gridlock and as they say so politely, “dysfunction.”

Republicans on the Administration Committee [Harper (R-MS), Davis (R-IL), Comstock (R-VA), Smith (R-NE),  Walker (R-NC), and Loudermilk (R-GA)] voted to send the bill forward;  Democratic Representatives Brady (D-PA), Lofgren (D-CA) and Raskin (D-MD) voted “no.”  So, what do these lawmakers want to hand over the the stalemated FEC?  The part which should interest us the most at the moment is this segment from the EAC:

“EAC Certification Program is to provide clear procedures to Manufacturers for the testing and certification of voting systems to specified Federal standards consistent with the requirements of HAVA Section 231(a)(1).

Under this program, the testing and review process requires the completion of an application, employment of an EAC-accredited laboratory for system testing, and technical analysis of the laboratory test report by the EAC. The result of this process is an Initial Decision on Certification.”

It doesn’t take much effort to interpret this task as the foundation of standards for the certifying and testing of election systems.   Republicans may argue that this could be done under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security, but this seems hollow since the bill doesn’t transfer the duties to DHS, it just wipes the EAC off the map.  The EAC already maintains a list of certified election systems,  and those which have been terminated.   The Republicans appear quite pleased to take the constable off the beat, and hope that someone, somewhere, will prevent the development and certification of voting systems from becoming the Wild West of slackers, partisan backers, and hackers.

If eliminating the EAC isn’t the answer, what might be?   The Brennan Center issued a report on “Security Election Systems from Foreign Interference,”  in a forward by former CIA Director James Woolsey,” he observes:

“In the last few months, we have learned extraordinary details about a Russian assault on our election infrastructure. While there is no evidence that this assault altered the vote count, that fact should be cold comfort as we look to protect ourselves against future attacks.”

One doesn’t have to be an expert on cybersecurity or election technology to understand how dangerous this is. Based on my experience, as a former Director of Central Intelligence, and in service to this country under both Democratic and Republican Presidents, I am confident the Russians will be back, and that they will take what they have learned last year to attempt to inflict even more damage in future elections. In particular, their history of interfering in other nations’ politics, their antipathy to the United States and Western democracies generally, and their proven ability to multiply the impact of their actions through cyberattacks should put us on the highest alert, and spur us to take all necessary actions to protect ourselves from further attack.”

In summary form, Ambassador Woolsey is convinced the Russians will be back, they will apply “lessons learned” evaluations, and they will attempt to cause even more damage in the future.  If the former CIA Director is correct, and there’s no logical reason to believe otherwise, this is hardly the time to terminate any programs to help state and local election officials secure their systems.  In fact, it’s time to do more, as outlined by the Report:

“What more must be done? The key security measures detailed in this report are the right place to start: replace paperless electronic machines, upgrade the hardware and software that supports voter registration, and conduct post-election audits to confirm the results.

These are common-sense solutions that will increase security and public confidence in the integrity of our system. Importantly, they will do so without interfering with the right of any eligible citizen to participate in the choice of who will govern the nation.”

Some of these recommendations are squarely in the EAC wheelhouse, others will require additional support for local and state election officials.

The good news is that the decentralization of American voting systems makes a concerted attack extremely difficult, there are 8,000 voting jurisdictions, and about 100,000 polling places.  However, this doesn’t mean that we should be taking much comfort from our fragmented system, because the bad news is that some jurisdictions are using antiquated equipment with operating systems no longer supported by vendors (and thus are easier to attack.)  States and localities have made progress toward greater technical voting system security since 2004, but now is no time to rest upon laurels and declare “we’re Safe!” merely because vote totals are difficult to alter.

There’s also the matter of voter registration data security.  Again, the Brennan Center recommends:

“State and local governments must fully identify potential avenues for attacking voter registration systems, mapping out all of the entities that interact with that system, and implementing mitigation strategies where weaknesses are identified. The consensus among experts interviewed by the Brennan Center is that this should be done on a regular basis, but that many states are unlikely to have completed this kind of comprehensive risk assessment in the last few years, despite the fact that both registration systems and cyber threats have evolved enormously over that time.”

Putting a more blunt perspective on it:  The risk assessment tools used to evaluate the security of voter registration data which were judged “state of the art” just a couple of years ago may now be as outdated as that Motorola StarTAC clam shell mobile phone  sitting in the bottom of someone’s junk drawer.   Add to this the notion that the Administration’s fraudulent Fraud Commission wants to centralize voter registration data from 50 states all in one convenient place — thus making it a handier target for our adversaries — and we lose the advantages of decentralization while making life easier for those wishing to practice their “foreign interference.”

There is a bill in the Congress well worth supporting, introduced by Derek Kilmer (D-WA), HR 1344, under its terms the Department of Homeland Security would assist local and state government officials as follows:

“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may award states with planning and biennial implementation grants under the program to:

adopt cybersecurity best practices;
mitigate talent gaps in government workforces;
protect public safety answering points, emergency communications, and continuity of communications during catastrophic disruption;
mitigate threats to critical infrastructure or key resources;
coordinate with neighboring states or countries, National Guard units, or information sharing and analysis organizations; and
establish scholarships or apprenticeships to provide financial assistance to state residents pursuing cybersecurity education who commit to working for state government.
The bill sets forth requirements for distribution of awarded amounts to local and tribal governments within states and for consultation with local and regional officials.

The Committee for Cyber Resiliency Grants is established to: (1) promulgate guidance for states to develop applications for such cyber resiliency grants; (2) provide DHS and states with recommendations regarding the approval of state plans or applications; and (3) evaluate, and report to Congress regarding, the progress of states in implementing plans.”

We’d be well advised to contact our Representatives and recommend they oppose HR 634 (perhaps on the theory that the fact we have a Navy doesn’t obviate the need to also have a Coast Guard) and to support HR 1344.

This is hardly the time to make the hackers any happier.

Local Contact Information: 

Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) Phone: (775) 686-5760

Representative Dina Titus (D-NV1) Phone: (702) 220-9823

Representative Ruben Kihuen (D-NV4)  (702) 963-9360

Representative Jacky Rosen (D-NV3)  (702) 963-9500

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Filed under Nevada Congressional Representatives, Nevada politics, Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

Amodei, Heck, Hardy, Sell Out Seniors

Amodei 3 There are three members of the House of Representatives from Nevada who, as of April 28, 2016 at 3:23 pm roll call vote #176, don’t get to talk about protecting retired persons, and their interests.  One of these members is Mark Amodei (R-NV2) who decided to vote “yes” on a House temper tantrum about Department of Labor rules on fiduciary duty.

Heck photo

Representative Joe Heck (R-NV3) is the second.  Congressman Heck decided that investment advisers should be allowed to put their own interests ahead of the interests of their retirement account clients.  Perhaps he’s touting the GOP line that making the investment advisers put clients’ interests ahead of their own profits would mean higher costs for investment advice.   The GOP says they want to “protect access to affordable retirement advice.”  If you are inclined to believe this I have some investment advice for you….free of charge.

Hardy 2

And, the third one who doesn’t get to talk about protecting retirees? Nevada 4th District Mr. Malaprop, Cresent Leo Hardy, Republican from Mesquite.   He seems to like the “old standard,” and this raises the question why?  Let’s take a look at the “old standard:”

“Before the new standard, advisers were only required to give “suitable” advice, which left the door open for them to steer clients into products that made the advisers more money but weren’t the best option. That practice was costing Americans an estimated $17 billion a year in conflicted advice, according to the White House. Some people say their finances, particularly their chances of retiring comfortably, have been destroyed by bad advice and that they would have simply been better off without it.” [TP]

Yes, we have it, Representative Hardy evidently believes that it is better for Americans to waste $17 billion per year on conflicted investment advice than to hold advisers to a higher standard of fiduciary responsibility.

Titus

One, that would be ONE member of the Nevada congressional delegation voted to hold financial advisers to a higher standard than “just what will best line the pockets of their firms.”  Representative Dina Titus (D-NV1) was the lone member among the delegation to vote against the GOP sell out to the financial and banking industry.

Thus, the next time one of the three Republicans blather on about how they want to protect senior citizens and retirees – We can smile and say “But what about HJ Res 88 on April 28, 2016 at 3:23 pm.”

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Filed under Amodei, financial regulation, Heck, Nevada Congressional Representatives, Nevada politics, profiteering, public employees, Titus

Words from the Week and the No True Scotsman Fallacy

GOP Dinosaur Distress Flag Understatement of the Week: On the resignation of John Boehner (R-OH): “Boehner has faced constant pressure from conservatives who believed he was too willing to compromise with President Barack Obama and too likely to rely on Democratic votes to pass crucial legislation. The approaching confrontation over government spending had raised the prospect of another possible challenge to his speakership by conservatives, something Boehner has beaten back several times before.” [LVRJ]

Word salad from times past:  Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) on his vote for Rep. Boehner for the speakership: “

“So we ‘fire Boehner’ and start a month-long or longer election for his successor at a time when we should be dismantling the Affordable Care Act, taking care of our veterans, reducing the deficit, navigating foreign affairs and solving Nevada’s federal issues? That’s a great plan, if you want to continue the dig on Congress as a place where nothing gets done. 

“I am perfectly fine with differing views. Not everyone is going to agree all the time. But it is a bit discouraging to get lit up on an issue where in some cases a person has taken a thought or two from one source and treated it like the complete and final word.”

Present Palaver: Representative Amodei’s right on one score – the Congress has a 14% approval rating. [Gallup]  And, he may be correct on another.  When Amodei spoke to the previous “fire Boehner” attempt and predicted a squabble for the Speakership, the comments might have been predictive, this round could see yet another scramble between supporters of Rep. McCarthy (R-CA), Rep. Hensarling (R-TX), Rep. Roskam (R-IL) and perhaps others. [TheHill]  And then there’s the comment from Rep. Peter King (R-NY) – “this is a victory for the crazies.” [TheHill]

Possibly very true words:  The extension of Representative King’s remark — “You can’t appease these people.” [TheHill]

More words:  There are two ways to see compromise, and Winston Churchill expressed both.  On one hand he said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile – hoping it will eat him last;” while on another occasion he said, “The English have never drawn a line without blurring it.” [FQ] There are situations in which either or both might be true.  However, the current manifestation of the American GOP seems to have glommed on to the former without consideration of when the latter might be more appropriate.

The Republicans have become more conservative, and thereby less likely to appreciate Churchill’s second comment on compromise.  The Poole-Rosenthal study emphasized this point:

“The short version would be since the late 1970s starting with the 1976 election in the House the Republican caucus has steadily moved to the right ever since. It’s been a little more uneven in the Senate. The Senate caucuses have also moved to the right. Republicans are now furtherest (sic) to the right that they’ve been in 100 years.”  [NPR]

Perhaps Rep. King’s ‘crazies’ have adopted the line attributed to the script writers of the 1949 oater “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon,” in which John Wayne’s character said, “Never apologize and never explain – it’s a sign of weakness.” [AskMeta]  There are some interesting pieces covering this general topic.  See, for example, Paul Rosenberg’s “They’ll always move further right: Why every defeat only makes Republicans more extreme,” in Salon, June 24, 2015.  Or, Ryan Dennison’s post in Addicting Info, “As Democrats move left, Republicans have moved dangerously to the extreme right,” June 28, 2015.  Or, Bill Schneider’s article, “How far right can Republicans go?” written for Reuters, May 21, 2014.

The current flap involving the Republican Congressional leadership illustrates another pattern that may be afflicting the GOP as it moves inexorably to the extreme right – the “reinterpretation of evidence in order to prevent the refutation of one’s position.” AKA The No True Scotsman Fallacy. [LF.info]

The fallacy is a form of circular argument which substantiates an existing belief by dismissing any counter-examples to it. Such as the classic form:

(1) “Angus puts sugar on his porridge,” (2) No (true) Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge; therefore (3) Angus is not a (true) Scotsman.” Therefore, Angus is not a counter-example to the claim that no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”

By changing the characters, we could create another example. (1) Economist A demonstrates that lowering taxes doesn’t create more tax revenue. (2) No true Economist would argue that lowering taxes doesn’t increase revenue; (3) therefore Economist A is not a true economist; and therefore Economist A is not providing counter-examples to the claim that no true economist would claim otherwise.

Or we could say: (1) There are instances in which the circumstances of a pregnancy call for abortion to be provided as a medical procedure; (2) No true conservative would ever countenance an abortion; (3) Therefore no one advocating abortions under these circumstances is a true conservative; therefore there is no counter-example to the claim that there are circumstances in which abortion is an appropriate medical procedure.

Playing the pseudo-patriot card is easy in the creation of a foreign policy example of the No True Scotsman Fallacy.  (1) Diplomat B drafts a treaty with a nation not recognized as an ally. (2) No true American would ever agree to a treaty with ____; therefore (3) Diplomat B is not a true American; and therefore, the fact of the treaty doesn’t provide a counter-example to the proposition that no true American would agree to a treaty with ____”

The problem, of course, with the application of the No True Scotsman Fallacy is that the definition of “TRUE” becomes inextricably entangled with the policy proposals under consideration, and the further the illogical thinking extends the more narrow the definition of “TRUE.”   Thus, the No True Scotsman Fallacy hinges on a definition of  a “true” American or a “true Christian” which serves the advocate’s personal set of ideological beliefs – and only the advocate’s personal set of ideological beliefs.

Hence, no TRUE Republican could compromise with the Democratic side of the aisle in Congress.  Speaker Boehner compromised with the Democrats. Ergo Speaker Boehner is not a “true” Republican.   And then the Republican Party becomes too extreme for Republicans?

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Filed under Boehner, conservatism, Nevada Congressional Representatives, Nevada politics, Politics, Republicans

Three Stooges Diplomacy: Nevada Republican Representatives Oppose Iran Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The voting records of Nevada Representatives Amodei, Heck, and Hardy are recorded here, on roll call votes 491-494.  Unfortunately, those votes are almost perfectly predictable.  Their explanations even more so.

Three StoogesIt takes something, I’m not sure what, to oppose an agreement which intends to curtail Iran’s capacity to develop a nuclear arsenal.  However, Nevada representatives Amodei (NV2), Heck (NV3), and Hardy (NV4) have whatever that is.

Representative Amodei has nothing specific to say about his votes on “the Deal,”  Representative Cresent Hardy (R-BundyLand) made this statement in his press release:

“Americans have learned for themselves that this deal puts the region and the global community at risk. It amounts to inadequate inspections, a frightening implementation timeline, and provides $150 billion in sanctions relief to the world’s single largest state sponsor of terrorism.

Under this agreement, Iran will be allowed to pursue intercontinental ballistic missiles after eight years and conceivably attack any nation in the world. Worse still, in 15 years the regime will have all limitations on uranium enrichment removed. If Iran is only two or three months away from devising a nuclear weapon today, imagine how close will they be with a robust economy and no enrichment limitations?

Supporters contend that we should accept a bad deal over no deal. This is a false choice. We owe it to the American people and future generations to do everything we can to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

This deal fails miserably.” (emphasis added)

Logic fails to adequately analyze this statement.  However, there’s more, from Representative (Running for Senate) Heck:

“My initial concerns with the deal stem from the fact that we caved on anytime-anywhere nuclear site inspections, even giving Iran a say in which sites get inspected, and that the deal lifts the conventional arms embargo on Iran. According to reports, Russia and China were the two biggest proponents of lifting that embargo, no doubt to pursue their own nefarious purposes and regional ambitions.” One thing this deal will not change is Iran’s continued sponsorship of terrorist groups in the Middle East and their influence peddling in Iraq. Those aren’t qualities I look for in a partner on an agreement over nuclear weapons development. In the past Iran has not adhered to international norms and obligations when it comes to their nuclear program, and so Congress now has a chance to review this deal and every aspect of this agreement.” [Heck]

Yes, if it isn’t to be THIS deal then what deal might have been possible?  At least Heck’s statement is slightly more specific than Hardy’s talking point spew.  But taken together they represent the usual oppose anything anytime strategy of the Republican in Congress, even if the outcome of an executive action is positive.  Nor, do they make any common sense.

Representative Hardy is concerned that under the terms of the agreement Iran will develop nuclear weapon capacity in eight to fifteen years.  Let’s inject the specter of the current situation – before the “freeze” during negotiations spurred by the sanctions, and without an agreement:

“In the absence of this agreement, the most likely outcome would be that the parties resume doing what they were doing before the freeze began: Iran installing more centrifuges, accumulating a larger stockpile of bomb-usable material, shrinking the time required to build a bomb; the U.S. resuming an effort to impose more severe sanctions on Iran.” [Atlantic]

So instead of a timeline stretched out to 8 to 15 years to build the bomb, Iran could go back to its pre-negotiations strategy – continue to install, accumulate, and develop on a timeline that puts it about two months from nuclear weapons capacity.   How this puts the region and “global community” at less risk is frankly beyond me.   And we’ve covered this territory before.   Someone needs to ask: What kind of unilateral sanctions  would be so effective that Iran would agree to stop nuclear weapon development in 60 days?

What do we know about sanctions? Let’s Review: “Since 1973, the last quarter-century, only 17 percent of U.S. sanctions have worked. That’s whether they’re unilateral or multilateral. But less than one in five of the cases we have applied have, according to our scoring system, had positive effect.” And, “They almost never work when they are applied unilaterally rather than multilaterally, which in these days is almost always the norm. There is no case—repeat, no case—where unilateral sanctions have ever worked to induce a sizable country to make a major change in policy, no case in history that we have been able to discover.” [DB/Bergsten]

Hardy 2

Representative Hardy is quoting all the right GOP talking points, especially the one about rejecting a bad deal over no deal.  Whatever that’s supposed to mean because there is no other deal.  And, no deal puts the Iranians right back on track to build their nuclear weapons in the next 60 days.

Joe Heck

Representative Heck complains that the U.S. “caved” on anytime, anywhere inspections.  However, when 2/3rds of Iran’s current centrifuges are eliminated and 98% of its enriched uranium stockpile is gone, that puts an effective stop to the program.  As for “ultra-secret, really really really secret, so secret we don’t know about them” installations – how is the United States, or the allies, or the IAEA supposed to know what it can’t know?  Remember, if Iran violates the deal the current sanctions snap back into place for ten years with the option on the part of the allies to hold those sanctions in place for another five.  

Perhaps Representative Heck isn’t familiar with the inspection elements, which include the continuous monitoring of: uranium mining and milling, uranium conversion, uranium enrichment, fuel manufacturing, nuclear reactors, spent fuel, and “suspicious locations.”   What’s not covered under “suspicious locations?”

Representative Heck’s next point, that we’re not dealing with a suitable partner in these negotiations because Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, begs for an answer to at least one question:  If we never negotiated with those who do things we don’t like – then how do we get them to stop doing those things?  There are two options – negotiate or go to war.  Which answer does Representative Heck prefer?

Laboring Under Delusions

All three of the Republican Representatives from Nevada appear to be laboring under some non-productive delusions. 

The first delusion, noted above, is that somehow economic sanctions form a third option in international relations.  And, as noted previously, they don’t.   Only 17% have had positive results since 1973, and they’ve almost never been effective when applied unilaterally.  For example: Cuba.

The second delusion, is that someone, anyone, other than President Obama, could have negotiated a better deal.  This isn’t only “our deal.” The agreement was worked out by representatives from the U.S., the U.K., France, China, Russia, and Germany – along with the European Union. And yes, the Chinese and the Russians may have their own agendas, but so do we, the French, the British, the Germans, and the representatives of the European Union.   To act as if a treaty or agreement is only valid if and only if the U.S. gets everything it wants, when it wants it, is to render this country an outlier in international relations.  The results are splintered relationships and doubts on the part of our allies that we’d ever negotiate in good faith about much of anything.

The third delusion is that past behavior – in this case on the part of Iran – is always predictive of future behavior under different circumstances.  Here’s one central example of the changed circumstances:

“There are also aspects of the deal that Iran can’t easily undo. Iran must dismantle two-thirds of its installed centrifuges, remove 98% of its uranium stockpile, and permanently alter the Arak Plutonium reactor before it receives any relief from economic sanctions. These actions will be verified by the IAEA and will greatly increase the time it would take Iran to obtain weapons-grade nuclear material.” [ACC]

There will perhaps always be those who will cry that this doesn’t change the circumstances “enough” – whatever the standard might be —  but, that opinion doesn’t challenge the fact that the circumstances have changed, and inspection regimes will be far more comprehensive than any suggested in the past, and will have far more force because the negotiations were not unilateral or regional.  (Those wanting additional information about the timeline of negotiations between European countries, the Russians, the Chinese, and the American might want to start here for background information. )

The fourth delusion is that “going it alone,” and “packing big heat,” makes the U.S. look stronger.  We might more politely refer to this as the Militarist Option, wherein we swagger upon the international stage threatening to bomb into gravel piles those who annoy us.   This, of course, isn’t strength, it’s bullying, and we know bullies don’t approach their interpersonal issues from a position of personal strength.

However much opponents of the non-proliferation deal may ignore facts, distort provisions, and rail on about negotiations with our enemies, the deal is done.  All they can do now is whine and enjoy the benefits?

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Filed under Foreign Policy, Nevada Congressional Representatives, Nevada politics, Politics

Amodei, Amadavat, and Affordable Health Care

Things beginning with A-M:  Amodei (R-NV2) and Amadavat.  The latter being an Asian weaverbird often kept caged for its pleasant singing.   The former known for his ability to pleasantly sing the Republican Party Anthem no matter what new variations are put on the basic incantations.   Representative Amodei’s reaction to the Supreme Court’s declaration that the Affordable Care Act is, in fact, constitutional, perches him solidly in the Amadavat Chorus of GOP Talking Points du jour.

Advocates for Washington-based management of health care and unprecedented tax increases on the middle class won today. However, I will continue to work for patient-centered solutions, reductions in health care costs, and improving health care access for all Nevadans.” [Amodei]

Oh, the horror! “Unprecedented tax increases on the middle class?”  So, how does any of the taxation in the Affordable Care Act stack up compared to the Reagan Tax Increase of 1982?  One more glance at the chart of tax increases in recent memory:

And, what, pray tell, is a “patient centered solution?”  Let’s guess that the phrase “market based solution” isn’t going over so well in the Luntz focus groups these days after the revelations about Barclay’s diddling with the LIBOR and the “mis-selling” of interest rate swaps to small business owners.  Americans also seem a bit put off by the fumbling explanation of “off shoring/outsourcing” from the Romney camp.  By deftly swapping Patient Centered for Market Based, we now have a New Idea…except it isn’t new, it’s the same old YOYO.  (You’re on Your Own)  The Really Big GOP New Idea? Promote the sale of individual health insurance plans by giving tax deductions for them, and for allowing tax free HSAs to be used for paying health care insurance premiums.  There’s no limit to what the health insurance corporation could charge you for one of their plans, nor is there any provision for requiring that the insurance corporation actually spend most your premium dollars on health care — as opposed to CEO compensation, advertising, etc.

I look forward to the opportunity to vote the week of July 9 for full repeal of this harmful government intrusion into health care. Congress created this mess and it’s our responsibility to clean it up. We owe it to the middle class to give them specific, well-thought out options focusing on portability of insurance across state lines and affordability, while not interfering with the patient-doctor relationship.”  [Amodei]

The underlined phrases highlight the basic Amadavat Song.  Government + Intrusion = Really Bad.  But wait, what’s harmful?  How many Americans are harmed by having the government require that health insurance corporations not discriminate against women? Or, refuse to offer coverage to those with a pre-existing medical condition? Or, abuse rescission clauses to dump coverage after a person becomes ill or injured? Or, refuse to offer basic childhood vaccinations as part of basic coverage?

How many Nevadans are harmed by requiring basic coverage insurance plans to include mammograms, prostate cancer screenings?  Diabetes and heart disease screenings?  Autism screening for toddlers?

Yes, Nevadans — and all other Americans — are owed “specific, well thought out options,” BUT portability is a euphemism for a race to the bottom in health insurance coverage.  Representative Amodei is now full throatedly singing The Insurance Corporation Anthem.  For years now the insurance industry has attempted to bypass consumer protections at the state level by getting “portability,”  by getting federal permission to offer only that coverage which is included in the least restrictive state.

“Doctor- Patient” relationship?  Please.  As noted earlier today:

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, all Americans joining new insurance plans have the freedom to choose from any primary care provider, OB-GYN, or pediatrician in their health plan’s network, or emergency care outside of the plan’s network, without a referral.” [HHS]

That, not the restrictions of the health insurance conglomerates, is NOT interfering in a doctor- patient relationship.

“This 2,700-page monster offends seniors, veterans, middle class families and employers. I will continue to take every opportunity to repeal and address this mess for Nevadans in a practical way without picking political winners and losers.”  [Amodei]

Please, the Word Salad Random Talking Point Generator needn’t be in over-drive.   How are any of the groups “offended?”  How are seniors offended by closing the infamous Medicare Part D do-nut hole?  How are veterans affected by the bill?  Other than say, getting preventative health care access for those not qualified for VA administered programs?   How are middle class families “offended” by a statute which requires insurance corporations to offer coverage without artificial life-time limits or other forms of junk insurance plans?

Without picking winners and losers?”  Did Representative Amodei get his anti-alternative energy statement mixed up with his anti-affordable health care message?  This is not a chocolate + peanut butter combo accident.  Who are the winners? The losers?  Don’t Nevadans win when their health insurance plans must cover a person without regard to gender?  Don’t Nevadans win when pre-natal care must be offered as part of basic health insurance policies?

After cranking up his GOP Random Talking Point Generator, and singing from his gilded Insurance Corporation Cage, Representative Amodei must sound truly pleasant to the CEOs of Big Insurance and their other amadavats in the Republican Party.

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Monday Charts and Graphs

** It’s Monday Morning And Obamacare Is The Biggest Tax Increase Since The First Dynasty of UkhaimirOr. Not.   The following chart from the Washington Post is instructive:

** Poor Grover (Norquist), “Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, for example, stated, “it’s now clear that ‘Obamacare’ is all about taxes and it hits everybody, not just rich people.” [CBPP] There’s a chart for this bit of hysteria too:

** In case you missed it, “Middle-income and low-income Nevadans would pay somewhat more in taxes under the Congressional Republicans’ approach to extending the Bush tax cuts than they would under President Obama’s approach, while high-income Nevadans would pay far less under the Republican approach, according to a new analysis from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ).  National figures show the same pattern.”  [PLAN] (emphasis added)   There’s a chart for that too:

The full report from which this chart is reproduced is here. (pdf)

** The Sin City Siren covers the little dust devil the Heller Campaign would like to kick up about Rep. Shelley Berkley’s (D-NV1) efforts to save the kidney transplant center at UMC (Las Vegas).    OK, her husband is a surgeon.  Does this obviate the need to have kidney transplant services in southern Nevada?  No.  Kidney disease is the 9th highest cause of death in Nevada (2009), for which the Silver State gets a ranking of 12th in the nation. [CDC] The Heller campaign’s attempt to equate Berkley’s so-called conflict of interest falls neatly into the Ignoratio Elenchi category of catch-all fallacies of irrelevance.

** We can do better.  Las Vegas, NV was number 1 in the nation in African American unemployment as of 2011.  The 2011 rate was 22.6%.  [EPI] Things could be better for manufacturing employment nationally:

Remember when the Senate Republicans filibustered S.3816 on September 28, 2010? The Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act failed to get the 60 votes necessary to break the filibuster, the cloture vote was 53-45. [Roll Call 242, 111th Congress]

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Filed under Berkley, filibuster, Filibusters, Health Care, health insurance, Heller, Nevada Congressional Representatives, Nevada economy, Nevada politics

Heck covers Nugent (No, not THAT Nugent) with H.R. 5951

Representative Joe Heck (R-NV3) introduced a plan to “save taxpayers money” by allowing members of Congress to forgo benefits from the Federal Employees Retirement System. [LVSun] Congressman Heck’s office is pleased to announce that “Congressman Joe Heck (NV-03) has introduced legislation that could potentially save taxpayers millions of dollars by allowing Members of the House of Representatives to opt-out of the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS).  Since 1984, Members of Congress have been automatically enrolled under FERS, but could choose to opt out of the program. ” (H.R. 5951)   Wait a moment please.  This tune is sounding familiar.

Congressman Joe Heck may have introduced legislation on this subject, but it’s not like he’s the first one with the idea.  A very similar bill, H. 981, was introduced by Representative Richard Nugent (R-FL5) on March 9, 2011.  [GovTrack] Congressman Nugent’s bill garnered three co-sponsors and still sits in the House Administration Committee.   The House Administration Committee has not yet scheduled a hearing, much less a mark up session, on H.R. 981, [Thomas] which tends to imply that H.R. 5951 will meet a similar fate.  There is no Congressional Budget Office scoring of H.R. 981, so those “savings” remain securely in the “potential” category.

If Representative Heck wanted to score points bashing public employee retirement programs — such as the one from which his Democratic opponent draws his pension after 20 years of service as a firefighter — then some symbolic bill like H.R. 981/H.R. 5951 might be appropriate.  As serious legislation, the idea hasn’t even secured enough support to make it to a committee hearing in the 112th Congress since March, 2011.

Congressman Heck may also want to dim the spotlight on public employee benefits since his own record has a bit of a blip.  His Democratic opponent, John Oceguera, points out that when Heck went to Congress he dissolved his company, putting his wife out of work — the Heck’s then reported unemployment benefits for his wife, thus supplementing the family income.  [Oceguera]

Skirmishes such as this leave Rep. Heck within the confines of Dunsinane Castle — with a bill that “struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”  (MacBeth Act V)

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Filed under 2012 election, Heck, Nevada Congressional Representatives, Nevada politics

From The Needy To The Greedy: NV GOP Reps. Support Ryan Plan

On March 29, 2012 the House of Representatives voted 228 to 191 on H. Con. Res. 112 “Establishing the budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2013 and setting forth appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2014 through 2022.”  That would be the Ryan Budget, and both Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) and Representative Joe Heck (R-NV3) voted with the Republican majority.  [roll call 151]

To the Greedy. Since the numbers don’t add up in the Ryan/Romney budget plan, the entire scheme depends upon the support of those who believe in Tax Cuts for the Rich, and austerity for the remaining 99%.   For those who would like an illustration of precisely what Amodei, Heck, Romney, and Ryan are proposing there’s a chart for that:

So, if you are a median income earner in Nevada ($53,082) under the Ryan/Amodei/Heck/Romney proposal you could reasonably expect a 1.9% after tax income gain.  This might be a good time to note that the annual inflation rate for 2011 was 3.2%.  [USinflat] However, if you are earning more than a cool million, then your after tax income gain should be about 12.5% under the GOP plan.

The Tax Policy Center (Urban Institute & Brookings Institution) ran the numbers and concluded that the Republican plan takes care of the Greedy very well, thank you very much.

The Christian Science Monitor concluded:

“TPC looked only at the tax reductions in Ryan’s plan, which also included offsetting–but unidentified–cuts in tax credits, exclusions, and deductions. TPC found that in 2015, relative to today’s tax system, those making $1 million or more would enjoy an average tax cut of $265,000 and see their after-tax income increase by 12.5 percent. By contrast, half of those making between $20,000 and $30,000 would get no tax cut at all. On average, people in that income group would get a tax reduction of $129. Ryan would raise their after-tax income by 0.5 percent.”

But, but, but… sputters the GOP talking point, “46% of the people don’t pay any income tax.”  Curious, the Republicans are publicizing the fact that a significant portion of American income earners aren’t making enough money every year to be considered liable for federal income taxation.   What the 99% do pay are payroll taxes — which they pay in higher proportions than the 1%’ers, and sales taxes — which are the most regressive form of taxation imaginable.  In short the GOP budget, which Representatives Heck and Amodei were pleased to support attends solely to the tax concerns of the economic elite.

From the Needy.  So, how do the Republicans intend to “reduce the deficit” by practicing austerity on the remaining 99% of the U.S. population?  Here’s part of the problem:

“Because Romney promises to protect current Social Security and Medicare recipients from cuts, he cannot get much savings from those programs by 2016. Combined, they are projected to make up about 44 percent of the budget that year. Interest costs, which cannot be touched, would make up an additional 9 percent of the budget, while Romney promises to add almost $100 billion to the Pentagon budget that year, based on his pledge that military spending reach 4 percent of GDP.”  [full article Salon Taylor]

So, what remains on the chopping block?  Ans: Programs designed and implemented to assist low and moderate income Americans, those same median income earners who aren’t going to see after tax income gains that are likely to exceed the rate of inflation.

Medicaid:  As of 2009 there were a total of 62,458,000 Medicaid recipients in this country. 5,433,000 of the recipients were in general hospitals, another 115,000 were receiving care in mental hospitals.  101,000 were mentally disabled.  1,644,000 were in nursing homes.  [SSA stats]    The simplistic “Gee Whiz” formula for reducing expenditures relies on assuming a reduction in the number of recipients and/or reducing the funding available for the program.

This is where the ideology is at variance with the reality:

“The rate of increase in Medicaid expenditures also declined over the last decade. A major contributor to Medicaid expenditure growth has been increases in enrollment caused by the two economic recessions experienced in the past decade and continued growth, almost 3 percent per year, in the disabled population. Medicaid spending growth on a per enrollee basis in the past decade was below 3 percent per year. Part of this relatively low growth rate is due to the changing composition of Medicaid enrollees— the number of lower cost adults and children grew faster than the aged and disabled. But states have also been very aggressive in cost containment efforts because they face declining revenues and have many competing priorities.”  [UrbanInst. pdf]

After the Little Wizards of Wall Street (aka Financialists) lost approximately $10.2 trillion in our national wealth in the wake of their Housing Bubble and CDO Bonanza circa 2008, [BusInsider] we’d expect to see a rising number of individuals eligible for Medicaid.   And, while the states were struggling to cope with the consequent declining revenues they were also trying to assist a growing number of “low cost” adults and children.   Perhaps a little sparkly anti-deficit dust sprinkled over the spreadsheets would work a bit of magic? Like Block Grants?

What if Medicaid funding came in the form of block grants to states?  Then the states could be “creative and flexible.”  Yes, and they could also look forward to being creative and flexible with continually declining revenues.

Ask local officials who deal with HUD block grants how “creative and flexible” they are being as they look at 12% cuts, and a Congress which shaved about $390 million from their revenues?  [Governing] A local official in Connecticut summed up the situation:

“CDBGs, Rodriguez said, have been under constant threat of federal budget cuts. He said at one point former President George W. Bush ’68 called for an end to the entire program until he faced overwhelming resistance from cities.

“The Block Grants is one of those grants that we always worry about because the federal government is always cutting it,” Rodriguez said. “It may actually go away, depending on what happens to Congress [in the 2012 elections].” [YaleDN]

The simplest way to think of the GOP proposal for health care services for the poorest among us is to note that of all the formats for federal funding the block grant is the easiest  to cut.

From what other sources might the Romney and his Republican cohorts make budget cuts in order to finance the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts for the top 1% and other tax breaks?

Former Governor Romney has “promised” 5% cuts in non-defense budget categories, so what would that include?  “At issue are these programs, just to name a few: health research; NASA; transportation; homeland security; education; food inspection; housing and heating subsidies for the poor; food aid for pregnant women; the FBI; grants to local governments; national parks; and veterans’ health care.” [Salon]

Somehow the “Support the Troops” Republicans managed to draft a budget proposal for the consideration of the House of Representatives without using the word: Veteran.   So, when we have about 45,000 members of our military services coping with wounds and injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have a Republican Party suggesting a cut of $11 billion from veterans care programs.  [VV] As Andrew Taylor opines in his Salon article, if the Romney campaign and other Republicans eschew cuts to VA programs, then the remaining federal functions would face deeper cuts.

Public Health and Safety.   Food – the amount of  regulated goods have increased by 200% in the last decade, but as of today we only inspect about 2% of food imports.  We import about 80% of our seafood from China and Thailand, countries with less stringent food safety laws that our own.   And now the GOP proposes to cut from 5% to 20% of the food inspection budget?  [News21] As one commenter put it, “You can’t fight bioterrorism with a tank.”  [The Hill]

Police and law enforcement – Senator Harkin was justifiably disappointed to note that the Republican version of a budget cut $118 million from federal funds to support local and state law enforcement. [Harkin] In FY 2011 the BJA processed 56 state and 1,348 law enforcement funding applications, and in FY 2012 made $295.58 million available to local and state officials for improvements in policing, and for other programs like the sex-offender registry and the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. [BJA pdf]    However, in the interest of the 1% the GOP is willing to cut from 5% to 20% from the BJA programs which, “…. provides  states, tribes, and local governments with critical funding necessary to support a range of program areas including law enforcement, prosecution and court, prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, planning, evaluation, and technology improvement, and crime victim and witness initiatives.” [BJA pdf]

Perhaps the most cynical, and assuredly the most economically irrational, of the GOP cuts would be to programs like food stamps (SNAP) and WIC.   Chad Stone explains:

“The $8 billion in SNAP cuts over the next year would do more damage to economic growth and job creation than any stimulus that the $46 billion in tax cuts could generate, according to standard “multiplier” or “bang-for-the-buck” estimates like those from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Moody’s Analytics.

CBO ranks policies like SNAP and unemployment insurance (UI) as among the most effective ways to boost economic growth and job creation in a weak economy — and business tax cuts like those in the House bill as among the least effective.  That’s because SNAP and UI benefits go to low-income and struggling Americans who will spend virtually every additional dollar they get to pay bills and buy necessities, while the main problem businesses face is that too few customers are spending too little money — and that won’t be fixed by giving the businesses themselves a tax cut. “

Especially not effective if the tax cuts are designed to benefit those “small” businesses like hedge funds and lobby shops that are already doing well and yielding income to their owners and partners sufficient to put them in the +$1 million annual salary category.  Exactly how the House GOP explains a $46 billion reduction in the SNAP program as a “job creator” requires more imagination and intellectual gymnastics than a Cirque Du Soliel production.

But, never fear — protecting the tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires is, by Republican lights, ever so much more important that preserving Medicare as we know it, or preserving the health care services for the elderly, the children, or the disabled in poverty, or sustaining programs for Veterans, or enhancing public safety by supporting our local sheriffs, or making sure our food imports are inspected, or insuring our bridges are safe…

The Republican focus, as adopted by Rep. Ryan, and supported by Representatives Heck, Amodei, and by presidential candidate Romney is singularly narrow, and illustrates with astounding clarity how eager they are to sacrifice the needy for the noteworthy benefit of the greedy.

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Filed under 2012 election, Amodei, Berkley, Federal budget, Food Safety, Health Care, Heck, income tax, Medicaid, Nevada Congressional Representatives, Republicans, Romney, Veterans

>On the House Docket

>In addition to the usual plethora of post office naming bills and commemorations, there are some rather more substantive bills coming to the House floor on which Nevada’s congressional delegation will be voting. Representatives Berkley (D-NV1), Porter(R-NV3), and Heller (R-NV2) will be asked to consider:

Tuesday, May 15th

HR 1700 “COPS Improvements Act of 2007” to amend the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to enhance the COPS on the Beat Program. The program would award grants to hire school resource officers and to establish partnerships between local law enforcement agencies and local school systems to combat crime, gang activity, drug distribution, and other problems in and around elementary and secondary schools. The bill also calls for programs to train ex-military personnel in law enforcement careers, and assist the Community Prosecutors Program to address counter-terrorism, violent crime, gang activities, and anti-drug enforcement. A technologies grant would allow local communities to modernize their criminal record technology and forensic departments.

HR 1773 “Safe American Roads Act of 2007” This bill would limit the authority of the Secretary of Transportation to grant motor carriers domiciled in Mexico to operate beyond U.S. municipalities and commercial zones on the U.S.-Mexican border.

Wednesday, May 16th

HR 1585 “National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008”

HR 1427 “Federal Housing Finance Reform Act of 2007”

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