Category Archives: Politics

Just Joking: A Brief Greeting (card)

There is an interesting collection of greeting cards at the local Wal-Mart.  In the “humor” department there are two categorized as “political,” and wouldn’t you know it, both feature a picture of the President of the United States, and both allow the sender to express his or her happiness that the Obama Presidency is about over.  Also, funny, there are no cards allowing me to say how pleased I am that the Republican controlled Congress has a 75.8% disapproval rating. [RCP]  And there’s no card to inform a recipient that Mrs. Clinton beats the latest incarnation of Bush by 7.7%, Walker by 9.2%, Rubio by 7.3%, the miniature Paul by 7.7%, the Cruz campaign by 11.7%, the Huckster Huckabee by 9.0%, and Dr. Ben Carson by 11.5%. [RCP]

However, the card-for-conservatives in the display doesn’t seem quite so amusing when juxtaposed with the Google map hack in which the search for “N—- house,” and “N—- King” both take the seeker to the White House. [TPM] [HuffPo] [WaPo] Google has promised an update on or before May 27th.

Nor is the sentiment level enhanced when we look at the press coverage of the Waco Shoot Out in comparison to the events in Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD.   The prize for the most egregious differentiation goes to Fox News and its host Bill O’Reilly. [Salon] In some quarters. most noticeably Fox,  it’s acceptable to require representatives and spokespersons for various groups to absorb hectoring and lecturing on the many ways people are responsible for their own problems, in broad stereotypical terms.  “You people” need to get jobs, be better fathers, stay away from drugs, make better choices…..

But – let 9 people die at the hands of white biker gang members and the scene shifts – these are merely a few bad apples. Although there are some 44,000 biker gang members in this country.  Number of deaths caused by the one day of rioting in Baltimore? Zero.  Who needs the lecture about staying away from drugs, and about making better choices? [MMFA]  Whether the poor need it or not, they’re going to get it because they are all slobs, drunks, or addicts… so sayeth the conservatives. [MMFA]  So, why do liberals always bring up race, all the time? We elected an African-American President … racism’s over.  Enter the clowns once again.

A piece on the Bill Kristol v. Bill Maher exchange included the following analysis:

“…the trial of George Zimmerman produced a very different reaction. This case also hinged on race—Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen from his neighborhood in Florida, and was acquitted of all charges. But here the gap in disapproval over the verdict between white Democrats and white Republicans was not 4 points but 43. Americans had split once again into mutually uncomprehending racial camps, but this time along political lines, not by race itself.” [NYmag]

And once noting the political fracturing, the punch line:

“A different, unexpected racial argument has taken shape. Race, always the deepest and most volatile fault line in American history, has now become the primal grievance in our politics, the source of a narrative of persecution each side uses to make sense of the world. Liberals dwell in a world of paranoia of a white racism that has seeped out of American history in the Obama years and lurks everywhere, mostly undetectable. Conservatives dwell in a paranoia of their own, in which racism is used as a cudgel to delegitimize their core beliefs. And the horrible thing is that both of these forms of paranoia are right.”

Are the greeting cards “racist?”  The company would more than likely say, “No.” They were intended as purely political statements, for specific customers.  However, those customers are more likely to ascribe to the racism imbedded in their core beliefs: That the poor are Black, and Blacks are more likely to be uneducated, undisciplined, lazy, slovenly, drunken, drug addicted… and therefore unworthy.  A more sensitive perspective should yield the conclusion that while the cards were essentially political, the demarcation between what is racial and what is political in this country is a thin and permeable membrane.

The permeability allows for the kind of thinking which concludes all Blacks should take responsibility for the rioters in their neighborhoods, and the President should not use words like “bigotry” and “ideological” in the same paragraph. [NPR]   One academic study which may make for some uncomfortable reading needs to be a larger part of our national conversation on race.  The Rochester Study 2013, shows the powerful grip the legacy of slavery still maintains in our current political climate, and before we can analyze and evaluate our political institutions we should acknowledge all the factors which sustain them.

Comments Off on Just Joking: A Brief Greeting (card)

Filed under Politics, racism

Thank you for your patience

DB is still taking care of matters civic and domestic. In the meantime, please visit some of the excellent sources in the sidebar.

Comments Off on Thank you for your patience

Filed under Politics

Vacation Time

Thanks for your patience! It’s time for the Beacon to take a spring break. In the meantime, please visit some of the excellent blogs in the sidebar. DB will be back soon.

Comments Off on Vacation Time

Filed under Politics

A Second Look At AB 182: ALEC’s assault on Nevada Public Employees

AB 182

REVIEW: If one feels the need for a bit of background information, the origin of bills like AB 182 can be found in the ALEC model legislation package known as “The Public Employee Freedom Act.”  (pdf)  The bill is a veritable laundry list of the ALEC bill-mill wishes:

“(1) AN ACT relating to local governments; prohibiting a local government employer from entering into an agreement to pay dues to an employee organization through deductions from compensation; (2) prohibiting such an employer from providing paid leave or paying compensation or benefits for time spent by an employee in providing services to an employee organization; (3) prohibiting the inclusion of certain employees in a bargaining unit; (4) revising provisions relating to a reduction in force; (5) providing that a collective bargaining agreement between a local government employer and a recognized employee organization expires for certain purposes at the end of the term stated in the agreement; (6) requiring public notice of certain offers made in collective bargaining; (7) eliminating final and binding fact-finding except upon the election of the governing body; (8)  removing a portion of the budgeted ending fund balance of certain governmental funds from the scope of collective bargaining and from consideration by a fact finder; (9) eliminating statutory impasse arbitration for firefighters, police officers, teachers and educational support personnel;…”

Nothing would so please the corporate masters of ALEC and the Koch Brothers alliance than to see public employee unions brought down, scuttled, and preferably stricken branch to root.

Every provision in this bill is strategically calculated to prevent unions from providing their services to their members.  No dues check off, making dues collection more costly and cumbersome for members; combined with the  attack on union leadership – after all, if the leaders can’t afford the volunteer time then service is necessarily reduced.  Eliminate “supervisory personnel,” if they so much as think about making an “independent judgment.”  No lawyers, no doctors, no supervisory personnel, may by involved in a bargaining unit?  No “confidential employee?”

Allow a government agency to reallocate resources such that there is a reduction if force – translation: layoffs – and then say “We did it because we moved the money elsewhere.” Anywhere? Any budget category? For any purpose? For the purpose of laying off personnel?  No “evergreen provisions?” No cost of living adjustments without a new master contract?

AB 182 assumes there will be no employee strikes – illegal for public employees in this state – but there won’t be any resolution options either. No fact finding, mediation, or arbitration results shall impinge on the employer to do whatever the agency wishes.  It’s take it or leave it time.

And, 16.6% of the total “budgeted expenditures” must be kept in reserve.  Really?  While this sounds “financially responsible” it really isn’t.  There are supposed to be funds allocated at the local level for “extraordinary maintenance and repairs or improvements, funds for contingencies, and funds to stabilize operations, and to provide a cushion in case of a natural disaster. [See: NRS 354]  There’s really little more to this than pulling 16.6% away from the bargaining table.

CONSIDER THE SOURCEWho is supporting ALEC?

The corporate sponsorships include:  The American Bail Corporation; the Altria Group (tobacco), AT&T, Diageo, Energy Future Holdings. Exxon Mobil Corporation, Koch Companies  Public Sector, Peabody Energy (coal), Pfizer Inc. PhRMA, State Farm Insurance, United Parcel Service, Amerian, American Express, US Airways, Anheuser Busch, Bayer Corporation, Bell Helicopter, BP America, Burlington Northern, Catepillar, Century Link, Chevron, Comcast, Conoco Phillips (under Phillips 66 brand), Dow Chemical, Eli Lilly Inc, Farmer’s Group, Georgia-Pacific (Koch Bros), Honeywell, Insight Schools Inc, JR Simplot, Marathon Oil, Raytheon, Reynolds American, T Mobile, Transcanada, (yes, THAT Transcanada)Verizon, and Xcel Energy.

However, a more interesting list is who has dropped membership in the organization which provides models for legislation like AB 182: Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft, Intuit, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Mars, Reed Elsevier, American Traffic Solutions, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Yum! Brands, Proctor and Gamble, Kaplan, Amazon.com, Medtronic, Wal-Mart, Johnson and Johnson, Dell Computers, John Deere, MillerCoors, Hewlett-Packard, Best Buy, General Motors, Walgreens, Amgen, Dreyfus, Amgen, General Electric, Western Union, Sprint Nextel, Symantec, Entergy, Merck, Bank of America, Wellpoint, Bristol Myers Squibb, Brown-Forman, Publix Markets, Glaxo Smith Kline, Unilever, 3M, Darden Restaurants, IBM, Intel, Nestle USA, Berkshire Hathaway, NV Energy, Alliant Energy, Microsoft, Pacific Gas and Electric, Yahoo Inc, International Paper, Occidental Petroleum, Overstock.com, Facebook, Google, Union Pacific, eBay, Wells Fargo, and Northrop Grumman. [link]

Not to put too fine a point to it, but the Nevada legislators sponsoring AB 182 – Republicans Kirner, Dickman, Gardner, Oscarson, Wheeler, Edwards, Jones, Hambrick, Ellison, and Nelson – are still promoting legislation (and an ideology) which is no longer all that popular among major corporate sponsors.  The ALEC bill mill has lost some of its patina of late, but 10 Nevada Republicans haven’t quite noticed the train’s left the station?

While ALEC may be headed off to the horizon, the Koch Brothers and their Americans for Prosperity are alive and well.

“AFP adopts the anti-union positions held by its libertarian funders, David and Charles Koch.[56] A video published on YouTube on February 26, 2011 shows Scott Hagerstrom, the executive director of Americans for Prosperity Michigan, advocating “taking unions out at the knees so they don’t have the resources” to fight for workplace benefits or political candidates.” [Sourcewatch]

One has only to look at Michigan, Ohio, and especially Wisconsin under the Koch financed Walker regime, to see that AFP can simply adopt the legislative packages from ALEC, and insert these into state legislatures – like Nevada.

Thus, Republicans Kirner, Dickman, Gardner, Oscarson, Wheeler, Edwards, Jones, Hambrick, Ellison, and Nelson are simply doing the bidding of the Koch Brothers and promoting their reactionary agenda.

CONSEQUENCES:   This assault on unions, and specifically the attack on public employee unions, are part of the general hostility of corporations toward labor, and toward government.  The results are obvious.  As union membership has declined over the years so have middle class incomes.  [MJ] [APO] [EPI]  And, how did many families move into the middle class in the first place?  By becoming police officers, firefighters, teachers, community health nurses, librarians, land management specialists, transportation specialists, heavy equipment operators, social workers, public health service workers, and so on.

The wages and salaries earned by public employees, as determined by negotiated master agreements, put more families into the middle class, and more money into local economies.  Once again – the Koch Brothers aren’t interested in Bob’s Bodega or the Smith Family Furniture Store, or Jill’s Fashions —  the kinds of small businesses which form the core of local economies.  Possibly the view from inside the 0.001% bubble doesn’t allow for the possibility that products such as Koch Brother’s brands wouldn’t sell in such quantities without local retailers – local retailers who rely on middle income consumers to produce their revenue?

The anti-union, anti-labor perspective is ultimately unsustainable.  Yes, paper towels (like Koch’s Brawny brand) are basic household items, but put too much downward pressure on household income and people will discover that re-washable rags will work as well.  Every household needs toilet paper, like Koch’s Angel Soft, but households under pressure to save pennies may find cheaper brands to purchase.  While the Koch’s can fall back on Flint Hills energy products, local grocers can’t fall too far back from their local demand.  Grocers average a margin of 1-6%, [AZBus] which is not a large cushion to sustain too much drop in customer demand.

Perhaps it’s easier to sit back insulated by a top 0.001% annual income and think of Liberty, Freedom, Personal Accountability, and other abstractions, but the middle class consumer, including the middle class firefighter, police officer, teacher, social worker, or public health nurse doesn’t have that luxury.  Freedom for most people comes down to what Franklin D. Roosevelt called “Freedom from Want.”  The freedom which allows a family to procure all that’s necessary for basic needs, and leave  little left over for a home, for retirement, for an education for their children.  They want, and need, the freedom to breathe between paychecks.

Bills like AB 182 take the air out of the room.  If Republicans Kirner, Dickman, Gardner, Oscarson, Wheeler, Edwards, Jones, Hambrick, Ellison, and Nelson would pull this bill, people could all breathe a little easier.

Comments Off on A Second Look At AB 182: ALEC’s assault on Nevada Public Employees

Filed under Nevada economy, nevada education, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, Politics, public employees

Thanks for you patience

DB’s been a bit busy the last couple of days. Posting will resume once the backlog is cleared. In the meantime, please visit some of the fine blogs and information sites in the sidebar — especially the ones in Nevada!

Comments Off on Thanks for you patience

Filed under Politics

Dissing the Disabled Part 2: The Numbers in Nevada Counties

disability GOP social security

Generalities: When the House of Representatives voted in favor of a provision which could cut Social Security Disability benefits, it was part of a general assault on the Social Security program which has been manufacturing a “crisis,” a tactic of long-standing from opponents of the popular government program.[TPM] Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was particularly dismissive of the recipients of OASDI benefits, in a comment that deserves as much publicity as can be obtained:

“The thing is that all of these programs, there’s always somebody who’s deserving, everybody in this room knows somebody who’s gaming the system. I tell people that if you look like me and you hop out of your truck, you shouldn’t be getting a disability check. Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club. Who doesn’t get up a little anxious for work every day and their back hurts? Everyone over 40 has a back pain.” [TPM]

There is no substantiation for the Senator’s claim that 50% of Social Security Disability recipients are “anxious or their back hurts.” None. In fact, anxiety disorders are categorized under mental illnesses, and constitute only 3.5% of all disability claims. [LAT] And, that back pain?  As stated before, qualifying for benefits under the SSA criteria is far more than just “back pain, or nerves”  Thus, our answer to Senator Paul’s claim should be to declare it the southbound product of a north bound bull.  However, this utterly unwarranted attack on our most vulnerable citizens has some real consequences for Nevadans.

Specifics:  The following table shows the number and category of disabled people in Nevada who are blind and disabled (and under the age of 64) who would be affected by the proposed 20% reduction in benefits.

County Blind/Disabled Under 18 18-64
Churchill 384 71 306
Clark 27,909 7686 19,542
Douglas 318 57 258
Elko 384 66 311
Esmeralda xxx xxx xxx
Eureka xxx xxx xxx
Humboldt 166 27 133
Lander 55 xxx 48
Lincoln 47 xxx 44
Lyon 770 136 628
Mineral 102 xxx 96
Nye 858 129 702
Pershing 56 xxx 49
Storey xxx xxx 47
Washoe 5,261 1,097 4,070
White Pine 119 21 94
Carson City 756 117 627

*the XXX indicates a number so small that individual information would be revealed if the number/category were published.  Source: SSA Office of Retirement and Disability Policy. Table 3.

Nevada Congressional District 1 includes portions of Clark County, and the 27,909 disabled individuals are represented by Dina Titus (D-NV1) who voted against the proposed benefit cuts.

Nevada Congressional District 2 includes most of Lyon County, all of Churchill, Douglas, Elko,Eureka, Humboldt, Lander, Pershing, Storey and Washoe Counties, and Carson City.  Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) voted in favor of the proposed benefit cuts.

Nevada Congressional District 3 includes the area south of Las Vegas, including Henderson in Clark County. Representative Joe Heck (R-NV3) voted in favor of the proposed benefit cuts.

Nevada Congressional District 4 includes northern Clark County, part of Lyon County, all of Esmeralda, Lincoln, Mineral, Nye, and White Pine Counties.  Representative Cresent Hardy (R-NV4) voted in favor of the proposed benefit cuts.

From the table we know that there is NO Congressional District in the state of Nevada which does not have families who benefit from OASDI assistance, and yet only one Representative voted to maintain the benefit levels (meager as they are) for households in which a disabled person, who qualifies under the stringent criteria applied by the SSA, resides.  We can do better than this.

1 Comment

Filed under Amodei, Economy, Nevada politics, Politics, Social Security

Some Context Is Needed

Crime Scene Tape

The Background: It’s nothing less than absolutely tragic that two NYPD officers, Liu and Ramos, were killed while on duty in Brooklyn, NY. [NBC]  The assassination brings back an equally unpleasant memory from last June, when two law officers were eating lunch at a pizza place in Las Vegas, Nevada.  However, playing the “blame game” in the aftermath of this most recent assault on law enforcement officers is counter-productive, and highly questionable.  PBA President Lynch should know better than to blame the protests against the use of lethal or excessive force by some law enforcement officers as the ‘reason’ for the assault.  There is a profound difference between calling for the improvement of police tactics and policies, and advocating violence against officers of the law.

Public officials and protest leaders have condemned the killings in the strongest possible language, the President saying: “

“I unconditionally condemn today’s murder of two police officers in New York City,” the president said in a statement released just after midnight on Sunday morning. “Two brave men won’t be going home to their loved ones tonight, and for that, there is no justification.” [Politico]

The Mayor added:

“These officers were shot execution-style, (a) particularly despicable act, which goes to the very heart of our society and democracy,” de Blasio said. “When a police officer is murdered, it tears at the foundation of our society. It is an attack on all of us. It’s an attack on everything we hold dear.

“We depend on our police to protect us against forces of criminality and evil,” the mayor said. “They are a foundation of our society, and when they are attacked, it is an attack on the very concept of decency. Therefore, every New Yorker should feel they, too, were attacked. Our entire city was attacked by this heinous individual.” [NYDN]

The Issue: So, why the continuing problems between the police unions and the city government?  In this instance we need to hark back to the tensions between Mayor David Dinkins and the police in 1992.  Dinkins at the time was supporting the creation of a civilian review board, and the response by the police unions was remarkably similar to the police reaction to body cameras today: “He never supports us on anything,” said Officer Tara Fanning of the Midtown South Precinct, echoing the view of many in the crowd.A cop shoots someone with a gun who’s a drug dealer, and he goes and visits the family.” [NYT 1992]   Indeed, it’s not hard to conclude after the issues about both the establishment of a civilian review board and the issues revolving around the adoption of body cameras and re-training, that the police unions will vehemently oppose any and all suggestions that they improve the implementation of their public services. [C&L]

The media: The national media hasn’t served the public well in this instance.  The issues are fundamentally about how the police can best enforce the law without risk to their own safety and the safety of members of the public.  The easy, and rather lazy journalistic approach is to pursue the politics of a dispute between the police unions and the mayor’s office.  “He said, and then He said,” journalism which makes for simple headlines, but obfuscates the larger issues involved.   The union commentary, which equates any criticism of police activities with an “attack on officers,” doesn’t address protracted problems related to Community Policing, nor does it contribute to any positive dialogue and cooperation between the police and the communities they protect.  While ‘conflict’ reportage may sell media, and thus advertising space, cooperation is what will improve the relationship between the community and the police department. There are other coverage issues which merit more attention than they are receiving in the current media environment.

It’s not the protesters in the wake of the Eric Garner, John Crawford, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice killings who are calling for the attacks on police officers.  Protesters have called for prosecutions, investigations, changes in training, screening, and recruitment – but they have not called for any violence.  The right wing reaction has been to declare that any demands for police reform may engender ill-will and hence attacks on officers – See, There, It Happened! even if the assassin in the Brooklyn case was evidently a violent, emotionally and psychologically unstable, man. There are, however, some voices which do advocate violence against officers, and who have made threats they carried out. A few examples:

January 29, 1998: An off-duty police officer is killed, and a nurse seriously injured when one of right wing activist Eric Robert Rudolf’s bombs explodes at a Birmingham, AL women’s health clinic.

December 8, 2003: Abbeville, SC Police Sgt. Danny Wilson and Constable Donnie Ouzts are shot to death by anti-government “patriot” Steven Bixby.

April 4, 2009: Three Pittsburgh, PA police officers (Sciullo, Mayhle, Kelly) are killed and a fourth wounded by Richard Andrew Poplawski, a white supremacist when they answered a call about a domestic disturbance. Poplawski explains he fired extra bullets into the bodies of the officers “just to make sure they were dead.”

April 25, 2009: Two Okaloosa County, FL sheriff’s deputies. Bert Lopez and Warren York, are killed by Joshua Cartwright, an anti-government extremist upset by the election of President Obama, who had previously expressed interest in joining a militia group.

May 20, 2010: West Memphis, AR police officers Paudert and Evans are attacked and killed by ‘sovereign citizens’.  [TDB]

August 16, 2012: Louisiana sheriff’s deputies Nielsen and Triche are ambushed by seven people with ties to the “sovereign citizens” movement.

September 4, 2012: California HP officer Youngstrom is shot and killed by Christopher Lacy, an anti-government individual with a large amount of ‘sovereign citizen’ literature on several computers in his home.

June 8, 2014: Jerad and Amanda Miller assassinate two Las Vegas, NV police officers Soldo and Beck,  who are having lunch.  The killers leave a Gadsden flag on Officer Beck’s body.  Weeks earlier the assassins had been present at the Bundy Ranch.

June 10, 2014: A Forsyth County deputy Daniel Rush was wounded by white supremacist, ‘sovereign citizen’ Dennis Marx who was attempting to ‘lay seige’ to the court house.  [AJC]

September 12, 2014: Eric Frein, military re-enactor ambushes state police barracks in Blooming Grove, PA, kills Officer Byron Dickson, and seriously injures Trooper Alex Douglass. [LeVNews]

November 22, 2014:  Leon County, FL sheriff’s deputy Scott Angulo was ambushed and killed by “anti-government/anti-establishment”  Curtis Wade Holley, who set fire to his home and vowed to kill as many first responders as he could.  [USAT]

The ADL has been keeping track of violent incidents between extremists and police:

“In the past five years alone, from 2009 through 2013, ADL has tracked 43 sep­a­rate vio­lent inci­dents between domes­tic extrem­ists (of all types) and law enforce­ment in the United States. These inci­dents include sit­u­a­tions in which shots are exchanged between police and extrem­ists (shootouts), sit­u­a­tions in which extrem­ists have fired at police but police sub­dued the extrem­ists with­out hav­ing to return fire, and sit­u­a­tions in which offi­cers had to use their firearms to pro­tect them­selves against extremists.

Of these 43 inci­dents, fully 39 of them involved extrem­ists sport­ing some sort of extreme right-wing ide­ol­ogy. White suprema­cists took part in 21 inci­dents, while anti-government extrem­ists were involved in 17 more. An anti-Muslim extrem­ist was involved in one inci­dent (the other four inci­dents included one with a left-wing extrem­ist and three with domes­tic Islamic extrem­ists). In these shoot­ing inci­dents, the extrem­ists shot 30 offi­cers, 14 fatally. Many other offi­cers sus­tained non-gunfire injuries dur­ing some of these encounters.” [ADL] (emphasis added)

Let’s assume that we can all walk and chew gum at the same time.  It is not impossible that reforms can be made in even the most recalcitrant police forces that improve the relations between the department and the communities; and, it’s not impossible that we can – and should – pay greater attention to those who actually DO advocate violence against law enforcement officials.  It was not until April 2010 that the FBI issued guidance to local law enforcement about the sovereign citizen threat.  We simply need to have a adult discussion, enhanced by better informational context, and to stop shouting and start talking.

*SPLC “Terror from the Right”  The Daily Beast, “Sovereign Citizens are America’s Top Cop Killers.” Media Matters, “How Fox News Covers Right Wing Cop Killers.” ADL, “Officers Down: Right Wing Extremists Attacking Police at a Growing Rate.”  Crooks and Liars, “Rudy Guiliani Knows Exactly How to Spark a Police Riot – he’s done it before.”

Comments Off on Some Context Is Needed

Filed under Politics