Council of Conservative Citizens and the Problem of Money in Nevada Politics

Earl Holt NV On August 21, 2010 the Friends of Sharron Angle received a $500.00 donation from one Earl Holt, Longview, Texas.  There was another donation from the same source on October 12, 2010, also for $500.00.  However, pouring money into Mrs. Angle’s failed campaign wasn’t Earl Holt’s only interest in Nevada.  On September 30, 2012 the Heller for Senate received $500.00 from the generous Mr. Holt. [LVSun]

Mr. Holt and his organization have come under scrutiny since the Charleston church massacre as the probable source of inspiration for the killer.  From the Associated Press, the Guardian, and Politico. And, now Senator Heller has announced he will give his prize money from Holt to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund. [LVRJ]

The donation is good news indeed, the bad news is that the $500 from Holt’s Hate Band has been in Senator Heller’s account from September 30, 2012 until June 22, 2015 without notice on the part of Heller’s own staff.

This says something about money in politics and Republican money more specifically.

Given the massive costs of running a statewide campaign, especially in the top echelon races, it’s comprehensible that individual donations of relatively small amounts wouldn’t be cross checked for provenance.  However, it’s not like the Council of Conservative Citizens is an unknown group. 

“The Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) is the modern reincarnation of the old White Citizens Councils, which were formed in the 1950s and 1960s to battle school desegregation in the South. Among other things, its Statement of Principles says that it “oppose[s] all efforts to mix the races of mankind.” Created in 1985 from the mailing lists of its predecessor organization, the CCC, which initially tried to project a “mainstream” image, has evolved into a crudely white supremacist group…” [SPLC]

Flags As the Republican Party has been co-opted or at least significantly  influenced by the ultra-conservative Tea Party membership, the origins of money are ever more likely to come from organizations which have dubious racial and ethnic agendas – i.e. white supremacists.

Our second “given” is that it is always easier to beg forgiveness than to ask  permission.  Several prominent members of the Republican Party have donated CCC money to charity in the last week, all presumably because the tainted nature of the origins came to light.  Granted this is speculation, but what IF by some miracle the killer in Charleston had not acted on his evil ideation? What if the basis for the hate wasn’t the propaganda of the white supremacist’s associations?  Would those donations still be available to the politicians to buy air time and advertising?

In an era of Dark Money, Big Money, PAC money, and questionable non-profit money – here’s some unsolicited advice:

Well coordinated campaigns have good lines of internal communication.  Policy advocates and specialists should know where the money’s coming from, and the finance specialists should be aware of the image the candidate wants to project.   If a candidate doesn’t wish to be guilty by association with white supremacist groups then that needs to be conveyed to the finance directors with an admonishment to screen donations which appear questionable.

Bluntly speaking, Citizens United, while beneficial to Republican candidates in terms of corporate donations, may have made it harder for individual campaigns to discern the ultimate origins of campaign donations, which when discovered could prove embarrassing – or career ending.  We have a current example – Rep. Scalise, his speech to a David Duke related organization, and Duke’s threat to reveal his connections to other politicians. [HuffPo]

When in doubt – there’s always Google?

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Filed under Angle, campaign finance reform, campaign funds, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics, racism

Awash in NRA Money? What the U.S. House has on its agenda for gun laws in the U.S.

No NRA This country is “awash in guns,” and the current Congress is intent on granting the NRA just about everything on its wish list.  You don’t need to take this from me, here’s a list from a pro-gun site:

On May 15, the US House passed the Defense Authorization Act, the budget bill for the Department of Defense—HR3979. Included in this bill was an amendment by Rep. Mike Rogers to allow qualified applicants to purchase surplus M1911 .45 caliber handguns. Additional amendments included keeping lead ammunition from being regulated under the Toxic Substance Control Act. The Senate is working on a companion bill at this time.

.45 caliber handguns? Now where have we heard of this recently?

The FY16 CJS Appropriations bill was marked up in the House Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee.Current language in this bill includes a prohibition on forcing FFLs to report to ATF the sale of multiple long guns to one person, the government banning the importation of shotguns as a non-sporting firearm, and using taxpayer money to implement the UN Arms Treaty.

So, a person could purchase just as many “long guns” (presumably of the modern variety) as that individual desired?  Pardon me, but this sounds like the “Drug Cartel Protection Act.”  And, Heaven forefend we inconvenience gun traffickers by adhering to the Arms Treaty like other civilized nations.

Rep. Perry Scott (R-PA) introduced H.R. 2019, to prevent ATF from reclassifying ammunition as armor piercing.

So, if the ATF can’t call any type of ammunition designed to literally rip the heart out of a law enforcement officer, then it can’t regulate the sale thereof? Okay, if we can’t call the ammunition “armor piercing” how about we just call it “cop killing.”

S. 874 and H.R. 1701, to restore Second Amendment rights in the District of Columbia, to remove the authority of the DC Council to enact persecutory gun control, was introduced on Mar.

So, anyone – gang members included – can get easy access to firearms, but they can’t bring those items into the Capitol… because?  I guess the people are supposed to keep those guns on the streets…

S. 670 and H.R. 1316, the Veterans Heritage Firearms Act of 2015, allowing for a 180-day amnesty period for veterans or family members to register National Firearms Act firearms that were acquired before October 31, 1968.

H.R. 1365, the Ammunition and Firearms Protection Act, to prevent ATF from banning rifle bullets.

Here we go again. If it fits in a “rifle” it’s good to go flying off the shelves.

H.R. 1413, Firearms Manufacturers and Dealers Protection Act of 2015, was introduced by Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) on Mar. 17. This bill would “terminate Operation Choke Point and any similar program that attempts to infringe upon the Second Amendment or eradicate the manufacture and sale of firearms and ammunition.”

S. 477, Firearms Manufacturers and Dealers Protection Act of 2015, was introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Feb. 12. The legislation will entirely defund any activities associated with Operation Choke Point and prevent the Attorney General from reinstituting the program under a different name.

Now, these are beauties, with a very interesting twist.  Operation Choke Point is a DoJ initiative to investigate banks and the transactions they have with payment processors, payday lenders, and other companies who give every appearance of being prone to money laundering.  Aside from the anti-consumer attitude of the House Republicans, why would this appear under proposed legislation for firearms? 

Let’s guess that it is because on November 13, 2014 a Wisconsin firearms dealer’s account was closed by a bank cooperating with Operation Choke Point.  Some other dealers have drawn notice from the DoJ (remember this IS about money laundering) and then even the banks have taken fire, so to speak, from conspiracy theorists.  For example, Sun Trust Bank announced on August 8, 2014 that it had decided to discontinue banking with payday lenders, pawn shops, and dedicated check cashers.  Since pawn shops often sell guns the conspiracy cadre leaped to the conclusion that the Obama Administration was using a back door method to shut down gun dealers.  Witness the hue, cry, and wailing from Glenn Beck, et. al.   The Schweikert and Rubio bills can now be seen for what they are,  a sop to the conspiracy lobby.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2015, S. 498, on Feb. 12. This legislation would ensure that states honor permits from other states similarly to drivers’ licenses. On the same day two similar house bills, H.R. 764 and H.R. 923, were also introduced.

The old reciprocity argument – interesting coming from those stalwart adherents of State’s Rights – the intent is obviously to make concealed carry permitting hold to the least restrictive standards. Or, a race to the bottom in terms of public safety.

On Feb. 5 Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015, S. 405, with 5 other original co-sponsors.

H.R. 697, to conserve elephants and regulate ivory, was introduced by Rep. Young (R-AK).

S. 263 and H.R. 578, protecting the rights of gunowners on lands managed by US Army Corps of Engineers has been introduced.

These are your basic “shoot anything anywhere” bills.  However, the next one should be a real bonus for those who are making straw purchases of firearms in loose regulation states and selling them in areas with tighter rules.

H.R. 131, introduced by Rep. Morgan Giffin (R-VA) would allow gunowners to legally transport firearms between two interstate locations as long as the firearm was encased and not readily accessible.

So, a trunk load of firearms in  sealed containers, and not readily accessible to the driver of this lovely load would be perfectly fine, dandy, and legal. Frankly, I can’t think of anything a gang of criminals would find more comforting than the knowledge that they could transport all the firearms they want to any location they want – and all they have to have are nice containers.

Little wonder the President is dismayed at the prospects of getting any useful, common sense, gun regulation out of this Congress.  Quite evidently, the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

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Filed under Gun Issues

The Sorry Tale About When and How the CSA Flag Flew Over the SC Capitol

CSA battle flag Most people on social media are repeating the point that the CSA Battle Flag first flew over the South Carolina Capitol in 1962, in reaction to the modern civil rights movement – and that’s true, to a certain extent.  Another story, reported in 1999, is the result of an interview with the only surviving member of the South Carolina Civil War Centennial Commission, and his recollections add another layer of trouble for the defenders of the flag of rebellion.

The story begins on December 7, 1960 when President Dwight Eisenhower signed Proclamation 3382, implementing the national Civil War Centennial plans authorized by a September 7, 1957  joint resolution in Congress which established the Civil War Centennial Commission, “to prepare plans and programs for the nationwide observances of the one-hundredth anniversary of the Civil War, and requested the President to issue proclamations inviting the people of the United States to participate in those observances.” [UCSB]

The timing for a successful, and educational, centennial celebration, such as the retired commander of the Allied forces in WWII had in mind, couldn’t have been much worse.  The Supreme Court set its precedent in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education in 1954.  Emmett Till was murdered on August 28, 1955.  Rosa Parks’ experience on a Montgomery city bus sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott which ended in a victory for civil rights advocates on December 21, 1956.  On September 24, 1957 federal troops were mobilized to protect nine African American children at Little Rock Central High School. In 1960 a lunch counter sit-in by four college students in Greensboro, NC inspired other sit-ins throughout the southern U.S. The modern civil rights movement already had a focus and a national following.

Meanwhile in South Carolina, Governor Fritz Hollings was appointing members to the state’s Civil War Centennial Commission.  One of those was Daniel Hollis, “I’m the only one on the commission left alive,” Hollis said in an August interview. “I tried to get them to call it the `Civil War Centennial,’ but they insisted on calling it the `Confederate War Centennial.‘ [SCPro]  Professor Hollis’s experience wasn’t confined to South Carolina.  There was controversy in Virginia as well:

“Despite the impressive props and setting, the centennial commemoration faced awkward challenges. The events began as Virginia’s elected officials and largest newspapers continued to fight against the Supreme Court and the federal government. Massive resistance shut down schools in several districts between 1956 and 1959 rather than allow black children go to school with white children. The early centennial events in Virginia invoked states’ rights even as they celebrated reunification of the nation.” [SSpaces]

The divisions came early and with intensity.  While northern States tended to focus on the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, southern ones tended to emphasize the “Southern Way of Life,” with battle field reenactments, and promote the notion that Jim Crow and Segregation were an organic part of Southern heritage.

Northern VA battle flag Merchandizing also played a role.  Entrepreneurs “had a field day.” “The Confederate flag became a design for both beach towels and women’s lingerie. Toys of every kind, intended for children of all ages, hit an eager market. Printed works and films made a mockery of history.” [Robertson] The merchandizing was important because prior to 1957 segregationists used a variety of emblems and symbols, but by the late 1950’s they had settled on a modified version of the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia as the preferred banner. It was this modified banner which was raised in many southern centennial celebrations, including those in South Carolina.  We should note the differences between the modified battle flag (first flag graphic) and the original ANVA flag. If comparable to anything, the modified flag was actually closer to the Army of Tennessee battle flag. [MOC]

South Carolina launched its version of the Centennial Celebration on April 11, 1961 to commemorate the attack on Fort Sumter. As the celebrations began, the modified battle flag was hauled up over the South Carolina State Capitol. [SCPro]

Professor Hollis explained how the flag went up and stayed up:

“The flag is being flown this week at the request of Aiken Rep. John A. May,” reported The State on April 12. May didn’t introduce his resolution until the next legislative session. By the time the resolution passed on March 16, 1962, the flag had been flying for nearly a year. (This explains why the flag is often erroneously reported to have gone up in 1962).

“May told us he was going to introduce a resolution to fly the flag for a year from the capitol. I was against the flag going up,” Hollis said, “but I kept quiet and went along. I didn’t want to get into it with the UDC girls.” The resolution that passed didn’t include a time for the flag to come down and, therefore, “it just stayed up,” Hollis said. “Nobody raised a question.” [SCPro]   (*UDC, United Daughters of the Confederacy)

Thus, the flag went up and stayed up, and nobody raised questions as the state of South Carolina tried desperately to sustain the institutional racism of the “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman era.

The “modified battle flag” which went up as part of the opening ceremonies of the “Confederate War Centennial” as it was known in South Carolina on April 11, 1961,  stayed up during South Carolina’s opposition to the modern civil rights movement, and became the focal point for its own battle in 2000.

After vociferous criticism concerning the flag on the Capitol, the South Carolina legislature passed the South Carolina Heritage Act:

The South Carolina Heritage Act of 2000 stipulated that the Confederate flag would be removed from the capitol dome itself, but would be flown nearby at the Confederate Soldiers’ Monument, on the Statehouse grounds. It’s literally locked into place—State Representative Leon Howard told TIME that that the flag is padlocked to the flagpole to prevent tampering or removal. [Time]

The very fact that the banner is padlocked to the pole says that there must be a goodly number of South Carolinians who would like very much to “tamper” or “remove” the offensive flag.  Those who are comforted by the pad lock might  not want to know that far from being a “traditional” CSA flag (as characterized in a number of Internet sources), of a design dating back to the failed attempt at secession, the “heritage” flag being celebrated is as artificial as the ideas it purports to symbolize.

The modified flag went up to celebrate the opening salvos of the American Civil War, and stayed up because no one in authority wanted to take it down, even as southern enthusiasm for the Centennial celebrations evaporated while the calendar flicked down to southern defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg (1863), and Sherman’s march through Georgia (1864); nor could there have been much enthusiasm from the UDC ladies for reminding anyone of Sherman’s march into South Carolina in February 1865. The UDC and similar CSA related organizations would not have had any stomach for commemorations of Lee’s surrender.

In the end, South Carolinians were left with the flotsam of Centennial merchandizing schemes, grafted into display form on beach towels, lingerie, decals, and toys, and hoisted up a flag pole to  commemorate the unthinkable.  And, there it remains —

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Do We Have To Make Racists Comfortable?

No sooner did an African American take the oath of office as the President of the United States than racists (and those who tolerate them) began slathering on the euphemisms and buzz words for making opposition to him credible.  Remember the e-mails that made the rounds? The ones with “bones in noses” and “watermelons on the White House lawn?” And the response, “We were only joking.”

Obama racist cartoon

Those who found this cartoon amusing are racists. Purely and simply racist. Those who took these people seriously are enablers .. consider CNN’s “debate” about whether this obnoxious drivel was “Racist or Satirical.”  There’s no debate here. The cartoon is clearly, obviously, evidently racism.  How do we know this? A black man as a “savage.” A black man as a “witch doctor.”   Enough people were indignant about this offensive cartoon that its advocates slunk off to find more fodder for their e-mail lists.

However, the obvious racists are relatively easy to deal with – and even easier to shun.  Those “dens of lone wolves,” the Internet’s dark corners of hate and intolerance can be monitored, the “patriots” can be watched, and the hate-mongers prosecuted.  It’s the enablers of institutionalized and personal racism who seem more problematic.  Perhaps we’ll be able to move forward if we shatter some persistent myths.

The Myth of Two Sides

In the current cable news template, there must be “two sides” to an issue.  Let’s revert to the day someone at CNN decided to produce a segment on that 2009 cartoon.  Yes, they decided, the cartoon was, indeed, racist, but why was the question posed at all?  Well, gee, it could, it might, it may look in some circles, … like racism, but it could also be political criticism… Really?  No, to anyone with any sensitivity, or an IQ above cauliflower, it was racism.   Moving along the continuum from “we’re just joking” we get to “can’t you take a joke?”  Other presidents have had horrible cartoons drawn and published about them, why are we so sensitive about a black president?   For the near-veggies who might read this: It’s because he is a black man, and black men have been vilified for centuries in this part of the world for being “savage,” and “wild,” and “emotional,” and “lustful,” and … we could keep going here, but that would only serve to raise blood pressure.  So, let’s get to the point: Racist and ethnic jokes aren’t funny. Except to racists.  But, but, but… African Americans (and blondes and Poles) do it? That still doesn’t make it right.  The ‘everybody does it’ response is usually the province of immature adolescents trying to explain their misbehavior to the parents.  We should be a bit more mature.

The Myth of the Mirrors

Another myth which should hit the skids is the banal “speaking out about racism is divisive.”   Well, obviously, yes.  As well it should be. Who wants to be lumped into the same category with racists?

Remember the Twitter Fit from the Right when the President commented on the murder of Trayvon Martin?   The  Right echoed George Zimmerman’s whining about the President “rushing to judgment,” and said the President’s comment “pitted American against American.” [Hill]  It’s “race-baiting” to talk about race?

“…the allegation is that simply talking about race in America makes you a racist. It is, as Boehlert called it, “a very odd brand of projection” that’s “very weird and complicated,” but that’s where the roles of endless repetition and cognitive closure come in. They naturalize and normalize what would otherwise clearly be both arbitrary and bizarre.” [Salon]

If we boiled the “endless repetition and cognitive closure” down to its essentials what comes out is – If you talk about racial issues in ways that make racists uncomfortable, i.e. it makes people confront their own racism, it must be ‘race-baiting.’   When this message moves inextricably closer to its inevitable extension we can no longer speak of a whole host of topics which cause conservatives to squirm.

We can’t have a national discussion about institutional racism in employment, housing, or health care outcomes because … we’d be “divisive.”

We can’t have a national discussion about voting rights and the African American community, and other communities of color, because … we’d be ‘divisive.’

We can’t have a national civil debate about the social costs of mass incarceration of African Americans and other people of color, because … we’d be ‘divisive.’

And, Heaven Help Us, we can’t have a discussion about policing in America because … we’d be ‘divisive.” Worse still, we’d be “race-baiting,” as asserted by the Louisville, Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police.  [Full letter here]

The Myth of A Non-Partisan World

I think I’m going to gag at the very next assertion that what we need in this country is “healing,” and “bipartisanship.”  There never was, and never will be, a harmonic idyllic session of any democratically elected ruling body gracefully gliding over issues and points of disagreement with elegance and aplomb.  And yet, this is the standard by which some of the Chattering Classes measure the effectiveness of legislators and legislation. “The bill had bi-partisan support,” as if that automatically made the bill any better law.  Yes, politics is the art of the possible. And, yes, pragmatism usually makes more progress than strident partisanship.  However, there are some points at which we should agree, and one of the prime ones in American life is that racism is wrong.

The racists are aware of this. Why else would they be quick to tell us that they were only joking, or that they are merely being satirical? Why else would they begin obnoxious expressions with “I’m not racist, but…?” Why else would they whine so loudly if it’s suggested their own brand of projection is nothing more than an attempt to ‘normalize’ what is patently arbitrary and downright bizarre?

Sometimes wrong is just wrong.   We can debate the finer points of trade agreements, international arms agreements, educational policy, health care insurance needs, and so many other topics, but this is 2015 and we should no longer have to make racists comfortable and racism tolerable. Nor do we need to tolerate its symbols.

CSA battle flag

The Stars and Bars, isn’t a Redneck Flag —  unless the aforementioned Redneck is a racist. It isn’t a symbol of southern heritage – unless that heritage is hate.

NASCAR, yes NASCAR, got the message back in 2005:

“NASCAR has a policy that prevents use of the Stars and Bars or other controversial subjects on any car, uniform, licensed product or track facility under its control, but that doesn’t stop hard-line rebel fans from displaying it.

“We recognize that the Confederate flag is an important issue for a lot of people and as our fan base grows, we are doing what we can to break down its use and be more in the mainstream,” said Ramsey Poston, NASCAR director of corporate communications.” [LA Times]

Mainstream America doesn’t sport the traitorous Stars and Bars, the battle flag of a revolt, the cornerstone of which was the preservation of the Peculiar Institution, as expressed by the CSA vice-president when speaking about their new CSA constitution:

“Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition. [Applause.] This, our new Government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.” [Alexander Stephens,  March 21, 1861]

Lee surrenders Is there any good reason why we have to tolerate the display of a flag which was truly and historically divisive – physically, philosophically, and morally divisive?  It did divide us – dividing us between those who thought chattel slavery and all its horrible implications was a physical, philosophical, and moral good, from those who believed chattel slavery was a cancer in the body politic and a moral catastrophe.  It took four bloody years, but the Good Guys won.  Someone made a picture of it.

So, if reading this post made you “uncomfortable” I’m not the least bit sorry.  I think there’s a better use for my capacity for sympathy and sorrow – for the victims of that heinous act of domestic terrorism by a horrid racist in South Carolina.

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Filed under conservatism, Hate Crimes, Human Rights, media, Obama, Politics, racism

Cluck, Cluck, AB 394 comes home to roost?

Chickens Roosting

A quick review:  Nine Republican members* of the Nevada Assembly introduced AB 394 in the last session, the bill would create a process for breaking up the Clark County School District into smaller, separate, districts because – “…Reconfiguring the structure of the Clark County School District into local school precincts will offer an educational system that is responsive to the needs and concerns of the residents of that school district;..”   (*Gardner, Fiore, Jones, Silberkraus, Hickey, Dickman, O’Neill, Seaman, and Trowbridge)

The bill passed in the Assembly on a 35-5 vote, and the Senate on a 13 to 7 vote, with one excused.  It was signed into law by Governor Sandoval on June 11, 2015.

The Numbers Game

For a party, the members of  which take umbrage at any suggestion they aren’t the party of fiscal responsibility, fiduciary trust, and conservative financial values, AB 394 demonstrates a level of financial naïveté that could easily be categorized as sophomoric. 

There is a inkling in AB 394, during its preliminary discussion of rural district consolidation in which there’s a hint that the Assembled Wisdom understood the principle of Economies of Scale.  However, the venerated Assemblage turned right around in the same bill and pretended these didn’t exist for the one district in the state actually large enough to benefit from those economies of scale.  For the uninitiated, here are some of the babes pitched out with the bath water in the interest of creating “responsive” little districts:

(1) The larger the operation (business) the more individual employees are able to specialize in various tasks creating technical expertise which in turn creates greater efficiency.  For example, a larger school district might be able to finance a specific office that focuses on testing and the administration of examinations.  In a smaller district these tasks might be assigned to a ‘curriculum director’ whose office is also responsible for the development of course content, the in-service training of teachers in that content, and the mapping of the curricular content throughout the district.  In the business domain, larger firms can separate tasks in the offices or on the shop floors that allows specialists to develop proficiencies in technical or production tasks.  

(2) Bulk purchasing.  Think of the difference in pricing between supermarket chain stores and the local corner bodega.  Volume, plus reduction in packaging and transportation costs, mean lower per unit expenses. There are approximately 24,286 first graders in the Clark County School District.  There are approximately 4,869 first graders  in the Washoe County School District.  [CCSD and Washoe SD]  Which has the better capacity to buy in bulk?  Which can negotiate for more discounts?

(3) Spreading overhead expenses.   Republicans, often supportive of mergers and acquisitions, note that the mergers of private sector firms allow for the rationalization of operation centers. or to put in more simply – it’s better (more efficient) to have one main office than two.   Again, the schizoid nature of AB 394 says that the rationalization of overhead expenses is fine for the rural districts, but CCSD is “just too big?”  By this logic, Goldman Sachs, Chevron, and JP Morgan Chase would have been broken up long ago.

(4) Let’s get to one economies of scale factors that’s extremely important for a large metropolitan population, the concept of Risk Bearing Capacity.  Again, the larger the enterprise the higher its risk bearing capacity.  The most common example of this factor is in the pharmaceutical industry wherein large corporate firms are able to finance (borrow for) research because profit lines in popular products provide investors with the assurance that the debts incurred can be paid off at the agreed interest rate.  Now, take a look at the Debt Service reported in the CCSD financials:

CCSD debt service

What we’re looking at above are all the bonds issued by the Clark County School District on which the district is paying off principal and interest.  Nor it is too difficult in a rapidly expanding population to have to issue bonds for school construction or renovation.  Schools aren’t  cheap to build and equip.  Constructing an elementary school for about 600 youngsters, at $190 per square foot will cost about $14,800,000.  A middle school for just over 900 students costs $215.14 per square foot, with a total cost of approximately $30,000,000.  High schools are even more expensive.  The total cost: $54,900,000 (1600 students) [NCEFAt this point one of the largest AB 394 egg layers  comes back to her nest.

“Moody’s Investors Services hasn’t downgraded the Clark County School District’s construction bond rating — yet.

But the credit rating firm late Monday issued a report warning a bill Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval recently signed that could lead to the breakup of the nation’s fifth-largest public school system “poses uncertainty” and “a credit negative” to the district’s ability to repay debt.”  [LVRJ]

Investors who buy bonds (lend public & private institutions money) want their money back + interest.  The greater the risk the higher the interest rate on the bonds.   The ratings agencies, no saints themselves as we witnessed during the financial sector collapse of 2007-2008, are in the business of telling investors how much risk is involved – the lower the rating the higher the risk, therefore the higher the interest rate demanded for the loan.

The Clark County School District currently has an A1 rating from Moody’s.  The outlook was “stable” as of February 17, 2015.   What has “de-stabilized” this projection is – AB 394 – which creates “uncertainty.” Without spending the usual $150 Moody’s charges for smaller reports, let’s guess the nature of that “uncertainty.”   The Clark County School District’s report on its financials assures bond holders:

“Maintenance of the current property tax rate will be sufficient through fiscal 2015 to retire the existing bonded debt since the District issued previous bonds based upon the factors of growth in assessed valuation in addition to increases in student population. The Capital Improvement Program provided authority to issue general obligation bonds until June 2008 and will be repaid from a fixed tax rate of 55.34 cents per $100 of net taxable property. [CCSD pdf

Translation: The Clark County School District – as it is currently functioning – has the financial capacity to retire (pay off) existing debt, and the ability to repay Capital Improvement bonds from its property tax base. A property tax base of the present 8,012 square miles comprising Clark County, which according to the Nevada Department of Taxation has a final assessed value (property) of $69,258,468,466.  A number large enough to assure investors in CCSD bonds that they’ll get their money plus interest, since the ad valorem revenue is calculated at $495,059,633 for the county.   We can use the old reliable Red Book to determine what the Clark County School district can expect from its share of the property tax revenue: $819,903, 015 from a total 2014-15 assessed valuation of $62,904,942,089.

By now it should be getting obvious why Moody’s is getting nervous.  Under the terms of AB 394, there must be a plan in place to chop up the school district by the 2018-2019 school year.  Thus, we’d have an advisory committee and a technical advisory committee contracting with a consultant for the grand purpose of carving up the district – but how?

If the notion is to create “neighborhood schools” then would we amalgamate current high school attendance zones? [map]  However, a quick look at the obvious north/south or east/west divisions compared to the assessed valuations of the areas involved quickly demonstrates that not all school districts would be “created equally.”

Perhaps the “Performance Zones” could be used as a basis?  Where do we put the rural schools, from Moapa Valley to Laughlin?  Again, how does the dissolution of the district help any of these financially?  

Unfortunately for those who would be new map makers, Clark County, like so many other major metropolitan areas is comprised of various zones – residential, industrial, and commercial.  As long as the financial foundation of a school district is based on property taxation, then we have to live with the fact that while upscale residential property comes with high tax bills, there isn’t all that much of it.    A district carved out of a major commercial zone with a rather smaller number of residential properties in that zone might have resources in abundance compared to an area of high residential properties – and therefore higher numbers of students, but a lower total assessed valuation.  Geography can often be a real pain in the derrière and in this instance it’s going to be.

At the risk of petulantly pounding the dais – there appear to be only 12 members of the Assembled Wisdom in the last session who understood the gravity of separating school districts within a diversified metropolitan area, one with an overall assessed valuation currently capable of keeping investors optimistic about bonding capacity and bond retirement.  The remaining 48 – not so much – maybe one more round of Econ. 101 is in order?

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Filed under Economy, education, Nevada economy, nevada education, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, nevada taxation, Politics, Rural Nevada, Sandoval

Politicians Playing Doctor: There’s a difference between pro-life and pro-birth

Pro Life

Indeed, we do need a broader, deeper, national conversation about what being ‘pro-life” actually means.  Unfortunately, in the constricted world of some activists, the term is simply a political buzz word for “anti-abortion.”

The buzz words are back as some Republican candidates woo their evangelical base with “pro-life” legislative proposals, such as Senator Lindsay Graham’s reintroduction of his “20 week abortion” ban bill in the U.S. Senate. [HuffPo]

“The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which the House passed earlier this year, bans abortions after 20 weeks unless the woman’s life is in danger or she is a victim of rape or incest. The bill is based on the disputed theory that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks.  Abortions after 20 weeks are very rare and women often make the decision to end a pregnancy at that point after discovering a severe fetal anomaly that could not be detected earlier. Graham’s bill has no exception for those situations.” [HuffPo]

The first problem with Senator Graham’s proposal is that it really doesn’t address the issue of abortion directly – 98.5% of abortions occur before the 20 weeks expire. Further, Senator Graham’s proposal would prevent the termination of a pregnancy in cases where the mother’s life is in danger, or in instances of incest and rape.  For all practical purposes, Senator Graham’s bill doesn’t outlaw abortions, it merely makes them more inconvenient – and a challenge to his proposed law (if enacted) would allow for a possible reversal of Roe v. Wade.  Which, we’d might expect is what the Pro-Birth advocates want in the first place.  If we were truly Pro-Child we’d take some other elements into consideration.

Medical Issues

If we are going to extend the moral argument, as Sister Joan Chittester suggests, then we do need to take those “severe fetal anomalies” under advisement.   How do we address a potential “life” for a fetus which is developing without kidneys, without a bladder, and with no prospect for lung development? [HuffPo]  The condition is known as Potter’s Syndrome, “There has not yet been a BRA baby (no kidneys, no ureters and which also has pulmonary hypoplasia) that has been reported to survive more than a few days past birth.” [PS.org]  Bless them, there are geneticists and other researchers working to pinpoint the causes and perhaps find ways to discover how to eventually eliminate this condition, but for now parents are faced with the possibility of carrying to term a fetus which will survive only a few days. Where’s the reduction of pain in that?

Potter’s Syndrome, and some other fetal anomalies may only be discovered after the 20 week “ban” because “the ideal time to perform the second trimester ultrasound is between 20-22 weeks. While ultrasounds administered prior to 20 weeks are generally adequate to assess major organ systems, they fail to detect major cardiac, skeletal, and craniofacial anomalies, particularly those that are lethal to the fetus.” [SciPro] (emphasis added)

“Of particular concern are two classes of fetal anomalies that cannot be detected early in a pregnancy. First are the variable-onset fetal anomalies. These anomalies begin at variable gestational ages but are often detected beyond 20 weeks. Second are the late-onset anomalies that develop late in the gestational age of the fetus, typically in the second or third trimester, or are undetectable until the abnormality is at the end-point of a pregnancy. Importantly, the 20-week bans passing across the states generally do not include exceptions for lethal fetal anomalies, meaning women are forced to carry fetuses with anomalies to term, regardless of viability.”  [SciPro]

The only thing that may occur for certain if 20 week bans are enacted is that more families will have to endure the tragedies of anencephaly (absence of the brain above the base of the skull); renal agenesis (kidneys fail to develop); limb-body wall complex (organs develop outside the body); neural tube defects (protrusion of brain tissue through the skull or severe hydrocephaly); meningomyelocele  (openings in the vertebrae); caudal regression syndrome; lethal skeletal dysplasias (leading to respiratory failure).   These aren’t the kind of birth defects which lead to disabilities, in their severe forms they are simply and horribly lethal.

Where in Senator Graham’s bill are the funds to assist families who have to face the bills for a complicated and often tragic birth?  Where in the Senator’s bill are the funds for further research on fatal fetal anomalies and their possible causation?   If the bill is truly “pro-life” then where are the suggested appropriations for medical research?  Why hasn’t the House of Representatives, the body in which appropriations must be introduced, addressed research needs for those studying fetal anomalies?

Social Issues

If the issues aren’t medical they’re social, and we know what those are.

“Most women seeking later abortion fit at least one of five profiles: They were raising children alone, were depressed or using illicit substances, were in conflict with a male partner or experiencing domestic violence, had trouble deciding and then had access problems, or were young and nulliparous.” [Guttmacher]

Raising children alone.”  And, how are we going to assist women who are single parents?  By cutting the funding for SNAP benefits? (food stamps) By turning the SNAP program into a block grant unit which can be further reduced at the whim of a stingy Congress?  By a Congress much more willing to subsidize the oil and gas giants, or the military manufacturers, than to offer help to a struggling mother.  By telling a single mother to “get her life together and find a husband?” [Bush 1994]  If we truly want to have fewer abortions, then the obvious thing to do is to remove the barriers to having children – including the economic ones.  Would it help the single mother if we decided that women should have equal pay if they are doing the same job as a man?

Depressed or using illicit substances.”  Again, if we want to reduce the number of abortions, how about increasing the access to mental health programs and treatment?   Where’s the funding for mental health clinics, for out-patient services, for in-patient services? For any mental health services?

We know that by 2012 state mental health services budgets had been pared to the bone.  [TP]  By 2011, the Kaiser Foundation was reporting that 60% of adults and 70% of children with diagnosable mental health issues were not receiving the treatment they needed.  Again, it’s one thing to vigorously announce one’s pro-life stance, and another to advocate for additional funds to support the mental health services which might make all the difference in the world to a woman who might otherwise seek an abortion.

Using illicit substances? Once more: Where is the advocacy for more drug treatment programs?  Where is the advocacy for making drug treatment programs more readily available to lower income women whose addictions endanger their pregnancies?   Do I hear crickets?

“…in conflict with a male partner or experiencing domestic violence.”  Have a look at the map, did your representative in Congress vote against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act?  Of the 160 Republican members of Congress who voted against the re-authorization of the law, we find the names of some who were also sponsors of Graham’s original S. 1670 abortion ban bill.  Who sponsored Graham’s  bill but voted against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act?   Answer: Senators Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, John Thune, John Barrasso, Roy Blunt, Tim Scott, Orrin Hatch, Charles Grassley, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Pat Roberts,  James Inhofe, Mike Johanns, John Boozman, James Risch, Tom Coburn, Ron Johnson, Jeff Sessions, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul.  (Presidential candidates underlined)

How, exactly, does it make any sense at all to sponsor legislation to outlaw later term abortions while voting against a bill which sought to alleviate one of the five primary reasons women were seeking an abortion in the first place?

“…had trouble deciding and then had access problems.”   This seems to be the point of the anti-abortionists.  Legislate bans on later term abortions while enacting state laws closing down medical facilities which provide abortion services.  Perhaps it has not occurred to the Senators that lower income women may have trouble gathering the financial resources to get an abortion, and by the time they do – the clock’s run out on them. If simply “attending” to the possible pain of fetus (and that’s certainly debatable) is the reason for the bill – then the obvious way to solve the problem is to make it easier for a woman who wants to terminate a pregnancy earlier.  Obviously, that’s not the point.   The idea is to prevent the abortion – so, now we ought to address Sister Joan’s contentions – Where’s the funding for the nutrition, for the education, for the housing, for the day care, for the CHILD?

“…were young and nulliparous”  Nulliparous, fellows, is the term for a woman who has never before borne a child.   Morning sickness isn’t the only early signal – there’s shortness of breath, sore breasts, a need for a nap, shifts in the sense of smell, mood swings, and hunger.  How many young women who’ve never been pregnant before can put all the signals together? And, how many don’t have the necessary information from parents or from sex education or health classes to put the signals into a coherent pattern?  It’s entirely possible that a pregnant teen would miss the signals until “it’s too late.” Please spare me the sermonizing; abstinence only classes aren’t going to help the kids figure out what’s going on.  If a person wants to be pro-life, then it would behoove the individual to advocate for health education which addresses just when “life” is about to sprout.

Pro-Life Pro-Birth

Those who wave their Pro-Life signs won’t convince me the signs mean anything more than a call for politicians to enact anti-abortion bills unless, and until, those signs are accompanied by an equal effort to insure that every child is adequately fed, securely housed, cared for while parents work, attending a quality pre-school program, attending a well resourced school, clothed appropriately for the season, receiving needed medical, dental, hearing, and vision services.   That’s Pro-Life; the ideological and judgmental anti-abortion crowd is merely Pro-Birth. Please adjust your signage accordingly.

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Filed under abortion, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Rep. Cresent Hardy Keeps Digging

Stop Digging

Nevada’s own Congressional Representative from Bundyland can’t seem to get his mind around why he’s drawing so much fire from Democrats for his insensitive and inane comment about disabled people.

“Hardy, asked about the speech after a House vote Thursday in Washington, said he did not remember making the comment and suggested it was altered or taken out of context.

“I would like to have it analyzed,” he said. “People try to manipulate things. I’ve seen that happen early on.” Hardy was referring to the flap during the 2014 campaign when video surfaced in which he agreed with Mitt Romney’s infamous comment about 47 percent of people living off the government.” [LVRJ]

This is one better than only using the old cliché, “I was taken out of context.”  Without engaging his brain before putting his mouth in gear, Hardy posits not one but three possibilities.  (1) I didn’t say it. (Wrong: It’s been recorded – anyone can record anything these days without a Reel-to-Reel set up.) (2) It was altered. (Nice try but probably not – it was too ‘good’ all by itself.  Or, (3) It’s being “manipulated.”  There’s no need for manipulation, of any kind, Representative Hardy just cranks up his mouth, inanity ensues.   However, as the LVRJ article reports, Hardy isn’t finished:

“My nature is to defend those who can’t take care of themselves, that’s what I believe,” he said. “I’ve always been a strong supporter of people to be able to get help when needed.”

“People get paid to distort the truth and try to manipulate things,” Hardy said. “That kind of conversation never went on. I think the Democrats ought to be embarrassed.”

If anything, he said, people with disability should be angry at being used by Democrats “to sell their game.”

“People get paid to distort things,” he said. “I’m the No. 1 target, folks.” [LVRJ]

Merciful Heavens, Representative Hardy (R-NV4) has donned the cloak of victimhood, swathing himself in self pity, and begs us to ask his forgiveness for being so mean to him as to call out his hypocritical and mean-spirited remark.

Let’s move back to that first comment above (“My nature is to defend…”) and see if his actions and associations match his assertion.   First, Representative Hardy is a Republican, and his Republican majority in the House had the following ideas about how to develop a budget; they would:

“… propose major spending cuts to programs such as Medicare, health care subsidies, food stamps and the Medicaid program for the poor and elderly to produce a budget that’s balanced. Such cuts, if actually implemented later, would likely slash spending by $5 trillion or so over the coming decade from budgets that are presently on track to spend almost $50 trillion over that timeframe.” [CBS]

So, Representative Hardy favors cuts to Medicare, a program for those over 65 years of age, who prior to the program were denied private health care insurance or could only purchase it at exorbitant prices, and therefore “couldn’t take care of themselves.”  Food Stamps?

The SNAP budget took a 5% whack in 2013, and another round of cuts in the 2014 Farm Bill. The winners in HR 2642 were the farmers, especially corporate farming, and the losers were those who depend on assistance to put food on their tables at meal time. [NYT]  It appears that those cuts were insufficient for Republicans, so they proposed another round of cuts in 2015. [Slate]  Depending upon which GOP proposal is studied, the cuts range from 8% to about 15% in the SNAP program.  If a person is supportive of others being able to get help when needed, then why would that self-same individual advocate for proposals which do precisely the opposite?

Medicaid? CHIP? Nevada, which did expand Medicaid coverage after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, isn’t exactly overly generous with the income eligibility requirements.  A family of four trying to pay for housing, food, clothing, transportation, and utilities out of $2,643 per month is going to be hard pressed, and pressed even more harshly if there are medical bills to pay.  Non-surgical treatment for a broken leg runs about $2,500. [CH]  Thus, Junior’s one accident on the soccer field would almost wipe out the family income for the month.  So, why, if Representative Hardy is so concerned for those who evidently need his defense, does he side with those who would cut funding for programs which assist the defenseless?

Let’s go back to Representative Hardy’s last barrage, the part wherein he’s the “victim of cruel Democrats who are using the disabled as human shields to advance their agenda” —

Jon Stewart discussed this “conservative victimization” phenomena back in July 2011 – in a bit which deserves  a click and watch.  Now that we’ve had our moment of sheer delight…

Note to Representative Hardy:  The liberal agenda is supposed to advance the cause of disabled people – people who, with a little help, can be just as productive as their counterparts in the office.  The liberal agenda is intended to champion assistance for families on the financial brink who need help to meet medical expenses for themselves and their children.  The liberal agenda is to try every way possible to allow a family to feed its children, house its veterans, and care for its elderly.  The liberal agenda supports Public Schools, Public Libraries, Public Parks, Public Health, Public Roads and Bridges, and Public broadband access.    A liberal believes that the rising tide is supposed to do more than just float yachts.

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Filed under conservatism, Federal budget, Health Care, Nevada politics