Tag Archives: heller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But wait, there’s more —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Heller, Nevada politics, Politics

Heller’s Making Hay, Just Without a Business License

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Heller’s Tele-Somethings Redux

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Filed under Heller, Nevada politics, Politics

Tarkanian’s Racist Rhetoric

The Nevada Independent article on the Nevada Senate primary race indicates how this might be a referendum on Donald Trump if Perpetual Candidate Danny Tarkanian  has his way.  However, the portion of Trumpism to which Tarkanian the Lesser is clinging most vociferously is one of the least attractive — good old fashioned racism and xenophobia.

“He also laid out his priority on immigration policy, saying he supported the president’s effort to build a wall along with border with Mexico, and wanted to see an end to chain migration, expressed opposition to the concept of birthright citizenship and expansion of the E-verify system used to root out undocumented workers from the labor pool.

“I do not think that anyone who came to our country illegally should be provided with the greatest gift our country has to offer — citizenship,” he said.” [NVIndy]

There are several items to unpack from this mashup of racist rhetoric.  And it is racist.  Do I see any reference to securing the northern border?  No. This is all about that southern border, the one we share with Mexico. The one over which at the present time we have a net zero immigration from Mexico.  However, as we all know this argument isn’t about net migration statistics — it’s about the US becoming entirely too brownish. Too many phone centers offering instructions and information in Spanish, too many Spanish speaking people in the supermarket, too many Hispanic people holding jobs, having children, buying houses, and sending their kids to school. Too many monolingual white Americans “feeling uncomfortable.”

One of the inferences deserving of additional notice is the concept Tarkanian introduces of the Gift (of living in America) or (applying for American citizenship.)  There isn’t much difference between this concept and the less attractive version, “I got mine now you try to get yours sucker.”

Lost in this version of the immigration issue is the notion that immigrants bring their gifts to the United States.   Einstein was an immigrant.   Accepted not every immigrant is an Einstein, however, if a person happens to be putting yogurt on the breakfast cereal or in the blender with some fruit — perhaps a nod to Hamdi Ulukaya might be in order. He’s the Kurdish ex-sheepherder who popularized Chobani.  Using Google today?  Thank another immigrant Sergey Brin.  And by the way, should one be clad in the most popular American article of clothing — denim jeans — thank another immigrant Levi Strauss.  At this point one the right wingers bluster something like “we’re not talking about those kinds of people, we’re talking about — you know, the ‘others.”

There are at least a couple of ways to perceive this rebuttal. First, as a bit of good old fashioned racism — “they” are brown skinned, Spanish speakers… and, secondly ‘they’ are ‘working class.’  Read: Less than a bonus to American society.  Except as reported last summer and fall, there were vegetables rotting in California fields because of a lack of experienced farm workers to harvest them.  Growers offered higher wages, and there were still shortages of farm workers with the expertise to know what to pick and when to pick it.   Just a few hours ago the Ventura, CA newspaper was asking a grower about the recent crop report, his response:

“I wouldn’t say that it’s been a good few years, but it’s been OK for us,” Tamai said. “I would just say that it’s getting more difficult (and) it’s getting more expensive to grow in the county. It’s pretty pricey here, and there’s always a fight for enough labor.”

Thus much for the immigrant farm workers, (and retail clerks, and restaurant workers, and hotel maids, and pool service workers, and home health aides, and medical technicians, and delivery drivers….) not being a ‘bonus’ to the American way of life.  Unfortunately, the only way to rationalize the idea that immigrants are a “burden’ is to see them as non-productive human beings, instead of witnessing and recognizing the economic value of their work, and appreciating the value of the cultural additions they bring to the country.  There’s nothing new about this contemporary rendition of the old Know Nothings who decried Irish and German migrations.  The era, the languages, and the clothing may change, but it’s the same old racist rant.

Another point in Tarkanian’s disturbing comments needs a mention:  We do have a `14th Amendment,” for a reason.  “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States, and of the State in which they reside..”

That’s all persons.  And if Tarkanian the Lesser is calling for the end of the 14th Amendment he might need to come to the understanding this means African Americans, who were to be made citizens not only of the US but also of the states which formerly allowed chattel slavery.   There’s usually a stammer or two from advocates of abolishing the 14th Amendment about merely modifying the Amendment when this point come up. Modify it how?  The devil is indeed in the details, and one of the details involves how one perceives babies.   Advocates of amending the Amendment often cite “abuses relating to anchor babies.”  The term itself in inherently offensive.

“Children are widely seen as innocent and pure … yet there is an unspoken racial element there, for children of color are all too often pictured as criminals or welfare cheats in training,” said Haney Lopez, author of “Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked The Middle Class.”

Dog whistle is a term used to describe coded language that means one thing in general but has an additional meaning for a targeted population.

The racializing of children of color is “the ignoble tradition that finds voice in the phrase ‘anchor babies,’ which tarnishes even the tiniest infant with the stain of being one of ‘them,’ the dark and dangerous who invade our society,” Haney Lopez said.” [NBC]

We could do without the epithets like ‘anchor baby’ and related emissions from the racist bull horns.  Or we might ask: Does Tarkanian the Lesser think infants are tiny nefarious invaders?”

Sadly, there is an audience for Tarkanian’s racist campaign rhetoric.  They are white, they are frustrated, they are racists, and they will applaud his rantings.  They will vote for him because he will say aloud what they’ve been thinking — Mexicans are drug dealers (as the Chinese were characterized more than a century ago) — Mexicans are a burden to society (as the Irish were a century and a half ago) — Mexicans are filling up our neighborhoods (like the Eastern European Jews and Italians of the early 20th century).

Racial revanchists have been among us since time out of mind — however, it would be nice to get through one election cycle without a blatant reminder of their proximity.

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Filed under Constitution, Immigration, Nevada politics, Politics

What Big Victory?

There’s a steady drum beat of pundits and politicians telling me the passage of the TaxScam is a great, wonderful, awesome, fabulous, stupendous, magnificent piece  of legislative action.   Okay, I am certainly not the brightest bulb in the great chandelier, but I’m no dim candle either, and I can tell the difference between tax reform and a tax heist giveaway, handout, bequest, benefaction, and contribution to the top income earners when I see it.  Further, I am truly tired of pounding out the fact-of-life:  Trickle Down Economics is a HOAX.

What the Congress is voting on today isn’t a tax reform bill, it is purely and simply the enaction of economic mythology and political ideology.  There is much economic theorizing asserting the efficacy of tax cuts toward encouraging economic growth, but the numbers (those pesky facts) haven’t substantiated the claim, and the recent example of Kansas offers a real time look at some very dismal prospects.

Making the tax system more rational isn’t best served by a code that includes the Corker Kickback, exceptions for private airplanes,  golf courses, and doesn’t incorporate provisions for exempting state and local taxes.   And, we’ve covered the Carried Interest issue before.   The advice from the EPI back in January 2014 still holds:

“These investment advisors and hedge fund managers can take advantage of this tax structure because they are often compensated through a scheme that, in part, pays them according to the returns on the fund. The industry standard for hedge fund managers is “two and twenty,” which is shorthand for an “overhead” fee of 2% of capital under management plus carried interest (often called a “carry”) of 20% of the returns on the fund. Thus a $100 million fund earning 20% would pay its fund manager $2 million for overhead and $4 million in carry. The carry portion of their compensation is treated under the tax code as capital gains for the fund manager and is taxable at the much lower capital gains tax rate of 15%.” [EPI] (emphasis added)

However, rest assured Nevada’s Republican members of the 15th Congress will vote in favor of retaining the carried interest loophole, and other egregious portions of the Trump Family Property and Legacy Protection Act.  Paris Hilton’s wealth will be preserved.  And for this we may now expect an onslaught on “spending” as in Republican attempts to dismantle Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

As the Republicans hiss out “entitlements” as if the word was a synonym for undeserved welfare, most Americans are quite aware they’ve been paying into Social Security — yes,  to restate the obvious, people are entitled to receive their Social Security benefits — they’ve been paying for them all along.

The point will come when the GOP will cry out, “Oh, we have to cut government spending, because Social Security is going broke! Medicare is out of control.  Medicaid will bankrupt the nation — look at the national debt!”   Really — the way to fix these issues is to re-visit and revise the mess made in the 15th Congress, repeal the TaxScam, and do some revisions targeted at helping middle income Americans.

Some suggestions:

Enact tax cuts 80+% of the benefits go to working middle and lower income Americans who will actually go out and spend the benefits on washing machines, cars, groceries, rent or home mortgages, and who support our economy.

Close the carried interest loophole.  It was never a good idea and it certainly isn’t now.

Enact tax reforms that address the modern economy — not the horse and buggy days.  Support solar, wind, and alternative energy sources and research.  One of the fastest growing jobs in the US today is “wind turbine technician.”  Continuing to subsidize fossil fuels is tantamount to protecting the buggy whip factory owners.   Just to hammer the point a bit further:  “Increases in Job Opportunities:”  Solar Photovoltaic installers  — 105% increase; Wind Turbine Technicians — 98%; Home health aides — 47%; Personal Care aides — 37%; Physician Assistants — 37%; Nurse Practitioners — 36%; and interestingly enough Bicycle Repair Specialists — 29%.

Forget the territorial tax regime — all that does is incentivize corporations to move their operations overseas.

This would be a start.  There’s nothing simple about a tax code — there never was and there never will be.  Piling up stacks of paper to illustrate the density of the code isn’t instructive, all it demonstrates is that we have an extremely complex economy.  We use taxation as a lever to encourage or discourage certain decisions.   In this instance we are encouraging the behavior of hedge fund managers (notoriously short term thinkers) and multi-national corporations.  This didn’t work so well in 2007-2008 and it surpasses all reason why anyone would think a repetition would have any different result.

But we can count on Senator Dean Heller and Representative Mark Amodei to march right in line with the GOP leadership…straight into the next bubble, the next crisis, and the next recession — only this time the resources of the federal government will be depleted in the face of adversity.  In slightly less modest terms, it’s a recipe for more debt which will eventually lead to the necessity of incurring even more debt.

And they’re still coming after Social Security and Medicare.  Be prepared.

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Filed under Economy, Politics, Taxation

Think of the Children! GOP tax plan is hazardous for children

I’m so old I remember when Republicans would bellow “Think of the Children” every time tax proposals were discussed and each time there was a proposal to spend a dime on anything.  Now they have a tax proposal which doesn’t help Nevada’s children — no matter how many times they invoke the Growth Fairy and insinuate the new plan will be better for “working families.”  Not so fast.  Here’s what their tax plan does:

Removes the Personal Exemption: The current tax code allows families a tax exemption of $4,050 per person. For some families, the loss of the personal exemption is recovered through the tax bill’s increase of the standard deduction to $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for joint (married) filers. However, single parents with more than one child and married couples with three or more children would see their taxable income increase. [CFC]

Okay, so that category of families who will be “helped” doesn’t include single parents with more than one child, or married couples with three or more children…and this is “family friendly?” Thus a single parent can only have one child and benefit from the GOP tax plan, and a married couple can’t have three or more … who’s left?  But wait, there’s another blow to follow:

Insufficiently Increases the Child Tax Credit: The tax bill increases the current Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $1,600, with an additional $300 credit per parent. The addition of the Family Credit is a marginal improvement over current law, but not for families with children who are working-class or living in povertyargues Senator Marco Rubio. Because the increases are not refundable, they won’t apply to families living under the poverty threshold, and the $300 parent credits would expire after five years. The proposal to index the refundable portion to inflation is also insufficient, as it uses a less generous estimate and ceases upon reaching $1600. (emphasis added)  [CFC]

That $600 increase looks good until the curtain is pulled back and the proposal doesn’t really apply to children in working class families…which would be most of them.  Notice the magic expiration date, that’s a recurring feature in the GOP plan wherein breaks for individuals and families expire but the breaks for corporations don’t.   However, we’re not through here:

Repeals the Adoption Tax Credit: The adoption tax credit, which is capped at $13,570 per adopted child is a vital support for families and helps alleviate the costs of adoption fees. The Adoption Tax Credit is an important tool for children in the child welfare system to achieve permanency, as it helps defray the expensive process of adoption, especially for children with high needs. In 2014 alone, 74,000 families claimed the credit. [CFC]

Thus much for the old line about supporting adoptions and being “pro-life.” We’ve posted before about average adoption costs, and here the GOP goes again: The Mouth says one thing while the hands do another.

The bottom line is that as far as Nevada families are concerned (1) the personal exemption is inadequate; (2) the child tax credit is insufficient; and (3) the elimination of adoption tax credits is unconscionable.   This really isn’t a great formula for the benefit of Nevada families and their children.

Voters in Nevada District 2 can let Representative Mark Amodei know how they feel about this at: 775-686-5760; 775-777-7705; or 202-225-6155.

Senator Heller can be contacted at: 702-388-6605; 775-686-5770; and 202-224-6244.

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Filed under Amodei, Nevada politics, Politics, Taxation

Scary Stuff Indeed

Yesterday was an extremely interesting day, replete with all manner of scary stuff compliments of social media platforms and a Special Counsel. However, not all of the frightening items were associated with the Trump Campaign’s eagerness to get the produce of Russian hacking, and Russian assistance.  Here’s some other stuff in the GOP treat basket:

ICE again proves its ultimate heartlessness and horrifying lack of understanding of what it means to “protect” Americans; illustrated by the case of Rosa Maria Hernandez — a ten year old with cerebral palsy undergoing gall bladder surgery.  And, this isn’t the only case — there was the story of parents arrested while their child was having brain surgery, the arrest of an undocumented Iraqi man who was serving as a bone marrow donor for his niece, and a brain tumor patient pulled from a hospital.  ICE thus becomes the ultimate Halloween Scary Story.  Candidates for public office ought to be ask outright how they would assist in the process of getting immigration officials to adhere to their own guidelines on “sensitive locations.’

Nobody in the GOP appears to be all that outraged that the Trump Campaign not only accepted assistance from the Russians, but actively sought to get the goods on Secretary Clinton from Russian sources.  This isn’t normal, or even paranormal — it’s the kind of thing that would make any other campaign (Democratic or Republican) call the FBI if the Russians showed up at the door with treats.  But still, #45 refuses to accept the fact that the Russians at least meddled and at most attacked the US with campaign “assistance” — social media help; opposition research; and, (the part we keep ignoring) attempts to hack into the voting systems of at least 21 and possibly 39 states.  We do need much more attention paid to the last item on the list since the Cult-45 group persists in saying this is a Spook, there’s nothing to see here.

Somehow a tiny company in Montana got a whopper contract, now cancelled, to supply power to the entire island of Puerto Rico.  Nothing puts a place like Whitefish, Montana on the map like having the Secretary of the interior stammering he’s nothing to do with this — and if I believe this then you could easily get me to believe that all the little spookies at the door are Real!

It’s been 30 days since the tragic Las Vegas Shooting, and what has the Congress done to limit high capacity magazines? Bump stocks? Anything?  This month has been a nightmare for the families of the deceased, and the families of the injured.  The nightmare will continue until politicians stop being terrified of the National Rifle Association.

Republicans have been unable to explain away the specter of Opioid Abuse while cutting massive amounts of funding from Medicaid.  The GOP budget calls for cutting some $1.5 trillion from the program over the next decade — while 30% of opioid treatment is covered by Medicaid insurance.   States, already strapped by the crisis will have to either come up with more funding or ration care — speaking of Death Panels…

The Senate of the United States believes that individual Americans are perfectly capable of taking on The Big Banks all by themselves — Super Heroes in Litigation.  So, on October 24, 2017 the Senate voted to dismiss a CFPB rule that would have allowed class action law suits against the Big Banks by ripped off customers; forcing those customers into individual arbitration.  Senator Dean Heller was pleased to vote in favor of this nightmare.

This list seems long enough to send sentient beings into the closet for the Halloween Season, one almost shudders to think what more the Republicans have in mind — like the tax cuts for the 1% and questionable benefits for the rest of the population…

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Filed under anti-immigration, Gun Issues, Immigration, Medicaid, Politics