Tag Archives: Nevada elections

Things That Go Bump In The Night and Things That Are Making More Noise Than Sense

Another week of the Trumpster Fire, another week of news from a fire hose, and another week during which we, as news consumers, are required to filter wheat from chaff, and the relevant from the nearly irrelevant.  What things bumping in the night should be attended to? Which can be set off to the side and safely ignored for the moment.

Bumps With More Noise Than Significance

Preliminary public polling results.  The Press/Media is enamored of the latest rendition of The Great Blue Wave.  This is one of the least informative ways of filling one’s air-time.  First, national preference polling is interesting, but all elections are local.  While some members of the punditry are beginning to mouth the words “vote suppression,” and “gerrymandering,” not enough information and analysis has been shared about the effects of these GOP efforts to maintain control of the Congress, and of state elections. Secondly,  there are no national elections for Congressional seats — to state the perfectly obvious.  Those elections will be determined by candidate recruitment and quality, personnel and monetary resources, and campaign competence.  None of these, with the possible exception of shared mailing lists and big donors (monetary resources) is national in scope.  Third, some campaigns will be assisted by the efforts of third party groups. For example, are Union members out canvassing? Are students out doing registration drives?  Are small groups of activists providing services like rides to the polls? The extent and nature of these ancillary groups and their activities will have an impact, we just don’t know the extent to date.  None of this will be “news” to anyone who’s been paying attention to American civic life for the last few decades.

Just because it’s on the news doesn’t necessarily mean it’s important.  The occupant of the Oval Office and some members of the media are still playing the DC parlor game, “Who is Anonymous?” Or anonomus or anamonomous or whatever.  I’m still working on why this might be important.  For my money we still have staff in the executive branch who are willing to explode the national debt in service to tax cuts for the top 0.01% of American income earners, at ease with putting 12,000 children in “detention” facilities for an indefinite period, and quite pleased to allow health insurance companies to charge people with pre-existing medical conditions more for their premiums.  That these people will occasionally arise on their hind legs and proclaim the Great One has gone too far doesn’t impress me.  What would impress me?

How about more attention paid to this nugget:

“Besides family, one of the only people Trump continues to trust is Stephen Miller. “The op-ed has validated Miller’s view, which was also Steve Bannon’s, that there’s an ‘administrative state’ out to get Trump,” a Republican close to the White House said. “There is a coup, and it’s not slow-rolling or concealed,” Bannon told me. “Trump believes there’s a coup,” a person familiar with his thinking said.”

And thus our Oval Office Occupant (Or Triple Zero if spelled 0val 0ffice 0ccupant) is more heavily reliant on a blatantly racist, far right wing conspiracy fabulist, who stokes the Occupant’s most divisive tendencies?  This seems to call for more analysis, and yet the punditry still grasps the Who-Done-It? segment, or pontificates upon the “effect” of the infamous Op-Ed on the President’s “mind set.”  Clue number one a White Nationalist was influencing the 000 might have been the initial Muslim ban?  More clues — no DACA agreement  by Congressional Democrats was ever going to be satisfactory — no one ‘would care’ that there might be children separated from their parents at the southern border — it’s considered acceptable to move funds from FEMA and the Coast Guard to pay for more ICE detention facilities —  it’s supposed to be all right for asylum seeking families to be kept in these detention facilities indefinitely?

Things Not Making So Much Noise But Nevertheless Important

Health care and health insurance.  There is nothing the GOP would enjoy so much as repealing the last semi-colon and comma of the Affordable Care Act.  We’ve heard the “more competition” argument currently coming from the House Speaker before.  It doesn’t make any more sense now than it did then.  Health insurance is not a product analogous to purchasing a motor vehicle or any other consumer product.  One doesn’t choose to get hit by a bus, or hit with a cancer diagnosis, or hit with a complicated pregnancy — or even an uncomplicated one for that matter.

Consumer protection.  While the great fire hose emits its inundation of noise about all things Trumpian, consumer protections enacted to prevent yet another Wall Street melt down are under attack.  The student loan market is being “deregulated.”  Not a good thing.  The smaller issues involved in the Dodd Frank Act have been resolved with some bipartisan legislation, but the administration wants to go further — and the assortment of Goldman Sachs alums in the administration are being ever so helpful in this regard.  Left unchecked we’re going to see another round of de-regulation, which didn’t work out so well for us the last time.  Caveat Emptor American consumer — be careful before voting for any candidate who vows to cut red tape and diminish the “burdens” of regulations — like those preventing the next melt down in the Wall Street Casino.

It’s the Stupid Economy.   Yes. Wall Street has been doing quite nicely thank you very much. I maintain my position that the worst business news is readily available on most broadcast networks.  If a person believes that the DJIA represents the state of the American economy then they’re in for more surprises like the ones which emerged in 2007-08.   Information like real median household income trends is available from FRED, but before we get too excited note median household income numbers may be obscuring other figures like wages adjusted for inflation for full time employees.   Further, what’s being added in to the mix as “income?”  All income includes everything from unemployment benefits to returns on investments.  It’s those returns on investments that have made some very nice progress over the last ten years…wages maybe not so much.  We’re on our own to dive more deeply into the wage issues and income distribution data.  There’s some good news, some bad news, and some news to think about like the 16 straight quarters we’ve had of increasing domestic household debt.  So, it’s time for the question:  Are we seeing candidates for Congress who acknowledge the need for common sense controls on Wall Street casino operations? Who are aware and concerned for wage and salary workers and their economic security?  Are we getting more noise from the highly generalized pie in the sky theoretical visionaries who want us to believe that those with great wealth are going to buy all the homes, cars, washing machines, shoes, movie tickets, and restaurant meals necessary to keep the US economy rolling on?

I could use a little more light on these subjects, and perhaps a bit less bump in the night stuff about a “crisis on the border” (manufactured by the current administration) or “The Press Is Out To Get Me,” from Orange Blossom.   And, I’m looking for Congressional and Senate Candidates who will speak to me about how to fix problems, rather than shout at me about how to fix the blame for them.  I’d like for political discourse to make more sense than noise.

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Filed under anti-immigration, banking, Economy, financial regulation, Health Care, health insurance, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics

Heller’s Negation

Dean Heller’s latest launch on my TV machine is a negative commercial about Rep. Jacky Rosen’s lack of a legislative record.  “Zero” is an attempt to demonstrate Heller’s acumen and influence on Capitol Hill?  Whoa Nelly.  His 2017 “Report Card” is in and I’m not all that impressed with what he has done.  Let’s dive a bit deeper.

Heller wrote S. 42, which passed as H.R. 321, which required NASA to develop a plan for retired NASA personnel to engage with girls in STEM subjects.  Nice.  Notice the “develop a plan” portion.  If you like cotton candy at the carnival, then you’d probably like the Congressional version of this floss — legislation calling for Plans to do good stuff.  Not that there’s funding to do the good stuff, or that there’s a deadline for doing the good stuff except to call for a report to a congressional committee within 90 days of enactment.  It’s better than Zero, but not by much.

Heller seems especially fond of citing S. 114, a VA Choice Act allowing veterans to seek medical treatment at private facilities if the treatment wasn’t available at a VA center. Again, nice, but this idea isn’t original with Senator Heller.  The program was in existence BEFORE Senator Heller wrote the extension bill.  There’s another little problem with this bill — the funding.  Objections to this bill were raised at the time, from both sides of the aisle because the funding for the program extension came by moving money from other current VA programs.  Rob Peter to pay Paul much?

I’d recommend readers take a hard look at S. 327, an esoteric bill about ETF reports, authored by Senator Heller.  Americans for Financial Reform opposed this bill, in part because:

AFR opposes S. 327, “The Fair Access to Investment Research Act”, and we urge a vote against this bill. S. 327 would create major new exemptions to rules governing broker-dealer research reports on exchange traded funds (ETFs). These exemptions would permit ETF sponsors to release research designed to promote their funds, without being covered by legal liability for false or misleading content or other standards designed to ensure accurate information for investors.

I’d highly recommend downloading and reading the pdf version of the AFR testimony on S. 327, in that it is one more shining example of Senator Heller’s proclivity for talking a good game about being opposed to bank bailouts, while doing everything in his power to facilitate ample rewards for financiers.   In other words, what Senator Heller’s bill actually does is allow ETF sponsors to release reports which may not be accurate and which may primarily serve to manipulate the markets.   Less than Zero would have been a good score on this one.

If this is an example of what Senator Heller’s doing to get Something Done, then I’d have been just as happy for him to have been a nice comfortable zero, since watering down Sarbanes-Oxley, dismantling Dodd Frank, and getting past the Volcker Rule seem to be Senator Heller’s priorities.   I’ve not been calling him the “Banker’s Boy” for nothing.

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Filed under Heller, Nevada politics, Politics

Are we having fun yet? Silver State Visit Edition

Getting the news from a continuous fire hose is becoming tiresome.  And, now we find that the Occupant of the Oval Office is headed to the Silver State once more:

President Donald Trump will be returning to Nevada within weeks to campaign in advance of the midterm elections, according to White House officials who spoke to reporters Tuesday afternoon.

A person familiar with the president’s thinking would not name the candidates for whom Trump will stump, but noted that Trump has campaigned for Sen. Dean Heller’s re-election effort, GOP gubernatorial nominee Adam Laxalt and congressional candidate Danny Tarkanian. [LVRJ]

Within weeks?  No definite date?  And, while we’re at it, can we ask Who Is Paying For This?  Who’s paying for the use of Air Force One?  Is the Trump Campaign paying for the travel and security expenses incurred for these campaign appearances?  Who’s the beneficiary?  Is it Senator Dean Heller?

Senator Heller, would you care to discuss funding for women’s health care?  Or will you be satisfied to have the Oval Office Occupant speak in generalities about “best health care ever in the history of all history?”  While the GOP resolves to re-impose costs on those with pre-existing medical conditions? While the GOP decides to discard the basic provisions of the Affordable Care Act and Patients’ Bill of Rights to cover maternity expenses? Mental health care?  Children’s health care? While the Republicans allow insurance companies to offer Junk Insurance to people who can barely afford any medical bills?  Perhaps Senator Heller would like to discuss what’s happened with the Great American Tax Cut, most of which went to the top 1%? Or, would he care to speak to his rather murky pronouncement on minimum wages? Frankly, it all gets rather murky when Senator Heller starts his word salad spinner such that whatever policy position he espoused last week is something rather different this one.

Would Adam Laxalt care to discuss women at all?  He’s at the ready to discuss his role as the “bulwark against the Democratic tide.” [NVIndy]  Evidently I’m supposed to read this as he’s the Trump-Lovin’ Immigrant Bashing Gun Adorin’ candidate for the governorship, even though the outgoing governor doesn’t seem too thrilled with the prospect of having him as his successor.  I could see my way clear to vote for him the day I decide it’s OK to separate children from their asylum seeking parents at the southern border? It’s OK for him to capitalize on his famous-immigrant Nevada heritage in the Sweet Promised Land, while signaling those coming later are rapists, murderers, and members of MS 13.  Or, it’s OK to ignore the majority of Nevada voters who said we wanted background checks for gun sales…  in short, I don’t see “that day” coming any time soon.

And Tarkanian?  Is there some office for which he’s not been a contestant?  I’m not sure if Clark County elects its Animal Control Officers, but should they do so, we can wager Mr. Tarkanian will seek a position?  Meanwhile, he’s still packing around the baggage from his previous election ventures.  The citizens of Nevada’s third Congressional District deserve better, and Susie Lee is that option.  They aren’t likely to debate, so we’ll just have to stay tuned.

I think I’d be better pleased if the Oval Office Occupant (or Triple 000) on my keyboard) would stay in D.C., continue rage tweeting in the small hours of the morning, and continue convincing people he really did know about violations of campaign finance law — he didn’t know, he did know, he knew but it’s not a crime if he knew it, he knew it was a crime but it’s not that big a crime, or a crime isn’t a crime.   I don’t hold out any hope he’ll attend to those 500+ children who’ve been separated from their parents and still haven’t been reunited, or that he’ll think about the possible effects of continuous delays in trade negotiations with China and Mexico on American farmers, ranchers, and orchard operations.  However, it’s a free country and he’s welcome to come to the Silver State and embrace whichever candidates still want to get one of his bear hug handshakes  while he spends his “rally” time talking about himself, barely mentioning the candidates for whom he is supposed to be campaigning.

If the candidates can stand it, I can ignore it.

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Filed under Heller, Nevada politics, Politics

Laxalt on my phone, Heller in my paper

Hmm, that was interesting.  Last evening I had one of those “push polls” on my telephone from the Adam Laxalt brigade, which was ever so anxious that I know that Mr. Laxalt was a Primary proponent, an Assiduous advocate for women’s health and safety — why, just look at what he did about that backlog of rape kits!  (?)  Yeah right.  This is  supposed to make me forget he’s not wanting to denounce the Storey County Sheriff who has this “little problem” with the women-folk? [Sun] Or, that he had NO plans to file charges against that self-same embattled sheriff. [NVIndy] Or,  that the best he could do was put some ‘space’ between himself and the embattled one? [LVnow]  When a politician’s name and the word “embattled” show up together, it’s never good news.  And, no, some spiel about rape kit backlogs isn’t going to make me gloss over the retention of affection for the Embattled One.  Nice try, as they say, but close is only good according to the old saw in horse shoes and hand grenades.

About 22 hours ago the press told me Senator Dean Heller met with Orange Blossom’s latest pick for the Supreme Court and was SOOOOO impressed… [LVRJ] I am less impressed.  The Pick seems to have issues with the whole idea of having presidents held accountable for their actions, no special counsels or commissions for him. [CNN]  Then there’s the whole Planned Parenthood thing. [PPA]

I could use a bit less of this.

I could use more of those kids from March for Our Lives.   I could use more pictures from the District of Columbia, showing people protesting the Capitulation Summit, the incarceration of babies and toddlers, the general cruelty and incompetence of the current administration. [Hill]

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Filed under Nevada politics, Politics

If the Administration Won’t Pay Attention to Russian Interference Then We Must

The good news:  “Nevada is organizing cybersecurity under a new central hub, according to the Secretary of State’s Office, and is among more than 35 states sending officials to a cyber security incident response training at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center in Massachusetts later this month.” [LVSun 3/18]  That’s the good news…it’s more questionable to observe it’s been 530 days since the Department of Homeland Security first issued a warning about Russian interference in our national elections.

“The Obama administration on Friday formally accused the Russian government of stealing and disclosing emails from the Democratic National Committee and a range of other institutions and prominent individuals, immediately raising the issue of whether President Obama would seek sanctions or other retaliation.

In a statement from the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., and the Department of Homeland Security, the government said the leaked emails that have appeared on a variety of websites “are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.” [NYT 2016]

Nevadans have been assured the state was not a direct target of election interference at the systemic level. [LVSun 3/18]  In other good news Nevada did address the cybersecurity matter in AB 471 the title of which was:

“An act relating to cybersecurity; creating the Nevada Office of Cyber Defense Coordination within the Department of Public Safety; providing for the powers and duties of the Office; requiring the Nevada Commission on Homeland Security to consider a certain report of the Office when performing certain duties; providing for the confidentiality of certain information regarding cybersecurity; requiring certain state agencies to comply with the provisions of certain regulations adopted by the Office; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.”

Translation from the legalese: Nevada took coordinating cybersecurity seriously enough to require state agencies to get on the same page.  This includes the Secretary of State’s office and its related election jurisdiction.

It would be nice if the federal government were taking this issue as seriously as the states.   A quick review:  On December 9, 2016 President Obama ordered a review of Russian attempts to “hack” the American elections. The president-elect dismissed the warnings from the intelligence community saying in effect these were the people who said Iraq had WMDs. [USAT]  On December 28, 2016 President Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closes Russian compounds in New York and Maryland.  Nothing happens officially to punish Russian agencies and individuals during the early months of the current administration.  On May 17, 2017 the Justice Department appoints Special Counsel Robert Mueller who is tasked with discovering if any US laws were violated on the part of US citizens and others.

As news of Russian interference trickled out in the press more interest in the issue came from congressional quarters, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced S. 341 (Russian Sanctions Review Act) on April 27, 2017.  By July the interest increased to the point that HR 3364 passed the Congress almost unanimously, it was signed into law on August 2, 2017.  No action was taken by the executive branch to implement the requirements of the law immediately.

Indeed, it was March 15, 2018 before the Department of the Treasury issued enhanced sanctions on Russia, releasing the following statement:

Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated five entities and 19 individuals under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) as well as Executive Order (E.O.) 13694, “Blocking the Property of Certain Persons Engaging in Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities,” as amended, and codified pursuant to CAATSA.

The list of individuals and entities sanctioned was remarkably similar to the Mueller investigation list of those indicted for interference and illegal activities.

The current administration has not convened any cabinet level coordinated meetings to date regarding Russian interference in US elections, a sore point with Senator Benjamin Cardin who issued a minority report from his Senate committee. [pdfOne recommendation was prescient:

“U.S. and European governments should mandate that social media companies make public the sources of funding for political advertisements, along the same lines as TV channels and print media. Social media companies should conduct comprehensive audits on how their platforms may have been used by Kremlin-linked entities to influence elections occurring over the past several years, and should establish civil society advisory councils to provide input and warnings about emerging disinformation trends and government suppression. In addition, they should work with philanthropies, governments, and civil society to promote media literacy and reduce the presence of disinformation on their platforms.”

And, so we continue. The president congratulated Putin on the occasion of his reelection in an election characterized by eliminating competition and blatant voting fraud.  Nevertheless, the drip continues… reports of social media manipulation, stories about the machinations of the super PACs, Cambridge Analytical, Facebook, and so forth. We know that 21 states were “hacked” in 2016, we know that one was penetrated, and we know that Nevada — fortunately — wasn’t one of them. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t have a stake in this game.

We owe it to ourselves to keep track of state efforts to thwart foreign efforts to attack our voting security systems.  We need to think about the security of our state election rolls and related systems. We need to support efforts to improve the technical acumen of our state and local election officials.  We need periodic updates from our Secretary of State on steps taken by our government to upgrade our voting equipment, and secure our registration.  We also need to pay more attention to how social media is used and abused to cause disruptions to our politics and political discussions. We need to pay attention.

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Filed under elections, Nevada politics, Politics

Laxalt Then And Now

February 15, 2018 Adam Paul Laxalt blames Michael Bloomberg (a convenient target) for his reluctance to enforce Q1 (gun sale background checks) and tells us “Asked if he would support banning bump stocks, Laxalt said he joined a bipartisan group of attorney generals in asking the federal government to review how it regulates them. “My guess is you will see these things regulated at the federal level,” he said.” [LVRJ] No mud (blood) on me.  Another way to read this is to infer Laxalt will do nothing on bump stocks, but will wait to see if the Trump/NRA administration will allow some form of regulation at the Federal level.

February 21, 2018 (17 children and adults are now dead in Parkland, Florida) Adam Paul Laxalt, formerly a scheduled speaker at the NRA Annual Leadership Forum, is “erased” from the program.

“Laxalt, also a Republican candidate for governor, appeared on the event’s website this week as a scheduled speaker for the May 4 NRA Annual Leadership Forum — which touts itself as a “must-stop for candidates seeking the highest levels of elected office” — along with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, political commentator Tomi Lahren and Chris Cox, the NRA’s top lobbyist.”  By Wednesday, Laxlat’s name and photo were no longer on the event’s site. Scott’s name and photo are also gone.” [LVRJ] (emphasis in original)

February 22, 2018, but but but wait wait wait…a Laxalt aide says the gubernatorial candidate never “committed” to the NRA Forum. “Laxalt campaign spokesman Andy Matthews said Thursday that Laxalt hadn’t responded to confirm an invitation to the NRA Annual Leadership Forum in Dallas before his name was removed from a headliners’ list.” [RGJ]    But he didn’t have any problems with his name on the conference schedule previously?

February 23, 2018, protesters gathered in Las Vegas, ahead of a court hearing on Question 1.  Governor Sandoval says Nevada voters made their wishes clear — they want Universal Background Checks.  It wasn’t quite so clear to him in 2013 when he vetoed a bill to that effect.

Stay tuned as Adam Paul Laxalt twists and turns trying to remain a viable candidate opposing a popular concept — Universal Background Checks — while perhaps hoping the “issue” will subside as has happened after other gunfire atrocities?  Is he hoping to jump on board with the Trumpian idiocy calling for arming teachers? Is he hoping the Congress will do some tiny thing sufficient for him to espouse a minute bit of progress? It’s only February, and Laxalt doesn’t know what his schedule will be in May, by then he may have embarrassed himself out of the race?

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Filed under Nevada news, Nevada politics, Politics

Nevada Secretary of State’s Office, Where 3 Is Greater than 520

There are a couple of news items which should cause us some concern, other than the inability of the current President to speak the words, “The Russians hacked into our elections.”

First, there are the efforts by the Russians to continue their intrusions into our elections:

“Since the November election, US intelligence and law enforcement agencies have detected an increase in suspected Russian intelligence officers entering the US under the guise of other business, according to multiple current and former senior US intelligence officials. The Russians are believed to now have nearly 150 suspected intelligence operatives in the US, these sources said. Officials who spoke to CNN say the Russians are replenishing their ranks after the US in December expelled 35 Russian diplomats suspected of spying in retaliation for election-meddling.”  [CNNI]

Secondly, there’s James Clapper’s assessment that the Russians are prepping the battlefield for 2018. (video)  This should raise some concerns from Nevada’s election officials.

Thus far Nevada’s chief election official, the Secretary of State, has agreed to hand over such Nevada voter registration data as is a matter of public record to the Pence/Kobach Commission, and not the full list of information Kobach’s Commission has requested…without any reference as to whether his Commission will pay for the data as any other political institution or agency would be asked to do.  The security of the information, given the increased Russian interest in our elections, is highly questionable.  Nor is the question answered about the rationale for the Commission in the first place.  However, it does sound a bit like Nevada’s Election Integrity Task Force which receives plaudits and plenty of attention in the Secretary of State’s Biennial Report for 2015-2016. (pdf)

The EITF ferreted out some cases of voting irregularities rising to the level of prosecutable offenses: One case of double voting in Clark County in 2012; one case of an undocumented immigrant voting in Washoe County in 2014; and one case in Nye County of improperly completed voter registration forms in 2016.  That’s IT.  Three cases.  Adding a soupçon of context:  In 2012 there were 1,016,664 votes cast.  In 2014 there were 552,326 votes cast, and in 2016 there were 1,125,429 votes cast in Nevada.  In 2012 there were a total  of 1,082,705 active voters on Nevada rolls; there were 1,193,194 active voters on Nevada rolls in 2014; and, in 2016 there were 1,334,959 active voters on the rolls.  [NVSoS]  Somehow, this context wouldn’t seem to justify a “Task Force” on any subject.

There are some other numbers which seem to call for greater attention and concern, and these are located in the Nevada Executive Budget for FY 2016-2017 (pdf).  One of the performance measures included in the Secretary of State’s budget concerns the number of electronic viruses neutralized by its IT personnel.  The actual numbers are available for 2011 (300), 2012 (375), 2013 (391), and 2014 (407), with projected numbers for 2015 (442), 2016 (480), and 2017 (520).  See a trend? The budget descriptors don’t indicate if these were malware, spyware, or someone trying to hack into corporate records, but the steadily increasing number from 2011 onward isn’t comforting…and now we have more Russians running loose in the country, “setting up the battlefield for 2018.”

However, our Secretary of State seems to have her own battlefield, as of last April, when she alleged there was voting by non-citizens in the 2016 election as a result of Department of Motor Vehicles practices (based on a March memo of understanding about the practices which bears her signature.)  It’s July, and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske has yet to make public any information confirming or substantiating her allegations.   We might be excused for believing, on the basis of this information that in her office 3 is of greater concern than 520.

 

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Filed under Nevada politics, Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

Election Integrity in Nevada: How Safe Is Safe?

We have a President of the United States of America who appears singularly uninterested in investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.  Nothing has originated from the Oval Office to indicate he is curious about (a) Russian intrusions into some 21 to 39 state election systems; (b) Russian disinformation efforts during the 2016 elections; and (c) European efforts to blunt Russian cyber attacks on their elections.  Perhaps there’s nothing surprising about this, he’s shown precious little interest in:

(1) Bolstering NATO nation confidence in US support for their interests in addressing Russian incursions into Crimea, Ukraine, and the Baltic States; (2) Extending or enhancing sanctions on Russia for these incursions; (3) Maintaining the sanctions initiated by the Obama Administration including the removal of the Russians from two facilities used for intelligence purposes.   And, now the President wants to have something to “offer” the Russians during the upcoming meetings of the G20.

“President Donald Trump has asked National Security Council staff to come up with “deliverables” that he can offer to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Germany next week, The Guardian reported Thursday.”  [Business Insider]

At this juncture it would seem necessary for citizens in Nevada to multi-task.  On one hand we need to insure that the Administration isn’t encouraged to promote its voter suppression program, at present in the form of Chris Kobach’s extensive request for voter data which will be massaged into a report which will no doubt encourage more voter suppression legislation.  There’s nothing wrong with sharing the information any county chairperson can obtain from the voting registrar or the county clerk, but there’s all manner of things wrong with asking for military status,  Social Security numbers or portions thereof, voting history, and other personal data NOT previously part of the public record.  The Nevada Secretary of State has responded in the following press release:

“Many people have asked whether or not the Secretary of State’s office plans to comply with the request from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity for voter registration information in Nevada.  Other than the previously identified confidential information, state law (NRS 293.558) prohibits election officials from withholding voter registration information from the public.  In addition, the state’s Public Records Act requires government entities to allow for inspection of public records.  As a result, the Secretary of State’s office will provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with only the publicly available voter registration information under Nevada law.”

Thus much for Kobach’s grand plan for a 50 state data accumulation of personal voting histories and “targets” for vote suppression.  However, we can reasonably predict that this will not be the end of Kobach and Von Spakovsky’s efforts to impede voting by the elderly, the young, and minority ethnic group members; in short, people who are likely to vote for Democratic candidates.

On the other hand, we need to watch out for insecurities in our own electoral systems.  One element, of course, is the integrity of our mechanical and electronic voting machines.  For those wishing to delve into the weediest of the weeds should refer to NAC Chapter 293B which specifies how these are to be maintained, tested, and audited, which led Verified Votin g.Org to declare Nevada’s overall performance as “generally good.”  Additional information concerning Nevada’s audit limitations can be found on this Verified Voting page.   We have some soft spots, but none of these seem like major issues at the moment, and most appear to be capable of repair by a legislature paying attention to the details.

Now, we need a third hand.  Since the intelligence agencies at the Federal level haven’t released the names of those states (21 to 39) which suffered Russian intrusion, we don’t know if Nevada is among the list.  The only ones which have self-identified to date are Illinois and Arizona.  This situation raises more questions:

(1)  Is the voter registration data maintained by the Secretary of State’s office fully secure and safe from hacking?  Is access to this information secured in such a way as to prevent unlawful or illicit compromise?  What tests are performed to verify the security, and by whom are the tests conducted?  To whom are the results reported? Are those receiving the test reports empowered to fix any and all issues discovered?

(2) Is the voter registration data maintained at the local level secure from unauthorized access?  Is there sufficient funding and expertise at the local level to conduct tests of access security?  Is the ‘calendar’ of security testing at the local level adequate to prevent unauthorized or illicit access?  Are there “gaps” in access security, such that some localities are more secure than others?

(3) Are local voting systems/machines secure from unauthorized access and tampering?  Is the State (or local agencies) doing adequate security testing and auditing of results? Are our present systems safe, or is there more we could be doing?  Do we need to consider more in the way of risk limitation auditing .

It’s now beginning to look like we need to have some more hands involved, rather more like an octopus to get a handle on all the questions.

There are some things that Nevada may not have the capacity to do on its own.  We probably shouldn’t be required to conduct our own “elves vs. trolls” in the manner of the Lithuanian government’s efforts to fight off disinformation campaigns.  Germany, the United Kingdom, France, the Baltic nations, Sweden and the European Union have all devised national and cross-border efforts to publicize and blunt Russian efforts. [WP]

It would be extremely helpful to have a federal Executive Branch more engaged in countering Russian meddling than in vote suppression and declaring the obvious FACT of Russian cyber assaults to be Fake News.

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Filed under Nevada, Nevada politics, Politics, von Spakovsky, Vote Suppression, Voting

Who’s Heck Representing? A Look At The Advertising

Heck Trump Hat

A bit of time spent watching local television in the wilds of northern Nevada yields a real bundle of political advertising – much of which comes from the campaign to elect Representative Joe Heck to the U.S. Senate, but the fine print is almost more interesting than the ads themselves.

For example, during one broadcast of one network show, we’re treated to advertising from (1) the National Republican Senate Committee, two ads, (2) the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, (3) the National Rifle Association, (4) two ads from the American Chemistry Council, (5) two ads from the State Leadership Fund, (6) the National Association of Realtors, and 7) one ad from Heck’s campaign.

There’s nothing unusual about the NRSC running ads in a battle ground state, especially this season.  The others raise some questions.  For example, the US Chamber of Commerce isn’t a bit shy of publicizing its policy priorities.

There’s some interesting rhetoric therein, but the translations are fairly simple.  The Chamber wants:

“Regulatory Overreach—Guard against senseless regulations that wrongly attempt to eliminate all risk taking and innovation from the capital formation process. Work with regulators and Congress as they implement the Dodd-Frank Act and other regulations to ensure a more prudent approach to oversight and enforcement.”

Notice that the “risk” part of the equation isn’t clear – whose risk?  In the case of the Dodd Frank Act the idea was to reduce the risk to the American tax payer who was previously on the hook for Wall Street transgressions.  And that “innovation in capital formation” were those very creative, if highly dubious, financial ‘products’ Wall Street created in the run up to the last big collapse.   If we want a more ‘prudent approach’ to oversight then we need to keep to the spirit of the Dodd Frank Act and oppose any efforts on behalf of Wall Street casino operators who wish a return to the bad old days of rampant financialism.  Let’s look at something else the Chamber would like Representative Heck to support:

“Executive Compensation and Corporate Governance—Ensure careful and sensible rulemaking and implementation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) where needed and preserve the state-based system allowing decisions to be made through directors and shareholders. Reasonable policies must permit pay for performance and promote long-term shareholder value and profitability but not constrain reasonable risk taking and innovation.”

Shorter version:  Let the states with the least corporate regulation set the standards for determining the process for corporate management pay.  Notice the part about promoting “long term shareholder value?”  It’s not too hard to decipher this one.  Let the states with the lowest standards of regulation be the models, and executive compensation should be based on “shareholder value,” – the model which gets us pharmaceutical executives explaining blooming increases in drug prices – and “profitability,” not necessarily corporate investment in research and development.   Even shorter version: Let the corporations do what they want about executive compensation.   Let’s look at another source of support for Representative Heck.

The American Chemistry Council.  The ALEC associated trade organization is worried that Americans will take environmental warnings entirely too seriously.  Like having the Toxic Release Inventory not compiled or reported to the public as often – after all what we don’t know won’t hurt us?

“While promoting the chemical industry as vital to the economic health of the nation the ACC simultaneously lobbied against the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), a public right-to-know program. Under TRI, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency annually reports on what industries release into the air, water and land. The ACC “has urged less frequent reporting since 1999.” ACC’s Michael Walls said, “Just because we’re used to doing something doesn’t mean we should accept the inherent high costs or burden of doing it.” The Bush administration supports changing the TRI so that fewer releases are reported, less frequently. EPA officials say they will “likely spend another year weighing the pros and cons” of the proposed changes, after the public comment period ends on December 5. According to federal records, the EPA “previously solicited comments from industry groups.” [SWatch]

In essence, the ACC is telling Nevada voters — “Vote for Joe Heck, and you won’t have to worry about toxic releases into our air and water – because you won’t know about them, and as a bonus, you can keep on using those plastic shopping bags to your heart’s content.”  And now we have the …

National Association of Realtors, who would like to remove:

“Overly stringent lending standards have continued to limit the availability of affordable mortgage financing for credit worthy consumers. Federal policymakers are weighing a number of proposals aimed at creating healthier housing and mortgage markets.”

Remember that time when lending companies were writing mortgages hand over fist over elbow, often to very tenuously credit worthy customers? The NAR would like very much to return to that scenario.   The result was the Housing Bubble, and we don’t need a repetition  of that debacle in Nevada.  We’re barely past the last version of exploding ARMs.

And then there’s the ubiquitous NRA, what more can we say but that any regulation of firearms is anathema to these radicals – even question One in Nevada which merely calls for the implementation of background checks to every gun sale. No, it doesn’t apply if your girl friend want to borrow a gun. No, it doesn’t apply to trading guns with your hunting partner! No, it doesn’t mean you can’t share your arsenal with family members! And, no it doesn’t mean the downfall of the democracy… that’s NRA hyperbole and most Nevadans know it.  The NRA hysteria is costing Americans 30,000+ lives every year, countless injuries, untold tragedy, and more suicides than we’d care to consider.  Who’s NOT in favor of limiting access to firearms to felons, fugitives, the adjudicated mentally ill, domestic abusers, and unsupervised juveniles??

So, the next time there’s a wave of Pro-Heck advertising on the TV screen, read the small print at the end …. Who is supporting Representative Heck and what do they want?

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Filed under financial regulation, Heck, Nevada politics

Contrary to the Image: Joe Heck IS a politician

Heck Trump Hat

Contrary to the nifty images of Brigadier General Doctor Heck – and his advertising campaign – Joe Heck (R-NV03) is a POLITICIAN.

Yes, and he has been for some time now.  Heck served in the Nevada Legislature from 2004 through 2008 as the Senator from District 5.

“….serving on the Natural Resources, Human Resources and Education, and the Commerce and Labor Committees, and as Vice-Chair of the Transportation and Homeland Security Committee.” [Heck]

He was elected to the NV-03 Congressional seat on November 2, 2010, and served in that capacity until his decision to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Harry Reid.

He is  pleased to let one and all know of his committee assignments in Washington, D.C. Armed Services, Education and Workforce Committee, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, but rather than note these connections in D.C. Heck has decided to run as an “outsider?”

During his political tenure in Washington Heck has, indeed, made some connections:

“Heck’s record show he has been anything but (independent); in reality, he has joined his fellow Republicans in Congress to consistently advocate for a special interest, self-serving agenda at the expense of Nevadans. This point is exemplified by Heck consistently voting for the Koch Brothers agenda in Congress, where in 2013 alone Heck voted with the Kochs 100% of the time.” [SM.com]

There’s more:

“Heck’s alignment with the Republican Congress and its special interest agenda is best exemplified by one metric in specific: the percentage of times he votes with the Koch brothers. This year he has voted with the Kochs nearly 90% of the time, and in 2013 he voted with them 100% of the time.  The Republican billionaires, who have spent heavily on Heck’s campaigns, are now seeing a significant return on their investment with Heck voting for their agenda in Congress. Heck voted for billions in taxpayer-funded subsidies for big oil companies and even voted to protect tax breaks for companies that outsource American jobs.” [SM.com]

Full PDF report here.  As a reminder – the Koch Brothers do have an agenda, and supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders are probably aware of this information on the Koch Brothers’ wish list.

Heck has voted WITH the Koch Brothers 90-100% of the time – so where does he stand on abolishing Medicare and Medicaid? On repealing Social Security? On eliminating the minimum wage? On abolishing the capital gains tax? On abolishing the Food and Drug Administration?  Getting rid of the Consumer Product Safety Commission? The Occupational Safety and Health Act?

And then there’s the more recent Dodd Frank Act, regulating the banking sector – Heck demonstrated his allegiance to the bankers – here’s a trip down memory lane:

“Marching back to July 26, 2012 we find Representative Heck voting in favor of the interestingly titled HR 4078 “Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act.”  The title was commonplace, everything in those days had “small business” and “job creation” attached to the title, perhaps to obscure the fact that the Congress had done exactly diddly to create jobs or help really small businesses.  The effect would not have been small, or particularly creative.

HR 4078 would have prohibited any federal government agency from promulgating or taking “significant regulatory action,” unless the employment rate dropped below 6%, defining  “significant regulatory action” as any action that is likely to result in a rule or guidance with a fiscal effect of $50 million or more as determined by the Office of Management and Budget, or to adversely affect one of the following, including, but not limited to (Sec. 105) [PVS]  Now why would this bill illustrate Representative Heck’s allegiance to the banking sector?

Answer: Because the Dodd-Frank Act regulating the financial sector was enacted on July 21, 2010 – that would be the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act – and the agencies were in the rule making process when HR 4078 was considered in the House.  Now, what sector of the economy was going to see a $50 million dollar effect?  Here’s a clue: It’s not family owned bodegas and gas stations.  The banking industry did NOT want to see any regulation, any restraint, any inconvenience to their consumer gouging practices and HR 4078 was the result.  (And, the law if enacted would have prevented any more attempts to contain climate change – a bonus in GOP eyes.)”

Compare this action in allegiance to the banking sector with what’s been going on recently.   Several thousand customers of Wells Fargo Bank would have received no justice at all had Heck had his way and abolished the rule making authority of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or abolished the agency completely —   September 8, 2016:

“For years, Wells Fargo employees secretly issued credit cards without a customer’s consent. They created fake email accounts to sign up customers for online banking services. They set up sham accounts that customers learned about only after they started accumulating fees.

“On Thursday, these illegal banking practices cost Wells Fargo $185 million in fines, including a $100 million penalty from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the largest such penalty the agency has issued.

Federal banking regulators said the practices, which date back to 2011, reflected serious flaws in the internal culture and oversight at Wells Fargo, one of the nation’s largest banks. The bank has fired at least 5,300 employees who were involved.

In all, Wells Fargo employees opened roughly 1.5 million bank accounts and applied for 565,000 credit cards that may not have been authorized by customers, the regulators said in a news conference. The bank has 40 million retail customers.” [NYT]

And Representative Heck doesn’t think the CFPB needs to exist? Tell that to the 1.5 million bank customers who were ripped off.  Representative Heck isn’t a politician? Tell that to the Koch Brothers for whom he’s been a reliable ally? Tell that to the Wall Street Bankers for whom he’s carried so much water?

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Filed under financial regulation, Heck, koch brothers, Nevada politics