politics

  • I've lived in three states with sitting Mormon governors (Utah, Massachusetts, Nevada) and now I might live in two states with governors who are convicted while on the job (John Rowland in Connecticut, and maybe Jim Gibbons in Nevada). Of course, the two are not related. (2) #
    2/15/2007
  • Dan Savage has some harsh words for Mary Cheney.
    Take it from me, Mary: Explaining to your child, after he heard something hateful on the radio, that his family is very much “real,” that it’s not an attack on anyone else’s family, and that his parents are, in fact, fit to be his parents is as distressing and emotionally exhausting as it is unnecessary. And I blame you.
    I wouldn't have used the same words, but I think my sentiment is the same. (38) #
    2/5/2007

If only Nevada had water and coal...

The first few paragraphs of this article from today's Las Vegas Sun might give you an idea of the, uh, intellectual capacity of Nevada's new governor:

Gov. Jim Gibbons announced a major energy initiative in his State of the State speech Monday, calling for the construction of a coal-to-liquids fuel plant in Nevada that would use rail lines to import coal, which would then be converted to diesel and jet fuel.

The proposal left many legislators and policy experts scratching their heads Tuesday. Nevada has an abundance of wind and solar energy sources but no coal, and the process consumes huge amounts of water, which is in short supply in Nevada.

Lawmakers said they expected the governor to provide more details Tuesday, but his energy adviser hadn't been named publicly. Nor was Gibbons available to answer questions about his idea, which apparently derived from a conversation with Dave Freudenthal, the governor of Wyoming, a major coal-producing state.

"After visiting with Wyoming Gov. Freudenthal and seeing what his state is doing, I will encourage the creation of a coal-to-liquids fuels plant in Nevada, similar to a successful plant in Wyoming," Gibbons had said.

I hope he doesn't visit Niagara Falls anytime soon...

Wed, 01/24/2007 - 9:40am

Gonzales: Habeas Who?

Sorry it's been quiet around here -- it's been a busy week for me. Anyway, many of you have probably already seen this, but this past week our Attorney General Alberto Gonzales stated that "there is no express grant of Habeas Corpus in the Constitution". His reasoning goes that it only says when it can be taken away (invasion or rebellion) but never states when it is a given:

GONZALES: The fact that the Constitution — again, there is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution. There is a prohibition against taking it away. But it’s never been the case, and I’m not a Supreme —

SPECTER: Now, wait a minute. Wait a minute. The constitution says you can’t take it away, except in the case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus, unless there is an invasion or rebellion?

GONZALES: I meant by that comment, the Constitution doesn’t say, “Every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right to habeas.” It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except by —

SPECTER: You may be treading on your interdiction and violating common sense, Mr. Attorney General.

GONZALES: Um.

Is there a term of art for this faulty use of logic by Gonzales? A sort of: P is true unless Q and R, therefore NOT P. Gonzales finds this statement valid, so I guess he's assuming ALWAYS Q and ALWAYS R are true. That's not properly notated logic, but you get the idea.

Sun, 01/21/2007 - 10:15am

Gibbons's midnight madness

So the midnight swearing in ceremony of new Nevada governor Jim Gibbons gets weirder. Today's Review-Journal has an article positing that the purpose of the unusual time and hour of the ceremony could have been to manipulate a legal loophole that might allow Gibbons to undo a last-minute political appointee of former Governor (and Gibbons rival) Kenny Guinn:

Gibbons began stating his oath about a minute before midnight. His chief of staff, Mike Dayton, said Gibbons completed the oath at 12 seconds after midnight. Dayton came up with the time by checking a clock placed on a coffee table in the room.

Gibbons' midnight oath might invalidate Guinn's appointments on a technicality, according to the basis of the 2005 attorney general's opinion.

In the 2005 opinion, then-Attorney General Brian Sandoval cited an appointment former Gov. Mike O'Callaghan made to a position that became vacant at midnight on Dec. 31, 1978. That appointment was valid because "Governor Robert List was not sworn in until 10:00 a.m. on January 1, 1979," the opinion said.

Between midnight and 10 a.m., O'Callaghan was still considered governor, and the board position was vacant.

The fact that the two circumstances occurred simultaneously made O'Callaghan's appointment legal, the attorney general said.

Thus, if no time lapse between the end of one governor's term and the start of another's occurred, then the previous governor's appointments possibly would not count.

The flip-side argument is that the control board appointments by Guinn took effect at exactly midnight, while Gibbons did not become governor for another 12 seconds. Also, he started the oath before 2007 began.

This is really weird stuff. (via lvgleaner)

Thu, 01/04/2007 - 12:11pm

Catching up

It's been awhile.

Brown, Ford, and Hussein died. (They need one more for a bridge game.)

Many top ten lists have been released, reminding me that movies take a long time to come out when you live in a third tier city. (Still waiting for Volver, Pan's Labyrinth, and Children of Men.) And that the music world is way too big and fractured to make any casual sense of. And that I rarely read recently published books.

Indiana Jones 4 is finally going into production this year for a May 2008 release.

Nevada has a new governor who, in a fit of ego and self-aggrandization, was secretly sworn in at midnight on January 1st: "We didn't want any word out in advance because of the security concerns... This is a new world since 9-11 and the first major change in Nevada government since then."

I now have a Mii on my brother's Wii.

And I'm a little more than halfway through Against the Day. Turns out it's hard to find any reading time when you're home visiting family.

Tue, 01/02/2007 - 9:37am
  • The Pahrump Town Board has punted that crazy ordinance proposal I wrote about last week, and the incoming board is likely to repeal the first crazy one. And even better, unlike the meeting I went to which was dominated by white, elderly jingoists, last night's meeting was attended by hundreds from the Hispanic community. My favorite quote from the above Review-Journal article:
    One gray-haired woman held up her middle finger to the board as she stomped out of the community center following the vote.
    (1) #
    12/13/2006

Pahrump embraces absurdity

Just when I thought Pahrump's Town Board couldn't get more absurd, village "culture warrior" Michael Miraglia proposes yet another loony ordinance. This one, I kid you not, forces undocumented foreign nationals to register when entering the town, which process includes paying a $200 fee, listing all aliases and forged documents in possession, and getting fingerprinted. Failure to register leads to large fines and on the third offense, I shit you not, deportation to the country of origin by the town itself, funded by the registration fees!

Then there's what I call the ACLU tax:

CHALLENGE FEE. Any non-government agency that shall challenge this undocumented foreign national ordinance shall upon challenge pay a $ 20,000.00 fee to cover any costs which may be incurred by the Town of Pahrump. The fee shall be non-refundable and shall be used for any legal challenges that may be incurred by the Town of Pahrump by the challenging party or parties.

Ha! First they try to override the Federal government's power over immigration laws, then they try to intimidate legal challengers with expensive, shall we say, First Amendment fees!? I don't have enough imagination to predict what they'll come up with next, but for now, here's the full text of the proposed ordinance to keep you entertained.

Thu, 12/07/2006 - 4:59pm

Liberty dies in Pahrump

Last night, I was one of around 250 people who witnessed the Pahrump Town Board vote 3-2 to enact the “English Language and Patriot Reaffirmation Ordinance”. It was a hostile angry mob environment and -- much to the liking of most of the Pahrump residents at the meeting, I'm sure -- I left town soon after it passed sorry that I had to spend $10 on gas in town to get the car over the mountain pass back to Las Vegas.

The passed resolution is similar to the original one proposed with a few of the more grossly unconstitutional items removed. There are several ins-and-outs to the resolution, but let me state the two major issues discussed at the meeting:

  1. The resolution requires all government business to be conducted in English, and denies town "benefits" (of which none currently exist, since they informally declared emergency services not a "benefit") to be given to illegal immigrants.
  2. The resolution denies private residences and businesses the right to fly alone the flag of a nation other than the United States.

When the resolution was announced by one of the town board members, the mostly white and elderly crowd cheered and hollered. Soon afterwards they opened the floor to public comment. Lee was one of the first in line, and as soon as she introduced herself as a staff attorney of the Nevada ACLU, the crowd booed and shouted her down. This was a medium-sized room packed to the rim with very hostile people, mostly not interested in civil discourse. If it wasn't for the five to seven cops in the room, I would not have felt safe.

Lee's three minutes of time were constantly interrupted with boos and insults, but here's what she got through: 1) If the resolution was strictly an English-language resolution, the ACLU might not have even been there [cheers], but then there's this section about flags. Is it really in the spirit of the First Amendment to prevent an American citizen from celebrating St. Patrick's Day with an Irish flag, or an Italian restaurant advertising with an Italian flag, or even a former Southerner from putting up a Confederate flag? 2) Since the flag section is blatantly unconstitutional, Pahrump will be fiscally responsible for any legal fees when the lawsuit is inevitably successful, costing the town hundreds of thousands of dollars ["Extortion!"] for the sake of a symbolic gesture.

But the crowd would have none of it. After several members of the board aggressively told Lee that her time was up, despite the fact a large chunk of her time was taken up by shouts from the mob, several more people went up to comment, some for, some against. Those that spoke for the resolution did not seem to realize that it mostly affects government business, which already is conducted in English. They spoke about frustrations with having to choose a language at the Wal-Mart checkout counter, about the wars they had fought in and how it pains them to hear Spanish spoken in their daily lives, about the jobs the low-wage Mexican workers are taking from them. Perhaps they realized that the resolution did not speak to these so-called problems, but still they supported the symbolic fuck-you.

Those that spoke against it brought up the First Amendment. They spoke about our veterans who fought in other countries to defend our rights, and the melting pot history of America. One woman, a member of the Cherokee Nation, mourned that she wouldn't be able to put up the flag of her heritage. The crowd was more respectful to these speakers than they were to the ACLU, but still the arguments fell on deaf ears.

And here's where I want to make clear that I don't think the Pahrump citizens supporting this amendment are necessarily bad people. (Although I might want to say that about the board members who spearheaded the resolution.) They are frustrated with the global economy, scared to see their culture fading away, and are generally doing what humans tend to do: clinging to their past, wallowing in their comforts. I'm not upset with them to some degree because, even though this resolution passed and they won the battle, they know they are losing the war. Many of them will soon die, and they will then be remembered mostly in Jerry Bruckheimer films and books by Tom Brokaw. Their culture is indeed fading away, as all generational cultures do. The real tragedy is what they can do in their final, desperate years by reacting to their fears and forgetting the moral basis of their great country.

It was clear during the course of the night that the crowd wasn't there to speak for the resolution as it was written, but to merely voice their displeasure of the changing world. One of the board members against the resolution said most of the illegal activity can be reduced by better enforcing extant laws -- it didn't matter, the Spanish-speakers must go. And so they cheered and hollered on a resolution that probably wouldn't have been out of place in Castro's Cuba or Franco's Spain, putting the mob flame to the Bill of Rights. The resolution will be overturned by the courts, if the next Pahrump town board doesn't repeal it first, but still the racial intimidation will live on. By the way, if hearing the above angers you, and you're wondering what you can do, perhaps now is not a bad time to give the minimum of $20 it takes to become a member of the ACLU.

A final thought: while I've said that I don't entirely blame the populace of Pahrump for passing such an initiative, I can't help wishing that they are in some form punished for the unethical behavior of the town board. They may feel the fiscal pain of losing their day in court, or the economic slump of threatened immigrant residents leaving the town, but let's be honest: Pahrump is a quickly growing town, and construction money is pouring in (even if in small, low-wage packets to people who don't speak fluent English).

So here is my Pahrump curse: may they experience continual massive growth; may people whose ways are unfamiliar to theirs pour in, buying cookie-cutter houses by the thousands; may the sprawling developments replicate virally over their desert landscape, exponentially increasing until that one inevitable day arrives, that day where their population ticker flips up to that magical 400,000 where state law kicks in and their brothels have to close shop; and on that day may they look around and not see that unique Pahrump that they grew up in, but a Pahrump that's merely a satellite development of Las Vegas, a characterless suburban sprawl indistinguishable from, say, Centennial; a Pahrump that is Pahrump no more, clutching only to their history. And then the permanent oil supply decline will begin...

Wed, 11/15/2006 - 11:46am
  • The story of Malachi Ritscher, a longtime fixture in the Chicago experimental music scene, who committed suicide by self-immolation last week in protest of the Iraq War. (18) #
    11/14/2006

Election 2006

Question 7

After a well-needed rest yesterday, I'm back to say a few things about what transpired on November 7th, 2006. Most of you already know that Nevada's Question 7, the Regulation of Marijuana Initiative, for which I spearheaded the Internet campaign, did not pass. The final breakdown was 44% for, 56% against. Let me say a few things about this.

First, the good news: we did 5 points better than the similar initiative that failed in 2002 with only 39% of the vote -- that equates to about 100,000 55,000 more votes for ending marijuana prohibition in Nevada over four years, although some of that number naturally comes from the population growth in the past few years. But because the actual percentage went up, we clearly won over a new group of voters. Unlike in 2002, we outright won a county with 53% of the vote (the libertarian-oriented Storey County, home of Virginia City) and nearly won Washoe County, home of Reno and the second-biggest county in the state, with 48%. Washoe, incidentally, is considered a more conservative county than Clark County, the home of Las Vegas; it has more Republicans registered than Democrats, the opposite of Clark. Washoe also had a higher turnout rate than Clark County.

Some good news also came by way of the exit polling results, although, being a statistical sampling, they can't be considered entirely reliable. In any case, the exit polls showed us winning among the Latino population, which I imagine will only get bigger in the upcoming years. We also won outright among Democrats and Independents, taking all of our losses among Republicans (which, I admit, doesn't exactly jive with Washoe's results). We broke about even with union members (even though almost every union publicly came out against us), and easily won the 18-29 age group.

Now let's look at the not-so-good news: we only got 44% in Clark County, seeing nary a difference from the state results in this heavily Democratic county. Incidentally, turnout was the lowest in the state in Clark County, meaning that despite our herculean efforts, we couldn't get out the transient population as much as we would've liked. Clearly, we didn't do so well in the rest of the rural counties, which make up about 1/6th of the state's population. Moving over to the exit polls, we received only 40% of the African-American vote. (The White vote was similar to the final results.) We did 3 points better among men than among women. And while we ran a close race in every age group above 29 and below 60, we got killed by the elderly population in Nevada. In fact, it wouldn't be far-fetched to say that we lost the campaign essentially because we couldn't convince the elderly population that the harms of prohibition are worse than the harms of marijuana.

And really, while I'm not happy about it, that result makes sense. We're talking about the generations of people older than the Baby Boomers who never lived in a culture -- even as youths -- where marijuana use was common and accepted. This World War II generation generally looked down upon the late-60's culture. They never smoked marijuana in dorm rooms while listening to Sinatra and, from what I've seen in movies, preferred the poison served in highballs than from the cannabis plant. It seems fairly obvious to me that when the Baby Boomers become the predominant elderly population, marijuana prohibition will be on its last legs.

The last thing I want to mention is what a damn good campaign we ran. Every single member of the senior staff was not only competent, but passionate about the cause and creative in their ideas. We had no major missteps, and quite a few breakthroughs that impressed the media, both local and national. Our campaign manager Neal was anal about our messaging, but it's clear from the end results that our commercials paid off handsomely. And I do feel that, with my colleague Sean (and with the ideas of the entire staff, especially Neal's initial vision), we put together one of the most Internet-savvy statewide campaigns I've ever seen. Because all of our phone banking and data entry tools were written for the web, the hundreds of thousands of calls and data entries made (with the help of bar scanners) were all done on Linux computers, except for those done over the web by our volunteers. Our blog had over 600 posts during the campaign, thanks to our Communications staff, and our message board was sometimes too popular. We put over 80 videos up on YouTube and received nearly cumulative 100,000 views of those videos. We had over 6,000 MySpace friends. During the 15 days of voting, we used the Google Map API to allow any voter in Washoe and Clark counties to find and get directions to their nearest voting locations. And we text messaged thousands of voters and volunteers with voting locations and information about how they could help. We did a lot more than that for our internal politicking, but I won't get into it here.

On a final note, I should say that while Question 7's loss was hard for all of us at the campaign, Wednesday was still a great day to wake up to. I, of course, was thrilled to hear that American voters finally decided to show their displeasure with the Republican party, sweeping in a Democratic House and Senate and sweeping out Donald Rumsfeld. I was happy that South Dakota voted down the abortion ban (but alas, medical marijuana failed there with 48% of the vote) and that Arizona voted down a gay marriage ban. Unfortunately, the Democratic wave that hit the country must have been blocked by the very same mountains that divide Nevada from the verdant valleys of California. The Democratic candidate governor got about the same percentage of the vote as Question 7, even after her Republican opponent was caught up in three scandals, one sexual, one financial, and the third hypocritical. While some of the higher offices such as attorney general and treasurer went Democratic, the Republicans held onto the one Senate seat up for grabs and the two competitive House seats. However, on a what is to me a cosmically hilarious note, the heavily-funded attempt by casinos to confuse voters from implementing a smoking ban failed -- which means the Nevada of chain-smoking marathons of video poker in grocery stores and 7-11's will be gone within a month. I'll say more on this later, but let me end with this: the greatest trick that Nevada ever pulled was convincing the world that it is libertarian.

Thu, 11/09/2006 - 12:12pm
  • Today is Election Day. Wherever you are, make sure you get out and vote. If you're in Nevada, get out and vote Yes on Question 7. Here's the sixth, and final, webisode following the marijuana campaign:
    (11) #
    11/7/2006