Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A broken process

A couple of news items this morning caught my eye and my ire. The first was that three initiatives circulated by the Las Vegas Sands and owner Sheldon Adelson were submitted to the County Registrar of Voters for verification yesterday. The second was that the Teacher’s Union reached a deal with three gaming companies to keep another initiative off the ballot but place an advisory question regarding an increase in the gaming tax.

I am not going to discuss the merits of any of the initiatives. I haven’t read them in their entirety and I’m sure they will be challenged in court. I cannot find fault with people using the means currently in place to ensure their interests are protected. I am going to discuss the process.

The initiative process is the wrong place to determine public policy. This needs to be done in the legislative branch of government. As the bill works through the committee and sub-committee process, it is vetted for potential pratfalls and loopholes. Areas of contention are addressed prior to a bill becoming law. All of this is skipped in the initiative process.

The Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act (I think that was the name) is a good example of why the process is flawed. Many states and counties had passed similar ordinances banning smoking in public indoor spaces. I would assume that similar attempts to pass one in Nevada were thwarted by the gaming lobby. So, in an effort to get something passed, the backers of the initiative specifically excluded the major casinos. Once passed, it was challenged and the criminal portion was thrown own, leaving the Health District to enforce the act – something they are not equipped to handle. So, the act is actually being interpreted differently in different parts of the state and you have these hokey efforts to meet the letter of the law, but not the spirit. Some restaurants closed their kitchens altogether others during off-peak hours. Some just flagrantly don’t enforce the act.

Many of these issues would have been avoided if we would have followed the “how a bill becomes a law” process we all learned in 5th grade. The language would have been crafted with court challenges in mind. The enforcement of the law would have been clear. And it would have been enforced consistently throughout the state. But the issue is that since the Legislative branch has done little, other than rubber stamp a budget, for the last 10 or so years it is no wonder that interested parties are reaching out to the initiative process.

The solution is to elect leaders who have the backbone to make tough decisions facing the state. Our elected officials need to act in our best interest, not those of the special interests. We, the citizens whom elect these individuals to serve us, need to keep an eye on our elected officials to make sure they are spending our tax dollars wisely and acting in our best interests.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Musings

A few musings this afternoon as I watch the A's lose, which makes me sad, and the Penguins rout the Flyers, which makes me mildly happy.

My sister called this morning to tell me that one of our childhood neighbors passed away this morning. Ron Crowley in many ways was like an uncle to us. The last time I saw him was three years ago before my folks moved, and he was doing well. However, years of smoking finally caught up to him. He had a portion of his lungs removed not that long ago, and recently they discovered a brain tumor. After sending him home from the hospital on Friday and brining in hospice, he passed away this morning. Mr. Crowley, you will be in our thoughts and prayers as will your wife and children Kevin and Eileen.

This makes me even more nervous for my Dad. My Dad has had a disgustingly gross cough for the last few years. His skinny as a rail, is a closet smoker and drinks probably a six pack of beer a day (at least.) What scares me the most is that he refuses to go to the doctor. My Mom, my sister, my uncle (his brother) and I have tried to get him to go the doctor. I even took him out two weeks ago to urge him to go to the doctor. My sister is pregnant with twins and Keds and I are getting ready to adopt. I used the "Beth and I want our kids to know their grandfather" line. I'm 98% certain it went in one ear and out the other. At this point, short of telling him we are going to Disneyland and taking him there under false pretenses, I don't think anything will get him there.

This was a nice, lazy weekend. We spent almost all day Saturday in the pool. Today, between the gym, church and another afternoon in the pool I think I'll be well-rested heading into the work week.

I opened up a new single-origin coffee this morning - Ethiopia Fancy. I blended it with my remaining New Guinea Highlands. It was an, um, interesting blend to say the least. I'll be interested to try it on its own tomorrow. Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, so that adds a historic element to it as well. Another shipment is on it's way. In trying to find the perfect pound that Ked and I will both enjoy, I'm trying at least one new coffee everyone shipement in addition to the New Guinea and Major D that we already like. One thing I did learn is that Keds does not like the French Press (yes Matt, I wussed out and bought one). It does make a STRONG pot of coffee, but it was different and I enjoyed it.

This week is shaping up to be busy, with a lot of after-work activities. A meeting with Jewish Family Services on Monday, the Andrew Martin for Assembly Kickoff event on Thursday and Andrew on Tuesday will make for a busy week heading into Memorial Day weekend.

Anyway, I hope y'all had great weekends as well. I've got a couple of good posts planned for the week, so let's see how that shapes up.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I keep counting down the days until January 20, 2009. The lengths that our current President will go to in order to score political points will never cease to amaze me. I appreciate a good foreign policy discussion as much as anyone. But this President has no interest in having a discussion. Instead, he took an opportunity speaking in front of the Israeli Parliament to make a political swipe and inject himself into November’s election.

True peace in the Middle East is going to be difficult. To achieve peace and stability in Israel/Palestine and Iraq will require a lot of effort on all sides. It will mean direct engagement. Calling it Appeasement is a bit like referring to our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as a new Crusade.

Our President made an already difficult situation in the Middle East worse. What he proved today is that he just doesn’t care, and that he will do anything for political gain even as he rides off into the sunset…

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

Here's a picture of me and my Mom. I just wanted to do a quick post wishing her and all the mother's out there in blog-land a very happy Mother's Day.

My Mom has always been there when I needed her. It's hard to believe that 19 years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was right after she had completed her bachelor's degree while working full-time and running a household of four. She may frustrate the living crap out of me sometimes, but I love her just the same. My life wouldn't be the same without her.

Mom, I love you. I hope you enjoyed your brunch and will continue to enjoy your Peet's Coffee (even if it is decaf!).

Friday, May 09, 2008

Friday Filibuster

Yes, please note the irony in the title. This post is going to be both politcal and more than just a quick read.

A small item made news here yesterday about a bill proposed by Congressman Dean Heller from Nevada’s First Congressional district. Don’t get me wrong, it will play well in his district that covers Reno, rural Nevada and a very small piece of Clark County. The bill is an amendment to the Voting Rights Act to remove the requirement that bilingual ballots be provided if 5 percent of the voting-age citizens are deemed limited in their English-speaking skills, as determined by the US Census.

I will admit that I have mixed feelings on this bill. To be able to vote, you need to be a US citizen. To be a US citizen, you need to pass a basic English proficiency exam. So why do we go through the taxpayer expense of printing dual-language ballots? How much English do you have to understand to read what office the candidate is running for and the candidates’ names? The complexity comes in when reading and understanding ballot initiatives. This are often very wordy and tough to follow, even for those with a firm grasp on English. It makes sense that they may need to be translated to be adequately understood.

The immigration debate in this country hasn’t changed in 200 years. It started with the first waves of non-WASP immigrants. First, it was the massive amounts of Irish immigration. The next waves were from Italy and other, poorer and mostly Roman Catholic areas of Southern Europe. Many people today don’t realize there was a serious effort to bar Catholics from both citizenship and the right to vote in the 19th century. During the California Gold Rush and construction of the transcontinental railroad, there were massive amounts of Chinese immigration. If you were to walk through the ethnic neighborhoods of any major city (New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco) during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the languages of the “old country” would have dominated. Children learned to speak English, and served as translators for their parents who had a limited grasp of the language.

The general debate hasn’t changed. The only wrinkle is that there are a substantial number of people entering the country outside of the established processes. We need to protect our borders. We need to maintain our national security.

However, the bill as proposed by Rep. Heller does nothing to secure our borders. It just makes it harder for those citizens that are still gaining confidence in English to understand ballot questions and fully participate in every voting-age citizen's civic duty – take an active interest in public affairs and vote.

We need to call this bill what it really is - an election year stunt to rekindle debate on a “wedge” issue without actually solving things. Chances are Rep. Heller was only asked to propose this bill because it will play well in Reno, Pahrump, Ely and the rest of rural Nevada.

This country has real problems that need to be solved. People are losing their homes. Our military is under-funded and stretched thin in two theaters, compromising their effectiveness. Our infrastructure is old and at greater risk of failing.

Introducing this bill is a bigger waste of taxpayer money than printing bilingual ballots. I only hope that Jill Derby can use this argument against Congressman Heller. It's obvious to me that he is not independent and simply a tool for Republican leadership.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Work Update

I'm sure several of you (need to be realistic here) are wondering how the new job is going. Generally speaking, it's going well. The worst part of it is commuting to and from work every day and getting up at 5 a.m. so I can be there by 7. Everyone is nice, and very supportive. They are making sure that I am set up for success, which is AWESOME. It's just that horrid part of a new job where you know you are competent, but aren't completely independent yet. However, I spoke to my boss yesterday and he's very pleased with my development. So things are going well. I should get my benefits packet in the next couple of days (YAY) so we can stop paying COBRA...

However, starting a new job has led to some other adjustments. I'm trying to maintain a healthy diet and exercising regimen. It's just easier said than done. The diet isn't too hard, it's just finding a way to make it into the gym as often. And when I get to the gym, I'm freakin' exhausted. My trainer even commented that I am gassing out a lot faster than I used to - the effort is still there, but energy is not.

I'm sure I'll adjust in due time. Until then, I just need to keep on truckin'...

Monday, May 05, 2008

Weekend Update

Before our trips to LA and Florida, Keds and I agreed that we were not going to make any plans for this past weekend. We were going to take the weekend to rest, recover and recuperate. Well, that got thrown out the window even before we left for LA.

Saturday morning was the Komen Race for the Cure. Since my Mom is a 19 year survivor and my company was sponsoring a team, we decided to do it. I registered us both for the 5K walk. While we are in better shape today, neither of us could see doing the run. However, about ¾ of a mile in, we were wondering why we didn’t sign up for the mile fun walk. Oh well, a nice 3.1 mile walk on Saturday morning never hurt anyone.

We did manage to keep some down time on Saturday afternoon. We decided it was time best spent in our 92 degree pool. Needless to say, it was more than pleasant. We both got a little sun and it provided some much-needed down time. After that, we headed over to a Meet and Greet with Tom Collins, our Clark County Commissioner. The candidate didn’t stick around very long, but we visited with some folks we know, Keds got to meet a bunch of the political types I’ve been talking to, and I think we made a new friend. Not too bad for a little bbq, I would say! Then it was off to Paymon’s for dinner, which is always yummy.

Sunday was a little more crazy. Keds and Mom went to Trader Joe’s and Costco. I met Dad out at his watering hole for a “father-son chat.” You see, Dad has this lovely rattling cough. He’s a not-so-closet smoker and refuses to go see the doctor. I get that when you are feeling ganged up on, you did your heels in and you may be just a little bit scared, but sticking your head in the sand won’t fix it. It could very easily be what kills him and ends up being a drag on Mom as well. I took a different tactic this time. Given that he will be a grandfather in the not-so-distant future, I used the imagery of his own Dad and wanted him to be around to know his grandkids. I got the impression I was talking to a brick wall, but we’ll see.

Sunday night was typical dinner with Mom and Dad. However I got the break out my new French Press. I didn’t use my favorite sort of coffee (code for ‘Not Peet’s’), but some decaf sitting around since Christmas. Adding insult to injury, I ground the beans a little too fine. Mom dug it, I enjoyed it but Dad left half his cup sitting there saying it was “chewy.” This from the man that still asks if it’s Brim…

Monday came way too fast. Getting up at 5 a.m. SUCKS, but I’m enjoying things and getting myself a routine set up.