Scenes From the Recession in North Las Vegas, Pt. 1

A lot of public services are being cut around the country, I’m sure, as municipalities run out of money.  However, I think we in North Las Vegas have a uniquely extreme situation.

Everyone knows that this has been the hardest hit area in the whole country–last month, in an unprecedented move to slow the financial hemorrhaging, our city council declared a state of emergency.

As debates continue about union contracts, recreation centers, and public services in general, one desperate act by local leaders has hit my family especially close to home.

They cut the library’s hours.

This is really only a minor inconvenience, sure, and other library districts have cut their hours, also, but the result here seems acutely sad to me, and not just because my family loves the library so much.

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The Simpsons and the Nevada GOP Caucus

In a classic fifth season episode of The Simpsons, we see brief glimpses of conventions held by the two major political parties.  The Republican convention is a scene of unmitigated evil.  The Democratic convention is shown as a bunch of goofy losers who can’t do anything right.

If those stereotypes held true, then Nevada’s Republican caucus last weekend must have been organized by Democrats.  Actually, that’s the best explanation I can think of: our caucus was so disorganized, so poorly advertised, and so confusing because our political opponents sabotaged it somehow!

But sadly, no, it was our own fault.  The Republican party has a long history of incompetence in Southern Nevada, but this event may be the pinnacle of that shoddy record.  Continue reading

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Ron Paul Protest Vote in Nevada Caucus?

The Nevada GOP caucus is Saturday.  Here’s an idea I’ve been toying with:

Mitt Romney will win.  It won’t even be close–he won 51% of the vote here in the 2008 caucus.

Like a lot of conservatives, I’m a little torn between Romney and Paul.  But since it’s a sure thing that Romney will win here, what if we all decided to vote for Ron Paul just to send a message to Romney?

A strong second place showing here for Paul would tell Romney that we’re serious about cutting government size and spending, and that liberal overuse of the military–by both parties–needs to be kept in check.

Could this backfire and actually make Paul win?  Not likely.  How many people will actually see this and respond to it in the next few days?  Besides, even if Paul did win here, Romney would still be by far the most successful candidate nationwide–the nomination’s as good as his.  Like him or not, we all just need to prepare to vote for him in November.

But if we give Ron Paul a strong showing on Saturday, perhaps we could help ensure that Romney governs more conservatively.

Two Views From Hilltop Campground

Here are two photos from my family’s campout this week at Mt. Charleston’s Hilltop campground.

Looking southeast from Mt. Charleston's Hilltop campground, into the Las Vegas valley.

Las Vegas sits at around 2000 feet above sea level; this campground, 8400 feet.  To help visualize the distances here, see that little white line sticking up from the valley on the right?  That’s the Stratosphere Tower.  It’s 1149 feet tall. 

I tried to get a shot of this view at night, with a mostly full moon hanging over the city lights, but my camera isn’t strong enough.

Looking northeast from Hilltop campground across the Nevada interior

The Educational Rapture

From the Holy Book of Teacheriah, an Epistle to the Unionians, chapter 5, verses 5-10:

5  And in that great and last day, there shall be a famine of public-sector budgets in the land, and the houses of learning shall be in mighty want;

6  And there shall arise many great heroes, like unto the saints of old, who shall go forth armed with self righteous power to do battle with the Anti-Nice, that fiend who fails to respond to demands for funding, and his legion of dragons, the Fiscally Conservative Beast;

7  But lo, and verily, those Holy Activists, clothed with authority by virtue of their indignation, shall cleanse the lepers and raise the dead, and they shall multiply the few scant dollars in the treasury to become many millions, that thus the ancient bureaucracy may continue to thrive;

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Let’s Not Tell Students the Sky Is Falling

Two Saturdays ago the following letter of mine appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.  In the ongoing budget kerfuffle, I worry that the rhetoric of some of my teacher colleagues has crossed the line into irresponsible territory.  Frankly, even the insinuation that money is the biggest factor in student achievement is bothersome.  Yes, there are things we need funding for, but why haven’t we gotten this fired up over the epidemic of failure in our schools? 

Astute readers will recognize that this letter canibalizes part of a post I put up here about a month ago. 

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As a fellow English teacher, I appreciated Elizabeth Strehl’s Wednesday letter in defense of education spending, but I can’t condone her statement that, “If the proposed budget cuts to education happen, our schools and therefore our children may never recover.”

Perhaps such education advocates are exaggerating to emphasize their point, but can’t these academic Chicken Littles see the danger of their hyperbole? If these budget cuts do pass, what message have we now sent to our students? Might young people pick up on the idea that their fate has been sealed and that further work is pointless? Might the economic situation be used by some as an excuse for failure?

Lobbying for schools is noble, but I hope the fatalism so prominent in this conversation won’t turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

To all students out there: The ultimate force in your academic achievement isn’t the money coming from politicians, it’s the effort that comes from you. Don’t take our concern over the budget the wrong way. No matter what happens, we believe in you. Your future will always be yours to control.

An Attempt At Activism

Last December I was in a church meeting and had an idea: I knew what I thought the biggest factor was in our problems with education as institution around here, but nobody was talking about it.  Nevada’s huge divorce rate (and, based on informal observation, cohabitation rate), was creating a poor environment for learning.  Awareness needed to be raised. 

So in my spare time I worked on a letter asking local leaders to familiarize themselves with the problem and address it.  A week and a half ago it was finished and I sent it out.  I included excerpts from summaries of dozens of studies that backed up the obvious–family structure is a major factor in educational success. 

But so far, zero response.  I’m not sure what I expected.  Is it asking too much that a city in an academic disaster take seriously a critical but neglected cause of that problem?  I suppose the budget crisis is more glamorous to report on, and my issue can’t compete with the political drama these days. 

Here’s the letter I sent, along with the 25 recipients, who maybe just haven’t gotten around to it, yet.  Maybe I need to take more of a grassroots approach.  Right now, I’m just sorry I spent half of my personal allowance for the month on postage for this!

March 31, 2011

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

Education in Nevada is unacceptably unsuccessful.  We are near or in last place for student proficiency, achievement, and graduation rates.  Recent budget problems have many worried that things may get even worse.  Our children’s future is in a state of emergency.

While many in our area wonder why students aren’t more successful, there’s one important factor that is usually ignored: too many students fall behind and fail because their parents aren’t married.  Several other factors are often mentioned, such as poverty, but, as seen in the enclosed materials, a major cause of poverty is fractured families. Continue reading

You Voted For Harry Reid

I have a bone to pick, but not with the many people who voted for Harry Reid because they agree with his principles.  That’s a choice of conscience, and I respect that.  Rather, I wish to criticize those who might have voted for Sharron Angle—probably even would have—but were swayed by Reid’s negative campaigning. 

Are you happy now?  Since November, Reid’s two biggest missions have been starting a crusade against rural brothels, and using his platform in the Senate to champion federal funding for cowboy poetry.  Always good to see real leaders, men with their priorities straight. 

And why is our time being wasted on such embarrassing trivia? 

Because you voted for Harry Reid. 

Reid had some of the lowest approval ratings of anyone, ever.  Angle had very high poll numbers.  But as the campaign drew to a close, the Reid machine launched an all-out professional assault on Angle’s character.  And you bought it.

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Education Activism and Unintended Consequences

I sent the following as a letter to the Las Vegas Review-Journal a week ago.  Apparently, they didn’t want to run it, so here it is:

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There has been much sound and fury of late from well-meaning Nevadans regarding Governor Sandoval’s proposed budget cuts to education, but in their zeal they may have set up a tragedy.

Many of my fellow teachers and parents have been saying that these budget cuts would prove disastrous to education in Nevada. Dire predictions of doom and gloom abound that, should the budget cuts materialize, Nevada students would be condemned to eternal ignorance.

Perhaps they’re exaggerating to emphasize their point, but can’t these academic Jeremiahs see the danger of their hyperbole? If these budget cuts do pass, what message has this community now sent to our students? Might young people pick up on the idea that their fate has been sealed, and that further effort is hopeless? Might the economic situation, at the very least, be used by some as an excuse for failure?

Lobbying for schools is noble, but hopefully the fatalism so prominent in this conversation won’t turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Clark County and Nevada Ballot Questions

Question #1: Shall the Nevada Constitution be amended to provide for the appointment of Supreme Court justices and District Court judges by the Governor for their initial terms from lists of candidates nominated by the Commission on Judicial Selection, with subsequent retention of those justices and judges after independent performance evaluations and voter approval?

A lot of conservatives are supporting this one, and I completely see their point: voters tend to put stupid people in office.  Case in point: Elizabeth Halverson.  Having judges temporarily appointed would solve that. 

But here’s why I oppose it.  First, just because the people are not doing their research and getting involved is no reason to take away their authority to choose their judges.  We should never, ever give away any of our autonomy.  Agreeing with the mindset that elites should take care of us can only lead to tyranny. 

Second, though there are areas in American politics where some leaders are chosen for us by other leaders (and before the seventeenth amendment, there used to be more), in those cases the latter were elected with the understanding that they would choose the former.  Such would not be the case here, where a committee of lawyers and other yahoos would have that power, but would not be picked by us for that purpose. 

Third, how does this guarantee there won’t be incompetence or corruption?  Unless this new selection committee is headed by Elliott Ness, they’ll be susceptible to mistakes and worse. 

No, Nevada, do not give up your power to choose your judges.

Vote: NO

Question #2: Shall the Nevada Constitution be amended to allow for the establishment of an intermediate appellate court, that would have jurisdiction over appeals of certain civil and criminal cases arising from the district courts?

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Clark County / Nevada Election Endorsements

My research for this relied heavily on the endorsements offered by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun, both of which I studied in detail.  I also checked out some other organizations, such as Nevada Concerned Citizens‘ endorsements, my own comments from the primaries, and, of course, I googled each candidate and reviewed their web sites.  Here’s what I came up with. 

Ballot questions will be handled in another post. 

SENATE

I won’t repeat everything I’ve already said here many times about this race, but suffice it to say…

Vote for: Sharron Angle

CONGRESS, DISTRICT 1

Kenneth Wegner has not campaigned aggressively, nor has the party supported him sufficiently.  I love his signs, but that’s hardly enough to be taken seriously.  At the same time, Democratic incumbent Shelley Berkley is strong.  I saw a billboard for her last week that simply said something like, “Honesty.  Integrity.  Hard Work.”  Know what?  I can’t deny that.  She’s clean of scandals and has a good reputation. 

Basically, this race is pointless.  She’ll win by about a zillion percent. 

Still, Berkley voted for the stimulus and ObamaCare.  So…

Vote for: Kenneth Wegner

Incidentally, even though it’s not in my district, I hope people for Joe Heck instead of Dina Titus for the other Congressional seat up for grabs this year.  Titus is just as liberal as Berkley, and has run a foul, dishonest campaign against Heck.  Dr. Heck, on the other hand, is a consistently conservative leader with the dedication we need to help our state.

GOVERNOR

Meanwhile, Brian Sandoval actually is ahead of Rory Reid by about a zillion points, so this one’s pointless, too!

By the way, if all of the conservatives who oppose illegal immigration are doing it because we hate Hispanics so much, why are we giving one a landslide victory in the election for our governor?  Hmmm, maybe the left’s convenient assumptions about us aren’t accurate after all…

Vote for: Brian Sandoval

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Is It a Senator’s Job to Create Jobs?

Nevada senate candidate Sharron Angle says it’s not her job to create jobs and incumbent Harry Reid mocks her for it.  Nevada Congresswoman Dina Titus now airs ads likewise slamming opponent Joe Heck for saying the same thing.  This clearly appeals to voters: many are our of work, or know people who are, and we’re all scared. 

But convenient mocking aside, who’s right?  Is it the job of senators to create jobs?  Well, where does it say what  a senator’s job is? 

In the Constitution, of course.  Specifically, in Article I, Section 8.  I’ve pasted it below.  Let’s see if it mentions “creating jobs.”

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The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

 [Hmmm, OK, this is about financial and defense responsibilities, but nothing about making new jobs for people…]

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At This Rate, Sharron Angle Is Going To Lose

I’ve been whining about this at home for a month now: in a race where Harry Reid should be about a zillion points behind, he and Sharron Angle are running neck and neck.  Why?  Because Reid has pulled out all the stops and Angle is running a weak, loser campaign that faithfully follows the mold of countless other GOP loser campaigns.  Who’s her manager now, anyway?  Bob Dole? 

Reid’s ads have capitalized on public fears in a big way.  He touts his pork projects as jobs “saved” (shifted, really, or bought with invisible federal funds, but I digress) and successfully paints Angle as a fringe freak. 

Angle, for her part, plays right along.  She spends her comparatively scant media dollars on ads that meekly counter Reid’s attacks, or that try to attack him on his own ground.  The very worst example is the string of ads that criticize Reid for failing to fix the economy and create more jobs.  Sharron!  You can’t claim (rightfully) that a senator’s job isn’t to create jobs, and then criticize your opponent for failing to create jobs. 

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Et Tu, Sue Lowden?

I previously criticized Republican Senate candidate Sue Lowden for a sleazy, mud-slinging TV ad which insinuated that fellow candidate Sharron Angle was in bed with the Church of Scientology and conspired with them to promote a cushy rehabilitative program for prisoners. 

Now that Angle has won the primary and is up against Harry Reid in November, the Reid machine has pulled out all the stops to incriminate her.  Sadly, the first major TV spot Reid launched against Angle last month featured footage  lifted straight from the Lowden ad! 

Please, correct me if I’m wrong–and I really do want to be wrong on this one–but I can only think of one way the Reid campaign could have legally used that footage: with the permission of the Lowden campaign that created it.  Is this right?  Did Sue Lowden help Harry Reid make a commercial to defeat the woman who defeated her?  Would she get Reid reelected just for a chance to keep smearing Angle?  I want to be wrong about this because that just seems too low for anyone to stoop. 

Here’s a screen shot of the older anti-Angle footage from the Lowden campaign, complete with the Tom Cruise picture in the corner, recycled in the Reid ad:

Here’s the whole Reid ad itself:

And, just to jog your memory, here’s the original Lowden ad with the same footage given to Reid:

Why Sue Lowden Lost Last Night, And Deserved To

It was sad to see someone with so many good qualities, someone who had herself been the target of so much unfair maligning, stoop to the level of the desperate ad that Sue Lowden ran against Sharron Angle in the final moments leading up to last night’s primary election.  I said recently that it’s a bad sign when you use the same arguments against somebody that the media machine in the other party is using, and Lowden did it.  Everybody wanted to jump onto the “Sharron Angle is in bed with Scientologists” meme, and Lowden was all too happy, it seems, to get her hands dirty, too.

The Lowden ad spoofs Angle’s investigation of a prisoner rehabilitation program that had shown some positive results.  The problem: it involved giving massages to inmates, and it was endorsed by the church of Scientology.  Angle, of course, is not a Scientologist herself–she’s a Baptist–and the program was not, so far as I know, directly related to Scientology as any kind of proselytizing attempt, but any opportunity to link your political opponents with unpopular kooks must be exploited, right? 

So when the Lowden ad mentions that the controversial program was sponsored by Scientologists, the camera pans down to show a framed portrait of Tom Cruise on a stand surrounded by candles.  The whole 30-second spot is on YouTube, but I’ve just given you the offending screen shot because I want people to focus on how outlandish it is. 

This ad, like all such ads these days, ends with Lowden proudly declaring that she “approves this message.”  Really?  You want to advertise the fact that your campaign against Angle consisted of a sleazy (and inaccurate) association with weirdos?  When Tarkanian started throwing such cheap shots at you, I said that I’d lost all respect for him.  Now it’s your turn.  You should be ashamed.  Say what you want about Sharron Angle, but at least she ran a clean campaign.