It ‘s time to go.

The American military involvement in the Iraq War has caused almost 4,500 American deaths and over 33,000 wounded -- and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi casualties. The war has cost American taxpayers over $780 billion at a time when domestic programs are being slashed.

Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) are asking colleagues to sign a letter to the President urging all troops to leave by the end of the year.

They write: “Leaving troops and military contractors in Iraq beyond the deadline is not in our nation’s security interests, it is not in our nation’s strategic interests, and it is not in our nation’s economic interests.”

I hope both Reps. Shelley Berkley and Joe Heck will sign-on to their letter. 

Maintaining U.S. troops in a hostile environment when an overwhelming majority of the population is adamantly opposed to their presence is not only foolhardy but also counter-productive, especially when there is an agreement with the host nation government to withdraw them by a date certain.

It is evident that U.S. troops are not welcome in Iraq. Should the Iraqi government reluctantly agree to allow U.S. forces to remain in country despite the provision of the Status of Forces agreement to the contrary, its delicate political balance is likely to crumble, and a small contingent of American combat troops will be sitting ducks, subject to attack.  As an American Army infantryman who was in VietNam during the final stages of our involvement in that conflict, I know that only too well.

The time has come for all American combat troops and military contractors to withdraw from Iraq in accordance with Status of Forces agreement.


New GOP Governor wants casinos to pay more

   The recently-elected conservative Republican Governor said yesterday:  "Are these casino operators, who are going to make a lot of money off the state, are they willing to do a little bit to help us in the tough budget times? Are they willing to give us a little more money to help our schools? ...”

   And just what tax structure wasn’t high enough?  Casino operators pay $50 million each in state license fees and a 33% tax on gross revenue – PLUS the casinos pay the state’s regular business activities tax based on gross receipts - before paying out winnings.  However, this still isn’t adequate for the state’s pro-business Governor. 

    Gov. John Kasich (former Congressman & former Fox News Commentator) made those comments about the companies that are now establishing casinos in Columbus, Toledo, Cleveland and Cincinnati, Ohio. 

   How does Nevada’s recently-elected conservative Republican Governor feel about whether gaming is taxed adequately with a maximum tax of 6.75% on gross gaming revenue and no business activity tax?


Redistricting must be objective and make sense

Let’s try to ignore the foulness of this year’s election for a while, and think of something else:  like, the next election – 2012. 

Kyle Gillis, new investigative reporter at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, published an excellent article this week “What happened to One Person, One Vote? Nevada’s legislative district lines are constitutionally dubious.”  He tells the ugly history of Reapportionment-Past and shows that thoughtful folks of various political persuasions agree that something more rational should be done.  However, no specific proposals for Reapportionment-Future were presented.  In, 7 Steps to Reinventing Nevada, though, I have offered what seems to me to be a practical solution.

During the next two years, the redrawing of the lines of all the election districts in Nevada will take place.  For decades, we have had to live with incredibly gerrymandered maps drawn with one basic, overriding consideration:  preserving the status quo – keeping incumbents in office and making the overwhelming number of seats “safe” for one party or the other.  This removes the slightest possibility that an uprising of Nevada voters might actually have the power to affect or influence the results of major elections.  This process has resulted in many very oddly shaped districts that split neighborhoods and cities and diminish the voting power of many communities with shared interests.  Additionally, it leads to unnecessary confusion among voters.

Unfortunately, most people are unaware of the vast effect which redistricting has upon the political process, so they leave it up to the politicians to do themselves.  That must change – districts must be drawn objectively using principles of compactness, contiguity, competitiveness, and preserving communities.

I propose creating an independent, five-person commission to perform redistricting – with the Legislature then only having the option of a “yea” or “nay” vote on adopting a plan – no self-serving amendments allowed.  The four legislative leaders would each appoint a member and the Governor would appoint the fifth.  There would be a condition that districts be compact and, when possible, utilize existing city, county and geographical boundaries.  And, they must not be drawn to favor or disfavor incumbents or political parties.

          Note: I’m confident Kyle Gillis will continue to offer thoughtful analysis of Nevada’s political environment. While I’m also sure I won’t always be in agreement, he’ll make us think.  And, for a Michigan native & Albion College grad, I would expect no less.


Bill for Internet Blacklist on fast-track

 Just the other day, President Obama urged other countries to stop censoring the Internet. But now the US Congress is trying to censor the Internet here at home. This week the Senate is racing to pass a new bill creating an Internet blacklist.  Instead of having to go to court and get “illegal” sites blocked, the Attorney General could bypass due process and just censor the websites he/she doesn't like.  And what is the cause of this rush to pass such a momentous piece of legislation? Is it “national security?” Could it be the massive amount of identify-theft email scams we are all receiving?  No – it is the financial interests of corporate copyright holders that demand further protection.  I do believe their rights are important – but not to the extent that freedom of access to information, due process, and the presumption of innocence until found guilty are sacrificed. The first vote on this bill is expected this week - where do the members of Nevada's Congressional delegation stand?

For more information: BoingBoing, Daring Fireball, Reddit, Salon.com, Huffington Post, Washington Post, PC World, FireDogLake.


Nevada still projected to gain new congressional seat for 2012

 This morning, Politico reported that the most up-to-date projections of the 2010 census data, reconfirm the likelihood that Nevada will gain a 4th Congressional seat by next election.  Many locals have been concerned that, with the tide of population leaving Nevada the last two years, we wouldn’t have grown enough during the past decade to qualify.  However, it appears that Nevada, along with Utah, Arizona and Washington, will gain one additional seat.  Meanwhile, Michigan and a bunch of Midwest states lose a seat; New York and Ohio, lose 2.  While these estimates likely will be close to the official outcome, there are no guarantees until the Census Bureau’s scheduled announcement in late December of the final Census population totals for the 50 states.