Harry acts single-handedly to shut off 800,000 acres of Nevada from productive use

Oh, Harry, you’ve done it again.

Sen. Harry Reid has once again given the middle finger salute to his constituents, introducing a bill to close off from productive use 805,100 acres of federal land he is calling the “Garden Valley Withdrawal Area” with Senate Bill 2820.

It has no co-sponsors and has in the past been opposed by local officials.

Ed Higbee, chairman of the Lincoln County Commission, told the Las Vegas newspaper it’s hard to swallow restricting development on so much county land. “That’s a huge view-shed,” Higbee said. “We don’t want that to become a national conservation area.”

Reid made a similar proposal in 2010, and that too was met with opposition.

Michael Heizer (NYT photo)

Nye County Commissioner Lorinda Wichman, whose vast district includes the Garden Valley area, told the paper she said she would want to hear from neighboring residents before taking a position on the bill.

Though Reid’s brief bill draft makes no mention of it, nestled in the middle of this vast swath of barren land is “artist” Michael Heizer’s 30-acre earthen and concrete project called “City,” started in 1970 and was scheduled for completion in 2010, according to the artist’s website. The project is expected to cost $25 million.

“Citing safety and artistic reasons, Heizer has disallowed all visitation of the work in progress,” the website says. “Heizer owns all of the property around the work and has marked the access to the site with a sign that prohibits trespassing. The Dia Foundation has indicated that once the work is completed, it will be open it to the public.”

It is unclear what impact withdrawal of the surrounding land from development might have on access to the “art” project.

Artist Heizer told The New York Times in 2005, “You just don’t get it, do you? This is a czarist nation, a fascist state. They control everything. They tap my phone. They’ll do anything to stop me. We’re the front lines, man, fleas fighting a giant.”

This was the same article in which Heizer railed against the invasion of the area by railroads, wells electric power lines while ”sniveling toady” politicians do nothing.

The Review-Journal story says land use “restrictions would not affect current valid land use such as grazing, but it would forbid the Bureau of Land Management from selling any land or granting permits for oil or mineral prospecting. Activities for new geothermal, solar or wind energy development also would be restricted.” The bill draft specifies geothermal, but makes no mention of solar or wind, which are among Reid’s favorite toys to fund with your money.

At one time, the Department of Energy proposed building a railroad line across the area to haul nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain, a project opposed by Reid.


City, an art project near the Lincoln and Nye counties border. (NYT photo)

R-J graphic



Who is telling the big lies about health care research?

Bilbray and Heck (R-J photo)

Never let the facts get in the way of a campaign theme.

Democrat Erin Bilbray, in a debate with incumbent Republican Congressman Joe Heck covered by the Las Vegas newspaper, accused Heck and all GOP lawmakers of being responsible for the presence of Ebola due to federal budget cuts for health research.

Heck pointed out that Congress this year voted to boost funding for the Centers for Disease Control by 8.2 percent.

“Our CDC needs to be funded. Our hospitals are not prepared to address this issue,” Bilbray insisted.

IBD graphic

She obviously is getting her talking points from this administration.

CDC head Thomas Frieden blamed budget cuts when he said, “There are outbreaks happening today that we’re not able to recognize, stop or prevent as effectively as we should be able to.”

The head of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, said if there had been no budget cuts “we probably would have had (an Ebola) vaccine in time for this.”

All lies. There have been no budget cuts. The CDC’s budget is 25 percent higher in 2008 and 188 percent higher than in 2000. The NIH budget is double that of 14 years ago.

It ain’t how much money they get that matters, but how they spend it.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, the NIH has spent more than $39 million on valuable research to cure what ails us.

For example, the agency spent:

— $2,873,440 trying to figure out why lesbians are obese.

— $466,642 to find out why fat girls have a tough time getting dates.

—  $2,075,611 encouraging old people to join choirs.

— $674,590 texting drunks in bars to try to get them to stop drinking.

— $2,101,064 on wearable insoles and buttons that can track a person’s weight, and $374,670 to put on fruit and vegetable puppet shows for preschoolers.

— $275, 227 on new children’s menus.

— $430,608 for mother-daughter dancing outreach to fight obesity.

— $105,066 following 16 schizophrenic LGBT Canadians for a study on their community experiences.

— And my favorite, $2,466,482 to a researcher to develop “origami condoms,” in male, female, and anal versions. The inventor has been accused of fraud for using grant money for plastic surgery and parties at the Playboy mansion.

— $5 million to “mine and analyze” social media to study American’s attitudes toward drug abuse, and $306,900 to use Twitter for surveillance on depressed people.

Free Beacon noted that Health and Human Services has just recently contracted with an outside source to spend $8.6 million to research and test an Ebola vaccine.


The sin of omission

The Las Vegas newspaper has a story on the death of its long-time features editor, Frank Fertado, 65.

The Review-Journal story recounts his three decades with the paper as an innovator and dedicated manager, pointing out the improvements he heralded. He launched the Friday Neon entertainment section. He brought on board movie, food, music and television reviewers. He created the annual Best of Las Vegas.

It quoted friends and co-workers about his genial nature, passion and dedication.

But the newspaper account falsely says he “retired in September 2012 after newsroom reorganization consolidated the positions of features and sports editor.” He did not retire. He was retired.

Frank Fertado

The paper’s story neglected to point out that Frank was one of the editors who were crumpled up like yesterday’s newspaper and summarily tossed out two years ago — without explanation, without rationale, without any recognition of his decades of service, devotion and long hours, without any compassion whatsoever. He was devastated. Where else at his age was there to go?

The story quotes two of the people who were kicked to the curb along with Fertado, without bothering to mention their ousters either.

Nor does it mention that Frank grew to abhor the Best of Las Vegas feature, which had morphed from a tip of the hat to Las Vegas achievers into an annual excuse to extort advertisers, turning the editorial content from whimsical and amusing into rote spewing of ink to wrap around the ads.

“It’s a great loss. Frank was a real pro. … His influence continues to be reflected in the R-J today and will be well into the future,” the story quoted the newspaper’s editor, Mike Hengel, as saying.

Two years ago this was the excuse for the management blood bath:

“I am sorry to have to take these painful steps,” Hengel said. “All of these individuals have helped to make the Review-Journal the dominant source of news and information in Southern Nevada. I believe, however, that a structure which removes a layer of management will best serve our readers going forward.”

What he said then was a crock. What he said now is true — but disingenuous, misleading, deceptive, callous and without candor or frankness, as well as being mendacious, heartless, remorseless, shameless and soulless on his part. (As editor Walter Matthau said to reporter Jack Lemmon in “The Front Page” as he was typing a string of pejoratives: “Yes, and in that order.”)

Sorry to have to say what no one else has been willing to, but Frank never shirked from the truth.

He was one of the most guileless and caring people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing for more than 20 years. He did not deserve the raw deal the paper dealt him.

Rest in peace, Frank, we who knew you all those years will cherish the memories of your laughter and your dedication to the profession and your fellow professionals.










Newspaper column: If you haven’t studied the candidates and issues, DON’T VOTE!

Early voting starts Saturday. Election Day is Nov. 4. It is time to start cramming for the test — a test of the American democratic republic.

Normally this time of year you hear: Be sure and vote. Your vote counts. It is your civic duty to vote.

My admonition to you today is: Don’t cancel out an informed vote with an ill-informed one! If you haven’t studied thoroughly the issues and candidates, stay home. If you are only up to speed on a select number of items, by all means, vote on those, but leave the others blank, as recounted in this week’s newspaper column available online at The Ely Times, the Elko Daily Free Press and the Mesquite Local News.

Remember, the ballot is not like a pop quiz. You don’t get credit for wild guesses. All you do is dilute the votes of those of us who took the time to study the candidates and ballot initiatives.

Voting a straight party ticket is no salve for ignorance in Nevada, because major party candidates self select with no vetting by the parties for philosophy or ethical standards.

Early voting (RGJ photo)

The ballot franchise is not universal after all. Certain felons can’t vote, nor should they, because they may not have the best interest of the community at heart. They are crooks after all.

Until 2004, the Nevada Constitution also denied the right to vote to any “idiot or insane person.” That year the “idiot or insane” language was changed to the more politically correct “a person who has been adjudicated mentally incompetent, unless restored to legal capacity.”

I always thought we should have taken that opportunity to add: “or any self-imposed ignoramus, as determined by a poll test.”

Perhaps, you could still vote if you, as found in a survey a couple of years ago, are one of the 53 percent of Americans who does not know who the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is. But maybe not if you were among the 4 percent who guessed Harry Reid. And certainly not if you are a Nevadan and don’t know who Harry Reid is.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1820: “I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves. If we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.”

On the other hand, David T.Z. Mindich, a journalism professor, former editor for CNN and author of “Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don’t Follow the News,” once commented: “It is not hyperbole to say that if a citizenry unilaterally abandons political knowledge, it relinquishes power as well. It has been said that America is a system ‘designed by geniuses so that it could be run by idiots.’ But this is not entirely true. The Constitution does provide checks against our greatest mistakes of the moment. And elections do provide a quick check against the government’s neglect of the people. But nothing in our Constitution protects us against the long-term ravages of neglect by the people themselves.”

Perhaps that explains how in the Republican congressional primary for District 4 a guy named Mike Monroe, an unknown Las Vegas handyman who did no campaigning whatsoever, picked up 22 percent of the votes, won outright in White Pine and Esmeralda counties and was within a handful of votes to the frontrunners in Lyon and Mineral counties.

New citizens have to take a civics test. Why should the mere fact that a native-born person has inexplicably managed to survive for 18 years qualify that person to have the power to alter the political makeup of our state and country? Before being allowed to vote in Nevada, why shouldn’t a person be required to, say, name the current governor and one of our two U.S. senators?

Bryan Caplan, a professor of economics at George Mason University and author of “The Myth of the Rational Voter,” observes: “In theory, democracy is a bulwark against socially harmful policies. In practice, however, democracies frequently adopt and maintain policies that are damaging. How can this paradox be explained?

“The influence of special interests and voter ignorance are two leading explanations. I offer an alternative story of how and why democracy fails. The central idea is that voters are worse than ignorant; they are, in a word, irrational — and they vote accordingly. Despite their lack of knowledge, voters are not humble agnostics; instead, they confidently embrace a long list of misconceptions.”

As Will Rogers said, “It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.”

If you know some self-imposed ignoramuses, please offer to drive them to the polls … on Nov. 5.

Time to get your head right or else?

The pendulum always swings, doesn’t it?

After years of government-sanctioned and even government-ordered racial discrimination, the pendulum swung and we got affirmative action.

So, now that the courts have overruled the voters in nearly half the states on the matter of gay marriage, the pendulum swings to discrimination cases against bakers and farm owners for declining to provide their “public accommodation” services to gay couples.

Now, as a closet libertarian I have no problem with couples of just about any ilk forming unions under civil law — though I do have some problem with government discriminating against people for the purpose of taxes and benefits based on contractual living arrangements and have misgivings about changing the definition of words at the drop of a bouquet and wonder how this will bode for the “right” to plural and/or other forms of “marriage.”

What I do have a problem with is the sudden pendulum swing by liberals to vilification of people who in good faith or conscience do not wish to participate commercially or privately in a superficial ceremony.

One local columnist called on the Nevada federal judge who upheld the state gay marriage ban to resign because he recused himself — without stating why — when the case was remanded by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “If pang of conscience prevents him from living up to that oath, or carrying out the duties imposed on him by law, the proper remedy isn’t to simply slink away on one case. It’s to resign,” wrote the self-righteous columnist who has been known to rail against his own newspaper’s editorial stances rather than resign.

The headline on the Fox News story about the baker fined for refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding said he was required to undergo sensitivity training, though the story actually said he and his staff had to submit to “comprehensive training on Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws.”

In either case it sounds like getting your head straight.

You can’t found a country on liberty and free speech and then demand uniformity of thought and conscience. And conscience without the freedom to act is not liberty.

The concept of live and let live means government should not dictate behavior to either gay couples or bakers any more than the law should demand that doctors provide abortions or churches provide marriage services to all comers.

Freedom of speech requires freedom of thought and belief.

Colorado cake shop owner Jack Phillips decorates a cake. (AP photo)

Newspaper provides an exhaustive public service for those already exhausted by the topic

Now here is a come hither lede if ever there was one:

“Let’s talk health insurance.
“OK, we see your eyes glazing over.
“Look, we know health coverage isn’t the most exciting topic. It’s probably not even the 100th most exciting topic. Or even the 1,000th.

This exciting story goes on to tell readers that 85 percent of people would flunk a quiz on insurance terms such as deductibles and copays. It also says nearly half of Americans spent less than 15 minutes researching health coverage, including 24 percent who took less than five minutes.

So what makes the editors of the Las Vegas newspaper think that those people would take the time to read 108 column-inches of text and graphics explaining the most rudimentary terms and definitions used in the health insurance industry? Or that people who need such basic instruction read newspapers?

One of the tenets of journalism is: Know your audience.

Did anyone bring this up?

Look for the sequel: Sanskrit made easy.

If people don't spend 15 minutes buying health insurance, how much time do the editors think they will spend reading this story and graphics?

If people don’t spend 15 minutes buying health insurance, how much time do the editors think they will spend reading this story and graphics?


Question 2: There is a reason the mining tax cap is in the state Constitution

Only days after the state of Nevada celebrates its 150th anniversary of statehood on Oct. 31, voters will be asked on the General Election ballot whether to repeal a section of the Nevada Constitution on which the very question of statehood hinged those 150 years ago.

In September 1863 the residents of the Nevada territory voted by a margin of 4-to-1 to seek statehood, but in January 1864 they rejected by a margin of 4-to-1 a Constitution that would have taxed mining at the same rate as other businesses.

Then in July 1864 a revised Constitution that changed mining taxes to “net proceeds” — allowing deduction of expenses — and capping the tax rate at 5 percent. It passed with a vote of 10,375 to 1,284.

Article 10 of the Nevada Constitution reads: “The legislature shall provide by law for a tax upon the net proceeds of all minerals, including oil, gas and other hydrocarbons, extracted in this state, at a rate not to exceed 5 percent of the net proceeds. No other tax may be imposed upon a mineral or its proceeds until the identity of the proceeds as such is lost.”

The provision takes into account that the value of minerals is depleted over time.

That is how much the residents of the territory, attracted to the region by mining and dependent upon mining for their livelihoods, feared the damage a meddling Legislature could do to the lifeblood of the state.

A yes vote on Question 2 on the November ballot would repeal that provision of the Constitution and allow the Legislature in 2015 to raise taxes on mining, though it would take a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature.

If lawmakers are willing to give away tax breaks worth $1.3 billion to attract Tesla Motors to build a battery manufacturing plant here instead of another state, imagine what they might be willing to try to extract from a captive industry  — one that can’t move its gold mine to Texas.

Mining is why Nevada exists and why vast portions of rural Nevada survive today. The mining industry directly employs more than 10,000 workers and provides an estimated 14,000 jobs for those who are vendors and service providers for mining. Mining jobs average $88,000 in wages. Mining pays more than $400 million a year in state and local taxes.

Nevada Mining Association President Tim Crowley scoffs at those who claim mining fails to pay its fair share in taxes. “Mining pays every tax every other business pays,” he says. The net proceeds tax is over and above the sales, business, payroll, property taxes on facilities and other taxes other industries pay.

The net proceeds tax revenue has fallen in recent years because the price of gold has fallen, just as property tax revenues are down due to the decline in value of homes and land.

Crowley has pointed out that lawmakers can and have increased the tax revenue from mining by simply reducing the number of deductions allowed for mining expenses.

This measure would allow the Legislature to pluck the golden goose and roast it on a spit.

24-foot diameter mineshaft at Pumpkin Hollow

24-foot diameter mineshaft at Pumpkin Hollow copper mine