Think tank pounds its bungstarter and releases torrent of common sense

From the warehouse-sized where-have-I-heard-that-before department comes a piece in The Wall Street Journal by a couple of bean counters for the usually reliably liberal Brookings Institution suggesting that the socialistic means of water distribution doesn’t work.

The writers point out:

“Traditional solutions — diverting more water from rivers, building new reservoirs or drilling additional groundwater wells — are no longer ways to substantially increase the water supply. In a new report for The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution, we, along with co-author Peter W. Culp, propose that states use market tools to promote water trading. That is, farmers or other users who reduce their consumption should be allowed to lease or sell the conserved water.

“A major overhaul of Western water law is overdue, but implementing such reform would take years. In the near term, states should authorize short-term leases of water, build basic market institutions, deploy risk-mitigation tools such as dry-year options, and implement basic controls such as regulating how much water can be pumped. The current absence of viable market opportunities and incentives is producing perverse results.”

In November 2011 in a column that has long since disappeared into the ether, I suggested that the best way to allot water was through a free market.

I, of course, quoted Thomas Sowell’s comments from his book “Basic Economics”:

“There is no need for government officials to decide arbitrarily — and categorically — whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for particular crops to be grown in California with water artificially supplied below cost form federal irrigation projects. Such questions can be decided incrementally, by those directly confronting the alternatives, through price competition in a free market.”

Other commentary on this topic:

When it comes to water no one dares speak about free markets and cost competition

Stop thinking of water as a communal property, but as a marketable commodity

Just say no to the rural groundwater grab, once and for all

Nobody seems willing to address the one solution for making water available along the Colorado River

Commentary: Open market would solve water shortage problem

Water grab: The laws of economics trump the state and federal lawful approval

Let them drink whiskey — further blathering on water distribution

In that last one I quote Murray Rothbard, one-time UNLV professor of economics:

“If the government wants to conserve water and lessen its use, all it need do is raise the price. It doesn’t have to order an end to this or that use, set priorities, or decide who should be allowed to drink more than three glasses a day. All it has to do is clear the market, and let people conserve each in his own way and at his own pace.

“In the longer run, what the government should do is privatize the water supply, and let water be supplied, like oil or Pepsi-Cola, by private firms trying to make a profit and to satisfy and court consumers, and not to gain power by making them suffer.”

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge


Newspaper column redux: No cessation of secessionist feelings

In light of John L. Smith’s musings today on the secessionist spirit that still haunts the land as Nevada approaches its sesquicentennial of statehood — that’s 150 years for those of you in Green Valley — I thought I would repost a newspaper column from November 2012, especially since it has disappeared into the ether in the meantime.

John L. Smith

“A recent Reuters online survey suggests almost one in every four Americans wants to secede from the United States. That includes 34 percent of those surveyed in the Southwest, 26 percent in the Rockies, 25 percent in the Southeast, and 22 percent in the Far West (where Nevada was placed.)” John writes.

“As you might imagine, 53 percent of voters who identify themselves with the Tea Party movement would like to leave the Union. The rest of the nation, I suspect, would spring for the bus fare.”

So here is that newspaper column from two years ago in all its satirical sendup:

Some public relations genius at the Obama White House came up with a foolproof way to engender good will among the little people and make them think their voices are heard. So they created a section on the website called We the People where said people could directly “petition” the president over various issues, and, if enough people sign the petition, the president’s staff would reply.

Fools always find a way.

After Obama’s re-election “petitions” started calling for various states to secede from the Union in protest over federal usurpation of powers not enumerated in the Constitution. Louisiana was the first. Texas was the first to reach the requisite 25,000 signers to garner a reply. That’s a poke in the eye with your own stick.

Of course, the petitions have the legal standing and weight of the steam off a pile of fresh manure.

Most of them say: “We petition the Obama administration to: Peacefully grant the State of Arizona (or Louisiana or Texas or Arkansas or Oklahoma) to withdraw from the United States of American and create its own NEW government.” They then quote the Declaration of Independence on how governments are instituted among men and it is the right of the people to alter or abolish them.

The website now has petitions for secession from all 50 states. Nevada has two.

One of those is a cut-and-paste from previous petitions. The other actually spells out reasons Nevada has a right to secede. The version online is shortened due to a word limit. (It has since been scrubbed from the ether.)

I have been provided an unexpurgated version:

“The State of Nevada hereby petitions that it be granted the lawful right to secede from the United States of America and form its own new government as a free and sovereign nation with dominion over all unappropriated land therein and with no obligations to the current federal government.

“Whereas, the State of Nevada was admitted into the union under the presumption and presidential declaration that it would be on equal footing with every other state previously admitted, but was extortion-ately required to include in its charter that all unappropriated lands within the boundaries of the state more than 85 percent of the state be forever placed under the control of the federal government.

“Whereas, the voters of the State of Nevada voted in 1996 to amend the State Constitution to remove the Disclaimer Clause that surrendered said unappropriated land, but the Congress and the President have, in violation of the right to petition said federal government for redress of grievances, ignored the will of the voters.

“Therefore, the people of the State petition to be allowed to peacefully secede from the United States and form its own government except for the County of Clark, which could join California or Arizona because the original statehood ordinance was fraudulent and agreed to under duress, and is thus null and void.

“Therefore, all laws and ordinances by which the State of Nevada became a member of the Union would be repealed and all obligations on the part of the State or the people thereof to observe the same would be withdrawn.”

Now, before you jump on the computer and eagerly sign the petition, you should be warned that the Battle Born State has a Paramount Allegiance Clause in its Civil War-era Constitution and doing so might be construed as sedition.

“All political power is inherent in the people[.] Government is instituted for the protection, security and benefit of the people; and they have the right to alter or reform the same whenever the public good may require it,” it reads. “But the Paramount Allegiance of every citizen is due to the Federal Government… whensoever any portion of the States, or people thereof attempt to secede … the Federal Government may … employ armed force…”

Thus, Nevadans have the God-given right to alter or reform our government but authorize the federal government to bring guns and kill us if we try.

As one-time Nevadan Mark Twain said of writers: “ours is a useful trade, a worthy calling; that with all its lightness and frivolity it has one serious purpose, one aim, one specialty, and it is constant to it the deriding of shams, the exposure of pretentious falsities, the laughing of stupid superstitions out of existence … the natural friend of human rights and human liberties.”


Other commentary from the time:

Senseless and futile gesture

White House responds

A call for secession

Creating shams

Drop by next week for another installment of the newspaper column on the sesquicentennial.

Newspaper column: Delusional candidates would rob Peter to pay Paul

Vice President Joe Biden breezed through Nevada one afternoon earlier this month, stopping long enough to pitch the idea of increasing the federal minimum wage 40 percent from $7.25 an hour to $10.10, saying this would not cost jobs and would pump $19 billion into the nation’s economy.

“All of this is disposable income, and it gets straight into the economy,” Biden said, which is utter Keynesian nonsense because it is nothing more than redistributionism, taking money from some pockets and putting it in others.

President Obama has called for raising the minimum wage. Nevada Sen. Harry Reid has repeatedly championed a higher minimum, though our junior Sen. Dean Heller has voted against it.

It is an issue in some of the four congressional races on the ballot, as recounted in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Bilbray and Heck take opposite stances on raising minimum wage. (R-J photo)

Asked about the minimum wage issue after his Democratic opponent came out in favor of raising it not to $10.10 but to $15, Republican Rep. Joe Heck, whose 3rd Congressional District covers the southernmost reaches of the state, replied, “The last thing our economy needs is another mandate from Washington that will cost us jobs. Raising the minimum wage will not increase jobs, expand opportunity, or be a silver bullet to reduce poverty. Instead, it will cost mainly young and low-skilled workers the chance to get a start in the working world and learn critical job skills that will help them transition to more gainful employment.”

In fact the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 could cost a half a million jobs.

But opponent Erin Bilbray told the Las Vegas newspaper, “I believe this will help the economy and make it stronger. I think when you give the middle class money it helps us all.”

In the 4th Congressional District, covering the southern half of rural Nevada and northern Clark County, Democratic incumbent Steven Horsford has supported the $10.10 minimum pay.

“I don’t support continuing to give corporations and billionaires tax subsidies and tax loop holes when we can’t give minimum wage workers — who make $14,500 — a raise,” Horsford said during a debate with Republican opponent Crescent Hardy.

For his part Hardy shrugged off the issue and replied, “To bring it to $10 an hour — it ain’t no big issue.”

In the 1st Congressional District in urban Las Vegas, incumbent Democrat Dina Titus has issued a statement saying, “I believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to earn a decent wage for a hard day’s work, whether they’re a young worker trying to earn money for college or a single mother supporting a family. In short, the minimum wage is about fairness …”

Republican opponent Dr. Annette Teijeiro replied to an inquiry by saying, “The myth of creating a ‘living wage’ by government fiat is just that, a myth. Artificial government mandates do not create prosperity and in some cases create financial ruin.

“As a small business person, I understand that if my payroll budget is tight then the only way to accommodate a mandated government wage increase is to fire enough workers to afford the increase or to increase the cost of the products and/or services I sell. So the end result of a government mandated minimum wage increase are more payroll taxes paid by the employer and the employee, and less workers to be able to pay for this new expense or higher prices to afford the payroll increase costs.”

In the northernmost part of the state, the 2nd Congressional District, Republican incumbent Mark Amodei in 2013 voted against raising the minimum wage to $10.10 and his Democratic opponent apparently has not made an issue of it.

The facts are on the side of the opponents of raising the minimum wage.

James Sherk, a senior policy analyst in labor economics at the Heritage Foundation, told Congress a year ago that every dollar increase in minimum wage really only raises take-home pay by 20 cents once welfare benefits are reduced and taxes are increased, meaning the $10.10 proposal nets only 57 cents an hour. Sherk noted a number of workers would lose their jobs and go from $7.25 to zero.

Then there are the affects on prices for everyone.

Mark Wilson, writing a policy analysis for Cato Institute, reports that a “comprehensive review of more than 20 minimum wage studies looking at price effects found that a 10 percent increase in the U.S. minimum wage raises food prices by up to 4 percent and overall prices by up to 0.4 percent.”

If raising the minimum wage by 40 percent would pump $19 billion into the nation’s economy, image how the economy would purr like a kitten if Social Security checks next year were raised 40 percent instead of a paltry 1.7 percent. We don’t hear anyone calling for that do we?


Who knew they were Democrats?: When the machines decide elections

Remember, when an unknown Las Vegas handyman who did no campaigning whatsoever won 22 percent of the vote in the Republican primary for Congressional District 4 and won two counties outright, and everyone dismissed it as a fluke? Nothing to see here. Move along. Just the voters disgruntled with the frontrunners.

And recall how a couple of candidates in the Democratic primary for governor swore it was a statistical impossibility for “none of these candidates” to win 30 percent of the vote?

Mike Monroe won two counties in Republican primary race for CD4.

Both of these were met with a collective yawn, even though two years earlier the Christian Science Monitor reported, “Vote flipping occurs when an e-voting touch-screen machine is not properly calibrated, so that a vote for Romney or Obama is flipped to the other candidate,” the paper reported about a Pennsylvania incident. “While the Pennsylvania glitch was reported and the machine reportedly taken out of service and quickly recalibrated, other flipping was reported by news media accounts in Nevada, Texas, North Carolina, and Ohio.”

On Monday, while everybody was watching Obama make cheeky comments to the lady voting next to him, a Republican state representative candidate reported that his votes kept getting switched from his Republican selections to Democratic ones, even the vote he cast for himself.

Jim Moynihan had trouble voting.

“I tried to cast a vote for myself and instead it cast the vote for my opponent,” Jim Moynihan was quoted as saying by Watchdog Wire. “You could imagine my surprise as the same thing happened with a number of races when I tried to vote for a Republican and the machine registered a vote for a Democrat.”

He told the election judge at his polling place and showed that the machine continued to cast a vote for the opposing candidate. Somehow he was eventually allowed to vote for Republican candidates.

Cook County Clerk’s Office Deputy Communications Director Jim Scalzitti told Watchdog wire the machine was taken out of service and tested. “This was a calibration error of the touch-screen on the machine,” Scalzitti explained. “When Mr. Moynihan used the touch-screen, it improperly assigned his votes due to improper calibration.”

Improper calibration?

Might there be an epidemic of miscalibration?

Early voting is underway across Nevada. Look before your vote leaps.



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.