If you can’t comment here, then comment there

Isn’t it just a tad bit ironic that the Las Vegas newspaper’s Facebook posting explaining why it no longer allows comments to be appended to articles on its website has more than 150 comments?

A number of the comments are quite crude and vulgar.

The paper’s opening online page still has a “comments” link atop most stories.



Why did the Las Vegas newspaper turn off the comments from readers?

On newspaper's Facebook page

On newspaper’s Facebook page

Abruptly on Thursday the Las Vegas Review-Journal turned off the comments underneath its online content.

At this time there are still links to “comments” atop every story, but at the bottom the reader is told both how to post a comment and why the newspaper is not posting comments:

Rules for posting comments

Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Stephens Media LLC or this newspaper. This is a public forum. Read our guidelines for posting. If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon next to the comment.

Due to an increase in uncivil behavior and dialogue the Review-Journal has temporarily disabled the comment boards. The Review-Journal will use the time to evaluate the effectiveness of the comment boards and find an appropriate time to reintroduce them to reviewjournal.com.

I wager this sudden decision is due to one of two things — threat of litigation or someone posted something that someone high up in the chain of command got really, really pissed off about.
Of course this will slash the online hit count, which goes up when people get in a dialog or debate and keep returning to the page see what is subsequently posted.
The curious thing is that the paper apparently posted a lengthy explanation of its decision at something called media.com, but the only link to it I could find was in twitter feeds by its reporters.
It is under the headline: “Why we turned off the comment boards today; Nowhere does the First Amendment require the media to provide a platform for your speech.” It is posted on the paper’s Facebook page, which I did not know existed.

We’re turning off our comment boards.

Not permanently, probably. But Internet comment boards are often nasty, vitriolic places, and ours are no exception.

The same platform that provides an opportunity for civil dialogue and an exchange of ideas also provides a platform for racism, bigotry and hatred. Those aren’t the types of conversations we want to host on our website. Consider this a cooling off period for those who wish only to inspire fear in others.

We don’t pretend to know the solution to the problem. How do we foster a sense of community and encourage people to express themselves without simply providing a way to amplify hateful and often threatening remarks?

We’ve taken steps in recent months to clean up our comment boards, including shortening the amount of time they remain open and requiring a verified email address before users can post.

It hasn’t helped. Of our tens of thousands of comments a month, many are insightful and respectful. But those that are not threaten to pull us down to their level, since they refuse to be brought up to ours. We have zero tolerance for threats of violence or death. Libel, too, is out of bounds, and yet we regularly find ourselves deleting such comments from stories about government officials.

The reality is that there are simply not enough resources to effectively moderate every story on our site, especially when high-profile stories can rack up hundreds of comments over the course of a few minutes, many that have nothing to do with the topic at hand. We are not unique in this. In an age of ever-leaner newsrooms, not many are in a situation to pull from elsewhere to keep hate-mongers at bay.

We aren’t asking our commenters to agree with every story we post or with every commenter who came before them. But we cannot ignore that certain comments and behaviors on our site make people feel unwelcome, not because they offer a differing viewpoint but because they’re violent, threatening or sexually explicit.

So, we’re turning our comment boards off, at least for a while.

We have made no promises in the past to guarantee the ability to comment on our site. In fact, our decision to turn them off falls in line with the reasons we chose to provide them in the first place. Commenting is a privilege that is too often abused, and turning off comment boards in no way violates readers’ First Amendment protection.

The First Amendment protects us from, among other things, laws that abridge our freedom of speech. Nowhere does it require the media to provide you a platform for that speech, whether hateful or not.

Through the duration of this experiment, we will continue to encourage our community to engage in a civil dialogue on social media. For our part, we’ll use this time to evaluate the effectiveness of our comment boards and other available options to us as we continue to adapt to an ever-changing media landscape.

It is unsigned, but an attorney probably wrote it.
Of course the paper is in no way obligated to provide a soap box for every idiot who comes along, but those idiots count as hits online and help to increase the value of advertising there. The shrinking newsroom also can’t keep up with the idiots. I’m sure it was time consuming reacting to requests to delete comments.
Maybe someone said something unkind about the newspaper’s suitor Warren Buffett.
If someone writes graffiti on your wall are you obligated to paint over it?
By the way, the Las Vegas Sun website still allows comments, but hardly anyone bothers. Many stories list zero comments.
Is the R-J being timid? Yep.

Newspaper column: Governor’s budget plan is long on spending, short on accountability

Gov. Sandoval gives State of the State speech. (AP photo)

It is called bait and switch.

Just over two months after the voters of Nevada rejected by a 79 percent majority a margin tax on gross receipts of businesses that its backers claimed would raise $800 million in tax revenue, this past week in his State of the State address Gov. Brian Sandoval announced plans to increase taxes by nearly $600 million a year with a third of that coming from what the governor euphemistically called a “graduated” business license fee.

Though Sandoval never used the phrase “gross receipts” in his speech, media reports prior to the speech said the license fees would be tied to gross receipts. This means the governor’s plan has the same business stifling flaws that he and others decried so convincingly about the margin tax.

And those media reports said Sandoval intends to raise the modified business tax, or payroll tax, to 2 percent for mining, the same as banks pay, though others pay 1.17 percent. This disparity in tax burden is one of the very things the Tax Foundation criticized Nevada for in its recent study. Sandoval never mentioned the mining tax, nor did he talk about plans to hike the cigarette tax from 80 cents to $1.20 per pack.

Those taxes that were supposed to sunset four years ago? They won’t, if the governor gets his way. His proposal is to spend $7.3 billion over the next two years on the general fund. The state actually will spend a total of $23.5 million when everything is accounted for, including $7 billion in federal funding for things like Medicaid.

Sandoval is proposing a 12 percent budget increase though the state’s population has fallen and inflation is less than 1 percent.

Most of this new general fund revenue — nearly $900 million — is slated for education.

The governor did not mention any cuts, though he singled out collective bargaining reform three times. No details were given.

About the only thing the governor proposed that might really improve education is spending $30 million on making sure students can read by the third grade and not promote them if they can’t.

Most of the things the governor plans to spend money on have not proven all that beneficial when tried elsewhere.

In fact, the so-called Zoom Schools for English learners that he plans to spend $100 million on have not succeeded in Clark County, which spent nearly $40 million on 14 Zoom Schools and not one of them improved in the statewide academic five-star ranking. Four actually lost a star.

He plans to spend $50 million to give digital devices to middle school students throughout Nevada. The Los Angeles city school system shut down its program to give every student an iPad due to cost and the embarrassing fact the students immediately hacked the restrictions on the devices and started using them for fun and games instead of school work.

Another $36 million is being earmarked to hire social workers to put in schools to curb bullying and $2 million for free breakfasts that already are frequently thrown in the trash.

In addition to all those taxes and futile spending efforts, Sandoval plans to hit local property tax payers by allowing expired school capital improvement bonds to be extended without voter approval.

The governor also plans to take over poor performing schools statewide and have them run by the superintendent that Washoe County just fired.

“Teachers and principals who lead our schools also deserve our support through investment and accountability,” Sandoval vowed, while being long on monetary support and short on specifics for accountability.

Speaking of bait and switch, Switch, the company that operates a huge computer data hub in Las Vegas, is expanding to Northern Nevada with a $1 billion investment and is planning a 1 million square-foot new data center in Las Vegas, for a total of $2 billion.

“This will make Nevada the most digitally connected state in the nation,” the governor crowed, while failing to mention what bait he used to catch the Switch expansion.

The company will get a reduction of its sales tax to 2 percent and a 75 percent cut in property taxes for 15 years. How much tax revenue the state would forgo is not yet known.

The Tesla Motors battery plant being built in Storey County and an Apple facility in Reno also got huge tax breaks.

The Nevada Constitution clearly states: “The Legislature shall provide by law for a uniform and equal rate of assessment and taxation …”

The governor’s plan is hardly uniform and equal on several fronts.

A version of this column appears this week in the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Obama wages war on fossil fuel while taking credit for lower gasoline prices

A version of this editorial appears this week in the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record:

The price of gasoline in parts of the country has dropped below $2 a gallon after hovering near $4 for so long.

In fact, in the most basic terms, the price of gasoline is the lowest it has ever been. According to the American Enterprise Institute, the average American only has to work for 24 minutes to afford enough fuel to drive 100 miles. Back in 1980 it took nearly an hour, but wages are higher, mileage is better and prices are lower.

The fundamental reason for lower prices is increased supply as technology — horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing — has allowed domestic production of crude oil to soar.

In his State of the Union speech President Obama this week stated, “We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. …  And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save about $750 at the pump.”

He has being saying this for some time. In one of his weekend radio speeches Obama told us with a straight face, “Under my administration, we’re producing more oil here at home than at any time in the last eight years, that’s a fact.”

Oil pump jacks dot the oil field in Railroad Valley, southwest of Ely. (BLM photo)

According to a Congressional Research Service report that came out shortly after Obama’s comments, that is indeed a fact. The research service reported that U.S. crude oil production increased 38 percent from 2009 to 2013. Breaking that down further, the report said this was due to production on private land increasing by 61 percent, while production on federal public land actually fell — yes, fell — by 6 percent.

Under Obama’s administration the backlog of drilling permits at the Bureau of Land Management alone has topped 3,500 and the time it takes to obtain a permit has doubled. BLM recently has cut the acreage available in some oil and gas lease auctions by half to reduce the impact on sage grouse habitat.

The BLM’s own stats show in fiscal year 2014 the number of new drilling permits issued was one third of the number in 2006, both nationally and in Nevada. Also the number of acres of new oil and gas leases in 2014 was a quarter of the acreage leased in 2006, also both nationally and in Nevada.

In that radio address Obama called for attacking high gasoline prices by demanding Congress vote to repeal what he called $4 billion in subsidies — really the same tax breaks every other industry gets — for big oil companies.

“In the next few weeks, I expect Congress to vote on ending these subsidies,” Obama said. “And when they do, we’re going to put every single member of Congress on record: They can either stand up for oil companies, or they can stand up for the American people. They can either place their bets on a fossil fuel from the last century, or they can place their bets on America’s future. So make your voice heard. Send your representative an email. Give them a call. Tell them to stand with you.”

Congress ignored him, but that $4 billion would have been added on at the pump and come out of our wallets, not the pockets of fat cat oil barons.

Just this past week Obama continued his war on fossil fuels by announcing by fiat new standards for the release of methane during oil and gas production, demanding that methane emissions be cut by 45 percent in the coming decade.

The cost of doing that is unknown. It is not known whether the technology to do so even exists. And some scientists argue that methane’s impact on climate change — of which there has been none for 18 years — is negligible, if any.

Landfills and agriculture emit more methane than the oil and gas industry, according to the EPA, but Obama has not targeted those at all.

In the war on high fuel prices, Obama is not a conscientious objector, he is the enemy.

Enjoy the price at the pump while you can, your president is doing everything he can to make it short-lived.


Obama taking credit for oil and gas boom that he’s tried to strangle

Obama’s State of the Union address is being described as him taking a victory lap.

“America, for all that we have endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this:  The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong,” Obama claimed. “At this moment — with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, booming energy production — we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.”

Nevada pump jack

Much of the improvement in the economy has not been because of Obama’s policies and practices but in spite of him. It has come from a booming oil and gas industry that has lower fuel prices by nearly half, despite Obama’s animus and efforts to strangle it.

According to a Congressional Research Service report, U.S. crude oil production increased 38 percent from 2009 to 2013. Breaking that down further, the report said this was due to production on private land increasing by 61 percent, while production on federal public land actually fell — yes, fell — by 6 percent.

Under Obama’s administration the backlog of drilling permits at the Bureau of Land Management alone has topped 3,500 and the time it takes to obtain a permit has doubled. BLM recently has cut the acreage available in some oil and gas lease auctions by half to reduce the impact on sage grouse habitat.

The BLM’s own stats show in fiscal year 2014 the number of new drilling permits issued was one third of the number in 2006, both nationally and in Nevada. Also the number of acres of new oil and gas leases in 2014 was a quarter of the acreage leased in 2006, also both nationally and in Nevada.

Obama is taking credit for something he tried to stop.

His biggest applause line, deservedly so, was: “I have no more campaigns to run.”



Book review: Tale of growing up in 1920s Arizona has an authentic ring

What’s not to like about a book about an orphan coming of age in Prohibition-era rural Arizona — surviving dynamite blasts, rattlesnakes, double-barrel shotguns, mine shafts, schoolyard bullies, barbed wire, cactus barbs, his grandpa’s cooking, dog bites, moonshine, relentless summer sun and a skeptical and strict disciplinarian of a teacher.

In his book “Jake and Me,” Arizona native, longtime Las Vegas attorney and currently Washington, D.C., federal Judge Evan Wallach takes you along as Jake Smith — being reared by his grandfather named Jake who is constable of Superior, Ariz., in the Superstition Mountains — narrates a year or so of his high school days and his summer job riding fence on a cattle ranch.

Wallach claims most of the stories are true, “as told to me by the old folks,” though he admits some may stretch the truth. That scene in which one of his characters — after sucking the venom from a rattlesnake bite on Jake’s hand — replies to Jake’s concern about what would have happened had the bite been on another part of his anatomy by saying, “That’s when you find out who your friends are,” is a joke older than the old folks, though Wallach cleans it up a might.

Well, as Mark Twain said, “Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it.”

Though many writers, when they try to capture the vernacular of a region and era, sound stilted or contrived, the book’s narrative and dialog have an authentic sound and phrasing that can be heard across the Southwest from Texas and Oklahoma to Arizona and Nevada.

The depictions of rural life and work also ring true, from riding fence to Saturday night imbibing by the hands to knowing not to waste a penny .22 shell on a jackrabbit and wait for the cottontails — a lesson lost on a friend of Wallach’s from Searchlight — to the fact that in a small town everyone knows who you are and what you’re up to.

As lagniappe Wallach tosses in several simple, homespun recipes at the end of several chapters, a couple of which might actually be worth trying, though there aren’t enough chili peppers.

The poetry-spouting Scottish gentleman encountered during a search for the legendary Lost Dutchman Mine even gives the tale a touch of erudition.

Though Wallach puts his main character through some harrowing situations — several of which had the potential to turn the book into a short story with a tragic ending — one of the chief pleasures is watching a boy mature and develop moral character.

If nothing else it is worth the cover price just to read a lawyer make light of his lifelong profession by having Jake say, “I was past ten before I found out that ‘goddamn lawyer’ wasn’t one word.”

“Jake and Me” is a quick, pleasant and informative read, but as a longtime newspaper editor I must confess I was driven damned near to distraction by the number of typos, including spelling a couple of character’s names two or even three different ways.

All in all, Wallach has spun a good yarn.

The ebook can be downloaded from the Amazon Kindle store.







Why did Obama snub the French free-speech rally?

Why did Obama snub the big French free-speech rally following the Muslim terrorist attack on a satirical Paris newspaper and a kosher grocery?

Paul Sperry, writing in Investor’s Business Daily, suggests the key lies in Obama’s extreme anti-colonialism.

This was theme Dinesh D’Souza explored frequently in his 2010 book, “The Roots of Obama’s Rage.”

Both writers point out how much Obama was influenced by Frantz Fanon, a Martinique-born psychiatrist who fought for the independence of Algeria from French control and wrote about his anti-colonial beliefs.

Frantz Fanon via IBD

Obama even mentions Fanon’s influence in his first autobiography.

“If Fanon were alive today,” Sperry writes, “he’d take solace in the Muslim terror siege of France. He’d also be proud of his Oval Office admirer’s boycott of the French government’s protest march.”

He points out that when Obama took office he packed a bust of Winston Churchill and shipped it back to England, which many at the time suggested was another show of anti-colonialism. Obama’s father was a harsh critical of English colonial rule over his home country of Kenya.

“What really motivates Barack Obama is an inherited rage — an often masked, but profound rage that comes from his African father; an anticolonialist rage against Western dominance, and most especially against the wealth and power of the very nation Barack Obama now leads,” D’Souza writes. “It is this rage that explains the previously inexplicable, and that gives us a startling look at what might lie ahead.”

Sperry suggests Obama’s anti-colonialist sympathies help explain his French boycott, as well as his antipathy Israel, his appeasement of Castro and his bugging out of Iraq, Afghanistan and, pretty much, the war on terror itself.