Never let the facts get in the way of getting the paper out

I’m not sure what the deadline is these days for the Sunday edition of the Las Vegas paper’s opinion section, but the facts in one column were a bit dated.

The paper carried a front page LA Times story about the Oregon campus shooting that reported the gunman killed nine and wounded nine before killing himself. Previous news accounts said he was killed by police but that was updated about 1 p.m. Saturday with a coroner’s report.

On the cover of the Viewpoints section the political columnist reported the gunman killed nine and wounded seven “before being gunned down by police.”

If that isn’t enough, the online version of the column posted just after midnight had a third version, saying the gunman killed 10 and wounded seven without ever saying who killed the gunman — accurate as to the number killed by the gunman.

I think it was Yogi Berra who once bragged that he gave every reporter a different account of events so that each would have an exclusive. Maybe it was in honor to Yogi. That’s the ticket.




Editorial: Let the free market ‘invisible hand’ distribute water

As Ronald Reagan once said: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

Those words came unbidden to mind when a gaggle of government satraps gathered in Carson City to discuss how best to dole out water during this drought.

The drought forum was set up by Gov. Brian Sandoval, who asked its participants to recommend how to deal with the ongoing water shortage.

The most frightening thing reported out of the session was talk about changing the state’s water law.

“I think ultimately water rights management has to evolve from the strict prior appropriation to more of a paradigm of shared risk,” John Entsminger, general manager of Southern Nevada Water Authority, was quoted as saying.

The first Nevada water law was passed in 1866 and recognized the vital role mining was playing in the state’s economic growth. Though all water within the state is subject to state regulations and controls, the law recognizes the basic principles of prior appropriation and beneficial use.

First in time is first in right.

But then those with the rights must use it or lose it. The holders of those rights may not speculate in water rights or hold on to water rights they do not put to beneficial use in a timely manner. “If they stop using the water, they will lose the water right,” the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources explains.

But water is a property right, and as such it may be bought and sold.

At the drought confab, according to press accounts, some questioned this concept and asked whether giving water right holders access to water at the expense of others in times of drought benefits the public good — whatever that means.

There appeared to be a sentiment for treating water as a communal commodity to be distributed by some government agency — to each according to their needs?

But just as water seeks its own level, so too free markets seek and find the fairest and lowest price and widest distribution for any commodity.

Murray Rothbard, one-time UNLV professor of economics, once wrote: “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.”

This was echoed by newspaper columnist and economist Thomas Sowell in 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 from federal irrigation projects. Such questions can be decided incrementally, by those directly confronting the alternatives, through price competition in a free market.”

Creating a free market for water would encourage innovation and efficiency, allowing water to flow from low-value uses to high-value uses while providing both parties of the transaction a profit.

Public officials should resist the urge to “manage” the water supply and permit the free market to apply its “invisible hand.”

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

Newspaper column: Nevada wins grouse listing battle, or did it?

This past week Interior Secretary Sally Jewell declared that the greater sage grouse will not be listed under the Endangered Species Act, but instead created a federal land use plan so restrictive that the lack of listing became a distinction without a difference.

“Our review of the best available scientific and commercial information indicates that the sage grouse is not in danger of extinction nor likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all of its range,” the Fish and Wildlife Service, a division of the Interior, concluded in its 341-page announcement. The document cited a rangewide decline in grouse over the past century, while conceding a count of male grouse in leks showed a 63 percent increase in the past two years.

Instead of listing, to protect sage grouse Fish and Wildlife withdrew 10 million acres from future mining claims, prohibited oil and gas drilling near breeding grounds and imposed new reviews on grazing permits.

Male sage grouse (BLM photo)

The cactus huggers still had a conniption. John Horning, executive director of WildEarth Guardians, spewed, “That is the great tragedy of the day, that this decision would be based on politics not science,” adding that his group will challenge the listing decision in federal court.

Elko and Eureka counties and two mining companies beat them to the courthouse door, filing suit in federal court in Reno the next day, calling the plan “arbitrary, capricious and unlawful.” Elko estimated the plan would cost its economy $31 million a year. Eureka estimated the cost to its livestock industry alone would be $7 million to $15 million a year. (Land use suit)

Rep. Crescent Hardy sent out a press release putting the decision into perspective, noting that the good news about listing comes with hard to swallow restrictions.

“I was very disappointed to learn of the Department of Interior’s decision to aggressively advance an agenda that puts the interests of a small contingent of environmental extremists over those of rural Nevada’s hardworking families,” Hardy said. “Today’s announcement confirms this was never fully about protecting any particular species.”

The congressman continued, “This is yet another stark reminder of the challenges Western states like Nevada face when the federal government controls so much of the land within our borders. … Without access to traditional land uses in Nevada — mineral exploration, energy extraction, and ranching — states like Nevada wouldn’t be what they are today. This policy not only disregards our historic way of life, but it also threatens the local economies of some of the hardest hit areas from the Great Recession.”

Nevada’s junior Sen. Dean Heller agreed with Hardy’s dire assessment, saying the regulations that will limit the use of millions of acres of federal land, much of that in Nevada.

“This is not a win for Nevada. Even though the Fish and Wildlife Service has decided the greater sage grouse doesn’t merit protections under the Endangered Species Act, the Department of the Interior’s final ‘federal plans’ pose major threats to many Nevadans’ long-term way of life and success,” Heller concluded.

“This has been an issue of the Department of the Interior using the threat of a listing to get what it really wanted all along: limiting Nevadans’ access to millions of acres of land equal to the size of the state of West Virginia,” the senator said.

Instead of addressing the real threats to grouse habitat — wildfire, invasive species, and wild horse and burro mismanagement — new regulations simply restrict Nevadans’ beneficial access to public lands, Heller noted.

A spokesman for Rep. Mark Amodei said he had nothing new to say at this time, but reiterated what he told the Reno newspaper a month ago, when he said economic development will be strangled across some 3 million acres of Northern Nevada.

“It’s an exclusion zone, you can’t do anything,” Amodei told the Reno Gazette-Journal’s editorial board. “It doesn’t matter if it’s listed or not. Now it’s the regulatory standard across the West.”

The ever irrelevant and clueless Harry Reid poked Nevadans in the eye with this nonsense: “This conservation not only protects the sage grouse, it also protects our rangelands, our mule deer and pronghorn antelope habitat and our western way of life. I look forward to continued cooperation between the federal agencies, states and local governments on implementing the sage grouse management plans and making sure that the sage grouse can thrive alongside our western economies.”

Cooperation? Thrive?

Nevada’s success in avoiding the listing of the sage grouse turned out to be a hollow victory.

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, the Lincoln County Record and the Sparks Tribune — and the Elko Daily Free Press.


Tourism panel recycles an old commercial — targeting wrong audience in wrong way, perhaps?

Most of the news stories called the latest Nevada Tourism Commission advertising campaign fresh or new — taking a couple of paragraphs before admitting the commercials are recycled from two and half years ago.

“Nevada is launching a fresh tourism campaign focused on attracting adventure-loving millennials to the state — especially to the rural areas less trafficked than Las Vegas,” was the lede on the Carson City newspaper account.

The new commercials, like previous ones, feature rapid clips of scenes from around the state, including outdoor activities with the Las Vegas-based Killers band playing a rocked out version of the old ballad “Don’t Fence Me In.”

According to the Las Vegas paper, instead of showing images of the Strip and Lake Tahoe, the initial ads were shot at the Pioneer Saloon at Goodsprings and in Genoa — pronounced GIN-oh-a for the uninitiated.

But maybe this isn’t the time to be ignoring the gambling aspect of Nevada. Gaming revenues have fallen three months in a row, and room rates fell even though the number of visitors increased. Nevada hotel-casinos do account for nearly 45 percent of state general fund revenue.

Another story in the Las Vegas paper reports that basically those “adventure-loving millennials” don’t gamble and the industry isn’t doing much to attract them.

Of course, tax supported advertising to persuade taxpayers to do what’s good for them has always been a bit off-putting. The ads telling people to conserve water by getting their heads out of the grass are cheesy and sophomoric. The old “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” ads were salacious, though possibly effective for a certain type.

Here is a tourism commercial from two years ago (the one from April 2013 is labeled private now for some unknown reason):

The summer 2015 version is similar to the 2014:

Head in grass ad:

One of the stays in Vegas ads:

Frankly, I have always thought there should be some truth in labeling required of such ads. Nevada’s slogan should be: “Bring money, lose it, go home.” And I’ll take half the going rate, because two and half years ago the Nevada tourism panel spent $3 million for a six-word slogan: “A World Within. A State Apart.”

According to Vegas Inc., by the time they bought air time to broadcast commercials and created a mobile app with this amazing slogan — created by geniuses in Seattle and New York, who wouldn’t know a jackalope from a Fallon cantaloupe — the price tag would hit $9 million.







Checkbook journalism rings up big bucks for politicos

Everybody knew the networks were practicing checkbook journalism, but who knew the checks were so big?

Paul Sperry, writing in today’s Investor’s Business Daily, reports that Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson was paid nearly half a million dollars by Fox News until he announced his candidacy.

Mike Huckabee’s payola was clearly labeled, but worth $500,000 a year? Fox also paid Rick Santorum $100,000 and John Kasich hauled in $265,000 a year, while doling out $1 million for a three-year deal with Sarah Palin.

The liberals at CNN do it too, contracting with Obama adviser David Axelrod to work as a commentator.

Who knows what made NBC think Chelsea Clinton was worth $600,000. Why that’s as much as three speeches from either of her parents.

The Society of Professional Journalists calls such checkbook “journalism” unethical for many good reasons — the foremost is that money corrupts and paying for information or sources corrupts journalism.

The SPJ Code of Ethic admonishes: “Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; do not pay for access to news. Identify content provided by outside sources, whether paid or not.”

The SPJ warns about getting into bidding wars, which, as a former editor with a strict budget, I can appreciate, even if the networks do not.

Here are a few other SPJ reasons why checkbook journalism is vile:

First, paying for information immediately calls into question the credibility of the information. …

Creating a market for information that sells also raises the possibility that entrepreneurs looking to make money will create their own news, staging or inventing stories to attract the big checks.

Second, paying for information creates a conflict of interest. By writing a check for an interview, the journalist now has a business relationship with the source. Asking tough questions, examining the motives, weighing the credibility of a source — all of these journalistic functions become intricately more complicated when the source is someone receiving money for a story.

And third, once a media outlet has paid for information, it is less likely to continue to search for the details of the story for fear it might uncover conflicting information.

A source who chooses to tell a story and tell it exclusively should want to choose the reporter who has the clearest record of demonstrated competence rather than the one waving the largest check.

While it is true that journalism is a capitalistic endeavor and money must be made, being first and being exclusive should never be the primary motive of journalists. The primary motive always should be an accurate report.

There is a market for credibility. Once you’ve sold that, you’ve entered the world’s oldest profession.




The sky is falling and nations open an umbrella

If The New York Times says it, it must be true:

“An analysis by researchers at Climate Interactive, a group whose calculations are used by American negotiators and by numerous other governments, is expected to be released Monday and was provided in advance to The New York Times. It shows that the collective pledges would reduce the warming of the planet at century’s end to about 6.3 degrees, if the national commitments are fully honored, from an expected 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit, if emissions continue on their present course. …

“At a meeting in Cancun, Mexico, in 2010, climate negotiators from nearly 200 countries agreed that they would try to limit the warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2 degrees Celsius, above the preindustrial temperature, a level that would require that emissions from fossil fuels largely cease within a few decades.” (Emphasis added.)

This is what it is really all about:

“Poor countries that have had little to do with causing global warming, but are likely to suffer the worst effects, are demanding billions from rich countries to help them manage.”



Elko schools face unintended consequences of anti-bullying law

School board meeting packed to discuss bathroom access by transgender student. (Elko Daily Free Press photo)

We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense. — Barack Obama

If someone wants to drive on the left side of the road, who are we to disdain? Accommodate.

If a tone-deaf kazoo player wishes to join the philharmonic on stage, why should we hesitate? Accommodate.

A week a ago the Elko County School Board refused to allow a 13-year-old girl who “identifies” as a boy to use the boys’ restrooms in her middle school, but instead to continue to use the special education unisex restroom, according to the Elko Daily Free Press. The meeting was packed with parents.

The board did so despite the fact the state Legislative this past spring passed Senate Bill 504, an anti-bullying law which prohibits “blocking access” to “any property or facility of a school” on the basis of sex, gender identity or expression or any other distinguishing characteristic. I warned at the time the law would have unintended consequences.

Assemblyman John Ellison, who voted against SB504, told the board that standards should be set to support all students. “We should consider the privacy of all 9,526 students, not just the four transgender ones,” he was quoted as saying.

Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, who voted in favor of the bill, told the board, “Had I known the provisions for (the bill), I would never have voted for it.”

Since then the board has been notified by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada that it is investigating and may take legal action against the district over that bathroom decision.

The ACLU letter specifically cited SB504 and argued that denying a transgender student access to a bathroom of choice could “create an intimidating or hostile educational environment for the pupil.” It also said forcing “a humiliating ‘accommodation’ of a third restroom” is “detrimental” to the youth.

Accommodation for one, but not for all.

Though SB504 does not impose criminal sanctions, it could lead to students being expelled and teachers and administrators being fired if they “tolerate” bullying, which includes, as you recall, “blocking access” to “any property or facility of a school” on the basis of gender identity.

I thought liberals always preached about how self-interest should be subservient to the common good.