A tax by any other name would smell as sour

You can call it a margin tax. You can call it a modified business license fee based. You can call a commerce tax. It is still tax on businesses based on gross receipts, which is what 80 percent of the voters defeated in November.

On Thursday Gov. Brian Sandoval unveiled his latest iteration of this proposal hike tax more than a billion dollars.

“For the privilege of engaging in a business in this State, a commerce tax is hereby imposed upon each business entity whose Nevada gross revenue in a taxable year exceeds $3,500,000 …” the bill says, then listing tax rates that vary according to the type of business.

NPRI pulled the rates out of the bill:

The proposed rates are:

  1. Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting: .063 percent
  2. Mining: .051 percent
  3. Utilities and telecommunications: .136 percent
  4. Construction: .083 percent
  5. Manufacturing: .091 percent
  6. Wholesale trade: .101 percent
  7. Retail trade: .111 percent
  8. Air transportation: .058 percent
  9. Truck transportation: .202 percent
  10. Rail transportation: .331 percent
  11. Other transportation: .129 percent
  12. Warehousing and storage: .128 percent
  13. Publishing, software and data processing: .253 percent
  14. Finance and insurance: .111 percent
  15. Real estate and rental and leasing: .25 percent
  16. Professional, scientific and technical services: .181 percent
  17. Management of companies and enterprises: .137 percent
  18. Administrative and support services: .154 percent
  19. Waste management and remediation services: .261 percent
  20. Educational services: .281 percent
  21. Health care and social assistance: .190 percent
  22. Arts, entertainment and recreation: .24 percent
  23. Accommodation: .2 percent
  24. Food services and drinking places: .194 percent
  25. Other services: .142 percent
  26. Unclassified business category: .128 percent

I wonder if the Las Vegas newspaper will change its mind about endorsing Sandoval’s tax grab since publishing is among the highest taxed entities. And that money comes right out of the profit margin, if there is any.

Jeremy Aguero again explains the convoluted tax plan put forward by the governor. (AP photo)


It is all about Obama all the time and into eternity

This is the definition of narcissism.

While talking about his effort to cut a deal with Iran that would prevent it from developing a nuclear bomb, Obama said, “Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this,” he said. “I think it’s fair to say that in addition to our profound national-security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down.”

Never mind that the U.S. and Israel might be smoldering heaps of ash, heaven forbid Obama’s name is tarnished.

Atlantic illustration

Newspaper column: The general theory of political relativity finds a growing divide in viewpoints

“Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment,” physicist Albert Einstein once observed of the stratification of our society. “Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.”

The center keeps shifting to the left.

Illustrative of the shift is the way the media covers politics in Carson City. They describe as ultraconservative those who balk at the governor’s proposed increase in state general fund spending by $1.3 billion, while those Republicans who support him are moderates. Not liberals, moderates. That is the argot of the moment.

Albert Einstein

With the leftward shift, people have no qualms about saying that requiring gender specific bathrooms and locker rooms and showers in elementary school is “extreme” and “hateful.”

“I didn’t realize when I was growing up that I was a horrible segregationist because boys went to the boys bathroom and girls went to the girls bathroom. We want to maintain that,” Republican Ira Hansen was quoted as saying on this topic recently.

Things have changed, sir.

If you hint at the least bit of intolerance toward those who were once openly referred to as amoral, immoral or, heaven forfend, perverted, the tolerance lobby will beat the crap out of you — socially, legally and, occasionally, physically.

It doesn’t require a nuclear physicist to figure it out.

According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 47 percent of those surveyed approved of President Obama’s job performance. Among Democrats, 79 percent approved, and that was up 3 points from October. Among Republicans, only 7 percent approved, and that was down 4 points from the previous poll.

Divided and growing further and further apart.

Perhaps some of the credit or blame for the split in attitudes can be found in the news media trending away from the journalistic icon of the past century — objectivity.

In the late 19th century newspaper publishers changed their business model, which relied on income from selling copies of the paper and political patronage to one of relying on advertising revenue. Advertisers wanted the maximum number of eyeballs so papers dared not alienate any potential readers by being partisan.

Media of all types seem to be willing to show partisan stripes today.

There is also the Amazon Effect.

Computerized marketing works by reinforcing your previous choices by offering more of the same: “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought …” Click on a book by conservative radio talk show host Mark Levin and your helpful algorithm suggests books by Thomas Sowell, Newt Gingrich, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter and Karl Rove. Type in the name of any liberal writer and you get the obverse of the coin.

A few years back the speaker at a national convention of newspaper editors was one of the gurus of computer-age marketing, Eric Schmidt, the chairman of the ubiquitous Google.

Schmidt noted that the computer can offer to broaden your exposure as well as narrow it. Obviously, for every synonym there is an antonym. It makes no difference to the machine.

The Google guy noted that, when people were given an option of “show me an opposing view,” two-thirds would never look at it.

Then there is the problem of hearing coherent messages above the cacophony of the information bazaar. According to Schmidt, from the dawn of human history to 2003 about five exabytes (a billion gigabytes) of information was created. He said we now generate that amount every two days. That was five years ago.

He also observed that of the news reporting in all those bytes, fully 80 percent of stories contained no original content, while of the remaining 20 percent, half came from newspapers.

Then, many don’t bother. A recent poll of Nevadans found 89.4 percent either did not know Sandoval supports the largest tax increase in Nevada history or mistakenly thought the governor supports keeping taxes low.

The explanation for why so many can observe the same event and reach different conclusions is outlined in my general theory of political relativity.

No observer is stationary. All are themselves in motion at different velocities, in different directions along the political spectrum from red to blue.

The theory goes something like this (e=mc²): The energy of one’s convictions equals the mass of one’s deductions times the speed of insight squared. Explosive.

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.


We have a president who doesn’t know who the enemy is


Obama addressed the Coast Guard Academy graduating class this week and told them one of the biggest threats to national security is climate change.

“Climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security,” he said, “and, make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country.  And so we need to act— and we need to act now.”

He basically said denial of climate change as a threat is dereliction of duty.

He said this in the same week the Islamic State overran Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria. Ramadi is closer to Baghdad than Las Vegas is to Mesquite.

Despite those losses, Josh Earnest told the press Obama’s strategy to defeat the Islamic state has been a success.

North Korea has nuclear weapons and an insane leader capable to using them. Iran is on the verge of developing its own nuclear arsenal and it has the leaders capable of using it.

There has been no global warming in 18 years, despite all the computer model predictions, but Obama still is focused on preventing the temperature of the planet increasing 1 degree over the next century. Perhaps the should be more worried about a nuclear winter.

What alternative universe do these fools live in?

Obama at Coast Guard Academy. (AP photo)



There’s a right way to go about immigration reform, and executive fiat is not it

Sorry, John, we are going to have to disagree on this one.

Today Las Vegas newspaper columnist John L. Smith chided Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt for joining with 25 other states to challenge in federal court Obama’s executive fiat blocking deportation of millions of illegal immigrants.

Smith basically called the move a sop to Laxalt’s conservative benefactors and suggested Laxalt is on the wrong side of history, because immigration reform is inevitable. It probably is, but it still should be done in the right way, through legislation, not the president scratching through existing law with the stroke of his pen.

Laxalt said at the time he joined the litigation, “Our immigration system is broken and clearly needs to be fixed. But just as clearly, the solution is not for the president to act unilaterally disregarding the U.S. Constitution and laws. The solution must be a permanent, legal result that includes, not ignores, the other branches of government and their constitutional roles. Anything less is a false hope undermining the rule of law that injures millions of people in America, including many in Nevada.”

Of this argument, Smith commented, “Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that it fits snugly into a conservative agenda.” Never mind that Obama’s actions fit snugly into the liberal agenda.

Smith’s column notes that on Tuesday union members picketed outside the Sawyer building, where the attorney general has an office, and unfurled a banner reading: “Laxalt destroys families.” I don’t think Laxalt enticed any of those families to come into the country illegally and risk having family members lawfully deported.

The suit joined by Laxalt challenges Obama’s November executive order that would allow the parents of children brought into the country illegally to remain in the country, get green cards and Social Security cards. This executive order is piled on top of the one Obama issued in 2012 saying those children could remain in this country, despite being here in violation of the rule of law.

The federal lawsuit joined by Laxalt points out that the DREAM Act that would have allowed those children to stay was introduced in March 2009. After that Obama said on at least eight occasions he could not himself impose such amnesty. “I am president, I am not king. I can’t do these things just by myself. …” he said. “I can’t just make the laws up by myself.”

In June 2012, he announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

In November, Obama unilaterally waived deportations for the parents, candidly admitting, “I just took an action to change the law,” even though his own Justice Department advised “the proposed deferred action program for parents of DACA recipients would not be permissible.”

Smith quoted one protester at the anti-Laxalt rally as saying, “Many families come to this country seeking a better life. We believe that we deserve a voice. And we’re going to make it heard.”

And there are many families on long waiting lists trying to enter the country legally, under the rule of law.

A Texas federal judge cited Laxalt’s rule of law argument in granting an injunction against Obama’s executive order.

In his ruling, Judge Andrew Hanen states that “ the states cannot protect themselves from the costs inflicted by the Government when 4.3 million individuals are granted legal presence with the resulting ability to compel state action. The irony of this position cannot be fully appreciated unless it is contrasted with the DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) Directive. The DAPA Directive unilaterally allows individuals removable by law to legally remain in the United States based upon a classification that is not established by any federal law. It is this very lack of law about which the States complain. The Government claims that it can act without a supporting law, but the States cannot.”

The day after the Texas judge’s injunction was issued, Laxalt commented, “Yesterday’s carefully considered, 123-page decision represents a great initial victory for the rule of law and our constitutional system. I am encouraged by the federal court’s thorough analysis of this executive action. This injunction will halt the executive action and allow for the judiciary to carefully evaluate the legality of President Obama’s unilateral act. As I’ve always insisted, this lawsuit is ultimately about the rule of law, not immigration, and the need for all branches of our government, including the president, to faithfully follow the law.”

First, the illegal immigrants ignored the law. Now they want to ignore the Constitution. Whatever gets them what they want.

Granting all of them amnesty might be the right thing to do, as Obama likes to say, but it is the wrong way to do it.

This is one of more than a dozen photos that appeared online with Smith’s column. None appeared in the paper. (R-J photo)


What is newsworthy now was once commonplace in a different place

Having grown up in the grease orchards of Texas, I found it a bit odd that the Elko newspaper found it newsworthy to alert readers that the fire they might see at a Noble Energy oil well site is the intentional flaring of natural gas. But when you think about it, it makes sense. For Elko County that is an unusual sight.

Oil drilling back in the day.

“An open flare is a common practice for disposal of natural gas during the exploration phase in an oil field and is expected to continue until the well stabilizes or gas-holding and production facilities are built,” the BLM is quoted as saying in a statement.

I remember touring the East Texas Oil Museum in Kilgore years ago and reading about all the gas flares in that stretch of the oil patch. One person commented that there were so many flares that you could read a newspaper at midnight.

Back then I thought it quaint that some people would find that remarkable, since gas flares were so common across North Texas. Perhaps someday a child will come across that same remark and ask: “What’s a newspaper, Daddy?”

Anti-picketing bill is a self-erasing exercise in futility

We often think of laws as being etched in stone — like the Ten Commandments.

But there is a bill in the Nevada Legislature that is written on an Etch-a-Sketch. It is self-erasing.

Assembly Bill 356 opens by declaring:

“Sec. 2. A person shall not damage, injure, harm, threaten or maliciously disrupt the lawful activities of any business or any employee or representative of that business with the intent to coerce or intimidate that business.

“Sec. 3. A person shall not intentionally or recklessly destroy, mark or damage the property or merchandise owned by or in the control of any business.”

Damaging, injuring, harming and marking are already against the law, so what’s the point in piling on another law?

Then the bill wipes out the coerce and intimidate aspects altogether by stating:

“Sec. 4. The provisions of sections 2 and 3 of this act are not intended to infringe upon or impede any lawful exercise of rights provided by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, including, without limitation, lawful picketing …”

Lawful picketing is coercion and intimidation … and free speech. AB356 is a self-erasing law. It says thoy shalt not in one breath and thou mayest in the next.

We understand that Assembly member Michele Fiore is trying to find some way to curb the unsavory practices of union picketers, especially on the Strip where tourists are often the targets of vile language, but blocking traffic and doing physical harm are already illegal, though perhaps not aggressively enforced, and threatening violence is assault, also a crime. But vile language is protected speech.

If laws can’t prevent burning American flags or block protestors at the funerals of soldiers, they can’t stop union picketers from calling tourists scabs.

This bill is an expression of frustration and an exercise in futility.

Police arrest union picketers on the Strip. (AP photo)