Obama delivers anti-Memorial Day speech in Hiroshima

With Memorial Day just beyond the weekend, President Obama spoke in Hiroshima about the atom bombing that ended World War II and saved the lives of countless Americans and Japanese.

This is the slap in the face he delivered to those veterans who are the parents and grandparents for so many Americans alive today: “Nations arise telling a story that binds people together in sacrifice and cooperation, allowing for remarkable feats. But those same stories have so often been used to oppress and dehumanize those who are different.”

Instead of a memorial, he delivers an admonishment about oppression and dehumanizing without distinguishing who did what. He recalls the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki but makes no mention of Pearl Harbor — where my father was stationed at the time — or the Death March of Bataan or the Rape of Nanking or the many bloody battles across the Pacific Front.

He made a generic mention of what happened without ever mentioning who the perpetrators were and who the heroes were: “In the span of a few years, some 60 million people would die. Men, women, children, no different than us. Shot, beaten, marched, bombed, jailed, starved, gassed to death. There are many sites around the world that chronicle this war, memorials that tell stories of courage and heroism, graves and empty camps that echo of unspeakable depravity.”

He once again made a sweeping condemnation of all religions, making them out to be morally equivalent and all equally to blame: “Every great religion promises a pathway to love and peace and righteousness, and yet no religion has been spared from believers who have claimed their faith as a license to kill.”

At least when he spoke about the Hiroshima bombing President Truman mentioned the number of Japanese lives saved, “It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam. Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth. Behind this air attack will follow sea and land forces in such number that and power as they have not yet seen and with the fighting skill of which they are already well aware.”

He did not mention that the U.S. had only one more such bomb, not that those American and allied sea and land forces would have suffered huge casualties.

But Obama concluded his speech without a hint of understanding of the momentous decision that was made 71 years ago by Truman that saved countless lives and ended that unspeakable depravity:

Those who died, they are like us. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it. When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders, reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.

The world was forever changed here, but today the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is a future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.

Our moral awakening? He made a sweeping indictment of humankind, ignoring the heroes who fought to save the American ideal.

Obama at Hiroshima. (NY Times photo)

 

Newspaper column: Resignation offers a glimpse into the state of newspapering in Nevada

The newspaper community in Nevada is a rather small clique of writers and editors, competing against each other for the hot news scoops and heart-tugging feature stories and precious pearls of political punditry. It is the competition that makes all the papers just a little better than they otherwise would be.

Writers and readers are a little poorer when one of the stars of the journalism craft in the state feels he must walk away in order to maintain his integrity and creditability.

A month ago, John L. Smith, who has written a general interest column four or five days a week for more than 30 years at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, resigned.

The situation offers readers a rare glimpse inside the nuanced world of Nevada newspaper journalism, which seldom gets any coverage and where credibility is often a matter of perspective, motives are suspect and excuses can replace sound judgment and diligent editing.

Smith was among a handful of writers at the Las Vegas newspaper who unearthed the identity of the paper’s new ownership in December — Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino owner and generous donor to Republican political candidates. All have since left the paper.

In a December column, Smith commented that Adelson is “precisely the wrong person to own this or any newspaper.”

John L. Smith doing commentary at KNPR.

In January, shortly after Adelson named a new publisher for the newspaper, Smith was told he could no longer write about Adelson because the casino owner had once unsuccessfully sued Smith over a couple of sentences in a book about casino executives called “Sharks in the Desert.” Smith protested but reluctantly followed orders, though he had written often about Adelson over the years since the suit was thrown out in 2008 as baseless.

Then a month ago, the newly ensconced editor of the paper, Keith Moyer, appeared at a weekend meeting of the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists to talk about the future of the paper. According to Twitter feeds posted during the meeting, Moyer publicly declared, “I personally think it was a conflict for John to write about Sheldon,” and, “As long as I’m editor, John won’t write about Sheldon Adelson.”

Smith replied with a Tweet: “Wasn’t I also sued by Wynn?” referring to a lawsuit by casino executive Steve Wynn over an ad for a book about Wynn called “Running Scared” that was dismissed by the Nevada Supreme Court in 2001.

The following Monday, Moyer told Smith he could not write about Wynn either. The next day Smith resigned, leaving a letter on desks in the newsroom saying in part: “I learned many years ago about the importance of not punching down in weight class. You don’t hit ‘little people’ in this craft, you defend them. In Las Vegas, a quintessential company town, it’s the blowhard billionaires and their political toadies who are worth punching. And if you don’t have the freedom to call the community’s heavyweights to account, then that ‘commentary’ tag isn’t worth the paper on which it’s printed. … If a Las Vegas columnist is considered ‘conflicted’ because he’s been unsuccessfully sued by two of the most powerful and outspoken players in the gaming industry, then it’s time to move on.”

One man’s conflict is another man’s job well done.

Adelson’s suit said “Sharks” made false implications that he “was associated with unsavory characters and unsavory activities.”

Adelson asked that the case be dismissed when Smith’s attorney, Don Campbell, obtained confidential Gaming Control Board records. “In short, Adelson’s claims were about to be exposed for what they were … false and vindictive,” Campbell said at the time.

Wynn sued when an ad for “Running Scared,” an ad Smith did not write, said the book ”details why a confidential Scotland Yard report calls Wynn a front man for the Genovese crime family.”

The book itself reported that the New Scotland Yard report was “not entirely accurate” and was politically motivated and largely based on investigative efforts of U.S. authorities who did not reach the same conclusion.

I’ve always lectured reporters that every story should have a WSIGAD — why should I give a damn.

You may have never read the Las Vegas newspaper and never heard of John L. Smith, but all the journalists in the state know of his plight, and, when they contemplate covering the rich and powerful, there will be a hitch in their gait that will affect the news you get. That’s why you should give a damn.

Disclosure: I edited Smith’s columns for more than 20 years.

A version of this column appears this week many of 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.

According to IG report, Clinton blatantly disregarded laws and policies governing emails

Kevin Siers cartoon

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her staff demonstrated a blatant disregard for the law, protocol and security during her tenure, according to an Inspector General report sent to Congress.

She showed reckless disregard for the laws involving record keeping and national security.

And those who raised concerns in her office were told everything had been approved — a lie — and to shut up and never bring it up again.

Here is an example from the report:

Two staff in S/ES-IRM (S/ES Office of Information Resources Management) reported to OIG (Office of Inspector General) that, in late 2010, they each discussed their concerns about Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email account in separate meetings with the then-Director of S/ES-IRM. In one meeting, one staff member raised concerns that information sent and received on Secretary Clinton’s account could contain Federal records that needed to be preserved in order to satisfy Federal recordkeeping requirements. According to the staff member, the Director stated that the Secretary’s personal system had been reviewed and approved by Department legal staff and that the matter was not to be discussed any further. As previously noted, OIG found no evidence that staff in the Office of the Legal Adviser reviewed or approved Secretary Clinton’s personal system. According to the other S/ES-IRM staff member who raised concerns about the server, the Director stated that the mission of S/ES-IRM is to support the Secretary and instructed the staff never to speak of the Secretary’s personal email system again.

When asked about whether the email system met security requires, there came another lie:

Similarly, the FAM (Foreign Affairs Manual) contained provisions requiring employees who process SBU (sensitive but unclassified) information on their own devices to ensure that appropriate administrative, technical, and physical safeguards are maintained to protect the confidentiality and integrity of records and to ensure encryption of SBU information with products certified by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology). With regard to encryption, Secretary Clinton’s website states that “robust protections were put in place and additional upgrades and techniques employed over time as they became available, including consulting and employing third party experts.” … Secretary Clinton never demonstrated to them that her private server or mobile device met minimum information security requirements …

It was clear Clinton did not want certain email to be accessible by the public, even though it was being commingled with what were clearly public records. According to the IG, Clinton wrote, “Let’s get separate address or device but I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible.”

The Hill recalled, “In addition to the roughly 30,000 emails she returned to the federal government for record-keeping, Clinton also claimed to have deleted a similar number of emails from her machine, which she claimed were purely personal in nature.”

Guidelines for compliance with the Freedom of Information Act clearly state that personal information is not to be commingled with public records.

The IG concluded:

Longstanding, systemic weaknesses related to electronic records and communications have existed within the Office of the Secretary that go well beyond the tenure of any one Secretary of State. OIG recognizes that technology and Department policy have evolved considerably since Secretary Albright’s tenure began in 1997. Nevertheless, the Department generally and the Office of the Secretary in particular have been slow to recognize and to manage effectively the legal requirements and cybersecurity risks associated with electronic data communications, particularly as those risks pertain to its most senior leadership. OIG expects that its recommendations will move the Department steps closer to meaningfully addressing these risks.

This, of course, prompted the excuse: Others did it, too.

According to Politico, Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said “in reality, the Inspector General documents just how (sic) consistent her email practices were with those of other secretaries and senior officials at the State Department who also used personal email.”

All are guilty so all are innocent.

Clinton and her top staffers refused to be interviewed for the investigation. A footnote states: “Secretary Clinton declined OIG’s request for an interview. The former Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations has not responded to OIG’s request for an interview.”

 

 

 

BLM creates new security job that will be in charge of … intelligence?

No bungling will go unrewarded.

The man who was in charge of security for the Bureau of Land Mismanagement during the Bundy ranch cattle roundup and standoff two years ago has been promoted to a newly created position, according to Greenwire.

Dan Love

Dan Love, who was in charge of BLM security in Nevada and Utah, will now serve as the BLM’s agent in charge of security, protection and intelligence.

The intelligence part of the job reportedly includes gathering information on emerging threats, including from websites and social media.

Why a land management agency has what amounts to its own law enforcement force is a question to begin with. Even the Test Site uses private security firms. Aren’t actual federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI as well as local police and sheriff agencies sufficient to protect these public servants?

As for intelligence? That is spying. Why does an agency in charge of managing largely vacant land and handing out grazing permits need a spy?

“In this position, Dan will be responsible for a range of national level program components including facility security oversight and coordination efforts, as well as the bureau’s law enforcement intelligence program,” according to an internal email obtained by Greenwire.

The account goes on to list various acts of violence, some dating back more than 20 years, that might have prompted the creation of this redundant position.

In an article in the Salt Lake City Tribune in October of 2014, rural Utah sheriffs described Love as Public Enemy No. 1.

“Elected law enforcement officers from Nephi to Blanding call him an arrogant and dishonest bully who has little regard for local authority and dodges accountability, derailing a collaborative approach to police work on the state’s federal lands,” the article declares.

Love did not talk to the reporter, but state and local officials said he had an intimidating attitude and unwillingness to work with local officials — just the right person to put in charge of a national spy shop.

 

 

 

Arkansas senator unloads both barrels at Harry

Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton took to the floor of the Senate today to lambaste Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid for trying to delay defense bill, calling his leadership cancerous.

“I’m forced to listen to the bitter, vulgar, incoherent ramblings of the minority leader. Normally like other Americans I ignore them, I can’t ignore them today,” Cotton said of Reid’s complaints. “When was the last time the minority leader read a bill? It was probably an electricity bill.”

He also took umbrage with Reid’s claim the bill was written in the dead of night and reminded him of who rammed though ObamaCare.

VA secretary explains just how Mickey Mouse his agency has become

“When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what’s important? What’s important is, what’s your satisfaction with the experience?” Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Monday. “And what I would like to move to, eventually, is that kind of measure.”

That is simply crass, crude, clueless and obtuse.

Waiting to board an amusement park ride is a bit different from waiting for pain-relieving or even life-saving medical care. You can’t ask the deceased what their level of satisfaction was.

Nevada’s junior Sen. Dean Heller unloaded in a letter to McDonald:

I write to you extremely concerned about the comments you made on May 23, 2016, comparing the length of time veterans wait to receive health care at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to the length of time people wait for rides at Disneyland. Not only am I concerned about the flippant nature of your comparison but also the fact that you said that your agency should not use wait times as a measure of success because Disney does not either.  As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I believe it is my responsibility to follow up with you on the gravity of this issue as it critical to ensure that Veterans across my state are receiving the care they were promised in an expedient manner.

When men and women across our nation committed to serving America and risking their lives to protect us, our country promised that, in return, we would care for these service members upon their return home. This is not a Disney fairytale Mr. Secretary, this is reality. Recent statistics from Nevada show nearly 10,000 VA appointments remain scheduled over 30 days from the requested date. Given the issues that Nevada’s Veterans continue to face accessing VA health care, I do not believe that promise has been kept. Just a few weeks ago, I heard from a Nevada veteran’s wife about the difficulty she faced scheduling a cardiology appointment for her husband. When there are life-threatening issues that can make or break a veterans’ health, waiting is not an option, and Nevada’s veterans deserve better.

Time and time again, I have called for accountability at your agency, and I strongly believe that it should start with the top.  This is why your comments were not only disrespectful but harmful to ensuring that there will be any real change at the VA when it comes to the timeliness of health care appointment wait times.

A year ago The Associated Press reported that the number of veterans waiting more than 30 or 60 days for non-emergency care has largely stayed flat, while the number of medical appointments that take longer than 90 days to complete had nearly doubled.

Nate Beeler

This was nearly a year after Congress doled out $16 billion to solve the problem of lengthy waiting lists. VA officials had been manipulating the waiting lists to make them look like vets were waiting less time to see a doctor than was actually happening.

In March of this year the Government Accountability Office reported that it studied 180 veterans newly enrolled in the VA health system. Sixty of that 180 had not yet seen a health provider and “nearly half were unable to access primary care because VA medical center staff did not schedule appointments for these veterans in accordance with VHA policy. The 120 newly enrolled veterans in GAO’s review who were seen by providers waited from 22 days to 71 days from their requests that VA contact them to schedule appointments to when they were seen, according to GAO’s analysis.”

The analysis found that the system lacks a comprehensive scheduling policy and there were ongoing scheduling errors. A VA report in September found nearly 900,000 listed as “pending” for health care, but Social Security records listed 300,000 of those as deceased.

What did McDonald do with that $16 billion? Go to Disneyland?

Heller asked the VA secretary to answer these questions by May 30:

— Does the VA remain committed to providing appointments to veterans within 30 days of the request?

— What are the current VA appointment wait times for veterans in Nevada and nationwide?

— For each fiscal year since implementation of the Choice Act, how many VA health care beneficiaries are obtaining appointments through the Choice Program as a result of an appointment wait time of 30 days or more?

— How do you explain to veterans that you believe their wait time for care is just as important as a wait time at an amusement park?

— When did your view on appointment wait times change to the point that you believe wait time should not even be a measure for the VA?

— Do you believe that the VA cannot achieve both timely and quality care simultaneously.

— Do you believe you are still fit to serve and advocate on behalf of veterans as the VA Secretary if you aren’t prioritizing the timeliness of their health care — the very reason you became Secretary in the midst of the 2014 VA health care scandal?

It matters not whether McDonald still thinks he is fit to serve. Does Congress? Better yet, what do veterans think?

McDonald put out a press release today that basically blames others for misunderstanding his commitment to improving the VA and offered no apology for his cluelessness and highly inappropriate remark. “If my comments Monday led any Veterans to believe that I, or the dedicated workforce I am privileged to lead, don’t take that noble mission seriously, I deeply regret that. Nothing could be further from the truth,” the statement reads.

For the record, Disney has spent more than $1 billion on something called the Disney MagicBand so customers don’t have to wait in long lines.

Nevada’s senior Sen. Harry Reid defended McDonald today.

“I support Secretary McDonald all the way. …” Reid was quoted as saying. “I’m an expert on poor choice of words. … I’m sure he would be the first to tell you, following my example, saying the wrong things is not the best way to go.”

Masters of malaprops still together.

Republican Congressman Joe Heck, who is running for Reid’s Senate seat also weighed in. He used the callow McDonald gaffe to call for passage of the stalled VA Accountability Act, which he said is intended to address the agency’s defensive culture and pattern of offering excuses instead of solutions.

“Secretary McDonald’s double down on his callous remarks invoking Disneyland is alarming because it suggests the defensive culture among management at the VA, which lead to the falsification of wait-time reports in the first place, persists under his leadership,” said Heck, a brigadier general in the Army Reserve medical corps and a veteran of the Iraq conflict.

“The remedy to the VA’s culture of excuses is a needed dose of accountability. Unfortunately, the federal civil service, which makes it extremely difficult to remove negligent or unethical employees, remains an obstacle to such reform,” Heck added, noting that the VA Accountability Act passed the House but is stalled in Reid’s Senate. “Every day that the VA’s accountability problem goes unaddressed, taxpayers are being forced to foot the bill for the salaries of failed bureaucrats. Our veterans have given us all they have. Seeing that they get the care and benefits they need, earned and deserve is the very least we can do.”

Well, the VA is apparently doing the least it can do.

Surprisingly, former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who is running for Reid’s seat from the Democratic side, parted company with shrugging Reid and blasted oafish McDonald.

“Even for Washington, the tone deafness of these comments is stunning,” she said in a statement. “The VA needs to address the wait times at its facilities so our veterans get the care they need in a timely manner, not offer up false analogies and excuses. It’s long past time for the VA to get its act together.”

 

Solar panel owners are subsidizing other power customers, not the other way around

Solar panels being installed on a Nevada home in 2015. (R-J photo by Jeff Scheid)

I never could figure out why, when NV Energy jacked up the rates charged to residential solar panel owners because they were somehow being subsidized by non-panel owners, the rates for non-panel owners were not concomitantly reduced and yet the move was somehow going to be revenue neutral.

Two reports out this week say NV Energy’s subsidy contention is bogus, and, in fact, solar panel owners are providing a net benefit to power customers in general.

A report from The Brookings Institution notes that Nevada’s net metering rates — that change solar panels from being an asset to a liability — have caused the installation of new solar panels to plummet 92 per cent in the first quarter of this year.

The Brookings report, by Mark Muro and Devashree Saha, asks and answers what it calls the burning question:

Does net metering really represent a net cost shift from solar-owning households to others? Or does it in fact contribute net benefits to the grid, utilities, and other ratepayer groups when all costs and benefits are factored in? As to the answer, it’s getting clearer (even if it’s not unanimous). Net metering — contra the Nevada decision — frequently benefits all ratepayers when all costs and benefits are accounted for, which is a finding state public utility commissions, or PUCs, need to take seriously as the fight over net metering rages in states like Arizona, California, and Nevada.  Regulators everywhere need to put in place processes that fairly consider the full range of benefits (as well as costs) of net metering as well as other policies as they set and update the policies, regulations, and tariffs that will play a critical role in determining the extent to which the distributed solar industry continues to grow.

As I have said before the problem is that monopoly power companies have an infrastructure cost that remains no matter how much power it sells. The only difference between a solar panel owner and a customer who conserves and is efficient is that the solar panel output can be measured. NV Energy calculates that solar panel owners were avoiding paying their fair share of infrastructure costs — to the tune of about $52 a month.

But solar panel installer SolarCity and the Natural Resources Defense Council calculate that rooftop solar provides a net benefit to all Nevadans of 1.6 cents per kilowatt-hour in actual costs and as much as 3.4 cents per kWh if you include benefits to the environment, which is admittedly hard to calculate.

NEMrates

The report by Brookings also notes that a 2014 study prepared for the Nevada Public Utilities Commission found that net metering provided $36 million in benefits to all NV Energy customers and over the 25-year lifetime of the panels the net benefit amounted to $166 million — just for the ones installed so far.

A 2015 study from Maine said the value of rooftop solar was $0.33 per kWh compared to the average retail price of $0.13 per kWh. “The study concludes that solar power provides a substantial public benefit because it reduces electricity prices due to the displacement of more expensive power sources …” Brookings concluded.

The report goes on to list numerous other studies that found solar panels benefited power customers in general rather than being a drain.

Brookings addresses the infrastructure cost issues by recommending decoupling. The NRDC says this is done by regulators of private utilities using “modest, regular rate reconciliations every year to compensate for under- or over-collection of fixed costs during the previous year. More than half the states have adopted decoupling mechanisms for either electric or natural gas utilities as a necessary (but not sufficient) part of the policies that allow utilities to invest in the cheapest and cleanest energy resource: energy efficiency.”

Though 15 states have adopted decoupling, according to Brookings, states like Nevada, which has not, are fighting net metering the hardest. “Typically, decoupling has been used as a mechanism to encourage regulated utilities to promote energy efficiency for their customers,” the Brookings authors say. “However, it can also be used as a tool to incentivize net metering by breaking the link between utility profits and utility sales and encouraging maximum solar penetration. Advocates of decoupling note that it is even more effective when paired with time-of-use pricing and minimum monthly billing.”

 

Mt. Wheeler Power Co., which covers all of White Pine County as well as parts of Nye, Elko and Eureka counties and parts of three counties in Utah, still provides net metering rates for its customers with solar panels. The current rate is 3 cents per kWh but that is expected to increase when the company’s wholesale provider is expected to increase rates, a company executive said.

Valley Electric Association, which services Nevada power customers along the California border from Mineral County to Sandy Valley in Clark County, shows on its website that it also provides net metering rates.