There can be consequences when newspapers print fiction, though not always

Most journalists know the moral of the story about Mitch Albom’s fictitious column.

Mitch Albom

In April 2005, the Detroit Free Press’ star sports columnist wrote in a Sunday column about how two former Michigan State basketball players, both then in the NBA, attended a Final Four semifinal game on Saturday night and wore Michigan State green to show their support.

But the column ran in a section of the paper that was printed before the game started, and the two NBA alums were no-shows.

For writing fiction in the guise of  journalism, Albom was suspended without pay for several weeks and four other staffers were “disciplined.”

In a front page letter to readers publisher and editor Carole Leigh Hutton apologized for the fabrication.

In a column Albom apologized too, “Perhaps it seems as a small detail to you … but details are the backbone of journalism, and planning to be somewhere is not the same as being there.”

I said most journalists know the moral of the story, but no all.

Publisher's column sig

Publisher’s column sig

In today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal, publisher Bob Brown prints a homily under the headline: “We all share responsibility to spread Easter good will.”

In the column he writes: “But as I sit here in St. Anthony’s Church this morning, looking around at the bright young faces, dressed in their finest clothes, I am reminded of a simple truth: The message that ‘God is love’ transcends all conflict.”

Of course, the presses rolled long before the earliest of Easter Sunday services. And he may well have been in amen corner this morning while most people were reading the column and there may well have been “bright young faces, dressed in their finest clothes” along with the rest of their bodies, but he committed the sin of Mitch Albom.

I doubt the publisher will be suspended, like Albom was, for this journalistic transgression. Nor do I expect a front page apology. After all is was a “small detail.”

Sharing a genre bender from Gary P. Nunn

I turned on my iTunes a few minutes ago and set it to random play, so it will skip all my genres from alternative to celtic to folk to zydeco.

One of the first songs to come out was one that could be either country or reggae or both, real genre bender.

I thought I would share, and I knew someone, somewhere would have already posted a YouTube video. As we say in Texas: Shure ’nuff, mon:

I’m not sure Jerry Jeff done it this way.


Nevadans seeing our economic freedoms swirling down the drain

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University is out with its latest survey of “Freedom in the 50 States,” and it shows we Nevadans are squandering our freedoms as Californication takes over as inexorably as arthritis.

In the overall category, the state has dropped from a respectable 4th place in 2001 to a middling 20th  for 2011. That overall is a compilation of categories. On some we fare well but in very few have we improved. Mostly its been downhill.

Sloping downward

Sloping downward

While the state does pretty well in personal freedom, rising from 4th in 2001 to 2nd now, in the pocketbook freedoms it is all downhill.

In economic freedom, which includes fiscal and regulatory policies, Nevada has fallen from 9th to a ranking of 29th. Likewise on fiscal policies, which covers taxes, government employment, spending, debt and fiscal decentralization, Mercatus has marked Nevada down from 8th to 33rd, not even in the middle of the pack.

And while the state has a reputation as a low-tax state, it is unearned. Or rather is a lingering remnant of the past. The tax burden ranking is calculated by taking state and local tax revenues as a percentage of the state’s personal income. Nevada has dropped from 12th in 2001 to 35th in 2011.

The education category is not ranked on quality but on freedom for private and homeschooling, and in that the state has been terrible, ranking 47th in 2001, but 49th in 2007, 2009 and 2011.

As for freedom to get a job without having to obtain an occupational license, Nevada is a cellar dweller, 50th every year surveyed. But we are tied every year for right to work at No. 1.

Of course Nevada is in the top 10 always for freedom to gamble and booze.

Mercatus observed:

Nevada has a reputation as a libertarian state, mostly because of legal prostitution and gambling, but on economic freedom the state fares significantly worse than one would expect of a state with such a moniker.

On fiscal policy the state now ranks slightly worse than average after slipping significantly between FY 2008 and FY 2010 in every fiscal category, due in part to a severe decline in personal income during the recession. Debt is now two standard deviations higher than the national average (at 29.1 percent of income), while taxes are now slightly higher than average (at 9.7 percent of income).


News you will not read anywhere else about ‘global warming’

Remember all those stories about how 2012 was the hottest year in a century of weather data for the 48 contiguous states of the United States. It was in all the papers.

Well, courtesy of a website called Real Science, here is a look at temperature records:

The ratio of record lows to record highs is 30:1.

Newspaper column: Bill would increase renewable power and power bills

As I mentioned earlier, a bill has been introduced in the state Legislature to increase the percent of electricity that must come from renewable generation by 2025 from 25 percent to 35 percent — the highest renewable portfolio standard (RPS) in the continental United States.

Harry Reid inspects solar panels

Senate Bill 252, immaculately conceived in the Committee on Commerce, Labor and Energy in Carson City, not only ratchets up the percentage of renewables required but  would change the rules of the game in the seventh inning, as reported in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press. It would amend state law by deleting 33 mentions of energy “efficiency” — reducing energy consumption — as a means of complying with the legislatively mandated RPS. The cleanest kilowatt of electricity is the one never used. Yet SB252 would eliminate this as a means for reducing carbon output.

What’s the point?

Obviously, it is a blatant attempt to force more renewable power plants to be built and the cost to consumers and taxpayers and the impact on global warming be damned. You see, renewable energy companies are prolific campaign contributors to Democrats.

An economic impact study of Oregon’s RPS of 25 percent by 2025, the same as Nevada’s current level, found this could increase power bills by somewhere between 14 and 34 percent and reduce the number of jobs in the state by between 10,000 and 25,000. Imagine what 35 percent will do.

The entire column at the Ely or Elko websites.

Just another day at the incredibly shrinking newspaper


Atop the flag of The New York Times is the motto: “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”

Perhaps it is time for the Las Vegas Review-Journal to adopt the motto: “All the News That Fits.”

First, they slashed reporters. Then, they slashed editors. Next, they slashed pages and content.

In November the Sunday opinion section, called Viewpoints, was cut from six pages to four. Shortly after that they came up with op-ed-less Thursdays. With only two people left to put out the opinion pages, something had to give. Now, they’ve given us a “Good Friday” op-ed page with only one column and the rest remnants of news or jumps from the front of the section.

There were a few more ads in the B section today, considering Sunday is Easter.

At one time the editor would have gone to the publisher, hat in hand, and begged to increase the number of pages in the section when the advertising cup runneth over. Back when the paper was printing 200,000 copies, that was a lot of newsprint expense to burn. But the publisher almost always agreed. Now, as the paper is approaching half that circulation, the pennies are being pinched. Content is sacrificed.

The question is: Will next Friday bring another op-ed-lite?

Next, they might as well slash their wrists.


At least they can say they are no two-bit newspaper.

Putting a precise number on those ‘thousands of green jobs’ Harry talks about

While addressing the Nevada Legislature a few weeks ago Nevada’s senior Sen. Harry Reid proclaimed, “The renewable energy industry has been a bright spot during dark economic times, helping our state attract new businesses and create thousands of jobs that can never be outsourced.”

Yes, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2011, Nevada does indeed have thousands of “green jobs,” 15,569 to be precise, out of about 1.12 million jobs that year. But a third of those “green jobs” were construction jobs, because the BLS defines just about any construction that includes efficiency measures such as insulation, installing double-pane windows and low-flow toilets as green jobs.

Another 1,166 “green jobs” were in manufacturing, which includes building stuff with recycled material. It surely included those nearly 300 jobs that Reid touted in a press release in 2010 on the opening of the Amonix solar panel manufacturing plant in North Las Vegas. Pay no attention to the fact it closed in 2012.

As for all those solar panel farms, wind farms and geothermal facilities, Reid brags about, calling Nevada the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy, those accounted for only 367 jobs in 2011.

Harry Reid at right at groundbreaking for Amonix solar panel manufacturing plant. (R-J photo)

History might offer some lessons on tampering with the definition of marriage

While the U.S. Supreme is pondering two court cases that might make anything the Nevada Legislature does on the topic of gay marriage moot, nonetheless our lawmakers are plunging ahead in an attempt to overturn the state’s constitutional ban enacted by the voters in 2000 and 2002.

As a born-again libertarian, I care not what people do behind closed doors and don’t think they should be discriminated against for doing so. As a lifelong writer and editor, I have qualms about changing the definition of words. It is a qualm I share with George Orwell who said those who control words control thoughts.

In front of the Supreme Court building. (Reuters photo)

But there is also a certain historical aspect to the discussion of this topic that is largely overlooked. I was reminded of this today by a paragraph in a Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial calling for the repeal of the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

“Yes, we might wish to return to a day when the sacrament of marriage was an entirely religious matter, not regulated by the state,” the editorialist remarked. “In fact, it must be reiterated at every stage that government has no power to require any church or religious organization to recognize, endorse, or financially support same-sex marriage, or anything else abhorrent to its teachings.”

But if the Catholic Church’s ancillary institutions may not “discriminate” by refusing to provide free contraceptives to all insured employees, how long before …?

Now the history lesson:  In 1882, the Edmunds Act outlawed polygamy. Any Mormon who continued to practice polygamy was stripped of the right to vote or hold public office. As many as 1,300 were jailed.

At least polygamy had a long history of acceptance, one of Biblical proportions.

Might churches that “discriminate” against the civil rights of homosexuals to marry have their tax exemptions denied and building permits rejected?

Those who control the words will eventually try to control the thoughts.

Nevada lawmakers twiddle their thumbs, while in other states renewable power portfolio standards are being challenged

Nevada is one of 29 states with electricity market central planning from the Legislature that demands a certain percentage of all electricity consumed in the state come from so-called “green” sources such as solar, wind, biomaas and geothermal. This is called a renewable portfolio standard.

Lawmakers in 22 states of those states are fighting to reduce or repeal their RPS because it increases power bills, while in Nevada not a single legislator has had the temerity to even suggest such a thing for the sake of ratepayers. Nay, our Legislature is considering a law to increase the RPS from 25 percent by 2025 to 35 percent — the highest in the continental U.S. I’ve asked my state senator and assemblyman, and they have demurred.

Spring Valley Wind project near Ely. (Photo via R-J courtesy of Pattern Energy)

According to Herman Trabish, reporting at GreentechMedia, an obviously pro renewable website, ”

At least twenty-two of the 29 state renewables standards have been attacked by legislators or regulators in the last year or are now under attack.”

He goes on to low-ball the impact on consumers of this market manipulation, claiming, “

Research shows they add less than 5 percent, on average, to the cost of electricity bills and are an effective driver of renewables growth.”

Not only are lawmakers growing spines and challenging the “green” lobbyists, Trabish reports, in Colorado a 2011 federal lawsuit challenges renewable standards everywhere on the grounds they violate the Commerce Clause “

and should be voided because it discriminates against out-of-state coal-fired electricity.”

“The renewable energy standard creates a barrier to interstate commerce that’s impermissible under the Constitution — only Congress can regulate interstate commerce,” the Denver Business Journal quotes Kent Holsinger, the Denver attorney on the lawsuit, as saying. “Colorado said 30 percent of electricity that’s used in Colorado must be from these so-called renewable sources. That discriminates against other sources of electricity in and outside the state. The standard also creates a preference for renewable sources inside the state. We believe that’s a facial violation of the clause.”

Meanwhile, Nevada’s largest newspaper is reporting that Nevada’s first utility-scale wind farm could face up to a $200,000 fine because it does not have a federal “take” permit that would allow its turbines to kill golden or bald eagles up to a certain number. A dead golden eagle was found at the wind farm this past month.

The R-J story makes no mention of the fact that dead eagles at wind farms result in lengthy investigations, while dead migratory birds of any feather found at oil and mining sites can result in a quick indictment.

A look at the man from ‘1984’

Previously I bored you with a snippet from a 1983 newspaper article about the 35th anniversary of the publication of “1984” by George Orwell.

Today we have a brief sidebar from that article busting a few of the familiar myths about Orwell the man:

George Orwell: An eternal pessimist

George Orwell was born Eric Blair in Motihari, Bengal, in 1903, the only son of a minor official in the Indian Customs office.

But Eric Blair in the guise of Orwell would reject his middle class upbringing to live out much of his life as an ardent socialist.

Orwell earned a scholarship to Eton, but always seemed bitter about not being able to attend Oxford or Cambridge — the schools which opened doors to the professions and better paying jobs. Perhaps in retaliation, he affected the coarse style and clothing of the lower classes. He even hand rolled the 40 or so cigarettes he smoked a day.

Eric Blair/George Orwell

He took the pen name George Orwell when he wrote “Down and Out in Paris and London” in 1933. It apparently referred to St. George and a river.

Orwell placed himself in his books. He evoked the smells of the poor in his books — the smells of smoke and boiled cabbage and decay.

“Animal Farm” can be seen as a parody of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War.

Orwell went to Spain to write newspaper articles, but he immediately joined the POUM, one of the left-wing militia fighting alongside the communists against the fascist forces of Franco.

While Orwell was recuperating from a wound to the throat, the POUM was denounced by the communists and its offices seized, its leaders jailed or killed. Some say the outcast pig in “Animal Farm” and the outcast Goldstein in “1984” are characters based on the leader of the POUM. Some have said the characters are based on Trotsky, who was cast out of the Communist Party.

In “1984” Room 101 becomes the most feared interrogation room, the room where one is confronted with his worst fears, in Winston Smith’s case — rats. During World War II, Room 101 was the BBC room where he produced propaganda.

The eternal pessimist, Orwell once wrote, “I had no money, I was weak, I was ugly, I was unpopular, I had a chronic cough, I was cowardly, I smelt … The conviction that it was not possible for me to be a success went deep enough to influence my actions till far into adult life. Until I was thirty I always planned my life on the assumption not only that any major undertaking was bound to fail, but that I could only expect to live a few years longer.”

The man who has been called a prophet of our age suggested to his publisher that he print only 10,000 copies of “1984” — a book that has since been translated into 60 languages.

Orwell carried with him a deep guilt over his experiences as a British colonial police officer in Burma. It apparently influenced his politics and his writing. He once wrote of this Burmese experience, “For five years I had been part of an oppressive  system … I was conscious of an immense weight of guilt that I had to expiate.”

Dying of tuberculosis, Orwell went to the Isle of Jura off the coast of Scotland in 1946 to write “1984.” It was to be his last book and his most remembered. He died in January 1950, seven months after the book was published.