Editorial: Democratic House bill is a naked power grab

With Democrats firmly ensconced in power in the House of Representatives, the first order of business is, of course, to hold onto that power in perpetuity.

The 600-page H.R. 1, dubiously dubbed “For the People Act,” wrests voting law decisions from the states and shreds the First Amendment right of free speech. It is co-sponsored by all three of Nevada’s Democratic representatives — Dina Titus, Susie Lee and Steven Horsford.

The bill would require automatic voter registration, online voter registration and registration on Election Day, allow felons to vote, require 15 days of early voting, end the automatic purging of voters from registration lists when they don’t vote or fail to respond to mailed inquiries, dole out a 600 percent government match for certain “small” political donations and make Election Day a holiday — all of which erode the integrity of the ballot.

H.R. 1 also seeks to curb the free speech protections for corporations, unions and other groups upheld by the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC by requiring increased disclosure of donors and online advertisers. 

In what is an embarrassing ignorance of history the bill declares, “The Supreme Court’s misinterpretation of the Constitution to empower monied interests at the expense of the American people in elections has seriously eroded over 100 years of congressional action to promote fairness and protect elections from the toxic influence of money.”

The very first such congressional action mentioned is the Tillman Act of 1907 that prohibited corporations from making contributions in connection with federal elections.

Lest we forget, the sponsor of the legislation was none other than Democratic Sen. Benjamin “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman of South Carolina — the leader of a Ku Klux Klan-style lynch mob known as the “Red Shirts,” a man who declared, “The Negro must remain subordinated or be exterminated” in order to “keep the white race at the top of the heap.”

The sole purpose of Tillman’s bill was to gag northern corporations who hired blacks and tended to favor Republicans.

Also, as Justice Clarence Thomas noted in his dissent in Citizens United, disclosure requirements have spawned a cottage industry that uses donor information to intimidate, retaliate, threaten and boycott individuals and businesses with whom they disagree. 

Thomas wrote, “The disclosure, disclaimer, and reporting requirements in (the law) are also unconstitutional. … Congress may not abridge the ‘right to anonymous speech’ based on the ‘simple interest in providing voters with additional relevant information …’”

The Founders frequently engaged in anonymous speech and protected it with the First Amendment. The Federalist Papers were penned under pseudonyms.

In addition to Nevada’s Democratic House delegates, the state’s two Democratic senators — Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen — have both railed against the free speech funded by what they pejoratively call “unaccountable dark money.”

Nevada Rep. Lee called H.R. 1 “a sweeping package of pro-democracy, and anti-corruption reforms that will put electoral power back in the hands of the American people. H.R. 1 will curb the influence of big money in politics, make it easier, not harder for Americans to practice their fundamental right to vote, and ensure that politicians actually serve the public — not special interest groups.” Special interest groups like the Democratic Party?

While the House is likely to pass this legislative and constitutional abomination, its chances in the Republican-controlled Senate are slim. 

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky rightly stated in an op-ed in The Washington Post, “They’re trying to clothe this power grab with cliches about ‘restoring democracy’ and doing it ‘For the People,’ but their proposal is simply a naked attempt to change the rules of American politics to benefit one party. It should be called the Democrat Politician Protection Act.” 

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of 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: Bundys may have to face trial after all

Cliven Bundy walks out of federal court with his wife Carol on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, in Las Vegas, after a judge dismissed criminal charges against him and his sons accused of leading an armed uprising against federal authorities in 2014. (R-J pix by K.M Cannon

This past week prosecutors appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals the decision by a Nevada federal judge to dismiss with prejudice all charges against Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy, two of his sons and a self-style militiaman from Montana because the government failed to disclose potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense. 

Knowing the track record of the liberal 9th Circuit, odds are the court will order the defendants back to face charges.

The Bundy family has grazed cattle on public land in Clark County since the 1880s, but 25 years ago the Bureau of Land Management told the family it could no longer graze cattle in the spring because they might harm the hatchlings of the threatened desert tortoise — a contention range biologists say is bogus. Since those months are the only ones in which cattle gain weight on the desert range, Bundy refused to comply and stopped paying the BLM its grazing fees. 

In April 2014, saying Bundy owed more than $1 million in grazing fees and trespass fines, contract cowboys backed by heavily armed BLM and FBI agents started rounding up the Bundy cattle. In response, armed men from across the West gathered for a face-off with the federal agents.

To avert a potential bloodbath the agents backed down and left, but Bundy and others were later indicted on charges that included obstruction of justice, conspiracy, extortion, assault and impeding federal officers.

Two of three scheduled trials took place, but a year ago during the third trial of Cliven Bundy and his co-defendants Judge Gloria Navarro abruptly halted proceedings and ruled that the prosecutors had willfully and flagrantly failed to disclose evidence that could have been used by the defense, including information about an FBI surveillance camera, documents citing the presence of snipers, certain maps, FBI logs, threat assessments that showed the Bundys weren’t violent, documents reportedly showing that no threatened desert tortoises were ever found to be harmed by Bundy’s cattle, and internal affairs documents detailing possible misdeeds by the Bureau of Land Management agent in charge, who was later fired.

The judge ruled the dismissal was with prejudice, meaning charges could not be brought against them again. 

Curiously, most of that information cited would have allowed the defense to argue the defendants were provoked and were acting in self-defense, arguments the judge previously ruled were impermissible. The appeal goes into excruciating detail about this seeming contradiction.

In response to the appeal, Bundy’s lawyer Larry Klayman asked the appellate court to dismiss the prosecution’s appeal because it had missed the filing deadline. Though the prosecution asked for deadlines extensions, the court has not yet granted such an extension.

According to press accounts, Klayman also called the appeal “unprofessional and grossly unethical,” adding, “They are apparently hopeful that this court, if an appeal is heard, will relieve them from the prospect that their careers at the Department of Justice are over, much more the potential for disbarment. Given the record, this ‘Hail Mary’ attempt to skate from their own liability is destined to fail.”

But the appeal, penned by Nevada Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth White, argues,  “Any missteps were inadvertent (or at worst negligent), and those errors did not merit the court’s strong condemnation of the prosecution team.”

White also argued that court precedents show the appropriate remedy for failing to disclose would be either the dismissal of some charges or a new trial, not outright dismissal. 

In arguing that disclosure of evidence might jeopardize the safety of witnesses and agents, the appeal dredged up a long-discredited base canard. 

The brief stated, “Its goal was to produce all relevant information while protecting victims, witnesses, and law enforcement officers from harassment and threats, and from the violence that had already taken the lives of two police officers and a civilian at the hands of two of Bundy’s extremist followers.”

This refers to the fact that in June 2014, Jerad and Amanda Miller, killed two Las Vegas police officers and another man before being killed in a shootout with police.

What was not mentioned is that the Millers were a couple of leftist lunatics who showed up at the Bundy ranch standoff but were told by the Bundys to leave because of their “very radical” views. They were not Bundy’s “extremist followers.”

Despite this error, the appellate court is likely to look favorably on the prosecution’s appeal. 

A version of this column appeared this week in 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.

Watch the morning newspaper disappear before your very eyes

The big squeeze is on at the morning newspaper here in town.

Today the paper not only dropped the TV page, which it had warned was coming, but it also dropped the entire Health section, instead slapping a page on the back of the B section. Today’s paper is 34 pages compared to 38 pages a week ago.

A little note on the cover of the paper explains this, in case you also missed it. The note says the Variety page, which includes crossword puzzles and advice columns, will be in the B sections now Monday through Saturday. Hmmmm. We wonder if that means the Tuesday and Thursday Life sections and the Wednesday Taste section will be disappearing, too. But it would be difficult to move those to the back of the B section, since that is where the former Business section was relegated to sometime ago.

A year ago the Sunday Viewpoints opinion section shrunk from six to four pages.

By the way, that warning about the TV page disappearing also noted that an eight-page edition of TV schedules will be included in Sunday Review-Journal editions sold at newsstands, but not included in the papers delivered to homes of people who, you know, actually still are willing to pay for subscriptions to the ever shrinking newspaper.

But don’t worry, that delightful 8-page section called the Sun, with its single local story and the occasional locally written, uber-liberal editorial, will still be there. The contract doesn’t expire until 2040.

This past year tariffs on Canadian newsprint caused the price to increase 30 to 35 percent.

Oh, the misplaced agony and outrage over smaller IRS refund checks!

For a while this morning the lede news story on Yahoo!’s opening page was a HuffPost piece about people being angry that they are getting smaller refunds due to the Trump tax cuts.

The story reports on the chagrin thusly:

“The average refund check paid out so far has been $1,865, down from $2,035 at the same point in 2018, according to IRS data. Low-income taxpayers often file early to pocket the money as soon as possible. Many taxpayers count on the refunds to make important payments, or spend the money on things like home repairs, a vacation or a car.”

The story does at one point in passing note that the tax code changes meant that in some cases not enough money was withheld by employers. But nowhere in it does it note that in the vast majority of these cases the total tax bill for 2018 is less than the prior year. People just got to kept it with each paycheck and did not make interest-free loans to the federal government.

At the least the USA Today version of this story does mention the overall lower tax bill, but not until the last paragraph, which reads:

“Getting a smaller refund doesn’t mean you’re paying more in total in taxes. In many cases, much of your tax savings showed up in each paycheck, which could result in a smaller refund.”

As Bugs Bunny would say: What a bunch of maroons. Chalk this up as fake news.

USA Today photo illustration

 

Editorial: Efforts to repeal Marsy’s Law need to begin now

You can’t say we didn’t warn you.

We asked in an editorial published shortly before the November election whether the constitutional amendment on the ballot in Nevada and other states — known as Marsy’s Law and sold as a victim rights measure — could prevent the release of names of crime victims and crime reports that keep the public aware of public safety issues and how well justice is being delivered by our elected and appointed police, prosecutors and judges. 

Marsy’s Law is being pushed nationwide by the wealthy family of Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, who was killed in 1983 by her ex-boyfriend. Family members were miffed when they walked into a grocery store and saw the ex-boyfriend, who had been released on bail without their knowledge. Whether bail would have been granted even if they were informed of the hearing is a matter of conjecture.

The Associated Press is now reporting that the police chief in Sebring, Fla., is refusing to release the names of some of the five women shot to death in a local bank. The chief noted that the Marsy’s Law amendment to the state constitution approved by voters in November allows relatives of crime victims to prevent the disclosure of information that could be used to locate or harass them or their families. 

The AP account quotes Barbara Petersen of the Tallahassee-based First Amendment Foundation as asking the logical question, “How do we hold law enforcement accountable? Are we going to start having secret trials, crime victims testifying behind curtains?”

Then there is the absurdity of the perpetrator being a “victim” by virtue of being a protected family member. It’s happened twice in Florida already. 

In Tallahassee, police refused to release the name of a person killed in an apparent DUI-related crash or the name of the driver because they reportedly were related.

In Pembroke Pines police refused to release the names of either a woman shot to death by her husband or the name of the husband who then committed suicide in front of police officers.

Furthermore, there have been cases in both South and North Dakota in which the names of police officers involved in shootings were concealed from the public because they qualified as victims under Marsy’s Law and revealing their identities could be used to locate or harass them or their families. Such blanket secrecy could allow public officials to cover up mistakes, malfeasance or even corruption.

Could a corporation demand that its identity be kept secret after being the victim of theft or embezzlement due to lax precautions? This could leave customers and shareholders unaware.

Could a crime spree in a neighborhood go unreported because Marsy’s Law conceals the identity of victims and their proximate locations?

The ACLU of Nevada opposed Marsy’s Law, saying that granting victims constitutional rights equal to the accused undermines the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments, which are meant to limit the power of government. It “undermines the presumption of innocence by allowing victims to be involved in procedural processes prior to conviction,” the ACLU argued.

The “rights” created under Nevada’s version of Marsy’s Law include the right to refuse an interview or deposition request, unless under court order, and to set reasonable conditions on the conduct of any such interview. This directly interferes with the accused-but-not-yet-convicted person’s Sixth Amendment Right to effective assistance of an attorney.

Marsy’s Law also requires “victims” to be notified of any hearing or procedure. Because it defines a “victim” as any person directly and proximately harmed by the commission of a criminal offense, it is difficult to put a limit on how many people would have to be notified. The cost is incalculable. This could open the door to lengthy delays and added expense, harming the victims instead of helping.

Not only must justice be done; it must also be seen to be done. Marsy’s Law can block the public’s access to information needed to make sure public officials are actually carrying out their duties responsibly and effectively.

It will take three years to undo the threats to justice posed by Marsy’s Law because it is in the state Constitution. We call on our lawmakers to get the ball rolling.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of 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 still has a role to play in nuclear deterrence

After learning this past week that the Department of Energy had secretly shipped a thousand pounds of weapons-grade plutonium to the Nevada National Security Site in Nye County before the state had filed a federal lawsuit in November seeking to block such shipments, Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak and the state’s entire Democratic delegation to D.C. flew into paroxysms of apoplexy, accusing the Trump administration of deception and dealing unfairly with the state.

Sisolak put out a statement declaring, “I am beyond outraged by this completely unacceptable deception from the U.S. Department of Energy. The Department led the State of Nevada to believe that they were engaging in good-faith negotiations with us regarding a potential shipment of weapons-grade plutonium, only to reveal that those negotiations were a sham all along. They lied to the State of Nevada, misled a federal court, and jeopardized the safety of Nevada’s families and environment.”

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto was similarly indignant, charging that the Energy Department had “negotiated in bad faith, hiding the timing of their shipment and refused to share crucial information with Members of Congress who had the security clearance to know.”

Rep. Dina Titus said, “Time and again, we have seen Trump Administration officials treat Nevada as the dumping ground for the nation’s nuclear waste.”

Sen. Jacky Rosen called the shipment “deceitful and unethical” and said “the lack of transparency from the Department of Energy is absolutely unacceptable.”

Rep. Susie Lee decried, “Nevada officials were deceived by sham ‘negotiations’ while the safety of millions was jeopardized, as was the environment and economy of dozens of states. Nevada is not the nation’s nuclear dumping ground. Period.”

Rep. Steven Horsford, whose district includes what most Nevadans still call the Test Site, also bemoaned, “Our state is not a dumping ground for the nation’s hazardous waste, and we have no intention of letting it become one.”

The Energy Department responded with its own statement, saying it was inaccurate to state that the Nevada delegation was not informed and the agency made efforts to ensure members of Congress and state officials representing the states involved were notified as early as August 2018.

The agency also said, “It is also inaccurate to characterize this material as ‘waste’. This material is essential for maintenance of the U.S. weapons stockpile, and is handled with the highest standards for safety and security. NNSA routinely ships this type of material between its sites as part of our national security missions and has done so safely and securely for decades.”

Of course the shipment was secret. No one wants to give potential terrorists an itinerary. As for deceiving the court, the shipment had already been sent when the state’s suit was filed and the court was told this past week when the information was declassified.

What does anyone think the test site is used for in the first place? Since the Cold War it literally has been ground zero for nuclear tests and development of our nuclear deterrence. It is remote and secure.

Speaking of deterrence, the ruckus over the plutonium shipment came mere days before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. is pulling out of a nuclear arms control pact with Russia because of its ongoing and flagrant violations.

“When an agreement is so brazenly disregarded and our security is so openly threatened, we must respond,” Pompeo said. “Russia has jeopardized the United States’ security interests and we can no longer be restricted by the treaty while Russia shamelessly violates it.”

This means the U.S. will need to catch up with its potential adversaries, Russia and China, both of which have deployed long-range, nuclear-tipped missiles. That means maintaining and, yes, even adding to our nuclear arsenal.

The very reason the plutonium was shipped to Nevada was because a federal court had ordered it removed from the Savannah River facility in South Carolina because the government had failed to build a facility to convert the plutonium into nuclear reactor fuel. It is being stored here until it can be shipped to Los Alamos, N.M., where it can be processed for weapons with which to defend our country.

That is the role the test site has fulfilled for decades and needs to continue to do, despite the histrionics from Democratic politicians.

A version of this column appeared this week in 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.

Bundy prosecutors keep flogging a false scenario

Federal prosecutors trying to get charges reinstated against Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy and his sons have dragged out a base canard once again.

A judge threw out the case because the prosecutors had failed to disclose potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense.

In a section of the 88-page brief filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that argues that prosecutors were simply trying to balance disclose of data against “protecting witnesses and victims from real and on-going threats,” prosecutors note that “in June 2014, Jerad and Amanda Miller, two extremists who had been at Bundy’s property in April, murdered two Las Vegas police officers as they ate lunch, then draped a Gadsden flag over one of the officers and shouted this was the start of ‘a revolution,’ and later killed a civilian as well.”

What they continue to neglect to mention is that the Millers were a couple of leftist, anti-authoritarian lunatics who showed up at the Bundy ranch standoff with BLM agents trying to confiscate his cattle but were told by the Bundys to leave because of their “very radical” views.

The couple also showed up at a left-leaning march in Lafayette, Ind., the previous November, according to a CBS affiliate in Chicago.

While living in Lafayette, Jerad Miller and his wife Amanda took part in the “Million Mask March,” a gathering of protesters from the Occupy movement, anarchists, and hacktivists, the television station reported.

Linking the lunatic Millers with the Bundys is ridiculous. The Millers were killed in a standoff with police.

Jerad and Amanda Miller