Bunkerville trial takes another twisted turn

First, the judge in the federal trial of four defendants in the Bunkerville standoff case delayed the trial for a week because the defense accused the prosecution of not providing potential evidence. Now, three weeks into that trial, the judge has halted the trial over similar allegations.

According the website of the morning newspaper, the judge today hinted at the possibility of a mistrial, saying the failure to disclose potentially exculpatory evidence might be “sufficient to undermine the confidence in the outcome of the trial.”

The judge, after dismissing jurors until Wednesday, read a long list of documents, witness names and other information that she said government prosecutors did not provide to defendants in a timely fashion. The story at this time provides no details.

Cliven Bundy, his sons Ammon and Ryan, and self-styled militia member Ryan Payne face felony charges, including conspiracy, assault and threats against federal officers, firearms counts, obstruction and extortion for which a conviction could carry a sentence of 170 year in prison.

After holding the four in jail since February of 2016, shortly after the start of the trial the judge agreed to release all four on what amounts to house arrest. Three accepted but Cliven Bundy refused her terms and remains jailed.

Will this case take another strange twist?

So far, in the case — which grows out of the armed protest against the BLM’s attempted confiscation of Bundy’s cattle for refusing to pay grazing fees — two have been acquitted by a jury, two have pleaded to a misdemeanor and released on time served, one pleaded to conspiracy charge and faces up to six years in prison, another was convicted and sentenced to seven years another was convicted and sentenced to 68 years in prison and still another was convicted and is awaiting sentencing but faces up to 30 years.
The trial of six more defendants, including two more Bundy sons, Dave and Mel Bundy, is scheduled for 30 days after the current trial ends … if it ever does.
Dave and Mel Bundy and two other defendants were finally released this past week.

Protesters outside courthouse. (R-J pix)

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It’s a matter of perspective

The graphic in today’s newspaper certainly makes it look like spending on public eduction in Clark County has been rather stagnant over the past five decades.

A chart shows the growth in the Distributive School Account, the amount of states spent per pupil each year. From 1970 to this year, according to the graphic, this has grown from $545 to $5,700, a steep almost 45-degree angle. But when adjusted for inflation on the same chart, the DSA has grown by only 60 percent. The extended line looks rather flat.

The line chart excludes other funding that has been added other the years, dismissing it as, “Other sources of funding outside the DSA have bolstered per-pupil spending, but only for certain students.” This includes Zoom funding for English learners, Victory funding for poorer schools, added special education funds and weighted funding, which is formula to added funding poor performing schools whatever the reason. According to a bar chart, this added nearly double the Clark County school funds.

Despited dismissing this as for “certain students,” money is fungible. If that money had not been added the funding would have come from the DSA. So the total spending is not $5,700 per pupil, but $11,250. Adjusted for inflation, the funding has tripled over nearly 50 years.

Changes the perspective a bit.

There is no chart showing student achievement scores over that half century.

 

 

 

Banner newspaper story neglects to mention one little niggling aspect

SLS Las Vegas

How soon they forget.

The banner headline in today’s newspaper reads: “SLS lenders sue developers.”

While the story relates that 60 Chinese investors in the project to convert the old Sahara hotel into the SLS Las Vegas are suing, partly because they have not received their promised visas in return for their $500,000 investments under the controversial EB-5 visa program, there is no mention of the role of former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid.

Some of those Chinese investors had been denied visas by Homeland Security because of “suspicious financial activity.” That decision was ineligible for appeal.

But Reid and his staff twisted arms anyway.

According to a Washington Times account at the time, one U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services official reported getting into a shouting match with a Reid staffer over the denial of those visas.

“This one is going to be a major headache for us all because Sen. Reid’s office/staff is pushing hard and I just had a long yelling match on the phone,” that official wrote in an email. That official was later called by Reid himself, seeking the help of the agency’s head,  Alejandro Mayorkas.

Reid made a personal call to Mayorkas in January 2013, according to the Times, and Mayorkas promised him his agency would take a “fresh look” at the SLS hotel and casino visa request. Soon after that the agency expedited visas for about two dozen foreign SLS casino investors.

Mayorkas was later confirmed by the Senate to become the second in command at Homeland Security despite the fact he was under investigation for expediting certain visa applications for certain applicants despite the rejection of those visas by career staffers.

An ethics complaint was filed against Reid, but it went nowhere.

“Despite the fact that these applications were ineligible for appeal, Senator Reid’s efforts to lobby USCIS resulted in the reconsideration and approval of those applications …” the complaint said, adding that the recipients of the investments were major contributors to the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates. “Even more troublesome is the fact that Senator Reid’s son, Rory Reid, and his law firm, Lionel, Sawyer & Collins P.C., are legal counsel to the SLS Hotel and Casino.”

The complaint pointed out that the U.S. Senate Code of Official Conduct permits members to assist people with executive branch agencies, but it also says:

“The decision to provide assistance to petitioners may not be made on the basis of contributions or services, or promises of contributions or services, to the Member’s political campaigns or to other organizations in which the Member has a political, personal, or financial interest.”

Interestingly, in 2015, Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein called on Congress to end the EB-5 visa program that grants visas to foreigners who invest in job-creating projects in the U.S., saying it was a “citizenship-for-sale” program. She said it is “crystal clear that the EB-5 regional center program presents a stark conflict of interest for the Trump White House.”

Her umbrage was prompted by reports that President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s sister mentioned the visa program to potential Chinese investors in a family-owned project.

She had no such outrage years earlier when Reid bullied the agency for the SLS.

Also, Homeland Security’s Inspector General issued a report in March of 2015 accusing Mayorkas of showing favoritism and providing special access to EB-5 visas for Democrats —  specifically Reid, Terry McAuliffe and Anthony Rodham, brother of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson shrugged it off, saying Mayorkas had been “impatient with our sluggish government bureaucracy.” It wasn’t sluggish. The expedited visas were denied and that decision was, according to agency rules, not appealable.

Later an ICE agent who tried to block the SLS visas was fired. She refused to accept a $100,000 severance package that would have required non-disclosure and testified before Congress about the abuses of the EB-5 program. She later accepted an undisclosed settlement.

The agent testified that EB-5 visas were approved in as little as 16 days and “lacked basic necessary law enforcement” screening.

She told Congress: “In 2013, after disclosing gross mismanagement, waste and fraud that threatened the general public’s safety, National Security Risks and public corruption surrounding an EB-5 project, I was subjected to a significant amount of harassment and retaliation. … Some of the violations I was investigating surrounding this EB-5 project include Title 18 statues; Major Fraud, Money Laundering, Bank and Wire fraud. In addition, I had discovered ties to Organized crime and high ranking officials and politicians, who received large campaign contributions that appeared to have facilitat(ed) the EB-5 project.”

Reid not only called the whistleblowers who complained about his meddling in the visa program decisions whiners but bragged that he would do it all over again.

“One of the problems we have with government … is people take too long to make decisions,” Reid said.

That’s all water under the bridge … apparently.

 

Editorial: Accountability Act leaves Congress unaccountable

Isn’t it nice to know your tax dollars have been used to payoff employees of Congress who have been subjected to civil rights, labor, and workplace safety and health law violations — presumably including sexual harassment?

Under the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 congressional staffers are covered by those laws and their employers are no longer exempt.

In most cases in private industry the employer pays the penalties for violations of these laws, but not members of Congress. They get to pick our pockets for the settlement checks.

According to the Office of Compliance, taxpayers from fiscal year 1997 through 2017 have shelled out $17.25 million to cover the legal awards and settlements with congressional staffers.

Some of those settlements may well have been for sexual harassment, considering the recent spate of allegations against powerful men in Hollywood, the news media, as well as senators and congressmen and presidents.

Rep. Jackie Speier (Politico pix)

Specifics about the reasons for the claims, the person complaining and the person complained about are conveniently not reported. Therefore, there is no accountability — ironically enough given the name of the aforementioned act — nor means for voters to address how their money is spent and whether they might consider changing their votes under the circumstances, were they known.

According to Politico, California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier is pushing for legislation to make members of Congress personally liable for any harassment settlements. Why not any other violation of the law, too?

“Make no mistake that the fault of the current complaint process lies within Congress, which authored and passed this deeply flawed legislation that established the Office of Compliance and its burdensome complaint process,” Speier was quoted as saying. “It is our responsibility to fix this law and do better for our employees.”

Speier said a Sunday television talk show recently, “I think it was a system set up in 1995 to protect the harasser. This is not a victim-friendly process.”

She added, “One victim who I spoke with said, ‘you know, the process was almost worse than the harassment.’”

According to The Hill, Rep. Bradley Byrne, an Alabama Republican and a labor attorney, is pushing for a law granting the Office of Compliance the power to investigate and subpoena people.

“If they find something is actually a violation, to go actually present it as a case to an administrative law judge and ultimately to get justice for the victim — and not require the person that makes this allegation to go through counseling and mandatory mediation. If they want to do that great, but don’t force them to do it,” Byrne said in an interview.

The Congressional Accountability Act doesn’t make Congress accountable, but some law should.

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: What to do about wild horses? Part 2

In his newly published book, “Wild Horse Country,” writer David Philipps offers his suggestion for what to do about the overpopulation of wild horses in the West, which are overgrazing the open range: “The solution is mountain lions.”

Realizing that this will leave horse-huggers aghast and cause cattle and sheep ranchers to gasp, Philipps forges ahead, “For decades, the BLM has said the wild horse has ‘no natural predators.’ … But the same people who have long dismissed using predators to control horses as impossible have never made an attempt to understand it. They have likely been too busy rounding up and storing horses. If they took the time to look into the idea of mountain lions, they would see that research on the ground contradicts the conventional wisdom.”

Philipps came upon this audacious “solution” after visiting Dr. John Turner at his summer digs in Montgomery Pass near Boundary Peak and the California border west of Tonopah, where the researcher observed wild horses and their environs. Turner spends his winter months working in a lab researching fertility drugs such as PZP, which is being used experimentally to dart mares in an effort to keep herds in check.

The book notes that Turner first came to Montgomery Pass in 1985 intending to do research on herd dynamics that might aid fertility drug studies. Then he learned about mountain lions.

“The BLM was saying there was overpopulation and there was actually underpopulation, because the mountain lions were just going crazy. This was something totally new,” the book quotes Turner as saying. “The old timers around here knew cats were hunting horses, but no one in the scientific community really realized it was happening, or that it could happen.”

Turner told Philipps that the highly adaptive lions, which weigh from 100 to 180 pounds, had learned to lie in wait near watering spots and would spring on the backs of foals, sinking their claws into the flesh and biting the neck, severing the spine in seconds.

The researcher learned this by attaching radio collars to some lions and tracking them for five years. His team discovered that mature horses were too big for the lions but they found foal carcasses near watering holes. In some years nearly two-thirds of the foals were eaten. “You would have some lions eating a foal every other week or so,” Turner told the author.

Philipps also related that in 2005 a University of Nevada, Reno a graduate student started tracking wild horses in the Virginia Mountains. She managed to attach a radio collar to one mountain lion and follow it for 10 months, finding that 77 percent of the lion’s diet was horse flesh. Despite this, according to Philipps, the BLM expressed no interest in the findings.

Meanwhile, the Nevada Division of Wildlife is spending $200,000 this year to kill lions.

“The economic tangle of killing predators while storing horses is mind-boggling. The Bureau of Land Management warehouses thousands of horses each year,” Philipps writes. “Each of those horses costs on average $50,000 to capture, house, and feed over its lifetime. At the same time, we are spending millions to kill mountain lions in the West. It is fairly safe to say that every dollar spent taking out mountain lions in Wild Horse Country drives up the cost of storing wild horses.”

While Philipps’ solution has a certain appeal for being a natural population control method, we suggest that in an earlier chapter he reported an even better and more economically viable solution offered by a Eureka rancher. Besides, foals, calves and lambs probably taste the same.

In 2010 George Parman posted a letter on the Internet, “No, what we need to do, is to let the ranchers and the mustangers take care of the problem, just as they did in the old days, back when, along in the Fall a handful of cowboys would take their saddle horses — throw a bunch of grub and their bedrolls in the back of a pickup — and off they’d go to do a little mustanging. … The horses were automatically kept at reasonable numbers. It cost the taxpayer nothing. The best of the horses were put on the market for people to use and enjoy. The remainder of the older and less desirable animals were euthanatized via a facility that made good use of the end product. … The cattle had plenty to eat. The horses had plenty to eat. Wildlife did well.”

Both solutions make too much commonsense to ever be tried.

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.

Grounds for impeaching Trump enough for Titus

There were 58 Democrats who voted to move forward with debate on articles of impeachment of President Trump on the grounds that he is an uncouth oaf. Nevada Rep. Dina Titus was one of them.

Although Texas Rep. Al Green’s House Resolution for impeachment contains no text, Politico has linked to what it calls the articles of impeachment, nothing more than a recitation of Trump’s faux pas.

“Donald John Trump, by causing such harm to the society of the United States is unfit to be president and warrants impeachment, trial and removal from office,” Politico quoted Green as saying on the House floor.

Among the agregious deeds listed by Green are Trump’s attempt to block immigration from certain majority Muslim nations, banning transgender persons from military service, denigrating football players for kneeling during the national anthem and calling a Florida representative wacky.

Titus thought these worthy of debating whether to remove the president from office. All other Nevada representatives voted against moving forward.

Get serious.

 

Who is telling the truth in Kihuen contratempts

Lie detectors at 10 paces, turn and fire.

In order to protect his own hide from allegations of sexual harassment, Nevada’s CD4 Rep. Ruben Kihuen told ABC News that two people who are calling for him to resign over those allegations were aware of the claims back during the election campaign in 2016 and continued to support him.

According to BuzzFeed, a female Kihuen campaign staffer quit in April 2016 shortly after the candidate started propositioning her for dates and sex despite her repeated rejections and twice touched her thighs without her consent.

Reuben Kihuen

The woman said the propositions became more frequent and more aggressive and Kihuen asked her if she had ever “cheated on her boyfriend.” She said the candidate offered to get them a hotel room together while campaigning and she told BuzzFeed, “I said ‘no’ very firmly and he just laughed at me. It was humiliating.”

Kihuen now says both Democratic Party leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Ben Ray Lujan knew about the allegations, looked into them and did not find anything.

In fact the woman said she informed the DCCC as to why she was quitting. Kihuen’s campaign manager told BuzzFeed someone at the DCCC called to say the woman had quit because she felt “uncomfortable” around Kihuen, but there were no specifics and Kihuen denied any wrongdoing.

A spokesman for Pelosi said she was not aware of the allegation earlier and first learned of them from BuzzFeed.

“Congressman Kihuen’s statement is not true,” a DCCC spokesman said. “We were presented with these disturbing facts for the first time last week, and the chair immediately called for his resignation.”

“I’ve been abundantly clear that anyone that is guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault, that they don’t deserve to hold public office at any level, and I continue to hold that position,” Lujan said.

Kihuen has said he will not resign. Who is telling or stretching the truth?