He’s just an ol’ truth teller

Trump just can’t help it. After his duly appointed surrogates spin, obfuscate, deconstruct and prevaricate for him, he has to blurt out the truth.

At least that is the assessment of Kathleen Parker in her May 16 Washington Post column.

Parker

 

“Invariably, the president contradicts statements from his communications team and other officials, and blurts the truth,” she writes. “As counterintuitive as it seems, Trump is a truth-teller among spinmeisters.”

Those spinmeisters said the president did not share classified info with the Ruskies. Then Trump says he can do anything he wants. He is the president, implying he did.

 

The White House crew tells the suspicious press the firing of FBI Director James Comey was due to recommendations of his Justice Department leadership. Then Trump says he was thinking about the Russia investigation and thinking about firing Comey all along.

Parker concludes by advising readers: “Wait awhile. Trump, the impulsive truth-sayer, will tell us sooner or later.”

That sounds catchy. Put it to music and belt it out, Donald:

 

Editorial: Rip the veil of secrecy from the Bundy case

Bunkerville standoff (Reuters pix)

Justice must not only be done, but it must be seen to be done.

The wheels of justice continue to grind in the federal criminal case against Cliven Bundy, four of his sons and a dozen co-defendants over the April 2014 armed standoff with federal agents trying to confiscate Bundy’s cattle at his Bunkerville ranch. All of the defendants have been jailed for more than a year.

The standoff occurred after armed Bureau of Land Management agents attempted to roundup Bundy’s cattle after he had refused for 20 years to pay grazing fees in the Gold Butte area. The BLM said he owed $1 million in fees and penalties.

Faced with armed protesters the BLM agents eventually released the cattle and left to avoid potential bloodshed.

Much of the evidence in the high-profile case remains cloaked in secrecy due to a blanket court protective order that requires just about everything filed in the case must be filed under seal.

But the press — specifically the Las Vegas daily newspaper, this newspaper and The Associated Press — continue to fight for openness. Just this past week attorney Maggie McLetchie filed a writ with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asking that the veil of secrecy be lifted, because it “is anathema to the First Amendment” and longstanding court precedent from the 9th Circuit itself.

McLetchie argues, among other things, that much of the rationale for keeping material secret is merely to protect government agents from legitimate criticism of their conduct. She also says the protective order is  based on “speculation and scaremongering” supported almost entirely by a series of years-old online social media posts.

Since the arrests of most of the defendants back in February 2016, things have not gone swimmingly for the government.

Two of Bundy’s sons, who had been arrested on separate but similar charges of illegally occupying an Oregon wildlife refuge to protest the jailing of father and son ranchers under a terrrorism law for letting fires get out of control and burn a few acres of federal public land, were acquitted of those charges this past fall by a jury, along with their co-defendants.

In April, the first of three scheduled trials for the Bunkerville defendants — charged with obstruction of justice, conspiracy, extortion, assault and impeding federal officers — ended in a mistrial. The jury found only two of six people on trial guilty of some charges but deadlocked on the others. The jurors agreed to convict on only 10 of the 60 charges brought. None of the conspiracy charges stuck.

In January, the Interior Department’s Inspector General released a 16-page investigative report outlining misconduct and ethical violations by the BLM agent who supervised the Bundy cattle roundup. The report never named the agent but said he abused his powers by obtaining preferential treatment for family and friends at the 2015 Burning Man event on BLM land, misused BLM personnel and equipment, improperly intervened in hiring a BLM agent and attempted to influence an employee’s testimony during the Inspector General’s investigation of him.

News accounts identify the agent as Dan Love.

McLetchie noted that the misconduct allegations add fuel to the “general public’s concern that the government mishandled the investigation in this case.”

Her writ quotes from a 9th Circuit ruling from 1983 in which The Associated Press sought information about a criminal case. The court stated there “can be little dispute that the press and public have historically had a common law right of access to most pretrial documents. … Moreover, pretrial documents, such as those dealing with the question whether [a defendant] should be incarcerated prior to trial and those containing allegations by [a defendant] of government misconduct, are often important to a full understanding of the way in which ‘the judicial process and the government as a whole are functioning.’”

Seems on point for the Bundy case.

The defendants from the first Bundy trial are to be retried in late June on the same day Cliven Bundy, his sons and others were scheduled for trial. The court has yet to say what the schedule will be for the long-jailed remaining defendants.

The court needs to shine more light on this case so the public can see whether justice is being done.

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: Now Democrats find fault with visa program that Reid abused

Democrats are highly selective about the things that send them into high dudgeon.

Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said this past week that Congress should end the EB-5 visa program that grants visas to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in job-creating projects in the U.S., calling it a “citizenship-for-sale” program.

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.

Where was the outrage four years ago when Nevada Sen. Harry Reid twisted arms at Immigration and Customs Enforcement to reverse a decision that was blocking EB-5 visas for Chinese investors in a Las Vegas casino with ties to Reid’s son Rory?

An ethics complaint was filed against Reid, then Senate Democratic majority leader, but it was buried in the bureaucracy.

The SLS built with foreign investment money (USA Today pix)

In fact, four days after that complaint was filed, the Senate voted to confirm the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to become the second in command at the Department of Homeland Security. Mayorkas was the one who granted the visas after personally talking to Reid. The vote was 54-41. Had Reid not just nuked the Senate filibuster rules the nomination would have failed to achieve the previously required 60 votes.

Mayorkas was confirmed despite the fact he was under investigation at the time for expediting visa applications for certain applicants despite the rejection of those visas by career staffers.

Reid had made a personal call to Mayorkas in January 2013, according to the Washington 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, formerly the Sahara, investors. The Times reported that Federal Election Commission records show executives for two companies involved in the hotel project had made $127,000 in political donations over the previous three elections, mostly to Democrats.

The ethics complaint by Cause of Action said, “Despite the fact that these applications were ineligible for appeal, Senator Reid’s efforts to lobby USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) resulted in the reconsideration and approval of those applications … 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 U.S. Senate Code of Official Conduct 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.”

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

Instead of attacking, as Democrats are doing with Trump’s kin, the Obama administration circled the wagons. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said 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.”

Back then nothing could be heard from Democrats over the chirping of crickets, but now Feinstein ruminates that it is “crystal clear that the EB-5 regional center program presents a stark conflict of interest for the Trump White House.”

Reid got a pass and a coverup, but Trump is not a fellow Democrat.

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.

The absurdity of mandating diversity

When you boil it down to its fundamental essence, it is an absurdity.

A line in the morning paper’s editorial causes one to stop, think and calculate. The screed takes issue with a comment Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto made in an interview with Politico, in which she said, “We should be mandating diversity in our committees, mandating diversity in our hiring practices, mandating diversity throughout the United States Senate.”

She later is quoted as saying, “You just have to walk in the room and look at the senators that are there — the 100 senators, right? You could see the lack of diversity.”

The editorial counters: “Does Sen. Cortez Masto seek a constitutional amendment to replace the democratic process with a federal quota system to ensure the ‘proper’ distribution of pigments and chromosomes in the nation’s highest legislative body?”

How do you determine successful diversity? Do you know it when you see it, as Cortez Masto does — just like the way Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart spotted pornography? Can it be precisely calculated?

The first absurdity is how to explain what is “proper” diversity? Equal amounts of certain properties, traits and characteristics? Or matching the current distribution in the population of those characteristics? Is that distribution fair? Or is it a quirk of fecundity?

If you were to demand an equal distribution of chromosomes, the Senate would have to have an equal number of X and Y chromosomes, thus all male. Even one female upsets the diversity balance.

Even if the first elected Latina member of the U.S. Senate, as both the interview and the editorial observe, is talking about skin pigments and/or ethnicity, that too gets to be a mathematical absurdity.

Are we going to return the days when states like Louisiana had laws on the books that stated any person with so much as 1/32nd black heritage was, ipso facto, black? Or does one pure bred ethnic person equal two mixed race persons? Should the ratio of black, brown, yellow, red, white and other pigments match the population from the latest census or extrapolate for changes in the future? May a person identify as any race or gender they so choose? Or would that upset the diversity quotient?

And what about IQ levels? Should the senators and their staffs be required to match the median IQ of the nation? For every staffer or senator with an IQ of 130, you’d need to hire or elect someone with an IQ of 70.

What about age? The median age of senators is 62. The median U.S. population age is 38. Seems like a lack of diversity. And that tacky constitutional requirement that a senator has to be at least 30 years of age certainly flies in the face of the all-important diversity objective.

Also, aren’t there too lawyers in the Senate and not enough hod carriers?

Each of us is a minority of one. Lumping people into categories and pigeonholes for the sake achieving a counterbalance for some past perceived discriminatory behavior is itself discriminatory, counterproductive and contrary to democratic principles.

By the way, the Politico interview was for a section called “Women Rule Podcast.” Not very diverse.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (Politico pix)

What is the difference between demanding diversity and stereotyping?

At one point the “Women Rule” interview reports:

“There is a tendency for women to over think things, right? And so we think, ‘Oh, can I really — if I decide to run for office, am I qualified? Do I have the educational experience? Do I have the background? Do I have the ability?’” Cortez Masto says. “And I will tell you, there are men who look at the same office and say, ‘Well, how much does it pay and let me jump in and see.’ I think we need to do a better job of talking with women to say, ‘No, you don’t need to do that analysis.’”

 

Democrats push to block Nevada entering statehood

The Democratic majority in the Nevada Legislature is doing everything they can to erase everything accomplished by the 2015 Republican-controlled session. First, labor reform and a minor prevailing wage reform are rolled back. Now, they want to keep Nevada a territory instead of barging ahead into some semblance of statehood.

In 2015 the Legislature passed Senate Joint Resolution 1, which urged Congress to release about 7.2 million acres of federal public land to the state, which would have reduced the federal land control in the state from about 85 percent to about 75 percent.

In support of that resolution in March 2015 Congressman Mark Amodei, who represents northern Nevada, introduced H.R. 1484, dubbed the Honor the Nevada Enabling Act of 1864 Act. The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources finally got around to conducting a hearing on the bill in November but the bill lapsed with the session of Congress.

Amodei at a meeting in Reno in April. (RGJ pix)

On Tuesday the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining heard testimony on Senate Joint Resolution 12, which would rescind SJR1 as if it never happened and the results of a years-long public lands task force report was written in smoke. That task force found that, while the federal government loses 91 cents an acre on the land it manages, states with public land trusts make $28.59 acre, meaning Nevada could net $114 million by taking over just 10 percent of BLM land.

SJR12  has already passed the Senate on a 12-9 party-line vote.

Meanwhile, Rep. Amodei appears to be throwing in the towel. He told the Reno newspaper editorial board this week that he won’t likely reintroduce a bill to transfer federal land to state control. “Transferring millions of acres of public lands … is not something I think the majority of people think is a good idea,” he was quoted as saying.

Janine Hansen, representing the Nevada Committee for Full Statehood, was one of the few to testify against SJR12. She noted that the federal land bureaucracies are blocking economic development in rural Nevada.

 

 

 

Transcript provides insight in lawyers covering their asses

Someone must be spoon-feeding The Nevada Independent like a baby in a highchair.

First, the online, contribution-funded news site first posted Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett’s affidavit about his secretly recorded conservation with Attorney General Adam Laxalt concerning casino and newspaper owner Sheldon Adelson’s request for the gaming board to file an amicus brief in a civil lawsuit asking that certain records be kept confidential.

Now, at 8 a.m., after a columnist in the morning paper called for the recording to be made public, the NVIndy posts the transcript of the recording.

The transcript is a rambling discussion of whether the gaming board should become involved in the civil case by invoking NRS463.120, which makes gaming records confidential. Burnett had turned the recording over to the FBI, who determined Laxalt did nothing criminal.

The NVIndy previously had reported that back in 2008 then-Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, now a U.S. senator, had tried to invoke the confidentiality of records:

In 2008, amid a yearslong legal battle between former Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith and Adelson, who sued Smith over an allegedly defamatory passage in his book, Smith’s lawyers sought to compel the Gaming Control Board to release records relating to Adelson’s gaming license as part of the discovery process. Cortez Masto, on the board’s behalf, opposed the release on the grounds that it would impinge on the board’s ability to thoroughly vet gaming license applicants.

A Review-Journal editorial at the time noted:

As a part of the discovery process while preparing for a scheduled trial in December, Smith’s attorney, Don Campbell, managed to gain access to confidential Gaming Control Board records relating to Adelson’s gaming license. That was a feat of legal skill and audacity accomplished only one other time in history.

Since the trial has been called off, those records remain confidential.

Campbell said in court that Adelson would have pursued the case “to the end of the Earth” but that since he obtained those gaming records Adelson now “wants to call it off and walk away.”

Adelson now owns the newspaper and Smith resigned after being told he could no longer write anything about anyone who had unsuccessfully sued him.

This case was also raised in the Burnett-Laxal conversation:

In his affidavit, Burnett said he recorded the conversation with Laxalt because Adelson had reporters follow the judge in the case and he feared he might be monitored by reporters. This too came up in the discussion:

The bottomline is that both men were trying to cover their asses:

Adelson eventually settled the lawsuit.

 

 

Cyberwarfare doesn’t quite make the front page, but inside …

North Korea at night with South Korea below, China to the left and Japan to the right.

The news items were pages apart and totally unrelated. Or were they?

On the cover of the morning newspaper is an AP account of North Korea successfully testing a nuclear-capable missile. The Seoul-datelined story opens: “North Korea on Monday boasted of a successful weekend launch of a new type of ‘medium long-range’ ballistic rocket that can carry a heavy nuclear warhead.” The rocket flew 490 miles

Inside the Nevada section there is an interview with the  commander of the 99th Air Base Wing at Nellis Air Force Base. In it he talks about the role of Nellis, which includes discussion of the base’s cyberwarfare role. The “bird” colonel commented that an example of cyberwarfare would be “figuring out how, if our nation decided, we would take down the electrical grid in North Korea.”

The irony is that North Korea doesn’t have much of an electric grid to take down, but we do.

In fact a story at Townhall today talks about what could be used to take down our grid — electromagnetic pulse or EMP, which could be delivered by a solar flare or a high-altitude nuclear detonation, which could delivered from a ship or submarine less than 490 miles off either coast.

As we noted three years ago, Dr. Peter Pry testified before Congress  that an EMP event could wipe out 90 percent of America’s population.

“Natural EMP from a geomagnetic super-storm, like the 1859 Carrington Event or 1921 Railroad Storm, and nuclear EMP attack from terrorists or rogue states, as practiced by North Korea during the nuclear crisis of 2013, are both existential threats that could kill 9 of 10 Americans through starvation, disease, and societal collapse,” he said.

There was a bill in the House, H.R. 3410, at the time that was intended to start the relatively inexpensive process of hardening the nation’s grid against such an attack. Nevada Rep. Joe Heck was a co-sponsor. It passed the House in December 2014 and has since languished, apparently for a lack of urgency in the Senate and White House.

I have been writing about this topic since 1980 to no avail.

Rep. Trent Franks, R.-Ariz., who introduced H.R. 3410 in October 2013, said three years ago “every single facet of modern human life” would be “crippled” by an EMP event. “It strikes at my very core when I think of the men, women, and children in cities and rural towns across America with a possibility of no access to food, water, or transportation,” he said. “In a matter of weeks or months at most, a worst-case scenario could bring devastation beyond imagination.”

The cost to do this grid work has been placed at somewhere between a half a billion dollars and a couple of billion. Washington spends three times that in one minute.

The headline on that Townhall story reads: “Tick, Tock: EMP War Looms.”

Here is an excerpt from that story by Katie Kieffer:

A unique menace in that it can occur naturally (via a geomagnetic storm) or by man (via the high-altitude detonation of a nuclear weapon), EMP is a rapid acceleration of particles that creates a high-power burst of electromagnetic energy.

55 years ago, during the Cold War, the United States experienced an accidental EMP blast when the JFK administration tested a 1.4-megaton nuclear warhead 250 miles above Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. The test, Operation Starfish Prime, malfunctioned. Traffic lights 850 miles away in Hawaii immediately went out, six satellites above the Pacific died, and radio networks were disrupted in Alaska, Hawaii and California.

Starfish Prime was a powerful warning — had we listened. Unfortunately, today our country is virtually defenseless against an EMP attack. Furthermore, the ramifications of an EMP attack in 2017 are far greater than in 1962 due to the proliferation of grid-dependent smartphones, computers, cars, medical facilities, financial institutions and food distribution channels. Even our military is far more electricity-dependent.

“Electricity could be out for months or years because the grid would need to be assembled completely anew since its components would melt,” EMP expert Avi Schurr told NATO. Hospitals, banks, and grocery stores would be unable to function for months — and possibly permanently. Without power or communications systems, chaos would erupt and tens of millions of Americans would die.

The good news? We know how to prevent an EMP attack—and with a relatively modest monetary investment.

The bad news? More than any president in U.S. history, Barack Obama had unique congressional studies at his fingertips alerting him to the danger of an EMP attack, plus manifold prevention recommendations from the congressional EMP Commission. Yet Obama only took steps to weaken America’s already-anemic defenses.

Col. Paul J. Murray, commander of the 99th Air Base Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, discusses cyberwarfare (R-J photo by Keith Rogers)