Motto of the Democratic Party: “Ubi est mea?”

Longtime Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko used to gibe that the real motto of his hometown was: “Ubi est mea?” Translation: “Where’s mine?”

Perhaps, that is now the motto of the Democratic Party and its surrogates marching in the streets, booing at town hall meetings and breaking windows and setting fires and beating college professors.

Thanks to morning newspaper columnist Victor Joecks, we’ve now learned that in her speech to the state Legislature in Carson City nearly a week ago Congresswoman Dina Titus listed violent protest in her litany of reactions to the Trump administration.

Joecks quotes her as saying:

“Here at home we see people coming together in ways that we haven’t witnessed in a long time. There are rallies. There are protests. There are neighborhood events. We’ve had a women’s march, a tax march, there’s a science march.

“We’ve seen coverage of raucous town hall meetings and demonstrations on college campuses that have turned violent.

“It’s because people want to know what is going on. They want to know what’s going to happen to the programs that help those who are the most vulnerable, like Meals on Wheels for seniors.”

After a couple of phone calls the columnist finally managed to get a Titus spokesman to say, “She does not consider violent demonstrations to be equivalent (to the other forms of expression she listed).”

But as the video shows, there are a lot of things she wants to spend our money on.

Marching till one falls off the edge of the earth

One of the many March for Science scenes. (AP pix)

March for Science? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

You can march for peace, march for a candidate or march for the exercise, but marching for science is like marching for gravity. Science is. Science is a systematic study of stuff. Marching doesn’t change anything, doesn’t accomplish anything.

And it was just a bit ironic when the AP story on the various marches for science quoted an Earth Day founder as saying the event in Washington was “magical.”

It was also a bit odd that the headline on the story and a cutline used the phrase “march for science,” but the story never did.

Maybe the label was just shortened, because the real purpose seemed to the summed up by one self-identified “scientist,” who was quoted as saying:

“Most people don’t know how much funding for the sciences supports them in their lives every day. Every medical breakthrough, their food, clothing, our cellphones, our computers, all that is science-based. … So if we stop funding scientific discoveries now, in 10 years, whatever we might have had won’t be; we just won’t have it.”

So, it was really a march for science handouts from taxpayers. Never mind that vast majority of scientific breakthroughs throughout history were privately funded.

For a change, President Trump’s comment on the occasion actually made sense. His statement said that “rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.”

Settled science. Now there’s another oxymoron.

 

 

 

Editorial: Silly bill would create Public Lands Day

Some people have a really strange concept of “democracy,” and that says a lot about some of the people elected to the Nevada Legislature.

Also, if you thought an earlier proposal to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day as a silly waste of time and paper, wait till you take a gander at Senate Bill 413.

SB413 proposes to designate the last Saturday in September each year as Public Lands Day in Nevada and require the governor to issue a proclamation encouraging the observance of said Public Lands Day.

The resolution accompanying the change in law is a paean to Nevada’s wide open spaces largely controlled by federal bureaucracies headquartered in the Kremlin on the Potomac:

“WHEREAS, More than 80 percent of the public lands in this State are owned by the people of the United States and are managed and controlled by various federal agencies for the benefit of all persons living in the United States; and …

“WHEREAS, All public lands located in this State feature a diverse range of landscapes, deserted mining towns where riches were made and lost, lush oases which stand in sharp contrast to surrounding barren lands, isolated ranches that are sometimes the size of small countries and trees which are thousands of years old; and

“WHEREAS, The public lands in this State reflect many noble democratic ideals because they are open and accessible to all persons, regardless of whether those persons are rich or poor; and …”

Noble democratic ideals? Communal ownership of vast swaths of land lying fallow and largely unproductive is democratic? And it is actually closer to 85 or even 87 percent of Nevada that is federally controlled. Marxism is alive and well and roaming the halls of Carson City.

The resolution then goes on to oppose any effort to release even a single square foot of that communally owned land to the state or private ownership:

“WHEREAS, Efforts to transfer the federal public lands in this State from the people of the United States into state or private control are contrary to the democratic values of the United States and jeopardize activities such as hiking, camping, hunting, fishing and off-road pursuits; and …”

So, there would be no more recreational opportunities if the feds only controlled, say, 70 percent of the state?

Pay no heed to the fact that a report from the Nevada Public Land Management Task Force, which was created by the Nevada Legislature, found that the BLM loses 91 cents an acre on the land it controls, but in the four states that have public trust land revenues amounted to $28.59 per acre. The report estimated that Nevada could net $114 million by taking over just 4 million acres of the BLM’s 48 million acres. Taking over all 48 million acres could net the state more than $1.5 billion — nearly half the annual general fund budget.

It is striking that the sponsors of this praise for and observance of communal ownership are all urban Democrats, save one turncoat independent. Where would these lawmakers be living right now if the federal government had not sold off a few thousand acres of that federal public land over the past decades so those urban areas could grow, adding homes, schools, businesses, parks, roads? Now they want to close the door on those rural communities that would like to annex a few acres for homes and businesses, providing opportunities for their next generations.

When everybody owns something, nobody owns it, and it gets neglected.

This proposal should be deep-sixed, the sooner the better.

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.

Update: On Friday the state Senate approved a bill creating an Indigenous Peoples Day in August, but keeping Columbus Day intact.

Searchlight Wind project being abandoned

After nearly a decade of paper shuffling, rancorous public hearings, street protests and legal challenges, the Searchlight Wind Energy Project backers have reportedly thrown in the towel and abandoned efforts to erect 87 wind turbines, each 400 feet tall, on 9,000 acres of federal public land east of the town of Searchlight, according to a press release from wind farm opponents at Basin and Range Watch.

A simulation of what the windmills in Searchlight would have looked like.

“According to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Las Vegas Field Office,” the release says, “the agency is now in the process of closing the application for the project, 18 months after a federal judge voided the federal approvals for the project because of the likely harm to desert tortoises and golden eagles.”

Kevin Emmerich, co-founder of Basin and Range Watch, was quoted as saying, “We applaud the Bureau of Land Management for finally putting an end to this ill-sited wind project. There are clearly better alternatives for renewable energy utilizing rooftops and other locations in the built environment that would produce the same amount of megawatts. It is time for the BLM to manage this special location to protect the view-shed, wildlife, property values and cultural resources in a way that will bring tourist dollars to the region. This is no place for industrial scale energy.”

The Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs confirmed the news, reporting that BLM spokeswoman said the developer has taken down its meteorological towers used to monitor wind strength and preparing to shut down the Searchlight project. “The BLM will inspect the land to make sure the (meteorological towers) are gone and the land where they were is reclaimed,” Cannon said in an email to the paper.

U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du basically told Searchlight Wind, now a division of Apex Clean Energy, to start over and fix its flawed environmental analysis or abandon the 200-megawatt project.

Du ruled the Interior Department’s approval of the project failed to adequately address concerns about impacts on bald eagles, golden eagles, desert tortoises and migrating bats, but she refused to grant a permanent injunction. She pointed out the initial data used by the BLM found there were only three golden eagle nests within 10 miles of the proposed turbines. Subsequent surveys actually found 19 probable or confirmed golden eagle nests within five miles of the site, the judge wrote.

Searchlight native and former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid was a backer of the project. He has since sold his home there and moved to Henderson.

This round might be over but there may be another.

Basin and Range reports that the BLM is currently considering approval of an even larger wind energy project on 35,000 acres west of Searchlight — the Crescent Peak Wind Project. “If a federal court ruled that there are too many potential harms to build an industrial-scale wind project near Searchlight, surely a far larger project like Crescent Peak with far more impacts should not be developed,” Laura Cunningham, Basin and Range Watch’s executive director, was quoted as saying.

 

Newspaper column: State makes some progress in challenging sage grouse rules

Greater sage grouse (BLM photo)

Nevada won a temporary reprieve from the Interior Department’s plans to enforce sweeping restrictions on land use as a means of protecting greater sage grouse habitat, but failed to convince a federal judge to put those plans on hold entirely.

In a recent opinion, Nevada federal Judge Miranda Du ruled Interior agencies erred in preparing environmental impact statements for 2.8 million acres of land primarily in Eureka and Humboldt counties and must prepare a supplemental statement, but she denied a request to issue an injunction that would have blocked the federal land agencies from implementing burdensome resource management plans. (Du opinion)

The suit was brought by the state of Nevada, nine counties, several mining companies and a ranch.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who filed the suit on behalf of the state, said of Du’s ruling, “The federal government’s greater sage-grouse land-use plan obstructs Nevada’s growth and development, and harms our ranchers, miners and recreation workers. The court’s decision demonstrates the importance of the state joining this lawsuit, which affords us the opportunity to represent Nevada’s interests in court and at the negotiating table. We are encouraged by the fact that the court accepted our argument that the greater sage-grouse plan was fatally flawed in one of its central respects — namely, the court’s finding that the sagebrush focal areas violated that National Environmental Policy Act. We will continue to study the opinion and evaluate next steps.”

In denying the sweeping injunction, Du fell back on an old Catch-22 that has foiled other challenges to federal public land policies, saying there has been no “final agency action” and therefore the legal challenge is not ripe. The problem with that is the agencies never take final action, because they deem every decision to be appealable and changeable at some point in the future even though their current enforcement is already hampering economic development.

In the past the order to rework the environmental impact paperwork would have been a futile gesture because the final outcome under the Obama administration would have ended in the same paperwork, but President Trump’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke might make a difference. As a Montana congressman Zinke strongly opposed the Obama administration plan to protect the grouse without formally listing it under the Endangered Species Act.

At a 2015 hearing, he asked why “would Washington, the bureaucracy, given there are no sage grouse here … decide what is best for Montana or the western states, that have a deep, traditional concern for wildlife management?”

Just a month ago, Zinke told a gathering of Western ranchers that the Interior Department “hasn’t been the best neighbor,” adding that they would probably like changes he is planning for those sage grouse protection plans.

“We’re going to manage our properties just like you [ranchers] would manage your private lands,” Zinke said, according to published reports. “Washington, D.C., needs to understand that we work for the people, not the other way around.”

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service must rework their maps because they were severely flawed.

Judge Du noted, for example, that in Eureka County the agencies “incorrectly designated the town of Eureka, US Highway 50, State Route 278, County landfill, power lines, multiple subdivisions of homes, farms with alfalfa field and irrigations systems, and hay barns” as priority habitat management areas for grouse.

There is much at stake for Nevada and the other Western states facing land use restrictions for mining, grazing, oil and gas exploration, recreation and other beneficial uses.

In Humboldt, Judge Du noted that livestock grazing would be reduced by 25 percent. The county’s landfill also was labeled priority habitat.

The Interior’s sage grouse draft environmental impact statement for just Nevada and five other states issued in December estimated that its proposed restrictions would reduce economic output in Nevada each year by $373.5 million, cost $11.3 million in lost state and local tax revenue and reduce employment by 739 jobs every year for the next 20 years.

For the 20-year life of the land restrictions, the six states would lose $16 billion in economic output and 38,700 jobs, as well as $520 million in tax revenue.

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.

Nevada lawmakers pushing bill to make youth sexual orientation immutable

In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking.

Lawmakers have a tendency to want to play God. They know best, and, by damn, you’ll behave the way they demand you behave or pay the consequences.

That’s why the Nevada state Senate has already passed a bill by a vote of 15-5 that would prohibit so-called “conversion therapy” for minors, even with their consent and the consent of their parents. Such therapy is intended to alter the minor’s sexual orientation — generally, we presume, from homosexual to heterosexual.

On Wednesday the Assembly Health and Human Services heard arguments on Senate Bill 201 in which some argued the broad language barring anyone who provides counseling services from providing “any conversion therapy,” which could be construed as banning any conversation with a youth confused about sexual orientation.

The proponents of the bill, and even some Republicans who say the language is too broad, according to the Las Vegas newspaper account, call conversion therapy reprehensible and say it can result in anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicide.

Somehow the conclusion that sexual orientation is immutable seems analogous to passing laws saying one may not undergo conversion from one religion to another. Aren’t there some countries with just such laws?

But apparently when it comes to gender all is mutable. You see, in their infinite wisdom, our august lawmakers have already passed Assembly Bill 99, which demands all children in institutions such as “juvenile detention facilities, foster homes, child care facilities and mental health facilities” be treated according to the child’s gender identity despite the child’s actual biological gender. Juvenile detention facilities? It also requires all those adults working with such children to be indoctrinated into handling “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning children.”

AB99 passed the Assembly 26-15 and the Senate 18-2 and was signed by the governor.

So, SB201 would appear to be on a clear path to passage.

But now, God knows,
Anything goes.

Bill would protect some student journalists

Some legislation just shouldn’t be necessary, but common sense is so rare.

This past week the Senate Committee on Education forwarded to the full Senate Senate Bill 420, which is being described as the Nevada version of New Voices legislation, which requires schools to draft policies to protect student journalists and student publications from censorship and punishment for publication, according to the Nevada Press Association.

The bill adds this language to the law: “The board of trustees of each school district, the governing body of each charter school and the governing body of each university school for profoundly gifted pupils shall adopt a written policy for pupil publications which: (a) Establishes reasonable provisions governing the time, place and manner for the distribution of pupil publications; and (b) Protects the right of expression described in subsection 1 for pupils working on pupil publications as journalists in their determination of the news, opinions, feature content, advertising content and other content of pupil publications.”

I wrote about a student censorship effort that took place in 2010, when a choir teacher at the Churchill County High School sued a student journalist at the school’s student newspaper for writing an article — that was actually printed in the Lahontan Valley News, the community newspaper — saying parents were upset that the teacher withheld certain students’ audition tapes from a state musical competition. The case was thrown out with the judge citing the state’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute in effect at the time.

Barry Smith, executive director of the Nevada Press Association, said at the time, “Anti-SLAPP statutes are important to protect free speech, because sometimes people sue just to silence their critics.”

Efforts to repeal the anti-SLAPP law have been unsuccessful so far.

But the law of the land for students is found in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held in 1988: “A school need not tolerate student speech that is inconsistent with its basic educational mission, even though the government could not censor similar speech outside the school.”

Former Fallon student Lauren Draper, who penned the choir teacher story, testified for SB420.

“Less than six months from graduating Churchill County High School, I found myself terrified,” she told legislators, according to NPA’s account. “After I sought and reported the truth about choir students’ audition tapes  being withheld from a statewide competition, I found myself frightened and confused about whether I had made the right decision in writing the article. I followed the code of ethics and made no libelous claims, yet I felt guilty and ashamed of reporting the truth. I was shamed by teachers I had respected and was called a ‘zealous child’ by the co-chair of the Churchill County Educators Association.”

Since Hazelwood schools have too often used censorship to protect administrators from being embarrassed by student journalists rather than protecting the “educational mission.”