Bias in the media? We’re shocked! Shocked we tell you!

Did a political columnist for the morning newspaper just accuse his own publication of political bias?

Columnist Victor Joecks noted that the media jumped all over an obscure Nye County commissioner disendorsing Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt for failing to endorse the Republican primary winner in Assembly District 36, brothel owner Dennis Hof who has been accused of sexual harassment, but totally ignored a press release two weeks ago from Republican Sen. Dean Heller accusing Democratic primary senatorial nominee Jacky Rosen of resume enhancement.

In fact, the same day’s paper carried a lengthy story about the commissioner’s disendorsement of Laxalt along with quotes from Hof about how the move might hurt Laxalt in Nye County and a prepared statement by Laxalt stating, “Adam respects the will of the voters in District 36, however, as a husband and a father of two young daughters, he has stated that he will not be supporting Mr. Hof’s campaign.”

The story also quoted a Democratic Party spokeswoman accusing Laxalt of being two-faced on the topic by being silent about political supporters accused of sexual misdeeds — including a rural sheriff and former casino executive Steve Wynn.

The story did not quote any of the usual university professorial suspects as to whether Laxalt’s stance might help or hurt him or be of no consequence.

Heller’s press release noted that Rosen was quoted by the morning newspaper in 2016 as saying she couldn’t get a degree in computer science from the University of Minnesota because it didn’t exist when she graduated:

She fell in love with the emerging field of computer sciences. The field “just clicked” with her, Rosen said. But back in the 1970s, those degrees weren’t widely available, so she graduated with a degree in psychology while spending most of her free time in the school’s math lab honing her computer skills.

But the Heller press release noted that a story in The Atlantic in January said Rosen had a degree in computer science. The story was corrected online on the same day as Heller’s press release was issued.

Joecks also noted that Rosen told CSPAN3 a year ago she had a degree in computer science. He went on to note that several people’s political ambitions have been crushed when they were caught fudging their resumes.

Joecks concluded:

So why the disparity in coverage between Hof and Rosen? On the merits, it’s baffling. That’s what makes you start thinking about alternative explanations. In a 2013 national survey, just 7 percent of reporters self-identified as Republican. If Heller wins his election, Democrats have no chance of regaining control of the Senate.

Sometimes media bias is blatant. But often, it’s more subtle, like the media passing on telling you about Rosen’s résumé lie that could end her political career.

The owner of the morning newspaper may be a big Republican backer, but what about those in the trenches?

 

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How to slake the thirst of future development?

R-J graphic showing proposed land use changes.

Sometimes a story is most noteworthy for what it doesn’t say.

The morning newspaper reported on how the Southern Nevada Water Authority plans to supply water to a 39,000-acre tract of private development mostly south of Henderson should the federal government agree to release the land. The plan is to use conservation and recycling of water from Lake Mead.

Not one word was mentioned about piping groundwater from Lincoln, Nye and White Pine counties. The current plan is to pump 84,000 acre-feet of groundwater a year to Las Vegas at a cost of $15 billion for the infrastructure alone.

A year ago a federal judge heard arguments from proponents and opponents of the proposed project, which was first broached in 1989.

The judge refused to halt the project but ruled that the Bureau of Land Management must conduct further environmental review of the effects of the project and identify what can be done to mitigate them. According to an AP account, the judge characterized the fixes he ordered as “narrow deficiencies” in environmental impact statements.

Both sides interpreted the ruling as favorable to their side.

But today’s news story on supplying water to the proposed private development makes no mention of the groundwater from the north, even though the valley has maxed out its 300,000 acre-foot annual allotment from Lake Mead.

“The one-page document calls on far-flung developments to discourage or outright ban things like man-made lakes, water-cooled power plants and decorative turf,” the story relates. “Those developments should return their treated wastewater to Lake Mead whenever feasible or reuse enough of it on-site to ‘displace the need for SNWA water resources,’ the policy states.”

Protesters oppose Clark County taking rural Nevada groundwater.

Editorial: Stop blocking public land from productive use

Several years ago a high ranking Interior Department official told a Nevada newspaper editorial board that the agency planned to maintain its level of land control by acquiring an acre of land for federal ownership for every acre of land that was released to private ownership. It was a blatant admission that the bureaucracy intended to maintain its power and authority and budget in perpetuity, no matter what was good for the local citizens and their economy.

If recent events are any indication, it appears the bureaucracy has escalated from maintaining power to full-blown growth mode at a rate of 10-to-one.

Clark County officials have been talking about an effort to acquire nearly 40,000 acres of federal public land for auctioning off for private business and residential development. (Where they would get the water for the new development was not addressed.) In exchange, the county is talking about withdrawing from private development another 400,000 acres.

Courtesy Nevada Mining Association via Nevada Appeal

In Washoe County, officials are considering acquiring 60,000 acres for auction for private development in exchange for taking 440,000 acres out of private development access.

In a recent column published in the Elko Daily Free Press, Dana Bennett, president of the Nevada Mining Association, warns that the long-established doctrine of multiple use for federal public lands is being threatened. She notes that more than 80 percent of Nevada land is controlled by various federal land agencies and currently a third of the state is off limits to mining activity.

And the limits on mining, such as those proposed in Clark and Washoe counties, are growing apace.

“In 2016, nearly 1 million acres of public land were withdrawn from mineral access,” Bennett writes. “This year alone, there are pending proposals to withdraw at least 1.4 million more acres. There is no end in sight.”

Additionally, the Department of the Navy is asking to expand the Naval Air Station at Fallon by 600,000 acres, which would block mining or geothermal power generation on that land for generations to come.

“Nevada minerals power 21st-century technology. Each withdrawn acre represents an area where discovery and development of the minerals that power our future may never be found or developed, no matter how great the need,” Bennett concludes. “Preserving multiple use, meanwhile, gives the public options to determine the best mix of land uses based on the context of the time and situation.”

We agree. Locking up land and barring productive use without thorough examination of alternatives and benefits is nothing but bureaucrats holding onto their power base.

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: High court should stand firmly for free speech

Jack Phillips decorates a cake. (Reuters pix via WaPo)

It has long been agreed that the First Amendment right to free speech includes the right to not be compelled to speak, but this past week the U.S. Supreme Court appeared to skirt this simple premise, though it ruled in favor of a Colorado cake baker who refused in 2012 to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple for a different reason.

The court’s 7-2 ruling in favor of Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., instead hinged on the fact the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was inconsistent in its rulings relating to issues of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free exercise of religion.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that on at least three occasions the state Civil Rights Commission held that bakers who refused to create cakes with images that conveyed disapproval of same-sex marriage did so lawfully.

“The treatment of the conscience-based objections at issue in these three cases contrasts with the Commission’s treatment of Phillips’ objection,” Kennedy wrote. “The Commission ruled against Phillips in part on the theory that any message the requested wedding cake would carry would be attributed to the customer, not to the baker. Yet the Division did not address this point in any of the other cases with respect to the cakes depicting anti-gay marriage symbolism.”

Kennedy added that the commission’s disparate treatment of Phillips violated the state’s duty under the First Amendment not to base laws or regulations on hostility to a religion or religious viewpoint.

“The Free Exercise Clause bars even ‘subtle departures from neutrality’ on matters of religion. … Here, that means the Commission was obliged under the Free Exercise Clause to proceed in a manner neutral toward and tolerant of Phillips’ religious beliefs,” Kennedy said.

As usual, Justice Clarence Thomas countenanced no tolerance for such nuanced, too-narrow rulings and tackled the matter head on in a concurrence that was joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch. Thomas said Phillips rightly prevailed on his free exercise claim, but the court failed to address his free speech claim.

Thomas wrote that the appellate court rationalized that Phillips was defying Colorado’s public-accommodations law and not acting as a speaker. “This reasoning flouts bedrock prin¬ciples of our free-speech jurisprudence and would justify virtually any law that compels individuals to speak,” he concluded.

Thomas said public-accommodation laws may regulate conduct, but not expression of ideas, citing a case in which the high court ruled unanimously that the sponsor of a St. Patrick’s Day parade could not be forced to include a group of gay, lesbian, and bisexual Irish-Americans, because that violated the sponsor’s right to free speech.

“While this Court acknowledged that the unit’s exclusion might have been ‘misguided, or even hurtful” … it rejected the notion that governments can mandate ‘thoughts and statements acceptable to some groups or, indeed, all people’ as the ‘antithesis’ of free speech …” Thomas explained.

He further noted that the court has held that communication of ideas can be conveyed by symbolism as well as words — such as nude dancing, burning the American flag, flying a flag upside-down, wearing a military uniform, wear¬ing a black armband, conducting a silent sit-in, refusing to salute the flag and flying a plain red flag.

Thomas said that the court’s previous ruling that the Constitution protects the right to same-sex marriage does not mean those who disagree are not entitled to express that opinion.

“Because the Court’s decision vindicates Phillips’ right to free exercise, it seems that religious liberty has lived to fight another day,” Justice Thomas concluded. “But, in future cases, the freedom of speech could be essential to preventing (the right to same-sex marriage) from being used to ‘stamp out every vestige of dissent’ and ‘vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.’”

There are cases waiting in the wings that might afford an opportunity to fully recognize freedom of speech when it comes to whether a business may be compelled to offer its services for same-sex weddings — these include a florist in Washington state, a web designer in Colorado and a calligrapher in Arizona.

Hopefully, the court will be more forthright and specific in favor of free speech in on of those or some other case.

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.

Democrat co-opts Republican opponent’s proposal

Heller and Rosen (R-J pix)

That was quick. The ink hasn’t dried on the morning newspaper report that Democrat Rep. Jacky Rosen will face Republican Dean Heller in November for this Senate seat, but she is already embracing a Heller proposal to get Congress off the dime on passing a federal budget.

Rosen today sent out a press release touting her proposals to reform Congress. Why she hasn’t done this during her past year and a half in office was not explained. The second item on her list is: No budget, no pay. Specifically: “This measure would tie Members’ pay with whether or not Congress fulfills its constitutional responsibility of passing a budget and funding the federal government.”

Heller has been pushing for this since last least 2011, when he put out a press release saying,

“It has been more than 800 days since the Senate passed a budget, ignoring one of the most fundamental responsibilities of governing. Avoiding budget votes for political reasons is not what people want to see from their public officials. If Congress doesn’t do its job, its Members shouldn’t get paid. My amendment is a straight forward measure, and should be brought to the floor for an up or down vote.”

The amendment would prevent members of Congress from being paid their salaries if they fail to pass a budget by the beginning of any fiscal year. Retroactive pay would be prohibited.

In December 2016 Heller put out another in a long string of press releases touting his proposal:

“The only way to achieve the long-term fiscal solution Americans deserve is through the U.S. House and Senate passing a budget and all appropriations bills on time.  As the Senate begins the consideration of a continuing resolution, I am filing the ‘No Budget, No Pay’ Act as an amendment. The amendment puts the needs of our nation’s citizens ahead of the next Washington-manufactured crisis.”

Now Rosen is glomming on to Heller’s idea. Welcome to the general election season.

It could be a tight race. According to the Secretary of State, 143,320 Democrats voted in the Senate primary and 110,530 voted for Rosen. In the Republican primary, 142,175 Republicans voted in the Senate primary and 99,472 voted for Heller.

 

The Social Security Ponzi scheme is running out of steam

You can’t say we didn’t warn you.

While most news accounts said Social Security will dip into its trust fund this year for the first time since 1982, The Hill’s Merrill Matthews points out that there is no trust fund, because the federal government has borrowed that money and spent it.

Matthews writes:

Historically, workers have paid in more than was needed to cover benefits, allowing the trust fund to grow to $2.9 trillion — at least on paper.  However, the federal government has borrowed the trust fund surplus to cover other government expenses, depositing interest-bearing IOUs in its place.

If Social Security must pay out more than it receives, which the trustees say will happen this year for the first time since 1982, the government cannot draw from other assets because it doesn’t have any.  Indeed, the federal government has to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars every year just to cover its current expenses.

Thus the government must borrow the money — or raise taxes — to redeem its IOUs so Social Security can pay benefits.

A certain prescient politician warned us in 1990 while standing in from of a sign reading “embezzlement”:

“It is time for Congress, I think, to take its hands — and I add the president in on that — off the Social Security surpluses. Stop hiding the horrible truth of the fiscal irresponsibility that we have talked about here the past two weeks. It is time to return those dollars to the hands of those who earned them — the Social Security beneficiaries and future beneficiaries. … I think that is a very good illustration of what I was talking about, embezzlement, thievery.”

That was Harry Reid. The same Nevada senator who years later said, “Unfortunately, despite decades of success, many Republicans continue to threaten the future of Social Security. Republican leaders routinely exaggerate the financial challenges facing the program in an effort to create a false sense of crisis. … I have spent my career fending off attacks against Social Security.”

Actually, Social Security is and always has been a Ponzi scheme, depending on future “investors” to pay off the original “investors.” That worked so long as there were 40 workers for every retiree, but does not work so well when the ratio of workers to retirees nears two-to-one.

Embezzlement?

 

 

 

Editorial: Let Trump decide who stands on his soapbox

The First Amendment prohibits the federal government abridging one’s free speech, but it does not, as a federal judge has ruled, require anyone to provide the soapbox for that speech.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of New York ruled recently that President Donald Trump may not block Twitter users who criticize him because that violates their right to free speech.

“While we must recognize, and are sensitive to, the president’s personal First Amendment rights, he cannot exercise those rights in a way that infringes the corresponding First Amendment rights of those who have criticized him,” the judge said in her 75-page ruling, somewhat exceeding the 140-character limit of Twitter.

Any Twitter user can block people from accessing their online posts and replying to that user and their followers. Trump reportedly has posted 4,000 times on his personal @realDonaldTrump account to nearly 32 million followers. How that cacophony constitutes a public forum in which anyone can be heard strains credulity. But why should the president be obligated to give someone else unfettered access to those who have agreed to follow him?

The president should be treated no differently on his personal @realDonaldTrump account. His official presidential Twitter account, @POTUS — and why there is one of those is a mystery to us — is another matter entirely. He certainly may not block people from commenting on their own social media apps, but he is hardly obligated to accommodate anyone who wants to glom onto his personal Twitter account and use it as platform for their views. It is his soapbox. Create your own.

But the judge said Trump could not block people from following him on Twitter just because they had posted comments to which he objected, because that amounted to “viewpoint discrimination” by a public official in a public forum.

As Ronald Reagan once said: “I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!”

If Trump were to make a televised speech from the Oval Office, should the networks be required to keep the cameras rolling while any clown with a rant can piggyback on the speech by dashing up to the microphone? 

It is like freedom of the press, which belongs to anyone who owns one.

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.