SANE — Stop Acronym Nurturing Everywhere

I may have grown up in the Age of Aquarius, but I’m growing old in the Age of the Acronym. — Pointer Institute writing coach Roy Peter Clark

Is their someone in Congress whose sole job is to create backronyms for legislation? You know a supposedly “clever” acronym derived from the intent of a bill.

Today’s contorted example is delivered via the morning paper’s editorial rightly chiding the author of a congressional bill intended to curb so-called hate speech on college campuses.

A Maryland congressman has introduced a bill called Creating Accountability Measures Protecting University Students Historically Abused, Threatened and Exposed to Crimes Act — CAMPUS HATE Crimes Act.

The editorial explains that the bill would require colleges to clearly define “what is acceptable speech and what is not acceptable speech” on campuses. It would provide grants carry out this First Amendment shredding deed and deny federal aid to those schools that fail to comply with law.

While the proposal deserves derision for its appalling intent, it should be hooted out of the halls of Congress for the retched act of acronym abuse — a practice that in recent years has become epidemic.

One current example being bandied about is the DREAM Act, which short for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act.

A classic example of pandering by mislabeling is the USA PATRIOT Act — Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, which unpatriotically trampled the Fourth Amendment.

Then there is the DISCLOSE Act that would overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that held corporations and unions have speech rights. That stands for Disclosure of Information on Spending on Campaigns Leads to Open and Secure Elections Act.

Nevada and other states also have laws on the books with appropriate acronyms, such as the Anti-SLAPP Act — Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, which tries to curb lawsuits meant to shut up opponents through costly litigation.

The Washington Post a couple of years ago created a compendium of twisted acronyms for legislation, almost one for every day of the year.

Examples:

SWEET Act – Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax Act

FOCUS Act – Fighting Occupied Cell Use So Everyone Drives More Safely Act

FAIR TOW Act – Fair Action for Interstate Recovery Vehicles on Truck Operating Weights Act

SMOKE Act – Stop Selling and Marketing to Our Kids E-Cigarettes Act

TALENT Act – To Aid Gifted and High-Ability Learners by Empowering the Nation’s Teachers Act

IRRIGATE Act – Irrigation Rehabilitation and Renovation for Indian Tribal Governments and Their Economies Act

PREPARE Act – Preparedness and Risk Management for Extreme Weather Patterns Assuring Resilience and Effectiveness Act

GROW AMERICA Act – Generating Renewal, Opportunity, and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency, and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America Act

REINS Act – Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act

DRONES Act – Designating Requirements On Notification of Executive-ordered Strikes Act

ROADS SAFE Act – Research of Alcohol Detection Systems for Stopping Alcohol-Related Fatalities Everywhere Act

BRIDGE Act – Building and Renewing Infrastructure for Development and Growth in Employment Act

BALTIMORE Act – Building and Lifting Trust In order to Multiply Opportunities and Racial Equality Act — from a another Maryland congressman, of course.

SOFTWARE Act – Sensible Oversight for Technology which Advances Regulatory Efficiency Act

GIRLS STEM Act – Getting Involved in Researching, Learning, and Studying of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Act

SPEAK FREE Act – Securing Participation, Engagement, and Knowledge Freedom by Reducing Egregious Efforts Act — sound like the opposite of the aforementioned bill.

EGO Act – Eliminating Government-funded Oil-painting Act

Perhaps someone should introduce the END ACRONYM Act — End Needless Derivative Appellations for Contorted Regulations Offering Name-Yielding Memes Act.

 

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Our day that will live in infamy

R-J editorial page from Sept. 16, 2001

R-J editorial page from Sept. 16, 2001

Where were you on September 11, 2001?

I wrote on the Sunday following that day of infamy:

“I sat down at my computer at about 6 a.m., unfolded the newspaper and switched on the television. There was smoke pouring from the top of one of the unmistakable landmarks of New York City, the World Trade Center. Well, I thought, there’s a story and photo for tomorrow’s front page, and started into the morning’s routine.

“Minutes later a fireball blossomed from the other tower, and it began to dawn on the commentators and me that this was no ordinary accident and Sept. 11 would be no ordinary day.”

I started making phone calls. Reporters and photographers were dispatched to Hoover Dam, McCarran International, City Hall, Nellis Air Force Base, the Strip and elsewhere. Editors huddled. The publisher called in and said we should add 24 pages to the Wednesday newspaper. All plans were scrapped and we started from scratch, hoping to help our readers make sense of a senseless act.

Every section of the paper kicked in its resources.

The press crew rolled the presses early and cranked out thousands of extra copies.

Then I wrote that Sunday:

“I was proud of what we all had accomplished, of the concerted effort and professionalism, as I drove home at 1 a.m. … until I heard the callers on the radio. People were saying they would gladly give up some freedoms for the sake of safety.”

I wanted to reach into the radio and slap some sense into the callers.

The column proceeded to tick off some of the rights spelled out in the Bill of Rights and I wondered aloud which people would willingly sacrifice. The First’s right of assembly, lest there be a bomb, and no freedom of speech and religion, especially that one? The Second’s right to bear arms? The Fourth’s prohibition against warrantless search and seizure? The Fifth’s right to due process? The Sixth’s right to a public trial?

I concluded:

“If this is the consensus of the nation, the bastards have already won, destroying our will and our principles as well as planes, buildings and lives.

“We will have surrendered without firing a shot in the first war of the 21st century.”

The column appeared sandwiched between a Jim Day cartoon and a Vin Suprynowicz column with the headline: “The passengers were all disarmed.”

In a comment to a local magazine on an anniversary of 9/11 I called it “our Pearl Harbor.”

poster

R-J front page from Newseum poster.

R-J front page from Newseum poster.

First posted on Sept. 11, 2016.

Editorial: Federal judge dismisses overtime rule change

A Texas federal court judge has struck down a rule change by Obama’s Labor Department that would have cost employers $1.2 billion a year by requiring overtime for an additional 4.2 million workers — or in reality, however many workers actually still had jobs after the costs were imposed.

The legal challenge was spearheaded by Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt on behalf of 21 states and a number of business entities.

The overtime rule change would have increased the minimum salary level for employees exempt from overtime — due to being engaged in executive, administrative or professional duties, so-called EAP workers — from $23,660 a year to $47,476.

U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant of Sherman, Texas, this past week ruled the salary qualification increase violated the clear intent of Congress when it passed the Fair Labor and Practices Act in 1938, which established minimum wages and required time-and-a-half overtime pay for hourly workers who work more than 40 hours a week. EAP employees were exempted from overtime requirements.

Judge Mazzant wrote, “This is not what Congress intended with the EAP exemption. Congress unambiguously directed the Department to exempt from overtime pay employees who perform ‘bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity’ duties. However, the Department creates a Final Rule that makes overtime status depend predominately on a minimum salary level, thereby supplanting an analysis of an employee’s job duties.”

He said nothing in the law allows the Labor Department to make salary rather than an employee’s duties determinative of whether an employee should be exempt from overtime pay.

“I applaud Judge Mazzant’s decision to permanently invalidate this Obama-era overtime rule that would have imposed millions of dollars of unfunded liabilities on the States and resulted in a loss of private sector jobs as well as onerous financial and regulatory burdens on small businesses in Nevada and around the country,” said Laxalt in a press release. “My office is proud to have led the charge towards a final ruling that brings clarity, certainty and closure to the business community and government alike.”

Additionally, Nevada’s senior Sen. Dean Heller, who has been challenging the overtime rule since it was proposed, put out a press release stating, “The former Obama Administration’s expansion of the federal overtime rule would have devastated Nevada’s business owners and job creators. Since the rule was issued last year, I have been strongly concerned about its impact because it would fundamentally change how employers compensate their workers, reducing Nevadans’ work hours and benefits. I’m pleased to see that a federal judge acknowledged the regulation’s harmful consequences and ruled it invalid today.”

Heller also commended Laxalt for leading the fight against the overtime rule change.

In addition to Nevada, the other states challenging the overtime rules were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. Missouri, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming filed friend of the court briefs backing the challenge.

In June, Trump’s Labor Department announced that it too wants salary level to count in deciding who is eligible for overtime pay, but it did not endorse the Obama administration’s salary level. The Labor secretary should heed Mazzant’s reasoning and the clear language of the law as it is currently written. If any changes are contemplated, they must be voted on by Congress.

This effort on behalf of Nevada’s state and local government employers, as well as countless businesses was well worth the time, effort and expense to save jobs and businesses.

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 a difference a single word makes

Though the Nevada Constitution clearly states that any person serving in one branch of government may not perform “any function” of another branch, the Legislature’s lawyers, the Legislative Counsel Bureau (LCB), in 2002 penned a non-binding opinion that stated a person may serve in the Legislature if they do not exercise “any sovereign functions” in another branch.

The definition of the adjective sovereign is: “possessing supreme or ultimate power,” thus the LCB adulteration of the Constitution emasculates the plain language of the Separation of Powers Clause.

The Nevada Supreme Court will have the opportunity to clear up this matter.

State Sen. Heidi Gansert (R-J pix)

The Nevada Policy Research Institute’s (NPRI) legal arm, the Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation (CJCL), this past week filed notice with the state high court that it is appealing the decision of a Carson City judge dismissing its lawsuit against a state senator for violating the Separation of Powers Clause.

“Defying the clear language of the Nevada constitution, Nevada Supreme Court precedent, and a 2004 Attorney General Advisory Opinion by then-attorney-general Governor Brian Sandoval, Judge (James) Russell relied upon a non-binding opinion from the Legislative Counsel Bureau in his ruling from the bench — but we believe the actual words of the state constitution should matter more,” declared CJCL Director Joseph Becker in an email press release.

In that 2004 opinion, Sandoval noted that in the 1957 Supreme Court case cited by the LCB as the basis for its opinion, the court never got to the point of ruling on the Separation of Powers Clause and dismissed it on other grounds.

CJCL sued state Sen. Heidi Gansert because she also is an employee of the University of Nevada, Reno.

“We believe the plain language of the constitution should take precedent over a non-binding LCB opinion, or the preferences of the ruling class,” commented Becker. “And we look forward to the appeals process finally giving further legal clarity on the issue.”

This fight has been going on for years.

There have been years in which nearly half the lawmakers in Carson City were either government employees or the spouses of government employees. In some years every Senate and Assembly leadership post was held by a public employee.

Currently 10 lawmakers hold down state or local government jobs. As such, despite clear conflicts of interest, the lawmakers can vote themselves raises and hand out largesse to their employers — as Gansert did in this past session by voting for 2 percent raises for state employees and a capital expenditure budget that included more than $40 million for a new engineering building at UNR.

In 2004 then-Secretary of State Dean Heller asked the Supreme Court to remedy this skirting of the Constitution, but the court ruled that the Constitution gives lawmakers the power to determine the qualifications of their members. Thus, the judicial branch telling the legislative branch who its members may be violates the Separation of Powers Clause.

Joseph Becker

But the court did allow that “declaratory relief could be sought by someone with a ‘legally protectible interest,’ such as a person seeking the executive branch position held by the legislator.”

Under that guidance, the CJCL first sued state Sen. Mo Denis on behalf of a person who wanted Denis’ $56,000-a-year job at the Public Utilities Commission. A judge declared the case moot when Denis resigned his PUC job.

NPRI’s lawyers came back with a similar suit against Gansert on behalf of a person who wants her public relations job at UNR — a job that yields $210,000 a year in pay and benefits.

Now that the district court judge has ruled that the Separation of Powers Clause is meaningless, it is back to the Supreme Court.

The court should heed the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in a dissenting opinion from 1926, “The doctrine of the separation of powers was adopted by the Convention of 1787, not to promote efficiency but to preclude the exercise of arbitrary power. The purpose was, not to avoid friction, but, by means of the inevitable friction incident to the distribution of the governmental powers among three departments, to save the people from autocracy.”

Or they could turn to a 1967 Nevada Supreme Court opinion that flatly stated, “The division of powers is probably the most important single principle of government declaring and guaranteeing the liberties of the people.”

The words of the state Constitution should not be made meaningless by adding a word plucked out of thin air.

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.

Another effort being made to remove certain names

Jeff Davis Peak (National Park Service pix via Reno newspaper)

How many even knew there was a Jeff Davis Peak in Great Basin National Park? Let’s see a show of hands. That’s what I thought.

According to the park’s website, the monicker was first attached to what is now Wheeler Peak, the tallest point in the park and the second tallest in Nevada. It was given that name by Lt. Col. Edward Steptoe of U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers in 1855 while Jefferson Davis served as secretary of the War Department.

After the Civil War, in which Davis served as president of the Confederacy, an Army mapping expedition headed by Lt. George Montague Wheeler, named the peak for Wheeler and the Jeff Davis tag was shifted to shorter nearby peak.

In May the Reno newspaper reported that, even though statues of Confederate leaders were being torn down in New Orleans, there was no clamor to erase the Davis name from the 12,771-foot peak. The penultimate paragraph of the account stated, “By today’s standards Jeff Davis is an unlikely choice that appears out of step with contemporary naming practices. But modern standards don’t undo prior names which means, for the foreseeable future, the name of a Confederate president will maintain a place of honor in Nevada.”

Actually, such a mountain top name change took place a couple of years ago. After bearing the name of President William McKinley for 98 years, the tallest peak in North America in Alaska was renamed to it original native name Denali.

Today, the Las Vegas newspaper reports on the front page in a story that first appeared online four days ago that there are now a couple of bids to remove the Davis name. The newspaper said two applications have been filed with the state and national naming boards to eradicate the Davis name and replace it with some other name, perhaps one of its Indian names.

The paper reports that one name change application calls for renaming the peak for Las Vegas civil rights leader James McMillan. Another calls for naming the peak for Robert Smalls, an escaped slave who fought for the Union.

Apparently the Utes dubbed Wheeler Peak as Pe-up and Shoshones called it Too-bur-rit. Unclear what if anything Jeff Davis Peak was called.

The September meeting agenda for the Nevada State Board on Geographic Names lists an action item in which a peak in White Pine County would be named Smalls Peak. There is no mention as whether what it is currently called, if anything.

According to Dennis Cassinelli in a piece in the Elko Daily Free Press, political correctness has been whitewashing Nevada geographical names for years. Colorful names like Chicken Shit Springs and Squaw Tit Butte have disappeared from maps simply at the whim of squeamish government mapmakers.

What’s in a name? A peak by any other name is just as tall. History has not changed. Just forgotten, along with the lessons that should’ve been learned?

 

 

 

 

 

Anger aimed at Trump over DACA decision is off the mark

AG Jeff Sessions announces end of DACA. (Getty pix)

The vitriol being rained on President Trump for ending Obama’s unilateral executive order to defer deportation of illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children is over the top.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto called Trump a racist and a xenophobe.

Obama called the decision cruel.

Rep. Jacky Rosen said it was wrong to invite “these young people to come out of the shadows, raise their hands, and make themselves known, the United States made a promise to those who came here as children. President Trump is now reneging on that promise …”

Rep. Ruben Kihuen, noting that he was once undocumented, said in an email that the decision tramples this country’s values and shatters the hopes and dreams of the 800,000 who have signed up for DACA.

Days before the announcement, Rep. Dina Titus said, “Ending DACA appeals to xenophobic beliefs and goes against the founding principles of our nation.”

Pay no heed to the fact it was Obama who made a promise he was not constitutionally empowered to make. Since 2001 there have been several bills introduced in Congress to do precisely what Obama did with a stroke of his pen, all those bills failed.

In a statement announcing the DACA decision, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said:

This policy was implemented unilaterally to great controversy and legal concern after Congress rejected legislative proposals to extend similar benefits on numerous occasions to this same group of illegal aliens.

In other words, the executive branch, through DACA, deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions. Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.

The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty, among other things, contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences. It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.

We inherited from our Founders — and have advanced — an unsurpassed legal heritage, which is the foundation of our freedom, safety, and prosperity.

As the Attorney General, it is my duty to ensure that the laws of the United States are enforced and that the Constitutional order is upheld.

No greater good can be done for the overall health and well-being of our Republic, than preserving and strengthening the impartial rule of law. Societies where the rule of law is treasured are societies that tend to flourish and succeed.

Societies where the rule of law is subject to political whims and personal biases tend to become societies afflicted by corruption, poverty, and human suffering.

Trump is giving Congress six months to pass such legislation, if it can, before dropping Obama’s promised deportation exemptions.

The criticism of Trump is misdirected in this case. It is Obama who opened this can of worms. One of the founding principles of our nation is that Congress makes laws, not the president.

 

 

Taking the ‘affordable’ out of ObamaCare

Affordable Care Act? Only if someone else is paying the premiums.

According to an AP news account, middle-class Americans who get no subsidies under ObamaCare are going to get hammered again in 2018 with double-digit health insurance premium increases.

The report quotes one woman from Delaware whose monthly premiums are expected to increase from $740 to $1,000, and that’s for insurance with a $6,000 deductible.

 

The average 2018 premium hike is 25 percent for a midlevel plan on HealthCare.gov.

In Nevada, Health Plan of Nevada has proposed a 27.24 percent average rate increase for 2018, ranging from 19 percent to 36 percent, depending on the plan. Anthem had proposed increasing rates by 62 percent before it dropped out of coverage in the state altogether.

Silver Summit is to fill the void left by Anthem, but since the company was not previously in Nevada there is rate increase information.

In 2017 the average premium in the Nevada health insurance exchange was $379 a month, but 83 percent of those are getting subsidies that reduce their out-of-pocket premiums to $142 a month. But someone is paying the $237 difference every month and will pickup some portion of the 2018 premium increase.

We wonder who that will be?