No expansion of the role of government can ever be reversed

No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth! — Ronald Reagan

Nevada Sen. Dean Heller is pushing to keep spending federal tax dollars to keep the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, of course, is on board, along with all of the rest of the state’s delegation except Rep. Mark Amodei. Nevada lawmakers want to expand Medicaid. The governor is for keeping the Medicaid expansion.

Dean Heller

Thus far, according to the morning newspaper, the expansion has added 221,000 to Nevada’s Medicaid roles, although previous stories in the same paper put the number at 400,000. Most of those are able-bodied, childless adults earning above the poverty level.

Few seem willing to throttle back on the government largesse, even though the economy has picked up a bit since the depths of the recession and unemployment has fallen from October 2009’s 10 percent peak to 4.7 percent.

Meanwhile, Medicaid enrollment has grown by 47 percent since 2006 and spending by 75 percent — to $554 billion in 2015.

Trump’s budget proposes to cut more than $800 billion from Medicaid over the next decade, and trim $192 billion from nutritional assistance and $272 billion over all from welfare programs — all of which have increased in recent years.

What goes up must never go down.

 

Adelson’s fingerprints are everywhere … well, almost

Sheldon Adelson speaks with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson before a speech by President Trump at the Israel Museum on Tuesday in Jerusalem. (AP pix via Haaretz)

The Las Vegas newspaper may have to add a couple of pages just to handle the disclaimers if its owner gets his fingerprints on any more news items.

Today there were, count them, four separate disclaimers.

In the front page story about President Trump being at a museum in Israel there was a mention that the paper’s owner Sheldon Adelson and his wife were in the audience. So at the end of the piece there was the obligatory disclaimer: “The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.”

The disclaimer also appeared at the end of a story about what it would cost to remove the attorney general as legal counsel for various agencies, including the Gaming Control Board. A bill was introduced to do this after the head of GCB secretly taped a conversation with Attorney General Adam Laxalt in which Laxalt asked the GBC to file a brief in a civil court case involving Adelson.

At the end of a story about a languishing bill that would have created an inspector general’s office to audit spending by government agencies there were two disclaimers. The bill was prompted by the newspaper’s reporting of lavish spending by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The first one notes: “The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands Corp. operates the Sands Expo and Convention Center, which competes with the LVCVA-operated Las Vegas Convention Center.”

The second adds: “The Review-Journal owns the domain lasvegas.com, which is subleased to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The sublease terminates Aug. 2.”

Frankly, the story and its front page placement smelled distinctly of editorializing that would benefit Adelson’s convention business at the expense of his competition.

Oddly enough there were two stories in the sports section about the NFL’s Raiders moving to Las Vegas, but neither mentioned Adelson’s key role as catalyst for the move since he walked away from the deal — keeping his money but still getting the stadium “amenity” largely at taxpayer expense while still being able to put bods in his beds. No mention, no backgrounding, no disclaimers.

Also, pay no heed the fact the legislation that created the stadium funding also created a special oversight committee to monitor the expansion of the LVCVA facilities. Adelson has long opposed the expansion of the publicly funded convention center, contending it unfairly competes with his Sands Convention Center.

The redundant oversight panel could scale back the expansion, which might have been Adelson’s real Machiavellian objective all the time.

 

Guess his fingerprints have been wiped clean from that one, but who knows where they will turn up next.

 

 

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:

 

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.

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)

 

Suddenly the abuse of a visa program for foreign investors is a problem

Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein asks questions at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Monday. (Reuters pix via the San Diego Union-Tribune)

Only now that the shoe is on the other foot does there appear to be a problem.

Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Monday 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, according to news accounts.

Her umbrage was prompted by reports that President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner representatives marketed the visa program to potential Chinese investors over the weekend.

 

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

An ethics complaint was filed against Reid but it was buried in the bureaucracy.

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 rules of filibuster 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 certain visa applications for certain applicants despite the rejection of those visas by career staffers.

 

Reid had made a personal call to Mayorkas, according to the Washington Times, who 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 investors. The Washington 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 Cause of Action ethics complaint said, “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 … 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.”

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 abuse of the EB-5 program. She later accepted an undisclosed settlement.

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

 

In a June 2016 story The Daily Caller listed some of the questions left unanswered following the agent being fired:

–Did Reid’s office specifically demand she be fired so the visa application could go through? When (ICE Special Agent Taylor) Johnson was re-assigned to clerical duties was Reid’s office informed?

–When Johnson spoke with Democratic Senate Homeland Security Committee staffers in preparation for her June 2015 testimony at a whistleblowers hearing they coerced her into not fingering Reid. They said mentioning him would violate the Hatch Act, Johnson later told this reporter.

The Hatch Act, of course, limits overt political activities by federal employees, not congressional testimony by whistleblowers.  Who authorized the staffers to employ such obvious falsehoods to coerce Johnson into silence?

The political kneecapping certainly worked. In-remarks, Johnson spoke of suffering retaliation for her opposition to the EB-5 program but left Reid’s name out of it.

–DHS fired Johnson in February 2016 after she declined a $100,000 severance package with a confidentiality agreement that would have allowed her to leave the agency with a clean work record. Who at DHS thought it would be a good use of taxpayer money to pay Johnson not to talk publicly about something she had already testified before Congress?

None of that has been answered.

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.

Congressional testimony of Johnson in 2015:

 

 

Congressman lambastes Trump for national monument review

Basin and Range National Monument (R-J photo by Jeff Scheid)

Rep. Ruben Kihuen has unleashed a diatribe against President Trump over his executive order telling the Interior secretary to review national monument designations for the past 20 years, saying Trump doesn’t give a damn about Nevadans.

Democrat Kihuen flatly stated that most Nevadans support public lands and their permanent protection and criticized Trump for calling recent national monuments — such as the 1 million-acre Gold Butte and Basin and Range national monument designations Obama created in his final year in office — a “massive federal land grab.”

“What would be funny if it wasn’t so sad is that President Trump is doing exactly what he’s complaining about: imposing Washington, D.C.’s ‘wisdom’ on the people of Nevada,” Kihuen writes. “Instead of ‘returning control to the people’ as he has advocated, he’s side stepping the desires of Nevadans. Instead of being part of the conversation, Nevadans are told to shut up and sit down.”

This ignores the fact Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is currently in Arizona visiting the Bears Ears National Monument to begin what he is calling a listening tour on the topic of the more than two dozen national monuments created in the past 20 years.

This also ignores the fact that many accurately described the creation of Gold Butte and Basin and Range monuments as sops to one man, now-retired Nevada U.S. Senator Harry Reid.

Congressman Cresent Hardy — who Kihuen defeated to represent the 4th Congressional District, home to both monuments — complained, “We need to be sure local communities don’t have their concerns ignored by politicians eager to leave a legacy or pull favors for their friends by setting aside huge tracts of land. Nevada’s rural county economies are particularly sensitive, and any decisions that affect ranching, recreation or other types of land use activities should have as much local input as possible … but at the moment, they do not. Legacy building in the twilight of one’s career shouldn’t be the driver of our nation’s public land management.”

Congressman Mark Amodei, who represents northern rural Nevada, said in an interview, “One of the paybacks for Senator Reid being one of the administration’s backstops for six of their eight years is the monument thing. … Why the hell can’t you go through the public process?”

Then-Nevada Rep. Joe Heck said at the time, “President Obama often says ‘we are stronger as a nation when we work together.’ Apparently that rule does not apply to public lands issues when it involves his political allies. The Basin and Range Monument designation goes well beyond the intention of the Antiquities Act which limits parcels reserved by the President to the ‘smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.’ It is beyond belief that an area larger than the state of Rhode Island is the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of this land.”

Sources confirmed Reid’s role to the Washington Post: “It is only due to Harry Reid that this is getting done.” When told it was controversial in Nevada, Obama replied, “I don’t care. I want this done.”

Kihuen further accused Trump of looking out for businesses instead of Nevadans. “Now, President Trump is bucking years of precedent by threatening to revoke the protected status for these designations,” he writes. “Who is President Trump really looking out for? Perhaps it’s big oil and gas who want expanded drilling rights. Or mining companies that seek to extract resources from these federally held areas.”

Or perhaps Trump is sending out the Interior secretary to ask people who actually live near those monuments whether they might like the jobs those businesses create and the tax revenue they generate.

Lest we forget, Kihuen won the 4th Congressional District — which includes part of northern Clark County, the southern part of Lyon County and all of White Pine, Nye, Mineral, Esmeralda, and Lincoln counties — by about 10,000 votes but won in Clark by about 24,000. Hardy won every other county with margins of 2-to-1 or more.

Kihuen further claims, “The Nevada legislature recently passed a resolution expressing support for Basin and Range and Gold Butte. It can’t be any clearer, Nevadans across party lines have made their voices heard. They want these monuments.”
Actually, the resolution has only passed the Assembly and the vote was largely along party lines, with urban Democrats favoring it and rural Republicans opposed. Across party lines?
Who are you going to believe? Kihuen or your lying eyes?