Obama economy and health care system worth bragging about?

IBD grahic

Apparently with a straight face, Obama told The New York times recently, “I actually compare our economic performance to how, historically, countries that have wrenching financial crises perform. By that measure, we probably managed this better than any large economy on Earth in modern history.”

When the April jobs report revealed an anemic 160,000 new jobs being created for the month, he boasted about 74 straight months of private-sector job creation and said the economy had created 14.6 million new jobs during the recovery.

He did not mention that from March to April 562,000 left the labor force — gave up looking for work.

As for those new 14.6 million jobs, an Investor’s Business Daily editorial notes that during that job growth the working-age population grew by 16 million, leaving Obama’s record 1.4 million shy of breaking even.

The editorial further notes that Obama starts his job count from February 2010, when the economy hit the bottom, not from the beginning of the recession when jobs were at a peak.

“There are today only 5.5 million more jobs than there were when employment peaked at the start of the last recession,” IBD relates. “Over these following eight-plus years, however, the working-age population has climbed by 20.4 million. That leaves Obama with a 14.9 million jobs gap.”

But look at all the people who have health insurance under ObamaCare, right?

Down and to the right on the same page of IBD is a report by Stephen Parente, a professor of health finance and an associate dean at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, who notes that everyone focuses on the 12.7 million health insurance policies obtained through ObamaCare, but seldom look at how the 151 million Americans with employer-sponsored health plans are being affected.

Using government data, Parente projects that employees in the most common plan, a midlevel PPO, will see their share of premiums increase by 78 percent for individuals and 71 percent for families.

But it is even worse for employers. Parente writes, “That 78% increase for midlevel PPO plans will cost employers an additional $2,800 per individual plan, and $8,000 more per family by 2025.”

Many firms will not be able to afford to continue coverage, he suggests.

His op-ed piece concludes:

Meanwhile, 11 million fewer Americans will receive health insurance through their employers by 2025. These families and individuals will then have to choose between purchasing insurance on state or federal exchanges — where premiums for comparable plans may be three to four times more expensive, according to a similar study I conducted — or pay a penalty equal to 2.5% of their taxable income. These higher costs and penalties will crush low- and middle-income families already living paycheck to paycheck.

Obama talks about the economy on May 6. (Getty Images via USA Today)

First quarter weekly earnings in 2016, adjusted for inflation, are $1 higher than in the first quarter of 2009.

Loser Trump cries foul when the rules don’t suit him

Ramirez cartoon from today’s IBD

Donald Trump again and again has shown himself to be nothing more than a simpering, sniveling, preposterous posturing popinjay and whining windbag who is too lazy to learn the rules of the game and then calls foul when others play by them.

After losing in Wisconsin Trump called Ted Cruz a Trojan Horse for the GOP establishment.

When Cruz swept the delegates at the Colorado state GOP convention, Trump tweeted, “The people of Colorado had their vote taken away from them by the phony politicians. Biggest story in politics. This will not be allowed!”

The Colorado Republican Party canceled its straw poll last August when the national party ruled straw polls must be binding.

But oblivious Trump tweeted moments later, “How is it possible that the people of the great State of Colorado never got to vote in the Republican Primary? Great anger — totally unfair!”

A Trump aide accused Cruz of using Gestapo tactics.

A Wall Street Journal editorial points out that “Cruz cleaned up in Colorado because his campaign was paying attention to the process. Whatever one thinks of the Texan’s appeal as a candidate, his campaign is organized and focused on winning the required 1,237 delegate majority. This speaks well of his ability to lead a complex organization.”

The editorial notes that Trump has been running a one-man show from his Boeing 757, relying on massive rallies and free media.

Speaking of fairness, Investor’s Business Daily points out editorially that the winner-take-all state rules have resulted in Trump winning only 37 percent of all the votes cast but has secured 45 percent of the delegates.

In Missouri it was announced today that Trump beat Cruz by just 0.2 percentage points — 40.9 percent to 40.7, but Trump gets 37 delegates to Cruz’s 15.

Those are the rules and nobody else is complaining about them. They knew the rules going in and are abiding by them. There’s no whining in politics.

IBD concludes, “If he can’t understand the challenges that he faces as a candidate or be flexible enough to respond to a shifting landscape, and if he can’t assemble the best and brightest people needed to win — no matter the rules — what does that say about his claims that he can do a great job running the country?”

To counter Trump’s whining about the rules, WSJ quoted an opinion from the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, “A political party has a First Amendment right to limit its membership as it wishes, and to choose a candidate-selection process that will in its view produce the nominee who best represents its political platform.”

Scalia added that “party conventions, with their attendant ‘smoke-filled rooms’ and domination by party leaders, have long been an accepted manner of selecting party candidates.”

Smoke-filled rooms. Bring them back.




Obama tells Argentine students capitalism and socialism are just theories, choose what works

Ramirez cartoon from today’s IBD

“A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.”
Milton Friedman

While in Argentina recently Obama had the audacity to say — in a country that has experienced firsthand the ravages of socialism — to an audience of young students that their generation should not worry their fuzzy little minds with abstract theories such as capitalism and socialism or communism but just choose what works.

He grandly expounded:

I guess to make a broader point, so often in the past there’s been a sharp division between left and right, between capitalist and communist or socialist.  And especially in the Americas, that’s been a big debate, right?  Oh, you know, you’re a capitalist Yankee dog, and oh, you know, you’re some crazy communist that’s going to take away everybody’s property.  And I mean, those are interesting intellectual arguments, but I think for your generation, you should be practical and just choose from what works.  You don’t have to worry about whether it neatly fits into socialist theory or capitalist theory — you should just decide what works.

And I said this to President Castro in Cuba.  I said, look, you’ve made great progress in educating young people. Every child in Cuba gets a basic education — that’s a huge improvement from where it was.  Medical care — the life expectancy of Cubans is equivalent to the United States, despite it being a very poor country, because they have access to health care.  That’s a huge achievement. They should be congratulated. But you drive around Havana and you say this economy is not working. It looks like it did in the 1950s. And so you have to be practical in asking yourself how can you achieve the goals of equality and inclusion, but also recognize that the market system produces a lot of wealth and goods and services. And it also gives individuals freedom because they have initiative.

And so you don’t have to be rigid in saying it’s either this or that, you can say — depending on the problem you’re trying to solve, depending on the social issues that you’re trying to address what works. And I think that what you’ll find is that the most successful societies, the most successful economies are ones that are rooted in a market-based system, but also recognize that a market does not work by itself.  It has to have a social and moral and ethical and community basis, and there has to be inclusion. Otherwise it’s not stable.

And it’s up to you — whether you’re in business or in academia or the nonprofit sector, whatever you’re doing — to create new forms that are adapted to the new conditions that we live in today.

It is not a theory. It is history. Socialism and communism have failed time and again while capitalism has lifted millions out of poverty, providing jobs and comfortable lifestyles and ample liberty.

In a 1990 article an Argentine business consultant described how socialism “worked” for Argentina:

Perón nationalized the railroads, airlines, buses, com­munications, foreign trade, and energy, among other ac­tivities. The immediate effects were a drastic deteriora­tion of service and huge deficits. …

The nationalized railroads lose $4 million a day. Grossly overmanned, the equipment is rapidly deteriorating and the service is disastrous. … Aerolineas Argentinas, the national airline, is just as bad. It costs the taxpayer $900,000 a day in subsidized losses, and international passengers are forced to pay fares that are 40 percent higher than average. …  Similar stories can be told about energy, water, and the postal service. In each case the government has enacted laws preserving the monopoly status of the state-owned companies. …

“That which government does not own it controls with regulation.”

An Investor’s Business Daily editorial today points out: “At one time, Argentina was one of the five richest nations in the world, with a per capita income rivaling that of the U.S. But for most of the last 100 years Argentina has suffered under socialism and then economic collapse. It now operates as virtually a Third World country. Yes, Argentina, by all means: Choose what works.”




Turn out the lights the party’s over, they say that all good things must end

Trump campaigning in Alabama, but I think the fascists used to salute with the right arm. (WireImage via WSJ)

It’s all over but the crying.

On the dawn of Super Tuesday, real conservatives voices are raised in loud lament.

Thomas Sowell says it is time for at least one of the remaining electable Republican candidates in a General Election to throw himself on the Trump grenade.

“Everyone understands that the best chance for stopping Trump is for that fractured majority vote to consolidate behind one candidate opposed to him. But who will step aside for the good of the country?” Sowell asks.

“When we think of American military heroes who have fallen on enemy hand grenades to save those around them, at the cost of their own lives, is it really too much to ask candidates — especially those who present themselves as patriots — to give up their one political chance in a zillion this year for the sake of the country?”

His pleas are probably too little too late, just as George Will says of Marco Rubio’s new-found aggressiveness toward Donald Trump.

Will points out:

Unfortunately, Rubio recognized reality and found his voice 254 days after Trump’s scabrous announcement of his candidacy to rescue America from Mexican rapists. And 222 days after Trump disparaged John McCain’s war service (“I like people that weren’t captured”).

And 95 days after Trump said that maybe a protester at his rally “should have been roughed up.” And 95 days after Trump retweeted that 81% of white murder victims are killed by blacks. (Eighty-two percent are killed by whites.)

And 94 days after Trump said he supports torture “even if it doesn’t work.” And 79 days after Trump said that he might have approved the internment of Japanese-Americans during World II.

And 72 days after Trump proved that he does not know the nuclear triad from the Nutcracker ballet. And 70 days after Trump, having been praised by Vladimir Putin, reciprocated by praising the Russian murderer and dictator. And so on.

Rubio’s epiphany — announcing the obvious with a sense of triumphant discovery — about Trump being a “con man” and a “clown act” is better eight months late than never. If, however, it is too late to rescue Rubio from a Trump nomination, this will be condign punishment for him and the rest of the Republican Party’s coalition of the timid.

Bret Stephens seems to get that there may be nothing to stop the bigoted, politically rudderless and unhinged Trump who in recent days has endorsed “Bush lied; people died,” embraced a Mussolini aphorism, refused to release his “beautiful” tax returns for several difference reasons, waffled on disavowing an endorsement by onetime Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, as well as calling for “opening up” libel laws to make it easier to sue anyone who hurts his feeling. (Will compared this to the Sedition Act of 1798.)


“None of this seems to have made the slightest dent in Mr. Trump’s popularity,” Stephens concludes.

A couple of Stanford professors writing in The Wall Street Journal observe that Trump’s classless bombast has tarred everybody in the GOP. Polls show the number of people who would never vote for any given Republican on the ballot keep going up, but not so for the two Democrats.

“Democrats are having a vigorous campaign that, so far, hasn’t undermined their candidates’ chances in the fall. Meanwhile, Republicans have been destroying each other,” they write.

Will’s lede paragraph is a classic jibe but a futile gesture, I fear: “Donald Trump’s distinctive rhetorical style — think of a drunk with a bullhorn reading aloud James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake” under water — poses an almost insuperable challenge to people whose painful duty is to try to extract clarity from his effusions.”

A Trump nomination, which is likely to be wrapped up today, will destroy the GOP. After the state primary in Nevada, in which we get to pick the lesser of assorted evils for U.S. Senate, House and state offices, I may switch to the Libertarian Party. Talk about futile gestures.

I can remember when Willie looked like this:

Trump wants to make it easier to sue for libel when the media hurts his feelings

The GOP in Houston (Zuma photo via WSJ)

Donald Trump can dish it out but he can’t take.

In Fort Worth Friday he called for shredding the First Amendment and making it easier for thin-skinned politicians like himself to sue newspapers and others who criticize him by telling the truth.

Apparently with a stroke of his presidential pen or a call on the phone — but not an iPhone because he is boycotting Apple — he plans to “open up libel laws” to make it easier and more profitable to sue the media.

Never mind that the Supreme Court in N.Y. Times v. Sullivan held: “A State cannot, under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, award damages to a public official for defamatory falsehood relating to his official conduct unless he proves “actual malice” — that the statement was made with knowledge of its falsity or with reckless disregard of whether it was true or false.” But Trump never lets case law or the Constitution get in the way of one of his rants.

Here is a bit of what Trump had to say as reported by Real Clear Politics:

I’ll tell you what, I think the media is among the most dishonest groups of people I’ve ever met. They’re terrible. The New York Times, which is losing a fortune, which is a failing newspaper, which probably won’t be around that much longer, but probably somebody will buy it as a trophy, keep it going for a little longer. But I think The New York Times is one of the most dishonest media outlets I’ve ever seen in my life. The worst, the worst. The absolute worst. They have an agenda that you wouldn’t believe. And they’re run by incompetent people. They are totally incompetently run. Washington Post, I have to tell you, I have respect for Jeff Bezos, but he bought The Washington Post to have political influence and I got to tell you, we have a different country than we used to have. We have a different — He owns Amazon. He wants political influence so that Amazon will benefit from it. That’s not right. And believe me, if I become president, oh, do they have problems. They’re going to have such problems.

And one of the things I’m going to do, and this is only going to make it tougher for me, and I’ve never said this before, but one of the things I’m going to do if I win — and I hope I do and we’re certainly leading — is I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We’re going to open up those libel laws. So that when The New York Times writes a hit piece, which is a total disgrace, or when the Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected. You see, with me, they’re not protected because I’m not like other people but I’m not taking money. I’m not taking their money. So we’re going to open up those libel laws folks and we’re going to have people sue you like you never got sued before. We have many things to do. We have many, many things to do.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal, who Trump has threatened to sue for pointing out his utter ignorance on various topics, said in an editorial today: “Ripping the press is old political hat, but it’s not every day that a potential President promises to use government power to punish critics. This follows his attack earlier this week on the Ricketts family of Chicago for donating to a Super Pac that has criticized him. ‘They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!’ he tweeted. Does he plan to sic the IRS on them?”

Trump is little more than a bully who can’t take the insults he is so frequently and vilely dishing out.

Now Trump has been caught in still another lie. He claims he can’t release his “beautiful” tax returns because he is being audited. NPR, among others, checked with various authorities and found there is nothing stopping him from releaseing his IRS form, whether he is being audited or not. Perhaps, he fears the embarrassment of the voters learning he is not such a fabulous and successful businessman after all.

Marco Rubio also caught Trump in being two-faced on immigration. As that WSJ editorial points out, despite his railing about illegal immigrants taking American jobs, he is one of those hiring those illegals.

“According to a New York Times report, some 300 Americans have applied or were referred to work at Mar-a-lago, his private club in Palm Beach, Florida, but 94% were turned down,” the editorial notes. “The resort filled the slots with foreign guest workers. Mr. Trump explained there aren’t enough ‘qualified’ Americans to go around, especially in season, and that without these foreign workers ‘you hurt your business.’ Wait a minute. That’s our argument for immigration reform and more legal immigration. Mr. Trump fails his own immigration test.”

Rubio also challenged Trump on hiring illegal Polish workers for a demolition project in New York and paid a settlement for doing so, but it is under seal. He uses the courts to hide his misdeeds. On stage he just stammered, denied and called everybody in sight liars.

George Will writing in Investor’s Business Daily notes that born-again conservative Trump is really running to the left of Bernie Sanders by promising, without any substance or details, to take care of everybody.

“Donald Trump, unencumbered by any ballast of convictions, would court Bernie Sanders’ disaffected voters with promises to enrich rather than reform the welfare state’s entitlement menu — Trump already says, ‘I am going to take care of everybody’ — and to make America great again by having it cower behind trade barriers,” Will writes.

Train wreck.


Nevadans sweep wide to the left

If there were such a thing as a three-sided coin, Trump’s clownish mug would grace the third side. (Ramirez cartoon from IBD)

“If the right to vote were expanded to seven year olds … its policies would most definitely reflect the ‘legitimate concerns’ of children to have ‘adequate’ and ‘equal’ access to ‘free’ french fries, lemonade and videos.” ― Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy–The God That Failed

By my calculation 118,000 Nevadans have just voted for avowed Marxist socialist Bernie Sanders, socialist-lite Hillary Clinton or epithet-spewing, land-grabbing, socialized-medicine-advocate, liberal Donald Trump. That’s 100 percent of the Democrats who voted in caucuses Saturday and fully 46 percent of so-called Republicans who voted in the Tuesday evening caucuses. (Actually, not really caucuses at all because 90 percent of the people stood in hours-long lines, marked their paper ballots and went home without ever discussing the candidates with their neighbors in their precincts.)

Only 40,000 Nevadans actually voted for people who espouse conservative views and values — that breaks down statewide to 75 percent, compared to 25 percent.

So much for the Trump ceiling. Trump got more votes than Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz combined. Doubtlessly some of those handful of Jeb Bush votes even went to Trump, as would some of those Ben Carson and John Kasich votes when they drop out.

Only the voters in Lincoln and Elko counties gave a plurality to Cruz, but Trump finished second in both of those.

Trump has already won in New Hampshire and South Carolina. The CNN poll prior to Tuesday gave Trump 45 percent of the Nevada GOP vote. He got 45.9 percent.

In the 12 Super Tuesday states next week, Trump leads in all save Texas and Arkansas, according to Real Clear Politics. His delegate count is building rapidly with half of Nevada’s now in his pocket. Can anyone catch him?

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Iowa. That is a scary assessment of both Trump and his supporters.

The November ballot could be frightening to face.






PUC ruling: Everyone must bear certain costs in a monopoly marketplace

Solar activists assemble outside Public Utilities Commission Nevada offices in Las Vegas on Feb. 8 with 55,000 signatures opposing changes in net-metering rates. (Newscom photo via IBD)

Let’s apply the logic of the Nevada Public Utilities Commission to other situations.

They say those who don’t buy as much electricity as their neighbors, because they generate their own power with solar panels are being subsidized by those neighbors who are bearing a greater portion of the fixed cost of the grid and therefore solar panel owners should pay more for the sake of fairness.

So, if you grow your own tomatoes in your backyard and only buy tomatoes between ripe crops, you should pay more for those tomatoes because your neighbors are paying for the shipping and handling of those store bought tomatoes.

If you drive a gas-sipping car, you should pay more per gallon to cover the cost of drilling, refining and transportation.

If you never get sick, you should pay more to cover the cost of building hospitals and training doctors, because you are not covering your fair share of infrastructure costs.

From each according to their means, to each according to their needs — the definition of a monopoly market.

I’ve explained it before to no avail.

On Friday the PUC voted unanimously to slash net-metering rates and treble connection fees for all solar panel owners, including those who bought and paid for them under promises that they could get a return on their investments. Suckers!

According to Investor’s Business Daily’s front page article today Sunrun executives were already planning to file suit.

“Fully 89% of Nevadans believe that the Public Utilities Commission made the wrong decision when it ended net-metering, refused to grandfather existing solar customers at their current rates and destroyed one of the fastest-growing solar sectors in the country,” a solar executive told IBD via email.

As noted here before too, the PUC did stretch out the implementation over 12 years instead of four.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, who appoints the PUC members, put out a handwringing statement bemoaning the decision, but failed to indicate he would do a damned thing about it.

“While I have respected the Commission and its deliberations by not influencing its process, the PUC did not reach the outcome I had hoped for. I remained optimistic that the Commission would find a solution that considered the economic consequences to existing rooftop solar owners. Today’s decision does not go far enough to protect their interests.

“Renewable energy development in Nevada is a priority for me and an important and evolving issue. I remain committed to providing a path for Nevada to continue to explore the potential of our vast renewable energy portfolio while ensuring Nevada has an equitable system that balances energy policy with just and reasonable utility rates. There is no greater friend to the solar industry than my Administration. In 2011, I signed legislation enacting policies to stand up the rooftop solar market. In 2013, I approved another measure that doubled the net metering cap. In 2015, I signed into law a bill that again changed the net metering cap and transferred oversight of this complex issue to the PUC. The 2015 legislation received public support from the rooftop solar industry and many other interested parties. When I signed these bills, it was my belief that the utility rates should remain constant for homeowners who installed rooftop solar systems on their homes.

“The 2015 legislation was approved by a 41-1 vote in the Nevada Assembly and a unanimous vote in the Nevada Senate. I am aware that many of our state legislators share my concern about today’s decision and I am hopeful that the Legislative Committee on Energy as well as the New Energy Task Force will bring forward thoughtful recommendations to ensure that Nevada has a stable energy policy that allows renewable energy in Nevada to continue to thrive.”

And PUC just made all that moot. Solar panel installers are leaving the state and laying off thousands of workers, after being enticed to come to Nevada with taxpayer money.

The Las Vegas Sun online quoted a 7-year-old girl who testified before the PUC Friday about her father being laid off at SolarCity.

“I’m speaking for all kids and the future of solar. Solar is our future,”Marilynn Dudley said to the commission. “My dad and a lot of other people lost their job’s because of your decision. So please PUC, make the right decision today and bring back solar to Nevada.”

Tough luck, kid.

The Reno newspaper quoted PUC Commissioner David Noble as saying in his draft order, “It appears that some small-scale (rooftop) solar vendors advertised unrealistic payback periods. The commission will not reward the bad behavior of some small-scale (rooftop) solar vendors by requiring non-(solar) ratepayers to subsidize (solar) ratepayers for longer than is necessary.”

The paper reported that regulators said it is unfair for 98 percent of utility customers to bear costs for the 2 percent who have solar systems.

Just how do they do that? Never explained.

The Review-Journal quoted a solar company employee as saying, “It’s like playing poker and then changing the cards after the hand’s been dealt.”

Protesters Friday at PUC meeting. (R-J photo)



Krauthammer sums up the incoherent barstool eruptions of Trump

You can probably wait and read it Sunday in the Las Vegas newspaper, but why wait?

Charles Krauthammer’s column in today’s Investor’s Business Daily offers his take on the three-way race for the GOP coming out of the Iowa caucus.

Though the theme of the column is bemoaning the media’s obsession with whether the various candidates are establishment or anti-establishment, his best lines describe the clueless meanderings of Donald Trump:

(Ted) Cruz may be anti-establishment but he’s a principled conservative, while Trump has no coherent political philosophy, no core beliefs, at all. Trump offers barstool eruptions and whatever contradictory “idea” pops into his head at the time, such as “humane” mass deportation, followed by mass amnesty when the immigrants are returned to the United States.

That’s the reason his harebrained ideas — barring all Muslims from entering the country, a 45% tariff on Chinese goods, government-provided universal health care through “a deal with existing hospitals to take care of people” (why didn’t I think of that?) — have received such relatively little scrutiny. No one takes them seriously. His actual platform is all persona — the wonders that will emanate from his own self-proclaimed strength, toughness, brilliance, money, his very yugeness.

I have no idea what yugeness is either but an online search turns up a number of references to the term describing Trump or his crowds of glazed-eyed followers.

Krauthammer concludes that, despite the “establishment” wrangling and mangling, Republicans are picking conservatism over Trump’s brand of populism by 2 to 1 — when you add Marco Rubio and Cruz’s vote tally of 51 percent and compare that to Trump’s 24 percent — which he says bodes well for the GOP’s chances of survival as the party of Reagan

Ben Carson, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz at a recent debate. (Polaris/Newscom photo via IBD)

Reflecting on the strangeness and futility of 2015 in news and blogging

Everybody does their top 10 stories of the year — or bottom 10 in the case of one columnist I know — as a way to fill otherwise empty space during a slow news period between Christmas and New Year. I think I started the practice at the Las Vegas newspaper 15 or 20 years ago, but it has been going on so long it seems as if it were always a year-ending feature.

In that fine tradition, I thought I would reflect on some of the strange events perpetrated by strange people over the past year as recounted in this patch of the ether.

January: Speaking of superlatives, Nevada started 2015 by having its governor named the worst Republican governor in the nation by the business newspaper Investor’s Business Daily.

“Wasn’t this supposed to be the year Republican governors showcase innovative, pro-growth economic reforms?” IBD asked. “Brian Sandoval apparently didn’t get the memo.”

Brian Sandoval (R-J photo)

The paper pointed out this will be the third time Sandoval has raised taxes, after repeated promises to not do so.

IBD also pointed out that Sandoval is the same governor who handed billionaire Elon Musk a 20-year, $1.25 billion corporate welfare subsidy for his Tesla battery plant. “We wondered then who would pay for this golden handshake. Now we know,” the editorial commented.

IBD also said Sandoval can now be struck from any list for potential national office.

February: The Nevada Supreme Court further strangled free speech in Nevada by making the right decision but for the wrong reason.

In the case of Citizen Outreach vs. State, the court ruled 5-2 that the organization did not violate a 1997 law requiring those who engage in express advocacy to file paperwork with the secretary of state’s office revealing donors and expenditures.

Nevada Supreme Court (R-J photo)

The ruling states, “Because it is undisputed that Citizen Outreach’s flyers do not contain magic words of express advocacy, the flyers were not subject to regulation under Nevada’s campaign practices statutes that were effective in 2010.”

The problem is that in 2011 the Legislature rewrote the law so that it now states that express advocacy “means that a communication, taken as a whole, is susceptible to no other reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a clearly identified candidate.”

Both the 1997 and the 2011 laws blatantly violate both the First Amendment and the Nevada Constitution because they are not “content neutral” and address no “compelling government interest.”

Article 1, Section 9 of the Nevada Constitution states: “Every citizen may freely speak, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects being responsible for the abuse of that right; and no law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press.”

This law clearly restrains and abridges.

March: Being Harry Reid means never having to say you are sorry.

Reid not only is calling the whistleblowers who complained to the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security about his meddling in decisions about whether to expedite visas to foreign investors in a Las Vegas hotel casino whiners but bragged that he would do it all over again.

“One of the problems we have with government … is people take too long to make decisions,” Reid is quoted as saying.

Harry Reid (Screen grab from YouTube)

In this case, the decision had been made, and it was: No, the visas would not be expedited and the urgency was one created by the hotel-casino, not by the government, according to the IG report. The Washington Times reported at the time that Homeland Security had denied visas for some of those investors from Asia because of “suspicious financial activity.” That decision was ineligible for appeal.

Reid personally called Alejandro Mayorkas, the head of immigration services at the time, and demanded the visas be expedited and that his staff be given a weekly update. Mayorkas did so. He since has been promoted to the No. 2 post at Homeland Security, even though his nomination did not get the 60 votes that would have been needed before Harry nuked the filibuster.

Reid neglects to mention that at the time of his intersession his son Rory’s law firm was representing the company in question, SLS, formerly the Sahara.

The U.S. Senate Code of Official Conduct permits members to assist people with executive branch agencies, but it also 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.”

April: One of the most overused phrases in the English language is: There ought to be a law.

There ought to be common sense, but these days that seems entirely uncommon.

Perhaps that is why Assemblywoman Vicki Dooling believed it necessary to introduce Assembly Bill 375, which would have enacted into state law the dictate that public school facilities — such as restrooms, locker rooms and showers — designed for gender segregation be used only by persons of the designated biological gender.

The bill was being pushed by Karen England, executive director of Capitol Resource Family Alliance, who said she discovered that two Nevada school districts — Clark and Washoe — had been contemplating adopting school policies that were basically cut and pasted from an online model policy by the National Center for Transgender Equality.

The model policy states: “Students shall have access to all restrooms that correspond to their gender identity consistently asserted at school.”

AB375 was killed. Instead the lawmakers later passed Senate Bill 504 under the guise of it being an anti-bullying law. This law prohibits “blocking access” to “any property or facility of a school” on the basis of sex, gender identity or expression. That includes gender segregated restrooms and locker rooms.

The law has already created a problem in Elko.

May: The battle between NV Energy and solar panel installers that ended recently in a Public Utilities Commission ruling that has the potential to end the business rooftop solar installing was foreseen in May.

Have you ever watched pigs nudging each other out of the way attempting to see which one can get its snout deepest into the slop trough?

We saw in May a sort of pork scrum at the Legislature in Carson City between the state’s biggest monopoly electric utility and those who install rooftop solar panels that are only profitable due to ratepayer subsidies and tax breaks and government handouts.

The taxpayers get left holding the bag no matter who wins.

Two years ago taxpayers shelled out $1.2 million to entice billionaire Elon Musk to open an office for his SolarCity company in Nevada. SolarCity is one of those firms that installs rooftop solar panels.

Residences and businesses that install solar panels contract with billionaire Warren Buffett’s NV Energy under a net metering program. Any excess power they generate goes onto the grid and each kilowatt-hour uploaded is deducted from that month’s bill at the retail rate — or was.

NV Energy, which in the previous Legislature convinced lawmakers to require the closure of all its coal-fired plants and foist all of the cost for doing so and building new renewable and gas-fired generation onto ratepayers, doesn’t like paying retail for power.

After paying SolarCity to open here, will it have to close? It recently announced it will.

June: You’ve got to love a good newspaper spat, especially one that goes back decades.

One day in June the Las Vegas Review-Journal had a story about how a few teenagers in 1967 hoaxed the Las Vegas Sun with a Polaroid “UFO” photo that was actually a hubcap tossed into the air.

The June R-J story also noted that it was the R-J that corrected the hoax the next day:

On June 14, 1967, a mere 24 hours after the hoax had gone as viral as something could go in the ’60s, the Las Vegas Review-Journal ended it.

“The mysterious flying ship ‘scouting’ Las Vegas Monday night turned out to be a hubcap, sources close to the ‘ship’ revealed Tuesday afternoon,” the lede read.

But over in the Sun section, Brian Greenspun reprinted the second of three columns from the era of the hoax by his father Hank Greenspun. The intro by Brian includes this dig at the R-J:

The first two columns talk about the building of the MGM Hotel (now Bally’s) and the third discusses allegations of mob association that existed only in the small minds of some hoodlums and on the pages of the other newspaper in Las Vegas.

I wondered at the time whether the third installment would mention that in 1947 Greenspun was hired by mobster Bugsy Siegel as publicist for his Flamingo Hotel or that  Greenspun wrote a column called “Flamingo Chatter” for the R-J?

Of course, I must plead guilty to having tweaked the upturned Greenspun nose a time or two myself.

July: What do you call a country in which one person has the power to dictate to local elected officials how land within their jurisdiction may be used or not used?


With the proverbial stroke of his oft-bragged-about pen one day in July President Obama singlehandedly created a 700,000-acre Basin and Range National Monument in the Coal and Garden valleys in Lincoln and Nye counties, even though most local officials oppose it.

Basin and Range National Monument

Congressman Cresent Hardy, whose district includes the new monument, complained about the arbitrary decision made as a sop to lame duck Nevada Sen. Harry Reid.

“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,” Hardy said in a statement. “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?”

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.”

“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,” said Southern Nevada Rep. Joe Heck. “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.”

August: Many of the news stories in August about the ACLU suing to block implementation of Nevada’s education savings accounts (ESAs) mentioned that such accounts were declared unconstitutional in Colorado. Like Nevada, Colorado’s state constitution includes a Blaine Amendment prohibiting the use of tax money for secular purposes.

Few stories bothered to mention that Arizona also has a Blaine Amendment in its constitution, but the Arizona Court of Appeals upheld Arizona’s ESAs two years ago.

That court found that ESAs were neutral toward religion by leaving spending decisions to parents, not the state:

The ESA does not result in an appropriation of public money to encourage the preference of one religion over another, or religion per se over no religion. Any aid to religious schools would be a result of the genuine and independent private choices of the parents. The parents are given numerous ways in which they can educate their children suited to the needs of each child with no preference given to religious or nonreligious schools or programs.

Yet the morning Las Vegas newspaper quotes Tod Story, executive director for the ACLU of Nevada, as saying, “The education savings account law passed this last legislative session tears down the wall separating church and state erected in Nevada’s constitution.”

Patricia Levesque, CEO of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, said of the ACLU suit, “It is ironic that the ACLU pledges itself to ‘defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person. … Yet today the ACLU opposes giving every parent in Nevada the right to decide where his or her child goes to school. There is no more fundamental right in this country than trying to create a better life for your child.”

September: Who could have seen this coming?

NV Energy, the monopoly power company that serves most of Nevada, in September proposed to end a contract to buy electricity from an independent generating company that provided peak power with gas-fired plants and instead build its own gas-fired plant.

NV Energy is allowed to pass through costs of power it purchases, but it gets a rate of return on equity — the plants and power lines it owns — of about 10 percent.

Mark Garrett, an energy consultant working with MGM Resorts, said of the proposal, “It should be looking for ways to lower rates, not raise them.” He estimated the new plant could increase ratepayer costs $70 million per year.

NV Energy gas-fired power plant.

Back in 2013 when the Legislature passed a bill to close all NV Energy coal-fired plants, 4TH ST8 quoted Dan Jacobsen of the attorney general’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, which represents ratepayer interests at the Public Utilities Commission, as saying, “In addition to replacing about 1,000 megawatts of coal capacity, the bill also would be replacing a very large amount of power purchase agreements right now that ratepayers don’t have to provide a return on.”

Precisely what was happening in September.

“There are power purchase agreements that are pretty helpful in covering peak load but not having to be purchased at times when there isn’t a peak load,” Jacobsen noted in 2013. “That’s a pretty good mix at times for Nevada with extreme heat in the summer that doesn’t last more than about three months.”

Then Jacobsen addressed the most glaring flaw in the bill: Its decades-long, Soviet-style central planning. “I hope you have an appreciation for the difficult, long-range  decision you are being asked to make in this bill,” Jacobsen said. “Step back and think about it for a minute, you’re being asked right now, based on information you have right now, to make a decision that, for example, in the year 2025 the right thing to do is to build a 500-megawatt natural gas plant.

“That’s 12 years from now. Technology can change a lot in 12 years. The demand projection can change a lot. The wholesale market can change a lot. Efficiency options can change a lot. But this bill says to you: Please mandate the right thing to do 12 years from now is to build a 500-megawatt natural gas plant. That’s quite a challenge for you as a policy makers to make.”

The previous time the power company was given carte blanche to build power plants and begin to recover costs immediately, even before any review by state regulators, was in the 1980s. That was because the company needed new power supplies — from coal-fired plants.

October: Whatever befalls you, sue.

According to a Courthouse News account in October, Harry Reid is suing the maker of the elastic exercise band he was using when he had an accident in the bathroom of his Henderson home on New Year’s Day. The accident left him blind in his right eye.

Reid injured

The suit was filed in state court in Clark County by James M. Morgan of Lanzone Morgan, a firm that specializes in cases of elder abuse. Reid, D-Tort Bar, is 75.

The suit, get this, says, “The TheraBand was mounted to a sturdy object in his bathroom. While in use, the TheraBand broke or slipped out of Mr. Reid’s hand, causing him to spin around and strike his face on a cabinet.” Which is it? Broke or slipped? If it broke, surely there would be two pieces, right?

The Nevada senator and Senate minority leader at first told reporters the band broke but later changed his story, saying the band slipped.

“Reid says he suffered severe pain and injuries as a result of the mishap, including broken ribs and orbital bones, severe disfigurement, facial lacerations and bruising, a concussion, scarring and loss of vision in his right eye,” the story recounts. It goes on to say that Reid said the maker of the band did not include warnings that the band might break or to use a safer design.

Reid announced earlier this year he will not be seeking re-election in 2016. He has a net worth of $10 million.

Reid’s suit accuses the elastic band maker of failing “to warn consumers and learned intermediaries of the danger of the bands’ likelihood of breaking and of causing injuries to the elderly …”

The company will probably settle in secret and pay Reid and his lawyers some undisclosed settlement payment, but it would be nice to see some company have the brass to fight such suits claiming product users were not warned of potential mishaps that any rational person could have anticipated.

November: The Las Vegas newspaper on a Wednesday afternoon in November reported online that Gov. Brian Sandoval had announced that Nevada counties will receive a combined $1.9 million (actually $1.98 million) more in payment in lieu of taxes or PILT. This would bring this year’s total to about $25 million.

“PILT payments provide local governments with the necessary funds to pay for critical infrastructure needs in cities and towns across Nevada,” the paper quoted Sandoval’s statement as saying. “Additionally it allows local leaders to prepare to meet the demands of our growing communities.”

Brian Sandoval (R-J photo)

Sandoval’s statement is also posted online.

Neither the governor’s statement, nor the newspaper account bothered to point out that even with the additional money — approved in the recent budget talks — the PILT payments are still less than was doled out in 2014, when the state got $25.4 million in PILT. With the added funds Nevada will get a total of $25.24 million this year.

“I would like to thank the members of our Congressional delegation for their hard work in securing this additional money. I would also like to recognize the Department of the Interior for fulfilling its obligation to compensate local communities for the land owned by the federal government in Nevada,” Sandoval’s online statement says.

Yes, thanks a lot. Before the additional $2 million, Nevada’s powerful minority leader of the Senate brought home the bacon for Nevada counties by providing 41 cents per acre in PILT, while California raked in 96 cents per acre, Arizona got $1.13, New Mexico fetched $1.54 and Utah’s share was $1.05.

And pay no attention to the fact the Interior Department collects about $14 billion in revenue annually from commercial activities on federal lands, such as oil and gas leasing, livestock grazing and timber harvesting, before sending the states a paltry $439 million.

Never let the facts get in the way of a good pat on the back.

December: We are definitely inside the rabbit hole now.

Both Las Vegas “newspapers” one day in December reported that the man who announced the sale of the Las Vegas Review-Journal to a new company called News + Media may be the pseudonymous writer of a lengthy article in a small Connecticut newspaper that criticized a Clark County judge who is handling a civil case involving casino owner Sheldon Adelson, the once secret money behind the newspaper purchase.

I said it was a rabbit hole. The swirl of ethical mishops is enough to boggle the mind.

Michael Schroeder, AKA Edward Clarkin? (R-J photo)

The R-J reported Michael E. Schroeder, the man described as manager of News + Media Capital Group when the purchase was announced, is probably the person behind the Edward Clarkin byline on the aforementioned article.

The brief story reported that Schroeder’s middle name is Edward, and California marriage records show his father, Clarence J. Schroeder, married Karen A. Clarkin in 1957. Schroeder was born in the following year, the paper says.

Meanwhile, back in the Las Vegas Sun insert, a lengthy story on this topic recounts that “there is compelling circumstantial evidence that ‘Edward Clarkin’ is a pseudonym used by Schroeder. The publisher’s middle name is Edward, and his Facebook page at one time identified his mother as Karen Clarkin Carey. That reference was removed from the page, but the Facebook page for Karen Clarkin Carey contained a photo of Carey with Schroeder.”

What makes the Clarkin tale doubly dubious is that weeks before the R-J was purchased three of its reporters were assigned to shadow three judges for two weeks and report on their activity. One of those judges was Elizabeth Gonzalez, who is presiding over an Adelson lawsuit and who has fined his company failing to disclose evidence.

No story was ever published and no one in the newsroom was told who picked Gonzalez for scrutiny or why.

The Sun reports, “Mark Fabiani, a San Diego attorney retained by the new owners in the days after the sale, said Wednesday that Schroeder would not have a management role. He was retained as an adviser during the purchase and helped conduct due diligence, Fabiani said.”

Then on Wednesday the R-J published a front-page missive under the hed “A message from the new owners about the future of the Las Vegas Review-Journal,” which pledged to publish “a newspaper that is fair, unbiased and accurate.”

There was a short sidebar announcing that editor Michael Hengel had accepted a buyout that said, “Hengel described his decision to leave as ‘mutual’ and said he did not believe he was forced out.”

However, the Los Angeles Times reported in a lengthy article on the shenanigans at the R-J that in an interview Hengel told them he first learned of his acceptance of the buyout when someone from the paper read the aforementioned front-page editorial to him over the telephone.

Fair, unbiased and accurate?

Well, at least it keeps the strangeness factor going into 2016.


This blog in 2015: There were about 470 postings on this blog garnering 110,000 views and more than 7,000 comments — the most frequent commenters were Rincon, HFB, Patrick, Winston Smith and Barbara. The most commented on posting, more than 160 comments, was “The problem is that we think we can solve every problem with a government program.”

More than 10 percent of the postings were copies of freelance newspaper columns and editorials printed in several rural Nevada papers.

More than 1,400 views came on the day I wrote about the fourth anniversary of being summarily canned from a 40-plus-year career as a newspaper editor — without explanation, without rationale, without apology, apparently on a whim — torn like a page from a reporter’s notebook, crumpled and tossed in the trash. That’s ephemera for you.

Small solace: There have been a lot of whims since. Apparently a lot of people empathized or dreaded the whim themselves.

Who wants yesterday’s papers, Mick? Nobody in the world.

I’m living a life of constant change
Every day means the turn of a page
Yesterdays papers are such bad news
Same thing applies to me and you


Obama says we need strong gun laws like those in Europe that prevent mass shootings, right?

Obama believes in American exceptionalism, except he believes we are exceptionally prone to mass murder.

After the shootings in San Bernardino Wednesday in which a couple killed 14 and they themselves were killed by police, Obama said, “We don’t yet know what the motives of the shooters are but what we do know is that there are steps we can take to make Americans safer. We should never think that this is just something that just happens in the ordinary course of events because it doesn’t happen with the same frequency in other countries.”

He said this country’s record of mass shootings “has no parallel anywhere else in the world,” and said the U.S. needs stronger gun controls to prevent such events.

Speaking to reporters in Paris the day before, Obama addressed the shooting in Colorado Springs at an abortion clinic, saying, “I mean, I say this every time we go one of these mass shootings, this just doesn’t happen in other countries.” Yes, he was in Paris, the scene of the recent massacre of 129 people and the wounding of hundreds more.

But John R. Lott Jr., writing in Investor’s Business Daily and prior to Wednesday’s shooting, begs to differ and does the math.

Lott notes that in 2015 alone France has suffered more casualties due to mass shootings than the U.S. has had during Obama’s entire presidency — 508 to 394, plus the 35 from San Bernardino, 37 if you count the shooters.

The U.S. actually ranks eighth per capita in mass public shooting fatalities, Lott calculates, well behind European countries with far more strict gun control laws. “Macedonia had a rate of 0.38, Serbia 0.28, Slovakia 0.20, Finland 0.14, Belgium 0.14 and the Czech Republic 0.13,” he writes. “The U.S. comes in eighth with 0.095 mass public shooting fatalities per million people. Austria and Switzerland are close behind.”

Something surely needs to be done, but it helps to start the dialogue with facts instead of false rhetoric.

Shooting scene in San Bernardino (LA Times photo)