A bit of advice for the president

I considered wading in on the Twitter twaddle between President Trump and the socialist “squad,” but figured enough mud was being splattered on the walls already. What could I add?

But today the morning paper’s columnist Victor Joecks saved me the trouble and said what I meant to say, only far more succinctly:

When your political opponents are rhetorically clubbing each other to death, you stand back, shut up and get out of the way.

Unless you’re Trump, who — blinded by his own genius at shaping political stories — decided this was a great time to criticize AOC and her squad.

Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her “squad” had engaged in a social media slap fight with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, dividing the Democrat Party, and Trump just couldn’t resist wading in and uniting them, resulting in last night’s near-party line vote in the House to condemn Trump.

USA Today recounts: “The resolution, which said Trump’s “racist comments have legitimized fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color,” passed by an overall vote of 240-187.”

When your opponents are squabbling among themselves, let them, don’t unite them, Mr. “stable genius.”

The squad. (UPI pix)

 

Newspaper column: Expect long lines come Election Day 2020

Democracy is a chaotic endeavor. Nevada lawmakers have made it more so.

Expect long lines and delayed results come the next Election Day.

Assembly Bill 345, which passed on a party line vote with Democrats favoring and Republicans opposed, will allow people to register to vote on the same day of an election rather than several weeks earlier. This will inevitably mean much longer lines on Election Day and during early voting and require as much as 10 days for election results to be tabulated, because votes cast on Election Day and absentee ballots mailed on Election Day will have to be counted and verified.

It will also cost millions of dollars to implement and might not be fully rolled out in time for the 2020 elections, officials warned. It will require hiring thousands more poll workers. Lawmakers were undeterred by the merely impossible.

Wayne Thorley, deputy Nevada secretary of state in charge of elections, warned lawmakers implementing the changes in time for the 2020 election would be “extremely difficult if not impossible,” because it takes two years to make such changes, according to a Las Vegas newspaper account.

Only 17 states and the District of Columbia now have same-day registration.

One argument for this scheme is that it will greatly increase participation in the democratic process. An argument against it is that it will greatly increase participation by the lazy and the uninformed. Another argument is that same-day voter registration is susceptible to voter fraud.

Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, calls same-day voter registration a prescription for fraud and says it does almost nothing to increase voter participation.

“Allowing a voter to both register and vote on Election Day makes it nearly impossible to prevent duplicate votes in different areas or to verify the accuracy of any information provided by a voter,” von Spakovsky writes.

Further, the new law actually eliminates requirements for informing the public prior to elections. Existing law requires clerks to publish in a newspaper of general circulation the names of candidates and the offices they are seeking. AB345 removes that requirement.

Current law also requires publication of any statewide ballot measure along with an explanation, as well as arguments, rebuttals and fiscal notes. AB345 removes that requirement.

The Nevada Appeal newspaper in Carson City recently published a story quoting public officials as reaffirming the potential problems with the changes in election law.

Carson City Clerk Recorder Aubrey Rowlatt said that in smaller counties, where voters are used to getting to a voting machine within minutes of arrival at the polls and having final results within two hours of the polls closing, the lines will be longer and the results delayed for days.

“There are going to be lines,” she said. “There are going to be late election results.”

Thorley repeated to the newspaper the issues he had raised earlier before lawmakers. “The biggest concern is the delay in election results and educating the public about that,” he told the newspaper.

He warned that changes between election night counts and the final counts more than a week later can lead to accusations of fraud.

Thorley noted, “AB345 allows absentee ballots to be counted after election day so any ballot postmarked by election day but received up to seven days after the election will be counted.”

He also said election officials will have to confirm that people don’t go hopping from county to county registering to vote.

Thorley said the Legislature gave him about a half-million dollars to hire three staffers to set up a process for verifying voter registrations electronically, because doing so by hand would be impossible.

The story ends with Thorley saying he tried to convince lawmakers to give him until the 2022 elections to implement the new law, but Democratic leaders said they wanted it in place by 2020 because of the importance of that election, which is a presidential one. Democrats will stop at nothing in their quest to oust President Trump.

“We will make it work,” Rowlatt was quoted as saying. “It’s just going to be painful so I would just ask for a lot of patience because it’s not going to be fast.”

Remember which lawmakers voted for those long lines come Election Day, as you inch your way toward the voting booth, knowing you may not learn of the outcome for another week to 10 days.

Democracy need not be this chaotic just to make it more convenient for laggards to vote for Democrats.

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.

Umbrage will be taken when the blame can be placed on the other political party

Let me get this straight.

The Energy Department may have been mistakenly shipping unstable nuclear material to the Nevada National Security Site since 2013, but the guy who took office in 2017 and whose agency caught the apparent error, suspended further shipments and informed Nevada public officials of the possible error is to blame and should resign.

The morning newspaper quotes Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford calling for Energy Secretary Rick Perry to resign and Democratic Rep. Dina Titus blustering, “The level of incompetence at the Department of Energy is only matched by its dishonesty.”

Let’s see, the errors apparently occurred for four years of the Obama administration without anyone catching it, but the agency that caught the error and reported it is dishonest and to blame.

The paper quotes a Horsford statement as saying, “Secretary Perry has repeatedly disrespected the people of Nevada and eroded the public trust in his ability to abide by established rules for waste disposal. His failure to disclose these actions amount to their lying to a federal judge, our Nevada congressional delegation and our state’s governor repeatedly about his agency’s activities in our state. Secretary Perry must resign immediately.”

The Energy Department was supposed to only ship low-level radioactive waste from Oak Ridge, Tenn., to N2S2, but nine shipments may have included unstable “reactive” nuclear material mislabeled as low-level waste.

The newspaper further quotes a letter fired off to the Energy secretary by Gov. Steve Sisolak and Nevada Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, all Democrats, saying, “These egregious acts — whether acts of negligence or indicative of something else — are unconscionable and have potentially put the health and safety of Nevadans and our environment at unacceptable risk, including the employees of NNSS and the communities in Nevada and along the transportation routes of this material to NNSS.”

But an Energy Deparment statement was quoted as saying, “The components that were shipped pose no risk to the safety and health of the general public or workers at the facility at NNSS. The Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration has launched an internal investigation to determine how this went undetected for a six-year period.” Four of those years during the previous Democratic administration, by the way.

Umbrage always seems to be taken only when the offended ones are of a different political party.

R-J graphic

Editorial: Nevada should reject 50 percent renewable energy

Are Nevada voters and lawmakers falling for a scam?

In an article titled “Solar Power to Hit the Wall in Nevada” in “American Thinker” this past week, retired engineer Norman Rogers says we are.

In November, Nevada voters approved by nearly 60 percent a constitutional amendment that would require 50 percent of the electricity consumed in the state to come from renewable energy sources by 2030. This past legislative session lawmakers passed a law requiring the same thing and Gov. Steve Sisolak promptly signed it.

“Solar power and wind power are loved by the left, but have the serious problem of erratic delivery of power,” Rogers writes. “Wind dominates solar except in places with poor wind and good sunshine, such as Nevada, where I live. In states where a lot of solar has been installed, such as California and Nevada, solar is running into a wall that is related to the time delivery of solar power versus when the electrical grid’s need for power.”

Currently, according to Rogers, about 10 percent of Nevada’s electricity comes from solar, 10 percent from geothermal and the rest from natural gas and imports from other states.

Rogers explains that solar installations are approximately 70 percent subsidized by government. As a consequence, solar power that really costs $70 to $80 per megawatt-hour, can sell for as little as $25 to $30 per megawatt-hour due to the subsidies. If a battery system is added, the energy cost is likely to balloon to $80 or $90 per megawatt-hour. Natural gas power costs about $20 per megawatt-hour, according to Rogers.

Though the self-styled environmentalists demand more green energy many are balking at this project, saying it is too large, too close to wilderness and would damage wildlife and the environment.

A 2013 study by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University, which was commissioned by the Nevada Policy Research Institute, estimated the current Nevada renewables requirement of 25 percent by 2025 could cost Nevada between 590 and 3,070 jobs by 2025. This is because power bills would increase from somewhere around 2 percent to nearly 11 percent. While the residential power user’s bill might increase anywhere between $20 and $130 a year, an industrial ratepayer could expect power bills to increase from nearly $7,000 to more than $47,000 a year — costs that would be passed on to consumers. Imagine what doubling the renewables would do.

Rogers also notes that solar power is an expensive way to reduce carbon dioxide, costing about $140 per metric ton. The Obama administration estimated the social cost of carbon to be only $50 per metric ton.

On his website NevadaSolarScam.com, Rogers writes, “Solar energy works fine for remote cabins and weather stations in the mountains. For supplying the massive needs of modern society, it is quite useless – a scam. Solar is expensive. It can’t be counted to perform when it is needed. Solar stops when a cloud goes in front of the sun. It goes to sleep every night. In sunbaked Las Vegas, demand for electricity peaks on summer evenings, just as solar is putting on its pajamas.”

Rogers concluded his “Thinker” article by writing, “The bottom line is that solar is not a good method of supplying electricity and it is not a good method for reducing CO2 emissions. It keeps going because the promoters constantly lie and spread propaganda. They often brag about cheap solar purchase contracts without mentioning the huge subsidies and the state mandates that force utilities to buy solar (and wind).”

When that constitutional amendment again appears on the ballot next year, Nevada voters should wise up and reject it, sending a message to lawmakers to repeal the 50 percent renewable requirement before it costs a lot of jobs and money.

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.

Happy birthday, Eric Blair — the dystopian world you conjured is still here year after year

I don’t know about you, but I’ve taken to placing a little sticky note over the camera atop by desktop computer. If former FBI Director James Comey and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg do it, so will I. Big and Little Brothers may be watching.

Happy birthday, Eric Blair.

On this day in 1903, Eric Blair was born in India.

But the year for which he is most noted is 1984, even though he died in 1950.

Under the pen name George Orwell, Blair penned the novels “Nineteen Eighty-four” and “Animal Farm,” as well as several other semi-autobiographical books and numerous essays.

Eric Blair as six weeks old

When Orwell wrote “Nineteen Eighty-four” he wasn’t forecasting a particular date, he simply transposed the last two digits in 1948, when he wrote much of the book. Though a life-long socialist he despised the totalitarian and despotic nature of communism, fascism and Nazism.

He added to the lexicon: Big Brother, thoughtcrime, newspeak, doublethink, Room 101, as well as the painted slogans WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

In “Nineteen Eighty-four” the warring nations kept changing enemies, sort of like today.

If you don’t think freedom is slavery, consider the “Life of Julia” — the Obama campaign video that showed a woman relying on government handouts from cradle to retirement. Julia, by the way, was Winston Smith’s girlfriend.

Ignorance is definitely strength, not for us but for politicians who the ignorant keep electing.

As for newspeak and doublethink, consider the language of both Obama and Trump. Obama said we were not fighting a war against terrorists but trying to prevent man-caused disasters. His Defense Department (They don’t call it the War Department anymore.) sent out a memo saying: “this administration prefers to avoid using the term ‘Long War’ or ‘Global War on Terror’ [GWOT.] Please use ‘Overseas Contingency Operation.’” And a man standing on a table, firing a gun, shouting Allahu Akbar is merely workplace violence.

Trump was going to attack Iran for downing our drone, then the called it off. He was going to have ICE round-up immigrants who had been ordered deported, then he delayed it. He was going to impose tariffs, then he did not. During the election campaign he took 141 policy positions on 23 issues over the course of 510 days. He changed stances on immigration, ObamaCare, entitlement programs, gay rights, the Middle East and so much more.

How can there be any thoughtcrime if we are not allowed to use certain words. People aren’t in the country illegally, they are merely undocumented. And this too changes over time. Once the word negro was the preferred and the politically correct term, but now it is a slur.

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?” Orwell wrote in “Nineteen Eighty-four.” “In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”

Back in 1975, David Goodman wrote in The Futurist magazine that 100 of 137 Orwell predictions in “Nineteen Eighty-four” had come true. With the advance of computer surveillance and drones, how many more have come true?

In 1983, while working as the city editor of the Shreveport Journal, I penned a soft feature tied to the 35th anniversary of the original publication of Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four.”

I observed in that piece that Orwell’s book was about a totalitarian dystopia in which BIG BROTHER WAS WATCHING YOU, suggesting this was like the infrared camera equipped drones or huge network of cybersnooping computers, long before the NSA revelations. 

“George Orwell respected language and railed against its abuse,” I wrote in 1983. “He was particularly offended by the propaganda — some of which he helped to write for the BBC in World War II. He saw firsthand the way the press was tricked and subverted for political purposes in the Spanish Civil War. Battles that never happened. Heroes who became traitors.”

In another piece posted here in 2013, I asked whether Orwell was a satirist or a prophet.

Walter Cronkite in a foreword to the 1983 paperback edition of “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” claimed the book has failed as prophecy only because it has served so well as a warning — a warning against manipulation and power grabbing and the loss of privacy in the name of state security.

And Cronkite couldn’t resist adding: “1984 may not arrive on time, but there’s always 1985.”

Orwell himself called his book a satire and took pains to correct those who saw it merely as a denunciation of socialism.

In a letter written shortly after the publication of the book, Orwell wrote, “My novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-four’ is not intended as an attack on socialism, or on the British Labour party, but as a show-up of the perversions to which a centralized economy is liable, and which have already been partly realized in Communism and fascism.

“I do not believe that the kind of society I describe will arrive, but I believe (allowing, of course, for the fact that the book is a satire) that something resembling it could arrive. I believe also that totalitarian ideas have taken root in the minds of intellectuals everywhere, and I have tried to draw these ideas out to their logical consequences. The scene of the book is laid in Britain in order to emphasize that the English speaking races are not innately better than anyone else and that totalitarianism, if not fought against, could triumph anywhere.”

A Newsweek article in 2018 asked the question: “Is Trump nudging America toward corrupt authoritarianism?” Isn’t corrupt authoritarianism redundant?

Back in 2008, when the Las Vegas Review-Journal launched its blogging section online, I engaged in a bit of self-indulgent navel gazing in a column trying to explain why. I leaned on Orwell like a crutch.

I explained that I and other newspaper scriveners were joining the lowing herds browsing the ether — otherwise known as bloggers, those free-range creatures who mostly chew up the intellectual property of others and spit out their cuds online.

In an effort to find a rationale for this otherwise irrational exercise I grabbed Orwell’s “Why I Write” essay from 1946, in which he lists various reasons for writing.

First is sheer egoism: “Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc.,” Orwell explains. “It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. … Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.”

I think that was both a salute and a sully to the profession of journalism.

The second rationale, according to Orwell, is aesthetic enthusiasm: “Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. …” Orwell explains. “Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.”

Third is historical impulse: “Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.”

Finally, and probably most importantly, political purpose: “Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.”

Orwell wrote this shortly after he penned “Animal Farm,” but two years before “1984.” He said “Animal Farm” was his first conscious effort “to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole.”

Orwell wrote against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism.

Ayn Rand wrote for free-market capitalism.

Robert A. Heinlein wrote for libertarianism.

Others espouse various “isms” and objective journalism attempts to eschew them, not always successfully.

So, what moves one to write?

As our master Orwell said, “All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery.”

Everybody loves to unravel a good mystery, right?

Happy birthday, Eric Blair.

Video first posted in 2013.

See you in court, governor

So, the governor is confident that the extension of the modified business tax rate will withstand a legal challenge, according to both the Las Vegas newspaper and the online Nevada Independent.

“We’ve got legal opinion from LCB (Legislative Counsel Bureau) that, you know, a simple majority is what’s needed,” Gov. State Sisolak was quoted as saying Tuesday. “I’ve been in government for 20 some-odd years, and if you don’t trust your attorneys, you’ve got a problem. So I’m confident that the attorneys gave us a good opinion. We’ll move forward from there.”

Be prepared to move back, governor, by nearly $100 million in your budget for the next two years — the budget that promises 5 percent raises for teachers.

Republicans have promised a legal challenge if the business tax was extended without a two-thirds majority of both houses as prescribed by the Constitution. The tax extension passed the Senate on a party line vote of 13-8, one vote shy of two-thirds.

Voters in 1994 and 1996 amended the Nevada Constitution to state “an affirmative vote of not fewer than two-thirds of the members elected to each House is necessary to pass a bill or joint resolution which creates, generates, or increases any public revenue in any form, including but not limited to taxes, fees, assessments and rates, or changes in the computation bases for taxes, fees, assessments and rates.”

The modified business tax passed in 2015 by a two-thirds vote of lawmakers contained specific language saying the rates would be reduced in 2019 if tax revenues exceeded a certain level, which they have.

But the compliant LCB told the majority Democratic lawmakers and the Democratic governor, “It is the opinion of this office that Nevada’s two-thirds majority requirement does not apply to a bill which extends until a later date or revises or eliminates a future decrease in or future expiration of existing state taxes when that future decrease or expiration is not legally operative and binding yet, because such a bill does not change but maintains the existing computation bases currently in effect for the existing state taxes.”

The bill clearly “generates” revenue that two-thirds of the lawmakers in 2015 said would decrease as of July 1, 2019.

The state Constitution is not something to tamper with. Republicans should take it to court and make the Democrats abide by the rules, even if it means a special session would have to called. In fact, the GOP lawmakers should go directly to the state Supreme Court for an opinion that would binding, unlike the LCB opinion “that future decrease or expiration is not legally operative and binding yet …”

Asked nearly the same question in 2011, 2013 and 2015, the LCB said a two-thirds vote was necessary. So, governor, when do you trust your attorneys?

Gov. Steve Sisolak, right, talks to reporters about legislative session. (R-J pix)

 

Dirty tricks done dirt cheap

Many laws have what are known as severability clauses that declare that if any part of the law is dinged by the courts the rest will stand.

Democrats in Carson City have come up with an anti-severability clause. According to the morning paper, Senate Bill 551 cobbles together some education funding and a tax measure that would allow a portion of the modified business tax that is scheduled to be reduced to continue at the current rate, generating an additional $100 million in revenue over the next biennium.

The Legislative Counsel Bureau has opined that the tax rate can be maintained by a simple majority vote, even though the state Constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote in both houses if a bill “creates, generates, or increases any public revenue in any form …” The state Senate is one Democrat shy of having a two-thirds lock.

The newspaper reports, “The bill also includes poison pill language should Republicans challenge the two-thirds requirement in court. A ruling against the tax extension or any other provision of the bill would invalidate it in its entirety. Senate Democrats framed the bill, introduced with only a digest Monday, as a choice between support for education or a ‘corporate tax cut.’”

This is obviously a ruse to get one Republican to vote for the bill so it passes with the constitutionally mandated two-thirds. As dirty a trick as one could devise.

“Using children to try and pass a tax increase? Pretty sad,” Republican Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer of Minden was quoted as saying.

Republican Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer of Minden. (R-J file pix)