Sun ‘newspaper’ flips off print subscribers again

Just as it did Monday, the Sun print edition inserted in the morning newspaper was mostly wire service copy. There was a report by a retired Reno political journalist about what was said on a television show last week about the Bunkerville standoff. That story appeared on the Sun’s website three days ago.

There also was a repeat of the full page graphic by the Sun staff telling people how to sign up for ObabaCare.

None of the original Sun staff stories that appeared on the Sun website Monday made it into print. Nor did the Sun staff stories that appear online today — about gun violence in Las Vegas since the Oct. 1 Mandalay Bay massacre, about a Golden Knights coach, about the Raiders breaking ground for a new stadium, about an art project in the median of a street, about a House of Blues performer and the arrest of a former public school teaching assistant.

The Sun exists as a print insert only because of a 1989 joint operating agreement with the Review-Journal under an exemption to anti-monopoly law, called the Newspaper Preservation Act. That law was intended to preserve media “voices” and journalistic competition in communities because so many newspaper were going out of business. The Sun is holding up its end of the deal, a deal that does not sunset until 2040.

But it has Dilbert:



Sun ‘newspaper’ editor waves middle finger at print subscribers

What an in-your-face insult to the people who pay the bills!

As per usual the third section of the morning newspaper today is the Las Vegas Sun. As per usual for a weekday it is eight pages of mostly New York Times wire service copy. The front page has three such stories and there are several more inside, including an editorial. There are three letters to the editor from Nevadans and the back page is a graphic informing people how to sign up for ObamaCare, putatively created by the Sun “staff.”

The Sun has been in a joint operating agreement with the Review-Journal since 1989 under the Newspaper Preservation Act, which was intended to allow newspapers to combine expensive and duplicative business function yet maintain competitive news “voices.” The agreement, which has been subject to litigation over the years, does not expire until 2040. The Sun gets paid to provide the morning paper readers with that “competitive” news and opinion content.

Today the paid print subscribers got an infographic from the Sun that really had no local content.

Online, for free, however, the Sun website carries a Sun staff-generated editorial about gun control, a couple of local sports stories, a local entertainment piece about Celine Dion, a story about layoffs at the Mandalay Bay since the Oct. 1 shooting, a story about tattoos commemorating that shooting and a tale about a local restaurant. None appear in print for the paying reader.

Doesn’t sound like the editor of the Sun is putting any effort into making that joint operating agreement profitable, but rather is using the other paper’s resources to compete for online clicks.

The Nevada Press Association lists the circulation of the Review-Journal — and by default the Sun — as 175,841 daily. The only problem is that figure is from 2009, and that was somewhat inflated. According to a Fox News account that year, the Las Vegas newspaper grew in circulation from the previous year by 11,000 copies because the circulation auditing firm changed the rules to allow electronic online replica copies to count as paid circulation.

The weekday sales of print copies actually fell by 12,000 copies. At the time the paper subscription renewals included the electronic version in the price with an opt-out in fine print.

Who knows what the actual print circulation is eight years later.


What fate awaits the Bunkerville standoff defendants in latest trial?

Bunkerville standoff. (R-J pix)

Equal justice under the law?

Today Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy and sons Ryan and Ammon, as well as self-styled militia member Ryan Payne, go on trial in federal court in Las Vegas for charges stemming from the April 2014 armed standoff with BLM agents attempting to confiscate Bundy’s cattle for failure to pay grazing fees on public land. Charges include obstruction of justice, conspiracy, extortion, assault and impeding federal officers.

They have been jailed for nearly two years pending trial. The trial is expected to take months to complete. Six more defendants, including two more Bundy sons, Dave and Mel Bundy, is scheduled for 30 days after the current trial ends.

In an earlier trial defendants Ricky Lovelien of Oklahoma and Steven Stewart of Idaho were acquitted of all charges by a jury. That jury acquitted two others of many charges but could not reach a unanimous verdict on four counts against Eric Parker and two counts against Scott Drexler, both of Idaho. Parker’s attorney told The Associated Press that a juror told him that votes were 11-1 for acquittal on those six counts.

Parker and Drexler have since pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and released for time served.

Internet blogger Peter Santilli entered a guilty plea to a conspiracy charge earlier this month and faces a potential six-year term.

Gerald “Jerry” DeLemus of New Hampshire pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit an offense against the U.S. and interstate travel in aid of extortion. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.

A jury convicted Gregory Burleson of Arizona of eight counts, including assault, threats, extortion, obstruction of justice, and multiple gun charges. He was sentenced to more than 68 years in federal prison. Todd Engel of Idaho was convicted by the same jury but apparently has not yet been sentenced but faces up to 30 years in prison.

The fate of those now on trial may depend largely upon who is picked as jurors. The judge in the case has ruled that the defendants may not argue that their actions were justified by the First Amendment right to free speech or their Second Amendment right to bear arms. She concluded, “The Court will not permit argument, evidence, or testimony regarding Defendants’ beliefs about the constitution as such beliefs are irrelevant and a possible jury nullification attempt.”

So far the Bunkerville prosecutions have not resulted in equal outcomes.

Facade of U.S. Supreme Court

Stadium naming rights? Or just a ruse to dole out corporate welfare?

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority shelling out $80 million over 20 years — $4 million a year — for naming rights for a Summerlin baseball stadium for a minor league team might not have been such a good idea.

At least that’s the opinion of two Las Vegas newspaper columnist and a letter writer in the Sunday edition.

News columnist Victor Joecks points out that for $4 million a year the LVCVA could’ve purchased the naming rights for almost every one of the 15 other ballparks in the Pacific Coast League in which the Las Vegas’ 51s compete. He also said his review of  more than 250 stadiums, fields and arenas found that no other government agency is paying to name a sports venue.

Business columnist Richard Vellota suggests that the whole deal comes across as corporate welfare for the Howard Hughes Corp., owners of the 51s and builders of the new stadium next to the company’s Downtown Summerlin.

A letter writer questions blowing that much money on a ballpark when education could use the money.

Velotta also points out just how lame the whole naming rights ruse really is. It will be called the Las Vegas Ballpark. Like no one would know what town they are in? Like they are going to call the team the Summerlin 51s?

Joecks calls the whole deal a farce and comments, “This whole fiasco makes more sense if you view the $80 million as a construction subsidy. Even for the LVCVA, it’d be hard to justify giving a private business tens of millions of tax dollars. Calling it a ‘naming rights’ deal, however, gave the proposal a thin initial layer of credibility.”

A thin and transparent veneer, indeed.

Rendering via R-J


How Nevada provides a disincentive for experienced teachers and other employees to continue working

Once again the folks at the Nevada Policy Research Institute have put out a jeremiad lamenting the state’s self-defeating, tax-draining, counter-productive public employee retirement system.

The opinion section of the Sunday newspaper carries an op-ed by Robert Fellner, director of transparency research at NPRI, that points out that the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Nevada provides a powerful disincentive for experienced teachers, school administrators and other public workers to continue working and providing services to taxpayers.

Thinkstock graphic posted with Fellner op-ed online.

For example, if Clark County Schools Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky were to continue working to age 60 — instead of retiring next year at age 53 after 30 years on the job as announced — he would forfeit approximately $1.5 million in PERS payments. The same principle, though lesser amounts, applies to our most experienced classroom teachers, leaving Nevada’s youth, who already trail nearly every other state in educational achievement, in the hands of less experienced instructors.

Feller points out that if the state were to opt for a 401(k)-style retirement plan — as in the private sector — there would be an incentive to continue working because retirement benefits would grow every year instead of reaching a maximum after 30 years.

This is something we have been advocating for years. While various proposals have been floated, all have been sunk by the entrenched public employee unions.

In 2011 a report drafted for the NPRI by Andrew Biggs, an economist with the American Enterprise Institute, concluded the Nevada Public Employees’ Retirement System is vastly underfunded by more than $40 billion.

“What people don’t realize,” Biggs said to a luncheon audience back then, “is your typical public sector pension plan is a lot more generous than what a typical person is going to get in the private sector. Let’s just take a person and run their wages through what they would get from PERS versus what they could get from a typical 401(k) plan combined with Social Security, because public employees here don’t participate in Social Security. They both pay the same amount on average. The total contribution is about the same, but the benefits for someone under PERS — for a full career employee — is somewhere around 50 percent higher.”

A year ago Fellner penned for NPRI “Footprints: How NVPERS, step by step, made Nevada government employees some of the nation’s richest.”

Fellner warned that “should today’s international no-growth economy stumble into the deep financial crisis that many forecasters fear, NVPERS’ fantasy economic forecasts will be replaced by immediate bankruptcy — leaving every Silver State household with a sudden, implicit, $50,000-plus tax liability.”

The report detailed how NVPERS benefits have ratcheted up over the decades by virtue of incremental benefit increases, collective bargaining gains, earlier retirement age, allowing the purchase of years of service, padding base pay with add-ons such as callback, standby, holiday, shift differential, extra duty, hazard and longevity pay, and simple compound interest.

Fellner noted that local government employees have taken advantage of their collective bargaining union contracts and negotiated to have their employers actually pay the employees’ pension contribution, claiming this is done in lieu of a salary increase or in conjunction with a salary decrease — even though local government pay checks rank eighth highest in the nation.

In a report published during the 2015 legislative session, NPRI’s Fellner wrote, “Over the past 20 years, the amount Nevada taxpayers contribute toward public employee retirements has skyrocketed — from $384 million in 1995 to $1.4 billion today. That’s an increase of more than 50 percent after adjusting for both inflation and membership growth.”


The giant sucking sound is drowned out by the chirping crickets.







What might have been

As bad as it was, as unthinkable as it was — 58 killed and nearly 500 injured when a 64-year-old man opened fire from the 32nd floor of a hotel tower into 22,000 attendees at an outdoor concert — it is frightening to contemplate what might have been.

In all the thousands of words trying to capture the enormity of the Sunday night massacre, these buried in a story from today’s paper must give one pause: Clark County Sheriff Joe “Lombardo said he saw evidence Paddock planned to survive his massacre, but refused to elaborate.”

This followed a tally of weaponry and explosives that the gunman had not yet used: ammonium nitrate, 50 pounds of the explosive Tannerite and 1,600 rounds of ammunition in Paddock’s car, as well as 18 30-round magazines of .308 ammunition and 15 40-round magazines of .223 ammunition — that police speculated were for additional violence had he escaped the hotel room.

Instead, as police closed in, the gunman reportedly used his last shot to kill himself.

The bullet holes in the nearby jet fuel tanks give hints as to man’s depravity and intentions.

People keep trying to “understand” what motivated such a vile act of madness. Understanding it would itself be a symptom of madness.

Sheriff Joe Lombardo (R-J pix)






Newspaper column: Zinke’s national monument modifications too modest

Frankly, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s memo to President Trump recommending modifications to a few national monuments — including the 300,000-acre Gold Butte National Monument in Clark County — is far too modest, but it has the Democratic contingent of Nevada’s Washington delegation squealing like a pig stuck under a gate.

Zinke recommended unspecified changes to the Gold Butte boundaries but totally ignored the massive 700,000-acre Basin and Range National Monument that straddles the border between Nye and Lincoln counties, even though members of the Congressional Western Caucus recommended reducing it to 2,500 acres — “the smallest area compatible,” as the law says, to protect the Indian petroglyphs there.

The Interior Secretary noted in his memo that the Antiquities Act of 1906 gave the president authority to protect historic and prehistoric landmarks and objects of scientific and historic interest, but the monument designation has instead been used to block use of vast landscapes. “It appears that certain monuments were designated to prevent economic activity such as grazing, mining, and timber production rather than to protect specific objects,” the memo observes.

Ryan Zinke visits Gold Butte (R-J pix)

He also noted that the public comment process has been usurped by well-organized, well-funded, self-styled environmental groups, drowning out local officials, ranchers, miners and loggers.

These environmental groups and their Democratic cohorts are dead set on protecting every inch of barren dirt and rock from the invasive non-native species known as mankind.

Not that any of them has ever worked as a roughneck or roustabout in the grease orchards, castrated a calf or branded a steer, driven a Euclid filled with ore or operated a jackhammer or a chainsaw or cashed a pay check for doing so.

Democrat Rep. Ruben Kihuen of North Las Vegas, whose district includes Gold Butte, screeched about Zinke’s modest memo, “This decision will not only be detrimental to Nevada’s economy and shared cultural heritage, but it is further proof that the monument review process has been rigged from the start. Secretary Zinke promised that Nevadans’ voices would be heard. Instead, we got half-hearted attempts to meet with stakeholders and secret memos cooked up behind closed doors, all when the outcome was predetermined from the beginning. When it comes to altering our monuments and impacting our livelihood, Nevadans deserve more than unofficial leaks and uncorroborated reports. Secretary Zinke should look Nevadans in the eye and give it to us straight, rather than hide behind the administration’s continued shroud of secrecy.”

Actually, his constituents in Mesquite welcome the reduction, especially if it assures the town it will have access to springs in the region that will be needed to supply the growing community with drinking water in the future.

Zinke’s memo specifically noted that the water district has historic water rights to six springs and five of those are within the Obama-designated national monument boundaries. The memo further said that there are four active grazing allotments in the area, though the proclamation claimed there were none.

Democrat Rep. Dina Titus of Las Vegas weighed in by declaring, “Gold Butte’s opponents have created a straw man argument about water rights without mentioning that the monument’s proclamation includes language to protect them. Now we must recommit our effort to protect these precious public lands in the courts and send a strong message to Zinke and Trump to keep their hands off our monuments.”

Democrat Rep. Jacky Rosen of Henderson claimed, “This rash decision by the Trump Administration will not only endanger Nevada’s natural beauty and chip away at our cultural heritage, but it will also hurt our state’s outdoor recreation economy by eliminating jobs that have contributed significantly to our local tourism industry.”

Democrat Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Las Vegas has opposed reducing the footprint of any national monument.

Republican Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei both opposed the designations of Gold Butte and Basin and Range.

Heller said, “As a strong proponent of states’ rights, the Obama Administration’s decision to bypass Congress and designate two national monuments in Nevada despite widespread disagreement at the local level is an example of extreme overreach and the failed Washington-knows-best mentality. That is why I welcomed Secretary Zinke to Nevada to see first-hand the impact of monuments designated under the Antiquities Act with no local input.”

The monument designation does nothing to add actual protection for the few petroglyphs and other artifacts that are located on the sites, but Zinke did recommend the president seek funding to actually protect those artifacts.

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.