Editorial: Nevada must challenge efforts to close off more land from productive uses

What do you call a system in which a person living in a far-away mansion dictates how vast swaths of land may or may not be used and the local peasants have no say in the matter whatsoever?

According to Nevada Republican Congressman Cresent Hardy, paperwork has already been prepared for President Obama’s signature that would declare 704,000 acres of federally controlled land in Hardy’s district a national monument, closing the land to most beneficial uses.

The so-called Basin and Range National Monument would cover the Garden and Coal valleys — larger than the state of Rhode Island — on either side of the Lincoln and Nye County border. Local elected officials oppose the designation, which is authorized by the 1906 Antiquities Act.

A year ago Nevada’s senior Democratic senator, Harry Reid, introduced a bill that would ban oil and gas drilling and mining on 805,100 acres of land in the same area. His effort has since been joined by Democratic Rep. Dina Titus, whose district is in the urban core of Las Vegas.

Purportedly Coal and/or Garden Valley

The draft proclamation prepared for Obama’s signature states, “All Federal lands and interests in lands within the boundaries of the monument are hereby appropriated and withdrawn from all forms of entry, location, selection, sale, leasing, or other disposition under the public land laws, from location, entry, and patent under the mining laws, and from disposition under all laws relating to mineral and geothermal leasing …”

In January, Nevada’s four Republican congressional representatives announced that they were introducing the Nevada Land Sovereignty Act of 2015, which would prevent the president designating or expanding national monuments by executive action without Congressional approval.

Obama has designated eight monuments so far. This past year Obama designated as monuments, despite local opposition, the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in California and the Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks in New Mexico. Bill Clinton did the same in 1996 by creating the 1.8 million-acre Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah with only 24 hours notice. The designation was so unpopular in Utah that he announced the decision at a ceremony in Arizona.

Upon learning of the president’s plan, Rep. Hardy said he was “appalled and deeply concerned about the national security implications” of the move, because the Air Force uses the area for training.

Hardy managed to attach an amendment to the Defense Department budget that protects national security-related activities on or above land associated with a Military Operations Area. He noted that training exercises often require deployment of troops on the ground to coordinate attack simulations.

“Yet the draft proclamation only included a provision for unimpeded operations in the air above the proposed monument. No language was included to protect the vital training that occurs on the land below. This is an unacceptable oversight. …” Hardy said in a statement. “We must protect America’s national security, and that means ensuring that our military has guaranteed access to land located beneath or associated with Military Operations Areas for essential training and readiness activities.”

That move by Hardy should correct a serious oversight, but the delegation needs to pursue with vigor efforts to give local residents a say in how the land in their region is used.

When the Nevada lands bill was introduced, Republican Sen. Dean Heller said, “Currently, with a quick stroke of the pen, the executive branch can lock up millions of acres of public land without consulting the public or their representation in Congress.”

And Republican Rep. Mark Amodei remarked, “There is no good reason for major land-use decisions in Nevada to be done in secret without input from the local community and their elected representatives.”

Just what the land needs to be protected from has never been stated. Besides, the federal bureaucrats already control the land and can deny permits for any use they deem inappropriate or disruptive.

Nevada’s delegation should move swiftly and attempt to block the monument designation and lead Congress in repealing the Antiquities Act entirely.

Oh, yes, that system mentioned above is called feudalism.

A version of this editorial appeared this past week in most 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.

The Las Vegas newspaper has a story on this topic today.

A creek runs through Coal Valley. (R-J photo by Jeff Scheid)


What, oh what, to call politicians who flip-flop on an issue in a single day?

I can’t decide if they are dithering dolts or vacillating varlets or wavering wastrels.

Eight Republicans this week voted against amending a Senate bill to allow concealed carry permittees to carry their concealed weapons on college campuses, but seven of them later joined as sponsors of a new bill (Assembly Bill 487) that would accomplish the same thing, according to the Las Vegas newspaper account today. The Assembly vote against the amendment was 24-18.

Can’t tell whether they grew new spines or were kicked in the butt. The paper lists the seven changelings as Assembly members James Oscarson, Jim Wheeler, Melissa Woodbury, Derek Armstrong, Chris Edwards, Stephen Silberkraus and Lynn Stewart. Majority Leader Paul Anderson, who also voted against amending the Senate bill, is not listed as a sponsor.

On Friday conservative activist Chuck Muth sent an email missive listing the eight Republicans who voted against the “campus carry” amendment along with their phone numbers. He called them shameful and quoted another conservative activist, Tony Warren, as saying, “Remember these names. They are not worthy to serve as our representatives. Damn them to HELL.”

Muth included this detail of the events:

Our good friend Janine Hansen at Nevada Families reported on another aspect of this shameful display of betrayal and cowardice yesterday.

Assembly Speaker-of-the-Weak John Hambrick called for a voice vote on the SB175/AB148 hybrid gun bill.  He ruled from the chair that the vote was too close to call and ordered a “division of the house.”

A division of the house simply means everyone who supports the bill stands up and the total is counted, and then everyone who opposes the bill stands up to be counted.

The problem with that is that each individual legislator is allowed to escape casting a RECORDED vote in the official record.

So conservative Assemblywoman Michele Fiore – God bless her – stood up and asked for a roll-call vote.

Hambrick ruled her out of order and rejected the request.

Fiore than asked for a one-minute recess – a request that rarely, if ever, is denied.

Hambrick rejected her request.

(“So he (Hambrick) was in league with the anti-gun rights Republicans,” ((Janine)) Hansen wrote. “This is a disgrace!!! Why elect Republicans when they betray us on the most basic liberty issues like self defense?”)

Darned good question.  But back to Fiore…

After being shot down by Hambrick, the Las Vegas Republican immediately left the Assembly chamber and headed to her office where she called the lead lawyer at the Legislative Counsel Bureau (LCB), Brenda Erdoes, to ask if Hambrick really had the power to deny a request for a roll-call vote and/or one-minute recess.

But to give you an idea of just how paranoid and unhinged some folks are in Carson City about Fiore, apparently somebody thought she might have left the chamber to go get her gun and was afraid she’d come back and shoot the place up.

So, I’m told, legislative police were called to the first floor to secure the Assembly chamber and block Fiore from returning to her seat!


Eventually, Fiore was allowed back on the floor and later in the day rose and issued a statement, FOR THE RECORD, identifying by name the eight Republicans who turned tail and ran when the heat got too hot in the kitchen and sold out campus carry supporters.

The Review-Journal reported that Republican Assembly Judiciary Chairman Ira Hansen criticized the creation of the new bill as an effort to gain “political cover.”

“And that is a huge mistake politically, and it was the wrong thing to do, and they abandoned their own party’s base,” he is quoted as saying of the votes against the campus carry amendment. “And now what they want to do, is come back when it is not going to make any difference and they know it, and have me go through the whole hearing process again as we already did on (AB)148, to give them political cover.

“And I think it stinks, and I think we had a shot if they would have stuck to their guns. …

“So they chickened out, they caved in on the whole issue and now they want to come back and pretend like they are going to be the heroes and resurrect the bill.”

Michele Fiore speaks on the Assembly floor Friday. (R-J photo)

The Reno newspaper account simply said:

Fiore stormed out of the chamber after that vote was taken when Speaker John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, refused to call for a roll call vote on the issue or stop the floor session for a brief time out.

She later returned and apologized.

Muth just posted a follow-up this morning under the headline: “Who Shot Campus CarryA Muth’s Truths Investigation – Part I.”

In this posting Muth notes that Gov. Brian Sandoval does not want a campus carry bill to make it to his desk and force him to veto it and suggests certain Republicans are trying to protect him.


A tax by any other name would smell as sour

You can call it a margin tax. You can call it a modified business license fee based. You can call a commerce tax. It is still tax on businesses based on gross receipts, which is what 80 percent of the voters defeated in November.

On Thursday Gov. Brian Sandoval unveiled his latest iteration of this proposal hike tax more than a billion dollars.

“For the privilege of engaging in a business in this State, a commerce tax is hereby imposed upon each business entity whose Nevada gross revenue in a taxable year exceeds $3,500,000 …” the bill says, then listing tax rates that vary according to the type of business.

NPRI pulled the rates out of the bill:

The proposed rates are:

  1. Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting: .063 percent
  2. Mining: .051 percent
  3. Utilities and telecommunications: .136 percent
  4. Construction: .083 percent
  5. Manufacturing: .091 percent
  6. Wholesale trade: .101 percent
  7. Retail trade: .111 percent
  8. Air transportation: .058 percent
  9. Truck transportation: .202 percent
  10. Rail transportation: .331 percent
  11. Other transportation: .129 percent
  12. Warehousing and storage: .128 percent
  13. Publishing, software and data processing: .253 percent
  14. Finance and insurance: .111 percent
  15. Real estate and rental and leasing: .25 percent
  16. Professional, scientific and technical services: .181 percent
  17. Management of companies and enterprises: .137 percent
  18. Administrative and support services: .154 percent
  19. Waste management and remediation services: .261 percent
  20. Educational services: .281 percent
  21. Health care and social assistance: .190 percent
  22. Arts, entertainment and recreation: .24 percent
  23. Accommodation: .2 percent
  24. Food services and drinking places: .194 percent
  25. Other services: .142 percent
  26. Unclassified business category: .128 percent

I wonder if the Las Vegas newspaper will change its mind about endorsing Sandoval’s tax grab since publishing is among the highest taxed entities. And that money comes right out of the profit margin, if there is any.

Jeremy Aguero again explains the convoluted tax plan put forward by the governor. (AP photo)


Newspaper column: The general theory of political relativity finds a growing divide in viewpoints

“Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment,” physicist Albert Einstein once observed of the stratification of our society. “Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.”

The center keeps shifting to the left.

Illustrative of the shift is the way the media covers politics in Carson City. They describe as ultraconservative those who balk at the governor’s proposed increase in state general fund spending by $1.3 billion, while those Republicans who support him are moderates. Not liberals, moderates. That is the argot of the moment.

Albert Einstein

With the leftward shift, people have no qualms about saying that requiring gender specific bathrooms and locker rooms and showers in elementary school is “extreme” and “hateful.”

“I didn’t realize when I was growing up that I was a horrible segregationist because boys went to the boys bathroom and girls went to the girls bathroom. We want to maintain that,” Republican Ira Hansen was quoted as saying on this topic recently.

Things have changed, sir.

If you hint at the least bit of intolerance toward those who were once openly referred to as amoral, immoral or, heaven forfend, perverted, the tolerance lobby will beat the crap out of you — socially, legally and, occasionally, physically.

It doesn’t require a nuclear physicist to figure it out.

According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 47 percent of those surveyed approved of President Obama’s job performance. Among Democrats, 79 percent approved, and that was up 3 points from October. Among Republicans, only 7 percent approved, and that was down 4 points from the previous poll.

Divided and growing further and further apart.

Perhaps some of the credit or blame for the split in attitudes can be found in the news media trending away from the journalistic icon of the past century — objectivity.

In the late 19th century newspaper publishers changed their business model, which relied on income from selling copies of the paper and political patronage to one of relying on advertising revenue. Advertisers wanted the maximum number of eyeballs so papers dared not alienate any potential readers by being partisan.

Media of all types seem to be willing to show partisan stripes today.

There is also the Amazon Effect.

Computerized marketing works by reinforcing your previous choices by offering more of the same: “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought …” Click on a book by conservative radio talk show host Mark Levin and your helpful algorithm suggests books by Thomas Sowell, Newt Gingrich, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter and Karl Rove. Type in the name of any liberal writer and you get the obverse of the coin.

A few years back the speaker at a national convention of newspaper editors was one of the gurus of computer-age marketing, Eric Schmidt, the chairman of the ubiquitous Google.

Schmidt noted that the computer can offer to broaden your exposure as well as narrow it. Obviously, for every synonym there is an antonym. It makes no difference to the machine.

The Google guy noted that, when people were given an option of “show me an opposing view,” two-thirds would never look at it.

Then there is the problem of hearing coherent messages above the cacophony of the information bazaar. According to Schmidt, from the dawn of human history to 2003 about five exabytes (a billion gigabytes) of information was created. He said we now generate that amount every two days. That was five years ago.

He also observed that of the news reporting in all those bytes, fully 80 percent of stories contained no original content, while of the remaining 20 percent, half came from newspapers.

Then, many don’t bother. A recent poll of Nevadans found 89.4 percent either did not know Sandoval supports the largest tax increase in Nevada history or mistakenly thought the governor supports keeping taxes low.

The explanation for why so many can observe the same event and reach different conclusions is outlined in my general theory of political relativity.

No observer is stationary. All are themselves in motion at different velocities, in different directions along the political spectrum from red to blue.

The theory goes something like this (e=mc²): The energy of one’s convictions equals the mass of one’s deductions times the speed of insight squared. Explosive.

A version of this column appears this week in the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, the Lincoln County Record and the Sparks Tribune — and the Elko Daily Free Press.


There’s a right way to go about immigration reform, and executive fiat is not it

Sorry, John, we are going to have to disagree on this one.

Today Las Vegas newspaper columnist John L. Smith chided Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt for joining with 25 other states to challenge in federal court Obama’s executive fiat blocking deportation of millions of illegal immigrants.

Smith basically called the move a sop to Laxalt’s conservative benefactors and suggested Laxalt is on the wrong side of history, because immigration reform is inevitable. It probably is, but it still should be done in the right way, through legislation, not the president scratching through existing law with the stroke of his pen.

Laxalt said at the time he joined the litigation, “Our immigration system is broken and clearly needs to be fixed. But just as clearly, the solution is not for the president to act unilaterally disregarding the U.S. Constitution and laws. The solution must be a permanent, legal result that includes, not ignores, the other branches of government and their constitutional roles. Anything less is a false hope undermining the rule of law that injures millions of people in America, including many in Nevada.”

Of this argument, Smith commented, “Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that it fits snugly into a conservative agenda.” Never mind that Obama’s actions fit snugly into the liberal agenda.

Smith’s column notes that on Tuesday union members picketed outside the Sawyer building, where the attorney general has an office, and unfurled a banner reading: “Laxalt destroys families.” I don’t think Laxalt enticed any of those families to come into the country illegally and risk having family members lawfully deported.

The suit joined by Laxalt challenges Obama’s November executive order that would allow the parents of children brought into the country illegally to remain in the country, get green cards and Social Security cards. This executive order is piled on top of the one Obama issued in 2012 saying those children could remain in this country, despite being here in violation of the rule of law.

The federal lawsuit joined by Laxalt points out that the DREAM Act that would have allowed those children to stay was introduced in March 2009. After that Obama said on at least eight occasions he could not himself impose such amnesty. “I am president, I am not king. I can’t do these things just by myself. …” he said. “I can’t just make the laws up by myself.”

In June 2012, he announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

In November, Obama unilaterally waived deportations for the parents, candidly admitting, “I just took an action to change the law,” even though his own Justice Department advised “the proposed deferred action program for parents of DACA recipients would not be permissible.”

Smith quoted one protester at the anti-Laxalt rally as saying, “Many families come to this country seeking a better life. We believe that we deserve a voice. And we’re going to make it heard.”

And there are many families on long waiting lists trying to enter the country legally, under the rule of law.

A Texas federal judge cited Laxalt’s rule of law argument in granting an injunction against Obama’s executive order.

In his ruling, Judge Andrew Hanen states that “ the states cannot protect themselves from the costs inflicted by the Government when 4.3 million individuals are granted legal presence with the resulting ability to compel state action. The irony of this position cannot be fully appreciated unless it is contrasted with the DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) Directive. The DAPA Directive unilaterally allows individuals removable by law to legally remain in the United States based upon a classification that is not established by any federal law. It is this very lack of law about which the States complain. The Government claims that it can act without a supporting law, but the States cannot.”

The day after the Texas judge’s injunction was issued, Laxalt commented, “Yesterday’s carefully considered, 123-page decision represents a great initial victory for the rule of law and our constitutional system. I am encouraged by the federal court’s thorough analysis of this executive action. This injunction will halt the executive action and allow for the judiciary to carefully evaluate the legality of President Obama’s unilateral act. As I’ve always insisted, this lawsuit is ultimately about the rule of law, not immigration, and the need for all branches of our government, including the president, to faithfully follow the law.”

First, the illegal immigrants ignored the law. Now they want to ignore the Constitution. Whatever gets them what they want.

Granting all of them amnesty might be the right thing to do, as Obama likes to say, but it is the wrong way to do it.

This is one of more than a dozen photos that appeared online with Smith’s column. None appeared in the paper. (R-J photo)


What is newsworthy now was once commonplace in a different place

Having grown up in the grease orchards of Texas, I found it a bit odd that the Elko newspaper found it newsworthy to alert readers that the fire they might see at a Noble Energy oil well site is the intentional flaring of natural gas. But when you think about it, it makes sense. For Elko County that is an unusual sight.

Oil drilling back in the day.

“An open flare is a common practice for disposal of natural gas during the exploration phase in an oil field and is expected to continue until the well stabilizes or gas-holding and production facilities are built,” the BLM is quoted as saying in a statement.

I remember touring the East Texas Oil Museum in Kilgore years ago and reading about all the gas flares in that stretch of the oil patch. One person commented that there were so many flares that you could read a newspaper at midnight.

Back then I thought it quaint that some people would find that remarkable, since gas flares were so common across North Texas. Perhaps someday a child will come across that same remark and ask: “What’s a newspaper, Daddy?”

Anti-picketing bill is a self-erasing exercise in futility

We often think of laws as being etched in stone — like the Ten Commandments.

But there is a bill in the Nevada Legislature that is written on an Etch-a-Sketch. It is self-erasing.

Assembly Bill 356 opens by declaring:

“Sec. 2. A person shall not damage, injure, harm, threaten or maliciously disrupt the lawful activities of any business or any employee or representative of that business with the intent to coerce or intimidate that business.

“Sec. 3. A person shall not intentionally or recklessly destroy, mark or damage the property or merchandise owned by or in the control of any business.”

Damaging, injuring, harming and marking are already against the law, so what’s the point in piling on another law?

Then the bill wipes out the coerce and intimidate aspects altogether by stating:

“Sec. 4. The provisions of sections 2 and 3 of this act are not intended to infringe upon or impede any lawful exercise of rights provided by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, including, without limitation, lawful picketing …”

Lawful picketing is coercion and intimidation … and free speech. AB356 is a self-erasing law. It says thoy shalt not in one breath and thou mayest in the next.

We understand that Assembly member Michele Fiore is trying to find some way to curb the unsavory practices of union picketers, especially on the Strip where tourists are often the targets of vile language, but blocking traffic and doing physical harm are already illegal, though perhaps not aggressively enforced, and threatening violence is assault, also a crime. But vile language is protected speech.

If laws can’t prevent burning American flags or block protestors at the funerals of soldiers, they can’t stop union picketers from calling tourists scabs.

This bill is an expression of frustration and an exercise in futility.

Police arrest union picketers on the Strip. (AP photo)