Adelson’s fingerprints are everywhere … well, almost

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

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

Today there were, count them, four separate disclaimers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

The absurdity of mandating diversity

When you boil it down to its fundamental essence, it is an absurdity.

A line in the morning paper’s editorial causes one to stop, think and calculate. The screed takes issue with a comment Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto made in an interview with Politico, in which she said, “We should be mandating diversity in our committees, mandating diversity in our hiring practices, mandating diversity throughout the United States Senate.”

She later is quoted as saying, “You just have to walk in the room and look at the senators that are there — the 100 senators, right? You could see the lack of diversity.”

The editorial counters: “Does Sen. Cortez Masto seek a constitutional amendment to replace the democratic process with a federal quota system to ensure the ‘proper’ distribution of pigments and chromosomes in the nation’s highest legislative body?”

How do you determine successful diversity? Do you know it when you see it, as Cortez Masto does — just like the way Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart spotted pornography? Can it be precisely calculated?

The first absurdity is how to explain what is “proper” diversity? Equal amounts of certain properties, traits and characteristics? Or matching the current distribution in the population of those characteristics? Is that distribution fair? Or is it a quirk of fecundity?

If you were to demand an equal distribution of chromosomes, the Senate would have to have an equal number of X and Y chromosomes, thus all male. Even one female upsets the diversity balance.

Even if the first elected Latina member of the U.S. Senate, as both the interview and the editorial observe, is talking about skin pigments and/or ethnicity, that too gets to be a mathematical absurdity.

Are we going to return the days when states like Louisiana had laws on the books that stated any person with so much as 1/32nd black heritage was, ipso facto, black? Or does one pure bred ethnic person equal two mixed race persons? Should the ratio of black, brown, yellow, red, white and other pigments match the population from the latest census or extrapolate for changes in the future? May a person identify as any race or gender they so choose? Or would that upset the diversity quotient?

And what about IQ levels? Should the senators and their staffs be required to match the median IQ of the nation? For every staffer or senator with an IQ of 130, you’d need to hire or elect someone with an IQ of 70.

What about age? The median age of senators is 62. The median U.S. population age is 38. Seems like a lack of diversity. And that tacky constitutional requirement that a senator has to be at least 30 years of age certainly flies in the face of the all-important diversity objective.

Also, aren’t there too lawyers in the Senate and not enough hod carriers?

Each of us is a minority of one. Lumping people into categories and pigeonholes for the sake achieving a counterbalance for some past perceived discriminatory behavior is itself discriminatory, counterproductive and contrary to democratic principles.

By the way, the Politico interview was for a section called “Women Rule Podcast.” Not very diverse.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (Politico pix)

What is the difference between demanding diversity and stereotyping?

At one point the “Women Rule” interview reports:

“There is a tendency for women to over think things, right? And so we think, ‘Oh, can I really — if I decide to run for office, am I qualified? Do I have the educational experience? Do I have the background? Do I have the ability?’” Cortez Masto says. “And I will tell you, there are men who look at the same office and say, ‘Well, how much does it pay and let me jump in and see.’ I think we need to do a better job of talking with women to say, ‘No, you don’t need to do that analysis.’”

 

Transcript provides insight in lawyers covering their asses

Someone must be spoon-feeding The Nevada Independent like a baby in a highchair.

First, the online, contribution-funded news site first posted Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett’s affidavit about his secretly recorded conservation with Attorney General Adam Laxalt concerning casino and newspaper owner Sheldon Adelson’s request for the gaming board to file an amicus brief in a civil lawsuit asking that certain records be kept confidential.

Now, at 8 a.m., after a columnist in the morning paper called for the recording to be made public, the NVIndy posts the transcript of the recording.

The transcript is a rambling discussion of whether the gaming board should become involved in the civil case by invoking NRS463.120, which makes gaming records confidential. Burnett had turned the recording over to the FBI, who determined Laxalt did nothing criminal.

The NVIndy previously had reported that back in 2008 then-Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, now a U.S. senator, had tried to invoke the confidentiality of records:

In 2008, amid a yearslong legal battle between former Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith and Adelson, who sued Smith over an allegedly defamatory passage in his book, Smith’s lawyers sought to compel the Gaming Control Board to release records relating to Adelson’s gaming license as part of the discovery process. Cortez Masto, on the board’s behalf, opposed the release on the grounds that it would impinge on the board’s ability to thoroughly vet gaming license applicants.

A Review-Journal editorial at the time noted:

As a part of the discovery process while preparing for a scheduled trial in December, Smith’s attorney, Don Campbell, managed to gain access to confidential Gaming Control Board records relating to Adelson’s gaming license. That was a feat of legal skill and audacity accomplished only one other time in history.

Since the trial has been called off, those records remain confidential.

Campbell said in court that Adelson would have pursued the case “to the end of the Earth” but that since he obtained those gaming records Adelson now “wants to call it off and walk away.”

Adelson now owns the newspaper and Smith resigned after being told he could no longer write anything about anyone who had unsuccessfully sued him.

This case was also raised in the Burnett-Laxal conversation:

In his affidavit, Burnett said he recorded the conversation with Laxalt because Adelson had reporters follow the judge in the case and he feared he might be monitored by reporters. This too came up in the discussion:

The bottomline is that both men were trying to cover their asses:

Adelson eventually settled the lawsuit.

 

 

Editorial: Give state revenue windfall back to those who created it

State workers demand higher pay raises. (R-J pix)

Riddle: What is the difference between the Nevada Legislature and a drunken sailor?

Answer: Eventually the drunken sailor sobers up.

The Economic Forum, which is tasked with estimating state general fund revenues so lawmakers can dodge blame for overestimating, has found a few million more coins in between the couch cushions — $96 million more in the coming biennium and a $44 million surplus from the current year for a total of $140 million. So immediately the governor and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle started calculating just how they could spend it. The added funds hike the general fund budget to $8.2 billion over the next two years.

Not one person suggested letting the taxpayers keep some of that windfall to blow on groceries and new shoes for their children.

Gov. Brian Sandoval wants to spend the windfall on education. “I introduced the weighted student funding formula last session, and this additional money provides a unique opportunity to invest directly in students who are economically disadvantaged, English learners, gifted and talented and in special education,” he was quoted by the press as saying.

For all the good that has done over the years. Over the past four decades, according to a Cato Institute analysis, Nevada has increased K-12 public school funding by 80 percent per pupil, adjusted for inflation. During those four decades student test scores have actually fallen slightly.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford said in a joint statement, “While these newly projected revenues will not be enough to fully meet our needs in public education, mental health, job training, and other vital services, we are committed to putting our tax dollars to work for the hardworking Nevadans who still feel left behind.”

How about some concern for the hardworking taxpayers who keep paying more and getting no recognizable return on their investment?

A few days later several dozen state government workers rallied near the legislative building demanding that the $140 million windfall be used to give them higher pay raises. Though the governor has included 2 percent raises in each of the next two years, the workers were demanding 5 percent each year, complaining that wages are so low many state government employees are on public assistance programs. They complained about how workers’ pay was reduced by furloughs during the recession, failing to note that they were paid the same rate of pay for the time they did work.

They also did not talk about how their pay compares to those in the private sector. According to census data maintained by the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, the weekly wage of a Nevada state government worker in the third quarter of 2016 was $1,093 a week, compared to $922 for a private sector worker in Nevada. Also, the state worker’s pay has increased 21.7 precent since 2012, compared to an increase of 13.1 percent for the private sector.

To add insult to injury, we note that the windfall-inflated $8.2 billion general fund budget is a 12.3 percent increase over the previous biennium’s $7.3 billion spending, while inflation in the past two years amounted to 2.5 percent. And the general fund is only about a third of the total state spending.

Since 2011 the state general fund budget has grown by 32.3 percent, while inflation amounted to 7.9 percent. Since 2001 that budget has grown by 122 percent, compared to 37.5 percent growth in the cost of living.

Meanwhile, the Economic Forum forecasts that the commerce tax passed in 2015 at the urging of Gov. Sandoval will raise less than $200 million in each of the coming years — less the millions the state is spending to create what is basically a Nevada version of the Internal Revenue Service.

The commerce tax is a tax on gross receipts on all businesses grossing more than $4 million a year. It has different tax tables for 27 different industries — ranging from a low of 0.056 percent for mining to a high of 0.362 percent for rail transportation — and there are 67 different tax brackets.

It is costing businesses in the state untold millions to comply with all the paperwork needed to enforce and collect the tax.

Take that $140 million windfall, add a few nips and tucks in the budget, then repeal the commerce tax. That’s the sober thing to do.

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.

 

Newspaper column: Democratic lawmakers trying to ration free speech

Nevada’s Democratic lawmakers in Carson City are seeking to enforce their egalitarian philosophy on everyone: All people are equal and deserve equal rights — and only equal amounts of those rights. You have the right to free speech, but no more than anyone else.

This past week an Assembly committee heard testimony on Senate Joint Resolution 4, which would urge Congress to amend the Constitution to strike the free speech portion of the First Amendment. SJR4, sponsored by Las Vegas Democratic state Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro, would erase the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which held that it was unconstitutional to forbid the broadcast of a movie critical of then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton just because it was paid for by a corporation.

But SJR4 goes even further. It limits spending by individuals as well. The summary reads: “Urges Congress to propose an amendment to the United States Constitution to allow the reasonable regulation of political contributions and expenditures by corporations, unions and individuals to protect the integrity of elections and the equal right of all Americans to effective representation.”

It basically declares democracy is dead because the citizens are too stupid to hear vigorous and boisterous debate and make rational decisions.

The resolution argues that large political donations corrupt candidates and dilute the power of individuals. Pay no heed to the fact that in the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump was outspent by Hillary Clinton by two-to-one — $600 million to $1.2 billion.

The resolution would not only overturn Citizens United but also McCutcheon v. FEC.

Democrats think all money belongs to the state except what the state allows you to keep, and now they demand to take control of how you spend that.

In addressing an Assembly committee on her bill Cannizzaro said it “addresses a growing and rather troubling influence of large donations by corporations and other organizations in our sacred policymaking process as a result of significant and uncontrolled political contributions.”

Jeff Clements, president of American Promise, an organization pressing for such a constitutional amendment, testified to the Assembly committee by phone.

He said we need to get back our constitutional foundation that “really has gone back in a non-partisan and cross-partisan way for over a century. It is not to say there is anything bad about corporations and unions or the very, very wealthy … If we allow unlimited deployment of the financial resources from those and other sources, it overwhelms the rights we have as Americans and the duties we have to participate in our self-governing republic, as equal citizens with equal representation.”

He argued that politics is not a marketplace to be bought and sold.

Yes, it is a marketplace — one of ideas. But no matter how much someone spends trying to persuade us to buy, we don’t have to buy.

As for it being a non-partisan issue as Clements claimed, the vote on SJR4 in the state Senate was on a party-line vote of 12 Democrats for and nine Republicans against.

Let’s hear what the court had to say about free speech in McCutcheon: “The Government has a strong interest, no less critical to our democratic system, in combatting corruption and its appearance. We have, however, held that this interest must be limited to a specific kind of corruption — quid pro quo corruption — in order to ensure that the Government’s efforts do not have the effect of restricting the First Amendment right of citizens to choose who shall govern them.”

In Citizens United, the late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote: “The (First) Amendment is written in terms of ‘speech,’ not speakers. Its text offers no foothold for excluding any category of speaker, from single individuals to partnerships of individuals, to unincorporated associations of individuals, to incorporated associations of individuals — and the dissent offers no evidence about the original meaning of the text to support any such exclusion. We are therefore simply left with the question whether the speech at issue in this case is ‘speech’ covered by the First Amendment. No one says otherwise. A documentary film critical of a potential Presidential candidate is core political speech, and its nature as such does not change simply because it was funded by a corporation. Nor does the character of that funding produce any reduction whatever in the ‘inherent worth of the speech’ and ‘its capacity for informing the public,’ … Indeed, to exclude or impede corporate speech is to muzzle the principal agents of the modern free economy.”

I’ll put those words up against the Democrats’ bleating about money corrupting.

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.

 

Newspaper column: It may be time to negotiate for Yucca Mountain benefits

Yucca Mountain in Nye County

Former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman once threatened to lie down on the tracks to block any rail shipment of nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain. “We’re going to do whatever it takes, even if we have to lie down in front of the tracks,” Goodman said.

We hear the train acomin’.

This past week the environmental subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee heard testimony on a draft bill that would restart the Yucca Mountain licensing for storage of spent nuclear fuel — the draft Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017.

Except for four members of Nevada’s Washington delegation, the majority of the House members discussing the proposal seemed strongly in favor of shipping nuclear waste out of their districts to a hole in the barren desert.

Yucca Mountain was designated as the nation’s sole permanent storage site for 70,000 metric tons of nuclear waste from commercial power plants by a 1987 law. More than $15 billion has been spent drilling miles of tunnels into solid rock and analyzing the site. But President Obama, at the urging of former Sen. Harry Reid, suspended funding for the project and it has since lain fallow.

In addressing the chairman of the subcommittee — Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois, the driving force behind the draft bill — Nevada’s senior Sen. Dean Heller testified, “I appreciate your commitment to ensure that progress is made on this issue; however, I do not believe the bill that is before the committee today – the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017 – is the solution.

“Rather, I believe it is heavy-handed, federal government-only proposal to reinstate Yucca Mountain while making false promises to the residents of Nevada.”

Heller’s mention of “false promises” appears to be a reference to the “benefits section” of the draft bill that envisions dollars flowing to the state and local communities, but the dollar amounts are left blank in the draft.

Under existing law, the state loses any potential benefits by challenging the waste dump, but the draft states that a benefits agreement would not constitute or require the state’s consent.

Rep. Ruben Kihuen — who represents Nye County, where Yucca Mountain is located — called the project a threat to Las Vegas tourism.

Las Vegas Reps. Dina Titus and Jackie Rosen also testified against the bill.

Rosen stated, “Using Yucca Mountain as the nation’s dumping ground would require transporting over 70,000 metric tons of radioactive waste, much of it through my district, and through the heart of Las Vegas, a city that attracts over 43 million visitors annually and generates 59 billion dollars in revenue according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.”

But the bill says that “to the extent practicable” no radioactive waste is to be shipped through Las Vegas. In fact, one proposal would be to be build a transshipment depot near Caliente and then build a rail spur directly to Yucca Mountain through the newly created Basin and Range National Monument — a job creating endeavor.

Rosen continued, “Severe transportation accidents threaten the health and safety of tourists and individuals who live along the proposed waste transportation routes, and would cause hundreds of millions of dollars in cleanup costs and related economic losses.”

But an expert witness told the subcommittee there have been 5,000 nuke waste shipments without a single incident.

Though Gov. Brian Sandoval and a majority of the state’s Washington representatives oppose licensing Yucca Mountain, the Nye County Commission had entered into the congressional record a letter supporting Yucca Mountain. The letter states, “The Yucca Mountain nuclear repository would bring federal dollars to Nevada, create well-paying science and construction jobs, and improve the state’s infrastructure. The project would also strengthen national security, a role Nye County and Nevada has always taken the lead in through the past eight decades.”

A group calling itself NevadansCAN (Conservative Action Network) has joined the debate by suggesting that nuclear waste could be shipped to Yucca Mountain, not for storage for a million years, but for reprocessing, as is done in a number of countries, to create new nuclear fuel that could be sold — with the proceeds distributed to Nevada citizens in a way similar to how oil proceeds are paid to Alaskans.

If we just shout no and lie down on the tracks, we could get run over.

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.

 

Jim Day cartoon

Democrats demanding deletion of ‘free speech’ clause from First Amendment

first

You’ll get your free speech when Nevada Democratic lawmakers say you can — if ever.

On Tuesday an Assembly committee heard testimony on Senate Joint Resolution 4, which would urge Congress to amend the Constitution to strike the free speech portion of the First Amendment. SJR4, sponsored by Las Vegas Democratic state Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro, specifically would erase the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which held that it was unconstitutional to forbid the broadcast of a movie critical of then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton just because it was paid for by a corporation.

The summary of SJR4 reads: “Urges Congress to propose an amendment to the United States Constitution to allow the reasonable regulation of political contributions and expenditures by corporations, unions and individuals to protect the integrity of elections and the equal right of all Americans to effective representation.”

It may as well read: “Democracy is dead because the citizens of the United States are too stupid to hear vigorous debate and make rational decisions.”

The resolution argues that large political donations corrupts candidates and dilutes the power of individuals.

Pay no heed to the fact that in the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump was outspent by Hillary Clinton by two-to-one — $600 million to $1.2 billion.

This proposal goes even further than most arguments against Citizens United — basically that corporations and unions are not people and have no free speech rights — and proposes to allow regulation and limitations on any and all political contributions and expenditures, including those by individuals, by also overturning the Supreme Court ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC.

Democrats think all money belongs to the state except what the state allows you to keep, and now they demand to take control of how you spend that.

Jeff Clements, president of American Promise, an organization pressing for such a constitutional amendment, testified to the Assembly committee by phone.

He said we need to get back our constitutional foundation that “really has gone back in a non-partisan and cross-partisan way for over a century. It is not say there is anything bad corporations and unions or the very, very wealthy … If we allow unlimited deployment of the financial resources from those and other sources, it overwhelms the rights we have as Americans and the duties we have to participate in our self-governing republic, as equal citizens with equal representation.”

He argued that politics is not a marketplace to be bought and sold.

Yes, it is a marketplace of ideas. But no matter how much someone spends trying to persuade us to buy, we don’t have to buy it.

As for it being a non-partisan issue as Clements claimed, the vote on SJR4 in the state Senate this past week was on a party-line vote of 12-9. All Democrats in favor. All Republicans opposed.

Let’s hear what the court had to say about free speech in McCutcheon:

The Government has a strong interest, no less critical to our democratic system, in combatting corruption and its appearance. We have, however, held that this interest must be limited to a specific kind of corruption — quid pro quo corruption — in order to ensure that the Government’s efforts do not have the effect of restricting the First Amendment right of citizens to choose who shall govern them. For the reasons set forth, we conclude that the aggregate limits on contributions do not further the only governmental interest this Court accepted as legitimate in Buckley. They instead intrude without justification on a citizen’s ability to exercise “the most fundamental First Amendment activities.”

In Citizens United, the late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote:

The (First) Amendment is written in terms of “speech,” not speakers. Its text offers no foothold for excluding any category of speaker, from single individuals to partnerships of individuals, to unincorporated associations of individuals, to incorporated associations of individuals — and the dissent offers no evidence about the original meaning of the text to support any such exclusion. We are therefore simply left with the question whether the speech at issue in this case is “speech” covered by the First Amendment. No one says otherwise. A documentary film critical of a potential Presidential candidate is core political speech, and its nature as such does not change simply because it was funded by a corporation. Nor does the character of that funding produce any reduction whatever in the “inherent worth of the speech” and “its capacity for informing the public,”  Indeed, to exclude or impede corporate speech is to muzzle the principal agents of the modern free economy. We should celebrate rather than condemn the addition of this speech to the public debate.

I’ll put that up against the Democrats’ bleating about money corrupting the political process.