Cliches are where you find them … everywhere

Now, for something completely different.

This past evening we settled down after a lovely repast of leftover Irish-style stew and cornbread to watch a DVD of the 2019 “Downton Abbey” movie. It is about the king and queen visiting the estate and the anticipation of that event for the family and the servants.

Minutes into the flix one of the characters, Merton, asks: “Who were those men measuring on the green as we came past?”

Mary replies: “They’re building the dais for the Queen at the parade.”

Merton: “How exciting.”

Isobel: “It seems rather a waste of money.”

Violet: “Here we go.”

Cora: “Isn’t that what the Monarchy’s for? To brighten the lives of the Nation with stateliness and glamour?”

Then Isobel, quotes Alfred Tennyson’s poem 1842 poem “Lady Clara Vere de Vere,” saying, “Kind hearts are more than coronets, And simple faith than Norman blood.”

To which Violet replies, “Will you have enough clichés to get you through the visit?”

And Isobel smartly counters, “if not, I’ll come to you.”

What makes this a slightly amusing juxtaposition is the fact the next DVD on our shelf is a 1949 flix starring Alec Guinness in several different roles. It is called “Kind Hearts and Coronets.”

Apparently Tennyson is saying that it is one’s character that counts, rather than the nobility of one’s descent.

In the Guinness film, which we’ve yet to watch, apparently one member of the family knocks off those above him in lineage to increase his inheritance and place in line to a title.

So the moral of his story is … none whatsoever. Just a royally odd coincidence to encounter so closely together the same obscure — to me at least — quotation. We are amused, but we are, these days, easily amused. I hope you are, too, whatever your current station in life and lore.

 

Don’t wait for proof positive, give this combo a test in real world and real time

Two doctors writing in The Wall Street Journal today say a combination of two currently available drugs is helping cure coronavirus in a matter of days instead of requiring 14-day quarantines.

Getty Images via WSJ

A recent French study used hydroxychloroquine — a malaria treatment that has been used since 1944 with little side effect — in combination with azithromycin, brand name Zithromax Z-Pak, to treat a small number of COVID-19 patients. Of those treated with the combo 100 percent were cured by the sixth day of treatment. Of those treated with hydroxychloroquine alone 57.1 percent were cured, write Dr. Jeff Colyer, a practicing physician and chairman of the National Advisory Commission on Rural Health, and Dr. Daniel Hinthorn, director of the Division of Infectious Disease at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

“A couple of careful studies of hydroxychloroquine are in progress, but the results may take weeks or longer,” the doctors report. “Infectious-disease experts are already using hydroxychloroquine clinically with some success. With our colleague Dr. Joe Brewer in Kansas City, Mo., we are using hydroxychloroquine in two ways: to treat patients and as prophylaxis to protect health-care workers from infection.”

They say their experience suggests the drug cocktail be a first-line treatment, but there is a shortage of hydroxychloroquine, which prompts the doctors to call on the federal government to immediately contract with generic manufacturers to ramp up production and release any stockpiles.

A successful treatment could get laid off workers back to work and open shuttered businesses and schools.

Colyer and Hinthorn conclude:

We have decades of experience in treating infectious diseases and dealing with epidemics, and we believe in safety and efficacy. We don’t want to peddle false hope; we have seen promising drugs turn out to be duds.

But the public expects an answer, and we don’t have the luxury of time. We have a drug with an excellent safety profile but limited clinical outcomes — and no better alternatives until long after this disaster peaks. We can use this treatment to help save lives and prevent others from becoming infected. Or we can wait several weeks and risk discovering we didn’t do everything we could to end this pandemic as quickly as possible.

 

Editorial: Voters don’t need protection from free speech

Democrats never let the inconvenient facts get in the way of their blindly held firm belief that money is the root of all evil and the ultimate bane of democracy.

You know, beliefs like the one that the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission — that found a federal law prohibiting people from spending their own money to make their political opinions and desires known could not pass constitutional muster — was wrong, wrong, wrong.

The 5-4 Citizens United ruling overturned a portion of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law under which the FEC barred the airing of a movie produced by Citizens United that was critical of Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Democratic primary.

Democrats have been fighting against the ruling ever since, claiming it lets the rich and powerful and deep-pocketed corporations buy elections. They’ve even floated the idea of amending that portion of the Bill of Rights prohibiting Congress from abridging freedom of speech.

Of course, Nevada’s Democratic delegation to Congress has been in the thick of it. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen have signed on as sponsors of the proposed amendment, which would allow Congress and the states to “distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.”

Cortez Masto proclaimed, “A constitutional amendment putting the democratic process back in the hands of voters will help ensure that our government represents the will of Americans, not just the wealthy few.”

Rosen chimed in, “Our elections should be decided by the voters — but because of Citizens United, billionaires and corporate interests can spend as much money as they want to elect politicians to do their bidding.”

Pay no attention to the fact President Donald Trump was outspent two-to-one by the aforementioned Hillary Clinton.

Over on the House side Nevada Democratic Reps. Dina Titus, Susie Lee and Steven Horsford have co-sponsored the 600-page H.R. 1, dubiously dubbed “For the People Act,” which, along with other things, would require increased disclosure of donors and online advertisers.

All in the name of muting the power of money’s influence over elections.

Pay no attention to the facts just presented by the outcome of the Democratic presidential nominating process.

According to news accounts, former New York mayor and billionaire Mike Bloomberg recently dropped out of that competition after spending somewhere between $500 million and $700 million of his estimated $60 billion net worth. That netted him a grand total of 61 delegates out of the nearly 4,000 delegates awarded thus far.

Then there is the case of Tom Steyer, who is said to be worth a paltry $1.6 billion but spent more than $250 million of his own money on his failing presidential campaign through the end of January. He netted no delegates whatsoever.

Both of the these candidates were allowed the freedom of speech to disseminate their messages and arguments loudly and frequently. But as Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his majority opinion in Citizens United, “The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.”

The poor pliable voters don’t need to be protected from political speech. They can think for themselves — as the facts have again borne out.

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.

Branco cartoon

Are we merely delaying the inevitable?

I sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t be better to just let this virus run its course.

After shutting down businesses and laying off workers for several weeks, costing untold amounts of money, the virus will still be lurking out there.

When will it be safe to venture out?

Will someone find a vaccine or treatment in the meantime?

Are we merely delaying the inevitable?

Meanwhile, the market has burned through trillions of dollars of savings.

Editorial: Keep a close eye on enforcement of virus regulations

Shortly after state health officials confirmed the first presumptive case of the coronavirus — dubbed COVID-19 — in Nevada this past week, Gov. Steve Sisolak issued an emergency regulation regarding insurance coverage for testing and treatment of the rapidly spreading virus.

State law gives the governor the power in emergency situations to make, amend and rescind regulations in response to the emergency. Customarily one thinks of such things as calling out the National Guard to prevent looting or other problems after a national disaster.

In this case the Commissioner of Insurance Barbara Richardson made a finding that an emergency affecting the health and safety of the public exists and that adoption of an emergency regulation was appropriate.

What Sisolak did was attempt to avert potential adverse financial impact for those who carry health insurance.

We highly recommend the governor keep a close eye on the effects of his order lest it have unintentional adverse affects on the availability of testing and potential vaccines or treatments for the disease. Dictating the price of things in the marketplace has been known to deter availability of goods and services when adequate compensation is not forthcoming.

There has been plenty of anecdotal evidence over the years that so-called anti-price-gouging laws merely limit the supply of necessary goods and services in a crisis.

For example, according to the American Institute for Economic Research, in 2005 a Kentucky man took time off from his job, bought 19 power generators, rented a truck and drove to hurricane-ravaged Mississippi intending to sell the generators at twice the price he paid to cover his costs and make a profit. Police confiscated his generators for price gouging, held him for four days and kept the generators in police custody. Those who urgently needed them and would have gladly paid the asking price suffered in the dark instead.

“This pre-emptive emergency regulation should give Nevadans confidence to continue taking preventative measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 as well as seeking necessary medical services and prescriptions without fear of higher than normal costs,” Sisolak was quoted as saying in a press release accompanying the emergency declaration. “Protecting Nevadans is my top priority, and adopting this emergency regulation is a critical piece of our broader plan to anticipate and prepare for the potential impacts of COVID-19.”

The press release said the order prohibits a health insurance company from imposing an out-of-pocket charge for an office, urgent care center or emergency room visit for the purpose of testing for the virus. “Additionally, the regulation prohibits insurers from charging Nevadans for the COVID-19 test itself or an immunization as one becomes available and further requires coverage for off-formulary prescription drugs if a formulary drug is not available for treatment,” the press release says.

Sounds confiscatory. If companies are prohibited from recouping their expenses for services provided, how readily available will those services be?

The regulation further requires health insurance companies to pro-actively provide information on available benefits, options for medical advice and treatment through telehealth systems and ways to prevent exposure to the virus.

With only a few cases in Nevada so far such measures may be premature. There have been no reports of insurance price gouging due to the virus that we are aware of, which is what the governor’s emergency order appears to be intended to stave off.

We suggested the commissioner of insurance and health officials keep a close watch on events as they develop to assure these shackles on the free market do not interrupt the availability of necessary services and thus create the opposite effect of what the governor intends.

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.

Gov. Steve Sisolak announces emergency regulations. (R-J pix)

Newspaper column: Courts can’t tell lawmakers to hike education funding

An education advocacy group has filed suit on behalf of nine parents of Nevada public school children demanding that the courts force lawmakers to adequately fund K-12 education — declaring that the students “inhabit one of the lowest-rated and worst-performing state school systems in the United States.”

The suit, filed in the 1st Judicial District Court in Carson City, by Educate Nevada Now asks the court to find that the level of funding of public education in the state has fallen short of the constitutional requirement to “ensure a basic, uniform, and sufficient education for the schoolchildren of this state.”

The 37-page lawsuit cites a litany of woes — including the fact Nevada ranked 50th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in Education Week’s most recent Quality Counts report’s Chance-for-Success Index and has the third largest class sizes and ranked first in the U.S. in class size growth according to the National Education Association.

The suit further noted that in the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) only 34 percent of Nevada fourth graders were proficient in math and only 31 percent were proficient in reading. Both rates were even lower for eighth graders.

Nevada holds “places near the top of every ‘bad’ list, and the bottom of every ‘good’ list, in myriad rankings of public schools systems and student performance across the country,” the suit states.

The Nevada Supreme Court in the case of Guinn v. Legislature in 2003 held that Nevada students have a basic right to a public education under the state constitution, the suit states. In that case the court decided education funding had to take precedent over a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds majority to raise taxes.

Justice Bill Maupin was the only dissenting vote in the case, citing separation of powers, “Again, we are powerless to order co-equal branches of government to exercise individual acts of constitutional discretion. Our authority depends upon whether extraordinary relief is warranted and in exercising our authority to grant relief, we would be restricted to an interpretation of the Constitution, utilizing recognized tenets of statutory construction.”

The current lawsuit neglects to point out that the justices three years later overturned Guinn v. Legislature, largely for the very reason cited by Maupin.

The Educate Nevada Now suit further quotes the state constitution, which says, “The legislature shall provide for a uniform system of common schools, by which a school shall be established and maintained in each school district […].” 
The quote is cut off before the part that says such schools must be open “at least six months in every year …”

The suit further notes that the constitution states that the Legislature shall appropriate education funds “the Legislature deems sufficient …” That would seem to dictate that lawmakers are to determine what is “sufficient” rather than
the courts.

The litigation comes despite the fact Nevada lawmakers in 2015 passed the largest tax hike in history, $1.5 billion, largely to fund education, and lawmakers this year approved 3 percent raises for teachers. It also comes while the Clark County teachers union is preparing to circulate petitions seeking to increase sales and gaming taxes by $1.4 billion a year.

The problem with Nevada public education is not so much a lack of funding as it is a deficiency in accountability.

At one time Nevada high school students were required to pass a proficiency exam in order to graduate. That was dropped in 2018.

With the 2015 tax hike came a requirement that third graders who could not read at a certain proficiency level would be held back to repeat the third grade. That has since been dropped.

At one point 50 percent of teacher evaluations were based on pupil achievement growth. That has been cut to 15 percent.

Amanda Morgan, an attorney for Educate Nevada Now, told the Las Vegas newspaper after the suit was filed that the intent of the litigation is to prod lawmakers into addressing education funding.

“The court won’t say you need to put x amount of dollars into education,” Morgan was quoted as saying. “But it will say, ‘What you’re doing right now doesn’t meet your constitutional obligation. Go fix it.’”

The constitution seems clear when it says education funding is whatever “the Legislature deems sufficient …”

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.

Editorial: Steyer ups ante in bidding war for votes

All of the candidates still seeking the Democratic presidential nomination have at one time or the other advocated doubling the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Recently billionaire businessman Tom Steyer upped the ante in his vote buying scheme by calling for tripling the minimum wage to $22 an hour.

As The Wall Street Journal editorialists point out, this is not a serious campaign ploy. It is the punchline of a Republican joke. “When liberals call for a nationwide $15 minimum wage, conservatives often offer a half-serious rhetorical response: Why stop there?” the editorial recounts, adding that Steyer doesn’t get the joke.

Tom Steyer illustration

At a campaign stop in South Carolina Steyer told his audience, “The fair number should be $22 an hour. That should be the minimum wage in the United States of America: $22. Think about what this country would be like if we had a $22 minimum wage: completely different.”

Yes, think about the number of people who would be unemployed. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25, though a number of states and cities have raised their minimum wages, with often counterproductive results. One study found the average low-wage worker in Seattle lost $125 a month because the minimum wage was raised to $15 an hour and hours were cut.

This past year the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that somewhere between 1.3 million and 3.7 million would lose their jobs if the minimum wage were raised to $15 an hour. What would that number be at $22? How many businesses would be bankrupted by such a wage hike?

A Cato Institute analysis in 2012 found that a 10 percent increase in the U.S. minimum wage raises food prices by up to 4 percent. Image what a 200 percent increase would do.

The problem is that study after study has found that raising the minimum wage does not lift more people out of poverty, but rather its net effect is to actually increase the portion of families that are poor and near-poor, according to an analysis of those studies by the Heritage Foundation. This is because a few will see higher income, others will have their work hours reduced and some will drop from minimum wage to zero wage due to layoffs and businesses closing their doors.

But all the Democratic candidates are on board for raising the minimum wage.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has called for $15 an hour and indexing to the median hourly wage so low-wage workers keep up with middle-income workers.

Sen. Bernie Sanders said, “A job must lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it,” calling $7.25 a starvation wage.

Pete Buttigieg could also phase out the subminimum for tipped workers.

Warren also would index the minimum wage to median hourly wages.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar would start in her first 100 days in office by raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15 an hour.

Mike Bloomberg would hike the minimum wage and index it to inflation.

They are all in the same choir. Just one is singing much more loudly than the others.

As Thomas Sowell points out in his book “Basic Economics,” “Making it illegal to pay less than a given amount does not make a worker’s productivity worth that amount — and, if it is not, that worker is unlikely to be employed. Yet minimum wage laws are almost always discussed politically in terms of the benefits they confer on workers receiving those wages. Unfortunately, the real minimum wage is always zero, regardless of the laws, and that is the wage that many workers receive in the wake of the creation or escalation of a government-mandated minimum wage, because they either lose their jobs or fail to find jobs when they enter the labor force.”

Nevada’s Democratic caucus is Saturday. It doesn’t look like Democratic voters have much choice on this issue.

Now that Nevada has election day voter registration, we wonder how many Republicans might switch over just to keep this bidding war alive. Not suggesting it, of course.

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.