November presidential election will be one it which voters will be holding their noses

According to several recent national polls, including the latest from the Washington Post-ABC News, voters this fall will not be voting “for” a particular candidate but “against.”

Though Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by 4 points in the poll, a majority of her supporters say the reason for choosing her is due to their opposition to Trump, and likewise for Trump voters who really oppose Clinton.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll show both candidates have net negatives:

Trump heads into the Republican convention with a 27 percent positive/60 percent negative score (-33) — remaining the most unpopular presumptive presidential nominee in the history of the NBC/WSJ poll.

But he’s followed closely by Clinton’s 34 percent positive/56 percent negative score (-22).

But that is just the head-to-head poll question, when you add in the Libertarian and Green candidates the result is: Clinton 42 percent, Trump 38 percent, Gary Johnson 8 percent and Jill Stein 5 percent.

That NBC News/Wall Street Journal four-way poll shows: Clinton gets 41 percent, Trump 35 percent, Johnson 11 percent, and Stein 6 percent.

No major poll, according to Real Clear Politics, thus far gives Johnson more than 13 percent and it takes 15 percent in five major polls for him to qualify for a spot on the national debate stage.

Will the GOP convention starting today give Trump a bounce?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editorial: Court should slap down public pension records trickery

There is contempt of court. There is contempt of Congress. But there should also be contempt of public.

This past week Nevada Policy Research Institute’s (NPRI) legal arm, Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation (CJCL), filed suit in district court in Carson City seeking to force the state Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) to release information about the taxpayer-funded pensions of retired public employees.

After the Reno Gazette-Journal newspaper sued under the public records law in 2013 and won in the Nevada Supreme Court, this information was disclosed for 2013 and 2014 and posted on NPRI’s TransparentNevada.com website — names, former employer, years of employment, retirement year and pension amounts.

According to transparentnevada.com, in 2014 there were more than 1,000 Nevada state and local retirees receiving annual pensions in excess of $100,000. American Enterprise Institute found Nevada full-career PERS retirees fetch the most generous retirement checks of any state in the union — $64,000 a year on average or more than $1.3 million in lifetime benefits. That doesn’t include police and firefighters, who can retire earlier and generally have higher salaries.

But when NPRI filed a public records request for the same information this year for 2015, PERS had changed how it compiles the data. It replaced the names with Social Security numbers, making the data useless.

”By replacing names with ‘non-disclosable’ Social Security numbers in its actuarial record-keeping documents, PERS has attempted to circumvent the 2013 ruling of the Nevada Supreme Court requiring disclosure,” explained Joseph Becker, the director of CJCL.

After two years of disclosing the pension records, the bureaucrats at PERS apparently decided to nit pick a portion of that 2013 Supreme Court ruling that said, while public records must be disclosed, the agency has “no duty to create a new document by searching for and compiling information from existing records.” In order to circumvent the law, PERS altered its records.

But as Becker points out in his suit, there is a 2015 case out of the Nevada Supreme Court in which the court held that “when an agency has a computer program that can readily compile the requested information, the agency is not excused from its duty to produce and disclose that information.” LVMPD v. Blackjack

In an NPRI press release about the litigation, Becker is quoted as saying, “Not only has PERS attempted to re-engineer its record-keeping in a way that obscures from public view its critical financial instability — for which the taxpayers of Nevada are ultimately on the hook. PERS is also violating both the letter and spirit of the Nevada Public Records Act …”

The manipulation of the records by PERS is a clear act of contempt for the public, as well as the law and the courts.

The purpose of the public records law (NRS 239) is made abundantly clear by its opening paragraph: “The Legislature hereby finds and declares that:

“1. The purpose of this chapter is to foster democratic principles by providing members of the public with access to inspect and copy public books and records to the extent permitted by law;

“2. The provisions of this chapter must be construed liberally to carry out this important purpose;

“3. Any exemption, exception or balancing of interests which limits or restricts access to public books and records by members of the public must be construed narrowly …”

We urge the court to make short work of this naked effrontery.

A version of this editorial appears this past 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.

pers

Newspaper column: Jewell feels a drop of rain and declares sky is falling

Sally Jewell speaking about the “emergence of an extreme movement to seize public lands.”

Earlier this year Interior Secretary Sally Jewell delivered what could best be described as a doom and gloom speech about the state of disappearing “natural” lands in this country, primarily the West.

She claimed there is an “emergence of an extreme movement to seize public lands — from Oregon to Puerto Rico — putting lands that belong to all Americans at risk of being sold off for a short-term gain to the highest bidder. This movement has propped up dangerous voices that reject the rule of law, put communities and hard-working public servants at risk, and fail to appreciate how deeply democratic and American our national parks and public lands are.”

Communal ownership of vacant land is democratic? I thought there was another word for that.

That extreme movement must include the Nevada Legislature and a majority of Nevada’s Washington delegation, who have put forth modest efforts to transfer to the state control a little more than 10 percent of the federal public lands in the state — which currently amounts to about 85 percent of the state, the highest percentage of any state.

That extreme movement must include the voters of Nevada, who in 1996 voted to remove from the state Constitution the so-called Disclaimer Clause, in which the residents of the Nevada Territory in 1864 agreed that the residents of the state of Nevada would forgo forever all claim to unappropriated land inside its borders.

Jewell claimed that an analysis by a non-profit group found that natural areas in the West are disappearing at the rate of a football field every two and a half minutes.

“If you add that all up, you’re looking at a pretty bleak picture,” she warned. “If we stay on this trajectory, 100 years from now, national parks and wildlife refuges will be like postage stamps of nature on a map. Isolated islands of conservation with run-down facilities that crowds of Americans visit like zoos to catch a glimpse of our nation’s remaining wildlife and undeveloped patches of land.”

In a mere century we will have paved paradise and put up a parking lot!

According to the Congressional Research Service, there are 623 million acres of land in this country controlled by various federal agencies — Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife, Park Service and Department of Defense. If one bulldozed a football field-sized tract every two and half minutes, why there would be no federal land left in a mere 2,700 years.

The Congressional Research Service noted that over a 24-year period from 1990 through 2013 total federal land acreage did decline by 3.6 percent, mostly from the sale of BLM and Defense property, while the other agencies actually grew in land mass. This occurred while the population of the United States grew by 26 percent.

Over the same 24-year period, total federal land holdings in Nevada also declined, but by only 0.6 percent. This while the population of the state grew by 133 percent. At that rate, there would be no federally controlled land in Nevada in a mere 4,325 years.

Of course, Jewell also took the opportunity of this speech to implore Congress to give her more money so she can better “manage” these rapidly disappearing holdings.

A report from the Nevada Public Land Management Task Force, which was created by the Nevada Legislature, noted that the BLM loses 91 cents an acre on the land it controls, but in the four states that have public trust land revenues amounted to $28.59 per acre. The report estimated that Nevada could net $114 million by taking over just 4 million acres of the BLM’s 48 million acres. Taking over all 48 million acres could net the state more than $1.5 billion — nearly half the annual general fund budget.

Meanwhile in Washington, a year ago Rep. Mark Amodei introduced a bill calling for transferring federal land to the state in phases. The initial phase would authorize the state to select no less than 7.2 million acres of public land for conveyance to Nevada.

More recently, Sens. Dean Heller and Harry Reid introduced a bill that would allow Pershing County, after 30 years of discussions, to consolidate checkerboard lands along the old railroad right of way with some becoming public and some private. Up to 150,000 acres would be sold for economic development while a similar acreage would be declared wilderness. It could be a model for other counties to pursue.

The bills are pending.

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.

Basin and Range National Monument seized by presidential fiat. (LA Times)

Editorial: Bundy prosecutors should prove need for any secrecy

A  federal judge has granted the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Battle Born Media newspapers and The Associated Press the right to intervene in the criminal case involving the armed standoff at the Bundy ranch in Bunkerville two years ago in order to challenge an effort by the prosecution to keep virtually all evidence in the case veiled in secrecy until the trial next February.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen wrote, “As the Second Circuit has eloquently written, ‘[t]ransparency is pivotal to public perception of the judiciary’s legitimacy and independence.’ … Federal judges are not elected. We claim legitimacy not by election, but by reason. The Constitution grants the federal judiciary ‘neither force nor will, but merely judgment.’ The Federalist No. 78 (Alexander Hamilton). The Court finds that allowing intervention will promote transparency and the integrity of the judicial proceedings in this case. The Court will therefore grant the Amended Motion to Intervene for the limited purpose of opposing the Government’s Motion for Protective Order.” Bundy intervene order copy

The prosecutors, who opposed the media intervention, have asked that all evidence shared with the attorneys for the 19 defendants — including rancher Cliven Bundy and four of his sons — not be made public, claiming disclosure could jeopardize the safety of witnesses and prosecutors.

The defendants face felony charges that include conspiracy, obstruction, extortion and assault, which carry penalties of up to 50 years in prison. The charges grow out of the April 2014 standoff between self-styled militia and Bureau of Land Management law enforcement when the government tried to roundup Bundy’s cattle after he had refused for 20 years to pay grazing fees in the Gold Butte area. The BLM said he owed $1 million in fees and penalties. The BLM eventually released the cattle and left.

Cliven Bundy (R-J photo)

Among the reasons cited by Judge Leen in allowing the media intervention is the fact the indictment “followed a two-year investigation and a decades’ long series of disputes between Defendant Cliven Bundy and the federal government over land use restrictions and federal laws and regulations. Mr. Bundy’s co-defendants are his family and supporters. Defendants claim they were peacefully protesting government overreaching, some of them while exercising their Second Amendment right to bear arms. The Government claims Bundy and his co-defendants planned and led an armed assault to threaten, intimidate, and extort law enforcement officers from carrying out lawful orders of this Court. It has generated considerable public debate about the Constitutional role of the federal government in owning large amounts of land in the western United States.”

Attorney Maggie McLetchie, who represents the media in this case, told the Las Vegas newspaper, “We are very pleased that our concerns with the protective order will be considered by the court, and agree that transparency is especially important due to the nature of the Bundy case.”

In a motion filed with the court this past week McLetchie argued, “This overbroad and unsupported protective order impedes the rights of Intervenors and other news outlets to report on a case of local and national importance. One of the most critical aspects of news reporting is to inform the public of justice being carried out in the courts. In this regard, the press is vital to the health of a democracy. … This right is anchored in the value of keeping ‘a watchful eye on the workings of public agencies,’ and in publishing ‘information concerning the operation of government.’ … ‘In short, justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done.’” Bundy intervene memo

The right to intervene is merely the first step. Now the courts must do more than pay lip service to transparency. Though it may prove time-consuming, the prosecutors should now be required to provide specific reasons and proof — not just vague suspicions and speculation — that a particular piece of evidence, testimony or documentation should be kept from public scrutiny.

In her latest motion McLetchie quotes from a court case detailing this requirement, “‘The party opposing disclosure has the burden of proving good cause, which requires a showing that specific prejudice or harm will result if the protective order is not granted.’ … A party seeking a protective order must show ‘“that disclosure will result in a clearly defined, specific and serious injury.’”

A version of this editorial appears this past 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.

Bundy ranch standoff

Newspaper column: Supreme Court right to expedite education savings account hearing

There is a reason the courts routinely expedite cases involving children. If the cases were handled in the usual mañana fashion the children would have children of their own by the time the case is resolved.

The state Supreme Court has rightly refused an effort by the American Civil Liberties Union to further delay the hearing of its suit to block enactment of the education savings account (ESA) law passed by the 2015 Legislature, which would allow parents to keep a portion of their taxes — about $5,100 a year in most cases — in a savings account to pay for private schooling or homeschooling.

Thus far about 6,000 students have applied for funding under the law but their applications are on hold, pending a ruling from the justices of the state Supreme Court.

The court has scheduled hearings for the morning of July 29 for both the ACLU case — Duncan v. State, which challenges the law as a violation of a constitutional prohibition against using state funds for sectarian purposes — and another case — Schwartz v. Lopez, which claims the law impermissibly diverts funds from the Distributive School Account (DSA).

The ESA is under the auspices of state Treasurer Dan Schwartz, who had hoped to make funding available by January 2016, but now the suits make it impossible for funding to start by the beginning of the new school year in the fall. Another delaying wrinkle is that the law requires eligible students to have been enrolled in public school for 100 consecutive days prior to receiving the funds. Who knows how many more parents could step forward in the future if and when the law is upheld?

The Schwartz v. Lopez case will be heard at 10 a.m. on July 29. In that case a Carson City judge blocked the state from carrying out the provisions of the law, saying it is unconstitutional under that Article 11, Section 6.2 of the state Constitution. He determined that “appropriation” means “to set apart for or assign to a particular purpose or use in  exclusion of all others” and therefore using part of that appropriation for ESAs violates the state Constitution.

Attorney General Adam Laxalt, representing the state, has countered that the DSA is not, as the plaintiffs allege, a lock box from which no funds may be diverted, but rather funds public schools on a per pupil basis. If a student moves out of a district or transfers to a private school or homeschooling, the per pupil funding is affected in the same manner.

The case of Duncan v. State will be heard at 11:30 a.m., after Schwartz. This case raises the question of whether ESAs violate the Constitution’s prohibition against sectarian funding by noting that ESAs could be used to send children to religion-based schools.

Clark County Judge Eric Johnson, writing on the religious separation argument, said, “The United States Supreme Court’s ‘decisions have drawn a consistent distinction between government programs that provide aid directly to religious schools, and programs of true private choice, in which government aid reaches religious schools only as a result of the genuine and independent choices of private individuals.’ … Where a school aid program, such as the ESA program, is neutral with respect to religion, and provides assistance available directly to a wide spectrum of citizens, or as in this case, essentially all parents of Nevada school children, who, in turn, direct the financial assistance to religion affiliated schools ‘wholly as a result of their own genuine and independent private choice, the program is not readily subject to challenge …’”

Judge Johnson also dismissed speculative claims that some private schools might discriminate by writing, “Whether illegal discrimination occurs and a school may participate under the program can be dealt with in the specific context of the facts of an actual controversy rather than in the hypothetical.”

The sooner this is resolved, the sooner parents and children can get on with education plans. May the court come down on the side of freedom to choose.

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.

Is it time for a ‘second party’?

Gary Johnson at National Libertarian Party Convention in May in Orlando, Fla. (AP photo by John Raoux)

Sometimes you stumble upon a nugget of wisdom in the most unexpected of places.

Today’s eureka moment is found buried inside the pages of the section buried inside the morning newspaper, the section where I usually scan the cover to see if there is anything local worth a second glance before skipping past the pages of syndicated liberal drivel to the Dilbert cartoon.

But the photo of Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson gave me pause. Beneath are a couple of columns labeled “Point” and “Counterpoint,” though I’ve yet to figure out what the point was supposed to be. It was the headline on the “Counterpoint” that brought me up short: “Term ‘third party’ wrongly implies we have more than one.”

This in the Sun section? Oh, the heresy! Surely Greenspun is spinning in apoplexy. Now there’s a pleasing image.

Both columns appeared at something called insidesources.com back at the end of May. How the putative editors at the Sun stumbled upon it at this late date and had the presence of mind or temerity to actually publish it is a mystery for the ages, but the piece by Antony Davies, an associate professor of economics at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, and James Harrigan, director of academic programs at Strata in Logan, Utah, opens with the question: “Is it time for a third party?”

They answer the question by refuting the question in the second paragraph: “The real question to ask now is whether there is a hill of beans’ worth of difference between the two major parties. Maybe what we really need is a viable second party, because from any objective point of view the Republicans and the Democrats care about only one thing: the acquisition of power.”

The writers then lay down brick by brick a solid logical wall.

They note that the parties present themselves to the public and the voters as vastly different, but over the past 60 years both have merely made government larger and more intrusive and smothering. One grows government by taking away civil liberties, while the other grows government by removing economic liberties. Results are the same, only the methods differ.

“And they have done a brilliant job of crowding out any possible dissenting voices. How brilliant?” Harrigan and Davies write. “‘Minor party’ candidates are not even allowed into the presidential debates unless they poll at 15 percent nationally. But their names are not included in the opinion polls that determine who gets in. Who set that system up? Republicans and Democrats.

“Who says they can’t work together?”

In 2015, they point out Congress passed and the president signed only 150 laws, but federal agencies created 3,000 new rules and regulations. “And soon, everything not forbidden will be mandated.”

They conclude that the major parties have deluded the voters into thinking that voting for a minor party candidate is simply a de facto vote for whichever of the two major party candidates you find least palatable.

The piece ends thusly:

So if you vote for Hillary Clinton to keep Donald Trump out of the White House, or the reverse, you have guaranteed a victory for the status quo. And that’s exactly what the Republicans and Democrats want you to do.

It’s time we had a second party.

The column is nowhere to be found on the Sun website.

sun page

Imagine what the ad would say if she abdicated her duty?

The political columnist in the morning paper spent his customary column inches customarily defending a Democratic candidate — Catherine Cortez Masto in this case — against attacks from conservatives.

Catherine Cortez Masto (AP photo via USA Today)

The columnist goes on at considerable length to say Masto did not take quid from the taxi industry in order to wage quo against Uber, the ride sharing app. This claim is in an ad reportedly funded by the Koch brothers’ Freedom Partners Action Fund.

The columnist concludes she was just doing her job and a judge agreed with her, but he closed with this: “If she’d ignored the issue, she could have been accused of abdicating her duty. And can you imagine that attack ad?”

Does he mean like the time she abdicated her legal duty to sue to block ObamaCare when directed to do so by the governor?

NRS 228 states unequivocally:

“Whenever the Governor directs or when, in the opinion of the Attorney General, to protect and secure the interest of the State it is necessary that a suit be commenced or defended in any federal or state court, the Attorney General shall commence the action or make the defense.” (Emphasis added.)

The governor directed. If she believed such action was frivolous, she could have sought the advice of the courts. Instead, the state’s top lawyer simply ignored the law.

Another section of NRS 228 that might apply in such a situation:

“If the Attorney General neglects or refuses to perform any of the duties required of him or her bylaw, the Attorney General is guilty of a misdemeanor or is subject to removal from office.” (Again, emphasis added.)

Waiting for the ad.

By the way, though the columnist fails to mention it, Cortez Masto is running for Harry Reid’s senate seat against Republican Rep. Joe Heck and has been endorsed by uber-Democrat Reid.