Electoral College was intended to avoid ‘tumult and disorder,’ but some are stoking it

The 538 members of the Electoral College — one for each senator and representative from each state, plus the District of Columbia — are to convene on Dec. 19 to cast their ballots for the presidency.

Meanwhile, there are reports from across the country that those voters are being harassed and threatened with physical harm or death if they cast their votes for Donald Trump.

This does seem to belie one of the primary reasons the Founders chose to have the president selected by the Electoral College instead of by state legislatures or popular vote.

Alexander Hamilton put it this way in Federalist Paper No. 68:

It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States. But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief. The choice of SEVERAL, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of ONE who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes. And as the electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place.

Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption.

It is interesting to read how the would-be disrupters cite a different passage from this same document to argue that electors should disavow the voters of their states:

The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.

In their judgment Trump’s talents lie in low intrigue and arts of popularity. They may the right, but that’s not how the system works. For electors to abandon their duty would be tantamount to coup.

A Vox writer says Trump “the first unquestioned demagogue to become a major-party nominee in our country’s history. On his quest to the general election, he stoked prejudices and passions to flout fundamental constitutional norms, such as our freedoms of the press, religion, and peaceful assembly.”

He then points out that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote now by over 2 million votes, which is irrelevant.

Now, who is stoking prejudices?

The online petition site Change.org has a petition that reads in part:

On December 19, the Electors of the Electoral College will cast their ballots. If they all vote the way their states voted, Donald Trump will win. However, in 14 of the states in Trump’s column, they can vote for Hillary Clinton without any legal penalty if they choose.

We are calling on the 149 Electors in those states to ignore their states’ votes and cast their ballots for Secretary Clinton. Why?

Mr. Trump is unfit to serve. His scapegoating of so many Americans, and his impulsivity, bullying, lying, admitted history of sexual assault, and utter lack of experience make him a danger to the Republic.

Secretary Clinton WON THE POPULAR VOTE and should be President.

Hillary won the popular vote. The only reason Trump “won” is because of the Electoral College.

But the Electoral College can actually give the White House to either candidate. So why not use this most undemocratic of our institutions to ensure a democratic result?

Use an undemocratic institution to impose a democratic result? Talk about twisted logic. If the shoe were were on the other foot, they’d be screaming bloody murder. These people are all about getting their way and the means be damned.

Besides, the U.S. is a republic, not a mobocracy.

 

Editorial: State agency playing fast and loose with tax incentives

Let’s make a deal. What’ll it take to get you to close the deal? A little wheeling? A little dealing? A little quid pro quo? Pay no attention to the price tag. That’s for the suckers.

After a meeting of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) this past week, the agency put out a press release boasting that it had approved “the creation of thousands of new jobs in Nevada through the expansion of existing Nevada companies, and companies that are moving to the state.”

GOED Director Steve Hill positively crowed, “We continue to see extraordinary businesses show interest in Nevada for a myriad of reasons, including location, available incentives, business friendliness and the quality of life. These companies will add to the gaining strength of our economy by creating thousands of jobs for Nevadans and continuing the narrative that Nevada is a great state in which to do business.”

Nowhere in the press release did it ever state what those “incentives” were. The word “tax” was nowhere to be seen.

Yet, in one meeting alone the agency magnanimously doled out a total of more than $6 million in tax abatements over the next 10 years to six different companies — five in Clark County, one in Washoe and none anywhere else in the state.

Apparently based on a strict mathematical calculation commonly known as a whim, the companies had their sales taxes slashed to a mere 2 percent for two years — instead of nearer 8 percent for those not so privileged — and their property and modified business taxes are being cut by either 25 percent or 50 percent for several years — depending on how good a deal each could wrangle.

The biggest tax forgiveness packages went to the multi-billion-dollar Internet marketer Amazon — $1.8 million — and something called TH Foods — $2.2 million.

There seemed to be little rhyme nor reason for the size of the largess in comparison to the relative benefit to the state and those taxpayers still required to pay the going rate. You know, the sticker price.

The numbers crunchers claimed one company would generate more than $68 in additional tax revenue for the state for every dollar of abatement, but another would generate only $2.50 for each tax dollar forgiven. Of course, that is pure speculation and conjecture.

Even though one of the stated reasons in the law creating such tax abatement incentives is to create high-wage jobs, only two of the companies so favored last week said their average hourly wages would exceed the targeted statewide average of $21.35 an hour and two companies reported their wages would be less than $15 an hour — one of those Amazon.

This wheeling and dealing was done despite the fact the Nevada Constitution clearly states, “The Legislature shall provide by law for a uniform and equal rate of assessment and taxation …” It ain’t uniform or equal if a select few get breaks while others don’t.

And pay no never mind to that part of the Constitution known as the Gift Clause, which states, “The State shall not donate or loan money, or its credit, subscribe to or be, interested in the Stock of any company, association, or corporation, except corporations formed for educational or charitable purposes.”

Remember, that $6 million in tax breaks was from one single meeting of the ever so generous GEOD, which has already doled out billions of dollars in tax “incentives” to Apple, Tesla Motors, Faraday Future and countless other billionaires.

Hey, no peeking behind the curtain at the fact the 2015 Legislature just raised taxes by $1.5 billion on all of us who are too insignificant or too timid to cut special deals, nor at the fact the state is already running a budget deficit of $400 million.

For that $6 million in tax abatements this past week, the companies claimed they might create as many as 2,000 jobs.

In 2012 alone small businesses in Nevada created 15,000 jobs without asking for any tax abatements or credits. What does that make them? Rubes? Suckers?

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.

Amazon plans a warehouse in Nevada like this one in Phoenix. (AP file photo via R-J)

Amazon plans a warehouse in Nevada like this one in Phoenix. (AP file photo via R-J)

Newspaper column: Whither the state’s effort to take control of public lands?

In March 2015 Congressman Mark Amodei, who represents northern Nevada, introduced H.R. 1484, dubbed the Honor the Nevada Enabling Act of 1864 Act, which, if passed, would require the Departments of Agriculture and Interior to convey to Nevada a portion of the federal public lands they now control and thus partly fulfill an implied promise do so when Nevada became a state 152 years ago.

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources finally got around to conducting a hearing on the bill this past week, though Amodei had been seeking such a hearing for more than a year. The subcommittee took no vote and Amodei is under no illusion the bill has a chance of passage in this session of Congress.

The bill calls for the federal government to transfer ownership of 7.2 million acres of public land to the state in its first phase and about 10 million acres in a subsequent phase. That would still leave the feds controlling about 70 percent of Nevada’s land mass, but down from the current 87 percent, the most of any state.

Testifying in favor of the bill was Elko County Commissioner Demar Dahl, who chaired a year-long study of the land transfer proposal by the Nevada Land Management Task Force.

Demar Dahl testifies before House subcommittee.

Demar Dahl testifies before House subcommittee.

“I had an opportunity to meet with President-elect (Donald) Trump in August,” Dahl said in his opening remarks. “I said, ‘If you had a hotel with 10 floors on it and eight of those floors were controlled by a bureaucracy that you had virtually no control over that was over 2,000 miles away, how would that work?’

“And he said, ‘I think that you’re actually closer to 90 percent owned and controlled in the state of Nevada by the federal government than you are to 80.’ And that’s true — 87 percent of the state of Nevada is owned and controlled by the federal government.”

The task force Dahl headed up was created by the state Legislature in 2013 and consisted of one member of every county commission in the state, 17 in all.

At their first meeting Dahl said he asked the members whether they thought at the time it was a good idea to transfer land to the state, and more than half said it was not a good idea or they were not sure.

Over the next year the task force met 13 times to hear testimony from state agencies, the Farm Bureau, the Sierra Club, various sportsman groups and other stakeholders.

“As we went through the year I could see the lights come on of all of the members and by the time we finished every member was supporting the transfer of the public lands,” said Dahl, a rancher.

An economic analysis contracted by the task force found that the state could expect a net revenue of $350 million a year from controlling the land.

All 17 county commissions voted to support the land transfer effort and in 2015 the proposal passed both houses of the Legislature and resulted in H.R. 1484.

“On the issue of transferring the public lands we discovered that there is more among the residents of the state that unites us than divides us. For the sportsmen, the environmental community and resource users there’s much that we can agree on,” Dahl told the subcommittee. “For instance, 1484 calls for the transfer of all valid existing rights and uses. If you can hunt, fish, camp, graze or prospect on the public lands now, you will be able do it after the transfer.”

No parks, monuments, military or Indian land would be transferred.

Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn of Colorado said to Dahl that people in other parts of the country think residents of the West don’t care about the federal lands, that states would allow a few more barrels of oil to be tapped under a world-class trout stream and the people on either coast need to tell us what to do.

Dahl replied, “My question would be: Why would the people who live there and care for the land, who are able to use it more than anyone else, even though after the transfer people from all over the world will continue to be able to use it, but why would the people of Nevada care less about the land and care less about preserving it for their children, their children’s children and for generations to come?”

Two of the bill’s co-sponsors — Republican Joe Heck and Cresent Hardy — were defeated in the recent election. Where will their Democrat replacements stand on this bill?

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.

 

Trump is picky about who he forgives and Heck ain’t one of ’em

Donald Trump is rather fickle, perhaps even flighty.

While Mitt Romney, who called Trump a phony and a fraud during the early part of the campaign, is being considered for the post of secretary of State, Joe Heck, who disavowed Trump only after the profane, boastful, misogynistic recording was revealed, can’t get a crumb from Trump.

From the transcript of the Trump interview with The New York Times:

And a senator in Nevada who frankly said, he endorsed me then he unendorsed me, and he went down like a lead balloon. And then they called me before the race and said they wanted me to endorse him and do a big thing and I said, ‘No thank you, good luck.’ You know, let’s see what happens. I said, off the record, I hope you lose. Off the record. He was! He was up by 10 points — you know who I’m talking about.

Actually a representative who wanted to be a senator.

Newspaper column: In Nevada election the tail wags the dog

Welcome to the state of Clark.

The land mass that is Clark County was added to Nevada three years after statehood, carved from a corner of Arizona. It was a part of Lincoln County until 1909, when the Legislature split off Clark County.

Clark dangles on the map like a vestigial tail on the nether region of Nevada.

On Election Day 2016, the tail wagged the dog.

This past week 1.1 million Nevadans cast presidential ballots, fully 68 percent of those were cast in Clark County — and there was a stark difference in how Clark voted compared to the rest of the state.

Only in Clark County did a majority vote for the Democratic Senate candidate. Thus it was for much of the ballot.

In the presidential contest alone the difference was a spectrum shift from bright Democratic blue in Clark to crimson Republican red just about everywhere else in the state.

While Democrat Hillary Clinton beat out Republican nominee Donald Trump statewide by about 36,000 votes, she bested him in Clark by more than 80,000 ballots, while he out polled her in the rest of the state by 55,000 votes, according to Secretary of State tabulations.

The only other Nevada county Clinton won was urban Washoe and that by only 2,500 votes out of more than 190,000 cast there. In other counties Trump won largely by margins exceeding 2-to-1 and in Lincoln County by 6-to-1.

Meanwhile, in the senatorial race to fill the vacancy being left by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s retirement, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto won statewide, but the only county she won was Clark. She won statewide by about 2 percentage points or 26,000 votes, but won by 80,000 votes in Clark. Republican Joe Heck, who gave up his Congressional District 3 seat to run for the Senate, won every other county, some by more than 4-to-1. Excluding Clark, Heck won the remainder of Nevada by more than 55,000 votes.

Nearly 4 percent of Nevadans chose “none of these candidates” in the Senate race.

In the 4th Congressional District — which includes part of northern Clark County, the southern part of Lyon County and all of White Pine, Nye, Mineral, Esmeralda, and Lincoln counties — Democrat Ruben Kihuen won districtwide by nearly 10,000 votes but won in Clark by about 24,000.

Incumbent Republican Cresent Hardy won every other county, all by about 2-to-1 or more.

After the dust settles, Nevada switches from having four out of its six Washington delegates being Republicans to four being Democrats.

Democrats won all save one of the Clark County state Senate seats up for grabs, giving the Democrats an 11-10 majority in Carson City, instead of the previous 11-10 GOP edge.

Republicans won every rural Assembly seat, while Democrats carried most races in Clark and Washoe, giving Democrats a 27-15 majority, instead of the previous Republican majority.

The gun grabbing Question 1 ballot initiative requiring background checks for almost every gun purchase or gift passed by 100,000 votes in Clark, but failed in every other county, often with 80 to 90 percent voting no.

Question 2, legalization of pot, passed only in Clark, Washoe, Nye and Story, but narrowly won statewide due to Clark’s numbers.

In 2014 Nevada experienced a red shift, when Republicans won all six statewide elective offices — governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer, controller, attorney general — as well as majorities in both houses of the Legislature.

The 2016 reversal of fortune was probably best explained by a little-circulated Associated Press story that appeared about a week before the election. It described how the Las Vegas Culinary union was busing thousands of casino housekeepers and staffers to early voting sites just off the Las Vegas Strip, “speaking in Spanish as they clutched pocket-sized brochures listing candidates endorsed by the powerful Culinary union.”

The union bused workers during their paid lunch break and handed them boxed lunches for the ride back to work.

The story went on to report that the union had registered 34,000 members to vote, had reassigned 150 members to full-time political work, planned to knock on 200,000 doors and place phone calls to co-workers.

There is talk in California since the election of Trump about secession from the Union. Anyone think Clark County should go with them?

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.

Reid uses the floor of the Senate to incite hate against Trump

Harry Reid took to the floor of the Senate Tuesday to lambaste the stupid people who elected Donald Trump president — via the Electoral College and not the popular vote as he accurately noted, though not much else he said was.

He then said the election of Trump has caused an outbreak of hate crimes, even though one of those turned out to be a hoax and another was committed by a couple of guys with long criminal records who said the other guy started it. Most of the rest were graffiti, waving of Confederate flags or disrespectful or hateful comments — upsetting perhaps, but hardly crimes.

Much of the rest of Reid’s comments were about people spontaneously expressing fears and anxiety about Trump. He called for Trump to heal the nation while he poured fuel on the fire.

Trump also criticized Republicans for blocking spending on infrastructure, even though Trump has repeatedly promised to spend money on infrastructure and even though past such spending has failed stimulate the economy.

Apparently every ugly comment can to lain on the head of Trump, but Reid has no responsibility for the rioters protesting Trump’s election.

He wants to hold Trump accountable but no Democrats. He says people are frightened because of Trump’s election. Who is fueling that fear?

Reid also accused one of Trump’s appointees of being a white nationalist, whatever that is.

Reid’s words were self-contradictory.

John Cornyn of Texas responded:

 

There is no excuse for some of the things Trump has said and there is ample reason to be leery of how he will behave as president, but Reid’s comments are counterproductive.

 

Editorial: Be cautious in approving another renewable energy project

Crescent Dunes thermal solar power plant in Nye County.

Crescent Dunes thermal solar power plant in Nye County.

Nevada continues to be ground zero for all manner of grand schemes to construct ever more grandiose renewable energy projects — egged on by Sen. Harry Reid and the global warming Chicken Littles in the Democratic Party, who are more than willing to spend other people’s money on grants, loan guarantees, tax breaks and give away federal public land to be paved over with solar panels, mirrors and windmills.

The latest announcement comes from SolarReserve, which says it plans to build the world’s largest solar thermal power generating facility — 1,500 to 2,000 megawatts of electricity —somewhere on public land in Nye County in the next few years.

The company has been operating the $1 billion, 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes solar thermal plant near Tonopah for about a year. Built with nearly three-quarters of its funding coming from a federal loan guarantee, Crescent Dunes generates power by using mirrors to concentrate sunlight on towers where salt is heated to a molten state. The molten salt then turns water into to steam to drive turbines.

But unlike the solar thermal plant in Ivanpah across the border in California that directly turns water to steam, the molten salt stays heated longer and allows the plant to operate even after sunset.

SolarReserve’s proposed $5 billion Sandstone facility would employ 100,000 mirrors and 10 towers, using the technology developed at Crescent Dunes. There is no indication yet how much federal backing would be needed, but the Crescent Dunes plant sells power to NV Energy at a wholesale rate of 13.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is two to four times the cost from a gas-fired plant, a cost passed on to consumers.

According to press accounts, the company estimates construction could create 3,000 jobs for seven years.

While we are reticent to back projects that require too many tax dollars to pencil out, far be it from us to turn Luddite and reject out of hand potential job-creating technology and innovation, but we do suggest that caution and a thorough analysis be used before plowing ahead with the SolarReserve proposal, which would require about 16,000 acres of public land, or about 10 times the footprint of Crescent Dunes.

Though Crescent Dunes claims its concentrated solar rays kill only 60 birds a year compared to 6,000 at Ivanpah, the environmental impact should be carefully weighed, because federal land bureaucrats are too often willing to slack off when it comes to approving renewable energy projects of which their bosses are so enamored.

Take for example the wind turbine project proposed for Searchlight in southern Clark County, which was recently in the news when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to set aside a federal judge’s decision to halt the project until a more accurate and thorough environmental analysis can be conducted.

The Bureau of Land Management had approved the construction of 87 400-foot-tall wind turbines by Apex Clean Energy, but the federal judge ruled the environmental analysis by the BLM and the Fish and Wildlife Service was inadequate because its data failed to accurately reflect the impact of the project on desert tortoises and bats, as well as golden and bald eagles. Existing wind turbines already kill more than 100,000 birds a year.

The BLM claimed there were only three golden eagle nests within 10 miles of the project, but the Nevada Division of Wildlife reported there were 28 nests.

The SolarReserve project should be honestly reviewed for its environmental impact, as well as its feasibility to provide an adequate return on the taxpayer investment in both money and land.

Simulation of what windmills might look like east of Searchlight and near Lake Mohave, home to bald and golden eagle.

Simulation of what windmills might look like east of Searchlight and near Lake Mohave, home to bald and golden eagle.

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.