News coverage of net neutrality changes reveal nuances in news neutrality

FCC Chair Ajit Pai (AP pix via NYT)

Words can convey considerable nuance, suggesting approval or disapproval without coming right out and saying so. Compare the news flashes this morning from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal about the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to vote next month to end net neutrality rules. There is a difference in tone and emphasis.

The third paragraph of The Times piece reads:

The clear winners from the move would be telecom giants like AT&T and Comcast that have lobbied for years against regulations of broadband and will now have more control over the online experiences of American consumers. The losers could be internet sites that will have to answer telecom firms to get their content in front of consumers. And consumers may see their bills increase for the best quality of internet service.

The second graph of The Journal article reads:

The changes are expected to be approved at a Federal Communications Commission meeting in mid-December. They would create a range of new opportunities for internet providers, enabling them to form alliances with media and other online firms to offer web services at higher speeds and quality. They also would help clear the way for creative pricing and bundling of services to attract more customers.

The Obama administration imposed the net neutrality rules in 2015. They prohibit internet service providers from charging more for faster connection speed. Sort of like prohibiting a trucking company from charging more for heavier shipments. (No neutrality here, of course.)

The Journal noted that critics argued the rules “stifled investment and innovation in the still-developing broadband industry. Providers also worried the rules could open the door to rate regulation and other new oversight.”

The Times did quote FCC Chairman as saying, “Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet. Instead, the F.C.C. would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.”

The next graph in The Times states:

The plan to repeal the 2015 net neutrality rules also reverses a hallmark decision by the agency to declare broadband as a service as essential as phones and electricity, a move that created the legal foundation for the net neutrality rules and underscored the importance of high-speed internet service to the nation.

Hallmark. Importance.

The Journal outlined the two sides of the argument:

Many conservatives view the FTC’s case-by-case regulatory approach as more appropriate for the internet economy, to encourage more innovation.

Progressives prefer the FCC’s rule-based approach for the online environment to prevent unfair and anticompetitive practices by internet providers from ever taking root.

The Journal also noted that on Monday the Trump Justice Department filed suit to block a proposed merger of AT&T with Time Warner on antitrust grounds, saying this suggested the administration’s   support for big telecommunications combinations has limits. The Times made no mention of this.

News neutrality is difficult to achieve, too.

 

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Tax reform bill lands shortly after the morning newspaper

This is one of the problems with running a daily newspaper in the Internet age. The Las Vegas paper — which hit the driveways this morning — has a story about what is expected to be in the Republican tax reform bill, but an hour or so later the actual tax bill has been released.

The New York Times is reporting that the much debated and maligned dropping of the income tax deduction for state and local income and sales taxes is still in the bill.

The state and local tax (SALT) deductions are patently unfair to states with lower tax rates.

Using 2010 statistical data from the IRS, you find Californians who filed for state and local income tax deductions claimed deductions of $10,700 per return. Nevadans who filed for the state and local sales tax deduction claimed only $1,430 per return.

Calculated on a per capita basis, Californians claimed $2,116 in federal income tax deductions, while Nevadans claimed only $166 per person for sales tax deductions.

The tax deduction for property taxes remains but is capped at $10,000. The bill also maintains mortgage interest deductions for existing mortgages, but caps the deduction for newly purchased homes to $500,000.

The bill also establishes three tax brackets — 12, 25 and 35 percent. “Single filers making up to $24,000 will pay no income tax; up to $90,000 will be in the 12 percent bracket, up to $260,000 in the 25 percent bracket and up to $1 million in the 35 percent bracket. Those making above $1 million will be in the 39.6 percent bracket, which is currently the top rate for millionaires,” the Times says.

The standard deduction for the 70 percent of Americans who do not itemize would increase from $6,350 for individuals to $12,000 and from $12,700 to $22,000 for married couples.

There will be no changes to 401(K) plan tax exemptions after all.

It also doubles the exemption for the estate tax and repeals it after six years.

Bloomberg is also reporting that the bill ends the $7,500 credit for purchasers of electric vehicles made by companies such as Tesla Motors, which got more than $1 billion in tax breaks from Nevada to build a battery plant in Sparks.

Now the fight begins. Nevada Democrats have largely opposed the tax reforms that would benefit most Nevada taxpayers and stimulate the economy.

 

Editorial: Tax reform that could benefit Nevadans slipping away

It looks like a tax reform proposal that could have resulted in lower income tax rates for Nevadans is swirling down the drain.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that congressional Republicans are considering jettisoning a part of President Trump’s proposal that would eliminate IRS deductions for state and local taxes. Dropping the deduction would generate $1.3 trillion in additional federal revenue, thus allowing lower rates for the 70 percent of Americans who do not itemize and take the standard deduction.

While Democrats insist tax reform should in no way benefit the wealthy, the retention of the state and local tax deduction does precisely that for the wealthy who live in Democrat-controlled high tax states, such as New York and California.

The Times conceded that Californians benefit more from the state and local tax deduction than taxpayers in any other state. In fact Californians managed to dodge $101 billion in taxes in 2014 — New York, New Jersey and Illinois were next on the list of top tax dodgers. Of the top 10 states for the deduction, Trump carried only three.

The New York Times also is reporting that some Republican spines are weakening, noting that elimination of the deduction has Republicans in high-tax states worried about backlash from voters whose tax bills might rise.

The newspaper said that Rep. Chris Collins, a New York Republican, said in an interview that party leaders had assured him “there’s not going to be full repeal” of the state and local tax deduction. The paper also quoted Gary Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, as saying the deduction was not a “red line.”

Using 2010 statistical data from the IRS, Californians who filed for state and local income tax deductions claimed deductions of $10,700 per return. Nevadans who filed for the state and local sales tax deduction claimed only $1,430 per return. Calculated on a per capita basis, Californians claimed $2,116 in federal income tax deductions, while Nevadans claimed only $166 per person for sales tax deductions.

Nevadans — along with residents of New Hampshire, Florida, Wyoming, Texas, South Dakota and Alaska — get to deduct about 1 percent or less of their adjusted gross income, while those who live in New York, Maryland, D.C. and California deduct more than 5 percent.

“Republicans have said the deduction largely affects the wealthy and is unfair to residents in lower-tax states,” the Los Angeles newspaper reported. “Eliminating the break would help simplify the tax code and make it more equitable, White House officials said.”

In 1985 Ronald Reagan argued for eliminating the state and local tax deduction. He said in a speech: “We’re reducing tax rates by simplifying the complex system of special provisions that favor some at the expense of others. Restoring confidence in our tax system means restoring and respecting the principle of fairness for all. This means curtailing some business deductions now being written off; it means ending several personal deductions, including the state and local tax deduction, which actually provides a special subsidy for high-income individuals, especially in a few high-tax states. Two-thirds of Americans don’t even itemize, so they receive no benefit from the state and local tax deduction. But they’re being forced to subsidize the high-tax policies of a handful of states. This is truly taxation without representation.”

Reagan failed, primarily because there were too many Republican lawmakers from New York and California, just as there are today. California has 14 Republicans in the House and New York has nine.

If Congress caves in to the few who want to keep their lucrative state and local tax deductions, it is unlikely the 70 percent of Americans who currently do not itemize can be afforded a doubling of the standard deduction as is currently being contemplated.

The tax code should be fair and equitable for all and not carve out breaks for some.

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.

Editorial: Trump tells it like it is at the U.N.

Trump at United Nations (AP pix)

The New York Times editorial called the speech bellicose and said it had a dark tone and focus. It compared the speech unfavorably to one by a more humble President Obama in 2009 when many of the same problems existed — without a hint of recognition that Obama had failed to resolve any of those problems.

The Los Angeles Times editorial said the message was undermined by bombast, boastfulness, illogic and was needlessly offensive. “It was a bizarrely bellicose message for an American president to send to an audience of world leaders,” the paper opined.

So President Trump’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly was obviously a rousing success.

“As president of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first,” Trump told the assembly, which, despite the negative reviews of the liberal press, reacted with applause.

Yes, he pulled no punches when he talked about the regimes in North Korean, Iran and Venezuela, and he did not let Russia and China escape criticism.

“We must protect our nations, their interests, and their futures,” Trump declared. “We must reject threats to sovereignty, from the Ukraine to the South China Sea. We must uphold respect for law, respect for borders, and respect for culture, and the peaceful engagement these allow. And just as the founders of this body intended, we must work together and confront together those who threaten us with chaos, turmoil, and terror.”

He pointed out that North Korea has shown contempt for other nations and its own people by starving, imprisoning, torturing and killing them.

“If this is not twisted enough, now North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of human life,” he said of the ruthless dictator he dubbed the “Rocket Man,” who is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime.

Trump called the Iranian nuclear deal brokered by Obama the worst, most one-sided deal ever entered into by the United States.

As for Venezuela, Trump singled out the root cause of its economic collapse under the dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro.

“The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented,” the president said to a round of applause, despite the fact the L.A. Times called this a gratuitous insult and a simplistic denunciation of socialism likely to offend many countries. “From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure. Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems.”

He also warned the U.N. members that the United States is fully aware that it bears a disproportionate burden, noting there are 193 countries in the U.N., but the U.S. pays 22 percent of the entire budget.

Trump concluded his tell-it-like-it-is speech with a stirring call to action, “So let this be our mission, and let this be our message to the world: We will fight together, sacrifice together, and stand together for peace, for freedom, for justice, for family, for humanity, and for the almighty God who made us all.”

The liberal media is going to criticize Trump no matter what he says, and he too often deserves criticism for popping off. Perhaps he should give more speeches like this one and send fewer Tweets.

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 throws stones at liberal East Coast media

The Las Vegas Vegas newspaper carried a front page story in its Sunday edition that criticized The New York Times and The Washington Post for largely ignoring the story of five Pakistani-born congressional informational technology employees suspected by Capitol Police of violating security policies.

“Unlike the Trump Russian scandal, however, The Washington Post and The New York Times have barely reported on the story, which has conservatives observing — with President Donald Trump’s Twitter account concurring — that the mainstream media have a double standard,” the story, which carries a slug calling it an analysis, reports.

 

Up until Sunday, the local paper had itself carried only two mentions in print of the main character in the story, Imran Awan. One was a Washington Post story about Trump’s twitter posts that mentioned a Trump tweet about Awan. Another was a brief that reported Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman, had finally fired Awan after his arrest at Dulles Airport as he was about to board a flight to Pakistan after wiring nearly $300,000 there. Some of that money was suspected of being the proceeds of bank fraud.

In the past month alone the paper appears to have carried a dozen accounts that contain the words Russia, Trump and collusion.

After reporting that the five suspects — four members of the same family and a friend of the family — had been paid $4 million over the past dozen years, “three times higher than the norm for a government contractor,” the analysis scolded:

“There is enough smoke to this story to merit intense news coverage. Yet, The Washington Post, the federal government’s hometown paper, had published only two stories on the Awan saga as of Tuesday, when the Post ran an explainer that looked at the story through two lenses — one conservative, one liberal.”

The analysis concludes with this observation: “It is impossible not to see a double standard. The Democrats’ IT guys enjoy the presumption of innocence. And that would be OK, if big beltway media showed the president the same courtesy.”

Those who live in glass houses …

Debbie Wassermann Schultz (AP pix via WSJ)

 

Newspaper fails to uncover name of ‘mystery’ gaming licensee

Sheldon Adelson, owner of casinos and newspaper. (Reuters pix via NY Times)

Often the most significant aspect of a news story is what it doesn’t report.

The morning newspaper today reports that Democratic Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton of Las Vegas is seeking to conduct a hearing on a surreptitious recording made by Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett of a conversation with Attorney General Adam Laxalt concerning “a certain licensee” — in other words, a casino owner.

Near the end, the news account informs readers that neither Carlton nor the AG’s office would name that “certain licensee.”

Now who on earth could that “certain licensee” be?

Back in February an online news operation called The Nevada Independent reported that Burnett had secretly recorded a meeting with Laxalt in which the AG asked that the gaming board file an affidavit in a civil lawsuit in Las Vegas demanding that certain records concerning the Las Vegas Sands be kept confidential. The Sands is owned by Sheldon Adelson, whose family owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Adelson is also a major contributor to Laxalt’s political campaigns.

The Nevada Independent is funded by contributions, a large portion of which come from Sands competitors, and is headed up by former Review-Journal, Las Vegas Sun and television commentator Jon Ralston.

Both the Independent and Battle Born Media newspaper sought a copy of the recording under the state public records law but were turned down. “Even if the requested material was a public record,” the gaming board custodian stated, “it is declared confidential and privileged by law and, therefore, exempt from disclosure.”

Laxalt issued a statement at the time in an attempt to explain his meeting with Burnett on behalf of Adleson, “The Attorney General’s Office was approached by the Sands Corporation asking us to file an amicus brief about NRS 463 — a statute that protects the confidentiality of documents submitted to the Gaming Control Board. I’ve made it a practice to personally advise and meet with my clients on a regular basis. As a Nevada statewide elected official, I also meet with constituents all the time on issues that are important to the State and our clients.”

In the story first filed online Tuesday evening, the morning paper quoted Carlton as saying in a statement, “Last week I issued a subpoena for information regarding actions Attorney General Laxalt took to interfere with the Gaming Control Board’s oversight of a certain licensee. … The information is unsettling and warrants a hearing. We will work with the Chairman of the Gaming Control Board to bring more light to this situation.”

At about 4 a.m. today The Nevada Independent, which bills itself in social media as @TheNVIndy, posted a lengthy story recapping its previous reporting on the topic and attaching a 14-page notarized affidavit filed by Burnett on April 27. Why he created the affidavit is unclear.

That affidavit explained for the first time why Burnett, who was appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, decided to record the conversation. “Further, because said licensee had in recent months been part of the purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and as previously noted, there were news articles implying that agents or employees of the newspaper had sent reporters around to monitor particular judges, including the judge presiding over the wrongful termination case, I was concerned reporters might be monitoring me, as well.”

Burnett also said, “I was shocked and in disbelief due to the nature of these unusual circumstances. I was also extremely worried about what the conversation might entail. Based on my knowledge of Nevada statutes, including past discussions with federal authorities, I determined it was in my best interest, and those of the state and the GCB, to record the upcoming oral conversation.”

Burnett reportedly turned over a copy of the recording to the FBI, which found no criminal behavior.

The Independent reported that Laxalt sent this statement to the news outlet: “Today’s news proves the point — Nevada democratic (sic) politicians will stop at nothing — including twisting and politicizing a routine action that previous attorneys general, including Catherine Cortez Masto, have taken. … We look forward to exposing this for what it is: a political attack designed to distract from the Democrats’ radical agenda that harms Nevada’s working families.”

Laxalt is said to be planning to run for governor. In March the Sun reported that Democrats filed public records request seeking copies of Laxalt’s official communications with Adelson and his representatives. The Sun story also mentioned the secretly recorded conversation that remains a mystery to the newspaper into which it is inserted.

The Sun reported, “Laxalt has faced criticism over an April 2016 meeting with Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett. Democrats have asked the FBI to release any audio recordings and documents related to the case and called for a state ethics investigation, saying Laxalt was attempting to push Burnett into supporting Adelson in a lawsuit.”

A year ago the Gaming Control Board fined the Sands $2 million for failing to maintain the reputation of the gaming industry. This was based on the company settling with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a $9 million civil penalty, which follow on a $47.4 million settlement with Treasury a couple of year earlier.

 

New York Times: Disputing now what it reported earlier

Today The New York Times has a story saying President Trump made a “widely disputed allegation”  that President Barack Obama ordered the wire tapping of his campaign.

It also reports that Obama and his former aides have called the accusation completely false.

“Mr. Trump’s demand for a congressional investigation appears to be based, at least in part, on unproved claims by Breitbart News and conservative talk radio hosts that secret warrants were issued authorizing the tapping of the phones of Mr. Trump and his aides at Trump Tower in New York,” the newspaper reports.

This same newspaper reported on Jan. 19, prior to Trump’s inauguration, that law enforcement and intelligence agencies were examining “intercepted communications” and financial transactions that were part of an investigation of contacts between Trump and his associates with Russian officials. The Trump associates included his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to Times sources.

“The F.B.I. is leading the investigations, aided by the National Security Agency, the C.I.A. and the Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit,” the paper reported. “The investigators have accelerated their efforts in recent weeks but have found no conclusive evidence of wrongdoing, the officials said. One official said intelligence reports based on some of the wiretapped communications had been provided to the White House.”

What could possibly have caused Trump to believe his campaign was being wire tapped?
The earlier Times account goes on to relate:

Representatives of the agencies involved declined to comment. Of the half-dozen current and former officials who confirmed the existence of the investigations, some said they were providing information because they feared the new administration would obstruct their efforts. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the cases.

Numerous news outlets, including The New York Times, have reported on the F.B.I. investigations into Mr. Trump’s advisers. BBC and then McClatchy revealed the existence of a multiagency working group to coordinate investigations across the government.

Paul Manafort at GOP convention (NY Times pix)

Paul Manafort at GOP convention (NY Times pix)