Adelson involvement in issue not worthy of mention in his newspaper

The Wall Street Journal had a front page story recently about how the Justice Department has reversed course on its 2011 opinion that the 1960s Wire Act prohibited only online sports betting and not other forms of online gambling. The paper said the change “hewed closely to arguments made by lobbyists for casino magnate and top Republican donor Sheldon Adelson.”

WSJ reporters compared a memo sent to Justice by Adelson lawyers in April 2017 to the new opinion handed down in November and found the new opinion arguments similar to those in the memo. “Both writings pointed to some of the same case law examples,” the report said.

Adelson has spent millions of dollars campaigning to change the government’s interpretation of the law and spent tens of millions supporting Donald Trump’s presidential election bid. Adelson’s company has long argued that online gambling would hurt revenue at established casinos.

Today the Las Vegas newspaper also has a story on this topic.

“Now that Nevada has a law allowing interstate online poker, regulators will have to re-examine what that means under the new interpretation,” the story says. “Is it illegal and thus banned? Will Nevada’s laws be grandfathered in?”

But nowhere does it mention Adelson’s well known campaign against online betting, nor is there an italicized disclaimer at the end noting the Adelson family owns the paper.

Sheldon Adelson (John Locher AP pix via WSJ)

 

Newspaper column: States should not be granted absolute immunity

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case this past week that could alter the ability of a private citizen to seek justice in his state’s courts when public employees from another state abuse their powers and step over the line of common decency. The case is titled Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt.

It all started in 1993 when a tax auditor for the Franchise Tax Board of California read a newspaper article about how wealthy California computer chip inventor, Gilbert Hyatt, had recently moved to Nevada, which, unlike California, has no income tax. The auditor investigated and concluded Hyatt had not moved to Nevada as early as he claimed. The tax board said Hyatt owed California nearly $15 million in taxes and penalties.

Hyatt eventually sued the tax board in Nevada courts for invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, abuse of process and breach of confidential relationship. According to The Wall Street Journal, California’s lead auditor became obsessed with Hyatt and vowed to “get that Jew bastard.” The auditor reportedly traveled to his Nevada home and “peered through his windows and examined his mail and trash,” as well as pressed estranged family members to testify against him.

A Nevada jury found for Hyatt and awarded him $85 million for emotional distress, $52 million for invasion of privacy, $1 million for special damages for fraud and $250 million in punitive damages. Because Nevada has a law limiting the liability of its own state agencies the award was later reduced to $50,000.

In a strange case of role reversal, the argument now before the U.S. Supreme Court being pressed by California is that one of its earlier opinions should be overturned. That case is known as Nevada v. Hall. California residents brought suit in a California court for damages when a state of Nevada-owned vehicle on official business collided with the Californians on a California highway. The California courts assessed damages of more than $1 million against Nevada.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1979 ruled that while states have sovereign immunity from being sued in their own courts, a state is not constitutionally immune from suit in the courts of another state.

In yet another twist, the attorneys general of 45 states, including Nevada’s then-Attorney General Adam Laxalt, have filed amicus briefs asking that Nevada v. Hall be overturned.

“The time has come for this Court to overrule its decision in Nevada v. Hall … an outlier among this Court’s consistent protection of the States’ sovereign immunity,” the brief argues. “Although this Court has held that States are immune in their own courts, in federal courts, and in federal administrative agencies, Hall allows a State to be haled before the courts of any other State and be forced to pay money judgments issued by those courts. This affront to the States’ sovereign dignity and financial resources is contrary to the Constitution’s structure and history and should be definitively rejected. For this reason, a total of forty-five States have joined briefs arguing that Hall should be overruled.”

During oral arguments this past week, California’s attorney argued that the “writings and speeches given by Hamilton, Marshall, and Madison” supported his view that states should be immune from legal action in the courts of other states.

Again according to the Journal, liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor responded, “It’s nice that they felt that way, but what we know is they didn’t put it in the Constitution. And so we talk a lot now about not relying on legislative history, but relying on the plain text.”

Conservative Justice Samuel Alito added that “we are all always very vigilant not to read things into the Constitution that can’t be found in the text.” Justice Brett Kavanaugh asked why something the states supposedly regarded as so important would not have been addressed in the constitutional text.

Where is a citizen to turn when public officials flout the law and run amok? Does not state sovereignty include the right and power to protect its own citizens from agencies in other states when they are extorted and defrauded? You know what they say about absolute power.

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: Keeping taxes low will keep Nevada prosperous

Welcome to Nevada

It is called voting with your feet.

From July 1, 2017, to July 1, 2018, Nevada’s population grew by 62,000 people to more than 3 million — a growth rate of 2.09 percent, the fastest in the nation. This included a net migration of 48,000 people 

Many of them came from neighboring California, with its high taxes, high housing costs and burdensome regulations.

So, let that be a lessen to our newly elected Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak and the Democratic majorities in the state Senate and Assembly, which will be in session in a matter of weeks. 

According to The Wall Street Journal, the eight fastest-growing states by population last year were Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Florida, Washington, Colorado and Texas. What do these states have in common? Relatively low taxes and business friendly government policies, a Journal editorial noted. Nevada, Texas, Washington and Florida have no income tax, for example. 

Then there is California. Since 2010, a net 710,000 people have left California for other states.

High-tax states Illinois and Connecticut have actually lost population as people flee.

According to the Tax Foundation’s latest figures, California has the 10th highest state and local tax burden in the nation at $5,842 per capita. This compares to Nevada’s rank of 29nd at $4,099 per capita. It should be noted that three years earlier, prior to some recent Republican-backed tax hikes, Nevada ranked 43rd lowest. 

In an article in The Wall Street Journal in 2009 under the headline, “Soak the Rich, Lose the Rich,” economist Arthur Laffer and WSJ economics writer Stephen Moore updated previous studies and found that from 1998 to 2007, more than 1,100 people every day of the year relocated from the nine highest income-tax states — such as California, New Jersey, New York and Ohio — mostly to the nine tax-haven states with no income tax — including Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire and Texas.

Laffer and Moore determined that over that period of time the no-income tax states created 89 percent more jobs and had 32 percent faster personal income growth than the high-tax states.

“Dozens of academic studies — old and new — have found clear and irrefutable statistical evidence that high state and local taxes repel jobs and businesses,” Laffer and Moore concluded.

Federalism allows the states to compete for prosperity. Let’s hope our lawmakers take heed and act accordingly.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Newspaper column: Ending net neutrality speeded up Internet

It has been a year since the Federal Communication Commission repealed net neutrality rules created by Obama’s FCC in 2015. Yet, the Internet miraculously survives. In fact, it is running 36 percent faster now that the meddlesome feds have been removed from the equation and the free market has been allowed to compete and innovate.

Net neutrality resurrected 1930s-style Ma Bell regulations to prohibit Internet service providers from charging anyone different rates, even the bandwidth gluttons such as Netflix and Google.

Back in May the Senate even passed a resolution seeking to bring back net neutrality. Though the effort fortunately stalled, Nevada’s Democratic delegation to D.C. was all for putting the Internet under the heavy hand of the central planners.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto took to the Senate floor in support of the resolution, saying, “Net neutrality has leveled the playing field for every American consumer, allowing everyone to access and enjoy an open Internet. … We can’t afford to repeal net neutrality. (FCC) Chairman (Ajit) Pai’s misguided decision to repeal net neutrality protections threatens to change the Internet as we know it. It threatens our small businesses, access to online education, job growth and innovation by giving those who can afford to pay more the ability to set their own rules.”

Rep. Dina Titus declared, “I agree with the vast majority of Americans who want the internet to promote innovation, access to information, and a competitive economy. All of that is at risk without strong net neutrality protections.”

Getty Image via WSJ

Then-Rep., now-Sen. Jacky Rosen stated, “This administration’s reckless decision to repeal net neutrality gives internet service providers the ability to stack the deck against Nevada’s hardworking families and small businesses who could be forced to pay more to connect to an internet with slower speeds. This resolution would reverse the FCC’s misguided ruling, which places large corporate profits ahead of people, and restore access to a free and open internet for Nevadans.”

Sen. Dean Heller at the time reasonably argued for the free market approach. “I do not want the federal government to determine content. …” Heller said. “I also don’t want the federal government to tax the Internet. I believe the Internet is the last bastion of freedom in America, frankly both good and bad, but it’s freedom. … Access to free and open internet service providers is especially important for Nevadans living in rural communities.”

Heller was right. Rosen was wrong.

According to Speedtest, fixed broadband speeds in the United States are rapidly increasing. Data for 2018 revealed a 36 percent increase in mean download speed and a 22 percent increase in upload speed. This meant the U.S. ranked seventh in the world for download speed and Nevada ranked seventh in the nation.

Back when the net neutrality rules were jettisoned many in the news media predicted doom and gloom. CNN declared it was “the end of the internet as we know it.”

But The Wall Street Journal correctly stated at the time that net neutrality created uncertainty about what the FCC would allow and thus throttled investment in new technology, because it prohibited paid prioritization — under which bandwidth hogs, such as video streaming companies, could have opted out of heavy traffic and switched to a toll road — which could increase profits to pay for innovation and greater speed.

The newspaper predicted both content providers and consumers would benefit from increased investment in faster wireless and fiber technology in the free market.

The invisible hand of the free market has again proven itself superior to the heavy hand of the central planners.

As economist Milton Friedman once said: “When government — in pursuit of good intentions tries to rearrange the economy, legislate morality, or help special interests, the cost come in inefficiency, lack of motivation, and loss of freedom. Government should be a referee, not an active player.”

Be forewarned, when Democrats take control of the House, expect another ill-advised attempt to resurrect net neutrality, despite empirical evidence to the contrary.

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: Supreme Court should limit civil asset forfeitures 

The U.S. Supreme Court finally has taken up a case that could result in the reining in of the larcenous practice by local and federal law enforcement agencies of seizing private property to pad their budgets.

This past week the court heard arguments in the case of Timbs v. Indiana. Tyson Timbs was caught in a police sting selling heroin, and during one of his transactions he was driving a $42,000 Land Rover, which the police seized.

Timbs’ attorney argued the seizure of the expensive vehicle was a violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition against excessive fines and punishment. 

The Indiana Supreme Court held that the excessive-fines clause doesn’t apply to states, according to a Wall Street Journal account, which is dubious since the 14th Amendment declared, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States …” which are spelled out in the Bill of Rights. 

The attorney for Indiana also argued that the seizure was an “in rem” asset forfeiture, meaning the property was guilty of a crime and therefore its value was not subject to the proportionality of any fine.

This caused Justice Stephen Breyer to speculate, “So what is to happen

if a state needing revenue says anyone who speeds has to forfeit the Bugatti, Mercedes, or a special Ferrari or even jalopy? (Laughter.)” — even if the speed limit were exceeded by only five miles an hour.

The state attorney’s quick reply was, “Yes, it’s forfeitable.”

Chief Justice John Roberts seemed to concede that there is difference between a fine and the seizing of guilty property, saying, “And I certainly understand the argument that the disproportion and excessiveness arguments would be quite different with respect to forfeiting the instrumentalities of the crime.  I mean, an argument could be made, well, that’s always proportionate since it’s the way the crime is accomplished.”

But Timbs’ attorney argued the seizure still constitutes a fine.

Yes, it is a distinction without any practicable difference. The person is still deprived of valuable property, which arguably is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.

This case is not academic for Nevada. There have been a number of asset forfeitures that appeared to exceed the excessive-fine clause prohibition. Over a two-year period Humboldt County deputies alone seized $180,000 in cash from motorists, though some were never convicted of a crime.

Police in Elko County confiscated $167,000 in cash from a man driving a motor home after a drug dog “alerted,” though no drugs were found and no charges were ever filed.

Let’s pray the U.S. Supreme Court sees fit to require law enforcement to abide by the Bill of Rights from now on.

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.

Tyson Timbs (AP pix via WSJ)

Whistling in the wind, er, atmosphere

The Fourth National Climate Assessment warns that if greenhouse gas emissions are not slashed there will be several degrees of global warming and major damage to the U.S. gross domestic product.

The report warns:

In the absence of significant global mitigation action and regional adaptation efforts, rising temperatures, sea level rise, and changes in extreme events are expected to increasingly disrupt and damage critical infrastructure and property, labor productivity, and the vitality of our communities. Regional economies and industries that depend on natural resources and favorable climate conditions, such as agriculture, tourism, and fisheries, are vulnerable to the growing impacts of climate change. Rising temperatures are projected to reduce the efficiency of power generation while increasing energy demands, resulting in higher electricity costs. … With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century—more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states.

Meanwhile back in reality, The Wall Street Journal reports that global emissions continue to rise, though North America’s share of global carbon emissions have dropped from 24 percent in 2004 to about 17 percent in 2013.

Instead of killing our current economy and our GDP now with emissions taxes and other futile attempts at eliminating fossil fuel emissions in the U.S., while the rest of the world carries on cavalierly, perhaps the U.S. should invest in research on adaptive strategies.

The report comes while the East Coast is experiencing record low temperatures. High temps are a sign of global warming, while low temps are just weather.

President Trump, a noted skeptic of global warming alarmism, tweeted on Wednesday, “Whatever happened to Global Warming?”

The report says that without mitigation temperatures will rise 9 degrees F by the end of the century.

It says Midwest crop yields will decline, but what about crop yields farther north?

 

 

 

 

 

Saudi Arabia may not deserve ‘steadfast partner’ status

President Trump has pledged to remain a “steadfast partner” with Saudi Arabia, according to The Wall Street Journal, despite the fact U.S. intelligence has opined that such things as the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi would not likely have happened without the knowledge and consent of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. That’s just how things work there, they say.

That’s not evidence or proof. It is, shall we say, circumstantial.

But at some point that and other reports out of Saudi Arabia should call for a downgrading of the status from steadfast to something less.

Take for instance another report from WSJ today that alleges least at eight of the 18 women’s-rights activists jailed by the Saudis have been tortured, some subjected to electric shocks and lashings.

Don’t forget what’s happening in Yemen’s civil war and the role of Saudis there.

Trump’s statement said intelligence agencies “continue to assess all information,” but said: “It could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”

That is hardly grounds for steadfast.

The U.S. does need to maintain strong defense and economic partners in that turbulent part of the world, but at what cost to our standing as a principled defender of human rights and civil and moral behavior?

The circumstantial evidence is mounting that the de facto Saudi leader is not to be trusted nor embraced.

Trump and Saudi prince. (Getty Images via WSJ)