Did R-J pick a fine time to quit the AP?

Lloyd Bridges’ character in the comedy movie “Airplane” kept saying he picked a fine time to quit drinking, smoking, sniffing glue, etc.

Did the Las Vegas newspaper pick a fine time to dump The Associated Press and replace it with Reuters, Washington Post, CNN, Sports Xchange, etc., which have no presence in Nevada? Today the print version used a free-lance banner story by a former AP Nevada reporter on the amount of water the Tesla Motors battery plant in Storey County will require and two stories with bylines from the Reno newspaper. There appears to be a need for additional resources across the state.

But what makes this interesting is an AP blog posted recently in which the newspaper cooperative promises to reverse a trend and beef up statehouse coverage in 50 state capitals:

Brian Carovillano (AP Photo)

Building on The Associated Press’ unmatched presence in all 50 U.S. statehouses, we are adding to our competitive advantage by creating a team of state government specialists.

As announced today to the AP staff, the specialists will collaborate with statehouse reporters, as well as on their own projects and stories focused on government accountability and strong explanatory reporting. Their over-arching goal will be “to show how state government is impacting the lives of people across the country,” said Brian Carovillano, managing editor for U.S. news.

Specifically, the AP says it has hired 13 statehouse reporters in the past year and plans to add 40 or so contract reporters to cover legislative sessions in 2015 — over and above the current staffing level.

The cooperative promises additional reporters for beats such as such as politics, immigration, crime and education.

“Beyond that, we are really pushing our state bureaus to focus their time and effort on content that is exclusive to AP and that our members and subscribers can’t get anywhere else. That needs to be our guiding principle,” the blog says.

It goes on to say the AP will set up editing operations to handle “shared” news from the members of the cooperative. That apparently will not include the R-J.


Mere threat of listing sage grouse as threatened scares off economic development

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell came to Nevada earlier this month and told a meeting of Western governors in Las Vegas that her department’s goal is to find ways to protect the greater sage grouse without resorting to listing the bird under the Endangered Species Act.

“We want to create an environment where a listing is not warranted,” Jewell was quoted as saying by the Las Vegas newspaper. “So we’re all working with that common objective. … It truly is epic collaboration. It’s not just the sage grouse that’s at stake. It’s the Western way of life that’s at stake.”
Rep. Mark Amodei had already attached a rider to the congressional spending budget that prohibits for one year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a division of Interior, from listing the sage grouse, thus blocking a federal court decree that required the agency to make a determination by September 2015.

The people who count, the ones who invest their money in developing profitable uses on public and private land in Nevada, aren’t buying it.

Gunnison sage grouse (Denver Post file photo)

Days after Jewell’s speech, the Bureau of Land Management attempted to auction off 97 tracts of federal public land for oil and natural gas drilling leases. The agency received no bids on 96 tracts and only the minimum bid of $2 an acre on a single 473-acre tract in Nye County, according to an Associated Press account. That was before the price of oil tanked.

Patricia LaFramboise, chief of BLM’s minerals adjudication branch, told the AP the main reason oil and gas drillers are balking is concern over the likely listing of the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act.

“Sage grouse is a huge issue here. We’ve removed a lot of the parcels for sale until the Fish and Wildlife Service makes its decision,” LaFramboise said at the time. “The areas of interest have some serious environmental impacts.”

Instead of leasing 186,000 acres of federal public land from Austin to the Utah border and creating jobs and economic benefits in dozens of rural communities, the land will lie fallow.

It probably did not help that just a few weeks earlier the U.S. Geological Survey came out with a report recommending a buffer zone devoid of most human activity within 3.1 miles of any sage grouse lek, as nesting grounds are called, an area of 30 square miles. The distance was chosen because that is where most of the grouse are located, not because any human activity was proven harmful to the birds. That was presumed.

Neither did it help that in early November Fish and Wildlife listed the Gunnison sage grouse as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, stunning officials in Colorado and Utah who thought there “truly is epic collaboration” with federal officials to protect the bird and they were being successful.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper told the Denver Post the decision was discouraging and that it “complicates our good-faith efforts to work with local stakeholders on locally driven approaches.”

The mere threat of federal listing of greater sage grouse — which seems all the more likely with every action every day — is already stifling economic activity.

Amodei succinctly noted, “I am unaware of the fact-based foundation for Interior’s drawing lines on maps and focusing on human activity when in our part of the country the threats are wildland fire and invasive species. If it is really about the habitat, the preoccupation with 15 percent of the threat while ignoring the other 85 percent is yet another example of forwarding political agendas ahead of dealing with environmental facts and solving the resource problem.”

Congress should repeal the Endangered Species Act currently on the books and start all over with something more reasonable and based on scientific fact instead of speculation and supposition from so-called environmentalists with a herd of stampeding lawyers.

Newspaper column: Warm the heart, feed the brain with a gift of Nevada books

In case you are approaching wit’s end as Christmas Day looms around the bend, and you’ve still not come up with that unique gift for that unique Nevada friend or family member, may I be so bold as to suggest a gift that will give pleasure for years to come — a book about Nevada or by a Nevadan. The choices are as varied as the Nevada people and landscape.

A couple of books coincide with the state’s sesquicentennial.

Prolific Nevada chronicler Stanley Paher has penned his retrospect on the state’s first 150 years with “Nevadans: Spirit of the Silver State,” which takes the reader from the earliest explorers and emigrants through the mining and ranching eras to modern times.

In a similar vein, the hefty coffee table book “Nevada: 150 Years in the Silver State” weighs in with a wealth of information about Nevada locales written and photographed by dozens of well-known and highly skilled Nevadans.

Speaking of locales, UNLV history professor Eugene Moehring has recently published his “Reno, Las Vegas, and the Strip: A Tale of Three Cities,” which looks at the post-war development of Nevada’s largest metropolitan areas and their role reversal over the years.

Places are important but it is the people who made Nevada. Just out is a biography of one of the more colorful characters to call Nevada home after being run out of other places. “Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker” by Dallas Morning News writer Doug Swanson fills the bill, taking the reader from Benion’s humble beginnings in Pilot Grove, Texas, to dangerous Deep Ellum in Dallas, until he drifted and grifted — and reportedly killed — into downtown Las Vegas.

Of course, we must mention two new books by longtime Nevada columnist and author John L. Smith, whose Las Vegas Review-Journal columns for three decades have explored the characters who have created the modern Nevada. He is out with a new nonfiction collection of interviews with people whom he gives room to roam in their own voices, “Vegas Voices: Conversations with Great Las Vegas Characters” — gamblers, sheriffs, singers, dancers, members of the Black Book, musicians, cops, teachers and athletes. Some names you’ll recognize and others you’ll wish you did.

Then there is his collection of fictional short stories based on a rogues gallery of very real rogues whose names have been changed to protect the author. These “fictional” characters hang out in very real dives, bars and casinos in “Even a Street Dog.” I believe I’ve shared a drink with John in a few of those places.

The newest book is not about Nevada but is the latest fictional endeavor by longtime Nevada editorialist and columnist, Vin Suprynowicz, who spent two decades shaping the editorial pages of the Review-Journal. It is a mystery called “The Testament of James,” which may remind one of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.”

It opens with the manager of a rare book store in New England dead of mysterious circumstances and a rare book — the aforementioned “Testament of James,” the possibly real but possibly nonexistent gospel of Jesus’ younger brother — missing. It is chock full of tidbits, such as the fact Jesus was called the son of the father, which in Aramaic is “bar” for son of and “abbas” for father, thus Jesus Barabbas. So who was the crowd demanding be freed?

While the earlier books are largely available in bookstores and on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites, Vin’s book is available at AbeBooks.com, along with three other books he has penned. John Smith’s other books are also available online.

Also check out Range Magazine’s website for “Brushstrokes & Balladeers: Painters and poets of the American West,” a beautiful collection of 84 cowboy poems and 80 Western paintings from 29 artists. I leave mine lying about and read a couple of poems at random when the mood strikes.

Range also has “Go West: The Risk & The Reward,” which tells us that, though the earlier explorers called this a “country of starvation,” hardy people have been able to survivor and thrive. The gorgeous panoramic photographs alone make this book a valuable addition to your bookshelf.

Then, “The M Bar” is a collection of Old West tales from cowboy Harry Webb, as is “Call of the Cow Country,” both recounting true stories about cowboys, Indians and outlaws.

May you curl up with a good book and a good companion this Christmas.

This column appeared this week in The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News and the Elko Daily Free Press.

All I know is what I read in the newspaper, and that ain’t much

Bob Beers (R-J photo)

Talk about short shrift.

Earlier this week, John L. Smith devoted an entire column to the possibility Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers might push for a voter referendum in June should the majority of council members vote to provide public funding for a soccer stadium downtown.

Today the newspaper reports that the council did indeed vote for public funding.

The possibility of a referendum to overturn that vote was summed up in 13 words: “Beers opposed the deal and called for a public vote on the matter.”

They just had a “public vote.” If you had not read Smith’s column you’d have no idea what Beers was talking about.

All the news that fits.

If I didn’t know better, and I don’t, I’d suspect a fit of pique on the part of some “scooped” beat reporter and overworked editors not catching the glaring omission.


Is Nevada GOP snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?

mer·cu·ri·al mərˈkyo͝orēəl/ adjective 
(of a person) subject to sudden or unpredictable changes of mood or mind.
Republican Assembly Speaker-apparent-perhaps-maybe John Hambrick has changed his mind again. First, he ousted arch-conservative Michele Fiore as majority leader and chair of the Taxation Committee, after old allegations about liens placed on her companies by the IRS. Then, without explanation, he reinstated her. Now, after she has tried to explain her situation and say she has negotiated a deal with the IRS, he has ousted her again.
“I found that Michele’s explanations of her IRS issues were unacceptable,” Hambrick was quoted as saying by the Las Vegas newspaper. “They left unanswered questions, were full of deflections and slanderous allegations that have left our caucus further divided. At this time I feel it is best to (relieve) Assemblywoman Fiore of her leadership roles in the Assembly.”

Michele Fiore (R-J photo)

The current story online says Fiore was not available for comment.
 The story did not say who she slandered, but on Alan Stock’s KDWN radio program earlier this week she said she was being targeted by Monte Miller, a key GOP fundraiser, and two paid political consultants.
Doubtlessly this will fuel further talks of a nuclear option, in which RINO Republicans join with the 17-member Democratic minority in the Assembly to name someone other than Hambrick as speaker.
To flip a phrase from Will Rogers, I think these players can honestly all say they don’t belong to any organized political party, they are Republicans.

NV Energy proposes solar project that is laughably too similar to the one already rejected

Is this what passes for horse trading at the power company?

Just more than a month ago the Public Utilities Commission denied NV Energy’s proposal to build a 200-megawatt, $438 million photovoltaic solar power plant on the Moapa Indian reservation, saying the amount of power was nearly four times more than necessary and the cost more than five times higher than necessary.

The PUC said NV Energy did not need 200 megawatts, but only 54 megawatts to satisfy customer needs, and even that could be delayed a few years. Additionally, that 54 megawatts could be provided by spending $85 million on standard combustion turbine technology, not $438 million.

So, having seen the error of its ways, the company has come back to the PUC with a proposal to build 175 megawatts of solar power in the same location, a reduction of 12.5 percent, at a cost of merely $383.3 million, a reduction of 12.5 percent.

What a deal!

The Bureau of Consumer Protection immediately filed with the PUC recommending the modest changes being proposed also be denied. It points out that the original proposal included an economic benefit of $65 million, but this was “far outweighed by the negative impact of $223 million in incremental revenue requirement cost” — or nearly $3.50 in cost to every $1 of benefit.

“Further, the cost of such a plant would cost each residential ratepayer approximately $3.4(0) a month or $40 a year,” the bureau says. “The Moapa Solar plant as proposed would come at a very high price to the consumer in Nevada and be a drag on the economy for years in the future.”

The bureau noted the amended proposal probably would not show a vast improvement in cost versus benefits.

Maybe 12.5 percent less cost?

It is easy to understand the motive behind the power company’s horse trading. The PUC currently allows a return on equity of a little more than 10 percent, though the power company has asked for 15 percent for some recent project. The more equity, the more profits. Do the math: 10 percent of $383.3 million for a solar plant versus 10 percent of $85 million for standard combustion turbine technology. That’s not how NV Energy’s current owner Warren Buffett got to be a billionaire.

The PUC is expected to discuss the proposal on Wednesday.







FIRE shines a light on Nevada universities

FIRE report

Of course, both Nevada major universities are on the naughty list.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education studied the policies at at 333 four-year public colleges and universities and at 104 private institutions to find which have the greatest and least freedom of speech and awarded each a red, yellow or green light: “A red light institution is one that has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech …”

Both UNLV and UNR made the red light list. They are in good company, because 55 percent of the institutes of higher indoctrination earned the red light designation.

UNLV, if you recall, is the place that tried to foist on its students and faculty a 14-page speech code a couple of years ago.

It sought to punish bias:

‘Bias Incidents’ refers to verbal, written, or physical acts of intimidation, coercion, interference, frivolous claims, discrimination, and sexual or other harassment motivated, in whole or in part, by bias based on actual or perceived race, ethnicity, color, religion, creed, sex (including gender identity or expression, or a pregnancy related condition), sexual orientation, national origin, military status or military obligations, disability (including veterans with service-connected disabilities), age, marital status, physical appearance, political affiliation, or on the basis of exercise of rights secured by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Got that? A bias incident includes replying to an exercise of rights secured by the Constitution.


Fondly remembering the late, great Bill of Rights

On this day in 1791 the Bill of Rights was ratified by three-fourths of the states, adding 10 amendments to  the new Constitution.

It has been downhill and out the door ever since.

They might more properly be called a Bill of Prohibitions, since they are not so much a delineation of rights as a list of things the federal government may not take away from individuals and the states and local governments.

Perhaps they should now be called the Bill of Vague Suggestions.

The First Amendment has been trampled repeatedly over the years as newspaper editors were locked up by Abraham Lincoln for questioning the Civil War — freedom of the press — and dissenters to the War to End All Wars were jailed by Woodrow Wilson — freedom of speech.

Freedom of religion is hardly extant when devoutly religious people must provide contraceptives in violation of their conscience.

Right to redress of grievances? You’ll be ignored, like the citizens of Nevada who voted 18 years ago to take over federal public land.

Free to assemble? Not if you wish to pass the hat and fund a political campaign without listing your home address to your government overlords.

Some may celebrate the Second Amendment today, but others have circulated a petition to require background checks before obtaining a firearm.

We celebrate the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unlawful search and seizure, despite the Hiibel case in which Larry Hiibel was arrested for not giving his name to a Humboldt County deputy.

There’s the Fifth’s protection against taking of property except for public purposes? That was bounced by the Kelo decision that let government take property for private development.

As for the Sixth’s right to speedy and public trial? Forget it. No explanation needed.

The right to trial by jury according to the Seventh? Try that in traffic court, buddy.

No cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth’s prohibition. Lifetime sentences for possession of pot belie that one, as well as execution of American citizens by drones.

The Ninth’s and 10th’s guarantees that rights not delineated are prohibited to feds? Let’s see the states try to set the drinking age or voting age or speed limits.

There’s still the Third’s prohibition against housing troops in private homes.

Oops, that one went South when the Henderson cops commandeered two homes to use as staging posts during an hours-long standoff with a domestic violence suspect holed up in a nearby home.

The resulting lawsuit claims a “deprivation of rights, privileges, and immunities secured to Plaintiffs under the Third, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”

So far as I can find the case is either still pending or was quietly settled and ignored by the media.


‘Identity’ politics keeps raising its ugly head

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” — George Orwell

We just can’t seem to escape “identity” politics. It should be an oxymoron. Politics should be about ideas, not looking out for your kind, your group — whether gender, complexion of skin, social standing, youth, etc.

But no, it is the first rejoinder cast.

When the new Assembly Speaker-apparent John Hambrick summarily ousted Assemblywoman Michele Fiore and Assemblywoman Victoria Seaman from their posts as chair and vice chair of the Taxation Committee, respectively, the women promptly fired off a scathing email accusing Hambrick of engaging in a Republican war on women.

“It appears a few men in our party are not happy that we have Republican woman in key leadership roles in the legislature, and may look to Democrats for help in unraveling more leadership roles”, said Fiore.

“To replace the two women elected to the Taxation Committee with two men, sends a very dangerous message to Nevada women voters.  Women pay taxes too in Nevada,” Seaman added.

Hambrick — who gave no reason for the ouster — almost immediately reversed himself, again without explanation.

This broad brush (pun wasn’t intended but will stand, perhaps to my chagrin) painting of one group or other as victims is just as repugnant as showing favoritism. But we can’t seem to resist.

Who can forget Harry Reid’s exclamation:

“I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, OK. Do I need to say more?”

Blacks tend to vote Democratic, despite the fact minority economic well-being seems to suffer when the Democrat wins, even if that Democratic is half black.

We all are minorities of one. We are not lemmings. Are shouldn’t be.

Reason, logic and facts seem to go out the window when any demographic is singled out.

Apparently we can now add “identity” justice to “identity” politics.

Congressional staffers walked out onto the steps and raised their hands in that hands-up-don’t-shoot gesture, though a grand jury found that to be an utter fabrication.

Politics and justice should be based on facts and not us against them.

Ramirez cartoon

Speaking a couple of months ago at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual black tie dinner — which would exclude me right there — former President Bill Clinton said:

“I believe that in ways large and small, peaceful and sometimes violent, that the biggest threat to the future of our children and grandchildren is the poison of identity politics that preaches that our differences are far more important than our common humanity.”

He reminded in audience that “we’re 99 and a half percent the same.”

What is in our heads is far more important than the pigment of our skin or our biological plumbing.





There is plenty of money for Nevada lawmakers to spend and here are places to cut

You could hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth radiating out of Carson City all across the sagebrush-dotted terrain this past week when the Economic Forum forecast that the state would collect a paltry $6.33 billion in general fund revenues in the coming two years. State agencies had given the governor a list of expenditures they think they must have totaling $7.7 billion.

The governor immediately bemoaned the fact the state’s tax structure is inadequate to keep up with the demands of our changing economy and increasing population.

There were murmurs about the need for tax hikes from Democrats and tax reform from Republicans, both meaning more money taken from the citizens and given to the bureaucrats.

So, how bad is it? That $6.33 billion revenue forecast is up from the Economic Forum forecast of $5.8 billion in revenue two years ago. That is a 9 percent increase.

Nevada’s population grew by 2.5 percent from 2011 to 2013. Nationally, inflation has increased since 2012 by 3.4 percent. Social Security beneficiaries are getting only a 3.2 percent increase in monthly checks over this year and next. Thus, 9 percent is enough to cover both population growth and inflation.

It would also be helpful to note that the 2012 forecast was a bit of a lowball and the actual two-year revenue is closer to $6.27 billion. What’re the odds the same thing will happen with this forecast?

The Economic Forum was created by the Legislature in 1993 to keep the governor and lawmakers from making wildly optimistic revenue predictions and then having to scramble to amend for their excessive spending. These early December forecasts are used by the governor to prepare a budget — with or without tax hikes or extensions. On May 1 the Economic Forum will release its final official revenue estimate and that is what the Legislature must use to balance general fund revenues and expenditures for the next two years.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has already told the state agencies to pare back their budget requests.

Meanwhile, everyone is clamoring for more education funding because the state ranks 45th in the nation in K-12 spending.

Where can the state possibly find more money for education without raising taxes?

End the prevailing wage law that basically forces contractors on state and local government projects to pay what amounts to union scale. That’s $1 billion a year right there.

Stop the handouts by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to attract new companies that just compete with existing firms.

Be less generous with tax breaks. The state allowed $3.7 billion in tax breaks in the past biennium, and that was before the $1.3 billion in tax giveaways for a proposed Tesla Motors battery plant were doled out.

Cut back on Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare. End binding arbitration for public employee unions. Reform overly generous public employee pensions. Slow the growth in public employee salaries, which exceed the national average. Toughen welfare qualification requirements. Cut the number of state occupational license boards. Acquire federal land for state and private use. The Nevada Public Land Management Task Force estimated acquiring 4 million acres of federal land would add $114 million to state coffers, and adding 48 million acres would add $1.5 billion.

But above all, enact regulatory and tax policies that encourage private economic investment and job growth, which will increase wealth, which will increase tax revenues, just as it did back in the boom days before the recession.