Editorial: One person’s bias is another’s fact-based judgment

Walker Lake (BLM photo)

Walker Lake (BLM photo)

Fair treatment looks like bias to those who are accustomed to being shown obsequious deference.

Once again federal lawyers who have been handed a rejection of their legal arguments by a federal judge are claiming that their case was not weak but that the judge is biased.

After having their case summarily thrown out in the 92-year-old lawsuit, U.S. v. Walker River Irrigation District, federal lawyers are asking that the judge in the case be recused, alleging he is biased against the federal government, according to an account in the Mineral County Independent-News. (motion-to-recuse)

The case involves a question of which party has the rights to certain waters in the Walker River basin. U.S. District Judge Robert Jones sided with the irrigation district.

In January, federal lawyers managed to get the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to toss Judge Jones off the 25-year-old land and water rights case involving the Hage ranching family of Nevada by using a bias claim.

A longtime Nevada practitioner before the 9th Circuit said, “The Circuit’s action in Hage was highly unusual. The 9th Circuit often reverses district courts, and occasionally reassigns cases, but it is rare for them to make a finding of actual bias.”

Rare but perhaps not rare enough.

Apparently a judge’s hard-earned, keen-eyed experience constitutes bias to the appellate court. All Judge Jones did was accuse government officials of entering into “a literal, intentional conspiracy to deprive the Hages not only of their permits but also of their vested water rights. This behavior shocks the conscience …”

He ruled that the government had interfered in the case by urging others to apply for Hage’s grazing permits, by applying themselves for Hage’s water rights and by issuing trespass notices against witnesses soon after they had testified. All in a day’s work for a federal bureaucrat in the eyes of the appellate court?

In the Walker River case the feds found evidence of bias in the fact that Judge Jones had stated, “I believe in constitutional rights. I believe in protecting the rights of the Native Americans and in property rights that have been recognized over time, I believe in that and that’s my agenda.”

Then, according to federal lawyers, there is this damning comment from the judge, “[E]ven though the government in many cases didn’t have the right to insist upon a permit … nevertheless, the government in many cases has insisted upon it. … I don’t like and never have liked the BLM’s or Forest Service’s arrogant presumption that they could assess to people for … trespass, their own travel costs, office costs, sitting in their big chair already paid for by the American taxpayer.”

How dare he show prejudice against bureaucrats hell bent on running rough shod over the rights of the serfs! Who does he think he is, a federal judge?

The prosecutors also took issue with how the judge ruled against them, saying, “In ruling on the motions to dismiss, Judge Jones determined, sua sponte, that all of the water right claims of the United States were barred by res judicata or, in the alternative, laches. Yet, no motion to dismiss was based on either res judicata or laches and the United States never had the opportunity to substantively address the legal and factual merits of any such claims.”

Sua sponte is legalese for acting on his own accord, while res judicata means the matter has already been settled by the courts and laches means time has run out — after only 92 years?

In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has said that it is a “long-recognized inherent power of Federal District Courts, acting on their own initiative, to dismiss cases that have remained dormant because of the inaction or dilatoriness of the parties …”

Knowing the track record of the uber-liberal 9th Circuit, we suspect Judge Jones will get the boot again and this case will drag on for another century or so, but, if justice is ever to be served, things need to change.

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: Fight to replace Reid in Senate becoming a proxy war

Be careful with whom you pick a fight. They might fight back with some heavy artillery.

For years Harry Reid has been obsessively ranting and mewling about the wealthy Koch brothers, Charles and David, for deigning to spend their own money to express their free speech rights. He has pejoratively mentioned the brothers from the well of the Senate more than 130 times.

He even has a page on his official Senate website devoted to lambasting the brothers Koch. According to the 17 talking points on the page, the Kochs want to pollute the air, foul the water, dismantle Social Security, Medicare, ObamaCare, minimum wage laws and public education.

Though the Koch brothers this election season are largely staying out of presidential politics, they are pouring money into Nevada in an effort to help a Republican capture Reid’s Senate seat, now that he is retiring. They have already spent $6 million backing Republican Rep. Joe Heck and attacking former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, Reid’s hand-picked Democrat successor, according to ThinkProgess, a liberal website.

Heck and Cortez Masto (AP photo)

Heck and Cortez Masto (AP photo)

Freedom Partners Action Fund, a super PAC that is part of the Koch brothers’ network, currently is spending more than $600,000 on a television ad accusing Cortez Masto of outsourcing legal work to a D.C. law firm that later contributed to her election campaign, calling her a special interest politician.

According to the latest polls, Heck and Cortez Masto are tied, even though Democrats outnumber Republicans in Nevada by more than 70,000 registered voters.

A story in the Las Vegas newspaper recently reported that the Kochs’ Americans For Prosperity is working on a so-called ground game to challenge Reid’s vaunted army of union volunteers who bus casino workers to the polls with pre-selected sample ballots.

The Kochs are putting their money where their mouths are.

Reid seems to think that money alone will persuade people, but there also has to be believable content in the message. Reid has pounded the Kochs so often he sounds like a broken record. His criticism seems downright hypocritical when the Senate minority leader can call a press conference at the drop of a hat and get coverage from a vast majority of the broadcast and print media — without spending a dime.

It looks like a proxy war is now breaking out, with the Koch brothers’ independent support of Heck’s senatorial campaign becoming the target of a nearly million-dollar television ad campaign by a group called the League of Conservation Voters.

The ad makes a non sequitur attempt to somehow link the fact the Koch brothers’ got filthy rich in the oil business — while most of us just got filthy in the grease orchard, but that’s a story for another day — to an alleged antipathy on Heck’s part for renewable energy.

The ad claims Heck’s alleged favoritism toward oil risks Nevada wind and solar energy jobs, even though less than 1 percent of electricity in this country is produced with oil.

As for jobs, it is the League of Conservation Voters that is attacking jobs. According to its own website, it pushes for a tougher Endangered Species Act, which kills jobs, opposes drilling anywhere, which kills jobs, and wants to shut down any activity that contributes to carbon production, which kills jobs.

Heck sent out a press release countering the claims in the ad.

“While Dr. Heck has been a strong supporter of solar jobs in Nevada, including legislation to streamline renewable energy development across the state, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) is a DC-based partisan special interest that wants to put Nevadans out of work by stopping responsible mining, ranching, agriculture and recreation,” Heck spokesperson Brian Baluta said. “And, as Attorney General, Catherine Cortez Masto showed herself to be no friend of solar when she introduced a bill to exempt the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) from the open meeting law, allowing the PUC to raise rates behind closed doors. This bogus attack has nothing to do with clean energy and everything to do with installing Chuck Schumer as the next Senate Majority Leader.”

In fact, Heck has backed tax credits for wind and solar, which, frankly, drive up the cost of power and kills jobs. So, he’s no purist.

On the League’s scorecard Heck’s voting record agreed with its stances only 8 percent of the time, compared to Reid’s 81 percent. There’s a contrast Heck should be proud of.

It’s going to get ugly, folks.

Americans for Prosperity ad:

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.


Nevada congressman seeks memorial for helicopter crewmen killed during Vietnam era

The Vietnam War was ended before Congressman Mark Amodei reached draft-eligible age, but nonetheless he is pressing for recognition for one special group from that conflict.

He testified before the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee recently in support of H.R. 4298, the Vietnam Helicopter Crew Memorial Act. He said he introduced the bill to honor the nearly 5,000 helicopter crew members who died while serving in Southeast Asia by placing a memorial in Arlington National Cemetery.

Jolly Green helicopters at Nakorn Phanom

Jolly Green helicopters at Nakorn Phanom

“I’m working a deal where the folks at Arlington National Cemetery told the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association — about 10 percent of the casualties in Vietnam were helicopter pilots, crew members, medics, other folks — told them, you can’t have five square feet for a memorial for those folks who died in the helicopter war,” Amodei said in a recent interview.

The Secretary of the Army declined the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association’s proposal for a memorial and instead granted the VHPA a tree marker, which Amodei said has never been used to honor a common sacrifice of this magnitude.

In the past 25 years there have been four memorials erected at Arlington, the congressman said, adding that he understands not everyone can have a memorial erected, but in Vietnam the helicopter was the iconic technology of the time and the crews of those helicopters suffered a disproportionate share of the deaths.

The memorial would be for all branches of the military because all employed helicopters for various purposes, from close air support to deployment to rescue. He said the association is only asking for a square foot for every 1,000 people they lost.

“Can you imagine how many names aren’t on the wall because of the work these guys did?” Amodei asked. “Not just rescue, not just medevac, but close air support, resupply … they affected all aspects of combat operations.”

During my year in Thailand working on McNamara’s Wall inside an air conditioned building on a computer the size of my house, the most danger I was ever in was the potential to fall in the Mekong after drinking too many Singha’s at Johnny’s Ice Cream Parlor in downtown Nakorn Phanom. (“Johnny” kept the beer in the ice cream freezer.)

But a couple of hooches over were the Jolly Greens — the bravest, craziest and hard drinkingest SOBs in the Air Force. Their job was to fly helicopters into Laos and beyond to rescue downed airmen from the three-tiered jungle by parajumping down a cable suspended from their hovering helicopter, often while under fire.

The Jolly Greens had several beer-filled refrigerators outside their hooch. It was the cheapest beer on base. They reportedly dipped the feet of short-timers in green paint to leave footprints on the ceiling of the officers’ club. Not being an officer I could not attest to this. Those whose time was coming to an end would boast of being short-timers: “I’m so short I can’t see over the top of my boots.”

I think they deserve a bit of recognition.

Amodei’s remarks to the House Armed Services Committee starts at about 6:00 and lasts about five minutes:

The following video was posted by a Jolly Green who was at Nakorn Phanom about the same time I was:

This video has footage of an actual rescue:

Newspaper brings readers coals from Newcastle

Today's front page story about hotel-casino opening in Macau.

Today’s front page story about hotel-casino opening in Macau.

Let’s recap.

On Sunday the Las Vegas newspaper had a story and photo covering three-quarters of the Business section cover advancing the Tuesday opening of a 3,000-room hotel-casino called Parisian in Macau, 7,300 miles from the hotel-casinos in Las Vegas.

On Tuesday the paper had a front page story and photo about the opening of the Parisian that day, talking about the marketing for the $2.7 billion property.

Today, the paper has a front page story and photo about the opening, gushing:

The resort is Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson’s fifth property in Macau, and it completes his vision of bringing a piece of Las Vegas to China’s lone legal gambling destination, where a growing market of middle-class tourists are expected to travel in the years ahead.

Hailed by colleagues Tuesday as the inventor of the integrated resort, Adelson for 45 minutes took translated questions from reporters speaking four languages before enjoying the high-octane opening ceremony and a VIP dinner to celebrate the newest addition to China’s version of the Strip.

Adelson, accompanied by his wife, Miriam, walked onstage with Rob Goldstein, president and chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sands, and Wilfred Wong, president of Sands China Ltd., the company that operates the company’s Macau holdings. The three executives took questions from the nearly 800 reporters who traveled to Macau for the opening.

There was a sidebar on the front page about the nearby $4.2 billion Wynn Palace.

I can’t wait for the front page story Thursday detailing all the restaurants and their exquisite cuisine.

You’d think the owner of the Parisian had an inside track to the management at the newspaper for it to send a reporter and photographer all that way for a ceremonial opening.

Tuesday's front page story.

Tuesday’s front page story.

Sunday Business section cover.

Sunday Business section cover.

Apparently no one handling the newspaper’s website got the memo. There is no mention of the Parisian on the online cover page. You have to go the “Today’s Headlines” link to find the stories.

(Headline hint for the aphorism deprived: Newcastle Upon Tyne in England was the nation’s first coal exporting port and was well-known as a coal mining center since the Middle Ages. “Carrying coals to Newcastle” was deemed a pointless activity, since there already was plenty of coal there.)

Some people want to love feral horses to death

This wild mare and foal were among a group of mustangs removed from a range in Nevada last year because they were starving. (BLM photo)

This wild mare and foal were among a group of mustangs removed from a range in Nevada last year because they were starving. (BLM photo)

This is driving the horse huggers bat guano crazy.

This past Friday at a meeting in Elko the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board voted to recommend to Bureau of Land Management that it actually follow the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 “by offering all suitable animals in long and short term holding deemed unadoptable for sale without limitation or humane euthanasia. Those animals deemed unsuitable for sale should then be destroyed in the most humane manner possible,” according to the Elko Daily Free Press account.

The recommendation was approved by all the board members except one after the board toured the range land in the area and saw first hand the degradation of the land caused by an overpopulation of feral horses.

The newspaper quoted board member Dr. Robert Cope as saying that after the field trip “it became so obvious there’s an incredible crisis situation out there affecting the resource” and “something has got to be done.”

The current problem is that Congress has for years prohibited using federal funds to follow the law and euthanize unadoptable wild horses and burros or even allowing them to be sold for processing into commercial products.

The Humane Society put out a press release saying: “The decision of the BLM advisory board to recommend the destruction of the 45,000 wild horses currently in holding facilities is a complete abdication of responsibility for their care. The agency would not be in this situation but for their long-term mis-management. Alternatives to this proposal have been ignored for over 20 years. The HSUS stands ready to implement these alternatives at any time.”
There are an estimated 70,000 wild horses and burros on the open range, 40,000 more than the range can handle, and that number can grow by 9,000 a year without intervention.
Coincidentally, on the same day the advisory board recommended euthanizing excess horses, the BLM canceled an experimental program to test sterilization techniques, because it was being sued by some self-styled animal rights groups.
The Congressional Western Caucus responded with a press release saying, “Responsible sterilization could help stem the exploding wild horse populations on federal lands in the West. Yet the BLM dropped the project under the threat of litigation by a special interest group. BLM Director Neil Kornze has said his agency is ‘overwhelmed’ by the growing herds, and described the situation as dire. The wild horse and burro population is nearly triple what the rangelands can support. As a result, the lands are being obliterated and the horses are dying of thirst and starvation.”
That’s what the advisory board found. The Elko paper reports today that the BLM is having to haul water to horses in the Ely district.
But some people want to love the horses to death.

Clinton failed to reveal pneumonia diagnosis on Friday until stumbling Sunday

“It is almost always the cover-up rather than the event that causes trouble.” — Howard Baker, the ranking Republican on the special Senate committee convened to investigate the 1972 break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office building.

That quote came to mind upon reading this sentence in a Washington Post of Hillary Clinton’s fainting spell at the 9/11 memorial in New York Sunday: “An initial campaign statement about Sunday’s illness did not mention the pneumonia diagnosis from two days prior, adding to public speculation that the campaign was hiding something.”

Donald Trump has questioned Clinton’s stamina and ability to handle the rigors of the presidency, saying she often appear to be exhausted and sleeps too much.

“A coughing episode on Labor Day had prompted a fresh round of questions about Clinton’s health,” WaPo reported. “During a speech at a festival in Cleveland, Clinton started coughing repeatedly at the outset of her remarks, took several sips of water and a lozenge and continued to sound hoarse as she spoke. Later that day, Clinton told reporters her condition was caused by ‘seasonal allergies.’”

The newspaper noted that John McCain in 2008 at the age of 71 released 1,000 pages of detailed medical records and addressed his battle with cancer. Neither Trump not Clinton has done as much.

The most Clinton has done is in July 2015 she issued a two-page letter from her doctor that mentioned her concussion in 2012 and blood clot in her head that caused double vision. The doctor said those symptoms had been resolved within two months.

Trump has provided only a brief statement from his personal physician in December. Nor has he released his IRS records.

Clinton stumples

Clinton stumbles

Our day that will live in infamy

R-J editorial page from Sept. 16, 2001

R-J editorial page from Sept. 16, 2001

Where were you on September 11, 2001?

I wrote on the Sunday following that day of infamy:

“I sat down at my computer at about 6 a.m., unfolded the newspaper and switched on the television. There was smoke pouring from the top of one of the unmistakable landmarks of New York City, the World Trade Center. Well, I thought, there’s a story and photo for tomorrow’s front page, and started into the morning’s routine.

“Minutes later a fireball blossomed from the other tower, and it began to dawn on the commentators and me that this was no ordinary accident and Sept. 11 would be no ordinary day.”

I started making phone calls. Reporters and photographers were dispatched to Hoover Dam, McCarran International, City Hall, Nellis Air Force Base, the Strip and elsewhere. Editors huddled. The publisher called in and said we should add 24 pages to the Wednesday newspaper. All plans were scrapped and we started from scratch, hoping to help our readers make sense of a senseless act.

Every section of the paper kicked in its resources.

The press crew rolled the presses early and cranked out thousands of extra copies.

Then I wrote that Sunday:

“I was proud of what we all had accomplished, of the concerted effort and professionalism, as I drove home at 1 a.m. … until I heard the callers on the radio. People were saying they would gladly give up some freedoms for the sake of safety.”

I wanted to reach into the radio and slap some sense into the callers.

The column proceeded to tick off some of the rights spelled out in the Bill of Rights and I wondered aloud which people would willingly sacrifice. The First’s right of assembly, lest there be a bomb, and no freedom of speech and religion, especially that one? The Second’s right to bear arms? The Fourth’s prohibition against warrantless search and seizure? The Fifth’s right to due process? The Sixth’s right to a public trial?

I concluded:

“If this is the consensus of the nation, the bastards have already won, destroying our will and our principles as well as planes, buildings and lives.

“We will have surrendered without firing a shot in the first war of the 21st century.”

The column appeared sandwiched between a Jim Day cartoon and a Vin Suprynowicz column with the headline: “The passengers were all disarmed.”

In a comment to a local magazine on an anniversary of 9/11 I called it “our Pearl Harbor.”


R-J front page from Newseum poster.

R-J front page from Newseum poster.