Reid attacks the NRA, which used to endorse him

Harry Reid unleashed a withering attack on the National Rifle Association on the floor of the Senate Monday, accusing the organization of blocking tougher background checks before the purchase of a gun.

“Let’s not mince words about who would stop us from passing background checks,” Reid’s prepared remarked read. “Republicans that wage a right-wing ideological crusade fashioned by the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America.”

Harry Reid with his brother’s .22

He said the NRA once called mandatory background checks “reasonable” but now fights sensible reforms.

“Now, the NRA and its leadership are committed to a radical agenda that allows criminals and mentally ill Americans to access guns to commit these terrible acts,” Reid said.

Actually, in August Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn offered a plan — endorsed by the NRA — to improve the national database of mental health records. In the past people with mental health problems have purchased guns because the records were not updated.


“We’ve known mental health was a key component to addressing this problem in so many instances,” Cornyn was quoting as saying at the time. “And yet, rather than actually try to make progress in dealing with people who are mentally ill, we’ve had these broader debates about the Second Amendment and about infringing the rights of law-abiding, sane citizens.”

On this previous blog posting there is a video of Reid at the opening of the Clark County shooting park, funded with federal tax money. At 4:50 of the video listen to what the head of the NRA says about Reid. (The direct link has been disabled so I can’t embed it here.)

The NRA in the past opposed greatly expanding background checks saying:

NRA opposes expanding background check systems at the federal or state level. Studies by the federal government show that people sent to state prison because of gun crimes typically get guns through theft, on the black market, or from family members or friends, and nearly half of illegally trafficked firearms originate with straw purchasers — people who can pass background checks, who buy guns for criminals on the sly. No amount of background checks can stop these criminals.

NRA also opposes gun registration. Expanding background check systems and allowing records to be kept on people who pass background checks to acquire guns would be steps toward transforming NICS into the national gun registry that gun control supporters have wanted for more than a hundred years.

Here is another video of Reid and the head of NRA at the shooting park opening. At about 3:20 NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre says Reid supports the Second Amendment:


Gun laws versus gun deaths — is there really a correlation, as Obama claims?

Obama on Oregon shooting:

We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths.  So the notion that gun laws don’t work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence.

He was probably basing this on National Journal analysis.

Even the Washington Post fact checkers gave this statement Two Pinocchios, because when you remove suicides from gun deaths there is little correlation between tough laws and gun deaths. The president was talking about mass murder, not suicides.

“This is a classic situation in which a politician bases a statement on a study, but then exaggerated the conclusions to justify a policy,” the Post concluded. “It also lacks context because the results change, sometimes dramatically, when suicides are removed from the gun deaths. (Alaska moving from 50th to 25th, Utah going from 31st to 8th and Maryland falling from 15th to 45th are rather dramatic swings.)”

Reason magazine reached a similar conclusion: “To get a clearer idea of what’s going on, you would at least want to see whether the adoption of certain gun controls is associated with reductions in gun death rates, as compared to pre-existing trends in the states that adopt them and ongoing trends in the rest of the country. In any case, it clearly is not true that permissive gun laws are inevitably accompanied by higher gun death rates, especially if you focus on homicides, which is the main threat cited by proponents of new gun controls.”

Then, what about the mere presence of guns per capita versus gun violence?



Never let the facts get in the way of getting the paper out

I’m not sure what the deadline is these days for the Sunday edition of the Las Vegas paper’s opinion section, but the facts in one column were a bit dated.

The paper carried a front page LA Times story about the Oregon campus shooting that reported the gunman killed nine and wounded nine before killing himself. Previous news accounts said he was killed by police but that was updated about 1 p.m. Saturday with a coroner’s report.

On the cover of the Viewpoints section the political columnist reported the gunman killed nine and wounded seven “before being gunned down by police.”

If that isn’t enough, the online version of the column posted just after midnight had a third version, saying the gunman killed 10 and wounded seven without ever saying who killed the gunman — accurate as to the number killed by the gunman.

I think it was Yogi Berra who once bragged that he gave every reporter a different account of events so that each would have an exclusive. Maybe it was in honor to Yogi. That’s the ticket.




Editorial: Let the free market ‘invisible hand’ distribute water

As Ronald Reagan once said: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

Those words came unbidden to mind when a gaggle of government satraps gathered in Carson City to discuss how best to dole out water during this drought.

The drought forum was set up by Gov. Brian Sandoval, who asked its participants to recommend how to deal with the ongoing water shortage.

The most frightening thing reported out of the session was talk about changing the state’s water law.

“I think ultimately water rights management has to evolve from the strict prior appropriation to more of a paradigm of shared risk,” John Entsminger, general manager of Southern Nevada Water Authority, was quoted as saying.

The first Nevada water law was passed in 1866 and recognized the vital role mining was playing in the state’s economic growth. Though all water within the state is subject to state regulations and controls, the law recognizes the basic principles of prior appropriation and beneficial use.

First in time is first in right.

But then those with the rights must use it or lose it. The holders of those rights may not speculate in water rights or hold on to water rights they do not put to beneficial use in a timely manner. “If they stop using the water, they will lose the water right,” the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources explains.

But water is a property right, and as such it may be bought and sold.

At the drought confab, according to press accounts, some questioned this concept and asked whether giving water right holders access to water at the expense of others in times of drought benefits the public good — whatever that means.

There appeared to be a sentiment for treating water as a communal commodity to be distributed by some government agency — to each according to their needs?

But just as water seeks its own level, so too free markets seek and find the fairest and lowest price and widest distribution for any commodity.

Murray Rothbard, one-time UNLV professor of economics, once wrote: “If the government wants to conserve water and lessen its use, all it need do is raise the price. It doesn’t have to order an end to this or that use, set priorities, or decide who should be allowed to drink more than three glasses a day. All it has to do is clear the market, and let people conserve each in his own way and at his own pace.

“In the longer run, what the government should do is privatize the water supply, and let water be supplied, like oil or Pepsi-Cola, by private firms trying to make a profit and to satisfy and court consumers, and not to gain power by making them suffer.”

This was echoed by newspaper columnist and economist Thomas Sowell in his book “Basic Economics”: “There is no need for government officials to decide arbitrarily — and categorically — whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for particular crops to be grown in California with water artificially supplied below cost from federal irrigation projects. Such questions can be decided incrementally, by those directly confronting the alternatives, through price competition in a free market.”

Creating a free market for water would encourage innovation and efficiency, allowing water to flow from low-value uses to high-value uses while providing both parties of the transaction a profit.

Public officials should resist the urge to “manage” the water supply and permit the free market to apply its “invisible hand.”

A version of this editorial appears this past week in 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: Nevada wins grouse listing battle, or did it?

This past week Interior Secretary Sally Jewell declared that the greater sage grouse will not be listed under the Endangered Species Act, but instead created a federal land use plan so restrictive that the lack of listing became a distinction without a difference.

“Our review of the best available scientific and commercial information indicates that the sage grouse is not in danger of extinction nor likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all of its range,” the Fish and Wildlife Service, a division of the Interior, concluded in its 341-page announcement. The document cited a rangewide decline in grouse over the past century, while conceding a count of male grouse in leks showed a 63 percent increase in the past two years.

Instead of listing, to protect sage grouse Fish and Wildlife withdrew 10 million acres from future mining claims, prohibited oil and gas drilling near breeding grounds and imposed new reviews on grazing permits.

Male sage grouse (BLM photo)

The cactus huggers still had a conniption. John Horning, executive director of WildEarth Guardians, spewed, “That is the great tragedy of the day, that this decision would be based on politics not science,” adding that his group will challenge the listing decision in federal court.

Elko and Eureka counties and two mining companies beat them to the courthouse door, filing suit in federal court in Reno the next day, calling the plan “arbitrary, capricious and unlawful.” Elko estimated the plan would cost its economy $31 million a year. Eureka estimated the cost to its livestock industry alone would be $7 million to $15 million a year. (Land use suit)

Rep. Crescent Hardy sent out a press release putting the decision into perspective, noting that the good news about listing comes with hard to swallow restrictions.

“I was very disappointed to learn of the Department of Interior’s decision to aggressively advance an agenda that puts the interests of a small contingent of environmental extremists over those of rural Nevada’s hardworking families,” Hardy said. “Today’s announcement confirms this was never fully about protecting any particular species.”

The congressman continued, “This is yet another stark reminder of the challenges Western states like Nevada face when the federal government controls so much of the land within our borders. … Without access to traditional land uses in Nevada — mineral exploration, energy extraction, and ranching — states like Nevada wouldn’t be what they are today. This policy not only disregards our historic way of life, but it also threatens the local economies of some of the hardest hit areas from the Great Recession.”

Nevada’s junior Sen. Dean Heller agreed with Hardy’s dire assessment, saying the regulations that will limit the use of millions of acres of federal land, much of that in Nevada.

“This is not a win for Nevada. Even though the Fish and Wildlife Service has decided the greater sage grouse doesn’t merit protections under the Endangered Species Act, the Department of the Interior’s final ‘federal plans’ pose major threats to many Nevadans’ long-term way of life and success,” Heller concluded.

“This has been an issue of the Department of the Interior using the threat of a listing to get what it really wanted all along: limiting Nevadans’ access to millions of acres of land equal to the size of the state of West Virginia,” the senator said.

Instead of addressing the real threats to grouse habitat — wildfire, invasive species, and wild horse and burro mismanagement — new regulations simply restrict Nevadans’ beneficial access to public lands, Heller noted.

A spokesman for Rep. Mark Amodei said he had nothing new to say at this time, but reiterated what he told the Reno newspaper a month ago, when he said economic development will be strangled across some 3 million acres of Northern Nevada.

“It’s an exclusion zone, you can’t do anything,” Amodei told the Reno Gazette-Journal’s editorial board. “It doesn’t matter if it’s listed or not. Now it’s the regulatory standard across the West.”

The ever irrelevant and clueless Harry Reid poked Nevadans in the eye with this nonsense: “This conservation not only protects the sage grouse, it also protects our rangelands, our mule deer and pronghorn antelope habitat and our western way of life. I look forward to continued cooperation between the federal agencies, states and local governments on implementing the sage grouse management plans and making sure that the sage grouse can thrive alongside our western economies.”

Cooperation? Thrive?

Nevada’s success in avoiding the listing of the sage grouse turned out to be a hollow victory.

A version of this column appears this week in the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, the Lincoln County Record and the Sparks Tribune — and the Elko Daily Free Press.


Tourism panel recycles an old commercial — targeting wrong audience in wrong way, perhaps?

Most of the news stories called the latest Nevada Tourism Commission advertising campaign fresh or new — taking a couple of paragraphs before admitting the commercials are recycled from two and half years ago.

“Nevada is launching a fresh tourism campaign focused on attracting adventure-loving millennials to the state — especially to the rural areas less trafficked than Las Vegas,” was the lede on the Carson City newspaper account.

The new commercials, like previous ones, feature rapid clips of scenes from around the state, including outdoor activities with the Las Vegas-based Killers band playing a rocked out version of the old ballad “Don’t Fence Me In.”

According to the Las Vegas paper, instead of showing images of the Strip and Lake Tahoe, the initial ads were shot at the Pioneer Saloon at Goodsprings and in Genoa — pronounced GIN-oh-a for the uninitiated.

But maybe this isn’t the time to be ignoring the gambling aspect of Nevada. Gaming revenues have fallen three months in a row, and room rates fell even though the number of visitors increased. Nevada hotel-casinos do account for nearly 45 percent of state general fund revenue.

Another story in the Las Vegas paper reports that basically those “adventure-loving millennials” don’t gamble and the industry isn’t doing much to attract them.

Of course, tax supported advertising to persuade taxpayers to do what’s good for them has always been a bit off-putting. The ads telling people to conserve water by getting their heads out of the grass are cheesy and sophomoric. The old “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” ads were salacious, though possibly effective for a certain type.

Here is a tourism commercial from two years ago (the one from April 2013 is labeled private now for some unknown reason):

The summer 2015 version is similar to the 2014:

Head in grass ad:

One of the stays in Vegas ads:

Frankly, I have always thought there should be some truth in labeling required of such ads. Nevada’s slogan should be: “Bring money, lose it, go home.” And I’ll take half the going rate, because two and half years ago the Nevada tourism panel spent $3 million for a six-word slogan: “A World Within. A State Apart.”

According to Vegas Inc., by the time they bought air time to broadcast commercials and created a mobile app with this amazing slogan — created by geniuses in Seattle and New York, who wouldn’t know a jackalope from a Fallon cantaloupe — the price tag would hit $9 million.







Checkbook journalism rings up big bucks for politicos

Everybody knew the networks were practicing checkbook journalism, but who knew the checks were so big?

Paul Sperry, writing in today’s Investor’s Business Daily, reports that Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson was paid nearly half a million dollars by Fox News until he announced his candidacy.

Mike Huckabee’s payola was clearly labeled, but worth $500,000 a year? Fox also paid Rick Santorum $100,000 and John Kasich hauled in $265,000 a year, while doling out $1 million for a three-year deal with Sarah Palin.

The liberals at CNN do it too, contracting with Obama adviser David Axelrod to work as a commentator.

Who knows what made NBC think Chelsea Clinton was worth $600,000. Why that’s as much as three speeches from either of her parents.

The Society of Professional Journalists calls such checkbook “journalism” unethical for many good reasons — the foremost is that money corrupts and paying for information or sources corrupts journalism.

The SPJ Code of Ethic admonishes: “Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; do not pay for access to news. Identify content provided by outside sources, whether paid or not.”

The SPJ warns about getting into bidding wars, which, as a former editor with a strict budget, I can appreciate, even if the networks do not.

Here are a few other SPJ reasons why checkbook journalism is vile:

First, paying for information immediately calls into question the credibility of the information. …

Creating a market for information that sells also raises the possibility that entrepreneurs looking to make money will create their own news, staging or inventing stories to attract the big checks.

Second, paying for information creates a conflict of interest. By writing a check for an interview, the journalist now has a business relationship with the source. Asking tough questions, examining the motives, weighing the credibility of a source — all of these journalistic functions become intricately more complicated when the source is someone receiving money for a story.

And third, once a media outlet has paid for information, it is less likely to continue to search for the details of the story for fear it might uncover conflicting information.

A source who chooses to tell a story and tell it exclusively should want to choose the reporter who has the clearest record of demonstrated competence rather than the one waving the largest check.

While it is true that journalism is a capitalistic endeavor and money must be made, being first and being exclusive should never be the primary motive of journalists. The primary motive always should be an accurate report.

There is a market for credibility. Once you’ve sold that, you’ve entered the world’s oldest profession.