For lack of a copyeditor a bear was killed

This AP story is all over the internet today:

“LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Nevada man is expected to return to court in Las Vegas next week in a grizzly 2011 murder case after the state Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that his earlier guilty plea was illegal.”

A murder can be grisly or horrifying, but a grizzly is a type of brown bear.

A grizzly bear in Yellowstone. (NatGeo pix)

A grizzly bear in Yellowstone. (NatGeo pix)

 

Judge again slaps down PERS for trying to hide retirement records from the public

A Carson City judge has slapped down the Nevada Public Employees’ Retirement System for refusing to release the names and pensions of 57,000 public retirees under the state public records law, according to The AP.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute sued PERS back in July for again refusing to release those records. The Reno newspaper successfully sued for those records in 2013.

District Judge James Wilson ruled Tuesday that the PERS claim that making these names public would subject the retirees to cybercrime was “hypothetical and speculative.”

After the 2013 ruling, PERS altered the way it kept records, claiming it only had records filed by using Social Security numbers, which are “non-disclosable” by law.

”By replacing names with ‘non-disclosable’ social security numbers in its actuarial record-keeping documents, PERS has attempted to circumvent the 2013 ruling of the Nevada Supreme Court requiring disclosure,” explained Joseph Becker, the director of NPRI’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation at the time of the suit.

In 2015 NPRI requested retirement records to include on its TransparentNevada.com website — a free resource for public-sector administrators and taxpayers interested in learning about the cost of public sector compensation.

The lawsuit itself argued the information was clearly subject to the public records law, which was intended to “foster democratic principles by providing members of the public with access to inspect and copy public books and records.”
Additionally, the suit noted that in 2015 state Supreme Court ruled: “When an agency has a computer program that can readily compile the requested information, the agency is not excused from its duty to produce and disclose that information.

“Despite having the clear ability to provide the public with useful and complete records, PERS has deliberately subverted transparency by altering its record keeping, and refusing repeated requests for full disclosure,” NPRI and CJCL noted at the time.

Obama making secret deals with Iran

Obama’s secret dealings with the terrorist state of Iran keep leaking out.

Now we learn that — what a coincidence! — the first $400 million, supposedly of a $1.7 billion settlement that dates to 1979, was secretly airlifted in the form of cash on wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies at precisely the same time in mid-January when four Americans were released by Iran, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Obama announced the release of the prisoners without any mention of the secret cash shipment.

“Iranian press reports have quoted senior Iranian defense officials describing the cash as a ransom payment,” WSJ relates.

Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian after being released by Iran following a secret $400 million cash airlift. (Reuters photo via WSJ)

The U.S. has a longstanding policy against paying ransom for the release of hostages/prisoners, lest it encourage the taking of more hostages. Since January the Iranians have arrested two more Iranian-Americans as well as several others with dual European citizenships.

Two years ago the family of a murdered American journalist was threatened with arrest if they had tried to pay ransom for his release. They said a military officer working for Obama’s National Security Council warned they could be charged with supporting terrorism if they paid a ransom to his Islamist captors.

 

Just a couple of weeks ago The Associated Press reported that a secret codicil to the Iranian nuclear deal will let the imams start building nukes years earlier than previously reported.

 

“The confidential document is the only text linked to last year’s deal between Iran and six foreign powers that hasn’t been made public, although U.S. officials say members of Congress who expressed interest were briefed on its substance,” AP reported. “It was given to the AP by a diplomat whose work has focused on Iran’s nuclear program for more than a decade, and its authenticity was confirmed by another diplomat who possesses the same document.”

Of the latest secret deal, Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton accused Obama of paying “a $1.7 billion ransom to the ayatollahs for U.S. hostages. … This break with longstanding U.S. policy put a price on the head of Americans, and has led Iran to continue its illegal seizures” of Americans.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford added, “President Obama’s … payment to Iran in January, which we now know will fund Iran’s military expansion, is an appalling example of executive branch governance. … Subsidizing Iran’s military is perhaps the worst use of taxpayer dollars ever by an American president.”

Congress is working on legislation to prevent the Obama administration from making further cash payments to Iran.

The story did not warrant mention in today’s Las Vegas newspaper.

OK, before the defenders of Obama start coming to his defense with the excuse that others did it, too. Yes, Reagan did it, too.

 

Environmental group protest dirt road race route across corner of monument

This is why they are called spoilsports.

A group calling itself Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility is raising a ruckus over plans by the Bureau of Land Management to route a short portion of a dirt road race from Las Vegas to Reno through a short span of the newly minted 700,000-acre Basin and Range National Monument.

Photo by Mark Kariya

The race, called the General Tire Las Vegas to Reno race, is said to be the longest off-highway race in the country, about 640 miles, and usually has about 300 motorcycles, trucks, dune buggies and assorted all-terrain vehicles competing each year. It has been run annually for 20 years by the Best in the Desert Racing Association. It starts near Alamo, has an overnight stop in Tonopah and ends near Dayton,

“BLM’s race plan makes a mockery out of President Obama’s monument declaration,” PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said in a statement. “BLM is playing fast and loose with its legal obligations in order to let hundreds of vehicles roar through fragile desert before the monument’s protections can be solidified.”

A complaint sent to the White House and the Secretary of the Interior by PEER accused the BLM of flouting the presidential monument proclamation directive that “motorized vehicle use in the monument shall be permitted only on roads existing as of the date of this proclamation.”

The Las Vegas newspaper carried an Associated Press account of the objection today, but added that it contacted Basin and Range National Monument manager Alicia Styles, who told the paper the proposed route for the race crosses about 40 miles of the monument, all of it on existing dirt roads.

According to the Federal Register, “Except for emergency or authorized administrative purposes, motorized vehicle use in the monument shall be permitted only on roads existing as of the date of this proclamation.”

So what’s the beef?

Also, PEER nor any other self-styled environmentalists so far as we’ve heard have raised objections to the paragraph that precedes that statement about existing roads:

“Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to limit the authority of the Secretary, under applicable law other than this proclamation, to undertake or authorize activities on public land in the vicinity of the sculpture City for the purpose of preventing harm to the artwork, including activities to improve drainage and to prevent erosion, consistent with the care and management of the objects identified above. The management plan for the monument shall provide for reasonable use of existing roads within the monument to facilitate public access to City.”

Art is good? Sport is bad?

City is just a lot of bulldozed dirt that is supposed to look like ancient ruins, we’re told. Construction has been going on for more than 40 years inside what is now a national monument. But that is not damaging to the pristine desert, while driving a few bikes and trucks over an existing road one day a year is devastating.

City — art in the desert?

 

In iPhone/GPS era, FAA still flying by passing out slips of paper

Here is still another example of a bureaucracy mired in incompetence.

The Wall Street Journal reports in an editorial today that the Federal Aviation Administration runs an air-traffic control system with the best technology World War II could offer, while its efforts to upgrade are overbudget and overdue. The FAA is expected to miss its 2025 completion date by a decade.

The Associated Press recently reported that new air control towers at McCarran International in Las Vegas and San Francisco International can’t open and will have to be remodeled because they are built for new technology that keeps crashing. Work spaces will have to be expanded so controllers can handle slips of paper for tracking flights.

Both the AP account and the WSJ editorial report that a bill sponsored by Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation Committee, would take air traffic control operations away from the FAA and hand it to a nonprofit company run by the aviation industry.

WSJ says it works in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and a Government Accountability Office report found safety either improved or remained unchanged.

Sounds like a better alternative.

New McCarran tower in the foreground and old tower to the left. (R-J photo)

VA secretary explains just how Mickey Mouse his agency has become

“When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what’s important? What’s important is, what’s your satisfaction with the experience?” Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Monday. “And what I would like to move to, eventually, is that kind of measure.”

That is simply crass, crude, clueless and obtuse.

Waiting to board an amusement park ride is a bit different from waiting for pain-relieving or even life-saving medical care. You can’t ask the deceased what their level of satisfaction was.

Nevada’s junior Sen. Dean Heller unloaded in a letter to McDonald:

I write to you extremely concerned about the comments you made on May 23, 2016, comparing the length of time veterans wait to receive health care at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to the length of time people wait for rides at Disneyland. Not only am I concerned about the flippant nature of your comparison but also the fact that you said that your agency should not use wait times as a measure of success because Disney does not either.  As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I believe it is my responsibility to follow up with you on the gravity of this issue as it critical to ensure that Veterans across my state are receiving the care they were promised in an expedient manner.

When men and women across our nation committed to serving America and risking their lives to protect us, our country promised that, in return, we would care for these service members upon their return home. This is not a Disney fairytale Mr. Secretary, this is reality. Recent statistics from Nevada show nearly 10,000 VA appointments remain scheduled over 30 days from the requested date. Given the issues that Nevada’s Veterans continue to face accessing VA health care, I do not believe that promise has been kept. Just a few weeks ago, I heard from a Nevada veteran’s wife about the difficulty she faced scheduling a cardiology appointment for her husband. When there are life-threatening issues that can make or break a veterans’ health, waiting is not an option, and Nevada’s veterans deserve better.

Time and time again, I have called for accountability at your agency, and I strongly believe that it should start with the top.  This is why your comments were not only disrespectful but harmful to ensuring that there will be any real change at the VA when it comes to the timeliness of health care appointment wait times.

A year ago The Associated Press reported that the number of veterans waiting more than 30 or 60 days for non-emergency care has largely stayed flat, while the number of medical appointments that take longer than 90 days to complete had nearly doubled.

Nate Beeler

This was nearly a year after Congress doled out $16 billion to solve the problem of lengthy waiting lists. VA officials had been manipulating the waiting lists to make them look like vets were waiting less time to see a doctor than was actually happening.

In March of this year the Government Accountability Office reported that it studied 180 veterans newly enrolled in the VA health system. Sixty of that 180 had not yet seen a health provider and “nearly half were unable to access primary care because VA medical center staff did not schedule appointments for these veterans in accordance with VHA policy. The 120 newly enrolled veterans in GAO’s review who were seen by providers waited from 22 days to 71 days from their requests that VA contact them to schedule appointments to when they were seen, according to GAO’s analysis.”

The analysis found that the system lacks a comprehensive scheduling policy and there were ongoing scheduling errors. A VA report in September found nearly 900,000 listed as “pending” for health care, but Social Security records listed 300,000 of those as deceased.

What did McDonald do with that $16 billion? Go to Disneyland?

Heller asked the VA secretary to answer these questions by May 30:

— Does the VA remain committed to providing appointments to veterans within 30 days of the request?

— What are the current VA appointment wait times for veterans in Nevada and nationwide?

— For each fiscal year since implementation of the Choice Act, how many VA health care beneficiaries are obtaining appointments through the Choice Program as a result of an appointment wait time of 30 days or more?

— How do you explain to veterans that you believe their wait time for care is just as important as a wait time at an amusement park?

— When did your view on appointment wait times change to the point that you believe wait time should not even be a measure for the VA?

— Do you believe that the VA cannot achieve both timely and quality care simultaneously.

— Do you believe you are still fit to serve and advocate on behalf of veterans as the VA Secretary if you aren’t prioritizing the timeliness of their health care — the very reason you became Secretary in the midst of the 2014 VA health care scandal?

It matters not whether McDonald still thinks he is fit to serve. Does Congress? Better yet, what do veterans think?

McDonald put out a press release today that basically blames others for misunderstanding his commitment to improving the VA and offered no apology for his cluelessness and highly inappropriate remark. “If my comments Monday led any Veterans to believe that I, or the dedicated workforce I am privileged to lead, don’t take that noble mission seriously, I deeply regret that. Nothing could be further from the truth,” the statement reads.

For the record, Disney has spent more than $1 billion on something called the Disney MagicBand so customers don’t have to wait in long lines.

Nevada’s senior Sen. Harry Reid defended McDonald today.

“I support Secretary McDonald all the way. …” Reid was quoted as saying. “I’m an expert on poor choice of words. … I’m sure he would be the first to tell you, following my example, saying the wrong things is not the best way to go.”

Masters of malaprops still together.

Republican Congressman Joe Heck, who is running for Reid’s Senate seat also weighed in. He used the callow McDonald gaffe to call for passage of the stalled VA Accountability Act, which he said is intended to address the agency’s defensive culture and pattern of offering excuses instead of solutions.

“Secretary McDonald’s double down on his callous remarks invoking Disneyland is alarming because it suggests the defensive culture among management at the VA, which lead to the falsification of wait-time reports in the first place, persists under his leadership,” said Heck, a brigadier general in the Army Reserve medical corps and a veteran of the Iraq conflict.

“The remedy to the VA’s culture of excuses is a needed dose of accountability. Unfortunately, the federal civil service, which makes it extremely difficult to remove negligent or unethical employees, remains an obstacle to such reform,” Heck added, noting that the VA Accountability Act passed the House but is stalled in Reid’s Senate. “Every day that the VA’s accountability problem goes unaddressed, taxpayers are being forced to foot the bill for the salaries of failed bureaucrats. Our veterans have given us all they have. Seeing that they get the care and benefits they need, earned and deserve is the very least we can do.”

Well, the VA is apparently doing the least it can do.

Surprisingly, former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who is running for Reid’s seat from the Democratic side, parted company with shrugging Reid and blasted oafish McDonald.

“Even for Washington, the tone deafness of these comments is stunning,” she said in a statement. “The VA needs to address the wait times at its facilities so our veterans get the care they need in a timely manner, not offer up false analogies and excuses. It’s long past time for the VA to get its act together.”

 

Wild horses could be saved the same way as the buffalo: a free market

Today there are around 500,000 buffalo in the United States, and about 90 percent are in private hands. (Photo: Yellowstone National Park/ Flickr/ CC BY 2.0)

While Gov. Brian Sandoval is threatening to pursue legal action to force the federal government to fund wild horse population control, Bureau of Land Management Nevada Director John Ruhs says he is asking Washington to provide $4 million to pay for rounding up 4,000 wild horses in Elko County, according to The Associated Press.

The BLM is already telling ranchers they may face a reduction in grazing permits due to the overpopulation of feral horses, meaning there will be major economic impact for the state — estimated by state officials to be $1.8 million in Elko County alone. The BLM says the Elko horse herds are 350 percent in excess of what the range can sustain.

The real problem may come once those horses are rounded up, if they are. Though federal law specifically requires captured but unadoptable wild horses to the humanely disposed of, Congress has refused for years to allow any federal funds to be spent to do so.

Instead, as the AP story points out, there are now more than 45,000 mustangs in government corrals and pastures costing of $48,000 per animal over its lifetime or $40 million per year. Another 4,000 horses could add $200 million in warehousing costs.

Perhaps, the government should learn a lesson from how the American bison were saved, not by expensive government roundups but by private enterprise. Today’s Daily Signal recounts studies that show “the number of bison swelled in the 20th century mostly because they were ‘preserved not for their iconic significance in the interest of biological diversity but simply raised to be slaughtered for their meat.'”

A study by Andrew C. Isenberg, a professor of history at Princeton, says it was Western ranchers such as the renowned Charles Goodnight, who captured buffalo calves in 1878, who really saved the buffalo, and “many of the bison that eventually populated government preserves descended from the herd of two Montana ranchers.”

Their primary motive: profit.

“Without question, market forces had contributed to the near-extinction of the bison, along with the political objective of destroying the Indians by eliminating their food source. But that is well known,” writes University of Dayton history professor Larry Schweikart at the Foundation for Economic Education. “What is almost never mentioned is that it was market forces-ranchers, hunters, tourism developers, railroaders, and philanthropists-that ultimately saved the buffalo as well.”

There is a market for slaughtered horses. Domestic horses are routinely slaughtered and rendered for various purposes, including the meat, which is sold largely overseas though same may be sold to zoos. The U.S. has banned the sale of horse meat for pet food.

A free market could provide a protection for and control of the population of horse herds and relieve the taxpayer of huge costs.

Wild horses being warehoused at Palomino Valley near Reno. (Photo by Jo Mitchell)