As I wrote back in 2012, newspapers’ raison d’etre, the news, is being spidered and copied, repurposed and regurgitated by thousands of aggregators and bloggers, Tweeters, Googlers and Yahooers and the like, until the original source is irrelevant — as a brand and as a financially going concern.
I quoted Alan Mutter’s Newsosaur blog that warned that newspapers are being outsmarted in the bid for mobile advertising. He noted Apple and Google have increased their efforts to grab a bigger share of the local advertising market via smart phones.
This week Congress apparently is taking notice.
The Associated Press is reporting that the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel heard from news media associations that accused big tech companies of jeopardizing the industry’s economic survival by putting news content on their platforms without fairly compensating those who created the news. (Sort of like this blog is doing right now.)
Rep. David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat and the subcommittee chairman, was quoted as saying Congress must determine whether the antitrust laws “are equipped for the competition problems of our modern economy.”
David Chavern, president of the News Media Alliance which represents about 2,000 news organizations, was quoted as saying, “There’s a real urgency in the industry. We’re at crisis point now.”
But Google’s vice president of news Richard Gringas said in a statement Google drives billions of clicks to publishers’ websites, which creates revenue.
But too often online sites just plagiarize the costly and exclusive news content, denying newspapers customers. Of course, newspapers are also guilty of giving away their own content, often posting news stories online days before they are published in print for paying customers and paying advertisers.
Back in 2012 a Moody’s analysis warned, “At this point, there is no evidence digital strategies are returning most daily newspapers to positive growth. It is merely a way to moderate revenue declines.”
Newspapers keep cutting jobs — jobs that produce the content their customers are seeking. It is death spiral.
Matt Schruers, vice president of law and policy with the Computer and Communications Industry Association, left, David Pitofsky, general counsel of News Corp, center, and Kevin Riley, editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, right, are sworn-in before testifying before the House Judiciary Antitrust subcommittee hearing. (AP pix)
The Associated Press reported recently that Democrats have seized on the fact that the average income tax refund is smaller this year “as proof that the Republican-written tax law hurts the middle class.”
Noting the smaller refund checks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote on her blog, “People have already taken to social media, using the hashtag #GOPTaxScam, to vent their anger. Many blame President Trump and the Republicans for shrinking refunds. Some on Twitter even said they wouldn’t vote for Trump again after seeing their refunds slashed.”
By this past weekend the hashtag #GOPTaxScam had shown up online 100,000 times.
In fact Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris, a U.S. senator from California, tweeted, “The average tax refund is down about $170 compared to last year. Let’s call the President’s tax cut what it is: a middle-class tax hike to line the pockets of already wealthy corporations and the 1%.”
The liberal website Huffington Post reported, “The average refund check paid out so far has been $1,865, down from $2,035 at the same point in 2018, according to IRS data. Low-income taxpayers often file early to pocket the money as soon as possible. Many taxpayers count on the refunds to make important payments, or spend the money on things like home repairs, a vacation or a car.”
The story noted in passing that the tax code changes meant that in some cases not enough money was withheld by employers. But nowhere did it note that in the vast majority of these cases the total tax bill for 2018 is less than the prior year. People just got to kept it with each paycheck and did not make interest-free loans to the federal government.
Democrats are seizing on something all right, but it is misdirection and bad math.
Though refunds are about 8 percent lower than a year ago, the Tax Policy Center reports income tax payments are being reduced $1,600 on average, thus increasing after-tax income by 2.2 percent. The center noted that about 65 percent of households will get tax cuts averaging $2,180, while about 6 percent will see a tax increase averaging $2,760.
Since people were paying less in taxes, less was withheld.
Nicole Kaeding, director of federal projects at the Tax Foundation, was quoted by National Public Radio as saying, “Don’t judge your taxes by your refund. That’s only one part of the conversation,” adding, “Ideally, you don’t actually want to receive a large refund. Because what you’ve done is given the federal government an interest-free loan. Instead, what would be better is to adjust your withholdings so you get more take-home pay in every paycheck.”
But never let the facts get in the way of a Democrat trying pick your pocket.
Justice must not only be done, but it must be seen to be done.
The wheels of justice continue to grind in the federal criminal case against Cliven Bundy, four of his sons and a dozen co-defendants over the April 2014 armed standoff with federal agents trying to confiscate Bundy’s cattle at his Bunkerville ranch. All of the defendants have been jailed for more than a year.
The standoff occurred after armed Bureau of Land Management agents attempted to roundup Bundy’s cattle after he had refused for 20 years to pay grazing fees in the Gold Butte area. The BLM said he owed $1 million in fees and penalties.
Faced with armed protesters the BLM agents eventually released the cattle and left to avoid potential bloodshed.
Much of the evidence in the high-profile case remains cloaked in secrecy due to a blanket court protective order that requires just about everything filed in the case must be filed under seal.
But the press — specifically the Las Vegas daily newspaper, this newspaper and The Associated Press — continue to fight for openness. Just this past week attorney Maggie McLetchie filed a writ with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asking that the veil of secrecy be lifted, because it “is anathema to the First Amendment” and longstanding court precedent from the 9th Circuit itself.
McLetchie argues, among other things, that much of the rationale for keeping material secret is merely to protect government agents from legitimate criticism of their conduct. She also says the protective order is based on “speculation and scaremongering” supported almost entirely by a series of years-old online social media posts.
Since the arrests of most of the defendants back in February 2016, things have not gone swimmingly for the government.
Two of Bundy’s sons, who had been arrested on separate but similar charges of illegally occupying an Oregon wildlife refuge to protest the jailing of father and son ranchers under a terrrorism law for letting fires get out of control and burn a few acres of federal public land, were acquitted of those charges this past fall by a jury, along with their co-defendants.
In April, the first of three scheduled trials for the Bunkerville defendants — charged with obstruction of justice, conspiracy, extortion, assault and impeding federal officers — ended in a mistrial. The jury found only two of six people on trial guilty of some charges but deadlocked on the others. The jurors agreed to convict on only 10 of the 60 charges brought. None of the conspiracy charges stuck.
In January, the Interior Department’s Inspector General released a 16-page investigative report outlining misconduct and ethical violations by the BLM agent who supervised the Bundy cattle roundup. The report never named the agent but said he abused his powers by obtaining preferential treatment for family and friends at the 2015 Burning Man event on BLM land, misused BLM personnel and equipment, improperly intervened in hiring a BLM agent and attempted to influence an employee’s testimony during the Inspector General’s investigation of him.
McLetchie noted that the misconduct allegations add fuel to the “general public’s concern that the government mishandled the investigation in this case.”
Her writ quotes from a 9th Circuit ruling from 1983 in which The Associated Press sought information about a criminal case. The court stated there “can be little dispute that the press and public have historically had a common law right of access to most pretrial documents. … Moreover, pretrial documents, such as those dealing with the question whether [a defendant] should be incarcerated prior to trial and those containing allegations by [a defendant] of government misconduct, are often important to a full understanding of the way in which ‘the judicial process and the government as a whole are functioning.’”
Seems on point for the Bundy case.
The defendants from the first Bundy trial are to be retried in late June on the same day Cliven Bundy, his sons and others were scheduled for trial. The court has yet to say what the schedule will be for the long-jailed remaining defendants.
The court needs to shine more light on this case so the public can see whether justice is being done.
The land mass that is Clark County was added to Nevada three years after statehood, carved from a corner of Arizona. It was a part of Lincoln County until 1909, when the Legislature split off Clark County.
Clark dangles on the map like a vestigial tail on the nether region of Nevada.
On Election Day 2016, the tail wagged the dog.
This past week 1.1 million Nevadans cast presidential ballots, fully 68 percent of those were cast in Clark County — and there was a stark difference in how Clark voted compared to the rest of the state.
Only in Clark County did a majority vote for the Democratic Senate candidate. Thus it was for much of the ballot.
In the presidential contest alone the difference was a spectrum shift from bright Democratic blue in Clark to crimson Republican red just about everywhere else in the state.
While Democrat Hillary Clinton beat out Republican nominee Donald Trump statewide by about 36,000 votes, she bested him in Clark by more than 80,000 ballots, while he out polled her in the rest of the state by 55,000 votes, according to Secretary of State tabulations.
The only other Nevada county Clinton won was urban Washoe and that by only 2,500 votes out of more than 190,000 cast there. In other counties Trump won largely by margins exceeding 2-to-1 and in Lincoln County by 6-to-1.
Meanwhile, in the senatorial race to fill the vacancy being left by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s retirement, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto won statewide, but the only county she won was Clark. She won statewide by about 2 percentage points or 26,000 votes, but won by 80,000 votes in Clark. Republican Joe Heck, who gave up his Congressional District 3 seat to run for the Senate, won every other county, some by more than 4-to-1. Excluding Clark, Heck won the remainder of Nevada by more than 55,000 votes.
Nearly 4 percent of Nevadans chose “none of these candidates” in the Senate race.
In the 4th Congressional District — which includes part of northern Clark County, the southern part of Lyon County and all of White Pine, Nye, Mineral, Esmeralda, and Lincoln counties — Democrat Ruben Kihuen won districtwide by nearly 10,000 votes but won in Clark by about 24,000.
Incumbent Republican Cresent Hardy won every other county, all by about 2-to-1 or more.
After the dust settles, Nevada switches from having four out of its six Washington delegates being Republicans to four being Democrats.
Democrats won all save one of the Clark County state Senate seats up for grabs, giving the Democrats an 11-10 majority in Carson City, instead of the previous 11-10 GOP edge.
Republicans won every rural Assembly seat, while Democrats carried most races in Clark and Washoe, giving Democrats a 27-15 majority, instead of the previous Republican majority.
The gun grabbing Question 1 ballot initiative requiring background checks for almost every gun purchase or gift passed by 100,000 votes in Clark, but failed in every other county, often with 80 to 90 percent voting no.
Question 2, legalization of pot, passed only in Clark, Washoe, Nye and Story, but narrowly won statewide due to Clark’s numbers.
In 2014 Nevada experienced a red shift, when Republicans won all six statewide elective offices — governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer, controller, attorney general — as well as majorities in both houses of the Legislature.
The 2016 reversal of fortune was probably best explained by a little-circulated Associated Press story that appeared about a week before the election. It described how the Las Vegas Culinary union was busing thousands of casino housekeepers and staffers to early voting sites just off the Las Vegas Strip, “speaking in Spanish as they clutched pocket-sized brochures listing candidates endorsed by the powerful Culinary union.”
The union bused workers during their paid lunch break and handed them boxed lunches for the ride back to work.
The story went on to report that the union had registered 34,000 members to vote, had reassigned 150 members to full-time political work, planned to knock on 200,000 doors and place phone calls to co-workers.
There is talk in California since the election of Trump about secession from the Union. Anyone think Clark County should go with them?
President Obama lecturing journalists on how to do their jobs is like Goldfinger lecturing James Bond.
This past week Obama presented a journalism award along with a 30-minute speech at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. In it he bemoaned the vulgar rhetoric and circus atmosphere of the current political campaign and talked about how important it is for professional journalists to do their jobs.
“Part of the independence of the Fourth Estate is that it is not government-controlled, and media companies thereby have an obligation to pursue profits on behalf of their shareholders, their owners, and also has an obligation to invest a good chunk of that profit back into news and back into public affairs, and to maintain certain standards and to not dumb down the news, and to have higher aspirations for what effective news can do,” Obama said. “Because a well-informed electorate depends on you. And our democracy depends on a well-informed
Obama lectures journalists
This is from a man, who as a candidate promised the most transparent administration in the history of the world, but, according to a recent Associated Press analysis, has delivered the most secretive and stonewalling administration on record.
The AP reports the Obama administration has set a record for rejecting Freedom of Information Act requests.
The story recounts that in more than one in six requests, or 129,825 times, FOIA requests resulted in federal searchers finding not a single page of records. “People who asked for records under the law received censored files or nothing in 77 percent of requests, also a record,” the AP report states.
The FBI couldn’t find any records in 39 percent of requests. U.S. Customs and Border Protection couldn’t find any records 34 percent of the time.
The administration rarely provides any detailed description of just how diligent their search efforts are.
Obama seldom holds press conferences and frequently refuses to answer questions or equivocates.
But in his admonition to reporters at the Syracuse award ceremony, Obama declared, “Good reporters like the ones in this room all too frequently find yourselves caught between competing forces, I’m aware of that. You believe in the importance of a well-informed electorate. You’ve staked your careers on it. Our democracy needs you more than ever.”
But his administration has blocked access to the information that would keep the electorate informed.
Not only has the Obama administration blocked access, it has blatantly gone after journalists’ sources and prosecuted people for daring to talk to reporters.
In 2013 it was revealed that the Justice Department secretly obtained two months’ worth of cellular, office and home telephone records of AP reporters and editors in Washington, New York and Connecticut, as well as the number for AP reporters covering Congress.
“The aggressive investigation into the possible disclosure of classified information to the AP is part of a pattern in which the Obama administration has pursued current and former government officials suspected of releasing secret material,” the Washington Post reported at the time. “Six officials have been prosecuted, more than under all previous administrations combined.” Charges against leaker Edward Snowden brought that to seven. Prior to that there had been only three indictments for leaks under the World War I Espionage Act.
AP’s president and chief executive, Gary Pruitt, wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, “There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters.These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”
Before relenting in 2014, the administration for years threatened to jail New York Times reporter James Risen for refusing to reveal a confidential news source.
“As I believe that that for all the sideshows of the political season, Americans are still hungry for truth, it’s just hard to find,” Obama lectured.
This is Sunshine Week, created by the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee to spotlight the importance of public access to government information in a democratic republic, allowing the citizens to be the watchdogs over their elected and appointed representatives.
To illustrate this issue for the public, The Associated Press asked for the official emails and calendars for four Nevada legislative leaders — Democratic Sen. Aaron Ford, Republican Sen. Michael Roberson, Republican Assembly Speaker John Hambrick and Republican Assemblywoman Irene Bustamante Adams — for the first week of February.
The legislative lawyers cited a litany of excuses for denying the request in its entirety, including the old claim that revealing behind-the-scenes communications would “chill legislative speech and debate because Legislators might censor their remarks or forgo them entirely to protect the privacy of their sources from being revealed.”
That is the old “deliberative process privilege” dodge that every newspaper editor and reporter with more than a week on the job has heard at one time or another.
But the deliberative process is precisely what the public needs to see, not just the outcome, but how it came to be — what argument prevailed and why, who influenced the decision and how. Did the best interests of the public prevail or those of some special interest group or contributor?
But the legislative lawyers said, with a straight face apparently, that releasing emails and calendars would “allow improper inquiries into the motivations of Legislators.” Precisely.
Under the Open Meeting Law, passed by these same lawmakers, it is illegal for any other public body to “deliberate toward a decision or take action” except during a meeting open to the public. It is illegal to meet in secret or even serially to escape public scrutiny.
The legislative lawyers also cited a bill passed in the closing hours of the 2015 legislative session that says immunity applies to every action lawmakers take “within the sphere of legitimate legislative activity” whether written, oral or otherwise.
Court rulings on the federal Freedom of Information Act have narrowly allowed a deliberative process exemption, but only for an agencies’ internal communication and only for “documents that are both predecisional and deliberative.” It does not apply to factual information contained therein.
Thus the blanket denial flies in the face of even this overly generous and onerous excuse for secrecy.
The AP news story offered this explanation for the rationale of its records request: “Without access to emails, calendars and other correspondence, constituents often don’t know why bills died, which lobbyists their representatives are spending the most time with and what bargains lawmakers cut to save certain bills and kill others. They can only find out if the lawmakers themselves voluntarily give up the information.”
If citizens are to judge their representatives at the ballot box, we need to know why and how decisions were made.
Clinton at hearing (Reuters photo that appears on front page)
Of all the news outlets reporting on Hillary Clinton’s appearance in front of the Benghazi committee the Las Vegas newspaper chose the Washington Post version, possibly the least objective of the wire services.
Hillary Rodham Clinton easily parried barbed Republican questioning Thursday about the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, emerging unscathed from a high-stakes congressional hearing with a smooth and sometimes poignant account of her role in the event that has loomed as among her largest political liabilities.
Never does the story mention how she and the president, just weeks before the election, concocted a story blaming the attack on the ambassador’s compound on reaction to an anti-Islamic video to distract from Obama’s insistence that terrorism was on the decline.
It’s all about politics now but not then.
The print version of the story was cut before getting to questions about how she could find time to swap emails with Sidney Blumenthal — described in Wikipedia as a “journalist, activist, writer and former political aide” Bill Clinton and a “long-time confidant to Hillary Clinton— but not the ambassador the Libya.
The story does mention in passing the FBI investigation of her handling of national security information.
Hillary Rodham Clinton strove to close the book on the worst episode of her tenure as secretary of state Thursday, battling Republican questions in a marathon hearing that grew contentious but revealed little new about the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. She firmly defended her record while seeking to avoid any mishap that might damage her presidential campaign.
Lacks the interpretative conclusions of the WaPo account.
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.
Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System just across the California border. (AP file photo by John Locher)
The Las Vegas newspaper finally got around to printing an AP story about the fact that huge solar thermal power plant just across the border in California is not performing as advertised.
In fact, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is producing half of its expected annual output, the story says, though others have put the output at 30 percent of rated capacity or even one quarter — and that was more than a week ago.
Though the story relates that the $2.2 billion project was built by BrightSource Energy with a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee, it doesn’t bother to mention that the billionaire owners are not paying loan payments and are seeking a $539 million cash grant from the Treasury Department, as reported by The Wall Street Journal on Sept. 23.
Though it has been reported that the plant has applied to use more natural gas to get its boilers operating when the sun fails to do the job, the story details that operators had thought they would need to use natural gas an hour a day, but instead are using gas an average of 4½ hours a day. So how much of the plant’s half-capacity production is from solar and how much from gas? Perhaps that’s were the one quarter figure comes from.
The story also makes no mention of the thousands of birds that have been killed in 800-degree heat of the sun’s rays focused by thousands of mirrors on the plant’s 450-foot tall towers.
Harry Reid was once quoted in a BrightSource press release about the Ivanpah project: “I am very happy to see utility-scale solar projects like this one moving forward with strong Administration support, and I am hopeful that this project will serve as a cornerstone of the clean energy economy in the Southwestern U.S. I look forward to BrightSource and other solar companies putting more Nevadans to work by building major projects like this in Nevada very soon.”
In 2010 Harry held a fundraiser at BrightSource’s headquarters in California, shortly after the firm got the $1.6 billion loan guarantee.
A website called The Party Blog reported on some other cozy relationships. Brightsource reportedly paid $40,000 to R&R Partners, supporters of Reid, to work on stimulus funding matters. BrightSource also had a deal with Harvey Whittemore’s moribund Coyote Springs Land Company — Whittemore was tight with Harry until he went to prison for illegal contributions to Reid — for the lease of some land for further solar projects.
Move the goal posts. Punt. Move the goal posts. Punt. Move the goal posts. Punt. Move the goal posts. Punt.
That is the ObamaCare game plan.
As Investor’s Business Daily reports, the Department of Health and Human Services is now requiring insurers to accept payment on Dec. 31 for insurance coverage beginning Jan. 1. On top of that, HHS is “asking” insurers to accept partial payments and even insure people retroactively.
HHS is releasing very little about enrollment figures. The only state reporting any real details about enrollment in the exchanges is California, where 156,000 people had selected an exchange plan, though 800,000 have had their individual health plans canceled. There have been an estimated 4 million cancellations nationwide, while only 365,000 have signed up on the federal or a state exchange and 800,000 have qualified for Medicaid.
Wasn’t ObamaCare supposed to cut the number of uninsured?
Additionally, the sign up numbers, at least in California, are enough to make the actuaries wince. Though many may not have yet actually paid a premium, 35 percent so far are 55-64 and 23 percent are 45-54, while the 18-34 group accounts for a mere 21 percent.
Christopher Thompson, a former administrator for the state Division of Health Care Financing and Policy, told the SSHIX board on Thursday that he selected a policy on the exchange but repeatedly had his credit card rejected.
Thompson tried to “live chat” with an exchange representative for help on prescription coverage, but he kept getting a message that “all circuits are busy.”
“Overall, I called the call center about 100 times in the past 10 days,” Thompson said. “I would like to be able to pay my bill today,” he said, adding, “I am totally frustrated at this point.”
About 6,600 people are said to have selected insurance plans on the Nevada exchange but only 1,500 have paid.