New York Times: Disputing now what it reported earlier

Today The New York Times has a story saying President Trump made a “widely disputed allegation”  that President Barack Obama ordered the wire tapping of his campaign.

It also reports that Obama and his former aides have called the accusation completely false.

“Mr. Trump’s demand for a congressional investigation appears to be based, at least in part, on unproved claims by Breitbart News and conservative talk radio hosts that secret warrants were issued authorizing the tapping of the phones of Mr. Trump and his aides at Trump Tower in New York,” the newspaper reports.

This same newspaper reported on Jan. 19, prior to Trump’s inauguration, that law enforcement and intelligence agencies were examining “intercepted communications” and financial transactions that were part of an investigation of contacts between Trump and his associates with Russian officials. The Trump associates included his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to Times sources.

“The F.B.I. is leading the investigations, aided by the National Security Agency, the C.I.A. and the Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit,” the paper reported. “The investigators have accelerated their efforts in recent weeks but have found no conclusive evidence of wrongdoing, the officials said. One official said intelligence reports based on some of the wiretapped communications had been provided to the White House.”

What could possibly have caused Trump to believe his campaign was being wire tapped?
The earlier Times account goes on to relate:

Representatives of the agencies involved declined to comment. Of the half-dozen current and former officials who confirmed the existence of the investigations, some said they were providing information because they feared the new administration would obstruct their efforts. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the cases.

Numerous news outlets, including The New York Times, have reported on the F.B.I. investigations into Mr. Trump’s advisers. BBC and then McClatchy revealed the existence of a multiagency working group to coordinate investigations across the government.

Paul Manafort at GOP convention (NY Times pix)

Paul Manafort at GOP convention (NY Times pix)

Newspaper column: Nevada could contribute to rebound of national defense

Nevada knows nukes, or at least we used to.

First, the election of Donald Trump reignited the debate over the possible resurrection of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository. Now, with a simple tweet Trump has reopened discussions about the preparedness, or lack thereof, of America’s nuclear arsenal.

“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” Trump’s 118-character missive declared this past week.

Nuclear test at Nevada Test Site

Nuclear test at Nevada Test Site

Trump’s newly appointed spokesman Sean Spicer went on television the next day and said the president-elect was not trying to restart an arms race with Russia and China but rather deter one.

“He’s going to ensure that other countries get the message that he’s not going to sit back and allow that,” Spicer told NBC. “And what’s going to happen is they will come to their senses, and we will all be just fine.”

This would be a sharp reversal of Obama’s avowed policy of avoiding nuclear proliferation. In 2009 he called for the U.S. to lead efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons — putting the Genie back in the bottle as some might say.

Between the U.S., Russia, China and a handful of other nations there are already enough nuclear weapons to make the rubble bounce, as we used to say, and enough to create a Nuclear Winter. (And Obama says the biggest threat to mankind is global warming.)

Nevada was ground zero for nuclear preparedness throughout the Cold War. On a 1,375-square-mile tract of land in Nye County known first as the Nevada Proving Grounds, then the Nevada Test Site and now the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), thousands of workers developed the nation’s nuclear deterrence capabilities by detonating more than 900 nuclear devices. A few workers there continue to experiment with subatomic tests.

With most of the nation’s nuclear arsenal sitting on the shelf for decades, NNSS would be the logical location for testing, refitting, overhauling, updating and replacing those weapons.

But Yucca Mountain and nearby Groom Lake, or Area 51 — where stealth aircraft and other top secret weaponry have been tested for decades — could also play a role.

Yucca Mountain (AP photo)

Yucca Mountain (AP photo)

Instead of dumping commercial nuclear reactor waste at Yucca Mountain, it could be reprocessed, as many other nations do.

But in 1977 Jimmy Carter banned reprocessing because it creates weapons-grade nuclear material and he feared a nuclear proliferation and potential for that material to be obtained by terrorists or a rogue state, which has never happened, though Great Britain, France, Japan and others routinely reprocess.

That weapons-grade material from reprocessing could be used to update the arsenal and the reprocessed fuel could power commercial nuclear reactors for years and drastically reduce the amount of waste.

The nation’s offensive and defensive efforts under Obama have lain fallow. The three Nevada sites could be employed to do more than merely deter sane nations with a policy of mutually assured destruction — appropriately summed up with the acronym MAD.

Research and development could be directed toward deploying reliable countermeasures against an ICBM attack from an orbit over the South Pole, which was not envisioned back in the day of Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. And it need not be just anti-ballistic missile technology.

Little has been done in recent years to harden the nation’s electric grid and electronic technology against the disabling power of the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that is generated by a nuclear weapon, which could leave the entire nation in the dark, without communications or operational vehicles. That could come from terrorists or one of those rogue dictatorships that have or are developing nuclear devices, not just Russia and China.

Research also needs to continue on electronic rail guns that could target incoming missiles, as well as EMP or laser or X-ray weapons that use a small nuclear detonation as a source of energy — ground- or space-based.

Nevada has the infrastructure in place already, though most of the worker expertise has moved on or died off. The state’s universities and the Desert Research Institute could be called upon to educate the necessary workforce, as well as the various nuclear labs around the country that have seen personnel laid off and budgets cut.

Nevada has long contributed to national defense, it could continue to do so.

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.

Editorial: Interior secretary nominee should work with states on public lands

Ryan Zinke nominated to head Interior Department (Getty Images via WSJ)

Ryan Zinke nominated to head Interior Department (Getty Images via WSJ)

It is a bit disappointing that Republican President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Interior Department, which along with other federal agencies controls 85 percent of Nevada, does not embrace his own party’s call for more federal public land to be transferred to the control of the states and local governments, but at least freshman Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke recognizes the need for better cooperative management of those lands.

The GOP platform that came from the summer convention reads: “Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to the states. We call upon all national and state leaders and representatives to exert their utmost power of influence to urge the transfer of those lands identified.”

But Zinke told the Billings Gazette he doesn’t support the transfer of federal lands.

“Quite frankly, most Republicans don’t agree with it and most Montanans don’t agree with it,” Zinke said of the party platform plank. “What we do agree on is better management.”

He has proposed setting up watchdog panels composed of state, tribal and local government representatives and the mining industry to oversee Interior Department land management.

The Daily Signal online news site quoted Zinke as saying, “As someone who grew up in a logging and rail town and hiking in Glacier National Park, I am honored and humbled to be asked to serve Montana and America as secretary of interior. As inscribed in the stone archway of Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, Montana, I shall faithfully uphold Teddy Roosevelt’s belief that our treasured public lands are ‘for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.’”

At least he includes benefits along with enjoyment.

Since he seems to favor cooperative management, he would do well to heed the suggestions made by a group of Western policy organizations recently in a letter to Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

The Western Governors’ Association, Conference of Western Attorneys General, Council of State Governments West, Western Interstate Region of the National Association of Counties, and the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region collaborated to produce what they are calling “Principles to Clarify and Strengthen State-Federal Relationship,” a true partnership, unlike the current tension between the two.

The letter outlines the framework that underpins the lengthy list of recommendations for cooperation: “Under the American version of federalism, the powers of the federal government are narrow, enumerated and defined. The powers of the states, on the other hand, are vast and indefinite. States are responsible for executing all powers of governance not specifically bestowed to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution. In many cases, states delegate a portion of their authority to counties and other local governments. Though local governments are diverse in structure, all are on the front lines of delivering vital services to residents.”

Among other things the associations ask that the new executive administration act on the presumption that sovereignty rests first with the individual states and not the federal agencies.

They ask that states be consulted before decisions are made. Currently the states are routinely consulted under the letter of the law but then largely ignored. Both Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Adam Laxalt have complained that state input on such matters as sage grouse habitat management have been ignored by federal land agents.

The letter further asks that when new regulations are being promulgated that the cost to state and local governments be taken into account to ensure funds are sufficient to pay for compliance costs.

As for Zinke’s opposition to states taking control of federal land, perhaps he should heed a Wall Street Journal editorial this week that points out federal land agencies lose $2 billion a year. For example, the Forest Service assesses user fees of about 28 cents per dollar spent on recreation, compared to Montana’s $6.31. It is estimated that state-managed lands generate 10 times more revenue per employee than do the feds.

We call on Zinke to be cooperative but also compromise on his stance on the transfer of federal public land to the states — especially land adjacent to communities that can quickly put it to viable economic benefit.

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: Why we have a federalism system, not a democracy

Someone buy these folks a civics textbook and maybe a Cliff Notes version of the Federalist Papers.

Yes, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by about 3 million more votes than Donald Trump, but she lost the Electoral College vote by 304 to 227. That is because the Electoral College is made up of 538 members — one for each senator and representative from each state, plus the District of Columbia. (Look at it another way. Clinton won California by 4 million votes, but Trump won the combined popular vote in the 49 other states.)

This has prompted a number of people to call, again, for the abolishment of the Electoral College, which gives smaller states like Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, the Dakotas and the like a disproportionate say in the presidential election, just as James Madison and the other Founders intended. They were looking for a compromise between the unitary government of England, in which all decisions flowed from the central government, and the Articles of Confederation that dispersed nearly all decisions to the states, weakening interstate commerce and a strong national defense posture.

They settled on a federalist system that granted enumerated powers to the people and the sovereign state governments, as well as the federal government.

Alexander Hamilton put it this way in Federalist Paper No. 68: “It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States. But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief. The choice of SEVERAL, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of ONE who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes. And as the electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place. Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption.”

Despite this precaution, the electors were in fact subject to a flood of phone calls, emails and social media diatribes.

Joining this cacophony of voices wailing and moaning about the undemocratic nature of the Electoral College was Nevada’s own senior Sen. Harry Reid, who is retiring in less than a month after three decades representing tiny Nevada in the U.S. Senate and more than a decade as Senate Democratic leader.

Perhaps, someone should remind Sen. Reid that the Senate itself was created to provide all states with an equal number of representatives in the upper chamber — very undemocratic, indeed, just like the Electoral College. Both were created precisely to be undemocratic and protect the rights of the minorities and smaller states.

In Federalist Paper No. 62 either Hamilton or Madison, not sure which, stated, “The equality of representation in the Senate is another point, which, being evidently the result of compromise between the opposite pretensions of the large and the small States, does not call for much discussion. If indeed it be right, that among a people thoroughly incorporated into one nation, every district ought to have a PROPORTIONAL share in the government, and that among independent and sovereign States, bound together by a simple league, the parties, however unequal in size, ought to have an EQUAL share in the common councils …”

Federalism, not democracy.

 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.

A veteran columnist tries out as a cub reporter? This could get interesting …

Debra J. Saunders, leaving San Francisco. Interesting lanyard. Maybe she has a sense of humor, too. (San Francisco Chronicle photo)

Debra J. Saunders, leaving San Francisco. Interesting lanyard. Maybe she has a sense of humor, too. (San Francisco Chronicle photo)

Now this could get interesting.

When the Las Vegas newspaper reported this morning (Don’t bother trying to find it online, I couldn’t.) that it has hired a conservative-leaning columnist Debra J. Saunders from the San Francisco Chronicle to cover the White House, I thought: Yeah, right, conservative-leaning at the uberliberal Chronicle is a matter of context.

But wait, it gets better.

Saunders is quoted by the paper as saying, “While I’ve written columns and editorials for 30 years, I have never worked as a straight news reporter. I expect to be the oldest cub reporter in the White House press corps.”

But wait it gets better.

While her columns do appear to be rather conservative for San Francisco — such as writing that sanctuary cities are places for career criminals to hide, an op-ed that appeared in the Las Vegas paper, too, as many of her columns have over the years — she will be “objectively” covering the Donald Trump White House after writing just before the election on why she was voting for Gary Johnson.

Good luck with getting called on at the next Trump presser.

In explaining why she couldn’t vote for Trump, Saunders wrote: “The GOP nominee lacks conviction, character and self-control. Trump didn’t keep his promise to release his tax returns. He trash-talks women and minorities. In all my years of covering politics, I’ve never seen a campaign where supporters actively blame the candidate’s lack of self-control — not his advisers or pollsters — for the harebrained things he says. Even his most enthusiastic fans say Trump is his own worst enemy.”

And we doubt she will be invited to sit next to The New York Times correspondent after writing this: “Yes, it has come to this. The New York Times reported on its front page Thursday that Donald Trump fondled a woman on an airplane more than 30 years ago and kissed another woman on the mouth against her wishes in 2005. I don’t think I’ve ever been this ashamed of my profession.”

She also dissed both Trump and WaPo’s reporting in the same piece: “I don’t like Trump. I’m not voting for Trump. But there are so many better reasons not to vote for Trump than because of this pile-on. It started when The Washington Post broke a story about comments Trump had made on a hot microphone — off air, but operative — to Billy Bush, then of ‘Access Hollywood,’ about how he likes to kiss women and grab their privates.”

Saunders also made a dig at NBC, wondering if perhaps after the election the voters will learn how NBC, which owned that “Access Hollywood” video, didn’t break the story sooner.

Not sure why Saunders left the Chron, but she wrote this in her departing column:

“It is impossible to replicate the bond a newspaper columnist establishes with readers. You’ve always let me know what you think, esteemed reader, and you are always in my head.

“There is a certain swagger that goes with the job. Of course, there is. The Chronicle has paid me for my opinion for 24 years. How many people can say that they’re paid for their opinions? Better yet, how many people can say they’re paid for their unpopular opinions?

“I’ve always thought I had the greatest job in the world. I’ve enjoyed having a big footprint. So it is time for me to move on and find a new way to make trouble. I am not sure what my next adventure will be, but I trust it will not be boring.”

On her Twitter feed she says she will write a column for Creators Syndicate. Not sure how well reporting and column writing will jibe, but it should be fun to watch. At least not be boring.

So much for railing against the evils of political free speech

Dark money is evil. Bright money is bad. Money is the root of all political evil. Gag the Koch brothers. Overturn Citizens United. If you buy enough advertising to tell a lie and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. People are that gullible and democracy will never work fairly without restraints on spending on free speech.

This we know because Harry and his ilk tell us so. Over and over and over, ad nauseam.

The medium might be the message, but, just perhaps, the message is more powerful than the money.

According an editorial in the Saturday-Sunday Las Vegas newspaper, President-elect Donald Trump spent $600 million on his successful presidential campaign, including a paltry $66 million of his own filthy lucre, while Hillary Clinton’s losing campaign shelled out a record $1.2 billion — nearly twice as much as Trump.

On top of that, the editorial tells us, according to the Center for Competitive Politics, the total number of ads bought by Clinton and her supporters outnumbered the number of pro-Trump ads by 3-to-1. Also, outside groups raised and spent more than three times as much to push Clinton than they did for Trump.

“Democrats love to complain about political spending,” the editorial concludes. “But they’ve shown time and again that they’re willing to shell out as much as it takes to guarantee victory. Trouble is, money is no guarantee of anything.” Despite what they keeping telling us.

Voters have to be convinced, not just browbeat. People should be free to put their money where their mouths are and voters will be free to evaluate the message and decide.

 

Greens are turning red over these Trump nominees

Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson nominated for secretary of State. (Reuters pix)

Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson nominated for secretary of State. (Reuters pix)

Now, I’m no fan of braggart-in-chief Donald Trump, but you’ve got to love three of his cabinet choices, if for no other reason than they are making the green acolytes turn red with rage.

Today Trump named Texas oilman and Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO Rex Tillerson to become secretary of State and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to head the Department Energy. Add these to the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency and you can see why the climate change Chicken Littles are running around like their heads have been cut off.

Rick Perry nominated to head Energy Department. (Getty pix)

Rick Perry nominated to head Energy Department. (Getty pix)

The grease orchard cartel is sure to be angrily opposed by those who have been getting rich on renewable energy subsidies and their Democratic Party allies in Congress.

Though there has been considerable angst about Tillerson’s ties to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, you can count on the greens to thump him on allegations that Exxon has concealed its research on climate change, despite the fact Exxon has bought into the Paris climate deal.

“At a time when the climate crisis is deepening, both the United States and the world deserve much better than having one of the planet’s top fossil fuel tycoons run U.S. foreign policy,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune bellowed in a statement challenging the appointment. “We urge senators, who are elected to represent and protect the American people, to stand up for families across the country and the world and oppose this nomination.”

With Perry named to head a department he once proposed be eliminated, the greens will be gunning for him since he has long been a climate change denier.

Scott Pruitt nominated to head EPA. (KFOR pix)

Scott Pruitt nominated to head EPA. (KFOR pix)

Brune said the designation of Perry to head Energy is “an insult to our functioning democracy. Putting Perry in charge of the Department of Energy is the perfect way to ensure the agency fails at everything it is charged to do.” The Energy Department was created by Jimmy Carter following the oil embargo in the early 1970s. The U.S., due to fracking, is no longer relying on Middle Eastern oil.

Pruitt over the years has challenged the EPA’s regulatory overreach repeatedly, often joining with other states, including Nevada, to file lawsuits.

Pruitt said in a statement released following his nomination that Americans “are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses.”

The folks at the Sierra Club call him a puppet of polluters and that his appointment is like “putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires.”

Can anyone remember this much ink being spilled over provious cabinet appointees? Trump might not be draining the swamp but he is sure stirring the waters.