Newspaper column: Trump immigration plan merits consideration

Trump in Rose Garden introduces immigration revamp plan.

Minutes after President Trump announced in the Rose Garden this past week a plan to revise the priorities under which immigrants are accepted into the United States, Democrats and media outlets were calling his proposal dead on arrival, having no chance of being approved by Congress.

More’s the pity, Trump’s plan, though short on detail, outlines a path that would boost the economy and in the president’s words “establishes a new legal immigration system that protects American wages, promotes American values, and attracts the best and brightest from all around the world.”

Trump’s proposal would leave unchanged the number of people allowed to legally immigrate to this country — 1.1 million a year — but would drastically alter the criteria for entry. He said fully 66 percent of immigrants are added solely because they have a relative in the U.S. Apparently just about any shirttail relative qualifies. Trump would limit relatives to spouses and children.

The president then noted that only 12 percent of legal immigrants are selected based on skill or merit, unlike Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which use merit as the chief criteria for 60 to 75 percent of their legal immigrants.

“The biggest change we make is to increase the proportion of highly skilled immigration from 12 percent to 57 percent, and we’d like to even see if we can go higher,” Trump said, being interrupted by applause. “This will bring us in line with other countries and make us globally competitive.”

Trump said that brilliant foreign graduates of our finest colleges every year are forced to return to their home countries because they have no relatives here to sponsor them. He said we should want exceptional students and workers to stay, flourish and thrive in America.

“As a result of our broken rules, the annual green card flow is mostly low-wage and low-skilled,” Trump said. “Newcomers compete for jobs against the most vulnerable Americans and put pressure on our social safety net and generous welfare programs.”

Should we be inviting people to come here who will be a drain on our economy or who will be a boost?

Trump’s answer to that question, “America’s immigration system should bring in people who will expand opportunity for striving, low-income Americans, not to compete with those low-income Americans.”

His plan, reportedly spearheaded by Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, would create a points-based selection system. Points would be awarded for being a younger worker who could contribute years of revenue for our social safety net. Points would be awarded for having an existing job offer, having a valuable skill, an advanced education and having a plan to create jobs. Also, priority would be given to higher-wage workers who would be self-sufficient.

“Finally, to promote integration, assimilation, and national unity, future immigrants will be required to learn English and to pass a civics exam prior to admission,” Trump insisted.

As for the current problem with illegal immigration and smuggling of contraband, Trump proposes investing in technology that would scan 100 percent of traffic crossing our borders and continue building miles of barriers along the border, saying 400 miles of this barrier should be completed by the end of next year.

The president, again without addressing specifics, called for changing our current law, which provides incentives for smuggling women and children, noting that 65 percent of all border-crossers this year were either minors or adults traveling with minors. He also called for quickly reuniting unaccompanied children with their families in their home countries.

“We must also restore the integrity of our broken asylum system,” Trump stated. “Our nation has a proud history of affording protection to those fleeing government persecutions. Unfortunately, legitimate asylum seekers are being displaced by those lodging frivolous claims — these are frivolous claims — to gain admission into our country.”

He said asylum abuse strains our public school systems, hospitals and shelters, draining funds that should go to helping Americans in poverty, the elderly and at-risk children.

The president’s critics were quick to fault him for not addressing the millions who are already here illegally, as well as those who were brought here illegally as children, the so-called Dreamers. That is easy enough to address. Let them apply for legal entry under the new point-based system.

Trump’s proposition merits serious consideration, not partisan dismissiveness.

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.

Newspaper column: National Popular Vote would make Nevada voters irrelevant

The Nevada Assembly voted 23-17 this past week to cut the impact of your presidential vote by at least a third.

Assembly Bill 186 would have Nevada join something called the “Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote.” Instead of awarding Nevada’s six electoral votes — one for each representative and senator in Congress — according to how Nevadans vote, those six electoral votes would be awarded to the president and vice president team that wins the popular vote nationally.

One could say this cuts the value of Nevada’s votes from six to four, since the votes nationwide would be proportional to population. Or one could say it negates our votes entirely since it matters not how we vote.

Not a single Assembly Republican voted for the bill and five Democrats had the good sense to reject this attempt to emasculate the federalist system on which this country was founded.

If only three state Senate Democrats have the temerity to buck their party leadership and reject AB186 it would fail.

An email to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office asking whether he would sign or veto the bill should it pass did not garner a response.

Backers say the compact would become a reality if it is adopted by states possessing a combined 270 electoral votes, or a majority of the 538 electoral votes. A similar bill passed in Colorado earlier this year, giving the proposal 181 electoral votes, just 89 votes short of becoming binding.

A similar measure passed the Nevada Assembly in 2009 on a party-line vote but failed to come up for a vote in the state Senate.

The instigation for the current push is the fact that in 2016 Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote by 304 to 227, though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.9 million.

If the National Popular Vote had been in force in 2000 Nevada’s then four electoral votes would have been enough to flip the election to Al Gore, even though George W. Bush won the popular vote in Nevada by 49.5 percent to 46 percent, winning every county except Clark. Bush won the electoral vote 271 to 266, but lost the popular vote by 540,000.

Janine Hansen, state president of the Nevada Families for Freedom, mentioned just such a scenario in testimony opposing AB186.

“There are three dangers I’d like to mention with the National Popular Vote,” Hansen testified. “One is the National Popular Vote will potentially betray the voters of our own state. If our state voted for candidate A and the National Popular Vote winner was candidate B, our votes would be stolen from our desire and given to the National Popular Vote winner, betraying the voters in this state. I think there would be a lot of angry voters if they found out that that’s what happened.”

Hansen also noted there is no national authority for determining the accuracy of the National Popular Vote.

In his testimony, Jim DeGraffenreid, vice chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, pointed out Nevada is currently a battleground state, getting significant attention from national candidates. He said the state’s first-in-the-West caucuses provide opportunities for all Nevadans to participate.

“The Electoral College exists because the Framers of the Constitution believed that each state should matter in selecting the president,” DeGraffenreid testified. “It is designed to protect the smaller states like Nevada. To suggest that a state should disregard its own voters and instead follow the will of voters in some other state is the exact opposite of what the Framers intended.”

He said the bill could make Nevada voters irrelevant.

The Founders created the Electoral College and the U.S. Senate to assure the smaller populated states were not relegated to powerlessness in a one person-one vote system. The states were meant to be sovereign and to hold the powers not specifically delegated to the federal government.

The National Review pointed out in a recent article that using 2016’s turnout stats a candidate could have won 54 percent of the vote in 48 states, losing only California, New York and D.C., but if an opponent won 75 percent of the vote in just those three locales, a 451 to 87 electoral vote landslide would have turned into a popular-vote defeat to 50.7 percent to 49.3 percent — even though the voters in 48 states rejected that candidate.

Should Nevada surrender its presidential votes to California and New York?

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.

Mueller report is all sound and fury signifying nothing

Pardon me for being a bit obtuse, but what is the point of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report?

Attorney General William Barr quotes Mueller saying his report “does not exonerate” President Trump. Since when is it the job of a prosecutor to exonerate anyone? Prosecutors charge someone or don’t. Exoneration is up to juries and judges.

First, Barr states “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Collusion is not a crime. People can combine their efforts to reach a mutually beneficial goal. That is not a crime unless one is breaking anti-trust law. It may be politically unwise, but it is not a crime.

Second, under the obstruction of justice part of the report, Barr states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” How can Trump obstruct justice if there was no crime to investigate in the first place?

After two years this all they’ve got?

What is unsaid speaks loudly

Sometimes the most notable aspect of a news story is what is not in it.

The Las Vegas newspaper today has a front page story about the U.S. Supreme Court agreeing to hear a case that could allow all states to legalize sports betting. Since Congress passed the Professional and Amatuer Sports Protection Act in 1992 only Nevada, Oregon, Montana and Delaware have been allowed to engage in sports wagering because they already allowed it, thus were “grandfathered.”

New Jersey is leading the appeal of a lower court ruling upholding the law.

The story reports that the Nevada casino lobby is siding with New Jersey, saying they hope the expansion of state-sponsored regulated betting would effectively end illegal offshore betting competition.

What the story does not say is where casino owner Sheldon Adelson stands on the matter. Adelson, who happens to own the newspaper, has been a vocal opponent of online wagering, but his Venetian casino sports book has a mobile app that can be used anywhere in Nevada, which seems like online gambling.

The story doesn’t even have one of those disclaimers saying the Adelson family owns the paper.

According to an article at The Federalist in August, Adelson has spent years trying to outlaw internet gambling. He was pressing to extend the Federal Wire Act of 1961 to ban the “bad, addictive” practice of online gambling. The bill is called the Restoration of America’s Wire Act.

The original act intended to stop “mobsters from using telephone and telegraph systems for organized crime, most notably for horse racing and other sports betting.” This was before the Internet, of course.

Online and sports betting seem to be somewhat connected.

The Offshore Gaming Association, whose ox would be gored by repeal of the sports betting ban, noted recently that the appointment of Neil Gorsuch means the court is dominated by states’ rights Republicans. The article says, “It’s also notable that while the GOP is beholden to Sheldon Adelson for giving millions to their campaigns, Adelson’s fight is for the banning of online gambling. Adelson has no interest or concern surrounding sports betting. And Donald Trump himself felt that PASPA is largely to blame for the demise of Atlantic City casinos.”

Adelson once said of online gambling in an interview with Forbes, “I am willing to spend whatever it takes. My moral standard compels me to speak out on this issue because I am the largest company by far in the industry and I am willing to speak out. I don’t see any compelling reason for the government to allow people to gamble on the Internet and nobody has ever explained except for the two companies whose special interest is going to be served if there is gaming on the Internet, Caesars and MGM.”

Yet his sports book has an online app for betting. A little clarification might be in order.

Sheldon Adelson, center, with Donald Trump and Miriam Adelson in 2016. (Pix by Andy Abboud/twitter.com)

 

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.