A good journalist lost too soon

Longtime friends Laura Wingard, Laura Myers and Jane Ann Morrison in 1987 (From R-J website)

We lost another good journalist this week. The Review-Journal’s political reporter, Laura Myers, 53, died Friday of colon cancer, which she had been battling for more than two years.

I hired Laura in 2010 to cover the senatorial campaign on the recommendations of two of her friends and former co-workers — Jane Ann Morrison and Laura Wingard. (Morrison wrote both a news obituary and a column for today’s paper. Both pieces tell a comprehensive story about the heart and soul of a dedicated journalist and humanitarian.)

I think I first understood what a talented reporter Laura was when I read her profile of Sharron Angle, then a long-shot but the eventual nominee of the Republican Party to take on Harry Reid in 2010. It was the first time the people of Nevada got an unvarnished glimpse of this hard-driving, tough-talking, and deeply-devout politician.

You can tell the true mettle of a journalist by what she has written.

The profile was skillfully crafted, using metaphors to paint a word portrait of a many-layered candidate. It was matter of fact, without the judgmental tilting so many liberal journalists resorted to in reporting on Angle as a Bible-thumping, pistol-waving grandma — though Laura conceded later that she was a bit surprised when Angle showed her the pistol she carried in her pickup.

Until I tracked down the story this morning, I had forgotten that it opened with an account of Angle being nearly paralyzed by a tumor on her spine years previously. That was a little unsettling.

Laura wove anecdotes into political insight, such as when she wrote about Angle singing a silly song with her 2½-year-old grandson. The song was from a then-popular cartoon movie “Veggie Pirate.”

Laura wrote:

“We are the pirates who don’t do anything,” the cartoon vegetables sing in nasal tones.
“We just stay home and lie around.
“And if you ask us to do anything.
“We’ll just tell you, we don’t do anything.”

Angle explained that it reminded her of Washington gridlock.

The story was no cream puff though. It noted that four out of 10 voters did not recognize Angle’s name with less than three months until the primary. It quoted one of those ubiquitous experts as saying her chances for the nomination were slim.

The piece ended thusly:

“They are just going at it,” Angle smiles, referring to her top two GOP opponents. They have all but ignored Angle, a tactic they might regret if she overcomes long odds and makes a primary comeback.

The GOP warfare somehow reminds Angle of the book she wrote and self-published called “Prairie Fire.” It centers on the tragic death of a member of her German-speaking immigrant family several generations ago after they moved to South Dakota from Europe following the Civil War.

Those settlers used to live in dugouts, or sod houses, that were essentially buried underground, protecting them from the cold in winter and the heat in summer.

A fire raged across the prairie one day. Most of Angle’s ancestors survived by huddling in the sod house as the blaze overran it. But her great grandmother burned to death while trying to salvage a few pieces of laundry from the clothesline before the fire engulfed the dry grasses.

“The fire got her,” says Angle, whose best hope might be to let the GOP primary flames ravage the exposed competition, leaving her the sole survivor, gathering up enough votes to win.

Frankly, that is a pretty decent metaphor for what happened.

As a political reporter she tried to be as objective as possible — to the point of telling me she refused to cast a ballot in any political race she was covering so her own mind could remain as open as possible.

Journalism and humanity have lost a good one too soon. Over the years cancer has taken and/or crippled too many good people I have known, loved, worked with and admired. Cancer research charities are good ways to remember and pay tribute to those we’ve lost in hopes that in the future good people can stay with us longer.

Sharron Angle with her grandson. (R-J photo)




Newspaper column: Supreme Court tells Nevada judges to butt out of campaigns

A Supreme Court opinion from earlier this summer should send a message to Nevada judges to butt out of election campaigns.

The court reversed and remanded a case out of Ohio that involved a law making it a crime for any person to “[p]ost, publish, circulate, distribute, or otherwise disseminate a false statement concerning a candidate, either knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not” during the course of a political campaign, as reported in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times, the Elko Daily Free Press and Mesquite Local News.u

Just weeks earlier a Nevada judge forced a state Senate candidate in the Republican primary to stop running a television commercial saying his opponent was a supporter of Harry Reid.

The judge wrote, “Ben Kieckhefer is likely to suffer irreparable injury to his career and reputation from defendant’s television advertisements.” Being associated with our senior U.S. senator can do that.

In the Ohio case, a group called the Susan B. Anthony List attempted to erect a billboard during the 2010 election season criticizing Rep. Steve Driehaus for voting for ObamaCare and thus supporting taxpayer-funded abortion. Driehaus got the Ohio Elections Commission to threaten the billboard company and the billboard was never posted.

Susan B. Anthony List sued, saying the law abridged its First Amendment rights.

Considering ObamaCare dictates the coverage of abortifacients, the statement about tax-payer funded abortion might well be considered true by many.

Just as Nevada state Senate Republican primary candidate Gary Schmidt’s claims about opponent Ben Kieckhefer were not proven untrue merely by the absence of Kieckhefer’s name on a list of Republicans for Reid. No one has found any evidence he supported Reid’s opponent. Kieckhefer at the time also told a newspaper reporter he intended to support Reid backer Bill Raggio’s bid to retain a Republican leadership position even though Raggio had openly supported Democrat Reid over Republican Sharron Angle.

Truth in an election campaign is not something for a commission or a judge to decide. That is for the voters to determine.

Justice Clarence Thomas noted in the Susan B. Anthony opinion, “The burdens that Commission proceedings can impose on electoral speech are of particular concern here. As the Ohio Attorney General himself notes, the ‘practical effect’ of the Ohio false statement scheme is ‘to permit a private complainant … to gain a campaign advantage without ever having to prove the falsity of a statement.’”

There is no requirement in the Constitution that people must defend their speech. It is up to others to reply with equal measures of free speech and win in the court of public opinion, not the courts.

Read the entire column at Ely, Elko or Mesquite.

Ohio tried to bar bill board

It never was about saving the planet, it was always about saving Harry

Harry Reid has long been known to Nevadans as a piker when it comes to bringing home the bacon — Nevada ranks next to last among the states in federal dollars received compared to be federal taxes paid, 65 cents on the dollar.

Harry Reid and Sharron Angle debate in 2010.

So it was no surprise that Harry pulled out the stops and cashed in his markers during the 2010 election cycle to polish his bacon creds, trying to take credit for creating jobs by doling out federal grants, tax breaks, gifts and assorted graft to his “green energy” campaign contributors.

Emails revealed by a House committee a year ago help document the administration collusion with Reid and others:

Administration Officials Moved Projects Forward to Help Key Allies

• DOE officials were aware of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s tough reelection in 2010 and moved projects that were important to Senator Reid forward.

o In a December 5 2009 email, Loan Program Office Senior Credit Advisor Jim McCrea forwarded an article about Senator Reid’s reelection campaign to LPO contractor Paul Barbian and stated: “Since this is not going to go into the DOE, and just to be clear, the translation is: Reid may be desperate. WH may want to help. Short term considerations may be more important than longer term considerations and what’s a billion anyhow?” (Email #8, attached)

o In a May 4 2010 email, LPO Executive Director Jonathan Silver wrote in an email “I need some stats on how many projects we have funded or have in DD [due diligence] as a percentage of totals. Reid is constantly hit at home for not bringing in the federal dollars.” (Email #9, attached)

o Throughout 2010 LPO emails indicate that projects in Nevada were prioritized because they were “high profile,” “tied to larger events,” or because they had Senator Reid’s support. These projects included the $343 million SWIP project (Email #10, attached), the $98.5 million Nevada
Geothermal project (Email #11, attached), and the $737 million SolarReserve Tonopah project (Email #12, attached).

NPRI has noted that since 2009 the federal government has funneled more than $1.3 billion into geothermal, solar and wind projects in Nevada, creating just 288 permanent, full-time jobs — at a cost of more than $4.6 million per job.

Email No. 8:

What's billion anyway?

What’s a billion anyway?

And you were told this was about saving the planet from global warming. No, it is and was about saving Harry’s job and extracting money from the “green” executives.

In addition, power bills in Nevada are higher and going still higher, thanks to Harry.

‘Defrocked’ columnist misdirects criticism as usual

In a Sunday Review-Journal interview story about “defrocked” Sun columnist Jon Ralston’s efforts to launch a profitable political website, there was this exchange:

Question: About those sarcastic quote marks you put around “newspaper” when citing the Review-Journal: Do we really not print anything newsworthy?

Answer: If I’m being honest, to some extent, that’s a relic of being horrified at how (former Publisher) Sherm Frederick and (former Editor) Tom Mitchell conducted themselves during the Reid-Angle Senate race. I think they were way out of control, and I think it trickled into coverage. People thought the quote marks were funny, so I kept them. I guess I need to get over it, but that was the genesis of it. I do not hate the R-J.

I defy Ralston or anyone else to find a single sentence that I wrote prior to the election that was “way out of control.” (After the election is another story.) And I especially defy anyone to show a scintilla of evidence that the paper’s news coverage was in any way biased.

Ralston and Angle

Ralston and Angle

But since Ralston brought it up, one could do well to look back at Ralston’s writings and television interviews.

Is calling a candidate crazy and dangerous, as Ralston did in one column, way out of control? “But Reid’s serpentine rhetorical peregrinations seem addled; Angle’s seem dangerous. So do we want the dotty guy or the crazy woman?”

Perhaps saying a candidate is pathological is objective reporting. “I am beginning to wonder about this seemingly pathological habit Angle has of saying she never said something when it is on tape and so easily retrieved.”

I would say calling a candidate schizophrenic might be a bit out of control. “I am not sure who that was I interviewed on ‘Face to Face’ Tuesday evening, but it was not Sharron Angle.” Ralston wrote after the primary in 2010. “At least not the Sharron Angle who existed before she was catapulted from relatively unknown former assemblywoman to perhaps the most famous Republican Senate nominee in the country …”

Later in that column he said, “So if Angle is indeed dealing with her new schizophrenia, making her a prime target, why won’t Reid debate her? My guess is he will, but only under the most favorable circumstances.”

I suppose penning a column with a fictional dialogue between a candidate and God, is fair and balanced rather than an attempt at ridicule.

“Has Sharron Angle, who makes stuff up, changes her positions and revises history, gotten away with it?” Ralston asked in another screed.

He answered his own question later by writing that “she was doing what she has done the entire campaign, with her ‘Second Amendment remedies’ lunacy and her ‘domestic enemies’ echo of a deluded radio host: Play to the worst fears and visceral beliefs of voters despondent about the economy, alienated from government and looking for someone to be a repository for their bilious unease.”

Speaking of bilious, take a look at a few of his diatribes face-to-face, so to speak, with candidate Angle:

Angle is right and Ralston is wrong, as I so noted at the time. There is an Establishment Clause and a Free Exercise Clause in the First Amendment, but no Wall of Separation Clause. That phrase was first used by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 in a letter to the Danbury Baptists, who feared Connecticut might establish a state sanctioned religion. The First Amendement at the time restrained Congress but not the states — until the passage of the 14th Amendment.