Our day that will live in infamy

R-J editorial page from Sept. 16, 2001

R-J editorial page from Sept. 16, 2001

Where were you on September 11, 2001?

I wrote on the Sunday following that day of infamy:

“I sat down at my computer at about 6 a.m., unfolded the newspaper and switched on the television. There was smoke pouring from the top of one of the unmistakable landmarks of New York City, the World Trade Center. Well, I thought, there’s a story and photo for tomorrow’s front page, and started into the morning’s routine.

“Minutes later a fireball blossomed from the other tower, and it began to dawn on the commentators and me that this was no ordinary accident and Sept. 11 would be no ordinary day.”

I started making phone calls. Reporters and photographers were dispatched to Hoover Dam, McCarran International, City Hall, Nellis Air Force Base, the Strip and elsewhere. Editors huddled. The publisher called in and said we should add 24 pages to the Wednesday newspaper. All plans were scrapped and we started from scratch, hoping to help our readers make sense of a senseless act.

Every section of the paper kicked in its resources.

The press crew rolled the presses early and cranked out thousands of extra copies.

Then I wrote that Sunday:

“I was proud of what we all had accomplished, of the concerted effort and professionalism, as I drove home at 1 a.m. … until I heard the callers on the radio. People were saying they would gladly give up some freedoms for the sake of safety.”

I wanted to reach into the radio and slap some sense into the callers.

The column proceeded to tick off some of the rights spelled out in the Bill of Rights and I wondered aloud which people would willingly sacrifice. The First’s right of assembly, lest there be a bomb, and no freedom of speech and religion, especially that one? The Second’s right to bear arms? The Fourth’s prohibition against warrantless search and seizure? The Fifth’s right to due process? The Sixth’s right to a public trial?

I concluded:

“If this is the consensus of the nation, the bastards have already won, destroying our will and our principles as well as planes, buildings and lives.

“We will have surrendered without firing a shot in the first war of the 21st century.”

The column appeared sandwiched between a Jim Day cartoon and a Vin Suprynowicz column with the headline: “The passengers were all disarmed.”

In a comment to a local magazine on an anniversary of 9/11 I called it “our Pearl Harbor.”

poster

R-J front page from Newseum poster.

R-J front page from Newseum poster.

First posted on Sept. 11, 2016.

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Newspaper column: Lawmakers should narrow, not expand gun-free zones

Lawmakers in Carson City continue to exhibit rabid hoplophobia — fear of guns. A bill has been introduced to further extend gun-free zones to public libraries and their parking lots. Senate Bill 115, introduced by state Sen. Mo Denis of Las Vegas, would add public libraries to the current law, which already prohibits guns and other weapons in the buildings and parking lots of universities, public and private schools and childcare facilities. Now, we have no problem with the private owners of land and buildings demanding that visitors come unarmed, and the state is surely the owner or custodian of universities and public schools. Though why lawmakers should be allowed to dictate to private schools and private childcare facilities is beyond us.

Additionally, this bill is a pointless endeavor that does nothing but add needless paperwork and wastes time, because every library district in the state has the power to control its own grounds and facilities. The Las Vegas-Clark County Library District already has a policy barring arms inside buildings and has guards who check to make sure that the holster on your belt holds a cellphone and not a handgun.

This law would require someone to get written permission to bring his or her weapon onto a library parking lot or into a library building.

During a recent committee meeting on the bill, Republican state Sen. Michael Roberson of Las Vegas, said, “I’m concerned that if these libraries don’t have adequate security that what we’re doing is we’re telling the public that we’re creating gun-free zones. And those here that want this bill can disagree with me but there have been studies that show gun-free zones are a magnet for criminal activity and mass shooters.”

He said the bill undermines law abiding Nevadans and actually endangers the public.

Republican state Sen. Don Gustavson — who represents all of Esmeralda, Humboldt, Lander, Mineral, Pershing and parts of Nye and Washoe counties — echoed Roberson’s concerns about creating gun-free zones. He asked rhetorically whether one would have a quicker response by pulling out a cellphone and calling 9-1-1 or pulling out a weapon. He said many in his district carry concealed weapons wherever they go.

According to the Nevada Firearms Coalition, since about 1950, more than 95 percent of all mass shootings in America have taken place where law-abiding citizens are banned from carrying guns.

Most puzzling is why it is a crime to have a gun in your car in the parking lot of these facilities. In fact, in the 2015 legislative session Assemblyman John Hambrick introduced a bill that would have allowed guns in vehicles at the aforementioned locales. A hearing on the bill was packed with proponents and opponents. A digest of the bill stated it would add an exception to the law so that a person would not be prohibited from possessing a weapon on those specific grounds if it were inside a locked or occupied motor vehicle. Seemed like a common sense approach, but it never got out of committee.

So people who are accustomed to keeping a pistol in the glove compartment or a rifle in a gun rack or the trunk are breaking the law if they drop their children off on school or daycare parking lots or visit a college campus. Now this bill would add public libraries, even if one is dropping a book at an outside collection box. Having a gun in the parking lot is not as good as having one on your person if the need arises. Just ask the vice principal of the Pearl, Miss., school who had to run a quarter mile to his vehicle to retrieve a gun to stop a shooter.

In October of 1997 a young man showed up on a school campus carrying a .30-30 rifle. He fatally shot two students. At the sound of gunshots, the vice principal ran a quarter of a mile to his truck, because the school was declared by law to be a gun-free zone, to recover and load his pistol before returning to campus, where he captured and disarmed the gunman and held him for four minutes until police could arrive. This could be an opportunity for an enterprising lawmaker to show some common sense for a change. Amend SB115 by adding the parking lot exception offered by Hambrick two years ago. That would not go far enough but would be a move in the right direction. Also, let library districts set their own policies.

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.

Bill would add public libraries to gun-free zones

Lawmakers in Carson City continue to exhibit rabid hoplophobia.

A bill has been introduced to further extend gun-free zones to public libraries and their parking lots. Senate Bill 115, introduced by state Sen. Mo Denis, would add public libraries to the current law, which prohibits guns and other weapons in the buildings and parking lots of universities, public and private schools and childcare facilities.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has a hearing scheduled on the bill for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Nevada Firearms Coalition is urging people to contact the committee members to oppose the bill and register their opposition at a legislative web page.

Now, we have no problem with the owners of land and buildings demanding that visitors come unarmed and the state is surely the owner or custodian of universities and public schools, but why should the state dictate to private schools and private childcare facilities? But most of all, why make it a crime to have a gun in your car in the parking lot?

In fact, in 2015 session Assemblyman John Hambrick introduced a bill that would have allowed guns in occupied or locked vehicles at the aforementioned locales. A hearing on the bill was packed with proponents and opponents.

Its digest stated:

Existing law generally makes it a gross misdemeanor to carry or possess certain weapons while on the property of the Nevada System of Higher Education, a private or public school or a child care facility, or while in a vehicle of a private or public school or a child care facility except in certain circumstances. (NRS 202.265) This bill adds an exception so that a person is not prohibited from possessing such weapons on the property of the Nevada System of Higher Education, a private or public school or a child care facility if the weapon remains out of public view and if the weapon is: (1) inside a motor vehicle that is occupied or, if the motor vehicle is unoccupied, the motor vehicle is locked; or (2) stored in a locked container that is affixed securely to the motor vehicle. 

Seems like a common sense approach, but it never got out of committee.

Having a gun in the parking lot is not as good as having one on your person if the need arises, but tell that to the vice principal of the Pearl, Miss., school who had to run a quarter mile to car to retrieve a gun to stop a shooter.

Vin Suprynowicz recounted in a newspaper column in 2012:

Law-abiding Americans with guns have an impressive record of cutting short the mayhem of would-be mass killers. In a shooting in Pearl, Miss., in October 1997, young Luke Woodham had slit his mother’s throat before carrying a .30-30 deer rifle to school.

Woodham fatally shot two students as Vice Principal Joel Myrick, responding quickly to the sound of shots, dashed to his truck — parked more than a quarter-mile away as required by the ‘gun-free school zone’ law — to recover and load his own Colt .45. He then raced back, captured and disarmed Woodham, holding a gun to his head for more than four minutes while waiting for police to arrive. This almost certainly saved lives, as Woodham had declared his intent to also shoot up another nearby school.

Pearl, Miss., school shooter.

Pearl, Miss., school shooter.

 

Editorial: Voter registration version of don’t ask, don’t tell

After President Trump proclaimed to the world that the only reason Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million was that 3 million or more ballots were cast fraudulently — by noncitizens, by the dead or by Box 13 in Alice, Texas, where ballot stuffing first elected Lyndon Johnson to Congress, perhaps — the media dutifully reported that there is no evidence, no proof, no foundation for such a claim.

Even Nevada’s Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske put out a statement saying her office was unaware of any “evidence” to support claims of voter fraud here.

“There is no evidence of voters illegally casting ballots at the most recent election in Nevada,” reads a statement posted on her website. “The Secretary of State’s office is aware of attempted fraud related to voter registration in Nevada; however, with the help of local election officials, we were able to investigate and make one arrest.”

There is no evidence because voters are not required to prove they are citizens or to show valid ID to prove they are who they say they are. How many people after the fact are going to come forward and volunteer that they voted fraudulently?

Recently a former newspaper columnist, Vin Suprynowicz, dredged up a 2012 column by fellow columnist Glenn Cook that found there really is “evidence,” but only if you really look for it and actually, you know, ask questions. (I also wrote about it at the time.)

Cook spoke shortly before the election that year with two immigrant noncitizens who had been registered to vote by a representative of their union, Culinary Local 226 in Clark County. They spoke English but didn’t read it very well. They told Cook the Culinary official who registered them to vote didn’t tell them what they were signing and didn’t ask whether they were citizens. Later, Culinary canvassers started seeking them out and ordering them to go vote.

Cook verified their identities, their lack of citizenship and their status as active registered voters.

The two said they did not have to show a photo ID to register and merely showed a Culinary health insurance card and a power bill.

“One would establish identity and one would establish residence,” then-Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax told the columnist. “Just like every other voter in Nevada, they will not be asked to prove citizenship.”

The Culinary political director denied the union canvassers do such things.

Shortly before the election this year The Associated Press reported that the Culinary union in Las Vegas had registered 34,000 of its members to vote and had reassigned 150 of its members to full-time political work, intending to knock on 200,000 doors and confront their co-workers in casino cafeterias and by phone. The union also chartered buses to shuttle casino workers to an early voting site during their paid lunch break, and handed each a boxed lunch.

According to a New York Times account shortly before the election, 56 percent of the Clark County Culinary union’s 57,000 members were Latino. No indication how many were citizens.

According to Pew Research Center, in 2014 Nevada had the highest ratio of illegal alien workers in the nation at 10.4 percent.

Cook spoke to just two people who should not have been registered to vote and should not have been pressured to vote nor pressured to vote for the union ticket. How many more there might have been is unknown, because no one is asking.

And, while we are not speculating about the impact such votes might’ve had on the 2016 election, we will note that Hillary Clinton lost in every county in Nevada except Clark and Washoe, while newly elected Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto lost in every county save Clark, as did the new Congressional District 4 Rep. Ruben Kihuen.

Nevada lawmakers should take the opportunity in the coming session to require proof of citizenship and a photo ID. Our current honor system is just too risky, especially in close races.

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.

There is no evidence of voter fraud because no one asks

Casino workers vote at an early voting polling station in October 2016. (AP photo)

Casino workers vote at an early voting polling station in October 2016. (AP photo)

After President Trump proclaimed to the world that the only reason Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million was that 3 million or more ballots were cast fraudulently — by noncitizen, the dead or by Box 13 in Alice, Texas, perhaps — the media dutifully reported, even Fox News, that there is no evidence, no proof, no foundation for such a claim. It is utterly unsubstantiated.

Today the morning newspaper dutifully reports that Nevada’s Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske says her office is unaware of any “evidence” to support claims of voter fraud.

“There is no evidence of voters illegally casting ballots at the most recent election in Nevada,” Cegavske said in a statement. “The secretary of state’s office is aware of attempted fraud related to voter registration in Nevada; however, with the help of local election officials, we were able to investigate and make one arrest.”

She did encourage anyone with evidence of voter fraud to file a complaint with her office.

There is no evidence because voters are not required to prove they are citizens or to show valid ID to prove they are who they say they are. And how many people after the fact are going to come forward and volunteer that they voted fraudulently?
Vin Suprynowicz pointed this out in a blog posting Wednesday and cited a 2012 column by Las Vegas newspaper columnist Glen Cook to show there is “evidence” if you really look for it and actually, you know, ask questions.
Cook spoke shortly before the election that year with two immigrant noncitizens who had been registered to vote by a representative of their union, Culinary Local 226. They spoke English but didn’t read it very well. They told Cook the Culinary official who registered them to vote didn’t tell them what they were signing and didn’t ask whether they were citizens. Later Culinary canvassers started seeking them out and ordering them to go vote.

Cook verified their identities, their lack of citizenship and their status as active registered voters in Clark County.

The two told Cook that they did not have to show a photo ID to register and merely showed a Culinary health insurance card and a power bill.

“One would establish identity and one would establish residence,” then-Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax told the columnist. “Just like every other voter in Nevada, they will not be asked to prove citizenship.”

Cook also got the Culinary political director to deny the union canvassers do such a thing.

Shortly before the election this year The AP reported that the Culinary union in Las Vegas had registered  34,000 of its members to vote and had reassigned 150 of its members to full-time political work, intending to knock on 200,000 doors and confront  their co-workers in casino cafeterias and by phone. The union also chartered buses to shuttle casino workers to an early voting site during their paid lunch break, and handed each a boxed lunch.

According to a New York Times account shortly before the election, the Las Vegas Culinary union had 57,000 members and 56 percent of them were Latino. No indication how many were citizens.

According to Pew Research Center, in 2014 Nevada had the highest ratio of illegal alien workers in the nation at 10.4 percent.

Cook concluded his column by arguing:

We should ask every voter, upon registration, to prove citizenship, but we don’t. Instead, we have an honor system that’s exceedingly easy to cheat and gives political parties and politically active groups a powerful incentive to break the law without much risk of being caught.

There is no risk of being caught if no one asks.

Cook spoke to just two people who should not have been registered to vote and should not have been pressured to vote and pressured to vote for the union ticket. How many more there might be is unknown, because no one is asking.

Check out the second installment in the exciting adventures of a used book dealer

May I be so bold as to recommend for holiday gifting or your own personal  perusal the second installment of what we hope will be many of the strange adventures of Matthew Hunter, antique book dealer, and his pistol-packing companion Chantal Stevens from the creative and slightly warped mind of long-time Nevada libertarian philosopher and writer Vin Suprynowicz, who spent a couple of decades penning frequently non-fiction newspaper columns and editorials for the Las Vegas newspaper.

“The Miskatonic Manuscript,” novel, available for the first time today, picks up where last year’s “The Testament of James” left off. The book dares to imagine a world in which New England horror writer H.P. Lovecraft’s work was as much science as it was fiction and in which someone is actually fighting back in the War on Drugs. Think of it as Robert A. Heinlein meets Jules Verne and Carlos Castaneda.

As in “Testament” the characters are quirky, literate and irreverent, engaging in dialogue that weaves in libertarian and free market ideals, dropping names like Hayek and Rothbard from the lips of a savvy chauffeur.

Where “Testament” was more of a mystery, “Manuscript” is action/adventure.

Without giving away too much, try to image a dimension hopping duo — as in Heinlein’s “Number of the Beast” in which 666 was the number of dimensions or alternate realities, as in six to power of six to the power of six.

Image one of the dimensions is populated by menacing prehistoric creatures and rather primative people, as in Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” but the navigation requires more than mere machines but also tweaking of the mind with assorted cacti and fungi as might be used by Castaneda’s Don Juan in his quest.

The humor can be a bit subtle, such as when in the middle of an otherworldly scene wrought with imminent danger from the aforementioned prehistoric beasts in another dimension Chantal sarcastically asks Matthew if he has seen any armed gorillas on horseback, to which the inveterate book dealer replies, “No, that was ‘Planet of the Apes,’ Pierre Boule, a six-hundred-dollar first edition if the orange print on the jacket spine isn’t faded too badly.”

A favorite scene of mine has a “reporter” interviewing a long-time architect of the Constitution-bending laws used in the War on Drugs, revealing step by step the gradual encroachment on civil rights.

Vin managed to snag for the dust jacket an illustration from Boris Vallejo, who has made a career of depicting well-muscled, scantily clad heroines for fantasy and science fiction novels. This one, shall we say, befits the genre.

On page 214 he mentions the opera house in Eureka, so that makes it a Nevada book, right?

 The hardback is available from AbeBooks.com. An eBook version is available for download at Amazon and other online sources.

Newspaper column: Give a gift that warms the heart and fills the head

Christmas is coming and you’re still scratching your head over just what to get for that special Nevada friend or family member. May I be so bold as to suggest a gift that will keep giving long after the wrapping paper and ribbons are moldering in the landfill — a book, more specifically a book about Nevada or written by a Nevadan.

The first suggestion is an absolutely gorgeous coffee table book from our friends at Range magazine published just in time for Christmas. “Reflections of the West: Cowboy painters and poets” is the sequel to last year’s highly acclaimed and award-winning “Brushstrokes & Balladeers: Painters and poets of the American West.”

“Reflections” is a 160-page, slick paper stock book packed with some of the finest cowboy poems and breathtaking paintings that capture the spirit of the West, the open range, wildlife and the cowboy lifestyle.

The poems range from the humorous to the philosophical to the poignant from some of the best in the business, including Waddie Mitchell and Badger Clark and dozens of others.

The paintings include ones that capture scenes so detailed that you have to look twice to make sure they are not photographs, such as those by Tim Cox. Others are more evocative and capture people and landscape and wildlife in mid-action with broad brushstrokes and whimsical colors, such as those by William Matthews. Then there are the splashes of primary colors used by cover artist Don Weller to capture cowboy life at work and play.

You may order this and other such books at Range magazine’s website, and while you are there grab a few copies of the “2016 Real Buckaroo Calendar” for stocking stuffers.

Now for something completely different, but also published just in time for Christmas, comes the second installment of what we hope will be many of the strange adventures of Matthew Hunter, antique book dealer, and his pistol-packing companion Chantal Stevens from the creative and slightly warped mind of long-time Nevada libertarian philosopher and writer Vin Suprynowicz, who spent a couple of decades penning newspaper columns and editorials for the Las Vegas newspaper.

“The Miskatonic Manuscript” novel picks up where last year’s “The Testament of James” left off. The book dares to imagine a world in which New England horror writer H.P. Lovecraft’s work was as much science as it was fiction and in which someone is actually fighting back in the War on Drugs. Think of it as Carlos Castaneda meets Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.G. Wells.

As in “Testament” the characters are quirky, literate and irreverent, engaging in dialogue that weaves in libertarian and free market ideals, dropping names like Hayek and Rothbard from the lips of a savvy chauffeur.

The humor can be subtle, such as when in the middle of an otherworldly scene wrought with imminent danger from prehistoric beasts in another dimension Chantal sarcastically asks Matthew if he has seen any armed gorillas on horseback, to which the inveterate book dealer replies, “No, that was ‘Planet of the Apes,’ Pierre Boule, a six-hundred-dollar first edition if the orange print on the jacket spine isn’t faded too badly.”

Vin managed to snag for the dust jacket an illustration from Boris Vallejo, who has made a career of depicting well-muscled, scantily clad heroines for fantasy and science fiction novels. This one, shall we say, befits the genre.

On page 214 he mentions the opera house in Eureka, so that makes it a Nevada book, right?

 The hardback will be available for order by the end of this week from AbeBooks.com. An eBook version is available for download at Amazon and other online sources.

Rounding out the holiday shopping cart are uplifting books by two Nevadans about fellow Nevadans and others with fascinating stories.

Long-time Las Vegas newspaper columnist John L. Smith offers “Vegas Voices: Conversations with Great Las Vegas Characters,” a collection of interviews with diverse characters — wise guys to cops, dealers to showgirls, educators to musicians.

Former Las Vegas cop Randy Sutton gets in the act with “The Power of Legacy: Personal Heroes of America’s Most Inspiring People,” which looks at the differences certain people have made on our society and our future. Coming full circle, one of the people Sutton writes about is John L. Smith. You can obtain a copy of “Vegas Voices” by sending an email to jlnevadasmith@gmail.com.

A version of this column appears this week in the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, the Lincoln County Record and the Sparks Tribune — and the Elko Daily Free Press.