What a difference a coast makes when viewing Obama budget

The lede on the Washington Post story, that was used in the Las Vegas newspaper, exclaims:

“President Obama’s $4 trillion budget request, packed with familiar proposals for new spending and higher taxes, landed Monday on the doorstep of a Republican Congress eager to end an era of political gridlock — giving Obama unexpected leverage in coming negotiations.”

The lede on the Los Angeles Times story on the same topic reads:

“President Obama released a $4-trillion budget Monday with liberal priorities that have little chance of passage but will serve as an initial foray in negotiations with the new Republican Congress and help define the Democratic Party in the run-up to the 2016 presidential race.”

So which is it? Unexpected leverage or little chance of passage?

Meanwhile, the Dallas Morning News tried to have it both ways:

“WASHINGTON — The $4 trillion budget that President Barack Obama released Monday is more utopian vision than pragmatic blueprint for his final years in office, but buried in the document are kernels of proposals that could take root even with a hostile Republican Congress.”

And the headline online at Townhall.com reads:

“Dead on Arrival: GOP Rejects Obama’s $4 Trillion Budget.”

All the news that’s fit to censor

Reuters photo in today’s R-J.

Today for the first time the Las Vegas newspaper has printed an image of one of the Charlie Hebdo infamous Muhammad cartoons — in this case the cover of the post-attack issue of the French satirical newspaper. The photo is on an inside page.

Elsewhere the issue of whether to publish such “offensive” cartoons continues to roil journalists.

The New York Times’ public editor Margaret Sullivan even questioned her own boss’ decision to not publish any such image, saying the cover of the latest issue was newsworthy.

“I can understand why The Times would not have published ‘the most incendiary images,’ as the executive editor, Dean Baquet, described them last week. He felt those extreme cartoons would not have been necessary to illustrate the story about the terrorist attack that killed eight members of the satirical newspaper’s staff,” Sullivan writes.

But then she concludes:

“Here’s my take: The new cover image of Charlie Hebdo is an important part of a story that has gripped the world’s attention over the past week.

“The cartoon itself, while it may disturb the sensibilities of a small percentage of Times readers, is neither shocking nor gratuitously offensive. And it has, undoubtedly, significant news value.”

Over at NPR this is its position:

“At this time, NPR is not posting images of Charlie Hebdo‘s most controversial cartoons – just as it did not post such images during earlier controversies involving the magazine and a Danish cartoonist’s caricatures of the prophet. The New York Times has taken the same position. The Washington Post‘s editorial board has put one of Charlie Hebdo‘s Prophet Muhammad covers on the print version of its op-ed pages, but not online. News editors at NPR and other organizations continually review their judgments on these types of issues when the materials are potentially offensive because of their religious, racial or sexual content. That review process will continue.”

The Associated Press has stated:

“AP tries hard not to be a conveyor belt for images and actions aimed at mocking or provoking people on the basis of religion, race or sexual orientation. We did not run the ‘Danish cartoons’ mocking Muhammad in 2005, or the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of the same type. While we run many photos that are politically or socially provocative, there are areas verging on hate speech and actions where we feel it is right to be cautious.

“This policy is consistent with our approach to sound bites and text reporting, where we avoid racist, religious and sexual slurs.”

Reuters has posted a few of the Muhammad cartoons. The Las Vegas newspaper did publish one of the so-called Dutch cartoons several years ago under previous management.


Did R-J pick a fine time to quit the AP?

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.


Another cost cutting measure at the Las Vegas newspaper?

I guess you’d probably have to be a newspaper curmudgeon to notice something as ubiquitous as bylines — you know, the attribution atop the story that identifies the writer and his or her organization. It’s such a part of the scenery hardly anyone notices.

In the past three days, the Las Vegas newspaper has been nearly bereft of bylines by The Associated Press. Today there was a sports round-up and a couple of AP photos. In its stead were Washington Post, Reuters and something called Sports Xchange.

I’d heard that the paper had given AP a cancellation notice, but that’s nothing new. Because the AP contract requires a years-long cancellation notice many papers have taken to putting AP on perpetual notice. Besides, it works as a kind of threat against price hikes.

The Review-Journal has had AP on notice of cancellation for years.

But it looks like the paper may be getting ready to dump the hugely expensive cooperative, which has extensive and unmatched coverage through its worldwide network of member newspapers who are required to provide AP with their content.

The pages of sports agate that provide standings carry no byline, but that used to come from AP and there was no alternative that I recall. Perhaps the paper can buy that a la carte or get it elsewhere.

Cutting expenses is a common precursor to putting a newspaper up for sale. Goodness knows the R-J has cut plenty of personnel costs over the past couple of years. Just speculating.

One of the few things in today's paper attributed to AP.

One of the few things in today’s paper attributed to AP.



Tax incentives to attract businesses is a zero sum game

The Legislature is meeting in Carson City to rubber stamp a proposal by Gov. Brian Sandoval to snare a new $5 billion Tesla Motors lithium-on battery plant in Storey County by offers the company $1.3 billion in tax exemptions and credits for the next 20 years.

The governor claims the deal will bring in some $100 billion to Nevada’s economy employ 6,500 directly in the factory, and result in thousands of indirect jobs.

Is that so or has Nevada fallen for a hoax?

In a Washington Post article in July Nathan Jensen, a political science professor at George Washington University, called such bidding wars for companies: “It’s a zero-sum game.”

Tesla deal a zero-sum game?

“Simply shifting companies from one state to the next does nothing, at least not right away, to create new openings for the millions of still unemployed Americans, Jensen added while presenting some of his latest economic development research,” WaPo reports. “Nevertheless, nearly every municipality across the country offers some type of tax incentives to encourage existing companies to relocate, costing taxpayers around $70 billion annually.”

Jensen has compared job creation by companies in Kansas that were attracted to open there with huge tax incentives to similar firms that got no handouts. He found that six years after incentives were awarded, “the firms who received incentives actually generated slightly fewer jobs than those that didn’t receive incentives.”

In December 2012, The New York Times published a lengthy article about all the tax incentives given to companies and reached the same conclusion. That incentives generally amount to a zero sum game.

General Motors had gotten lucrative tax breaks from states and communities for years. But the company closed 50 facilities and walked aways, only to be bailed out by federal tax dollars.

Richard Florida, director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and Global Research Professor at NYU, recently wrote, “But no matter how you slice it, the deal makes utterly no sense. It is just one more example of a government giveaway for a factory that would have been built anyway. As I’ve argued before, there is virtually no association between economic development incentives and any measure of economic performance. And it’s not just me. I spoke with several experts in economic development incentives and advanced manufacturing and the consensus was the same: this deal was overblown and unnecessary.”

He argues that companies are just gaming government officials. He calculated that when a realistic number of actual jobs to be created is used that the tax incentives will amount to $385,000 per job.

The Nevada Constitution dictates, “The Legislature shall provide by law for a uniform and equal rate of assessment and taxation …” But then it has this loophole big enough to drive a Tesla through: “The Legislature may exempt by law property used for municipal, educational, literary, scientific or other charitable purposes, or to encourage the conservation of energy or the substitution of other sources for fossil sources of energy.” Electric car batteries might fit.

But the Constitution also says, “In enacting an exemption from any ad valorem tax on property or excise tax on the sale, storage, use or consumption of tangible personal property sold at retail, the Legislature shall: Ensure that the requirements for claiming the exemption are as similar as practicable for similar classes of taxpayers …”

A lot of companies would like a similar deal.

Advice to the Bundys of Bunkerville: Time to liquidate

The Bureau of Land Management issued a statement when it backed down from an angry, armed mob and released Cliven Bundy’s confiscated cattle.

“After 20 years and multiple court orders to remove the trespass cattle, [rancher Cliven] Bundy owes the American taxpayers in excess of $1 million. The BLM will continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially,” Fox News quotes a BLM statement.

Cliven Bundy (George Frey/Getty Images)

Bundy has refused to pay grazing fees for 20 years and BLM has been assessing fines and building interest.

Advice to all Bundy family members: Cash out your bank accounts and don’t expect an IRS refund.

The Washington Post this weekend reported that hundreds of thousands of people expecting income tax refunds this month are instead getting letters telling them their refunds have been seized to repay decades old debts, some incurred by their parents.

The WaPo story led with an example of Mary Grice of Maryland, whose IRS and state tax refunds were grabbed by the feds.

In 1960, When Grice was 4, her father died, leaving her mother with five children to raise with Social Security survivor benefits. Social Security claims it overpaid the family $3,000 and is taking the money from the surviving children. The mother died four years ago.

That could be what the words “administratively and judicially” mean. 

Where does one stand to protest something that takes place on a computer in some far-flung government cubicle?

 A federal judge rejected Bundy’s states’ rights arguments and gave the BLM the go-ahead to confiscate his cattle. If the feds say he owes a $1 million, there are many ways they can go about taking that money without going back to court.

Another ObamaCare promise takes a hard tumble, especially for Nevadans

What were those ObamaCare promises again?

If you like your insurance plan, you can keep it. (Nope.)

If you like your doctor, you can keep him. (Not the case.)

Millions of uninsured will get coverage. (Probably less than 1 million so far.)

We’ll all save $2,500 a year in insurance cost.

Well, Nevadans, for those of you in the small group market plans, would you believe your insurance rates have gone up 23 percent in a year, the 10th highest in the nation?

According to Forbes, a survey by Morgan Stanley shows health insurance premiums are showing the sharpest increases perhaps ever. The firm surveyed 148 brokers who sell coverage in the individual and small group market.

“The average increases are in excess of 11% in the small group market and 12% in the individual market. Some state show increases 10 to 50 times that amount. The analysts conclude that the ‘increases are largely due to changes under the ACA,'” writes Scott Gottlieb.

Delaware saw rates increase 100 percent in the individual market and Washington experienced a small group insurance hike of 588 percent.

Additionally, proving it is all about politics and nothing about governance, the administration has announced that cuts to Medicare Advantage that were scheduled to take place starting next year will not take place, but will actually increase. This comes just of the mid-term election season heats up. What a coincidence.

There have been nearly 40 delays and extensions, all designed to lessen the harm to Democrats. The employee mandate has been pushed beyond the election date. Signup deadlines have been erased.

Tell me again how it was the Republicans’ fault when the government was shutdown because there was no way ObamaCare could be delayed by a single day.

Train wreck: ObamaCare jumps the tracks again

First, the Obama administration delayed for a year the ObamaCare requirement that all employers with more than 50 employees provide health insurance to their workers. By law, it was supposed to start Jan. 1, and there is nothing in the law that gives Obama the power to delay enforcement. But he did so unilaterally.

Now, the administration, again unilaterally in a 600-page filing in the Federal Register on Friday, has dropped the law’s requirements that insurance exchanges verify income and health insurance status. Instead the exchanges take an applicant’s word on it. The filing includes the phrase “without further verification” 11 times.

ObamaCare: You have to pass the bill to find out what the administration is incapable of doing. (Reuters photo)

The filing said an “Exchange may accept the applicant’s attestation regarding enrollment in an eligible employer-sponsored plan and eligibility for qualifying coverage in an eligible employer sponsored plan for the benefit year for which coverage is requested without further verification, instead of following the procedure in §155.320(d)(3)(iii).”

As for the promise illegal immigrants would not be allowed to use ObamaCare subsidies, the filing says, “Some commenters stated that states should have the option to request self-attestation of citizenship. Response: We clarify that our proposed rule gave states the option to require qualified  entities or qualified hospitals to request this information but did not require it.”

When the employer mandate was delayed most media bought the excuse that the companies weren’t ready to handle the “complexity of the requirements” of the law, as Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary for Tax Policy Mark Mazur claimed.

But The Wall Street Journal figured out the truth: “He isn’t talking about business confusion and uncertainty, as damaging as those are. This is probably an admission that Treasury’s information technology isn’t ready to process and cross-check paperwork across the 5.7 million businesses in America …”

Nor does it seem the administration is able to audit the finances of the 30 million Americans who can apply for health insurance subsidies.

The Washington Post quoted a senior adviser at Manatt Health Solutions as saying, “As crunch time is coming, they’re just muddling through and figuring out short cuts.”

On the employer mandate delay, Nevada Sen. Dean Heller released a statement saying:

“The decision to delay implementing portions of ObamaCare further proves how flawed and how damaging the bill really is. From Day One, businesses warned Congress that this legislation would cripple job growth and make it even harder to succeed in an already challenging business environment.  Delaying the employer mandate is a clear admission that this is a deeply flawed law that cannot be implemented without fostering devastating uncertainty among the business sector.”

Nevada’s other senator, Harry Reid, even agreed with Sen. Max Baucus, who called ObamaCare “a huge train wreck coming down.”

“Max said, ‘Unless we implement this properly, it’s going to be a train wreck,’ and I agree with him,” Reid said.


Though it receives The Washington Post wire service, the local newspaper has failed to report on this latest ObamaCare debacle.

Front page Review-Journal headline calls Romney comment a ‘foreign policy gaffe’

gaffe: n. 1. A clumsy social error; a faux pas. 2. A blatant mistake or misjudgment.

Can it get any more blatant than this? The front page of the Las Vegas newspaper today carries a headline calling Mitt Romney’s statement about the White House handling of comments about the attacks on two U.S. foreign posts a “gaffe.” Not that someone else thought it was a gaffe. It was a gaffe, by definition. That’s a word usually reserved for the editorial page, not the front page. It says more about the headline writer than the story of the day.

The full headline over the Washington Post story read: “Romney criticized by own party for foreign policy gaffe.”

But when you read the story, you find only some anonymous demurring by campaign insiders. “Top aides to Romney said publicly that they had no regrets, but some advisers and supporters acknowledged privately that this was a cautionary tale — that in a rapid-response media environment, thoughtfulness sometimes gives way to the intense drive to win the news cycle,” WaPo reporter Philip Rucker writes.

The only “Republican” on the record with a criticism was Matthew Dowd.

“It almost feels like Sarah Palin is his foreign policy adviser,” Rucker quoted Dowd as saying, while describing him as a top strategist for president George W. Bush. “It’s just a huge mistake on the Romney campaign’s part — huge mistake.”

He failed to mention that Dowd in his own bio states that he “worked for 25 years for Democratic candidates around the country. Dowd has not worked for either political party since 2006 and considers himself an independent.”

The only other “Republican” on the record with a criticism was a New York congressman who said Romney was correct, but probably should have waited a day to say it.

The story never uses the word gaffe.

But columnist Philip Klein points out in the The (Washington) Examiner that the pliant media quickly turned the story from a bungling Obama foreign policy into a political gaffe for Romney:

“When Romney gave a press conference Wednesday, the questions focused on whether it was appropriate for him to criticize Obama at the time he did. Romney’s responses didn’t really matter, because reporters had already decided their narrative. Obama did not take any questions in his own press conference moments later.

“In 2004, John Kerry routinely attacked President Bush’s handling of Iraq when things weren’t going well in the country. And the media dutifully reported on Bush’s foreign policy blunders in Iraq. But now, instead of scrutinizing Obama’s handling of a foreign policy crisis, the media has decided that the real story in Egypt and Libya is a Mitt Romney gaffe.”

But according to Rucker, Romney “broke from protocol.”

Here are the first two graphs of the story:

“Crises overseas tend to create moments of joint resolve back home, a time to pause from the daily bickering of partisan politics. But as news was streaming in about attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in Egypt and Libya, Mitt Romney broke from that protocol.

“Statements that the Republican presidential nominee made slamming President Obama led to a day of tumult for Romney, with leading voices in his party criticizing him and his top aides scrambling to prevent further damage.”

Leading voices in his own party? Scrambling to prevent further damage? How? By publicly saying they had “no regrets”? Now that’s a stretch that would make any first baseman proud.