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SEPTEMBER 2014
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Think responsibly
by Scott Dickensheets | posted March 10, 2014

Before we face-plant too deeply into this week, let's sift the week just passed for any lessons it might offer ...

Responsibility — it's about more than just owning up to your mistakes. It's also about blaming others! So it appears to be with Mark A. Johnson, a retired California real-estate guy and car-lot owner, who's filed a civil suit against the Downtown Grand after losing $500,000 over Super Bowl weekend. His suit is not about the lost money, he insists. It's about the booze. Specifically the 20 free cocktails the casino supposedly gave him during a 17-hour binge at the gaming tables, which he says left him unable to control his actions. It's the sort of hilariously grim situation best framed in the style of an elevator pitch for Hangover IV: "Just picture a drunk walking down the street," he's quoted as saying in the RJ, "and he's drunk, and someone pickpockets and takes his money from him. That's how I characterize it." (We see Johnson as the Ed Helms character.) Now, before you imagine a freakishly muscled cocktail waitress forcing comped drinks through his clenched teeth, Johnson's not saying it's entirely the casino's fault. "At some point it's my responsibility, okay," he admits. "But the unfortunate part about it for them is that they have a more, bigger responsibility than I do." Oddly enough, Nevada does have rules about plying clearly drunk patrons with alcohol, so the Gaming Control Board is looking into it. One official, perhaps bewildered by the sight of a car-dealership owner taking the high road against mildly coercive sales tactics, was reduced to saying the obvious in three different ways: "We are investigating this thoroughly. We are aware of this matter. We'll see if there are regulation violations."

Responsibility, sometimes shirked and other times embraced, was certainly a theme last week, whether it was the ongoing fiscal collapse of North Las Vegas or a local woman getting county approval to keep abandoned pot-bellied pigs on her property. It's nice to see some people stepping up. For instance, who among us hasn't waited anxiously to see this headline in the RJ: "Nevada cracks down on notaries public that go too far"? But if you're thinking, it's about time the state cracked its knuckles, said We are aware of this matter, we'll see if there are regulation violations, and clamped down on these signature-witnessing, document-stamping renegades, well, hold on. The folks they're really after are the ones who, in the guise of notaries public, or, in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods, notarios, give something akin to legal advice they're not qualified to offer. For the gullible or uninformed, this can have disastrous consequences. "People here in Nevada think they're getting advice from attorneys, but they're not," Secretary of State Ross Miller told the paper. Almost as important, Miller's crackdown has finally brought public attention to the correct plural construction of "notary public."

Nothing says more bigger responsibility like the need to adequately fund our public education system. Gov. Brian Sandoval is aware of this matter, and maybe one day he'll investigate it thoroughly. But not last week! "We're going to need everybody's help to defeat one of the worst tax proposals Nevada has seen in many, many years," Sandoval told a gathering of the Nevada Taxpayers Association, attacking the so-called Education Initiative (or 2 percent margins tax) pushed by the Nevada Education Association teachers union. Just picture a businessman walking down the street, enjoying one of the nation's best tax climatesand someone pickpockets and takes his money from him! “Spending is so much more enjoyable when you ignore where the money comes from,” Sandoval said, according to the RJ. Sure, much of the state power structure has already lined up against the initiative, but there might be one or two Nevadans who still believe we have a collective duty to properly fund schools, and that's who he's trying to reach. Alas, the governor didn't backstop his attack on the Education Initiative with an alternate school-funding plan. Someone else's responsibility?


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Looking back
by Scott Dickensheets | posted January 27, 2014

Before we get too deeply into this week, let's extract a little meaning from the news cycle just past ...

History — these days is it tragedy or farce? The answer, of course, is farcedy. Nearly everywhere you looked in the last week you saw long-term issues (education, civil rights, ) treated with the mix of consequential seriousness and effortless parody we've come to expect from Nevada.

 

For example: The controversial, possibly history-making attempt by the teachers' union to turn around years of worst-in-the-nation school funding with an initiative petition for a 2 percent margins tax on businesses. A serious issue, certain to be battled over. But not so serious that, in opposing it last week, AFL-CIO boss Danny Thompson (“I will say we could support the tax at 0.8 percent,” he told the RJ) couldn't muster some touching and not-unfunny innocence. Lawmakers, he speculated, would probably fix the problem in 2015 anyway.

 

From the RJ: “Thompson is confident that virtually everyone is aware that education is underfunded, and moves to address the problem … will come in the next Legislature” …

 

Hold on, history just blew milk out of its nose.

 

Thompson’s faith in the Legislature’s ability to size up a pressing issue, identify solutions and unite behind a bold, problem-correcting plan is, farci-tragically, contraindicated by history. Indeed, we’ve seen this movie before, and it’s an oldie: The Kick-the-Can Kids in “Education, Smeducation!” It’s revived every two years in a popular entertainment venue in Carson City, where lawmakers congratulate themselves on acknowledging the problem before blaming the other side for failing to to fix it. Luckily for everyone, this only affects the future of Nevada’s students.

 

That’s not to say that there aren’t some public officials with a long-term moral-historical vision. Let’s say a certain state’s attorney general confronted a situation redolent of unfairness and bigotry — in this case, the state’s ban on gay marriage — and decided to fight it, so as to "be on the right side of history and the right side of the law.” You might appreciate a pol who shows some moral backbone in the face of certain political controversy, right?

 

Of course, we’ll have to ask West Virginians about that, since it was their AG speaking. Nevada’s, on the other hand, seemed content to let the wrong side of history have its way, unchallenged, a while longer. Last week, Catherine Cortez Masto’s office filed a brief defending Nevada’s constitutional ban on gay marriage, in response to a lawsuit. In the course of defining marriage as occurring between a man and a woman, the brief by Cortez Masto (a Democrat, by the way) cited bigamy and incest as other examples of what marriage isn’t. (As pundit Jon Ralston has noted, she seems to be catching all the blowback on this, not her boss the governor.) If offensive comparisons in the service of a backward agenda supplied the tragedy, perhaps the farce will come if/when Cortez Masto runs for another office and has to answer questions about this. We imagine she's already practicing her hemming and hawing in the mirror.

 

Mobsters. History finally completed their transition from serious to silly last week. Remember when they were criminals, albeit ones who knew how to run this town in a classy way? After a while they became cultural touchstones, their flagrant and often-vicious criminality laundered and fluffed by pop culture until they merited their own popular and historically rigorous museum. And now? Now we have the Las Vegas Mobsters, a development-league soccer team.

 

“We thought it’d be an appropriate mascot," owner Geoffrey Hawkins told the RJ, "and we had overwhelming support for the name.” Presumably, the Las Vegas Shallow Desert Graves wouldn't fit on the jerseys.

 

If this cheesy cutesying-up of the mob is a blow to historical accuracy, the real aggrieved parties probably ought to be actual mobsters — this has to diluate their aura of menace even more than those Bugsy's blinds commercials. After all, it's not even major league soccer; it's development league. Welcome to the shallow pop-historical grave! And how does Tony "The Appropriate Mascot" Soprano sound? Why, farcical, of course.


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