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December 18, 2014

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Jon Ralston:

Low down rhetoric, chickens, taxes and council wars

Wondering if the mining and gaming chickens will come home to roost (cocks of the walk no more?), if Dean Heller and Shelley Berkley can coarsen the dialogue any more (the bar is so low already) and if anyone will show up for the special City Council election (what, you hadn’t heard)? Here’s your Friday Flash:

• Dean Heller hates women and Shelley Berkley hates freedom: That is what I learned after Heller’s vote for the Blunt amendment, which was shelved Thursday and would have allowed employers to opt out of health care mandates (contraception was the main issue) for moral or religious reasons.

The substance of the debate notwithstanding, there is no prophylactic, and, alas, no end in sight, to the hollow and silly rhetoric emanating from both sides of one of the most-watched Senate races in the country.

Heller “reconfirms extreme, anti-women agenda,” a Berkley release screamed in all caps after the vote. Beyond that being news to Heller’s wife, is this really what it has come to? Please, don’t answer that.

“Berkley’s Vote For Obamacare Ignited Barack Obama’s War On Personal Freedom,” a National Republican Senatorial Committee release screeched shortly thereafter, trying to help Heller change the subject. Yes, everything is a war these days, isn’t it? Please, don’t answer that.

Heller actually told me that he “never had a second thought on this one,” which raised eyebrows because he had told D.C. media types he was undecided or leaning yes. My guess: He just didn’t want to tip his hand to the capital press corps. Or, if I’m wrong, he did give it a second thought.

Either way, Berkley’s hyperventilating rhetoric, mimicked by others in the Democratic Party, and Heller’s obvious subject-changing, also copied by others in GOPworld, are a denigration of debate in a body that seems to constantly be searching for a new nadir.

Are people so insensate that this is what politicians need to do to get their attention? Please, don’t answer that.

• Fear factor: So now both gaming and mining have sued to try to block initiatives that would raise their taxes — or raise the cap on their taxes, in mining’s case. The Nevada Resort Association’s brief, filed Wednesday, uses the same kind of legal technicalities that mining did (and countless other moneyed interests have used) to try to stop something from coming to a vote because they know it will pass. That is, they think the benighted masses might be misled into thinking they should pay more.

Listen, I get it: The populace can be swept up in a populist fury, without regard to economic realities. I am no fan of the initiative process, but I get the lament of those who say the Legislature is broken or captive, so this is the only way?

But we are at this point because of the behavior of gaming — and even more so, mining — in Carson City, where power politics and lobbying induces weak-kneed lawmakers to genuflect to the industries rather than carefully considering arguments for taxation.

The gaming industry is still hurting, but its investments across the globe, especially its Chinaphilia, create the climate for a backlash. Mining long ago was pulling gold out of the ground and its money out of the state, while wining and dining lawmakers and creating a compliant Gang of 63 when it came to taxes. (There is no mining tax policy — its taxation is embedded in the Constitution and should be removed forthwith and a statute allowing the miners to deduct the cost of just about everything is an anachronism.)

But if these industries have their case to make, then they should make them. Instead, spokesmen for both gaming and mining suddenly have their vocal chords removed by companies that would rather sue than fight. Then they want credibility when they wail about businesses not being taxed and wonder why they are treated as boys crying wolf.

• A very special council election: The race to replace District Attorney Steve Wolfson on the Las Vegas City Council is as highly entertaining as any contest no one really cares about. The entrance of human flamethrower Bob Beers, who used to burn up the Legislature with his fiery rhetoric, must be incensing The Family Goodman. And speaking of flames, he is endorsed by the city firefighters, who surely fear more Goodman hegemony. Beers also is against the Mob Museum and the new City Hall, which is an invitation to be whacked by The Family.

Contrast that with developer Ric Truesdell, warmed by The Family’s embrace, and who is sending positive mailers to voters. That can’t last.

There are seven other candidates, too, none of whom you have ever heard of. And it appears as if about seven people are going to vote in the race. And if they are all named Goodman …

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