Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Yucca Mountain shouldn't be partisan

This first published January 1, 2009 in the Henderson Home News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

This is the start of a brand new year, and things are looking tough for the rest of it. The economy is taking its toll on America’s families, including those here in Nevada.

The Nevada Legislature is gearing up for the 2009 session, which is expected to be the hardest, if not cruelest, in decades, especially on those without a voice.

One thing that isn’t brand new is the idea of storing the nuclear industry’s waste in Nevada at Yucca Mountain. This plan is getting some attention from the Republican Party of Nevada. Because the economic chips are down, some are willing to sell their souls, or at least the health of their children and grandchildren, for some short-term economic gain.

Last month, the Nevada Republican Central Committee took a field trip to Yucca Mountain to see just how safe it would be to store the deadliest garbage known to man.

For years, the Department of Energy has been waving the money bait in the faces of Nevadans, hoping greed will overcome their good senses.

With the economic collapse of 2008, a no-new-tax governor, a weary gaming industry, broken retirement funds — just to name a few of our aches and pains — a cash infusion might be inviting to some.

The lifeless body of the Yucca Mountain Project, Nevada’s greatest demon, could start to quiver with life at the smell of fear. The fear of economic destitution is a powerful one, so beware.

Former Republican Nevada Gov. Robert List, who has become a nuke lobbyist, led the tour of fellow Republicans. List is the only former Nevada governor to turn against Nevada on this issue.

List’s actions remind me of something my father, Mike O’Callaghan, also a former Nevada governor, wrote in this space in 2002.

“So who are the people supporting this dumping on Nevada?” he wrote. “Generally speaking, they are people who have made a living from some part of the nuclear business, plan to make money from it or are presently making big bucks from it. A large majority of Nevadans who love living in this area and are raising families don’t want any part of having the waste, and all of its obvious problems, on their highways or deposited in a place that science hasn’t been able to support.”

Seven years later, his words still ring true, and Robert List is the poster boy.

The conservative talk radio hosts are claiming that Nevada is snubbing its nose at billions of dollars in economic benefits that could fix the billion-dollar state budget deficit.

I would call that blood money.

More than 70 percent of Nevadans oppose Yucca Mountain, but could the thought of economic prosperity change their minds? The way I see it, that’s what the nuke pushers are hoping for.

For decades, we have recognized Yucca Mountain as being pure politics at the national level, but the sides were split more regionally. States that had nuclear power supported Yucca Mountain. Those that didn’t, opposed it, fearing the trucks hauling waste through their states.

However, this year it has turned partisan in the state of Nevada. Bob List, pushing his influence on his fellow Republicans to attempt CPR on a “dead on arrival” Yucca Mountain Project is deplorable.

Who can forget how President George W. Bush promised the people of Nevada just eight years ago that the project would be based on sound science? Everyone knew the science was flawed, so with that promise, Nevada gave President Bush the votes he needed to win. In turn, he shoved it up our collective promised repository. Today, the science remains flawed.

President-elect Barack Obama has also said Yucca Mountain is dead and, with Nevada being one of the most influential states in the country because of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s clout, we have a sense of security.

That doesn’t mean we can let our guard down for a second, no matter how tough the economy gets. Once you sell your soul, you can’t get it back for 10,000 years, and that’s a long time, even on God’s clock.

My only hope is that the Nevada Republican Party chooses a better path and decides not to risk the health and futures of generations in Nevada to come.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular column for the Home News.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Solutions for a broken economy

This first published December 18, 2008 in the Henderson Home News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

How many B-2 bombers would it take to bail out the state of Nevada? That’s easy. One and a half would suffice.

I turned on Discovery Channel the other night hoping to catch “How It’s Made.” Instead, I caught the program “Destroyed in Seconds.” I really enjoy “How It’s Made” so much that I can blow a whole evening watching how things are manufactured.

Being of the male gender, I was also a bit fascinated seeing things get blown up while everyone survived. I’m not sure which was more amazing: how quickly something got trashed or the fact that everyone survived.

In the episode I watched, there was a segment showing the crash of a B-2 Stealth bomber. Miraculously, the pilots ejected and only received minor injuries. However, the bomber blew up in flames.

Do you have any idea how much a B-2 bomber cost?

Don’t be concerned, because I asked several of my friends on different occasions if they could tell me how much a B-2 bomber cost. One said, $100 million and another said $200 million. Neither is even close. The closest answer I received was a half a billion dollars, and that isn’t even close.

For fun I asked how many B-2 bombers would it take to bail out the state of Nevada. No one had a clue. It would take nearly two Stealth bombers to dig Nevada out of its budget shortfall at $1.5 billion a piece.

This exercise put a few things in perspective for me, such as the size of the state’s budget shortfall and just how easily the federal government could bail out Nevada.

When you think about the size of a B-2 and the size of our state, the $1.5 billion price tag doesn’t seem that great.

I’m also reminded by the program just how quickly a Stealth bomber can be destroyed and just how quickly budgets can go up in flames. Even more importantly, it reflects how fragile our economic base is in Nevada.

We should be doing everything possible to diversify our economy here in Nevada. There are several ideas being tossed around, such as renewable energy, but will that help in the immediate future to solve our economic woes?

Not a chance, but it’s definitely an option for our long-term future.

Nevada could expand mining opportunities — except we are one of the largest producers of gold in the country as it is. However, we are being pillaged by the mining industry. Unlike casinos, which pay a gross revenue tax on gaming winnings, the mining industry pays taxes on net profits after exemptions.

Since 2000, Nevada miners have extracted more than $25 billion in gold from this state and have put a tiny fraction of that into state revenues.

During 2007, mining operations extracted more than 6 million ounces of gold from Nevada. Next to water, gold is Nevada’s most precious natural resource, and it is being sucked out faster than the waters of Lake Mead. By the end of this year, 8 million ounces of gold are projected to be produced in Nevada, with very little money going into state coffers.

Can you imagine how many B-2 bombers could have been built with the gold extracted from Nevada soil since 2000? The answer is 16. The only thing stealthier than the B-2 Bomber are the mining profits leaving Nevada.

Here in Nevada, where the state budget was “destroyed in seconds” and gaming and mining are “how it’s made,” we need to work together to develop solutions to fix our broken economy.

Smelly tourists

At the risk of my critics calling me a Harry Reid apologist, I should clear the air regarding his recent remarks about being able to smell the tourist coming to Washington, D.C., in the summer.

Well folks, having been to the capital in the sweltering heat and humidity of summer, I can testify to the fact you can, indeed, smell the visitors as they shuffle by the thousands through the halls and galleries. I should know since I’ve been one! So your sweat don’t stink?

What stinks worse than the capital in the heat of summer is the goofy commentators, editors and other media types who took the opportunity to water the already rabid far right. This proves one thing: Sen. Reid has a target on his political back and Republicans such as presidential candidate-turned-talking head Mitt Romney will do anything to keep the heat on.

Fortunately the capital now has air conditioning to keep visitors cool, and most Nevadans will keep cooler heads to keep Nevada the most powerful state in the union by not only returning Reid to the Senate in 2010 but also Sen. John Ensign in 2012.

Gee, all this flap over new air conditioning in the capital and a straight-talking senator from Searchlight, Nev.

Nuff said!

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular column at the Home News.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Young athletes 'go for broke'

This first published December 4, 2008 in the Henderson Home News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

It’s been four years since my dad passed away and three years since I first penned this column about the Go For Broke trophy. This is a good time to dust it off and tweak it up, not only because we’re celebrating outstanding athletes, but also because next Sunday is Pearl Harbor Day. It is the perfect opportunity to think about the event that was the catalyst for the Go For Broke trophy.

• • •
It is that time of year when the Home News presents a Go For Broke trophy to one football player from 12 of our local high schools.

Not a season has passed that I’m not reminded that something is missing in local high school football. Indeed, this is often pointed out by regular fans of prep football. This year was no different when I attended a Bishop Gorman football game and an old timer came up and said, “Sure miss seeing your dad at the games.”

Isn’t it funny how the words never change?

My dad loved watching the kids develop into men by hard work and discipline. Yes, and over the years he watched a few girls develop into fine young ladies by playing special teams.

Not only was Mike O’Callaghan a decorated war hero and former governor of Nevada, but he was also a coach and teacher. His passion for people was evident in everything he did. He loved the underdogs and championed their efforts. His love for teaching and his enthusiasm for high school football led to the development of the Go For Broke trophy.

In the spirit of teaching and the understanding of the importance of this award, I must tell you the story of its foundation.

At the young age of 11, my dad’s family lost their farm in Wisconsin for the expansion of military operations. By the time he was 13, trainloads of Japanese Americans were arriving in Wisconsin for interment, held as prisoners of war in their own country.

The threat from the Empire of Japan escalated after the surprise attack and bombing of Pearl Harbor. The fear of Japan grew into prejudice and mistrust of Americans of Japanese decent.

Ironically, nearly 40 percent of the population of Hawaii was of Japanese decent. The military didn’t know what do, because half of the defense team looked like the enemy. The Nisei, soldiers born from Japanese immigrants, were rounded up, had their weapons confiscated and held at gunpoint.

Eventually, they were given back their weapons with much suspicion. The Nisei were secretly and swiftly shipped out of Hawaii in the middle of the night without being given a chance to say goodbye to their families.

After a long voyage on a cramped troop transport ship to Oakland, Calif., they were loaded on troop trains headed for the farmlands of Wisconsin to await orders at Camp McCoy.

My dad often told us stories from his childhood and wrote several columns about the 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team. One of his favorites went like this:

“This Wisconsin farm boy and hundreds of others living in and around Camp McCoy soon learned to respect the soldiers from those faraway islands. So did a division of soldiers from Texas who didn’t want to give them room on the sidewalks of nearby towns. Almost three dozen went to the hospital one night when the smaller men had enough. My father, only 5 feet 8 inches tall himself and a World War I veteran, became a cheerleader for the new troops. He followed their heroic exploits with great interest as they fought their way across Europe.”

The men from the 100th/442nd loved the game of craps that was so popular in the Hawaiian Islands. Every good game of dice must come to end. It is that point when one lays it all on the line for one last roll. This is when you “Go For Broke.”

It was my dad’s admiration of a group of underdogs who were willing to “Go For Broke” against all odds that is the cornerstone of the Go For Broke trophy. Casualties were high and decoration plenty for the 100th/442nd.

My dad described it best:

“Heavy combat in Italy resulted in more than 900 casualties before the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team were joined together. Now the ‘Remember Pearl Harbor’ battalion and the ‘Go For Broke’ regimental combat team were together.

“The combat record of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was unequaled. The cost was heavy and resulted in 9,486 Purple Hearts. Heroism was an accepted fact of life and death that the men faced during seven major campaigns in Europe.

“The accomplishments of the young Japanese Americans during World War II, both in Europe and as military intelligence people in the Pacific, have placed them high on the list of American patriots.”

In the spirit of those brave Americans of Japanese descent, we look for the athlete who lays it all down.

He may not be the star but oftentimes is the inspiration of a team.

He may not be the leader, but he is a warrior in practice and game.

Although dad first dedicated this award 24 years ago, its foundation began in the heart of a farm boy from Wisconsin more than 60 years ago. The award will live on in its name and the hearts of those who receive it.

This year we are presenting 12 trophies to area athletes, including these fine Go For Broke recipients who have already received theirs thus far. Others will receive their awards in the next couple of weeks.

Michael Wadsworth, Silverado High School; Tanner VanOverbeke, Coronado High School; Chris Waitkus, Foothill High School; Trey McGhin, Centennial High School; and Croix Nikodemus, Faith Lutheran High School.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular column One Man's View.