Thursday, March 26, 2009

A world without newspapers will be dumber

This first published March 26, 2009 in the Henderson Home News website, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

While newspapers across the country shutter their newsrooms and empty the ink from their presses, there is a good deal of sadness surrounding the historic change in how Americans get their news.

There appears to be a hero in the U.S. Senate who has proposed legislation to bail out newspapers, sort of.

Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., has introduced a bill that would allow newspapers to choose tax-exempt status. The bill would allow newspapers to request 501(c)3 status. However, this status would prevent newspapers from endorsing political candidates.

That, my friends, is risky business, the first swing of the axe at the foundation of the First Amendment, in my view. That makes the Newspaper Revitalization Act a dangerous compromise to the First Amendment.

But the alternative concerns me. The newspaper industry as it exists is in grave danger, and there are deeper concerns to think about when considering the elimination of the printed word.

The closing of newspapers may lead to the dumbing down of America even further than has occurred.

As I contemplate a nation without newspapers, I can’t help but think about the most ridiculous movie I have ever watched. The 2006 film “Idiocracy,” directed by Mike Judge, is surely one of the dumbest movies ever made, yet it has some serious undertones.

The story is about Private Joe Bauer, an average, underachieving Army librarian who is selected to participate in a secret military experiment “Human Hibernation Project.” He and a prostitute named Rita are placed in a state of hibernation for what is supposed to be one year. The man in charge of the project is arrested, however, leaving the pair suspended in time for 500 years.

When they are accidentally awakened in 2505, they discover the nation is in shambles, run by illiterate couch potatoes. The average Joe finds himself to be the smartest man in the world.

Surely this is far-fetched and unlikely, right? But it’s where my mind takes me when I think of a nation without newspapers.

Perhaps, it will only lead to a world that is more “back to the future,” where an educated elite is granted all of the rights.

Obviously, I’m not a prophet and I don’t have a clue to the future. However, the movie provides me a vision of an exaggerated concern I have with people relying on the Internet as an accurate news source.

Day in and day out, friends and family have sent me e-mails they received about whatever you can imagine. Most of what they were reading was untrue, yet it looked authentic, with dozens of attributions.

It got to the point where I was sending them back the e-mails, telling them what a disservice it was to forward the inaccuracies.

Today, they send me inquiries of whether something is true or not so I can check the facts for them, then reply.

The case I make for newspapers is that most good newspapers have fact checkers and editors to keep information accurate. However, no one is perfect and mistakes are made. Therefore, in reliable papers, there is a corrections box on page 2 or 3. This is to correct the record for history, whereas in cyberspace, once it’s out, it is almost impossible to retrieve or correct.

Here is a reality check for those of you who are giving up your newspaper for news from the Internet for free! There are no free lunches, at least in the long term.

The Internet news model doesn’t work like the dinosaur newspaper model. In other words, the price point that Internet companies receive for advertising is less than what newspapers charge, creating a revenue problem or lack of revenue to pay for expenses, such as fact checkers, editors and reporters.

My point is that while the Internet provides a buffet of news sources for the small price of Internet access today, it won’t be so tomorrow. Quality news organizations will become coveted, pushing the market to an all-paid model.

You will have to pay for your news in one form or another. Perhaps, your Internet provider will charge you a news surcharge, which it will pay to subscribe to a quality news source.

Sadly, the truth isn’t free, leaving the question of who is willing to pay for accurate news and how much are they willing to pay?

Large newspaper Web sites will be forced to charge subscription fees in order to become profitable. That’s no different from your daily newspaper, except the subscription fee will be used for direct operations rather than to offset delivery cost.

As I struggle to hold onto my parents’ dream of providing quality community news on paper, the rest of the world is looking at the day when all of your news will be free on the Internet.

That’s what keeps the ember glowing in my heart, because I know newspapers will stick around in one form or another without compromising our First Amendment rights.

If left unbridled, the Internet could lead to illiteracy or, worse, a grossly misinformed public. As the gates of the Fourth Estate become blurred, information seekers will have a difficult time determining news from fiction. This would open the door wider for fiction to become history, if left unchecked.

There is some irony here in that this column will probably not be printed in the paper. This column will forever float in cyberspace on dozens of servers around the world, where my grandchildren will be able to find it with ease and read it for a few bucks.

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.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Where’s the money? It’s spent

This first published March 24, 2009 in the Henderson Home News website, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

It can be found in Las Vegas’ foreclosed homes

Have a little cash? Buy a home in foreclosure, for goodness’ sake.

First-time home buyers may be keeping Las Vegas alive as they swoop in on the distressed housing market. There are deals to be had in Las Vegas.

The question of the day is, will they have a job tomorrow to keep up with the mortgage payments?

Last week, I met with a community organizer from Tucson, Ariz., and our conversation quickly turned to the economy — specifically the Las Vegas economy.

He asked when I thought things would turn around for Las Vegas. Whenever I’m asked that or a similar question, I give my stock answer, “Not very soon.” As I have written before, the mortgage dilemma will continue for another four years if the government doesn’t step in to assist. I’m not suggesting the government get involved, but rather stating my opinion on the situation.

The reason I say Las Vegas won’t recover very soon is the same reason the Big Three auto companies won’t recover anytime soon — or at all for that matter.

As I told my visitor, there is little money left for Americans to spend. If you happen to be wondering where all the money is, I’ll tell you what I told him. As I pointed my finger out my office window in a wide sweep across the Strip I said, “The money is out there in all those hotels — and not just those hotels, but also hotels in New York, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles and many more cities across this country. The money is in millions of cars and SUVs that are being repossessed by banks and finance companies. The money is in exotic vacation spots around the world.

The money is in colleges and universities, spent by hopeful parents so that their children might have a greater opportunity than themselves. Many of those hopes have been dashed by deflating investments and 401(k)s.

Get it? The money is spent! Those buildings and dreams were built on the backs of many American mortgages, and when the equities dried up, the building stopped. Jobs were lost, homes sales tanked, and the economic tsunami was put into a full roll.

In Las Vegas, gaming companies gambled in a big way or never really thought about where the prosperity was coming from. How many gaming companies leveraged themselves? The answer is all of them.

It’s hard to believe the decision-makers couldn’t see this coming. Didn’t CEOs see what was happening in their personal finances? Did they think the boom would never go bust?

As long as tourists were doing their own kind of leveraging with credit cards and home equity lines, the facade — or house of cards, as I’ve been calling it — would hold up. Everyone just had to keep playing.

Now, it is what it is.

I, like many people, made good personal financial decisions by not leveraging everything we own into oblivion. Who is going to bail us out as we are affected economically by the carelessness of others? The answer is no one.

More than 140,000 people are jobless today in Southern Nevada alone. Millions are across this nation. Is there any hope for them? Not immediately.

The reality is no one will get through this recession unscathed. But I’m willing to bet there will be more new small businesses spawned in the coming years than ever before in our history.

That’s a bet worth taking. The final question is, will you be willing to bet on America? If you have a secure job, have never owned a home and plan on sticking around, you should invest in a home.

This is probably a good time for first-time buyers to snatch up a deal, according to the National Association of Realtors. Lawrence Yun, the group’s chief economist, said first-time buyers accounted for half of all home sales last month, with activity concentrated in lower price ranges.

“Because entry-level buyers are shopping for bargains, distressed sales accounted for 40 to 45 percent of transactions in February,” he said. “Our analysis shows that distressed homes typically are selling for 20 percent less than the normal market price, and this naturally is drawing down the overall median price.”

It may be drawing down median prices, but it’s the only action out there right now.

What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nevada can’t afford another ‘Empty Suit’ in 2010

This first published March 18, 2009 in the Henderson Home News website, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

When Nevadans look in the executive leadership closet, they keep finding the same old empty suit. Gov. Jim Gibbons continues the same habits he possessed while in Congress — that is absence.

Jim Gibbons should have never been elected governor and would not have been if the Democrats had been more strategic or the Republicans had convinced Bob Beers to get off his single issue of the "Tax and Spend Initiative."

Hindsight is definitely 20/20. But it sure makes me feel like a pundit to look back at a column I published July 6, 2006.

During Campaign '06, every time Jim Gibbons faced controversy, he would go underground and become as quiet as a church mouse while his handlers would clean up and spin the mess.

At the time, I wrote, "While every other candidate seems to be voicing his or her positions, I don't recall the good congressman (Jim Gibbons) saying a heck of a lot since he supposedly plagiarized a speech in rural Nevada."

Another observation was, "I've heard plenty of people talk about his unwillingness to debate the issues. I tend to ask them, 'What else can we expect from an empty suit?'"

I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "a leopard can't change its spots." In this case, the governor can't change his ways. When things get tough in the capital, he seems to take refuge in Elko, where he is more accepted and less likely to be challenged. However, I'm sure he has worn out a bit of his welcome there, too.

Obviously this tactic worked to get him elected, and I even suggested in my column in 2006 that staying low would be helpful in getting elected.

"Although he is doing well in the polls, he may be better off to just continue to keep a low profile. He has done very little as the congressman from Northern Nevada and continued to be re-elected. This may be a very good strategy. As you know, it worked for President Bush, too."

But I didn't say that would be an effective way to govern the state of Nevada.

Back in July 2006, I was fairly kind to the congressman who never seemed to be in Washington, D.C., whenever I was. I pointed out, "Jim Gibbons is a very likable fellow, so don't count him out too quickly. He could have the Republican primary sewed up, for the most part, and may be completely unscathed and energized to pick apart whatever remains are left on the table from the Democrats, Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson and State Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas."

Beers, the governor's primary opponent, could have been a strong choice, except for his one-track mind and single campaign objective.

I wrote, "Not so fast — let's not forget the ever tenacious and single-issued Bob Beers. If he could spread his wings a bit and show voters he is more than a no-tax, ultra-conservative, then his campaign may take off. Beers needs to show voters he cares about more than TASC, the 'Tax and Spend Control' initiative."

Because of Beers' one-track mind, Gibbons emerged unscathed. But like the leopard, the spots would eventually reappear in the form of trouble, and that trouble was Chrissy Mazzeo. That bit of political scat would have sunk best of political candidates, except that the Democrats had left each other in shreds after the primary.

So what does this column I wrote in July 2006 have to do with today? Simply, folks are throwing their hats in the ring for the election in 2010. Both parties should be planning a strategy to bring their best candidates to the dance. History often repeats itself. 2010 could have a few similarities to the election in 2006, but certainly not the consequences of the past two years of the Gibbons administration — unless the state is unfortunate enough to re-elect him.

Jim Gibbons has indicated he plans on running for re-election. Fellow Republicans North Las Vegas Mayor Michael Montandon, who terms out as mayor, and former state Sen. Joe Heck, who was tossed from Senate District 5 last fall, have thrown their hats in the ring.

The Democrats have no confirmations, but a couple of strong candidates have expressed an interest in the Governor's Mansion, including Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid and Speaker of the Assembly Barbara Buckley.

Of course, this is America and anyone with the filing fee is free to run for office — even an empty suit.

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 .

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hey Pa.: Keep your waste in your own backyard

This first published March 9 2009 in the Henderson Home News website, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

Today I was trolling the blogs and newspaper web pages when I happened to read this amusing editorial by Denny Bonavita, editor and publisher of McLean Publishing Co. in west-central Pennsylvania, which includes the Courier-Express in DuBois, Pa.

The “Our Opinion” penned by Mr. Bonavita is titled “If Not Yucca, Where?” and starts out by accusing the president of “pandering to Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate.” It then goes on to throw a little mud in Senator Reid’s face by continuing it “further muddies Obama’s credentials as an effective, bipartisan president. But that’s fine.”

OK Denny, so that’s fine. But the president usually doesn’t pander to the Senate leadership, no matter what side of the aisle they lead. It’s usually the other way.

This is where I begin to find his editorial amusing, if not hypocritical, when he makes a few interesting statements such as this beauty:

“We have just one nagging question.

“The federal government is obligated by law to accept the used reactor fuel from 104 commercial power reactors, but as yet it has no place to put it. The spent fuel, growing at the rate of 2,000 tons a year, is being held in pools and above-ground concrete containers at reactor sites.

“What happens to it?”

That’s easy for me to answer with a rhetorical question, such as, “What have you been doing with your garbage for the past 20 years?”

He follows up with, “What happens to us if terrorists steal it? If earthquakes or tornadoes spread it?”

This editorial reminds me of a neighbor I once had who would pick up his dog’s used dog fuel and toss it over his back wall instead of putting it in his own garbage can.

Anyway, I suggest they start shipping those super-duper, train crash-resistant canisters that were proposed for Yucca Mountain to the nuclear power plants around the country. Perhaps they might start with Pennsylvania.

The editorial goes on: “But no state wants to host the long-term storage site. The Nevada site had been vetted by previous administrations, both Republican and Democratic. Yes, Nevada loses.”

Well Denny I’m afraid that’s where you’re wrong. The political game called congressional seniority is how Nevada got screwed in the first place. We elected a dressmaker over Nevada’s second most powerful senator in history, Howard Cannon.

Today, Harry Reid is the most powerful senator ever to represent the people Nevada.

It has taken people such as Harry Reid, John Ensign, Shelley Berkley, Jon Porter and Dean Heller our congressional delegation of the past several years, to get the nuke screw out of our backside. The odds have always been stacked against Nevada, with only three members of the House of Representatives compared to Pennsylvania’s 22 members of the house.

By the way Denny, how many dogs — oops, I meant nuke plants — do you have in your back yard? Nevada has zero!

One last bit of irony. He wrote, “But we have no way to deal with the waste, which can kill us by the millions.”

OK, let me understand this. Nevada has to give a little bit. Therefore, it’s OK if terrorists try to steal 5-ton casks of your garbage from our backyard, and it’s OK if the garbage can kill millions of Nevadans.

For some reason, I fail to see your logic.

Or perhaps I’m just as big a NIMBY as you.

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

Bill could prohibit offenders from taking DUI classes online

This first published March 3 2009 in the Henderson Home News website, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

I received a call from Sandy Heverly of Stop DUI asking if I had a copy of a column I had written in 2004 about a DUI Victim Impact Panel I had attended with my then-16-year-old son, Sean.

She is preparing to testify next week on AB 209 before the Committee on Judiciary at the Nevada Legislature.

Apparently NRS 484.3797 allows DUI schools or Victim Impact Panels via the Internet. This bill would reverse that.

The law as it stands is a travesty to me, because it removes the human tragedy and strips the human face off the victim by allowing offenders to escape facing victims in person and sober.

During a telephone conversation, Assemblyman Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, described a scenario to me of the offender sitting home on a Saturday afternoon watching a ball game, sucking down a few brews then losing interest in the game. What to do now? Uh, maybe I'll get DUI School out of the way. So he sits down with a six-pack in his belly to complete his court-ordered class.

Manendo is spot on. DUI offenders should never, never have the opportunity to self-medicate before experiencing a life-changing event such as the Stop DUI Victim Impact Panel. If offenders have an ounce of humanity in their flesh, they will be changed by the panel, even if it is only temporary.

I foresee a bit of challenge to the simple changes in this law, because there is money to be made by Internet companies. Follow the money on this bill or the lobbyist for that matter. A quick visit to the Nevada DMV Web site,, reveals a boatload of companies that may have something at stake, including the City of Las Vegas Municipal Court, operates it own online classes at and advertises it is the "Exclusive Provider of DUI School for the Las Vegas Municipal Court!"

The Web site also reads, "Following your registration, you study the course materials online and then answer the quiz questions. There is no need to attend a boring class, listen to long lectures or watch repetitive videos. Study at your leisure, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week."

Can you imagine this? "Honey, would you stop and grab me a 12-pack for when I sit down to attend my DUI School on the computer?"

The in-person Victim Impact Panel just cannot be given justice that way. To see why, I want to share with you the column Heverly was asking about, originally published June 24, 2004.

Stop DUI rarely leaves a dry eye

"Do you know what this is?" the speaker asked.

"A body bag," someone answered from the audience of 276 driving under the influence offenders.

"That's right, but not for me, Bobby Kintzel," the speaker added. It wasn't for him even after being hit by a sports utility vehicle speeding at 95 mph.

Former Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Robert "Bobby" Kintzel was laying down spike strips on the U.S. 95 to stop a fleeing suspect when he became the target of the suspect he was trying to stop.

Holding up a lesser-sized bag, Kintzel continued his lesson.

"This is a smaller bag for smaller (body) parts and if there is anything left that is unidentifiable, it goes in this," he said. "This is a biohazard bag, but not for me. I am still here."

The ex-trooper doesn't remember anything about the day he died, except what he reads in police reports and what people tell him.

Yes, he did die. Kintzel's life ended that day as far as he is concerned.

He was reborn after lying unresponsive in the intensive care unit for weeks. After nearly three years of rehabilitation, he returned to work in a civilian capacity last February.

In this capacity, the former Marine has declared war against drunken drivers.

"I am in a war, and if you drink and get behind the wheel, you are the enemy," he said.

Kintzel is not against drinking. In fact he candidly talks about popping a beer while sitting down to watch a baseball game on television that was rained out. He had just taken a sip, just a sip.

The game was off and so he thought a movie would be nice. Asking his wife to take him to the video store, she was too busy.

Did he get behind the wheel? Absolutely not.

This man is hero material.

Kintzel was one of three speakers at the monthly STOP DUI Victims Impact Panel at the Flamingo Library in Las Vegas. The panelists each discussed their gut-wrenching experiences. However, as an observer to the court-ordered panel, I was struck by other observations.

I was invited by Sandy Heverly, executive director of Stop DUI, to attend the Victims Impact Panel. She greeted my son and me, giving us a quick outline of how the panel operated and the procedures for entering the panel.

Because of the high volume of Hispanic offenders, the organization has a separate Spanish-speaking panel. This night there were 71 offenders attending the Spanish session.

She said the panel had used interpreters and headphones for Spanish-speaking offenders, however, the emotion of the victims got lost in the translation. The Spanish panel has been a much better success for the courts and STOP DUI, she said.

The first rule of the panel is attendants must be fully sober, which includes absolutely no consumption of alcohol on the day of the panel. If offenders show up with alcohol on their breath, they are asked to leave and come back the following month.

This night was no different for one fellow. He said he only had a sip off his girlfriend's beer earlier in the day.

Too bad, so sad.

He was asked to leave and invited to return next month.

Hopefully, his court date is not before the next panel. If so, he could possibly suffer some sanctions by the court for not meeting its requirements.

We had asked to sit in the front center row to have a full view of the audience and hear comments before the presentation.

I was disappointed in the lack of humanity shown by members of the audience. They were rude, insensitive, loud and obnoxious.

More profanity was spoken here than anywhere I have ever been. Among the lowest of human trash, one could spot the more cultured of society. A doctor dressed in scrubs was the most obvious, although there were several people in business suits.

The audience was representative of every socioeconomic level. It was sickening to listen to the complaining by offenders for having to attend the panel.

Heverly sat fully composed, responding to a barrage of idiotic questions and comments before the panel started.

"Are we going to see a movie?" one young lady asked sarcastically. "And have popcorn."

Heverly never lost her composure, although I was squirming in my seat, biting my tongue.

What she knew that I didn't was there would be a transformation over the next 90 minutes. Laughing and smirking would turn to tears and remorse during this time.

Victims' faces and their stories were riveting. The pain they suffer now and forever is real. It doesn't go away.

Images of dismembered Southern Nevadans forever etched in offenders' memories hopefully will serve as a reminder not to drink and drive.

Emotions high, senses tingling, mind and body on overload, my son and I sat among the silent offenders.

It was deafening.

It was numb and the transformation was complete. No more rude, bragging, insensitive, loud and obnoxious comments. My wish is they never return.

My faith in humanity restored, and I have a new hero to cheer. We should think twice before drinking and driving.

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

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Congresswoman Berkley is "Mad as Hell"

Rep. Shelley Berkley responded to a barrage of political attacks on Las Vegas, however, let's keep it real, these attacks are against Sen. Harry Reid.
Then there is the old disdain for Las Vegas from the extreme conservative right.

Here is what Rep. Berkley released yesterday....

(March 4, 2009 -- Washington, D.C.) Congresswoman Shelley Berkley today responded to Congressional critics of Las Vegas and to lawmakers who have attacked funding for Nevada projects, including the proposed Mag-lev high speed train. Berkley delivered her comments in a speech from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Her remarks are as follows:
Statement of Congresswoman Shelley Berkley
Mr. Speaker, I'm mad and I'm not going to take it anymore.

I've had enough of my colleagues bashing my district, my hometown, and the community I love, Las Vegas.

I've sat back as Las Vegas has been maligned, insulted, and lied about for the sole purpose of making political points.

I've been waiting for common sense to prevail. But I'm here to say that this nonsense, the bashing and lies about Las Vegas have got to end and they have got to end now.

It started with Senator McConnell's misguided attack on the stimulus bill by singling out a mob museum in Las Vegas as an earmark in the stimulus package.

There's only a couple of things wrong with that, there never was an earmark in the stimulus bill -- there are none -- and there certainly wasn’t one for a mob museum, there was never a mention of it in the stimulus package. The lies continue.

Then we found out about the Mag-lev train, countless republicans have misrepresented the $8 billion included in the stimulus bill as being an earmark for the Las Vegas-Anaheim Mag-lev route.

The only problem is even after it was pointed out that there is no earmark, that Las Vegas and California are going to have to compete with other projects, that this has been a project that's been in the works for 20 years and that it will bring thousands of visitors to the Las Vegas area and to the Southern California area, the lies continue.

The latest one was Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. He repeated the lie in his televised response to the President's remarks to Congress, claiming the bill included funding for a magnetic levitation line from Las Vegas to Disneyland.

And then it goes one worse. Trent Franks just mentioned there's a Mag-lev going from Disneyland to the Moonlight Bunny brothel. Now I grew up in Las Vegas and I've never heard of the Moonlight Bunny brothel, but I guarantee the Mag-lev train is not going there.

The latest whipping boy is in the omnibus bill -- Sustainable Las Vegas.

Just yesterday, Senator McCain took to the floor of the Senate to attack sustainable Las Vegas. What does sustainable Las Vegas mean? He yelled. Let me enlighten the senator, it's a University of Nevada education and research program on energy supply, water supply and air quality issues that are very important for the desert southwest for cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix and Tucson. But he knows that.

So why is it different than the hundreds of other programs given out to other universities in the United States? Including universities in Arizona? Because it has Las Vegas in its name.

And let me tell you about my hometown of Las Vegas -- it's a community of families looking for a better life; it's a community of schools and churches and mosques, a community of small businesses, working people and beautiful hotels.

That brings me to the most egregious affront to Las Vegas. Stop bad mouthing Las Vegas and stop telling businesses and major companies to stay away from Vegas.

You are hurting our economy, you're forcing major layoffs of employees in the hotel industry. Hundreds-of-thousands of Nevadans depend on the tourism and convention business for their livelihood.

Las Vegas has long been a city where serious business is conducted, where small and large conventions can be accommodated. When it comes to business meetings, Las Vegas is the best city on the planet. You still get the best bang for your buck. Great hotels, great convention facilities, great restaurants, great transportation and a great price.

When you bad mouth Las Vegas, you are hurting our major industry, you're hurting your fellow citizens by taking away their livelihood. You are taking food out of their children's mouths.

Las Vegas is having a very tough time right now. High mortgage foreclosure rate, high unemployment, high bankruptcy rate. We are hurting. Every attack on Las Vegas by my colleagues is a knife in the heart of my city.

So I implore my colleagues, stop bashing Las Vegas. Find some other whipping boy. We've had enough, we're not going to take it anymore. I yield back the balance of my time.

Congressman lies about Las Vegas railroad

Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., has either lost his moral compass, spent too much time in the Arizona sun or is a baldfaced liar.

Franks flatly deceived viewers on Fox's "America's Newsroom" earlier this week by implying that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had earmarked funds for a railroad from Disneyland to the Moonlight Bunny Ranch, one of many legal brothel outside Carson City.

How could Franks come up with such bucket of hogwash? It's obvious he has already spent too much time in Washington, D.C., because he has clearly forgotten his western geography. There is no direct rail right-of-way from Las Vegas to Carson City, 400 miles away.

First, the proposed $12 billion magnetic levitation train is planned connect Las Vegas to Anaheim, Calif., not to Lyon County, Nev.

Maybe he just got confused. There are two separate projects being proposed with a single thread in common — tourism.

The two rail projects are probably a century apart in design, the maglev is a super speed aerodynamic passenger train yet to be completely designed. The other is the McCloud No. 18, built by Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia in 1914. This steam engine burns oil to make steam.

The reconstruction of the Virginia Truckee Railroad project began in 1974 from Virginia City to Gold Hill, with plans that now extend all the way to Carson City — well past the brothels at Mound House. By the way, the funds proposed for the VTRR are less than $500,000.

This is no more than another Republican arrow whizzing at the target on Reid's back. It also demonstrates the desperation of the GOP to cast aspersions on Nevada's senior senator and Senate Majority Leader.

The mere fact that a member of the United States Congress would go on a national cable news program to tell a lie is sickening. To fabricate such a ridiculous lie by combining two projects 400 miles apart, then spinning up a little diversion to include businesses that are in the vicinity of each project, is desperation.

Fox host Megyn Kelly laid the track for Franks' line of deceit by saying, "It's a super railroad of sorts, a line that will deliver customers straight from Disney — we kid you not — to the doorstep of the Moonlight Bunny Ranch Brothel in Nevada."

Franks clearly misled viewers by affirming the train would run from Disneyland to the Moonlight Bunny Ranch in Mound House, Nev.

Kelly later piped in with, "The bunnies are very happy about this development," adding fuel to Franks' outrageous lie.

Fox obviously has an inside line with the Bunny Ranch by means of Fox talk show host Sean Hannity, who spent some time interviewing the bunnies at the ranch in 2007.

Even though Kelly half-heartedly challenged the validity of Franks' claim, she was doing her best to take advantage of the interview.

The irony of Franks' charade is that 80 percent of his district, which includes the Colorado River system and the Grand Canyon, benefits from Nevada tourism, which sends thousands of Las Vegas and Laughlin tourist to those sites every day.

The second irony is that Franks alluded to Americans losing trust in government, but how can Americans trust congressmen like Franks when he is capable of totally twisting the truth with a straight face?

Wow, I need to remove my rose-colored glasses.

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.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Las Vegas is still a good investment

This first published March 3 2009 in the Henderson Home News website, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

For many of us calling Las Vegas home, it is no surprise that Forbes magazine named it America's "emptiest" city. A part of Las Vegas' unprecedented growth was built on speculation — that is speculation the building boom would last many more years.

Many people speculated by buying multiple homes in hopes of flipping them for a nice profit. How could they resist, drunk on the Kool-Aid whipped up in the sink of the media-spun hyperbole? The house- and land-flipping overinflated the values of real estate, whether commercial, residential or otherwise.

The economic train was certainly chugging away with a full head of steam generated by coal that was no more real than the houses built of cards by overzealous and profit-drunk builders. It wasn't just the builders that were driving the economy under the influence of false prosperity, either. Local governments were also fairly tanked up, too, creating huge parks and infrastructure with future dollars in the form of development fees, while older parks and infrastructure lost priority.

Yes, the Las Vegas Valley has the best of the best anywhere, but it's now waking up from its unbelievable binge at the bowl of tainted punch. The skeletons are visible in the forms of empty building pads, lifeless steel structures and the barren wood frames of unfinished homes.

What about all those empty houses in Las Vegas pointed out by Forbes?

I say, so what? No big deal, unless you own one or two of them. I still believe Las Vegas is a great buy, especially now that some sense of truth in home values is returning to the market.

Some say Las Vegas will never be the same again. To that, I wonder, compared to when? Three years ago? Perhaps not, but it's feeling a lot like 1989 again, and to a native Nevadan, that's not all bad. Life seemed a little simpler then, didn't it?

The construction boom has ended, forcing the skilled and unskilled labor forces to leave to seek greener pastures in other job-barren states. This is not urban flight, either, because Las Vegas is more suburbia than metropolis.

Las Vegas will recover at some point. Folks tired of bitter winters will continue to look at Las Vegas for retirement, because there will be great deals on homes to be found and the weather is marvelous.

If you look close enough, you will find many positive aspects to this mess we're in. We will have more time to address the issue of water and where to get it. It will give us more time to come up with better energy solutions, too. These are important issues in light of the effects of the drought plaguing the West.

It is disturbing enough to think about Lake Mead drying up, but before that happens, Hoover Dam would lose is capacity to produce energy. That is an entirely different crisis brewing.

Still, unlike the naysayers, I know the Las Vegas economy has not totally derailed in a smoking heap. Sure, we are going to suffer for awhile, and many Nevadans will be out of work. But there will be many more who will rise in the new economy.

Now is the time not only for Las Vegas but all of Nevada to start sketching and molding what it wants to be after this economic meltdown.

Las Vegas doesn't have to be the emptiest place in America. What started out as a dusty watering hole on the Union Pacific Railroad was actually a desert paradise with flowing artesian wells that sustained many settlers passing through by the wagon full. Just as it sustained ancient native Americans with the gift of life in a hostile environment, Las Vegas will continue to provide for those who are willing to brush the dust from themselves and pick up a shovel, hammer, trowel or perhaps dig into the ol' cookie jar, if it isn't already empty, to help in this remodeling of our economy.

Perhaps once we get our train moving again, we should slow down enough to pull up a neighbor. Then, in time, we may be the fullest city in America again.

What's that saying? The community that rebuilds together, prospers together, or something like that.

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.