Far from Las Vegas, Donald Trump taxes and me

Donald Trump taxes

Donald J. Trump (via Wikipedia)

You might have heard about the big reveal on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show last night that Donald J. Trump paid $38 million in federal income taxes in 2005. It certainly was interesting.

But it was not exactly a scoop.

For here is what I wrote for the Informer gossip column of Forbes, which I also edited, published on February 9, 2007:


Just a Bunch of Zeros

A snappy moment enlivened a Camden, N.J. hearing on Donald J. Trump’s libel suit over author Timothy L. O’Brien’s TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald. The book says Trump is worth less than $250 million. “I think I’m going to hire his accountant,” Superior Court Judge Irvin J. Snyder exclaimed on the bench after eyeing Trump’s still-secret-to-the-public tax returns. “He only paid $38,000 in tax.” Huge evidence for the defense? “Actually,” O’Brien lawyer Andrew J. Ceresney stammered, “it’s 38–well, 38 million, Your Honor.” Snyder replied, “Oh, thanks. I missed that.” Trump lawyer William M. Tambussi didn’t skip a beat: “So did Mr. O’Brien, Judge.” Trump says he’s worth $6 billion; FORBES figures $2.9 billion. –William P. Barrett Continue reading

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The caring folks of Las Vegas

caring folks of Las VegasTwo elderly men were in a Las Vegas supermarket shopping together. One was helping the other, taking items off the shelves and later taking those items from the shopping cart onto the belt at the check-out.

It was clear from their dialog–I was right behind them several times–that they didn’t live together or were in a romantic or even paid caretaker relationship. It was simply a stronger friend helping a frailer friend on what I gathered was a more-or-less regular basis.

This scenario–friends helping weaker friends in everyday shopping situations–is one I’ve encountered over and over in the half-year since becoming New To Las Vegas. Besides assorted supermarkets, I’ve seen it at Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowes’s and Costco.

I know this flies in the face of Las Vegas’s reputation as a “tough” town. And it might even be hard to square with a crime rate that is several times the national average. But it’s happening here, and it warms the heart. Continue reading

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If Trump wants more coverage of crime, come to Las Vegas

coverage of crime

Donald J. Trump (via Wikipedia)

Donald J. Trump is breaking the mold as President of the United States in so many ways. Among the latest: He thinks there isn’t enough reporting of crime, specifically terror attacks. That makes him the first elected official I can remember who says the news media is downplaying–deliberately, he suggests conspiratorially–violence in society.

The usual claim–and one I heard for years as a newspaper police and court reporter–is that the press gives far too much attention to such unpleasantries, especially since criminal acts, including those classified as terror, statistically remain the exception rather than the norm. The traditional complaint has been that the media are undermining civilization by playing up such bad stuff to get eyeballs.

Trump’s stated notion that terror news is under-reported has been widely debunked. I personally think his position is silly. But if Trump really wants more coverage of bad acts, he ought to spend more time around Las Vegas, where the tallest non-casino hotel, befitting his half-ownership, bears his name.

The local media here can’t serve up enough crime news. Continue reading

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A copy desk decline in Las Vegas

As an old newsie–four and a half decades as a journalist, much of that in newspapers–I especially have found the decline of the traditional print media to be a sad thing to watch. The outlets generally have fewer staffers, especially on things like copy desks, so quality is one of the first noticeable things to fade.

New To Las Vegas, I read the Las Vegas Review-Journal–Nevada’s largest newspaper–very closely. But I didn’t have to read the paper very closely this morning to see this in a staff-written story on the front page (the highlighting is mine):

copy desk decline

At this posting the same error appears online on the RJ website and hasn’t been fixed.

As the RJ might put it, we are all a lot more pour for this.

Follow William P. Barrett’s work on Twitter by clicking here.

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Las Vegas nonprofit for injured cops is legit but has high overhead

After on-duty police officer Chad Parque in North Las Vegas was killed earlier this month by a wrong-way driver, officials said tax-deductible contributions for the grieving family could go to the Injured Police Officers Fund. The 35-year-old home-grown Clark County nonprofit was even profiled on local TV, albeit with absolutely no detail about the organization’s finances.

Those who have followed my writings over the years know I have found much to criticize about nonprofits that purport to raise money to help injured or deceased folks in uniform such as soldiers and cops. In the nonprofits I have examined, almost all the funds raised have gone for fundraising, overhead and unrelated purposes–everything but for the stated good-works purpose. I regard some of these outfits–and yes, I mean you, National Police and Troopers Association, an arm of the International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO–as skanks.

So, still New To Las Vegas, I obtained the latest tax filing of the IPOF. I am happy to report–for a change, really–that the organization is legitimate, its charitable purpose worthy and its means appropriate. But I do have a serious concern about one element of its financial efficiency, along with its transparency. Continue reading

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Clark County, home of Las Vegas, is named for a corrupt tycoon

corrupt tycoon

William A. Clark (via Wikipedia)

Origins of geographic names are so revealing. Seattle, where I lived before becoming New To Las Vegas, is named for an Indian chief even though gringo settlers later made it illegal for his tribe to live there. King County, in which Seattle sits, originally was named in 1852 for William Rufus Devane King, a newly elected vice president of the United States who died of tuberculosis just 47 days after taking office. But in 1986, lawmakers switched the basis to the persona of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after shockingly discovering–only 114 years later–Bill King had been a slaveholder who founded Selma, Ala. (The never-married King also was likely gay and in a relationship with likely gay and future never-married U.S. president James Buchanan, but that wasn’t a factor in the switch.)

Las Vegas is Spanish for “The Meadows.” The place already had that name when the future war criminal, U.S. military man John C. Frémont, first explored the largely unpopulated Mojave Desert area, then part of Mexico, on May 3, 1844. Writing that the spring water was too warm for drinking but wonderful for bathing, he later put Las Vegas on a government-issued map that eventually helped guide thousands of–yes, gringo settlers–to the West.

Fremont Street today is a major thoroughfare in Las Vegas. But the person who really put Las Vegas on the map is William A. Clark, for whom the county Las Vegas lies in is named. He has a fascinating background for someone whose name adorns a governmental subdivision. A tycoon who made his big fortune in copper mines, he was elected to the U.S. Senate in another state through big-money bribery, which, when exposed, cost him the seat. “I never bought a man who wasn’t for sale,” he is reported to have protested. Continue reading

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The Las Vegas mobster next door

Las Vegas mobster

Charles Stango (via AboutTheMob.com)

Part of the mystique surrounding Las Vegas stems from the role starting in the 1940s of organized crime figures from other places. They developed the casino scene along the Strip with hidden interests to further their skimming of gambling proceeds.The conventional wisdom is that over time legitimate corporate interests, most notably Howard Hughes, bought out the mobsters and with the help of law enforcement drove them all away from the Silver State. (The 1995 Martin Scorsese film Casino captures in fiction some of this history.)

I think that perception is the reason a nervous buzz went through the Las Vegas Valley earlier this month. There was news that a reputed capo of the mob family which helped inspire the TV show “The Sopranos” lived in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson and had pleaded guilty for ordering someone be whacked and also for violating terms of a supervised release. You’re not supposed to order that someone be whacked while on supervised release.

According to court documents, the murder was never carried out because (1) the fellows the capo now admits he dealt with to order the deed were undercover FBI agents, and (2) the feds wiretapped the hell out of the caper. Continue reading

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Lying police union makes a lying pitch for money in Las Vegas

Lying police unionI’ve had it up to here with the International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO. Using the trade name National Police and Troopers Association, its telemarketers raise money by calling folks, falsely implying it is a charity and flat-out lying that the money is to fund death benefits for families of fallen officers.

In fact, only 1/10 of 1% of the funds given over the past four years, and nothing in some years, has gone for death benefits. Far more–maybe 80 times more–has gone to defray costs of negotiating higher pay and benefits for IUPA’s law-enforcement members.

That money is spent this way is not especially surprising, since the IUPA/NPTA, is simply a police union, albeit one masquerading as a charity. Still, it isn’t a charity, which is why contributions to IUPA/NPTA are not tax-deductible. Of course, callers are not advised of that fact, nor that NPTA is raising money for collective bargaining, before they are asked to make a legally enforceable pledge of money.

But even the 8% or so of donations going to some kind of police-related purpose is dwarfed by the 90-plus percent going to the paid fundraiser, an outfit with the wonderfully deceptive name (at least when working for this union) of Charity Appeal, based in Carson City, Nev.

Why am I so steamed up about this? At the New To Las Vegas world headquarters I recently got yet another call from these flim-flam artists. They and others retained by IUPA/NPTA have been calling me for years even though I’ve written up the deplorable m.o. here and on an earlier blog, NewToSeattle.com. That I keep getting called asking for money despite my public criticisms is why the organization is a candidate for my list, posted in the left column, of America’s Stupidest Charities.

But this time I was told directly by an actual human being–to whom I was referred when the computer-operated artificial intelligence voice using the name Jackson Kimbrell couldn’t answer one of my questions–that 10% of the money raised–100 times the true cut–goes to the families of fallen officers.

“Ten percent goes for death benefits?” I repeated incredulously but to the point. “Correct,” she replied in a pleasant Southern accent.

Even Burger King double whoppers aren’t this big. Don’t think so, I replied. She hung up. Continue reading

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In Las Vegas sirens are constant background sound

Las Vegas sirensA dozen or so times most days around Las Vegas, I hear a siren. Or rather, sirens, since there often are multiple vehicles simultaneously emitting the grating sound. When I have no line of sight, like when I’m at home, I can’t tell if the faint-louder-faint pattern comes from police cars or firetrucks or ambulances or some combination thereof.

Even in the middle of the night, when there is far less traffic to warn and flashing lights presumably could do the trick, I hear (from bed) sirens demanding the right-of-way.  Often every couple hours.

Still New to Las Vegas, I have never lived in a place with more frequent emergency response activity. That includes Albuquerque, my home for 12 years, where I lived within a mile of four hospitals with emergency rooms and local police led the nation in SWAT team incidents ending in a fatal shooting. And New York City and Seattle, where I resided within a few hundred yards of busy fire houses.

In Las Vegas the wailing tones are an ever-present–and unsettling–background theme to local life. Something bad is going down. Seemingly, nearly all the time. Continue reading

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‘None of These Candidates’ is official option on Las Vegas ballot

None of These Candidates

Official Nevada ballot 2016

With one exception, everywhere I’ve lived–and that’s 16 places across the country in the past 46 years–I’ve had the option on Election Day to write in the name of a candidate if I didn’t like the printed choices. Even for president of the United States.

I discovered the exception after becoming New To Las Vegas this summer. As I learned recently when voting early, Nevada ballots by law do not provide a space in which to enter a name of my choosing on a statewide race should I be so inclined. But in their infinite wisdom, Nevada lawmakers decades ago provided a bit of an out. On all such races, there is an option to vote “None of These Candidates.” Continue reading

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