How extreme heat made Las Vegas, again

LAS VEGAS SHATTERS ALL-TIME HEAT RECORD!

See update at end of post

This material is drawn from a post during a similar Las Vegas hot spell in the summer of 2023.

On this 248th birthday of American independence the apprehension is palpable. Will Las Vegas soon break its all-time any-day-of-the year high temperature of 117 degrees Fahrenheit? That’s the prediction by early next week from the National Weather Service. This mark has been touched five times in recorded history, twice since I became New To Las Vegas in 2016. Yesterday’s official high at Harry Reid International Airport was 113.

Accompanying this is lots of moaning and groaning and swearing by locals about how unbearable it is to be hereabouts during the day and even at night, when the lows still hover around 90. All this is absolutely true. But there are plenty of other places around the (if it doesn’t overheat on the ride) and even the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles–and throughout the world that are frequently hotter.

However, for some reason Las Vegas during the summer seems to have become a national proxy for hot weather. Perhaps it’s the phenomenon I previously have described in which bad stuff that happens in Las Vegas gets insane publicity even though the same things happen elsewhere. In the case of hot weather maybe it has something to do with the satisfying notion to some of Sin City burning in hell. I even confess to playing that game a bit with a running box at the top of this blog listing the current temperature, automatically updated hourly. (My data comes from private OpenWeatherMap.com and sometimes varies a bit from the National Weather Service, the official record-keeper.)

Now I don’t want to make light of genuine suffering and deaths caused by heat, which certainly happen around Las Vegas, a place that has been called the country’s fastest-warming city. But having lived in a few other toasty climates–Houston, Albuquerque, the hot Santa Clarita Valley near Los Angeles and even Cairo, Egypt–me thinks many of the locals here doth protest a little too much.

Indeed, as I see it, it is the extreme heat–getting all the more extreme thanks to global warming–that helped give Las Vegas a viable economy in the first place. Hear me out on this. Continue reading

Corporately, Las Vegas and Nevada again seek a race to the bottom

race to the bottom

Ad by a firm soliciting incorporation business

In many ways the economic well-being of Las Vegas and Nevada is based on a race to the bottom of human decency. Nearly a century ago, it was the enactment of laws allowing open gambling, quick divorces and even quicker marriages that jump-started what had been a dying 19th century financial model based on little more than mining and ranching. Suddenly, folks had a reason to come here and cough up some of their money with little in the way of inhibition.

The addition 50 years ago of legal houses of prostitution in a number of Nevada counties (not containing Las Vegas or Reno) added to that perception. The lack of a state income or corporation tax insured that the public education system would remain underfunded and dreadful, a scenario welcomed generations ago by political leaders (although efforts are being made to fix that now). This tax structure is much to the benefit of well-heeled retirees or even moderate retirees with grown kids fleeing states with good school systems–paid by state income taxes, be they high or low.

Here at the New to Las Vegas world headquarters I’m watching the latest phase of Nevada’s ability to profit from the foibles of others. Over the past several decades the Silver State has been changing its corporation laws to make it easier for officers and board directors of public corporations to avoid accountability by shareholders (perhaps you with a retirement account) for many of their actions. Continue reading

SCOTUS to Las Vegas: Drop Dead

drop dead Las Vegas

U.S. Supreme Court photographed in a secured building

No further comment is required from me beyond my headline above on today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing the manufacture of bump stocks that led directly to the massacre of 60 folks on October 1, 2017. That tragedy was along the Las Vegas Strip, seven miles from the New To Las Vegas world headquarters.

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In Las Vegas, a faux firefighter charity mails an illegal solicitation–to a dog

faux firefighter charity

Illegal request for payment addressed to a Las Vegas dog

I’ve written it before, and I’m writing it again. National Committee for Volunteers Firefighters PAC is one dumb organization. Why? The outfit, which says it is based in Boston, keeps calling me at the New to Las Vegas world headquarters asking for money even though I’ve blistered it several times in this space (click here and here).

NCVF-PAC presents like a charity–it’s not–and has spent virtually none of the money raised nationally during its entire existence on its stated mission of, well, helping volunteer firefighters politically. (PAC stands for political action committee.) In the world of fundraising, making follow-up calls to a possible donor under these circumstances can’t get any more moronic. That’s why NCVF-PAC, which I call a faux charity, long has been a candidate for my running list of America’s Stupidest Charities, which you can see nearby on this page.

On top of this, the recent outreach to me violated a 2021 Nevada law prohibiting all fundraising for, among other topics, firefighting personnel within the state without first registering with the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office and making filings, on pain of incurring civil penalties. I checked, and there’s no registration in Nevada for NCVF-PAC. Never has been. Yet the presenting NCVF-PAC caller–not an actual human but rather a computer-generated voice using the bland name “Tom Evans” secretly monitored by a real person with soundboard technology–falsely told me when I asked point-blank that the organization was indeed registered to solicit in the Silver State. That strikes me as a possible separate violation of Nevada’s deceptive trade practices law.

NCVC-PAC and other faux charities make tens of thousands of illegal calls a year to my fellow Nevadans, some of whom, alas, fork over some hard-earned funds. Yet it’s my perception that the Nevada state government, which runs without a state income tax, is not exactly overstaffed with investigators or lawyers tasked with regulating these kinds of matters to protect the public.

So I decided to play along, with an appropriate twist, to see what kind of documentary evidence I could generate to prove beyond my own words that NCVF-PAC was illegally operating in Nevada. A few minutes later, I told a different computer-controlled NCVF-PAC voice, “Emma Thompson” (I’m guessing at the spelling) that a pledge card could be mailed. A name and an address were provided. Days later, the pledge card asking for payment arrived in the mail.

Addressed to my dog.

Yes! You can see part of the invoice letter nearby, with some identifying detail redacted. Carrizozo, my nearly 10-year-old basset hound, is being billed for $30 by NCVF-PAC’s cynically named “Fundraising Committee.”
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Las Vegas sends out multiple mail ballots to some folks–including me

multiple mail-in ballots

Mail ballot No. 2

Here at the New to Las Vegas world headquarters, I’m not one of those folks who thinks voter fraud is a significant problem, either here or around the country. I see efforts talking up the issue more as a campaign ploy by Republican- and conservative-leaning interests to suppress voting by Democratic- and liberal-leaning interests. It’s a sad commentary of what we’ve become.

Still, it’s not a good thing that for the upcoming June 11 primary elections in Nevada I was mailed two identical ballots a few days apart by the Clark County Election Department, each with a postage prepaid envelope for return. A little more worse, I now suspect election officials, who work for the Democrats who control the county government, covered up their incompetence. I think this is lest they give fuel to rival Republicans who have focused on absentee voting, nationally but especially in Nevada.
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Far from Las Vegas: Satirical deletions before new SCOTUS ethics code (updated)

SCOTUS ethics code

The honorable members of the Supreme Court of the United States

Originally published last year, this post has been updated, revised and expanded in light of recent revelations

The New to Las Vegas world headquarters has obtained earlier drafts of the new U.S. Supreme Court ethics code announced in November 2023. To avoid bias, the court in conference had asked that the first version be written by AI “in the style of John Marshall Harlan.” He was the conscience of the Supreme Court more than a century ago with his dissents favoring civil liberties and equal rights.

But since unanimity was required in the court for the new code, the objection of any one justice required a provision to be struck. As the draft went through the review process, a large amount of extremely specific material was cut, leaving behind blander generalities.

Here is a leaked list of deleted passages and the justice or justices who vetoed them. Only Ketanji Brown Jackson, the newest justice, objected to nothing. It should be noted that the Supreme Court itself declared unanimously in Hustler v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46 (1988), that political satire is protected speech under the First Amendment.

CANON 3(A): “A justice shall not display for public view, or allow to be displayed for public view, a flag or other other emblem on property reasonably under the control of the justice if that flag or emblem could be construed by others as an opinion on a matter before the Court or likely to come before it.” SAMUEL A. ALITO Jr. Continue reading

Another faux charity cop outfit solicits illegally in Las Vegas

faux charity cop outfitAt the New To Las Vegas world headquarters recently, I was on the phone with “Vincent Wayne.” The object was to extract a contribution from me for American Police Officers Coalition PAC, which lists a Fairfax, Va., address. It was a standard pitch: thousands of injured cops nationally, the need to elect sympathetic politicians, etc., etc. etc. You can hear the general spiel by clicking on this link, which goes to a recording made by someone else and posted online.

OK, I said. I live in Nevada, where an unusual 2021 state law prohibits fundraising for law enforcement-themed causes without prior registration and the filing of financial statements. I explained this and asked, “Are you registered in Nevada?”

Click.

I think that is Latin for no.

“Wayne” wasn’t a real person (why I’m using quote marks), but rather a computer-generated voice monitored by a real person using what is known as soundboard technology. It’s all the rage among faux charities, political action committees, or PACs, that present as charities but essentially swindle clueless donors across the country by spending nothing on the stated cause. They get away with this mainly because state and federal regulators with only a few exceptions are asleep on the job.

After the abrupt termination of the call, I did a little research. Whadayaknow? Turns out the organization and its parent, the grammatically challenged American Coalition for Police and Sheriff’s PAC, aren’t registered in Nevada, aren’t very old, haven’t ever spent a dime raised on its professed mission to help law enforcement and also filled out a key federal filing incorrectly. Moreover, the paperwork lists as its sole responsible officer someone I’ve written about before in this space, and not very favorably.

Here we go again. Continue reading

How Las Vegas is different: Exit now for what?

destroying marriages since 2012

Large billboard faces northbound drivers along the heavily traveled U.S. 93/U.S. 95/I-11 freeway in Las Vegas

Not far from the New To Las Vegas world headquarters, this billboard for Minks Las Vegas stands along a major freeway. There isn’t much I can add to the photo, since it is easily worth a thousand words.

But I would note this. The Las Vegas economy was jump-started from nothing to something when Nevada legalized quickie divorce (and gambling) in the memorable year of 1931. The Las Vegas area population in the 1930 census was all of 8,532. It’s now 2,250,611.

Sin sells.

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Stormy, Trump, the thwack heard ’round the world–and me in Las Vegas

thwack heard 'round the world

The magazine cover wielded by Stormy Daniels in 2006

The thwack is back. And I remain no richer for it.

At the sensational Donald J. Trump hush money trial in New York yesterday, Stormy Daniels repeated her claim that her 2006 sexual encounter with Trump in his Lake Tahoe, Nevada, hotel room came after she hit him on the rear end with a rolled-up magazine bearing his countenance on the cover.

In court she apparently didn’t specify the specific magazine. But I know which one it is, and for this reason. When word of the slap heard ’round the world first surfaced in 2018, I thought I had an original copy of the issue, which I hoped to turn into big bucks via the auction magic of Ebay.

Turned out I had the wrong magazine. But it’s still a terrific tale. Continue reading

Story about Las Vegas written by far-away reporters wins Pulitzer Prize

story about Las Vegas

Elon Musk as depicted by Reuters

See update at end of story

A story about Las Vegas won a Pulitzer Prize today–but not written by any locals.

A team of reporters at Reuters shared the National Reporting prize for writing about nefarious business activities of Elon Musk. One of those stories, published on July 23, 2023, focused on a Las Vegas-area office of Tesla devoted to talking Tesla drivers out of demanding better battery performance for their electric vehicles.To read the story, click here. That story, along with the series, has caused all kinds of hell for Musk.

I had the pleasure of having dinner with reporters Steve Stecklow, a long-ago colleague long before I became New To Las Vegas on the Philadelphia Bulletin, and Norihiko Shirouzu last year while they were gum-shoeing around town on that story for a few days. Stecklow is based at the Reuters home office in London, U.K., while Shirouzu works out of Austin, Tex.

The story is yet another example of the falsity of that old Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority marketing slogan, What Happens Here, Stays Here. I’m adding Musk as a candidate to my counter-list, It Didn’t Stay Here. It’s a roster of folks in trouble elsewhere for something that happened in Las Vegas. Musk joins such luminaries as Donald J. Trump (twice) and Joseph R. Biden Jr. You can see the full list nearby.

Sometimes, things about Las Vegas come into focus only from a distance.

UPDATE ON MAY 7, 2024

Neither the Las Vegas Review-Journal nor the Las Vegas Sun made mention today in their print editions of the Pulitzer Prize reported out under their very noses. Nor did I see any coverage in the rest of what passes for the Sin City media.   

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John C. Frémont’s one-night stand in Las Vegas–180 years ago this week

Frémont's one-night stand in Las Vegas

John C. Frémont

Of his 77 years on Earth, John C. Frémont (1813-1890) spent just one night–maybe 12 hours tops–in Las Vegas. That was exactly 180 years ago this week, on May 3, 1844, when the Mojave Desert area’s only significant population were Indians, a racial group that Frémont, a military officer and future presidential candidate and celebrity, despised, disparaged and sometimes massacred (along with the occasional Latino). Illegally mapping Mexican territory for a future gringo invasion that he eagerly joined and profited from on the basis of inside information, Frémont with his well-armed troops took off early the next morning for nearby Utah and never returned. The entire account in his famous journals of his one-night stand in Las Vegas fits into a single paragraph in which he mainly obsessed about the warm water.

Yet Frémont’s identification with Las Vegas remains eternal. Long before the Las Vegas Strip there was Fremont Street. The east-west artery cutting through downtown Las Vegas was the heart of gambling after the State of Nevada legalized casinos in 1931. The state’s very first gaming license went to the Northern Club at 15 E. Fremont St. Even as the casino action eventually migrated southward to grander facilities along S. Las Vegas Blvd.–the Strip–Fremont Street held its own. It was on Fremont Street that Buddy Binion’s Horseshoe Casino in 1970 started the World Series of Poker, now the world’s largest such tournament.

Today, there’s the Fremont Street Experience, a five-block-long pedestrian mall festooned with neon, much of it under a 90-foot-high canopy. After the Strip, Fremont Street is undoubtedly Las Vegas’s best-known street.

The adulation of Frémont in Las Vegas continues to utterly mystify me, but praise is not limited to hereabouts. Mainly across the West, cities, counties, neighborhoods, rivers, mountains, streets, schools, libraries and hospitals are named for a man that many Americans today vaguely remember–if they do at all–only from high school American history classes. In my view Frémont was the luckiest U.S. war criminal of the 19th Century.

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Ex-soldiers cause trolls Las Vegas for donations but spends $0 on stated mission

ex-soliders causeIt really wasn’t a long telephone call. “Jack Miller” was on the line recently to the New To Las Vegas world headquarters seeking a donation for National Coalition for Disabled Veterans PAC. The stated mission of this organization with a Chicago business address, I was told, was to improve the quality of life for disabled and hospitalized veterans by electing sympathetic politicians to fight for funding.

Okay, I said. How much money was spent last year by NCDV-PAC for this mission?

“I can’t hear you,” “Miller” said. I politely repeated the question.

“I’ll add you to the do-not-call list,” “Miller said. “Goodbye.” Click.

If “Miller” and his organization were on the up-and-up, that shouldn’t have been a hard question to answer. But “Miller” wasn’t a real person (hence my use of quote marks), but rather a computer-generated voice using soundboard technology. A human operator monitoring multiple conversations at a time hits a keyboard to unleash pre-recorded answers to expected questions, easily handling multiple pitches simultaneously and hundreds of asks a shift.

Nor, as I discovered after looking at official public-but-hard-to-find filings, was NCDV-PAC anything close to a worthwhile entity. In its three-and-a-half-year of existence, NCDV-PAC has raised millions of dollars in contributions across the country. Here, according to its own filed-under-penalty-of-perjury reports, is exactly how much of that was spent for the claimed cause during important election cycles:

Zero.

NCDV-PAC is what I call a faux charity. That’s a political action committee that presents as a charity doing noble things, but in reality spends all the money raised in fundraising expense, overhead and undisclosed profits paid to its hidden organizers. There are scores and scores of faux charities out there, more than a few of which I have outed in this space. (Simply type “faux” in the nearby search box to see my body of work here.)  Why the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission, the two federal agencies with the most jurisdiction over PACs, allow this to happen is beyond me.
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Las Vegas utility controlled by Warren Buffett falsely touts free service

NVEnergy

On the website of NVEnergy

The promotion was right there on the website of NVEnergy, Nevada’s major electric utility owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. “FREE POOL PUMP SUMMER CALIBRATION … Make sure you’re getting the most savings possible by having your pool pump calibrated for FREE!” Also on the page: an image of a fetching ready-to-party young woman with a raft and for some reason waving her arm–standing next to a pool pump, of course. (A screenshot is nearby.)

Great, I thought. The monthly electric usage at the New to Las Vegas world headquarters had gone up 50% over a year earlier, for no obvious reason. We have gas heat, so any colder weather during the past winter shouldn’t have been a big factor. I read somewhere that pool pumps–yes, we have a backyard pool–are often set to run too many hours a day at too high a speed and can consume ungodly amounts of juice. According to the promotion, the NVEnergy summer offer took effect April 1, just a week earlier. All praise Buffett, at age 93 the world’s sixth-richest person ($133 billion, according to Forbes)!

However, as I discovered when I tried to take advantage of the deal, there was a problem. Even though the offer is still up on the NVEnergy site at this writing in a downloadable PDF page, the service is no longer available generally, or at least not for free. NVEnergy farms out the work to a posted list of “approved pool pump calibrators” that electric users like me are invited to contact. But the several I called said the service was not free and would cost me $200 to $300.

Bummer. Continue reading

How to stop red-light runners in Las Vegas: Put ’em on TV

red-light runners in Las VegasHardly a day goes by in Las Vegas that I don’t see multiple flagrant red-light runners. One day last week, in the space of two hours, I saw three of them along a single major Las Vegas street. I stopped for the red light. The motorists in the next lane didn’t. With the light already red, each stepped on the gas and whooshed right past me into and then through the intersection. It’s really amazing no one got hit or killed. I should note this was on Good Friday.

Sadly, such violations seem to be rather common in Las Vegas. Before becoming New To Las Vegas eight years ago, I lived all around the country. Never have I seen the level of fast reckless driving elsewhere that I regularly see here. But the red light violations are particularly egregious. Traffic deaths are way up this year, and it is thought that red-light running is playing an important role.

Clark County Sheriff Kevin McMahill recently told KNPR’s “State of Nevada” public affairs show that despite unspecified stepped up enforcement actions, his Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department agency hasn’t been able to cut down on red light infractions. “We’re just frankly really tired of scraping people up off the streets,” he said.

McMahill has called for installation of traffic cameras that could issue red-light-violation tickets. This would require a change in state law. In a “What Happens Here, Stays Here” valley full of folks here for second chances or kicks, McMahill’s proposal seems to be about as popular as a ban on gambling or show girls.

I have another idea. Unleash the power of reality TV. Continue reading

New filing of cancer faux charity pitching Las Vegas again shows 0% spent fighting cancer

cancer faux charityIn his famous 1930 crime novel The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett wrote, “The gaudier the patter, the cheaper the crook.” He never got a telephone cold-call asking for money from American Breast Cancer Coalition PAC, but he surely would have recognized the pitch.

I, on the other hand, have been called by sweet-talking representatives of this elusive East Coast-based organization any number of times over the past 15 months at the New To Las Vegas world headquarters. They pleaded for financial aid to fight this awful illness by backing sympathetic political candidates (PAC means political action committee) who will vote to fund treatments. Hundreds of thousands of other folks around the country likely have received these calls, too.

Now I’m no Sam Spade. He was Hammett’s legendary gumshoe, memorably played by Humphrey Bogart in the 1941 movie of the same name about fortune-hunters and killers fighting over an ancient object supposedly encrusted in jewels and made of solid gold. But I know how to look up stuff, like ABCC-PAC’s latest filed-with-the-IRS-under-penalty-of-perjury financial report, for the half-year ending December 31, 2023.

Amount of donation money raised nationally: $1.1 million.

Amount of money spent in political contributions to sympathetic candidates: Zero.

That’s right. Zip. Zilch. Goose eggs across the board. You spent far more on your latest Starbucks latte.

In addition, in Nevada, where I live, the way ABCC-PAC operates is illegal under state law, although toothless regulators here do absolutely nothing about it. The m.o. of these faux charities, as I call PACs that present like charities but aren’t, ought to be illegal everywhere, and enforced.

Do I have your attention? I do? Then kindly read on. Continue reading