Posted tagged ‘Nevada’

Amazon rattles saber: We will rethink our Nevada investment

May 12, 2011

Online retail pioneer Amazon has issued a not entirely surprising response to the campaign by Nevada’s brick-and-mortar retailers promoting sales tax collection by online merchants.

Amazon personnel said on a Wednesday phone call that they were aware of the pending amendment to Nevada Senate Bill 34, the existence of which has received wide press coverage, and which will be presented by the Retail Association of Nevada as a tax fairness measure.  Leading up to the presentation, the association has launched a television and radio campaign to influence public opinion in favor of retailers who collect taxes as required by law for schools and other public necessities, implicitly shaming companies that don’t. In the center of the bull’s eye — Amazon.

A written statement from Amazon Vice President of Global Public Policy Paul Misener was issued by email.

“The new tax legislation sought by big box retailers would make us reconsider our pending plans for jobs and investment in Nevada, including in Las Vegas,” he wrote.

Amazon has made headlines in state after state fighting any effort to force it into the role of sales tax collector.  It has battled the efforts by going to court, and by threatening to pull distribution centers out of states where legislatures are brewing up such a requirement, stirring fear of economic disruption and job loss.

The Nevada Association of Retailers asserts the state is losing jobs anyway, because physical retailers located here can’t compete with Amazon and other online merchants who aren’t required to pay sales taxes, and often provide free delivery.

The issue, says the association’s Bryan Wachter, is that Amazon should be paying (collecting) those taxes now.  He emphasized that the tax is not a new tax, because the online shopper is currently obligated by law to download a consumer use tax form from the Department of Taxation website, self-report online purchases, and pay the tax.  Hardly anyone does it because people are unaware of the law.

“It will be interesting to see if Amazon chooses to continue to have their advantage by leaving the state, as opposed to doing what most other companies are already doing,” Wachter said.

— original post —

Amazon issued the following written statement on Wednesday to the Reasonable Reporter in response to a request for comment regarding the Retail Association of Nevada’s legislative push to force the online retail giant to collect sales taxes in Nevada.  The request was part of the work for my segment on this week’s “Impact Nevada,”  which airs each weekend on Vegas PBS Channel 10 and commercial channel 8 in Las Vegas. Statement below, more to follow.

Here’s a statement from Paul Misener, Amazon vice-president of Global Public Policy:

“The new tax legislation sought by big box retailers would make us reconsider our pending plans for jobs and investment in Nevada, including in Las Vegas.”


Nevada’s long, uphill push for recovery: public works, prevailing wage, and it’s not a union versus non-union thing. Or is it?

March 1, 2011

The union and non-union sectors have so far been best model of civility in the hallways and hearing rooms of the Nevada legislature, presenting a unified front in the service of their respective workers, who are suffering 60 percent unemployment.  But deep political differences remain, with large practical implications in a construction market shrunk beyond recognition. Read the story at Nevada News Channel

Dennis Hoff uses the only weapon he brought — his mouth

February 23, 2011

As promised, the unedited response from the brothel industry to Harry Reid’s call to outlaw it (posted below). In this audio file, you will hear several voices, including those of brothel owner Dennis Hoff, who attended the Senator’s speech in the Assembly Chambers yesterday.

Hoff told the Reasonable Reporter he was frisked and searched by both the Secret Service and the legislature’s own police force. Hoff says these authorities — unclear which ones — asked him whether he’d brought a weapon. He pointed to his mouth, he said, and he told them yes.  He brought it and he intended to use it.

Other voices you’ll hear: industry lobbyist George Flint, Nevada Brothel Association president Jeff Arnold, professional prostitutes Bunny Love and Brooke Taylor, and various members of the Nevada press corps.

Highlights:  They discuss the unlicensed sex for sale in Las Vegas, and the legal precedent they say would allow them to fight any attempt to close brothels. (The brothel license is property, and shutting them down is a taking, they say.  Combined value of the licenses is in the hundreds of millions.)  The women describe life in the cathouse as better than life on the street, and express their outrage at the suggestion that children are looking out the school bus window at sexually untoward activity. (He wants sex offenders to have more rights than we do.)  The potential job loss and impact to the counties is also covered.

Hear the full half-hour response of legal prostitution to Senator Reid’s speech. This was an informal press conference in the hallway outside the Assembly Chambers.  Hear the file by clicking on the flash player below.

If you do not have a flash player you may download the file directly by clicking here. The file is about a half-hour long.

Harry Reid: Brothels keep business out of Nevada

February 22, 2011

Senate Majority Harry Leader Reid defended the effectiveness of the federal stimulus package today during a visit to the Nevada legislature. He also boosted GM,  Chrysler, and green energy, criticized term limits, and suggested that businesses are reluctant to relocate to Nevada because of legal prostitution.

“If we want to attract business to Nevada that puts people back to work, the time has come to outlaw prostitution,” the senator told a joint session of Nevada Legislators.

The industry launched an immediate and spirited counter-attack in the hallway outside the chambers.  Brothel owner Dennis Hoff and long-time industry lobbyist George Flint lashed out, saying hundreds of jobs would be lost in the brothel counties. Fifteen hundred women would be deprived of their small businesses they said, and in one county, the only doctor would have no reason to stay.

Flint said he found out from a friend who overheard someone close to Reid on Saturday night telling State Senator Sheila Leslie that the majority leader would call upon state lawmakers to end legal prostitution.

Hoff, who was accompanied by several of the potentially affected women, angrily accused Reid of using prostitution to distract from his own performance in the United States Senate.

More to follow, with audio.  Meanwhile, in the photo below George Flint holds the press and a small number of his clients rapt, as he rails against Reid (whom he said is a long-time and beloved friend), and Las Vegas, where he says AIDS and other problems are rampant because of street-walking prostitutes.

Notes from DefCon18 in Las Vegas – hackers, education, and the “Race to the Top”

July 30, 2010

The major theme coming out of the world’s largest hacker conference this year sounds quite benign, considering DefCon’s reputation as a venue for barely legal activity. But many of Friday’s sessions echoed a call for education, lest the world’s most prosperous nation sink under a powerful tide of cybercrime that threatens both our prosperity and our national security.

The Reasonable Reporter has long compared the average American to a little old lady walking down a crowded city street with her purse hanging open.  Most people – even very smart individuals – don’t know and can’t fathom the ways in which they are vulnerable to cybercrime. Consciousness is dawning slowly, as the spotlight has shone on spamming, phishing, and privacy issues related to Facebook. The task of educating consumers has largely belonged to the media.

Business is an even juicier target, having  a higher concentration of cash than individuals, and larger stores of valuable data. (Information assets, in the parlance of the security community.) So who will educate business?  Other businesses, of course, and their experts are present in droves at DefCon.

The highlight today was a contest in which 10 large corporations were targeted for social engineering attacks via telephone.  “Social engineering” is a techie term for a good old-fashioned non-technical scam.  It means one guy induces another guy to give up something valuable before the second guy realizes he’s being hustled.

Each contestant was assigned a company to call. Some posed as potential customers seeking product information, and others as workers from a distant office of the same company, calling to perform an internal audit, or to check the progress of some corporate project. The name of the game was to get employees on the other end of the phone to give up information about the operation of the company.

And it worked, in nearly every case. Employees of target companies coughed up explicit IT specifications that would give a cyberattacker significantly higher odds of success.

This contest was controversial, and had even come to the attention of the FBI when it was announced earlier this year. Large tech companies freaked out when they got wind of it. Some contestants dropped out at the last minute, having been threatened by their employers – mostly tech companies – that they’d be fired if they participated.

The point of the exercise, though, was to educate. The contest sponsors are in the business of security training, and much more will be written about it in the coming days.

The most insidious cyberattacks are network intrusions, and there is a shortage of Americans qualified for the network security arena. Federal agencies send recruiters to DefCon, hoping to grab up young tech talent to work in cybercrime investigation and in national security.  The Air Force has hundreds of openings, and today put on the record its willingness to consider “everyone” at DefCon, including those who “may have stepped over the line” in the past.  You need to have attended DefCon once or twice to grasp the chilling implications of this hiring policy by a branch of the U.S. military.

The talent shortage has prompted a call for education in the classic sense. A DHS official today told an audience that a national science education effort is needed like the one launched under JFK after Sputnik.  A push for math and information technology is needed, and DHS is taking the helm, even reaching down to the high school level. More will be written shortly about this, as well.

Meanwhile, states have been competing for “Race to the Top” money, in the form of federal grants to education.  And little has been revealed about the criteria for success in this quest.  But here in Nevada, where the world’s largest hacker conference is held, we did not win.

The Silver State’s major industry is so tied to technology that it spawned a publicly-traded gaming technology company called IGT.  Microsoft, Intuit, Cisco all have operations in Nevada. Def Con and Black Hat Briefings are both annual events in Las Vegas. Reno is a four-hour drive from Silicon Valley. Maybe Nevada’s real-world Race to the Top could be won with a focus on information sciences, for which there is a concrete and growing demand.

Slouching Toward Caucus Day, part 2

January 17, 2008

 Can Ron Paul’s Army put him over the top?

More than a few observers have predicted a strong enough caucus day turnout for Ron Paul to push him far above his statistical level of Republican support – perhaps he’ll even come in first, some have speculated. These are the unscientific projections of various credible political observers, based on gut primarily, and on daily scrutiny of the pre-caucus activity. Disclaimer issued.

But two facts bolster these predictions. First, the GOP candidates have been damn scarce in Nevada, giving the media little to cover, and forcing likely Silver State caucusers to make their judgments from afar. Second, Saturday’s Republican “preference poll” results will depend on who shows up. Ron Paul’s Army intends to show up.

Washoe County GOP Chair Heidi Smith says her office was inundated prior to the party’s December 19th registration deadline with Paul party-switchers preparing to caucus for him. Chris Hansen, who chairs the state’s Independent American party says a large number of IAP party members have changed their registration in order to support Paul. Hansen’s also had numerous contacts with Democrats doing likewise.

Paul’s avid support has been attributed to the internet, but it’s also the fruit of 35 years of Libertarian activism, simply conferred upon whomever has the stamina to elbow his way into the spotlight with the message. While his years as a Texas congressman certainly lend gravitas, Pauls’ not a commanding or charismatic candidate. He’s a smart and pleasant man, but no particular personality trait of Paul’s, except persistence and energy, can be credited with the passionate support for him.

Undeserved success is generally punished in politics. (The Reasonable Reporter uses the word advisedly, understanding the fury of the Paul supporters, who are sensitive to the dismissive attitude of the media toward their candidate. Ron Paul’s Army would lash out at the use of the word, pointing out his commitment to constitutional principle, and his performance in congress, which demonstrates it. Duly noted.)

“Undeserved success” is a marketing term, and it isn’t pejorative. It refers to incidental gains coming from peripheral market segments for reasons not explicit in the original plan. In politics, it might mean success not garnered through the traditional route, and not recognized by the sanctioning body.

In general, the likelier candidates come down hard on the successful dark horse as he begins to eat into their numbers. Paul says this happened earlier in the month when an old story resurfaced about a newsletter with racially bigoted content published by one of his organizations. He’s already had to set the record straight on this matter during an earlier campaign, he says, and it’s bubbling up again because of his success.

Certainly, Paul’s campaign has worked hard on the ground in Nevada. The candidate himself has been attentive to the state, and has earned whatever success is in store on Saturday. If the predictions come true, Paul could make political history once again. And the national campaign may want to brace for tough treatment in states where, unlike in Nevada, the GOP candidates feel a greater imperative to show up.

Slouching Toward Caucus Day

January 16, 2008

Hillary and Obama and mortgage misfortune 

It was one of the most fascinating, but least commented-upon moments of the week. Perhaps only the Reasonable Reporter and Joe Harrington from KOLO noticed, although it hardly seems possible, given the number of eyeballs and cameras trained on Hillary Clinton when she sat down with Nevadans for a roundtable at Bertha Miranda’s on Saturday. Here’s what happened.

One of the locals at Clinton’s table spoke at length about her mortgage misadventures. After a series of transactions with lenders who got her into a house at the peak of the market, and then couldn’t deliver refinancing, the woman has been using credit cards to pay her mortgage. The monthly payment has nearly doubled, the value of the house has dropped, and she’s facing foreclosure.

When the story concluded, it was Clinton’s cue to respond. As she began to speak, Clinton brushed her finger lightly across her cheek. It was a casual, and yet a lingering physical gesture.

It’s quite possible a tiny flake of mascara had fallen onto the cheek of the former first lady. Or did a twitching facial muscle need soothing? Maybe it was an itch and not a twitch. Or, for crying out loud – which Clinton wasn’t – maybe the woman in the next chair had uttered the word “foreclosure” with an overly forceful “f,” propelling a saliva droplet onto the former first lady, and Clinton needed to politely dispatch the miniscule bit of fluid from her face.

The Reasonable Reporter would consider any of the above a perfectly good explanation, were it appropriate to ask for explanation. Joe Harrington noticed, and wondered the obvious. He used the shot to tease his story on channel 8 that night. Was Hillary Clinton crying again?

Clinton’s roundtable was focused on the financial hardships of the middle class. Two days later, Barack Obama performed essentially the same event, sitting with similarly challenged Nevadans in a meeting room at the Reno Events Center.

These back-to-back events did more to differentiate the two candidates than almost anything else the campaigns have presented to date. But not on policy, particularly.

The Clinton conversations took place in a Mexican restaurant. There were a dozen or more participants at the table. The format was formal. Each guest introduced him or herself, and used a hand-held microphone to tell a story. Clinton, also using a hand-held mic, responded to each story with a critique of current policy, and the changes she would offer. It was neat and tidy, organized and smart, as was she. The place was jam-packed, but it was not a large place. Two hundred or so may be a generous estimate.

Obama’s roundtable was a media-only event. He had four people at the table, badly amplified, and there was no camera platform, which meant the TV cameras hogged the front line, and almost everyone else peered beneath the armpits of camera operators, stooped to look between the legs of tripods, or hugged a side wall to glimpse the proceedings.

(The thought that goes into preparing for media is always interesting. The press RSVP was the most wretched of all communication tools, the online form. It offered the following choices to identify the needs of the news organization: photography, video, print, internet, other. Yes, “other.” Radio, the Rodney Dangerfield of news media does have technical needs. We need to jack in for audio, and high-quality audio is apreciated, thank you. And just because the listeners can’t see the action doesn’t mean the reporter doesn’t need to see it.)

Obama’s interaction with his hand-picked Nevadans was intimate, (under the circumstances) with the candidate resting his chin in his hand as he looked earnestly into the eyes of each speaker. He interjected comments as they spoke, rather than waiting for them to finish. Even made a rueful quip or two, which seemed not to bother his guests, and it was something a friend might do, listening to an unremittingly grim tale of luckless occurrences.

He offered less in the way of substance than did Clinton, and this is notable. Obama is Obama when he’s before a crowd. At a table, he’s just another guy, and a bit of a slow talker at that.

Obama and Clinton both blame the business model that has Wall Street packaging mortgage-backed securities. But his criticism of Washington was more widely spread than Clinton’s. She blamed the Bush administration. He blamed the Washington establishment and lobbyists.

Obama then held a rally on the main floor of the Events Center, where the crowd pushed 2,000. This in contrast to the Sunday appearance at TMCC by Bill Clinton, where the crowd pushed 500. Both are rock stars, and both were wildly received. For the record, a wild reception by 2,000 sounds like ten freight trains.

Obama made his standard hope-and-change stump speech. The former president made his standard speech for Hillary, which included – The Reasonable Reporter made it a point to count them this time – 20 references to himself and his own presidency in a 39 minute speech. That’s a bit more than one every two minutes, for the math-challenged..