Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lackland: The Quirky Side of the USAF

As you might expect, with my fresh never-before-exposed eyes, I saw lots of weird things at Lackland Air Force Base last weekend when I witnessed my Little Brother, Jamie, graduate from boot camp. This probably-unauthorized, gunned-up "Hello, Kitty" T-shirt, for instance, caught my eye.

This incredibly tasteless patch, too:

For $149, you can have an uber-patriotic bench...

...or for a lot less you can get a pair of these...

At the major Base Exchange shop, I was amused to find that there was this shelf with this shield to avoid exposing minors to Adult Reading Material. But notice that that's not Playboys and Jugs up there. They're counting novels by Jackie Collins and Nora Roberts amongst the smut!

To appreciate the next oddity, take note of what normal people wore to the graduation, which was outside in chilly, windy weather at 9 a.m.:

And then there was what this woman wore...

...and you can't even see the horrifying bra-strap tan line or chunky shoes. Eek. At least she didn't expose everyone to her and her Airman's most embarrassing cutesy nicknames like the Gal With The Yellow Ribbon In Her Hair did...

We never did find out who was Moo-Moo and who was Punkin.

I kinda liked this T-shirt, seen on someone at SeaWorld because Saturday was Christian Families Day:

I didn't realize military underwear was museum-worthy, but these knickers were in a display case at the orientation building in case some proud Air Force momma wanted to know what Johnny wears under those blues, I guess. At least now we know they're not wearing camouflage-printed Booty Camp shorts, huh?

I did wonder -- and never found out -- what goes on here...

...since Jamie never set foot in the place. Is it some sort of punishment to have to go here and make pottery and watercolors of butterflies and rainbows? Maybe some angry someone who was forced to do so also painted this, in the stairwell of Jamie's dorm:

I have no idea what Jamie and his friends are doing here, but I hope our newest troops aren't playing rock-paper-scissors about what country we ought to bomb next:

And, alas, I can take a ribbing, too. First I'm caught blowing bubbles with Jamie's girlfriend, Melanie...

...and then later I've got a WTF look on my face.

Oh, NOW I remember what that was. I had gotten a text message from someone named Punkin. Or was it Moo-Moo? Either way, you can understand my consternation.

The Strip is LIVE tonight w/ Marie Osmond, Part I

Really this time. Except that we're only playing the first half of our Marie Osmond interview on this episode because it's long, there's other stuff to deal with including the Review-Journal's annual Best of Las Vegas results, and our most recent shows have been very long.

Join us at 6:45 p.m. PT at LVRocks.Com for the live show and chat.

Also, for those of you wondering where the Anthony Marnell III episode is in your iTunes, something went awry with the RSS feed and we are moving it to a different service. That should all be completed later tonight and you should be receiving it immediately. I'll postpone dropping this week's show into the feed until Friday to let y'all catch up. You can also download it directly from TheStripPodcast.Com.

Anywho, Marie provides a good, lively conversation, as do Miles and I. So join us in chat tonight. If it's anything like last week, you won't want to miss the outtakes.

Monday, March 30, 2009

R-J's Parent May Buy Austin Newspaper

Stephens Media, the parent company of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is in serious talks to buy the Austin American-Statesman according to staffers who have written to VegasHappensHere.Com asking me to tell them what sort of management the R-J has and what they might expect. The staffers said their owner, Cox Enterprises, has been open about it and, in fact, there was a Feb. 13 piece in the American-Statesman itself describing four groups looking at buying the newspaper.

To answer the question, I needed to assess what the AAS is. The paper has about the same circulation as the Review-Journal, about 175,000, and serves a metro area of similar size, about 1.7 million people. The AAS, however, has long been a far more ambitious newspaper, with bureaus overseas and reporters embedded with troops in Iraq. Those bureaus have been closed as their circulation has plummeted. The AAS looks like it has about double the staff of the R-J.

So what, my AAS colleagues, might you expect from the insightful leadership of Publisher Sherman Frederick? Well, it is hard to tell because I can't remember Stephens ever buying a paper this large or with this good a reputation before, one that could actually outshine the R-J as the company's flagship.

Still, if this is any indication, Frederick led a newspaper whose circulation was stagnant at best for a full decade despite an influx of more than 1 million new residents into the readership area. The R-J is a newspaper with several excellent but criminally overworked journalists who are far too busy getting the next day's news out to think in broader strokes. Investigative reporting over there, probably because of how much everyone has to do, is usually reduced to grabbing some public documents and writing about them. The R-J has never aspired to be more than what it already is. It's evidently a sound business plan, if not one likely to produce Pulitzer Prizes.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I don't see any way the Stephens crew won't immediately lay off bunches of journalists and perhaps cut benefits, regardless of what reassuring pfaff Frederick may say when/if he picks up the keys. I have to assume that Sherm is looking at the AAS and thinking, "Why would they possibly need a team of education writers? Why, back in Vegas we only have one hardy soul covering the nation's fifth largest school system and we do just fine!" If Frederick wants to buy it, it's because he thinks that it could be making more money with a few sacrifices here and there.

On the other hand, the AAS has been in an apparent circulation freefall for quite a while and just had a round of buyouts. The Review-Journal appears to be largely financially healthy, with some cost-saving measures -- benefits cuts -- that are modest given the state of the national and local economy. No layoffs or buyouts have come along yet here. That's nothing to sneeze at; Las Vegas' economy has been harmed far worse than the Austin metro area's in the past year or two. Maybe mediocrity is the path to fiscal stability for the news business!

The biggest weakness for the R-J is their web operation, with its baffling and counterintuitive website and a "web guru" who seems mostly to discover new applications a year or so after everyone else but with breathless excitement when he does. The purchase of the AAS might even change that; maybe Frederick sees that the AAS site is more user-friendly and modern (although nothing all the special from what I can see) and could task their web people with improving the Review-Journal.

Hoo-boy. That was a good one, huh? Sherm learning from others? Hah!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Week's Col: Losers' Las Vegas

Here we go with this week's Las Vegas Weekly column...Enjoy.

Losers' Las Vegas
A tribute to the casino saints who save us from ourselves


I’m a loser. I lose things. All the time. So far today alone I misplaced one of the dog’s leashes, my wallet and my wedding ring. And it’s only 1 p.m. and I haven’t left the house except, once I found the leash—under laundry waiting to be folded—to take Black and Jack for a walk.

I’m one of “those people.” I don’t know if it’s irresponsibility, easy distraction or early-onset Alzheimer’s. My mother is the same way. I look a lot like her, we both have constantly running noses, we’re both terrible drivers, and neither of us ever remembers what we entered a room for, so the notion that a lot of odd traits may have come in the bundle is quite likely.

When I’m in the house, I don’t even stress about it anymore. Unless I absolutely need the item at that moment—my car keys, typically—I just shrug and give it time, and the missing things eventually surface. Today, for example, the wallet was in yesterday’s jeans, and my ring sat on the ledge behind the toilet. (Sorry, Miles!)

I’m more careful when I’m out. There are traumatic incidents—a hearing aid left atop a pay phone, a thicket of sealed, unmailed holiday cards left under the seat in front of me on an airplane, a car thought to have been parked on the 3rd floor of a Strip garage in 115-degree heat that actually sat on the 8th floor at a different hotel—but for the most part I am trying to be more aware.

Yet because I am such a ditz and because I am out so often, the odds were high that I was going to lose something important sooner or later. I count on that and brace myself, but what I didn’t count on was that there are angels all over Las Vegas waiting to save us losers from ourselves.

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com

Lackland: The Basics on BMT

For those of you who are unaware -- as I was up until about two months ago -- Lackland AFB is the only location for Basic Military Training for the U.S. Air Force. It is a mammoth spread of 4.3 square miles and every single airman has endured boot camp here since 1947, when the USAF became its own branch. Boot camp terms have changed over the years; it's now about 8.5 weeks.

Jamie, my Little Brother since 1997 through Big Brothers Big Sisters, is 18. He was always kind and bright and well-intentioned, but he had a joke of a lower-school education, no study skills to speak of and very vague life intentions with no road map to get there. He also was starting to get into some minor trouble largely out of boredom and driving his mom nuts. So he enlisted in the Air Force and shipped out in January.

Until he ran by on Thursday morning during the traditional Airman's Run, we hadn't seen him at all. During boot camp, they have no phone, iPod, email, or other means of communications other than writing letters and, if he earned it, a few phone calls out. His mother received two or three calls, his girlfriend Melanie received four or five calls and those of us who wrote him received some letters. (I got three.)

So the first time we saw him since January was this moment...

...when he ran by us singing a "jody," the term for those holler-and-call ditties they and their TIs sing. Here's his flight (in grey) coming our way behind the green group.

The next time we saw him was a few hours later at his Coin Ceremony. This is when he receives his Airman's Coin, a token of his accomplishment that he is to have with him at all times, and recites the Airman's Oath. Evidently if he's in a bar and he doesn't have the coin, he has to pay. Or something like that. This was supposed to take place in a large square with all the week's recruits -- about 400 in all -- but torrential rains caused plans to change. Instead, we saw him get his with his and one other flight under the huge concrete overhang of his dormitory.

When we saw him for a second time, he was standing at attention and not permitted to acknowledge us. He looked so serious, see?

After the ceremony was over, he could not be at ease until we approached him. And that was a very wonderful but strange moment. He seemed a little overwhelmed by the sudden break in the numbing routine of exercise, make-work, intimidation, rules and isolation from his normal world. But then the sun came out! Here we are:

We had him until about 6 p.m. that night on base, and mostly we talked a lot. Jamie really wanted Burger King, but when we got to one, they, uh, had no burgers because the broiler was down.

So instead we made it to this mammoth Base Exchange with all sorts of fast food and stores...

...including a Claire's, a GameStop and hallway kiosks selling crapolina.

As you can see, Jamie shook off his awkwardness pretty quickly thanks to...

Baskin Robbins!

We all quickly became accustomed to a new Jamie, one extremely concerned about the scuff on his shoes, about the rules -- he can only eat sitting down, must wear his hat outside but not inside, must keep his clothing perfectly clean, can't show too much affection in public -- and about what he's doing with his life. But an ice cream sundae is still a delight and he actually concocted a list of foods he hoped to have over this weekend, every one involving sugar.

Friday was graduation day, which meant a big parade on the parade grounds. The perimeter of the grounds is lined with various models of planes that we'll get to take a closer look at on Sunday.

To give you some idea of just how many men and women graduate boot camp EVERY week, this is a shot of the entire graduating class for March 27, 2009:

One thing that struck me is that there were lots and lots of people from all over the nation there to show their pride for their relatives and their nation and, unlike the phony for-show patriotism of folks at NASCAR or NRA events, notice something interesting about this crowd shot?

Besides the three in the second row with their cameras pointed at me -- Jamie's mom, grandma and girlfriend -- the reason I like this photo is because you'll notice not a single person is decked out in red, white and blue. They don't need to prove to anyone they love their country. I was surprised and certain I'd be smothered by the Stars and Stripes.

Of course who needs red, white and blue when you've got swag like this...

Everyone was so proud. I just love this shot with Jamie:

And there's a very proud momma...

After the graduation ceremony, which involved lots of marching and patriotic songs from the band, Jamie was able to show us his dorm. Here's what it looked like from the outside:

That's the aforementioned dormitory and overhang where the graduation occurred. I'm kind of embarrassed to say I didn't shoot anything of the dorm room, a large room with lines of beds, both bunk beds and singles, with neatly tucked wool blankets. I'll grab some off Jamie's dad, who did shoot some, and post them another time, but here he is at his locker:

And this is his clothes drawer...

We walked a ton all over Lackland on Friday before leaving the base for San Antonio, the Riverwalk and the Alamo. I'll conclude this post with something that reminded me of Nevada...

Nellis! As in our hometown AFB! Speaking of which, yes it is possible Jamie could end up there. He is off on Monday to Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Texas. He landed the job he wanted, munitions, and now he goes for his 8 weeks of training, then gets a couple weeks off to come home before he is stationed somewhere. Could be Nellis, could be Italy. He put in a list of preferences which could be considered, could be ignored.

That's it for the moment. More tomorrow.

Friday, March 27, 2009

MGM Mirage Crisis Averted...For Now

Earlier today, MGM Mirage CEO Jim Murren sent this memo to employees essentially blaming the media for the tumultuous week of peril, anxiety and controversy visited upon Nevada's largest private employer that ended with MGM Mirage covering recalcitrant partner Dubai World's half of a $200 million payment. In the long-term, this resolves absolutely nothing, but it gets them over the hump for this very moment.

Murren's was a baffling letter. First, he denied something the media didn't actually report -- nobody wrote that either MGM Mirage or CityCenter HAD filed for bankruptcy, only that one or the other might need to under certain circumstances and that they had retained bankruptcy attorneys, all of which is true -- and yet he also confirmed the bulk of what HAS been reported. Then he closes with an admonition to disregard "stories from others about what the future holds for us." Odd, that.

A blame-the-media campaign works pretty well in politics but not in business; nobody, least of all MGM Mirage employees, will believe that reporters had a hand in creating the situation MGM Mirage is in unless the case is being made that we didn't scrutinize the CityCenter plan better in the first place and ask harder questions about how this math could possibly add up. Otherwise, at least in this phase, we've gotten the story right at just about every turn in recent months.

Well, almost everyone has. This image and caption used to decorate AOL's presentation of the AP story on the debt payment was riddled with problems:

First, they're still stuck saying that the entire thing is just one 4,000-room resort called CityCenter. And they misspelled "project" anyhow. And this rendering, I think, must be a zillion years old. I can hardly recognize any of the CityCenter elements in it and have no idea what the tall tower in the middle is supposed to be. I'd never seen this rendering before, in fact.

But, regardless, MGM Mirage and everyone who is dependent upon the company lives to fight another day, although employees I know also tell me that their 401(k) matching stops and their salaries are frozen indefinitely starting Wednesday, April 1. Better than not having anything at all, I suppose.

This whole thing left me with a sense of deja vu until Miles reminded me that this is something like the fourth or fifth time some major crisis or calamity befell or involved MGM Mirage while I was out of town. I was also gone for the shootings at New York-New York, the car bombing at Luxor, the fire at Monte Carlo, the time the cousin of the guy making ricin at a motel prompted a partial evacuation of Excalibur and what almost was a major casino blackout last year.

So perhaps Murren is right. Maybe it is the media's fault. Or at least, this mediaman's. I accept responsibility -- hell, nobody at MGM Mirage does -- and I'm sorry.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hizzoner Sends His Chips To Vegas Airmen!

I've got to get to sleep so more on the Lackland experience will have to wait and, if you care enough you can follow my Tweets as stuff occurs to me throughout the weekend, but I couldn't resist the inevitable Vegas element. My Little Brother's mother works in the clerk's office at Las Vegas City Hall, and earlier this month she told Mayor Oscar Goodman that she was off to his boot camp graduation in Lackland. The Mayor wrote Jamie a postcard wishing him luck that he got a few days ago and also sent Jamie's mom to Texas with mayoral poker chips for each graduate! That's Jamie in the middle above and also here...

And here's a close-up of the chip...

It was somewhat less valuable than the other item of similar shape the boys received, their precious Airman coins...

...but the gesture was appreciated nonetheless. (Note: I don't believe that Goodman is aware that Jamie and I are related, so this had nothing to do with me so far as I know.)

Anyhow, it was an eventful and very wet day. We saw Jamie in the Airman's Run, then graduate in a reconstituted ceremony postponed and moved by torrential rains. Then we had the afternoon together. And there will be photos of all that to come with commentary and plenty of humor.

For now, though, I'll end the way my day began, at the motel lobby for free breakfast. They had a make-your-own-waffle thing, so I did it and only when I pulled it from the griddle did I realize that it was shaped like...

Texas! I wonder if they do this at the Vegas LaQuintas. They could make them shaped like a dollar sign or an ace of hearts or something.

Is Friday Doomsday for MGM Mirage?

I'm away and wasn't planning to be covering Vegas matters for the next day or two while I'm at Lackland AFB for my Little Bro's boot camp graduation, but I opened Jon Ralston's daily emailed RalstonFlash to find this as the first item:

Nugget No. 1 - Big day tomorrow in the CityCenter world. Both MGM MIRAGE and Dubai World must fund a payment and, sources say, so far Dubai World has not come through on its part of the transaction. If it does not do so, the project could be shut down Friday.

But MGM MIRAGE has other options, including funding Dubai's payment, too. And, the question looms, could the company find another partner at this point to infuse cash?

The reverberations if the project is padlocked will be felt all over the state, from the Strip to the Legislative Building.

Wowzer. The national economy is showing hopeful signs, but is tomorrow the day that Nevada actually falls off the cliff? I searched around to see if I'd missed any stories from either local newspaper on this and didn't find anything in today's R-J or Sun. But nope, nothing on either site nor on the blogs of the city's two key gaming reporters.

Am I missing something here? If Dubai refuses to pay, MGM may stop construction on CityCenter and the top headlines on local newspaper sites right now are about Legislature Democrats not having a budget plan ready by Monday and hearings on a lottery? I mean, those are worthy stories both, but does any of it matter if 10,000 construction workers lose their jobs tomorrow and 12,000 full-time jobs are thrown into jeopardy? Shouldn't both sites have countdown clocks or something?

Also strange, given this scenario, was the rather startling uptick in MGM Mirage stock right at the last few moments of trading today. See? (click on the image to make it clearer.)

Does someone know something? Or does someone think they know something and they're wrong? The stock, up 8 percent today, fell 9.4 percent in after hours trading.

I'd love to watch what happens at the opening bell tomorrow, but I'll be at a military parade for which I must leave my hotel room at 5:45 a.m. CT. "Eek!" in advance for all involved.

[UPDATE, 7:22 pm PT: At least someone besides Ralston notices this pivotal moment. The Wall Street Journal, of course.]

[UPDATE#2, 8:09 pm PT: The R-J just posted what appears to be Howard Stutz's piece for Friday's paper. No "breaking news" tag on it to denote its urgency, though. The Sun, despite having Ralston on staff and some of the reputed best minds in web journalism in their arsenal, still has nothing. Odd, that.]

A doctor's office in a casino!?!?!

Back when Hunter Hillegas of RateVegas.Com and I ambled through the opening night of M Resort, we both took pause at the notion of this...

It struck us and others that placing a pharmacy inside a casino served just one purpose, to lure in geezers. And luring them in with promises of free co-pays and the like seemed to be preying on geezers who aren't well and who probably are short on cash. In my interview for The Strip this week, though, Marnell defended it as an amenity just like the buffet and said he believes most oldsters are getting free meds anyway from the government so how could it be "predatory," as I felt.

Well, back when I first wrote about this for a VegasHappensHere.Com post on March 1, I wrote: "Why not have a doctor's office and eyeglass shop, too? As Hunter cracked, which locals casino will be first to market with funerary services?"

So imagine my surprise when, in quizzing Marnell about this and asking him what the next logical move was, he said that he's about to OPEN A DOCTOR'S OFFICE. Hear all about it starting at around 1:15:30 on this week's episode of The Strip. He says he's recruited a doctor who is popular in the region.

There was other news out of this conversation:

* The famous M Blimp will be retired in a few months when the contract runs out. Plans to sell advertising on it failed because the ad market has dried up and the idea of selling rides in its gondola just didn't make sense if the ship itself wasn't making revenue.

* The player's club has hit its 100,000th enrollee. (A press release on this went out today, a day after the interview.) Marnell said 95 percent were people coming into the property and the remainder via the Internet.

* Even though MGM Mirage invested $160 million in the project, which cost $1 billion, they own a 50 percent equity stake. I'm wondering if there's someone out there with, say, $200 million, who might want half of a beautiful new resort that seems to be doing well and also to help MGM out with its cash-flow crisis. Paging Mr. Boyd...

* There were plans to build a movie theater and bowling alley on the property but Marnell said they ran out of money.

I feel like I'm forgetting something, but I can't remember what. It's a good interview, even if you don't care about a locals casino. Marnell has lots of stuff to say about his dad, too, and what he's built. Go listen to it. No word on when the M Funeral Services office will be opening for business.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Show is UP: M is for MONEY

Here I am holed up on a motel in San Antonio, posting this notice about this week's show. And gosh, what a good one it is. We went for our first time to the new LVRocks.Com studio -- there's some background noise but they're still doing sound-proofing and other stuff like that -- and Miles and I were well rested and ready to roll. Plus, the Marnell interview yielded several bits of news that I'll recap in another post later tonight or tomorrow morning. For now, though, click on the date below to listen or right-click and save to your computer. Or subscribe (it's free!) via the iTunes link or via the Zune link. Enjoy.

March 26: Anthony Marnell III

His father built the Mirage, Bellagio, Wynn Las Vegas, Sam’s Town, the Rio, Caesars Forum Shops and countless other iconic structures. But now is 35-year-old Anthony Marnell III’s time, with the surprisingly successful opening of the $1 billion M Resort way, way, WAY south on Las Vegas Boulevard. Marnell the younger talks this hour about the future of his famous M Blimp, about growing up on Vegas construction sites and about why the new resort is in some ways a way for his father to receive the recognition he deserves. Plus, Steve confronts him about whether putting a pharmacy in a casino is, as Steve believes, predatory.

In Banter: MGM Mirage's woes, Phil Ruffin's financing issue, Luxor billboards, hard-to-believe Lion King ticket sales, getting in trouble taking pictures in casinos and thought on Terry Fator.

Links to stuff we discussed or referenced:

The M Resort’s site
The Strip Sense column on the Olds’ visit to the M
VegasHappensHere.Com coverage of the Reid-MGM controversy
The Review-Journal’s Howard Stutz reveals that Phil Ruffin can’t seem to finance $175 million
VegasHappensHere.Com on the Luxor billboards
Norm Clarke’s report on the Lion King’s ticket sales
VegasHappensHere.Com breaks news that Celine Dion has inked a Caesars deal
Reviews of Terry Fator from VegasHappensHere.Com, the Las Vegas Sun and the Review-Journal
The R-J’s Ben Spillman’s piece about a blogger who fought with Cannery security about photos
The Poker Grump blog
The Dinner In The Sky in Las Vegas website

How big, and how much, is CityCenter?

Sorry to revisit stuff we've covered before here, but I was struck this morning once again by the fact that the media is all over the place with the price of CityCenter. Howard Stutz in the Review-Journal refers to it as a $9.1 billion project, but Liz Benston and Lisa Mascaro, both of the Las Vegas Sun, put the figure at $8.7 billion in different stories.

Benston's piece even includes this explanation:

Dubai World says at the time of the joint venture agreement, MGM Mirage estimated CityCenter would cost $7.5 billion. MGM Mirage has since increased that estimate by about $1.2 billion, with further increases likely despite recent moves to scale back some aspects of CityCenter, the lawsuit says.

So I wrote to Alan Feldman, MGM Mirage's spokesman. As recently as Jan. 8, he told VegasHappensHere.Com: "The safest apples-to-apples would be our previously stated $9.2b less the just announced $600m in savings" from shortening The Harmon. I asked at the time if that meant $8.6 billion was the current figure and Feldman said yes.

Well, that was two months ago. Today, inquiring about who's right now, Feldman replied via e-mail: "The Sun is correct. $8.7 total, $1.2 of which we are hoping to finance."

Okey dokey, then, although the Sun and Feldman can't both be correct because the Sun was operating off of figures given to Dubai in 2007 and Feldman said two months ago that the figure was $9.2 billion less $600 million. See how this can make you crazy? And this is a PUBLICLY traded company!

To Feldman's credit, back in January he did offer this caveat: "This is a number that you need to understand is moving. We continue to bid stuff, we continue to get new pricing. We talk about these numbers as if they're fixed but they're really not."

I am not casting aspersions on Stutz or any other reporter here, so please don't take it that way. These numbers change by the week or month. It's dizzying. Especially when you receive two newspapers in one every morning and the same thicket of newsprint offers different numbers. So the best I can suggest is that journalists, every single time they write about this project, ask Feldman what the current figure is.

MEANWHILE, how BIG is CityCenter? Well, in April 2007, VegasHappensHere.Com puzzled over that, too. Different reports had it at 76, 66, or 67 acres. MGM Mirage's original literature when the project was announced said 66 acres, a New York Times reporter called it 67 acres and other media were using 76 acres.

At that point, Feldman responded: "Please use 76. There's some technical debate internally, but 76 is in use far and wide and it's not inaccurate."

Okey dokey again. But then I noticed recently that the press was using 67 acres and the signage at the condo-sales kiosk for CityCenter at the Mirage said 67 acres, too. So today I asked again. Feldman's response: "Acreage: 67 acres."

Well, where'd the other 9 acres go?

"I believe some land was transferred to Monte Carlo for a parking garage."

Must be some parking garage at 9 acres. I pressed Feldman to explain further and he said he didn't have the time. I suggested holding off on this post until tomorrow if it would make a difference. He said it would not.

So there you have it. Make of that what you will. What I make of it is that numbers are very loosey goosey in this project so critical to the welfare of Nevada that U.S. senators need to get involved in to saving it even as MGM Mirage also insists it is totally capable of paying to finish construction so chill out, Mr. Dubai Dudes and Mr. Wall Street Dudes.

No wonder, then, Dubai is so uncomfortable. None of the numbers MGM Mirage provide ever come with comprehensive explanations. The 10,000 employees that CityCenter will hire? Who knows if that's a real figure, either?

Every 76 Seconds, Lovin' Happens In Nevada!

As I expected from my reporting in The New York Times in January, State Sen. Bob Coffin has introduced a bill this week to tax legal prostitution in Nevada. The state has inserted itself in a massive budget hole and Coffin hopes Nevada can lick up some bits and pieces from a business that hasn't had to come up with any dough for all these years. The lovelies shown here are just some of the wares at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, by the by.

What's interesting here are Coffin's numbers. He estimates that taxing each legally sold sex act $5, the state could raise $2 million a year. That's 400,000 legally sold sex acts sold per year, or about 1,096 a day. Also, 45 an hour! A legally sold sex act is occurring in this state every 76 seconds!

That does seem high, doesn't it? I mean, there are only 225 licensed legal prostitutes in the state. They'd have to be awful busy. But I suppose it also brings up what the definition of a sex act is. I mean -- hide the kiddies -- if fellatio and intercourse occur in the same encounter, is that two acts? Is the prostitute running a mental tally in her head to figure out how much tax to, uh, assess?

Gov. Jim Gibbons reacted to SB369 by telling the Associated Press' Brendan Riley, "I'm not a supporter of legalizing prostitution in Nevada. So by taxing it, there's a recognition of the legality of it. And that's all I want to say."

Um, but it IS legal. I'd like to not pay my speeding tickets and not recognize the legality of speeding limits, but that's not working out so well for me or my auto insurance bill.

The governor's missionary-inspired (he's a Mormon!) position isn't really that relevant anyway because any tax would have to be approved by a supermajority of the Legislature, which means that it's also a veto-proof majority. And Coffin's bill isn't likely to pass anyway; as I wrote in January, both the House speaker and state Senate majority leader oppose it.

Still, the hearings could be very colorful, particularly when lawmakers must answer some of the questions I've posed here.