Leaving Las Vegas: Will Sharon Angle turn out the lights?

Will the resource-sucking “sin city” be reclaimed by the desert?

Everyone knows at least a little bit about Las Vegas. To many visitors, Las Vegas is Nevada. In terms of population this is almost true. The large majority of the state’s population lives in Clark County (Las Vegas) — almost 2-million people live in this small southern Nevada urban area.  Reno is the only other major population center.

There is the real Nevada. It’s a land of vast deserts (both hot desert and cold Great Basin desert).  Over a hundred mountain ranges bisect the desert basins. Scenery is wonderful, although it is not the classical jagged glacier peaks and deep forest. Population density is very low. Best of all, almost 80% of the state is public land. You don’t have to ask permission to use it.

On the other hand, it is not pristine land. Most of the land is grazed by cattle, although Nevada is regularly held up as an example of the poorest grazing land in America. Much of north central Nevada is being torn apart by vast gold mine pits that spew their poisonous mercury upon the residents of Utah and Idaho. The gold pits are late comers to an earlier era of mining that created towns like Searchlight, Nevada.

Senator Harry Reid, majority leader of the United States Senate, grew up in grinding poverty in this defunct mining town. Having experienced poverty first hand, he has spent his life boosting the economy of the state. Unfortunately, it is an unsustainable economy based on the notion that artificial tourist attractions and housing developments can grow forever in the harsh desert sun by reaching out and grabbing water and power from every possible place.

Until the Great Depression, Las Vegas was a small city, serving as a necessary stopover on the way to Southern California. In the struggle to stay alive, Nevada and especially Las Vegas, lacking almost all the usual resources that maintain an economy, decided to capitalize on providing sin for puritanical America. Gambling, easy divorce at a time when divorce was very hard to obtain, easy marriage, and legal prostitution set the standards for the growth of this Sodom of the desert. With the invention of good air conditioning, real estate became a huge Nevada industry.  Constant growth was needed just to stay in place economically.

The contradictions of Nevada have now fully emerged. Fifteen per cent unemployment in Nevada is the highest in the current great recession.  Entire subdivisions in Las Vegas and satellites like Mesquite, Nevada, are boarded up.  People are leaving Las Vegas.

While many people are responsible for promoting the cancerous growth model of Las Vegas, beginning with mob figures associated with Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, in recent years Harry Reid has kept growth alive with federal project after project.  This small population state should have almost no political power nationwide, but Reid as a high ranking Democrat, and now Leader, has made Nevada’s wishes important in Washington.

In times of great economic distress, people look for culprits. Nevada is not a sophisticated place. In fact, Las Vegas was just ranked as “America’s ‘dumbest’ city.”  So it is hardly surprising thankless Nevadans have turned on Reid. It appears they will narrowly elect Tea Party Sharon Angle, wife of a government employee (BLM), on a crusading anti-government platform. She will be flanked by new governor Brian Sandoval (let the counties solve the state’s budget problems!) and Senator John Ensign, a corporate tool, Bible-thumper, best known for his affair with his best friend’s wife. The state will also probably elect 3 tea partying U.S. Representatives.

The state’s collapse will continue, and with renewed vigor. Edward Abbey’s skull will be smiling.






  1. Brian Ertz Avatar

    I hope Reid goes down. The man is rumored to be taking credit for halting both grazing and mining reform.

    give Nevada 6 years of an empty, limp-noodle vote with Sharon Angle and see if the state can cycle something better next time.

    1. JimT Avatar

      Have to disagree..As much as I dislike Harry on environmental issues, Angle is a nutcase, and these days, her vote could make a huge difference in repealing some things that should stay in place…

  2. Cody Coyote Avatar
    Cody Coyote

    I’m more worried about all the semi-dehydrated refugees from the Valley of the Sun ( Phoenix metro AZ ) heading back north to the cool wet verdant hills of Wyoming after climate change has evolved my semi-arid state into Eden, and turned central Arizona into an adobe baking oven.

    If you drive out of Phoenix heading northwest on Highway 60 , they have curb and gutter and street signs all the way to the Maricopa County line , a grid awaiting development . Phoenix, population 4 million in summer and 5 million in winter, about 4-5X Las Vegas size, is planned out for 15 million.

    Yikes! When I was a kid lived in metro Phoenix for a while. It was barely half a million.

    1. JimT Avatar

      There was an interesting article awhile back in High Country News about archeological digs finding ancient water canals that exactly paralleled the current system in Phoenix. Doesn’t bode well since we know that site was abandoned for lack of water.

      I don’t know which futurist it was, but this person predicted that large cities in the desert would be the source for the largest intranation migration since the Dust Bowl because of lack of water. Beware, folks in the East and Northwest…

  3. JB Avatar

    Anyone know who will be the new majority leader should Angle defeat Reid and the Democrats maintain control of the Senate?

    1. Brian Ertz Avatar

      my guess is that in a shameless, emasculating effort to race right of the ever radicalizing Republican gestapo, the Democrats will blow a purple whistle, all chant “bipartisan” three times in unison, and reach across the aisle to appoint Mitch McConnel Senate Majority Leader.

      Otherwise, it’ll likely be Charles Schumer, anticipated to be a marked improvement over Reid – for what that characterization is worth.

      1. JB Avatar

        Thanks for the laugh, Brian!

        Does Mitch McConnel remind anyone else of Ben Stein? I did note recently that, when asked about their priorities, McConnel admitted that the Republicans’ top priority was ensuring Obama was not re-elected. Really? Not the economy? Not health care? Not jobs?

      2. Ralph Maughan Avatar


        This is amazing. Who would really want to be President as the country fades into obscurity?

        Maybe the Chinese Government has promised the Republican leadership some important and well paid advisory jobs. 👿

      3. JB Avatar

        LOL! In all seriousness, one sign that our system of politics is not working is that the politicians seem willing to work AGAINST the public interest when it conflicts with their own interests. Obama was on the Daily Show two a few nights ago and cited the unprecedented use of filibusters to stop any and all legislation and redistricting as two of the biggest problems in American politics.

      4. JimT Avatar

        They HATE McConnell…it will be Schumer..he has a spine and cajones…but don’t expect alot of sympathy for Western issues. The man is a New Yorker thru and thru..

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I see the Las Vegas Sun linked to this article.

  5. Nancy Avatar

    My thoughts too Ralph.

  6. Debra K Avatar
    Debra K

    If they vote these clowns in, the people of Nevada deserve to continue on their downward spiral into uneducated serfdom, with no health care.

    Yet, Nevada has sage grouse, pygmy rabbit, desert bighorn sheep, etc. on our federal lands…not sure these can maintain viable populations for 6 long years of Republican efforts to dismember the ESA and other environmental protections.

    1. DB Avatar

      I agree. One step forward, two steps back will get us nowhere.

  7. PointsWest Avatar

    I lived in Las Vegas for three years working on a couple of large construction projects. I knew and talked with quite a few prominant people in Las Vegas. I liked it for the first couple of years but grew to hate it. People are so cold blooded and morally corrupt there. The worst horror story is that a lady cop was directing traffic after an accident on the freeway when a car hit her. It was late night. Another car hit her and another car hit her for a total of six cars that hit her and carried her body 600 yds down the freeway. Not one of these cars stopped. They never did find parts of her body, including her arm. The body parts were presumably stuck in the undercarriage of the cars. Not one car stopped or even reported hitting her body even though at least one had to pull her arm out of his or her undercarriage.

    Some lady at work was collecting donations for taking a dog to the vet that kids had squirted with lighter fluid and lit on fire.

    I lived in a beautiful new apartment complex near the Sinrise Mountains. The complex had a beautiful pool with a breathtaking view of the city. Teenage kids would have sex in that pool or in the adjacent jacuzzi right in front of any adults. They hardly cared.

    My company had a drug test policy. Whenever we hired someone, we typically had to test three before finding one that did not have traces of drugs in their blood.

    Las Vegas boomed because of low airfares. A third of their business was from Asia. I don’t know if cheap airfairs will ever come back. Jet fuel prices are much higher.

    A third of Nevada is still run by the mafia. Another third is run by corporations. The last third is run by Mormons. Believe me, the Mormons are the good guys in Nevada. Harry Ried is a Mormon. His office was in one of the projects I worked on…the new Lloyd D. George Federal Building in downtown Las Vegas. I do not know who Sharon Angle is connected to but she is not a Mormon and she scares me.

  8. Debra K Avatar
    Debra K

    PW, Stephen King used Las Vegas as the command post for the Walking Dude (aka the Devil or Satan) in his post-apocalyptic novel, The Stand. Intestingly, the center for the good guys was Boulder, CO.

    I commend The Stand to anyone who likes the horror genre, and wants an engrossing and terrifying read apropros for Halloween. May distract folks from our real life nightmare happening on Election Day.

  9. JimT Avatar

    Las Vegas shouldn’t even exist…it is all about the water there, and eventually it will catch up with them, Phoenix, Tucson….

    1. PointsWest Avatar

      Alls they need to do is pump Snake River water over or through the Hoback pass just south of Jackson Hole. From there it would flow into the Green River, a tributary to the Colorado River and the water source for Lake Mead. Las Vegas currently gets most of their water from Lake Mead.

      So what is the problem with water again?

      1. JimT Avatar

        Start with the concepts of Western water law being applied in a desert, laws which discourage conservation with their use it or lose it mandate.Oh yeah, those senior water rights can complicate things. Then, overallocation of virtually all of the rivers in the West…you can’t pretend water is some ACME package from Wily. E.. Coyote that you can put a drop of water on to create a lake. Add in the tremendous population growth and development in the West over the last 20 years with little thought given, for the most part, about where the water will come from and who will suffer.There is little thing called DROUGHT that is plaguing the West these days…

        BTW, Lake Mead is down to an all time historic low…Just thought I would mention it.

        Two books…Cadillac Desert by Mark Reisner, and Unquenchable by Robert Glennon…highly recommend for anyone who is interested in water use and water development.

      2. PointsWest Avatar

        There is also ‘Dead Pool: Lake Powell, Global Warming, and the Future of Water in the West’ by James Lawrence Powell. It was written just last year (2009) and in it, Powell said there is a 50% chance that Lake Mead will be down to the dead pool (the part of a reservior that cannot be drained) by 2017 to 2021.

        You missed my point. My point is that the casino owners have money and power to buy politicians and they may start taking water from the Northwest…particulary Idaho.

        If you are interested, I will tell you the story of how Sheldon Adelson (owner of the Venetian and one of the richest men in the USA) manipulated Congress to screw the City of Las Vegas and make additional money for the Venitian. I was personally involved in this.

  10. WM Avatar

    More on Las Vegas and the Reid-Angle, hold your nose and vote choice. Foreclosure capital of the US.


  11. PointsWest Avatar

    Sharon Angle Warns that Violent of ‘Revolution’ Against Obama an ‘Option’


    It is easy for me to understand why Tea Partier Sharon Angle is doing so well in Nevada…every biker, every whore, every ex-con, every drug addict, every gold digging slut, every drunk, every gangster, every grifter, and, in general, every angry, hostile, antisocial misfit in Las Vegas is going t vote for her. She is thier dream candidate!

    1. Virginia Avatar

      My son and his wife live in Las Vegas and I take offense at the generalizations you make about the voters of Las Vegas. Just like in Los Angeles where you evidently reside, the people of Las Vegas are trying to survive and they have been hit very hard by the economic downturn. Please keep your generalizations to yourself! By the way, they have already voted for Harry Reid and you need to check your spelling.

      1. PointsWest Avatar

        The murder rate in Las Vegas is 55% higher than the national average.

        The robbery rate is 52% higher than the national average.

        Car theft is 106% higher than the national average.

        …and I’ve heard that the Las Vegas Police Department fudges these numbers to keep these statistics looking lower than they actually are so as not to scare the tourists. If there is not clear evidence of foul play, for example, a dead body will be ruled as a suicide rather than a murder and very few murder cases are solved.

        Las Vegas has, by far, the highest suicide rate in the US.

        Reno has the highest alcoholism rate in the world. Las Vegas is one of the highest in the US.

        Las Vegas has the highest per capita of “Adult Entertainers” in the US.

        Gambling is perfect legal and there are slot machines in local grocery stores near schools.

        Prostitution is perfectly legal in many counties in Nevada and while technically illegal in Las Vegas, is rampant throughout the city. There are pamphlets and fliers for prostitutes all over Las Vegas with pornographic images and when the desert wind storms come (and they come often), this pornography is blown all over the city including into school playgrounds and church yards. After a wind storm, it is hard to walk a block without seeing pornography somewhere on the ground.

        These are statistics and facts and from them I think it is fair to make some generalizations. I lived in Las Vegas for three years and have lived in many cities in the West. Las Vegas is by far the most morally corrupt place I have lived. Certainly, there are good people there. But there are many mean, nasty, antisocial people there too, many more, by far, than anywhere else I have lived. I was relieved to get out.

    2. Daniel Berg Avatar
      Daniel Berg

      I’ve been to Nevada many times for work, to screw around, and to visit friends who have lived and worked there. I agree with most of your comments regarding the state.

      A good friend of mine from high school worked down there on multiple hotel projects as a manager for company that specializes mostly in glass work. He has told me many stories highlighting the corruption of Las Vegas. The stories were fascinating to me because I would not have believed that corruption could be so prevalent there had I not heard about it first-hand. I wish I could hear more of yours.

      Another friend just got back about a week ago from a roping down in Winnemucca. I heard mostly about $12 half gallons of R&R whiskey and an abundance of whores in the general area.

      A girl I knew from high school moved to Vegas to escort. She claimed that the money was incredible. She said many girls will head there a few days per week to either work as strippers, escorts, or both.

      I only mention this crap because that is the Nevada I have come to know over the years. dozens of stories about theft, prostitution, fights, manipulation, exploitation, corruption, substance abuse, etc……

      Nevada deserves Sharron Angle. My sympathies do however go out to the honest people there who are trapped in the middle of all the madness.

      1. PointsWest Avatar

        Geese!…while in Las Vegas, you are not in Kansas anymore Toto! Oscar Goodman, the Mayor of Las Vegas, who has been Mayor since 1999, was a defence attorney for the Mafia. Don’t beleive me. It’s in wikipedia…


        Everyone in Las Vegas knows Oscar was the mob’s lawyer…it’s why they love him.

        That Anthony “Tony the Ant” Spilotro mentioned in the wiki article that Oscar defended, I happen to know some things about. I had a girlfriend in Las Vegas who knew his widow and was, in fact, a pretty good friend. For fun, she would call her up with me listening on the phone and would ask her questions about the good ol’ days with Tony.

        You might be interested to know that she said both Frank Sinatra and Ronald Reagan had strong ties with the Mafia. It is well known that both Frank Sinatra and Paul Laxalt (governor of Nevada) were the big early supporters of Reagan and it was Reagan that deregulated federal laws keeping corporations out of the casino business. It was Reagan who transformed Las Vegas by allowing corporations into the gambling business where they began building the large themed mega-casinos that dominate the strip today.

  12. steve c Avatar
    steve c

    I say that having these tea partiers elected and having them rant and make themselves look crazy for two years (as long as the dems dont lose the senate majority) can only help the democrat party in 2012.

    1. PointsWest Avatar

      That is exactly what was said of the NAZI’s in 1928.

      What if the economy collapses in the next couple of years as it did in the 30’s. Paul Krugman is saying that with the Republicans taking control of Congress, the prospect of an economic collapse is looming.

  13. Alan Gregory Avatar

    Been a lot of years since, as a kid, I saw Hoover Dam. And, in the mid 70s, I had occasion to fly as a passenger in a four-seat Cessna from Gooding, Idaho, to Jackpot Nevada in time for the evening buffet at a casino house there. I don’t recall an details of the trip, but do remember the big open spaces below the aircraft as we flew over the south-central Idaho landscape. Hope it’s still there.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan