Author: drblues

The Angry Gnome Gets a Taste of Reality

JRisch The Angry Gnome, Idaho Senator James Risch, is back in the news, grandstanding for the rubes back home. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (not that he has any background, expertise, or knowledge in foreign relations), Risch used the testimony of Secretary of State, John Kerry, as an opportunity to criticize President Obama’s tactics in response to the Russian incursion in the Ukraine.

Risch, following in the shadow of Senator John McCain, seems to think that American foreign policy has been too “weak”. According to the GOP saber rattlers like Risch, trying to talk to the Russians is an invitation for Putin to annex all of the Ukraine. Any attempt to negotiate is little more than appeasement to the tyrannical Russian.

Risch seems to think America is in a position to punish those “misbehaving” Russians and his questions to Kerry reflect that false bravado.

They misbehave, then we sit down at the table, we make some kind of an agreement and they misbehave even worse after the agreement. So maybe you could give us a little taste of what you’re gonna tell (Russian Foreign Minister Sergey) Lavrov when you meet with him next week?

Kerry wasted no time in giving Risch a little “taste of reality” by pointing out America’s complete lack of a response when Putin annexed Georgia while George Bush was President. It should be noted that at that time Senator Risch did not consider the Bush administration’s response to be weak regarding that act of “misbehavior”.
Well, let me give you what I consider a taste of reality, senator, about our foreign policy and the realities of the world. Georgia happened under George Bush. Georgia happened under George Bush. And he didn’t even bring a sanction. President Obama has brought sanctions and it’s having an impact.
Risch interrupted in feigned disbelief,  “It’s having an impact?”
Yes it is. And the fact is it will have a far more serious impact if they cross over or continue what’s happening in East Ukraine. Now, I don’t know anybody in the United States of America who said we ought to go to war over Crimea. Is there any member of this committee who believes that? I don’t think so. So what are we doing? We’re using 21st century tools, which are the tools of diplomacy to bring people together in other countries to put sanctions in place. And we now have announced the possibility of using sector sanctions. Now that’s serious business. Serious business.
You can see the exchange between Risch and Kerry via this link to NBC news.

 

Idaho and Wolf Mismanagement

grey-wolf_565_600x450 Since the wolf was reintroduced into Idaho in 1995, there have been on-going disputes over their management. State officials complained about what they believed to be the federal government’s intrusion through wolf protection mandates. Idaho politicians claimed that the state could manage wolves more effectively than could the outsider “Feds”. So, in 2011, Congress handed wolf management over to Idaho. This transfer was based on Idaho’s pledge to manage wolves like other valued species and the state’s wolf population management plan that called for maintaining 518-732 wolves. However, almost immediately after federal protection was lifted, the state abandoned its wolf management plan and began instituting a series of lethal anti-wolf control measures. Suddenly, we were back to the old policies of treating wolves like vermin. Since 2011, with the strong support of Idaho politicians, led by Governor Clement “Butch” Otter, hunters and trappers have killed more than 1,000 wolves, reducing the population to around 600. Not satisfied, the 2014 legislature established Governor Otter’s Wolf Control Board — which proposes to aggressively kill wolves in Idaho. The intent of the Wolf Control Board is to kill all but 150 wolves, the bare minimum number required by the federal wolf delisting plan. The rationale for the slaughter is to protect livestock. Yet officially, wolves killed an average of only one calf and seven sheep per county in Idaho last year, and many of these losses may have been avoidable. Ken Cole in The Wildlife News reports on the Wolf Control bill:

On the last day of the Idaho Legislature, HB470, the Wolf Control Board bill, jumped its final hurdle before going to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. The board will be funded with $400,000 from the general fund and $110,000 from the livestock industry and $110,000 from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for a total of $640,000 annually. It is very likely that the governor will sign the bill considering it was one of the three priorities outlined in his January State of the State address. Ostensibly, the money is to replace a federal funding shortfall for USDA Wildlife Services for control of depredating wolves but several statements by its proponents in the legislature, during testimony and the to the press, indicate that the intent of the board is to reduce the Idaho wolf population to the minimum of 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs.

As reported by Susanne Stone of the Defenders of Wildlife,

Concurrently, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced a new proposal to kill 60 percent of the wolves in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, the largest forested wilderness in the lower 48 states. Fish and Game’s plan calls for an intensive program of wolf killing through state-paid hunters and trappers in hopes of boosting the elk population for sport hunters. However, elk numbers statewide today top 100,000 and hunter harvest rates remain high among western states. Irrationally, these cumulative efforts to control wolves by sole reliance on lethal management will result in higher management costs, continued livestock losses, and unnecessary, random killing of wolves. Acknowledging that wolves are here to stay, a few stakeholders have worked collaboratively to develop better strategies to resolve conflicts by learning how to live with wolves. Nonlethal control methods — livestock carcass removal, range riders, electric fencing and guard dogs — are far more effective and cheaper options for keeping wolves away from livestock. And these nonlethal methods are already working in Idaho where they are being applied. The Wood River Wolf Project in Blaine County has successfully protected between 10,000 and 27,000 sheep annually on the Sawtooth National Forest, losing less than 25 sheep (0.04 percent) over the last six years — without having to kill a single wolf in the project area to protect livestock. Despite being one of the highest concentrations of wolves and livestock statewide, the project area has the lowest loss rate of livestock in wolf range statewide.

As could be expected, other wilderness advocates has reacted with outrage. For example, see here  and here. EarthJustice has been particularly active in attempting to halt the wolf slaughter proposed in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and currently has a lawsuit challenging the plan.

As an Idaho native, I am usually frustrated by the level of rhetoric and the framing of the arguments on both sides of the wolf issue. Ranchers and far right “anti-government” extremists don’t speak for me. But, on the other hand, I sometimes think Wilderness advocates who do not live here, are not hunters, and, quite probably, have never even set foot in Idaho, tend to romanticize wolves and wilderness in general. Consequently, I was pleased to receive the following letter Bill Chisholm of Buhl, Idaho, wrote to the Idaho Fish and Game. It sums up my own feelings quite well.

I believe that Idaho Fish and Game is not qualified to manage wolves in Idaho. The mindset of the agency is that the wolf is somehow an alien and enemy force, when in fact like humans it is a part of Nature. The wolf should be respected for its part in Nature and in the food chain. If on occasion it might be necessary to kill a wolf that is doing harm, it should be done with regret, not the macho bullshit that is part of the wolf haters credo. Perhaps wolves should be re-listed as they are obviously in danger from the current Idaho Fish and Game policy. I am an Idaho native and a long time Idaho activist. Sadly the State of Idaho has seldom shown itself to be the competent managers of air, land or water, because the politicos seem more concerned about the profits of the rippers, rapers and polluters than the long term viability of Idaho’s precious natural resources.

The ranchers in the middle of the state cry “Wolf” and the ranchers in the southern part of the state cry “Elk”, it seems that someone within Fish and Game would realize that the wolf is an essential part of the states landscape. No Wolves, No Wild, No Wildlife, No Wilderness, No Wild Wild West in honor of the wild.

Attuned, ethical hunters know that if the prey has lost its wild edge, then hunters too have lost their wild edge and the meat they get has lost its wild edge. Without their natural predators the survival instincts which give prey, like elk and deer, their edge diminishes… they become semi-domestic. Scientific studies have shown that the landscape suffers; grazing patterns change as do migration patterns. See http://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/keystone-species-15786127  also see Trophic cascading in Yellowstone: the first 15 years after wolf reintroduction by William J. Ripple and Robert L. Beschta, Oregon State University

The Idaho Fish and Game charter claims as “property” wildlife within Idaho’s borders. Wolfhaters have said…”Wolves are killing our wildlife.” How can something that is wild be classified as either ‘property” or “ours”? Isn’t the nature of Wild to be free of ownership? Idaho’s Governor and the Idaho Fish and Game Commission are pandering to the wishes, of those that want the easy kill without the work or the skill seek, to exterminate the wolf. The governor proposes to spend $2 million of the taxpayers’ dollars to achieve his goal. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission in cooperation with the US Forest Service is trying to eliminate two wolf packs within the Frank Church Wilderness… which certainly qualifies their action as a sacrilege.

There is a mystique of the modern macho mountain man of the West which many of the wild haters like to think of themselves. It is a farce… hunters don’t’ want the “competition” and the ranchers want to avoid the “risk”….Competition and Risk are two of the holy grails of the Wild West Priesthood.

No Wolves, No Wild, No Wildlife, No Wilderness, No Wild Wild West

 

Ignominious Idaho

Happy vernal equinox! Spring is here and it appears likely that the Idaho State Legislature will adjourn today.

What have those distinguished lawmakers done this term? Well, they are ending the session on one of their most ignominious pieces of legislation, the budget for k-12 school funding. According to Boise Democratic Rep. John Cannon

“We have a budget that doesn’t even come close to matching the enthusiasm our public in Idaho has for education,” Gannon said. He estimates that the budget falls about $170 million short of funding levels from 2008-09, once enrollment increases, inflation and health care costs are added in. He points out that “This budget does not even come close to addressing these issues and solving problem for our schools”

In this budget there is a salary increase of 1% for teachers, matching the raise for other state employees.  Meanwhile, the top state elected officials, including the Governor, will get a 1.5% raise each of the next four years. The original plan was for a 2.5% raise, but the public outrage caused them to trim it back to 1.5% This means the Governor will make $120,785 next year. Spending on education in Idaho ranks 49th in the nation. How do school districts manage to keep their doors open? They are forced to pass supplemental tax levies. This, of course, exacerbates the inequities in schooling. The wealthier districts pass the levies while the poorer districts don’t.

jim_rischtoon3How, you may ask, did Idaho find itself in this financial fix? As the Twin Falls Times News points out, you can blame it on the Angry Gnome:

U.S. Sen. Jim Risch still lauds his 2006 initiative — the biggest political victory during his short stint as Idaho’s governor — that robbed local schools of property taxing power, tied education funding to sales tax and centralized power in Boise. And as Idaho’s starving public schools continue their race to the bottom, we can’t understand why.

“Yes, funding goes up and down based on the economy,” Risch said Friday when asked if binding educational funding to the finicky markets was a good move. “When the people have less money, the government has less money. A lot of people seem to believe that government should be held harmless.”

He admits the system’s defect, even while defending it.

Last week, 11 Magic Valley schools went to the voters begging for money. Some wanted millions to build new facilities and fix leaky roofs. Too many others are just trying to keep the lights on.

The state Legislature in 2006 overwhelmingly endorsed the switch. It made sense to many as frustrated taxpayers clamored for relief. But within 18 months, Wall Street left the nation reeling and the fundamental flaw in Risch’s plan was exposed when people stopped buying. Since the 2008 crash, individual schools have lost millions. Numerous superintendents have told us money that would have been spent on building maintenance is now spent on preserving science classes. Withering buildings, plunging student attainment and growing class sizes are the spawn of the move to sales tax.

Risch contends that schools can still ask voters for supplemental levies, so they haven’t lost any power to make up the losses incurred over the past six years, assuming they can “convince the local people” to support them at the ballot. But too many fail, and, without the taxing power, our schools are failing, plain and simple.

2006 was eight years ago. Surely, current Republican elected officials have seen the error of their ways and decided to rectify the situation?

State Senate and House leadership immediately get defensive when asked if the 2006 switch was a mistake. Lawmakers are more concerned with saving face than righting a wrong. It’s more than a shame, it’s a slight to their duty to draft responsible policy.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said education was his top priority during January’s State of the State address.Yet, neither he nor the Legislature have taken a single meaningful step toward solving the cash issues that are plaguing Idaho, turning off would-be employers in need of an educated workforce and handicapping our children for the rest of their lives. The Legislative session has been a bust; one packed with pandering and political one-upmanship. If this is how Otter treats his “priorities,” we hate to see how less important issues are handled.

Educating the youth is a quintessential government function, one that benefits an entire population and frames history’s narrative for decades to come. They call it the Dark Ages for a reason. Education is maybe our most important infrastructure and it’s failing in Idaho.

When May I Shoot A Student?

3.26.13-hampikianDr. Greg Hampikian has a dual appointment in the Biology Department and the Department of Criminal Justice at Boise State University. He is best known as the forensic DNA expert and founder of the Idaho Innocence Project.

Dr. Hampikian has worked on hundreds of cases throughout the world and has been responsible for the research leading to more than a dozen exoneration’s.  He has contributed his expertise in DNA evidence to many high profile cases including the that of Amanda Knox. His book, Exit to Freedom, chronicles Calvin Johnson’s 17 year fight to prove his innocence using DNA evidence.

HampikianCNCoopHe has appeared on numerous national television shows including Good Morning America, Nightline, Dateline, and 20-20. He has also appeared as a guest of Ira Flato’s on Science Friday and on CNN with Anderson Cooper.

Dr. Hampikian is in the national news again with a New York Time Op. Ed. piece titled, When May I Shoot a Student. The article, satirizing the “Guns-on-Campus” bill currently being considered by the Idaho State Legislature, has gone viral on social media. Hampikian’s article takes the form of a tongue-in-cheek letter to the chief council of the Idaho Legislature asking for his legal advice. When, Hampikian asks, can I legally shoot a student?

In light of the bill permitting guns on our state’s college and university campuses, which is likely to be approved by the state House of Representatives in the coming days, I have a matter of practical concern that I hope you can help with: When may I shoot a student?

I am a biology professor, not a lawyer, and I had never considered bringing a gun to work until now. But since many of my students are likely to be armed, I thought it would be a good idea to even the playing field.

I have had encounters with disgruntled students over the years, some of whom seemed quite upset, but I always assumed that when they reached into their backpacks they were going for a pencil. Since I carry a pen to lecture, I did not feel outgunned; and because there are no working sharpeners in the lecture hall, the most they could get off is a single point. But now that we’ll all be packing heat, I would like legal instruction in the rules of classroom engagement.

Hampikian proposes specific situations that might arise and wonders what the appropriate response might be.

I assume that if a student shoots first, I am allowed to empty my clip; but given the velocity of firearms, and my aging reflexes, I’d like to be proactive. For example, if I am working out a long equation on the board and several students try to correct me using their laser sights, am I allowed to fire a warning shot?

If two armed students are arguing over who should be served next at the coffee bar and I sense escalating hostility, should I aim for the legs and remind them of the campus Shared-Values Statement (which reads, in part, “Boise State strives to provide a culture of civility and success where all feel safe and free from discrimination, harassment, threats or intimidation”)?

Those who have been following the farce in the statehouse understand his jab at the House Committee who held the initial hearings on the bill.

While our city police chief has expressed grave concerns about allowing guns on campus, I would point out that he already has one. I’m glad that you were not intimidated by him, and did not allow him to speak at the public hearing on the bill (though I really enjoyed the 40 minutes you gave to the National Rifle Association spokesman).

What has been particularly enlightening about Dr. Hampikian’s article is the response. Our illustrious Governor claims that Idaho’s image is not tarnished by the foolish bills the legislature wastes its time (and Idaho taxpayer dollars) on.  Comments on Hampikian’s article would suggest otherwise.

Seriously, does the Idaho State Legislature have nothing better to do? Like get the economy moving? I’m an Idaho native and have a cousin who’s a BSU undergrad. I love him, but trust me, the world is a better place without him lugging a Glock 9mm around in his backpack. And the notion that a kid with a gun could prevent something like Newtown or Va. Tech is unsubstantiated, unresearched nonsense. A 2008 Rand Corporation study analyzed NYC data on police shootings. It showed that highly trained police officers are accurate in hitting the person they’re aiming at 30% of the time. And if they’re being shot at, accuracy drops to 18%. Ergo, if you had a couple students firing back at a school shooter (assuming they could dig through their backpacks and find their guns in the panic and chaos) they’d likely injure or kill one or more classmates by accident. And since it’s doubtful they’ve trained with their weapon as much as a police officer, they’d do well to hit a shooter one-out-of-ten shots. Sadly, Congress in its infinite wisdom has defunded virtually all research into the gun violence epidemic by the NIH and the CDC. Our country badly needs research into what really works and what doesn’t to stem such violence. Perhaps then we as a society wouldn’t be so susceptible to lawmakers who sit around saying, “If only we could send kids to school with guns. What could possibly go wrong?”

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I have a daughter heading to college in a few years, and I’m starting a list of states whose legislatures are stupid enough to encourage gun violence on college campuses. Colleges in those states are no longer worth applying to.

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All credible studies show a direct correlation between the presence of guns and the incidence of deadly violence. If your frat brother gets drunk and angry, he can punch you in the face. Give him a knife, and he can try to stab you, but you may be able to outrun him. Give him a gun, and you’re dead. The math is painfully simple. Unfortunately, so are these lawmakers.

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Some ideas are prima facie so monumentally stupid that they only can be explained by ideology or religion gone wild. Examples: burning witches at the stake, destroying a village in order to save it, outlawing homosexuality, stockpiling enough nuclear weapons to exterminate humanity several times over; and yes, encouraging college students to bring weapons to class. It’s almost beyond belief until you remember it’s Idaho, it’s Republicans, it’s the gun lobby.

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Our son in law just turned down a University teaching job offer in Idaho for just such reasons, even though he has no other offer as yet. Idaho just didn’t measure up as a safe sane place to raise their family.

Some comments took the satire to the next level of absurdity.

As a faculty member myself, I understand Professor Hampikian’s dilemma. I think one solution would be for the instructors to advertise their own lethality by clipping a number of hand grenades to the front of their shirts or blouses (or tweed jackets, as the case may be). Such an array will make students think twice about who has more “freedom” in any confrontation, and it would also nicely enable that old political dictum, “Speak softly and carry a big rack of anti-personnel explosives.”

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I believe the professor has the right idea however I wonder if he has considered tanks? This would make both a perfect defensive tool and an equally excellent ‘stand your ground’ weapon. If he thought perhaps that a student or students had a flame thrower (perhaps a LaCrosse stick might be mistaken for such) then he would be perfectly justified in firing off a round or two. This way he might be able to deal with an entire fraternity chapter on one fell swoop. I’m sure he’d receive a commendation from the NRA.

As I write this, the legislature is hearing testimony about the bill. So far, there has been no support for it, but public opinion doesn’t seem to hold much weight with Republican legislators.

Of all those commenting on Dr Hampikian’s New York Times article, I most empathize with “Todd” of Boise who speaks like a fellow inmate of the crazy state of Idaho reaching out to those in the sane outside world.

We can’t make this stuff up! In addition to this grand piece of legislation our statesman are working on how to make it “legal” to discriminate against the LGBT community (and others?) on religious grounds; how to lower corporate tax rates, in our state that ranks lowest in wages; how we can kill more wolves to boost elk populations so that hunters can then kill more elk; and how we can beat Mississippi to the worst ranked education system in the country. I used to think at some point we’d wake up and change our voting pattern but now I think it just like a bad reality tv show and we can’t change the channel.

Refusing to Protect Gay Rights

Add The WordsThe last time we visited Idaho Governor Butch Otter, he was arguing that Idaho does not have an “Anti-Gay” problem and that he has no interest in pushing the legislature to protect Gay civil rights. He was particularly insistent that the Anti-Gay attitude was not hurting business.

Is Otter correct that Idaho doesn’t have an image problem, or a business recruiting problem, because of this Ant-Gay attitude?  One reason to think he is wrong is because of the national attention given to the “Add the Words” protests. Forty-four protesters were arrested Feb. 3 outside the Idaho Senate as part of a failed eight-year campaign to “Add the Words” and extend civil rights protections to gays. Thirty-two were arrested in another protest Thursday. Meanwhile, Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, proposed the Idaho Free Exercise of Religion Act to let people refuse to serve customers whose practices offend their religious beliefs. As a result of public outrage, Luker withdrew the bill last week.

Combined with the fiasco that has resulted from Arizona’s passage of legislation similar to Luker’s, it should be obvious that the corporate world understands the impact Idaho’s image has on their business.

Nevertheless, the Idaho Statesman decided to do some research to see if the Governor was correct. What they found out directly contradicted the Governor

Tech workers  are the kind of young highly educated and highly paid workers that Idaho leaders say they want more of.

But some techies say the welcoming image is being undermined by a sense that Idaho is unwelcoming to gays — a perception deepened by national attention this month to the Idaho Legislature’s handling of gay-rights issues.

“Most techies are on the progressive, ‘you live your life, I’ll live mine’ side of things,” said Ryan Woodings, founder and CEO of Metageek, which makes wireless network equipment. “If you look at some proposed legislation and changed ‘gay’ to ‘black,’ you’d think, ‘wow. This is 1960.’ ”

“Anywhere you recruit, there’s the stigma that Idaho’s an agricultural state and not a high-tech state,” said Mitt Rissell, founder and owner of TSheets, a timecard software development firm in Eagle. “It’s very difficult.”

ClickBank, a subsidiary of Keynetics, opened a second office in a Denver suburb in 2006 because it couldn’t recruit the workers it needed to Boise. Fifty people now work there. Keynetics and its subsidiaries would hire 45 more employees today in Boise if the talent were available, said Eileen Langan Barber, a Keynetics director and co-founder in Boise.

“Boise has all the right ingredients for tech,” she said. “It’s a great place. We have lots of outdoor stuff. Now, we need the rest to attract professionals with college degrees. (LGBT equality) is one of many issues. We need to be more progressive in general.”

How about large corporations like Apple and HP? Do they agree with the Governor that Idaho doesn’t really have an image problem?

Not so, said C.K. Haun, a senior director and developer of technical services at Apple Inc. who lives in Boise. Otter’s statements are “ill-informed and incorrect,” Haun wrote in a letter to the Statesman. “He has not had personal experience because companies, particularly in technology, simply don’t consider Idaho for, partially, its noninclusive reputation.”

One ex-tech executive suggested that Otter couldn’t point to any company — and likely wouldn’t be able to in the future — because no company would say it bypassed Idaho over the sexuality issue.

Friendliness to gay employees “is a business issue,” said Don Curtis, who oversaw 1,600 employees as general manager of Hewlett-Packard’s Disk Memory Division in Boise before retiring in 2000. “You want to get the best people possible. You never want to be taken off of a list as an employer or as a state on the basis of people perceiving it’s not the best place to be. Because they’ll never tell you why they don’t come. You won’t have any data. You just won’t have the best people. That has a corrosive effect over the years.” Curtis added “sexual orientation and gender identity” to HP’s corporate anti-harassment policy in 1992, more than two decades ago.

Governor Otter was not pleased with the Statesman article and confronted the Statesman reporter, Dan Popkey, to let him know his displeasure. Go here for Popkey’s interesting account of the confrontation.
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safe_image
 All of this would just be interesting political wrangling if it weren’t for the unfortunate fact that political decisions have an impact in the real world. And, the unwillingness of politicians to take a stand for the civil rights has consequences. In the case of gay rights, remaining silent or refusing to act has its consequences. The refusal of the State Legislature to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act can be seen as tacit approval for bigots and bullies to harass others based upon their sexual orientation. 
Aware that the State Legislature is unwilling to act, some Idaho communities have enacted anti-discrimination ordinances on their own. Boise enacted an anti-discrimination ordinance in December of 2012 and reported yesterday that it has been a success.

After 14 months Boise Police say the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, is working the way it was intended.

The ordinance passed the Boise City Council in December of 2012. Since then, there have been two complaints. That’s in line with other places that have enacted similar ordinances, but there’s something else happening here that police didn’t see coming. Jubilation, that’s the word the Pride Foundation used the day the Boise City Council added the words sexual orientation and gender identity or expression to the city’s anti-discrimination code.

In the past 14 months only two complaints have been filed, both alleging discrimination from a business that offers services, like a hotel or restaurant.Both complaints came at the end of the year and are still under investigation.

“Even one person is the victim of a crime, police need to be there to defend them and there needs to be ordinances there to defend their rights,” said Chief Deputy William Bones. But Bones says the new ordinance did produce something that was unexpected. There’s been an increase in the number of crimes reported involving people in the LGBT community.

“I do believe that is most likely a correlation to the education and the trust that people have to come forward to the police department,” said Bones.

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Unfortunately, without the Legislature having the political will to act, the sad story of Pocatello High School student, Maddie Beard, will likely be repeated in other communities and at other times.

The Republican Legislative leaders, Brent Hill and Scott Bedke, want to make sure the current session can end March 1st, so they have decided that there is just not the time (or the will) to introduce the “Add the Words” legislation.

A print hearing to introduce protections for gay, lesbian and transgendered Idahoans under the Idaho Human Rights Act has not been held this session. About 75 Add the Words advocates have been arrested in two separate instances during the session in the Idaho Capitol Building.

“I can only imagine the frustration and discouragement for some people over this issue,” Hill said. “People who want to add the words, they’re honest, they’re sincere … they deserve respect and civility. But there are other people who are just as sincere in their convictions.”

Hill and Bedke agreed there is common ground to be found among those interested in protecting religious freedoms and those interested in protecting civil rights for gay people. A “loose coalition” of lawmakers from both political parties as well as representatives from the interest groups are actively working to find a way to find compromise, he said.

“They want solutions more than they just want attention,” Hill said. Bedke said there isn’t the political willpower to take the issue on this session. “There’s not the votes to move those issues, (that) is what that boils down to,” Bedke said.

I can see their point. They had more important things to do this session than worry about the safety of young people like Maddie Beard. They have to protect Dairy farmers from “activists” video taping them while they severely abused their dairy cows. They have to declare the Idaho giant salamander the state amphibian. They have to increase the speed limit it 80 mph. They have to make sure guns are allowed on College campuses. They have to dedicate $2 million to Wolf eradication. 

Send in the Clowns

Bill-the-Clown There is a pretty simple solution to this problem. The state of Idaho should kick out the Republican Party Bozos currently pretending to be legislators and get them into a clown college as soon as possible. The question at this point is, How many idiotic bills can be stuffed into one legislative session”? The absurd (ALEC created?) Luker “religious freedom” bills have been withdrawn after a “thoughtful pause“. The 2 million dollar Wolf extermination- err- control bill was passed by the House. The “Ag-Gag” bill will undoubtedly pass a full house vote next week. This is so obviously pandering to Idaho farmers who claim filming of animal abuse is terrorism.

The Senate earlier passed the bill on a 23-10 vote; it comes in the wake of a covertly taken video at a southern Idaho dairy that showed workers severely abusing cows and led to five arrests. Commercials featuring the graphic video are being aired during Olympics coverage in the Boise area, urging people to contact their lawmakers and oppose the bill.

The lopsided vote came after a three-and-a-half-hour hearing at which passionate testimony was evenly split for and against the measure, SB 1337; farmers said they need protection from spying, while animal-protection backers said it’ll allow abuse to go undetected.

Cooler heads pointed out that the obvious conclusion consumers would draw is that the dairy industry does have something to hide.

Scott Beckstead, a Humane Society of the United States official who said he was born and raised on a Twin Falls, Idaho farm, said, “I would submit that this bill poses a greater threat to Idaho agriculture than all the video camera-wielding vegans in the world, because what this bill says is that Idaho agriculture does have something to hide.” Consumers will take note, he said.

Kelly Hogan of Boise spoke against the bill. Audio or video evidence, whether taken openly or covertly, “provides the evidence that it doesn’t continue to happen,” he said, “and it’s a public service to both the industry and to people that have a care and concern for the animals that are involved in the situation. I think that the bill goes beyond just security and privacy. … We remove potentially an added resource to be sure that these things are disclosed.” Rep. Paul Romrell asked Hogan, “So you’re all right with trespass?” Hogan responded, “No, I’m not. I don’t see it as trespass. Let’s say that a person is employed by an agricultural facility under normal pretenses. Over time they see … things that are a violation of law, and they record it with their iPhone. … Then if they disclose that, this bill would make them in violation of law.” Asked what should happen if the person isn’t an employee, Hogan said, “If the person is not an employee and they trespass … I think they should be fined for trespassing laws.”

The Republicans ignored the logic because, according to Tony VanderHulst of Westpoint Farms and current chairman of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association,

This is not about hiding anything. This is about exposing the real agenda of these radical groups that are engaged in terrorism.

The Republicans, never ones to consider unintended consequences, had another piece of misguided legislation hit a bump in the road today.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter shared a new wrinkle concerning the guns-on-campus legislation being considered by the Idaho Legislature — it might cost Idaho State University its license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to conduct nuclear research.

Otter told about 30 people attending a Friday meeting with ISU’s College Republicans that ISU President Arthur Vailas had told him about that possibility during a meeting with Otter the day before.

“I had never heard that before,” Otter said about what he learned Thursday.

The governor also expressed surprise at finding out the ISU Meridian campus shares its complex with Renaissance High School. Otter said Idaho law forbids firearms in public elementary, middle and high schools.

“I think there’s going to be some additional consideration given,” Otter said about the House State Affairs Committee, which will hold a hearing next Thursday on a bill that would allow concealed carry of firearms at Idaho’s colleges and universities. The bill passed the Idaho Senate 25-10 despite opposition from all the state’s university and college presidents and the State Board of Education.

Don’t bother to send in the clowns, they are already here.

Butch Otter Flailing at Winmills

ToonOtterIPCWhen it comes to human rights, Idaho Governor “Butch” Otter’s moral compass is nonexistent.  He will do or say whatever is politically expedient at the time. Case in point, his stance towards gay rights. For Otter, there is no morality beyond what is good for business- i.e. profit.

Last Tuesday Otter made his annual appearance at the Idaho Press Club and, when asked about recent protests at the Idaho Legislature advocating the addition of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Idaho’s Human Rights Act, and concerns from Human Rights advocates about a bill working its way through the legislature that would give people who refused to hire or serve members of the LTGB community, Otter said that he hadn’t heard any complaints from business, as if that somehow answered the question. As long as his wealthy donors don’t complain, Otter is fine with any sort of discrimination. Otter would undoubtedly be fine with slavery as long as it didn’t hurt business.

Gov. Butch Otter said Tuesday he’s seen no evidence that the Legislature’s opposition to extending civil rights protections to gays, called “Add the Words” by supporters, is damaging business recruitment. Nor has he heard business complaints about House Bill 427, which would add legal protections for people who refuse to hire or serve gays based on their religious beliefs.

“I can’t point to one company that I’ve visited with that said, ‘If you don’t do this,’ or even suggested that was a problem,” Otter told the Idaho Press Club. “I don’t know that companies look to the political. They don’t say, ‘Geez, you’re a really red state, that’s why I’m coming here.’

Otter is facing primary opposition from tea party challenger, Russ Fulcher, so pandering to the farthest right wing of the Idaho Republican party has just begun.

Otter’s political stance has always been that he is a born and bred Idahoan who knows and represents “Idaho values”. Recently, at a function in Craigmont, Idaho, Otter tried to make political points by claiming that U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill is out of touch with Idaho values.

Dan Popkey, of the Idaho Statesman, wrote an excellent article destroying Otter’s alligations by substantiating that Judge Winmill’s Record Speaks for Itself.

I have known Butch Otter since high school and I can promise you that his “values”, as well as accomplishments, are in sharp contrast with those of Judge Winmill.

Dim Bulb Award

dim-bulbIt has become a tradition here at RNWMV to select an illustrious Idaho legislator to win the award of Dim Bulb of the month. The first time the award was handed out was 2007 to Russ Mathews, Republican from Idaho Falls. Just to show how time passes but nothing seems to change, his dim bulb comment was about the Democrat-sponsored measure that would have raised Idaho’s minimum wage to $7.25 an hour. Setting the standard for mind numbing stupidity and lack of rational thinking, Mathews said,

If it’s so exciting and neat to raise it, why don’t we just raise it to $17 an hour?” “Would that be a good idea?

As is always the case, there are numerous candidates for the award this month. For sheer stupidity we could choose the tea party’s Rep. Vito Barbieri. Periodically while the legislature is in session, Babieri tries to add up all the spending appropriated on a Post-it Note and report it to the “people of Idaho”. Unfortunately, when someone with the math skills looked at Cousin Vito’s figures, they turn out to have been exaggerated by about eight-fold. Even the leadership in his own party was embarrassed. Here, for example, is how House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Maxine Bell responded to Barbieri’s antics,

Bless his heart. At first I was stunned, then I was a little angry. Then I got to thinking he will be so totally embarrassed when he realizes how far off he is and his math teacher will be flipping in her grave.

l lukerBut the winner this month is Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, who has introduced a number of pernicious bills this session, none worse that his “Defense of Discrimination” bill. More than 500 people showed up at the Capitol for the House State Affairs Committee hearing. Fifty spoke in more than three hours of testimony, 42 against and only two in favor. The two in favor were members of the ultra right wing Cornerstone Family Council.

Betsy Russell of the Spokesman Review gives an excellent overview of the testimony. Luker seems taken aback by the response against the bill which he disingenuously describes as “correcting a defect” in Idaho’s current freedom-of-religion law allowing people to claim religion as a defense against government action against them, but not to use it in private-party disputes involving a law or government action.

Russell discusses the Constitutionality of the bill,

Meanwhile, an Idaho Attorney General’s opinion raised questions about the constitutionality of both this and another, related bill that’s still pending.

The opinion concluded that HB 427 conflicts with the Idaho Tort Claims Act and could be vulnerable to a constitutional challenge. The bill, according to the opinion by Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane, “could subject employees to personal liability when they are simply doing their job, and a court later decides that the state or local government policy burdened free exercise of religion.”

Kane offered an example: A case in which it was a state prison’s policy not to provide kosher or Halal meals to Jewish or Muslim prisoners, and the prisoners sued. “Then liability could fall upon the employees least responsible for the decisions – those who cook or serve the food,” Kane wrote.

Kane also examined Luker’s other proposal, HB 426, to prevent professional licenses from being suspended or revoked for violations based on the license holders’ “sincerely held religious beliefs.” He concluded that that bill is “likely vulnerable to a constitutional challenge,” and violates both the United States and Idaho constitutions. Luker said he hadn’t yet had a chance to review the opinion, and whether or not HB 426 gets a hearing is up to legislative leaders.

After the recent response to the failure of the Legislature to “add the words” to Idaho’s Human Rights Act, Luker’s feigned surprise over the response to his bills has to be chalked up to sheer dimwittedness, hence, he is this month’s winner

Music Uncovered

As the world of popular culture celebrates the 50th anniversary of the British invasion, including the arrival of The Beatles, there has been little, if any, discussion of the artists who wrote and performed the music the groups from the UK imitated or copied when they “invaded” American music. These artists, playing what was referred to as rhythm and blues, were black. Consequently, their music never crossed over to a white audience. In many cases, the music was actually banned from the radio. It was banned, not simply because the performers were black, but because the performances were considered too lascivious for the delicate ears of white American youth.

An example of a black entertainer who was responsible for some of the greatest rhythm and blues music, and whose music was ignored until covered by white artists, was Hank Ballard. During the 1950s Hank Ballard and the Midnighters made numerous recordings that were popular on the black nightclub circuit, but unknown to the white mainstream. His recording of Work with me Annie reached number one on the R&B charts but was banned by the FCC from radio airplay for its obvious sexual overtones.

The great Etta James recorded the answering song, Wallflower, which also was an R&B hit.

But, it was not until Work with me Annie was rewritten as Dance with me Henry, and recorded by the white vocalist Georgia Gibbs, that it reached number one on the national charts. White audiences would have seen the sanitized version on shows like the popular Your Hit Parade. Here is a hilarious rendition by Gisele MacKensie from May 7th 1955 when Dance with me Henry was number four on the national hit parade.

Hank Ballard and the Midnighters followed up Work with me Annie with Annie had a Baby and Annie’s Aunt Fanny, both of which made clear Annie wasn’t a ballet dancer.

In 1959 Hank Ballard and the Midnighters wrote, choreographed, and performed The Twist. But, because the group was too black, the song was covered by Chubby Checkers, who, although black, was, as his phony stage name implies (get it- Fats Domino- Chubby Checkers), a chubby, cuddly, non-threatening black man. What resulted was a dance craze that swept the nation and made Checkers a super star.

Below is an amazing episode from the very 1960s popular quiz show, To Tell the Truth, where two contestants lie in an attempt to convince the panel they are the contestant telling the truth. The fact that the panel, made up of nationally famous white media stars (including Johnny Carson in this episode), have absolutely no idea who Hank Ballard is, shows just how invisible the real black artists were. The other two contestants are black, but are conspicuous in their “clean cut”, i.e. white like, demeanor. The panel ignores Hank, asking him only one question about the origins of Rock and Roll. He answers that Rock and Roll is just another name for Rhythm and Blues, but none of the panelist seem satisfied with the answer. Kitty Carlisle is the only one to choose the real Hank, and that was because she saw him moving his body when the music was being played.