Month: January 2008

What Happened to Edwards?


John Edwards, my personal choice to be the Democratic Presidential nominee, has dropped out of the race. Of course, this was not unexpected. I had hoped he would wait until after super Tuesday so that he would have some delegate power to negotiate with at the convention. Pundits spent little time wondering what went wrong with the Edwards’ campaign before moving on to the more important question- Who will Edwards endorse?

Was it the $400 hair cut and the sprawling mansion that did Edwards in? Was there too much John Kerry baggage? Was he, as Chris Matthews put it, just too “glamorous”? Or, as Christopher Beam in Slate claims, too phony?

There are a lot of explanations for Edwards’ decision to drop out. His opponents’ celebrity, his obsessive focus on Iowa, the limited appeal of his one-note populism. But you can’t discount his unbearable phoniness. Even when I agreed with the message, I bristled at the brazen insincerity -or appearance thereof-of the messenger.

None of these accounts focus on what, it seems to me, is the main reason Edwards campaign never gained traction once the primary season began. His populist message scared the major media outlets who are owned and controlled by big corporations. As a result, they refused to cover him. Shortly after placing second in Iowa, the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that John Edwards received a puny 7 percent of national media coverage. Clinton and Obama got between four and five times more even though their poll numbers at that time were only slightly higher than Edwards’. The New York Times’ own public editor, Clark Hoyt, conceded that his paper had shortchanged Edwards.

In Iowa … John Edwards is close behind Clinton in the most recent Des Moines Register poll, yet The Times has given him comparatively scant coverage. Clinton and Obama have been profiled twice each on the front page since Labor Day, but Edwards not at all this year. Throughout the paper, The Times has published 47 articles about Clinton since Labor Day, only 18 about Edwards.

As the Des Moines Register put it in an editorial, they couldn’t endorse Edwards because

His harsh anti-corporate rhetoric would make it difficult to work with the business community to forge change.” What scares the editorial board of the Register is that Edwards doesn’t plan to “work with the business community” at all, but to empower government to re-regulate big business.

Democrats have always been seduced by Identity politics and we now have two candidates that the media can frame as a race vs gender choice. The NY NOW editorial charging Edward Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama as a betrayal shows that the divisive “Identity” narrative is likely to work.

Most polls had shown Edwards as the Democrat most likely to defeat every Republican candidate. His populist campaign, bashing corporations and free-trade deals, was perfectly timed for an economy everyone admits is in a recession. His platform reflected the party’s progressive base better than Clinton’s or Obama’s: total withdrawal from Iraq in nine months, a European style health care plan, full financial aid for students admitted to public colleges and universities and a strong message about the plight of the poor and the middle-class.

So, now that the candidate with the progressive platform is out of the race, who of the two, Clinton or Obama, does it make most sense for a progressive to support? Because there is really little that separates them when it comes to their policy goals, it is important to reframe what counts as a critical “issue” in this campaign.

George Lakoff has a very interesting article about framing the issue of leadership. He compares the New York Times editorial endorsing Hillary Clinton with the editorial in the same paper by Caroline Kennedy endorsing Barack Obama. The Times editorial talks about the ability to understand and carry out policy as the most important quality in a President. Caroline Kennedy frames the qualities of leadership differently. She wants a President,

who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved.

According to Lakoff:

The difference is striking. To the editors of the New York Times, the quality of leadership seems not to be an “issue.” The ability to unite the country is not an “issue.” What Obama calls the empathy deficit — attunement to the experience and needs of real people — is not an “issue.” Honesty is not an “issue.” Trust is not an “issue.” Moral judgment is not an “issue.” Values are not “issues.” Adherence to democratic ideals — rather than political positioning, triangulation, and incrementalism — are not “issues.” Inspiration, a call to a higher purpose, and a transcendence of interest-based politics are not “issues.”

Lakoff goes on to describe how Democrats ought to reframe what counts as an “issue.” The article is well worth reading for those of us still debating who we will support as the Democratic nominee.


Catch a Falling iStars


Representative Tom Trail has done some digging and has come up with an opinion from the Attorney General’s office that should render a body blow to Tom Luna’s ISTARS- the ill advised plan to give teachers merit pay in exchange for them giving up their continuing contract rights. Teachers who participated in the program would be placed under a Category 4 contract and would in essence become at-will employees.

As Trail tells the story,

Mr.. Luna’s plan was initially estimated to cost $65 million. He then scaled it back to $46 million. However, with increasing concern about the bleak economicoutlook for the county and Idaho, we’ve heard that he has five different lower cost options. One of the issues that I raised with Mr.. Luna concerned what would happen if a teacheragreed to become a Category 4 contract teacher and then at a future date the Legislature cut off funding for the program. Would that teacher be able to regain his/her continuingcontract rights?

Mr. Luna told me in private and also in a meeting of over 125 people in public testimony that a teacher in this case would be able to switch back to the continuing contract status if such an event as outlined above occurred. He said the protection was in his ISTARS proposal and also covered under current Idaho Code. I asked Mr.. Luna to provide me the specific references. I did not hear back from him so spent considerable time in reviewing the statutes and his ISTARS legislation. I then asked the Idaho Attorney General’s Office to research my question and issue an opionion.

The Attorney General’s opinion makes two important points. First, Luna was wrong. ISTARS makes no provisions for a teacher being able to switch back to a continuing contract. Secondly, if the legislature cuts off funding for the program, the school district is obligated to fulfill the provisions of the contract.

The implications of this opinion are staggering. There is not a district in the state that could meet the obligations of the merit pay contracts if the state were to drop the program. teachers who opt for the Category 4 contract could find themselves “riffed” because the district could not afford to pay them and their only recourse would be to sue the district. And, according to the AG, these suits would be decided on a case-by-case basis, eventually ending up in the Supreme Court.

The citizens of Idaho should thank Trail for pursuing this issue and asking for an opinion from the Attorney General. We should also ask Luna to explain his response to Representative Trail’s inquiry. Was he lying or just ignorant of the details of his own program?

Below is the complete and unedited letter the Attorney General sent to Representative Trail.

ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OPINION 08-21617–Representative Trail–You have asked for guidance regarding the proposed ISTARS legislation. As I understand your request, you want to know what will happen if a teacher agrees to become a Category 4 contract teacher and the Legislature cuts off funding for the ISTARS program. Your request specifically seeks guidance as to whether the Category 4 contract teacher will regain continuing contract status or somewhere else under Idaho Code.

As currently configured, the ISTARS legislation does not address the situation involving a lack of state funding for the Category 4 contract teacher. Nor is there any other provision in the Idaho Code that would provide for a Category 4 contract teacher returning to continuing contract status.

The ISTARS program makes very clear that a certificated employee who choose to sign a Category 4 contract “is irrevocably terminating any rights to a category 3 contract or to a renewable contract….”See Section 2 of Senate Bill 1310 (proposed Idaho Code 33-514B (1) The ISTARS program specifically proposes to amend Idaho Code 33-515 (issuance of Renewable Contracts) to exclude Category 4 contracts. The admonition regarding the permanent loss of continuing contract rights as a result of signing a Category 4 contract is reiterated in Section 6 of S1310 (proposed Idaho Code 33-1004 (4)(b) and 33-1004 (4)

Moreover, the ISTARS program appears to deny school districts the ability to amend or alter Category 4 contracts or the awards to be paid pursuant to them. See Section 6 of S1310. Thus, the ISTARS program not only makes very clear that a teacher who signs a Category 4 contract gives up any right to continuing contract status at the time of signing or in the future but also appears to severely limit a school district’s ability to alter the contract status with a Category 4 contract teacher.

The ability of a school district to alter or amend its contractual relationship with a certificated employee is further limited by case law in Idaho that establishes that a teacher’s contract includes relevant statutory provisions from the Idaho Code. See, Rhoades v. Idaho Falls School District No. 91, 131 Iaho 827, 965 P.2d 187 (1998), and Brown v. Caldwell High School District No. 132, 127 Idaho 112, 898 P.2d 43 (1995). Therefore, the ISTARS “awards” to Category 4 contract employees would become part of the employee’s contract with the school district or charter school. Contract rights are protected by constitutional due process considerations, as would be any reduction of compensation under a Category 4 contract during the contract period.

Shouldl the Legislature not fund ISTARS, the remedy of a Category 4 certicated employee would be against the school district or charter school. The school may be liable for payment to the employee pursuant to the Category 4 contract award provisions. As part of the relief by a teacher, a court could order that a teacher be returned to continuing contract status or have access to such status. However, such a result would likely be on a case by case basis until the issue was ultimately resolved by the Idaho Supreme Court.

Legacies and Lies


Yesterday marked the last State of the Union speech in what is certainly the worst presidency of my lifetime and will likely be regarded as being among the worst in American history. Thankfully, Bush will never give a State of the Union address again.

While “live blogging” the speech, Bob Cesca noticed that “he’s jovial tonight. Like a kid on the last day of school. No more shpeeches after tonight! Yay!” No more searching for a new way to say that tired phrase “the state of our union is strong.” No more stumbling over big words. Most commentators described the speech as a feeble attempt on the part of a “lame duck skirting the edges of relevance” to solidify his legacy.

Idaho’s congressional delegation, on the other hand, continue to delude themselves that Bush is the strong leader of their dreams. You have to wonder what speech Crapo and Sali were watching.

“He was not acting like a lame duck president tonight. He laid out a very aggressive agenda, and I think he’s going to make it happen. Each of the things that he identified, like the energy policy, the trade policy, the entitlement reform in terms of fiscal responsibility, the tax policy and so forth … all weave together as a part of a strong economic policy. Regardless of the fact that there is a huge debate on the stimulus package as to whether we should do it and what it should be, the president outlined a number of other areas that are important for us to deal with in terms of our economic strength.”


“I think that the president’s speech was one that shows that he’s going to lead clear up until his last day in office. He had a fairly aggressive agenda laid out for us. I think he showed vindication of some of the policies that have passed, particularly in Iraq, with the surge. We never dreamed we’d have some of the successes we’re seeing out of Iraq. And his agenda on the stem cell debate … I think that’s vindication of some of his agenda items of the past, for the future. It seemed to be very, very well-received.”

To realize the degree to which Bush’s Presidency has been a failure, one just needs to listen to his words in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in 2000:

“America’s armed forces need better equipment, better training and better pay . . . A generation shaped by Vietnam must remember the lessons of Vietnam: When America uses force in the world, the cause must be just, the goal must be clear, and the victory must be overwhelming . . . I don’t have enemies to fight. I have no stake in the bitter arguments of the last few years. I want to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect . . . We’re learning to protect the natural world around us. We will continue this progress, and we will not turn back … to lead this nation to a responsibility era, that president himself must be responsible. So when I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear to uphold the laws of our land . . . I will not attack a part of this country because I want to lead the whole of it.”

Bush’s belief that future historians will be a better judge of his tenure are a fairy tale, like most of what he says he believes. His administration, characterized by decisions made by a small group of twisted ideologues, has done vast damage to the country and the world in ways that will take decades to repair — if repairs are indeed possible.

You are probably aware of the recent study by The Center of Public Integrity that includes a data base of Bush’s legacy of lies concerning the war in Iraq. If you haven’t visited the site, you should do so because it is possible to search the data base. So, for instance, if you want to read the lies told by Dick Cheney from 2001 to 2007, you enter his name and all 98 lies are there for you to read. This data base will be a wonderful resource for all those future historians!
One final Idaho connection with the SOTU speech from Bob Cesca:

If something awful happens, we’ll have President Dirk Kempthorne. Kempthorne is the Secretary of the Interior and was the cabinet member chosen to stay home tonight. His name is “Dirk Kempthorne” which almost as awesome as his undersecretary “Chest Rockwell.”

Johah and the Whale

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In the previous post about Sadly No!, I mentioned that the site had been engaged in the satirical skewering of Jonah Goldberg’s inane new book, Liberal Fascism. Quite frankly, I don’t think the book is worth serious critique. Nevertheless, David Neiwert northwest author, researcher and blogger at Orcinus, has decided to tackle the job and Jonah is finding himself in over his head.

If you follow the links from Orcinus to Goldberg’s blog (scroll down to the heading “Neiwert’s list”) back to Neiwert’s fascinating 15 part essay on fascism you will encounter immediate evidence of Goldberg’s intellectual dishonesty. Goldberg claims that:

Neiwert offers one endless cliché on fascism. It’s got nearly every single myth and hackneyed observation my book dispels. Rush Limbaugh and Father Coughlin are even paired alongside each other at the top of page one (talk about guilt by association!).

On the next page we get a fairly commonplace fascist checklist – borrowed, and heavily distorted, from Umberto Eco. The italicized bits are his key ingredients of fascism. The parts in brackets are Neiwert’s attempt to illustrate how these things are on display on the American right. I’ve added my own comments in red in an attempt to show how sophomoric Neiwert’s understanding of these things is.

If you actually go to Neiwert’s essay you find a nuanced discussion of the historical construction and reconstructions of the meaning of fascism.

In a historical sense, fascism is maybe best understood as an extreme reaction against socialism and communism; in its early years it was essentially defined as “extremist anti-communism.” There were very few attempts to systematize the ideology of fascism, though some existed (see, e.g. Giovanni Gentile’s 1932 text, The Philosophical Basis of Fascism). But its spirit was better expressed in an inchoate rant like Mein Kampf.

It was explicitly anti-democratic, anti-liberal, and corporatist, and it endorsed violence as a chief means to its ends. It was also, obviously, authoritarian, but claiming that it was oriented toward “socialism” is just crudely ahistorical, if not outrageously revisionist. Socialists, let’s not forget, were among the first people imprisoned and “liquidated” by the Nazi regime.

Goldberg must depend upon the fact that his blog readers don’t actually go to the source and read it because if they did they would find that, contrary to Goldberg’s claim, 1) Neiwert ascribes the “checklist” of fascist characteristic explicitly to Eco

One of the more popular recent essays on the subject was written by Umberto Eco, who is a cultural scholar, of course, though not what I would consider a genuine expert on fascism.

and 2) places the Eco article in it’s historical context as a unsatisfactory attempt to define fascism based upon “descriptive” characteristics.

The first attempts to study fascism were largely conducted from a Marxist point of view, which predictably explained it primarily as a reaction against the “communist revolution.” In many ways, that’s what it was — though of course, it was also a great deal more. Many of these early studies, not surprisingly, reduced fascism to an aggressive form of capitalism. In the years after World War II, when fascism had largely been eradicated as a form of governance, studies of it expanded the definition considerably and created a far more realistic, nuanced and accurate understanding of it.

The bulk of these studies essentially defined it descriptively — that is, as a series of various traits that were found to be pervasive among fascist systems. (This was the approach Umberto Eco attempted in his “Ur-Fascism” essay.)

But, as Neiwert points out, these descriptive definitions failed because they did not take into account the ways in which fascism morphed over time

History demonstrates that fascism itself, as Mr. Skinner suggests, has behaved more like a mutagen, shifting shapes constantly while maintaining certain core animating impulses.

It is impossible to characterize Neiwert’s analysis through a few quotes (please read the whole 15 part series), but two things are apparent. Neiwert’s understanding of fascism is far from sophomoric and Goodberg is intellectually dishonest.

Neiwert has promised his readers a thorough critique of Liberal Fascism and I, like Tristero at Hullabaloo, can hardly wait.

Headline— Orcus, the killer whale, eviscerates Jonah!

Sadly No! To Bryan Fischer


Even though there are hundreds of Progressive blogs satirizing the Wingnuts of the right, none do so with the wit and intelligence of the writers at Sadly No!

I have Sadly No! on my sidebar as one of the “Best O’ the Blogs because it is worth a read once or twice a day. As they say, Sadly No! reads the wackos on the right so I don’t have to.

Lately the source of derision has been Jonah Goldberg, author of the easily parodied “Liberal Fascism.” Today Gavin took a moment to highlight Idaho’s own favorite Wingnut, Bryan Fischer, with a shorter version of an column Fischer wrote for super Wingnut Alan Keyes’ blog “Renew America” entitled Separation of Church and State: Straight from the Mind of Hitler.

Another reason I love Sadly No! is because the comments are frequently as witty and insightful as the post itself. Here are a few comments on the Fischer post:

“Johnson, incensed at some non-profit organizations for opposing his most recent run for office, suspended the sword of the IRS over the necks of any religious leader who would dare to stand for justice and truth in the nation’s political life.” Which explains why Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King remained an obscure agitator in the South, and never got a national holiday in his memory. On the MLK Holiday weekend, too! Do these people take classes on obtuseness and irony, or does it come naturally?

Wow, this guy bangs out the stupid like Lucianne’s little boy:”While churches may still today distribute non-partisan voter guides, and pastors are free to speak to the moral issues of the day, watchdogs from the ACLU and other leftist groups are lurking around every corner, looking to pounce on any religious leader who would dare use his influence to help shape the direction of America’s public policy.”Because distributing voter guides and making sermons on ‘the moral issues of the day’ cannot possibly, never ever ever, have any influence on the congregations’ political views. Never.Great find, guys. It’s why we read S,N!

“While churches may still today distribute non-partisan voter guides, and pastors are free to speak to the moral issues of the day, watchdogs from the ACLU and other leftist groups are lurking around every corner, looking to pounce on any religious leader who would dare use his influence to help shape the direction of America’s public policy.”I so enjoy watching these folks bleat and whine about this, because of course there is nothing preventing any church from being as political as they want to be; they just have to give up their tax exemption if they want to be overtly political. That’s all, that’s the whole complaint, the whole issue.As tax exempt – therefore effectively government subsidized – entities, churches (and synagogues, mosques, pagodas, what-have-you) are ostensibly required to stay out of the political process. Despite the fact that this ostensible rule is as full of holes as a Jonah Goldberg thought – as evidenced by the Christian Right as it exists today – any church that is willing to give up its tax status can be as political as they want.So the issue, as it has always been, is not a matter of religious freedom or expression, but a question of maintaining ones organizational tax status and government subsidies. Render unto Caesar indeed…

. . . but how unfair of the fascists of the ACLU to monitor to ensure that the churches are at least ostensibly playing by the rules in exchange for their government welfare (tax exemption)! Don’t they understand that the churches are the utterly non-fascist stormtroopers of god and should be allowed to do whatever they want and STILL receive their government hand-outs?

Look, three on the words in the “ACLU” acronym are liberal and/or fascist: “civil,” “union,” liberties.”Civil: Really, what are they trying to say with the word “civil?” They of course mean rapacious devotion to the state.Union: It’s only one word from “civil unions,” which in turn is only one step from “gay marriage” and thus is the same as “homofascism.”Liberties: When the ACLU isn’t being fascist, they’re being overtly liberal! Q.E.D.The only American word in the ACLU’s acronym is “American.” And really, couldn’t they go with a word even more American if they wanted to truely support the Heartland? Like “Jesus?” JCLU?

Loyalty Trumps Competence


The phrase “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job,” has entered the public lexicon as shorthand for President Bush’s leadership style. Time and time again Bush has rewarded ideological loyalty in the face of obvious incompetence.

Governor Otter appears to be operating on the same standard. A headline in the Idaho Statesman reads: “Otter sticks by aide who left State Board short- Karen McGee is ‘doing a great job’ as a H&W liaison, and she isn’t working with finances, says the governor’s spokesman.”

You may recall that McGee made headlines just a week ago when it became known that she was responsible for a decision that violated Idaho accounting standards and contributed to the agency’s millions of dollars of debt. According to John Miller of the Associated Press:

A review of hundreds of e-mails related to the board’s budget crisis shows that last July, Karen McGee authorized a payment to the state’s public school testing company for services in fiscal 2007, even though the money had been set aside by Idaho lawmakers for use solely in 2008.

McGee acknowledged the error Friday and said she confused money earmarked for 2008 for money that could be used for 2007.McGee has been around the State Board for almost a decade in several capacities. She was an appointed member for eight years before joining Otter as his education adviser.

She left that job in May to become the board’s interim director. While she worked for the State Board, Otter, who campaigned for government accountability, sharply criticized the agency for its financial problems.In September, McGee resigned as executive director and asked to go back to work as an adviser in Otter’s office, where she still works.No mention was made at the time of her resignation about the payment. McGee said she did not leave the State Board because of Otter’s frustration over how the agency handled its money.

On Nov. 14, Otter budget chief Wayne Hammon wrote an internal memo to Otter, saying that McGee’s decision saddled her agency with a $1.4 million deficit.”This large payment made early in the fiscal year set them on a road of no return,” Hammon told the governor.That overspending forced the State Board to cancel the ninth-grade Idaho Standards Achievement Test in early December.

The crisis over the tests began in December 2006, when then-State Board Director Dwight Johnson decided to continue assessments for both second- and ninth-graders in a new ISAT testing contract with Data Recognition Corp.Tests in third through eighth grades and 10th-grade tests were required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, but the other two were not.”The federal grant did not cover all of the costs from the second- and ninth-grade tests,” Johnson said. “So if we wanted to continue the tests, we needed state resources.”

In May, Johnson resigned just as the budget crisis was brewing. That’s when McGee was named interim director.Two months later, in July, McGee approved the payment for bills from 2007 with her agency’s 2008 appropriation.

So, back to the present. Did Otter, who campaigned for government accountability, hold McGee accountable? Of course not:

Gov. Butch Otter is standing by an aide who helped plunge the State Board of Education into more than $1 million in debt while she served as the agency’s executive director. A spokesman for Otter, who campaigned on a theme of fiscal responsibility in government, says the governor thinks Karen McGee is an asset to his team.

McGee served on the State Board for eight years, then joined Otter’s staff as his education and health and welfare adviser. Last May, she left to be executive director of the State Board. After just a few months, though, she resigned from the State Board job and rejoined the governor’s office in September. She is now Otter’s liaison to the Department of Health and Welfare and the Office of Drug Policy.

McGee is not working with budgets or finances, said Mark Warbis, Otter’s communication’s director. “She’s doing a great job with health and welfare,” he said. McGee earned $108,000 a year in her work as the State Board’s executive director. She is making $59,987 in the governor’s office. As a State Board member, she was reimbursed for expenses and earned up to $50 per day on the days that the board met or that she attended meetings related to the agency.

State Board President Milford Terrell told lawmakers Monday that the board has balanced its budget and expanded an auditing committee’s role to look at expenditures within the board’s own office. But the deficit forced the board to cut ninth-grade testing and leave several jobs unfilled within the office. Near the end of McGee’s months as State Board director, Otter budget director Wayne Hammon sent a letter to the board citing agency financial problems and telling the board to review the work of its staff and “take whatever disciplinary actions (including removal) it believes are necessary.”

Rather than take budget director Hammon’s recommendation and remove McGee from his administration altogether, Otter retains her on his team. Why? One reasonable assumption is that McGee, like Tom Luna, shares Otter’s libertarian desire to do whatever is necessary to limit the impact of professional educators in Idaho.

While on the State Board, McGee was the driving force behind two policies that do just that- charter schools and the ABCTE alternate route to teacher certification (ABCTE certifies teachers based upon their having passed two standardized tests and is recognized in only four other states besides Idaho).

In fact, as the following exchange that occurred during her reconfirmation hearing before the Senate Education Committee in 2005 shows, she was the one who first introduced the ABCTE program to the State Board:

Senator Gannon- I understand that you are a big proponent of ABCTE, is that correct?

Ms. McGee- I was a big proponent of an alternative certification. I learned about ABCTE in Washington DC and brought that idea back to the board.

Senator Gannon- Does it give you any concern that teachers are not required to complete any classroom experience?

Ms. McGee- I am not concerned because of the mentoring and because the superintendent has the right to hire them or not. We have over 300 teachers who are teaching that aren’t certified but doing a great job, ABCTE is giving them the opportunity to go into the classroom.

Senator Gannon- Would you support legislation that would require them to have classroom experience for ABCTE?

Ms. McGee- At this point I would like to see any case for that. Research says that mentoring is a valuable tool for new teachers. The state board is big on accountability.

Senator Gannon- When you speak of mentoring are you referring to the mentoring of ABCTE which costs $200. Do you think they have much of mentoring program for $200.

Ms. McGee- I think through accountability we will be able to tell.

Well, the jury has been in on the ABCTE for quite some time and it certainly hasn’t proved to be accountable. It is corrupt, ineffectual and (except in Idaho) inconsequential. Whereas the rest of the country has realized that ABCTE is a fraud, Governor Otter continues to be a supporter and rewards McGee for her ideological loyalty.

Science in the Sunshine State

The anti-science creationists are continuing their state-by-state assault on evolution. Florida is currently revising the state standards for science and the strategy is to pass resolutions like the one below from Taylor County.

[W]e are requesting that the State Board of Education direct the Florida Department of Education to revise/edit the new Sunshine State Standards for Science so that evolution is presented as one of several theories as to how the universe was formed.

DarkSyde at Kos has the details:

One of several theories as to how the universe was formed? Good grief, could they be any more blatant in their scientific ignorance? Evolutionary biology examines how living things change over time, regardless of how the universe (Or the earth) ‘formed.’ Evo is about as relevant to the origin of the universe as geology.

Early indications are that many more counties in the Sunshine State have passed or are considering almost identical resolutions. The inference is that someone is shopping around an anti-science template to perhaps well meaning but nevertheless gullible school board members. . . if physical reality is something we could change merely by voting on it, why not vote big? How about “Resolved: Cancer is no longer a deadly disease and is instead less serious than a hangnail” or “We the undersigned hereby decree all people can travel faster than light anytime they want to”? If you can answer that question for cancer or relativity, you’ve answered it for evolutionary biology as well.

What does Margaret Spellings think about all of this?

For all the rhetoric about world-class standards and maintaining scientific supremacy in the world, you might think that the Bush Administration would have an opinion about this. Not so, according to the Miami Herald.

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who is visiting states to tout the benefits of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, stayed as far away as she could from the unfolding controversy in Florida over whether the word ”evolution” should be included in the state’s science standards for schools. The State Board of Education is expected to vote on the new weather science standards next month.

Spellings said it isn’t her job to make policy decisions and said it was up to people such as new Florida Education Commissioner Eric Smith.

When asked whether the nation’s top education official has a position on whether evolution should be a part of science standards, Spellings replied: “No, I don’t.”

We can look forward to this state-by-state strategy eventually making its way to Idaho. It is just a matter of time given the make-up of the current state board.