Month: January 2013

Godwin’s Law- Meet the Idaho State Legislature

dim-bulb Wow! the 2013 Idaho State Legislature is hardly underway and we feel the need to award our second Dim Bulb award of the season. Perhaps we should change the name to the Dim Chandelier award. That way we could include a cluster of Republican Dim Bulbs in just one award.

Most people who are aware of internet memes, have heard of Godwin’s Law. The idea originated with Mike Godwin in 1990. According to the web site, Know Your Meme:

Godwin’s Law is an internet adage that is derived from one of the earliest bits of Usenet wisdoms, which goes “if you mention Adolf Hitler or Nazis within a discussion thread, you’ve automatically ended whatever discussion you were taking part in.”

Which brings us to today’s Dim Bulb.

Nuxoll Senator Sheryl Nuxoll, Republican from Cottonwood. Nuxoll is convinced that Governor Otter’s proposed state health insurance exchange is socialism and sent out a mass e-mail and posted a message on Twitter to warn her constituents of the coming danger.

Never mind that the proposed state health insurance exchange is a boon for private insurers, or that the Idaho health insurance industry supports Otter’s plan, and never mind that the Federal Government will establish a federal based exchange which is certainly closer to dreaded socialism, Nuxoll believes insurance companies are being duped. Just like the Jews (Godwin alert! Godwin alert!) were tricked into boarding the trains taking them to the concentration camps, the insurance companies are being used by Führer Obama to take us down the road to Socialism. According to the Spokesman Review, Nuxoll’s e-mail was headed “Another Reason against the State Health Insurance Exchange” and said in full:

The insurance companies are creating their own tombs. Much like the Jews boarding the trains to concentration camps, private insurers are used by the feds to put the system in place because the federal government has no way to set up the exchange. Several years from now, the federal government will want nothing to do with private insurance companies. The feds will have a national system of health insurance and they will pull the trigger on the insurance companies.

As most Dim Bulbs end up doing, Nuxoll claimed she was misunderstood. She meant no disrespect to the Jews.

Nuxoll said she made the analogy because “I felt badly for the Jews – it wasn’t just Jews, but Jews, and Christians, and Catholics, and priests. My thing was they didn’t know what was going on. The insurance companies are not realizing what’s going to end up in their demise.”

According to Dan Popkey, Nuxoll is just a pawn in anti-Idaho run health care plan. The real leader of the opposition is the Senate Majority Caucus Chair, Senator Russ Fulcher. Fulcher, being a bit more politically savvy than Nuxoll avoids Godwin’s Law. Rather than using Holocaust analogies, Fulcher claims the “evil genius” of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is luring the private insurance industry’s support.

Writes Fulcher: “Part of the evil genius of PPACA is that it depends on the private insurance industry to put the exchange mechanism in place. Ironically the organizations pushing hardest to implement state-based exchanges (the insurance carriers) have the most to lose….”

Fulcher’s bottom line: “If you believe in the principles of socialism and turning over an INCREMENTAL 1/6 of the nation-wide GDP to the federal government (via healthcare), then you will want to support the state-based exchange.

“If you believe in the free market, capitalism, personal responsibility and liberty, you will NOT want to cooperate with a state-based exchange.”

Hmmm- at least two bulbs for our Dim Chandelier.
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Breaking News! Sheriff Plans on Upholding Constitution

It speaks volumes about the current gun control hysteria when a county sheriff states that he plans on upholding the Constitution and his statement is considered news. Ada County sheriff, Gary Raney, did exactly that in a “Reader’s View” editorial in the Idaho Statesman.

As an elected official and a sheriff, I have the great honor to take an oath of office. Very few occupations include the special pride that comes with the trust inherent in an oath of office, but mine does.

In that oath, I swore to uphold the Constitution and laws that we live under in this great nation. Those words were my promise that I would not use my own personal interests to decide what is right and wrong. I swore to work within our system of law and justice to fairly enforce what you, through your elected representatives in the Legislature and Congress, have decided should be the law of our land. Those laws are set upon a foundation of checks and balances, embodied in the separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.

When we forsake the law or disregard those checks and balances, we take the first step down the path towards anarchy.

I have been asked many times in the past couple of weeks whether I will uphold my oath to defend the Constitution and proclaim an intolerance of federal action against the Second Amendment.

Many others have indulged that pressure and now we see Oregon sheriffs, Wyoming legislators and others making hollow promises to protect you from the intrusions of the federal government. Let me respectfully remind you that we are the federal government, the state government and the local government.

I did not swear to uphold just part of the Constitution. Our Constitution includes the right to keep and bear arms, but it also includes the “supremacy clause” that says that every state shall abide by the laws passed by our Congress.

So, despite the fact that I personally oppose some of the gun control measures currently under consideration, my oath requires me to uphold the laws that are passed by our federal and state representatives.

When we disagree with those laws, the checks and balances built into our government point us toward the proper remedy: changing the laws or challenging them in the judicial branch. As to whether or not the president has the power to issue executive orders limiting our Constitutional rights, that is another matter to be decided by the Supreme Court, not by 44 different sheriffs in Idaho.

We live in the greatest society the world has ever seen and we enjoy that because of the founding principles our forefathers established in our Constitution. It would be hypocritical and irresponsible of me to forsake that Constitution and the wisdom of generations that have followed it.

I fear that passions have led people into a rally of mistruth. It is time we truly respect the Constitution and our system of justice. Regardless of your personal opinion on the Second Amendment, embrace everyone’s liberty and use our well-established process to pass laws and contest them.

Hollow promises and threats will only divert people from doing the right thing — honoring the truth and being involved in a process whereby our rights and liberties are protected by a respect of the law, not by rhetoric.

Raney’s statement is news because his position is in the minority among Idaho sheriffs. Consider, for example, Madison County Sheriff Roy Klingler.

President Obama introduced proposals for sweeping federal gun control. Klingler said ahead of that announcement, he had no reservations being outspoken against gun control legislation.

“I personally am sick and tired of the government putting regulations in place that affect our personal rights, our property rights and the Constitution,” said Klingler.

“I think these states passing these laws are out of control,” he said. On Wednesday, the White House will propose federal firearms control — something Klingler said he cannot support.

Or, the newly elected Canyon County Sheriff.

Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue says he won’t enforce any new federal firearms restrictions, joining a chorus of county sheriffs across the U.S. who have publicly denounced President Barack Obama’s executive orders.

As I pointed out in an earlier post,  the Idaho State Legislature is contemplating legislation, to be introduced by Senator Marv Hagedorn, revisiting the state’s ban on guns in schools and courthouses. Considering a recent event when a group of scouts visited the Capitol, I wonder if the Legislators might decide to follow through on plans to eliminate the ban on guns in schools and courthouses but reinstate a ban where their own personal safety is a concern.

A man with a handgun used a tour for Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts as cover to inspect legislators’ desks and reach into a waste bin on the House floor.

Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill said: “To think that somebody is bold enough to have followed these children around with a sidearm in plain sight — who is also bold enough to go through trash cans, take pictures of representatives’ desks and shuffle their papers — all of that created a great deal of concern.”

As a result, public access to the House and Senate chambers has been suspended on weekends and after 6 p.m. weekdays, though the Capitol remains open until 10 p.m.

The man attached himself to an evening tour led by freshman Rep. James Holtzclaw, R-Meridian, who had been asked by a constituent to show the Cubs and Scouts around. “I thought he was a parent,” Holtzclaw said, noting that the troop leader assumed the man was a security officer because of his gun.

The man’s identity is unknown. He left the Capitol after an unarmed guard confronted him. The man said something like, “If I’m not being arrested or detained, I don’t have to answer your questions.”

Guns and long knives were banned in the Capitol from 1996 to 2008 by executive order. Gov. Butch Otter let the order expire, citing a 2008 law in which the Legislature said it had exclusive power to regulate guns in Idaho.

Signs were erected outside the House and Senate galleries after the 2012 Occupy protests. They list prohibitions: food, drinks, men wearing hats, signs, sitting on rails, cellphones, distracting noises. Bags are subject to search. But there is no firearm ban.

The unknown man was obeying the law. He was “carrying”, but left his hat outside the Capitol. Once they reinstate the firearm ban in the Capitol, we can file this under “political hypocrisy”.

Vision of Climate Change

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There are certain photographs that become iconic. They engender an immediate connection with an event, tragic or triumphant. They put the event in human terms, often showing a family, as in Dorothea Lang’s iconic photograph of Florence Owens Thompson and her children.  The photo became the most famous image of the Great Depression in the United States.  It has become an iconic image of resilience in the face of adversity.

See here for a list of 27 photos that also fit the description. Perhaps the most famous compilation is Life Magazine’s 100 photographs that changed the world.

I started thinking about other events or phenomena that might engender an iconic image for  future generations. Climate change is just such a phenomena. We appear to be at the point, finally, where it is generally understood that a scientific consensus has been reached identifying human activity as the major cause of climate change.

There is an overwhelming level of scientific consensus on human-caused climate change. Over 95% of actively publishing climate scientists agree that the earth is warming and that human activity is the cause. In spite of this agreement, only about 50% the general public think that scientists have reached a consensus on human-caused climate change. Two sources of the discrepancy are the unbalanced portrayal of the situation in the media, and the Manufactured Doubt Industry.

James Lawrence Powell did a meta-study of almost 14,000 peer reviewed scientific papers written from 1991 to November 2012. His pie-chart says it all.

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Of course, there are still morons like Henry Paine of National Review who, as part of the “manufactured doubt” industry, intentionally confuse climate with weather, but when, in his inaugural address, President Obama called for America to lead the world’s response to the threat of climate change, it became clear that it is time to find an iconic image worthy of Dorothea Lang.

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.

Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But American cannot resist this transition. We must lead it.

I am sure there are hundreds of photographs that could serve, but, for me,  the first image that came to mind was of the Holmes family huddled in the water as the Tasmanian wildfire raged around them.

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I feel that this picture has that same emotional impact as Lange’s photograph. It depicts a family, in this case a grandmother and her grandchildren, clinging to each other- resilience in the face of adversity.

What I find most amazing is that, unlike the posed Lang photograph, this picture was taken by the children’s grandfather in real time.

Here is how the UK’s Guardian newspaper described the photo.

These stunning pictures of five young children and their grandmother huddled together under a jetty in the Tasmanian town of Dunalley were captured by their grandfather Tim Holmes. The family was forced to stay in the water for several hours as homes around them were razed to the ground. The pictures, taken on 4 January have just been released

A Tale of Three Headlines

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When Raul Labrador decided to challenge John Boehner’s re-election as Speaker, he effectively eliminated any influence he might have hoped to have representing Idaho in Congress. Of course, Labrador is just one more in a long line of Idaho Congressmen whose behavior so marginalized them that they were pretty much impotent. As I stated after his vote against the fiscal cliff legislation, Labrador has been neutered.

What does this mean for Labrador’s political career? Well, three headlines this week tell the story.  First, this headline from “The Hill”.

Boehner defector Rep. Labrador won’t talk about his vote for Speaker  

The second-term lawmaker told The Hill he’s “not talking to the press” on his rationale behind not voting. He was among 12 House Republicans who didn’t back Boehner.

The Tea Party favorite, who also refused to comment when The Hill asked him right after the early January vote, said he hopes his pointed refusal to discuss the Speaker votes would help him smooth things over with GOP leaders.

“John Boehner is my Speaker at this point and I want him to be successful,” he said. “One of the reasons I did what I did is I want my party to be successful, strong and do what we were elected to do. This is absolutely one issue where we’ll work together.”

Unfortunately for Labrador, his “no comment” came a little too late. The senior Idaho Congressman from Idaho, Mike Simpson, did a have a comment, and it wasn’t favorable to Labrador. In what the Idaho Statesman called a “rare public feud” between Idaho Congressmen, Simpson called Labrador’s vote against Boehner “irresponsible”. The headline in the Statesman read,

Mike Simpson rips Raul Labrador for trying to oust Boehner as Speaker

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson says fellow Republican Rep. Raul Labrador has forever undermined his effectiveness with an “irresponsible” role in plotting to defeat GOP House Speaker John Boehner.

“I think there are 15 or 16 members of our conference that have substantially lost credibility,” said Simpson, one of Boehner’s closest friends in the House.

Labrador was one of three leaders among conservatives upset with Boehner, R-Ohio, for making the Jan. 1 fiscal cliff deal. The dissidents tried to muster enough Republican votes to slow down or stop re-election of Boehner as speaker. They called off their plan a half-hour before the Jan. 3 vote.

Customarily, combatants put aside their differences once the majority picks a leader behind closed doors, joining their party mates for a unanimous public vote on the House floor.

But Labrador let his disloyalty be known publicly as one of 12 Republicans who either didn’t vote for Boehner or didn’t vote at all. Labrador twice ignored the clerk calling his name — and even received one vote to be speaker from fellow ringleader Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich.

“He just didn’t vote,” Simpson said, shaking his head in anger. “Which, as anyone who’s ever been in a legislative body will tell you, you got one thing going for you and that’s your credibility. And once you lose that credibility it’s gone and it’s gone forever.”

Wow! Labrador’s credibility is gone forever!  That sounds like Labrador’s political career is over, but not so fast. His credibility in Washington may be gone, but to his Tea Party constituents back in Idaho, he has just reinforced their belief that he is a man of principle. Which leads us to the last headline.

Labrador mulling race for Idaho governor, but insists he’s not decided

Hmmm- that is exactly what an ineffectual Idaho Congressman did eight years ago. Yes, Clement Leroy “Butch” Otter’s career path took him to the Governorship after two terms as an ineffectual Congressman who initiated zero legislation.

Otter will be 72 when his second term is over and it is likely that he will not run again. Thus, the door is open for Labrador.

The Idaho Legislature Joins the Former Confederacy and the Wild West

The New York Times has a pretty straightforward editorial today that points out the motives of state legislatures passing laws to block Federal law concerning firearms.

State lawmakers in Wyoming didn’t need to hear President Obama’s gun-control proposals on Wednesday in order to attack them. A week ago, before the White House had even decided what actions to take, Republicans introduced a bill in the Wyoming Legislature to block any federal limitation on firearms, such as an assault weapons ban. A federal agent seeking to enforce such a ban would be guilty of a felony and face five years in prison.

This ludicrous bill would be laughable if the idea weren’t spreading. A similar bill filed in Tennessee would also make federal gun enforcement a state crime, though it’s more “moderate” than Wyoming’s: federal agents doing their jobs would be charged only with Class A misdemeanors. Inevitably, a bill like Wyoming’s has been filed in Texas. And, in Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant announced that the state would block federal gun measures. A proposed law in the state would claim that Washington has no jurisdiction over weapons made in Mississippi.

There’s no point in telling these fanatics that federal gun restrictions are completely constitutional, even under the Supreme Court’s latest interpretation of the Second Amendment, or that federal law pre-empts state law. They already know these bills will be unenforceable. They are merely legislative fist-shaking, letting pro-gun voters know that lawmakers share their antipathy to the Obama administration, and signaling to the National Rifle Association and other gun-manufacturing lobbies that they are worthy recipients of rich political contributions.

Already, states like these have done enormous damage to public safety by acceding to the N.R.A.’s demands for laws that are anything but symbolic. The gun lobby hasn’t been content with the ability of Americans to lawfully possess hundreds of millions of handguns and assault rifles. It wants gun owners to be able to carry these weapons anywhere they want, even among children, concealed or displayed, and preferably without the annoyance of permits, background checks, or safety precautions.

After the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, the N.R.A. defied logic and pushed a bill to allow guns on college campuses. Thanks to help from the American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative organization of state lawmakers to which the N.R.A. contributes heavily, five states now allow campus guns. Only nine states prohibit guns at sporting events, and just 26 prohibit them where alcohol is served.

Wisconsin actually allows guns in the public gallery that looks down on the state assembly, and the N.R.A. pressured lawmakers last week to keep it that way. The N.R.A. and the American Legislative Exchange Council were behind the “stand your ground” laws that allow people to shoot others if they believe they are in danger, which has led to hundreds of deaths while allowing killers to walk free.

State gun laws matter. Of the 10 states with the most restrictive laws, seven also have the lowest gun death rates, according to a study by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Similarly, lax gun laws correlate to a high level of gun deaths.

That’s why it’s good to see several states step up to their responsibilities to prevent violence instead of following the southern and western states that appear to be encouraging it. New York was out front this week in passing a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, among other measures. A similar ban is moving ahead in Illinois. New Jersey and Connecticut are moving more slowly, appointing task forces to make recommendations, but are at least heading in the right direction.

California is considering legislation that would limit sales of ammunition, requiring background checks and permits for bullet buyers. Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, the site of so much carnage, has reversed his opposition to new restrictions, proposing universal background checks as well as an overhaul of the state mental health system to identify those who should be kept away from weapons.

Still, too many states continue to put their citizens at risk as they pledge ever-greater fealty to the gun manufacturers. It’s time the states became laboratories for safety rather than violence.

Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman explains how the Idaho Legislature plans to deal with the   “Panic” caused by the fear that Obama will come for our guns!

In one of the most Second Amendment-friendly legislatures in America, the pressure to respond to the Connecticut school massacre and President Barack Obama’s gun control ideas has prompted a flurry of behind-the-scenes action.

Compounding the interest is the largest freshman class in Idaho history — a group eager to address constituent concerns.

To manage the flow of legislation, House Speaker Scott Bedke has informally assigned a point person, Republican Rep. Judy Boyle of Midvale, a former volunteer lobbyist for the NRA who helped pass Idaho’s conceal-carry law in 1990.

“I don’t want a bunch of redundant bills,” Bedke said Thursday. “I want the common themes consolidated into individual bills. Put the ideas in the arena, let’s do the research and let’s have the debate.”

Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, who authored a failed 2011 bill to allow guns on college campuses, is leading a similar effort in the Senate and working with Gov. Butch Otter’s chief of staff, David Hensley.

Hagedorn said he’s exploring two legislative avenues: school safety and protection of gun rights. “Do we have holes we need to fix, along with what we’re doing for the schools?” he said.

Boyle said she’s received about 150 emails and uncounted phone calls and text messages urging her to act immediately. Meanwhile, she said, talk radio is ablaze with callers saying, “What’s the Legislature doing? They’re doing nothing!”

“I think we’re all getting the same kind of emails of panic,” Boyle said Thursday. “They’re scared, really scared, about losing their guns, or their right to purchase a gun or ammunition, or any component to make their ammunition.”

Boyle said she hopes to gather the proposals into several bills in about two weeks, and urges both lawmakers and constituents to be patient.

“Mostly it’s the freshmen, worried because their constituents are and they don’t know what to say to them and they want to react quick,” Boyle said. “The people who are worried are students of history — they have seen what Hitler did, what has happened in countries that disarm people.”

But Boyle called for a “measured approach” that will pass court tests and “truly protect not just children but all citizens from crazy people.”

Bedke and Hagedorn said they prefer the word “concerned” rather than “panic” to describe public sentiment.

“But if you look around enough, I’m sure you can find panic,” said Bedke, R-Oakley. “I’m certainly concerned.”

Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, didn’t designate Hagedorn as a Senate gatekeeper but said he’s pleased Hagedorn is leading on the issue. “There are very few people I’d feel more comfortable with,” he said.

Hagedorn said he won’t revive his guns-on-campus bill because it was strongly opposed by university presidents and would be a distraction.

But Hagedorn said it’s time to revisit the state’s ban on guns in schools and courthouses. “One of the things we need to consider is if a person today has a right to protect themselves and carry a gun, when they go into a gun-free zone is there a liability on the state to then take over that protection?”

Boyle said she’s consulting police officials and has determined that arming school employees and providing advanced training for violent emergencies is a top priority.

“It’s one thing to carry a gun and it’s another when you have some crazy person coming at you. Police are trained on that, so that’s why they’ve been helping us,” she said.

Idaho’s 115 school districts would be able to decide whether to arm employees, but the legal incentive to do so would be high, Boyle said.

“They’re going to have to take responsibility. If they’re not going to accept protection for those students, they’re going to have to accept the liability that they haven’t done that,” she said.

The one line in the article that explains exactly the direction the legislature will take is this: “To manage the flow of legislation, House Speaker Scott Bedke has informally assigned a point person, Republican Rep. Judy Boyle of Midvale, a former volunteer lobbyist for the NRA who helped pass Idaho’s conceal-carry law in 1990”.

Mendive- “Maybe it was a poor illustration”

Yesterday I predicted that “Dim Bulb” Idaho Republican Rep. Ron Mendive’s stupid remarks comparing abortion and prostitution would get national attention. Sure enough, the Associated Press picked it up

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and added Mendive’s defense,

Mendive, who was first elected to the Legislature last year, said he posed the question because he was incensed by what he believes is a double standard.
“It was just a question,” he said. “I do believe it’s a double standard.”
Prostitution is a choice “more so than an abortion would be,” he said.
“Because (in an abortion) there’s two beating hearts. And then there’s one,” Mendive said.
Mendive said he didn’t intend to trivialize human trafficking, but he still stressed that he believes prostitution is often a choice that a woman makes about what she does with her own body. Asked if he stood by his words, however, he conceded, “Maybe it was a poor illustration.”

It didn’t take long for responses like this one from Natasha Burton at Cosmopolitan,

Well, here’s your daily WTF?! moment.

At a presentation held by the American Civil Liberties Union, Idaho representative Ron Mendive, R-Coeur d’Alene, asked ACLU reps if their pro-abortion stance also means that they support prostitution. You know, because those things are so much alike.

Apparently, his (flawed) reasoning behind his query was that both abortion and prostitution are choices women make in regards to their bodies. Except that, he says, in the case of abortion, there are “two beating hearts” involved, whereas in prostitution there is only one. Thank you, sir, for that helpful analysis.

This isn’t the first time that an Idaho lawmaker has seriously shoved his foot into his mouth when it comes to women’s reproductive rights. Last year, Senator Chuck Winder told the Senate: “I would hope that when a woman goes into a physician with a rape issue, that that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage, or was it truly caused by a rape.” Seriously, dude? Wow. (Winder later claimed that he was “misunderstood.”)

Honestly, what is it with these guys? And why do they keep getting elected into major positions of power?

Well, I am not sure Mendive holds a “major position of power”, but other than that she is exactly right- what is up with these guys?  They always claim to be shocked at the reaction to their outlandish statements. Part of the reason is that they live in an echo chamber of right wing wackos and religious extremists. Their idiocy is reinforced by their circle of like minded idiots.

The Republican Party’s political advisers are starting to take notice of the serial stupidity of “these guys” when it comes to discussing rape. At the strategy planning get-together of House Republicans in Williamsburg, VA this week, GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway gave some blunt advise to the Congressmen, quit talking about rape.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — It’s way past time: House Republicans need to stop talking about rape.That’s the message GOP lawmakers got here Wednesday evening from Kellyanne Conway, a top GOP pollster. Conway dispensed the stern advice as part of a polling presentation she made alongside fellow GOP pollsters David Winston — an adviser to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — and Dave Sackett. The comment was described by several sources in the room. Conway said rape is a “four-letter word,” and Republicans simply need to stop talking about it in their races for office.

That advice ought to apply to all women’s issues: rape, abortion, contraception, etc. Those Republican “guys” need to realize that the only politically savvy thing for them to do is to shut up.

Dim Bulb Award 2013

lightbulbAha! The Idaho Legislature is back in session, so it is time to dust off the Dim Bulb Award. The Dim Bulb Award is an RNWMV tradition. It is an award that I give out to any worthy member of the Legislature who has, through word or action, reached the acceptable level of abject stupidity. What is my standard for stupidity? Well, as I said in 2009, ” . . . to win the award run-of-the-mill dimness won’t do. Winners must not only display jaw dropping ignorance, but they must also have such a complete lack the self-awareness they have no sense of shame, and, in fact, revel in their dimness”.

So, our first Dim Bulb of the 2013 legislative session is Rep. Ron Mendive, Republican from Coeur d’Alene. Mendive keeps the Republican winning streak alive. Since the first Dim Bulb was awarded in 2007, every honoree has been a Republican.

RMendive

What did Mendive do to deserve this honor? Boise Television station KTVB’s Capitol Watch has an article today entitled “N. Idaho lawmaker compares abortion and prostitution”. The headline alone tells you that what follows will be dim bulb worthy.

The stupidity came Wednesday during a legislative breakfast on criminal justice reform sponsored by the Idaho branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.

According to the Article,

[Mendive] drew audible gasps when he asked representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union-Idaho if their pro-abortion rights stance also means that they support prostitution.

Rep. Ron Mendive, R-Coeur d’Alene, made the comparison Wednesday morning during a legislative breakfast presentation held by the ACLU on criminal justice reform and other issues.

Mendive asked the organization’s executive director, Monica Hopkins, if she felt the ALCU should support prostitution since it supports a woman’s right to choose abortion. Mendive then said that prostitution is also “a woman’s choice.”

Hopkins said a woman’s right to reproductive health care is constitutionally protected, while prostitution is illegal. She also reminded Mendive that prostitution is not always a choice, noting that legislation targeting human trafficking may be presented during the legislative session.

Every time a Republican decides to pontificate about abortion or a “woman’s right to choose”, you can rest assured the results will be cringe worthy and likely to catch the attention of the national media. Consider, for example, the 2010 legislative session when Idaho State Senator Chuck Winder (Republican, of course) introduced one more doomed-to-be-unconstitutional piece of legislation. His remarks on the Senate floor got the immediate attention of The Huffington Post, resulting in him becoming a national laughing stock. The chances are high that Dim Bulb Mendive’s comments will also go “national”.

The Episode of the Platinum Coin

We first began to hear of the $1 Trillion Platinum Coin solution to the debt ceiling earlier this month from people like Joe Weisnethal at The Business Insider. Soon there was speculation from commentators at staid, reliable sources like The EconomistThe Atlantic, and The New Yorker.   The idea was that there was an obscure law that would effectively permit the Secretary of the Treasury to bypass the debt ceiling by minting its own money. Most of the discussion was about the legality of it all. It turned out that it was, in fact, legal.

The Secretary [of the Treasury] may mint and issue platinum bullion coins and proof platinum coins in accordance with such specifications, designs, varieties, quantities, denominations, and inscriptions as the Secretary, in the Secretary’s discretion, may prescribe from time to time.

Now, if we still lived in a world of print journalism, the Platinum Coin solution might have remained an interesting idea. Not an idea to be taken seriously, however.

Of course, in the world of instantaneous internet communication what really happened is that the Platinum Coin story went viral and all sorts of people, including Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman,  were taking it very seriously. In fact, Krugman attacked comedian Jon Stewart for not taking the idea seriously followed by Stewart attacking Krugman for attacking him….
The whole farce ran its course when the Obama Administration was forced to state officially that it rejected the $1 Trillion Platinum coin solution.

The roller coaster ride that was the “episode of the platinum coin” is instructive. Ideas are floated, commented upon, and either accepted or rejected before most of us have had a chance to digest them, let alone think deeply about them. And, who do we look to for reliable information: a Nobel Prize winning Economist, or a comedian, or any of the other “voices” available to us on-line? I did a Google search for “the trillion dollar solution” and got 88,700,00 results in .19 seconds.

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A search for “Platinum Coin Debt Ceiling” resulted in 74,700,00 hits in .25 seconds.

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What do I do with that information glut? Back in the days of the Progressive Era there were journalists who served as “muckrakers”, exposing social ills to the general public. If public outcry reached a critical mass, legislation would result. But, the process would take years. Today the outcry is practically instantaneous and policy makers are forced to rush to judgement.
Update:  A colleague sent me this:
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The Federal Reserve, several decades ago, authorized the printing a $100,000 bill with Woodrow Wilson on the face. This bill wasn’t meant for public consumption. Instead, it was used by the Federal Reserve to settle internal accounts among government agencies and its member banks. It sounds like the same idea as the Platinum coin, just a different denomination. I guess even the craziest ideas are not new.

Standardized Test Boycott

education over everything

I think this might be unprecedented. The whole staff of a high school refuses to administer a state required standardized test. The teachers at Garfield High in Seattle, Washington have voted to support a boycott of the required “MAPS” test. Soon after, the teachers at Ballard High school agreed to join the boycott.

Opponents of the nation’s relentless push for standardized testing in public schools have new champions in Seattle this week as teachers at one high school and now another have refused to issue such exams to their students, calling them a waste of “time and money” amid “dwindling school resources.”

The entire teaching faculty at Garfield High School (with only three abstentions) voted to support a boycott against administering the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) this week or ever again. Garfield is the largest of thirteen high schools in the Seattle Public School (SPS) system.

In a press release, Kris McBride, Garfield’s academic dean and testing coordinator, said the test “produces specious results, and wreaks havoc on limited school resources” during the weeks the test is administered.

On Friday, teachers at Ballard High School said they would join the boycott as well. National support for the teachers was also growing online, as a petition circulated and a facebook page for the teachers materialized.

Following some fear that the Garfield teachers could face disciplinary action, well-known education policy expert Diane Ravitch was among those using social media to garner additional support for their cause on Saturday

If you would like to support these teachers, you can sign the petition here.

Rheeform Fail Part II

rhee

As described in the Frontline documentary, Michelle Rhee was forced to leave as Washington D.C. School Chancellor, after doing her best to privatize schools, attack teachers with punitive “assessment” and destroy collective bargaining. Because of her destructive policies, she became the darling of those right wing advocates of “school Reform”. Her lobbying group, “StudentsFirst” was a rousing financial success and she funneled that money into state level campaigns nationwide. According to Daniel Denvir of Slate, reporting right after the election:

Nov. 6 was a good day for Michelle Rhee. The former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor, through her organization StudentsFirst, poured money into state-level campaigns nationwide, winning 86 of 105 races and flipping a net 33 seats to advocates of so-called school reform, a movement that advocates expanding privately run public charter schools, weakening teachers’ unions, increasing the weight of high-stakes standardized tests and, in some cases, using taxpayer dollars to fund private tuition through vouchers as the keys to improving public education.

Rhee makes a point of applauding “leaders in both parties and across the ideological spectrum” because her own political success — and the success of school reform — depends upon the bipartisan reputation she has fashioned. But 90 of the 105 candidates backed by StudentsFirst were Republicans, including Tea Party enthusiasts and staunch abortion opponents. And Rhee’s above-the-fray bona fides have come under heavy fire as progressives and teachers unions increasingly cast the school reform movement, which has become virtually synonymous with Rhee’s name, as politically conservative and corporate-funded.

StudentsFirst didn’t have to spend much money in Idaho because the “Luna Laws”, Students Come First, were (as the similar title indicates) directly out of Rhee’s preferred policy manual, and funded by outside corporate dollars. The Idaho legislature passed the Luna Laws, but the Idaho voters rejected them in what Diane Ravitch described as a “stunning defeat”.

Voters in Idaho gave Mitt Romney a landslide  but simultaneously voted overwhelmingly to repeal the “Luna Laws,” the brainchild of state superintendent Tom Luna.

This stunning victory for public education demonstrates that not even red-state Republicans are prepared to privatize public education and dismantle the teaching profession.

The Luna Laws imposed a mandate for online courses for high school graduates (a favorite of candidates funded by technology companies), made test scores the measure of teacher quality, provided bonuses for teachers whose students got higher scores, removed all teacher rights, eliminated anything resembling tenure or seniority, turned teachers into at-will employees, and squashed the teachers’ unions.

The campaign to support the Luna laws was heavily funded by technology entrepreneurs and out-of-state supporters of high-stakes testing and restrictions on the teaching profession, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The voters in this reddest of red states overturned all three of the Luna laws (which he called “Students Come First”; anything in which children or students or kids come “first” is a clear tip-off to the divisive intent of the program).

The Republican dominated Legislature and the Idaho School Boards Association, however,  are determined to ignore the voice of the people and implement as much of the Luna Laws as they can get away with. According to the Spokesman Review:

Idaho voters rejected a rollback in teachers’ collective bargaining rights in the November election, but the state’s school boards association is gearing up to try to put some of the same provisions right back into Idaho’s laws.

“We really tried to focus on the things that the trustees felt were most important to them, and to leave the rest of it alone,” said Karen Echeverria, executive director of the Idaho School Boards Association. “We hoped that the union would support at least parts of this – we know they won’t be able to support all of it.”

Among the provisions the school boards group wants to revive: A June 10 deadline by which, if districts haven’t reached agreements with their local teachers unions, they can just impose contract terms unilaterally. At least 16 Idaho school districts did that this year.

“It’s Proposition 1 right back up there again,” said Maria Greeley, a Boise school trustee who opposed the resolution at last month’s state school boards association conference. “I’m not saying that everything in it is bad. … The one piece that concerns me the most is that deadline, because it gives districts the opportunity to abuse the negotiation process. It doesn’t make them come in and do the tough work of working through it.”

As for Michelle Rhee and StudentsFirst (more accurately- CorperationsFirst), the latest publicity stunt is the state-by-state “Report Card” released this week. Doug Henwood calls the Report Card for what it is- self-promoting crap:

StudentsFirst, the school “reform” outfit led by the notorious Michelle Rhee, is out with a state-by-state Report Card on the nation’s schools. Grades were awarded on the basis of states’ conformity to the standard reform agenda—ease of creating charter schools, ease of firing teachers, ease of hiring teachers who aren’t certified in the traditional fashion, and testing testing testing. In the past, there’s never been any evidence that this agenda actually improves educational outcomes—and this report is no exception. Despite Rhee’s love of testing, there’s no mention of how states that do well under her criteria do on standardized tests compared to those that score poorly. That’s no surprise, really, since states that get high grades from StudentsFirst do worse on tests than those that score poorly.

Note the irony here. Rhee’s mantra is teacher/school accountability based upon student test  scores, but she doesn’t even consider standardized test scores in rating the states. When Henwood compares state student test scores with the Rhee’s “grades”, there is a strong negative correlation. The higher the student test scores, the lower the grade.

Rhee’s group gave letter grades to each state, along with a GPA that allowed them to be ranked from 1 to 51. (DC counts as a state here.) No state got a grade higher than a B-, and only two states made that grade. Eleven states got an F. Tough! But do these grades mean anything?

To evaluate the StudentsFirst grades, I got 8th grade reading and math scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, aka NAEP, the Nation’s Report Card. Testing can be a debased pursuit when it’s used to measure individual schools and teachers (sample sizes are just too small, and there’s too much statistical noise from year to year to base anything on), but the NAEP is as good as they come for measuring broad trends.

Here are the results. StudentsFirst has Louisiana at #1 in its rankings—but the state ranks 49th in reading and 47th in math. North Dakota, which StudentsFirst ranks 51st, comes in at #14 in reading scores and #7 in math. Massachusetts, which ranks #1 in both reading and math scores (and which is also the most unionized state for teachers in the country), comes in at #14 on the Rhee scale.

Looking more rigorously at the results, the correlation coefficient on the rankings in the StudentsFirst report card with state rankings on reading scores is -0.20. (The correlation coefficient is a measure of the similarity of two sets of numbers, ranging from -1.0, completely dissimilar, to +1.0, perfect similarity.) That’s not a large number, but the negative sign means that the correlation is in the wrong direction: the higher the StudentsFirst score, the lower the NAEP reading score. The correlation on math is even worse, -0.25.

If you group the states by their StudentsFirst grades and look at the average test scores and rankings, you can understand why Rhee & Co. didn’t bother to get into outcomes. The two states that got B-’s did almost 8 points worse on math than those that got F’s, and over 9 points worse on reading. The B- states were toward the bottom of the rankings, and the F were above the middle. (And yes, 22-45 is -23, not -22, as the table suggests; the difference is a result of rounding.)

StudentsFirst grades and NAEP 2011 test results, 8th grade
Rhee              NAEP scores           NAEP ranks
grades          reading    math       reading    math
B-             258.4     275.3        42        45
C+             257.3     276.1        37        34
C-             263.8     282.0        29        31
D+             268.3     286.8        18        21
D              263.5     283.3        30        26
D-             266.2     285.0        23        24
F              266.2     284.8        22        22

F less B-        7.8       9.5       -20       -22