Idaho

Lack of Minority Students in Idaho Charters

Guest Editorial by Levi Cavener

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Levi B Cavener is a special education teacher in Caldwell, Idaho. He also manages the education blog IdahosPromise.Org

Time to Fix Idaho’s Charter Schools

60 years ago this month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education. On May 17, 1954, the High Court ruled unanimously that U.S. public schools must be desegregated, that separate school systems for blacks and whites are inherently unequal and a violation of the “equal protection clause” of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.

It’s now more than a half century later. Here, we have Idaho.

On April 29, 2015, the Idaho Public Charter School Commission released their first ever Annual Report. A damning self-indictment, it paints a painfully grim picture for minority student enrollment in Idaho’s public charter schools. The Commission’s comprehensive report was unequivocal in its findings: Idaho charter schools are consistently and disproportionately unreflective of their surrounding communities’ demographics.

A few takeaways from the report: 55% of Idaho charters under enroll Special Education students; 77% of charters under enroll Free and Reduced Lunch students; 87% under enroll Limited English Proficiency students; and 90% under enroll non-white students. What does this mean? It means Idaho has reversed course and is heading back to 1955, back to the Civil Rights era, and back to schools that are both separate and unequal. It means, apparently, “white flight”?

Beyond a moral and legal argument to ensure equity in public charter schools, here’s why every property owner in Idaho should care about the Commission’s recent findings: When public charter schools fail to share an equitable burden for providing expensive minority student services — such as special education and English Language Learner instruction — local public schools end up enrolling a disproportionate number of these students. Local public schools are then forced to levy property owners to pay for expensive minority instruction and support.

While some may point to the current imbalance as merely a byproduct of so called “school choice,” the Commission’s findings should, at minimum, create pause to ensure that charter facilities are actually “a choice” for minority student populations. Remember, Jim Crow laws and segregated schools were also a product of active policy “choices” by lawmakers.

Remember, the bargain that charters made with Idaho is enhanced instructional freedom in order to experiment with new pedagogy and curriculum. However, that bargain also requires charters to provide equitable access and appropriate minority service instruction as required by civil rights law, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Terry Ryan, President of the Idaho Charter School Network (the lobbying arm of Idaho’s charters), recently wrote an op-ed declaring that the solution to this inequity problem is…wait for it…to build more charters! Said Mr. Ryan, “The best way to help charter schools serve more diverse populations is to help them grow.” Throw more money at the problem. Where have we heard this before?

Idaho Ed News reported that Idaho Charter Commission Chairman Alan Reed said of the report’s findings, “Before approving new charters, we ask petitioners, ‘What are your strategies for reaching special and underserved populations?’”

Chairman Reed’s question should be modified: Before approving any new charters we need to fix the imbalance that exists today. After all, shouldn’t minority students be entitled to the same freedom and legal opportunity “to choose” charters as any other kiddo?

It’s time for a moratorium on any new charters until we address this chronic imbalance. It’s time we fully recognize that regular public schools are shouldering the heavy burden of educating special education, minority and low income student populations. And it’s past time that funding for Idaho charter schools be withheld until they can demonstrate they are following the law.

 

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Those Darn Kids!

BrandiCensorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself.
–Supreme Court Justice, Potter Stewart (1915—1985)

Brandy Kissel, a junior at Mountain View High School in Meridian, Idaho managed to demonstrate a maturity and initiative lacking in her “elders”.  Her story started when a minority of parents, fearful of the world and intent on keeping their children “innocent” of the evils of this world, complained to the Meridian School District about a book on the District’s reading list, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian”, by Sherman Alexie.

Alexie’s book is a masterpiece. Published in 2007, it won the National Book Award and has become very popular with young teens and English teachers for its universal themes of fitting in, making sense of race, and sexual discovery. It was the sex and supposedly anti-Christian content that led a small group of vocal parents to demand the School Board remove it from the supplemental reading list. As so frequently happens in this era of “parental choice”, the School Board meekly gave in to the parents and voted to remove the book.

At that point, it was a story of fear and failure. Adults who feared their own children. Adults with power who lacked the courage to stand up against unwarranted censorship. The National Coalition Against Censorship immediately called on the Meridian School Board to reverse its decision.

The book is widely taught in high schools across the country because of its appeal to reluctant readers. The novel addresses vital issues such as the struggles of young adulthood, the search for personal identity, bullying and poverty. It is ultimately an uplifting story of triumph by a boy with few advantages… [Removing the novel] because some object to, or disapprove of, its content violates basic constitutional principles under the First Amendment… school officials have much wider discretion to include material that has pedagogical value than to exclude it.

This is where Brandy Kissel enters the picture. She and fellow students at the school started a petition to have the book reinstated. They quickly collected 350 signatures, which is an impressive number of young people to rally around a cause like reading.  The story might have ended there, but two women read about the censorship and the response of the students and decided to start a crowdfunding campaign to buy a book for each of the 350 kids who signed the petition. The campaign raised $3,400, enough for a book per kid.  

According to one of the young women, Sara Baker,

Jen & I read about the Meridian School District’s decision to remove True Diary from the supplemental reading list despite 350 students having signed a petition to keep it. We love the book and wanted to share it with the students who were obviously disappointed with the school board’s decision. We started the book drive with the help of a teacher and a librarian in Meridian, and the expectation that we might only get 25-30 books. Needless to say, we got quite a few more than that! We partnered with Rediscovered Bookshop- an indie bookseller in Boise- to purchase the books at a good price through the publisher.

Rediscovered Books worked with Brady and the other students who started the petition to distribute the books on World Book Night, an initiative to provide reluctant young readers with free, engaging, books to read. They distributed all but 20 of the books to kids who came in to claim them, but not before parents called the cops to shut down the operation. Police told local news channel KBOI they had been called by “someone concerned about teenagers picking up a copy of the book without having a parent’s permission.” The police examined the books, found nothing wrong going on, and let the book giveaway proceed as planned. KBOI asked the students for comments about Alexie’s book.

“I didn’t find it offensive at all, in fact there’s a lot more raunchy stuff that kids look up online,” said Mindy Hackler, a junior. “This is really nothing. ”

“There’s a paragraph right here where it has some sexual content,” Kissel said. “But, if you look at it, it’s a paragraph this big in a 230 page book.” That page reads ‘If God hadn’t wanted us to masturbate, then God wouldn’t have given us thumbs.”

Not only did the World Book Night distribution go as planned, but when Alexie’s publisher Hachette got word of the incident, they sent Rediscovered an additional 350 copies on the house. So while the book may still be banned in the school curriculum, it was available free of cost for any kid who wanted to stop into Rediscovered Bookshop and pick one up.

In case you think fearful Idaho school boards might learn something from the Mountain View students, there is this headline from North Idaho-  CdA school committee proposes restricting Steinbeck book.

Mary Jo Finney thinks one of the novellas Coeur d’Alene high school students read is unworthy of its standing as an American classic.

“The story is neither a quality story nor a page turner,” Finney said of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.”

Finney and three other members of a district curriculum-review committee have recommended “Of Mice and Men” be pulled from classroom instruction and made available only on a voluntary, small-group basis in ninth grade English classes. The school board will vote on the recommendation next month.

Its use of profanity – “bastard,” for instance, and “God damn” – makes the 1937 book unsuitable for freshmen, said Finney, a parent who has objected to other books from the Coeur d’Alene School District curriculum over the years.

She said she counted 102 profanities in its 110 pages, noting that “the teachers actually had the audacity to have students read these profanities out loud in class.”

In addition to the profanity, the curriculum committee found the story of two migrant ranch hands struggling during the Great Depression too “negative.”

To quote a frequently censored American author, Kurt Vonnegut, “And so it goes…”

 

 

 

  

Dim Bulb Award for 2014

dim-bulbThe Dim Bulb Award is an RNWMV tradition. It is an award that I give to any worthy member of the Idaho Legislature who has, through word or action, reached the acceptable level of abject stupidity. This legislative session has reached new heights of dimness. I could easily award the Dim Chandelier award to the whole Republican caucus, as this was the first legislative session that warranted an editorial from both the New York Times and the Washington Post. The take away comment from the NYT described the Republicans as exhibiting “xenophobic fantasies”. I couldn’t agree more.

Nevertheless, I will remain true to the Dim Bulb award tradition and award it to an individual legislator. But, as I have done in the past, I will fudge a bit by giving more than one award for this session. It was impossible to single out just one Legislator among a group of Republican Legislators who engage in group think.

Today, the award goes to a runner up to the award in 2013, Vito “Cousin Vito” Barbieri. He managed to pull off a couple of bone head idiocies this session including inviting the rabid anti-Islam speaker Shahram Hadian to speak at a luncheon where he convinced the members of the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration to vote against updating Child Support legislation because it would put Idaho under Sharia law. As a result, the Legislature will have to come back in special session to correct the screw up.

Below is Cousin Vito displaying the stupid that led to the first Dim Bulb award of 2014.

Idaho Republican Primary Debate for Governor

Wednesday’s Idaho Republican Primary Debate for Governor has received lots on national media attention. The most frequently used term has been “Circus”. If you haven’t seen it already, watch the video above and I imagine you will agree with the characterization. It is hard to watch it and not think you are seeing a classic SNL sketch, particularly because of the eerie resemblance between Russ Fulcher and Dan Aykroyd.

The truth is the debate was a clever political move on the part of current Idaho Gov. CL (Butch) Otter. He is running for a third term and has a serious opponent in the tea party favorite candidate Russ Fulcher. In a move to solidify control of the Idaho Republican Party, the tea party pushed for a closed Republican primary. Otter, and other mainstream Republicans, were against it, but got outmaneuvered. Consequently, Otter insisted that two fringe candidates (leather-clad biker Harley Brown and Bible-thumping mountain man Walt Bates) be included in the debate. Brown and Bates served as comedy relief and were the reason the debate received national notoriety, but, more importantly, they serve the political purpose of making Butch Otter appeared to be the only sane one in the room. Anyone familiar with Otter’s political career knows how far to the right- i.e. libertarian- he really is, but in this debate he seems to be a real moderate.

This debate took place the same week that a federal judge overturned Idaho’s ban on single-sex marriage. In fact, as I write this, LGBT couples are meeting at the Ada County courthouse in Boise to obtain marriage licenses. Although Brown and Bates provide the real entertainment value to the debate, it is worthwhile to hear how Otter and Fulcher respond to the questions about single-sex marriage. Neither seems to understand the constitutional principal that majority wishes do not trump minority rights. Even though Judge Candy Dale refused Otter’s request for a stay, and even though no state ban against single-sex marriage has withstood  judicial scrutiny, there is no doubt that Otter will spend the $1 million he and the legislature has set aside in the current budget to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court. Quite simply, it is a matter of  taxpayer dollars that could be used in a state that ranks near the bottom  in support for education wasted. Ironically, of the four candidates, biker Harley Brown was the only one supporting single-sex marriage.

Here he is around minute 8:35 in the video:

Discrimination! Let me tell you about discrimination. In 1990- uh, bleep that- in 1964, the blacks got the Civil Rights Act passed. We bikers! Discrimination? We are cop magnets, like a Playboy Bunny wearing’ a miniskirt gets hit on all the time! They pull us over without probable cause, and they bring up the sniffin’ dogs and they search us and our bikes, even when we’re not flyin’ our colors. If you’re a leather-clad Harley Davidson driver, you know, the cops are gonna zero in on you like a heat-seeking missile.

Okay. Discrimination. I used to drive taxis in Boise for 20 years. At night! And I’ve picked up my fair share of the gay community. And they have true love for one another. I’m tellin’ you, they love each other more than I love my motorcycle. And you know, they’re just as American as a Medal of Honor Winner. And, uh, liberty and justice for all! Equal protection under the law! I’m glad that judge made that decision, and I’m glad they wanna get married and live like that. I know I’m not really talkin’ like a Republican, but…

After watching the debate, I am tempted to switch to the Republican Party for the Primary just so I can cast my ballot for Harley Brown. Watch and I think you might agree.

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

 

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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 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.