Politics

Trump: Gish Galloping the Media

What is the media to do with Donald Trump? On one hand, they have to cover him. after all, he has been the leading Republican candidate for over three months. He is leading in all the polls, nationally, in Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire. Ratings go up with every appearance.

On the other hand, Trump spews lies with every appearance. When he is called on a lie, rather than admit to it, he doubles down, repeating it and, occasionally, adding specific details that are also lies. the latest example occurred on This Week where George Stephanopoulos showed a clip of him claiming to have seen thousands and thousands of Arab Americans in Jersey City, New Jersey cheering on 9/11 after the attacks on the World Trade Center. Stephanopoulos pointed out that there was absolutely no evidence that such a thing had happened and asked if Trump had misspoken (lied). Trump doubled down:

It did happen. I saw it… It was on television. I saw it. George, it did happen. There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down. I know it might be not politically correct for you to talk about it, but there were people cheering as that building came down — as those buildings came down. And that tells you something… It was well covered at the time, George. Now, I know they don’t like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good.

All Stephanopoulos had time to do was lamely repeat that the police said it didn’t happen.

Of course, various media watchdogs like the Washington Post’s Politifact point out Trump’s lies after the fact, but the damage has already been done. One reason Trump is able to outmaneuver moderators like Stephanopoulos is that he is a master of the debating technique known as the Gish Gallop:

The Gish Gallop, named for the Creationist Duane Gish, is a technique of drowning an opponent in such a torrent of small arguments that the opponent cannot possibly answer or address each one in real time. More often than not, these myriad arguments are full of half-truths, lies, and straw-man arguments — the only condition is that there be many of them, not that they be particularly compelling on their own. They may be escape hatches or “gotcha” arguments that are specifically designed to be brief, but take a long time to unravel.

In the amount of time available on a network program like This Week, the Gish Gallop allows prevaricators like Trump the opportunity to make one outlandish claim after another with relative impunity.

It is beginning to dawn on the pundants that Trump has a good chance of winning the Republican nomination. Highly respected political scientist, Alan Abramowitz, thinks he has a reasonable chance to do what Paul Krugman calls the “Trumpthinkable”.

Trump isn’t only leading in national polling. He’s leading in every state poll I’ve seen. He seems to be ahead in Iowa, in New Hampshire, in South Carolina, Nevada. Voters say he’s a strong leader who will shake up Washington, and that’s what they want. He’s the leader on big issues like immigration, terrorism, the economy. And the Washington Post/ABC News poll found a plurality — even more voters than actually support him — think he’s the candidate with the best chance of winning in November.

So, how do we account for Trump’s outlandish claims and lies? Abromowitz believes that, ironically, they cause him to gain in popularity with the Republican base. Even though the Republican establishment has started to realize a Trump nomination might guarentee a Democratic victory in November, the base isn’t buying it. They view the over-the-top rhetoric as evidence Trump is a fighter who will not back down and who will speak his mind, qualities the feel are needed in a leader. According to Abromowitz,

There have been very clear signals already from the Republican establishment, from Fox News, from conservative pundits — it’s been clear they think this is really bad for the Republican Party, but it hasn’t worked so far.

There have been repeated moments when Trump said something outrageous and there were predictions that this is the beginning of the end of Trump, and then he does better. This goes all the way back to his attacks on John McCain’s war record and his sexist attacks on Megyn Kelly. These things don’t seem to hurt him. Among his supporters, they take that as a sign that this is a guy who speaks his mind, says a lot of things they agree with — and besides which, who do you trust, Donald Trump or the mainstream media that is telling you he’s lying?

Poll watchers with outstanding predictive records, like Nate Silver, are convinced Trump will certainly fade and that the media should quit “freaking out” about these early poll numbers. Silver seems to be the voice of reason, but with each passing week the Trump phenomena continues to gain momentum while other early front runners like Jeb Bush and Ben Carson do fade.

It certainly has the makings of an interesting Presidential race for the pundants and comedians. For the average American, maybe not so much.

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.

 

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…”

 

 

 

  

Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! One of the problems with thinking about climate change is how impotent it makes the average person feel. There doesn’t appear to be much we can actually do.

Juan Cole, who is my “go to” blogger for all things Middle East, has a list of 10 thing many Americans can, in fact do. It is worth reading: Informed Comment

Fear and Apathy

Less than one third of the registered voters voted in the recent midterm elections, yet the Republicans claim a mandate and President Obama a lame duck who should quietly and passively accept that his is a failed presidency. Fortunately, he has refused to do so and seems to be responding to the election with renewed energy, resulting in his latest speech on immigration.

Of course, the major television networks, in an unprecedented failure to use the public airwaves for the public good, refused to broadcast the President’s speech.  Fox news, on the other hand, brought out the usual suspects to spew fear and rattled the swords of impeachment.

Meanwhile, a Republican controlled House committee determined that, contrary to the unrelenting “reporting” from Fox news, the allegations of wrongdoing in response to the 2012 attack on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi Libya are completely unfounded. According to the Associated Press,

Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the two-year investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, intelligence about who carried it out and why was contradictory, the report found. That led Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to inaccurately assert that the attack had evolved from a protest, when in fact there had been no protest. But it was intelligence analysts, not political appointees, who made the wrong call, the committee found. The report did not conclude that Rice or any other government official acted in bad faith or intentionally misled the American people.

Any guesses as to whether Fox news will offer retractions?

The House Intelligence Committee report was released with little fanfare on the Friday before Thanksgiving week. Many of its findings echo those of six previous investigations by various congressional committees and a State Department panel. The eighth Benghazi investigation is being carried out by a House Select Committee appointed in May.

The attacks in Benghazi killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, foreign service officer Sean Smith, and two CIA contractors, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty. A Libyan extremist, Ahmed Abu Khatalla, is facing trial on murder charges after he was captured in Libya and taken to the U.S.

In the aftermath of the attacks, Republicans criticized the Obama administration and its then-secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is expected to run for president in 2016. People in and out of government have alleged that a CIA response team was ordered to “stand down” after the State Department compound came under attack, that a military rescue was nixed, that officials intentionally downplayed the role of al-Qaida figures in the attack, and that Stevens and the CIA were involved in a secret operation to spirit weapons out of Libya and into the hands of Syrian rebels. None of that is true, according to the House Intelligence Committee report.

Of course, Fox news (And the Republican Party) has moved on from  criticizing the President about Benghazi to calling for his impeachment for “overextending” executive powers on immigration. The fact is, the current attitude towards immigrants is, at a very deep level, unAmerican. For most of America’s history, citizenship was granted based on residency requirements alone. Only in the relatively recent past has this changed in any significant way. Even then, as 18 executive actions on immigration by various presidents (5 of whom were Republican) across the past 50 years have shown, there have been ways for presidents to alter the situation. For example, amnesties of extremely large groups of Cubans in the past benefited that community. Both Senator Cruz and Rubio were born to Cuban citizens, and would today be called anchor babies by the Republicans.

The President acted because the Republican lead House has refused to. John Boehner should let the 2013 Senate Immigration Reform bill come to a vote instead of blocking it. The President has responded to immigration based upon what the majority of Americans want. As recently as last week, a Wall Street Journal poll showed that 74% of all Americans approve a pathway to citizenship that includes penalties and waiting periods — just like those found in the Senate bill.

The fact is, President Obama’s action, rather than an abuse of power,is a band aid intended to provide temporary relief. The Republicans will have a difficult time refusing act on immigration now that Democratic leadership would be wise to join him. If only the media would provide him the “bully pulpit” his position as President deserves.

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

 

Ignominious Idaho

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When May I Shoot A Student?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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