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Posts published in “Reading”

What next for Idaho public schools?

carlson
NW Reading

When Idaho voters in November decisively killed the 2011 "Luna laws" on changing Idaho public schools, what did they intend - to kill all of the changes in them, or just some of them, and if some of them, which? Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter, one of the prime advocates of the laws, detailed his views on that question in a just-posted piece.

After voters on November 6 rejected the process, pace and policies for improving Idaho’s education system enacted in 2011, it became the task of everyone who cares about the quality of Idaho public schools to constructively continue that conversation.

My staff and I spent the next several weeks reaching out to educators, business leaders and Idaho citizens about staying engaged. Now that I’m optimistic we have a critical mass of interest, I’ve asked the State Board of Education to shepherd a statewide discussion about school improvement.

I’m asking the Board to guide the work of a broadly representative group of concerned Idahoans in studying best practices in school districts around the state and using data and experience to drive sound decision making. The group is likely to be large, but only large enough to include the diversity of opinion needed to properly study such a complex issue.

I’m not going to direct the discussion or the issues covered in any way. There must be no “third rail” in this conversation. But I am asking participants to come to the table ready to speak openly and candidly, and to bring ideas. I will not be prescriptive other than to say I remain committed to equal access to opportunity for our children and to increasing support for our educators.

The goal is to move education in Idaho forward for our students, our educators, and the businesses, colleges and universities that receive the product of our K-12 system. I do not expect this to be entirely about producing a legislative product. If participants find that best practices can be shared and schools improved without statutory changes, so be it. (more…)

Legal troubles? Go work for a big bank

carlson
NW Reading

"Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen," sang Woody Guthrie - but you're a lot less likely to serve time in the Crossbar Hotel if you use the latter.

That was the angry point of Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley's letter today to Attorney General Eric Holder about the Department of Justice's ongoing refusal to go after even the most brazen bad guys in the financial section. And leading to the sad but logical conclusion that "jail time is served by over 96% of persons that plead or are found guilty of drug trafficking, 80% of those that plead or are found guilty of money laundering, and 63% of those caught in possession of drugs. As the deferred prosecution agreement appears now to be the corporate equivalent of acknowledging guilt, the best way for a guilty party to avoid jail time may be to ensure that the party is or is employed by a globally significant bank."

How that can be called justice is hard to imagine.

From his letter:

On Tuesday, the Justice Department entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with HSBC related to more than $800 million in illicit narcotics proceeds that drug traffickers laundered through the bank’s Mexican and American affiliates, as well as over $600 million in transactions that violated U.S. sanctions against Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan, and Burma. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer highlighted just how brazen the violations were, with traffickers depositing “hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, in a single day, into a single account, using boxes designed to fit the precise dimensions of the teller window.” Sanctions violations were equally deliberate, with the bank intentionally stripping information from transactions to avoid detection. Yet despite these clear and blatant violations, the Department of Justice refused to bring criminal charges against the bank, relevant employees, or senior management.

Indeed, Mr. Breuer stated yesterday that in deciding not to prosecute, the Department considered the “collateral consequences” of its decision on the financial system. Mr. Breuer stated “If you prosecute one of the largest banks in the world, do you risk that people will lose jobs, other financial institutions and other parties will leave the bank, and there will be some kind of event in the world economy?” The HSBC decision comes on the back of deferred prosecution agreements with Standard Charter Bank and ING Group related to similar charges.

I do not take a position on the merits of this or any other individual case, but I am deeply concerned that four years after the financial crisis, the Department appears to have firmly set the precedent that no bank, bank employee, or bank executive can be prosecuted even for serious criminal actions if that bank is a large, systemically important financial institution. This “too big to jail” approach to law enforcement, which deeply offends the public’s sense of justice, effectively vitiates the law as written by Congress. Had Congress wished to declare that violations of money laundering, terrorist financing, fraud, and a number of other illicit financial actions would only constitute civil violations, it could have done so. It did not.

Instead, Congress placed these financial crimes squarely in the federal criminal code precisely because the consequences are so severe. Drug trafficking between the U.S. and Mexico continues to wreak extraordinary violence across North America, leading to 15,000 deaths in Mexico in 2010 alone and continued gang violence and deaths in the U.S. Drug cartels are also increasingly connected to terrorism. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, 39 percent of State Department-designated foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) have “confirmed links” to the drug trade, as of November 2011. The consequences to U.S. national security for violations involving terrorism financing and Iran sanctions violations are obvious and severe. Congress deemed criminal law the appropriate tool for punishing and deterring actions that have such serious and damaging public consequences. (more…)

Pressure on coal

Coal transport is becoming a front burner issue in Oregon, but it already has made the leap in Washington. A port in Whatcom County, in the Bellingham area, is considering handling large-scale coal shipments to China, and protests have grown quickly, and grown large.

A hearing last night at Seattle drew about 2,300, most of the apparently in opposition.

Pushing past the solidly green political climate of the Cascades-west is going to be tough for the coal industry, which is why it has been hiring professional help. The green-oriented Sightline Daily has outlined some of the professional contours in a notable piece out Thursday.

Some of them, the article notes, are organizations with long histories of pro-green activities. An example: "A Portland-based economic consulting firm, ECONorthwest has a long history of work supporting conservation, so many were surprised to learn the firm took money from Ambre Energy to produce an economic impact analysis. ECONorthwest’s analysis has become a key piece of support for the Morrow Pacific Project, a complicated scheme to move as much as 8 million tons of coal annually in barges on the Columbia River for onward shipment to coal plants in Asia."

Moo: Tis the end

carlson
NW Reading

One of the Republican Northwest blogs we check out has been MooCountyNews, based in Tillamook - a politically competitive area. But blogger Jim Welsh seems to have gotten turned off politics after the November election, to judge from his most recent - and last, to judge from the headline - post, "I will write no more forever."

From it:

So where to now for those of us who are conservatives in Liberal America? Well, if you have nothing else to do, you can continue to fight a losing battle skirmishing as you retreat and occasionally getting off a lucky shot and electing a conservative. But let’s face it, the jig is up. With a national debt that will soon be 20 trillion dollars, with tens of thousands of baby boomers coming onto the Social Security rolls each month and also onto Medicare for the next 15 years, and, in Oregon, an Oregon PERS liability that will never be addressed until entire budgets of counties and school districts are consumed by retirement payments, and a national and state economy that will not have the ability to grow due to the above situations, does anyone really think that the decline of America can be reversed?

Some offshore loophole options

carlson
NW Reading

As the Washington out east ponders budget balancing, the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group is suggesting some ways to raise $150 billion, painlessly for most us, by hitting offshore tax dodges. Regulatory devices that are legal (the lobbyists make sure of that), but that many taxpayers probably would deem unfair.

From OSPRIG's email this morning ...

With Congress scrambling to agree on ways to reduce the deficit, OSPIRG released a new analysis, pointing out a clear first step to avoid the “fiscal cliff”: closing offshore tax loopholes. Many of America’s largest corporations and wealthiest individuals use accounting gimmicks to shift profits made in America to offshore tax havens, where they pay little to no taxes. This tax avoidance costs the federal government $150 billion in tax revenue each year. OSPIRG’s new data illustrates the size of this loss with 16 dramatic ways $150 billion could be spent.

“When corporations skip out on their taxes, the rest of us are left to pick up their tab.” said Celeste Meiffren, Consumer and Taxpayer Advocate with OSPIRG. “Right now, this kind of tax dodging is perfectly legal, but it’s not fair and it’s time to put an end to it.”

At least 83 of the top 100 publically traded corporations in the U.S. make use of tax havens, according to the GAO. American companies like Wal-Mart, Coca Cola, and Pfizer – which benefit from our educated workforce, infrastructure, and security – keep more than 70% of their cash offshore. Thirty of America’s largest, most profitable corporations actually made money off our tax code between 2008 and 2010 by avoiding taxes altogether and receiving tax rebates from the government. By using offshore tax havens, corporations and wealthy individuals shift the tax burden to ordinary Americans, forcing us make up the difference through cuts to public services, a bigger deficit, or higher taxes for everyday citizens.

To illustrate the size of the revenue lost each year to tax havens, OSPIRG presented 16 specific ways it could be spent, in a fact sheet released today, titled “What America Could Do With $150 Billion Lost to Tax Havens.” Examples include: (more…)

I-502, on the immediate side

carlson
NW Reading

From a note to editors by the Washington State Patrol, concerning new state law on marijuana going into effect tomorrow ...

However, it is unlikely that we will have much to report tomorrow regarding immediate effects of the new marijuana law. In particular, there will be no way to tell how many people troopers might have contacted with less than an ounce of marijuana and who were NOT arrested. It’s fundamental that we don’t keep tabs on people engaged in legal conduct.

It will take a month to six weeks to have completed trooper time sheets that might indicate a change in the number of arrests for possession. However, trooper timesheets only indicate “drug arrests,” they do not indicate the type of drug involved. So even this might not be definitive.

With respect to impaired driving, we hope you’ve all heard our mantra by now: We’ve always arrested impaired drivers regardless of the drug involved. It has always been a crime to drive while impaired by drugs whether they be illegal, legal or even medically prescribed. This new law does not change how troopers will determine impairment at the side of the road.

The THC level in a suspect’s blood will not be known for days or weeks after the roadside contact. That will be an issue for prosecutors and defense attorneys not troopers.

Gone viral: A police dept’s guide to pot

carlson
NW Reading

This may be the most readable police statement you've ever read. It's going viral around the net, and it's not even a video.

It comes from the Seattle Police Department, and its subject is, well, what about marijuana, now that voters in the state (albeit not the federal government) have legalized it? It's quite a read.

While cautioning about the federal provisions, Seattle police say they won't be enforcing them. Excerpts:

Can I legally carry around an ounce of marijuana?
According to the recently passed initiative, beginning December 6th, adults over the age of 21 will be able to carry up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use. Please note that the initiative says it “is unlawful to open a package containing marijuana…in view of the general public,” so there’s that. Also, you probably shouldn’t bring pot with you to the federal courthouse (or any other federal property).

Well, where can I legally buy pot, then?
The Washington State Liquor Control Board is working to establish guidelines for the sale and distribution of marijuana. The WSLCB has until December 1, 2013 to finalize those rules. In the meantime, production and distribution of non-medical marijuana remains illegal. ...

Can I smoke pot outside my home? Like at a park, magic show, or the Bite of Seattle?
Much like having an open container of alcohol in public, doing so could result in a civil infraction—like a ticket—but not arrest. You can certainly use marijuana in the privacy of your own home. Additionally, if smoking a cigarette isn’t allowed where you are (say, inside an apartment building or flammable chemical factory), smoking marijuana isn’t allowed there either.

Will police officers be able to smoke marijuana?
As of right now, no. This is still a very complicated issue. ...

What happens if I get pulled over and an officer thinks I’ve been smoking pot?
If an officer believes you’re driving under the influence of anything, they will conduct a field sobriety test and may consult with a drug recognition expert. If officers establish probable cause, they will bring you to a precinct and ask your permission to draw your blood for testing. If officers have reason to believe you’re under the influence of something, they can get a warrant for a blood draw from a judge. If you’re in a serious accident, then a blood draw will be mandatory.

What happens if I get pulled over and I’m sober, but an officer or his K9 buddy smells the ounce of Super Skunk I’ve got in my trunk?
Under state law, officers have to develop probable cause to search a closed or locked container. Each case stands on its own, but the smell of pot alone will not be reason to search a vehicle. If officers have information that you’re trafficking, producing or delivering marijuana in violation of state law, they can get a warrant to search your vehicle.

SPD seized a bunch of my marijuana before I-502 passed. Can I have it back?
No.

Luna on … what happened

carlson
NW Reading

From the transcript of a November 12 reporter session with Idaho Superintendent of Pubblic Instruction Tom Luna, whose 2011 school legislation was defeated at the polls on November 6.

Q: It’s been six days now. What is your assessment of the next step? What reforms might you look at with the Legislature?

I think it’s important that education reform doesn’t stop. We just had a 22-month discussion about education in Idaho at a level of detail that we’ve never had before, and I think that that, if anything, has been very productive. People around the water cooler and the dinner table have had conversations about education reform, so I think the last thing that anyone wants to see is an end to education reform in Idaho. I think it’s critical that we work together and identify parts of the reform legislation that have support from all legislative stakeholders—ones that are easy to move forward in this next legislative session. What those are I don’t know just yet. I think you heard during the campaign that there were parts of these laws that were agreeable to both sides, but there were also parts that were disagreeable obviously to the “Vote No” campaign and to the electorate. Again, I think that we have to take advantage of the conversation we have had over the last two years in Idaho. We need to continue that conversation, and we need to make sure that conversation leads to meaningful reform in our schools.

Q: The “Vote No” campaign has said that it is willing to reach out and open a dialogue with you and other members of your administration. Has that happened?

Yes, I’ve had a number of meetings with stakeholders. Unfortunately, Penni Cyr and Robin Nettinga, the leaders of the IEA, have been gone. They get back tonight; I leave tomorrow morning. So we’re going to have a phone conversation. But there have been other conversations already with stakeholders in person and over the phone with the IEA. We will sit down and meet with them. We did before, and we will continue to do that going forward. It’s important that we do that in a collaborative way, and we will.

Q: Superintendent, do you have any regrets about this entire process and how you’ve handled it?

Well, those are two questions. Let me address the second part of your question. There are some things I wish I had done differently. Particularly, I regret that I used the phrase “union thuggery.” Just some background: there was a 48-hour period of time where some incidences happened. My vehicle was vandalized. I was interrupted during a live TV interview by someone who was unhappy, and if someone hadn’t gotten in the middle of that, I don’t know how that would have played out. And then a gentleman who identified himself as a teacher showed up at my mom’s house, who was a recent widow, to give her a piece of his mind. I think I referred to that as “union thuggery” or “union tactics.” I wish I wouldn’t have used that phrase because obviously it was used over and over and over. I can’t imagine a son not being concerned about his mom in that kind of a circumstance, but that’s one time when I wish I had been maybe a little bit more measured in how I responded to that incident.
I’ll give you some background, so I’m sure you’ll have plenty of opportunities to play Monday-morning quarterback, but hindsight is 20/20. In hindsight, we can all think of things that we would have done differently.

When we ran these pieces of legislation, I never anticipated that we would end up in a referendum type of situation. When you look at these bills, each is very complex. So, it’s easy to identify one or two things in a very complex piece of legislation and focus on that and run a campaign based on one or two things that you are not happy with in a particular piece of legislation.

Q: Are you saying that you wish the bills themselves had been simpler. (more…)

Completing an inventory – of remains

carlson
NW Reading

From the Federal Register, October 11.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission has completed an inventory of human remains, in consultation with the appropriate Indian tribes, and has determined that there is a cultural affiliation between the human remains and a present-day Indian tribe. Representatives of any Indian tribe that believes itself to be culturally affiliated with the human remains may contact the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. Repatriation of the human remains to the Indian tribe stated below may occur if no additional claimants come forward.

Representatives of any Indian tribe that believes it has a cultural affiliation with the human remains should contact the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission at the address below by November 13.

The human remains were removed from three different locations in Pacific County.

A detailed assessment of the human remains was made by Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission professional staff in consultation with representatives of the Shoalwater Bay Tribe of the Shoalwater Bay Reservation, Washington, and the Chinook Nation, Washington (a non-Federally recognized Indian group). The Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, Washington, were contacted by mail and telephone but declined formal consultation unless neither of the aforementioned groups made a claim.

Sometime prior to 1958, human remains representing, at minimum, one individual were removed from an unknown site located in the town of Ilwaco, in Pacific County, WA. The human remains consist of a mandible and mandibular dentition. Dr. W. Iles discovered the remains and donated them to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, at Fort Columbia State Park. No known individuals were identified. No associated funerary objects are present. (more…)