Thursday, March 31, 2011

Happy Opening Day!

Our long winter is over.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bailing Out Moyle Mink

Update 3.31.11: The Idaho Senate passed SB 1197 unanimously under a suspension of the rules yesterday. For what it's worth, 90% of the visitors to this post have been located in Alaska.

Monday when the Idaho Senate ran through their agenda prior to voting on the brutal cuts to Idaho's Medicaid program, a bill on first reading caught my attention. The bill, SB 1197 introduced in the State Affairs Committee, is described as follows:
S 1197 by STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE - TAXIDERMISTS AND FUR BUYERS - Amends existing law relating to Taxidermists and Fur Buyers to provide for recordkeeping requirements for commercial tanneries; and to provide that compliance with certain record requirements shall constitute satisfactory record of lawful origin and proof of ownership requirements.
For anyone following this blog, you are surely aware of a situation involving Moyle Mink & Tannery in Heyburn, Idaho, and a recent raid of their property by Fish & Game officials from Idaho and Alaska, as well as ICE agents. The raid, described best here, involved illegally attained animals that were then sent to Moyle Mink for tanning. What can be pieced together from the various sources that are actually talking about what happened at Moyle Mink, is that the furs/hides in the possession of Moyle Mink did not have the proper tags and paperwork, therefore illegal under the Lacey Act. The Lacey Act does give the states the right to determine their own laws regarding the illegal taking, possessing, selling and transporting of animals and plants. It isn't clear which of those laws Moyle Mink was evading, however, those laws as a whole are being amended by SB 1197.

The provision being inserted in Idaho Code by SB 1197 reads:
(2) Provided however, a commercial tannery receiving wildlife from a licensed taxidermist or fur buyer, shall satisfy all record keeping requirements by recording the license numbers of such taxidermist or fur buyer, and recording tag numbers of any attached tags required by law. This provision shall not apply in the event a commercial tannery receives wildlife from a taxidermist or fur buyer from a state other than the state of Idaho, and the taxidermist or fur buyer is not required to be licensed in that state, in which case the tannery shall record, the date received, the name, address and telephone number of the individual the wildlife was received from, and tag numbers of any attached tags required by law in the state of origin, the name and number of species received and the approximate date killed. Information so recorded shall be retained for a period of two (2) years.
This provision codifies a procedure that has been at the forefront of the Moyle Mink & Tannery saga. Established law, both state and federal, regarding the records kept on furs, skins or hides used in interstate commerce is what resulted in search warrants being served at Moyle Mink in Heyburn. This new provision goes on to note that "compliance with records requirements [as described in this new provision]...shall constitute satisfactory record of lawful origin and proof of ownership requirements." We can reasonably assume that the "satisfactory record" portion being added will include whatever record keeping was taking place at Moyle Mink.

SB 1197 also also includes an emergency clause that would put the law into "full force and effect" with its passage. Because the U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho is playing the case against Moyle Mink close to the vest, we cannot be 100% certain that SB 1197 has come about specifically in response to the search warrants served at Moyle Mink, but the timing of the bill is suspicious and other pieces of legislation that have incorporated protections of the fur and mink industry this session allow us to make a number of assumptions. How we can assume that the new provision being proposed by SB 1197 would include whatever record keeping was taking place at Moyle Mink prior to search warrants being served and that the bill itself came into being because of the situation at Moyle Mink comes down to this:
  1. Rep. Mike Moyle (R-Star), House Majority Leader and relative of Lee and Ryan Moyle of Moyle Mink & Tannery, has had no reservations about introducing legislation that would directly help the Moyle mink farm in their legal battles. Right-to-Farm legislation already introduced by the unscrupulous Rep. Moyle suggests he is responding to the legal trouble of his family at Moyle Mink & Tannery through his position in leadership. Passage of right-to-farm legislation helps Moyle Mink in their battle with the City of Heyburn. If right-to-farm helps Moyle Mink, why not SB 1197?
  2. Magic Valley dairyman and hunter pilots decry the tactics of GOP leadership, particularly Rep. Moyle, in passing bills favorable to their own interests and the interests of their elite friends. If Moyle is willing to do as the hunter pilots suggest, why wouldn't he be willing to protect the legal interests of his own family with the help of his friend Sen. Pearce and the Senate State Affairs Committee? It would appear that Moyle wasn't pushing it, something he might be hesitant to do after the hunters cried cronyism, but could be passed quickly.
  3. The Senate State Affairs Committee operates in ways similar to the House Ways & Means Committee in that GOP leadership controls the committee. The Senate State Affairs Committee consists of powerful members who can kill legislation as well as rush it through, completely at their discretion. Introducing legislation that can bypass committees or be sent on to the floor without hearing.
  4. Prior to this session, there had never been a push for this section of code to include language specific to the fur/mink industry. Can it really be simply a coincidence that this legislation came about after the raid at Moyle Mink & Tannery? The timing is suspect. Moyle Mink & Tannery was served search warrants on Monday, February 28, 2011; SB 1197 was introduced on Monday, March 28, 2011. If there was a need for this addition to Idaho Code, why wasn't it introduced prior to March 1st and earlier in the session when it could be heard in committee, receive a hearing and go forward at the pace of other legislation?
The assumptions made here are supported by the situational politics of Representative Moyle. A juggernaut of mink farms in Idaho are held by the Moyle family, dating back to the Great Depression. Up until recently, Rep. Moyle had his own mink operation in Star. In the Magic Valley there are at least three mink operations owned and operated by a member of the Moyle family. Clearly, the Moyle family has a stake in legislation that serves to protect mink farms and taxidermists from legal action when they haven't properly documented the furs/hides coming into their businesses.

Like the right-to-farm legislation and the bill prohibiting hunting within 24 hours of landing on dry lake beds on state or federal lands, SB 1197 serves only one purpose--protecting the family and friends of Mike Moyle and GOP leadership. Instead of questioning the motive behind SB 1197 and actually uttering the word 'corruption,' SB 1197 will pass on the floor of the Idaho Senate, move to the floor of the House (maybe sponsored by Moyle himself), Moyle will invoke Rule 38 without a challenge from a single member of the legislature or the press, and the bill will sail to the governor's desk for his signature. The only thing remaining will be the case against Lee and Ryan Moyle at Moyle Mink & Tannery, undermined by new state law, enacted with an emergency clause. If this isn't cronyism and corruption, what is?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Hitchcock: The Appalling Threat of the 'Nanny State'

Editor's Note: From now on, when I reprint a column written by Leonard Hitchcock, professor emeritus at Idaho State University, the post title will reflect his name and the title he originally assigned to each column. He submits each of his columns to the Idaho State Journal where they are considered for publication and are often reassigned titles at the editor's discretion. When possible I will also include a link to the column at the ISJ blogs. As always, his columns are reprinted here with his permission.

Right-wingers use the phrase “the nanny state” to encapsulate their conception of both the Obama administration and liberals’ generic vision of the good society. The phrase is, of course, also intended to express conservatives’ abhorrence of that reality and vision. They hope that it will call up from people’s childhood memories a deeply-felt resentment at being subjected to the rule of adults, i.e. adults who refused to grant them the right to make their own choices. The message is, then, that the nanny state treats its citizens as children, rather than as adults, and abrogates their freedom of choice.

It’s somewhat curious, by the way, that the adults that most frequently exercise this sort of authority over children are parents, yet the phrase refers to nannies. Perhaps that has to do with the expression’s origin, since it was reputedly a Conservative British M.P. who first used it. But it also might unintentionally reflect the fact that, in the United States, republicans are far more likely than democrats to belong to that stratum of society that can afford to employ nannies. And then there’s the phrase’s British connotation, which serves to further stigmatize such governments because Britain notoriously tends toward socialism, also known as the “welfare” state, the bĂȘte noir of the radical right. For conservatives, children are, indeed, quite properly ruled by parents (and sometimes by nannies), whose job it is to protect them from the evils that abound in the extra-family environment. Children are also to be instilled with a set of values and a yearning for independence so that, when the time comes, and they are ejected from the nest, they will be able to function independently of their parents. Once they have achieved “adulthood” they are on their own and parents who continue to attempt to direct or ameliorate their children’s lives violate the conservative model of child-rearing. This “strict father” conception of the family (see George Lakoff’s Moral Politics), stresses the moral virtue of self-reliance and approves of a world in which failure to succeed is quite properly punished by suffering.

It is therefore the conviction of conservatives that right-thinking adult citizens do not wish to be protected by their government. For them, government protection will imply that they are not, after all, adults; that they are not independent and capable of managing their own lives successfully. But what about wrong-thinking adults? Conservatives would acknowledge that there are, unfortunately, citizens who want protection, but such citizens are the weak, the incompetent and the undeserving, and they would be better off without protection because that would force them to grow up and take on the responsibilities of adulthood. Real adults, therefore, not only believe that their own freedom is compromised by government’s misguided efforts to protect them, but properly resent other people being “coddled” by such protection.

Ours is a capitalist society. The profit motive drives the machine. In the competition for profits, businesses regularly lie to the public, conceal the flaws and dangers that their products contain, cut production costs in any way possible, overcharge, and encourage excessive consumption. Centuries ago the public realized that “caveat emptor” was a slogan created by sellers to relieve themselves of responsibility. The average citizen had no way to check on whether the packing house that produced his meat was sanitary, whether adulterants had been added to his drugs, whether the construction firm that built his house used the right materials, whether the bank he patronized would still have his money when he wanted to withdraw it, or whether the toy he bought his child contained invisible toxins.

So the average citizen wanted, and felt he deserved, protection against all those affluent captains of industry whose intentions were to cheat and exploit him, and whose trustworthiness he hadn’t the means to ascertain. He asked the government for help, which was the rational, the adult, thing to do, and the government delivered.

There is no shame in being protected by the government. We pay it to do just that. The only freedom that we lose is the freedom to be bilked, left destitute in our old age, and denied medical care when we need it. And we should take encouragement from the fact that the rich and the corporations, the puppet masters of those conservative ideologues, seem to feel no shame in accepting their own protection from the government. They accept the tax breaks and subsidies that their political minions obtain for them, without complaint and without resentment, and are able somehow to bear the loss of freedom that is thereby so cruelly imposed upon them.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Smorgasbord Saturday

Since yesterday I did a rundown of the stories I could have framed as a smorgasbord, I'm really short on original material here today. So, I'll touch on baseball and music then call it good.

Listening to one of my favorite bands, Seven Mary Three, this morning. Haven't listened to them in awhile because I was on a Sister Hazel kick for a good week and before that mostly country. "Strangely At Home Here" is playing currently. Still hope I'll see these guys in concert at some point in my life. Had a chance once, but couldn't make the trip due to my back. Still have a craptastic back and Seven Mary Three isn't going to stay together forever. It'll happen some day.

Yesterday in the Grapefruit League, Chipper Jones ripped a three-run homer over the scoreboard. Braves' beat writer Mark Bowman said that it was one of the longest homers he has seen Chipper hit from the right side. Bowman also said that Chipper is playing like he's 28, not 38. The tear Chipper has been on during spring training has been a pleasant surprise for Braves fans. Last season, up until his ACL ripping on a spectacular play, it was like watching the Braves as they once were in the 90s, Chipper especially. He was getting on base and his teammates were batting him in. He was showing some power, something he'd been lacking for several injury-plagued seasons. And his leadership in the clubhouse with the young rookie Jason Heyward was very important to the Braves' success. When Chipper tore his ACL, it wasn't known if he would ever play again and with Bobby Cox retiring it was truly the end of an era in Atlanta. Now us Braves fans who grew up in the Bobby Cox, Chipper Jones, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tommy Glavine era have something to hold onto--a 38-year old third baseman who is batting .411 in spring training. The success he's had this spring couldn't have happened to a better guy.

Just saw the news that Geraldine Ferraro has died at the age of 75. I wasn't alive when Ferraro was on the ticket with Mondale, but I feel a great sense of gratitude for her breaking the glass ceiling. Her accomplishment of being the first woman on a presidential ticket paved the way for women in politics, Hillary especially, and I've never doubted that what Ferraro did in 1984 made it just a bit easier for every woman coming up in America after. Thank you, Geraldine Ferraro.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wrapping Up the Week

Despite it being a very busy, infuriating week in the Idaho Legislature, I haven't written anything original since Sunday. Not much of a reason for it either, other than I set up a Twitter account and I find that I can write my random, shortened thoughts there much easier than I can a long-form post here. Not a good excuse, I know, but you're welcome to take a look at my Twitter account anytime you'd like. I have several posts in the works, in draft form and floating around in my head, as I usually do. There are plenty of things I wanted to note this week, so I think I'll just make a list here and you can follow the links as you please. Some more important than others, of course. Without further ado:
  1. Chipper Jones says "somebody high-ranking in U.S. government" may have been behind the assassination of President Kennedy...yes, you read that right, Chipper Jones./ The Post Game
  2. Just in time for the one year anniversary of the passage of health care reform, Randy Stapilus lays out what reform has meant to Idaho./ "A strange kind of tyranny," Ridenbaugh Press
  3. Eddie Vedder is going on tour, a solo tour coinciding with his Ukulele Songs album./ LATimes
  4. One great thing about Twitter is that I can follow the always entertaining Torii Hunter of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Here's a great story about his enthusiasm for the Angels coming season./
  5. More bad news at Arlington National Cemetery--this time they appear to have lost track of plot bookings./ WaPo
That covers everything. National politics, baseball (twice), and music. Now if I could just find something constructive to say about the Idaho Legislature...


Editor's Note: To Adam, hang in there.
by Rise Against

Somewhere between happy, and total f*****g wreck
Feet sometimes on solid ground, sometimes at the edge
To spend your waking moments, simply killing time
Is to give up on your hopes and dreams, to give up on your...

Life for you, (who we are) has been less than kind
So take a number, (who we are) stand in line
We've all been sorry, (who we are) we've all been hurt
But how we survive, (who we are) is what makes us who we are

An obvious disinterest, a barely managed smile
A deep nod in agreement, a status quo exile
I shirk my obligations, I miss all your deadlines
I excel at quitting early, and f*****g up my life

All smiles and sunshine, a perfect world on a perfect day
Everything always works out, I have never felt so f*****g great
All smiles and sunshine, a perfect world on a perfect day
Everything always works out, I have never felt so great

(Life isn't like this) Life isn't like this
(Life isn't like this) Life isn't like this
(Life isn't like this) Are we verging on an answer,
Or f*****g up our...

Life for you, (who we are) has been less than kind
So take a number, (who we are) stand in line
We've all been sorry, (who we are) we've all been hurt
But how we survive, (who we are) is what makes us who we are

(Who we are)
It's what makes us who we are
Interesting unofficial video for this song can be viewed here and this single can be listened to and downloaded here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New Music Tuesday

This Tuesday brings the acoustic single "Longing To Belong" from Eddie Vedder. Available at iTunes here.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Education In Idaho

Editor's Note: The following column was submitted to the Idaho State Journal and is reprinted here with the generous permission of the author.

Education In Idaho
by Leonard Hitchcock

It would not be unfair to say that Idaho is a comparatively ignorant state. This conclusion could easily be reached by attending a session of the Idaho State Legislature, but I happen to have relied upon the state’s educational statistics. Idaho ranks 38th among the states in both the percentage of its population that have bachelor degrees and the percentage that have advanced degrees. So, if ignorance is measured by the extent of formal education, then Idaho has it in greater abundance than most other states.

I’m not suggesting that “academic” ignorance is equatable with either stupidity or incompetence. No doubt many Idaho farmers, ranchers and businessmen who make good money and support families in comparative comfort do so without the aid of college degrees. There are, however, other, quite plausible, consequences of having an ignorant population. For one, a public that lacks academic sophistication in areas like history, political science, theology and economics is likely to be susceptible to political manipulation. For another, an ignorant public may well not value very highly that which it does not possess and which may well seem relatively unnecessary to it, viz. quality education.

Idaho certainly doesn’t seem enthusiastic about supporting K-12 education. The state ranks 41st among all states in its per capita expenditures for its students, and it should be noted that in many states where expenditures are higher than in Idaho, the average family income is lower. Idaho ranks 41st in the number of students it requires teachers to have in their classrooms: 17.9 students, compared to the national average of 15.5. Teacher salaries in Idaho are ranked 33rd in the country when starting salary, average salary and local cost-of-living are taken into consideration. When it comes to higher education, Idaho ranks 45th among the states in terms of the percentage of high school graduates that matriculate directly to college, and 44th in the percentage of college freshmen who graduate within six years (2002-3 figures).

Given this data, one might well predict that Idaho’s K-12 students would rank equally low in their performance on nationwide tests, specifically the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests. But they don’t. In scale scores on 4th grade math and reading, Idaho’s kids rank 13th and 18th; in 8th grade math and writing, they rank 23rd and 18th. What explains the fact that our students’ achievements are so much more impressive that our state’s?

I have been fortunate to become acquainted with a young woman who teaches 6th grade in American Falls. What I know of her and her work suggests a simple answer to that question: teachers do the job they are hired to do, and expend whatever time and effort is needed to do that job well. Their commitment to their work is profound and durable, and it’s a good thing it is, because their job is a daunting one. Educating a child is not like downloading data to a hard drive. The child must participate in the process, must make an effort, must be willing to read its assignments, do its homework and study for its tests. Parents, too, must participate. They must believe in the value of learning. They must reinforce their child’s motivation when it falters.

All too often, unfortunately, these elements of the educational equation are missing. Many students have no real interest in learning, or come from households in which no one supports their efforts to make academic progress. Moreover, there are inevitably students that have learning disabilities, or an incomplete mastery of English, or behavioral problems. Teachers must try to compensate for all these special handicaps and, at the same time, teach.

Idaho’s teachers have done well by their students, despite the best efforts of the state to demean and discourage them, but their tolerance has to have its limits. The state is currently doing its best to make public school teachers’ work even more difficult while it reduces their status to that of temporary office workers. It has allowed the proliferation of charter schools, which siphon off the more motivated students. It has exacerbated the worst aspect of No Child Left Behind, viz. the trivialization of teacher achievement by mandating that text scores be its only measure. It has now deprived teachers of their union rights: the ability to determine their work environment, their right to due process, extended contracts and reasonable job security. It threatens to fire hundreds of teachers, replacing them with lap top computers (thus insuring continued campaign contributions from education software vendors), and to increase average class size, the surest way to reduce teacher effectiveness. How long will teachers’ commitment withstand this kind of treatment?

Email hitcleon@isu for a list of the data sources used in this column.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Fighter

When I was a kid my grandparents had a satellite dish the size of a compact car. To a ten year old, it was a hulking tower in the backyard that seemed like it could have been part of a weapons system. While I lived with my grandparents I never managed to figure out how to operate the remote control for the satellite—without the right configuration of codes, the channel wouldn’t appear. The only memories I have of watching satellite television in those days had to do with boxing matches and the news that the Chief Theater in Pocatello had burned to the ground. For some reason watching boxing on HBO with my grandfather was seared into my memory. Those memories are what drew me to David O. Russell’s The Fighter.

As much as he must hate it, Mark Wahlberg will forever be “Marky Mark” to most of us. Training for the role of Micky Ward, Wahlberg’s body seemed to return to what it was two decades ago when he was rapping and modeling underwear. I think there was probably a bit of Micky in Mark, actually. There have certainly been bumps in the road through his career and his background isn’t all that different. Was Wahlberg on the receiving end of an Oscar snub? Yes. But the actor who most deserved both the Oscar nomination and win was Christian Bale playing Micky’s brother Dicky Eklund. Christian Bale was nothing similar to his more recent characters, particularly Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. He plays a gaunt, washed up, drug addict who tells everyone he encounters that HBO is making a film about his boxing comeback when in reality they are making a documentary about crack addiction in America.

The relationship between Dicky and his younger brother Micky, their dysfunctional family and the city of Lowell, Massachusetts is at the heart of a film that really isn’t a fighting movie. Yes, the film is about Micky turning around his boxing career, a career that amounted to being a stepping-stone for other boxers on the rise. And yes, the film is about Micky leaving the training of his troubled brother to take the advice of others who pushed Micky to success. Yet, throughout the film the audience is asked to choose between Micky’s boxing success and Micky’s relationship with Dicky. In this respect, The Fighter is nothing resembling Rocky. Watching Dicky battle his own ego, his addiction and the reality of never making a comeback overshadows his brother’s battle for boxing success. It left me wondering if the title was referring to Micky, Dicky or both.

Though Christian Bale wasn’t the only actor nominated for the film, his acting certainly was the strongest. Melissa Leo deserved her nomination and win for portraying Alice, the mother of Micky and Dicky (and what seemed like at least a dozen sisters). She was unyielding in her support of her sons, Dicky more so and in a way that anyone who has felt inferior to a sibling can understand. Her constant forgiveness and blindness to Dicky’s addiction seemed obvious to everyone, including the viewer, but Alice herself. The steely edge of Melissa Leo’s performance was as skillful as Bale’s and added to the dynamic that left me with the overall feeling that The Fighter wasn’t really a fighting movie. Amy Adams also deserves mentioning. She was as strong as I’ve seen her in the role of Micky’s girlfriend. The wholesome image most of us have of her was challenged and it no longer seems such a stretch that she could play Janis Joplin on screen. Something tells me that there may be more Oscar nods in Adams’ future.

From time to time a movie will come along that seems to be one thing on the surface—be that in trailers or previews—and another thing entirely once seen beginning to end. The Fighter is that kind of film. I don’t enjoy films that are especially violent nor do I always seek out boxing films (with the exception of Million Dollar Baby), but this film was not at all what I had expected and I found it pleasantly compelling.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Two Weeks To Go

Editor's Note: I thought I'd break up the Moyle monotony around here, the constant bad news out of the Idaho Statehouse, and my own personal frustrations with a completely unrelated baseball post. When all else fails, turn to baseball.

During the off-season, I watched the hot stove closely and wondered about a few teams that made some big moves. Now that spring training has arrived, most of those teams are still grabbing attention.

The teams that caught my interest especially were teams that really had nothing to show for their last few seasons other than a losing record. The Oakland A's, Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals made big, expensive moves that seem to set them up for a few more wins. Big bats joined all three--Vlad Guerrero with the Orioles, Hideki Matsui with the A's and Jayson Werth with the Nats. The pitching staff of each team was shaken up a bit and all three teams have managers who haven't been with them for too many seasons, the newest being Buck Showalter in Baltimore. All three teams seem to be continuing in their attempts to make something of the 2011 season. They're off to a good start at spring training, their bats coming through for them and their pitchers living up to expectations (with the exception of the Orioles' Duchscherer who can't, once again, stay healthy). The Orioles are in a tough division where I don't anticipate they'll make huge waves right away, but we have to assume that at some point the Orioles and Blue Jays will be able to compete against the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays. The Nats have their work cut out for them in a division that includes the Braves and Phillies, two teams that have taken turns dominating the division in the last two decades. The one team that has a chance to really impact their division is the A's. Go figure.

The team that may stand in the way of the A's (other than the always competitive Angels) is the Rangers. However, recent shakeups in Texas have a lot of people scratching their heads. What appeared to be a leadership team made in baseball heaven is no longer. Chuck Greenberg resigned as the Ranger CEO and hall-of-famer Nolan Ryan was named President & CEO (he previously held just the role of president of the franchise). Greenberg cited disagreements among the front office as his reason for leaving after less than a year since he and Ryan bought the Rangers and brought the franchise back from bankruptcy. Greenberg didn't say exactly what caused the rift between the co-chairmen of the board, himself and Nolan Ryan, but there is one place to look for the writing on the wall--Michael Young.

Yes, Young plays on the field and has nothing to do with decisions in the front office, but over the off-season, Young requested a trade from the team he's spent his entire career with after a rocky few months of speculation about his future with the club. Though Young was originally drafted by the Blue Jays, he has spent his entire big league career with the Rangers. He began his career at 2nd base and was asked to play for the Rangers at shortstop when the Rangers traded away Alex Rodriguez. Young was asked to move to shortstop to make room for Alfonso Soriano and then he moved (without complaining) to 3rd base so a young, talented shortstop named Elvis Andrus could have the position. All of this happened to Young despite his stellar defensive numbers at each position. However, in the off-season, the 34 year-old Young was told by the Rangers that he would be moved to the full-time designated hitter slot since the team had bought Adrian Beltre from the Red Sox and would be using his high-paid services at 3rd. Understandably, Young was livid and requested the Rangers trade him rather than force him into a non-fielding position on the roster. Though Young wasn't traded, you have to think his situation has a lot to do with the departure of Greenberg.

If the Rangers can get it together in the front office and their off-season trades pan out, they could easily defend their 2010 American League Championship title.

With only two weeks until the season begins and knowing that around here no baseball post would be complete without mentioning my Atlanta Braves, I thought I would note a few things happening with Braves franchise. For those of you who know about Luis Salazar's freak injury during spring training, everything I've read seems to indicate he will fully recover. Salazar, a former MLB player, coaches a minor league Braves team. In a recent spring training game, he was in the dugout with the major league team when catcher Brian McCann pulled a pitch into the dugout where it hit Salazar in the face. Salazar was knocked out and fell from his perch at the dugout rail to the dugout floor below. His face was fractured in several places and eventually one of his eyes had to be removed. All seems to be well with him now and he seems much less shaken up about the injury than Brian McCann who used his power swing to hook the ball at Salazar.

In other Braves news, Chipper Jones is having a very successful spring training. Chipper, who seriously considered retirement at the end of last season and in the off-season after requiring surgery to fix a torn ACL, seems to have found his stroke. He hit a homer yesterday's spring training game and is hitting .386 in the Grapefruit League. If Chipper can stay healthy all season, it may be a repeat of the great numbers he put up before the injury last season. Even if his production isn't as great as it was last season, just having Chipper on the field and in the clubhouse is a plus for the Braves. His bat may not be as dangerous as it once was, but his leadership is very much needed in this the first season without Bobby Cox in the dugout since 1989. Fingers crossed.

Just two more weeks 'til the Braves & Nats kick off the season!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Medicaid Budget Cuts Pass House

The Medicaid budget introduced by Rep. Janice McGeachin (R-Idaho Falls) has passed the Idaho House easily (56-14) and with little debate. It now moves to the Senate.

Quote of the Day

"Not always will there be others to stand when we do not. And sadly it is not until it is too late that we will ever know that others did not stand. And then where shall we be but lost in a shaken tide of regret; landless and anchorless without a nation to recognize because, for us, standing up when all might be lost, was more than we were willing to do."
-- Sen. Nicole LeFavour (D-Boise)
"In Silence We Risk All" from Notes From the Floor

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Guns On Campus

"Stupidity carried beyond a certain point becomes a public menace."
-- Ezra Pound (In letter to Lascelles Abercrombie)

The Idaho House, in their infinite "wisdom," passed legislation today that would prevent state universities from banning or otherwise regulating the carrying of guns on campuses. This after university officials offered their grave concerns about such legislation, including two former members of the Idaho House Kent Kunz and Bruce Newcomb who now work for Idaho State University and Boise State University, respectively.

Clearly, the Idaho Legislature is operating on their own personal and mislead political beliefs or convoluted values this session and are not going to listen to their constituents regardless of how loudly opposed those constituents may be. Objections from Idaho residents to the education reform bills fell on deaf ears. It appears that the concerns of Idaho residents in regard to Medicaid cuts did little but take out the most extreme measures written into the bill. Unnecessary legislation masquerading as a bill to protect kids from online predators and from encountering pornography on their public library computers passed easily thus infringing on the first amendment rights of library patrons across the state. And, here again with the campus guns legislation, loud voices of opposition testified to the legislature and their voices were ignored. Add to this dangerous nullification efforts, anti-union bills, and attempts to protect the conscience of health care providers who should be first doing no harm and it has been one damaging legislative session.

Rep. Ken Roberts said during debate on the campus guns bill: “Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know about you, but I want to live in a country and a state where the citizens are armed. This legislation is legislation that's about protecting the very rights that made America free.” I don't know where Ken Roberts acquired his knowledge of American history, but my understanding of what made America free has nothing to do with guns and carrying them at public institutions like college campuses. Last I checked, it started out about representation, specifically taxation without representation. Maybe Rep. Roberts and his colleagues who voted in favor of allowing college students and members of the public to freely carry guns on campuses across the state should think long and hard about what kind of representation they're actually providing the people of Idaho.

I've spoken about gun control measures here before, but the reason I opposed this legislation has very little to do with whether or not I think people should be allowed to own hand guns. I grew up in a time when school shootings were constantly in the news. The spring before I started high school, two heavily armed young men walked into their Colorado high school and opened fire on their classmates and teachers--what was at the time the most deadly school shooting in U.S. history. While I was in college, a troubled young man at a university across the country in Virginia went on a rampage killing 32 college students and professors. Having guns on their person or having access to guns on campus would not have made either of these two shootings any less devastating. And like in Tuscon, who is to say that those who had access to guns would have gone after the correct assailant?

It's time for the legislature to go home. Whatever budget crisis we are in, the crises they are creating on other fronts by dismantling the state's Medicaid system, K-12 public education system, and municipal and county government authority are becoming far more dangerous than any budget crisis ever will be. More and more I believe the GOP members of the Idaho Legislature are a public menace, the guns on campuses bill just further proof.

Broke or Not Broke?

“We’re broke.” ... The phrase is designed to create a sense of crisis that justifies rapid and radical actions before citizens have a chance to debate the consequences.

Just one problem: We’re not broke. Yes, nearly all levels of government face fiscal problems because of the economic downturn. But there is no crisis. There are many different paths open to fixing public budgets. And we will come up with wiser and more sustainable solutions if we approach fiscal problems calmly, realizing that we’re still a very rich country and that the wealthiest among us are doing exceptionally well.

... A phony metaphor is being used to hijack the nation’s political conversation and skew public policies to benefit better-off Americans and hurt most others.
E.J. Dionne makes some excellent and timely points about the way ideologues are attempting to shape any discussion of debt, deficit or denial of funding for some government programs. If only the members of the Idaho Legislature who cry about the budget crisis understood that saying so isn't going to solve anything and coupled with their senseless budget cuts will actually create an even deeper crisis for the people of Idaho. Unfortunately, the Idaho Legislature does not deal in facts.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Hunters Claim Moyle Cronyism

I'm beginning to feel like it is all Moyle all the time around here. Here's an interesting story from the AP saying that hunter-pilots are charging that House Majority Leader Mike Moyle is using his position to pass legislation that would keep them away from a western Idaho elk herd. Unfortunately, I tend to believe the hunters on this and it certainly isn't the only piece of legislation that Moyle is pushing that benefits himself, his friends and his family.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Right-to-Farm Passes, 57-11

House Bill 221, the right-to-farm legislation brought by House Majority Leader Mike Moyle has passed the Idaho House on what may have been a party line vote of 57-11.

The debate on House Bill 221 consisted of the objections of a few Democrats, namely Killen, Jacquet, Ringo and King, but was carried by numerous legislators invoking Rule 38 and stating their intention to vote regardless of their own personal agricultural interests.

Rule 38 states:
"(3) A member has the right to vote upon all questions before the House and to participate in the business of the House and its committees and, in so doing, the member is presumed to act in good faith and in the public interest. If a member's personal interest in the issue under consideration conflicts with the public's interest, the member's legislative activities can be subject to limitations, unless such conflicts are disclosed to the presiding officer or to the body. Upon disclosure of any such conflict, the member may vote upon any question or issue to which the conflict relates, unless the member requests to be excused." [emphasis added]
Moyle, Batt, Nielsen, Wood (35), and Raybould were among the representatives who invoked Rule 38. Rep. Raybould attempted to invoke Rule 38 for every farmer in the House, but was told by Speaker Denney that each would have to invoke individually. Eventually Speaker Denney would state that "unless it impacts you personally at a different level than any other farmer, I don't believe you have to invoke Rule 38." I would contend that Rep. Moyle absolutely needed to invoke Rule 38 and should not have voted. Additionally, Batt noted that her husband's client was who brought this legislation forward and that revelation should require invoking Rule 38 and she also should not have voted.

Aside from the Rule 38 discussion, it appeared that the majority of those against this bill were against it due to their constituents' fear of CAFOs. Rep. Jaquet cited the concerns of constituents in Camas, Gooding and Jerome counties.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

'The state's most influential Republican leaders'

Here's a must-read spotted this morning in the Times-News. Certainly what Dean Dimond believes and what I do is that one of the "influential Republican leaders" is former mink farmer and current Idaho House Majority Leader Mike Moyle (R-Star). A snippet from the article:

"While [Dimond and his fellow farmers' case against the CAFOs] is pending in the Idaho Supreme Court, state lawmakers are considering legislation designed to make it more difficult for citizens to file lawsuits to stop the expansion of such feedlots or protest farming methods that create noise or stir up dust and offensive odors. Lawmakers in several other states are considering similar measures.

"Dimond believes the Idaho bill, backed by the farm industry and some of the state's most influential Republican leaders, threatens his ability to dissent and protect his quality of life.

" "I'm afraid that (the bill) is going to make it so if a CAFO or some big major chain wants to come to the property right next to you; you're not going to have a say in it," Dimond said. "I'm not saying you should be able to stop everything, but if it's going to affect you, you should have a say in it, whether it's positive or negative."

"The bill would make it possible for farms and feedlots to expand and operate within their property lines without fear of reprisals from neighbors' nuisance claims as long as they obey government regulations and have the appropriate state and federal permits."

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Moyle Update

This came to my attention this morning at Paul Dobbins' Trapper Talk:
"I heard about this a few days ago and was sworn to secrecy but seeing that everyone has read about it, here is what I was told.

"Moyles had failed to renew their marine mammal permit. It expired in 2007. Dumb move, Anyhow the marine mammals they had were confiscated.

"Also critters that required state seals like our wolverines and of course CITES animals, that had no seals or associated trapper's license numbers were also confiscated.

"If your hides were all properly sealed and had the corresponding license numbers all is well. Additionally, I was assurred [sic] that it's still cool to send hides for tanning. Just be sure all your paperwork is in order.

"ICE was there because they possess some technology to drain Moyles computers that the wildlife guys don't have. Alaska was involved in the whole deal on the periphery."
The author of this appears to be located in McGrath, Alaska, and I don't have any way to confirm what he says here, but am cautiously believing it for the time being. More to come.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Moyle's "Right to Farm" Legislation

A new aspect of my previous question about the influence of Mike Moyle's mink-farming family on legislation he has introduced has surfaced in the discussion of his "right to farm" legislation. Moyle's "right to farm" legislation cleared the House Agricultural Affairs Committee yesterday and was sent on to the full House with a do pass recommendation.

The following is the statement of purpose for House Bill 210:

Betsy at Eye On Boise summarizes HB 210, the "Right to Farm" legislation, as effort to "protect expansions of feedlots or other agricultural operations from all nuisance lawsuits and zoning ordinances and prohibits local governments from limiting them." Quoting the legislation: “Any such ordinance or resolution shall be null and void and shall have no force or effect." She goes on to point out that Speaker Denney is a farmer and Majority Leader Moyle and Rep. Lake are listed as being in “agribusiness.” Additionally, the AP reports that "opponents say the measure would shield corporate farms from nuisance lawsuits and severely reduce local government control on the growth of feedlot operations."

If nuisance lawsuits and zoning ordinances sound familiar in connection with the Moyle family, they should. Moyle Mink & Tannery in Heyburn has been battling the City of Heyburn for over a year regarding rezoning land for commercial use that would border the agricultural land that Moyle Mink operating their mink farm on. As I pointed out in my previous post, Moyle Mink seems to be afraid that if the Alfresco Parkway land in Heyburn is rezoned and businesses (i.e. hotels and restaurants accessible from the interstate) move into that space, they will eventually face opposition from neighbors offended by the general smell of their operation. The latest in the battle appears to be a move on the part of the City of Heyburn to revise the municipal ordinance related to the rezoning.

Once again the Idaho Legislature seems to be moving in the direction of stripping the rights of local/municipal governments while they decry the rights the federal government supposedly is usurping from the individual states.

Is it simply a coincidence that Rep. Moyle (R-Star) has introduced two pieces of legislation this session that would benefit the many members of the Moyle family who operate mink farms, including the embattled Moyle Mink & Tannery run by Ryan and Lee Moyle? I think not. Is it ethical? I also suspect not. Will the Idaho press or members of the Idaho Legislature take notice and question Moyle about it? Nope, not likely.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Moyle Mink Mess

Monday in Minidoka County, state and federal officials served multiple search warrants at two locations owned and operated by Moyle Mink & Tannery. Moyle Mink & Tannery is owned by Lee and Ryan Moyle.

When the news first broke Monday, KMVT (the Twin Falls CBS affiliate) noted that "officials with federal and state agencies were at the scene including law enforcement officials with the multi jurisdictional Federal 'Immigrant and Customs Enforcement' agency known as 'ICE'." It wasn't clear why ICE was involved, but due to the history of Moyle Mink (previously called the Moyle Mink Farm) one could easily jump to the conclusion that the business was employing undocumented workers. In 1989, Lee Moyle, co-owner of Moyle Mink & Tannery, was cited for 21 violations of the Immigration Reform and Control Act. The following, from U.S. v Moyle notes the history of the case:

Despite the Moyle's previous history of hiring undocumented workers, Tuesday Laurie Welch of the Times-News reported that the warrants were related to trafficking of illegal wildlife and the U.S. Attorney said there isn't an immigration component to the story. The immigration angle is a story in itself once the connections between Moyle Mink & Tannery and Idaho House Majority Leader Mike Moyle come to light. Idaho House Majority Leader Mike Moyle has supported numerous anti-immigration bills during his tenure in the Idaho Legislature, including English as the official language legislation as well as legislation that made obtaining an Idaho driver's license or identification card close to impossible for illegal immigrants.

The incestuous nature of the various Moyle mink farm operations in Idaho makes pointing out the exact connection between each of the Moyle family members involved in their operation difficult, but what has become clear is that Lee and Ryan Moyle, co-owners of Moyle Mink & Tannery, are relatives of Idaho House Majority Leader Mike Moyle. Mink farming and tanning has been in the Moyle family for three generations. In 1990 when Lee Moyle was interviewed by the Times-News regarding opposition the mink farms were encountering from animal rights groups like Friends of Animals, it was noted that "half of Idaho's mink production comes from southern Idaho farms, most of which bear the Moyle name." Lee Moyle stated that "the eight farms run by the Moyle family are the largest mink-production entity in North America." This would include the mink farms operated at times by various members of the Moyle family including Ryan & Lee's operation in Minidoka County that has been operating since 1986 in their current location and Rep. Mike Moyle's former mink ranch in Star, Idaho. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service there were twenty-four functioning mink or fur farms in Idaho as of 2007.

U.S. Assistant Attorney Mike Fica says that no charges have been filed in the ongoing investigation. What has been pieced together by the Times-News and KMVT suggests that Fish and Wildlife officials from several states as well as the previously mentioned Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers were on the scene yesterday when the search warrants were served. ICE officers were apparently brought in due to their experience seizing evidence. Below is a search at the Idaho Secretary of State's Business Entities Index, the Heyburn and Burley locations are likely the two locations where search warrants were served Monday:

The illegal trafficking of animals and employment of undocumented workers are not the only curious components of this story. Moyle Mink & Tannery has had a prickly relationship with local government over the past several years. They have opposed a development (referred to as the Alfresco Parkway PUD) neighboring their business in Heyburn due to what appears to be a fear that if commercial business comes in, there will inevitably be a complaint about the smell of the Moyle operation and Moyle Mink will be forced out. The conflict between Moyle Mink and the developer was depicted as follows in the Times-News:

The request [for rezoning] was opposed by Moyle Mink representative Ryan Moyle, who said potential ambient light from the business park could negatively affect breeding patterns of the company’s animals.

Moyle said the business park and the mink farm are just incompatible.

“I was willing to spend several hundred thousand dollars to stop it,” Moyle said.

The mink farm owners and developers tried to solve their issues, which ended in the Moyles offering to buy the Alfresco Parkway property and the developers saying “no thank you,” said developer attorney Lyman Belnap.

Moyle attorney Randy Stone said the mink farm land-applies mink waste and associated odors would be offensive to business park tenants.

“You have two businesses essentially destroying each other,” Stone said.

The land is being rezoned from agricultural to commercial use and could accommodate hotels and restaurants accessible to travelers on the nearby interstate. Ryan Moyle, the co-owner of Moyle Mink, appeared before the Heyburn City Council just weeks prior to the federal search warrants being served. The Heyburn City Council was to return to the rezoning issue at their February 23rd meeting, the minutes of which are available, however, the council instructed the city attorney to revise a specific ordinance for their next meeting. Ryan Moyle attended the February 23rd meeting.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this story has very little to do with the crimes being investigated at Moyle Mink & Tannery. Ryan Moyle's vocal opposition to the Alfresco Parkway rezoning in Minidoka County begs the question of whether or not Rep. Moyle's urban renewal bill currently being considered in the legislature would ultimately benefit the interests of Ryan and Lee Moyle. After all, in House Bill 95, Moyle is proposing that a new urban renewal district would require written consent from the owners of agricultural land before that land could be considered in that district. Judging by the opposition the Moyle's have had to the rezoning in the City of Heyburn, they would be precisely the agricultural land owners who would oppose the creation of an urban renewal district or the expansion of the geographic area of such a district as their agricultural land could eventually be considered blighted, the very type of land urban renewal districts are created to purge.

Clearly there are far more questions than answers surrounding Moyle Mink & Tannery.