Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday Round Up - 11 September

[This post discusses September 11th, the NM Public Education Department's law-breaking, the freeing of a bull snake, and the Senate action regarding the deal with Iran.]

A Sad Anniversary
11 September? On this day I was in the Library of Congress, researching life in 1914 for a piece of fiction I was working on.  It was still morning when someone announced the library was closing, without really giving a reason.

Of course it turned out that the Twin Towers had been destroyed and another plane had crashed into the Pentagon.  But for the quick-acting heroes on a fourth flight, the White House or Congress would have been hit -- and I'd have heard the impact and smelled the fumes.

I motorcycled home.  Traffic out of that part of DC was so thick that if I'd had a car rather than a motorcycle I'd probably still be there.

DC felt like a war zone, with all the helicopters flying around.  At supper that night on a rooftop cafe, as I recall we could still see some flames at the Pentagon.

Early the next morning I went to shoot photographs.  It was still dark.  There were few cars on the street.  I had to park several hundred yards from the Lincoln Memorial because of all the military and police guarding it.  I walked past them and, very shortly after dawn I shot a photograph one could only have shot that morning, because of the tourists and joggers and others who'd have been all over those stairs any normal morning.  But this guy was at work.  No one saw him but me and dozens of troops.

Punishing the P.E.D.  -- and Us!
On Wednesday, First Judicial District Judge Sarah Singleton rejected an effort by the Public Education Department to avoid paying $14,000 in legal fees for PED's failure to comply with the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act.
This was the case in which Plaintiff National Education Association (New Mexico) sought documentary support for Education Secretary Hanna Skandera that the teacher evaluation system put in place during the Richardson Administration had failed because it determined that more than 99% of all teachers were proficient.   PED stalled on NEA's IPRA request for nine months or so, then conceded it didn't have the "studies" Skandera claimed to have rlied upon.
“What I believe is that you have a very important statement that has been made, and you really have no basis that you can document for that statement," Singleton stated in her ruling.  The agency was also fined $485.
NEA-NM President Betty Patterson commented, “If the Public Education Department had been as transparent as the Governor claims her administration is, not one penny of legal fees would be required.   If they were transparent, none of this would be necessary.”

PED spokesman Robert McEntyre tried to spin the ruling to blame the NEA for his department's misconduct: 'Today’s ruling shows that these special interests would rather have more money spent in courtrooms than in our classrooms, where it belongs.' .  That is, it's your fault we broke the law.  If you hadn't demanded we follow the law, we wouldn't have spent this $14,000 in public money trying to bullshit the public.
The PED under Martinez-appointee Skandera has been somewhat disastrous. 

KRWG's Story on this is here.
The Sun-News story on this is here.

We the public don't want to pay for keeping things secret that ought to be public. My next Sun-News column (not the one coming out in two days, but the one I'll write next week) will likely cover a situation where the County Manager tried to stonewall the DA and DASO, and the State Police, regarding reports on alleged misconduct by Detention Center director Chris Barela.  The alleged misconduct was known well before my column on the subject.  It's amazing to recognize that I wrote that column December 13, 2013, that the problem was also reported to law enforcement at least by then, and that as of Wednesday law enforcement was still trying to pry loose reports detailing the alleged misconduct -- at least one of which included summaries of interviews with witnesses.  Thanks again to former County Counsel John Caldwell for fighting the grand jury on this, opining that the reports were protected by the attorney-client privilege.  I wonder how much attorney time we've spent (or will spend: I don't yet know whether the County met a deadline yesterday and turned over copies of the reports) having two public agencies fight each other over this.

Freeing the Snake
When D stopped to see an 84-year-old friend, the glue traps someone had talked her into using for mice had trapped a very nice bull snake.   He was so well-attached to the glue paper, at his head and several other spots, that he couldn't escape -- and he'd been there awhile.   His situation looked grim; but D researched the problem on line, and late Wednesday night we used saffron oil to free him.   She painted it lightly on the spots where he was attached, while I held the paper.   He was a little worried, but may have realized the process was freeing him.  He didn't try to bite, anyway.   We'd put him into a plastic bucket deep enough that perhaps he wouldn't escape in our garage, but once he got sufficiently free he reared up and climbed onto a shelf and hid.
Three observations:
1. these glue traps have a downside -- but it is possible to free wildlife from them when the wrong beasts get trapped;
2. if I didn't already love this woman who will run out in the evening to bring back a bull snake and spend an hour freeing it, I'd fall in love with her just for that; and
3. if you're freeing a snake from a trap, do it outside or at least go outside when the job's nearly completed.  Next day I left the cat door open from 5 a.m. to about 4 p.m., hoping the bull snake would exit, and I hope he has.

Iran Deal Update
The Congressional effort to derail the Iran deal seems futile  and self-defeating.  Opponents' refrain is that Iran will have the opportunity to build nuclear weapons in ten or fifteen years under the deal; but Iran will have that opportunity this year, without the deal.   Bottom line: if Iran gets close to having nuclear weapons, we'll either have to accept that or try a military solution our generals strongly oppose.  This deal offers some hope that Iran will abandon that effort over time.  As far as I can tell, from a lot of reading, the inspection system should be adequate.  Certainly the deal enhances inspection capabilities over what they are now!  Past counselors to Republican Presidents, such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell and ____ Gergen (advisor to about four Presidents, and quoted in my column on the subject), say the deal is the best option we have right now.  The deal could possibly prevent or at least significantly delay something worse than the deal.  I do not hear the opponents explaining in any detail what they'd do as an alternative: re-imposing sanctions ain't gonna work because we'd be doing it alone, without the rest of the developed world; and the real alternative, preemptive war, they haven't the political gumption to advocate. 

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