Pistol Packing Mama’s Baking Soda Solution

Fiore 2

The Wisdom of Michele Fiore (R-NV Assembly 4) might be amusing if (1) it stayed within the boundaries of the Silver State as an inside joke, or (2) if much of it was within the realm of reality.  Neither appears to be the case.

Think Progress has picked up the latest Fiore Story, as has MSNBC.  Thus much for keeping the story to ourselves.

However, there’s more to this adventure into an alternate reality.  First, the suggestion that campus rape might be prevented if the “hot little girls” were packing pistols in their purses ignores some valid questions.

First question, if all the girls are allowed to carry firearms on campus, would that not also apply to the men – the potential predators stalking the “hot little girls?” And, if this is the case then what we have is a formula for escalating violence not necessarily prevention.  Secondly, the incidence of rape among college women is far below that for non-college females. Ergo, while any rape isn’t acceptable the fact that college women aren’t carrying firearms doesn’t put them at necessarily greater risk.  Third, there’s the incapacitation factor.  Campus rapes tend to be associated with physical restraint, and/or voluntary or involuntary intoxication.  The gun in the purse under these circumstances probably wouldn’t be an option. [USAT]

Secondly, there’s the long debunked cancer treatment advice.  “If you have cancer, which I believe is a fungus, and we can put a pic line into your body and we’re flushing with, say, salt water, sodium cardonate through that line and flushing out the fungus. These are some procedures that are not FDA-approved in America that are very inexpensive, cost-effective.” [Ralston]

The American Cancer Society’s position is crystal clear on this matter:

“No peer-reviewed articles in medical journals were found to support the theory that cancer is caused by a fungus infection or a yeast infection. Available peer-reviewed medical journals do not support claims that sodium bicarbonate works as a cancer treatment in humans.”

So, where did the baking soda idea come from? Assuming Fiore meant “sodium bicarbonate.”

“The main proponent of sodium bicarbonate as an alternative cancer treatment is Tullio Simoncini, MD. Information on the Internet describes how Dr. Simoncini concluded that cancer is caused by Candida albicans and can be cured with baking soda. The sequence of events and timeline are not described in detail.

According to the Cancer Treatment Watch website, “[Dr. Simoncini] has been using unsubstantiated cancer treatments for 15 years… in 2003, his [Italian] license to practice medicine was withdrawn, and in 2006 he was convicted by an Italian judge for wrongful death and swindling… [ACS]

Now we have the specter of a bill introduced into our Assembled Wisdom promoting “alternative” treatments such as one practiced by a defrocked Italian doctor who’s been convicted of wrongful death and swindling.

Perhaps we can only hope (1) that Assemblywoman Fiore manages to stay out of the media spotlight long enough for us to catch our breath before the next foray into insanity, and (2) her health and welfare advice is ignored long enough to prevent escalating violence on campuses, and to prevent cancer patients from suffering the fraudulent attentions of defrocked quacks.

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Filed under Nevada legislature, Nevada politics

How NOT to finance public works: The Capital Appreciation Bond Saga

Capital appreciation bonds God help school board members. They don’t get paid for their service, and they certainly aren’t compensated for the bombastic late night calls from irate parents when Little Fauntleroy isn’t selected for the lead in the annual 5th grade play.  That said, let’s explore one more reason for them to go gray while doing their civic duty: Swimming with Financial Sharks.

In late 2012 the Los Angeles Times reported that approximately 200 California school districts and community colleges had been talked into Capital Appreciation Bonds which promised to mitigate the problems associated with financing school construction costs. So, what could go wrong?

“CABs, as the bonds are known, allow schools to borrow large sums without violating state or locally imposed caps on property taxes, at least in the short term. But the lengthy delays in repayment increase interest expenses, in some cases to as much as 10 or 20 times the amount borrowed.”

Only, it wasn’t 10 or 20 times the amount borrowed – given the $500 billion borrowed could turn into $2 trillion in future repayments.

“Wall Street exploited the school boards’ lack of business acumen and proposed the bonds as blank checks written against taxpayers’ pocketbooks. One school administrator described a Wall Street meeting to discuss the system as like “swimming with the big sharks.”

Wall Street has preyed on these school boards because of the millions of dollars in commissions. Banks, financial advisers and credit rating firms have billed California public entities almost $400 million since 2007. Lockyer described this as “part of the ‘new’ Wall Street,” which “has done this kind of thing on the private investor side for years, then the housing market and now its public entities.” [SF.com]

This was lucrative business for such firms as Piper Jaffray, which pocketed some  $31.4 million in fees for brokering 165 CAB deals, or for Goldman Sachs which earned $1.6 million for a single deal in San Diego. [SF.com]

The argument in favor of Capital Appreciation Bonds is deceptively simple.  Most bond issues have steady repayment schedules and are limited to 30 years or less.   Capital Appreciation Bonds assume that the asset will appreciate in value or generate revenue for longer than 30 years or less – so, why not spread out the repayment schedule over a longer period? Here’s why, and here are two things to watch as the sharks circle:

(1) Watch for interestingly engineered estimates of future revenues.  If you are looking at property values that are expected to increase exponentially, then imagine the shark grin facing in your direction.  “Gee,” sayeth the Shark, “The recession can’t last forever, and property values will increase. Therefore, why not spread your borrowing costs over a longer period when you’ll be generating larger incomes?”

(2) Watch for the piling up of fees and interest.  Yes, the repayment schedules were such that school districts in California could construct gyms, classrooms, and other facilities that couldn’t get past voter disapproval of bond issues – but as with all loans the longer the repayment schedule the more interest will be paid. For example, the Savanna School District (Anaheim) took on $239,721 in CAB obligations in 2009 on which it will pay approximately $3.6 million by the 2034 maturity date. [Alter]  There are, unfortunately, other examples in Orange County, CA:

“Over the next 40 years, these bonds are projected to cost districts $2 billion as they repay them at rates of 1.1 times to 15 times the principal, according to figures provided by the state treasurer’s office. Conventional bonds typically carry a 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 debt ratio.” [OCR]

It’s entirely possible to call for more infrastructure construction and asset enhancement without having the specter of the Capital Appreciation Bond salesman showing all fifteen rows of teeth in each jaw.  We should also call this kind of dealing what it is – predatory lending.  The Roosevelt Institute provides a summary:

“The financialization of the United States economy has distorted our social, economic, and political priorities. Cities and states across the country are forced to cut essential community services because they are trapped in predatory municipal finance deals that cost them millions of dollars every year. Wall Street and other big corporations engaged in a systematic effort to suppress taxes, making it difficult for cities and states to advance progressive revenue solutions to properly fund public services. Banks take advantage of this crisis that they helped create by targeting state and local governments with predatory municipal finance deals, just like they targeted cash-strapped homeowners with predatory mortgages during the housing boom. Predatory financing deals prey upon the weaknesses of borrowers, are characterized by high costs and high risks, are typically overly complex, and are often designed to fail.” [RooseveltInst]

High cost, high risk, overly complex, and sold to the school boards as a way to finance capital projects without breaking the “no new taxes” pledges.  The thought of paying out at 15:1 when the debt costs should have been no more than 3:1 is possibly worse than the ranting of Fauntleroy’s mother after the 5th grade play cast was announced. And so we come to the camel’s nose into Nevada’s tent with a recommendation for infrastructure funding:

“Along these same lines, there may be instances where changing legislatively imposed requirements relating to bonding may benefit from increased flexibility. For instance, bonds for capital projects are generally limited to terms of less than 30 years. However, in a limited number of cases, such as projects which generate user fees or for which the useful life of the asset extends beyond 30 years, there may be instances where longer financing terms may be useful to accelerating the timeline of a needed capital project.” [Applied Analysis]

What is Applied Analysis (client list includes Chambers of Commerce) recommending?  “More flexibility” in bonding requirements? This sounds ominously like California’s infamous AB 1388 which launched the CAB craze in our western neighbor.  Lengthen the repayment period to the life of the asset? The average functional life of a school building is 40 years. [NCES] So, a capital appreciation bond could be issued for 40 years – go back to the unfortunate example of the Poway School District, wherein borrowing $150 million ended up costing $1 billion.

School board members, as well as city and county officials, should approach suggestions that they want “more flexibility” and “longer repayment schedules” with exactly the same trepidation they’d approach the water when the shark alert sign goes up.

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Filed under Economy, education, Infrastructure, Nevada economy, nevada education, Nevada politics, nevada taxation

Catechism Isn’t The Chess Club: Nevada’s AB 120 and its implications

Prayer in Schools As if the State of Nevada had nothing else with which to concern itself – infrastructure needs, including building maintenance and upgrades, attendance to the backlog of maintenance needs in our parks and other tourist attractions, the need to diversify the economy, the need to address issues surrounding living wages – the Assembled Wisdom will be spending some time on AB 120 – the Put Proselytizing in Public Schools Bill.

Here’s the LCB summary:

“Section 2 of this bill clarifies that pupils at public schools are entitled to: (1) pray to the same extent and under the same circumstances as pupils are allowed to meditate, reflect or speak on nonreligious matters; (2) express a religious viewpoint to the same extent and under the same circumstances as pupils are allowed to express a viewpoint on a nonreligious matter; (3) possess or distribute religious literature to the same extent and under the same circumstances as pupils are allowed to possess or distribute literature on a nonreligious matter; and (4) organize or participate in any prayer group, religious club or religious gathering before, during or after regular school hours to the same extent and under the same circumstances as pupils are allowed to organize and participate in any extracurricular group or activity before, during and after regular school hours.”

There are some problems herein.  The first of which is constitutional. Not the Federal Constitution, but the State one.  The issue is raised in Article XI:

“Sec: 9.  Sectarian instruction prohibited in common schools and university.  No sectarian instruction shall be imparted or tolerated in any school or University that may be established under this Constitution.  Section Ten.  No public money to be used for sectarian purposes.  No public funds of any kind or character whatever, State, County or Municipal, shall be used for sectarian purpose. [Added in 1880. Proposed and passed by the 1877 legislature; agreed to and passed by the 1879 legislature; and approved and ratified by the people at the 1880 general election. See: Statutes of Nevada 1877, p. 221; Statutes of Nevada 1879, p. 149.]”

If a statement, tract, pamphlet, book, audio recording, video recording, etc. is to be distributed among students where does one draw a line between what is an “expression of a viewpoint” and an element of “sectarian instruction?” 

Secondly, the Nevada Constitution is abundantly clear that no public funds of any kind may be used for sectarian purposes.  If a proposed “religious club or religious gathering” is sponsored by the school is a faculty adviser to be assigned? If so, and most districts do require a faculty adviser for the supervision of extracurricular activities, then if the advisor is paid for supervision activities does this create a Constitutional question? Similarly, if the sectarian organization or gathering uses the public school facilities who pays for the heating, cooling, or the light bill?  Since AB 120 says that the access to sectarian activities must be “before, during, and after school” then a reasonable person would have to assume that the schools would be subsidizing the facilities during those times.

There are more tangential issues which need to be explored. For example, what is the origin of the “religious literature,” are these published by a sectarian organization for distribution or are they cranked out on the school copier?  If the latter, is the lease for the copier or attendant fiscal considerations, part of what should be considered the expenditure of public funds?

In some ethereal abstract way giving equal access to everyone sounds nice and tidy, fair and equitable – but the proscription on sectarian instruction creates all manner of issues for which litigation seems the only natural recourse for their resolution.  Natural, but expensive.

There are some other practical considerations which deserve some attention.  For example, does the language in AB 120 imply that religious organizations which have institutional programs for elementary and secondary school students are free to utilize the facilities of the public schools? Does this mean that LDS Seminary programs or Roman Catholic Catechism sessions are included? Does this mean there should be a Melamed tinokos’ (children’s teacher) available for Talmud Torah instruction as in a Cheder?

Bible Study groups present a plethora of issues.  If there is provision for an informal Bible Study group, then must the school make time and space equally available for the Koran? The Talmud? The Buddhist Suttas?  And, while we’re on the subject – which Bible? The King James? The New American Standard? The Revised Standard version? The RSV Catholic Edition?  If there is a “study group” using the King James version, then if parents object must the school offer time and space for the RSV-CE group?

Another practical consideration is predicated on the notion that children, especially adolescents, tend to be pack animals and parents tend to be attuned to individual preferences.  If, for example, instruction or Bible study tends toward a congregationalist  or individualistic interpretation of Scripture then what might be the reaction of parents who tend toward the more  episcopal interpretation?

Assuming the school population mirrors that of an average community, the majority will be some version of Christian – but what version? Further, if the majority is some version of Christian, and the majority of the school population does participate in a morning prayer session, what of the minority students who don’t?   What provisions or accommodations are made for students who come from homes in which it is considered improper to ask God for anything – homes in which only thanks and praise are appropriately  addressed to the deity?  Again — assuming that peer pressure is a profound thing among adolescents – how does the school deal with the individual preferences of the parents? How does it deal with children from the homes of non-Christians, or non-believers?  How does it cope with the feelings of those who feel “left out?”  Or, under pressure to “conform?”

Then there is the matter of what is appropriate in public schools.  There are extremists in nearly all forms of organized religion.  Would materials from the Westboro Baptist Church be appropriate in the Small Town Central Elementary School?  Would the teachings of an Imam associated with the Wahhabist version of Islam be appropriate? Would publications from the Radical Traditional Catholics be appropriate given their hard-core anti-Semitism?  How is a public school to differentiate between the radical and the mundane if ALL “religious viewpoints” are to be given “equal time?”

AB 120 is shot through with both constitutional and practical problems.  The best solution in a public setting might very well be to leave the religious instruction of children in the hands of their parents, and to have the school concentrate its energies and resources on reading, writing, math, science, and the other basic elements of its curricula.

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Home Defects, Budget Shortfalls, and Picking Losers

Jig Saw Puzzle

Interesting items, each worthy of a post, but in the interest of keeping up to date – here are some newsworthy items deserving of a click and read.

Nevada Legislature: Take a moment to read Eli Segall’s piece in the Las Vegas Sun about the interest taken in the Assembled Wisdom about homeowner complaints in regard to construction defects.  Here’s a taste:

“Supporters say the proposal will boost construction jobs, but outside analysts say it will hammer trial lawyers, a political and business foe of builders, and, despite the bill’s name, will make it harder for homeowners to sue for shoddy workmanship.”  Why?

“As proposed, AB 125 would, among other things, strip homeowners’ ability to recover reasonable attorney fees in defect cases; require homeowners to state each problem in “specific detail” rather than in “reasonable” detail as current law allows and to give the defects’ “exact” locations in the house; and change the definition of a constructional defect, eliminating the provision that such flaws are made in violation of law and local codes and ordinances.”

Republicans in Disarray?  There is an effort to recall Assemblyman Hambrick (R-NVAD2).  Hambrick, GOP opponents say, has Strayed From the No New Taxes Pledge. [LVRJ]

School Daze: There’s this from Let’s Talk Nevada:

“8:00 AM: H/T Ralston for this. Pedro Martinez, the man Governor Brian Sandoval (R) hand-picked to run the new “Achievement School District” where he wants to transfer 10% of Nevada public schools into, is so dedicated to improving public education in Nevada… That he’s now running for School Superintendent in Boston. And yes, that’s Boston, Massachusetts.”

Meanwhile in Wisconsin under the Austerity/Trickle Down Hoax regime of Scott Walker – the governor’s solution to the $283 million budget shortfall created by his tax cuts is to skip $108 million in debt paymentsAnd in Kansas, the legislature backed down and decided to allow governor Brownback to sweep $475 million over the next two years from KDOT into the budget hole created by his tax cuts. [Kansas.comGet ready Ohio, governor Kasich is gearing up his 23% cut in the state income taxes over the next two years.

And in Congress, the Republican leadership is operating on the same theme:

“House leaders plan to schedule votes this week on seven bills recently approved by the Ways and Means Committee to make permanent an array of “tax extenders,” a set of primarily corporate tax provisions that policymakers routinely extend for a year or two at a time.  The seven measures, which will likely be packaged into a smaller number of bills for floor consideration, are the first installment in a series of bills that House leaders are expected to move to make many of the largest tax extenders permanent, while offsetting none of the cost.”

I think we’ve seen this before, and labeling it “Credit Card Capitalism,” wherein the Bush Administration turned the Clinton Administration surplus into a massive deficit – and then blamed the Democrats for “tax and spend” policies.  We might get the drift – the Republicans get into control, lower the taxes and revenues, thereby piling up a massive debt. The Democrats take back the control, enact taxes to fill the holes in the state budgets – and the GOP screams about “Tax and Spend?”

About those “economic development” and “job creating” ideas – a report (pdf) from North Carolina documents that 60% of the recipients of their incentive awards were cancelled because the firms failed to live up to their promises. H/T Angry Bear.  The story is about the same in Wisconsin:

“The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, a public-private body set up by Walker shortly after he took office in January 2011, was supposed to help the state climb out of recession by shedding bureaucratic rules and drawing on private-sector expertise.

But the WEDC has fallen short of its own goals by tens of thousands of jobs and failed to keep track of millions of dollars it has handed out. One reason for the agency’s disappointing performance: Walker’s overhaul of the state bureaucracy drove away seasoned development workers, economic development experts who work closely with the agency told Reuters.” [CapBlue]

There are other ways to create jobs and improve our economy; take a look at the CAP proposal for the Appalachian region.

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Filed under Economy, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, tax revenue, Taxation

Guns and Nutters: Nevada Legislature Recoils

Guns Nevada Legis Infrastructure

The state of Nevada has 158 “high hazard” dams.  ‘High hazard’ means there could be loss of life or significant property damage if a dam failure were to occur. [ASCE]  However, the state legislature appears to have other priorities. Guns, case in point:   SB 175.  As of February 4, 2015 there were 10 bills in the Assembled Wisdom regarding guns. [RGJ]  SB 175 is particularly subservient to the National Rifle (Manufacturers) Association:

“Senate Bill 175, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, also would loosen Nevada’s reciprocity laws with other states regarding concealed weapon permits and repeal a handgun registration requirement in Clark County, a local ordinance that has been in existence for more than six decades.

Further, it would establish “state control over the regulation of policies concerning firearms,” and allow anyone “adversely affected” by local ordinances or regulations that violate the measure to sue for damages.

The measure would make it illegal for anyone convicted of domestic violence, even a misdemeanor offense, from owning a gun. A violation would constitute a felony. It also would prohibit anyone under an extended protection order from acquiring a gun while the order is in effect.” [LVRJ]

Part One – the reciprocity would lower Nevada standards to the least common denominator among the states. Part Two – repeals the permitting requirements in Clark County. Part Three – allows anyone with a grouse to sue local governments on the grounds of “2nd Amendment Free-dumb.” Part Four – says a person under a domestic violence restraining order cannot buy a gun – and says nothing about removing guns from an abuser who already has possession of them prior to conviction.  Meanwhile, …

The state’s budget for dealing with high hazard dams is half the national average, and there are only 3 full time employees responsible for overseeing an average of  225 state regulated dams.   [ASCE]  Nevada ranks 23rd in the nation in renewable energy in a state well known for sun and wind.  [ASCE]

However, those dams and that renewable energy aren’t major topics among the Assembled Wisdom because the efforts thus far highlight how a gun hobbyist in Nevada can get a concealed carry permit as easily as he or she could in Florida – wherein the standard appears to be the capacity to slightly fog a mirror. [TP]  Witness: AB 127 which would do away with local Clark County firearms regulation and put all the authority in the hands of the State.  [LVRJ]  I must be getting very forgetful in my dotage, but I do recall a time when Republicans were all about “local control.”

The state could use more funds for its educational system, both k-12 and higher education; more funding for its public health programs; more resources for our mental health and child welfare services – and more resources allocated to improving our infrastructure.  But, the prime topic in this rendition of the Assembled Wisdom seems to be the care and nurturing of our ‘beleaguered ammosexuals.’   Because, you know… Freedumb.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics

Nevada AB 121: Promote Your Gun in School

NVLeg Gun Promotion

Nevada Assembly members Wheeler, Ellison, Jones, Dickman, Moore, O’Neill, and Oscarson would like to help those kiddies who are disciplined for simulating a firearm during art or play activities, or who are wearing Pro-Gun Apparel in Assembly Bill 121.

There are a couple of levels at which this is ill advised. First, it seems to be one of those solutions in search of a problem. Someone’s kid gets disciplined in some school somewhere for simulating a lethal weapon, gets sent home, and the incident seems to instantly hit the Internet – to be endlessly forwarded and all too often enhanced by the Great E-Mail Telegraph. 

Secondly, this isn’t all about ‘free-dumb.’ It’s about marketing. It’s about the National Rifle (Manufacturers) Association promoting its products to a younger generation – since the older ones don’t seem all that interested in arming themselves to the gunwales.   There are reactive increases in gun sales, but generally speaking there are fewer US households purchasing more guns while the majority eschew such shopping.

It’s about the continuing efforts of the National Rifle (Manufacturers) Association to re-interpret the 2nd Amendment to disallow any common sense restraints and limitations, as are applied to every other portion of the Splendid Document.  

It’s also a way to launch a thousand ships of controversy. Does Johnny’s t-shirt with the scantily clad voluptuous young woman waving a 2nd Amendment banner constitute a “disruption,” or because it’s advertising the NRA agenda is it OK? After all, under the provisions of AB 121 a child can’t be disciplined for  “Wearing clothing or accessories that depict a firearm or dangerous weapon or express an opinion regarding a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. “

We might ask – are some of the people who are advocating in favor of this bill possibly be  the same folks who decried the wearing of “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” shirts worn by some professional, amateur, and school team members? Have they agreed with the Oklahoma legislator who wanted to ban hoodies?  Would an NRA hoodie, as seen above, be acceptable?

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Filed under Gun Issues, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics

Well now, that was embarrassing: NV Treasurer Diss’es Governor

Schwartz bus  The following masterpiece of understatement captures what happened yesterday at the Assembled Wisdom in Carson City:

“Things did not go well for newly elected Nevada Treasurer Dan Schwartz Thursday at the Nevada Legislature.” [RGJ]

It really doesn’t do to garner headlines like: “Nevada lawmakers tell treasurer his budget proposal is embarrassing.” [LVRJ] Or, “Nevada treasurer blasted by own party for submitting alternative budget.” [LVSun]  Then the Elko Daily Free Press chimed in, “Nevada treasurer’s budget called ‘absurdity’.”  And, to ice the cupcake, there’s the part wherein some conservative members of the Assembled Wisdom may have tossed Mr. Schwartz under the venerable clichéd bus:

“Schwartz told The Associated Press last week that he met with a group of Assembly and Senate Republicans interested in drafting a bill reflecting the alternative budget. Several conservative Republican lawmakers say they’re trying to block Sandoval’s plan, which will need the votes of two-thirds of the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass.” [EDFP]

Needless to say, Mr. Schwartz back-tracked after the Debacle, saying the whole thing was his idea.  Treasurer meet the underside of the bus tires? Newly elected State Controller Ron Knecht seems to have had the good sense to remain quietly in the background after initially approving of Mr. Schwartz’s proposition. [LVRJ]

When the Dynamic Duo launched their Alternative Budget on or about February 3rd, it did have some numbers in it…they just weren’t the Governor’s numbers.  Nor did the Duo think through the implementation of their specifics, all three pages of them.  For example, precisely how would the state collect their Quarter a Plate restaurant tax? Then, there was the infamous, and illegal, airport tax notion. [LVRJ] It’s not like he wasn’t warned the ill-fated proposal wouldn’t have a glorious reception.

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