Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Look at the birdie

    "Look at the birdie!” is a tried and true technique that professional photographers use to distract tiny kids from squirming, crying or throwing themselves on the floor as they try to create a permanent memory of adorable kids for their families. The “birdie” is usually a cute squeaky toy that the photographer wields to get a child’s attention.
    Idaho’s state-level elected officials and some federal agencies have successfully played the same game with Idahoans, distracting us while pursuing ends that hurt instead of help us.
    In a full-court press over the last few years, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and the Republican-dominated Legislature threw the full force of their party and their offices against legalizing same-sex marriage. After the U.S. Supreme Court last week refused to hear appeals of federal district court decisions that came down in favor of gay marriage, and after even the Idaho attorney general dropped the state’s opposition, Otter continued his benighted crusade with a private attorney pursuing a second stay of the high court’s decision.
    Imagine if the level of effort used to block same-sex marriages—sham legislative hearings where the public was denied the right to speak, impassioned speeches in which fear dominated logic, days of political and legal strategy sessions to figure out how to defeat rising public support for allowing one person to devote their lives to another and months of legal maneuvers—had been applied to real problems.
    Instead, Idaho continue to insist that residents “Look at the birdie!” as they distract us with impassioned efforts opposing gay marriage, wolves, abortion and the federal mandate that requires everyone to buy health insurance. They extol an effort to grab federal lands for the state while knowing full well the lands would likely be sold to the highest bidder lest the cost of management bankrupt the state.
    With the time and effort devoted to the “Look at the birdie!” game, state officials could have solved some real problems.
    By now, they could have fixed the lack of equal education in public schools, addressed the fact that individual Idahoans are last in median income of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, found a way to collect taxes on Internet sales, and stopped state university tuition from outstripping the ability of families to pay.
    By now, they could have created an enviable legacy instead of a state with a reputation for discrimination, low wages, greed and backward thinking.

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