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Columnist hunts for - and finds - misinformation

| December 11, 2010 2:00 AM

Justified Right

By Timothy Hunt

The Press published a letter to the editor (LTE) Nov. 11 by Ed Young of Rathdrum who wrote, “It is estimated that some 150,000 to 200,000 troops did not receive a ballot. This was a premeditated crime against our military.”

We are unable to corroborate even a single case in which a military voter requesting an absentee ballot was denied one; we conclude this claim is false and likely based upon an Internet hoax, widely circulated but entirely without merit.

•••

On Nov. 26, Kathy Sims, newly elected to the Idaho House, wrote “Trustees Trampling Constitution.” My Turn, an outlet for guest opinions longer than LTEs, is not generally subject to correction. But Ms. Sims crossed the line by suggesting a conspiracy between NIC, the NIC Foundation, a local appraiser, the city of Coeur d’Alene, an NIC board member, and Mountain West Bank. 

She also alleged a violation of the Idaho Constitution which is a matter for the courts, not a legislator, to determine. Ms. Sims also failed to explain her claim that interest on the Mountain West Bank loan extended to the NIC Foundation is exempt from federal taxes. Finally, she suggested the IRS might get involved; while the Education Corridor transactions are complex, Sims alleges no specific violations of federal tax law and we see none of what she dubs “convoluted and outright deceitful” uses of the NIC Foundation.  

A similar arrangement between NIC and the NIC Foundation funded the Work Force Training Center in Post Falls and I recall no public uproar about the process at that point. Neither have there been tax problems. Sims can always report the Foundation to the IRS, I suppose.

•••

Ironically, a response to Sims that appeared on Dec. 3 (also My Turn) by NIC Trustee Christie Wood was even worse, not to mention counter-productive. Wood has no reluctance about biting the hand that feeds her; she attacks Sims in a condescending and mean-spirited manner. To say that Sims “will learn” is but one example. 

Sims, as a matter of fact, has credentials infinitely superior to Wood’s. In 2001, Sims was appointed by Governor Kempthorne to fill a two-year vacancy in the Idaho State Senate. She served five years on the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce and five years on the Idaho Human Rights Commission, appointed by Idaho Governor Phil Batt. She is past vice-chairwoman of the Idaho Republican Party and was a delegate to the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Republican National Conventions.      But what is unfathomable is why Wood would tangle with someone who will pass on part of NIC’s funding for the next couple of years. Look for other legislators to show annoyance and side with Sims. Wood handles public relations for the Coeur d’Alene Police Department so her lack of understanding of politics and media is totally baffling. What all nonprofit boards need are leaders who will swallow their own pride on behalf of their organizations. Wood’s My Turn column was defensive and abusive; in attacking Sims she may have hurt the institution she is sworn to support.

•••

In another “My Turn” (Nov. 26), Paul Ciruso of Athol claims “dozens of insurance companies have notified people that they will not renew the Medicare Advantage plan.” He then criticizes the president for saying that everyone can keep his or her current insurance, proving, according to Ciruso, that the president did not read the bill before it was passed. The suggestion that something in the bill caused insurance companies to discontinue Med Advantage plans is not correct; further, we are unable to corroborate that any insurance company has cancelled Med Advantage coverage, let alone dozens. That has certainly not occurred in Idaho where we have seen daily advertisements for those plans offered by at least four companies, some with a free lunch. We need some evidence to support claims which do not appear to be true. As to whether or not the president read the health care bill, we submit that statement to the public sniff test.

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In another LTE, also Nov. 26, Traci Hayes of Coeur d’Alene let her enthusiasm run away with her judgment. She mercilessly attacked Press staff writer Alecia Warren for a pretty neat column on dance movies published one week earlier. Hayes is certainly entitled to her opinion but such lines as,” Try watching a movie before you criticize it,” are simply abusive and, from my reading of Warren’s column, not justified. Criticism that Warren mistook two tractors for two forklifts is insignificant, even if true. As an older gent who was taught manners, I simply do not cotton to comments by Hayes addressed to Warren such as, “I have a feeling you Googled dance movies, picked the first ones, got a brief concept via Netflix or the back of the video and went from there without knowing what you’re even talking about.” I imagine Ms. Hayes does not know enough about journalism ethics to realize she is accusing Warren of offenses that, if true, could cost a writer her job. In any event, I doubt all of those accusations. In Hayes v Warren, we pick Warren and are giving 7-5 odds.

•••

On Nov. 24, Jeff Tyler of Coeur d’Alene claimed (LTE) that the AMA estimates “40 percent of doctors will either retire early or quit if Obamacare is instituted.” I contacted the AMA and asked if that is true. Quite the contrary of what Mr. Tyler claimed, an AMA media person wrote me that the AMA has expressed qualified support for the new health reform law and does not use the term Obamacare. I suspect another Internet hoax and encourage better fact finding on the part of letter writers.

•••

On Nov. 28, LTE writer Rich Buonocore, Hayden, wrote, “The president admits he has no clue how intrusive TSA searches are.” That is quite a stretch from the truth; what the president actually said is because he travels on Air Force One he does not have to go through pat-downs and other normal security procedures at airports.

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Also on Nov. 28, Kimberly Davis of Coeur d’Alene complained that she was not given the free sandwich Subway promised to veterans and their families; while the misunderstanding is unfortunate, the actual announcement from the sandwich chain said, “Veterans are eligible for a free 6-inch sub sandwich at select Subways,” not at all Subways. I am not quite sure how her distress with Subway ties in to the bank bailout, the Federal Reserve, the Democratic Party, the major media and genocide, all of which are also mentioned in the same letter. We do advise readers, whether veterans or not, to examine closely messages about major companies (Subway, in this case) that do not come directly from those companies. Many Internet hoaxes are circulating, some quite cruel. If you see a message that the Coeur d’Alene Press is giving away a free Lexus with a one year subscription, it is probably wise to check with The Press prior to writing your check. If it turns out to be true, line up behind Mike Patrick and me, please.

•••

Craig Kerwin (LTE, Dec. 8) apparently believes that establishing polling places in schools is part of some kind of conspiracy designed to ensnare parents (dropping off their kids) to vote for the levies.  I recommend we have only one polling place, the Fighting Creek Landfill. For one thing, that will eliminate all voters who are not properly motivated, like those parents, and for another it is an appropriate resting place for an abusive letter from someone who apparently thinks it is OK to call the superintendent of schools, “Hazel,” as though she is his serving woman at a greasy spoon. Sorry, Craig, but that is not OK.

“Justified Right” appears as needed; its purpose is to correct errors of fact, mainly in letters to the editor (LTEs) and My Turn columns published in The Press. To submit items, e-mail Timothy Hunt, at linotype.hunt785@gmail.com. Please include the date of publication of suspected errors.

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