VA secretary explains just how Mickey Mouse his agency has become

“When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what’s important? What’s important is, what’s your satisfaction with the experience?” Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Monday. “And what I would like to move to, eventually, is that kind of measure.”

That is simply crass, crude, clueless and obtuse.

Waiting to board an amusement park ride is a bit different from waiting for pain-relieving or even life-saving medical care. You can’t ask the deceased what their level of satisfaction was.

Nevada’s junior Sen. Dean Heller unloaded in a letter to McDonald:

I write to you extremely concerned about the comments you made on May 23, 2016, comparing the length of time veterans wait to receive health care at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to the length of time people wait for rides at Disneyland. Not only am I concerned about the flippant nature of your comparison but also the fact that you said that your agency should not use wait times as a measure of success because Disney does not either.  As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I believe it is my responsibility to follow up with you on the gravity of this issue as it critical to ensure that Veterans across my state are receiving the care they were promised in an expedient manner.

When men and women across our nation committed to serving America and risking their lives to protect us, our country promised that, in return, we would care for these service members upon their return home. This is not a Disney fairytale Mr. Secretary, this is reality. Recent statistics from Nevada show nearly 10,000 VA appointments remain scheduled over 30 days from the requested date. Given the issues that Nevada’s Veterans continue to face accessing VA health care, I do not believe that promise has been kept. Just a few weeks ago, I heard from a Nevada veteran’s wife about the difficulty she faced scheduling a cardiology appointment for her husband. When there are life-threatening issues that can make or break a veterans’ health, waiting is not an option, and Nevada’s veterans deserve better.

Time and time again, I have called for accountability at your agency, and I strongly believe that it should start with the top.  This is why your comments were not only disrespectful but harmful to ensuring that there will be any real change at the VA when it comes to the timeliness of health care appointment wait times.

A year ago The Associated Press reported that the number of veterans waiting more than 30 or 60 days for non-emergency care has largely stayed flat, while the number of medical appointments that take longer than 90 days to complete had nearly doubled.

Nate Beeler

This was nearly a year after Congress doled out $16 billion to solve the problem of lengthy waiting lists. VA officials had been manipulating the waiting lists to make them look like vets were waiting less time to see a doctor than was actually happening.

In March of this year the Government Accountability Office reported that it studied 180 veterans newly enrolled in the VA health system. Sixty of that 180 had not yet seen a health provider and “nearly half were unable to access primary care because VA medical center staff did not schedule appointments for these veterans in accordance with VHA policy. The 120 newly enrolled veterans in GAO’s review who were seen by providers waited from 22 days to 71 days from their requests that VA contact them to schedule appointments to when they were seen, according to GAO’s analysis.”

The analysis found that the system lacks a comprehensive scheduling policy and there were ongoing scheduling errors. A VA report in September found nearly 900,000 listed as “pending” for health care, but Social Security records listed 300,000 of those as deceased.

What did McDonald do with that $16 billion? Go to Disneyland?

Heller asked the VA secretary to answer these questions by May 30:

— Does the VA remain committed to providing appointments to veterans within 30 days of the request?

— What are the current VA appointment wait times for veterans in Nevada and nationwide?

— For each fiscal year since implementation of the Choice Act, how many VA health care beneficiaries are obtaining appointments through the Choice Program as a result of an appointment wait time of 30 days or more?

— How do you explain to veterans that you believe their wait time for care is just as important as a wait time at an amusement park?

— When did your view on appointment wait times change to the point that you believe wait time should not even be a measure for the VA?

— Do you believe that the VA cannot achieve both timely and quality care simultaneously.

— Do you believe you are still fit to serve and advocate on behalf of veterans as the VA Secretary if you aren’t prioritizing the timeliness of their health care — the very reason you became Secretary in the midst of the 2014 VA health care scandal?

It matters not whether McDonald still thinks he is fit to serve. Does Congress? Better yet, what do veterans think?

McDonald put out a press release today that basically blames others for misunderstanding his commitment to improving the VA and offered no apology for his cluelessness and highly inappropriate remark. “If my comments Monday led any Veterans to believe that I, or the dedicated workforce I am privileged to lead, don’t take that noble mission seriously, I deeply regret that. Nothing could be further from the truth,” the statement reads.

For the record, Disney has spent more than $1 billion on something called the Disney MagicBand so customers don’t have to wait in long lines.

Nevada’s senior Sen. Harry Reid defended McDonald today.

“I support Secretary McDonald all the way. …” Reid was quoted as saying. “I’m an expert on poor choice of words. … I’m sure he would be the first to tell you, following my example, saying the wrong things is not the best way to go.”

Masters of malaprops still together.

Republican Congressman Joe Heck, who is running for Reid’s Senate seat also weighed in. He used the callow McDonald gaffe to call for passage of the stalled VA Accountability Act, which he said is intended to address the agency’s defensive culture and pattern of offering excuses instead of solutions.

“Secretary McDonald’s double down on his callous remarks invoking Disneyland is alarming because it suggests the defensive culture among management at the VA, which lead to the falsification of wait-time reports in the first place, persists under his leadership,” said Heck, a brigadier general in the Army Reserve medical corps and a veteran of the Iraq conflict.

“The remedy to the VA’s culture of excuses is a needed dose of accountability. Unfortunately, the federal civil service, which makes it extremely difficult to remove negligent or unethical employees, remains an obstacle to such reform,” Heck added, noting that the VA Accountability Act passed the House but is stalled in Reid’s Senate. “Every day that the VA’s accountability problem goes unaddressed, taxpayers are being forced to foot the bill for the salaries of failed bureaucrats. Our veterans have given us all they have. Seeing that they get the care and benefits they need, earned and deserve is the very least we can do.”

Well, the VA is apparently doing the least it can do.

Surprisingly, former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who is running for Reid’s seat from the Democratic side, parted company with shrugging Reid and blasted oafish McDonald.

“Even for Washington, the tone deafness of these comments is stunning,” she said in a statement. “The VA needs to address the wait times at its facilities so our veterans get the care they need in a timely manner, not offer up false analogies and excuses. It’s long past time for the VA to get its act together.”

 

Solar panel owners are subsidizing other power customers, not the other way around

Solar panels being installed on a Nevada home in 2015. (R-J photo by Jeff Scheid)

I never could figure out why, when NV Energy jacked up the rates charged to residential solar panel owners because they were somehow being subsidized by non-panel owners, the rates for non-panel owners were not concomitantly reduced and yet the move was somehow going to be revenue neutral.

Two reports out this week say NV Energy’s subsidy contention is bogus, and, in fact, solar panel owners are providing a net benefit to power customers in general.

A report from The Brookings Institution notes that Nevada’s net metering rates — that change solar panels from being an asset to a liability — have caused the installation of new solar panels to plummet 92 per cent in the first quarter of this year.

The Brookings report, by Mark Muro and Devashree Saha, asks and answers what it calls the burning question:

Does net metering really represent a net cost shift from solar-owning households to others? Or does it in fact contribute net benefits to the grid, utilities, and other ratepayer groups when all costs and benefits are factored in? As to the answer, it’s getting clearer (even if it’s not unanimous). Net metering — contra the Nevada decision — frequently benefits all ratepayers when all costs and benefits are accounted for, which is a finding state public utility commissions, or PUCs, need to take seriously as the fight over net metering rages in states like Arizona, California, and Nevada.  Regulators everywhere need to put in place processes that fairly consider the full range of benefits (as well as costs) of net metering as well as other policies as they set and update the policies, regulations, and tariffs that will play a critical role in determining the extent to which the distributed solar industry continues to grow.

As I have said before the problem is that monopoly power companies have an infrastructure cost that remains no matter how much power it sells. The only difference between a solar panel owner and a customer who conserves and is efficient is that the solar panel output can be measured. NV Energy calculates that solar panel owners were avoiding paying their fair share of infrastructure costs — to the tune of about $52 a month.

But solar panel installer SolarCity and the Natural Resources Defense Council calculate that rooftop solar provides a net benefit to all Nevadans of 1.6 cents per kilowatt-hour in actual costs and as much as 3.4 cents per kWh if you include benefits to the environment, which is admittedly hard to calculate.

NEMrates

The report by Brookings also notes that a 2014 study prepared for the Nevada Public Utilities Commission found that net metering provided $36 million in benefits to all NV Energy customers and over the 25-year lifetime of the panels the net benefit amounted to $166 million — just for the ones installed so far.

A 2015 study from Maine said the value of rooftop solar was $0.33 per kWh compared to the average retail price of $0.13 per kWh. “The study concludes that solar power provides a substantial public benefit because it reduces electricity prices due to the displacement of more expensive power sources …” Brookings concluded.

The report goes on to list numerous other studies that found solar panels benefited power customers in general rather than being a drain.

Brookings addresses the infrastructure cost issues by recommending decoupling. The NRDC says this is done by regulators of private utilities using “modest, regular rate reconciliations every year to compensate for under- or over-collection of fixed costs during the previous year. More than half the states have adopted decoupling mechanisms for either electric or natural gas utilities as a necessary (but not sufficient) part of the policies that allow utilities to invest in the cheapest and cleanest energy resource: energy efficiency.”

Though 15 states have adopted decoupling, according to Brookings, states like Nevada, which has not, are fighting net metering the hardest. “Typically, decoupling has been used as a mechanism to encourage regulated utilities to promote energy efficiency for their customers,” the Brookings authors say. “However, it can also be used as a tool to incentivize net metering by breaking the link between utility profits and utility sales and encouraging maximum solar penetration. Advocates of decoupling note that it is even more effective when paired with time-of-use pricing and minimum monthly billing.”

 

Mt. Wheeler Power Co., which covers all of White Pine County as well as parts of Nye, Elko and Eureka counties and parts of three counties in Utah, still provides net metering rates for its customers with solar panels. The current rate is 3 cents per kWh but that is expected to increase when the company’s wholesale provider is expected to increase rates, a company executive said.

Valley Electric Association, which services Nevada power customers along the California border from Mineral County to Sandy Valley in Clark County, shows on its website that it also provides net metering rates.

When your own owner scoops you … damned if you do, damned if you don’t

I always hated being scooped. Even when I worked for an afternoon paper and the competition was a bigger morning paper with more reporters and resources and clout and a bigger window of opportunity for breaking news, I wanted to get it first, be more thorough, find an exclusive, uncover a different angle, something fresh. You know, news!

So it prompted pangs of sympathy and angst for the writers and editors at the morning newspaper when I noticed in today’s Viewpoints section an op-ed piece with the byline of Sheldon G. Adelson with a credit line from the Washington Post.

Sheldon Adelson (R-J file photo)

Adleson, the new owner of the newspaper, had the insolence to affront his own employees by penning a piece endorsing the candidacy of Donald Trump for another newspaper. Perhaps WaPo is not really the competition for the Review-Journal, but it is still sucking hind teat.

To add insult to injury, the word-for-word essay ran in the Post on May 13, more than a week ago. Furthermore, it ran in the Chicago Tribune on May 17.

The endorsement of Trump by the owner of the Las Vegas Sands, the biggest GOP political donor during the last presidential campaign season was pretty big news.

On May 13, the day the Washington paper carried the endorsement, there was a story about it on The Daily Caller website, on the Washington Examiner website, on the website of a local TV station and The Wall Street Journal posted a blog.

The LA Times posted a story the next day with a headline saying: “Mega donor Sheldon Adelson backs Donald Trump.”

Also, on May 14, the R-J carried an Associated Press generic story about the Trump campaign seeking money from big donors. It had a paragraph buried far down on the jump: “Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson, who was the largest donor of the 2012 presidential race, wrote in a Washington Post editorial this week that he endorses Trump and is urging ‘those who provide important financial backing’ to do the same.”

Actually, Adelson gave The New York Times the scoop back on May 5, and that paper posted it online that day with the headline: “Sheldon Adelson Says He Will Support Donald Trump.”

Meanwhile, on that same day someone at the R-J cobbled together a 168-word brief from various wire service reports and posted it online with the headline: “Sheldon Adelson says he’ll support Donald Trump.”

But the next day, the print paper Adelson owns just ran an AP story with an item buried on the jump with a subhed reading, “Adelson says he’ll support Trump.” It noted:

“Yes, I’m a Republican, he’s a Republican,” Adelson said in a brief interview with the New York Times. “He’s our nominee. Whoever the nominee would turn out to be, any one of the 17 — he was one of the 17. He won fair and square.”

Adelson made the comments while at a gala dinner in Manhattan for the World Values Network, a Jewish organization.

 On May 18, the R-J carried an AP story inside the A section saying Adelson was urging Jewish leaders to back Trump. Now Adelson is trying to arrange a junket to Israel for Trump.

Of course, there is the damned if do and damned if you don’t conundrum.

If the paper had carried a big banner story on the big news that Adelson had endorsed Trump, it would have looked like he was using the paper to further his political agenda.

Looks sad either way, though. You can’t win when the owner is big news and you have to cover the big news objectively. You see, there is a banner front page story today about the stadium Adelson wants to build with public financing.

Editorial: Fallacious Supreme Court ruling probably dooms commerce tax referendum

Though anyone capable of signing a petition with anything other than an “X” understands that a vote to repeal a tax would require lawmakers to either cut spending or find revenue elsewhere, the Nevada Supreme Court in its infinite pettifogging wisdom ruled this past week that Nevada voters are just too darned dimwitted to understand this and must be lead by the nose.

The unanimous opinion found the description on the petition seeking to repeal the commerce tax passed by the 2015 Legislature failed to tell signers of this fact and therefore was misleading and deceptive.

The group RIP Commerce Tax, headed by state Controller Ron Knecht, had already gathered 20,000 signatures of the 55,000 needed by a June 21 deadline before it suspended circulation of the petition pending the court’s decision. Now those 20,000 signatures are invalid and the process must start over with only a month to go.

Knecht vows to try to qualify the referendum for the November ballot, though he concedes the chance of getting enough signatures is uncertain.

He plans to quickly submit new wording for the 200-word petition description to the district court judge who had approved the previous description. The new description lifts language and figures from the Supreme Court opinion and adds a sentence saying: “So, there would be a net $74.9 million reduction in state fiscal year 2016/17 revenues, technically unbalancing the budget, and $59.9 million in succeeding years.”

The commerce tax would impose a gross receipts tax on all businesses grossing more than $4 million a year. It has different tax tables for 27 different industries — ranging from a low of 0.056 percent for mining to a high of 0.362 percent for rail transportation in 67 different levels of revenue. Future legislatures could increase rates or lower the threshold.

Lawmakers passed the commerce tax with a two-thirds majority in a Republican-controlled Assembly and Senate for signature by a Republican governor, even though voters turned down at the ballot box the previous November a nearly identical, though considerably larger, version of the commerce tax by a margin of 4-to-1.

The Supreme Court ruling said repeal of the tax would lead to an unbalanced budget, which the state Constitution prohibits, and “the description of effect makes no mention whatsoever of this critical consequence. Accordingly, we conclude that the referendum’s description is deceptive for failing to accurately identify the practical ramification of the commerce tax’s disapproval, and any signatures obtained on petitions with this misleading description are invalid.”

Apparently, snipping $60 million a year from a multi-billion-dollar state budget creates a crisis, even though in the real world the state managed to survive when the recession axed the state revenues by $536 million from 2008 to 2009.

Also, Michael Schaus, communications director at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, points out just how phony that balanced budget argument is.

The revenue from the current commerce tax will be deposited in the state treasury by Aug. 15 — before the November elections — meaning no revenue loss this fiscal year. The Legislature meets in February 2017, giving it ample time to deal with a potential dearth of commerce tax revenue by next August.

“There would be no crisis, no devastation of government agencies and no budgetary hole,” Schaus writes. “The court’s ruling says the petition must now include language warning against a hole in the state budget — a hole that, in truth, is imaginary.”

Though odds of the tax repeal being on the November ballot are rather long, having it on the ballot might create a quandary for astute voters.

Knecht’s petition description — old and new — notes that disapproval of the commerce tax “does not prohibit the Legislature from enacting future legislation that imposes a commerce tax,” conceivably an even more onerous one.

But the Supreme Court ruling notes that if voters let the commerce tax stand, it “shall not be amended, annulled, repealed, set aside, suspended or in any way made inoperative except by the direct vote of the people.” Doesn’t not amended mean not increased?

It would be tempting to freeze it from legislative meddling, because, as the lawyer for RIP Commerce Tax pointed out in oral arguments before the court, when the income tax was created in 1913 it was supposed to be only on millionaires, but today everyone pays. “Now, the two things I’ve noticed about government, it never gets any smaller, taxes never go down,” the lawyer said.

If given the opportunity, we encourage voters to sign the petition so we might face just such a quandary.

A version of this editorial appears this past week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Update: On Friday a Carson City judge approved new language for the petition that includes a mention of the deficit that would be created by repeal of the tax, according to the Las Vegas newspaper.

 

Newspaper column: Feds would rather spend money than allow machines in a wilderness

Workers will use hand tools to repair trails on Mount Charleston damaged by fire three years ago. (Photo courtesy Daniel Thompson UNLV via R-J)

When it comes to preserving the pristineness of pristine wild lands, federal land managers are willing to spare no expense — since it is merely tax money, of which there is an endless supply.

U.S. Forest Service plans to begin work soon on clearing trails on 12,000-foot Mount Charleston in northern Clark County that were closed after a 28,000-acre wildfire three years ago. The fire downed trees that will have to be removed and subsequent flooding due to reduced vegetation eroded some areas.

According to a recent story in the Las Vegas newspaper, “Much of the work will take place within a federal wilderness area, so workers won’t be allowed to use mechanized equipment such as trucks, chainsaws or heavy construction machinery to access the trails or remove debris.”

A spokesman for Spring Mountains National Recreation Area was quoted as saying the two six-person crews from the Great Basin Institute and the Nevada Conservation Corps will be sent in on horseback to do the work and will not even be allowed to use explosives to clear fallen trees, even though the largest ponderosa needing to be cleared is 12 feet in diameter and there are hundreds of trees blocking the trail.

“Explosives are allowed in wilderness areas, but we’re planning to do the work with the minimum tool,” the spokesman said.

The Forest Service had to submit its plans for clearing the trails to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is in charge of protecting the endangered Mount Charleston blue butterfly.

These federal land managers appear to be worshipping the god Gaia — basically Mother Earth — and have no qualms about spending our involuntary tithes on thousands of man-hours of backbreaking manual labor if it means not disturbing their vaunted deity with sacrilegious machines and explosions. Wouldn’t a couple of days of disturbances be less intrusive than months of intrusions. Besides, these are trails for public access!

There is no projected opening date for the trails.

Doubtless the cost would be considerably less and the man-hours considerably fewer if the workers could use bobcats, backhoes, bulldozers, chainsaws and explosives, but those are forbidden in their pristine wilderness area, they think.

Yes, the Wilderness Act of 1964 says, “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human

habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions … with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable …”

No vehicles, no roads, no outhouses, no park benches, no trash cans, no power tools, no bicycles, no cutting firewood. It is accessible to only the most able-bodied.

But according to the Congressional Research Service, there are exceptions. The Wilderness Act and many subsequent wilderness statutes allow motorized access for management and emergencies, as well as for maintenance of infrastructure.

But the Forest Service has a habit of ignoring the letter of the law and is willing to even create hardships in the name of blocking efficient but “unnatural” backhoes, bobcats and bulldozers from its pristine lands.

A couple of years ago the Forest Service demanded that the residents of Tombstone, Ariz. — who get their drinking water and fire protection water supply from a spring in a wilderness area — to fix the fire damaged pipeline with nothing but hand tools, not so much as a wheelbarrow was allowed. It defied common sense and common decency.

A group calling themselves the Jarbidge Shovel Brigade — after the Nevada crew that opened a road in the Jarbidge Mountains years ago in defiance of federal orders to leave the road closed — were toiling away on repairing the pipeline, but even that was temporarily halted when someone spotted a rare spotted owl.

Wouldn’t want to disturb a bird’s nap in order to provide a whole town with drinking water and fire protection.

Do you ever get the feeling that federal land managers view people as an infestation instead of as an integral part of the environment?

A version of this column appears this week many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Judge dismisses ACLU constitutional challenge to education savings account law

On Wednesday Clark County District Court Judge Eric Johnson released a 45-page ruling dismissing a constitutional challenge to the state’s education savings account (ESA) law by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU challenged the law on the grounds it violated the state Constitution’s prohibition against funding religious institutions, because parents taking advantage of the state-established savings accounts could spend the money at religion-backed private schools.

A separate challenge to the law — Schwartz v. Lopez — is still pending before the state Supreme Court. Plaintiffs in that case argue that money set aside for public schools funding may not be used for any other purpose.

The Legislature set statewide per pupil funding at $5,710 per pupil in the Distributive School Account (DSA). The ESA bill dictated that most parents who pull their children from public school would be given 90 percent of that amount to fund education by whatever means they choose — private school, tutoring, homeschooling — thus reducing the population and the needed funding.

Judge Johnson writes, “The United States Supreme Court’s ‘decisions have drawn a consistent distinction between government programs that provide aid directly to religious schools, and programs of true private choice, in which government aid reaches religious schools only as a result of the genuine and independent choices of private individuals.’ … Where a school aid program, such as the ESA program, is neutral with respect to religion, and provides assistance available directly to a wide spectrum of citizens, or as in this case, essentially all parents of Nevada school children, who, in turn, direct the financial assistance to religion affiliated schools ‘wholly as a result of their own genuine and independent private choice, the program is not readily subject to challenge …'”

According to Attorney General Adam Laxalt, whose office represented the state in seeking to have the law upheld, 6,000 students have applied under the ESA program, which is on hold pending the outcome of legal challenges.

“This is a huge and important step in getting certainty for the thousands of families waiting to participate in Nevada’s ESA program,” said Laxalt. “The Court correctly dismissed these speculative and tenuous claims. The decision today clears the way for the Nevada Supreme Court to meaningfully address the remaining uncertainty caused by the injunction in the other case challenging Nevada’s ESA program. We are one giant step closer to helping thousands of Nevada families choose the best educational option for their children.”

The ACLU is considering whether to appeal, according to the Las Vegas newspaper.

The judge’s ruling repeatedly emphasized that the state Constitution instructs lawmakers to encourage education by “all suitable means,” which is in addition to the requirement to “provide for a uniform system of common schools.”

Johnson also noted that the plaintiffs alleged that certain schools might illegally discriminate in admissions and hiring. If that is the case, he stated litigation could be brought when that happens. “Whether illegal discrimination occurs and a school may participate under the program can be dealt with in the specific context of the facts of an actual controversy rather than in the hypothetical,” he wrote twice in the ruling.

Gov. Brian Sandoval released a statement saying, “Today’s decision by Judge Johnson is a victory for thousands of Nevada families who are pursuing the opportunity to choose the best education path for their children. School choice was an important part of the legislative education reform package enacted in 2015. I hope that all pending litigation challenging these critical reforms will soon be resolved for the sake of our students who deserve every opportunity to succeed.”

Judge Johnson addressed and dismissed many of the financing issues raised in the Schwartz v. Lopez case pending before the Supreme Court, writing that “even if large numbers of parents enroll in the program, so long as there is a ‘uniform public school system,’ open to the ‘general attendance’ of all, the Legislature has fulfilled the duty imposed …”

More previously undiscovered presidential powers

Let’s see, Article II of the Constitution says the president is vested with the executive power of the country, is the commander and chief, has the power to negotiate treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate, is to fill vacancies, inform the Congress of the state of the Union and take care that laws are faithfully executed.

Funny, I don’t see where the president has the power to tell public schools nationwide who may use what bathroom or shower.

Neither does Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who sent out a press release this week that was widely ignored.

His statement reads:

“Once again, President Obama has gone well beyond his constitutional authority by issuing coercive guidance on Title IX,” said Laxalt. “As this Administration surely understands, but chooses to ignore, the founders — in their wisdom — intended for state and local officials to govern themselves and decide what is best for their students and community. By ignoring the balance of power between the federal, state and local governments, President Obama has usurped democratic participation from all necessary stakeholders. This is especially troubling when he has done so by threatening to withhold funding to struggling Nevada schools unless they comply.”

As for “identifying” as a federalist republic, forget about it.

The Education Department’s “dear colleague” letter spells out what schools must do under pain of having federal dollars disappear:

As a condition of receiving Federal funds, a school agrees that it will not exclude, separate, deny benefits to, or otherwise treat differently on the basis of sex any person in its educational programs or activities unless expressly authorized to do so under Title IX or its implementing regulations.4 The Departments treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of Title IX and its implementing regulations. This means that a school must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity.

Of course, the bureaucrats at the Education and Justice departments know more about what is best for everyone than trained and experienced psychiatrists who have done actual, but apparently frivolous, scientific studies.

Do the algebra. No matter how hard you concentrate, no matter how you dress and even if you cut off or add parts — you can’t delete or add a Y chromosome.

(AP photo via NPR)