Friday, September 30, 2005

The Campus Debate: Education

**Editor's Note: Today is an extra long day for me as I have an interview for a position on the ASISU Supreme Court and this evening I will be attending a Blessid Union of Souls concert. Not to mention the fact that I am running on one hour of sleep. I've decided since I won't have time to develop a post today (and most likely not again until Monday) that I will post an article that I wrote for the ISU Bengal that was published Wednesday.

Administrative pay raises stir debate on this campus, school board recalls are a constant occurrence in this city, No Child Left Behind distresses schools on a national level, and no one will take responsibility. When did education become a third-rail issue in Idaho?

There are plenty of people who will tell you that No Child Left Behind essentially leaves behind a myriad of students and schools. There are plenty of people who will tell you that if anyone, the teachers deserve raises above the administration. There are plenty of people who can tell you everything that is wrong with education in
Idaho, but what are they doing about it?

In March I received a letter from Idaho Senator Clint Stennett on the issue of tuition. Senator Stennett stated that "this generation has an obligation to the generations that follow to provide quality, affordable higher education to all Idahoans including those of limited means." Obviously there were, in this case of tuition, numerous people concerned with a switch to a tuition-based system, but not enough brave and outspoken individuals to make the difference. What we should fear is that a lack of bravery, interest, and activism will (and already has) compromise the fundamentals at an elementary and secondary level just as a switch to a tuition-based system on campus has compromised the quality, affordable higher education Sen. Stennett spoke of.

There is not a magical answer to education in Idaho. Neither one election or one decision will effectively change the way education is perceived, addressed, and supported, but it is a good start.

If we truly seek responsibility for the ills of public education, the first step is activism. It is time for educators, administrators, students, and the community at large to quit treating education like a third-rail issue.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Roberts Confirmed...2008 On Too Many Minds?

Coming to the realization that the Republican Party, suffering from the indiscretion of it's leadership, doesn't really need any cheap shots taken by the likes of me right now, I decided to look at my own party for a moment. The Senate vote came down on the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts today and I was well, surprised. I watched several of the hearings and I watched several of my fellow Democrats rake him over the coals, yet I still can't for the life of me figure out the 22 "no" votes.

All 22 of the "no" votes came from the Democratic Party. This is what I've come to conclude. Too many have their sights set on the 2008 presidential race. This means one of two things, they all hope to run or they all hope to better the Democratic candidates choices by not being too bi-partisan. I pray they aren't all hoping to run, the Democrats can't survive another 9-way primary. They can't even survive another primary that includes John Kerry. So here's my breakdown on the 22 "no" voters and whether or not they have their sights set on the White House:

Akaka (D-Hawaii)-- lack of document disclosure on Roberts' part, no presidential aspirations
Bayh (D- Indiana)-- future presidential aspirations, maybe not 2008, but an odd press release and mixed signals before his vote
Biden (D- Delaware)-- duh. 2008.
Boxer (D-California)-- radical loyalty to the party, hopefully nothing about 2008
Cantwell (D-Washington)--disclosure, environmental policies, party loyalty
Clinton (D-New York)-- Mrs. Clinton has all but announced.
Corzine (D-New Jersey)-- someone probably paid him to vote this way
Dayton (D- Minnesota)-- his vote was really about Roberts and lack of disclosure, not a future presidential candidate as far as I can tell
Durbin (D-Illinois)-- why doesn't Dick run for president?
Feinstein (D-California)--same reason as Boxer, maybe some bitterness still over 2004, Schiavo, and who knows what else
Harkin (D- Iowa)--an honest vote regarding civil rights
Inouye (D-Hawaii)--lack of disclosure
Kennedy (D-Mass.)-- I'm convinced Teddy's goal in life is to defeat a Supreme Court nominee, he's not running for President, I think he learned his lesson in 1980.
Kerry (D-Mass.)-- bitterness?? ya think?
Lautenberg (D- New Jersey)-- something fishy is going on in NJ since the governor resigned
Mikulski (D-Maryland)--disclosure issue
Obama (D-Illinois)-- the rising star of the Democratic Party doesn't want a "yes" vote on his resume just yet, 2008? Probably more like 2012.
Reed (D-Rhode Island)--minority protection issue
Reid (D-Nevada)-- the biggest mistake the Democrats have made is choosing Reid to be Minority Leader and I'm not just saying that because I love Tom Daschle.
Sarbanes (D-Maryland)--lack of disclosure, civil rights, and party vote
Schumer (D-New York)--truly a partisan vote, maybe he thinks Mrs. Clinton will want him as her VP, he's certainly not running, but you've got to respect the zealot.
Stabenow (D-Michigan)--constitutional rights; questions unanswered

This will stir up some controversy, but if I were a senator or if any of those senators were taking my advice, I'd say follow the example of seniority (i.e. Byrd). AND...if Jim Jeffords (I-Vermont, and avid hater of the Republican Party) can vote for Roberts I think he might just be an okay guy. When it comes down to it there was going to have to be a conservative Chief Justice, so I would ask my fellow Democrats, would you rather it be Scalia or Thomas? Didn't think so.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Commander-in-Chief

**Editor's Note: I've been hearing news of the indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, his stepping down from the leadership position to address the indictment, and Roy Blunt taking his place, but I feel I have adequately stated my opinion on the Texas congressman...please see post of May 01, 2005.

Last night I made a huge mistake, not only did I miss one of the most interesting shows on television, House on Fox, I wasted an entire hour (okay I'll admit I even shut it off early I was so disappointed) watching the new ABC political-drama Commander-in-Chief.

As an avid watcher of The West Wing I guess I was expecting that same amount of accuracy, history, and seriousness. As soon as I learned that the dying president's name was Theodore Roosevelt Bridges I knew I was in for an hour of crap.

Basically the storyline is that the president had an aneurysm and dies shortly after surgery, he as well as his chief-of-staff ask Vice President Mackensey Allen (a female and an Independent) to resign so the Speaker of the House can become the next president. He dies and she doesn't resign. Long story short everyone is very uncertain of her clout and ability. She appears confidant and assures the American people in a speech to a joint session of Congress that her leadership is strong and requests the prayers of the nation.

Yada. Yada. Yada. Of the amendments to the Constitution, it is the 25th (the line of succession) that I hold in the highest respect. One of my Republican friends always says to me that he'd lay down his life for the protection of the sacred 2nd amendment. I feel that way about the 25th. I felt that the new ABC show took it too lightly, though Allen understood the implications of the amendment and used it to her advantage I felt the President and Speaker took advantage of it.

All in all it wasn't what I was had anticipated and I will be returning to my Sunday night viewings of The West Wing and my Tuesday night viewing of House. You'd think I would have really been into a female president...no not so much. I did though enjoy one phrase, as the son of the new president was trying to convince his sister to go to the joint session speech and she was refusing due to some squabble she was having with her mother, he said "Have a sense of history." In an hour if there is only one five-word phrase worth a second thought then you know it's time to change the channel!

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Ticket (TWW)

**Editor's Note: It occurred to me last night, and no, not for the first time, that The West Wing is political and historical... so it is within my blog boundaries (not that I ever really stay true to the rules of posting on political and historical subjects only). One epiphany later and I have decided that Mondays (or Tuesdays if I forget on Mondays) will be reserved for a post on the Sunday night episode of The West Wing. I will title the posts the same as they are titled by the writer's of the show, followed by (TWW) in case anyone forgets that it is The West Wing I am talking about...

As I predicted, Leo McGarry is going to take a lot of heat for his past alcohol and prescription drug use as well his heart condition. His heart condition I don't feel is such an issue, it hasn't been for Dick Cheney, why would it be for a fictional candidate for the vice-presidency. The real issue that is facing Leo McGarry (played by amazing John Spencer) is that his running mate, Congressman Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) doesn't trust him. Leo has gone from being the right hand man and best friend of President Bartlett to being almost the odd man out. I'm not sure Leo can handle being the outsider and I would almost admit a hope that they all see it and make Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) the vp and keep Leo on as chief-of-staff.

What I didn't predict was the Donna Moss encounter. I never in a million years thought Josh Lyman (former deputy chief of staff to Leo McGarry and now campaign manager and right hand man of Matt Santos) could dismiss his long time assistant Donna Moss as he did in last night's episode. Sure she worked for the opposition, but hey, Johnson was Kennedy's opposition and he wound up being the vice-president. And Donna Moss (Donnatella Moss, for those of us die-hard West Wingers) has been nothing but supportive, dedicated, and loyal to Josh Lyman. When he got shot in Rosalyn it was Donna who was by his side through it all. Josh will realize that he can't live without Donna. He dismissed her prematurely out of loyalty to his candidate, but I hope he comes around. I can't imagine The West Wing without Donna and I can't imagine Josh Lyman running the show as a future chief-of-staff, assuming Santos wins, without having Donna by his side as Deputy.

Claudia Jean...oh CJ. The illustrious press secretary and now chief-of-staff is in for the ride of her life. If she is the leak from the White House that the White House counsel thinks she is, not only will they rake her over the coals, the President, NASA, and the American public will line up for their turn. I'm not sure she really is the leak..she's too, well CJ, for a lack of a better way to explain it. AND...in the beginning of the episode when they flashed forward three years to the dedication of the Bartlett Library, I was not only shocked to see her with old flame Danny (played by Timothy Busfield), I was shocked to learn she had a baby with him! Somewhere along the way the writers will have to catch us up on how it went from Danny leaving the White House Press Corp. and not telling CJ to them getting back together. I'm not sure the show itself has another three seasons left in it to catch us up to that point where they meet for the dedication, but this will be interesting to watch play off.

Another couple observations at the dedication... it seemed as if Josh was running the show for the new president arriving at the dedication, which would make one believe Santos wins (but wouldn't it be great if somehow they got Leo elected instead?) and Josh is his right hand man. It would be too big of a stretch to say Josh switched parties and is working for President Vinick (Alan Alda). And what's the deal with Tobey? It seemed really cold, the interaction between Tobey and President Bartlett. We'll see.

Wow. Who knew I had so much to say about one hour of television. In a perfect world, in my crazy head, I'd have President Bartlett healthy through the rest of his term, pushing landmark legislation and getting another Democrat into the White House. I'd have Santos, the charismatic hunk that he is, bow out and let Josh or Leo run and I'd have them bring in Sam from the earlier seasons (Rob Lowe) to jump in to a top slot. And last but certainly not least I'd like to see CJ move up, for me the show is about Leo's brilliance and CJ's talent.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

And Now in the 7:00 Slot...

Last fall I began watching The West Wing. How I had never noticed it before is beyond me. I watched all of the Emmy telecasts when it won for best drama series (I'm a sucker for awards shows) and still didn't get the urge to watch the show...big mistake. So last fall I started watching it and I was hooked. Over Christmas break I watched seasons 1-3. Straight through. I'm not sure I even slept for days. It was crazy.

In less than a month I was completely hooked. It started so innocently, it all started with the episode "A Change is Gonna Come" in season six, the first of December. I'd been toying with the idea of actually watching an entire episode for weeks. I had watched about fifteen minutes of the episode when Jimmy Smits joined the cast in November and finally jumped in. Little did I know it was going to engulf me. Like I said I watched three seasons back-to-back over Christmas break. I laughed through season one's "The Crackpots and These Women," I was thrilled and amazed by "The Stackhouse Filibuster," an episode in season two that remains my favorite even to this day, and I cried in the season three finale "Posse Comitatus" when Secret Service Agent Simon Donovan (aka the one and only Mark Harmon) was killed.

Can you tell I'm obsessed? I haven't seen all of seasons 4 and 5, I catch reruns on the Bravo channel as often as possible, and I haven't seen all of season 6, but it doesn't matter. I'm hooked.
In all my watching I've learned quite a bit. Not only do we get to know some presidential trivia, historical tidbits, and Latin along the way, we get an inside look at how the White House operates and we get in hypothetical terms, big time news stories brought to us in our living rooms.

This season proves to be a difficult one for the writers. The Bartlett administration is on its way out, Martin Sheen can no longer be president, and the show is truly on its last leg. It wouldn't surprise me if this was the last season, just as it wouldn't surprise me if they let a Republican candidate win the election. So here's my prediction... they have staged Matt Santos (played by Jimmy Smits) as a great candidate. Even better staging is the choice to make Leo McGarry (played by John Spencer) the vice-presidential candidate. Problem is this... Leo's an alcoholic. He's been through so much in six seasons that they'll dig up his past. Second problem--Leo is devoted to his best friend Jed Bartlett. He'll never be to anyone what he has been to President Bartlett. Alan Alda is the Republican senator running against Santos. He's amazing. You can't put the man on the screen and not expect greatness. My only question is, historically congressmen (senators or representatives) have not had great success making the transition into the White House, will the writers ignore history and let this happen, or will they as they have in the past stick true to history??

Now, I realize that if you've never watched The West Wing , I have thoroughly confused you and caused a great deal of boredom, but I just wanted to give my two-cents on the situation and encourage you all, if you care at all about history and politics, to give the show a minute of your time. I'm kicking myself for having not realized the show's greatness sooner.

The West Wing premieres tonight at 7pm (Mountain) on NBC.

Friday, September 23, 2005

He Took the Hint!

With nothing productive to say I just wanted to annouce that Mr. Nick Speth took my ever so subtle hint and has an addition to his series "Get To Know Your Humble Host." Part II is just as funny as Part I, if not funnier (sorry, Nick but blood and guts always benefit the story).

Okay, I've just returned from a long evening of high school football in my home town...Declo High School in all its glory was quite a trip. A few conversations I had there have stirred the education debate again with me and with the article I wrote for today's deadline of the Idaho State Bengal, I think I'll post on education soon. But of course Sunday is the big TV day at the Rowe Residence...so expect a plug tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Coffee Straws, Obsessions, & the Weekend Schedule

I don't drink coffee, I really can't stand the smell of the stuff, but I've recently gained a new appreciation for coffee straws. They are great to chew on. My orthodontist would be thrilled that I'm sharing this with the world, but if you're a fingernail-biter, I would recommend investing in some coffee straws. Today on CPSAN I was watching the Democratic Caucus (in the House of Reps) discuss the Katrina aftermath, and as Democrats do so well, they pretty much got in a circle and started shooting at themselves. The key to success in the Democratic Party is to be the last man standing. Anyway, they were arguing about Katrina, probably staging their shots at the 2008 election, and I decided they could benefit from some serious coffee straw-chewing. I think I'll send Harry Reid a letter with that exact statement. The circular firing squad doesn't seem to be working for him, what does he have to lose with a little chewing? And what's this about him voting no to Roberts?

Orson Scott Card recently wrote a review on obsessions. Something about this horrible song that keeps getting stuck in his head, I can't remember for the life of me what it was, but I'm sure it was something to the effect of "Dancing Queen" by ABBA which gets stuck in my head on a regular basis (I think it was something by Elton John). Since his review I've been thinking about my musical obsessions, and since I get more comments on the random posts I write rather than the really thought out political or historical posts, I thought I'd share a few of those with my readers. Sort of like Nick's "Get To Know Your Humble Host" (which I am patiently waiting for the next installment of...hint-hint).

Musically I'm obsessed on different levels. Of course as you all know I listen to songs on repeat, but there are certain songs frequently on repeat and certain artists that are an obsession. Pearl Jam...when my world is upside down, spinning out of control, and I can't pull myself up by the "bootstraps" you can almost bet I'll be listening to Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam. There is something about that voice that is unbelievable. Something about that talent that is unreal. When I know I should be looking for answers I listen to Garth Brooks. Not too sure why, but always have been that way. I joke about it, but when I'm looking for answers I listen to Garth, when I know the answers, I pray. Screwy? Yes. But that's me. Another strange music obsession is "Morning Has Broken," by Cat Stevens. I listen to it every morning on my way to school without fail. Sometimes on my headphones as I walk to campus from the parking lot, sometimes in the car, or sometimes in my house on my way out the door. There is something about that song that can make the morning what it should be, a clean slate, a new outlook, calm. My music obsessions are limitless, I do after all own like fifteen Ray Charles albums, those 3 are just the most obvious obsessions.

So the weekend schedule is a bit crazy. Friday night I'm going to Declo, my hometown for the high school's homecoming game. Never since I've graduated have I done this, I really don't understand that tradition, but I'm going. I really just need to get out of town if only for a few hours, watch a little football, and do some driving with the music as loud as it goes. Saturday is homework day. I have more than I can realistically do just in one day, but I'm going to devote most of Saturday to that. And Sunday is TV day. All the new shows are on. Since Sunday is the big day for the new season of The West Wing, I am going to try and post a little plug for that wonderful show sometime between now and Sunday. Other than that, unless something monumental happens in the world, don't plan on a really deep rooted or well thought out post from me until next week.

Have a great remainder of the week and a great weekend!

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Brotherhood

In the beginning of their careers they collectively experienced the assassination of President Kennedy, the Watergate scandal, and the resignation of Richard Nixon. In the height of their careers they saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, consequently the fall of the USSR, and the tragedy of 9/11. Their voices resonated in our minds as we as country learned of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Their stability impressed upon us the true meaning of "anchor" in a time when little else was stable.

Last night on the Primetime Emmy Awards, the Academy of Television honored the work of Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, and the late Peter Jennings. Brokaw and Rather appeared on stage, an uncommon appearance and one less anticipated since their departures from NBC and CBS. They commented on the historic and acceptable work of their predecessors during the Katrina disaster. They remembered their late colleague for his work and noted how much his presence is missed in their lives and in living rooms across the country. And they said something that will stay in my memory for years to come; to Jennings' children they said that he will always have a place in "this brotherhood."

All my life one of those three men was on the nightly news. All my life my vision of journalism, my idea of what an anchor should be, was one of those three men. Though at odds at times and always in competition, I often wondered if they held each other in the same regard in which I held them. Last night's comments assured me that they do.

I can't say I have a favorite. Brokaw decided to go into journalism the night of the 1960 Nixon/Kennedy election. That would generally promote favoritism out of me, but Jennings was the voice. The calm, collected, and constant voice of 9/11 for me. Brokaw was the presence, Jennings was the true talent, and Rather was the passion. The three together were the Brotherhood.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

September: A Shakespearean Tragedy

Historically, the month of September has not been kind to American presidents. The American presidency has been riddled with September events, disasters, and acts of war. In September of 2001, the current president faced terrorism of epic and unknown proportions on 9/11. Now, in September of 2005, President Bush has encountered the political aftermath of a natural disaster. He is not the first president to face September turmoil, nor will he be the last.

Four U.S. presidents have been assassinated. We all know Lincoln and Kennedy. Most Americans recognize the names of their assassins: John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald. But what of the other two?

William McKinley and James Garfield were both assassinated in the month of September. With a Bach sonata playing in the background, a lone gunman in Buffalo, New York shot and killed President McKinley September 6, 1901. Standing in the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Depot, President Garfield was fatally shot in the back September 19, 1881. Most Americans don't know that it was an anarchist by the name of Czolgosz that shot McKinley or that another three-named assassin, Charles Julius Guiteau, assassinated Garfield. Most Americans also don't know that Robert Todd Lincoln was in town at the the time of both assassinations, just as he had been at the time of his own father's assassination in 1865.

Coincidence? Most likely. Even the most far-fetched conspiracy theorists won't even attempt the connection, but even the most unknown and amateur historians will tell you the probability of a president encountering great opposition and turmoil in the month of September. Though I feel as if our current president has lost his political momentum and dedication since the first September he spent in office, I recognize the magnitude of the tasks before him. I recognize the oddity of September strife.

I wonder if like in the Shakespeare classic Julius Caesar there might be a warning behind melancholy September days. Not a warning of an assassins conspiring agenda like that in the statement: "Beware of the Ides of March" (one that presidents McKinley and Garfield would have benefited from), but a warning of the work to come. The physical and weather-related wrath of Katrina is behind us, but the social and political storm remains.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Dear President Bush:

As you addressed the nation, Andrew Jackson turned over in his grave. Mr. President, flying over the Gulf Coast region is not going to give you a first hand perspective or "scope" of the devastation. Mr. President, the San Diego campaign fundraising event for John McCain, a man who once wanted your job, does not deserve your time if one million people in one of our nation's cities don't have homes. Waiting three days after a natural disaster is not excusable and praising a man for doing "one heck of a job" is ridiculous when days later the man is taken off the job, resigns, and the nation learns the "scope" of his corruption.

The blame for Hurricane Katrina cannot be placed on anyone, for it was merely an act of God. Not an act against corrupt and unrighteous, but a natural disaster. If we are to believe that our government is prepared for a terrorist attack of massive proportions on our home soil, prove it to us by being prepared in the face of a natural disaster.

FEMA has failed, Homeland Security is weak, the President of the United States is slow in responding. It is time to put the money we've placed in a country that has no WMDs into our own country. An investigation into Katrina will only aid more division. Don't waste the Congress' time on something that will only point at a weak internal structure and a weak administration. Your glory days of 80% approval ratings are over and never to return.

Maybe when stating "God Bless America" at the end of your speeches you should be considering the reason for which He acts as He does.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Out of the Dust

Four years. Four years ago today the world tipped off it's axis for a moment. For days no one knew if it was over. For days no one knew why.

I remember clearly the morning of September 11th, 2001. If was a rougher morning than usual for me, even before I knew of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I didn't watch the morning news, didn't have CNN in the background as I got ready for my day, never heard the radio. As I walked to the bus to go to school a neighbor mentioned that an airplane had flown into one tower of the WTC. Aeronautics not being my forte, I thought maybe a plane could "accidentally" fly into a building. It wasn't until I arrived at school and saw the footage on television that I realized how serious it was.

In all major catastophic events it's that complete trance in front of a television that connects us. We all want to know everything, we all want to feel safe. I'm not sure how watching as people jump from a burning and soon to collapse building made anyone feel safe, but it seems across the nation we all were transfixed. The only voice I remember hearing for days after 9/11 was that of Peter Jennings. I remember watching him as he said he called and checked on his kids. I remember wondering who would call and check on the kids of those who lost their lives on that fateful day in September. I remember wondering if Cronkite's voice would have been much the same as Jennings' in the fateful moments of November 1963.

Honestly, I thought the anniversary of 9/11 would come and go without much thought. At least from me. But this morning it was on my mind, every time I looked at the calendar and saw "Patriot Day" it was on my mind, and then I turned on the television and saw the devastation of Katrina. New Orleans and New York City hold so many similarities. We rallied around New York, we even watched Yankee games. Now is the time to rally around New Orleans. Instead of all this talk about the city of corruption and how this was God's wrath coming down upon the wicked, it is time to rally. I'm not saying the Saints need our support or that those of who don't watch football should start, but instead of chastising a people in such despair, maybe we should fly the flag a little higher, count our blessings, give as we can, and rally.

Today on the anniversary of a day that brought this country to an ultimate low with the highest sense of unity that followed, let us learn from it and apply that lesson to another time of uncertainty, fingerpointing, and recovery. We're the greatest nation in the world. If we can survive an act of terrorism bringing us ever closer and united, we can survive a natural disaster.

Songs on Repeat

For the last few weeks I have been trying to devise a plan that would better suit my ever changing "songs on repeat" section. As I think I addressed in a previous post because I don't ever really listen to one entire cd straight through, I find myself listening to one song that fits my particular mood or thought for the moment on endless repeat. I also was needing a better system for looking at the lyrics of songs I've listened to numerous times throughout my life without having to either open my clumpy old file cabinet and look through the lyrics file or get online and open a lyric search engine.

Solution: a new blog entitled "Songs on Repeat." This way as I listen to certain songs I can not only share that information with anyone who cares to know, I can also for my own personal reference have easy access to those lyrics. My political nature often drifts toward music and I find myself posting on songs like "Landed" on a more or less political and history oriented blog. A new blog will allow not only solve the lyrics aspect for me, but also will give me a medium in which to post those reviews and observations that I have about music.

Hopefully I can maintain both sites successfully. Please be patient as this is a trial run. And also a side-note, "Secret Garden" is the first entry on the new site, but isn't really the song on repeat. I listen to Springsteen frequently as it is, but that song pops up more often than any. It was in my cd player Thursday. Because it is one of my favorites it just seemed like the place to start.

Let me know what you think. Any input would be appreciated!

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Rehnquist: A Reminder

Since Saturday night when I learned of Rehnquist’s death I’ve been wondering what about it really hit me. Rehnquist was many things, many things I have no connection to. A conservative at heart, a successful servant of the courts, and a Stanford graduate. There are very few things I ever agreed with him on, yet news of his death engulfed me.

Today after Richard Stallings’ class, as I watched for a vote in the Senate, and as I wrote in my journal, I figured it out. The one event in U.S. History that leaves me exhilarated, occasionally sleepless, and completely intrigued, is an event that happened before my lifetime. I am entirely dependent on others who were alive, who were there, and who cared enough to pay attention to the details.

When I first came to Idaho State I interviewed several people on the 40th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. Common everyday people told me everything they could remember. The president of ISU once served on a committee with Bobby Kennedy. A music professor played in the USMC band at the White House. One man joined the Peace Corps following the assassination. These people gave me their time, their memories, and essentially a part of them.

In my life there have been many events embedded in my memory. I was too young to remember Chernobyl or the Challenger disaster, but I remember 9/11 as clear as day. The deaths of Princess Dianna, Mother Teresa, John Kennedy, Jr., Ronald Reagan, Yasser Arafat, and now William Rehnquist are engraved in me. I was up all night when no one knew whether George Bush or Al Gore won the 2000 election. I was in Cleveland following the blackout of 2003. I watched the impeachment trial of the 42nd President of the United States. And most recently I woke to news of an associate justice unexpectedly resigning from the Supreme Court and went to bed knowing that the chief justice has succumbed to cancer.

I was disappointed in the private nature of both Rehnquist’s funeral and burial. CSPAN aired the Great Hall of the Supreme Court as people lined through to show their respect for the late “Chief.” CSPAN is known for showing the core boring happenings of the nation. In the hour I watched, there was at most five minutes worth my time. But in those five minutes I was amazed. The two people I least expected to see or find so remarkable were two ailing senators. Arlen Specter and Robert Byrd. This summer I’ve gained an appreciation of Specter. If you had asked me five years ago, I would never have guessed in a million years that I would get teary eyed at the sight of Specter. In he came, ailing, dying of cancer himself, and yet his grace proved a respect no words could describe. And following him was the also ailing and ever present Robert Byrd. Walking with two canes at a very slow pace, Byrd cried. If there is one man in Washington who truly understands, respects, and loves the institution, it’s Senator Byrd.

The death, the services, and those five minutes of CSPAN reminded me of something I somehow had forgotten. Someday, just as I, as a wide-eyed eighteen year old, went looking for the memories of one historical event, someone will come looking for my memories. Rehnquist’s death has reminded me that those memories are my duty to history.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Does Your Conscience Bother You?

The human conscience, a guard against irreparable damages, a protector of fragility, and source of strength in times of trying decision making. Webster's defines it as "a knowledge or feeling of right and wrong, with a compulsion to do right." If there still is any question of what the human conscience is or is not, a certain southern rock band asks, "Watergate does not bother me, does your conscience bother you?"

Where am I going with all of this? In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina's wrath, in the loss of one of this nation's most influential chief justices, and as we all pay an arm and a leg at the pump, I've been wondering a lot about the human conscience.

First, and the least complicated I think is the absurdity at the gas pumps. Whether this be middle eastern relations, the administration, or just a bad trend, here is the problem. Every bit of spending the U.S. does, for cleanup following major natural emergencies or for wars in countries we know very little about, creates an unbelievable amount of deficit. Deficit spending began with Vietnam and has only grown out of control since. I don't have a solution, I'm not sure I'll even pretend to understand economics to describe it, but as that deficit spending continues inflation will only rise. With inflation oil prices will only skyrocket. This is the type of situation that dug Jimmy Carter's political grave. And China owns our national debt. A million people have recently been evacuated/removed from their homes and we still want profits. Can the oil companies not understand human conscience, but merely profit?

With the passing of Rehnquist much talk has risen about the character of Bush's nominees. Without pinpointing John Roberts, whose presence at the Supreme Court today was admirable, I've wondered if not just presidents, but the justices also can live with the job they've been sent to the bench to do and the work they've actually done. Example, Kennedy appointed White, he was not the justice Kennedy expected. Which conscience does that weigh down? Was Kennedy regretful for his choice or did White regret not being the man the President of the United States nominated him to be? Eisenhower nominated Earl Warren. Yes, I have that right. Earl Warren one of the most activist liberal justices and the most of the chief justices in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court. Did Eisenhower sleep well at night knowing that he made a mistake? Did Warren care? For the most part the current justices of the Court, including the late Rehnquist were/are exactly what their nominating presidents expected them to be. The Court, I've heard, pushed anyone a bit toward center, if not a little left, but overall these men and women are comfortable with their conscience. O'Connor wasn't exactly what Reagan had hoped for, but she's consistently a centrist, a swing-vote, and from my perspective very comfortable in her position. Conscience approving.

Three days after Katrina hit New Orleans President Bush flew over in Air Force One. He had been on vacation in Crawford, Texas and was headed toward San Diego for a McCain function. He has admitted that not enough was immediately done for the hurricane victims. How's his conscience? And not just Bush, a lot of people dropped the ball on this one, not just the Bush administration. The National Weather Service, Michael Brown and FEMA, the National Guard, the Governor of Louisiana, the mayors of New Orleans and Biloxi, and a whole lot more. It seems to me that a nation like ours in times like these with terrorist attacks always on our minds and always a possibility would be prepared to evacuate a mass of people in major cities around the country. Why was New Orleans not prepared for such an evacuation? There are a million people without homes, thousands are dead, and collectively the federal government cannot decide whether or not to rebuild the city of New Orleans. I realize that there are several contributing factors to this disaster. FEMA has been nearly dismantled with it's new placement within the bounds of Homeland Security and the Bush administration has a lower than ever approval rating and much to address, but even in excuses conscience takes all.

This really crazy man named Joseph Conrad says that "all a man can betray is his conscience." I believe that. I also believe as someone very close to me who I love dearly once told me when I was stuck between a rock and a hard place that as a human you do what you must so you can sleep at night and so you can live with yourself when you awaken. That is conscience. It's evidently missing in American politics today.

Monday, September 5, 2005

Rehnquist: Once in a Lifetime

The Supreme Court has announced that funeral services will be held for Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist Wednesday at St. Matthew's Cathedral. Burial will follow at Arlington National Cemetery. Sound familiar? Following the November 22, 1963 assassination of President Kennedy his body was housed in the Capitol rotunda, his funeral services were held at St. Matthew's Cathedral and he was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.

It is unbelievable to me that this is happening in my lifetime. Neither men knew each other, or one would assume, neither men were on the same end of the political spectrum, respectively, and yet both men I feel a certain amount of admiration and understanding for. I wasn't alive when Kennedy was killed, my parents were practically infants, and yet in my mind I feel like I was there. This time I will be watching closely as the American elite file into St. Matthew's and as three armed men give the highest and most respectful salute to Chief Justice Rehnquist at Arlington Wednesday afternoon.

Eleven, soon to be twelve, justices of the Supreme Court have been laid to rest at Arlington. Rehnquist will join his predecessors Chief Justice Earl Warren and Chief Justice Warren Burger. I have said it a hundred times before, but I truly believe that Arlington is one of a few sacred and honored places in America where true men and women of integrity, patriotism, and character are laid to rest. In my mind there is no higher honor than that which comes when one is given that burial right.

I'll be watching closely Wednesday as I know and history will tell, this is a once in a lifetime event. After Wednesday we'll begin to see the confirmation process in action as Bush has nominated John Roberts to the chief justice position. After Wednesday Washington will be business as usual. Politics as usual. But on Wednesday none of that will matter as the country carefully watches and mourns the passing of a true American patriot.

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Rehnquist: A Chapter of History

There are times, if only for brief moments, that partisan politics should not matter. Last night, the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court William H. Rehnquist died at his home in Arlington, Virginia.

Our nation is in desperate need of strong leadership as a portion of our country is in a declared state of emergency, there are now not one, but two vacancies on the Supreme Court, and the Court now lacks a strong conservative agenda. Now is not the time to play partisan politics or to speculate over a successor. Now is the time to consider Rehnquist a towering component of history.

Coming from the left end of the political spectrum, it isn't often that I harbor such a strong love, respect, and admiration for someone as conservative as Rehnquist. But over the years I have grown to appreciate the man's role in history more than anything. My generation most clearly remembers his role in the impeachment of President Clinton as well as the Court's role in the 2000 presidential election, but generations before mine remember Rehnquist's role in opposing Roe v. Wade, the Miranda case, and the ban on school prayer. Rehnquist has his hand in a great deal of history.

For me I guess my admiration of Rehnquist began several years ago, but began with something Rehnquist did before he was even on the Court. Anyone has really studied the Cold War Era knows that there was a particular chief justice with relatively the same magnitude of influence as Rehnquist. Even today when I look at Earl Warren I wonder how one man can have that kind of power. Fabricated or tainted, he still held more power than any other justice, next only to Rehnquist. I read a quote this morning from a professor at Georgetown Law: "When the history of the Supreme Court in the 20th century is written, there will be two great chief justices: Earl Warren and William Rehnquist." Knowing the capability of Warren, in the 50s, Rehnquist took him on. Rehnquist opposed the major rulings of the Warren Court.

Not just in his encounters with the Warren legacy, but often, Rehnquist demonstrated his understanding of the Court's role in history. While the Court heard Brown v. the Board, Rehnquist was writing an article on Plessy v. Ferguson. He entered the political arena of the Supreme Court as Vietnam was wrapping up and Watergate was beginning. It is safe to say that in thirty-three years on the bench he deserves his own and is his own chapter of history.

I don't know what the death of Rehnquist will bring to the Court. I can't even begin to predict the type of justice President Bush will put in his place as his selection of Roberts, a white conservative male, to replace Sandra Day O'Connor blindsided me. What I hope is that his successor brings to the bench the same amount of stalwart belief and an attempt at understanding his/her role in history just as Rehnquist did.

William Hubbs Rehnquist
1924-2005

Saturday, September 3, 2005

Heaven and Earth

I have been out of commission for the last few days and since my last post I can honestly say life has been pretty much upside down. The great inner debate with me seems to be school lately, I guess if I had to pick the most nagging of my inner debates these days. The history program at Idaho State is frustrating to say the least. But... I love history and I love the feeling of contentment when I am learning something new. The way it appears for the moment is that I will be toughing it out in the history dept. with a little help from my friends in the political science dept.

Enough about that.

For the last two days I have been watching a great deal of television-- a great deal of CNN, CSPAN, and MSNBC. I've watched as a natural disaster has torn apart a region as well as an entire nation already deeply divided. Yesterday I watched the Congressional Black Caucus rip apart the reaction of (or lack of reaction of) the Bush administration, Walmart, and Denny Hastert. AND I agreed with them 100%.

President Bush's legacy will not only be reflective of his postive response and his strong leadership on 9/11 and the aftermath that would follow, but also it will be reflective of his negative or delayed response and lack of leadership in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It took the President of the United States several days to step up, tour the torn gulf region, and offer significant federal help. Days longer than it should have.

People were herded into the Superdome, FEMA had no plan of action, and Walmart stores in Lousiana would not accept Salvation Army vouchers. The National Guard is in Iraq. The president is on vacation...AGAIN. And the Speaker of the House says the United States will not rebuild the city of New Orleans. See any problem with this picture?

Today I listened to Michael Chertoff, the new Secretary of HOmeland Security, promise that President BUsh and the federal government would "move heaven and earth" in their efforts to contain, control, reconstruct, and uplift the effected gulf region.

I guess my question is, if one man holds the power to actuall move heaven and earth, what has taken his so long to realize and use it?