Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the Union Wrap-up

Tonight as I watched the State of the Union address with the ISU College Democrats and IPSA (Idaho Progressive Student Alliance), I was amazed at how many times the statements of President Bush reflected his total lack of knowledge in regard to the United States Constitution. The wiretapping scandal is bigger than any failure to disclose a life threatening illness or sex scandal, Bush is infringing on the rights of American citizens without their knowledge. Tonight as mad as I am about a countless number of issues, my number one concern is that the President of the United States of America does not understand that despite the complexity of constitutional powers, they are worth understanding. I'd like to ask the President of the United States of America and while I'm at it, the student body president of ISU why they haven't taken the time to understand the constitutions that grant them that executive power.

Watching the State of the Union with a room full of Democrats is a great experience. Had it been a Democrat addressing Congress we would have been on our feet cheering. I'll admit there were some pretty heated words for George W. Bush from my crew when it came to the Raid on Student Aid, Medicaid/Medicare, and the infamous Social Security point (aka known as the part where the Dems stood up and cheered for their valiant defeat of his not so sound privatization attempt). There were moments when I personally took offense-- specifically those moments when he mentioned Coretta Scott King and Sandra Day O'Connor for cheap political points. There were also moments when had I not been with a group of people would have shouted as loudly as I could the worst words I know--specifically the moment when discussing the negative outcomes of isolationism mentioning Truman, Kennedy, and Reagan as examples of when being nonisolationists was a good thing. A room full of College Democrats is a hard thing to understand. Trust me on that one. And believe me when I say it is not something I hope to understand anytime in the near future!

I really had a lot more to say than this, but as the night wears on and as I realize how much homework I have to accomplish before tomorrow I must dive in. One last thing before I go... Julie, Ian, and Serephin-- it was a pleasure picking apart the SOTU with you this evening. You are the reason I love being a blogger in Idaho!

State of the Union 2006

Tonight the ISU College Democrats and IPSA (Idaho Progressive Student Alliance) have crowded into my little apartment to watch President Bush's 5th State of the Union Address. We're still fuming and watching the spin boys...more later.

Matt Kopydlowski, President of ISU chapter of ISPA
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Her Own Legacy

**Editor's Note: While typing this post, the United States Senate has confirmed Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court. The vote is 58-42.

In my mind four women stand out for their courage, grace, and legacy. Their husbands were amazing men, yet killed in their prime. Jackie Kennedy lost her husband in Dallas in '63, Ethel Kennedy in Los Angeles in '68, Myrlie Evers in Jackson in '63, and Coretta Scott King in Memphis that unbelievable spring of '68.

Today the Post is reporting that Coretta Scott King has died.

When people like Maya Angelou take notice, the world should know it is only appropriate to take notice as well.

I cannot in words express my admiration for Mrs. King. There is no fitting way for me to note her passing, but only one way I know how, to quote one man I admire for similar reasons to my admiration of the four women whose husbands were slain:

"Let each of us, to the best of our ability, in our own day and generation, perform something worthy to be remembered...Let us give something back to America, in return for all it has given us." --Edward M. Kennedy

Coretta Scott King has done far more for this nation than anyone could have respectfully asked from her following the death of her husband. Her legacy shines on.

Coretta Scott King
1927 - 2006

Monday, January 30, 2006

And The Big News Is...

Geez, doesn't it seem like it was weeks ago that I said I had some big news I would be announcing today?

I am announcing my candidacy for the ASISU Senate from the College of Arts & Sciences for the 2006-2007 academic year.

But really the big news is tonight I am being confirmed by the ASISU Senate to fill a vacancy on the Senate for the College of Arts & Sciences! I was called last week by the Vice President of ASISU to inform me that of the applicants they interviewed I was one of the two chosen.

It is always great for a campaign to be the incumbent!

Let me just say after interviewing with ASISU (Associated Students of Idaho State University) several times, this was the spot I most wanted and thought I was the least likely to get. I am very excited!!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Demanding An Alternative: The Plight of Assisted Living in Idaho

Idaho Code assures that "the state will foster the development of, and provide incentives for, residential care or assisted living facilities serving specific mentally ill and developmentally or physically disabled populations which are small in size to provide for family and homelike arrangements" (39-3304). Based on this statute, one could contend that the recent attempt to redefine state regulations pertaining to assisted living facilities by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare places Health and Welfare in direct violation of Idaho Code.

In the January 26, 2006 edition of The Idaho State Journal, the plight of local assisted living facilities became front page news, but the history of their plight is as lengthy as their existence. Every proposed assisted living facility has faced a battle few actually win.

A few years ago in Cassia County, a targeted service coordinator for developmentally disabled adults sought to build and manage an assisted living facility in a rural area. Citing close proximity to a major highway, her proposal was refuted. In all reality the reasoning behind the battle rested with neighbors who were untrusting of the developmentally disabled population.

In the assisted living business if it is not one battle it is always another. In the coming weeks as the Idaho State Legislature considers changes to the rules and regulations governing the operation of assisted living facilities, many wage a battle that cannot be won.

The proposed rule changes directly impacting assisted living facilities, especially those rules that are detrimental to the future of smaller facilities not included in the nursing home or elderly care industry, do not seem to offer an alternative. Facilities are either forced to abide by, in some cases, ridiculous regulations or face stiff penalties and fines. This black and white proposal offered by the Department of Health and Welfare has been loudly criticized. Administrators of smaller facilities understand the long term ramifications of these new regulations and seek to fight the new regulations with the assistance of statewide organizations like the Idaho Assisted Living Association (IDALA).

Though in agreement that the vast majority of these new rules and regulations are absurd and cater to the big-money nursing home industry or facilities strictly for the elderly rather than the rights and needs of disabled residents in assisted living facilities, those who choose to fight Health and Welfare on this and request the support of their legislators should offer an alternative, not simply a complaint.

Hearing upon hearing resulted only in disgruntled assisted living administrators and infuriated policymakers. The last resort for these facilities and organizations such as IDALA is a plea in the eleventh hour to their state representatives to vote against the rule changes. Granted, this is the process; this is how the public should interact with their representatives, but the public should at least be courteous enough to offer their state legislators a solution to the problem, not merely a definition of the problem.

As individual facilities struggle to find time, funds, and methods of meeting the daily needs of their residents, they do not have the luxury of actively lobbying the state legislature. For that reason organizations such as IDALA operate. The mission of IDALA should be to represent and support the various assisted living facilities in the state of Idaho, but how can an organization successfully represent and support both the industry providing care for the elderly and the smaller assisted living facility for the disabled?

Those critical of the rule changes should not only be requesting the support of their legislators, they should be demanding a reform in the organization that represents them, if not a complete break down and reconstruction of it.

The IDALA website specifically acknowledges that "Idaho Assisted Living residents can be young or old, affluent or impoverished, mentally ill or brain injured, developmentally or physically disabled," yet never has the question been raised as to whether one association should represent the needs of such a wide array of people.

IDALA should not represent facilities for the developmentally disabled and facilities for the elderly. There is not a fine line between the two, but a gaping hole. The level of care is significantly different and a comparison between the two impossible. Operating an assisted living facility for the developmentally disabled or mentally ill is in no way similar to operating a home for the elderly. Representation by one organization of these two truly diverse businesses is not logical.

If, to quote Adlai Stevenson, "understanding human needs is half the job of meeting them," there must be a separation of these two populations, the elderly and the developmentally disabled, in order to sufficiently meet their needs. The needs of the two populations cannot be understood collectively.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Bloggers Helping Bloggers...Or Not

I'm deep in the process of writing an article I am very passionate about. I've consumed more junk food today than a person should consume. I am adjusting to a new optical arrangement (i.e. contacts and reading glasses, but the reading glasses aren't here yet, which really means I can't see anything and have resorted to sitting in my dark kitchen with the ugliest pair of reading glasses on the planet!) So...

I had originally thought I would mention Bubblehead's crusade against Clayton Cramer, who by the way is someone I have NEVER heard of. I didn't know somebody held a monopoly in "Idaho-bound" blog readers and I guess if I had checked my Fastmail® account a little more often I would have known that Bubblehead had enlisted my support in this SPUD-LIB crusade.

Honestly, can you hold 43rd State Blues accountable for Binkyboy? Get over it. And when someone supports your cause you should at least show them courtesy and respect. Stating that Julie over at Red State Rebels "speaks truth to power with the best of them, but seems to be rather idealistic, treating blogging as a way to share her interests with the community, rather than as a means of gaining promotions within the TTLB ecosystem," just isn't my idea of saying thanks.

You want a little help from Idaho bloggers? What have you done for us lately?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Thursday Night Rant

I really enjoy the way Serephin does the blog rundown over on 43rd State Blues. It seems tonight that I almost need to have my own rundown of all my political thinkings.

I've been watching the Alito debate on the floor of the United States Senate and as I type this am listening to Senator Byrd (D-WV) on C-SPAN from earlier today. That man loves his country. That man understands what it means to represent your constituency. It does matter to him that the party is trying to defeat Alito, it does not matter was Democratic leadership thinks of him, it does matter that he votes his conscience. Something that he said today thrilled me and scared me all at once. He said: "I am a senator who takes this Constitution seriously and I refuse to tow the party line..." I fear Alito's confirmation, yet more than I fear Alito, I fear a group of politicians in Washington who are unwilling to have their own thought, take their own stand, have their own voice. Every politician right now who is afraid of shouting from every roof top the injustice and corruption in D.C. right now needs to learn a little something from Robert Byrd.

I have to agree with Senator Byrd in one respect-- there is no telling what judicial temperament will do once placed on the high court. I simply can't believe that Byrd is voting yes, but with him, unlike the numerous Republicans voting yes, I know why and he gave a reasonable response.

The thought of Sen. Byrd carrying around a copy of the United States Constitution in his jacket pocket gives me hope for a restored faith in our public servants.

Public servant C.L. Butch Otter was in Declo, Idaho today. In a visit set up by the Republican County Chairman Wayne Hurst, Otter visited students at Declo High School. He answered questions, dodged a few, and maybe gained a couple votes. It isn't hard for men like Otter to visit Cassia County where he's going to win by a substantial margin. Cowardice is what is is. Visiting safe counties is what men like Otter do best. Congressman Otter, I will never even consider voting for you until you take the time to step foot in a unsafe county to sit down with my classmates and answer some questions.

Mr. Otter you are welcome at Idaho State University to sit down with me anytime.

Back to the Alito vote for a moment... I had this surreal feeling when Scooter Libby was indicted because Joe Wilson had been at ISU just prior to that indictment. As I've been watching the Alito debate, everytime I see Senator Harry Reid I can't believe that just a few weeks ago I shook that man's hand. I interact with fairly important people on a regular basis, yet I've never felt so connected to something as big as the Democratic National Party until now. It's sad really because I have shaken the hand of every member of our Idaho delegation and never when I see any of them on C-SPAN do I feel represented or part of something so huge. Craig, Crapo, Simpson, and Otter DO NOT speak for me.

It seems I've wrapped up my political thinkings for the night. Tomorrow is another day. Another day of debate. Another day of politics. And another day of being fed up with one-party politics in the state of Idaho.

Quick Note...

Two things...First, Butch Otter was in Declo, Idaho today. I'm expecting a phone call about this in a bit and then I'll throw something up on the blog. Second, I have very exciting news to share, but I can't tell you all 'til Monday.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Republicans Take Note

Ladies and gentlemen Larry Grant is promising to clean house in Washington D.C. It's about time one of our several congressional candidates put out a plan. With corruption in D.C. at an unbelievable high and with no end in sight, it is refreshing to hear a plan of action and a promise to the people of Idaho.

Larry Grant, for those of you who may not know, is the democratic congressional candidate out of the first district. To read more of his gutsy plan please visit Grassroots for Grant.

Also, I'd like to personally challenge the numerous candidates across this state in both congressional districts to take a stand. Let your voice be heard and don't be afraid to paint the realistic picture of corruption that is our current delegation. Cooper, Hansen, Lewis, and the myriad of individuals in the Republican campaign for the 1st district better step up and follow Grant's lead on this. Following the philosophy of waiting for the bottom to fall out before taking a stand is no longer acceptable.

It's time to clean house in Washington and eliminate what Senator Harry Reid refers to as the "culture of corruption."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Alito to the Floor, Brownback--Show Him the Door

This morning the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmed Judge Samuel Alito's nomination to the United States Supreme Court, voting to send it to the floor of the Senate for final confirmation.

These days is there is no other Senate committee I pay more attention to. First, two potential presidential candidates serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Second, the three senators I admire most serve on the committee. And third, this confirmation hearing (along with that of Chief Justice John Roberts) is the first I have been old enough and aware enough to observe.

On my first point, I would not be at all surprised to see either the name of Senator Joe Biden on a 2008 presidential ticket, neither would I be surprised to see the name of Sam Brownback. I would most likely welcome Biden's candidacy-- Brownback I will comment on in a moment.

Secondly, Senators Kennedy, Specter, and Leahy are three men that I greatly admire. I say this knowing that I will more than likely receive some heated words about Ted Kennedy. Specter and Kennedy in my mind embody a certain era of history that dominates a great deal of my intellectual time. I can't say I hold a great deal of respect for Ted Kennedy nor can I say I agree with Arlen Specter even 50% of the time, but I can say these two men are public servants who define what it means to be a senator. Patrick Leahy has been a favorite of mine since well before Vice President Cheney had some chosen words on the Senate floor. Ideologically Leahy and I are in the same boat. I admire his tenacity and his no nonsense approach. There is something about politicians from Vermont that just amazes me. They don't seem to care what the other 49 states think of them.

Watching these men over the last several months has been an opportunity I won't soon forget.

I in no way, shape, or form want to see Sam Alito on the Court, but I'm not going to pick apart Mr. Alito. Tonight I would rather pick apart Sam Brownback because he made a statement today before the vote that really got under my skin.

Abortion has nothing to do with how I feel about Sam Alito. I do however have take issue with Brownback's comments. And I do support all legislation that protects a woman's right to choose. There are privacy factors that I support. There are women I support. In his closing remarks today Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) said that 90% of Down's Syndrome babies are aborted. 90% is an entire "class of people." I guess his argument was about abortion and how Roe v. Wade should be overturned, but let me say this:

Mr. Brownback, you don't support reform of either Medicaid or Medicare and you don't support stem cell research. Should we be bringing 90% of a population into this world if you don't want to pass legislation to support them??

Please do not get me wrong, I am not in favor of abortion 90% of the Down's Syndrome population, but I certainly am in favor of reforming Medicaid and Medicare so we can adequately provide for that population. I am also strongly in favor of stem cell research that could potentially prevent the diseases that often cause early death in the Down's population.

With a straight party line vote Samuel Alito will be our next Supreme Court associate justice, replacing one of my personal favorites, Sandra Day O'Connor. We all better be praying that a few Republicans have a change of heart soon. What? Democrats pray? Watch out you evangelical Republicans, we're all on our knees today!

For those of you interested, the vote was a straight partyline vote (10-8). Those in favor of Alito included Specter, Hatch, Grassley, Kyl, DeWine, Sessions, Graham, Cornyn, Brownback, and Coburn. Those opposed to the confirmation included Leahy, Kennedy, Biden, Kohl, Feinstein, Feingold, Schumer, and Durbin. And as those 8 senators said no, I had chills.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Duck and Cover (TWW)

**Editor's Note: I hadn't read this story in The Washington Post before I posted. It's a sad day for The West Wing fans. The series will end on May 14th with the inauguration of the next president.

There is an entire generation of Americans who went to school at a time when the threat of nuclear war was ever present. Crawling under a wooden desk was a reality.

I pray I never know that reality. I was born in a time when Reagan and Gorbachev were negotiating, a time that saw the remaining days of the Berlin Wall. Ducking under a desk, inadequately protecting myself from radiation is only nightmare that comes after far too much Cold War research or viewing Goldwater campaign films.

Commenting on tonight's episode of The West Wing is out of my league. I can't claim to understand nuclear power. I can't claim to support it either.

Operating under the impression that this is the final season of The West Wing, I was pleased to see President Bartlet commanding the episode and taking charge of the catastrophe. It would have been amazing to see Leo by his side, the episode that deals with Leo's death will be tough, but I've come to appreciate the wonder of CJ Cregg as chief-of-staff and the simplistic, no nonsense Will Bailey as press secretary.

I didn't catch tonight's episode until long after it aired, maybe the suspense of waiting through the commercials would have made the episode more intense. I'm running short on patience when it comes to the campaign... can we have the election already? We all know Santos is going to win. And it really bothers me that we still don't know how Leo will exit the show. For John Spencer's sake I wish they would get on with it.

With the Golden Globes this week I thought a great deal about why The West Wing doesn't sweep the awards shows like it used to. One word-- writing. You can't expect the same dynamic with a drawn out campaign and recycled story lines. Getting rid of Toby, taking the focus off President Bartlet, and ignoring the 364 day challenge of Leo McGarry has really hurt the show.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

In the Running

Boise is in the running to host the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games.

The Special Olympics Logo® is a registered trademark of the Special Olympics non-profit organization.

This is HUGE news for Idaho. Boise, who currently hosts the Idaho Special Olympics Fall Games, will be examined for potential this week by a SO official.

I have volunteered in several capacities for Special Olympics of Idaho since I was twelve. As a volunteer, junior coach, junior coach coordinator, and coach I have had the wonderful opportunity to see this great organization evolve. Special Olympics has come a long way since it was created by Sergeant and Eunice Shriver.

I wish Boise the best of luck this week as it contends with Reno, Nevada and two European cities.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Juegue Pelota

It is official, the Cuban National Team will be playing in the World Classic. If you remember, in recent months I posted on how irritated I was that the United States had denied the Cuban team the opportunity to play in the classic based on historical Cuban sanctions.

Today I read the announcement on the MLB (Major League Baseball) website that the United States has allowed the Cuban team to participate.

This is something the Americans (or I should say the Department of Treasury as ridiculous as that sounds...) should have done right the first time, but I applaud the change of heart (or political influence) and wish the Cuban team good luck in the Classic.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Dissenting Minority

My family owns a group home or in other words, an assisted living facility for developmentally disabled adults. I have two disabled siblings, an uncle with Down Syndrome, and a passion for this population that I can compare only to my passion for certain periods of history. This may seem relatively off the topic, but in all actuality sets up the topic perfectly.

On Wednesday a resident at our group home in McCammon died suddenly of a heart attack. When I speak in terms of "residents" I always mean friend and in this particular case mean family. For nearly six years we lived within the facility. I grew up with those residents, I now call them family and am honored to be their friend. Since Wednesday I have found myself reflecting frequently on just how amazing the opportunity is to work with these wonderful individuals who have had such an impact on my life. It is an opportunity few people can appreciate. It is a job few people can do well.

Last night at the Pocatello City Council meeting, a gentleman came before the council who had been denied a taxi license due to prior criminal activity. When I say criminal activity, I mean activity that appears on his criminal background check, that may not be all too criminal. I didn't know this man nor do I claim to understand the circumstances, but in meeting him learned that he may have been in a poor relationship that sadly resulted in them calling the police on each other repeatedly.

This man had worked and spent quality time in a partial care facility working with this population of disabled adults that I care so deeply for. I don't know if what this man was charged with truly reflects his actions or if after so many domestic disturbances it was the only route left to take, but I do know that when he said in front of the council that he works with this certain population, he said it with pride. He was afraid that the opportunity would be taken away from him. There are few people that I've met who can see that opportunity before them. There are few people that appreciate the opportunity.

Charged with domestic battery, the man claimed to have no violent tendencies. Maybe a victim of circumstance, maybe not. Whatever the case may be in his defense let me say this: There are times in this business when all the patience in the world isn't enough. There are times in this business when you can't take another minute of the redundancy. If in those times he has never cracked, if he has never once disrespected those people with whom he has been trusted to care for, he can't be all that bad of a guy.

I hadn't attended the Council meeting for his case alone, though when I read the agenda, I was convinced that I needed to be there to hear his story. The council voted 4-to-1 in denial of his license, giving him the opportunity to reapply in 6 months. The lone dissenting voice was Councilman Stallings. I don't know why Stallings voted the way he did, but it taught me a lesson that I hadn't realized until today.

As I sat in an interview for a position on the ASISU Senate, one of the last questions Vice President Sharp asked was how important I feel the dissenting minority is in the legislative process. After taking in the magnitude of the question, I thought about the Council meeting and this post that I had begun to write with no conclusion in sight. I told Will Sharp and two ASISU senators about Stallings' vote last night and it clicked right then in my head that whatever the reason, a dissenting voice is necessary and unbelievably important in the process. Without a dissenting voice, the majority never will know both sides of the story/issue. The majority will always vote with no check on their conscience.

For what it's worth, learning this lesson has taken quite a bit of my time this week. Time that was not for a second wasted.

Monday, January 16, 2006

TDIH: The Birth of a Dream

This day in history saw the War Department form the 1st Army Air Corps squadron for black cadets. This day in history saw Benny Goodman refuse to play Carnegie Hall when black members of his band were barred from performing. This day in history General William Sherman issued field order #15 setting aside land for blacks. This day in history saw the entrance of the first black government in the Bahamas. This day in history we observe the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Like Julie over at Red State Rebels, I truly feel that as each year passes I grow deeper in my appreciation for Martin Luther King Day. Over the years I have come to realize just what one man's dream means to this nation and to human rights at large.

"Let us therefore continue our triumphal march to the realization of the American dream.... for all of us today, the battle is in our hands....The road ahead is not altogether a smooth one. There are no broad highways that lead us easily and inevitably to quick solutions.... We are still in for the season of suffering.... How long? Not long. Because no lie can live forever....our God is marching on."

When Dr. King gave this speech on the steps of the state capitol building in Montgomery, Alabama on March 25, 1965, there was no way of knowing just how far his words would travel, how far reaching his influence would be. Today, nearly forty years later those words mean so much to me. Not just because it brings to mind the song that in my heart is America and the American dream, but because his humble words speak volumes to the American soul.

I agree with Morgan Freeman when it comes to whether or not this country should celebrate Black History Month-- Black history is American history. We need not celebrate for a month, but every day of our lives the work, achievement and dream of those who brought peace and freedom to an entire race of people.

A phrase from the Gettysburg Address always comes to mind when speaking of Dr. King-- "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here." We may not all have burned in our memories the words of Dr. Kings famous "I Have a Dream Speech," but we will forever remember what he did when he rose on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial August 28th, 1963. He spoke for voiceless people. He acted for the actionless. His dream was the dream of an entire nation.

"Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart." --Dr. King

In my head and in my heart I respect Dr. King on a level few will ever reach.

A Side Note...

I'm a sucker for awards shows. Always have been. So it is no surprise that I'm sitting here with my wonderful little friends watching the Golden Globes and simply enjoying the night.

Mary Louise-Parker just won for best actress in a series (comedy or musical) for Weeds. Now that means very little to me since I've never watched the show and she was up against the powerhouse Desperate Housewives (all of them...well okay not Nicolette Sheridan) which I admit to watching every few weeks.

After saying she'd like to makeout with the entire cast-- most specifically Elizabeth Perkins-- she mentioned the man who deserved most to be mentioned, the late John Spencer. For those of you who may not remember Louise-Parker once played Amy on The West Wing. With first hand experience working with John Spencer her last words on stage this evening were paying her respects to "a man that made it look too easy."

Anyway, gotta get back to workin' and watchin' the Globes.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Internal Displacement (TWW)

There are times that I find it frightening that the chief-of-staff can have so much authority, so much power say in national and international affairs. I speak only of moments when I hear and read about men like H.R. Haldeman, Alexander Haig, Cheney, Rumsfield, and Donald Regan. But then when I see CJ Cregg on screen doing the everyday business of President Bartlet on The West Wing, I think maybe a confident and efficient chief-of-staff is a great idea.

I could comment on the finer points of the show, though I was particularly amused by the bickering between Josh and CJ and especially by the dynamic of the sleazy (believe me I thought he was a sleaze before tonight) son-in-law of President Bartlet. So what's better than a few quotes? In tonight's episode there were quoteworthy moments:

Josh: I'll have to get back to you on that.
CJ: Go to hell.

"Your American dream is financial not ethical."
(Chinese ambassador to CJ)

"If you have a problem with your zipper..."
(CJ to Doug Weston about his alleged infidelity)
"The bastard should just be dead."
(NSA Harper to CJ Cregg on Doug Weston)

"Did you take an awkward pill?"
(CJ to Will Bailey)

You know the writing on TWW at times seems odd and certainly much different than the earlier seasons, but once in awhile the humor and talent of the current writer stands out and I am so impressed.

I have thought often about an idea Danny presented, something Danny (yes, Danny is back) said to CJ at dinner, before the nuclear disaster, but never would have been able to word it quite the way the writers did-- If I'm gonna jump off the cliff and you're gonna get pushed off then why don't we hold hands on the way down-- something like that anyway...I didn't take notes on tonight's show.

This episode seemed a bit disjointed only because I think all of us that regularly watch The West Wing are waiting to see what will happen with the story line regarding the death of John Spencer and some of us fear that the election of Santos (come on, isn't it obvious that he'll be the winner?) will end up being the season as well as the series finale. It seems tonight's episode was intended to draw in an audience, not keep the storyline moving along.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Denton "Defeating Education" Darrington

Rarely do I get on my soapbox about the poor legislative representation out of Cassia County, but this morning when I found Denton Darrington's picture gracing the front page of The Idaho State Journal I knew I was in for a long day!

In the 20 Questions weekend section of today's newspaper, Dan Boyd, political reporter for the Journal, interviewed Senator Darrington. This is one of those things that merits anyone and everyone hiding the newspaper from me.

Senator Darrington is the longest serving current member of the Idaho Legislature. The paper compared his length of service to that of Chick Bilyeu-- Chick Bilyeu, of like Team Bilyeu. Not in any circumstance does Denton's service compare to that of Chick Bilyeu. Not in any circumstance would I even consider them on the same political playing field.

And that comparison wasn't the only thing that jumped out at me...

ISJ: What was the best day of your life?
Darrington: April 30, 1940. The day I was born.

Conceited? Ya think? Most people in the 20 Questions section cite the dates of their children's entrance into the world or the date in which they were married. This question truly represents Senator Darrington. He is all about himself.

ISJ: If you could return to any age, what age would you be and why?
Darrington: Sixteen. It was in the 1950s, Eisenhower was president, Elvis became king. '56 Fords and Chevys were everywhere, peace was on the land and life was good.

The 1950s? The two elections I would have liked most to vote in were the 1956 and 1960 elections. Adlai and Jack. But you can bet, had Darrington been old enough to vote, he would have been voting against me. Only Denton Darrington could say "peace was on the land." Korea was just over, Vietnam was heating up. 1956 wasn't exactly a walk in the park as far as the history of peace in this country or any other.

My final irritation and the one that tops the list--
"Interestingly, Darrington's graduating class, the 22-member 1958 class of Declo High School, turned out two of the Legislature's most high-profile members. Speaker of the House Bruce Newcomb also graduated from DHS."

For a moment I was ashamed to share alumni status with these two men. I am of the 2003 graduating class of Declo High School. Let me just say, Senator Darrington and Speaker Newcomb have done a poor job of representing my graduating class (their constituency) in the legislature. I firmly believe no member of the Idaho Legislature has been more detrimental to the status, affordability, and availability of public education than Darrington, a former history teacher at Declo Junior High School. Newcomb? Now there's a whole other can of worms.

Senator Darrington has served in the Idaho State Senate longer than I have been alive and in my lifetime has never once voted on an issue that has made receiving a first-class education any easier or affordable for me.

My advice to the editor of the Journal: Next time in the 20 Questions section you choose to interview a member of the Idaho Legislature, try picking someone who is a little more mainstream--someone who actually represents the people that read your paper.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Blogging for Larry Grant

I don't know if I have mentioned it or not, but for the last few weeks I have been writing for Students for Grant, a satellite blog off of the amazing Grassroots for Grant blog that is helping send Larry Grant of the 1st Congressional District to the U.S. House of Representatives. Check out today's post here.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Music Recommendations

I've noticed lately alot of music recommendations on the blogs I frequently read. And since over the Christmas break I acquired quite a few new CDs myself, I thought now would be a great time to recommend a few of them. Plus, I'm a little burned out on politics. Yesterday was exhausting! Here's my top five country list (let me just say choosing only five was quite the process):

Blake Shelton: Barn & Grill-- Now I am not even sure when I purchased this CD or if it was given to me, but I'm sure I had it long before Christmas break. It was just the dynamic of lying in bed for a good week straight with bronchitis that made me pop this one into the CD player. Blake Shelton has come a long way since his single "Austin." In fact it is hard to even tell that when you hear "Some Beach" that it is even the same person. My personal favorite on this album is "Goodbye Time."

Chris Cagle: Anywhere But Here-- When I went to see Brad Paisley in concert I went because Chris Cagle was supposed to be the opener. He was sick, didn't show, I was mad. Brad turned out to be pretty sweet and life went on. Growing to like Chris Cagle has been a big chore, but I'm coming around. Nothing on his new CD is as great as "I Breathe In, I Breathe Out," "Laredo," or "What a Beautiful Day," but the Walmart parking lot song is oddly funny and perfect for those of us who grew up in smalltowns.

Keith Urban: Be Here-- This wasn't a Christmas gift either, but one that I have listened to on and off since finals week. There is something about Keith Urban, unique to country music, that just draws me in. The entire CD is worth listening to. My personal favorite is "Tonight I Wanna Cry."

Joe Nichols: III-- The greatest purchase I have ever made with a gift certificate by far. Okay, not the greatest, but pretty close. I purchased this CD for one track that seriously makes me laugh my head off and it has turned out to be a very well-rounded album with more than one song that makes me laugh hysterically! Do I really have to mention that my favorite track is "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off?"

Faith Hill: Fireflies-- Not specifically Christmas either, but it certainly got its fair share of listening to over the break. Come to think of it, I am not sure a day went by without Faith making her way into my CD player at least once. Her talent always amazes me, but something about this CD is magic. She's wonderful alone, she's wonderful with Tim, she's just wonderful. There is a wedding song called "Dearly Beloved" that cracks me up, but in all reality when it comes down to it I go with Faith & Tim everytime.

As you can tell, I'm pretty hooked on country at the moment. I just think there is some great pop/country crossovers coming out right now and the less twang, the better.

And from the rest of the music world...

Collective Soul: 7even Year Itch-- I had to own this CD. Every bit of Collective Soul is great. As you can tell by my post the other day on "She Said," they are often in the CD player and everytime just as good as the last. On this particular collection of their greatest hits "The World I Know" stands out for me, but overall my always and forever favorite Collective Soul single is "Compliment."

The Very Best of Jackson Browne-- Sometimes I can walk away from someone I really like, say with Updike, a long break, yet when I return it is just like discovering Updike for the very first time and falling in love with him all over again. Such is the case with this Jackson Browne compilation. I love it! I love it so much I can't narrow it down to one favorite.

Yeah, well I could go on like this for days, but I'll save you the boredom. If I had to pick one of these fine CDs to recommend you go out and find, I think I'd say if you want the most for your money you've gotta go with Jackson Browne. If you want less, but great quality, Faith Hill.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Stallings, Marley, Andersen, and Reid

Tonight I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 3rd Annual Richard Stallings Banquet at Idaho State University. This could so easily turn into a post on how proud I am to be a Democrat in Idaho. Let me just say the evening was amazing!

As Senator Harry Reid spoke this evening I was seated next to Senator Bert Marley, candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction and next to the head table where Richard and Ranae Stallings were seated. I can't even begin to explain the feeling I had as Senator Reid spoke. I was fired up about Democratic politics in Idaho, I was humbled by the emotion showed by former Congressman Stallings, and I was more proud today than ever to be a Democrat in Bannock County.

Four things come to mind that made this night so spectacular for me.

First, all my life I have had amazing teachers who have molded me into the person I am today. I have had teachers that have stepped into my life when the rest of the world stepped out and I have had only two teachers in my entire life that I can say changed my life forever. One of those teachers was Bert Marley. I was his student at Marsh Valley High School and the extent of his influence on me has yet to be defined. It is enormous. Sitting with Bert and his wife Michelle this evening was an honor. I have never been more excited about a candidate than I am now with him running for State Superintendent.

Second, I've come around when it comes to Senator Reid. I loved Tom Daschle. I love him still. The day he lost his seat was the day I understood true political heartbreak. I never imagined that such a quiet man like Harry Reid could replace Tom Daschle. But he has. He has in a way no other senator could have. I am so impressed with Senator Reid and I was so thrilled at the reception prior to the banquet to meet him, to shake his hand, and to know that in a room full of very important people he didn't mind taking the time to meet me. It was amazing to turn to see Senator Reid walking toward me--just a podunk College Democrat--even more amazing that he was concerned with how cold my hands were! His speech tonight was amazing and despite the Journal prelude to his visit, his stop here in Pocatello on his "red state tour" was admirable.

Third and most important, there is no man I admire more than Richard Stallings. If you've missed it, and how I do not know, I took Stallings' Idaho Politics class at ISU, not once, but twice. I'm sure I learned the first time around everything I needed to about our former Idaho politicians. I'm sure I heard the first time around every one of Richard's stories. I'm sure the first time would have been enough, but it was the second time around that meant the most to me. I had a rough semester and had I not had his class twice a week, I'm not sure I would have kept going to my other classes.

But there is more to my admiration of Richard than his class. The man is the most humble I have ever met. He squirms when you say nice things about him. He does door-to-door campaigning for himself. He'll send you out in freezing weather (armed with an extra sweatshirt and a silly hat), but he'll go with you.

When I decided not to go to Boise this semester there were many factors, one of which was Richard. This semester I will have the great opportunity of going through his congressional papers in the special collections of the ISU library. It probably could have waited, but now is the time and I am very excited.

Fourth, I have grown to love Allen Andersen. Since we began filming the Bannock County Democrats show for Channel 12, I have had a great time and have learned so much. Allen announced Tuesday that he will run for his old legislative seat (the seat that he lost to Ken Andrus) and I couldn't be more happy! What year for Democrats, what a year for Idaho.

I could go on for days. Despite the rough week I have had I am so honored to have taken part in this magical night. Now it's time to get down to business and take back our state!

Andersen's Announcement

**Editor's note: My apologies for the delay in getting this up. The banquet will soon be behind us and it is time yet again to focus on campaigning!

Tuesday Allen Andersen announced on the steps of the Bannock County Courthouse that he will run for his former District 29 seat in the Idaho State House of Representatives.

Former District 29 State Representative Allen Andersen with
his wife Bev and Idaho State Senate candidate (also from District 29)
Diane Bilyeu at Tuesday's announcement.

As I have mentioned, I have grown to admire Allen. As his co-host on our Bannock County Democrats program I have seen first hand how hard Allen is willing to work for causes he truly believes in. His work on the Stalling's Banquet Committee was exceptional as is his work in everything he dips his hand in.

Good luck, Allen!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

3rd Annual Richard Stallings Banquet

It is FINALLY here! Just a quick reminder that tomorrow night is the 3rd Annual Richard Stallings Banquet at the Pond Student Union Ballroom in Pocatello. If you've been under a rock and don't already know, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada will be here to speak. I look forward to seeing you all there!

Monday, January 9, 2006

She Said...aka...The Lyric Compromise

**Editor's note: Today is new CD day for me and I finally got a greatest hits collection of Collective Soul. Because my head is just not in the political game today, have some lyrics instead. There has to be some sort of compromise on days like this.

She said that time is unfair
To a woman her age
Now that wisdom has come
Everything else fades
She said she realizes
She's seen her better days
She said she can't look back
To her days of youth
What she thought were lies
She later found was truth
She said her daddy had dreams
But he drank them away
And her mother's to blame
For the way she is today

Life's river shall rise
She Said
And only the strong shall survive
She Said
But I'm feeling quite weak
She Said
Will you comfort and forgive me
She Said

She said she's still searching
For salvation's light
She said she wishes all day
And she prays all night
She said she won't speak of love
Because love she's never known
She said it's moments like these
She hates to be alone

Forgive me
She said

**Words & Music by Collective Soul.

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Running Mates (TWW)

Is there any better way to memorialize a brilliant man than to flaunt his brilliance?

"Johnny it seems we hardly knew you. We love you. We miss you." --Martin Sheen on the passing of John Spencer.

In the last few episodes of John Spencer's career, we will see as we have hundreds of times before the brilliance, talent, and unbelievable presence of Leo McGarry. I have said before that Leo is my favorite. Nothing has changed. There are times, like in the episode Full Disclosure, that I am amazed by CJ Cregg, but there is never a time that I cannot admire Leo and appreciate the beautiful character the writer's created for John Spencer.

Tonight's episode was perfect. Only Leo could orchestrate a leak that would improve his standings in a vice-presidential debate. A leak to a blog outlet nonetheless. Only Leo could knock their socks off by lowering the American public's expectations. Only Leo could fire back about universal health care on a question intended to address his health and the potential of another heart attack. I found quite ironic and sad that such a thing came up in an episode filmed just weeks prior to John Spencer's passing due to a heart attack.

So much of this episode was hard to take. Leo looked so vibrant, but silently John Spencer's time was ticking away. So much of this episode made die hard TWW fans miss the days of Danny & CJ, Leo always near President Bartlet, and Toby & Josh pulling the strings behind the political scenes.

But in an episode that was hard to take, there were moments of comedic wonder and moments that even those who haven't watched TWW regularly could appreciate. There is something funny about two very articulate adults pondering Armageddon. There is something very funny about the National Security Advisor and the White House Communications Director contemplating the end of the world. Also something amusing about a candlelit dinner in an office in the West Wing. I'm not sure how long the Kate/Will dynamic will last, but let me just say I find it entertaining, and forgive the term, but cute.

Kristen Chenoweth amazes me. She's so small, yet she has this larger than life personality. She is the only woman that has graced The West Wing who could hold her own with Leo McGarry, next of course to Ms. Allison Janney. Kristen just fires back at the weird quirks and smirks of John Spencer's character and it is great. In what she called Spencer's "default expression," all the talk about Spencer's smirk was thoroughly entertaining. That "devastatingly sexy" (her words, not mine) smirk is the trademark John Spencer we've all grown to love. It is part of what drew me in originally and what continues to draw me in today.

The West Wing will never be the same without Leo McGarry. The talent John Spencer brought to the show will never be replaced. They can bring in the heavyweights like Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda, but they will never find another Leo.

On its last legs, this may turn out to be the most amazing season of The West Wing. And the previews suggested Danny's coming back!!! Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 5, 2006

Just a quick note-- my hard drive crashed last night. So, it may be several days before I get a new computer lined out and I'm back online.

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

The Blog Masters

After the day I've had it is probably safest to not post about the great irritations on my mind. Let's just say if I were to get on soapbox at the moment regarding student health insurance, the Idaho Assisted Living Association, or the State Board's announcement of presidential candidates for ISU, we would most likely be here until next Tuesday. Instead...

I would like to send a shout out and big congratulations to 43rd State Blues and Red State Rebels, recipients of the 2005 David Neiwert awards!

Whenever I am mentioned in the same sentence with either of these top-rate blogs I am honored. It was surreal to me when the Statesman article about blogs via Idaho came out that I could even be included with these political minds that I hold in the highest respect. Julie, Steve, and all the writers involved with these two blogs truly deserve to be recognized. Keep up the good work and congratulations!

Monday, January 2, 2006

Profile Pic

Welcome to Idaho State University

There are several things that annoy me. Christmas music. Malls. Those stupid little subscription cards in magazines that make the pages hard to turn. Jewelry. Not being able to remember how Warren G. Harding died or where. The sound of Eric Clapton's voice, yet the belief that he can write and play music better than almost anyone I have ever heard. Cuba. People who talk a lot about things they really don't understand. Richard Nixon. The list really could go on. But today my number one annoyance is inconsiderate students. This began on the Wednesday before finals week when a professor lectured on the significance of Pearl Harbor to an upper-division class at ISU. It continues today. I can't seem to let it go.

The morning after the Pearl Harbor lecture, I sat and listened to my fellow classmates criticize two of my teachers before my class began. They ripped apart the teaching style and partisan nature of one of my teachers and continued to express their irritation with the teacher who boldly taught the lessons of Pearl Harbor two class periods before the final exam. I just sat there. I didn't say a word. I thought it wasn't my battle, nor my business, but right now I know I should have said something. I wish I would have said something. I am not one to regret things. I think you make mistakes and you live with them, but when I pass up an opportunity to state my place on something, an issue that really deserves my opinion, I always regret it. I regret not saying that on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor we sure as hell better be talking about it in a Political Science course relating to foreign policy.

That Wednesday it wasn't just about Pearl Harbor. We talked about Iraq. We talked about mistakes. I watched an ROTC student walk right out of the classroom. Yet, when it was all over I wasn't for a second disappointed in how I had spent that fifty minutes, nor was I offended by what that instructor had to say. There are lessons we need to learn, things we should know, things only those who have gone before us can teach us.

I am so disgusted with students who think the teacher is there to push a particular ideology. I can guarantee that the two instructors in question, that my classmates so openly criticized that morning, have no agenda. They are there because they love to teach. There must be a hundred other jobs they could have had, other schools, other professions, and yet they are here at Idaho State because they feel they can make a difference in the lives of college students and because they love the course material they teach.

ISU is perplexing to me. Located in one of the most liberal counties in Idaho, it attracts the most conservative of Idahoans. If either of the teachers mentioned were conservative, those students wouldn't be complaining. In fact I only hear complaining (at least from the students in the Political Science department) about the more liberal instructors and there are a few. One guy today said if "he [the instructor] wants to teach like that he needs to move to California." Yes, welcome to the most conservative state in the union.

Had I really thought about it and found the courage to be the dissenting voice that morning, I would have said three things: 1) If you're so unhappy with the way they teach, then why the hell are you here? There are plenty of other schools that will cater to your closed-minded ideologies. And ISU certainly isn't begging you for your tuition money. 2) The fall semester was the hardest yet that I have had at ISU, but when I was to class I never once did not appreciate the instructor's time and effort. 3) How are we to ever learn from the mistakes of prior generations if we don't listen to their stories?

The basketball and football teams are feuding, we're just finally coming around to an honest discussion about the possibility of a medical school, and we are paying more and more each year for our education in a state that values prisoners over students. What is so wrong with a professor, who I am sure is underpaid and definitely under appreciated, who takes time out of his teaching to share an important lesson that came from an event none of us lived through? How are we ever going to know? How are we ever going to learn?

There are plenty of instructors who wouldn't mind only giving a midterm and final. Plenty who wouldn't mind assigning book after book to read. Plenty of instructors who wouldn't mind failing you just because they can. When you run across an instructor who has been nothing but patient, never expecting too much, or demanding more than what is reasonable, don't waste the air in your lungs to criticize.

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Molly Ivins At It Again

**Editor's Note: I love Molly Ivins of the Star-Telegram, always have. And this time around she hit the nail on the head & threw in a great quote from the late Senator Frank Church.

Undermining Our Country To Save It
By Molly Ivins
Creators Syndicate

AUSTIN - The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

Thirty-five years ago, Richard Milhous Nixon, who was crazy as a bullbat, and J. Edgar Hoover, who wore women's underwear, decided that some Americans had unacceptable political opinions. So they set our government to spying on its own citizens, basically those who were deemed insufficiently like Crazy Richard Milhous.

For those of you who have forgotten just what a stonewall paranoid Nixon was, the poor man used to stalk around the White House demanding that his political enemies be killed. Many still believe there was a certain Richard III grandeur to Nixon's collapse because he was also a man of notable talents.

There is neither grandeur nor tragedy in watching this president, the Testy Kid, violate his oath to uphold the laws and Constitution.

The Testy Kid wants to do what he wants to do when he wants to do it because he is the president, and he considers that sufficient justification for whatever he wants. He even finds lawyers like John Yoo who tell him that whatever he wants to do is legal.

The creepy part is the overlap. Damned if they aren't still here, after all these years, the old Nixon hands -- Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, the whole gang whose yearning for authoritarian government rose like a stink over the Nixon years. Imperial executive. Bring back those special White House guard uniforms. Cheney, like some malignancy that cannot be cured, back at the same old stand, pushing the same old agenda.

Of course, they tell us we have to be spied on for our own safety, so they can catch the terrorists who threaten us all.

Thirty-five years ago, they nabbed a film star named Jean Seberg and a bunch of people running a free breakfast program for poor kids in Chicago. This time, they're onto the Quakers. We are not safer.

We would be safer, as the 9-11 Commission has so recently reminded us, if some obvious and necessary precautions were taken at both nuclear and chemical plants -- but that is not happening because those industries contribute to Republican candidates. Republicans do not ask their contributors to spend a lot of money on obvious and necessary steps to protect public safety. They wiretap instead.

You will be unsurprised to learn that, first, they lied. They didn't do it. Well, OK, they did it, but not very much at all. Well, OK, more than that. A lot more than that. OK, millions of private e-mail and telephone calls every hour, and all medical and financial records.
You may recall that in 2002 it was revealed that the Pentagon had started a giant data-mining program called Total Information Awareness (TIA), intended to search through vast databases "to increase information coverage by an order of magnitude."

From credit cards to vet reports, Big Brother would be watching us. This dandy program was under the control of Adm. John Poindexter, convicted of five felonies during Iran-contra, all overturned on a technicality. This administration really knows where to go for good help -- it ought to bring back Brownie.

Everybody decided that TIA was a terrible idea, and the program was theoretically shut down. As often happens with this administration, it turned out that they just changed the name and made the program less visible. Data-mining was a popular buzzword at the time, and the administration was obviously hot to have it. Bush established a secret program under which the National Security Agency could bypass the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court and begin eavesdropping on Americans without warrants.

As many have patiently pointed out, the entire program was unnecessary because the FISA court is both prompt and accommodating. There is virtually no possible scenario that would make it difficult or impossible to get a FISA warrant -- it has granted 19,000 warrants and rejected only a handful.

I don't like to play scary games where we all stay awake late at night, telling each other scary stories -- but there's a reason we have never given our government this kind of power. As the late Sen. Frank Church said, "That capability could at any time be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capacity to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide." And if a dictator took over, the NSA "could enable it to impose total tyranny."

Then we always get that dreadful goody-two-shoes response, "Well, If you aren't doing anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about, do you?"

Folks, we know this program is being and will be misused. We know it from the past record and current reporting. The program has already targeted vegans and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -- and if those aren't outposts of al Qaeda, what is? Could this be more pathetic?

This could scarcely be clearer. Either the president of the United States is going to have to understand and admit that he has done something very wrong, or he will have to be impeached. The first time this happened, the institutional response was magnificent. The courts, the press, the Congress all functioned superbly.

Anyone think we're up to that again? Then whom do we blame when we lose the republic?