Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Bridge Into the 21st Century




(Digital photographs of the Clinton Library property of Tara A. Rowe)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

This Christmas

This Christmas I am traveling. First to Little Rock then to Dallas. In both places to see friends I rarely see. This Christmas I am thankful for amazing friends who have seen me through one of the tougher years of my life and have stood by me despite the best and worst of myself.

There's nothing we can do about
The things we have to do without
There's nothing we can do about
The things we have to live without
The only way to feel again
Is let love in

This Christmas I am thankful that I finally understand (and am trying to live by) these lyrics. I'm letting friends in that I was holding at a distance. I'm flying to see friends I've loved from a distance. I'm growing closer to life-long friends and learning that it is okay for them to see me in the darkest days as well as those of mehr licht.

"When we ignore the body, we are more easily victimized by it."

This Christmas I am thankful for the realization, a year in making, that yes, we can be victimized by our bodies, but we are also able to win that battle by taking care of ourselves. Health-wise, this year has been a long, tough battle that I can say with certainty I am finally winning. This Christmas I am thankful for good health and even more thankful for the understanding of what that means in the bigger picture.

"Children are apt to live up to what you believe of them."
"Become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid."

This Christmas I am thankful for finally gaining an appreciation of the wisdom of the late Lady Bird Johnson. Children are indeed going to live up to what you believe of them--I pray to God I am living up to what some of those I admire believe I am capable of. I also know that in times of trial and tribulation, finding something you can immerse yourself in will be your safety and saving grace. I have become so wrapped up in the processing of the Stallings Collection over the past year that on days when nothing else is going right, there is that one thing I can dive into and shed away all my fears in the process. This Christmas I am thankful for the Stallings Collection, but even more thankful for the man who gave me this opportunity and the man who has served this state nobly.

Heap on more wood!--the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We'll keep our Christmas merry still.

This Christmas I wish you all well.

(Quotes: Excerpt from "Let Love In" by the Goo Goo Dolls, quote from The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, quote of Lady Bird Johnson, quote from Marmion by Sir Walter Scott)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Stallings' Sudden Resignation

In life and politics there are jumping off points. For Richard Stallings, that jumping off point came in 1982 when he jumped head first into the 2nd CD race against sitting Congressman George Hansen. He didn't win, but didn't throw in the towel. Stallings returned in 1984 to unseat Hansen. He was re-elected in 1986, 1988, and 1990. He lost a bid for the U.S. Senate in 1992 and lost in another attempt to retake his former House seat in 1998. In addition to his congressional service, Stallings served as the U.S. Nuclear Waste Negotiator, executive director of the Pocatello Neighborhood Housing Service, and Pocatello City Councilman.

Since 2005, Stallings has served as chairman of the Idaho Democratic Party. Without question, Stallings will be credited for turning the party around and now, with the announcement of his resignation, we can say he will be leaving it in much better shape than he found it.

The news of Stallings' resignation came as a huge surprise to me and I can't help but wonder what is behind this sudden decision. Earlier this month, Stallings announced his resignation from the Pocatello City Council citing his desire to travel, concentrate on his business interests, and focus on the needs of the party. In a press release from the IDP this afternoon, Stallings cites personal and professional reasons for departing.

Perhaps I cannot be objective due to my various connections with Stallings (first as his student and now as the person responsible for the preservation of his congressional papers that will opening to the public soon). However, I can say that even before I entered Stallings Idaho politics course at Idaho State University for the first time, as a young Democrat growing up in this great state I had always admired Stallings for his dedication to public service.

Obviously, I don't know what to do with this news, but I send my best wishes to Richard and Ranae and my deepest appreciation to Stallings for his leadership.

Reds and Blues

I am looking forward to a long weekend of quality time with my kid brother. Due to my travel plans and other circumstances beyond my control, our Christmas together will mostly take place over the weekend. What are our plans? Well that is the joy of the weekend--we don't have many. We can stay up all night chatting, sleep in until noon, and play rummy until our eyes cross from staring at our hands.

Recently, the kid brother revealed to me that he can play chess. Not just play, beat my socks off. This is one of the revelations that all big sisters look forward to. Okay, not necessarily the chess skills, just the pleasure of knowing you can share a game with someone you love. Someone who thinks wrestling is amazing, hasn't read an entire book since first grade, and would rather watch himself in the mirror than sit down and watch an episode of The West Wing.

He and I are opposite on so many levels. We were discussing the Clinton library recently--he doesn't know who Clinton is (though they share a birthday). His favorite color is blue, mine is red, despite our political leanings. He's more of the conservative sportsman and I, well, here I am posting this on a liberal Idaho blog. His idea of homework is sitting down to Wikipedia and searching for details or calling his big sister for an explanation. If he has cracked a textbook I'd be surprised.

He snores, talks in his sleep, pretends he is Adam Sandler, claims to be from the planet NARF, and can talk for hours about some wrestling move called the cowboy and why Brett Favre is the greatest athlete in the history of sports.

For all our differences, we are both bad sleepers (naturally nocturnal), we love The X-Files, can tell you every last word of the wonderful film The Princess Bride, we can't stand black licorice, and at two in the morning we both know the only call we can make is to one another.

Red or blue, I'm still the luckiest big sister in the world.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Smorgasbord Saturday

The U.S. Senate passed a $286 billion farm bill this week. $286 billion. For over a year I have been dealing with 1985 and 1990 farm bills. Now, I'm not good with numbers, but I'd wager a guess that the 1985 Food Security Act (in four parts and collectively the 1985 Farm Bill) plus the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 (in ten or more parts collectively known as the 1990 Farm Bill) probably didn't equal what the 2007 Farm Bill does. $286 billion. Surely there is something to be said for the economy, subsidies, etc., but I can't help but wonder how this particular appropriation has increased so much in an era not known as a farm crisis the way the 80s were.

News from the world of baseball: Andy Pettitte says he used human growth hormone as treatment/therapy in recovering from an injury. This is confusing to me since HGH isn't testable via the standard urine sample. Maybe if I had read the Mitchell report I would understand how Pettitte is implicated in the steroids scandal and why he is feeling the need to defend himself against one particular banned substance. However, I'm wondering if there was a blood test at some point.

More news from the world of baseball: Seems like the San Diego Padres are the final resting place for some of baseball's great. Next in line to potentially retire in San Diego is former Cardinal Jim Edmonds. I say "potentially" because I thought both Mike Piazza and Mike Cameron would retire in San Diego. Piazza went on to be DH for Oakland and Cameron's fate is unknown. Guess it doesn't matter yet since Cameron will be sitting out the first twenty-five games of the season for testing positive...

Too many positive test in baseball. It's sad, really.

Representative Julia Carson (of Indiana) passed away this weekend adding one more state to the list of those holding special congressional elections. More importantly, the nation has lost a true advocate of truth and freedom. Remember Carson was one of the first House members to speak about the interests of the United States in invading Iraq and opposed the invasion from the get-go. Carson's voice of reason will be missed in Congress.

Unfortunate news out of Pocatello--State Senator Edgar Malapeai will be sitting out this session of the legislature due to a family illness. He has picked a pro-education replacement (also a former dean of the College of Education at Idaho State University), but his presence will surely be noted. I know that his wife has been ill, I just can't for the life of me remember what is wrong. My heart goes out to Edgar and his family.

In the Dec. 10th edition of NEWSWEEK magazine, there was mention of a blog called Ex Libris. I'm sad I hadn't known about this site before, but have been devouring everything on it in the last few days. The portion of the site mentioned in NEWSWEEK was the Russian Reading Challenge 2008. This is what originally pulled me in (other than the fact that this is a site about books...need I say more) because I have again set out to completely read Tolstoy's masterpiece War and Peace with a colleague of mine and an ISU librarian. I wish I had more reading experience in the world of Russian literature. I read The Brothers Karamazov in high school and read half of Lolita, but have never found my niche in the Russian literature genre. Since another of my ongoing side projects is a review of short stories, perhaps I can pick up some Russian short stories to add to Tolstoy.

Another fabulous addition to Ex Libris is a list of links to reading challenge blogs. Whatever type of book you like, there is a challenge for you. If I were creating a reading challenge with a book a month for a year, I think I would offer a list for the type of person who needs to be introduced to the classics. Perhaps I will do just that...

In other literature news, I noticed while I was at Video Stop renting an awful film (Mr. Brooks) that Maeve Binchy's Tara Road was made into a film. It must have gone straight to DVD or might have been released only in Ireland. I think I'll go back in the next week or so before I leave for Arkansas & Texas and rent it. I was fascinated with that book when I was in junior high.

That's it. Now, go read!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Steroids in Baseball, Blunt, and Endorsements

Any baseball fan has to be disappointed by today's release of the Mitchell Report. I am still reeling over a few of the names reported to have used performance enhancing drugs at some point during their career--Paul Lo Duca, Gary Matthews, Jr., Paul Byrd, Matt Herges, and a few others really struck me.

I suppose I am not surprised by the existence of steroids in baseball. I'm not surprised to see Clemens, Bonds, Giambi, or others on the list. I am surprised to see a few guys that I've watched and admired for their talent without knowing that they had an edge over their competitors.

Maybe only a true baseball fan can understand what the release of the Mitchell Report has felt like. It's a sucker punch to baseball fans and a sad day for America's past time.

_______________________

As I mentioned Monday, last week was particularly difficult for me academically. When I signed on to process the Stallings Collection I had no idea what time it would take or how committed I would become. Most of all I didn't realize that it would consume my life and my studies would suffer. I'm feeling a little better about the entire situation today. The whole situation has made me appreciation James Blunt's single "Same Mistake" from his latest album. Go listen to it, if you haven't already.

_______________________

I receive numerous campaign emails from the major Democratic presidential candidates daily. A day or so ago I received an email that mentioned the position former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle has in the Obama campaign--National Co-Chair. With Ray Mabus. Go figure! I'm not an Obama supporter, if I had to choose I'd go with Biden at this point, but I am a huge fan of Daschle. I have been since I was in junior high school. The email has really made me think about what endorsements mean. Does it change your opinion of a candidate based on the endorsements they receive? Can you like Obama more with Oprah behind him? Hillary with...hmm...Bill? Huckabee or Romney with the Big Man behind them? I mean, really, what does an endorsement mean? If it really mattered, I suppose I'd back Obama because of Daschle. I could potentially back Hillary with Dolores Huerta backing her. I'm sure there are plenty of other reasonable endorsements of each of the candidates. I just don't see how much it matters. Too bad Daschle isn't running...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

Ah, Invincibility

You know those kinds of decisions that are followed by relief or regret? I made one of those decisions Friday. Surprisingly, the decision was immediately followed by neither relief nor regret.

Neither relief nor regret. And yet I feel absolutely horrible about the entire situation. Go figure. Not a life or death situation. Far from it. However, it was a decision a didn't want to make.

Vague, isn't it? It is a hard position to find yourself in when you realize you are not capable of accomplishing absolutely everything. There are simply not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything an ambitious, curious person would like to accomplish. There are limits. Humans are not invincible. We are, at times, inadequate.

Having said all this for the sake of getting it off my chest, I sure wish I could feel some sort of relief. No relief to be had.

However, I have joined a book club. I may in my lifetime actually read in its entirety Tolstoy's War & Peace. There is a feat and hopefully an accomplishment I can tout at some point in my future.

I have learned the difference between a grasshopper and a cricket. Never in a million years did I think when I signed on to process the Stallings papers that I would spend an actual thought trying to understand the difference. And, I never knew people could be upset about such creatures.

Also of importance in a list of accomplishments--I stayed out of the great blog war today.

Ah, invincibility.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Smorgasbord Saturday Snapshot


Smorgasbord Saturday

Interesting piece by Tom Paine caught my eye--probably since Jayson Ronk's sister is a good friend of mine and his parents live here in town and are, dare I say, not so conservative.

Went to the Big & Rich concert tonight (last night) at the Holt Arena. I still call it the Minidome like most people that knew it before the naming rights happened. Bad place for a concert, but if there is any performer that truly is better live it has to be Big & Rich. Amazing energy. As I sat there I couldn't help but notice those around me. Let's just say that I am not the target audience/demographic for Big & Rich. First of all, I have a college education. Second, I don't have a conservative bone in my body. Third, I hate horses and am not too fond of cowboys. Fourth, well, you see where I am going with this. However, I started liking Big & Rich when I realized they are all about breaking down walls in musical genres. They're out-of-control country artists who dance around on stage with glitter and top hats. I love top hats. And, something I knew from early on about them is that they have a real appreciation for those who have sacrificed for our country. Their "8th of November" was a highlight of the concert. It was followed by an impromptu singing of "God Bless America" both in honor of the veterans in the audience and Pearl Harbor Day. I'm not on the same page with them politically, but we're all Americans. My two favorite songs of theirs ("Holy Water" and "Faster Than Angels Fly") were not part of the concert, but all in all I have no complaints. I wish ISU could attract concerts, but given the poor musical environment Holt Arena provides and the lack of real interest, we don't get very many. In the last four years I have seen Blessid Union of Souls, Blues Traveler, Switchfoot, Better Than Ezra, Lovedrug, Ryanhood, The Format, Quietdrive, Royal Bliss, and a few others. Again, can't really complain.

This post probably seems light on politics given the highly charged political atmosphere both here and nationwide. The Idaho State Board of Education met at ISU this week to discuss the possibility of a medical school, among other things. Former Arkansas Governor Huckabee has picked up steam in the Iowa polls. Mitt Romney gave one of the worst speeches I have heard in my life this week in a failed attempt to explain his religion to a curious nation. Obviously, we are living in very political times. I'm just not feeling particularly political today.

Two and a half hours of sleep in the past seventy-two isn't doing much for my mental power. It has been a rough week on campus as I've come face to face with the realization of my inadequacies and the simple fact that there simply are not enough hours in the day to accomplish all that must be accomplished. I might say more about this later on, once the whole situation sets in, but I may not. It's not every day I find myself completely lacking words, but right now I just am with this. Give it time. I keep telling myself that. Maybe a few more times and I'll believe it.

For those of you interested, there is a History Channel special airing this weekend with Tom Brokaw.

Interesting bits of news out of Major League Baseball. I mentioned earlier in the week the fantastic trade the Tigers made. Bonds plead not guilty to perjury. Andruw Jones looks to be on his way to the Dodgers. I can handle this only if Kent is staying put and Furcal is in the lineup and at least it is still the National League. Kaz Matsui is headed to Houston. The Florida Marlins may be falling apart at the seams. Lo Duca might be headed to the Blue Jays (aka the final resting place of some of the games greatest athletes). Jason Kendall, one of the games best active catchers, is headed to the Brew Crew. Still the question of whether Cameron, Piazza, Bonds, or Sandy Alomar, Jr., will be in any lineup. Aaron Boone has continued his long fall from the spotlight as he signed with the Nationals this week. Since Andruw has to leave Atlanta, I can't request he stay, but my one request for the upcoming season is this: Let Julio Franco play! If the man wants to play until he is fifty, put him in a lineup until August 23rd. That's all I ask. Let the man play. And, don't forget he is still a better pinch runner than most guys half his age!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Politics of Paper

Earlier today I noticed a comment following a post at Red State Rebels that merely fed an ongoing annoyance of mine. Opponents of Hillary Clinton don't seem to understand the circumstances surrounding her papers and still are jumping to the conclusion that the delayed release of these materials is a dishonest attempt on the part of the Clintons to preserve their legacy or protect their reputations (or even her bid for the White House). Please do not misunderstand this as any sort of defense of Mrs. Clinton, I assure you it is not.

First, I cannot claim to know what materials are in fact housed in the Clinton Library and Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas, nor can I claim that there is nothing contained within that library that would in any way embarrass the Clintons. However, I can speak to the condition of presidential, congressional, or otherwise political papers. They are not in any working order that would allow a researcher to locate and use any particular material in a timely fashion until much time has past since the donor has left office.

What does that mean? Well, let's take for example Senator Strom Thurmond's papers housed at Clemson, all 3,500 cubic feet of them. Clemson lists the collection under their Special Collections department and of the 3,500 cubic feet donated in portions beginning in 1981 and ending around Thurmond's death, the only portion of the collection available to the public via their website is the collection of speeches from Thurmond's political career ranging from 1935-1983. Of the thirty-two series (portions of the collection), only twenty-three are available to the public at the Clemson library. I am assuming that the rest is still being processed. For those of you that, like me, were unable to comprehend what 3,500 cubic feet means the Clemson site lists the collection as follows:

3,500 cu. feet (on 950 shelves) of manuscript material; 10,000 photographs; audio-visual material, computer tapes, cartoons and certificates; 25 bound volumes; 211 rolls of microfilm; and over 3,000 artifacts.

Taking into the account that the majority of Thurmond's career spanned a period when technology was not the "keeper of records" that it is today, I cannot fathom the amount of paper contained in that collection.

Now, realizing that Thurmond offered the first donation to Clemson in 1981, twenty-six years ago, and its processing has had at the minimum a full-time political manuscript archivist, a full-time staff, and numerous student interns as well as volunteers, it is still not all that surprising that the entire Thurmond Collection is not available to the public and still requires processing.

Thurmond's papers were not bogged down in issues of security clearances, classified material, and sensitive legal materials. Also, Clemson's library more than likely saw this as their number one priority and most valuable collection (with John Calhoun's a close second). In contrast, the National Archives and Records Administration, responsible for the processing, preservation, and stewardship of the Clinton papers, is responsible for approximately fifteen presidential libraries across the nation, including that of four-term occupant of the White House Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Simple math and common sense concludes that given the approximate time of donation (January 2000 when leaving the White House), size of the collections contained therein, and security/privacy considerations (declassification, restrictions, and closures), the Clinton papers will take a substantially longer period of time to process than Thurmond's papers or any other set of political papers.

Yes, one can make the argument that Thurmond was in office for much longer than President Clinton. Yes, one can say that the papers in question are only those of former First Lady Hillary R. Clinton. Yes, one can argue that things have changed since Thurmond's donation (I'm talking positively about the Presidential Records Act of 2007 and Freedom of Information Act, negatively about President Bush's Executive Order 13233).

No, none of these things support the constant criticism Hillary Clinton's campaign is receiving due to the lack of accessibility and release of some of her papers as first lady.

It takes years to process political papers. Define process? Sure. Cleaning them up, removing staples, detaching sticky notes, removing all materials incompatible with the acid-free environment required to preserve these historic documents. Then there is the organizing, the chronological ordering, alphabetizing, topical arrangement. Processing takes years. None of these things are deterred by the process of declassification that must come next. The red tape of bureaucratic Washington takes years. Declassification of one item on a military exercise that took place in 1993 could take years. It's a time consuming ordeal.

I guess my annoyance with this constant commentary on the dishonesty of the Clintons because Hillary's campaign isn't pushing harder for all of her papers to be available to the public is justified in my knowledge of what it takes to complete a political manuscript collection. I guess my annoyance is that Americans that hear this banter on television about her papers won't know what the real story is behind it, but rather will take at face value the statements of her opponents when they claim that this matter of her papers is directly linked to her trying to deceive the American voters.

There is nothing glamorous about archives and there is certainly nothing speedy about archivists.

When Barack Obama goes on the Sunday news shows and says he has a problem with her not making her papers public and then responds to the question about his papers while serving in the state legislature with the comment that they just didn't keep that stuff and he kept his own schedule, I want to shout at the top of lungs of the injustice of not preserving history.

Give her a break, guys. She can't rush the archival process any more than a pig could decide to fly.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Hello, Detroit!

Holy moses! I can't quite believe what is being reported at MLB.com this evening. Willis and Cabrera to the Detroit Tigers? This adds a superb pitcher (I've had Dontrelle Willis on my fantasy teams for several years running) to a mix that included the best catcher in baseball, Pudge Rodriguez. Willis and Rodriguez!! I just can't quite think of anything I would like to see more than that set up. And Cabrera? How can you lose with that bat in the lineup? Not to mention his fielding skills. Sweet!

Add these two to a roster that already includes Palanco, Justin Verlander, Maglio Ordonez, Jeremy Bonderman, and Pudge. Hell yeah! Plus, two former Braves (Mackay McBride and Edgar Renteria) joined up recently. Contenders? I think so.

Sure makes me wish I were a bigger fan of Detroit and even the American League!

Sen. Fred Thompson v. D.A. Arthur Branch

When Fred Thompson announced he was leaving Law & Order to pursue the presidency of the United States, I laughed. Then when TNT announced they would be pulling episodes from their schedule that featured Thompson prominently as New York district attorney Arthur Branch, I thought they were overreacting to the fact that Thompson was in fact running for the presidency.

Really, as an actor Fred Thompson has played Ulysses S. Grant and Andrew Jackson. If Arthur Branch were a real person and not the fictional character he is, he would be the first Republican district attorney of New York since Thomas Dewey. The conservative nature of Thompson is entirely obvious, so what is the point in pulling Law & Order episodes with him in them at this stage of the game?

The point is, Arthur Branch is likable. Unlike the man who plays him, people from both sides of the political spectrum can get behind Branch. Fictionally he is conservative, with little want or respect for any constitutional rights to privacy and usually supports capital punishment. However, unlike most conservatives, he is thoughtful when it comes to abortion rights even though he philosophically does not support women's rights to seek out and have abortions. He doesn't appear to be anti-gay, or at least this is what the episode with him firing ADA Southerlyn would have us believe (the one where Serena asks if she is being fired because she is a lesbian). While serving over Jack McCoy, Branch did little to actually reign McCoy in, despite the liberal tendencies of McCoy. Unlike his alter ego Fred Thompson, Arthur Branch seems to not only understand the political nature of the law, but plays well with others in that political realm. This is no more evident than when ADA Novak subpoenaed Donald Rumsfeld on SVU and Branch flipped his lid. Even then, Branch was likable.

Why is it essential for TNT and NBC to pull re-runs of episodes featuring Fred Thompson? It is simple--Americans watch scripted television far more often than they do the news. The chances of an American catching an episode with Arthur Branch far outnumber the chances of that same American watching the Republican debates with Fred Thompson. Therefore, the chances of an American being tricked into voting for Thompson because they think they're voting for a guy with the political and intellectual integrity of Branch exponentially increase.

If I were voting in the Republican primary and a guy like Arthur Branch were running, I'd vote for him. He would seem the most sensible of the candidates, even without knowing his position on immigration, taxes, or any of the other issues the candidates are ranting about. How could you not vote for a straight-shooting, thoughtful, loyal, intellectual, law (and Constitution) abiding man with a southern drawl and superb one-liners?

Now digest that last sentence again taking into account that Arthur Branch is only a character, carefully scripted and created to be all of those things. Would you vote for a guy playing Branch who is few, if any, of those things? I wouldn't.

When I hear about TNT and NBC pulling episodes from the schedule featuring Fred Thompson as D.A. Arthur Branch on any of the Law & Order franchise shows, I don't laugh any more. It is a serious business, the business of preventing Americans from being hoodwinked into voting for a guy who is nothing like the persona they are acquainted with. At 3 a.m. when I can't sleep and am watching Law & Order re-runs on three different channels, I wouldn't hesitate to vote for Branch. However, I'd be voting for the persona, not the actor who cleverly is hiding behind that persona. TNT and NBC better get cracking.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Smorgasbord Saturday

More often than not, I find myself irritated with Orson Scott Card these days. I should say my appreciation of his site Uncle Orson Reviews Everything has been on a downhill slide since he criticized one of my favorite authors, James Patterson, and his recent statement about being the exact audience to buy Clarence Thomas' memoir didn't help his cause. However, in this recent posting of his he comments on something that I have found myself wondering about more and more lately--copyright infringement on the internet and in email. A couple of days ago I received an email from a friend who does not generally send forwards which was followed my another email apologizing for the hoax. Hmm. Seems there is an entire site devoted to this sort of thing.

Somewhat overlooked this past week was Senator Leahy's rejection of President Bush's claim to executive privilege on the U.S. attorney firings. Bush, apparently trying to protect Josh Bolton and Karl Rove, has claimed executive privilege when subpoenas for information related to the firings were handed down to the White House. Surprisingly, Specter sided with Leahy on this matter. So far I haven't seen that this particular position on the part of Leahy and Specter is going anywhere, but it will be interesting to see what may come of it.

A few days ago at Left Side of the Moon, I noticed a post on the Special Olympics funding that fell through with no attempt to salvage it on the part of Congressman Bill Sali. Within that post is a lengthy quote from our other congressman, Mike Simpson, discussing why he voted to override President Bush's veto of the legislation that contained the necessary funding for the World Winter Games to be held in Idaho. What struck me was the other Idaho funding that was lost--Simpson points out a community detox center for Boise, NNU's nursing facility equipment, and a program to provide dental care for low-income, uninsured children in Idaho. Well, well. Mike Simpson, D.D.S. voted against his president and his party on a bill that would have brought funding to a program supported by his family's business and his former occupation. Interesting. And yet again I find myself in a position to point out that Idaho's congressional delegation hasn't spent a whole lot of time worrying about the financial status of Special Olympics of Idaho until recently when the possibility of bringing the world games to Idaho lit up dollar signs in their dreams. So, I wasn't too surprised to find out that Simpson voted to override the veto on a piece of legislation far more important to his business interests than to his sense of compassion and support for one of Idaho's greatest organizations. Frankly, I'm tired of not being surprised.

In baseball news, Torii Hunter, the phenom from the Twins who plays outfield almost as well as Willie Mays did, is headed to the City of Angels to wear red. No news on the fate of Andruw Jones yet.

This past week I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Tom McDevitt. Bonus points to you Idaho history nerds who might know why I was pleased to meet Tom. He just happened to find his way into ISU's Special Collections and there I was working away on the Stallings Collection. Fate, I tell you. Alright, so not everyone could be so pleased to have this chance encounter, but boy oh boy I was happy!

Other news on the home front--I will be traveling the week between Christmas and New Years and am quite happy about that. Arkansas and Texas. Sweet! I figure at the rate the Stallings Collection is progressing right now I am going to need a serious vacation. I need one now, I just can't swing it. And there's this voice over my shoulder that keeps saying I need to pass my classes this semester. Oh, wait, that's no voice over my shoulder that's my academic advisor and my boss speaking. I suppose I ought to listen.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Hilarous!



Kathy Griffin on the Larry Craig bathroom incident.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

TDIH: The Warren Commission

Forty-four years ago today the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, popularly known as the Warren Commission, was established by newly sworn-in President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Within the last year, Kennedy historians and assassination historians alike have been introduced to more material related to the death of this nation's thirty-fifth president. In May, Vincent Bugliosi's tome, Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy was published. The work is a superb collection of research and resources valuable to both those who support the findings of the Warren Commission and those conspiracy theorists who still believe that the possibility of one lone nut with a twelve dollar rifle killed the leader of the free world is outrageous. At the close of 2006, the last living member of the Warren Commission, President Gerald R. Ford died. Color footage of the assassination released to the public in February 2007 revealed President Kennedy's bunched collar--something that has fueled new conspiracy theories regarding the first shot. That color footage taken by George Jefferies is now available at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas. In the last year the infamous dictabelt resurfaced as scientists have been working on a way to revive these defunct reels. Also this year, Executive Action, a film starring Burt Lancaster depicting an alternative to the Warren Commission's finding originally created by Mark Lane in his book Rush to Judgement, was re-released on DVD.

It is hard to imagine any other forty-four year old event surfacing so frequently in literary and scholarly work.

In 1964, the Warren Commission released its report, similar to the way in which the Iraq Study Group Report and the 9/11 Commission Report were released to the public in inexpensive paperback copies. The report in its entirety is 888 pages (nearly half of what Bugliosi's Reclaiming History reaches at 1632 pages). The entire 26 volumes of supporting documents, exhibits, and testimony is also available.

A few weeks ago I was reading Bugliosi's The Betrayal of America (about the 2000 election) and he mentioned that he was once giving a talk at a conference and asked the audience to raise their hands if they felt the Warren Commission Report was a lie to the American people. A majority of the audience raised their hands. Then Bugliosi asked if they had read something or seen something about a specific conspiracy theory too which they responded by raising their hands. Then Bugliosi asked if they had read the Warren Commission Report and few audience members raised their hands. He corrected his question by stating the condensed report (888 pages). None of the members of the audience changed their answer. I thought that was very interesting. Few have actually read the Warren Commission Report, but many refuse to believe its findings.

I have read the Warren Commission Report on numerous occasions and have dabbled in the 26 volumes of findings, testimony, and exhibits. I have a very beat up mass market paperback edition from 1964 when the report was released. Despite me having any sort of opinion on what did in fact occur as an alternative to the commission's finding that Lee Harvey Oswald had in fact acted alone in killing both President Kennedy and Officer J.D. Tippit, I have my reservations as to the commission's findings. Some pieces don't quite add up. Some pieces are missing. The Warren Commission Report remains for me like a jigsaw puzzle that someone has taken the scissors to.

One of the few living participants of the Warren Commission is Pennsylvania senior Senator Arlen Specter. I wouldn't mind having the opportunity to sit down with Specter to ask about his role as assistant counsel for the Commission. After all, it was Specter who authored the "single bullet theory" that has left most assassination researchers and historians baffled.

Since the Warren Commission was first released in 1964, some controversy has surrounded the public accessibility to the materials used by the Commission. When the records were first released, all of which were sent to the National Archives, a records policy placed a restriction on the materials for a period of 75 years (75 years was then the policy of restriction for all materials used in the investigation of the Executive Branch). The Freedom of Information Act of 1966 trumped the National Archives policy and was followed by the 1992 JFK Records Act that established the Assassination Records Review Board in 1998. In 1998, all materials of the Warren Commission investigation were opened to the public excluding only a few materials (tax related). It is said that these materials are available to the public by request with only a few redactions. Assassination scholars dispute this claim quite frequently and are often met with the red tape of FOIA requests.

Despite the 1992 JFK Records Act, some materials remain restricted and will not see the light of day until 2017. My prediction is until 2017 (fifty-four years after the actual assassination) rumors will continue to circulate and each year, much like this one, all sorts of assassination related work will surface.

The Abzug, Church, Edwards, Pike and Rockefeller Committees, the House Select Committee on Assassinations, the Freedom of Information Act, and the JFK Records Act, have not accomplished what their purpose was--the convince the American people that their trust should lie with the findings of the Warren Commission.

Following the release of the Warren Commission Report, Chief Justice Earl Warren felt perhaps some of the material should not be made available due to the nature of the pictures and autopsy reports. This argument lacks strength due to the American publics' exposure to the morbidity of the event via the Zapruder film. Most Americans were already aware of the gruesome details of Kennedy's death. However, what is most frustrating about Warren's opinion is that it was not only a protection of the American public, but a protection of the members of the commission--some photographs from the autopsy were not even viewed by the members.

Unfortunately, forty-four years later it is evident that the federal government has spent more money and time in effort to support the findings of the Warren Commission than was actually spent from late 1963 to late 1964 when the report was released. That fact alone often makes me wonder how many people within the federal government actually believe the report Americans were asked to swallow.

Like I previously stated, I don't personally have a specific alternative to the findings of the Warren Commission. This is what separates me from conspiracy theorists. As I once read and unfortunately cannot cite my source directly, the difference between a skeptic and a conspiracy threorist is conspiracy theorists believe whole-heartedly in their alternative version of reality.

Regardless of what you believe about what did or did not happen that November day in Dallas, you have to admit that it is amazing how revered, refuted, and infamous the Warren Commission Report is.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Facts...

...not to be confused with Frequently Asked Questions.
  • If we are really taking sides, I'd rather know the fellas at 43SB have my back--at least I know what that comes with that (i.e. wine, tech support, and late night banter after I ask a question with a seemingly obvious answer) and that I'm not going to be sold down the river.
  • Politics is personal. 'Tis why you'll never find me posting about domestic violence, Matthew Shepard, or child abuse.
  • Never get into a pissing match with a race horse.
  • Feeding hungry people is addictive.
  • I can't pronounce Morialekafa.
  • It is possible to sing the tune "You Are My Sunshine" with the word 'hero' inserted in place of 'sunshine' each time. This I know because it came to mind while reading Digby's piece on the Kennedy assassination anniversary. In fact you could potentially insert any two syllable word you would like in place of sunshine, however, I wouldn't recommend inserting certain words.
  • I threw up in the parking lot this afternoon and am now home in bed. I don't know where my phone is, I know exactly where my lunch is, and I will be returning to the world of the living (and sane) again tomorrow.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Posse Ad Esse

For the next twenty-seven days, I will no longer think of my life in terms of hours, minutes, tasks, or days, I will look at my life in terms of boxes. Yes, boxes.

The Stallings Collection is slated to open January 1st. Given that the University has decided to close (and turn off the heat) from December 22nd through January 1st, I have until the 22nd to complete the main, Washington D.C. files contained within the collection.

As a mere thought this task seems insurmountable, but if one box is completed a day, it is quite possible that the main portion of the collection will be complete on time. These visions of completion that I have been having since, well, since day one I suppose, are becoming less vision-like and more realistic.

From possibility to actuality -- a posse ad esse.

Keeping in mind I have classes to attempt to pass and will need time to sleep, eat, breathe, etc., I will be light on blogging until the 22nd when I plan on having a very long (and overdue) vacation.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Forty-four Years

"If anyone is crazy enough to want to kill a president of the United States, he can do it. All he must be prepared to do is give his life for the president’s." -- President John F. Kennedy (quoted in the phenomenal work With Kennedy by Kennedy's press secretary, the late Pierre Salinger)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No Surprise Here

The Statesman is reporting that the group behind bringing the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games to Idaho is struggling. By struggling they report the third CEO in less than eight months signing on.

I'm not at all surprised!

More on this later, but until then, here's a little reminder of how I felt about Congress getting involved.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Local View on Luna

From the South Idaho Press:

Luna’s Pay Proposal Won’t Improve Instruction

Local View/By Jeff Roper

State Education Superintendent Tom Luna, backed by legislators like Rep. Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, has recently proposed a radical change in the way Idaho’s public school teachers are paid.

This proposal would provide an alternative to the “Steps and Ladders” approach to teacher pay, an approach that rewards teachers for years of service and for college credits earned, and would instead reward teachers with substantial bonuses based upon five variables:

1) Student achievement and growth as measured by ISAT scores;
2) Teachers filling hard to fill positions;
3)Teachers forgoing tenure and entering contracts much as principals do now;
4) Teachers becoming certified to teach multiple subjects; and
5) Teachers accepting leadership positions while they teach.

Luna’s proposal has received “overwhelming support from parents, teachers, policy makers, and education administrators across Idaho,” according to the State Department of Education’s own newsletter.

Not so fast, Mr. Luna. At Declo High School in Cassia County (as conservative and rural as Idaho gets) where I have taught English for six years, almost no support for this proposal has emerged. Instead teachers are very concerned about any proposal that is so focused on administrative issues ? like teachers filling hard to fill position, teachers forgoing tenure, teachers becoming certified in multiple areas and teachers filling leadership positions ? and is so unfocused on classroom instruction.

I understand student achievement and student growth as measured by the ISAT tests are a part of Luna’s plan. But almost all teachers recognize that the ISAT tests are very crude and often unreliable guides to either growth or achievement. For example, last spring almost 20 percent of the questions on the 10th grade Language ISAT test were about a particular writing format, a format most would argue no one ever needs to memorize.

ISAT tests simply don’t tell enough, and what they tell is not accurate enough to base anything as important as teacher pay upon. And ISATs don’t measure analytical thinking and questioning very well at all, and this is what we teachers know is most important.

Do we have any data that suggests that focus on ISATs improves student performance as our students leave high school? In fact, we have the reverse. We have been giving ISAT tests for six years, and Idaho student participation in college has dropped to one of the lowest levels in the nation.

Could it be that ISATs actually “dumb down” education to a level of memorization and regurgitation, forcing creative college-level thinking to the sidelines? Could it be ISATs make school so deadly boring that students can’t imagine continuing in college?

Certainly Idaho’s public schools are not working as they should if only 26 percent of Idaho’s 18- to 24-year-olds participate in college (National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, Nov. 2007). This percentage should make all Idahoans shudder.

Perhaps an alternative pay proposal is appropriate in our efforts to improve public school instruction. The alternative proposed by the Idaho Education Association is much more focused on instruction and maintains a much higher degree of local control, but Luna’s proposal will not improve instruction because it is not aimed at instruction.

Basing a new pay proposal upon faulty student tests and four questionably important administrative issues seems unwise indeed. Why would the Idaho Legislature accept a teacher pay plan that will cost additional millions without doing what everyone agrees is our primary goal, improving classroom instruction for what our students need in their adult futures?

Jeff Roper teaches at Declo High School.

Glavine Returning to Atlanta

Yes! MLB.com is reporting that Glavine is signing an $8 million deal to return to the Atlanta Braves for his final season(s) in the big leagues! This makes me a little less sad about Andruw's departure. Now, if they can just find a place for Franco in their lineup... If a man wants to play professionally until he is fifty, let him!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Things Change

Having spent much of the weekend transferring numerous campaign ads and political forums from VHS tapes to DVDs, I find myself wishing for days passed. The tapes I've watched, those contained in the Richard H. Stallings Congressional Collection, soon to be open to the public at Idaho State University, contain political pleasantries I hardly recognize today.

Civility in politics is lacking now, unlike what I was reminded of having appeared in the 1980s. I say this after watching the ceremony that took place in Philadelphia in 1987. The celebration of the bicentennial of the United States Constitution and the creation of a bicameral congress. Here two partisan bodies came together to celebrate our greatest document and our greatest triumphs as a nation. Robert Byrd and Robert Dole shared a stage as members of our government and men deeply appreciative, if not indebted, to the men who met in those chambers in 1787.

In addition to that particular video, I've watched the campaign ads prepared for Stallings in 1984, 1986, 1988, 1992, and 1998. Even in the 1984 ads there are no attacks of his opponent, attacks that would have been warranted in a race against felon George Hansen. The bloodiest ads didn't come until 1992 and even then were restrained, attacking Stallings' opponent Boise Mayor Dirk Kempthorne only for accepting a pay raise and not sticking to term limits. What has happened to campaigning?

We live in a day where a town hall meeting with Republican presidential hopeful Senator John McCain becomes a humorous sound bite because an audience member asked how they would beat "the bitch." We live in a day where a stage full of presidential hopefuls sounds like teenagers vying for the position of student body president, not leader of the free world. We live in a day where some are called terrorists simply because someone doesn't agree with them. We live in a day where campaign ads bring out every skeleton in every politician's closet.

Long gone are the days attacking Dukakis for any role he may have played in the "revolving door" and release of Willy Horton. People no longer react to these campaign ads with confusion and the desire to find the true story behind such statements. We now react in fear and hate. Not curiosity or compassion.

Watching the bicentennial celebration, I was amazed at the way the speakers were able to capture the attention of those members listening in that historic chamber. As the camera panned around, there were listening ears, those of Stallings included, truly appreciative of that historic document that they met there to celebrate. Long gone are the days that those in public service truly honor and recognize the Constitution. Long gone are the days when that historic document was treated with complete respect in Washington, both in the halls of Congress and the offices of the White House.

Perhaps it was the 2000 election or maybe even 9/11. Maybe it was the Iraq War Resolution or the profanities spoken by our Vice President on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Whatever the reason, I am reminded that in life, like politics, things do in fact change.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Smorgasbord Saturday

To add to my last post, the Cy Young award winning pitchers were named this week: C.C. Sebathia of the Cleveland Indians (American League) and unanimously Jake Peavy of the San Diego Padres (National League). A unanimous Cy Young vote has not happened in the National League since 1995 when Greg Maddux won with Atlanta for the fourth year in a row. Also, manager the year honors went to Eric Wedge of the Cleveland Indians (AL) and Bob Melvin of the Arizona Diamondbacks (NL). Melvin really surprised me! But...my vote was Clint Hurdle.

This morning I was watching MSNBC and watched one of the most startling reports I have ever seen. Mental Disability Rights International released a report on Serbian segregation and neglect of its developmentally disabled population. The report titled "Torment Not Treatment: Serbia's Segregation and Abuse of Children and Adults with Disabilities," is grim. The photos are astounding, in a very unpleasant way. In the report, a staff person at one of the Serbian facilities states that the major activity of those housed there is smoking. How horribly sad. However, something the reporters on MSNBC didn't mention is that while we criticize in shock the treatment of the disabled in Serbia, the United States isn't far removed from such treatment of our own disabled. One reporter mentioned that the parents of the disabled were told to lock their children up in a facility and forget about them. Not long ago in the United States, parents were told something similar--lock them in your basement or institutionalize them. Forget you ever had them.

Were you all flooded by emails this past week regarding the 1st District Congressional race? The seat currently attended to by Bill Sali is a much sought after prize. Walt Minnick jumped into the race, Rand Lewis was already in it, and Larry Grant, Sali's opponent the last time around was ready for battle 2.0. I received emails via the Idaho Democratic Party from all three candidates this week. Thankfully I didn't receive emails from either Bill Sali or his Republican primary opponent Matt Salisbury. Too much, too soon. 'Tis also what I said about Thursday night's Democratic debate in Las Vegas. Come January 1st I welcome any and all campaign material sent my way. However, let me get through the rest of this year before you make me start thinking about the 2008 election!

Back to the Serbian report--a related issue actually, there is all sorts of news in this neck of the woods about a murderer being admitted to State Hospital South in Blackfoot. I am not entirely surprised by this given that Idaho would rather fund prisons than treatment and the only place for criminals with any sort of mental instability is a state hospital, but I am surprised by some of the reports coming out of Blackfoot. The chief of police was quoted recently as saying that the hospital has only been there since 1951 (not true) and that the Blackfoot police have never been called to assist in any situations arising at the hospital (also not true.) More on this later.

The new issue of NEWSWEEK has some interesting articles in it. I would have to say it is one of my favorite issues of the magazine that I have read. I have to say that. The title is "1968: The Year That Changed Everything." As I was reading through my advanced copy, I couldn't help but note the similarities between 1968 and now. Young, wise, candidates rising up in a time of political turmoil. An election on the horizon that could change many things. Pick up a copy. It's worth the $5 and the read.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Gold Glove Awards

I told you how I would have voted and now the results are in:

Gold Glove Winners (American League)

C: Ivan Rodriguez, DET
1B: Kevin Youkilis, BOS
2B: Placido Polanco, DET
3B: Adrian Beltre, SEA
SS: Orlando Cabrera, LAA
OF: Torii Hunter, MIN
OF: Grady Sizemore, CLE
OF: Ichiro Suzuki, SEA
P: Johan Santana, MIN

Gold Glove Winners (National League)

C: Russell Martin, LA
1B: Derrek Lee, CHC
2B: Orlando Hudson, ARI
3B: David Wright, NYM
SS: Jimmy Rollins, PHI
OF: Aaron Rowand, PHI
OF: Andruw Jones, ATL
OF: Carlos Beltran, NYM
OF: Jeff Francoeur, ATL
P: Greg Maddux, SD

I highlighted (with teal) the ones I got right. I forgot that the NL gets an extra outfielder due to the lack of DH...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans' Day

The last sunbeam

Lightly falls from the finish’d Sabbath,

On the pavement here—and there beyond, it is looking,

Down a new-made double grave.


Lo! the moon ascending!

Up from the east, the silvery round moon;

Beautiful over the house tops, ghastly phantom moon;

Immense and silent moon.


I see a sad procession,

And I hear the sound of coming full-key’d bugles;

All the channels of the city streets they’re flooding,

As with voices and with tears.


I hear the great drums pounding,

And the small drums steady whirring;

And every blow of the great convulsive drums,

Strikes me through and through.


For the son is brought with the father;

In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell;

Two veterans, son and father, dropt together,

And the double grave awaits them.


Now nearer blow the bugles,

And the drums strike more convulsive;

And the day-light o’er the pavement quite has faded,

And the strong dead-march enwraps me.


In the eastern sky up-buoying,

The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin’d;

(’Tis some mother’s large, transparent face,

In heaven brighter growing.)


O strong dead-march, you please me!

O moon immense, with your silvery face you soothe me!

O my soldiers twain! O my veterans, passing to burial!

What I have I also give you.


The moon gives you light,

And the bugles and the drums give you music;

And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,


My heart gives you love.


Walt Whitman's Dirge for Two Veterans
From Leaves of Grass

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer Dies


"I knew that there was one thing I wanted to be and that was a writer." --Norman Mailer (1923-2007)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Now brought to you by Sports Blogs

I don't really know what this means, but hey, it is baseball and baseball is awesome! The Political Game has been added to the listings of Sports Blogs, an online sports network. The people over at Sports Blogs sent this link to me earlier in the week. The nice thing about Sports Blogs is that I don't have to do anything. If I post something at The Political Game that they find sports worthy, it is automatically picked up as someone searches the internets for sports oriented posts and tags it up on their site for fellow fans to read. Pretty cool!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Check Me Out on ISUer.com

The guy that runs IdahoFallz.com has started a new blog for and about Idaho State University Students called ISUer.com. He shot me an email a few days ago and now has a profile of me up at his site. Check it out!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Don't Forget to Vote!

Don't forget to vote today! If you are in Pocatello, this year the city has adopted the same precincts as the county--this means your polling place will be the same as usual.

If you have some spare time on your hands, tonight an election results shindig hosted by the Bannock County Democrats will be taking place from 8:00-9:30 p.m. at the Courtyard Swim and Tennis Club, 540 University Dr. in Pocatello.

Most importantly, just go vote!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

An Explanation of Sorts

It was this time of year when U2's single "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" was first released. I was parking my car in the lot across 4th & 5th from the Liberal Arts building one morning as I headed to my English 102 class. The first word, tough, caught my attention as I pulled into the parking lot and I sat in my car listening to the haunting melody as it was revealed to me for the first time. The song ended and I sat in my car another thirty or so minutes bawling.

I don't cry in front of people or at least I avoid it at all cost. However, that November day I sat in the car unafraid of any wandering eyes that may have spotted me. That evening I walked back across 4th & 5th to my car and found my cell phone blinking with a new voice message. It was my best friend in the entire world, beginning his message with four words that wrapped up my entire day: "So there's this song..."

Friday evening as I was driving home, I turned on the radio, something I rarely do anymore, and there quietly began that song by U2. It hit me nearly as hard as it had that fall morning when I heard it for the first time. This time it was more than anything a reminder to me that you don't have to be tough all of the time. When the song ended I picked up the phone and called another friend. The kind of friend I email constantly, but only call occasionally. I called her for no other reason than to hear her voice and reassure myself that it really is okay if you can't make it on your own sometimes.

This past week was perhaps the most difficult week of my life. I battled the demons of my past, faced the pain of the present, and got a glimpse of the obstacles in my future. I wish I could explain this without revealing the deeply personal battles that have been mine this year, however, I can't. Without question I will be first in line to welcome and celebrate the end of 2007 and the beginning of a new year.

I truly believe the only way to live life is to subscribe to that philosophy of falling down, getting back up, dusting yourself off, and jumping back into the game. However, it might be awhile until I am back in the saddle completely. Please be patient. Blogging isn't the most important thing in the world. In fact, it isn't even in the top ten.

Smorgasbord Saturday

Forgive the fact that this post is actually going up on a Sunday (early Sunday). I was busy.

Check out this commentary by Randy Stapilus over at Ridenbaugh Press. Stapilus points out a neighborhood level organization that the Idaho Democratic Party is taking advantage of. I went to one of those house parties mentioned in the press release last night and I must say I am very impressed with what's going on here.

I haven't said anything much this week, which can be explained hopefully tomorrow (er...I guess today). One of things I haven't said a word about and need to is the passing of Chick Bilyeu. Please be patient with me as I get to that.

So, Joe Torre is headed to L.A., Renteria is headed to Detroit, and Joe Girardi will head the Yankees. Big changes in baseball this week. This, too, will be an upcoming topic. The first few weeks of November are always interesting for baseball fans. You're either heartbroken, floating on air, or watching carefully to see what will happen to your beloved team.

There is evidently a vote going on--the Weblog Awards--and two of my fellow bloggers are nominated. The MountainGoat Report is nominated in the best political coverage category (and rightly so) in her first year of blogging. Impressive! And, Bubblehead has been nominated for his submarine blog (there is another word for this, but I can't remember what that is...) in the category for Best of the Top 5001-6750 blogs. I read Bubblehead from time to time and asked awhile back for some information on the INL. He is a well deserving nominee, too. Go Vote! You can vote in all categories once every 24 hours or something like that.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Week Ahead

The World Series is over, sadly, with a sweep of the Rockies on the books. The only good thing I have to say about this is that it frees up a few hours this week that I was wondering how I'd juggle between school, work, and games.

So, the week ahead for me appears to be a circus. I have a handful of appointments beginning first thing in the morning, two quizzes, two tests, a presentation, Spring semester registration, financial aid paperwork, and a Halloween cemetery tour with the Historic Preservation Commission.

With the schedule I have, I've decided to take the week off from blogging so I can concentrate on schoolwork. I will return next Saturday with a smorgasbord of information on baseball awards, new music, and the upcoming city elections.

See you Saturday!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Smorgasbord Saturday

Did you know that the Backstreet Boys have a new CD coming out? Yep. True story. Why should you care? Well, you don't have to. One of my guilty pleasures is the music of really bad boy bands. Always has been a weakness. The favorite being Hanson, but the Backstreet Boys'll do. Tuesday is the release date (if I am remembering correctly).

Semi-related--I read in the Guardian yesterday that the Spice Girls are getting back together for a tour. I liked them when I was in junior high. Now, well, I don't see the point. The first tour wasn't bad enough? Wonder if they'll get that awful tour bus they had in Spice World. It's really sad that I even saw Spice World, isn't it? I was in junior high, people! I don't know much about what the girls have done since the break up. One is in a spaghetti sauce commercial. I think one is having (maybe had) Eddie Murphy's baby. And, then there is Mrs. David Beckham. A tour, really? Best of luck, but I refuse to see such a disaster unfold on stage.

I missed People & Politics today. I haven't been attending regularly for awhile, but I was really looking forward to going today. I kind of miss politics in general, at least at the local level. Next time for sure.

The World Series is not going as I would have liked. The Rockies are at this moment in a good position in the game, but this is the first time since the series began that I could say that without thinking they are absolutely in over their heads.

It was a beautiful day in Pocatello so I walked over and took a final shot of the new facility next door. I continue to be amazed with Bright Tomorrow. I'm thinking I will take the photos and put them together in a slide show or something for the facility. I'd put them into a scrapbook, but scrap booking is a scary idea to me. I just can't bring myself to scrapbook.

In the mail today was the Spring 2008 catalog for the Hesperus Press. I was excited to see mail from them since I ordered Carlyle's House by Virginia Woolf with a special introduction by Nobel prize winner Doris Lessing. It wasn't the book I ordered, but now I have the catalog to order more exciting books from this superb press.

That's all I've got for this Saturday. I'm beat. Have a good weekend!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Sloganization of Islam

As reported yesterday, the 2006 release by Yusuf Islam (the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens) no longer appears on store shelves with the artist's full name prior to the title An Other Cup. When first released, the album's appearance included a simple tea cup, the name, Yusuf Islam, and the album title.

After much research, several questions remain: 1) Why would a man with the cultural capital of Cat Stevens title an album with a name unrecognizable to those unfamiliar with his more recent history? 2) Would the removal of his surname aid the sale of the album in countries reluctant to understand, much less embrace, Islam? 3) Why would a man who has in recent years adamantly denied ties to terrorists and further praised Islam have any reason to publicly shy away from a surname synonymous with a great fear of Westerners?

To answer the first question, Cat Stevens has made a name for himself internationally. In the music industry he is a legend and in the international community he is a highly respected peace activist. When Cat Stevens converted to the Islamic faith in 1977 and legally changed his name to Yusuf Islam in 1978, he symbolically abandoned his fame and musical career. Artists with hits can't completely abandon royalties and such, but Stevens shied away from the spotlight and devoted himself to philanthropy. Since his conversion, the importance of musical success is measured in much different terms to Stevens than they were as a rising star in the music industry. In his 2006 release, Stevens stayed true to himself and his religion, regardless of the cost by using his legal name.

In part, the second question is tied to the first. Yes, using his legal surname was certainly not going to win new fans or win him a popularity contest. If you didn't like Cat Stevens when he was Cat Stevens, chances are you weren't going to like him under any other name. However, though it might seem the cost to the artist would be great for leaving his full name on the cover of the album, Stevens cited other reasons for not placing his surname on the cover. In an interview with Billboard Magazine around the time of the album's release, Stevens said:

"Islam" doesn't have to be sloganized. The second name is like the official tag, but you call a friend by their first name. It's more intimate, and to me that's the message of this record...That's [the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens] the tag with which most people are familiar; for recognition purposes I'm not averse to that. For a lot of people, it reminds them of something they want to hold on to. That name is part of my history and a lot of the things I dreamt about as Cat Stevens have come true as Yusuf Islam.

Stevens' certainly has not forgotten the name that brought him fame and fortune, but he also recognizes that his legal name is indeed a slogan. Regardless of his background, seeing Islam on the title of an international product would in fact sloganize Islam or at least attach it to the music business. If Cat Stevens were still making music for the money, wouldn't he sell the rights to a few of his songs or at least make a few more albums a decade?

The answer to question two partly answers the third question: Cat Stevens, Yusuf Islam, Yusuf, or whatever he prefers to be called, is not shying away from Islam for the sake of selling a few more CDs. The name on the album (at least in the mind of Stevens) has absolutely nothing to do with who might pick that album up. Westerners may fear Islam, but Stevens himself doesn't believe Westerners fear him.

After the controversy in 2004 that resulted in the grounding of a flight Stevens was on and his eventual deportation to the United Kingdom, Stevens filed suit against the British press for their report of the incident and their siding with the United States for taking that particular action. Stevens' name had found its way on to the no-fly list. Said to be a mix up, Stevens has since entered the United States, but the perception of Stevens on the part of Americans is mixed. It was absurd then and it is just as absurd now to think that anyone might take Cat Stevens for a terrorist. In fact, following the attacks on 9/11, Stevens spoke out saying that "no right thinking follower of Islam could possibly condone such an action."

Since 9/11, Stevens has worked tirelessly to prove his allegiance to peace. More importantly, since the beginning of his musical career, his lyrics have proved his complete desire for peace.

I have dreamt of an open world
Borderless and wide
Where the people move from place to place
And nobody's taking sides*


(*from "Maybe There's a World" on An Other Cup)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Yusuf, Dictabelts, and the ERA

A few nights ago I was browsing through a CD catalog and noticed something rather interesting, an artist named Yusuf. Now, I automatically recognized the artist because I am more than familiar with the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens, however, what caught my eye is that the artist is not Yusuf Islam (the name Stevens chose some time ago), it is merely Yusuf. Yeah, yeah, what's the point? Well my point is, when I purchased this wonderful CD by Cat Stevens his full name appeared on the cover--Yusuf Islam: An Other Cup. Not simply Yusuf. A few days have passed and I've given this a great deal of thought. I believe he dropped his last name due to the associations Americans (and even those across the pond) have with Islam, however it seems incredibly strange to me that a man who would compromise his status in the United States (or any hope of returning to the States) by his refusal to denounce Islam would drop a name strictly for the benefit of CD sales. There has got to be more to this story than I see at the surface. Very interesting...

We receive National Geographic in the mail every month at my house. I don't usually get to see the magazines we receive before they disappear, but this month I snagged the National Geographic for some extra night time reading material and was pleasantly surprised by a small blurb about dictabelts. Dictabelts? Yes, dictabelts. For those of you not as familiar with the Kennedy Assassination, some time after the assassination in Dallas it was discovered that a microphone on a police motorcycle had been flipped on and the transmission was recorded on a dictabelt at the Dallas Police Headquarters. This particular dictabelt has received a great deal of attention (and a few too many listens) over the years because it is said to contain evidence of how many shots were fired at Kennedy's motorcade. Long story short, the dictabelt is no longer playable by most technicians and if not preserved it will go away, the history contained therein also. The short article in National Geographic says that scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are attempting to optically scan the analog grooves on dictabelts, restoring the information and preserving it for generations of historians. The article points out that there are numerous dictabelt recordings of interrogations of war criminals following WWII. Interesting stuff.

Another article that caught my eye is a piece in the 10/22 issue of Newsweek. The article, "From Barricades to Blogs," caught my eye because of the 'blog' related title, however after reading the article, I was more interested in the history the article reveals--the history of the Equal Rights Amendment. Regardless of how you or I feel about the ERA, it really made me think. If I were to take a sample of women in my age group (let's say 18-25 years old), I honestly don't think more than a handful could explain what the ERA was, when it was an issue, or what happened to it. The legislation has been reintroduced in Congress every year since 1982, but those of us born from 1982 on have very little knowledge of it. Go find the article. It is worth a moment of your time.