Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Third Place

(Historical note: December 30th marks the 103rd anniversary of former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg. I highly recommend the Idaho Meanderings website for primary and secondary sources and insight on the former governor, the Trial of the Century and the history of labor and mining in this state.)

In February of 2008 when the Stallings Collection at Idaho State University officially opened to the public, it was not lost on the historians in the room the magnitude of that moment for future research on a myriad of topics unique to Idaho, the Western states and the legislative process. It was not lost on me that the 2008 opening of the papers documenting the political career of a fine public servant fell exactly twenty years after that public servant came in third at the Democratic National Convention.

At the 1988 Democratic National Convention held in Atlanta, a surprise move by three Minnesota delegates left our own Idaho second congressional district congressman with three nominating votes for President of the United States. Granted, as Stallings, ever the historian and political scientist, was quick to point out, a person needed 2,079 votes to retain the party's nomination.

Aside from those who worked for Stallings, a few wise political junkies throughout the state and Stallings himself, few people can tell you that Stallings won three votes in 1988. Even fewer can tell you why, again, including Stallings himself.

An unknown history professor from Idaho came in third behind Governor Michael Dukakis and Reverend Jesse Jackson.

The votes Stallings received from the three Minnesota delegates, Jackie Schweitz, Michael LaPlante and Joe Woitalla of the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, were widely touted as being a nod of approval for Stallings' strong anti-abortion/choice positions.

Only in Idaho's second congressional district could a Democratic candidate receive three nominating votes as a Democrat and come back home stronger and better suited for a re-election! Stallings, to the dismay of some Democrats, myself included, held the traditional position of Idaho voters as well as his church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, that abortion was only acceptable in cases of incest, rape and when the life of the mother was in peril. Stallings' position on abortion never faltered (though some questioned his support of Governor Andrus upon Andrus' veto of House Bill 625, a piece of legislation in the Idaho legislature that would have placed Idaho in a precarious legal position as a state with the most extreme abortion restrictions).

There are certainly times in my days working in the Stallings Collection that I find myself at odds with the positions of Congressman Stallings. There are days when I find myself cursing his votes on flag burning, reproductive rights, gun rights, etc., but at the end of the day I have immense respect for his principles and his courageous and unyielding positions.

When I think about the leadership Stallings offered Idaho and the example he provided for young Democrats like me, an example he continues to provide and I continue to be grateful for, it is hard to look at those three nominating votes in 1988 and not be a little proud. There was an intrepidity in Congressman Stallings that is unmatched by congressmen today. It is an intrepidity I hope Congressman-elect Minnick will emulate.

It does not seem that twenty years have passed since Stallings' eventful trip to Atlanta in 1988. However, it does seem fitting that his papers would open to the public this year, of all years. The year that marks the 20th anniversary of a not-so-memorable event in Idaho political history, yet a highlight in the career of a dedicated public servant.

(Black and white images courtesy of the Department of Special Collections at the Eli M. Oboler Library, housed in the photograph section of MC-067, the Stallings Collection. Top image, Congressman Stallings. Bottom image, left to right: Congressman Stallings, former Governor Evans, Governor Andrus. Additional thanks to Teresa Heitmann for photo and scanning services of middle image--Stallings' delegate button from 1988 and his rules manual for the 99th Congress.)

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Winter Hell

Today on "Zeb at the Ranch," Zeb Bell and several of his callers were up in arms regarding the story out of Jerome where an eleven-year old girl died of hypothermia Christmas day when she, her brother, and father were stranded in a blizzard and she and her brother got out of the car and attempted to walk the ten miles to her mother's home.

Zeb and crew were in full-force attack mode against the father of the young girl as he sits in a Lincoln County jail cell charged with second degree murder and two felony counts of child endangerment, definitely not listening to the talk radio show and definitely beating himself up for something he will never put behind him.

One caller even attempted to depict the Aragon family as illegal immigrants from Mexico who have no understanding of the extreme weather in Idaho and shouldn't be here in the first place.

The problem with what was said on Zeb's show this morning isn't that people are noticeably and vocally upset with what happened in Jerome on Christmas, the problem is that cases like this occur all over the country every day, they may not turn out with the death of a child from hypothermia, but they leave scars on children and families.

Instead of beating up Mr. Aragon for something he will do a number on himself for over the next, oh, lifetime, and degrading the entire Aragon family for this tragedy, wouldn't it be a better idea to address the issue of abuse and neglect outright?

For those familiar with child abuse and neglect statistics, it should come as no surprise that reported cases of abuse are on the rise in our troubled economy. Reports in the Washington Post this morning show that in one Virginia county, for example, cases of child neglect hit 111 from July through October of this year, a 152% rise from the same July through October period one year ago. The Post points out:
The well-established nexus between poverty and child abuse is reason for many child experts to be concerned that the country might see more neglect and abuse as the recession deepens.
Child abuse and neglect is not only on the rise in economic turmoil, statistically highest in the working class, but is also rising this time of year due to typical holiday stresses. Several child abuse prevention organizations offer tips for parents to survive the stresses of the holidays without resorting to violence.

The problem with the assumption that the stress of holidays and a down economy causes violence is that child abuse isn't simply the act of assaulting a child and is more often than not does not result in death. While it is both right and human to react to the tragedy in Jerome as Zeb and his callers did, it is not right to react so bombastically to the death of a young child, while turning a blind eye to hundreds of children in situations just as dangerous.

Mr. Aragon wasn't known for being negligent with his children. He wasn't a bad father. And he'd never been known to purposely hurt them before. There are plenty of children out there in situations as grave who have suffered a hell unimaginable while communities quietly talk, but carefully ignore parents known to be inflicting abuse.

While listening to Zeb and his callers this morning, my mind went to a quote from Dante that I was asked to memorize in a high school history class when I was sixteen: "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality." If the abuse and neglect of a child does not constitute a moral crisis, I don't know that anything does.

My thoughts are with the Aragon family now as they cope with a loss I cannot comprehend. And it is my sincere hope that the tragic decision of Mr. Aragon to allow his young children to brave the southern Idaho wind, snow, and cold Christmas day will resonate with parents everywhere; that it will be a lesson to he and those who hear his story, that one moment of neglect, one blow, can and will end in both tragedy and heartache. Instead of publicly ridiculing a man who is undoubtedly broken, let us take this opportunity to acknowledge that this and other such abuses of children happens every day in this country and we're doing far too little about it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

News, Non-Schmooze

It isn't snowing. The wind is still blowing. Dave Barry is a genius. Dan Adamson more than likely is going to prison. The boys of 43rd doth fight. Unequivocal remains MIA. Bubblehead isn't seeing Valkyrie for the exact same reason I'm not. The MountainGoat is the only one writing about important things among us. Nobody is guiding the ship at RSR. I have two posts in the works, but am too wrapped up in a book on John Quincy Adams to much care about blogging.

Quote of the Day

I want a warm and faithful friend,
To cheer the adverse hour;
Who ne'er to flatter will descend,
Nor bend the knee to power, –
A friend to chide me when I'm wrong,
My inmost soul to see;
And that my friendship prove as strong
To him as his to me.

-- John Quincy Adams, "The Wants of Man" (1841)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Smorgasbord Saturday

No new snow last night, but the wind is blowing and the weatherman tells me it is supposed to snow for the next three days. Needless to say, my car may be stuck in the driveway until the Spring thaw...

The fact that campus is closed until January 5th is killing me! If they hadn't shut off the heat in the library, I'd go to work without pay every day until campus reopens. And if my car wasn't plowed in. In the meantime I have quite a bit of time on my hands. I may even get out the watercolors, something I haven't done in, oh, four years! I downloaded a book to read as well. Pretty much have cleaned the house top to bottom, minus my desk that is generally a disaster.

In the time I've been home, I haven't been sleeping much, either. So, early this morning when I wasn't sleeping I took at look at Etsy, since Dooce is always raving about it and I found these hilarious magnets, bacon magnets no less. I find this funny because sometime last week a friend of mine in Dallas emails me a link to this guy's blog telling me that I will love it. My friend tells me that he thought of me because in his 'what I'm thankful for' post on Thanksgiving he mentioned bacon a half dozen times. Why would he think of me? Well, several years ago I was eating breakfast with some friends in Dallas and I had to get up and actually go outside because the strong smell of the bacon was making me nauseous. Bacon still does, but I found it funny that he would remember that part of the visit of all things!

Also while I have not been sleeping, I've managed to watch Swingtown, Kidnapped, and The Black Donnellys. If they weren't all single-season shows, I'd never have accomplished that feat, but still sleep would be good.

Looks like the Colorado Rockies will be another star short when the 2009 baseball season arrives. After trading away Matt Holliday, the Rockies are now saying goodbye to Willy Taveras, their star outfielder and base-stealer. The one time surprise National League champions had a rotten 2008 season with Troy Tulowitzki hurt and it doesn't appear to be looking up in 2009 minus their biggest stars. At least Willy Taveras is going to the Reds and not the Yankees. Don't even get me started on the matter of the damn Yankees' payroll!

Occasionally I check out the "recommended diaries" section at dailyKos and this morning I ran across a post titled "Why everyone should study slavery." The piece is by a college instructor who teaches a course on cultural anthropology. There is more to this story than simply another teacher doing a wonderful job, one well remembered and appreciated by a student. People everywhere face oppression, not just African-Americans and this post is perfect in the way in which it points out that we all share basic human struggles, struggles that have nothing to do with race.

I usually have an awfully indecisive time with music on Saturdays. I turn on the stereo and I go through a hundred CDs before I settle on something I could have told you I liked anyway. Except today that wasn't the case. I've been loving me some Eve 6. All day. Especially "Jet Pack." And it didn't take browsing through a hundred or so CDs to decide this. Progress...

Now that I think about it, there was absolutely nothing political about this smorgasbord. That's why they call it a smorgasbord? Happy Saturday!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Mr. Sandburg & Snow

(Editor's note: Merry Christmas from The Political Game!)

STORMS begin far back.

You can't have a storm offhand
like somebody took a notion and
decided a storm would be right
handy to come off now and here.

The moan and lash of the winds
came out of a place nice for
them, nice for their growing.

The anger of the waters lay
breeding, spawning, pent up
and ready to go.

The blaze of the prongs,
the zigzags of forked fire,
they had a long seed-time
in a womb of unborn flame
before they went to town
and came howling, "You don't
know what goes on here but
we'll tell you."
This storm now didn't come out of nowhere
-it had a starting place, a home and a womb
-far back it began, brother, sister,
-far back, sweetheart.

Carl Sandburg, "Storms Begin Far Back" from War-Time

Monday, December 22, 2008

Laws? What Laws?

While Vice President Dick Cheney has been making the rounds on the Sunday morning talk shows, praising the expansion of the executive branch of government under the guise of protecting the country, some interesting things have taken place in the ongoing battle for executive documents.

First, a federal judge has sentenced a former archivist at the Mariners' Museum, America's Maritime Museum, in Newport News, Virginia to four years in federal prison for stealing and selling documents. The archivist, Lester F. Weber, sold an estimated 3,500 items on eBay, bringing in approximately $172,357 over four years. U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith, in the sentencing phase, noted that Weber had "broke the trust of the public" and that he, the public and the government have a responsibility to preserving historical artifacts. Interesting the a man seeking to profit from the sale of historically important documents, such as original lawsuits filed against the RMS Titanic company, would receive prison time, but an entire branch of government seeking to destroy the public record of their war crimes is shielded by executive privilege. Where is the justice in this?

Vice President Cheney is claiming that he has the authority to decide which of his own records as vice president will be handed over to the National Archives and Records Administration when he leaves office. His baseless claims of authority are in addition to President Bush's policies affirmed by Executive Order 13233 that protect the executive branch's records from the prying eyes of the public. Cheney is being sued by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a federal judge actually had to issue an order that Cheney retain all of his records until a decision is handed down in that case.

Perhaps the scariest of realizations in Cheney's recent statements is that neither he nor President Bush are completely ignorant of the 1978 Presidential Records Act. One or both of them understand the historical importance of the Act and why it was passed. Cheney may even hold an intimate knowledge of the Act as he was employed by the White House when it was enacted. He was in Washington as the records of former director of the FBI J. Edgar Hoover's records were destroyed upon his death by his loyal secretary. As if the public trust hadn't been irreversibly damaged and eroded by the Nixon administration and Watergate. Should Cheney be held at a higher level of accountability because he was witness to this devastating events in American history? Yes. Will he be? No, at least not the extent that the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the American Historical Association, American Libraries Association or the Society of American Archivists would like him to be.

Where Cheney and Bush are claiming their actions and the documentation of those actions should be protected at the price of national security, they seem to be forgetting this argument was used once before in a little ole case called New York Times v United States and it didn't work out how the White House would have liked, despite a Court much less predictable than the Court carefully aligned by President Bush.

While Cheney claims he is above the law and a former archivist gets four years in prison, the Archivist of the United States, Allen Weinstein, has resigned. His resignation, for health reasons associated with his ongoing battle against Parkinson's Disease, brings with it a certain amount of instability in the direction of the National Archives as well as the question of what President-elect Obama's intentions are in regard to Executive Order 13233 and his eventual appointment of an archivist to replace Weinstein (the Archivist of the United States is a political appointment despite his/her non-political role).

Making the rounds on the Sunday talk shows, praising the decisions of your president and partner-in-crime does not endear you to the American public, Mr. Cheney, anymore than breaking the law and hiding historical record of that fact does.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Same Old Friend

We go way back...
I wonder 'bout his insides...
It's like his thoughts are too big for his size...
He's been taken...where, I don't know?
Off he goes with his perfectly unkept hope...
There he goes...

"Off He Goes" by Pearl Jam from their 1996 release, No Code, written by Eddie Vedder. My apologies for the video quality.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Introducing the Zeb Bell Page

Today myself and the editor of the MountainGoat Report are launching a Zeb Bell page. Located at the MountainGoat Report, the Zeb Bell page is a chronicle of hate speech aired by KBAR radio on the "Zeb at the Ranch" morning talk show. Our work by no means is complete and it remains an ongoing project, however we hope it will serve the greater good of exposing the hate, racism and bigotry of Zeb Bell. Though neither of us are residents of the Mini-Cassia/Magic Valley area, we believe, as should you, that we all hold a responsibility to communities in this state and the underlying humanity and decency that should pervade them.

A German History Lesson

In a strange convergence of events, yesterday I had the privilege of listening to a former soldier tell his story of his service at Checkpoint Charlie, this on the same day as I heard that Zeb Bell, host of "Zeb at the Ranch" on KBAR radio, referred to the United States Secret Service as the SS and promulgated his belief that the Secret Service should have shot the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush. Yes, he said the Secret Service should have "plugged him right there."

Realizing that World War II and the Holocaust are now sixty-some years behind us, references to Hitler's Schutzstaffel (SS) continue to carry a weighted stigma. Do you we really wish to compare the protective organization of the Secret Service to a group of men that carried out Hilter's Endlösung der Judenfrage, or Final Solution? This is more than a simple choice of usable acronyms.

Had Zeb Bell referred to the U.S. Secret Service as the SS in a context that did not include killing a man, perhaps it would have been received differently. After all, some crossword puzzles will refer to the Secret Service as the SS for purposes of space. The context did not allow for that. Zeb Bell, whether he knew it or not, was promoting an act on the part of a protective agency, that could have, had it been carried out, easily been compared to the actions of a Nazi organization that perpetrated the greatest crime against humanity.

Forgive the historian in me, but it doesn't seem appropriate to use SS to refer to any organization, German or not, other than the originating organization, the Schutzstaffel.

It occurred to me last night that Americans present a certain amount of reverence upon mention of historical Berlin. The Uckermark and Ravensbrück concentration camps were but an hour or two from Berlin. The Brandenburger Tor, or Brandenburg Gate, is as symbolic for Americans as it is for the people of Berlin. Our presidents have traveled there, our people visited. And yet, we forget that our soldiers once stood at Checkpoint Charlie (Grenzübergangsstelle), not just the junction of Friendrichstaße, Zimmerstraße and Mauerstraße, but the very junction of East and West.

This man with whom I had the privilege of discussing the riotous crisis in Berlin during the late summer of 1961, reminded me that it was our own soldiers, however late, that liberated Dachau. It was young American soldiers who witnessed the brutality of Hitler's Final Solution as they discovered open graves and extermination camps. Some of those same men would wander the very streets of Berlin, years later, protecting that city and the free world from the spread of communism.

Even the likes of Zeb Bell should know better than to compare our men in service, the Secret Service or otherwise, to Nazis. We have fought too hard for this freedom and fought too hard on foreign soil protecting our allies, regardless of how we may have faltered on our own moral and ethical grounds, to utter the term SS in a sentence that promotes the killing of another by the hands of Americans.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Middle of the Week Mélange

Around the blog world, this is an addition to the version of this post that went up last night: If you haven't read Randy Stapilus' post on the idiocy of Rep. Hartgen, go do that; Huckleberries Online is available in a new format with a brand new URL; and, Perry Swisher hates the electoral college.

Since the news first broke that former U.S. Senator Tom Daschle would be Obama's pick for leadership at the Department of Health and Human Services, I haven't paid much attention to the cabinet selection news. I was more than pleased with Daschle and I didn't expect Obama would roll out any selections that would otherwise impress me. However, that changed today with the selection of former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack to head the Department of Agriculture. You might remember that Vilsack was my choice going into 2008 for the presidency. It will be interesting to see if one, Vilsack comes out of his shell, and two, a governor from an agriculture-rich state like Iowa can lead the department in the direction it needs to go.

A bit of very exciting baseball news: The Braves are anticipating an agreement with gold glove caliber short stop Rafael Furcal. Yes, the former Brave turned Dodger may be returning to Atlanta. I must admit after Furkie's abysmal performance in the post season (remember those horrific errors in the NLCS?), his presence in the biggest off-season trade discussions is surprising. Yet, Furcal is a great addition to any lineup and a few errors won't keep him from bringing some excitement to the Atlanta lineup, a lineup that has lacked excitement across the board since Andruw Jones hit his slump and they joined Furkie in Los Angeles. Update: Looks like the Dodgers are the top choice now, to quote Talking Chop, I'm exhausted! Update to previous update: Braves now say Furcal to stay with Dodgers.

I don't read the Huffington Post much, but yesterday as we all should have been celebrating Bill of Rights Day, I noticed an interesting piece by Caroline Fredrickson on the milestone. While we were mostly admiring President Bush's ability to duck shoes, Fredrickson hammers away at what the Bush administration has done to the Bill of Rights.

In a world with Nancy Grace, it is easy to ignore the all-too-common news of another missing child, but today I think many Americans must have experienced a sigh of relief for John Walsh as the Florida police announced that it was indeed Ottis Toole who killed Adam Walsh, the six year old son of John Walsh in 1981. Undoubtedly, Walsh has made his mark on criminal justice and the search for criminals in this country, but today that cost was unavoidable. I watched the news conference and I couldn't help but note how tired he looks. I've had a few friends who have lost children, one who lost her son in a horrific crime, and they have never recovered. I'm sure today did not relieve John Walsh's pain, but I sincerely hope that it has offered some sort of closure to he and his former wife.

Last, and certainly most important today, Gary Eller, who I mentioned yesterday in my Zeb Bell post, has an excellent piece at his blog, In the Middle, that really resonated with me. The futility of listening to and reporting on the insane ramblings of Zeb Bell has at times left me wondering whether it is just me, if in finding his show reprehensible I am simply taking personal the "ravings of a clown" or if Zeb Bell really is a menace. Mr. Eller speaks to this in ways my words are inadequate in doing. As much as I truly believed my attempts were in vain yesterday, Gary Eller's words reminded me that all of our attempts, Gary's, MountainGoat's, and Sisyphus' are never in vain, but are serving a greater purpose of exposing this for what it is, publicly aired hate speech.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"Bell's Bigots"

(Editor's note: The MountainGoat Report has audio of some of the more disgusting and unforgivable comments recently heard on "Zeb at the Ranch" that coincides with this post. Additionally, Sisyphus at 43rd State Blues sums up the situation superbly.)

A county commissioner compared Michelle Obama to a black widow spider. A newly-elected state representative stated that he would like to impose a law that would prevent anonymous comments in the Idaho blogosphere and on mainstream media sites. An editor of a well-read site called the Special Olympics a gimmick. And, the President of the United States had shoes thrown at him during a news conference. What in the hell is going on?

In a state where much contention exists surrounding politics and its appearance in the blogosphere, Zeb Bell, host of "Zeb at the Ranch" on KBAR radio, who has gone largely unnoticed by the mainstream media, has decided he might as well start a group of he, his listeners and those who share his views called "Bell's Bigots" Yes, you read that correctly.

Bell, who in less than six months has railed against Proposition 8, gays, liberals, Hispanics, Nebraska's safe haven laws, Japanese-Americans, Barack Obama, Jews and others who do not celebrate Christmas, Muslims, African-Americans, and a number of other minorities, used to say he does not take the charge of bigotry and racism lightly. However, Bell seems to be wearing the label of 'bigot' as a badge of honor lately and his listeners apparently take no offense in being volunteered for his little club.

The problem is that Zeb's little club isn't so little. "Bell's Bigots," whether the mainstream media or the more level-headed residents of Magic Valley care to admit it or not, are a growing problem in this state. It is not simply a southeastern Idaho problem, as so many will quickly point to as a way of saying that southeastern Idaho is now the haven of hate that northern Idaho once was when the Aryan Nations called it home, but a statewide problem. What do the ravings of a mad man in Murtaugh, Idaho have to do with the rest of the state? The rest of the state has turned a blind eye to the ravings of that mad man. We have chosen to take note when he calls the President-elect of the United States a terrorist, but god forbid we care when he says anything inflammatory about any other group.

We have neglected to take note when Bell implies that members of our Hispanic communities, many of whom were born here, do not deserve the same rights and protections of our white communities with which they share the same county and city boundaries. Minus a few cries of injustice and hate from progressive Idaho bloggers, we have ignored Bell's commentary on gay rights, or lack thereof, in this country, simply ignoring his statements that gays should not be allowed to marry and might as well kill themselves. We ignore when he quotes the Bible, interpreting it as he sees fit and always for political purposes, in a way disrespectful and offensive to many Christians, despite his John Wayne Christianity and repeated testimonials of the will of God. We've sat idly by while he has thrown Christmas in the face of Jews, Atheists, and anyone else who doesn't celebrate the birth of Christ, demanding that we utter 'merry Christmas' rather than 'happy holidays' or else. And while he panders to the darkest parts of people, the parts laden with hate, racism and bigotry, we call it a partisan problem and ignore our more humanistic instincts.

There are so many wrongs taking place every Monday through Thursday morning on Zeb Bell's radio show, it is hard to pinpoint just one that flies in the face of human decency and rational logic. As Gary Eller rightly points out in "Domestic Enemies," his latest post at the Times-News' blog, In the Middle, Bell's continued ravings are bordering on insurrection:
My concern with Zeb’s latest rant is that it borders on insurrection, calling on all Christians to replace the Constitution, man’s laws, with the Bible, God’s law. From where I am sitting this is as un-American a statement to make as anything that has ever passed the lips of Jeremiah Wright in his damning of America. When I took my first oath of office, repeating the oath with each military promotion, I never once agreed to defend the bible, it was always an oath to defend the constitution. In fact, it must be remembered that one places their hand on the bible and swears to defend the constitution, they do not place their hand on the constitution and swear to defend the bible. This sequencing alone says all that is necessary in understanding that the constitution, not the bible, is the supreme law of the land. Whenever I hear someone like Zeb Bell suggesting otherwise it makes me feel as though I spent my life combating religious extremists in the wrong countries. The real enemies of freedom now live next door, right here in America.
Would I go so far as to call Zeb Bell a domestic enemy? Probably not, but I value Gary Eller's perspective on this as someone who has battled the intolerance, hatred, bigotry, racism and indecency of Zeb Bell for longer than I have. Do I think Zeb Bell is dangerous? Without a doubt. The hatred infiltrating the Magic Valley has been at the hand of Zeb Bell and the people who would not hesitate to be called "Bell's Bigots." The question is no longer whether any of us believe Zeb Bell to be a bigot or racist; the question is, how much longer can we afford to ignore him?

Should we be more afraid that Zeb Bell would concoct the concept of a Magic Valley group known as "Bell's Bigots" and say that with pride on the air or should we fear the laughter his statement was met with both on the part of his caller and himself? It appears as if the latter is exactly the problem in the Magic Valley and Mini-Cassia area and the source of the very hatred we're encountering in this state.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Of Blogs & Blowhards

The MountainGoat Report has a superb account of a recent inflammatory exchange on "Zeb at the Ranch," the radio show hosted out of shock jock Zeb Bell's home in Murtaugh, Idaho.

A snippet of Zeb's continuing rant on same-sex marriage:
Again everything that they say, everything that the left adheres to is anti-Biblical. Are we gonna sit back and just allow the Bible to be thrown away? Allow the Bible and its preachings and its doctrines to be trashed? Everything today it seems like is anti-Biblical. And my point to you and my question to you this morning is: Are we gonna follow God's laws or are we gonna bend and follow human laws? You know, you're gonna have to decide this. If they're gonna call me a bigot for not wanting gay marriage and wanting the respect for marriage as a man and a woman, I'm going to wear the label of being a bigot very, very proudly, and you should too.
There is so much more, both transcribed and in audio format, over at the MountainGoat Report directly from the mouth of Zeb Bell that deserves your time.

Personally, I thought Zeb's anger and absolute hatred for any number of groups, especially Democrats, gays, and African Americans, would decrease following the election. It has been the exact opposite, as the transcription clearly shows, Zeb is nothing less than riled up over Proposition 8. Still. He has been thrilled with the news out of Illinois. The "John Wayne Christian" is probably on his knees praying that Governor Blagojevich takes Barack Obama down with him. There have been no shortage of Christmas greetings. The usual "God bless you for your call" has now been replaced by the trading of Christmas wishes between Zeb and his callers. Does he care if you are Jewish? No. Atheist? Absolutely not. He is not going to back down...blah, blah, blah...it is what it is and he will say 'Merry Christmas' whether you like it or not.

I wonder if Zeb knows that when he says he isn't going to back down and he doesn't care what such-and-such group thinks, the only guy thinking he'll ever be in a position to back down or a position of disagreement with any group is Zeb himself.

He's a blowhard, and as MountainGoat points out, he's an awfully dangerous blowhard.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What It Is

I know, it isn't Friday. Deal with it. And yes, the quality of this video isn't perfect. Collective Soul's "Wasting Time" from their 1994 release, Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Winter Meetings (MLB)

On one side of the coin is good news, on the other, bad. The problem is, today's news out of the Major League Baseball manager's talks in Vegas might be both.

The American League will lose a record-breaking closer in Frankie Rodriguez, while they gain closer Kerry Wood. For the Angels this could mean a season of less dominance, though their strengths were more or less in the lineup. For the Cubs, they've found plenty of pitching magic since Kerry Wood moved to the closer's spot. The Indians have been grappling for pitchers since C.C. Sabathia left, though Cliff Lee was more than competent in the starting role. And then there are the Mets.

What can be said about the Mets that hasn't already been said? After the historic collapse in 2007, they came roaring back in 2008 with every post season hope. Then they canned Willie Randolph. Despite adding Johan Santana as a starter and with the help of Jerry Manuel, the Mets blew every chance at post season play.

Can K-Rod save the Mets? Not on his own as they expected Santana to. Can a new stadium breathe life into a team that has been riding along on hot air? Not at the cost of bailing out Citibank. With a powerhouse lineup starring David Wright, Jose Reyes, Santana, and now, potentially K-Rod, the Mets have every reason to win, but then again, they had every reason to win with Billy Wagner closing, too. Casey Stengel has got to be rolling in his grave right now.

Beyond K-Rods impact on the Mets organization, the acquisition says something about the future of the division. The Phillies and Braves are going to have to make strides at keeping and attaining big name pitchers. With Lidge closing, the Phillies can compete, but their starting rotation will need a new member with Moyer's age and ineffectiveness under close watch. The Braves are going to have to make a decision regarding John Smoltz. If he returns, in what capacity. His track record certainly speaks volumes to his flexibility, but his age and health may prove difficult for the organization. There are of course other questions within the division--what do the Marlins bring to the table after contending this year in at least a spoiler role and what are the Nationals going to do to bring themselves out of a several season slide?

In all the pitching news, K-Rod in New York seems to be the story that could mean the most for the 2009 season. There is Sabathia, where he will land and at what cost. There is Peavy, a talent desperately needing out of San Diego. And, there is A.J. Burnett, a prospect for so many, but potentially, like Sabathia, only a reality for teams like the Yankees who have an unlimited payroll. But none of these pitching possibilities really are going to push a team over the line into the playoffs.

The teams playing the market at the meetings in Vegas right now in no way resemble the Brewers of 2008. These aren't teams that Sabathia is going to carry on his back.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Quote of the Day

"He has outsoared the shadow of our night; envy and calumny and hate and pain, and that unrest which men miscall delight, can touch him not and torture not again; from the contagion of the world's slow stain, he is secure."
-- Percy Bysshe Shelley, Adonais

Friday, December 5, 2008


Apparently in Idaho showing support for and funding a world competition in our own backyard is pandering to the evils associated with boosting our economy. We are guilty of greed and excess, ignorant of the true meaning of charity, and our representatives in the statehouse are positioning themselves accordingly because they would like to funnel our tax dollars into organizations they volunteer their time to.

Yes, this is what Kathleen Kreller and Greg Hahn of the Idaho Statesman as well as Dave Frazier of the Boise Guardian would like you to believe.

Nearly in the same breath, Kathleen Kreller would also like you to know that the state budget hold backs ordered by Governor Otter, will adversely impact the families and caregivers of those with developmental disabilities. Kreller at least had the decency to note that those with developmental disabilities are among "Idaho's most vulnerable residents," unlike her counterpart, Mr. Frazier, who insists the world games are a gimmick and feels the unfortunate need to insert quotation marks around the diagnoses of intellectual disabilities as if he questions the very aptitude of these individuals.

Support of this "gimmick" didn't stop the national Special Olympics organization from honoring our embattled Senator Craig. In fact, they, unlike many organizations, didn't shy away from honoring him despite his recent track record. They gave him the legacy award.

Oh, and those who have devoted their entire careers to the continued operation and success of the Special Olympics organization, on the state, national or world stage, those people don't deserve salaries, either.

Ms. Kreller, Mr. Hahn or Mr. Frazier, would you be willing to tell a friend of mine that what she has been training for and looking forward to for years is just a gimmick? Would you like to swing by my brother's house and tell him that those ribbons and medals he covets were never won because of his hard work and unyielding determination, but because this state supports a gimmick every summer that he and his friends, friends like Todd Fuller, compete in? Or how about Kirk Grogan? He got to meet with the President of the United States last year before traveling to China to compete. Just a gimmick, too? Let me know when you're willing to tell them it is just a gimmick, I'll show you the way.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bring on the weekend!

It's Thursday, the day before Friday, and I'm stoked! Why? I need a weekend! Don't expect any serious blogging out of me though. Here are a few things I've noticed this morning in the inbox and elsewhere:
  • Five Times August released a new single on November 4th that I missed, check out "January Song."
  • The Idaho State Journal has again mentioned the retention issues at Idaho State University in terms of faculty; Meanwhile, President Vailas says we're on track for a medical school program... Something is lacking in the logic, if you ask me.
  • There is now a LIFE photo archive hosted by Google. If you haven't checked it out, do, it is awesome!
  • Appears to be some shuffling of the Democratic leadership in the statehouse. Happy to see James Ruchti playing a more prominent role in this.
  • And, last but not least, my Atlanta Braves have acquired some much need pitching assistance from the Chicago White Sox. On the heels of the announcement that the Houston Astros had signed former Braves starter Mike Hampton to a single season deal, the Braves picked up Javier Vazquez for their starting lineup and Boone Logan in relief. I am assuming the Peavy deal fell through and they are still open to an offer for A.J. Burnett. Vazquez is good news for Braves fans and former Expos fans alike!
There is of course all sorts of news out of Washington with Obama's Commerce pick, the Big Three before the Senate begging, and Laura Bush ushering in her husband's last Christmas in the White House (that is the greatest gift of all), but I'm sticking to the lighter stuff today.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Lies, Liars, & Music Distributors?

It has been just over a month since I noted the sudden closing of Miles of Music, an online independent music distributor run by Los Angeles-based Jeff Weiss. Apparently, I was not the only blogger to notice the disappearance of the music service as well as the somewhat cryptic closing message of Jeff Weiss. Several sites, including Americana Roots, Blurt Online, and The Farmers Music, mentioned the closing of Miles of Music with as much shock, confusion, and disappointment as I felt. Americana Roots went one step further in saying the closing "seems to be a sign of the music apocalypse."

However, there appears to me far more to this story than the simple explanation given by Jeff Weiss in his announcement that the business was shutting down. There aren't just disappointed bloggers, fans of the site, users and customers of the site; there are genuinely irritated bands that have been peddling their merchandise through Miles of Music for some time. There are bands that may never get their product back. There are bands who spend everything they have to cut an album and now their distributor is gone, not only taking with him their outlet, but also their hard work.

I will not do the investigative work at Nine Bullets justice, so please take a look at Autopsy IV's story before reading any further. What I believed to be the story of a company that simply couldn't compete in this new digital music age and in an economy that is tanking is actually a much more complicated story of a man who has a mess on his hands as he loses not only his business, but in his telling of the story, also loses his home. In the process, Jeff Weiss can't even afford to ship merchandise belonging to bands back to those very bands so they can attempt to market them in other venues.

For those of you unfamiliar with Miles of Music, Jeff Weiss ran a distribution outlet that marketed less-than-mainstream music, what I've heard termed alt-country or Americana, via a rather effective website complete with newsletters and upcoming album release information.

Now, I have done none of the research, I am trusting Autopsy IV and the investigative work culminating from personal correspondence with Jeff Weiss.

This is what I do know: Jeff Weiss doesn't appear to be a sketchy character and we should not assume that this was a scam. Miles of Music had an excellent track record up until the last months of operation, slow as it seemed at times, and was praised by business insiders and outsiders alike. Jeff Weiss wrote superb reviews that were featured in various locations including the Los Angeles Times.

This is what I believe: Jeff Weiss and Miles of Music were victims of poor business management. As he pointed out in his now missing post, the company was completely broke when the message on October 10th announced they were shutting down. The claim that he was unable to receive another line of credit is plausible if not completely possible. I also believe that Miles of Music provided a service unmatched on the internet or elsewhere by an independent company. In the world of 24/7 iTunes, Ruckus, and Rhapsody downloads, it is nearly impossible to compete. In the world of free shipping and even overnight shipping, it was next to impossible for Miles of Music customers to be satisfied with the time it took to receive their purchases. Yet, despite the drawbacks, there were plenty of artists that you couldn't find anywhere else and there were plenty of artists who relied on Miles of Music as their sole outlet for introducing and selling their product.

What's my stake in this? Good question. Why would a political blogger in Idaho care about an L.A.-based music distributor? Well, the story goes something like this--back in December of 2006 I heard this phenomenal artist by the name of Mike Stinson featured in an episode of Cold Case on CBS. I checked all the usual places for his album. Amazon hadn't heard of him; iTunes was a miss; and, none of the local stores (pathetic as they are) stocked anything with Mike Stinson's name on it. Low and behold, Mike Stinson has a website! And right there on his website he says you can purchase his album from Miles of Music.

Turned out that tracking down this Mike Stinson and his Last Fool At the Bar album took nearly as much time as it did the CD to get from Los Angeles to my house. Despite the unusually lengthy shipping time, I had this CD in my hands and had it not been for Miles of Music I would have been stuck with a continuous loop of the YouTube clip from Cold Case. And on top of solving the problem of being without the album, I got signed up to receive the notices from Miles of Music about new music being released. I've missed those releases since the closing and I've yet to find a company or other service that provides an adequate replacement.

Given the number of bands that are wondering what happened and where their CDs are, I can't muster up much sympathy for Jeff Weiss and the now defunct Miles of Music. I do wonder if the money I spent, far more than I would have at a local store or big distributor like Amazon, even reached Mike Stinson's pocket. I hope that my purchase was long ago enough that it did make it to Mr. Stinson.

Whatever the case may be, all of us that supported Miles of Music and were fans of the service, we're all sitting around saying to ourselves, "wow, how did this happen?" Jeff Weiss is the only person who can answer that question.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

30 Years of Oral History

The following is a press release from Kathy Hodges, the oral historian for the Idaho State Historical Society:

The Idaho Oral History Center, an office within the Idaho State Historical Society, marked its 30th birthday earlier this year. Although the exact anniversary happened at some point during the summer, we didn’t want the year to get away without a celebration. Please drop in to the Public Archives and Research Library at 2205 Old Penitentiary Rd. in Boise on Wednesday, December 3 at 1:30 p.m. to share cake, coffee, and (of course!) reminiscences.

Oral history collecting in Idaho began in the 1960s, with an effort by the Idaho Historical Auxiliary to talk to elderly Idaho pioneers. By 1972, the Idaho Bicentennial Commission was supporting the efforts of several interviewers, who canvassed Idaho looking for residents with memories to share. Those two early efforts yielded some notable recordings. Narrators described Idaho life at the turn of the twentieth century. They told stories about an amazing array of topics, including Prohibition, lawyers, frontier life, school days, Chinese Americans, relationships between Indians and settlers, mining, ranching, notable Idaho characters, stagecoaches and sled dogs. At about the same time, historian and folklorist Sam Schrager was conducting lengthy interviews in Latah county, gathering great information about farming practices, social customs, and the lumber industry.

It was not until 1978 that resources were allocated to sorting out and preserving this colorful material. A statewide oral history conference was held, and an oral history coordinator and an assistant began to sort and catalog the State Historical Society’s collection. The Idaho Oral History Center was born. The next year, the IOHC conducted seven workshops around the state, offering technical assistance to local historians who wanted to embark on their own interviewing projects. We haven’t stopped since.

Oral historians for the Idaho State Historical Society have been:

Elizabeth Bryant-Merrill, oral history coordinator (1978-1979)

Madeline Kelley Buckendorf, oral historian (1979-1989)

Linda Morton-Keithley, oral historian (1989-1998)

Troy Reeves, oral historian (1999-2006)

Kathy Hodges, oral historian (2006-present)

If you happen to be in Boise tomorrow and have taken advantage of the research material available through the oral history program, pop in and say hello and show your appreciation for their work!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

TDIH: The Brady Bill

In the state of Idaho, admitting "anti-gun" sentiments is akin to admitting you kick puppies. Fellow residents of this fine state, please begin your accusations, I must be a puppy kicker. I hate guns, I hate everything about guns, I have no desire to own a gun, and I support gun control measures on a state and federal level. With that said, I could never run for office in this state; I may never have a chance to vote for a state-wide candidate that shares my views; and, I am in a very small minority of Idahoans who will actually admit this position.

I was in the third grade when President Bill Clinton signed the Brady Bill. The only thing I remember about the signing of the bill was a short segment on KMVT focusing on what the new law would mean for Idahoans. There are very few things I remember my father saying in regard to politics, but I do remember him saying, "that man wants to take away my guns." I was too young to understand what he meant and I certainly was too young to understand that what was happening on a national level was not the doing of the President of the United States alone. I knew nothing about James Brady or even the man that shot him, John Hinckley. I knew that somehow Ronald Reagan was involved, but really all I knew about Ronald Reagan was that he was the husband of a woman who had my friends and I all wearing these "Drug Free By '93" sweatshirts.

The Brady Bill, otherwise known as the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, is now one of the most politicized legislative decisions in modern American history. It is referred to by some with as much disdain as Roe v Wade. Since President Clinton signed it into law on November 30, 1993, flanked by James and Sarah Brady, every politician, Democrat, Republican, or otherwise, has had to publicly acknowledge their own views and positions on gun control.

Since the passage of the Brady Bill, that particular legislation has only been challenged constitutionally once--on tenth amendment grounds--in Printz v United States. Surprisingly, the recent Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v Heller is the first ruling in the history of the Supreme Court that has even attempted to define the rights provided by the second amendment.

Fifteen years ago today, the signing of the Brady Bill symbolized a major effort in the United States to get serious about crime. Fifteen years later it symbolizes the politicizing of protection. The Brady Campaign touts the success of Brady background checks, while continuing to strive for gun control and safety measures nationally. Sarah Brady's role in this continuing effort has been limited by her recent battle with cancer, however her words from that historic signing ceremony live on:
Our critics have said that the Brady Bill was only symbolic. Well, I think there is some symbolism in the Brady Bill -- it's symbolic of teamwork, of people from all over this nation working together to pass something that the people wanted. I think it's symbolic that members of Congress could stand up to a large lobby. I think it's symbolic of a lot of things. But I don't want anyone to feel that that's all it is. The Brady Bill is not just symbolism. It will begin to make a difference. It will begin to save lives. We read in The Post this morning that in four states alone, over 50,000 people were stopped in the last four years from getting weapons illegally -- or over the counter. It will help.

The Brady Bill has helped in ways I doubt Sarah Brady could have conceived.

In this state there are no laws for child access prevention. We lack serious laws for registration, carrying, and licensing. This is a state where we cry foul anytime the government intervenes, yet in the most dangerous situations we would rather fear the encroachment of our rights rather than the safety of our children and families.

I come from a family that is pro-gun. My brothers are all hunters, my mother has been known to go target shooting with a rifle from time to time, and her husband owns more guns than he does socks, none of which are locked up. I never took hunter safety classes, I never was taught how to properly treat a gun, and nobody ever told me that guns were dangerous. I knew, as most of my friends did, that you stayed away from the guns.

Despite what I knew, I still had three friends from elementary school or junior high die or be seriously injured by their own hand with guns. One with a shotgun, on accident, one with a rifle, on purpose, and one with a handgun, also on purpose. The first was in the fifth grade when he died, accidentally shooting himself and being too far from help for it to have reached him in the time. The second was a high school boy, much older than me, who wanted to end his life, but knew nothing about guns or how to use them and ended up causing him brain damage, brain damage that would torment him for nearly fifteen years before it would eventually take his life. The third, a girl I rode the school bus with everyday, who in junior high was so miserable she saw no other way out and used her older brother's handgun to take her own life one day after school.

I have never really cared if being anti-gun was the popular position to take. I have struggled to explain it to those who are far more versed in gun law and even constitutional law than I. And I have read story after story of kids accidentally shooting classmates because they thought the guns were just toys, knowing as I do, that those kids could have been and were my friends.

I personally feel I own a debt of gratitude to James and Sarah Brady, a debt respected and shared by my fellow Idahoans or not.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

In Stores Tuesday

In celebration of Tuesday's release of The X-Files: I Want To Believe on DVD, I've been watching a few of the better episodes of this groundbreaking show. The new film, despite its shortcomings, is the last installment in my own X-Files collection; all nine seasons, the first feature film Fight the Future, and the spin-off series, The Lone Gunmen, will soon be joined by I Want To Believe.

From a season three episode I caught this afternoon, The Blessing Way:
"I was first struck by the absence of time, having depended on it so completely as a measure of myself and my life. Moving backwards into the perpetual night - it consumes purpose, indeed, all passion and will. I come to you, old friend, with the dull clarity of the dead, not to beckon you but to feel the fire and intensity that still live in you... and the heavy weight of your burdens which I had once borne. There is truth you know, friend, if that's all you seek, but there's no justice or judgment, without which truth is a vast... dead... hollow. Go back. Do not look into the abyss or let the abyss look into you; awaken the sleep of reason and fight the monsters within and without."
Perhaps my opinion of the show was slightly tainted by the failures of the recent film or I simply hadn't spent enough time with some of these episodes in a while to appreciate them, but over the past few days I've found myself remembering how much I loved the wit, the philosophical dialog, and even the conspiracy theories.

The X-Files: I Want To Believe hits stores Tuesday, December 2, 2008. It is available for pre-order at Amazon.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I'm taking a vacation from the blog. Until I return:

"Bed of Lies" written by Rob Thomas and Matt Serletic (of Matchbox Twenty and their 2000 release, Mad Season) performed here by ctrlaltrock.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Diminished In Morality" (Pt. 2)

(Editor's Note: This is part two in a series regarding the views of KBAR radio host, Zeb Bell, on abortion. The first installment was published Thursday, November 20, 2008.)

In the introductory post of this series, the background on abortion law, I posed the two-part question of whether or not it is justifiable to fear a reverse in abortion policy on the coattails of Obama alone and whether it is easier for the anti-abortion contingency, from the standpoint of logical argument and conscience, to attack those who oppose abortion and all of their values and standards than it is to attack those who support abortion and every other value and belief they hold.

Perhaps the answer, in part, is the recent diatribe of Zeb Bell regarding recent news surrounding the BLM's wild horse policy. Horses? Yes, I said horses. From November 13, 2008:
The way that we treat the horses in this country, with the saving them and putting them in these holding pens and a million and a half here, big deal. We treat those animals better than we do human beings with a partial birth abortion advocated by the new administration with Obama and it is disgusting and sickening to me.
What Zeb fails to connect for his readers is that the BLM policy regarding the euthanizing of wild horses was reversed by President Bush. The Clinton administration intervened on this issue and it is likely, given his recent staff and cabinet decisions, that President-elect Obama will operate under similar if not identical policies. Why does he fear change under Obama when on issues such as this it is his President who has reversed policy?

Before discussing the link Zeb automatically made between a country up in arms about the status of wild horses, yet ambivalent toward a procedure medically known as D&E (as opposed to the purely political term 'partial birth abortion'), it is important to note that Zeb Bell agrees with George W. Bush 90% of the time (sound familiar?), seeming to disagree with him only on immigration policy. He unabashedly supported George Bush's veto of embryonic stem cell research legislation and more than likely would offer an argument, identical in reasoning to that of President Bush, that opposing abortion is in fact protecting the sanctity of life.

If Zeb is going to make the improbable and illogical jump from the slaughtering of horses to the D&E procedure, how are we not to question his motives in fearing a change in leadership under Obama on abortion grounds and his lack of fear in the leadership of George W. Bush on what Zeb himself admits is an emotional issue? He goes on:
I get really emotional when I think that in a country like ours...that we tend to think about what they did in Chicago with Jill Stanek, the nurse that was on my program and testified at a hearing with Barack Obama when she tried to defeat him on his pushing for partial birth abortion and he wanted to let babies that lived through the surgery of partial birth abortion just pushed into a linen closet and allowed to die. We can't do this with an overpopulous of horses! They'll spend a million and a half a month in a holding facility. There's something wrong with this society!

Yeah, I'm very passionate about this. I've never seen something more ridiculous than the way we treat human life as a baby and yet we're so concerned about equines and bovines and canines, but yet we'll say that with partial birth abortion we will kill an infant that's ready to be born and if he doesn't die during that partial birth abortion process, just put him on a gurney and just push him in a linen closet, I'm not making this up, it happened, and let the infant die in that cold, clammy room. Our whole society needs a get better pill because right now I think we're sick.
Whether or not Jill Stanek has any sense of the truth and is anything close to a truthful depiction of Barack Obama's role in any of this remains to be seen; however, she appears to be aware of the divide among the anti-choice contingency on the wording of anti-choice legislation. Like the arguments in Planned Parenthood v Casey and Gonzalez v Carhart, there remains a certain amount of hesitation in placing any abortion law into practice without sufficient concern and verbiage regarding the health and safety of the mother. As far as I can tell, Zeb Bell does not believe abortion to be an appropriate practice under any circumstances, even the generally accepted cases of rape, incest, or the safety of the mother.

Zeb Bell believes that slaughtering wild horses across this country is a much more humane way of dealing with the cost of these animals than housing them in holding pens on the tax payer's dime. He also believes that allowing a mother to die because of a pregnancy is more humane than allowing that same mother to choose for herself and with the best advice of her doctor to undergo the D&E procedure to terminate a pregnancy that would otherwise be life-ending.

Would it be harder for him to attack Obama if the President-elect were anti-choice? I doubt it. Bell would just resort to instilling fear in his listeners by offering any other number of post-inauguration scenarios, scenarios he would likely offer as evidence of Obama and an accepting public being "diminished in morality." Would it be easier for him to attack President Bush if the President were pro-choice and supported stem cell research? Without a doubt. Seems to be a double standard here. A liberal is a liberal, abortion policy or not, but a conservative is less conservative if he can support abortion on any level?

It makes tons of sense, nearly as much sense as a conversation about wild horses morphing into one about partial birth abortion.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

On Cowardice

If you don't pay attention to news via the campus of Idaho State University, you might not know the history of infighting that has taken place here over the last several years. As a student I've had a front row seat to the departure of Richard Bowen, the too short tenure of interim President Gallagher, and the current leader Arthur Vailas. Regardless of what you read, the infighting isn't simply among the administration and the faculty. There are plenty of battles between individual members of the faculty, many of whom are featured prominently in the local newspaper, as well as battles between student organizations and the administration.

Recently, Dr. Habib Sadid exposed many of his frustrations with the current administration at ISU in the paper. From what I understand he is now taking his case, whatever that specifically may be, to the courts. His beef is with President Vailas and the goal of making Idaho State University a premier research institution. Sadid's accusations and frustrations come in a long line of public statements along these lines.

Yesterday, Matt Spencer, the current president of the Associated Students of Idaho State University weighed in. His article appears to be a direct response to the recent complaints about Dr. Vailas.

Now, I realize that the Idaho State Journal is responsible for reporting news pertaining to ISU. I realize that news out of ISU, as one of Pocatello's largest employers, is important to those who live here. But at what point should the Journal say enough is enough?

We have now resorted to attacking those who have defended the people originally attacked. It appears to be an unbreakable cycle continuously fed by the next accusation laden article. And as if the attacks of Mr. Sadid for his criticism of the current administration aren't ridiculous enough, they are now calling him a coward for speaking against Vailas publicly. For some reason I can't seem to catch on to how speaking out publicly about someone, in this case a very powerful someone, is an act of cowardice.

Isn't cowardice the unwillingness to speak out against someone? In the revolving door of faculty and students at ISU, it doesn't seem to me that the cowards are the ones who publicly offer reasoning for why this is happening.

Personally, I like Dr. Vailas. I think he is a very nice guy. As a person, I have no qualms with Arthur Vailas. Has he made some poor decisions? Probably. Did he say that the faculty of ISU should take advantage of nights and weekends on campus to get the University ahead in the research game? Absolutely.

Whatever my feelings about Vailas, I am so far removed from the inner workings of the institution that I can't realistically offer my opinion of the status of the University or whether the short comings are indeed the fault of Vailas alone. However, I can say this: The problems at ISU are not the result of one change in leadership. In the time I have been here, just under five years, I have seen more mudslinging, challenges of leadership and policy, actual corruption (I'm referring specifically to the administrative pay raises of the Bowen administration and the unfortunate demise of the ASISU Constitution), and turnover both in students and faculty, than you can possibly imagine. In five years.

Blaming a single individual for this mess is irresponsible and inappropriate, but calling any of the individuals who have spoken publicly about it and even those that have left here in a certain amount of disgrace, cowards is plain stupid. There have been decent men and women who have come and gone in the past five years, men like John Kijinski, the former dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and Mike Gallagher, the interim president between Bowen and Vailas, that were nothing resembling cowards. In fact, guys like Kijinski and Gallagher were pretty damn brave if you ask me.

If the infighting must continue, if the Journal is going to continue to print anything related to the crisis that is ISU, let's get one thing straight...talking about it isn't cowardice.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

TDIH: Dealey

George Bannerman Dealey never knew John Kennedy. At the pinnacle of his career, John Kennedy was but a name unknown to America and a son yet to be born to Joseph and Rose Kennedy. However, the lives and names of these two men, one the thirty-fifth President of the United States, the other a newspaper man who decided that Dallas was the perfect location for what would become the Dallas Morning News, would forever be entwined.

Many have written their own personal accounts and interpretations of what occurred in the section of Dallas named for Dealey. Many have written on the topic despite having not been in Dallas, some having not even been alive in 1963. For forty-five years the Kennedy assassination has flooded the tabloids, the book market, documentaries and debates, but none of that, none of what we see or how often we have seen it commercialized and popularized prepares a mind for what Dealey Plaza holds in person.

Tourists, skeptics, and historians alike visit Dealey Plaza every year. They wander through looking and pointing, speculating and paying their respects. His body may not have been laid to rest there, but his legacy lingers. John Kennedy died on this day forty-five years ago in a small section of Dallas that was once just a development project for one George Bannerman Dealey. It is now one of the most recognizable places in the world.

With Kennedy died so much that day in Dallas. The hopes of a nation rested on the shoulders of that man riding through downtown Dallas, waving at the crowds who came to greet him. With Kennedy died a hope for peace; a hope for civil rights; a hope for a peaceful and decisive end to the war in Vietnam; and as many would say, so died Camelot. The things we do not recognize as having died with Kennedy in Dallas are the hopes that Dealey Plaza would ever be remembered for George Dealey and the mental health and inner calm of Nellie Connally and so many others who witnessed a gruesome murder.

The collective memory of this nation is marred with the images we have been forced to consume over the years. The innocent camera operation of Abraham Zapruder is now a film that is used as evidence to support any number of conspiracy theories. That film, that Zapruder received so little for when he originally sold it, is now a spectacle forced on a public that doesn't even wince while viewing it. We have not only lost historical touch with Kennedy's legacy, apparent in the all too frequent references comparing Kennedy to one politician or another, we have lost touch with historical emotion that will forever be linked to Kennedy and Dealey Plaza.

I have spent enough time in Dealey Plaza to know that the public would rather sensationalize the death of Kennedy than respect the ideals that died that day in Dallas. I have spent enough time in Dealey Plaza to know that it is possible for the generations that did not live through those dark days to not only grasp, but be profoundly moved by those events.

It is a deafeningly silent place, Dealey Plaza. There is a reverent consideration only interrupted by the men hawking their theories and despicable merchandise. It is the reminder of a young man shot down in the prime of his life when he has the most to offer his country. It is the reminder that innocence is neither definite nor abiding.

In the forty-five years that have passed since John Kennedy was killed by a sniper's bullet in Dallas, this nation has never completely healed. We converge on Dealey Plaza seeking closure, searching for answers, pleading for the return of our national innocence, and yet, in the early morning hours before the sun has risen over the streets where our young president was once slain, we continue to mourn a loss, the cost of which cannot be quantified or explained by forensics. It is a loss that continues, forty-five years later, to reach to the very soul of our nation.

On the brightest of days, Dealey Plaza remains a terribly dark place.

Smorgasbord Saturday

Since it happens to be the 45th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, I thought I'd link to a myriad of articles relevant today. I'm doubting that these will make it into my TDIH post that will go up later today. First, a great piece in the new issue of the Smithsonian magazine by Lance Morrow takes on the mystery of Mary Pinchot Meyer's death. [Link not currently available, should be available on Smithsonian website when updated.] Meyer was a personal friend of the Kennedys, more than a friend if you ask some, and the ex-wife of a CIA operative. Morrow tackles the story as he does all of his stories, with intrigue and historical accuracy. There was a documentary, rather gruesome if you ask me, on the Discovery Channel last Sunday. In case you missed it Discovery presented a fairly realistic analysis of the shots fired in Dallas forty-five years ago. Kudos to Gary Mack, curator of the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, for a job well done! Other Kennedy-related stories can be found here, here and here.

If there is anything that bothers me more than people who use the Bible to defend their political views, related or not, it is those who use their own interpretation of the Constitution to suit their religious arguments. Unfortunately, and it shouldn't come as a surprise, Bryan Fischer of the Idaho Values Alliance does both. I'm not even going to dignify his latest with any real analysis.

There have been a few whoppers on the Letter to the Editor page of the Times-News this week. Usually I notice the same names cycling through, these two I didn't recognize. The first, in what I presume is an effort to support adoption (November is National Adoption Month), still makes the huge mistake of referring to adopted children and potential adoptees as "unwanted children." Seriously, the title reads, "Adoption can bless lives of unwanted children." Regardless of being part of the adoption system this country and many in it still refer to them as unwanted. Good Lord! The second letter, playing on the now realized fears of some very fringe members of our population, announces that we have elected a Socialist. I can't help but wonder what the editor of the Times-News is hoping to accomplish with the headings on these letters--assuming that the authors themselves didn't come up with the titles--fear and absurdity seem to have resulted.

If you are a fan of Idaho's Perry Swisher, as I am, one of his most recent articles in the Idaho State Journal deserves reading. Swisher expands on that now famous statement of Vice President elect Joe Biden about Dick Cheney being the most dangerous VP in American history. The nice thing about Swisher's articles that get sent to the ISJ blogs? Like other columnists who will remain nameless, he doesn't argue with those who submit comments for weeks on the internets.

It is now officially Thanksgiving break on the campus of Idaho State University. Having a whole week off from classes isn't much of a change for me, I've been on an extended break from academic productivity since long before by back surgery. Yesterday afternoon I certainly didn't feel the usual dread of having a full week to entertain myself! In fact, it felt like any other day, not the eve of a week's vacation. It won't be a vacation from work, really. A couple days, maybe. It won't be a vacation from school work, a semester's worth of homework awaits me. The only break I'll be getting is an entire week without physical therapy. You know, now that I think about it, vacation it is!!

Maybe someday I will write on Nebraska's safe haven law. Maybe someday pigs will fly. Until that day, last night's news included word that the Nebraska legislature had revised the age specifications in said law. Do all state legislatures roll over so quickly when they're feeling the heat?

A belated congratulations: Adam Graham, the conservative blogger and author of Adam's Blog, has been mentioned in the newly released book penned by former Governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Having recently followed Wikipedia to a government website featuring my own writing, I appreciate the excitement in seeing your name and work in print. Adam and I haven't seen eye-to-eye on too many issues, the politics of Huckabee included, but as a fellow Idaho blogger, my congratulations go to him regardless.

In other blogger news, Sisyphus has an excellent post at 43rd State Blues that was also picked up by Huckleberries Online regarding the Idaho Statesman's recent take on news stories centered on racist statements and occurrences in the gem state. If you haven't done so already, please take a look.

No smorgasbord would be complete without a baseball update. This week's news? Mike Mussina is retiring. Yes, Moose is retiring at the top of his game. The tip-top.

Should you be lacking in reading material this fine Saturday and these links have not kept you busy enough, please take a look at the posts I've contributed over at Red State Rebels this week. And then, if you're still reading, plan to take a look at my Kennedy post later today, and you're still lacking entertainment, you need to get a life? Kidding, only kidding.

And don't forget the second installment of "Diminished In Morality" about Zeb Bell and abortion is coming tomorrow. Take a look at part one to gear up.