Saturday, May 31, 2008

Western Days

I've just returned from the Western Days parade in Twin Falls and I honestly don't know where to begin.

Weeks before the parade, news broke that this year the organizers of the parade were allowing the Southern Idaho Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Community Center to enter the parade if they used the name "Southern Idaho Community Center" and promised not to display their rainbow colors. Now, remembering that last year their entry was rejected, I thought maybe the organizers were trying to be less confrontational, but then news came yesterday that a group of Magic Valley High School students would be protesting the float. Didn't really seem to be much different. You can be in our parade if you play by our rules and call yourselves what we say you are.

Never noticed a single protester. I noticed quite a few people gawking at the float, but not much more than that. And get this, I never even spotted any name of an organization on the float. Just people holding signs reminding the still closed-minded Magic Valley that the members of the community center contribute, too. Plus pigs and pumpkins and the other symbols that for some reason have attached themselves to the Western Days parade. To be quite honest, had I not read something in the paper prior to the parade about them planning to display a large question mark, I may not have even realized what this float was about until it passed us and the bold lettering on the back was visible.

The irony in all of this is that the general consensus in the Magic Valley throughout the week was that the float had no place in the parade and yet it was one of the least overwhelming, in-your-face displays in the entire parade. On more than one occasion, my kid brother walked away from the road because he felt the people handing things our were getting too far into his personal space. And I felt like any number of values were being shoved down my throat.

What do I mean? I came home this evening with a copy of the Ten Commandments on a smashed penny, a flyer inviting me to visit a rebirth ceremony, flyers with contact information for any number of churches and denominations, and a brochure from Living Waters, the school of biblical evangelism that Kirk Cameron is associated with. Maybe I'm sheltered over here in Pocatello when the most religion ever forced on me at a parade is completely Mormon and by choice when I attend the Pioneer Day Parade, but wow, that was a lot for one day.

On both political and religious levels, the parade was a little over the top. Seemed like the theme of the parade was missing, I'm assuming that Western Days was the theme, though I couldn't really tell what connected any of the entries.

There were parts of the parade that were a welcome reprieve from the chaos of a sea of Republican candidates and the numerous vehicles that were just cruising along with their corporate/business logos on the side. We especially enjoyed the El Korah Shriners and the marching band--both my brother and I were/are band nerds, but only one of us will admit it. It was also nice to see some Democrats participating in the parade. I met a very nice woman who is running for the state legislature from Twin Falls County, Carolyn Elexpuru, she was very friendly and took the time to introduce herself and thank us for our consideration even after I told her I don't vote in her district.

Both our Democratic candidate for the 2nd Congressional District and our candidate for the U.S. Senate were at Western Days. We spotted Debbie Holmes from a distance, on the other side of the street from where we were sitting, but mostly spotted this fellow, actually might be Debbie's husband, who was carrying her sign and telling everyone along the way to vote for a "real progressive candidate."

Of course, there were non-religious elements to the Western Days parade that were equally frustrating. The floats for Sharon Block, Jim Risch, and the other Republican candidates were not nearly as intimidating as they could have been. Granted, they are on fairly safe terrain in Twin Falls and they don't need to be doing in-your-face campaigning at the Western Days parade. Rex Rammell must have felt otherwise. Rammell was as in-your-face as possible. Not only were we graced with the presence of that monstrosity he's cruising around the state in, we got the Rammell Sisters in on the action, too.

As far as I could tell, Jim Risch did not take part in Western Days, despite the fact that he had one of his enormous signs--you know the ones with the color clash--sitting atop a pickup. His smugness never ceases to amaze me. Guess he thinks he can just stride into Twin Falls, capture the general election, and ride of into the sunset. Funny thing, had Jim Risch actually been at the parade, he may have been the most western part of it!

Last, but certainly not least, I have to make mention of U.S. Senate candidate and former U.S. Congressman Larry LaRocco. The man lives for these parades! His campaign style blows me away and the reception he is getting in the Magic Valley speaks to his effectiveness. This car turned up early in the parade, but Larry was nowhere in sight. I figured he was probably a bit behind, shaking hands and all that. I asked one of the people walking the parade route in those bright yellow LaRocco t-shirts where he was and they said, "he's bringing up the back."

As much as I would have loved to see Larry, I'm not the Idaho voter who needs to shake Larry's hand and I was thrilled to know that Mr. LaRocco was somewhere near the end of the long parade meeting as many Idahoans as he could, shaking each of their hands, and undoubtedly promising to make Idaho a better place for them, their kids, and their grandkids.

Despite some of the lower points and the sunburn I'm now sporting on my face and in the part of my hair, there's nothing quite like the Western Days parade and until you have seen it in all its glory, you haven't really lived in Idaho.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Reluctant Torch Bearer

Today would have marked the ninety-first birthday of our thirty-fifth president. Ninety-one years ago in Brookline, Massachusetts, Joseph and Rose Kennedy welcomed their second son, Jack.

This time of year usually marks the hope that was born that May afternoon; the hope that died, with Jack's brother Bobby, on June 6, 1968 in Los Angeles; or, the national sigh we all endured with the passing of Jackie Kennedy fourteen years ago this month when John Jr. solemnly announced to the press and the world that his mother had passed, but this year we face a stunning new realization as a nation that has watched, admired, and loved the Kennedys. We face the realization that the man we have looked to for guidance in our most troubled times as a nation, the man we have watched demolish his political opponents on and off the Senate floor, and the man we have revered since that dark November day he followed the caisson that carried his brother to Arlington one final time, will not carry us through the twenty-first century.

It is not the picture of Ted Kennedy on a sailboat that lingers foremost in my mind. It is not the powerful photo of Jack, Bobby, and Ted at Hyannis Port in 1960 that reminds me of Ted's position and importance in the Kennedy family. It is the picture of Ted, grief-stricken, in pin striped pants, walking next to Bobby as the nation mourned with him the loss of his brother. It wasn't that dark day in November that Ted took the torch, the torch that he now carries, but it was that dark day in November when the nation took notice of a young man with a promising future and an ability to lead those most unlikely to follow.

In 1950, Jack Kennedy made a rare and extemporaneous comment about his sister, he stated: "I guess there will always be Rosemary." Rosemary, the disabled sister of President Kennedy, underwent a fairly common procedure for people with noticeable emotional disturbances in the fifties and was institutionalized shortly there after. Perhaps President Kennedy was referring to the loss of his older brother Joe and his sister Kathleen, but what strikes me most about his comment is that his general ambivalence about Rosemary is an ambivalence we have shared as a nation for Ted. We have taken for granted the senior senator from Massachusetts, assuming at times that he would always be here to lead our country and our party as he has so capably since his entrance in the U.S. Senate four decades ago.

It is a bit unnerving the way most are talking about Ted Kennedy as if he is already gone. He is embarking on the greatest battle of his life, but he is still with us. What if Ted had said to this nation following Bobby's death that he was profoundly sorry, he was thankful for the outpouring of support from a heartbroken nation, but he could not carry the torch? Despite his reluctance, did he bow out and leave us to find our own way through the 1968 Democratic Convention, Vietnam, Watergate, and the myriad of Kennedy tragedies we have held our breath through over the years? No. Despite his reluctance he picked up the torch, carrying it, along with this nation, forward. And so shall we. We will stand by Ted Kennedy through this battle as we have through the many other battled, both personal and political. We will continue to hold this man in highest regard for his voting record, public service, and genuine love for our country.

This may be Senator Kennedy's last battle, but it will not be his legacy.

From the brilliant Tom Stoppard play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: "Whatever became of the moment when one first knew about death? There must have been one. A moment. In childhood. When it first occurred to you that you don't go on forever. Must have been shattering. Stamped into one's memory. And yet, I can't remember it. It never occurred to me at all. We must be born with an intuition of mortality. Before we know the word for it. Before we know that there are words. Out we come, bloodied and squalling, with the knowledge that for all the points on the compass, there's only one direction. And time is it's only measure."

Unfortunately, many of us have learned about death and grief from the Kennedy family. We have confronted mortality head on in the darkest of times and the most earth shattering moments of twentieth century American history beside the Kennedys. Fortunately, many of us have also learned about life and service from the Kennedys. May that be the greatest legacy of our reluctant torch bearer.

A Message to the Little Brothers of the World

Being a little brother is a thankless job. You get the brunt of your siblings' frustration, excitement, and heartache thrust upon you without much warning. From your earliest memory you were the scapegoat, easily blamed and all too often dismissed. As you've grown up you've come to appreciate your older siblings for who they are, rather than who you always believed them to be. You can laugh with them, cry with them, scream with them, and swear with them, but in the end you will always be the little brother, the one who doesn't get away with the use of certain words.

Little brothers are cursed with the uneven distribution of worry. They not only have parents, they have older brothers and sisters, sisters being the worst. Who really cares if your hair has been cut this year? This decade? Who really wants to know if you've had dinner at midnight? Why does it matter who your friends are? It matters. All you little brothers out there, it matters. It matters to your mothers, your fathers, your brothers, and most of all your sisters. Those big sisters will get you every time. Choose good friends. Your sisters want to like your friends as much, or as close to as much, as they like you.

When you're a teenager you might not understand why it is that you have to play nice with your siblings from time to time, but when you are a twenty-something, you will understand that it is your siblings who can prove to be your closest allies and most trusted friends. When you're done being a teenager, you'll understand this. Someday you'll have your heartbroken or you'll need a shoulder to cry on. Someday you'll need a buddy for a road trip or to loan you some cash for lunch. Someday you'll be driving down the road and a song will come on the radio and you'll need someone to call immediately. You'll understand when you get there. Once you're done being your all-important, teenage self, you will understand why you had to go on the trip that one time with your older brothers when you really just wanted to stay home and "hang out" with the neighbor girl you've been madly in love with since you were nine.

When you survive your teenage years and think that the unnecessary worrying on the part of your older sister is over, you will be seriously mistaken. Little brothers never stop being little brothers. No matter how tall they get, no matter how old they get, no matter how strong they get. They will always be somebody's little brother. Luckily, the job won't always be thankless.

There aren't prizes being handed out for 'best little brother in the world' these days, but there should be. Some of you little brothers are doing an exceptional job. You're saying the right things when your big sister is having a bad day. Making sure not to tell her that her feet are big or that she's being a girl. You're doing the right things when your older brothers ask you to watch their kids or go on fishing trips where it will rain the entire time you are there.

Some of you little brothers are becoming fine young men. You're growing into the men that your older sisters always knew you would be. The obnoxious streak is fading and you're becoming quite the conversationalists. Maybe even a year from now you'll be able to have an entire conversation without mentioning how big your calf muscles are getting or how all the girls like your hair long.

Maybe you'll always have these added quirks. This is the charm of little brothers.

All of you little brothers who put up with older siblings who don't know what they're doing with their lives and call to vent, your listening ear is appreciated. All you little brothers who feel guilty for calling older siblings to complain about how stupid your parents are, stop it. Us older siblings know where you are coming from. Mom did what? Yes, the reaction hasn't changed over the years. The stupidity of our parents is part of the bond we share as siblings.

And to all of you little brothers who won't walk out of the house, drive away in the car, or hang up the phone without telling your older siblings you love them, you deserve a prize. Without knowing it, you get us through our roughest days, our longest nights, and despite the title of 'little brother' you are giants in our eyes.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Middle of the Week Mélange

Having a bit of an emotional day here, so take this mid-week rundown for what it is--a poor attempt at a non-music video post for the day.

The dots were finally connected for me yesterday while watching Countdown and I must say that I am shocked to have realized that the Phil Gramm that is causing such a fuss for the McCain campaign is the same Phil Gramm of Gramm-Rudman-Hollings fame. Irate. That's the word that would best express my reaction to the connection yesterday. I'm beginning to learn that fiscally conservative and fiscally responsible are not always synonymous.

No word from the Idaho State Journal on my letter to the editor. Either it is over the word count or they aren't happy that I told them they were scooped by the Statesman yet again...

Did anybody happen to catch Recount on HBO over the weekend? I don't have HBO at my house, no movie channels actually, and so I wasn't able to watch it, but I'm hoping it goes to DVD quickly so I can snag it from Netflix. Sooner would be better for me.

I'm cleaning off my desk today and figure since election day was yesterday I can safely throw out the voter's guide that came in the local paper from the Cornerstone Institute of Idaho. Before I throw it out, I must say, these people are certifiable. I read some of the positions on their website and even followed a few of the links. Wow. That's all I can say.

Had an interesting telephone conversation with my mother's husband this morning. Turns out he was one of the many Idahoans who voted for Ron Paul yesterday. Go figure. Ron Paul, Ross Perot, and George Hansen. I see a trend here.

Last of the minor things I wanted to comment on: The June issue of Smithsonian magazine has a great article by William Booth about Betty Ford and that now infamous picture of her standing on the conference table in the Cabinet Room. Pick it up, it's worth a read. There is also a decent article by David Roberts about the U.S. Army marching into Utah to fight the Mormon militia nearly one hundred and fifty years ago. Very interesting for you regional history buffs.

More Weight Than We Own

Just a little something for a day that can't seem to get off the ground. (An incomplete "Sometimes" by Candlebox from their 1998 album, Happy Pills.)

Election Night Surprises

A few initial surprises as I look over the election results for Bannock County and the surrounding counties:
  1. For being an unknown in a primary against a man who has been running the race for what seems like centuries, David Archuleta had a strong showing. The unofficial results for Bannock County show Archuleta at 39% to LaRocco's 61%; for Bingham County 46% to LaRocco's 54% (with 9 of 26 precincts reporting); and, 36% to LaRocco's 64% in Bonneville County.
  2. The quintessential Bannock County Democrat, Lin Whitworth, has been unseated. I can hardly believe it. This was the race I was watching closest going into election day and I must say the one I was most shocked by as I read the night's results. KIDK is reporting that Karen Cordell beat Whitworth for the commission seat by 596 votes. Unreal. That's all I can say. Unreal.
  3. The Secretary of State's office has listed with their unofficial results the District 32 race going to Erik Simpson over Anne Rydalch. I don't know the specifics of this race so I can't actually call it a surprise, but I suppose it is a surprise when the conservatives in Bonneville County can see a wolf in sheep's clothing. Thank everything holy, Anne Rydalch will not be returning to the statehouse!
  4. Also from the Idaho SOS, Cassia County is reporting 92 Democrats voted today for Hillary Clinton. Granted, the primary has no bearing, given the results of the caucus, but I want to know where Cassia County found 92 Democrats to vote for Hillary Clinton. Add that to the 89 who voted for Obama. What's going on in Cassia?! Add that to the numbers for Clinton and Obama in Minidoka County and I am officially baffled.
  5. Maybe I am reading this wrong, but was there really a guy named Nephi running for county commissioner in Madison County and he didn't win??
Too bad the surprise we aren't all excited about tonight is an unbelievable turnout across the state. I guess people just can't get too hyped up about a primary election directly following a three-day weekend that honors those who have come before us, paving the way for us to participate in this great democracy, handing us the right to vote. It's a damn shame that isn't tonight's surprise.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hiatt Still Has It

As was mentioned last week, John Hiatt has a new album out. Released today, Same Old Man proves to be one of John Hiatt's best. After a thirty-four year recording career, it just amazes me that Hiatt still has it. His lyrics are perfect, his sound just as refreshing as ever. And he hasn't lost that John Lee Hooker influence that sets him apart from modern artists.
Hiatt's daughter Lily contributes on two tracks, beautifully on both, the following being my favorite of the two:
Love You Again

I was feeling through the dark
I didn’t know how far
It can all run away with you sometimes
In an empty boxcar
You were trying to tell me something
I wasn’t listening to you
There was nothing but confusion
Every time that train come blowing through

Then you wrote me in a letter
I don’t know how your courage came
You told me what you wanted
Every word in tears and flame
How you loved me more than ever
Despite all the hurt inside
And it cracked my heart wide open
Until there was no place left to hide

And I want to thank you babe
For letting me back in
I want to thank you for asking me
To love you again
I want to thank you babe
For letting me back in
I want to thank you for asking me to love you again

I’d forgotten how to be patient
I’d forgotten how to caress
I’d forgotten how to ask for help
And how to struggle for my best
I was harder than those iron wheels
Rolling down the track
And every trip I took
I never looked to get any feelings back

I want to thank you babe
For letting me back in
I want to thank you for asking me
To Love you again
I want to thank you babe
For letting me back in
I want to thank you for asking me
To love you again

You met me at the station
With a promise and a kiss
My love for you will always be true
But you must remember this
Respect me and protect me
But don’t expect me not to fall
I will do the same for you until the final call
I want to thank you babe
For letting me back in
I want to thank you for asking me
To love you again
Pretty decent for a guy who has been writing songs for thirty-four years, wouldn't you say? "Thirty Years of Tears" will forever remain my favorite John Hiatt song, but there's room for any of his recent tracks on Same Old Man to sneak in a close second.

My Election Day "I've Had It" Moment

Here it is election day and what is bothering me most? Not the fact that I had to vote for someone today that I didn't really like for lack of anyone better to vote for. The papers of our former governor are what bother me most. Yes, I haven't given up on the issue of former Governor Kempthorne's papers just yet, and as of about five minutes ago I submitted a Letter to the Editor of the Idaho State Journal addressing my concerns. Here it is:

This letter is in response to the 5/23/08 statement of the Idaho State Journal editorial board regarding the withholding of Kempthorne’s papers:

What took so long?

The ISJ carelessly addressed a topic that the Idaho Statesman has been following for several weeks. The Statesman’s blunt, yet effective editorial requesting that Kempthorne “cough ‘em up” identified why we should care about these materials. Who does care about a bunch of dusty boxes of paper? You would be surprised. Interest in these papers is not limited to historians. Historians, political scientists, journalists, lawyers, and researchers across every discipline may find value in these unique papers that “should” chronicle the gubernatorial career of Mr. Kempthorne.

The trouble is, the longer the papers remain boxed up at the Department of Administration, open only with the approval of Kempthorne, they lose their research value. Without proper management, these papers will become obsolete and unnecessarily rearranged by those looking for certain materials with no regard for the materials on the path to get there. Equally troubling is the notion that Kempthorne needs more time to go through his papers. How beneficial to the story of Kempthorne’s career and this segment of Idaho history will this process be? Never mind the fact that Kempthorne is neither an archivist nor historian.

Despite the precedent for housing gubernatorial records at the state historical society, Kempthorne’s case is not the only peculiar one. The papers of former Governor Batt remain a mystery in terms of access and arrangement. In Batt’s case, his papers are in a condition that leaves much to be desired by any researcher. Nearly his entire collection has been weeded out, presumably by Batt himself, and contains nothing that wouldn’t be available in state newspapers. Is this what is to become of Kempthorne’s papers?

Have we lost our sense of historical importance? I hope not.
Now go out and vote already, I'll do the unnecessary worrying here for all of us!

Monday, May 26, 2008

IHC Lecture: Robert Dallek

This past Thursday night I had the wonderful privilege of attending a lecture sponsored by the Idaho Humanities Council at the Colonial Theater in Idaho Falls. On his second visit to Idaho for the Idaho Humanities Council lecture circuit, presidential biographer and my personal favorite historian, Robert Dallek, addressed the question of whether or not an ethical presidency is possible in the modern United States.

Dr. Dallek is no stranger to the Presidency. He has written numerous books and articles on the presidency as an institution and on the famous men who have held the post over the years, including Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan. His masterpiece, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, was published just as I was leaving high school and beginning my college career. Without question, that work played a significant role in the shaping of my academic future. His most recent work, a copy of which I now have signed by Dallek himself, Nixon & Kissinger: Partners In Power, outlines the tense, yet working relationship between President Nixon and Dr. Kissinger. Dallek attacks secrecy as a method of conducting foreign policy with the energy and gusto we can only hope to see in all discussions relating to the secret nature of our President's conduct.

Following Dallek's superb lecture, the audience was offered note cards to jot our questions down on for Dr. Dallek to answer in the fifteen minute Q&A session. My question was one of the half dozen chosen. Not surprisingly, I asked about the status of the executive order (13233, drafted by Alberto Gonzales) passed by President Bush in 2001 that currently limits access to presidential records and whether or not Dallek foresees a change in this policy. His response (transcribed here from the wonderful voice recorder embedded in my cell phone):
"Thank you, thank you for that question. I am very interested in this; it sort of gores my ox to have these things hidden away.

Now, it used to be until 1978, presidential papers were owned by the presidents themselves. Even though every piece of paper, every document was generated by public monies. They owned the papers. Then after Watergate, the Congress passed a law, and Jimmy Carter signed it, making future presidential papers, beginning with Reagan, property of the public, of the country. Now, up until then, beginning with Franklin Roosevelt, in perpetuity, they built presidential libraries with private funds, and the papers were put into those libraries and then they donated the libraries and their papers to the government, to the National Archives, and archivists took charge of them. It takes usually thirty, thirty-five, forty years before presidential records can be opened because they have to guard against national security breaches and violations of privacy rights.

Bush, however, in November 2001, issued an executive order that seemed to me, and a lot of other people, a clear violation of the Presidential Records Act because what he did was to say that presidents, their families, their heirs, could keep certain presidential records closed. I’ve testified twice before two House subcommittees about this issue and every Democrat and every Republican on those committees, not a single one dissented from the idea that this executive order should be overturned.

Now, the House recently passed a law overturning the executive order, the Senate has one, but it was put on hold by Jim Bunning, U.S. Senator from Kentucky, saying that under the personal rule of privilege, or whatever the hell that is called, saying that presidents have the right to hold back certain information. Well, I hope that the next president that comes after this one sees past that and signs this bill into law.

How are we to know our history? How are we to know the kind of things that we do? That’s what I love doing. You know, those archives, thirty or thirty-five years after a presidential administration they un-bury those presidential papers…there’s some wonderful stuff in there."
And in that response, whatever reservations I had about graduate school, the challenges, surprises, and unknowns it will offer, those reservations completely disappeared from my mind. Again, Robert Dallek has gotten to that core belief, of mine and of other historians, that this job we do is important; that there must be historians, archivists, and researchers who are willing to dig a little deeper to share the stories of the generations before us.

I found Dr. Dallek's lecture immensely satisfying on a personal, academic level, but I also found it rather fitting that he would speak volumes to the value of these records in a state that doesn't seem to be ultimately concerned with what happens to the papers of our own elected officials.

The Idaho Humanities Council did a wonderful job in planning this event and in bringing Dr. Dallek back to Idaho. If you have not visited the IHC homepage, please do so, and please consider contributing to this very important Idaho organization.

Memorial Day Weekend Project

Without planning to, I took on a rather large Memorial Day weekend project--book rearranging and sorting. Yes, my books were in a fairly decent and manageable arrangement before the weekend, but in the process of looking for homes for some of the books that have taken up permanent residence on my desk and my nightstand, I decided there were some changes that needed to be made. One of the few shelves I have that didn't need much attention was this one that I keep in my dining room/office area. I have a dining area that serves as an office because I have no use for my kitchen. I hate to cook. I can cook, just hate it. The bottom two shelves are mostly Supreme Court, Congress, or U.S. Constitution related. The top shelf (not holding the pictures) is writing manuals of various types. All of these books are close to my desk for a reason and there they shall stay.
The "wall of books" is nearly complete. I am quickly running out of space here and am beginning to realize what a chore moving out of this place will be whenever I leave for graduate school. I was tempted to rearrange the middle section of books because the three shelves that were previously occupied by strictly Kennedy family and Kennedy assassination books are being taken over by Idaho history and politics books. Nothing says "evolving research interests" like the middle section of my wall of books.
The nightstand, serving multiple purposes since I obviously have a book problem, used to house newly purchased, unread books. Then I started reading those books in the time I wasn't sleeping and they weren't much use to me next to the bed. I moved the two "project" stacks to the nightstand. I've been reading all the short stories I can get my hands on over the last year or so, not for any better reason than to convince myself that I can like short stories. I don't, as of yet, but it is a work in progress. The other project, quite larger in scope, is a general review of some of the more recent works on the philosophy of history, historiography, and ethics in history as a profession. The big, ugly, green books stacked there to the side are Congressional Quarterly publications that have never had a home as long as they've been mine and they certainly aren't going to have one now. They will remain there until I can figure out why the hell I have them!
By far the least complicated of the bookshelves in my house, this one holds a myriad of books on baseball, politics, and the media. There's plenty of room here for new additions as they come.
Despite the book sorting (I actually got rid of a few books) and rearrangement, my desk remains as messy and unorganized as it did when I came home from work on Friday. The books residing on top of the desk are books I am still using to finish up essays, projects, posts, etc. For the most part, these are not books I intend to keep. The German textbook is going away for sure! And the small stack of CDs is a lost cause. I can't part with these cases because they are both unique and informative. However, I have no idea where to put the damn things.

Now that I have nearly accomplished this monumental task of arranging books, I don't look forward to returning to my desk at work tomorrow where books, papers, and any other number of things are stacked higher than I stand, waiting for me to find them a home, too. I suppose there is a reason they gave me a job in a library...

Friday, May 23, 2008


This Memorial Day weekend I am unplugging. I intend on having three days free of blogging, stress, and the Stallings Collection. Why? Not because I am going anywhere for the three-day weekend. Not because I have a whole list of things to do. Not because I'll have company over or anything else. Because I need three days off! In baseball it is what major league managers call a "mental health day." Three days for me. Three days to sit on the bench and watch the game as a fan, not as a player. Or to sit in the clubhouse and not watch the game at all. Sounds wonderful, doesn't it?

I need three days to clear my head; three days to get to a point where I stop second guessing myself on everything; I need three days to get the damn Colbie Caillat "Realize" song out of my head; and, three days to hopefully catch up on the sleep I've been missing desperately this week. I can count the number of hours of sleep I've had this week on both hands and I don't think that is a good thing. Less than ten hours of sleep total over the last four days. I could use three days of sleep, but that just isn't going to happen. I'd settle for a good solid four hours in one night. It's pathetic, really.

When I return late Monday night or Tuesday morning to the world of the blogging, you can look forward to posts on the Ted Kennedy situation, the Robert Dallek lecture I attended Thursday night at the Colonial Theater in Idaho Falls, an update on the holding (or withholding) of the Kempthorne papers by our former governor, and maybe even a note on the status of the Stallings papers that are readily available to the public unlike Mr. Kempthorne's papers.

Sounds like a decent slate of planned posts. I can assure you all that if I were to stay online and "plugged in" for the next three days the most informative post I could come up with would have to do with Lou Pearlman and Making the Band. Yes, I need a break!!

Here's hoping a "mental health day" (or three) doesn't cause me to make myself sick the way Braves right fielder Jeff Francouer did earlier this week when Bobby Cox gave him the day off. While sitting on the bench cheering on his teammates, he ate everything available to him. Between the bubble gum, sunflower seeds, and chew, he was so sick by the end of the night that he didn't know if he was going to be able to play the next day! Nine innings of consecutive eating of junk. I think I'll be just fine, I did quit chewing bubble gum after all...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Kennedy Who Lives...

Go read this now:

The Kennedy Who Lives, Stays and Fights

I'm serious, go now.

SM3 @ The Garden in Lewiston

(Seven Mary Three in studio performing "Southwestern State" from their 1998 release Orange Ave.)

Tickets for Seven Mary Three's July concert at the Garden in Lewiston, Idaho, are on sale now. The kid brother and I are making a road trip of it--one last summer visit to our friend in Moscow and a final road trip before my inevitable relocation after fall semester and a Seven Mary Three concert--doesn't get much better than that. Oh yes, it does. The kid brother can drive part of the way to Moscow!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Kennedy News

Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass) has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

A beautiful and moving tribute by the longest-sitting U.S. senator, Senator Robert Byrd, from the floor of the Senate today is available at it here.

From Senator Obama's victory speech tonight in Iowa:

You know, there is a spirit that brought us here tonight, a spirit of change, and hope, and possibility. And there are few people in this country who embody that spirit more than our friend and our champion, Senator Edward Kennedy.

He has spent his life in service to this country, not for the sake of glory or recognition, but because he cares, deeply in his gut, about the causes of justice, and equality, and opportunity.

So many of us here have benefited in some way or another because of the battles he’s waged and some of us are here because of them. And we know he’s not well right now, but we also know that he’s a fighter.

And as he takes on this fight, let us lift his spirits tonight by letting Ted Kennedy know that we are thinking of him, that we are praying for him, that we are standing with him and Vicky, and that we will be fighting with him every step of the way.

From Senator Hillary Clinton's victory speech tonight in Kentucky:

I want to say a special word this evening about someone who has spent his whole life dedicated to realizing the promise of America. Senator Ted Kennedy is one of the greatest progressive leaders in our party's history, and one of the most effective senators in our country's history. He’s my friend, and he’s my inspiration. More than that, he is a hero to millions of Americans whose lives he has fought to better.

I am proud to have stood side-by-side with Ted Kennedy to increase the minimum wage, to extend health insurance to millions of children, to help stop insurance companies from discriminating against the sick. But the privileges that I have had and so many others have had because of the battles we have fought side-by-side with him are just a mere handful of what he has done during his entire public service; five extraordinary decades devoted to America.

And as a lifelong champion for social justice and equality, his work has made the path easier for me, for Senator Obama, and for countless others. He has been with us for our fights and we're with him now in his. And I know he is going to fight with all of his legendary might, supported by his wonderful wife Vicki and his entire family against this latest challenge. And we wish him well and send our thoughts and prayers to him.

The Four-Eyed Club

Huckleberries Online has an interesting comment on those belonging to the four-eyed club, i.e. those of us who require vision correction.

The discussion was brought about by an image of Senator Hillary Clinton trying on a pair of specs at a cafe in Louisville.

Now, I haven't the slightest idea as to whether or not Senator Clinton requires contact lenses (since she isn't often seen sporting glasses), but I suspect age and strain have left her in the fairly common position of requiring the assistance of reading glasses from time to time. I don't know if this is an attempt at saying Hillary Clinton is no longer a young woman, requiring reading glasses is not necessarily specific to age (I am twenty-three and wear regular spectacles, reading glasses, contacts, or any combination of the three every day of my life), or if it was just a brainless conversation to have about our first serious female candidate for the presidency. Regardless, I am annoyed.

My first question is, why should I care? Secondly, why does Senator Clinton trying on a pair of readers conjure up the question of if glasses make a man or woman any more or less attractive?

Are there not more important things in this campaign we can discuss?

New Music Tuesday

The new 3 Doors Down CD dropped today. Also today, Scarlett Johansson, the actress-turned-singer, has the full Tom Waits tribute (?) out. Not sure what to think of it, but I do enjoy her voice.

All in all, it is looking more and more like it will be a great, long summer of new music.

Last week I failed to mention the new Death Cab for Cutie release, Narrow Stairs, which was recommended to me by Chris over at Unequivocal Notion, and it is fabulous!

Next week John Hiatt has a release, too.

However, my three most-anticipated summer releases drop on the 3rd and 10th of June: the long awaited solo album from Bush lead singer Gavin Rossdale, Wanderlust (6.3.08); the solo album of Wallflowers lead singer and son of Bob Dylan, Jakob Dylan's Seeing Things (6.10.08); and, the Canadian, Alanis Morissette's release Flavors of Entanglement (6.10.08).

Despite the fact that I've purchased Gavin DeGraw's sophomore album, Seven Mary Three's Day & Nightdriving, Augustana's Can't Love, Can't Hurt, the Missy Higgins album that came out in February, R.E.M.'s Accelerate and now Death Cab, all within a few months, I have five songs in a playlist on a loop and none of them were released this year. "Blinded by Rainbows" (Rolling Stones), "Far Away" (Nickelback), "Southwestern State" (Seven Mary Three), "Promise" (Eve 6), and "Lonelily" (Damien Rice).

Sometimes new isn't perfect right now.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Still Disgusted

The conviction of Raymond Ortiz III was mentioned here in March with the question of which was more disgusting, Ortiz' despicable actions or the comments being left by Statesman readers following the story. Ortiz is back, this time as he awaits sentencing, and the moronic comments have returned as well. This comment struck me:

Not At All (in response to the question 'thought you were pro-life?')
Submitted by Idahoan_by_choice on Mon, 05/19/2008 - 11:48am.
"I am anti-[hypocrisy]. I do not believe human life is sacred. I believe a woman has a right to abort her [fetus]. I believe murderers should be executed. I believe we should wage war if needed to protect our interests, even if it means we kill innocents. Polls suggest most people believe as I do, but they don't view it so starkly, and certainly what I believe has been the status quo in the US for 35 years. In any case, no one is really pro-life, because everyone will claim an [exception]. Yet the moral high ground is addictive, so everyone climbs on it, making them [hypocrites]."

On Friday, Ortiz will be sentenced for second degree murder (a plea agreement arranged by the Ada County prosecutor over the original sentence of first degree murder for killing his infant son).

At what point are the powers that be over at the Statesman going to get the hint that most of us are fed up with the uncontrolled comments being attached to the most extreme of stories?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Smorgasbord Saturday

I am keeping tabs on the status of Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) who was hospitalized this morning after what appears to be a seizure--at first reported as stroke-like symptoms. This morning felt unusually like the July morning I awoke to news that John F. Kennedy, Jr.'s plane had gone missing. I wonder if I, and other Americans, will always get this weird feeling whenever bad news comes across the wire having to do with any one of the Kennedys. Regardless of political philosophy, it is hard to ignore the political status and superiority of Teddy Kennedy. Updates as they come.

TV Guide
has their hot summer movies list up--nothing surprising with all the sequels and superhero movies--and they have wisely listed the X-Files: I Want to Believe movie as one of the top films they are looking forward to. I am surely not the only X-Files fan on the edge of my seat awaiting the second feature release from Chris Carter and especially with the tight lid they've kept on the plot. Hopefully the film can answer some of the many questions I have about the nine season run. July 25th can't come soon enough!

An interesting apology ran by Lee Family Broadcasting in the Magic Valley caught my eye this morning, the regional radio powerhouse is apologizing for encouraging students at Minico High School to participate in a protest that included wearing the colors of the Mexican flag to school after a Minico High School teacher tossed out a Mexican flag being waved by a Hispanic student in celebration of Cinco de Mayo. I would be willing to bet my life savings that Lee Broadcasting took some heat from community leaders on this one...

There was a story that made the Idaho reader section of the Idaho Statesman this week that caught my eye:

Author James Loewren's book called "Lies Across America" lists what he calls "The Top Ten Worst Historical Sites in the United States," and one of those sites is in the small south-central Idaho farm town of Almo.

Utah TV station ABC4 reports that historians say the massacre of 300 pioneers along the California-Oregon trail near Almo, for which there is a monument in town, never happened.

Residents say they are aware of what historians say, but the monument has "been in town so long, since 1938, that it is a part of their community."

What do you say to that? They have a monument to something that didn't happen, but they are keeping it around? Granted, Almo isn't a big place and the chance of this "tainted" history being wide-spread isn't huge, but what about all of us, students of Idaho history, who have believed the massacre story all this time?

While I'm on the topic of Idaho history (when am I not?) I thought I'd mention this post over at Red State Rebels that still has be wound tight--"Boneheaded Bush trips over Bill Borah's ghost." Minus me initially "tripping" over the concept of referring to William E. Borah, the Lion of Idaho, as Bill Borah, I was really happy to see Julie snag this story. And Joe Biden wins the prize for favorite person in the universe this week!

NewWest Boise has a new look--go check it out! I haven't spent tons of time on the site since it went down for the upgrade around lunchtime, but I think it looks really sharp. I still don't quite understand the in-house search engine or why when I use it I always get at least 300 results, usually unrelated to anything I've searched for, but I doubt that was part of the upgrade. Hey Jill and NewWest, could you give the Idaho State Journal some web design lessons?? Pretty please, with sugar on top?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Wheels Off the Wagons

This morning I walked right out of the house without my keys. Locked up the house, walked right out, no keys. Standing in the back yard admiring the mess that is our lawn after the first mowing of the year, I said a few expletives, got the extra key, opened the house, and started the whole process all over again.

The entire week has gone much like this morning.

What day of the week is it? What time is it? Where am I supposed to be right now? Five minutes from now?

Either this is a natural reaction to not knowing what the hell to do with myself now that I don't have a class schedule or I may be losing my mind. I'm hoping that it is just an off-balance week.

Yesterday I had an MRI that revealed I have a protruding disc (L5-S1, if that means anything to anybody) that has caused me to lose feeling in my left foot and calf. Given my health situation over the past year and a half, I wasn't particularly thrilled to know I had to go on steroids to get the inflammation down so that the nerve root could have some room to breath. I'm still not happy about it, but now that I'm nearly through with the tapered dosage what is the point in complaining? That plus physical therapy. I never had back pain or at least not any back pain that seemed unusual for me. I came home from the Frank Church Banquet a little out of whack, but I recovered. Or so I thought.

And just to think I thought I had a hamstring problem and the foot numbness was an added bonus...

It is funny how the body works. I've learned the hard way that a life must be balanced for a body to follow suit.

Health aside, weird doesn't even begin to describe how I feel about my routine these days. No classes. I haven't had a summer off from classes since I graduated from high school. No pressing business to attend to when I get home from my work at the library at the end of the day. No papers to write.

What have I done? Absolutely nothing. Not entirely true, I have updated my CD collection spreadsheet. I haven't even accomplished much in terms of work--the Stallings Collection is right where I left it before finals week--and I can't say I really care. Doing absolutely nothing isn't something I do well. However, everybody needs a break. I needed a break.

After the wheels have fallen off the wagon, what do you do? Well, you take a breather, put the wheels back on, and continue plowing through.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Kempthorne Stronghold

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne is asking supporters to help him pay of his campaign debts—which campaign debts?—the very ones he racked up while running for re-election to Idaho’s top office in 2002. Today’s Statesman reports that Kempthorne still owes $15,000 from the 2002 gubernatorial race.

The $15,000 Kempthorne will be asking for next week at a “debt retirement” event is being asked for very carefully. Secretary Kempthorne does not want to violate the Hatch Act, but wants his campaign debt eliminated. Kempthorne’s carefully crafted “debt retirement” event is only one of several examples of the former governor’s contempt for the rules.

In addition to carefully skirting the Hatch Act, the rules outlining to what extent government employees can participate in political activities, former Governor Kempthorne has ignored one hundred years of tradition by retaining his gubernatorial papers rather than depositing them at the Idaho State Historical Society and has been the key component in the lifting of restrictions that have previously outlawed the carrying of concealed weapons in our national parks.

One has to wonder when the Kempthorne strong hold on Idaho will end. Like the unfortunate limelight forced on Idaho by our infamous senior senator, Idaho's image is being tainted by the blatant disregard for precedent being displayed by our former governor. As if bestowing on this state the most hideous of state quarters wasn't enough, we are now being credited as the home of the man who doesn't seem to mind if poachers are let in to our national parks or if the people who first elected him to office have access to whatever records, important or not, may have been retained from his tenure in the Idaho Statehouse.

Today the Idaho Statesman has an update on the situation with Governor Kempthorne's papers, an update that is as ambiguous as the original reporting that Governor Kempthorne is still holding tight to his records. Apparently, the state historical society, under the direction of Janet Gallimore, has been in "talks" with the former governor regarding his papers that have been under his control since he left Idaho to join the Bush administration two years ago. The startling truth behind the "talks" taking place is not that Kempthorne has waited two years to participate in these talks, it is that the talks are taking place, period. Every report regarding Kempthorne's papers has emphatically stated that state law requires all gubernatorial records to be turned over to the state historical society. However, the quote from today's article is, "if they reach a deal, the former governor's papers would join a historical record of Idaho used by scholars, lawyers, and curious citizens." If? If they reach a deal? There are laws about these things, but a former governor can decide if he wants to obey them?

Something that has been a bit troubling since the Statesman first broke the story last week is that nobody seems to be capable of citing the exact law that requires the governor's records to be retained at the state historical society. Again, in today's Statesman article, no citation exists. The article suggests that either the 1864 act of the Idaho territorial government regarding the binding of materials for housing at the state archive or the 1947 law creating the state archives may have given the state historical society authority to house the governor's papers.

For whatever reason, nobody dares cite the exact language under which we are all speculating the fate of Governor Kempthorne's papers. The language appearing in the territorial government documents does not and could not foresee the sheer mass of material a state government could produce. In 1864, the territorial government was trying to survive governing from afar and couldn't care less about the historical record of that very governance. Similarly, the 1907 act (House Bill 104) establishing the Idaho State Historical Society makes no specific mention of the records of the governor, stating that the historical society should be established and should provide for the acquisition, care, and exhibition of state property. I suspect whatever law those commenting on this story refer to is the 1947 act that gave state archival authority to the Idaho State Historical Society. From the Idaho Session Laws:

(H.B. No. 206)


The 1947 act offers further clarification of the archival authority placed in the hands of the state historical society, specifically that the state archive should "facilitate the use of Idaho records for official reference and historical research" (Sec. 1) and that "any state, county, city, or village or other public officer in custody of public documents is hereby authorized and empowered to deliver to the Idaho State Historical Society for preservation any official books, records, documents, original papers, newspaper files, printed books, or portraits not in current use in his office" (Sec. 2).

It is also plausible that the records management guidelines in place for state government in general and the governor's office specifically (67-802, 67-4126, 67-4129, 67-5725, and 67-5751a of the Idaho Code) have been interpreted to mean that the Idaho State Historical Society has supreme authority over all state documents as they are presumably property of the State of Idaho.

Regardless of which authority-granting law we point to in the case of placing Governor Kempthorne's papers, there are arguments to be suppressed and arguments to be supported.

First, as was mentioned by state archivist Rod House in today's Statesman piece, gubernatorial records are among the most viewed items at the state archive. House estimated 115 cubic feet of gubernatorial records have been viewed this year--a number I support fully as I alone have looked at the papers of former governors Gossett, Bottolfsen, Arnold, and Clark this year (Alexander, Ross, Evans, Batt, and Samuelson last year)--and this number should be the key here. Clearly, the state archive is capable of not only housing these materials, they are making them available to the public at every request. Whatever argument you hear to the contrary should be immediately dismissed.

Second, comments appearing on the Statesman's website and elsewhere that suggest Kempthorne's keeping of these records is the responsible thing to do because of the private nature of some of the documents (social security information, legal matters, etc.) is absolutely false. Ignoring one hundred years of precedent because you believe privacy is the number one concern of making gubernatorial records public is ridiculous. Archivists across the country deal with this on a daily basis. Information can be redacted. Privacy can be protected. This is what archivists do. Saying you are ignoring the law in an attempt to protect your constituency's privacy is admitting you have things to hide and don't value transparency.

The third, and most troubling aspect of this story is that the rules either no longer apply or hold little significance in this state that is caring less and less about the historical record it leaves behind. In the past two years it appears little conversation has taken place regarding Kempthorne's papers. Without sounding too cynical, in this post-Executive Order 13233 world, it is startling how little attention is being paid to the status of records of this magnitude.

A credible source with connections to the state archives has told me that the situation with the Kempthorne papers is not the first in terms of gubernatorial records falling through the cracks. Let's hope the Kempthorne papers are deposited, secured, and preserved for future generations interested in the history of our great state.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sunday Tunes

This Evening's Great Excuse lyrics
by Seven Mary Three
Time will pack a bag on you, my love
organize, re-organize your luck
Pretty face, a pretty smile,
a pretty shame you can’t defile
The message you have made for them to see

And it will be
And it will be
Hypocrisy, hypocrisy

This evening’s great excuse is this:
To make your peace.
And make a list
of everything that’s trivial and wide

Handshake man, how could you be?
A sweeter, softer, gentler king
Spread out for every queen to see

And it will be
And it will be
Hypocrisy, hypocrisy

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Smorgasbord Saturday Snapshots

A fine collection of birthday gifts.
Me and the little bro before our yard work excursion.
An array of Philip Booth books--one of which was purchased with my economic stimulus check.
The little bro spends more time in front of the mirror than I do--here he is trying out new hairstyles with a half can of my mousse.
Here it is, my beautiful, new Philip Booth book in all its glory. Still trying to find a perfect home for it.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Dinner Conversation

"Why is John F. Kennedy your favorite president?"
"He's not."
"He's not?!?"
"No, I like the 'what if' story. He isn't even in my top five."
"You have a top five?"
"Yes, and Kennedy isn't in it."
"Who is at the top?"
"Wilson who?"
"Oh boy."
"Didn't you meet Kennedy's kids?"
"No! And only one is alive."
"Oops, I lied."
"His daughter is on the campaign trail with Obama."
"Bin Laden?"
"Oh dear God!"

"Why did you order rice? You don't even like rice."
"I like rice. Why did you order a baked potato?"
"Because I'm an Idahoan."
"Then why weren't you in FFA?"
"You don't have be in FFA to live in Idaho."
"Can you see yourself on a tractor?"
"Hell no."
"True. Or near the horses. That would be really bad."

"Did that really happen?"
"The ball getting past the first basemen?"
"No, the Mets winning the World Series!?!"

"That's my favorite actor!"
"Who is your favorite actor?"
"You know, that guy."
"What guy?"
"The sausage guy."
"You know who I'm talking about--him!"
"Kevin Bacon?!"
"Yeah, that guy."

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Year of Choices

"Time passes in moments ... moments which, rushing past define the path of a life just as surely as they lead towards its end. How rarely do we stop to examine that path, to see the reasons why all things happen, to consider whether the path we take in life is our own making or simply one into which we drift with eyes closed. But what if we could stop, pause to take stock of each precious moment before it passes? Might we then see the endless forks in the road that have shaped a life? And, seeing those choices, choose another path?"

Today I turned twenty-three. Today was the end of something, not just a year of my life, but the end of a semester that was, at times, as trying as any other major obstacle I have encountered in my mere twenty-three years. I wonder if one day I'll be sitting in an office somewhere, surrounded by books, thinking back over how I got there. I wonder if I'll see these last few months and see that they were a catalyst of sorts. I wonder if years down the road I will look back at these past weeks and appreciate the many tears, the many sleepless nights, and the moments of complete uncertainty.

Every major academic decision I have made while being in college has been enormously heavy. I was sitting on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial when I decided I needed Kent State, maybe more than Kent State needed me. I was sitting in a dark stairwell using an old, beat up pay phone when I decided that I needed to be in a program more suited for me, a program closer to home. I walked into an English teacher's office at Idaho State one afternoon and asked her point-blank if she knew from day one where her education was leading. The next day I was sitting in a room preparing to take the Praxis exam to begin the Special Education program at ISU when I decided I didn't want to be in that field for the rest of my life, got up, and walked out. And then I became a history major.

Looking back at that moment, wondering why all things happen, I know without a doubt that becoming a history major is what changed me. I was excited again, truly happy to be a student. What I didn't know then was that I would go on to meet some of the most amazingly talented historians Idaho has to offer. What I didn't know then was that I would find my mentor and she would have an immeasurable impact on my life. And I never could have known what a blessing and opportunity the Stallings Collection would be. I will forever be in Mr. Stallings' debt.

This time around, this new academic move, was provoked only by my own frustration with ISU and my overall belief that it is time to move on. There was no sudden realization, no memorial steps to sit on while reflecting on my life. There was one moment when I decided I was at the end of the road. I made the decision to stop pursuing a graduate degree at ISU in about the same amount of time it takes me to pick out my socks in the morning. I emailed my mentor, told her I was done, and was pleasantly surprised by her immediate enthusiasm for and agreement with this decision.

On my last birthday, I was so relieved to have survived the year, twenty-one was not at all kind to me as I faced a serious health-crisis, that I didn't reflect on where I was going or how I got there. This birthday was different.

Today I was reminded by the people who I care about most of who I am and just how much I have accomplished to be where I am in my life. I was reminded by a former history teacher that the people who save you in your darkest times will share with you the brightest times and will love you for you no matter where you go. I realized how important it is to me to have friends who have known me at various stages of my life, friends who know what silence from me means just as much as they know that when I say I'm fine, I'm really not. And then there are the messages that have come not by way of reminder, but as new and welcome offers of friendship, faith, and trust. That kind of friendship, the kind that offers faith and trust, is the most meaningful and the greatest gift of all.

Of every path I've ever traversed, I have had a companion in the battle, a brother, who I love with everything in me and who doesn't allow me to "drift" very far with my eyes closed. There are few decisions I have made in the past fifteen years that have not involved this young man. He is my best friend, he is my rock, and he makes me laugh so hard my sides ache for days. He, most of all, was the person I worried about when I made the decision to leave ISU as soon as possible. His opinion mattered most. Above my academic advisor, my mentor, and my friend. His opinion always matters most.

How often do we stop to ask ourselves whether the paths we choose will harm those around us? Not nearly enough. Our choices matter. Every word we utter, every moment we let pass. Each matters. Perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned in this past year is exactly that, our choices matter.

(Quotation attributed to The X-Files and the writing of Gillian Anderson in episode 7.17, "All Things.")

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Cutting the Budget, Cutting Access

An interesting story appeared in the Times-News today, a story that either hasn't been printed or went unnoticed in Pocatello, and should for every reason be disconcerting to students and anyone interested in the accessibility of higher education in rural Idaho.

Andrea Jackson of the Times-News is reporting that Idaho State University may discontinue its long-term bus service that has transported twenty-years' worth of students from the Magic Valley to ISU's Pocatello campus.

Realizing that ISU is making budget cuts everywhere--from large administrative units to the smallest departments and on down the food chain--it seems a little scary that the cuts they are willing to make will impact the perceived number one priority of an institution of higher learning, enrollment and retention of students.

Currently, the students who take advantage of this particular commuter service (ISU also offers transportation for students commuting from Idaho Falls) are paying in the neighborhood of $800 per semester for a five-day-a-week pass. If ISU decides to continue the service the cost could double. This would easily put the education goals of students in the Magic Valley in jeopardy.

Students that commute from Twin Falls and Burley generally fall into two categories: Non-traditional students who received two years of education at the College of Southern Idaho and are now working toward bachelor's degrees at ISU while living in and raising their families in the Magic Valley or traditional students who live in the Magic Valley and would rather commute each day and live at home than pay the cost of housing in Pocatello while paying tuition. Looking at the cost of the bus service from the Magic Valley, if I were living in my hometown of Declo and wanted to attend ISU, but was content living rent-free at home (big if), it would actually be cheaper for me to do what these students are doing.

When I first started at ISU, I was paying approximately $2500 per academic year (excluding the summer) on housing alone. Tack on utilities, food, etc., the cost of living in Pocatello easily equaled the cost of going to school in Pocatello (tuition, fees, and books). The cost of tuition and books could be offset by the cost of housing even with the $800 per semester bus ticket.

For some students, surely a few of whom are utilizing the current bus service, commuting from the Magic Valley to Pocatello every day is the only plausible way for them to continue their education. Discontinuing the bus service will be yet another roadblock for rural Idahoans who cannot attain an affordable and accessible college education.

The Times article cites both the Twin Falls City Council's unwillingness to contribute funds for the bus service, despite their support for the bus system, and the decreasing number of students who are actually paying to ride the bus to Pocatello. I can't explain the numbers, but it is worth nothing that the number of enrolled students of ISU (attending any campus) listing Twin Falls County as their permanent residence has been on the rise for several years.

A discontinued bus service will ultimately result in a decrease of students enrolled from the Magic Valley, a decrease (however slight) in overall enrollment at ISU, and I suspect, a smaller number of education-seeking Idahoans who are willing to stay in-state in general.

Das politische Spiel auf Deutsch

Die Gebirgszeige hat einen netten Film heute. Sarah Bettens war auf dem Kuttner Erscheinen (Sarah Kuttner--die Show) im Oktober 2005. Der Film ist von Sarah, das in Köln singt. Wissen Sie, wem Sarah Bettens ist? Sie müssen. Besuchen Sie bitte ihre Seite. Ist hier Sarah mit ihr frühere Gruppe K's Choice:

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Smorgasbord Saturday

It is official, Julio Franco has retired. After a successful and honorable 23-year career in Major League Baseball, he is calling it quits at the age of forty-nine (he'll be fifty in August). Franco wasn't picked up by any major league team this season and went to Mexico to play in their professional league. His decision to retire was announced first to his Mexican league team.

I grew up watching Julio Franco play. Julio played in the big leagues for longer than I've been alive. He may not have held a roster spot all those years for his bat, overall .298 average, 173 homers, 2,586 career hits, but secured roster slots with the Phillies, Rangers, Devil Rays, Brewers, Indians, Mets, Braves, and White Sox because of his leadership in the clubhouse. For me Franco hasn't just been a phenomenal player to watch, I clearly remember watching him come into the game to pinch run for Carlos Delgado at the age of forty-seven and remember him starting at third base against the Marlins, he has been a reminder of everything that is good about baseball.

In my favorite Newsweek section "A Life In Books" this week, Errol Morris, the Oscar-winning Errol Morris, was picked to give his five most influential movies (guess they've run out of people to ask about books). Usually the people give their five most influential movies or books, but Mr. Morris caught me completely off guard. I think of Errol Morris as this very serious filmmaker and you want to know what one of his movies was? Billy Madison. I kid you not. I laughed so hard I nearly fell out of my chair and then immediately called my little brother to tell him that even the serious, nerd-types can be cool!

Speaking of the kid brother, he got his driving permit yesterday. He has to drive with an adult (over 21) for six months and then can drive on his own. I've become a new necessity in his life--after he got done asking if I was an adult or not! He'll turn sixteen before his six months are up so he gets to bypass the whole period of not being able to drive at night. He's very excited about this, why I may never understand. I had to wait an entire year after getting my license before I could drive at night and if I still had that restriction I wouldn't be very sad about it. I hate driving at night. Insane that the kid can drive. In my head he's still an adorable seven year old. Where did the time go?

I have to admit when the news broke about Miley Cyrus appearing on the cover of Vanity Fair wearing nothing but a bed sheet I didn't know who Miley Cyrus was. Somebody had to connect the Billy Ray Cyrus, Hannah Montana dots for me. First of all, what should we be expecting from a photograph by the famous (perhaps infamous) Annie Leibowitz? The fact that Miss Cyrus is only fifteen shouldn't leave us with any expectations of limits Leibowitz might recognize. Frankly, I don't care what Miley Cyrus wears when being photographed for Vanity Fair because I know that she has sold herself, she is no longer just a talented fifteen year old with a semi-famous father, she is a franchise. And Disney is out of their mind for objecting to her photo shoot and throwing a fit about the signal it sends to her younger viewers. They did this to her just as much as her father did.

The reason I bring this up has nothing to do with Miley Cyrus and has everything to do with Vanity Fair. It's a damn shame that their June issue will be forever associated with this barely-dressed teen, when there is a fabulous article by the ever amazing Thurston Clarke about Bobby Kennedy inside its controversial pages. With the 40th anniversary of Robert Kennedy's assassination about a month away, I can think of no other person, save Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. himself, more worthy of reading right now than Thurston Clarke. You can read an excerpt of his article here. Too bad as a country we're too busy worrying about Miley Cyrus to realize how important this anniversary is.

Andrew Carroll of the Washington Post had an interesting, though not entirely surprising, article about how we should be spending our economic stimulus checks in his column Friday. His opinion on how we spend our checks is much more thought out than mine was, but I'm standing by my assertion that we should be buying books of poetry!

Looking forward to the coming New Music Tuesday? So am I. A little less than I was a few days ago now that I've figured out that the new 3 Doors Down CD isn't being released until May 20th. However, the long-awaited sophomore release of Gavin DeGraw will be on the shelves Tuesday! Not really a New Music Tuesday release, but something being released Tuesday as well is I'm Not There, the Bob Dylan bio-pic. The soundtrack for this movie is fabulous--especially the "All Along the Watchtower" remake by Eddie Vedder and the Million Dollar Bashers.

There was an article in Monday's Washington Post that I wanted to mention, I've decided it deserves it's own post. Until then, happy Saturday!