Wednesday, August 27, 2008


*Editor's Note: This will be my final DNC post, I'll move an updated version of my "Going Under" post to the top of the page and I'm going back to my health-minded, surgery to come, recovery imminent bunker.

It was the night in New Hampshire that changed my mind about Hillary Clinton. It was the night she stood before her supporters in a state that hosted the greatest political victory of her campaign and attested to the fact that she had finally found her voice that I realized she was a candidate I could connect with.

Most voters my age flocked to Barack Obama the way young voters rallied behind Bobby Kennedy in 1968. Most voters my age saw Obama's message of change as a reason to become more politically minded. Most voters my age could more easily connect with Chelsea Clinton than with her mother.

But not me. I don't know why it surprises me anymore when I don't fit the mold of "most people my age." I didn't jump on the Obama wagon, I still haven't, and I decided to support a woman that I'd never really looked to as the one who could potentially break the highest of glass ceilings. Then again, I never thought Nancy Pelosi would be our first female Speaker of the House, either.

The reasons I supported Hillary Clinton were nearly identical to the reason I had supported Joe Biden. I may not have been very old when the Clintons were in the White House, but I was old enough. And I've certainly not been oblivious to how horribly dissimilar the Bush White House has been by comparison. I looked to Hillary Clinton the way I have always looked to Joe Biden, two people experienced in the ways of Washington, but somehow still sensitive to the needs and concerns of small town America.

On her own, I have watched as Hillary Clinton has become an accomplished senator following her tenure as perhaps one of the most policy-minded first ladies in American history. I watched an historical campaign make strides my mother and grandmothers and many other American women waited their entire lives to see. I watched as they accused her of being cold. I watched as they accused her of getting emotional for votes. I watched as they said she was too experienced. I watched as they said she lacked the necessary experience and wisdom of opposing war in Iraq and dodging gunfire in Bosnia.

No critic or pundit could tell me more than what Chelsea Clinton did last night when she introduced her mother and hero. We are not all as lucky as Chelsea Clinton as daughters and sons. Yet, it wasn't about Hillary Clinton the mother, it was about Hillary Clinton the leader. We are a nation grappling with the world's view of who we are. We are a nation with a leader we cannot be proud of and a government we often oppose. We need a leader we can be proud of and Chelsea's brief introduction spoke volumes to that essential need we have as Americans.

Last night Hillary Clinton took the stage knowing that there were a good number of people she could never please. No matter how many times she said she supports the historic candidacy of Barack Obama, for some it would never be enough. No matter how many times she mentioned universal health care, for some it would be too much. She took that stage knowing that there were people in that audience who see her as the villain. The making of Hillary Clinton into a villain happened long before this campaign season. Hillary's case is one mirroring many in Democratic party politics. When Democrats don't win it's because they've turned on each other. It is division among themselves. Unlike the Republicans who have, for the most part, ignored the faults of their candidates, haven't turned so swiftly against one another, and have united to make Obama or whoever the opponent is the monster of the election cycle.

Hillary Clinton did something last night that few politicians are willing to--she put aside her own ambitions, her own dashed dreams for the good of her party. In my book this is the very definition of statesmanship.

There will be those who read this and say I should get on board with Obama. There will be those who read this and say I am a Clinton-apologist and I've put gender before common sense. There will be those that will read this and say that I am being far too sentimental. To them I say this: Hillary Clinton has been a prominent figure my entire life, someone I could look to as an inspiring role model, someone who knew what she wanted and fought hard to get it. As someone still trying to find my place in this world professionally, she has been an inspiration to me. She is a constant reminder that anything is possible and the limits of those possibilities are endless.

Last night on that stage I was reminded all over again of how deeply Hillary supporters connected with their candidate. I dare say it was not superficial and certainly was not lacking in substance. We weren't the people camping out at our candidate's venues, sporting our candidate's name on our apparel. We weren't the people crying at the sight of our candidate as she made her way into venues large and small. But what we felt about her, about ourselves, and the future of this nation cannot be dismissed and is no less than what Obama supporters felt.

We know it's over. Don't tell us to pack it in and get on board. Imagine finally coming around to the idea of something, something you'd spent a great deal of time resisting, and then being crushed slowly in election after election up until the moment all hope is lost. And then your candidate takes to the floor of the convention offering her opponent the nomination through acclamation, never to know how many people would have been brave enough to support her, never allowing the historic process of a roll call to continue.

From New Hampshire to Ohio, Nevada to Virginia, this campaign has been a roller coaster of a ride and it has screeched to a halt today. Forgive me if I'd like to sit in the car and take in the scenery for a minute longer.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Uncle Teddy

*Editor's Note: I wanted to post about Hillary Clinton's phenomenal speech at the DNC tonight, but if I am coming out of my semi-break from blogging, the post that deserves to be written first is this one.

I was six when I was first introduced to Camelot. I remember the room in the house where my grandmother took me to show me a card that was sent to her by Jackie Kennedy's staff, with Jackie's own signature, following the assassination of President Kennedy. Millions of Americans must have received those notes as an acknowledgment of the thoughts, prayers, and cards they'd sent the Kennedy family in their darkest hours. I remember how sacred it felt as she took out the box that housed that handwritten note and a book, The Torch Is Passed..., a beautiful book that now lives at my home. For a woman who lived through the dark days following Dallas and the horrible events at the Ambassador five years later while her husband was working long hours away from home as they struggled to raise their four children, those days left an irrevocable impression.

The tragedy of Jack, the brilliance of Bobby, and the strength of Teddy--these were qualities I grew up admiring. I admire them still. I learned about perseverance from President Kennedy. His medical history has always been a reminder to me that we can push the limits of our mortal selves and become something greater than we ever imagined. I learned about healing from Bobby. His legacy of leading this country through his own brother's death, with that unbelievable speech at the 1964 convention, would secure his place in presidential politics when he would then run himself as the candidate who wanted most to lead this country to the healing of wounds of race, poverty, and despair. Despite Jack and Bobby being the political icons that they were and are, I learned about politics from Teddy. Anyone aspiring to lead a life of public service would do well by the Ted Kennedy model.

Yesterday when I first heard that Ted Kennedy could potentially be speaking to the Democratic Party, I ignored that announcement. My initial thought was, Caroline won't let him. It didn't occur to me that health concerns would keep him from that podium, this is Ted Kennedy after all, the man who took to the floor of the United States Senate to cast his vote on Medicare legislation days after learning he had been diagnosed with brain cancer. I thought Caroline would intervene, she has already lost a father, an uncle, a brother. I underestimated the historical sense and sensitivity of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg. She looks to Barack Obama the way I look to her father.

Caroline was well-received by the crowd at the Democratic National Convention. Why wouldn't she be? She's the surviving member of a family so embedded in the American collective memory that we nearly consider them our own. She has stood before Democrats her entire life, she has stood proudly as a Democrat her entire life. Her speech was moving, in typical Caroline tone. Her smile contagious, her passion unmistakable, and every now and then her voice with the confidence and sound of her late brother.

Caroline was not only there to pay tribute to her uncle, Uncle Teddy who "never fails to find time for...a chance to walk one of his nieces down the aisle," Caroline was there to pay tribute to a senator who represents far more than a Massachusetts constituency. Ted Kennedy has done so much for so many people and what the American people wanted last night was not a just a moving video, they wanted to hear Ted Kennedy speak, if not for the last time.

Ted Kennedy has attended his fair share of conventions. Ted Kennedy has seen his fair share of change throughout his tenure in the Senate and in the public eye. If you had asked Ted Kennedy ten years ago if in this election cycle we would see two formidable candidates, one an African-American and one a woman, he would have had the trademark Kennedy smile on his face as he launched into a speech about the beauty of America and the wonder of the American dream. His Bostonian accent unmistakable, Ted Kennedy would have been the first to tell you that here anything is possible. He would have told you that this election is exactly what he has spent his entire life working toward.

Chris Matthews of MSNBC may have said it best when he commented that we as Americans may not know how to watch a Kennedy age. I can't help but ask myself which is more tragic, knowing you've lost a Kennedy, struck down in the prime of his life, or knowing you'll lose a Kennedy who has devoted his entire life to the betterment of this nation and who would, if possible, continue to give everything he had to secure a better future for ourselves and our children.

Speaking of a new hope, a season of hope, in his speech to the convention last night Ted Kennedy said: "I pledge to you that I will be there -- next January -- on the floor of the United States Senate, when we begin to write the next great chapter of American progress." I truly hope for the sake of American and the Democratic Party, Senator Kennedy is on the floor of the Senate in January. He will fight the fight to the last bitter day. And whether you agree with Senator Kennedy ideologically or not, there is no denying his place in his history, not only the history of the United States Senate, but the history of this nation. There is no denying that this man spent all of his adult life in the service of his country. The words "well done, my good and faithful servant" came to mind last night as Ted Kennedy turned from the podium, a vision of strength reduced to a man quite obviously waging the battle of his life.

I think often of that picture of Ted walking behind the casket of his brother, with his older brother Bobby and his sister-in-law Jackie at his side, that stoic face that said more about that man than any speech at any convention center ever has or ever will.

I think often about the changing face of the Senate, one that will not much longer be blessed with the oratory and wisdom of its most esteemed members by seniority. The Senate will miss Ted Kennedy just as it will be incomplete without him.

Last night I called my grandmother to share what I could of the moment last night when for what may be the last time this great leader took to the stage to reiterate a message of hope and foresight. Even in quoting Senator Kennedy my own voice cracked:

"[W]hen John Kennedy thought of going to the moon, he didn't say, it's too far, we can't get there, we shouldn't even try. Our people answered his call and rose to the challenge -- and today an American flag still marks the surface of the moon."

For all the campaigning, for all the hype, for all the cost, it wasn't a campaign ad or a town hall meeting that convinced me that now, more than ever, are we at a crossroads in history. It was Ted Kennedy. It was calling my grandmother to relive the moment. We stand at a crossroads. We are approaching what President Kennedy called the New Frontier and we need bold ideals, fearless leadership, and the courage of our convictions. It wasn't a man who was sworn in as a U.S. Senator in January of 2005 that taught me this, it was my old friend Teddy, a United States Senator since November of 1962 and a public servant since he was old enough to grasp the beauty of America.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Roar of Time

"Let's plunge ourselves into the roar of time, the whirl of accident; may pain and pleasure, success and failure, shift as they will - it's only action that can make a man." -- from Faust by Goethe

Fall classes will resume on the campus of Idaho State University tomorrow. For the first time in eighteen years I won't be starting another year of classes as so many students will be in the days to come.

My semester will begin when I have healed from back surgery, a laminectomy and discectomy as a final resort following fourteen weeks of physical therapy, four rounds of oral steroids, and two epidural lumbar injections.

It has been a summer of physical struggle, personal as well as academic failure, and private heartache.

I have battled my share of health problems, but I have discovered that there are few as frustrating as back injuries. There is so little you can do with back pain and so very little you can do about the pain. However, fourteen weeks close to home has taught me some valuable lessons. Lessons I may have never learned with the everyday distractions that health and strength allow.

I've learned that a summer spent mostly at home is not a quiet summer at all.

The first summer I have not enrolled in classes in my college career turned out to be rather academic regardless. Before getting healthy became my number one priority, I made it to Boise for some research at the state archive. Research that rewarded me with valuable information for a writing project I've been working on for over four years now. Great strides, though I honestly have no idea where it all is going. Oh, the life of historians.

That same trip to Boise I was able to participate in some of the Democratic State Convention activities, attended a marketing meeting for the state history journal, and caught up with the Idaho progressive bloggers.

Looking back, that drive home from Boise was the pivotal moment of the summer. It was the longest drive anywhere for me both physically and emotionally. I fell off the wagon, so to speak, chewing an entire pack of bubblegum between Mountain Home and Twin Falls. I made so many stops that drive I don't even know where I stopped to post a music video. My physical therapist would tell you that I'm still recovering from that trip. I can't argue.

I've learned that stubbornness can deceive a body, but has no weight when it comes to the heart.

On a very personal level I learned that for me, always the careful calculator and analytical planner, spontaneity and impulsiveness is ultimately devastating. Having plans, goals, control and constraint works for me. It has worked for me far more than impulse ever has. I need to trust that.

The last three months have brought three lifetimes of regrets. The thing I regret most, though out of my control, is that I was unable to take a road trip to northern Idaho with my kid brother. He has forgiven me. He is always forgiving. He is that line in Train's "Drops of Jupiter" personified: "Your best friend always sticking up for you even when I know you're wrong." Perhaps the ongoing realization this summer has been just how much that young man means to me. Siblings share a bond, this is undeniable, and our connection is a bond nothing can break. We've been through far too much together for that to ever change. Of this I am certain.

This summer my brother and I have watched as our grandparents have started to show age. We have watched as our grandfather has slowly forgotten the names of his grandchildren, as he has lost track of the days and nights, and we've watched as he has lost his ability to care for himself. I've listened to the same summary of the books he has been reading more times than I can count. Having now memorized his stories, I cannot complain. I will listen for as long as he wants to tell them. For me he is the only father figure who has remained in my life all twenty-three years of it. For both my brother and I, our grandparents have been the ultimate example of love and loyalty. Two people who have been together for nearly sixty years and who love each other to this day as one battles dementia and the other Parkinson's disease. This summer I've realized that these two people who have loved me unconditionally, supported me every step of the way, and who have been largely responsible for the adult I've become, will not always be a short car ride and telephone call away.

I've learned that there is never enough time to spend with those we love.

This summer has taught me that I will at times have to apologize for things I have no control over and that apologies are not always enough.

In the academic realm, this summer has taught me that a person can only do so much in an environment that does not appreciate individuality. In fact, this is a lesson I've been learning the past year of my life and hadn't grasped entirely until this past week when it unavoidably came to my attention that fitting a mold is more important than succeeding in some environments. This realization goes hand in hand with that of knowing all the money and esteem in the world cannot replace good mental and physical health. A degree is worth nothing in a field you can't appreciate and if you can't be happy on the road to get there.

To clarify, this past week I walked away from a generous stipend and scholarship because what it would take to get prepared for the work would detract from my journey to get healthy. Maybe not being healthy is a blessing in disguise, one that will allow me to move on and seek a degree I actually want after I've had the time to properly heal.

Before this summer I would have regretted this decision immediately after making it. However, now knowing what I do about my priorities and who I am, I know that it is one of the best decisions I've made this summer. And my friend and mentor, the person most responsible for guiding my academic progress, didn't even flinch as I walked away. It helps when others respect your decisions. Her faith in me on what was perhaps one of the more difficult days of this entire summer is not something I will soon forget. I wish I had as much faith in me as she does; I wish I had as much faith in myself as I have in her wisdom. Without her calm concern and continued effort to see me reach my potential, this summer may have seen me walk away from academia for good. I've said it before and at no time in my life have I understood it more: There are some people we will be thanking daily for the rest of our lives.

This summer ultimately opened my eyes to the fact that my days at ISU are numbered and as wonderful as it was for me when I boarded a plane in Cleveland, Ohio to come home, it is no longer the most ideal place for me.

I've learned so much and yet I know that some lessons I will be learning for the rest of my life.

There was a summer not too long ago that I was enrolled in classes, traveled to Dallas, was unemployed, spent a great deal of time painting with watercolors, had an empty fridge, and was ridiculously happy. That summer seems like many lifetimes ago. If the length of this summer is any consideration, it was lifetimes ago.

For all that I've learned, all that I've lost, and all that I wish I could do over again, I have never anticipated the end of a summer the way I have this one.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Smorgasbord Saturday

After what seems like the longest tease in American history, Barack Obama has announced that Senator Joe Biden of Delaware will join him on the Democratic ticket. The roll out of Obama's vice presidential decision was first said to come at the start of the Olympic games in Beijing. With the games in their final hours, attention turned to the Democratic National Convention that begins Monday in Denver. Regardless of how long it took, Biden is a good choice. Am I annoyed that Hillary Clinton wasn't even vetted? You bet I am.

As the announcement approached, I started thinking about the face of Congress. The 111th Congress is sure to be a different body whether Obama or McCain wins. I've thought a lot about the Senate I've known, the Senate that for my entire lifetime has included the likes of Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, Robert Byrd, Ted Stevens, John Warner, and Pete Domenici. If Obama wins, the Senate will lose the current chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It is hard to imagine that committee without Joe Biden.

In addition to the changes I am expecting in the Senate, the House is in for some significant changes in the days and months to come as well. This week saw the untimely passing of Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the chairman of the House Ethics Committee. Rep. Jones' passing was sad news for the entire political community. An original supporter of Hillary Clinton's, Jones has been active in national politics for many years. Her voice and passion will be missed in the House.

If you haven't yet participated in the Washington Post 2008 Pick Your President contest, I encourage you all to do so. In terms of electoral math (all math, really), I am completely baffled, but I can look at this map and have a pretty good idea of how most states will go in the general election. My hangups? Michigan and Nevada.

Did you know that the Idaho state flag will be featured on U.S. postage? Sure enough, on September 2nd, Former Gov. Phil Batt and Secretary of State Ben Ysursa will be on hand at the Idaho Historical Museum to unveil the Idaho State Flag Postage Stamp.

As was noted here on Thursday, the charges filed by Minidoka County Prosecutor Nikki Cannon against Dan Luker have been dropped. Quoted in the original press release was Luker's attorney, Keith Roark, noting the win this was for the First Amendment. Leave it to Bryan Fischer of the Idaho Values Alliance to not see it that way. He called the judge's ruling predictable and sad. Seem Mr. Fischer is looking at the incident as damaging personal property.

More Idaho-related news: Special Olympics of Idaho has been named one of twelve organizations that have been selected as a beneficiary of the 2008 Albertson's Boise Open presented by KRAFT which will be held in Boise at the Hillcrest Country Club, September 8th - 14th. With the World Winter Games coming here in February, it is great to see such an immense amount of local support going to help not only the world winter games, but the smaller regional and state games. Albertsons has, as long as I can remember, been very supportive of Special Olympics Idaho.

I've been meaning to mention that the Jerome County Commission voted 2-1 to allow the Big Sky Farms Limited Partnership feedlot to be built just over a mile from the Minidoka Internment National Monument in Hunt, Idaho. This controversial decision is a long time coming and one that has been disputed all over the country. As one of the most endangered historical sites in America, the Minidoka Internment National Monument at the site of the internment camp that housed Japanese-Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor appears to be gaining no traction on the historical preservation front, no thanks to the commissioners of Jerome County.

In a follow-up to last Saturday's story regarding the two Georgia men who discovered a Bigfoot carcass while out hunting--it was a hoax. No, really? Yup, the Bigfoot hoax was evidently just a joke. Well I guess that means it's a good thing that our local Bigfoot expert didn't jump on board with the story...

Because I might not get to it before now and Tuesday, don't forget that Forth, the new album from The Verve hits stores on the 26th. In addition to the long-awaited Verve release, Blues Traveler is also releasing their North Hollywood Shootout album. Also, nine years after his last release, Matthew Sweet's Sunshine Lies will also hit stores. That's one mighty fine New Music Tuesday coming your way and don't forget it will be followed by the September 16th release of Darius Rucker's Learn to Live.

Clearly, this Smorgasbord Saturday edition is a lengthy one. Fall semester at Idaho State University will begin Monday, I am having a discectomy next week, and all of these stories have been piling up in my inbox again... Hopefully you've made it to this end of this edition and once again, Happy Saturday!

Friday, August 22, 2008

A New Kind of Plagiarism?

Randy Stapilus of Ridenbaugh Press pointed out today the oddities on State Representative Julie Ellsworth's campaign site. Noting that Mitt Romney was a hit in Idaho throughout the primaries, he was tipped off by a reader that Ellsworth's issues page on her campaign site prominently features the former Massachusetts governor.

A Ridenbaugh Press reader commented on the Mitt love being fascinating, however I am wondering if there is more to it than that. After all, if Ellsworth were attempting to associate herself with Romney for her re-election bid, wouldn't she post a photo of herself with Romney rather than completely lifting the layout and material from Romney's presidential bid website?

Take a look at Ellsworth's 'Issues' page and then take a look at the 'Issues' page on Mitt Romney's website. Look similar? It is completely the same setup and information. In fact, on Julie Ellsworth's page, supposedly setup for state policy issues, there is no mention of her at all. It is a cut-and-paste job from Romney's site. Same can be said of Ellsworth's 'Photos' page and Romney's. You can't click to enlarge any of the images, but the thumbnails confirm that the photos are exactly the same.

Another tab, similarly titled on Romney's site, the "Learn About Julie" tab takes the reader to a biographical page that is not in English. It's simply filler. Please tell me that whomever published this website is not done and didn't expect that on the surface this website would suffice for voters who truly appreciate these type of mediums for campaign information.

Not only do we get a repeat of Romney's site at Ellsworth's page, the design is exactly the same. The general setting and design of the masthead with Ellsworth's name and photo have replaced Romney's logo. Granted, politicians (excluding both Bill Sali and Larry LaRocco, I guess) tend to choose the red, white, and blue theme and understandably so, but they don't usually copy the exact settings of other campaign sites.

What's the big deal? The big deal lies with the designer of Julie Ellsworth's campaign site. Paid for by the campaign and designed by one Larry Landen is a cut-and-paste job that may in fact be plagiarism of Mitt Romney's campaign site. Nobody may have noticed if Mr. Landen had not failed to insert Ellsworth's own talking points and photographs before publishing.

Less than an hour ago, Larry Landen's website offered access to Landen's resume--nowhere on that resume was listed any work or association with the Romney campaign. Presumably, Landen did not design Romney's campaign website, therefore the design and settings were not property of him. Assuming that Landen is looking for a position in the computer design field, wouldn't that be something he would want listed on his professional resume? If I had designed a presidential campaign website you better believe I would list it as professional experience! In addition, a simple Google search nets no results when Landen's name and Romney's are combined in various forms. Romney's website makes no mention of the design being the expressed property of an individual.

The portion of Ellsworth's site that is distinguishably different than Romney's campaign site is clearly amateur in comparison. The tabs that do not take the reader to pages identical to those of Romney either are broken or are under construction. Despite the obvious lifting of material from Romney's site and the very obvious design similarities, Ellsworth's site lists a 2008 copyright. So, who owns the design and material? Looking at Ellsworth's site, you would think that the design, images, etc. are the property of Julie Ellsworth's campaign and Larry Landen. Interesting since Romney's site expressly states: All content © 2008 Romney for President, Inc.

Are Julie Ellsworth and her supporters paying Mr. Landen to design a website that plagiarizes the work of another site, especially one as high profile as Mitt Romney's?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Flag Desecration Case Dismissed

The Twin Falls Times-News is reporting this morning that the flag desecration charges filed against former Minico High School teacher Dan Luker have been dropped. The dismissal came a day before Luker's trial was to begin.

From Cassidy Friedman's article this morning:

Fifth District Magistrate Mick Hodges, sitting in Rupert, dismissed the charge "based upon the constitutional invalidity of the flag defacement statute," Roark wrote in an e-mail to the Times-News. "The First Amendment is alive and well even in Minidoka County, Idaho!"
The last-minute dismissal came after Cannon failed to meet a deadline to respond to Roark's Aug. 1 move to have the case dismissed. Hodges had ordered Cannon to respond by Aug. 15, than set an Aug. 18 deadline.
"They never should have filed this case and once they realized what they had done they should have dismissed the case," Roark said. "They've lost the case after bragging they were going to take it to the U.S. Supreme Court."Cannon can still appeal the dismissal to higher courts.

I have long contended that the charges filed against Luker (and the lack of reprimand for fellow instructor Clint Straatman) depict a community in chaos. To repeat Keith Roark's statement, this is indeed a win for the First Amendment, but don't expect this dismissal to alleviate the tension within the Hispanic community over this and other issues.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Had it with the VP hype? Me too, however, I've noticed something: Tom Vilsack (my first choice for President this cycle) is suspiciously quiet and not on any shortlists. Is there a chance?

Idaho Falls Today, Home of Hate Speech Yesterday

"The r-word is hate speech that perpetuates the negative stereotypes that face people with intellectual disabilities every day. Yet, its use continues to gain in popularity."

Yesterday a fellow blogger tipped me off to a train wreck of a thread over at Idaho Falls Today that has had me in a state of teeth-grinding irritation since. Ironically, the post itself was about civility in commenting on such threads, specifically political posts. It took a horrible turn when one reader felt the need to post this link and then respond to those who were offended by saying he's tired of everyone being ultra-sensitive to political correctness on the web.

I've heard the argument that political correctness has gone overboard of late; I hear it daily out of the mouths of shock jocks like Zeb Bell, who happens to be offended by being called a shock jock, but I've never heard it applied to the use of words as damaging as the N-word and now the R-word. Unbelievably, readers defended the use of this particular image and one even admitted that he "[felt] horribly guilty laughing at that picture… but couldn’t help it." The initial response to such a horrifically offensive image was as insensitive as the image itself before turning into personal attacks on those defending and condoning it.

All of this despite the community commenting policy at Idaho Falls Today that states: No personal attacks, name-calls, put-downs, or baiting other guests, races, genders, or religions.

The ever-brilliant Sisyphus weighed in rightfully pointing out the perspective of one who has personally experienced how damaging the R-word can be:

If you don’t get why “retard” is the new n-word then I can’t help you. Try reading the article again from someone who explains why it hurts. Your stance does clearly indicate that you have little association with the disabled. And that certainly would make you ignorant. I had hoped my home town had evolved a little. But that picture certainly can’t be defended by the victim’s cry of political correctness out of control. You bring shame to the state that is hosting the Special Olympics. With demeaning negative stereotyping like that, I don’t blame them if they never return. Can’t you see the value of people?
Sisyphus makes a good point about Idaho hosting the Special Olympics World Winter Games--we will in fact be the host of athletes from around the world in February. Since it was announced that the gem state would host the games, I've wondered about the reception these athletes will receive in my home state.

Having been involved with both the developmentally disabled community and Special Olympics much of my life, my awareness of how this particular population is received is heightened. I've been walking through the grocery store with my developmentally disabled brother and have had people stare at him. There isn't a feeling in the world quite like realizing that someone you love is being looked at like a freak or monster. Granted, my brother doesn't have Down Syndrome, a disability with more noticeable physical characteristics, but he is a six foot, two hundred and fifty pound thirty-one year old with a large scar on his head, the result of brain surgery at a young age, his face is asymmetrical, his tongue is slightly bigger than his mouth which means he slobbers a bit, his left side doesn't quite operate as well as his right side, and once he starts talking you quickly realize that he's just a kid trapped in a grown-up body. Yet, in my eyes he is adorable.

My brother doesn't comprehend the meaning or hurt behind the word "retard," but he is one of the few in the developmentally disabled community that isn't hurt daily by the word's use. I remember when I was a teenager, my brother's roommate, a young Down Syndrome man with a tough exterior, crying one evening after work because some kids were laughing at him and called him a retard on the bus. I can't remember ever being so angry and hurt by something that didn't happen to me. This young man, he has since passed away, was the sweetest man I have ever known. Underneath that tough exterior, he was afraid of Big Bird, loved Batman, took me on my first date, and would have done anything for anyone. Seeing him breakdown in tears over insensitive and cruel comments uttered in ignorance left an impression on me that I will never be without.

I could tell you story after story of developmentally disabled adults as well as kids dealing with the pain of the insulting use of the R-word. I have two siblings, fourteen housemates, and hundreds of friends (I say hundreds because all of them consider you a friend from day one and will be your friend as long as they know you) who are developmentally disabled and deserve nothing less than complete respect and acceptance.

I have never in my life said the R-word. When I hear it I am instantly sick to my stomach. I've had friends who use it in regular conversation as a synonym for stupidity--I've asked them not to. My younger brother, despite our background, uses the word because all of his friends do. He is careful not to say it around me because of the lecture that will ensue. I will shut a movie off immediately if the R-word is being used and cringe when I hear it just as much as I cringe when I hear the N-word. It's a disgusting word that has no place in conversation, yesterday's thread at Idaho Falls Today included.

After posting the image that caused such a stir, participating in its defense much of yesterday, and evidently paying no attention to conscience, the IFT reader responds this morning to another reader offended by the image:
I think you need to learn by the child in that picture’s example. Judging by the expression on his face, he knows what life is all about, which puts him a step above just about everyone here, myself included.
If the child in the picture knows what life is all about, why did you stoop to the level of insulting him and others like him for a disability they did not choose? This reader used this image and its caption in an entirely insulting manner--there is no disputing it--and he has absolutely no right to then turn it around saying those who were offended by it need to be more like the boy in the picture. Like many of the readers noted in this thread, if that image was shown to the young man in the picture or the young man's family, undoubtedly both would be completely devastated. Used purposely as an insult or not, it is offensive to use the R-word in any circumstance.

Special Olympics and a number of other organizations have created a pledge to take the R-word out of daily conversation. Will you sign the pledge? It's simple:

I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.

I signed the pledge, my friends and family will sign the pledge, will you?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sweet Sixteen

Today is my handsome little brother's sixteenth birthday. Happy birthday, Adam!

Being grown up isn’t half as fun as growing up:
These are the best days of our lives.
The only thing that matters
Is just following your heart,
And eventually you’ll finally get it right.

-- "In This Diary," The Ataris

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Don't Forget!

Don't forget to tune in tomorrow, August 18th, at 7:30pm MT/6:30pm PT to watch the first online candidate debate in Idaho history! Democrat and former U.S. Congressman Larry LaRocco and Independent challenger Rex Rammell will meet to debate the important issues affecting Idahoans that Republican candidate Jim Risch doesn't find worthy of his participation.

You can catch the debate online at LaRocco's website and if you hurry you can submit a question. In case you missed it, last week Larry LaRocco sat down with DFO at Huckleberries Online in a format uncharacteristic of the live-blogging LaRocco. We can expect another live-blogging session from LaRocco at dailyKos or elsewhere coming to a computer near you soon!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Smorgasbord Saturday

Welcome to another smorgasbord, this one full of kookiness.

An LTE in the Times-News this past week caught my eye, unfortunately not for the topic at hand but for the unusual ability of the writer to associate the events with the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. Seriously! He has a point though about the Times-News acquiring smaller papers. News recently revealed Lee Enterprises, after already having acquired the Burley-based South Idaho Press, would allow the Twin-based paper (Times-News) to be the only local paper. This not too many years after Lee acquired the Gooding County Leader and quickly shut it down. Maybe this guy, despite the black helicopter tone in his letter, is onto something...

From the truly bizarre file, there are two men in Georgia who either completely believe they have the body of Bigfoot or they are trying to make a quick buck. The kicker? The seven foot, seven inch corpse, if that is even what you call it, is in a freezer. They're keeping Bigfoot on ice! As if the story isn't absolutely insane enough on its own, a professor at ISU, known for his Bigfoot research and other unscientific beliefs, felt the need to weigh in and say he has his doubts about whatever those two guys are keeping in their freezer. Even the BBC News is quoting Meldrum...ugh. If you didn't catch Countdown with Rachael Maddow tonight, find the clip, she interviewed these Bigfoot "owners" and they're not revealing where they are keeping the corpse now.

Just as unexpected as yesterday's TGIF Tunes is a new pop single by Kid Rock that is not only easy on the ears, it's actually a catchy tune. As hard as I try, I can't seem to like Kid Rock. His voice, when doing fairly mellow songs like "Picture" with Sheryl Crow, is likable enough, but looking at him isn't pleasant. Maybe it's me, but he's scary. The fact that a guy from Detroit can be singing about a southern rock anthem to Alabama while picking up new listeners in every state in the union has be completely baffled. Okay, not nearly as kooky as Fred Durst behind a camera...

A little Olympic kookiness: Can someone explain to me why all of China is in the same time zone, but when I want to call up to the University of Idaho I have to remember that there is an hour difference? And what is up with the Belarus rowing teams' uniforms? They've lost the yellow and white and now just have an elfish green and red with side white stripes. Very odd.

Last but not least, from the leaders of internet kookiness, Yahoo! has a front page story about a Rhode Island couple that moved into a mall. That's right, a shopping mall. Only at Yahoo! could this be front page news (though the story actually comes from The story is a bit bizarre beyond that actual part where they moved into the mall. Their reasoning for moving in, other than the large structure going up near their home, was to get an idea of why people go to malls in the first place. Sociological experiment or not, still seems rather strange to me. Then again, I never go to the mall. They better not move in with me.

That's all the kookiness I have to offer. Happy Saturday!

Thursday, August 14, 2008


It doesn't seem possible to turn on the news anymore without hearing about the Veep sweepstakes.

I can't seem to remember the vice presidential choice holding this much importance or interest in my lifetime. The first presidential election in my liftetime, granted, I was three, was lost for Michael Dukakis long before he chose Lloyd Bentsen to be his running mate. Regardless, Bentsen didn't help Dukakis with the electoral map--they didn't win Bentsen's home state (also the home state of Republican nominee George H.W. Bush).

In 1992, Clinton's choice of Al Gore was a grand slam for Democratic politics. The two southerners brought executive and legislative experience to the table, a well-rounded team. Same can be said for the 1996 election.

George H.W. Bush's vice presidential pick was a disaster in many ways, the least of which was the electoral map in 1992.

The 1996 Republican ticket was solidly conservative before the addition of Kemp. Dole knew what he was doing in choosing Kemp, despite the outcome. Kemp brought some youth (twelve years younger than Bob Dole), good looks, and electoral support.

For all the 2000 election was, I can't remember discussion prior to Gore picking Lieberman. Looking back it was a mistake--every Democrat must think so. Lieberman may have helped somewhat in New England, but really, it wasn't a grand slam the way Clinton picking Gore had been. On the flip side, George W. Bush picking Dick Cheney mattered in ways we probably haven't even learned of yet. Of course in terms of electoral math, it probably didn't matter that much since Wyoming would have gone to Bush anyway. However, Cheney has changed the face of the Vice President's office, mostly not for the better.

The addition of Edwards to the Democratic ticket in 2004 didn't help Kerry in the South. The choice of Edwards wasn't exactly a shocker to those who paid any attention in the primaries. In fact, the three top tier candidates ended up where they should for the election (Kerry as the nominee, Edwards as the running mate, and Dean as the DNC chairman). You can certainly say it wasn't Edwards that lost the Democrats the race in 2004.

Now we're to the 2008 election and all we hear about is who John McCain and Barack Obama will pick. Rumors for Obama: Bayh, Biden, Kaine, Sebelius, Daschle, Clinton, Richardson, and McCaskill. Rumors for McCain: Romney, Lieberman, Graham, Crist, Palin, Ridge, and Jindal.

Most Democrats as well as much of the Republican Party shutter at the thought of a McCain/Lieberman ticket. Joe Lieberman isn't right for America. He's like a cockroach. This coming from a former Lieberman supporter and die hard fan. Equally unsettling is the though of Lindsey Graham on the ticket. Neither will really help McCain with the base. Romney, maybe. Ridge, definitely. Crist, Palin, and Jindal would be interesting choices and would certainly bring a twist to the electoral map, but in all reality if McCain wants to win this election he's going to need a running mate who is both young (to make it less scary that the nominee is 72 years old), a life-long conservative (to help with the base), and strong on economics (but not someone who will call America a "nation of whiners").

I honestly believe that is would be beneath the Clintons for Hillary to accept the vice presidency. Along those lines, I've always thought for a foreign policy weak candidate like Obama a guy like Wes Clark would be a great running mate, but due to his support and loyalty for the Clintons, I doubt General Clark would accept the veep nomination. Richardson, maybe. His loyalty to the Clintons doesn't much look like loyalty anymore. Edwards is out of the question now and I seriously have my doubts about the possibility of McCaskill. Sebelius is a superstar in similar ways to Obama for the party, but she lacks the same strengths Obama does. Kaine seemed to be the choice until Warner was named as keynote--even the least political-savvy person can see there's no need for them both to continue dominance in Virginia.

So who does that leave? The Senators. Dodd, Biden and Bayh remain contenders. Dodd isn't talked about much, but if Obama wants some sort of redemption for his awful FISA vote, Dodd would help. Dodd also has a little more foreign policy experience than Obama, though he wouldn't bring much to the table in terms of electoral math. He may strengthen Dems chances in the places that went to Clinton in the primaries. Bayh's chances are a little higher than Dodd's, but brings an equal amount to the table. I'm not a fan of his, so I can't speak to his strengths as much as I could his weaknesses.

I'm not discounting the other options, I really have no idea who Obama will choose. I will say this, the two possibilities that excite me are former Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Senator Joe Biden. Biden was my choice when the primaries began what seems like centuries ago. Once Biden and Dodd were out of the running, I reluctantly joined the Clinton camp. Since Clinton left the race I've never found myself all that excited about the November vote. However, if either of these men were on the ticket, I could get excited again.

Markos isn't ignoring the possibility of Daschle and Tom Daschle himself isn't saying much other than he isn't "expecting" to be on the ticket with Obama. I always supported the idea of a Daschle run given how big of a fan I was before Looney Tune John Thune defeated him and he left the Senate. Is it a possibility? In an election year that has seen as many twists and turns as this one, I'm not counting him out.

That said, I can't say emphatically enough how excited and supportive I would be of a ticket that included Senator Joe Biden. I know he has the tendency to put his foot in his mouth. I know he is a long-time Washington insider. I know he has his faults. I also know that there is no sitting senator with more foreign policy experience than Biden. He would solidify an Obama presidency and perhaps secure the support of Democrats that haven't been 100% in love with Obama since Clinton left the race.

Chris Cillizza makes the case for Biden and you can be sure I'll make the case as well before the convention rolls around.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Two Men...Two, uh, Playlists?

I don't read Blender or Rolling Stone that often, usually only when I see one sitting in a doctor's office and I have to choose between it and Parenting magazine, but Blender has a list on its website of the two presidential candidates' favorite songs.

Keep in mind these are favorites, not just playlists or songs to work-out to (assuming McCain works out...) and yes, they say a lot about these two guys.

First and foremost, could McCain possibly be showing his age any more than he does with his tenth choice? "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" by The Platters, seriously? Discounting that the song has been around since 1933, even the most recent (and most popular) version came out in 1958! McCain's opponent wasn't even alive in 1958. The problem isn't this song, but rather McCain's choices are solid oldies. Let's say for the sake of fairness that McCain's Sinatra pick cancels out Obama's Sinatra pick. That still leaves "Good Vibrations" (1966), "Blue Bayou" (Orbison's version released in 1963), "As Time Goes By" (1931), "Sweet Caroline" (1969), and "What a Wonderful World" (1967), ALL songs released prior to 1970! McCain's remaining three? 1970's release dates. Has John McCain not listened to anything since the seventies?

My next question and perhaps the most obvious after looking at McCain's list: Are there really straight men who listen to "Dancing Queen" by ABBA? I guess so. The Republican nominee for the presidency is one of maybe two and the second dude isn't admitting to it.

The choices on Obama's list aren't stellar, but at least a few of them were released in the past twenty years. He has old standbys, though songs familiar to many audiences of differing ages, like "What's Going On?" by the late, great Marvin Gaye (1971), "Think" by Aretha Franklin (1968), and "Gimme Shelter" by the Stones (1969). However, nothing appears on his list from the 1930's and once you cancel out Frank Sinatra, the oldest of his choices is an old spiritual from Nina Simone (her version was released in 1965).

The rest of Obama's choices are fairly newer--a Fugees' 1996 release, the Boss from 1985, and, wait...stop the presses...Obama has songs from the 21st century on his list?! Whoa! A 2006 Kanye West release and a 2004 U2 release? Shocker, a man who listens to music that isn't older than his children!

Just because Obama listens to music that was made in this decade doesn't mean one of his newer choices is something he should cite as one of his ten favorite songs EVER. "Yes We Can" by And they wonder why people think he has an ego problem... A song literally made from your very own words with a guy singing your praises and a music video full of your biggest fans. Great song, yeah, okay, but you probably wouldn't want to broadcast to the world that of all the fabulous music written in your lifetime your favorite is a song about you.

h/t: Adam Graham

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Damaging Talk Radio

Talk radio shock jocks Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh do not believe that their shows are a definitive source for the news. Despite their denial of being a factual source of anything, but rather an opinion-based medium, many conservative (and liberal for that matter) talk radio listeners take what is said on those shows as fact-based commentary on the state of this nation and the world.

When I first read Rory O'Connor's Shock Jocks: Hate Speech and Talk Radio, I was amazed at the oft-recited argument that Hannity, Limbaugh, and their cohorts are entertainers with no ethical responsibility to journalism or the truth for that matter. I, of course, don't believe what they say to be factual representation of current events, not any more than I believe a word out of MSNBC when it comes to any campaign in direct opposition to that of Senator Obama, but I do believe that when you have a large audience listening to what you say religiously, you have an obligation to remind that audience that your commentary is opinion. The argument that these shock jocks don't represent themselves as journalists or legitimate news outlets never made sense to me. Now I understand why they are forced to make that argument.

Yesterday, while talking to an unemployed man who listens to conservative talk radio on a daily basis, some days for a majority of the day while sitting at home or driving in his car, I realized exactly why the argument is necessary. The people who listen to these shows believe what is said there as 100% truth.

Due to his location, this man listens to a majority of talk radio on KBAR, a Rupert-based AM station, as well as The Savage Nation and all things Rush on various talk radio stations. He's not a man I would consider to be up on current events or even one I'd expect to have a solid understanding of foreign policy. I was right, almost. Yesterday he described to me the situation in the former Soviet republic Georgia and what it means to the United States.

Brace yourselves:

Russia invaded Georgia for the same reasons we invaded Iraq: ethnic cleansing, oil, and global terrorism. The only difference is that in a handful of days the Russians have killed more people in Georgia than we have in five years in Iraq and somehow their actions and the number of casualties are not a problem for them, yet they continue to oppose our war in Iraq.

Georgia invaded the southerners (referring to South Ossetians) for ethnic cleansing, Russia invaded Georgia for invading their own people, and Russia will continue to fight until the threat against democracy (i.e. terrorism) is no longer and their oil interests are protected.

If Russia does not retreat the United States will be forced to enter a "super war" in an effort to protect the world from Muslim terrorists and to ensure that oil prices do not continue to rise because of instability in yet another Persian Gulf country. The region of the world responsible for 9/11 will not go unnoticed by the Bush administration.

Oh boy.

Let me see if I can tackle all of the misinformation in his argument without having my head explode.

First, let's address the issue of geography. In relation to Georgia, South Ossetia is not southern anything. South Ossetia is south of Russia! South Ossetians can therefore not be considered "southerners" at least not in the sense that those south of the Mason-Dixon line in 19th century America were. Second, Georgia is bordered by the Black Sea. This would technically be considered southwestern Asia. Not the Middle East. And there's just a small division between Georgia and the Persian Gulf, two actually, Iraq and Iran!

Now the issue of why Russia invaded Georgia is a lot more complicated than simply gaining control of South Ossetia. Russia has for some time sought to assert their military power wherever possible. Perhaps I should say Putin, not Russia. Regardless, the invasion was a direct reaction to Georgia's recent attempt to regain control of these independent areas situated between Russian and Georgia. Nothing to do with global terrorism, probably not a whole lot to do with ethnic cleansing (timeline doesn't support this), and the oil is another issue entirely.

Of all the reasons, true and false, that have been spoken regarding our invasion of Iraq, oil is one that is mostly unspoken. Why we went into Iraq is an evolving issue and one that is answered differently by factions of Americans. Some say WMDs (still, though we know this isn't a fact now), some say as a response to 9/11 (still, even though we also know this to be false), and some say to take out an oppressive dictator (regardless of the consequences). Oil in Georgia and oil in Iraq are two very different matters. Oil in Georgia exists primarily in a pipeline, not as a resource to be tapped. The amount of oil we access from that area is minimal in comparison to our oil interests in the Middle East.

The issue of responding to terrorism is in itself a disaster of a point. The United States is not going to involve itself in a war, "super war" or otherwise, with Russia at this point. To say we would on the platform of protecting the world from terrorism is ridiculous. Have we learned nothing? We were attacked on 9/11 by extremists, extremists that we rightly invaded in Afghanistan. We were not attacked by Iraqis and we certainly weren't attacked by Georgians. The man behind the attack on 9/11 remains in hiding. Hiding in a cave somewhere on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, our resources should be concentrated on finding that man, not involving ourselves in a war between Russia and a former Soviet republic.

One Muslim terrorist does not equal an entire religion of terrorism. And for what it is worth, Georgia is not a Muslim nation. Even John McCain recognizes that Georgia is a mostly Christian nation, in fact he seems to believe U.S. interests there have more to do with it being Christian than anything else. Orthodox Christians make up an estimated 83.9% of the Georgian population. Muslims? The Muslim population is estimated at 9.9%. Stark contrast to the 97% or so of the Iraqi population that is Muslim, isn't it?

I can't vouch for what is being said on conservative talk radio to fuel this misinformation campaign, but I can say that this man wouldn't have come up with this on his own and the only thing he has to counter the opinions he hears on the radio is what he sees on Fox News.

Would it be so difficult to do a little research about something before you start telling people that Georgia is going to start a "super war"? I mean, really, the CIA World Factbook (hardly a liberal propaganda machine) is only a click or two away. And would it be so hard to add to the disclaimer playing on many stations before these talk radio programs, the one that says the views and opinions presented there are not necessarily the opinion of the station or sponsors, that the preceding show is not necessarily based in fact? You can say you're an opinion-based show, but that isn't going to stop people from believing what you say, word for word, lie by lie.

For a long while I've understood how damaging hate speech is on talk radio, I just never realized how damaging misinformation on talk radio is until now.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tuesday at Turner Field

From an Atlanta Braves press release:

We'd like to invite you to join us in honoring the life of longtime broadcaster and friend, Skip Caray on Tuesday, August 12. Come and pay tribute to the legendary voice of the team On Tuesday at 10 a.m. at Turner Field. Speakers include Braves Chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, longtime broadcaster and friend Pete Van Wieren and Skip's son Chip Caray. Another longtime broadcaster and friend, Joe Simpson, will lead the event. Gates will open at 9 a.m.

Tuesday night's game, ironically against the Chicago Cubs, will continue the celebration of Skip's life and career with a special pre-game ceremony with the Caray family. The game begins at 7:10 p.m., with the pre-game ceremonies beginning at 6:45 p.m.

(Tribute video from TBS released over the weekend)

Saturday, August 9, 2008


It is a rare event when the multifarious components of a life come together and share no theme other than the man that connects them. Apparently this week, specifically this day, is one of those rare events for Ford historians.

Blame the cosmos, blame the fateful events of history, and please, blame former President Gerald R. Ford. For all his political ambition and measured success in what will always be remembered as a superb political career, Gerald Ford seemed to attract peculiar circumstances. Whoever said that in politics timing is everything didn't anticipate the unusual career of President Ford and the dual-meaning behind such a phrase. Timing being as essential as it was to President Ford's political life, it seems fitting that this week has seen so many Ford-related events align.

Earlier in the week, Anne Armstrong was laid to rest. Her presence in the history of the Republican Party, especially 20th century politics, is rivaled by few. She was the first woman to be the keynote speaker for either major party's national convention, served under both Presidents Nixon and Ford, was talked about as a running mate for President Ford in 1976, was the first woman to serve as counselor to the president, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Reagan, and was a close friend of the Bush family. It was her ranch that served as the unfortunate location of Vice President Cheney's hunting "accident." Without question, Anne Armstrong had a front row seat to the most powerful political events of the late 20th century.

One of those events Armstrong had a front row seat to occurred on this day in 1974--the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. The only president to have resigned from the highest American post, Nixon announced he would resign the presidency and leave the country in the hands of the never elected vice president, Gerald Ford. Prior to the current Bush presidency, the only constitutional crisis of this magnitude had occurred over a hundred years before when this nation was engaged in a civil war.

Gerald Ford was thrust into the presidency in a way only few presidents have been, his situation unique in that he had come into the vice presidency due to resignation and scandal as well. Ironically, had Watergate occurred without the preceding events that caused the demise of Vice President Agnew, Gerald Ford may have been involved in impeachment hearings, hearings he had quite a bit of experience with. Instead, Gerald Ford found himself behind the desk in the oval office.

Switching gears slightly, I now marvel at yet another oddly timed event--the FBI's decision to release Ford-related materials. Yesterday the Washington Post reported that documents turned over to their reporters this week revealed that former President Gerald Ford communicated with the FBI regarding skeptics on the Warren Commission back in 1963.

As a member of Congress, Ford was appointed by President Johnson to serve on the Warren Commission (named after Chief Justice Earl Warren). Until his death he adamantly defended the conclusion of the Warren Commission and participated in a reprint of that report which he penned the foreword to. Perhaps his defense of the commission's findings in light of the newly declassified documents is now more pertinent.

The folks at JFK Lancer say that it has long been known that Ford was operating as J. Edgar Hoover's spy on the commission. Ford's conversations with Hoover's deputies at the FBI, specifically Assistant Director Cartha "Deke" DeLoach, do not come as a surprise to Kennedy assassination historians, however the notion that Ford operated as Hoover's spy is both disrespectful and a stretch. Granted, of the seven members of the commission, Ford was the least friendly to the Johnson administration and Democrats in general, but whatever differences existed between the administration and Ford, doing Mr. Hoover's bidding seems odd for a genuinely decent man like Ford. Additionally, meetings of the commission were not as secret as some conspiracy theorists would have you believe. Had Hoover wanted information about the proceedings or the general opinion of the members it doesn't seem likely that he would have needed an inside source.

Additionally, had there been serious concerns among the members of the commission, how would Ford reporting this skepticism to Hoover have changed anything? A powerful man in his own right, I dare to think what may have happened had Hoover approached someone like John McCloy or Hale Boggs. Of the materials released by the FBI about President Ford, it seems these memos suggesting there was skepticism among the commission are the least telling. We know there was skepticism both in the conclusion arrived at and published in the Warren Report as well as in the way in which it was received by the public. Had the Warren Commission incited no skepticism would there even be any discussion about who killed President Kennedy some forty years later? Doubtful.

Maybe the only thing these newly declassified documents tell us is that Ford's concern with any skepticism on the part of his fellow members of the Warren Commission amounted to his belief that a divided commission would not allow the country to properly heal from the horrific events of November 22, 1963. This is both probable and possible given the later events of President Ford's life when we would pardon his predecessor in an attempt to heal a nation. Gerald Ford was a genuinely decent man and despite his political ambitions and successes, it seems too calculated and cynical that he would approach or be approached by Hoover in attempt to stifle skepticism within the commission.

There is a certain amount of paranoia that exists among those who study historical events as riddled with confusion as the Kennedy assassination. An equal amount of paranoia and cynicism is attached to the legacy of J. Edgar Hoover. The two do not a conspiracy make.

However, these memos released by the FBI do not mark the end of this American saga.

When the Warren Commission's materials were delivered to the National Archives in 1964, they were initially sealed for seventy-five years. The documents would be released much sooner, in 1992 to be exact, when the JFK Records Act made those materials publicly available. In 1998 the remaining documents of the Warren Commission that had been sealed were made available to the public at the insisting of the Assassination Records Review Board. The first release cited the documents released as 98% of the Warren Commission's materials. The second release cited the documents released as the remaining 2%.

Now we find the FBI was holding memos related to the Warren Commission. Even I can see the problem with that math. No wonder such paranoia and general skepticism exists surrounding this.

Added to the materials that are currently available to the public, the remaining Kennedy assassination related documents are scheduled to be released to the public by 2017 (25 years after the JFK Records Act). Given that from 1992 through 1998 some 60,000 documents were released by the review board, there is no guessing as to the quantity that remains sealed. In addition to the materials that will be available in 2017 per the JFK Records Act, presumably materials related to the Warren Commission (though how would we know given that we supposedly already have access to all 100%), in 2044, the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston will release an oral history transcript upon the 50th anniversary of the death of Jackie Kennedy provided that her last child is no longer living at that time. The five hundred page oral history was transcribed prior to Jackie's death in 1994. Why this has remained sealed is a mystery in itself. It could contain information related to the assassination that is sensitive or it could contain information about Kennedy's health, personal life, or any other number of things that Jackie wished to keep from her children.

Regardless of what is contained in the remaining assassination materials or Jackie's oral history account, it is easy to see how the intrigue continues, something President Ford once called "dogmatic fascination."

The timing of the FBI releasing these documents was not intended to coincide with the anniversary of President Nixon's resignation. Upon President Ford's death in 2006, the FBI was then able to begin the process of declassifying his FBI file. It is merely a coincidence that the completion of that process and subsequent release of the material took as long as it did.

Even in death Gerald Ford continues to puzzle casual on-lookers with his innate ability to merge circumstance with fate. In life and death, for Gerald Ford and in politics timing is everything.

Smorgasbord Saturday

IdaBlue has an interesting post today regarding the slaughtered elk that once belonged to senatorial candidate Rex Rammell. Years from now when some Idaho historian sits down to write another political history, it'll be an interesting historical footnote--state (i.e. Risch) slaughtered Rex's elk, state paid for Rex's elk, state (Risch) beat by Rex. Granted, I don't think Mr. Rammell is winning the election, but being in the race may pull enough votes from Risch to force a LaRocco win.

Speaking of Risch... He appeared as promised at Huckleberries Online yesterday afternoon. DFO's questions were solid, Risch dodged a few, but all in all the "live blogging" session was a huge disappointment. To DFO's credit, Risch wouldn't have agreed to taking live questions from the "illegitimates." The whole ordeal was just another reminder of how completely inept Mr. Risch is.

I noticed that A&E is running the first X-Files feature film this evening. In response to fans disappointed in the latest release? Quite possibly. An interesting review (albeit, not kind) via the Film Critic calls the film an insult. I didn't go that far, but I can't argue.

Chris at Unequivocal Notion has been following the Brandi Swindell ordeal this week and as I was reading his post earlier today, I started playing that game of "which annoys me more." Which annoys me more: That Swindell and her cohorts asked for funds to pay off their legal tab following the 10 Commandments push, yet she can afford to hop a plane to protest in a country that couldn't care less about what she has to say -or- the fact that taxpayers are paying for President Bush to attend the Olympic games, an extended vacation for our lame-duck president, where nobody world-wide cares what he has to say. This is seriously a toss-up.

This particular smorgasbord started out with a comment on this piece from the Washington Post yesterday about President Ford and the Warren Commission, however I've decided that commentary is a post in itself.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Dept. of Labor: Hispanics Locating in Southern Idaho

Press Release
Idaho Department of Labor
Date: 8/8/2008

More Hispanics Locating in Ada, Canyon Counties

As Idaho’s Hispanic population continues growing, more and more members of the state’s largest minority are locating in the two largest counties.

New estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau show that Ada and Canyon counties attracted 56 percent of the increase in the Hispanic population in 2007.

Statewide, the Hispanic population jumped another 6 percent from 2006 to over 147,000, or nearly 10 percent of the total population. Of those additional 8,300 Hispanics, 2,700 were in Canyon County, where the Hispanic population rose 7.7 percent from 2006, and 2,000 in Ada County, where the yearly increase was 8.9 percent.

At the same time, however, 2007 marked the first year since the 2000 census that the increase in Idaho’s Hispanic population fell below the year-earlier number. The 8,300 increase in the Hispanic population in 2007 compared to an 8,900 increase in 2006.

Ada and Canyons counties, which account for 552,000 of Idaho’s 1.5 million people or more than a third, drew 55 percent of the increase in Hispanic population in 2006 and 53 percent in 2005, the first year more than half of the growth was confined to those two counties.

They were among only 13 of Idaho’s 44 counties to see Hispanic population growth exceed the statewide rate in 2007. Canyon County has the most Hispanic residents at 37,500, or 21 percent of total population, and remained one of 17 counties where Hispanics make up more than 10 percent of the population.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Gubernatorial Papers

Alas, some good news for Idaho historians. In a week that has not been kind to former Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne, now U.S. Secretary of the Interior, we learn via the Statesman that the former Republican governor is finally releasing his gubernatorial papers to the Idaho State Historical Society.

Certainly, as the Unequivocal Notion points out, there is a possibility that the former governor's people have done some "scrubbing" and what remains of the gubernatorial papers may leave much to be desired. Whether or not Kempthorne has transferred any of his papers produced while serving in the governor's office to the files he accumulated as both mayor of Boise and as a U.S. senator representing Idaho back in D.C., files that are presumably to be the property of the University of Idaho and closed to the public for twenty-five years, remains unknown.

As I pointed out back when the news broke that Kempthorne had not donated his papers to the state archive as a majority of the Idaho governors who had served before him, depending on who has had access to these papers and depending on their respect for any material in their path on the way to finding what they were needing, the papers may be a mess.

Randy Stapilus, no stranger to Idaho political history himself, writes over at Ridenbaugh Press:
Some assessment and organization time will be needed before they’re all released. Here’s hoping that’s a lot less than 25 years, and hopefully less time than since Kempthorne left office (about two years ago).
My initial reaction to this was that two is better than twenty-five. However, Stapilus' hope that the papers will be released within two years is a stretch. Serving just over seven years in the governor's office undoubtedly created a lot of paper. Each governor has their own style, process, and staff that results in different filing systems and differing amounts of collective paperwork. Additionally, depending on how up-to-date computer systems were in the statehouse during Kempthorne's tenure, the amount of material retained digitally could potentially impact the overall collection. Regardless of how these materials were retained, an archivist will need to review all materials, arrange those materials, and prepare an inventory or finding aid for future researchers.

Having spent the last two and a half years of my life processing the congressional papers of former Congressman Richard Stallings, I understand the feat being undertaken by the state archive. Granted, this is what they do, stewardship of state records is what they were created for, and there are highly trained and qualified archivists on staff, but that does not detract from the sheer amount of work that is to be done. With one full-time archivist devoting their time only to the Kempthorne papers I would guess the full processing would take anywhere between three to five years. This does not mean the papers will not be open to the public sooner, they will simply not be processed in their entirety, something that surely detracts from their usability.

Quoting the Statesman:
For two years, about 500 boxes of Kempthorne's papers have been sitting in the bowels of the Department of Administration, access given only with Kempthorne's approval. Requests by scholars, journalists and members of the public for his records were generally turned down.
500 boxes? Going back the Stallings Collection, originally 266 boxes contained therein and it will take the 2 1/2 years already spent plus at least another 6 months. Multiply that by approximately two and we can assume it will take nearly six years for the complete processing of the Kempthorne papers--given the staff availability and time is comparable.

I have worked on many occasions with the state archivist as well as other staff archivists at the Idaho State Historical Society. There work is immaculate, but that work takes a great deal of time and attention. Archivists do a tedious job that can only truly be appreciated by other archivists and the researchers who will eventually used the finished product for their own purposes. Rarely have I encountered a collection that is so completely and perfectly organized and processed that it makes my job as an historian easy. However, two collections I have done some research in that have been an absolute delight and success for my research purposes are housed at the state archive in Boise. I have every confidence in the final result of projects undertaken there.

My initial frustration, as was the frustration of many following the story, with Secretary Kempthorne not releasing these papers was that of state history and the fact that these papers are public property--produced at the expense of Idaho taxpayers. Further frustration mounted as I realized the depth and importance of these papers to developing and continued political issues that began under Kempthorne's administration. These papers are important to public policy and they are public property. They will soon be available to all who wish to see them at the state archive, the very haven of public records and state historical ephemera.