Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Note to Idaho Progressives

I've seen this graphic floating about on progressive blogs (this came via Crooks & Liars) over the past two days, blogs that are both accepting of Senator Arlen Specter's recent announcement that he will run as a Democrat for his Pennsylvania Senate seat in 2010 and those that are appalled that their party would welcome Specter with open arms.

The more I think about what Specter joining the Democratic Party means, the more I realize that there will be plenty of good, upstanding Democrats who will be livid if the party supports Specter in a 2010 Democratic primary. To those Democrats who reside in this state, Idaho, I have these two words: Walt Minnick.

Granted, Arlen Specter has been a thorn in the side of the Republican and Democratic parties and a Republican in the public spotlight for much longer than our 1st district congressman has been an elected representative of this state, but if we're going to talk track records we can always discuss a stint in the Nixon White House. Let's please remember the situation we find ourselves in here in our home state before we start echoing the national sentiment about sending "a real progressive" to the Senate.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Specter Shock

My favorite living Republican is switching parties. Excuse me, I'm in shock. From Senator Specter's press release:
"I have been a Republican since 1966. I have been working extremely hard for the Party, for its candidates and for the ideals of a Republican Party whose tent is big enough to welcome diverse points of view. While I have been comfortable being a Republican, my Party has not defined who I am...I deeply regret that I will be disappointing many friends and supporters. I can understand their disappointment. I am also disappointed that so many in the Party I have worked for for more than four decades do not want me to be their candidate. It is very painful on both sides."
Sometimes party asks too much, indeed.

For more on this breaking news, NPR had an interview this morning with Specter and is currently running excerpts of his statement on changing parties.

When the Land Is Dark

(Update 9:48 p.m. Wed. 4/29/09: Valias met with a "scattering of students" and from the sounds of it, there was a great deal of dancing around the issue. Am I surprised? No. Should the students be blamed for the small number of them who did show up to the forum? No. You can't throw a forum together as damage control and then hold it on a lunch break right in the middle of dead week.)

The weather this morning in Pocatello may be symbolic of the dreariness that will soon be presented to the students of Idaho State University in a forum hosted by University president Dr. Arthur Vailas. The forum, scheduled after two concerned students expressed their worries to a reporter at the Idaho State Journal a week ago, will allow President Vailas to address the concerns of students and will allow students to express their many concerns about faculty layoffs, assuming of course that President Vailas opens the floor for a question and answer session.

While another state institution made the news because they were able to find an additional $37,000 to hire a president, here in Pocatello the local paper has been flooded with commentary on the editorial page regarding the recent layoffs of seventy-three members of the ISU faculty and staff. Martin Hackworth, an instructor in Physics, has offered a running commentary on the campus tension. Additionally, student body president Matt Spencer has defended the administration, specifically Vailas, on a handful of occasions. When the heat is on, as they say, Spencer's positions appear adamantly pro-administration and pro-Vailas. His latest editorial chastised students for not getting the story straight, surely a response to two students who approached the paper with their concerns about class availability and the continued funding and support of university clubs.

The concerns of students on this campus as well as the Idaho Falls campus are legitimate. Students have had a front row seat to some pretty drastic changes at Idaho State University over the past few years. We have ushered in a new administration after a faulty, somewhat corrupt administration was forced out because of administration pay raises in the face of rising costs for students and faculty losses. We have watched as good, qualified individuals were passed over for promotion while favoritism and connections ruled the day. Unfortunately for those of us in programs unrelated to the newly stated medical mission of ISU, programs concentrating on the hard sciences, we have had to watch as our programs scrambled to continue offering the basic courses on a restricted budget and we've watched as faculty in some departments have resorted to spending a majority of their time working on grant applications to continue research projects. As students we can't help but feel that we've been abandoned in this drastic redesign of priorities.

The two students who approached the Idaho State Journal presented legitimate concerns, but as they say in the world of bureaucrats, they neglected the chain of command. Hence the presidential forum today. Should they have addressed their concerns to their student representatives? Sure, but having been a student representative, I know that there is very little a representative can do with those concerns. Student representation and leadership at ISU has become an over glorified popularity contest. Clearly, had they presented their concerns to the president of the Associated Students of Idaho State University, Matt Spencer, they would have been dismissed while he, I'm assuming here, defended the administration and their priorities. I suppose in all reality, the students in question went to the only source that would listen as well as be even remotely sympathetic to their concerns.

Personally, I have only had one encounter with ASISU President Matt Spencer and that was in my capacity as an ASISU Senator before he became involved in student government. He expressed his support for a battle I was waging at the time against a newly drafted ASISU Constitution. At the time I was impressed with his appreciation for dissent, but now realize that appreciation may have been misguided as his tenure, as well as the administration before him, did not address the issue of a illegitimate constitution. In fact, his administration ushered in amendments to the fraudulent document. Strangely enough, I have had numerous interactions with President Vailas and have found him to be a genuinely thoughtful and sincere individual. As is the case with many politicians, university presidents are politicians to an extent, I have liked Vailas the person and have had my qualms with his tenure as president.

With every day that the legislature drags on, with every dollar our universities are cut and with all the money we've uselessly poured into pet projects (here at ISU the pet project is a multi-million dollar expansion to Reed Gym similar to Governor Otter's road projects in that the timing is awful), we are squandering the greatest resource we have in this state--our young people; young people who are genuinely concerned with the status of higher education. Students are finding that the cost of education is reasonable in other states and that in-state tuition options aren't what they used to be. If students are going to have to take out student loans in a world where Pell grants are fewer and scholarships are suffering while the economy has hit endowments and donations drastically, they're looking at what other universities have to offer and finding that some are much more friendly to students and much more concerned about actually educating and training rather than public praise and esteem.

Something tells me that the hour President Vailas has devoted to meeting with students in a large forum today will do very little to assure students who must know that it is not only plausible, but likely that cutting seventy-three instructors will have an impact on class size, course offerings, faculty advising of student clubs and ultimately class availability.

The student forum with Dr. Arthur Vailas will take place today, Tuesday, April 28, from 12-1 p.m. in the Pond Student Union Theater. Bring your umbrella, it's storming.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Not Your Average Monday

Something to keep you busy again today, a few things I'm reading and what I'm listening to. I know I said I'm working on a piece and I am, I swear, just a little hung up at the moment with a back that won't give it a damn rest and a body that was rattled today after a drop on the Total Gym. No, this sure isn't your average Monday, folks...

  • "Weight of It All" by Matt Nathanson on repeat around my place this morning (video here, lyrics here); Beware of banter language.
  • I'm reading a David Baldacci novel called The Collectors that is absolutely fascinating. The last book of his I read was called Saving Faith and equally exciting. You can check out this book via my sidebar.
  • The Governor's Letters--yes, the ones he has written to the "hostages" (as Sharon Fisher of New West is fond of calling them) or Idaho legislators. Pretty interesting reading.
  • Finals are upon us. Well, not me, I don't have finals, just papers due, but my fellow classmates have finals and I found the title of this article rather funny. Guess their advice is slightly better than the next bit--get your caffeine fix. Not everything can be solved by a stimulant.
  • Meanwhile, ISU students are genuinely concerned with what the state budget cuts and recent firing of seventy-three ISU instructors mean for course options and availability in the fall. The student body president takes the side of the administration, saying the students are poorly informed. Even the more vocal faculty are giving the administration a pass. And after all the talk about the budget in the ISJ, the clean-up crew or maybe just damage control kicks into high gear and tomorrow President Arthur Vailas will be holding an open forum for students that have concerns about what budget cuts do mean in terms of class size and availability (Tuesday, April 28, from 12-1 p.m. in the Pond Student Union Theater). It's ridiculous to think that anyone would like the students to believe that with a cut of general instructors and lecturers they won't be facing class availability issues--with the Physics department losing 1/4th of their faculty in this round of cuts, I'm not convinced.
  • This afternoon the iPod is pumping out Don Henley's "I'm Taking You Home" (lyrics here), a song with great piano, and "Gone Going" by the Black Eyed Peas with Jack Johnson (lyrics here, video here), actually the only Jack Johnson song I like. How's that for a strange combo of tunes?

Soon as I'm feeling a little better and a lot less scattered with deadlines approaching, I'll be back with something a bit more informative and thoughtful. That certainly isn't going to happen on a Monday!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Reads

Since I missed my chance at a smorgasbord yesterday, here's a list of a few worthy and not-so worthy Sunday reads:

Friday, April 24, 2009

For Your Reading Pleasure

(*Editor's note: I'm in the process of writing a piece on the impact of budget cuts on residential habilitation for the developmentally disabled, but because I am having steroid injections again this afternoon I am not sure when that piece will be complete or another post will appear here. In the meantime, here's a smorgasbord of sorts for your reading pleasure.)
  • (*New here yesterday evening...) Southern Idaho, proving yet again why it is never a good idea to say "you people." Ugh.
  • Sharon Fisher, continuing her superb following of the Idaho Legislature this session has an excellent piece today with not only a clever title ("Idaho Hostage Crisis, Day Three"), but a great image accompanying her article. Go check it out! Made me laugh until the reality of the Governor's temper tantrum came back into focus.
  • The State Board of Education announced yesterday that they'd offered Duane Nellis the position of President of the University of Idaho and he has accepted. This after Nellis took himself out of the running because the price wasn't right. Enter Steve Symms, yes, the same Steve Symms who is throwing a breakfast fundraiser for Congressman Walt Minnick and also represented this state in the U.S. House and Senate once upon a time, and there's suddenly enough money for Nellis to agree. Beyond the entertainment I found in the comments following the announcement yesterday, I can't help but find Symms' sudden reemergence in Idaho news a tad bit suspect.
  • A colleague asked for my input on a LTE he wrote to the Idaho State Journal about a week ago and I was pleased to see that the paper printed it today. Here it is:

"I fail to see the difference between refusing to serve lunch to an Afro-American at one drugstore counter, and refusing to sell the morning-after pill to a woman at another. The Idaho Legislature is about to sanction discrimination against women by allowing pharmacists to deny service because of their personal religious views. What will the next step backwards be: Allowing teachers to withhold instruction from gay students?"

Leonard Hitchcock, Pocatello

  • Somebody pointed out this piece in the Wall Street Journal about university donors and their irritation as campuses across the country struggle in this awful economy. I guess I hadn't thought about universities choosing to sell off things once donated to them to make a quick and much needed buck. As I've applied to a half dozen graduate programs recently I've received several responses from private universities that just can't open their doors to additional students in the humanities at this time when donors have less to donate and funds just aren't there to offer deserving students financial aid packages that would actually enable them to attend their university. It is rather scary that in this economy exceptional students are being passed over for students who can pay the full cost of tuition out of their own pockets regardless of their academic standing and track record.
  • And, should you need a laugh, my intern pointed this out to me this morning: Check out the similarities between this guy and this guy. Just by sight, of course...
  • (*Newest addition to this post...) I've always thought that spending six to eight innings on the pitcher's mound had to be the most dangerous position on the baseball diamond. I say this having watched many a pitcher nailed by line drives and even from completely inaccurate throws home from outfielders without control. Yesterday's exit of Cole Hamels in the Phillies game against the Brewers proved my long held suspicion about the danger for pitchers. With a guy like Prince Fielder and his power behind the plate, I'd be afraid to pitch anything in the strike zone to the guy. Takes a lot of guts to be the first target for a line drive...
  • (*Another newby...) Where James Wright is surely the lowpoint at the Times-News in Twin Falls, I definitely find Steve Crump, his writings and otherwise, the highpoint. Here, check out case in point. Ironically, in today's Times-News there is an editorial today on partisanship in the Idaho House of Representatives that seriously calls Maxine Bell a "consensus-builder." In what universe? The first thing I've heard that made sense from Maxine Bell in years was her comment on the absurdity of Governor Otter and his veto stamp. Additionally, the editoral states: "Many of [the moderates] disappeared in the election of 2006, when Boise Democrats swept centrist Republicans out of the Legislature." The Times-News makes no mention of the increasing influence of those Republicans being elected and/or running from the far right wing of the party. Maybe James Wright would like to incorporate the Fox News "fair and balanced" motto in his editorials. I'd be more inclined to take him seriously if he'd admit to the paper's obvious biases.
(*Originally published 4/23/09, updated and republished 4/24/09. Please note that "Quote of the Day" and "TGIF Tunes" appear below this pre-weekend linkfest.)

Quote of the Day

"Abruptly the poker of memory stirs the ashes of recollection and uncovers a forgotten ember, still smoldering down there, still hot, still glowing, still red as red."
-- William Manchester, Good-bye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Baseball Nerd

Please take a moment to notice that running before the "Idaho Scribes" section in the sidebar is now the "'Tis the season..." element with links to various baseball-related blogs that I read regularly during the baseball season. And one of those links? The great Keith Olbermann.

K.O., where have you been my whole life? I am absolutely in love with your blog! Must you be such a fan of New York? Of course, I love your politics, too... We're even.

Should you be ready and waiting for the All-Star balloting to open, it has and you can cast your ballot a maximum of twenty-five times via My first ballot included the likes of Mark Teixeira (even though he is a traitorous Yankee), Ichiro Suzuki, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Grady Sizemore as well as some pretty obvious picks in the National League (Chipper Jones, Pudge Rodriguez and Mike Cameron). I'm sure the twenty-four ballots to come will look pretty similar.

Monday, April 20, 2009

TDIH: Columbine

It doesn't seem possible that ten years have passed since the tragedy at Columbine. Some days in this post 9/11 world it seems a distant memory, a pain since surpassed by that of watching the towers collapse, but on other mornings, mornings like the one when so many awaited news from the campus of Virginia Tech, that awful Spring morning in Colorado is as real and present as any event from yesterday.

As I have thought about the tenth anniversary of the shooting spree at Columbine High School, I've thought a great deal about myself and my classmates. My generation, a group of young adults some of which are now fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, didn't have many carefree days of childhood. The few times I actually remember watching television in a classroom while I was in the public school system included the day the verdict was read in the O.J. Simpson trial; the day Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into their high school armed; and, that bright blue sky morning when this nation was under attack, planes crashing into buildings and one Pennsylvania field. There were other "current events" that I remember we took time out for, events like the Oklahoma City bombing, Magic Johnson's announcement that he was HIV positive, and the launch of the first shuttle Endeavor, but none of those events had us glued to television sets throughout our schools questioning what on earth was happening and if we were safe the way both Columbine and the events on 9/11 did.

I was in my final weeks of junior high school when Columbine became part of America's collective memory. That fall I was to begin high school and it wouldn't surprise me to hear many others in my age group say that they were more scared of moving up into high school than they'd been just weeks before because of what they heard took place at Columbine High School. We all paid much more attention to the attire of others after that, looking out for trench coats and combat boots. We weren't allowed to leave our backpacks unattended in common areas of the school or in the lunchroom any longer. Our writing, art work and general demeanor was scrutinized after Columbine and our generation became far more alert and suspicious than the generation that came before us. For a group of kids who came into the public school systems as Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign was at its peak, drugs were the least of our fears. We feared our own classmates gloom and worried less about being offered any sort of illegal substance.

The cruelty that exists in schools now, the constant bullying and berating, was gone for a time. My classmates and I cared a great deal about the things we said to each other in those days, weeks and months following Columbine. We were far more sensitive to one another and feared the outcome of one hateful remark to a classmate on the edge. It was certainly for the better that we worried about the young adults we were becoming, but I don't think it lasted. As time went on the fears associated with Columbine were dissolved and we fell back into the clicks and typical stereotypes we had prior to the tragedy.

When I think about the impact the Columbine tragedy had on my young psyche, I can attribute that one event to the way I tried throughout high school to not fall into one particular group or another. I tried to be friendly with all of my classmates and tried to never isolate myself. I can certainly attribute Columbine to the solidification of my beliefs and positions on gun control, beliefs and positions that were formed early on by the loss of two relatively close friends to suicide. After Columbine I thought about one of those friends and her mood in the final days of riding the bus to and from school together. Dressed in black and increasingly isolated from those around us, she showed all of the signs, the warning signs that it would take events like Columbine and Virginia Tech to point out to us. She didn't have a TEC-DC-9 like Dylan Klebold and she took her own life instead of the lives of others, but her story and then Columbine made me realize at a very young age how scary guns are and how absolutely dangerous they are in the wrong hands.

I don't mean for this anniversary to serve as a soapbox for the voicing of my opinions on guns and the Second Amendment, I simply mean to point out the tragedies my generation grew up with and the immense influence they had on us. We never really felt safe again after Columbine and unfortunately, 9/11 would put an end to any hope we had of feeling safe ever again. I still think about those kids in the library at Columbine High School and how absolutely afraid they must have been and thank whatever gods there may be that it wasn't me there, cowering in fear.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Measure your health by your sympathy with morning and spring. If there is no response in you to the awakening of nature—if the prospect of an early morning walk does not banish sleep, if the warble of the first bluebird does not thrill you—know that the morning and spring of your life are past. Thus may you feel your pulse."
-- Henry David Thoreau, Journals

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Stallings Banquet & Training Sessions

If you happen to be in southeastern Idaho today and would like to attend a series of trainings offered by the Idaho Democratic Party, Bannock County Democrats and the Idaho State University College Democrats, as part of the festivities preceding the annual Stallings Banquet at ISU, below is a schedule.

As I think I've mentioned, I won't be attending the banquet or trainings as I'm laid up following more injections for the recovery and maintenance of my "surgically enhanced" spine. I'd love to be there, not only to mingle with my fellow Democrats, but to honor a man whose congressional career has had quite an impact on my life.

All of today's trainings as well as the banquet at 6:30 p.m. will be held in the Student Union Building on the campus of Idaho State University.

10 a.m.-10:30 a.m.

Introduction to the day and meet one another

10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Precinct Organizing - Jim Hansen
South Fork Salmon River Suite
3rd Floor, Student Union Building
What does a precinct captain do, and where do you start when organizing a precinct? Learn how to use public data and the Democratic Party's data to make smart decisions to understand how to start organizing from the beginning.


The Grassroots Army: Volunteer Recruitment and Management
Angie Carpenter
Selway Room
3rd Floor, Student Union Building
Whether it is for an event, a campaign, or just for a service activity, volunteers are the life of the party. Angie will teach about how to find and keep volunteers and make them happy.

11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

Lunch at Goody's Deli and Pizza, 906 S. 5th Ave, Pocatello
(across the street from the University)
Even if you don't attend the trainings, come meet other Democrats in town for the Richard Stalling Banquet.

1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Identifying the Voters We Need Now - Jim Hansen
Room TBA
Student Union Building
Please bring a laptop if you can and RSVP to for an ISU computer account for you to use.
How do we find the people we need, either for volunteers or the voters we need to persuade them to vote for our candidates. We have many tools, including a powerful on-line database, but we must be willing to talk to voters if we want to be effective. Learn how to create an effective voter identification strategy at the precinct level.


Online Social Networking - Julie Fanselow (Communications Director of the Idaho Democratic Party and the "blogmother" of the Idaho progressive blogosphere)
Room TBA
Please bring a laptop and RSVP to to make sure we have a computer account with the university for you to use.

How can you use the Internet to connect with other Democrats on places like Facebook and Twitter? How are Idaho Democrats using online networking to move our messages and encourage action? This workshop will offer examples and ideas and invite your input.

2:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.

Mainstream Media Presence - Julie Fanselow
Clearwater Room
3rd Floor, Student Union Building
Democrats also still rely on traditional media sources - newspapers, radio and TV - to get out the word on what we are doing. This presentation will go over how to approach the media, how to write a press release, get coverage, and more. Let's talk about what's already working and what we can do better.


Fundraising 101 - Jim Hansen
Clearwater Room
3rd Floor, Student Union Building
This will feature a power point by Democracy For America with lecture and comments on the positives and negative of Internet fundraising and discussion on how to get your organization or campaign raising money. Learn who should do it, and some of the most effective ways of doing it.

(Image courtesy of the Stallings Collection, ISU Department of Special Collections)

Friday, April 17, 2009


Some have suggested that I was recently laughing at the solidarity of Republican "tea parties" as a Democrat ultimately interested in the demise of the Republican party.

To be clear, I was laughing at the difference between the definition of "grassroots" between liberals and conservatives. I was laughing at the guy out in front of my own city hall wearing a headdress like the Founding Fathers who certainly did not do so in a day when such attire on a white man would be found politically incorrect. I was laughing at how these protesters were pointing to the Boston Tea Party, a nearly spontaneous demonstration against British taxation without representation, and claiming the same in this day in age while they're "grassroots" effort was being fueled by the largest conservative media conglomerate around and while they were crying about the Obama administration and yet not demonstrating in front of the offices of their elected representatives. Taxation without representation means exactly this: Without representation!

Never mind the fact that the Boston Tea Party occurred on a single day, without the support of any type of media and nearly as spontaneous as any other event in colonial history. The Founding Fathers didn't spend days making signs, creating blogs, arranging for time off work, and stocking up on tea bags. On that December day in Boston Harbor, the news was taxed tea, nothing else and they acted immediately. What stories went unpublished Wednesday as a result of broadcasters covering these tea parties across the country? At least here, the news of seventy plus lay-offs at Idaho State University was vaguely mentioned. The news that an administrator at ISU had sent out an email telling ISU faculty that all media contact should be arranged through the dean's offices went unnoticed until that same administration redacted the statement. In a state bordering ours, a state-funded institution announced they would stop taking student applicants. And for weeks our own state legislature has been in a holding pattern, as have other part-time legislatures across the country. There isn't bigger news than that of disgruntled Republicans who think standing out on federally funded bridges with an immense amount of tea will stop government spending and bring back the Republican glory days of Reagen, Gingrich and even segregationists like Strom Thurmond?

While I've been accused of laughing at the absurdity of a party that has taken one presidential election loss as the be-all-end-all of America, good, sensible conservatives like Gary Eller wonder where their place is in their party, if they have a place at all. As Gerald Ford said near the end of his life, the Republican party of today is not the Republican party our fathers and grandfathers offered their loyalty to. Moderate Republicans are losing the ground they once held safely in the party, a place where they could envelope some Democrats and Independents. No matter how moderate, those very Democrats and Independents who may have voted for the John McCain of earlier this decade ran as fast as they could from the party he represented with Sarah Palin as his running mate. At some point I truly believe that the Republican party will have splintered so greatly, leaving more great public servants like Gerald Ford and even Gary Eller wondering what happened to the party they once belonged to, that those outcasts from their own party will do as Abraham Lincoln did when the fracturing of the Whig Party was irreversible and will start a new party, a party with the longevity of the once great party of Lincoln.

As I've thought sincerely about the "dirge" of Gary Eller tonight, I understand almost intimately the place he must find himself in. While he questions the role of the far-right talking heads like Glenn Beck, Zeb Bell and Rush Limbaugh, not only their role with their direct listeners, but with party officials whom they undoubtedly influence, I remember a time not long ago when I questioned those very things.

It is no surprise that my formative years were spent in southern Idaho counties deeply rooted in conservatism, but there came a point in my young life when I could no longer stand for the complete hatred those embedded beliefs represented. There are so many, like Zeb Bell and those who practice "John Wayne Christianity" that will use the phrase "love the sinner, hate the sin" and yet cast the first stone rather than embrace the sinner they've charged with any number of moral crimes. Being different isn't a sin, whether different means you subscribe to a different political philosophy, as I did growing up in Cassia County, or whether it means your skin is a different tone, like many of the Hispanics I grew up with. There are all sorts of people in this world. We each come in a unique mold with very distinct characteristics. We may be born in the United States or Saudi Arabia; We may be gay or straight; We may speak English or Spanish; We may have dark skin or light skin; We may be Presbyterian or Muslim, Baptist or Atheist; We may be physically strong and commanding or we may be limited by our ability to walk or our ability to speak clearly. We may be many things, taxed sufficiently or not, but what we seem to be forgetting is that we are all Americans.

The man in the White House may be an African-American, our first, but he is an American. The young soldier on guard tonight at a checkpoint in Iraq may be Hispanic, but he, too, is an American. The man who quietly packed up your groceries yesterday may have had a developmental disability, but he is an American. The man you see day after day at the office, carefully making his coffee may be an Atheist, but he is an American. And that promising young man who waited helplessly for someone to save him on the dirt roads of the Wyoming countryside may have been gay, but he was an American.

In all the unnecessary bickering between those who attended tea parties and those who didn't, we seem to have forgotten that we all have the same goal, we are all working toward the same end with whatever tools we have available to us. We all want a successful country, an economy on track, well-written and thoughtful laws that make every day a little easier than the last and we all want these things because we are Americans. That's nothing to laugh or argue about.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Please, No More Tea

Anybody else relieved the ridiculous tax day "tea parties" are behind us? Unfortunately, I don't think those taking part in the national day of saying no to spending will ever grasp that we were all laughing at them, not with them, and that their national organizational effort wasn't really a grassroots anything, unless being the laughing stock can be considered a grassroots effort.

Will those who participated in these little events around the country one day regret their actions or live to see the day when their efforts are looked upon historically as the day the Republican Party stopped being a serious contender in American politics? The idea that conservatives across this country gathered on bridges, beaches and courthouse steps everywhere yesterday to protest government spending in the first one hundred days of the Obama administration is a paradox at best. Where were they while one of their own went on an eight year spending spree, a spending spree that did nothing to insure a grounded and healthy economy? Where were they while that same government poured money into a war we never should have started?

I can't help but wonder if yesterday in some way symbolizes the beginning of the end for the Republican party, the way the Compromise of 1850 began the splintering of the Whig party. When and what will be the equivalent for the Republicans that the Kansas-Nebraska Act was for the Whigs?

I don't say any of this because I am a Democrat, I say this because the Republican party appears to have taken the loss of the White House and their recent losses of control in both the Senate and House as more than simply a political loss. I can't think of another time in American history, even in recent history upon the Supreme Court decision that handed George W. Bush the White House in 2000, where the losing party became so hostile and paranoid. The Republican party, led by the voice of Rush Limbaugh and the talking heads at Fox News, seems to be shouting from every rooftop that Socialism is on our back porch, knocking at the door. The Republican party has demonized Barack Obama and the Democrats who support him in ways we've not seen an entire party deamonized before. Instead of hailing the quick and decisive stimulus legislation that will hopefully reignite the spark that drives our economy, Republicans call the spending frivolous and then go out and support one industry, the tea industry, single-handedly keeping it in business. Had they all gone out and bought cars to drive off bridges yesterday, they would have kept the American auto industry afloat...

There's very little I see coming out of the national tea party yesterday. Those who participated haven't rejected the services they receive because of the taxes they pay. Those who participated didn't benefit the economy any by taking time off from their places of employment to go stand out in the cold with their signs and tea bags. And, most importantly those who participated yesterday aren't going to offer any option that will get this country back on track any quicker than the options the Democrats have offered and are in the process of implementing. What good came of yesterday? None that I see, though I'm sure one or more of my fellow Idahoans see this differently and are happy to see the "grassroots" effort pushed Rex Rammell back into the political arena.

Minnick's First 100 Days

(*Editor's Note: The following statement was released yesterday. April 15th, by the office of Congressman Walt Minnick, the Democratic representative in the U.S. House for Idaho's 1st district.)

Minnick releases report on first 100 days in office

Meridian, ID – Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick today released a report detailing the work done by his office during the first 100 days of the 111th Congress.

“I’m pleased that we were able to quickly get our offices up and running and take up the challenging, important and satisfying work of helping the people of Idaho,” Minnick said.

During his first 100 days in office, Minnick introduced key pieces of legislation, including a major reform of the financial system and comprehensive tax relief for small businesses and their employees. He also introduced and won unanimous approval for a measure to help prevent major forest fires in insect-infested forests. And Minnick received national attention for his firm stance for more accountability in Washington, D.C.

“Although I have been fortunate to have had some legislative success, I am most proud of the work my office has done to help people obtain their Social Security benefits, to help veterans receive medical care and to help people stay in their homes,” Minnick said. “We do important work in Washington, D.C., but the most important work is done at home, in Idaho.”

Minnick returns to the First Congressional District nearly every weekend. He has traveled the entire District during his first 100 days, visiting with constituents at town-hall meetings, touring local businesses, talking to local leaders about the state of Idaho’s economy and meeting with elected officials from Homedale to Bonners Ferry.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Seriously, Steve Symms?

The timing of the news that Congressman Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) will be taking part in a breakfast fundraiser, in his honor even, headlined by none other than former Idaho Congressman and Senator Steve Symms (R-Idaho) is rather interesting. The reason for which I place emphasis on the 'R' behind Symms' name is because in no way or even alternate universe, as Randy Stapilus points out, would Steve Symms be considered a moderate Republican. He is as Republican as they come. And, the reason for which I say the timing of this announcement is interesting is because Minnick will be surrounded by good, loyal Democrats this weekend, Democrats who despise Steve Symms. The news of the fundraiser comes on the heels of the Club for Growth's release of a "Swearing Off Pork" brave members list that not only includes Congressman Minnick, but mislabels (or not) him as an Idaho Republican.

Admittedly, I have not been very kind to Congressman Minnick lately because of the position he has taken against earmarks. I understand the general frustration with earmarks, the way in which they bloat spending bills, but I also understand that this country and particularly the state of Idaho are currently in a recession and whatever funds we can pour into state projects will not only benefit the state in the long-term, they will create much needed jobs. However, Congressman Minnick doesn't see it that way.

I've often wondered if Minnick's positions against earmarks, against spending bills like Obama's stimulus package, and his oft-stated opposition to AIG and hope for their forced bankruptcy are a way of pandering to the Republican base in the 1st district. Without moderates and a few Republicans, Minnick stands no chance of re-election in 2010. However, he seems to be alienating the Democratic base in this across-the-aisle pandering attempt and without them can he win re-election in 2010? I highly doubt it.

We've all heard the Minnick talking points and I don't mean the talking points Minnick's staff have developed for discussions about any of his votes, I mean the talking points we, as Democrats, have been told as a way of calming the eventual storm of annoyed and irritated Democrats who thought Walt Minnick would be independent on some issues, but a Democrat when it truly mattered. We've all heard that we shouldn't be worried or irritated as long as Minnick is voting with his party over 50% of the time. He's sitting steadily at 65% according to Open Congress. We've all heard that we should be genuinely happy to have a Democrat elected to a federal office. And, we've felt somewhat obligated to defend him because he is a Democrat after all or so we're told.

There will come a time when the talking points just aren't going to cut it. We can't continue to defend Minnick because he's between a rock and a hard place if he hopes to be re-elected. There will come a time when even a missive from a man who knows a thing or two about pandering to the conservatives while keeping the progressive base content will do nothing to calm the frustrated tide of Democrats who hoped for so much more from Congressman Minnick. Is that time now? When we look back one November evening in 2010 when Walt Minnick is defeated in his bid for re-election, will be look to the fundraiser headlined by Steve Symms as the tipping point?

It will be interesting to hear what kind of reception Minnick receives this weekend at the Stallings Banquet. Will Democrats casually look the other way when he, like the man the banquet is named for, stands firmly in conservative roots despite his party affiliation or will Democrats give him an earful? Will the Democrats in the room who devoted so much time and money to the 1992 Senatorial bid of former Congressman Stallings, originally a campaign against none other than Steve Symms, only to have their hopes dashed when Symms was forced out and the seat went to Boise Mayor Dirk Kempthorne be forgiving of Minnick for hob-knobbing with the enemy?

Unfortunately for Minnick, Democrats in this state who haven't elected many Democrats in the last couple of decades have an awfully good memory.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday's Must Reads

Quite the theme for a Monday morning...

Quote of the Day

"...not only do our teachers touch the academics, but also those students have learned the social graces at a young age. Social graces, academics and faith, when taught to a young mind, can be a value that will remain all their lives."
-- Edna Pehrson

(The entire letter to the editor by Mrs. Edna M. Pehrson appears in today's Twin Falls Times-News and can be viewed here.)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Raw Emotion

Lucinda Williams' "World Without Tears." Nothing but raw emotion.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Smorgasbord Saturday

It's a beautiful spring Saturday in Pocatello. I have the window open, the fan on and I can seriously here birds chirping. Please, oh please, let the winter be over.

Major League Baseball is in full swing, literally, and it has been an exciting opening week. I'm a little annoyed that a guy like Alex Rodriguez can have hip surgery, surely due in part to his steroid use in the past, and be back with the Yankees and on their roster by the first of next week. In the meantime, guys like John Smoltz, an all-around decent guy ('cept for the fact that the Atlanta lifer signed with Boston this year), won't be ready to pitch after shoulder surgery until maybe mid-year if he pitches at all this year. Sure, A-Rod has youth on his side, but you'd think the baseball gods would be a little miffed about the steroids. Just sayin'...

Surprisingly, the Braves aren't as bad as I thought they would be during the first week of the season. They had an awesome outing against the World Champion Phillies opening night and have shown they have the starting pitching and power hitting to compete in the National League East. However, their bullpen is a mess and it may cost them many games. It's great to see Derek Lowe on the mound for Atlanta, it was great to see the Braves show Philly that it's a new season, and even though I like the Nats, watching the play-by-play on Gameday through the latest night game in awhile wasn't all that bad. The Braves have my attention once again.

I find myself amused by the editorial positions of the Times-News. I hear that James Wright, the editor, was on "Zeb at the Ranch" recently and he spent that time sucking up to Zeb. Probably because he's been getting livid phone calls from Zeb's listeners every time the Times prints something that is less than kind to Zeb. Just today, the Times-News is saying that "law-abiding" Idahoans won't have a problem showing government-issued identification at the voting booth. Tell me what law-abiding has to do with this. I guess I shouldn't expect so much from a paper that has an editorial comment running titled "Why we call a male transsexual 'he'" and a paper that prints the insane ramblings of Magic Valley residents who truly believe this country is in the crapper.

The funny thing about the increasing idiocy of the Times-News is that I've always thought the Times-News website and general framework trumped my local paper, the Idaho State Journal. The ISJ started a slide downhill when they revamped their website and gave the print edition a whole new look--I like neither. For every nice, thoughtful op-ed the ISJ prints there are ten from the conservative fringe. Running on the ISJ "blogs" section (somebody please tell the editor that blog does not mean what he thinks it means--you can't just copy and paste what you run on your editorial page in the so-called "blogs") is a great piece about bullying and a downright crazy piece from the oft-printed Craig Bosley. Just because Craig Bosley is an educated man doesn't mean he knows a thing about politics, but then again maybe the title of his post ("The Socialist States of America") gives that away. The thought just occurred to me that Zeb Bell could reach out to Bosley and have him appear on the show weekly like he does "Dr. History" (Dr. History doesn't hold a doctorate in history, he actually is a chiropractor). Oh, wouldn't that be loverly.

I've been thinking a great deal about health insurance lately, mostly because by August I'll need to find an insurance company that will insure me and at a reasonable price. The reasonable price part is where I keep having trouble. Anyway, I found this article about a New York couple desperate for coverage. What did they do? They got married. Granted, they were planning on getting married eventually and their decision only served to speed up the nuptials, but I found it pretty representative of Americans right now. Why does it have to be so damn hard to get insurance? I've often joked to friends that they need to find me a nice, insured guy to marry so I can be covered under his policy. Of course, I wouldn't want to live with the guy or really have much to do with him, maybe an obligatory bi-monthly dinner. Yeah, that's what the health insurance system has come to.

In case you haven't read it, Congressman Walt Minnick (R-Idaho) has an op-ed floating around explaining why he's refusing earmarks, earmarks that would bring essential funds to Idaho for various projects. I think d2 pretty well sums up my feelings on the Congressman.

Lots of homework on this beautiful day. Lots of new music to listen to, yet I've listened to the Hope Floats soundtrack, "Stop" by Ryan Adams repeatedly, and even a little Lucinda Williams. I guess that all says to me it's a pretty mellow Saturday.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Mud Slinging Zeb Bell Style

Let's define hate speech. Hate speech is a form of speech intended to attack, disparage, or degrade a number of social or ethnic groups. Individuals within these groups may share an ethnicity, race, nationality, religion, physical or developmental disability, or sexual orientation.

There's a line with me, a line that I can be pushed toward with minor resistance, but once pushed over it there is no turning back. I have been known to lose my temper and have had to apologize for the things I've said while angry, but this is not something I'm going to apologize for. The truth of the matter is that Zeb Bell is a liar and he and those who have set up Zeb's Rebs have absolutely no right to accuse the Idaho progressive blogosphere of hate speech.

The assertion that the bloggers who have monitored and reported on the hatred, racism and bigotry broadcasting from the home of Zeb Bell are guilty of hate speech is ridiculous and baseless. I have often been offended listening to the filth flowing freely from Zeb Bell's mouth, my belief system has been shaken and offended, but on a deeply personal level I have not been offended until now.

Where do I even begin? The smoke has been shooting out of my ears for nearly twenty-four hours and as hard as I've tried to calm my anger and put into words my response to this asinine accusation, I haven't been able to. I haven't been able to because I am amazed and shocked. I can't speak for the entire progressive blogosphere or even those who have closely monitored Zeb, but I can speak for myself. Obviously, Zeb Bell doesn't know me at all.

I've never said anything in my entire life that would be classified as hate speech. I have never said anything out of anger or innocence that would be classified as such and I would never dream of doing so. Despite who I could have grown up to be, despite growing up in the same area Zeb and so many like him raise their children, I grew up to be an immensely sensitive individual. I was blessed to have a grandmother who taught me that every human being was equal. She never stood on a soapbox and she never referred to historic documents and her knowledge of them as a way of teaching me that all men are in fact equal. Could she have? Of course. My grandmother is many things, one of them being incredibly intelligent, but she didn't have to spout off that phrase from the Declaration of Independence and point to any sense of patriotism to teach me about equality because she taught by example.

In the fifth grade we were assigned reports on one of the fifty states. My classmates and I were called up to the front to each draw a state's name out of a hat and my state turned out to be Alabama. Even at the age of ten I had a certain appreciation for history. As I wrote my report, concentrating on the history of Alabama, I was introduced to racism for the first time through the story of George Wallace. I can still remember sitting at that small, circular table in the far end of my grandparents' kitchen, staring at the exposed brick wall, wondering what happened to Governor Wallace that made him hate another person so much. My grandmother sat me down, showed me a picture of Wallace standing in front of the Foster Auditorium door at the University of Alabama and explained to me that entire section of the country I was born in hadn't seen a large population as human beings simply because of the color of their skin. To this day I remember that conversation and remember the tone of her voice, the way she was talking to me as if she were breaking some terrible news to me, and I realize now that maybe she was.

I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard the n-word and how completely dark and empty it felt. I cringe every time I hear the r-word and correct my friends and even my own family when they use it. I've struggled to understand my mother's belief that being gay is a choice, just as I've struggled to understand the absolute hatred her husband holds for Hispanics. I've known for awhile that both my father, who wouldn't even consider being kind enough to use the term 'Hispanics' as a label, and grandfather, his parents were born and raised in the Jim Crow South, are racist. Knowing doesn't make it any easier to understand or accept. My own struggle to understand how they could believe as they do has only made me appreciate the example my wonderful grandmother set for me.

My distance from the Zeb Bell monitoring of late has been for my own sake, for my mental health and my own sanity, mostly because the negativity drags me down and my sensitivity to what is said on the show makes it all the more difficult to endure daily. If you listen to the hate day after day you either stop finding it so offensive or it just eats at you day after day. In anticipation of the news that Zeb had started a blog, Wordsmith said she is to the point of expecting "something more outlandish than the last thing." Unfortunately, it's true. My partner in all things Zeb Bell, the editor of the MountainGoat Report, takes it all in stride, rarely losing her head. Perhaps she is further removed from the area and the area's particular brand of hate, but whatever the case may be, I just don't handle it as well as she does. Up until yesterday, the distance from "Zeb at the Ranch" had been much needed and well spent, but yesterday something changed.

Not surprisingly, Zeb has sunk to the low of grade school bickering. He's employed that often used come-back "no, you are" like a grade school bully who just got called a name. Turning the tables are we, Zeb? Well, do what you must, but at the end of the day I can look myself in the mirror and know with complete certainty that I have never been guilty of hate speech. Can you do the same? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Sun Also Rises

In a dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day." -- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Maybe it is obvious, but things have been a little rough around the edges here of late.

There are days when I feel well, at least relatively, and I can accomplish things at a rate similar to that in which I operated before I had spinal surgery, and yet there are days when it takes everything in me to start my day. The physical limitations I am experiencing are unmatched by any that I have encountered in my young life. As often as I remind myself that it could be so much worse and there are so many battling far larger health obstacles than I am, I still get bogged down in the realizations that another spring will pass without long bike rides in the warm afternoon sun and an entire summer where my relationship with baseball will be limited to what I can watch on television. It seems so childish and even cliche to associate the warming days of the spring and the often hot days of the summer with a game I've played since I was five, but for me the springtime has always signaled the beginning of baseball season.

The first of May will mark an anniversary of sorts for me. I will have been plugging through a physical therapy routine for an entire year. It's unbelievable to me that I have been working so hard with so few results, yet even more unbelievable that a year has passed.

I've been told that those who have had the back surgery I had returned to their pre-surgery state about a year afterward. My physical therapist has told me about the probability of reinjuring my back and that within the first year post-surgery I have an eighty percent chance of reinjuring it. After the year mark my chances will decrease substantially to fifty percent and then lower as the time goes by.

It would certainly help if I knew what exactly it was I did to injure my back in the first place. However, I suspect it was a series of little things.

For the first year and a half of my college career I worked with a young man confined to a wheelchair. I spent up to eighty hours a week with this young man, someone I've learned a great deal from, taking care of him and transferring him from his wheelchair to his bed. His physical state didn't allow him to do much to help that lifting process and there I was, a nineteen year old girl at about one hundred and seventy-five pounds lifting this young man who weighed about one hundred and thirty day after day. Surely that wasn't good for my back. Just because the bigger, stronger boys who rotated out of their were able to lift him didn't necessarily mean any of us should have been.

While I've been going to physical therapy three times a week for nearly a year, I've seen plenty of patients come in that have injuries from not lifting properly. I suspect, like them, I never learned how to lift properly. If you consider the two hundred and sixty boxes that existed within the Stallings Collection when I first came to this monstrous task, I've probably lifted that many boxes dozens of times without paying any attention to how I was going about it. It all adds up, and quickly.

Because I've had a year to ponder all of the events that may have caused my back such turmoil, I've remembered the car accident I was in the winter of 2003 when I broke several ribs. The actual movement and force of that collision may have done a number on my spine as well. I spent some time on bed rest a few years ago, a constant position that didn't support my spine at all or bode well for spinal alignment.

There are so many possibilities. Our bodies aren't as durable as we may think.

Next week I will be having another series of steroid injections to assist in lessening the inflammation from the surgery and complications afterward. Next week I'll be progressing my physical therapy routine and hopefully transitioning into a two-a-week schedule instead of the three-a-week schedule I have now.

In the midst of it all, I am having problems with my left shoulder from all the compensating I've been doing when I'm sitting. I try to remind myself that for all I've been through having only one ailment associated with how I've had to live my day-to-day life with a finicky back is pretty damn good.

If we all have to learn about patience, I suppose this was the obstacle I needed to finally learn about the value and virtue of patience. Granted, I could have learned the lesson with something minor, but I'm learning it. And like I said before, it could be so much worse. I look at my grandparents, aging and frail and I remember that I am young with much life ahead of me and if I want that life to be free of pain and continued back issues I have to do what is necessary to heal now and not rush the process for what I want now, things like baseball, bike riding, and even attending next weekend's Stallings Banquet in Pocatello, at the cost of what I want in the long term--good health.

Despite the daily battle and the constant frustration of a slow process of healing, I am trying like hell to remind myself that though I dread the sunset and dread the dark hours of pain, the sun also rises.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Quote of the Day

From a comment, titled "Please switch parties Walt," over at 43rd State Blues comes this gem from TUBOB:
I'm just not buying the Walt spinning anymore. Not the Democrat by successive approximations bullcrap nor the well he's better than Sali. A brick is better than Sali and probably less Republican than Walt.
Thanks, Bob. You made my day.

Tune In Tuesday

"Things That Matter" from the Unstoppable album by Rascal Flatts. Single available now from iTunes and Unstoppable available in its entirety today via iTunes and wherever you purchase your tunes.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Value Systems

Somehow I ended up on the website of the Idaho Values Alliance this afternoon and I found it rather interesting that Bryan Fischer has listed among his various appearances representing "our shared values" before the legislature and in the Idaho media his numerous appearances on "Zeb at the Ranch." I couldn't help but wonder how many people, donors to the IVA and those who support Bryan Fischer and all that he stands for, actually listen to Zeb Bell's show. I also wondered who Bryan Fischer is including when he refers to "our shared values." I certainly don't share his values. In fact, I don't share his values, the values of Zeb Bell or the values of either of their supporters. If I were included in that particular pronoun, I'd be annoyed that my values and the representation of them ever stooped to the low of being presented and defended on a show so full of hatred. However, I am not the target audience of the IVA and how I feel about my own values and beliefs and who should represent them is of little concern to Bryan Fischer's organization.

On the front page of the Idaho State Journal this morning was a small article about the weekend conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints featuring the title, "LDS flock urged to uphold values." The article noted the underlying message from the conference, that church members should continue to uphold their own as well as the church's moral values in an ever changing world, and that "the moral footings of society continue to slip." Clearly, Mormon values and the values of all others are at odds. Certainly people supported the ban on gay marriage in California outside of those who were encouraged by the Mormon church to do so. However, they are not the flock this conference spoke to. You either share the moral values of the Mormon church or you don't. There is apparently not a universal value or moral held by all creeds, faiths, or range of believers. Once again, like with the IVA, I am not the audience the Mormon church is speaking to and I am definitely not a part of the flock.

That makes three groups, the IVA, Zeb Bell's listeners and the Mormon church, albeit somewhat overlapping in their scope and general system of values, that I do not fit in. Granted, I wouldn't want to be anything other than a square peg for a round hole when it comes to these groups, but it is particularly frustrating to hear so often about shared values and beliefs when the values being touted are not my own. I do not believe in the hatred, sexism, xenophobia, bigotry, intolerance, racism and general closed mindedness of any of these groups. I can't believe in any of their values that actually have merit because I can't get past and wouldn't want to look past the hatred they represent. Yet here I am in southeastern Idaho where these three groups and their value systems make up the majority of the population. We may not have the Aryan Nations here, but don't tell me hate does not exist here.

Hate will exist where we let it. I've thought quite frequently about this fact lately and I am encouraged by the growing number of people who recognize hate for what it is and are doing their part to expose it and join in the effort to eliminate it from our state. There is a value we all have in common--our state. Do we all not have a responsibility to the place where we live, where we work, and where we raise our families? Do we not value Idaho? It seems to me that instead of creating boundaries between people and groups because of what they believe and what they value, we would all be better served by organizations that can see that we share far more than all that currently divides us.

It isn't going to be easy to eliminate hate here. I can personally attest to the cost of speaking out against hate and intolerance. We take a few steps forward followed quickly by a few steps back, but we must realize that continuing to talk about the hatred, continuing to talk about the divisions, and continuing to express our beliefs in simple ways that everyone can understand and everyone can respect will in the end serve to destroy the divisions between us. We don't have to be defined by groups that prevent us from respecting others and we definitely don't have to stand by watching hatred prevail simply because we associate ourselves or even love those who are spreading that hatred.

In doing my small part, I hope that I can express my beliefs in ways that are respectable and understandable to those around me. I value human rights just as much as I strive to ensure their existence for everyone around me. I believe we all have a responsibility to rid inhumanity from our own spaces. I value this state not only for the back drop it served in my childhood as the place where I was raised, but also as the place I wish to spend much of my adulthood. I believe that good people are all around us and they don't all come in one specific mold. I believe a good, caring Atheist to be as valuable to society as a good, caring Christian and neither their economic status nor their sexual orientation detracts from that. In fact, their economic status, sexual orientation, religion, place of birth, ethnicity, political affiliation, and their educational background have nothing to do with their value. It only matters to me that they are good and kind individuals who value humanity. Whatever their value system, the only place where it might clash with my own is when/if they choose hate, racism, and bigotry over love and acceptance.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Flags Lowered

From the Office of Dr. Arthur Vailas, President of Idaho State University:
The University flag will be lowered and flown at half-staff on Monday, April 6, in honor of Brenda K. Bertsch Malepeai, a professor in the Kasiska College of Health Professions Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and Education of the Deaf. She passed away at her home Tuesday following a two-year battle with cancer. Brenda, 57, was the spouse of Idaho state senator Edgar Malepeai, whose district includes the Pocatello campus of ISU. The two met in 1973 when they were both students here at Idaho State University.

A service to celebrate Brenda’s life will be held at the L.E. and Thelma E. Stephens Performing Arts Center on Monday, April 6, at 5:00 p.m. Family will receive friends at 4:00 p.m. preceding the service.
May our thoughts continue to be with Senator Malepeai and their children.

Another Sunday Thought

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Role of Government II

As a follow-up to yesterday's post regarding Congressman Minnick's position on earmarks, I wanted to briefly mention the column running in the Idaho Statesman from Congressman Simpson (R-Idaho), the representative of my district. Perhaps this commentary merely serves to point out the double-edged sword of being an elected Democrat from this state.

Strangely enough, the longer Congressman Simpson is in office, the more I come around to respecting his positions. I have appreciated the more moderate social positions he has taken of late, instead of the all-too-often "keep government out of our lives" Republican/Libertarian approach, Simpson appears to understand that government must step in when the general welfare requires it. He makes a few key points in his column that are worth repeating:
I believe the most appropriate reform of the earmark system is not to ban them outright, but to expose them to the light of day and allow every American citizen a chance to see them and comment on them ...

The projects I have submitted are focused largely on growing the Idaho National Laboratory and the jobs it provides for eastern Idaho, expanding course offerings at Idaho's colleges and universities, improving Idaho's water and transportation infrastructure, preserving and conserving Idaho's native species and public lands, and growing jobs and opportunities in Idaho's high-tech and health-related economies.

Having read my fair share of congressional correspondence, I realize that both Simpson and Minnick must be receiving a wealth of input from Idahoans, both those for and against earmarks, and I realize that their respective congressional staffs are wading through that information daily. They can't possibly respond to every single want articulated to them by their constituents just as they can't possibly request funding for every single project that desperately needs support. Where Simpson gets it right is in addressing why these earmarks are important right now.

There are a myriad of projects that are deserving of funding, but he makes sure to point out the projects that will create jobs, keep jobs, and keep local economies (like that of the City of Idaho Falls) running. Minnick seems to have misunderstood that in standing up against earmarks and a bloated budget he is denying various interests in Idaho from continuing to compete in this tanking economy. It is one thing to take a principled stand, it is another to take a stand that hurts your constituency in the long-run. What Minnick is doing is no different than what Bill Sali did when he proposed an anti-gravity bill to illustrate the insanity of some of the legislation that goes to the floor of the House for consideration. However, Sali's action merely made a laughing-stock of his constituency, it didn't cost his constituency any federal monies.

I want more than anything to give Congressman Minnick a fair shake and I, more than most, understand the paradox of a Democratic congressman from Idaho, but there has to be a line. When election day rolls around will Congressman Minnick be able to say he was instrumental in bringing home the funding for various projects? Not when it comes to the FY 2010 budget. And, Minnick's ability to say he was opposed to and voted against Obama's stimulus package will only help him so much.

I understand the fundamental opposition to earmarks just as I understand the real need for federal investment in state-specific projects. What I don't understand is why a congressman, any congressman, can make such a bold statement against earmarks during a time when his state, or any state, needs as much assistant as they can possibly get. Once again I find myself pondering the role of government.

The earmarks being requested by Congressman Simpson are available for viewing on his congressional website.

My Own Linkfest

Not to detract from the wonderful round-up of links unequivocal notion is supplying these days, but here are a few I've found particularly thoughtful, interesting or just odd this morning:
  • How tough must it be to play basketball well and be Michael Jordan's son?
  • Bethine Church knows a thing or two about Idaho political history--go read. (h/t Chris, this is definitely the "must read" of the day.
  • Explain to me why Lou Dobbs can be forced into an apology for this, but we can't get enough people angry with Zeb Bell to throw him off the air.
  • Playing fantasy baseball this season? You're quickly running out of days to sign up. Opening day is around the corner. Signed up my team and changed my avatar this morning. More on this maybe Saturday.
  • I won't tell you what first ran through my mind when I read Dan Popkey's latest, but Serephin, that genius, summed it up nicely.
  • Here's a shocker for the morning: I've finally agreed with Orson Scott Card on something! I own an iPod shuffle, I actually downgraded from the iPod they now refer to as the Classic and I love the shuffle (mostly because I own so much music it is the only way to listen to it all without biases). More space is always good, knowing who you are actually listening to, even better, but for crying out loud making it smaller isn't going to make it better! It's small enough, thank you very much.
  • While looking for a zero gravity chair online, I ran across this bizarre stool. Check it out and tell me how the hell I'm supposed to stay balanced on that sucker!
  • If you haven't seen the video of Stephen Colbert down-right ripping Glenn Beck for building his disgusting career on 9/11 you can view it here. Note to Colbert: Now for Rudy...
  • And, word on the street is there are upcoming albums from Iron & Wine, Conor Oberst (on May 5th), and a new band called Tinted Windows. There may no end to my latest binge in sight.

That's all I've got for you; Let it keep you busy for awhile. And if it doesn't keep you busy, like I said, unequivocal is offering this service on a daily basis and without the added diatribes.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

End of the Road?

"There is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes."

-- Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Two and a half years passed between the first time I wrote about Zeb Bell on this blog and the second time when I, like many progressive bloggers, picked up on the controversy surrounding Bell and his guest's racist commentary on then candidate Barack Obama. More and more I am realizing why I allowed myself two and half years free of Zeb Bell and his despicable antics.

The cost of monitoring hate speech is so much greater than the time required to simply listen for its utterance. Hate speech erodes the soul, regardless of whether or not it is directed specifically at a person.

I've not talked about the personal cost of monitoring Zeb Bell much, mostly because I try to deny that it affects me at all and I'd rather not give Mr. Bell the satisfaction, but the cost is great. I've heard bloggers refer to the hatred of Zeb Bell and his listeners existing in our backyard, obviously symbolizing the existence of hate here in our state, but for me the hate speech truly is emitting from my back yard. The Mini-Cassia area was my home for a majority of my life. It is where I was raised, it is where my closest friends were raised, many of whom still live there, and it is where my family continues to live. What isn't being said publicly about bloggers on the air throughout Zeb's show is being said privately. All of which reaches me, as I suspect it does other bloggers like Gary Eller, via various sources.

What Zeb Bell thinks of me, his disdain for all that I stand for and believe and his contempt for the work I do exposing his hatred, racism and bigotry, doesn't matter nearly as much to me as do the opinions of my friends, family and neighbors. In the last ten months I've heard every imaginable comment about my role in the Zeb Bell page. I've been reminded of what Zeb Bell does for the community, aside from the hatred he lets permeate it. I've been told I'm a coward, not only by Bell, but a few of his listeners, even a few of my friends. I've had to listen to the most disparaging comments leveled at my character and the remarkable character of the editor of the MountainGoat Report. I've had family members tell me I hold a grudge against Zeb, an unhealthy one at that. I've had friends stop speaking to me over this entire endeavor. And I've lost things in this battle I can barely say aloud, much less articulate in print.

Why suffer the cost? Why risk the berating I will continue to receive from the likes of friends and family members who ideologically agree with Bell? Why fight a battle that is immensely personal to me and absolutely irrelevant and indistinct for Bell? These are questions I've not only been asking myself several times daily for the past few weeks, but fairly regularly for the last ten months.

The only conclusion I've drawn from the last two weeks without the morning routine of listening to "Zeb at the Ranch" is that I am much less reactionary. In the past few weeks I've seen other blogs, blogs that only mentioned Zeb once or twice over many months, reference Zeb as well as reference the work put into the Zeb Bell page, often solely crediting the superb vigilance of the MountainGoat Report and rightfully so, far more frequently. What we were saying for months is now being echoed in the blogosphere in ways we hoped for from the beginning.

For all I've concluded, I haven't been able to convince myself that this is the end of the road for me as far as the Zeb Bell monitoring is concerned.

I know that the Zeb Bell page and the future of documenting hate speech is in very capable hands. I just don't know if I'm ready to let go and hand the battle off to people far more articulate and eloquent than I. Part of me believes that this is where the blogosphere battle with Zeb Bell began and I belong in that battle, but what of the other part of me?