Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Questioning the Editorial 'We'

Editorial boards in large cities and metropolitan areas are often known for liberal positions that are not exactly in tune with the populace. Of course, in the largest cities like New York, liberal editorial positions taken by the likes of the New York Times are standard fare. These liberal and often progressive positions reflect the direction the general public discussion is going in and often reflect cultural, political and social changes on the horizon.

Though standard fare in New York City, we do not expect progressive editorials from Idaho's smaller newspapers.

In the past few weeks, two positions taken by the editorial boards of the Idaho State Journal, located in Pocatello, and the Twin Falls Times-News, have offered progressive view points that may not be shared by a majority of people in southern Idaho. The general tone of these editorials has suggested a progressive, open viewpoint that unfortunately, I'm afraid only a minority of southern Idahoans actually share.

This morning, the Twin Falls Times-News wonders in print if "Idaho is finally putting gay-bashing demons to rest?" The editorial is in many ways a follow-up to an editorial published back in February that chastised the legislature for ignoring the gay and lesbian community's concerns about human rights and protections in the work place. The editorial mentions the recent gay pride parade organized in Twin Falls and notes that it was only two summers ago that a local LGBT organization had been rejected when it applied for a spot in the annual Western Days parade.

The editorial points out that Idaho has come a long way, due in part to the realization on the parts of many that there are those around them, people they love and respect, who are gay. From the editorial:
Fact is, tens of thousands of Idahoans - mostly conservative, Republican Christians- have a son, daughter, sister, brother, parent, cousin, uncle, aunt, grandparent or friend who is gay. These Idahoans know first hand that their homosexual loved ones are decent, law-abiding, tax-paying citizens who don't seek to impose their lifestyles on anyone.
Surely what was said in the Times-News this morning was not well-received by Zeb Bell and his listeners, a group of people who were livid that the "liberal rag" would chastise the legislature back in February. In fact, what Zeb and his cronies said in response to the position of the editorial board would serve as proof that gay-bashing is alive and strong in Idaho, even in the legislature. I am sure the hate filled talk radio pundits in the Magic Valley are going crazy today. As much as I would like to believe that the fairly progressive editorial in the Times-News voiced the actual position of the local populace, it just isn't so.

Here a little closer to home, the Idaho State Journal responded some weeks ago to the events that took place at the swimming complex in Lava Hot Springs that resulted in the denial of a family swim pass to a family headed by a same-sex couple. Though the letters to the editor have suggested a disdain for the LGBT community, the editorial board has taken the position that families come in all shapes and sizes. The editorial board has asked if the "law of common sense has been repealed" and has attempted to portray the Lava Chamber of Commerce in a much better light than the state and national news have. For everything said by the editorial board that is based in common sense and even progressive values, locals have constantly overturned the editorial board's positions with an immense amount of bigotry and hatred.

It is refreshing to read editorials that respect the need for advancing human rights and simple understanding of anything perceived as different. However, I wonder who exactly the editorials represent when they are met with such bigotry, racism, and hatred within the community.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Tune In Tuesday

(Update 6.30: So far iTunes hasn't offered me the option of completing my album with Cradlesong the way it has in the past for albums that I purchased individual singles from before or after the release date. I've purchased the remaining singles individually, which makes me think I actually ended up paying more for Cradlesong with the lead-up to it than I would have had I waited to buy the full album on the release day via iTunes or my local music store.)

Tomorrow promises to be an exciting day in terms of new music releases. If you've missed it, and how with all the talking about it I've done, the sophomore solo album of Matchbox Twenty front man Rob Thomas hits stores tomorrow. And Cradlesong won't be the only new release worth picking up. Wilco has a new release, Moby's long-awaited new release will be up for grabs, and country fans may want to snag the new Brad Paisley album. For sure I'll snag Rob Thomas tomorrow, but I'm not sure about the rest. Moby's electronic-type music isn't really my thing, however, if he has anything that speaks to me like "The Sky Is Broken" from his album Play, I may not be able to help myself. Like I need anymore music as it is. This should keep me busy for a few weeks before I test out the new Daughtry cd...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Smorgasbord Saturday

It has been a hell of a week at casa Rowe. That's two weeks in a row that have left me, at times, completely upside down. Perhaps it's just June and once July rolls in everything will turn around. I can always hope...

Yesterday happened to be the day the Idaho State Journal mass distributed the paper. Which explains why, one, it was thick on a Friday, and two, when I was up at 4 a.m. Friday morning the newspaper carriers were out in force. The Insight section, which is more or less op-eds, featured a great Idaho history piece by former lawmaker and newsman Perry Swisher. I've mentioned before that his columns can be hit-or-miss and sometimes I have no idea where they are going or if they got there, but in the last week he's been spot on. His first piece called for a unicameral legislature in Idaho. Having served in the House, he certainly has a better understanding of the inner workings of our state legislature than I. I also trust that Swisher has a respect for the Idaho Constitution which instituted a bicameral legislature all those years ago (coincidentally, the anniversay of Idaho statehood is coming up on Friday). Do I think a unicameral legislature will happen in Idaho? Probably not, but I think it is a good idea and I really respect the opinion of a guy like Perry Swisher. Today's piece in the Insight section was something that didn't leave much room for argument. Swisher stated that the ability for a politician to switch from one party to another, most recently Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, is deeply rooted in that politician's belief system, dating back to their earliest days as a politically-aware voter or even earlier. Since Swisher switched parties in 1974, I think he probably knows a thing or two about this topic. Today's piece hasn't gone online yet, at least if it has, I haven't found it, but it is a wonderful piece that more than anything offers a glimpse into the political history of Idaho. Perfectly timed for those of us who take notice of the anniversary of Idaho statehood.

If you haven't checked out "All I'm Saying" by another Idaho scribe, you should. And especially this post where she reflects on her recent trip to the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, Texas. Her post reminded me of my first trip to Dealey Plaza and how completely taken aback I was when I walked throught that very intimate plaza toward the building where the shots were fired that killed President Kennedy. Exactly what I said that first time, I can't repeat here, but it was one of the most chilling experiences I've had. It all made me wish I could be cleared for traveling. Dallas hasn't gotten too hot yet and god only knows how much I need a vacation.

Should any of you have forgotten, Tuesday is the big drop date for the new Rob Thomas album. Yep, Cradlesong (or at least the portions of it that haven't already been released) will hit stores Tuesday. I'll be completing my album on iTunes since I've already snagged the first four singles off of Rob's sophomore solo album.

A week or so ago, I announced prematurely that legendary newsman Walter Cronkite was gravely ill. I wasn't the only one. Apparently, many media outlets announced that Walter Cronkite was ill with little time left when they caught sight of CBS updating the obituary they keep on file for Cronkite. An email from Media Channel this morning pointed out a statement issued by Chip Cronkite on behalf of the Cronkite family that his father has "suffered for some years with cerebrovascular disease and he is not expected to recuperate." I guess that's more than we knew a week ago when we were all announcing that the man was dying. He is dying, it's just a matter of when.

It appears Laid Off Loser is giving up the ghost. I'll admit, I didn't read his stuff all that often, but he makes a good point--most blogs have a limited shelf life. My own blog is definitely past its prime, I just can't decide if it is past the expiration date. I suppose I could just appear in the comments elsewhere, though I find commenting at other blogs far more tedious and time consuming than actually authoring and keeping up with a solo blog. Anyway, that's just a little thinking out loud (er...typing).

Tunes I've been listening to in the past seventy-two or so hours, in addition to TGIF Tunes, include: "Collide" by Howie Day; "Permanent" by David Cook; "Chasing Cars;" and, "Feels Like Home" by Randy Newman, performed by Chantal Kreviazuk.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Finding the Light

"A window breaks down a long dark street
A siren wails in the night
But I'm alright 'cause I have you here with me
And I can almost see through the dark there is light"
-- "Feels Like Home," Randy Newman

One of my greatest fears, a fear I surely share with many, is that someone I love will be hurting and there won't be anything I can do to help. Over the past forty-eight hours I have spent many a tearful hour on the phone getting a glimpse into the deeply personal struggles of one of my closest friends. It has been for him a hell with no exit.

Since gaining my first glimpse into his personal hell, I have found myself reaching out to the people who have been there for me in my darkest times. It's interesting the way our mind seems to connect the dots for us. It was almost automatic that in considering how I help a friend, I reached out to the strongest people I have ever known. In fact in reaching out to a woman who has been my mentor, my friend, in many ways a mother to me and the ultimate example of compassion, I was reminded of something she once told me about strength. She said that you surround yourself with strong people when you are particularly weak and reach out to those in need when you're feeling particularly strong. She didn't just tell me this particular gem of advice, she embodied it. I can't count the number of times she reached out to me when I was weak.

It's interesting that in realizing the struggles of others and in desiring nothing more than to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel we are reminded of the times in our own lives where we couldn't gain the perspective we needed to keep fighting the good fight. I have been needlessly reminded of many times in my life when I was neither strong nor driven, but I have also been reminded, fortunately, of the outcome in those circumstances when I lost my way or lost hope.

There are so many things I could say here, though vaguely and in a way I can only hope will be read by the one who needs it most, the most important of which is not to give up. I truly believe the saying about it being darkest before dawn. All too often we lose perspective or get bogged down in our own struggles and what we need most is someone on the outside looking in to tell us they can see progress or think we're doing alright despite everything. I have had someone in my life for the past eight years who has reminded me at the most critical times that everything is going to be okay. She tells me to hang in there when she can hear the heartache and frustration in my voice and she has been my biggest cheerleader. I only hope that I have in me that kind of compassion because I want nothing more than to help share the burden of someone else's personal hell.

Too often we point out everything we've done wrong and we neglect to take a moment to appreciate and give ourselves credit for the things we've done right. I think of the times when I have made mistakes and rather than beat myself up over those mistakes time and time again, I like to remind myself that I was either smart enough or not stubborn enough to reach out to a handful of people who really put me back on the right track. Was it easy? No, but it's possible and that's all that matters when you've fallen off the right track. Just remember that no matter what, you can turn it around and get things back on the path you need and want to be on. And, you don't have to and shouldn't have to do it alone.

I don't believe in absolutes and thinking a situation is impossible to survive or turn around is no exception. There is always hope. Sometimes you simply need someone else to hold the flashlight to guide you out.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Sanford Debacle

"I am so very weary, yea, so worn out,
With tales of those who visit foreign lands."
-- Ella Wheeler Wilcox, "The Traveled Man"
Watching the beginning of the Sanford news conference, I couldn't help but think something was missing. What? Well, Lori Otter, for one. When the no longer missing Governor Sanford stood before the mics and had absolutely no direction in his discussion of his love for the Appalachian Trail, I saw the press conference rapidly turning into a train wreck. On par with the Larry Craig press conference where he said he'd resign and that he wasn't gay, never had been, yada, yada, yada.

MSNBC is calling it a "startling news conference." I call it Republican hypocrisy. Perhaps that's exactly what Governor Sanford was pointing out when he mentioned the congressional Christian Bible group (C-Street) that he was part of. He's right to resign his position as head of the Republican Governors Association, but if this press conference is any indication, his state of mind is not one that you would want running your state if you were a South Carolinian.

After watching what seriously took two staffers pulling him away from the reporters, all I can say is wow.

This is a guy that has been given a 92% lifetime rating by the American Conservative Union, the people responsible for CPAC and a group that claims to support those time-honored conservative "traditions" like family values. He is was the best and the brightest of up-and-coming GOP leaders? And just to be clear Governor Sanford, that "whole sparking thing" you thought referred to your relationship with the woman in Argentina, that was really the explosion of your political career as it hit rock bottom.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Countdown to Cradlesong

Due to how completely distracted I can be, I am not entirely sure how long iTunes, the media player of Apple, has marketed new releases with a countdown. I started noticing their marketing formula awhile back when Rascal Flatts released their album Unstoppable. The formula is basically this: Insert a great logo stating Countdown to (x); release 1 song per week for the 3 consecutive weeks prior to the release of (x). Get it?

The current marketing campaign is for the sophomore album of Rob Thomas. "Countdown to Cradlesong" has included the release of three singles--"Her Diamonds," "Give Me the Meltdown," "Someday," and today's release "Fire On the Mountain." All of this is taking place before iTunes or any other music outlet actually has the full album release. I am assuming that the artist comes to an agreement with iTunes on how they would like to market the album or, like they must with radio stations, the artist releases a few of the singles from the album prior to the actual release date. Keep reading for my perspective on whether this marketing plan works.

Rob Thomas has a voice I've always enjoyed and his lyrics are generally very powerful. His latest single, "Fire on the Mountain," seems rather fitting for the state of the world today. Here are the lyrics to today's release:
Fire on the mountain
Through the fields, save yourself
There's evil in the garden
You don't see it, I can tell

How do you sleep while the city's burning?
Where do you go when you can't go home?
How do you drink when there's blood in the water?
Where do you turn when the world moves on?
When the world moves on...

Fire on the mountain
You can feel it against your skin
You're standing by the river
Let the river take you in

How do you sleep while the city's burning?
Where do you go when you can't go home?
How do you drink when there's blood in the water?
Where do you turn when the world moves on?
When the world moves on
When the world moves on

I see smoke out on the horizon
Mama, get your baby, take her down to the water
I feel the wind like a promise broken
I see the future, but it's getting farther
I see smoke out on the horizon
Mama, get your baby, take her down to the water
I feel the wind like a promise broken
I see the future, but it's getting farther

How do you sleep while the city's burning?
Where do you go when you can't go home?
How do you drink when there's blood in the water?
Where do you turn when the world moves on?
I have really enjoyed the previous releases that will appear on Cradlesong, but I can't contain my annoyance with how this is happening. Four songs, possibly an entire third of the full album, released before the actual album release. What happened to the days of building up anticipation for months, even years (I'm thinking Chinese Democracy here) and then going out and buying the album, on cd, cassette or vinyl, the first day it's out?

Having gone to some stores at midnight (12:01 a.m., to be exact) to pick up new releases, I can't understand why other people aren't annoyed by this marketing ploy. Sure, you are getting a preview of what is to come and will know whether or not you like the album before buying it and being stuck with it, but in this day and age there are so many ways to sample music after they are released and before you buy them that really it doesn't make any sense. It seems to me that they are only building the anticipation of the consumers who would have purchased the album anyway, eventually.

Also, I can't help but wonder what it does to album sales when singles are released consecutively prior to the album being available. If we were to assume that the four songs from Cradlesong that have already been release will in fact be the four top singles from that album, don't most people only like three or four singles from a full length album anyway? With singles available from iTunes, Rhapsody, Amazon, and many other music outlets, it is getting very easy to just buy a couple of songs you like from a cd without ever owning the full cd. It can't be helping album sales, right? Then again there are plenty of people out there getting music they never paid for to begin with and that's really hurting the music industry.

All in all it must be better for the artist to sell four singles off an entire album, prior to the album releasing or not, than to not sell any at all or to have their music out there in the hands of listeners who ripped the album or got it via other nefarious ways. So, maybe the countdown formula is a well intended for all parties.

Yet, there's still the issue of spotlighting a big name band or artist for weeks prior to a release (read: Rob Thomas) and then letting other artists (read: Wilco, also releasing on 6/30 alongside Thomas), also deserving of your money and support, go by unnoticed.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pocatello In NEWSWEEK

My subscription to Newsweek is soon to expire and I've been thinking seriously about not continuing my subscription, an argument I'll save for another day. However, this morning when I picked up my mail I was surprised and pleased to see an article by Daniel McGinn about housing in Pocatello, Idaho. Granted, it isn't the most inspiring or uplifting piece, but "The Accidental Slumlord" is still an article about Pocatello and you don't find many of those in national news magazines. More on the article soon...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

When I think of fathers, two men come immediately to mind--my grandfather and the poet Philip Booth.

My grandfather will be eighty-three in September and he's had a pretty rough year. His mind isn't what it once was and his frustration with his cognitive state is in some ways decreasing as his recognition of the problem lessens. His memories are disappearing rapidly, but the one person he always recognizes and is always happy to see is my kid brother. Whenever I call out to the house to talk to my grandmother and my "gramps" answers, we have the same conversation. Have you seen that boy? Isn't he something. And he tells me about the latest athletic feat accomplished by my talented sixteen year old brother and if I could see my grandfather, I'm sure he would be glowing.

He is the greatest father I've ever known, maybe he wasn't for his own children, but he has more than made up for it with his grandchildren. When I was playing softball, I can't think of a single game my grandpa missed. He was there on the nights when I'd go four-for-four cheering just as loudly as the nights that I'd pop out to the center fielder every time. The one and only season I played collegiate ball, my grandmother was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease and my grandfather never left her side. The game just wasn't the same.

Perhaps my greatest memory of my grandfather is a daddy/daughter night he attended with me when I was eleven. He stepped up when my own father wouldn't that night and he's stepped up every single time I've needed him to in my twenty-four years.

For everything my grandfather has been for me, I look at him with an immense amount of appreciation for the young man my brother is becoming and the man I know he will grow to be. He doesn't get out as often as he used to, but he has been there to see my brother play basketball, baseball, football and most recently wrestle. I know he's been there because I usually get a phone call telling me exactly how wonderful the boy was by a grandfather that couldn't possibly be more proud.

The reason I mention the poet, my favorite poet, Philip Booth in the same breath with the man more or less responsible for the fathering duties in my young life is because of a poem Booth once wrote for his daughter. "First Lesson" grabbed hold of me upon first hearing it and it has never let go. Booth, like my grandfather, suffered from Alzheimer's Disease in his final years. I once wrote a letter to Booth, only the second fan-type letter I've ever written, thanking him for that poem and thanking him for being the father behind that poem. I never received a response from Booth and upon his death, I learned of the Alzheimer's and knew why. I now know how Booth's children and grandchildren must have felt as a once vital part of their life left them mentally before his time here was complete.

Two men, two fathers, and today I can't help but think of the similar paths, similar struggles--the one having finished, the other just beginning--and I'm just thankful on this Father's Day that they both have had an impact on the person I am.


If there is anything that can make a rainy day in Boston with the Braves losing in the seventh inning a little less gloomy, it's watching the two men who have carried the Braves franchise for so many years being ejected together. Yes, Bobby Cox and Chipper Jones went down fighting as they argued balls-and-strikes with gusto. Terry Pendleton had to hustle on out to get Chipper away from the umpire (maybe these guys are learning from the Mike Cameron and Milton Bradley suspensions) and Bobby, the manager holding the record for the most career ejections, kept fighting the good fight. The umpire was clearly wrong, so say Chip Caray and Ron Darling, two guys that have seen far more games than I'll ever see in my lifetime. Makes a dreary day a little less so.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Progress always involves risks. You can't steal second base and keep your foot on first."
- Frederick B. Wilcox
(Unicorns & Tadpoles
, 1958)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Can't Take the Chaos II

The clouds dispell'd, the sky resum'd her light,
And Nature stood recover'd of her fright.
But fear, the last of ills, remain'd behind,
And horrow heavy sat on every mind.
-- John Dryden, Theodore and Honoria

Something I failed to mention in my observances of the current cultural and political chaos this country appears to be engulfed in is how mainstream the previously fringe fears and accusations have become.

The anti-Obama, anti-abortion, anti-diversity conspiracy theorists aren't simply the parade of wingnuts writing at Free Republic or being promoted by Fox News. In fact, part of my disgust with the fringe fears is due in part to the constant perpetuation of those fears by allowing far-right writers maintain a strangle hold on the op-ed columns in my local paper, the Idaho State Journal. I have written before about the likes of Craig Bosley, Richard Larsen and Mark Balzer, three guys who get more space per week in the ISJ than the obituaries.

How can a person avoid the looming chaos and hatred if it is running rampant through the local news?

This morning the Idaho State Journal offered four letters-to-the-editor and of the four, only one was without outright lies and prejudices (that is assuming that someone did in fact watch a car dump off a box of kittens to a local church parking lot). Granted, the odds could be much worse for truth actually being printed in a fairly well-read newspaper, but still, the fringe elements are all the closer to the surface when a community's only print news presents them quickly and without hesitation. Why are these letters an issue? Well, certainly not for any reason that has to do with the First Amendment, though every conservative that read the paper this morning and reads this will tell you I have something against the First Amendment. I assure you, I have a healthy respect for the First Amendment, but I do not appreciate being greeted by lies when I pick up the morning paper. And I can't help but wonder if the editorial board of the ISJ completely missed the events of the past few weeks.

The first letter printed this morning below a large Jim Margulies political cartoon was titled "Abortion." Not only did this person rail on President Obama for being pro-choice, she continued to tow the tired conservative line regarding torture. The letter writer asked how President Obama and others who cry foul when this country uses torture to attain "much good information...that saved many lives" can support the "murder" of babies. One life is more valuable to us pro-choicers than another? Of course not, but that doesn't stop this writer for continuing on to describe in graphic detail what she believes happens in a partial-birth abortion. I'm guessing this writer has absolutely no idea what happens in an IDX procedure. Why? This is exactly what the person writes:
[If you are squeamish or easily disturbed, I do NOT recommend reading the following quotation.]

"I would like to comment on the so-called torture. Do you really know what torture is, President Obama? Torture is having an abortionist reach into the womb, guided by ultrasound, and grabbing the legs of the baby and pulling them into the birth canal, then delivering the baby's entire body except for its head, then having the abortionist jam scissors into the baby's skull and opening the scissors to enlarge the hole. The scissors are then removed and...the child's brains are then sucked out, causing the skull to collapse. The murdered baby is then removed and discarded."
Yes, this was printed in the newspaper that many teachers ask their middle school aged and younger students to read prior to the start of many a summer school session. The only part of this letter that showed an ounce of compassion was the fact that the writer called the doctor an "abortionist," but then again, the Idaho State Journal has Dr. Bosley to call these doctors, including George Tiller, murderers.

Oh, and did I mention that the author, one Lonnie Taggart of Grace, Idaho, also stated with certainty that we'd only used torturous methods on a total of three terrorists? Yes, three terrorists, while he/she points out that we "murdered" 1.5 million babies in this country last year.

The anti-Obama filth did not end with Taggart's horrific letter, the Idaho State Journal printed another that was if anything, even more appalling than the first.

The second letter-to-the-editor that left me stunned this morning was written by John O. Cotant. Those of you outside of southern Idaho may not be familiar with the name, so I'll point you to a proclamation made in appreciation for Mr. Cotant's thirty-six years of service to the city of Chubbuck. Cotant served as the mayor of Chubbuck, Idaho for thirty-six years and was praised by members of the United States Senate. What did Mr. Cotant have to say? His anti-Obama rant nearly mirrors that of many "birthers" (conspiracy theorists who insist that President Obama is not an American citizen and his lack of citizenship will bring this country to a screeching halt):
"Last fall when I was asked who I was voting for [P]resident of the United States I often replied this way, 'I am an American, I know that Diane and Chick Bilyeu are Americans,' and I have never voted against the Bilyeus. 'I know that John McCain is an American. I do not know who or what Barack Obama is." I am voting for the one who I know is an American, John McCain."

Yes, this is a man who served at the beck and call of the Idaho Republican Party and as the mayor of Chubbuck for thirty-six years and here he is in my local paper saying that he doesn't believe that Obama is an American. His "who or what" comment suggests something entirely outside the realm of my own logic and I am absolutely amazed by the gall of this man. And I must say I was irritated and embarrassed for Diane Bilyeu--she and her late husband have been nothing but upstanding and acutely sensitive members of this community. My perception of Mayor Cotant certainly reflects nothing similar.

Believe it or not, Cotant didn't stop there. He went on to question why President Obama hadn't stopped to lay wreaths at the cemeteries of our war dead on his recent trip to France. He went on to question how Obama could accuse Americans of being arrogant when he can't possibly know our history well enough to know that among the French we are anything but arrogant. Why can't President Obama possibly know our history well enough? His words speak for themselves:
"I question if President Obama even knows there are American military cemeteries in France...President Obama did not attend schools K-12 in America. He apparently was in school in Southeast Asia or other parts of the world. He did attend Harvard, but at that university today, little is taught about the greatest nation on earth."

Mayor Cotant doesn't know if Obama is an American, even though it has been verified that Obama was born in Hawaii. It appears Mayor Cotant wishes to discredit either Hawaii as one of the fifty states or he just simply would rather paint Obama as a foreigner. I think the latter is in fact what Cotant is attempting to do here, despite the facts. Obama attended at least some schooling in Hawaii, graduating from the Punahou School in Honolulu. And little is taught about this country at Harvard? You've got to be kidding me. So why do all of my classmates with degrees in History seek graduate degrees from Harvard? Because we seek to learn from the greatest scholars on the history of Canada?

Prior to today I never would have considered the former mayor of Chubbuck to be among the fringe conservatives that we've heard about so frequently in the past weeks. "Birthers" and other members of the fringe American right are guys like von Brunn, the man who killed a guard at the Holocaust Museum, not mayors in small town America. Right? It's no wonder the chaotic world is so disconcerting. Here's a man who was recognized by the United States Senate, specifically Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), for crying out loud. And he's still writing about how the President of the United States of America may not be an American citizen.

This is precisely why I can't take the chaos...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Can't Take the Chaos

"Society, crazy and deep,
I hope you're not lonely without me"
-- Eddie Vedder, "Society"
(Into the Wild)

There must be bloggers who thrive on periods of cultural and political chaos. I am not one of those bloggers and if I once was, I have long abandoned the need to immerse myself in that sort of chaos for the sake of a few thought provoking posts. In fact, I have found that I am the exact opposite of those who thrive on the anxiety, chaos, and general discontent found in today's political world. Perhaps I have grown into this type of person, departing from the once reactionary writer I began this blog for and more and more becoming a writer who avoids the up-to-the-minute commentary on whatever big news story has enveloped the American public. However, I tend to believe that it was the 2008 presidential election that changed me and everything around me.

I have thought a great deal about Dave Neiwert lately, both because I have been reading his new book and because the things he has devoted his research and writing time to have been plastered all over the news. Recent events have probably served to sell copies of his book, but he must be horribly tormented seeing the things he talks about in his book coming to fruition. What I find truly amazing is that those who stood on their soapboxes when the Department of Homeland Security released its assessment on the rising recruitment rates of hate groups following the election of Obama are continuing to say that those actual recruits are leftists and not the making of the hate speech being broadcast, televised and printed by the American right. Some are going so far as to say that the writings of Mr. von Brunn, the Holocaust museum shooter, are disappearing all over the internet because they are precisely the links that would tie the domestic terrorist to the left. Yes, people here in Idaho are spouting this paranoid, conspiratorial nonsense.

The election of our first African-American President of the United States has not turned out to be the only event that has caused some fringe-conservative Americans to come unhinged. The selection of Sonia Sotomayor as potentially the next Justice of the United States Supreme Court has fueled a particularly out-of-control fire that has been burning for years surrounding the immigration debate. There is an immense hatred for Latinos at this particular point in our history, a hatred that has only been fed by the likes of Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck and Idaho's own Zeb Bell. Add to the election of Obama and the selection of Sotomayor the growing fear for any and all diversity and you have an American people trapped in a cycle of fear and hatred.

Here at home, it has yet to be determined if the recent beating death of a Native American bouncer at a local bar was racially motivated. Thirty or so minutes away, a same-sex couple were faced with small town bigotry, a story that has sadly resorted to pointing fingers every which way. And the local and state media appear to still be arguing over whether or not they should report on racism and hate groups. To them I offer the following quotation from Dave Neiwert's The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right:
When I was the editor [of] the Daily Bee in Sandpoint in the late 1970s, we were faced with the touch decision of how to handle the increasing viability of Richard Butler's neo-Nazi Church of Jesus Christ Christian, based at the Aryan Nations compound some 30 miles down the road in Hayden Lake. After much hand-wringing, we decided it was best not to give them any coverage, since publicity was what they craved, and it would only encourage their radicalism

What we didn't understand was that the silence was interpreted as consent. And so, over the next several years, the Idaho Panhandle witnesses a parade of disturbing hate crimes (enough so that Idaho became one of the first state to pass a bias-crime law)...I certainly never forgot that mistake. (p. 32-33)
Perhaps one of the reasons I choose not to jump into this period of cultural and political chaos is because we have been down this road before. Not just my state, but me personally. I have given my time and attention to the exposing of hate where it lives, unfortunately in the valley where I spent most of my childhood, and all that my time and effort resulted in was a man's cause fueled by the attention and many sleepless nights on my part.

This is why I admire writers like Dave Neiwert; they have seen the hatred, seen where it is born and where it is fueled, and they're able to write about it in a way that not only identifies the problem and presents a way to counter it, but also write about it in a way that inspires others to pick up the cause. The way I wrote about Zeb Bell and others of a similar mindset in the Magic Valley only brought one seriously concerned citizen to the cause. We were never able to get others involved the way Neiwert has been. In fact nearly the opposite happened, we enraged a populace that came to stand with Zeb Bell and his hatred. What we were saying about hatred in southcentral Idaho was met by defensive members of Zeb Bell's little world, some of which contacted members of my own family to voice their complaints and disgust with what I was saying. And what was I able to change? Very little, actually. The same filth is broadcast every Monday through Thursday morning on the same station as has always given it voice.

What I find the most disturbing about the conservative fringe is not the bloviating that is taking place on the airwaves, but the adamant approval of our friends and neighbors who listen to those programs. It wasn't what Zeb Bell was saying that got under my skin as much as it was the tacit approval of his listeners, men and women I've known my entire life and looked to as upstanding members of the community. It wasn't so much men like Frosty Wooldridge, the David Duke follower and immigration opponent, as it was housewives like the Iron Yak, who from her home and child care facility writes on her website exactly what she despises in society, despite her clever attempt to disguise the hatred she harbors:
I do not hate atheists, gays, lesbians, environmentalists, pro-choicers, Muslims, terrorists, pedophiles, drug pushers, rapists, prostitutes, murders, or politicians, but I hate what they do and the fact that they often hurt, scar and even kill others. I also hate liars.
Yes, please, tell me how she can truly not hate all of those things when she has clearly grouped them together because they are equal in her eyes. Incredulously, the previous quote is followed by the statement, "I love the Lord." That anyone groups an Atheist with a pedophile suggests a certain degree of contempt for both. And that anyone will state in whatever way they can that they are Christian as a way of saying they are a good person and can't possibly harbor hate is a strategy I may never understand. As I said, it isn't the most openly hateful that worry me, it is those that get together after church on Sunday for a family meal and discuss how opposed they are to the growing Hispanic population, not because of any threat to their way of life or their jobs, but because they believe (like many Dittoheads) that it is an invasion.

The cultural and political chaos we are currently engulfed in is distressing to the many of us who know better than to believe that anyone wants to take our guns away, that any one race seeks superiority over another, that our President isn't truly a citizen of this country or that he will do nothing to protect us from nuclear annihilation, and that same-sex marriage will put an end to civilization as we know it. It has to be distressing to those who watched as the political process became increasingly volatile this past year, not just because conservatives attempted to tie the Democratic nominee to a wide array of perceived evils (terrorism, William Ayers, the Muslim faith, etc.), but because liberals went on the offensive every time anyone, even other liberals, said anything that wasn't 100% supportive of Obama. Those very liberals would counter the hatred if it happened to be directed at their candidate and ignore the hatred if it were directed anywhere else, even if that happened to be in the heart of their communities.

What the 2008 presidential election changed in me was the amount of hope I held for a country less partisan and full of what Neiwert refers to as eliminationists. More and more we are seeing that the election of Obama brought out the most radical of the fringe conservatives and that the mainstream conservatives and their nationally coordinated tea parties only fueled that emergence of the fringe.

To be completely honest, domestic terrorists and those who condone acts of domestic terrorism like the assassination of Dr. George Tiller by an anti-abortionist or the shooting at the Holocaust Museum by a white supremacist, scare me on a level not at all rivaled by foreign terrorism or the acts we are addressing in the global war on terror. Maybe because the hatred that fuels domestic terrorism is something quite personal to me, something I heard as a kid growing up and continue to hear from the more conservative members of my own family and community. This is, fortunately or unfortunately, why I have chosen not to wade through everything being said about the current chaotic status of our country. It is disturbing, distressing and from time to time leaves me with the desire to run as far away from it as I can get. Thankfully, there are those much stronger than me who write continuously about these events and the fears we all must be facing right now in this country. I truly believe those of us who lack in bravery owe a debt of gratitude to those like Dave Neiwert who courageously stand up to counter the hatred in society.


In Tuesday's opener of the interleague series between the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez sat behind the plate to catch his 2,226th game, tying another Pudge, Carlton Fisk, for the all-time record for a catcher. And the 2,226th career game caught behind the plate was certainly no cakewalk for the guy who has caught for the Rangers, Marlins, Tigers, Yankees, and now Astros. However, the Pudge baseball fans have grown accustomed to over the past seventeen seasons is a guy who will take a beating behind the plate, yet continue to field his position with a degree of grace and talent that makes catching a major league pitcher seem easy.

Last night, in a match up with his old team the Rangers, the odds of which are baffling, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez toppled the other Pudge and became the record holder with 2,227 career games caught.

Pudge Rodriguez may have averaged 37 or so doubles per season (amounting to 531 as of today), 20+ home runs per season and even 85+ RBIs, but what I believe will get Pudge Rodriguez into Cooperstown (home of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame) is what he has done behind the plate. Not only has he caught 2,227 games, he has 13 gold gloves to represent his defense behind the plate, the most gold gloves for a catcher ever. This is a guy that baseball folks in the know describe as the greatest defensive catcher in the entire history of baseball. And the fans who recognize that Pudge is a force and a phenomenal player have elected Pudge to play in the All-Star game a total of fourteen times.

On top of everything that's already been said here, Pudge has 7 silver slugger awards under his belt as well as a World Series ring and the coveted MVP trophy, awarded to him by the American League in 1999.

Seeing Pudge return to Texas, against the team he broke into the majors with and had some of his most productive years with, to beat Pudge Fisk's record was an amazing thing. The highlights last night, though not particularly remarkable in the Astros defeat, reminded me why I grew up idolizing Pudge Rodriguez. What Pudge has proven time and again is that he is a serious player who loves the game and has no intent to abandon it. There were moments during the World Baseball Classic when Pudge, without a contract for the 2009 season, appeared to be on top of his game and potentially in a position to go out while still at the top, but those appearances only served to remind the rest of the baseball world that Pudge has much to bring to a team. The Houston Astros knew what they were doing in signing Pudge and whatever years his legs and knees have left in them will be worth whatever the price for the Astros or any other team.

With guys like Pudge Rodriguez in the game, it is easier to swallow the ongoing chaos that ensues every time another player is mentioned in the steroid saga. I just continue to hope that on that secret list of 103 players who tested positive in 2003 for performance enhancing drugs, Pudge's name is nowhere to be found. The Texas Rangers franchise is certainly plagued by a history of steroid-users (Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez and now Sosa), but you have to hope and believe that the good guys like Pudge Rodriguez simply walked away.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lava Chamber of Commerce

I received an email and comment from the President of the Lava Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce in response to my recent post (also picked up by the Statesman)regarding the bigotry expressed by the staff at the Lava Hot Springs swimming complex. Mr. Scott Pearhill, Chamber president, brought a press release to my attention. The following press release was drafted by the Chamber of Commerce and issued Friday, June 12, 2009:
In the past week, the Lava Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce has received numerous requests for clarification about the attitude of our town toward gay and lesbian visitors. While the Lava Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce does not represent everyone, it is nonetheless composed of more than 70 area businesses. Our members comprise most of the retail, lodging, dining, entertainment and recreation services in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. On behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, with the Board of Directors speaking unanimously, we want all to know that we hope this isolated incident won’t dissuade visitors from exploring and enjoying our community and, indeed, the rest of Idaho. The Lava Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce feels that all visitors are welcome in our community and we look forward to showing them our Idaho hospitality.
Mr. Pearhill had more to say in the email I received from him:
The Lava Chamber (more than 70 local businesses) has a long tradition of appreciating and welcoming diversity. We composed the press release because, in recent weeks, we received many distressed requests for clarification about the town's attitude toward people who are gay and lesbian. Bottom line: we don't discriminate and we welcome all visitors to Lava.
I appreciate Mr. Pearhill taking the opportunity to speak to the general attitude of the Chamber of Commerce toward gay and lesbian visitors/tourists. More on this incident to come.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Goin' Bloggin'

(Update, 6/17: I apparently jinxed myself by saying I was on a roll. I've been sidelined with a tweaked back since Sunday evening...)

I'm on a roll, don't stop me now! Blogger says this is my 1,275th post... I say, this is my 7th post in consecutive days, it's some sort of miracle here, folks. I've got a post in the works, but here are a few things to read in the meantime:

That's it for the links. Look for an afternoon post a post tomorrow afternoon...I was sidetracked by the continued flooring installment at my house and putting my house back together.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Smorgasbord Saturday

What do you think of the new color scheme and design? I'm still tweaking the text fonts and colors as well as the link and followed link colors. The color wheel for html is a rather tedious attempt to give website designers every imaginable option. For someone as indecisive as I can be, the color choices are simply too many! A few more days and hopefully the scheme here will be set.

Now for today's baseball smorgasbord...

The Major League Baseball draft has concluded. The big name player picked first by the Washington Nationals was of course San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg. The kid has an arm and I'm not about to say otherwise, but my question is this: How many agents are there that represent big leaguers? Seriously, does Scott Boras have to represent every big-name player? I can't help, but feel a little contempt for the drafting of Stephen Strasburg, regardless of how good the kid coached by the great Tony Gwynn may be, simply because he is being represented by Scott Boras. Boras, as you may know, represents all sorts of all-star caliber players including the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Texeira, Manny Ramirez, Pudge Rodriguez, Magglio Ordóñez, nearly half of the Boston Red Sox lineup (Daisuke Matsuzaka, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jason Varitek), big-discussion free agent Matt Holiday, a pair of Atlanta pitchers (Derek Lowe and Jair Jurrjens), Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu, Carlos Beltran, and the reinvented Barry Zito. Turns out the list of players in the majors, minors and even amateur is enormous. The whole ordeal that landed Manny Ramirez in L.A. and the controversial opt-out and subsequent A-Rod contract that overshadowed the 2007 World Series, were more or less orchestrated by Scott Boras. Where does his influence in the game end? I'd contend that he has more of an influence on what becomes of a Major League season than the commissioner himself. It's ridiculous. There should be some sort of rule against this, but then again I firmly believe in salary caps for the MLB.

Another point on the draft. The hall-of-famer Peter Gammons had a great post on his blog about the toughest position to fill in the game--the catcher. I had never really thought about the draft in previous years, at least not at the level I've contemplated it this year, but really, catchers aren't usually the big news of the draft, but they appear to be the most needed by clubs. They don't usually get picked up in the first roud. Of course, there are exceptions like Minnesota's Joe Mauer who has become not only a defensive wonder, but a power hitter to boot. This year one catcher went in the first ten picks to Pittsburgh. In the 2008 draft, three catchers were picked up in the first ten picks. Is baseball finally breaking away from the standard power/offensive picks and realizing they need good defense and superb pitching? More and more I see a game that looks nothing like it did ten or even five years ago. The need for catchers, solid pitching and speedy, defensive outfielders and infielders only serves as proof that the game really is getting back to fundamentals in the post-steroid era. And it is always nice to see catchers getting the recognition they deserve. If any one player controls the field and the game, it is the guy behind the mask and behind home plate.

It's been an interesting week in baseball. Word is that following his successful rehab start last night, John Smoltz will be ready to pitch again in the majors. The Red Sox (it's still unbelievable to me that Smoltz is no longer a Brave) have had Smoltz with their Triple-A Pawtucket team as he makes his way back from the shoulder surgery that put an early end to his season last year. I have never been completely certain where Smoltz will fit into the Boston rotation. He won't close games like he has in the past because Boston has a solid closer, but I wonder how long Smoltz will hold up as a starter in a rotation with the likes of Brad Penny, Daisuke, Lester, and Josh Beckett. John Smoltz is a great guy and has had amazing stuff in both the starter and closer role. It's just going to take some time to get over the sting of seeing him in a Red Sox uniform.

Nate McLouth has been a welcome burst of energy in the Braves clubhouse since he was picked up from the Pirates. In fact, it wasn't a bad week for the Braves by any stretch. Chipper is hitting consistently and is apparently healthy. His consistency hitting from both sides of the plate seems to place Chipper on the path to Cooperstown. You have to assume that when Chipper retires, he still has plenty of years to go, the Braves will retire no. 10. He's been the face of the franchise ever since the three-headed pitching monster of Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine broke up. Tuesday was a great day for the Braves as manager Bobby Cox recorded his 2,000th win as manager of the Braves. Cox has served three stints with the Braves, his latest being the most successful (fourteen straight division titles helped his cause immensely). Despite all that is good in the Braves clubhouse, it's still a little disheartening that Frank Wren would release Tommy Glavine.

One last observation: The Red Sox have been on the television a great deal over the past week and I have been incredibly happy to see Mark Kotsay return to their lineup. The veteran outfielder has been hitting up a storm since his return from back surgery. The time table the Red Sox estimated for his return was May at the very earliest (he had arthroscopic surgery in January). He's made it back and in fine form. Kotsay isn't the only Boston outfielder you can't help but cheer for. Rocco Baldelli, acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays, has a chronic medical condition and can't start in consecutive games, but is a good and decent player who loves the game. J.D. Drew has a bat that, when hot, can carry a club. Jacoby Ellsbury has unbelievable speed and the guy in left field, Jason Bay, is in so many ways the anti-Manny Ramirez. I don't much care for the infielders or the pitching staff, but with all the Boston games that are televised, I've grown to find some positives in not having other games available to watch, the Red Sox outfield being mosts of those positives.

I expect the oncoming trade deadline to heat up some talks. Don't be surprised to see a move of Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa and Roy Oswalt. Jake Peavy's ankle problem may keep him in San Diego and his veto power of any trade may well keep him in the pitching haven that is Petco Park. If he goes anywhere, the NL Brewers may be a perfect fit. Look for a lot of talk about Erik Bedard as well.

And in case you hadn't noticed in my new blog header, I added the image of a baseball for days that require a little baseball news roundup. Guilt free!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Idaho On the National Stage

It seems the story I commented on Tuesday has gone national. The refusal by the Lava Hot Springs State Foundation to offer a family admission price to Amber Koger, her partner Jeri Underwood, and Amber's three nieces and nephews, has been picked up by some in the national media world.

The Hollywood blogger, Perez Hilton, titled his post "Dear Idaho" and flat out said in response to the story KTVB ran yesterday: "This sucks." The KTVB story was simply a regurgitated version of the story in the Idaho State Journal Tuesday. The Advocate ran the Lava story as well, both sites/stories picking up numerous comments from readers.

Today the Idaho State Journal has the "Family Pass Policy" for the swimming complex as part of a story on the now national news story. Tuesday, Mark Lowe, executive director of the Lava Hot Springs State Foundation, stated that the family policy was not a written policy. Apparently, the foundation does have a written policy, I'm assuming they have written this policy and added it to their website (where, I don't know, because I can't locate it on the actual website) after refusing the Koger/Underwood family a family pass. The policy states the following:
Intent: The family discount is intended to help families afford the day out at a swimming pool or hot pool facility that they may not otherwise be able to afford. It is also intended to increase attendance at the facilities midweek when business is typically slower. Therefore, the discount is available Monday-Thursday except major holidays--New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.

Eligibility: In order to be as consistent as possible, families that are eligible for the discount are considered to be parents and children. The children must be dependent children of the parent, or parents, present at the time of entry, and under the age of 18. For the purpose of this discount, parent is defined as the person who has long-term legal responsibility for the dependent children.

Discussion: The children need not be biological offspring of the legally responsible adult(s). Adopted children and foster children are considered part of the family so long as the stipulations listed above are met. Parents are defined as those adults who are either legally obligated to the care of the dependent children or are married to the adult who is the parent of the dependent children. Single parents and their children are eligible for the discount. Adults who are raising their siblings are eligible for the discount.

As the paper points out, the "family discount policy...does not designate what sex the parents must be to qualify for the family rate." However, my guess is that Lava is contending same-sex couples and their children are not eligible for the family rate because they are not married and cannot be in the state of Idaho.

This is ridiculous on many levels, the least of which is the fact that two parents who have lived together and raised their children for years are allowed the family pass as long as they an opposite-sex couple. That couple is not deemed ineligible because they are without a marriage certificate--they're not even asked if they are married when they show up to the complex. This argument could be continued by theorizing that even some same-sex couples might be married, complete with a marriage certificate, but their marriage is not recognized in Idaho. That is beyond the scope of the argument, really. It mostly comes down to the fact that this family arrived at the swimming complex and was denied the family rate because the two parents were both female. How might the complex have handled a family that arrived with two women in the parenting role who were sisters? Surely there are families that split parenting duties between one sister, perhaps a widow, and another who has stepped in to share the parenting burden. The Koger/Underwood family was denied the rate not because of some written policy, Mr. Lowe stated there was not a written policy as of Tuesday, but because they appeared as and are a same-sex couple raising a family.

This story is yet another example of unabashed bigotry in Idaho. As Geoff says, "this, is life in Idaho." And as Sisyphus asked somewhere yesterday, tell me, how is this not segregation?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Baca Website

Congressman Joe Baca (D-California) has never really been a member of the House of Representatives that I have had much use for. Until today. Baca's now infamous encounter with the Sanchez sisters that caused a pretty serious shakeup Congressional Hispanic Caucus didn't help his cause, but something available on his congressional website has him out of the doghouse with me for the moment.

Perhaps other members of Congress have a page dedicated specifically to the definition of types of legislation in the House or Senate, but the page I found most useful is one created for Baca's website. The definitions offered on Baca's website nicely supplement the simple definitions provided by Lexis-Nexis.

Why do I need a definition of types of legislation, where they originate and how they differ from other types of legislation? I have a stack of bills, measuring about eight to ten inches high, from the 101st Congress on my desk and they have a wide array of legislation abbreviations. I've encountered enough legislation throughout the Stallings Collection to understand that every piece of legislation has specific goals, but I was encountering goals or bill descriptions that were similar if not exactly the same with only the bill type differing (i.e. H.R., H. Con. Res, H. J. Res., etc.). Now I understand why certain pieces of legislation were introduced as one type of legislation and then reintroduced as another type. It is all coming together in a way that wouldn't have been possibly without the resource offered by Congressman Baca's website.

I don't think members of Congress understand how essential it is to have a website that offers their constituents a range of information and resources. Most congressional websites offer some type of form to contact them. They also explain their casework procedures, some even offering online forms to fill out to initiate that particular office's help with a number of constituent issues. On Baca's website this area is titled "Casework Wizard," which I thought particularly clever until I realized that "wizard" referred to forms or templates more than it reflected on the success rate of cases opened by Baca's office.

Where I believe some congressional websites fail is in the way they present information. Many congressional websites offer an overwhelming amount of information about that specific member of Congress, the legislation they are working on and where that member has made news or released some press release. This is all well and good until you take into account that the average American does not have the slightest idea of how the House (or Senate) operates. We don't all remember the wonderful Schoolhouse Rock "I'm Just a Bill" ditty. It's refreshing to see congressional websites explain the process--both so we can educate ourselves and so we can be sure that the people we are electing understand the process. Congressional websites need to tell us how the system works, not how they're using the system to get re-elected.

When was the last time you visited a congressional website that offered exactly what you needed and made that information readily available without a wild goose chase? Those of you have visited congressional websites recently know exactly what I'm talking about. Maybe members of Congress should have to give an accurate account of a day in Congress based on information they find on congressional websites. My guess is they wouldn't have the slightest idea what was going on if they were only connected this way. Maybe then they'd understand the frustrations of the rest of us.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Bigotry In My Backyard

Amber Koger and Jeri Underwood took in Amber's niece and two nephews after a divorce tore the children's family apart. The state of Idaho intervened on the behalf of the children and placed the children in the stable, loving care of their aunt and her partner. They appear to be a happy, caring family...to everyone except the Lava Hot Springs State Foundation. Ms. Koger and Ms. Underwood were denied a family pass at the swimming complex in Lava because the state-associated complex does not recognize two loving parents and three happy children as a family.

The Lava Hot Springs State Foundation staff denied the family rate to the Koger/Underwood family during their recent visit to the swimming complex, but offered Koger and two of the three children the rate, expecting the other members of the family to pay the separate admission price.

Arguments being offered by the Foundation as well as the staff at the Lava complex and those choosing to comment on the story via the Idaho State Journal's website, all seem to revolve around the fact that Idaho does not accept or recognize same-sex marriage and that the Foundation was bound by law to not recognize the Koger/Underwood family as just that--a family. The ISJ article quotes the swimming complex definition of family as "mom, dad, and children," but also goes on to say that the Ross Park Aquatic Center here in Pocatello holds a family night and all types of families are welcome to attend.

There are so many components of this unfortunate story that contradict one other. Why would the Lava Hot Springs State Foundation quote the definition of a family if they do not have a written policy defining a family as such and a situation like this has never previously arisen? Why would the Foundation feel obligated to uphold their penned definition of family in this situation, but when a single mother or father ask for the family rate they are allowed entrance as are grandparents and even children who are visiting the pool with their aunts or uncles? Clearly, the staff at Lava have defined family as any type of relationship as long as it does not involve same-sex partners. And why would the staff offer a family pass to Ms. Koger and her two nephews, excluding not only Ms. Underwood, but Ms. Koger's niece? The story points out that of the three children, the niece had been living with her aunts the longest and yet she is not included with her brothers in the non-traditional single parent family that the Lava staff presented as an option for Koger and Underwood.

If the guardianship of these children could be entrusted to Koger and Underwood, how is that anything less than a family? As the children and their parents point out in the story, Koger and Underwood have offered a safe, loving environment for the children and an environment that is much better from their previous situation with two opposite-sex parents. After all, a family can be what you make it and less and less is that unit resembling the 1950s stereotypical "mom, dad, and kids."

The Lava Hot Springs State Foundation and the many commenting on this story may state however many times they like that same-sex relationships are not legally recognized in this state. Let's remember that the definition of "family" is not legal terminology. Just because the state of Idaho does not recognize same-sex marriage does not mean that family units with any combination of partners, same-sex included, are any less of a "family" than the rest.

As a kid I went to Lava a handful of times. I wasn't much for water, but I did enjoy laying out in the sun with a book and playing an occasional game of volleyball in the sand. As I kid I never went to Lava with my mom, dad, and brother, but I sure was admitted into Lava nearly on every visit at the family rate. I went with cousins, one over eighteen, the rest of us twelve or younger. I went with aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors and friends. Why was my "family" any better than the Koger/Underwood family? It wasn't. We were just a little closer to the conservative, stereotypical definition of a traditional family that Lava was looking for when giving out their discounts. Almost as if they are rewarding you for having a nuclear family that resembles the Cleavers on the surface, no matter how muddled and lacking in love it might be under the surface. I could have easily walked into Lava, a family pass acquired, with parents, a mother and father, who aren't even biologically related to me. That's a traditional family?

It is horribly unfortunate that the right has no other way of defending the despicable action taken by the Lava Foundation than to dig up their well-worn talking points on same-sex marriage. To quote one of the comments at the ISJ: "This isn't about marriage. It's about family." Those who wish to belittle Ms. Koger and Ms. Underwood for their love for each other are truly lacking in intelligence. Decent rhetoric would not resort to calling these women cheapskates who want to "save a buck by claiming they are a family." It is even more unfortunate that those who are talking about this story today are questioning the state of Idaho's decision to place the children with Ms. Koger and her partner in the first place. Shame on the Idaho State Journal for giving the right a medium where they can attack two women they don't even know about a situation that is far more complex than their "littleness" can comprehend.

I was recently thinking about taking a few days off and spending them in Lava. The Lava Foundation will not be receiving another dollar from me and I hope my friends who are given "free" (somebody pays for them) tickets to Lava for being summer school students at Idaho State University will tear up those tickets. The only way to eliminate the hate and bigotry around us is to directly counter it and stop indirectly supporting it.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Conflict In Talking Points

Wordsmith is running a political cartoon over at Left Side of the Moon that I must admit expresses something I've thought about quite frequently over the past week. Surely there are others who are as perplexed as I am by the battling ideals that seem to surround the murder of Dr. George Tiller.

The arguments that are coming to fruition, albeit quietly, seem to encompass the very notions anti-choicers have for many years shouted at the left in respect to abortion and the death penalty. Abortion should be outlawed because it is "murder," but the death penalty should be upheld because we have the right to take a murderers life for his crimes and that is not murder, it is justice. I have never understood those conflicting positions and I don't expect it will suddenly become clear to me. However, I see the same argument taking place behind closed doors where those who are relieved (for their cause) to see George Tiller in his grave aren't immediately condemning the actions of Scott Roeder. If you disagree with this point, let me ask this: What is the purpose of pointing out the number of abortions performed by Dr. Tiller or why label the man a "murderer" if you believe the man has as much a right to live his life as any of the rest of us? I listen to the right point out the work of Dr. Tiller and I am repulsed by the hatred they have for the man. They don't appear to believe that those like George Tiller have any more of a right to live than your average serial killer on death row. Amazing.

The right may counter these points by saying that nobody is actively admitting a belief that Tiller deserved to die, my response to which would include a quote the founder of Operation Rescue, Randall Terry: "George Tiller was a mass murderer and horrifically, he reaped what he sowed." Tell me where in that statement Mr. Terry is condemning what was done to George Tiller at his church? By adding "horrifically" to that statement, it is somehow less abrasive? It's quite clear to the rest of us that the extreme right loses no sleep over the murder of men like George Tiller. It's clear because the right continues to speak about these "mass murders" and the the perceived sins of George Tiller instead of speaking to the radicalization of their own faction of the Republican party, a faction that includes Randall Terry, Scott Roeder, and even Hal Turner (who sounds a lot like Idaho's own Zeb Bell).

Sometimes I like to believe that the hatred that leads to violence doesn't exist here, as if pretending will keep the hatred at bay for good. Hate's existence is an unfortunate reality I encounter from time to time, if not from the hate radiating from the Magic Valley and the microphone of Zeb Bell, from the commentators in my local paper. The Idaho State Journal has a handful of what my friends at 43rd State Blues would call wingnuts. They are unapologetic haters. They hate (in no particular order) gays, Atheists, liberals, Sonia Sotomayor, Canadians (today at least), and anyone willing to pay taxes for things that might actually help Americans without putting up a fight (or throwing a tea party). In my opinion, the top tier of wingnuts writing for the ISJ right now includes Richard Larsen, Mark Balzer, and Craig Bosley. Second Tier would include the rest--Spencer Case, Michael O'Donnell, etc. It is, however, the top tier that promotes the most irrational and unsettling of positions. This morning readers of the Idaho State Journal were met with an editorial by Dr. Craig Bosley, an emergency physician here in Pocatello, that more or less was leading to the point that Dr. Tiller deserved to die and set himself up for his own murder, but then turned on a dime and ended with the statement: "We cannot challenge abortion if we become what we detest."

Of course Dr. Bosley couldn't write about George Tiller without inciting more hatred for the man who is no longer around to defend himself. He makes sure to point out in the first paragraph of his editorial how many abortions Dr. Tiller supposedly performed and that he "arrogantly performed late-term abortions." Don't ask me what arrogance has to do with the issue, other than Bosley seems have a great deal of it. Bosley not only attacks Tiller because of his performance of abortions, he attacks Tiller because of his faith in God:
"Maybe the final irony of Dr. Tiller's life was that he was sent to his God in the House of his God. Maybe it was time for him to face the Creator of the laws he claimed to follow."
So, let me get this right, George Tiller not only didn't deserve to live, he also didn't deserve to believe in the same God as Craig Bosley? Clearly by saying "his God," Bosley means to say that a man like Dr. Tiller, who performed abortions, couldn't possibly believe in the same God as Dr. Bosley, who doesn't perform abortions? That's exactly what I read. How exactly is this irony or even the final irony of poor George Tiller's life? And the laws "he claimed to follow"? Last I checked, Dr. Bosley, abortion is legal in this country and the law of the land is what Dr. Tiller was obligated to follow, not whichever of God's laws you are attempting to force on Dr. Tiller and the rest of us.

What I seem to be finding the most perplexing of the things written, by Bosley and others, as well as the political cartoons being penned, is that so many of us are unwilling to say what we believe outright because we know how it will paint us. Dr. Bosley keeps talking about "many," but only indirectly eludes to his acceptance of what the "many" believe. To support this point:

"...[M]ore than a few people confidently believe Dr. Tiller was killed to defend the unborn, with obvious extenuating circumstances. Many will want Dr. Tiller's killer honored, not prosecuted, certain Dr. Tiller was not murdered; instead he was executed for his 'crimes against humanity.'"
Why not just come out and say what you mean, Dr. Bosley? You condone Scott Roeder and others like him, don't you? No, that isn't what you meant by "many." As the cartoon Wordsmith is running points out, the battling ideals and contradictory positions being taken by you and the extreme right have confused the rest of us. You say you can't challenge abortion if you become exactly what you detest, yet you're not outright condemning a murder because you'd rather we call it an execution since in your view the man got what was coming to him? Right. And sure, I'll believe that pigs fly.