Monday, August 31, 2009

What My Grandmother Taught Me

"He convinced us that we could ace the next test, make the varsity team, win the next race--whether it was sailing or politics--and it was okay if we didn't, as long as we tried our best. He did it by letting us know that he believed in us, so we should believe in ourselves."
-- Caroline Kennedy on her Uncle Teddy (August 28, 2009)

On Friday, as friends, colleagues, and family members of Senator Edward M. Kennedy gathered at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, my grandmother was celebrating her seventy-fifth birthday. This particular convergence of events was no small coincidence in my life as it was my grandmother who first introduced me, a six-year-old kid, to Camelot.

In fact, August 28th is a date full of history. It was the 28th of August in 1955 when a young black boy, Emmett Louis Till, was murdered in Money, Mississippi, sparking what would become the Civil Rights Movement. Just two years later, Strom Thurmond would begin his historic, albeit misguided and racist, filibuster against civil rights legislation in the United States Senate. Thirteen years after Till's murder, amidst the March on Washington, a young black preacher gave his "I have a dream..." speech. Five years after King's speech, anti-war protesters would violently clash with police in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention, the very convention Senator Kennedy's own brother may have very well been the nominee at had it not been for his assassination two months earlier in Los Angeles. And on Friday, many years and successes later, the country was invited to join a celebration taking place to honor of one of the greatest members to ever serve in the United States Senate.

When I wondered aloud on Friday how a man I never even met could have such an emotional impact on me in his death, I was told by someone very wise that I had met Ted Kennedy in every principle I hold dear. The truth in that statement is immeasurable. I was raised by conservative parents, in a conservative household. Yet, at a young age I was taught Democratic principles by a grandmother whose liberal leanings somehow never reached any of her four children. Of my grandmother's eleven grandchildren and four step-grandchildren, I am the only one who openly aligns with the Democratic party, is pro-choice, and (ironically, given that I am one of the few insured) supports health care reform. It was my grandmother who, while teaching me about history and the Kennedy legacy, taught me to appreciate Democratic principles.

The core values and principles that were instilled in me at a early age through stories about the Kennedy family record of public service have molded my political views as an adult. Through my grandmother's storytelling, I was taught about civil rights, public service, equal opportunity and the larger issue of human rights, charity, responsibility, and citizenship. I was taught that it didn't matter if a person was rich, poor, gay, straight, black, or white, there was a place in this world for every person and a path for each of us to pursue our dreams. I was taught these things through listening to the speeches of Jack, Bobby, and Teddy Kennedy.

My grandmother, who was born and raised in Idaho, married a man largely influenced by his family's southern roots. I grew up knowing that if any of the racist trash that exited my grandfather's mouth ever left mine, my grandmother would quickly put me in my place and I would forever regret whatever hateful thing I had uttered. I learned as a young kid that hatred could lead to a very dangerous place, to the dark places this country saw when a young president was assassinated, a man devoted to civil rights was shot and killed, and a young presidential hopeful was slain.

What my grandmother knew as the daughter of a blind man and the sister of a young developmentally disabled brother, is that this world could be a cruel place for those who were noticeably different. In a time when families of those born with developmental delays were told to lock them up and forget about them, institutionalize them at best, my grandmother took in her youngest brother and raised him almost as her own. As a young mother with four children of her own and a brother with Down Syndrome, my grandmother knew the realities of being mocked in public if not stared at always. This didn't stop my grandmother and she taught each of her children and grandchildren the value of the special people in our lives like her brother. We learned that not only are the disabled a joy, they are a blessing. She knew what the Kennedys knew because of their own sister Rosemary--even those facing the adversity of disability had something to offer.

I remember the small box my grandmother pulled out from underneath her bed the evening she introduced me to Camelot. In the box was a copy of a beautiful book, The Torch Is Passed, and a small thank you card from former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, one of the thousands Mrs. Kennedy's staff mailed to Americans who poured out their love and prayers to the Kennedy family following President Kennedy's assassination. The reverence of that moment is something that even at age six I realized the significance of. That book would one day become mine and the many memories that have been shared because of it, but there is something even greater that has come of the nearly twenty years of my grandmother sharing the Kennedy's with me--an unmatched friendship.

As Senator Chris Dodd was noting Friday evening that Senator Kennedy had been "granted the gift of time," I couldn't help but think of what a blessing it has been to have had my grandmother in my life for the past twenty-four years. Where Ted Kennedy made the most of his 17,ooo plus days in the United States Senate, my grandmother has made the most of her seventy-five years. The lives she has touched reach far beyond my own, though I have tired very hard to make the most of the time I have had with my grandmother. It is because of my grandmother that I am the person I am today. It is because of my grandmother that I saw every principle I hold dear in Ted Kennedy.

Both my grandmother and the Kennedys have taught me so much, influenced my life in so many ways, and like Caroline said of her Uncle Teddy, my grandmother has had a very special way of showing me that she believes in me, so that I can believe in myself. For all the mourning, the rituals, and the celebrations of Senator Kennedy's life, I am not quite ready to let go yet. Not ready to let go of the man who has had such a prominent role in American political life, has represented so much for me, and the man who has meant so much to my grandmother.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

More on the Passing of Kennedy

Statement of the Boston Red Sox:
"On behalf of the entire Boston Red Sox organization, I express our deep sadness and profound grief at the news of the passing of Ted Kennedy," principal owner John W. Henry said. "For 47 years, he served the people of the Commonwealth and the country with commitment and compassion. Senator Kennedy shaped the lives of millions of Americans, and we owe him a debt of gratitude for his tireless efforts on behalf of those in need."
Senator Robert Menendez for the DSCC:
"And while Teddy was without doubt the "greatest United States Senator of our time," as President Obama said today, the powerful were not his passion. Teddy cared for the least among us. He fought for the young. The old. The sick. The poor. People struggling with disabilities. Those denied the basic civil rights all Americans are entitled."
Congressman Walt Minnick (D-Idaho):
“Senator Orrin Hatch put it best when he said today that Senator Kennedy’s death meant the loss of a ‘treasured friend.’ For Democrats, the Senate, the Congress and this country, it is the loss of an icon. Senator Kennedy was a reminder of a legislative era to which we should return, an era where members of Congress focused on friendship, decency and respect rather than partisanship. Senator Kennedy’s work for this country and his work to find common ground is a reminder of where we must look as a nation in these difficult times. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Howard Dean for Democracy For America:
"Ted Kennedy was a man with a long career of determination as well as charm. When President Obama signs a healthcare reform bill late this year, Ted Kennedy may not be standing there next to him, but his presence will be deeply apparent in the Oval Office as the President's pen moves across the page."
Statement by the National Security Advisor General James L. Jones:

"As a young Senate Liaison officer during the early 1980’s, I had the opportunity to get to know Senator Edward Kennedy who was then a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator Kennedy and his staff were among some of the best supporters the Marine Corps ever had on Capitol Hill. Despite his many responsibilities, he always made time for me on issues of importance to Marines and their families. Always gracious and well informed, the Senator was instrumental in the passage of the landmark legislation known as Goldwater-Nichols and military pay reforms, which ushered in the most comprehensive reforms of our military and defense establishment since the end of World War II.

"Senator Kennedy, among the many things he will be remembered for, deserves to be honored for his genuine care and compassion for our men and women in uniform – his tireless work and his voting record clearly supports this distinction. While he never shied from challenging our senior military leadership during hundreds of committee hearings, he could always be counted on to be fair and open-minded in letting witnesses like me make our case to the committee and to the American people. He contributed a great deal to my “Washington education”, and I’m sure he is most proud of the contributions many of his former staff members continue to make to our nation today."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Goodnight, Uncle Teddy

"Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world."
--Edward M. Kennedy, eulogy of his brother Robert

I was not alive when Jack Kennedy was ripped away from this country. I did not live through those dark days in November of 1963 as the nation mourned the loss of their leader and to a certain degree the loss of their innocence. I was not alive when Bobby Kennedy was taken far too soon, dampening the hopeful spirit of young Americans all over this country. Despite what I knew, but did not dare say aloud about the grave illness Teddy Kennedy was diagnosed with, I am living through the shock and sadness of losing the Kennedy who did the most for this country.

This was bound to happen. All of the signs were there. He was not receiving visitors, not even the President of the United States. He could not attend the funeral of his sister, Eunice. For all his political clout, he was not able to lead the current health care debate as he had in the previous four decades. His days were undoubtedly numbered, yet I, like so many Americans, held onto the flicker of hope that Teddy would beat this. What is a tumor when you have overcome the emptiness of losing four siblings to tragedy, held your family legacy on your broad shoulders, survived an accident that nearly took your life and continued on to survive an accident that took the life of another? I wanted a brain tumor to be no match for the Lion of the Senate.

The chamber of the United States Senate could not contain his strong and passionate voice. His hopes for this country were not limited to the many successes he achieved during his senatorial tenure. He was never content with what he had accomplished, a legacy unmatched by any member of congress in the history of this nation, there was always something more to do. Teddy subscribed to the same playbook as his brother Jack, the playbook that emphatically stated there were indeed miles to go before either could sleep.

I cannot even begin to put into words what Senator Kennedy meant to me. In days to come, the historian in me may elaborate on the pieces of legislation that truly reshaped domestic policy in this country. In days to come, the historian in me might be more appreciative of all that is being said about Senator Kennedy's legacy. In days to come, the loss of Senator Kennedy may represent a changing governing body in Washington. Today, the loss of Senator Kennedy feels so immensely personal, I cannot change hats. Today I wear the hat of an American, a Democrat, a human being with the utmost respect and admiration for the youngest Kennedy brother.

I am not a religious person, but I have thought often of Matthew 25:21 and how relevant it is today as we lose a man who devoted his life to public service: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." Well done, indeed. His service has surely made his brothers proud.

For every child who is safe and no longer endangered, for every child who has health insurance today, for every child who has benefited from Head Start, for every American just a bit closer to living openly in this chaotic world, for every disabled American who has a job today with rights equal to every other American, and for every American kid like me who grew up believing in everything this country is and can be because men like Jack, Bobby, and Teddy were a part of it, I want to say thank you. Thank you, Uncle Teddy, not just for who you were, but for who you fought hard to allow the rest of us to be.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Angry Mob & Minnick

The next seventy-two hours in Boise, Idaho are going to give Idahoans a front-row seat to the hatred and outright lying that is taking place in town halls across this country. Idahoans will have a good chance of seeing the same kind of rhetoric that Democratic members of congress have faced from the raving right-wing lunatic fringe across this nation and they are going to see for the first time exactly what their first district congressman stands for.

Before unleashing the worst Idaho political news I've heard all week, let me start by saying there are sensible, intelligent, and loyal Democrats in this state. One is at the helm of the state party. One isn't in Congress.

Keith Roark, Chairman of the Idaho Democratic Party, has gone on record as saying that the health care crisis in Idaho and this country is going to get better if the Democratic White House and Congress do not act soon. He said:

“Hysteria over healthcare reform is being driven by Republicans and their allies in big out-of-state insurance and pharmaceutical companies who have a huge stake in keeping the status quo...It’s unconscionable that rather than try to guarantee better healthcare for everyone, including the millions of Americans who like their insurance, Idaho Republicans are resorting to lies about what reform will mean for Idaho families and businesses. Fear mongering won’t obscure what the vast majority of our citizens know: The healthcare system is broken, and if we don’t fix it now, it will get worse.”

Roark is correct, though health care in this country is nearly unattainable for some of us, it is bound to get every day, week, and month we do not reform the system.

What is even more unconscionable than Republicans lying about reform efforts to keep average Idahoans from supporting any of those efforts is the fact that Congressman Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) is going to speak to those who have halted civil discourse across this nation--teabaggers. Our one and only "Democratic" congressman, Walt Minnick, conducted a telephone town hall last night and will again on the last day of this month, but has otherwise avoided meeting with average constituents throughout his district (he's happy to meet with business leaders and corporate interests) who have real concerns about health care reform. The sting of Minnick's conservative positions and opposition to health care was made exponentially worse today when the Statesman reported that on Saturday Minnick will speak to TEA Party Boise at the Owyhee Plaza.

Congressman Minnick is willingly going before a potential group of extremists who are gun toting, anti-Obama, health care reform obstructionists. He has chosen principles, if he has any, over party. He is catering to the lunatic fringe in ways we haven't seen an Idaho politician of either party do since Congressman Helen Chenoweth.

We have all had our doubts about Congressman Minnick. We've questioned his loyalty to the party. We've written about our many disappointments in him. We've wondered if this is the same man who ran as a Democrat in a campaign against an extreme, hardly liked one-term congressman. Yet, all we can say today about Walt Minnick is that his meeting with big bucks Democrats who partially bankroll campaigns like Minnick's 2008 run for the House was an attempt at damage control, something he and his staff are going to need to employ a whole lot more of after he stands before the teabaggers on Saturday. And, it is suddenly all the more telling that Minnick ran from Mike Stark of Huffington Post and FireDogLake.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Daily

There is an alarming bit of truth in something Gavin de Becker said in his book The Gift of Fear: "The hijacking of an American jet in Athens looms larger in our concern than the parent who kills a child, even though the one happens rarely, and the other happens daily." This truth eludes some and haunts others.

Let me get this straight, while thousands of volunteers in the Treasure Valley were out searching for Robert Manwill, his mother presumably sat at home and her boyfriend in some sort of psychiatric facility knowing that Robert had been tortured, beaten, and ultimately killed? Robert Manwill was beaten to death, his body thrown into a nearby canal and while worried family members searched frantically for him, his mother and her boyfriend knew all along that their son Robert (they deserve no recognition as parents or even human beings), was dead. While his distraught father looked desperately for his vulnerable little boy, that little boy was already gone. Gone, I hope, to a place where he will never again experience the confusion of being hurt repeatedly by someone who was supposed to love him unconditionally and protect him from the ills of this world.

Forgive me for my tardiness in noting both the arrest and indictment of the two individuals responsible for the death of young Robert Manwill, apparently I overlooked the news via Treasured Valley and the Boise Idaho Statesman.

Why I Support the Public Option

Recently, Randy Stapilus of Ridenbaugh Press had the following to say about the health care system in this country: "A gun is being pointed at your head, and mine, and everyone else’s, right now. They want your money or your life - if not today, then eventually." I, like Stapilus, have had a frustrating and frightening front row seat to an ineffective and colossally expensive health care system.

I have listened to the horror stories being told at town hall meetings across this country by real Americans, not raving right-wing protesters hell bent on disrupting and bringing to a halt a reform process that is a half century overdue. I have read hundreds of posts on blogs written by average Americans with anything but the average experience with this country's health care system. I have wondered quietly how politicians, especially Idaho's own first district representative Walt Minnick, can confidently contend that we need more competition in the insurance industry and that we need to treat government more like a business. I have contemplated the baseless argument that the government has no place in the health care system, while considering my own health care costs and the decisions I have been forced to make because I, like approximately 25 million Americans, am underinsured. Let me share a portion of my story as a way of illustrating exactly why I support health care reform and especially the public option.

For those of you who know me and those who have followed this blog for more than a year, you know that a year ago this September I had spinal surgery. As early as the fall of 2007, I was experiencing stiffness and discomfort in my lower back. By February of 2008, I was starting my mornings with stretches to get my body in a fully upright position. In mid-February, I woke up in a hotel room in Boise with a great deal of pain and stiffness in my back. After the three hour car ride home, I was unable to lay down flat and was experiencing numbness in my legs. When doing stretches that had been suggested to me by my doctor in the past did nothing to relieve the pain or stiffness, I finally approached my doctor in May of last year and explained that I was having trouble riding my bicycle because my left hamstring and glute were too painful and a large portion of my calf and foot were completely numb. I began physical therapy immediately and an MRI revealed a herniated disc and an entrapped nerve. Aggressive physical therapy, epidural lumbar injections, and oral steroids did nothing to relieve the pain and numbness. By the end of the summer, I had lost complete feeling in my left foot and a majority of my left leg, I was unable to place weight on my left side without shooting pain, and numerous other anatomical structures were not working properly. I had what they call open back surgery in September, which included the cutting and pulling back of muscle, removal of a section of the vertebrae, removal of the disc, and spinal decompression.

When I first began seeking treatment for my back, I was still paying for health care costs incurred in the Spring of 2007. Both now and then, I was insured through a student health insurer. Even when I was working full-time and going to school, the small business I was working for did not offer benefits. Because of a pre-existing condition and other health circumstances I was actively being treated for, two years ago it was necessary for me to be insured through the student health plan because I couldn't afford insurance elsewhere. Now it is necessary for me to be enrolled in the student plan, thus also enrolled in school, because no other insurance company will cover me.

Despite being insured, something I am incredibly grateful for, I continue to pay sky high, out-of-pocket expenses that my insurance will not cover. Over the past 22-month period, I paid $4740 out-of-pocket for basic health care services (e.g. prescription drugs, blood work, x-rays, and office visits). This cost does not include surgery or surgery-related expenses, outpatient procedures, or physical therapy. I estimate that of those costs, $2370 of it was strictly for prescription drugs which my insurance does not cover, but I am able to get at a discounted rate here on campus.

None of these costs I have listed include my health insurance premiums. For the 2007-2008 academic year, my health insurance premium was $1046. The premium remained at that cost for the 2008-2009 academic year. The premium this year (2009-2010) will be $647 per semester, $1294 total. In 2008, my health insurance premiums alone cost me 11% of my income. Another 14% of my annual income went to prescription drug costs. If I combine the cost of my premiums with my prescription drug costs, 25% of my annual income went toward preventative care and maintenance. Estimated surgical and out-patient expenses for 2008, minus the actual spinal surgery and associated costs, ate up another 70% of my income. Yes, from January through August health care cost me 95% of my income. If I were to add the costs of surgery and out-patient procedures, I wouldn't be surprised if health care cost more than double what I made last year. And this is for someone insured.

The amount I have shelled out since September of 2008 for MRIs, spinal surgery, out-patient procedures, and other medical expenses that do not fit into the basic categories (office visits, blood work, x-rays, and prescription drugs) already far exceed my adjusted gross income for 2008. I am making significantly less money than I did in 2008, both because I took a pay cut to keep my job and because my productivity level has decreased as my health has waned.

When I began college in 2003, the cost of student health insurance for a semester was $275. Student health insurance now costs $647 per semester. In six years, the student health plan has not only increased 235% per semester, it has been underwritten by at least two different insurance companies. The current plan has a ceiling on payments per illness and it wouldn't surprise me if I wasn't nearing that cap as well given the costs of surgery, treatments, and physical therapy (my plan pays 100% of physical therapy costs at a pre-specified clinic and I have had nearly 120 sessions of p.t.).

Uninsured and underinsured Americans are either going without needed medical services/treatments or they are having to pick and choose which treatment they an afford. For instance, my health insurance does not cover dental or vision. I pay out of my own pocket for the eye exams my health history requires--an exam every 6 months and usually new corrective lenses each time. I do not go to the dentist or at least haven't in six years. Surely other Americans pick and choose which treatments, exams, medications they need. We shouldn't have to, but we do.

The uninsured and underinsured are not only compromising their health by having to pick and choose or go without treatments, they are facing financial demise and often bankruptcy. I was fortunate to have around $5,000 in my savings account when I started having back problems last year. I had been saving money steadily to help pay for the costs of graduate school. Since I started having back problems, I have completely emptied out my savings account and racked up substantial credit card debt. And because student health insurance is the only insurance that will cover me (I am not eligible for Medicaid and the only private insurer that will cover me requires a $7,500 deductible and monthly premiums around $300), I have had to take out large student loans to keep me enrolled in school and this particular health plan until I am either able to afford private insurance or can get a full-time job with benefits that will cover me despite pre-existing conditions.

I don't enjoy talking about my personal finances or my health, but when I hear pundits like Glenn Beck say we have the greatest health care system in the world and I know I'll be paying for the last 22-months of my life for years to come and I still can't get all of the medical care I need, it makes me furious. I am embarrassed to admit that I went to that financial edge and teetered for awhile, to that place where so many Americans are with mere pennies to their name, mountains of debt, and bills stacked up. I've come back from that edge, at least in the sense that I am surviving with more than $3 in my checking account (though debt in the tens of thousands), and I still don't know if I am out of the woods and sure to not travel the road to that particular edge again.

It makes me incredibly angry when I hear politicians like Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) say that the answer to the health care crisis is to create more competition in the private sector while keeping the government out of the health care business. There are how many health insurers in this country right now? I am still uninsurable! Competition isn't going to help me and a whole hell of a lot of other Idahoans.

Frankly, when I hear those conservative blowhards in Washington (you know, the ones Minnick ideologically aligns with) spout their fears of a "government takeover" I want to ask them why they oppose a government takeover of health care but have supported the takeover of this country by the insurance industry and other corporate interests. It certainly isn't because they fear government being bought, after all these congressmen have been bankrolled by the insurance industry for decades.

We need a public option that does not discriminate based on pre-existing conditions, sex, or age. We need a public option that is affordable, one that will ensure that our entire life savings is protected should we get sick. I, for one, am mad as hell that I will live most of my life in debt because when I was twenty-three years old I needed spinal surgery and I had health insurance. I'd say I can't imagine how the uninsured do it, but I was uninsured for most of my childhood and understand intimately. Every member of Congress, enlisted soldier, and eligible senior citizen takes advantage of a government-run health care system that is highly effective. Why can't the rest of us?

Quote of the Day

for A.R.
". . . the companions of our childhood always possess a certain power over our minds [and hearts] which hardly any later friend can obtain." -- Mary Shelley
Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The PAHR Act & Historical Record Access

With news today that former President George W. Bush's presidential library will in fact be located at Southern Methodist University, despite angling on the part of Baylor University for it, there has to be a certain amount of intrigue out there as to what Bush will make public. There are rules that govern the record keeping of presidents and the public access to those documents within a reasonable time frame, but this particular president, with what appeared to be a disdain for the United States Constitution and a demand for secrecy through over exercise of executive privilege, may draw a line in the sand between the public right to know and the protection of national security (at least we can assume based on his past statements that this will be his argument for keeping records closed).

The concerns of archivists, historians, political scientists, and many others who support the accessibility to presidential records were greatly placated by an executive order issued by Obama just after he took office that more or less reversed the damaging and secretive policies of the Bush administration in regard to the Presidential Records Act. However, there are plenty of concerns remaining as to how Bush's papers will be released. Without question, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) will do a timely, thorough and professional processing of the documents. It is simply a matter of what Bush will attempt to keep closed and Bush and his administration actually recorded. Certainly, if we had access to the complete records created and maintained during events such as the invasion of Iraq, the Valerie Plame outing, and the firing of the U.S. attorneys, questions about these events wouldn't continue to surface in the daily news. At this point, it is a waiting game.

In the June 29, 2009 issue of Newsweek, Michael Isikoff noted that President Obama has not lived up to some of the promises he made as Senator and candidate Obama in regard to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. His predecessor was notorious for denying public access to White House logs and other materials. Obama has refused to grant access to some White House logs requested by the mainstream media. His promises of transparency have not erased the criticisms of some, including the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) who have as recently as recently as June continued to encounter road blocks when filing FOIA requests with the Secret Service for access to White House logs that would list health care executives that have visited with President Obama and other high-level White House employees. CREW has also taken on the issue of missing White House emails.

Despite all of this evidence against transparency and the preservation of records essential to the understanding of current events and recent history, there is a bright spot in the realm of records. A bill introduced by Congressmen Hinchey (D-New York) and McHugh (R-New York) is currently in the House Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives and would "authorize the Archivist of the United States to make grants to States for the preservation and dissemination of historical records."

The PAHR Act (Preserving the American Historical Record) is an important piece of legislation, especially at this time of constantly evolving record formats, that would support preservation at the state and county level. The bill would create formula-based grants that each state would be eligible to apply for. These grants would allow for state and local governments to preserve their own historical records. According to information provided by the Society of American Archivists, of which I am a member, the funding projections in this bill list Idaho as the potential recipient of $363,302 for the preservation of its own historical record. These funds would be available, if applied for, to public, private, and university libraries, the Idaho State Historical Society, county historical societies and local governments wishing to preserve their own records.

There are numerous records projects taking place currently in this state. The Stallings Collection at Idaho State University is in the final stages of its three-year processing; the gubernatorial papers of Dirk Kempthorne are being processed at the Idaho State Historical Society; the Basque Collection at Boise State University is expanding; and the Idaho State Historical Records Advisory Board continues to do fabulous work.

Undoubtedly, Idaho could benefit from outside grant funds available for the continued preservation of Idaho history. It is my hope that the anti-earmark and fiscal conservative congressman in the first district will support this legislation and I will be writing to my congressman here in the second district to urge his support of this legislation because I believe preserving our historical record is one of our greatest responsibilities to future generations of Idahoans.

Disadvantageous Disenrollment

[Update: The Idaho State Journal ran a story on 8/19/09 noting that Idaho State University has been recognized as a "military-friendly" institution of higher education. It will be interesting to see if ISU retains this label after this disenrollment policy becomes effective.]

It comes as no surprise to those who have spent considerable time on the campus of Idaho State University or lived within this somewhat campus-based community that the University operates much like a dysfunctional family. There are topics not appropriate for the dinner table, members of the family that fly under the radar and there are vocal members that the others hope to avoid altercations with. Yet, in some ways this dysfunctional family operates, or hopes to operate, like a successful corporation--a corporation with a three-word mission statement: Recruitment, Retention, Revenue.

Recently, ISU notified faculty, staff and students that a new disenrollment policy would be effective this fall. The disenrollment policy would essentially drop students who had pre-registered for fall courses, but had not paid their fees prior to the first day of classes. Intended to make space in courses for fee-paying students and lessen the frustrations of students who had previously faced closed courses due to students registering and then simply not enrolling or paying for the semester, the new policy was met with criticism. Although not cited by the University when they reversed the decision and projected a January 2010 start date for the policy, there were many problems with the policy on the student level. The least of which was the cited reason that not enough students had been informed in a timely manner of the change.

The disenrollment policy ultimately puts a student at a disadvantage because if he/she intends to pay their fees on the first day of classes and chooses to actually attend class that morning instead of immediately paying their fees, they'll end up dropped from the class they attended and be in search of a new class, if in fact a suitable section is available, after having already been to the class in question. Instructors will continue editing their class lists after the first meeting and students who planned their fall schedule back in April will be back to square one. All because of a timing matter.

In addition to what the new disenrollment policy will do to the schedules of students who have planned their lives around a classes they pre-registered for, students who cannot pay their fees on their own and require financial aid of some sort will be put at a disadvantage. More often than in institutions with a lower rate of non-traditional students, ISU students are reliant on financial aid and scholarships. Not only do these students have to wait until the financial aid office clears the funds to pay their fees, they often have to jump through numerous paperwork hoops that can prevent them from paying their fees in any reasonable amount of time. There's already a system set up for students who know they have financial aid coming eventually--fee loans. Students can essentially borrow money from ISU to pay their fees and then whenever their student loans, grants, or scholarships come through, ISU takes that money. It can be problematic and stressful for students and this is without the now dreaded policy of being dropped from your classes the day they start, rather than at the end of the first week or as late as three weeks after courses begin.

It seems to me, and this is a purely a personal opinion that I hold as someone who has been enrolled in a lot of classes in my life, that students who have actually attended a course once or even for a week would be more likely to pay their fees and decide that being in school is the best plan for them. There are too many students out there, many just starting back to school, who would look at the fact that the system had dropped them from their classes before they could even step foot on campus to attend that would walk away at that point. Too many students would have the attitude of 'nobody knows I am supposed to be there, so I'll just forget this plan and go back to working full-time.' Sometimes students need that extra push and for students who do, allowing them a few extra days to pay their fees is actually a good thing. I tend to think that disenrolling students for not paying their fees before they've even stepped foot in a classroom is going to come back to bite ISU in terms of enrollment numbers. And enrollment numbers are what this corporation-type, mission-driven institution rely on.

The reason I mention the disenrollment policy is because of the many policies that are drafted on campus regularly, it is one that serves almost as a double-edged sword to this semi-corporate mission statement. Sure, the policy may prove to make a few students happier, students who now are able to enroll in courses that were closed previously due to the number of pre-registered students who hadn't paid their fees and sure, this policy will cut down on the amount of paperwork being channeled through the University by way of course add cards, but as I've said, I really think in the long term the policy will cost ISU their beloved revenue. It will serve as an obstacle prospective students who were on the fence about attending school will choose to bypass completely.

Surely there are disenrollment policies like the one ISU attempted to implement here, one at the University of South Florida where the new ISU Provost Gary Olson came from, but the many factors that make ISU unique require policies geared more specifically to the population of students that take advantage of the courses offered here.

Students have enjoyed the ability to register at ISU up until the first week and sometimes after the first day. These students aren't traditional in the sense that maybe they were employed back in February when other colleges and universities had their application deadlines. There are returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who require this type of registration/enrollment flexibility. And in this horrible economy, a student starting at ISU on Tuesday may be starting college after being laid off from a job they held for years, decades even. Enrollment flexibility is essential on a campus that caters to a unique cross-section of students (e.g. returning LDS missionaries, veterans, non-traditional or older students, students with young families, etc.) and the new enrollment policy that will now go into effect for the Spring 2010 semester may very well prove to be a disaster.

Unfortunately, the new enrollment policy is simply one of many questionable new policies being implemented by Dr. Arthur Vailas and other administration officials.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Quote of the Day

Gary Eller about listening to "health scare" commentary on conservative talk radio:
"It is the overwhelming consensus of these pundits that if Obama pushes through his health care proposal that we are all destined for a gulag somewhere in Siberia. There are times when listening to these seemingly endless tirades that I feel compelled to light my own head on fire and start running in circles with the squirrels just to prevent the black helicopters from landing on top of me."
(In the post this quote was taken from, Eller makes a wise assertion about the military's decades long use of dependent care plans as a means of end-of-life counseling that is worth reading.)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Smorgasbord Saturday

Hopefully this weekend will bring a succession of posts I have been working on for some time. If this does in fact happen and I have a rapid-fire posting schedule, I will create a head post with links to everything that follows (for reading convenience). Should I not accomplish this feat, this warning was simply a figment of your imagination...

I find the Cash for Clunkers program absolutely fascinating. It is a much needed program on various levels including economic growth, support for the car manufacturing industry, a win for the environment, and a bonus for consumers who truly need assistance if they're going to go out and spend. The reason I find it fascinating isn't for any of these reasons, though. I find the cars that are actually being traded in the really fascinating part of the story. For some reason, I expected that the cars being traded would be beat up junk heaps. Something more like the 1967 Mercury Comet I drove the first few months of college, not some dude's Ford 450 that he couldn't afford to fill up. Idablue has the numbers on mpg, which is interesting and worth checking out, but if you're like me and want to know what people are trading in MSNBC has an interactive tool that tells the story of average Americans who are trading in and more often than not trading up.

You remember that sign, carried by the armed guy outside Obama's New Hampshire town hall on health care, that referenced the Thomas Jefferson quote about the tree of liberty? I have heard a lot of right-wing pundits commenting on the guy's freedom of speech, "god given rights" and his right to bear arms, which I suppose are all arguments you could make (I tend to subscribe to the opinion Hardball's Chris Matthews posed regarding the history of this country and how absolutely inappropriate it is to bring a gun to a visit from the President of the United States), but what I haven't heard anyone mention in the discussion is Hal Turner. While everyone is raving about rights, nobody seems to be mentioning Hal Turner. Remember Hal Turner? He's the radio/webcast personality who was arrested for threatening public officials and federal judges. After Hal's case became national news, slowly a case was built that painted Turner as the white supremacist that he is. I believe, as do many who have subscribed to ideas presented by Dave Neiwert, that those who present extreme partisanship like the teabaggers can become a real danger to society just as Hal Turner has. Peter Slevin of the Washington Post notes today that Turner's case may test the limits and push the boundaries of political speech protections. It will be really interesting to see how this case is decided and how the decision is received in a country that is engulfed in an immense amount of vitriolic speech.

In the event I don't post a wingnut roundup anytime soon--I'm toying with the idea of making this a weekly feature--Tom Young, the far right wingnut brought to you by the Times-News, has a new one at Conservative Corner about the lack of progress happening in Congress. The reasoning? He says it is the Democratic Party's fault because with their filibuster-proof majority they should be able to pass anything and everything they want right now while the Republicans have little power and are doing virtually nothing. Virtually nothing apparently doesn't include the health care reform mobs that are stifling productive discussions with all constituents about health care. He also says, as part of them doing nothing, they have been "as quiet as a mouse." Really? So, Sarah Palin and Chuck Grassley fueling the ludicrous death panel fire is nothing? That I can sort of laugh at. His assertion that during the Republicans' silence, the Democrats "have beer fests, and staged Town Hall events...and label the opposition as Nazi’s (sic) and Terrorists." Yes, read that again and let it sink it. The Democrats are calling those who don't think like them and hold their misguided beliefs Nazis. The Democrats are the ones disrupting town halls across this country. I was going to say I don't know where Mr. Young is getting his news, but I know exactly where he's getting his news. However, I don't know what planet he's living on.

Media Channel is back up and running after being crashed by what I'm assuming was a mob of the mentality of the health care protesters. And Rory O'Connor, author of Shock Jocks, is back with an article that succinctly wraps up the political and not so political news of this summer. Check it out.

That's it for now. Happy Saturday!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

24 Years

Proof that politics hasn't really changed much in twenty-four years...


(Credit: "Staff memo." Series VII: Staff Files. Richard H. Stallings Collection, 1985-1992. Idaho State University Department of Special Collections, Pocatello, Idaho.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Controlled Chaos?

[Editor's Note: Things have been rather chaotic here this week due to the impending loss of my health insurance if I am not enrolled in school somewhere. Yes folks, we really do have a health care crisis in this country and contrary to the beliefs of Congressman Minnick, creating more competition among insurance companies is not going to fix the problem. There are Idahoans, like myself, that are virtually uninsurable. This is an argument for another day... The point of this note was to say my post on the passing of Eunice Kennedy Shriver will go up whenever it is finished. Until then, please take advantage of these great reads.]

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Quote of the Day

"I think I had my maximum impact the way I had it. I couldn't have done more as a man, or in some position. You know I don't know what else I could have done. I was perfectly happy where I was. And I think I just had a wonderful relationship with my brother, and he was wonderful to this cause. I don't say that blindly."
-- Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who passed away today at the age of 88, commenting on her role as consultant to the President's Panel on Mental Retardation (found in Laurence Leamer's The Kennedy Women)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Wingnut Roundup

  • "Is it too late?" ... Local wingnut Dr. Craig Bosley wants to talk about our "republic" and the Founding Fathers. Don't they all?
  • "All this seems so un-American" ... Bosley's partner in crime Richard Larsen, writing for the Idaho State Journal, brings up Nazi Germany in his first sentence. You know where this is going, don't you?
  • "An Examination of Liberty and Freedom"... complete with quotations from the dictionary, like all Mark Balzer's articles like to do;
  • "Is Michelle Proud Yet?" ...Tom Young, the resident birther of the Twin Falls Times-News, is still at it. This time he's taking shots at Michelle Obama's character. I guess if you can't get the President's attention with nutty conspiracy theories, why not refocus;
  • In case you didn't catch the flag@whitehouse.gov reference in Larsen's piece, Clayton Cramer is regurgitating the same right-wing talking points here. And, if there is any remaining doubt about the status of wingnuttery in this bunch, check out the comments following Jodeane Albright's piece.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Smorgasbord Saturday

A little politics, a little history, and a whole lot of baseball in today's smorgasbord...

First off, there has been some superb Minnick/health care reform coverage in the blogosphere of late and though I hope to write about it soon, here are two links in the meantime: Ridenbaugh on Minnick, competition, and health care and MountainGoat Report says Minnick was right on health care once upon a time, though no longer.

If the commentary meeting the news that Eunice Kennedy Shriver is in critical condition in a Massachusetts hospital is any indication of the state of politics today, this country is viscerally divided. Yesterday in a post I was reading about the series of strokes suffered by Eunice, those leaving comments wished her well and went so far as to say she deserves to be covered by health insurance, largely because they believe she is in some way better than most because of her conservative husband Sargent Shriver, but her brother, Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D), does not. It is horribly unfortunate that those who oppose health care reform in this country must say such horrendous things about Ted Kennedy, a man fighting for his life. It is even more unfortunate that Eunice Kennedy Shriver, while "critically ill" and hospitalized, is still being overshadowed by those Kennedy boys. Eunice is one of the three remaining siblings of that second generation of Kennedys that included President Kennedy and presidential hopeful and Senator Bobby Kennedy. Apparently the entire family is at her side, including her son-in-law the Governor of California. Eunice is the eldest of the remaining Kennedys and just as talented and public service-minded as her political brothers. If this is the end for Eunice, may she go quickly and surrounded by those who love her.

An article on Ted Kennedy and his role in the campaign and election of President Obama caught my eye recently and I've been meaning to post this link. Check it out.

Media Matters appears to be keeping the heat on CNN and Lou Dobbs for Dobbs' continued fueling of the birther fire and the New York Times fired Ben Stein. These both seem to indicate that the general anger toward the mainstream media from middle of the road Americans is being answered. The right hates the liberal-leaning outlets like MSNBC and the left hates the right wing media like World Net Daily and Fox News, these are indisputable, but what seems to be lost in these battles are the opinions of moderate, centrist American viewers. It's good to see those who spread mistruths and in the case of Dobbs outright conspiracies being reigned in.

David Ortiz held his own steroid press conference today and it, like those that have come before, left quite a few questions. Ortiz contends that in 2003 when he participated in the voluntary and supposedly confidential drug survey to determine the actual perimeters of the steroid problem in Major League Baseball that he was taking various vitamin supplements and did not willingly consume a performance enhancing drug. Unfortunately for baseball and Ortiz, the fans have more or less looked away from this news which was first revealed by the New York Times a few weeks ago. Fans of the game have taken all they really can as the reaches of steroid influence in baseball come to light. Despite calls from Hall of Fame players like Hank Aaron, Major League Baseball has stated they do not have in their possession the list of 104 players who failed the drug test in 2003 and cannot release such a list due to this and the fact that any release of information would be going against court orders. It is unfortunate that these names are leaking out at the rate they are, often when such news is least expected, and damaging the image of the game.

In this afternoon's match up on Fox between the Red Sox and the Yankees, David Ortiz is being booed at Yankee Stadium at about the same rate as Ortiz is usually booed by Yankees fans. On the West coast, Manny seems to be booed everywhere except Dodger Stadium. Like I said, the steroid revelations that are all too often these days are doing nothing positive for the game's image.

Quite surprisingly, the Red Sox designated John Smoltz for assignment Friday after his disastrous start against the Yankees Thursday night. The talk around baseball is that John Smoltz may have just pitched his final game. Unfortunately, Braves fans that once idolized John Smoltz aren't feeling much sympathy for the pitcher with this news. The speculation surrounding Smoltz and whether or not he'd even be able to pitch when he returned from shoulder surgery is precisely why the Braves didn't offer him the money he wanted for this season. The Red Sox offered him the money he was looking for and the promise of more if he did come back from surgery and take the mound. It really seemed then that he was sore over the Braves thinking he'd never pitch again, but now that the Red Sox have designated him for assignment it doesn't seem the Braves were all that far off. And yet the reason people aren't feeling sorry for John Smoltz right now, a guy who a year ago in this situation would have been well thought of and highly sympathized with, is 100% greed. Smoltz was a lifer with the Braves. You don't sign with another team for your final year over a monetary value and hope your fans like you just the same.

A few more articles I would have liked to point to today, but this smorgasbord is already two hours in the making!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Voting Records & Public Discourse

Those of you who have been following the happenings here at The Political Game this week may have noticed that the lengthy comment thread previously attached to the post "Another Look at Minnick's Record" has been closed and removed. Because I generally do not delete comments unless they are threatening, offensive or completely over the line and because there were some very good comments in that thread offered by respected readers, I feel the need to explain what happened.

Over the course of the past few days, since I initially posted the piece Monday evening, a comment contributor using the pseudonym "idaho-dem" posted a series of comments outlining the "flawed logic" of my piece. It was obvious from his/her first comment Tuesday morning that idaho-dem had a close connection with Congressman Minnick. Comments posted yesterday made all who read them aware that this contributor was in fact very well versed in all things related to Congressman Minnick's voting record and the general procedures of the United States House of Representatives. Information obtained later through identification of the contributor's ISP confirmed my suspicion that the comments were originating in the office of Congressman Minnick.

I welcome any and all input readers wish to give, however, it is unethical for a member of a congressional staff to pose as simply another Idaho Democrat while adamantly defending Congressman Minnick. This is something Minnick's predecessor Bill Sali was notorious for employing and should have no place in Minnick's office. Having spoken with John Foster, spokesman for Minnick, I have been assured this was not an instance of intentional astroturfing and that the situation will not happen again. Foster offered the following explanation and apology:
"A well-meaning but woefully uninformed person associated with our office was responsible for comments on Tara's blog that they were not authorized to make and the comments in no way speak on Walt's behalf. We have extended our apologies to the proprietor and the readers of The Political Game for this wayward staffer's stupidity."
It is my sincere hope that this will never happen again and I appreciate Foster's timely response to this incident. May this be a learning experience for us all and a reminder that no matter our frustrations and disagreements with Congressman Minnick's record, we are all on the same team.

The door to open and honest discourse will remain open here. An attempt to paint a more complete picture of Congressman Minnick's record is not an attack on Walt personally or on his staff. It is important that all sides of the story, in this case his voting record, be presented for the sake of effective public discourse. You'll find that I am not the only blogger who believes this.

Look for more posts on Congressman Minnick in the weeks and months to come, not just on the votes I disagree with, but also on the votes that all Idahoans can feel good about.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Another Look at Minnick's Record

[Editor's Note: Comments on this post have been closed. Explanation to follow.]

Open Congress lists Rep. Mike Castle (R-Delaware) as the member of Congress that Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) most often votes with. An interesting comparison given that Rep. Castle votes with his party, the Republican party, 85% of the time. The member of Congress that Minnick votes with least often? Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California) who happens to vote with her party, the Democratic party, 97% of the time. Walt Minnick is listed as the Democrat she votes least often with and the Republican Rep. Lee votes least often with? Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina. Yes, the Virginia Foxx who referred to Matthew Shepard's legal label as a hate crime victim a "hoax." This may seem like the political version of six degrees of Kevin Bacon, but the truth of this is that Walt Minnick's voting record is a disappointment to progressives.

Rep. Minnick has not turned out to be the guy the Democrats, especially the Idaho Democratic Party, said he would be. Minnick's supporters and staffers will contend that this is what Minnick campaigned as and he has held true to his independent values. The problem is, progressives who had their doubts about Minnick during the campaign were assured that when votes came up that really mattered to progressives and the Democratic party, Minnick would vote the party line when it counted.

The difference between the Minnick we saw campaigning last year and the Minnick we see on the floor of the House is that last year Minnick was campaigning against Bill Sali's absurdity and the Minnick we see now is campaigning against a soon-to-be-named conservative. Without question, Walt Minnick has been on the re-election campaign trail since the day he was sworn in. He apparently is not at all concerned about Idaho Democrats who voted for him, to provide the base of the votes that swept him into office.

Recently, Minnick's office released a "closer look" at the congressman's voting record, votes representative of key Democratic successes thus far in the 111th Congress. As you'll notice, the "closer look" seems to completely ignore some of Minnick's key votes against his party. Here is a list of legislation that Minnick did not vote with his party on, including legislation that our Republican congressman was able to vote with the Democrats on:

H.R. 1-American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
(Stimulus Bill)
Minnick, No
Simpson, No
Democratic party, Yes

H.R. 31-Lumbee Recognition Act
Minnick, No
Simpson, Yes
Democratic party, Yes

H.R. 626- Federal Employees Paid Paternal Leave Act of 2009
Minnick, No
Simpson, No
Democratic party, Yes

H.R. 911-Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs Act
Minnick, No
Simpson, Yes
Democratic party, Yes

H.R. 1018- Restore Our American Mustangs Act
Minnick, No
Simpson, No
Democratic party, Yes

H.R. 1299-Capitol Police Administrative Technical Corrections Act of 2009

Minnick, No
Simpson, Yes
Democratic party, Yes
(This vote was 416-1, Minnick was the lone no vote.)

H.R. 1575-End Government Reimbursement of Excessive Executive Disbursements (End GREED) Act
Minnick, No
Simpson, No
Democratic party, Yes

H.R. 1586-To impose an additional tax on bonuses received from certain TARP recipients
Minnick, No
Simpson, No
Democratic party, Yes

H.R. 1664-Pay for Performance Act (Grayson-Himes Act of 2009)
Minnick, No
Simpson, No
Democratic party, Yes


H.R. 1886-Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement Act of 2009 (PEACE Act)
Minnick, No
Simpson, No
Democratic party, Yes

H.R. 2454-American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009
Minnick, No
Simpson, No
Democratic party, Yes

H.R. 2749- Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009
Minnick, No
Simpson, No
Democratic party, Yes

In baseball there is little doubt that players pay close attention to the numbers--batting averages, on-base percentage, etc.--and in politics with the statistics that are available, it is more than possible that congressmen are keeping close track of their voting records. Open Congress and other congressional statistic machines list exactly how often a member of congress votes with his/her party. That percentage for Minnick has certainly not been ignored and in many circles Minnick's supporters have countered that Democrats shouldn't complain (hey, we finally got a Democrat elected, right?) about Minnick's record as long as he is voting 50+1% of the time with the Democratic party. As of today, he is voting with the Democrats 65% of the time.

Does Walt Minnick have a formula for how often he can vote with the Democrats and still be re-elected in his conservative district? If so, that might explain why he has voted against his party on numerous procedural votes leading up to the final votes on particular pieces of legislation, only to vote with his party on final passage (e.g. the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2010, H.Res. 371-hate crimes legislation, and SCHIP reauthorization).

If there is a formula he's using and surely a guy who has been running for re-election from day one has a formula, then a few votes have been for appearances as well (e.g. the vote against Nancy Pelosi for the speakership and votes against approval of the House Journal).

The only votes that appear to come from a deeply principled place in the psyche of Minnick are on appropriation bills. Appropriation bills riddled with pork projects must be the reason he votes almost consistently with other fiscal conservatives and the self-described Blue Dogs against major agency and department appropriations. Minnick has to realize that in voting against fat appropriations bills he'll be voting against a few Idaho projects or the opportunity for them.

With a voting record that is clearly so two-sided, Minnick is putting himself in a precarious situation. Surely there will be some of those Republicans left who voted for Minnick over the insane antics of Bill Sali. Surely there will be some of the moderates who chose a fiscally conservative Democrat over a clown. But will there be any Democrats left to vote for Minnick?

[Update: Randy Stapilus points to an interesting study that finds Walt Minnick to be the most conservative House member in the Northwest. More conservative than the Republican lawmakers. Response from Minnick's office? He's an independent and it's Jeff Flake's fault. Also, Dave Neiwert of Crooks & Liars has a great piece on Minnick and Left Side of the Moon has a roundup of sorts.]

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Baucus Way or No Way

Let's just say for the sake of conversation that Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) would in fact vote with the Democratic party when it counted, what would those votes be? Human rights? Protecting the middle and lower classes? Health care?

Apparently health care isn't one of those essential votes Minnick will side with his party on because he shows absolutely no sign of voting with the majority of Democrats on reforming health care, regardless of who writes the bill and how "fiscally conservative" the reform turns out to be.

The Washington Post recently asked a handful of congressmen and other experts, including Rep. Walt Minnick (listed as a Democratic member from Idaho and a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, what the biggest obstacle to health care reform has been and how it might be overcome. Minnick responded with the following:
"Most people agree on the most important points of health-care reform: We must reduce costs. We should not increase our deficit. All Americans should have secure, stable coverage. But a lack of public confidence in the congressional process has proven a massive obstacle. While it's true that members from both sides have worked together diligently, occasional public disputes have weakened public confidence in our ability to craft an effective plan.

"That's unfortunate, because most members of Congress want bipartisan, collaborative consensus on reform. I am encouraged by the work of the Senate Finance Committee and Chairman Max Baucus, who understands what we in
Western politics have learned the hard way: No one wins when everyone fights.

"Whether it is natural resources, water, economic development or a major undertaking like health-care reform, the Western way is to bring people together, look for agreement and move toward a solution. That is happening in Congress, but it must be more visible to overcome the toughest obstacle of all in our effort to reform health care: Convincing Americans they can trust us to do this right."
Chairman Max Baucus? You mean Minnick and supposedly other Blue Dog Coalition members are supporting the Baucus plan for health care reform? Interesting, given that progressives aren't supporting Baucus or his plan and organizations like Democracy for America and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee are paying for adds targeting Baucus in his home state. And where in Minnick's response does he suggest a way to pass meaningful health care reform? Maybe I missed it, but it sounds to me like Minnick is suggesting it is the Baucus way or no way. It seems the Blue Dog Coalition has become entangled with the party of 'no.'

In addition to what Rep. Minnick had to say to the Post, he was recently interviewed on "Special Report With Bret Baier" where he had the following to say about health care reform and why the Blue Dog Coalition was not supporting the Democrats legislation prior to the August recess:
WALT MINNICK, (D-ID): Well, we all try to represent what we think is best for the country. And I would say the majority of the Blue Dogs think that this bill is not the best bill we can get, and we'd like to keep trying, would like to talk to our constituents, hopefully come up with a bill closer to what the Senate Finance Committee is considering.
This interview from July 29, 2009 was not Minnick's first appearance on Fox News and it certainly won't be his last. His comments to Fox News once again point to the Baucus plan as being the one and only plan. Apparently he doesn't mean the Blue Dogs would like to work on a new bill or a better bill, truly one that would be in some way driven by constituent input, they just want to support the Baucus bill.

Just so we can all be clear, Minnick will only vote in favor of health care reform, a purely Democratic cause, if it resembles the plan of Chairman Baucus who the Democrats don't agree with? I'd love to ask Rep. Minnick why he feels so strongly about this and when exactly he will vote with the Democrats when it matters, but I'm afraid he'd just dodge the question or better yet, run away.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Not So Arbitrary

It's always a bittersweet moment when I hear of a blogger retiring from his/her blog. I say bittersweet because as a blogger I understand the time and attention a blog requires and I'm sure it must be a very free feeling when you give up a blog and move on to do other exciting things. On the other hand, I think there are bloggers who bring a great deal to public discourse. One of the those blogs that I've really enjoyed and included in my own list of 'Idaho Scribes' is Arbitrary & Capricious. The blogger known as Skelly Wright, an Idaho native, has brought to the forefront the issues of his trade. Skelly, like his namesake, is a lawyer (specifically a public defender). I had the opportunity to talk with Skelly and his wife about a mutual interest and I must say, Arbitrary & Capricious has truly represented the author behind it, a very kind man with a huge heart. Thank you, Skelly. Your writing and perspective will be missed. Best of luck in all you do!

Wingnut Roundup