Friday, November 25, 2011

Tom Wicker, Dead at 85

The New York Times announced the sad news that Tom Wicker has passed away of a heart attack at 85. From their piece:
"The searing images of that day [November 22, 1963, the day President Kennedy was assassinated]— the rifleman’s shots cracking across Dealey Plaza, the wounded president lurching forward in the open limousine, the blur of speed to Parkland Memorial Hospital and the nation’s anguish as the doctors gave way to the priests and a new era — were dictated by Mr. Wicker from a phone booth in stark, detailed prose drawn from notes scribbled on a White House itinerary sheet. It filled two front-page columns and the entire second page, and vaulted the writer to journalistic prominence overnight."
Wicker's death is just another reminder that there are becoming fewer and fewer men and women still alive who were associated with or covered the Kennedy assassination.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Presidential Assassinations

From the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian comes this tweet and link on the 48th anniversary of Jack Ruby killing Lee Harvey Oswald. I highly recommend following the link--it takes you to a page of items housed at the museum in an exhibit called "Life and Death in the White House." The items on the page are all related to the Kennedy assassination, but if you take a look around you can find items related to the assassinations of Lincoln and Garfield as well. There may be items related to the assassination of McKinley, I just didn't spot them right away. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Daily Rundown: JFK Assassination

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

One of the few topics I find Chris Matthews to be credible when discussing is President Kennedy. This morning on MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown," he discussed today's 48th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Rhoades Postscript

With two witnesses representing each of Paul Ezra Rhoades' victims, four members of the Idaho press, and various government as well as law enforcement officials, the state of Idaho executed a man convicted of three murders. Rhoades became the twenty-eighth prisoner to be executed in Idaho since 1864. Twenty-eight have been executed, none since 1994, and yet the pro-death penalty, conservative Governor of Idaho wasn't even in the state when the execution occurred. In fact, Governor Otter wasn't even in the continental United States, but the execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades was carried out. We ask this state to take the life of a convicted inmate in our name, but we don't ask that the leader of our state be in attendance.

My profound disappointment in what happened Friday morning does not begin and end with my opposition to the death penalty. I once said that I was grateful to live in a state that isn't as blasé about executions as Texas and that opinion was challenged by the blasé way the governor treated Friday's execution. The head of the Department of Corrections and the attorney general looked as if they hadn't slept in days, yet the governor was in Hawaii at an annual conference. It's unfortunate, to say the least. Despite the state politics and the divisive issues that surround the death penalty, there were far greater disappointments in what happened Friday. Continuing with how I've approached the topic, I highly encourage perusing the following articles regarding Friday's timeline, Rhoades' final words and the many reactions to the execution:
The most disappointing and horrible part of what happened Friday came in Rhoades' final words. By executing him and asking for his final words, the state of Idaho gave Paul Rhoades one last opportunity to inflict pain on his victims' families. Not only does the death penalty allow for pain to continue to be inflicted on those closest to these cases through the long and constitutionally granted appeals process, it gives monsters a pulpit and an audience to say incredibly hurtful things. All of this could be avoided by leaving him to rot in prison for the rest of his days.

It was always Rhoades' modus operandi to inflict unnecessary pain and he did so once again Friday in denying his involvement in two of the murders for which he was convicted, two murders that he unequivocally committed. Only a monster could do this, a monster given the pulpit in which to say as much. As a friend of one of Rhoades' victims uttered as it was determined that Rhoades was dead, "the Devil has gone home." Indeed.

Friday, November 18, 2011

TGIF Tunes

Keeping with last week's Warren Zevon theme, I thought I'd share this video of Wagons & Joe Pug covering Zevon's "Lawyers, Guns and Money." Was actually recommended on Twitter by Braves beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dave O'Brien. Not a bad way to end a day that has been rather dark, literally and figuratively.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Idaho's Twenty-Eighth

Tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. the death warrant for Paul Ezra Rhoades will be read. He will have already been moved to Idaho's new execution chamber and at 8:10 a.m. the lethal injection is scheduled to begin. Within minutes, Paul Ezra Rhoades will be the twenty-eighth prisoner to be executed by the state of Idaho since 1864.

Paul Ezra Rhoades has exhausted all appeals, including asking for and being denied a stay of execution by the United States Supreme Court. Barring an unforeseen granting of clemency, Rhoades will be executed tomorrow morning.

To further understand Rhoades' case, his appeals, the execution process, and Idaho's history of executions, I highly recommend the following:
It is unfortunate that the state of Idaho will not be allowing the media witnesses to view each step of the execution. In fact, Rhoades will spend twenty-five minutes in the execution chamber without any witnesses present. It is not out of any morbid fascination that we should demand that the press be witness to such a gruesome event. It is so that we can ensure that the letter of the law is followed when the state carries out an execution. It is out of respect for and protection of the First Amendment that we should demand the press access to each step of the execution process. It is so we, as residents of the state of Idaho, can fully realize the actions we allow our elected leaders to take in our name. Tomorrow's execution of Rhoades is, after all, the taking of a life by the state of Idaho in the name of justice and protection of the people of this state.

I cannot state any clearer why this matters than the Idaho Statesman editorial board did today: "The state that kills in the name of its people should be completely and fully accountable to its people." Unfortunately, tomorrow's execution is not being treated with the sensitivity such an event demands. The leaders of this state, both in the governor's office and the Department of Corrections, are behaving as if the executing of a prisoner is just business as usual. When I stated that I was grateful to live in a state that isn't as blasé about executions as Texas, I never imagined that when the time came to execute a death row inmate, the governor would feel no obligation to be in the state and we would deny the media access to the execution in its entirety.

Yes, you read that right, though Idaho Governor Butch Otter has received hundreds of letters addressed directly to him regarding the execution of Rhoades, Otter is in Hawaii and Lt. Governor Brad Little is currently at the helm. Neither have expressed any opposition to the death penalty and it is doubtful that the many out-of-state letters asking for clemency will outweigh the hundreds of comments the governor has received from Idahoans in support of tomorrow's execution. Idahoans fall largely on the side of vengeance (vengeance was something I discussed here) when it comes to the whether or not a convicted killer like Rhoades should be executed. The state that is resoundingly pro-life, the life of a man on death row is not to be shown mercy. Instead, Idahoans will sit quietly by, some surely cheering, as the state of Idaho takes a life in our name.

Tomorrow Idaho will continue, business as usual, and chances are there won't be seventeen years between this execution and our next. Will Idaho's twenty-eighth teach us anything?

Update: The state of Idaho executed Paul Ezra Rhoades Friday, November 18th at 9:15 a.m. (MST).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Tribute to Rep. Allen Andersen

Allen Andersen's parents were buried in Arbon Valley, Idaho where they spent most of their lives farming. As a young man, Allen spent a great deal of time in Arbon Valley as well, though he attended school in Pocatello. It's fitting that Allen, the former state representative, will be laid to rest in the city to which he devoted so much of his life.

For those of us who knew Allen, it came as a great shock when he passed away last week of a sudden heart attack. If others who knew Allen were at all like me, the shock of it all left us struggling to put into words what Allen meant to us. One word that consistently came up when I spoke to others who knew Allen was kind. Allen was one of the kindest people I ever had the privilege of knowing. His sincere kindness was a constant, as was his sense of humor.

Not only did Allen serve in the Idaho House of Representatives and as chairman of the Bannock County Democrats, he most recently served as co-chair of the first Idaho Redistricting Commission. But Allen's service didn't begin and end with politics. As a former teacher and regional director of the Idaho Education Association, Allen's heart belonged to public education. His more than two decades advocating for public education touched thousands of lives. The Idaho Education Association's collection of responses to the passing of Allen Andersen speaks to how deeply he was loved by his friends and colleagues.

For me personally, Allen Andersen was both a friend and mentor. I came to greatly appreciate his gentle friendship and deeply admired his dedication to public service. Allen was never content with a simple handshake, instead always offering a hug. I was blessed to co-host a local access television show for the Bannock County Democrats with Allen and will always cherish those segments as well as the wealth of knowledge he shared with me during filming. I was also blessed to have the opportunity to campaign for Allen in 2006 when he, James Ruchti and Diane Bilyeu were running for District 29 legislative seats. The truth is, it was one of the easiest campaigning efforts ever due to everyone loving Allen. When I was involved in student government at ISU, Allen was very supportive of everything I was doing and we had many a conversation that ended with him encouraging me to run for Pocatello City Council. That was never in the cards for me, but his confidence in me and support of my goals will never be forgotten. Allen's passing leaves a void in my life and the lives of so many.

There are few people who have so completely and passionately devoted their lives to public service the way Allen Andersen had. This state would be the better for it if more approached public service as Allen did. His presence in Idaho politics, public education, his church, and his community will be deeply missed. Though we will all miss him greatly, the mark he left on our lives and hearts will never be forgotten.

[This piece was cross-posted at 43rd State Blues. The photo that appears here was attained from the Cornelison Funeral Home with permission of the Andersen family.]

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Happy Birthday, Buck!

Today would have been the great Buck O'Neil's 100th birthday. Take a look at this local NBC video about the Buck O'Neil exhibit at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.

Friday, November 11, 2011

TGIF Tunes

They tell me love requires
A little standing in line
-- Warren Zevon, "Searching for a Heart"

In the closing moments of this week's Covert Affairs, Rebecca Pidgeon's cover of Warren Zevon's "Searching for a Heart" played. I'd forgotten how much I love this song. The video is a 1991 performance of the song by Zevon on Letterman. Check out Zevon's son Jordan performing the same song on Letterman after his father's death. Rebecca Pidgeon's version is now available at iTunes.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

IDP on Allen Andersen's Passing

Editor's Note: The Idaho Democratic Party released the following statement on the untimely passing of former state representative, redistricting commission co-chair, and county party chairman Allen Andersen. I'm still trying to find the words to express how sad I am about Allen's passing. My thoughts are with Allen's wife, Bev, their children and grandchildren.

(click to enlarge)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hitchcock: What's Wrong With Class Warfare?

Editor's Note: The following article was submitted to the Idaho State Journal by Professor Leonard Hitchcock. Hitchcock is a professor emeritus at Idaho State University.


Republicans have reacted to the Occupy Wall Street movement with contempt for the cause and disgust at the participants. They have revived epithets they once reserved for the hippies, and stigmatized the demonstrators collectively as a “mob” that is engaged in “class warfare.” This reaction is, needless to say, just as it should be, for Republicans are the defenders of precisely that class of Americans against which the protests are directed.

It’s unclear, however, whether Republicans deplore class warfare simply because their interests are threatened by it, or because they believe it to be un-American to assume that classes exist in this country, or perhaps because, while admitting that there are classes, they reject the notion that the ruling class in American is anything but deserving and beneficent.

It is unlikely, I think, that any Republican could be so willfully blind to the economic facts as to deny that there is a describable class of American citizens that are properly called “the super-rich”. Nor could any Republican pretend not to know that though there was a time when such a class was composed of “captains of industry,” the current crop of those enjoying multiple dwellings, yachts, private jets and Lamborghinis have largely amassed their wealth by figuring out ways to make the money that they already possess multiply like rabbits, without, in the process, producing anything of tangible value or use to the general public. There may be the occasional Bill Gates or Steve Jobs among that class, but, to a considerable extent, these billionaires have never made a widget in their lives. Instead, they’ve contrived ways of doing clever things with loans, mortgages and securities that bring in floods of profit without employing anyone but bankers and accountants.

But let’s be fair: even if there is a layer of the hyper-affluent that floats atop the national economy like pond scum, that doesn’t justify class warfare. After all, the rich, as the Bible says, will always be with us. What entitles us to blame them for our troubles? To answer that question, let’s consider an archetypal case of class warfare, the French Revolution.

By the latter half of the 18th century, France had indulged itself in several unnecessary wars -- wars that it had funded largely by borrowing money. Since the higher strata of French society -- the clergy, the nobility and, the King and his bureaucracy -- had become accustomed to lives of considerable ease and opulence, when the country found itself deeply in debt it sought frantically to increase the national income, largely through the imposition of new taxes and higher tax rates. Because the privileged classes were legally exempt from the most severe of these taxes, and successfully evaded most of the others, the burden of taxation fell, perforce, upon the lower and middle classes.

The French peasantry was, at that time, experiencing greater poverty than it had endured during the Middle-Ages. What little protection the mutual obligations of serf and lord had provided for them during the Feudal period had now vanished and the land-owning classes aimed only to extract more profit from their estates. Peasants paid taxes to clerical and noble land-owners for the right to work the fields and then paid consumption taxes on the wretched provender that kept them alive. They had no voice whatsoever in local village government because the Crown made it a practice to sell municipal positions to the highest bidders to augment the state’s income.

In the cities, members of the urban working class were treated like beasts of burden by the bourgeoisie and the upper classes. Few had work on a regular basis, most lived close to starvation, and their political power was nil. Beneath them were swarms of unemployed beggars, prostitutes, and petty criminals, all of whom lived in even greater misery than the working class.

It was perfectly clear to any member of the lower classes that his enemy was not just the king, or his local landowner, or his bourgeois employer; it was the entire class of owners and exploiters, those who collectively ran the country and arranged the affairs of state to benefit themselves. It was also clear that those privileged classes, however much they might be in conflict with one another, had a shared interest in preserving their hegemony over the lower classes, and every intention of preserving the system that provided them with lives of luxury and security.

And what is our current situation, those of us who belong to the 99%? We seem to live in a plutocracy masquerading as a democracy. The rich write the tax laws and the banking regulations. The rich buy the politicians and are therefore able to reimburse themselves from the public till when their investment gambles fail. The corporate aristocracy has emerged from the economic catastrophe that it caused richer and more powerful than before. It seems capable of decimating the public sector, of crippling organized labor, and of thwarting those who seek to implement traditional measures to aid the unemployed and the helpless. Is that aristocracy not the ruling class, and have we no cause to go into the streets to denounce it?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Idaho Reports: Reinke Interview

This interview footage comes via Idaho Reports and features Idaho Department of Corrections Director Brent Reinke. Reinke discusses the process that IDOC is going through as they prepare for the looming execution of death row inmate Paul Ezra Rhoades. It's a lengthy interview, but really worth the time.

Thanks to host Greg Hahn and Idaho Public Television for permission to post this video in full.