Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Winter Wonderland

I'm doing real well - I start a blog, then I let a week go by before writing again.... Truth is, I've been overwhelmed, and haven't known quite what to say on any given day. But today, it was such a beautiful day, that I'm inspired to write about this winter wonderland. We have about two feet of snow and it's beautiful! I love all the shades of white and gray. I never knew how many different shades there could be. We didn't have much sun today, but the sunny days of winter are special as well: with white snow everywhere and then a bright sun, clear blue skies, and a glistening wherever one looks. Ah, north Idaho in the winter is very beautiful!

I spent the morning reading the Idaho Statesman in order to keep up with what occurs around the state. In north Idaho, we read most of our news in the Spokesman-Review (out of Spokane, WA), with occasional local news in the Hagadone owned papers of Coeur d'Alene, Sandoint, and Bonners Ferry. All of these papers have a Republican bias, but at least in the Idaho Statesman one can receive news about all of Idaho, including what's happening in the state legislature.

I love the latest report about Risch and his ideas for Idaho roadless areas and wilderness. It seems the Idaho Conversation League seems to think that, so far, his ideas are okay, but with Republicans, it's hard to say what underlying plan they may have. I presume there's underlying plans because next I read about Senator Craig's interference with two bills for wilderness that have come about through much hard work and bi-partisan understanding between the ICL and Senator Crapo, and the ICL and Representative Simpson. Leave it to Craig to interfere, saying he'll only give his support if they change the bills to suit his Rovian requests, thus stalling their passage. In a state where natural resources are the main wedge issue, Craig proves once again that in spite of his fellow Republicans' best efforts, Republicans are, in the end, not to be trusted. That is an unfortunate situation, but from Reagan to Bush I believe that Democrats, and many other US citizens, have learned that in the long run, Republicans just cannot be trusted.

I thought about this today, because I have Republican friends here, and I know that despite being Republican, many of them are honest, decent, caring, responsible and compassionate people. And just to clarify, I know that Democrats are not perfect.... But what I continually do not understand, is not only how the Republicans can get people to vote against their own best interests, but also how they can get votes in spite of their crass, irresponsible, egregious, and dishonest behavior. That's something to work on....

I do think that the media is largely responsible for this promotion of wedge issues between Republicans and Democrats. It makes for great reading, but it's also not very responsible reporting. It's sensational, but not necessarily important. And it's not what I, or many others, think of as news, which is probably why so many people get their news from alternative news sites on the internet.

So, in north Idaho at least, we could use with some good, liberal, progressive reporting. If you fit any of those adjectives, and you've always wanted to own a newspaper, this is the place to start. As the recent election shows, many people here are tired of Republican partisan politics, as well as the wingnuts they run for office. Indeed, north Idaho is ripe for a new newspaper with fair and accurate reporting. So, gather up your democratic friends and family and move here. Who knows, you may find yourself inspired to write about the beauty of our north Idaho winter wonderland.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Op Ed by Ken Larson

The following OpEd was provided by Ken Larson, a fellow Democrat residing in north Idaho. In this piece Ken expresses so well many of the same thoughts that I, and it seems many others, have about why north Idaho remains Republican. He very clearly points out the disconnect between the actions of the Republican Party and the negative effects these actions have on the people voting for Republican candidates.

I hope you enjoy the first of invited critical opinions and articles.

OpEd, by Ken Larson

Are we disconnected from rest of the U.S.? Bob Wynhausen raised this question in a letter published on November 19, 2006. I would suggest that the disconnect between Idahoans and the rest of the country may be greater than previously thought, since current polls show President Bush's rating around 31 % and Congress at less than 20 %. Yet, Idaho elected Republicans at a rate far above the national average.If the Republican Party were the traditional conservative party it used to be, this trend would be understandable, even admirable, because it would reflect true conservative values. Idaho is, after all, known for its independent-minded, freedom-loving people who support each other in time of need and defend their liberties at all cost. But, clearly, the evidence shows that the current Republican Party is no longer steeped in conservative principles. It has changed, but Idaho does not seem to recognize that change. Facts show without a doubt that Republicans over the past six years or so supported big business above the individual family, they grew the largest government we have ever seen and they spent money so recklessly that our current federal administration has borrowed more money from foreign governments (like China, Mexico and Saudi Arabia) than all of the previous administrations in our history combined. Even on a state level we saw the Republican controlled Idaho legislature increase taxes on working people to pay for tax breaks for wealthy land owners and out-of-state investors. These are not traditional conservative values. Curiously, fiercely independent Idahoans supported the political party that has done more to weaken our civil rights than any other in our history. The current Republican Party is the one who brought us these programs, and more: Free Speech Zones, which limit our ability to express ourselves in public; National Security Letters which allow warrant -less searches of all kinds of personal records at the discretion of a single FBI officer; warrant-less phone, internet and e-mail surveillance; active monitoring and maintaining files on non-violent organizations (including church groups); and, even developed programs for local agencies to use unmanned aircraft with cameras to spy on us. These are not conservative values and go beyond the scope needed for security. These, I would think, are contrary to the values of Idahoans.Even though Democratic candidates without exception said they would work for the betterment of the average working person, including holding tax burdens down and getting us health care, the people voted against their own interests by supporting candidates who are funded and committed to big business and special interests. The problem with this type of vote is that it forces all of us to live with the consequences, facing higher taxes, more restrictions on our freedoms and stagnated financial improvement for the working people of Idaho, a large number of whom are sliding into the poverty level.How does this disconnect occur? Why is our state so different than the majority? The answer to that is obviously very complex, but certainly must have it roots in the flow of information. In North Idaho, we appear to have limited sources of information compared to larger markets in the country. All of North Idaho's five main newspapers are owned and operated by the same person. We have limited radio coverage, mostly involving programming such as Rush Limbaugh who publicly said that he broadcasts untrue things just to get people to vote Republican--he lied to get your vote and he admitted on the air doing so. We also know that fundamentalist religious stations promoted candidates based on single issues, such as abortion, gays and stem cell research, even though those same candidates would raise your taxes and limit your Constitutional freedoms.Fact and opinion have become blurred by the cable network entertainment programs. There is no liberal media; rather, it has all become corporate media, promoting limited agenda and making money. This is true of CNN with Glen Beck, MSNBC with Tucker and Scarborough. But, nowhere is this more evident than on FOX News Channel. This network trailed CNN, MSNBC and the others in viewer ratings until 2001, when Bush took office. As Bush's rating are now falling, so are the viewer ratings of FOX News. Since 2001, FOX has had access to the White House and Congress beyond any other network. FOX's fortune is closely tied to Bush's presidency. As such, it became a propaganda tool of the Republican Party, using what CBC News in their documentary "Fifth Estate" clearly showed as numerous examples of false reporting and out-right lies. A University of Maryland study showed conclusively that of people who said their primary source of news was FOX News, 80 % were very misinformed about current events related to the invasion of Iraq. The main reason shown for this was the "stenographic" reporting by FOX News, where information from the National Republican Party, the White House and Republican strategists (such as Karl Rove) was read on the air verbatim, without investigation or editing. Opinions were promoted as fact. The losers in the propaganda pursuit are the American people, especially those of us who want the lives of the Middle Class to improve and who wish above all else to save our hard-won personal liberties. The solution, I think, is that we need a wider variety of information sources, we need to demand truth and fact over opinion and we should stand together, insisting that the interests of working Idahoans once again become the focus of our government. Only we the people of Idaho can make this happen. And, it will only happen, if we stand together and forget the political party labels, seeking only those programs and policies that help the common people. We all share more in common than we differ. Our state and our nation with thrive as the working people thrive. Forget that concept and we all will be victims of the corporate media, national corporations and the politicians they prop up.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

North Idaho News Media

Well, very interesting news has come my way…. For all of you who might be considering a move to north Idaho, I especially want to invite anyone from the independent news media. We definitely need you up here!

First, a background on local newspapers, all owned by the Hagadone Corp. (you know, the owner of the Coeur d’Alene Resort and Republican extraordinaire):
Several days before the election, the Bonner County Daily Bee published a COMPLETELY MADE-UP STORY about a local candidate, Steve Elgar. It seems that the story said that Elgar hadn’t really committed any campaign illegalities in spite of “blogs” reporting that he did. Guess what – NO SUCH BLOGS EVER EXISTED! The publisher, ever in the good graces of the Hagadone Corp., made the story up! He made it up, and then convinced a reporter to write about it! I spoke to both of them and they couldn’t even get their stories straight! And that’s just a tip of the iceberg for Hagadone media operations. This is just one of many examples of how completely Republican our news media is in north Idaho.

Now, the latest story! The most recent editor of the Bonners Ferry Herald, Robert James, was fired! According to Huckleberries Online (the north Idaho reporting for the Spokesman-Review), he was fired for endorsing Democratic candidate Jerry Brady for Governor of Idaho! Don’t you just love partisan news reporting…..

I genuinely feel sorry for the guy. I wasn’t thrilled with his editing – he frequently did not publish any LTEs from Democrats. But he did write several good articles and opinions about the Democrats, a real change from the past 20+ years. Now it seems that his editorial opinion on Jerry Brady was just too much for Hagadone et al, and the poor man and his family, who moved from Colorado to north Idaho for this job, just had their Thanksgiving ruined and may soon be parting for a less vindictive community.

Hey, I’ve been there, my name on the front page, a slam from the mayor (oh my god), and the whole bit. Not all Republicans are rotten apples, but in north Idaho they certainly seem to be arrogant about how rotten they smell….. Well, if the latest election results are indicative of anything, many people would now like to see a BLUE IDAHO! And it will happen!

So independent media, WE NEED YOU HERE!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Democratic Working Class Activists

Yesterday was Monday lunch, and I served up a bounty from north Idaho. We started with an Italian style pork and cabbage risotto. Pork, of course, from the pig my friend, Elizabeth, raised for me. Cabbage and onions from my friend, Marcia’s, garden. Rosemary and tomato passata were from my garden. Rice, unfortunately, came from California. The salad, I call it an Astoria Salad, but it’s just a Waldorf Salad made from my Bosc pears, local hazelnuts, toasted of course, and Marcia’s celery, but again, mayo and walnut oil from elsewhere. The rolls are my usual every week Italian style roll. And dessert was a Bosc pear pie, on homemade buttery crust, with a toasted hazelnut crumb topping, following Mario Batali’s suggestion that what’s in one dish gets echoed in another.

Well, lunch was wonderful, but the online headlines from Seymour Hersh are another story. Indeed, instead of something positive and good, we’re talking full-boat negative psycho. How could Cheney and Bush still plan on going to war with Iran, even though the CIA says there’s no evidence that puts Iran close to being able to make a bomb. These guys are psycho. They make up their own stories, believe or pretend to believe them, and then do whatever they want to do. I used to wonder why people believed these guys, but then I realized that the media just caters to their psychoses. We’re lucky at the moment that we have an alternative, internet media, but it certainly makes it difficult to convince the general public, at least the general public in north Idaho, that their media is just one of the major corporations that are trying to run most of the world right now. It’s the old story of money vs. the working masses.

MyDD ( touched on this yesterday in a discussion of James Carville’s complaining about Dean’s 50-state strategy. The writer, Chris Bowers, referred to the difference between the monied elite of the Democratic party versus the activist working classes. I believe this dichotomy exists and in a powerful and ever more confrontational manner these days. The working classes are becoming stronger and stronger and I think that became quite evident in the responses to Carville’s statements. Now, if we could only get the working classes in north Idaho on our side, then we would be a power to reckon with. But for some reason, many of these guys vote Republican. It will be interesting to see what the next two years hold.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

What's the matter with Idaho?

Okay, I’ve been reading all about how James Carville doesn’t like Dean or his 50-state strategy. Well, his ignorance about what works in Idaho, or even in many places outside of Washington D.C., is just too reminiscent of the ignorance of the Idahoans who voted for a Superintendent of Public Instruction with no background in education; for a State Controller who has no background in finance; for a wingnut who will only make Idaho appear to be just like him; and for people who oppose legislation to raise the minimum wage in Idaho. In other words, Carville’s words and actions demonstrate his ignorance about the voting populace in this country.

Does Carville never read the Democratic and Progressive blogs like the Daily Kos? Over 200 comments on the article about him clearly demonstrate that people disagree with him completely. Furthermore, they show that most people don’t like either the DLC or the DCCC with their arrogance of power, and their continual refusal to share Democratic wealth with states that could probably become blue with that same help.

I, for one, would like to give a giant thank you to Howard Dean. He’s the DNC head that we’ve needed for a long time. He’s smart, and he knows that the Democrats working hardest are the grassroots, i.e., he know that in order to make a tree grow and keep it healthy, it better have well-watered roots, something many VIP Democrats forget. He provided money for three key Idaho positions, two state coordinators and a Communications Director, all of whom broke their backs for Idaho, working so many endless hours that they gave new meaning to the term “overtime.” I’d like to give them a giant thank you as well. These are three positions necessary to unite Democrats across the state. And with their help, we made tremendous progress throughout the state. We many not be blue yet, but we’re getting there, thanks to Dean.

Dr. Dean, you are doing a great job! Keep us connected! Keep those emails coming! Stay in charge of the DNC because you are desperately needed by the Democratic Party!

I think that what happened to Idaho is similar to “What’s the Matter with Kansas” by Thomas Frank. The Republicans have made economic issues subservient to social issues. They have taken every wedge issue they could find and turned it into an “us vs. them” issue, with Limbaugh, Savage, Coulter, and even mainstream news media taking part in the chorus. The underclasses, the poor, the red state workers, they are expected to be at the beck and call of the wealthy. And now, James Carville ties himself to his wife’s apron strings and demands that the less economically viable Democrats be all but forgotten when it comes to electing Democrats. Shame on Carville and all those who agree with him!

But a thank you to Carville as well, because he has renewed my grassroots Democratic enthusiasm and makes me want to work harder than ever to turn Idaho blue!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Official Vote Canvass

The official vote canvass occurs this afternoon at the courthouse, so I have been busy looking over the election numbers for my county. It appears that approximately 57% of the registered voters actually voted. It leaves me wondering, who are the other 43% and why didn’t they vote? Are they Republicans who are sick and tired of the Bush administration but couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a Democrat? Are they Independents who think that both parties are equally inadequate? Or evil?

Numbers amaze me, and also, confuse me. I’ve been studying Idaho election results. Ultimately, I’d like to solve the problem of why Idaho has a surplus of Republicans, to the extent that the Democrats can’t seem to provide balance. So, in the 2004 General Election, my county had 72% of the registered voters show up to vote. In the 2006 Primary, only 24% voted. That is a big difference! Obviously the citizens in my county do not necessarily feel that they have a responsibility to vote. Something else motivates them.

Another curious number fact about my county is that, except in the 2004 Election, most of the voting age population (using the 2005 U.S. Census) does not vote. In the 2004 election 56% of the voting age citizens did vote, but in the 2006 Primary only 17% voted and in the election last Tuesday 41% voted. I think that these are fairly large differences and I cannot understand why there isn’t more consistency in voting.

Idaho, historically, has been pretty Democratic, even Progressive. And north Idaho was a Democratic stronghold until mining fell apart in the 1970-80s. I could assume, like many do, that Idaho just followed the rest of the country in becoming more conservative, or, falling for the Republican rhetoric. I don’t think Idaho is losing the Democratic vote because of election fraud, and I just cannot believe that the demographics shifted so extremely that Democrats moved away and/or Republicans moved in. I think there’s more to this than an easy answer. So I’m just bound and determined to figure out what is going on, beginning with my county. It’s my way of doing what I can in order to see Idaho blue again…

Monday, November 13, 2006

Monday Lunch

Well, Mondays will not do for blogging because I awaken at 4:30am in order to begin “Monday Lunch.” I deliver lunch to friends in town for a small reimbursement fee. I usually make something hot (soup or sandwich), something cold (salad or sandwich), homemade rolls or bread, and a dessert. They all have to eat the same thing. And they have to wash their glass dishes before I pick them up later in the week.

I don’t finish delivering until 1:30 or 2:00. That’s when I eat my own lunch. And, I finish cleaning up any mess that I had to leave behind.

Today everyone received a Daube de Boeuf, served with noodles, a Minted Pea Salad with Prosciutto, a homemade roll, and my version of Fiadone, a Corsican cheesecake. Unfortunately it was very Americanized because I wasn’t able to find the Corsican cheese, broccio frais, so I substituted cream cheese and Mascarpone cheese. Oh well, it tasted wonderful! And as one of my favorite chefs (Mario Batali) says, and I paraphrase, ”by all means substitute with whatever local ingredient is similar.” Ricotta cheese may have been better, but I had mascarpone that needed to be used.

I’d write more, but I have to spend some time studying vote numbers before the canvass tomorrow. I still can’t believe that Idahoans voted for the wingnut, Bill Sali, or worse, possibly, voted against their own best interests by electing local representatives who oppose raising the minimum wage! It just boggles the mind!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Why Idaho Rocks....

I'm not from Idaho. Actually, I feel like the stereotypical ex-pat, except that I chose to live somewhere in the country in which I was born, rather than in another country. I'm originally from New Jersey, grew up a "Valley Girl" in southern California, and, for the past 16yrs. have resided in north Idaho. The physical beauty of Idaho keeps me here. Well, amongst other things.
Actually, it's not easy for someone like me to embrace all that Idaho is. I am a blue person, that is, politically blue. I grew up in neighborhoods with color - that is human color and human diversity. One doesn't see much of that kind of color in north Idaho, so I highly respect those who live here. I have also lived in other countries, grew up in LaLaLand, and, spent most of my life in university. Idaho is a change. A big change for me. And it hasn't always been easy. I often feel that I am surrounded by people who wear blinders....

But then, every day I am surprised by more than the beauty of north Idaho, for I am often surprised by the numerous kinds of people that I do meet. It's true, there are people here who have never traveled beyond Washington, Idaho, and best. But I've also met people who live here from other countries, other states, of various religions, ethnic backgrounds, and cultural norms. And they all live here! Whether native Idahoan or transplant like myself, sometimes it seems that hidden in the forests are people of many talents: musicians, artists, writers, computer geeks, senators, oceanographers, organic gardeners, mathematicians, search and rescue experts, doctors, builders, loggers, naturopaths, and so forth. Indeed, there is a diversity here, as well as a tolerance, that ebbs and flows, as in all the other places I've lived.

So, it's more than just the beauty of Idaho that keeps me here. People are important too. And after people, it's the food.... I have the luxury of eating mostly organic food. I buy eggs from a farmer friend; other friends raise my pork, beef, and lamb, with no growth hormones, antibiotics, etc.; one of my best friends owns the local health food store, where I get my dairy products, cleaning supplies, and even gourmet cheeses; great organic farmers supply me with the fruits, vegetables and nuts that I don't grow every summer; and I am just spoiled when it comes to good food!

I also love so many other aspects of living in a small town in north Idaho. We have a fantastic used bookstore. The numerous garage sales and auctions can sometimes yield "hidden" treasures. I know the police chief and am on a first name basis with many of the people who work in various retail stores. My auto mechanic, besides being a good friend, also supplies me with my Scottish Highland beef. My next-door neighbor helps me with my computer problems. Two of my best friends help me tremendously with garden problems. I can walk easily around the entire downtown. We have great butchers. Game is abundant; sometimes too abundant. I don't mind the deer in my yard (although they give my friend, Elizabeth, a very bad time). I do mind the wild turkeys in my yard because they destroy the garden and they multiply faster than rabbits.... Our library provides me with all the books I could want, whether on the shelves or through interlibrary loan. And for a change of pace and culture, Canada is only a short drive away. Indeed, I often think of north Idaho as being the American gateway to the Canadian Rockies. I know I haven't mentioned everything I love about living here, but I think you get the picture....

So the beauty, the people, and the food have won my heart. I may not be from Idaho (unlike my husband), but I say that I have chosen to live here. And because I chose this state, I try to do everything I can to contribute to its well-being. Which brings me back to the blue part....

North Idaho used to be predominantly Democrat. That was back in the days of unions, when miners and loggers were protected and labor was important. Something happened in the '70s, and ever since Idaho has become progressively Republican, i.e., red. I really don't understand this because the rural life is not exactly a place where the wealthy flourish. Indeed, we have a number of poorer people, retired folks, people who live here for the lifestyle rather than the salary, people who depend on medicare and medicaid, and so forth, who reside here. Yet, at a minimum wage of $5.15 an hour, these people still vote for congressional candidates who refuse to raise the minimum wage and give tax cuts to big business and the wealthy! It certainly boggles my mind....

So, frankly, I'd like to see Idaho blue again. I'd like to see people vote for their own best interests instead of against them. I'd like to see balance in the Idaho government. I'd like to see money for public education, for health care, for prescription drugs, and for the many people here who actually try to maintain all the positive aspects of a rural lifestyle. I'd like to see Idaho keep its clean air and water, prevent big polluters from spoiling our environment, and provide for the average Joe instead of wealthy, out-of-state landowners and big business.

In this spirit, I thus turn to a blog, to rant and rave, to air my opinion, to urge my fellow Idahoans do their bit in making Idaho a better place, to tempt Democrats to move here, and to convince Republicans that the Democratic candidates will do more to maintain the Idaho they love.

PS I appreciate comments, constructive criticisms and so forth. I do not tolerate hate and foul language.