Monday, March 24, 2008

I Pledge Allegiance...

Well, several legislators in the Idaho House, as well as the the Idaho Values Alliance, certainly outdid themselves by whining and complaining that Press Corps. members who didn't recite the Pledge of Allegiance should not only have their loyalty questioned but were then advised to not be present while the pledge was recited. See more at Fort Boise "Calculated Malice", the Mountain Goat Report "Of Kerfuffles", and the unequivocal notion "Bryan Fischer's Readers". The first time through I missed Jill's post over at NewWest Boise (sorry Jill), contained within a general post appropriately called Harebrained Absurdities at the Idaho Legislature.

This gross display of ignorance about American history cannot be forgiven just because they recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I sure as hell would like to know where in the U.S. Constitution it says, according to Idaho Values Alliance Executive Director Bryan Fischer,

“This would have been news to the Founding Fathers...since they established the political foundation of our form of government on the concept that our rights are an inalienable gift to us from the Creator. The United States was founded on a religious concept, and the Pledge is a simple way of reaffirming today the original vision of Thomas Jefferson and the rest of the Founders.” (highlighting mine).

First of all, our founding fathers came from a European background of religious harassment and persecution. They deliberately left religion out of the Constitution and only added the first amendment later on. Thus, the only place in the U.S. Constitution that refers to religion is in Article VI which states:

" religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

So much for Fischer's knowledge of U.S. history.

The First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." ostensibly because two of the original thirteen states still supported having an established religion. However, Connecticut did away with that idea in 1817 and Massachusetts in 1813.

The Pledge of Allegiance wasn't even written until 1892, and the author was a Christian socialist, Francis Bellamy, who was later thrown out of his church because of his socialist values. As chairman of superintendents for the National Education Association, he helped arrange for this pledge to be recited in all the public schools. In 1923 at the National Flag Conference, the words changed from "my flag" to the "flag of the United States," and in 1924 "of America" was added. Congress officially recognized the pledge in 1945, five years after the Supreme Court mandated it be said in public schools until 1943 when the Supreme Court decided it should no longer be compulsory. It was not until 1954, pushed by a campaign of the Knights of Columbus, that Congress officially added the words "under God."

Indeed, even today students in the state of Idaho are not "...compelled... to recite the Pledge of Allegiance nor sing the national anthem." So, Bryan Fischer and his Republican friends in the legislature would be better off working on the real problems faced by the citizens of Idaho rather than revealing their own ignorance and idiocy by questioning the constitutionally correct behavior of the Idaho Press Corps.

Friday, March 21, 2008

And We Have Candidates

Idaho Legislative District 1 has Democratic candidates for several key positions as well as for local positions. For Idaho Legislative District 1, Steve Elgar will be challenging incumbent Eric Anderson, who must participate in a Republican primary run-off with Daniel Lawrence. Tom Hollingsworth will be challenging George Eskridge for the second Id Dist. 1 seat. Tom has already been knocking on doors, attending meetings, and working hard on his campaign. Boundary County also has candidates for six of its seven precincts.

In ID Leg District 2, we have Rep. Joyce Broadsword in a primary run-off with two other candidates, Bill Largen and James Stivers, with Democrat Rand Lewis as the sole Democratic candidate. You go, Rand! You have made us very happy! C. J. Rose, Democrat, will be running against Dick Harwood. And Mary Lou Shepherd will be running unopposed.

Locally in Boundary County, Jerry Pavia-D, commercial garden photographer and past president of the Idaho Conservation League Board of Directors will be running against incumbent Ron Smith-R for County Commissioner. And John O'Connor-D, owner of Bonner Books, will be running for the second district county commissioner position. Also in that district 2 commissioner race are two Republicans, including the incumbent, who will be facing a primary run-off for that position, and a newbie Independent. We now have several great candidates who will help lead the way into making north Idaho once again a Democratic stronghold through a grassroots effort based on Dean's 50-state strategy.

Boundary County thought that Bonner County had a Democratic candidate to run against Shawn Keough, but poof! the deadline passed and no name appeared. Other Bonner County highlights include a District 1 County Commissioner race with incumbent Todd Crossett-D, who will be running against the winner of a Republican primary run-off between Cornel Rasor-R and John T. Reuter-R. District 2 County Commissioner has a Democratic primary run-off between Brian Orr-D and Patty Palmer-D, with only one Republican challenger, Joseph Young-R. For Sheriff, one Democrat, Tony Lamanna, will be challenged by one of five Republican primary candidates: Rocky Jordan, Chip Roos, Geoff Rusho, Elaine Savage, and Daryl Wheeler.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Senator Larry Wide-Stance Craig Does Idaho Dirty

Anyone reading the Times News this past Wednesday must now know that the citizens of Idaho, and of Mountain Home in particular, have become Larry Craig's latest targets. You see, Craig is just dying to see the U.S. Air Force build a nuclear reactor at their base in Mountain Home. As the paper reports, Dan Whiting, Craig's press secretary, said, "Sen. Craig would love to see a reactor at Mountain Home." Although relatively small at 5-10 megawatts, that means a new pile of nuclear waste in Idaho, something which will linger in the area for at least 10,000 years or so. Diana, at We Have Failed Our Duty, provides a succinct but impressive amount of information on why nuclear just isn't a good idea.

France claims that they can environmentally control the waste by enclosing it in glass and storing it underground in Normandy. But the environmental reports I've seen on Normandy suggest that this isn't such a safe bet. And that's ignoring the waste that they've shipped off to Siberia. But who cares about Siberia? That's like caring for Idaho.

I just wish Senator Craig would keep his dirty little activities in the bathroom. Idaho doesn't need, or want him, any more.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

HB 516 And The War On Drugs

Tara at The Political Game is beginning to feel like she's beating a dead horse for bringing up the same topic within a short time period. This topic, however, is so important, that every person in Idaho should be reading about it. Before the Idaho House is House Bill 516, a bill that, in Tara's words "...would give discretion to sitting judges to determine in which drug offense cases treatment is appropriate...." This bill is not only humane, economically good for the state as well as for its prisons and taxpayers, but also gives pause so that all of us may re-consider what we are actually doing with our drug laws.

In a prohibition movement that boggles the mind, the United States has moved far away from giving doctors and the medical profession the right to determine patient treatment based on their medical knowledge, to a government agency, created

" enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States and bring to the criminal and civil justice system of the United States, or any other competent jurisdiction, those organizations and principal members of organizations, involved in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the United States...."

What exactly does this mean? It means that under the Controlled Substance Act, the Attorney General can decide which substance is a drug, what kind of drug, the ability of a drug to create dependency, and how to criminally control that drug. Did anyone hear of the word physician mentioned here? True, the DEA and the Attorney General are supposed to read the scientific evidence. But lo and behold, or should I say, shock and awe, guess whose scientific articles they read and cite? You're right, Big Pharma, whose own research has been brought into question on any number of occasions. Check it out here and here and here and here and need I go on? I guess it's obvious whose research the DEA and the Attorney General read, if they read it at all.... It's more likely that they just take and take and take more and more money from the drug lobbyists.

HB 516 wants the Idaho courts to take into account the medical condition known as addiction, and thus, as The Political Game points out,

"The purpose of this legislation is to provide treatment focused alternative sentencing for certain mandatory minimum sentences. This legislation will allow judges, where appropriate, to sentence those whose crime was primarily the result of addiction, to a treatment focused track so as to more effectively rehabilitate offenders, reduce recidivism and slow growth in Idaho's non-violent offender population." (Highlighting is mine.)

And Senator Denton Darrington and Representative Jim Clark are leading the way to oppose this bill, no questions asked, no consideration given, no compassion shown, and, well, basically no rational thought given to the good this bill might do, not just for Idaho people, but for the state as well. See the excellent press release by Nicole LeFavour and more about the cost of ignoring treatment at The Mountain Goat Report.

The draconian drug laws of the United States have done more to create criminals, as this CATO report describes:

"The long federal experiment in prohibition of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and other drugs has given us unprecedented crime and corruption combined with a manifest failure to stop the use of drugs or reduce their availability to children." by David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute.

Many scientists support this view as a google search will reveal yet our government, and the state of Idaho included, persists in destroying the lives and families of non-violent drug offenders. In other countries, novel approaches to drug dependency have taken a more compassionate approach, focusing on harm-reduction, treatment, and health professional training. Lower crime rates, less "needle-park" scenarios, employment and improved quality of life for addicts, and illegal drug activity reduction are just some of the benefits that countries like Switzerland and Holland now appreciate because of their sensible drug policies as noted here and here and here and here and here, and that's just for a start.

To end with a few more absurdities, it seems that while the International Narcotics Control Board has issued a press release (pdf) calling for Greater Access to Opioid Medicines in Developing World, a doctors group issued a memorandum warning doctors "...not to prescribe opiates for pain relief...." They further state that since the US government has lost the war on drugs, now they're starting a war on doctors.

I don't think you can say enough about this problem, Tara, so keep up the good work at The Political Game.

New Executive Director for the IDP

Unfortunately Nicole's decision has changed due to other circumstances. Hopefully we'll have a new Executive Director soon. This time I'll make sure the person is IN THE OFFICE before reporting about it....

Keith Roark announced this morning that Nicole Goitiandia will be the new Executive Director for the Idaho Democratic Party. Those of you in Boise may know Nicole already as she was born and raised in Boise. Fluent in both Spanish and Basque, she also brings many management, as well as financial skills to the position. She has also served as director for the Utah State Democratic Party. We all welcome her presence with the Idaho Democrats!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Credit Card Man

Credit Card Man

My friend, Glenda Guilmet, is an incredible artist who recently created "Credit Card Man." Extending the public appearance of her original work of art, Credit Card Man can now be viewed at youtube, by going here. Although I know very little about economics, friends like Glenda, with a background in economics and business administration (as well as art, now how well-rounded can you get?), make the current economic situation in the US somewhat understandable and certainly put things in perspective.

Glenda Guilmet

I've noticed that the economy has been in the news a lot lately, from reports on how rich the rich really are, to NPR reports on "super capitalism," to criminal investigations into Pentagon contracts with Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, to America's addiction to debt, and finally, to an international fear of a dollar collapse, which brings us back around to Credit Card Man. I shake my head in disbelief. It's just spend, spend, spend. Everyone seems to own a snowmobile, ATV, gas-guzzling trucks, power boats, etc. in my neck of the woods (except my family and close friends, of course), even though most of them cannot afford it! What kind of madness is this?

I try to maintain a sense of sanity in the face of such economic upheaval by escaping into the worlds that books create. Keeping in mind such memorable lines like the opening of the novel Scaramouche, "He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad," I also turn to comedy (thank you John Stewart and Stephen Colbert). Besides dry wit, I love irony and satire. Which brings me back to Credit Card Man. Satire puts things in perspective.... Politics through art, I like that. Thank you, Glenda.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Pizza And Politics In Bonner County

Last night we attended Pizza and Politics in Bonner County, held at the Sandpoint Community Hall. Wendy Jaquet and George Sayler each gave overviews of what's happening in the Idaho House. I liked Wendy's three main points of preserving the Idaho way of life, standing up for the middle class, and seeking transparency in government. Wendy spoke about residential sales price disclosure, working in an obstructionist legislature, financial disclosure, her work on the energy committee, and more. George also spoke about the obstructionist legislature, the failure to pass bills supporting licensing of day care centers, criminal checks on those who work with children, education and the future of Idaho's children. With an open question period, it soon became obvious that Wendy and George are very much in tune with Idaho voters, but constantly thwarted by wingnut Republicans and big business money and thus, despite their constant hard work, they can only move forward in small steps because, bottom line, we need more Democrats in the Idaho congress.

Several other local elected officials and candidates all showed up for the event, as described in no particular order: Larry Grant, candidate for national Congressional District 1 gave his usual thoughtful, articulate, and meaningful presentation of issues near and dear to the people of Idaho; Jeanne Buell, IDP Vice-Chair expressed how happy and proud she was to attend these north Idaho events and to see how involved and committed everyone is; Boundary County's candidate for Legislative District 1 seat, Tom Hollingsworth, gave a brief presentation of his reasons for running, emphasizing issues important to the people of this district; Todd Crossett, Bonner County Commissioner, spoke eloquently about his entrance into the political arena and thanked Larry Grant for his help and support; Shelley Landry, northern representative of the DNC in Idaho, spoke about the Neighborhood Leader program and received a positive reception in the number of people who then volunteered to be Neighborhood leaders; Marie Scott, Bonner County Clerk, spoke of the travails of being a clerk in a state that puts more and more monetary responsibilities and constraints on the county clerk's office. Many others also attended, including people from both Kootenai and Boundary counties, including state legislative district chairs, county Democratic central committee members, at least one high school student, and others. The evening was friendly, included much information, and gave the separate counties a chance to just hang out together.

Larry orates while Wendy and George look on in approval.

Watch these faces of potential candidates: Steve Elgar and Dan Sheckler with fiancée, Lisa.

Larry with Tamara Poelstra.

The far north contingency: Alice, Fred and Tom Hollingsworth.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Numbers Game

Well, I'm not surprised that before the weekend was over I'd hear a refrain I've heard before: in the Congressional District 1 race, the votes in north Idaho just aren't important. The only important votes are in Ada and Canyon counties. That really kind of irks me. Boundary County may not be statistically significant when compared to the Ada County or even Canyon county vote. But remember the words are "north Idaho." I guess one could argue over where north Idaho begins and ends, but I think you'd find that people in north Idaho are not so unaware.

So let's look at some numbers. In the last General Election in 2006, Larry Grant received 31,748 votes in Ada county and 16,459 votes in Canyon county, for a total of 48,207 votes. Now, let's put that against just the five northernmost counties: in Benewah, 1,131 votes; Bonner, 6,475 votes; Boundary, 1,276 votes; Kootenai, 15,874 votes; and Shoshone, 3,854 votes, for a total of 28,610 votes. Now that beats Canyon county and brings it close to Ada county. And if we add the other northern counties: Clearwater, 1,367; Idaho, 2,405; Latah, 7,087; and Nez Perce, 6,576, for a total of 17, 435 votes, and add that to the 28,610, we get 46,045 votes in north Idaho for Larry Grant. That is not a significant statistical difference from the 48,207 "important" votes that Ada and Canyon counties received.

It's true that many candidates find it difficult to travel all the way to Bonners Ferry, although they do manage to make it up to Sandpoint. We're kind of forgiving about that and we do make the almost one hour trek down to Sandpoint for those purposes. Heck, some of us even work in Bonner and Kootenai counties. But don't say that our vote doesn't count, because the numbers just don't add up.

Not only that, but we have had our own problems with growth and development over the past several years, especially since Sandoint was named, in several different prominent magazines, as one of the best places to live in the U.S. Couple that with property taxes, the second and out-of-state homes in our counties for which we receive no property taxes, and the 75% of federal and state owned land in Boundary County, and our problems are in many ways no different than the rest of the state. So our vote is just as important as that of the urban sprawl areas like Ada county!

Finally, if what this really happens to be about is who can sink the most money into this race, I think that the voters in District 1, like voters most everywhere in Idaho, are much more impressed with a personal knock on the door than an expense of money that most people do not have. Indeed, if money could buy a race, then Al Blinken would be a senator now. What I do know, however, is this: the north Idaho vote is important and we in the north know that. And that vote will be significant in the coming elections.

The Republican stronghold on north Idaho has lasted almost thirty years, but change is in the air. Indeed, today a Republican stopped by the business of our local Democratic co-chair and asked for an Obama bumper sticker. Oh yeah, do I feel good now!

Monday, March 3, 2008

2008 Frank Church Banquet

Yesterday I arrived home from the 2008 Frank Church Banquet, the annual fundraiser for the Idaho Democratic Party. Accompanied by a round of IDP meetings, training, candidate introductions, and just a great time for seeing old friends and meeting new ones, the FCB has, for a second year, been a fun event for me. This year was especially great because the keynote speaker was Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of the dailykos. And just as great, I met even more of my fellow bloggers, and, needless to say, I had a wonderful time. Serephin, from 43sb has all the evidence, taking at least 10,000 photos over the course of the weekend. Okay, maybe it was only 1,000.....

Arriving on Friday evening (I had to teach in the afternoon), I came in on the tail end of the Canyon County event at the Doubletree, the place where all meetings and festivities took place. Having only that evening free to see my friend, Joanna, I met her at the bar and numerous friends joined us. We had a great time with plenty of discussion, before retiring for a long Saturday.

Saturday began with meeting Keith Roark, the new IDP chair. He seems very well organized, efficient, politically capable and smart. I look forward to his presence as IDP chair. Next came some training for central committee members, followed by lunch. THEN, one of my favorite people, Parag Mehta of the DNC, gave a presentation. He is so smart, articulate, humorous, and engaging, I cannot imagine how anyone wouldn't be inspired by him. I was joined by some early-arriving bloggers, including Markos, mcjoan, and the Red State Rebels blogmother.

Finally, the evening began with a silent auction, no-host bars, and candidate host areas. Then into the banquet for lots of inspirational speeches, food, the keynote speaker, live auctions, and the after-parties. For an anthropologist like myself, it was great ceremony with all the essentials of ritual.

The banquet room was decorated with symbols of the party: photos of our great, past leader, Frank Church, for whom the banquet was named. The walls were adorned with photos of Frank Church, as were each of the tables, reminding us all of who we are as Democrats. In speeches we honored our past icons/heroes with descriptions of what they did and analogies and metaphors of how they affected our own lives (think of Amy's Little Red Wagon speech). One of our past/still living heroes even appeared in a candidate's video. Our recent chair, Richard Stallings, was honored in speech before being called to speak himself. He and Governor Andrus should thank God they live in the US instead of Africa where they might be considered members of the walking dead.... People took part in sharing ceremonies by recalling to mind past group memories, and bringing us to the present with the same shared food. We bestowed gifts upon each other in the terms of auctions, and the presentation of a large check from Quanah Spenser of the Coeur d'Alene tribe to the Idaho Democratic Party. Such "gifts" promote the community as a whole. Our place as parts of this whole community were defined not only by our own tales of perseverance, but through our guest, keynote speaker, Markos, as well. He reminded us that Idaho Democrats are like an endangered species in a swarm of Republican rulers and its our tenacity and desire to endure that has allowed us to survive, and now, even prosper. He also bought the symbolic, auction item: the dated Andrus jacket which allowed Markos to require all other members of this tribe to wear this symbolic jacket during their own presentations, thus invoking a shared symbolic past. This helped the numerous, Idaho Democratic communities to feel not like separate parts but members of a larger whole. Through this ceremonial occasion we become a community whose sum is greater than its individual parts. Finally, at the end of promoting this whole community of kindred Democratic spirits, we finally allowed the whole community to disperse into its separate parts until the next ceremonial occasion. We did this by separating into smaller groups who continued to celebrate the values of the larger whole, whether in the bar, on the dance floor, in small discussion groups, and so forth.

The only aspect of this occasion that seemed to be passed over was the celebrations of the youth and all that is new. Well, we had Markos as the keynote speaker but then nobody really mentioned our own Idaho bloggers..... But perhaps that wasn't so important because the bloggers have their own clear voice.

This blogging voice became apparent the next morning when we all met for coffee at the IDP headquarters. In a short discussion that mentioned blogging, who we all are, some of what we are about, questions we had for Markos, and finally, our appreciation of Markos's attendance at this event, we headed back to our own individual worlds to once again share ourselves with the blogging community.

How Lucky Can I Get....

Some of the bloggers arrive in time to hear Parag Mehta's inspirational, interesting and humorous presentation at the Idaho State Democratic Party's Frank Church Banquet weekend. I'm pretty lucky to be included with this bunch, and pretty darn lucky to be able to hear Parag speak again (last year he was in Post Falls). Of course the best part of the whole weekend was hanging out with Markos from the and some of my fellow Idaho bloggers including 43sb guys, mcjoan, Red State Rebels, The Political Game, We Have Failed Our Duty, and IdaBlue.

I want to personally thank John Foster, our out-going Executive Director for this, because he was the one who came up with the idea of bringing Markos to be the keynote speaker in the evening at the Frank Church Banquet.