Month: March 2006

Rally for Idaho Farmworkers

Today is is Cesar Chavez Day.

As founder of the United Farm Workers, Cesar Chavez is a true American hero for peace, social justice and equality. Sun Valley’s Dick Dorwick has a nice tribute to him here.
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“Across the San Joaquin Valley, across California, across the entire nation, wherever there are injustices against men and women and children who work in the fields – there you will see our flags – with the black eagle with the white and red background, flying. Our movement is spreading like flames across a dry plain.” – Cesar Chavez
At noon today in Boise there was a rally for farm worker justice on the Statehouse steps.
As Serephin at 43rd State Blues points out:

In July of 2005, twenty-nine farmworkers were exposed to harmful pesticides while working in an onion field in Caldwell. Twenty-two were hospitalized and two were admitted for critical care. The incident highlights the true reality of how injustices continue to plague workers in the fields. This year the legislature stopped a billed that would have protected farmworkers against dangerous pesticides. Join ICAN and farmworkers as we demand justice for all.

“It was around 11:30 am when I started to experience headaches, nausea and pains in my stomach. Soon, I got a strong urge to vomit and my body began to tremble. I did not know why this was happening to me.” – Farmworker exposed to pesticides, July 6, 2005, Caldwell, ID

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get to the rally until almost 2 PM and fully expected to find no one there. To my surprise there was still a small but lively crowd.
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Juan Cole Receives Hunter College Award for Journalism

jrc1The beauty of the blogosphere is the amazing variety of voices to be found with a click of the mouse. Of course, in this vast virtual democracy finding informative and thoughtful voices among the babble is not always easy. As we have lived through the debacle known as the war in Iraq, I have found one blogger, Juan Cole, who I read daily. Cole’s blog, Informed Comment, has proven to be a reliable and balanced source of information about the Middle East.

Cole, a professor of Middle Eastern History at the University of Michigan, does an amazing job of making as much sense as possible of the Middle East. Are bloggers like Cole journalists? Hunter College certainly thinks so as they have given him a James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism.

According to Editor and Publisher:

NEW YORK Creators Syndicate columnist Molly Ivins and former New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis will receive lifetime achievement honors at an April 11 ceremony for winners of Hunter College’s James Aronson Awards for Social Justice Journalism. The ceremony — which takes place at Hunter’s New York City campus — will feature remarks by Ivins and Lewis.Winners of this year’s Aronson awards include Kirk Anderson for “Cartooning with a Conscience,” Gary Fields of The Wall Street Journal for exposing problems in the system of “get-tough” prison sentencing, Kevin Fagan of the San Francisco Chronicle for his coverage of the homeless issue, and Tracie McMillan of City Limits magazine for reporting on low-income and working-class people in New York City. Also, the first Aronson Award for blogging is going to University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole for his Iraq War-related “Informed Comment” blog

“Maverick” McCain Panders to the Religious Right

John McCain evidently agrees with Kevin Phillips that the GOP is dominated “by an array of outsider religious dominations caught up in biblical morality, distrust of science and a global imperative of religious and political evangelicalism.” and has begun pandering to them as part of his strategy to win the presidency. According to a news release from Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University:

LYNCHBURG, Va. – American military hero and Arizona Sen. John McCain will deliver the Commencement message at Liberty University on May 13, at 9:30 a.m., in the Liberty University Vines Center. In addition, renowned Christian conservative leader Gary Bauer will speak during the University’s baccalaureate service on May 12, at 7:00 p.m., in the main sanctuary of the Thomas Road Baptist Church.

As we move towards the 2008 election, we can look forward to a procession of GOP presidential candidates wooing the leaders of the radical religious right. Their endorsement will be the litmus test for any serious candidate.

Borah Symposium at the U of I

In American Theocracy, Phillips traces the development of three threats to America and American democracy: the rise of radical religion, exploding national debt resulting from a productive manufacturing economy to one dominated by a elite financial class, and a culture defined by petroleum resources over which we have less and less control.

Although we are all aware of the problems associated with that last threat, our dependence on oil, I think it is one of those issues like “global warming” where a superficial understanding results in complacency, while a deeper look into the issue elicits real fear and an understanding that immediate action is needed. This week the Borah Symposium at the University of Idaho has as its topic “Resource Wars” with nationally renown experts such as Dr. Michael Klare, author of Blood and War and Dr. Jered Diamond, author of Collapse- How Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail. I wish I lived close enough to Moscow to attend. For those of us who are unable to make it, Vander at “Thoughts from Idaho” has a nice overview of Klare’s presentation. Hopefully, He will blog about the other presentations also.

Connecting the Dots- Thanks to Kevin Phillips

On the sidebar I recommend the latest book by Kevin Phillips, American Theocracy. I have not finished reading it myself, but have to say that it is the most provocative book about current American politics I have read in a long time. Phiilips has been on the MSM with some regularity the last few weeks promoting the book. I have heard him interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR, Lou Dobbs on CNN and Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! There have undoubtedly been others that I have missed.

If, by the way, after all the media attention, you were unaware of Phillips, it appears you were not alone. Last week after his City Club speech in Cleveland, President Bush was asked the following question from the audience:

My question is that author and former Nixon administration official Kevin Phillips in his latest book, “American Theocracy,” discusses what has been called radical Christianity and its growing involvement into government and politics. He makes the point that members of your administration have reached out to prophetic Christians who see the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism as signs of the Apocalypse. Do you believe this, that the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism are signs of the Apocalypse?

THE PRESIDENT: The answer is — I haven’t really thought of it that way. (Laughter.) Here’s how I think of it. The first I’ve heard of that, by the way. I guess I’m more of a practical fellow.

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To get the full impact of Bush’s lame response, you should watch the video. Crooks and Liars has the clip.

As is almost always the case with Bush, there are two ways to assess his response. On one hand, he might really be unaware of the position of the “prophetic Christians” and of his administration’s (Rove’s) blatant “reaching out” to them- in which case he is an utter fool. On the other hand, it might be the case that Bush shares the vision of prophetic Christians and is lying to the American people. As I have been reading Phillips, I have come to believe that Bush is not only a fool and a liar, but also a tool whose presidency has been hijacked and exploited by a cabal made up neo-cons and leaders of the radical Christian right.

Connecting the dots

One of the great strengths of American Theocracy is the way in which Phillips puts his analysis in historical context. This book is very well researched and quite convincing. He does an excellent job of connecting the arguments of the neo-Cons with the religious right. Phillips. who gained initial fame as the the Republican Party strategist who devised the “Southern strategy” which led to the Republican hegemony that exists today, argues that the current GOP coalition of neo-cons and the Christian right “is fatally flawed from a national interest standpoint” because it is dominated “by an array of outsider religious dominations caught up in biblical morality, distrust of science and a global imperative of religious and political evangelicalism.”

Phillips argues that that radical religion represents one of the greatest threats to American Democracy in the 21st Century. For Phillips, radical religion “encompasses everything from the Pat Robertson-Jerry Falwell types to the attacks on medicine and science and the Left Behind books with their End Times and Armageddon scenarios.” I was obviously aware of Robertson and Falwell, but not the Left Behind books.

It turns out that one of the co-authors of the Left Behind series is Tim Lehaye, who, was a co-founder of the “Moral Majority.” In 1981 LeHaye founded the highly secretive Council for National Policy. Included in the membership of the CNP are the Reverends Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, Jesse Helms, Tom DeLay, Oliver North, Christian Reconstructionist R.J. Rushdoony and former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The Left Behind series has been wildly popular dominating the best seller list on a number of occasions. The series is made up of 12 novels with a story line that is basically an evangelical interpretation of the Book of Revelation set in the context of contemporary global politics: the Rapture has taken place, the Antichrist has taken control of the U.N. and created a single global economy, while a small group of American-led believers battles the forces of evil in a showdown in Jerusalem.

Although I have been ignorant of LeHaye’s philosophy, George Bush is lying to say that he was not aware of it. In fact, according to the Professor of Comparative Religion, Hugh Urban, “In October 1999, in fact, he [Bush] addressed LaHaye’s Council for National Policy — though there is a much difference of opinion as to what he actually said in that particular address, which was recorded but has never been publicly released.”

The Loss of Knight-Ridder

Here in Idaho, discussion concerning the recent sale Knight-Ridder to McCatchy has largely centered on the impact the sale will have on the Statesman. Over at the Guardian, for example, Dave describes the attitude in the newsroom as one of “muted optimism.”

The mood in the newsroom was euphoria that they escaped reacquisition by Gannett, muted optimism about McClatchy, and a little remorse at the loss of Knight-Ridder before anyone really got to know them. They all rejoiced like emancipated slaves when Gannett sold out to Knight-Ridder only a few months ago. Now McClatchy, owners of a group of Californian papers, will be the master in the Big House. With 80% of the stock controlled by the family, it could be good news or bad for Boise readers.

I fear what may be lost with the sale are not just the 12 newspapers that McCatchy plans on selling (although those may be local tragedies for those communities), but the loss of a newspaper chain that was committed to hard-hitting investigative journalism. Over its history, Knight-Ridder newspapers won 84 Pulitzers, many for investigative journalism. Among the MSM, Knight-Ridder’s Washington Bureau has provided the singularly best coverage of Iraq. Regular readers of the Statesman could detect a notable improvement in the quality of National and International news during the short time KR owned the paper.

A hint at what the loss might means was brought home to me as I thought about the Kempthorne nomination. Chris at Liberal Idaho.org is absolutely right in saying:

Allowing Governor Kempthorne to be confirmed as the 49th Secretary of the Interior is a mistake. It’s not about patting ourselves on the back and saying “Hey our Guv. is moving up”. Although it’s also not about “Yes! We got rid of him” either. Governor Kempthorne who has an environmental record that comes pretty close to a then Governor George W. Bush and is about to be placed in charge of 388 parts of the National Park system, 544 wildlife refuges and more than 260 million acres of multiple-use lands.

Those of us who have closely followed Kempthorne realize why his nomination is such a huge mistake. Unfortunately, for the rest of the country Kempthorne is pretty much an unknown. As high profile bloggers spread the word to the rest of the nation (see here & here for example), they use as their source a Knight-Ridder article from 2003 when he was a candidate to head the EPA. Will McClatchy continue the KR commitment to investigative reporting? Given their interest in the bottom line, my position is one of “guarded pessimism.”

First They Came for the Professors Part II

Last Friday (scroll to 10/Mar/2006) I talked about the “visit” from the FBI to Pomona College Professor Miguel Tinker Salas. Today on AlterNet is an article by Kelly Hearn, Bringing McCarthyism to a University Near You, that puts the story into the larger context of the White House’s “cold war of words” against Venezuelan President Hugo Ch├ívez. Hearn concludes the article with a very thoughtful and informative interview with Professor Salas. His analysis of the current situation in Venezuela, specifically, and United States policy towards Latin America, in general, is well worth reading.

Reading the interview caused me to add to one of my many “mental lists.” In this case, it was the extremely long list entitled “Differences between FDR and GWB”

Difference Between FDR and GWB # 95
* At the beginning of his presidency, FDR, recognizing that as a governor his knowledge of foreign affairs was limited, looked to expert advisors from America’s colleges and Universities who were dubbed “The Brain Trust.”

* At the beginning of his presidency, GWB, indifferent to his own ignorance of foreign affairs, looked for advice to a cabal of disgruntled journalists, pundits, policy analysts, and politicians from the Reagan era who were dubbed “The Neo-Cons.”
Imagine how different things might have been if GWB had followed FDR’s lead and created his own “Brain Trust” of foreign affairs advisors? Miguel Tinker Salas on Latin America and Juan Cole on the Middle East would have been a good start. But, of course, GWB is not FDR and my mental list of differences grows every day

Culture of Corruption Hits Even Idaho

From Daily Kos this morning

The Culture of Corruption has even hit Idaho. Like Republicans need to be corrupt to get elected there. Crapo has taken in more campaign money from residents of the Virgin Islands, $39,000 by the end of the 2005-06 election cycle, than Idahoans–under $20,000. And the story that has my dad (kossack Old Timer) really excited, details $43,500 received by Craig from contributors connected with Cunningham. The Idaho Statesman has done a good job of tying donations to legislation sponsored by Craig. Unfortunately, they haven’t put that information online. Once this was all found out, Craig donated the money to charity. Not that it helps right now, neither being up this cycle, but we can always look ahead.The story links to this article in the Spokesman Review about Crapo and the recent Dan Popkey article in the Idaho Statesman about Craig. Sometimes the posters on Daily Kos do a better job of exposing Idaho politicians than either the MSM or local Idaho media. Consider, for example, this scathing Kos Diary about Larry Craig from Cedwyn. I wish local media would connect the dots for us in the same way.

The Drugstore Cowboy

Pat Williams, from the Center for the Rocky Mountain West, had an interesting article in Casper Star Tribune last Sunday entitled “Buyer’s Remorse for Bush.” It is a great title even if you are like me and never “bought” Bush in the first place. As I discussed in an earlier post, Bush’s approval ratings in the West are at an all-time low and dropping with each new poll. There are only three states, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming, where he still has over 50% approval. Even in those states, support is eroding.
Williams points out that disenchantment with Bush among Westerners begins with the issues. As Westerners, we cherish our independence and government intrusion into our lives doesn’t sit well. Wiretaps without warrants and other sorts of unauthorized snooping via the Patriot Act arouse our suspicion. When Larry Craig and “Butch” Otter split with the administration on these issues, you know the President has misread Western voters. And, perhaps most importantly, Westerners disapprove of Bush’s policies that directly impact the West like his energy policy and his attempts to sell off public lands.
cowboy-smThe loss of support for Bush runs deeper than positions on specific issues, however. My dad used to describe a certain kind of man as a “drugstore cowboy.” He tried to act the part, wear the uniform, but you could tell he was a phony. I think Westerners have finally figured out that Bush is a drugstore cowboy. They realize he is acting the role without having the character to live it. They watched as he came to Idaho and was completely insulated by his handlers. Audiences were carefully chosen, questions pre-arranged and all talking points were memorized. They watched as he bungled the war in Iraq and the response to Katrina. They hear the bluster, watch the swagger, listen to the lies, hear the excuses, note the refusal to accept responsibility, and realize that, like a drugstore cowboy, Bush is not the “real deal.” It is all about character and Bush doesn’t have it.

This means that Bush has a real problem here in the West. Westerns are loyal but once they have you pegged as a phony, it is pretty much all over. Poll numbers may not drop below 50% approval in Idaho, Wyoming and Utah, but they are unlikely to get much higher over the next three years regardless of the speeches and talking points.

UPDATE—- The latest Survey USA poll shows that Bush’s approval rating in Idaho has dropped from 55% in February to just 50% today. Bush’s weighted average approval rating for all 50 states is a dismal 36%. With a net approval rating of 3% (50% approval -47% disapproval) Idaho now ranks 4th highest, below Utah, Wyoming and Alabama.

School Bonds Approved

Boise patrons voted in favor of the $94 million school bond yesterday. The Statesman has the details. Most gratifying is that support for the bond was district wide.

Final election results were 70 percent in favor and 30 percent against the bond. Twenty-eight percent of registered School District voters cast ballots in the election. Most of the polling places approved the bond by a two-thirds majority, showing broad support throughout the district.

At a time in our history where a real sense of community is a fragile thing, local public schools are the one institution where community is developed and nurtured. In rural Idaho communities, the local school is literally the “community center” and school activities (sports, concerts, etc) are a vital source of entertainment. In larger urban areas like Boise, local schools are frequently the glue that gives cohesion to a neighborhood. The Statesman article has short quotes from voters throughout the district who understand the importance of their local schools.
For example:

Louis Thompson, 85, never had children. But he was pulling for the bond to pass. “I think they need to do some work on the schools,” he said as he walked over to Whitney Elementary School to have lunch with some school kids.

The $49.7 million Twin Falls bond also passed yesterday.