"So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu"

This is the 76th essay in my blog series and the last for the time being or at least in this format. I have been writing first five and then four a week since Feb. 4 with only a short break in May. The Statesman asked me to write these regular blogs during the legislative session and to continue them on a consistent basis. I don’t feel I can continue at this pace any longer.

Though I like writing these essays, I do have a job that I am paid to do. I had planned to continue writing these blogs on a regular basis until right before The College of Idaho goes back to classes in September. Lately, I have seen that I need to do much during the summer that will preclude me from writing this blog. I have not finished the two papers I am writing on my sabbatical research; I need to get prepared for my classes in the fall and the rest of the 2008-09 academic year; and I will have to spend time working as a member of the presidential search committee for the College. Besides, there are many more interesting things to do in the summer than pound away at the computer. I am also not a workaholic, Type A personality type.

Book of the Week Club: “The Day Before Idaho”

This book was self-published by Perry Swisher: journalist, public administrator and elected official. The book has no title page or copyright and was obviously put together by Swisher himself. In some ways, it is similar to Phil Batt’s autobiography though I found it less entertaining. As with most books written by the subject, the book seems to be more for the gratification of the author than of the reader.

Even in style, this book reminds me of Phil Batt’s book. Swisher begins with an article from the Idaho Falls Post Register, followed by a very disjointed forty pages of a life story and short vignettes made up of prior newspaper columns, none of which are in chronological order. This book also reminds me of Don Samuelson’s autobiography in respect to the dreary details. Why do writers think the rest of us are interested in the mundane details of their early life, including detailed descriptions of all nine of his siblings complete with short life stories including details such as spouses’ and children’s names? The subjects of the columns are dated, tangential and too personal, such as the two on his parents, to interest others. Swisher also seems to have an obsession with semi-colons.

One size fits all for county government in Idaho

Besides the high profile elections for the U.S. Congress and the state legislature, there were races for county commissioner, sheriff and county prosecutor in each county of the state. County government can have a much greater impact on your life than the national government and even the state especially if you do not live in an incorporated city. County government handles law enforcement, jails, the courts, elections, the taxable assessment of your home and much of the planning and zoning of new developments. What is curious about county government in Idaho is that every county has the same structure and positions. Does that make sense? I think there should at least be a discussion on how our counties are structured whether they change or not.

An Old GI for the New GI Bill

Sen. Jim Webb has introduced a bill for a New GI Bill to pay for educational expenses for active duty troops who have served at times since Sept. 11, 2001. The educational benefits for current veterans will mirror those of veterans of WWII (i.e., payment of tuition and a monthly stipend). I benefited from the Vietnam Era GI Bill and think our current troops deserve at least as much.

President Bush and Sen. McCain do not support this bill. McCain, in response to Obama’s criticism, said, "I will not accept from Sen. Obama, who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform, any lectures on my regard for those who did." Well, Johnny Boy, get ready to accept a lecture from this veteran who did feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform.

Primary election post-mortem

The primary election provided some close races, some surprising results (at least for some) and some lessons for us to take for the future. My fearless forecasts turned out to be twelve correct out of fifteen races for 80%. That is much higher than my basketball shooting percentage and better than my NCAA basketball pools. It is also much better than the Statesman endorsement record though they were choosing who they thought SHOULD win while I chose who I thought WOULD win.

For the state legislature in Canyon County, I was only one for three. Pat Takasugi beat Curtis Bowers by over 500 votes in a race that wasn’t really close. I think I was taken in by Bowers’ support around Caldwell as compared to the rural areas and underestimated the distain many in the district had for Bowers’ views and written opinions. District 10 is a more moderate district than one would believe at first glance based upon the candidates who get elected from here (e.g. McGee, Bolz, Ring). In the other wrong prediction, I let my heart win over my head. I guess I just wanted my former student Roberto Olvera to win. I did write that race was my long shot prediction and he was endorsed by the Press Tribune and Statesman.

Book of the Week Club: “The Spearless Leader: Senator Borah and the Progressive Movement in the 1920s”

When I first decided to come to Idaho, my father mentioned that the only politician he had known from Idaho was William Borah. Everyone in the country during the 1920s and 1930s knew Borah; he was the personification of Idaho. The senator even had the mountain named after him while he was still alive. This book by LeRoy Ashby shows Borah as a human, not a deity, and more importantly as a politician. Ashby tries to show how Borah the man and the Progressives as a movement were intimately linked. One can learn as much about the Progressives in the 1920s from this book as about Borah.

Borah was a politician who looked out for his own electoral success as much as any principled position he took. The Lion of the Senate was also a fox, sly and cunning. His positions, on legislation and potential presidential candidates, were interpreted by some as subterfuges for his own presidential bid. The understanding of Borah is needed to be seen in context with the movement. Ashby defines the Progressive Movement as a major outburst of reformist zeal that sought to “salvage traditional American values and ideals of democracy and opportunity in the new industrial order.” Having reached its apex in the early portion of the 20th Century under Theodore Roosevelt, and to a lesser extent under Woodrow Wilson, by the end of the 1920s the movement, as a leader of the reform of the American political system, had become “spearless.” Likewise, by the end of the third decade of the century, William Borah had also failed as a leader and had become “spearless.”

1211989050 Book of the Week Club: “The Spearless Leader: Senator Borah and the Progressive Movement in the 1920s” Idaho Statesman Copyright 2014 Idaho Statesman . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Why should I vote?

This essay is a rehash of some aspects of an earlier entry but I figured it would be appropriate today since it is Election Day. I want to write about reasons why you shouldn’t vote and reasons why you should.

If your goal is to affect the outcome of the election, you should just stay home and save the gasoline. If the benefit you will receive from an election is determining the outcome, your one vote won’t make a difference and does not outweigh the costs involved in voting. The only times you will change the outcome of the election with your vote is when, if you didn’t vote, the election would end in a tie or your preferred candidate would lose by one vote. In all other circumstances, your vote makes no difference in the outcome. The chances that your vote will make a difference drops as more people vote in the election so it is least rational to vote in the presidential and other large-scale elections. How often has even a local election ended in a tie? The mayoral election in Wilder a number of years did but that is the only one I can recall.

Hot races in the Treasure Valley – Part 4

Today I will finish up my fearless predictions by looking at any other races that might be a little bit interesting.

U.S. Senate: Jim Risch vs. the Seven Dwarfs

This race is to fill the stall, I mean shoes, of Larry Craig. Risch has all of the endorsements, contributions and name recognition, though he is no Snow White. Risch’s only problem is a lot people don’t like him. If there was only one opponent, he or she might have a chance but the anti-Risch votes are going to be splintered and the lieutenant governor should win rather easily. The most credible opponent is Scott Syme but I don’t think he can overcome all the advantages of Risch, who is almost the incumbent in this race.

Hot races in the Treasure Valley – Part 3

Today, I will be writing about county races in the Valley. Though some people don’t find these races very sexy, county government has more of an effect on your life than the “higher” levels of government, especially the national government. I will write more about county government next week but now let’s get to the races.

Ada County Commissioner District 1: Steven Kimball vs. Jay Larsen vs. Sharon Ullman

This race is so screwed up that the Statesman couldn’t even make an endorsement. Not that the Statesman endorsements are that good but is everyone in this race that bad? Maybe so. I decided to watch the videos of these candidates and they were interesting. Kimball sounds very naïve but at least he is straight forward. Kimball says he has common sense; that would be unusual for this position. Larsen seems like the typical businessman who thinks he can run government like a business. So many candidates want government to be run like a business but the business they choose is Enron. Just quoting Jefferson will not help you understand how the government works. If there is an election, Sharon Ullman must be running. She is unproductive in office and may be more effective as the outside gadfly. I think Ullman will win on name recognition. The Democrats will be happy if that is the case.

Hot races in the Treasure Valley – Part 2

Yesterday’s blog covered three hot races in Canyon County for the state legislature, so today I am turning to four races in Ada County. Again, they are all Republican races as the Democrats have no primary races.

House District 14A: Mike Moyle vs. Nancy Merrill

This district includes Western Ada County including parts of Meridian, northwest Boise, Eagle and Star. The district was very conservative in the past but, with explosive growth, residents are looking for a more active role for government. Moyle, as majority leader in the state house, is one of the most powerful people in the state government. He is also not well liked by many but those two attributes often go together. Moyle may not have changed as much as the district. As the district becomes more urban, Moyle still votes like a rural farmer from Canyon County. Merrill, the former Eagle mayor, was encouraged to run by BoDo developers and others who don’t like Moyle’s rural views, especially his coolness toward transportation spending. Merrill’s problem is she did not apply in time so if you want to vote for her, you will have to write her name in (Is that two “r’s” and two “l’s”?). Moyle may be unpopular with some but I can’t see a write-in campaign working, especially in the primary with so little time spent on the campaign so far. Though this is an interesting race, unless Moyle’s supporters don’t know Moyle is contested and leave the position blank and a lot of people swarm to Merrill and spell her name correctly, there will be no change here.

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