Archive for August, 2009

Media Odds and Ends

TrahantMark Trahant: Health Care Discussion too Narrow

Thoughtful commentary from Fort Hall, Idaho native Mark Trahant on the current health care debate. Trahant writes in Indian Country Today.

Trahant, the former editorial page editor of the Seattle P-I, is serving a stint as a Kaiser Media Fellow assessing the Indian Health Service and what it can tell us about the current controversy.

Tribune Soft on Cubs?

Has the Chicago Tribune, long the owner of the city’s National League baseball club, always taken it easy on the Cubs? Nah…it is merely perception according to a piece on the Tribune sports page. Right.

Still, the Cubbies’ new ownership removes the stigma that baseball coverage of the northsiders always slighted the White Sox on the Second City’s southside.

Favorable coverage or not, the Cubs are still wallowing in a 100-plus year World Series drought and the 2009 post-season is looking more and more, well, doubtful.

As they say: “Anyone can have a bad century.” There is even a website.

Times Picks on J.C. Penney

My blood runs cold this time of year as I remember the dread I would feel as my mother hustled me off to J.C. Penney to acquire a new season of “school clothes.” I hated the whole experience, not least because mom’s ideas about “new” fashion never seemed to be on the same page with mine.

When I was growing up, however, it was pretty much a trip to Penney’s or ordering from the Montgomery Ward catalog.

The New York Times found out that the James Cash Penney’s stores – the first was in Kemmerer, Wyoming – still enjoys some brand loyalty. The Times “reviewed” the new store in Manhattan and got lots of push back for a pretty snarky piece by a fashion reviewer. Executive Editor Bill Keller even saying, as reported by the Times’ Public Editor, that he wished the story hadn’t run. His mother shopped at Penney’s, too.

Do you think all this will serve to re-enforce the notion that the Times is out of touch with middle America?

And, finally…

I was pleased to be asked recently by the Idaho Press Club to pen a piece for the venerable organization’s newsletter. The experience certainly dated me, however. I served as president of the Club in 1978.

We hardly had color TV in those days.

Talking on Lincoln

Abr LincolnIdaho Humanities Council Features Lincoln Scholars

Yours truly will have the pleasure of speaking twice in Boise in the next few weeks on two aspects of Abraham Lincoln’s remarkable presidency.

The talks will take place at the Main Boise Public Library at 7 pm on September 10th and at the outstanding new library at Cole and Ustick at 7 pm on October 15th.

Here is a link to the Boise Library’s site with more information about the events.

The talks, helping to commemorate the bicentennial of the birth of the 16th American president, were developed as part of the Idaho Humanities Council’s Speakers Bureau.

On September 10th, the subject will be Re-electing Lincoln focusing on the pivotal election of 1864. I will make the case that it was the most significant presidential election in the country’s history with literally the future of the nation depending on the outcome of the voting.

On October 15th, I’ll delve into Lincoln as War Leader. Lincoln had no real military experience and found that he had to invent the role of “commander in chief.” Ultimately he became a better military strategist than most of his generals.

If you find Lincoln as endless fascinating as I do, come on down to the Library!

Reading Baseball

Satchel Paige“You win a few, you lose a few. Some get rained out. But you got to dress for all of them.” - Satchel Paige

Labor Day approaches and a baseball fan’s thoughts turn to, well – baseball.

One of the best new baseball books is Satchel: The Life and Times of An American Legend by Larry Tye.

David Davis reviewed the book a while back in the Los Angeles Times and point out that there has long been mystery about Paige’s age. Tye settles on the great pitcher’s birthday most likely being in 1906 making him 42 when he made his major league debut!

A good book about a great baseball player and an even greater character. Good stuff also at the “official” Satchel Paige site, including this quote: “Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

The Great Ichiro

Last Sunday’s New York Times had a fine piece on the Seattle Mariner’s remarkable right fielder, Ichiro Suzuki, who has missed a few starts this week due to an injury.

Sometime after Labor Day, Ichiro will ring up his ninth consecutive season with 200 or more base hits. It is a remarkable achievement. The last player to have eight straight 200 hit seasons was Wee Willie Keeler – yes, he has a website – who quit playing in 1901, a century before Ichiro showed up to begin owning records.

Here is a great statistic from the Sports Network: “Suzuki hasn’t gone hitless in consecutive games since August 13-15, 2008, a span of 157 straight games without going hitless in back-to-back contests. The streak is the longest in the majors since Stan Musial (174 games) in 1943-44 and the longest AL streak since Doc Cramer (191 games) in 1934-35.”

Amazing. The guy is a hitting machine.

Now, Go Giants! If only those damnable Dodgers would falter…

What I Did On The Summer Vacation

Shea AndersenA Guest Blog – The August Recess

A Guest Writer today – Shea Andersen – freelance writer and former newspaper editor.


Time and again, August proves to be the best month for political junkies to hit the road. With Congress in recess and the Obama family gadding about Martha’s Vineyard, there’s no better time to decamp from daily life and poke around a bit.

Just ask Tim Egan, the New York Times writer, whose unsuccessful attempt to escape the news was documented in this essay.

This year, my family took a massive van we purchased in Ketchum and pointed it west, to Oregon and California. Instead of the minivan that new parents are supposed to pilot, we found ourselves a megavan, a towering, jacked-up behemoth with a bed, sink, stove and even a shower tucked inside. So much for roughing it.

For Congress, August is for seeing the district a little bit more than usual. When I was a journalist in the Ketchum area, this might mean we’d see U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson arriving for a backpack trip into the Boulder-White Cloud mountains, dragging along a few reporters or aides. At the Idaho Mountain Express in Ketchum, we received a greeting card from Simpson, the cover of which was a drawing he’d done of the mountain ranges while on one of his trips. His bill to establish wilderness in that area, the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act, or CIEDRA, may not be advancing much in Congress, but he still made the trip, a staffer told me.


“He wouldn’t miss it,” said John Revier, a Simpson spokesman. “I don’t think we’ll ever have an August recess without him making that trip.”

For U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick, the recess period looks a little rougher. His appearance on the News Hour With Jim Lehrer had its high points, but also a few toe-curling awkward moments. Witness Minnick, trying to press the flesh at the Caldwell Night Rodeo, getting caught on camera not recognizing a major donor, who later told the reporter he was having a tough time supporting Minnick after watching his votes on the economy, the environment, and now health care reform.

Back on the road, then. Minnick’s sprawling district offers lots of opportunities to make new friends. He’ll need them when he faces the Republican challengers hoping to make his first term an anomaly in Idaho political history, as the Spokane Spokesman-Review notes.

Ultimately, I feel a longing for the fall and the pickup of news traffic. I respect Egan’s news blackout attempt, even if I didn’t try as hard. Cold turkey is a dish best left to more dangerous addicts. I say, bring on the fall.


(Shea Andersen is the former editor of the Idaho Mountain Express and the Boise Weekly. He lives in Boise.)

What is Obama Reading…

Andrew MalcolmThe L.A. Times – Top of the Ticket

Andrew Malcolm looks like a writer doesn’t he? Andy does a lot of the writing for the L.A. Times’ blog called Top of the Ticket. It’s a good daily take on politics spiced with a little of Malcolm’s ready display of good humor.

The post on the president’s Martha’s Vineyard reading list is worth a look.

Andy, by the way, once served a brief stint as Laura Bush’s press secretary and a longer stint in the same position with former Montana Governor Marc Racicot.

Andy is a Canadian by birth, a hockey fan by choice, and author of 10 books, including The Canadians and Huddle: Fathers, Sons and Football.

Good guy, good writer, good blog.

The Famous Five

TaftWhen the Senate Selected the Greatest Senators

The U.S. Senate has been graced over more than 220 years by many greats. The passing of Ted Kennedy – a great senator of the last fifty years – seems an appropriate moment to recall some of those senators of history who deserve remembering.

The Pacific Northwest has been blessed by many great ones. Jackson and Magnuson from Washington. McNary, Hatfield and Morse from Oregon. Borah, Church and McClure from Idaho. Walsh, Wheeler and Mansfield from Montana, to name but a few. Every student of the Senate has a candidate for greatness, which makes it even more impressive (or curious) that more than fifty years ago, the Senate undertook it own effort to honor the greatest who had ever served.

The Senate Reception Room is one of the spectacular spaces in the U.S. Capitol. Visit if you ever have the opportunity. In 1955, the Senate authorized an effort to select five outstanding former members whose portraits would adorn the magnificent room.

Sen. Robert A. Taft of Ohio (pictured here) was one of the five chosen, as were Henry Clay of Kentucky, Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, John C. Calhoun of South Carolina and Robert M. La Follette of Wisconsin.

Young Sen. John F. Kennedy, 38 years old and fresh off winning a Pulitzer for Profiles in Courage (the book profiled eight courageous Senators) lead the
committee to select the “famous five.” The other committee members were Mike Mansfield of Montana, Richard Russell of Georgia (both great Senators), Styles Bridges of New Hampshire and John Bricker of Ohio.

In a forward to a book about the famous five, Kennedy wrote:

“The life of each of these Senators is a drama in itself. Each made a distinct historic impression during the period of his public service, and each has become a part of America’s broad constitutional heritage. Clay, Webster, Calhoun, La Follette, Taft were all men who knew the value and limits of constructive partisanship, yet each also made solitary pilgrimages at times when they differed with the prevailing mood of opinion in Congress and the country.”

The selections of Kennedy’s committee were not without controversy. A panel of 160 historians recommended the inclusion of Nebraska’s great progressive George Norris, the father of the Tennessee Valley Authority and the inventor of Nebraska’s unicameral legislature. Kennedy had included Norris in Profiles in Courage. But Bridges, a tough, New England conservative, had often clashed with the liberal Norris and he, along with Nebraska’s two Senators at the time, blackballed the Nebraskan.


Petty, personal politics, to be sure, is nothing new in the U.S. Senate, even when it comes to identifying greatness.

In 2000, another Senate committee recommended the addition of Reception Room portraits of two other greats – Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan and Robert Wagner of New York.


One suspects the U.S. Senate will soon be finding a place for Edward Moore Kennedy’s portrait.

The rich and fascinating history of the “world’s greatest deliberative body” is extremely well presented at the Senate history website. Among other things, you’ll find a page for everyone who ever served in the Senate – all the scoundrels, as well as the heroes.

The book about the original greatest Senators, by the way, is by Holmes Alexander and is called The Famous Five.

There are few institutions more American than the U.S. Senate – ennobling, frustrating, essential, constant. The next time you get frustrated with the pace of the place or the petty politics, just remember that giants have walked there and will again.