Posts tagged: Shawn Vestal
Ten bucks a month. That’s roughly the size of cut that each person who receives government food aid is facing in five weeks. Your response to this cut may vary, and may reveal something about your understanding of what it’s like to need food stamps. It may seem small, this 10 bucks a month. For some of us, it wouldn’t cover condiments. But if you’ve ever struggled to put food on the table – ever walked that thin line where the grocery check lives dangerously close to the checkbook balance – then you might recognize that 10 bucks can be significant. If you’ve ever relied upon food stamps yourself, you realize that 10 bucks is more than significant. According to the federal guidelines used to determine benefits, it covers more than five meals. That would be one way to look at it/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here.
Question: Is this a good time for House Republicans to try to cut food stamps?
Phil Hart, the former Idaho lawmaker and tax-dodger extraordinaire, admits it: He’s made a “huge mistake.” That’s what he says in a new court filing in his effort to outwit the nation’s bankruptcy laws – a bit of court-clogging windmill-tilting that follows his battle to outwit the nation’s tax laws. He’s made a huge mistake. Which one, do you think? Was it his claim that he did not owe income taxes because income taxes are unconstitutional? Was it his refusal to pay those income taxes for years? Was it his repeated insistence that his eventual payment of some income taxes, however begrudgingly, should wash away the taint of all the taxes he still has not paid? Was it the hypocrisy of drawing a public paycheck while refusing to pay taxes?/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here.
Question: Hart admits he made a “huge mistake”?! Who woulda thunk it?
Occasionally, we hear from the business community about the wonders of the business climate in Idaho. Usually, though, those praising the Gem State’s business-friendliness don’t point out that one of the reasons is this: Employees are paid less – and in some cases a lot less – than most employees elsewhere. The median hourly wage for an Idaho worker is $14.58 an hour. That’s almost two bucks an hour less than the national median – and five bucks below Washington’s. Closer to home, there’s a gap of $2.47 an hour between the median hourly wages paid in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here.
Question: Which side will raise Idaho's minimum wage sooner — the Idaho Legislature or U.S. Congress?
Is sodomy against the law in Idaho? More to the point: If a law in Idaho violates the Constitution – as determined by the constitutionally created Supreme Court – is it still a law? If you want the correct answer, don’t ask Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger. And the fact that Wolfinger seems not to know, or maybe care, about the answers should give pause to anyone who thinks it’s swell that Wolfinger wants to go all judge, jury and executioner on the Boy Scout troop his office sponsors. Wolfinger said last week that he’s not sure the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office can continue its charter with the Boy Scouts, due to the Scouts’ recent decision to stop discriminating against gay kids. Wolfinger based this qualm, in part, on Idaho’s 1972 anti-sodomy law/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here. (SR file photo: Kathy Plonka)
Shawn Vestal grew up in a Mormon family in Gooding, Idaho, but he left the faith as a young adult. His new book, Godforsaken Idaho, is based in part on his experiences growing up Mormon. The stories in the book also examine secular takes on life and the afterlife. Slate recently featured Vestal as one of a growing number of ex-Mormon writers who examine the faith in their writing. Shawn Vestal now lives in Spokane, where he writes for the Spokesman-Review. After two decades of writing stories in his spare time, he went back to school in 2006 to get an MFA in creative writing at Eastern Washington University. He was published in the literary journal McSweeney's the following year, and signed a book deal shortly after that/OPB. More here.
Question: Have you had a crisis of faith involving your childhood religion?
Does self-defense extend to your SUV? And if it does, let me pose another question: Is it just car theft that good guys with guns can punish? Or could I, say, shoot to death someone I caught stealing my bike? Or my newspaper? The slope, it is slippery. The fatal shooting of a car thief by a Spokane homeowner is a sad tale for all involved – including, I would argue, the man whose case was closed extrajudicially – and there is a lot we don’t know. But it extends the boundaries of our debate about gun ownership and self-defense, because the homeowner shot the car thief as he was driving away. Which means that it’s possible, if not probable, that no self was really being defended/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here.
Question: Did we talk this topic out yesterday?
Ten years ago this month, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was considering the approval of aggressive interrogation techniques for “high-value detainees” being held at Guantanamo Bay. The techniques had roots in the survival school training conducted at Fairchild Air Force Base and elsewhere, where service members are taught to resist the worst the enemy might do. The methods became the foundation for an interrogation program that proceeded, sometimes officially, sometimes not, through various incarnations of the “war on terror”: from secret CIA prisons to Guantanamo Bay to Abu Ghraib. Some of those Fairchild roots are well-known, particularly the roles of two former Air Force psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. Mitchell and Jessen helped create the CIA’s interrogation program in the months after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; they oversaw an extended case of waterboarding at a secret prison in Thailand, one of the most detailed cases in the debate over torture and interrogation. But others with connections to Fairchild played roles as well/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here.
Question: Is there ever a time when this country should be involved in torturing prisoners?
It’s too bad that the time most ripe for optimism and enthusiasm regarding democracy and citizenship – elections – is so persistently darkened by cynicism. It’s too bad, but not surprising or unfounded. One of the chief failures of our public life is the failure of frankness, and it’s widespread, and it causes an entirely reasonable loss of faith in the whole enterprise. That’s why the 19 pages written by Judge Michael Wetherell and filed in a Boise courtroom this week are such an invigorating tonic. It’s not because he ordered a stubbornly resistant political committee to reveal its donors, as required by Idaho law. In doing that, Wetherell was interpreting the law. But in the way he did it – in his clear, cogent defense of the rights of citizens – Wetherell produced an eloquent reminder that there is reason to be more than merely cynical about elections/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here.
Question: How about joining me in giving 3 cheers for Judge Wetherell?
The Coeur d’Alene School Board has made it clear. The kids whose educations are under their charge do not reside in the world. They are not global citizens. They live in Idaho, and Idaho only. The board, earlier this week, made its second stand against the grave threat of internationalist, one-world-order education, banishing a program that emphasized multiculturalism, global citizenship and awareness of other places. The program also has a suspiciously British spelling – the Primary Years Programme – which is a tipoff that it’s a secret arm of the United Nations and Agenda 21, the plan for global domination through land-use zoning. Is being a global citizen such a bad thing? Trustee Ann Seddon said it can be. “A global citizen would then be a member of the world, owes allegiance to it and is entitled to the international rights of the U.N.,” Seddon said, according to S-R coverage of Monday night’s school board meeting. Holy cow. Allegiance to the world. Nations united. The mark of the beast. Someone had to step in, obviously, and protect Coeur d’Alene’s tender youth/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here.
Question: How do you react when you hear individuals warn that a United Nations philosophy is taking over our education system and land-use planning?
Does living in different political parties mean we occupy different realities? The narratives of the Republican and Democratic conventions suggest that’s true. And new research by a Washington State University professor finds that highly contentious issues reveal something about the political moment: What we “know” is governed more by our beliefs than facts. “It’s not so much, anymore, what you know,” said Doug Hindman, associate professor of communication at WSU. “It’s what your party tells you to believe.” To get a good sense of Hindman’s research, you need to spool back forty-odd years – to a time when it was more commonly accepted that news coverage helped to distribute facts and knowledge to help people govern themselves/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here.
Question: How much does your political party affiliation serve to form your political views?
A judge has ordered this newspaper to turn over information about a person who made a potentially libelous comment under an assumed name on the website. This, of course, will have a chilling effect on free speech. A chilling effect is what we in the free-speech business always warn about. We do not want to chill speech; we want it hot and loose. This speech, though? This anonymous lobbing of insults? Chill it. Give it frostbite, even. It feels traitorous to say so. My training and background and beliefs lead me to certain articles of faith: More speech is always better; protecting the identity of sources is noble; anonymous information is often an important tool for getting at the truth; journalistic organizations must stand against government efforts to usurp newsgathering for their purposes. But what has emerged in the era of online commenting is, about three-quarters of the time, a sewer of stupidity and insults and shallowness/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here.
Question: Do you agree with SR columnist Shawn Vestal that Internet speech should be chilled, in light of Judge John Luster's ruling last week that the SR must reveal source of questionable comment?
lot of people are threatening to leave the country. The Twitterverse was alive with people proclaiming that they were so upset over the Supreme Court’s upholding of Obamacare that they were moving to Canada. Rush Limbaugh threatened to move to Costa Rica. This ruling had the critics packing their bags, hypothetically and sarcastically. “SCOTUS holds up free health care for everyone?!” Tweeted one twit. “Screw this commie country, I’m moving to Canada.” Some of these people presumably know that Canada and Costa Rica have universal, socialist health care, and are operating at some other level of sarcasm – perhaps mocking liberal threats to leave the country if Dubya got elected. But some of them clearly didn’t see the irony in fleeing to a socialist country to protest “socialism,” and liberals had a lot of fun at their expense. It was more or less standard political warfare, cheap-shot edition. But, seriously, there are some people who ought to consider moving to Canada: poor kids in Idaho/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here.
Question: Have you ever thought of moving to Canada?
Not long ago, my sister-in-law asked me a question that I hadn’t considered. Was I planning to let my son, who was then 3, play football? The question struck me as overly cautious. Why wouldn’t I? It won’t break my heart if he grows up with a wariness of the sports-worship that afflicts our culture, but if he wants to play, why not? After all, I played football – a little bit, very poorly – and look how well I turned out. You can get hurt doing all sorts of things. Then she gave me a few good reasons, involving the frequency of concussions, the frequency of repeated concussions, and the fact that frequent, repeated concussions can cause brain injury. The conversation came back to me this week when I read that Mark Rypien, local hero and Super Bowl MVP, was suing the National Football League for “repeated traumatic injuries to the head”/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here.
Question: Would you let your baby grow up to be a high school football player?
Item: Nothing funny — or apocalyptic — about pulling Doonesbury strip/Shawn Vestal, and: AP report
More here: Getting into abortion politics is apparently so scary that lots of newspapers decided to run a week’s worth of old strips or move them to the editorial page. Here at the S-R, where Doonesbury has already been exiled to the classifieds, the powers that be pulled the strip. Instead of publishing political satire that would provoke and dismay, engage and enrage, we punted. And everyone, everywhere, read those comics anyway. Just not here.
Question: Should the Spokesman-Review have pulled controversial Doonesbury strip on abortion politics? And/or: Are you a Doonesbury fan?
Get a job with a badge and a gun. While catching drug dealers, start smoking pot and snorting coke. Just to fit in. Find yourself going a little further than your undercover duties require. Snort some more cocaine, then smoke it. Then smoke it. Then smoke it. Take paid leave to go to treatment, turn in your badge and gun – and sue the city of Spokane for $2 million, for getting you hooked on crack cocaine. If you thought the Brad Thoma case was something new under the sun, think again. A quarter-century ago, Spokane was rocked by a case with unmistakable similarities: an addicted cop, a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, and a City Hall that doesn’t want to settle … except it also doesn’t want to lose a lot of money in court. We don’t know the end of the Thoma case, yet. The City Council is showing some backbone, Thoma is suing, and the case will doubtlessly drag on for a good long while/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here. (Spokane police photo of Brad Thoma)
Question: Was the city of Spokane right in rejecting a proposed settlement with fired/disgraced former cop Brad Thoma?
Sometimes it seems as if all our economic news is bad news. Then a ray of sunshine pierces those clouds. We hear of an industry that is thriving. Whose various companies provide a lot of jobs, a valuable service, a healthy contribution to the public good through taxes, and contributions to charity. An industry like the one that contributed an estimated $311 million to Washington’s economy in 2010, and $30 million to Idaho’s, according to a new report. An industry like debt collection. According to the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals, about $55 billion in unpaid debts was collected by third-party agencies in 2010/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here.
Question: Anyone ever dealt with a debt collection agency and is willing to talk about it?
SR columnist Shawn Vestal offers this Facebook thought: “I often wonder what a rugged Western frontiersperson would think about our lives. Today, I wondered what a Lewis or a Clark might think upon visiting the YMCA, seeing people sweating while running in place while watching people cook on little personal TVs, then departing to a shower with nice warm water and sweet-smelling soap, and noticing the little machine that spin-dries our swimming suits so we may all avoid the hardship of carrying home a wet swimming suit in our automobiles, and then noticing the sign on said swimsuit-drying machine: 'Use at your own risk.'”
Question: How much tougher was your life growing up than it is today? Or do you think life is tougher today?
I wish it didn’t need to be said, but here goes: “Rent” is not “about” fornication. It’s not “about” homosexuality. It’s about human beings and their trials. It tries to do what good art does: create empathy, draw viewers out of themselves, provoke emotional and intellectual reaction. It’s the constructive, valuable opposite of running around giving everyone a self-righteous thumbs-up or thumbs-down. But even if it wasn’t, one of the great things about America, of course, is we can go to hell if we want to. Whenever people start gas-bagging starchily about “fornication” – a word that’s only useful for hurling at others – you can be sure they’ve forgotten that. Besides the small-minded bigotry of it, opposition to “Rent” seems to grow from a serious cultural disconnect/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here. (Wikipedia photo)
Question: Do you plan to see Lake City Playhouse production of “Rent”?
Karl Thompson looked like a whole new man. When he walked into the federal courtroom Monday, he wore yellow jailhouse garb – the blousy top a shade darker than the loose pants. Big black letters on the back read: BONNER COUNTY. On his bare feet were cheap plastic sandals. Gray scruff stood out on his chin, and his usually neat white hair was very slightly disheveled. His hands – the hands that had placed countless criminal suspects into cuffs over his career as a cop – were locked behind his back. He looked smaller, sadder, diminished. “I wasn’t prepared for that,” said one of his supporters. Neither was I. Nor was I prepared to look at Thompson and feel what I felt: sympathy. It’s a sympathy tempered by anger at what he did to Otto Zehm and the city’s long string of mistakes in the case/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here. (SR file photo by Colin Mulvany)
Question: Do you have sympathy for 64YO Karl Thompson and what he's facing — 6-10 years in prison for his actions in the death of Otto Zehm?
What do Jess Walter, Richard Miller and Dan Kolbet have in common? Hint: They are ex-Spokesman-Review staffers. And? They’ve all written books. Walter, of course, parlayed his reporting of the August 1992 Ruby Ridge siege into a book (“Every Knee Shall Bow”) and a TV miniseries. He’s now penned seven books, with the last one, “The Financial Lives of the Poets,” receiving national acclaim. Kolbet, an Avista spokesman, worked in the sports department. Now, he’s written “Off the Grid,” a futuristic thriller about a man who fights a power monopoly that decides which cities are blacked out and which aren’t. Miller, a former editor now handling Washington State University public relations, has just published an anti-vampire-genre novel about a 150-year-old vampire living in downtown Spokane, “All You Can Eat.” No Team Edward versus Team Jacob going on here/DFO, Huckleberries. More here.
Other SR weekend columns:
Question: Have you read any of Jess Walter's books? Thoughts?