Monday, May 31, 2010

Boise Woman on Flotilla in Gaza

Posted By on Mon, May 31, 2010 at 4:41 PM

Boise State graduate Fatima Mohammadi is among those still unaccounted for in the Israeli raid on a flotilla in international waters Monday.

CNN reports that Israeli soldiers fatally shot at least 9 activists—though some estimates put it at 16—aboard a ship carrying humanitarian goods to Gaza, a practice allowed under Israeli law.

Former BW photographer Lama Nasser sent Boise Weekly several posts Mohammadi made to Facebook and e-mail updates about her trip. Describing the mission, Mohammadi wrote:

The cargo includes prefabricated homes and playgrounds, cement and other home-building supplies, medical devices and medications, textiles and food.

Israel's open threats to the safety and mission of the convoy have been supplemented by vague and unreliable promise. If denied entry, the aid and volunteers are prepared to wait in International waters for as long as necessary ...

It is imperative to reiterate that this is an unarmed humanitarian aid convoy carrying the better part of one thousand volunteers from 1½ years of age to 88 years of age, from more than 30 countries. We have the official support of the governments of France, Mexico, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Italy and the European Union. Unfortunately, my own country is not on that list ... the United States. As they are a stall-worth [sic] supporter of Israel, that is hardly surprising.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Boise Foothills Wolf Hunt Underway

Posted By on Fri, May 28, 2010 at 5:37 PM

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services Division has been pursuing a pair of wolves in the Boise Foothills for almost three a month now, after the wolves killed at least 11 sheep grazing the Upper Hulls Gulch area.

Wildlife services has been using a fixed-wing plane and ground shooters with wolf calls to locate and kill the two wolves, after the Idaho Department of Fish and Game authorized the action on May 5, according to Assistant State Director George Graves.

"Most of the time when we confirm livestock predation, most of the time, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game gives us authorization to use lethal means," Graves told Citydesk.

View Boise Wolf Hunt in a larger map

The two suspected wolves, not part of any established packs, took eight lambs and three ewes, and there is the possibility of three more still unconfirmed kills. The attacks happened in four separate depredation incidents, Graves said, the most recent of which was on May 24. Frank Shirts, who grazes on the Boise Front, owned all of the lost sheep.

While the Idaho Conservation League has supported delisting wolves and state management of the species, ICL Program Director Justin Hayes said that Wildlife Services has been "overzealous" in its wolf control efforts and that he is hearing lots of complaints about the agency.

“Using aerial gunning to kill wolves in sight of the state capitol is a crazy, and very bad idea,” Hayes said.

There have been established wolf packs in the Boise Foothills for at least a decade now. The map below shows named packs as of 2009 and the "+" symbols indicate confirmed sightings.

  • IDFG
Named Boise-area packs
  • Named Boise-area packs

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Candidate Concession, Rant, Thank You

Posted By on Fri, May 28, 2010 at 1:18 PM

Sincerely and temporarily, finally
  • Sincerely and temporarily, finally
GOP Lieutenant Governor candidate Joshua Blessinger sent the self-described "rant" below in the wake of his unsuccessful primary challenge to Lt. Gov. Brad Little:

Dear Idaho,

It has been a good run. I had a lot of fun trying to do the most I could with the little I had available, I succeeded. I got 26,622 votes from my supporters, compare that to the $508.53 I spent on this campaign, that comes out to about 1.9¢ per vote cast for me, Brad Little spent around 55¢ per vote.

I have proven that it takes relatively little money to run a campaign and make a difference. I have disproved the excuse that you need money to run for office. If you are dissatisfied with your elected officials it is your duty as an American to challenge them, make them realize that they are vulnerable. You may not win but they will listen.

That said, I wish to say something that will fall on deaf ears. The people that are reading this are more than likely not the subject of this comment. But, shame on the majority of Idahoans.

There is no excuse for such a low turnout, even in the primary. For those of you who came out and voted, thank you. For those of you who did not, I wish I could say what I want to say to you without being offensive to everyone. You have given a big middle finger to all those who have sacrificed and fought to guarantee you the right to vote. How dare you take something so precious, something that Americans have always been proud of, and treat it as though it doesn't matter.

You can complain that you don't have a voice, that your vote doesn't matter, but unless you try to use your voice you can't complain that it is not heard. Voting is a way to let your voice be heard. If you don't
speak no one will hear. If you don't vote you can't speak. I am so disappointed in my state right now, for the first time I am ashamed of Idaho.

I do realize that if everyone would have voted, I probably would have still lost.

Already today I have heard many people complaining about the results, I asked them if they voted, they said "No". In all reality they did vote, by not voting they did not move against the person they did not want in
office, one less vote against them. If you did not vote don't complain, you caused it. Bad leaders are elected by good citizens who choose to remain silent.

Fortunately The winner in this race is not a bad guy, but I have my own selfish reasons to think he is not the best guy.

To Brad Little, congratulations, sir. It was a fun race, even losing was fun. My only regret is that more people did not get out to vote. You can expect to hear from me again, I will be in touch. From this point on
though, it will be to share my ideas with you, maybe then we can both help to make Idaho a better place to live.

Thank you so very much to everyone who came out to vote, no matter who your vote went to. Thank you even more to those who voted for me.

Sincerely and temporarily finally,

Joshua Blessinger

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Private Lockup Hires Permanent Warden

Posted By on Fri, May 28, 2010 at 12:44 PM

Timothy Wengler
  • CCA photo
  • Timothy Wengler
Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise, has hired Timothy Wengler as its new warden. Wengler has been serving as interim warden since the company fired its top brass in the wake of a major prison violence lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Wengler served in the Air Force for six years before entering the private corrections field and working his way up in the CCA ranks, according to his official company bio. His last posting was at Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, Minn., which housed Idaho inmates for a period of time. An Idaho inmate was beat to death under Wengler's watch at Praire. [CORRECTION: The death of the Idaho inmate in 2008 was at another CCA prison and not under Wengler's jurisdiction.] Prairie has since shut its doors, blaming the closure on a lack of demand for cell space.

Meanwhile, leadership at several state-run prisons has shifted in recent weeks. After Brian Underwood, most recently warden at the Pocatello Women's Correctional Center, was confirmed as U.S. Marshal for Idaho, IDOC named Chief Deputy of the Prisons Division Jim Woolf warden at Pocatello. Woolf will serve both positions, overseeing operations at St. Anthony Work Camp in St. Anthony and South Boise Women's Correctional Center south of Boise. Woolf will also oversee IDOC’s Vocational Work Projects statewide, according to an IDOC press release.

Other changes in prison leadership include:

  • The manager of IDOC’s Probation and Parole District 6, LeeAnn Hamilton, will transfer to PWCC as deputy warden.

  • South Idaho Correctional Institution (SICI) Deputy Warden Terressa Baldridge will take over as SICI’s warden. Baldridge succeeds Warden Randy Blades who is transferring to Idaho Maximum Security Institution as warden.

  • Blades succeeds IDOC Deputy Chief Jeff Zmuda who has been serving double duty as acting chief at IMSI. Zmuda will be returning to IDOC’s Central Office and resuming his role as deputy chief on a full-time basis.

  • IMSI Deputy Warden Michael Johnson will serve as SICI’s deputy warden of operations.

Got all that?

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Idaho Successful Candidates Average 1.9 Teabags

Posted By on Thu, May 27, 2010 at 11:42 AM

Successful candidates in Idaho's statewide and Ada County Commission races rank a mere 1.9 teabags, on average, in Boise Weekly's Creative Commons teabag rating system.

To refresh:

Candidates received one teabag for each of the following:
1. Not answering Electionland questions, thus spurning both voters and the liberal media.
2. Talking about the Founding Fathers, the Constitution or God too much.
3. Attending "official" Tea Party events.
4. Complaining that government services are socialist.
5. Getting an actual Tea Party endorsement.
6. Winning BW's teabagger bonus option.

Adding up the winning statewide and two Ada Commish teabag totals yields an average of only 1.9 bags. Still, conservative candidates did affect the Idaho primary, with Rex Rammell and Chick Heileson (5-baggers) getting a quarter of the vote in the races for governor and the Second Congressional District, and four or five moderate Repubs getting ousted from legislative seats, particularly in the Senate.

The conservative wing of the GOP made a concerted effort in some of those Senate districts, according to Lucas Baumbach, producer of the now-famous Obama-Ward mashup vid.

"If you've got the house and the Senate, you don't need the governor," Baumbach told Citydesk yesterday.

But Republicans stood together on the Statehouse steps on the morning after the election, asking for on unity in the general election. Vaughn Ward, who lost his chance to take on Idaho's lone Democrat in Congress to Raul Labrador, showed up and declared his support for Labrador, if a bit reluctantly.

"I said I would and I do," Ward said.

Here's Ward's reaction and Labrador's predictions from non-mashed footage from May 26.

Idaho First Congressional District GOP candidate Vaughn Ward will take on Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick in November.

Losing First Congressional District of Idaho candidate Vaughn Ward addresses press gaggle on his loss to Raul Labrador.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Obama-Ward Mashup Making the Rounds

Posted By on Mon, May 24, 2010 at 12:37 PM

An election eve video matching up First Congressional District candidate Vaughn Ward's campaign launch speech with President Barack Obama's 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention could go viral, with a posting on this morning.

In the video, self-described Ivy League Tea Partier and Boise District 17 Senate candidate Lucas Baumbach plays video clips of both speeches revealing eerie similarities in an effort worthy of Daily Show shenanigans.

Obama proclaims: "We stand on the crossroads of history. We can make the right choices and meet the challenges that face us."
Ward drones: "As we stand on the crossroads of history, I know we can make the right choices and meet the challenges that lay before us."'s Dustin Hurst first paired the two videos together last week, after a blog post by Idaho Statesman political reporter Dan Popkey pointed to the similarities on May 13.

Citydesk called Ward's new communication's manager, Larry Craig veteran Mike Tracy for comment, but Tracy did not know who wrote Ward's speech.

The Obama impersonation comes at the end of a 15 or so minute speech that Idahoreporter has also archived, during which Ward talks about his wife, Dirk Kempthorne, Tom Luna and lists off a long tally of Republican "I believe" statements before crescendoing with the crossroads trope. You can watch the second half of the video below (bonus points if you catch the United Nations reference).

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Mayor Bieter Explains it All

Posted By on Fri, May 21, 2010 at 5:59 PM

On Wednesday, March 24, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter gave a speech to the members of the Boise Young Professionals in the basement of the Idaho State Capitol. The topic was why they should stay in Idaho rather than seeking jobs out of state.

Otter's response to the question posed—as well as his responses to the follow-up questions posed by BYP members—circumvented issues of education funding and tech development with discussions of ranching techniques and high school football stories, and were later described to BW as less than satisfactory by BYP members. One called it flat out embarrassing.

BYP member Brooke Hetmer told BW she actually cried after hearing the governor's speech, feeling that she had potentially made a huge mistake by moving back to Boise after a 10-year stint in the military.*

But members of BYP weren't the only ones disappointed by Otter's comments. Boise Mayor Dave Bieter was as well. So much so, that he decided to devote his speech to BYP at the Basque Center on Thursday to answering the same question why they, as young professionals, should stay here.

"Boise is the best possible place to pursue your dreams," he said. "You're young enough and this state is small enough that can eventually have the run of it. Idaho is still a place where you can build the future you want to see.

"I'm just an intermediate to help you along on your way," he added, explaining that there may be more jobs in neighboring states, but transplants would have to work within the existing structures without room to craft their own, thereby limiting their potential accomplishments.

"Truthfully, Boise is a bigger challenge," Bieter admitted. "It's tough. But you all know that anything valuable takes work."

"There's a pony in this city, and it's our job to dig it out," he said, referencing a joke he'd told at the outset of the speech about a child that chooses to play in a room full of manure rather than a room full of toys on the belief that there is a pony buried within.

Bieter also took issue with the governor's comment that Idaho's universities couldn't compete with other regional schools. Bieter gave a list of research grants and Fulbright scholarships that Boise State and the College of Idaho students have received and discussed his own positive educational experience in Idaho.

Bieter then opened the floor to questions from the 75 or so members of the audience.

BYP members asked about the city's priorities for recreational development to attract businesses, why the focus was on tech rather than cultural industries and what Bieter learned from his efforts to build a streetcar in downtown.

The top priority Bieter listed was the whitewater park, followed by upgrades and repairs to city parks and possibly a new downtown library. He said a committee will be formed over the next several months to set priorities and assess feasibility. He also pointed out that these were projects that could benefit immensely from a local option tax, something he's sought for some time.

When asked if there was a plan to pursue a local option tax in the Legislature, Bieter said there was, adding that there is also a recently formed group working on a backup plan to take the issue directly to the citizens if the Legislature doesn't act.

The local option tax was a consistent theme. Bieter discussed other cities similar to Boise in size (Austin, Texas, Salt Lake City, Rochester, N.Y.) which had been able to more effectively recover from the recession because of their ability to tax locally and put that money into education and infrastructure.

"We're one of only three states without a local option or state funding for public transit," Bieter said. "That's not good company to keep."

The most relevant issue for the proposed local option tax is Bieter's desire to build a rail-based public transportation system.

"Just a half-cent tax would generate $28 million annually, and that would create a fantastic public transit system," Bieter said.

Bieter expressed frustration with Saint Luke Regional Medical Center's opposition to last year's proposed streetcar. But problems arose because federal grant funding required that once a plan was on paper, it had to stay static. The new plan being developed is more flexible so it can respond to opposition. He hopes to see a loop from Boise State to 12th Street as a starting point, and eventually a rail-line extending all the way to the airport.

"Even the most conservative estimates of a streetcar line, show an extra 50 percent growth rate along potential streetcar routes," he said.

Bieter said that the city had put aside more than $105,000 for arts funding and was researching ways to incentivize culturally based businesses. But this was another issue where the lack of a local option tax limited the available tools immensely.

Bieter also discussed a recent article in The Economist, "In Praise of Boise," as well as if there was any way to us it to attract new business.

In one final point, Bieter announced that he wants the BYP to serve in an official advisory capacity on issues of local business development, and asked that the group arrange a meeting to get something on paper—a move BW will follow as it develops.

So what did BYP members think of Bieter's presentation?

Rustin Hood, an independent contractor said it instilled hope in him for the future.

"I especially liked his focus on aiding start-ups rather than trying to import companies," he said.

Hood had been brought to the event by his friend, Andrew Mentzer, who also like what the mayor had to say.

"It was refreshing to hear someone speaking frankly rather than just being all rosey about everything," Mentzer said. "I especially liked his analogy about looking for the pony."

Mentzer, 27, will open a youth hostel in the Idaho Building next month. "We needed one," he said. Mentzer had asked the question about support of cultural industries and seemed satisfied with Bieter's answer.

Brooke Hetmer, who had cried after Otter's speech, said she liked that Bieter has actually answered every question put to him, though she was disappointed not to hear anything about the closure of Franklin School.

But it may be an overheard after-event comment that best exemplifies the audience reaction to Bieter's speech.

As Bieter sat down for a beer with some BYP members after the presentation, one of them asked him when he would be running for governor.

"I've got to clear it with my wife," Bieter laughed. "I'll run for mayor again, and then we'll see."

*CLARIFICATION: As referenced in this story's comments, Brook Hetmer believes her comments regarding her move back to Boise were mischaracterized.

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Sarah Palin Has One Point

Posted By on Fri, May 21, 2010 at 4:58 PM

Sarah Palin does have a point. The “lamestream media” tends to paint people with a single, cliched brush and then continue to paint them with the same brush again and again.

It’s even harder once you’ve been parodied on Saturday Night Live, I’m sure.

So I went to the Palin4Ward rally this morning at Qwest Arena on the Grove, expecting the flesh and blood Palin to be at least a few degrees less a caricature than portrayed on TV.

But Palin is Palin, even up close, as you can see from the photo below. Classic Palin.

Sarah Palin at Qwest Arena in Boise Friday morning
  • Nathaniel Hoffman
  • Sarah Palin at Qwest Arena in Boise Friday morning

The speech—a stump speech and fundraiser for First Congressional District candidate Vaugh Ward—contained a series of clichés about the military and public service and liberals that Palin repeated in a loose spin cycle.

Even the guy who introduced the guy who introduced the guy who introduced Palin agreed that Palin is as Palin does.

“She is exactly like you would think she would be,” said District 10 Sen. John McGee, who warmed up the Vaughn Ward faithful prior to the speech. “She’s very folksy and down to earth.”

McGee means that as a compliment. But I was a bit offended when Palin said that Idahoans are just average Americans. Where are the above-average Americans?

McGee and his wife are expecting their second baby in a few months, and all Sarah and Todd Palin wanted to hear about was the pregnancy and when the baby was due, McGee said.

There were two interesting moments during the Palin speech. At one point she asked if there were any “Tea Party-Americans” in the house and got near-universal cheers. While local Tea Party groups have endorsed Ward opponent Raul Labrador, and the same national Tea Party group that Palin has rubbed elbows with gave its blessing to Rep. Walt Minnick, Palin came to town today to steal headlines for Ward.

But the interesting thing is this new (to me) usage of “Tea Party-American.” I can’t help but think the hyphen is in opposition to “African-American” or “Asian-American.” But maybe I’m still being lamestream or conspiratorial?

The second interesting part was when Palin brought up Minnick, by name, blessing his heart and saying: “Walt, it’s who you’re hanging with, man.”

Should Ward win the nomination on Tuesday, this might be Ward’s approach to taking on Minnick in the General Election: No complaints, you’re just the wrong party … which is not a very Tea Partyish strategy, by the way.

At the rally, a parallel drama was taking place behind the media cordon.

Reporters were escorted to a cordoned off area and asked to stay put during the show. I was even escorted to the little boy’s room to take a leak at one point (“freedom” only goes so far, after all). But at the press table, along with the usual crew, were Rev. Anthony Harper Ph.D. (publisher of Intermountain Christian News) and Idaho Conservative Blogger, whose name I have not yet discovered.

ICB lamented the fact that reporters continued to work through the Pledge and the Christian prayer that was offered and also heralded Palin's speech. ICB does not understand the concept of dispassionate observation nor does he gather that many of Americans are not partial to certain types of prayer, including the jingoistic one offered this morning.

Meanwhile, Palin had a lengthy segment of her speech (I think it was repeated at least twice) in which she slammed reporters, using her communications degree from U of I as cred. She referred to the lamestream media several times as well.

At the end of the speech I jumped the cordon to shoot some pictures and tried to get close enough to ask Sarah Palin a question. I wanted to know who exactly she’s working for these days. But there was no way to get a question in—the Sarah Palin stump is a one-way affair.

And that’s lamestream.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Boise to Host Panel that Might Consolidate BP Oil Spill Cases

Posted By on Thu, May 20, 2010 at 4:38 PM

At least 85 civil lawsuits filed against BP (et al, Halliburton) in the wake of what may become the worst oil and gas spill ever are being vetted in Boise in July.

The suits—according to Business Week, brought by commercial fishermen, shrimpers, seafood processors, property owners and tourism-related businesses harmed by the spill—could be consolidated in a single federal court. BP wants the cases consolidated in Houston, where its Gulf of Mexico operations are headquartered.

But before they can be consolidated, they must go before an obscure legal review called the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. The panel, comprised of seven federal judges, meets six times a year in various cities across the country to consider such consolidations under U.S. Code 1407. On July 29, it meets in the Federal Building in Boise to consider the Deepwater Horizon spill, among other cases.

“Even though people don’t know about it, it’s been around a while,” said the judicial panel's chief deputy clerk, John Nichols. It was created in 1968, in part to help preserve judicial resources for large, widespread legal disputes.

The JPML gained some notoriety last month when it consolidated civil suits against Toyota for damages related to "sudden, unintended acceleration" to the Central District Court in California, where most of the suits had originated. The suits are consolidated for pre-trial issues that involve the same questions of law, but could return to their original jurisdiction for the actual trial.

In Boise, attorneys will duke it out over which federal court along the Gulf Coast will get first stab at the case against BP.

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America: Land of Religious Intolerance

Posted By on Thu, May 20, 2010 at 11:24 AM

Every week, the Boise's mayor's office sends the media a transcription of all the calls the Mayor's Hotline has received. People complain about everything from the F35 to their trash service to "the trolley" to their neighbors' yards.

Citydesk spotted a few calls in the latest log from some very un-Christian Christian types. Looks like these callers missed out on a few civics lessons in high school. Especially the part about the U.S. being founded as a place to freely practice any religion. (Then again, there is that whole separation of church and state part, which begs the question: Why are we still praying prior to government meetings?)

Here's what a few locals had to say to Mayor Dave Bieter about Rajan Zed opening a Boise City Council meeting June 8 with a Hindu prayer.

Beth Fain
Invocation: I found out that you plan to have a Hindu pray for the City Council and it’s very
offensive to me. It’s also offensive that you and the City Council had the Ten Commandments
taken out of the park and yet you let this Hindu come in and recruit or whatever it is. It makes
me very angry and upset, and offended. Have a nice day.

Invocation: Having the Zen priest come here to open the council meetings with his prayer is a
perfect reason to vote Mayor Bieter out of office.

Kathleen Osman
Invocation: I don’t agree with that Hindu prayer cause we were founded on Judeo Christian
and they’re not even giving Christians equal time. You know, these days we’re getting
persecuted and it just doesn’t seem to be right. I guess it would be o.k. if we were getting equal
time and if these people were paying taxes and are citizens I understand that part, if they are
part of the local government but are you going to open with Christian prayer as well? Where do
we draw the line? What if Satanists then want to start opening up a prayer. Where do we draw
the line? Muslims don’t have tolerance like that. We tolerate to a certain degree but now the
other religions don’t tolerate this country that was founded on Judeo Christian values.

"Recruit." Really? And here's a bit of useful knowledge, Anon: "Zen" refers to Buddhism, not Hinduism. And, finally, regarding equal time for Christians, this is the first Hindu invocation opening a Boise City Council meeting. Although the city doesn't keep an ongoing tally of the denominations to which those offering the invocation belong, city officials say the "vast majority—if not all—are performed by Christians."

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