Dud of the Year
George W. Bush, who has proven beyond the shadow of any further doubt that, indeed, you can fool just enough of the people, just enough of the time.
A sad "What If?" Dud to John Kerry. Like ... what if he had responded to the Swift Boat Vets sooner? What if he hadn't said "I voted for that bill before I voted against it?" What if he had behaved like a regular human being instead of a computer simulation assembled by committee? What if he had shown the piss and vinegar we saw in Howard Dean? What if Democrat presidential candidates finally stopped running from the liberal tradition like it was covered with open sores and fleas and stood up like proud progressives and went toe to toe with the right-wing plague? What if... ah, screw it! Onwards and upwards!
This should have been a Dud every year since 1997, when the National Cancer Institute released a study stating that Idaho and Montana were exposed to more radioactive Iodine-131 fallout from nuclear test explosions in Nevada than were any other states. Back then, the study made national headlines and Dirk "Tell 'em what'll shut 'em up" Kempthorne promised to champion the cause of our state's countless cancer victims in the hopes of getting them governmental compensation. Seven long and silent years later, only after a series of gut-wrenching articles in the Emmett Messenger, Boise Weekly and Idaho Statesman (in that order) reminded our sleeping representatives of the harm inflicted by their employer upon its rural citizens, did these foot-shuffling politicians finally call for a hearing to let the victims tell their stories. Both Reps. Mike Simpson and Butch Otter claimed that they had never heard of this phenomenon up until this year. If that is the case, then ours is one seriously disconnected Dud of a delegation.
What do the Bad News Bears, Mighty Ducks, Boston Red Sox and Paris Hilton all have in common? They are all spirited underdogs who made mighty comebacks (not to mention the fact that they all wear Spandex). Bronco Football can now be added to this lofty list, because the boys in blue have kicked enough ass this season to earn Paris' signature accolade: "That's hot." Under the shrewd coaching of Dan Hawkins and the crazed, half-naked fans that stuffed the stadium to max for every home game (and many far away from home), the Broncs not only stirred something in the soul of this town but also in the hearts of football fans nationwide and Bowl administrators who may have forgotten what it's all about.
The Victor Frankenstein
This one goes to Karl Rove--a.k.a. "Bush's Brain"--for the devastating brew of smear tactics, character assassination, voter suppression and the primal fears of weak-minded villagers, all of which he blended masterfully together to create a monstrous Bush victory. The guy's a wizard, truly. And with a baby face like his, he probably doesn't have to shave often enough for looking in the mirror to be a huge problem.
the RUFFLED MINI SKIRT
Yeah yeah, we were fashion rebels when we were tweens, too, but some of the trends this year have us shaking in our midriff-covering sweaters. Perhaps the most vile crime couture of 2004 was the infamous ruffled mini skirt made famous by gals like Tara Reid and, of course, Paris Hilton. Even on them these butt-skimming morsels of fabric look tart-ish, but at least they're over 20! The halls of Boise's grammar and high schools were flooded with young women this year wearing said "skirt" (we prefer postage stamp) with t-shirts that read "Young, Willing and Eager." Color us conservative, but who decided this was a good look for girls barely old enough to buy their own clothes, let alone account for their own bad taste?
TEN COMMANDMENTS MONUMENT SAGA
Monumental madness indeed. Armed with a cadre of F. Lee Yahoo lawyers, the Save the Monument Coalition filed a slew a lawsuits--none of which came to fruition--over the city's decision in January to remove a smallish Ten Commandments Monument from a city park. In late March, city employees hoisted the contentious slab out of Julia Davis Park and relocated it to St. Michael's Episcopal Cathedral at 8th and State streets in downtown Boise. During the relocation episode, in a very choreographed and scripted protest, 13 people formed a human chain around the monument and waited for their cue to march to the Ada County Sheriff's bus parked nearby waiting to take the monument huggers into custody for willfully interfering with police officers doing their duty.
A special award to the evangelical religious right. It's truly astounding, when you think about it, how uniformly they obey. Really, what other flock of like-minds would sell their souls to the Devil himself, for no more complicated a reason than to thumb their redneck noses at gays, educated Americans and Michael Moore? In the coming years, it will be interesting to see how much self-destruction and humiliation these blindly-faithful will endure, just so much smarter folks won't get their way.
BODO CONSTRUCTION PROGRESS
Just in the last few weeks, the desert-like expanses of the BODO development site are astir with bulldozers. No one is really sure how many decades the mysterious and various "they" behind the development of the 8th Street Marketplace compound have been promising to turn it into a utopian center with gumdrop trees and Pottery Barns on every corner. The Simplot S-16 tried to deliver but relied too much on the old Idaho Cowboy Code of handshake commitments. The new developers had the foresight to get contracts signed, and at least three large investors and a host of smaller ones are on board. The dust is a good sign, but we're still skeptical ...
Governor Dirk Kempthorne
A Spud to Dirk Kempthorne for once more ... just maybe ... golly gee, I can't wait to find out! ... ending up on a possible short list for a potential cabinet appointment--assuming there are no illegal nannies in his woodwork, of course. No doubt it'll be some job where any opinions he has in the matter, pro or con, will be thoroughly ignored. I mean, it's not like he's an easy guy to take seriously, is it? So he's the perfect candidate to head any agency the Bush administration doesn't take seriously. (We must also assume that Washington D.C. is a much nicer place to live now than it was when Dirk declined to run for a second term in the Senate, professing such an overwhelming love of Idaho that he didn't want to be anywhere else.)
Lt. Governor Jim Risch
A Dud to legislative pest Jim Risch, and his legendary ambition. Ha ha! Otter beat you to the punch. Ha ha! You're already playing catch-up! Ha ha! At least Otter can carry his own county! Ha ha!
Surprised? Sure, Simpson has been guilty of plenty of party-line duddery in his career, and he recently defeated one of our favorite state politicians, the handlebar-moustache-toting workin' man Lin Whitworth, in the US Congressional race. But Simpson's one Spud-worthy act this year was a real gem. At the November 6 public hearing for Idaho's nuclear downwinders, while taking a smoke break outside of Taco Bell Arena, he told BW reporter Nicholas Collias that Larry Craig's recent claim that the U.S. needs a nuclear arsenal to prevent another 9/11 is "just bullshit." Then he said it again. "Why would we spend the money on it? It would be stupid to go over and use something like that!" he emphatically added. Luckily, when Craig and his nuke-happy buddies tried to bully new weapons funding through a lame-duck Congress this November, they were outnumbered by reps who felt like Simpson. But don't expect the Bush administration to take the overwhelming disapproval as a clue that new nukes are a bad idea ...
We salute the inventiveness of those nicotine-imbibing eaters who fought Joe Law's intrusive, anti-smoking tactics by forming private, smoker-friendly dining clubs. In a time when the government probes into every public and private orifice like an alien on a Hereford, it's great to see the American preponderancy for wiliness in the face of extreme ordinancing can still prevail. You kept the chow coming and the clientele puffing. DUD POTENTIAL: Recent grindings from the rumor mill indicate a handful of good ol' boys and their culture of control mantra are putting together a bill to ban smoking clubs. We say, Hey, Joe Law, keep crushing the rights of local businesses in your smelly, legislative ashtray, and you may just give yourself a bad name. Oh, wait, that's already happened. Well, then, by all means, keep up the stupid work!
TACO BELL ARENA
Boise State students, faculty and the community are barking mad because Boise State honchos renamed the Boise State Pavilion the Taco Bell Arena in exchange for a hefty wad of corporate cash and an ironclad 15-year contract.Corporate pimping aside, Taco Bell and its parent company, Yum! Brands, have a none-too-rosy reputation for reaping huge profits on the backs of lowly paid migrant workers. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee ...
Congressman Butch Otter
Butch Otter deserves a Spud this year, and it's not because he fought the Patriot Act two tooth and nail. (Rumor has it that much of Ashcroft's more odious P. A. II requests were snaked into other pieces of legislation, which Butch voted for without a whimper.) Nor is it for his glorious accomplishments in the U.S. House of Representatives. (Seriously, you could stick all of Otter's glorious accomplishments into a chewing tobacco tin, put it in the back pocket of his tight-jeans-contest-winning Levis, and still have room left over for a reprimand from the Environmental Protection Agency for screwing up a wet lands area and a D.U.I conviction.) No, this year, Butchy-Boy earns a spud for his announcement he will likely run for Governor, giving Idaho Democrats, even in their darkest, most desperate hour, the inspiration to go on fighting.
christian Parking ticket payoff
A Christmas Dud to the Treasure Valley Christian Churches that offered $10,000 to pay off scofflaws' parking tickets. The gimmick allegedly had something to do with demonstrating how Christian charity works, and all the offenders had to do to get their fines taken care of was to ask for it. But aside from the obvious fact that $10,000 would have gone a long way in relieving some serious local suffering this holiday season, are we really ready for "Faith-Based Traffic Court?"
BOISE AIRPORT UPGRADE
Decades and decades went by without the slightest change to the Boise Airport (unless you count that interesting and rather phallic piece of moving art on top of the parking garage ... we think it looks kind of like a Blue Whale saying howdy). But with so much new traffic and demand for better amenities, the state managed to put together enough money to add a whole new level (departures and arrivals? Now this is living!), an expanded yet modest food court, commissioned artwork that doesn't invite bad sexual jokes and nice details like touch-free bathrooms and real wood paneling. Unlike a lot of other growth solutions, the Boise Airport is being done right the first time with tasteful simplicity and on schedule.
CAROLYN HOLLY AS A BRUNETTE
Since 1982, Carolyn Holly's Mary Stuart-Masterson-like features and signature blonde coif have together (along with a lovely collection of turtlenecks, dickies and blazers) been one of the most distinct mastheads of Idaho's KTVB News Channel 7. Then suddenly, like a favorite bakery changing their frosting recipe, Holly jumped on the Hollywood bandwagon with starlets like Reese Witherspoon and Ashlee Simpson and went from golden to chocolate. Her dark brown locks look nice, to be sure, but maybe she should take a lesson from legends like Peter Jennings--staying power is all about the same hair you had 40 years ago.
STATUS OF WOMEN IN IDAHO
The recently released Status of Women in Idaho report put together by the Women's Institute for Policy Research in Washington D.C. cast a shadow over the hopes of progressives across the potato state. Regarding employment and earnings, health and wellness, economic and social autonomy, political participation and reproductive rights, Idaho women are among the lowest ranked in the nation in nearly every category. Such news was one of the biggest lemons in 21st century Idaho history, but activists, policy makers and concerned citizens hope to squeeze it into one killer batch of forward-thinking lemonade. The statistics are a huge Dud, but sometimes it takes a bomb dropping to motivate a genuine Spud. Here's hoping.
If there's one thing Idahoans hate (besides being mistaken for Iowans), it's driving more than 10 miles to get anywhere, especially when there are other cars on the road. Time was when folks could hop in the tractor and cruise from Boise to Fruitland without passing too many people, but progress is progress, and the good things about growth will hopefully outweigh the fact that homebound 9-5-ers headed West on I-84 spend a good chunk of their evenings listening to asinine local DJs chuckle about the traffic piled at the Garrity Exit. The music is bad, the waiting is intolerable and the only thing to look at is the bumper in front of you or the hulking car lot to the right with enough chrome and monster grills to give you a complex about your pink-decaled, no frills Festiva.
In a sea of stylized news voices and bad haircuts, Ryan Panitz is our new favorite show on NBC. Having watched his rise to fame and glory from KBCI Channel 2 (sorry guys) to the award-winning team at KTVB Channel 7, Panitz has proved himself to be one of the most exciting commentators since Kronkite. We're not sure if he was coached, but the kid provides some of the most over-dramatic narratives we've seen outside of movie trailers. Whether listing the menus for local grade schools or reporting live from the scene of a serious accident, Ryan speaks with the same urgency and enthusiasm. We really do appreciate the unique flavor he adds to the local news soup, and we hope our gentle chides don't kill his buzz for all things Boise.
Not that it even needs to be said at this point, but if the big networks insist on keeping reality shows on the air, we might as well slam them for being the soulless, exploitive circuses they are. We thought they hit the ceiling with Average Joe, but then they went and made a love connection serial about horny midgets. And Fear Factor--they should leave spinal chord pie with rotten squid topping and maggot sprinkles for the Survivor Cooking Special. Television used to be an escape, and now we'd almost rather watch Regis and Kelly. Oh, the humanity!
MAYOR DAVE BIETER
It's no secret which political camp about 90 percent of BW employees call home. It's also no secret that we spend many an election night curled in the fetal position or listening to Bob Dylan records while stockpiling canned food and duct tape for the nuclear winter. So when Dave Bieter, the bike-riding, down-to-earth native who seems so honest and real jumped on his admirable platform, we were happy just to see him try. When he won, we were shocked and elated. And having seen him perform and do a damn good job of governing our fair city, we began to think maybe the world could change--one city official at a time.
Fox News in all its forms
When Outfoxed came out (though it still hasn't shown in Boise), we let out a tired, vindicated, "Well, duh!" When the cosmetic laboratory creation known as Shepard Smith projected both Ohio and Florida an hour or so before the other channels, we had to laugh. When we see local "newscasts" featuring stories with topics as enlightening as: "Joe Millionare: Where are Evan and Zora now?" "The OC: Why is it so popular? The stars weigh in." and "Joe Millionaire: No really, where are Evan and Zora now?" we can't help but throw stuff at the tube. They reported; we decided. Oh, well. At least this towering Babel of babble is bringing The Family Guy back.
Idaho Wine Festival
Idaho vintners have insisted for decades that our state offers ideal conditions for high quality wine production. They cite our arid (i.e. rot-prohibitive) soil, wide temperature swings and distinct seasons as perfect for crafting a grape with balanced acids, sugars and free of parasites. The trouble was that very few people believed these proclamations enough to keep our local winescape on par with those in Oregon and Washington--until now. When the Treasure Valley Wine Society organized the first all-Idaho juried wine competition at The Winery at Eagle Knoll on August 28, 23 wineries from all corners of the state turned out their best bottles. Only 10 of the wineries were over five years old. The message was clear: we've finally arrived, both as a haven for gourmands and as a wine tasting destination. Hopefully you were lucky enough to witness the transformation.
Where to begin with this well-programmed juggernaut of dud? There are the nukes: Craig claims, after seven years of ignorance and neglect, to "support" Idaho's nuclear fallout victims. He also, however, pushed all year for Congressional approval of research funding for a new, easier-to-use nuclear arsenal. He explained the discrepancy in a single sentence to BW's Nicholas Collias: "That issue is not this issue." Shudder.
Then there's the agri-crookery: Craig has made no attempt to hide his intentions to amend federal laws that would allow immense mega-dairies to not report their noxious animal waste emissions. One such operation, the Desert Rose Dairy in Filer, recently (and graciously) reported spewing over 130 tons of ammonia emissions into the air in a single year. Don't count on hearing about any others in the future. Just open your nose.
But perhaps most hurtful of all is the roadless area runaround. National media claimed the switch of wilderness control from the federal government to state governors to be the Bush administration's agenda, but Craig's personal stake is as big as anyone's. He personally championed the plan for weeks, his state has the largest amount of roadless land to be opened to commercial development and Craig was even one of the hosts to the national unveiling of the plan, on the Idaho statehouse steps on July 12. Oh, and by the way, Craig's two biggest campaign contributors happen to be Boise (formerly Boise Cascade) and Potlatch. Start to finish, our ever-grinning Senator is one of those rare duds who can make it hard to get out of bed in the morning.
DENNIS MANSFIELD AND HENRY KULCZYK'S ANTI-GAY MARRIAGE BILL
Like of couple of Fundamentalist toadies adorning an anti-gay wedding cake, these two boys seem so like minded, so unabashedly gay bashy, we think, somewhere deep down in their dark and hateful hearts, they know they make a great couple. It's time to stop kidding yourselves with your silly "family values" ballot--we see right through it. All those late night heavy sweating sessions in the neo-conservative "war room," stolen moments for a quicky reading of your favorite passages from "Leviticus." Come on fellas, admit it--everyone else already knows--can't you two see you're in love?
Let's see: Openly lesbian liberal runs for a seat in that exclusive all-white primarily male club called the Idaho Legislature--one of the most conservative state congresses in the nation--and wins. It makes us sigh wistfully and gives us hope that Idaho is not an evolutionary cul-de-sac. Perhaps the political winds may finally be shifting. LeFavour will definitely have her work cut out for her, but she's here, she's queer, so get used to it.