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Spuds & Duds 2010

A look back at the highs and lows of the last year


In our perpetual efforts to make BW a more finely tuned information machine, we are structuring the Spuds and Duds issue a bit differently this year. We have recognized that many apparently unrelated items actually belong in the same category of interest in spite of surface dissimilarities, and we have arranged them accordingly into cluster Duds, cluster Spuds--or when appropriate--cluster Spuds/Duds. If you do not immediately understand why some news bits are in the same cluster--for instance, why would such gems as Laura Silsby and the Library Condiment Lady belong in the same setting?--we will provide each grouping a title that will, hopefully, explain our reasoning.

Citizens Careening Off the Tracks

DUD: At first, it appeared Laura Silsby might well be one of those guardian angels we hear about, missioned to Haiti to lift children from the earthquake devastation and deposit them gently into a cozy Dominican Republic orphanage. Then she gets her entire posse arrested for not having gone through proper channels. Then we find out the orphanage she was taking them to hadn't been set up yet. Then we find out her first lawyer had been implicated in the child-sex-ring biz. Then we learn many of the children she took weren't actually orphans. Then we learn that Silsby, by going to Haiti, had skipped out on a boatload of troubles--legal and otherwise--here in Boise. By the end of the saga, Silsby appeared not nearly so much a guardian angel as a clueless goof.

DUD: What would have prompted Joy Cassidy--aka the Condiment Lady--to repeatedly pour mayonnaise and ketchup and yummy syrups down a return slot of an Ada Community Library? And was there a particular tome she was trying to gum up? Something to do with teenage vampires, perhaps? Maybe she was hoping for a mention in that much anticipated volume, Civil Disobedience in the Age of Burger King. Or was she simply angling for her own book deal?

DUD: We don't know whether it was the stress of running for the Legislature as a Republican in District 19, or a peculiar behavior that comes as a result of tootling a cartoonish vehicle around all day, but something got trolley tour operator Debra Miller so tensed up, she found it almost impossible to act civilly with such people as city employees and customers. After many complaints of abusive language and behavior like that of Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, her arrangement with the city was terminated four years early.

Political Party Leaves Planet For Parts Unknown

DUD: Rod Beck--a fading GOP firebrand who can't seem to win any elections or hold an appointed state job for long--continued trying to shut out anyone who isn't a registered Republican from of the primary process. Along with a cadre of particularly whiny party-mates, Beck argues that it denies him his right to free association if Democrats or independents are allowed their right to vote for whomever they please. Is it part of the attempt to purge the GOP of anyone who even resembles a moderate?

DUD: Further indication that Beck has a taste for authoritarianism showed up at the state Republican convention in June when he pushed for, and got, a loyalty oath to be signed by all GOP candidates swearing their groveling fealty to the party platform ... or else. It would seem the party of Lincoln has developed a great aversion to individuality of thought, opinion or interest. Some party heavyweights like Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Rep. Mike Simpson refused to sign the oath.

SPUD and DUD: Right now, right here, we are awarding our highest honor--a Lifetime Honorary Splendid Spud--to Vern Bisterfeldt. There are few public officials in the state of Idaho--or anywhere else--who have served the public with any more diligence and dedication. As a longtime Boise cop, once and future Ada County commissioner, and current Boise City council member, Bisterfeldt has been a judicious and even-handed influence while the Capital City struggled through years of intense growing pains and partisan hysteria.

Evidently, he wasn't nearly partisan enough for the likes of the local Republican Party, which tried to exorcise him from the ranks for his occasional support of Democrats and "RINO-ish" reasonableness. To those trolls under Bisterfeldt's bridge, we award a Special "You Couldn't Shine His Shoes" Dud. May you live long and prosper, Vern.

DUD: To find more evidence that the Gem State GOP leaders have become neighbors from hell, look to the aforementioned state convention where they pushed for a declaration that any reference to carbon dioxide's role in climate change is "junk science" and an end to wilderness legislation, specifically that CEIDRA bill from their own Rep. Mike Simpson. They also called for the revocation of various chunks of the U.S. Constitution, notably the 14th and 17th amendments, and for a state-sanctioned militia. Imagine, if you will, hundreds of tubby white guys practicing lock-and-load out in the woods with the Great Seal of Idaho sewn onto their uniforms.

Places We Already Miss

BELATED SPUD: The Vietnamese restaurant, humbly called "Vietnamese Restaurant," was a favorite of connoisseurs for almost 30 years, despite its inauspicious name and location in a drab strip mall in West Boise. When it burned to an end in August, we are certain many an old customer went searching for spicy chicken to fill the void.

BELATED SPUD: Old Boise Guitar Company had been a high note in our hometown musical for 20 years. The owners had to lock the doors permanently this summer, owing to sagging sales. Sad to say, some day soon our rock 'n' roll wannabes may be relying on Sam Walton's Chinese-made axes for their garage band aspirations.

BELATED SPUD: For seven art-filled decades, Boise Blue provided local artists with what they needed--canvas, brush, chalk, frames, clay, oils and watercolors. Had Picasso or Matisse made Boise the center of the art universe instead of gallivanting around France like horny teenagers, we accept they would have shopped there. Too late, Pablo! You're a day late and a franc short, Henri! The store closed for good in March.

BELATED SPUD: Oh gawd, how could we have allowed the lovely downtown Macy's to wither and die? Imagine, the store that invented the big balloon parade. The store that brought us Miracle on 34th Street. Gone, gone, gone! Oh, the humanity! Oh, the ...

Oh, we have just been informed there are plenty more Macy's stores still open in other locations around the country.

And The Award For Most Duds In One Year Goes To ...

DUD: Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter evidently isn't much for waiting in line. A couple of years ago, he crowed about wanting to get the first wolf tag. This March, in his sprint to be the first governor to play cage death match wrestling with President Barack Obama's health-care plan, he gleefully signed the Idaho Health Freedom Act, which would require the state to sue over any mandated care. Luckily for Otter, had he tripped and broken something in his scurry to scuttle the health-care hopes of more than 200,000 uninsured Idahoans, he would have come out OK, seeing as how he's covered through his job.

DUD: Shipments of mega-huge oil extracting doo-dads up U.S. Highway 12 along the delicate Lochsa and Clearwater rivers are A-OK with Otter, who, in spite of his lifelong attraction to cowboy chic, has never met a corporate slicker he didn't like.

DUD: In March, our governor spoke before the Boise Young Professionals and according to those present, he came across sounding like a Hee Haw host to a Mad Men crowd. When asked how Idaho could compete with states that were more education-friendly, Butch acknowledged he didn't have much faith that the future of Idaho's education opportunities were bright. In the same interview in which he hoped that K-12 students could "muddle through," he commented, "Are we ever going to compete with colleges and universities in other states? I don't think we can."

DUD: Ever faithful both to the special interests that made him what he is and his libertarian resistance to all things publicly owned, Otter came out swinging against Rep. Mike Simpson's Boulder-White Clouds protection bill, thereby (in the opinion of many) condemning the effort to a purgatory of no finality.

DUD: About the time Otter was threatening to cut the budgets of Idaho Public Television and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation to the bone, it was revealed that his administration had pissed away $70,000 to stage ground-breaking ceremonies for highway projects. IdahoPTV and Parks and Rec survived the budget butchery relatively whole, if not entirely healthy, perhaps because the governor didn't want to explain why photo-ops of him throwing a shovel full of dirt around was justified while Big Bird and Barney were getting the ax.