Do people still read books? Or newspapers or even websites? A couple of weeks ago I was sharing a private conversation with a locally elected politician. He brought up the concern that reading has become something relegated to a cultural artifact. I remember seeing research more than 30 years ago and it showed the advent of television had severely curtailed reading over the previous 30 years. I’m not aware of any research after the arrival of radio and motion pictures but I believe the same correlation existed.
Print media consolidation during the middle of the last century probably had many factors, but anyone in media would agree new forms of electronic communication played a role in winnowing the print market. The public has a fixed share of dollars and the same with advertisers. In junior high school a history teacher challenged us to read newspapers every day. We were required to keep a clip file of what we had been reading and he would review our files and ask questions to ensure we retained portions of the stories. When he retired several years ago, he embarked on a second volunteer career teaching civics and the Constitution. I’m reminded efforts to adopt civics in Idaho schools was generally panned by the state’s newspaper editors. Nothing like cutting off your nose to spite your face!
One kid in the classroom didn’t participate. His family didn’t take the paper, and he explained his dad argued you could get all the news you wanted from television. Aside from electricity it got piped into the home for free. Our teacher just looked at my classmate with a bewildered expression. There was a running joke for many years at class reunions when we didn’t see our friend from the TV-only household. Whereabouts unknown! Until someone chimed in we should contact the county jail. The fellow had been brilliant, dropped out of school and took up a life of a small-time burglar. I’m not saying there’s a correlation to not reading newspapers. Although, I’m reminded of the Rob Lowe commercials about the loser watching cable TV and the winner getting his shows from satellite television.
We may be living in a time where interest in reading is falling at an accelerated rate. Less than a decade ago I would post blogs and lengthy essays at the website affiliated with the radio station for which I worked. Many would get tens of thousands of page views. Lucianne Goldberg linked to one of my rants one Saturday morning and I had thousands of hits in less than one hour. The comments section would be filled with invective. Often there were hundreds of responses. A few scant years later and I’m grateful if I see a few hundred hits. We seem relegated to searching for views by asking people if they know what most Idahoans consider their favorite color.
At home I’m drowning in books. Even learned friends wonder why I don’t give them away or use a Kindle. Because the printed word is a record. Even when the lights flicker the printed word remains the same. Available by candles and sunlight and always ready for reference.
There’s also a belief among many in public life the lack of reading is translating into a lack of public participation in government, service clubs and voluntary activities. Again, the numbers all begin to sag at the time of the arrival of television, and our entertainment choices have only exponentially ballooned over the last 70 years. The thing is, I don’t ever recall any great interest in attending public meetings.
At the very same time I was maintaining a newspaper clip file in eighth grade, I attended my first public hearing. The local school board was considering a ban on students leaving campus during the lunch hour. It was a privilege granted to high schoolers and it was potentially going to impact my liberty the following year. Two friends joined me at the meeting and I had to practically drag them from the comfort of home on a cold winter night. My parents didn’t attend. The parents of my two friends didn’t attend. A handful of adults spoke in favor of law and order, including a next-door neighbor. He was a state trooper and he got cheered by the small crowd and board members. I spent lunch period in high school eating in the cramped cafeteria.
A decade later I was attending public meetings almost daily and frantically taking notes. My glamorous career as a media stenographer was underway. I don’t doubt we provided a public service. Citizen attendance at meetings is often a matter of competition. People have a lot on their plates and kids have practice and some nights the roads are slippery, and then there are simply the nights you want to catch a couple of shows and then get to sleep early.
The editor of this newspaper rightly points out his columnists could offer much more local flavor. First, what do we mean by local? The culture war is national and local. Taxes fit the same description. And I think we’re a lot less concerned about the direction of local government than shenanigans in Washington. As long as streets are plowed and potholes are fixed most people don’t complain about local government.
We need to also consider media’s role. When I first joined a large radio news operation there were two dozen people working in a newsroom now staffed by two. A few hours down the highway, KSL could be employing 100 but it’s a rare commitment any longer in media. Newspapers in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Lewiston, Idaho, have large endowments and maintain a large reporting presence. However, the majority are getting by with skeleton crews and some newsrooms are empty for stretches of 48 hours or more.
Let me close with this thought. It’s a combination of media consolidation and changing public tastes. Assigning blame to any specific group isn’t possible. As for the public, we only think everyone used to pack New England town meetings. I belch opinions all week long and yet twice this month people have written me as if I’m an investigative reporter. Rush Limbaugh was once named the country’s most popular news anchor, which he’s not. Still, tomorrow, the sun will still rise and most of our fellow citizens will navigate the day without a hitch.
Christopher Reid is probably the least known member of the Twin Falls City Council. He’s run for a seat only once, six years ago. Last year, he was appointed to serve out the term of Don Hall when Hall won election to the county board — so voters haven’t heard much from Reid the candidate.
But get ready to hear a whole lot more. We think Reid has the potential to be one of Twin Falls’ next political leaders.
Reid has quickly acclimated himself to the board, diving in with good questions and a respectable voting record. Off the record, city officials say he’s one of the sharpest Council members.
A young family man and banker, Reid has shown himself to be cautious and thoughtful, keeping taxpayers’ interests at the front. Reid voted earlier this year not to raise taxes, even though the city could have to pad its coffers, because the city hadn’t identified how it would spend the money.
He believes creating and maintaining a special sense of community could help recruit and retain workers. So would a new city recreation center, but Reid is rightly skeptical about how much such a center would cost.
Reid is being challenged by Brian Bell, a network and controls administrator for Amalgamated Sugar Co.
Bell did well in a candidate forum hosted by the Times-News earlier this month. He’s a serious candidate deserving of serious consideration by voters.
But like other challengers for seats this cycle, Bell just hasn’t done enough to prove to voters he’s a better pick than the incumbent, Reid.
We’d like to see Bell stay active in city issues like planning and zoning if his Council bid proves unsuccessful. He’d make a fine councilman one day.
But this time, it’s Reid’s seat to lose.
Integrity, experience, small-business owner, with more experience than some of her opponents. Strong ties to the community. Great family person as well. Do I have your attention now? Suzanne Hawkins.
She is the liaison from the City Council to the Twin Falls City Youth Council. Through her guidance and countless hours of time spent with local youth they have and are learning about city, county and state government as well as giving back to the community through various projects. She is a person who represents all of the people, not just those in Zone 1. All of these attributes have led her to be second vice president of the Association of Idaho Cities. People of this quality do not come along every day, and Twin Falls is fortunate to have such an individual as Suzanne Hawkins serving on the City Council as well as helping guide our youth to a better understanding of government and giving back to the community. Her business knowledge along with financial responsibility are other reasons to vote for Suzanne Hawkins. If you desire someone with the above care and compassion for Twin Falls and its citizens who has a proven record, vote Suzanne Hawkins Nov. 7.
President Donald Trump and his surrogates—most especially the Fox News lineup (which includes a fleet of conservative pundits who disgrace themselves by facilitating a political distraction game for Trump), obsequious Republicans in Congress, old allies such as Roger Stone (who wound up getting banned by Twitter) and the talk radio crowd—have been frantically fanning Hillary Clinton non-scandals about Uranium One (it was baseless before and baseless now) and the dossier’s funder. (Fusion GPS initially was hired by the conservative Free Beacon, which at one time claimed not to know the identity of the Republican outfit that first hired Fusion.)
The unhinged rants from Trump’s defenders demanding Clinton be locked up for one or both of these reveal how tightly Trump and the right-wing ecosystem that supports him rely on Clinton as an all-purpose distraction.
Upon a moment’s reflection, the non-scandals make no sense (Clinton was colluding with Russia to beat herself in the election?), have been debunked before and in no way affect the liability, if any, of current or ex-Trump administration figures. This is “whataboutism” run amok.
The intensity of Trump’s frenzy underscores the peril in which the president now finds himself. Beyond the indictments unsealed Monday morning, Trump does not know what special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has uncovered; which witnesses are flippable; what financial documents have revealed about the Trump business empire; and whether, for example, Mueller finds support for an obstruction of justice charge from Trump’s own public dissembling (e.g., hinting at non-existent tapes of former FBI director James Comey). For someone who insists on holding all the cards and intimidating others, Trump finds himself in a uniquely powerless position.
As I have argued, Republicans should be saying publicly that efforts to fire Mueller and/or pardon indicted figures will commence impeachment proceedings. Those moves would set off a constitutional crisis in which the president is using his powers to protect himself from the Justice Department.
Right now that is a theoretical question, but given how rattled Trump seems to be we shouldn’t rule out the possibility. It is incumbent on media interviewers to ask Republicans if that is their position and if not to justify giving a green light to what would be an unprecedented scheme to protect himself from investigation. Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, D-Calif., argued:
“Now, I don’t think the president’s power is all that absolute, as people have been suggesting. The president cannot pardon people if it’s an effort to obstruct justice, if it’s an effort to prevent Bob Mueller and others from learning about the president’s own conduct. So, there are limitations. If it were truly unlimited, it would have the effect of nullifying vast portions of the constitution. The president could tell Justice Department officials and other law enforcement to violate the law and that if they did, and it was ever brought up, they were brought up on charges, he would pardon them.
“And one principle of constitutional interpretation is you don’t interpret one power as nullifying all of the others.
“So, I don’t think it’s unlimited. And I think it would be highly problematic for the president if it’s part of an effort to obstruct justice.”
We will see what else Mueller has in store for us, but if Trump is this hysterical now, one wonders what he’ll be like if a stream of indictments relating to the campaign and/or obstruction of justice begins.