Monday, March 31, 2008

Raise to the Power of Ten

Judy Shepard knows the definition of a hate crime. Her son, Matthew, was killed ten years ago this October, and since his universally recognized death, Judy Shepard has become the torch bearer of a national movement to recognize crimes against the gay community for what they are. As an advocate for essential human rights, Judy Shepard has become more than just the mother of a slain gay son, she has become the voice of a frustrated cross-section of Americans who oppose discrimination based on sexual orientation and who support a continued push for legislation that would prosecute crimes against gays and lesbians as other bias motivated crimes are prosecuted.

Over the weekend, Dennis and Judy Shepard hosted the annual gala of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, a fundraising dinner to launch a clever new anti-hate campaign. The Campaign to Erase Hate asked each of the five hundred attendees to spread the message to ten of their friends who would then spread the message to ten more.

Judy Shepard promises the movement will raise each individual supporter to the power of ten:
We are starting a movement of people dedicated to erasing hate from our schools, workplaces, and communities. For the last ten years, individuals have been raising themselves to do amazing things with no resources. What we are trying to do is give this great work a structure and create a community of individuals who are using their voices and talents to address these issues.
A year ago, the Matthew Shepard Act (also known as the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 or H.R. 1592) passed the U.S. House of Representatives with few amendments, but has since stalled. Judy Shepard remains positive that H.R. 1592 will be picked up and passed by the 2009 Congress--with a new administration in the White House.

The annual Shepard gala comes on the heals of the shooting of a fifteen-year-old boy in Ventura County, California. The fourteen-year-old boy who shot him, reportedly because his sexual identity was being threatened by the fifteen-year-old wearing nail polish and high heels, is being held for murder as an adult.

For more information on the Campaign to Erase Hate, please visit the Matthew Shepard Foundation website to read about and join the anti-hate movement.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Message from David Archuleta

*Editor's Note: The following was left in the "Filing Deadline" comments by Mr. Archuleta. I, of course, am supporting former Congressman LaRocco, but wanted to share Archuleta's message.

Running for the United States Senate is no joke, nor did I enter the race without thinking long and hard.

We have real issues effecting real people.

The economic crisis is real, just ask the elder in BLackrock who lives on $790.00 a month who has to pay $700.00 to fill her propane.

As the elder who recives $900.00 a month who has to struggle to keep her home, ask the mother of the children who has real guns pulled on them when they were playing with replica rifles in their own yard.

Ask the 17,000 people who showed up to see Obama in Boise, then showed up to give Obama 83% of the delegates.

People are tired of the standard issue democrats, who along with the republican, have brought our country to where it's at today.

I worked as a newsreporter for fifteen years, in radio, and newspaper. I rose to the top of my radio profession when I hosted National Native News on National Public Radio, and won press awards.

I also served as Chief Tribal Prosecutor, Associate Tribal Judge, and currently I am in private practice as a tribal court advocate. Every day in my practice I see the effects of the economy. I see homes and cars being repossed.

I am a U.S. Navy Veteran who served on the last U.S. warship out of Vietnam, and I know war is real. People do die and get maimed for life.

It's no joke to run for the U.S. Senate!

I also acknowledge young David Archuleta's accomplishments! He is a great example of what is right with our young people. He has a goal and is working hard to accomplish it.

Thanks for mentioning my candidacy Tara. If you have questions you can reach me at

Respectfully submitted,

David J. Archuleta
for U.S. Senate

Thursday, March 27, 2008

TDIH: Introducing Mr. Khrushchev II

Fifty years ago today, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) welcomed a new Premier, Mr. Nikita Sergyeyevich Khrushchev.

Khrushchev had served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and would serve as Chairman of the Council of Ministers until he was ousted by his own party in 1964.

For all his transgressions as the leader of the Communist party, Nikita Khrushchev remains an intriguing and somewhat comical character in Cold War history. Whether it was using his shoe as a gavel at a meeting of the United Nations or complaining about not being allowed entrance into Disneyland, you have to admit Mr. Khrushchev brought light-hearted humor to the darkest days of the Cold War.

Otter, the AP, and Prisons

Not entirely surprising given the Senate's action to override Otter's veto yesterday. The following comes to you via the AP:

ID lawmakers get late-session sticker shock, nix $190M prison
Associated Press Writer

BOISE, Idaho (AP) _ State lawmakers have told Department of Correction leaders it's too late in the session for them to even consider a proposal for a new 1,500-bed prison that would cost the state more than $190 million.

Brent Reinke, the head of the state prison agency, had been meeting with House and Senate leaders since last week but says the plan is now finished, at least for this year. He had a bill drafted, but it never got a hearing.

Lawmakers told him selling 30-year bonds to finance a new prison south of Boise was too expensive an item to consider quickly in the waning days of the session. Now, Reinke says he'll refine his proposal over the summer and may present a new plan to the 2009 Legislature, as part of his solution to house a growing Idaho prison population.

"Neither the House nor Senate leadership is interested in hearing this," Reinke told The Associated Press on Wednesday. " Mostly it's sticker shock. They said, 'Let's talk about it next year.' "

The result of delaying the matter another year is more Idaho inmates will stay out of state longer, he said.

His agency is in charge of 7,400 inmates, but lacks sufficient capacity to house them all. As a result, 500 have been shipped to private prisons in Texas and Oklahoma, with another 240 more expected to leave Idaho by July.

One reason the prison discussion was delayed was that Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter originally insisted a new facility be accompanied by legislation allowing it to be a privately built, privately owned and privately operated prison. Companies such as The GEO Group Inc. and Corrections Corp. of America had lobbied legislators furiously for just such a plan, spending more than $40,000 on campaign contributions.

But lawmakers balked, saying such an arrangement would give up too much control over an important state institution. Finally, Otter agreed a new facility would be owned by the state but run by a private company, mirroring the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise that's operated by Corrections Corp. of America.

Rep. Margaret Henbest, D-Boise, said lawmakers decided Otter had come to them with the prison proposal too late for it to receive full consideration."It's a big decision," Henbest said. "It's not one of those last-minute decisions."Another obstacle to the new prison is the Legislature's newfound interest in substance abuse treatment programs, rather than building new prisons.

Otter and lawmakers are engaged in a veto fight over $16.8 million in drug treatment funding. The Senate overrode Otter's veto Wednesday, but the House is still considering accepting a compromise.

Idaho lawmakers already have approved 1,288 new prison beds during the 2008 session, split among a secure mental health facility, new drug treatment prisons and a 324-bed expansion at the Idaho Correctional Center. With the proposed new 1,500-bed prison, the new facilities together would cost about $106 million annually to operate."

I don't know where $106 million a year is going to come from," said Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome and co-chairwoman of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. "It seems to me the most effective solution is to try and keep those folks in treatment."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Quote of the Day

“Doesn’t it seem smart to get on the front end of these decisions? Doesn’t it seem smart to try to affect them before them become incarcerated, so they don’t offend in the first place?”
Sen. Dean Cameron (R-Rupert) in debate over whether or not to override Governor Otter's line item veto of SB 1458, legislation that would continue funding for many of Idaho's drug treatment programs.

Still Ain't Exactly Clear

The complexity surrounding Governor Otter's veto of drug treatment funds and now the Idaho Senate's override of said veto continues.

Today's edition of the Post Register offers an editorial by Marty Trillhaase calling Governor Otter's action a "curious veto." Trillhaase gives an explanation for Otter's motivation--Otter's overriding libertarianism:

In vetoing $16.8 million worth of substance abuse treatment for people caught up in the criminal justice system, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter ignored unanimous legislative support for that endeavor. He also seemed more inclined to fight the feds than Idaho's drug problems.

Otter's torqued because the feds gave Idaho money to launch these programs. Now the federal cash is gone and limited state tax dollars are needing to sustain it.

But what's the alternative? Left unchecked, Idaho's swelling prison population will require $1 billion worth of new buildings during the next 10 years.

At least drug rehab offers the prospect of change. If you put a dollar into rehab, you avoid $9.57 in prison costs--and victims of crime save another $8.84.

Evidently, the numbers Trillhaase cites are average results and Idaho is far below average and "Idaho's drug rehab programs are only 25% as effective as the national average."

Today, the Idaho Senate voted 30-5 to override Otter's line item veto on the drug treatment funding legislation (SB 1458) passed on March 11, 2008.

Quoted in the Idaho Statesman, Senator Dean Cameron (R-Rupert) stated: "The alternative [to overriding Governor Otter's line item veto] is spending millions on new prisons and shipping inmates out of state."

Who voted against the override? Senators Little, Heinrich, Jorgensen, McGee, and Pearce. Contrary to their votes today, these senators and every one of their colleagues voted back in January for a new facility for drug treatment.

Once again, legislators seem to keep bringing up this idea that there is a "paradigm shift" regarding drug treatment and incarceration in Idaho. Citing the votes of Senators Darrington, McKague, and Fulcher, many, including the New West Boise editor, Jill Kuraitis, seem to be on board with the notion.

So, if there is a so-called shift in approach to drug treament in Idaho--treatment over incarceration--what is holding up House Bill 516? On the surface, we are to believe that chairman of the senate judiciary committee, Senator Denton Darrington (R-Declo) is throwing his weight around and for whatever reasons (pride, stubbornness, or politics) is refusing to hear this legislation. He believes wholeheartedly in the effectiveness of mandatory minimum sentences and will not under any circumstances hear a piece of legislation that will allow judges to sentence non-violent drug offenders to treatment rather than incarceration.

Now the most puzzling of questions shifts from why Otter would use his line item veto to reduce drug treatment funding when overall sentiment in the state is pro-treatment and less supportive of more funding for prisons, back to why Senator Darrington would oppose House Bill 516 yet support a new treatment facility and overriding the Governor's veto of funding for treatment. Is he with his colleague and neighbor across the river, Senator Dean Cameron, or not? Judging by Senator Cameron's comments today and Senator Darrington's comments in the past, he can't be.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

One Last Roster Spot

This morning when I was checking on the status of Kenny Lofton, I couldn't help but notice that those Major League Baseball players who still don't have a roster spot with any team are players who aggressively held key positions throughout their careers that were incredibly hard on their legs.

News of Javy Lopez retiring rather than being sent back to the minors only confirmed my long held suspicion about professional baseball--once your legs go, there isn't really a place for you. Unfortunately, this truth isn't news. The game has become more and more competitive, constantly seeking records, and always shining the spotlight on the youngest standouts. Very rarely will you see a headline about a veteran player unless he is retiring or has hit a milestone in his long and successful career. There just aren't front page stories about guys like Julio Franco who wants to play until he is fifty or guys like Javy Lopez who was a hero of mine growing up.

This season alone I have spotted thirteen players still listed as active, but without a roster spot. Thirteen guys who have contributed quite a bit to the game of baseball and its history.

Barry Bonds' name makes the thirteen, but given his perjury trial, the steroid mess, and news about Jose Canseco's new book, I can't say there aren't reasons for which Bonds is without a roster spot. The only way Barry can stay in baseball is if a team with more money than sense needs a DH that will bring out the camera crews.

Sticking with outfielders, I was surprised to see that nobody picked up Steve Finley. I guess GM's think forty-three is too old for an outfielder. The only choice with Finley is to move him to a position less hard on the legs, mainly first base, but I wouldn't be surprised if Finley is done.

I've mentioned Kenny Lofton's situation previously. It seems to me that what Lofton doesn't bring to the lineup in numbers he brings to the clubhouse in experience. You can't pass up an option like Lofton when you're looking for a veteran to bring the younger guys together. Lofton is forty-one, not young for a baseball player, and has a baby face that tricks you into thinking he is twenty-something.

Other notable outfielders without team assignments include Sammy Sosa (despite the Rangers pulling him in last season), Preston Wilson, and Ruben Sierra. Wilson, being the youngest of the three, is puzzling to me. Either he hasn't put up good numbers or he has been riddled with injuries. I can't seem to remember which it is. There is the chance with Sosa that somebody will pick him up as a DH. I just don't see him fielding again if he does snag a roster spot.

There was only one third baseman I spotted on the list that I thought enhanced this category of older ballplayers with exceptional careers and no team assignment this season--Jeff Cirillo. Cirillo has been a great addition to many lineups and has solid numbers. He's thirty-nine and looking at the terminal end of his career. With third basemen, I can't exactly say what causes a career to end so quickly. I don't suppose it has anything to do with diving for the ball...

First base has become the place all beat up ballplayers go to finish off their careers. More and more teams are looking for first base talent in the draft and more and more they are getting away from the philosophy that has always been--when the legs go, send the guy to stationary first base. Interesting that two first basemen fell into this category of assignment-less actives. Both Shea Hillenbrand and Ryan Klesko have had shining careers with various teams. I watched Klesko come up with Atlanta and was always amazed that they let such a young kid start out at first base. Once he joined up with the Giants I couldn't help but think he and Will Clark would have made an amazing team. At not quite forty, it's perplexing. Seems Klesko has a few more seasons in him. And Shea Hillenbrand? Here, too, I'm going to guess injuries are involved.

Last, but perhaps the most telling, are the three catchers (excluding Lopez) who may see the end of the careers sooner rather than later. Mike Piazza hasn't been catching in awhile. Mostly holding DH slots, Piazza's knees went awhile ago. Being a catcher is physically the hardest of the positions (aside from pitcher). Once the knees go your career is over, period. They aren't going to move you to first base. They might keep you around as a DH. But they aren't going to keep you around for moral support. Speaking from personal experience, there is no pain like the pain of knowing your days behind the plate are numbered. And for a guy like Mike Piazza it must be brutal. This guy is one of the greatest catchers in the history of the game and his worth now comes down to whether or not he can get a big hit. It wouldn't surprise me if he announces he's going to way of Javy Lopez here shortly.

Two other catchers on the list include Doug Mirabelli and Todd Pratt. Both are old, in catcher terms, nearing forty, if not over, and they've both suffered injury. After thirty-five a catcher has to be on a three-man rotation at best. Varitek and Kendell may be exceptions to this rule and I suspect they may last a little longer in the game. It just isn't pleasant watching as two very talented guys wait around hoping somebody might give them a shot.

It isn't easy watching some of the best players in the game waiting for one last chance and one last roster spot. Not when we all know their legs went long ago and they're only hanging on for the love of the game.

ISO Reaches New Donors

From the Special Olympics Idaho March newsletter:

SPECIAL OLYMPICS IDAHO TO BE ADDED TO IDAHO INCOME TAX FORM -- Special Olympics Idaho will be one of the organizations listed on the 2008 Idaho Income Tax Forms, which will be filed in 2009. This gives taxpayers the opportunity to make a donation to Special Olympics Idaho at the time they file their Idaho income tax return. Through this mechanism, Special Olympics Idaho can reach new donors and gives existing donors another way to support the organization. We would like to thank Representative Mack Shirley and Senator John McGee for sponsoring the legislation that made this possible!

Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings

New music Tuesday is here and so has dropped the new album by the Counting Crows. Oh, and the storytelling genius of Adam Duritz continues:

You Can't Count On Me
(Track 11)

Anything's hard to change
But hey I got you down on your knees again
You watch the sky
It's a pale parade of passing clouds
That cover the bed upon which we laid in the dark
And the memories that I made of a laughing girl
But you're just my toy and I can't stop playing with you baby

If you think you need to go
If you wanted to be free
There's just one thing you need to know
And that's that you can't count on me

I'm coming along real good
But I still can't do most of the things I should
I watch the sky coming down to bury me...
And I can't stop this crawling out of my skin
I know that you see yourself flying in out of the sky
Coming down to carry me but I won't come out

So if you think you need to go
If you wanted to be free
There's one thing you need to know
And that's that you can't count on me

I watch all of the same parades
As they pass on the days that you wish you'd stayed
But all this pain gets me high
And I get off and you know why

So if you think you need to go
If you wanted to be free
There's just one thing you'll need to know
And that's that you can't count on me

(Words and music by Adam Duritz)

And Mr. Duritz has a blog.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Message from the Archives

This morning I was fishing for some information in the Perry Swisher collection housed in the ISU Archive and Department of Special Collections, when I ran across this gem:

What Is a Friend?

I will tell you. He is a person with whom you dare to be yourself. Your soul can go naked with him. He seems to ask you to put on nothing, only to be what you are. He does not want you to be better or worse. When you are with him you feel as a prisoner feels who has been declared innocent. You do not have to be on your guard. You can say what you think, express what you feel. He is shocked at nothing, so long as it is genuinely you. He understands those contradictions in your nature that lead others to misjudge you. With him you breathe freely. You can take off your coat and loosen your collar. You can avow your little vanities and envies, hates and vicious sparks, your meanness and absurdities, and in opening them up to him they are lost, dissolved in the white ocean of his loyalty. He understands. You do not have to be careful. You can abuse him, neglect him, berate him. Best of all, you can keep still with him; it doesn't matter. He likes you. He is like fire, that purifies all you do. Through and underneath it all he sees, knows, and loves--you.

A friend, I repeat, is one with whom you dare to be yourself.

From the Friendship Room of the new Adams & Smith law offices. Compliments of Frances and Nancy Oldham, future associate members.

I found it particularly fitting today given yesterday was a day of friends, both new and old, and today is the birthday of one of my closest and dearest friends.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Little U2 Philosophy

Something Happening Here

Reading the Idaho State Journal on a Saturday is a crap shoot, but this morning my eye meandered to the right hand corner of the front page where the governor's photo was accompanied by a four by two inch-square story on his recent veto of drug treatment funding legislation.

This in addition to news (thankfully given a thumbs down by the ISJ, despite their thumbs up of Marvin Richardson a.k.a. "Pro Life" being on the ballot come November) that the Idaho Department of Corrections is planning to send another 240 inmates out-of-state, this time to Oklahoma, by July due to overcrowding.

The AP story on Otter's veto hit many of the points an earlier piece by Eye on Boise's Betsy Russell mentioned earlier, including Governor Otter's assertion that Idaho's current program have been ineffective. The veto essentially cuts in half the amount of funding for drug courts, treatment for parole and probation, as well as some programs for women and minors. The ISJ piece notes that the drug court system in Bannock County will continue, but it is unclear as to how the veto will impact local funding.

Something is definitely happening here, the specifics of which are not particularly obvious.

First, we have this overcrowding problem that we can only assume will be addressed by a new facility. However, we have a legislature that doesn't seem to think that there are any problems with the laws on the books for sentencing those who need drug treatment. This is the legislature that has been continuously slapped down and publicly criticized by Governor Otter for various positions they have taken since the session began. All of this occurring when, as legislators themselves have cited, an overall change in approach--that of placing money into the prison system to the efforts to fund treatment. So we are going to pay for a new facility and we're going to cut treatment funding? If there has been a switch to supporting treatment none of that previous sentence makes any sense. Nor does the blocking of House Bill 516 that would give judges authority to require drug treatment rather than incarceration where appropriate.

Should the consensus be in fact that the Idaho legislature and the governor's office have in the recent past shifted from pouring money into prisons to funding drug treatment and rehabilitation, it sounds to me like somebody didn't get the memo.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Smorgasbord Saturday

Technically I'm on Spring Break. Excited? Sure. Excited in the way a person looks forward to torture. Okay, maybe torture is too extreme, it's just homework. A few Spring Break's worth of homework. So it goes.

I would like to point out that baseball season is around the corner. There is a great schedule of important dates at It has Opening Day, Opening Night (something I am looking forward to this year especially because two of my favorite National League teams are playing and at the new Nationals stadium to boot!), Civil Rights Day, and Jackie Robinson Day. Yes, Civil Rights Day and Jackie Robinson Day are separate days despite their equal treatment in baseball.

What does Opening Day mean? Well, other than I get to watch a whole lot of baseball, it means I will be cross-posting from time to time at ArmChairGM.

Looks like one of my favorite catchers is being forced into retirement. Javy Lopez, the veteran catcher who spent quality time with the Braves and returned there for spring training after a stint with the Orioles doesn't have a place on Atlanta's roster. Not surprising given the young talent in that slot for Atlanta, but it would have been awesome to see Glavine and Lopez finish off their careers together back home in Atlanta.

Unrelated to baseball, I spotted an interesting article in the Washington Post about an entire third of organ transplant patients, those actually listed on the donor registry, are ineligible to receive a transplant. You know why? They are either too sick or not sick enough. It's ridiculous. It is absolutely insane the way the organ donor system works. A third of the patients on the donor list--do you know how many people that is? At the current time their are nearly 100,000 people on the list waiting to receive organ transplants. An entire third of 100,000. Even I can do that math. They call the third "inactive." I don't get it. I don't understand how people who are realistically and unfortunately terminally ill can be too sick to receive a transplant. Unreal.

New music coming our way this Tuesday. The CD I am looking forward to the most is the new Counting Crows album. Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings promises to be everything and more than Recovering Satellites was. That's saying something. Other new tunes coming Tuesday include Justin Townes Earle's Good Life, Panic! At the Disco's Pretty. Odd, and a live Lindsay Buckingham album.

Other newsworthy music--do you all know who Gran Bel Fisher is? Go figure it out, you'll thank me later.

I've been watching Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip on DVD lately and I forgot about the last episode, unbelievably brave. Wonderful show. They do in fact call President Bush Skippy McDumbass. And this was before the tap dance...

Randy Stapilus pointed out an article in The Hill noting Senator Craig's promise to retire. Yes, we're glad we didn't see Senator Wide-stance didn't take that back, too, like he did that promise back in August to resign. I'm kind of wondering if we have the wrong guy pegged with the title "Skippy McDumbass."

Still nothing new in the world of television. I think there may be a new episode of CSI: Miami this week, but otherwise if you're not a fan of college basketball you better enjoy drama in syndication.

Oh, oh, I almost forgot about the greatest discovery of this week. There is a great website called Idaho Meanderings: Steunenberg, Trial of the Century, Labor, Legal, Political History. Yes, long name, but I assure you it is amazing and worth the suffering through the name. The creator is the great grandson of former Idaho Governor Steunenberg and the site is absolutely amazing. For all of you interesting in Idaho history and even if you're not, go visit this site. You'll not only learn something, you'll enjoy learning something. You will find a link to Idaho Meanderings in Friends, Finds, and Favorites on the sidebar until I move it to the Here We Have Idaho section.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Filing Deadline

With the 5 pm deadline now passed in Idaho, we seem to have a pretty good idea of who is running come November.

The Secretary of State's website has the complete list.

A few jokes: Dave Archuleta jumping into the Senate race against Larry LaRocco who has been running this race for centuries now; Clayton "God will strike you dead" Cramer in District 22; Ralph Lillig against Diane Bilyeu in District 29 (seriously Lillig, you didn't have a chance in the Pocatello City Council race--Bilyeu is out of your league); and, Christ Troupis.

A few surprises: I'm very happy to see Sharon Fisher throwing her hat into the ring; Interesting entries in both District 29 and 30 (i.e. James Dorman (?), Kirk Kirkham, and Kent Hansen) and I'm wondering if there is a Ruchti/Kirkham family feud because wasn't it Rich Kirkham last time?; One David Sneddon against Simpson (with a primary lined up with Debbie Holmes); and, Calvin Leman, 'nuf said.

And holy hell is there a pack running for Larry Craig's open seat. In addition to LaRocco and Archuleta, there's a libertarian, two independents (Rex Rammell and Pro Life, yes that is his legal name), and count them, eight Republicans. Sounds like the Republicans aren't too thrilled with the idea of Jim Risch getting the Republican nod for this one.

My favorites? Well, first of all, a huge thanks goes to Neil Williams. I don't know who this fellow is, but it's about time we stop letting the now majority leader get so damn comfy in the statehouse (er...annex). Second prize goes to Scott McClure who has the guts to run against Dean Cameron. Those good ole boys in Magic Valley are even more comfortable than Bart Davis and they need to squirm a little. Next time around there better be some candidates to give Denton Darrington and Scott Bedke a run for their money. That'll secure the favorite award next time!

In Idaho I have a hard time looking at uncontested races like those of Fred Wood and Dennis Wood with much disappointment. Both are very good guys. And it helps that Dr. Wood was kind enough to stitch up my finger when I tried to slice it off when I was making a cheese sandwich in the second grade. Sure, they are Republicans, sure they aren't voting the way I would like them too, but they try to work with Democrats and they are decent, trustworthy legislators.

And the best news that came with the filing deadline? Allen R. Andersen, the current chairman of the Bannock County Democrats, has jumped into a race he is very familiar with--the one against Ken Andrus. There are few men, much less politicians that I respect more than Allen Andersen. This is his third race against Andrus (Andrus unseated him in 2004, Andersen lost barely in 2006 in an attempt to get his seat back) and I have to say if there is a single person in this state 100% prepared for the race it is Allen Andersen. He does his homework and will campaign harder than any other candidate in the field. His only weakness in the eyes of voters is that the D stands behind his name instead of an R. I've never met a person who doesn't like Allen Andersen.

Now that we know who is in the race, ready, set, go!

No Love for Lofton

With opening day approaching, it seems one of the better veteran players in baseball is without a spot on any roster.

Last year, you may remember, the big trade of Lofton to the Indians clinched their position in post-season play. Lofton is every post-season team's dream--quick on his feet (still), great under pressure, and the kind of leader every clubhouse needs.

And now, with opening day only three days away his best offers are a minor league spot for the Reds or a mediocre contract with the Rays. Pretty sad for a guy who is a staple in baseball and received one of the most watched sponsorships in baseball last season.

Kenny Lofton would be a great addition to any team hoping to add strength and speed to their lineup. His on base percentage is competitive and he remains an excellent lead off choice.

Will Lofton have a spot? It really is coming down to the wire.

There may be a place for him in Los Angeles, but they don't need to be another outfielder heavy. He would be spending quality time on the bench. I would really like for Bobby Cox to pick him up. He would be a great veteran to add to the mix of Glavine, Smoltz, and Jones (Chipper that is) who are really firing up the younger crew they've acquired in their last several seasons. The Braves have their own roster problems as well--last I checked they still hadn't found a spot for the veteran Julio Franco who wants nothing more than to play until he is 50 (which could potentially happen if he's on a roster until August 23rd).

It is beginning to look like there isn't much love for the veterans of the game these days.

On Repeat

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Baseball Milestones

My fantasy baseball team is stacked with my favorite players. Either I have mad draft skills or my team this year is seriously going to suck. I got every last person I asked for.

There will be plenty of milestones in store this season. Maybe even more than last year with Bonds and Biggio.

The 2008 season may very well see Ken Griffey Jr. get 600 home runs. If I am remembering correctly, he's seven away. That's a reason to watch the Reds. One of very few. We may also see Manny Ramirez of the Red Sox hit the 500 home run mark. This, like Griffey's milestone, is going to happen.

Something I am less happy to be around to see is Gary Sheffield (now of the Detroit Tigers) make it to the 500 home runs mark. Can't stand that man.

Everybody can be happy to watch Albert Pujols hit 300 with the Cardinals. As far as I can tell he is just a good guy and somebody most of baseball likes.

I'd rather not mention any current Yankee, but Derek Jeter is 144 hits away from 2,500. He very well could make 3,000 in his career. Of course, injuries could play into the short stops' stats.

In the world of pitching, John Smoltz can and will reach 3,000 strike outs. His former colleague Greg Maddux will hit 350 wins. I have no idea what the status of Randy Johson is, but he could make 300 wins, he's not far off, but his age will be the determining factor here. The recent phenom Johan Santana will make 100 wins with his new team the Mets. I'm happy to watch the Mets anytime. And somewhat amazingly, Jason Isringhausen of the Cardinals will have 300 saves by the end of the season.

Of all of these, I'll be watching Maddux and Smoltz the closest, but it will be a great day in baseball when Griffey hits his milestone. The Kid still has it and has been enjoyable to watch every single game of his career.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Five Years

"Yet not a hundred people in that battle knew for what they fought, or why; not a hundred of the inconsiderate rejoicers in the victory, why they rejoiced. Not half a hundred people were the better for the gain or loss. Not half-a-dozen men agree to this hour on the cause or merits; and nobody, in short, ever knew anything distinct about it, but the mourners of the slain."
-- From The Battle of Life by Charles Dickens

What Ya'll Been Waitin' For

Hillary Clinton has released her papers from her time as First Lady. It should be said that the National Archives released these papers, not Mr. or Mrs. Clinton themselves. But for those who have been calling for this since the beginning, they aren't really interested in the archival details...

It's Only Wednesday and I'm in Love (My Apologies to The Cure)

Last night I had some friends over to watch Studio 60. We didn't all get to see the entire series when it first aired, so we get together from time to time to watch. In one of the episodes last night, both Christine Lahti and Sting guest starred. My thoughts immediately went to this song, this video, this collaboration. Beautiful.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Taking Out the Trash

I noticed today that I had a nice backlog of posts I had started and left in draft stage for whatever reason. About ten, unfinished, unpublished posts. In an effort to clean up my account, I am hereby calling this array of "stuff" an official taking out the trash day.

In no particular order:

Did you know that pillows are only meant to last for 18 months? Evidently there have been studies of what lives in our pillows. Fungi and mites. I'm sleeping better already. Geez. I was reading something about which kind of pillows are best for different people (I'm working on my sleep hygiene) and there was a link to this piece about all sorts of pillows. All types of material, all sorts of firmness, it is bizarre really the number of pillows there are out there. Maybe my ignorance about pillows speaks volumes about my quality of sleep in general.

There is a very interesting case before the United States Supreme Court right now about gun ownership, specifically handguns. I've been following it closely not because I care about my own rights to gun ownership, but because in the 216 years of its existence, the Supreme Court has yet to offer a legal definition for the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court has from time to time visited many of the other amendments, the first the most, and the fourteenth and fifteenth with the most significant rulings, but never the second amendment. At least not in the sense of defining for us what exactly our right to "keep and bear Arms" is. The case deals with gun ownership (handgun ownership) in D.C.

Oh no, no, no...Keith Olbermann just made a reference to the magnitude of speeches and the "sitting down" of Lincoln at Gettysburg in 1864. Oh no, no, no... It was 1863. November 19th to be precise.

There's been a letter to the editor floating in my account for awhile that I wanted to post on, but really whoever this person is does not deserve my analysis. He or she does, however, deserve my sharing this with everyone because it makes me chuckle. From the 1/4/08 Idaho Statesman:
Save tax dollars for those in need, execute murders

Idaho's elite resort club. It's all Free - lodging, three meals a day, cable TV, gym, library, clothing, laundry service, all medical, prescriptions and dental. How do you join this elite club? Just go out and murder someone like the young man that just stabbed his mother to death just because she was home. Most Americans would die (no pun intended) for these types of benefits. It will cost us taxpayers about $60,000 a year to house this young man in Idaho's prison. If he lives to 80 that will cost us $3.8 million. Now who is really getting punished? Him or us taxpayers? Save our taxes for the people that need it and use the death penalty. There should be no such thing as life in Idaho's elite resort club.

Val Rivers, Boise
The "execute murders" mistake was the authors, not mine. This editorial was followed by one titled, "Jesus would offer redemption to murderers."

Another editorial I spotted awhile back and really wanted to respond to with my own letter to the editor, but I haven't had the time or the patience for this stupidity, comes to us via the Twin Falls Times-News:
WWII internment camp was right to do

Regarding the letter from Ken Akagi in the Feb. 5 Times-News:

While I would hesitate to spar with one who is of the Japanese extraction, let me remind you that not all American citizens are loyal to the United States.

What is true is that many persons who were born in or had families in Japan are indeed very loyal to their country of birth, particularly when those family values have been instilled in them for centuries.

I feel that President Roosevelt and those who advised him did the only correct thing in establishing internment camps after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.

I will not verify the facts you state; it would be impossible to verify them - who is alive today to question or even argue the point with your College of Southern Idaho history professors, many of whom were probably not even born during that war?

History often changes what the facts were through the years.

As for there being 100-plus Japanese-American citizens who died fighting for the USA, what can I say? After all, there was well over a million Americans of every ethnic imaginable who died while fighting for this country. I salute them all no matter their race.

I believe that there should not be a special memorial such as the Hunt-Minidoka Camp in Idaho nor for any other internment camp in the United States. Let their names be remembered, yes, but as Americans who fought for and died for their country, along with the other millions of American men and women who fought and died.

In time of wars, what is the best for the country is not always best for the few. A decision was made, carried out and now, some 77 years later, is still being treated as if it was the wrong thing to do. It was not.


Some people. Makes me crazy. Problem is, most of the people who make me crazy are all in the same neck of the woods!

Obama on Race

This morning Senator Barack Obama, candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency, is giving a watershed speech on the role of race in this presidential campaign. The full text follows:

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough.” We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild.”

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

“I’m here because of Ashley.” By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

The full text came via the Drudge Report first and will appear on the Obama for America campaign website at some point today.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Which Is More Disgusting?

If you follow the comment thread following this disgusting story in the Idaho Statesman, you will quickly see why I am asking.

I want to know which of these idiots is the most disgusting. The commentators go from a light-hearted discussion of this being an after-the-fact abortion, to shooting this guy in the head, to a commentary on Viagra.

Guys like Ortiz make me physically sick, stories like these make me thank God I survived childhood.

And the rest of these thirty-plus knuckleheads who commented and didn't seem to grasp the seriousness of this story need to take a hard look at the statistics on infant homicide--8% of every 100,000 infants born in the United States are killed, in most cases by their parents. Once they can stomach those numbers they need to take a look at the statistics on Shaken Baby Syndrome. Disgusting doesn't do it justice.

Somewhere there must be a study of how many instances of infant homicide, Shaken Baby Syndrome, child abuse, and neglect occur in non-traditional families (i.e. adoptive families and foster families).

Surely one of the jackasses who called this situation of Ortiz killing his own child an after-the-fact abortion believes that abortion is absolutely wrong and that it is murder. Surely one of the jackasses who commented doesn't get the fact that some people make shitty parents. Surely one of the jackasses who used those horrific words thinks that all children should be brought into this world no matter what. Maybe not. Maybe the six-week old son of Mr. Ortiz who was killed, I refuse to print the exact words of Mr. Ortiz about the "incident" as the Statesman did, didn't need to be brought into that situation.

As long as there are stories like this, I will continue to believe that in the matter of abortion there are no absolutes.

Monday, Monday

Written by Sarah Buxton, Deanna Bryant, Dave Berg

Sunday, March 16, 2008

My Musical Journey

What, no smorgasbord? Sorry folks, I didn't get to it yesterday. I'd like to say I had better things to do, but mostly I was obsessively worrying about things I cannot change and writing papers.

However, my fluffy music post of Thursday seemed to be a nice compromise for those tired of hearing about Idaho legislative matters. And surprisingly it elicited a few responses. The first being to listen to the soundtrack from Once, which I have and now love. The second and third being Dean Martin related.

To begin with let me say, I have absolutely nothing against Dean Martin. Just as I have nothing against Pink Floyd. It is just that neither are in my daily play list nor a huge part of my CD collection. I have the recently released Dean Martin collection and Saucer Full of Secrets, The Wall, and Relics by Pink Floyd. On the average I have listed to one of those four once a year. I am not ruling out any possibilities, but I don't think I'm going to wake up tomorrow with the sudden desire for a Dean Martin overdose.

Perhaps further explanation is needed. My grandparents love Dean Martin. I love my grandparents. Therefore, when I was younger and living with them I listened to what they listened to without complaint. I have had my fill of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Horton, Johnny Cash, Gene Autry and Anne Murray for one lifetime. The one hold over and love I developed during this period was for Ray Charles.

My musical journey really began there.

I now have a 300-disc CD player, somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 CDs, 3,000 songs on my computer, and an iPod shuffle so I can be sure to at least listen to some of all that music fairly randomly. Without the computer and the shuffle, I would listen to ten or so CDs only. Ten of my favorites that I can never get sick of.

Once I left the confinement of my grandparents' music selection, I didn't start out well. They were cassettes and they weren't good ones. Blackhawk, TLC, Guns n' Roses, Michael Jackson, and Joan Osborne. Don't even ask how I arrived at the decision that any of those belonged together, much less were any good.

I kind of ran with Joan Osborne. Moved on to Joni Mitchell (who I still love), Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lucinda Williams, and Emmylou Harris. Thankfully I never felt the need to listen to Dolly Parton!

Some time during junior high I discovered pop music. Boy bands, especially. I still like boy bands and I'm not afraid to admit that. Bubblegum pop, I think that's what those in the know call it. I expanded from there to include top 40 stuff and way too much country.

It must of been during the eighth grade year that I got Meredith Brooks banned from the house. That story I won't tell here, but even now when I listen to Meredith Brooks I feel like I'm being sneaky about it.

Once I hit high school my taste in music became much broader and sophisticated. I mean really, how had my life ever been worth living without Pearl Jam in it? I'm pretty sure my blogger profile lists my favorite artists--Pearl Jam is one of them, though I don't listen to them much these days. Eddie Vedder's voice soothes me and scares the living hell out of me in the same breath.

Around this time the music scene was flooded with really good bands. Lifehouse, Coldplay, Matchbox 20, The Wallflowers, Train, and a dozen others that I love. All of this was added to music I'd already discovered and fallen in love with--Springsteen, The Who, Dire Straits, Roy Orbison, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, etc.

My brother had quite a bit of influence on me when it came to this period of our lives. Today there is no way in hell I would take his advice on music. I'd be forced to listen to Justin Timberlake and some guy who goes by T-Pain. Ah, to be fifteen again.

Once I hit college I'd really become fond of Seven Mary Three, Collective Soul, and the Counting Crows.

The list continues to grow, but there are always those artists that I think were really introduced to me by Joan Osborne--Jewel, Lucinda Williams, Melissa Etheridge, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meredith Brooks, Joni Mitchell.

But no matter where my musical journey takes me, I will always have the standbys. The music I grew to love because the two people I loved were listening. I will forever listen to Ray Charles. I might throw on Charlie Parker because it was what my grandparents gave me to get me to learn the sax. And maybe one day I'll put on "Sioux City Sue" and think of times that were much simpler than today.

Friday, March 14, 2008

FISA and the Blue Dogs

Every once in awhile there comes good news via D.C. As always, mcjoan over at DailyKos has the final assessment of the day and the votes. My sincere appreciation goes to Joan for her continued coverage of the FISA fight!

An Executive Decision

Last night, or I should say this morning, around 3 a.m. I made the decision to not enroll in summer school.

Yes, decisions made at 3 a.m. are not generally the most sound, but after much thought today, I think this is the best decision for me.

For the past three summers I have enrolled in summer courses. Last summer was a disaster as I hadn't properly healed from the events of the spring. The summer before that I had a great couple of classes and I enjoyed it. The summer before that was the summer of the three hours a day comparative politics course from hell. Luckily I had a class on the American Presidency that same semester or I would not have survived.

It is time for a summer off.

I haven't had a summer off from school since the summer between my freshman and sophomore years--the summer I went to Dallas and didn't have a job when I came home. That summer was bizarre. I painted a lot. Napped a lot. Read a lot. Was so unbelievably lonely living in a three bedroom apartment by myself with nothing more than a bottle of mustard in my fridge.

I should add that this was not an easy decision to come by because this means I will not be taking a graduate level class on the U.S. Constitutional Convention. However, I'm sure the professor would let me sit in from time to time and I would get the basics of the course without the obligation of doing any work whatsoever.

Though I won't be taking classes, I still will be on campus every day as I hope the lack of classes will allow me to focus on the formalities of wrapping up the Stallings Papers and preparing for the great adventure of writing my Master's thesis.

Also, since I first became involved with the Stallings Collection in January of 2006, I have never caught up. I have been behind in every one of my classes since then. It will be nice to not have that overwhelming feeling of needing to catch up.

Of course this executive decision rides on my Biology 100 grade and successful passage...

IdahoRocks on HB 516

IdahoRocks offers up another perspective on House Bill 516, currently stalled in the Idaho Legislature.

IdahoRocks has a post up tonight outlining the relevance (and increasing irrelevance) of both the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency in the continuing war on drugs and how these departments are being overlooked in the current discussion as Idaho looks (quite daftly) at current drug laws. These agencies are being neglected as are the judicial powers of sitting judges who do not have the option of choosing treatment for nonviolent drug offenders over incarceration. 

My letters to Representative Clark and Senator Darrington urging that this legislation be unearthed and heard in committee are on their way. Are yours?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Another Fluffy Music Post

For the sake of my mental health I thought this evening I would post a list of music I've been listening to this week. I certainly haven't been sleeping...
  • Harbor...Vienna Teng
  • I Still Ain't Over You...Augustana
  • Up All Night...Charlotte Martin
  • Arch Drive Goodbye...Eve 6
  • You Can't Take Him Away...Anne Heaton
  • Windows...Josh Dodes Band
  • Listening to Levon...Marc Cohn
  • Feel the Silence...Goo Goo Dolls
  • Scars...Papa Roach
  • Memory Picture...Terami Hirsch
  • These Hard Times...Matchbox Twenty
  • Alone...Dan Miller
  • More Than a Memory...Garth Brooks
  • Pills...Gary Jules
  • I Wish the Best for You...Emerson Hart
  • Save Me...Ellen Tipper
  • Someday Never Comes...Brandi Carlile
  • Lightning Crashes...LIVE
  • My Sundown...Jimmy Eat World
  • Lies...Glen Hansard (from the Once soundtrack)
My grandparents gave me a Dean Martin CD recently. I think there is about as much of a chance of me falling in love with Dean Martin as there has been of me falling in love with Pink Floyd.


There is nothing more heart wrenching than watching someone you love battle an addiction.

There is guilt--the constant wondering if there was something you could do to help them down a different path. There is anger--anger when you least expect it directed at anyone who fails to grasp the seriousness and pain of addiction. Oh, the anger. There is the anger at the addict, an anger matched only by the disappointment. There is denial. Denial occurs on so many levels. The addict denies the addiction. The children of addicts deny the reality of the problem. The mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers deny the severity.

How can a person you love so much be so deeply entrenched in an addiction that is tearing everyone apart? Can't they see the damage?

There is nothing that stabs as deep as realizing the one you love has taken pills from your medicine chest, stolen your money to buy their next high, and lied to your face when asked if they're using. It is the addiction speaking, acting, being.

Addiction is loss of control in its most intense form. Addiction is a prison in itself. Addiction is having your heart ripped out time and time again. Watching the relapse being worse and more terrifying than watching the detox.

If there is one group of people that needs our understanding, support, and compassion it is those members of our society who have been sucked into an addiction that requires aggressive intervention, perhaps divine, so that they, their families, and their children can heal.

Addiction isn't about one person who made a choice to abuse drugs. Addiction is about the road the families of addicts travel all the while praying their loved ones will survive the journey back from the razor's edge.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Merits of House Bill 516

What legislators blocking House Bill 516 in the Idaho Legislature want you to believe is that without properly enforced mandatory minimums for drug offenses, our families and communities will erode. What they are not saying is what happens to our families and communities when drug offenders are locked up for three to twenty-five years without treatment and return to their lives only to relapse.

The problem with Idaho law in regard to drug offenses is the lack of distinction between drugs. On the books there is no distinction made between a man operating a meth lab in a house with minors and a man picked up with a prescription narcotic not prescribed to him. The problem with Idaho law is that both men, once arrested, will face three to twenty-five years in our overcrowded state prison system and may or may not receive any treatment for their addiction.

Studies by various treatment centers and the United States Department of Health and Human Services suggest that 4 million women, including mothers, in the United States abuse drugs. 4 million women. 4 million women who are wives, mothers, sisters, and friends. Those 4 million women addicted to drugs, prescription or otherwise, are impacting the lives of 16 million plus Americans. The impact is infinite. Unfortunately, in some cases, these women have never been convicted of a crime, have no past history of violence or distribution, but have become engulfed in an addiction they cannot break. Three to twenty-five years in prison will break the physical addiction, it will also break up families, break hearts, and break the resolve of those who want nothing more than to beat the addiction and be successful, productive members of society.

The purpose of House Bill 516 is:
The purpose of this legislation is to provide treatment focused alternative sentencing for certain mandatory minimum sentences. This legislation will allow judges, where appropriate, to sentence those whose crime was primarily the result of addiction, to a treatment focused track so as to more effectively rehabilitate offenders, reduce recidivism and slow growth in Idaho's non-violent offender population.
If Senator Denton Darrington and Representative Jim Clark have their way, House Bill 516, a bill that would give discretion to sitting judges to determine in which drug offense cases treatment is appropriate, will not see the light of day. It will have been printed and no one will ever read its contents.

This piece of legislation is merely adding the following provisions:
  • A person guilty of an offense determined by the court to be primarily the result of addiction may be sentenced pursuant to section 19-2513, Idaho Code, if a treatment plan pursuant to section 19-2524, Idaho Code, is included as a condition of the sentence.
  • A person guilty of an offense determined by the court to be primarily the result of addiction may be sentenced pursuant to section 19-2513, Idaho Code, if a treatment plan pursuant to section 19-2524, Idaho Code, is included as a condition of the sentence.
  • Annually, the supreme court and the department of correction shall include in their report to the joint finance-appropriations committee, the senate judiciary and rules committee and the house judiciary, rules and administration committee and the governor information on the availability of resources for sentencing alternatives outlined in this section including, but not limited to, the number available and the need for the following resources:
    • (a) Adequately trained probation and parole officers;
      (b) Transitional beds in work release centers and other residential transitional facilities in the seven (7) public health districts or six (6) judicial districts of the state;
      (c) Educational, psychological, vocational, mental health and substance abuse programming personnel in community-based programs and in correctional facilities, including county jails;
      (d) Drug and alcohol assessment specialists, rehabilitation specialists and case managers;
      (e) Spaces in residential therapeutic community programs or other evidence-based intensive treatment and rehabilitation programs in correctional facilities as provided by the department of correction, or in community-based settings as provided by the department of health and welfare.
Especially telling--the fiscal impact statement for this bill:
There is no fiscal impact under this legislation. There may however be a reduction to some extent the number of offenders sentenced to additional years in Idaho correctional institutions under Idaho's mandatory minimum sentences. Shorter sentences and reductions in recidivism will free prison beds, reduce the need for prison space, and create cost savings, while more effectively rehabilitating offenders and returning them to productive lives.
How is this not a win-win situation for the Idaho criminal justice system and everyday Idahoans?

The reason certain Idaho legislators don't see this bill as a win-win for Idaho is two-fold: First, their pride would be wounded if they backed away from the mandatory minimums they wrote and set. Second, they continue to see all drug offenders as violent criminals who deserve nothing but incarceration.

Not all drug offenses are violent, not all drug offenders are lifetime criminals. Sadly, many drug offenders in this state and others are simply everyday men and women who cannot release themselves from the frightening depths of addiction. Not without treatment and unfortunately, not by simply locking them up.

If you don't believe what I have said about those who are in this category of offenders or about drug addiction and what it does to families and communities, read the stories of those who have recovered from addiction through treatment, not incarceration.