Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Fringe

Zeb's on the air this morning rattling on about taking the law into his own hands, the representative from the Cassia County Citizen's Academy, Sgt. Peggy Marizza, doesn't know what to say to him. Completely speechless. But by damn, Zeb has the right to protect his property!

The insanity and outright absurdity of people has been excessive lately. Maybe it's just me. Or maybe the guy waving goodbye to ol' time religion in the Times-News today really is crazy. The scary part is, the crazies have plenty of representation in the Idaho Statehouse. Rep. Steve Hartgen to name just one, there are plenty to choose from.

More and more I'm saying to myself the things the "fringe" progressive bloggers have been saying for years. Yes, BinkyBoy, I'm sorry I ever doubted your intelligence. Please forgive me. And ravenbran, whoever he is, was my hero yesterday. Wow, this really is the fringe.

On the fringe or not, I'm taking a few days off (yes, AGAIN) to wrap up some things and start on other projects that I'm awfully behind on. TGIF Tunes will appear tomorrow as usual and I'll return at the beginning of next week.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Zeb the Violent Vigilante



If you don't think Zeb Bell is dangerous, you're wrong. This, in Zeb's own proud words, is exactly the kind of behavior that Zeb Bell advocates on his radio show "Zeb at the Ranch." This violent vigilantism is not only common place on Zeb's show, it is a shared opinion by conservative extremists and these folks think the government should be thanking them for pulling guns on illegal immigrants and holding them against their will. Yes, thanking them.

"Creative Reconstruction Efforts"

Along side an article by Mark Bowman of MLB.com is a photo caption that reads: Braves president John Schuerholz is happy with GM Frank Wren's creative reconstruction efforts. "Creative reconstruction efforts"? It's gonna be a loooong season...

When It Matters

I like to think that some politicians don't speak out both sides of their mouth. However, I'm finding it harder and harder to believe that of the newly elected Democratic congressman in Idaho's first district.

From Congressman Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) in response to Obama's speech to Congress last night:
"Like all Idahoans, I join the president in a commitment to work together. These times are too tough and there is too much to be done to linger over the points where we differ. Instead we must look to the areas where we agree...Our children need more opportunities to create their own successful future."
Sure, a shared commitment to work together is a great talking point and if genuine, a great goal, however, given Minnick's recent vote on H.R. 911 (Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2009), I am having an awfully hard time believing that our children's successful future is an actual goal or priority.

What is it about H.R. 911 that makes it so hard to vote for? Walt Minnick must be the only Democrat who knows because he certainly was the only Democrat who voted against it. Yes, of the 102 votes against this legislation, Walt Minnick was the only Democrat who voted no. And surprisingly, my congressman here in Idaho's second district, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), voted in favor of this bill. Yes, 64 Republican members of congress voted in favor of this legislation.

In addition to every other Democrat beside Walt Minnick voting in the affirmative and 64 Republican votes for the legislation, H.R. 911 was also supported by the Community Alliance for the Ethical Treatment of Youth, the National Youth Rights Association, the U.S. Department of Education and various child abuse prevention organizations.

Minnick's vote on the stimulus bill was understandable, regrettable, but politically understandable if he is indeed thinking today about reelection in 2010. His vote on H.R. 911 is simply unacceptable.

If the argument is that government has a limited place in the private life of citizens, I would argue that this is where government has a place. Children should be protected, regardless of the cost or the size of government. As each of the previously listed organizations will point out, safe kids are far more likely to be successful members of society. Children who do not grow up in abusive environments, whether that be in private single-family homes, state-run hospitals/centers or privately operated facilities, are far more likely to lead lives absent from criminal activity. Children raised in safe environments are far more likely to finish high school and they go on to receive college degrees.

Idaho needs a Democrat and I realize that being one in the first district is no easy task but Idaho needs a Democrat who votes like one, albeit even occasionally. Even Mike Simpson realized that H.R. 911 matters to Idahoans; H.R. 911 matters to kids.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The New Media

This "keyboard coward" has many a writing project due this week and I'm afraid the blogging has to be light. However, I wanted to bring a piece by Rory O'Connor, author of Shock Jocks: Hate Speech & Talk Radio, to your attention. If you missed part one, "Word of Mouse" is still available on O'Connor's site. Take a look.

And while I'm on the topic of new media, I wanted to provide some links to various posts available from fellow bloggers:

And in case you missed it yesterday, from the mainstream media comes this write-up of a visit to Twin Falls by former NPR "Morning Edition" host Bob Edwards. I personally don't believe that reviving the Fairness Doctrine is the answer to the ills of talk radio and more and more I find watching/listening to MSNBC just as tedious as watching/listening to Fox News.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

On My Radar

While sitting here watching the worst Oscars telecast I've ever seen (despite Hugh Jackman's talent and his hosting effort) and working on various academic writing projects, here's a list of links that caught my eye today:

  • The Washington Post had an interesting article regarding student financial aid and the stimulus package. An excerpt: "The plan also will add $200 million to the $1.1 billion work-study budget, allowing tens of thousands more students to earn an average of $1,479 to help pay their tuition."
  • Is this a Christian nation? Leonard Hitchcock, professor emeritus at Idaho State University, explores this question on the political blog of the Idaho State Journal. Finally a piece that does not confuse the text of the Declaration of Independence with the United States Constitution!
  • The Times-News out of Twin Falls plays haven to all sorts of wingnuts on their editorial/opinion page, today was no exception. The headings for today's opinions included "Immigrants should learn English" and "Idaho should refuse bailout funds," but the scariest wingnut of them all? Rep. Maxine Bell (R-Jerome) graces the opinion page with another Republican assault on public education. Evidently her partners in crime (Bedke & Darrington) were too busy rejecting pleas for human rights to take out public education with Ms. Bell. Go read the piece, it's a trip.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Smorgasbord Saturday

Another week gone, another Saturday here. Thankfully Major League Baseball has begun spring training, steroid allegations and discussions aside, and the World Baseball Classic is around the corner. Thankfully there are things to look forward to.

Some weeks it is awfully hard to live in the reddest of states. Not only is the ridiculous commentary easily printed and too-well read in the local papers, the statehouse neglects human rights because of the insane and dangerous influence of extremist lobbyists and the IVA, our sitting U.S. Senator lies to the legislature and covers by saying it was a misstatement and the stimulus bill is entirely too large and tedious to read, oh, and the national Republicans think the way to solve the waining status of the party is to introduce a little hip-hop. And my hometown state senator finally got something right, but he continues to cry foul when it comes to government intervention. In the reddest of states we must remember that government has a limited place. Too much government will always be too much government in these parts, except for the farmers, of course.

The biggest, most glitzy award show of the year is coming to ABC tomorrow night. Yes, the Oscars are here! Usually I have a ballot printed off with my picks, who I want to win, who I think will win, etc. Haven't done that yet as I've had company, a day of recovering from four trigger point injections, and other work to attend to. However, my hope is for a night that finally honors the great Kate Winslet, if Mickey Rourke must win his speech can't be nearly as crazy as his Golden Globes speech was, and please, please give an award to the amazing David Hare. As if writing an screenplay, adapted from a novel isn't hard enough, think about the level of difficulty in adapting a book by Bernhard Schlink. I am a bit afraid that the drama behind distribution for The Reader will sink its chances in the best picture category. Not into any of this years films? Check out this great piece by Mark Harris for Smithsonian.

The Roland Burris ship is sinking. Sinking fast. Did we really expect much else from a senator appointed under such circumstances? And a senator who thinks he was preordained by God for the position? A note to Burris staff: Jump!

Last, but not least, here's a rundown of new movies, music and books on the horizon that I'm anxiously awaiting (sorry, no list of what I'm listening to yet, as of the moment I'm listening to good friends get ready for the day and cornflakes pour majestically into a bowl): The eighth addition to the Women's Murder Club series by James Patterson, The 8th Confession, will be on store shelves in April--here's hoping it isn't as disappointing as the most recent addition to the Alex Cross series; Religulous is here, but I haven't got my hands on a copy yet; Holly Hunter returns to television soon, very soon, March 2nd to be exact, on TNT's original series Saving Grace; A cd I haven't picked up yet, but have on my list is the debut album from Glasvegas; and, coming soon to music stores, iTunes and wherever else you purchase your tunes--U2's No Line on the Horizon, the deluxe, remastered addition of Pearl Jam's Ten, a new Keith Urban album, the Unstoppable Rascal Flatts (both Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban remind me that I'm loving Jack Ingram these days), and finally a full release from the ever-talented Vienna Teng.

There you have it, another smorgasbord full of what else? Baseball, politics, books, movies and tunes!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Quote of the Day, Week, Month and/or Year

pa tience ˈpā sh əns
noun
1 A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.
-- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another Round of Absurdity

After reading Albert Camus' essay "The Myth of Sisyphus" last night, I thought it rather fitting to link to absurdity in the news.
  • The Village Idiot says Idahoans should shout at their representatives: "Thanks, But No Thanks!" We don't want your stinkin' money... Right.
  • Congressman Minnick said WHAT?!
  • Senator Crapo is the spinmaster, not Senator Risch? Yikes.
  • Fairness is coming! Fairness is coming! Yes, another op-ed about the potential return of the Fairness Doctrine.
  • Too much of the same on the editorial page? Welcome to the world of red states, Mr. Sullivan.
  • Think you're anonymous in Texas? Think again.

Even though my fellow blogger Bubblehead (who is in my thoughts this week as he undergoes surgery for the stomach cancer he's going to beat the hell out of) says when all else fails to revel in the absurdity of it all, this is a bunch of absurdity I just can't revel in. In fact, this kind of absurdity makes me crazy!

Monday, February 16, 2009

TDIH: Henry Brooks Adams

"No mind is so well balanced as to bear the strain of seizing unlimited force without habit or knowledge of it; and finding it disputed with him by hungry packs of wolves and hounds whose lives depend on snatching the carrion." -- The Education of Henry Adams

Any discussion of political dynasties often refers to the politically successful and culturally influential line beginning with John Adams, the second president of the United States. John and Abigail Adams were American patriots, John a founding father and Abigail a woman remembered for her support of her husband, the American Revolution and her children. One of those children, John Quincy, would go on to be the sixth president of the United States.

However, sometimes overlooked in this political dynasty is the grandson of John Quincy, one Henry Adams. Henry Adams' father, Charles Francis Adams, Sr. studied law with one of the greatest orators in American history, Daniel Webster (Secretary of State, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate), served as ambassador to Great Britain, served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and the Mass. Senate, and ended his political career as a member of the U.S. House. Charles Adams offered his son Henry an example of public service that his own father had offered him, an example of public service that had continued down a long line of men carrying proudly with them the surname of Adams.

On this day in 1838, Henry Brooks Adams was born a Bostonian.

Like any good and well-read Adams, he would attend Harvard, travel through Europe (even attend the University of Berlin), and practice law. Like his grandfather, Henry would serve as a private secretary abroad. His service for his father allowed him the opportunity to consider how his talents and education would best be used for the betterment of the nation. While across the Atlantic, serving under his father in Great Britain, two events were the decisive factors in young Henry's life when he would pave his future path as an American journalist and historian rather than an American politician like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. The first being his reading of John Stuart Mill, a reading that convinced him knowledge among the elite was just as important to representative democracy as was their eventual service. The second event was an opportunity to serve as an anonymous correspondent for the New York Times.

The anonymous writings of Henry Adams would serve an important purpose as his portrayal of Britain and the British role in the American Civil War would influence many Union leaders. Upon his return to Boston, Henry Adams knew his place in society was as a journalist and historian.

The writings of Henry Adams exposed political corruption, explored the history of democracy and offered explanations on the most tedious of topics for the general public. Henry Adams may have been one of the first historians to write for a lower-class audience in an effort to educate them of the mistakes of their own history.

Adams wrote novels, taught history at Harvard, traveled the world, wrote a history of the United States, led the "Five of Hearts" and served as president of the American Historical Association (AHA). And his work, The Education of Henry Adams won the Pulitzer Prize in 1919, a year after Adams' death and the commercial publication of the book he wished to be only among friends until after his death.

I haven't always wanted to be an historian. In fact, my love for history has been a life-long affair, but it wasn't until I was in the second year of my collegiate career that I even entertained the idea of studying history. At the time I didn't understand what an historian actually did, what they studied or how they fit into the larger societal scheme. In fact, had it not been for an English class and one English professor who sought to mold students as an artist molds clay, I may never have ended up in the field of history at all. Upon the mention of The Education of Henry Adams in an abbreviated summary of American literature, I immediately found a copy and read the non-fiction work cover-t0-cover in the time frame of one weekend. When I finished The Education of Henry Adams I knew exactly what an historian does. It isn't a career that you arrive at every morning and depart the evening. It is an entire mindset, an approach to the past, present and future that is unique to the field and those who choose to study within that field.

Henry Adams, one of the greatest historical minds in this nation's history, taught me what a real historian is. I think I'll celebrate his birthday today.

Friday, February 13, 2009

In absentia

Ladies and gentlemen, I am taking the entire President's Day weekend off from the 'tubes. Yes, I'm having a vacation...er...staycation. And no, I don't plan on doing anything exciting. I have some academic-related tasks to attend to, more graduate school applications actually and an essay or two for classes I couldn't finish while I had spinal surgery last semester. The economy and general status of higher education right now makes that first gig especially difficult. My continual battle with pain, inflammation and crookedness makes both jobs and especially my day job quite trying. The one positive thing I have to say about my general state of being lately is that for an eternal insomniac, I am sleeping better than I've ever slept in my entire life! Medication for a beat up body makes for a sleepy brain. Now if I could do something about that short-temper of mine... Enjoy your three day weekend (notice I don't call it a holiday?) and be safe!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Allegations & Asterisks

For those of us who truly love the game of baseball, the ongoing steroid investigations and allegations surrounding Major League Baseball in the news this week have been awfully hard to read and watch.

There is more to this for fans of the game than simply whether or not Alex Rodriguez used steroids in response to the pressure of being offered the biggest monetary contract in the history of professional sports. There is more to this for fans than whether or not players like Roger Clemens and Miguel Tejada were stupid enough to assume that their denials before a congressional committee would never be double checked or tested. There is more to this for fans than whether a court of law will agree to release a list of other players, some already listed in the Mitchell Report, some not, who used steroids during their careers. We love the game too much for the specifics of this scandal to really matter to us.

Realizing that the individual season home run record race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa revived baseball after a strike that nearly ended the professional sport for all time, it still isn't acceptable for either McGwire or Sosa to simply apologize for their usage of anabolic steroids. They owe thousands of kids an explanation. Thousands of kids became baseball fans watching that very home run race and they deserve to be apologized to and they deserve every benefit of an anti-steroid campaign. That cannot be the responsibility of the league alone. Make the guilty players pay for that campaign out of their own winnings. Make the guilty players, who wish to remain playing in the league, travel around to baseball towns offering clinics about baseball and educating kids on how disastrous steroid use is. If they want to continue playing in the league a simple apology isn't enough, sitting down with Peter Gammons and claiming your ignorance isn't enough, saying you've been under immense pressure is not enough. Make them pay for it.

There was an article written by a sports reporter for McClatchy that appeared in my local paper yesterday that proposed closing the doors to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown forever. Basically he proposed that the league simply shut the doors and never admit another professional baseball player again. The problem with this proposal is that there are still good and decent players who have been clean their entire career and have treated the game with the respect it deserves. What about a Cooperstown entry for them?

Baseball may be the laughing stock of professional sports these days, but this doesn't mean there aren't still good men playing the game because they love it. Asterisks or not, there are still plenty of young kids who love the game and look up to the players who suit up to play it.

It has been a hard and sad week for baseball fans, but the game remains fundamentally the game we love. This week seems to have made last week's celebration of Hammerin' Hank Aaron's 75th birthday all the more poignant and special.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

At Gunpoint

Roger Barnett, a rancher in Douglas, Arizona, is being sued by sixteen illegal immigrants who, while attempting to gain entrance into the United States, were held by him at gunpoint. Barnett notified the U.S. Border Patrol and held the immigrants on his property until the patrolmen arrived and properly detained them.

The Cross Rail Ranch, owned by Barnett, has long been the sight of various instances such as this. Barnett openly admits that he has been "rounding up" illegal immigrants and turning them over to the Border Patrol.

Of course, Zeb Bell, host of "Zeb at the Ranch" and known by many for alleging that he pulled a gun on an Hispanic man who plowed through a fence-line near Bell's house, could not let sleeping dogs lie. The transcript that follows is of a conversation that took place this morning between Bell and an unidentified caller.

Zeb: Let's get to the nitty-gritty on this. Your property--where do you live in the city or out in the country?
Caller: The country.
Zeb: Alright, how many acres have you got?
Caller: Oh, just five.
Zeb: Alright, five acres. Is it fenced?
Caller: Yes.
Zeb: Okay, we're going to start cutting that fence everyday. Everyday I'm going to walk through your property and I'm going to leave water bottles, I'm going to leave human filth, I'm going to leave all kinds of trash. If you fix the fence I'm gonna cut it every time you fix it. Aren't you gonna get a little frustrated?
Caller: Yeah on the second day, you're done. (Laughs)
Zeb: That's it. No, that's my point...
Caller: (Through fits of laughter) On the second day that, on the second day they'll be picking your body up just on this side of my fence.
Zeb: Yeah, but you see, this is my point. This has gone on for ten years and this man has had to weather the storm and the American government is not doing a thing to protect this man.
Caller: It's ridiculous. It's more...
Zeb: It's beyond that...
Caller: It's ludicrous, it's beyond words, Zeb.
Zeb: This man is having to put up all the money to protect himself in a so-called civil rights case where these people, they haven't got the civil rights we have as American citizens! I don't give a rip who calls, who gets mad, who wants to go nose-to-nose or face-to-face with me, this is common idiocy. This is retarded and it is absolutely unAmerican that we're not protecting this man.
Caller: Well I'm gonna be standing in front of you or beside you Zeb, one of the two.
Zeb: Alright, God bless you, man. Watch your fences.


God? What does God have to do with this? Yes, let's ask God to bless someone who so willingly admits if in a similar situation to that of Mr. Barnett he would indeed shoot the offender.

Believe me when I say it is rather unsettling to begin a morning with a statement that not only implies shooting another human being, but a statement that is also uttered in the midst of uncontrollable laughter.

Did Zeb talk him down? Nope. Did he ask the caller to clarify his intent? Nope. Why not? Pot, meet kettle. Zeb Bell agreed with this caller and he certainly sees nothing wrong with pulling a gun on an illegal immigrant. I encounter hate, racism and bigotry every single time I listen to Zeb's show. It may not result in violence on the part of his listeners, but do not for a second think his listeners are above that.

I'd like to remind Zeb Bell and his listeners that there is something called human rights. They tend to scream about it when they hear a story about abortion. And if this caller, like Zeb, is going to claim that he is a good Christian man who believes God's law is higher than man's law, maybe he and Zeb both need to take a better look at those ten commandments, you know, the ones they believe have a place in any public building, school, statehouse or otherwise. Last I checked there was something about refraining from taking the lives of others and others includes all human beings, not just Americans here legally.

Influence and the ISP

From time to time I find myself contemplating the general scope and influence of "Zeb at the Ranch" and ultimately resort to continuing my own reporting on what is being said by Zeb Bell and his listeners, if not for the sheer idiocy, for a better idea of how broad the influence of Bell actually is.

Just this morning, in the now weekly segment while the legislature is in session with Idaho Senator Denton Darrington (R-Declo), Zeb Bell proposed privatizing the Idaho State Police. Yes, he would like the police to open themselves up to corporate sponsorship so they can continue to have the budget necessary to operate throughout the state. Instead of raising taxes at all, he would rather the Idaho State Police be sponsored by corporations like Simplot. Yes, he'd like them to issue some sort of advertisement that states "Simplot supports the ISP."

Other than the obvious, I found it absolutely absurd that while Zeb Bell made this statement, he was neither shot down nor laughed at by Senator Darrington or this morning's guest hand-picked by Darrington, Jerry Russell the director of the, wait for it, Idaho State Police!

I am amazed that some of Zeb's most extreme proposals occur when he is talking with his legislative guests, yes, he has members of the Idaho Legislature on his show every week. Generally, Zeb's legislative guests are from Districts 26 and 27 and include: Representative Scott Bedke, Assistant Majority Leader (R-Oakley); Representative John Stevenson (R-Rupert); Representative Fred Wood (R-Burley); Senator Dean Cameron (R-Rupert); and of course, Senator Denton Darrington (R-Declo).

Do you think Zeb Bell has no influence outside of the Rupert area? I would beg to differ with that list of members of the Idaho Legislature. His "sphere of influence" is obviously much larger than his broadcast range.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A-Rod: Guilty As Charged

A rather rare event in Major League Baseball has occurred today, Alex Rodriguez the MVP third baseman for the New York Yankees has admitted he used steroids while playing for the Texas Rangers during 2001, 2002 and 2003 seasons.

As I said on Saturday, I am not at all surprised by the allegations, but I am quite surprised today that A-Rod admitted his mistake.

ESPN.com offers the following full interview transcript and video with their own Peter Gammons. Don't let the tears fool you:



Unfortunately, instead of admitting his mistake and owning up to it, he offers the following lame excuse:
"When I arrived in Texas in 2001, I felt an enormous amount of pressure. I felt like I had all the weight of the world on top of me, and I needed to perform -- and perform at a high level -- every day. Back then, it was a different culture. It was very loose. I was young, I was stupid, I was naive. I wanted to prove to everyone that I was worth being one of the greatest players of all-time. I did take a banned substance, and for that I'm very sorry. I'm deeply regretful."
What he isn't saying is that he signed a record-breaking contract with the Rangers when he was traded from the Mariners and he wanted to not only earn that ridiculous amount of money, but prove that he was worth that amount of money. As if his case isn't pathetic enough, he admits that he had no idea what was and wasn't being injected into his body at the time and it is hot in Texas. No, really?

There are statistics being compiled, as there always are in baseball, that seem to indicate the number of home runs hit by A-Rod during the period in which he played for the Rangers increased on average by ten per season in comparison to earlier seasons with the Mariners and his more recent seasons with the Yankees. His slugging percentage is also higher during that stretch.

Like my argument for Bonds, it is hard to say what may have been natural talent and what was talent enhanced by steroids. I wonder if A-Rod's career will be forever tainted by this news.

From here the road is uncertain. As of the moment, Rodriguez is scheduled to arrive at the Yankees spring training camp next week and he still holds that 10-year, $275 million contract with New York.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

TDIH: The Birth of Ruskin

TRUST thou thy Love: if she be proud, is she not sweet?
Trust thou thy Love: if she be mute, is she not pure?
Lay thou thy soul full in her hands, low at her feet;
Fail, Sun and Breath!--yet, for thy peace, She shall endure.

"Trust Thou Thy Love" by the great John Ruskin, a man who left his mark on art history and is not often remembered for his poetry, born one hundred and ninety years ago today in London, England.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

The conservative blogger is loving him a Democrat and a progressive blogger (one in a string) is annoyed with a Democrat. Can't possibly be that both politicians are masquerading in Democratic clothing while touting Republican ideals, can it?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Smorgasbord Saturday (The Baseball Edition)

Update 12:35 pm, 2/8/09: It appears that Andruw Jones has agreed to return to the minor leagues in an agreement with the Texas Rangers. I have never figured out what happened to Andruw's stellar career, but maybe this is the rebirth of his career as he has hoped. Also, Ryan Howard has agreed to a three0year fifty-four million dollar contract with the Phillies.

Sports Illustrated
online is reporting this morning that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for two anabolic steroids in 2003 while playing for the Texas Rangers. Pay-Rod or A-Fraud as he has come to be known by his detractors has had a rough couple of months as Madonna's marriage fizzled and he was implicated as the cause and while former Yankees skipper Joe Torre's book hits shelves with various statements about A-Rod not being a team player. However, as was stated in the SI story by John Hart (Texas Rangers' general manager in 2003 and now advisor to the Rangers), "the climate that we have today, you don't have much shock anymore." Unfortunately, this is true of Major League Baseball in a post- Mitchell Report world. These allegations certainly don't surprise me.

In other baseball news, the Atlanta Braves appear to have offered Tom Glavine a contract for the 2009 season. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'd love to see Glavine finish his career in Atlanta. And, my favorite catcher of all-time, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is reportedly talking with the Florida Marlins about a return. It made me sick when Pudge went to the Yankees and I'd love to see him go back to the team he went to the World Series with. That angry and ecstatic image of him holding the fall after a plow at the plate is one of the greatest images in the last twenty-years of baseball. After all, it did earn him the NLCS MVP award... There will come a day when the Marlins are more than just the NL East spoiler.

Of course, if Pudge leaves New York there will be the issue of who to put behind the plate at the new Yankee Stadium. If they really can't put Joe Girardi back in a uniform, I really don't think they're at a loss. Any club would be safe with a Molina behind the plate and the Yankees have one, Jose.

After a few weeks of constant trade and Yankee domination, the trade rumors and contract signings have slowed. Arbitration is a bit harder for the free-agent market. Still no contracts for Ben Sheets, Manny Ramirez, or Adam Dunn. Manny appears to be wanted, but in this market who is willing to dish out that kind of cash? The Yankees, except they've spent nearly everything they have. No, you're right, they still have more. What was I thinking?

My favorite player of all time, the great Hammerin' Hank Aaron celebrated his 75th birthday this past week. This week also marked the birthday of baseball legend Babe Ruth. For me, the home run record never changed hands. For everything Bonds was as a young player, the talent and the natural athlete, he squandered whatever I once thought of him and the steroid cloud that follows him necessitates the continuing reign of Hank Aaron as the home-run king. As I was reading this story at MLB.com, I was reminded of the dignity, decency and class of Hank Aaron. There's an entire generation of baseball fans and Braves fans because of what Hank did. Happy belated birthday, Mr. Aaron!

We're only a few weeks away from the opening day of Spring Training. Oh, what I wouldn't give to be in Lake Buena Vista, Florida! Just after opening day at the training camps will be round one of the World Baseball Classic. You can check out the schedule here or wait until I post one closer to game one.

Wrapping up this smorgasbord is a reminder that the Rob Kirkpatrick book on Cecil Travis, a truly amazing man who was devoted to two loves--his country and baseball, is coming out on March 1st. The historian in me marvels at the events that defined the life of Cecil Travis and the baseball fan in me can't believe he was never inducted into the baseball hall of fame. I can't wait to read this book!

On this cold February morning, Spring Training is sounding pretty heavenly. Get out there and enjoy your Saturday!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Common Sense on Parade

"I don't profess to be profound; but I do lay claim to common sense." -- David Copperfield

Yes, these are the highs and lows of common sense this week.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Drop-Out Legislation

Until recently, the label of "at-risk kid" held no specific definition in my mind. While doing some research on the U.S. Census Bureau website for another project, I came across a report titled "At-Risk Conditions of U.S. School-Age Children" where it defines at-risk being "higher likelihoods of undesirable life outcomes" such as pre-marital births, dropping out of high school, drug use and criminal activity. As it turns out, I would find that definition helpful in understanding a particular piece of legislation in the 2009 session of the Idaho Legislature.

Today, the Idaho House Education Committee voted to send a piece of legislation to be printed that would change the legal drop-out age for Idaho high school students from sixteen to eighteen. Currently, Idaho law allows a sixteen year-old high school student to drop out of high school with parental consent. Additionally, Idaho law allows for a school to drop a student (also sixteen years of age or older) who misses ten consecutive days of school.

The legislation was proposed by a freshman House member, Rep. Jarvis of Meridian, who initially said the legislation would not cost the state any additional money to implement or operate his proposed policy. However, as is being pointed out in various news stories, the cost would in fact be approximately $11 million.

It would appear that two arguments are being made against the legislation. The first is that the state cannot invest in much else during this economically tumultuous time and the second being that the state already holds too much say in the private lives of Idahoans, interfering further into those lives by saying when their children can drop out of school is simply too far.

On the other side of the debate, should this legislation actually be heard by the committee and voted on, are two camps. The first camp believes that drop-out rates are directly tied to crime rates. The second camp may also believe there is a correlation to be drawn between crime rates and drop-out rates, but there main argument is that school districts are losing money because of drop-outs and this legislation would be a benefit to those school districts, therefore placing less stress on the schools themselves. My own state senator, Senator Sagness, appears to be in both camps as well as in the camp that justifies such an expense because the economy cannot afford "to lose more educated youth."

With this particular legislation, there is bound to be the argument (I can see Rep. Thayn, Bryan Fischer, Clayton Cramer, et al. gearing up now) that the state has no business telling parents when to send their children to school or how long to keep them there. There will also come an argument from some that not all kids are cut out for school and that a few of the drop-outs turn out to be trailblazing, successful individuals like J.R. Simplot.

However, I'd like to go on the record as being for this legislation for a myriad of reasons, the number one being, there are too many kids who are bored, discouraged or otherwise displeased with public education and have parents who are not involved with their kids or simply don't care enough about their kid's future to dissuade them from dropping out. Too many parents are ready and willing to consent to their sixteen year old dropping out if it means the kid will get a job, bringing additional income to the home. There are also parents who have fought long and hard with their teenagers over school attendance or a number of other things and they offer their consent for a sixteen year olds drop-out as a symbolic white flag of surrender.

I am afraid as this legislation goes forward, those in the legislature and the media will portray this bill as one of statistics (i.e. X number of students drop-out, Y number of citizens are arrested and thrown in jail, all of which equals too much money for the state to pay for prisons). I hope we all can remember as we write about this that these are human beings, impressionable young men and women who deserve whatever leg-up we can offer them in this all too crazy world.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Can't See the Forest for the Trees

While I should be pleased that the endless tracking of Idaho's own talk radio shock jock Zeb Bell has earned him a spot among the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage in a recent op-ed by the Idaho Democratic Party's communications director, Julie Fanselow, and among Ann Coulter, Karl Rove and Darth Vader in the Crooks & Liars analysis of Rick Warren as Obama's inaugural invocation choice, I must admit I hesitate to applaud the hard work of exposing the hatred spewed from Zeb Bell's microphone on these two mentions alone.

Why? Because, as I have pointed out many a time, those who comment on the antics of Zeb Bell usually do so out of devotion to President Obama. Their commentary on Zeb Bell is usually a response to the most recent derogatory thing Zeb Bell has said about Obama. A stray comment about Bell's self-proclaimed dislike of Obama (he defines it as dislike, though it borders on a racist hatred of Obama) may be picked up by a news outlet, as was the case last year when Bell first caught the eye of many Democrats and the entire Idaho progressive blogosphere, but by and large outside the usual circle of Zeb Bell commentary, that is this blog, the MountainGoat Report and Gary Eller's In the Middle, there really is little being said about Bell's bigotry.

An argument I have heard far too often is that if I am offended by or disagree with what is being said on "Zeb at the Ranch," I should turn it off or listen to something else. Similarly, Julie Fanselow is making the case that the issue is whether Idaho listeners have a clear choice, an alternative to the extreme right-wing banter of radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh, the current target of the left, in the Boise market and Zeb Bell in south central Idaho. She offers the following suggestion to Statesman readers:
So as we enter 2009, Idaho's commercial airwaves are once again awash in regressive voices. Why won't a local station offer an Idaho-friendly antidote to the toxic talk now dominating our radio landscape? If Idahoans who spend their days listening to Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage would give the Ed Schultz Show a try, they'd surely find they have more in common with this hunting, fishing, truck-driving guy with a dog named Buck than they do with his bloviating Republican brethren, never mind low-rent Idaho wanna-be's like Rupert's Zeb Bell.
Sure, it would be nice for progressives all over the state who want to listen to Ed Schultz to have that opportunity on their local station, however giving a listener the option of listening to Ed Schultz over Rush Limbaugh doesn't make what Rush Limbaugh says any less inflammatory and it doesn't solve the problem of hate speech flowing into and afflicting our communities. Along those lines, if there were a progressive program broadcast by KBAR radio to counter Zeb Bell, Zeb would still be guilty of espousing hate speech.

Democrats may mention the Fairness Doctrine as a potential solution to the lack of progressive voices on talk radio and conservatives may mention the Fairness Doctrine when any of their programming is threatened by those who complain of a shows substance, but the truth is the Fairness Doctrine will not solve what plagues the airwaves. Yes, it may offer the Democrats an opportunity to put progressive voices on the air to counter the large number of right-leaning programs, but there is nothing that would prevent the Fairness Doctrine from also giving Republicans an opportunity to put more conservative websites and blogs on the tubes to counter the obvious stronghold progressives have there. Personally, I've never looked at Rush or Zeb and thought, gee, the Fairness Doctrine would fix this.

As they say at Media Matters, "it's not just Limbaugh and Hannity." And, as I am now saying, it's not just about access and choice or even the possible implementation of the Fairness Doctrine. There is a much larger problem on conservative talk radio, especially here close to home, and it has nothing to do with the number of conservative talk radio hosts or the lack of progressive radio options. Hate is broadcast in this state. While we openly complain about Limbaugh wishing for Obama's failure or that we can't listen to Ed Schultz on the radio in the Great State of Ada, we have much bigger problems.

Though some in the communities with radio or internet access to Zeb Bell choose not to listen, and wisely so, it does not prevent them from experiencing the wrath of Zeb, the hatred of Zeb and his listeners or the misinformation campaign Zeb has operated for years. Reading a letter to the editor in the Times-News yesterday was no different than listening to a Zeb Bell tirade. Reading another letter again today reminded me of a show not too long ago where Zeb Bell some how managed to associate the slaughtering of wild horses to the procedure widely referred to as partial birth abortion. These people writing letters to the newspaper may not listen to Zeb Bell, but you can guarantee that in the rather compact Magic Valley they know someone who does. They have friends who listen and repeat the hatred and misinformation or they have family members who listen and believe just as Zeb and his callers do.

While we spout statistics and examples of media bias, lack of choice or access, and ridiculously bring up the Fairness Doctrine, we fail to address the real problem--the price being paid by the communities for what is actually being said. The problem is not about Obama and it certainly isn't confined to Rush Limbaugh, though many choose to see it this way. The problem is the way these people look at other human beings. It is the hatred they express and spread through our communities. From the Columbia Journalism Review:
The election of Obama has done nothing to diminish the frequency or zeal of the attacks against him...These outlets have stoked the politics of personal destruction in America, promoting a mindset in which opponents are seen not merely as fellow citizens to be debated and persuaded but as members of a subhuman species who must be isolated and stamped out.
None of this is healthy and at times it is so incredibly dangerous that I am amazed those who actually do look at their fellow citizens as a "subhuman species" don't take violent action after listening to the vitriolic trash presented on many of these offensive programs.

The danger of what is happening in talk radio, the real problem at the core of the far right-wing talk radio programs, is being ignored and I can't help but wonder how people in the upper echelons of the Democratic party and even the more moderate members of the Republican party can sit idly by while it is happening, only occasionally weighing in on the hate while jumping at the opportunity to blame Rush Limbaugh and applaud the President of the United States for responding to that blowhard. This isn't about Rush. This isn't even about Zeb. And stop making it about Barack Obama!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

For J.B.T.

Each that we lose takes part of us;
A crescent still abides,
Which like the moon, some turbid night,
Is summoned by the tides.

~ Emily Dickinson