Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tune In Tuesday


"You aim too high and I’m just trying to keep it straight.
Worse times are coming and I don’t have to tell you
that times are already hard.
Good luck out there getting what you think you’re headed for...
It’s gonna be a long walk and you know what you could lose
Oh, when you’ve got mountains to move."
-- Gavin DeGraw, "Mountains to Move" (Track #4, Free)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Binge

A Sunday Thought

Look down the long valley & there stands a mountain
That someone has said is the end of the world.
Then what of this river that having arisen
Must find where to pour itself into & empty?
I never saw so much swift water run cloudless.
Oh, I have been often too anxious for rivers
To leave to them to get out of their valleys.
The truth is the river flows into the canyon
Of ceasing-to-question-what-doesn't-concern-us,
As sooner or later we have to cease somewhere.
No place to get lost like too far in the distance.
It may be a mercy that dark closes round us
So broodingly soon in every direction.
The world as we know is an elephant's howdah;
The elephant stands on the back of a turtle;
The turtle in turn on a rock in the ocean.
And how much longer a story has science
Before she must put out the light on the children
And tell them the rest of the story is dreaming?
"You children may dream it and tell it tomorrow."

-- Robert Frost, "Too Anxious for Rivers"

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Smorgasbord Saturday

Eight days until opening night baseball, nine days until opening day...

"Confused at the Ranch" is a title that seems to encapsulate what the experience of listening to "Zeb at the Ranch" is like. Go read this piece.

I'm not in the mood to go into any amount of detail about my feelings on Obama's gaffe on Jay Leno, but I am happy to see that Special Olympics is taking this unfortunate spotlight to teach people about their organization, the developmentally disabled and eliminating the r-word.

While you're happily reading these links, check out this piece from Byron Yankey's blog. I really like his suggestion that had the technology existed, Ben Franklin and John Adams may well have been bloggers. A lot of that generation, I think, because of their dedication to writing letters may well have made excellent bloggers.

Two interesting, but not completely unrelated letters to the editor of the Times-News. One fueled by recent events; another fueled by, well I'm not sure, but I was in fact invited to the "tea party."

In case you don't read Smithsonian, there is a great piece about Boise with fabulous photographs by a guy I'm quite impressed by--Glenn Oakley. Go check it out.

That's all folks.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Spring Break from Blogging

"Well you need sunlight for things to go right."

-- Stroke 9, "Just Can't Wait"

__________________________________

Spring Break has always evoked mixed feelings on my part. It, like any other forced break from school, used to represent time I absolutely dreaded as a kid. As an adult still immersed in the clockwork of academic semesters, I dread prolonged breaks from school for new yet equally irksome reasons. I suppose some consider Pocatello a college town and it should come as no surprise to me that some view those who live here as merely temporary academic residents, but it still, nearly six years after I began college, annoys the hell out of me when someone asks if I am going home for the break. It must have happened at least ten times on Friday alone. Just because it is Spring Break on the campus of Idaho State University doesn't mean everybody is leaving town. Pocatello is my home, at least for the moment and no, I'm not leaving town.

I remember the days back when I had roommates who would pack up all of their laundry, surely for their mothers to do while they were home, and would leave Pocatello for whichever break and spend it in their hometowns with their families. I'm sure this was happening all over town Friday afternoon, college kids loading up their cars full of laundry and heading home. Some may have even headed for some place warm, maybe even Florida or Arizona where Spring training is in full swing, literally.

I'm not leaving town. Couldn't leave if I wanted to. The short leash I'm on has less to do with my every-other-day physical therapy schedule and more to do with my inability to ride in a car, still. My schedule will be uninterrupted by Spring break. I'll be right here working on the Stallings Collection that may never be complete if I take another break. I'll be right here battling my way through physical therapy with every hope that all this work is getting me somewhere. I'll be right here wishing I was somewhere warm with a body that would allow me to enjoy the sunshine, either on a baseball field or atop a bicycle.

I can't take a break from work. I can't take a break from physical therapy. I can't take a break from Pocatello. And, I can't take a break from this ridiculous back of mine, unfortunately. So, in the absence of any other form of vacation, I am taking a week-long break from blogging.

One week away from my blog and the blogs of others may not be everything I need, but it is all there is, at least all I have any control over right now. It will extend the break I've had from listening to Zeb Bell, a break my mental health desperately needed and a break that may extend indefinitely. It will hopefully prevent me from posting a quote and music video every day that merely grazes the surface of the battles I'm waging on a much deeper level. Perhaps it will prevent me from losing my cool on a daily basis over the complete apathy some people possess when it comes to extreme hatred. Maybe the time off will allow for graduate school applications and follow-up phone calls. The fool in me has put a lot of this off thinking there was something here for me. There isn't and I'm realizing it more and more every day. Or maybe a week off will just be a week off and I'll squander the time on something else and I'll come back as frustrated as when I left and I'll go back to listening to Zeb, which I find to be an awful lot like beating my head against my desk. Maybe I'll come back and I'll have realized that it wasn't sunlight I needed, "mehr licht" as Goethe said on his deathbed, but a fresh perspective and a good night's rest.

Things haven't been going right or well around here in quite some time and as much as I want them to turn around, I know that I have to make the first move. I have to let the sunlight in. Brace yourselves for silence and I'll see you all next Sunday.

A Sunday Tune



Joseph Arthur, a protege of Peter Gabriel, performing "In the Sun." Seemed appropriate for what seems to have been a rainy night, sweeping away the springtime sun.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Smorgasbord Saturday

The World Baseball Classic resumes this weekend on the West coast at Dodger Stadium for the semi-final round. Korea and Venezuela will face off tonight and the United States against Japan tomorrow night to determine who will be in the final game Monday night. As of yesterday afternoon, the U.S. was still undecided as to who will fill in for their injured first baseman, but they did score a third baseman in Tampa Bay Ray Evan Longoria. 7pm tonight, 6pm tomorrow night and wrapping up at 7pm on Monday. All games will be on ESPN.

In other baseball news, I see Manny Ramirez played a little cricket this week. Maybe this is all part of Joe Torre's strategy to let Manny be Manny...

Apparently we're to hush up about Obama's comment on Leno about bowling scores and the Special Olympics, but it doesn't matter to me that he's of my party or was attempting humor, I was both disappointed and disgusted with the President's comment. I'm sure he just got on the phone to the Shrivers and said 'how do I fix this?' and they gave him a pass, but I'm not gonna give him a pass just because he's a Democrat with little time in office. Any itelligent person knows that using the Special Olympics as a joke doesn't lead anywhere honorable.

If March Madness and tickets to a game are any indication, it looks like my fellow blogger Bubblehead is healing nicely and getting back to good. Good news is always welcome!

You want a laugh? The story in the Times-News alone made me chuckle, but I'm betting the police report is full of gems. With the name listed on your rap sheet being Jade David Superman, you know you're probably gonna be in deep when you run into a person's garage to hide from a cop you know is chasing you and the garage happens to belong to the Cassia County Prosecutor. Lucky for Jade, Al's a pretty nice guy!

I'm guessing that my fairly busy Saturday will include a few tunes, but for a few hours now I've been stuck on the amazing "I Could Have Lied" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Slower for the Peppers, but every bit as passionate and deep. I think this must mean I'm successfully out of my country slump.

Oh, and Modest Mouse has a new single. Go looksee."You could say what you want, you're forgiven. Well happy fucking congratulations!" Totally the best line written in awhile!

Now, go, enjoy a beautiful springtime Saturday...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Quote of the Day

"I don’t know very much, but what I do know I know better than anybody, and I don’t want to argue about it...My mind is not a bed to be made and re-made."

-- James Agate, a master of words and brilliant diarist

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Much Needed Update

I suppose it is time for a few housekeeping notes...

You may have noticed that I can't seem to decide if I'll list my name in the profile box to the right. It has gone back and forth between my name and simply the title of this blog over the past several weeks. This is more or less a battle I'm having with myself regarding the promotion of my identity, not an attempt to hide my identity. Bear with me.

A little further down on the sidebar, I've added a few links to the "Idaho Scribes" section that are worth noting. Darlene's World, All Roads To Idaho, and TUBOB are all recent additions. There may be a few others there that I haven't noted upon addition.

I'm trying to keep the "Recent Reads" and the "Recent Music Purchases" updated, but those two sections fluctuate more quickly than I can remember to make note of them. "Recent Reads" has been keeping track of books I am going to begin, books I am currently reading, and books I've recently finished. It is much easier to list this way than to simply change it every day because I've finished a book.

I believe those are all of the changes. As always, if I've missed something, a new blog or book worth reading, please let me know.

It may be a sketchy few weeks here at The Political Game, writing projects and other priorities, but I'll be back with you full time as soon as things around here mellow out.

Influence

Still don't think Zeb Bell's voice is an influence outside of his direct broadcast range in the Magic Valley? Zeb's guest this morning, a regular guest Senator Denton Darrington (R-Declo) brought on a guest of his own: Justice Roger S. Burdick. Yep, a justice of the Idaho Supreme Court. All of this after the bigoted comments of Rep. John A. "Bert" Stevenson (R-Rupert). Amazing.

Quote of the Day

"Winter nights are quiet here. If some stars are soaked with blood, it is because the sun has penetrated the dark sweet body. Night is screaming, and its screams become stars, don't you see? But that has nothing to do with us, so why should I be afraid of night?"

-- Hanna, Elie Wiesel's The Trial of God

Monday, March 16, 2009

Not Much of a Problem?

As I said recently, it is those who have come to the defense of Zeb Bell and Rep. John A. "Bert" Stevenson that cause me the most distress. This morning, a fellow blogger and guy I consider to be a true comrade in the fight against hate speech in southern Idaho, Sisyphus, was responding to a question posed at Huckleberries Online regarding hate in the inland Northwest, the ill-managed blog belonging to the Spokesman Review and his response was met with a comment that I find equally distressing if not more so:
...You southern Idahoans are the ones having trouble getting Zeb Bell off the air not us. We had and continue to have an aggressive human rights movement in North Idaho. Can you say the same down south?
And, in response to a strongly worded follow-up from Sisyphus came this:
You're the one who took a swipe at North Idaho, as though we have this monstrous ongoing problem and you southern Idahoans don't have much of a problem at all.

The editor of Huckleberries went on to state that, what I assume is a suggestion that we'd get further in railing against the likes of Zeb Bell if we used a bipartisan approach:

BTW, the local effort was a bipartisan one. Wassmuth, Stewart, Gissel & other early task force leaders realized that they wouldn't go far w/o involving regional Republicans. You should consider that point carefully as you try to do something about racism in your neck of the woods.

Anyone who has taken a moment to notice how much work has been put into the monitoring of Zeb Bell should know that one of the most active voices for the removal of Zeb's filth would never associate himself with the party that I support. Additionally, it is awfully difficult to approach "Zeb at the Ranch" from a bipartisan angel when he features guests like Norm Semanko, Chairman of the Idaho Republican Party (today on the show), Assistant House Majority Leader Scott Bedke (R-Oakley), Senator Denton Darrington (R-Declo), Senator Dean Cameron (R-Rupert), Representative Bert Stevenson who I've previously mentioned, Rep. Wood (R-Burley), Republican members of various state legislatures and guys like Bryan Fischer of the increasingly scary Idaho Values Alliance. Many of these are big time Idaho Republicans with heavy influence in the Statehouse and throughout the state. I've never believed the Zeb Bell issue to be a partisan one, as Zeb himself does, and I've always stated that we shouldn't make it about partisan politics.

It seems to me, we either have a problem or we don't have a problem in southern Idaho and DFO, the editor of Huckleberries and author of the previous three comments has made it clear in the past that Zeb Bell and the hate aired in the Mini-Cassia/Magic Valley area isn't worth his time. Not only is it not worth his time, it isn't of interest to those in northern Idaho and those of us down here who devote our energy to monitoring this particular hate speech gold mine are wasting our time.

Apparently hate speech and hate groups are only a problem if they're in your back yard and the hate we experience here in our communities isn't even comparable to the hate that infiltrated northern Idaho and still exists there. I certainly understand the weight of the Aryan hate and believe me, the mentality of Zeb and his listeners is no different than the mentality of those sympathetic to the Aryan Nations.

There aren't marches in the streets of southern Idaho reflecting the beliefs of Bell or opposing the filth he broadcasts, but that doesn't mean we in southern Idaho don't feel the weight of hatred. It may become violent or not, it may be isolated at times, and it may from time to time be simply comical, but it is hatred. It is homegrown hatred that knows no boundaries. It is heard by kids who are home schooled whose parents call-in and offer their children up to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the show. It is heard by young men and women who repeat what they hear there, calling their classmates "fags" and their president a "monkey with ties to terrorist organizations." It is heard by husbands whose wives don't think they should repeat on the air that they did in fact say guns speak louder than words.

We may not find swastikas painted on the sides of barns here in southern Idaho, but that doesn't mean the particular brand of hate here stings any less. There are those of us who hide our identities because we fear the listeners of Zeb Bell and Rush Limbaugh for what they are capable of. There are some who hide their identities to keep from losing their jobs. There are some who choose not to promote their identity at the sake of their families and still their families either retaliate or are unpleasantly surprised at the vandalism they may find on their property.

Maybe the particular brand of hate in this part of the state isn't important to some, but it is damned important to me. We have hate in southern Idaho just as those in northern Idaho do and yes, it irritates the hell out of me when people say we don't have a problem. We have a huge problem and I'm trying to do what I can, what very little I can, to put an end to it, at least put an end to that very hatred being played over the airwaves. Please respect that.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Watching the WBC

In some sports, you know you've lost the game when your opponent trots out their second string to finish the game. In baseball, there are starters and closers only on the pitching roster, but apparently if you're the United States in the World Baseball Classic and you have a six run lead over the Netherlands in an elimination round you have a second string of sorts. Not an entire lineup you can swap out your starters for, but a young catcher known for his talent behind the plate that you can send out into right field.

Watching Brian McCann run out into right field to take his position for a team short-handed because of injuries has to be one of the greatest moments of the WBC thus far. It was absolutely awesome to watch the Netherlands come out and knock the Dominican Republic out of the WBC, but Brian McCann in right field reminded me why national allegiances truly matter in an international competition like the World Baseball Classic.

It didn't matter that the young man from Athens, George had never in his professional career played a game or even an inning in right field. It only mattered that when Davey Johnson, manager of team USA, said guys, we have some shortages going into the final inning and I need someone to pinch hit and then volunteer to hold down a foreign position, that Brian McCann's team needed him. The two-time all star catcher and everyday pitch-caller for the Atlanta Braves must have been hoping like hell that nobody hit a shot his way. Actually, I wonder if Brian even owns a fielder's mitt. Though, I'm sure his ability to catch the ball was less of a concern than his ability to get to the ball quickly.

It's hard to watch the World Baseball Classic for me when my favorite current Major League player is playing for Puerto Rico, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, and Puerto Rico poses the biggest threat to team USA (mercy-rule whomping them in their latest match up), but watching Brian McCann this evening sure reminded me why the 2009 team is nothing like the ego-driven, early defeated team USA of 2006.

Now if you'll excuse me, I am going to watch the great Vinny Castilla manage the Mexico team in a late night West coast game against Korea.

(Click here for the WBC bracket or here for the schedule.)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Oh, Orson

This is a little too single-themed to qualify as a smorgasbord...

Having watched Rachel Getting Married last night, I was intrigued to see that Orson Scott Card has his Orson Awards posted.

Now, I guess I don't care enough about movies or have the ego to think any award I would give would mean anything, but I had to laugh at how G-rated his awards have become. He passes on seeing Milk, W. and Frost/Nixon for "political correctness" and "historical lies," but sings the praises of Prince Caspian and Seven Pounds for their moral lessons.

He says he has every intention of seeing Slumdog Millionaire and Benjamin Button, but makes no mention of other films released in 2008 that had haunting stories to tell as well. Because of his politics, I didn't anticipate he'd make any mention of Taxi to the Darkside, Standard Operating Procedure or Religulous, and he didn't. After all, he does give his best movie of the year award to, of all things, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.

I'm finding it more and more difficult to take the man seriously. I once enjoyed his reviews of potato chips and random audio books, but lately it is cumbersome to read his reviews.

I didn't expect him to choose The Reader, In Bruges, or Towelhead and Burn After Reading, but I do expect his reviews to reach across the aisle from time to time and appeal to people other than Mormon middle-aged men and their children!

Maybe he should stick to Bean's Baseball!

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Convergence of Events

Maybe you've noticed that words are hard to come by around here lately, my own words anyway. There is probably an explanation for this, more than simply the ebb and flow of writing and editing a blog, but as hard as I try, I can't seem to put it, whatever it is, into words.

It is a convergence of events around here, I suppose. A convergence of events that have me in a certain state of mind, a state that seems to be beyond words.

Sunday was the all too present reminder that I have now been battling a finicky back for an entire year. There are so many who battle chronic pain for entire lifetimes, what is a year? It has been a long year. As Democrats mingled in Boise for the annual Frank Church Banquet weekend, I was home in Pocatello recovering from another round of steroid injections. A year ago Sunday I awoke in a Boise hotel room with the strangest stiffness in my back, a stiffness that the stretches and yoga poses I had previously used to ease the ache could not cure. It's been an awfully long year with many ups and downs, far too many downs, and not being able to ride in a car long enough to attend the Democratic events in Boise reminded me of many of them.

For those non-politicos out there it may appear odd that I track time by the annual Frank Church weekend, but the event holds a certain significance for me. In fact, that weekend I came home with an awfully stiff back was my return to the annual banquet after promising myself I'd never miss another because of my health. It was a promise I couldn't keep this year.

Regardless of the many ups and downs, I've learned plenty of lessons over the past year and a lot of that has to do with growing up. We have to make choices in our lives not just for our happiness and well-being, but for our health, and I spent far too much time taking my health for granted. You never appreciate something like that until it is gone and the long road back to good health is a constant reminder of the responsibility you have for yourself. It seems rather simplistic, but the truth of the matter really is if you don't take care of it, nobody will.

From last Spring until now, there have been plenty of successes to match the many defeats.

It's hard to imagine for those unfamiliar with the Stallings Collection that now, nearly a year after the opening of the collection to the public, that the final processing has not been completed. It was August of 2006 when I began, with my dedicated colleague, the cataloging and indexing of the collection. For a collection that took nearly six months to browse through, beginning to end, it is simply amazing that I find myself on the verge of completing the project. A few more months and this wonderful personal blessing in disguise will no longer be my daily employment. What a great success it will be and what a strange day in my life it will as well.

Where blogging is concerned, there are certain successes that may never be, but I can't help but hope we are making progress toward the eradication of hate here in Idaho.

The ongoing hate speech being broadcast out of Zeb Bell's Murtaugh home has picked up listeners, mostly those who want to hear for themselves the absolute insanity that comes out of the mouth of Zeb Bell and his guests, but also a few who are listening more frequently in an attempt to show their solidarity with Zeb and the despicable ideology he stands for. Our goal certainly wasn't to bring attention to Zeb Bell to boost his ratings and listener statistics. Those who are lining up to stand beside Zeb Bell and his recent guest Rep. John A. "Bert" Stevenson, frankly, cause me more distress than Zeb Bell alone ever did. However, even the smallest progress must be considered progress. Something about Rome not being built in a day...

It isn't easy for me, just as I'm sure it isn't easy for my collaborator at the MountainGoat Report, to digest the amount of hate and filth that is broadcast daily by KBAR. It certainly isn't easy for me to handle the direct connection I have to the broadcast area and Zeb's audience, either. But these are all concessions I chose to make when I began monitoring Zeb Bell. If I had it to do over would I have done it differently? Sure. If I had the choice to make now, would I have even become involved? I can't say for certain. Yet, even on the days when listening to one more diatribe might be the end of my own sanity, I am encouraged by the increasing number of comments being written and posted on various sites that take note of their incredulity until they actually listened to Zeb for themselves.

René Daumal, the great French poet who hardly ever struggled with originality or at least in his young life never appeared to, understood the power of words. I can't say I understood a single thing about Daumal's A Night of Serious Drinking aside from the introduction, but in that introduction he wrote: "Words are made for a certain exactness of thought, as tears are for a certain degree of pain. What is least distinct cannot be named; what is clearest is unutterable."

If he is right, where I am now must be without distinction.

This year and all that it has been for me is beyond words. I near the end of a project that has defined my academic tenure at Idaho State University. I am finishing courses from professors I will never again listen to lecture about the historic themes that have defined their distinguished careers. I continue to battle one of the most complex and irritating health obstacles I have encountered in my young life. And there aren't words. No combination of words in the English language adequately describe what this convergence of events means for me.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In a Paper Near You...

A preview of the story appearing today in the Boise Weekly ran here yesterday. "Medium Rare," a post by Nathaniel Hoffman featured more audio portraying Zeb Bell for the blowhard he is. Yet, today Zeb Bell couldn't care less about the BW and their reporter because he was all riled up about the LTEs in the Times-News. In fact, today has been a day full of Bell news and the Boise Weekly was the least of Zeb's problems, hell, not even on his radar. He hates bloggers and everybody at the Times-News far more more than anybody at the Boise Weekly.

In ink:
Online:
And in case you already listened to the audio at the MountainGoat Report and you, like BinkyBoy, can't help but wonder who Zeb called and was greeted with the sound of the phone being hung up on him, here's a comment left at the Times-News website today that I believe speaks volumes to the entire situation:
Follows an email I sent to Rep. Stevenson.

Bert, as you know, I sent you a personal email on March 5th with an invitation to meet to discuss your radio show appearance with Zeb Bell. You were not enough of a gentlemen to even reply but you did act on it. On the 7th, I get a call on my cell phone which number only family members and you know. It's Zeb calling me a coward and inviting me to macho it out. He later called and left a voicemail with a similar message.

Here's another citizen who isn't afraid to speak the truth that we may have elected officials and radio announcers who spew hate and intolerance, a wonderful legacy for our children and grandchildren in the grand tradition of Aryan Idaho.

For your information, since you forwarded my personal email, I feel no obligation to not share this story with the world. May Christ forgive you and Zeb your hate and bigotry.
This comment from one Lee Halper, user id: silverchest. I find it funny on so many levels, but apparently these "thank you" notes people are receiving from Rep. Stevenson (R-Rupert) are the only responses he's tendering. My email to Rep. Stevenson went unrecognized and even though I didn't expect him to, he didn't apologize for his bigoted and offensive comments.

Is "Zeb at the Ranch" being pulled from the air? Quite the opposite, actually. Next Monday Zeb is scheduled to begin a new segment called "Hoofbeats" sponsored by Fort Dodge Animal Health, a division of Wyeth Industries. Nope, the shoe doesn't get pulled, the sponsors just get bigger!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Education in America

Editor's Note: This press release from the White House Media Affairs Office caught my eye. Below are excerpts from the speech, emphasis my own. The full speech should be available on the White House website with a fact sheet titled "Expanding the Promise of Education in America."

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
___________________________
For Immediate Release March 10, 2009

Remarks of President Barack Obama
A Complete and Competitive American Education
U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
March 10, 2009

Every so often, throughout our history, a generation of Americans bears the responsibility of seeing this country through difficult times and protecting the dream of its founding for posterity. This is a responsibility that has fallen to our generation. Meeting it will require steering our nation’s economy through a crisis unlike any we have seen in our time. In the short-term, that means jumpstarting job creation, re-starting lending, and restoring confidence in our markets and our financial system. But it also means taking steps that not only advance our recovery, but lay the foundation for lasting, shared prosperity.

I know there are some who believe we can only handle one challenge at a time. They forget that Lincoln helped lay down the transcontinental railroad, passed the Homestead Act, and created the National Academy of Sciences in the midst of Civil War. Likewise, President Roosevelt didn’t have the luxury of choosing between ending a depression and fighting a war. President Kennedy didn’t have the luxury of choosing between civil rights and sending us to the moon. And we don’t have the luxury of choosing between getting our economy moving now and rebuilding it over the long term.

America will not remain true to its highest ideals – and America’s place as a global economic leader will be put at risk – unless we not only bring down the crushing cost of health care and transform the way we use energy, but also do a far better job than we have been doing of educating our sons and daughters; unless we give them the knowledge and skills they need in this new and changing world.

For we know that economic progress and educational achievement have always gone hand in hand in America.
Land-grant colleges and public high schools transformed the economy of an industrializing nation. The GI Bill generated a middle class that made America’s economy unrivaled in the 20th century. And investments in math and science under President Eisenhower made it possible for Sergei Brin to attend graduate school and found an upstart company called Google that would forever change our world.

The source of America’s prosperity, then, has never been merely how ably we accumulate wealth, but how well we educate our people. This has never been more true than it is today. In a 21st century world where jobs can be shipped wherever there’s an internet connection; where a child born in Dallas is competing with children in Delhi; where your best job qualification is not what you do, but what you know – education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity and success, it is a prerequisite...

...So let there be no doubt: the future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens – and my fellow Americans, we have everything we need to be that nation. We have the best universities and the most renowned scholars. We have innovative principals, passionate teachers, gifted students, and parents whose only priority is their child’s education. We have a legacy of excellence, and an unwavering belief that our children should climb higher than we did.

And yet, despite resources that are unmatched anywhere in the world, we have let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short, and other nations outpace us. In 8th grade math, we’ve fallen to 9th place. Singapore’s middle-schoolers outperform ours three to one. Just a third of our thirteen and fourteen-year olds can read as well as they should. And year after year, a stubborn gap persists between how well white students are doing compared to their African American and Latino classmates. The relative decline of American education is untenable for our economy, unsustainable for our democracy, and unacceptable for our children – and we cannot afford to let it continue.

What is at stake is nothing less than the American dream...It’s that most American of ideas, that with the right education, a child of any race, faith, or station, can overcome whatever barriers stand in their way and fulfill their God-given potential.

...The time for holding ourselves accountable is here. What’s required is not simply new investments, but new reforms. It is time to expect more from our students. It is time to start rewarding good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. It is time to demand results from government at every level. It is time to prepare every child, everywhere in America, to out-compete any worker, anywhere in the world. It is time to give all Americans a complete and competitive education from the cradle up through a career. We have accepted failure for too long. Enough. America’s entire education system must once more be the envy of the world.

...It's not whether an idea is liberal or conservative, but whether it works. This will help free up resources for the first pillar in reforming our schools – investing in early childhood initiatives. This isn’t just about keeping an eye on our children, it’s about educating them. Studies show that children in these programs are more likely to score higher in reading and math, more likely to graduate from high school and attend college, more likely to hold a job, and more likely to earn more in that job. For every dollar we invest in these programs, we get nearly ten dollars back in reduced welfare rolls, fewer health costs, and less crime. That is why the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act I signed into law invests $5 billion in growing Early Head Start and Head Start, expanding access to quality child care for 150,000 more children from working families, and doing more for children with special needs. And it is why we are going to offer 55,000 first-time parents regular visits from trained nurses to help make sure their children are healthy and prepare them for school and life.

Even as we invest in early childhood education, let’s raise the bar for early learning programs that are falling short. Today, some children are enrolled in excellent programs. Some are enrolled in mediocre ones. And some are wasting away their most formative years. That includes the one fourth of all kindergartners who are Hispanic, and who will drive America’s workforce of tomorrow, but who are less likely to have been enrolled in early education programs than anyone else.

That is why I am issuing a challenge to our states. Develop a cutting-edge plan to raise the quality of your early learning programs. Show us how you’ll work to ensure that children are better prepared for success by the time they enter kindergarten. If you do, we will support you with an Early Learning Challenge Grant that I call on Congress to enact. That is how we will reward quality, incentivize excellence, and make a down payment on the success of the next generation.

Second, we will end what has become a race to the bottom in our schools and instead, spur a race to the top by encouraging better standards and assessments. This is an area where we are being outpaced by other nations. It’s not that their kids are any smarter than ours – it’s that they are being smarter about how to educate their kids. They are spending less time teaching things that don’t matter, and more time teaching things that do. They are preparing their students not only for high school or college, but for a career. We are not. Our curriculum for eighth graders is two full years behind top performing countries. That is a prescription for economic decline. I refuse to accept that America’s children cannot rise to this challenge. They can, they must, and they will meet higher standards in our time.

Let’s challenge our states to adopt world-class standards that will bring our curriculums into the 21st century...I am calling on states that are setting their standards far below where they ought to be to stop low-balling expectations for our kids. The solution to low test scores is not lower standards – it’s tougher, clearer standards...[F]orward-thinking states are moving in the same direction by coming together as part of a consortium. More states need to do the same. And I am calling on our nation’s Governors and state education chiefs to develop standards and assessments that don’t simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test, but whether they possess 21st century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking, entrepreneurship and creativity. That is what we will help them do later this year when we finally make No Child Left Behind live up to its name by ensuring not only that teachers and principals get the funding they need, but that the money is tied to results.

...Of course, raising standards alone will not make much of a difference unless we provide teachers and principals with the information they need to make sure students are prepared to meet those standards...

To complete our race to the top requires the third pillar of reform -- recruiting, preparing, and rewarding outstanding teachers. From the moment students enter a school, the most important factor in their success is not the color of their skin or the income of their parents, it’s the person standing at the front of the classroom. That is why our Recovery Act will ensure that hundreds of thousands of teachers and school personnel are not laid off – because those Americans are not only doing jobs they cannot afford to lose they are rendering a service our nation cannot be denied.

America’s future depends on its teachers. And so today, I am calling on a new generation of Americans to step forward and serve our country in our classrooms. If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make the most of your talents and dedication; if you want to make your mark with a legacy that will endure – join the teaching profession. America needs you. We need you in our suburbs. We need you in our small towns. We need you in our inner cities. We need you in classrooms all across our country.

And if you do your part, we’ll do ours. That is why we are taking steps to prepare teachers for their difficult responsibilities and encourage them to stay in the profession. That is why we are creating new pathways to teaching and new incentives to bring teachers to schools where they are needed most. It is why we support offering extra pay to Americans who teach math and science to end a teacher shortage in those subjects...

...And just as we have to give our teachers all the support they need to be successful, we need to make sure our students have the teacher they need to be successful. That means states and school districts taking steps to move bad teachers out of the classroom. Let me be clear: if a teacher is given a chance but still does not improve, there is no excuse for that person to continue teaching. I reject a system that rewards failure and protects a person from its consequences. The stakes are too high. We can afford nothing but the best when it comes to our children’s teachers and to the schools where they teach.

That leads me to the fourth part of America’s education strategy – promoting innovation and excellence in America’s schools. One of the places where much of that innovation occurs is in our most effective charter schools. These are public schools founded by parents, teachers, and civic or community organizations with broad leeway to innovate – schools I supported as a state legislator and United States Senator.

Right now, there are caps on how many charter schools are allowed in some states, no matter how well they are preparing our students. That isn’t good for our children, our economy, or our country. Of course, any expansion of charter schools must not result in the spread of mediocrity, but in the advancement of excellence...Provided this greater accountability, I call on states to reform their charter rules, and lift caps on the number of allowable charter schools, wherever such caps are in place.

Even as we foster innovation in where our children are learning, let’s also foster innovation in when our children are learning. We can no longer afford an academic calendar designed when America was a nation of farmers who needed their children at home plowing the land at the end of each day...That is why I’m calling for us not only to expand effective after-school programs, but to rethink the school day to incorporate more time – whether during the summer or through expanded-day programs for children who need it. I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas. Not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom. If they can do that in South Korea, we can do it right here in the United States of America.

Of course, no matter how innovative our schools or how effective our teachers, America cannot succeed unless our students take responsibility for their own education. That means showing up for school on time, paying attention in class, seeking out extra tutoring if it’s needed, and staying out of trouble. And to any student who’s watching, I say this: [D]on’t even think about dropping out of school. As I said a couple of weeks ago, dropping out is quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country, and it is not an option – not anymore. Not when our high school dropout rate has tripled in the past thirty years. Not when high school dropouts earn about half as much as college graduates. And not when Latino students are dropping out faster than just about anyone else. It is time for all of us, no matter what our backgrounds, to come together and solve this epidemic.

...So today, I am issuing a challenge to educators and lawmakers, parents and teachers alike – let us all make turning around our schools our collective responsibility as Americans. That will require new investments in innovative ideas. That is why my budget invests in developing new strategies to make sure at-risk students don’t give up on their education; new efforts to give dropouts who want to return to school the help they need to graduate; and new ways to put those young men and women who have left school back on a pathway to graduation.

The fifth part of America’s education strategy is providing every American with a quality higher education – whether it’s college or technical training. Never has a college degree been more important. And never has it been more expensive. At a time when so many of our families are bearing enormous economic burdens, the rising cost of tuition threatens to shatter dreams. That is why will simplify federal college assistance forms so it doesn’t take a PhD to apply for financial aid. And that is why we are already taking steps to make college or technical training affordable.

For the first time ever, Pell Grants will not be subject to the politics of the moment or the whims of the market – they will be a commitment that Congress is required to uphold each and every year. Further, because rising costs mean Pell Grants cover less than half as much tuition as they did thirty years ago, we are raising the maximum Pell Grant to $5,550 a year and indexing it above inflation. We are also providing a $2,500 a year tuition tax credit for students from working families. And we are modernizing and expanding the Perkins Loan Program to make sure schools like UNLV don’t get a tenth as many Perkins Loans as schools like Harvard. To help pay for all of this, we are putting students ahead of lenders by eliminating wasteful student loan subsidies that cost taxpayers billions each year. All in all, we are making college affordable for seven million more students with a sweeping investment in our children’s futures and America’s success. And I call on Congress to join me – and the American people – by helping make these investments possible.

This is how we will help meet our responsibility as a nation to open the doors of college to every American. But it will also be the responsibility of colleges and universities to control spiraling costs. And it is the responsibility of our students to walk through those doors of opportunity. In just a single generation, America has fallen from second place to eleventh place in the portion of students completing college. That is unfortunate but it is by no means irreversible. With resolve and the right investments, we can retake the lead once more...

And let’s not stop our education with college. Let’s recognize a 21st century reality: learning does not end in our early 20s. Adults of all ages need opportunities to earn new degrees and skills. That means working with all our universities and schools, including community colleges, a great and undervalued asset, to prepare workers for good jobs in high-growth industries; and to improve access to job training not only for young people who are just starting their careers, but for older workers who need new skills to change careers.

It is through initiatives like these that we will see more Americans earn a college degree, or receive advanced training, and pursue a successful career. That is why I am calling on Congress to work with me to enact these essential reforms, and to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act. That is how we will round out a complete and competitive education in the United States of America.

So, yes, we need more money. Yes, we need more reform. Yes, we need to hold ourselves more accountable for every dollar we spend. But there is one more ingredient I want to talk about. The bottom line is that no government policies will make any difference unless we also hold ourselves more accountable as parents. Because government, no matter how wise or efficient, cannot turn off the TV or put away the video games. Teachers, no matter how dedicated or effective, cannot make sure your children leave for school on time and do their homework when they get back at night. These are things only a parent can do. These are things that our parents must do...

...And we are not going to rest until your parents can keep their jobs, your families can keep their homes, and you can focus on what you should be focusing on – your own education. Until you can become the businessmen, doctors, and lawyers of tomorrow, until you can reach out and grasp your dreams for the future.

For in the end, your dream is a dream shared by all Americans. It is the founding promise of our nation. That we can make of our lives what we will; that all things are possible for all people; and that here in America, our best days lie ahead. And I truly believe that if I do my part and you, the American people, do yours – then we will emerge from this crisis a stronger nation and pass the dream of our founding on to posterity, ever safer than before. Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

***

Monday, March 9, 2009

Historian Honored

Below is a press statement released this afternoon from the Idaho Democratic Legislative Caucus:
Press release

Monday, March 9, 2009

For immediate release

Idaho Legislature recognizes longtime ISU Professor Dr. Ronald Hatzenbuehler

BOISE – The Idaho Legislature has passed a proclamation honoring Dr. Ronald Hatzenbuehler for receiving the 2008 Idaho Humanities Council’s Outstanding Achievement in Humanities Award.

The proclamation, sponsored by Senator Dick Sagness, also recognizes Hatzenbuehler for his decades of service to the State of Idaho as a teacher and scholar at Idaho State University, where he has taught since 1972. Hatzenbuehler is well known for his many scholarly writings on topics ranging from population trends to U.S. presidents.

Dr. Hatzenbuehler has been incredibly supportive of my academic career as well as the final processing of the Stallings Collection. His service to this campus and this state is greatly appreciated and this honor is well-deserved. Congratulations, Dr. Hatzenbuehler!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

World Baseball Classic 2009


Above is the bracket by venue. Japan, reigning champions of the WBC, opened the Classic with a shut-out win over China and Olympic champions Korea matched that shut-out with a their own against Chinese Taipei. Japan and Korea will move on from their pool and as of now it looks like the United States will move on in their pool. The Netherlands surprised everyone by beating the Dominican Republic in their match-up yesterday. It's been quite the weekend of world baseball! Please visit the World Baseball Classic homepage for a complete schedule.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Defending Bigotry

The fallout over recent comments made by Rep. Bert Stevenson (R-Rupert) on the AM talk radio show "Zeb at the Ranch" continues this morning as the Times-News front-paged the hoopla.

Zeb Bell is on fire this morning as he "stands with his friend Bert Stevenson." He is encouraging his listeners to send Rep. Stevenson a thank you letter. He keeps reminding the bloggers to just "clickity clack" away until we get carpel tunnel syndrome for our efforts.

What is he saying? Here's a taste:

"Filthy preference"
"Nicole LeFavour the sleaze"
"sick and perverted ways"

"hell bent on destruction"
"a good man has been denigrated in the press"


...Those are just a few of the choice phrases Zeb and "Bell's Bigots" are throwing about this morning. Because don't you forget that they are "good Christians" who believe in the Bible and do not believe in this "perverted lifestyle".

Yes, these people are defending Rep. Stevenson for his commentary that gays want to "do away with the human race." They truly believe that Stevenson is 100% correct in his statements and see no problem repeating it even if they are referred to as bigots.

And now they are blaming the fall of Rome on the acceptance of gays within their society...

Excuse me while I go puke.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Editorial Hate

(Update: Over at The MountainGoat Report, MGR notes that Lion's Pride, an Idaho advocacy group is calling for a public apology from Rep. John "Bert" Stevenson for the deragatory comments he made about gays and lesbians on "Zeb at the Ranch" recently. Please read MGR's piece regarding this development.)

Frankly, I was surprised when the Times-News out of Twin Falls published a statement by their editorial board chastising members of the Idaho Legislature for their recent behavior rejecting the possibility of printing anti-discrimination legislation that would have added specific protection within the Idaho Human Rights Act for gays and lesbians. I was surprised because the Times-News is not the "liberal rag" it is often accused by conservatives in the area of being.

I was both surprised and appreciative of the Times-News for accusing the State Affairs Committee of being on the "wrong side of history."

However, many readers of the Times-News did not agree with the editorial and have written letters to the editor saying as much. I've ignored the response for as long as possible, responses echoing common arguments about sexual deviancy, but this morning the title of one letter pulled me in and left me completely disgusted. Here are the first two paragraphs of said letter titled "Times-News backs 'radical gay agenda'":

I was surprised to see the Monday editorial parroting the radical gay agenda. As for gays being in fear of losing their jobs because they are gay, that is ridiculous. I have worked alongside several homosexuals and lesbians over the last 40 years and had no problem because they worked hard and kept their mouths shut about their sexual orientation.

Any employer who has a gay that is making money for him isn't going to fire him or her for being homosexual. What employers don't want is an unproductive or disruptive employee that they can't fire because they know if the Idaho Human Rights Act (sponsored by a radical homosexual, Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise) is passed, then the "gay card" can be played making it next to impossible to fire them.

John Pitts of Twin Falls is out of touch with reality. He also has apparently never met Idaho Senator Nicole LeFavour. Senator LeFavour is as far from radical as any person I've ever met.

The problem with John Pitts and his ilk, including Idaho legislators like Rep. Bert Stevenson, is that they have no idea what kind of discrimination exists in this state because the things they say and do, discriminatory acts, are not considered hateful or prejudice in their misinformed ideologies.

The fact that Idahoans can and are fired on a regular basis in this state based on their sexual orientation is a stark truth. Some Idahoans live in fear of their identities being revealed. Some Idahoans choose to remain silent rather than have their families, friends, communities and employers know who they love, what they love and what they believe. That's the reality of human rights, or the lack thereof, in this state. And clearly, from the language chosen in Mr. Pitts' letter to the editor, hate exists all over the Magic Valley as well as the entire state. It's not just on the radio, it's printed in the local papers.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Daycare Legislation

From the ever-talented Serephin:



You can read the text of the daycare legislation, Idaho Senate Bill 1112, here. Sadly enough, the real opposition to this legislation is coming from the zealous 2nd Amendment defenders in this state. Yes, I really meant the 2nd amendment.