Monday, November 30, 2009

The Local Conspiracy Theorist

For months, a local opinion columnist in the Idaho State Journal has been raving about climate change and the politics surrounding the scientific phenomenon. I had, like many other casual readers, wondered why this topic had become his favorite. The columnist, a man by the name of Richard Larsen who owns and operates a brokerage firm here in Pocatello, is generally considered the most conservative op-ed writer for the paper and from time to time has shown just how far to the right he is. Until yesterday, Richard Larsen was merely a fringe conservative. That all changed with his column yesterday. Richard Larsen is now, admittedly so, a conspiracy theorist.

As might have been expected, Larsen jumped on the Hadley Climate Research Unit email breach last week. He writes:
"The fraudulent and ignominious premise upon which this threat to American sovereignty is being perpetrated is that of anthropogenic global warming (AGW)... By claiming AGW as a crisis which is man-made and hence, reversible by changing consumption and energy production, they have concocted a scheme whereby national sovereignty is reduced, and a global governing body can dictate, tax and meddle in national affairs on a global scale. The climate change mantra is touted as a means by which the global order based on the nation-state ought to be reconstructed based on political reasons, not environmental."
Larsen has in no uncertain terms become one of an unknown number of Americans, many part of the conservative fringe, who believe the political priority being placed on climate change is part of a global conspiracy to usurp national sovereignty from the United States. Apparently, organizations like the Heritage Foundation support such thinking and are greatly concerned by the upcoming conference in Copenhagen. Though groups like the Heritage Foundation point to the treaty clause of the Constitution (Article II, Section 2, Clause 2) and believe that the clause has been violated by Kyoto and will continue to be violated in America's support of climate change agreements, they do not go so far as Mr. Larsen in asserting that the meeting in Copenhagen will be the complete undoing of the United States Constitution.

Not only does Richard Larsen go far beyond the sentiments of groups like the Heritage Foundation, plunging deep into the conspiratorial abyss, he openly embraces the fact that what he believes is a conspiracy. He admits that his words "read like a conspiracy theory" and do so because the conspiracy itself is very real:
"It is a conspiracy to erode national sovereignty and individual liberty and create and grant omnipotence to global governance. And it’s based on a “cause” perpetuated by fraudulent and falsified data, and the Copenhagen Treaty is the means by which their objectives are to be met. All legislation and treaties based on the pseudo-science of man-made global warming should be discarded in the dust bin of execrable man-made concoctions, along with the fallacious and maleficent global warming theory upon which they are based."
Mr. Larsen apparently learned nothing from the departure of Scott Stevens at KPVI. Stevens, the former weatherman for one of Pocatello's local news stations, believes that Chinese scientists (or the Chinese mafia) can control the weather and such manipulation of the weather was the cause of Hurricane Katrina. Recently, Stevens turned up again in the news as someone associated with Richard Heene, perpetrator of the balloon boy hoax. Stevens was more or less laughed out of town. Larsen won't be far behind if he continues to write such outlandish, factually deprived articles for the local paper.

As a daily reader of the Idaho State Journal, I have often read the ├╝ber conservative columnists, of which there are many, while wondering how far the paper will allow these writers to go. I feel about many of the ISJ's opinion columnists as my fellow blogger Alan at IdaBlue feels about Wayne Hoffman writing for the Idaho Statesman--there should be expectations where facts are concerned. I have mentioned here before that the columnists and regular readers offering commentary in response to those columnists are not above writing blatant lies. The four conservative mainstays, including Larsen, that write political opinion pieces are often regurgitating talking points of the RNC and appear to be more ideologically aligned with the likes of Ron Paul, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and Glenn Beck than mainstream Idaho conservatives like Butch Otter and Mike Simpson. How Governor Otter has become more moderate in comparison to Idaho Republicans, is beyond me.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

This Thanksgiving as Americans reflect on the things they are thankful for, many will be counting among their blessings steady employment, good health, the safety of their family members and friends serving in the armed forces, and the very fact that they are able to sit down with their loved ones to enjoy the food on their tables. Many Americans this Thanksgiving find themselves struggling to get by due to the recession. Many Americans this Thanksgiving are without brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, and friends who are either currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan or lost their lives in America's two wars. This Thanksgiving, despite tough times, there is so much to be thankful for.

Back in August, this blog surpassed the five-year mark. It's hard to believe that over five years ago, I began this blog as an outlet for my political thoughts and in some ways as a response to a fellow blogger, Nick. Since those early days of arguing with Nick and sharing my random commentary, a great deal has changed. I finished my undergraduate work, I wrote baseball commentary briefly for ArmchairGM, I spent a year documenting the filth that is Zeb Bell's radio show, and I took on the processing of the Stallings Collection at ISU. And, Nick abandoned the Republican Party, the very party he belonged to and argued talking points on behalf of back in the early days when this blog began. Yes, much has changed.

The last year has not been kind to me as I've been recovering from spinal surgery. Nearly 150 sessions of physical therapy, multiple rounds of steroids, and slowing down (almost to a stand still) has not completed my recovery and rehabilitation. Despite slow progress and a heap of discouragement, I am thankful that this past year hasn't been my complete financial undoing. That's more than I can say for many Americans facing health crises. Despite a very long road, I am thankful for a doctor and physical therapist who continue to travel this road with me. For everything this last year has been, I am incredibly thankful for friends who have been by my side, have offered their optimism in the face of my discouragement, and have been sensitive and understanding with me.

Somewhere between fifteen and twenty readers return to this blog every day. I am very thankful for those readers who care enough to read what I write, whether it be thoughtful political analysis or random drivel. It means a great deal to me that those that read this blog value what I have to say and appreciate the perspective I bring to various issues. It also means a great deal to me when my regular readers respond immediately to comments left by trolls and wingnuts who simply don't appreciate my opinion and make that very clear. I am thankful for the comments left on this blog, even those that do not agree with my posts and counter my arguments, because they keep dialogue alive here. For those of you who visit regularly, comment often or occasionally, and keep coming back, thank you.

This Thanksgiving, I hope that the thanks expressed here is thanks that those around me have seen in my daily actions. I hope that the principles and statements I impart on this blog are never hollow and that my sincerity is apparent. There may be times when the mock and ridicule associated with political disagreements appear to erase principle and sincerity, but I hope underneath the political jabs, my gratitude for the debate and discourse remains apparent.

Thanksgiving doesn't have to be about a feast with family or endless football games, it can be about whatever we would like. I'm taking part of this day to reflect on the things I am immensely thankful for and think we should each take a moment to do so. I am thankful for friends who have become my family and for family members like my kid brother who are my closest friends. I am thankful for friends who, even at a distance offer their support and advice without hesitation. I am incredibly thankful for those I love and those who love me. In this troubled economy, I am thankful that despite my physical limitations, I am still able to work and make a living. I am thankful that unlike millions of Americans, I have health insurance. My insurance may not cover much, but at the end of the day being underinsured is still better than being uninsured. Even in hard times, there is much to be thankful for.

May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and may you all take a moment to consider what you are each thankful for.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Recently, I voted against moving ahead on a health care reform proposal. This legislation, drafted behind closed doors with only Democrats involved, is a massive government takeover that will drive up the cost of health insurance and medical care. The legislation passed on a strictly partisan vote of 60 to 39. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced that the Senate will begin full debate on the measure following the Thanksgiving state work period."
-- Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) in his December E-Newsletter released today. If the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was drafted behind closed doors, why then did we have to wait so long for the Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Committee and the Senate Finance Committee to pound out language in a bill, opening the floor to each member of each committee including Mr. Crapo for their comments, input and amendments?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

TDIH: Another Year, Another Anniversary

With every passing year, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy becomes a distant memory. For those who were in Dallas that November day, it remains a memory they cannot escape. New generations of Americans have been introduced to the myth of Camelot and the political legacy of young John Kennedy, but their understanding of what the assassination meant to this nation comes from history books and the stories they've heard from their parents, even grandparents, about where they were when they learned of Kennedy's death.

Every year Kennedy historians, professional and amateur, produce a myriad of books on various subtopics of Kennedy-related research. Assassination analysis pops up in both mainstream non-fiction distributed by credible publishers and in the counter culture that is conspiracy theory. This year has been especially fruitful for those seeking new information on the Kennedy family -- John's presidency, Bobby's candidacy, Eunice's legacy of volunteering, and Teddy's career in the Senate. Teddy's memoir is perhaps the single greatest publication of the year, perhaps decade, for those with any vested professional or academic interest in the Kennedy legacy.

In print isn't the only place the Kennedy legacy has appeared this year. MSNBC aired a documentary in the hours after Ted Kennedy's passing and the History channel aired a new documentary, The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After, that focused specifically on the events directly following the assassination and how Vice President Lyndon Johnson was told about and responded to the death of JFK (based on the book by Steven M. Gillon).

We've learned in the past months a great deal about Jackie Kennedy from images taken of her in 1971, images that tell the story of her time on Skorpios after Jack's death. Notes taken by William Manchester, while he penned Death of a President at the request of Jackie, were recently made public and tell the story of a widow securing the place of her husband in history through a vivid myth-like narrative. Now, more than ever since his death and thanks to the New York Times, we know the role the CIA played in the aftermath of the assassination of President Kennedy. The story of Jack Ruby, the assassin's assassin, was told to another generation as items related to Ruby went up for auction. We've heard from yet another person there in Dallas, this one a former FBI agent who watched the autopsy of President Kennedy, tell another first-hand account of what happened that god-awful day in Dallas. And a television-obsessed nation has watched the events of November 22, 1963 replayed on the 60s-based drama Mad Men.

I've written on the Kennedy family extensively this year, not only because the passing of Ted Kennedy required it, but also because Ted Kennedy's passing reminded me of why I believe the things I do about America, being an American, and who taught those principles to me. The passing of Eunice was as significant for me as Teddy's death because of all of the Kennedys, it may have been Eunice that touched my life the most substantially--as a teenager and young adult I spent every summer serving in the capacity of coach or volunteer for the Special Olympics. My siblings, their friends (who are now my friends), and my uncle all participated in the games. I have held a great respect for the Kennedy family, not just the former President. We speak of the Kennedy family and their legacy indirectly, sometimes, but there is no denying their direct influence on this country as a family devoted to public service, offering their distinct brand of leadership.

With every passing year, the assassination of President Kennedy may become a distant memory, but every year on the 22nd of November, we can be sure someone is marking the date, remembering it for the horrific event that took place in Dealey Plaza. Every year we let the memory slip further from our collective national memory, but the event remains embedded in our country's history as if it were a strong characteristic, reflective of our collective character. We remain a nation that survived an incredibly dark period, a period of rattling events that shook us to our very core.

It has been forty-six years since Lee Harvey Oswald infamously killed the leader of the free world. It has been forty-six years since America said goodbye to its innocence. It's been forty-six years since families across the country sat around their television sets as their young president's body was returned to the nation's capital to lie in state and to be laid to rest. Forty-six years and those black and white images still capture our hearts as if we were there in that moment when Walter Cronkite choked up as he read the flash "apparently official" about the death of the president.

Forty-six years--perhaps the memory isn't so distant...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Senator Byrd's Milestone

Yesterday was the 92nd birthday of Senator Robert C. Byrd (R-West Virginia), but his 92nd birthday came second to another great milestone in his life celebrated earlier in the week.

On Wednesday, Senator Byrd became the longest serving member of the United States Congress in history. Byrd, who has served in both houses of the West Virginia legislature and both houses of the U.S. Congress, took the opportunity to discuss some of the most memorable votes he has cast in the United States Senate where he has served since 1959. I was impressed by Senator Byrd's humility as he admitted in his statement that he had been on the wrong side of history, voting against the Democratic legislation that created Medicare in. I was reminded of his greatest speech and what must be one of his greatest votes--that against the invasion of Iraq. And I was reminded of the fragility of life, that this man who is the first in history to serve a half century in the United States Senate uninterrupted, is so frail in body, but still so determined in his soul as he participates in the historic vote this evening on health care reform.

Senator Byrd's speech on the floor after a great deal of praise from his fellow senators can be found on C-SPAN's website, but a shortened version of his remarks on Wednesday's milestone appeared on his website and reads as follows:
"I am so deeply grateful to the people of the great State of West Virginia for demonstrating such confidence in me and enabling me to reach this momentous milestone. My only regret is that my beloved wife, companion and confidant, my dear Erma, is not here with me to witness this wonderful day. I know that she is looking down from the heavens smiling at me and saying congratulations my dear Robert -- but don’t let it go to your head.”

“Although we are marking a longevity milestone, it has been the quality and dedication of service that has guided me over the years. I have strived to provide the people of West Virginia the best representation possible each of the 20,774 days which I have served in the Congress of the United States. From the bottom of my heart I thank each and every West Virginian for the support they have given me during this time, and for putting their trust and faith in me.”

“The only way for me to close on this historic day is to say that I look forward to serving you for the next 56 years and 320 days! Thank you and may God bless you.”

Senator Byrd still has his humor, his encyclopedic knowledge of the Senate (being the only sitting senator to write an exhaustive history of that body), and the utmost respect of his colleagues. As Senator Leahy said as Senator Rockefeller came to the floor to introduce the bill honoring Byrd, Byrd has been a friend to every member of the Senate and for Leahy doing so for thirty-four years.

As I said before, Senator Byrd has reminded me of the fragility of human life. This year was the first in many, many years of Senator Byrd's esteemed tenure in the Senate that he has not taken the floor on Constitution Day to give a speech about the importance, sacred nature and absolute respect required for the United States Constitution. Constitution Day just didn't feel the same without the stoic senator taking to the floor with his pocket Constitution, waving his arms about, and speaking in that large voice. When Bob Byrd is no longer here to take to the floor to speak of the tradition of the Senate, I can't help but wonder who might fill that role. Historians aren't often elected to the Senate, which is perhaps why the foster son of a West Virginia coal miner became just as likely as any other member to take upon himself the role he has.

It is too bad that Senator Byrd's wife couldn't be there Wednesday for the milestone. It is also too bad, despite his politics and recent troubles, that former Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) couldn't be there to congratulate his good friend. We have for decades watched Stevens, Byrd, and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) portray a friendship above ideology forged in common service to the American people.

The United States Senate has seen a great deal of change in the last year. Three members of the Senate left to join the administration, one as the head of the executive branch. One member changed parties. Senator Ted Kennedy, the true lion of the Senate, passed and left shoes that no Democrat will ever fill. The Senate may not look as it once did through the eyes of Senator Byrd, but Senator Byrd is now, more so because of this milestone, still deeply respected in the eyes of his Senate colleagues and this blogger.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Minnick's Balancing Act

Over the weekend, Sisyphus of 43rd State Blues made some very good points regarding Congressman Walt Minnick and his dwindling Democratic base. Hopefully Sisyphus won't mind that I quote him extensively here, his points are more than worth repeating and succinctly illustrate the predicament Walt Minnick has created when it comes to his base.

Mark Johnson has written a superb piece on this topic that several of us keeping tabs on Minnick have linked to. Perhaps the most telling component of Johnson's post, as has also been pointed out, isn't actually anything written within the piece, but the connection between Johnson and Minnick's former campaign manager Isaac Squyres. In fact, Johnson isn't only drawing on his unique vantage point as a colleague of Minnick's former staffer, but quite possibly also as a colleague of former Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus. As you may remember, Andrus had supported and endorsed Larry Grant (who nearly beat Bill Sali in 2006) for the 2008 1st congressional district race until his old friend Walt Minnick threw his hat into the ring. Johnson, Squyres and Andrus are all part of Gallatin Public Affairs.

If Minnick does in fact have a problem with his base, as many of us believe he does, surely the aforementioned individuals are very much aware of it--the question then becomes, what are they telling Minnick to do about it?

Has Walt Minnick lost his base? And if so, when did he lose it? Was it when he voted against the then extremely popular Obama and his stimulus package? Was it when he voted against climate control legislation, widely supported by the Democratic Party? How about when Minnick voted in committee against the Consumer Financial Protection Agency? Or will Minnick's vote against health care reform be the final straw for Minnick's base?

If, for argument's sake, Minnick hasn't completely deserted his base already, Sisyphus makes a great point about what health care reform could be for the embattled congressman, the embattled congressman who as recently as last night in a telephone town hall stated he votes as he believes is right for Idahoans, not along party lines, and he has not been "ostracized" for doing so (apparently those of us who have expressed our frustration with Minnick's voting record have not been taken seriously by the congressman). Sisyphus writes:
"Walt just needs one populist issue to champion. HCR with a robust public option seems the one to me. Its popular everywhere its polled. If the highest profile Democrat in the state champions an essential and popular element in the Democratic agenda, he'll provide the necessary leadership in a state party starved for it. Instead, judging by his press releases, he's embarrassed by Democrats. I know it runs against his ideological grain so he can pick another issue. But he better work some pragmatic political savvy into his game plan or he will truly be endangered no matter how much money he raises."
Not only is Minnick embarrassed by Democrats, he publicly has called progressive Democrats in north-end Boise "crazy" when meeting with teabaggers, and in the past, during that portion of his career in the private sector when he was so successful, had harsh words for environmental activists and those involved in the green movement. Where Sisyphus mentions a state party "starved" for leadership, he could have easily mentioned the recent interview of Minnick by the Moscow-Pullman Daily News where Minnick expresses very little interest in holding onto his congressional seat for himself or the party that sent him to Congress. Additionally, it is both possible and plausible that Minnick could raise the most money of any candidate for the 1st CD seat in 2010 and still lose the race.

One particular mode of thinking that Minnick seems to subscribe to is that in 2008 the moderates and conservatives who were sick of Bill Sali or impressed with Minnick's independence put him over the top and sent him to D.C. It may very well be that moderates helped put Minnick over the top, but it was the larger number of progressively minded voters who came out to support Obama that sent Minnick to D.C. and they more than likely will not be around in 2010 to support Minnick. Not only will Minnick have lost a chunk of voters who turned out in 2008 because of Obama, he will lose both a handful of moderates who will surely find some strength in the Republican candidate and a handful of progressives who will vote for anyone else, even a write-in. The progressives Minnick will lose won't vote for the Republican, but they will be anxiously watching the race hoping that a real progressive, a Democrat in name and ideology, primaries Walt Minnick.

Sisyphus points out in his latest post that Walt Minnick may have been able to get behind a Baucus-like health care reform bill, but that Minnick needs to be cautious of the hit that Baucus took in his home state for supporting such a giveaway to the insurance industry. The problem is, Minnick is pro-business to the point that he favors enterprise over consumers, even if those consumers are his constituents. Something also tells me Minnick would have no qualms when it came to voting against a bill that hurt business in any way, even if it meant denying uninsured Idahoans the desperately needed opportunity to access affordable, effective health care.

If Congressman Minnick is at all concerned with his base problem, a problem that has now been pointed out by the MountainGoat Report, Johnson Post, Ridenbaugh Press, 43rd State Blues, IdaBlue, and this blog, he better start planning how he'll either appease the base or be forgiven by it, and no, that doesn't mean lining up conciliatory votes like the one he cast against the Stupak amendment.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Good Riddance, Bryan Fisher

In the ongoing media frenzy and Fox News hysteria surrounding the tragedy at Fort Hood, a former Idaho nuisance is making himself known to the entire country by comments he has made via his American Family Association (AFA) radio show and blog. Bryan Fisher, former executive director of the Idaho Values Alliance, and now author of Focal Point for the Mississippi-based AFA, has been widely ridiculed for his anti-Muslim, bigoted and racist rhetoric of late. Fisher has made his opinion that Muslims have no place in the United States military widely known, appearing not only on the AFA site, his own blog, and a wide range of fringe conservative websites, as well as in Keith Olbermann's "Worst Person in the World" segment. What the people of Mississippi and the country are just learning about the outright hatred of Bryan Fisher is something progressive, moderate, and sensible Idahoans of every ideology have known for years.

Fisher's comments have been written about extensively in the Idaho blogosphere, no stranger to Fisher's antics, however, something that isn't being written about (either out of ignorance or pure embarrassment) is that Fisher isn't completely gone from this state. No, Bryan Fisher still expresses his misguided views on national politics, religious topics and local events on the Magic Valley radio program of one Zeb Bell.

It seems that Bryan Fisher isn't the only one of Zeb's longtime guests that has a problem with Muslims serving in the military, in fact some of what Fisher has said recently has been vocalized by the David Duke apologist and weekly guest of Bell, Frosty Wooldridge of Denver, Colorado. Frosty Wooldridge's xenophobic writings are plastered all over his own website as well as Zeb Bell's blog. Wooldridge tends to write about illegal immigration nearly as frequently as the rest of us take a breath of air and never are those opinions sympathetic, compassionate or thoughtful. Wooldridge expresses his own blatant racism in a manner that suggests he is never surrounded by anyone who sees a problem with his racism because he is not at all ashamed of the filth that flows from his mouth and his pen.

Since Fisher started making news Friday afternoon, he has not retracted his despicable comments on Muslims in the military. Instead, Fisher has countered the outrage directed at him with another post--this one stating that the military even says that Muslims shouldn't be serving. Fisher, who must think himself some sort of expert on who is fit to serve their country and who isn't, had this to say in his latest piece:
"The only Muslims who can safely serve in our military are those who don't take their religion seriously, because the more devout they become, the more likely they are to go jihad on their comrades in uniform."
"Go jihad on their comrades"? The 90's phrase "go postal" has apparently been replaced by the premature conclusion that what happened at Fort Hood was in fact an act of terrorism (rather than an act carried out by a man who wanted nothing more than to be released from the United States military).

While those in parts of the country that had been previously so lucky to avoid exposure to Bryan Fisher are grappling with Fisher's hatred and racism as it hits the national media, those of us in Idaho who put up with Fisher all those years while he forced his particular brand of hate into our communities are just simply glad he isn't our problem anymore.

Of course, we here in this state still choose to ignore certain forms of hate speech spilling into our communities, like that which is broadcast in the Magic Valley daily by KBAR, but we're sure glad Bryan Fisher was Mississippi's problem last week when he decided that referring to a tragedy as "going jihad" on service men and women was acceptable.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Walt Minnick (D-ID): Not Interested In Keeping His Seat?

Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) sat down with the Moscow-Pullman Daily News for a story Sunday that contained some rather irritating quotes--quotes that spotlighted exactly why it is that progressive Democrats, Minnick's base, are frustrated with Minnick's voting record and may not support him for re-election.

Apparently, the freshman congressman wouldn't be disappointed should he be unseated in the 2010 congressional race. Minnick offered the following quote to the Daily News when discussing his re-election bid for the 1st congressional seat he won in 2008 by defeating one-term conservative Rep. Bill Sali:
"I would like to go back. If I don't, that's not the end of the world."
Minnick went on to say that he wasn't looking at his election to Congress as a possible career, just an opportunity to vote his conscience "in lieu of retirement." This suggests that Minnick will indeed be running again, but isn't particularly interested in keeping his seat for any amount of time. As if Walt Minnick's voting record hasn't been damaging enough to Idaho Democrats who supported him in a race against a far-right conservative and have been sorely mistaken by any assumption that Minnick was or could be a progressive, now they're faced with the possibility that Minnick doesn't have much interest in keeping the seat in the hands of the Democratic Party.

Could it be because Minnick was never anything resembling a Democrat, but merely a conservative running on the Democratic ticket? Another quote offered to the Daily News supports this assumption:
"I don't vote by party, I don't think that's what somebody should do. Good ideas come from both parties. Neither party has a monopoly on good ideas."
It is quite clear that Minnick doesn't vote by party, at least not by the party that he caucuses with. He has now voted against the President's stimulus bill, climate change legislation, the Democratic health care reform bill in the House, and a whole list of other progressive bills.

As has been said before, now would be a good time for Minnick to shed the (D) behind his name so the Idaho Democratic Party can find a real Democrat to run in 2010. A real Democrat who would like to see the 1st CD seat stay in the hands of the Democratic Party.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"Playing For Change: Peace Through Music"

Tonight on the Pocatello campus of Idaho State University, the award-winning documentary, "Playing For Change: Peace Through Music" will be shown at both 6 and 8pm in the Bengal Theater (inside the Pond Student Union Building). Admission to the film is free.



I have featured music from "Playing For Change" previously here at TPG, but here is another video, this one the incredible rendition of the great Bob Marley song "One Love". You can check out the "Playing For Change" channel on YouTube here. Check 'em out.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gold Gloves Awarded

The Rawlings Gold Glove awards have been handed out and break down as follows (parentheses note the number of awards won by each player):

National League:
P: Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals (1st)
C: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals (2nd)
1B: Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego Padres (2nd)
2B: Orlando Hudson, Los Angeles Dodgers (4th)
3B: Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals (1st)
SS: Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies (3rd)
OF: Michael Bourn, Houston Astros (1st)
OF: Shane Victorino, Philadelphia Phillies (2nd)
OF: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Angels (1st)

American League:
P: Mark Buehrle, Chicago White Sox (1st)
C: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins (2nd)
1B: Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees (3rd)
2B: Placido Polanco, Detroit Tigers (2nd)
3B: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays (1st)
SS: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees (4th)
OF: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles (1st)
OF: Torii Hunter, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (9th)
OF: Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners (9th)

My only major disagreement with the managers and coaches from each league that vote on these things is in their awarding the NL 1st base Gold Glove to Adrian Gonzalez. What about Albert Pujols? I'm not the only one with such questions--take a look at what SI.com has to say.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Quote of the Day

"It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone."
-- Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy

Monday, November 9, 2009

Wiesel on Tea Party Signage

Elie Wiesel has had a rough few years. However, being attacked by a Holocaust denier in 2007 and losing $15.2 million in his foundation's assets to Bernie Madoff's ponzi scheme in 2009, hardly compares to the horrific months Wiesel survived at Auschwitz, Buna-Werke, and Buchenwald. Prior to Friday, it had not occurred to me that Wiesel was being reminded of the unspeakable events of his past every day as the news media flash images of signs being created for these tea party protests across the country and in Washington, D.C. this past week especially.

Wiesel issued a statement via his Twitter account Friday, condemning the usage of Nazi-era imagery including concentration camps, anti-Semitism and Holocaust comparisons, on tea party signage. Wiesel has written many books, given many speeches, and yet, he didn't need many words to get his point across: "This kind of political hatred is indecent and disgusting."

The signs Mr. Wiesel was responding to were those that surfaced on the steps of the capitol building last week as Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) summoned tea party activists from across the country to pay a visit to members of congress prior to the weekend vote on health care reform (many of whom arrived on buses organized and paid for by astro-turfing conservative groups like FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity.

Intelligent and sensitive members of humanity everywhere should be disturbed and disgusted by the signage and rhetoric that is being used in protest of Obama's policies and health care reform. This is no longer about Democrats vs. Republicans, liberals vs. conservatives, it's about truth and sensitivity vs. misinformation and hate. In all fairness, even those among us who do not necessarily agree with White House policy can recognize the bizarre hysteria among some tea party protesters, especially those protesters who carried signs with photos of murdered Jews to Michele Bachmann's "House call" protest at the capitol.

Elie Wiesel and other Holocaust survivors are right to condemn the use of Nazi symbols and other scare tactics, as we all should.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Political Courage

In the final minutes of what was an entire day of debate on the floor of the House of Representatives, the American people were given the opportunity to witness both political cowardice and courage.

Though it may have been predetermined by a series of compromises, in the final minutes of the roll call vote on health care reform, Representative Joseph Cao (R-Louisiana) surprised many when he cast his vote in favor of the Democratic plan. While Cao was casting his vote, a few Democrats were watching the numbers closely before casting their own votes against their party's bill. They didn't want to vote for the bill, but they didn't want to be the vote that kept their party from passing this historic legislation. While Joseph Cao was illustrating political courage, with no help from Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) who continued to try to persuade Cao against voting with the Democrats until the very end, a handful of Democrats sat idly by, demonstrating not an ounce of political courage as they hoped there vote wouldn't matter in the final tally.

Thirty-nine Democrats including Idaho's own Walt Minnick voted against the Democratic bill, doing so for a wide variety of reasons, apparently none of which were allayed by the unnecessary and reprehensible Stupak amendment. Of the thirty-nine Democrats who voted against the Affordable Health Care for America Act, eight of them hail from districts that voted for President Obama in 2008.

There were plenty of moments throughout the debate that offered insight into the politics, character, and unfortunately, ignorance, of individual members of the House. We were reminded that some Republicans would rather shout their objections in every attempt at obstructionism than listen to the comments of their Democratic counterparts who were given the floor. We were privy to the absolute idiocy of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) who alarmingly believes that all Americans currently have health care. We were reminded that some Republicans will go to any lengths to make their misinformed points about health care reform, including bringing a baby to the floor of the House. And the House once again recognized Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey) and allowed him to make a spectacle of a legal medical procedure that the Republicans (also sadly, a sixty-four Democrats) would like to prevent every woman in America from having available to them, payed for privately or not.

Yet, in the myriad of moments that illustrated everything that is wrong with the intense political atmosphere that unfortunately accompanies any attempt to help average Americans attain affordable health care, there were several moments that reminded us that we do send representatives to Washington, D.C. that want to serve their constituencies well.

It was an honor to watch Rep. John Dingell (D-Michigan) both open and close the debate on the bill he has introduced in every one of his terms since he came to Congress. Dingell's legs may be shaky, but his voice and resolve is solid. He, like his father, has supported this cause for longer than many of us have been alive. Rep. Dingell deserved every bit of praise offered him and deserves the thanks of the American people for his steadfastness and dedication. Though health care reform has been needed since President Theodore Roosevelt first proposed it near the beginning of the twentieth century, reform has not always been popular and it has never been easy. It takes great political courage to devote your time, energy and entire career to a cause that until now has been a failure. Rep. John Dingell is the epitome of political courage.

The Democrats, including Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho), who refused to vote for the Democratic bill, resemble nothing but political cowardice. Their cries for the legislation to be deficit neutral were answered. Their cries for a bill that would not include federal funding for abortions were answered. Their cried for legislation that would not force all Americans into a government plan were answered in the earliest days of discussion. Yet they balk. The Blue Dog Democrats who could not vote for this legislation on the basis of cost, the disingenuous quality of imploring fiscal responsibility, and the manner in which the government would be involved in the distribution of care would never have voted for the Social Security Act, Medicare, Medicaid, the Americans with Disabilities Act or SCHIP, and therefore are not justified in calling themselves Democrats.

The truth of the matter is, representatives like Walt Minnick, John Tanner (D-Tennessee), and Mike Ross (D-Arkansas) have no interest in the true welfare of their constituencies. Under the guise of fiscal responsibility and an unwarranted fear of big government, the Democrats who voted against health care reform further protected big business, big pharma, and the health care industry executives who have funneled campaign funds to them over the years. There is nothing politically courageous about that.

Joseph Cao knows something about political courage, if he didn't before what may end up being the most important vote of his political career, he definitely does now. And for the others, those who portrayed nothing but political cowardice as they waited for the final numbers to come together before casting their vote, they probably should take a lesson on political courage before their next important vote comes around.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Smorgasbord Saturday

Just a few observations on the health care debate in the House specifically and a few others in general:
  • I never thought I'd live to see the day the Republican Party would be so adamantly supportive and defensive of Medicare. Perhaps they need a history lesson.
  • They should replace the bad elevator music they have on C-SPAN during roll calls and other votes to that 90's song "Paranoia, paranoia, everybody's comin' to get me." Seriously, some of these Republicans aren't far off from the black helicopter crowd.
  • If we can all see that Walt Minnick is for big business over average Idahoans, why can't anyone inside the Minnick camp? Then again, those in the Minnick camp aren't necessarily insured and see no problem with denying health care to Idahoans, including themselves, so maybe there is a broad blindness inside the Minnick camp.
  • If "all Americans have healthcare," am I then not an American?
  • Walter Cronkite must be rolling over in his grave everytime the one Republican member of the House insists on ending his floor comments with "that's the way it is." Give me a break.
  • What a wonderful day it is for John Dingell.
  • Just when I thought the Idaho State Journal website couldn't get worse, it has.
  • Are the blogs ever coming back to the Times-News website? Since the new website launched, the only blog to return is the Magic Valley Overtime blog and a new one about Boise State football.
  • And last, but not least, congrats to my kid brother and the Declo Hornets who beat Malad in a state playoff game at Holt Arena last night 40-34 in double overtime.
Now, back to the debate on the floor of the House.

Friday, November 6, 2009

It's Time

Over at Daily Kos, mcjoan has recently commented on Congressman Jim Cooper (D-Tennessee) and his unwillingness to vote for strong, progressive health care reform. Cooper, mcjoan's "favorite anti-healthcare reform Blue Dog" Democrat, has a rough weekend ahead of him as the House is scheduled to vote on health care reform tomorrow. This recent mention of Cooper isn't the only one go so far as to ask Cooper to switch parties, but mcjoan says it very well:
"Maybe Jim Cooper ought to do the safe thing and leave the party, become an Independent so that he's no longer endangered by being associated with things like the scary health care reform bill, regardless of the fact that it is going to amass billions in savings over the next decade."
I don't know much about Jim Cooper, aside from his obstructionist ways--you know, obstructing his own party! What I do know is that here at home, Alan over at IdaBlue is not off base in carrying a similar message to Idaho's own Blue Dog, Congressman Walt Minnick:
"See, having any ol' Democrat is not better than any Republican. Minnick gives the Republicans cover by hiding their absolute total lack of any effort toward bipartisanship, and by lending a fake bipartisanship to Republican initiatives... Walt, please switch parties and get it over with."
This comes on the heels of today's press release stating that Minnick, as we all expected despite hopes otherwise, will be voting against health care reform this weekend in the House. Voting against the health care bill will only bolster Minnick's conservative record. His vote against health care will go nicely, albeit frustratingly so, with his vote against Obama's stimulus plan (the one that he's recently praised and taken some credit for in it's distribution of energy grant funds to Idaho Power and Avista, ironically both donors to his campaign) and his more recent vote in committee against the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (which he appears to be more than preoccupied with defeating during this week's debate on health care).

Minnick started out as a conservative in the Nixon White House, perhaps the most conservative administration in this country's history, second only to that of George W. Bush, it certainly wouldn't be something new to Minnick if he decided to switch parties. After all, he's done it once before, and should he choose to become an Independent or Republican, it would save the Idaho Democratic Party from having to defend his disappointingly conservative record.

It's time, Congressman Minnick. Take the advice of my fellow bloggers, get out of the party you would rather obstruct than lead.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What Really Brought Down Mayor Chase?

As a follow-up to yesterday's post about the defeat of Mayor Chase here in Pocatello, let me address something about Chase's failed race that makes it unique and not necessarily a sign of the times, political or otherwise.

Adam Graham took the defeat of Mayor Roger Chase as an opportunity to warn Mayor Dave Bieter of Boise that his upcoming 2011 race may come down to fiscal conservatism beating out progressive policy. Certainly fiscal conservatism may play a part in Bieter's race a year from now, there's no way to tell this far out, but it most certainly did not play a part in Chase's ousting. Why? Because Mayor Chase is a fiscal conservative. I don't pretend to know anything about Boise politics and the workings of the city council there, Adam Graham would be wise to not make baseless comments about Pocatello politics from his clearly western Idaho vantage point.

If today's Idaho State Journal is any indication of how the community has reacted to Tuesday's vote to oust Chase, I am not the only resident or Democrat shocked by the turnout. In fact, Brian Blad, Roger Chase's challenger, admits to being surprised by his victory. He openly admits that he gave himself a one in ten chance of winning the race. The Journal quotes councilmen Roger Bray and Gary Moore as being shocked as well. The paper's headline--"Shock and Awe"--isn't much of an overstatement. The election of Brian Blad is a shock to everyone in Pocatello this week, save a few Blad supporters, but despite the shock, it has nothing to do with fiscal conservatism.

Over the past few months, this community has been at odds with the City of Pocatello because of a dog ordinance. Yes, a policy relating to dangerous, vicious dogs. The official policy contained in the City Code reads as follows:
6.04.050: VICIOUS CONDUCT BY ANIMALS PROHIBITED; PENALTIES:

A. Vicious Conduct By Animal Prohibited: The owner or custodian of any animal which commits any of the acts defined in this chapter as "vicious" may be cited for a misdemeanor and the animal control department may seize and impound the animal until the matter has been adjudicated. The conduct shall not be deemed vicious if the victim (person, domestic animal, or livestock) was committing a tort against the animal's owner/custodian, or committing a trespass or other tort on the premises of the animal's owner/custodian. Specifically prohibited are the following acts:

1. If unprovoked by teasing, taunting, or a threatening manner by any person, approaching said person in an apparent or perceived attitude of attack upon the streets, sidewalks, public grounds or places, common areas within subdivisions or mobile home or recreational vehicle parks, common grounds of apartment buildings, condominiums, or townhouse developments, or private property not solely owned or possessed by the owner or custodian of the animal; or
2. Biting, inflicting injury, assaulting, or otherwise attacking a human being or domestic animal or livestock without justifiable provocation.

B. Prohibited Animals: No person may own or harbor or have custodial care of any of the following types of vicious animals:

1. Any animal with a known propensity, tendency, or disposition to attack unprovoked, to cause injury, or to otherwise endanger the safety of human beings or domestic animals or livestock, unless restrained and/or confined as provided in section 6.04.060 of this chapter; or
2. Any animal which is used primarily or in part for the purpose of fighting, or any animal trained for fighting; or
3. Any dog which has been trained as an attack dog, except dogs used by law enforcement agencies.

C. Impoundment And/Or Destruction: Any animal whose owner has been found guilty of or entered a plea of guilty to the offense of vicious conduct by his/her animal is subject to impoundment and destruction. For a first offense, the court shall set the matter for sentencing and notify the office of the city attorney (prosecutor) of the date, time, and place of sentencing. The prosecutor may request that the court order the destruction of the animal. If the court determines that destruction is warranted, it shall issue an order authorizing any animal control officer or police officer to seize the animal and impound it for destruction if the animal has not been voluntarily surrendered by five o'clock (5:00) P.M. on the date of sentencing.

D. Subsequent Violations: Upon the second conviction or plea of guilty to vicious animal conduct or a first offense of allowing a vicious animal to be at large, regardless of the form of the current or any prior judgment, the court may dispense with notification to the city attorney's office. The court shall order the destruction of the animal.

E. Owner Liability: An adult owner/custodian of a vicious animal shall be liable for all injuries and property damage sustained by any person or by any animal caused by an unprovoked attack by any vicious animal, plus all costs, civil judgments or penalties, criminal fines, final terms, veterinary fees, shelter impound fees, and any other penalties and orders. In the event that the owner/custodian of the vicious animal is a minor, the minor's parent or guardian shall be so liable.

F. Failure To Surrender Animal: It shall be a separate offense to fail to surrender an animal for impoundment and/or destruction. (Ord. 2838 § 2, 2008: Ord. 2764 § 3, 2005: Ord. 2667 § 2, 2001)
The controversy that has emerged regarding the city's vicious dog policy has pitted dog owners and animal rights activists against the City of Pocatello and Mayor Roger Chase has stood firmly in favor of the city's policy. If I am remembering correctly, the policy came into question after an employee with the city's animal control services was bitten and the vicious dog in question was put down. Pocatello, like many cities across the country, has for some time been the home to much discussion about pitbulls and other vicious dogs.

What do dogs have to do with the ousting of Pocatello's mayor? There is a fairly decent chance that those adamantly opposed to the city's policy voted against the mayor who supports the policy. Not only is this possible, it is probable. I say this because the only printed head-to-head comparison of Mayor Chase and Mr. Blad had to do with the vicious dog policy. Each candidate submitted an editorial to the local paper explaining why they support or oppose the city's policy. Despite taking heat from dog owners and animal rights activists here in town who believe the policy should include some type of rehabilitation for dogs who have attacked Pocatello residents, Mayor Chase did not back away from the city's policy and continued to support it through election day.

The quote Adam Graham used to reference Brian Blad's conservatism is the first time I've heard anything about Blad's politics. Blad's participation in the League of Women Voter's candidate forum prior to the election did little to solidify in my mind what Blad really believes about local governance and Pocatello in general. In fact, the statements made in the paper today by the likes of longtime, local conservative Evan Frasure speak to Blad's political views more so than anything Blad had said in the election. Blad is clearly conservative, something his Mormon, southern Idaho upbringing certainly influenced and he may have been taking advantage of the situation Mayor Chase found himself in politically by stating that if the people of Pocatello have a problem with a city ordinance, the ordinance should be reviewed, if not completely rewritten.

Today it is all the more obvious the role the dog ordinance has played in the ousting of Chase. Yesterday, Pocatello residents visited City Hall to complain about the ordinance and their presence forced the city's Animal Shelter Advisory Board to call an special meeting to open the floor for public comment on the policy.

The Idaho State Journal editorial board may have captured the shock of Mayor Chase losing the mayoral race perfectly when it stated today that "[t]he fact that [Chase] had a record with more feats than setbacks adds to the mystery of his undoing. Lesser politicians have won victories at the polls. How could Chase not only lose, but lose to someone with no record?" They go on to commend Chase for his service to this community, something every resident of Pocatello should be doing. We may not all agree with Chase's politics or even his support of the City Code, but we all should be able to agree that Roger Chase has been good for Pocatello and his leadership will be sorely missed.

Another Season's Baseball Awards

Now that the Yankees have won their 27th franchise World Series and the baseball season has come to a sad close, it's time to start thinking about the awards. Sure, CC Sabathia was the American League Championship Series MVP, Ryan Howard his counterpart in the NLCS, and now Hideki Matsui has been named the 2009 World Series MVP, but those are the tip of the iceberg in terms of this season's awards.

The Hank Aaron Award has already been handed out to the National League's Albert Pujols and the American League's Derek Jeter, both legendary hitters in their own right, though the American League's Joe Mauer may have been more deserving. The Roberto Clemente Award, an award given to a player who has notable off-the-field contributions, was awarded to Derek Jeter (quite the year for the Yankees captain who adds a fifth world championship ring to his collection). And the Gold Glove winners for both leagues will be announced in the coming weeks.

But the one award that the fans have a chance to vote on, something similar to the voting for the all-star game, are MLB.com's This Year In Baseball Awards. What is great about these awards is that you're not simply voting for the best at each position or even based on the best statistics, you're voting on the best hitters, period, the best pitchers, period, and the greatest (and strangest) plays of the season. This kind of voting is for fans who have watched a great number of games, seen hundreds of hits and plays, and really have had the dedication all season to vote for these awards. Fans like me. So, here are my picks for MLB.com's This Year In Baseball Awards:

Hitter: Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins
(.324 average, 106 RBIs, 24 homers, 27 stolen bases)

Now, you may be wondering why in a category with Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Derek Jeter, Joe Mauer and Albert Pujols, I would pick the relatively young and unknown Ramirez, but the truth of the matter is, if Hanley Ramirez played for either New York team, for Philly, Boston, or out in L.A., he'd be just as big and well known as any of the top-tier hitters in today's game. Playing for a team that is more often than not the spoiler in the National League East, but not a contender (at least not since they traded away Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Miguel Cabrera and Dontrell Willis), Ramirez is a standout. There may not have been that many fans in the seats at Land Shark Stadium when he hit .342 this season, but that doesn't make Hanley Ramirez any less of a hitter. And he is a superb shortstop in a division heavy on talent in that position (he more than stacks up against Jimmy Rollins, Jose Reyes, and Yunel Escobar).

Starter: (Tie) Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals/Javier Vazquez, Atlanta Braves

Because This Year In Baseball Awards don't have a "comeback player of the year" category, I am tossing Chris Carpenter into this tie for starting pitcher. Carpenter had been out of the game for nearly two full seasons and underwent two surgeries in that time. Nobody expected Carpenter to come back to the show this year and pitch as phenomenally as he did. Not even Chris Carpenter expected it. His 17-4, 2.24 ERA can't go unnoticed here.

I don't just say this as a Braves fan--Javier Vazquez is one of the forgotten talents of the game. When Frank Wren and the Braves brought Derek Lowe to Atlanta, it was an unspoken belief that he would settle in as Atlanta's ace. What the Braves' front office and Braves' fans in general hadn't anticipated was that Javier Vazquez would return to his world champion form. Vazquez not only won 15 of his starts, a 15-10 record, his ERA led the Braves starters at 2.87 (that's almost 2 whole runs higher than Derek Lowe who finished the season also with 15-10, but with a 4.67 ERA). Something else amazing happened when Vazquez came to Atlanta--he became a veteran voice among the pitching staff. He may have made his debut in the big leagues a year after Derek Lowe, but that hasn't stopped him from teaching young Tommy Hanson and Kris Medlen a thing or two about how you pitch to major league hitters. This guy finished 12-16 with an ERA of 4.67 last season with the White Sox and then comes to Atlanta to put down these solid numbers? I guess both my picks here are somewhat comeback player material.

Rookie: (Tie) J.A. Happ, Philadelphia Phillies/Tommy Hanson, Atlanta Braves

Being a rookie pitcher is a tough job. Not a lot of rookie pitchers come up to the majors with a clear idea of what role they'll be playing for any given franchise. These days pitchers are considered bullpen pitchers until they're not. Unless you're a strong, proven starter like Stephen Strasburg, it might take awhile for a team to figure out where you fit. Both the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies wasted no time with their rookie starters. J.A. Happ was thrown in as a starting pitcher due to the injury of Brett Myers and he proved his worth. Happ finished 12-4, something like 7-0 in his first 7 starts, and went to the bullpen near the end of the season (once the Phillies had Pedro Martinez and Cliff Lee in their lineup) to throw some excellent games there. And he pitched in the World Series...not too bad for a rookie. Matching him nearly identically in numbers, Tommy Hanson had a great rookie year as well. The difference? The Phillies won the NL East and went to the post season so more people saw Happ. Otherwise, Hanson is just as stellar.

Manager: Mike Scioscia, L.A. Angels of Anaheim

Mike Scioscia did something no manager ever wants to have to do--he lost a player to tragedy and held the rest of the team together in the wake of that tragedy. I don't think enough can be said about Mike Scioscia and the way he has managed the Angels. The Angels have had a great run since 2000 when Mike Scioscia took over. They play more like a National League team, the running game and all. Since he took over as manager, the Angels have won their division 5 times, won the World Series once, and an American League pennant. All of those numbers say nothing to the way Scioscia has kept the team together, focused and on track since the loss of Nick Adenhart. Scioscia should win MLB's award for Manager of the Year as well.

Closer: Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees

I'm no fan of the Yankees, but even I can see greatness when it is in front of me. Rivera deserves to win for his performance in the postseason as well as for the milestone of 500 career saves. There's a place in Cooperstown for Mo Rivera. And if you can't see that, you're just not a fan of the game.

Setup: N/A

Defense: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals

There are great defensive players throughout the game that deserve to be recognized for their defense and will be when the gold glove awards are rolled out, but the one player who is always noted for his defense is the youngest of the catching Molina brothers, Yadier. If you've ever seen Yadier stop a slider in the dirt, throw around a lefthanded batter and pick off a runner at first, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you've never seen Yadier Molina in action, you're missing one of the great talents in the game.

Performance & Play: Mark Buehrle & Dwayne Wise, Chicago White Sox

Because I picked them both, these two awards are combined as far as I'm concerned. Mark Buerhle pitched a perfect game this season and deserves to be recognized for it. The fact that the feat of a perfect game has only been achieved 18 times in the entire history of baseball speaks volumes to the magical day Mark Buehrle had in July against Tampa Bay. And one very big part of that magical day was Dwayne Wise and the stunning catch he made to preserve perfection. The stars must have aligned that day and it truly couldn't have happened to a more decent, deserving pitcher.

Moment: Pudge Rodriguez, Houston Astros/Texas Rangers

There were some great moments this season and each of those on the ballot this year are deserving. It was touching when the Angels trotted out to the outfield wall where their departed teammate's picture reminded them of all they had overcome this season. It was nothing short of spectacular to watch Jacobi Ellsbury steal home off Andy Pettitte. There were great moments all around, but for me, a fan of Pudge Rodriquez for as long as I can remember, it was really awesome the day Pudge dawned the catching gear and took to the field surpassing the record of another Pudge, Carlton "Pudge" Fisk, and becoming the man to hold the record for all-time games caught.

Oddity: Teddy gets wiped out at Nationals Stadium

Sure there are other stadiums with mascot races and other unusual antics to entertain the fans during pitching changes and between innings, but one of the great races happens every home game at Nationals Stadium between four poor fools who put on the costumes of our nation's greatest presidents. Teddy Roosevelt being wiped out by a pirogi takes the prize for being not only one of the stranger things to ever happen at a baseball game, but one of the funniest. Make sure to watch the clip a couple of times, I swear it gets funnier every time I see it!

Executive: N/A

Unsung Star: Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays

Jayson Werth of the Philadelphia Phillies got his due--two consecutive years as a starting outfielder in the World Series. So without Werth, my allegiances fall to Ben Zobrist of the Rays mainly because he carried my fantasy baseball team this year, but also because his numbers are unreal. Had the Rays not won the ALCS last year, the televised games I caught this year wouldn't have included the Rays as often as they did and I wouldn't have even known who Ben Zobrist was. All those televised weekend games with the Rays and all those touch 'em all appearances on Baseball Tonight caught my attention and Zobrist, playing for the Rays' injured second baseman, was the sole reason I didn't finish in last place this season. Fantasy baseball teams have to factor in somehow, right?

So we say goodbye to another baseball season and hello to a long winter of trades, talks and limited happenings. Until next year when spring training begins and we do it all over again. Happily, though hopefully with a little less pirogi.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pocatello's Mayor Chase

As d2 said yesterday, "[Mayor Roger] Chase is to Pocatello what Bieter has been to Boise - a progressive wonk's dream: good for business, better for quality of life issues." Not only is Roger Chase those things, he's an all around nice guy and one that has served this town well. And come January he will no longer be mayor of Pocatello. It's one of the great political upsets of Super Tuesday.

The 26% of registered Pocatelloans who turned out to vote yesterday voted in favor of political newcomer Brian Blad. Blad defeated Mayor Chase by a margin of 52.6 percent to 47.4 percent (or 3,792 votes to 3,417). Today's headline in the Idaho State Journal reflects part of the story here in Pocatello, "Underdog Blad defeats two-term mayor," but fails to capture the whole story. As Brian Blad stated last night, Roger Chase is a "political icon" in this town and those of us who have appreciated his service and supported him over the years are shocked.

Since I first heard the election results on the radio this morning, I've been trying to remember when it was I first met Mayor Chase. It seems like I've known him forever, which I suspect is how a lot of people around here feel. Roger Chase is the kind of guy that when you're talking to him you feel like you've known him forever. Roger Chase grew up here, he has raised his family here and he has made Pocatello a great place for hundreds of families to raise their kids.

Chase has been a true advocate for Idaho State University, not just for the business-end, though he has been very supportive of Pocatello's largest employer, but on a more personal level as a former ASISU Student Body President who truly cares about the student population here. In fact, when I ran for the ASISU Senate in 2006, Mayor Chase donated twenty or so of his campaign signs to my own campaign, allowing me to paint over them and use them as I needed to ensure my own election. I'd like to think my campaign success had little to do with my signs, but the mayor's willingness to help me out with my campaign didn't go unnoticed.

Mayor Chase has a long history of accomplishments in this town, the least of which are the jobs he has brought to the Gate City. Big box stores are a successful part of Pocatello's history, but there are other accomplishments and ongoing projects that Mayor Chase has been quite involved with. There are green policies in effect today that would be beneficial to the community in the long term. Hopefully the progressive members of the city council will carry out the goals and policies Chase implemented. And there are completed projects all through town that stand as a testament to Chase's service and follow-through. One of those projects is the Bright Tomorrows facility near my home that was completed on the mayor's watch and with his support. Bright Tomorrows is a fabulous facility and speaks well to the entire notion of community and what it means. Pocatello and Chubbuck truly came together to build the facility and Mayor Chase was there every step of the way.

Because of my own health, my daily activities are extremely limited and I no longer have much interaction with the local Democrats, but the last time Mayor Chase ran (for re-election), I was out there going door-to-door for him as well as Councilmen Gary Moore and Richard Stallings. Even when we were out doing lit drops, it was amazing how many people we encountered that had stories about their interactions with Mayor Chase and how he had impacted their lives. The mayor has had plenty of opportunity to do so, he has not only been a two-term mayor, he served two terms on the Pocatello City Council, and three terms in the Idaho House of Representatives.

I genuinely hope that Mayor Chase has greater political aspirations, even though I know his presence will be felt in this town for a long time to come.

How a relatively unknown small business owner just unseated a fairly popular and extremely effective mayor eludes me. Whatever the reason, Pocatello voters may live to regret what they did yesterday.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Quote of the Day

"We think of strangers as stronger and better than we are."
-- John Steinbeck, East of Eden