Saturday, December 18, 2010

Adjournment

"install me in any profession
Save this damn'd profession of writing,
where one needs one's brains all the time."
-- Ezra Pound, from "The Lake Isle"
It took me over a week to write about the passing of Ted Sorensen, a hero in my eyes. I never managed to note that Walt Minnick did in fact lose his congressional seat. I can't put into words my profound disappointment in the Idaho Democratic Party and the so-called leaders of it; I may not have been the most vocal, but my disappointment was certainly the deepest. And, I continue to think about the DREAM Act and how it was then Senators Craig and Crapo who approached the ASISU Senate and asked us to pass a bill that supported the DREAM Act. My, how things change in four years. Yet, I can't seem to write about that, either.

My frustration with the political environment in which we find ourselves is unending. Do people even bother to find the facts anymore? Do people even bother to question whether what they hear from the mouths of their leaders is based in truth? We pass tax cuts that barely help the middle class while giving a hand-out to the highest earners in our country who are least in need of such a hand-out. We live in a country where people are piecing together health care to get by, rather than finding adequate and affordable health care that will allow them to feel well enough to find their own personal successes; a country where our children are hungry and their parents are stressed to maximum capacity because they can't provide for their families, can't keep a roof over their heads; and, we live in a country where finding a job that pays a living-wage is as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack. My frustrations are endless right now, politically and personally.

Sometimes writing comes easily. At times I write with a fluidity that makes blogging a natural hobby. At others, like now, I find myself resenting the time commitment and the lack of reward. After six years of blogging, I shouldn't be surprised that it doesn't provide for me what it used to. It's hard to keep your head in the game when your heart simply isn't. My heart certainly isn't in it and in writing as Mr. Pound once said, "one needs one's brains all the time."

The fluidity will either return or it won't. In chess, a player can abandon a game to end it due to discouragement, but here, like in chess and politics, I'm simply choosing to adjourn or take a bit of a break.

Friday, December 17, 2010

McCaskill Attacks Republican Hypocrisy



From time to time, I am amazed by the junior (soon-to-be senior) senator from Missouri. Senator Claire McCaskill said yesterday what every Democrat in the United States Senate should be saying every single time the Republicans show their true colors. They don't deal in facts and they are obstructionist hypocrites. Don't believe me? Take a look at what happened yesterday with the omnibus spending bill. Thank you, Senator McCaskill.

What Is the Hot Stove Smoking?

I like to think that I'm a well-informed baseball fan. I'm quite familiar with the Hot Stove, I keep tabs on Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings, and I'm also an avid watcher of the transaction ticker when the trade deadline rolls around in the summer. However, this winter I've been shocked three times. Shocked as in I've found myself muttering 'what in the hell?' and 'where did that deal come from?' on three occasions. In order of their occurrence, they are:

1. Jayson Werth's 7-year, $126 million deal
2. Cliff Lee signing with the Philadelphia Phillies
3. Kerry Wood's return to the Cubs

Going into this year's Winter Meetings in Florida, I fully anticipated Cliff Lee being the big story. I assumed that the biggest free agent contract penned would fall to either Adrian Gonzalez or Carl Crawford. Now, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford ended up signing with the Boston Red Sox, something I am sure irritates many Yankees fans therefore making many anti-Yankee fans very happy. The reason I mention these deals is because I think they both play into what happened with Jayson Werth.

The Jayson Werth deal

Long before the Phillies ended their season it was pretty obvious that they wouldn't be signing a deal with Werth. His service in the Philly outfield was apparently not worth a huge amount to them and Werth's name became a big one on the free agent market. Jayson Werth, though a power hitter with speed on the bases and an able fielder, is 31 years old. A long term deal for a speedy outfielder isn't necessarily the most wise move. Why? Jayson Werth has maybe 2-3 seasons before he is past his prime. Given how long it took Werth to come into his prime, I tend to think it will come sooner rather than later. So, making the only logical conclusion I could come up with, I assumed that Werth would make the move to the American League, assuring that once past his prime and no longer an asset in the outfield, he could become a designated hitter. Boy was I wrong!

The Nationals, a team that has made very few moves in the last few seasons that amounted to much, swooped in and scooped up Jayson Werth for a ridiculous 7-year, $126 million deal. When the deal was announced, you probably could hear my jaw hitting the ground. $126 million? Are you kidding me?! I'd heard the rumors that Atlanta was interested and I shrugged them off given that Jayson Werth and his stinkin' Phillies have been walloping the Braves for years, especially since 2005. I'd also heard the rumors that the Nats were interested, but I brushed those off as well thinking that the Nats biggest moves of late have been in the draft given how terrible they've played since returning to the capital city (the worst team in the league gets the first choice in the draft, therefore the Nats have scored Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper in the last two drafts). I really thought the power players on the market (i.e. the Red Sox, Yankees or even National League Mets) would sign Werth. Never in a million years would I have thought the Nats would put $126 million on the table for anyone, much less an outfielder soon to age and inevitably not be worthy of a 7-year deal. Like I said, jaw-dropping.

Once the Jayson Werth deal was done, the only person more happy than Werth or arguably, his uber agent Scott Boras, was Carl Crawford. Crawford, easily the more desired and more able of the two outfielders as well as 3 years younger than Werth, would suddenly be able to negotiate a hefty 9-digit deal with the team of his choosing. And he did--to the tune of $142 million over 7 years.

The Cliff Lee deal

This was easily the most bizarre trade. Why? It seemed fairly certain that the choices were down to New York and Texas. The Yankees have the money to offer the elite players whatever they're asking and then Texas, no longer inhibited by their bankruptcy situation, was not only Cliff Lee's most recent team, but the team closest to his Arkansas home. Not so fast.

Let's rewind a bit... Remember how Cliff Lee got to Texas in the first place? He'd been traded from the Indians to the Phillies in the 2009 season. The Cy Young winner went to Philly, pitched some amazing baseball in the post season and then when it was all over, the Phillies decided they didn't have the money to keep him around (sounds an awful lot like what happened with Jayson Werth, now that I think about it). The Mariners, in their wisdom, snatched him off the market and planned their return to glory around him. Well, it didn't work out, mostly because we're talking about the Seattle Mariners! Not to be down on the Mariners, but something about buying Cliff Lee and Milton Bradley in the same off-season never made any sense. Add to that the odd departure of Ken Griffey, Jr. and it wasn't a recipe for success. Moving on. Once the Mariners season fell apart and everyone knew that they weren't going to be returning to anything resembling glory, as the summer trade deadline approached, the Texas Rangers made a successful bid for Cliff Lee. All of this because the Phillies didn't think they had the money to keep him.

Now, it would be a mistake not to mention that when the Phillies parted ways with Lee, they turned around and bought perhaps the most dominant pitcher in the game today--Roy Halladay. They didn't have the money for easily the #2 pitcher in the game, but they did for the #1. Then, to top it off, when the trade deadline of 2010 rolled around, they made a successful bid for Roy Oswalt. Not enough money for Lee, huh? Right.

Out of nowhere, when everyone was awaiting a decision for Lee--both the Rangers and the Yankees thinking their proposed deals were the superior and ultimately likely to be agreed to by Lee--an announcement comes that Cliff Lee has come to an agreement with...wait for it...the Philadelphia Phillies!

Keith Olbermann, a baseball mind if there ever was one, titled a post "Off A Cliff" and this was before the Yankees lost out on Cliff Lee. Once the announcement was made that Lee had signed with Philly, Olbermann was left scratching his head about the logic in the Yankees' front office. It isn't even that he didn't sign with the big bucks Bronx Bombers or that he abandoned a scenario that worked for him in Texas, it's that it is Philly. Philly, the team that didn't want to spend the money on him to keep him, but had no problem shelling out the money for Halladay and Oswalt. Philly, for crying out loud.

It wouldn't be fair if I didn't mention how bad the Cliff Lee deal is for the National League East and therefore my Braves. A four-man rotation in Philly will now include 4 of the best pitchers in the game. Halladay, Lee, Oswalt and Cole Hamels. When Hamels is your weakest starting pitcher, you're not going to lose too many games due to your starting pitching staff. The pressure will now fall on Philly's bullpen and the teams in the National League East who will be facing this monstrosity of a pitching staff. Maybe this is payback--the Braves did dominate the N.L. East for years with a pitching staff that included Greg Maddux, Tommy Glavine and John Smoltz. It could make for a helluva long season in Atlanta.

What remains a bit unknown in the Cliff Lee deal is this: Why Philly? Not only did he take less money to go to Philly than he would have with the Yanks or Rangers, the distance from home is much more than Texas would have been. His wife didn't like the weather in Dallas where it's hot. How does she feel about snow? And, if his wife didn't like the traffic in Dallas, good luck to her in Philly where they not only have cut throat drivers, but a cut throat towing industry.

The Cliff Lee trade, though expected to be the headliner at the Winter Meetings, turns out to be the strangest trade of the off-season.

The Kerry Wood deal

Today the Cubs have announced that they've arrived at a one-year deal with reliever Kerry Wood. Yes, that Kerry Wood. What in god's name are they thinking?!

Look, I understand that a Cubs fan has a love/hate relationship with his/her team. I also understand that the Cubs have made some stupid moves, but seriously, Kerry Wood? Did they suddenly forget that agony that Kerry Wood brought to the team when he was there the first time around?

From 1995 to 2008, Kerry Wood's name was synonymous with Cubs' heartbreak. His inability to stay healthy as a starting pitcher is precisely why Kerry Wood is now a reliever. Let's review why Kerry Wood's name was synonymous with heartbreak. In 1998, Wood missed the last month of the season with an elbow problem. In 1999, Wood had Tommy John surgery that required the usual year-long recovery. When he did return to the mound in 2000, he was nothing like the fireballer that came up with the Cubs. In 2004, Wood missed at least two months with a strained triceps. In August of 2005, Wood had surgery on his knee (an injury caused by falling out of a hot tub)and missed the remainder of the season. When Wood returned in late-May of 2006, he started having shoulder problems and by June was on the disabled list, eventually missing the rest of the season with a torn rotator cuff. Finally, in 2007 the Cubs sent Wood to the bullpen. But Wood never really made much of an impact in the bullpen because beginning in Spring Training he was experiencing elbow pain. He was sent down to the minors after yet another stint on the d.l. and didn't return to the majors until that August. When 2008 rolled around, Wood had a superb season out of the bullpen, that is until he got a blister on his finger and went to the d.l. again. Not surprisingly, unless you count the surprise of how long the Cubs held on to him, the Cubs announced they would not be re-signing Wood and he ended up with the Indians.

If you're a Cubs fan (first, you have my sympathy), you need no reminder of what happened to Kerry Wood while in a Cubs uniform. He went from being the most talked about pitcher in the game, the guy with the natural talent and the ability to become the greatest pitcher of his generation, to being the perennial bench warmer. Cubs fans need no reminder, but does the front office in Chicago? Apparently so.

Maybe Kerry Wood turned down better offers to return to the Cubs because he felt he owed it to the Cubs to return and be a productive pitcher out of the bullpen. They only offered him a one-year, $1.5 million deal. Whatever Kerry Wood's intentions are, you better believe that beginning today every fan of the Cubbies is holding their breath once again when it comes to Kerry Wood. And, Cubs fans don't need to pass out from all the breath holding they'll be doing not only with Wood out of the bullpen, but their erratic closer Carlos Marmol and sometimes-starter, sometimes Gatorade machine bashing reliever Carlos Zambrano. Wood may take the mound with the ability and dominance he showed last season with the Yankees, but history is history and every Cubs fan is all too familiar with the other side of the coin.

Kerry Wood could turn out to be a disaster for the Cubs not once, but twice.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bob Feller, 1918-2010

(Editor's Note: I just heard that Bob Feller, fireball Cleveland Indians pitcher and American hero, has died at the age of 92. It must not be in the cards for me to adjourn right now, because Bob Feller requires mentioning.)

We forget that baseball legends like Bob Feller who deserved and commanded our respect on the diamond also deserved and commanded our respect in this game we call life. His service to this country during World War II is, I would argue, even more important than his three no-hitters, his 2,581 strike-outs (the most by any pitcher for the Indians, all a part of why he was known as "Bullet Bob" and "The Heater from Van Meter"), and his 266 wins with the Indians (also the most for any Indian pitcher in the history of the franchise). Had he not interrupted his distinguished baseball career to serve for four years as a chief petty officer in the United States Navy, his numbers would surely have eclipsed some of the greatest in the history of the game. I think the Cleveland Plain Dealer's paper for today is further proof of Bob Feller's legacy and the respect he earned. Bob Feller will not be forgotten by those who love this country and love the game of baseball, just as he did.

Bob Feller may not have considered himself a hero, but in my eyes he is more than deserving of the title. And I suspect many a baseball fan will agree with me.
__________________________________
Robert "Bob" Feller
1918-2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

TGIF Tunes



Goo Goo Dolls' new single "Notbroken" from their latest album Something for the Rest of Us.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

"There is no Democratic Party in Idaho."

I hate when something pulls me out of my anti-blog crusade, but dammit this sort of thing pisses me off! John Foster no more deserves my time than his candidate deserved my vote, but seriously, John, the Democratic Party does not exist? Tell that to the tireless Democrats who work countless hours to elect real Democrats in this state. Tell that to the real Democrats who have been elected, no thanks to you or your candidate. I'm just as happy to see you leaving the party, clearly that's what you're doing by declaring it dead, as I was to see Bryan Fisher become Mississippi's problem. Good riddance.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sorensen's Legacy

Perhaps it isn't surprising that I haven't been able to find words on the occasion of Ted Sorensen's passing. How many writers were both inspired and intimidated by the greatness of this man? Even in death, he still inspires and intimidates me.

Theodore Sorensen passed away last Sunday, October 31st, at the age of 82.

Sorensen had suffered a stroke in 2001 that left him almost completely blind, something that didn't prevent him from publishing his memoir in 2008. His memoir, Counselor: A Life At the Edge of History, was highly praised for its clarity and historical significance. Yet, all of the praise and acclaim didn't adequately prepare me for how amazing the book actually was. I've read close to a hundred biographies and memoirs and none of them, not even Sorensen's own biography Kennedy, compared to Counselor. It was insightful, it showed the true dynamic of presidential advisors and the men they serve; It was stunning, it showed what role Sorensen played in the thirteen days collectively known as the Cuban Missile Crisis; And, it wasn't driven by ego, something almost unseen in the world of personal memoirs. We owe nearly as much to Ted Sorensen as we do Kennedy himself.

One of the greatest passages from Counselor:
"If fate somehow decreed that sooner or later some madman would succeed, better that it happened after JFK saved mankind in the Cuban missile crisis, paved the way for equal rights in this country, launched America's leadership in space, established the Peace Corps, and set a standard for leadership and eloquence that has inspired people all over the world. Better that we had his leadership--even for one brief shining moment--than not at all." (Counselor, 377)
Notice that he does not credit himself with Kennedy's eloquence? He surely could have and easily made a convincing case for it. That was never Ted Sorensen's style. For all the inspiration that stemmed from the words Ted Sorensen penned, Ted Sorensen remained inspired by Kennedy.

Unfortunately, in death he is being remembered for being a speechwriter. He was and will continue to be so much more. He shaped message in a way we haven't seen since. He offered a hand of friendship, support and counsel to President Kennedy in daylight and during the darkest moments of our history. He, like most of the country, was shattered by Kennedy's death. His grief was that of a brother, a close friend, not just a speechwriter. He was, as Caroline Kennedy said this week, a "wonderful friend" to the Kennedy family and a respected advisor. He was clearly so much more than a speechwriter.

I was once in a room with Ted Sorensen, a very large room. I never met him, but just being in the same room with him was an unforgettable moment for me. His prime in politics may have come long before I was even alive (I was born on his 57th birthday), but his words, that eloquence that he largely created for President Kennedy, the inspiration writers talk of in any sentence with his name, was evident to me in that room and has always been evident to me. His place in history is unmistakable. His words will be his legacy. For a kid from Lincoln, Nebraska, far from the Boston-based Kennedy compound, that's something.
________________________
Theodore C. Sorensen
1928-2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Skidding to a Loss

Nate Silver's latest numbers seem to confirm what I have suspected for weeks: Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) is going to lose his seat.


When Minnick loses the election Tuesday, his loss will be entirely of his own construction. Not a single thing his opponent's campaign has done will matter as much as Minnick's bigoted ads. They have turned off Democrats, Republicans, Independents and Libertarians. However, they don't seem to have turned off White Nationalists.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ethics & Elaine Smith (D-Pocatello)


This came in the mail today. Now, I no longer live in Elaine Smith's district, but I got a good chuckle out of the mailer for one reason: Phil Hart. Yes, Elaine Smith and Phil Hart couldn't be more different, and yes, Smith's district (30) and Hart's district (3) are separated geographically by nearly an entire state, but that last statement speaks volumes to the problems in the state legislature this session. Ethics, just one of the many reasons voters in District 30 should vote to re-elect Representative Elaine Smith.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Minnick: Buying His Seat... Again?

In all of the lies Congressman Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) and his campaign have employed in his re-election bid, the image of a man desperate for success and power has emerged. He has lied about his military service record, he has lied about his track record as a businessman, and he has lied repeatedly about his opponent's position on immigration (attacking him more for being Hispanic than being an immigration attorney). No matter how misled Idaho's voters have become due to the lack of fact-checking by the Idaho press and the active attempt at deception by Minnick's campaign, one thing has always been perfectly clear: Walt Minnick believes that with enough money he can buy his seat in Congress.

Still further proof that Minnick believes money can buy him power and influence, the 1998 publication Environment and Politics says that as CEO of Trus Joist International, Walt Minnick bought his seat on the board of the Wilderness Society. According to this source, $250,000 was sufficient for the purpose of buying a seat on the board of directors:

(Source: Doyle, Timothy and Doug McEachern. Environment and Politics. New York: Routledge, 1998.)

In 2008, while campaigning for the 1st congressional district seat that he now occupies, Walt Minnick, the progressive candidate that in no way resembles his 2010 self, touted his service on the board of directors of the Wilderness Society. His progressive, environmentally astute beliefs and positions were attractive to Democrats and some moderate Republicans. Little did we know then, he had "put up" $250,000 to secure that seat on the Wilderness Society board. It leaves a person wondering if he ever did hold progressive views on the environment or if being on that board was only politically convenient. Ever the opportunist, what's $250,000 to a millionaire like Minnick?

In July, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) had a 20-1 money advantage to the Tea Party's Joe Miller. Lisa Murkowski lost the Republican primary to Joe Miller despite her final 10-1 fundraising advantage. When Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah) lost his bid for nomination for re-election in that strange state Republican convention, he had raised $3.5 million. His opponent, Mike Lee, beat him for the nomination with a mere $128,000 raised before the convention. And in Delaware, Republican Congressman Mike Castle lost to Christine "I am not a witch" O'Donnell despite his $1.5 million campaign spending. Christine O'Donnell had raised $230,000.

A little closer to home, in the Republican primary for Idaho's 1st Congressional District, GOP front runner and "establishment candidate" Vaughn Ward had a 6-1 money advantage over Raul Labrador and lost in spectacular fashion. If this election cycle has taught us anything thus far, it is that a fund raising advantage does not mean what it has in the past--a sure win.

Walt Minnick may have gotten away with paying his way on to the progressive pleasing Wilderness Society Board, but not even Minnick can buy a seat in Congress.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Crushing Poverty & Now Cholera

How much more can the people of Haiti suffer?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Lost In Place"

"I feel too close to be losin' touch
By givin' in, what am I givin' up?
Am I losin' way too much?

"Hey, California waiting,
Every little thing's gotta be just right
But say, while you're tryin' to save me,
Can't I get back my lonely life?

"I'm goin' so fast that I can't slow down,
It's hard to get up when you're spinnin' round & round,
I'd give you the news, but nothin' has changed
I'd sing you a song, but they blew it away,
All wrapped up in this stupid ass game."

-- Kings of Leon
"California Waiting" (from Holy Roller Novocain)
There's something quite unique about the band Kings of Leon. It isn't just their sound, it's their entire way of surviving in the music business--they work hard and tour constantly in an effort to garner fans. So far, so good. The band's success is soon to be tested again as their fifth album drops today.

The new album, Come Around Sundown, takes a few shots at the craziness that comes with being one of the biggest acts in the music business. In a business overwhelmed by pop acts rather than bands that play their own instruments and write their own songs, Kings of Leon has survived with a few catchy singles. It will definitely be interesting to see how well the new album is received. It certainly helps that there isn't much competition in terms of other new music Tuesday albums today (no disrespect to Sugarland or the other niche market releases).

A couple favorite singles come immediately to mind: "Wicker Chair" (where the title of this post originated), "California Waiting" as quoted above, and "The End."

Come Around Sundown is available at Amazon, CD Universe, and iTunes.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Senator Clint Stennett, 1956-2010

In 2005 when the Idaho legislature was considering a bill that would transition Idaho's colleges and universities from a fee system to a system that allowed for the collection of tuition, I wrote a letter to then minority leader Senator Clint Stennett. In his reply, Senator Stennett said he was honestly disappointed by the lack of correspondence he was receiving from Idaho students. The Idaho State Senate passed this particular piece of legislation 25-8. A few months later I had the opportunity to meet Senator Stennett and I reminded him of my letter and my belief that this legislation could be a slippery slope in terms of education funding. Little did I know, five years later the Idaho Legislature and the Office of the Governor would decrease education funding drastically for the first time in this state's history.

When I read Friday morning at 43rd State Blues about the passing of Senator Clint Stennett (D-Ketchum), my mind immediately went back to the day I met him and that conversation about the funding of education, particularly higher education.

This state needs strong, determined leaders who care deeply about people and Clint was that. It only took one meeting with Clint for me to see how dedicated he was to the people's business. I can think of no other person in Idaho politics, past or present, as decent and caring as Clint Stennett. In politics there are far too many politicians who are in it only for themselves and their own legacy. Clint was never that kind of politician; he was truly in politics for the betterment of his constituents and the entire state. We need more men and women who care immensely for the future of this state, who aren't afraid to wear the "Democrat" label proudly, and who selflessly sacrifice their time each spring to tend to the people's business. This state would be well off with more public servants who embody what Clint Stennett did. This state will miss him dearly.

My thoughts are with Michelle Stennett, Clint's mother, Clint's family (both his immediate family and his legislative family), and the hundreds of Idahoans who crossed paths with this man over the years and were better for it.
_____________________
Senator Clint Stennett
1956 - 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bobby Cox & My Baseball Life

Last night epitomized what Bobby Cox has always been about--classic baseball. In the 8th inning, down by one run to the San Francisco Giants, the retiring manager of the Atlanta Braves put on the hit-and-run. Unfortunately, the Atlanta batter swatted the ball directly at the Giants' shortstop, ending the Braves' hopes for more postseason play right in that moment. It was more than that, though. It was the last time Bobby Cox would sit in a big league dugout, putting on the hit-and-run, hoping against all hope that his boys would win the game and force a fifth NLDS game in San Francisco. Last night was Bobby Cox's last game.

What Bobby Cox has meant to the city of Atlanta, to the fans and to baseball cannot be measured. After the Giants had won the game last night, while congratulating each other on the field, the Turner Field crowd began chanting "Bobby, Bobby." When a clearly emotional Bobby Cox stepped out of the dugout to tip his hat to the crowd, the entire Giants team stopped their celebration, turned toward the Braves' dugout and applauded Bobby Cox. Every person in that stadium, including all of his players and coaches, was on their feet applauding the amazing career of the Braves' manager.

As the postseason got closer this year, it was obvious that the Atlanta Braves wanted nothing more than to send their retiring manager to the playoffs one last time. He may be a world champion, a manager of the year numerous times, and the second most successful manager in postseason play (the first being Joe Torre), but for everyone that knows Bobby Cox, they also know he is a fierce competitor and wanted that last shot at a championship. That the Braves could even win the Wild Card and win a game in the postseason was nothing short of miraculous. Since the beginning of the season, the Braves have had injury after injury. A starting pitcher went down with a bad hamstring, the starting second baseman with the team's best batting average went down with a broken pinky and then went down just before the end of the season with a hip pointer injury that kept him out of the playoffs, their starting third baseman and arguably their most experienced player tore his ACL, and then, as if fate hadn't thrown enough of a hitch in their plans, the Braves' retiring closer ended his season and more than likely his career fielding a bunt and hurting an oblique in the process. The baseball gods didn't make it easy for Atlanta and didn't hand Bobby a real chance at one more championship.

If you listen to baseball people talk about Bobby Cox, you'll surely hear them refer to Bobby as a player's manager. What does this mean? Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune sort of sums up the sentiment:
"Winning with the Yankees is one thing. Winning with the Braves is another. Winning when players grumble about you is one thing. Winning when players universally respect -– and often genuinely love you -– is another."
Bobby was universally respected by every player that played for him. And his final press conference after last night's game showed the other side of the coin. As the press attempted to get him to talk about his feelings about this being the end of his career, Bobby kept saying how proud of his team he was. After choking up and admitting his belief that "a grown man shouldn't do this," he immediately went back to praising his team, specifically starting pitcher Derek Lowe. He respected his players as much as they respected him. When the team came off the field, Bobby Cox said he told his boys how proud he was of their effort. You have to think it was a highly emotional moment in the Braves' clubhouse. When the press conference wrapped up, something happened that rarely happens in these short, post-game pressers: The media stood and applauded as Bobby Cox left that room for the last time.

In the latest addition to the great series on the game by Ken Burns, Doris Kearns Goodwin talks about her "baseball life." I had never heard someone other than a player or coach, talk about the time in their life where they were both aware of and dedicated to the game of baseball the way she does in the segment. I found it odd. Until last night. Last night I realized that my entire "baseball life" Bobby Cox has been with the Braves, my Braves. In fact, Bobby has been with the Braves organization the entire time I've been alive. Just as I can't imagine Chipper Jones playing for any other manager, I can't imagine baseball without Bobby Cox. My generation of baseball fans has never known the game without Bobby Cox.

Bobby Cox has had a baseball life for fifty-one years. He really isn't going to put that uniform on again and finally he won't have to wear that pair of spikes. But just because Bobby is retiring doesn't mean he won't continue to be a huge part of the game. He'll easily go into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. His number will be retired in Atlanta. He'll hold onto his spot as the manager with the 4th most wins in baseball for some time. And, you better believe that the manager who always had his players' backs will retain the record for most career ejections for decades to come. Bobby's fifty-one year baseball life has left an impact on the game that will be around for a very long time.

It is more than okay for a grown man to cry about his last day in uniform and Bobby Cox more than earned that moment. Especially when his last day in uniform came after a fifty-one year career in a game as purely American as baseball. For this girl far from a major league ballpark, you will always represent the first 20+ years of my baseball life.
_________________________
Update (10.13.10): The Atlanta Braves have announced today that Fredi Gonzalez will take the helm of the team next season. Gonzalez, the name most often touted as a replacement for Bobby Cox, is the former manager of the Florida Marlins and came up as a coach through Atlanta's farm system, working directly under Bobby Cox prior to signing on with Florida.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

2010 Buddy Walk In Boise

Saturday in Boise, the Treasure Valley Down Syndrome Association will be holding the annual Buddy Walk. 844 walkers on 59 teams are currently registered for the walk that starts at Capitol Park in Boise at 11 a.m. (For registration information, visit the Idaho Press Tribune website).

The Buddy Walk was organized in 1995 by the National Down Syndrome Society to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Down Syndrome Awareness Month takes place every October. The Buddy Walk raises funds for local organizations like the Treasure Valley Down Syndrome Association and promotes tolerance, acceptance, understanding and inclusion of Down Syndrome people.

If you have a beautiful person in your life who has Down Syndrome, the Buddy Walk is a great opportunity to celebrate that person and what they mean in your life. And if you, like me, had the privilege of loving a Down Syndrome family member or friend who has since passed, but has left a deep impression on your heart, support the Buddy Walk and join the millions of Americans who appreciate these special souls for everything they bring to our lives.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Game 162

For those of you who follow baseball, today matters. Rarely has the 162nd game of the season determined so much. Going into today, the Rays and the Yankees are tied atop the American League East. Meanwhile, in the National League, the Braves and the Padres are tied for the Wild Card. And with one game left of the regular season, the Giants lead the Padres in the NL West by one single game.

Here's what needs to happen for my Braves to make it into the playoffs today:

First, they have to win. Secondly, the Padres have to lose. That would be the easiest path to the playoffs for them. If this were to occur, the Padres would be eliminated today.

However, a couple of other things could happen today that would still leave the door open for the Braves. If both the Padres and Braves lose today, they would play a tie-break game to decide the National League Wild Card--the 163rd game of the regular season.

Also, if the Padres win today and the Braves win, the Padres would play a single game tie-break against the Giants to determine the winner of the NL West. The loser would then go on to play a single game tie-break against the Braves for the NL Wild Card.

For you Padres fans, here's what needs to happen for the Padres to make it into the playoffs:

If the Padres were to beat the Giants today, the Padres would win the NL West. If the Braves were to lose, the Giants would then become the NL Wild Card. Obviously, the previous tie-break scenarios could also result in the Padres (rather than the Braves) going to the playoffs.

As for the Giants, they seem to have one of the easiest paths to the postseason. If the Giants beat the Padres today, their magic number is 1 and they would go straight to the playoffs as the NL West winner. This happens because the Padres are playing their division rival the Giants.

I don't much care what happens today in the American League, but for those of you following that, here are the scenarios for the American League:

The American League is much less complicated, though still totally undecided. With the American League East tied up between the Yankees and the Rays, today will determine how things match up in the postseason. If the Rays lose today and the Yankees win, the Yankees win the AL East and the Rays would then be the AL Wild Card. If the Rays win and the Yankees win, the Rays would still win the division and the Yankees the Wild Card. Why? Because the Rays hold a 10-8 season series record against the Yankees. Mostly, it is out of the hands of the Yankees. The best they can do is win and hope the Rays lose.

Did you follow that? If not, Major League Baseball's website has a nice rundown of today's scenarios.

The Yankees/Red Sox game begins at 1:35 p.m. (EST) and will be carried by TBS on cable. The Braves/Phillies game will begin at 1:35 p.m. (EST) and will be available on MLB.TV and possibly other satellite providers. And, the Giants/Padres square off at 4:05 p.m. (EST).

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Farewell to Bobby

<a href="http://msn.foxsports.com/video?vid=86bec32c-3a0f-4937-99d5-5de42152b8b9" target="_new" title="">Braves honor Bobby Cox</a>

Bonus link: "So Long Bobby" from the Johnson Post.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Winning At Any Cost

Yesterday when Boise City Councilman TJ Thomson issued what amounts to a retraction of a critical comment he made on a Facebook page about Congressman Walt Minnick's bigoted campaign ad, it was readily apparent that he'd been spoken to by Minnick's campaign or someone supportive of Minnick's campaign. Chances are Councilman Thomson received the very "fact sheet" that the Minnick campaign has been using in the press to defend the disgusting ad and was asked to please walk back his comment. Rather than allow the Labrador campaign to use Thomson's comment against Minnick, Thomson told the press that he had since found the ad to be accurate and suggested that Labrador's campaign spend less time on Facebook. No matter the order of events yesterday, the Minnick campaign got exactly what they wanted out of TJ Thomson.

The incident yesterday with TJ Thomson was not the first of such incidents that the Minnick campaign "cleaned up" and it probably won't be the last.

Now, rewind to August 6, 2009. This blog posted a complete summary of Walt Minnick's voting record. As we were about the see, that particular August would become chaotic as members of congress departed D.C. for their districts to talk about health care reform. Town hall gatherings all over this country went viral as the Tea Party began screaming about socialism and Obama's plan to kill grandma. Minnick was known to be wavering on health care (something he eventually voted against) and he agreed to meet with Tea Party Boise during the break. To stem the reaction of Idaho Democrats who were disappointed in Minnick for his obvious pandering, the Minnick campaign started talking up the votes Minnick had taken that supported the Democratic majority. This blog posted the complete summary of Minnick's voting record in response to the effort his campaign was making to convince us all that he was in fact a Democrat.

After I posted the voting record summary, I started receiving comments on it that were incredibly detailed and ultra-supportive of Congressman Minnick. I was chastised for my "flawed logic" and one particular commenter continued to assert that Minnick was the best Idaho Democrats could do. Like the argument Sisyphus has been making of late, a commenter by the name of idaho-dem stated that Minnick is good for Idaho Democrats because no Republican representative would have voted for the Lilly Leadbetter Fair Pay Act, hate crimes legislation or an extension of SCHIP. While idaho-dem continued to attack my arguments and further those of Minnick's campaign, I noticed in my blog stats that the internet service provider for idaho-dem was the U.S. House of Representatives. Eventually I narrowed it even further and found that idaho-dem was not just any another Idaho Democrat like myself, but a member of Minnick's congressional staff commenting from a computer in one of Minnick's congressional offices. In politics this is what you would call astroturfing.

Once I had figured out that this fierce defender of Walt Minnick was astroturfing on my site, I spoke with John Foster of Minnick's office (now campaign spokesperson for the congressman). Prior to that summer, I had had a good working relationship with Foster and didn't realize that he was as opportunistic, manipulative and calculating as his boss. Foster talked me down and assured me that he would do something about this congressional intern who was commenting on my blog. After we discussed the situation, we discussed my criticism of Minnick and Foster reminded me that we Idaho Democrats needed to stick together because "we're family." By the end of that August day, I had closed comments on the post, removed all comments for viewing (something that has since been reversed, all comments are available here), and wrote a post discussing the situation. That August day, like the situation with TJ Thomson yesterday, John Foster and the Minnick campaign got out of me exactly what they wanted.

Not only did I have the experience of the Minnick campaign getting me to go along with their antics last August when I summarized Minnick's voting record, I had it again almost a year later when I co-wrote an expose about Walt Minnick. By spring of this year, I had given up hope that Walt Minnick would ever support the progressive ideals he ran on in 2008 and I had become a thorn in the side of John Foster and the Minnick campaign. Once the expose ran, I wasn't contacted by John Foster like I had been the previous August, I was contacted by someone I respect who had been contacted by John Foster and asked to speak to me. I stood by the expose then and I stand by it now. I wasn't about to let Foster and the Minnick campaign get their way again.

In the days following "The Walt Minnick You Don't Know" running here and at the MountainGoat Report, we both took heat for our criticism of Minnick. Over at MGR, she started receiving comments from two members of the Canyon County Democratic Party. The comments questioned her criticism of Minnick and questioned both of our devotion to Democratic politics. One comment by an officer of the Canyon County Democrats, Matthew Greene, insisted that MGR remove the link she had to the Canyon County Dems in her sidebar. She, like I, eventually started seeing a pattern in the comments she was receiving. The internet service provider was the same for Matthew Greene and another commenter who purported to be just another Idaho Democrat. The same would be true of Thaddius Wenderoth and another commenter who also purported to be just another Democrat. We who deal with politics call this astroturfing.

What does the incident with Matthew Greene at the MountainGoat Report have to do with what happened to me or what happened with TJ Thomson yesterday? The Minnick campaign turned around and hired Matthew Greene. They apparently didn't learn a thing from astroturfing on my site, in fact, they must condone astroturfing because they turned around and hired a Canyon County astroturf pro.

From an email they sent out about campaign workers:

And, from Minnick's campaign expenditures we see that Minnick's campaign office is paying Matthew Greene:
The Walt Minnick campaign, led by John Foster, will do whatever it takes to win and they have no qualms about using people to get what they want. They did it to me, they did it to TJ Thomson and they're now paying Matthew Greene for it. However, this isn't about Matthew Greene or even about TJ Thomson, this is about holding our elected officials accountable and expecting more from a man who, like it or not, wears the 'Democrat' label.

I don't know how the supposedly "too liberal" Huffington Post got hold of the story about Labrador wanting to send Idaho Guardsmen to the southern border between deployments, but I would put money on someone in the Minnick campaign shopping it to them. It also wouldn't surprise me if Thom George, chairman of the Kootenai County Democrats, came to Minnick's aid yesterday at 43rd State Blues with the Huffington Post story because he was asked to. This is simply how the Minnick campaign operates. Win at any cost.

As much as I would like to blame the entirety of what is happening with the Minnick campaign solely on Foster and Minnick himself, the Idaho Democratic Party and the Idaho press are enablers. The Idaho press has taken Minnick at his word on every part of his biography, on his voting record and on everything else he wants them to write about. It's despicable and unethical. Thankfully, Vickie Holbrook of the Idaho Press Tribune apparently can't be told what to do (at least not by John Foster and the Minnick campaign) and is calling for Minnick to stop airing that bigoted campaign ad.

The Walt Minnick campaign: Winning at any cost. Is this man really what is right for Idaho?
______________________________________
Update (9/30 9:48 a.m.): I knew of this, but didn't want to say anything without MG's permission. This is what I find the most despicable about the "win at any cost" strategy of Minnick & Foster:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Florida Ruling: "No Rational Basis for the Statute"

When the Third District Court of Appeal for the State of Florida ruled last week that Florida's ban on gay adoption is unconstitutional, something interesting happened. In the unanimous ruling, not only did the appeals court state that gay parents wishing to adopt are being denied their equal protection rights as well as their right to due process, the appeals court stated that no amount of actual proof exists that suggests homosexual parents are any less capable than their heterosexual counterparts.

In the opinion, penned by Judge Gerald B. Cope, Jr., the Court summarized the case as follows:
"Under Florida law, homosexual persons are allowed to serve as foster parents or guardians but are barred from being considered for adoptive parents. All other persons are eligible to be considered case-by-case to be adoptive parents, but not homosexual persons-even where, as here, the adoptive parent is a fit parent and the adoption is in the best interest of the child."
The case arose when a gay foster parent sought to legally adopt two young boys that had been placed in his care by the Florida Department of Children and Families (FDCF). Despite the FDCF offering numerous "expert" witnesses that insisted that children raised by homosexual parents are more susceptible to questioning their own sexual orientation, more at risk of encountering domestic violence, and are more likely to experience the break up or dissolution of their family, the Court found no proof to support FDCF's claims. FDCF was supported in their appeal by numerous fundamentalist Christian, homophobic, bigoted, far-right "family councils" that had supported this law for it's thirty-three years of existence.

The problem with bans like the Florida one, other than the obvious problem of discrimination and intrusion on constitutional rights, is that there aren't enough homes for all of the children that need homes desperately. Before states like Florida rule out the opportunity for a segment of the population to adopt, there are already far more children needing homes than there are adoptive families. We have a crisis in this country when it comes to our children and yet states like Florida, Utah, and Arkansas refuse to allow capable, loving parents to adopt children who would otherwise spend their lives in foster care.

Florida understands this; At least to the extent that they leave the door open for several segments of their population to adopt. Florida allows for the following parents to adopt on a case-by-case basis and in most cases pride themselves on not automatically discriminating against these groups: Parents with a prior criminal history including for assault, battery, drug crime, & other felonies; Parents with physical disability or handicap; Parents with chronic medical conditions (including those who are HIV positive); and unbelievably, parents with verified findings of abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Florida does not discriminate against single parents or against anyone on the basis of sex, color, or national origin. Florida attempts to keep the door open for as many successful adoptions as possible in almost every other case except for those that involve gays.

Like Florida, Arkansas has a law on the books that bans gays from adopting. Like Florida's law, the Arkansas law is currently being challenged in the courts. Even more extreme than Florida's law, Arkansas passed legislation in 2008 that would prevent any unmarried, cohabiting couple from adopting. The proponents of the Arkansas Adoption Act wanted to ban gays from adopting so badly that they didn't mind trampling on the rights of the completely heterosexual, unmarried couples in the state who wished to adopt as well. In the lead-up to the 2008 election, the Family Council Action Committee and other organizations that supported the Arkansas Adoption Act campaigned on their misled belief that the law wasn't about taking away the rights of adults, but was about protecting the rights of children. As many believed and said then, the state would rather have children living in foster care their entire lives than have them living in loving, stable homes with gay parents.

While Judge Christopher Piazza of the Pulaski County Circuit Court upheld the state of Arkansas' right to go forward with the ballot initiative banning gay adoption in 2008, he ruled as follows:
"Initiated Act 1 prohibits cohabiting same-sex couples and heterosexual couples from becoming foster or adoptive parents. It does not prohibit them from becoming foster or adoptive parents if they do not cohabitate. However, the act significantly burdens non-marital relationships and acts of sexual intimacy between adults and forces them to choose between becoming a parent and having any type of meaningful intimate relationship outside of the marriage. This infringes upon the fundamental right to privacy guaranteed to all citizens of Arkansas."
Though the Florida ruling avoided discussion of the right to privacy, the Arkansas ruling hinged on it. What the two rulings have in common is this: The legal battle surrounding gay adoption appears to have completely ignored the squawking from organizations like the American Family Association, Focus on the Family, and in the Arkansas case, the Family Council Action Committee, who have repeatedly said that homosexual parents are not equal to heterosexual parents (a claim that has been proven wrong time and time again).

This revelation is as much a victory for gay rights and the welfare of the nation's children as the actual court rulings are.

The welfare of the nation's children is a topic often in the news lately. Our children are facing a growing crisis in this country, one that cannot be ignored. The recent news about the number of children living in poverty is only one in many unsettling aspects of the crisis our children are facing. Let's talk about poverty first. The numbers are horrific:
"Worst of all, children, our most vulnerable group, experienced the steepest rise in poverty and the largest single-year increase since the 1960s. After dropping twenty-four percent between 1992 and 2000, the number of children in poverty increased more than one-third between 2000 and 2009. An additional 1.4 million children swelled the ranks of poor children to 15.5 million children -- more than one in five children. This almost ten percent increase in child poverty over 2008 is shameful, disturbing, and threatening news for millions of our nation’s children -- unless our nation addresses their human emergency needs."
As of 2008, Arkansas ranked 40th in infant mortality, 47th in child deaths, 42nd in teen deaths, 44th in child poverty, and 39th in child abuse deaths. From the same study, Florida ranked 48th in uninsured children, 48th in juvenile incarceration, and 41st in child abuse deaths. Utah, another state that has laws on the books that prevent gays from adopting, ranks 43rd in uninsured children. What these rankings mean:

Clearly, whatever system these states have for caring for their children isn't working. Is preventing a broader pool of potential adoptive parents from caring for these children really the best idea? Obviously not.

In the period prior to 2008, 5 children died per day from abuse or neglect (a total of 10,440 children in the U.S. are known to have died from abuse and neglect between 2001 and 2007). In a recent report from the Every Child Matters Education Fund, during the period from 2001-2008, 134 children in Arkansas died due to child abuse and neglect. During the same period, there were 970 child abuse or neglect fatalities. In Utah, 91 children died. Unfortunately, most of these stories are often never told to the public because of restrictive confidentiality laws that shield us from knowing the failures of our country's child protection services. For every child like Idaho's Robert Manwill, there are sadly dozens more.

Children need loving, stable homes to succeed. In the crisis that faces today's children, one caring home could make the difference. Banning an entire subset of potential parents from adopting is not only wrong, it is feeding the crisis. If a kind, caring couple wishes to adopt a child, create a safe environment for that child and ensure that child has everything he or she needs to succeed, what difference does it make if that couple is homosexual or heterosexual? It shouldn't make a difference at all and finally our nation's courts are saying so.

The Florida ruling, which will more than likely be appealed and eventually gain an audience with the Florida State Supreme Court, is only one in a series of court rulings that stand to challenge the discrimination in this country that our local, state and federal governments refuse to address through lawmaking. In the first two decades of the twenty-first century, we could potentially see the overturning of the military policy that prevents gays from serving openly, we could see several states move to strike down laws that prevent gays from adopting, and we could see Prop. 8 (the ban on gay marriage in California) overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. As much as we need skilled and dedicated soldiers whose sexual orientation is not an issue to serve in our military and as much as we need to remain true to the founding principles of equality that this nation has spent its existence striving for, our children are important too and we must give them every possible means to thrive.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

TDIH: Kennedy/Nixon Debates

On this day fifty years ago, then-candidate John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon participated in the first of four televised presidential debates. It was the first time in the history of the United States that a presidential debate was televised and 70 million viewers tuned in to watch. On this, the fiftieth anniversary, I offer the following links:
  • In the September issue of Smithsonian magazine, Alison McLean summed up the influence of the debates nicely:
"Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon face off in the first televised presidential debate September 26, 1960. As a tanned, fit-looking Kennedy debates a thin, wan Nixon (recovering from the flu and recent knee surgery) in need of a shave, the subject is policy, but the take-home message is that on TV, appearances matter. Exactly how much the event affects Kennedy's fall victory is itself a matter of debate, but more than half of voters report the contest influenced their opinion. Nixon declines to debate in 1968 and, as president, in 1972."
  • An excerpt on the New Nixon Blog (a feature of the Nixon Foundation website), "Fifty Years After: 1960's Kennedy-Nixon Debates," by David Pietrusza.
  • The Huffington Post secured a superb article by Northeastern professor Alan Schroeder that is worthy of the few moments it takes to read. We often do think only of the cosmetics of the debates, but we really should remember the historical significance of the debates.
It's unfortunate in this day and age, with the media outlets we have, that some in politics (Idaho and otherwise) do not truly appreciate the opportunity to debate. We now have the ability to disseminate debates all across this country, even to the most rural parts, and instead of taking that opportunity to allow for the education of every last voter, politicians hide from that face-time in a pathetic, cowardly way. Fifty years ago, the way we educate the voting public changed; if only fifty years later we could appreciate that advancement in democracy for what it is.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Politics of Prejudice

Last week I included several lengthy excerpts from an 1892 speech that then-Congressman Henry Cabot Lodge delivered to students at Harvard University on the topic of political independence and party allegiance. While I continue to urge you to read that particular speech in its entirety, I mention Henry Cabot Lodge now specifically for his position on immigration.

Lodge, who many would consider one of the great political thinkers of the United States Senate, of his generation or any other, was a staunch imperialist associated with the imperialist faction of the Senate that included Idaho's own William Borah (who joined Lodge in opposing President Wilson's League of Nations). Like many imperialists at the turn of the century, Lodge's imperialism was unfortunately linked to a strong position against immigration. As a member of the Immigration Restriction League, an organization founded in the northeastern U.S. as a response to European immigration, Lodge was supportive of its principles and desire to keep "undesirable immigrants" from reaching American soil. The Immigration Restriction League lobbied for a national literacy test, as a road block for immigrants, that was enacted by Congress in 1896, 1913, 1915, and 1917 (every bill with the exception of the 1917 one was vetoed). In addition to supporting a literacy test for immigrants, Lodge also played on the fears of struggling Americans in vocalizing his belief that foreign workers drove down the standard of living for Americans and uneducated immigrants drove up crime rates as well as overall national decline. Sound familiar?

Lodge and other members of the conservative and imperialist factions of the Republican Party believed these things about immigrants at the turn of the century--the 20th century. If the antics of the Tea Party, the increasingly conservative GOP, and Idaho's first district congressman are any indication, a growing number of Americans would like to return to the days of the Immigration Restriction League and the xenophobia of the early 20th century.

When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said he could not understand how Hispanics could be Republicans, not only did he tap into extreme criticism from the right, he sparked many an enterprising blogger's ire and quickly a dug-up story that he once supported ending birthright citizenship went viral. What Harry Reid also tapped into is the unfortunately growing transparency of the GOP's discriminatory ways.

Take a moment to consider the following events: Governor Jan Brewer's signing of SB 1070 in Arizona, Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional and the far right backlash to the ruling, the uproar over the proposed Muslim community center near Ground Zero in New York City as well as the Florida pastor's publicity stunt surrounding the burning of the Quran, and the emergence of a recent talking point centered around repealing the 14th amendment of the United States Constitution to put an end to birthright citizenship. In each of these instances, it is quite obvious that the Republican Party stands firmly against equality. Is not discrimination the antithesis of equality?

Anyone should have a hard time believing that this level of prejudice has existed within an organization all along. In the case of the Republican Party, the fact that they were the proponents that pushed forward the 14th amendment originally is the best proof we have that they haven't always held such discriminatory views.

When Governor Jan Brewer signed into law legislation that would make racial profiling common place and would put immigration enforcement into the hands of state and local cops who have no business doing the job of federal agents, a firestorm ignited in this country. In an already charged political environment that has made heroes of officials like Joe Arpaio, who continues to refuse to cooperate with a federal civil rights investigation of his department, the person with the most extreme position on immigration gets the most airtime. Consider the Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino in New York state; his position regarding those on welfare, essentially that they should be taught hygiene and housed in prison dorms, has garnered more press than any single position of his primary or general election opponents. This is the case with all politicians who are taking a position on immigration right now--the crazier, the more press and unfortunately, the more die-hard fans. In trying to "out crazy" each other, those on the right are resorting to positions that alienate minorities . It is as simple as that.

Here in Idaho, a candidate who may have once held sensible positions on immigration reform is forced to say he supports Governor Otter and Idaho's alliance with the lawsuit Governor Brewer in Arizona is waging against the federal government. Why? Because he is forced to compete for the votes of an increasingly kooky party and is being attacked from the right by his supposedly Democratic opponent. Never mind the fact that if traveling through Arizona, particularly the Phoenix area, in casual clothes, candidate Labrador might be the target of discrimination himself. Why leave the state? The same bigotry that drove Walt Minnick to attack his Hispanic opponent for being an immigration attorney is what drove Arizona to pass its discriminatory immigration bill. As long as the GOP and consenting Democrats allow the immigration debate to be framed as an anti-foreigner one, minorities will continue to be discriminated against at platform committee meetings and state conventions across this country.

It's a long road back to the immigration policy hopes of President George W. Bush when the senior senator from Arizona runs campaign ads promising to "complete the danged fence" (and, even further back to this). It's a long way back to the Republican Party that once promoted the 14th amendment, especially when the party's most vocal member is promoting what amounts to the very opposite of what the Civil Rights Era accomplished. It's a long road back to the place where most liberals didn't believe conservatives to be racists (and, it'll take more than this WaPo piece to explain to us why we're wrong). Unfortunately, as long as those roads may be, with the GOP leading the way, we may be headed straight back to the days preceding World War I, the days when organizations like the Immigration Restriction League were all the rage and membership in them was completely acceptable for our highest elected officials.

While we may think that the prejudice that was pervasive in politics at the turn of the 20th century is long in our rear view mirror, we may be underestimating the zeal with which the GOP and Tea Party would like to return us to the pre-Progressive Era policies that produced the Immigration Restriction League. After all, isn't a national literacy test exactly what English First groups have been advocating for years?

Monday, September 20, 2010

"You don't compromise core principles and values of your party..."

As a follow-up to my previous post, here's a comment left on a blog at the Spokesman Review:


Obviously, Minnick's campaign has taken a turn for the worse--one that is completely indefensible. Look for this week's post this evening or tomorrow morning.

(Sidenote: Very interesting avatar for Mr_Bloggy--Ezra Pound's mugshot.)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Minnick, Lodge, & Party Loyalty

"I believe you can be most effective in politics by joining a party, that party which by its character and its principles you think can do most for the country... [I]f you are so constituted that you cannot become a part of a great organization and subordinate your own wishes to general results, remain an independent in politics. But be a real independent, not a sham one. It is a perfectly honorable thing to be a party man. It is likewise a perfectly honorable thing to be a genuine independent...although I do not think it is so useful. But it is a very mean and dishonest thing to be a party man and call yourself an independent, or to be an independent and call yourself a party man. If you are a member of a party, be true to it. If you are an independent, be true to your independence. But be a slave to neither."

-- Henry Cabot Lodge, from a speech entitled "Party Allegiance" given to Harvard University students March 8, 1892. (Emphasis added)
By now most residents of Idaho's first congressional district have seen Congressman Walt Minnick's campaign ad that touts an all too familiar anti-Obama, anti-spending and anti-Washington theme. Much has been written about the misleading language Minnick's campaign employed for the purpose of gaining the incumbent whatever votes are out there to be won by such advertisements, though little has been said about this not being the first time Minnick's campaign has carefully crafted language that would serve to mislead voters about his record. What hasn't been said nearly enough since long-time political reporter Randy Stapilus introduced it as the "smoothest Republican campaign videos" of this voting cycle is that Walt Minnick is running as a Democrat for re-election to the House. In any other circumstance I might advise that someone please tell the candidate that he's having a political identity crisis.

In Tuesday's editorial, the Idaho State Journal concluded that in Idaho party labels don't really mean much. The reason for this conclusion? The "politically canny move" by Minnick to state in the previously mentioned campaign ad that he "has had to say no" to his own party "far more than [he's] said yes." When asked about the Republican National Committee's attack ad quoting Minnick on this, Minnick's spokesman and former executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party John Foster said: “While it is unfortunate that this group decided to use Walt’s words for a partisan attack, it also serves to highlight the fact that Walt is the most independent member of Congress.” Does lack of loyalty to one's party equal independence? Walt Minnick and John Foster apparently think so.

When Walt Minnick ran for Congress, he ran as a Democrat. He ran to the left, unlike what he is currently doing. He ran with the wave of progressivism that swept Barack Obama into office. He was eagerly awaiting then-candidate Obama when he spoke in Boise, strategically placing himself in the crowd behind Obama for all the cameras to see. He was for health care reform, campaign finance reform, and the energy bill; he was pro-choice and supportive of the unions; and, Walt Minnick ran against the pandering for votes and far-right antics of Bill Sali. Now running for re-election, Walt Minnick is running as far from the 'Democrat' label as he can get. He's running against Obamacare, against the Wall Street bailouts that he once supported (and more than likely benefited he and his friends at Goldman Sachs), and against anything that might add to the federal deficit especially if it increases the size of government even slightly. By all accounts, in everything but name, Walt Minnick is running as a Republican.

The most disconcerting aspect of Minnick's governance to the right of where he ran is that in doing so, he is dragging Idaho Democrats with him. As Minnick panders to the right, ignores the left (his base), and controls the middle, the Idaho Republican Party is forced even further to the right. Instead of having some moderate candidates, like 2006's race with Sheila Sorensen in the pack, Republicans end up with far-right kooks and candidates as conservative as Raul Labrador. But, back to the Democrats... If Keith Allred is any indication, Democratic candidates either don't feel they can actually run as self-proclaimed Democrats with Democratic ideals and a record befitting a Democrat or there just aren't any real Democrats out there who are aspiring to public office. Democrats like Allred are left stealing pages out of Minnick's playbook because they think that is the only way to win. Young Democrats like myself are left hoping that someday there will again be elected officials like Frank Church who are both good for this state and eventually give rise to other strong, Democratic candidates like Richard Stallings. Young Democrats like myself are left hoping that someday it will be okay again to openly proclaim yourself a member of the Democratic Party in your own campaign ads. This is what Walt Minnick has done for this party.

How does a party get out in front of the attacks made against its members and its principles if one of the attackers is its de facto leader? How can the Idaho Democratic Party tout the merits of the health insurance reform bill when Congressman Minnick voted against it? How can the IDP support the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau when their de facto leader tried to strip it of any real teeth? How do we attempt to explain the benefits of the Stimulus to our fellow Idahoans when not a single member of the congressional delegation, including Minnick, voted for it and continue to crow about its impact on the deficit? How Idaho Democrats can look the other way as their congressman votes on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to charge his own party with attempting to "willfully deceive the American people," is beyond me. Really, how?

If you haven't, please take a moment to read the introduction to this post, a quote from a speech given in 1892 by then-congressman Henry Cabot Lodge. In a time when partisanship meant something quite different from what it does today, Lodge presented the case for bearing some allegiance to a political party. Be it clear, Lodge was not asking every member of the Harvard student body to register to vote as a Republican; what Lodge was promoting was a responsibility to principle and party--two things that once went hand-in-hand. Lodge was presenting a viewpoint that seems to have been lost in recent years, a viewpoint that spoke to the strength and purpose of political parties: "Therefore it may be said that our history has been made, and our great advances have been secured, through party organizations." If Lodge were alive today, he would certainly be perplexed by the epidemic of politicians running from their party affiliations.

Not only would Henry Cabot Lodge have been appalled at the disrespect and disloyalty of politicians like Mr. Minnick, he would have been appalled at party organizations like the IDP in their following of such "sham" candidates. A final excerpt from Lodge's position on independence in politics:
"...[T]he independence in politics of which we have heard so much of late years [sic] is the independence of professionals who think the name valuable, and has usually consisted in voting one ticket all the time and in trying the two political parties by widely different standards. Call it by what fair-sounding name you choose, this is partisanship, and unattractive partisanship, because it masquerades. ...Independence is a fact and may exist under any conditions, just as the name independence may be claimed and used without any relation to the actual truth. I have seen greater courage and independence shown by men of both parties who were strict party men, and always voted their party ticket, than by any one else, and, at the same time, the most ferocious partisanship I have ever witnessed I have seen exhibited by those who proclaimed their independence most loudly to the ears of a somewhat wearied world."
It is a world wearied by the ideologically charged times in which we live, but claiming independence, sham or otherwise, and owing no allegiance to your own party is neither good for your constituents nor the future of your party.

While it may be politically expedient for any candidate running as a Democrat in Idaho to highlight a handful of their more conservative positions, after all this is what successful Democratic Senator Frank Church did with the issue of gun control and what Democratic Congressman Richard Stallings did with the balanced budget amendment and abortion, it is not politically necessary to disrespect and abandon the Democratic Party completely. There must be Democrats in this state who believe, as I do, that we've lost sight of the progressive ideals that once resided in our party. This is what electing Walt Minnick has done to our party and re-electing Walt Minnick isn't going to make our party any more formidable.

The world may be wearied by the ideological hard right turn it has taken of late, but that does not mean there is no place for party loyalty today.