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="" target="_new" title="">Braves honor Bobby Cox</a>

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