Monday, December 24, 2012

Crapo Arrested for DUI

The following statement was released by the Idaho Democratic Party in response to the Sunday morning arrest of Idaho's senior United States senator:

Senator Mike Crapo was arrested early Sunday morning by Alexandria police in the D.C. area after he ran a stoplight and was suspected of driving under the influence. The breathalyzer test he received measure his blood alcohol content at .111.

The news that Senator Mike Crapo had been arrested came as a shock to many Idahoans who might have considered Crapo to be the least likely of Idaho's delegation to be in a mess such as this. And as the chairman of the Idaho Democratic Party notes, whether the Idaho Republican Party wants to admit it or not, they have the appearance of an organization bent on embarrassing the state they represent.

This is the second time in less than six years that Idaho has been in the news for a U.S. senator's arrest. Larry Craig, of course, was arrested in 2007 for lewd conduct in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Hitchcock: If Not Now, When?

Editor's Note: The following piece was submitted to the Idaho State Journal by Leonard Hitchcock and appears here with his generous permission.


According to the New York Times, on the day that a young man in Connecticut shot twenty children at an elementary school with a gun, a man in China assaulted twenty-two children at an elementary school with a knife.  All twenty of the Connecticut victims died; none of the Chinese children did.  These incidents underline both the efficiency of firearms, and one reason why they constitute a substantially greater danger to the public than knives.

Once could elaborate on this lesson.  In a violent confrontation between two people, the chances of death resulting for one or both of the parties is, in part, a function of the instruments of violence in use.  A gun is a more effective inflictor of damage than a knife, which is, in turn, is more effective than fists.  A gun can also be utilized more quickly, and at a distance. 

If what prompts the use of a weapon is sudden rage, a gun is therefore more likely to cause serious harm than implements that are either less effective or that can only be brought into use more slowly and at close range.  It is well known that rage ebbs sooner or later, and that the continuation of violence, for humans and many other animals, is inhibited by one of the combatants showing signs of injury and/or an unwillingness to prolong the fight.  Hence, “fighting to the death” in cases of conflicts between animals of the same species (as opposed to predator/prey interactions) is usually avoided.  But if one of the combatants is able, when at the height of anger (or fear), to quickly employ a lethal weapon that is very efficient in inflicting mortal wounds, and to do so before the other is able to exhibit submissive behavior (or an abatement of anger), the chances of death are greatly increased. 

And what if both combatants have guns?  I have not found data pertinent to this situation, but my guess would be that under those circumstances the probability of death increases, especially if one takes into consideration the law’s propensity (as in, e.g., Florida) to regard preemptive strikes as justifiable when there is a perceived threat of serious bodily harm.

(There are those who hold the seemingly-paradoxical belief that if we were all armed with guns, fewer of us would be killed by them.  This reasoning would suggest, by extension, that the world would be a safer place if all nations, including Iran, possessed deployable nuclear weapons.)

Of course the conflict scenario considered above – something on the order of a bar fight -- is only one of many circumstances in which lethal violence can occur.  If causing death is someone’s conscious plan, for example, then, while it is still the case that using a firearm to achieve that aim is a more efficient means than most others, the assailant is less likely to be inhibited by submissive behavior on the part of the victim.

Yet it seems obvious that, no matter what the circumstances, public safety would be enhanced by reducing the frequency with which violent confrontations involve the use of guns.  That would mean, among other things, reducing the likelihood that people prone to engage in such confrontations, i.e. those particularly subject to sudden rage or those who suffer from mental conditions which foster the desire to kill others, would possess firearms.

It will be objected, no doubt, that citizens have a Constitutionally-protected right to possess such firearms.  To which the obvious response is that no Constitutional right is absolute.  Yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater or inciting a mob to burn down a building are impermissible exercises of the right of free speech.  Generally speaking, when the public’s welfare and wellbeing are seriously endangered by actions formally classifiable as protected rights, then it is justifiable to deprive those actions of protection.   There is no reason at all that gun ownership, whatever the Second Amendment might be taken to mean, should not be subject to the same rule. 

An incident such as the Connecticut killings provides a further incentive – if one was needed – to extend controls on gun ownership and use.  Guns designed for military use, such as the Bushmaster used by the killer in Newtown, should not be available to civilians.  Neither should large ammunition magazines or clips.  Guns of any kind should not be sold to persons with criminal records or records suggesting a predilection for violence, or to persons suffering from personality disorders likely to entail violence.  Background checks should be required for all gun sales, not just those involving commercial dealers, and information for such background checks should be collected from all relevant sources.

Eli Wiesel, holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner wrote in the New York Daily News on Dec. 17th, “If this tragedy does not produce universal gun control, what can and what will?  What else do we need for preventing further horrors such as this?”

If not now, when?

Dale Murphy's Final Hall of Fame Ballot

Editor's Note: This piece was published at on December 18th.

This January when the Hall of Fame voters submit their ballots for this summer’s induction ceremony, Dale Murphy will be appearing on the ballot for his fifteenth and final time. Murph, as we fans of the former Atlanta Brave refer to him, peaked his second year on the ballot with 23.2% of the vote. Unlike so many inducted into the Hall, Murph didn’t continue to rise in voting percentage. The reality of this is, for the most part, a travesty for the game of baseball.
Dale Murphy played the entirety of his career for teams that simply couldn’t compete despite his best effort on the field. Where his numbers fall short, one should consider how much better he could have been had he been surrounded by winning teams. Had he played during Atlanta’s dynasty years in the 90s, there would be no question about his Hall of Fame candidacy.
Of the nine numbers retired by the Atlanta Braves, four of those players have been inducted into the Hall of Fame (Spahn, Mathews, Aaron, Neikro). Without question four of those players will be inducted into the Hall in the next three years (Cox, Smoltz, Maddux and Glavine). There is no question that Chipper Jones will be inducted into the Hall and his number will be retired by the Braves next summer. That leaves only Dale Murphy. Murph’s number was retired in 1994 by Atlanta.
Recently, Joe Posnanski wrote that beyond what Dale Murphy did on the field, “Murphy was a class act, someone who took being a role model seriously, and in many ways he was the first baseball hero that the American South could call its own.” This is the crux of the matter. Not the numbers, though no one will argue with back-t0-back MVP awards for a team that was terrible, two home run titles and four remarkable seasons of not missing a single game. The Dale Murphy case for the Hall of Fame is bigger than the ubiquitous baseball statistics.
Here is where I make my pitch as a fan of the game, not just the beat writer for BravesWire.
Little-known fact: This beat writer covering the premiere Southern team, the Atlanta Braves, writes this column from her home in Idaho. Out West, guys like Dale Murphy are revered for one particular reason–faith. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, otherwise known as Mormon, Dale Murphy is one of the higher profile members of the Church. Growing up in a Mormon community, the most followed sports stars were Danny Ainge, Thurl Bailey, Shawn Bradley, Danny White, Merril Hoge, Steve Young and Dale Murphy. People didn’t follow these stars just because they were Mormon, they followed them because they were notoriously good guys. Perhaps it is their Mormon faith that instilled in them a certain type of character, a type of character that required them to not drink alcohol or use drugs, but I believe it is far more than that.
Dale Murphy has given as much of himself off the field as he did as a player on the field. He has been an advocate for a number of charities, he has worked tirelessly for and given generously to his church, and he started his own organization promotion integrity among little league baseball players. As a teammate, he was known for his work ethic and leadership. He set an example for each of his teammates, not only for his teetotaling lifestyle, but also for the way he treated the fans. Imagine a 2-time MVP today who would never turn away a fan who wanted an autograph and who would not allow female fans to hang all over him in pictures. Both are unheard of today. As a MLB alum, he continues to be known for his leadership and continued devotion to the game. Dale Murphy is a familiar face at charity events and anything promoting the Braves franchise.
Does off-the-field behavior matter? It should. Do good guys finish last? Unfortunately, this is too often true. But it shouldn’t be the case.
As the face of the Atlanta Braves franchise for a decade, as a credit to the game of baseball and as one of the most liked players to ever wear the uniform, Dale Murphy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Senator Kerry and the Disabilities Treaty

Editor's Note: As a precursor to what I hope to write about tomorrow, please find fifteen minutes to watch then incredibly moving speech by Senator John Kerry on the floor of the Senate yesterday urging the passage of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The treaty, requiring two-thirds of the United States Senate in favor, failed 61-38.