Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Jackie Corr notes that NorthWestern is being dropped from the Standard & Poor index because of low share price and market value. But this link doesn't seem to work anymore.
The Billings City Council has faxed over a Notice of Executive Session for a luncheon meeting on Wednesday, July 30, at Jake's Restaurant to discuss hiring a new city administrator. According to the fax, "The meeting will be a closed (their emphasis) session. The public right to know does not supercede the individuals' right to privacy concerning the personal nature of the information to be discussed."

Gee, that sounds exactly like the thing that KTVQ and The Billings Gazette protested when the school board hired a new superintendent. Isn't this the same problem? Privacy hardly seems to be the issue here. The council already waded through background checks at an earlier closed meeting. It's hard to imagine that any of the three finalists for city administrator still has anything in his background so dark that protecting him from embarrassment outweighs the public's obvious interest in hearing and participating in the debate about the new administrator. If such secrets do exist, maybe he shouldn't be a finalist.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Photon Courier reports on a textbook variation of Bob Dylan's "Blowing in the Wind" that includes this line: "How many roads must an individual walk down before you can them an adult."

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Now even the editorial board of the Dallas Morning News has its own blog.
This Idaho Supreme Court case is a bit scary. Under the state's at-will employment doctrine, an employee of a lumber products company was fired for opposing company policies. According to testimony, he didn't speak out, didn't protest and didn't try to persuade other employees that the company was wrong. Indeed, his performance was rated "very good" and the governor had presented him a citizens award.
This is exactly the sort of case that breeds indifference to the First Amendment. If you can't speak out where it really matters -- on the job -- what difference does it make that you can gripe about the president?

Sharon Peterson is retiring after 24 years as an aide to U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. If you have ever wondered why Max has managed to keep his job all these years, she's a big reason. She's on top of the issues, works tirelessly and keeps lines of communication open. He's lucky he's got five years to fill the gaping hole she will leave behind before he has to run again.

Mayor Chuck Tooley says in an e-mail that he began undergoing chemotherapy this week for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. As the mayor points out, the bad news is that it's a serious disease, like all cancer. The good news is that it is one of the most treatable types (my father-in-law had it). The mayor say, "I do not expect to have to curtail many of my activities as mayor, but will have to fit treatments and a new realm of special care activities into my daily and weekly schedules. The two days after chemo may be a little shaky for me, but those will likely be Fridays and Saturdays." I wish him well.

Financial analyst Steven N. Barlow has lowered his opinion of Lee Enterprises stock. Lee reported last week that third-quarter earnings were down nearly 32 percent and that total advertising revenues dropped 0.5 percent. Could the independent press be making a dent?

Friday, July 25, 2003

To keep up with what all the wildfires are doing to Montana air, go here.
We've had two days of almost no internet service and intermittent e-mail. Suddenly, it's come roaring back. I feel the same way we used to feel in the country when the power would come back on after a big thunderstorm.

Public opposition to relaxing rules on media ownership finally has caught the ear of the House of Representatives, according to this story. The message hasn't yet penetrated the White House, but it could.

You know, there is a bright side to the collapse of Touch America. Once the company is finally dissolved, it will mark the first time in a century that Montana hasn't been under the thumb of the Anaconda company or one of its minions. Shouldn't we celebrate Montana Independence Day? We could wave Montana flags, melt copper coins, set fire to Bob Gannon photos and give fiery speeches from the hollowed-out M&M bar in Butte. If freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose, then Touch America has left us free for the first time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Now John Kerry is on record complaining that President Bush didn't practice enough diplomacy prior to launching war against Iraq. But Sen. Kerry voted for a war resolution that left it up to the president to determine when it was time to stop being a diplomat and start being a commander-in-chief. If the senator had followed the intentions and explicit instructions of the U.S. Constitution, as spelled out here, he would have reserved to the Congress the power of determining when it was time to go to war. It's too late to complain now.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

This just sort of speaks for itself, as does this. Maybe it's just worth adding that going "daily" doesn't necessarily mean printing daily. Looks like this may be strictly a web venture. Also interesting that he changed web addresses. I think I know why.
Despite all the free news on the Internet, at times I think cyberspace has been good for newspapers. For one thing, websites for TV stations make it all too clear how poorly sourced most TV stories are, even when good reporters are at work. There just isn't time to spell out who sources are, even if they exist. Other times, it seems that the internet hasn't changed anything, or at least not enough.
Last night I was watching NBC and saw a preview story about Jessica Lynch's return home today. The story had a classic theme: Residents in this sleepy little town are glad to have their girl back, but they are increasingly skeptical about an overseas war that appears to have no point and no end in sight. The reporter put interviews of four or five residents up on the screen, tossed in pro-war comments from a veteran for "balance," and the story was in the can.
For conservative critics, it was a classic case of liberal bias: A reporter with a pre-existing anti-war storyline went looking for sources who would it back up, threw them up on screen and got out of town. Maybe the critics are right. As always, other possibilities exist:
1. Maybe the people the reporter talked to really did represent an accurate cross-section of the people in Palestine, W.V. Of course, the only way he could know that was if he:
a. Talked to a whole bunch of people.
b. Conducted a scientific survey.
c. Talked to a few people with intimate knowledge of the community who could be dependably relied upon to know the sentiments of most people.
The report provided no evidence that he had done any of those things.
2. He could have been an anti-war reporter motivated by conservative bias. As I (and George Will) have argued before, all of the best anti-war arguments were conservative arguments.
3. He could have deliberately broadcast an unbalanced report in order to offset the unabashed, flag-waving hero worship that he knew would dominate network coverage today. Add the two days of coverage together, you see, and you get something approaching balance.
4. He could have been lazy or on deadline and just went looking for an easy story angle.
I placed my bet on No. 4. Today I went cruising the internet to look more closely at the text of the story to see if I could figure out whether I was right. Couldn't find the story anywhere. Could it have been broadcast on CBS? Couldn't find it there either. The story appears to have sunk without a trace.
That's why TV, even on the internet, still has an edge over newspapers.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Michael Erickson passes along information about the Billings Veterans Stand Down.
The Missoula Independent has the skinny on the new dress code at the Missoulian.

Friday, July 18, 2003

The Drug Policy Alliance is urging citizens to write letters thanking Sen. Joe Biden. Sen. Biden, who sponsored the so-called RAVE Act, was instrumental in getting the Drug Enforcement Administration to revise guidelines to avoid repeats of DEA warnings that led to cancellation of a NORML-sponsored concert in Billings.

A reader suggests taking a look at this blog. Well worth it.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Back from the Bob Dylan concert in Big Sky at 3 this morning, then off to deliver papers most of the day. It's a good, tired feeling. The concert was first-rate: nicely nestled among the mountains, perfect summer evening, large and appreciative crowd. You can find the set list and other comments here. Dylan was cooking. Old age has served him well. Guys half as old as he is are touring the nostalgia circuit cranking out their top three hits night after night in versions different from the recorded originals only by reason of desertion and decrepitude. Dylan played old stuff, too -- "Maggie's Farm," "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You," "It Ain't Me Babe," etc. -- but, as always, he constantly rethinks his songs, adapting them to his band and his changing moods and his decaying voice so that they sound fresh, sometimes even unrecognizable except for the lyrics.

And his bag of quality songs is so large, and with so few genuine hits in it, that he can choose from a hundred or so songs on any given night without disappointing his audiences. Last night, his newest stuff also struck me as the freshest. He took the weakest songs from "Love and Theft" and recast them as rockers, getting the crowd moving. Then he slowed down to something near the original southern lounge singer sound of the recorded version of "By and By." He wound down the regular set with "Summer Days," a so-so song on the album that just cooks in concert.

George Will once said that nostalgia was the only possible explanation for Bob Dylan's continued popularity. Like many conservative commentators of his ilk, Will still seems to be compensating for his inability to dig the '60s. What makes Dylan so much fun to hear is that he still draws fans who remember him from the days when he was breaking all the molds while also bringing in new listeners who either want to see a legend, or love his new albums, or wonder why it is that all the other musicians they like keep referring back to Dylan. It makes for an eclectic and good-natured crowd, and they got everything they came to see Wednesday night.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Oops. Messed up the link to WWW.yellowdogrecords/com/marklemhouse. See if that works.
Saw another tattered American flag streaming from a passing car this morning. Looked like flag desecration to me. The irony is that I suspect most people driving around with flags on their cars probably favor the flag-burning amendment that recently passed the House and is on its way to the Senate. I wonder if they know that they could be exposing themselves to criminal prosecution if the amendment passes and Congress actually has to pass legislation to implement the thing.
Wouldn't tattered flags that expose a sacred symbol to public humiliation be banned under the statute? Would it be possible to write a statute that allows people to abuse the flag out of laziness or indifference but punishes them for abusing it out of a sincere, if misguided, opposition to this nation's policies? I would love to see the congressional debate that attempts to define desecration without examing the motives of the one who does the desecrating.

After the Federal Communications Commission allowed newspaper and TV station crossownership in the same city, it took only a few weeks for KTVQ to begin allowing The Billings Gazette to begin promoting tomorrow's headlines during Channel 2's 10 p.m. broadcast. It's not an ad: The plugs are inserted directly into the newscasts. Media moguls call it "convergence," the marketing flavor of the day, which postulates that all media are really the same and should cross-promote one another endlessly. The Gazette has been converging with Channel 2's weather "brand" for a couple of years.
Probably nobody involved read any of the FCC comments on crossownership. The comments emphasize the importance of having not just multiple but antagonistic media sources. That means different sources see the world in different ways, compete with one another and give readers/viewers meaningful choices.
I have another word for what KTVQ and the Gazette are doing, but I will save it for my unexpurgated memoirs.

Details about Mark Lemhouse's concert at the Beanery on July 22 arrived too late to make this week's Outpost. You can find them at

Also arriving too late was the schedule for public interviews of prospective city of Billings administrators. Here it is:
* July 22: D. Craig Whitehead, former city manager of Sioux City, Iowa.
* July 23: John F. Fischbach, city manager of Fort Collins, Colo.
* July 24: Kristoff T. Bauer, interim city manager for the city of Billings.
All meetings begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the second floor of the police station, 220 N. 27th St. W. You can also watch the interviews on Cable Channel 8 or leave recorded comments at 237-6150.
Interesting, isn't it, how low below the radar this selection process has flown, especially after the intensely public, and politically inflammatory, search for a new school superintendent. Life must be good at City Hall.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Twice in the last couple of weeks, I have heard talk show callers refer to CSPAN as part of the liberal media. Has liberal been defined so far to the right that anything to the left of Fox news is now liberal? Seems to me that callers who make such silly statements discredit their own cause.

Randy Barnett has the best discussion I've seen of Justice Kennedy's thinking in the Texas sodomy case. It's a must read.