Sunday, August 31, 2003

Billings blogging goes big time. Ed is a good writer and a good friend, and it will be interesting to see what turns up here. Perhaps more interesting will be seeing the extent to which the Gazette is willing to tolerate some of the more traditional blogging functions, such as critiquing the local media, linking to alternative sources, etc. That (and technological ignorance) have been the big reasons why the corporate-owned media have been reluctant to move into the blogosphere. They like owning the whole show, and it pains them to even acknowledge the existence of alternatives.

Anyway, Ed, welcome aboard. Blogging begets blogging, and this blog could use the help. Between getting out the monthly billing for The Outpost last week and preparing for my Thursday night journalism class at Rocky, it's been a slow week of blogging around here.

On the other hand, it was disconcerting to go to Ed's blog bright and early this morning and see he had nothing posted yet. Hey, pal, this is a daily.

My intemperate screed about gubernatorial candidate Pat Davison drew a gracious phone call from the candidate himself. He said that his campaign intends to include The Outpost (and, presumably, other alternative media) on its distribution list, and he took personal blame for failing to get a fax through letting us know about his candidate announcement. Apparently, the fax line was busy the first time, and he didn't get around to trying again.

State Sen. John Bohlinger, who has been trying to rally support for a special legislative session, also took note of the column and passed along a copy of the letter he mailed to fellow legislators. By Oct. 1, he says, the Legislature will have $50 million in federal money, plus $20 million more in tax revenue than was anticipated. Sen. Bohlinger wants to use some of that money to offset cuts in services required by last session's funding shortfall.

"History will tell us that what we are attempting to do is nearly impossible," he wrote, "but that must not keep us from trying."

Impossible, indeed.

Thank goodness, fire season is about over, and along with it the Gazette's six-part series on the Yellowstone National Park fires of 1988. If there's anything worse than trying to keep up with daily fire coverage, it's trying to keep up with coverage of a fire that happened 15 years ago.

Least surprising news of the day: a Harvard researcher concludes that telling young people that most of them don't smoke or drink to excess not only doesn't prevent smoking and drinking to excess but may increase it. That certainly sounds like my attitude when I was a young person, and I would hate to think that modern youth are any less prickly. Even the tennis shoe companies understand that if you want kids to all think and dress alike, you have to try to make them think that they are all dressing and thinking in their own unique way.

Betty Ryniker's question about the derivation of "gubernatorial" in this week's Outpost is drawing online help.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

In its E-Brief, the Republican Party takes a shot at Terry Trieweiler:

"Terry Trieweiler Shows True Colors

"Though former Montana Supreme Court Justice Terry Trieweiler has retired from the bench, his role as a leader in the enviro-activist crusade will not diminish. Trieweiler is currently applying for a position on the Board of Directors for Montana’s leading enviro-litigation (read “obstructionist”) groups, the Montana Environmental Information Center.

"In his application for the MEIC Board, Trieweiler said, “I’ve also notices that facts and reason have less impact in the legislative branch of government than campaign contributions from those interest groups who benefit, in the short term, from bad public policy. In that political climate, litigation is increasingly important to enforce the fundamental values reflected in our state constitution…I believe that as people who care about future generations turn increasingly to courts to balance a political process, currently weighted heavily in favor of short term economic interests, my experience in those courts can be of assistance to MEIC and the other members of the Board.”

"To have a Montana Supreme Court justice so unabashedly endorse litigation over legislation is appalling. Montana is fortunate to have a citizen-run government; a system in which all citizens have the ability to run for office, and in which all citizens have access to even the highest-level government officials. Trieweiler evidently believes that enviro-activist groups need to circumvent that system in order to achieve their obstructionist aims.

"The appropriate role for the judiciary is to interpret the law as defined by the legislative branch and applied by the executive. Trieweiler’s environmental philosophy has blinded him to the proper role that he was supposed to serve and presents a dangerous precedent.

"Trieweiler’s term as justice is up; he will not be missed."

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Conrad Stroebe of the School District 2 Board of Trustees sent along this link. The first paragraph alone should make your eyes pop.
Christopher Hitchins' take on the 10 Commandments flap is, as always, insightful and idiosyncratic.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

The Missoula Independent's annual Worst of Missoula issue is out, and Andy Smetanka sums up the state of local music pretty much everywhere: "It's always a few people working together really hard to provide the majority with something to do that they probably won't do because they all have to stay home and wash their hair or something."
This headline from the Western Organization of Resource Councils' Western Organizing Review just about sums it up: "Bad Energy Bill Replaced by Flawed Bill."

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Sean Hannity was blathering on the other day about references to the Creator in the Declaration of Independence. His argument was that the Founding Fathers believed God had a place in public life, so it's OK to place the Ten Commandments in a public building. It's a familiar argument that interestingly omits the U.S. Constitution, which leaves God out of the Preamble and mentions religion only in restrictive references, e.g., no establishment of religion, no religious test for public office. Clearly, the Founding Fathers recognized a distinction between calling on the Lord when launching a revolution and calling on the Lord when establishing the framework for a civil republic dedicated to protecting the rights of people to believe whatever they damn well please. I'm not sure Hannity gets the distinction.

As for the Ten Commandments, it's a tough call and I haven't quite made up my mind. But I got a laugh out of this thought from MediaWhoresOnline Watch Watch Watch Watch : "AND IN ALABAMA THOSE JESUS FREAKS ARE WORSHIPPING A FUCKING STONE THAT SAYS DON'T WORSHIP A FUCKING STONE ON IT!" responds to my comments about The Billings Gazette homeless series:

"You said, "The guy had some bad breaks, sure, but the reporter made it
pretty obvious that he screwed up a lot, too."

"True enough, but here's the rub: they guy owns land and a home in
Alaska. *He's not homeless.* He's stranded in Billings either through
ignorance in not being able to read the terms of his bus ticket, or an
inability (or unwillingness) to do any contingency planning.

"Also, my moral (unclear as it was) wasn't necessarily that the Gazette
favors increasing social spending, rather that the headlines are tilted
a certain way to set the tone for the story. It would be interesting to
run an experiment with that story. Have two groups of people read the
same story, and in one group, the headline reads, "Life's setbacks leave
Alaska man homeless" and the other says, "Poor choices strand worker in
Billings." Then ask people their perceptions of his plight."

My only comment: The suggested headline would never fly under the "objective" rules of journalism that most of us in the business were reared on. A headline should summarize the story, not draw conclusions about the wisdom of the decisions it describes. I think the Gazette headline is weak but unbiased. After all, stupidity can be one of life's setbacks, too. Perhaps a netural "Homeless man stranded in Billings" would have been better, even if duller. The point is, it's dangerous to draw conclusions about media bias from a copy editor's attempts to squeeze an interesting, accurate, fair and compelling headline into a half-dozen words or so. Anybody have a better suggestion?

The Billings Symphony's explanation of its decision to ax conductor Uri Barnea just gets lamer. In today's Gazette, Symphony President Robert C. Griffin assures us that the Symphony board "deliberated long and hard before reaching this decision." No doubt Saddam Hussein deliberated long and hard before invading Kuwait. Long deliberations do not justify poor decisions. Mr. Griffin also said the board is "currently engaged in negotiations to reach an agreement as to the terms and conditions under which Barnea" could address the board about his termination. When a board has to negotiate an agreement to talk to its top executive, it's got serious problems.

We're still aiming to get to the bottom of this. If we have any luck, it will be in the Aug. 28 edition.

Saturday, August 23, 2003 thinks that the Billings Gazette showed its liberal bias in its homeless series. I think he's right that the headlines were off a notch or two, but those were tight headlines to write. I'm not sure I get the rest of the argument. It appears to be this: The Gazette painted a picture of a guy who is a victim of external circumstances when the facts (as reported by The Gazette) indicate that he made bad choices to land in the spot he is in. The moral (presumably, although unstated) is that The Gazette favors pumping more money into social welfare programs to help such innocent victims. I thought the story was considerably more nuanced: The guy had some bad breaks, sure, but the reporter made it pretty obvious that he screwed up a lot, too. If anything, the article made a case for how complex the homeless problem is and how inadequately neat slogans deal with it. But maybe that's a liberal argument, too.
The Billings Gazette appears to be transmitting messages in secret code. An alert reader pointed out this photo cutline from the fall prep sports preview on Friday. Just click on the photo.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Former Missoula mayor Daniel Kemmis says that Western political boundaries are following drainages, mountains and other geographical lines, not lines drawn on a map. Scroll down to Paragraph 5.
Evelyn Pyburn argues that the reason deregulation hasn't worked is because nobody has tried it yet.

Lt. Gov. Karl Ohs won't try for the big job. Or so says this news release from Bob Brown:

"Bob Brown, Secretary of State and GOP Candidate for governor praised Lt. Governor Karl Ohs Friday for his service to the state.

"Ohs announced Friday he would not be a candidate for governor in 2004.

“'Karl Ohs is a gentleman and a very able leader for the state of Montana.' Brown said. 'Although he has indicated he will not be a gubernatorial candidate this election cycle, I know he has a lot to offer Montana both now and in the future.'

"Brown said that during the next several months he would seek Ohs’ advice and input. 'As we continue with the campaign I am hopeful his many supporters and friends will consider my candidacy for governor,' Brown said.

"'Karl has an especially strong group of supporters in the ag community that I consider very important to both our economy and to our great way of life in Montana,' Brown said. 'He’s done a lot of important work with the drought advisory council and with the educational community. In all, I wish Karl the best in his time remaining as lieutenant governor and commend him for the great work he does for the people of Montana.'”

Bill Kennedy's campaign for Montana secretary of state, reported here Aug. 8, is now official:

"Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy will announce his candidacy and launch his 2004 campaign for Montana Secretary of State on
Monday, August 25 at events in Helena and Billings.
"Kennedy, a Billings native and long-time educator, will kickoff his statewide 2004 election campaign starting with a 10 a.m. announcement on the
third floor of the state capitol in Helena. He will also file paperwork for an exploratory committee with the Office of Political Practices.
"Kennedy will then travel to Billings to hold a campaign-kickoff event and dinner at the Billings South Park Senior Center at 4 p.m.
"Kennedy, 45, was elected Yellowstone County Commissioner in 1992, reelected in 1994 for a six-year term, and again in 2000 for a six-year term. He has
served Montana's largest county for more than a decade, and is currently the chairman of the County Commission.
"Kennedy holds a bachelor's degree in Secondary Education from Montana State University - Bozeman, as well as a master's degree in Personnel and Guidance from Eastern Montana College.
Kennedy and his wife, Mary, have two daughters, Annie and Erin."

Bob Brown has his website up for his gubernatorial campaign.
The indefatigable Jackie Corr sends along this piece from the New York Times about deregulation in Montana.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Here's one proposal to "put the Electric back in the Electric City."

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Brian Schweitzer called up to offer a "mea culpa" for encouraging his supporters to respond to on-line polls listed below. But he said that he didn't ask anyone to leave comments, and that a third of the comments favoring him were from people he didn't know. He also noted that a fair number of comments critical of him were among the responses - and that few other candidates have received comments of any kind.

These polls are notoriously unscientific, of course, but at least all of the people who left comments appear to be genuine voters, even if it is impossible to tell how representative they are of the electorate as a whole.

On a separate issue, Mr. Schweitzer indicated that he's in no hurry to pick a lieutenant governor candidate for his ticket and could even wait until well after the state convention to make a choice. He offered no hint of who his choice might be. When he floated the name of conservative Outpost political columnist Brad Molnar as a possible candidate, I think he was just kidding.
Just call me Crazy Dave.
I've heard from a couple of people who say that gubernatorial candidate Brian Schweitzer has been rallying the troops by e-mail to flood the Outpost's online poll, as well as the poll of the Queen City News. You can find more poll comments at the bottom of this story.
As it turns out Molly Ivins isn't coming to Billings after all. Not sure exactly why, but Scott Crichton of the ACLU is trying to get the word out.

I've been gimped up for a week now with a painful, swollen knee. When it got so bad I lost my love for baseball, I went to the doctor.

It was a typical triumph of modern medicine. First they drained several large vials of blood from me -- a medical technique, I believe, that was popular in the 18th century. Then they stretched me out to take cancer-causing "pictures" of my inner knee, interpreting the results using medical techniques that were popular in the fourth century. They concluded that I had a painful, swollen knee for reasons that might be divined through further seances -- I mean analysis. In the meantime, they said, have some drugs.

I went home with no improvement in pain or attitude. Then the drugs kicked in. Ah, sweet peace. If we could ever break the medical monopoly on really good drugs, we might not need doctors at all.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Gotta remember to get around to reading this.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

The explanation by the board of the Billings Symphony Orchestra for its decision not to renew the contract of music director Uri Barnea was stunningly weak.
"The board's position is that it is time for a change," board president Robert Griffin told The Billings Gazette.
That has always struck me as a pretty good answer if you are talking about underwear or motor oil, but utterly irrelevant when referring to human beings.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Votes are flooding in to the Outpost poll on who should be the next governor. It's worth a look.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Here, at last, is the link to the governor's speech.

And here is the official Republican response to her announcement. That first sentence would be a great one to put into a time capsule and compare to the historical record of great Montana governors in 100 years or so.
USA Today puts the Martz story in larger perspective.
Interesting that there is very little overlap between the Billings Gazette's list of the highlights of the Martz administration and the governor's own list (not yet posted). One of these sources must be biased.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

The Montana Democratic Party has posted its response to the governor's decision not to run for re-election:

Statement of Bob Ream, Chair, Montana Democratic Party

The Montana Democratic Party joins with all Montanans in giving Gov. Judy Martz our best wishes for the future. We understand and appreciate her desire be with her family and those she loves, and to further pursue her community and spiritual life. Again, we wish her well.

At the same time, we respectfully agree with Gov. Martz. It's time for change.

Montanans are hurting. For 16 years, Republicans who believe in the same failed economic policies have been in charge of our state and our future.
It's time to work together to create a better future for all Montanans. It's time to move this state forward. It's time for change.

But the change Montana so desperately needs won't come from Republicans who are mentioned or who have announced as gubernatorial candidates. They are simply different faces on the same failed policies.

Montanans deserve better than what we've got from the Republican Party and their elected leaders. Their policies have hurt Montana:

* Montana faces unprecedented job loss. Our traditional industries and Main Street businesses are hurting.
* Republican back-room deals gave away our affordable, reliable power through utility deregulation.
* When they gave away our cheap power, we lost one of Montana's competitive advantages in attracting new industries and
* Utility deregulation has led to skyrocketing utility prices, job layoffs and an uncertain economic future for Montana.
* Montana has the lowest wages in the nation and one of the highest poverty rates.
* Our neighbors, friends and families in need aren't getting the help they need to see them through these tough times.
* To make ends meet, more Montanans hold more than one job than nearly every other state.
* Our kids are going without needed healthcare and those with mental illness can no longer get the prescription drugs that keep them safe,
at home and on the job.
* Property taxes for homeowners and small businesses are going up at the same time taxes for the most fortunate Montanans are being cut.
* Education hasn't received the needed investment to keep college affordable, keep teachers in our classrooms and give children the
necessary tools to compete in today's economy.

Democrats offer hope for the future - hope for good-paying jobs and a better
economy, hope for an end to skyrocketing power bills, hope for our
neighbors, friends and families. Montana can't afford more of the same. It's
time for change.

Wondering why farmers can't make a living? Don T. found the numbers.
I'm not sure how good these numbers are, but they are certainly big.
From The Faithful Blogee: "What's up with Rebecca calling Kristoff a socialist piranha? Is she pandering to her mossback readers or just having a little fun? Sounds more like Northern Lights than Yellowstone County News."
Beats me. Becky is never afraid of strong opinions, and it doesn't much matter to her whether I agree.
Former South Dakota Sen. James Abourezk has sued for libel for putting his name on a list of "traitors." The lawsuit is ridiculous, of course, but the words "traitor" and "treason" are getting tossed around awfully loosely these days. Ann Coulter essentially accused the entire Democratic Party of treason, but stops short when asked who should be indicted. Compare that to Christopher Hitchens' book on Henry Kissinger. When Hitchens accuses Kissinger of being a war criminal, he means exactly what he says, and he backs it up. You may not agree with him, but you can't argue that he doesn't use words seriously.
News flash: Gov. Judy Martz announced this morning that she will not run for re-election.
"I have accomplished what I set out to do," she said in remarks prepared for delivery at a news conference this morning. "I have enacted my vision. That is why I have decided not to seek a second term as Montana's governor. When my term is completed it will be time to return home and tackle new challenges."
According to her prepared text, she defended her administration's performance on energy, economic development and fiscal responsibility.
"In very difficult times, that demanded true leadership, I have done what I said [I] would," she said. "I think everyone would agree that I have always
been upfront and honest with my neighbors. Maybe even too honest and frank, but I have resisted political temptations
and done what is right."
But she acknowledged that her administration has been troubled.
"I have the finest job in the world," she said. "It is for that reason that it is very difficult to make a decision about re-election. Some have asked how it could be so difficult to decide after some [of] the problems I experienced early in this term. Among the difficulties, we have dealt with tragedy and adversity, some self-imposed, some stemming from misperception, and some the result of staff."
Despite that, she termed her administration a success. And she said she would not get involved in picking her successor.
"I am not going to chill discourse," she said. "That would have weakened the process. My decision has been made without regard for other candidates."
Schweitzer vs. Brown?

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

This study suggests that liberal editorial writers are more likely to criticize liberals (or at least Bill Clinton) than conservative editorial writers are to criticize conservatives.

Care for a hamburger? Better read this first.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

This from "a faithful blogee": In regard to Dylan and plagiarism, have you ever heard Woody's song, "Tom Joad"?
I think that's the title, and the whole long song is a rhyming synopsis of "The Grapes of Wrath."
I don't know that Woody ever formally acknowledged what he was up to, probably figuring
everybody would damn well know anyway. It was such a cool idea -- to sing a ballad about
a famous rebel, but to draw him from literature, not from life, like Frank Little or Joe Hill.
Critics of Dylan's folky "borrowing" are as out of touch as George Will, who doesn't "get"
PRweek takes a professional interest in the Pentagon's effort to keep troops from griping about service in Iraq.

Things were better when I was in the Vietnam-era Army. I had a sign on the barracks wall that quoted a Chinese proverb: "Just as one does not use good metal to make nails, one does not use good men to make soldiers." The brass never complained.

Nor did they mind this quote from Solzhenitsyn's "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" about the tolerance that Stalinist Russia had for political prisoners who spoke out freely when under lock and key: "The great thing about prison camp was you had a hell of a lot of freedom."
The Yellowstone County News levels a blast this week at the city of Billings and new City Administrator Kristoff Bauer. In a meeting with Yellowstone County commissioners, the News reports, Mr. Bauer made a pitch to allow the city to enforce building codes countywide. Hundreds of rural residents turned out for a hearing about three years ago to oppose such a plan.

"Bauer hasn't been out here to listen to the county residents," Editor Rebecca Tescher Robison wrote. "If he had, he'd soon learn overzealous building codes are one of the many reasons people don't live in the city limits." She says that "Bauer and her followers" are "socialist piranhas" who "are reluctant to bring a building code plan to the voters knowing it is not what the people want."

"Tell Bauer to do his job in Billings as much as citizens will tolerate, and tell him to stay inside the city limits," she writes.
Former journalism students at Texas A&M University are attempting to rally support to halt plans to eliminate the school's 54-year-old journalism program. More on this in the Aug. 14 Outpost.

Friday, August 08, 2003

We've had an ugly attack of adware on one of our computers this week. Spent the better part of two days getting it cleaned up (with the help of a couple of freeware programs, Ad Aware and Spybot. Suddenly the idea of some sort of massive computer retaliation that strikes dead the perpetrators of these scams sounds awfully appealing.
Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy confirmed today that will announce plans this month to run for statewide office.

"I'm looking forward to a challenge," he said. "I'm looking forward to running statewide. And I'm gearing up for an announcement in a couple of weeks."

Mr. Kennedy declined to see what office he would seek, but other sources predicted that he would run for secretary of state.

A Democrat, Mr. Kennedy has honed a fiscally conservative record as commissioner, sometimes even voting against pay raises for himself. He has carefully built ties within the Democratic Party, and he has been active in the Montana and National Association of Counties. He also is known as an effective "retail" politician, appearing indefatigably at public meetings and hearings of all kinds.

Those qualities have enabled to stay in office as the county's minority party commissioner since 1992. He defeated TV anchor Dave Rye in 2000 by nearly 3,000 votes.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Over at the Big Sky Business Journal, Evelyn Pyburn takes a shot at the Big Sky Economic Development Authority for playing too nice with The Billings Gazette.

Of course I would never be so crude as to point out that the Gazette's lead headline on Wednesday contained a word that doesn't exist. No link here: On the website, "lamblasted" became "excoriated."

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Mayor Chuck Tooley sent me a detailed response to my question about the propriety of discussing city administrator candidates in closed session:

"I called a special meeting of the City Council for Wednesday, July 30 at 6 PM at city council chambers. Channel 7 was there and so was Ed Kemmick. I called the meeting to order, discussed the wading pools issue which had been added at the last minute, then went on to the main item on the agenda which was the hiring of a new city administrator.

"Mark Kennedy made the motion to extend the offer to Kristoff Bauer, the motion was seconded, and Mark spoke first to his motion. After he was finished, each of us spoke on the motion. Some mentioned the other two candidates, some members only mentioned one or two candidates, but in the end all 10 spoke on the motion and explained why they were voting the way they were. Mike Larson was absent that night.

"So to answer your question, yes, there seemed to be a pretty good public discussion of why the council took the action it did to extend the offer to Kristoff.

"As a secondary issue, there had been some concern expressed earlier by one council member that he had heard things about one of the candidates that he was loath to bring up in a public setting but wanted to make sure his colleagues were aware of. Several other council members indicated they might also have some delicate information that might not be wisely bandied about in public. For that reason, I inquired of the city attorney if there was a way that we could address these concerns, get them out of the way, and then get on with a public discussion of the candidates. The city attorney said yes. He said that if, in the opinion of the policy board chair (in this case, the mayor) the public's right to know was not impeded by the individual's right to privacy, then the chair could call for an executive session to discuss it*.

"(* I can't remember the exact wording. I'm at home and the attorney's opinion is in the office, so if you'd like a copy, let me know.)

"So that's what I did. I called for a short executive session after the Monday July 28 meeting, then continued that session briefly at lunch on July 30 where we reported back from the references we had been assigned to contact on Monday night. As it turns out, there were no skeletons in any closets, only some imprudent words and phrases being applied to that person or this person which were more opinion than fact. Council members were pleased that we didn't have to drag specious laundry into the public eye to wash it when it was not really needed.

"Thus, we were able to publicly say why we were voting the way we were voting on Wednesday night and be confident in the integrity of our votes."

That's a good response, and it sounds like the City Council complied with the law. It doesn't answer the question of whether the law itself complies with the Montana Constitution, which allows closed meetings only when privacy interests clearly outweigh the public's right to know. Nor does it answer my earlier question about why The Billings Gazette editorially backed this selection process when it formally protested a school superintendent selection process that seems to have been remarkably similar.

Here's a radical idea: Atlantic Monthly wants to make a profit. Sounds like a plan to me.

Purity is such a difficult thing to maintain. We got the Autopost out at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday and stopped by Albertsons for beer and ice cream (beer floats!). Of course I forgot about my promise to myself never to use the Preferred Savings Card until I saw that it would save me $2 on a 12-pack of Pabst. Just as I was contemplating this moral quandary (and wondering why it was impossible to buy a six-pack - part of the Fattening of America, no doubt) my wife's cell phone rang. There was a problem at the paper, and we had to go back right now. My wife, who lacks my qualms about this issue, had her card number handy and used it to click us through the checkstand. When the cashier asked for the card number, I wouldn't even look at her.
Later, back home again, the beer tasted bitter. But then, it was Pabst.
To read more about people with Preferred Savings Card-related maladies, go here.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Then there's this piece on alleged plagiarism in Bob Dylan's Love and Theft album.
This newspaper piece on a job applicant rejected because of a false positive on a drug test is amazing - not that such a thing could happen but that the story could see the light of day in the newspaper that did the rejecting.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

The Denver Post tackles drilling on Montana's Rocky Mountain Front.
This website allows you to blow the whistle on mobile litterbugs.
The more people know about the FCC's decision to relax media ownership rules, the less they like it. You can find much more about that here, as well as on public attitudes about liberal-conservative media bias.
By way of Instapundit I found this blog on South Dakota politics.

The Gazette scooped me on my own story. Today's edition reported that "several" (actually three) City Council candidates approached me about moderating candidate interviews that will air on Community Channel 7. They are concerned that Mayor Chuck Tooley, who is supposed to moderate, might be biased against certain candidates, especially those of a non-Democratic persuasion. The article inaccurately reported that I hadn't talked with Tooley or with Channel 7 officials. I hadn't talked to Tooley but I had talked to Lynne Turner Fitzgerald at Channel 7, although I may not have made this as clear as I thought I did. This morning I followed through with an e-mail to the mayor; if he doesn't check e-mail on weekends, I will give him a call in a while.
The candidates provided me with an e-mail from City Councilman Dave Brown, a former chairman of the Republican Central Committee in Yellowstone County who complained to county Election Administrator Duane Winslow that the mayor shouldn't be conducting the interviews. He alleged that the mayor had shown bias in the past by appointing Peggie Gaghen to the council over Leon Pattyn, a Republican precinct committeeman. He also noted that candidate Cliff Hanson has twice run against Tooley for the mayor's job. "I do not have a problem with the interview by the Gazette or other media," Mr. Brown wrote, "but it should not be presided over by the Mayor, a Democrat activist who in my opinion has shown bias toward Democrat candidates."
I have no particular interest in this controversy. As a general rule, it's probably better not to have a sitting council member conduct public interviews of aspiring candidates. Even if the interviews are perfectly unbiased, the incumbent remains open to the allegation. Under this set of circumstances -- limited time, large field of candidates, predetermined list of standard and fairly basic questions -- it's hard to see how the mayor's decision to fill this role could cause much of a problem. Still, as I told both the mayor and Ms. Fitzgerald, I would be willing to conduct the interviews if either of them thinks it would help.

I'm also asking the mayor about the selection process for the new city administrator. I just find it interesting that the Gazette praised the selection process that the council used to pick acting Administrator Kristoff Bauer for the full-time job. The process, so far as I could tell, was almost identical to the process the school board used to pick Superintendent Rod Svee, but the Gazette editor and Gazette lawyer Martha Sheehy formally protested the school board's process.
Maybe I am missing some crucial difference. When in doubt, report. So that's what I'm trying to do.

Gazette reporter Jan Falstad's superb reporting about Touch America has helped fuel speculation that the company's collapse might be blamed on something more sinister than mere stupidity. Can smart people really make this many bad choices? Or was there some deliberate effort to run the company into the ground, impoverish shareholders and put the proceeds into the pockets of a few top dogs? Sounds incredible, but this full story hasn't nearly been told.

Friday, August 01, 2003

End-of-the-month billing and payroll haven't eaten up my week, but I did run across this interesting piece on Rush Limbaugh.