Sunday, January 30, 2005

Fine whine

Helena graphic artist Marty Lord apparently gets credit for this. The label reads: "Made from hand-picked prevaricated gripes from our Missoula Vineyard and a blend of sour grapes with a bouquet of fresh defecation of a male bovine from our Belgrade Vindictive.

"The Balyeat brothers are a festuring [sic] cyst on the right buttock of an otherwise fine and gentlemanly Session."
 Posted by Hello

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Art project

This is kind of cool: A website that tracks progress on a bighorn sheep art project for the Billings Depot Bighorn Magic project.


To keep up with the latest on whirling disease, go here.

Nuclear Montana

Scary, if true. But I don't see a shred of supporting evidence in the story.

On the web

Here's another new Montana "web paper" (isn't that an oxymoron?). Warning: The link comes through the MT-GOP Ebrief, which should give you some notion of its political leanings. Second warning: The creator of the "paper" isn't identified.


Just won 250,000 Euros in the lottery. And I didn't even enter! Eat your hearts out.

Dang it! They told me to keep it quiet for now. Don't tell anybody, OK?

Buffalo Brian

I was in Helena on Friday and heard Gov. Schweitzer defend the cancellation of the buffalo hunt. He said Montana's has had three governors since the last hunt, and would probably have three more before the next hunt if this one had gone forward. In short, he argued, the hunt was too small to solve any bison problems and too unsporting (he referred to buffalo as a "refrigerator with horns") to avoid controversy.

But apparently buffalo hunts don't cause controversy everywhere.

Lesson learned

One thing I have learned by reading blogs: The list of people who are worth reading every day is extremely short.

Cheap shot

In this week's Editor's Notebook, I take cheap shots at Lee Enterprises and The Billings Gazette. I honestly don't know what comes over me.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

A.J. Liebling

I liked this quote from Michael Young:

Writing about the press' efforts to comment on the death of Stalin—an event about which no journalist had any actual information—A.J. Liebling described three types of journalists: the reporter, "who writes about what he sees"; the interpretive reporter who "writes what he sees and what he construes to be its meaning"; and, in Liebling's most venomous description, the "expert, who writes what he construes to be the meaning of what he hasn't seen."

Thursday, January 20, 2005


So now your humble blog host is being quoted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In case you missed it, the full column is here.

UPDATE: Hmm. The link above seems to require registration. But I found it without registering by entering "Nick Coleman David Crisp" into Google. Also, more here from an unsympathetic source.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Congrats in order

Evelyn Pyburn, editor of the Big Sky Business Journal, reflects on surviving 23 years as a small publication in the Billings market. "It's amazing," she writes. As someone who has survived seven years in the same racket, I can only nod my head.

Big time at the dance

We went to see the Bruce Wood Dance Company at the Alberta Bair last night. It wasn't something I would have paid for, but The Outpost sponsors a couple of shows a year at the Bair, so we occasionally get free tickets. I wasn't too thrilled about going: cold weather, can't dance, behind at the office (as always), feeling glum because of an in-office confrontation on Friday that was both historic and epic in sweep -- the sort of six-guns-blazing showdown that gets talked about for years and leaves scars that never heal. But I thought, what the heck, looking at nubile young female dancers for a couple of hours can't be bad for this frigid heart of mine. So we went anyway, and are damn glad we did.

It was a heck of a show, played out in three parts. The first was modernistic, to music by Philip Glass, and was greeted fairly tepidly by the audience. But I found myself digging it, and not just because of the skimpy outfits. The second was "Follow Me," a tribute to the infantry that you can read about here. Corby Skinner told me beforehand that it made him cry. I'm made of sterner stuff but could see his point. It's hard to describe what it was like, and I don't get paid enough for this to try, but it was indeed moving, sad, tragic -- military combat stripped to its essence, beyond patriotism, beyond uniforms, beyond weapons and marching bands -- just suffering, and friendship and enduring.

The last part, a series of dances to music by Lyle Lovett, was just sheer fun. The crowd loved it, and I suspect the dancers did, too. It must be inwardly satisfying for those Texas artistes to get up on stage and show off country-style moves that the cowboys at Billy Bob's have never even dreamed about. This brought the second of two standing ovations, and we headed for home, still cold but not nearly so glum.

Feds in the classroom

What really bugs me about this whole discussion is the utter acquiesence to the notion that the feds have every right to tell us how to run our schools. Where are the brave conservatives who will stand up and tell the federal government to mind its own business?

Saturday, January 15, 2005


Anthony Killebrew notes that a new issue of Riotland Comics, his Billings-based e-zine, has been posted.

Local boy makes good

The indefatigable Jackie Corr sends along this link about a Miles City native who became CFO for Microsoft. Jackie says that the article doesn't mention Conners' role in the Touch America fiasco.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

When Hell freezes over

So where's global warming when we really need it?

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

School bells

As of today, I'm back teaching at Rocky Mountain College. It's another first-year writing course, and today's class was pretty fun, so I'm looking forward to it. My reading list is quirky, bordering on eccentric: a new book of Montana short stories, a book by Tim Cahill and Marquez's "100 Years of Solitude." I'm not sure what I was thinking when I came up with that list, but perhaps it will come back to me.

Next week I'm back to tutoring in the writing lab at MSU-Billings, so it will be another busy semester. Blogging will suffer, naturally, but perhaps not as badly as last semester. We'll see.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Occasionally wacky

Left in the West calls Joe Balyeat's package of bills to reform the Montana Supreme Court "crazy." He's not entirely right. Here's my estimate:

• Opening Supreme Court deliberations to the public. GOOD IDEA.

• Electing justices from regions of the state. Currently, they are elected statewide. OK IDEA.

• Justices would run with political party affiliation. Currently, those seeking for the Supreme Court seats run nonpartisan campaigns. BAD IDEA.

• Paying justices the same rate as legislators: About $20,000 a year, plus expenses, slightly less than the wage of office assistants of Montana's district court judges. WACKY IDEA.

• Allowing the governor and Legislature to overrule the Supreme Court. WACKY, BORDERING ON INSANE, IDEA.

• Applying the same campaign spending caps to justice candidates and legislative candidates. Currently, campaign donations to justices are capped at $250 a person, the same limit as other statewide offices. Legislative candidates have a cap of $130 per donor. BAD IDEA.

• Justices would not have to be lawyers. Currently, only attorneys who have passed the state bar exam can run for the Montana Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is also head of the state bar. Balyeat's bill would have non-lawyers governing the practice of law. WACKY IDEA.

• Limiting the number of terms that justices could serve. BAD IDEA, BUT NOT CRAZY.

A few of my own thoughts about the Supreme Court are located here.

Just for the record

I was nowhere near The Billings Gazette when this happened.

Good stuff

As usual, I'm probably the last guy to notice this, but Left in the West in doing a lot of good Montana political blogging these days. Still no Outpost on his news links, though.

On the down side, No Girl Friday has gone out of publication. Too bad. It was one of my favorite Montana reads.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

That egomaniac

The MTGOP-Ebrief, always good for a snuckle (which is somewhere between a sneer and a chuckle), says that Gov. Brian Schweitzer wouldn't let departing Gov. Martz give 60 seconds of farewell remarks on her last day in office.

Schweitzer is determined that any credit for Montana’s improving economy should be his, even though he was not in office when key economic-development and tax policy were implemented. In fact it enrages our new egomaniacal governor any time that anyone would suggest that Governor Martz did a good job of managing the state’s economy. The refusal to let Governor Martz speak on Monday was overlooked in news reports of Schweitzer’s inauguration, but it certainly underscores the fact that it is indeed a “new day for Montana.”

Friday, January 07, 2005

Flame warriors

A friend sent along this handy guide to blogging Flame Warriors. Any resemblance between these characters and actual readers of this blog is, no doubt, strictly coincidental.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Nothing to see here

Just in case you needed a reminder of how risky small business can be, here's one: From an SBA Business of the Year in 2003 to Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2004. The case was discharged Dec. 28 with a long line of unsecured creditors, including The Outpost (ouch).

UPDATE: Here's more information.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Running in place

So there were a grand total of three contested legislative primary races in Yellowstone County in June. And there were three races with no candidates at all. Yet when the opportunity comes to fill John Bohlinger's Senate seat by appointment, 20 people apply. How come?

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Those ornery Montanans

Walter Kirn, writing in New York Times magazine, speculates on why Montanans voted the way they did. Hint: It's that Western ornery streak.

Montana's decline

This week's Green Party Bulletin reprints (e-prints?) a book review in Scientific American of Jared Diamond's "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed." Diamond is a Pulitzer Prize-winning geography professor at UCLA. Here's an excerpt from the review:

Diamond begins with the failed state of Montana. Montana? Well, a Pulitzer Prize-winning tenured professor can take the liberty of giving priority to his passions. So Diamond the ardent fly-fisherman, defender of ecological pristineness, sympathetic friend of the farming "locals" has come to the sad conclusion that Montana is going to the dogs. Once one of the richest states of the union, it now ranks among the poorest, having squandered its nonrenewable mineral resources and savagely over-logged its forests. Maybe worst of all, some cad put pike into the trout waters.

According to the review, ecological devastation, particularly over-logging, are a major factor in the decline of civilizations, such as the Maya and Anaszai.

Ballots up close

Here are the five ballots I mentioned in the post below. All five were counted for Jore, and a district judge agreed. But they are pretty similar, aren't they? Posted by Hello

Real or fake?

At City Lights, Ed Kemmick makes a good point in his own comments section:

In regard to smudges, erasures, cross-outs, etc., isn’t that the whole point of instructing voters who have marred their ballots to request a new one? If you fill in one oval and someone tries to tamper with that, it is immediately apparent. But if a poll worker, election office employee or anyone else with access wants to tamper with a ballot – by cross-outs, erasures, smudges, etc. – whose [sic] to say who made those marks?

I didn't mention this before, but five of the seven disputed ballots had been marked in exactly the same way: Ovals for Cross and Jore were both completely filled in, and an X was marked on Cross' name. None of the five ballots had been changed in any other way. Of the other two ballots, one had a squiggly line through Cross' name, and the other is the one I reproduced below. I'm not saying anybody tampered with the ballots, but it did strike me as odd that they all were changed in precisely the same way. Even the X's were all about the same size.

In a column on this topic, Sen. Joe Balyeat calls the Supreme Court decision "pure sophistry and a farce," and he points out that that some votes the Democratic candidate also contained multiple markings. That's true: One ballot marked both Windham and the box for a write-in candidate, then failed to write a name in the spot for a write-in. Another marked the boxes both for Windham and a write-in, then wrote Windham in as a write-in. The same voter did that in several other races, too.

Balyeat's column also makes an odd presumption. He says that on all seven disputed ballots, voters "first filled in the oval next to the Republican, but then crossed it out and filled in the oval next to the Constitution candidate." I don't see how he could possibly know which oval was filled in first.

Comments here

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