Sunday, July 31, 2005

Don't read this

Here's a long, inside-baseball story from South Carolina of no particular interest to anybody.

The only reason I mention it at all is that the exact same thing is happening in Billings, and it could kill The Outpost. Damn it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Yesterday, today, tomorrow

I like to read Kevin Drum, but I rarely read his comments. There are too dang many of them, and too dang many of them are silly.

But I read every single one of the (English-language) comments to this post. Our heads for trivia run in similar directions.

The correct answer, by the way, is that Associated Press style allows use of "today" but not "tomorrow" or "yesterday" except in quotes. But many papers, especially large ones, have their own styles and don't follow AP rules.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Powwow pounding

I should mention that there is a quite robust and heated debate about PowWow Park going on here at The Outpost website. And the ever-popular Editor's Notebook looks at Montana's open meetings and open records laws.

What sleeps inside

Even by my standards, posting has been pretty light here. I have the usual excuses, plus my writing lamp appears to have been extinguished by a fine trip down the Yellowstone River on Sunday. I don't recall seeing Ed Kemmick there, unless he was the guy at the front of the canoe who kept blocking my view.

I've never had a bad time on the river, and I thought the trip might invigorate me, but it seems to have had the opposite effect. It awakened my Inner Exhaustion. I dozed off a couple of times on the trip, took a nap when we got back, then, instead of heading to the office as I had planned, sat down to watch a movie and fell asleep again. Went to bed early, overslept, and the next thing I knew it was deadline night again, plus Outpost night at Cobb Field. I still haven't slept it off, and now I've got a head cold to boot.

And here I am once more, sitting in front of the computer, a whole paper to put together with no stories, no energy and no money in the bank. The word "Sisyphean" just crossed my mind. The river does have a way of making day-to-day problems seem inconsequential, but it doesn't make them go away.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Errorist in chief

This week's winning bumpersticker from the Thursday delivery route showed a drawing of George W. Bush and said "American errorist."

Contact Miller

If you are interested in expressing support for Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who is basking in jail on behalf of the free press, you can do so here:

Judith Miller
Inmate # 45570083
Alexandria Detention Center
2001 Mill Road
Alexandria, VA 22314

Thanks to John Shontz for the address.

It's a small blogging world after all

My recent post on Alexis de Tocqueville was picked up by Grey-Beard Loon, who writes a blog that is posted on the website of The Victoria (Texas) Advocate, which happens to be the daily in my hometown. He apparently didn't know there was a connection, but his commenters pointed it out. And that's not even to mention the obvious resonance of Grey-Beard Loon as an alternative title to my own blog.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Iraq update

Here's a fascinating and strangely disturbing perspective on casualties in Iraq.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Downing Street update

Here's an interesting, albeit one-sided, account of how small papers are playing the Downing Street memos story. It caught my eye because of the reference to the Outpost.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

AG rules

Attorney General Mike McGrath has just issued an opinion stating that the 1981 law capping legislative appropriations didn't limit spending by future legislatures.

The authority of the '81 Legislature to set spending policy for the state ended when the 1983 Legislature was seated, McGrath said. The only limits on spending by an incumbent Legislature are those set by the Constitution.

So all those Republican complaints about Democrats busting the cap didn't amount to a thing. McGrath's opinion has the force of law unless a court later decides he was wrong.

Mustangs vs. Yankees

The second letter in today's Billings Gazette got the goat of even an easygoing fellow like me. The writer says, "After seeing the Yankees play at Yankee Stadium, Cobb Field doesn't come close!" The statement might carry some weight if the writer did not admit that she (he?) had never seen a game in Cobb Field.

I've never seen the Yankees play in Yankee Stadium. But I've seen the Mets play in Shea, the Astros play in Houston, the Rangers play in Arlington, the Giants play in San Francisco, the A's play in Oakland, the Twins play in Minnesota and the Royals play in Kansas City, not to mention minor league games in venues ranging from Medicine Hat to South Texas.

I'd put an evening in Cobb Field up against any of those experiences. Compared to the big leagues, the general rule at Cobb Field is that you get twice the fun for a third (or less) of the price, all without fretting that a big chunk of your ticket price goes to keeping pampered, rich athletes pampered and rich. And the view at Cobb tops them all.

Beyond a certain level of minimum competence, paying extra to see better baseball just isn't worth it. To me, it's good baseball if:

1. Catchers can make the throw to second.

2. Pitchers can get the ball over the plate.

3. Third basemen can scoop up the slow roller. And

4. The infield can turn the double play.

Beyond that, the differences between players boil down to fractions of inches too fine for me to distinguish.

The writer suggests that if the Cincinnati Reds want a new stadium here they should build it themselves. That makes about as much sense as telling Steven Spielberg that if he wants his movies to play in Billings, he should build his own theater. It ain't going to happen.

The writer concludes by offering his (her?) services as city administrator. New rule: The city of Billings shall hire no city administrator who hasn't spent at least one evening watching a game at Cobb Field. If you haven't done that, you don't know Billings.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Natelson the teacher

Electric City Weblog has an in-depth review of the evaluation that found Rob Natelson qualified to teach constitutional law. It's quite well done and worth a read. Rob's own brief take on the situation ran here in The Outpost.

Democracy in America

Every July 4 in The Outpost, I reprint an excerpt from Alexis de Tocqueville. Partly I do it out of cowardice, because a dead Frenchman can get away with saying things that I couldn't. Partly it's out of a desire to educate, because "Democracy in America" is one of those books that we all think we should read but few of us do. Mostly it's because looking up a passage every year is so much fun.

I'm particularly fond of this year's selection. De Tocqueville's argument was a familiar one at the time: Separating church and state strengthens the church. It's similar to the argument my fundamentalist church made 50 years ago when members objected to adding "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance. Turning religion into a civics lesson demeans religion. When government tries to annex God, government becomes oppressive and God becomes ridiculous.

Somewhere, this nation seems to have lost the thread of that argument. All the more reason to have de Tocqueville remind us of it.

Saturday, July 02, 2005


When my daughter was born on May 18, 1981, she weighed 9 pounds 13 ounces. On Friday, she had a 10-pound cyst removed. It was about the size of a volleyball and made for an amazing and scary photograph.

Fortunately, everything went smoothly. She's up in the hospital now, sleeping in fits, drugged up on Percocet and finally back on solid food. She'll be laid up for about a month, minus an ovary and an appendix but otherwise OK, provided all the tests check out. I'm not sure why they took the appendix; I suspect it was sort of like at the gargage when the mechanic says, "Well, since we've got to pull the engine anyway, might as well replace the timing belt."

When she was tiny, I can remember feeling a twinge of outrage at seeing a mosquito bite mar her perfect skin. How dare the world touch my baby? Times change expectations. On Friday, I was perfectly willing to stand by helplessly as a surgeon, to use Rachel's phrase, gutted her like a fish.

We don't need her to be perfect anymore. We're just glad to have her.