Friday, May 26, 2006

Morrison who?

I may have been critical below of Jon Tester's performance on Yellowstone Public Radio, but he was a million miles ahead of John Morrison, who didn't even show for last night's call-in. According to hosts Jackie Yamanaka and Jim Gransbery, he bailed about six hours before it started because he was committed to attending a concert his daughter was in.

Not a bad excuse, except that the call-in show had been scheduled for a couple of months. Canceling at that late hour indicates either awfully poor planning or that something else was going on that he wasn't saying. Bad news for him either way.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Who for Senate?

My story on U.S. Senate candidate Bob Keenan will be in Thursday's Outpost. The paper's not up yet, so there's no link, but you can find it easily enough tomorrow if you care.

It's a fairly perfunctory effort -- give me a break; I started it at 5 a.m. today. But what most struck me about Keenan was how much I liked him. And how little I really wanted to vote for him.

Actually, I usually like politicians. The public perception is that they are all lying scum, but that's not been my experience (or I am embarassingly old to be so naive). Taking a public stand on a controversial issue requires more courage than most people have, and I appreciate people who are willing to do it. And good politicians have mastered the skill of being liked, something I have never managed. I just don't know why you lousy sons of bitches don't think I'm lovable.

Curiously, the short list of politicians I haven't liked includes both of Montana's U.S. senators. I've never bought Burns' good-ol-boy shtick, and Max Baucus seems incurably opportunistic. I would trade them both for Denny Rehberg, whom I like even when I think he's dead wrong.

But as much as I liked Keenan, and most of the rest of the candidates, I can't get excited about any of them. Keenan's too far to the right. Paul Richards is too far to the left. Bob Kelleher is amusing, but I couldn't listen to him for six years. Jon Tester strikes me as a decent guy, but he seemed way out of his depth on Yellowstone Public Radio's call-in show last week. John Morrison is a sharp cookie, but he sounds too scripted. I could see voting for him, but I can't see getting excited about voting for him. A couple of the candidates I don't know at all, and probably never will.

I would be disinclined to vote for Conrad Burns, even if I liked him better than I do. Guys like me who oppose term limits but who favor some churn in the congressional delegation have an obligation to vote against incumbents just because. And it's really time for Conrad to go.

So who gets my vote? Maybe Richards, just because he's the only candidate who seems to hate the Iraq War as much as I do. At least a vote for him might be read as a protest against the war, without much risk that he could actually get elected.

It's an unhappy impasse. I envy, to a degree, guys like Matt Singer and Eric Coobs, who seem to have no trouble picking their candidate and sticking with him. Spending all these years trying to write objective stories may not have made me objective, but it sure has made it hard to make a decision.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Don't fence me in

As often happens, I may be the last guy in town to notice this, but here's a blog devoted to the Yellowstone County obscenity ordinance.


I'm not quite sure whether to be proud or appalled. My brother, who has taught English at Delmar College in Corpus Christi, Texas, for a couple of decades, also has done some newspaper column writing on the side. Now his column has been picked up each week by Scripps Howard News Service. As he points out, if you enter "John M. Crisp" into Google, you'll find his columns showing up in the Raleigh News and Observer, Albuquerque Tribune, Sacramento Bee, Hilton Head Island Packet, Capitol Hill Blue and Boulder Daily Camera, among others.

I've been impinging on his territory in recent years, with the college classes I teach in journalism, German and English. So I guess it's only fair that he impinge on mine. Too bad he's so damn liberal.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

English only

One thing about the U.S. Senate: If you can't count on it to do something helpful about immigration reform, you can at least count on it to do something stupid. The bill making English the national language of the United States is the dumbest thing since, well, the flag-burning amendment.

Listen up, you free-market conservatives: English didn't manage to survive as the nation's dominant language for 225 years because of federal protection. And federal protection won't make it last another 225 years. If anything in the world responds to the demands and needs of society, despite the will of government, it's language. If English can't compete, it deserves to die.

If the government wants to pass a law banning, say, Spanish language ballots, then do it straightforwardly and honestly. Don't put meaningless bromides into the law. Dang it, that's the sort of thing conservatives are supposed to protect us from.

Zoo story

The Outpost's leader this week on ZooMontana is, I believe, the most comprehensive and, unfortunately, the most pessimistic story on the topic has ever been published.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Out, Outpost

Under the euphonious headline "Outcry, outrage, outlaw, outpost: out, out, out," the Northern Light takes issue with the Outpost's decision to print an ad in the April 27 issue that opposes new county ordinances regulating obscenity and sexually oriented businesses (I couldn't find the editorial on the website, but it's in the hard-copy edition). The ad was placed by PRIDE with support from other groups opposing the ordinance.

The Northern Light's editor, Kathleen Plumb, doesn't believe in accepting advertising from groups that support ideas she disagrees with. The only reason the Outpost would accept such ads, she presumes, is "because the editor and publisher must to some extent support their agendas."

I addressed this topic in a general way here. But let me summarize: The reason we accept ads from such groups is that we sell advertising for a living. If the pro-obscenity ordinance people want equal treatment from our advertising department, all they have to is buy an ad of equal size.

Here's the kicker: At one of our West End distribution stops yesterday, someone had taken the trouble to carefully insert fliers into the Outpost in support of both ordinances. This was done without our permission and without paying us a cent. The flier says that it was "paid for by Montana Citizens for Decency through Law, Inc.," but nobody paid us.

Citizens for Decency may hold the moral high ground when it comes to pornography, but at least one of its supporters is a lowdown sneak.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

On the rack again

Gannett, the nation's most predatory newspaper conglomerate, is still trying to take over the rack distribution business. I have written about it here, here and here.

Here's an interesting update from Jackson, Miss., on the nationwide effort, along with a call for action. More here and here.

Locally, the latest development is that Lee Enterprises has dropped all of its free publications from Albertsons stores rather than pay Gannett to keep them there. The Thrifty Nickel, Work for You, Western Business, the real estate publication -- all gone. I'm not sure what that adds up to in circulation, but I bet the Thrifty Nickel lost at least 1,000 circulation in the deal. Bet you won't see that showing up on the rate card anytime soon.

We're still paying to stay in Albertsons, but we've refused to sign a contract, so it's a month-to-month thing. Meanwhile, Gannett has expanded its operation to Helena. The noose tightens. (Hat tip to the Queen City News.)

UPDATE: More here, this time closer to home. And the government is involved.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Speeding ticket

Maybe I spent too many years in South Texas, but the hardest thing for me to understand in the immigration debate is why so many people get apopletic over the fact that illegal immigrants broke the law to get here.

Sure, they broke the law, but there are laws and there are laws. It's illegal to drive 70 mph in a 55 mph zone, and it's illegal to commit armed robbery. But that doesn't make the crimes morally indistinguishable.

Let's face it: For most of American history, crossing the border illegally has been treated much more like a traffic violation than an armed robbery. That may have been bad policy, but it was our policy, not the immigrants'. Offenders have gotten the equivalent of a speeding ticket, or less -- often people apprehended trying to cross the border were simply sent back to the other side, only to try again the next day.

So here's a hypothetical: You're unemployed, the bank account is empty, the kids are hungry, and you have no prospects. Suddenly, you hear about a job 100 miles away that will pay you a wage beyond anything you could hope to earn in your home town. But to take it, you have to drive there by noon, and the only way to make it is to break the speed limit.

Do you speed and risk a ticket? If your answer is no, then shame on you for lying. If it's yes, then welcome to America.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Press release of the year

I know I shouldn't be giving free publicity to Nazis, but I submit that no news release in the entire political season will top this lede:

Montanans have rallied to the Swastika banner as a
result of the attention and popularity of Shawn
Stuart, Republican candidate in the state's 76th House
District, leading to the formation of a third Montana
Unit, based in Billings.

Heil, Shawn!