Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Comments down

Just got an e-mail from someone wondering why we decactivated comments on the Outpost website. I looked and, sure enough, comments were down.

We didn't do it on purpose and will try to get it fixed as soon as possible. But it explains why we have had no reader reaction to our endorsements last week -- an unusual development.

What it doesn't explain is why spam comments continued to get through. For the last week, we have had a website that blocks reader comments but allows spam to pass through. Now that's technology.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Push polled

I keep trying to listen to one of these automated push polls all the way through to the end, but I always get mad and hang up. It happened again Saturday. The poll asked if I intended to vote for Tester. Then it asked if I intended to vote for Burns. Then it asked if I would prefer lower or higher taxes.

OK so far. But the next question got to me. It was, approximately: "Do you believe that terrorists should have the same constitutional rights as American citizens?" (If anybody else who was called got the question down more exactly, please let me know.)

I said, "What do you mean?"

Of course, the automaton on the other end couldn't handle that. It said that the call would be terminated unless I answered "yes" or "no."

I shouted into the phone.

"Good!" I said. "Then stop asking such moronic questions."

So I never got to hear the rest of the poll. But what the heck? Suspected terrorists who are Americans obviously have the same constitutional rights as other Americans. You can't deprive someone of constitutional rights simply by hanging on a label. Only Americans who have been caught actually carrying out or plotting acts of terror, or who have actively taken up arms against the country, lose any constitutional rights.

Terrorists who aren't Americans don't have the same constitutional rights as American citizens, but then neither does, say, Tony Blair. So what's the point of the question?

Sounds to me like a subtle way of asking if I'm OK with torturing terror suspects and eliminating habeas corpus and locking people away forever with no charges, no trial and no lawyer. And no, I'm not OK with that. On that point, the push-poll recording was as dense as the president.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Outpost endorsements are here. By far the toughest was the Rehberg-Lindeen race.

On one hand, I've gotten to know and respect Rehberg a bit over the years. I think he has gotten better as time has gone by, and I think he listens to his constituents. On the other hand, I have a very tough time endorsing anyone who voted for the war in Iraq and who sat by as the Bush administration assaulted liberty and institutionalized torture. The entire Montana delegation has been pathetically weak in standing up for liberty.

I guess the consolation is that our endorsement is likely to have little effect either way. But in my heart, I still am not sure how I will vote.

Monday, October 23, 2006

CBS in the dumps

CBS reached a low tonight that makes the Bush fake documents story look like Pulitzer quality work. Katie Couric introduced Sean Hannity as guest commentator.

Sean Hannity! Don't we get enough of this blowhard? Three hours a day on the radio, an hour on cable TV, a couple of crappy books -- what insight into the political world could Hannity possibly have that we haven't already heard a hundred times?

None, actually. He used his time to decry the politicization of the war on terror. Incredibly, the only examples he could find of politicians who have tried to exploit the war for political purposes were Democrats. Amazing. It's the same theme he has pounded on his radio show virtually every single day for the last five years. And he still hasn't found a single Republican who has had anything but the highest possible, thoroughly apolitical motives in discussing the war. Edward R. Murrow would be spinning in his grave if he hadn't already burrowed his way to the other side of the earth.

Tuesday night: Arianna Huffington. I can't wait!

Saturday, October 21, 2006


The Montana Department of Transportation just got a $644,000 federal grant to deter racial profiling. Just asking: Is racial profiling really a $644,000 question in Montana?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

One for Tester

In tonight's debate, Jon Tester nailed Conrad Burns on Iraq. Burns' implication that a secret plan exists that will tell us when we have won the war is the most ludicrous thing I've heard in any of the debates. Tester responded with real eloquence and passion, and may have salted the election away right there.

No surprises in the first debate. I like both candidates and thought they both acquitted themselves well. Denny Rehberg came across as a tad more polished and knowledgeable, but Monica Lindeen may have won just for beating expectations. I can't see that the debate will put any dent into Rehberg's lead.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Guns for Burns

From the National Rifle Association comes a news release touting its campaign support for Conrad Burns: seven billboards, 4,143 radio ads on 88 stations, 1,824 cable TV ads, inserts in 11 newspapers.

I wonder why? Jon Tester claims he's a strong Second Amendment guy, and I haven't heard any reason to dispute that. Why isn't the NRA spending its money where it might make a real difference?

I can think of only three reasons:

1. The NRA is supporting Republicans everywhere.

2. The NRA thinks Burns will win and wants him to be happy.

3. It's payback time.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Votes for Tester

I had my journalism students at Rocky Mountain College watch last week's Burns-Tester debate and write a brief story about it. When I asked for a show of hands on who they thought won the debate, they favored Tester by about 4-1.

Bear in mind: This is a group of busy college students. None had seen any of the other debates and none has followed the race closely (on a recent editing quiz, no one caught the error in this phrase: U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, D-Mont.). Their responses to the debate seemed to be based less on the candidates' positions than on how they answered questions and stated their positions.

I don't know that any of that means anything, but I thought the edge the students gave to Tester was striking. I've seen three of the debates and rated them all roughly as draws.

Tough talk

Even by the standards of this year's Montana Senate campaign, the latest news release from the Montana Democratic Party seems harsh. The release goes after ads in which former Gov. Marc Racicot backs Conrad Burns' candidacy.

"Marc Racicot, fondly recalled by some in Montana who have lost track of his career, is at the very heart of the culture of corruption in Washington under Republican control," the release says. The release goes on to call Racicot a "Jack Abramoff-type figure in Washington" and adds, "Racicot is a paid agent of big corporate special interests who game the system in Burns and Rehberg’s Washington everyday.”

Next target: Abe Lincoln, another Republican who came to a bad end in Washington.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


One of my Democratic friends was railing again last week against the ruination of America brought on by Bush and his minions. My usual response to this tirade is to advise her, in various ways, to chill out. Things aren't that bad, I say. Stick around a bit and watch them change.

But last week I didn't have it in me to argue. What brought me down was passage of the administration's pro-torture bill. As time allows, I've been struggling to understand the full impact of the bill. I haven't got through it all yet, and I still hold out some hope that I am misunderstanding much of this. But the search is profoundly discouraging, and I am losing hope. I keep thinking: The war on terror is over, and we have surrendered.

I've been critical of this country at times, but I have never felt ashamed to be an American. Now I feel shame.