Tuesday, December 30, 2008

No fiesta

It's a good thing I know how to make tamales. Sad news on the culinary front: Two of my favorite Mexican restaurants in Billings, Lolita's and Mamacita's, are closing.

Mamamcita's had an especially warm place in my heart (and belly). The basic Mamacita's combo plate (taco, tamale, enchilada, chili verde, rice, beans, tortilla, served with two sauces, one red and one green) was the best in town and one of the best I have ever had. As in all great Mexican combos, you couldn't take away any part without damaging the whole. It was the concert of flavors, all enhanced by the delicious sauces, that made the special so special.

Mitigating news: The Corral, recently opened on Southgate Drive, has pretty darn good Mexican food and now serves Mexican breakfasts on weekends. In my most-quoted line of prose (quoted only by me, so far as I know, but quoted often), I once wrote that all human endeavors are flawed, with the possible exceptions of Shakespeare's 73rd sonnet and the migas plate at Dos Hermanos restaurant in Bryan, Texas. No migas at the Corral, but good food.

Further mitigation news: The other night we tried out Cafe Italia, Mike Schaer's new venture into Italian cooking. Nice atmosphere, excellent food, not too pricey. Another success for a guy who never seems to make any mistakes downtown. Of course, he is a loyal Outpost advertiser, so you may think I am biased, and I am. But I'm also right.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Irrational warming

In my post below on Bill Cunningham's irrational arguments about global warming, a commenter responds, "Maybe he's been listening to all those liberals who claim that every example of an extreme weather event -- hurricanes, floods, drougts etc. -- are evidence of global warming, as though they never happened before before they came up with their theories."

This points to a different sort of rational error -- one that most scientists (if not all liberals) have been fairly scrupulous about avoiding, at least so far as I can tell. The deal is that some global warming scenarios forecast an increase in extreme weather events. The catch is that no one can say for sure what caused any one event.

Suppose, for example, that I have a .300 hitter in the middle of my lineup, and you have a .250 hitter. Over the course of a hundred trips to the plate, my hitter will get about five more hits than yours will. That's not a lot of hits, and nobody can tell which five hits they are going to be. They might be meaningless pop singles in the late innings of lopsided games, or they might be screaming liners with the score tied and the bases loaded.

But despite the fact that nobody can identify which hits make my hitter better than yours, everybody agrees that, other things being equal, or at least random, a lineup of .300 hitters will beat a lineup of .250 hitters every single season.

The global warming theory works the same way. We may never be able to blame any specific weather event on global warming, but that doesn't mean the threat isn't real. And if you don't buy that, then I have a .250 hitter I would like to trade you.

Tamale day

We acted out my favorite holiday tradition on Sunday: a long afternoon of preparing, building and steaming tamales for an evening meal that couldn't be beat. Tamales and Christmas just go together, not just because they are a welcome change of pace from the usual holiday fare but also because it helps to have a load of family around to assist in the labor-intensive parts of the operation.

We started by baking the pork with onion and bay leaves for 90 minutes or so the night before. Sunday afternoon, we browned the meat with flour and then simmered it with chili powder, cumin, oregano and broth for 40 minutes or so. Meanwhile, I mixed up the masa with oil, water, chili powder and salt, and we soaked the corn shucks in water to soften and clean them.

Tamale assembly is the sociable part of the ritual, a pleasant pastime of spreading masa on a shuck, ladling meat onto the masa and then rolling the whole mess into a cylinder, folding it over to keep it together. We sit around the table to do this, comparing notes on various assembly methods and rooting out the largest shucks. Then, 90 minutes of steaming while various side dishes are prepared - rice, beans, hurricane gravy. Finally, good ol' eating, accompanied by Bayern Doppelbock.

After taking on a full complement of tamales, my daughter and I dashed off to see "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." When we got back home, the house still smelled of cumin and onions. Mmmmm. So we polished off a couple of cold tamales before heading to bed.

That's my idea of a holiday.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Friday talk radio update

Dave Rye was at it again today, saying that liberals think they are smarter than everybody else. Funny thing was, I had just been thinking about how stupid conservatives are. Well, not conservatives in general, or conservatism as a political philosophy, but one particular conservative.

That person is Billy Cunningham, who has a nationally syndicated talk show on Sunday nights. Last weekend, he was using the cold spell as an argument that global warming is a hoax. With every call he took from around this great country, he was asking, So how's global warming in Wisconsin (or Tampa, or Chicago or Idaho). At one point, he said that the cold weather was the final refutation of the global warming theory.

Now, it doesn't matter what your position is on global warming; you have to know that this is utter nonsense. Global warming does not repeal weather. Even Billy Cunningham probably would agree that if we reached a point where we no longer had snow or freezing weather in North America, then it probably would be time to start worrying. In reality, of course, it would be far too late to start worrying.

Cunningham claims to have a law degree and to have been a successful businessman. Surely he must have enough brain cells to know that he was spouting bilge. If I were to call him next summer, when Montana is sweltering in the 90s, and tell him the heat proves that global warming is a problem, he would immediately shoot down that dumb argument. Yet he never once gave an indication that he was kidding or exaggerating about cold weather, and not one of his listeners called him on it.

So if this is what conservatives think, then they are indeed stupid. Which is close to the point that Susan Jacoby makes in The Age of American Unreason. I have a number of problems with the arguments she makes about fundamentalism and junk science, and may write something about all of that when I have finished the book.

But arguments such as the one Cunningham was making remind me of an argument I have had with myself. To me, for example, it seems obvious that when I am home alone, the telephone is far more likely to ring when I am in the bathroom than otherwise. I have piles of anecdotal evidence for this, and every instinct tells me it is true.

Yet there is a scientific skeptic within me who points out that I never notice when the phone doesn't ring but become irritated when it does, so my perceptions may be skewed. And that my theory fails to include a mechanism that might explain why my phone is more likely to ring when I am in the bathroom.

If I really want to establish that the phone is more likely to ring when I am in the bathroom, I should keep records of when I am in the bathroom and when the phone rings and see if there is any statistical correlation. And if I want to be sure, I should probably bring in an outside investigator with no interest in the outcome -- and perhaps not even any knowledge of the purpose of the study -- to do an independent investigation.

But you know what? I don't really want to know if it's true. I'm happy believing that it is true, and if that makes me a bit irrational, fine. I just have to remember to carry the phone along when I go to the bathroom.

And Billy Cunningham doesn't really want to know if global warming is true. He's happy with whatever evidence points his way and blithely dismisses evidence of any other kind.

The difference is that I know I am being irrational about a matter of no consequence. He is being irrational about a matter that could have extraordinarily grave consequences. So yes, I am smarter than that.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hung with new rope

With a short weekly calendar, an early deadline and a small news hole, I breezed through production day at the Outpost -- a mere 18 1/2 hours. And that included time to write a column on the demise of newspapers (it should be up on the web in a few hours).

And it just now occurred to me that I forgot to include my snapper ending on the column, so I will put it here:

To some extent, newspapers are killing themselves and don't even seem to know it. The new issue of American Journalism Review has an article about two married journalists with a combined 50 years of experience who were recently laid off by the Missoulian. Pamela J. Podger writes about she and her husband, John Cramer, were both laid off just nine months after moving to Missoula from the Roanoke Times.

"We've always been frugal -- we bought our little fixer-upper house on craigslist and are doing most of the work ourselves," she writes.

Craigslist is, of course, the wildly successful free online classified ad service that contributed to a 17 percent decline in classified ad revenues at Lee Enterprises during the quarter that ended June 29. And Lee Enterprises is, of course, the owner of the Missoulian.

UPDATE: Here's the link.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

New literary journal

Some local folks (or folks with local connections) have started a new online journal. I've added a link at right.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Lee in the dumps

Lee Enterprises may be headed for default.

Thursday talk radio update

Long, brutal day. Up by 5:30 a.m., home at 8:30 p.m. The snowy roads weren't so bad, except for the occasional slip, and even the 5 degree cold wasn't so bad, except for loading the early-morning papers. But the combination of it all -- the cold, the dark, the roads, the immensely crowded streets -- made for a tough, miserable day. I sometimes wonder if people would be more inclined to pick up The Outpost if they knew what we go through to get it out there for them. Perhaps not.

Even the radio guys seemed restrained by the weather. Hannity sort of perfunctorily beat up on Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers some more -- a habit he apparently is unable to shake. I flipped over to Limbaugh for a moment during a commercial break and he was arguing that bums should be unionized. This is the sort of material that gave Limbaugh his reputation for having a sense of humor. I could endure only a sentence of it.

Everybody else seemed fairly rational. In fact, three issues came up that I hadn’t thought much about before, and I sorted out my position on all three. It seemed like a vaguely productive way to spend a long, miserable day.

Issue one: Should Caroline Kennedy be appointed to the U.S. Senate?

Initial reaction: Who cares?

Conclusion: Nope. Her resume is too thin. She ought at least to win an election or two first.

Issue two: Should Rick Warren be allowed to give the invocation at Obama’s inauguration?

Initial reaction: Who cares? It’s just a prayer.

Conclusion: Could be another shrewd move on Obama’s part. I think he knows that history is on his side on the gay marriage issue. In 30 or 40 years, my guess is that people will look back on this dispute the same way we look back now on the dispute over interracial marriage: Some people still don’t like it, but it’s really not the government’s business.

The left may be annoyed, but where else is it going to go? Meanwhile, Obama is looking at Warren’s positions on poverty and social justice and thinking, I can work with this guy. Pretty much, I suspect, the way he looked at Jeremiah Wright.

Issue three: A guy named his kid “Adolph Hitler” and tried to have that inscribed on the kid’s birthday cake. Shoprite refused; Wal-Mart said OK. Who was right?

Initial reaction: Who cares? Shoprite is under no obligation to sell cakes it doesn’t want to sell. And the right to give your kid a screwy name doesn’t put the buyer in a protected class, the way he would be if, for instance, Shoprite wouldn’t sell him a cake because he was black or because he was celebrating a Jewish holiday. And Wal-Mart is just trying to make a buck, which is what Wal-Mart’s DNA tells it to do.

Conclusion: The one person in this whole mess who we all agree did nothing wrong is the kid. And he has a dismal life before him. Not only does he have a terrible name, but his parents are apparently loons. And his sister, whose name is Aryan Nation, probably won’t be much help. He will have a lot of tough years ahead of him, and now Shoprite is refusing to decorate his birthday cake because it doesn’t like his name. How cruel is that?

The host – a fill-in for O’Reilly – defended Shoprite, saying that it didn’t want to “mainstream” the father’s behavior. I’m not even sure what that means. The implication appears to be that, unless cake decorators in retail outlets around the nation take a stand, parents everywhere will rush to name their kids after great villains in history. I’ve got news for you, pal: Any parent who names his kid after Hitler has problems a whole lot bigger than finding a cake decorator.

One side note: Apparently the father has in the past tried to get swastikas placed on a cake, and Shoprite refused that, too. Too bad, in a way. The swastika is an ancient and appealing symbol that deserves a far better fate than to be an instant reminder of the Third Reich. When we were kids, our most lurid World War II drawings were mostly an excuse to draw lots of swastikas, not because we were Nazi sympathizers but because we just thought swastikas looked cool, as have many people in many cultures over many generations.

I’m sure the swastika will never be rehabilitated in my lifetime, and probably not in my grandkids’, but it is nice to imagine that memories of Hitler will someday fade so far into the past that the swastika makes a comeback. Just not at some kid’s expense.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday talk radio update

I swear, I just heard Dave Rye say, "Liberals are more moral than the rest of us, at least in their own minds." Liberals also think they are smarter than conservatives, he went on.

Do liberals actually think that? I thought one of the tenets of liberalism was that people have considerable freedom to set their own moral codes. Pretty hard to believe that and at the same time believe that whatever moral code one person chooses is all that much better than anyone else's.

If what Dave says is typical of how conservatives think, then I guess I would concede that he's right about his second point.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Torture and optimism

Many on the web have noted the remarkable contrast between the attention paid to the Illinois governor's legal problems and the Senate committee report implicating top Bush administration officials in war crimes. The first is almost comically inept; the second is profoundly disturbing. Guess which one makes the news?

So when Cal Thomas worries about American loss of optimism, I have two reactions:

1. I'm not so sure that optimism has waned, at least not in Montana. For now, at least, it seems to me that worry about the plunging economy is almost entirely offset by relief over declining gasoline prices. That won't last, probably, but I have noticed much despair yet, have you?

2. To the extent that Americans are becoming less optimistic, Bush's dismal record on torture may be at least in part to blame. Not that people are going around in sackcloth and ashes over it, but down inside we know that we did something terribly, terribly wrong. If it leads to our comeuppance in the world, we will, regrettably, have earned it.

Higher education

Remember back in November when, after a trying and lengthy campaign, you voted for Errol Galt of Martinsdale, Thelma Baker of Missoula, and John Brenden of Scobey? Slip your mind? Those are Montana's delegates to the Electoral College. They are meeting today in Helena, casting their ballots for John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Book issue

If you haven't been over to look at the Outpost's Christmas book issue, then get to it.

Thursday talk radio update

Glenn Beck went on again about the Fairness Doctrine for longer than I could stand, but at least he did add something unusual to the argument: a scintilla of evidence.

It wasn't entirely clear from Beck's account whether the mayor of Toledo actually wanted the Fairness Doctrine restored -- what he said on radio was that he wanted Congress to look at the "fairness principle" -- but the newspaper account seems pretty clear. So there is at least one high-ranking official in a mid-sized American city who thinks the Fairness Doctrine is a good idea. As Toledo goes, so goes the nation.

If you haven't been keeping up with comments to my last post on this topic, you should scroll down a bit and take a look. Mark Tokarski, in particular, has some thoughtful things to say.

I have to admit that, given right-wing radio hosts' relentlessly wrong approach to just about everything in recent years, their shrill opposition to the Fairness Doctrine is beginning to make me think that maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea. One particular annoyance is the repeated insistence by Beck, Hannity, etc., that restoring the Fairness Doctrine would silence my voice.

How's that? I have absolutely no voice in right-wing radio. Limbaugh openly acknowledges that the calls he takes are specifically designed to reinforce his points. Beck is too clownish to handle a serious call. Savage is insane. Hannity will take calls from people who hold opposing views, but he repeatedly cuts them off, mocks them and distorts their arguments. The only power I have over any of those shows is to simply not listen to them in hopes that sagging ratings will drive them away. I don't think that's exactly what the founding fathers had in mind.

I still think that restoring any sort of Fairness Doctrine with strict equal-time provisions would be a bad idea. But I don't see what's wrong with being able to go to the FCC at license renewal time and arguing that KBLG and KBUL, by flooding the airwaves with conservative talk with virtually no alternative voices, aren't serving the public interest. And that Billings would be better served if the FCC would award those licenses instead to, for example, me.

Meth on ice

Do those scary Montana Meth Project ads really work? Maybe not.

UPDATE: OK, so I'm behind the curve again. Intelligent Discontent already has several posts on this topic.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The spam of the day ...

... starts this way: "I am Ming Yang,i have an obscured busines suggestion for you."

Thursday talk radio update

Hannity kept reminding me that jobs are created by private enterprise and all government does is get in the way. Government is the problem, not the solution, he was saying.

No doubt that is why Somalia, with practically no government at all, is thriving.

Reviving the Fairness Doctrine

Alleged liberal efforts to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine continue to get play on talk radio. The Media Research Center has launched a campaign against it, and now George Will, of all people, weighs in.

All very interesting stuff, except for the fact that no serious effort to revive the doctrine appears to exist. Even the Media Research Center's case that liberals are out to revive the doctrine appears awfully weak. Note that the most compelling piece of evidence (the lede paragraph) turns out in the end to be totally erroneous. The rest of the argument draws on quotes that are old, ambiguous (Schumer is simply being factually accurate when he says that some of the same people who oppose government involvement in political speech want the government to limit other types of speech), or come from people who aren't exactly cutting-edge political figures.

It's easy to dismiss this stuff from right-wing radio, which was soundly repudiated at every turn by voters and hopes to at least gain a win in a battle against no detectable opponent. But Will usually comes from the sensible side. Does he know of a push to reinstate the doctrine that isn't obvious anywhere else? And if so, why didn't he use a paragraph or two of his column to tell us what that evidence is?

UPDATE: For the short version of this discussion, go here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

A test of principles

In response to my distaste for early-morning Black Friday shopping, a commenter asks whether I would turn down on principle an ad from a retailer proclaiming an early-morning sale. The major chain retailers who specialize in such sales rarely advertise with local independents like us, but if they did, my answer would be, "Of course we'll take the ad." Just because I'm trying to talk the world into being a certain way doesn't mean I want to stop other people from trying to talk the world into being some other way. And they are welcome to pay me to get their message out.

A sterner test of principles came just last week. As reported here earlier, Town Pump has contracted with Lee Enterprises to control distribution of free publications in its stores. That contract, which went into effect today, is too rich for our blood, so you will no longer find the Outpost in any Town Pump locations.

As noted in the earlier post, Town Pump's decision does not mean that it won't continue to try to get free publicity from The Outpost for its various events. Just last week, in the very first issue that didn't go to Town Pump stores, we had a news release from the company about its charitable efforts.

Nice deal for the Town Pump people. We donate free space in the newspaper so they can tout their own generosity, then they expect us to pay them to distribute that free publicity in their stores. When I first heard that Town Pump had cut a deal with Lee, I thought, I will have to think long and hard before I ever run another free news release for Town Pump.

And I did think long and hard. But I ran it, even though the Town Pump customers it would most likely influence won't see it, at least not at the Town Pump. If any principle underlies this outfit, it's that advertising considerations don't influence news considerations. For the editor in me, that's an easy call. But the publisher in me raised holy hell.

Still, the editor did the right thing. So turn the temperature in Hell down a degree for me, will you?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Idiots assemble

I was prepared to write my annual post lamenting early Black Friday shoppers when I read today's Gazette and saw that one early-morning shopper summed it up better than I ever could: "We're like a community of idiots."

Idiots indeed. To reiterate: I'm pro-freedom and would never question the right of sport shoppers to hit the shopping centers at 4 a.m. My complaint is that the stores open that early, depriving employees of a full day off for Thanksgiving. It's an especially cruel game to play on employees who have to leave town to visit families for the holidays, then make the late drive back to be on duty when the doors open.

Americans work far too many hours with far too few days off as it is. It is pernicious to rob workers of a big chunk of one of the few days they still get -- especially one that is so quintessentially American.

It's unpatriotic. And it borders on blasphemy.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tap twice if you hear me

Spam e-mail subject line of the week: IS IT TRUE THAT YOU ARE NOT ALIVE.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

"The One"

I've been a holdout on commenting about Rob Natelson's two posts on Obama as Messiah. As I have argued here and in blog comments elsewhere, the notion that Obama is, or claims to be, some sort of supernatural savior was the dumbest thing to come out of the 2008 election. Yet it persists.

To respond point by point:

1. Virtually 100 percent of the Messianic claims I have heard about Obama come from the right, not the left. I don't doubt that the idea is out there on the left somewhere, but I followed the election pretty closely and never ran across a serious argument that Obama is anything but a human being, fragile and flawed like all of the rest of us.

2. With respect to Obama's resume, it certainly was thinner than I would prefer. I don't know how many of his supporters think he will "govern brilliantly" or "transform America," but don't count me among them. I voted for him because he struck me as an unusually cool head, a good speaker and a pragmatic politician, tough enough to get the job done and compassionate enough to want to get the job done right. I may be wrong, of course, but a fellow has to hope.

3. I don't know of any "hate-mongers" in Obama's associations. Ayers committed criminal acts a long time ago. So far as I can tell, he is out of the hate business. His acts, despicable though they were, fell within a tradition of American armed violence against perceived government oppression that the founding fathers not only understood but practiced. Jeremiah Wright's sermons (I've read three) strike me as firmly in the Christian tradition, a bit shrill at times, maybe, but far from hate speech. I haven't heard of any other alleged "hate-mongers" in there.

4. I haven't heard the claim that Obama has the highest IQ ever in the White House. I thought the trophy for that honor had been retired and is in a closet somewhere at Monticello.

Rob's point, apparently, is that Obama should "dampen the unrealistic level of expectation now." I'm not sure that's doable, or even wise. I hope that most Americans are realistic enough to know that presidents almost never live up to our highest hopes and ideals. But that doesn't mean we should quit trying to find one who does, or that the ones we do find should tell us to stop looking.

UPDATE: Upon further reflection, two additional points:

1. Even presidents who look saint-like in retrospect didn't necessarily seem that way at the time. Despite having to run against the peace platform in his own party, George McClellan won 45 percent of the popular vote against Abraham Lincoln in 1864. Defend that vote, Democrats!

2. If any president in modern history has taken on supernatural status, it has not come from leftists in support of a liberal Democrat but from conservatives in support of Ronald Reagan. Hannity's daily hagiography of Reagan is one of his most amusing diversions.

UPDATE: I somehow neglected to link to these worthy posts on this topic.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sorrows of the internet age

Early this morning, I finally achieved one of my lifetime goals: I finished reading Goethe's "The Sorrows of Young Werther." I'm not sure why it took so long; it's not that demanding a book. I was drawn to it as a kid when I heard that the fate of the young hero set off a wave of copycat suicides in Europe. I was too young at the time to read it, I suppose, and put it off, then somehow lost track of the notion.

Learning German, it came to mind again, and I found a cheap paperback copy. But by the time my German became good enough to take it on, the idea had somehow slipped away again. I chipped away at a few pages from time to time, but years passed, and my German fell into disuse, and I lost the nerve for the project. But teaching for the last few years has put some polish back on my German, and I finally took a crack at it this summer. Then school started, and a few other books intervened, but I finally finished it off this morning.

Was it worth the wait? Maybe not. Werther's sensibility is a bit too far removed from our own to feel all that much sympathy for his plight. Pull yourself together, man, my inner critic kept saying. And I found the long recitation from "Ossian" near the end a needless, and language challenging, distraction. But, by God, I made it.

And just in time. Now that suicides are the stuff of internet entertainment, not just Sturm und Drang novels, Goethe will never seem the same again.

UPDATE: If you don't think the world is quite a sick enough place, scroll through the comments for the link above. Trust me, the world is plenty sick enough.

Thursday talk radio update

Sean Hannity continued to assure us all that he is rooting for Barack Obama to do well as president. To show us that he was serious, he encouraged Obama every few seconds by pointing out that he is a dishonest radical socialist whose cabinet picks so far prove that he is:

1. A dishonest radical socialist.
2. Indistinguishable from the Clintons. Or
3. Weak and indecisive.

It's gonna be a great four years.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Smaller is bigger

Looks like I'm not the only one who thinks that banks like Citigroup got too big for their own good.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

No tears

The Outpost used to have a credit card through troubled Citigroup. We didn't do it on purpose; we got the card through another company, which Citigroup then bought.

We paid the monthly bill on time for several years. Citigroup's own records don't show that we were ever late. Then one month earlier this year I let the bill get lost in the endless piles of paper on my desk. I didn't know it was due until a few days after it was late and somebody from the company called and asked about it. I paid the bill the next morning, plus the payment for the following month.

No use, of course. Our interest rate more than doubled. The Citigroup rep said we should call and ask to have the increase reversed since we had such a good payment history. But as it happened, we had better options available at the time, and I didn't feel like pleading. I closed the account. Instead of making a small but solid profit from me every month, Citigroup's profit went to zero.

No doubt the company works under some formula by which that calculation makes sense. No doubt most people don't have the options we did and just have to swallow the increase -- if they can, or go under, if they can't.

But it seems to me that a company too big to know who its honest customers are might be too big to be in business. And it shouldn't expect my vote for a bailout.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cellphones in Yellowstone

An in-depth look at cellphone towers and internet use in Yellowstone National Park.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Joe Schlesser

I was glad to see this kind letter in today's Gazette about Joe Schlesser, formerly the funny and wildly energetic entrepreneur of Artspace.

Joe was a good guy whose various claims to fame included one guaranteed to knock me over: He had once seen my great childhood hero, Roy Rogers, naked. It was nothing scandalous -- a momentary encounter while changing for the swimming pool -- but it couldn't have impressed me more if he had said he had shaken hands with Michelangelo.

Now both Joe and Roy are gone. What hope is there for the rest of us?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Gov releases budget

Gov. Brian Schweitzer released his budget proposal for the biennium this afternoon. Among the highlights, according to the accompanying news release:

* General fund spending down 2.5 percent.

* $20 million for children's health insurance.

* $124 million increase in education funding.

* $25 million in one-time money to retrofit government buildings to make them more energy efficient.

* $250 million left in the bank at the end of the biennium.

“I know inflation is eating away at all of us," the governor said. "But I’ve said since last January that this session would feel like a belt-tightening one. But we’ll get through this as Montanans always have.”

Friday talk radio update

With two college courses on Thursday, and another on Friday, I've been winding up Outpost delivery on Friday afternoon. So I got to hear discussions of William Ayers on both O'Reilly and Sean Hannity this week.

Why anyone should care about Ayers at this point is beyond me. If Obama manages over the next four years to successfully wrap up two wars, capture Bin Laden, balance the budget and get the stock market back up over 12,000, he would get re-elected even if he were caught personally planting bombs in the White House basement. But Ayers was what talk radio had to offer.

The arguments are well worn. It's not that Obama is a terrorist, said Ms. Hill, it's what his association with Ayers tells us about his judgment.

So what does it tell us about Obama's judgment? That he is willing to meet with people who have done bad things in hopes of achieving mutually beneficial results? But we already knew that. That's basically his foreign policy. And noted terrorist enabler, David Petraeus, essentially endorses the idea.

The people you hang out with also tell us something about your character, Ms. Hill said. It's true that our mothers warned us about the company we keep. They warned Jesus, too, and look what happened to him.

Now, I don't think Obama is Jesus, or claims to be, although various bloggers might want you to think otherwise. But he is a Christian, so it's fair to ask what Jesus would do if he wound up living in the same neighborhood as a former member of the Weather Underground.

Jesus doesn't speak directly to me, but I spent quite a few years mulling over what he would do in tight situations, and I'm pretty sure I know how the Jesus I was taught to believe in would react. He would think: This guy has done bad things. He hasn't fully repented, but he realizes that he went too far. He isn't doing those things anymore, and he is instead holding a responsible job and working to improve the community in which he lives. I can work with this guy, and I should work with this guy, and I might even be able to save him.

I don't know if that's how Barack Obama thought about Ayers. I'm sure it's not how Hannity thinks.

Of course, Jesus probably couldn't get elected president.

Thursday talk radio update

Warren Olney's "To the Point" discussed the possibility of prosecuting war crimes within the Bush administration once Bush leaves office. Glenn Greenwald of Salon fame made the simplest possible case for prosecution: Either we are a nation of laws or we are not. Let top public officials off the hook because it is politically inconvenient to prosecute them, and justice is robbed of all meaning.

Olney being Olney, he of course had people on who disagreed. The argument generally runs that the case is unclear and that there is a legal underpinning to the administration's claims that it has acted legally. Greenwald replied that if we refuse to prosecute any administration that manages to concoct a legal theory, then we abandon prosecution altogether.

Makes sense to me.

Meanwhile, there is talk that Obama may create an independent commission to look into the matter. Most of us roll our eyes at the thought of another federal commission, but Scott Horton made a compelling case in the latest issue of Harper's (available here but not legible without a subscription). Whether or not a commission results a prosecution, it has benefits, Scott Horton argues. It helps earn public support for the anti-torture position, and it signals to the world that America's torture chamber days are behind it. Those are good reasons.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Max Baucus!

Max Baucus draws a rare exclamation point of approval.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New-fangled voting

NPR was just interviewing Curtis Gans of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate at American University. He was saying that voter turnout last week wasn't as heavy as some early reports had indicated. I had heard that and was only half-listening when the topic turned to one near to my heart: early voting.

Gans said there is no evidence that relaxing rules on early voting increases turnout. There is some evidence, he said, that early voting decreases turnout. Not only does it diffuse get-out-the-vote efforts, but also a lot of those early ballots apparently wind up getting left behind on kitchen tables.

Meanwhile, of course, Americans are abysmal voters, ranking 139th out of 172 democracies (if memory serves) in turnout.

There's only one solution: Give everybody Election Day off, and make it a paid holiday for everybody who shows up back at work on Wednesday with an "I voted" sticker.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

2 surprises

The two biggest election day surprises for me: Linda McCulloch over Brad Johnson for secretary of state and Monica Lindeen over Duane Grimes for state auditor.

I didn't much like the way Johnson ran his 2002 campaign for U.S. Senate, but I haven't heard any particularly compelling complaints about how he has run the mostly nonpartisan Secretary of State's office over the last four years. And I didn't see that McCulloch ran a noticeably better campaign. So what's the deal with Johnson? Too Republican? Too male?

I have similar feelings about the Lindeen-Grimes race. If anything, I thought Grimes ran the stronger campaign. At least I saw more of him than I did of her, and she lives around here. Name recognition? I figured he would have a slight edge. Political positions? I figured he would have a slight edge. What did I miss?


Nice column by Ed today on the Obama election. I was struck by the historic importance of the event at the same moment he was: When the whole family got up on stage. Every racial stereotype of the last 50 years ran through my head -- and not a single one made a lick of sense anymore.

At MSU Billings on Wednesday, I was a bit disappointed to see so few students who seemed to share my excitement about the historic significance of electing a black man as president. The few comments I heard were mostly in the "anybody but Obama" category.

I mentioned it to a colleague who had noted the same thing. "Maybe that's a good thing," I finally said.

Maybe it is. If it still seemed like a big deal to people their age to elect a black man president, then maybe it wouldn't have happened. There is the ultimate triumph of racial equality: They elected a black man president, and nobody noticed.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Thursday talk radio update

"In the spirit of the Fairness Doctrine," Sean Hannity allowed Obama backers a half-hour devoted to gloating calls. Since Hannity and fairness never quite belong in the same sentence, it wasn't a real half hour. Between Hannity's interruptions and rebuttals, plus ads and plugs for his upcoming Freedom Concerts, gloaters may have gotten 10 minutes.

Not that there was much gloating. Most callers seemed more interested in getting the country back together after a long election. Hannity apparently has no such interest. He was rude and combative and weirdly certain that Republicans would be fine if they just went back to being conservatives.

Everyone can take away from the election the lessons they wish. Here is the lesson I took: Voters gave the Hannitys, Becks and Limbaughs of the world a hard slap in the face. They rejected the cheap shots, the grandstanding and the propagandizing and looked at the election with clear and open eyes. This election gave the worst of the talk show world their worst of all possible worlds: A Republican they didn't like, a Democrat they liked even less, and a result they liked least of all.

So will Hannity learn and grow? Hint: On Friday's show, he led with the g______ America quote from Jeremiah Wright.

Promises, promises

In an e-mail saying thanks to supporters, U.S. House candidate John Driscoll includes what may be the year's most unusual campaign promise:
Should we file again for Congress, I promise not to vote for the other guy.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Vote suppression?

Matt Singer of Left in the West is asking local media to pass this along:
We have confirmed a report of an inaccurate text message circulating in Missoula telling people that local polling places have long lines and that Obama voters should vote tomorrow. Similar jokes and rumors fly every election. While we do not have concerns that many voters will be tricked into thinking that they can vote tomorrow and we do not know whether these messages are intended as pranks or as malicious suppression, we are worried that rumors of long lines and delays could dissuade voters from attempting to participate this year.

We'd encourage local media to highlight that few polling places in Montana suffer from long lines or waiting times to vote and to emphasize that voters do need to go to their polling place by 8pm tonight in order to be able to vote.

Note - we also know that similar text messages are being reported in Florida and around the country, including in this CNN report:

Election 2008

I just went down and voted to toss the bastards out -- except for the bastards I voted to toss in. It was the longest line I've ever seen at my polling place (American Lutheran Church) but that doesn't necessarily mean much. I usually vote in the dead hours of mid-afternoon; today I was there about 9 a.m.

Still, it was smooth sailing. I was in and out in less than 10 minutes. In return, I get to bitch about the winning candidates for another four years. You gotta love it.

Wrong on Rye

Dave Rye just allowed a caller to read a big piece of an e-mail alleging that Barack Obama thinks the national anthem should be "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing." This e-mail has been floating around for a while. It is, of course, folderol, and has been solidly swatted down.

OK, radio hosts can't know everything and perhaps shouldn't even be expected to always ferret out pure fraud. But this was pretty ludicrous on its face. Beyond that, when another caller complained, Rye defended the earlier caller, saying he thought what she said was true. I'm not sure whether he meant "true" in the sense of being based on actual facts or "true" in the sense that it serves his larger point that: Liberals are unpatriotic; Obama is a liberal; therefore, Obama is unpatriotic.

But surely, Dave, facts should count for something, even on talk radio. Shouldn't they?

Monday, November 03, 2008

A true American

Just wandered across a post on a great American hero, Carl Schurz, and his thoughts about America's role in the world. Scott Horton gives a bit of Schurz's history, but leaves out a great deal. Schurz was actually born in Germany, became a radical, and was trapped in a siege at Rastatt during the Revolution of 1848.

When the defending forces surrendered, Schurz and a small group of confederates tried to escape through a storm sewer, found the way blocked by enemy soldiers and retreated back through the sewer to a barn, where they lay virtually motionless in the loft for a couple of days while Prussian soldiers tended their horses beneath them. The men then worked their way back through the sewer and fled the country.

Then Schurz sneaked back into Germany and bribed a guard to secure the release of his radical old professor, who was being held in prison in Spandau. When I tell my German students about this, I naturally emphasize this heroic gesture.

Only then did Schurz immigrate to the United States, where he became a general in the Civil War, then a senator, the secretary of the Interior and an editor at Harper's. Yellowstone's Mount Schurz is named for him.

As an aging veteran of two devastating wars, he said this:
The man who in times of popular excitement boldly and unflinchingly resists hot-tempered clamor for an unnecessary war, and thus exposes himself to the opprobrious imputation of a lack of patriotism or of courage, to the end of saving his country from a great calamity, is, as to "loving and faithfully serving his country," at least as good a patriot as the hero of the most daring feat of arms, and a far better one than those who, with an ostentatious pretense of superior patriotism, cry for war before it is needed, especially if then they let others do the fighting.

Wonder who he would vote for tomorrow?

Palin's medical records

Andrew Sullivan has been a fairly lonely voice crying out for the release of Sarah Palin's medical records (most recently, here). Just now, from the McCain campaign, comes this.

It won't change my vote!

Now's the time

Just got an e-mail from attorney general candidate Tim Fox with the subject line "7 days left."

Tim! Wake up, man! It's later than you think.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Trick or treat

Several political comments along these lines have surfaced. Glenn Beck used a variation of it on Thursday; Mike Huckabee used a similar example -- A students required to give points to lazy C students -- on Fox News on Sunday. The message in each case is the same: Barack Obama would force hardworking people to give their hard-earned money to lazy bums.

Boy. Sometimes it seems that people really are just born conservative or liberal and ideology has nothing to do with it. I grew up in the country on two acres of huisache so I had never had much experience with trick-or-treating. We weren't willing to walk five or 10 miles to hit enough neighbors to fill a bag of candy.

But sharing Easter eggs after the hunt was a recurring theme in my childhood. The big kids got the most and the best, and they were always expected to give some to the little kids who couldn't move as fast. I think it had something to do with Christianity.

Now I wonder if today's conservatives weren't the kids who hoarded every egg they could get, lied about how many they had and threw a fit every time they had to give one away. I never did like those kids.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Lee ailing

Maybe it's just me, but I missed this highly interesting story in the Billings Gazette this week. It's more bad news to add to the "morgue"-like atmosphere reported at the chain's most prestigious acquisition.

Maybe it also helps explain why the Mini Nickel, owned by Lee, has just signed a deal with Town Pump to control distribution of free publications in its 75 Montana stores. We just got a letter this week telling us that we will have to pay $40 a month if we want to stay in our two Billings Town Pump locations.

Maybe. According to the account in The Press Pass, the publication of the Montana Newspaper Association (new edition not yet on line), the contract apparently does not affect newspaper racks, just TMC (total market coverage) and shopper-style publications. Not sure why the Mini Nickel wrote to us.

But it's more than a bit annoying. Efforts by large chains to gobble up news rack space in major retailers and block out competitors have been documented here and elsewhere.

What's annoying about Town Pump's behavior is not so much that it's trying to make an extra buck or two but that it gave the contract to our biggest competitor and the state's dominant newspaper company. Don't the rest of us get to bid?

The other thing is that Town Pump occasionally sends us news releases about its various activities and asks that we print them at no charge. We have always been happy to do this, when the items are relevant and space is available.

Now Town Pump wants us to print its news releases for its benefit at our own expense. Then it wants us to pay Town Pump so that Town Pump customers can read about its good works. I wonder whether anyone there has considered why this might not sound like a good business model to us.

On the other hand, bad news is always good for somebody. The Gazette dropped its weekly TV guide on Oct. 1, which leaves the Outpost as the best source of weekly TV listings. Not only is our pickup on the streets noticeably better, but our subscriptions went up 215 percent in October.

Common courtesy

A convenience store where I deliver the Outpost now has a sign up asking customers to refrain from talking on their cell phones while paying for their items in the checkout line. It must say something about the state of modern courtesy that the store would even have to ask.

I was in a grocery store checkout line sometime back, and the person in front of me made it all the way through -- waiting in line, paying the bill, picking up the groceries and leaving -- without ever suspending his cellphone conversation. When I got to the cashier, she scowled at me.

I thought, What did I do wrong? But it wasn't me she was angry at.

"I hate it when they do that," she said.

"So do I," I answered.

It does seem to be appalling behavior. What's up with that?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Studs Terkel, R.I.P.

I have often called Studs Terkel one of the greatest living Americans. No more, alas, no more.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Citizen Wayne

A couple of people have pointed out this letter in the Gazette by former Publisher Wayne Schile. I'm glad they did: Somehow I had missed it.

Of course, I spent five of the same years at The Gazette that Wayne did and found "ultra liberals" in short supply. I did find a publisher who was willing to run over (or simply ignore) the editorial board every time it suited his GOP biases to do so.

The comments by "Orchy" are of particular interest:
Part of the reason our country is in the mess it is in is because of people like you: rich, power-mad thugs who made a fortune while the people who worked for you were paid barely a living wage. Perhaps the reason the media is so liberal is because most of the non-management people in the media / Gazette (at least in Montana) are the epitome of the "working poor". Go back to your yacht, Wayne, and remember that your opinion holds no more weight than anyone else's. Hard to take?

And this:
When you were The Gazette, your idea of "balance of power" was to get every single democrat out of office so that the republicans could do as they please. There was only one opinion at The Gazette...yours. You would not allow any of your employees to voice any opinion, on any subject, that didn't match yours.

A bit exaggerated, perhaps, but that makes it all the sweeter.

Thursday talk radio update

Dave Rye had a raft of callers explaining why the country would go to hell if Obama were to be elected. It was mostly the usual stuff, but a few callers claimed that Obama would undermine the Constitution. One said that Obama would "destroy the Constitution." Another guaranteed that Obama would try to pass laws that would violate the Second Amendment.

This floored me a bit. McCain has attacked Obama on just about every possible ground, but I have not heard even he argue that Obama would destroy the Constitution. Of course, no evidence for these claims was provided, and if anybody knows of any, I would sure like to hear it.

As I have noted before, it was Obama's spot-on answers to important constitutional questions about the powers of the presidency that first made me think he might be up to the job. Note that McCain had pretty good answers, too, but Obama's were more nuanced and thoughtful. On signing statements, for example, McCain said he flat wouldn't use them. But Obama laid out a precise case for how and when it is appropriate to use signing statements.

As for the Second Amendment, Obama said even before the Supreme Court ruled on the matter that he believed the Constitution protected an individual's right to bear arms. It's true, I think, that Obama predicted the Supreme Court would uphold the Washington, D.C., ban on hand guns. He was wrong, but not by much. The vote was 5-4, and even Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion, said that the court's decision in the Washington case didn't necessarily mean other ordinances limiting guns would be struck down. It's probably true that Obama would support more restrictive gun laws than some Montanans would like, but I've seen no evidence at all that he intends to do so in violation of the Constitution.

So where does the idea come from that Obama opposes the Constitution? Dream world?

McCain vs. Obama

I trundled my journalism students over to Losekamp Hall tonight to hear student debaters joust over the issues in the presidential campaign. Two things were striking: One was that when the debate coach asked the crowd of about 75 to 100 people to applaud to indicate who they thought won, most of the applause went to the McCain side (I concurred). But when she asked for a show of hands on how people planned to vote, I saw only one hand go up for McCain. I was sitting roughly in the middle, so I may have missed a few hands, but it was a tiny, tiny showing. I guessed that as many as two-thirds raised their hands for Obama; one of my students estimated only a third, and I suspect that his guess was closer to the truth than mine was.

But the difference was large enough to make me further ponder a point I already had considered: Would McCain be winning this race if he had someone other than John McCain to make the case for him? His ideas about taxation and the Middle East made far more sense coming from the students than I have ever heard them make coming from him.

Which leads to my second impression: Wouldn't it be great if presidential campaigns could be as focused on policies and issues as this debate was? No William Ayers, no Sarah Palin, no politicking or pandering, no guff about who looks best on stage or who loves the country most -- just a straight-up, nose-to-nose showdown over hard details of policy on the hardest issues. Wouldn't that do America proud?

Fox vs. Bullock

With my assorted jobs and duties, and my weird obsession with the presidential race, I admit I haven't followed Montana politics closely this year. But I noticed that Left in the West is speculating that Republican efforts to elect Tim Fox may be backfiring because his campaign has been so negative.

I can say for sure that Fox's negativity cost him one vote: mine. I can't listen to his ads and still believe that he is a serious person. There are consequences for negative campaigning, and one of them is losing my lonely vote.

Monday, October 27, 2008

GOP in Montana

Apparently, Republicans are getting nervous about how the presidential race is going in Montana.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Friday talk radio update

Dave Rye uncharacteristically read a monologue to open his broadcast on Friday. The monologue essentially explained why Republicans are good and Democrats are evil.

I was glad to hear him take on the topic and sorry that he said he didn't plan to do such a thing again. I also was pretty disappointed that the monologue took such a standard, stereotypical approach to the topic.

There was really nothing, for example, about why Republicans seem to be in so much trouble this election cycle. Are Americans turning socialist or have Republicans abandoned too many of the principles that made them electable in the first place?

There was no discussion of the split along ideological lines within the party: the old-school big-business Republicans, the libertarian Republicans, the social conservative Republicans. The breakup of this coalition is no more surprising, but is at least as worthy of discussion, as the breakup after Vietnam of the uncomfortable Democratic coalition of union workers, Southern conservatives and anti-war leftists.

There was no substantive discussion of some the party's apparent contradictions. Why is the party of individual liberty so opposed to letting people marry whomever they want? Why is the party of fiscal responsibility so indifferent to budget deficits? Why does the party that favors preserving what made America great have such a poor record on the environment?

Instead, we got mostly predictable homilies about how Republicans are more patriotic, more pragmatic and just all around better Americans than Democrats are. Too bad.

Thursday talk radio update

Glenn Beck was haranguing the world about the inevitability of Democrats restoring the Fairness Doctrine if they, as seems likely, win by big margins on Nov. 4. I have seen precious little evidence of any serious attempt to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, but it makes good political hay. Beck said he relies on conservative talk radio for news and information ignored or distorted by the MSM.

Funny he would say that. As regular readers of this feature know, I am often struck by how fact-free commercial talk radio is. Typically, listeners are spoon fed a sentence or two of fact, followed by an hour or two of opinionating. On Thursday, the only actual new fact that I can recall learning was the result of this poll showing the presidential race much closer than most other polls. Everything else, to the best of my recollection, was recycled stuff about Ayers, Wright, Obama's birth in Kenya, etc.

Beck, with his pompous propensity for beating every single point endlessly into the ground, is a particularly egregious offender. Last week, for example, he went on and on -- well beyond my listening capacity -- about a story that the Obamas had run up a huge room-service tab at the Waldorf-Astoria. Not only was the story trivial, but it turned out to have been fabricated. So people who listened to Glenn Beck that day not only didn't learn anything new, they instead learned something untrue. Beck used his program to subtract from the sum total of knowledge in the universe.

None of that makes a case for the fairness doctrine, although it may reduce fears of how serious the impact would be. I don't see the doctrine coming back, at least not in the form we once knew it. Still, I don't see anything wrong with requiring KBLG and KBUL to stand up in front of the public at broadcast license renewal time and explain to all of us why they donate thousands of hours of free air time each year to the Republican Party and donate nothing to Democrats. I just want to hear them explain how that behavior benefits the public enough to justify renewing their valuable licenses.

That's a broadcast I would pay to hear.

Go Obama

A friend told me about a Billings couple who recently traveled to Tunisia. In a restaurant, a member of the staff asked them, "Are you Americans?"

They said they were.

"Go, Obama," he said.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I used to think Wikipedia was unreliable. Then I read this account of Roy Brown's political career.

UPDATE: Someone has already removed the cheap shot. Good.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pouring it on

I've been getting lots of political e-mail for months, much of it suggesting that Barack Obama is a Muslim, terrorist, socialist, pervert, illegal alien, etc. But in the last couple of weeks, the intensity has kicked way up. I get e-mail just about every day from Obama, Biden, McCain and Palin, mostly asking for money. But the anonymous, scurrilous attacks on Obama are pouring in at a rate of at least a half-dozen a day. Most of them I don't even look at anymore.

How's your e-mail looking?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The socialist

I had a long interview on Saturday with Roy Brown about his race for governor (see the Oct. 23 Outpost for details). As I have on occasion mentioned, I have always found him to a principled, thoughtful politician. He's a tad conservative for my tastes, but I never pick my preferences among politicians on the basis of whether I agree with their politics (voting is another matter, and none of your business).

The point here is that he laid out detailed plans for how he would govern Montana, including some ideas that sound pretty progressive to me, such as his proposals for more openness in government and for allowing employers a tax credit if they pay student debt for Montana college graduates who take jobs in Montana.

But when the topic switched briefly to national issues, I was a bit surprised to hear what sounded like typical Republican talking points: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and the Community Reinvestment Act are to blame for the financial crisis; Barack Obama's tax plan amounts to class warfare and socialism.

I won't run down the links, but if you have followed this issue, you know that there is a pretty strong case to be made that the CRA had little impact on what has gone wrong in the financial system. More importantly, I have never understood the class warfare argument about the tax system. Unless you think that everyone should pay exactly the same amount of tax (and if you do think that, good luck with raising enough revenues to fight a war or two), then you have to favor at least a moderately progressive tax structure. Obviously, reasonable people can disagree about exactly what tax rates are fair and prudent. You don't want to kill the investment goose that lays golden eggs, but if you are making tax policy, you are going to look where the money is. As U.S. wealth becomes more and more concentrated, extracting a larger share from those who have the most just seems practical.

It sure doesn't sound like class warfare.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

They might be president

Montana Headlines has a post up about James K. Polk. What better time to link to the greatest rock song ever written about "Napoleon of the Stump."

Off with the blouse

A reader-recommended (and pretty darn funny) link.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thursday talk radio update

Sean Hannity couldn't understand why his essentially nonstop efforts to put Barack Obama in bed with William Ayers weren't taking hold. He seemed bewildered by this.

But it isn't hard to understand. For one thing, despite his extraordinary efforts, neither Hannity nor any of his confederates has succeeded in establishing any strong tie between Obama and Ayers. I'm sure I'm not the only guy who has served on boards without asking any questions about the backgrounds of my fellow board members. They may all have been child rapists, for all I know.

For another, once a guy like Ayers is loose in society, what's the best way to deal with him? You can't lock him up because the government bungled the case. You could try to make a permanent pariah out of him, but what would that accomplish other than reinforce the notion that violence is the only way for him to deal with a society he dislikes? Why not get some useful work out of him -- which requires that somebody hire him and that other people work with him and maybe even shake his hand once or twice. From Obama's point of view, what's more important: helping reform schools or risking a taint on his political career?

But the real reason Ayers hasn't worked as a political tactic is because of a point I have argued before: This sort of thing works only to the extent that it reinforces existing public perceptions about the candidate involved. The "potatoe" gaffe was devastating for Dan Quayle because people already had decided he wasn't very smart. Once Gerald Ford got a reputation as an awkward fellow, every head bump made the news. When it looked like George H.W. Bush had never seen a checkout scanner before, it fed the perception that he was an out-of-touch elitist.

But not even Hannity has ever been able to uncover a single word that Obama has said that makes him sound sympathetic to terrorists. People just aren't buying it. And every presidential debate has helped establish that Obama is a sane, rational, pragmatic and careful politician. It just isn't credible that he would rather be building bombs.

For the same reason, attempts to link John McCain to G. Gordon Liddy won't go anywhere either, other than to further neutralize the Ayers attack. Liddy is an unrepentant felon, who arguably did more to hurt the country than Ayers ever did, and McCain's ties to Liddy are at least as tight as Obama's to Ayers. But nobody thinks John McCain is G. Gordon Liddy. It just doesn't matter.

Still, it was pretty entertaining to watch Chris Matthews on "Hardball" last night trying to get a McCain spokesman to admit that Sarah Palin has been attacking Obama's patriotism by suggesting that he finds America "imperfect" enough that he pals around with terrorists. The spokesman kept saying that the issue was not Obama's patriotism but his judgment. Matthews kept insisting that he admit the obvious: The attack was on his patriotism.

I wish I had counted how many times Matthews asked the question. I wish he had asked it a hundred times. The spokesman never gave in, but everybody watching knew he was lying.

We're back

The Billings Outpost website is back up, although obviously not all of the bugs are worked out of it yet.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


Two ongoing themes in this election bug me.

One is that candidates who exceed expectations somehow win debates. Politics is not a sport in which handicapping applies. Sarah Palin may have done better Thursday night than her worst critics expected, but I can't imagine that anyone -- not even John McCain or the chairman of the Republican National Committee -- would really want to have her on the spot in a national crisis instead of Joe Biden. And that, ultimately, is what the election ought to be about.

The second is the mockery from the right about Biden's characterization of paying taxes as a patriotic duty. Biden is right, of course. Patriotism isn't about waving flags, wearing lapel pins or putting your hand over your heart when you hear "The Star-Spangled Banner." Patriotism is about service. Patriots vote in elections, serve on juries and pay their taxes. Sometimes they volunteer in schools or civic clubs, donate to charities and help out in political campaigns. In times of crisis, they may be called upon to ration gasoline, recycle scrap metal or serve in the military.

It's not a lot to ask, really, except for the last part. And those who mock paying taxes as an essential component of patriotic citizenship might as well be mocking military service. Both are equally essential.

Thursday talk radio update

Since school started, I rarely hear Bill O'Reilly anymore. My first-year German class falls smack dab in the middle of his radio show. Too bad, in a way, because O'Reilly really has been the only national talk show host we can hear in this area who seems to make a genuine effort to be fair to Obama. The rest are totally in the tank.

But I did hear him last week vowing to take Barney Frank apart on TV for Frank's role in the failure of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. I thought: not likely. Frank is every bit as tough and smart as O'Reilly, and he is far better versed on the issues.

I missed the show, but thanks to the miracle of You Tube, you can see it here, if you have the stomach for it. O'Reilly is at his blustering worst; Frank doesn't give an inch and uses, you know, actual facts in his response.

The unfortunate part is that we never do find out why Frank thought in July that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae would be OK. I'll bet he had an answer for that, too, but O'Reilly lacked the presence of mind to ask him.

McCain unveiled

Rolling Stone has a very tough piece on John McCain -- thinly sourced but devastating in its impact. It will be worth remembering in the coming weeks as the McCain campaign incessantly reminds us that, by the way, Barack Obama encountered a few radicals over the years.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Germany update

My second-year German class was visited today by the director of international programs at the university in Ludwigsberg, Germany. As I have said before, I try to keep up a bit with what's going on over there, but Germany is a long ways off, and I'm a busy guy, so I'm never sure quite how well my point of view holds up.

So I asked him how perceptions of America are in Germany these days and was somewhat gratified to hear a view similar to my own. He described German feelings toward America as "unrequited love."

Germans have in large part been our fans since World War II because we rebuilt the country, punished the worst of the war criminals and kept the Russians out. After Sept. 11, there was a huge outpouring of German support for America. But in subsequent months, America seemed to want to go its own way, with little regard for allies and bent on a war that didn't make much sense to most of the rest of the world.

But he said German misgivings about America are tied solely to the current administration. Angela Merkel has taken a pragmatic approach to U.S.-German relations. Naturally, he said, Germans are rooting for Obama to win the election. But he said either candidate would be an improvement in German eyes over the Bush administration.

Poor Max

Max Baucus can't catch a break. He seems to have played a genuinely key role in crafting the bailout legislation that finally passed on Friday, but nobody seems to care.

Early on, Jon Tester got some national play for saying, approximately, that he could understand how a financial crisis might sneak up on a dirt farmer like him, but how did it sneak up on people who are paid to watch that kind of stuff?

Then after the Senate vote this week, I saw Tester on "Hardball," explaining why he opposed the bill. At one point, Chris Matthews slipped up and said that the Republican next to Tester (whose name I should remember but don't) had voted against the position of his party's presidential candidate. He hadn't: He and McCain both voted for the bill; it was Tester who crossed up his presidential candidate. Everybody got a big laugh at Matthews' expense, and nobody seemed to enjoy it more than Tester, with his trademark easy grin.

The only time Tester slipped may actually have made him more likable. Matthews asked if he would voted for the bill if the vote had been close enough that it would have mattered. Tester seemed to have trouble understanding the question, but came across not as if he was too dumb to get it, but as if he couldn't understand why anybody would think he would vote for a bill he opposed out of political expediency.

I flipped to Fox News, where various congressmen were taking turns stepping up to the mike to give reporters their takes on the result. Baucus was second in line; the guy in front of him (sorry, I forgot his name, too) actually gave Baucus credit for helping to craft the compromise. But when it was Baucus' turn to step up to the mike, the network cut away.

Quickly, I flipped to CNN, which was showing the same feed, delayed by a few seconds. There was the same guy, handing Baucus credit again, and there was Baucus, waiting his turn to speak. The guy finished, Baucus stepped to the mike, and the network cut away.

This morning I was listening to talk radio on KBLG. The host (not Dave Rye, but that other guy, whose name I also have, to my shame and disgrace, forgotten) announced that Jon Tester was on the phone. He took the call, and we heard weakly, "This is Max. Maybe Jon Tester is on another line."

Debate hash

I often find myself rooting for a complete debate meltdown. Mostly I don't even really care who does the melting. There is lots of talk about the power of words in my line of work, and the thought of seeing words actually destroy someone before my eyes and a national audience has an evil appeal.

I figured Thursday night's vice-presidential debate might be the best chance I would ever have to actually see it happen. Sarah Palin was atrocious, in my view, but I can't argue with the consensus: She lost the game but beat the spread.

Two moments sent something close to a genuine shiver down my spine. One was when she picked up a Sean Hannity talking point attacking Obama for suggesting that airstrikes in Afghanistan kill civilians. I heard Hannity feed her the talking point in an interview with her on the radio Thursday (the interview was recorded Wednesday). Hannity has been pounding on that talking point for a while, but it's never been clear to me why what Obama said upsets him. Does he think it is untrue? Does he think that presidential candidates shouldn't speak unhappy truths? Because anybody who thinks airstrikes don't hurt civilians probably thinks that brain surgery is best performed with a hatchet. If you can't deal with the reality of wars, don't start wars.

But there it was Thursday night, big as could be, from Hannity's mouth direct to the mouth of the person who wants to be the second-most important American voice on foreign and military policy. A truly chilling moment.

The other chill was a response to her answer to the question about the constitutional status of the vice presidency. It seemed obvious to me -- didn't it to you? -- that she had absolutely no idea what the question meant. I could see the gears churning: Republican = good, Cheney = Republican, Cheney = good. Her lame answer should appall all Americans, especially conservatives who claim to take the Constitution seriously.

One side note: I made my journalism students watch the debate and write a live story afterward. They were pretty unimpressed by both candidates. The excitement I thought I detected about Obama on campus last spring seems to have gone. He has become just another politician. Regrettably, perhaps, that also is what has made him suddenly so electable.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Thursday talk radio update

Dave Rye noted that Joe Biden had said that Franklin Roosevelt went on television after the stock market crash of 1929 to explain what was going on to the American people. Two problems: Roosevelt wasn't president, and TV didn't exist.

If Sarah Palin had made a similar error, Rye said, the MSM would have been all over it -- thus showing their liberal bias.

He's right about the reaction but wrong about the reason. Everybody knows that Biden talks faster than his brain works. But everybody also knows that his brain works pretty fast. Although he says dumb things on a pretty regular basis, he's not a dumb guy. Everybody understands this, and it's not that big a deal.

But Palin remains largely unknown. When she says something dumb, that's news (although less so with each occurrence). So when she indicates that she thinks the founding fathers wrote the Pledge of Allegiance, especially when she does it in a candidate questionnaire into which she has presumably put some time and thought, it's a little scary.

And it ought to scare conservatives as much as it does liberals.

Out, damned spot

Curse George Will. He's making me agree with him again.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cool Hand Paul

I was just a kid when Paul Newman started making the "H" movies that made him famous: "The Hustler," "Hud," "Hombre." And I didn't see "Cool Hand Luke" until years later, when it quickly became my favorite all-time movie.

At the time, I had just about figured out why it was that boys found girls to be attractive. But I couldn't figure out how girls could feel the same way about boys. Then Paul Newman came along, and it all started to make sense.

Obama vs. McCain

If you are only going to read 2 million opinions about last night's presidential debate, you might as well make this one of them.

My call: Obama by a length. McCain did better than I would have expected on economic questions, although, as Kevin Drum points out, cutting spending to fight recession is far from conventional wisdom. At the midpoint I would have called it about even. But I thought McCain got worse as the evening wore on, and Obama got better.

McCain was at his worst at the very end, when responding to Obama's remarks about how he would seek to restore America's reputation in the world. All McCain could do was talk about Iraq, Iraq, Iraq.

It pointed out a certain emptiness in all of McCain's foreign policy views. Repeatedly, he emphasized the experiences he has had and the people he knew. Rarely did he indicate what he would actually do, other than threaten Russia and Iran and to stay in Iraq, Iraq, Iraq.

The debate ought to give serious pause to those who have argued that Sarah Palin is as qualified to be president as Barack Obama. It's inconceivable that she will handle questions about the world next week with the assurance and deep understanding Obama evinced.

Obama's performance belied McCain's repeated claim that Obama didn't understand the world (among other things, Obama clearly understands the difference between strategy and tactics better than McCain does). Every time McCain leveled the charge, and every time Obama responded with a precise, nuanced answer, McCain looked a little smaller.

By the end of the evening, only one candidate looked like a president. It wasn't McCain.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Wish list

Everybody seems to have an idea or two about what should go into the $700 billion bailout bill. Here's my list:

1. The CEO of every company that receives bailout money shall be required to take a portion of the obligation as a personal loan that must be repaid to the federal government in monthly installments.

2. The terms of the loan -- including due dates, interest rates and payment terms -- may be changed at any time, at the sole discretion of the American people and their elected representatives, with or without notice to the CEO.

4. Payments that are made after 6 a.m. on the due date shall be subject to a $39 late fee.

5. Assessment of any late fee shall automatically result in the loan defaulting to an annual percentage rate of 29.9 percent.

6. Should portions of the loan be assessed at different interest rates, all payments shall be applied first to the outstanding balance with the lowest current rate.

7. Should the CEO pay the full remaining monthly balance at any time, the loan shall continue to accrue interest for each nanosecond elapsed between the time of payment and the time it is posted to the books.

8. Questions about the status of the account shall be answered only by persons currently residing in Bombay, India.

The Outpost on the web

A couple of people have asked what's up with the Outpost website. We're working on it. We have a site in progress up (not yet ready for public viewing) and hope to be able to unroll it in a few days.

It disappeared suddenly because of a dispute we had with our web host. I probably shouldn't talk about that because it may still end in litigation. Suffice it to say, I'm not likely to be doing any testimonials for those guys anytime soon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuneys on Sunday

Just a reminder that the eighth annual Outpost Tuney Awards get under way at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co. The awards recognize the best in Billings music over the last year. Admission is $3.

It's usually a fun show, but moving it to the Garage Pub last year really kicked it up a notch. I'm hoping that everybody who was there last year will come back and bring a friend. Chan Romero, who wrote what I suppose is the most famous song ever by a Billings songwriter (covered by the Beatles!) makes a guest appearance. Many of last year's winners also will show up to play.

I was counting ballots a big part of the day on Sunday, and since I compiled the totals, I am probably the only guy in town who knows who all the winners are. Sorry, I won't breathe a word. You'll just have to be there.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Molnar vs. Tussing

Left in the West gives Brad Molnar a hard time over his brownout project. As scandals go, I would put this somewhere in the same range as the scandal over Brian Schweitzer making PSAs on government time. In other words, pretty low range. Even if you think the worst of Molnar, you'd have to agree that the Brownout was a pretty ineffective way to illegally boost his campaign -- too long before the election, too visible, too likely to fall flat.

More interesting is the interview with Molnar at Montana Headlines. His is an unusual mind, and I always enjoy watching it at work, even when I disagree with him, which is often (naturally, I do endorse his kind words about the Outpost).

My favorite Molnar insight remains one in an Outpost column on the futility of the state Drought Advisory Commission: When it rains, he said, commissioners have nothing to do. When it doesn't rain, there is nothing they can do.

Stroker's view of Palin

In search of what small-town America thinks of Sarah Palin, a writer for Salon finds his way to Stroker's Tavern in Huntley.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


For all of your Schweitzer scandal-related needs.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Thursday talk radio update

Whatever hope Sarah Palin had of winning me over disappeared when she granted an exclusive interview to Sean Hannity, toady to Republican stars. I heard only a few minutes on the radio, but that was more than enough. Hannity was trying his hardest not to trip her up; she was trying her hardest not to trip up. Chances that news might break out were pounded to a minimum. Slumber ensued.

Elsewhere, Glenn Beck was outraged that the bums who hacked into Sarah Palin's e-mail weren't already in jail. Dennis Miller, who interviewed the host of Fox News' "Red Eye" Friday morning, heard much the same screed. Both were contemptuous of liberals who got their dander up on over Bush administration invasions of privacy but who sit quietly while Palin's e-mail becomes a public record.

I agreed with Beck in principle, but I couldn't figure out why he thought the hackers should already have been caught. I can barely get into my own e-mail, much less anybody else's, but I would assume that anyone bright enough to hack e-mail, and brazen enough to let the world know about it, would have taken at least a few steps to remain anonymous. Give the cops a break, Glenn.

The argument by both Beck and the "Red Eye" host about selective outrage by liberals made no sense to me. The hackers are crooks, and ought to be locked up. But you would think a couple of conservatives would understand why there might be a bit less outrage when crooks behave like crooks than when the U.S. government behaves like a crook.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

This? This is nothing

Here's a fairly upbeat appraisal of Montana's newspaper situation.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Who's the smartest of them all?

Montana Headlines posts a list of presidential candidates over the last 50 years and asks: "After all, if you took a poll of university professors, who would be consdidered to be smarter and more intellectually sophisticated, and which was was the hapless bumbler?"

He seems to think that professors would choose the Democrat in each case. I dunno. But I am a college professor of sorts (OK, really an adjunct, but most students don't know the difference), so I thought I would take the test. For openers, I don't think there is a hapless bumbler on the list. These weren't all great presidents, or great candidates, but they were all pretty accomplished people.

Ike or Adlai Stevenson?
Smarter: Ike (dummies don't win world wars).
I.S.: Stevenson (because when he was told that every thinking person would vote for him, he said, "That's not enough. I need a majority").

Kennedy or Nixon?
Smarter: Kennedy (he could speed read).
I.S.: Kennedy (the man defined cool in 1962, and so did his wife).

Johnson or Goldwater?
Smarter: Johnson (but probably very close)
I.S.: Goldwater (also close, but Johnson was famously crude, sometimes, I am told, even granting interviews while sitting on the toilet).

Nixon or Humphrey?
Smarter: Nixon (but not so's you'd notice).
I.S.: Humphrey (but not so's you'd notice).

Nixon or McGovern?
Smarter: Nixon (give the devil his due).
I.S.: McGovern (the South Dakotan was cooler than the Californian only because Nixon didn't have any friends who weren't named Bebe).

Carter or Ford?
Smarter: Carter (Ford didn't wear a helmet).
I.S.: Are you kidding me? The peanut farmer and the Michigan center? But at least Carter knew something about new-clear submarines.

Carter or Reagan?
Smarter: Carter.
I.S.: Reagan (Mr. Hollywood, with an anecdote for every occasion).

Reagan or Mondale?
Smarter: Mondale.
I.S.: Reagan (but fading fast).

Bush I or Dukakis?
Smarter: Dukakis (but probably close).
I.S.: Bush (no American blood runs bluer).

Clinton or Bush I?
Smarter: Clinton.
I.S.: Bush.

Clinton or Dole?
Smarter: Clinton.
I.S.: Clinton (especially after four years in the White House).

Bush II or Gore?
Smarter: Gore.
I.S.: Bush (see Bush I, and Gore grew up in a hotel room).

Bush II or Kerry?
Smarter: Kerry.
I.S.: Obviously close, but I stick with Bush (you can take the boy to Crawford, but you can't put Crawford into the boy).

Obama or McCain?
Smarter: Obama.
I.S.: McCain (old military tradition, fashionably divorced, married a rich heiress, five or six or seven or eight houses).

Is there a pattern? Looks like Republicans used to pick smart people, and now pick show horses. Democrats are happiest when they can find someone both smart and cool, and that ain't easy.

Not so nice

Montanans: We may not be agreeable, but at least we're quiet about it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Moronic news release of the week

The Montana Shooting Sports Association came out with a news release opposing the 6-mill levy for the university system. The reason? To protest the Board of Regents' refusal to rescind bans on guns on college campuses.

"MSSA asks voters to send a message to the U. system that Montana people will not tolerate this artificially-imposed risk to our children," says President Gary Marbut.

So if MSSA succeeds, incoming freshmen can bring guns to campus. Let's just hope they can still find a campus.

Palin revisited

I listened to excerpts from Sarah Palin's interview with ABC while driving around on Thursday, and interrupted bridge to watch her on Friday. I didn't see much that would make me feel better about having her as president. Did you?

Some bloggers have called the Bush Doctrine question unfair, and I agree with that. But did you notice what she said once the question was clarified? She said we have a right to defend our country if an attack is imminent. Now, I don't know anyone other than a truly dedicated pacifist who would disagree with that, but that's not the issue. Bush took the idea of preemptive war far beyond any historical precedent into the realm of "preventive" war, in which we reserve the right to attack countries who might someday pose at least a hypothetical threat. This is dangerous territory, an argument that could be used to justify almost any war a country might wish to start. We deserve to know what people that close to the presidency think about the idea.

I also was struck by her answer on abortion, which sounded amazingly close to what Barack Obama said in his acceptance speech. She did say that decisions about abortion should be returned to the states -- which is not a total repudiation of the pro-choice argument -- and she said that her opposition to abortion in case of rape and incest is a "personal opinion." It wasn't clear whether she meant that it was a personal opinion that should not be imposed on John McCain or a personal opinion that should not be imposed on other Americans.

Mostly, the interviews did not address my major concerns about her. I still have concerns about her management style, and I still have concerns about her honesty. Her reply to the Bridge to Nowhere question was perfectly unresponsive.

I don't know about you, but if I'm looking to hire somebody, and the very first item on the resume turns out to be wildly exaggerated, I don't really have any further questions. I'm done. In comments to an earlier post, someone defended her by linking to a Washington Post story that called her Bridge to Nowhere story a "half-truth." That seems a pretty generous estimate, even judging from the Post's own reporting, but never mind. I just wish my mother was still around to here the "half-truth" argument dredged up. When I was growing up, we had a word for "half-truth." The word was "lie."

UPDATE: I also keep reading articles praising Palin for refusing to abort her Down syndrome child. Once again, I don't get this. If I understand her world view correctly, she regards abortion as a sin equal to murder, or close to it.

Heck, sometimes I go for months without murdering people, even though I am far more provoked to do so than Palin's baby has ever provoked her. Nobody ever gives me credit as a paragon of virtue for refusing to kill people who trouble me. Why does she get so much credit?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Crisp on Biden

Because of a bizarre dispute with our internet service provider, the Outpost web page is down. So here is my piece on Joe Biden:

Even in a short interview, Joe Biden manages to get a lot of words in.
Sen. Biden, D-Delaware, stopped in Montana last weekend as he campaigned to win the office of vice president under presidential candidate Barack Obama. In a brief telephone interview, he managed to cover a wide range of issues, from his newly selected opponent for vice president to the rights of suspected terrorists, from the chances of catching Osama Bin Laden to how the war in Iraq affects U.S. relations with Iran.
Republican candidate John McCain’s surprise pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential candidate caused some Montana Republicans to predict last week that any chance Sen. Barack Obama had of winning the state has vanished.
A Rasmussen poll released after Sen. Biden’s visit seemed to back that claim: It showed Sen. McCain, R-Ariz., pulling away with a double-digit lead in what had been a close race.
But Sen. Biden was conceding nothing.
“This is the biggest issue election I have seen in my lifetime,” he said, noting, however, that the just-concluded Republican convention included little discussion of what Sen. Biden considers major issues: energy, healthcare, “green” jobs and the loss of jobs overseas.
He also said that he and Gov. Palin have some things in common.
“I own a gun, I have a son, and he’s going to Iraq,” the senator said.
Vice presidential debates tend to carry a low-profile, but Gov. Palin’s freshness on the national scene and Sen. Biden’s decades of Washington experience could make their upcoming debate in October the most gripping of the campaign season.
The difficulty, Sen. Biden said, is that so little is known about Gov. Palin’s positions on national issues.
“It could be that there’s something there,” he said, “but I assume her policies are the same as John’s.”
And although he considers Sen. McCain a friend, Sen. Biden was quick to criticize the Republican’s understanding of key foreign policy issues. Although Sen. McCain has promised to pursue Osama Bin Laden to the “gates of hell,” the senator and governor don’t know where to look, Sen. Biden said.
“I can show them where Osama Bin Laden lives,” he said. “I can show them where Al Qaida lives.”
The Bush administration’s failure to capture Bin Laden, who is believed to be hiding out in a remote area of Pakistan, is only one of Sen. Biden’s complaints about the last eight years. He also expressed concerns that many of the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission haven’t been implemented, and he said that the Bush administration’s willingness to use torture and other coercive methods have hurt America’s reputation.
“We’re making a laughingstock of ourselves around the world,” he said, adding that Al Qaida uses American mistreatment of prisoners as a recruiting tool.
In her speech at the Republican National Convention, Gov. Palin said of Obama, “Al Qaida terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America. He’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights.”
It wasn’t clear exactly what she meant. Sen. Biden presumed she was referring to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that extended habeas corpus rights to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Sen. McCain has called that ruling one of the worst in Supreme Court history.
Sen. Biden disagreed. “Habeas corpus doesn’t free anybody,” he said. “The most a court can do is say, ‘Try them.’”
The Bush administration has undermined U.S. credibility around the world, Sen. Biden said, leaving it more isolated than it ever has been in his lifetime. And Sen. McCain has no plan to change any of that, he said.
One result is that Iran has gained in influence and prestige, he said. U.S. military action removed or reduced two of Iran’s foes – Saddam Hussein and the Taliban – and installed a Shiite-dominated government in Iraq.
“Iran is a hell of a lot closer to having a bomb than when these guys started,” Sen. Biden said.
The war in Iraq, despite the apparent success of the surge, remains uncertain, in his view.
“Our military guys have done every single thing they have ever been asked to do,” he said. While it was clear that increasing troop levels would result in at least temporary reductions in violence, achieving a stable peace has proved more difficult.
Now, after “six painful years,” the president finally has agreed to a timetable for withdrawing troops, a move that Sen. Obama has favored. The agreement of President Bush, Sen. Obama and the Iraqi government on a need for a timetable leaves Sen. McCain the “odd man out,” Sen. Biden said.
Both presidential candidates called in their acceptance speeches for efforts to get beyond the bitter partisanship that has divided Congress in recent years, but Sen. Biden expressed some skepticism that the efforts would be successful.
The Senate as a whole is ready to work together, he said, and he said that he has a good working relationship with senators on the other side of the aisle. But he said that the Republican Party remains dominated by neoconservatives and campaign strategists such as Karl Rove.
“This is not your father’s Republican Party,” Sen. Biden said.

CORRECTION: I don't mean internet service provider. I mean web host.

Montana and the law

Does Montana have the bests courts in the country? Volokh Conspiracy weighs the evidence.