Monday, June 30, 2008

Defending Obama

Serving as Barack Obama's apologist isn't my job, but a couple of recent criticisms are off base. One was an indirect criticism aimed at an alleged surrogate, Wesley Clark, who said this (according to the Republican National Committee) on Sunday on "Face the Nation":

Gen. Clark: "But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded? It wasn't a wartime squadron. He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn't seen what it's like when diplomats come in and say, 'I don't know whether we're going to be able to get this point through or not, do you want to take the risk, what about your reputation, how do we handle this publicly?' He hasn't made those points Bob."

CBS' Bob Schieffer: "Well, General, could I just interrupt you. I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down."

Gen. Clark: "Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be President."

The RNC called this an attack. Is it? Not to me. I served three years in the Army as a linguist and radio operator. Does that qualify me to be president? Not in the least. Would I be offended by someone who pointed this out? Not at all. Sen. McCain obviously does have qualifications to be president, and the fortitude he showed as a prisoner may be one of them, but flying an airplane is not.

The other criticism is the sense that Obama is changing his positions on issues, shifting to the right and failing to adhere to his promise to bring a new kind of politics to the American system.

Promises to change politics are always open to interpretation. But I never imagined that changing politics would mean rewriting its fundamental principles. Politics has always been about compromise, negotiation and finding mutual ground. It always will be. Obama's shift toward the middle encourages people like me, who worry that he might really be too liberal, especially if elected along with a sizable Democratic majority, as seems likely.

Instead, he comes across as pragmatic, realistic, bright and flexible. After eight years of Bush, those traits sound awfully appealing.

Friday, June 27, 2008

About face

You know how I hate it when people criticize Sean Hannity -- because I think I should have exclusive rights. But this is too funny to get mad about.

Kevin Drum notes: "That was the shortest lived foreign policy victory in history."

Thursday talk radio update

The big news was the Supreme Court decision on the Second Amendment. Dave Rye had Lee Bruner on, but between running in and out of stores to deliver papers, I missed most of what he had to say. I think he liked the ruling.

O'Reilly, oddly enough, didn't talk about it, other than to say it had happened. NPR gave a pretty good rundown, but it never became clear to me (and still isn't) exactly what the position of the dissenters was.

Hannity, who is nothing if not predictable, said the decision showed how important it is to elect McCain to improve chances of getting conservatives appointed to Supreme Court openings. I would have bet a million dollars that he would say that within the first five minutes after I tuned in, and I could have won and retired forever if I had known someone dim enough to take such a bet. He actually said it within the first two minutes, and I think he would have said it faster if he hadn't been taking a call right when I tuned in.

But Hannity also said something that I did not expect and think is wildly wrong. He couldn't understand how Kennedy could vote as he did in the Gitmo case and then vote as he did on gun rights. "He must be playing politics," Hannity said.

In reality, you could make a stronger case that he was the only one of the justices who wasn't playing politics. Kennedy took a principled stand in favor of habeas corpus, the oldest and most fundamental of rights in a civil society, and he took a principled stand in favor of the Second Amendment, another venerable and fundamental right. Makes perfect sense to me. I just haven't figured out what all the rest of the justices were thinking.

Michael Savage, a frequent critic of Bush, opened his broadcast by playing "The Star Spangled Banner" and remarking that the decision essentially vindicated the entire Bush administration. Enough of that.

Glenn Beck promised to have guests on to discuss the case, and I was tempted to hang around, but he started with a weird screed against socialized medicine. Beck can be funny at times, but when he tries to be serious, he is an incredibly pompous bore. Time for jazz.

The most revealing talk wasn't on radio at all, but last night on C-SPAN, which broadcast a congressional hearing on the Bush administration's interrogation techniques formerly known as torture. John Yoo, who wrote the administration's infamous torture memos, simply could not be coerced, coaxed, sweet-talked or intimidated into answering even the simplest of questions. It wasn't clear that he even understood them. Even sympathetic Republicans began to lose their patience.

It was a sad commentary on how low standards have fallen during the Bush administration. Pathetic. Woeful. Shameful.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Berg on Rye

David Berg was on Dave Rye's show (Berg's old show) this morning talking about his new website (see post below). One thing he said was that he would put up conservative links and even links to liberal websites provided he could find any that didn't rely on personal attacks to make their points.

Rye asked something like, "So you won't be linking to Left in the West?"

Berg said something like, "That's about as far from what I would link to as it could be."

This surprised me, because Left in the West has never seemed like a big site for personal attacks. Although, come to think of it, I may have read a few attacks on Berg there, so maybe that's what he was responding to.

As some commenters to my earlier post noted, there isn't much to look at on Berg's site now. Apparently, he has bigger plans.

Aphrodite's Dante

If you like your naked sushi served with a side of humor, you will want to read Clawson today.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Happy birthday to me

I was reading this post about How Blogs Die, which says that it is "unquestionably a rarity" for a blog to last five uninterrupted years. I thought, Hey, hasn't this blog been around five years? It has. Five years and one day, actually, though it's arguable whether those years have been "uninterrupted." There have been some fairly long dark periods, especially when I had four-course college teaching loads. But at least it's still here, so happy birthday to me.

In case you are curious, here is that primeval first post from June 23, 2003:
This is just an experiment to see how well this all works.

It isn't quite, "Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you," but it'll do.

Berg is back

Dave Berg, late of KBLG talk radio fame, has started a website. H/t to Dave Rye, who mentioned this on the air the other day.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Thrashing Like a Maniac

For some reason, I have acquired at a late date a few free tickets to the Thrashing Like a Maniac Tour on Saturday night. If you are interested, or know anyone who might be, contact

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The truth about dinosaurs

John Schuck, who used to be the minister at First Presbyterian Church here, recently stopped by the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum. He didn't like what he found.

Dems cash in

Here's the text of the new radio ad from the Montana Democratic Party:

The Republican Party wouldn't allow the Republican Lieutenant Governor to attend their dinner.

Only 16-hundred party insiders were allowed to vote for President.

Now they won't even allow their own candidate for the US Senate to speak at their convention.

Montanans are excluded from the Republican Party if they don't subscribe to the extremist beliefs of the party bosses.

Montana Democrats are building a better Montana by putting progress above politics.

I'm guessing it will be a pretty effective ad. And the beauty of it, from a Democratic point of view, is that the Republican wounds were totally self-inflicted.

By the way, note the dropped periods in "US" Senate. I see this more and more, and I don't understand why. I hope it's not a Democratic thing. If it is, I'm voting for Republicans, whether they let me go to their meetings or not.

Thursday talk radio update

Everybody was talking about energy problems, and the discussions ranged from the excellent (NPR's "To the Point") to the serviceable (O'Reilly) to the execrable (Hannity) to the unendurable (Glenn Beck's hideous guest host).

Hannity's program was the only one, so far as I could tell, in which the host just flat out lied. One of his guests was Kirsten Powers, whose attempt to explain her position was repeatedly interrupted and misrepresented. She was left at the end sputtering that Hannity's characterization of her position was absolutely not true. From what I could tell of the bits and pieces of her position it was actually possible to hear, she was right, and he is a liar.

Hannity's position on energy, which we were given plenty of opportunity to hear, seems to consist essentially of four points:

1. Drill everywhere now.
2. Screw the environment.
3. Democrats are idiots.
4. Jeremiah Wright.

It is possible that I have failed to list these in the correct order of importance.

My own position is pretty firmly in the "We can't drill our way out of this" camp. I say this with no knowledge of petroleum geology; to me, it's just a math problem so simple that even I can understand it.

Suppose that I want to buy 100 rocks this year from Grok. He has 1,000 rocks, so he is happy to sell and figures he can meet my needs for the next 10 years. But next year I don't want 100 rocks. I want 10 percent more, or 110, and my demand continues to grow 10 percent every year.

So it turns out that his rock supply doesn't last 10 years. It lasts only eight, and he has to go find 1,000 more rocks. That supply lasts him only four years and he goes through another 1,000 rocks in years 16, 18, 20 and 22. By then, he has to find another 1,000 rocks just about every year, and pretty soon even that won't be enough.

As long as the rock supply holds out, that's great. I get my rocks, and he has an expanding business. But if he keeps having to go farther to find rocks, so that every rock becomes more expensive to haul, or if eventually he runs out of rocks altogether, he and I are both in trouble.

Gasoline works sort of the same way. At some point, it almost doesn't matter how large the supply is. So long as demand continues to grow -- and evidence is that it will -- almost any new supplies, no matter how vast, will quickly be gobbled up.

So more drilling really only makes sense if it's part of a plan to stop drilling. That's why I've always been in favor of burning cheap foreign oil, even if that means placing artificial constraints on domestic production. Better to burn theirs and save our own for when we really need it. That time may be now, but if we think drilling alone will solve our problems, we are kidding ourselves.


After several hard kicks to the head at the Outpost last week, I took Saturday off. Sometimes you just have to.

I barbecued a chicken and watched a movie and drank a couple of beers, but spent most of the day curled up with an old war game and a stack of books about Napoleon. He is an endlessly fascinating character who has lots to teach about dealing with adversity. Late in his life, when he was in final exile, he told a visitor that he should have died in battle in Moscow. The visitor dissented: That, he said, would have deprived the world of the sublime spectacle of seeing Napoleon return from earlier exile and raise another massive army to challenge the world one last time.

Napoleon had to admit he had a point. Instead, he said, he should have died at Waterloo.

I made a half-hearted search for one of my favorite Napoleon anecdotes, which I finally turned up this morning through Google in "War and Peace." There, Napoleon met with a Russian adjutant general who delivered a letter from the czar after the invasion of Russia had commenced. Napoleon, an astute student of military history, would have been well aware of the Swedish disaster at Poltava when it had invaded Russia during the Great Northern War in 1709.

After discussing the war and dim prospects for peace, Napoleon casually asked what cities the road to Moscow passed through. The Russian general replied that many roads led to Moscow, "among them the road through Poltava."

If words were truly mightier than the sword, Napoleon would have surrendered on the spot.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Passing thoughts

Marvin Granger had a gracious letter in this week's Outpost about the recent deaths of Pat Hansen, Miriam Sample and Jeffrey Edgmond. I really didn't know any of them personally, but I feel as if I did. Mr. Hansen was a good friend of local music and of the Outpost's efforts to promote it. Mrs. Sample was the wife of Joe Sample, who subscribes to The Outpost and always writes an encouraging note when he renews. On the occasions when I wrote symphony reviews, I always relied heavily on Mr. Edgmond's elegant program notes.

Over the course of a lifetime, the losses add up. And the new assets that come along never quite seem to replace them.

What you see is what you get

I'm against naked people downtown as much as the next fellow. That's why I've always been opposed to the whole idea of developing apartments and townhouses above downtown businesses. Who knows what people might not be wearing up there?

But I still had to chuckle when I saw Councilman Jim Ronquillo's argument against allowing a rumored restaurant that would allow diners to eat sushi off naked women: "We have enough stuff that happens in our town and we don't need any more. I like people to serve me with their clothes on. That way, I know what I've got."

That's the kind of government we need: the kind that keeps stuff from happening. But if I really want to know what I've got, I suppose I would rather be served by people without any clothes. The fact is, in most restaurants I really don't want to be sure what I've got, so they can just keep their clothes on.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bumbling along

Let's see. We have a candidate for the U.S. Senate whom we never wanted but who won fair and square. We can:

1. Give the guy the five minutes at the convention podium that he has earned and then let everybody have dessert.

2. Turn our dissatisfaction into a front-page news story that makes us look more divided and inept than ever.

Which would you choose?

The scoop

Here's my Outpost account of the county's legal bids fiasco. I still have some more whining to do about this, but I'm too busy to whine today.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Piece of Mind has a rambling post about the relationship between journalists and politicians, composed in response to a comment I made criticizing his "graceless" response to Tim Russert's Death. My response was along the lines of, "If you can't say something nice ... ."

His new post is a whole different animal. The relationship between journalists and sources is a rich topic, and I claim no expertise about what goes in the halls of Washington. But I can't imagine that the dynamic is much different that what goes on in just about every government building in America. If anything, my experience has been that the higher one ascends in journalism, the easier the work becomes. The novice City Hall reporter in Podunk, Texas, not only is expected to ask elected officials tough questions, he may wind up buying his car from one, or getting his hair cut by one. Getting along gets complicated.

Naturally, examples abound of journalists who got too close to their sources. It's an occupational hazard. The reality is, most politicians don't have to talk to you most of the time, and you are likely to get better information from them if you treat them with courtesy and respect. Like many reporters, I usually find myself liking politicians, even those with prickly reputations. I like people who are willing to take unpopular stands in public, who work lots of late nights for little money to serve their communities, and who don't duck when they screw up in public. Politicians who meet these standards -- and quite a few do -- are OK by me.

But there is a big distinction between being friendly and being friends -- a distinction that Sean Hannity has trouble keeping straight with respect to Barack Obama and William Ayers. I suspect I have been uncomfortable at parties where politicians are present often enough to satisfy Piece of Mind. The relationship is, at its heart, adversarial. A city administrator once told me, "We're just trying to put our best foot forward." I replied, "And my job is to find the other foot."

But like lawyers who fight each other in court, then go out for a beer, grownup reporters and politicians learn not to take things too personally. Politicians should know that if they are caught doing something wrong, reporters will make them squirm, but they also should know that they will be treated fairly and given plenty of chances to respond.

Some reporters are such jerks that sources never confide in them. They tend to wash out of the business. Others are so cozy with sources that they get great story leads but can never "pull the trigger" on them. The best walk the difficult ground in between.

No one would mistake me for one of the best, but here's one example of how it works: When I covered the Yellowstone County Courthouse for the Gazette, I worked closely with then-Public Works Director Bill Gibbs. He was the go-to guy on road projects, and since rural people care a lot about their roads, much of what he did was newsworthy. I wrote plenty of stories about unhappy rural residents that he couldn't have liked much, but I never took a cheap shot, always got a response and occasionally would just stop by his office to chat.

Not exactly in-your-face journalism. But when Gibbs decided to level a whole raft of allegations about mismanagement of the road department, he didn't go to the Gazette. He came to see me at the Outpost, and we got ahead of the pack on a fairly big breaking story.

That's how it works. Maybe if I had been a bit more confrontational, hostile reporter along the way, I would have gotten a few more stories. But I wouldn't have gotten the big one.

Lee going down?

24/7 Wall Street has rated Lee Enterprises at a 1 in 15 chance of filing for bankruptcy by the end of the year. I'm not sure how long the link will be good, so here is the relevant paragraph:

LEE shares have dropped from a 52-week high of $24.97 to $5.57. The company wrote off $841 million in assets last quarter. Advertising revenue dropped almost 6% year-over-year, and that is almost certainly accelerating. Lee is sitting on almost $1.3 billion in debt and, before the end of the year, it probably will not have the operating income to cover debt service.

Maybe those county legal ads will save it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Where there's a Will ...

Still fretting over the Supreme Court's habeas corpus ruling, I sometimes wonder if all conservatives have taken leave of their senses. But no, not all.

Losing bid

I'm just back from a meeting of Yellowstone County commissioners, who voted 2-0 , with John Ostlund absent, to award their legal advertising contract to The Billings Gazette again this year.

This was the first year the Outpost was eligible to bid, thanks to changes in the last legislative session, and we submitted the low bid. Our bid would have increased county spending on legal ads by 6 percent over the next two years; the Gazette's will increase the cost by 28 percent.

Commissioners accepted the staff recommendation that the Gazette's bid was better because of its higher circulation.

I thought, for a variety of reasons, that we might have a chance to win this thing. Last week, Missoula County commissioners awarded their legal advertising contract to the Missoula Independent, which also had the low bid. Because of our own low rates on legal ads, legal advertising in our pages continues to grow.

All to no avail. Yellowstone County taxpayers can take some consolation in knowing that the mere existence of the Outpost may well have saved them money. The Gazette bid might have been substantially higher without us around.

Some consolation for taxpayers. None for us. This is a tiny piece of revenue for The Gazette; for us, it would have been a very big deal.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Update update

Occasionally I get tired of writing about me and enter myself into Google to see what other people are writing about me. Today's search turned up two treasures: a reference to an Outpost article in a Harvard Latino Law Review piece about racial profiling and a blog by an old friend. It's a good day.

Thursday talk radio update

With Barack Obama now leading slightly in national polls, Sean Hannity appears to be slipping into panic. At least four times within the last week, he has absolutely refused to let callers who support Obama speak even one full sentence. He literally interrupts every single thing they say, changes the subject, and demands that the caller give yes-or-no answers to questions based on faulty premises unrelated to the call. One caller suggested he had a hate problem; to me, it smells like fear.

The irony of it on Thursday was that Hannity used part of his time to attack the Fairness Doctrine, which he is convinced that liberals in Congress are hell-bent on restoring. This argument was undercut even by the guest on Thursday's show, who noted that Congress is within a two dozen votes of forcing a House vote on a bill to ban the Federal Communications Commission from ever restoring the doctrine.

Where's the irony? Hannity's own outbursts against Obama supporters make the strongest case possible for why some sort of Fairness Doctrine might be useful. On Billings' two talk radio stations, for instance, there simply is no national program on which liberal voices can be heard. I don't mean just that the hosts are so-called conservatives; that's fine with me. But contrary opinions simply may not be expressed. Hannity interrupts every sentence with which he disagrees; Limbaugh acknowledges that his calls are screened to allow only those that bolster his arguments; Savage screams at people who disagree; Beck ridicules them; Cunningham demonstrates his lack of intelligence by insulting theirs. Only O'Reilly gives an occasional respectful hearing to a contrary voice, but even then it usually is only to set the stage for more of his own pontificating.

Even the Soviet Union did not have more effective control of any mass medium than so-called conservatives have of AM talk radio. Is this desirable? Does it reflect the marketplace? Is it likely to change? No, no, no.

Is the old-style Fairness Doctrine the best solution? Probably no to that, too. But it's certainly proper for the American people to consider what they are getting in return for the valuable broadcast frequencies they license to companies that have shown zero interest in reflecting the actual public debate going on in the country today.

UPDATE: Like Hannity, Dakota Voice appears to misunderstand, or ignore, the First Amendment issue. Clearly, government has some power to regulate broadcast speech, and we have seen this practiced over the years in a variety of ways: with restrictions on profanity and nudity, with certain hours set aside for kid-friendly content, with requirements for public service or news programming, with restrictions on the time devoted to commercial messages. Outside of a regulated broadcast environment, Janet Jackson's nipple would not have drawn a moment's notice.

This is possible because the public owns the airwaves and grants licenses to operate on specific frequencies. Anybody who doesn't like The Billings Gazette, for example, can start his own newspaper. Trust me on this: It is damnably hard. But it is at least theoretically possible. But no one has the right to set up a radio station anywhere he wants on any frequency he wants. I can't take on KBLG, but I can participate in democratic decisions that set broad guidelines for the sort of programming that appears on the airwaves I own.

Obviously, these decisions can have First Amendment implications. Even more obviously, the Fairness Doctrine has had unwelcome consequences in the past. But that does not mean it violates the Constitution.

UPDATE 2: For a careful look at the constitutional issues, go here. The post contains a link to Part I of the discussion. Part III of the series has never, to my knowledge, appeared.


Andrew Sullivan very kindly, and appropriately, links to Ian Frazier's wonderful classic, Lamentations of the Father. My favorite part is still the Laws Pertaining to Dessert.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Habeas corpse

Montana Headlines is a reasonable sort whose opinions I respect even when I disagree with them, which is pretty often.

That's why I hate to see him get caught up in the right-wing response to the Supreme Court's Boumediene decision. I'm no lawyer and haven't read the decision in full. If you want to get up to speed, here's one of a series of posts by a good lawyer who has.

I just have a few gut reactions by a citizen who cares about freedom.

1. Without doubt, the founding fathers considered habeas corpus one of the oldest and most fundamental of all human rights -- so basic that they mentioned it in the Constitution only to outline conditions under which it might be suspended. The Supreme Court justices did not rule as they did in order to extend rights to "implacable foes." They did it to allow people who claim they aren't our foes a chance to prove they are telling the truth.

2. Justice Kennedy looked beyond existing precedents because he found, quite rightly, that no real precedent applies. Guantanamo is in Cuba but under total U.S. control. Many of the prisoners detained there were not caught on any battlefield, and none of them were in uniform. Moreover, we know for a fact that innocent people were held there. It would be nice to think that only the guilty remain, but when you consider that they are being held by the same government that managed Social Security and the Katrina disaster, conservatives should be the first to acknowledge that innocent people may still be there.

3. Rules on detaining combatants aren't meant to punish enemy soldiers because being an enemy soldier is not a crime. The rules are meant to keep soldiers out of combat until the war ends. But when the war will never end in any definable way, and when detainees claim they never fought us in the first place, the case for eternal detention with no charges and no relief falls to pieces. We already have a precedent for holding soldiers for no clear reason long after the reason for their detention has dissolved. It's what Stalin did after World War II. Stalin is not my role model.

4. Montana Headlines is just flat wrong when he see the Supreme Court ruling as an attempt by justices to control "the conduct of war." The court's role is to determine what legal protections apply to those who have been removed from the scene of the war and who claim they are being held unjustly. The court simply held that those prisoners ought to be able to go in front of a judge and make their case. I find it troubling, and hard to believe, that any American would deny them that chance.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

That Lee Bureau

Lamnidae (a new read to me, so h/t LITW) makes a good point about the closing of Lee Enterprises' Washington Bureau. At some point, the question becomes: Who will survive, and how?

Both Editor and Publisher and American Journalism Review hit my desk yesterday with gloomy articles about the prospects for newspapers. E&P shows Lee stock as the worst-performing among eight big publicly traded newspaper companies from May 2007 to May 2008. In terms of circulation losses, Lee is a bit better than average at -3.1 percent, with the worst performance at Lee's newest and biggest paper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Exclude the Pulitzer papers, and Lee fell only 1.9 percent, quite a bit better than average.

AJR predicts that a lot of major metros just won't survive. Papers big enough to draw a national audience, such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, have a chance, as do papers small enough to fly under the radar. But those in the middle are already seeing falling print revenues and flattening online advertising and readership. The chance that they will grow fast enough online to offset print declines is small and diminishing.

It's interesting to speculate about where The Billings Gazette falls along that curve. In terms of circulation, it's a small daily, but that's only because Montana is such a small market. In terms of its role in the marketplace, it's probably more like a regional metro, such as those in Denver or Cleveland or Dallas.

So is it doomed? Dunno, and I don't worry about it much. Just getting the Outpost to survive is plenty enough challenge for me. But it does seem that papers in the Gazette's niche really hurt themselves when they abandon Washington coverage. Bloggers can opine as well as anybody, and the big dailies can cover national issues, but a regional perspective on issues that affect Montana directly is something that only a company like Lee can provide (at least so far). Why give up one thing you have that's still working?

Writing for a living

Keith Gessen sounds just like me:

There are four ways to survive as a writer in the US in 2006: the university; journalism; odd jobs; and independent wealth. I have tried the first three. Each has its costs.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Clearing the decks for production night at the Outpost, I ran across some election stats that didn't make the paper and that I haven't noticed anywhere else (which is not to say that it didn't appear anywhere else).

Of Montana's 56 counties, Barack Obama won 40. Hillary Clinton won these: Carter, Custer, Daniels, Dawson, Deer Lodge, Garfield, Musselshell, Petroleum, Phillips, Prairie, Richland, Silver Bow, Toole, Valley, Wheatland and Wibaux. Sounds like guns and religion country to me.

Monday, June 09, 2008

In the money

From Professor Charles C. Saludo comes word that the Central Bank of Nigeria is sending me $10 million in "2 security proof boxes. The boxes are sealed with synthetic nylon seal and padded with machine." They will be accompanied by a diplomatic attache who does not know what the boxes contain, and the boxes are being "airlifted by the special Grace of God."

I'm sorry to hear that. If God is getting involved in Nigerian e-mail schemes, then things are really getting desperate.

Fortunately, I have other resources. Earlier this evening, the U.S. government, the United Nations and the World Bank approved a lottery award of $8.5 million to me. And just before noon, I won $780,000 in the West Africa Lottery. Early this morning, a Mr. Tony Owodimma informed me that he is sending me a $1.5 million "Cashier Draft." A few minutes before that, Lady Helen Crawford of Manchester, England, wrote to tell me that she is leaving me 25 million pounds in her will. Late last night, I won 915,810 pounds in the United Kingdom's National Loyalty CashOut Promo. The Internal Revenue Service discovered that I have a refund coming to me. And a Mr. Usman Meer Kalid of Iraq wants me to help him invest $24 million in blue chip stocks for a hefty share of the principal.

Other than that, I haven't won a damn thing all day.

UPDATE: Last night, all I won was a measly 500,000 pounds from Queen Elizabeth's Foundation. I don't know why I bother.

Junck bonds

So what do you do if your company's stock is in the tank? Give the boss a raise!

Driscoll exposed

John Driscoll unveils his plan to win the election -- on You Tube.

Milltown dam

Here's a slide show on the Milltown dam.

: And here's a different view.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Judging Kelleher

The Volokh Conspiracy weighs in on Bob Kelleher's victory in the GOP Senate primary. The fun is in the comments.

Civil rights in Texas

I got to know Greg Moses when he was a radio news guy back in Texas and I was a newspaper reporter there. I got to know him better when he was teaching philosophy at Texas A&M and I was teaching journalism and writing there. Then, typically, I moved to Montana and lost touch.

Today I learn that he is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review. The website started in the same year the Outpost began publishing, and it mines a rich topic -- not many states besides Texas are big enough and outrageous enough to justify a civil rights review devoted exclusively to the state.

I learned all this when I found Greg's name on a list of contributors to Red State Rebels, a book about grassroots activism whose editors will be in Billings for a discussion at 6 p.m. June 26 at Good Earth Market. One of those editors, Joshua Frank, is a Billings native. Andrea Peacock, an occasional Outpost contributor and author of a fine book on Libby, also is a contributor.

Could be a good evening.

Thursday talk radio update

Sean Hannity has dropped the "Stop the Hillary Express" theme and adopted the "Stop the Radical Obama Express" slogan. Regular listeners will get to hear it thousands of times between now and November.

But what does it mean to call Obama a "radical"? Hannity provides no serious clues, since that would require abandoning his Wright/Ayers/Rezko/Michelle obsession and looking at actual issues. So we are required to fill in the blanks ourselves.

Trouble is, I'm not having much luck at it. I'm sure Obama would be willing to spend more tax dollars than Hannity would like, or even than I would like, but considering the record of Congress over the last 30 years, that hardly sounds radical. At least Obama gets the idea that there has to be some relationship between tax dollars collected and tax dollars spent -- maybe that's his radical position.

What else? Ending the war in Iraq? About two-thirds of Americans agree. Meeting with Iran's rulers? About 70 percent of Americans agree. Sorry, I'm striking out. Obama is seeking to succeed a presidential administration that has been the most radical in my lifetime. It broke new ground against traditional American prohibitions against an unchecked chief executive, torture, suspension of habeas corpus and warrantless searches. Nothing Obama has proposed is anywhere near so radical.

Maybe Hannity just got radical and didn't notice.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The real thing

Hilzoy links to a reminder of why the real conservative in the presidential race is Barack Obama. His answers to these bedrock questions about liberty and democracy are just about perfect.

UPDATE: Marty Lederman tries to unravel what McCain's actual position is, but can't quite figure it out.

Reading less

The New Yorker considers a new Zogby poll about American reading habits. It's all worth reading, if only for the skeptcism, but here's the money quote:

[I]t is surprising that twenty-three per cent of respondents said that they had spent more time reading this year than usual, and thirty per cent said that they had spent less. Researchers usually expect people to exaggerate the amount of reading they do, since reading is considered a prestigious activity. If a larger proportion of people say they’re reading less, it might mean that more people really are reading less—so many more that white lies aren’t able to disguise the shift in behavior. Or it could mean that it’s becoming more acceptable to say that you’re reading less. Either possibility is dispiriting.

I'm always reluctant to draw large conclusions from my small experiences as a college instructor, but this suggests something that occurred to me a couple of semesters ago. Most students don't read much (I used to ask, but gave it up when I learned that I could tell just as accurately by seeing how they write) but that used to be an admission that was made apologetically, as though they knew they ought to read more and meant to get to it someday. More and more, I encounter students who not only don't read but don't even seem to consider the possibility. The idea that reading was a healthy activity used to be a given. That now seems less true.

Schweitzer for veep

Must-read thoughts on the possibility of Brian Schweitzer becoming the next vice president.

Not done yet

I ran into Michael Lange last night while I was delivering the Outpost to a Kwik-Way. He seemed pretty chipper for a fellow who had just lost a U.S. Senate primary to a pair of eyebrows. In fact, he didn't sound like he had lost the race at all.

Lange said he wasn't surprised that Bob Kelleher got the most votes. Kelleher has name recognition and, in the absence of strong party support for any other candidate, that was enough. Lange, who ran second, was the only other candidate with much name recognition. By his own admission, it's the sort of notoriety that didn't necessarily help.

Lange also dismissed the theory that Ron Paul supporters got Kelleher elected. I provide limited evidence for that theory below, but Lange generally agreed with Montana Headlines' comment that Paul supporters lined up behind him. Paul's people are an independent-minded enough group that they also showed pockets of support for other candidates, he said.

So what now? Lange obviously has something in mind, although he wasn't ready to say exactly what that was. My bet is that we will hear about an independent or write-in candidacy involving one or more of the other candidates sometime next week.

This actually is a good idea. I'm not partial to write-in candidacies, but in this case I would waive my objections. It might at least lead to an actual discussion of issues, which won't happen with Kelleher in the race. And it provides an out for people like me who oppose term limits but also don't like having senators-for-life. I hoped to vote Republican for Senate in order, at best, to keep a bit of division of power in Congress and, at worst, to try to send Baucus a message that he can't just take re-election for granted.

I couldn't vote for any Republicans in the primary. I had to cast a Democratic ballot in order to fulfill my constitutional obligation to cancel out my wife's vote for Hillary Clinton. And I don't think I could vote for Kelleher, no matter how charming he might be, just because.

Lange may give voters like me some hope yet.

T-shirt of the day

Beauty is in the eye of the beerholder

No update yet

We apologize for failing to update the Outpost website yet this week. The webmaster (my wife) has been working late every night to finish out the school year, and I've been working late every night because, well, I work late every night. School's out today, and we will get it posted tonight or early tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

How'd he do it?

At the weekly Aging Writers Kaffee Klatsch, the talk was about how Bob Kelleher managed to win the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. Harold Hanser, a former county attorney here who has known Kelleher for many years, offered this theory: Kelleher did well in the same places that Ron Paul did well. Ron Paul did well, he speculated, in sparsely populated Eastern Montana and in the libertarian enclaves around Flathead Lake. Check the numbers, he predicted, and you would find that Kelleher did the same thing.

True? Well, sort of. Hanser's prediction about counties where Paul did well was right on the money. For the state as a whole, John McCain won 78 percent of the votes that were cast either for him or for Paul. In Flathead and Lake counties, Paul won nearly a third of the vote.

Kelleher also did well in those counties. He won 36 percent of all the votes cast in the Republican primary, but he won 44 percent of those cast in Flathead and Lake counties. Paul and Kelleher also both ran well in Park County

Get away from the lake, though, and the comparison starts to break down. As Hanser anticipated, Paul did run well in some rural counties at each end of the state. Kelleher, not so much. Paul got an impressive 38 percent of the votes in Wibaux County, for instance, but Kelleher got only 23 percent. Same in Sanders County: Paul got 31 percent, Kelleher only 29 percent.

I didn't get much sleep last night, so anyone is welcome to check my numbers. But it does appear that the same people around Flathead Lake who liked Paul also voted for Kelleher. Why? Not sure. Maybe they just don't like the Republican Party. Maybe the only candidate they cared about was Ron Paul, and Kelleher got votes on name recognition.

Whatever the explanation, it was a hell of a result. Just think: By the time McCain finishes his third term as president, he will be almost as old as Kelleher is now. When Kelleher runs for re-election (assuming, of course, that he gives Max Baucus the heave-ho) he will be 91.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Monday, June 02, 2008

Outpost Capitol Bureau

Thinking about my earlier post on the closing of the Lee Enterprises Washington Bureau, I recalled a rash promise I once made: When the Outpost earned annual revenues equal to 1 percent of Lee Enterprises', we would open our own bureau in Washington. Only $11,031,415 to go!

SIDEBAR: In case you are wondering why Lee closed the bureau, here's one clue.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

City Lights out

Big news in the Montana blogoprairie.

I certainly know the feeling. For a fundamentalist like me, blogging is the perfect poison. I feel guilty when I don't do it because I want to drive web traffic in the Outpost's direction. And I feel guilty when I do it because I could be doing better things with my time (such as memorizing German beer-drinking songs).

Ein Prosit, Ed!

Primary update

As the primary closes in, the e-mails keep getting stranger. My favorites so far today:
Since all this stuff about these rouge pastors at the Trinity Church of Christ has been on the news, I went on the internet and found that church. These are not rouge people, this is their theology.

Even better comes one from an ongoing e-mail exchange with someone who maintains that Barack Obama has said that he wants to change the national anthem to "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing." I was girding up my loins to doubt this (to borrow a phrase from Mark Twain) when the e-mailer argued that the whole thing had been confirmed on the Snopes website. As it turns out, the story is on Snopes, which says it isn't true.

Undaunted, the e-mailer responded:
I have lived with Sharea Law and know what it looks like first hand. I have also been in 32 counties around the world. I have seen what I see in Obama in other countries. This man scares me because I know the sound of trouble and this man carries that sound with him.

I know that sound, too. Sort of like a Coca-Cola commercial.

UPDATE 1: This just in:
I hope Obama loses bigtime because he's a two-faced, lying, corrupt, little cheat. Any election he ever won was through corruption, intimidation, threats, his thugs, and thievery.

And this, from the Hillary-hating camp, at the end of a long string of amazing allegations involving murder, drug use and lesbian sex in the White House:
A one thousand page report will be sent to the leaders of 240 countries. The truth about Bill and Hillary Clinton will be exposed. They will be the laughing stock of the world.