Friday, June 19, 2009

Making the move

At long last, this blog is moving into The Billings Outpost website, where future posts will appear. You can find it at Please adjust your links accordingly. I will gradually get my links over there updated, so don't fret if you don't see yours right away.

Glen Campbell

The Outpost has unexpectedly acquired some tickets for tonight's concert by Glen Campbell at the Alberta Bair Theater. If you would like a couple, reply here for send me an e-mail at right away.

The shame of it

As Hannity railed on yesterday about David Letterman insulting Sarah Palin and her daughter, something occurred to me that I haven't seen anywhere else. Given how much this story has been pawed over, it probably has appeared somewhere else, but I've missed it.

That's the conservative component of Letterman's joke. One way that societies typically curb unwelcome sexual behavior is by publicly shaming those who engage in it. It's an ancient way of keeping young people and the parents responsible for them in line.

No doubt the hunters and gatherers who thought this up never imagined that public shaming would become part of the TV culture. But Letterman, whatever his motives, was fulfilling an ancient -- and profoundly conservative -- social sanction when he ridiculed daughter and mother for failing to adhere to social mores.

It was actually liberals, I think, who began to argue that public shaming isn't such a good idea. Now conservatives seem to have adopted it full scale, perhaps without realizing just how liberal they have become.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wednesday talk radio update

Driving to work this afternoon, after a long night at the Outpost, I heard Sean Hannity and Sen. Lindsey Graham saying that Obama was being weak on Iran unlike Reagan, who was strong on Poland. And I thought this, word for word.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Monday talk radio update

While slaving my way through a blisteringly long string of e-mailed items for the Outpost's Calendar of Events, I listed to Hannity interview Sen. Joe Lieberman. Both agreed that:

1. Photographs showing abuses at Abu Ghraib should not be released.

2. Guantanamo should not be closed.

This is a paradox. The argument for covering up the photos is that releasing them could inflame anti-American sentiment and cost U.S. soldiers their lives. The argument for closing Guantanamo is that it inflames anti-American sentiment and costs U.S. soldiers their lives. Those who have made that second argument aren't just a bunch of liberal hacks, unless that's the label you pin on Gen. David Petraeus and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

So why are Hannity and Lieberman so concerned about the lives of U.S. soldiers when it comes to photographs and so indifferent when it comes to Guantanamo? Good luck getting an honest answer to that question. But Glenn Greenwald suggests they have blood on their hands.

Of course, I would never allege that Hannity would rather see soldiers die than ever admit that Obama might do something right. That's too cynical, even for me. But no matter how cynical you are ... .

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Answer no longer blows in wind

First, global warming. Now, or perhaps as a result, there's this.

Great Falls is looking more habitable all the time.

BBB warning

Keep an eye out: The Outpost got a call last week from somebody selling for the "Trivia Pages." Now comes this from the Better Business Bureau release:

Companies in Billings, MT have reported contact by Northwest Publishing soliciting advertising in a "restaurant flyer". This company claims they have a close relationship with various local restaurants, including Jakes, and the Montana Rib and Chop House, when the relationships are not as represented.

This company has an "F" rating with the BBB of Alaska, Oregon & Western Washington. Complaints against the company allege a delay in service and refunds, or payments being submitted with no service performed.

Complaints filed with the BBB also allege that "Trivia Pages" are not displayed in specific restaurants as promised by Northwest Publishing sales personnel. When consumers inquire about the "Trivia Pages" at the restaurants, the restaurants have never heard of them.

There are bad, bad people out there. Better to advertise with us.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Thursday talk radio update

In the aftermath of the latest fatal assault by a right-wing conspiracy nut, conservative talk radio hosts this week were somber and reflective, wondering whether their relentless attacks on Barack Obama, Democrats and liberals in general might in any way be endangering the republic.

No, wait, that was in Bizarro World. On this planet, they were blaming liberals.

Yes, liberals. Please don't ask me to explain.

Look, I wouldn't try to stop anybody from speaking out freely. And I don't think we ought to be prosecuting, or even persecuting, talk show hosts just because some nut gets carried away.

But still.

If I hosted a talk show that reached an audience of millions every day; and if I believed that my show influenced opinion and the political culture, as all of these guys seem to think; and if I spent three hours every day attacking the president's patriotism and honesty and competence; and if I spent a lot of that time suggesting that the president is a socialist or a fascist or worse; and if I had suggested that he might even be deliberately undermining the country's economic well being in order to promote his one-world goals; and if all of that was followed by a string of attacks by gunmen who question the president's patriotism and think he is a socialist and believe that he wants one-world government -- then I might be moved to reflect, at least for a moment, on the possibility that my words might be making this planet a little more dangerous than it really needs to be.

Which may be why I will never host a talk show like that.

Thursday's shows were singularly lacking in reflection not only upon that topic but also upon others that seemed worthy of serious contemplation:

1. The transfer of Uighurs from Guantanamo to Palau and Bermuda. To the extent this was mentioned at all, it was only to point out that it would have been cheaper to keep them locked up in Cuba, although they haven't done anything wrong. Better to imprison innocent people, apparently, than burden taxpayers.

2. The election in Iran. NPR played this big all day, but the talk shows barely touched it. Hannity did say that he had no confidence the election would be honest. Fair enough. But the fact that the election was drawing so much enthusiasm within Iran, and was so closely contested, sounded like big news to me. Why not to Hannity? I suppose because he has spent so many years branding Ahmadinejad as a brutal dictator. We can't have brutal dictators losing elections. It damages the narrative.

3. The Abu Ghraib photo release. Hannity actually had a segment on this, interviewing John McCain, who pretty angrily opposed Democratic opposition to a bill that would forbid release of additional incriminating photos. Good topic, yes? Nobody wants to endanger American soldiers, but do we really want Congress blithely passing bills aimed specifically at suppressing evidence of government wrongdoing? Nice topic for debate. Of course, we got none. Instead, we got a screed.

4. Reading Miranda rights to terrorists. Fred Thompson and Hannity both went on at length about this, and you would have thought Obama had issued orders commanding G.I.s in the field to read a Miranda warning before aiming their rifles. Not quite so.

So what did we get instead of thoughtful discussions of these important topics? Um, we got an interview with the deposed California beauty queen. And we learned that Letterman went too far in poking fun at Sarah Palin.

And that shooting at the Holocaust museum? Liberals did that.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

'Red' Tester

Just in case that whole Senate thing doesn't work out, Jon Tester is doing color commentary tonight on Fox Sports Northwest for a game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Seattle Mariners. The game starts at 5:05 p.m., and Tester is scheduled to come on in the bottom of the fourth.

Consider that a plug -- or a warning.

Sotomayor revisited

Dahlia Lithwick, a wise woman whose rich experiences more often than not allow her to reach better judgments than me, has a good read on the Supreme Court controversy.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Politically correct

I've been arguing away on the Sotomayor choice, both below and at Electric City Weblog. Not much point to it, probably, other than as a claw-sharpening exercise, but it is striking how many apparent conservatives are professing outrage over her suggestion that a wise woman with a Latina background might be better equipped to make good decisions than someone without that background.

Suppose I were to suggest the possibility that if a couple of black justices had been on the Supreme Court in 1857 -- rather than just the nine white males actually there, including five from slave-holding families -- we might have gotten a better ruling in the Dred Scott case.

To read the right, I would be a racist for even suggesting the possibility. Oh, the vapors! Political correctness run amok.


Help! I'm supposed to teach freshman comp this fall at Rocky and am really struggling with what to assign them to read. I wasn't happy with how the last comp course I taught there turned out, so I am trying to shake things up, but am at a bit of a loss.

I ran across Roger Clawson's list of the three greatest novels of the Western Hemisphere and thought: Not only is Roger right, but I've read "Huckleberry Finn" and "One Hundred Years of Solitude" twice each and "Moby-Dick" three times. So how about a class just on those three books? Too much?

So then I thought that shorter Melville, say "Billy Budd," might work better. I read it again on Saturday but wonder if it might be too obscure. I actually tried "Solitude" once in a freshmen class and would estimate that about a third of the class loved it, a third hated it and a third didn't get it. The ones who loved it seemed to love it a lot, so it almost seemed worth doing for that. But it was a real struggle for some of them.

I'm stuck, and the deadline is near. Any ideas?