Archive for April, 2006

I promised it, now here it is, my take on the debate and the candidates. As always, this is my opinion, and I may be wrong in every one of my assumptions. Miracles do happen, ha ha.

Daniel Lloyd Neste Huffman: Look, I'm ecstatic this guy's in the race. He's a fun addition to the other stuffed suits hogging the podium. He's blunt, honest, and outraged. And he has a couple of good ideas, like his idea about state loans to individual households to purchase windmills: a way to put money in both the state's and individual's coffers. (Windmills allow owners put money back into the electric grid, for which they're paid.) I like the idea of raising minimum wage – but in today's economic/political climate he ain't gonna get much serious consideration asking for $10-$15 an hour like he is.

That's the problem: Huffman is a one-note guy obviously untutored in politics, unable to work compromises with the multitude of views and pressures required of a high-profile and powerful elected official. I like his occasional incoherent rants, as did the crowd, but I wouldn't want the guy representing me in the Senate.

Projected role in DC: If this dude gets elected, the Republican leadership will treat him like a pariah. He might get an unimportant seat on the Senate's Mongolian Relations Sub-Committee on Animal Disease Prevention.

Paul Richards: Lovely man. I truly believe that if all 100 members of the Senate were like Richards, we'd be much, much, MUCH better off than we are now. Instead of discussing whether we're going to use nukes in our upcoming invasion of Iran, we'd be arguing over student/teacher ratios, charter schools, and multilingual requirements at the elementary school level. (Note to my conservative readers: that's a good thing.) I agree if we dump all the taxpayer money we've wasted on Iraq and other quixotic military plans and invested it in education and alternative energies, we wouldn't be facing any problems with terror, global warming, or much of anything serious. H*ll, it's what we should do.

Unfortunately, we need someone who'll not only work successfully within the framework of the federal government, but also someone who can actually win this race. That man is not Paul Richards. He is, after all, the candidate that compares himself to a “little ray of sunshine” and claims he'll succeed in Washington because of his “positive mentality.” He's almost a stereotype. He can't win.

This isn't a slight: Paul Richards doesn't think he can win, either, or he wouldn't be making appearances in string ties and cross-trainers. But this gives him freedom to bring up ideas and issues the other candidates won't. And he might even force one of the Democratic candidates to move left in order to pick up Richards' votes. That's a good thing.

Projected role in DC: The Democratic leadership will be wary. But in Richards, Feingold will find a strong ally in his attempts to censure the President. I see Richards taking a strong role in human rights and civil liberties legislation. (*Sigh* It makes me wish we lived in a world that valued the Paul Richardses among us.)

John Morrision: I was surprised by Morrison's performance at the debate, what little I saw of him. In the pre-debate, he waded into the pro-Tester crowd, shaking hands, chatting amicably. During his time to speak, I found him – unlike Wulfgar's! impressions – lucid and organized in his answers, and very tuned into national issues. He sounded professional, yet earnest. Flashy, but together. Like a Senator. He's obviously concerned about health care. His ideas on supporting tech businesses fits well within our current economic and political realities. He does seem like a one-issue guy, though – health care – but it's a pretty dang important issue.

On the other hand, his view of the war was atrocious. We need to redeploy our troops from Iraq for possible use against Iran and North Korea? Did he really say that? I need to get my mind around that. Ultimately I'll be deciding my Democratic primary vote on two issues: the war, and executive authority. Morrison flunked the first. And honestly he needs to take a strong stance against Iraq and against the President if he wants to win the primary. (That's a no brainer with Presidential approval ratings in the teens among Democrats.)

Unfortunately he cut out before he could address wiretapping, abortion, and immigration.

Yes, I'm nervous about his possible ethics violations, but he climbed a few notches in my estimation. Still, there's that war thing. Is he another neocon? I'll have to get clarification from his office on that one. But there's the unanswered questions. Can he win the general with skeletons in the closet? And why does he have so much money? Who's banking him?

Projected role in DC: From Morrison's answer on the Iraq war, I'm guessing he's not going to be in the front lines challenging the Bush administration on Iraq, executive authority. I'm guessing he'll be sensitive to being called “weak on security,” etc. Another Max Baucus? That's not what we need right now, more timid, indecisive foot soldiers in the party? I think he needs to more aggressive in speaking against Burns and Bush. In DC, he will be on the front lines in health care reform. Not sexy, but important.

 (Update: Two Points, who posted in the comments, was also at the debate and corrects my impression on Morrison's stance on Iraq, Iran, etc.:

I do not think Morrison was talking about using troops against Iran, North Korea, and China. I cannot recall the exact quote but the sense I got was, “we need to redeploy our troops and focus (our foriegn policy) to face the challenges of Iran, North Korea, and, in a much different way, China.” I don’t think anyone disagrees that nuclear proliferation in Iran and Korea pose much greater threats to US security than Iraq. And I thought it was actually thoughtful to mention China as a critical component in our larger foreign policy agenda. I think it is a misrepresentation to say Morrison implied he’d send troops into those areas.

Thanks for the clarification!)

Bob Keenan: Funny, I'm looking at the Missoulian's profile of the state Senator (as of right now, not available online). Charles Johnson wonders if Keenan's run at Senate is just a self-promotional tour in preparation for a 2008 gubernatorial run. That was my impression watching the debate, too.

First he basically admitted the only reason he's running is that someone needs to provide the incumbent a challenge – basically a formality, really – and sounded almost apologetic about being in the race. Then any time a question arose on national importance – the war in Iraq, Bush's domestic wiretapping – he looked genuinely perplexed, like he really felt sort of disgusted by the whole thing, realized he couldn't openly blast the President, and Conrad Burns for blindly supporting the administration's disastrous policies, but hadn't bothered to think out a reasonable answer to the questions that walked a line between these conflicting thoughts. Stay the course in Iraq? That's a non-answer. He dodged wiretapping and instead gave some answer about making the Patriot Act renewable on a yearly basis, as if it weren't already too late for that.

But once you take him out of national issues, he seems like he has a clear message: government should be involved as little as possible in our lives, especially in regulating business. His answer on immigration was excellent, realistic and workable and obviously represented those businesses that rely on illegals' cheap labor.

He's seems to be using his Senate candidacy to express his independent-mindedness, as he reminded us several times during the debate. He's no party-trooper, he says, he's crashing Burns' easy primary run. But what he doesn't mention is that he's planning on spending a mere $100K in the race and telling everyone across the state he isn't going to win, he's just doing it for Democracy, so no one will feel compelled to vote for him.

While some die-hard Burns supporters might resent his entry into the race, he's giving such a feeble showing he's no serious threat. Burns floats at a mid-60s approval rating among state Republicans: what Keenan is doing is walking a line between self-promotion and party loyalty. And who do you think profits the most from Burns’ inevitable brush with the law?

I enjoyed the spectacle, and was actually impressed by his presentation, but disliked his ideas.

Projected role in DC: God help me, but the only committee I could see him on was Appropriations. A guy who doesn't believe in government shouldn't be in government. Maybe he won't bilk taxpayers like Burns does, but I can't imagine him doing much to actually solve any problems. As a fiscal conservative, he'll probably be involved in slashing valuable domestic programs, like education, college grants, etc. If you like that kind of thing, he's your man. If I were a conservative voter I'd dump Burns for this guy in a heartbeat. Seriously.

Jon Tester: Doesn't have the flash and practiced speaking demeanor of a national politician, like Morrison or Burns. Doesn't share the unbridled idealism of Richards.

I was surprised by Tester: based on the Montana blogosphere's reaction, I was expecting to be blown away by the Big Sandy farmer. Instead I got a blunt, plain-spoken man whose answers to the questions belied competency and practical legislative ability, not inspiration or excitement.

Did I like everything he said? No. I thought his stance on immigration was atrocious: he concentrated on border security and ignored Mexican immigrants, he talked about enforcing the improvement of work conditions in the aliens' home countries instead of the immediate practical necessity of dealing with millions of illegals here in this country, now.

But his views on the domestic economy, education, and agriculture were solid, realistic, and doable. Farmers across the country should be hoping Tester gets elected to the Senate: he'd be an invaluable ally. He'd also be a strong advocate of supporting the development of alternative energy, and he'd get something done about it. His views on the war were spot on: he wants out, wants to capture bin Laden, and wants to ensure our troops are really supported, not with yellow-ribbon bumper stickers, but providing them with their deserved benefits, medical attention, and to ensure their benefits aren't slashed. He had strong words to say about the Patriot Act, which were welcomed by this blogger.

Tester isn't your usual federal-level candidate: that's what I like about him. I think he'd stand out as a contrast to Conrad Burns. It'd be ridiculously easy to re-create in Tester the “Mr Smith Goes to Washington” story, but Tester actually seems to have the ability to be a major, beneficial power in Congress.

Of all the Democratic candidates, I think he has the best chance to beat Burns. Not because he's free of ethical questions, which he is, but because he's everything Burns isn't: a dirt farmer, honest, effective, genuine, a honest-to-god real Montanan.

Projected role in DC: Agriculture, health care, ethics. I'd put him on Appropriations because I trust him. In DC I'd imagine Tester working with members of both parties to find common ground on common issues, like balancing the budget. I think he'd be invaluable in a Congress that's split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, like it looks to be after the midterms. He won't be flashy, he won't make the headlines like Feingold, Clinton, or Reid, but he'd be an honest and effective legislator with conviction. Hands-down a major improvement over Burns, and a legislator most Montanans would like representing them. Very approachable and down-to-earth.

(Update: Again, Two Points:

I think it is also fair to say that Tester’s comments on immigration were far less heartless than the comments here make them appear. His discussion of enforcing quality of life standards in our trade agreements actually strikes me (as I said of Morrison) as a thoughtful look at root causes. He expressed concern about the working conditions placed on illegal immigrants living under the threat of deportation. And he brought up the issue of fairness in regard to those immigrants waiting to come to America legally to be reunited to the families etc. Finally, he did endorse a path to citizenship approach similar to the McCain-Kennedy plan.

Again, excellent points. Thanks for the input!)

Conrad Burns: The 500-pound gorilla not in the room. Meet our new front runner.

Strange, isn't it? Despite poll numbers that are virtually unmoved in the past month, an approval rating in the high thirties and disapproval in the mid-fifties, the buzz among national publications is that he's the winner of the November elections. Why? I'm not exactly sure.

The only major change in Montana's political landscape is the Morrison scandal. Perhaps the pundits feel Morrison will win the primary and lose the general because the questions surrounding his ethics nullify Burns' corruption.

Of course it's looking more and more like Burns is heading for a court date, not his Senate seat. That he hired a lawyer shows he's feeling the heat. That he plans to divert campaign funds to his legal fees gives us a reason why he didn't pull out of the race early: you can never have enough bank for you legal fees as OJ showed us. I don't see him winning the race. I see him facing corruptions charges.

Projected role in DC: Ask yourself, if Burns wins the election, will he change? Will he realize how close he got to getting busted for his sleazy doings in DC? That's what I thought, too: No. Like Bush, he'll think winning an election means he can do whatever he wants. He might watch himself closer so he won't run afoul of the law, but he's still going to be a sleaze ball, using the federal government as his own personal vending machine and blindly supporting whatever legislation his handlers tell him to.

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3:15

Here we are! The debate. It does look like Morrison will be here. Good for him to rise to the challenge of a face-to-face confrontation with Missoula's favorite blogger, Touchstone! In fact, unlike the Bozeman debate, it looks like all the candidates except Conrad Burns will be here tonight. The candidates: Daniel Lloyd Neste Huffman, Bob Keenan, Ken Mancure, John Morison, Paul Richards, and Jon Tester.

The scene: UMT's University Center's University Theather, a wide, gently sloping windowless room with fluorescent light. A medley of viewers assemble. Unshaven undergraduates with obvious left-leaning tendencies. Sundresses. A few power suits with square-toed shoes and buzz cuts. Keenan boys?

John Morrison is working the crowd, shaking hands, gathering names. He's smaller than I anticipated. He's connecting well to the crowd.

Tester's arrived, too. Keenan. I've lost my cell phone already. How is that possible? Ah, found it…

I'm in for a marathon of writing. An hour and a half of debate, followed by a press Q&A. I can write A LOT in an hour and a half. A LOT. My poor fingers.

Things are brewing…

Phew! What is that? Cologne? Good lord…

Great, a former center for the Milwaukee Bucks just sat down in front of me. Nice view of his hat.

PS – Morrison has the hottest babes working for him. No wonder he leads the polls. So far Morrison is running away with this one.

3:30

Huffman and Richards just don't look like candidates for a federal-level elected seat. Does that mean I'm shallow? Or is that an indication of our cultural and communal expectations as to how a candidate should look? Part of me thinks Richards could have, should have, chosen to wear something other than a bolo tie and cross trainers. And Huffman looks like a high school chemistry teacher, and not in a good way. The mean kind of chemistry teacher.

Here we go! The intros and thank yous! Zzzz-zzz…

Dr. Jeffrey Green, the moderator. Bad toupee. Will people never learn? There will be questions generated by the university student government, each candidate gets five minutes to answer.

Apparently Morrison is cutting out early to give “awards” to “senior citizens.” I kid you not.

Intros:

Tester: Higher pitched voice than I expected. Touted values, background as farmer.

Richards: A bit rambling, but cool attempt to connect to the students, an antiwar candidate. Says he knows people their age are wondering whether to move to Canada, Australia, or New Zealand. I recommend New Zealand.

Morrison: Hits up the alumni connection. Has quite a well-prepared statement comparing Mansfield service in the Senate with Burns' corruption. Engergy, healthcare, prescription drugs.

Keenan: Hogs the podium. Hits his “small business” background, touts state legislative accomplishments. Talks up deficit. Good for him. Basically conceding the race, saying he represents choice in elections, almost like an apology. Talks up education and funding.

Huffman: Awkward, hits the average guy angle, tired of gas prices, energy prices, real anger shaking his voice. Loose cannon? I'm pulling for this guy!

Advantage, Morrison. Prepared statement, touts his programs, connects himself to the university’s political benefactor.

First question: What would you do to improve funding for higher education?

Huffman: Talks up deficit. Swings away from the question towards alternative energy. “They call it Big Sky country for a reason. There's something like 60% sky here.” (I did not make this up.) Talks about using the sky for wind power.

Keenan: Basically rejects the question, saying there's grants available, that' s not the job of a Senator. Federal government shouldn’t get involved. Short, terse. Plays poorly with crowd. Gum-chewing power-suit lackey manning a video camera chortles at the crowd's silence.

Tester: Make Pell grants available to students, more work study programs, research dollars for university professors. Gives example of using profs to research alternative energy.

Richards: Goes off on the importance of education for civil society. Says we need smaller teacher-student ratios in classrooms (amen, brother!), says we should have free secondary education(!): Education is paramount! Touts Ireland’s school system, with free(!) secondary(!) education(!), as an example! Holy smokes! Sort of revolutionary to even bring it up! This guy’s got no chance.

Morrison: Disagrees with Keenan – thinks well-funded universities are paramount to nation's security. Accuses Republicans of not funding education – they prefer throwing money at oil companies, wasting funds on mysterious appropriations earmarks, and cutting student aid. Promises to be an advocate of investment in higher education. Touts opportunity for all to get a higher education, research. Talks about competing with China and India and their commitment to education: we need to bolster education to keep up.

Winner: Well, Richards, duh! Seriously, though, Morrison’s statement was the strongest and the most polished. I liked how he evoked fear of an educated China and India to support funding for education. Should play well with Montanans. Not that I believe it’s true.

Question: What can we do in DC to bring back economic growth to Montana? (Dumb question. I won’t go into it here.)

Tester: Talks about bolstering education. Talks about agricultural, natural resource industry. Reinstituting country- and state- of origin labels. Touts wind energy opportunity for our state. Touts ethanol. Use raw products, logging, wood products industry. Government should facilitate business success. Government could work to market the products.

Keenan: Disagrees with Tester in government's role. The best way the government can help is to “stay out of the way” of the entrepreneurial spirit. Thirty-seconds at the mike, sits down. What does this mean? Gutting environmental regulations?

Richards: “Peace dividend!” We were supposed to get a peace dividend after the end of the Cold War; once the “war” with the Ruskies was done we were supposed to get all that military money for domestic projects. Says the military machine is chewing up the dividend in our continuing attack on third-world nations, Iraq, Iran, ex-Soviet republics. We should spend that money at home. Divert the money to developing alternative fuels research and production. That investment would create good paying jobs in Montana. (A loud cry from an onlooker, Yeah!)

Huffman: The main problem is that our incomes are too low and cost of living is too high. Minimum wage should be raised. To have the standard of living minimum wage gave in 1938, we need to raise wage to $20/hour. (Loud cheers!) Gets visibly angry at the “rich.” Dude seems slightly unhinged. Angry fellow.

Morrison: We need an agricultural policy for farmers. Encourage farmers to produce material for alternative fuels. Rails against energy policy that abets and subsidizes oil barons. Wants to end that. Wants to invest in education. We need to focus on the economic importance of educating Montanans. Stimulate venture capital investment. Invest in new technological businesses. We need affordable health care. The uninsured are bad for our economy, health, attracting workers. Impassioned rant against the cost of health care.

The winner: Clearly Morrison again. He’s the only candidate that seemed to have a well-organized proposal and played the crowd well, railing against Big Oil. Damn. He does stand out, organized, well spoken, he’s got this underlying Friedman-influenced “flat world” philosophy that he consistently weaves in an out of his narrative.

Question: War in Iraq a success or failure? (Now we’re talking!)

Keenan: Long pause. Thinking, thinking. Cites 80% voter turnout in Iraq. Lets that thought die on the vine. “We are in Iraq.” Changes topic again, mentions Osama bin Laden, says the press threatens victory, says he's uncomfortable with the situation, but we need to stay the course. Not good at all. D+ answer. And that’s charitable.

Richards: Cites the Fox poll that people believed there was a connection between al Qaeda and Iraq. Says violations of international agreements threaten our security. Claims oil industry drove invasion. Says we don't need new building of military bases in oil-rich former Soviet republics. Warns we're going after Russia's and China's oil supply and we'll be at war for a long time. We can invest the military money on energy independence. Ambitious plan to rebuild our own energy policy. (Loud cheers!)

Huffman: We're showing the world we're bullies and we're forcing our beliefs on the rest of the world. “That's bad.” We need to concentrate on domestic problems. Fifteen seconds at the mike. Maybe.

Morrison: Supports fighting terrorists abroad, says we should catch Osama bin Laden. Goes off on how we need to support our troops, but we need to speed up bringing our troops home. So we can deploy them against Iran, North Korea…and China (“in a very different way”). Did I hear that right? No permanent bases in Iraq. No more no-bid contracts. Iraqi oil in the hands of the Iraqi people. Maybe a dividend system like in Alaska, revenues to the people. (Moderate clapping.)

Morrison bolts from the debate for his senior citizen awards ceremony or something.

Tester: “Is the war in Iraq a success? No.” Says we captured Saddam, but he was our own guy. Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terror or al Qaeda, it has to do with the Bush administration being a bully (nods at Huffman). We need to support our troops. We need to pay veterans their deserved benefits. (Applause.) War has destabilized the region. The President needs to redeploy our troops as soon as possible. The president's pushing the problem off is irresponsible and “not acceptable.” We need to “redeploy” the troops as soon as possible. (Loud applause.)

The winner: Richards by a nose over Tester. Strong anti-war statements played well. I think people are sick of the war. They also like Tester’s commitment to veterans. Bonus points for that.

Question: What should we do about immigration?

Richards: The House wanted to make felons of all undocumented aliens. McCain/Kennedy bill wanted to give aliens a chance to stay…many children of workers are US citizens. Not in favor of splitting families. You can tell he’s not really interested in this topic.

Huffman: We're all immigrants. “We're hypocrites!” “Let 'em in!” (Raucous applause!)

Tester: (To Huffman) “You're sure you don't want to step to the other side?” (Laughter.) We have to secure our borders, ports in the interest of national security. We need to enforce laws against the businesses that employ illegal aliens – we need to ensure that our businesses are good citizens. We need to enforce our trade agreements. We need to assure that quality of life in our trading partners are improved, so illegal aliens will be less likely to come to the United States. These are “illegal” aliens; no “cuts in line.” The Senate version of the immigration bill is workable.

Keenan: We need to enforce our borders. We need to beef up border patrol, Coast Guard, National Guard. We have temporary work visas, 50-60K. We need more. We need to allow more temporary workers to have access to citizenship.

Winner: Keenan. Yes, you read that right. Keenan. The only one with a plan for immigrants. Tester was a distant second, emphasizing only border security, not considering the immigrants themselves. Huffman’s in a fantasy land with this issue, and Richards just looked bored by the question.

Question: Should the US government subsidize alternative energies?

Huffman: “We can't rely on a government that's $8 trillion in debt. We need to do it ourselves.” Talks about individual state loans to build individual wind mills, solar power. Households will make money after a few years. (Interesting…)

Tester: The legislature used tax credits to help get wind farms get up and running here in Montana. That same sort of thing needs to happen with oilseed and ethanol products. Once the industry goes, it'll take off and build the tax base. The gov't can use tax credits: we do it all the time, “big oil gets tax credits all the time.”

Keenan: Yes, these programs need to get off the ground, but with sunset programs for annual review before they become loopholes for abuses.

Richards: Talks subsidized big oil. Take all subsidies given to oil and give them to alternative energy industries. Dips back into history of the oil crisis…Montana…not sure where he's going…Montana alternative energy program worked here…Regan scuttled the program. Apollo initiative? Must research. Cites numbers of energy savings. (Keenan looks uncomfortable.) Talks about emissions reductions.

Winner: Huffman’s plan is ambitious, cheap, and fascinating! Individual households across the state producing their own energy! Of course Missoula really doesn’t have much wind. But, still. Tester’s is, of course, the most likely. Therefore, despite Huffman’s interesting solution, I award this question to Tester.

Question: How has your life experience prepared you for representing Montana in the US Senate?

Tester: Background. Third-generation farmer. Family has run the family farm for 28 years. Converted to organics almost 20 years ago to make more profit. Learned about agriculture from parents, grandparents. Taught elementary music. Had custom butcher shop. Goes through everyday problems that everyday Montanans experience. Touts record in Montana legislature, says he will not take money. DC is a step down from Montana. “You don't have representation in DC, the big boys do.”

Keenan: Uncomfortable. Dodges. His life was about “challenges and opportunities.” Good guidance from his mother: he grew up in a single-parent home with six sisters. (Dangerous! says Mike Dey!) Dad was in a mental institution. Touts wife. Created Bigfork Inn, it became an institution, implies he contributed to Big Fork's revitalization. Advocate of mentally ill and disabled. Says he's independent minded, that's why he's in this race. He hasn't pandered to us, a hostile, liberal crowd. Says this shows his independent mind. Thus the trust we should have in him.

Richards: “I'm an ombudsman.” Touts legislative experience, work on initiatives, he's an activist. He's a reporter, having worked for every major wire service. Teaches nonprofits how to work media. Helping people getting the word out. Knows the issues and groups and people. (Long pause.) Attitude of freshness, positive state of mind. “It makes things possible, even in as negative and cynical place like Washington DC.”

Huffman: “I've been raised in the school of hard knocks.” Says he's not a Republican or Democrat, “I think for you.”

The winner: Tester. Hands down. Keenan’s “honesty” was second. Got to give it to him, he did show up, the only true Republican in the bunch.

Question: How do you feel about wire tapping for national security? (Audience-submitted question.)

Keenan: Troubled by the Patriot Act. Wiretapping is a big concern. The Patriot Act needs to be up for review by Congress every year. Again, some hemming and hawing.

Tester: President thinks he's above the law, bypassing FISA. Needs to be investigated by Senate and, if guilty, censured. Remembers 9/11: “I'll never forget.” Leaders said they wouldn't give away our freedoms, then comes the Patriot Act, which makes government an intimate part of our lives. Montana legislature called for the revoking of the Patriot Act.

Huffman: Against the Patriot Act. We shouldn't be aggressors in war. Wiretapping: it's an invasion of privacy. Rambles a bit. “The whole thing is stupid.” We presume he means war.

Richards: Talks about the Montana, federal constitutions, checks and balances. Now things are imbalanced like never before in history. The spying is illegal and grounds for impeachment… (applause) Urged Baucus to sign on to Feingold resolution. Values and honors the Constitution. We need to challenge the president.

Winner: Richards.

Question: How do you feel about abortion? Should the government regulate abortion? (Audience-submitted question.)

Richards: Reproductive choice is a matter between a woman and her physician. Period. Owe women good day care, education. Supports woman's right to reproductive freedom.

Keenan: Pro-life. Roe v Wade was a political decision. We need to have a reasoned discussion about the issue. Bottom line: “I'm pro-life.” Claims to want a “unemotional” discussion, but emotionally clings to his position. Danger, Will Robinson!

Tester: “I don't think it's an issue we should play politics with.” Decision between woman and doctor. “It should be safe, legal, and rare.” Talks about contraceptives; claims he's pro-life, but that women have the right to decide. “Is this an issue the federal government should be deciding for us? No.” The decision should be between the woman, her doctor, and her faith.

Huffman: Has daughter…abortion…rambles…people need to be educated on contraceptives. There shouldn't need to be a need for abortion. We need to be more educated on prevention. A brief a mention of abstinence.

Winner: Clearly Tester, who acknowledges the two sides of the issue and the role of faith, but still opts for individual liberty over government control.

Closing comments

Keenan: Tried to introduce himself, even though this “isn't my crowd.” There were questions with the current government, that's why he put himself on the ballot. Not afraid to say where he stands on the issues. Judge him on the issues.

Tester: Wishes Keenan luck in the primary. (Laughter.) Good track as legislator on fighting for the average “Joe or Joelene”: cutting taxes for small business, land protection, all under a balanced budget. Integrity. It's missing in DC. “I've known Senator Burns for a long time, he's a likable guy” but his association Abramoff “turns his stomach.” We need Montana's values represented on the floor of the Senate.

Huffman: Cost of living too high and wages too low. “I'm here to fight for ya.” Keep cost of living down and livable wage.

Richards: Makes plug of website, bumper stickers. Burns has been “called the third Senator from Missouri.” (Laughter.) The good ole' boy act is wearing thin, “that's why I'm running.” Cites long list of presidential and Republican wrongs…send a little sunshine to Washington DC. “My mom said that sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

Debate ends.

Impression to follow after a little thinking. I’ll probably pen something up this weekend for Monday. Enjoy the weather, Montanans!

Links…

Today will be a slow day because…I'm going to the debate! I'll have my computer with me and hopefully be able to write up a summary as the debate rages…'tho I'm going to miss Morrison.

On with the links!

Must watch trailer for a new spinoff of “V is for Vendetta”: “C is for Cookie.”

Israel-Iran war likely? The LA Times’ Rosa Brooks thinks it will happen by Semptember. You think the US gives a hand? That won’t enrage an already tense alliance with Iraqi Shiites, you think?Busted! Hastert does appearance to promote alternative fuels and dives off in a hydrogen-fueled car…only to be dropped off a few blocks away to where his SUV was parked. Picture included.

Bill O’Reilly should hire a research assistant. He accuses a dead man of attacking him. How is it this clown has his own show?

Now there’s sex involved in the Republican lobbying scandal: K Street’s “hospitality suites.” Kos has a bunch of juicy links.

Here’s another Republican scandal, mysterious losses in money appropriated for Iraq. Ho-hum. Just another money thing.

According to Digby, crippling FEMA was part of master plan to prove government doesn’t work. Self-fulfilling prophecies, these. Incompetence, idiocy, tools of the divine?

Is there a plan to solve the Mideast crisis by contracting our defense industry to Dubai? What is with Dubai, anyway? Do they hold Bush gambling chits, or what?

TPMCafe: “John Morrison slapped around by the blogs.” Wulfgar!’s notoriety extended another day.

Bill Kristol asked tough questions on the Colbert show, Kristol flummoxed: why is it fake journalists conduct better interviews?

Photo over at Talking Points Memo that may show who’s the real boss in the administration. *Yawn.* Tell us something we didn’t already know.

Budge has a post with actual suggestions on how to fix the health-care FUBAR, though it seems to ignore the claims in the Krugman/Wells essay and doesn’t actually seem to solve the problems with our health-care system. I guess I could write a post about it. Nah. Let me just say any system that relies on insurance companies lowering prices and employers increasing pay ain’t gonna happen.

Count on Dave Budge to respond quickly to anything that challenges his world-view. In his post, “Allow me to Disabuse,” he pretty much trashed me up and down in his post. Fine. Maybe not fairly, but who am I to complain?

To respond to everything would be a waste of time. Let’s stick with healthcare. In the post, Budge gave a long-winded synopsis on how the industry got where it is, and what’s wrong with a single-payer system.

In it, he claimed that my education and experience make my opinion naive at best, so for the sake of universal health-care I’ll hand over the argument to Paul Krugman and Paul Wells. What kind of health care works best, you wonder?

Over the years since the failure of the Clinton health plan, a great deal of evidence has accumulated on the relative merits of private and public health insurance. As far as we have been able to ascertain, all of that evidence indicates that public insurance of the kind available in several European countries and others such as Taiwan achieves equal or better results at much lower cost. This conclusion applies to comparisons within the United States as well as across countries.

Basically in France the consumer pays half as much per capita in health care costs than in the US – but doesn’t suffer in quality of health care, rivaling the US in physicians, nurses, and hospital beds per capita. The French also enjoy a longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality rate.

But what about those pesky MRI waits Budge refers to? According to “Health Affairs” comparison of health care systems in the world,

“…the United States often stands out for inefficient care and errors and is an outlier on access/cost barriers.” That is, our health care system makes more mistakes than those of other countries, and is unique in denying necessary care to people who lack insurance and can't pay cash. The frequent claim that the United States pays high medical prices to avoid long waiting lists for care also fails to hold up in the face of the evidence: there are long waiting lists for elective surgery in some non-US systems, but not all, and the procedures for which these waiting lists exist account for only 3 percent of US health care spending.

The cause for our system’s inefficiency, according to the article, can be found in administrative inefficiencies, industry fragmentation, and the inability to bargain with drug companies over drug prices.

The report also highlights our own country’s Veterans’ Administration hospitals and clinics, where government-hired workers dole out health care to our nation’s veterans in a government-funded program. Bloated? Inefficient? Non-innovated? Tyrannical? Hardly.

[The VA] provides some of the best-quality health care in America at far lower cost than the private sector. How does the VA do it? It turns out that there are many advantages to having a single health care organization provide individuals with what amounts to lifetime care. For example, the VA has taken the lead in introducing electronic medical records, which it can do far more easily than a private hospital chain because its patients stay with it for decades. The VA also invests heavily and systematically in preventive care, because unlike private health care providers it can expect to realize financial benefits from measures that keep its clients out of the hospital.

The reality is that, even if Budge’s criticisms against socialized medicine were true, what’s a worse system? One in which some patients have to wait for diagnostic tests, in which doctors get paid on a level of software engineers? Or one where an increasing number of people don’t have any health care at all? (And I’m not talking the indigent, but working- and middle- class families. Forty-one percent of Americans with “moderate to middle incomes” don't have health insurance, according to this report.) A system where many insurance provides actively try to cheat their policyholders through denial of claims?

(By the way, I lived under California’s Blue Cross system. In the four years I lived there, and during which I had a number of concerning health issues including a soccer-injured knee, a mysterious stomach ailment, and a suspicion of testicular cancer, I never met with my primary physician. Not once. In addition, Blue Cross denied each and every claim I submitted, and I had to spend an average of forty minutes to an hour for every doctor’s visit on the phone with insurance company reps to get them to pay. And I paid handsomely for the privilege. Budge’s socialized system with its myriad of problems looks pretty good to me.)

Most of you who are reading this post are struggling to pay health insurance fees. You’re well aware of how much they’ve grown in just the past few years. At this point, my monthly health insurance bill for my family rivals my mortgage payments. Having health insurance is like owning a second house you don’t get to use.

While it’s true that Budge admitted the US system is “FUBAR,” as usual he offers no solution to the problem. Health care is a problem that needs a solution, and cherry-picking at ideas is cute and makes a great demonstration of flexing intellectual prowress, but without a solution is not at all constructive.

But I lack the education and experience to really know anything about this. I’m just a starry-eyed MFA who means well, but who…let’s face it…is as dumb as the side of a barn.

Instead of letting that get me down, though, I’m going to harness those powers vested to me by my years in Montana’s creative writing program and pen a little play that addresses the issue:

Mr. Budge Goes to Freemarketon

The scene: A small doctor’s office in a small mountain town in “Freemarketon,” a country operated solely under libertarian free market prinicples. The office is lit by a single, dim bulb. There is a desk, sink, and examining table in the room. Gaudy advertisements are plastered over every surface. Enter MR. BUDGE, a slightly stooped man with graying hair and a moustache that looks faintly damp. His lips are pursed and he mutters to himself as he enters. He has a noticeable limp. He crosses the room and sits on the examining table.

After an uncomfortably long wait, the door swings open and the DOCTOR sweeps in. He is a young man in his early thirties. His hair is gelled and he wears a bolo tie. He advances on his desk, rifling papers. He is chewing gum and snapping bubbles with his tongue.

DOCTOR: (In a near-incomprehensible rush.) Welcome to Medical World. I am your doctor today, my name is Dr. PJ Wodenhose, and I’m glad to assist you. Today’s specials include a flu’ shot at $39.99 and a prescription to a new experimental acid-reflux called, “StayDown,” for $69.99 a month, some side effects may occur. What can I do for you, today, Mr…(glances in his notebook)…Budge (pronouncing it BUD-gee)?

BUDGE: Not interested in the specials, today, Doctor. I haven’t been feeling well lately. I’ve got these lumps under my armpits…they seem to be growing…and they hurt like hell when I press them…

DOCTOR: (Interrupting.) Well, don’t press them then! (Laughs. BUDGE grimaces.)

BUDGE: Lumps…and I have trouble breathing whenever I lay down, and I get dizzy spells whenever I stand up. I black out occasionally. And I’m urinating blood.

DOCTOR: (Writing furiously on a form.) I see. I see. (He hums, then takes the form over to small computer on his desk. He looks at his hands while he types, then pauses and looks at the screen. All the while he makes grunting noises and his face twists into grotesque expressions.) Yes. Yes. So. It looks like we have some major maintenance work to do. First, we’ll need to get an MRI –

BUDGE: An MRI? Those are expensive, aren’t they?

DOCTOR: Well, yes. But frankly I think your condition –

BUDGE: Don’t you have anything less expensive? Like an X-ray?

DOCTOR: Well…X-rays are cheaper –

BUDGE: There. Let’s do an X-ray.

DOCTOR: But Mr…(fumbles around his desk, then into his pocket, retrieving his notebook; he looks into the book)…BUD-gee…the symptoms you describe don’t indicate a condition discoverable with X-rays…

BUDGE: Look, doctor, I’m sure you’re right. But…well…the wife went a little overboard at Christmas this year, and we’re still paying off the credit card. Plus little Tommy’s dialysis treatments have already exhausted our medical budget this year. You say I should have an MRI, but I’m telling you all I can afford is an X-ray.

DOCTOR: But, sir! (BUDGE points to a poster on the wall. Under the poster’s title, Hippocratic Oath, reads, “The customer is always right.” The DOCTOR looks at the poster for a moment then shrugs his shoulders.) X-rays, right. (He resumes tapping his computer keyboard.) Anything else I can get you today?

BUDGE: What else do you recommend? Remember, I’m on a tight budget.

DOCTOR: (Referring to a list displayed on his computer screen.) I can listen to your heart, lungs, check your eyes and ears. That’ll run you about $14.99 each. I can palpate your organs. $0.99 each.

BUDGE: I’ll take the heart and eyes. And palpate my liver, spleen, and kidneys, please. And the X-ray.

DOCTOR: (Turns and faces BUDGE with a stern expression.) Can I be frank?

BUDGE: (Looks slightly taken aback.) Of course, doctor.

DOCTOR: The symptoms you’re describing? I don’t think you have much life left. I think your body is encountering some serious problems. Probable malfunction of some key components. (BUDGE nods.) It could go at any moment.

BUDGE: (Groans and rests his head in his hands.) What is it? What could it be? How much is it going to set me back to fix it?

DOCTOR: Could be cancer. Advanced. We’re talking complete overhaul…(BUDGE groans again.)…two, maybe three hundred thousand. (BUDGE makes grunting noises that might be sobbing.) There is an alternative…cheaper…

BUDGE: (Lifts his head from his hands.) What, doctor?

DOCTOR: We could junk it. If we wait until the symptoms manifest into serious illness, we could be talking ER visits, ambulances, hospitalization, drugs, the whole nine yards. (BUDGE jumps as if suffering electric shocks at the mention of each as the doctor tics off his list on his fingers.) If you junk the body now, you’d save a bundle.

BUDGE: What are my options? And how much does it cost?

DOCTOR: Well…let’s see. Lethal injection administered by me would be $699.99. The home kit is substantially cheaper — $299.99 – but I usually don’t recommend it to people without medical experience. Miss that vein – whoo boy! You’d wish you were dead…

BUDGE: Six ninety nine? You’ve got to be kidding me!

DOCTOR: I could rent you our office gun for $14.99 and sell you a bullet for $2, although I recommend you buy two just in case. And you can do it quickly out behind the storage shed. But you’d be responsible for removing your own body and cleaning up the mess, so you’d need to make some arrangements beforehand.

BUDGE: What am I thinking? I’ve got to pick up the girls from soccer practice at two! No, doctor, it looks like we’ll have to stick with the X-rays…

Fade out…

Links…

It’s no-holds-barred Wulfgar! today! First he calls John Morrison a “p*ssy,” then he points out the…*ahem*…formerly adulterous candidate is a proponent of Montana’s anti-gay “defense of marriage” amendment to the state constitution. You make your own snark.

Montana Jones has a tangle with the phone company. They won’t let him activate his analog phone, which he needs in case of backwoods emergencies.

So the Nigerian scam works! Incredible…

Christians outraged over cartoon! Hm, this sounds familiar.

Paying taxes for single-payer health care seems to upset some who are strangely mum on the tax money flushed down the toilet by the administration on their personal religious wars. Socialism is the problem? How about dimwits with authoritarian tendencies?

A nice roundup of Republican scandals. Makes your skin crawl.

To show my true disgust with Washington corruption I bring you a link pointing you to a bought Democrat. This time by a telecommunications company. (I guess Burns was busy.)

FEMA killed. That’s great news, right before hurricane season. Amazing how the Bush team took a well-working and invaluable government agency and destroyed it, making the US a less safe place in the process.

The “hurricane Katrina of entitlement programs,” brought to you by our friends in – you guessed it! – the Bush administration.

Standing-room” tickets in the future of air travel? I might actually prefer this…for my toddlers!

A fascinating debate on creative writing schools…All I’ll say is that it’s a great opportunity to write for two years. And the competitive programs do feature some very talented students…

The Cunning Realist on what’s at stake in the upcoming midterms. Accountability.

Creep: Mike Dey

Today’s creep, Mike Dey of Missoula, was an easy target. His letter:

Motherhood out of wedlock is dangerous Every day when I turn on the radio I hear this ad that says that the most dangerous thing we do is not putting our children in a booster seat.

After some thought I came to the conclusion that condoning out-of-wedlock births by society is far more dangerous. In the months of February and March, 109 children were born, 43 of whom were out of wedlock, according to statistics in the Missoulian. This is almost 50 percent. There are reasons for being a single mother, but out-of-wedlock births should not be one of them.

Statistically, these 43 children will have more trouble with the law and have a poorer education than the children of a two-parent family.

It is time to quit glorifying motherhood out of wedlock.

 First, nitpicking, 43 of 109 births make it 39%, not "nearly half." 

Second, his statistics don't cover unmarried, two-parent families. I have several friends involved in relationships like this. They seem to be doing fine. 

We’re glorifying single-parent families? Uh oh, looks like I missed that directive in the latest liberal newsletter. Or is this guy still dealing with Murphy Brown?

The irony here is that Mr. Dey is probably against abortion, too.

As a parent, I can testify that all parents wish they had more help. And you can bet your sweet *ss that every single mom wishes she had an additional, responsible adult in the house to help out, not only with child care, but with bills.

The problem is more likely that these mothers either don’t want the father in the picture, or the father doesn’t want to be in the picture himself. And would Mr. Dey prefer unhappy marriages? I wonder how the children of abusive or drug-addicted fathers score on his little statistical spreadsheet.

Mistakes happen. They always have. They always will, no matter if you outlaw out-of-marriage sex, ban sex toys, or hang purity lockets around your pre-pubescent daughters’ necks. Instead of demonizing single moms – which won’t make them any less “dangerous,” according to Dey’s criteria – maybe we should consider solving the institutional problems that challenge single moms – like affordable day care – that will allow their kids to prosper.

Uh oh. Looks like the quality of my blog is falling off. Last time I checked in with a report on what brings Internet surfers to my site, it was a search for "erotic liberated Christian blogs."

Now it's "male chastity belt blogs."

Do you think I'm restraining myself too much?

Links…

Oops! Sorry about that. US to free 141 from Guantanamo. So…how long did we hold them? And…they’re innocent? And we did what to them?

Looks like the new conservative PM of Canada is following the Bush administration’s reprehensible practice of ignoring their dead soldiers killed in Iraq…“[Candada] I used to think you were cool.” Indeed.

The writing on the wall: Conrad Burns hires a lawyer. Just in case, right?

Morrison to skip the Missoula debate? Afraid of Missoula? Hardly. Morrison was trembling in his boots at the thought of encountering blogger extraordinaire, yours truly, who plans on attending the event.

Oops! It looks like we broke Iraq. Of course administration officials claimed that, with all that oil, Iraq would be able to fix itself! That’s working, right?

And how’s that Iran plan looking? Former NSA advisor says we shouldn’t attack

Rove to testify before Plame grand jury for the fifth time. You go, Karl. I wonder how you’d look in an orange jumpsuit?

Max Blumenthal rips David Horowitz. Actually this is even easier than it sounds. Does anyone take Horowitz seriously?

Official Smithsonian portrait of Bill Clinton missing his wedding band! Hm…

Sure, let the “free market” provide for our health. Unfortunately it’s more profitable to deny you coverage than it is to actually pay your medical bills. Oh yeah, and the high prices of policies are driving up the number of uninsured. Sounds to me like these businesses are “injuring” their “fellow men.”

Apparently making Plan B an over-the-counter medication will give rise to teen sex cults. Or at least that’s what administration-appointed FDA officials say. Oh yeah, one drug opponent said the medication is “a pedophile’s best friend.” You figure that one out. I’m going to hose myself down.

Did you know the Bush family harbors terrorists? No joke. Right-wing Cuban terrorists. No comment necessary.

So I suppressed my ego and trudged over to Budge’s site to read his rebuttal to my earlier post on government. Interesting stuff, and shows some of the essential misunderstanding — deliberate or otherwise — found in libertarian and conservative camps when considering liberal policies or ideas.

First I would say that our current form of government does not represent the will of the electorate. In fact, a minority of Americans hold sway over the economic, political, and intellectual spheres of the community, and I think it’s time to kick the bums out and rebuild, not the essential structure of government, but the way we pursue public policy.

Budge completely missed my point concerning the relationship between government and governed. We, the people, should not submit to the government, rather it’s time the government submitted to the people.

In any case, the essential misunderstandings of the right when viewing the left are simple. They believe we are in favor of the redistribution of wealth. We are not. They believe we are for more intrusive, regulatory government. We are not. They believe the greatest danger to our current society is still a “Red menace,” a centralized collective controlling all facets of production. This is, of course, not at all true. The essential misunderstanding of “free market” advocates make is that capitalism promotes, encourages, and even births liberties, so that all markets — regardless of effectiveness, ethics, or actual effect — must be free from regulation.

I’ll start with one my later points first. The greatest danger we face today is not from Islamic radicalism — which would likely be on its way to extinction now if the Bush administration had followed a better, more effective foreign policy — not from “Communist” or “socialist” forces. It is from the alliance of big capital and government.

Take the freedom of discourse you are enjoying this very moment that you read this blog. Right now we are probably in the midst of one of the most interesting, eclectic and open eras of debate, discussion, and speech, right here on the Internet. Until now, expressing political opinion to a wide audience was reserved only for those few that enjoyed sanctioned approval from “credible” publications. Yes, those journalists and pundits “earned” their station through study or practice, but it’s certainly true that certain viewpoints or topics or issues were never discussed.

The other day in a “Links…” post I pointed you to a threat to this openness on the Internet, a desire by major telecommunication companies to block content to their subscribers. Basically, unless you pay, you don’t play. In my opinion, the anarchic free-for-all of complete liberty on the Internet is a good thing, and should be protected by our government. The freedom of speech on the Web already plays a crucial role in our civil society.

First, it’s true that private companies are transmitting the data that flows from computer to computer. They own the wires, towers, satellites, servers that bring us our web access. That certainly gives them a right to do what they want with the content flowing through their equipment. After all, if the content gets too dried up, too devoid of entertaining material, we the consumers will find another way to communicate with one another. Right?

Yeah, like what happened to radio after deregulation?

The system works now. Companies make a fine profit off of providing service to consumers now. Why should we relinquish control of the Internet and place it in the hands of a group who don’t care about issues like speech, who fail to act like reasonable, responsible members of the community? Who place profit above people? And can we guarantee we’ll find another technology that facilitates communication as easily as the Internet?

(By the way, there are Democratic Congressmen who are allied with these big telecommunications companies. I am not claiming moral superiority for Jackasses on this issue.)

Is it “immoral” or wrong to dictate to businesses that they can’t restrict or inhibit or block the flow of information to their subscribers? In effect, seizing control of how their property is used for the good of the community? I say no!

I am not against the marketplace. (H*ll knows I’d like to make a tidy turnaround on the sale of my house, for example!) I also recognize how important it is to get out of the way of innovation and investment, that free markets can solve some problems. But I also recognize that in many cases free markets are less efficient and more injurious to human health than a carefully regulated market. Like in the case of health care.

Thanks to Budge for this Jefferson quote:

“A wise and frugal government … shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”

In the case of health care, if it’s more profitable for an insurance company to create an elaborate bureaucracy and administrative process that seeks to discourage people from accessing health care than it is to encourage them to make frequent doctor’s visits and promote prevention and early diagnosis, is that not, according to Jefferson, a case of “men…injuring one another”? Isn’t the health and well-being of, say Budge’s children more important than all the profit of all the insurance companies?

In the case of health care, if an honest, hard-working person with a full-time job can’t afford health care and gets sick and is unable to work, isn’t government in its failure to ensure that the insurance industry operates fairly, according to Jefferson again, “…tak[ing] from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned”?

Practically speaking, too, single-payer health insurance would be more efficient and cheaper. Yes, taxes would be higher, but health care costs…well…there would be no health care costs. Would you rather pay, say, $500 a year more in taxes to save…what? $500 a month in insurance payments? Wouldn’t that, in effect, be putting bread into the pockets of all?

Ultimately Budge misses the entire point I make by saying American democracy celebrates and encourages “equality of opportunity.” Instead of seeing that statement for what it means, no less or no more, he twists it to mean some sort of redistribution scheme to plunder the wealthy for the sake of the poor.

Budge also claims that the extremely wealthy are a minority group at the mercy of the majority. Were it only so: the wealthy actually wield a disproportionate amount of power in our society and government. Perhaps a tyranny of a majority is the worst kind, but a tyranny by a minority still sucks. Our government should ensure that the extremely wealthy, like any individual, not receive unfair consideration, government monies, or freedom from the rule of law. Our government should represent us, as a whole, rather than only those who can afford to pad campaign chests.

No, equality of opportunity means exactly that. It means to ensure the freedom of movement, speech, assembly, and belief, to ensure the opportunity, for those who merit it through work or ability, for education and employment regardless of race or gender or class. No more, no less.

I finally went out and saw “V is for Vendetta.”

Yes, I know it’s pathetically late. H*ll, even Ed Kemmick’s seen the flick! But what can I do? I have toddler twins. As it was I had to go alone to a 10pm showing, which meant I got about four-and-a-half hours of sleep last night.

Was it worth it? My thoughts:

Portman is back

Many of you probably weren’t aware of this, but Natalie Portman disappointed me recently. Yes, there’s the awful, terrible, no-good rotten Star Wars franchise in which she emotes like a block of wood. But blame director George Lucas and his script. (Let’s just say it’s no wonder he understands ‘droids so well.) She got a free pass from me on that.

No, I dumped her off my hottie-and-good-actress list after indie-dreck, “Closer,” which had a couple of decent scenes, but which also featured a completely unbelievable Portman and a scene of her in a thong that was very un-sexy, which is grounds for automatic dismissal from my list.

(The original hottie-and-good actress was Winona Ryder. Only she got dumped after making “Alien: Resurrection,” in which she had a chance to hold a really, really big gun and shoot lots of aliens, but instead spent too much time cowering. I don’t like my women to cower.)

But Portman in “V”: Va-va-voom!

The “terror” thing

I wrote about this before, but there was some talk that the movie glorifies terrorism, etc & co:

By saying, like David Denby, that the movie “celebrates” terrorism, or, like Mondello, that the movie “mistakes terrorism for revolution,” the critics are claiming – probably unconsciously – that watching the movie is an act of treason. That to even fantasize about responding violently to a political situation is treasonous.

Now that I’ve actually seen V assassinate state officials, blow things up, and take hostages, I still think these people are mad. It’s a violent revenge fantasy, people are supposed to blow things up!

Ultimately, of course, the need for a revenge fantasy was created by the present government when it violated the Constitution and completely ignores the will of its constituency. It’s a helpless feeling watching your government run amok. “V is for Vendetta” allows the average joe to feel a sense of retribution, to feel anger, to feel joy and release at the natural ending of the authoritarian.

The movie reinforces our cultural morality play of perpetual retribution and inherent distrust of government. It also assumes that the people are always stronger than its government, and I like that. That’s why I’m a liberal.

Did I mention…

Portman is a hottie!

Links…

These are the kind of people you find on the right. I haven’t seen many Stalinist trolls on my site…

Support for torture is found exclusively on the right. Haven’t seen many folks on the left who support inhumane treatment of prisoners.

Bush’s approval rating sinks. Lower than Clinton’s ever was…

Digby on the contractor abuses in Iraq. So we detain and torture people because of their “noncombatant” status, yet we’re using “noncombatant” troops in Iraq?

Does anyone take Donald Rumsfield seriously?

Media Matters posted a list of lies propagated by our nation’s new White House spokesperson, Tony Snow.

Neil Young kicks *ss in an interview with a…well…one of those fake journalists who basically questions his patriotism for calling for Bush’s impeachment. Just curious, but was anyone who favored Clinton’s impeachment called a traitor?

And why would anyone want to impeach Bush? Is it because he does things like suspend environmental rules for gasoline? I’m with SusanG: I’d bet the “temporary” suspension will be permanent. As long as he’s in office. Oh yeah, and is the offspring of investigation into rising gas prices? What’s next? Giving the fox a bucket of KFC after investigating the missing chickens?

Condi Rice greeted with open arms in Greece. Just kidding! Are the Greeks the new French?

RIAA sues a family without a computer for file-sharing. Go figure.

BoingBoing also finds a blogger who has a fantastic take on the architecture of contemporary politics.

In a recent conversation on the upcoming midterms over at conservative site, mtpolitics, Gman left a comment trashing Matt Singer’s liberal worldview by calling it “immoral.” Now I agree with Matt on most issues. So I took…well, not offense…but I disagreed with the premise. I don’t think my views are “immoral.” I also don’t think I’m a political naïf who just fell off the bread truck.So I wrote up a lengthy rebuttal.

Here’s the original comment:

Matt, what amazes me about your comment that you want honest government is that the government you want cannot be honest. (Read Frederic Bastiat’s The Law.) The government you want is grounded in an immoral premise — take from one individual to give to another — i.e. legal plunder. It’s really no different than the Marxist dictum “From each according to ability, to each according to need.” How can a system that is corrupt on its face be honest? “Honest government” is just a platitude anyway. What does it mean, really?

How about instead of pining for “honest government” we all strive for “limited government” or “constitutional government.” But, our culture has no clue what honesty is anymore, how can we expect it from our government? In fact, I might as well throw out any hope for constitutional, limited government if the people cannot be moral. It is the foundation of our system. As John Adams said:

“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.”

Add to Adams’s astute observation what Edmund Burke said about the French Revolution:

“It is written in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate mind can never be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”

There are so many wrong premises and contradictions in this worldview found in this comment, I don’t know where to begin.

Let’s start with the basis of American government. American Democracy is found on the idea that government is derived from the consent of the governed. The Declaration of Independence:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness:

That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The government, then, is an agreement between governed and governors. In essence, the government is supposed to work for the people, and the people for the government. In this model – the American model – we are a community working towards communal goals.

The “unalienable rights” Jefferson named – “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” – represent the inherent rights that citizens have in equality of opportunity. That is, a government is not legitimate if it blocks its citizens’ “pursuit” of labor, sustenance, and political freedom.

And how is “pursuit of happiness” defined? By law, written in stone? Jefferson:

On similar ground it may be proved that no society can make a perpetual constitution, or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation. They may manage it then, and what proceeds from it, as they please, during their usufruct. They are masters too of their own persons, and consequently may govern them as they please.

(“usufruct” = The right to use and enjoy the profits and advantages of something belonging to another as long as the property is not damaged or altered in any way.)

Government of the people, by the people, and for the people cannot be immoral according to these premises, as gman claims. If the people of the United States through a peaceful and legitimate democratic process wish to institute some “socialist” reforms into their culture – such as a single-payer health care system – that is not immoral, but perfectly in accord with American democracy.

(Incidentally, Fredric Bastiat’s “The Law,” quoted by gman as defining what’s moral and immoral in government, ironically seems to support liberal efforts to change the current form of government. Bastiat’s work was apparently written with the sole purpose of slighting socialism by saying that any government that “plunders” – takes income from one citizen and gives it to another – is “immoral.” Of course what Bastiat tacitly acknowledges is that a government in thrall with “free market” forces is abetting “lawful plunder” of the labor of working- and middle- class citizens’ property by a few wealthy individuals.)

Government already does many communal projects that we all take for granted. Our government paves our streets, ensures water, telephone access, and electricity to our homes. It provides fire and police departments, public transportation, libraries, schools, and universities. It provides the very structure all our commerce and daily traffic use to pursue our unalienable rights. Our government also ensures that those in the minority – whether they are minority by race, politics, or economic class – be protected in their rights, as well.

Government, in its ideal, is citizens meeting to take on communal projects that better the community.

Why shouldn’t we pool our resources and ensure affordable health care to all?

And on the subject of “morals.” First, I strongly and vehemently disagree with Gman that our community is not “moral.” This is patently absurd. U.S. society is remarkably diverse: hundreds of ethnic and religions groups live alongside another in relative peace. Tolerance, charity, and industry reign — despite deliberately hateful and divisive efforts by some to chain the country to a single extremist faction of Christianity, and others to devote all the government’s resources to a handful of corporate interests.

That Montanans might knowingly re-elect a crook to the US Senate does not indicate a newly sprung tolerance for dishonesty – dishonest populist politicians are an American staple and always have been. That some of us want to institute “honest” government may be naive, but it’s also another long-standing American tradition originating in the afore-quoted Declaration of Independence. In fact, I’d argue that our Constitution was created with the structure to allow ordinary folks to struggle against corrupt government.

Quoting John Adams on constitutional government is like quoting hammers on the subject of nails. Adams was a prig with authoritarian tendencies.

Still, and again, I’m with Jefferson, who believed that an innate sense of morality exists within the people.It’s quite simple, really. Most people want peace, and they want to prosper.

All we ask, as liberals, is let us.

Two letters appearing recently in the Missoulian touted the work of Clemens Work, who is busy clearing the names of many who were criminalized under Montana’s infamous WWI Sedition Act, and decrying a recent paranoid attack on Work’s work by Missoula man, Harvey Weinstein. (A recent 4&20 “creep.”)

First a nice letter from Richard Barrett of Missoula calling Weinstein “outrageous”:

Attack on professor an example of hysteria

Martin Weinstein apparently believes that he is defending academic freedom and integrity, the Constitution of the United States, and the country itself in his outrageous attack on professor Clemens Work in the April 16 Missoulian. He accuses Work of indoctrinating students, grading by political correctness rather than quality, destroying the Constitution, trying to lead us to a neo-Marxist utopia, sowing the seeds of defeat in Iraq and being the unholy ally of Islamic terrorists.

Even casual readers of the Missoulian will realize that the story about Work (“Righting a Wrong,” Missoulian, April 9) contained absolutely no information that could possibly lead Weinstein to these bizarre conclusions and vicious accusations. Weinstein bases all of his tirade, apparently, on Work's concern regarding the impact of the Patriot Act on First Amendment rights. Weinstein should realize that this concern is hardly radical. It is even shared by some Republican members of Congress. And the tone Weinstein sets in his letter bears more than a “stark resemblance” to the hysteria that prevailed in Montana when the Sedition Act was in force.

Fabricating accusations out of whole cloth and attacking Work personally and falsely, rather than dealing with his ideas, are the hallmarks of a demagogue. They are unworthy of the scholar and defender of academic freedom Weinstein claims to be.

True that Weinsteain’s hysteria is shared by some Republican Congressmen. Whether they truly believe their paranoia, like Weinstein obviously does, or whether they use it as part of the GOP’s standard fear-mongering, is another debate. But we see similar hysteria in Burn’s rhetoric concerning the takeover of the country by liberal “elites” like Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy. (In reality, probably not much would be different here in Montana. In fantasy-land, however…)

Letter two, from M. Chessin of Missoula, gives a shout out to those involved in the amnesty project:

Kudos to students, teachers on project On Jan. 26, 1991, professor Harry Fritz, then serving in the Montana Senate, offered a motion of exoneration to clear the name of Judge Charles L. Crum of Forsyth, who had been impeached by that body during the wartime hysteria of 1917. His crime? That he had offered advice to some who were facing trial for “seditious” speech.

Fritz's motion was approved unanimously by his colleagues, who gave a standing ovation to the judge's grandchildren then present in the gallery.

So, kudos are in order for the journalism and law students at the University of Montana and their teachers Clem Work and Jeff Renz, who have recently undertaken to initiate pardons for the many others who were victims like Crum of the super-patriots of those days. Those events are chronicled in Work's book “Darkest Before Dawn,” which was superbly researched.

And brickbats to Martin Weinstein who outrageously compared their efforts to those typical of Hitler and Stalin! (Missoulian letters, April 16).

He would be better off to concern himself with the crimes of the G.W. Bush regime, which include, among others, the shredding of our Constitution and misleading us into endless pre-emptive war.

Amen, brother! …or sister!

This should be a bi-partisan project, one that everyone should support. That right-wing extremists such as Weinstein see it as part of a radical Stalinist plot to subvert the United States should warn us to the attempt from many on the right to criminalize or, at least, marginalize dissent. And “dissent,” according to these nutjobs, is anything negative said about the Bush administration or its policies.

Like it or not, the US provides its citizens with certain inalienable rights. One of them is to speak out against the government. After all, as according to an Edward Abbey quote read on Sarpy Sam’s blog, “A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”

Seriously, which poses more real danger to us? Freedom of speech, or criminalizing speech?

Links…

Guam: Burns earmarked $20 mil to a friend of Delay in an appropriations bill. Burns: Guam lies.

Holy smokes! Intelligent Discontent has a slew of new Conrad Burns news! First Boss Hogg gives a million bucks to a company that puts his daughter and a former staffer on its board. Then there’s a WaPo article on Burns that…well…gets it all wrong. (Liberal press, my *ss.)

Sarpy Sam gets angry at Montana voters over the Wapo article, and finds in it reason to abandon Morrison.

Legislating boredom”: Get ready for our government’s war on sex toys.

Tom Tomorrow shows us the only graphics we need to defeat the GOP.

California students block Bush’s motorcade on Stanford campus; Bush’s “October Surprise”; and more.

Instead of sending out miscommunication, the White House is apparently interested in not communicating at all. Where is Scotty’s replacement already? (And where’s the new director of FEMA? Isn’t hurricane season upon us?)

Daily Kos’ Georgia10 on the importance of the New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal.

Washington state does the right thing: the State Board of Pharmacy ruled that pharmacists can’t refuse to fill a prescription because of moral objections. Montana?

Certain conservatives…uh…individuals…representing larger forces, but not all conservatives…just the more powerful ones, like the ones, you know, running the country…want to criminalize dissent. Why do Republicans, er, conservatives, er a mere handful…or more, possibly…on the right…hate democracy?

Firedoglake: “Al Gore’s evolution on same-sex marriage.”

Matt Stoller introduces a fight all of us can get behind: save the Internet! So the free market promotes liberty? Faugh!

A few thoughts while I wait in the SearsAuto lobby waiting for a tire to be patched…

L'affaire Morrison

I've said this before, I'll say it again, I haven't really come to a conclusion on who I'm endorsing in the Senate race. At least based on issues, electibility, gut, astrological forecasts, etc & co. It'd be easy to get caught up in the Tester love swirling around our Montana nook in cyberspace: seems just about everybody's enjoying a man-crush on the buzz cut. I was kinda hopin' to hold off until I saw the candidates debate in Missoula (April 28th, everybody!).

But the Morrison thing bugs me.

The biggest thing that bugs me is the way in which the story broke. It seemed odd to me then, and it seems only odder now as I mull it over in auto-repair shops, the children's section of the Missoula library, while changing diapers or napping on the couch. Where did the story come from? Who kicked it off?

Look, the Missoula Independent story is getting national coverage. Maybe not in the New York Times or the WaPo, but in DC gossip sheets, email lists, and insider news sites – e.g., Roll Call. You bet your sweet *ss Burns' office is taking the points in John Adams story and getting ready to have a minion or two to start an official government investigation into some of the disclosure violations likely to have occurred in Morrison's investigation of Tacke, such as Morrison's $1,000 “loan” to mistress Suzanne Harding, a sum large enough to have been reported.

The last thing Morrison, or any sane US citizen, wants is for him to win the primary, then have an official investigation launched into his possible ethics violation.

That's the thing: this election will mainly be a plebiscite on Congressional corruption. Do we, as a state, condone the type of pay-for-vote play Boss Burns engages in? Do we condone the sale of Washington to special interests? (Sure, there's the other referendum, whether we support the direction of the nation under Bush, but I think if Burns weren't engaged in blatant unethical, and probable illegal, activities, it would be easy to distance himself from the President.)

If the Democrats put up another slick shyster with unanswered ethical entanglements, then the election becomes the usual conservative vs. liberal thing, incumbent vs. challenger. And frankly, Morrison doesn't electrify. Burns is the evil we know. And now you know the rest of the story.

The Hex

Blame me. The other day, I chewed out Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe for being so negative about an 11-4 team, a team in which despite its second-best record in MLB had seen little offense. Ha! I crowed, Coco's on the DL and Manny hasn't hit any dingers yet! My crowing only seemed more prescient because, I was writing these words, Manny was in the process of hitting two homers against the Blue Jays piling up what seemed to be an insurmountable 5-run lead behind pitching ace, Josh Beckett.

You Sox fans know what happened next. I pressed, “Publish” on my blog, sent my arrogance into the world, clicked to the box score and saw that the Jays had knotted the game up at 6 and would go on – five hours later, it seemed – to win the game in the 12th, 7-6. The next day, yesterday, the Jays pummeled the Sox 8-1, and suddenly I'm the biggest idiot west of the Mississippi. I haven't seen the score today as I write this at 2:45 pm MST, but it's surely over. I can only hope the Baseball Gods see this apology for offending them and grant the Old Towne Team a “W.”

I am prostrate before You, Gods.

(…and a friend said the other day that Sox fans are religiously devoted to the game!)

[Update: The Sox win today. Are you a believer now, dear reader?]

Getting gouged at the garage

Should I trust Sears? They just found a nail on the side of my tire and claim they can't patch it, I'll have to buy a new tire. Only you can't just buy one tire for a Suburu station wagon. You have to buy four.

I feel like I'm getting scammed. But this is Sears: one nice thing you can say about a large corporation, you can complain to the higher ups. If they are scamming me, I know I have recourse. The bigwigs would probably lose the $300 than get bad publicity. You can't say that about the little guys.

If any mechanic out there is reading this and you know I'm getting screwed, drop me line! Otherwise I'll have to call Car Talk.

I hate the mall

I've been here for almost three hours.

'Nuff said about that

Cannibal dreams

Props to Kelly Dixon, University of Montana archeology professor who's featured in an article in this week's New Yorker: “What Happened at Alder Creek?” (Not available online.) It's about her attempts to do an archeology dig at the site of the infamous Donner Party camp, where it was alleged that the pioneer group, trapped in the mountain snow, were forced to eat their dead to survive.

Yuck.

The article, of course, was fabulously well written and included vivid accounts of the incident, including this one:

…the second relief effort arrived. It was later reported (and widely repeated) that the rescuers saw some of the Donner children “sitting upon a log, with their faces stained with blood, devouring the half-roasted liver and heart of the father”…and Trudeau carrying a severed leg. Some of the family were in surprisingly good condition. The leader of this relief noted in his diary, “At George Donner tent there were 3 stout hearty children.”

Who says the New Yorker is stuffy?

It may come as no surprise when Dixon and her team of archeologists find no evidence of human remains in the Donner hearth-site at the Alder creek site, article author, Dana Goodyear, seems disappointed. A fragment of bone, charred by cookfire, pitted by butchering techniques, possibly human, eludes even DNA analysis. The last chance to positively identify it lay with grad student Gwen Robbins, who's developed a technique of identifying bone by its molecular composition. As she studies the mysterious fragment, Goodyear peeks over her shoulder. Robbins, peers through the microscope, looks at the cells, takes out the sample and polishes it up a little more, puts it back in…

She finished looking at the slide, and, with a slight, nervous laugh, said, “This is not human.” She smiled. “Sadly.” The Bone, she said, belonged to a horse.

Unable to confirm that cannibalism occurred among the Donner Party, Dixon's teams misses out on national press. Imagine, then, the awkward scene at the champagne party for the archaeologists hosted by a Donner family descendant who was celebrating the good news. Maybe at last her family's name would be cleared.

Naturally I dreamed last night of eating human flesh. I woke up, gagging.

I'm still at the mall

I'm actually running out of things to say. Odd, that, don't you think?

This week's New Yorker had some nice things – amazing things, actually, and quite true – to say about Al Gore. The piece, “Ozone Man,” by David Remnick started with a plug of Gore's new documentary on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which despite some clunky film making, too much of Al Gore staring out windows or bent over a computer, Remnick says is “a brilliantly lucid, often riveting attempt to warn Americans off our hellbent path to global suicide.” And while the film “is not the most entertaining film of the year…it might be the most important.”

As Remnick compares Gore's clear and cogent message on the real dangers of global warming, Remnick can't help but compare the intelligence and drive behind the movie to the current President's…well…fantasy view of the issue, which consists of ignoring it or believing whatever crackpot theory contradicts the general scientific consensus and worldwide acceptance of the reality of climate change. (For example, Bush's' favorite environmental treatise on the subject was Michael Crichton's paranoid paleo-conservative science fiction fantasy, “State of Fear,” in which a cabal of left-wing extremists invent global warming to scare the world into submission.)

And, as always when we see Gore in the news or hear him speak, we are reminded of 2000 and what might have been:

If you are inclined to think that the unjustly awarded election of 2000 led to one of the worst Presidencies of this or any other era, it is not easy to look at Al Gore. He is the living reminder of all that might not have happened in the past six years (and of what might still happen in the coming two). Contrary to Ralph Nader's credo that there was no real difference between the major parties, it is close to inconceivable that the country and the world would not be in far better shape had Gore been allowed to assume the office that a plurality of voters wished him to have. One can imagine him as an intelligent and decent President, capable of making serious decisions and explaining them in the language of a confident adult. Imagining the alternative history is hard to bear…

Remnick acknowledges the mistakes Gore made in the 2000 presidential campaign, in which he ran a too conservative course and shied away from his pet issues that evoke his passion, such as the environment. And certainly there were a host of similar, passive actions by his party to roll over to the right's machinations surrounding the Florida recount. He has a tendency to try too hard to package himself – probably a byproduct of hanging out with the best self-inventor for eight years in the White House — however:

…in the context of the larger political movement, the current darkness, Gore can be forgiven his miscues and vanities. It is past time to recognize that, over a long career, his policy judgment and his moral judgment alike have been admirable and acute. Gore has been right about global warming since holding the first congressional hearing on the topic, twenty-six years ago. He was right about the role of the Internet, right about the need to reform welfare and cut the federal deficit, right about confronting Slobodan Milosevic in Bosnia and Kosovo. Since September 11th, he has been right about constitutional abuse, right about warrantless domestic spying, and right about the calamity of sanctioned torture. And in the case of Iraq, both before the invasion and after, he was right – courageously right – to distrust as fatally flawed the political and moral good faith, operational competence, and strategic wisdom of the Bush Administration.

Amen.

In a post I wrote on Friday accusing Hillary Clinton bashers of being guilty of paleo-conservative misogyny, I asked for some critical challenges to Clinton's policy, not the personality constructed by a hostile right-wing pundits. Well, I got some, including a cool link from jessie to a Molly Ivins editorial declaring her un-support for Sen. Clinton’s presidential bid. The excerpt relevant to this post on Gore:

The recent death of Gene McCarthy reminded me of a lesson I spent a long, long time unlearning, so now I have to re-learn it. It's about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief

Since Gore lost the 2000 election, it seems he's bowed out of electoral politics. The speeches he's given have been amazing, especially his attack on the President's domestic spying policy, in which he correctly noted that our nation is in no unique danger (compared to previous crises), and the President's hysterical grab of executive power is either cowardice or lust after power. Good stuff.

The point is, the speeches that Gore makes and the bold, decisive rhetoric we see from him are probably the result of his exit from electoral politics. He's stumping, speaking honestly and clearly about the issues he cares about, something he'd never do if he was still considering national office. And yet…this clarity, this honesty, this competency, is exactly what's needed now to lift the nation out the myriad crises the present administration and its right extremist allies have wrought.

Do I think Gore would make a better President than our current one? H*ll, yeah! But then again, my auto mechanic would do a better job. Do I think Gore would be a good President? Absolutely. Do I think he could win the 2008 election? There's the rub.

The media lashed him pretty good in 2000. The general public – even most Democrats – has a negative image of the man. I think, if Gore chose to run, two things would need to happen for him to win: First, the media would need to be kinder to him – and they might, realizing how important the election will be in 2008. Second, Gore would have to run a good campaign – and I think that means continuing his bold, genuine ideas flowing.

I’ll leave this post with a few thoughts from Ivins on the conflict between the “liberal” end of the Democratic party, represented by Feingold and his blogger “allies,” and the “centrist” wing, represented by Lieberman, Clinton, and the other right-moving polticos. This is Ivins’ cry:

The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF?

My answer to Ivins: follow the money.

Okay. I admit it. I am often irritated in Boston Globe sports columnists' periennial sour take on anything Red Sox. Take today's column by Bob Ryan, "Will ounce of prevention be the best medicine?" In the column, Ryan sees only future troubles in the Sox' second-best record in MLB, a paltry half-game behind the Mets. He cites the paucity of runs in the first few games won by the Sox, notably in last night's loss to Tampa Bay ace-in-waiting, Scott Kazmir, who allowed a single run in a 5-1 victory.

…there will be more than a few nights like Thursday, April 20, when the Red Sox were not much of a threat with bats in their hands against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays…the offense cannot continue like this if the Sox are going to be successful.

[snip]

There are limited sources of official offensive thunder and lightening on this team. You've got David Ortiz, you've got Manny, and, frankly, you don't even have a legitimate No. 5 hitter (last night it was Mike Lowell). If Manny doesn't start being Manny soon, Big Papi will start paying his price. Given the futile swings he had the last two nights [in which the Sox took the series against Tampa Bay, 2 games to 1], that may be happening already.

The complaint is that the team is built around pitching and defense, the philosophy espoused by Boston GM and wunderkind, Theo Epstein.

Cry me a river! Sure the Sox are 10th in the AL in runs scored this year, but they're first in team ERA. Yes. Read that again. First.

Consider this: leadoff man Coco Crisp has played in five games. Manny Ramirez, who hit 45 HRs with 144 RBIs last year had exactly one extra-base hit in the first 15 games, a double against Tampa Bay in the opening game of the recent three-game series.

Oh yeah, and tonight he's hit two home runs.

Cry me a river, indeed. If you had told me before the season started that Crisp would spend most of April on the DL, that Manny would get his first homer on April 21, Clement's ERA would be in the 7s, Foulke's knees acting up again, and no discernable fifth starter, I would have been happy with…what? Five wins in fifteen games?

Face it: the Sox haven't hit their stride yet.

But that's the nature of the Boston press. They're still living in a pre-2004 mindset. In fact the Sox' recent World Series victory was probably resented by only one man in all of New England: Globe columnist, Dan Shaughnessy. Why? Because he had a nice little side gig going from his book, "The Curse of the Bambino," which played so nicely with the media and got him a ton of appearances to explain why the Sox couldn't win. H*ll, he wrote a children's book about the curse!

Now? Based on the Amazon's reviews, no one's even read his book since 2005. Instead of brilliant baseball personality, now he's just some bitter crank.

Here's a story to better illustrate the Sox and the media:

Before the 1988 season, Boston signed closer Lee Smith for a then-gaudy 3-year $3+ million contract. (Those were the days.) Expectations were high that Lee would salvage a herefore atrocious bullpen. (And he did, saving 29 with a sub-3.00 ERA, helping the Sox to the playoffs.) But on his first game with the Sox, he blew a two- or three- run lead in the ninth and Boston lost.

Headline on the front page of the Boston Globe? "Wait 'til next year."

Why hate Hillary?

In today's Billings Gazette, reader Daniel Hathaway asks a simple question

Seems strange that GOP should vilify Hillary Clinton

After hearing Sen. Burns' new political ad, I was struck with the question, why do the conservatives hate Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy so much?

I recognize Ted Kennedy had a scandal involving the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, and he is unabashedly liberal. However, I wish someone would enlighten me, and tell me specifically what Hillary did that was so terrible as to warrant their hatred of her. Her signature issue involving health care merely shows that she has compassion for the millions of Americans without access to medical care.

They are trying to vilify Hillary, but they have no specific issues, and she has done nothing illegal or immoral that I am aware of. Of course, there is the witch hunt that Ken Starr led, costing us many millions of dollars and led to nothing.

I've always wondered this, too. What did Hillary Clinton do to earn the enmity of so many conservatives? Clinton has pursued moderate to conservative policies while in the Senate. And while she played a larger political role than most First Ladies in American history, she did follow in the tradition of Dolly Madison and Elenor Roosevelt. Plus with her job experience and education she was more qualified to play a role in the White House than, well, our current president.

And it's a good question to ask, too, because it's likely she'll be gunning for the White House in 2008. She could be our next president!

The only reason I see for the Hillary-hate is some deep-rooted convictions in traditional-minded men that women should be docile, quiet, and passive. Hillary's outspoken demeanor, her naked ambition, her strong political canniness all play against their expectations. It's like they see her as a psychological freak, a twisted "he-girl" or something.

I say it's time we stop letting these paleo-conservatives dictate how we talk about our politicians. If you don't like H. Clinton's policies, fine. Name them and explain why they're bad. If you're going to spew misogynist garbage, I'm not listening.

Links…

Upcoming 60 Minutes will be about how the White House ignored WMD intelligence. I’m shocked, shocked!

A Fox News poll has Bush at a new low! Thirty-three percent approval! Holy smokes!

Salon’s Conason on attacking Iran: “Are They Nuts?

Oops! White House announcer calls Communist China by the wrong name, using the name of its archrival, Taiwan! D’oh!

A Globe story, ten years after winning the 1996 ALCS for the Yankees by pulling a Jeter fly ball into the stands for a home run, on Jeff Maier, now the all-time hits leader at Wesleyan.

If everything’s still on the table in regard to Iran, why stop at nukes? Let’s talk genocide. That’ll make us look determined! (Note to creep bob t: that was sarcasm.)

Do bloggers have “disproportionately large influence,” as a European research company concludes? Or not enough, as bloggers claim?

Plans for the staging of “Jesus Christ Superstar” at the former Nazi death camp, Majdanek, were nixed after…well…after someone thought about it for like two seconds.

First there was Santorum, the Senator. Then there was Santorum, the substance. Now, there’s Santorum, the bling-bling. (Apologies to Dan Savage for stealing his words, but they’re so darn good!)

New White House CoS considering dumping former SCOTUS nominee, Harriet Miers. There’s a message here, isn’t there?

A WSJ editorial on bloggers: “But it looks to me as if the world of blogs may be filling up with people who for the previous 200 millennia of human existence kept their weird thoughts more or less to themselves. Now, they don't have to. They've got the Web. Now they can share.”

A series of stories about the Chinese President’s US visit, “That Pesky Freedom of Speech Thing.”

Matt Cooper, the Time reporter and only one who came out of the Plame affair looking better for it, was promoted to Political Editor of Time.com. Congrats, Matt. Good work was rewarded.

Here’s a finalist for the White House spokesman job that really embodies the president’s commitment to transparency and openness in government!

Picture of the protester at the White House welcoming ceremony for Chinese president, Hu Jintao.

While I do understand that diplomatic events must have shelter from public protests, I'm glad somebody rattled the cage a little. I'm a little nervous about our nation's cozy relations with China, a Communist authoritarian state that holds our econonmic well-being in its fist.

Plus the analysis of the protest was pretty amusing.

From the AP report:

"It's hugely embarrassing," said Derek Mitchell, a former Asia adviser at the Pentagon and now an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

China "must know that this Bush administration is good at controlling crowds for themselves, and the fact that they couldn't control this is going to play to their worst fears and suspicions about the United States, into mistrust about American intentions toward China."

Well gold-darn it! If there aren't still elements of democratic expression in the US, despite the Bush administration's efforts!

Much has already been made in the Montana blogosphere over the John Adams story in the Missoula Independent over unaswered questions in Morrison's handling of his office's investigation of a husband of a former mistress for security violations.

The basic gist of the article is this: Morrison's office was extraordinarily lenient on David Tacke considering his violations and later convictions by federal authorities. Also, Morrison was more involved in the case than his recent statements on the matter would lead us to believe.

The question is, did Morrison's personal entanglements in the case affect his investigation? Adams seems to think so.

Before I rush to judgement I'd like to know if this investigation differed from the others in its prosecutorial zeal (or lack thereof). I'd also want Morrison and his staff directly address the question raised by the article.

But the bottom line is this — and I'm essentially agreeing with Alex Rosenleaf — Morrison needs to come clean NOW, or he needs to drop out of the race. This Senate race is too important. If Conrad Burns retains his seat that means effectively an end to the Democrats' chance to win the Senate, which means continued corruption, brainless support of the Bush administration, and general worsening of America's security, health, sanity, economy, and civil liberties.

We can't afford a Morrison win in the primaries, and then a Morrison loss in the general election because the issues surrounding his professional ethics bloom suddenly in mid-October.

Today’s creep is a fellow resident of Missoula, a certain Martin E. Weinstein who apparently doesn’t understand his basic civil liberties. In fact, Mr. Weinstein’s logic was so ridiculously hypocritical and convoluted, I almost forgave him the title of “creep,” which I like to reserve for people who are aware of their meanness of spirit. Weinstein seems merely confused. Maybe someone in need of a little Zoloft as well. (I think I may have seen this guy talking to himself down by the train tracks this weekend.)

Anyway, Weinstein’s letter to the Missoulian:

Professor is indoctrinating students

Gov. Brian Schweitzer and the Missoulian may want to reconsider their enthusiastic support for the petition for pardon for Ben Kahn, convicted in 1918 of violating Montana's now-defunct Sedition Act for opposing our involvement in World War I (“Righting a Wrong,” Missoulian, April 9).

This petition was initiated not by the descendants of Ben Kahn, but by University of Montana journalism professor Clemens P. Work, who “inspired”14 of his students to research the lives of people convicted under the Sedition Act. Professor Work believes that the Patriot Act shows a “stark resemblance” to the Sedition Act, and that both violate the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech.

First, let’s look at Montana’s “Sedition Act.” From the Sedition Project:

"Whenever the United States shall be engaged in war, any person or persons who shall utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, violent, scurrilous, contemptuous, slurring or abusive language about the form of government of the United States, or the constitution of the United States, or the soldiers or sailors of the United States, or the flag of the United States, or the uniform of the army or navy of the United States…or shall utter, print, write or publish any language calculated to incite or inflame resistance to any duly constituted Federal or State authority in connection with the prosecution of the War…shall be guilty of sedition."

The Patriot Act, of course, does not use such strong and clear language to discourage dissent. Instead, it defines “terrorist” in such vague terms – then denies basic civil liberties for those accused of terrorism – that just about anybody who participates in a protest against the government could fall under that definition. (See an earlier post for the language of the Patriot act in defining “terrorist.”)

(While the Patriot Act so far hasn’t been used to prosecute anti-war activists, such “radical groups” as the Quakers have come under federal scrutiny through the Patriot Act’s provisions.)

While Work’s opinion may set him against the Bush administration’s policies and rhetoric, his comparison of Montana’s Sedition Act to the Patriot Act is not without basis. He’s not some out-there crank making sh*t up.

Weinstein:

While Work is certainly free to publish his views, it is a dangerous, destructive abuse of academic freedom to use his classroom to indoctrinate students. Political indoctrination destroys free inquiry and standards. Students are graded not by quality, but by their political correctness – just as they were in Nazi Germany or the Communist Soviet Union. This petition is not an expression of free speech. It is a classroom assignment.

Of course, no one is forced to take the class, and I assume that there are other projects available to the students. Also, Weinstein’s claim that students are graded by “political correctness” completely lacks any basis in reality as unsupported as it is by any evidence and informed only by his own prejudice. Furthermore, to compare a professor who advocates that citizens should enjoy more freedom from government than they currently have to Nazi or Stalinist propagandists is completely unsound, unreasonable, and absurd. Nazis and Stalinists wanted less dissent against the government; Work wants more.

Professor Work and his ilk are misusing the First Amendment to destroy our Constitution and the United States, trying to lead us to a neo-Marxist utopia that would be a totalitarian state. They are sowing the seeds of defeat in Iraq in the name of freedom. They are in practice the unholy allies of Islamic terrorists.

The funniest thing I’ve read all week!

Misusing the First Amendment…to promote freedom of speech???

Apparently Weinstein thinks the only appropriate use for the free speech is to freely support the Bush administration, Our Great Leader, in his Quest to Democratize the World through Military Might.

How the exercising of our civil liberties will necessarily lead us to a “neo-Marxist utopia that would be a totalitarian state,” I’ll leave you to figure out. (To me it sounds like this guy needs to leave his tinfoil-wrapped motel room.)

“Unholy allies of Islamic terrorists”? Uh oh, using the “t-word” against Work. Hm, maybe speaking out against civil liberties is working for terrorists? Hm, maybe pursuing pre-emptive strikes against Mid East nations only encourages terrorists? Whatever. Don’t use the “t-word” in an argument. It’s inane. It’s an attempt to shut down discussion through the use of fear.

The Missoulian article concludes by telling us: “Schweitzer, whose German speaking ancestors immigrated to eastern Montana and were denied the right to speak their native language, said he won't stand to see those constitutional freedoms denied again.” Please, give us a break. The Schweitzers seem to have done pretty well here under our supposedly oppressive system.

What would a paranoid rant against academia, civil liberties, and freedom of thought be without a gratuitous swipe at the state’s Democrat governor?

Links…

Wulfgar’s! second take on the Democratic Bozeman debate.

Matt Singer has a dead on take of the “new American right.”

Speedkill’s political platform is available for viewing! Now all we need is a primary and a logo. How about…a banana slug? a moose? tortoise?

Meanwhile, while Burns’ office complains about the “Hollywood” money going to Montana Democrats, the good Senator has a fundraiser planned in Napa Valley.

Georgia10 doesn’t see much of a “shake-up” in the recent White House staff changes.

Many on the right don’t believe in global warming, because…well…it doesn’t fit in with their politics. But big insurance companies are buying into the theory because they’d be fools not to. BTW, hurricane season is a month away and there’s still no one heading FEMA.

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson’s office calls a constituent an “asshole” in a letter. Hilarity ensues.

Yahoo continues to help China nab dissidents. So much for the “free market” encouraging democracy. Once again it looks like we’ll have to do it ourselves.

Press Think has an awesome summation of Scott McClellan’s role in the White House: “McClellan was a cog in a machine for making the executive power more opaque, and the presidency itself less dialogic.” (Also, as quoted in the post, “He’s Piggy in Lord of the Flies: a living victim, whose reason for being is, apparently, to shoulder public ridicule and pain…”) I’m glad he’s gone; he was an annoying man. Don’t expect any better from this administration, though.

More on daddy-daughter “purity ceremonies”: World O’ Crap found an “abstinence jewelry web site,” which sells little lockable lockets with a key that daddy gets to keep until his daughter’s marriage day. (“And by ‘locket,’ I mean “vagina.”)

The Cunning Realist on today’s economic conditions, which mirror Germany in the 1920s before the stock market crash. Ugh.

Here's an interesting editorial co-authored by Democratic Senators Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton that is definitely a step in the right direction towards bridging the gap between the opposing sides in the debate.

Basically they realize that both sides want to decrease abortion.

We believe that it is necessary for all Americans to join together and embrace policies that will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, decrease abortions and improve access to women's health care.

There is no question that the rate of unintended pregnancy is too high in the United States.

Half of the 6 million pregnancies each year in this country are unintended, and nearly half of these unplanned pregnancies end in abortion. It doesn't have to be this way.

Most of these unintended pregnancies — and the resulting abortions — can be prevented if we eliminate the barriers that prevent women from having access to affordable and effective contraception.

The bill they're suggesting would make contraceptives easily accessible and cheap and covered by health insurance. They would also fully fund programs that assist low-income women with carrying their children to term, programs that were gutted by Bush.

This proposal is definitely a step in the right direction. As I've written before an abortion ban would lead to excessive governmental intrusion into our private lives and likely to prove damaging to millions of young women across the country. And an abortion ban wouldn't stop abortions, it would just criminalize them and those who have them.

Still, I don't think these proposals go far enough. What about day care services? What about increased support for single moms? What about drug treatment programs? What about job training programs and living wage initiatives?

Basically I think it's important to do two things to prevent abortions: (1) Decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies. (2) Fight the economic and social conditions that make women want to get abortions.

Banning abortion and making contraceptives difficult to acquire really isn't a solution: it's a judgement. An abortion/contraceptives ban creates from an outdated moral dichtomy (sexuality = bad; asexuality = good) an oppressive law harmful to the poor. (That the anti-abortion movement is based on "Christian" values also makes it ironic.) Why impose draconian measures when, by eliminating the need for abortions, we're actually bettering our communities doing so?

In the most recent links post, I put up a link to Rolling Stone's latest cover story by Princeton professor, Sean Wilenz, "The Worst President in History?" When I first saw the magazine cover, I assumed I'd be in for a gonzo-esque romp of rhetorical excess and snarkiness.

Imagine my surprise when the article proved quite well written, reasonable, and clear in its indictments of the Bush presidency.

Here are some highlights from the article:

In early 2004, an informal survey of 415 historians conducted by the nonpartisan History News Network found that eighty-one percent considered the Bush administration a "failure." Among those who called Bush a success, many gave the president high marks only for his ability to mobilize public support and get Congress to go along with what one historian called the administration's "pursuit of disastrous policies." In fact, roughly one in ten of those who called Bush a success was being facetious, rating him only as the best president since Bill Clinton — a category in which Bush is the only contestant.

So even the few that consider Bush a "success," consider him successful because he's compelled Congress – and in some cases, the public – to go along with his disastrous policies. Some “success.”

Ah, but these respondents are college professors. They’re liberals, right?

Contrary to popular stereotypes, historians are generally a cautious bunch. We assess the past from widely divergent points of view and are deeply concerned about being viewed as fair and accurate by our colleagues. When we make historical judgments, we are acting not as voters or even pundits, but as scholars who must evaluate all the evidence, good, bad or indifferent. Separate surveys, conducted by those perceived as conservatives as well as liberals, show remarkable unanimity about who the best and worst presidents have been.

Historians do tend, as a group, to be far more liberal than the citizenry as a whole — a fact the president's admirers have seized on to dismiss the poll results as transparently biased. One pro-Bush historian said the survey revealed more about "the current crop of history professors" than about Bush or about Bush's eventual standing. But if historians were simply motivated by a strong collective liberal bias, they might be expected to call Bush the worst president since his father, or Ronald Reagan, or Nixon. Instead, more than half of those polled — and nearly three-fourths of those who gave Bush a negative rating — reached back before Nixon to find a president they considered as miserable as Bush. The presidents most commonly linked with Bush included Hoover, Andrew Johnson and Buchanan. Twelve percent of the historians polled — nearly as many as those who rated Bush a success — flatly called Bush the worst president in American history. And these figures were gathered before the debacles over Hurricane Katrina, Bush's role in the Valerie Plame leak affair and the deterioration of the situation in Iraq. Were the historians polled today, that figure would certainly be higher.

Only those who never actually went to college – or who were ideologically motivated to nitpick with professors – will agree that most academicians are a conservative bunch when it comes to making general historical claims. That is – unlike we nasty partisan bloggers – they research, weigh facts, support argument with evidence. They are not hasty.

In fact, that’s what struck me about this particular article – it was so careful with its argument! It’s very compelling. Admittedly, I agreed with the premise written into the title, so I am an accepting audience. Still, it’s very difficult not to realize how terrible this president is. You have to work very hard to find any positive benefits from this administration’s foreign policy practices, let alone in its fiscal and domestic agenda here at home. (Except maybe the immigration thing.) The article carefully negotiates the pitfalls associated with partisanship and offers a clear, compelling case for Dinky’s place in history. Dead last.

How does any president's reputation sink so low? The reasons are best understood as the reverse of those that produce presidential greatness. In almost every survey of historians dating back to the 1940s, three presidents have emerged as supreme successes: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. These were the men who guided the nation through what historians consider its greatest crises: the founding era after the ratification of the Constitution, the Civil War, and the Great Depression and Second World War. Presented with arduous, at times seemingly impossible circumstances, they rallied the nation, governed brilliantly and left the republic more secure than when they entered office.Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties — Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Hoover and now Bush — have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off. In each case, different factors contributed to the failure: disastrous domestic policies, foreign-policy blunders and military setbacks, executive misconduct, crises of credibility and public trust. Bush, however, is one of the rarities in presidential history: He has not only stumbled badly in every one of these key areas, he has also displayed a weakness common among the greatest presidential failures — an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities. Repeatedly, Bush has undone himself, a failing revealed in each major area of presidential performance.

The article goes on in detail comparing Bush’s credibility and foreign policy performance with past presidents, both good and bad. One of the more interesting reasons why author Wilenz says Bush failed to successfully capitalize on the unified feelings of the US after 9/11 in implement a smart, post-9/11 policy is that he was fiercely partisan, unlike former, successful “wartime” presidents like Lincoln, FDR, and JFK (see “Cuban Missile Crisis,” you Kennedy haters!). Bush has also repeatedly and clumsily ignored the advice of conservative foreign policy leaders, like James Baker and Brent Scowcraft.

The article goes on to blast Bush’s irresponsible deficit-building fiscal policy, his attacks on science, his coupling the GOP to Christian fundamentalism, his indifference to domestic disaster, and the general corruption and scandals besetting his administration. But how history may impugn Bush is for his attempts to expand the power of the executive:

…the Bush administration — in seeking to restore what Cheney, a Nixon administration veteran, has called "the legitimate authority of the presidency" — threatens to overturn the Framers' healthy tension in favor of presidential absolutism…the Bush White House has declared that the president's powers as commander in chief in wartime are limitless. No previous wartime president has come close to making so grandiose a claim. More specifically, this administration has asserted that the president is perfectly free to violate federal laws on such matters as domestic surveillance and the torture of detainees. When Congress has passed legislation to limit those assertions, Bush has resorted to issuing constitutionally dubious "signing statements," which declare, by fiat, how he will interpret and execute the law in question, even when that interpretation flagrantly violates the will of Congress.

And what about those comparisons to Lincoln? No, don’t laugh. They’ve been made in all seriousness. What about those claims?

The president's defenders stoutly contend that war-time conditions fully justify Bush's actions. And as Lincoln showed during the Civil War, there may be times of military emergency where the executive believes it imperative to take immediate, highly irregular, even unconstitutional steps. "I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful," Lincoln wrote in 1864, "by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the Constitution, through the preservation of the nation." Bush seems to think that, since 9/11, he has been placed, by the grace of God, in the same kind of situation Lincoln faced. But Lincoln, under pressure of daily combat on American soil against fellow Americans, did not operate in secret, as Bush has. He did not claim, as Bush has, that his emergency actions were wholly regular and constitutional as well as necessary; Lincoln sought and received Congressional authorization for his suspension of habeas corpus in 1863. Nor did Lincoln act under the amorphous cover of a "war on terror" — a war against a tactic, not a specific nation or political entity, which could last as long as any president deems the tactic a threat to national security. Lincoln's exceptional measures were intended to survive only as long as the Confederacy was in rebellion. Bush's could be extended indefinitely, as the president sees fit, permanently endangering rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution to the citizenry.

I’m sure these pronouncements will be decried by the usual gang of apologists who refuse to see how incompetent and dangerous their president and their party’s unflagging loyalty. There will be doubters who insist on a third way, a “rational” view of events, a claim that we can’t guess Bush’s position in history now, that it’s a useless exercise.

To those I say the effects of this presidency are real. I say this president is a menace to this country, here, now. The evidence is there. Get your heads out of the sand. Or other dark, enclosed spaces I will not mention on this fine family site. You might feel superior by floating above “partisan” attacks, but you will not want to regret your inaction some day. What will you say when a body asks, “what did you do when Bush was president?”

To everybody else – the majority, by far – let this article serve as a reminder of why we have to work to oust corrupt, incompetent supporters of Bush, like Conrad Burns. It’s not too late.

Links…

Sorry about the lack of posts recently. I’ve had a rough couple of days. Wife was in Oregon until yesterday afternoon, leaving me to handle the twins by myself. And last night my daughter (let’s call her “Ms. Marvelous,” like she prefers) caught a “stomach ‘flu” – which is a nice way of saying I didn’t get much sleep and still smell faintly of vomit.

PSA: If you’ve got an event you think should be posted on Matt Singer’s website, drop him a line.

Wulfgar! has posted his thoughts on the debate between Montana's Democratic Senate candidates.

Apparently Idaho leads the nation in the number of drunk liberals. Which makes sense considering the hue of the state’s politics. (BTW, if you haven’t checked out Sara’s blog yet, do.)

Livingston, I Presume has a nice post up on why HSAs suck if you’re anything besides a young male. And they probably wouldn’t bother signing up in the first place.

Why do conservatives hate demo— er, okay…why does this one, particular conservative, unique and unusual, alone in his extremist beliefs, hate the First Amendment?

Looks like Rolling Stone already has Dinky’s spot in history marked out. I’m with RS – the worst presidents were considered bad by their contemporaries. No president considered incompetent or worse by a majority of the electorate was exonerated by history.

Attywood has heard the latest scuttlebutt on who’s going to replace Scott McClellan. Meet “Beltway Bob.” You may remember him.

This is the kind of dreck you find on the right end of the spectrum.

So much for another point in Bush’s rhetoric, that we wish to promote “democracy” through the world. See Condi Rice cuddling up to a vicious African dictator.

Iraqi Body Count has an interesting report by the Oxford Research Group posted that explores the possible outcome of an air strike against Iran. The conclusion? Just what you’d expect from a BushCo policy: clusterf*ck.

Oh, by the way. According to a retired Air Force colonel, the operations have already begun.

Weird, icky, creepy: the Christian fundamentalists’ father-daughter purity ball. Dads get their daughters, as young as seven, to pledge to save their virginity until marriage. (Excerpt from the girls’ pledge: “I pledge to remain sexually pure…until the day I give myself as a wedding gift to my husband…”)

C&L on “The Decider.” Video, too!

Whither the Rocket?

The biggest story in baseball no one’s talking about – distracted as they are by Barry Bonds – is where Roger Clemens will play baseball this summer. So far, he’s been noncommittal about his future. He’s hinted he’s done. But anyone that knows Roger Clemens knows he’s going to play one last summer. He’s competitive, he’s arrogant, he loves the accolade. He’s also probably already driving his wife and kids crazy. So expect one more summer with the boys.

And I predict he’s going to play for the Boston Red Sox.

I know, I know. I’m a Sox fan. My prediction is biased you say, and you’re probably right. But I have reasons. Let’s look at the other teams Clemens is semi-publicly considering:

Texas

Why? It’s his hometown team. It’s where Nolan Ryan spent his last years in the game. How sweet would it be for the hometown boy to come home and help the club win its first world championship?

Why not? Because there’s no way in h*ll this team even makes the playoffs, let alone wins the championship. The problem, as always, is pitching. Millwood isn’t the answer, Padilla is set to implode at any moment. (Paying attention, Padilla owners?) The Texas heat and the cement-like infield in Arlington roasts home-town hurlers. Clemens probably wants to go out on top, not with a 6+ ERA.

New York Yankees

Why? Roger won his two rings with the Yanks. And don’t think he wants to be considered alongside the all-time Yankee greats like Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Mays. With the Yanks’ roster full of sluggers, he’d have an excellent opportunity to add substantially to his career wins’ list, currently holding steady at 341. And, as always, the Yanks could win it all this year. They are contenders.

Why not? The Yankees suck.

Seriously! The team is full of bloated contracts, has-been superstars, and immense egos. Reports have the Boss going senile, the team is preparing for sale, there’s no apparent franchise plan in place, and all the tough Yanks from the championship years of a decade ago are long gone. This is the team of Sheff and A-Rod. Even Jeter looks annoyed playing for the Yankees.

Houston

Why? Houston’s advantage is that it’s in Texas and the Houston ownership will basically bend over backwards to please Clemens. Want to play only in home games? No problem. Want to sleep in on the weekends? Sure thing, Roger. Want to rename Houston to “Clemensville” or “Rogertown”? Done. Why not “Rocket City”? (Seriously that would rock!)

Why not? Apparently the Astros “disrespected” Clemens for not offering him arbitration. Er…whatever the reason, it appears that Roger is done with Houston. Maybe he wants to play in a baseball town. Maybe he wants people to come to games after football mini-camp starts. Maybe the city is too polluted for him. Who knows. He’s done with Houston.

That leaves us…Boston

Why? Because it’s the only fan base in the US that actively loathes Roger Clemens. (That’s right, I’m not counting Toronto.) This is his chance to win them over, which he will if he picks Boston over New York and finishes his career where he started. I mean, the story practically writes itself, doesn’t it? “Wayward son wins championship and city’s heart.”

Clemens left the city in a huff, but he was mad with then-GM and alien robot, Dan Duquette. The current ownership group is classy, they patched up relations with Tommy Harper, Jim Rice, and Carlton Fisk, and they let Pesky dress up in a Sox uniform again after being banned by Duquette. And there’s boy genius, Theo! Theo convinced Schilling to sign with the Sox over Thanksgiving dinner – don’t you think he’s going to tweak Clemens’ buttons, too? And this team has a great shot this year – despite my weak prediction – unlike the Yanks, the Sox have starting pitching, a bullpen, and defense along with their bats.

But the main reason Clemens will sign with Boston is the clubhouse. More specifically, the ornery, arrogant, and tough-as-nails pitching tandem of Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett. These guys, for better or worse, are the inheritors of Clemens-style pitching and Clemens-style attitude. Can’t you see Beckett, Clemens, and Schilling side-by-side-by-side on the bench spitting sunflower seeds and scowling at the opposition? Who else would Roger Clemens want to sit next to for the rest of the summer?




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