Archive for July, 2006

What about that trade between the Phillies and Yankees? Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle for four minor leaguers.

Maybe it’s just sour grapes pushing my pen here — I’m a Red Sox fan and my team nurses a half-game lead over the Yanks — but this trade was obscene. Abreu and Lidle for four minor leaguers? None of them remarkable, even. If one of them becomes an everyday major leaguer, the Phillies will be lucky. Of course, the Phillies didn’t make this trade for the prospects. They did it to dump Abreu’s contract, some $20 million dollars for the rest of this year and the next.

Apparently the Yanks were the only team to afford the price tag.

I’m not advocating a salary cap, which has made basketball a mess (but has made football a lot of fun). But the current financial structure that allows only one team to afford the services of a player that may tip the balance of power in the entire American League is…repulsive. The Yankees have spent foolishly of late, especially on pitching. Yet not only do they have the resources to continue making mistakes, they have the resources to fix those mistakes midseason. The wins the Yankees accrue are not earned through baseball skill, but with money.

On the other hand, I don’t believe all teams should necessarily play on the same financial level. The Royals, for example, don’t have the same size fan base — should their smaller support reward them with the same payroll as the Yankees? And few people complain about the Red Sox or Orioles who, while rich, who are forced to live with the expensive mistakes they make. You can still outsmart the Orioles with half the money.

(The Times’ Murray Chass predictably blamed the Phillies for the trade, not the imbalance of team wealth.)

Perhaps there’s no real solution. The Yanks’ wayward — almost desperate — spending may reflect the waning health of the Boss. Maybe he wants a championship before he gives up the team. And it’s hard to imagine an owner or ownership group who are as impulsive and demanding and free with their money as Steinbrenner. Maybe the problem goes away when the team ownership changes hands.

(By the way, a snarkier blogger might note that Steinbrenner and Castro seem to be in similar shape…)

Ultimately my b*tching is an expression of fear. With Abreu and Lidle, it’s obvious the Yankees are more than a half game better than they were before. The Red Sox may have just been bought out of the playoffs.

Just the other day during my rant against the local dailies for not adequately covering the story behind the funding for the terrible trio of initiatives, I mentioned that newspapers are strangely resistant to new technologies that could bring in extra revenue. As if on cue, the New York Times reported on the Washington Post’s contract with an online aggregator, which will post links to other newspapers on the WaPo’s site. It’s a rarity for papers to acknowledge that their traditional counterparts exist, let alone send ‘em their readers.

It’s counterintuitive — to traditional publishers, at least — but putting links up on your site to other related sites only increases your own page views.

Newspaper Web sites, which commonly post articles from sister publications, wire services and even blogs, have typically stopped short of providing generous doses of news from competitors. The move made by these papers is not a result of cooperation across the industry as it is a counterattack by publishers against Google and Yahoo, which have stolen readers and advertisers from newspapers in recent years, both with their search engines and their own news aggregation services.

Those, like me, who want to read the news first go to Google’s “News” page and check out the top stories for the day. Each story has a number of links — a reader can quickly cycle through all the different newspapers’ versions. You can also enter a name or topic and see the different papers’ stories. That’s how I see the different coverage of, say, Montana’s initiatives.

The point is, the Billings Gazette, say, could retain all the clicks related to my searches on local issues with a similar aggregator. Imagine, you open a Gazette story about Schweitzer — in the sidebar, you’d see all the other Montana papers’ stories on that same topic. Why would you start or end on any other Montana newspaper? All the clicks lost by the other papers are gained by the Gazette.

The ironic part of this story is that it’s the Times reporting on the Post’s innovation. Lately the Times has lost favor among bloggers because it put all of its regular columnists behind its firewall. You have to pay to read portions of its content. Thousands of political junkies transferred daily devotion to the Washington Post, which has augmented its print coverage with extra online content — bloggers, comments, live chats with reporters and the ombudsman, etc. Suddenly the WaPo — among the online community — has become the paper of record.

The Missoulian, by denying online users some of its content and having an awkward user interface, is in danger of becoming irrelevant outside of its immediate locale, especially if another Montana paper used an aggregator. Why would anyone ever visit the Missoulian’s online site again? (Except if you happen to live in Missoula.)

The point to this post is a plea for openness and availability. It’s good for business, it’s good for the community, and it’s good for partisan hacks and their broke-down blogs, like this one.

I’m away on vacation when Burns gets primal on some firefighters? Just my luck. I missed the furor, Burns’ “apology“, hot shot reactions, etc & co.

It’s not every day that a partisan hack like myself is handed such a gem from a prominent politician. And me away on vacation!Nonetheless, the wheels of 4&20 blackbirds must continue to churn! Luckily I got my hands on a secret memo from Burns’ campaign, an interesting document that appears to be penned by the Senator himself! Apparently the Senator has been meeting with some of his constituents, and boy is he hopping mad! Here are some future targets of Burns’ wrath (names removed to protect the innocent):

Teachers. XXXXX told me some fancy east coast elite flunked his son in algebra! You think the money XXXXX pays to Andover Academy would guarantee his son git all As! Outrage! When I git back to Montana, you bet I’ll give them Billings public high school teachers a piece of my mind! Them over-edercated elites sittin’ around drinking lattes collecting their fat paychecks from the gummit! What do they make anyway? 200 grand? 300 grand?

Police officers. Someone on my staff tol’ me his car was broken into in Missoula at 2am in the parking lot of a strip club. Wha’s goin’ on here? There’s crime in Montana? What are them police officers doin’? Eatin’ donuts? Lazy good fer nothings, collecting their million dollars a year, workin’ four-hour shifts! Wait til I give them cowardly do-nuthins’ a piece o’ my mind!

U.S. soldiers. Ol’ VP XXXXX tol’ me that there oil in Iraq still ain’t secure! Plus he says Halliburton stock’s droppin — some malingerer complained about water quality his company supplies to a base. When I was a Marine gas prices was cheap! Whadda them lazy folks in Iraq doin’? Someone tol’ me that there’s still fightin’ goin on over there, too! What the h[*]ll? What’s it been? A couple of months since we invaded? What are them lazy soldiers doin’? Sittin around fraternizin’ with Iraqi girls? Smoking freaky weed? I’m gittin’ on a plane and flyin’ over there and givin them grunts a piece of my mind! With the money we pay them boys and the top-of-the-line equipment they get, they better not be sittin’ on their duffs on R-and-R enjoyin’ the sights of Baghdad, or they’ll hear from me!

Preemies. Met with the insurance lobbyist boys. They hoppin’ mad about the costs Missoula’s Community Hospital is rackin’ up in their infant ICU, takin’ care of all them babies too lazy to work to stay in the womb and work on their lungs and heart, instead choosin’ to git a free ride in them incubators where nurses feed them by hand and doctors always peekin’ in to see how they doin’! Can’t wait to get to the hospital to give them babies a piece of my mind! I should also give them pregnant welfare moms a piece of my mind, too, let ’em know they gotta carry to term!

As you can see, Connie is on the warpath against all the parasites of society who slack off and allow things to go to h*ll. Strap on your seat belts, Montana, else Burns will be in your face letting you know exactly what’s wrong with you!

Links…

PSA: I’ll be out of town Friday through Monday, so 4&20 blackbirds will be idle. But set your calendars! I’ll be back…

Shane Mason offers computer support, web design for any Montana Democrat or Independent candidate. Gratis!

The Rolling Stones are really coming to town!

Pogie weighs in on the Washington court decision to uphold the ban on same-sex marriage.

Howie Rich ‘fesses up…he funded Montana’s cr*p initiatives.

Burns goes after firefighters…maybe they made some mistakes, but these guys are putting their lives on the line…

Ed Kemmick finds WaPo columnist EJ Dionne’s piece on Republicans using pork for the ’06 midterms. (Burns featured!)

Nicole finds something nice to say about Baucus. No! Really!

Tester stops by Missoula.

Randy Stapilus has some less-than-optimistic words about Idaho’s House race, yet still thinks Sali stinks and Grant a great candidate. (Via Red State Rebels.)

Poll out on US views on Iraq: we’re a cut-n-run nation.

Was Iraqi PM Maliki’s speech written for him by the Bush administration? Probably.

Specter, on why he pretty much handed the Constitution over to the Prez: “…President Bush’s agreement to submit the program to the intelligence court was no simple concession. ‘Have you ever gotten a concession from a president?’ [Specter] demanded…” Funny that, getting the President to recognize that Congress exists is a concession? How ‘bout some Congressional smack-down, Specter?

Why Kofi Annan believes Israel deliberately targeted a UN observation post for bombing.

Colbert takes on Good Morning, America and the Today Show. Colbert wins.

Whenever John Stossel annoys you, just click on this link.

The latest to connect the dots between Montana’s extremist ballot initatives – 98, 154, and – and real estate mogul Howie Ric is the Independent’s Alyssa Work: “Following the Money.”

The story features a closer look at Jon Motl, the Helena lawyer challenging for a right to peek into Travis Butcher’s Montanans in Action (a misnomer, if ever there was one), which has paid for a swarm of signature gatherers to cajole Montanans into signing petitions. The story, for the first time in a Montana print-based publication, acknowledges Howard Rich as a primary source of the money flowing in to the state.

Americans for Limited Government is chaired by New York’s lavish-spending libertarian Howard Rich. Connecting the dollar signs between Rich’s Chicago-based ALG and Montanans in Action has been mostly an exercise in speculation, since Montanans In Action’s finance report discloses no contributors, but Rich recently told High Country News that he gave $200,000 to MIA through his Fund for Democracy, and Butcher acknowledged in June that ALG had given a loan to MIA; the committees’ finance reports declare more than $8,000 in checks for loan repay to ALG “lost.” An e-mail Butcher sent to ALG President John Tillman requesting a routing number for a petition-gathering outfit is also in Motl’s complaint to suggest ties between the two organizations.

For those of you following this story closely, Work’s piece doesn’t bring much new to the table. But it does mean that the weekly has scooped the state’s dailies. No offense to the Independent, but the local papers have given the alternative paper plenty of time to get the story out first.

So why silence from the Missoulian, Gazette, IR, etc? I doubt if there’s a conspiracy to help Rich thwart the notion of government by remaining mum on his participation in these terrible initiatives. What’s more likely is that the papers are getting quotes and confirmation and trying to build a more thorough and less “speculative” story.

Which ultimately means they’re thumbing their noses at both the High Country News and blogger Hart Williams. Sure you might argue that information from sites like these is unreliable…but to ignore the stories completely? That just doesn’t make sense. HCN got a quote from Rich that acknowledges he funded these initiatives. Surely that is news, isn’t it?

According to the papers it ain’t news until one of them prints it. And until a newspaper prints the link between the initiatives and Howie Rich, they’re going to pretend nothing’s been said about it. And believe me, when a Montana reporter finally gets around to her fact-checking, you can bet your farm there won’t be a single mention of the blogs or High Country News or even the Independent when attributing the information. They’ll pretend its their story.

Of course I don’t really care if they take ownership of the story. I wish they would. That’s the problem. Tick tock, people! Time is money! Let’s get on it already!

Part of the problem, I suspect, is that these traditional news outlets are still struggling with changing technology and the impact on journalism it’s having. Take the Missoulian’s recent decision to put some of its stories behind a firewall…why would they do such a thing?

“On-line news sites have benefited by the subsidy they have received in form of free or discounted news that they get from print and broadcast media. At the Missoulian we employ 42 professional journalists who are paid professional wages. An online model alone will not support a staff of that size in a market the size of Missoula. They generate original content that is often reused by sites that contract with the Associated Press for their content, and is often used by other sites without our authorization or permission…”

There’s a feeling of conflict with blogs latent – or not so latent – in this statement. We’re a threat in the eyes of paleo-publishers. Forget that blogs actually increase visibility for a paper (look how much play the Gazette gets nationally for its coverage of Burns and the Abramoff scandal), just as downloading free music actually increases the sales of music.

Get over yourselves already traditional media people. Share your content with the world, get some cool online features on your site, and rake in the cash through a different sales model. Like selling ad space on your site. Or having subscription-based services with low overhead – job or dating boards, e.g. The better the website, the more readers you’ll have.

Here’s a little tidbit. I actually applied for the job of running the Missoulian’s online site. I suggested all these things, different models for revenue, different features to attract clicks, the whole kebang. I didn’t get the job. Based on their site, I’d say they picked a person whose previous experience was designing velvet wall hangings for metal bands.

Anyhoo…

Love the Internet. The other day when I posted about John Yoo, the administration’s legal hack who justified its most heinous acts, not only did I get some helpful copy editing (I had written John “Woo” instead of “Yoo”), but I got a fantastic link to a November 2005 article by David Cole that…well…destroys all of Yoo’s legal claims that form the basis for his rhetoric on an expansive executive.

According to the piece, Yoo is an “originalist,” one of those paleo-conservative legal minds who believes that the Constitution is not a “living” document – i.e., subject to changing interpretation based on changing values, like the idea that African Americans are the physical, mental, and political equals of whites – but that interpretation should be limited to framers’ intent and the actual text found in the document. (Justice Scalia is perhaps the most widely known originalist.)

Of course, like most conservative intellectuals, Yoo (and Scalia) really don’t adhere to their own ideology, in this case, the Constitution framers’ intent or the actual text of the document. Instead their rhetoric masks an antipathy towards a secular-based government touting individual liberties and a weak executive. Cole:

It is ironic that a president who proclaims his faith in “strict construction” of the Constitution would have found Yoo’s interpretations so persuasive, for Yoo is anything but a strict constructionist. One of the arguments most often made in defense of “originalism” is that interpretations emphasizing a “living” or evolving Constitution are too open-ended, and accordingly they permit judges to stray too far from the text. Yoo unwittingly demonstrates that his brand of originalism is just as vulnerable to that criticism as other approaches, if not more so. He not only departs from the text, but contradicts the principles that underlie it.

On Yoo’s preference for cutting Congress out of the act of declaring war:

As the war in Iraq has painfully underscored, the decision to go to war, especially a war initiated by the president without broad international support, can have disastrous consequences; and extricating the country from such a war can be extremely difficult. Were Congress to be eliminated from the initial decision-making process, as Yoo would prefer, the result would almost certainly be even more wars, and more quagmires such as the one in Iraq. On this issue, the framers were persuasive, and it is Yoo who has failed to understand both the checks on executive power they imposed and the reasons they did so.

On Yoo’s insistence that treaties belong in the President’s sphere and shouldn’t be considered rule of law:

Yoo…maintains that because foreign policy is an executive prerogative, the executive must be able to reinterpret and terminate treaties unilaterally. But while the Constitution plainly envisioned the president as the principal negotiator of treaties, it also gave clear responsibilities for treaties to the other branches; all treaties must be approved by two thirds of the Senate, and once ratified, treaties become “law” enforceable by the courts. The president must certainly be able to interpret treaties in order to “execute” the laws, just as he must be able to interpret statutes for that purpose.

Basically, for all this blather about “originalism,” what Yoo really wants is a powerful executive free from any legal checks:

…[A]ll of Yoo’s departures from the text of the Constitution point in one direction—toward eliminating legal checks on presidential power over foreign affairs. He is candid about this, and defends his theory on the ground that it preserves “flexibility” for the executive in foreign affairs. But the specific “flexibility” he seeks to preserve is the flexibility to involve the nation in war without congressional approval, and to ignore and violate international commitments with impunity. As Carlos Vazquez, a professor of law at Georgetown, has argued in response to Yoo, “flexibility has its benefits, but so does precommitment.” The Constitution committed the nation to a legal regime that would make it difficult to go to war and that would provide reliable enforcement of international obligations. Yoo would dispense with both in the name of letting the president have his way.

What does this inflexibility entail?

In short, the flexibility Yoo advocates allows the administration to lock up human beings indefinitely without charges or hearings, to subject them to brutally coercive interrogation tactics, to send them to other countries with a record of doing worse, to assassinate persons it describes as the enemy without trial, and to keep the courts from interfering with all such actions.

Perhaps not that surprising from the original author of the infamous torture memo (pdf). You know the one – the memo says it ain’t torture unless there’s “major organ failure.” (Obviously this guy never had an older sister.)

Yoo implies that such a…unique…interpretation of the Constitution is necessary in a “post-9/11 world,” where terrorist lurk on every street corner and flexibility is necessary to stop them. But has this flexibility aided the US fight against terror?

In all likelihood, the policies and attitudes Yoo has advanced have made the country less secure. The abuses at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib have become international embarrassments for the United States, and by many accounts have helped to recruit young people to join al-Qaeda. The US has squandered the sympathy it had on Sep- tember 12, 2001, and we now find ourselves in a world perhaps more hostile than ever before.

Worse still, from a legal standpoint, the method by which the US has detained suspected terrorists has actually worsened our ability to try and convict them for crimes.

…[O]n the one hand, it has become increasingly unacceptable for the US to hold hundreds of prisoners indefinitely without trying them; on the other hand our coercive and inhumane interrogation tactics have effectively granted many of the prisoners immunity from trial. Because the evidence we might use against them is tainted by their mistreatment, trials would likely turn into occasions for exposing the United States’ brutal interrogation tactics….Had we given alleged al-Qaeda detainees the fair hearings required by the Geneva Conventions at the outset, and had we conducted humane interrogations…few would have objected to the US holding some detainees for the duration of the military conflict, and we could have tried those responsible for war crimes. What has been so objectionable to many in the US and abroad is the government’s refusal to accept even the limited constraints of the laws of war.

And now that these errors have been exposed, executive power shown to be a destabilizing and self-defeating force, the government has changed its course. Right?

The consequences of Yoo’s vaunted “flexibility” have been self-destructive for the US—we have turned a world in which international law was on our side into one in which we see it as our enemy. The Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy, issued in March 2005, states,

Our strength as a nation state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak, using international fora, judicial processes, and terrorism.

The proposition that judicial processes —the very essence of the rule of law —are to be dismissed as a strategy of the weak, akin to terrorism, suggests the continuing strength of Yoo’s influence. When the rule of law is seen simply as a device used by terrorists, something has gone perilously wrong. Michael Ignatieff has written that “it is the very nature of a democracy that it not only does, but should, fight with one hand tied behind its back. It is also in the nature of democracy that it prevails against its enemies precisely because it does.” Yoo persuaded the Bush administration to untie its hand and abandon the constraints of the rule of law. Perhaps that is why we are not prevailing.

It’s the same sort of legalese that supports warrantless wiretapping, domestic spying, and the “enemy combatant” status. In other words, legalese that is paranoid, delusional, and without basis in law.

On Wednesday, Washington’s highest court upheld a ban on gay marriage. This decision follows a couple of other like decisions that one editorial called the “Gettysburg” for the gay-rights movement.

(You know how I feel about this issue already. Whatever two consenting adults want to do with each other is their own business. That includes marriage. Individual rights should be protected under the law, even if those individuals are disliked.)

Before gay-opponents get all riled up over these decisions, perhaps they should read them. The majority opinions supporting the ban are quite…astonishing, really.

Here’s the majority opinion in the Washington case:

“Limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples,” Judge Barbara A. Madsen wrote in that opinion, “furthers procreation, essential to the survival of the human race, and furthers the well-being of children by encouraging families where children are reared in homes headed by the children’s biological parents.”

If you’re scratching your head over the gaps in logic in this opinion, you’re not alone.

In a dissent signed by three other justices, Justice Mary Fairhurst questioned the logic of that assertion. “Would giving same-sex couples the same right that opposite-sex couples enjoy injure the state’s interest in procreation and healthy child rearing?” she asked.

Where does this idea that gay marriage would “destroy” traditional marriage come from? I don’t get it. Really, I don’t. Do proponents of this idea think allowing gay marriage would encourage people to burst out of their collective closets and embrace the homosexual lifestyle, thus fewer hetero married couples?

If anything this paranoid view implies our world is teeming with uptight closeted gays just waiting for a chance to burst out. If you’re like me, I’d rather have people out. Closeted gays are probably one of the most annoying subsets of people that exist. Who needs all that anxiety and self-loathing polluting the air?

The majority opinion in the New York case was even weirder. Did anyone read it?

Heterosexual intercourse has a natural tendency to lead to the birth of children; homosexual intercourse does not. Despite the advances of science, it remains true that the vast majority of children are born as a result of a sexual relationship between a man and a woman……[S]uch relationships are all too often casual or temporary…[A]n important function of marriage is to create more stability and permanence in the relationships that cause children to be born. [The legislature could] choose to offer an inducement — in the form of marriage and its attendant benefits — to opposite-sex couples who make a solemn, long-term commitment to each other.

…[T]his rationale for marriage does not apply with comparable force to same-sex couples. These couples can become parents by adoption, or by artificial insemination or other technological marvels, but they do not become parents as a result of accident or impulse.

…[U]nstable relationships between people of the opposite sex present a greater danger that children will be born into or grow up in unstable homes than is the case with same-sex couples, and thus that promoting stability in opposite sex relationships will help children more.

Gays just can’t win, can they? For years they’ve been defending themselves against creeps who claim they’re too d*mn frisky for marriage…only to find that the New York court finds the opposite to be true! They’re too d*mn well off! We need to provide the carrot of marriage to those philandering, sex-crazed breeders!

In all the cases decided recently, the judges say that they’d see no problems with the legality of allowing gays to marry — as long as it involves state legislatures approving such a bill. Which is a kind of odd way of approving of gay marriage without actually having to go ahead and declare a ban unconstitutional. Basically it reeks of politics. Judges aren’t supposed to heed the majority in cases like these; they’re supposed to interpret the law.

But reading the decisions for these cases, I’d have to say they’re on pretty shaky ground. Their opinions could be skewered by a third-grader. Ultimately I agree with the New York Times on this one:

New York’s highest court has harmed both the constitutional guarantee of equal protection and its reputation as a guardian of individual liberties by denying same-sex couples the right to marry.

Links…

These are the kind of people who collect signatures for the extremist initiatives.

Shane M meets Tester and likes what he sees.

F-Words on Washington’s recent decision upholding the ban on gay marriage.

It’s not just health care that’s squeezing the middle class, it’s debt, too. Funny that Congress made bankruptcy rules stricter and eased regulations on charging interest.

The Hill notes that the GOP is worried about the ID 01 race. (Kos’ take.)

Matt Stoller on Net Neutrality and the “monolithic” corporate behemoths who are trying to kill innovation and net freedom for an easy buck.

So much for Specter’s signing-statement legislation. Had enough?

A fantastic editorial on Joe Lieberman and the bloggers.

Speaking of which, Lieberman cancels an appearance for fear a blogger might show up and ask him questions.

Lieberman supports the war…just not the troops. No wonder he and Bush make out.

Pentagon officials were busy hatching plans for an invasion of a Middle Eastern country based on faulty intelligence. No, I’m not talkin’ Iraq – this is Iran.

The US Treasury Department says that Bush’s tax cuts are a “disaster” to the economy.

Air Marshals are pressured to meet monthly quotas for putting passengers on watch lists. And trust me, you don’t want to be on the watch list.

A trio of videos via Crooks and Liars: what if Bush became President of Iraq? McCain appears on the Daily Show and gets some tough questions, as usual. And Chris Matthews rips US foreign policy.

Baseball chatter…

It’s time for another baseball post!

Pronk vs Papi update

You may remember that, waaay back at the beginning of the year, some sports pundit had the audacity to say that Cleveland’s Travis Hafner may be a better hitter than Boston’s David Ortiz. So I compared the two…and well…maybe the dude was right.

How are they doing now?

David Ortiz: .283 BA, 73 runs, 34 HRs, 95 RBIs, .389 OBP, 1.001 OPS

Travis Hafner: .310 BA, 72 runs, 29 HRs, 83 RBIs, .440 OBP, 1.082 OPS

I call it…a tossup! Hafner gets on base more, Ortiz has a little more power.

Is Kansas City the American Siberia?

It’s pretty obvious that the Kansas City Royals have some fundamental problems. They’ve had only one winning season in the past eleven years. You could blame the fact that they play in a small market and can’t afford to keep their talent – only if you look back at the last eleven years, they haven’t developed many quality players.

Since 1995, the Royals have produced Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, Carlos Beltran, Raul Ibanez, Mike Sweeny, and Joe Randa – that’s it. A couple of fantastic players. But the best pitcher the organization produced during that time was Jeff Suppan, with 94 career wins and a whopping 4.66 ERA.

Compare the Royals to, say, the Minnesota Twins. Check out the lineup you could assemble just from players developed since 1995: C Joe Mauer (with AJ Pierzynski as backup), 1B Justin Morneau, 2B Todd Walker, SS Christian Guzman, 3B Casey Blake/Corey Koskie, LF Matt Lawton, CF Torii Hunter, RF Jaque Jones, DH David Ortiz, SPs Franciso Liriano, Johann Santana, Brad Radke, Mark Redman, and Carlos Silva, RPs Eddie Guardado, LaTroy Hawkins, JC Romero, Juan Rincon, and Jesse Crain. (And I left out Damian Miller, Doug Mientkiewicz, Mike Cuddyer, and Lew Ford.)

That’s a pretty good team, maybe a little weak up the middle, but you get my point. The Royals don’t know what they’re doing. I suspect if you gave them a cr*pload of money, you’d have the Baltimore Orioles, not the Yankees or Red Sox.

The latest news concerning the Royals is that they basically traded Elmer Dessens for Odalis Perez.

The real story isn’t the trade itself – a middling reliever, prospects, and cash for an erratic, if sometimes brilliant starter – it’s the news behind the trade. You see, Odalis recently caused a ruckus in the Dodger clubhouse, getting bent out of shape for his demotion to the bullpen. (Apparently he doesn’t realize his 6.83 ERA really, really s*cks.) He’s only appeared in games five times since June 28, a very lousy rate for a major-league relief pitcher. Basically he was taking up bullpen space because the Dodgers didn’t want him, but they didn’t want to eat his contract.

Thus, the deal. Let’s face it: the Royals were doing the Dodgers a favor. They take on a chunk of Perez’ salary and get cash and a couple of arms…that’s it. It doesn’t improve their team much, it just gets LA out of a jam. And it tacitly punishes a trouble-maker, by sending him into exile. To Kansas City.

I think the Royals should embrace being the Siberia of MLB. They’re not winning anything any time soon. Why not take on all of MLB’s troublemakers? Just get cash and prospects to sweeten the pot. Kansas City fans might like it, too. Imagine going to see a game with Barry Bonds, Odalis Perez, Shea Hillenbrand, and Carl Everett. You’d never know when a fight will break out in the dugout! You watch guys walk out ground balls, let popups drop, steal third base on their own – it’d be a glorious disaster!

Whither Soriano?

It’s trade deadline time, that means gossip! The biggest rumor circulating is that the White Sox are interested in picking up Alfonso Soriano. They’d have to part with mega-pitching talent Brandon McCarthy.

I smell panic. Adding bats is not the solution.

Last year they won based on a consistent and deep starting rotation. Buehrle, Garcia, Contreras, and Garland each won at least 14 and had ERAs of under 4.00. Not so this year, ERAs are up. Buehrle (4.53), Garland (4.78), and Garcia (4.86) are each up more than a full run. That’s not especially surprising: these marks are closer to each pitcher’s career average. After all, last year we were all waiting for Garland to collapse, but he never did. Apparently he was waiting for this year to revert to his usual numbers.

That’s the long way of saying that pitching is the problem, not hitting. This year, only Jose Contreras (9-3, 3.52 ERA) is having a decent year. But the offense is clicking. Paul Konerko (.298, 25 HRs) and Jermaine Dye (.316, 25 HRs) are en fuego, led by newly acquired Jim Thome who’s second in the AL in HRs (33), third in RBIs (82) and OPS (1.037).

Soriano’s more valuable as a second baseman, and the Sox already have Iguchi there. That means playing left field – which would allow rookie bust, Brian Anderson, to grab some pine. But if pushing Anderson off the field is the goal, there are cheaper alternatives available. Boston’s Trot Nixon, Chicago’s Jaques Jones, Pittsburgh’s Jeromy Burnitz or Craig Wilson, just to name a few. They could probably be had for a couple of borderline prospects and cash.

The point here is that Brandon McCarthy will fix a gaping hole in Chicago’s lineup now. Why trade him away for a player that doesn’t fit?

Say it ain’t so, Barry

Barry Bonds is under investigation by a grand jury for perjury.

Most baseball pundits are saying they’re “bored” of the coverage, or tired of it. Perhaps they’re mistaking the fans’ silence for disinterest and are following suit. I don’t know about you all, but I’m following this thing closely. Barry Bonds, indicted? Are you kidding me? Who says that’s not news?

What’s at stake here isn’t a single player and some lies. If Bonds is indicted and convicted, the whole steroids scandal could bust wide open, and heads could roll, household names, star players. And Bud Selig’s.

If anybody should be held accountable for this steroids mess, it’s Selig. He’s been a zero commissioner since day one. The financial structure of the game is a shambles – thanks in large part to Selig’s overzealous protection of small market teams. And steroids has been an open secret in the game for years. Don’t tell me Selig didn’t know about it, but I imagine he was more interested in salvaging sales after the ’95 strike than in protecting the sport’s integrity.

So, yeah, I’m watching the Bonds’ news closely.

The Glass House Gang update

You may remember from a previous post that my fantasy baseball team carries a number of oft-injured players – Ken Griffey, Austin Kearns, Scott Rolen, and JD Drew – of whom I wrote, “Am I nuts? I’ve got four guys who have next to no chance of getting 400 ABs!”

Oddly enough, none of them have been injured since. (*knocks on wood*)

Last I wrote, my team was in 7th. Since then, things have changed dramatically. For starters, I’m in first place by a 4½ game lead, thanks to awesome pitching performances.

Unlike my hitters, where I prefer older, more predictable veterans, I prefer younger pitchers. Not rookies, but guys in their second or third years. And they have to have high strikeout ratios. My staff? Johann Santana (12-5, 3.04 ERA, 158 Ks), Carlos Zambrano (11-3, 3.27 ERA, 147 Ks), CC Sabathia (7-6, 3.73 ERA, 92 Ks in 101 IP), Justin Verlander (12-4, 2.77 ERA, 80 Ks), and Chris Young (8-4, 3.64 ERA, 111 Ks). Oh, and I drafted Jonathan Papelbon, too, thinking he’d make a nice starter this year, only Boston made him a closer and he’s simply put up eye-popping numbers ever since: 29 saves, 0.53 ERA, and 52 Ks in 51 IP.

Needless to say, I’m first in Ks, ERA, and WHIP.

Some folks defend Bush’s recent legal power grabs – the signing statements, the use of “enemy combatant” status, illegal wiretapping, and so forth – by saying there’s some legal arguments that support his moves.

Um, yes. There are probably legal arguments for every hare-brained scheme imaginable. Kind of like claiming the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment (“Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation”) supports regulatory takings bills (like, say, CI-154).

Recently, Presidential legal contortionist – er, legal advisor, John YWoo, wrote a guest editorial in the LA Times decrying the Supreme Court’s smackdown of the administration in the recent Hamdan decision. You can see from reading this tripe – er, opinion – that this guy is a piece of work and is living in fantasyland – er, Berkeley. I’m no legal scholar, but…

First, YWoo compares Bush to…heh heh…Lincoln and…no, I’m serious!…FDR during their wartime activities. Woo claims that, like those previous Presidents, Bush needs to act decisively and quickly to war situations:

Long-standing U.S. practice recognizes that the president, as commander in chief, plays the leading role in wartime. Presidents have started wars without congressional authorization, and they have exercised complete control over military strategy and tactics. They can act with a speed, unity and secrecy that the other branches of government cannot match.

Of course, FDR was working within an actual war, as declared by Congress, not a battle against an emotion, as declared by, well, Bush. It is true that both Lincoln and FDR pursued Constitutionally questionable policies – Lincoln’s suspension of habeus corpus for suspected Confederate spies, FDR’s Japanese internment camps – but in those cases the actions were approved of by Congress and later stopped because of their questionable legality. (In the case of the internment camps, the government was later forced to compensate the internees for the illegal seizing of property and their forced displacement.)

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation is trickier and deserves its own post, but let’s just say it was pretty much just for show. And it was a Constitutional Amendment that outlawed slavery, not the EP. (Does Woo really want to compare the Bush administration’s policies of torture and illegal detainment to freeing slaves?)

The Sept. 11 attacks succeeded in part because our government was mired in a terrorism-as-crime approach that worried less about preventing attacks than about hypothetical threats to civil liberties — hence the “wall” preventing our law enforcement and intelligence agencies from sharing information. Our laws considered war as conflict only between nations and failed to anticipate the rise of non-state terrorist organizations that could kill 3,000 Americans, destroy the World Trade Center and damage the Pentagon in a single day.Bush invoked his constitutional authority to fight this shadowy enemy that does not wear uniforms, targets civilians and violates every rule of civilized warfare.

This is where Bush administration fantasy really kicks in. The best way to fight terrorism is, of course, using terror-as-crime techniques. Israel has demonstrated this for decades. Whenever it uses conventional armies to weed out terrorists groups – like, say, in Lebanon – it seems like the actions only exacerbate tension and create more terror. We see this in Iraq – a previously secular dictatorship that now spawns over 100 terror victims every day.

No, the best way to defeat terror is to cut off terrorist funding, use intelligence-gathering and police techniques to find and identify terrorists, then use special forces to go in and arrest or kill the b*stards. These actions should accompany efforts to eradicate the roots of terror with vigorous economic packages and investment in areas that breed terrorism. It may not be foolproof, but it’d be about a million times more successful — and cheaper –than, say, invading Iraq.

The point is that the administration is creating from terrorist groups a mysterious and powerful boogeyman to scare us into giving up power to the executive. Terrorist groups are neither. With a little more effort, the Bush administration could probably have thwarted 9/11. A competent federal crime agency can fight terror while obeying the rule of law. (Key word: “competent.”)

YWoo concludes with an attack on the Supreme Court for “interfering” in the Hamdan case:

What makes this war different is not that the president acted while Congress watched but that the Supreme Court interfered while fighting was ongoing. Given its seizure of control over some of society’s most contentious issues, such as abortion, affirmative action and religion, maybe the court’s intervention should come as no surprise.

Uh…? Did he read Hamdan? The SCOTUS basically said that courts should decide legal cases of detainees, not the military. That is, the courts should rule on the law. That’s…well…what courts do. But YWoo knows the law better than the SCOTUS! Courts are for keeping their mouths shut while Presidents do! (Seems to me this is a good way to p*ss off the judiciary…)

Now another area of the administration’s power grab is under attack. The American Bar issued a one-of-kind direct challenge to the President challenging his use of signing statements, which finally goads Arlen Specter into action.

I’m sure YWoo thinks the ABA doesn’t know what it’s talking about, either.

It’s time to face facts: Woo and Gonzalez and the rest of the administration’s legal staff are hired, not to advise the President on the rule of law, but to distort and twist the interpretation of law so that lil’ Dinky can do whatever the h*ll he wants.

Update: Oops! I wrote “Woo” instead of “Yoo” yesterday. John Woo is, of course, the action filmmaker. My apologies to Woo.

Links…

Local bloggers post about the “terrible trio” of extremist initiatives. Matt Singer writes about Montanans in Action’s attempt to mislead voters; Shane Mason presents a “fact sheet” on the “Stop Overspending” bill, CI-97; and our local Liberal Whacko chimes in on all three initiatives.

Why is Conrad Burns ashamed of our troop presence in Iraq?

Meanwhile, the Senator’s position in Congress has fallen so much, he can’t get some $60 million in pork to Montana in time for the elections. I guess his peers can read the writing on the wall…

Speaking of pork, what’s up with these free-spending “conservatives” these days? Why is the federal government paying for ice rinks and city lighting?

Hey! A Missoulian editorial I agree with! Clean up the Mike Horse dam now!

Joe Klein on Joe Lieberman: “Let’s stipulate that Lieberman’s position [on Iraq] is honorable, heartfelt and politically courageous. But it is annoying, nonetheless.”

Lieberman uses Bush-like tactics and ejects Lamont supporters from his appearance with Clinton. Um…this is how Lieberman plans on winning the primary?

Human Rights Watch: the US is still torturing detainees.

Meanwhile, Senator Arlen Specter threatens to sue the President. Hm, are pigs being fitted for wings over there?

The “Scarlet R”: An anonymous GOP candidate is ashamed of his party affiliation.

Just what you need to know: the 50 most beautiful people on Capitol Hill. Um…do these people take themselves a little too seriously, or what?

The Idaho quarter is kick *ss!

Rolling Stones to play in Missoula?

I don’t post too much about the Connecticut Senate primary pitting Joe Lieberman against his upstart challenger Ned Lamont: I try to keep things local with an occasional post on some federal issue. (Plus I save the other stuff for the American Prospect.) But today I feel compelled to write on some remarks Bill Clinton made while stumping for Joe yesterday. They sure as h*ll p*ssed me off:

In a 23-minute speech, where his statements were often cut off by applause, Clinton called the controversy over the war in Iraq “the pink elephant in the living room,” which should not divide Democrats, who are minorities in both the U.S. House and Senate.”The real issue is, what are we going to do now?”

The friggin’ pink elephant in the living room?

You know, I would trade my right arm to swap President dinky for Clinton. In a heartbeat. Say what you want about his sexual proclivities or his “slick-ness,” he was a hellva better President than our current fella. (Of course a house plant could run the country better, IMHO.) But this reminded me how he used to p*ss me off when he was the Prez.

So the Iraq War is just a “pink elephant in the livingroom.”

Forget the thousands of servicemen and –women who have given their lives in the conflict. Forget the tens of thousands of dead Iraqis. Forget the fact that our security is now compromised by the war – our borders remain porous because the war is sucking up federal funds, we’re unable to threaten North Korea or Iran militarily because our armed forces are bogged down in an unwinnable quagmire. Forget the fact that the war is draining our coffers, increasing the deficit and push our collective future down a sinkhole. Forget about the rudderless administration’s inability to deal with the war.

And above all, forget about Joe Lieberman’s unwavering support for a President’s failed, aimless, and incompetent war policy. And forget the fact that Lieberman claimed that anybody who disagreed with him – and the President – was an unpatriotic America-hater.

Forget all these irritating little details. It’s just a “pink elephant.”

These people just don’t get it. Meanwhile Hillary Clinton and the conservative and out-of-touch DLC unveiled their new agenda: the “American Dream Initiative.” (Notice the not-so-subtle reference to MLK’s “I have a dream” speech.) It’s not a bad deal, the initiative, which seeks universal health care for children (not enough, but I’ll take it), retirement pensions for workers, and easier access to college. Good.

But the DLC’s initiative doesn’t even mention the number one issue important to U.S. voters: the pink elephant.

Yet as a platform for Democrats, the initiative is notably silent on what could be the overarching issue of the 2006 elections: the Iraq war. Clinton said the omission was deliberate, since the plan focuses on domestic policy and expanding and strengthening the middle class.

Why are “centrist” Democrats still pretending the war doesn’t exist? Don’t we need a plan for Iraq? Shouldn’t the Republican party be forbidden from meddling in foreign affairs? Haven’t we made enough mistakes?

Look. Most people think the Iraq war has been bungled from the beginning. To avoid the topic is foolish. We demand accountibility.

Links…

The Bush administration combats socialism by allowing rich people to cheat on their taxes.

Remember the open mic at the G-8 summit? A British TV station claims Russia’s Putin was responsible.

The American Bar Association criticizes the President’s signing statements: they “undermine separation of powers.” Those d*mn liberal extremists!

A White House press release endorses an Israel attack on Syria.

Ward Churchill and Alan Dershowitz have a lot in common, don’t they?

The Democrats decide to hold the Nevada caucus right after Iowa this next presidential election season. Intriguing. That might help display Western lawmakers and issues.

Connecticut bloggers take up the camera and ask Lieberman and Barbara Boxer some embarrassing questions. What’s really interesting about this is how the bloggers are muscling in on traditional media…

And just why is Bill Clinton stumping for Joe Lieberman? Firedoglake gives you a list of possible reasons.

A pair of teachers handcuffed and strip-searched for displaying a button and small sign reading “No More War” at a Bush function.

The Washington Monthly on global warming deniers

…such as Oklahoma’s Senator Jim Inhofe, who compares people who believe in global warming to Nazis. It was only a matter of time…

The Washington Post’s eight issues that will “shape” the 2006 mid-terms.

Check out my AP post on Wyoming’s House race. The Dems could take this seat.

Appelby’s quiz, “What’s your tribe?” allows you to see if you belong to the country’s red or blue tribe. I am very red, apparently.

High Country News has got the dirt on Montana’s initiative 1542 – which you’ll remember I called “anti-democratic.” Like blogger Hart Williams, HCN’s Ray Ring traced back the money backing the initiative through Americans for Limited Government to a single source: Howie Rich.

Americans for Limited Government has provided loans and expertise to the Montana initiative, plus $827,000 to the Arizona initiative, $200,000 to Washington initiative, and $107,000 to the one in Nevada, according to the Nevada initiative’s leader. Americans for Limited Government has also given $2.5 million to another libertarian group, America at its Best, based in the Washington, D.C., area, which has in turn funneled $100,000 to the Idaho initiative. One key figure is the chairman of the board of Americans for Limited Government, Howie Rich. A real estate mogul based in New York City, Rich is also on the board of the libertarian flagship Cato Institute in D.C., and heads his own Fund for Democracy….This year, Rich says he has funneled nearly $200,000 through a group called Montanans in Action to back the Montana initiative, along with two related initiatives aimed at setting state tax limits and making it easier to recall liberal judges. The head of Montanans in Action, Trevis Butcher, says he doesn’t know Rich, but he declines to say whether he is getting money from the Fund for Democracy; he won’t reveal any of his backers. Records in other states show that Rich has put $1.5 million into the California regulatory-takings initiative, $230,000 into the Idaho one, and $25,000 into the Arizona version.

Unlike Williams, Ring managed to track down Rich:

On the phone, Rich was confident of the rightness of his cause. “I believe in the American Dream. … I believe in free markets. I believe that … government has been growing at an excessive rate, at the federal level and in many states,” he said. “I’m happy to support local activists who are working to protect property rights in a whole bunch of states.”

[snip]

In my talk with Howie Rich, I told him that, despite the campaign’s sales pitch, I believed these initiatives are about a lot more than eminent domain. Nationwide, eminent domain is invoked on behalf of developers only a few thousand times a year. But the proposed regulatory-takings initiatives are likely to affect millions of property owners, day in and day out, year after year. “I agree with you,” Rich said, “the implications … on the regulatory extent are very far-reaching, very important.” In fact, he said, the originator of the regulatory takings idea, University of Chicago economist Richard Epstein, e-mailed him a while ago, saying that “trillions” of regulations can be cast as takings.

And how is Oregon’s regulatory-takings initiative – the dimwit half-stepbrother of Montana’s CI 1542 – working out?

But now that Measure 37 is taking effect, many Oregonians — including thousands of neighbors who have written official comment letters on the claims — say the new law is a disaster. “It creates indecision and unpredictability for everybody in the state — whether you’re a homeowner, a business(person), a farmer, or an urban dweller, you no longer have a clue what’s going to happen next door, because now there is a free pass to violate laws,” said Elon Hasson, a lobbyist for the state’s leading pro-planning group, 1000 Friends of Oregon.The most poignant stories come from people who voted for Measure 37, and now see negative impacts on their own neighborhoods and property values. “I voted for the measure because I believe in property rights,” Rose Straher, who lives in tiny Brookings on the southern Oregon coast, told me. The owner of a nearby 10-acre lily farm filed a Measure 37 claim to turn it into a 40-space mobile-home park, and got the Curry County government to waive its regulations. Straher and 46 other neighbors signed a petition opposing it. Measure 37 “has absolutely no protection for the neighborhood,” Straher told me. “You’re giving superior rights to one particular owner. That is a big flaw.”

Really, I can’t do this story enough justice. Read it. Discuss.

This initiative has nothing to do with protecting individual property from eminent domain. In reality, it’s an attempt to handcuff government from imposing regulation on development.

If you like billboards, by all means, vote for CI 1542.

Today’s editorial in the Missoulian is amusing. It’s on teacher pay. Apparently the paper doesn’t like the way teachers are rewarded with pay raises based on experience and education.

I admit, teacher pay scale isn’t the best I’ve ever heard of. Then again, every system I’ve ever seen is patently unfair or causes problems. The Missoulian advocates a pay scale based on two other factors:

Instead of years of service and credits obtained, steps and lanes ought to be based on the number of students taught and the level of proficiency those students attain. These are easy-to-measure criteria that are generally well-measured through things like standardized testing.

Great. All we need is more incentive for teachers to teach around standardized tests. Isn’t it clear to everybody that standardized testing…well…sucks? I want my kids to learn how to think, not to learn the tidbits and tricks that make successful test takers.

(Based on some of these Missoulian editorials, it seems like these guys must be very good test takers.)

So what’s wrong with the current system anyway? The Missoulian:

The current system makes it possible for mediocre teachers to earn some of the highest salaries simply by sticking with the profession and pursuing continuing education. This is a system that rewards unsuccessful teachers as well or better than successful ones. For example, it denies extremely effective teachers the pay they deserve if they’re younger or haven’t racked up the extra credits.

Er…this sounds like the same way most performance is rewarded. Don’t people think government should be run more like business?

And isn’t “service” and “experience” how you get to write editorials in newspapers? It certainly ain’t talent…

Links…

The Independent staff has written a fantastic eulogy on Patricia Goedicke.

Ed Kemmick writes a funny and thought-provoking eulogy of Montana historian, Dave Walter.

State Republican, John Sinrud, gets tangled up with Wulfgar! Let’s keep his poor wife happy and keep Sinrud home this next legislative session. Support Jackson Cyr for HD 67.

The NRA tangles with Wulfgar! too. When will these people learn?

Politics played out on bumper stickers and sticky notes on Shane Mason’s wife’s car.

Matt Singer has a pair of posts up, one for each for Rehberg and Burns, on how they both agreed to sell out our security to a Middle Eastern country with a shaky human rights record. Um, is this a good idea?

Meanwhile, Montana veterans turn against Burns.

The DNC is contemplating adding a Western caucus before the New Hampshire primary. That’s a good thing for Rocky Mountain issues.

Republican lawmakers “edging away from optimism” on Iraq. Acknowledging reality just in time for the elections!

…except they’re busy debating the next loser social conservative issue: parental notification!

Dick Cheney is right: if we re-elect a GOP Congress things will stay the same.

blksista’s take on Bush’s appearance at the NAACP.

Kos’ Georgia10 compares Bush to Nixon. “…where we see a victory and due process for American citizens, the President sees danger.”

Atlas Shrugs Pamela displays the typical genius behind right-wing blogs. You won’t believe your eyes…in fact, you may want to claw them out…

Jon Stewart on Bush’s veto of stem-cell research. Stewart notices some hypocrisy in the rhetoric. Can you imagine?

And then Jon Stewart explains Net Neutrality. Ted Stevens is right: the Internet is indeed not a dump truck.

Hero: Nick Larkin

Recently the Missoula Independent published a full-length feature on a local hooker (“Using Her Religion,” on June 22, by Jason Wiener). I read it at the time, but didn’t comment on it or think about it much, mainly because it’s not where my focus lies right now. But what I have noticed is that the story has sparked an unusual amount of outrage among letter-writers and, one presumes, the paper’s readership.

First, my own view is that stories about people living on our society’s margins are good – like John Adams’ recent piece on a group of the Missoula homeless — these people are part of our communities, and it’s important to not only know that they exist, but to understand them, too.

That’s not what the story’s detractors thought.

Unfortunately I can’t find archived letters from the Independent. Most letters took issue with Wiener’s non-judgmental tone: they saw the article as condoning or even approving of Nouveaux’ life choices. Many were appalled that the Independent would even choose a hooker as a topic for a feature. Most trotted out children, saying they would be damaged by reading the story (kids read the newspapers these days?) – someone even arranged a letter writing campaign by teenage girls who all claimed writing about  Nouveaux and her views would only encourage girls to become prostitutes.

(Of course, if you actually read the story, Nouveaux’ life sound pretty horrific, and she seems…well…nuts. Give me a desk job any day!)

A letter from Missoula man, John Tesdal, published in the current issue of the paper aptly demonstrates the outraged tone of many letter writers:

I found the story rather tasteless and beneath the quality of reporting previously found in the Independent. These “shock” type stories have no place in our community, especially when our children can pick up the Independent in numerous places around our city.As a small-business owner who is frequently solicited by the Missoula Independent for advertising, I must decline doing business with the Independent, as I do not wish to be associated with this type of media dissemination.

The Missoula Independent must make a choice as to the direction of its reporting in relation to its advertisers. No advertisers, no Missoula Independent.

I urge other business owners to think about the message they are helping send to our citizens, including our youth, and if they are willing to accept the responsibility of mismanaged media that does not concern itself with the welfare of the common reader and is instead harboring a self-serving attitude.

I don’t know about you, but I do not want any part of this style of degradation.

First, the Missoula Independent is a great paper with excellent journalists on its staff. It’s not going away. If anything, it’s gaining respectability for its investigative journalism. Remember who broke the real story behind the John Morrison scandal? Not the Missoulian. Tesdal might yank his ads – if he really has any – but it’s his business that may suffer.

Second, since when is the media supposed to uphold, confirm, and create the moral climate of a community? It’s always been the Independent’s mission to challenge readers’ assumptions and local authority. That’s a good thing.

But let’s listen to what Hamilton native and today’s hero, Nick Larkin, has to say:

Cannot say that I was surprised by the angry letters you received regarding “Using Her Religion.” Like many others, I found the piece to be somewhat disturbing. However, it was interesting to read about the obscure views of this woman and the (often harsh) realities of prostitution. Interesting also were the furious letters regarding the article, including one from a high-school student who wondered if newspapers were even “allowed to print something like that.” Fortunately, censorship does not reach all levels of media. Thank you, Missoula Independent, for still having the balls to publish something that may not be music to everyone’s ears.

Exactly!

I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again. Freedom of speech is for everybody, even for people and ideas you don’t like.

Creep: DC Kidd

In a conversation over at WRIM (get yer own link) over repealing the 17th Amendment – a debate I don’t want to get into here, but suffice to say I’m against it for many of the same reasons I support the end to our Electoral College – commenter DC Kidd dropped this little bomb:

So little faith in democracy! So little faith in the people!

Maybe campaign contributions aren’t the problem at all. Maybe you’ve given the wrong people the right to vote.

*****

Rich:

Every constitutional amendment since the Civil War is bogus and ought to be repealed.

We’ve given the wrong people the right to vote? Remember this is a paleo-conservative speaking. We can only wonder who he means.

First, let’s look at those amendments passed since the Civil War, shall we?

Thirteenth Amendment: Abolishes slavery. (1865)
Fourteenth Amendment: Made all people born in the US citizens; government can’t take away citizenship; extends protection of law to all citizens. (1868)
Fifteenth Amendment: Gives all citizens the right to vote, regardless of race. (1870)
Sixteenth Amendment: Allows income tax. (1913)
Seventeenth Amendment: Direct election of Senators. (1913)
Eighteenth Amendment: Prohibition of alcohol. (1919)
Nineteenth Amendment: Extends the right to vote to women. (1920)
Twentieth Amendment: Speeds ascension into office of elected President; clarifies succession of President; sets new dates for beginning of Congress. (1933)
Twenty-First Amendment: Repeals prohibition (the 18th Amendment). (1933)
Twenty-Second Amendment: Limits President to two terms. (1951)
Twenty-Third Amendment: Allows Washington DC to select Electors to vote for President. (1961)
Twenty-Fourth Amendment: Prohibits poll taxes (a fee paid for the chance to vote). (1964)
Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Sets up succession for Presidency after the V-P. (1967)
Twenty-Sixth Amendment: Guarantees suffrage at age 18. (1971)
Twenty-Seventh Amendment: Limits Congressional pay raises. (1992)

So, which of these would you give away? The one prohibiting slavery? The one extending the vote to women? I think it’s safe to say the 18th Amendment – Prohibition – was a throw-away. But the others?

Some of you might be tempted to dump the income tax amendment. But would you prefer raising taxes through other means, like a sales tax, or further property taxes? An income tax is probably the fairest kind: we each pay according to our means.

Others might be curious about the 17th – direct election of Senators. Me, I prefer to do things myself rather than hand my (feeble) power to some other body. Although if this were repealed, you bet your sweet *ss Burns would be out and Tester in. It might also make the state legislature races more interesting… Hm…On the fence. Could be a great topic for debate…moving on…

The succession Amendments, Presidential term limits (aren’t you glad about this one now?), pay raises, etc, seem unglamorous, but necessary administrative corrections.

The others protect the individual from arbitrary voting restrictions.

And DC Kidd would like to see them all go away? Why? Kidd:

Shane M. wrote: “The only solution I see is a more informed public.”

That is not a solution at all because the majority of people in this country are incapable of being informed. They can only be propagandized and programmed by mass media. Forget any dreams you may have of an enlightened proletariat.

The solution to the problem of low-quality, pandering political leadership is controlling the franchise, i.e., the laws that govern who is legally qualified to vote. Presently, the franchise is extended to just about anyone, with little or no regard to his personal attributes. Our liberal, and therefore misguided, interpretation of “equality” has enfranchised a very large number incompetent and unproductive people, who in turn tend to elect incompetent and unproductive politicians. By restricting the franchise to only citizens who have met certain age, education, and property ownership requirements, the quality of elected officials would naturally rise.

Of course, the qualifications for voting could be further specified to further improve the quality of the political leadership, such a language requirement or several years of military service, for example. But age, education, and property ownership would be start.

Let’s pause for a moment while we ponder the irony of a conservative decrying a political system that panders to its electorate…

The problem with this view, is how do we decide who should vote? If we go by DC Kidd’s guidelines – property ownership and education (age limits already exist) – does that mean if you rent, you can’t vote? So much for the majority of New York City. Or college students. Does that mean if you don’t have a college degree you don’t vote? Or a high school degree?

What makes a property owner a better voter? What makes a college-educated person better informed about civic issues than a high-school dropout? Would the education requirement disqualify military veterans who haven’t finished school?

You could argue that owning property makes a person more interested in local issues, but is that always the case? Might you be disenfranchising a number of people who actually have more knowledge about local issues? And who’s there to protect the rights of renters against landlords if renters can’t vote? Don’t renters have a say over how and where roads, schools, and bus lines are built?

And how do you guarantee that voter limitations wouldn’t be abused to, say, disenfranchise African Americans in Southern states or Native Americans in Montana or women or any minority group who would receive voting rights only as a privilege from the powerful majorities?

The assumption here, of course, is that DC Kidd himself is the model of an “informed” voter. He would like only those like himself voting. That’s why he mentions these qualifications – education, property, military service. These are the things he holds dear.

I, on the other hand, would require an essay test, thorough knowledge of literature and baseball statistics, and maybe a maximum income level. Definitely an amount of service to nonprofit or charitable organizations. Art is more important to me than property, in my opinion, in deciding who’s a better citizen.

But that’s me.

DC Kidd’s view is not uncommon among conservatives. It’s part of this “eliminationist” push you see from the right – this desire, not to debate or best liberal opposition, but to remove all non-conforming ideology from the public sphere. DC Kidd wants to tailor voter qualifications to ensure that his party of preference and his ideology never meets opposition or encounters debate.

In essence, he disdains democracy. If you don’t agree with his point of view, he doesn’t want you to vote.

There’s an irony here, of course. Be careful what you ask for.

David Crisp:

dc kidd,

But if standards for competence and productivity were imposed, wouldn’t you miss voting?

Links…

Pogie notices that RedState rightwing bloggers think Burns’ source of funding is shameful.

Speaking of using the dead for political purposes, it turns out Mke DeWine’s ad featuring the 9/11 dead was doctored.

Lamont leads Lieberman in the latest poll.

Meanwhile, Lieberman thinks he’s running against the blogs and has forgotten Ned Lamont.

Meanwhile the right-wing spin machines are looking to pin US failures in the Middle East…on John Kerry. Take some accountability for your actions, you m*therf*ckers!

At least one Republican war supporter softens his stance after seeing for himself how bleak the situation is in Iraq.

Kevin Drum hopes the Democrats will embrace for 2006 the issue economic disparity between the growing wealth of the richest, and the shrinking paychecks for the rest of us.

Digby on Ralph Reed: “Ralph has always been a sleazy Republican operative who pretended to be a Christian.”

Katrina victims can’t talk to the press “without an official escort.” FEMA has gone from incompetent to creepy. Or maybe it’s both now.

Dan Quayle gets offended by John Mellancamp, Charles Barkley admits he’s given up on the GOP: “I was a Republican – until they lost their minds.”

Colbert discusses Bush’s first veto and a little girl who flips the President off.

We bloggers tend to rush to judgment, cry “foul” whenever we see a perceived slight or possible malicious tinkering with information found in traditional media outlets – newspapers, television, radio. Sometimes we’re right. Sometimes we’re wrong.

The other day I blogged about the disparity in coverage of possible inmate abuse at the Missoula County detention center. I was aggressive in my judgment and concluded:

The real story now isn’t whether an officer violated an inmate’s basic civil rights, it’s whether the Sheriff, in collusion with the Missoulian, is covering the story up.

After I posted, I called Tristan Scott, the author of the Missoulian story, “whistleblower” Mike Burch, and emailed the Independent’s Brad Tyer to find out why parts of the story were omitted.

The answer certainly isn’t collusion. Tristan Scott wasn’t trying to cover up the story.

What appears to have happened is that Scott, faced with deadline pressures, time constraints, and a slog of work, might have rushed the story to print assuming that the real story in this incident was the way the inmate was subdued, hinting that possible excessive force was used when shooting the inmate seven times with a pepperball gun.

In Tyer’s story, I think emphasis was correctly put on what happened after the restraint. Namely that the inmate was tied to a chair while still covered in pepper powder, which causes severe physical distress, and that the inmate’s physical distress was used to coerce her into cooperation.

As for the radio reports – which I haven’t heard – apparently they either followed Scott’s lead, or independently came to the same conclusion, that the actual restraint was the real story.

Both Tyer and Scott hinted that they were working on follow-ups to the story, but wouldn’t reveal what those stories may be. (Rightfully so. I’d post a rumor in half a heartbeat if I thought I’d get ten extra readers.)

What’s certainly at the heart of this particular incident is that it does seem to fall into a long list of such incidents playing out at the jail. And Independent reporter Brad Tyer has already gone over this ground, with perhaps some disturbing foreshadowing (emphasis mine):

It was March 2004 when Missoula physician Liz Rantz, medical director for the Montana Department of Corrections, announced her retirement after 12 years as doctor for county inmates, including the last six at the Missoula County Detention Center on Mullan Road. On her way out, Rantz vented her frustrations—including an increase in mentally ill patients being warehoused in a detention center unprepared to properly care for them, inmate alcoholism and the challenges of balancing appropriate health care with the requirements of tight county budgets—telling the Missoulian, “the whole justice prison system is based on things that to me are flawed.”

If you haven’t read Tyer’s story, do so now. It lists a long string of abuses involving detention officers, medical attention, turnover rates, complaints – the whole shebang.

Let me get one thing clear. I am not indicting the whole staff at the jail. Like most organizations, I assume that the bulk of the staff are good, competent officers trying their d*mndest to do the job right. The high rate of anonymous complaints, resignations accompanied by whistle-blowing (like in Mike Burch’s case), the apparent infighting within the organization attests to the concern the majority of the staff feels for the deteriorated environment at the jail.

H*ll, I don’t even judge the officer in the most recent case for his use of seven pepperball bullets to subdue the inmate in question. I wasn’t there! I can’t imagine the stress of having to deal with a hysterical and (according to Sheriff McMeekin) physically imposing woman who might be violent! I probably would have kept shooting the d*mn gun myself twice as much!

(The ensuing torture is, of course, a different matter. Considering the officer in question left the inmate for forty-four minutes showed that he wasn’t acting on impulse or out of fear, but that he had plenty of time to think over his actions, plenty of time to cool down. The torture was deliberate and malicious.)

The problems at the jail boil down to one thing: discipline.

You can’t allow a few bad officers to keep perpetrating abuses and act unethically. They need to be disciplined swiftly and severely. Otherwise disorder will follow.

To me, this is an institutional problem, and ultimately I agree with Tyer’s conclusion in the 2005 piece: McMeekin is the problem.

Links…

Glenn Greenwald urges the media to hold right-wing bloggers accountable for their hate-filled and violent rhetoric. A must read.

Jonathon Motl turns over Montanans in Action – the supporter of the state’s terrible trio of initiatives – and finds a nest of creepy crawlies.

Ed Kemmick adds the context for a letter in the Gazette condemning President Bush.

Ralph Reed loses his bid for Georgia’s lieutenant governorship, largely because of the Abramoff scandal. Hm, who else do we know running for office who has ties to the crooked lobbyist?

Dean’s 50-state strategy meshes well with the Western Dem strategy. To wit, Gary Trauner of Wyoming.

Neocon and Israeli desire for war stems from a need for moral clarity, blogs Kevin Drum.

Kos has a simpler description: clusterf*ck.

Meanwhile, how are things going in Iraq?

Republican Senators rush through the doomed stem cell research bill to minimize political damage: “It’ll be like a summer storm.”

Bush’s obstruction of the wiretapping investigation raises some Constitutional eyebrows. Will Congress act?

More examination of Bush’s infamous back rub: “You could use this video for sexual harassment training…”

Will Lieberman run as a Republican?

An amusing peek into the mess that is the Republican-controlled House and their recent pet issue, gay marriage.

I miss Jose Canseco, don’t you?

There was Madonna, the ball bouncing off his head into the stands for a homer (for which he received an offer from a soccer team), and that time he pitched against the Red Sox and ended up tearing a tendon in his elbow. Oh, and there were domestic violence charges against him, too.

But don’t deny you were enthralled by the on-field exploits, too, belting 33 taters in his rookie-of-the-year full first season, becoming the first 40-40 man (stealing 40 bases and hitting 40 HRs in the same year) in baseball history, winning the ’88 MVP, playing an integral part of the powerful A’s team of the late ‘80s…

He also wrote a tell-all, in which he candidly admitted to taking steroids and accused a number of other prominent major leaguers (McGuire, Giambi, Palmeiro, I-Rod, and Juan Gon) of juicing. And isn’t it funny after all the trashing of Canseco that he’s the only one left with any integrity over steroids? You can’t say that about, oh, McGuire, Palmeiro, Barry Bonds, or Bud Selig, can you?

The latest hijinks comes from the Golden Baseball League’s All-Star game, in which Canseco pitched (giving up four runs in a third of an inning) and won the game’s home run derby, despite playing only seven games in the league. Oh, and he won the home run derby’s $250 prize. Disneyland? Hardly.

“I’m going to take these guys out and get them drunk,” motioning toward his teammates on the South team. “I’m going to buy about 400 gallons of beer.”

It sounds like he’s having a good time.

Essentially, I agree with Michael Chabon on this one, although I find Canseco more amusing than informative:

Like all showboats, Canseco courts the simpler kind of admiration, starting in the mirror each morning. He is slick, he drives too fast, he is nine feet tall and four feet wide and walks with a roosterish swagger. But there has always been something about him, about his style of play, his sense of self-mocking humor, his way of looking at you looking at him, that goes beyond vanity and self-aggrandizement, or being a world-class jerk.

Canseco…is a rogue, a genuine one, and genuine rogues are rare, inside baseball and out. To be a rogue, it’s not enough to flout the law, break promises, shirk responsibilities, cheat. You must also, at least some of the time, and with the same abandon, do your best, play by the rules, keep faith with your creditors and dependents, obey orders, throw out the runner at home plate with a dead strike from deep right field.

Above all you must do these things, just as you other times neglect to do them, for no particular reason, because you feel like it or do not, because nothing matters, and everything’s a joke, and nobody knows anything, and most of all, as Rhett Butler once codified it for rogues everywhere, because you don’t give a damn. One day you make that breathtaking play at the plate from deep right. On another day you decide, for no good reason, to take the mound during the late innings of a laugher and pitch, retiring the side (despite allowing three earned runs on three walks and a pair of singles) — and ruining, forever, that cannon of an arm.

I’ve never seen a man who seems more comfortable with who he is than Jose Canseco. Not with who we think he is, like our current president, or with his best idea of himself, like our president’s predecessor, but with himself: charmer and snake, clown and thoroughbred.

Above all, I see Canseco as the perfect symbol for the 80s and 90s: irreverent, mischievous, hot-headed, entertaining. And yet he’s a harbinger of what was to follow, just like Ken Starr and his Congressional allies predicted the current mean-spirited and incompetent GOP leadership and its disastrous effect on the world.

I’ll take Canseco over Bonds any day. Just as Paul Simon’s line from “Mrs. Robinson” — Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you… — encapsulated a sentimental longing for simpler times, so did the AP story on Canseco’s recent independent league heroics affect me. Those old days seems so far away, don’t they?

A study in leadership: Schweitzer v. Bush

Two leaders. One a governor, one a president. It’s the season for potential natural disaster: in Montana, it’s fire season; on the Gulf Coast, it’s hurricane season.

 

Montana’s Governor Brian Schweitzer:

Gov. Brian Schweitzer said Tuesday that dry weather and lightning will continue to present fire danger and that Montanans should be prepared to protect their own property.The National Guard, if needed, will be called out, Schweitzer said Tuesday morning in Billings before flying over several blazes in south-central Montana.

“We aren’t there yet,” he said referring to the National Guard.

The Governor is obviously paying attention to the fires that threaten to go out of control. He’s got the Guard standing by and has issued official, informed advice on how locals can help fight fires and protect their property.

The fires aren’t a problem. Yet. But if they do become problematic, it’s apparent Schweitzer will know and will react.

President George W. Bush:

With the water coming from the sky and the bottom of the sea, driving with such ferocity that a major American city, New Orleans, followed its face into the water, George W. Bush was at North Island in Coronado, Calif., speaking to a blindingly white audience of 9,000 sailors in uniform.

[snip]

He barely seemed to understand there was a hurricane for the first three days. He was in Coronado, outside San Diego, and in his speech, he managed to mention New Orleans, by saying that people should not return to their homes until rescue crews could do their work.

Nobody had to be told not to return to their homes because they don’t have homes to return to, and no bus fare to go anywhere.

For a reminder of Bush’s performance during Hurricane Katrina, revisit the Katrina timeline. Note that the guitar photo-op took place on Tuesday, August 30, four days after Governor Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency in Louisiana, three after Governor Haley Barbour did the same for Mississippi, two days after Katrina was upgraded to category 5 and warnings about the levees’ vulnerability were reported, two days after the National Weather Service issued a special warning:

Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks, perhaps longer. … At least one-half of well-constructed homes will have roof and wall failure. All gabled roofs will fail, leaving those homes severely damaged or destroyed. … Power outages will last for weeks. … Water shortages will make human suffering incredible by modern standards.”

The picture was taken more than 31 hours after Katrina made landfall, 30 hours after the White House was informed of the levee breach, 30 hours after Bush shared a birthday cake with Senator John McCain, 18 hours after he received a personal plea from Governor Blanco to intervene, 26 hours before he makes his first public remarks about New Orleans.

You can call me a partisan guttersnipe all you want, but the 2006 elections boil down to one question: who do you trust?

Whoa! There seems to be an overwhelming number of letters lately supporting Tester in the local papers! Some highlights:

Barbara Parker of Missoula on wayward “son,” Conrad Burns:

…It is so apparent how much [Burns] has lost his way. He brags about all the pork he has brought home, defended “earmarks” as a great thing, whined about being linked to Jack Abramoff after taking more money from him than any other senator. He has been listed as one of the five worst senators by a major news magazine, and he has allowed out-of-state rich people to make pronouncements about his opponent’s lack of “real Montana values.” What can he be thinking? Jon Tester is a grain farmer from Big Sandy living on land his grandparents homesteaded, for Pete’s sake. You can’t get much more Montanan than a grain farmer from the Hi-Line….

Bob Schwarz of Billings ends his letter decrying Burns support of the Inheritance Tax and opposition to a minimum wage hike with a zinger:

… have just two words for you — Jack Abramoff. It’s time for Burns to retire and live off the money he’s made from lobbyists. There’s a wealthy Native American tribe in the Midwest who would probably build him a mansion.

Letty Limbach of Missoula on Burns’ sudden reversal over drilling in the Rocky Mountain Front:

While I’m glad that Conrad Burns has finally joined the thousands of farmers, ranching families, and conservationists who have spent many years fighting to protect the Front, I’m disappointed in our junior senator that it’s taken this long…Why now?…If I had to guess, I’d say that he’s worried about his ugly record on conservation and is looking for ways to do some quick favors so he can say he’s “delivering for Montana.” That comes as no surprise. We all know from Jack Abramoff, how good Conrad is at doing “favors.”

…It’s sad when career politicians like Burns use important issues as political fodder, because while they are earning points for their party, real people suffer the consequences….We need a representative in the U.S. Senate who knows what we need, and knows how to get it done, and knows exactly what is at stake if he does not succeed. In short, we need a person like Jon Tester….

Susan Reisch of Billings concentrates on Tester’s record as proof of his character:

Jon Tester…has led the state Senate with dignity and respect, without forgetting the values that compelled him to run for office in the first place and his responsibility to live within his means. It is rare these days, but Tester can honestly say he is neither a tax-and-spender nor a borrow-and-spender.I’m sure you’ll hear…that Tester is a “liberal who will raise your taxes.” But his record tells another story. Since becoming state Senate president, Tester has not raised taxes and, along with the governor, has shored up the state’s economy. More importantly, he has brought people from both parties together to balance the budget every session. Compare that to the federal budget deficit, which is spiraling out of control. Pork isn’t free, and it’s our children who are going to have to pay for it.

In the end, we all will face a choice — more of the same or something a little different. It’s not about a haircut. It’s about the person behind it and what they stand for. The choice is clear.

And try as you might to find them, letters supporting Burns are few and far between…

Links…

The Helena IR praises Burns for something he didn’t do. Don’t look at me: I’m just a partisan blogger.

Gee, the President wouldn’t use a war as cover for a veto of popular legislation, would he? Crooks and Liars has an excellent summary of links surrounding the politics of stem cell research.

The House rejects the gay marriage amendment. The issue is dead. Expect Republicans to continue to waste time talking about it.

What the traditional media misses by fronting the President’s profanity during his on-mic action, is that the “broader context” is more important. It’s not the sh*t, as John so eloquently writes.

And then Bush is caught on film groping Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel. A woman’s perspective on the groping.

The President personally blocked investigation into the legality of the NSA wiretapping.

A brief assessment of the Israel-Lebanon war.

Former CIA director James Woolsey calls for war on Syria. Colbert: “It’s world war three…or four…adjust your graphics accordingly.”

George Will destroys Kristol’s Middle East fantasies.

Why do people oppose gay marriage? Kevin Drums finds some evidence suggesting homophobia is to blame.

Is Dean’s 50-state strategy coming together…in the South?

Montana’s doubles cornholing championships will take place on the 29th in Terry.

Yesterday, the Gazette ran the dueling guest editorials of Conrad Burns and Jon Tester. I admit that these editorials weren’t as exciting as those from the House race, but in that case Rehberg really laid it on thick. That, and we’ve heard most of the Senate race positions made during the debate. Still…as always…my thoughts:

Tester wrote some of the strongest language on ethics I’ve seen yet, and made a vow I hadn’t seen:

Congress is spending our tax dollars like drunken sailors. If I ran my farm that way, I’d be long since out of business. What they see happening isn’t representative government. It’s an auction. Backroom deals are cut, not on the basis of what’s best for the average Montanan or American, but on who can write the biggest campaign check.This climate infecting our nation’s capital has to be stamped out once and for all. As your U.S. senator, I pledge the following: I will ban all lobbyist gifts, meals and travel paid for by outside sources. All of it. I will not take personal favors from lobbyists, nor will my staff. What’s more, I’ll ask a Montana judge to conduct an ethics audit of my office every year so you know I’m living up to the trust you placed in me.

Good stuff. Of course, we know who he’s referring to when he says “drunken sailor.”

Tester touts energy independence and lower health care costs, both issues he’s worked hard for during his stint in the Montana Senate. So we know this is a promise, not idle political platitudes.

Burns’ statement leads off with Iraq, showing he’s trying to divert the issues to a plebiscite on the President. (Um, dumb move, Connie.):

Our strategy in the war on terror ought to be to win. Time and again Islamic radicals have been emboldened by a feeble American response to terrorism. When the Marines were bombed in Lebanon, they were quickly withdrawn. When Blackhawk helicopters were shot down in Somalia, we packed up and left. When embassies in Africa were bombed, we bombed sand.

Anybody have Burns’ record on Somalia and Clinton’s Sudan bombing? I suspect that Burns, like most of his Republican peers, decried Clinton’s efforts fighting actual terrorists. Remember the shrill outcry from the Republican Congress when we bombed an al Qaeda training camp in Sudan? The GOP claimed it was a diversion from the Lewinsky scandal. Oh, how the times have changed!

We were attacked on 9/11 by people who wish us harm. It is naïve to believe that the violence will end by cutting and running. The fight would simply shift from Fallujah and Baghdad to places like New York and Washington, D.C.We can and must win this war on terror. We need to give our troops every tool they need to win this war on terror. I don’t want to stay there forever, but I don’t want to leave before we’ve done the job right. The people who should make that decision are the generals on the ground, not Washington, D.C., politicians.

The idea that somehow the war in Iraq has anything to do with actual efforts against terrorism is ludicrous, pure Republican partisan spin to justify the administration’s botched efforts in Iraq. This argument is about three years past its shelf life, and I find it annoying that the Senator (a) believes Montanans are stupid enough to buy this cr*p, and (b) doesn’t consider the war important enough to come up with a newer, more creative reason for us being there.

The Iraq War only detracts from our national security. The money poured into Bush’s war only steals from our domestic efforts to seal the borders from terrorists. Shipping container inspection? Pah! Less important than Iraq – according to the GOP. Sufficient law enforcement on the US-Mexican border? Pah! Less important than Iraq – according to the GOP.

Let’s face it, fighting “them” in Iraq means that we’re more likely to see a terrorist attack here. And the fact that we haven’t means the threat is probably – definitely? – exaggerated.

But let’s not take chances. Bring ‘em home from Iraq, beef up our security, fix the bureaucracies that provide us with emergency services, and get to work on the ailin’ economy. Oh, wait. We can’t do that with potty-mouth Dinky and his spineless Congressional yes-men in office.

*Breathe*

Burns finishes up with renewable energy – a Democratic issue – despite the fact his idea of an energy plan is to give big oil subsidies and tax breaks, and (get this!) tax cuts!

Tax cuts??

We’re racking up a massive deficit, the only tax cuts anybody’s seen are for the filthiest richest in our country, we face hyper inflation if these trends don’t reverse, and Conrad Burns wants to cut taxes???

It’s like this version of Conrad Burns was beamed to the present from 1982 or something.

How else do you explain his idiotic and continued support for nation-wrecking tax cuts?…and for his fat-cat buddies, one assumes as always.

And then if that weren’t funny enough, Burns writes this under “Montana values”:

I also believe it important to represent Montana’s values to Washington, D.C., and not the other way around. That’s why I have voted for judges who believe it’s their job to interpret the Constitution and not write it. I believe in all of our constitutional rights. Private property and gun ownership are the cornerstones of freedom.This election is a choice. I am guided by the principles of opportunity, freedom and a government that serves the needs of the people. Votes matter and my record is clear; I stand with Montana.

Last time I checked, Burns is from Missouri. And I must have missed the handout that said we Montanans should take money from wealthy corporations and do whatever it is they tell us to do.Burns wouldn’t recognize a “value” if it stepped up to him and spit in his eye.

Shortly before the Fourth of July, a woman inmate at the Missoula County jail was subdued with seven pepperball bullets and then tied to a chair for over forty minutes before being decontaminated. The material in the bullets is a weaker form of the pepper spray used to ward off grizzly bears – symptoms from contact with the powder include vomiting, burning skin, loss of breath, and mucus membranes “go into overdrive,” i.e., lots of snot.

A Missoula County detention officer, Mike Burch, thought the process went overboard. Way overboard. He gave a copy of the report to the Missoulian, fully aware that it belonged to Missoula County and that he faced disciplinary action for his whistle blowing, if not dismissal.

Two stories subsequently appeared in local papers. One written by Tristan Scott of the Missoulian, the second by Brad Tyer of the Missoula Independent. And that’s where my story starts.

First, let me say I admit I don’t know exactly what transpired at the jail, and how threatening the actions of the woman or proper the reactions of the officer. It’s easy to criticize officers for mistakes, but they often have to make decisions quickly and under extreme stress. What’s indisputable is that the woman inmate suffered only minor injuries – welts where the pepperballs struck her – and has since left the jail. Whether the action of the officers involved in the incident warrant dismissal or small punishments is not what I’m writing about.

I’m writing about the two accounts linked to, above, and how much they differ.

Read them both now.

You’ll notice Scott’s version leaves out some details – some important details – that Tyer reports. Here are the more important points Scott leaves out:

–The inmate does, in part comply with officers before being pepper-gunned, although she was essentially uncooperative.

–The inmate was hit with five pepperballs, four of which exploded, dousing her with “pepper powder,” after which the inmate was “temporarily disoriented” and sat down on her bunk.

–After refusing to lie down on the bunk, the officer shot two more pepperballs at the wall near her face.

–The inmate’s injuries were cleared by a nurse, after which the inmate was again tied to a restraint chair

–The inmate was told “if she could remain compliant for the next 10 minutes she would be…decontaminated…”

–The inmate was decontaminated 44 minutes later

–Burch came forward only after jail supervisors were told by administrators over the incident “to let it lie”

Here are other salient details gotten from whistle blower Burch that are missing from Scott’s report:

…[according to Burch] the report contains no justifiable defense for inundating an incarcerated woman with seven rounds of Capsicum powder at a range of three to five yards. To the extent that she could be considered a suicide risk, he says, the detention center has protocols in place for monitoring and/or restraining such inmates well shy of assault with Capsicum powder—protocols the incident report makes no mention of being enacted.

For another, Burch says, “She was in a cell; she really didn’t pose a credible threat to herself or the officers. Verbally is how it should have happened. Three officers enter, one takes the left arm, one takes the right arm, one takes her head, hook her up [to the restraint chair]. I would have had the nurse examine her. [Sorini] didn’t want to deal with her so he took the shortest route to resolving the situation, instead of the correct route. No ifs ands or butts.”

Furthermore, Scott misses Burch’s claim that leaving her in a restraint “violates detention policy, if not the victim’s civil rights,” and that Montana State Prison policy “is that decontamination be effected ‘as soon as practical.’”

(To me, tying someone to a chair with their skin and clothes doused in a substance that causes vomiting, difficulty breathing, burning skin, and free-flowing mucous for 45 minutes amounts to torture.)

Instead, Scott colors Burch with “the demeanor of a martyr,” describes pepperball gun as having “been lauded by law enforcement communities across the country,” fails to mention the woman’s restraint while contaminated with pepper powder for over forty minutes, quotes Sheriff McMeekin on the pepperballing officer — “[his] decisions were certainly within acceptable parameters” — and on Burch – a “malcontent.” (Just why Burch may be considered a malcontent appear only in Tyer’s report. Burch: “This hasn’t been an isolated incident…”)

The real story now isn’t whether an officer violated an inmate’s basic civil rights, it’s whether the Sheriff, in collusion with the Missoulian, is covering the story up.

Based on the egregious omissions from Scott’s story, it might appear so.

Good thing Scott’s email is on the report: I can ask him!

Update:  I just got off the phone with Tristan Scott, and after our conversation, I hereby strike the suspicion that Scott — or a Missoulian editor — were colluding with county authorities to cover up information. Instead, it seems that reportorial judgement, space constraints, and deadline pressure caused Scott to omit some key facts of the story.




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