Schweitzer in the race?

Sure sounds like Brian Schweitzer plans to run for president in 2016. He was asked that question specifically on MSNBC this morning and replied in typically cagey Schweitzer fashion. He said one thing on his bucket list is visiting every county in Iowa.

Not sure what to make of a Schweitzer candidacy, except that it sure will make the Democratic primary a lot more fun.

Top turkeys

If you hate Thanksgiving shopping as much as I do, you may want to see this list of national chain stores that won’t be open on Thanksgiving.

The only local one I see is Costco, which always seems to come out on top in lists of companies that treat employees well. We would shop there more often if serving sizes there were better suited to us aging empty nesters.

Veterans Day

Veterans Day ain’t what it used to be, and that’s a good thing.

I had breakfast today courtesy of Perkins. I had supper courtesy of the Western Empire Emporium. I could have stopped by for a second breakfast at Stella’s, lunch at the Texas Roadhouse and dessert at the Golden Corral, if had had the time and appetite.

I think I was a veteran for at least 30 years before I ever even got a day off, much less a free meal. Boy, are things different these days.

I was in the Army 1,095 days. If I live another millennium, I may still get every one of those days back.

Tax nirvana

A letter in this week’s Outpost (not yet online) argues that the school bond issue should be defeated because taxes are too high. He says he paid $731.73 in taxes on his house in 1989 and $1,665.93 in 2013, including $98 for the garbage bill.

So his taxes have just about doubled in 24 years. How unreasonable is that? Well, I just looked at the Consumer Price Index and guess what? It’s just about doubled since 1989. Back then, a first-class stamp cost 25 cents (now 46 cents). A gallon of gas cost $1.12 (now $3.63). A dozen eggs cost 96 cents (now $1.60). A gallon of milk cost $2.34 (now $3.05).

And you know what? Taxes went up, too.

Talk radio update

It isn’t always easy to tell when Hannity is truly outraged and when he’s just faking it for ratings. But last week’s outrage was about as fake as it gets.

Hannity was just incensed at how poorly the Obamacare website is working. Sure he was. He was loving it. And he barely even tried to hide his delight.

Sadly, one Foote in the grave

I’m not sure what Rick Foote though of puns, but the Butte Weekly (no web site) gave him a nice front-page sendoff this week. His death was reported in the Oct. 10 Outpost, and he had been the only editor the Weekly ever had (it is a few months older than the Outpost).

I thought I should write something about Foote in the paper, but it occurred to me that I probably didn’t know him well enough to do him justice. He was an original Montana character, tough and confrontational, with plenty of rough edges, and a revered figure at Butte Press Club meetings.

Most of my conversations with him over the years have been over the phone, and they have usually gone like this:

Me: This is David.

Him: This is Foote. I’m stealing your column.

Me: OK.

There wasn’t much bullshit in the man.

Talk radio update

If you thought that talk radio hosts would be begging forgiveness on Thursday for having urged the country to the edge of a cliff on Wednesday, then you don’t know talk radio. The only way you could tell the news was bad for them was that they didn’t want to talk about it.

Mike Huckabee led with news of his new grandbaby. Rush Limbaugh led with a story about “paparazzi” taking his picture. Sean Hannity pointed out that the whole episode illustrated the bankruptcy of liberalism. Even he couldn’t figure out how to make that remark sound sensible, so he quickly switched to how brilliant Republican prospects are in the next election. In all of the years I have listened to Hannity, I have never once heard him admit he has been wrong about anything. Self-deception is his stock in trade.

It’s usually hard to tell exactly what Glenn Beck is talking about, but he spent quite a while talking about how terrible John McCain is. The ostensible reason was that McCain said he didn’t take offense when Louie Gohmert accused him of palling around with terrorists because Gohmert was too dumb to know better.

I thought McCain’s response was quite restrained. If Gohmert had delivered his insult in, say, around 1820, the result would have been shots fired at dawn from a brace of pistols. No more Gohmert.

Mark Levin, a newcomer to local talk radio, deserves some kind of special post for his all-around awfulness. His voice alone makes me long for nails scratched across a chalkboard. As I understood it, what he was saying is that running the government and paying its bills is just one more example of unconstitutional tyranny.

All in all, a dismal day. I even switched over the fundraising drive on public radio for a few minutes, just so I could listen to somebody trying to make a buck honestly.

Well, shut my government

I wrote a column about the shutdown that I actually liked, then I ran out of room to print it in this week’s Outpost. I will try to repurpose it somehow, but in the meantime you might as well read it:

Salon reports that filmmaker Jen Senko is making a documentary called “The Brainwashing of My Dad.” It’s about how her father started listening to talk radio on long drives to work and gradually turned into a rabid conservative who angrily attacked anyone who expressed a liberal idea.

The same thing is happening to me. In reverse.

The Outpost turns 16 years old this week, and in just about every one of the weeks in all of those years, I have spent a long day delivering the paper all over town. To pass the time, I listen to talk radio, from the anodyne ramblings of Aaron Flint in the morning, to the mellow drone of Rush Limbaugh and Mike Huckabee through the noon hour, to the spittle-specked diatribes of Mark Levin in the late afternoon. I occasionally write reports about what I have heard on my Billings Blog.

All that talk can’t have been good for me. Instead of turning me into a believer, it has made me more hostile to conservative rhetoric than I ever imagined possible.

Last Thursday, I felt myself flying into a rage when Mr. Flint repeatedly alleged that President Obama was to blame for the government shutdown. “There is one side that will not negotiate,” he kept repeating.

I know Aaron a little bit, and he once gave a generous talk to my journalism students that I still cite as a model for how to succeed in 21st century media.

He is not a stupid man. So how could he be saying such stupid things?

Anybody who listens to Sean Hannity even once a week, as I do, knows why the shutdown really happened. It’s just about all Hannity talked about for months, and he had dozens of visits from Republican lawmakers to discuss the idea.

The plan was simple. Introduce a continuing resolution funding everything in the federal budget but Obamacare. The Republican House would (and did) pass it. Perhaps enough squishy Democrats would cave to get it through the Senate (they didn’t), and perhaps an intimidated President Obama would sign it (yeah, right).

If the resolution didn’t pass, then Republicans would simply let the government shut down, pass a series of bills funding the most popular and visible parts of government, crank up the talk-radio microphone and blame everything on Democrats.

Democrats wouldn’t dare reject those bills, and if they did, public opinion would rally against them until they gave in. Eventually, Republicans would get everything they wanted, with none of that fattening Obamacare.

The strategy was so transparent that anybody over the age of 3 could have seen through it (note to 3-year-olds who may feel slighted: Grow up! Get over it!). Even Democrats could figure out what Republicans were up to, and they refused to go along.

In all of the hours I heard Hannity and his GOP conspirators discuss this strategy, I never once heard them mention what would happen next. Apparently they never thought that far ahead. So at this writing, the government is shut down, default is looming, and talk show hosts are reduced to attacking Obama for laying off not only obscure bureaucrats but also park rangers and people who make sure veterans benefits are paid.

They accuse Obama of deliberately making the cuts as painful as possible. Is that true? I don’t know, but if I were in Obama’s position that is exactly what I would do.

Not only would I shut down parks and close monuments, I would block roads, mothball military bases, refuse to pay soldiers and deny back pay to laid-off workers. I would tell Republicans, you want to get rid of government? You got it.

You may say: How can you possibly in good conscience refuse to pay people who are out there risking their lives to keep America safe? I would reply: You can’t. If Congress had been acting in good conscience, we never would have gotten into this mess to begin with. The more painful the shutdown is, the faster voters will come to their senses and start electing people who can govern.

The very idea. You’ve got thousands of government workers out there serving their country, enforcing our laws, dealing with obnoxious taxpayers, mending our roads and carrying out our garbage, and you’re laying them off to score political points? Not in my country.

Then I would go out in public and bash Republicans every day. I would yell and scream at them, call them names, question their lineage. I would attack their patriotism, accuse them of treason, brand them as racists.

Because that’s how politics works in America. It’s something I learned by listening to talk radio.