Spam a lot

For some reason, in the last few days my email has just been overwhelmed by spam — hundreds and hundreds of them a day (rather than the usual mere hundreds). Most of them seem to be for penis enlargement substances.

If one in 100 of those ads did any good, I would have a penis the size of a caber.

Talk radio update

I’ve been trying to squeeze out a column on this, but it doesn’t quite want to come together, so a couple of thoughts here:

Sean Hannity has been saying for five years that Barack Obama is a rigid, inflexible, left-wing ideologue unable or unwilling to adjust to political and practical realities. Now Hannity’s whole scheme for saving the country from Obamacare hinges on the president being the exact opposite of everything Hannity has said about him.

Hannity has been pushing relentlessly for Republicans to defund Obamacare and vigorously supported last week’s move in the House to fund everything except Obamacare. The theory is that when the government shuts down, Obama will get the blame and ultimately give in.

But what if the left-wing ideologue refuses to cave on his signature legislation? What if he just says, “The heck with it. I’m not giving in. The country can go to hell, and I will move back to Kenya.” What then?

Even Hannity probably doesn’t really want the country to fall apart. And he doesn’t want Republicans to cave. He’s just assuming that Obama is the sanest guy in the room and loves the country too much to let it collapse over a single issue.

But do Republicans?


Some get rained out

We were at the Billings Mustangs doubleheader when last night’s storm blew in. It wasn’t even raining when the managers pulled their teams off the field, the grounds crew started laying down the tarp, and the public address announcer advised the crowd to go find shelter. Apparently, cell phones in the crowd already had alerted many of the fans. They were leaving by the bucketful even before the announcement.

We were just a few yards from the car when the downpour hit. It was by far the hardest rain I have ever seen in Montana, and it would have held its own with some South Texas hurricanes I have lived through. We live only a few blocks from Dehler Park, but it sure seemed like a long drive home through rain, wind and hail.

So much rain fell that even today’s game was canceled. Since the second game of the doubleheader was tied when the rains came, the Mustangs ended an ignominious season in an even less satisfying fashion than usual. It was a grim year.

But that’s behind us now. The wife and I are off to Enzo’s tonight to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary, which doesn’t actually happen until tomorrow. But we’re willing to take a chance that the marriage will last at least one more day.

Talk radio update

Not much surprises me on talk radio — if conservative is defined as “a preference for the predictable” — then talk radio is even more conservative than its politics makes it sound. But I have been a little surprised at just how vehement opposition has been to attacking Syria. Sean Hannity, talk radio’s warmonger-in-chief, has just been all over it, for every imaginable reason (imaginable, that is, so long as what can be imagined reflects badly on Obama). He even had on a couple of congressmen who opposed attacking Syria because they thought we should be attacking Iran instead. Huckabee just dismissed the whole idea of attacking Syria as wacky.

Well, well. I’m damned if I know how best to deal with the Syrian mess. I have also sorts of thoughts, some of them incompatible:

1. I definitely agree that Congress, not the president, should make this call. Attacking Syria would be a clear-cut act of war, and there is no doubt who the founders thought should make decisions about going to war. If other countries complain that we look weak or slow because this process takes so long, then I would reply: So how’s your government worked out over the last couple of hundred years?

2. I support the ban on chemical weapons even though some pretty smart people point out that killing people with chemical weapons isn’t really much different from killing them with other kinds of weapons. True. But the chemical weapons ban takes one ugly weapon off the battlefield, which is at least some kind of progress. I hate to give that progress up, so some sort of retaliation appears to be in order.

3. But what? Heck if I know. The United Nations, ideally, but that pretty clearly is not going to happen. I recoil at the thought of us acting unilaterally, against the will of the people and much of Congress. Ordinary sorts of diplomatic sanctions and blockades don’t seem likely to help. Military action could boil up all sorts of unintended consequences.

4. So give me a bully pulpit and command of U.S. forces and what would I do? Probably about what Obama is doing: Make my best case to Congress, then secretly hope Congress stops me from doing anything. At least there would be the consolation of knowing that I was doing something Hannity didn’t like.

Happy Labor Day

Here’s a pretty astonishing contrast between what Republicans used to say about unions and what they say now. I keep getting more conservative in my old age, but, man, it’s hard to keep up.

So we’re off to the Labor Day picnic to celebrate unions (my wife, as a school teacher, is a union member) and eat fried chicken. The turnout of politicians should be light, in this off year, but it will be interesting to see if I can spot any Republicans. The last one I remember seeing there was Ken Miller when he was running for governor. Probably why he lost.

UPDATE: Only one confirmed Republican sighting: Former state legislator Bruce Simon, who, conservative as he is, always took pride in his labor endorsements. I may have missed some, of course.

UPDATE 2: Brad Molnar, former Republican Public Service commissioner, also was there. I didn’t see him, but he sent me photos to prove it.

Red state

Notice how the red jumps out at you on these two maps? Look where the uninsured people are: Texas (no surprise there), Florida (ditto), Nevada, the teeny-tiny state of Alaska and, gulp, Montana. Nevada just approved the federal Medicaid expansion. Texas, Florida, Alaska and, gulp, Montana have turned it down.

Not hard to tell where poor people who get sick are most likely to die in coming decades. No wonder a move is on to fix Montana’s problem.

Talk radio update

Sean Hannity had on Ann Coulter to help him blast Obama over Syria. I had a little trouble following this. I mean, Hannity finds fault in everything Obama does, except for his parenting skills, so some sort of an attack on Obama’s Syria policy was a given. But Hannity sounded like a peace-mongering pacifist. What’s up with that? There’s a man who has favored military action either in support of or opposition to just about every country on the planet, so long as he personally doesn’t have to fight. So how does he square this?

I dunno. I won’t even try.

But somehow I got a free subscription to the Economist, and I have been reading that. I’ve always heard it was a great publication, and I believed it, even without personal evidence. Now I do have evidence, and I still believe it.

There was, for example, the recent move in Congress to block the immigration bill unless we measured how many illegal immigrants were stopped from crossing the border. How could we measure such a thing? Only the Economist, in my reading, attempted an answer complete with all of the uncertainties in the estimate.

And what about Obamacare? Will it create or cost American jobs? Only in the Economist have I seen a serious attempt to consider all sides of the question (conclusion: It may well cost some jobs, but many of those will be jobs held by people who need them only for health insurance).

What a lousy comparison TV news makes. Last week on Candy Crowley’s show, the guest host had on Jim Demint and Howard Dean to argue about Obamacare. It was a perfect matchup — Dean is a former physician who initially opposed Obamacare and was a governor of a state that offers the most extensive healthcare insurance in the country; Demint is a former congressman and head of the Heritage Foundation, which has now rejected its own Obamacare-like healthcare plan.

So some fireworks, eh? Not really. The host asked a couple of routine questions, then tried to divert both into political sideshows: Demint about Republican efforts to defund Obamacare and Dean about Democratic presidential politics. Neither speaker wanted to go there. They really wanted to fight it out over actual substance.

But we can’t have that on American TV. Somebody might change the channel. Sadly, I did.

Mad Max

Warning: This post contains a link to the Billings Gazette website, but I couldn’t let this letter to the editor from Max Lenington pass unmentioned.

Max, as the editor’s note mentions, is Yellowstone County’s treasurer, assessor and county superintendent of schools. When I was covering Yellowstone County, he seemed to me to be one of the most amiable and reasonable public officials around. But either I was badly fooled, or he has become unhinged.

In case you are hoarding your Gazette links, as I do, here are just a few samples from his letter, consistent, I hope, with respecting the Gazette’s copyright. Lenington says the Obama are “the very worst kind of racialist,” they are “elitist Leninists” (is it even possible to be both a Leninist and an elitist?) and they “present themselves as an emperor and an empress.” He says that Obama has taken “lies, deceit, dishonesty and subterfuge to a new depth. He is verbally abusive to our citizenry and lacks civility.”

Lenington concludes in grammatically challenged fashion: ”There is just no possible way; whereby, a white president and his wife could ignore the law, flaunt their position and be the lord of the people, as these two are permitted out of fear for their color.”

As the letter indicates, this isn’t the first time Max has written a letter like this. The first time, I imagined that somebody was pranking the Gazoo and there would be a correction in a day or two apologizing for accidentally putting Max’s name on somebody else’s letter. Then I sort of forgot about it.

But I don’t how even Obama haters can find a shred of sanity in this. It’s disgraceful, and it’s time for Max to go.

UPDATE: Intelligent Discontent weighs in.

UPDATE 2: Now it turns out that Max plagiarized practically the whole thing. Our own freelancer, Adrian Jawort, has been plugging away at it, and the Gazette has a story up now.

UPDATE 3: Max Lenington is now responding to the story with another letter to the Gazette that he also provided to the Outpost. He denies doing anything wrong and says, “I will also ask the Yellowstone County Attorney’s office to please review your accusations and advise me accordingly.  I will immediately forward you his response when it is complete.” See Thursday’s Outpost for more.