Voting blues

Just back from voting. Don’t know when I’ve ever enjoyed it less. All the precincts are stuck into MetraPark in a venue way too large for the task. A few voters wandered about. A TV crew grabbed random passersby. Outside, a handful of activists gathered signatures on petitions aimed at establishing that life begins at incorporation.

The competing ballots offered embarrassments of riches — and of just embarrassment. Should voters really have to vote against either Chuck Tooley or Lynda Moss — two fine public servants — or choose instead between 60 or 70 identical Republican candidates for governor?

I used to reliably come out of the voting booth feeling a little better about myself and the country. Those days are over.

Weak Miller response

The Ken Miller campaign has issued a weak response to the campaign violations detailed in a post below. A news release said that the office of the commissioner of political practices

continues to be a political tool attempting to damage a surging Miller for Governor campaign just four days before the primary election … . The continued usage of this COPP office for character assassination furthers shows the desperate need for reform of that office.

The news release goes on to acknowledge a “couple of disputed procedural issues,” which it says have since been changed. It doesn’t point out any inaccuracies in the commissioner’s findings.

Miller was supposed to hold a news conference this morning in Helena, and perhaps he clarified matters there. Several callers to Aaron Flint’s show this morning defended Miller’s integrity, and I hope they are right. He always has impressed me as an honorable man, and I would hate to be proved wrong.

But which would be worse: learning of these violations four days before the primary or four days after? I would rather have the information before I vote. And it’s far from clear to me that, even if the office was being manipulated for political purposes, Miller would be the target. I would think Democrats would welcome a race against a Tea Party favorite.

But for Miller to impugn the commissioner’s integrity without providing evidence of inaccurate findings is to engage in the same behavior he accuses the commissioner of practicing. While some of the commissioner’s findings do seem minor and possibly procedural, others are not so easily dismissed. Those 21 free motel nights are hard to explain away. Miller is no campaign rookie; he had to have known how to handle that sort of contribution.

Besides all that, Miller misspelled the commissioner’s name. Amateurish.

UPDATE: The Miller campaign just issued its full response, and it is, in fact, quite detailed and specific. Some of the allegations, the response says, involved political contributions that were given under one name but reported under another, such as Dick Johnson reported as Richard Johnson. In instances where excessive contributions were reported, the report claims that it followed the commissioner’s instructions in how to shift those contributions, with contributor approval, to the general election fund.

Here’s the response to the free motel rooms allegation:

When the campaign became aware of the contributor’s corporate status, it issued a check for the value of the lodging, based on the discounted rate the Motel routinely offers candidates, according to the owner. The state disputes the fact that motels offer discounted rates to frequent visitors and political candidates, which is unsubstantiated and false.

The report also claims that evidence of expenses was, in fact, provided to the campaign treasurer. Miller also said:

Again, I stand firm on the ground that these allegations are 100% false, and now the people of Montana can see for themselves what a waste of taxpayer money and character mutilation that this was.  The nature of the claim is malicious, spiteful and unethical, to its core.

I have to get a paper out and can’t take the time to precisely match the commissioner’s allegations against the Miller campaign’s response. But at least Miller gave a thorough reply.

Electric City fizzle

Electric City Weblog has a characteristically weak take down of an AP story detailing allegations Corey Stapleton made that Rick Hall received favorable lease treatment. Gregg Smith is right in knowing that any evidence of actual wrongdoing is mighty slim. He goes astray when he says this:

But the AP, though, showed its hand.  We’ll have to wonder how many stories the AP would run as fact in the general election if Rick Hill were to allege that he “believes” something about the Democrat candidate.

We’ll have to wonder, of course, because the AP would never run such a story. What a weak-assed, transparent smear.

Actually, it’s inconceivable to me that AP would NOT do a story if similar allegations were made against a Democrat in the general election. Of course AP would do a story. That’s what AP does. The fact that the story doesn’t amount to much is not, so far as I can tell, AP’s fault. It’s Stapleton’s fault for pushing a weak allegation. But AP had to write about it.

Bishop vs. Miller

In a decision released today, Commissioner of Political Practices David Murry has found that gubernatorial candidate Ken Miller, R-Laurel, violated campaign laws.

Murry found that the Miller campaign took excessive contributions, failed to report all contributions, failed to properly report all expenditures, accepted anonymous contributions, accepted direct corporate contributions, and made expenditures other than those by the campaign treasurer or deputy treasurer.

Murry also found that Sony Quackenbush, dba Super 8 Motel of Missoula, made direct corporate contributions by allowing Miller to stay in rooms for free on 21 occasions.

This was a complaint filed by Kelly Bishop of Polson. The decision said that civil penalty action was warranted but did not state any amount.

Talk radio update

My wife and I somehow got picked to fill out diaries for the Arbitron ratings, and Thursday was the first day we were to log our listening habits, so I was an especially attentive listener.

Unfortunately for the accuracy of the Arbitron ratings, I had a breakfast meeting, so I was late starting the route. I missed “Voices of Montana” altogether (sorry, Aaron). As usual, I switched back and forth between Huckabee and Limbaugh during commercial breaks, focusing mainly on Huckabee, who actually had a couple of interesting interviews.

One was with Rand Paul, who wants to pass a bill barring all aid to Pakistan until it frees Shakil Afridi. The other was with former California Gov. Gray Davis, who said he wasn’t much fond of recall elections (me, too).

Limbaugh said the media were going nuts over Mitt Romney having a fund-raiser with birther Donald Trump. Don’t know about the “media,” but Limbaugh was right at least with respect to MSNBC, which hardly seemed able on Wednesday to find time to talk about anything else. I think Democrats should love Trump’s association with Romney. It’s commonplace for Americans to believe that people who make a lot of money must be smart; Trump is proof positive that it ain’t necessarily so.

Sean Hannity railed against a caller who accused Bain Capital of being “amoral.” But it was apparent that Hannity can’t distinguish between “amoral” and “immoral.” At one point he even asked the caller, “Have you ever done anything amoral? What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?”

As the perpetrator of numerous amoral acts, among them sleeping almost every day, I would have expected Hannity to embrace amorality. That was Adam Smith’s whole point about capitalism, wasn’t it? People acting with regard only to their own self-interest, i.e., amorally, nevertheless produce results that benefit society as a whole. I guess Smith must have been a Marxist.

But Hannity’s finest attribute is not his ignorance but his hypocrisy. He played several times a type of David Axelrod being jeered at a speech in Massachusetts. While Hannity didn’t exactly praise the hecklers, he certainly didn’t condemn them, although he has often condemned liberals who heckle conservative speakers.

The remarkable thing was that I stopped by Hannity’s TV show for a couple of minutes after I got home Thursday night, and there he was: complaining about liberals who heckle conservatives. He didn’t seem to even recall that he had just given conservatives a pass for doing exactly the same thing to liberals. Sometimes I wonder whether it’s even fair with Hannity to call it hypocrisy, since hypocrisy requires some kind of conscious thought. I don’t think he has it in him.

Both Huckabee and the Glenn Beck clone later in the day were upset about a proposal to limit sizes of sugary drinks in New York. I get this; I even agree with it. But I listened to the Beck clone rant for 45 minutes on the topic, which is way more energy than I have for the subject. If I’m going to listen to 45 minutes on drink sizes, I want at least five minutes devoted to the other side of the issue. I got zilch.

The same was true this morning on “Voices of Montana,” which I don’t always listen to on Fridays but did partly to be fair to Arbitron and to Aaron Flint. So Flint ranted (albeit briefly) about drink sizes. I withdraw my apology.

Only on NPR did we hear someone make the scientific case for smaller portion sizes. Among other things, he said that studies show that people in movie theaters will eat more popcorn if given a larger container of it. Even if they already have eaten, and even if the popcorn is five days old, they eat a third more than they would if the portion was smaller.

But even he said he didn’t think the New York proposal was going anywhere. That’s OK. It’s Friday now. Time for a new outrage.


Bob Dylan dream

I woke up about 4:30 a.m. Thursday and thought about going upstairs to get some work done. Instead, I fell back asleep, and I’m glad I did. I dreamed about Bob Dylan, and while I have been a Dylan fan for a long time, but this is the first dream I can recall ever having about him.

He was playing a cafe concert before maybe a dozen fans in Jordan and had a huge grin, the like of which I have never seen on him in real life. And he was eager afterward to talk, sounding a lot like the 20-year-old Dylan you see in old documentary films.

At one point he asked me how I get writing students excited about the rich possibilities of creative uses of language. I said it was hard and sometimes I used examples from him (which is true, although I have not done it in a long time; sorry if I misled you, dream Bob). His advice: “Have them read Percy Post.”

I wasn’t going to admit to him that I had no idea who Percy Post was. I still don’t, but if I ever figure it out, I will make my students read every word he wrote.