Struggling Lee Enterprises saves company with purchase of Indy

Lee Enterprises headquarters

As you may remember from late last week, scrappy media conglomerate Lee Enterprises has purchased the Missoula Independent, saving Lee from bankruptcy. Lee was already in bankruptcy back in 2011, because it spent $1.5 billion to buy Pulitzer, Inc. in 2005—a dark horse candidate for deal of the year, since News Corp. paid a mere $580 million for Myspace. Anywhom, Lee went broke buying newspapers. Now, like a fun and informative vampire, it must keep buying more newspapers to stay alive. But its waking nightmare of debt-service undeath is finally over, because it bought my newspaper.

The immense profits that the Indy generates will wipe out Lee’s debts in no time. After a few months of alt-weekly income, the Missoulian can stop writing rapturous features about Cabela’s, and the Beatrice, Nebraska Daily Sun can settle with the families of those kids from last year’s Thresher Days. We’ll all be rich—rich as newsmen!

By we, though, I mean everyone but me. Even a corporation as showered in gold as Lee Enterprises cannot justify my exorbitant fee. And don’t ask me to take a pay cut out of consideration for a mom-and-pop paper chain. My lifestyle simply could not bear it. Although nothing is certain now, I fear my days of making money hand-over-fist-over-emerald-strewn-coke-mirror might be headed to a halt. For all I know, this could be my last column. I excerpt here for posterity:

I know that when I got into this business, it was strictly for the cash. But over the last few years, I have developed an affection for you, the seemingly useless reader. Although writing this column provides me with enough money and drugs to deaden my connection to ordinary people, I cannot help but feel that we are in this together. We live in the same region, after all. Might it be too much to say that we belong to the same community?

I was too temperate to say so in print, but I’ll say it here: we do belong to the same community. That community belongs to Lee Enterprises now. May their two Missoula newspapers, the Missoulian and the Independent, remains as keen and incisive as the heads on a two-headed snake, and may that snake poop money for the rest of our wonderful lives.

I’m in the Times and the Indy, talking that mess

A newsstand seen through Roddy Piper’s magic glasses in They Live

It’s a big Thursday for Combat! blog, because I am in the New York Times. Apparently everyone who works there drinks, since they deigned to publish my Letter of Recommendation: Pedialyte. Do you know Pedialyte? Our hypocritical modern society markets it as a formula for children, but really it’s for adults. Specifically, it’s for adults who drink and work out to the point of vomiting, even though they are old now and should probably know better. I am old now. But I know nothing! Head on over to the Times and see how I somehow manage to make a living anyway.

In other news, literally, I wrote about John Carpenter’s misunderstood 1988 horror-satire They Live for the Missoula Independent. I first saw They Live in 2006, when it was presented to me as a so-bad-it’s-good eighties misfire. It is that. But at the time, I completely missed the subtext about Reaganomics and the amoral materialism that inspired Carpenter to make the movie in the first place. Today, Reag-o-nomical horror feels relevant again. The country is in the midst of some sort of nightmarish eighties throwback, but the people who most need to hear They Live‘s message have determined the alien conspirators who live among us represent…Jews. Seriously—Carpenter had to go on Twitter to tell internet Nazis it was about yuppies and not the Rothschild conspiracy. That, right there, is a neat encapsulation of our political moment. Even if you don’t care about politics or weird-toned eighties camp, They Live is worth watching for this the greatest fight scene in film history:

Meanwhile, in yet more news or at least opinion, Rep. Barry Usher (R–Roundup) has begun to walk back a bill that would ban bicycles from most of Montana’s public roads. Usher claimed his proposal, which would make it illegal to ride a bicycle outside of a municipal area on any two-lane road without a paved shoulder, was in the interest of bike safety. It seemed more like a motorist convenience bill, designed to save drivers from the danger of having to slow down and wait to pass. Little did he realize that almost none of the highways in the state have paved shoulders. Because the bill also applies to pedestrians and people in wheelchairs, it would make it a crime for people in rural areas to leave their properties, unless they were in cars. For once, though, public outcry has carried the day, and Usher now plans to rewrite his bill if not scratch it entirely. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent.

Victory is sweet. This is the last Combat! blog of the week, because I am going to Seattle tomorrow morning for a fencing tournament. Will I win? Absolutely not. There will be Olympians and shit, and I started fencing last year. But will I have the opportunity to frustrate vastly superior fencers with my weird style, throwing them into the tantrums characteristic of the preppie class? You bet your sweet, unguarded hand I will. I’ll see you Monday, probably with a bunch of weird bruises on my leg.

There’s no such thing as a disposable Trump voter

Voters

Voters

Life hack: skip the alarm by waking suddenly in the middle of the night to think about how Donald Trump is the next president. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last week, and it really cuts down on unnecessary neck mobility. It’s hard to decide which is worse: his presidency or the knowledge that people voted for him. Handed the reins of our democracy, a little under half of Americans failed to see a lying egomaniac for what he was. Or they did and thought, “At least he’s not a woman.”

It sucks to think about all the people who voted Trump, because the reasons they might have done so seem awful. In the search for the most likely explanation, the contest between misogyny and racism continues. If you prefer to think the best of people, the sunniest plausible narrative is that “economic anxiety” scared people enough to turn against the system but not enough to learn about it. If people only voted for Trump because they’re scared of going broke, they still couldn’t grasp the candidates’ platforms well enough to recognize their own interests. Economic anxiety voted to cut taxes on the rich.

Yet you cannot contemn these people, because we need them. Without at least some of the people who voted for Trump, you can’t put a women in the White House. You can’t make public college free. You can’t fix Obamacare. You can’t even keep a reality TV celebrity from taking the Oval Office. If we intend to run this democracy better, “half of voters are stupid assholes” cannot be our operating principle.

Racism, misogyny, and Republicans’ ongoing hypnosis of the white working class made a lot of people vote for Trump, but did they make every person vote for Trump? It’s dangerous to say there’s no such thing as a good Trump voter, because it puts the blame for this disastrous election on everyone the Democrats failed to convince. Maybe they’re not the problem.

If I could say one thing to the Democratic Party: It’s not our job to vote for you. It’s your job to convince us. Hillary Clinton and the DNC did a good job of convincing me to vote against Trump, but they never gave me a clear sense of what I voted for.

Trump said he would deport immigrants and watch Muslims. That’s disgusting and I voted against it, but what was Hillary’s counteroffer? The college thing was nice, although she kind of stopped talking about it after the primaries. More intervention in Syria sounded both bad and likely—more likely than financial regulation or taxing the rich. Her central promise was to continue the Obama legacy. In a year that saw 16 experienced Republicans wrecked by an anti-establishment bomb thrower, offering voters more of the same seems like electoral suicide.

In retrospect it seems that way. At the time, we all knew she was going to win. Now our comfort feels like complacency, and everything is fucked. Birds crawl along the ground as our blood flies up into the clouds. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.

Juras revives dispute with defunct student sex column

Montana Supreme Court candidate Kristen Juras

Montana Supreme Court candidate Kristen Juras

Politics is a chess match that attracts the most brilliant tactical minds of our society. Just kidding—it’s a magnet for confident dummies. I bet Kristen Juras is very smart in most situations, but she became her worst self last month, when she revived her dispute with the University of Montana student newspaper over a sex advice column that ran for one semester seven years ago.

As an assistant law professor at UM in 2009, Juras objected to the “Bess Sex” column in the Montana Kaimin, writing letters to the editor and eventually taking her complaint to the president of the university and the dean of the journalism school. Nothing happened, possibly because neither the president nor the dean exercises editorial control over the student newspaper.

“Bess Sex” author Bess Davis (now Bess Pallares) graduated later that year, and the column ended. You’d think that would put the matter to rest, but the Montana Cowgirl Blog brought it up last month, prompting Juras to issue the following statement on Facebook:

The column was discontinued after the United States launched a comprehensive review of the university’s handling of sexual assault and harassment complaints, including a review of student education efforts. Can’t find copies of the columns? That’s because all of the major newspapers refused to publish them.

That just isn’t true. The Department of Justice began its investigation of UM in 2012, three years after “Bess Sex” ended. And major newspapers “refused” to publish it in the same way NBC refuses to broadcast Game of Thrones. It was a Kaimin column, never offered for syndication.

This kind of reasoning suggests Juras might form her opinions first and her reasons second—a questionably desirable quality in a supreme court justice. You can read more instances of her non-standard approach to reasoning in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links, which will include an exciting surprise. Remember last week, when I said the same thing? I mean it this time, probably.