“The way I see it, heaven is a big, dark cave, and you can climb all over the walls and ceiling…”
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: American politics have come to a bitter pass, and what one voter holds dear is likely to enrage another. In these fractious times, Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) is doing what he can to bring the country together by standing up for what people still agree on. Last month, he celebrated Flag Day by proposing a constitutional amendment to ban the desecration of Old Glory. That probably cost him some votes in Tehran, but it seemed like a safe move otherwise. He followed it up with an editorial in the Missoulian and other Lee papers last week, in which he spoke out against methamphetamine. Beginning by noting that 95% of participants in his recent telephone town hall agree meth is a problem, he argues for 500 words that meth is, indeed, a problem. He concludes by saying that now is the time to raise awareness.
I suppose that last 5% of awareness is always the hardest. Still, one cannot help but think of other issues Sen. Daines might address, including the massive, secret, and extremely controversial health care bill his caucus is currently trying to ram through the senate. That bill might be why Daines keeps holding telephone town halls instead of regular ones. He hasn’t been back to Montana in a minute, and he lobbied to cancel the August recess. With all the flags-are-good and drugs-are-bad rhetoric coming out of his office right now, he’s starting to look like he might be trying to duck the issue. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. We’ll probably be talking about Daines more in the near future, since he introduced that single-payer amendment he doesn’t actually support. Start working on your goblin jokes, and we’ll meet back here tomorrow for Friday links.
The Missoulian offices as photographed by Cathrine Walters
The Missoulian newspaper website has disabled comments, depriving western Montana of its most reliable way to experience pure despair. Comments sections are bad. But the Missoulian comments were especially bad, combining the subliterate hatred of YouTube comments with the gravity of current events. And it always seemed to be getting worse. The paper turned off comments on obituaries a few years ago, after one became a public referendum on the character of the deceased, the circumstances of his death, and whether he had it coming. Last week, I am told, commenters on a crime story revealed the identity of a victim of sexual assault. That’s what prompted this editorial from Kathy Best, in which the new editor announces that comments on Facebook and Twitter will continue, but website comments are done indefinitely. I applaud this decision. It’s been a long time coming.
Ed Butcher is a former state senator and self-described historian/teacher of history, although his last teaching position—as a lecturer in American studies at Great Falls University—ended forty years ago. He appears to be retired, but don’t worry about him running afoul of his own proposal, because he owns a ranch. Like many retired landowners, he has a keen eye for who isn’t working. Quote:
Thousands of people are marching in highly organized mass protests across America. They obviously are not working for a living; so who is feeding, clothing and housing these radicals who are railing against the society supporting their “lifestyle?”
Butcher goes on to trace the decline of “the founding fathers’ republic” to the extension of the vote to men without property, a process that occurred during the 1820s. Now that’s conservative. His remedy is to require proof of employment to vote. You can read my full-throated defense of this idea in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. Mister Butcher—Ed—if you’re reading this, reasonable people can disagree. But you are not a reasonable person, so I am forced to agree with you wholeheartedly.
It’s hard to read about anything other than fascism lately, but if you care to take a moment for something lighter, Snoop Dogg is coming to Missoula as part of the Puff Puff Pass Tour Part 2. Let’s all take a moment to wonder what the fudge that might look like, and whether our girlfriend made good on her threat to buy tickets. Once that’s done, check out my meditation on the uncharted path of the middle-aged rapper, also in this week’s Indy. If you had told me, when this song came out and I was a young dummy in Brooklyn, that I would write about Snoop Dogg for a Montana newspaper in 2016, I would have been confused. Once you told me Donald Trump would be president, though, I would have known exactly what kind of person I was talking to.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) Photo: Joshua Roberts
Senator Charles Grassley is the most Iowa man in Iowa. He’s 82 and has aged in the Iowa manner, by looking like a child who fell into a food dehydrator. His Twitter is a delight. He is a Republican in the Chamber of Commerce tradition, representing that wing of the party whose ambition for government is to get it out of the way of farmers and insurance agents. This approach has gotten him labeled a Republican In Name Only, which is the kind of accusation people who learned about politics from Glenn Beck will level at a man who has been in the US Senate for 34 years. But despite the certainty that he will spend the rest of his life in office—or maybe because of it—Grassley displays the most Iowa quality: he wants to do a good job. Yesterday, he announced he might hold hearings on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee after all. His decision may have something to do with this jeremiad in the Des Moines Register.
Over at the New York Times, Angie Drobnic Holan has written an interesting guest editorial about her work as a political fact-checker. Holan works for PolitiFact, the Pulitzer-Prize winning project of the Tampa Bay Times to determine the accuracy of public statements. When you think about it, every news organization in America should do that—especially since Holan notes that fact-check stories get a lot of internet traffic after debates and other news events. Now is a good time for fact-checking. “I see accurate information becoming more available and easier for voters to find,” she writes. “By that measure, things are pretty good.”