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.

Daines ducks constituents, complains too few in DC drive pickup trucks

US Senator from Montana and convicted goblin Steve Daines

Steve Daines’s first six weeks as a senator have not been easy. He happened to be presiding over the confirmation hearings for Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month, when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell instructed him to gavel down Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). That got him on the news. Then he cast the deciding vote to confirm Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, despite calls to recuse himself after she gave $48,000 to his campaign. Last week, he came home.

He was supposed to address the state legislature last Tuesday, but a crowd of protestors that gathered at the capitol caused him to reschedule at the last minute. He spoke to the legislature Wednesday, after protestors had safely gone home. The very next day, he went on Twitter. “Montanans can do a better job than D.C. bureaucrats who’ve never driven a pick-up and have a hard time finding Montana on a map,” he wrote.

Root toot ‘merca truck, you guys. This kind of pandering was my least favorite thing growing up in Iowa, where the performance of hick-ness was integral to public life. But the politicians of Montana take it to new heights. The day after Daines complained that the failure of bureaucrats to drive trucks left them unable to operate the US federal government, he posted a video from Big Sandy, in which he claimed to be “getting all over Montana” to talk to his constituents.

The senator didn’t have to drive the back roads to find constituents; they had come to him 48 hours earlier, and he contorted his schedule to avoid speaking to them. Daines has never been a dynamic public speaker. Although he gets +1 to night vision and can be dangerous in groups, his main political advantage is that he is a party man. If you need someone to do what his superiors in the GOP say, Daines is your boy. It is therefore distasteful for him to pretend that he is some salt-of-the-earth type fed up with Washington, DC. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, in which we speculate on his truck-drivin’ bona fides and his life as a freshman in the senate dorms. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!

Who will replace Ryan Zinke?

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) visits a Special Forces parade in Helena.

Last week, increasingly real thing that happened Donald Trump tapped Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) to be his Secretary of the Interior. Assuming the Senate confirms him when it reconvenes in January, Montana will need to select a new representative to the US House. But whom? State law calls for a special election within 85 to 100 days of the seat being vacated. It also authorizes the governor to appoint an interim representative, but Montana Republican Party Chairman Jeff Essman said that was probably unconstitutional. Even though her party holds the governorship and the law is on her side side, Democratic Executive Director Nancy Keenana agreed with him. They’re not even going to make the Republicans file some kind of lawsuit. There will be no interim rep, as state Democrats have decided to give up a seat in Congress in the interest of…comity, I guess. I’m sure Republicans will repay the favor later.

It’s razor-sharp political instincts like these that have led some Democrats to suggest Denise Juneau as their candidate in the special election. I like Juneau, but she did lose a statewide campaign for the same office six weeks ago. Is there no one else? In this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, we examine the field—including Richard Spencer, who persists despite increasingly widespread allegations that his father is a broken tube of a chicken semen. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!

As Trump founders, Gianforte mailer strives to imitate him

The mailer Greg Gianforte, Republican for governor of Montana, sent last week

The mailer Greg Gianforte, Republican for governor of Montana, sent last week

Yes, that’s Governor Steve Bullock, letting terrorist refugees from war-torn stock photos just loom over the mountains of Montana. He refuses to use his power as governor to ban Syrians. Greg Gianforte, on the other hand, promises to stop refugee resettlement—presumably after he takes a job at the State Department, since the governor of Montana does not have the authority to prevent foreign nationals with valid visas from entering the state.

That’s one problem with the mailer above, which the Gianforte campaign sent out last week. Another problem is that it arrived in Missoula at roughly the same time as a family of refugees from the Congo, where Islamist militias are targeting Christians. Welcome to Montana, scared and exhausted family of six! One of our two candidates for governor has promised to prevent you.

The third problem with this mailer is tactical. I don’t know whether Gianforte or Bullock is ahead right now. No one does, because Montana is too big and empty to poll. But Bullock has the advantage of incumbency, and Gianforte has the disadvantage of the giant albatross perched atop his ticket. Donald Trump won the Montana primary with 74% of the vote, after all the other candidates dropped out. The candidate who got the most donations from individuals within the state was Ben Carson. Wild for guns and freedom though they are, Montana Republicans prefer a soft-spoken type. They’re ranchers and small business people, and the immigrants with whom they compete are mostly Canadian. A lot of them are likely to stay home this year, because the Republican candidate for president is a shit-eating wildman.

Why, then, would Gianforte emulate him with this mailer? Low-information xenophobes are already turning out. He should be pitching his appeal to the lifelong Republicans in this state who are disappointed in the top of their ticket. He should show the Rotary Club wing of his party why he’s still worth voting for, even if Trump isn’t. Arab-baiting appeals to public ignorance are not the way to do it. That’s what I think, anyway; only November will tell. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.

Republican strategists prepare for alternate-future 1992

Donald Trump sees a squirrel.

Donald Trump sees a squirrel.

Midway through this strange Hill story, in which Senate Republicans inexplicably describe Donald Trump as a “smart guy” instead of a “shit-eating wildman,” GOP strategist John Ullyat articulates a frightening vision of the future:

The Republican candidates who decide to take him on and attack him do so at their peril and the party’s peril, because the worst thing for Republicans is for Trump to go through the primaries and make a third-party run.

But that would never happen, right? It seems pretty implausible that this country could see a three-way election among a Bush, a Clinton, and an outspoken billionaire—god dammit.

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