War Machine gets 36 to life

I stopped reading about War Machine after Sir Nigel Longstock, a character I play on the Co-Main Event Podcast, banned him from MasterTweet Theatre. His offense was that he nearly beat a woman to death. Up to that point, our funny mixed martial arts podcast had regarded him as a resource. For example, he legally changed his name from Jon Koppenhaver to War Machine approximately two weeks before he was cut from the UFC. Then he ventured into adult cinema. Finally he went to jail, where his use of Twitter skyrocketed. It also got less funny.

He was still an aggressively dumb person pronouncing on his own excellence, but in the context of an assault conviction, it didn’t strike the right tone. As his tweets went from defiant to self-pitying to Jesus, using him on the show started feel like hackery, at best. Then he did that thing to Christie Mack, and it was over. The guy named War Machine who loses prize fights is funny. The guy named War Machine who assaults and rapes people is not.

At first I typed that he did that thing to Christie Mack and we knew he was a bad person, but that’s not true. We knew before that. The time he spent in jail, Tweeting aggressively-capitalized critiques of Society, was for attacking ordinary people in parking lots and bars. He got blackballed from pornography because he stormed around a party punching strangers. Even before he assaulted Mack, he was a pro fighter who pressed his advantage outside the ring. He was evidently awful. He just hadn’t done anything life-defining yet.

Is this the salient difference between a comic figure and a sociopath? We care how the sociopath has hurt people? War Machine is going to spend the rest of his life in prison. The sentence he received today makes him eligible for parole in 36 years. He will be 71. The body he used to punch and rape people will be gone. The mind that chose to do those things will probably be gone, too. The man will be gone, and what comes out of prison in 2053, still legally known as War Machine, will be a relic of this world.

This world will be gone. Good, one is tempted to think, when considering the operation that produced this person and turned him loose to hurt other people until, collectively, we decided to hurt him forever. I could stand to let that one go. But first, show me what else you’ve got.

What is the Carlyle Group doing with our water company?

The Mountain Water Company (artist's conception)

The Mountain Water Company (artist’s conception)

If you do not live in Missoula, you may be but dimly aware of the city’s struggle to buy the Mountain Water company. In June, Judge Karen Townsend ordered The Carlyle Group to sell the town’s water infrastructure to the City of Missoula as eminent domain. It was valued at $88.6 million, a number the city briefly appealed before withdrawing on January 6. On January 11, Liberty Utilities announced that it had finalized purchase of Mountain Water, along with two other water works in California, by purchasing its parent company, Park Water.

Ordered to sell Mountain Water to the city of Missoula six months ago, Carlyle just sold it to somebody else. The move took everyone by surprise, including the city and the Montana Public Services commission. The PSC has to approve every utility sale in the state, and they didn’t approve this one. But Liberty utilities has reserved the right to “raise jurisdictional issues” if the PSC tries to overturn the deal. Because Liberty acquired it in an “upstream transaction,” Mountain Water still has the same owner: Park Water. It’s just that Park Water is now owned by Liberty Utilities instead of the Carlyle Group.

So now the City of Missoula still buys Mountain Water from Park Water for $88.6 million, right? Liberty just deposits the check instead of Carlyle. Maybe—unless the Montana Supreme Court finds for Carlyle in its appeal of the eminent-domain condemnation, and as long as the PSC doesn’t make Mountain Water the object of an interstate lawsuit among two regulatory agencies and a hedge fund, and as long as Liberty doesn’t add any new lawsuits of its own.

The city will have to hire lawyers to represent its interests in all these cases. So far, our bill for this process comes to $4 million. That’s 5% of the purchase price. At want point does the cost of doing business exceed our willingness to buy? If the answer is never, Carlyle can easily take us into deep water.

The Carlyle Group took in $962 million of revenue in 2014. It’s possible Mountain Water has generated more income during than it cost to keep it tied up in court. There are a lot of reasons to interpret the multinational equity fund’s bizarre move last week as part of a war of attrition. You can read all about ’em in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent.

This quagmire is becoming a boondoggle. If you’re just catching up to this story, now is a good time to jump in. The Indy’s own Kate Whittle wrote this handy explainer describing the chronology and salient issues in the case. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!

Art Wittich is in court, and I’m in the New York Times

Art Wittich has no plans to give you a dollar.

Art Wittich has no plans to give you a dollar.

Despite a guest editorial protesting his innocence his accusers’ politics, Art Wittich is still the subject of a campaign finance lawsuit. Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl alleges Wittich failed to report significant in-kind contributions from dark money groups during the 2010 election. “My political opponents are pleased that I have been forced to spend time and money defending myself against the thought police in a bogus lawsuit,” Wittich wrote, responding to Motl’s claim that the representative from Belgrade took “the works”—a package of staffing, lease management, direct mailing, and campaign strategy—from the anti-union group Right to Work. This story began when federal agents found a box of documents in a Colorado meth house linking various Montana Republicans to the fined-and-now-defunct Western Traditions Partnership, and it’s gotten weirder ever since. It’s going to be awesome when Rep. Wittich is exonerated of any wrongdoing and we find out he really is the victim of a conspiracy. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent.

In other news, I’m in the New York Times Magazine today (on the web, and in print this weekend) with a Letter of Recommendation: Joke Dollar. Those of you who know me probably know about this genius custom already. Now it belongs to the world, and you can look forward to people handing you dollars every time you observe that a mermaid’s pussy smells like land. That’s the joke Sarah Aswell made in the first paragraph, which the Times understandably did not find suitable for its audience. It suited hell out of me, though, ten years ago when she made it and today. Thanks to all you jokers for giving me something to write about in my doddering middle age. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.

Unpopular opinion: Some crimes can only be committed by the insane

James Holmes, who allegedly shot 60 people in a Colorado movie theater in 2012

James Holmes, who opened fire on a Colorado movie theater in 2012

Today begins the trial of so-called Batman killer James Holmes, who armed himself with a shotgun, pistol, assault rifle and body armor; booby-trapped his apartment; and then opened fire on a late-night showing of Batman: The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. Holmes killed 12 people and injured 70. He also dyed his hair bright orange and mailed his psychiatrist a box of burned $20 bills. And he took this mugshot. Holmes appears to be crazy—not because he has kooky eyes and orange hair, but because he shot a bunch of strangers in a movie theater. Certain acts are necessarily acts of the insane.

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Ravalli judge: Casey Allen “managed to impregnate herself”

Ravalli County District Judge James Haynes will preside over Allen's endangerment trial.

Ravalli County District Judge James Haynes will preside over the trial of Casey Gloria Allen.

In August, Judge James Haynes denied a request for postponement in the trial of Casey Allen, the 21 year-old Ravalli County woman charged with felony endangerment after failing a drug test while pregnant. According to court transcripts reported by Keila Szpaller of the Missoulian, Haynes said Allen’s pregnancy was not the court’s responsibility. Quote:

I don’t know why I should have to scurry around, change my trial schedule. We have this woman who has managed to impregnate herself, plus she’s got these criminal charges. Her decision to have a child in the middle of this is her decision. It’s not society’s responsibility to take up the cause.

In keeping with his argument that Allen’s unborn child is not society’s responsibility, Haynes dismissed the child endangerment charge against her remained immune to irony. Brief discussion of where babies come from after the jump.

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