Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Wimpy cowboys

with 16 comments

Montana seems to be populated by frightened people. Maybe those wide-open plains are scary. Gail Collins has an excellent column on how we need to rethink our mental image of Westerners:

Out of all the problems we have run into in dealing with the giant hairball that is known as the Bush War on Terror, one of the weirdest is the reaction to President Obama’s plan to close down Guantánamo.

In the rank of threats to public safety, putting the Guantánamo inmates in maximum-security prisons in the United States has got to come in way behind, say, making it easy for customers to purchase firearms at gun shows.

But to hear the howls coming from Congress, you’d think the Obama administration was planning to house the prisoners in suburban preschools. “Terrorists. Coming soon to a neighborhood near you,” warned a Republican Web video, which mixed pictures of accused terrorists with road signs in states where the G.O.P. predicted they might be sent. In another production, the occasionally loyal opposition resurrected the infamous “Daisy” countdown ad to show a little girl picking petals off a flower while the president prepares to close Gitmo.

“To bring the worst of the worst terrorists inside the United States would be cause for great danger and regret in the years to come,” snarled Dick Cheney in his “no middle ground” speech. Although really, for the sake of the national mental health, it might be better if we all just ignore the former vice president until he agrees to undergo therapy. Forget I ever mentioned it.

Instead, consider the case of Hardin, Mont., a community of 3,400 people just down the road from the place where Custer made his Last Stand.

Lately, things have not been going any better for Hardin than they did for the general. Unemployment is rife. “You go look at our downtown, there’s many closed businesses … you’ll see drunks laying in the street. It’s not a pretty sight,” the head of the town’s economic development authority told National Public Radio. The town built a $27 million, 464-bed prison under the theory that other parts of the state would pay to have Hardin look after their problem residents. But it’s been empty since it was declared open for business nearly two years ago, and the construction loans are in default.

So, with the town council’s enthusiastic support, Hardin volunteered to take the Guantánamo prisoners.

It’s unlikely that the White House would have accepted the offer, but it was certainly an example of pluck and you’d think everyone would give Hardin three cheers. Instead, Montana’s Democratic senators went ballistic.

“We’re not going to bring Al Qaeda to Big Sky Country — no way, not on my watch,” said Max Baucus.

“If these prisoners need a new place, it’s not going to be anywhere near The Last Best Place,” said Jon Tester.

This shows us two things: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 May 2009 at 12:29 pm

16 Responses

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  1. I’d like to see Ms. Collins, and you, voice your opinions in downtown Hardin on a Saturday night. Or maybe Butte. You should check the lists of our war dead if you think we are afraid. From the Land that gave this country Jeanette Rankin, I tell Ms. Collins to take another look at Montana, after she turns off the TV. Don’t define us by our politicians or by romantic stereotypes. We are unafraid. It is you who are the cowards. And I’ll say it to your face, anytime, anywhere.


    26 May 2009 at 6:49 am

  2. Exactly why are we cowards? Our Senator (Dianne Feinstein) said that California prisons could hold the terrorists and Californians would not live in fear because dangerous people were in our prisons—we have Charles Manson in our prisons, for example.

    The observations about the wimpiness of Montanans comes from the apparent fright in Montana that scary old terrorists might be put in prison there. If you don’t feel like that, maybe you should reassure your senators that you’re not afraid.

    You’re certainly right that not all Montanans are fearful—the citizens of Hardin would not be afraid to have terrorists in their prison (I guess nowadays that’s called a “detention facility” 🙂 ), but your Senators slapped them down hard.


    26 May 2009 at 7:38 am

  3. Last I heard, California was wanting to release some prisoners due to the spiraling economy. There you go Montana. I’m sure some other states would like to hand over some prisoners as well. If it’s jobs the prison hopes to create, why limit yourselves to only Gitmo detainees? I can’t say with certainty, but I would think prison transfers from other state prisons could begin much sooner than Gitmo transfers.


    26 May 2009 at 7:42 am

  4. Yeah, California suddenly realized that the effect of the three-strikes law and incarcerating—oops, “detaining”—people for trivial drug offenses was causing prison costs to soar—and California, thanks to Prop 13, is in terrible financial straits.


    26 May 2009 at 7:56 am

  5. You, sir, are a coward because you sit behind the safety of your computer screen and choose to insult an entire state of proud people without taking the time to learn anything of our history or the great legacies we have given this nation. The next time wildfire marches toward your house, you better check to make sure which state that smokejumper hails from. We are miners, loggers, ranchers, farmers, cops, firefighters and businessmen who do more hard work before breakfast than you’ll do all year. And you call us wimps? You, sir, are an ignorant, spineless puke.


    26 May 2009 at 9:03 am

  6. I find it somewhat ironic to say that gun purchasing should be placed at a higher emphasis of concern than Gitmo prisoners. If we absolutely have to place these scoundrels within our borders, I would like to have the comfort of knowing that I, a citizen of this country, CAN buy a gun. And if I were a resident of Hardin, or any county that houses prisoners, I most certainly would have one.


    26 May 2009 at 9:13 am

  7. Hold on, there, pardner. Actually, I have read Montana history (and Montana novels—The Big Sky, for example). I was making a point, using rhetorical hyperbole, that your elected Senators are representing your state (from, I presume, the safety of their Senate offices) as being afraid to house terrorists in your prisons. Of course, many states have taken the same tack (California and Michigan being exceptions), but for Montana the fear was underlined by the fact that the citizens of Hardin would have nothing to do with the fearmongering and stepped forward to offer their prison. But then your Senators BOTH slapped them down and said, in effect, “Keep your mouth shut, Hardin. We’re afraid and we know the people of Montana are afraid.”

    I think you have a bone to pick with your Senators, not with me. And, fortunately, they are home for the Memorial Day break, so perhaps you can acquaint them with your opinions. They would seem to qualify as “ignorant, spineless pukes.” Or are the people of Montana too proud to correct their Senators?


    26 May 2009 at 9:20 am

  8. Well, I think Collins is pointing out that we seem to be completely comfortable with the idea that dangerous felons, terrorists, mentally unstable people can buy guns with no background checks at all at any gun show, but if we lock up terrorists in a prison we’re suddenly terrified—or at least some of us seem to be.


    26 May 2009 at 9:31 am

  9. First off, I am not your “pardner.” Second, I knew A.b. Guthrie, and he would be first in line to slap your face. I knew Dorothy Johnson, too. I’d love to see her retort to your bullshit. Thirdly, if you had read anything on that computer besides the aforementioned bullshit, you would know the Hardin Town Council voted twice to get the jihadis sent there. We do have a bone to pick with the politicians, we always have a bone to pick with those fools. And we have been doing just that. But you wouldn’t know that because all you see is your own crap. You call us wimps? You are a coward. A self-absorbed, self-righteous, spineless, ignorant puke.


    26 May 2009 at 9:43 am

  10. Yes, Dorothy Johnson is another great writer. We agree on that.

    I think you have an anger problem, my friend. And a courtesy problem as well, but that probably comes from the unmanaged anger. And possibly a reading problem: I have singled out the denizens of Hardin several times for praise and not being so fearful as others are. Maybe the problem is merely in your politicians. Given that they are politicians, though, they probably believe that they are voicing the opinions of the majority in their state. (A politician is constantly thinking of re-election.)

    I didn’t realize that you had been trying to sort out your Senators. Can you provide a link to any columns in Montana papers that take them to task? I am certainly ignorant of many things, but I always am open to learning.


    26 May 2009 at 9:49 am

  11. NIMBY….
    I know where to transfer the Gitmo bunch!! How about up in Northern Alaska? No coats, hats, gloves. Where could they go without freezing to death first? There might be a building big enough. If not, build one fast, January is comiing fast, and so is the snow, ice, and bitter cold.


    26 May 2009 at 10:00 am

  12. NIMBY is, if I may say, a wimpy response. I’m perfectly happy to have them in prison here in California. What’s the big fear, anyway? Escapes from Federal maximum security prisons are extremely rare, and in the super-max prisons no escape has even been attempted. Are people really so fearful as all that?

    And, don’t forget, a fair number of prisoners at Guantánamo have nothing to do with terrorism—they were just caught up in the sweep. We have actually recognized that some of those that we imprisoned and tortured were totally innocent and have released them.


    26 May 2009 at 10:10 am

  13. Yeah, I have an anger problem. Especially with people who insult my family, friends and neighbors for no other reason than to hear their own voice. And how “courteous” is it to insult an entire state? You know nothing of Montana. You know nothing of the people who live here. You’re a coward. If you were anything less you would realize the error in your speech and apologize. But since you are incapable of any comprehension beyond your own badly soiled diapers, I won’t count the minutes waiting. And this has nothing to do with Gitmo or jihadis or Hardin. This is all about you being a coward. A sniveling, whining, intellectual cuckold. You’re all hat and no cow, boy.


    26 May 2009 at 10:48 am

  14. Well, I’m happy to apologize. In fact, Montanans are brave, but your Senators don’t seem to believe it. They think you’re terrified of having terrorists in prison there. As I point out, the citizens of Hardin disagree: they’d be happy to house the prisoners.

    Montanans, judging by you, lack courtesy and balance. Why not dial it down a bit and just discuss the issue? Personal attacks have only a limited entertainment value and bring into question your ability to actually discuss something.

    I do, however, know something of Montana. But I don’t know whether you would be able to house terrorists in your prison there. You don’t seem to get around to addressing that point.

    BTW, I will edit your future comments to remove any irrational diatribes and insults, but I will leave intact any substantive arguments you care to make.


    26 May 2009 at 11:31 am

  15. Well, well. Someone is actually reading these posts besides LeisureGuy, leftover, and I ?
    You may say whatsoever you wish, while this is still a freedom of speech country!
    I lived in California for many years.
    Back in the mid sixties, in California, there was a place named Dewitt. It was supposedly maximum security. The then-govenor Reagan had it closed down, the patients/inmates scattered around the state into various hospital psych wards, with some even released.

    Yes, the “hospital” for the criminally insane.
    Dewitt was the “max” in maximum security.

    In my wilder, lot younger days, I knew a guy who was sentenced to Dewitt, but seemed to have a key, as he went in and out as he wished, rarely caught. He was a real 5150, but in my world back then 5150’s were as common on the streets as bikers. They didn’t scare me. However, this Gitmo situation does. I grew up in the military, therefore I do have a bit more knowledge than the average civilian.

    You may not mind terrorist in your back yard but how about the other citizens of California? They want themselves and their children to live safely.

    I would rather see Alcatraz refurbished and reopened for the Gitmo bunch.
    At least there, excapes would be extremely rare, if at all.
    If memory serves me, there was only one successful excape and that is conroversial as to whether or not he made it. No body was ever found but a postcard was delivered addressed to another inmate in Alcatraz, which seemed to match his handwriting.


    26 May 2009 at 12:13 pm

  16. It may be that “maximum security” in 1965 is not the same as “maximum security” 44 years later. Indeed, escapes from Federal maximum security prisons are rare—and escapees are typically caught quickly. In the 3 year period for which I have statistics, there were 4 escapees. Not many. And, as noted, in the “super-max” prisons (where terrorists would probably be housed and which arose long after the mid-sixties), no escape has even been attempted.

    I realize that I’m now grounding the discussion in facts, not fears, but you seem fact-inclined yourself. In looking at the facts, I see very little to fear from imprisoning terrorists on the mainland—indeed, we already have terrorist prisoners in custody in mainland prisons and people don’t really seem concerned about that.

    Citizens in California have lived for years with murderers in their prisons, including Charlie Manson and Sirhan Sirhan. No significant problems have resulted. And living in perfect safety is a myth—hell, you can fall down and hit your head in the bathtub and die. Liberty, as Patrick Henry pointed out, is to be preferred to a futile quest for perfect safety.

    Refurbishing Alcatraz would be expensive and redundant. Do you have any reason not to use the super-max prisons we’ve already built? As noted, to date there have not been even any escape attempts from those. And in Guantánamo, the “prison” was initially nothing more than barbed wire and plywood. We have better prisons on the mainland.


    26 May 2009 at 2:12 pm

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