Montana Jones

Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.

Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Talking politics

Burns is doing a good job of getting himself unelected.
Yeah, no one wants to vote for a crook.
Hold on now, be careful in how you say things. Is he really a crook? If you don't have evidence you are opening yourself up to liable and slander issues.
His connections to Abramoff are pretty well documented. He is probably a crook.
But has he been indicted? The key word there is "probably". In these discussions it is important to stick to the facts.
Well, he has associations with known crooks. That's a fact.
And he is currently under investigation for his involvement with Abramoff. That's a fact.
So if it smells like a rat and feels like a rat I am comfortable calling it a rat.
And his voting record favors insurance companies and big business more than my needs. He is not representing his constituent Montanans like he is supposed to.
Yes, that's a fact too, but that's not my point. In the political structure we live under it is often important to work with people you do not like and do not agree with to reach your own goals. It does not help to alienate the people that can help you. When you go around making blanket generalizations without the backing of facts you lose the moral high ground. When you go around calling someone a crook and they do not have an indictment you are positioning yourself as prejudiced and biased and you will find it harder to find support you may need later. You end up arguing emotionally and about the would haves or should haves instead of dealing with the reality of right now.
So am I not supposed to be mad at Burns because he used his office in ways that hurt me and other Montanans? That he has done things that likely make him a crook?
Can't we assume he is a crook from the circumstantial evidence?
It's okay to think what you will. And certainly vote accordingly. Just be careful in how you express it is all I am saying. Always stick to the facts and you will not give anyone reason to be prejudiced against you.
Uhhh, in America we get to SAY what we THINK. It's called having an opinion and it's protected by the First Amendment.
Jones talking politics?
Yeah, and it's pretty clear Burns is a crook. That other people haven't done the research isn't your fault.
No, no, no. You are all missing the point. It is not about free speech, politics or even Conrad Burns. It is about fact and use of language.

“Burns is a crook” is factually untrue and can be considered slander (or libel). He has not been convicted or indicted. This speech is NOT first amendment protected, it can get you sued, or worse, expose your arguments as illogical or emotional and undermine your credibility.

“I think Burns is a crook” is opinion. It is protected by the first amendment but it is not necessarily backed by fact. Without clear and damning evidence this statement demonstrates an irrational argument and a lack of credibility.

“Burns is probably a crook” is speculation. This is an admission that the facts have not been found to fully support the conclusion. Speculation can not be considered true. Be wary of decisions made based on speculation.

“I accuse Burns of being a crook” is accusation. Be prepared to back this statement with facts that can stand under legal scrutiny or see also slander/libel.

“Burns associates with crooks” is a factual statement. His relationships with convicted criminal Jack Abramoff are well documented. This statement can be used in a rational assessment of Burns’ character and is legally protected speech.

Patia, You do not have the right to say anything you want. It would be slanderous and illegal speech for me to go around saying “Patia kicks her dog and beats her wife.”

Rachel, I usually regret opening these cans of worms. I was recently reminded of the importance of these things by someone I respect and I thought the conversation was blog worthy. Lesson learned, don’t ever expect the blogosphere to get it.

Touchstone, if you have evidence of criminal activity by Mr. Burns there are people at the department of justice that would like to hear from you. Otherwise pay attention to your own use of language if you wish to maintain credibility. I am a sympathetic audience but if you wish to further your political agenda beyond your sympathetic audience, and the post points out that you need to if you intend to affect change, you should stand on facts.
MJ: Are you aware of the 78 pardons recently given by Gov. Schweitzer to those convicted of seditious speech during WW1? You might want to go to and check it out. Or read any of the stories that ran in the NY Times, Washington Post, and a zillion other papers. In this country we have the freedom to criticize our government. Conrad Burns is both a representative of that government and a public figure.

Also, in libel and slander cases, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. In other words, Burns would have to prove that he is not, in fact, a crook. That could get complicated.

I, on the other hand, can easily prove that I have neither a dog nor a wife.
Sorry, I gave the wrong link earlier. It should be:
Patia, I do not disagree with you. We do have the right to question and criticize our elected officials. This does not give us the right to slander someone with false statements.

Burns’ proof that he is not a crook is as simple as your proof that you are not a wife beater. He has not been convicted of any crime. He has not been charged with a crime. Being under investigation does not make him a crook. (Look up presumption of innocence.) If you have evidence that he has committed a crime you are invited to take that evidence to the department of justice. They really do want to know about it. Until you present evidence of law breaking that stands up to legal scrutiny the fact stands that he is not a crook and to say otherwise is slanderous and untrue.
From Wikipedia:

A public figure (such as a politician, celebrity, or business leader) cannot base a lawsuit on incorrect harmful statements unless there is proof that the writer or publisher intentionally defamed the person with malice. The burden of proof is higher in the case of a public figure.

Opinion is a defence is recognized in nearly every jurisdiction. If the person makes a statement of opinion rather than a statement of fact, defamation claims usually cannot be brought because opinions are inherently not falsifiable. Some jurisdictions have eliminated the distinction between fact and opinion, and allow any statements suggesting a factual basis to support a defamation claim.

Fair comment on a matter of public interest, statements made with an honest belief in their truth on a matter of public interest (official acts) are defenses to a defamation claim, even if such arguments are logically unsound; if a reasonable person could honestly entertain such an opinion, the statement is protected.


OK. I'll shut up now.
Good job on your research.
Burns comes across as a crotchety and angry old man who needs to retire somewhere.

There are 2 or 3 Tester lawn signs on every block in Helena, and only about 5 Burns signs to be seen in the entire town. Not sure what it means, just a finger in the wind.
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