Archive for February, 2006
This month is calving season, the temperature dropped to twenty below, and Montana contemplated the state quarter, the anti-meth campaign, the economic impact of losing its missile silos and is abandoned by its Air America affiliate.
Governor Brian Schweitzer chewed out two UofMT professors who claimed the state could lure business by changing existing environmental and economic laws. It turns out Montana is already one of the most business-friendly states in the union. Pundits find hidden meaning in the governor’s decision to let nine bison roam unhindered outside of Yellowstone National Park, but are generally mum on Schweitzer’s 60 Minutes appearance.
Missoula wraps up its Wildlife Film Festival; Environmental groups use Glacier National Park in a bid to halt global warming; the federal government slashes funding for Indian clinics; legislators want to protect the state from Wyoming water; Helena’s Montana State Library bans freedom of speech; and Senator Max Baucus leads a rally against federal plans to sell off Montana public lands to fund the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000.
Conrad Burns, our nation’s least popular Senator, was busy in February. Despite an attack ad claiming he wasn’t influenced by Abramoff, Matt Singer found pics of Burns with Abramoff’s Saipan clients. His staff obviously needs the money; they go through nearly $200 a day on meals alone, working up appetites by scrubbing Wikipedia of Burns’ scandals. Even Montana students offered Burns a bribe in an effort to halt cuts for university programs. Look for more Burns corruption news as a “shady” company with ties to the senator is coming under scrutiny.
A Rasmussen poll shows Burns is behind Democrat Morrison and even with Democrat Tester, which is big trouble for the junior senator. Undaunted, Burns files for his Senate seat, bucking inside-the-Beltway gossip and hitching his trailer to the sinking presidency. Burns opens his campaign against Democrats by accusing them of not having any ideas. It turns out Burns has no ideas of his own.
Oh yeah, it also turns out Burns is a supporter of the loopy “Constitution Restoration Act,” which would prohibit courts from reviewing any case involving a government officer or agent’s “acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.”
In political news, Burns tangles with former Republican governor and RNC chair, Marc Racicot over a payment package for Libby victims of asbestos poisoning. Racicot turns his back on his hometown, while Burns vows to fight for Montanans…which he does, Burns-style, by entertaining lobbyists at $2K – $4K a head at the exclusive resort, and slashing health-care for the elderly and infirm.
Not to be outdone by Montana’s junior senator, Republican state representative John Sinrud leverages himself some extra cash; his wife defends her husband by comparing his stint at the state legislature to a combat tour of Iraq.
Primary season is almost upon us. While Montana bloggers are still tepid on Dem. Sen. candidate John Morrison, they are heartened by a vow to concentrate attacks on Conrad Burns. Meanwhile, the other candidates, Jon Tester and Paul Richards, participate in an online interview on foreign issues, more foreign issues, and on CAFTA. MyDD publishes a lengthier interview with Tester, which inspired the Daily Kos to urge readers to donate to his campaign.
A letter in today’s Missoulian:
To my fellow citizens. Wake up! Your future is being stolen by the present administration. Your jobs are being sent overseas; your future is absolutely threatened with being saddled with debt into the future for your children and grandchildren for who knows how long.
Get informed. Listen to Amy Goodman’s program “Democracy Now” on TV’s MCAT Channel 7 at 6 a.m. and again at 10 a.m. for real news and interviews you don’t get in the regular media. If you haven’t time for the TV show you can get it on the Internet democracynow.org every day (Monday through Friday) also on iPod. If you listen to radio talk shows, listen to Air America at 105.9 FM with various talk hosts form early morning all day and evenings. Rachel Maddow, Al Franken, Randy Rhodes, Ed Schultz and Dave Hartman, etc. They interview knowledgeable people, senators, congressman, authors and others as well as taking comments from the public.
Elections of senators and congressmen are coming up in November 2006. It is important to know the issues. Remember, your future is at stake.
Florence Chessin, Missoula
Cool! I hadn’t heard of “Democracy Now!” before.
Unfortunately it looks like we’ve lost KKNS, our Air American affiliate. Hopefully I’ll have a post up later with more information on that. Matt Singer was right: “If any there are any enterprising soon-to-be graduates of the Radio/TV program who think they could make an affiliate fly, I’d actually be interested in investing. If Franken was outperforming Rush, there’s got to be a way to make it profitable.”
From Jon Tester's website:
The question before us this primary season is this: what kind of Democrats do we want to send to Washington next January?
Do we want Democrats who will bow down to the special interests that have corrupted our democratic process? Or do we want Democrats who will stand up to them and clean the halls of congress of crooks and influence-peddlers?
Do we want Democrats who will continue to give the President a blank check for his misguided war in Iraq? Or do we want Democrats who will support our troops and lay out a plan to bring them home?
Do we want Democrats who will accept the President’s spying program? Or Democrats who will trust in the wisdom of our forefathers and the Constitution and ensure that we protect our right against unreasonable searches and seizures?
As a United States Senator from Montana, I will fight for the values and ideals we share. But winning will require all of us to take part — not just in the race in Montana, but in critical races all across the country.
Because rebuilding Congress after more than a decade of Republican control and Republican corruption will require more than just a change in numbers — it will require changing the face of Washington.
We can decide here and now that this election is going to be an earthquake that shakes the foundation of insider Washington.
We can do that by sending new blood, and by sending candidates who are willing to fight and win for hardworking Americans.
If you want an insider politician, you don’t want me. But if you want to move Washington, D.C. in a new direction, then I ask you to stand with me. Do everything you can to help us win. Join our campaign. Make a contribution. Ask your friends in Montana to get involved.
Yeah, baby! That's what I'm talking about!
Update: There's a great interview with Tester at MyDD. Recommened reading, especially for you Montana voters.
Anybody know of a similar resource for Morrison? That fella seems purty elusive, don't he?
Looking over my recent posts, I noticed how much I have foamed at the mouth over GOP malfeasance. Of course it’s not my fault that the Republicans are involved in so many scandals, ideological hypocrisies, and make just plain dumb mistakes, but it is my fault that I don’t acknowledge good things, the things I think are working well. Every critic has a ideology. Here's a small part of mine:
Today I want to praise Montana’s Child Health Insurance Plan, or CHIP. It’s a federal and state funded program that supplies uninsured Montana children with affordable health insurance. It’s dynamite. Parents can choose their own provider, and the payments are very reasonable. Thanks to Governor Schweitzer and the Democrat-led state legislature, the program is now fully funded in Montana, and one of Schweitzer’s goals for 2006 is to increase enrollment.
I’m a parent of two-year-old twins. I was a student at the University of Montana when they were born, and my entire family was covered by my student health insurance. (My wife is a full-time writer and as such has no access to health insurance.)
Just around the time my children were born, the University proposed dropping dependents from the coverage. That is, the U. wanted to dump all families from coverage. Why?
The “student” health care representative (more like the “insurance company” rep, and she will go nameless), told me dependents were responsible for an overwhelming percentage of payments, and that if they were cut, the rest of the student body would receive an insurance premiums freeze or even cuts.
Got that? The U. wanted to cover only the healthy at the cost of non-traditional students like myself. I would have had to drop out of school if the proposed change had not been killed by the Board of Regents.
Someone forgot to explain the philosophy of insurance to the insurance representative: that a body of people pools together a fund to pay for the costs of caring for the sick. Those that are healthy shoulder a disproportionate amount of cost; but they do so knowing that when they get sick, they will receive funds to cover their own medical costs.
Something's gone wrong with the system. Insurance costs are spinning out of control. An easy place to start with the blame is on the insurance companies themselves, who, with a stronger desire for profit than for insuring, purposefully price premiums out of the reach of fixed- and low-income families, who tend to incur higher medical costs than middle age upper-income brackets. There are other factors, too, but what's indisputable is that insurance costs are too high.
High insurance costs are a great burden on parents. Not all parents have traditional 9-to-5 jobs, not all of us desire high financial rewards. Many of us are content with lower wages in exchange for pursuing a careers that pay less in money and more in job satisfaction. Small business owners, members of non-profit organizations, writers, river guides, all of these professions pay little and provide less health care. And with the costs of health care rising disproportionately to salaries, soon health care payments will rival mortgage payments, and working- and middle-class families will be forced to do without, too.
Health care shouldn’t be optional, especially for children. Why can’t we work hard and not be able to enjoy health care? We need more programs like CHIP, that allow Montana families to pay for affordable and quality health care.
In yesterday’s NY Times Magazine, Christopher Caldwell wrote an interesting piece about a debate in a Virginia suburb about what constitutes a “family.” The real issue, of course, isn’t about families, it’s about class, race, and social status.
Manassas has seen a rapid influx of immigrants over the last decade. As in suburbs and smaller cities elsewhere, this has created quality-of-life complaints. Sometimes the outrage is over the jornaleros who gather at Home Depots to solicit daywork. Elsewhere, the gripe concerns overcrowding. One 23-year-old Mexican told The Palm Beach Post a couple of years ago that he, too, thought 10 unrelated workers living in a two-bedroom apartment was too much. “Eight people — three in each bedroom and two in the living room — that should be the maximum,” he said. This is the problem in Manassas.
Manassas citizens were fed up with immigrants crowding into single-family homes with extended families. Cousins, grandparents, uncles, and nieces were settling together as a “family” in a space designed by affluent suburbanites to house the nuclear family: mother, father, 2.5 kids, and a dog. Parking spots disappear, trash piles, the neighborhood fills with strange faces of a disturbingly darker hue. Property value plummets.
In order to halt the influx of immigrants, the folks of Manassas decided to define what constitutes a “family,” a definition that would exclude the multi-generational hordes. Now, only “immediate” relations were family: uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, and nephews were not.
The irony of re-defining the family is not lost on Caldwell:
For decades, the family has been at the center of America’s culture wars. Often, the quarrelers break into predictable camps. The traditionalist side takes the family for something natural, self-evident and unchanging, with certain absolute rights that no government can violate. The reformist side holds that the family is a “social construct” that is destined to change as individuals make choices and governments pass laws that reflect new mores.
But look now. The traditionalists are hoist with their own petard. When the real desiderata of American life — convenient parking and garbage-free sidewalks — are at stake, Joe Sixpack is as willing to meddle with the traditional family as are Heather’s Two Mommies.
This particular law was abandoned after the ACLU tilted against the new law and “cast its foes as un-American.” After all, “sheltering distant relatives in various kinds of trouble — the laid-off, the dropped-out, the pregnant — is what American (extended) families have always been for.”
Whether we think the purpose of families is producing babies, fostering love, tending the aged or protecting chastity, they have one thing in common. They are organized to address concrete problems, not to dispense utopian malarkey. Governments can kick problems down the road in a way that families cannot — whether the problem is a husband drinking his wages away or housing prices that have lost their apparent logical relation to hourly pay. The immigrants in Manassas are behaving like families in this sense. They are adapting their city’s “single-family” housing stock to the realities of the labor market — with an indifference to government say-so that used to be called Yankee ingenuity.
The article underscores the hollowness of most right-wing cultural rhetoric. In this case, “family values” is shown to have nothing to do with “family” or “values”; instead it was a keyword to promote a particular type of family, notably white suburbanites. Morality is less important than appearance in this rhetoric; trash, parking spots, and noise mean more than functioning familial relationships.
The NYTimes reviewed Paul Bremer's book, "My Year in Iraq," in today's paper. Apparently even administration lackeys are abandoning the president.
The most startling moment in "My Year in Iraq," L. Paul Bremer III's memoir from his days as the head of the American occupation, comes near the end, when violent uprisings were sweeping most of the central and southern parts of the country in May 2004. With the whole American enterprise verging on collapse, Bremer decided to secretly ask the Pentagon for tens of thousands of additional American troops — a request that, as the rest of his book makes clear, was taboo in the White House and Pentagon.
Bremer turned to Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top American commander in Iraq, and asked him what he would do with two more divisions, as many as 40,000 more troops. General Sanchez did not hesitate to answer. "I'd control Baghdad," he said. Bremer then mentioned some other uses for the soldiers, like securing Iraq's borders and protecting its infrastructure, to which General Sanchez replied: "Got those spare troops handy, sir?"
In the memoir, then, Bremer confirms what most of us thought all along: the Bush administration prized ideology above results in Iraq. Not only did Bush place political loyalists in important positions, the administration refused to hear any information that ran contrary to its rose-colored worldview.
This book follows a long line of memoirs and tell-alls about the Bush administration written by dissatisfied insiders — Richard Clarke and Paul O'Neil the examples that spring to mind. But Bremer is different. He's a Bush man. That Bremer, loyal soldier, airs his dirty laundry in public, says much about where Bush stands in Washington these days. If this book is followed by silence from the right-wing spin machine, you'll know the administration is in political trouble. Still, waiting until now to point out the administration's dysfunction on Iraq, Bremer proves himself a coward. Oh yeah, and he's done his country a disservice:
But Bremer bears a heavy responsibility for keeping silent — and so does General Sanchez. If we can assume that Bremer's recollection is correct, then General Sanchez' remarks indicate that Baghdad was indeed out of control, that both he and Bremer knew it and that without more troops, it was likely to stay out of control. And so it did, for many months after Bremer and General Sanchez left Iraq. Neither man ever gave a public assessment of the security situation that remotely approached the one Bremer gives here.
By staying silent, Bremer ensured that there would be no public debate on the merits of deploying more American troops. By staying silent, he helped ensure that there would be little public discussion over the condition of the Iraqi security forces, whose quality he doubted. When his request for more troops was ignored, his silence helped ensure that the troops would never come.
Silence from dissatisfied or concerened Republicans will be an enduring hallmark of this 6-year political disaster known as the Bush presidency. That's part of the Rovian plan, though: not only did the GOP manage to speak as with one voice, they build the financial empire to reward loyalists and punish rebels, no matter how inane official policy or practical and well-intentioned the dissent.
Abramoff and Tom Delay were the center of the pork-doling project constructed by the GOP. Now that they've been indicted, that financial center of the Repulican party seems to be missing. Now that Bush's approval rating dips below thirty percent, Dinky no longer is the rallying point for conservatives wishing for a political future.
Finally the long string of scandals and bad news are beginning to catch up to the Republicans.
A few weeks ago, I speculated that Burns’ running ads against the Abramoff attacks was against the best interests of the Republican party:
Why would any sane person want to attract attention to himself when there’s so much evidence piled against him? Surely the Republican Party wants us all to forget about Abramoff, not let itself embroiled in a he-said-she-said shouting match the party can’t win.
I think the GOP wants to abandon Burns.
Let’s face it, they need a fall guy for Abramoff, someone to indict and convict so they can say, “well he was the guy who took money from Jack,” and let the animus fall squarely and solely on that sucker’s head, diverting attention away from the fact that Abramoff’s illicit dealing was one of the foundations of the party’s current power grab. And who better than some hick Senator with low poll ratings who nobody’s ever heard of and who sits on a bunch of low-level and relatively unimportant committees…
If Burns resigns the only people rejoicing more than Montanans would be the RNC. Burns’ resignation would allow a new conservative candidate free from the whiff of scandal run in a very conservative state. They could also crucify the Senator, let him dangle once he’s out of government and powerless to retaliate.
Only he won’t back down. He knows his only chance to stay out of jail is to win another term in the Senate. Republican Party be d*mned.
Conrad Burns re-filed for his Senate seat, and he’s enlisted Dinky to help raise funds for his upcoming race – a thousand bucks just to walk in the door, twenty grand to get your photo snapped with the president.
That’s right, the least-popular president in the last century campaigning for the nation’s most unpopular Senator. One wonders if there was a typo in the announcement, twenty grand to not have your photo taken at the event with either Burns or Bush.
And now, Matt Singer mentions some gossip he heard in DC this week:
Burns was not supposed to file for that Senate seat unless his internals are showing more of a boost than the public numbers are. Maybe his polling is better than the public figures. I doubt it.
Is it a coincidence that, at the same time he announced his fundraiser with Bush, that the GOP appears to be set to abandon the prez over Portgate? Can it be a coincidence that Burns is “undecided” about the sale of six US ports to the UAE, when every other politician with a pulse is throwing Dinky under the bus?
Looks like Burns is hitching his trailer to the president.
The buzz: This year’s Olympics has been a dud.
The reality: The network-created storylines fizzled, not the competition. NBC coverage limped through the last two weeks, but the Games rocked.
Take alpine skiing. Only former World Cup winner Bode Miller’s face was plastered on magazine covers. His contemptuous tone, his offhand remarks about skiing drunk, and an illicit trip to Mexico to receive shots from an outlawed doctor made him the rebel, the loner bucking the establishment, and the media practically promised he’d bring home medals. Instead, in five races, an overweight and indifferent Miller finished no higher than fifth and the United States’ performance was declared disappointing.
Oh, and along the way the U.S. won two gold medals, Ted Ligety in the men’s combined and Julia Mancuso in the women’s giant slalom. More gold medals than traditional winter powerhouses Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, France, and Germany, more than any country other than Austria, the 300-pound gorilla of the sport.
The truth is that this year’s US squad is the strongest we’ve had in the Olympics: any number of American racers had a chance to medal. That NBC neglected Rahlves, Mancuso, Ligety and the others in favor of Miller is a testament to the network’s ignorance of ski racing.
It doesn’t help that the favored Americans, the ones the American media propped into the spotlights, were generally unlikable. Sasha Cohen boasted the charm of an icicle. Shani Davis was openly hostile while two-faced Chad Hedrick flashed overlarge teeth at the camera and glowered at his teammates when he thought we weren’t looking. Even media darling Sean White failed to inspire us; at best he could only amuse us with his Spicoli-like dimwit charm.
Where was the coverage of Nordic events? Ski jumping? Hockey, men’s or women’s? Even when exciting performances made prime-time coverage, NBC failed to capitalize. When Shizuka Arakawa won the gold in women’s figure skating with an extraordinary and flawless routine, NBC commenators covered the upset with mild confusion. Men’s aerials and moguls coverage concentrated on American failures; the winners’ efforts were registered with annoyance.
The coverage got in the way. Enough of Bob Costas and “Olympic Moments”! The best way to cover the sports is to show them. If the coverage had been extended, the events shown in near entirety with careful explanation of tactics and favorites, the sport would speak for itself.
Anybody catch Michael Hirsh’s Newsweek column on Wednesday? Amazing stuff. Some excerpts (emphasis mine):
It is…sad to remember the support that once existed for the United States, then at the pinnacle of its power and prestige. On 9/10/01 America had adversaries, but mainly on the fringes. The invasion of Afghanistan brought barely a peep from the Arab street. No one had much use for Al Qaeda, even in the Islamic world. Global polls like those taken by Pew and the German Marshall Fund showed a remarkable degree of global consensus in favor of a one-superpower (in other words, American-dominated) world. The silver lining of 9/11 was a chance to reaffirm the legitimacy of America's role as trusted overseer of the international system. That is why Bush had so much support when he ousted the Taliban in Afghanistan, who were clearly harboring bin Laden, and so little backing when he shifted attention to Saddam, whose connection to bin Laden was plainly manufactured. The post-9/11 period was a fantastic opportunity for alliance- and institution-building. All that was required was American leadership.
How then did we arrive at this day, with anti-American Islamist governments rising in the Mideast, bin Laden sneering at us, Qaeda lieutenants escaping from prison, Iran brazenly enriching uranium, and America as hated and mistrusted as it ever has been? The answer, in a word, is incompetence.
We now have testimony from enough Republicans and Bush loyalists—from former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill to former CIA senior director Paul Pillar — that the administration knew all along how flimsy its WMD case against Iraq was. We also now know, from Berntsen and others, that the administration knew then how solid the intel on bin Laden's and Zawahiri's whereabouts was. So catastrophic was Bush's decision to shift his attention and resources to Iraq, when bin Laden was panting at Tora Bora, that one is tempted to rank it with Adolf Hitler's decision to invade the Soviet Union in June 1941, at a time when Great Britain was prostrate and America was still out of the war (a decision that almost certainly cost Hitler the war then and there). Yes, Iraq may some day become a legitimate democracy. But for now it is mainly a jihadi factory, cranking out new generations of hardened bomb-ready Islamists, as we have seen with the cross-pollination that has brought Iraqi-style suicide bombs back to Afghanistan.
Bush of course has been lucky in his adversaries as well—not bin Laden, but the Democrats (not to mention many a media pundit). To this day they seem afraid to make the case that the great war presidency has been a disastrous war presidency, in large part because of the fraudulent Iraq invasion….
So, yes, bin Laden and Zawahiri have been fortunate in their enemies. Had the Bush administration been more competent, these two would have long since been bloody pulp, perhaps largely forgotten. Luckily for the rest of us, the Al Qaeda revolutionary program is so abhorrent that most of the world still has no choice but to stick with us, through thick and thin—and dumb and dumber. How long we can test the world’s patience is another matter. Alan Cullison’s 2004 article based on Zawahiri’s private thoughts is again instructive here. "Al Qaeda understood that its attacks would not lead to a quick collapse of the great powers,” he wrote. “Rather, its aim was to tempt the powers to strike back in a way that would create sympathy for the terrorists. … One wonders if the United States is indeed playing the role written for it on the computer." What I wonder is, how many more years will we have to wait for Rumsfeld to figure that one out?
Hirsh is absolutely correct. Utter incompetence by the Bush administration has endangered our security, enmired us in a unwinnable war, allowed bin Laden to go free, and restricted our democratic influence across the globe.
I'll go further. Bush's quixotic tilting at terror windmills has only endangered our civil liberties and now pits neighbor against neighbor across the country. His fiscal policies have bankrupted the nation. His judicial appointments have assured that religious fundamentalism predominate our society for a generation to come. His policies are handicapping the country's ability to adapt and embrace the technological and cultural changes that are beginning to sweep the globe.
Until Katrina, Bush got a free pass from the traditional press. Well, now he's being held accountible. This recent debate about the sale of port terminals to the UAE, as minor an issue as it is compared to NSA wiretapping or the manufacturing of intelligence to start a war, seems to be doing him in.
This week’s creep is Kelly Wood of Bozeman who writes in to the Bozeman Chronicle with her opinion on “Brokeback Mountain,” “Don’t fall victim to movie’s ‘agenda-driven’ marketing” :
In a recent feature article, the Chronicle stated "Now playing for its seventh week [Brokeback Mountain] has sparked . . . no letters to the editor." At great risk of having a giant pink ribbon burned into my lawn and ‘you hateful homophobe!' messages left on my answering machine, let me be the first.
"Brokeback Mountain," though a wonderful piece of cinematography, not surprisingly fails to address the presence of the 900-lb. gorilla in the room, i.e., the fact that male homosexual behavior has more to do with promiscuous lust than romantic love. A widely cited 1978 study by A.P. Bell and Martin Wineburg reported that 43 percent of homosexuals had more than 500 sex partners during their lifetime, with 28 percent claiming over 1,000 sexual partners. Though promiscuity undeniably exists within the heterosexual population, it doesn't come anywhere close in proportion; Wilt Chamberlain and other NBA players, almost singlehandedly go a long way in skewing those numbers.
Nature or nurture? Sexually abused young men are "up to seven times more likely to self-identify as gay or bisexual than peers who had not been abused" concludes a peer-reviewed 1998 study, "Sexual Abuse of Boys," by W.C. Homes, M.D., and Gail Slap, MD.
Not all gay males are pedophiles, but an overwhelming majority of pedophiles are gay males.
One of the first male couples "married" by Massachusetts filed for divorce a scant six months after their "marriage" because they couldn't agree on how to raise their cats. In a community where "boys night out" sex parties are commonplace, do we as a society, want to deal with the fallout of relationships where adopted children, not cats, are the innocent victims? If you find yourself at the conclusion of Brokeback, wistfully sighing and having a Rodney King "can't we all just get along?" moment, you my friend have become an unwitting victim of agenda-driven marketing, of which Brokeback is a small part.
Gay males have long since achieved acceptance of "privacy to do in the bedroom" whatever they want. They now want to shove down your throat the notion that they are cultural heroes. They are not.
Hm, it seems like someone has an agenda…
I also reject the notion that "Brokeback Mountain" is merely a "love" story. I, too, think it's primarliy about gay sex.
More specifically, I think it's about the danger and isolation homosexuals face in a climate of fear and hatred — one that Ms. Wells apparently would like to perpetuate with her specious "studies" that prove only that gays, like any of us, react poorly in the face of institutional hatred.
A viewing of a film created by the ACLU called “Beyond the Patriot Act,” originally slated to be aired in Helena’s Montana State Library, was called off:
The State Library called off its viewing of the film after people complained about the ACLU being involved.
State Library spokeswoman Sara J. Groves said Tuesday complaints came from residents and state employees who didn’t like the idea of the ACLU getting a forum. The library considered finding someone to counter the ACLU’s position on the Patriot Act but couldn’t on short notice, she said.
So…a group espousing civil liberty for American citizens, especially freedom of speech issues, was banned from speaking. It would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.
And why couldn’t the library find anyone to counter the ACLU’s position? Were the Helena neo-Nazis busy? I mean, really, who would oppose our right to free speech?
Update: Hullabaloo’s Tristero brought up the ACLU and freedom of speech today:
…the principle of free speech and civil liberties simply must be respected regardless of my personal beliefs and feelings – it is essential to the operation of a modern democracy to support an organization like ACLU.
Strangely, many on the right and some others don’t quite get ACLU’s beat. Defending Oliver North or the Ku Klux Klan in no way implies endorsement of North’s loopy Cro-Magnon militarism or the Klan’s racism. The problem is this. Once you start infringing on Ollie’s constitutional right to be a flaming asshole,fundamentalist churches any NAMBLA are next. No great loss, you say? You’re right, I agree. But the problem with infringing those civil rights is that rapidly you reach the point where just about any kind of speech can be banned for any reason. And therein lies the problem.
First and foremost, the banning of speech and the curtailment of civil rights, is a political act, exercised by the powerful upon the weak. It is an immensely slippery and dangerous slope. Speech suddenly gets criminalized at the whim of the government or corporations in cahoots with the government. That is why those of us who don’t have any interest in speaking up in defense of major league jerks nevertheless refuse to give up our ACLU cards when they offer their services to defend someone we utterly detest. We know that, if they get away with shutting up Ollie or a Nazi, we’re next. Just as we don’t like Iran/Contra criminals, we don’t like NAMBLA either. But they all got rights. Or none of us really do.
…one of the best ways to uphold the principle without being exploited by cynical manipulators is to support an institution whose sole mission is to defend specific liberties like free speech without endorsing any specific ideology. Free speech – real free speech – is a complex issue, and an emotional one. Rightly so. There are ways to be pro-free speech without holding hands with the American counterparts of sleazy gits like David Irving or Flemming Rose. ACLU is one way.
So when I see a group of people hound the ACLU out of their library, effectively closing off the flow of ideas, it’s obvious that they don’t understand the meaning of the liberties granted to us by the U.S. Constitution. The purpose of the amendments is to protect the rights of minorities, whether of race, origin, or of opinion, from the tyranny of the majority. Freedom of speech, then, is designed to protect the opinions of those you don’t agree with.
The Montana State Librarians and those that engineered the banning of the ACLU from its doors should be ashamed for violating the basic prinicples of our freedom.
A little while ago, athene-owl pointed out Grist magazine's seven-week series on poverty and the environment. I think the concepts in the article are revolutionary, especially since truth lies at its center. Environmentalism isn’t about protecting charismatic mega-fauna, it’s about social justice. It’s about saving lives. (Although bears are cute.) From Grist:
In much of popular and political culture, the movement is dismissed as the pet cause of white, well-off Americans — people who can afford to buy organic arugula, vacation in Lake Tahoe, and worry about the fate of the Pacific pocket mouse. And yet, the population most affected by environmental problems is the poor.
As if to underscore this claim the EPA has allowed for federal drinking water standards to be waived for low-income communities:
The agency is proposing establishing an affordability threshold based on a percentage of household income in a community but is seeking comment on various ways of calculating safe drinking water costs and how much a household can be expected to pay.
Got that? If enough poor people live in a neighborhood, you can pollute it! Obviously this helps large companies that typically operate in low-income regions — like Montana — at the same time protecting the GOP's base — wealthy suburbanites — from water contamination.
Contrast the treatment of Americans who happen to have less money than your average Congressional representative (i.e., most of us) to the treatment of the UAE royal family, who, despite ties to terrorist organizations and illicit arms smuggling, recieved a multi-billion dollar port contract.
Money talks. The rest of us drink dirty water.
Yesterday, Ed Kemmick posted a satire printed in the New York Observer: The Times Gets Tough: A New Public Editor! Meet Ali bin-Zabar. It's pretty inane and through parody declaims newspapers for not printing the Danish cartoons.
In my usual way, I ranted against the hypocracy of editors and bloggers who scream First Amendment over the voluntary suppression of anti-Muslim content but remain mum when it comes to Holocaust denial. It wasn't a very good response.
But this was:
I for one see no reason to publish the cartoons other than to flaunt our right to do so. The same goes with the details of holocaust denials or the graphic evidence presented at a rape trial. Sensitivity has its merits.
On the other hand I am glad for the coverage this issue (along with David Irving’s) has received. I’m a fairly staunch believer in John Stuart Mill’s ‘marketplace of ideas’ where we freely and openly express ourselves and hear others. Thus I think there is a double-standard in play in Europe, allowing these cartoons while not allowing Irving to air his views freely. Holocaust denial is just plain ludicrous (as are creationism, flat-earth theory, and Bush’s ‘trickle-down’ tax cuts), but democracies discredit bad ideas through dialogue, not censorship.
Sadly, some people mistake sensitivity for censorship. Sensitivity leads to creativity (how do I get the substantive point across without going over the top) while censorship stifles it (’say nothing’).
When I move this blog off Blogspot, I'll have to start a Gallery of Heroes…
The sale of six U.S. ports to Dubai’s DP World unnerves me. Not because I’m racist. (I’m against using race for profiling, for example. Plus it doesn’t work.) And not because I think all Arab states are untrustworthy or inherently linked to terrorism. But because of a myriad of factors.
First, the facts.
–DP World is owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates, the center of which is Dubai.
–The UAE royal family has ties to Osama bin Laden and 9/11. According a 9/11 commission report, a 1999 attempt to assassinate Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan was foiled by presence of a large number of UAE royal family members. The UAE was only one of three countries that recognized the Taliban as the offical government of Afghanistan. Funds for the hijackers were transferred through the UAE banking system and the US Treasury Department reported that the UAE was not cooperating “in efforts to track down Osama Bin Laden’s bank accounts.”
–Dubai’s ports have had a long history of involvement in the illegal shipping of arms, nuclear materials, biological agents, and arms to Baathist Iraq, North Korea, Libya, and Iran. (Oh, and is involved in the trafficking of child slaves, too.) Dubai was the headquarters of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani scientist at the center of a nuclear smuggling ring.
–DP World would be partly responsible for security. They would hire terminal workers and screen and x-ray shipments.
It could well be that DP World will handle its security duties flawlessly. It could be that its owners do not have any intention of allowing terrorists or dangerous material to penetrate our borders. It could be that the hysteria surrounding the sale is completely baseless.
But shouldn’t the facts listed above give us a little pause? Isn’t there enough concern to be at least suspicious? Can we guarantee that no member of the UAE royal family still hasn’t affection for bin Laden and his jihad, and that with the power to hire cargo screeners, could arrange the shipment of arms for domestic-based terrorists? Can we guarantee that the same folks who allowed the illegal smuggling of arms and other banned materials to rogue nations will act more responsibly in the U.S.? Can we take this risk?
And now the president says that the UAE is an ally in the “war on terror.” That we should trust DP World. Is he right?
Digby points out that this president and administration have already gone to some pretty far extremes in the name of security:
He needs to be secretly spy on American citizens without a warrant and he needs to be able to hold them indefinitely in jail without a trial and he needs to be able to torture innocent people with impunity because we just can’t be too careful after 9/11.
But there’s no reason to go overboard by saying that we shouldn’t outsource our port management to a company owned by a state whose leaders have been known to hang out with bin Laden.
Perhaps the best way to put this is that the administration seems to trust the leaders of the United Arab Emirates more than the US congress or the secret FISA Court.
In this case Bush’s rhetoric is completely contradictory to his earlier justification for his encroachment on our civil liberties. Oh, and contradictory to his own earlier stated positions during the last presidential election. From a 2004 speech at Wilkes-Barre, PA:
I will never hand over America’s security decisions to foreign leaders and international bodies that do not have America’s interests at heart.
UAE also fails the same litmus test Bush requires for dealing with Hamas: the UAE refuses to recognize Israel. If the president finds Hamas stance to be too radical to treat with diplomatically, why is it okay to allow a government with similar views to control six of our ports?
The point here is that Bush has gone to further extremes to “ensure security,” as he has claimed. He’s trampled on the rights of individuals, ignored the Constitution, and advocated torture — in other words, he’s gone too far. But doesn’t this deal with DP World genuinely deserve scrutiny? Doesn’t he have more to suspect from a government that has ties to al Qaeda than from U.S. courts and his own citizens?
So why is Bush backing a UAE-owned company despite the overwhelming opposition to this sale? Why go against his earlier stated rhetoric and campaign promises and risk appearing weak on security? Why risk huge political fallout in the upcoming elections to save the deal?
Maybe it was something found in what Senate Armed Serices Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va) said about the ports purchase:
…[Warner] would withhold judgment on the deal’s national security implications until after today’s briefing. The United Arab Emirates provides docking rights for more U.S. Navy ships than any other nation in the region, Warner noted. He added: “If they say they have not been treated fairly in this, we run the risk of them pulling back some of that support at a critical time of the war.”
Or, Digby again:
It may be that we have gotten ourselves into a terrible position in which we cannot “offend” the UAE by blocking this deal because they may reciprocate by blocking access to their deep water ports. If that’s the case, then we are being blackmailed by the UAE for big money and potentially putting our own ports in danger in the process. According to the 9/11 report they have been playing both ends against the middle for years.
Or could Bush’s support for the ports deal be a result of financial indescretion?
There’s no doubt that opposition to the purchase of six US ports is fueled in part by jingoism, xenophobia, and racism. But other opposition is genuinely concerned that the UAE have not only ties to bin Laden, but also a history of smuggling arms and nuclear materials to rogue nations. And it turns out that we might have to compromise at the very least the appearence of safety in order to maintain our operations in Iraq. (I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the Iraq war has endangered our security.)
But what really gets me about this whole deal is that this scandal — just like the Cheney shooting — represents larger issues involving the Bush administration.
His tax cuts benefit the rich and will be paid by the middle class. His health care plans benefit insurance companies and will force consumers to pay more and do more paperwork. His cronies in Halliburton and other government contractors are making millions — billions — off the Iraqi war while immigrants and working class Americans die fighting it.
Bush wiretaps Americans, throws people into secret prisons without benefit of trial, and bombs Iraqi civilians while cementing business relationships with powerful allies of terrorist organizations: the Saudis and members of the UAE royal family. Americans in New Orleans die by the hundreds waiting for assistance from the federal agencies specifically designed to aid its citizens in time of emergency while GOP political cronies enrich themselves on taxpayer money.
Portgate illustrates Bush’s contempt for the average joe and his adoration of corporate and political power.
He’s done it. It’s official. Conrad Burns has filed for his fourth term in Congress. I’ve said this before, but I think Burns running is the best thing that could happen to the Democrats in an essentially conservative state.
“I think it will be a race,” Burns said in an interview. “I think it will be very interesting. I think it will be mostly fun. I’m looking forward to it.”
Me, too! And so are state Dems:
…[S]tate Democratic Party spokesman Matt McKenna said, “We’re glad he’s in the race, too. Maybe now he’ll start talking about his record. We’ve been anxious to have this debate and he’s been ducking it for months.”
Incidentally, Sen. Burns had this to say for himself:
Burns, who sits on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, said he is responsible for bringing more than $2 billion in federal money to Montana during his career.
I’ll give this to the Senator: he’s worked hard. He took on that second job with lobbyist Jack Abramoff despite the already heavy workload that belongs to a Senate seat. Let’s hope he’s paying Montana state taxes on that extra income. It should be quite a sum.
I want to give Digby props today. As you’ll see in the coming weeks, months, and perhaps years of 4&20 blackbirds, I’m a big fan of his site and his thinking. I’ll even go further: Digby is the conscience and brain behind the progressive blogosphere.
Today I want to write about two of Digby’s posts attacking the Republican leadership and sending a message to the Democratic leadership: don’t compromise.
In the first post, Digby makes clear that the baying of the left-wing blogosphere about the Democratic leadership is not directed at moderate and conservative Democrats who are betraying progressive ideology, but instead at those Democratic politicians who try to work with the GOP:
It's not "left" and "right" or "liberal," "moderate," or "conservative" that animates the grassroots. We argue some amongst ourselves on policy, of course, but that's not the rap on the establishment. It's the desire that our representatives wake up and recognise that we are in a new political era in which these designations take second place to "Democrat." That's the environment we are in whether we like it or not — a country sharply divided by party, not ideology.
The Democratic party did everything it could to alleviate the culture war and the partisanship in the 90's by electing southern moderates to the white house and helping the Republicans pass a lot of legislation born of major compromise of Democratic principles. Nothing was good enough. The culture war raged, not on the basis of policy — there was much in Bill Clinton's policies for a Republican to love. It was based purely on the tribal instincts of the culture warriors who insisted that liberals not only be marginalized (fair enough in politics) but that they be annihilated. They gave no quarter unless public opinion absolutely forced them to.
The grassroots believe that after all that, after moving to the right, after offering to compromise, after allowing our "red state Democrats" to run with the other side who then treated them with nothing but bad faith, now is the time for politicians to make a choice. Submit to them or stand with the resistance.
As usual, Digby nails it. Most of us in the progressive blogosphere aren’t raging socialists, many of us hold moderate or even conservative opinions. What we don’t like is watching our representatives toady up to the GOP to avoid gaining the label, “partisan.” Where has this gotten us? In the name of co-operation most of the Democratic party capitulated on the 2000 presidential election. The Democratic party handed Bush a blank check on Iraq intervention. Democrats backed away from Plamegate, Delay, Abramoff, and the NSA wiretapping. A number of Democrats refused to filibuster the Alito nomination. All to avoid the appearance of divisiveness.
Let’s get something straight: none of these issues are about liberal ideology. They involve corruption, unnecessary and aggressive war, and the increasing use of illegal executive power. There’s a reason Bush’s approval ratings are in the 30s: these are issues Americans are concerned about. But the Democratic leadership has backed down on every one.
Trust me, if they took a stand, Democrats would be more popular.
In another post, Digby writes:
Sometimes I get criticism from my readers for suggesting that the Democrats must play on the same playing field as the Republicans. They say, "we shouldn't become them." But I never suggest that the Democrats should lie, cheat or play dirty as the Republicans do. I suggest that they wise up and stop pretending that Republicans are anything but ruthless adversaries and adjust accordingly. They can be beaten with smart strategies, but not unless the Democrats internalize the connection between the nice men and women they are working with on capitol hill every day with the thugs they hire to get elected. They are all cogs in the same cutthroat political machine.
The Republican leadership has hijacked this country. They manufactured evidence to start a war for unknown purposes; they have and continue to accumulate power in the hands of the executive; they rigged the last two presidential elections; they created a powerful, exclusive, and corrupt lobbying infrastructure. They are destroying the economy with unrealistic ideological fiscal practices. They created divisiveness throughout the country; lost a major US city, two buildings in New York, and a war no one wanted; security has worsened under their “leadership,” and even now are considering handing over port security to a company with terrorist ties. They are ruthless, extremists, and just plain bad for this country.
These are the thugs the Democrats are trying to do business with.
It is time to stop compromising.
Air America, as everybody knows, is the nationally syndication of progressive talk radio programs. It also happens to be wildly successful — apparently people like hearing progressive viewpoints. Montana’s only Air-America affiliated station is located right here in Missoula: KKNS. (That’s 105.9 on your FM dial, folks.) In fact, it’s the only progressive talk radio between Spokane and Denver.
Recently a new ownership group has moved in with funding for the station: Simmons Media. One of the first moves the new ownership made was to cut staff despite the station's ratings success.
What’s going on?
I recently ran into Lesley Lotto, the News Director for KKNS. (See the KKNS page for a link to her bio.) In our conversation, she felt that the layoffs were a business decision, that the station wasn’t making money, and the new ownership wanted to trim the budget. I asked her for a written statement, and she sent me an email:
We recently got new investors who are straight business folks. When they took over the “operating” of the business they immediately released three staff members. We’re pretty much a one-man band so to speak now.
I did a little research on Simmons Media – it was the gut reaction of a raving online liberal, I admit – and found…well…nothing. Simmons Media owns a wide variety of stations, including sports talk, alternative, country, and pop formats. They do seem interested in making money. And I think it’s a good thing that they felt KKNS worth a financial risk.
So, well, how can we help keep Air America in Montana? Lesley:
We are sure there is an untapped audience still out there, unaware we exist. The listeners we do have are loyal and have blessed us with fantastic ratings after only 6 weeks on the air. We want to get the word out that we’re fighting hard to stay on the air, but it’s a matter of time if don’t get listener support in the way of supporting our advertisers and also participating in advertising for local businesses. We’re passionate about what we do, but the fact is, we’re a business, too!
Get the word out! Get listening! Visit and buy from Air America’s advertisers and, if you know any businesses, let them know that spots on the station are very inexpensive right now. (Heck! Maybe 4&20 should take out a spot or two…)
Parting shot from Lesley:
We need help keeping Montana’s only Air American station on the air in Montana. Thanks for your support!
UPDATE: Leslsey reminded me that Simmons Media doesn't own KKNS, but is a station investment group. (Kevin Terry of Spanish Peaks Broadcasting is still the sole owner.) Also to help the Missoula station, patronize KKNS sponsors, not the national sponsors. (Although you can choose to buy stuff from those as well…)
As part of the massive spending cuts being rammed through Congress to make up for tax cuts for the wealthy and Bush’s private war, the president has proposed lopping off $33 million in funding for off-reservation Indian clinics. Here in Montana, off-reservation clinics located in Great Falls, Helena, Missoula, Billings, and Butte, receive over $4 million.
More than half of Montana’s Native American population lives off reservation. Many of them use the off-reservation clinics exclusively.
“It would be a tremendous loss if we close,” said Thomas Champagne, director of the Great Falls Indian Family Clinic. “We couldn’t be sure if these people would be willing to go seek those services elsewhere. I’d be worried about what would happen to them.”
People who are reluctant to go to the doctor for regular checkups or at the early onset of medical symptoms — people who wait until they’re really sick before they seek medical attention end up costing the system more money in health care costs. That results in higher doctor’s bills, higher insurance premiums, and more taxpayer money spent on health care costs. The kind of payments that affect the middle class, those of us struggling to pay our mortgages and health insurance costs as it is.
And the cut singles out a low-income minority group that typically votes Democrat.
Here, then, is an excellent example of the kind of cuts the Republican Party typically makes. It’s short-sighted. It screws the poor. The middle class has to pay for it. Above all, it’s partisan politics.
Maybe now we'll get a break from these mining corporations trying to force Montanans to suffer health consequences to boost their profits. Maybe.
I admit I was saving Saturday posts for sports, but I've been caught up in the rivalry between US skaters Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick. Davis stuck a monkey wrench into Hedrick's ambition to win five gold medals in these games by refusing to participate in team pursuit, a newly-invented team race for long-track speedskating. And ever since Davis' decision Hedrick has been pouty and used the media to launch a few barbs at Davis.
Ultimately, I agree with Eric Heiden (one of the best atheletes ever, and a cool guy):
Davis did the right thing by not skating in the pursuit. His goal was to skate the 1,000 and the 1,500. He was put in a unique position with team pursuit. It's a new race for the Olympics and the format was something that none of the teams were quite sure how to deal with. With four races over a two-day period, nobody knew how it was going to affect them in their later races. I talked with Germany's Anni Friesinger, who is one of the best in the world, and she told me that two days after she had skated three of the four pursuits she was still very tired. That may have cost her the gold medal Sunday in the 1,000, one of her best distances. She ended up third. Looking back, she may regret skating so much in pursuit.
Hedrick wanted Davis to risk his 1000m race for his own glory.
There's something creepy about Hedrick. Maybe it's his smile, a little too big and with teeth a little too straight. Maybe it's because he sounds like an idiot whenever he opens his mouth. Maybe it's fan base.
Whatever it is, I'm pulling for Shani Davis in the 1500m tomorrow night.