Archive for July, 2006

There was a weird historical allegory in Denny Rehberg’s Gazette guest column on Friday, tying the so-called “war on terror” to World War 2:

In World War II, our country lost a generation of Americans because our leadership saw a threat and did not react quickly enough. How much shorter could the war have been? How many fewer lives would have been lost, if America had acted swiftly against the looming threats posed by Japan, Germany and Italy? Unfortunately, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor forced us to act. Today, we are in a similar situation in the war on terrorism. For decades, we ignored the growing and obvious threat presented by terrorism. Sept. 11, 2001, forced us to rethink this threat. To ensure that we do not lose another generation of young Americans, we must continue to fight terrorism wherever it resides and provide our soldiers the resources they need to get the job done and return home safely.

First the comparison between even the Iraq War and WW2 patently ridiculous. In the WW2, we fought a number of large conventional armies belonging established sovereign states. Those states were definite aggressors against our own territory and were a definite threat to our interests.

Currently we’re fighting a number of loose shadowy terrorist and nationalist groups in Iraq in a grueling – but not terribly large – guerrilla war.

Other things matter, too. In WW2 Congress unanimously declared war on Japan, Germany, and Italy. No declaration of war kicked off Iraq; instead the administration wrangled an open-ended quasi-approval for military action after all diplomacy was exhausted, which was based on “faulty” intelligence. Also, during WWII the country was involved – there was a draft, rationing, the whole bit. Now? Some irritating news to wade through, increased gas prices, and a small number of dead soldiers mostly from poor and working-class families and rural areas.

Rehberg’s analogy is also patently ridiculous. The US would not have, could not have intervened before Pearl Harbor. The citizenry wasn’t into war. There wasn’t a question of making sh*t up and dragging the country into war against its will, even if the enemy was clear and present. That’s a recipe for disaster. Could you image defeating Hitler and Tojo with an indifferent American populace?

The deal is simple: the GOP wants you and me to believe that the present Iraq War is analogous to WWII because that was the “good” war. No one thinks fighting that war was a bad idea, and they want you to think that fighting their war is the same thing. It’s part of the conservative mindset on foreign policy, where everything is broken down into a simplistic “us vs. them” approach. Only no one asked us whether we want to go to war, no one proposed it for debate. We were hijacked, and some of us are still pretty p*ssed.

Only it gets worse, or threatens to. Now these goons want to drag us into Israel’s mess. Newt Gingrich:

Gingrich said in an interview Saturday that Bush should call a joint session of Congress the first week of September and talk about global military conflicts in much starker terms than have been heard from the president.[snip]

Gingrich said in the coming days he plans to speak out publicly and to the administration from his seat on the Defense Policy Board about the need to recognize that America is in World War III.

Got that? We need to be told we’re in “WWIII.” By the President.

Only thing is, it ain’t the President’s job to “tell us” what wars we’re in. The power of declaring war belongs to Congress. Period.

And just who would they declare war on, Newt?

See, the neocons are facing a choice. They can either face up to their colossal intellectual blunders about the Middle East and endure the humiliation that will accompany self-realization, or they can become more strident and claim we haven’t gone far enough to realize their American Empire fantasies.

We know where Gingrich and Bill Kristol stand: with their egos.

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There’s a lot to catch up on – I’m running a few days behind the news. Specifically, I haven’t commented on the Montana House race’s dueling guest editorials in the Billings Gazette written by Democrat Monica Lindeen and Republican incumbent Denny Rehberg, in which each candidate listed issues they saw as important for this upcoming election.

Lindeen’s issues were the expected slate of Democratic stances: support the troops with full benefits, equipment, and an Iraq plan; invest in alternative energies; reduce the federal deficit; and preserve Montana’s public lands.

These are the issues important to Montana, and issues that the Democratic-controlled legislature have done well with during its tenure under Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer. These are promises, not political spin.

Then we look at Rehberg’s issues: invest in alternative energy; improve access to health care; protect children from drugs; win the “war on terror”; and provide quality education.

Um. With the exception of the “terror” thing, aren’t these the planks of the Democrats’ party platform? Was Ralph Nader right when he claimed there was no difference between the two parties? Is Denny Rehberg just a Democrat who has a skewed view of American history and current events (more on that later)?

Hardly. When Rehberg claims he “helped craft and pass a comprehensive national energy policy,” he’s probably referring to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, in which Congress – and Denny Rehberg – gave the big oil companies a bunch of tax breaks and subsidies. So much for alternative energy.

While Rehberg claims the Small Business Health Fairness Act would allow for more coverage and cheaper health care, it appears we have the House version of Sen. Mike Enzi’s (WY) insurance bill, which would actually free insurance companies from state regulation, dropping people off insurance rolls, and increasing coverage costs for most small businesses. In other words, this dog puts $$ into the pockets of big-business insurance companies.

No comment on the meth issue. Not exactly controversial. But it is worthwhile to point out that Rehberg seems to be grabbing a little credit for the state’s meth program, which is independently funded.

And education? He is rated 25% by the National Education Association on education issues. (That’s a failing grade for the educationally impaired.) Apparently Rehberg’s efforts have been saved for trying to inject Christian prayer into schools.

Rehberg says he’s for all these things, but his actions show otherwise. (Matthew 7:20, “Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” Amen.) The question is, of course, why do Republicans feel the need to run as Democrats during the election? Rehberg isn’t the only one. Burns is doing it, too. Pogie:

It seems that Senator Burns is having a real dilemma in this campaign. He seems so ashamed of his real record that he feels the need to manufacture one. This latest identity, as a defender of the environment, shares one thing with the Republicans’ energy policy and that old high school plan: they all rely on a lot of bullsh*t.

Come on, be honest! Tell us what you really believe in! I want to know how Rehberg can claim giving subsidies to big oil helps alternative energy, or how freeing insurance from regulations helps lower costs. Because right now, Rehberg’s stances can be interpreted one of two ways:

–He believes giving subsidies or breaks to corporate America will somehow lead to solutions, but he doesn’t trust us to understand his thinking.

–He’s a corrupt, well-fed Congressman more interested in his next donation or golf trip than in the livelihood and interests of his constituency.

Which is it?

Links…

Jeff at Speedkill parses the GOP e-brief and the difference between Burns’ and Baucus’ funding.

Pogie parses another GOP e-brief, this one Burns’ stance on renewable energy.

Why Bush’s signing statements are bad for democracy.

Why aren’t there any good conservative documenataries?

Vote now! For Hoosegow Honey of 2006!

The war

Israel’s latest war is too much of a clusterf*ck for me to comment much on. I’ll just say it seems a little strange that Israel has taken out one government (Palestine) and appears to be set on destroying Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure over three kidnapped soldiers. Either there’s a deeper motive at work – or the Israelis have endured too much terror over the years and are lashing out, perhaps against their own best interests. Whatever. We’ll probably never know.

Anyway, here are other observations by smarter people than me:

Obsidian Wings has a nice summary of the war and her feelings on it…

Billmon is a little more critical of Israel: “…the operation has failed…,” “…off balance…,” “…Israel [is] lash[ing] out…in ways the rest of the world…views as increasingly cruel and vindictive…”

The Slog’s Josh Feit believes Israel has every right to react against Hezbollah and wonders why there’s even a debate. (Plus some good ground rules for debating the issue.)

The WaPo’s Mallaby thinks Israel is making a mistake in its aggressive response: “…everybody understands that failed states are good for terrorism.”

TAPPED’s Matthew Yglesias, Garance Franke-Ruta, and Ezra Klein discuss the destruction of civilian infrastructure.

Meanwhile, where’s the United States in all of this? “…the administration right now looks weak, confused, and vaguely pathetic…” Had enough?

Bill Kristol and his PNAC goons are in heat over Israel’s actions. Juan Williams to Kristol: “Well, it just seems to me that you want…you just want war, war, war, and you want us in more war.” Someone should get Kristol a box of toy soldiers so he’ll leave the rest of us alone.

Right winger Michael J. Totten posts a message from a Lebanese friend who’s leaving because Israel has made his country “unlivable.” Nasty flame war follows in the comments. Totten reiterates his unwavering support for Israel while recognizing the mess it made.

Matt Singer comments on a local blogger’s hysterical attack on the entire Kos community for a diarist’s admittedly anti-semetic post.

Patricia Goedicke died Friday night at St. Pat’s. She had been suffering from lung cancer, and was apparently in good spirits the weeks leading up to her death.

For those of you who didn’t have the pleasure — or experience — of knowing Patricia, she was a poet and instructor at the University of Montana’s creative writing program. She was sassy and rude and flirtatious and wise and proper and wild. She was a diva. She was an icon in the powerful body of Montana writers. Whatever she was, she was never tame. Although I never took a class with Patricia, I got to know her first during my wife’s stint in the program, and then again — after she had retired — during my own two years in the writing program.

I used to co-ordinate the graduate students’ Second Wind reading series and had the pleasure of once introducing her before she read. I combed through all the reviews of her work and snipped here, cut there, and created a poem with the stolen words from those reviews. I think it came out well — not because of any particular genius on my end — but because of the ideas her work dislodged from professional critics.

That is, I didn’t write it. She earned it into existence.

Where undeniable talent lies

She didn’t look hard, but she looked as if she had heard all the answers and remembered the ones she thought she might be able to use sometime.

–Raymond Chandler

Wherein undeniable talent lies is difficult to fix —
Patricia Goedicke,
discursive,
intensely emotional, intensely physical,
bears down on the language,
casts a wide net,
exhibits a Whitmanesque exuberance,
produces exact ambiguities,
and catches exotic fish.

Her poems,
an accretion,
indeed leap up,
startling and funny —
they never seem to end,
are products of the mind
where mundane is transformed into the terrifying —
they haunt us because they clarify — terror
changes into tender yet disturbing
love poems like parables
of survival.

Engaging, truthful, hard, elusive, powerful, excessive, surreal.

Reading Goedicke’s poems is like being
invited into the mind.

Of course, Patricia was a hundred times the poet I’ll ever be, so I’ll pass on one of her poems that was passed on to me. It speaks for itself.

Another Light

You thought you were only going on a picnic but you aren’t,
There is more to it than that.

Sitting here waiting for your friends

Somewhere in the center is a cracked voice
Gradually opening its mouth, and growing

For the young tree you are leaning against is moving:

Right through your backbone you can feel the smooth pole of it
Lurch back and forth, like a ship at sea that walks

High in the mountains, where the wind ruffles itself into whitecaps
And your hair lifts like feathers!

You know the crumbling dirt you are sitting on is a deck,
Inside the round hull of your body there are wings

There are compasses, strong spars
And a nose sharp as a prow to cut the wind

That is always with us, heavily moving through space

Especially at evening, in the blazing surf of sunset,
The slow heaving underfoot

You know you will have to set out anyway,
With or without your friends,

Crescents of Canada geese in their slim wedges
Swoop over the tall mastpole of your head

The black wall of the mountains stands straight up
In front of your face but there is another light

Behind it, always behind, the glittering bronze rim of it,
The vast eye of the universe like a lake

That is staring at you, mysterious, green at the far edges,

(Patricia Goedicke, from The Wind of Our Going 1985)

I miss you, Patricia.

Links…

Sirota fires back at Lieberman’s staffer over the recent jabbing. Re-ziiiing!

Speaking of exploiting the dead, remember how Bush used 9/11? (Via Intelligent Discontent.) I don’t remember Rehberg’s horror over that commercial. (Crooks and Liars has the video of Bush’s commercial.)

The GOP may be losing the West by tailoring itself to the South. That, and a new breed of Dems is kicking *ss.

Speaking of conservatives tailoring their image to the South, the GOP is desperate to sink the Voting Rights Act.

Are things looking up for the GOP in 2006? Um, guess again.

How’s that economic growth going? You feelin’ it? No? That’s because you’re not part of the richest 1 percent. Unless you’re Denny Rehberg, then my apologies. You are feelin’ it!

And the GAO says Bush’s Iraq plan is “unclear.” Now that’s a euphemism if I’ve heard one.

Halliburton’s handiwork: $14.5 million health-care centers. Check out the pics.

Valerie Plame sues the administration for outing her.

Digby nails the conservative pundits for flip-flopping in ideology. No matter how you parse it, invading Iraq was a bad idea.

Ann Coulter fund-raises for Colorado gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez and netted….$0! Hahaha!

An interesting post about how Israel’s aggression in the Middle East is pushing Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

Robert Brigham’s got the video of Colbert on Lieberman. Hilarious!

The Missoula Independent’s George Ochenski examines the recent hoo-ha surrounding Montana’s budget surplus – it’s a great summary of the issue, and a good read. But it also touches on a couple of points that explain Schweitzer’s success – and by extension tells us why Democrats will probably be in charge around here for a while to come.

I’m going to skip all the part about the rebate – I recommend reading the column for that – and focus on the Guv’s fiscal practices while in office:

Those who have been observing the fiscal behavior of Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s administration would generally agree that he has been cautious in his approach to the state’s budgeting process. So cautious, in fact, that during the 2005 legislative session his budget director, David Ewer, was referred to as “Doctor No.” The moniker came from Ewer’s two-letter response to virtually every spending proposal brought forth by legislators, lobbyists and sometimes even the governor’s own staff.For those of us who are social progressives but fiscal conservatives, it was a huge relief to see a Democratic administration face the demands of its own majorities and keep spending in line with revenue…

[snip]

What the cautious approach also accomplished, besides laying the foundations for today’s surplus, was toss the Republicans into a befuddled tailspin from which they have yet to recover. Suddenly, their well-worn and highly successful “Tax and Spend Democrats” label just didn’t seem to stick anymore. Not only was Schweitzer holding the purse strings tightly, he also refused to allow new taxes. The combination proved disastrous for the Republicans and, despite the experience of their legislative leaders, the new governor handed them their heads on a platter by the end of the session.

I’m all for fiscal responsibility. I’m probably a little more eager to tax than Schweitzer, though, especially things like gasoline, which would help us get off oil dependency, clean the air, and reduce carbon emissions. But that’s why Schweitzer is Governor and I’m just a partisan hack making zero bucks off his blog.

My point is Schweitzer is a good Governor. That’s why Republicans are in a tizzy. There’s nothing to criticize other than the fact that they’re pretty much irrelevant nowadays. (Which is as it should be, based on their recent performance “governing.”)

Jon Tester is of the same mold. He was the state’s senate president during this remarkable feat of budgetry. (And the only reason I say producing a budget surplus is “remarkable” is because Republicans make it seem so. *cough* National debt. *cough cough*) And Monica Lindeen, too, was instrumental in the Montana state legislature.

This country is in a time of crisis. Not just in Iraq, not just over the Constitution and the President’s eagerness to accumulate a disproportionate amount of power. But economically, too. Our deficit is enormous and if something’s not done, only inflation can fix it, tossing our standard of living down the drain. (Unless you’re rich, of course. Like Denny Rehberg.) We need competent, honest lawmakers in office. We need people to fix problems, not create them.

You know what to do. Support Tester and Lindeen.

Matt Singer found the results of June’s Lake Research poll on the Senate race a tad odd. The Rasmussen poll had Tester up by seven; the Lake Research poll has Tester up by a solitary point.

A couple of observations:

First, Tester being a point down to Morrison translated into a win by fifteen points in the primary. The polls indicate, they do not predict.

Second, did you see the favorability ratings? Tester scores a 48% favorable rating and an 18% unfavorable rating – that’s extremely low. How about Burns? 46% favorable, 50% unfavorable. Fifty percent! Half the state thinks Burns don’t get it done!

You need 51% to win an election.

When 50% say they pretty much wouldn’t vote for you even if you were the last candidate on Earth…well…your future is dim.

You may remember this image:

 

What about this image?

 

Then there’s this classic, where our Commander-in-chief shows his excitement at finally wearing a uniform:

 

My point? Who’s using the military for political gain?

According to Denny Rehberg, it’s the Democratic party. Why? Because of a video over on the DCCC’s website, “New Directions.” Rehberg:

“This video is horrifying,” Rehberg said in a statement. “Using fallen soldiers as a political fundraising tool is an insult to the families of those soldiers and to our military personnel who are currently serving in harm’s way.”

This, of course, is coming from a man who made staff member Jake Eaton — also prominently mentioned in the article — stand up during the last Montana House debate against Lindeen so everybody could see he had an Iraqi war veteran on his staff.

Maybe it’s the sight of coffins. The Republicans have always been anxious not to let the public see images of our nation’s war dead during the current war. Don’t we have a right to know the cost of waging war? Isn’t this still a democracy?

Whether Rehberg likes it or not, he’s in part responsible for those coffins. The administration’s repeated bungling has turned the war into an unwinnable quagmire, and now Bush and his allies want to let the next President fix his mistake. I.e., “stay the course.” And Rehberg and the House Republicans yoked us to President Bush’s rudderless policy.

Oh, and this is a man who won’t put his money where his mouth is.

Rehberg is “horrified” by the sight of American war dead? He should be.

Is the Democratic party “playing politics” with these images? A Republican might think so, because that’s what they do. They play. They don’t take governance seriously. They don’t believe in it. Alan Wolfe:

Contemporary conservatism is first and foremost about shrinking the size and reach of the federal government….But like all politicians, conservatives, once in office, find themselves under constant pressure from constituents to use government to improve their lives. This puts conservatives in the awkward position of managing government agencies whose missions — indeed, whose very existence — they believe to be illegitimate.

Contemporary conservatism is a walking contradiction. Unable to shrink government but unwilling to improve it, conservatives attempt to split the difference, expanding government for political gain, but always in ways that validate their disregard for the very thing they are expanding. The end result is not just bigger government, but more incompetent government.

Republicans see the election as a game. They’ll say whatever it takes to win because winning is what’s important. Not governing. That’s also why corruption runs much deeper in conservative circles. If you’re ideologically opposed to something, why not make a buck off it while you watch it go down in flames?

Democrats, on the other hand, see government as a service to its people. Schweitzer and Tester and Lindeen here in Montana have shown us that state Democrats believe in competent and honest government.

While some may see images of war dead being “used” by amoral politicians in a crass move to win elections, I see the images as proof of the Democratic party’s sincere mourning of the dead and the desire to salvage some good out of a seemingly hopeless situation. This is their message.

Lincoln:

It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

By Rehberg’s logic, Lincoln’s use of the Civil War dead was a “horrifying” political stunt to convince people to preserve the Union. 

Right now the President and the Republican Congress — hello, Denny Rehberg — have no Iraq plan. They are drifting at sea. The soldiers’ pensions and health care benefits are cut, the grunts are under-equipped and piling up extended service. Who has placed the military in an unwinnable situation? Who dishonors the military? Who dishonors the dead?

Perhaps Rehberg should work harder to solve the Iraqi mess and save American lives by bringing home the troops instead of blowing smoke over a two-second image in an Internet video.

Links…

A slew of great posts over at Intelligent Discontent: the myth perpetuated by the media that Tester leads because of the Abramoff scandal; the Helena IR balances its editorial page the way dropping a 500-pound weight on one end balances a canoe; does Joe Lieberman really think we’re that stupid?

Speaking at Lieberman, his staff takes aim at David Sirota. Zing! (More AP views on Lieberman-Lamont: Tom Schaller and Ezra Klein. And Robert Brigham weighs in, too. Then there’s this handsome guy’s take.)

Speedkill takes a peek under the rock of the right-wing blogosphere; creepy crawlies abound.

Firedoglake looks at the domestic security measures sacrificed for the war in Iraq.

It’s not unique to Montana: the federal Republicans have no ideas, either.

John Dean on the Daily Show warns about the authoritarian streak in the contemporary conservative movement. Stewart’s got his bags packed.

Coulter torn apart on television. This is the way people should handle her, if they have her on at all.

Now we know where Zidane got his temper! The midfielder’s mom calls for the Italian’s “balls on a platter.” I’m thinking Materazzi was lucky to be headbutted… (Via Blogenlust.)

There’s been a lot of talk swirling around the trio of terrible ballot initiatives sponsored by a shady cabal of conservative interests and the amount of money spent to get them on the ballot. Today, the Gazette ran a story about who and how much spent the money:

Financial support for Constitutional Initiatives 97 and 98 and Initiative 154 comes primarily from one group: Montanans in Action, a nonprofit group that so far has declined to reveal specifically where it gets its money.

Reports filed this week show that Montanans in Action has spent nearly $633,000 on the campaigns for the three measures. That accounts for 92 percent of financial support for the three measures. Of that amount, $580,000 was paid to signature-gatherers, the reports showed.

I’ve written a bunch of posts about these initiatives. They are reprehensible and misleading.

CI 97 is the “Stop Overspending” bill, which is a spending cap initiative that would basically cripple the state’s ability to deal with changing population demographics, and whose inbred uncle — Colorado’s TABOR — nearly took down the state’s school system.

CI 98 is an attempt to do an end run around the foundations of American constitutional democracy by making judges subject to simple recalls, likely an effort to more easily implement bizzaro conservative agendas.

CI 154 is an eminent domain law that would force the state to compensate property owners for regulation that affects the property’s value. That is, environmental regulations, and mining property, for example. The initiative, however, makes it easier for the government to condemn property and take it away from you. Basically the initiative’s sole purpose is to destroy the government’s ability to regulate business.

In other words, these initiatives open the door for a few powerful businesses and conservative ideologues to run roughshod over our state without leaving us any power to stop them. They want to eliminate taxation, eliminate services, and eliminate government control over their polluting or dangerous business practices.

These are not initiatives born of democracy intended for the good of our community. If the very ideology behind the initiatives haven’t convinced you that these bills are not in your interest, then the fact that unknown interests have poured more than a half million dollars to pay a bunch of out-of-state professional signature gatherers to descend on Montana and trick, fool, and deceive people into putting their names on these dreadful petitions should make it plain as day.

But wait! It gets worse!

Sandlapper on the Daily Kos wrote a post about the vast sums of money stemming from a Montana “nonprofit” intended for other similar initiatives in other states:

Who in Montana — or somewhere else — would be hiding behind laws that shield a nonprofit group’s books to send more than $600,000 to ballot campaigns in California, Nebraska and elsewhere? Is a political action committee there being used as a right-wing tool to launder and funnel money across the country, the same as Tom DeLay’s TRMPAC is accused of doing in Texas? And what does Trevis Butcher, a conservative political activist in Montana, have to do with it?

But wait! Sandlapper has another post on the unethical practices of professional Oklahoma signature gatherers! Sound familiar? It should! (To be fair to the signature gatherers, Montana doesn’t have a residency requirement for gathering signatures. But from the general harassment endured by these initiatives’ out-of-state mercenaries it’s fair to say that little attention was paid to the means, just the results.)

There is hope. First, Schweitzer has tied one of these nasty measures to his property tax rebate, and I’m convinced anything that the Guv goes against is as good as dead. Second, some Montanans are getting suspicious of Travis Butcher’s sudden effusion of cash; according to Sandlapper’s first post, Jonathon Motl of Montanans for Fair Initiatives has demanded a review of Butcher’s books.

I’m curious and eager to see the results. When you turn rocks over all sorts of uglies crawl out…

Update: On a positive note, the minimum wage initiative made the ballot. Excellent news.

In today’s links, I connected to a couple of posts about Nazis Bill White and Shawn Stuart. White quit the US Nazi party because it was too creepy for him…which says a lot…and Orcinus wrote a great report on right-wing extremists in the military, framed around the “Republican” candidate for a Butte state House seat.

You’ll recall the brouhaha about Shawn Stuart’s filing as a Republican in a Butte state legislature race, and all the concern expressed by Montana’s GOP, even going as far as saying they would “work to defeat” Stuart.

Of the GOP response, I wrote this:

I do think [MT GOP chair] Karl Ohs’ respsonse was the right thing to do. He completely denied any association with the National Socialist party and reaffirmed his party’s “commitment to equal rights and equality for every citizen regardless of gender, age, race, national origin, religion, creed, or physical impairment” (tho’ he left out “sexual orientation”!). Yes, having a Nazi running under your banner is bad publicity, but I do believe that this was one of the rare cases where political expediency met genuine feeling.

But, as I am a partisan hack, my trust has a limited shelf life. What, I wondered, had the Montana GOP done recently to ensure Stuart’s defeat?

Praise be the Internet! I simply penned an email to Ohs, asking this very question. Here’s the response I got from executive director (whatever that is) Chuck Denowh:

Mr. Stevens,

Thanks for your concern in this area. I can assure you that Shawn Stewart will not be in the Montana Legislature next year. This is a very Democratic district. John Kerry won in this district by 1,085 votes, Brian Schweitzer won by 1,694 votes, and Bill Kennedy won by 1,588 votes. Needless to say, a Republican doesn’t have much of a chance here in the first place. But we don’t want to take anything for granted. Though I don’t want to lump this Nazi in with the Democrats, we are treating his as an opposition candidate, after all, he has damaged our party enough already. We are not providing him with any of the candidate support that our real Republicans get and we will continue to publicly denounce him as a candidate.

Thank you for your concern and your input.

Chuck Denowh

MT GOP

Hm. Not exactly the “work” I expected the Montana GOP to do. Apparently Denowh is relying on Butte’s historically Democratic base to defeat Stuart, with an occasional statement from the Montana GOP to reassure everyone that Stuart is a Nazi, not a Republican.

I’m sure John Sesso, the Demorcratic candidate for the district is thrilled about the level of GOP support. He’s probably spending a bunch of his own money on the race. I wonder if Denowh would be willing to give Sesso the candidate support he usually tabs for Republican candidates?

I’ll ask. Stay tuned!

Links…

The Gazette on fireworks bans.

Left in the West’s V went to a Missoula-area Monica Lindeen fundraiser (I was camping, natch) and was inspired to traipse through the archives for reasons why Rehberg should go.

Pogie compares W to FDR. W loses.

Bill White quits the Nazi Party. Where does that leave Butte “Republican,” Shawn Stuart? Speaking of Stuart, Orcinus notes that he’s an Iraq vet and part of a growing trend of right-wing extremists serving in the military.

Ugh. The New West parades the latest “free market” argument to ignore global warming.

The Carpetbagger on Bush’s budget numbers. Don’t believe the hype. The NYTimes: “the rich are getting richer while the rest are, at best, only holding ground…”

Perhaps the pay raises at the White House best illustrate the President’s view of the economy and who deserves the breaks.

Halliburton to lose its no-contract bid privileges. About friggin’ time. Poor, poor Dick Cheney.

Justice Department automaton in a Congressional hearing: “The President is always right.” Um, no he’s not.

Why Keith Olbermann is better than Bill O’Reilly.

“We are furious that the religious right has made Jesus into a Republican. That’s idolatry.”

The WaPo’s Meyerson on Lieberman: “Lieberman has simply and rightly been caught up in the fundamental dynamics of Politics 2006, in which Democrats are doing their damnedest to unseat all the president’s enablers in this year’s elections.”

I know you’re all dying for my take on the latest Rasmussen poll that shows Tester leading Burns by seven points, so here it is!

Yippee!

It confirms the buzz in the air, that Montanans like Tester. It also confirms my earlier suspicions that the first poll after the primary would show Tester ahead and with a larger lead than in the May poll.

Singer over at LiTW claims that this polls shows Burns’ campaign strategy is not working. After all, the junior Senator has been flooding the market with flag-burning and gay-hater propaganda, but Tester’s lead grew three percent. A three-percent jump is not insignificant, folks, especially when Tester’s general election hasn’t really gotten underway.

Heck, maybe all of Burns’ advertising actually helps Tester! Maybe the more Montanans see of Burns, the less they like! I know that’s true with me. Every time I see an ad featuring that smug Missouri liar, I want to retch. Maybe Tester should just sit this one out and let Burns beat himself.

That is, of course, a joke. Tester will do a fine job of being himself. And win this race.

By the way, Klein has written another column about Tester in Time: “Flat on Top, Fiery Inside.” I ponied up the two bucks to read it so you don’t have to. Basically it’s a rehashed and watered-down version of his online column. (Apparently people who still read on paper are stupid. Or, at least, Time’s editors think so.) The latest isn’t worth even highlighting here…

Update: Just saw a cool letter in Sunday’s Missoulian on Burns’ infamous anti-buzz cut ad, thought it could use reproducing here in this this post. Why not? Anyhoo, take it away, Dustin Hankinson of Missoula!

Republican ad offensive to Montanans

The Senate race in Montana is getting a lot of attention primarily because it is a coveted Republican seat that’s worth fighting over. Beyond the purely political aspects, this race should be vital to us as Montanans because these senators represent us at many tables where policy decisions are made. They are an extension of us as citizens. That’s why this race should matter. It is also the reason that I’m offended.

I’m offended by a political ad brought to us by National Republican Senatorial Committee showing an actor portraying Jon Tester’s barber. Basically the ad had no substance and was nothing more than an excuse to splatter the word “liberal” all over the screen. Why am I offended? This bothers me because it degrades Montanans. The actor uses some hillbilly twang which must be a stereotype of people who live in a rural state. More than that, this committee thinks that we Montanans will see “liberal” and suddenly all of Sen. Burns’ sins will be forgiven and forgotten. It’s like the political elite in D.C. think we’re such simple people that we’ll accept this misdirection away from Burns’ problems and be mesmerized by name-calling.

I think Montana deserves better. I also think that these kind of drive-by ads show desperation and weakness. If all Burns will do is toss labels around to see what sticks, I look forward to being represented by Sen. Tester.

So around the 4th of July, there was some noise about Billings’ fireworks ban, mostly from Montana blogger Justin who, besides writing a kick-*ss and entertaining blog, got pretty heated up about the propensity of government to take away rights because of a little inconvenience and a few idiots who mess things up for everybody.

It’s not the best written argument for freedom you’ll read, but it might be the most passionate. It also makes a lot of d*mn sense.

So what the h*ll, I thought, change a few words here and change a few words there, suddenly you have a passionate defense of another issue that’s been pretty topical lately: gay marriage.

So that’s what I did.

First, let me say I don’t know if Justin supports gay marriage is against it or, as he might say, if he just doesn’t give a f*ck. And I don’t give a d*mn if it bothers him I’m stealing his very words to defend gays. It’s my idea, not Justin’s, and I take full responsibility for the content on this site. There. That’s my disclaimer.

So…the rest of this post is stolen verbatim from Justin. (Thanks, Justin!) Except the stuff in brackets, which is mine. And, oh yeah, I toned down the language a tad so the d*mn work filters won’t ban my g*dd*mned site.

This attitude is the reason why our country is headed directly into the proverbial toilet. “I don’t like it so nobody should be allowed to do it, I’m special and I’m all that matters, everyone else should bow down and kiss my ass, my [religion] is more important than your freedom.” Poppycock.

In response to all of these people that I’m sure will fire back at me here…with a whole sh*tload of statistics and horror stories and whatever other reasons they can muster to justify their own positions in direct opposition to freedom whether it involves [gay marriage] or seatbelts or cigarettes or helmets or open containers of alcoholic beverages, I’d like to ask you this.

When was the last time that your, that’s your own, not your cousin in Cincinnati, not somebody that you saw on Oprah, not your cousin’s stepsister’s uncle’s former roommate’s, but your very own [marriage was destroyed] because of somebody horsing around with [gay marriage]? If there’s one person out there that can name a date I’ll be really surprised. Even so, there’s a lot of people out there total so I still wouldn’t consider that good enough odds to suppress the freedom of a single American citizen in any way, shape, or form. As a very wise man once said, “Sh*t Happens”. If I were to ever see [dozens of marriages on the rocks the day after the legalizing of gay marriage], perhaps then I would consider this [gay marriage ban] to be a just and forthright law. Until then I’ll consider it nothing but the extremely loud whining of a handful of babies that managed to get their way simply because the [Republican party spied a potential source of votes].

I’m sure lots of [gay relationships] get [ruined] by careless morons…every year, but I’m the type that’s more inclined to ask “How many [gay relationships worked] last year?” If an honest study were done I’m sure it would find for a resounding majority on the side of safety and responsibility, as would be the case with most all of the once common things that the [gay- and sex-hating] crowd have succeeded in outlawing.

With that I’d like to announce the beginning of [4&20 blackbird’s] official campaign to ban the eating of [ham] on [Easter]. I f*cking hate [ham] so I don’t think you people should be allowed to eat it and I’m important d*mn it. Don’t say that it’s different because your eating of [ham] doesn’t hurt me, oh no, you’re not going to get away with that lame *ssed excuse buddy. For the next week after your little [pig] slaughtering festival every place I walk into is trying to pawn off a [ham] sandwich on me. You b*stards don’t even eat these once majestic [mammals], in your insatiable thirst for bloody [pork] you just kill kill kill, then roast their eviscerated carcasses and leave them in the fridge to rot except for what sandwich meat you can pawn off on unwary visitors. I see right through your bloodthirsty annual death fest, and I’m going to put a stop to it. LONG LIVE THE [PIGS]!

As a side note I’m going to branch out and ban the cutting of Christmas trees because it’s a horrible waste of a natural resource, that and it disturbs my goldfish, I don’t know why it just does, he’s sensitive. Poor little fellow goes belly up instantly the second he hears a chainsaw. Last year I had to spend a fortune on life support at the vet’s office just to keep him alive until it stopped. I’d also like to ban the wearing of green on St. Patrick’s day, just because I’m an *sshole and I can’t stand to see other people having fun, even if they are Irish.

Sound ridiculous? G*dd*mn right it does, now go check yourselves before we’re all required to put on a helmet and a padded suit within five minutes of getting out of bed, bunch of self righteous crybaby f*ckers, grow some stones and deal with it. Just because you don’t like something doesn’t make it wrong, and it’d be a cold day in h*ll when I’d use my [religion] as an excuse to cramp someone else’s style.

Now I’m sure I’ve once again placed myself directly in front of a virtual firing squad of name calling and statistic spouting and blah blah blah. Go ahead, let me have it, just keep in mind that I really don’t give a sh*t if your cousin Elmo doesn’t have any [children] because he [met a guy at the local gay bar] and [moved in with him to a walkup in San Francisco] and now the poor bastard [doesn’t have a wife or two-car garage], nor do I care if your poor [Uncle Johnny] p*sses himself whenever he so much as [sees a picture of Brad Pitt].

When I was a kid I had a [friend who turned out gay], guess what, he lived to a ripe old age and an astounding majority of his life was devoid of [wild, HIV-related sex] and therefore all and all he was a very happy little [guy]. I loved that [friend], but I [got married anyway], that and I really like [f*cking women]. He may not have liked it, but he survived and your [gay friend/relative/co-worker] will too. If you’d p*ss away the efforts of people like [Martin Luther King Jr] because your [marriage sucks], then so be it. Just don’t expect me to join you, and don’t let me hear you b*tching when something that you believe in gets outlawed because some other whiney b*stard doesn’t like it. Over the top? You g*dd*mned right, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Links…

Huge news! Tester extends his lead in the latest poll, 50-43 percent! More later…but considering Tester has yet to really start campaigning, Burns is in big trouble.

The latest Montana-related GOP gaffes: the ‘pubs confuse Butte with Vermont; the national branch tacitly admits Burns is as dirty as yesterday’s underpants and Klindt spins it with postmodern flair; and Burns was for drilling the Rocky Mountain Front before he was against it.

Motto’s all over the shady groups investing in the terrible trio of right-wing state ballot initiatives. More on this later, too.

TPM Cafe on the Governor’s recent political maneuvering.

John at Blogenlust has a possible explanation on why Zidane head butted the Italian. Comes with video of the Italian’s history of cheap shots. A real winner, this guy.

Orrin Hatch pulls strings to get a music producer out of a Dubai jail. Funny thing is that the producer’s lawyer also got Hatch a $39K music deal…

John Dean on conservatives: they “need an authoritarian figure to guide them and they willingly do whatever it takes to please that figure…”

Bush’s top ten signing statements. Read ‘em and weep.

Surprise! There have been cover-ups of recent US military atrocities in Iraq! Apparently, though, this has been going on for awhile…

Bush diplomacy at work: a Middle Eastern “ally” acquits al Qaeda suspects who had admitted fighting US troops in Iraq. Hey, but we got the Miami 7!

Another theory on why Bush is a bad President. Interesting, isn’t it? The debate is not on whether he stinks, but why.

Conservatives at work on the floor of the Senate: trying to insert fraudulent amicus brief into the Senate record in an attempt to influence the SCOTUS Hamdan decision. Um, that’s illegal.

British under siege by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

A d*mn good reason to kick Lieberman out of the Senate.

The early comments by AT&T’s Ed Whitacre that spurred the push for Net Neutrality. We don’t know what the telecoms will do if Net Neutrality is defeated, huh?

Roger Lowenstein’s excellent examination of the economics of illegal immigration.

Hilarious German satire: the Bush Pilot.

I have something shameful to admit.

I was away this weekend and missed the final.

Yes, I know that’s lame and no self-respecting WC fan would allow himself to be dragged off to eastern Washington on a camping trip far from any hope of a television set, but I did. Did I ever mention I’m not self-respecting? Unfortunately these plans have been in the works for months — it’s an annual deal where we meet old friends and get the families together for a bit of roughin’ in the outdoors. Usually early to mid-July is harmless. The All-Star Break. Maybe the NHL or NBA finals. Nothing important.

The worst part of it all is that I had a great time, so I’m struggling to feel any remorse. Mr. Proud swam by himself for a split second (okay, with lifejacket), and I taught Ms. Marvelous the joys of making mud castles. Sure, bedtime was a little crazy, the kids rocking the tent like it was a trampoline, but I find a couple of beers and a chat with the born-again Wolf-Point-born retired custom chopper mechanic and his cat (who occupied the adjacent campsite) a soothing tonic for even the rowdiest of bedtimes.

Still, Italy? Won the World Cup? On tonight’s BBC I saw footage from the celebration in Rome. Rome? Italy? And all I can think is, that the US was the only team not to lose to Italy!

Whaddya know?

And Zidane with the red card on a brutal head butt?

Speaking of Zidane, did anyone see footage of him in the Paris celebration wearing a suit? His shirt had wide lapels and the tie a knot as large as an apple. He looked like a high-school kid in his prom outfit. Instantly I forgave him for the vicious head-butt, although it’s easy to forgive a head-butt to an Italian player.

Still, what a dumb thing to do. The rumor has it that the Italian insulted Zidane’s family. Um, excuse me? Zidane has been playing professional soccer for — what? Fifteen years? I hear worse things playing pickup soccer in Missoula. Then again, Zidane apparently has a history of such behavior.

The sad thing is that Zidane will be remembered for the head butt, not his two games against Brazil: the two goals against them in the ’98 finals or the masterful, almost single-handed upset in this year’s tourney.

If I ever get my hands on the video for the final, I’ll let you know what I think. It could be November by then, but by November you’ll be desperate for WC news!

According to Wikipedia, a “push poll” is a “political campaign technique in which an individual or organization attempts to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll.”

Besides being nasty, they’re also illegal in Montana. According to Montana statute 13-35-225:

All communications advocating the success or defeat of a candidate, political party, or ballot issue through any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine, outdoor advertising facility, direct mailing, poster, handbill, bumper sticker, internet website, or other form of general political advertising must clearly and conspicuously include the attribution “paid for by” followed by the name and address of the person who made or financed the expenditure for the communication.

So if someone “polls” your house, asking leading questions intended to campaign on behalf of a candidate, and the pollster doesn’t identify him/herself as being paid by the candidate, it’s illegal.

So today, imagine my reaction when I saw the text of an email from a Billings resident and Tester supporter:

Over the dinner hour on Thursday July 6th I received a phone call from a person who wanted to poll me. It turned out to be a push poll obviously commissioned by folks working for Senator Conrad Burns or those supporting him.The young man doing the poll was polite and had an Hispanic accent and he said he was located in New Mexico. He told me the name of the outfit he was working for, but it does not come to mind right now.

Then they dug in in earnest and started with a series of questions based on false premises or guilt by association to try to persuade me to vote for Burns.

[snip]

Who do you think would be the best candidate:

To protect the flag?

To protect the sanctity of marriage to be between a man and woman?

To balance the national budget?

To make sure that Montana gets its share of money and projects from Washington? (or words to that effect)

To keep taxes down?

To help Montana farmers?

To protect us from illegal immigration?

Here you see a list of questions where the answer, for the first few, is obviously “Burns.” He’s made a loud splash attacking gays and flag burners, so the respondent, if they watch television or breathe, should say Burns’ name. Then come the judgment questions, the budget and pork. Because the respondent has been answering Burns – Burns – Burns, they’ll think all the questions’ answers are “Burns.” They’ll think Burns is the best candidate for balancing the budget (ha!) and bringing home appropriations to the state.

This is campaigning. This is a push poll.

More:

Did I think the Democrats were attacking Burns on the Abramhoff issue just to gain a political advantage because they felt it would help them win or because they actually believed there was a problem?

[snip]

Would you be more or less likely to vote for Tester if you knew that:

Tester favors setting a timetable for a pullout of Iraq?

Tester was supported by the ultra-liberal Council for a Livable World, and .(I can’t remember what else was in this statement)

Tester was supported by the Sierra Club and other radical environmental organizations that want to halt logging and tear out dams.

Now it’s time to smear Tester. The first question is reasonable, asking the voter, essentially, whether they favor a timetable on withdrawing troops from Iraq, and if that influences their vote.

The next questions are reprehensible. First the pollster characterizes the groups that support Tester as “ultra-liberal” and “radical.” These are intended to be pejorative descriptions of the groups and are thus intending to influence the voter. Again, this is a classic hallmark of a push poll.

More:

Tester voted for a measure that would have given parents the right to be notified before a minor daughter had an abortion. (I asked him to identify that legislation. He said he could not. And I said he was doing something that was against Montana law. If a candidate is going to talk about a voting record of an opponent, he must state the measure the opponent voted on and give any mitigating votes. He said he didn’t know Montana law and that he did not write the questions. I don’t know whether the law applies to federal races.)

I don’t know the rules about citing specific legislation, but what’s clear is that the pollster is leading the respondent, and has no proof that Tester indeed voted for the measure. Got that? The pollster could be making sh*t up, only you can’t know because they won’t cite the specific incidents or legislation that back their claims even if you ask for evidence.

So, it now appears that Burns is breaking Montana campaign law. Let’s see if he’ll put a stop to his push polling and whether the law’s author, Mike Taylor, will make a peep.

I bet “no” in both cases.

Surprise! This is probably the biggest news story you haven’t heard about yet: the Italian government has arrested its deputy director of its spy agency over suspicion that he assisted the CIA in the kidnapping and “rendition” of a Muslim cleric.

Prosecutors believe a CIA-led team grabbed Nasr off the street in Milan, bundled him into a van and drove him to a military base in northern Italy. He was then flown to Egypt and, Nasr says, tortured under questioning.

Twenty-six Americans, most believed to be CIA agents, also face arrest warrants for the abduction.

The probe into Italy’s intelligence agency has widened to include “possibl[e] illegal domestic espionage by…agents compiling dossiers on judges, journalists and prosecutors.”

Prosecutors suspect that SISMI agents were carrying out surveillance on journalists, magistrates and businesspeople and collecting the data in a massive secret archive at a government building in Rome, the sources said. Police began raiding offices housing the archive Wednesday and continued Thursday, hauling out loads of files and computer disks.

Basically, Italy’s secret police have been engaged in warentless domestic espionage, apparently a big no-no in some democratic societies.

It appears that the new Italian government is finding out that Bush ally and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi may have condoned not only the CIA operation in Italy but the domestic spying in Italy.

Keep an eye on this story. Right now it’s the focal point for the US’ illegal rendition program in Europe. You can bank on some screaming headlines when more information becomes available.

I’d also expect some juice tidbits on Nigerian uranium “intelligence” – the same bit of fakery that got Joe Wilson targeted by BushCo – to break. The source for the bogus uranium story was the same Italian agency currently under investigation, and rumor has the story planted there by a US Department of Defense official.

Ultimately Italy is showing us how a democratic government should handle rendition and domestic spying.

Links…

Matt Singer on the frenzied rush of panic-stricken Republicans.

A college instructor examines the nation’s economic situation and gets panicky.

And the Fed apparently wants our real wages to continually drop.

Ugh. Military shortfalls are letting neo-Nazis and skinheads enlist, despite a Pentagon ban on racist hate groups.

Again, conservatives can’t govern. We’ve seen it here in Montana, and we see it in DC.

More on former MI6 director Dearlove in Aspen: “…the Western world, notably the United States, was doomed unless it reclaimed ‘the moral high ground.’” Digby chimes in.

Brendan Nyhan’s GOP treason timeline.

Why do conservatives hate the natural world?

The Daily Kos’ links to the Lieberman-Lamont post-mortem examinations. Crooks & Liars has video of WSJ’s John Harwood’s reaction to the debate.

Take the “Lieberman or Bush” quiz from statements made by both politicians in last night’s appearances in the debate and on Larry King, respectively.

As we all know by now, Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) announced on the Senate floor that he had evidence that Iraq did indeed have weapons of mass destruction. Quite a shocker, wasn’t it? (At least in right-wing circles.) If true, that means that the Bush administration was right all along, won’t it? And it’ll show up those pesky Democrats, too, who have the gall to be leading the race for the Senator’s own seat in Congress!

We here at 4&20 blackbirds have managed to acquire a copy of a still-classified document that Senator Santorum received from a certain high-ranking Iraqi government official that first alerted the Congressman about the presence of WMD stockpiles in Iraq, and, yes, it was a hard call, but we thought it best to print the letter despite national security concerns, so that the American public could see for itself the validity of Senator Santorum’s find.

See for yourself:

REQUEST FOR URGENT BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP

FIRST, I MUST SOLICIT YOUR STRICTEST CONFIDENCE IN THIS TRANSACTION. THIS IS BY VIRTUE OF ITS NATURE AS BEING UTTERLY CONFIDENTIAL AND ‘TOP SECRET’.

WE ARE TOP OFFICIAL OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CONTRACT REVIEW PANEL WHO ARE EXPORTATING OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION PRESENTLY IN IRAQ. IN ORDER TO COMMENCE THIS BUSINESS WE SOLICIT YOUR ASSISTANCE TO ENABLE US TRANSFER INTO YOUR ACCOUNT THE SAID REVENUE FOR THE WEAPONS, SARIN GAS, NUCLEAR WARHEADS, ETC.

DURING THE LAST MILITARY REGIME HERE IN IRAQ, THE GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS PURCHASED VARIOUS POISON GAS, BIOLOGICAL AND NUCLEAR MATERIAL. THE PRESENT CIVILIAN GOVERNMENT SET UP A CONTRACT REVIEW PANEL AND WE HAVE IDENTIFIED A LOT OF STOCKPILES OF WEAPONS THE GOVERNMENT WISHES TO TRANSFER.

HOWEVER, BY VIRTUE OF OUR POSITION AS CIVIL SERVANTS AND MEMBERS OF THIS PANEL, WE CANNOT SELL THE WEAPONS IN OUR NAMES. I HAVE THEREFORE, BEEN DELEGATED AS A MATTER OF TRUST BY MY COLLEAGUES OF THE PANEL TO LOOK FOR AN OVERSEAS PARTNER INTO WHOSE ACCOUNT WE WOULD TRANSFER VAST SUMS (PRESENTLY US$21,320,000.00 [TWENTY ONE MILLION, THREE HUNDRED AND TWENTY THOUSAND U.S DOLLARS]) . HENCE WE ARE WRITING YOU THIS LETTER. WE HAVE AGREED TO SHARE THE MONEY THUS; 1. 20% FOR THE ACCOUNT OWNER 2. 70% FOR US (THE OFFICIALS) 3. 10% TO BE USED IN SETTLING TAXATION AND ALL LOCAL AND FOREIGN EXPENSES. IT IS FROM THE 70% THAT WE WISH TO COMMENCE THE IMPORTATION BUSINESS.

PLEASE,NOTE THAT THIS TRANSACTION IS 100% SAFE AND WE HOPE TO COMMENCE THE TRANSFER LATEST SEVEN (7) BANKING DAYS FROM THE DATE OF THE RECEIPT OF THE FOLLOWING INFORMATIOM BY TEL/FAX; [XXX-X-XXXXXXX], YOUR COMPANY’S SIGNED, AND STAMPED LETTERHEAD PAPER THE ABOVE INFORMATION WILL ENABLE US WRITE LETTERS OF CLAIM AND JOB DESCRIPTION RESPECTIVELY. THIS WAY WE WILL USE YOUR COMPANY’S NAME TO APPLY FOR PAYMENT AND RE-AWARD THE CONTRACT IN YOUR COMPANY’S NAME.

WE ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO DOING THIS BUSINESS WITH YOU AND SOLICIT YOUR CONFIDENTIALITY IN THIS TRANSATION. PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE THE RECEIPT OF THIS LETTER USING THE ABOVE TEL/FAX NUMBERS. I WILL SEND YOU DETAILED INFORMATION OF THIS PENDING PROJECT WHEN I HAVE HEARD FROM YOU.

YOURS FAITHFULLY,

DR xxx xxxxxx xxxx

My contact claims that Senator Santorum is in almost daily contact with the author of his email and working with him, setting up bank accounts and slush funds for this brave Iraqi lover of freedom.

Go, Man-on-Dog– er, Rick!

Did anyone else see Tammy Sloulin’s piece in today’s Helena Independent Record? It’s heartbreaking. It’s terrifying. It’s an explanation why she quit teaching and joined the Army:

My husband and I are both teachers and we have three children. Our salaries are not sufficient to keep up with the cost of living. Without medical and dental insurance for our family and/or higher pay, we are not able to supply our children with the quality of care we feel they should have….Besides low pay, I am also concerned about my own future and the future of my family when it comes to education. I fully intend to go back to school to improve my skills and to receive my master’s degree. Unfortunately, there is very little monetary incentive (in my current district) for receiving a master’s and the expense of more education in Montana is very high.

I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in third grade.

[snip]

The Army will help me pay for more education, train me in foreign language skills and provide my family with excellent medical and dental benefits. My enlistment salary is thousands of dollars higher than a full time teaching contract and the Army rewards individuals who continue their personal education. In many ways it saddens me that I have to leave my profession in order to better myself for it. I look forward to the day when I can afford to be a teacher in Montana again.

Got that? A mother of three and an elementary school teacher joined the Army – not out of a sense of patriotic duty, not because she wants to defend home and country, not because she wants to go fight in Iraq – but because of dental insurance and money for school.

What’s wrong with this picture? Does anyone else feel Sloulin’s been coerced into joining up? Is this what the future of middle class American families going to be, either join the military or fall into poverty? And it’s health care costs that are behind Sloulin’s decision. She’s joining the Army – putting her life in danger – so that her children will have health care.

Look, I don’t think there’s a conspiracy between the government and insurance companies to raise health care costs so high to ensure that US citizens can’t take risks in their professional lives (like, say, working on art instead of computer software…or becoming professional revolutionaries, maybe), or to ensure that the ranks of its armies remain well-stocked, but I do think that’s the effect of diminishing value of paychecks and high health care costs.

People don’t necessarily want a steady corporate desk job and the money that comes along with it. People don’t necessarily want to join the Army. Some people want to write or teach or farm or stay at home raising their kids.

There’s a warning in this letter to the middle class. Our days are numbered. Unless we do something about it.

Links…

Campaigns Wikia started, a “…website aimed at being a central meeting ground for people on all sides of the political spectrum who think that it is time for politics to become more participatory, and more intelligent.”

The Jumbo fire is nearly out, though I suspect that it consumed a lot more than 200 acres.

Global warming = forest fires. Thanks, Republican Party!

Conrad Burns sure loves the Rocky Mountain Front…for snowmobiles!

The Bush administration has given up on promoting democracy in the Middle East. Um. So why are we in Iraq again?

Tasty tidbits from the Aspen Institute: “just about everything in the American approach to the war on Islamic terrorism has been ill-conceived,” and “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” Who said this? Why, former head of Britain’s MI6, Richard Dearlove, author of the infamous “Downing Street Memo.”

Kerry refused to endorse Lieberman and vows to support whoever wins Connecticut’s primary.

Is it really so difficult to cite sources you use in a book? Providing content ain’t always easy, but it can be done.

The “Statue of Liberation through Christ” is really quite freaky.

Speaking of freaky, check out Bollywood’s answer to Superman: Krrish

Someone sent me the .pdf of a nasty little letter a bunch of Congressmen penned to Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert. Dated June 27, 2006, it reads:

Dear Mr. Speaker:

We are writing to ask you to use your authority to rescind the congressional press credentials of the New York Times. This request does not come lightly, but in response to the Times’ decision to repeatedly publish information detrimental to our national security.

Most recently the Times revealed the existence of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program [“Bank Data Is Sifted by U.S. in Secret to Block Terror.” 06.23.06], an aggressive and classified effort to track terrorist networks through the use of international financial records. The Times published critical information regarding this program, instituted following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, despite numerous requests from the Bush Administration and Members of Congress not to go forward.

Each of us swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, which includes the power of a free press. We also believe that this power comes with great responsibility, especially in wartime when the lives of millions of Americans are at stake. We believe that this power was abused by the New York Times for the most cynical of reasons: to end American involvement in Iraq no matter the long term cost in lives and national security.

Times Editor Bill Keller called the decision to reveal the existence of the terrorist tracking program a “hard call,” but went ahead and made it anyway. We disagree. It was not a “hard call” – it was the wrong call the and Times should be penalized for it.

The letter is signed by a few dozen House Representatives, including Montana’s very own Denny Rehberg.

Where do I start with this vile scrap? Shall I remind you that the story apparently did not hurt national security, because the transaction monitoring was revealed as long ago as 2001, and by government agencies? Shall I remind you the story was printed because of the program’s disturbing lack of oversight?

The program, however, is a significant departure from typical practice in how the government acquires Americans’ financial records. Treasury officials did not seek individual court-approved warrants or subpoenas to examine specific transactions, instead relying on broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records from the cooperative, known as Swift.

That access to large amounts of confidential data was highly unusual, several officials said, and stirred concerns inside the administration about legal and privacy issues.

And how odd is it that the Congressional representatives remind us of their oath to defend the Constitution in the same breath that they advocate curtailing the press’ freedom as protected by the Constitution’s First Amendment? A free press is not a privilege — as these guttersnipes seem to think – it is a fundamental right. Again, if the Times broke the law, prosecute.

Do I need to remind Denny Rehberg what the duty of the press is? Or should I have the Gazette do it for me?

American journalists also have a duty to hold government accountable — not because government wants to share information, but because democracy demands an informed electorate.

Shall we never write, read or speak about what the government wants kept secret? Shall we trust the federal government to know what’s best? Sure, the press can make mistakes. Government can make mistakes. But democracy can’t survive in an information vacuum.

Government reporting isn’t a crime, it’s a patriotic duty.

I’m sure the Gazette will be interested to learn that Denny Rehberg wants to intimidate the press into silence. Is this a subtle message to Montana newspapers to stay the h*ll out of INSA? To his connections with Abramoff? If I were the editor of a Montana paper, I’d be p*ssed as h*ll that my Representative was playing politics with my bread-and-butter. This guy is an enemy of the media.

  

Newshog has a post up concerning the administration’s dictatorial ambitions. It’s a question that I think about often, even when I go see a d*mn summer action flick. I will say that the single issue that has driven me from “normal life” into blogging and politics has been the Bush administration’s repeated attacks on our civil liberties.

I’m not saying Bush has dictatorial ambition. He could simply be misguided, or ignorant of American law. He could have good intentions and poor execution. But if Bush does not have dictatorial ambitions, his clumsy and arrogant extension of power has opened the door for folks who do. There’s no quibbling with that, even if you harbor the fantasy that there’s an actual legal basis for some of his moves.

(Ultimately I’m with Tester who says of the Patriot Act that it “punishes” honest American citizens first and foremost.)

Anyhoo, here’s the quote I wanted to highlight from that Newshound post:

No people ever recognise their dictator in advance. He never stands for election on the platform of dictatorship. He always represents himself as the instrument of Incorporated National Will….When our dictator turns up, you can depend on it that he will be one of the boys, and he will stand for everything traditionally American. And nobody will ever say “Heil” to him, nor will they call him “Fuhrer” or “Duce”. But they will greet him with one great big universal, democratic, sheeplike bleat of “Okay, Chief!”

Journalist Dorothy Thompson said – wrote? – that in 1935. And she should know, having been expelled from Nazi Germany in 1934. (That’s right, the lederhosen were the German equivalent of the cowboy hat.)

My point is directed at conservative supporters of Bush: it’s the guy you like you should worry about. It’s harder to distrust them.

Sirota has an excellent post up about Klein’s Time column celebrating the populist movement behind Jon Tester. In it, he dredges up some past columns by Klein disparaging populism. That’s right…he was against populism before he was for it.

Some of the juicier quotes:

“Populism has been a very negative force in this country’s history, throughout much of the populist era. Often it turns to a kind of nativist turning-in, away from the world.”

[snip]

“Populism is one of the more romantic and less admirable American political traditions. It purports to represent the interests of the little guy ‘the people,’ not the powerful, to use the Shrum-Gore bumper sticker ‘but more often than not it has manifested itself as a witlessly reactionary bundle of prejudices: nativist, protectionist, isolationist, and paranoid.’

Great stuff, really. Sirota thinks that Klein is jumping on Tester’s bandwagon to get out ahead of the newly emergent political curve, so he can appear to be “introducing” Schweitzer and Tester to the world.

I tend to think that Klein romanticizes the “little” guy, the ordinary stiff from dryland America, and that previous populist movements were suburban-driven hate-fests. (See the recent anti-immigration movement.) A Montana populist embodying the highest qualities of the Republic – hard-working farmer joe with missing fingers, an affinity for the First Amendment, and a fightin’ spirit – seems to fit Klein’s ideological ideals.

Whatever. If the old saw, “even pad press is good press,” is true, then it must follow that good press is d*mn good.

In any case, I’ll take solace in Klein’s admiration next time I catch myself drinking a latte with a French avant-garde novel in my hand: instead of rushing out with a shotgun to shoot some critturs, I’ll just remember Klein’s column and know I’m a salt-of-the-earth God-fearin’ Montany boy and continue on Frenchifyin’ myself.

Jumbo fire update

The fire on Mount Jumbo is girdling the mountain, headed east with a stiff wind coming out of Hellgate canyon. My building llies on the other side of the Interstate from where the fire licks the grass on the slope above; there’s a small crowd outside gawking at the fire, and the helicopter and planes dropping water and retardant. There’s also a string of firefighters on the hill trailing the fire, apparently extinguishing the smoldering wake.

I got some pics with my camera phone. They’re pretty low quality, you can’t even make out the firefighters in them. But they should give you an idea of how close the fire is and how far it’s spreading.

This is a pic of the fire on the slope.

Here’s one of a plane dropping retardant on the fire.

Yes, those cars are in the building’s parking lot.

Links…

While Burns may have backpedaled on the Rocky Mountain Front because of election-day pressure, Rehberg shows us he’s still in thrall to corporate interests.

Tax cuts losing their sex appeal? Apparently voters are more interested in fiscal restraint. Too bad for Burns.

Fourth of July thoughts. Progressives believe “the true genius of America has always been its capacity for self-correction.” John Kerry: “Patriotism also means dissent — when it’s hardest.” (Via Crooks and Liars.)

Right-wing Christians and Stop the ACLU drive a Jewish family out of town because they dared protest a local school board’s aggressive promotion of Christianity. And an Arizona Republican Congressman has revived pro-Nazi Henry Ford’s anti-Semitic “Americanism” as a basis for anti-immigration rhetoric. Those that think anti-Semitism is coming from the left are living in a fantasy world.

Torture maven and executive power supporter, John Yoo, is also living in a fantasy world. Yoo on the recent SCOTUS Hamdan decision: “”What the court is doing is attempting to suppress creative thinking…” Yeah, and stealing someone’s tv is a “creative” way to acquire electronics.

The military to allocate resources to monitor blogs. Why? “Our research goal is to provide the warfighter with a kind of information radar to better understand the information battlespace.” My guess is it’s because of all the naughty things we write about the government.

Bush told Cheney to go after Wilson. Surprise! You still want to hand the power of warrantless wiretapping to this man?

Firedoglake on Lieberman: “Screwing the Party, one Democrat at a time.”

Connecticut bloggers display a float in yesterday’s parade…

Applying game theory to soccer’s penalty kicks.




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