Archive for September, 2006

I’m going on a much-needed vacation next week, and I’m planning on taking a break from everything, especially blogging. There’s not much time before the general election, and the ugliness is just beginning, I’m afraid. I sorely need this week with my family, getting all the Republican toxins out of my system.

I’ll be back October 11.

But have no fear, 4&20 blackbirds will go on without me. I’ve contacted a number of friends to put up posts while I’m gone, so that you all will still have something to read with your morning coffees. Some of the perspectives should be interesting, and I hope you’ll be intrigued by the change of pace.

Anyway, meet the guest bloggers…

On Monday, you’ll be hearing from Kevin K of Catch who I dragged from blogo-retirement. Kevin is a mensch who graciously allowed me to cut my blog teeth on his site. Former freeper-hunter, rumor has it he’s gone over to the dark side and is now a neocon. (Joking.)

On Tuesday, Julie Fanselow will be posting. Julie is the proprietor of Red State Rebels and official blogger of Larry Grant’s campaign at Grassroots for Grant, and the center of Idaho’s progressive blogosphere that’s playing an integral part in Grant’s challenge for a historically conservative seat.

On Wednesday, Jaime of Cece-in-MT will take the reigns. Jaime’s a newcomer to the Montana blogosphere, but she’s already made a splash with her posts dissecting the legal issues surrounding Howie Rich’s social experiments…er, “citizen’s” initiatives.

Thursday features another Catcher, Lady Penelope, who created Fat Jerry, a haven for Catch refugees and an old-school web-based community where the funny is (almost) never forgotten.

Friday marks Ty Alper’s blogging debut. Besides law professing, he’s a dad of two, an avid sports fan, and a good friend.

Another debut blogger will appear on Monday, October 9. Meet Widowmaker: a conservative-leaning Montana-based commentator with ties to the intelligence and national security communities. Expect some good, practical advice on how to effectively combat terror.

I can’t promise there won’t be other guest bloggers checking in, or that I might be tempted back for a post or two, but there should be plenty to read while I’m gone. Enjoy!

Links…

As Cece reminds us, it’s very, very, very important to vote against the terrible trio of initiatives on your absentee ballot in case they are reinstituted on the ballot.

Annick Smith on CI 154.

Burns is using push polls. (Update. ) They’re illegal. We got a call last night, as did Nicole. Ugh. Do we need to lodge more complaints with the FEC?

NPR did a couple of clips on the Senate race.

The Tester staff also has a nice summary (pdf) of all of Burns’ ethical entanglements.

The latest ad from the Burns camp shows why he’s completely out of touch with the state.

Rehberg and his associates in the GOP are considering legislation that would, in effect, create a poll tax. Pay to vote? Are you out of your mind, Dennis?

This is your leadership, Republicans: “Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me.” Um…maybe we should get someone who understands the region to make some decisions about Iraq…it’d be a nice change.

Geez, even Hilary speaks eloquently against torture.

The New York Times speaks out against the torture bill.

See who voted for and against the House torture bill. Dennis Rehberg: you should be ashamed of yourself.

Gregory Djerejian: “It’s high time for walloping doses of reality and sobriety and, above all, competence. But where is it?”

Before you get all gung-ho for torture, see what it looks like. And who’s doing it. A must-watch video. The Republican Congress and lie-down Dems have just voted to make this stuff legal.

Feeling blue about the torture bill? Kossak SusanG has a pep talk for you: “It’s time to kick some ass for democracy.” Indeed.

On the politics of torture.

Surprise! The White House had ties to Jack Abramoff.

Republicans to raise taxes on the middle class – and will get slammed for it, too.

Brits to withdraw from Iraq?

The sh*t continues to rain on George Allen’s head.

Jon Stewart on the NIE report.

The Democrats’ October surprise! The “Testorian region”: “A strong Testorian region enables Democrats to no longer fuss around with the details of programs that are fundamentally wrong — whether it’s the Patriot Act, illegal wiretaps, or the presidential torture approval act. With this bit of spine, they can stand straight and say “that is simply immoral, and it’s not something we’re going to tolerate in this country.” Attention Burns-backers: it’s not too late to side with a courageous and just cause. (Hat tip to Megan.)

Bruce Ackerman has a fantastic summary of some of the disturbing components to the torture legislation the spineless GOP Senators – including Conrad Burns – will soon pass:

The compromise legislation, which is racing toward the White House, authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights.

This dangerous compromise not only authorizes the president to seize and hold terrorists who have fought against our troops “during an armed conflict,” it also allows him to seize anybody who has “purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States.” This grants the president enormous power over citizens and legal residents. They can be designated as enemy combatants if they have contributed money to a Middle Eastern charity, and they can be held indefinitely in a military prison.

Like the language in the Patriot Act, the language in this bill is disturbingly vague. What does “hostilities against the United States” mean? Could a US citizen be labeled an “enemy combatant” for, say, clashing with police during a protest against federal policy? For simply being arrested at a protest? And could anyone who donates money to organizations that actively and openly protest federal policy be “material” supporters of said “enemy combatants”?

As Dave Neiwert noted, the decision on how this law will be used comes down to one man: George W Bush. Ackerman:

But the bill also reinforces the presidential claims, made in the Padilla case, that the commander in chief has the right to designate a U.S. citizen on American soil as an enemy combatant and subject him to military justice. Congress is poised to authorized this presidential overreaching. Under existing constitutional doctrine, this show of explicit congressional support would be a key factor that the Supreme Court would consider in assessing the limits of presidential authority.

Got that? If Congress rubberstamps Bush’s authority over all U.S. citizens, then the Supreme Court will likely go along, assuming that the will of the electorate is being aptly represented by its representatives.

Ackerman concludes:

This is no time to play politics with our fundamental freedoms. Even without this massive congressional expansion of the class of enemy combatants, it is by no means clear that the present Supreme Court will protect the Bill of Rights. The Korematsu case — upholding the military detention of tens of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II — has never been explicitly overruled. It will be tough for the high court to condemn this notorious decision, especially if passions are inflamed by another terrorist incident. But congressional support of presidential power will make it much easier to extend the Korematsu decision to future mass seizures.

Though it may not feel that way, we are living at a moment of relative calm. It would be tragic if the Republican leadership rammed through an election-year measure that would haunt all of us on the morning after the next terrorist attack.

Few, if any, would argue that the Bush administration is currently using its wide scope of power to crack down on domestic dissent. But that’s not the problem. This Congress is about to hand the U.S. presidency the tools for establishing a dictatorship.

Am I saying Bush will start a dictatorship the day after this bill passes? Unlikely. Am I saying Bush wants to establish a dictatorship? Or does the President really believe this legislation will be an effective tool against terrorism, period? It’s impossible to say. What isn’t debatable is that our nation was founded on the principle that our leaders aren’t to be trusted. That’s why our constitutional architects built into our government a system of checks and balances, so that even in time of crisis, our democracy would remain intact.

It would be shameful to dishonor the men who fell in war to protect the liberties and freedoms that will be threatened by this piece of legislation the Republican-controlled Senate is prepared to pass.

Again, this is fine time to quote Lincoln, who seemed to understand better than any current member of government what is at stake this week:

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.

Don’t let party loyalty triumph. Do the right thing.

On polls

Earlier today I linked to an article, the top 12 traps that keep progressives from winning elections. Blah de blah-blah. Seen, heard this stuff for…years?…now. Old news.

I did like this section on polls, which is why I linked to the article:

Many progressives slavishly follow polls. The job of leaders is to lead, not follow. Besides, contrary to popular belief, polls in themselves do not present accurate empirical evidence. Polls are only as accurate as the framing of their questions, which is often inadequate. Real leaders don’t use polls to find out what positions to take; they lead people to new positions.

Bingo.

This makes a lot of sense, especially now with some Democrats shying away from Iraq and national security. The reality is that GOP rhetoric has grown increasingly stale on this topic (see “Burns, Conrad, et al.”), and Democrats have the opportunity to actually lead in setting policy for dealing with the war and terrorists.

Then there’s universal health care, which, if you believe this report, is popular with a majority of Americans, yet no one dares utter a word in its favor. Go figure. An opportunity to be bold, to do good, and score popularity points? The problem with the issue is that it’s volatile; just look what happens every time I mention it on this site: the fiscal Spartans descend like a pack of harpies on the comments. (I still don’t understand why: single-payer systems work, better and cheaper. Maybe because its success would disprove their ideology.)

Be bold. Ignore the polls, and speak out on what you believe. Wouldn’t that be refreshing?

A little while ago, I wrote a post on the NRA’s support of Senator Conrad Burns, and how it was an obvious partisan move, placing the Republican party above the Second Amendment.

There was a little fussing from the usual suspects in the comments, saying that Tester’s in the “party of gun control,” and by golly he’d fold up and sell you and your right to bear arms down the first left-leaning river he could find!

So, let’s deal with specifics, shall we? When recently pinged about a number of gun-related legislation, Tester’s camp answered. Let’s take a look…

On the Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act, which prohibits federal officials from confiscating legal firearms during time of national emergency?

Jon believes the right to bear arms is not conditioned on any situation and should not be curtailed.

On the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which “prevent firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for crimes committed with their products”?

Jon believes in personal responsibility and accountability and opposes any efforts to shut down the manufacture of firearms.

On the “Brady II” bill (politically unfeasible for almost a decade now) provisions increasing taxes on ammunition or a federal “arsenal” license?

Jon does not support new license requirements or taxes on firearms or ammunition.

On the Washington DC ban of handguns, enacted in 1976?

Jon opposes the DC Gun Ban.

On concealed weapons?

Jon supports the right of citizens to lawfully carry concealed weapons.

And in summary:

Jon Tester strongly believes in our Second Amendment rights. As a gun owner and custom butcher Jon made his living with a gun for 25 years. As a legislator Tester voted repeatedly to protect gun rights. In the United States Senate, Jon will stand up to anyone — Republican or Democrat — who wants to take away Montanans’ gun rights.

Now I’ve said this before, personally I’m more “squishy” on gun control than your typical Montanan. For example, I’m not crazy about the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act because I think manufacturers should be held accountable for marketing and manufacturing practices that panders to, say, crime. (“Saturday night specials”?) I also think communities might have a good reason to have temporary and targeted bans.

But the point here isn’t my views, it’s Jon Tester’s. Jon is absolutely in favor of Second Amendment rights, even more so than Senator Burns, who’s a big proponent of the Patriot Act. So if you’re waffling on Tester over the issue of gun rights, waffle no longer.

The question, of course, remains. Why does the NRA continue to support Burns over Tester, even though Tester’s record on gun control is better?

Links…

Cece sent off her complaint to the FEC regarding the Butte seating scandal. Nice work.

Wulfgar! mulls over Sinrud’s drive-by campaigning and his new sure-fire proposal for the state legislature.

David Crisp’s profile of Jon Tester.

JEFF realizes an ugly truth: he and Bill O’Reilly just don’t see eye-to-eye.

Colby mulls over Iraqi opinion on our presence in their country. Hm…sixty percent approve of killing US soldiers…haven’t heard the “hearts and minds” rhetoric from the Bush administration lately…hm…

From that poll and others, Ezra Klein concludes that President Bush is really a uniter, not a divider.

The Democratic leadership begins its stand against torture. Is anybody else weirded out that we’re even having this discussion?

Obama does make a stand in favor of civil liberties. Good to see the Dems growing a backbone.

Cafferty mulls torture and the Presidential self-pardon…and comes away disgusted. “What are we becoming?” Indeed.

Kossak mcjoan urges Dems to filibuster the torture bill. I agree: make them go on the record supporting torture.

And guess who decides if you’re an “enemy combatant”? The decider, that’s who.

Tristero: We have a rogue president.

Meanwhile, the Republican leadership is still trying to deceive you.

Olbermann responds to the NY Post’shumorous send-up” of the commentator’s death threat. Did they interfere with an investigation? They certainly came out looking like *ssholes.

The TSA detains an airline passenger for…well…writing “[TSA secretary] Kip Hawley is an idiot” on his bag. Talk about self-reinforcing behavior.

More tales of war profiteering in Iraq and a government indifferent to corruption.

Health premiums up twice the rate of inflation and wages. Oh, and a federal advisory panel recommended that “all Americans have access to affordable health care by 2012.” What’s that noise?…*crickets*

Twelve traps that keep progressives from winning.”

A mainstream journalist demonstrates his complete ignorance about blogs. I could understand this attitude in..say…2004…but now???

Fox News Personality Quiz! What a lineup!

We must rid the world of art, lest a child see — *gasp* — a nude body! Seriously, these people are a parody of themselves.

Creep: John Coughlan

Today’s creep paid me a visit here at 4&20 blackbirds and left me an unpleasant little message. I deleted it, because…well…it was rude and vaguely threatening and I didn’t want others to think I condoned that sort of comment.

But then I was thinking it would be better to air out this kind of thinking, expose it to the light.

I should mention up front I believe in freedom of speech for all. Coughlan’s free to spew his hate — on his own blog or in public. But I also believe that you should bear responsibility for your words. John Coghlan can wish me pain and suffering, but he should suffer public humiliation for doing so. That’s why I’m posting his words here.

u should pack your liberal ass up and move back to massachusetts, are u kidding me?

if you really believe half the sh*t you say here then you should be the moron being tortured for being so **** stupid. When this nation falls ( and it will) people like you will be the reason it fell and also the first ones killed by the new rulers.

Where to begin with this? What got me was the belief that our nation’s existence is under threat from (one presumes) terrorists – how ridiculous is that? We survived foreign occupation, two world wars, and a running 25-year threat of imminent nuclear annihilation. Tell me, how in the world does terrorism compare? Answer: it doesn’t. Only in the paranoid delusions of a few bed-wetting radical right-wingers.

Honestly, it’s people like these that make you take the psychological analysis of Bush supporters seriously. According to a report by Jost and Glaser, conservatives exhibit the following traits…“anxiety about death,” “dogmatism,” “needs for order, structure and ‘cognitive closure’ – the need for a firm belief on a given topic.”

Jost noted that different economic groups may have different motivations for adopting right-wing ideologies. Disadvantaged individuals might be more likely to be motivated by a need to reduce fear and uncertainty, while the advantaged might be motivated by self-interest and a desire for social dominance….If the system is challenged, or threatened, then those who suffer most under it have the most rationalizing to do. “One way to minimize dissonance would be to redouble one’s commitment and support for the system, much as hazed initiates pledge increased loyalty to the fraternity that hazes them….”

Of particular interest in the context of the PIPA studies are Jost et al.’s observations on conservatives’ attitudes toward uncertainty. Uncertainty is perceived as a threat..

Thus, anything that challenges the conservative’s dogmatic ordering of the world would be considered a threat not only to the individual’s ideas, but to his perception of his world. And that would unsettle the poor soul. Maybe enough to get him to write hate mail to liberal bloggers.

Do I think this psychological profile is true for all conservatives, or even most of them? No. But it goes a long way in explaining people like today’s creep, or the 35 percent that stubbornly cling to the Bush presidency and policies despite the overwhelming amount of evidence that shows he is an idiot and amateur authoritarian.

People. Get a grip.

Links…

Guess who visits Liberal Wacko? Our favorite GOP state representative, John Sinrud.

Matt is all over Butte Standard editor Gerry O’Brien for his prevaricating over the Butte seating scandal.

Matt also speaks up against torture, agree that it’s a moral issue and calling on Barack Obama to shut up or put up.

Bill Sali to be probed by the FEC? What a shocker. Julie’s got more details here.

Colby on the recently released NIE and the President’s unwillingness to face reality.

Slate on Bush’s reaction to the recently released NIE: “Can Bush Read?”

Not only does the Iraq War create terrorists, the Iraqis want us out, too.

But then the NIE identifies “leftists” as a domestic terrorist threat. No mention of right-wing militant white supremacist groups.

Ugh. It appears that the CIA kidnaps people and sends them to foreign countries because they don’t have enough evidence to prosecute. Could it be they don’t have evidence because they could be innocent?

House bans building permanent military bases in Iraq? How did the GOP leadership let this go this far? Could it be…some integrity being displayed?

Kos gives a pep talk to folks considering quittin’ over a Dem collapse on torture.

Kos on the George Allen deer head scandal.

Someone sends Olbermann a death threat for speaking out against Bush. Editor & Paper drills the NY Post for treating it like a joke.

This is hilarious…random people hold up signs supporting Clinton on a live Fox program.

Here it is, all you need to know about the Bush administration, the Iraq War, terrorism, and extra-Constitutional activities:

The Iraq War worsens the threat of terrorism.

Bush’s extra-legal activities do not result in increased arrests or convictions.

Torture is immoral.

Any questions?

By now, you’re all dialed in on the Butte seating scandal. A Burns and Montana GOP corporate sponsor – Resodyn Corp – put up $200 in exchange for about 100 front-and-center seats to stock with Burns’ supporters. The press got on it, the FEC complaints are being made, it’s likely the ethical entanglement will be a footnote in the Senate race.

But what you didn’t know is that there was a third sponsor at the debate: Rhodia Inc. It’s a France-based international chemical company…sponsoring a Senate debate in Butte, Montana.

In 2004, Rhodia was assessed fines by the EPA for improperly storing hazardous waste in its Ramsey plant. The EPA levied on the corporation 1,000 hours of community service, 5 years probation, and $18 million in fines and restitution, and ordered the company to perform environmental remediation at the site. (NY Times article.)

According to the Montana Standard, it was the “second-largest criminal penalty lodged nationwide under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act…”

As a condition of probation, Rhodia must clean up the Silver Bow site, and those costs will likely far exceed the fine amounts, McLean said. He’s seen estimates ranging from $50 million to $100 million.

Rhodia must now work with state and federal environmental agencies to devise a clean-up plan and make quarterly reports on how it’s going.

I’ve heard rumors that the cleanup is…not happening. And I’m curious about the fine, too.

I’ve got some emails and phone calls out to confirm the state of the Ramsey plant cleanup. I’ll update you as soon as I find out.

Now, my implication is clear. A company fined an exorbitant large sum of money by the federal government and ordered to conduct a costly cleanup of the site co-sponsoring a debate involving a federal-level Senator infamous for his ethical improprieties? It looks…odd.

To be fair to Rhodia, the plant manager, Dan Bersanti, is a member of the Butte Chamber of Commerce and could have just plunked down the money because he was genuinely interested in presenting Butte with a Senate debate.

And I didn’t see: did Rhodia also reserve seats for Burns supporters?

The other day in my daily Links post, I brought attention to a Harper’s blog interview with Professor Kate Brown of Maryland University about her comparison of Guantanamo and the Soviet Gulags alongside the comment “You proud to be an American? For how much longer?” Like most Links comments, it was an off-the-cuff remark, a snark, a quick jab, but carrying with it enormous baggage.

Namely, patriotism.

One of the favorite conservative attacking points is that liberals don’t love their country. Certainly it’s true that the left tends to be less absolutist about…well…everything, including country. (I’ve written about this topic before when it comes to foreign policy, noting that a non-absolutist or liberal policy actually works compared to a simplistic, absolutist conservative one.) I do, for example, often decry events from our past policies that were wrong. Slavery and segregation. Support for Pinochet and the Shah of Iran. The invasion of Iraq. The designated hitter.

And it’s the people, friends, and places in the country I love, not the symbols and trappings. I love jazz, folk, and rock, but could care less for the colors blue, white, and red: I prefer orange and green. I love climbing Mount Greylock in Massachusetts, the Cascades in Washington, and the Bitterroots in Montana. I don’t own a single American eagle belt buckle although I nearly got clocked by a real eagle near Washington’s Mount Baker. I’ve lived in other countries – and to be honest, people are pretty much the same wherever you go: generous, greedy, caring, fearful, prejudiced, irrational, and affectionate. There are unique characteristics to Americans that I prefer: I love our informality and spontaneity, resourcefulness and optimism. But…is that because I’m American, and those are the traits I value? I prefer German produce and beer. I like Krakow, Poland, better than Springfield, Massachusetts, or Hartford, Connecticut. I prefer Montana to them all.

It all boils down to one question: what is a country, exactly?

But there’s one thing that’s clear, there’s one aspect of my country that I can point to and say without a doubt, there’s one unequivocally good thing about this country I love, and that’s its political structure: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the everyday democratic possibilities that come with it. To me that’s what America is about, that’s what makes me proud to be an American.

I think that’s what hit me about Dave Neiwert’s post on torture. It’s this sense that the Bush administration – and the GOP by standing by – is actively hacking away at the one, clear attribute of the United States that is demonstrably, absolutely positive.

Forget the stolen 2000 election or the Diebold vote-tampering. Think about Bush’s attacks on the fabric of our Constitution, the changes he’s making to centuries of democratic legal traditions. The signing statements, the Patriot Act, the undeclared war in Iraq, warrantless wiretapping, domestic spying, “enemy combatant” status, rendition, secret prisons, and torture.

Neiwert:

The baseline problem with torture, after all, is that it is prima facie immoral, a violation not just of the Golden Rule and basic Christian precepts, but of nearly any system of ethics. Even the most hard-nosed rationalist will come to this conclusion (see, e.g., Kant’s Categorical Imperative). It’s an obvious one if you’re a Christian.All you have to present to any Christian, when it comes to torture, is their own favorite moral-guidepost aphorism: What Would Jesus Do?

To anyone familiar not just with Jesus’ teachings but the story of his martyrdom — including his torture at the hands of authorities — the answer is crystal clear.

[snip]

Republicans, of course, want it to be a question of toughness: Are we willing to do “what it takes” to defeat terrorists?

But torture is not “toughness.” It is in fact a sign of weakness — particularly the moral kind.

It is, in the end, a moral issue, and one drawn in stark black and white. As the late Joan Fitzpatrick put it: The torturer is the enemy of mankind.

Unlike, say, patriotism or foreign policy, there is nothing equivocal about torture. It violates the principles at the heart of our legal system. It doesn’t work. It is bad. In any form, whether you’re ripping out fingernails or water boarding.

As Neiwert points out, morality has long been the main tool in the conservative toolbox to manipulate votes. So there’s a little uneasiness among progressives to make torture a moral issue. But it is a moral issue – a clear moral issue.

So, yes, Bush’s policies are making me ashamed of being an American and destroying the one thing I love without reserve about the country. With the whittling away of Constitutional rights and by his placing the state above the individual, the President is destroying our political system.

I could rail against the administration and Congress, but really it’s you and me who are responsible for who’s in office and why these people aren’t being held accountable. And by “you,” I do also mean journalists and campaign staff and DC insiders and activists. Have you put your political party above your ethics? Have you put re-election over principle? Are you putting journalistic ethics and profit ahead of morality? There comes a time when you have to make a stand.

Now is the time. If you love your country. Speak your mind.

Links…

Guess who turned three?

Catch Monica Lindeen’s YPR interview.

Charles Johnson and Jennifer McKee on the Butte seating scandal. Kemmick pretty much nails it when mulling the controversy.

Montana Standard editor O’Brien gives Pogie the run-around.

Salon’s profile of Burns getting testy about Abramoff. “Are you a subject of the investigation?” “I’m not a target.” “Are you a subject of the investigation?” “I’m not a target.” Burns also said he answers only to Jon Tester during the conversation. Someone needs a civics 101 class. (Via Missoula Justin. He’s also got video of the conversation.)

USA Today has a feature on the GOP’s precarious position in the West.

New group in Wyoming: “Republicans for Gary Trauner.” Cubin “nervous.”

The GOP drops the country from first to sixth in global competitiveness.

The GOP warns lobbyists away from Democratic candidates…in typical sc*mbag fashion.

Meanwhile DC Democrats plot to throw their party under a bus in time for the 2006 midterms.

Dave Neiwert’s post on torture is a must-read. “Torture: what would Jesus do?

Meet the political center on the topic of health care.

Oops! Not just in Virginia…but now in New Hampshire, too! A staffer for a conservative lawmaker was caught posting fake liberal posts on New Hampshire blogs. Could it be that the GOP is trying to manufacture its own comments to use in smear campaigns?

Jon Stewart on Clinton beating up Fox’ Chris Wallace and its subsequent coverage.

Olbermann on Clinton’s Fox interview.

New West is having a contest for two Rolling Stones tickets for the upcoming October 4 mega-show. (Seventy trucks rolling to town with the stage setup! Let’s hope it doesn’t rain!) I’ll be out of town, but this is your big chance to see the Stones live in Missoula.

But there’s a catch. You have to earn the d*mn things. That’s right, it’s an essay contest!

…if you were named King of Missoula (or Queen) for a day and could enact policies that would improve life in our growing city, what would you decree and why?Give us 300-500 words on your day as King of Missoula…

I can hear Dave Budge licking his chops now.

As for me…I’m thinking cigarette trees, lemonade springs, little streams of alcohol, and a lake of stew…

So PBS NOW ran a show on the Howie-Rich sponsored initiatives, focusing on Travis Butcher’s little operation here in Montana. I meant to get to it over the weekend, but I was in Butte…and was waylaid.

Good show. A quick and well-crafted intro on who, how, and where the initiatives were generated, run, and funded.

First and foremost: remember, the initiative process is called a process for a reason. As Jeff Mangan mentioned the other day, changing the state constitution is a delicate thing that should not be easy. And it should be democratic along every step of the way, from genesis to signature-gathering to election day.

The process used to attempt to put Rich’s little trio of social experiments on the ballot was riddled with fraud and notably un-democratic. Travis Butcher was no more than a front-man for an operation birthed and born by an individual or handful of individuals. If you think this kind of operation is kosher, perhaps you also believe we should scrap the whole signature-gathering process altogether and just auction off ballot space every year to the highest bidder, because essentially that’s what Rich tried to do. Well, now the initiatives have been scrapped; let’s hope there will be some fines all around.

In the Missoulian’s ever-constant quest to tarnish its reputation as a fair newspaper and thus endear itself to the right, in an article this Sunday, the paper downplayed the origin of the initiatives, and gave equal credence to Butcher et al.’s notion that these initiatives had grassroots support.

That is, if your grassroots can be found on the Astrodome infield.

Let’s face it: most people like the services the government provides. Education. Law enforcement. Infrastructure. They also like the idea that they can help shape their communities through their democratic institutions. And to counter all that, a small, determined, and insanely wealthy band of ideologues want to conduct their laboratory-cooked economic experiments on communities where they don’t live. Fine. This is a democracy. But follow the law. And follow the process.

If enough Montanans are interested, we’ll see the initiatives again. Other than maybe the regulatory-takings bill, I’m not holding my breath.

Links…

For full local blog coverage of the Butte debate, check out Missoula Justin’s handy-dandy one-stop roundup, updated regularly.

Tho’ he did leave out Colby’s post on Boss Hogg’s one-liners and Jeff’s debate impressions, both of whom I met at the debate and learned that Speedkill Jeff actually has no last name, kinda like Madonna or Sting. So, from now on, I’ll refer to him as JEFF to avoid confusion.

New West’s update on the roadless debate. “Those environmental…radicals!”

Sun Valley, Idaho, developers demonstrate why CI 154 was a bad idea, and why they should be pitched off a cliff.

Notorious Mark T on the difference between the two political parties.

Julie F pokes around and discovers a possible reason why Bill Sali loves SUVs.

Republican-backed Pennsylvania Green party Senate candidate thrown off the ballot, near assuring a Santorum loss.

Joshua Micah Marshall urges us to get on the horn and get that April National Intelligence Estimate report made public: it says Iraq is making the threat of terrorism worse. Digby on the report. Glenn Greenwald on the report.

Or maybe Bush calling the Iraq War “just a comma” should clue voters in on our President’s stability.

America’s Gulag…or, if you nit-pick, America’s mini-Gulag. There. You proud to be an American? For how much longer?

A great roundup showing how conservative ideology and attacks on government’s ability to regulate could be fatal.

Clinton finally gets p*ssed off. It took him this long to get it? Or maybe he’s just trying to impress the bloggers for HRC.

Salon digs up some dirt on Senator George Allen’s racist past. Hole…getting deeper…

Jon Stewart on Matt Lauer’s interview with Bush on torture.

Man, and I thought an appearance on PBS’ NOW was good…John at Blogenlust makes the big-time…maybe now he’ll post more.

Rural areas are in revolt

Dems to introduce policy to reduce abortions by 95 percent over the next 10 years…

You’ve read what I wrote at the debate, and might have already heard or seen the debate on the radio or television. (If you haven’t, it’s still not too late.) So unless you live under a rock – and you don’t if you’re reading this – you know that Tester spanked Burns in Butte. Even the newspaper reporters couldn’t help let snark creep into their tone when reporting on the debate:

“He wants to weaken the Patriot Act,” he said of Tester.

Tester sought to clarify:

“I don’t want to weaken the Patriot Act, I want to repeal it. What it does, it takes away your freedom … and when you take away our freedoms, the terrorists have won,” Tester said.

He came back to the subject near the end of the debate, when Burns tried to link him to New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is, Burns said, pro-gun-control.

“With things like the Patriot Act,” Tester said, “We’d damn well better keep our guns.”

So forget about debate impressions. Tester came out looking like an independent-minded Westerner to Burns’…well, actually, that’s what I wanted to talk about. Burns.

I’ve heard this around town, from Republican supporters of Burns at the various debates. He just doesn’t look or act the same. He’s…I dunno…meaner? More out of control?

On stage at Hamilton and Butte, a number of times Burns looked lost. Fumbling for words, repeating the same talking points over and over again. Getting in-your-face negative with Tester, stalking the stage and pointing fingers.

After all, every Burns debate appearance has been run as if it were a national campaign. He’s heavily made up on stage, he stands for the camera, even his statements are tailor-made for television sound bites. Political suicide. This is Montana. Your neighbor’s word of mouth still means something here. The talk across the backyard fence (barbwire, in many cases) still means more than a slick politician’s sound bite. That Burns doesn’t get this should be yet another reason to send him away.

And that attitude permeates his whole campaign, the attack ads, the ridiculous statements from his campaign staff, the removed-from-reality delusions of his on-line supporters. The continued speaking gaffes and ethical improprieties even as he’s lambasted about his small-mindedness and Abramoff. It all adds up to a disturbing portrait of a man out of control.

But why? I’ve heard people suggest he’s going senile. Could be. Or it could be his heart’s not in it, he’s just letting loose, acting like his true self. Mean-spirited, disinterested by his constituency and electioneering. Or maybe the Abramoff scandal is getting too close, and he’s losing it. Getting desperate. Maybe he feels unfairly singled out – after all everybody’s on the dole in DC! That’s the way it works!

But that’s not the way it should work, Senator, and if you don’t understand the difference it’s time you were sent home to Missouri and fitted out for an orange jumpsuit.

The only time he lit up during the debate was when he was describing the myriad of interests surrounding him. (“They were lobbying me. I loved it!”) And they way he describes the appropriations for Montana, saying it’s his money he’s doling out for the state, they’re his hospitals and his labratories, his this and that, like the federal budget is his personal checking account, and the buildings erected by the dint of his personal labor.

On a similar note, wasn’t it amazing the chutzpah of Resondyn and the Burns camp to try to get away with packing the front stage seats with Burns’ supporters? Little did I know that a quick comment during the live blogging at Butte would end up as a blogswarm.

If you haven’t already, check out the details. They’re quite sickening. Shane ran with my comment and looked up the donations made by the company and its executives to Burns’ campaign and the Montana GOP. To the tune of some $30K in the last ten months. Big Sky Dems was there; relates an anecdote whereby a couple of undecided voters were booted for refusing to wear Conrad Burns stickers while sitting in the Resondyn section. Matt ran with these facts, and realized that Resondyn’s support of the debate and a Burns section likely runs counter to state election laws. Pogie sticks it to Lee Enterprises, who has the nerve to criticize raucous crowd behavior, but knowingly co-sponsored an event with an ardent Burns supporter, thus abetted their illegal activity. State newspapers have thus far failed to say “boo” on the subject.

My question: who gets to bring up charges against the Burns campaign and/or Resondyn? Should this at least warrant an investigation?

The real story is, of course, the fact that Burns is still playing the lobbyist game…this time in full view of the public. He scratched Resondyn’s back with some appropriations, Resondyn scratches his back by paying an undisclosed sum of money to, in effect, reserve a bunch of prominent seats so it looks like Burns actually has supporters in Butte.

Disgusting.

Had enough?

Update: Missoula Justin does the legwork and has figured out how to file a complaint for the Resondyn/Burns Butte alliance!

Just got a press release about the national sales tax comment Tester brought up about Conrad Burns. Apparently the information comes from Burns’ answers on a recent National Taxpayers Survey. Some highlights from the release:

Burns favors a complete repeal of the entire federal tax code to be replaced with a national sales tax. According to his recent National Taxpapayers Union Survey responses, Burns said he would work to repeal the entire Federal Tax Code and replace it with tax reform including a national sales tax.

I’ll let other bloggers dig up the details, but let me say this: completely repulsive. Basically it would make real what Burns has been working for all along: he wants to put the majority of our country’s tax burden on working- and middle-class Americans.

Ugh.

7:06pm

Closing statements.

Tester: Talks about being a Montanan and a good public servant. “I’m going to fight for you.” Burns can’t beat me, “I’m one of you. I’m going there back for you and more importantly for your kids and your grandkids.” Talks about health care, Iraq, no leadership in DC. It’s time for a change. (Applause.)

Burns: “He wants a plan for Iraq. He already said he wants to redeploy.” Brings up the losing the war on terror thing. Think of the consequences. Fear. (I’m experiencing the loathing.) Talks about “what’s inside of us.” Touts appropriations. Proud of his service. Accuses Tester of weakening families security, he wants to “cut and run!” Mumbling. Standards of the world. “Freedom first!” (Whistling from the dozen supporters.)

7:02pm

Question to Tester about environmentalists blocking harvesting of beetle-infested forest.

Tester: We need leadership in the legislature. People need to talk. Protect watershed while harvesting the trees. Administration needs to obey the Constitution.

Burns: His people keep filing appeals. Talks about a California judge that won’t let people harvest salvage. We try to pass laws, and we’re blocked every time. “It takes a 39 cent stamp to stop these programs.” Calls people radicals. “Just look who endorses Mr. Tester. It is that group. And you think he won’t be beholden to them?” Talks about Chuck Schumer. Gun control? “That’s people.”

Tester: “With things like the Patriot Act we’d better d*mn well keep our guns.” Burns divides. Frightens people into making decisions. “If they’re supporting me, elect me so I can get them off the dime.” Burns: “good luck.” Tester: “I don’t need it.”

6:57pm

Question: Burns, how can we trust you to be fiscally responsible?

Burns: “There’s no doubt we have a problem.” (Laughter.) Brings up 9/11…talks about fear again…then we had Katrina. “Again we were asked to respond.” Brings up again asset-to-debt ratio, nothin like this has happened before. Inherited a recession, tax cuts, etc.

Tester: “$2500 per person under Clinton, nearly $30000 per person now?” There were disasters. But according to you we have a good enoconmy, why deficit spending? Under incredible spending with a Republican majority in every branch of government…we need to spend well, on the middle class, the economy’s growing, and they’re still spending.

Burns: If you weaken the economy, you weaken families, security, etc. It won’t get us out of this dilemna. “We’ve done a pretty good job…” (I chuckle.) Burns stops.

 6:51pm

Question to Tester, how can you say you won’t take lobbyist money?

Tester: We need earmark reform. He’ll listen to everyone, not just a moneyed few. He will not vote based on who gave him money. He won’t fall out of touch with Montana. They need representation from a Montanan.

Burns: “I’m glad he brought that up.” He says Tester was in DC fundraising with lobbyists. “I was fundraising with American Heart Association,” struggles a little bit with what they were doing. “They were lobbying me. I loved it!” (I bet you did.) Says hospitals, etc, all have lobbyists. “I’ll see ’em.”

Tester: “Herin lies the difference.” “Not once have I changed my vote for money.” Talks about Missoula debate, Burns was at a Virginia debate with lobbyists at a fundraisers. Talks about doing a bill for Vonage, takes a flight on a Vonage flight.

 6:47pm

Tester: Why did you advocate a national sales tax for the US?

Burns: Didn’t necessarily support a national sales tax. Says Tester’s a chicken for not filling out Project Vote Smart survey. “I believe in tax reform.” “I wouldn’t support a sales tax unless there’s tax reform.”

Burns: Taxes on business. Why you cut taxes on 13,000 businesses, but increased on 16,000 businesses? A second question. “What’s the price of copper?” (Tester: $3.43) Burns, asks prices of metals, Tester says “what’s the price of an acre of land in…county?”

Tester: Raised fees on access on public lands, which people wanted to pay to enter public lands. “Let’s talk taxes.” Again with the national debt: “the birth tax.” Superfund penalties taxpayers now have to pay. Says Burns in the pockets of lobbyists. He’ll represent middle class.

6:42pm

Why does Congress underfund veterans? What are you going to do about it?

Burns: I’ve passed the biggest appropriation for veterans. “I did it broad daylight. I do everything in broad daylight.” (Laughter.) Touts his own approations… “I built…this, I built…that.” “Thank you, Conrad.” (Thanks himself.) “I qualify for benefits, but I don’t take ’em.” Tells a story. Says the military are self-reliant.

Tester: We send people in harm’s way and we need to support them. Body armor, benefits, and medical care they were promised. Tells his own meeting with a young soldier who’s foot was shot. “Last time I mentioned it, Burns said, ‘he oughta call me.’ That’s not how it should work.” We haven’t funded it at the needed levels. Funding should be an automatic part of the budget.

Burns: “Thank your brother for his service. When you get home.” (Tester: “You can thank him now. He’s right here.”) Says he helps people because of big government bureaucracy.

 6:36

Question: Tester, you raised taxes and increased spending in the state? How’s that going to work at the federal level?

Tester: Says the reality, he didn’t want to pass tax burden to local school boards. His programs are good and useful. Touts the balanced budget and in a timely manner. Burns is spending faster than the growing revenue, putting debt burden on unborn children.

Burns: Talks about Tester’s taxes, and his appropriations for Montana. “He wanted to tax combines and pickup trucks.” Etc.

Tester: “You are a borrower and a spender.” (Interrupted and sent back to Burns.)

Burns: Talks about tax raises. “My gosh. At least be honest.” Says he’s going to lower tuition, but since he’s been in the state legislature, tuition going up 48%.

Tester: “You’re running this country into bankruptcy.” “China’s buying our debt.” Because of Burns fiscal irresponsibility. Votes for funding, programs aren’t funded, talks about the underfunding for veterans. Votes for veteran funding, then votes against it in back-room deals.

 6:30pm

Minimum wage. Why did you vote against the minimum wage, Burns, while voting for pay raises?

Burns: I’d vote for a raise in the minimum wage when there’s protection of small businesses. Then talks about the cr*p bill in which minimum wage was wedded to a repeal of the estate tax. Claims the raise wouldn’t increased taxes…etc…

Tester: Supports the minimum wage. It’s long overdue. Tax cuts should be for the middle class. His tax cuts benefited the very rich. “Why do we have to give tax cuts to Paris Hilton?” “Every child is born with a $28,500 tax in the form of federal debt.”

Burns: There’s never been a tax increase he hasn’t voted for. “I don’t vote for tax increases.” Says unemployment in Butte is 3.3%, “you’re economy is booming.” (Probably news for Butte folks.)

 6:26pm

Tester’s asked how he plans on keeping the country safe. “Especially as you’re against the Patriot Act.”

Tester: The Patriot Act takes liberties from Americans. Talks about making the borders secure, using police action, not invading with the use of military. The President needs a plan, and we need to bring our troops after training Iraqis to do US military jobs.

Burns: Patriot Act, the tools to catch drug kingpins and terrorsts. “He’s soft on terror.” Says we should wiretap terrorists. Says he doesn’t want us to go to football games without worrying about getting blown up. Tester doesn’t understand the enemey, because they’re global. “We cannot afford another 9/11.” Tester wants to weaken the Patriot Act.

Tester: “Let me be clear. I don’t want to weaken the Patriot Act, I want to repeal it.” (Applause, which Tester halts.) It takes away your freedoms! Take away your freedoms, the terrorists win! We need to fight the terrorists, we need to be dilligent. (Tester is on a roll. Forceful, has to restrain us from cheering. 

6:19pm

Burns, you hold Mike Mansfield’s seat who refused to see lobbyists. Explain your relationship with Jack Abramoff! (Sweet question!

Burns: “I’m supposed to go over that in two minutes. Here we go again.” Calls it politics and baseless allegations. Claims he doesn’t do anything for bringing dollars to Montana. “Nothing to do with it.” “Montanans are first in my office.” Calls the allegations baseless. “I’ve never shorted my state.” “Never.” Calls it lies. “Politics at its worst. In its worst light.”

Tester: Burns changed his vote on the Marianas Islands on slave labor. Brings up the Saginaw Chippewas. He gave Abramoff everything he wanted. Talks about staff who leaves to lobbyist firms. “We need a change.”

Burns: “It doesn’t change.” “All baseless allegations.” (Stifled laughter.) “Worked for the state. That’s what I’ve done. Probably better than anybody in a long, long time.”

Tester: Grabs the microphone, reminds us not to heckle Burns. “Baseless allegations? I think not.” You’re under investigation…”

He’s interrupted by the panel who won’t let him finish. 

6:10pm

Question: Protecting jobs.

Tester: Federal programs have helped Butte. Started by Melcher and continued by following Senators, including Burns. “We can do better.” Talks about how Burns hasn’t delivered, water programs, border, cuts in meth projects. Touts state legislation’s help for Butte. Says he’ll do better.

Burns: “When they came to me, we acted.” Says Butte had its vision and he was a “part of that.” He facilitates. He loves the state. He loves Butte. “There’s no litmus test for visitors.” “Montanans ride first class.” (Except for his wife.)

Tester: We need Montana values in DC. We need Butte values. “I’m not going to cut deals with K Street lobbyists like Jack Abramoff.” “You will be priority number one.” 

6:00pm

Here’s the debate!

The candidates are introduced. Both receive standing ovations from their supporters. Burns’ crowd goes first.

Interesting note: The Resodyn Corporation — a Burns sponsor — is in part paying for the venue. They had a whole bunch of seats saved, all of them filled with Burns’ supporters. Without these seats, Burns’ supporters would probably be pushed to the back.

Opening statements.

Tester: Thanks around, people, Senator, sponsors, the crowd.

Talks about the money Burns claims he’s bragged he brought to Butte. Cites the former great lawmakers from the state who helped Butte, Tester’s going to support Butte. Don’t fear that Tester as Senator isn’t going to look out for Butte. Then lists his own appropriations from the state legislature he delivered. He’s honest.

Butte: “That’s what I like about Butte,” referring to the director of the chamber of commerce calling him by his first name. (Eww.)

There are differences in how we view Montana. Talks about how Butte’s attitude and economy has changed. He’s proud. A bipartisan effort. They wanted to do something different. “The only thing we did was to facilitate it.” Then mentions federal appropriations he’s brought to the city.

Claims Tester is a big taxer and a big spender. “I’m the opposite.” (The crowd murmurs. I bite my fist.) 

5:56pm

Hey readers: is this debate being broadcast on the radio or television live? I thought I heard that KPAX is showing the debate — but live? How about radio? I guess I could Google it, couldn’t I?

The lower section of the theater is now full. The newcomers are relegated to the balcony seates. Cece said the theater holds 1,200. If that’s true, I’d estimate the crowd at a lively 800 or so. Eighty percent Tester supporters? Ninety? Hard to tell. I think they ran out of “Fire Burns” tee shirts. What a great crowd. 

Ooo…the debate is about to start… 

5:43pm

A low table draped with a white tablecloth sits astride the center of the stage. Four men sit at the table in the spotlight.

The media.

To be honest, watching the media at this event has been somewhat…I dunno…weird. Cameras with primped and stuffed news people parading in front of them. It’s like this show is about them.

Colby Natale and Jeff “No Last Name” are here, too, though neither is blogging the debate. So I guess this is it, isn’t it? 

5:30pm

The room slowly fills. Mainly with the yellow “Fire Burns” tee-shirts. Despite the GOP’s call to fill the place, it looks like the call went on deaf ears. I could count Burns’ supporters on one hand. Really. Even if you count the crew-cutted, gum-chewing, low-browed staffers. (Where do they get these guys anyway? Do they troll the reject line for “The Apprentice” or something?)

The Firecracker and her daughter, Cece, discuss nicknames. 

5:09pm 

Greetings, 4&20 b’birders, from Butte’s Mother Lode Theater. I’m sitting here with Firecracker, and Firecracker’s daughter, Cece, and the place is slowly filling up. I’d say that so far Tester supporters easily outnumber their Burnsian counterparts, but it looks like the rush was greatly exagerrated.

It’s significantly colder here in Butte than it was in Missoula, the peaks opposite the city are already snowbound. It was a beautiful, sunny ride up in the car with the Griz game on — Montana kicking the living sh*t out of Sacremento State — and hearing that Montana State was losing to Eastern Washington. Life is good.

I do owe some bloggers an explanation: I originally planned on watching Mr. Proud and Ms. Marvelous this weekend, but my wife’s camping trip plans fell through. (Bow hunters chased off the trumpeter swans she wanted to see.) So here I am.

Bob Keenan now:

The Tester you see on TV is all conservative talk…

But he votes with the liberal left because he is one of them. Tester has a record of raising your taxes.

He even co-sponsored a bill to increase income taxes on people making as little as $24,000 per year.

Make no mistake, we can’t afford the real Jon Tester.

Conrad Burns is the best choice for Montana in the U.S. Senate.

Bob Keenan then:

In his brief talk, Keenan also expressed concern over out-of-control federal government spending. He didn’t have to remind the crowd that this has occurred under a Republican president and GOP-controlled Congress.

“I’m concerned we’re selling our country out with long debt,” Keenan said.

Well, which is it, Bob? Do you want fiscal responsibility ($500 million surplus), or irresponsible spending ($300 billion deficit)?

Honestly, this bald partisanship is annoying. Keenan talks about fiscal responsibility and financial restraint, but is urging you to vote for the drunken sailor. You know how I feel about the GOP’s mindless “cut taxes” rant – it’s unrealistic given the current circumstances and their cuts invariably favor the wealthy.

Again, David Crisp:

What I’m waiting for is some genuine conservative to explain to me how it is fiscally responsible for a senator to support, say, a war that costs a billion or so bucks a day and then not only refuse to levy the taxes to pay for it but actually support tax cuts that dig the hole even deeper. Any takers?

Commenter TMM appeared in this thread and said, “we do have news that shows the federal government is taking in more cash than ever before. This, we can be sure, is not due to higher taxes.”

Of course we cannot be sure this is due to lower taxes. One of our nation’s most recent economic booms took place shortly after the tax increases instituted by George H. Bush and Bill Clinton. Revenue may be increasing, because the economy is “rebounding”…on the back of rising health care costs? If the theory about health care inefficiencies sparking our economic growth is true, then tax cuts have nothing to do with the economy’s growth. But one thing’s for sure, no one knows anything about the economy, that’s painfully obvious after talking to an economist for two minutes. What’s certain is if you spend more than you make, you lose money.

Apparently Republicans don’t get this. Or if they do, like Bob Keenan apparently did way back in April, they conveniently forget their beliefs if a fellow GOPer’s feeding trough is endangered.

If you are concerned by fiscal irresponsibility Mr. Keenan, why are you urging us to vote for the drunken sailor?

Links…

Cece analyzes some of the other initiatives on the upcoming ballot. Today, CI 153, the bill trying to limit the flow of lawmakers into lobbying groups. Who else is guessing the GOP will be against this?

Nicole, Scott, and Matt blogswarm the Montana GOP’s efforts to smear Tester as an enemy of children. They’ll say anything to get Conrad elected, won’t they?

Governor Schweitzer corrects Burns’ appropriations rhetoric. Excellent…seems the Guv is going to get more involved in this race.

Matt, Wulfgar!, and “no last name” Jeff chime in on John Sinrud.

Kemmick’s been on a roll recently with several interesting posts, including the US war on pot, the vulgarization of popular culture, and domestic spying.

Notorious Mark T on the role of the media in whipping up a war frenzy.

Arianna’s right: the Democrats will lose if they ignore Iraq and national security. On the other hand, according Ezra Klein, maybe the story was a GOP plant.

McCain and the other “indepedent-minded” Republicans have folded to the President on torture. The Democrats must pick up the opposition.

Froomkin today has a brilliant roundup of the “torture compromise,” and its fallout around the country.

Kevin Drum and Ezra Klein have praise for Wal-Mart. To a point.

The American Prospect is holding an online debate between several writers on the situation of the middle class in today’s economy. Good stuff.

Joan Didion on Dick Cheney.

Has anybody else noticed that there’s been some excellent analysis of the Montana Senate race in the state’s newspapers lately?

First it was Gwen Florio’s article on the upcoming Butte debate. In it, Florio mentions the latest attack on Tester by the Montana GOP:

On Thursday an e-mail from the Montana Republican Party said Tester “leaves Montana children exposed to sexual predators” because in 2001 he voted, along with the majority of the state Senate, against legislation requiring Internet filters to protect children from obscene materials at libraries.

As usual in these news articles, Florio quotes a Democrat for an opposing view:

“Jon Tester believes in less government regulation, not more, and more local control,” responded Tester campaign spokesman Matt McKenna.

Normally, the story would end here with a sort of bitter “he said, she said” exchange which would only exacerbate partisan discord. No conservative will believe McKenna’s remarks because he’s a Democrat. No liberal will pay attention to the attack, because it was started by the GOP. In the end, you’d have to go to the blogs to see what the issue was about and what it really meant.

But Florio pressed on and did a little legwork, pulling up a quote from an objective source familiar with the vote:

Karen Strege, who was state librarian at the time, said in a telephone interview Thursday that she testified before the Legislature that the bill would merely have duplicated pending federal regulations, and “I think that was persuasive to people.”

There you go. The bill Tester voted against would have been unnecessary, redundant, useless. A stunt. There’s the facts, and the Montana GOP comes out looking a little worse for wear, as it should. Instead of discussing issues, they attacked Tester’s character with a false accusation.

And that’s what blogs – or at least this blog – has been asking of newspapers. Not to be biased – we can handle that – but to present the issues as they are, not as the two political camps present them. Fine, get quotes from both parties, but then give us some facts. Correct the politicians when they err. I don’t care if s/he’s Democratic or Republican.

In a similar vein, the Billings Gazette has started a useful feature of analyzing the Burns/Tester commercials. In today’s paper, the DSCC oil tycoon ad and the Burns ad on Tester’s Iraq stance were given the treatment. And I think they did a decent job.

In the analysis of Burns’ ad, Tester’s real stance on the war is explained without partisan rancor, including a note about how the GOP has spun its rhetoric around a newspaper mistake:

Tester has never described his position as “cut and run,” which is a label Republicans are using nationally against Democrats who demand that Bush develop a plan to pull American troops out of Iraq.

Regarding the Iraq war, Tester said in November 2005 that “The time has come (for Bush) to support our troops by laying out a plan to bring them home.”

He repeated that statement at a Democratic primary debate in April this year, saying Bush should “develop a plan and get out and redeploy the troops as soon as possible.” The Great Falls Tribune paraphrased this statement as Tester saying he favors getting U.S. troops out of Iraq “immediately” which has been used by Republicans to say Tester supports “cutting and running.” The Tribune and Associated Press on Sept. 14 clarified that he did not say withdraw “immediately.”

Since July, press reports have quoted Tester as saying he wasn’t “inclined toward a timetable,” but wouldn’t “support a president who isn’t willing to develop a plan to get the troops out”; that he would like U.S. troops to “get out as soon as possible”; and that it’s important to “start a plan that revolves around training the Iraqis as soon as possible so they can take military control of their own country. That has been my take from the get-go.”

The Burns campaign has characterized Tester’s positions as “timeline, then immediate withdrawal, then no timeline, then immediate withdraw and now he’s for training the troops to take over.”

Of course, reading Tester’s various statements, it’s obvious to see that they’re not incongruous. Not being for a “timetable” for troop withdrawal isn’t inconsistent with getting them out “as soon as possible.” And of course, training Iraqis to take over US duties is a very smart precondition to withdrawal. Once you read Tester’s statements, Burns’ response is shown to be disingenuous.

Burns’ war stance is summed up neatly and accurately thusly:

Burns voted for and backs the Patriot Act, saying Americans have lost “no liberties” under it. The Patriot Act expands the power of the government to investigate suspected terrorist activity, and has been criticized by civil libertarians for overstepping privacy rights of Americans.

He also has strongly supported President Bush on the war.

The ad watch on the DSCC’s commercial is also decent. Here’s what it says about the ad’s attack on contributions to Burns from big oil:

The ad actually understates the money Burns has received from oil and gas interests during his 18-year Senate career and accurately states his votes in 2005 and 2006 on energy price-gouging and oil-and-gas tax breaks.

Get it? The DSCC was going easy on Burns.

My one issue with the analysis is that, for some reason, the article saw fit to drag Senator Max Baucus into the argument:

But it doesn’t mention that U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, Montana’s Democratic senator, also voted for some of the same oil-and-gas tax breaks last year, contained in the 2005 energy bill. Burns and Baucus supported the bill, which includes tax breaks for alternative energy, such as tax credit crucial to wind-power development. However, a majority of the $14.6 billion in tax incentives went to traditional energy sources like oil and gas, coal and nuclear power.

Um…what does this prove, other than Baucus has been feeding at the same troughs as Conrad Burns?

Attention Billings Gazette, attention Montana: JON TESTER IS NOT MAX BAUCUS.

That’s right, Jon Tester is running against Conrad Burns this election. Max Baucus is due for re-election in 2008. At that time, I give you free license to mention his ties to big oil and other assorted lobbyists. Right now, his character is not relevant.

Finally, the article analyzes the ad’s claims on Tester’s record:

The ad’s statement on Tester accurately refers to his sponsorship of a 2005 bill that requires Montana utilities to provide a minimum amount of electricity generated by alternative-energy sources. Legislative Republicans led a successful effort to amend the bill and insert price controls, so the alternative energy would not be required regardless of cost. The bill was approved and signed into law.

There you go. This is the exact kind of analysis that Montana newspapers should be supplying their readers. Partisan rhetoric is hard to parse for neutral observers, especially for non-political-junkies. It’s the newspapers’ job to correct fallacies and clarify the candidates’ records. Let the readers decide based on good information.

Nice job, Ms. Florio and Mssers. Dennison and Johnson.

Creep: Daniel Shevlin

Today’s creep, Daniel Shevlin of Missoula, comes from the pages of the Missoula Independent. This is what he had to say:

Praise be to Allah

Thank God for freedom of speech, eh American Liberal? I mean, in what other country are you free to support terrorism, without fear of reprisal? Only in America, my friend. Just today, I heard a liberal friend of mine rage about “threats” coming from Israel directed toward Iran. Let’s remember the only threat worth mentioning coming from the Middle East lately… “Israel will be wiped off the face of the Earth.” Oops, sorry Liberals, that quote comes from your friends, the Iranians—Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be exact. The Hezbollah terrorists break into the nation of Israel, kill two soldiers on Israeli soil, then commence bombing innocent civilians with rockets…yet you defend them. Women have about as many rights in Islamic countries, like Iran, as my Doberman pinscher has here in America, yet liberals violently defend them. Islamic terrorists strap bombs on 8-year-old children to kill other children, and the American liberal supports them. The Islamic terrorists want to kill anybody who is not Muslim. Sounds kind of like what Hitler and his Fascist dictatorship also wanted, doesn’t it, American liberal? They wanted to kill everybody who wasn’t up to their notion of the “master race.” Homosexuals are killed by the hundreds in Muslim countries, by burning alive, stoning to death, or beheading in public squares, yet the American Liberal says nothing and continues to defend the Islamic terrorist completely. Muslims believe that if they kill innocent people who are not Muslim, then they will be rewarded with a “river of wine, a river of honey, and 72 virgins,” and the juggernaut of liberal support continues. How tragic and bizarre (not to mention hypocritical) is the American liberal’s defense of Islamic terrorism?

Ugh. Tripe like this constantly challenges my unqualified support for the First Amendment. Still. I stand up now and proudly defend Mr. Shevlin’s right to free speech.

But, just because you can say whatever you want (listening, Dennis?), that doesn’t mean you are free from bearing responsibility for your comments.

So…with that in mind…Daniel Shevlin, you are a complete and utter *sshole.

Here’s why: Shevlin is using a classic straw-man argument, creating a fictitious point of view, then attacking it. In this case, the fiction is odious, a “terrorist lover,” a “supporter of Iran,” and the rhetoric around those terms are so framed that no questioning the terms or semantics is tolerated. And the basic premise is that liberals are traitors.

In reality, of course, liberals do no like terrorism. Where we differ from our conservative friends is how to pursue terrorists, not whether we should pursue them. And in reality, liberals, who are asking for real national security, an end to an ideological war, and end to the corruption and cronyism that plagues our nation’s Republican party, liberals are hardly unpatriotic. We are fighting for the Constitution and the rule of law.

Shevlin is hardly a conservative friend. I’m not sure why he’d write something so hateful and distorting, which completely misrepresents liberals. He can’t really believe this, can he? To me, it sounds like the withering assuredness of a loony whose world view is being challenged by reality. Instead of actually working to solve some of these problems, which the conservative ideology has thus far showed it’s incapable of doing, he lashes out at any opposition.

So what got me started on Sinrud, you may ask? It wasn’t much. Just a drive-by comment left on a post with published newspaper letters in praise of Jon Tester.

But, you see, the comment was so irritating…

Okay, before I break into a patented rant, I’ll let you read the comment:

Jon Tester has raised taxes by the tune of $60 million per year on small business. The bi-partisan removal trigger on business equipment had been meet in 2002 according to the Department of Revenue (researched in July of 2006). With the passage of SB48 the one Tester voted for, it removed the trigger clause and kept business equipment tax at 3% with the knowledge that no other state around Montana has a business equipment tax. This is the tax policy of Tester just another tax and spend liberal.

Um, huh? Okay, I don’t want to get into the specifics of this particular tax…or non-tax…or tax trigger. That can wait for some other post. What I want to talk about is the bald rhetoric Sinrud used to smear Tester: “just another tax and spend liberal.”

First. This year’s state budget – of which Tester played an integral part – produced a $500 million surplus. Compare that to this year’s federal deficit, which the administration predicted would be $295.8 billion. As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Conrad Burns played an integral part in that budget.

Which lawmaker has a better fiscal record?

Allow David Crisp to ask a very pertinent question to John Sinrud and the Republican party:

What I’m waiting for is some genuine conservative to explain to me how it is fiscally responsible for a senator to support, say, a war that costs a billion or so bucks a day and then not only refuse to levy the taxes to pay for it but actually support tax cuts that dig the hole even deeper. Any takers?

What you will hear is some “voo-doo economics” theories, where money given in tax breaks and subsidies to the wealthiest Americans will trickle down on our heads – the bread crumbs off the banquet table of the filthy rich – and make us all happy.

Meanwhile we – middle- and working-class Americans – shoulder an increasing burden of taxation and federal debt.

No, Sinrud’s rhetoric and budget philosophy is harmful not only to our state’s capacity to govern effectively, it hurts us, everyday Montanans. But it also plays on your fears, the specter of a large and out-of-control government. The government is out of control. It spies on its own citizens, it kidnaps and tortures, it wages quixotic wars for no apparent reason, it skimps on security while doling out lucrative war contracts to good-ol-boy business pals, all the while dismantling through cronyism and neglect federal bodies that are — were — useful. Like FEMA. Like the FCC. Like the FDA.

Spending goes up. The return on our tax dollar goes down.

That’s the Republican budget policy. And that’s why we shouldn’t tolerate a Republican majority in this state’s legislature as long as they tout rhetoric over reality, cronies over constituents, and power over people.

Links…

Jonathan Singer suggests that the decision made by Montana television stations to not air the Burns firefighter ad may be politically motivated.

Matt has more on Abramoff, the Department of Justice, and the word “target.”

The Richmond journalism project interviews Ethel McDonald of the Jeanette Rankin Peace Center on how activist groups influence elections.

Both Craig and Missoula Justin decry Rehberg’s statements on blogs.

Pete Geddes has an interesting take on CI-154.

Apparently Karl Rove has sent GOP minions to spam liberal blogs, posing as opposing liberals. An upcoming trend? Keep an eye on those ISPs, folks!

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist blames the minority party for the 109th Congress’ inability to do…well…much of anything. Um…? Reminds me of some other reality-challenged Senator

Embedded journalist in Iraq, Michael Ware, says President Bush and the US generals are “divorced from reality.” Nice to see a journalist call it like it is, without mincing words.

President Bush recently said he would go into Pakistan – uninvited, if need be – to catch bin Laden. Only he said the exact opposite just a couple of days ago, he said the opposite. Electioneering bravado?

Wow. Read David Broder’s attack on bloggers. U – G – L – Y. We must be doing something right if he’s afraid that we’re holding crooked politicians accountible.

MyDD believes Democrats can make hay out of the GOP’s Iraqi War profiteering. I agree.

Jon Stewart on the irony of the Islamic reaction to the Pope’s recent statements.

Okay…maybe this Jon Stewart segment about AZ 8’s Republican nominee Randy Graf is the funniest you’ll see…

It’s true! There’s a class blogging national Senate races, including our very own Senate race. It looks like a pretty cool project. They’re also doing the Ohio Senate race, the Rhode Island Senate race, and the Pennsylvania Senate race. Oh yeah, the Tennesee Senate race, too.

Check it out, give ’em some tips, leave comments. Blogging can be thrilling, especially if people are actually reading your posts.

The Montana Senate race is pretty dang exciting, isn’t it? And while the House race isn’t getting much press, it’s an easy target for bloggers, especially when Rehberg actually opens his mouth.

But there are crucial races going on at the state level, races that not only Democrats need to win, but Montana, too. Who can forget the energy deregulation fiasco? As the summer turns to fall and your heating bills start coming in, you can look at the prices and remember that the Montana Republicans scr*wed you over. That’s what they do. With the Democrats’ success in the legislature last session, it’s obvious who’s the better group of lawmakers for passing legislation and building a budget. Remember: $500 million surplus. $500 million surplus. $500 million surplus.

But maybe one of the best ways to spark interested in the state races is to show a few of the state’s movers and shakers in the Montana Republican party. Hopefully a little light shed on these people will cause them to wither away…

Meet John Sinrud.

There was the time that Sinrud led the charge against protecting gays from hate crimes.

Republicans, who accounted for all but five of the opponents, warned the bill would stifle free speech and could even prevent clergy from speaking out against homosexuality in their sermons.

“What we’re doing is, people who may disagree with people could have penalty enhancement,” said Rep. John Sinrud, R-Bozeman. “I don’t think you want to squelch free speech. This is America. We have a right to disagree and we have a right to free speech.”

I’ll let you ponder how Christ would have felt about clergy calling for violence against gays in his name.

He’s against raising teacher salaries, increasing school funding, air quality, seat belt laws, increased access to public lands and streams, scholarship programs, expanding state insurance for Motana children, and using state funds to care for the needy. He’s voted against the Montana ethanol and biodiesel industry, country of origin labels, the Made-in-Montana program, a raise of the minimum wage, and funding for domestic violence victims, tax breaks for small businesses, and was opposed to 2005 House Bill 198, which defined policies against school bullying. He’s no friend of alternative energy, but a big friend of development (which might explain the source of most of his funding).

In other words, he’s opposed to just about every useful state program that exists.

Of course, like many Republicans, who view life not as an experience but as an opportunity to cash in, Sinrud has struggled with ethics when it comes to money. Seems he is the direct of Christian Heritage School, Bozeman-based private school, which coincidentally gave his architecture firm a sweetheart $1.7 million contract. Or maybe it’s a little business between friends.

He made vague threats on-air on Yellowstone Public Radio to fellow blogger, Wulfgar! (“I know where you live.”)

Although appointed to his seat in 2002 to fill a mid-session vacancy, Sinrud claims he was elected in 2000 on his work website.

And if that wasn’t enough to dislike Sinrud, he finds his service in the House of Representatives to be odious. After repeated complaining about having to occasionally work on weekends, Sinrud once walked out of a budget meeting in April 2005. And it was Sinrud’s wife, Kim, who famously compared her family’s situation during legislative session to a soldier’s who had been called to Iraq:

I would like to personally wish a Merry Christmas to all Gallatin Valley residents. I now have a better understanding of what military spouses go through when their loved ones are called up to go somewhere other than home to serve their country.

Last week our governor called a special session … 11 days before Christmas. I understand the need for a special session, but why call it 11 days before Christmas?

Again, I’ll let you ponder.

Whew.

Again, you know what to do. Visit Act Blue’s “Paint Montana Blue” page, where you can donate to several state-level candidates. I assume Matt will be adding to this list in the near future, but in the meantime Van Dyk, Furey, and Kenyon are in important swing districts and could use some help. Let’s not let the John Sinruds steer the ship in 2007.

Update: Oops, I was wrong about the threat to Wulfgar! From “A Chicken is Not Pillage“:

A final note to touchstone:  John didn’t threaten me on Yellowstone Public Radio, and he didn’t say “I know where you live”.  He threatened me, if that’s what that weak sauce was, on KMMS.  The radio show was Citizen’s Voice, which all good Bozeman liberals should be listening to.  What he said was “I know what you look like”.  I don’t take that as a threat because, a)  I laughed at him, and b) now he knows he couldn’t take me down (in more ways than one, right John?).  No, John was just being a bully, and bullies don’t like it when you push back.  John, ignorant as he is, has decided to play in our bailiwick of the Inter-tubes.  It’s time to push back.

Links…

Cece has the specifics of the ruling against the “Scr*w our state” initiative.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington releases its report on the most corrupt members of Congress…congratulations to Montana Senator Conrad Burns for making the list! (You can download the full report, too.)

Burns “not a target” of a DoJ investigation? Matt parses the Republo-speak.

Sweet pro-Tester literature distributed by the Montana GOP!

Man, you thought Dick Cheney was bad…Lynne Cheney goes to Kentucky to scare the cr*p out of grade schoolers.

Spokeswoman for New Jersey Republican Senate candidate, Tom Kean Jr, is using her time to troll liberal blogs. Classy. And hilarious.

Virginia Senator George Allen is busy showing the GOP why he shouldn’t be considered a real 2008 presidential candidate, let alone Senator.

And Tennessee Republican Bob Corker is…well…a dirt bag. He broke the law to line his own pockets to the tune of $4.7 million.

…and more racial slurs from the mouths of Republican candidates…

Digby cautions the Democrats on trusting McCain over the torture compromise.

Congressional Republicans stand with predatory lenders against US servicemen.

Kos touts the Wyoming at-large race and Gary Trauner.

Videoblogger Josh Wolf back in jail.

Okay…maybe the funniest Jon Stewart segment ever…on the hypocrisy of the military’s anti-gay policies…




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