Archive for September 25th, 2006

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.


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.


Had enough?

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

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