Archive for October 25th, 2006


Matt’s posted about the latest scandal news from Conrad Burns and INSA, and some articles on the validity of the junior Senator’s claim he provides the state with pork. (Not as much as he’d like you to think.)

The Montana Senate race has reached the ears and eyes of the UK. Of course, they’re mostly interested in Jon’s hair.

The New York Times does a piece on the Senate race in response to CQ’s upgrading to “Leans Democratic.”

And here’s a Seattle Times profile of the race, too. I don’t know about you, but they’re all beginning to sound the same.

Meanwhile, a Tester staff who had gone missing was found. Apparently some disease he picked up in Africa caused him to be “disoriented.” Remind me not to go to Africa.

Meanwhile, American military veterans are less than pleased with Senator Burns.

Rachel Byrd has a helpful reminder for interpreting polls.

Courtney Lowrey has a roundup of political doings in the inland West.

Notorious Mark T on Diebold machines.

Tom Philpott questions whether the production of ethanol fuel would actually benefit small farmers.

The Cato Institute’s William Niskanen is calling for a divided government. That is, he thinks you should vote Democratic this year.

And why not? There are so many Republican scandals, that even Kos has to post the daily dish in a multiple-link post. (Burns’ INSA connections make the list!)

Wesley Clark vs Bill O’Reilly, the statesman against the demagogue.

Tennessee Republican Bob Corker claims he can’t pull the racist anti-Ford ad that was endorsed by the RNC. Classy.

The US drops to 53rd in the Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index. So you still think Bush administration unconstitutional activities aren’t affecting you?

Bush, “the Google,” and the fact that he’s afraid someone might read his email. Like you.

Kos nails it: the problems in Iraq aren’t the result of “partisan bickering” (i.e., dissent), but unfettered one-party rule. Had enough?

Steve Benen has come up with the best analogy ever for the Bush Presidency, inspired by today’s press conference: a turtle on a fencepost. “[Y]ou know the turtle didn’t get there by himself, you know he doesn’t belong there, he can’t get anything done while he’s up there, and you just want to help get the poor thing down.” Amen.

Chris Bowers of MyDD has created a “Google bomb” project. Basically, he’s set up a series of links of Republican candidates for Congress and confirmed traditional media stories that are “negative.” (E.g., Burns’ link goes to his anti-firefighters’ remarks.) As bloggers copy to their site these links, the linked-to stories will rise to the top of Google searches when folks enter the candidates’ names into the search engine. The idea is that, when undecided voters search Google for information on their candidates, they’ll see the negative story.

It’s one of these new-fangled Internet political tactics that conservatives pioneered in the 2004 election against John Kerry. And while some may consider it under-handed, it’s important to note that the stories are confirmed and from mainstream publications. They’re true, in other words.

Conservative bloggers are responding, too. And while doing so, conservative John Hawkins noticed something funny while Googling the candidates:

As an aside, while I was researching articles for this Googlebomb, I noticed something interesting: most Republican candidates, for whatever reason, already had at least one negative article up on the front page of Google. On the other hand, again, for whatever reason, it was not unusual for me to go 3 or 4 pages deep into some of these Democratic candidates without finding a single, negative, article about them. So, ironically, we may have a good opportunity to make a much bigger impact than the liberal bloggers with this Googlebomb. We’ll see.

Got that? Apparently Republicans already have more dirt on them than their Democratic counterparts!

But wait! It gets better! A quick look through Hawkins’ links shows that the articles are hardly damning. In fact, as in the case of Jon Tester, they may actually help the Democratic candidate. The link that Hawkins chose for Tester is about his opposition to the Patriot Act – only the Patriot Act ain’t all too liked by many here in Montana! H*ll, some Montana conservatives are talking about creating their own Republican caucus to protect individual liberties.

NY 26 Democrat, Jack Davis’ link takes you to his Wikipedia page, which, if anything looks like it would sway conservative-leaning undecides. The negative link against Ned Lamont is actually about a blogger who supports Ned Lamont. Other links take you to primary opponents’ attack ads. A number of important Democratic challengers don’t even have links – like Wyoming’s Gary Trauner and Idaho’s Larry Grant. In short, there’s little substance here.

Meanwhile, a quick look at some of MyDD’s links (see below) and you’ll find an endorsement for racial profiling (Peter King), a cover-up for a child sex predator (Dennis Hastert), accusations of involvement in bank fraud (Charles Taylor), and earmarks aimed at campaign donors (Steve Chabot).

In the end, these competing sets of links should clearly illustrate the GOP’s culture of corruption.

And here they are!

–AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl

–AZ-01: Rick Renzi

–AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth

–CA-04: John Doolittle

–CA-11: Richard Pombo

–CA-50: Brian Bilbray

–CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave

–CO-05: Doug Lamborn

–CO-07: Rick O’Donnell

–CT-04: Christopher Shays

–FL-13: Vernon Buchanan

–FL-16: Joe Negron

–FL-22: Clay Shaw

–ID-01: Bill Sali

–IL-06: Peter Roskam

–IL-10: Mark Kirk

–IL-14: Dennis Hastert

–IN-02: Chris Chocola

–IN-08: John Hostettler

–IA-01: Mike Whalen

–KS-02: Jim Ryun

–KY-03: Anne Northup

–KY-04: Geoff Davis

–MD-Sen: Michael Steele

–MN-01: Gil Gutknecht

–MN-06: Michele Bachmann

–MO-Sen: Jim Talent

–MT-Sen: Conrad Burns

–NV-03: Jon Porter

–NH-02: Charlie Bass

–NJ-07: Mike Ferguson

–NM-01: Heather Wilson

–NY-03: Peter King

–NY-20: John Sweeney

–NY-26: Tom Reynolds

–NY-29: Randy Kuhl

–NC-08: Robin Hayes

–NC-11: Charles Taylor

–OH-01: Steve Chabot

–OH-02: Jean Schmidt

–OH-15: Deborah Pryce

–OH-18: Joy Padgett

–PA-04: Melissa Hart

–PA-07: Curt Weldon

–PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick

–PA-10: Don Sherwood

–RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee

–TN-Sen: Bob Corker

–VA-Sen: George Allen

–VA-10: Frank Wolf

–WA-Sen: Mike McGavick

–WA-08: Dave Reichert

Posted by touchstone

Somebody once suggested there is an inverse relationship between the importance of a political issue and the pettiness involved in its disposition. Don’t take my tales of the Missoula City Local Government Study Commission (LGSC) as an argument for the premise, but it could certainly be a data point in the analysis.

The City LGSC–taking care to distinguish it from the county LGSC, to be addressed in a later post–started meeting in late 2004 and, within months, had already descended into contention. In the end, the LGSC wound up with a two-member minority whose work is not going on the ballot. However, understanding the dynamic created by the minority is important to understanding why the majority acted the way that it did.

The minority’s leader is Jane Rectenwald, a sort of passive-aggressive poison pill dead set on replacing the mayor with a city manager. Her main method of argument is faux-humble questioning meant to lead you right to her conclusion. She was a disagreeable presence at most meetings, ignoring responses to her points and continually trying to hijack the process by , for instance, hanging posters declaring the foregone sensibility of her opinion at every meeting, even when it was clear the majority of the LGSC had zero interest in a city manager, having examined the question at some length with outside experts.

And the majority was right to be uninterested. Rectenwald advocated switching to a city manager on the premise that a city manager constitutes professional management and the current administration of the city is unprofessional because it is political. The argument is flawed, and one doesn’t even have to examine the competence of current city administration to debunk it.

Leading a heterogeneous city is inherently political, requiring choices among competing and often incommensurable values. Mayors are elected to make such choices; city managers pledge to be apolitical administrators. That works if there is general consensus on the course the city should be charting. If there are differences, and there are those in Missoula, the city manager will become a focus for discontent. Mayors get zapped for making politically unpopular choices all the time but that’s the design of the political system.
City managers are sworn to be something like municipal eunuchs, excised of political preferences. Simply the accusation of playing politics is enough to ruin a city manager’s career. Anyone who knows Missoula city politics knows such an accusation will not be long in coming.

But Rectenwald never gave up her advocacy of a city manager, even when it became clear the rest of the LGSC wasn’t inclined to concur. In the end, one other member, Alan Ault, joined her in a minority report. His move seemed motivated as much by the increasing animosity on display in the meetings as any strong sense that a city manager would fix the problems Rectenwald maintained were pressing.

Rectenwald did, however, succeed in poisoning the atmosphere of the LGSC so much that the meetings became almost intolerable. As a result, the recommendations that came out of the majority do not appear to be the result of good policy-making but rather a political hatchet job dressed up in some flimsy rhetoric about improving public attitudes toward city government.

Chairwoman Sue Malek deserves the biggest part of the blame for that. Quite simply, Malek was a terrible choice to chair the LGSC; she does not know how to run a meeting in which competing views are aired. As the term of the LGSC wore on, her interactions with Rectenwald turned openly hostile; Malek often interrupted Rectenwald, it appeared, simply because Malek couldn’t stand the sound of Rectenwald’s voice. At one point, the LGSC had to hire a professional facilitator because Malek couldn’t even pretend to fairly chair an important meeting. As a result of her dismal leadership, the minority’s accusations that the majority was just there to railroad policy through took on an increasing appearance of veracity.

Malek’s most egregious offense took place after a group containing majority and minority members of the LGSC got together and wrote an information pamphlet that was mutually agreeable, no small feat considering how uncivil things had become by that point. Malek disbanded the pamphlet-writing committee, recreating it with only members from the majority, producing a document that did nothing but make the majority’s case. She showed contempt for debate, preferring to rig the information in her favor and appearing to fear that the majority’s proposals could not stand up to counter-arguments.

She might be right to fear that. But it is also the case that poor procedures do not necessarily yield poor policy. It might be possible to separate the commissioners from their work and endorse their recommendations regardless. Next up, a look at the LGSC’s main recommendation–rearranging Missoula City Council.

posted by readbetween

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