Archive for November 15th, 2006

by Jay Stevens

Left in the West is back! Singer not only got his site back up, but has given it a new look and new functionality. You, too, can now contribute to the site, via diaries a la the Daily Kos or MyDD.

There’s already plenty of content from the last several days; if you were wondering why Matt was quiet here, wonder no longer! To those of you slumming here at 4&20 blackbirds during Matt’s absence, thanks for visiting. I hope you enjoyed your stay and will come back and visit now and then.

In the meantime, I’ve got some thinkin’ to do about my own site. It’s pretty slap-dash right now, and my posting burden is dang heavy. I’ve been thinking of getting my own domain…writing with other bloggers…all sorts of things…we’ll see what happens.

But I’m also thinking about taking the site away from the purely political, or “activist” blogging that Matt and Kos and Jonathan Singer do so well, and adding a little more commentary about issues, ideas…and maybe a little political satire. (I’ve already done a little, like this one-act play about health care.)

Don’t worry, I’ll still keep my liberal eagle eye on Montana politics. I realize I’ve got more than few out-of-staters (and at least one foreign-based reader) hooked on Montana doing. It’s bare-knuckle brawling and good times, so keep it tuned, I’ll bring you all the good stuff, I promise.

by Jay Stevens 

I’ve already posted this in “Links,” but it’s worth highlighting. Recently a couple on a Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles was…well…“snuggling and kissing inappropriately” during their flight:

“Persing was observed nuzzling or kissing Sewell on the neck, and … with his face pressed against Sewell’s vaginal area. During these actions, Sewell was observed smiling,” reads the indictment filed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.On a second warning from the flight attendant, Persing snapped back threatening the flight attendant with “serious consequences” if he did not leave them alone.

The couple could face 20 years imprisonment under the Patriot Act.

I seriously doubt that this was what the well-intentioned thought the Patriot Act was supposed to protect us against. Sure, there was a veiled threat made. But do we want flight attendants deciding who’s a terrorist? Especially if you could lose all of your Constitutional rights to trial and representation? Especially if the man in question was sick, not over-sexed?

This stuff matters. Take the administration’s recently unveiled claim that it can hold immigrants indefinitely, if accused of terrorism. And who does the accusing? Who decides? You remember the torture bill: it’s the President. But the problem is, there’s no oversight.

What if an administrator makes a mistake? What if a paranoid flight attendant sees something she really doesn’t? What if a federal agent takes a dislike to someone passing through security?

Supporters of the administration will tell you that the only people affected by these regulations will be evildoers bent on the destruction of the planet. But is that necessarily the case? With rendition, for example, the CIA tends to kidnap and torture those that it has the least amount of evidence against. People: this isn’t a television cop show! There’s a reason we need evidence to convict somebody; that’s because there’s always a possibility that the person is innocent.

So scrapping oversight and checks on executive power is a bad idea, especially if you consider everyday and all-too ordinary government bureaucrats will most often be deciding your fate.

I’m all for giving police officials extra tools to combat terror. But let’s not throw away the foundations of our legal system to do so.

by Jay Stevens 

According to an ABC report, Jack Abramoff is giving up some information that might link Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to ethics violations.

As convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff reported to federal prison today, a source close to the investigation surrounding his activities told ABC News that Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was one of the members of Congress Abramoff had allegedly implicated in his cooperation with federal prosecutors.

No doubt the quacking will start on the right about how corruption is only important to the Montana leftys when it applies to Republicans. I could link to some of Coobs’ comments and posts that claim all the Burns – Abramoff hubbub was largely a political maneuver since, if nothing had come of the accusations by now, there was obviously nothing there, and ape his rhetoric. But I won’t, because corruption actually matters to me.


If Reid is guilty, fry him. I’ll be the first in line to applaud.

I’m holding judgment. Until there’s ample evidence of Reid’s misdoings – like in Burns’ case – I’ll just wait to see what happens. It’s not an election year, Reid isn’t Montanan. I’d prefer to focus on issues right now.

Even if Reid is guilty, the culture of current DC corruption is Republican. Abramoff-related convictions include Duke Cunningham, David Safavian, and Bob Ney. Tom Delay has been indicted. Prominently suspected Republicans include John Doolittle, Conrad Burns, Richard Pombo, Jerry Lewis, and Dennis Hastert. (And that’s just at the top of my head.) If Reid is really a suspect, that’s a ratio of 9 to 1. You do the math, but that doesn’t look like a bi-partisan scandal to me.

I’ve never been a big fan of the DC Democratic leadership. Democrats caved in on Iraq, the Patriot Act, and Samuel Alito, just to name a few. Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama et al. threw Ned Lamont under a bus. H*ll, the DC gang wanted John Morrison to be our Senate candidate.

Even if Democratic leaders are spineless and too political (a nasty habit with politicians), it is the GOP who created the Iraq mess, the Patriot Act, and Samuel Alito. They created the “culture war,” bitter partisanship, and the ugly rhetoric that drives most political discourse. To me, there’s no comparison.

Finally, it’s for all of these reasons that I started blogging and that I whole-heartedly supported Jon Tester’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate. That’s the thing; I want to change Washington DC, not contribute to it. I don’t expect it all to transform magically overnight, if ever, into an ideal body, but if we fight, seat-by-seat, to replace the out-of-touch ethically compromised technocrats with genuine, honest, and competent people interested in the electorate, well…maybe we can make a difference.

Replacing Conrad Burns with Jon Tester was a great beginning.


Bob Wire interviews Missoula mayor, John Engen.

Colby’s take on the“lost” Appropriations seat.

Pogie sees in Jim Webb’s WSJ editorial on class and economics the track the Democratic party should take.

Hart Williams’ epilogue on the Howie Rich initiative brouhaha.

Jack Cafferty and Glenn Greenwald contemplate the administration’s claim it can hold immigrants “indefinitely,” without trial or oversight.

Meanwhile the Patriot Act was used to bust a “mile-high club” contending couple. Inappropriate, yes, but terrorism?

Bush nominations show he’s not exactly ready for bipartisanship – or competency in government, either.

Robert Reich thinks Democrats should put aside their rancor for Bush and work on a cohesive agenda. Rick Perlstein thinks we need to start anticipating GOP cheating every election cycle.

Glenn Greenwald observes what the Democrats can learn from the 2006 gay marriage ballots.

Meanwhile, Karl Rove’s attempts to make inroads among Hispanic voters promises to be thwarted by the paleo-conservative wing of the party who wants the GOP to concentrate on the “base.” I.e., white people.

For those few who still believe Fox News is “fair and balanced,” there’s this.

Anyone catch Frontline last night about the Spokane mayor’s hijinks with gay chat rooms, the Spokesman-Review and the ensuing hubbub? Great show – definitely made you feel ambiguous about the whole scandal. But oh! the irony! The Spokesman-Review is claiming it was they who were ambushed, deceived, tricked! Get over yourselves, fellas. (Hat tip Sara.)

More about right-wing commentators and freeper-terrorist, Chad Castagana, and remembering Michelle Malkin’s and friends’ predilection for publishing the personal information of the people they don’t agree with.

Richard Dawkins on creationist thought.

Bill McKibben on corporate beneficence: “’Will business save the world?’ turns out to be the wrong question. The right question is ‘How can we structure the world so that businesses play their part in saving it?’ And the answer to that, inevitably, is politics.”

Kevin Drum on the professionalism of the blogs. I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again, amateur blogs (like this one) may never be a factor in an election again.

The story of a hapless Polish student who fell into the clutches of a fundamentalist Christian host family.

‘Tis the season to be…divisive and hateful?

by Jay Stevens 

If you haven’t read about the dramatic turnaround in the Montana state legislature, it’s a hoot. Just a couple of days ago, the Democrats were looking at a 25-25 split in the Senate, and 49-50-1 minority status in the House.

Oh, how things have changed.

First, state Senator Sam Kitzenberg switched parties, moving from the GOP to the Democrats and ensuring a 26-24 majority in the Senate. Why? Well, according to Kitzenberg, the Republican party doesn’t have room for moderates anymore. (The “Kansas syndrome,” if you will.) Jeff Mangan, who served with Kitzenberg, had this to say:

…Last session, Sam and I were seat mates; I, at the end of the democrats and Sam at the end of the republicans. Two moderates who often jokingly discussed whether or not the D tent was big enough for me, and the R tent was large enough for Sam. On more & more issues though, Sam was with the D’s. Sam felt alienated from his party, to the point it could be seen, and felt. Being a moderate in a party long term is difficult, at best. Look at Leiberman nationally or Noennig or Matthews locally. It often feels like one receives more respect from the other side, while being pressured internally from your party. That being said, it is afterall, politics.

Sam is a good man. Sam is strong in his faith and family. Sam is open and speaks his mind, and Sam does not play political games. Sam voted his concience and constituents. Sam has apparently decided that the democratic tent would suit him better than the republicans. That does not surprise many of us. Sam will continue to vote his conscience and constituents and Sam will continue to be on the edge of his political party.

Kitzenberg can use these honest and kinds words right about now, because members of his former party are seeing a grand conspiracy organized by Governor Schweitzer behind the move:

Republicans questioned the timing of state Sen. Sam Kitzenberg’s decision, just months after the Democratic administration of Gov. Brian Schweitzer gave Kitzenberg a job as a Revenue Department analyst.


“We had serious concerns last year when he took that position,” said state Sen. Corey Stapleton, R-Billings. “It was quid pro quo, what did they want from him?

“Our worst fears came true.”

Schweitzer denies the whole thing, of course, and says he and Kitzenberg haven’t spoken “in months.” Add that to a history of tensions between Kitzenberg and his former party over votes that the new Democrat cast favorable to the Schweitzer administration, and frankly there’s a whole lot of nothing here except sour grapes.

In the House, a dramatic count of provisional ballots puts incumbent Representative Emelie Eaton (D-Laurel) in a dead heat with Republican challenger Krayton Kerns:

The turnaround in Laurel’s HD58 stunned longtime political observers, as Eaton ended up erasing a 14-seat deficit through the post-election counting of 20 extra ballots.It started last Wednesday, when Yellowstone County election officials counted 16 ballots that had been rejected by vote-counting machines but were still valid. Thirteen were for Eaton, closing the gap to four votes.

On Monday, election officials opened six additional “provisional” ballots, which are cast by voters who forgot their identification on election day and then provided proof the next day that indicated the votes should be counted.

Duane Winslow, elections supervisor for the county, said Monday that two of those six weren’t counted. One of the voters was not a resident of HD58, and another already had turned in an absentee ballot that had been counted.

But of the four that were counted, all went to Eaton, forging an unlikely tie. That means an automatic recount will occur. But until then, Eaton is the presumptive winner.

If the recount shows that both candidates received the same number of votes, Governor Brian Schweitzer gets to appoint someone to serve in the seat. While I’m available and eager to take on the role, it’s likely Eaton would get the nod instead and give Democrats a 50-49-1 advantage.

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