Archive for December 4th, 2006

by Jay Stevens 

I linked to the Missoulian’s profile of incoming state Senate Majority Leader, Carol Williams of Missoula, but I feel it deserves more scrutiny, especially as it presents quite a contrast to the rhetoric and experience of the state House’s majority leader, Scott Sales and Senate Republican Dan McGee.

As I’ve already mentioned, Sales’ and McGee’s self-proclaimed goals are to increase divisiveness among Montanans and to try and wreak revenge on Sam Kitzenberg and Governor Brian Schweitzer for the fact that their party is alienating moderates. In short, we’re in for a lot of posturing and chest-thumping for the right while policy-making will be an afterthought.

Enter Carol Williams, one of the state’s citizens responsible for public kindergarten and other kid-oriented projects:

As a new mom in Helena in the 1970s, there was no such thing as public kindergarten. Believing strongly that Montana needed such a program, Williams became active in the American Association of University Women and the organization’s efforts to bring a bill forward.

She helped lobby the cause, and the bill was passed supporting half-day kindergarten.

Over the years, as she raised three children and championed related issues, she served on dozens of boards, all focusing on children: Missoula Boys and Girls Club; Montana Every Child By Two Immunization Program; Montana Kids First Political Action Committee; Montana Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies; and more.

So…what’s her main goal for the upcoming legislative session (besides full-day kindergarten?):

Aside from her new leadership duties, Williams said her larger goal is to promote civility and communication.“I want this session to be about policy, not politics,” she said.

Given the Democrats’ narrow winning margin, it is critical that everyone works hard to get along and work for the common good.

[snip]

Open communication with problem-solving and not sniping will hammer out the wrinkles in the challenges facing the Legislature, Williams said.

She plans to lead the civility charge by example.

“We need to keep this session respectful of each others’ positions,” she said, “and try to come to common ground. That is of utmost importance for the people we serve.”

Williams also plans to create the state’s first-ever Women’s Legislative Caucus. The goal of the Caucus would be to “serve as an information bridge between the Legislature…and the needs of Montana’s professionals, families, and individuals and services concerned with women’s issues.” That is, Williams is actively working to give a body of Montana’s voters and citizens a more direct line into the state’s government. The Caucus would also help mentor junior women legislative members and work to encourage more participation of women in local and state government.

Being a blogger means creating narrative about issues, government, policies, and issues. Good stories draw readers; good stories illustrate issues; good stories help motivate. And a good story makes you feel and understand what’s going on at a larger level: the story is a microcosm of the larger universe.

And honestly, the best political story of 2006 was the Tester-Burns match-up. You just couldn’t come up with a better villain than Boss Hogg Burns; and you couldn’t come up with a better white hat than Tester, the organic citizen-farmer.  The story matched the corrupt legislator rubber-stamping a bungling war policy against the honest farmer who stands up to big money and for honesty, integrity, and the American Dream. Throughout the election cycle, Burns kept coming up with great quotes for us to blog about, and kept everybody – and I mean everybody — focused on the race.

If you want confirmation of how a narrative helps the outcome of a race, compare the Senate race to the House race.

Now thanks to Sales and McGee, we’ve got a couple of clownish comic-book bad guys. (And throw in Koopman and Sinrud for good measure.) Against them array Carol Williams, the woman who helped bring kindergarten to Montana, and you’ve got ripe pickings for an eager left-wing blogger. Seriously, my blog will write itself in 2007.

Unfortunately for Montana, that also means there won’t be smooth sailing in the legislature. Of course, the session hasn’t started yet. Maybe Montana’s GOP will surprise me and legislate and leave me with nothing to write about.

I’m not holding my breath.

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Links…

Griz win! ‘Cats bow out… Next game for Montana: UMass! That’s right! Honestly, I feel no conflicting emotions at all – go, Griz!

Shane finds the coolest little Christmas tree

Happy Blog-o-birthday, F-Words! Sara relives the glory days…

Cece made it to Jon’s Helena thank-you stop

US News & World Report interviews Jon Tester and his plans to help small businesses.

The Missoulian writes a good profile of the incoming state’s first female Senate Majority Leader, Carol Williams.

The Billings Gazette must be reading Intelligent Discontent’s opinions on education. Either that, or great minds think alike! (*Pogie cringes*)

The Billings Gazette also finds some fault with the Good Guv’s full-time kindergarten plan – not with the concept, but with the effort needed to fund and house fulltime kindergarteners.

Julie Fanselow dubbed one of the 13 most influential bloggers of the 2006 election! A lot of bloggers were left out, by the way, including Matt. But what can you do?

The Notorious Mark T is inspired by Diane Feinstein’s legislation to require paper trails and auditing of electronic voting machines. It is an excellent suggestion…

David Sirota divides the Democrats into “people-power” and “money-power” legislators, and includes “leaners,” like Max Baucus.

And former Labor Secretary Robert Reich sees a test of sorts for the Democrats on people vs. money: drug negotiation and Medicare.

Kossak MontanaMaven on the negotiation of the Korea Free Trade Agreement here in Montana.

Meanwhile, Baucus may block the free trade agreement with South Korea over beef.

Courtney Lowery has all the Western political links.

First Rummy, now Bolton resigns. Let’s hope a few more political hacks will get their walking papers, and we’ll get a semblance of government back. (Hat tip to Colby.)

This is your government on unconstitutional anti-terror measures: the case of Jose Padilla. It’s pretty extreme treatment, especially if you consider the charges against him are looking weaker by the day…

Meanwhile, the media is completely ignoring real terrorists, like freeper Conrad Castagana. These people use threats of violence and intimidation to coerce people they oppose from speaking out.

And the federal government is busy assessing your risk to the country.

Internal government auditors apparently won’t be flying any time soon, thanks to their new status as “terrorists.”

Rumor abounds that W knew Jim Webb’s son was recently under heavy fire and saw the deaths of some comrades before the Webb/W ruckus.

Glenn Greenwald notes that a number of democratic states are aligned against us and blames W’s aggressive and bungled foreign policy.

Gore on Bush: “This administration has been by far the most incompetent, inept, and with more moral cowardice, and obsequiousness to their wealthy contributors, and obliviousness to the public interest of any administration in modern history, and probably in the entire history of the country!” Hm…Gore in 2008 sounds better and better to this poor blogger’s ears…

Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson on Rummy’s “good ideas” for Iraq. Like Dickinson, I’m confused why some of these ideas haven’t already been put into place.

David Gergen: the press failed miserably in the run up to the Iraq war. (Shouldn’t we be firing some of the people responsible for this?)

The Polish Wolf points out we have the lowest teen pregnancy rates since 1946…mainly because of the availability of contraceptives. In any case, let’s hear less about what a “promiscuous” society we have, etc & co.

How you can prepare for peak oil.

by Jay Stevens 

Gwen Florio wrote a story on the “outing” of Bowen Greenwood, who posts on “What’s Right” as blogger NeoMadison. Recently, Bowen revealed his identity publicly on a WRIM post, which was met by some thoughtful comments. (And many not-so-thoughtful ones, as well.)

Florio’s piece was actually very fair to both Greenwood and the whiff of ethical impropriety surrounding the issue. Wulfgar! (known to the traditional media as Rob Kailey) summed it all up brilliantly:

“Trust me on this, Bowen,” he wrote. “Someone is going through the archives of this blog, as well as comments you’ve left elsewhere, searching for something to pin on you or your boss,” he said.

In a telephone interview Friday, Kailey expanded on those concerns.

Even though Greenwood is blogging on his own time, “it offers the appearance of impropriety,” he said, pointing out that the Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees elections, is nonpartisan.

“I really think he would have done a great service to his employer, to himself and to the Montana blogosphere if he had just come clean from the get-go,” Kailey said.

Another concern that I had with the whole issue was that blogging relies almost completely on the trust that readers have that the bloggers they read are venting their personal opinions, not dutifully regurgitating spin for a politician or interest group under the guise of an individual citizen. But an anonymous blogger – like NeoMadison before the outing – could be anybody. We don’t know. That’s why I think it’s important to disclose any political or professional information that might call into question the blogger’s motives.

Ultimately, I don’t care who blogs. In fact, the more people that blog, the better. I think government workers should blog if they want to. I think politicians should blog if they want to. But in the end, when a reader needs information to judge the accuracy or validity of the blogger’s opinion, every pertinent detail should be disclosed.

In NeoMadison’s case, little fuss was raised around the blogosphere for one simple fact: it was obvious his posts were well thought out and specific to him. Of all the bloggers on “What’s Right,” NeoMadison is the only one who can claim this, and the only one who might have dodged a full blogo-sh*t storm. As for the other WRIM anonymous bloggers…well…it wouldn’t surprise me if any of them had either personal or professional connections to campaign staffs or political organizations.

Of course, it’s easy to say that about anonymous bloggers…

Creep: Eric Dondero

by Jay Stevens 

One of the “benefits” of having a blog gain some notoriety is that I no longer have to comb the Internet for 4&20 blackbirds’ creeps. They come to me.

Today’s creep, Mr. Eric Dondero, emailed me, I presume, in response to my article in the American Prospect on Idaho’s Proposition 2. According to Mr. Dondero, I made up the notion that there was pervasive fraud involved in the gathering of Montanans’ signatures for Howie Rich’s ballot initiatives (mistakes are his, invectives edited for your Internet filters at work):

Mr. Stephens, you are a f*cking *sshole

Stop lying you pr*ck!

You repeat only tired old Communist/Fascist leftwing talking points in regards to brave libertarian petitioners who stood out in the blizzard cold, and then 95 degree heat, to collect 80,000 signagtures for property rights all over Montana. And instread of praising those of us who petititioned you accuse us of engaging in “fraud.”

How f*cking dare you, asshole!!! I want a mother-f*cking retraction.

I’m a Veteran you f*cker. I served 4 years in the Navy. I have three medals and an honorable discharge to show for it.

How many years did you serve? If your a non-Vet than shut the f*ck up.

You are on shaky ground Sir. If I ever, EVER hear you accuse me or my fellow libertarian petititioners again of “engaging in fraud” on an on-line Forum, I will slap you with a liable lawsuite so quick it will make your head spin.

Notice you didn’t say a word about the left-wing petititioners in MT for Minimum Wage and Stop the Lobbyists. You want some examples of serious shenanigans in petitition gathering. Check your own side. Oh, and btw, we libertarians and conservatives are no longer going to sit by and let you leftwing f*ckers get away with blocking us. We may have been polite in 2006. But expect us to fight you all every step of the way in 2007 and 2008. You’re hereby on notice.

NOW F*CK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY!!!

Libertarian Republicans

Fiscally Conservative, Socially Tolerant & Pro-Defense!

Dondero is a US Navy Veteran, former Libertarian Party National Committeeman, fmr. Senior Aide to US Congressman Ron Paul R-TX, and Founder of the Republican Liberty Caucus.

There’s a lot to address in this email, but the first is the accusation that I lied about “pervasive fraud” in the Howie-Rich sponsored initiative signature gathering. I admit I only personally witnessed one act of questionable signature gathering, and heard anecdotes about fraud in signature gathering, but of course that wouldn’t be enough to get me to write “pervasive fraud” in the American Prospect. No, that line about “pervasive fraud” was lifted from the court ruling by Justice Dirk Sandefur (pdf), who wrote:

…the Court finds and concludes for the foregoing reasons that the signature gathering process for CI-97, CI-98, and I-154 was permeated by a pervasive and general pattern and practice of deceit, fraud, and procedural non-compliance.

Justice Sandefur’s ruling was later upheld by the Montana Supreme Court.

I suggest to Mr. Dondero that he take up the matter of lying with Justice Sandefur and the Montana Supreme Court. Maybe the justices would enjoy similar invective-filled emails. Surely Dondero’s fine prose and argumentation would cause those on Montana’s highest benches to reconsider their decisions.

As for the rest of the stuff…I looked to no avail for the clause in the Constitution prohibiting non-veterans from expressing opinions or participating in crafting public policy…so I can only assume Mr. Dondero must be confusing reality with the plot of Starship Troopers. (A great read, by the way, and I salute Mr. Dondero’s taste in science fiction.)

I also looked for a similar ruling finding signature gathering for the minimum wage and lobby reform initiatives were also “permeated by a pervasive pattern and practice of deceit, fraud, and procedural non-compliance,” but I couldn’t find it, either.

And has the word “tolerant” even been more egregiously out of place than in this email?

Mr. Dondero’s threats that he’ll make our leftwing lives miserable in 2008 understates how miserable Howie Rich’s initiatives made our lives in the summer of 2006. Again, it seems crazy that conservatives are lining up to make the next election cycle more negative after the expression of weariness by most voters of the rampant negativity this summer and fall, but as a liberal and a supporter of the Democratic Party, I welcome that tactic. And next election, please let’s not hear any complaints that “both parties” engage in negative rhetoric. There’s been enough bitter complaining from the right about its intention to amp up the hostility and divisiveness in elections, it should be clear who will be responsible for the tenor of 2008 rhetoric.

Lastly, at least one well-respected conservative website promoted Dondero’s Montana Republican Liberty Caucus as a small-government, individual-liberty promoting organization and viable alternative to the mainstream Republican party…but I think it’s fair that Montanans see the MRLC obviously doesn’t offer them a reasoned forum in which to pursue their agenda, only more bitterness and acrimony.

And to Mr. Dondero and his fellow travelers, I suggest you move on from the debacle of 2006 and find a constructive, Montana-based way to introduce this legislation into the public sphere instead of reacting to your legislative defeats with anger and denial.




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