Archive for March, 2007
by Jay Stevens
Anybody see this article filed by Chuck Johnson about the Budget Follies? “Democrats pressured to revive tax plan”?
Senate Democrats decided to table Michael Lange’s education bill in committee. And Mikey was a tad upset:
Furious after the Senate panel tabled his bill Wednesday, Lange stormed into Democratic leadership offices in both houses and threatened retaliatory action against Democratic bills in the House unless his bill is resurrected.
Senate President Pro Tempore Dan Harrington, D-Butte, said Lange came into his office Wednesday and said, “It’s war. The bloodletting has started.” Witnesses said he formed each hand into a pistol and pretended as if he were firing shots.
Lange said permanent property tax relief is the key issue for Republican legislators, something they promised voters they would provide. He vowed Republicans will do whatever they need to do to make sure it passes, even if it means the House tabling every Democratic bill.
It’s pretty obvious a handful of House Republicans are responsible for the budget mess. The legislature knows it, the media knows it, the voters know it. Scott Sales declared war before the legislature convened; and now Mikey Lange is playing cowboy with our children’s education.
by Jay Stevens
Jeff Mangan wrote an impassioned post imploring all corners of Montana to support Malstrom Air Force Base, now that it’s losing 50 missiles and the jobs associated with it. As an example of a corner not supporting Malstrom, he cites Missoula:
…Great Falls and Central Montana has not seen support from our sister communities, such as Missoula. As a matter of fact, the Missoulian has been quite vocal in editorializing against the missiles and monies needed to save that mission and attract others. While it is hopeful they will remain quiet and supportful now that a loss of the 50 missiles looks more likely, it is unlikely.
I’m not sure why Mangan expects Missoula to support Great Falls’ AFB. After all, Missoula is the most common target of central and eastern Montana’s ire and criticism. And Missoula’s concerns revolve around open space, renewable energy, education, and high tech industry, a far cry from the traditional industries of ranching, mining, and the military. The Missoulian’s editorial board – hardly the fount of wisdom, IMHO – is probably displeased with the taxes expended on supporting a base with outdated military technology (as Montana Headlines put it).
So it’s hard to imagine Missoula supporting Malstrom out of kinship, economic, or political reasons.
Of course, there is an argument to be made that Malstrom is important to our national defense, and that the 50 lost missiles are still needed – especially as a result of the cooling relations with Russia, thanks to our current President’s half-baked gun-totin’ foreign policy. It’s quite possible that we need those missiles.
Which brings me to Montana Headlines’ post on the subject. In it, MH admits that the missiles are outdated, and tasks our Congressional delegation with finding a new mission for Malstrom, admittedly sensible advice.
In the end, that’s probably the logic that should be used in convincing cities like Missoula into supporting a federal military base in Montana.
But MH wouldn’t be MH without a gratuitous shot at Jon Tester:
But never fear, our junior Senator brings his own insightful gravitas to the situation:
“Malmstrom Air Force Base plays a critical role in defending our homeland and now is not the time to weaken it in any way,” added U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
Yeah, that oughta do the trick. Jon Tester is going to be really convincing as a true believer in the importance of defending the homeland with nuclear weapons. And if he does manage to become convincing at it, he won’t have to worry about being the toast of the progressive community for much longer.
I’m not sure what MH is getting at, to be honest. Does he really believe that progressives are against national defense, despite all evidence to the contrary? Progressives are against the Iraq War, but in no small part because it has actually weakened our national security and has hindered our efforts in curtailing Islamic and domestic terrorism.
And certainly MH can’t be claiming that progressives are anti-military. After all, progressives were against the cuts in medical and health services for veterans. Progressives supported all vets having access to the VA system. And progressives were behind the latest effort to properly equip all troops deployed to Iraq.
Progressives aren’t against war; we’re against illegal wars waged without Congressional approval. We don’t like being a hostile occupation force. We like diplomacy and international co-operation. And we’re strongly against the idea of pre-emptive invasions of sovereign nations that also “happen” to enrich the powerful cronies of the man that gave the go-ahead for the invasion.
Compare the left’s stance on the Iraq war to conservatives’. Conservative lawmakers consistently voted to support Bush’s war, but voted to under-equip soldiers in the field, and to reduce their benefits after they return home. Conservative lawmakers refused to provide oversight in the way the war was won. They failed — and actually often participated — in the rampant corruption associated with Iraq. And, worst of all, they were unwilling to suggest the type of measures that might actually win a war in Iraq: a massive callup of troops, a draft, and war-time economic measures.
That’s right, in the end, it was more important for conservatives to increase tax breaks for the rich and multi-national corporations than it was to actually make a real effort in Iraq.
That Jon Tester would want to preserve jobs in a working-class town like Great Falls is perfectly in alignment with his – and our – progressive values. That Tester would also like to preserve a strong national defense is also integral to his – and our – ideology.
by Jay Stevens
Talking Points Memo and the TPM Muckraker are live-blogging today’s testimony of former Alberto Gonzalez aid, Kyle Sampson, by the Senate Judiciary Committee, including video posts of key testimony. If you’re interested in the whole story, check it out.
Naturally, I’m interested in testimony surrounding San Diego attorney Carol Lam’s firing, because that’s the issue that hits closest to home. So far, the key bit of testimony on Lam’s firing is this little exchange between California Senator Dianne Feinstein and Sampson:
Dianne Feinstein: …Are you aware that on May 10 Carol Lam sent a notice to the Department of Justice saying she would be seeking a search warrant of the CIA investigation into Dusty Fogo and Brent Wilkes?
Kyle Sampson: I don’t remember ever seeing such a notice.
DF: But the next day you wrote the email, which says, “the real problem we have right now” — right now — “with Carol Lam that leads me to conclude that we should have someone ready to be nominated on 11/18, the day after her four-year term expires.” That that relates to her immigration record?
KS: The real problem that I was referring to in that email was her office’s failure to bring sufficient immigration cases. The Attorney General in the month before had been subject to criticism at a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee and thereafter at the Department of Justice in our senior management meeting with the Deputy Attorney General and others. There had been a robust discussion about how to address that issue, the Department had been criticized for not doing enough to enforce the border, largely by House Republicans, and the Attorney General was concerned about it. And he asked the Deputy Attorney General to take some action to address that issue. I recall also that the Deputy Attorney General was scheduled to meet with the California House Republicans who were critical with Carol Lam on May 11.
DF: Let me just move on. On January 13, Dan Dzwilewski, the head of the FBI office in San Diego, said that he thought Carol Lam’s continued employment was crucial to the success of multiple ongoing investigations. Did you call FBI headquarters and complain about those comments?
KS: I did. I called Lisa Monica, who served as a special assistant to the Director of the FBI, and asked her why an FBI employee was commenting on that issue.
DF: And why would you think that the special agent in charge in the area should not comment on whether her termination was going to affect cases?
KS: I understood that Carol Lam was a political appointee, and that a decision had been made in the Executive Branch to ask her to resign so that others could serve.
First, it’s patently obvious that federal law enforcement’s “boots on the ground” – the border agents and the FBI – weren’t informed of the administration’s claimed policy shifts or general dissatisfaction with law-enforcement priorities (obvious from earlier testimony of FBI Director Robert Mueller), nor did they agree with the assessment of Lam’s performance in particular. If the administration’s true goal was increased immigration prosecutions, you’d think they’d tell the FBI and Border Patrol. And if they cared about immigration cases, they would probably heed input from the FBI.
Instead they told them to shut their traps.
Second, a narrative that’s emerging from Sampson’s testimony is that the decisions for the firings came from Alberto Gonzalez and the White House. “The decision had been made in the Executive Branch…” Elsewhere Sampson mentions the Attorney General as a prime player in the firings.
This, of course, differs drastically from earlier testimony from Alberto Gonzalez, who initially denied he even had input on the matter. And it also hints that the decisions, indeed, coming from the White House, were political, but that Sampson’s just a good soldier following orders. And, of course, it depends on what “political” is.
by Jay Stevens
Talking Points Memo – the place to go for prosecutor purge information – yesterday posted on Bill Mercer’s involvement with the firing of Carol Lam, the San Diego US attorney who busted Duke Cunningham and was sniffing around Dusty Foggo, Brent Wilkes, and Jerry Lewis (the Republican Representative) when she was canned, ostensibly over her failure to prosecute illegal immigrants with enough fervor.
TPM showed that Lam’s record on immigration was actually commendable, especially considering the lack of resources in her office.
Enter Bill Mercer, the interim number 3 man at the Department of Justice (and now likely to never receive Senate confirmation). In a May 31 email, Mercer flat out rejects the idea of sending Lam more resources:
“There are good reasons not to provide extensive resources to [Carol Lam’s district],” wrote Bill Mercer, a senior Justice Department official in May of 2006, responding to a suggestion that the Department provide Lam with more prosecutors. “Other border districts have done substantially more. It will send the message that if your people are killing themselves, the additional resources will go to folks who haven’t prioritized the same enforcement priority.”
In a June 5 email — five days later — Mercer suggests several plans of action, including adding resources to her San Diego office “immediately after Carol’s successor is named.”
Permeating the DoJ correspondence about Lam is criticism about her prosecutorial policies. But what’s obvious is that no one bothered to tell Lam that she wasn’t prioritizing the right cases.
That’s actually not surprising, if you consider this July 8 email from Mercer about Lam, dripping with contempt, in which he responds to Michael Elston’s comment about the plans to lay Lam low, “This is so sad – I am not adjusting well to this change”:
What that Carol can’t meet a deadline or that you’ll need to interact with her in the coming weeks or that she won’t just say “O.K. You got me. You’re right, I’ve ignored national priorities and obvious local needs. Shoot, my production is more hideous than I realized.”
Or that I’m not going to send you as many of these humorous missives?
Here’s what’s clear from these three brief emails. Mercer was out to fire Lam, even to the extent of ensuring that she wouldn’t be able to increase her production rate by sending her more resources – resources that would be available to her successor. In other words, it’s not about immigration, it’s about Lam.
But what’s not known is if Mercer knew Lam’s firing was political. Was he following orders and isolating and setting Lam up for certain failure because of orders? Did he believe it was about her record on immigration, and that the firing was about policy? Or was he in on it?
Update: Josh Marshall points out that the Duke Cunningham scandal was heading straight to the White House. Someone there approved a mail-screening contract for Cunningham crony, Mitchell Wade, who had no experience, manpower, or know-how for the job…
No wonder Carol Lam was fired.
by Jay Stevens
If you have any doubt that blogs are changing the media landscape, you need look no further than…baseball.
There, just as it is in politics, blogs are ruffling the feathers of the establishment. In fact, more so.
Take this recent column by the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy: “Famous guest blogs in.”
It’s a satire of the give and take found this spring on Boston hurler, Curt Schilling’s blog, 38 Pitches. And it ain’t pretty.
It’s mocking the Q&A posts Schilling has written during spring training and basically paints all the commenters as sycophantic fanboys, lavishing Schilling’s ego with unadulterated praise.
Other lowlights include:
–Implying that Schilling’s blogo-fans have elevated the pitcher above the team – a capital crime in Boston (“If you leave Boston, I’ll be forced to leave, myself.”)
–Trashing the open nature of blogs (“It’s so much easier to communicate anonymously, without eye contact or using my real name. That’s why blogs are better.”)
–Painting bloggers and their readers as basement-dwelling cretins (“I used to go to Star Trek conventions and comic book trade shows. No more. Now this blog is my life.”)
–Expressing anger that Schilling’s blog might circumvent the media in disseminating Red Sox info to the fans (“I know you guys first heard about Pap being our closer on this blog, but I’ve promised the owners, Theo, and Tito I’ll try not to break any more news here. I’ll leave that to the “sportswriters,” if you know what I’m saying.”)
In reality, a quick perusal of Schilling’s blog actually reveals a pretty cool interaction between fans and a major-league pitcher complete with loads of great baseball information. Schilling has, to date, posted nine very lengthy question-and-answer posts, in which the following questions appeared:
–How much does having a “good” or a “bad” catcher behind the plate affect the pitcher? Why?
–What pitcher you think throws the best of each pitch these days? we hear about Santana’s change-up or Rivera’s cutter. who do you think throws the best 2 seam fastball? 4 seamer? changeup? curveball? knuckleball? cutter? splitter? slider? forkball?
–It’s the top of the 6th and you’re up by a run. You’ve been through the lineup twice. What are you doing differently to keep the hitters on their toes? What did you do in earlier innings to set yourself up for success in the later innings?
–How *do* you communicate to set the infield defense the way you want it? The communication to Varitek is easy to see. I’m just curious how you get the right message to the defenders pitch-to-pitch
Schilling answers each, in detail.
Or take Schilling’s synopsis of his outing on March 23 against the Orioles, which includes this baseball gem:
With one out in the second Gibbons chased a good split, and then [ex-teammate Kevin] Millar comes up. For 3 years he’s talked trash, in person, through text messages, over the phone, about how I better never throw him my curve ball.
Last year in Baltimore I started him off with it, he took it for a strike. Today I shake [Sox catcher Jason Varitek] 3-4 times, Millar calls time out, steps out and says to ‘Tek “What the hells he want an 0-0 curve ball?”, curve ball strike one. Curve ball again, yanked foul, now he’s laughing, and I am trying not to. Curve ball again he lays off. Count gets to 2-2 and he freezes on a 2 seamer inside for strike three. I don’t know if he’s debating the call or just talking, one never knows with him, but he never looks my way as I go into the dugout.
Just a classic baseball story…which is only augmented by Kevin Millar’s response the next day.
On the other hand, I’ve never really liked Shaughnessy that much, to tell you the truth. He made his name off his bally-hooed book, “The Curse of the Bambino,” which Fox baseball analysts loved and beat us over the head with for years. He obviously reveled in the authorial fame of the book; so much so, that he appeared to be actively rooting against the Red Sox in 2004. (Or maybe it was the children’s book that was slated be released a couple of months afterwards.)
Or maybe it was the time my mother (a HUGE Sox fan) and I were wondering when the Sox-Yanks rivalry really got going, and we turned to Shaughnessy for an answer. Surely, as the pre-eminent author on ancient Red Sox curses, he’d know.
We were sure the rivalry hadn’t started before 1913 when the Yanks were known as the Highlanders and served as the doormat of the American League. And certainly not after 1920 when Harry Frazee sold off the stars of the Sox – including Ruth – to finance his Broadway shows. The post-Ruth Sox didn’t reach .500 until 1934. Personally I thought maybe the blood started flowing in the late 1930s when Ted Williams came up and his Sox started challenging the DiMaggio-led Yanks in the standings.
So my mother (did I mention, a HUGE Sox fan?) wrote Shaughnessy. His reply? “As far as I’m concerned, there’s always been a rivalry.” His brush-off made one thing clear: he didn’t care. But what did we expect from a sportswriter with a perm?
I am not alone in my distaste for Shaughnessy. There’s a blog dedicated to trashing him. He’s a figure of ill repute on the famous Sons of Sam Horn message board. There they call him “CHB,” or short for “curly-haired boyfriend,” from a comment thrown out by former Sox OFer, Carl Everett, referring to “[Globe columnist] Gordon Edes and his curly-haired girlfriend.”
(That is to say, Shaughnessy might have reason to dislike bloggers and other Internet denizens.)
What Shaughnessy’s anti-blog satire says to me is that the guy really doesn’t like the idea that fans can go directly to the source for their information. There’s always been tension between beat writers and players – the writers are constantly puzzled by the popularity of the players with the fans, these rubes off the farms, these semi-violent brutes who can barely talk, let alone write. On the other hand, the writers, why they’ve seen it all! They know and love the game! But they’re the servants, the court scribes.
And now, with blogs, they’re becoming less relevant. At least before, the writers had the power to act as the conduit between the fans and their gods. They were the priests interpreting the flight of swallows and reading the entrails of a sacrificed goat. Now the fans can skip the middle man and judge the players for themselves! The horror!
Often you hear the punditry class praise themselves for living in a meritocracy. Nothing could be further from the truth. These guys are terrified of a meritocracy.
by Jay Stevens
Rightie blogger, “Jack,” over at TWW seems to be on a personal mission to prove that Jon Tester is as corrupt and hypocritical as…well…as a Republican. First he accused Tester of not posting his schedule — when he was, actually – and now it’s about starting a PAC:
Jon Tester, D-Mont.,…is in the process of starting his “Treasure State PAC” although during the campaign he proclaimed on his campaign website under campaign finance that, “Jon Tester believes that money has far too much influence in government today…”
From this attack on Tester’s integrity (largely unquestioned in political circles, by the way), we can see how righties are going to distort the debate on our new Senator’s record.
Where to begin?
Should we begin with the quote cited by Jack the Blogger, above? “Jon Tester believes that money has far too much influence in government today…”? Okay, the key word here is “influence.” This is where Jack’s accusations crumbles in the sunlight. Jon’s rhetoric was aimed, of course, at ol’ Connie Burns, who changed his votes for cash. Like the time he let five grand change his vote on border security and wage slavery.
Tester has always maintained that money is vital in elections – he was asked once during a debate why, if he thought there was too much money in politics, he kept fundraising. His answer? As soon as the other guy stops raising money…
The important difference between Tester and Burns (or Rehberg) is that Tester so far is working to fulfill his campaign promises and isn’t changing votes for cash. Or charging constituents for his services.
I wish there weren’t so much money in politics. But there is. And money gives great advantage in an election. So until the rules change, why hold Tester to a different standard? In the current system, money is a necessary evil; what’s important is that it doesn’t alter Tester’s votes on the floor.
Additionally, with a PAC, Tester can now use his funds to encourage other Senators to act ethically. If money does influence, then we want Tester to be doing the influencing.
That’s not to say I want Jack the B et al. are wrong in scrutinizing our state’s junior Senator. Heck, that’s why we’re all here! But I’m confident that this extra attention lavished on Jon is only going to help his case in the long run. (Tho’ I could do without the gratuitous smearing.)
So go to, gang! Give ’em hell!
by Jay Stevens
You may have seen the link, but Robert Novak yesterday opined that President Bush is isolated from his party:
With nearly two years remaining in his presidency, George W. Bush is alone. In half a century, I have not seen a president so isolated from his own party in Congress — not Jimmy Carter, not even Richard Nixon as he faced impeachment.
Republicans in Congress do not trust their president to protect them.
Basically it’s not the reprehensible policies – torture, domestic spying, unwanted war, etc – that the Bushies have embraced and led the nation to ruin with, it’s the incompetence, especially evident in how lousy the President’s Attorney General has handled the prosecutor purge scandal. Got that? It’s not the scandal, stupid, it’s how you look evading it.
The column has got the blogs buzzing. Apparently Novak’s criticism of the Bush administration is supposed to be the slow realization among conservatives that Bush is a great, big incompetent f*ck up, a sort of reinforcement of our beliefs about Bush since…well…pretty much when the war drums against Iraq started up.
Whoa, there, pardner!
Don’t for a moment mistake Robert Novak’s words as admitting to the reality of the situation. Remember, we’re talking about the only media member dumb enough to print up Valerie Plame’s CIA identity after receiving a tip from the White House. (Even Judith Miller wouldn’t touch the story!) This is a guy who willingly wore the administration’s dirty jock strap on his head for all to see.
In other words, this was an administration sycophant not long ago.
So what happened?
I can think of two explanations. First, he saw how the administration through Scooter Libby under the bus. One of the great mysteries of the Valerie Plame affair in my mind is how Novak managed to elude the prosecutor and media scrutiny that Matt Cooper, Judith Miller, Bob Woodward, and even Tim Russert endured. One suspects Novak was let off the hook by someone in the White House – and that someone is probably Scooter Libby. Novak might have thought that loyalty goes both ways, but was surprised to discover the only thing that runs down hill at the White House is sh*t.
A less honorable scenario – and, therefore, the more likely given our subject – is that Novak is kicking the President while he’s down. He’s jumping on the bandwagon. He smells the change in the wind and wants to get in a few rabbit punches before Bush is either frog-marched out of office, or retires in disgrace. That way Novak can salvage the tatters of his reputation by “staying out in front” of the story.
Of the two, the latter bodes better for the country. It means that the DC establishment is working the Bush Presidency around in its gullet like an undigested piece of Kung Pao chicken, ready to expel it as soon as someone snakes a finger down into the mess. (Henry Waxman? Patrick Leahy?) Let’s face it, there are a lot of people willing to let Bush be the fall guy for the institutionalized corruption, incompetence, and other assorted criminal behavior that have dominated the capital in recent years…
by Jay Stevens
You know, I’ve been trashing Representative Dennis Rehberg for quite some time on this blog. I’ve accused him of cavorting with lobbyists, of being a hypocrite, of lying, using taxpayer money to campaign, et cetera & co. I admit I’ve been quite hard on the man.
So I ask myself…why stop now?
Enter the Billings Gazette’s editorial on Rehberg’s recent House votes on ethics reform and increased public access to government records.
First the Gazette praised Rehberg for voting for bills that would increase freedom of information. He supported “a bill that requires federal agencies to be more responsive to the public’s requests for information filed under the 1967 Freedom of Information Act.
House Resolution 1309 requires agencies to respond to requests within 20 days, and establishes consequences for agency delays. Most importantly, HR1309 stipulates that information is always presumed to be public, unless it specifically falls into an exempted category such as personnel or national security.
And then he voted to “tighten procedures for federal contracts” in the “wake of billions of fraudulent contracts being awarded for work in Iraq.”
Good for him. A little late, perhaps, but needed legislation. The contractor bill might have been especially helpful before the war, but none of these *sshats seemed to give it any thought wa-a-ay back in 2003. But being a pessimist, especially in everything Dennis Rehberg, I suspect that those whose goody bags are threatened by this bill – the new majority in Congress, the Democratic party – had much to do with our Representative’s sudden interest in tightening contracts. Still I welcome the reform, even if it could be politically motivated.
But on two other pieces of public disclosure legislation, Rehberg cast disappointing “no” votes:
–Against strengthening a post-Watergate law that gives the public and historians access to unclassified presidential records starting 12 years after the president leaves office.
–Against providing whistle-blower protection to civil servants who report superiors seeking to suppress or distort scientific information for political reasons and against whistle-blower protection for government employees and contractor employees in national security agencies.
Ah, yes. It’s funny what legislation Rehberg supports. Why does our goat-farming Representative care about White House records 12 years from now? Is it because he plans on still serving in public office then? And why no protection for whistle-blowers? Is it because of all the information that has recently come out against the Bush administration on all of their reprehensible practices, unwarranted spying on the American people, torture, rendition? Etc?
(Whistle-blowing probably deserves its own post, but suffice to say without whistle-blowing we wouldn’t know what illegal sh*t our government was up to. That’s not a good thing. Really.)
I can’t come away with any other explanation other than that these votes were politically motivated, that Rehberg has a decided interest in stopping the flow of bad news coming out of the White House investigations.
I can’t help but feel that, during national “Sunshine Week,” our representative’s ambivalence about freedom of information makes him the little black cloud of Congress.
by Jay Stevens
The New York Times today adroitly outlined the possible malfeasance of the Bush administration in the prosecutor purge.
Basically in the evidence at hand, there is reason to believe that crimes have taken place. The Times:
It is true, as the White House keeps saying, that United States attorneys serve “at the pleasure of the president,” which means he can dismiss them whenever he wants. But if the attorneys were fired to interfere with a valid prosecution, or to punish them for not misusing their offices, that may well have been illegal.
The Times enlisted the help of Congressional staff members and an NYU law professor to “identify all the legal issues and possible crimes.” This is what they came up with based on the information they currently have:
–Impeding a Congressional inquiry
–Obstruction of justice
–Impeding an official proceeding
Certainly this list of crimes is serious indeed, and anybody who cares for our legal system should be concerned that the administration may have been trying to pervert justice for their own political ends.
Still don’t see it? The Times:
Much more needs to be learned, and Senator Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who leads the Judiciary Committee, has been admirably firm about insisting that he will get sworn testimony from Karl Rove and other key players. It is far too soon to say that anyone committed a crime, and it may well be that no one has. But if this were a law school issue spotter, any student who could not identify any laws that may have been broken would get an “F.”
by Jay Stevens
The Missoula Independent profiled Bill McKibbon, who’s coming to town Sunday, March 25.
Pretty much, I agree whole-heartedly with McKibbon’s vision of a “deep, durable” economy. Basically, the premise is that our economy, based on provide consumers with bigger, faster, cheaper products isn’t making us any happier.
The problem, as he puts it in [his most recent book] Deep Economy, is: “We have a surplus of individualism and a deficit of companionship, and so the second becomes more valuable.” Rather than ask how much money do I make, McKibben suggests people should ask: “How many close friends do I have and how much time am I able to spend with my family, my friends and my neighbors? These are things that have changed dramatically in this country in the last 50 years. Connections and relationships not only don’t track economic growth, but run in an opposite direction.”
In order to become happier, McKibbon argues, we need to concentrate less on consumer goods and materialism, but on products that really matter to us, like housing and health care, community and environment.
Pressed for specifics on how the region and its residents can make their economy deeper and more durable, McKibben offers this thought exercise: “Try to imagine a Missoula where 50 percent of the calories people eat are grown in a radius of a few hundred miles; where there’s a good local transit system that people are using; where people get half their pay not in federal greenbacks but in Missoula Money that only works in Western Montana, so they produce a thriving economy that supplies food and energy and entertainment and other essentials like beer.”
McKibbon’s vision runs completely afoul of most economists’ theories and feelings on how the markets should work, because it means it’s likely we’d pay more for our consumer products than we would if we shipped them from some huge factory in Mexico. Economically speaking, it’s inefficient. It’s a money giveaway.
But here’s what they miss: McKibbon’s fantasy Western Montana seems like a delightful place where you’d actually want to live. It’s the same impulse that drives people to pay three dollars for a cup of coffee, so they can sit in a leather armchair and read magazines in a cafe – an impulse that baffles many economists. But we’re people, not commodities, and we want to live good lives.
by Jay Stevens
Sidney Blumenthal has an excellent summation of the prosecutor purge and the White House’s involvement in the scandal. It’s definitely worth a read.
Here are some highlights:
An internal e-mail, dated Jan. 6, 2005, and circulated within [the White House legal counsel’s] office, quoted Rove as asking “how we planned to proceed regarding the U.S. attorneys, whether we are going to allow all to stay, request resignations from all and accept only some of them, or selectively replace them, etc.” Three days later, [former Atty Gen’l Chief of Staff Kyle] Sampson, in an e-mail, “Re: Question from Karl Rove,” wrote: “As an operational matter we would like to replace 15-20 percent of the current U.S. attorneys — the underperforming ones …The vast majority of U.S. attorneys, 80-85 percent I would guess, are doing a great job, are loyal Bushies, etc., etc.”
The “Bushies” comment is, of course, the damning bit. It shows that Sampson and Rove were thinking of ousting those attorneys who weren’t loyal to the Bush administration, and links the firings to Karl Rove and, one assumes, the President himself.
Blumenthal makes quick work of the White House apologists who compare Bush’s selective political firings to other prosecutor firings in the past:
A report issued on Feb. 22 from the Congressional Research Service revealed that between 1981 and 2006, only five of the 486 U.S. attorneys failed to finish their four-year terms, and none were fired for political reasons. Only three were fired for questionable behavior, including one on “accusations that he bit a topless dancer on the arm during a visit to an adult club after losing a big drug case.” In brief, Bush’s firings were unprecedented…
Things look especially bleak for New Mexico lawmakers Pete Domenici and Heather Wilson, who tried to coerce New Mexico attorney, David Iglesias, into pursuing a corruption case involving Democrats before the 2006 elections. There wasn’t enough evidence to pursue the case, though, and Iglesias was fired despite a stellar prosecutorial record. Both Domenici and Wilson have hired lawyers, no doubt in anticipation of the criminal charges that are likely to follow.
Blumenthal gives a brief summary of the probably reasons why each of the disputed firings took place:
–David Iglesias: (author of “Why I Was Fired”) refused to pursue nonexistent corruption charges against New Mexico Democrats
–David McKay: refused to pursue nonexistent voter fraud charges against Washington state Democrats
–Carol Lam: had prosecuted “Duke” Cunningham, and had her sights on GOP fundraiser Brent Wilkes, CIA exec Dusty Foggo, and California Republican Jerry Lewis
–“Bud” Cummins: investigating “conflict-of-interest corruption involving state contracts that Missouri governor Matt Blunt granted to Republican contributors”
–Paul Charlton: was “investigating Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., for allegedly corrupt land deals and introducing legislation to benefit a major campaign contributor…”
Carol Lam is especially worth keeping an eye on: of all the correspondence thus far unearthed from Bill Mercer, he seems to be most heavily involved in her firing.
by Jay Stevens
Rightie Montana Headlines agreed that Rehberg made missteps in the affair, acknowledged that Tester’s schedule is, in fact, readily available (barring the occasional delay), but still fails to admit that the Sunlight Foundation’s project is, well, a good thing. In fact, MH implied that shady deals will be pushed even further into the darkness, and that the project isn’t really that useful:
Montanans reading Sen. Tester’s schedule are going to have a false sense of security about the level of “what Jon is doing right now,” if that’s the sort of thing they need to give them a sense of security about their representatives in Washington.
Call us cynical, but we suspect that soon everyone in Washington will have their public schedules just like Tester — and they will be the equivalent of C-Span speeches to an empty chamber, while the things that we might be most concerned about take place off-camera. Meanwhile, we’ll have another way to play political “gotcha” on things that, unlike votes cast and bills written, don’t mean a blessed thing.
MH’s cynical (he asked for it!) view calls into question the whole effort of the project.
Now I really like the Sunlight Foundation’s mission. In fact, bringing transparency and accountability to government is one of the main goals of this blog.
So I contacted the Sunlight Foundation about MH’s claims, and asked if they could supply a rebuttal, an answer that would explain their mission and why Montanans should support it.
Here’s the answer I received from Nisha Thompson, the Sunlight Foundation’s organizer (emphasis mine):
“The Punch Clock Campaign’s goal is to get Members of Congress to post all their daily meetings that pertain to the work of being an elected official. The fact of the matter is more information people receive about the decision making process the better. During the campaign 92 candidates signed the agreement with about an equal number of Republicans and Democrats. Of those people, only one signer won, Kristen Gillibrand (NY-22) (while Tester wasn’t an “official signer” he promised to do it and fulfilled that promise). The goal was never to create a “gotcha” mentality but to start a conversation on how people should be interacting with their elected officials.
“Representatives Tester, Doolittle, Nelson and Gillibrand, each in different degrees, have opened the door for citizens to comment and engage in their work like never before, and we should applaud them.
“Decisions are already made behind closed doors and likely will continue to be. This is without doubt. However, citizens have no window into their representatives’ activities and this breeds cynicism and distrust. The posting of a schedule is a net positive as it connects the constituent to the activities of the representative. For example: Dan Burton (IN-R) missed 19 votes, in January, because he was golfing in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, he had been doing this for years and none of his constituents knew. If he had been posting a schedule would he think twice about missing work to go golfing?
“Since Sen. Tester has posted his schedule have the citizens of Montana learned more or less about what he does in Washington? Compare that to what you know about the members of your delegation that don’t post. A constituent can go online and see that Jon Tester is meeting with some Montana coal lobby and call his office to ask what happened at that meeting and if the Senator will be meeting with an environmental group. Or vice versa. The Senator’s office could even direct the constituent to a previous schedule to show that the Senator indeed has spoken to this or that group.
“Saying that more information creates more corruption assumes a certain naiveté on the part of citizens. People understand the difference between someone who is fully and partially disclosing information, and value each choice respectively. A Senator who routinely lies about his meetings will be found out relatively quickly, largely because the lie would not be a private one among the staff but one that the public has access to.
If your employee lies on their time sheet what do you do? Do you make them stop filling out time sheets?
“Members of Congress can only be what they’re constituents demand from them. Sunlight believes that if you demand more information, more access, and more opportunities for oversight you get a better deal for your vote.”
by Jay Stevens
Tyler Owen of Cato Unbound wrote an interesting article recently claiming that libertarian ideals are responsible for bigger government:
Those developments [brought about by libertarian ideals] have brought us much greater wealth and much greater liberty, at least in the positive sense of greater life opportunities. They’ve also brought much bigger government. The more wealth we have, the more government we can afford. Furthermore, the better government operates, the more government people will demand. That is the fundamental paradox of libertarianism. Many initial victories bring later defeats.
Owen’s argument is that libertarians should accept this “paradox” as part of the tradeoff for the movement’s victories.
The old formulas were “big government is bad” and “liberty is good,” but these are not exactly equal in their implications. The second motto — “liberty is good” — is the more important. And the older story of “big government crushes liberty” is being superseded by “advances in liberty bring bigger government.”
The bottom line is this: human beings have deeply rooted impulses to take newly acquired wealth and spend some of it on more government and especially on transfer payments. Let’s deal with that.
Sort of amusing, isn’t it? On one hand, Owen is absolutely right in saying that people like efficient, good government, and that libertarians and other anti-government nuts should deal with it. On the other, it’s all stated with the usual smug know-it-all tone adopted by so many fellow libertarians. (Like when Owen gave laid all of the credit for our reasonably stable society at the feet of the libertarian movement.)
Take this statement:
So much of libertarianism has become a series of complaints about voter ignorance, or against the motives of special interest groups. The complaints are largely true, but many of the battles are losing ones.
Hilarious. It’s the usual standby for libertarians: people are too stupid to know what they want, let us tell you what it is you want. (Personally I find the idea a small cluster of antisocial eggheads dictating to us how everything should be run to be somewhat…repulsive. But I’m funny that way.)
It reminds me of all the economist puzzling over the “irrationality” of investors approaching the market, that consumers would actually let morality or ethics or emotion seep into their investment choices. Hello! These are people you’re dealing with!
People like using government for collective civic projects, like a bus system, or buying open space, or insuring poor children. There’s nothing wrong in this. In fact, I’d argue that there’s nothing but good in these issues. I realize that’s moot, but that’s also why we vote on these things.
Owen goes on to say that libertarians need to start worrying about other things, like possible environmental disaster, intellectual property and biology, and nuclear proliferation – all of which, he admits, will require the helping hand of big, bad government.
(By the way, I liked his reasoning on why we should worry about climate change:
…if the chance of mainstream science being right is only 20% (and assuredly it is much higher than that), we still have, in expected value terms, a massive tort. We don’t let people play involuntary Russian roulette on others with a probability of 17% (one bullet, six chambers), so we do need to worry about man-made global warming.
A bit cold, perhaps, but some people do base all of their decisions on the possible monetary impact something will have…)
I think people who are libertarian-minded (but not perhaps not self-identified libertarians) who clamor for liberty often recognize that good government — responsive to the people – can be a partner in ensuring personal liberty. Owen, too, tacitly admits this, even while loudly decrying “New Deal” policies for the curmudgeonly among his readers. Of course, the first step is to ensure that government is responsive and transparent…
by Jay Stevens
Tired of the Bush presidency? Angry with the administration’s indifference to the US Constitution and the freedoms found therein? Would you like to see some justice meted out to amoral *sshats who used their sacred government positions to further the political agenda of the Bush administration?
Well, now’s your chance to help out!
The Department of Justice has dumped over 3,000 pages of documents to the House Judiciary Committee and Talking Points Memo wants you to help sift through the documents for interesting or damning information.
Download some documents from the House website and read ‘em through. Post any useful information you may find to the comments section.
By the way, from reading the excerpted emails from and Bill Mercer…it seems he did some bad things. So you media types may want to keep an eye on the proceedings.
Recently Spokane’s Spokesman Reivew profiled Helen Tester, Jon’s mother, and matriarch of the Tester clan. She’s a strong personality, a mensch, and an example what quality people Montana produces.
Unfortunately, the newspaper put the article behind its firewall (certainly not a way to win readers) so I was unable to link to it or quote from it. In the meantime, I found a copy. So here it is in its entirety for your reading pleasure:
Mrs. Tester goes to Washington
Helen’s youngest son new junior senator for Montana
March 10, 2007
On Jan. 5, Helen Tester, who makes her home north of Hayden, flew to Washington, D.C., to see her youngest son, Jon, sworn in to office as the new junior senator from Montana.
“She had a ball – she was running on adrenalin,” said her eldest son, local veterinarian Dr. David Tester. “Our family was going to visit the Capitol building and planned to climb the three flights of stairs into the dome, and my mother insisted she was going to go, too. I didn’t think it was a good idea, and we didn’t want her to try it. But she really wanted to go up there and thought she could make the climb.”
Helen, who stands straight and tall and moves with confidence, celebrated her 87th birthday on Feb. 7.
On the day before the planned climb into the dome, the family visited the three floors of the Ford Theater, where John Wilkes Booth fired the shot that killed Abraham Lincoln. After negotiating the theater’s stairways Helen announced, to the relief of her family, that she had changed her mind about climbing into the dome of the Capitol building.
The family also had scheduled a guided tour through other government buildings. “We got her a wheelchair,” David Tester said, but, at first, she resisted the idea.
She now says that she was glad the family insisted on the wheelchair. “The buildings are so big and the halls so long and their floors are so hard and our guide took such big steps. …” She shakes her head and smiles.
What buildings did she find most impressive? “We didn’t have time for everything,” she said. “We arrived in Washington on Tuesday and were there just four days.”
The buildings she found particularly impressive were the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court building, and she loved the paintings, murals and statues that seemed to be everywhere.
“And, of course, there was the Lincoln Memorial,” she added.
After the swearing-in ceremonies came receptions – tables spread with food and crowds filling the rooms.
“We were invited to the reception the Kennedy family hosted in one of the large rooms of the Capitol complex,” she said. “An older woman came to where I was sitting and put her hand on my shoulder and introduced herself saying, ‘We are so glad you are here.’ It was Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert Kennedy. “I also met the Clintons, who were together at the reception.”
“And,” her son added, “She got a hug from Senator Obama.”
She has pictures, taken by one of her nephews, to prove it.
Back home, far from the excitement of the nation’s Capitol, Helen lives quietly in the house she and her late husband, David, built, next to her son David and his wife, Becky. Some of David’s oxen and several horses graze just beyond her windows. She has two cats, Charlie and Kitty, and a dog who answers to Willie. She plays bridge regularly with other women who didn’t realize she was the mother of a soon-to-be U.S. senator.
“I didn’t talk about it until one day one of them asked if I was related to him,” she said. “I told her, yes. Even though I didn’t talk about my son’s running for office, I feel it is very important for us to pay attention and know what is going on in Washington, to be informed. After all, those people are making decisions that are affecting our lives.”
Helen and her husband turned their ranch at Big Sandy, Mont., over to Jon and his wife, Sharla, in 1978 and moved to the Rathdrum Prairie.
“After giving the farm to Jon and his family we didn’t want to stay and be tempted to tell them how to do things,” she said. “My husband became manager of the Kootenai County Fair and I agreed to be assistant manager. He did the talking and I did the work,” she said. “He loved to talk to people.”
On the subject of raising children, Helen said she feels the farm in the Big Sky Country was a great place. “The boys learned responsibility early because they had to help.” Bob, the middle son and now retired, spent 32 years in the National Guard, and Jon, has farmed, taught school, served on both the local school board and in the Montana Legislature.
Helen explains one story that has been circulated about how Jon, , at the age of 9, lost three fingers on his left hand in a meat-cutting machine. The family had a small meat-cutting business on the farm and packaged meat for local people.
“I felt terrible about the accident,” she said. “My husband had to go to town and Jon and I were just cleaning up. Jon tried to remove a shred of meat that had become caught and the blades just took the outside three fingers right off. They found the fingers later and if I had just thought maybe we could have packed them in ice and taken them with us to be sewed back on. They do that, you know. But,” she shudders. “I was so anxious to get him to a doctor. My husband blamed himself, too.”
The loss of the three fingers on his left hand changed Jon’s ambitions to play the sax. David said that where they went to school, once you reached the age of 8 you could pick an instrument and learn how to play. “My brother picked the sax. But after the accident the sax was out, he didn’t have the fingers needed,” David said. “So he just changed to the trumpet.”
“He never griped about the loss of the fingers,” Helen added. “He just went ahead and did what he wanted to do.”
That included forming a high school musical group that played for various events around the area. Jon also served as student body president. As a result of his musical experience, he was offered a scholarship in music to the University of Great Falls.
What do the sons believe their parents gave them in the way of a values for living their lives?
When asked, Jon said there is so much but, “I will just list three: Honesty; straight talk, don’t beat around the bush. Just tell the truth. Hard work. Anything worth accomplishing will require hard work. Don’t take your health and your family for granted. You cannot afford to lose either.”
After more thought he added, “My folks were always positive about the future and were not afraid to go to work to affect change for their own future but more importantly for the next generations’ future. Common sense played into their actions and I hope mine. They lead by example.”
When it comes to her sons, of what is Helen most proud? She thinks for a moment before answering. “They are good, they are honest and they would do anything for me,” she said. “They are just nice to be around.”
by Jay Stevens
You’ve probably read about it – oh, everywhere – but it’s the four-year anniversary of the Iraq war. (Congratulations, Bush administration! Here’s wishing you no more!)
The first thing to do is think of the servicemen and –women in Iraq. We should all remind ourselves daily of what they’re going through, and what they’re doing. A good place to start is Slate’s The Sandbox, which features first-hand accounts of life in the desert.
Next, head over to the Stars & Stripes for its “Four Years in Iraq” special, and its featurettes profiling four men who are currently fighting the war.
If you don’t want to read a political rant about the war, now’s a good time to leave this post.
Steve Benen has an excellent post up today about this dubious anniversary. Read over the account of the Iraqi who helped pull down Saddam’s statue in 2004, and who now says the occupation is worse than living under Hussein. (And yes, that’s one account.)
Read Tony Snow’s response to a reporter who pressed Tony Snow for an explanation on Bush’s “recipe for success”: “zip it!”
Settle on Senator Gary Heart’s “Lessons of Iraq.” In it, he clearly outlines the way to successful future foreign policy:
Do not manufacture justification for invasions. Plan for all eventualities, including the most unpleasant. Do not pay exiles to tell you what you want to hear. Deal honestly with Congress and the American people. Be candid about possible costs in lives and money.
First, treat jihadist terrorism more like organized crime than traditional warfare. By declaring “war on terrorism” we made the fatal mistake that it could be crushed using conventional warfare and massed armies….
Second, liberate the U.S. from dependence on Persian Gulf oil. We can then sharply reduce the U.S. military presence in the region and remove the single most important iincentive for jihadism….
Third, restore principle to American foreign policy….We must regain our moral authority in the world by living up to our own high ideals and Constitutional principles. [Mark T does his bit by explaining why the Iraq mess was immoral from beginning to end. – JS]
Fourth, engage the nations of the world in achieving security for the global commons….
One of the many things that angers me about the Iraq War and the Bush administration in general is the squandered opportunity for creating a sensible and lasting new world order in the months following September 11. (Mark T might not have liked this order, but we’d be debating\ fair trade and campaign finance reform in this alternative future, instead of dead bodies and Constitutional crises, like we do now.) If Heart’s proposals had been applied then, we might have had something to be proud of.
Well…instead we’ve got a big clusterf*ck in Iraq that’s enriching the worst among us, is creating more international terrorists, is killing American boys and girls and untold numbers of Iraqis, and that has just about every person on the planet thinking we’re a bigger threat to peace and stability than Iran or North Korea.
A number of you might flinch at such accusations. Most of us are decent people wanting to do what’s right. Which is all the more reason why the Bush administration’s actions are so shameful. They never gave us a chance to think things out – they foisted this on us, falsifying evidence to invade. We never got a chance to decide what to do.
by Jay Stevens
Montana Headlines yesterday responded to the “Where’s Dennis?” project, brushing it off lightly:
So, a few folks made it their mission in life to call the Rehberg office daily to ask for a schedule, and have made much about the fact that they haven’t received a copy. Rehberg of course should simply have done what Max Baucus did when asked the same question and mumbled something unintelligible rather than say something clear that he could be held to.
As I’ve said before, the issue here is that Rehberg’s office “misstated” and has never bothered to correct the wrong impression created by that “misstatement.”
As for Don Pogreba being a “busybody”…well, aren’t you glad someone is looking into these things? The media sure isn’t scrutinizing our elected offiicals.
If you don’t have a problem with an elected official “misstating” to create an impression of himself that’s patently untrue – in this case, that his dealings are aboveboard and for everyone to see – fine. Say so.
What I didn’t emphasize Friday is that government transparency is vital for our democratic system. This isn’t just about a “misstatement,” it’s about ethics. As regular readers of this blog know, Dennis Rehberg has had some ethical “missteps,” so us wanting to know who he meets with, and when, is actually of some importance. (And that’s why I’m eagerly awaiting Max Baucus’ schedule to appear, as well. But at least he never said it was already available.)
Lastly, there was some smirking from Montana Headlines and Jack the Blogger that Jon Tester’s schedule hadn’t been updated since March 14th (written on the 17th).
First, that would mean Tester had published more of his schedule than all of Montana’s nationally elected officials combined. Second, it’s time to refresh your browsers, people.
I’m actually grateful to Montana Headlines for comparing Rehberg and Tester. You know, it only reinforces that we did the right thing by electing Tester into office, and the wrong thing by putting Rehberg back into his House seat.
(By the way, as Montana Headlines has twice called me his “favorite” left-wing blogger, I would like to return the dubious compliment. MH is well-thought-out and just funny enough to make a good read, no matter which side of the aisle you seat yourself. And I hope this compliment does not deter righties from enjoying his work.)
by Jay Stevens
Don Pogreba of IntelligentDiscontent.com says he’s made more than 20 phone calls and visits to Rehberg’s various state offices but has yet to see a copy of Rehberg’s daily schedule.
“I think it’s important that they are honest,” Pogreba says, “and secondarily it seems like as citizens we have a right to know what [our representatives] are doing with their time.”
Rehberg’s chief of staff Erik Iverson couldn’t agree more.
“The public has a right to know…but it shouldn’t be about a political game of gotcha,” Iverson says.
According to Iverson, Rehberg’s staff is currently working on revamping his congressional website, and once that’s completed his detailed schedule will be posted each day.
It’s quite true that Pogie was playing politics with Rehberg by asking for his schedule. But Adams and Iverson miss the point. Here’s the quote from the original article that spurred Don to actually ring up his Representative’s office:
“Denny’s schedule has always been available,” said spokesman Bridger Pierce. “The public can always stop by any of our five offices, call our 1-800 number, and we can e-mail them or fax them a copy of our schedule.”
Got that? “Denny’s schedule has always been available…” Which was a lie. That’s the point of Pogie’s posts. That and Noelle Straub’s failure to fact check the claim. In fact, when Pogie called Rehberg’s office after reading the report to ask for his schedule, he was told flat-out that it wasn’t available.
That’s the story.
Did Bridger Pierce lie? Or was he mistaken? I’ve seen nothing — nothing — from Rehberg, Straub, Adams or anybody dealing with the (deliberate?) misstatements from the lawmaker’s office about this subject.
Perhaps I’m making too much out of an administrative f*ck up.
On the other hand, this little lie characterizes Rehberg’s style perfectly. It makes him appear what he’s not. Like his cowboy goat-farmer shtick. Or his rhetorical support for Iraq, but his unwillingness to pay for it. Or his I-was-against-it-even-while-voting-for-it explanation for his support of some of Richard Pombo’s public land giveaway schemes.
It just don’t add up.
by Jay Stevens
The House Republicans have sure made a mess.
I touched on this a little in earlier post, commenting on the GOP’s plans to trim $3 billion in funding for the elderly, children, and the mentally ill. But things got worse since.
They’ve trimmed the state Health and Human Services budget to $300. That’s no typo – that’s all the zeroes there are in the budget. The Gazette:
This amendment would wipe out programs serving more than 300,000 Montanans. These include the Children’s Health Insurance Plan; Medicaid, the federal-state health program for poor people; mental health programs and hundreds of others.
The three hundred dollars is, of course, just a symbolic flip of the bird.
But the bottom line here is that it is very important for the Republican Party to emphasize their core principles.
Like hating poor people.
I don’t even know how to satirize this any more. It’s like if a Democrat introduced a bill to tax looking at the moon. It’s beyond parody.
Montana Republicans disgust me. Absolutely and thoroughly disgust me. If the people that voted these idiots into office don’t or won’t speak up, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to speak to a Republican again with out thinking of a swear word. The basic lack of common respect dished out today by the Republican House was appalling.
Ed Kemmick, who had earlier praised House Republicans for their “gamesmanship”:
But when I mentioned games, I was thinking of chess, or football or baseball, games of skill and maneuver, games in which experience counts for a lot. I don’t know what to say now, when the Republicans appear to be playing Go Fish or T-ball….
But now it’s the Republicans whining because the Democrats refuse to play by the re-written rules. The Democrats were perfectly within their rights—in fact, the Republicans hardly left them any choice—when they simply decided to sit out and let the Republicans try to pull off this farce by themselves.
Political games are defensible only if they are played in pursuit of some worthier goal. If the Republicans even have a goal anymore, except to make themselves look stupid, I don’t know what it is.
Yesterday, the Missoulian chided the House GOP for splitting up the budget:
No one’s talking about budget specifics in Helena. It’s all about the process – one bill or six or eight. The political theatrics likewise divert public attention. Whatever budget emerges, it promises to be the least scrutinized tax-and-spending package in modern history.
The paper calls on Republicans to return to HB 2 and use their “powers of persuasion” in negotiations with the Governor to get reductions in spending.
The Great Falls Tribune on the H&HS cut:
We hope Montanans are comfortable with the idea that one man whose politics are somewhere to the right of the entire Republican Party appears to be dictating much of what passes the state House of Representatives.
We refer to Rick Jore, the affable lawmaker from Ronan who is the Legislature’s sole member of the Constitution Party, a group that probably could hold its annual convention in the back of a van.
The Billings Gazette’s editorial board – who are a day behind the news – were pretty harsh on the House Republicans and their “leader” Scott Sales today because of their creation of two additional budget bills – upping the tally to eight — without any chance for public input or scrutiny.
Tuesday morning, The Gazette editorial board chatted with House Speaker Scott Sales in a telephone conference call that he had requested last week. It was a cordial exchange with Sales describing how the six GOP budget bills would be brought to the house floor in the next two days and that the “six-pack” eventually would be sent to the governor at the same time so he would have a full 10 days to make a decision on signing them.
Imagine the editorial board’s surprise to find that at the time Sales spoke with the board, other GOP House leaders were scrapping one of their six major state spending bills and breaking it into three parts.
“I almost told you, but it wasn’t quite ready for public consumption,” Sales told the editorial writer later Tuesday.
That, or Sales didn’t know about the changes, either.
How can the public participate in this quick-change legislation? Seventy-two-hour notice was posted Tuesday for the Friday hearings, Sales said. That would mean the notice would have to have taken effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday, before the bills were introduced. They weren’t all accessible at the legislative Web site as of late Tuesday afternoon.
The editorial chides Sales for not letting folks have their say – people who are “important to the process,” even if they happen to be experts on the issues – and in the end skewers the GOP’s budget:
The governor’s budget certainly can be improved. But it isn’t the reckless spending spree that his critics have said. There’s no “rainy-day fund” in the House GOP plan, although Schweitzer and senators of both parties have proposed saving some of this biennium’s extraordinary surplus for leaner times. The GOP bills set no money aside to pay for future public school building repairs as the governor proposed. Schweitzer’s budget contains millions in one-time-only spending, including financing capital projects with current revenues instead of bonding. Schweitzer’s government funding and tax-cut proposals appear to be sustainable.
Can the GOP House leadership say the same about its larger, permanent tax cuts and smaller government funding? Asked about that on Tuesday, Sales didn’t answer the question.
Me, on March 6:
There’s been some touting of the Republican party’s shift to the right in recent state politics, as if that meant a new and dedicated sense of unity and mission. There’s been some crowing that the Republicans’ response to Schweitzer’s budget was completely unexpected, and surprised overconfident Democrats.
I admit it was hard to predict that House Republicans would choose such a contentious, time-consuming, and ultimately hopeless means to tout their ideology in the legislature. In the end, of course, it will be that ideological stubbornness that sinks the GOP in this budget battle.
To add to Ed’s collection, it looks like the chickens are coming home to hatch before they were counted.
by Jay Stevens
Before I jump into the subject, here’s the disclaimer: I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000.
As is his bent, the Notorious Mark T recently defended Mr. Nader from a spurious blogo-attack on the man’s motives, in which Nader was called “a deluded Leninist megalomaniac who preferred to lead the country closer to disaster in the hopes that this would somehow make things better in the end.”
This is a true statement. (Well, maybe not the Leninist crack.)
Certainly Mark T is right on when characterizing the 2000 Presidential elections:
One, Gore cost Gore the presidency by running a centrist to right-leaning campaign and failing to ignite the liberals and progressives who could have swept him into the presidency – one that was his for the taking. He screwed up, DLC style. (Does anyone remember his VP choice? Conservative Joe Lieberman from not-so-important Connecticut. What was he thinking?)
The reason I cast my vote for Nader – besides living at the time in a state that went safely for Gore – was that the 2000 version of Gore was a preppie moralist with a cranky conservative running mate trying to out-pray GW Bush into the White House. And he was trying to win by separating himself from the recently impeached Clinton. It was a backpedaling, sycophantic performance at a time when a strong response to the right’s Quixotic and mean-spirited putsch attempt was needed.
Besides playing the squeaky-clean Robin sidekick to Clinton’s conflicted Batman, the most lasting impression of Gore was his wife Tipper’s attempt to censor the music industry, which drew a famous response from underground hero, Frank Zappa.
At that time it truly seemed as if there were no difference between Democrats and Republicans.
Of course now we know better.
The irony here is that Nader, believing there was no difference between Gore and Bush, brushed off any dire warnings about his candidacy’s effect on the election in a 2000 interview with the New York Times:
And [Nader] called the possibility that a court packed with Republican appointees could overturn Roe v. Wade a “scare tactic.” On Sunday, Mr. Nader said in a television interview that even if Roe v. Wade was overturned, the issue “would just revert to the states.” Just?
“Here’s what happened on that,” he said wearily. “The scare tactic is that would end choice in America, and I just said that’s not true, but I should have been astute enough not to mention that.”
He said he did not in any case believe for a moment that Mr. Bush would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade. “The first back alley death, and the Republican Party is in deep trouble and they know it,” he said. He described the party’s opposition to abortion as just for show, “just for Pat Robertson.”
Thanks to the South Dakota legislature, we now know what would happen if SCOTUS handed abortion to the states: draconian and intrusive legislation going far beyond Nader’s wildest dreams. (Never mind how much his candidacy might lend itself to the “first back alley death.”)
While some cling to the fantasy that history would have unfolded in the same manner if Gore were at the nation’s helm, it’s pretty clear that things would be quite different. For one FEMA was a good organization under the Clinton administration and would have likely remained so under Gore.
I think the New Yorker’s David Remnick sums it up nicely:
But can anyone seriously doubt that a Gore Administration would have meant, well, an alternate universe, in which, say, American troops were sent on a necessary mission in Afghanistan but not on a mistaken and misbegotten one in Iraq; the fate of the earth, not the fate of oil-company executives, was the priority of the Environmental Protection Agency; civil liberties and diplomacy were subjects of attention rather than of derision; torture found no place or rationale?
But these facts didn’t distract Nader who again ran in 2004, well after the effects of a radical conservative on the nation’s security, economic health, and sense of national unity were readily apparent. If there was ever a time to endorse a “centrist” Democrat, it was in 2004, when “Republican lite” should have been welcomed – warmly – by any reasonable person. Mediocrity would have been a step up – a large and meaningful step up. By 2004 it was obvious that a seriously incompetent and radical administration could have lasting, serious, and real consequences for all…
(It’s fitting, then, that Nader’s 2004 candidacy has destroyed any credibility he had. It was a stark admission of his own megalomania. His opinions and candidacy were more important than the fate of the nation and world. What he should have done is rallied the base around Democratic candidates. Instead he ran with a Green party sidekick – the same Green party that was used at least once by conservatives to siphon votes from a Democratic race in a tight contest.)
What was – is — needed, of course, was a populist wave, reinvigorated by the administration and GOP excesses during their single-party rule, to sweep up strong progressive Democratic candidates and propel them into office, which is what happened in 2006. But that network was only beginning in 2004.
But some still cling to a 1999 worldview.
But here’s the point that needs to be made again and again: We are stuck with a two-party system. It’s not a good system. Since both parties are financed by essentially the same corporate money, they tend to represent the same colors, differing only in shades. The role of third parties is to blackmail the major parties into acceptance of populist policies. They only way they can do this is to threaten to deprive major party candidates of votes.
Democrats demand two things of progressives: Their votes, and their silence. Alterman seems to think we owe centrist and right wing Democrats our vote. But we have every right to withhold our support, to threaten them with election defeat unless they listen to us.
Let’s get real, people. It’s a two-party system. That’s the way it will remain as long as we have winner-take-all elections in this country. The way to effect change is to get involved in the process early and often. Open your wallet; pound the pavement. Find people you believe in and stick with them. It worked in 2006. It very well might work in 2008.
And you’ll find you’ll actually make a difference. That’s real progressive politics.