Archive for June, 2008

by Jay Stevens

Hm. Apparently a four-star general and former theater commander questioned whether a former pilot’s experience in the military automatically qualified him for a leadership position. The answer, as you all know by now, was “no.”

Or, as Dave Crisp so clearly explains:

The RNC called this an attack. Is it? Not to me. I served three years in the Army as a linguist and radio operator. Does that qualify me to be president? Not in the least. Would I be offended by someone who pointed this out? Not at all. Sen. McCain obviously does have qualifications to be president, and the fortitude he showed as a prisoner may be one of them, but flying an airplane is not.

Nonetheless, much ado followed.

Digby, as always, nails it in her reaction to the reaction, calling it “The Grand Hissy Fit Redux”:

The point of that hissy fit wasn’t to uphold the honor of General Petraeus or even the armed forces. It was shut down any criticism of the war in Iraq. That’s what today’s hissy fit against Wes Clark is all about too, with the added bonus of shutting down all criticism of John McCain’s truly embarrassing ignorance on foreign policy in general.

Really, what Clark said was entirely reasonable. The reaction was not. But then, that’s all the GOP has at this point: phony outrage. And the media, with its collective crush on the Republican nominee, is easily led down this path.

by Rebecca Schmitz

Imagine being Rep. Roger Koopman for a moment. No, really. Go drink a quadruple shot of espresso, yell at your kids, kick a fawn–whatever it takes to get that angry and aggressive. Imagine yourself wanting to purge your political party of people you feel are “socialists”. Imagine finding like minded individuals to help you achieve this goal. Surely, like you, these people would be so proud of their activities and opinions they would openly reveal themselves to the voters and the media, right? Right?

Not these guys.

Whether or how these groups coordinated their efforts is unclear. Officials from most of the groups did not return telephone messages, ignored e-mails or declined to say much about what they are doing. What is unusual about most of this latest collection of groups…is their formation just before the election and their relative obscurity and secrecy, says state Political Practices Commissioner Dennis Unsworth.

Apparently Koopman’s (and John Sinrud’s–he has ties to some of the groups, and Ed Butcher’s–but we’re all used to Ed and his family being less than forthcoming about their political associates) pals don’t answer the telephone, provide their phone number, let alone provide the correct digits, or even stay on the phone once they’ve said “Hello?”

Speaking of Ed Butcher, since these groups have become his BFFs let’s remember what District Judge Dirk Sandefur said two years ago, when he declared that Butcher’s son’s efforts to influence Montana politics were marked by a “pervasive and general pattern of fraud”:

At least 43 of the signature-gatherers, who vouched for thousands of signatures, listed “false or fictitious” addresses on their sworn affidavits turned in with the signatures, Sandefur noted. That violation alone casts doubt on the petitioners’ credibility, and that oath is critical to guarding the integrity of the initiative process, he said.

Credibility. Integrity. Qualities that start with simply putting the correct e-mail address down on a form. Or just picking up the phone.

by Pete Talbot

Good political insights and some great self promotion over at Daily Kos by Democratic candidate Peter Rosten (HD 57 87 in the Bitterroot). This is one of many Montana legislative campaigns that has great potential and could use our support. Rosten is a film and video producer, which is close to my heart, and he’s done innovative work in Western Montana schools. Here’s his website.

I was remiss in my last ‘favorite links’ not to mention Wulfgar’s! (is that where the apostrophe and exclamation point go?) introspective Obama piece — over at LiTW, of all places. This link is a little late but there’s still some wild commentary going on — presidential retrospectives, recriminations, gender issues — it’s worth a look. Remember, we’re all Democrats here so let us keep our eye on the prize.

Montana congressional candidate John Driscoll is certainly an optimist but then again, he won the Democratic primary without doing any campaigning or raising any money. I sincerely hope he gets his ass in gear and makes a serious run at Rehberg. Driscoll needs to keep Rehberg busy, otherwise Denny will spend his money and time helping other Republican candidates (particularly state legislators) get elected.

So now we know what John Sinrud has been up to since he decided not to run for the legislature: figuring out how to rape the Montana landscape. Along with extractive booster and former Republican Congressman Ron Marlenee, Sinrud has formed the innocuous sounding Western Tradition Partnership. Jim Jenson of the MEIC nicely skewers this organization’s goals.

by Pete Talbot

Although I’m trying to do some serious political writing this week, I keep running across these humorous news nuggets. Here’s another reason to love San Franciscans.

(Tip o’ the hat to Andy Hammond for bringing this piece to my attention.)

by jhwygirl

It’s been what? 3+ years since approval? Talk about the wheels of government!

This, from Jaffe’s listserve:

In other news we heard today that the Higgins Hill Beckwith project may be delayed until next summer. I can’t tell you how frustrating this is. At this point it is likely that construction cannot start before October and will take up to two months to complete. There is great concern about the potential for opening up our first high traffic round-a-bout for the first time in foul weather. There is also concern about having the detour traffic and opening happen while the U and Paxson are in session. It was hoped all of this would take place during the lower traffic summer months. The most recent round of delays focused around a contract dispute with MDOT about sidewalk maintenance and liability. We also still need to work out the details of right of way acquisition. Apparently there is some rule that doesn’t let you work on that concurrent to the design development. No final decisions have been made but the arguments for delay are pretty strong. If you have some thoughts on this I’m sure our public works department would love to hear them.

Where’s Lou Ann? She’d of gotten this thing done…She’d be in there sqwallin’ at someone (probably MDOT) and hammering out some sort of get ‘er done edict, and, you know what? It’d get done.

I notice, incidentally, that Jaffe seems to be “wishing his life away,” as a friend of mine used to say. He’s got his most recent post dated July 25 instead of June. Hey Bob – summer just started! Let’s not rush it!

by Pete Talbot

(The above headline is to be sung to the tune of “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music.)

I love it when someone actually researches the claims from the right that global warming isn’t happening. Dick Barrett shreds a recent global warming denier’s guest column.

Shane takes up the nuclear energy debate and also has a poll. The poll’s results don’t seem to match the comments. Maybe the nuclear industry lobby folks are also linking to Montana Netroots, and voting but not leaving their opinions.

Also over at NetRoots, Cece is pissed. Apparently, the backers of I-159 have removed the initiative from the ballot for some future political favors. I’m not sure how that works but I wasn’t even aware of the petition drive until just last week when someone thrust a clipboard in front of me at Rockin Rudy’s and asked me to sign.

Jay reviews the Montana Republican convention and I agree, Erik Iverson is one hell of a spin doctor. One of my favorite quotes was, “Our diversity in the Montana Republican Party is our strength.” It came from a Missoulian State Bureau story that was headlined, “Diversity, unity the themes at GOP convention.” Now when I think of diversity, I think about people of color, or gays and lesbians. I don’t think about a bunch of white folks that are right wing and far-right wing.

Another nugget from the convention that goes to the heart of Republican diversity was this. It’s a new plank in the party platform that advocates rounding up all the illegal immigrants in the U.S. and shipping them back to whence they came. First of all — good luck. Second of all — where does the budget for this round up come from? And finally, a few Republican critics of the plank said it sends the wrong message. You think?

Finally, most everybody thinks that 18 gubernatorial debates are overkill. While Jay thinks three is plenty, Lamnidae thinks that 174 is a good number (but I think he’s being facetious).  My belief is that one should suffice.  By the way, excuse my ignorance, but just what is a lamnidae?

by Pete Talbot

While doing some research for a pithy political piece, I came across this story. What I found most amusing was the strict AP writing style applied to the piece. It’s written in true police blotter fashion.

While DUI’s, in general, aren’t very funny, this story cracked me up.  I hope this guy isn’t one of Santa’s helpers.

by jhwygirl

Just wondering…..

by jhwygirl

May 25, 1961:

I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshalled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment.

Recognizing the head start obtained by the Soviets with their large rocket engines, which gives them many months of leadtime, and recognizing the likelihood that they will exploit this lead for some time to come in still more impressive successes, we nevertheless are required to make new efforts on our own. For while we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first, we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will make us last. We take an additional risk by making it in full view of the world, but as shown by the feat of astronaut Shepard, this very risk enhances our stature when we are successful. But this is not merely a race. Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.

I therefore ask the Congress, above and beyond the increases I have earlier requested for space activities, to provide the funds which are needed to meet the following national goals:
First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations–explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon–if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.

JFK gave this speech (above is only a minuscule portion) to a joint Congress in what could effectively be described as his State of the Union assessment, having sized up American from inside the pearly white walls of the White House for four months. The Cold War was in its full glory; the economy, while strong, was showing sign of weakening; and social unrest driven by the civil rights movement was driving to its apex.

Kennedy felt that America’s security was threatened by the Russian space program – Sputnik, first, and then their success in launching a man into space. Kennedy decided that putting all of the United State’s resources behind beating the Russians in their space race, by landing a man on the moon – a tremendous challenge, considering how far behind we were – was best for the nation. The proposal was thought by many to be sheer lunacy.

Just 16 months later, on September 12, 1962, Kennedy gave a second speech on the race to the moon at Rice University, defending both the dedication of government resources and the enormous expense.:

And finally, the space effort itself, while still in its infancy, has already created a great number of new companies, and tens of thousands of new jobs. Space and related industries are generating new demands in investment and skilled personnel, and this city and this State, and this region, will share greatly in this growth. What was once the furthest outpost on the old frontier of the West will be the furthest outpost on the new frontier of science and space. Houston, your City of Houston, with its Manned Spacecraft Center, will become the heart of a large scientific and engineering community. During the next 5 years the National Aeronautics and Space Administration expects to double the number of scientists and engineers in this area, to increase its outlays for salaries and expenses to $60 million a year; to invest some $200 million in plant and laboratory facilities; and to direct or contract for new space efforts over $1 billion from this Center in this City.

To be sure, all this costs us all a good deal of money. This year’s space budget is three times what it was in January 1961, and it is greater than the space budget of the previous eight years combined. That budget now stands at $5,400 million a year–a staggering sum, though somewhat less than we pay for cigarettes and cigars every year. Space expenditures will soon rise some more, from 40 cents per person per week to more than 50 cents a week for every man, woman and child in the United Stated, for we have given this program a high national priority–even though I realize that this is in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not now know what benefits await us. But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun–almost as hot as it is here today–and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out–then we must be bold.

~~~~~
So here America sits, in 2008: in the throes of an illegal – what McCain has said will be 100 years – war in Iraq; the country divided maybe not by race, but by political and religious extremism; and our addiction to oil essentially, in a very backhanded way, funding the very terrorists that attacked our nation on September 11th.

Can we eliminate our need for crude? I don’t think so – at least my unscientific mind can’t imagine, realistically, a Jetson family-style world – but do I think that America can create a world where the bulk of our elementary carbon-fuel based needs (such as electricity and heat and small vehicle transport) can be met with alternative and more efficient means.

If a president can state an impossible goal, from a point so far behind the curve that many can call him crazy, we can harness the power of the wind and the sun to power our homes. If we can put a man on the moon and bring him back to earth in just over 8 years, we can build household transportation that efficiently uses a combination of fuels and newer technology. We can make oil a minor source of our energy need.

This is America. Where is the “can do” mentality from our government – from its citizens? The “can do” mentality that makes or breaks the corporate world and its inhabitants?

Go ahead and laugh. It’s that mentality that holds us back and keeps us beholden to Middle East interests.

America must begin to dream. Today. Tomorrow. Now.

Time’s a-wastin’.

by Rebecca Schmitz

It looks like there’s not enough wingnuts in Montana after all. According to NARAL Pro-Choice Montana, Rick Jore couldn’t find enough people with an overwhelming interest in controlling the genitalia of others; the “Montana Personhood Amendment”, aka CI-100, won’t appear on the ballot this November. I can’t say that I’m surprised, but still. It feels good to know Montanans rejected Jore’s far-right extremism.

by jhwygirl

Just going to throw out some thoughts here – –

I’ve noticed for the last few weeks, since gas start hovering at $3.90+, that there has been quite a reduction in traffic. Even during commuter hours…at the very least, commuter times when traffic is usually higher (say 4:30 to 6) have been reduced to quieter roads sooner. I really notice it in the mornings. I’m used to waking up with the sun, but as for actually getting up, I usually hold off on most mornings until traffic starts picking up (used to be about 6:30 a.m.). Nowadays, traffic doesn’t pick up until at 7:15 or so, so that informal alarm clock had to be traded in for a real one.

Traffic is also slower. I tend to drive around town like an old lady. You don’t find me zipping around, and for years now I’ve had people riding my bumper, pissed off that I’m not flooring the gas, stop sign to stop sign. No longer. People are content, it seems, to drive the speed limits. I find that nice.

I have to say, fuel prices by and large haven’t changed what I do – yet. I try not to drive much, and considering the mileage I got on my old car, my new one that’s getting 26-28 mpg is like driving on farts. That’s going to change, eventually – natural gas prices are going to go through the roof this winter and that’s where isn’t going to hit my pocketbook. That sucks. I have steadily decreased my NWE bill over the last 4 years, reaching as rock bottom as I can get. My house is old, and the energy bill is pretty damned high, as compared to what I might pay for a newer-constructed placed of the same size. Knowing that the bill is going to go to what is likely going to be unmanageable levels is going to suck. Maybe if I’m lucky, I do get to purchase something by winter….

Flooding in the mid-west is going to deal another blow. There’d already been plenty of talk of rising food costs due to higher fuel costs and increased use of ethanol (corn). Food (cows, chickens) eat food (corn). Now the larger portion of the corn crop has been decimated, along with a whole bunch of other foodstuffs. Repurcussive effects have yet to be fully realized.

Will the “R” word turn into the “D” word? (there, I said it)

The whole world is suffering under the weight of this fuel situation. OPEC said today it was going to increase output by 200,000 barrels a day. Yawn. Hardly a dent. Prices promptly rose.

…and so McCain has flip-flopped on off-shore drilling. In late May, during a campaign stop in Wisconsin, McCain said that drilling off our coasts would be a waste of time and do nothing to resolve our broader energy needs. From Impudent Ways:

I’ll also say that during that town hall, someone asked the senator about off-shore drilling (to thunderous applause). McCain answered that not only was it a states-rights issues, it was also a short term solution to a long term problem, and that American ingenuity and renewable resources must be the future of American energy policy — rather than fossil fuels which are not only wallowing in the tar pits but dragging us, our economy and our foreign policy down with them.

I thought, “Now here’s the maverick thing everyone keeps talking about.” Telling a room full of Middle American Republicans that the idea they find so appealing (namely, drilling off coastal states like Florida and California, ahem) is… Not a good idea. He sounded honest, gutsy, and sure that he was right.

But on Thursday, McCain changed his tune and marched with lame-duck Bush Jr. in his call to drill off our coasts. I remember hearing Bush Jr. commanding Congress to lift the ban “before you head home for the 4th of July,” or something like that. Another yawn, that one, it seems, from Congress. Even Ah-nold wasn’t buying it.

Drilling isn’t going to solve a damned thing. The world’s economy will collapse if our only solution (“our” being the world’s) is to sit around and call on OPEC to release more oil and to call for more drilling. Drilling doesn’t happen overnight, or even if a couple of months. American doesn’t even have the refineries to handle more crude – and those take years to get online too.

Drilling is the equivalent of providing heroine addicts methadone. Doesn’t solve a frickin’ thing. The U.S. Government and its taxpayers are subsidizing big oil, they’re taking their windfall profits and handing them back out to their investors, instead of investing in cleaner technology, and leaving Americans – like the mortgage bankers left Americans – holding the bag. It’s been going on for decades. And the bag, if you haven’t noticed, isn’t just empty, its full of a steaming old pile of crap – and those investors are laughing all the way to the bank with their big ol’ bag of $$$$.

by jhwygirl

Most of you know what a fan I am of Keith Olbermann. The latest issue of The New Yorker has a profile, titled One Angry Man: Is Keith Olbermann Changing TV News?. I know the answer, but of course I read it anyway.

A rare male seadragon is pregnant. Apparently this is normal. Aquarium officials altered the lighting and thinned the plants to create mood.

Yellowstone National Park officials have moved the 45th parallel line. For safety reasons. The one that I remember had been 3/4 of a mile south of the correct position. The newly-relocated marker is 1/4 of a mile north of the correct position. Apparently, the correct position is unsafe too. Screw them – next time I’m taking my GPS with me, with its super-duper antenna, and figuring out where it is for myself. If you can’t trust the park service, who can you trust? Trimble, that’s who.

Cherie Blair, wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, said that her and her husband’s heart “sank” upon hearing of George Bush’s victory over Al Gore in the 2004 presidential election.

I found this website, listing foreclosures in Missoula – or any other zipcode you decide to put it. I also looked at Bozeman (13), Helena (30), Great Falls (116), Kalispell (74), Butte (1) & Billings (125). There were 69 foreclosures in Missoula last Friday. This morning there were 61.

On that note, Steve Iskeep of NPR interviewed author of Bad Money Kevin Phillips. The book theorizes that the American economy is in danger because of its reliance on financial institutions as an industry in and of itself – the most dangerous of all pyramid schemes. He goes into the history of the fall of the European economies, and the lessons learned there. Phillips was a senior strategist for Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign, and wrote bestseller American Dynasty, about the Bush family, along with American Theocracy, which exposes the extremism of today’s republican party, along with its greed and fiscal irresponsibility. He is, obviously, very much pissed off at Republicans.

…which gives me a segue for this: I discovered late last night that my beautiful gorgeous pooch is a toilet drinker. Here I was thinking I had plumbing problems, coming home to low water levels in the toilet. I guess I should be relieved, but honestly, I am ashamed. Where did I fail?

by Pete Talbot

It’s a gorgeous sunset to the west from the Holiday Garden Inn parking lot. I’ve donned another clean oxford shirt and I’m back at the Montana Republican state convention, as promised.

Just in time for keynote speaker Ron Paul. I’ve heard his rap before in Missoula and the crowd at UM was more enthusiastic than here.

Paul’s speech ran long, too long for this crowd. He had about 25% of the audience in the palm of his hand but the rest of the rank-and-file wanted the rah-rah, go Montana Republican message.

Paul presented the same subject: freedom, freedom, freedom. It’s hard to go wrong with that message but I saw eyes gloss over at the Federal Reserve, World Bank, IMF, UN portion of Paul’s speech. The guy can talk but I don’t think this was the message that most in the Montana GOP came to hear.

(Just got a cute beverage coozie from a Denny Rehberg staffer. It’s shaped like a cowboy boot and says “Boot PAC.” I’ll have to check that one out.)

I can’t find senate candidate Bob Kelleher anywhere and haven’t seen former Senator Conrad Burns either, although I heard he was auctioning off some cool Republican booty at a fundraiser.

It was just announced to me, in a bitter voice, that the delegate slate advanced by the executive nominating committee was accepted. I’m not sure what that means but since this info came from a Ron Paul supporter, I’m guessing there won’t be a lot of Ron Paul delegates from Montana going to the national convention in St. Paul.

There are Republican youths working the tables and some of the seniors are making their way back to their rooms. A convention is a convention and as much as it pains me to write this, go to Carol’s Missoulapolis for the blow-by-blow. She has better typing skills, understands the Republican mindset better than I ever will and is about as close to gonzo Republican blogging as you’ll ever see.

by Pete Talbot

Over at Dark Acres, writer Bill Vaughn takes 4&20 to task on a few different subjects — some of them valid and some of them not.

First, though, I admire Vaughn’s take-no-prisoners writing style, and his oft times dark and twisted posts. It’s a different format over there. There are no other contributors and he allows no comments. It’s pure Vaughn.

I should also mention that he and I share a common goal: our desire to boot Bill Nooney (GOP, HD 100) from the Montana Legislature. We’ve exchanged information and insights into Nooney’s race, which is probably why Vaughn ended up cruising the 4&20 site.

But here’s Vaughn’s first criticism: the anonymous handles used by those who post and comment on various blogs. Some folks have to remain anonymous. I don’t because, like Vaughn, I’m self-employed. Nobody is going to fire my ass for the pithy prose I use when attacking misguided people or policy.

But there are some out there with real jobs who share facts and offer opinions that would get them fired (sort of like whistle blowers within government or big corporations). I believe it is more important to hear from these folks on their subjects than to know their true identities.

Bloggers aren’t reporters in the traditional sense, Mr. Vaughn, and anyone visiting a website should be aware that different standards apply to the blogs than to, say, the New York Times. I like to think that people know the difference.

Let’s take the Dark Acres site for example. Though not a political blog, per se, it does touch on political issues from time-to-time. However, you probably won’t find the headline “Circle Jerk” (used in the 4&20 critique) in the Washington Post. Again, viva la difference.

I will grant you this, Mr. Vaughn, there are some folks who stay anonymous because their writing is so vitriolic and obtuse that they don’t dare expose themselves. These folks are scum-sucking dogs but there isn’t a lot that one can do about them except ban them from a site; and unless they’re racist, obscene or libelous, I tend to let them stay.

Which brings up another criticism from the Dark Acres author. What’s libelous and what isn’t, and how do you sue someone who goes by the name of, for example, Ayn Rand? Damn good question. From Dark Acres:

“I wonder: If one of these anonyms libeled one of the others could anyone be sued? If a tree fell in the forest . . . ? Probably not. Who’s the victim? What’s the damage?

However, if one of them libeled me, for example, I’d immediately file suit against Jay Stevens, who’s apparently a real person claiming to be the “founder” of the site.

If I were Mr. Stevens I’d rethink my ideas about anonymous posts.”

Please don’t sue Jay. What we try to do here at 4&20 is apply the same standards of libel that the daily rags use:

Public figures like Tiger Woods or Conrad Burns or Angelina Jolie don’t have the same protection as John and Jane Citizen. These celebrities and politicians have chosen careers that put them in the public eye, for better or worse, and shy of unfounded charges of pedophilia or bestiality, we’ll run posts and comments about them.

For the average citizen, though, we try to keep references like deadbeat, addict, criminal, pimp and whore from appearing on these pages.

The fact that people offer their opinions on blogs also allows for some rebuttal, just like letters to the editor, and it can be hard to ascertain what’s a civil and appropriate response.

Of course truth is the ultimate defense in a libel case but I, and the other contributors to 4&20, would prefer to stay out of the court system. We’ll even moderate nasty comments directed at anonymous writers if we think they’re libelous, just to play it safe.

Finally, Vaughn asserts:

“ … no one at these blogs apparently does any actual reporting.”

I beg to differ. Often, for the benefit of our readers, we publish stories not found in the mainstream media and ask for comments. But I’ve also seen a number of breaking stories here at 4&20 and on other Montana blogs. For example, jhwygirl will watch committee meetings on MCAT and glean important stories from the proceedings. You can bet there aren’t any local reporters at these events. I’ve seen political, environmental and human interest stories on the blogs that never appear on local TV, radio or print.

This is grassroots, Mr. Vaughn, and it comes with some leafy spurge and Dalmation Toadflax. Cut us some slack but stay in touch.

by jhwygirl

I marked my calendar a little over a week ago for Scott McClellan’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, which will be looking into the leak which exposed CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Valerie Plame was undercover investigating the trafficking of yellowcake uranium in Niger, and trying to keep the stuff out of Iraq. Her name was leaked out of the Whitehouse, and Scooter Libby was subsequently found guilty of obstruction of justice, for failing to reveal the source of the leak. Libby’s sentence was quickly commuted by President George W. Bush.

Shows the Whitehouse’s commitment to national security, huh?

Hearing begins at 8am (MST), and C-Span radio will be streaming. Go to C-Span for specifics.

by jhwygirl

A bicyclist was killed Thursday afternoon when he was struck by a truck, just north of Costco, near the exit to West Broadway.

City police officer Sgt. Shawn Paul is still investigating – but the bicyclist didn’t have any identification, and the department may end up seeking help in identifying the man.

The Missoulian story notes that the bicycle lane changes width in that area and that the solid fog line becomes dotted in that area. It’s unclear whether the truck drove into the cyclist, or visa versa.

Sad.

by jhwygirl

Prompted by a Great Falls Tribune article titled Audit digs up problems with gravel pit program, written, incidentally, by former Missoula Independent write and newspaper reporter extraordinaire John S. Adams, I went searching for the legislative audit referred to in the article.

Boy, if you were pissed off about DPHSS employees playing solitaire on their computers, get this: Even though DEQ has a backlog of open cut mining (gravel pit) permits and courts are issuing these things within 30 days, irregardless of review, DEQ employees are drafting the applications for the mine operators.

Lovely.

More? How about this: A key tax, which is supposed to be collected by the Department of Revenue, isn’t being collected, mainly due to the lack of notification of the issuance of these open cut mining/gravel pit permits by DEQ.

Now, 92% of the funding for the open cut mining/gravel permit program come from the Resource Indemnity and Groundwater Assessment Tax (RIGWAT), yet 94% (94%?!) of the operators were not paying the tax.

There’s plenty more, but let me just point out one more tidbit: While these permits can have enormous impact on a community, and more specifically, a neighborhood and surrounding private property values, health and air quality, and rights, there is no legally explicit requirement for public notification. MEPA requirements result in some notification during scoping, but selection as to whom is notified is informal, and varies depending on a variety of factors. Further, considering the permits-must-be-issued-in-60-days rule that is currently the rage in state district courts, lack of laws and process for public notification may be effectively neutralized.

Ahh, the sad state of DEQ and the Montana Environmental Protection Act.

Someone needs get our legislators an attorney or two, and tell them that they actually have to listen to them. Whoever put the word “shall” into the 60-day permitting requirement should be strung up by his toes and dipped in Lake McDonald. In mid-January.

A summary of the legislative audit is here. The full report, here.

~~~~~~~~
In another aside, Helena Sand & Gravel, which was issued a gravel permit under court order due to the passing of the 60-day deadline, promptly violated its permit by utilizing a residential road for access. Neighbors complained, Sand & Gravel was told by DEQ to halt, and yet they continued to roll through the neighborhood. DEQ Director Opper is “frustrated” and says that the firm may be penalized for violating its permit.

How about shall be penalized, Director Opper? What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander.

by Pete Talbot

Since I couldn’t get in to see my dentist about a wicked toothache, I threw on my best khakis, popped a hydrocodone and headed over to the Montana Republican state convention.

My Datsun pick up with ‘Buy Back the Dams’ and ‘Jon Tester’ bumper stickers was conspicuous in the Hilton Garden Inn parking lot amidst the Ron Paul signs and bumper stickers adorning the other vehicles.

And Ron Paul might be the biggest news to come out of this convention. He’s supposed to speak to the party faithful Friday night (along with Conrad Burns!). No sign of John McCain.

There also appear to be a number of folks who want to go to the national convention as Ron Paul delegates even though Dr. Paul has withdrawn from the race. And there’s talk that the Paulites might want to tweak the Montana GOP platform to conform to their policy desires.

But all-in-all it was a pretty staid affair on Thursday, especially compared to the Democratic convention held in Helena two weeks ago. There, a couple hundred people were packed into the basement of Jorgensons, vying for delegate seats to Denver on behalf of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

It was mayhem in Helena but as Lee newspapers state bureau reporter Chuck Johnson commented to me, the Republicans run a little tighter ship, with things actually happening on schedule and where they’re supposed to. Surprise, surprise.

Plus, the Hilton Garden Inn out on Reserve Street has all the ambiance of a government hospital (my take, not Chuck’s). I mean, if you’re going to hold a convention in Missoula, why not hold it downtown so visitors can get some late night Cajun food at Charlie B’s, or listen to some music at the Top Hat or Union Club. Hell, they might as well hold their convention in Peoria or Trenton.

Not much else report. The hydrocodone’s wearing off. I’ll stop by the ‘Inn’ later tonight or maybe tomorrow. One thing I did notice, however — Plum Creek is a Gold Level Sponsor of the convention.

by jhwygirl

Frequent commenter problembear wrote a piece detailing his (or her) experience in ‘experiencing’ the payday loan industry. It was good. It illustrated the desperate situation many people are in when they go there and the lack of understanding some people have in obtaining the loans.

He laid out the math on these loans, having sat in the offices and read the fine print. These guys are criminals. Or should be.

The payday loan industry is loathsome. The ’07 legislature attempted to cap the fees and interest, but the guys that run 5 or 6 of these so called businesses here in Missoula – I call them nothing more than glorified loan sharks that work in buildings instead of back alleys and use courts to do their collection instead of baseball bats – went crying to the finance committee that “they’d have to close shop” and other pathetic excuses that should have been received with a “so what”, but instead the whiny legislature went running and closed up the legislation in an attempt to stay “pro business.”

Many states regulate that crap. Nope, not Montana – gotta stay “pro business,” regardless of the business. Hell with the citizens, it’s all about a handful of ‘business’ owners bank accounts.

Pathetic.

Anyways, shockingly, there’s a commenter to the post, named “paydaylendingrep” (who links to CFSA.net) who defends this loathsome industry.

Ugh.

problembear? Your brave to deal with such scum. God Bless Ya…..

by Pete Talbot

Jim Messina isn’t a native Missoulian but he spent many of his formative years in the Garden City. Messina, former chief of staff to Montana’s Sen. Max Baucus, has just accepted the chief of staff position for presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama.

I first met Jim back in 1990 93. He was running the Missoula mayoral campaign for Dan Kemmis and I was running the campaign for a candidate for city council. Kemmis won his race while my candidate lost. Enough said.

From these humble beginnings, Messina went on to work on U.S. Senate and House campaigns in Alaska, North Dakota and New York.

He also ran Baucus’ re-election bid in 2002. Baucus beat Mike Taylor 62.7% to 31.7%. This race was notable, however, for a couple of things. One was a Baucus TV spot that featured historic footage of Taylor in a hair-care video wearing a Nehru jacket and massaging a man’s head. The spot destroyed Taylor.

The race also featured two colorful (pun intended) third-party candidates: The blue-skinned Libertarian Stan Jones, who as a precaution against a supposed millennium Armageddon had ingested a homemade elixir containing silver; and Green Party candidate Bob Kelleher, who is this year’s Republican candidate against Sen. Baucus!

But back to Messina. Even though Taylor’s chances against Baucus were minuscule, Messina ran an aggressive campaign, took nothing to chance and acted as though the campaign was neck-and-neck up to election eve. That’s Jim Messina.

Messina is hard working, fiercely loyal and takes no quarter when it comes to running a campaign. He’s defended Max against the kind of criticism that’s emanated from places like this website (Max’s less than stellar opposition to the Iraq War, and his votes on prescription drugs, free trade, bankruptcy, tax cuts … ). But then I guess that’s part of the job description of a chief of staff — defending your boss against critics, no matter what.

Messina isn’t a policy guy, he’s an organizer, and damn good at it. He also understands Western politics and issues, and it will serve Montana well to have Jim Messina working closely with Barack Obama. Congratulations, Jim, and good luck to you and Sen. Obama.

by jhwygirl

My father is a WWII veteran, who served as a Marine in the Pacific theater. He earned a purple heart there, and his service has never been something he’s been able (or willing) to talk much about. The deaths of his fellow Marines – some during the event which earned him his purple heart – always kept his conversation regarding war to a bare minimum. “It’s not glorious, j – not in any way. Don’t make it out to be something it isn’t. War is ugly. Don’t you forget it.” There was a tinge of both anger and sadness in his voice when he told me that. It was when I was in high school. I had gone up in attic and dragged out his Marine clothing, wanting to use his jacket (back then it was ‘cool’). Needless to say, I didn’t get to wear the jacket – I remember his boxing it up and getting it out of the house.

I always felt bad about that, because of the emotion it evoked in my father. He was never very emotional, so seeing it was notable.

If you are reading this and have yet to plan your day – don’t forget the Welcome Home Montana celebration from noon to 6 p.m. today in Caras Park. We blogged about this event previously here. It’s an opportunity to gather together with community members – namely, veterans – and celebrate their service with live music, tributes, and events for children. A Carousel for Missoula will be giving free rides all day.

The celebration is part of a bi-partisan effort to honor local veterans, in part, with extended community support via local businesses. As Dave Budge outlined in this post from Left in the West:

Interestingly, the cross section of people involved in this initiative are as diverse as I’ve ever seen. We have members from the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center to retired military officers to just plain folks who are grateful simply for having those to commit a few years in national service.

When I attended one of the initial organizational meetings I was taken aback when someone – and really not disparagingly – wondered if the involvement of peace activists would cause conflicts. There were two retired officers who quickly jumped up and one said “I didn’t spend two years in combat so we could pick and choose whose opinions we should recognize.”

Simple as that. Everyone in this effort has the same goal.

I’m going to go give my father a call now. After that, I’ll see ya’all down at Caras Park.

by jhwygirl

Personable, banjo bass -playin’ and loved by evangelicals, Huckabee has been the odds-on favorite for McCain’s VP pick – especially given McCain’s woes with Pastor Hagee and Pastor Parsley.

So why is he taking a job as a Fox News commentator?

In Texas this weekend, at the Texas Republican Convention, evangelicals were reluctant to back McCain. Huckabee and Romney spoke at the convention, with both urging folks to come together to support McCain.

Geez – you wouldn’t think it’d be that hard, at this point, for McCain. Especially in Texas.

Maybe Huckabee’s Fox News platform is more valuable to the party than having Huckabee on the ticket?

by Jay Stevens

John McCain and his wife racked up $100K in credit card debt! Ouch! Boy, I hate to see those interest payments:

But not all credit card debts are created equal. In fact, according to a prior disclosure form filed in May that was provided to The Huffington Post, a significant amount of the McCains’ credit card debt is being held by American Express at an interest rate of zero percent — making their debt a lot less like the costly credit card pitfalls facing many Americans and a lot more like the big sweetheart loans that can get national political figures in hot water. (Sen. Barack Obama’s first choice to head up his vice presidential search committee resigned this week after a controversy emerged over a favorable mortgage he received from Countrywide, a key player in the current housing crisis.)

Zero-percent credit card interest rates are not exclusively for the rich or well-connected, of course. But the most common offers of that kind are often capped at a few-thousand dollars and shed their zero percent rate after six to nine months.

According to the May 15, 2008 disclosure form, though, during 2007 Cindy McCain originated an individual debt of between $250,000 and $500,000 with a zero-percent interest AmEx that was still not paid off by the time of the time of that filing.

Two Americas. One for you and me, where we work our tails off just to make ends meet. The other for folks like John McCain, where all the rules are rigged in his favor.

by Pete Talbot

Someday in this great country of ours, people in news stories will be referred to by their names only — “John Doe” or “Jane Smith” — without modifiers like: “African American” or “Latina.” Until that day, however, the media tend to give titles to folks (except for Caucasian or white, you rarely see that).

So, I’m having trouble with the modifier for folks from Montana tribes.

Some years back in a conversation with two outstanding Montana legislators, Carol Juneau (Blackfeet) and Norma Bixby (Northern Cheyenne), I heard them disparage the title Native American in favor of American Indian. But lately, especially from candidates for higher office, I always hear “Native American.”

In my posts, I’ll usually write “Montana Indian” because, hey, who doesn’t want the modifier, Montana, next to their title. Sometimes I’ll put Assiniboine or Crow, if I know which tribe the person is from but that can be problematic, too. There are Northern Cheyenne living on the Salish-Kootenai Reservation and Crow living at Rocky Boy’s, etc.

I notice that the Lee Enterprises correspondent for Montana newspapers, Jodi Rave, uses both Indian and Native, so that doesn’t help.

Please, some clarification here, so I can get it right. Thanks.

by Pete Talbot

At the Democratic state delegate convention in Helena last Sunday, I didn’t get elected to go to Denver to represent Barack Obama. This is a good thing.

Montana Obama delegates going to the national convention were basically new faces to the party — mostly young, and included an African American and two Native Americans.

(For the delegate names, counties and which candidate they’re representing in Denver, go to Charles Johnson’s succinct piece here. But for a more personal perspective on the convention, read on.)

When I first started going to conventions like this over a dozen years ago I could hear folks whispering, “Who’s that young guy over there?” I’d look around to discover that they were talking about me. I was in my early forties at the time. If I’m the “youngster,” what does that make the rest of the party faithful?

Frankly, this was worrisome. Where are all the young people? This does not bode well for the party.

But this latest convention gave me hope. I may not be going to Denver but there is a slew of new Democrats going in my stead. These are the youngsters who got excited about Obama and knocked doors in Montana neighborhoods, made phone calls and did data entry at the various campaign offices around the state. They showed up en masse at the convention and voted for their friends and co-workers.

So, an old, white guy like me didn’t make the cut, which is just fine.

(Jay, over at LiTW, has an excellent take on the Clinton delegation.)

by jhwygirl

Art Burns, owner of the cow which recently tested positive for brucellosis told the Bozeman Chronicle that his cattle had never been near any bison, though elk are frequently in the area.

Burns runs a small operation – about 50 head of Corriente cattle – out there in the middle of heaven, near Pray. He’s been doing increased monitoring and testing since last year.

Even more discouraging, livestock officials say Burns had taken all the appropriate steps to guard against a transmission by vaccinating and testing his cows frequently for disease. Burns had vaccinated his cattle twice and had a “whole-herd” testing plan.

According to officials, tests are being run on the diseased heifer to determine if the cow got the disease from other cattle, elk or bison. In last year’s case, tests found that while the source was not other cattle, there was inconclusive evidence as to whether it came from bison or elk. The owner of that herd said that if his cattle tested positive for brucellosis, elk from Yellowstone National Park had probably spread the disease.

Meanwhile, debate continues between the Montana Cattlemen’s Association and the Montana Stockgrowers Association over the Governor’s split-state proposal, which would require vaccination and more intense testing for cattle around Yellowstone National Park.

Christian Mackay, executive officer for the Montana Board of Livestock said that those plans won’t be discussed until the Board of Livestock meets again in late July.

Common sense must prevail – hopefully the Board of Livestock will act to take steps towards moving to a split-state status. It’s unfair to to ranchers in all other parts of the state. Get the politics out of this issue and let the interests of all cattle ranchers and the state’s livestock industry prevail.

by jhwygirl

Kucinich was just warming us up – on June 20th, former Bush Whitehouse press secretary Scott McClellan will be testifying before the House Judiciary Committee regarding what he knows about the leaking of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame, who was working to prevent the underground trade in yellowcake uranium.

It’s my belief that Vice-President Dick Cheney was the source of the leak, and as such, committed treason. Libby Scooter, Cheney’s chief of staff, was sentenced to jail for obstruction of justice – for failure to reveal who told him that Plame was a spy – for failure to reveal the source of the leak. There’s way more to what has formed my firm belief that Cheney leaked Plame’s name – and anyone with time and motivation can go out and inform themselves. It’s not like there’s a dearth of information on the issue.

Last April, Kucinich had introduced a resolution of articles of impeachment against Dick Cheney. The resolution was killed, but only after Republicans voted in favor of taking up the measure to force a debate.

I know this all seems too radical for some, but the Constitution is the damned basis of our Government – and illegal torture, misuse of the FISA court, illegal surveillance, destruction of evidence, suspension of habeas corpus, war crimes, treason – at what point do Americans stand firm and say “No More”? At what point do our elected officials stand tall and speak up for our government? The government which our forefathers envisioned and put onto paper?

Scotty testifies on the 20th…and despite what I’ve thought about his need for a paycheck, maybe he really is seeking redemption. He might want to think about getting a bullet-proof vest and a bodyguard, though – they may come in handy.

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