Archive for February, 2010
UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown takes on free-marketeers and the lack of a moral compass inherent in an unregulated economy in a guest column this weekend in London’s The Guardian.
Brown sums up well the source of political anger boiling today. Funny how his words can apply both here in American and there in the United Kingdom. Greed, to be sure, has had its impact worldwide:
The public outcry that followed the two major crises of the past year was driven by moral outrage. The anger was not primarily provoked by breaches of the law; instead it was in response to the violation of an unwritten ethical code that should guide us in our daily lives. The demand now is that both the global financial system and the domestic political system should be brought into closer alignment with the values held by most people across the country.
This kind of stuff should cross party lines, no? Or maybe I’m still too naive.
As we have discovered to our cost, without values to guide them, free markets reduce all relationships to transactions, all motivations to self-interest. So, unbridled and untrammelled, they become the enemy of the good society. The truth is that the virtues that make society flourish – hard work, taking responsibility, being honest, enterprising and fair – come not from market forces but from our hearts. And we should be optimistic, for they are nurtured every day in families and schools, and in businesses and communities.
…Our mission is to support the active citizen, the empowering community and the enabling state: to forge a nation of fairness where empowered citizens bring to civic and public life high moral and ethical standards.
I missed this one, but came across it over the weekend. It is an editorial written by Laura Lundquist, a non-traditional student working on her master’s degree in journalism at the University of Montana. It’s not just an opinion piece – she did a bit of research going back to Rep. Denny Rehberg’s voting record and points out:
Rehberg was first elected in 2000, entering Washington politics at the same time as that other financial wiz, George W. They inherited a federal budget that had been running surpluses and wound up adding more than $4 trillion to the national debt. Then they left us with the economic mess we have now.
Where was Rehberg’s crusading call then?
It might have been stifled by all the shouts of “yea” he made when voting for appropriations. Rehberg’s “yea” votes far out-numbered his “nay” votes from 2001 through 2006 on budget issues. For example, in 2005, one of his more negative years, three of his 37 votes were “nay.” He barely questioned a single dollar being spent or a single tax cut.
She notes a reversing trend in 2007 when Democrats took control of congress, where he switches to only supporting appropriations bills that also include tax cuts:
Then, suddenly the trend reversed in 2007. Did this coincide with Rehberg having a sudden economic epiphany? A more likely explanation is that the Democrats gained control of the House in 2007. Since that point, at least half of his votes have been against. Now in his contrarian mode, he supports budget bills dealing only with tax cuts, including the $152 billion 2008 Stimulus Plan, and agriculture appropriations, so as not to anger his primary supporters, Montana’s farmers and ranchers. But if he is re-elected and if, at some point, the Republicans regain control, my guess is that suddenly “yea” will be his catch phrase again, even if it means greater deficits.
And how are those tax cuts working out for ya’, Denny? The funny thing is that by his black-and-white thinking, we should just eliminate all taxes all together and this country would run itself. There’s never any rhyme or reason to the conservative call for tax cuts, it’s just tax cuts tax cuts tax cuts.
Lundquist explains the lack of logic behind Rep. Denny Rehberg’s recent call for more tax cuts:
Here, let me explain: Cutting taxes may help the economy but doesn’t reduce the deficit. Taxes are income for the government. Reducing taxes reduces the government’s income. How is the government supposed to control the deficit with less money when it can’t even do it with the money it has? If you couldn’t pay your rent with your current income, you’d be crazy to request fewer hours.
Ms. Lunquist has all kinds of goodies tucked into her well-researched op-ed. Be sure to check out and read the whole thing.
Our illustrious Representative Denny Rehberg? He might do best to take a little Economics 101. I’m thinking the Billings campus of UM might have one available for him.
Or maybe at least a Billings staffer that can screen Rehberg’s emails before they go out and make him look foolish.
I was invited to contribute here by jhwygirl on transportation, land use issues, and such. Since that has gone so swimmingly for me so far (my own mistake in making in-the-moment, emotional comments that didn’t sit well with many people). So now I’ll change gears and throw my hat into the healthcare debate by sharing a friend’s story.
This friend was laid off just about a year ago, a few years before she would have received a full retirement package that included healthcare. Upon termination she moved to Missoula and has been on COBRA health insurance, which will run out in a couple of months. COBRA has been pretty good to her as she’s made extensive use of it to cover abdominal surgery (which went horribly wrong) and the numerous subsequent surgeries that were needed to fix the complications from the first surgery. This has been a nine month saga costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and she is just now getting back to normal… though still weak from all the surgeries.
So now she is facing a future without healthcare because she can’t afford the $12,000 a year for coverage because of here now “preexisting” condition and she is still a few years from being able to draw medicare. (life is a preexisting condition)
So what will she do? Game the system by going back to college and signing up for the university provided insurance. Its pretty sad that she feels this is her only option to get affordable health insurance. According to her this is a fairly popular strategy for seniors that have lost their employer based health insurance but don’t yet qualify for medicare. With all her health problems she can’t afford to be without insurance.
Not only is this not an effective way to provide health insurance, but I also wonder of how much this costs the state of Montana? If this is a truly popular option among Montana seniors as a stop-gap option to health insurance, how much money is going to cover their health problems that should be going into investments in education?
This just goes to illustrating that we don’t have a healthcare system in this country, but a patchwork of less than optimal options that increasingly don’t work for the American people.
I wrote here just the other day of what many view as the galling move by WellPoint to increase health insurance rates of 34 million people across 8 states.
That increase will help increase profits by an estimated 7% for this year. This, from a company that made $4.7 billion in profit off of $60 billion in sales.
Stop, take a breath and read that again.
Not gonna happen here? Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana controls 75% of Montana’s health insurance market share. And now here comes The Missoula Independent reporting that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana has recently sent out notices of rate increases, as high as 43%.
Apparently this is an anomaly that perhaps we shouldn’t be worried about:
Tim Warner, the company’s senior director of external affairs, says most rate hikes this year fall between 10 and 20 percent, on par with recent years.
Make sure you read that last paragraph with a heavy dose of sarcasm, folks.
Make sure to read that Indy link – Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana put out a notice on February 10th telling its customers that their health insurance rates (not their cable costs, or their internet costs – all things that people can really do without) would be going up by as much as 43% on April 1st.
State auditor’s office spokesperson Jackie Boyle said that while they lack any authority to crack down on the rate increases, “anybody who has bought into a health insurance product from our company and there’s a premium increase that high, they really should…contact us so we can work with them to see if there’s a better solution.”
The Indy’s Matthew Frank is looking for Montanans that have gotten these rate increase letters. If you can help him out with that, check out that post and give him a holla. This story deserves thorough investigative coverage.
I haven’t given up on expecting some real reform. After last week’s WellPoint showdown in the Senate, with the rate increases meeting press release on the eve of this past week’s bi-partisan health reform summit, patience is wearing pretty thin with those that know something has to be done.
Think me crazy if you will, but these reckless increases by health insurance corporations only serve to make me renew my calls for a public option. Here in Montana, there is no competition, and competition is key to affordability.
Think about this, readers: If Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana just put out notices raising rates as high as 45% – and it is (fact) the state’s largest insurer – it makes sense that other minor insurers will be following.
Think about what that means – because every single taxpayer in this state – whether you have health insurance or not, whether you obtain it from your employer or whether you obtain it on the free market – all of you should be expecting another larger bill here sometimes in the future. That’s because as a taxpayer, you not only have your very own health insurance that you either pay for or you don’t, you are paying for all sorts of local, state and federal employee’s health insurance.
And they are pulling out of the same market (or lack thereof, as is the case here in Montana) as everyone else.
Expect that bill in the mail sometime before the next legislative session. At some point, the insurers start negotiation with the state. Probably Department of Administration. Will the state negotiate any impending 45% rate increase? Rates that have – by their own admittance as linked to above – normally increased between 10 and 20% annually over the last decade?
Seriously – imagine your heating costs or your mortgage or rent going up by 10 to 20% annually. Those kind of increases – let’s take gasoline as an example – strap this nation and bring it to its knees. Yet Montana Blue Cross Blue Shield puts that out there very matter-of-factually. That that’s OK…and here we are standing around debating the need for health reform.
The status quo is not acceptable when it comes to healthcare in this nation.
I hope I’ve sufficiently fired you up. Remember some main points: WellPoint, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana and 45%. Now fire off an email, ever how brief, telling Sen. Tester, Sen. Baucus, and Rep. Denny Rehberg that you want real meaningful reform…and remind them (by mentioning WellPoint, Blue Cross Blue Shield Montana and that 45% figure) that you are watching.
Silence, in this case, is not golden.
Tonight on MTPR, there was a great commentary by Brian Muldoon on the Citizen’s United case. Here is the clip:
“A corporation obviously is nothing at all like a human being. There is no social benefit to granting it the unrestricted right to speak on behalf of its agenda. Human beings benefit from free speech–we change each other’s minds, we listen, we change our own minds. Corporations don’t have minds. Or opinions. They don’t listen. They don’t have moods or inspired moments or disappointment. Applying the free speech protections of the First Amendment to corporations is the ultimate act of legal sophistry…
We created corporations, we are their parents, and we are responsible for what they say and do. If we don’t find a way to set some limits, it is we the people–the real people–who are to blame.”
Reader’s may recall this previous 4&20 post on the lies broadcast around our state by The Committee for Truth in Politics. The ads misrepresented what proposed finance reform measures do – and pushed for calls to Senator Tester (who sits on Senate Banking and Finance) to “stop the bailout.”
There is no bailout in the finance reform bill.
Tester’s pretty fiscally conservative. I just watched him vote no on some bill that would spend $10 million or something like that on promoting an increase in U.S. tourism, or something like that. Tester doesn’t like to spend money, as he’s repeatedly shown and he is NOT going to vote for anything that is going to have the taxpayers bailing out any bank.
The bill? The bill has been writtento avoid this bailout criticism. It insists that failed institutions be dissolved and their creditors take a bath, rather than that they be propped up and repaid.
Tester lasthed out at the ad and the secret organization behind the ads. Talk about truth in politics, right?!
Who can understand these folks? They don’t like what’s happening, but they don’t support any change. It’s insane, really.
Heather Booth, Executive Director of Americans for Financial Reform has this to say about her mission: “Financial reform is about fairness and accountability. Those critics who offer no solutions and want to continue the same failed policies are doing the bidding of the big banks, Wall Street, and CEOs who want more of the same — taxpayer funded bailouts, obscene bonuses, and policies that take advantage of families and small businesses. Sen. Tester recognizes this and has been out front, not only pushing for comprehensive reforms, including a strong independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency, but has also been instrumental in pushing back against these lies. We applaud his work and hope all Montanans will reach out and do the same.”
I do have high expectations here with Sen. Tester and finance reform. The very core of our economic health is what is at stake. Tester, a farmer, is a non-nonsense guy when it comes to finance. I can’t expect he has much stomach for banking shenanigans, nor do I expect him to have much patience with anything less than reform that ensures that banks suffer soley from their bad behaviors.
America should no longer stand by while banks walk of with the contents of the safe, while leaving its citizens left holding the bill.
Please continue to contact Sen. Tester and tell him that you support finance reform efforts. Don’t let all those ill-informed corporate tools be the only ones calling on Tester.
I know what that says to me. A lot of people are already calling for her resignation (and I would hate to see what her voicemail and email inbox must look like). Until court she should at a minimum recuse herself from the debate on breathalyzer refusal.
it doesn’t absolve her – but of anyone who would know what the implications are of blowing or not, she went and did the right thing (props for not being a hypocrite, unlike Greg Barkus) She’s also asked that her BAC be released…again, unlike Barkus who had to have his blood subpoenaed and even after his BAC levels were released (2x the legal limit 2 hours after the crash), Barkus continued to say that he had only had “two drinks.”
Thing is, it was wrong. She knew better.
Open thread on the fate of health care reform (or what is currently passing for reform) for those who are glued to CSPAN today to see democracy at work. [/snark]
In light of our current discussion over Constitutional rights for non-humans, I thought that with this week’s change in policy for carrying weapons in National Parks, that maybe I could make an exception:
The federal government will lift long-standing restrictions on guns in national parks Monday, meaning that visitors with proper permits could pack heat along with camping and picnic gear to most of the 392 parks. The move concerns current and former employees of the National Park Service who are convinced that the move will damage the spirit of the nation’s park system.
“This law is a very bad idea. It is not in the best interests of the visitors to national parks, the resources to be protected in national parks, nor the employees in national parks. Opportunistic shooting at wildlife and historic resources, such as petroglyphs, will increase. Employees, especially law enforcement rangers, will be more at risk. And visitors will not only be more at risk, but will now see national parks as places where they need to be more suspicious and wary of others carrying guns, rather than safe and at peace in the solitude and sanctuary that parks have always provided. It is a sad chapter in the history of America’s premier heritage area system.”
There has been a string of DUI arrests, drunk driving incidents/accidents and news of late. But the latest is certainly unexpected. The Missoulian is reporting that Missoula City Councilwoman Pamela J. Walzer was, “arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol early Wednesday morning and has pleaded not guilty.” Given the timing of this incident and Dave Strohmaier’s push for making refusal of a breath test a an offense worthy of a $300 fine, Councilwoman Walzer should recuse herself from any discussion and voting on the issue regardless of her guilt. Missoula wants to take a step forward… not stagger backwards. Many commentators on the Missoulian story are even calling for her resignation immediately, but that should only happen if its found that she truly was drunk while driving, although I’m skeptical about a blood alcohol content number being published.
I know I’m tired of constantly reading about fatalities caused from drunk driving and the flood a DUIs that occur on a weekly basis. Its about time Montana enters into the 21st century and actually do something about our state’s little, err…big, drinking problem. One recent DUI offender even proudly stated he was, “contributing to the reason that this state is number one in the nation for drinking and driving.”
Unfortunately our state’s culture won’t easily change, many of us can remember, probably even fondly, the days when an open container in a vehicle was legal. Hell, I’ve been in a truck when a boss of mine was driving while he was driving a company vehicle.
Why doesn’t the state do something really drastic like a lifetime suspension for a license? Force all these drunks to walk, bike, or take (often nonexistent) transit. I don’t think there is anything to dissuade someone from drink like the possibility of hours spent on a Greyhound bus. Drunk driving already costs the state of Montana $642 million a year and another $131 million in lost economic productivity. In that case drunk driving is already having a major impact on our state, and its not the cost that is the worst, but the emotional and family tragedy that drunk driving that is the greatest cost.
Or we could all do nothing and just enjoy the fact that Billings is the third most drunkest city in America. Why stop at the bronze… always go for gold.
You simply couldn’t even write this into a movie, unless it was some sort of sick comedy. No one would believe it.
Against the backdrop of a renewed call for health reform WellPoint/Anthem Blue Cross, based in Indiana, and a provider of health insurance in 14 states with 34 million customers – 8 million of them in California alone – has announced significant rate increases across 8 states.
WellPoint/Anthem Blue Cross earned $4.7 billion on $60 billion in sales last year.
The announced planned rate hikes as high as 39 percent in California and 34 percent in Indiana. Internal memos project an addition 7% profit in 2010 as a result of this newest rate increase.
What else do they show?:
WellPoint Inc.’s internal documents show the health insurer sought to raise rates in California to boost company profits and cover costs ballooned by executive salaries and corporate retreats, U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman said.
Congress wasn’t too happy.
How much has WellPoint spend on lobbying?:
The largest spender among the insurance companies though was Wellpoint. Headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., the company spent about 4.7 million in 2009 on lobbying, 21 percent more than its K Street expenditures in 2008.
They also acquired a larger share of the California market (translate: decreased competition) by purchase of Blue Cross of California – by having its very own consumers pay for it in the form of higher premiums – and have continued, now, to increase profits at the cost of cutting services and raising rates. Not only that, they continue to siphon billions off of Blue Cross CA to other Anthem subsidiaries for “unspecified services.”
A White House report on Feb. 18 highlighted additional health premium increases last year in other places like Michigan, Connecticut and Maine that it said were five to 10 times higher than the growth rate in national health spending. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said WellPoint, UnitedHealth Group Inc., Aetna Inc., Cigna Corp. and Humana Inc., the top U.S. health plans, were trying to preserve executive pay and profits “way over anybody’s estimates.”
There’s a group out there working on 1,000,000 calls to congress between today and tomorrow. If you aren’t incline to do that, maybe take a couple of links in this article and send it Baucus’, Tester’s and Rehberg’s way. Let ’em know your watching.
I will say – sometimes it can be fun to get a staffer up on the phone. Especially Rehberg’s, because you know they love taking calls on health reform.
Do remember – Always be nice.
Eight Democratic Senators can’t come to term with the facts that too much CO2 can kill you. That it’s unhealthy and dirty and increasing levels are killing us.
Montana Senator Max Baucus is on that list.
And yeah, you can darn well bet there’s a bevy of Republicans there too.
Over a year ago, the EPA came down with a ruling that CO2 should not be exempted in Clean Air Act review related to coal-fired plants. Conveniently, it has done so for….ever.
When you think about it, that’s probably why it isn’t clean…there’s been absolutely no incentive to clean the stuff.
I won’t harp any further on coal. It’s even getting old for a tenacious curmudgeon like me, so I’ll give it a rest (wherein I hear a “whew” from way beyond the hills.)
Here’s what those eight U.S. senators are trying to tell the EPA: “Yeah – of course there’s the Clean Air Act…and I know you have to regulate for it. It’s just that to regulate carbon, well, that’s a problem. So we want you to exempt carbon from that regulation.”
Translate: We want you to do what we want you to do. Clean Air Act? What’s that?
When will we have an America like this. Where we have the vision for the unseen? The guts to go for the dream? To be great?
Yeah, I been wearing my Tyler Gernant sticker…and I love telling people who he is: ‘Tyler is our next representative for the Great State of Montana who’s going to take out Denny Rehberg who hasn’t done a thing in 10 years,’ is how I start off.
I’ve had two skeptics right off the bat of my beginning statement say “Really? Rehberg’s done nothing?” (as if “nothing” couldn’t possibly be true), and I confidently tell them yep – nothing. Dennis Rehberg’s proposed two bills – one was a congratulation to Carroll College, the other one was to wish the City of Billings happy birthday – it died in committee.
“Of course he’s good at earmarks, though,” I continue.
I point to Rehberg’s hypocritical stance of railing against earmarks and stimulus money while traveling the state to get his picture take with the big photo-op checks as they’re handed out. Then there’s Rehberg’s calls to decrease spending while calling for tax cuts and how Denny doesn’t – even after 10 years I emphasize – understand basic budgetary principles…which is why (I further emphasize) we’re now in this mess.
Anyways…to get back on topic, because this post is about Tyler Gernant…I’ve had the opportunity to meet and speak with Tyler on more than a few occasions. Gernant is one hard working candidate (I’m betting he’s crisscrossed this entire state nearly twice already). He’ll meet with anyone, and I’m thoroughly impressed with his dedication.
Tyler’s smart, he’s knowledgeable about tax law and tax code and I believe he will go to Washington seeking forward-moving change.
So when Tyler Gernant was making his official announcement at the beginning of this month down at The Wilma here in Missoula, I made sure to leave work early in order to support him. A lovely sized crowd turned out, and while there was buzz in the room because a staffer for Dennis MacDonald’s campaign was in attendance, my only words of advice on that was to embrace the guy – clearly, MacDonald sees Gernant as a worthy opponent, otherwise he wouldn’t have sent anyone.
Gernant gave a substantive speech. That alone was impressive. I didn’t see him use even notes. That’s not to say he did it on the fly – clearly he was prepared. But he didn’t give a speech like this, in substance and in length (and perfectly) without a clear vision of both his own capabilities and of what he wants to accomplish.
If I questioned who I would support in the Democratic primary for Montana’s lone congressional representative that morning, I didn’t after I heard Tyler Gernant announce that evening,to Montana. that he would seek to be Montana’s next representative in the U.S. Congress.
Here are Tyler Gernant’s words announcing his candidacy:
Good afternoon, and welcome to the historic Wilma Theatre on what promises to be a historic groundhog day. You see, much like Bill Murray in that classic film Groundhog Day, Dennis Rehberg has been reliving the same day over and over and over again since 2001. He’s been stuck in yesterday, thinking there will be no tomorrow and no long-term consequences for his actions. Yet, each day we wake up to see bigger budget deficits, fewer jobs, and folks in Washington who think that responsibility means blame. But today’s different. Today we can stop fearing Dennis Rehberg’s shadow. Because today, Congressman Rehberg finally woke up to a new day. And every day from here on out, he’ll wake up to find that responsibility isn’t about finding a scapegoat, it’s about finding a solution. And so today, I stand before you prepared to take on that responsibility and declare myself a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.
As you all know, we’re facing some pretty difficult times. But I wouldn’t be running if I thought this would be easy. If this were 2000 and we had a 200 billion dollar budget surplus, when we were creating jobs and growing our economy, I wouldn’t be interested in this race. No, I’m running because I’ve seen too many of my friends lose their jobs in the last year and a half and have to leave Montana. I’m running because we have to balance our checkbook if we want to protect the progressive programs that we all hold dear. Programs like social security and medicare. Because if we don’t balance our checkbook, we’ll never be able to implement the kinds of progressive programs that our country needs. But most importantly, I’m running because we need to restore responsibility back to Washington. And by responsibility, I don’t mean assigning blame. What I mean is the responsibility to tackle our problems head on and work to find solutions.
For me that sense of responsibility has been handed down through four generations of Montanans. My great-grandfather homesteaded up near Whitetail, which, for those that don’t know where that is, it’s a small town in the Northeast corner of the state. Up in between Plentywood and Scobey. And as any descendant of a homesteader is aware, it was not an easy life. From there, my family really fanned out across the state. I had a grandpa who worked in the smelter in Anaconda and my other grandpa was a truck driver in Great Falls. Through their hard work, my folks were able to attend Carroll College, where they first met. After college, my folks found their way here to Missoula, where my dad became a high school math teacher and football coach over at Hellgate and my mom worked at what was then the Appletree restaurant.
And although I never realized it when I was young, that sense of responsibility had been born into me. In fact, I can remember back when I was about ten years old; I had set my sights on this little black and white television set. And since our family only had one TV at the time, this little black and white set meant a lot more to me than just a new toy. It meant freedom, so that I could finally watch whatever I wanted to watch. Unfortunately, it also meant sixty bucks. Sixty bucks that I didn’t have. And since, at that time, my only steady source of income was a dollar a week allowance, it was a pretty lengthy proposition. Coincidentally, though, the 1992 Presidential election was occurring about the same time. And since I didn’t have any other TV to watch, I ended up watching those Ross Perot infomercials with my parents. And I specifically remember him saying that if we have to balance our check books, then why doesn’t the government. And I thought to myself, “if I have to scrimp and save to buy this little TV, why doesn’t the government have to save to buy what it wants.” Fortunately, I’ve learned a lot more about economics since then, but that basic sense of responsibility is something that Dennis Rehberg never learned.
You know, when Dennis Rehberg took office, we had over a $100 billion budget surplus. We haven’t balanced the budget since. Now we have a $12 trillion national debt, and if you add in the unfunded obligations of social security and medicare, that national debt approaches $56 trillion. Which means that every American man, woman and child would owe $175,000. All this from a guy who claims that fiscal responsibility is at the very core of his being. Yet he voted for a massive tax cut for the wealthy that completely eliminates our budget surplus and returned us to deficits. He votes to put two wars on our credit card, and then he votes for a prescription drug plan that lets big pharmaceutical companies charge our government whatever they want for prescription drugs, creating one of the single largest deficit increases in our nations history. Worse yet, he’s pledging to vote against a health care reform bill that has been rated as the single largest deficit reduction bill in the history of our country.
So while Rehberg’s whispering these sweet nothings about financial restraint into our ears, he’s stealing our credit cards and spending money like a drunken sailor.
But you know what, today isn’t about blame, today is about solutions. Today is about what we can do together to ensure that we have a future. To do that, we need to address our massive budget deficit. Unfortunately, there’s no single solution that’s going to wipe the red slate clean and return us to the black. But there are some things that we can do to stem the tide without threatening our economic recovery.
First of all, we need to reinstitute the pay go system. For those of you that aren’t familiar with it, pay go was a system that was in place throughout the 90’s that said that every item of new spending had to be accompanied by a way to pay for it. Coincidentally, that system expired in 2002 and we all saw what happened. Our budget deficit returned and began growing at it’s fastest pace ever.
We also need to end the use it or lose it system that pervades the budgeting process for our federal agencies. Essentially, this system encourages government bureaucrats to spend every penny that is given to them in their budget, because they’re told that if they don’t spend it all they’ll get less next year. Federal employees are literally forced to take unnecessary trips at the end of the budget year so that there won’t be any money left in the coffers. It’s a perverse incentive that needs to be replaced with one to encourage our federal agencies to save money.
And considering the dramatic advances in technology, it truly is sad that we don’t have any meaningful and accessible system for the public to see where our tax dollars are spent. We need to increase transparency in the budgeting process so that we can hold our elected officials accountable when they throw away our money. To that end, we need to make a comprehensive budget available to the public over the internet.
But you know, the truth is, that all of these things can’t hold a candle to the most effective way to reduce our budget deficit, and that is to grow our economy and create jobs. As we saw in the 90’s the most effective way to close the budget gap is to ensure that everyone’s working and contributing to our economy. Only then will we see our economy gain the strength it needs to take us out of these deficits.
And for Montana, the best way for us to create jobs and grow our economy is to invest ourselves in the new energy industry. And by that, I mean one that is based on clean, renewable and sustainable sources of energy. Montana has such huge potential in terms of wind, solar, bio-mass, bio-fuels and even some geothermal across the state. But in order to realize our potential, it’s going to take an investment in a smarter and expanded power grid to ensure that we can transport that energy in an efficient manner. It’s also going to take an investment in our education system to ensure that we can perform the research and development necessary to fully harness these new sources of energy.
But if we want to make these changes we have to change who we send to Washington.
Since Dennis Rehberg took office in 2001, he’s managed to enact only three of his sponsored bills, and all three of them were to name federal buildings. Which, when you think about it, means that we pay this guy $170,000 a year, and what do we get for it. Well, on average, he’ll name one federal building for us every three years.
But you know what, you don’t have to take my word for it, just ask his Chief of Staff. In fact they did just that. Last cycle, they asked him what Rehberg’s greatest legislative accomplishments had been in his, by then, eight years in office. And he listed off a resolution congratulating the Carroll College football team on a football championship and, this is no joke, a resolution wishing the city of Billings a happy birthday, which we later found out died in committee.
We have a right to expect more from our Congressman. We have a right to expect a Congressman who will work towards the next generation instead of the next election. So that is why today I am here to ask for your support in this campaign. Because together, we can kick a lazy Congressman off his couch and create opportunities for Montana’s families and small businesses. Thank You!
Former GOP legislator (2 in the state house, 23 in the senate), Secretary of State and 2004 gubernatorial nominee Bob Brown recently wrote an editorial slamming the recent SCOTUS decision regarding election finance law.
The comments on that piece mystify me. There are people actually defending The Company (as in the Anaconda Copper Mining Company)….it’s almost 1984-esqe (and believe it or not, I’ve heard the same kind of defense of ACM in conversations I had that concerned Smurfit, of all things. That the union there killed Smurfit, as opposed to The Company, which took care of everyone.)
That being said, state Attorney General Steve Bullock testified in the U.S. Senate on the dangers this decision presented to Montana and other states that had laws designed to quash corporate influence on our elections. Check the video:
After the hearing, Senator Jon Tester spoke on Bullock’s testimony:
“I’m proud my colleagues got to hear Steve’s smart, common sense insight today.
“As Steve told the Senate, this Supreme Court decision will affect political races in Montana and across the country-at all levels. Special interests have too much influence already, and this decision only gives them more power.
“Our elections need to be about people, not corporations. Corporations don’t vote. People do.”
I point all this out because of two things. One being to point out that it isn’t just Democrats that see the potential for serious concerns with our elections because of that court ruling – we’ve got a prominent state Republican who’s dedicated damned near his whole life to public service here in Montana speaking out to not only the potential for devastating effects on the election process but to the example of such that can be found in our very own history.
Secondly, absent the obvious, we have an election coming up, and I’ve yet to hear our sole-and-only congressional Representative Dennis Rehberg say a gosh darn thing about the ruling. You’d think he’d have something to say – considering the clear example presented in Montana history, yet alone our very own state laws and constitution – but I guess that big oil money is more important to him than the sanctity of our election process.
Ugh. How disappointed I am in myself to have missed getting this up.
Travis Hoffman administers a listserv for Summit Independent Living Center. He does a great job informing on current local, state, and national issues and legislation that affect the lives of people with disabilities. Last week he posted a notice regarding what was tonight’s listening session on proposed cuts to the state’s Health and Human Services budget.
Tonight’s meeting was jointly sponsored by Republican state Sen. Dave Lewis and Democratic state Rep. Mary Caferro. It’s purpose was to take public input on preserving the effective programs and services of the Montana Department of Health and Human Services during the economic downturn.
DPHHS is facing some serious cuts. Last session saw permanent cuts made (which were supplanted by stimulus funds), something that was done as part of last minute budget negotiations. The ‘deal’ was that the cuts would be restored next session (2011) – clearly, that is going be difficult if not impossible. Lewis (a member of the Senate Public Health, Welfare, and Safety committee) and Caferro (Vice-chair of House Human Services committee) are both extremely hardworking legislators (as opposed to the bunch that I classify as politicians continuously running for re-election) and are smart to be getting out in front of this.
For those that were unable to attend – or are finding out late about it as may be the case here –
I’m basically going to poach this from Dave Budge (a Missoula resident) who posts over at Electric City Weblog. It’s a good cause, and I’m sure he won’t mind.
The annual spring performance of Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre will show on February 26th at the Missoula Children’s Theater. Featured work is original choreography by RMBT’s creative director, Charlene Campbell. On the “programme” (I’m trying to be sophisticated here) is a special performance of the Rossetti Trio playing pieces from Schindler’s List:
Praised as a “vital force among chamber music ensembles,” the Rossetti Trio is renowned for its highly sophisticated, sensual sound and extensive range of colors. Founding members of the Rossetti String Quartet, Henry Gronnier and Thomas Diener perform works of Debussy, Ravel Dvorak and Beethoven with award winning pianist Rina Dokshitsky.
Tickets are $45.00 (hey, it’s a fundraiser.) Information on the Company and the performance can be found here.
Dave posted a video, too, of last year’s winter performance. Quite a talented bunch, this video features his daughter of whom he clearly is extremely proud.
Doesn’t look like a bad way to start off a Friday night.
Carfreestupidity has graciously agreed to join us b’birders and share some of his postings here at 4&20. I’ve been reading his stuff over at Imagine No Cars: Thoughts on Alternative Transportation and Urban Design for some time. I love it. Good stuff. He’s got a a great thoughtful informative voice. I’m sure you will enjoy it too. Let’s give him a great welcome here – and take to the task of voicing support for more rail. Thanks carfreestupidity – and welcome aboard! – jhwygirl
An online version of the Restore the North Coast Hiawatha petition created by students at The University of Montana is now available on MontPIRG’s website. The petition was started in support of Amtrak’s passenger rail study and Senator Jon Tester’s push for reinstatement of the line. The original petition garnered over 1200 signatures in a matter of only a few weeks of gathering in Missoula. The first set of petitions will shortly be delivered to Senator Tester in Washington D.C.
It is the purpose of the online version to garner wider support for the rail line outside of Montana and to let our United States Senators know that the people demand more transportation options. The line connects many important cities in the region including Seattle, Spokane, Sandpoint, Missoula, Helena, Bozeman, Billings, Bismarck, Forgo, and many more. The restored line would be an important step in reducing green house gas emissions, providing transportation options, and offering vital economic infrastructure.
Superprogressiveeditorialist The George Ochenski has his latest column up for the Missoula Independent taking on the Fire Sale that the state land board put forward (by a 3-2 vote) on Monday by dropping the .25/ton bid price on Otter Creek coal by a full 20% 40% to .15/ton.
(I should note I stole that headline right out of GO’s post, too)
He lays out the hypocrisy of saving the Flathead from coal mining, while approving Otter Creek, knowing darn well it will destroy that valley.
That’s the difficult thing to reconcile. And while I’ve been called “bitter” for railing on Otter Creek (and yes, as a pro-coal cheerleader for Otter Creek, Governor Brian Schweitzer has been on the receiving end of this wrath) while not mentioning a peep about the wind projects approved – one was actually approved by Judy Martz (Judith Gap) – I believe that is a bit unfair.
Since Brian likes to tell stories – he compared the dropping of the bid price to an auctioneer trying to sell a couch – I’ll put forth my reasoning for not championing these wind projects.
Two rights don’t fix a wrong. If your 16-year old son takes your car for the night and comes home drunk, but still makes it home safely and by curfew, do you reward him because he came home on time without a scratch on the car? I doubt it. You aren’t going to overlook that he is drunk and that he drove drunk. Frankly, once you realize he’s drunk, the fact that he got home on time and the car was unharmed won’t mean a damned thing. And if he says to you as you drill down on him for drinking and drinking and driving “but I got home on time,” that might even piss you off more.
So approving 3 wind projects (this is kind of an extension of that hypocrisy that Ochenski was talking about, isn’t it?) over the last 5 years doesn’t make approving Otter Creek right.
These kinds of decisions aren’t like elections. It isn’t a popularity contest. There are people that don’t keep a score of good and bad and whichever you do more of in the end negates all that other stuff. I dare say that most people expect their electeds to do the right thing.
And Otter Creek was the wrong thing.
And George Ochenski kicks ass.
There are other things that don’t have me all happy and cheery about those wind projects. Every single one of ’em is taking power to California or Oregon or Washington or Colorado or Nevada. They require major transmission lines crossing our state – and those transmission lines are going to mean private property is going to be taken in some cases under eminent domain (or threat of – most people end up knowing that they really can’t afford a fight with those big corporations).
So it’s kind of hard to champion wind power when we aren’t getting any of it…but what we are getting is a whole bunch of power lines crossing the state, carrying that power over our heads and over to California. AND private landowners (ranchers), some of which are reluctantly acquiescing to the presence of those lines, under the inevitable threat of a government takings lawsuit.
What is Montana? A colonial outpost for California’s electricity and Wyoming’s coal rail road market line?
Call me crazy, call me whatever – but when someone’s talking green energy, I expect it to be for us here in Montana. At least some of it.
by Pete Talbot
News that former Montana Governor Marc Racicot has joined the board of Plum Creek Timber should come as no surprise. Since leaving the state, Racicot has shilled for the insurance industry, railroads and energy corporations. And, of course, George W. Bush.
Racicot is from Libby and it was while he was serving his two terms as governor that asbestos-related diseases came to light in this Northwestern Montana mining and logging town. He ignored this deadly problem.
Plum Creek also has some history in Libby. It bought all the timberlands in the area from Champion International in 1991. Plum Creek didn’t take the eighty-year-old mill in this exchange, though. It was bought by Stimson Lumber and then closed 11 years later. Plum Creek doesn’t really like the lumber business as it has found that parceling out its prime real estate is much more lucrative. It has closed most of its mills in Montana.
I met the former governor a couple of times back in the ’90s. He was one of Montana’s most popular governors and a heck of a nice guy. His legacy is a bit tarnished these days, what with the Libby asbestos fiasco, his push to deregulate Montana Power, and abruptly moving to D.C. after serving as governor to become a high-powered insurance industry lobbyist and one of Bush Jr.’s closest friends.
Some retired public officials continue to make Montana their home and continue to work for our state’s best interests. Others don’t.
(Update: There’s more Plum Creek news. The Indy’s Matthew Frank has an interesting piece about Plum Creek’s hold on Seeley Lake’s planning and zoning process.)
A Truly Great Depression Among the Nation’s Low Income Workers Amidst Full Employment Among the Most Affluent
This graph pretty well speaks for itself:
This is taken from a study just released by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston:
At the end of calendar year 2009, as the national economy was recovering from the recession of 2007-2009, workers in different segments of the income distribution clearly found themselves in radically different labor market conditions. A true labor market depression faced those in the bottom two deciles of the income distribution, a deep labor market recession prevailed among those in the middle of the distribution, and close to a full employment environment prevailed at the top. There was no labor market recession for America’s affluent.
In testifying before a Congressional committee in the late 1960s on the need for a sub-employment index to capture the high variations in labor market conditions in different neighborhoods and local labor markets, Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz was asked how workers were doing on “on average”. He reportedly replied, “When you have your head in the freezer and your feet in the oven, on average you are doing Ok.” Similar remarks apply to the state of American labor markets today. Who will tell the people? Does anybody care?
In a 3 – 2 vote (Schweitzer, McCulloch and Lindeen voting yes), the Land Board voted to lower the minimum bid price on the Otter Creek tracts from .25/ton to .15/ton.
I’ve yet to stomach a viewing of the entire hearing – but thanks to my DVR (and since the Land Board doesn’t archive its audio and video like the legislature has been able to do for quite a number of years), I’ll be watching it tonight.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau and Attorney General Steve Bullock both voted against the project. For that, I am deeply grateful.
I hope to transcribe the testimony and comments of at least two individuals from today’s hearing. AG Bullock spoke to the corporate welfare that he saw about to be dispensed. Another opponent spoke to the corporate money of Arch Coal – where they put it and the return they would get if the leases were approved.
Those words – like Juneau’s “no” vote in December – need to be out there so that people can be reminded of precisely what was at stake when Otter Creek becomes the disaster that will be.
And make no mistake, those that voted yes were keenly aware of that impending disaster. Lee reporter Mike Dennison captured that awareness by referencing Governor Schweitzer’s promises to Montana’s water resources prior to the yes vote by he and Lindeen and McCulloch. I’ve gone ahead and transcribed them word for word. Read them and ponder why the taxpayers must forego $5 million in coal revenues to the general fund or to the school trust (he didn’t say where he planned to take that $5 million) to protect Montana’s water resources.
I’m going to instruct my budget director, to put in my budget that we take to the legislature, $5 million so that every high school in Montana will either have solar panels or a wind turbine at their school and in order for them to receive this money – which is approximately $32,000 per school – they’ll have to sign a contract with the Department of Commerce that they will spend a minimum of 5 hours teaching time in each of those classrooms with every high school student in Montana explaining to them how this alternative energy works and how it is the energy of the future. I’m also going to instruct the budget director to put $5 million in the budget to protect those that live in Otter Creek and their water. I don’t know who the director of DEQ will be 8 years, 12 years, 20 years from now. I’ve no idea who will be seated on this land board…who will be responsible at the DNRC. We can’t control that – the people of Montana will elect those positions, and the rest of ’em will be appointed. So that’s why whether the DEQ or the DNRC has the fortitude to make sure that the mining companies are protecting the water assets of the people that live there and farm there and ranch there and raise children will not be in doubt – because there will be $5 million put aside. And those monies – $5 million and $5 million – would come from this bonus bid.
While the “people that live there and farm there and ranch there and raise children” can’t take that $5 million to the bank – only the legislature can appropriate – what they can take to the bank is proof, given to us today by the 3 yes votes, that corporate coal money reigns supreme over their water, their lives, their farms, their ranches and their children.
by Pete Talbot
I’m talking adverting here, not news stories. And I want to know what’s going on.
I saw my first medical marijuana ad in the Missoulian last Sunday. It was a little guy buried in the Territory section. Has the paper’s advertising policy changed or do pot dispensers think Missoulian readers just aren’t their market?
Med./mar. distributors have been a godsend for the Missoula Independent — full-page, half-page, four-to-a-page ads fill our weekly. So, I’ve got to wonder if some of the ad execs at the Missoulian decided to climb on the bandwagon and allow the pot shops to advertise. It’s not like daily newspapers are rolling in black ink these days (pun intended).
And what’s next? A pot spot leading into a Mark Heyka weather report? Med./mar. underwriting NPR’s All Things Considered?
There’s nothing like a recession to change a company’s policy on the kind of advertising it will accept. I’d love to hear from media reps, herb distributors or others in the know.
We wrote yesterday about the intentionally misleading bullshit put out by the Committee for Truth in Politics. They’ve been at it nationwide, dumping millions into their ad campaigns. Recently they’ve targeted Montana, using fear to drum up anti-finance reform calls to both Sen. Jon Tester and Sen. Max Baucus.
Tester sits on the key Banking and Finance Committee, which is working on finance reform. He is also the only Senate Democrat to have voted against both the bailout of Wall Street and the bailout of the U.S. auto industry
In an article published in Saturday’s Clark Fork Journal, Tester takes on the Committee for Truth in Politics, telling 2 people known to be associated with the group (William W. Peaslee, a board member, and James Bopp, Jr., who publicly represents the group) “As you well know, this TV ad—which encourages viewers to contact me—is flat out false. There is no bill before the Senate to bail out big banks.”
I—along with most Americans—believe very strongly that Wall Street and its CEOs ought to play by the rules. Our economy almost collapsed a year and a half ago because there were no referees on Wall Street. And Montana’s Main Street small business owners and families should never have to pay the price of greed on Wall Street.
Amen to that.
You can read Tester’s entire letter at The Clark Fork Journal.
So who’s bankrolling you, Committee for Truth in Politics? Come clean, or are you too deep in the bullpen to understand why we care?
Please take a moment to contact Sen. Tester and tell him that you support finance reform efforts. Don’t let all those ill-informed corporate tools calling on Tester be the bulk of input he gets.
Inquiring minds are wondering. Tomorrow’s Land Board meeting may provide the answer, as the state’s executive branch (Gov. Schweitzer, Sec. of State Linda McCulloch, Attorney General Steve Bullock, State Auditor Monica Lindeen and Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau) consider whether to lower the minimum bid for the Otter Creek coal tracts.
But not before listening (for the upteenth time) to hours of opponent testimony that ranged from environmentalists, tribal members and ranchers who will be directly affected by the rape of the land, litany of industry lies, and the permanent assault on both the environment and private property rights.
Their testimony of which, notably, was kept to a 3-minute time limit while proponents representing big coal interests (the Montana Coal Council) and the only likely leaser (Great Northern/Arch Coal) were allowed to ramble on. Watch the video in JC’s post on Otter Creek to hear what one opponent had to say about that treatment.
And not before adding a .15/ton bonus to the minimum bid recommendation, which was, perhaps not so ironically, arrived at through negotiation with the only potential leaser Great Norther/Arch Coal.
So it should be no surprise that the only potential bidder on the coal is whining about the minimum bid. Which, speaking of – it’s a little ridiculous to call this a bid process, IMNSHO. It sorta creates an image that there is the potential for the bid to go higher – that someone else might place a bid. Which isn’t the case here.
The level to which we find our electeds here in Montana kowtowing to corporate interests all in worship to the almighty – yet elusive – “business” and “jobs” still astounds me. Proponents say that these tracts will create massive numbers of jobs, yet the total of all 5 working coal mines here in Montana doesn’t employ even 1,000 people. Factor in that the highest paid of those jobs go to out-of-state engineers and corporate big dogs, and that number becomes even lower. Mining is highly automated – and is becoming more and more automated with larger and larger machines.
The level of corporate kowtowing won’t stop with a lower of the bid price – if they do it….it’ll continue with a tromping of private property rights over those of (yep, you guess it) the developer Great Northern Arch Coal.
Certain members of the Land Board (no sense in calling anyone out in particular, and yes, Denise Juneau can be exempted here) have gone through great pains through the several hearings on Otter Creek to say that “this isn’t about the rail road” and “this isn’t about the actual mine – what we’re talking about here is just the lease” as if leasing the tracts doesn’t bring the other two.
In federal language, this is called “connected actions” and this is where federal agencies often meet their legal woes. Simply put, actions that are a result of the intended outcome must be considered.
In this previous post, titled Montana GOP leaders support federal condemnation for Otter Creek, I explained how the railroad will require condemnation (i.e., eminent domain takings) of private property. Whether the railroad will be looked at as a common carrier has yet to be seen, but even if that doesn’t occur, state law can and will be used in an attempt to condemn for that railroad.
Great Northern/Arch Coal will use MCA 70.30.102 – using a pretty wide interpretation of “public uses” (since the only one truly benefiting from the railroad will be Great Northern/Arch Coal) – to condemn private property to build this railroad. A railroad that will help Arch Coal move its Wyoming coal more cheaply to markets both east and west.
And before any wingers go screaming “tax revenue” as a public use, let me remind you of the Kelo case (which is linked to within the condemnation piece above).
I’ll also remind you that the private property of Kelo, condemned in the Kelo case, still sits unused by a now bankrupt private entity that had successfully gained the property through eminent domain.
Yessiree, this Otter Creek is one big mess. The Land Board added the .15/ton bonus payment saying it wouldn’t sell the coal cheaply. That the kids would benefit (McCulloch had some constitutional blackout with that one, since only the legislature can appropriate). Even the Good Gov has long said he would not sell Otter Creek cheaply.
We’ll see, won’t we.
For those of you interested, you can watch the Land Board hearing live by watching it on TVMT (Channel 67 here in Missoula, other channel listings for around the state can be found here.)
You could also stream it live from the state’s website, links which can be found here, at the top of the page.
Oddly – and even the Land Board’s website is pretty clear about this – the Land Board doesn’t archive its audio or video of the Land Board meetings. This is opposite the very efficient and public-information friendly legislative branch who archives not only audio and video from years past sessions, but committee meetings along with the written minutes.
SO – if you want to watch the Land Board hearing, you best set 4 or 5 hours on the DVR or VCR to tape, or catch it live. Because after that, it’s only a memory. Of course, a month later you can read the typed minutes, but those aren’t complete transcriptions.
Nothing like seeing your elected officials in action, peeps.
In closing – please take the time to call or email the Land Board members tonight…or before 9 a.m. tomorrow. Tell them that leasing that coal at a lower price further perpetuates corporate welfare.
Also, don’t just listen to me – read Button Valley’s 2 most recent Otter Creek-related posts: Value of school children plummets and “If not now, when? If not us, who?”. You can also search the term “otter” over there for a whole wealth of informative posts on Otter Creek.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer — (406) 444-3111, firstname.lastname@example.org
Superintendent of Public Instruction, Denise Juneau — In-State Toll-Free 1-888-231-9393, Local (406) 444-3095 OPISupt@mt.gov
Attorney General Steve Bullock – (406) 444-2026 contact email@example.com
State Auditor Monica Lindeen – (406) 444-2040 firstname.lastname@example.org
Secretary of State Linda McCulloch – (406) 444-2034 sos.mt.gov
Let’s get this straight: A mysterious organization called the Committee for Truth in Politics, which is suing to stay secret, ponies up tens of thousands of dollars for scary TV ads in Montana telling us, “We won’t be fooled” by another big bank bailout?
If you haven’t seen the ad, check it out:
A $4 trillion big bank bailout? Please. There is simply no such proposal in the Senate. It’s a lie. Even members of Congress don’t know what the ad is talking about. Don’t be fooled by the hilariously ironic Committee for “Truth” in Politics.
Sadly, a lot of Montanans are being fooled. Maybe that’s because the language in the ad is very carefully crafted and poll-tested, straight from the mind of Dr.
Evil Frank Luntz. If you’re unfamiliar with Luntz, he’s the rightwing wordsmith who wrote the playbook on how to kill health care reform. He just wrote the playbook on how to kill Wall Street reform. And yes, you can read his inglorious playbook online.
Wall street reform, after all, is what this shadowy organization and Luntz are trying to stop. They know that our economy collapsed because Wall Street had no one watching what it was doing. And they’re scared because the American people want to reform Wall Street so it never happens again. But Luntz knows “bailout” is a word that gets a rise out of people. So they’re trying to fool us by calling the reform effort a “bailout.” Scare and confuse people by calling it a bailout, even if it’s not bailout, because people hate bailouts!
Speaking of truth in politics, just where did the $4 trillion dollar number come from? A lot of people are trying to figure that out, including Ben Smith over at POLITICO, who boiled down the
inaccuracies lies last week:
“The source of the ‘$4 trillion’ claim is language in the bill that would give the Fed authority to conduct a bailout in a future crisis, after debates over authority hampered the federal reaction in 2008. The bill has been written, however, to avoid this criticism, insisting that failed institutions be dissolved and their creditors take a bath, rather than that they be propped up and repaid.”
In other words: There is no bailout. The bill does exactly the opposite.
This ad is just another well-funded, out-of-state PR effort dumping out-of-state money into come-cheaply Montana ad space airwaves in order to throw a wrench into much-needed finance reform using the poll-tested language of fear.
These people are dangerous. They desire to rule by chaos. They decry the status quo while offering no solutions and disrupting anything designed to change the very things they hate.
Which begs the question, just who is paying for all of these TV ads? And why are they spending so much money preventing rules on Wall Street?
Who gains? Is Wall Street footing the bill? Why doesn’t the Committee for Truth in Politics want us to know the truth in politics?
by Pete Talbot
Anyway, here’s the story from the Missoulian, although it originated from Brett French of the Billings Gazette. The photo credit says “Courtesy photo” so I’m not sure who to thank for its usage.
“We, as students from Big Sky High School, do not want our school funding to come from coal,” said Allison Lawrence, one of the protesters at the rally. “We would rather live with old books than get blood money for shiny new computers.”
This came across my email via the Missoula Community News listserve:
MISSOULA – Several dozen Big Sky High School seniors took their opposition to an eastern Montana coal mining project to the next level by walking out of class to protest.
As many as 100 students left class before the end of school on Tuesday to protest the State Land Board’s recent decision to lease the Otter Creek coal tracts.
The grassroots environmental group Northern Rockies Rising Tide took pictures as the students carried home-made signs and marched down South Avenue to Reserve Street.
Protesters say that money from the Otter Creek leases is supposed to support public schools but it’s “unclear” whether the money will be directly used that way.
Go Big Sky High!!!