Archive for March, 2010

by jhwygirl

…in this post, I’d have to head to the first paragraph in this comment – and I’d take it as a cynical assessment of the problem: We can’t afford to jail them all, and the suspended sentences are a joke.

And so therein I agree with Carol Missoulapolis.

And maybe I’m stretching it, but I’m not doing it to intentionally misinterpret.

Whether she agrees with this, I don’t know – but the problem doesn’t start with the arrest, it starts with the culture that thinks it’s OK to get behind the wheel after having a few. I’ve found it to be ingrained in rural culture, and goes back to ranchers driving for hours across dirt roads on hot summer days and never seeing a thing. It’s the mentality that comes with that, which is the same mentality that fought the need to buckle in their kids or have a cold one in one hand and the steering wheel in the other.

The problem comes in when these people are killing other people. There’s no excuse for a government that allows that. The tragedies are frequent. It’s March 31st. How many DUI deaths to date?

Point is, no amount of penalty is going to get at the growing heart of the matter – there are more and more people all the time and therefore there are more and more people on the road that continue to think that drinking and driving is OK.

The best thing jail does is keeps someone off the road for a while – the worse it does is it jails them for what was more likely a non-violent arrest (non-accident also), exposes them to violent offenders, loss of job, disruption and then subsequent downfall. Not productive.

Focus has to be made on changing behavior. Should be starting that stuff in high school. Back in my day they’d drag that twisted truck out there to the front lawn of the high school on the busiest front street and leave it there for 4 or 5 weeks for everyone to see every day on their way to school. And for all the other visiting kids to see on a couple of Friday nights with football or basketball or wrestling. I didn’t get through my high school years without seeing (including “away” events) probably a dozen examples.

Makes it hard to romanticize a life lost when it happened in a big hunk of twisted metal. Flowers and teddy bears and tv cameras might seem all sad, but they don’t stick around as long as those vehicles did out there on the lawn.

A couple weeks back I wrote about AG Steve Bullock’s program to reduce multiple DUI’s that he is kicking off in Lewis & Clark County. That’s one way to get tough on actual offenders….clearly, jail isn’t working and it’s expensive It’s expensive for the state…it’s expensive for the person jailed. If having 1 or 2 full-time people around to take the twice-daily bac and administer the program is more effective and cheaper than therapy and jail, let’s get after it.

Next month, in fact, the Law and Justice Interim Committee is meeting to discuss Bullock’s initiative along with the model program in South Dakota. There’s attachments at that link that the legislators will be discussing.

Has the legislature…has the state… ever seriously tried to address the issue? Well….it’s 2010, and when I read stories like this I can’t help but shake my head to realize just how very little we’ve come from the days of the Anaconda Copper Kings and their influence in Helena.

In this case (if you clicked that last link), we’ve got state government writing legislation for the benefit of the body corporate….

But such is the state of Montana. For now. But unlike the cynics that inspired this post, this cynic thinks that the legislature is not going to get away with skulking out some pro-alcohol vote on the floor. Not in 2011.

The entire state will be watching.

by jhwygirl

Continuing on the fine subject of earmarks and deficit spending and health reform, a simple internet search led me to EarmarkWatch.org, and a summary of Representative Dennis Rehberg’s earmark requests just from FY2008 House and Senate Labor-HHS-Education bills and the 2008 House Defense Bill.

How much did our very own drunken sailor/deficit peacock ask for? $2,000,000.

What was the $2,000,000 for? Exclusively, the money was for health care-oriented grants.

It’s another glaring example of the hypocrisy that is Dennis Rehberg – he saddles up to tea baggers by shouting down wheelchair-bound health reform supporters – the same tea baggers that are formed out of new found hatred for deficit spending.

Did they know as they hero-worshiped deficit peacock Rehberg down there in Hamilton Montana that surely sunny day that he had already earmarked $2,000,000 for health care throughout Montana?

Rehberg is what he is. Conservatives and their tea partying offsprings should not be fooled to think that he’s fiscally conservative by any means.

Something to mull over – check this chart out and consider that Rehberg took office January 1, 2001:

Rehberg might be Republican, but fiscally conservative he is not.

by jhywgirl

Well, this is rich, coming from our very own lone congressional Representative Dennis Rehberg – He’s swearing off earmarks for a year, “in a symbolic stance against federal spending.”

Where was he his other 9 years in congress?

Dennis, you see, loves to (first) put earmarks in bills, (next) vote against said bills in a sudden fit of fiscal conservatism, and (finally) take credit for earmark that he placed in the bill he voted against.

Pogie – who has an affection for Rehberg that I certainly admire – is quick on Matt Gouras’ latest Rehberg blurb, pointing out that Rehberg has been a drunken sailor for the last 9 years, and his latest stance is yet another example of his ongoing inconsistency regarding his claims of fiscal conservatism.

I mean – Pogie had Dennis Rehberg pegged a drunken sailor back in April of last year.

Voters shouldn’t be fooled by Rehberg’s election year antics. He goes through this every two years, occasionally pulling out some vote that reaches for the moderate voters of this state – two years ago it was his switch in voting for CHIP funding, this year apparently he’s trying to bill himself as a deficit hawk.

A deficit hawk who touts deficit spending to reduce the deficit.

That’s right folks – after 10 years in congress, Dennis Rehberg has yet to comprehend basic budgetary principles. Let’s not forget the schooling the Kaimin did of Rehberg earlier this year.

What a joke.

Head through Pogie’s archives for your reality check on our hypocritical Rep. Dennis Rehberg…and once your done there, feel free to peruse our own archives here.

by Pete Talbot

I had to go to that bastion of investigative journalism, Google news, to learn about it. Nothing in our local media — print, radio or TV — and nothing in the statewide press.

The rest of the world seemed clued in: the Philippines, China, New Zealand, Kenya, Brazil; even Dallas, the progressive Mecca of Texas, got in the swing.

They all turned off their lights for one hour Saturday. It was called Earth Hour and it was promoted by the World Wildlife Fund to call attention to global warming. This isn’t new. It’s been going on for four years now.

Granted, it’s a symbolic gesture but it did cut energy demand — by five percent in some cities. It’s also an effective educational tool. It would certainly get the attention of my grandkids if the TV, Playstation, computer, lights, stereo, etc. were turned off for an hour on Saturday night and we did something family-like by candle light.

But I guess Montana won’t be affected by declining fossil fuel reserves or by climate change. No need for us to join the rest of the world. Ignorance is bliss.

by JC

Frank Rich cast some light into the dark morass of tea bagging and the GOP today in the New York Times article “The Rage Is Not About Health Care”:

“If Obama’s first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same trajectory. The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman — would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play. It’s not happenstance that Frank, Lewis and Cleaver — none of them major Democratic players in the health care push — received a major share of last weekend’s abuse. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan “Take our country back!,” these are the people they want to take the country back from.”

angry bagger

I’ve been wondering all along why the tea baggers would be so dead-set against a health care bill that is basically a bag of republican ideas–including a mandate conceptualized by the Heritage Foundation–working off of the model that republican Mitt Romney signed into law in Massachusetts. A plan that furthers the republican goal of moving public wealth to private corporations. I daresay we’ll be hearing plenty from those trying to upsell this republican plan as progressive legislation the rest of the year. But that will do nothing to assuage the baggers and their GOP and Fox/Rush/Palin chearleaders.

Rich traces the roots of the tea bagger revolt back to Sarah Palin’s introductory speech at the RNC convention. With that speech, it suddenly became fashionable again to whip the right-wing crazies into a frenzy with a bunch of veiled bigotry and disinformation. And one way to curry favor with the new diva was to try and emulate or outdo her.

“Take our country back” has become the rallying cry for the current wave of hysteria and bigotry in this country. The problem is, however, that it was never “their” country in the first place. The country belongs to all, equally. Even those who are legally immigrating here.

If there was anybody who has a legitimate claim on “Take our country back”, though it would be Native Americans. I once listened to Bearhead Swaney out at the National Bison Range, on an anniversary of the Hellgate Treaty tell a nice little “joke”: What did native people call this land before the white man came? “OURS!”

We are witnessing nothing more than the second coming of white man to America.

by JC

Also overshadowed by all the hoopla over the health reform legislation was the fact that SAFRA, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, was bundled into the Health bill’s reconciliation package. So Congress actually ran a reform package for student aid through Congress with little or no opposition from the GOP.

What does SAFRA do? Here’s some highlights:

  • kill subsidies for private lenders,
  • expand the federal direct-lending program,
  • and channel the money saved into bolstered Pell grants for low-income students

I guess this is the what happens when the party of Hell No gets all wrapped up in politics and ignores policy. Some actually good policy can move along undercover.

by Pete Talbot

What with the health care bill and resulting flak, this story flew under the radar (sorry about the military analogies).

Russia and the U.S. will sign an agreement next month reducing their nuclear arsenals by about a third. That still leaves close to 1500 warheads a piece, which is a lot of nukes, but it’s progress.

We all need a some good news from time-to-time.

by JC

wingnuts

This week is seeing an escalation of right-wing craziness egged on by republicans. I don’t hardly need to provide any links, but anyone who was watching the health care bill vote saw republican representatives on the balcony outside the chamber cheering on the tea baggers as they protested outside Congress. The same protestors who were throwing racial and homophobic slurs at Congresspersons as they marched up the steps.

We’ve got bloggers posting the wrong address for a Congressman, and tea baggers severing gas lines. Bullets. Bricks. An upcoming April 19th open carry rally in DC on the anniversary of Tim McVeigh’s bombing of the Murrah building, the burning of David Koresh’s Branch Davidian complex and the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. Sarah Palin using gunsights on the districts of Congressional districts she’s targeting. Michael Steele referencing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s fall election as a “firing line.” Former Congressman Dick Army’s funding of the apparatus that is stirring up all this hate. Former House Speaker Newt Gingritch blaming Democrats for all the violence because of their policies and actions–even though they are duly elected and ran legislation through a regular process. The ex-Vice President’s daughter fomenting McCarthyism over public defenders as she gears up a possible run for the Presidency.

This list goes on and on. It is what is passing for politics in the GOP these days, as the organization teeters from spectacle to spectacle. Birthers. Deathers. Deniers. Haters. At some point, though, this ignorance and fomenting of anger will have consequences. People will get shot, offices burned and bombed, and chaos will reign.

Maybe this is really the future the GOP wishes on this country. A future where liberty equates anarchy. Freedom is synonymous with bigotry. Where compassionate conservatism is reserved for the worthy, wealthy. It is a slash and burn mentality that is taking hold, one where the GOP “Party of No” wishes this country to fail, so they can ride in–white knight in shining armor–to save the day.

I’ve heard references to how this is beginning to parallel the anti-war movement sentiments of the 60’s, in that it is painting a picture of a political party that will endure in people’s minds for generations. Heck, we’ve got commenters here who still hate on hippies. I can see it in 2040, my grandkids will be saying: look grandpa, another dirty teabagger with his hate signs!

I’ve only pointed to the tip of the iceberg here. What think all of you?

by jhwygirl

In April, Missoula City Council will take up a proposed city ordinance that will ensure equal protection for everyone regardless of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

See? Is that a big deal? Or maybe the question is Why is this a big deal?

This is such a no-brainer for me to support, my mind sometimes has a hard time “supporting” stuff like this because I have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that people can want to treat certain people differently based on who they are. How can people can think that way? Where to begin with such ignorance?

Tonight I first came across this. I’m reading the comments there, and frankly, I’m amazed at the openly bigoted and blatantly ignorant things people will publicly say and put their name and face to it.

Then I get to Missoula Red Tape where I read about a website titled NotMyBathroom.com, where the lies and misinformation continue. They purport – and notice the careful wording there – to be “an alliance of 17 organizations with members within the City Limits of Missoula as well as dozens of concerned citizens.”

Could that mean “An alliance of 17 organizations spread out over North and South American, with 2 members with the city limits as well as dozens of concerned citizens living in northern Idaho”?

These Mel Gibson fans even had the gumption to send out a press release.

I truly hope that the press picks up on that…someone like that, going through all that trouble to create two webpages and issue a press release deserves all the attention their little twisted brain desires.

by jhwygirl

These guys and gals are really digging themselves a hole, aren’t they?

Finance reform is a another big important honey-do for Obama…but frankly, it shouldn’t matter who is president and what party you are a member.  The need for finance reform should not be lost on anyone.

Apparently it is lost on Republicans. Over the weekend, Republicans withdrew over 300 amendments to proposed reform. Finance reform has been kicking around for as long as health reform. Republicans have used every tactic to delay moving it forward.

Sound familiar?

Just about 10 days ago, as a whole bunch of us were getting sick and tired of inaction, Dodd set the stage to move reform forward with or without Republican support.

Today, in a party-line vote of 13-10 in Senate Banking Committee, Sen. Dodd moved his finance reform bill forward.

I find it unbelievable that Republicans won’t participate in the forward movement of anything with regards to domestic policy. Withdraw proposed amendments? How are they going to spin that one? Bill Clinton made ’em do it?

What possible justification do they have in objecting to finance reform that prohibits future bank bailouts?

Our own Senator Jon Tester seems to have had his own gut-fill of the situation, speaking out in a guest opinion in today’s Missoulian of the tactics employed by Wall Street to halt reform.

I’m glad Senator Tester is continuing his strong support of finance reform.

If this nation can regulate pork and wheat futures, we can darn well regulate banking futures. Frankly, the whole idea that banks can bank on futures and consider that solid investment seems obscene to me. It makes banking little more than a crap shoot.

Which is damned near what it was starting 2 years ago, remember?

Take time to contact Sen. Tester and thank him for standing strong in support of meaningful finance reform.

While you’re at it, contact Sen. Baucus and ask him to support finance reform.

Another one who should be getting a call is Rep. Dennis Rehberg.  It’s an election year…maybe he should be asked to commit to reform.

Does he support the current bill? If not, what does he support?

Rehberg should not get a free pass on this one. I do not want to hear him criticize that which he offered nothing meaningful or constructive.  Which is all he did on health insurance reform.

Let’s hope Montana’s media hold Rehberg to some sort of constructive position on finance reform. He should not be allowed to get away with just criticizing something without offering real solutions.

by jhwygirl

Ravalli County Health Department is considering postponing the issuance of certain septic permits – in areas of known high groundwater – due to low snowpack, which ranges from 51% to 60%.

That number has now slipped to 50% in the Bitterroot (which equals the Lower Clark Fork basin, which is also at 50%.)

Groundwater monitoring is necessary to determine proper placement of septic fields. The state discourages groundwater monitoring if the April 1 to March 31 precipitation is less than 75 percent of normal.

Which means we’d have to get an awful lot of precipitation in the next few days here to reach that 75% threshold.

What does that mean for Missoula? Well, the Lower Clark Fork makes up much of Missoula County. The Lower Clark Fork basin is comprised of 3 sub-basins. You can check this map to see all of the basins.

I don’t know if any ya’all been up the Blackfoot lately – or in Seeley Lake, but spring has definitely sprung up there – and I caught dustclouds and a quad rolling on what is usually a snowmobile trail up there about three weeks ago.

With the state making recommendations – or discouraging (whatever that means — gotta love Montana’s laws when it comes to water quality, huh?) – to hold on testing when water equivalent is below 75%, that puts a wide area of the state at that less-than-75% threshold.

Of course, I don’t know that Missoula County is considering this – or if they’re even monitoring it…but I did find it interesting that Ravalli County was monitoring the situation and already discussing the actions that might be taken Given the situations appear to be very much the same, it seems a worthy question to ask.

by jhwygirl

That, from Democratic congressional candidate Tyler Gernant in today’s Helena Independent op-ed section.

Dennis Rehberg has been twittering the-sky-is-falling for weeks – no, make that months – now of the impending doom of healthcare.

Rehberg’s done nothing to contribute to meaningful discussion on reform – Rehberg has, in fact, been part of the teaparty movement of heckling some of the people who need health reform the most.

That’s right – Rehberg heckled a wheelchair-bound Hamilton woman to illustrate his meaningful input on health insurance reform.

Ugh.

As health reform legislation works its way to President Obama’s desk tonight (or what may be tomorrow, eastern time), many of us recognize that this reform is not perfect…but it is an important first step that will save lives. Gernant notes that in his editorial:

That is not to say that this legislation is perfect; it is not. Montanans still need a meaningful alternative to private insurance through a deficit-neutral public option. We still need a system that pays doctors for the value of their services instead of the volume. Although we may not get everything this year, there are a lot of positive changes that this legislation would bring to our health care system. We have waited nearly 40 years to attempt reform that would merely get us out of the starting gate. We cannot wait another 40 years for Dennis Rehberg to decide that true health care reform means more than to join a gym and stop smoking.

No battle is easy – and none is without loss to all who attempt the task. This bill includes over 200 Republican amendments, yet Republicans can not find even one vote in support. It does not provide the public option or single payer that so many progressives wanted to see.

With Rehberg, Montanan’s get even less – we get a man who heckles Montanans who need health insurance reform the most…a representative who would chose to leave 564,000 Montanans on the loosing end of completely unregulated health insurance industry.

by Pete Talbot

Many comments on the blogs I read say the Democrats are as bad as the Republicans: health care, war, the environment, the economy — Congress and the President have not done the job and there’s no salvaging the system. Sometimes, it’s hard not to agree.

There needs to be monumental change, the comments say. Maybe a third or fourth party, maybe revolution, maybe anarchy — but I haven’t seen consensus on the best solution or, really, any viable alternative.

One reason I’m still a Democrat is Denny Rehberg. He defines the distinction between the two parties. Any of the three candidates running in the Democratic primary for Montana’s lone U.S. Representative would be so much better. Here are just a few, recent Rehberg antics:

Pogie writes about Rehberg’s earmark grandstanding.

Montana Cowgirl posts on Denny’s posse.

And then I get an email (I’m a subscriber) from Rehberg’s e-newsletter. He’s outraged about the U.S. House vote on the health care bill, and writes:

Tomorrow, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi plans to force a vote on her government-takeover of health care.

Ah, if only it were true. The Republicans should be jumping up-and-down at the lack of a public option, serious regulation and oversight — really, the lack of teeth that this bill has.

And it’s not like the Republicans didn’t employ some of the same voting procedures Pelosi might try when they controlled Congress, but I guess that’s different.

Denny, reading off a teleprompter, even posted a YouTube video that was so riddled with misinformation, and fear and loathing, that it boggles the mind.

So, seeing as there’s no strong third-party candidate in almost every race on almost every ballot, I will remain a Democrat, knowing that doing nothing will continue to get folks like Denny Rehberg elected, and re-elected.

by JC

For those of you who are following the vote in the House on health care reform instead of watching March Madness, consider this an open thread.

boehner & McConnell

Since it cost a lot to win
and even more to lose
You and me bound to spend some time
wondring what to choose

And for a treat, check out the Grateful Dead video and full lyrics, Knickerbocker Arena, March 28th, 1993…
Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

I had the fabulous luck to have the time to head out to the very gracious and welcoming cities of Butte and Anaconda (in that order) for the St. Patty’s Day parades that could not have fallen on a more gorgeous March afternoon. I’d say there was quite a number of people – both adults and children – off playing hooky today (if only for an extra long lunch). Check out these Butte beauties and their proud father:

Who could blame them? The weather was fabulous! Here is a pic from the line-up for the parade in Butte. That’s Tyler Gernant, candidate for U.S. Congress there on the right, in the blue shirt. I loved the vista:

Plenty of fun was being had by all. This group was lively – and I wish I had gotten a better picture of the sweater on lad with the broken arm – it was awesome!:

Half of Butte’s parade is uphill! There’s an upside – the other half is downhill! Tyler ran a darned near sprint the whole time.

From there we were on to Anaconda. People came there, too, from far and wide….and a fun time was had by all. Look at these crowds!

Tyler again ran a sprint – everyone (in Butte and in Anaconda) wanted to talk about sending a new congressional representative to Washington. This pic is from Anaconda…Tyler Gernant is there on the right:

I had a lovely chat with this Anaconda-Deerlodge County Commissioner Robert Pierce. He was very keen on discussing the economic development on-line for Anaconda, including a natural gas-fired power plant (which was probably some of that pipeline I saw being dug), and the test sites above town for wind power energy on county-owned land that would hook into the MSTI transmission line also coming online soon. I loved his little pooch – and Pierce was a favorite – passing out over 3,300 Patty’s Day beads!

Finally – and really, I’d love to post more, there are so many great ones – are these two – the lassies and lads of Anaconda. They were gorgeous.

by jhwygirl

Back in early December, 5 senior water rights holders in 4 different basins filed a complaint to the state over its Administrative Rules regarding exempt wells. The complainants claim that the failure to adequately review the impacts of each water right as it may harm senior water rights holders can not continue – that the interpretation of what a combined appropriation (as it is in Administrative Rules) does not meet the lawful obligations under the Constitution, nor do the ARM meet the lawful intent under Montana Code Annotated.

I am in full agreement – here are just two previous posts on the subject of “exempt wells” – HERE and HERE.

Billings Gazette had a brief release today, noticing that a hearing had been set for June on exempt wells. While the brief post didn’t explain much, it’s clear from the comments that people are paying attention to the issue.

From the DNRC’s website:

HELENA, Mont. – The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) today announced the appointment of a hearings officer and a schedule for submitting briefs and public comment on water appropriation rules governing exempt wells in Montana.

“The use of exempt wells is an issue of statewide importance, with statewide implications,” said DNRC Director Mary Sexton. “This briefing and public hearing process will allow formal input from all interested parties.”

DNRC Deputy Director Joe Lamson will serve as hearings officer and will make the final determination on the issue, Sexton said.

Opening Briefs and Position Statements are due at DNRC’s Water Resources Division Hearings Unit by 5 p.m. on April 30, 2010. Responses are due by 5 p.m. on June 4, 2010.

Sexton said the Public Hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. on June 17, 2010, in Room 303 (the Old Supreme Court Chambers) of the State Capitol, 1301 E. Sixth Avenue, in Helena.

In December 2009, the Western Environmental Law Center on behalf of five petitioners requested DNRC to make a ruling on whether the combined appropriations rule governing exempt wells is consistent with applicable law.

Petitioners additionally requested DNRC adopt a new definition of the rule. Sexton said the Dept. would refrain from taking up the amendment request until a determination is made on the declaratory ruling, which is expected in July, 2010.

“This process may not be the final step in determining the appropriate use of exempt wells,” Sexton said. “Further court or legislative action made be necessary to ensure we have clarification of the term ‘combined appropriation.'”

I hope Montanans take notice of this issue – as now is the time to speak out. The problem, in a nutshell, is the state’s current exemption for review on wells (typically domestic) of up to 35 gallons per minute. And interpretation which has made its way into ARM rules allows for subdivisions to be approved as having adequate water if the developer relies on each lot drilling its own well (as opposed to looking at the combined appropriation of water for the entire subdivision and its impacts on senior water rights at the time of subdivision reviews. The rules conflict in complete ignorance to the guarantee and protections to senior water rights holders.

Developers are skating the review process for adequate water in new subdivisions by relying on exempt wells. This is occurring in closed basins – basins that the state already acknowledges are over-appropriated.

What is Montana? Is there room for ranching and farming? Water is a big part of that. Do we preserve those rights? Or do we punt the Constitution and the property rights of the individuals over the desirous property rights of those who wish to develop?

by jhwygirl

A timely post, given that the corporate welfare 15 cent bid (or bids) for the Otter Creek coal tracts were announced late Monday.

Below are Attorney General Steve Bullock’s comments at the February hearing where the Land Board (in a 3-2 vote, with Bullock and Superintendent of the Office of Public Instruction Denise Juneau voting no) lowered the bid price from 25 cent/ton to 15 cent/ton, a 40% reduction.

Governor, my colleagues – this is certainly a decision that’s received its share of attention and I think that often the loss of the arguments both for and against – and it always doesn’t fit into a two-minute news story – are the requirements that the Constitution imposes upon us as Land Board members.

This isn’t a policy decision like a legislator can make for or against continued development of coal. And it’s not like the decision to sell off a piece of surplus property. Montana Supreme Court has said that we have a duty to the public that goes beyond that of the ordinary business man. The courts have also said that the Land Board must get full market value – the largest measure of legitimate advantage – for any property that we lease or sell.

When I voted in December to lease Otter Creek I said that I’ll support the project if it’s done right…and doing it in a manner consistent with our Constitutional duties carries with it in my mind at least three considerations: First, the coal must be leased and developed in a way that follows our environmental laws and includes continued oversight by this board. Second, the lease must maximize the benefit to the trust as the Constitution requires, and third – that Montana taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for a railroad that benefits coal and power companies.

I don’t believe that lowering the bid price to 15 cents per ton or monkeying with royalty payments fulfills that obligation to maximize the benefit to the state treasury. And I think it’s easy to think that all we’re talking about today when we’re talking about the difference between 25 cents and 15 cents per ton for a bonus bid is one thin dime.

The drop in our bonus bid of 10 cents will cost the state $57 million. That’s $57 million dollars.

This 10 cent reduction will cost the treasury about the amount generated by every timber sale this board approved over the last 5 years.

Even in these tough times, Montana’s budget is in a stronger position than just about every other state because we’ve been fiscally conservative. Unloading the coal with a bonus bid that’s a fraction of what our neighbors are charging isn’t’ consistent with that fiscal responsibility that we’ve shown.

And it certainly, in my estimation, doesn’t meet the Constitutional obligations to maximize the amount of money we return to the state treasury.

And as the board is looking and considering to lower the bidder royalty to make this more attractive for the coal developers I don’t think that we can do that without acknowledging that we will be funding the Tongue River Railroad. I’ve said since the beginning that what I don’t want to see is Montana taxpayers footing the bill for a railroad to get coal and energy companies a windfall. And I’ve also said that were the railroad in place I think everyone would agree that we’d be getting more for this lease than what Arch has so-far signaled that it is willing to pay.

I’ve asked rail economists to independently analyze this..and provided that to the Board and they concluded that the Wyoming-originated coal will save $2.83/ton in shipping costs if this railroad is completed.

While we’re debating whether to reduce our bonus bid by another 10 cents a ton, Wyoming shippers will be getting a discount of 28 times that if the railroad is completed. And while we’re talking about reducing the amount to our treasury by $57 million, this review shows that a railroad in the Tongue River can save existing coal mines and power companies potentially well over $100 million each and every year.

I just don’t think that in these tough economic times Montana taxpayers should be asked to effectively be bailing out multi-national coal and energy companies. That’s not the state’s role.

Now – there will be a time when this project makes sense and I think there will be a bidder that will be willing to pay full market value for the right to develop this resource. And as members of the Land Board that at that time we do have a Constitutional obligation to lease that land. Until then, I don’t think that we need to have a fire sale. I will be voting against the motion to reduce the bonus bid from 25 to 15 cents.

After which the room broke out in applause.

Bullock’s decision was not easy. It showed. Saying the things he said contradicts much of what the proponents of the leases (on both sides of the table) had said.

Doing the right thing should not be so hard. Insider politics makes doing the right thing hard. I hope Bullock has seen the support that has stuck to him his decision to do the right thing.

I know I will remember. Thank you Denise – Thank you Steve.

by Pete Talbot

This is cool.

An email/press release from my Buddhist friend Simone Ellis: the Dalai Lama will be visiting Western Montana. The Garden of 1000 Buddhas in Arlee seems to be the main draw for His Holiness.

I don’t have a specific date but a press conference is being held Friday, so I guess that’s when we’ll get the details.

Now, I’m not a strict Buddhist. I’m not a strict anything. But to me, this is bigger than a visit from the pope. Here’s what the news release says:

Everyone knows who the Dalai Lama is, but for the record, he is the 14th Dalai Lama, and the first to travel extensively outside of Tibet. Born Tenzin Gyatso, in 1935, recognized as the next Dalai Lama at an early age, he is both the head of state and the spiritual leader of the Tibetan government in exile, seated in Dharamsala, India, where he has lived since having to flee his homeland in 1959. He won the Nobel Peace prize in 1989, and is the author of dozens of books.

Also from the news release:

WHO: Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche, spiritual head of Ewam International, and the founder of the Garden of 1,000 Buddhas, announcing the pending visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

WHERE: Inner Harmony Yoga Studio, 214 East Main Street, entrance in the alleyway north of the Union Club. Parking on Main or on side streets to Broadway.

WHEN: 1-2 PM Friday March 19, 2010.

We’ll keep you posted.

(Update: Joe Nickell has the skinny, here. Looks like a fall arrival for the Dalai Lama — if the Garden of 1000 Buddhas is completed, that is.)

(Update #2: No disrespect but I think this might be a premature announcement. One million dollars needs to be raised, thousands of stupas, reliquaries, nimbuses and gabyuls [thanks, Joe Nickell, for making me drag out a dictionary] need to be built, there’s no firm date but Fall 2011 is being discussed — lots of maybes here.)

by jhwygirl

64 legislative filings in one day? That has got to be some sort of record.

No word yet on whether we’ve got ourselves a primary race for county commissioner.

It does look, though, that Republicans haven’t totally bailed on Missoula. Looks like a number of races now have a Republican challenger.

We’ve also gained another candidate for the Democratic congressional primary…and looks like Missoula Libertarian Mike Fellows is also taking a run against Rehberg.

So the congressional race is scoring out with 4 Democrats, 3 Republicans and one Libertarian.

Some points of interest as I read:
We’re rid of Ed Butcher? Really?

by JC

Over at LitW, a comment thread ensued lambasting the Obama administration’s inaccurate prediction of the scale of job loss as an outcome of the stimulus bill.

It started off with the usual inane comment from Eric Coobs:

“Democrats trying to better the lives of everyday Americans? I don’t think so.

‘Hope and Change’ has put how many million people out of work now?”

And of course, Craig Moore had to step in for some tea bagger backup, noting that 3.6 million jobs had been lost since Obama took office, and unemployment hit 10% instead of the predicted 8%. Duly noted. Stimulus should have been larger–though that was politically unfeasible in light of the fact that needing a few republican votes to pass the stimulus necessitated a scaling back of the size of the bill. Remember those negotiations with 3 republican Senators to win passage? Therein lies the weakness of the stimulus and its lessened impact on job loss.

The point I am trying to make, however, is that while it is easy to blame Obama for job losses, and for a too-rosy early forecast on the impact of the stimulus, this is nothing compared to the Bush forecast in early 2008 on the economy, and failure to act at all. Forecasts that were delivered via an ostrich with its head in the ground.

President Bush’s “2008 Economic Report of the President (p. 26)” predicted the following in February of 2008:

“The Administration’s forecast calls for the economic expansion to continue in 2008, but at a slower pace than in the earlier years of this expansion. Slower growth is anticipated for the first half of the year, and the average unemployment rate for 2008 is projected to move up from the 2007 level. In 2009 and 2010 real GDP growth is projected at 3 percent, thereafter slowing, while the unemployment rate is projected to remain stable and below 5 percent in the 2009-10 period”

And a specific job forecast (p. 38):

“The Administration projects that employment will increase at an average pace of 109,000 jobs per month during the four quarters of 2008 [for a total of 1.3 million job growth in 2008]”

Obviously Bush & Co. seriously misunderestimated the impending doom of the upcoming Great Recession. And totally missed the 4th quarter 2008 GDP, which decreased by 6.2%.

Yet Coobs, Moore, and some of our local righty commenters et al. seem to think that 1) all of the job loss during Obama’s first year is all of his and the dems own making; 2) this is evidence of the failure of the stimulus (instead of the insufficient scale of the stimulus, as most economists believe); and 3) that everything was hunky dory during Bush’s outgoing year, and the fact that the economy lost 3.1 million jobs in 2008, instead of exhibiting the predicted growth of 1.3 million jobs is of no consequence. Conservatives are in major denial about any responsibility of either Bush or conservative ideology in respect to our current economic situation and employment levels.

This is the story going into the elections of 2010, and to some degree will be used against Obama during his reelection campaign, should he decide to run. And of course, it flies false in face of all the facts and evidence (unless you are a denier of any culpability of the Bush administration for our current problems), and is an early revisionist attempt to whitewash Bush & Co.’s culpability.

And it is easy to see the evidence that Coobs’ next comment, “employment has been in a free-fall since The Great Leader moved into the White House,” is totally absurd. The free-fall during Bush’s last year ended right as Obama took office, and the rate of job loss has fallen to the point same point it was in early 2008, when Bush was burying his head deeper in the sand, and dreaming of long days on the ranch in Texas.

Coobs’ assertions are not an isolated moment of tea bagger misunderestimations and overstated bluster. It is mainstream righty propaganda and thus a growing meme in the uncritical media. It is going to be the leading charge against democrats this fall. But it is patently false and misleading, and needs to be called out every time it arises.

I’ll leave you all with a graph put together by Speaker Pelosi from Bureau of Labor and Statistics data that speaks for itself:

jobs

by jhwygirl

At Tuesday’s congressional candidate forum held by the Missoula County Democrats – Pete did a great write-up on it – Dennis McDonald, Democratic primary candidate for congress rattled off a couple of his endorsements during his introduction, finishing off the list with “and tomorrow I expect to have the AFL-CIO (endorsement)”.

I found that interesting, given that the AFL-CIO usually has a go at its members before endorsing, and I hadn’t heard anything.

So I sent out a few emails. It really seemed like a pretty bold move to announce that you would be getting the endorsement of such a large organization.

Then again – it’s that party-insider kind of stuff that not only shocks me, but really kind of turns me off. Deals cut in back rooms. And here I thought that unions (I am the daughter of an AFL-CIO card holder) were open with their processes. Votes and all that good stuff?

What did I find of my inquiries? The AFL-CIO Board has endorsed. No one I contacted had heard, one wasn’t surprised (Helena), and three that were shocked (Billings and Missoula).

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the hypocrisy I see to this: At Tuesday’s forum, McDonald was asked about Sen. Tester’s wilderness bill – and he said something to the effect that he did largely support it but the one thing he didn’t like about the bill (“..and I’ve been upfront with Jon about this,” he said) is its lack of transparency or it having gone to the public and how it locked out agriculture and some other group.

So how does McDonald announce that he expects the AFL-CIO endorsement two days before they announce? And how does the AFL-CIO endorse without going out and talking to its members? And shouldn’t they tell their members first, before the candidate?

How does McDonald criticize Tester for lack of transparency while championing an endorsement that has yet to be announced by the organization? To its members?

All the kind of backroom dealings that really make politics stinky.

by jhwygirl

Florida Representative Alan Grayson introduced HR4789 Tuesday. It’s pretty simple. In introducing the bill, he speaks to the very issue we here in Montana face – just like dozens of others: Lack of true competition in the market place. Here in Montana, Blue Cross Blue Shield Montana controls 75% of the market.

Pass the Bill

by jhwygirl

Apparently, spines are evolving out there amongst the Washington creatures we call Democrats.

Today I hear that Sen. Harry Reid announced his intent to pass health reform via reconciliation….Durbin is saying that a public option – if it is to occur – is up to the House….and Dodd is saying that he will move a finance reform bill forward regardless of whether Republicans choose to support it or not.

Either that or someone slipped me a mickey or a benny or whatever the kids are calling those things these days and I’m imagining things….

We are entering a full year and a half where, seemingly, nothing Obama has campaigned on has gotten accomplished. Republicans will be campaigning on exactly that that – and in pretty short order, really.

I mean – we got tax cuts, but most people don’t realize that…and you’d never hear a Republican mention it, either.

Pass the bills. Move them forward. If Republicans stop them, then it will be them that stops it – and it will only ensure an even stronger Democratic base.

If Republicans stop health insurance reform, we’ll start ticking off the lives lost every single day because of lack of health care….the bankruptcies filed because of health care bills…the jobs lost overseas to foreign corporations more competitive than America’s because their industrialized nation has national health care. Reality isn’t going to go away.

If Republicans – the so-called fiscal conservatives – don’t want to participate in meaningful finance reform they’ll look like fools. Corporate lap-dog fools. We know finance reform means no more bailouts – we know finance reform means better bank regulations that prevent irresponsible costs being passed on to consumers. Again – reality isn’t going away.

If any elected out there thinks that we can stop reform and then get away with it, they’d be nuts. And that goes for both sides.

By CFS

Missoula is having a hard time of it lately and things are not going to be getting much better anytime soon.  Macy’s closed this week and several other local downtown businesses are set to shutter their doors.   And no, The University will not be able to bailout this community.  In fact, The University is likely to become a source of more pain as budgets are cut further and departments are forced to let positions stay unoccupied.

At a recent meeting discussing an infrastructure project to be built in the next few years someone made the comment that, “The University should just contribute more.” No… they really can’t.

According to NewWest.net, The University could be facing a $7.6 million budget cut in fiscal year 2011, or about 5%.  Thats a lot of money for our local economy and a lot of corresponding jobs.  Perhaps the worst thing coming out of The University for Missoula is not a budget cut but a lack of building projects.  Over the last decade hundreds of millions of dollars went into new buildings on campus.  Not only did this create new educational opportunities, but it also gave a substantial boost to the local building trade, helping to support many a contractor, architect, laborer, and even LEED supervisors.  Once built all those new buildings needed to be maintained by a legion of support staff and everyone’s favorite… administrators.

But now the building spree is over and future investments are now in question, especially with King George set to depart.  Dennison was a big supporter in recent years of reducing The University’s carbon emissions and energy use.  Retrofitting the campus to be sustainable would require a large amount of investment dollars.  Was this out of some altruistic sense?  Probably not… much more likely that he was thinking of the financial benefit such a program would reap five, ten, or twenty years down the road as well as the marketing pot-of-gold a sustainable campus would represent.  Previous policies initiatives could be up in the air with any new captain steering the ship.

Already projects that might have found funding in a different economic environment are on hold indefinitely, such as the COT expansion and a new coffee shop on campus that would have been LEED certified.  The pain is even creeping into student organizations such as the Office of Transportation which is facing an 8-12% budget cut because expected federal funding will most likely not show up on time.  An 8-12% budget cut for an organization that has a $700,000 annual budget means 3 or 4 part-time student positions disappear.

So while The University may seem like its own little world that some would like to ignore or marginalize, including the student body, it’s really an integral part of Missoula… and when Missoula suffers so does the U.

by Pete Talbot

Knowing nothing of Melinda Gopher before the forum, I was impressed by her depth, her knowledge of the issues and, mostly, her passion.

When asked why she hadn’t filed yet and why her campaign was, at this point, lower key than the other two candidates’ campaigns, she responded, “I’m building intrigue.”

I wouldn’t call her the “winner.” All three Democratic Congressional candidates showed their strengths but Gopher gets the inspiration award. And, of course, any one of the three would be so superior to our current Congressman.

Dennis McDonald talked about his credentials, his ranching experience, his support from organized labor and his ability to work across the aisle. He also emulates the Schweitzer/Montana populist style in his campaign persona.

Tyler Gernant billed himself as an outsider — a young newcomer who touts “life experience over political experience” and “represents everything that isn’t Washington.” He called himself “the anti-incumbent.”

This was the first forum to be held where all three candidates attended. It was sponsored by the Missoula County Democrats and about 75 people showed up for the 90 minute presentation.

Gernant seemed to me to have the tightest policy proposals, from taxation to trade to the deficit. A Republican fellow I ran into at the forum said the he was the most impressed by Gernant, for what that’s worth.

McDonald had a strong opening stump speech. He’s the party’s highest profile candidate and is adapting to his role. But he also wasn’t above questioning the party status quo — he had problems with the Tester wilderness bill and was aggressive on health care reform.

Gopher talked about growing up on Hill 57 in Great Falls (I’d never heard of it — doesn’t sound like one of the Electric City’s most prestigious neighborhoods). The sixth of seven children, she called herself a “scrapper.”

All three were strong pro-choice supporters. All three opened with jobs being a priority. All three expressed disappointment with our current energy policy.

And all three were gracious toward each other, although Gopher, sitting in the middle, said with a smile that she was ready to take on Rep. Rehberg, “as soon as I dispatch these two guys sitting next to me,” which got a chuckle.

Here’s some other info I gleaned: Gopher said she wanted to “steer the Democrats back on track.” McDonald made local references to the closing of Smurfit and Macy’s — always a good move. Gernant touted a pay-as-you-go policy to rein in debt.

Gernant spoke of this being a “transformational time” to change how business is conducted in Washington, and that he’s poised to take on the challenge. He said it’s time to “move away from divisive politics” and become actively involved in finding solutions.

McDonald mentioned that he’s visited all 56 counties in Montana, shaken a lot of hands, and his work effort and “lifetime commitment” to Democratic policies make him the best candidate to take on Rehberg. He also said his main platform would be “empowering people.”

Gopher advocated for single-payer health care, tackled immigration reform and disparaged our continued role in questionable wars. She also called herself “the most improbable candidate.”

A final note. As I’ve said time-and-time again, I am not a reporter. If you want more accurate quotes, a more objective view and more depth, tune into MCAT’s channel 11 on Sunday, March 14, at 8 p.m. for a replay of the event.

by jhwygirl

Cities around the U.S. are getting creative in attempts to score one of Google’s test sites for ultrafast broadband service.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, Jr. blogged…

Let me stop there. The Mayor of Memphis blogs to his community. It’s a simple wordpress site, just like the this one here. Just want to make sure ya’all take notice of that…and, come to think of it, didn’t Engen, in a past life, write for a paper?

Getting back on subject….

The Mayor of Memphis is going to his city and asking them to submit YouTube video. He talks about his vision of the impact superfast high speed internet would have on his city.

Topeka is renaming itself Google for a month,

Goodness, the pressure.

Do we need to put a Google up there on the hill?

Hasalyn Harris? We know you do film….I think you should do something humorous.

Jill Valley? You are assigned the perspective piece.

Who else can we call out here? Councilperson Jason Wiener? I’m thinking someone should put you on camera. Just about everything I hear you say is gold. Maybe get with Jill Valley. Mayor Engen? – you’d be great with Hasalyn’s piece.

Pete Talbot? You’re assigned a 7-10 minute YouTube – maybe a comparative piece of Missoula and Seattle? Go with the coffee, kayak, bike commuting and hiking the hill kind of stuff. The scenery – the people? You might even have some Seattle in your archives, no?

Any other ideas out there folks? Chop chop – get after it.

by jhwygirl

Supermontanareporter John S. Adams is reporting that Rep. Denny Rehberg’s state director Randy Vogel has been cited for alleged numerous big game violations and obstructing a peace officer.

If convicted, Vogel could also face up to six months in jail and loss of hunting privileges for 24 months for the three hunting violations.

Obstructing a peace officer? Was he drunk, or dumb? Or both?

That’s a complete lack of respect. Bad, bad, bad.

Who’s hiring these people? Didn’t one of his staffers start a fight down here in a bar in Missoula?

Who’s hiring the person that’s hiring these people?

Yikes. Bad judgment all the way around.




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