Archive for February 27th, 2011

by Pete Talbot

Missoula County Democrats held the traditional transmittal potluck dinner Sunday evening at University Congregational Church, recognizing the work Missoula’s delegation has done at the halfway point of this legislative session. Our state representatives and senators updated the crowd and took questions.

Before my take on their message, here are some general impressions:

About 150 folks attended and the food flowed. The mood was upbeat — which is what everyone needed after a brutal first half. The mix — the usual suspects and the new, younger faces; the organizers, the party faithful, some newbies — were there to support the daunting work the delegation has done to date. Legislators were happy to look out over a sea of friendly faces, which has not been a common occurrence for them in Helena.

I counted ten Missoula area legislators. I didn’t go there to take notes, so these are rough observations.

One of the big concerns was the number of referendums that could appear on the 2012 ballot. You know, some of those wacky bills that didn’t make it out of the legislature or were vetoed by the governor: nullification, the assualts on the environment, land use, abortion rights, etc.

Just what Montana needs, a dozen unconstitutional, anti-voter and just plain silly referendums that will clutter the ballot. The far right will continue pushing regressive legislation long after this session is over.

And enough crazy bills have already been introduced that they’re getting national attention, something the Missoula delegation noted: most Montanans don’t like the negative publicity.

Also, legislators mentioned some of the bad bills that could cost the state millions in federal dollars; which doesn’t seem to upset the Teapublicans. Health, human services, and environmental programs that generate funding and jobs; all looking at cuts.

And then there’s education, especially higher education (when we need it the most). More cuts.

Our legislators noted they’d been able to kill some of the most heinous bills. The delegation has been holding together well. They’re not in lock step, though, as evidenced in their varying support on eminent domain bills.

Many Missoula ordiances are under attack, and legislators noted the irony of the anti-big governement forces that advocate for local control and then dismiss the will of Missoula voters.

Budget issues are coming up in the next 45 days. There’s the governor’s budget, the legislative analysist’s budget and the Republican budget; the Republican budget being the most pessimistic and least forward thinking, as usual.

I’m just scratching the surface but here’s what I came away with: Keep those Capitol visits, emails and phone calls coming. Write a letter to the editor. Get ready to work hard on the 2012 elections.

And from me: support your Missoula Area legislators — they’re doing as good a job as is humanly possible up there in Helena.


The social engineering argument – the argument that certain policies are meant to control our actions and thus negatively affect our freedoms and are inherently socialistic – is brought out by conservatives on a regular basis to counter progressive ideas and policies.  Wanting to rid the world of plastic shopping bags, switching to more efficient CFL light-bulbs, or promoting alternative modes of transportation are examples of policies that have this argument flung their way all the time.  And given how many Teapublicants seem to view such policies, it would seem they would like to turn the clock back with a big win for freedom and allow us to purchase leaded gas once again.

I was reminded of this on Friday when Michelle Malkin responded via Twitter to Ray Lahood’s announcement that high-speed rail will create thousands of American jobs.  Malkin linked to a post on her blog where she claimed that supporters of high-speed rail were “eco-radical social planners;” obviously in this case giving people more choice when it comes to travel is undesirable and radical.  According to many conservative pundits, social engineering is something that only those evil leftists attempt to undertake.  When Malkin uses the term to attack high-speed rail she conjures up images of government bureaucrats taking away hard-working, middle-class Americans’ cars, forcing them into 200 sq ft apartments in Soviet style housing complexes, and forcing abortions upon all women.

So what is social engineering?  Social Engineering is the…

“effort to influence popular attitudes and social behaviors on a large-scale, whether by governments or private groups in the political arena.”

Pretty broad idea right?  One that conservatives embrace in many of their policies.  Attempts to bust unions in Wisconsin, Ohio, and New Jersey, efforts Malkin has been heartily cheering for, are social engineering because the aim is t ultimately reshape the attitude that Americans hold regarding the relationship between workers and corporate interests… Wisconsin is just the first step.  30 years of constantly chipping away at government social programs, the deification of The Great Gipper, and convincing half of this country that Reaganomics actually works all fit under the premise of social engineering.

Some examples of real world social engineering, both good and bad,  as opposed to the kind Malkin imagines:

  • Henry Ford paying his workers $5/day so that they could actually make a living
  • Andrew Carnegie building libraries throughout America in order to spread literature, culture, and his good name
  • Walmart convincing people to buy cheap products from China that accelerates the exportation of American jobs
  • Things like Jesus Camp
  • Eisenhower’s National Highway System which had a major influence in turning America into a motoring society
  • The Abolition movement
  • Prohibition
  • Abolition of child labor via the Fair Labor Standards Act

Even America’s Founding Fathers were social engineers when they conjured up a contract which would form the basis for not just our system of government, but would establish our sense of identity as Americans and as a symbol for every social and civil rights movement throughout our history.  Social engineering is all around us in our everyday lives, mainly in the form of marketing telling us that this or that product is safe and will improve our lives.  But it also comes in the forms of legislating morality and the push by some to turn America into Ayn Rand’s wet dream.

To insinuate that only those fucking dirty-hippie-socialist-fascist-pigs that want a cleaner world are responsible for social engineering is deceitful.  I guess its only social engineering if the policy comes from the other side of the political spectrum.  And apparently some conservatives would like to rid America of the stench of social engineering that are child labor laws and have little Timmy STFU and get back to the lathe.

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