Archive for the ‘Crony Capitalism’ Category

by jhwygirl

Montana’s own U.S. Representative Denny Rehberg proposed an amendment to the 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill that could undercut U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulation of tobacco products. That amendment passed through the House Appropriations Committee last week by a vote of 29 to 20 earlier this week.

So I guess we can add this amendment to his list of accomplishments.

What does the amendment do? It halts funding for U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) rule-making activities or guidance programs unless they are based on actual harm…not the collective evidence of harm. In essence, it requires the harm to actually occur first before the FDA can act.

Said the FDA of the amendment:

“(The) FDA must sometimes act when there are credible risks, but before the weight of scientific evidence has been established. This amendment would require that consumers actually be harmed before FDA can take certain actions to protect the public health.”

U.S. News and World Report calls it “a gibberish agenda,” I call it dismantling America.

Now we want to promote children smoking? Or are we saving the rights of the tobacco industry? What is, exactly, Rehberg’s goal?

I knew Rehberg was intent on dismantling health care reform, what little we got – who’da thought he’d start campaigning on making America more unhealthy?

Here’s another thing: It’s 2011. I’d like to think by now the American Cancer Society could be focusing the main thrust of its funding towards subsidizing private investment in finding a cure for cancer…but instead they’re having to take 40 steps backwards to the 1970’s and ’80 to battle the tobacco lobbyists and Congressional lunatics like Denny Rehberg.

What is it about “hard science” and tobacco usage that Rehberg denies? He and the rest of the 29 people that voted for this amendment? Do we really need to educate them in the very real science that tobacco is bad for people? And worse for kids?

Under Rehberg’s “hard science” rule, kids would have to die before the FDA could kick in with regulations.

Think about that.

Why not send Denny a quick email and ask him why he wants more kids smoking tobacco. Ask him why he’s wasting time dismantling America.

by jhwygirl

I signed up some time ago for google news alerts on Jon Tester. The stories stacking up there lately are not something I like to see given the amount of personal time and effort I put towards his campaign. I mean, I was making calls for Jon Tester back when the reply was “Jon who??” Someone needs to say something, so here goes.

Banking reform passed congress last year and was signed into law. It was some pretty weak stuff. It was forward moving, I can give it that….but the banks also didn’t whine too much.

Until now.

Banking reform included implementation of limits on bank card swipe fees. Those debit cards? They cost retailers – and by association, consumers – pretty hefty fees. Banks want a delay in implementing limitations on these swipe fees.

Our Senator Jon Tester? He has been trying to delay implementation of this aspect of banking reform by introducing his own legislation. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid was none too please, but did agree, recently, to give it a floor vote.

Want to know how I’d like my Senator Jon Tester to be handling this issue? Take a read of Senator Dick Durbin’s open letter to Jamie Dimon, CEO and President of JP Morgan Chase & Co.

Seriously. Read it. Frankly – I hope Senator Tester reads it. Durbin dismantles banking’s argument against implementation bit-by-bit.

Who else is wanting to see delayed implementation of swipe fee limitations? Who’s championing Sen. Jon Tester’s legislation? The Heritage Foundation.

Whining about losing rewards? Wow. Talk about priorities.

Senate returns next week. The showdown on these fees is inevitable. Interestingly, last night the New York Post reported that Jon Tester is so hell-bent for getting these banks a delay in limiting their swipe fees – that he’s pushed to attach his Heritage-approved legislation as a rider to the Economic Development Reauthorization bill.

Roll Call confirms the rider story: “The provision is likely to come up as a rider on one of two noncontroversial bills, according to industry lobbyists. And with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle supporting the delay, the outcome is still very much up for grabs.”

Now is the time to contact both Senator Tester and Senator Baucus.

And meanwhile – media? While I appreciate you pointing out that Sen. Tester is doing something that we here in Montana pretty much didn’t elect him to do, it’s not really fair that all you pull out of Rehberg is that he “hasn’t taken a position on this yet.”

Seems to me that’s pretty incompetent of Rehberg – and given he’s challenging Tester and he, too, is in congress, Montanans deserve an answer…and a more visible push to get it from him.

Given all the opportunity of late with flooding, surely getting at him again with what his position is on swipe fees isn’t too hard. Same with Baucus. Inquiring Montanans want to know.

by jhwygirl

I noticed a brief – maybe 20 seconds – commercial on your station KTMF-TV around 5 o’clock this evening. It was Western Sky Financial offering its financial services to your viewing audience, which pretty much is solely in Montana.

I wasn’t really paying attention at all, but did hear the person in the ad say “If you need $2,500 in your checking account tomorrow then call Western Sky Financial. Yes, the money’s expensive but there’s no collateral required!”

As I mentioned – the ad was awfully quick…but I love my DVR for stuff like this (and political ads, city council meetings and legislative sessions) because when I backed up and replayed the commercial I noticed the numbers (barely) in real small fine print at the bottom of the commercial.

139% APR?

Max Media and ABC Montana and KTMF should know that those kind of loans are illegal here in the state. As a public media source with an FCC license, I would have to think you have some responsibility to not air advertisements for services that are illegal.

Western Sky, in fact, isn’t even registered with the Secretary of State here in in Montana.

It is my belief that regardless of the legal issues regarding the Western Financial Loan Sharking commercial, legitimizing these types of reprehensible loans that are illegal here in Montana and forbidden by federal law for all military personnel by airing 20 second ads that flash toll free numbers guaranteeing no-collateral $2,500 loans over the phone isn’t something you should be doing.

I will be contacting the Secretary of State regarding both Western Financial and the legal ability of any Montana media source to sell and air station time for their ads and any other business like it.

Montana voters did not overwhelmingly vote to make these businesses illegal only to have advertising sources such as your stations to gain revenue by selling ad space to out-of-state loan sharks.

Sincerely,

/s/ Dawn Quixote

Sen. Jon Tester supports anti-immigrant policies and impedes immigration reform.

A guest post by Helena Immigration Attorney, Shahid Haque-Hausrath, posted by Jamee Greer

Jon Tester (D-MT) is facing a tough run for re-election to the U.S. Senate, but he just keeps giving progressives more reasons not to vote for him. His track record on immigration issues has been abysmal, as I’ve written about before. Make no mistake about it — Tester is probably the worst Democrat in the Senate on the issue of immigration, and he is one of the most vocal. The way he talks about the issue, you would think Montana wasn’t one of the states with the least number of immigrants in the whole country.

Despite outrage over his despicable vote against the DREAM Act, Tester hasn’t decided to leave immigration policy to states that actually have a dog in the fight. You won’t see him bragging about his DREAM Act vote, mind you — after all, Daily Kos famously called him an “asshole” for that reprehensible vote, and he doesn’t want to rekindle the ire of the netroots crowd. However, he has continued to make his anti-immigrant positions a core part of his campaign, jumping at every opportunity to link immigration to national security concerns. For instance, when a college in California was found to be enrolling foreign students without proper accreditation, Tester quickly issued a press release noting that “several of the terrorists who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001, had entered the country using student visas.”

Recently, Jon Tester put up two web pages on the issue of immigration that are so ignorant you would think Tester locked anti-immigrant zealots Mark Krikorian and John Tanton in a room with a bottle of whiskey and posted whatever they came up with.

In fact, these two immigration pages are so wrong-headed that they require some analysis and interpretation to fully make sense of them. One web page outlines his unsophisticated view of the immigration issue in four paragraphs. His other page lists his immigration “accomplishments.” (By accomplishments, Tester seems to mean ways he has screwed immigrants and wasted federal money.) I’ll review both of the pages together.

Jon’s position on immigration is simple: people who wish to immigrate to the United States must follow the rules, and we must enforce them. That’s why Jon opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants.

During his first year as Senator, Jon helped put a stop to a bill that would have granted amnesty to illegal immigrants living in the United States.

Jon voted in 2007 to defeat the Immigration Reform Bill, telling his colleagues, “We don’t need hundreds of pages of expensive new laws when we can’t even enforce the ones we’ve already got on the books.”

Where do we start? Polls have consistently shown that the people think our immigration system is broken and want some form of immigration reform. The last time our immigration laws were substantively changed was in 1996, and almost everyone agrees that those changes were ineffective — in fact, they created more problems than they solved. People are frustrated by the federal government’s failure to act, and don’t believe that “enforcement only” solutions are going to work. As a result of the federal government’s inertia, states like Arizona, Utah, and Georgia have begun to enact their own immigration policies, which raise significant constitutional concerns including due process violations and racial profiling. While I strongly oppose state level enforcement of immigration laws, and I believe that these state laws are misguided, it is difficult to fault the states for at least trying to take action when the federal government will not.

Yet, Jon Tester considers it an “accomplishment” that he has ignored the will of the public and done absolutely nothing to fix our immigration system. In fact, he is proud that he helped derail immigration reform in 2007, and has continued to sabotage efforts to reform our immigration laws. It’s nice that he sets the bar so low for himself, but the rest of the country is expecting a little more.

Tester refuses to acknowledge that our system needs to be fixed, stating “we don’t need hundreds of pages of expensive new laws when we can’t even enforce the ones we’ve already got on the books.” The problem, of course, is that our system is broken and we need to reform our laws in order to more effectively enforce them. Current immigration reform proposals aim to increase enforcement on the border and interior of the country, but recognize that in order to curb undocumented immigration we also need to fix some of our laws that are creating the problems in the first place. For instance, our laws include huge gaps in coverage, where many family members have no reasonable opportunity to immigrate legally to the United States. Among other things, reform proposals would open new paths to family-based immigration that were causing needless undocumented immigration.

Tester remains willfully obtuse in his opposition to so-called “amnesty” for immigrants who lack lawful status. “Amnesty” means a general pardon for an offense against the state, but Tester uses the term “amnesty” to refer to any changes in the law that would create a path to legalization — even if the path is strenuous and imposes a strict set of requirements. He even used the term amnesty to refer to the DREAM Act, which would have created a seven (or more) year path towards citizenship for men and women who serve our country in the military or go to college. There is no “amnesty” on the table, and there hasn’t been for years. Instead, what is being proposed is a way for immigrants who are already here to earn their way back into lawful status by paying fines, back taxes (if they haven’t already been paying like most immigrants), and potentially even community service. After all, even Newt Gingrich understands that it is not realistic to deport all of the 11 million people who are here without status.

Finally, comprehensive immigration reform won’t be expensive, as Tester states, but will actually increase wages for all workers and improve our economy. Time and again, it has been proven that spending money on border security alone, without any other changes to our laws, is untenable and ineffective. Nevertheless, Tester has chosen to advocate these “enforcement only” solutions.

Instead [of immigration reform], Jon has focused his energy on boosting security along America’s borders, particularly our northern border with Canada. From his seat on the influential Appropriations Committee, Jon has secured investments to combat the flow of illegal drugs into the United States, as well as critical investments upgrading Ports of Entry along the Canadian border.

That same year, Jon introduced and passed into law a measure requiring the Homeland Security Department to report on weaknesses along the northern border and develop a plan for improving northern border security.

So let me get this straight: Instead of working for immigration reform to help the entire country, Tester is pushing for huge government expenditures to protect us from Canada? It is foolish to tout Canadian border security as an alternative to comprehensive immigration reform, because it is clear that the risks from an unmonitored northern border have almost nothing to do with the larger immigration problems our country is facing.

While the GAO issued a report stating that Department of Homeland Security needs to work better with other agencies and partners along the northern border, the GAO didn’t endorse Tester’s crusade to spare no expense to “secure” the border. Indeed, the GAO previously pushed back on claims about insecurity on the northern border.

Nevertheless, Tester is so eager to appear strong on immigration enforcement that he managed to get an appropriation for military grade radars on the Canadian border. He also wants to expand the use of unmanned drones (and they are already being used in some areas). Those radars and drones would have come in handy last year, when I helped a Canadian kid who got lost and accidentally drove his ATV across the border.

As George Ochenski put it: “For most Montanans, the border with Canada has never been and likely will never be seen as a threat. After all, the U.S. and Canada share the longest border on the continent, and it has been our ally in world wars as well as regional conflicts. It’s also our largest trading partner and our closest, largest and most secure source of oil. Treating Canada as some variant of Pakistan’s border is, in a word, insulting to both Montanans and our Canadian friends.”

Jon was the only Senate Democrat to put his name on legislation pumping new resources into border protection for new technology and new border patrol officers. Jon cosponsored the measure after securing a pledge that a certain percentage of those new resources would be spent along the northern border.

Here’s a tip for Tester’s staffers: When you’re the only Democrat to put your name on a piece of legislation, its probably nothing to brag about. The bill that Tester is referring to is actually a corollary to one that was introduced by his opponent, Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT). Jon Tester partnered up with Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-AZ), among other Republicans, to co-sponsor a $3 million amendment. This bill also funded construction of the fence along the Mexican border — a project that has been abandoned and condemned as a tremendous failure and waste of billions in taxpayer dollars.

And from his seat on the influential Appropriations Committee, Jon has secured investments to combat the flow of illegal drugs into the United States, as well as critical investments upgrading Ports of Entry along the Canadian border.

One of Tester’s “critical upgrades” was a $15 million dollar renovation to the border station in Whitetail, MT, which was reported to get about five crossings a day and no commercial traffic. After facing criticism for needless spending, Tester and Max Baucus reduced the appropriation to only $8.5 million. Meanwhile, Canadian officials closed the road leading to this border station, rendering the whole project useless. This embarrassing episode didn’t make Tester’s list of accomplishments.

Of course, even though he votes against any legislation that isn’t directed purely towards deporting immigrants, Tester wouldn’t want you to get the impression that he is against immigration:

Jon knows that legal immigrants, like his grandparents, helped build America into what it is today. But he also believes that no one is above the law.

In public statements and constituent letters, Tester is constantly stating that his grandparents “waited in line” and followed the rules, implying that new immigrants should be expected to follow the same process. However, it appears that Tester’s ancestors entered the country in 1916 — before our current immigration system even existed. At that time, our immigration policy was comparable to an “open border” policy. Years later, quotas were enacted to limit immigration and more stringent criteria for entry were developed. It was not until 1965 that the current Immigration and Nationality Act was enacted, with its very limited methods for gaining permanent residence in the U.S.

There is no question that Jon Tester’s ancestors faced a dramatically different immigration system than those who are immigrating today. Tester and other enforcement advocates often evoke the image of a “line” that immigrants must simply wait in. However, the truth is that for most immigrants, there is no “line.” Tester’s own grandparents may not have been able to enter the country under our current immigration scheme.

Jon Tester seems intent on mimicking Rehberg in many ways, including sharing his anti-immigrant views.

Jon Tester’s vocal anti-immigrant positions have placed Montana progressives in a difficult position. Contrary to the attacks of those who want to silence any opposition to Tester’s bad policies, none of us are excited about the prospect of his opponent, Dennis Rehberg, being elected to the Senate. Indeed, Rehberg’s stance on immigration is no better than Tester’s. However, Tester’s ignorant views on immigration are also making it impossible for us to lend him our vote.

Tester’s positions on immigration are not gaining him support with Republicans, but they are causing a split among Democrats. The best thing for Jon Tester to do is distance himself from the issue of immigration, because each time he opens his mouth, he brings many progressives closer to sending a difficult message: The progressive movement cannot tolerate a Democrat who has an anti-immigrant agenda, regardless of the consequences.

Shahid Haque-Hausrath blogs about local immigration issues at Border Crossing Law Blog.

BCFS

And the Fuax News Achievement Award goes to… The Missoulian.

I’m not sure if its possible for the Missoulian to have their collective heads farther up the ass of new Bresnan owner Cablevision.  I know the Missoulian is a loca paper, and as such carries some pretty worthless ‘news’ items from time to time, but did they just reprint a press release or something with this ‘informative’ story … er… advertisement?  As always Missoulian,  stay classy.

If you don’t already know, Bresnan Communications was bought out by Cablevision back in December and is now calling itself Optimum West (because its going to optimize its profits yo!).  So… an already annoying local monopoly with horrible customer service is now a local monopoly owned by a national corporation with monopolistic aspirations and most likely even worse customer service.

Optimum’s services are advertised as cheaper and more advanced than Bresnan’s.

Yeah, the introductory rate may be, but in cruising the whole of the Optimum site, the one .pdf that did not load properly was the document showing their regular prices after the promotional period ends.

Anyway, I never liked Bresnan service much, its customer service was horrible and its service expensive, but it was kinda the only game in town. You can’t really  shame a company into acting in a more socially responsible manner or treating their customers in a more respectful manner (they have no conscience after all) so this is just me complaining.

It would seem that customer service is already worse under the new owners.  In the last few months I have gotten at least one call per week badgering me to upgrade my current service, you see I didn’t have the optimum package for streamlining profit potential.  Needless to say i finally freaked out on a poor telemarketer that probably didn’t even work for Cablevision, but he seemed to understand my frustration.  Customer service shouldn’t be mainly about selling your customer more crap they don’t want.

Yeah for faux news.

by jhwygirl

HB198, the eminent domain bill, is ugly folks.

Governor Schweitzer knows it, having promised the day a majority in the Senate was fooled (having been heavily lobbied by not only NWE and Tonbridge, but by the Governor’s office) into voting for the thing.

This is a bill that was pushed through the legislature with the help of the thugs of NWE. A bill that was tabled in Senate committee.

On the floor of the Senate just 8 days before the close of the session the beast was blasted onto the floor with lobbyists having worked the Senators the night before with drinks and dinner. Amendments to HB198 were offered that even proponents of agreed were worthy and needed to protect private property right, but they failed because there wasn’t enough time to get the thing back through the House.

Apparently though Governor Schweitzer has forgotten the legislative process…or he’s telling us something over and over in the hopes that we will start to believe it (like I said in an earlier post on this subject)…..but when Schweitzer bloviated about his successes to the press on Thursday, he included his “amendment” to HB198, the eminent domain bill:

The Democratic governor also talked up successes like the passage of a business equipment tax cut, workers’ compensation reform and revisions to Montana’s eminent domain laws, which he called the most important “job creator” of the session.

Schweitzer said his recent amendment to House Bill 198, which addresses eminent domain, will terminate the law in two years. The amendment ensures the 2013 Legislature must take another look at landowner issues, while allowing job-related development to flourish in the meantime; without passage of HB198, Schweitzer said badly needed energy development projects would have been jeopardized.

“That energy bill did not consider the rights of landowners, and they were worked up. So it was a balancing act for legislators to say, ‘We need to develop Montana and we need to develop our resources,’ ” Schweitzer said, commending lawmakers for meeting in the middle.

Now – that’s not just Schweitzer saying something in passing about his successes – this is the Governor going on for quite a bit about how he fixed the bill and what it does and what it doesn’t do…along with his own version of the bill’s benefits that many dispute.

Trouble is, Schweitzer started complaining that the bill needed amended – as I pointed out at the top of this post – and that he was going to amendatory veto the thing before the sun had gone down the day of the vote’s successful second reading vote in the Senate which gave the bill the necessary approval in both houses.

So the Republicans, in control, decided to hold back on the thing, not handing it up to him until last Friday, April 29th. A tactical move on their part.

Governor Schweitzer can not amendatory veto the bill – the session is closed.

His choices are two: He has until Sunday to veto the thing or sign it into law. He can also let it lapse into law, but the effect is the same as approving the thing. Letting lapse into law is a choice of the Governor’s, and is equal to signing it into law.

And when it does become law, it will not have a sunset clause.

Look – I know this stuff is boring for you folks but realize this – the effects of handing over eminent domain authority to any private transmission business that comes into this state under the major facilities siting act should be utterly offensive to you.

It is the rise of the ghosts of the Copper Kings. It will be a turning point in our history, just as the sale of Montana Power.

If you have questions, I encourage you to ask – we’ve had some very informed people on this issue, including Kate Orr and John Vincent, who sits on the Montana Public Service Commission (so how’s that for expert, huh?). That’s me kinda openly soliciting his help there, too.

It’s that important.

Please stand up for your fellow Montanan ranchers and property owners out in the eastern and central part of this state that are fighting this thing and contact the governor by email governor@mt.gov and tell him that working solutions to this issue require full analysis which fully weighs the concerns of Montana’s citizens.

In the meantime, Tonbridge can play fairly. Is that asking too much?

by jhwygirl

Because we elect people like Rep. Alan Hale, of Basin Montana. Legislators that have no problem standing up for the right to drink and drive.

If case you missed the action on the floor of the Montana House today, here’s a cut of Rep. Hale championing drinking and driving as “a way of life that has been in Montana for years and years,” and that all the laws aimed at cracking down on DUI’s are destroying small business.

There is so much wrong with that statement – can’t call it logic – that I honestly don’t know where to begin.

Certainly Hale was squalling his war cry for more than just himself? A majority of voters in Basin and Boulder and House District 77 support this point of view?

Or was Rep. Alan Hale purely serving his own economic interests?

Supermontanareporter John S. Adams, at his blog The Lowdown points out that Hale owns a bar.

It’s not hard to put together…especially when bill passed the volatile GOP-controlled House 88-12.

So Hale put out the last hail that only his ale-loving mind could put out: It’s anti-business!

He probably could have gotten a few more votes if he had said that he had personally talked to several tavern and bar and restaurant owners and all of them had personally told them that they were going to have to close up shop.

I hope the people of Boulder and Basin and the rest of House District 77 that elected this neanderthal remember Rep. Hale’s priorities come 2012: Business and profit over lives and safety of both the general public and the drunk driver.

Don’t miss Pogie on Rep. Hale’s pro-DUI speech, either.

Honestly? I’m kind of embarrassed for all of my Republican friends. When they do talk about what is happening up there, they’re embarrassed.

I’d say that Rep. Hale isn’t helping things in that department.

On that note – has Rep. Knox yet remembered whether he’s ever sold marijuana before? You’d really think he’d want to clear that up.

~~~
I also want to say “HA” to all of you who criticized me for saying that drinking and Montana is a way of life here and that the culture has to change. If I recall I was accused of overstating the issue.

Think of the comfort level Hale had today (misguided as it were) as he stood there on the floor championing drinking and driving. Mind boggling.

Or not.

by jhwygirl

Otter Creek is never going to get mined. All Arch Coal wants is to be able to run a railroad through it, to get it to the port it owns a third of. to export the stuff to China.

That is, please note, the second port agreement for Arch is less than a month.

If that isn’t colonialism, I don’t know what is.

We’re waving traffic flags for $10/hour for Korean-built drilling equipment for China….and we’re condemning state federal and private property for a railroad to get it there.

Nice.

State Attorney General Steve Bullock talked about the economics of the bonus payment in relation to the amount of money that Arch will save immediately by shipping its coal across Montana with the railroad it’d be building (via eminent domain) in the Tongue River Basin. His staff researched that information pretty thoroughly.

How is that for an example of fine government coal subsidy on the backs of the taxpayers of Montana?

And keep in mind that Montana’s coal isn’t the quality of stuff that Wyoming has. That’s fact.

That $80 million so-called “bonus bid”? Nothing more than shush money to members of both parties for paving the way to a situation that has brought about ridiculous destructive environmental legislation in the name of “jobs”.

What’s even more hilarious is that the feds are complicit in this – the federal Surface Transportation Board has already approved the route and has told Montana (translate, so no one misses it: State’s Rights) Fish Wildlife & Parks to figure things out over the route that crosses a federally-funded sturgeon fishery.

Someone’s getting rich. It won’t be Montanan’s, you can bet on it.

Follow the money.

by jhwygirl

In a post titled “Profiting from Hypocrisy“, blogger montanafesto exposes the troubled hypocrisy of Rep. James Knox and his pro-repeal medical marijuana stance. First the video:

Read montanafesto’s post. Rep. James Knox offered his services to a medical marijuana business, at a greatly discounted price because his business “was slow.”

There’s more – montanafesto takes Knox on in Facebook…and now, apparently, an email has been removed from the website because Knox was threatening his lawyers.

Neither here nor there, now…the Billings Gazette has picked up the story.

Wonder if Knox has threatened to sue them, too?

~~~~~~~
So all this insane personal intrusion schizophrenic state-rights/anti-state rights Montana Republican party-led legislating has me now more than just barely pondering: What is it these guys and gals are doing up there? Rep. Warburton is obsessed with making my vagina a crime scene….Rep. Kristin Hansen wants to treat LGBTQ human beings as something less than such, and now we have Knox falling all over himself to provide discounted services to the medical marijuana community.

What is it they say? People in glass houses should not be throwing rocks?

What else is there to explain this regressive hate-filled legislation? There’s a ton of it out there.

Kuddos to you, montanafesto!

By JC

So says GOP Congressman, and oil industry apologist Joe Barton.

So do all you free market believers out there agree that we need to subsidize the most profitable corporation on earth, as a matter of faith in the marketplace?

Or do we really just need to defund social programs and nonprofits like NPR and Planned Parenthood, because that’s how we’re going to balance the budget?

Madness and hypocrisy!

by jhwygirl

Today started off with Missoula Representative Ellie Hill, HD94 preparing for hearing on her second bill of the session, HJ10.

Hill’s first bill, HB394 was heard in House Business and Labor yesterday. It would eliminate the license exemption for certain private adolescent treatment programs.

She didn’t make today’s hearing – which has now been delayed – because she broke her hand! And while the hearing was delayed, I hear rumors she was back at the Capitol before days end.

Talk about a tornado. Rep. Hill has been impressive. She sits on the House Judiciary Committee and is doing a notably amazing job with her focus on issues. I’ve listed to quite a few crazy gun bills, and in the face of all that lunacy, her questions provided a wealth of wisdom.

Today she was prepared to stand up to the individual freedom affronting Citizens’s United v Federal Election Commission SCOTUS decision which allows corporations to spend unlimited and unreported amounts of money on elections.

I’ve asked myself of late, given the apparent malfeasance of Justice Clarence Thomas and his socially-challenged wife Ginny, how you deal with that kind of obvious corruption of the process.

One way is to, as the State of Montana, call on the United States Congress to join the tens of thousands of citizens, local governments, and grassroots organizations across the county to call for an amendment to the United States Constitution to abolish corporate personhood and return our democracy, our elections, and our communities to America’s human persons and to thus reclaim our sovereign right to self-governance.

HJ10 hasn’t been rescheduled yet. That gives you time to email in your support for HJ10…and to provide additional comment on the bill. This online form is easy to use. You can email the whole Business and Labor Committee at once, or you can email each individual legislator on the committee.

by jhwygirl

Looks like it’s official – State Senator Verdell Jackson whipped up a tale to suite his agenda – or, as Pete posed, perhaps Gary Marbut, leader, lobbyist, and one-man-band of the Montana Shooting Sports Association.

For all the criticism all kinds of people on both sides of the aisle took on, most of that was in the heat of the moment. Jackson spun his tale Monday morning, two days after the tragic events of Saturday morning. What’s his excuse?

Capitalizing on a tragedy to further a pro-gun agenda for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Beyond reason, really – remember, Verdell is against having metal detectors in the Capital.

No need to go figure. Just remember that as he and his buddies justify their actions this session.

by jhwygirl

Where’s the money? That seems to be the question – and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has gone through great pains to defend itself against accusations that the U.S. Chamber is spending a documented well-over $20,000,000 a weeks almost exclusively attacking Democratic candidates across the U.S.

Attacks funded with foreign money.

It goes to reason that if the U.S. Chamber of Commerce isn’t spending the money it raises from foreign donors to fund attack ads, then it must be using revenue its raised from U.S. members of the Chamber of Commerce.

The U.S. Chamber needs that foreign money, I’m sure, for all those paid lobbyists that they have up in Washington DC.

So I’m wondering where our local Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce stands on their membership fees and donations being used to fund multi-million dollar attack ads to defeat Democratic candidates. Do they even know what their membership fees are being spent on.

The local CoC’s motto: “The mission of the Missoula Chamber is to provide community leadership and business advocacy while sustaining economic vitality.”

Maybe they’re OK with jobs being outsourced…because, you know, that working out well for local businesses, isn’t it. Smurfit-Stone, Stimson. Here’s a promotional video for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

Does anyone know?

Act locally, think locally.

by jhwygirl

The latest meme from our bloviating Governor Brian Schweitzer is that the Canadian tar sands – slated for expansion – are (get this) “conflict free”:

“I would say this is conflict-free oil and I don’t want to send one more son or daughter from Montana to defend an oil supply from one of these dictators and become dependent on that energy supply,” he said in an interview with the Canadian Press from his office in Helena.

Really?

There are Canadiansordinary citizens, doctors and Fort Chipewyan tribal members – that would disagree with you.

Does the fact that they don’t have bombs and guns make it conflict free? Because I don’t agree with that. I know I’m not the only one.

Hypocrisy and ignorance barely begins to describe the irony behind Schweitzer’s comments to the Canadian press this past week. Governor Schweitzer is a guy who doesn’t want to see the Flathead mined, yet approved a coal mine next to a Class 1 air shed (tromping on Crow tribal rights) and an alluvial floodplain right in Montana’s Tongue River valley.

Governor Schweitzer is a guy – born in Montana – who doesn’t seem to know his history, or even the higher cancer rates we saw right here in the upper Clark Fork basin because of the rape and pillage by the Anaconda Copper Mining Company (think Atlas Shrugs by Ayn Rand) that polluted everything near it from Butte to Missoula and beyond.

Schweitzer’s comments were made all the more pornographic given they occurred 30 years from when corporate irresponsibility suffocated Anaconda Montana.

Maybe The Brian should read Anaconda native Patrick Duganz’s words?

If they aren’t enough to expose him to the conflict of corporate irresponsibility, perhaps he should try and learn the lessons so many others haven’t forgotten of the dirty filth that mining has layed upon our lands.

Schweitzer sure is oblivious to this stuff isn’t he – and consider he’s got 130 million or so dollars of Natural Resource Damage Protection Program funds to spend to try and buy back lands to mitigate that environmental disaster thrust upon our state 100 years ago.

Maybe he forgot where that money came from?

Schweitzer is spouting off his newest talking point of “conflict free” as pressure mounts, nationwide, to stop the transport of the Korean-built Kearl modules up and over the Montana-Idaho border, adjacent to the Clearwater and Lochsa River, adjacent to Lolo Creek…through Missoula and next to the Blackfoot A-River-Runs-Through-It River, then up and over another mountain pass and on to the tar sands in Alberta.

Movie director and producer James Cameron? This Montanan thanks you.

Our Governor feigns to respect tribal peoples – yet the Nez Pierce, over who’s native lands these modules will travel – have objected to the modules.

Scientific journals are confirming high levels of carcinogens, mutagens, and teratogens such as mercury, arsenic, lead, and cadmium being thrust upon the native peoples of Canada. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America has published a paper explaining the pornography of the situation.

Discover Magazine has a pedestrian-friendly article on the issue.

Governor Schweitzer? You call yourself a scientist, don’t you? If cancer was reigning down in your watershed, would you call that “conflict free”?

Did Montana call that conflict free when it happened here?

by problembear

give up?    an unholy alliance between republicans, fox, and the saudis.

that’s who.

wag the dog republican style. that’s the way to regain power. spend a little cash to cause a controversy. report on it with your own personal news service. wait for the stupid democrats to start fighting each other over it, then cash in on tea baggers hurling racist ignorant garbage at the president…..

that’s how.

brilliant!!!

by jhwygirl

Payday loan lenders are fighting back, with television ads throughout the state saying “Don’t sign I-164”.

The ad features one of the two brothers who own several payday loan lending places here and throughout the state – E-Z Money. I’d reckon most people would recognize their smiling faces from their television ads.

I-164 has these guys and their sordid industry running scared. The television commercial I saw propagandized that they only fees they charge are $15 for a two week $100 loan, $25 for a two week $200 loan and $35 for a two week $300 loan.

That’s $390 in interest per year on a $100 loan – if the person who got the loan is able to at least meet the loan fee.

And if it isn’t the initiative that has these guys running scared, it’s a problembear, who is doing battle with one of their paid lobbyists in pb’s most recent post here at 4&20.

problembear has been out gathering signatures for I-164, and he has also been back to his blogging over at Problembear’s Weblog.

Goddess Bless him.

Imagine the dire straits someone would be in to head to a payday loan lender for a $100 loan. A mother or father with a sick child, perhaps? Working minimum wage (not unlikely, given all those high-paying job Missoula has, right?). These people are already down and behind, and that’s how these places get their hooks into desperate people. Making that kind of money, it’s hard to keep yourself up with that kind of paycheck to begin with – you’re already counting pennies just to make rent, keep food on the table and gas in the car to get to work.

The E-Z Money owner and the ad intentionally blurs the line as if payday loan lenders, title loan lenders and retail installment lenders are all one in the same. All are just as evil. Right now, under Montana law, payday lenders may charge up to 650% on a 14-day loan. Title lenders can charge 300% on a 30-day loan. Plus they can take the car when you default for 60 days.

Here’s the language from I-164:

Under Montana law, deferred deposit (payday) lenders may charge fees equaling one-fourth of the loan, which is the same as an annual interest rate of 300 percent for a 31-day loan or 650 percent for a 14-day loan. Title lenders may charge interest equaling one-fourth of the loan, which is the same as an annual interest rate of 300 percent for a 30-day loan. I-164 reduces the interest, fees, and charges that payday, title, and retail installment lenders may charge to an annual interest rate of 36 percent. It prohibits businesses from structuring other transactions to avoid the rate limit.

~~~~~~
This evil loan industry is putting out the same tired crap that they’ve used at the legislature for at least the last two sessions – “over 600 jobs at risk” and “over 100 businesses affected statewide” – and while that may have worked for the Republican legislators that wouldn’t allow bills even out on to the floor for a vote, it isn’t working for initiative signature gatherers, who I’ve been told (by problembear and others) aren’t have any trouble at all gathering the signatures that they need.

Again – Goddess bless ’em.

The lobbyist firm they’ve created to do battle with I-164 is Coalition for Consumer’s Choice. Here’s their contact information, just in case you want to write:

Coalition for Consumer’s Choice
Bernie Harrington, Treasurer
PO Box 81137
Billings, MT 59108

By JC

It seems that Montana’s junior Senator and Banking Committee member, Jon Tester, has been resorting to some two-stepping to add to his double-speak with his newest routine with Wall Street Lobbyists. Despite Jon’s contentions that he is doing what is best for his Montana constituents, it seems that a series of votes on the Financial Regulation package that just cleared the Senate speak volumes about his true intentions: preserving Wall Street campaign contributions.

Over at Left in the West, an OpEd written by “The Office of Sen. Jon Tester,” and published by the Huffington Post, seems to be designed to head off criticism of the Senator’s latest votes:

“The U.S. Senate made history on May 20. We passed a powerful bill that finally holds Wall Street accountable. It finally cleans up the schemes and abuses that nearly brought our entire economy to its knees.

Most importantly, the Wall Street reform bill once and for all ends taxpayer-funded bailouts of Wall Street banks and investment firms. It finally gets rid of the notion that one private company can somehow be ‘too big to fail.'”

Well, aside from the fact that our economy is still on its knees, having neatly “assumed the position” in many instances (Goldman and BP, I’m looking at you), once again our faux populist Senator would have us believe he’s doing the people’s business. As I wrote in my article a few weeks ago about Tester’s vote against the Brown-Kaufman amendment, which would have capped the size of big banks, relative to GDP, it seems that Jon’s actions spoke much louder than his words:

“The Brown-Kaufman amendment was the one strong point of regulation that would cut to the heart of why Wall Street has become immune to the will of the people. Crony capitalism, and corrupt corporatism are the guiding forces in Washington D.C. these days. It is no longer the will of the people–or the best intentions of once-innocent politicians–that governs our nation. It is corporate money and the influence it buys direct from Wall Street that has taken a stranglehold on our political and economic system.”

Well, after Tester’s latest attempt at foofaraw with his OpEd, I decided to take a look at what else is going on in the Senator’s world. It seems that he not only voted against Brown-Kaufman, he voted against Sen. Durbin’s bank card transaction fee amendment, which would have capped the fees we pay when we use our debit cards at the checkout counter. Those fees amount to a $19.71 billion dollar industry, with 80% being paid back to the issuing banks as profit. So your bank is profiting on you to the tune of 1.63% on each transaction. Which is more than your bank paid you for interest for a whole year of holding onto your money.

I guess Jon is OK with this. A little extra goodness for Wall Street to pay its lobbyists… so they can hold parties for, and give contributions to, senators who vote with them. Nothing like preserving almost $16 billion in profits for the big banks, after the regs were excluded from all the small community banks that Tester seemed to be protecting.

Senator Durbin designed this amendment to help small businesses and consumers–businesses because they lose 1.63% on each transaction they process with debit cards, and consumers, because those costs are taken directly out of their bank account and given to banks as a profit:

By early in the week Mr. Durbin’s staff was confident that a majority of senators would support the measure, particularly after he made changes to limit the impact on small banks, a powerful constituency that many senators are loath to cross.

The largest change limits the new price controls to cards issued only by the very largest banks, those with at least $10 billion in assets. As a result, the pricing controls will affect only about 65 percent of debit card transactions, staff members said.”

So Durbin tweaked the bill to attract senators who were worried by its impact on small banks, like Senator Tester claimed in a press release explaining why he voted against the Durbin amendment:

“My vote against this amendment was a vote to preserve the critical role community banks have in strengthening America’s small businesses and rural communities.

My vote against this amendment was a vote for Montana consumers, families, small businesses, farmers and ranchers and all who depend on their community banks. I stand with folks on Main Street as we reform Wall Street.”

I guess this is pretty much the definition of double-speak.

Now let’s get on with the two-step. It seems that on March 16th, our good Senator, who campaigned as a man of ethics and transparency, was the recipient of a “Pre-St. Patrick’s Day Reception” put on by a host of lobbyists–including bankers and Wall Street insiders. Now that couldn’t have had anything to do with any of his votes and attempts to sidestep any backlash from them, would it?

As the NY Times put it:

“And this was not an easy vote. Lobbyists for the wounded but formidable banking industry made clear to some senators that this decision would affect future campaign donations, according to people who participated in those conversations.”

Well, let’s just see who some of those lobbyists were that put on the party for Jon. According to the Sunlight Foundation:

“the fundraisers ranged from a “pre-St.Patrick’s Day” reception for Banking Committee member Jon Tester, D-Mont., on March 16 that asked for $100 to $1,000 in contributions, to a breakfast for Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, of the Agriculture Committee on March 10 that asked for contributions ranging from $500 to $2,000…

Tester’s fundraiser was hosted by 28 people, at least two of whom have disclosed lobbying on financial reform this year: Mitchell Feuer who represents Goldman Sachs, the Citigroup Management Corporation, Barclays PLC, Genworth Financial, Visa U.S.A., the Appraisal Institute, FX Alliance LLC, the Farm Credit Council and the LCH.Clearnet Group, and Thompson Reuters; and Shannon Finley who represents the Edison Electric Institute, Rent A Center and the Home Depot…

In addition to raising money for the beneficiaries, the lobbyists hosting the events also had a chance for face time with other influential lawmakers.”

Face time. Yeah… Just whose face was where??? And as I wrote over at LitW yesterday:

“Worse, he’s turned into a poser

At least that’s what this sort of PR over FinReg shows me. He thinks his constituents are too stupid to understand finance and its regulation, and he can speak out both sides of his mouth. All the while pocketing Wall Street lobbyist money.

So now that he’s bought and paid for by Wall Street lobbyists, they held a big “Pre-St. Patrick’s Day” party for him in his honor a while back. Look over the names of the lobbyists who put it on, and you’ll get the message. Here’s a sample:

Mitchell Feuer of the Rich Feuer Group. Mitchell lists Goldman Sachs and Citigroup among his Wall street clientele.

Niles Godes: lobbyist for Sallie Mae

Shannon Finley: Lobbyist fot The Americans Bankers Association

And there’s more. But I’m headed to the (real) “Farmer’s” market. A dirt farmer no longer, that Tester fella. He’s got real dirt on his hands now with his new circle of partying friends.

Sad. So sad. Another one bites the dust. No wonder he didn’t vote for Brown-Kaufman. Doing damage control for his new Wall Street buddies.

Signed, sealed, and delivered. ‘Two-step’ Tester.
.
.
testerparty

by jhwygirl

No one is responsible for anything any more.

That’s from guest host on tonight’s Rachael Maddow Show Chris Hayes, Washington editor for The Nation. He listed off all kinds of ‘passing the buck’ blame games, from 9/11 (Bush passing the blame onto everyone but his own administration) to Katrina (Mayor Nagin blaming everyone but himself for any role in the disaster that unfolded) to the latest, the oil volcano spurting in the Gulf of Mexico – a deep-water well that was categorically excluded from the National Environmental Protection Act by the Mineral Management Bureau of the Department of the Interior.

Today BP, Halliburton and Transocean all were called on the floor of the Senate to answer questions as to who’s to fault for the disaster.

BP (who holds the categorically excluded oil lease) blamed Transocean, the owner of the rig that exploded….Transocean blamed Halliburton for a “failed cement” job, and Halliburton blamed BP, since they own the lease.

Three monkeys, all pointing at each other – and isn’t that just the way?

It’s getting old. This scene has played out in politics for far too long. Frankly, I’m a little sick and tired of government calling whomever up to the floor of congress – and I don’t care if it’s the head of FEMA, the head of the FBI, or bank or oil executives – to ask hard questions and then none of it goes anywhere.

Congress should be looking at themselves. Seriously. They’re as much to blame, frankly, as the BP/Halliburton/Transocean monkeys that were up there in D.C. today.

It’s not as if these events result in a review of government regulations as they exist….what continues is self-enforcement and self-policing of industries as important to the core of our economy as banking – and no solutions proposed with actual follow-through legislation to the problem as they laid it bare in front of America via C-Span and MSNBC.

Just one more bit of rant, if ya’all will indulge me – When WHEN are we going to rid ourselves of Halliburton?! How many gosh darn times do they have to be called up to the Senate before someone figures out a way to dissolve this piece of crap corporation that has ripped off Americans; disregarded our soldier’s safety so much so that sons and daughters have come home from Iraq and Afghanistan in body bags due to their negligence; the raping of civilians in foreign countries under the protection of government contracts; and now the latest environmental disaster laying out before us in the Gulf.

Was anyone surprised when they heard Halliburton was involved in this latest disaster? I know I wasn’t.

What is they say? Those that can’t learn from their history are doomed to repeat it?

Senator Tester then: ‘take “too big to fail” out of the equation’

Senator Tester now: “Nay” on Brown-Kaufman “too big to fail” amendment

By JC

Well, it was only a matter of time before our junior senator got all caught up in his double-speak. Despite being sent to Washington as a populist alternative to the corruption of Conrad Burns, it seems that Jon Tester doesn’t think that his constituency can see the hypocrisy between his proclamations, and his votes. And his vote against the Brown-Kaufman “too big to fail” amendment speaks volumes.

For those who aren’t following the FinReg bill closely, here’s what Brown-Kaufman would have legislated:

“The amendment, sponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), would have required megabanks to be broken down in size and capped so that their individual failure would not bring down the entire system.

Under Brown-Kaufman, no bank could hold more than 10 percent of the total amount of insured deposits, and a limit would have been placed on liabilities of a single bank to two percent of GDP.

In practice, the amendment required the six biggest banks — Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley — to significantly scale down their size. It was touted as a way to end Too Big To Fail.”

Matt Taibi at the Rolling Stone had this to say about the Senate’s 33-61 vote:

“Brown/Kaufman was an obvious and logical response to the great cancer of our financial system, the rapid consolidation of power and market share in the hands of a few banks… it seems to me that it failed precisely because it was a real law with no loopholes.”

Last week marked the biggest [failed] opportunity for Congress to reign in Wall Street by passing an amendment to the current reform bill that would have limited the size of Wall Street banks and financial houses.

Here’s Jon Tester then, proclaiming an end to “to big to fail” in the Huffington Post:

“But our entire economy almost collapsed a year-and-a-half ago because there were no referees on Wall Street. And sadly, hardworking, honest taxpayers — and our entire economy — paid the price…

The best way to fix this problem — and to prevent it from happening again — is to rewrite the rules. To require big banks and huge financial institutions to play by those rules. And to take “too big to fail” out of the equation.”

And again in a press release a few weeks ago:

‘”Saying Montanans are “still steaming mad” about the Wall Street bailout, Senator Jon Tester is pushing his colleagues to reform the rules of Wall Street and end the notion of “too big to fail”’

And to quote the Senator in the same press release, “Actions speak louder than words” he followed up by voting against the Brown-Kaufman amendment to reign in “too big to fail”.

Yes Senator, your actions speak louder than your words, and again in your own words, “Montanans are still steaming mad.” Except this time, it is you who are the point of their rage. How can you take on “too big to fail” if you don’t do something about the “too big” part of the problem? You now own the “too big to fail” problem. Or more properly, I should say: Wall Street now owns you.

Nothing in the current version of the FinReg legislation does anything to tackle “too big.” And if nothing is done about it, then “too big to fail” banks will become “too big to save” banks, with fatal consequences to our future economy when they next fail.

Simon Johnson puts the Brown-Kaufman amendment into perspective:

“When you strip away the disinformation, false promises, and wishful thinking, this is where we are on really reigning in the power of the country’s largest – and most dangerous – banks …

The lack of debate over Brown-Kaufman – and its likely demise – is all about money. There is a tsunami of contributions from the financial sector washing over Congress right now. When the dust settles, the pattern will be clear: Wall Street (legally) bought off key senators.

There will be a reckoning, to be sure, at the polls. The supporters of big banks will go down hard in November and in 2012; there are no secrets over this kind of time frame. But by then it will be too late for this cycle of financial reform – and there is no guarantee that the backlash will bring stronger reformers to power (in fact, the White House and the biggest banks would be quite happy to see non-reformers prevail.)”

The Brown-Kaufman amendment was the one strong point of regulation that would cut to the heart of why Wall Street has become immune to the will of the people. Crony capitalism, and corrupt corporatism are the guiding forces in Washington D.C. these days. It is no longer the will of the people–or the best intentions of once-innocent politicians–that governs our nation. It is corporate money and the influence it buys direct from Wall Street that has taken a stranglehold on our political and economic system. We are entering an era of plutonomy, the likes of which this country has never seen. We are being governed from Wall Street.

I’ll leave this with another quote from Simon Johnson:

“To the victors last night in the Senate [the vote against Brown-Kaufman]: congratulations – your opponents have fallen back. Your generals are known to be invincible, your forces are the best, and your resources are without limit.

And so we wait for you again, on a gentle slope and behind a ridge – appropriately enough with our backs to Brussels. Welcome to Waterloo.”

too big to fail




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