Archive for the ‘Economy & Business’ Category

by jhwygil

Call it crisis profiteering, call it disaster capitalism – but airlines companies are doing what private corporations do: They maximize profits.

I’ve long made the argument many times in many scenarios that raising taxes or fees does not mean that those costs will be passed on to consumers.

I’ve said that in regards to housing costs, especially. Propose to raise building fees and every realtor and contractor in the city is down in city hall saying that if fees are increase, affordable housing will be no more. Propose to adopt the International Building Code in the legislature and there’s a whole bucket-load of legislators willing to decry the move as something that will make housing unaffordable.

I don’t know that I’ve ever heard any elected official dispute this unfounded complaint. They’ll regurgitate that just like cattle and their cud – some reiterating the claim, others accepting it while lamenting that it (the raise in fees, the new regulation) has to be done.

Say it often enough, and it’s true. Right?

Well, here’s an example of the the basic fact of capitalism: The cost of the product is what the market will bear.

Witness this past week – the GOP-controlled U.S. House of Representatives has refused to extend operating authority for the FAA. What that means is that 4,000 FAA employees have been furloughed without pay. Traffic controllers are, of course, still on the job.

For now. And just to point out the politics of this situation – is there any doubt that we will have an FAA? Air traffic controllers?

In addition to those 4,000 FAA employees that have been laid off, more than 90,000 airport construction and expansion projects have been shut-down. These are projects in process. These aren’t federal jobs, per se – but they are 90,000 construction jobs that then impact the construction supply industry and then the local grocery store and the gas stations and the mall*marts and on and on.

ALSO part of the FAA shut-down is their inability to collect the taxes that are placed on train and plane tickets.

So what did the airline industry do? They raised their ticket prices equal to the taxes on the tickets.

Capitalism is a lovely thing, isn’t it? The market supported that price for a ticket – it had no connection to actual cost of the product. Eliminate a tax and the price stayed the same. In fact, I bet each CEO called each other up and they all agreed it made sense.

And taxes are pretty significant on a plane ticket. An average of $61 per.

Somewhere the RICO Act weeps.

This poor website’s story was relevant for about 2 seconds.

MOST corporations operating in the U.S. pay no taxes.

The U.S. bailed out banks that not only made record profits – they paid little to no taxes. Take Bank of America, for example – BOA received a $1.9 billion refund.

So here we are in a budget debacle. The GOP and Rep. John Ineffective Boehner refuse to eliminate corporate tax breaks while their lobbyists lobby on their corporate employer’s behalf to ensure that is exactly what occurs – and corporations fly in the face of the whole so-called deficit disaster up there in Washington and raise the price of the airline tickets equal to the taxes that would have been collected.

It’s a “screw” to America, people. Hear them laughing?

Let’s not forget that the GOP is never without it’s ideology: Know why the House GOP is holding up extending FAA operational authority – something that has been done 20 times since 2007? Republicans want to toll back a new union elections rule that was adopted by the National Mediation Board last year.

Ideology first. Talking points second. Policy non-existent. Thank you Tea Party, I expect nothing less.

“So we’ve shown ourselves willing to do the tough stuff on an issue that Republicans ran on.”

By JC

With those words, Barack Obama set the tone (or set his feet in stone) for his news conference on July 22nd, 2011, after Speaker of the House John Boehner (again) walked out on negotiations to resolve (er, make the “sell” on) the nation’s impending debt ceiling “nuclear option.”

Doing the right’s dirty work for them: President Obama offered to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security by 650 billion dollars so that we can “have a conversation” about how to invest in and “win the future.”

“We then offered an additional $650 billion in cuts to entitlement programs — Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security.”
–Barack Obama at news presser July 22nd, 2011

Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic put the cuts this way:

“And it was a deal that, like Obama’s previous offers, was strikingly tilted towards Republican priorities. Among the provisions to which Obama had said yes, according to a senior administration official, were the following:

Medicare: Raising the eligibility age, imposing higher premiums for upper income beneficiaries, changing the cost-sharing structure, and shifting Medigap insurance in ways that would likely reduce first-dollar coverage. This was to generate about $250 billion in ten-year savings. This was virtually identical to what Boehner offered.

Medicaid: Significant reductions in the federal contribution along with changes in taxes on providers, resulting in lower spending that would likely curb eligibility or benefits. This was to yield about $110 billion in savings. Boehner had sought more: About $140 billion. But that’s the kind of gap ongoing negotiation could close.

Social Security: Changing the formula for calculating [decrease] cost-of-living increases in order to reduce future payouts. The idea was to close the long-term solvency gap by one-third, although it likely would have taken more than just this one reform to produce enough savings for that.”

Presidential Jujitsu 101: Make republicans offers they can’t refuse, knowing they’ll refuse. Make your supporters think you’ve got your fingers crossed behind your back. Then attempt some damage control by giving the left a lesson in conservative economics:

“…If you’re a progressive you should want to get our fiscal house in order, because once we do, it allows us to then have a serious conversation about the investments that we need to make… It’s a lot easier to do that when we’ve got our fiscal house in order. And that was an argument that I was willing to go out and make to a lot of skeptical Democrats…”
–Barack Obama at news presser July 22nd, 2011

My question to you Mr. President is this: Have you gotten to the point where you are willing to lead (as a traditional liberal democrat) yet?

Or is your idea of “leading” telling the left how to think, and then just offering to “talk” about the future? First let’s get the big cuts to entitlements out of the way, then let’s sit down for some decaf to talk about what to do next.

Why, that kind of attitude will really help you get reelected! Not to mention losing the senate to close campaigns in swing states.

Hooray for the jujitsu that provides the cover for all the Obamabots to project their progressive wish lists into your vacuous pronouncements so they can go on their merry way bashing the “principled left” and emoprogs as the root of all that is wrong in American politics when it all goes awry.

Yeah right, Mr. President. Like the right is going to let that be anything more than just talk, talk, talk, hope, hope, hope, and the only change the middle class, the elderly and the poor will see is the pennies, nickels and dimes (and a bunch of lint) left in their pockets as their sacrifices are shared with the wealthy and corporations via their tax breaks.

Anybody else hoping for someone to come along and primary Barack Obama? Or have presidential 2-party politics and primaries truly become worthless? Are democrats fine with a Reagan Democrat at the helm of their party as we witness the emergence of the 21st century neoliberal version of Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama’s self-avowed hero?

I’ll leave you all with some words from President Obama that he wrote recently in USA Today:

“When the future looked darkest and the way ahead seemed uncertain, President Reagan understood both the hardships we faced and the hopes we held for the future. He understood that it is always “Morning in America.” That was his gift, and we remain forever grateful.”

Yes, Barack Obama channeling “Morning in America.” Doesn’t that make you feel warm and fuzzy right now?
[/rant]
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Consider this a nice weekend open thread on the brinksmanship coming out of Washington D.C.

And if you want some light weekend reading, here’s the Time article on Obama’s “Reagan Bromance.”

Barack loves Ronnie

Do I detect a legacy in the offing???

by jhwygirl

It isn’t like I didn’t know this was coming, but I was sickened by the front page headline on the Great Falls Tribune this morning:

33 landowners face condemnations

I won’t rehash the sordid mess, but I will say that with adequate media coverage of this matter, the effect it would have on the next legislature would be deafening. Guaranteed.

If it’s one thing that will wake up Montanans it’s when private property is condemned. Find out it is for a private company for private profit? That won’t be good either.

Find out it’s not even an American company? Probably even worse. Realize that the only people getting jobs are the attorneys and their paralegals?

Ummm. Yeah.

Tonbridge was granted direct eminent domain authority over private property here in Montana. The legislature got lazy and the Governor, quite frankly, demanded it. Now private citizens will have to hire lawyers and face down private companies with little protection, other than the judge, to ensure that personal and property rights that are guaranteed in our constitution are protected and equitably compensated when true public benefit can be demonstrated.

Given our history here in this state?

Most obscene is the fact that Tonbridge spent enough money in cigars and steaks and 75 year old scotch that they had a special clause inserted into the bill guaranteeing it would apply to them (other state law does not allow them to apply retroactively.)

Corporate porn.

By CFS

“Weak”, “dismal”, “bleak”, “punishing”, “horrific”.  These are just some of the headlines that graced newspapers over the last couple of days regarding the recently released June employment report.  This comes amid the corporate media’s attempt to set the narrative of a weakening economy.  But if you take a long-term look at historic employment numbers, the latest is not much different.

While the jobs report shows that only 18,000 new jobs were created in June, such low numbers happened many times throughout the fraudulant “booming” Bush years.  The blog Jesse’s Cafe American did a wonderful job of anaylizing the numbers.  Click the graph in order to enlarge the image.

Once the economy was on the road to recovery in 2003, the jobs report came in at roughly the same numbers no fewer than 5 time before the onset of the latest recession.  In fact, the trend in employment is generally in line with trends in 2005, 2006, and 2007.  Even in a good economy, because of the cyclical nature of hiring, bad jobs reports crop up on a fairly regular basis.  Is the jobs report good? Obviously not.  But is it the end of the world? No, it is but one of many cogs ever in motion within the economy.

You’ll see little of this type of actual analysis being done from mainstream commentators.

And of course, potential Republican candidates took no time in attacking the President over his handling of the economy. Perhaps the most ludicrous reaction came from Republicant Presidential hopeful Gary Johnson, calling for an immediate elimination of the corporate income tax and  immediate spending reductions of $300 billion.

Sorry Gary, but multi-national corporations aren’t just going to throw away 20 years of investment in a supply chain that stretches across the globe just to give little ‘ol Americans manufacturing jobs once again.  Hey Gary, was that a hail mary to try and get your name to actually show up in the Republicant polls?

by jhwygirl

Montana’s Public Service Commission voted 3-2 to keep hidden pricing information on two wind energy projects that Northwestern Energy (NWE) is considering to purchase.

The vote was a Republican/Democrat split with Bill Gallagher, Travis Kavulla and Northwestenergy tool Brad Molnar voting to keep the information from the public and Democratic commissioners Gail Gutsche of Missoula and John Vincent of Gallatin Gateway voting against the request.

NWE, located in South Dakota, is the largest utility provider in Montana. They’ve decided to buy a proposed 40-megawatt wind farm near Geyser that is being developed by Compass Wind of Denver. They had considered two other developer’s (Invenergy and Sagebrush Energy) projects.

So the PSC is going to review NWE’s purchase of Compass Wind’s project by comparing it to project information submitted by the losing developers on their losing projects? And it isn’t consumer’s right to know the costs of those projects that were in consideration.

That’s a big “Screw You” to Montanans from an agency who’s pure mission is to protect consumer interests when it comes to public utility services.

Gail Gutsche and John Vincent? Thanks.

I’ll remind everyone here that Gail Gutsche will be running for re-election in 2012 (I hope). Let’s keep her around, OK?

This is a guest post from Larry Winslow of the Northern Plains Resource Council – It outlays some of the issues of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, all brought to the forefront because of Exxon’s crime of negligence on the Yellowstone River. I’m extremely grateful for his information – jhwygirl

The rupture and release of 42,000 gallons of crude oil from an Exxon pipeline beneath the Yellowstone River brings home to Montanans the need for improved oversight and careful planning of the Keystone XL pipeline. The Keystone XL pipeline is proposed to carry corrosive tar sands oil across 250 miles of Montana en route from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. Its route will include 400 water crossings in Montana, including the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers.

The difference between the two pipelines is huge, with the Keystone XL pipeline projected to carry 22.5 times as much oil per day as the Exxon pipeline. The 12-inch Silvertip Exxon pipeline that ruptured July 1 carried 40,000 barrels of Wyoming crude a day to the Exxon refinery east of Billings. TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline will be 36 inches in diameter and carry up to 900,000 pressurized barrels of corrosive tar sands oil a day.

More than 200 miles downriver from the Exxon spill, Buffalo Rapids Irrigation District in Glendive shut down its pumps Saturday morning as a precaution. It had yet to turn them back on Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m concerned about oil getting into our irrigation system. This concerns me and my neighbors,” said James Whitmer, board member of the Buffalo Rapids Irrigation District said.

TransCanada’s Keystone I pipeline in eastern North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska began transporting Alberta tar sands oil a year ago and is already responsible for 12 oil spills, despite TransCanada’s reassurances that a spill-incident of 50 barrels or more would only occur once every seven years.

“This really scares me,” said Doris Frost of Miles City, a member of the Northern Plains Pipeline Landowners Group who irrigates from the Yellowstone River where the Keystone XL pipeline is planned to cross. “We are talking about a pipeline that carries more than 20 times the oil that the Exxon pipeline carries, and it’s far more corrosive material. The State Department, Montana DEQ, and everyone else involved in the permitting process needs to take a hard look at what is being proposed.”

A report released in February by the National Resources Defense Council and other groups showed that pipelines carrying diluted tar sands (bitumen) have a higher rate of corrosion failure. Diluted bitumen is the heavy tar sands oil extracted, mixed with natural gas condensates.

“The oil industry is always saying that the chances of a leak are nil to zero, and responses in the case of a leak would be quick and thorough,” said Carl Weimer of the Pipeline Safety Trust. “However, that wasn’t the case with the Gulf oil spill, the Enbridge pipeline spill in Michigan, the Chevron pipeline spill in Salt Lake City, and the dozen spills on TransCanada’s Keystone I pipeline.”

The U.S. State Department, which has authority to grant a presidential permit approving Keystone XL’s construction, had its initial Environmental Impact Statement rejected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as “inadequate” because significant environmental impacts had not been sufficiently evaluated. The State Department is now preparing a second EIS. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has yet to issue its permit as well. Members of the Northern Plains Pipeline Landowners Group have requested that DEQ attach specific conditions to any permit to improve the safety of the pipeline.

In Congress, a House subcommittee passed fast-track legislation in mid-June that would order Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to reach a decision on the project by November 1. The bill now has to be voted on by the entire House. The bill would compel Clinton to over-rule demands for a further review of the project from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and disregard local safety concerns from landowners along the Keystone XL pipeline’s 1,700-mile route.

by jhwygir

For up-to-the-moment news from an affected landowner, please read Alexis Bonogofsky’s twitter timeline.

Of greatest interest today, she reports that Exxon did not send out their specialized crews today.

Nice, huh?

While MSNBC reports that Exxon officials are now saying the spill could extend beyond the 10 miles they’ve originally reported.

You don’t say? And I’m loving those qualifiers (could? Really? We’re in flood!)

Please take notice of the wildlife photos on that MSNBC story.

On that note, Ms. Bonogofsky, ranch owner of Blue Creek Farms has also reported on the immediate loss of wildlife from her Yellowstone River ranch.

I cry for her loss. It is heartbreaking to hear of this devastation. I wish there was something I could do.

Watch Mike Scott, who is co-owner with Alexis of Blue Creek farms, question Exxon in this KTVQ-NBC Billings report and video.

And again – on that note – ranch owners Alexis and Mike were kicked out of the press conference and public officials did nothing to stop this banishment.

The agriculture industry is being ruined down there along the Yellowstone and public officials are allowing Exxon to clean up their image by keeping affected landowners out of press conferences? Shame to any and all who escorted Alexis and Mike out of that press conference.

by jhwygirl

The story develops – this from the Seattle Post Intelligencer:

Pruessing (Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. president) also said that the 12-inch pipeline had been temporarily shut down in May because of concerns over the rising waters on the Yellowstone. He said the company decided to restart the line after examining its safety record and deciding the risk was low.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, which oversees pipelines, last year issued a warning letter to Exxon Mobil that cited seven safety violations along the ruptured Silvertip pipeline. Two of the warnings faulted the company for its emergency response and pipeline corrosion training.

And this…

The 20-year-old pipeline was last inspected in 2009 using a robotic device that travels through the line looking for corrosion, dents or other problems, Pruessing said. Tests to determine the pipeline’s depth were taken in December, and at the time, the line appeared to be 5 to 8 feet below the riverbed, he said.

So Exxon inspected the line and provided the report. These are guys with a history of safety violations – yes, here in Montana too.

Please notice the language “the line appeared to be 5 to 8 feet below the riverbed”. Did they inspect it or not? How could you be off by 5 to 8 feet? Or was that a guess?

Why the government hasn’t learned its lesson over self-regulation is beyond me. At minimum, the permitting process should included ongoing fees for inspections, and the government should be hiring 3rd party contractors to do these inspections.

by jhwygirl

A crime has occurred in our great state along the mighty Yellowstone River. There are private landowners affected by this spill – their property has been trashed, and to what degree of damage has yet to be known.

These landowners could use your assistance. Apparently, state officials are referring Montana citizens to Exxon’s help line.

It seems to me that the state would want to hear all they can about this violation on our major waterway? Isn’t there some sort of state investigation that is going to ensue?

Beyond that, you should be well aware of Exxon’s record of safety issues and their less-than-thorough clean-up efforts both in Valdez and the Gulf. The fishing industry of both of those disasters would undoubtedly send Montana a very strong warning about trusting Exxon to clean-up.

So please Mr. Attorney General – please make sure that landowners along the Yellowstone River and irrigation users that may be miles and miles away from their intakes on the Yellowstone have their concerns documented properly (so that Exxon doesn’t go screwing them like they did to the citizens of Alaska and the fishing industry of the Gulf). If the state’s response is that Exxon is heading up the clean-up of its own mess (both literally and legally), they’re sure going to go ahead and repeat the same thing they’ve done elsewhere.

This is an area where you have excelled Mr. Attorney General – holding corporate America responsible.

History does have a purpose. It’s a good harbinger of what happens if we do the same thing as before. Let’s hope Montana doesn’t have to suffer the same ‘clean-up’ results of Alaska and the Gulf. Exxon needs oversight, not just emergency efforts (though that is certainly priority at this time) – Exxon needs oversight to keep them from covering up any damages that busy evacuated landowners might not have time to document.

In closing, please hear the words of Alexis Bonogofsky describing the devastation on her ranch adjacent to the Yellowstone River to the Billings Gazette. If this doesn’t break a Montanan’s heart, I don’t know what would:

by jhwygirl

Dear Montana Legislators that voted for SB423:

You should be utterly embarassed by the court’s assessment of your ability to grasp the very documents you were sworn to uphold when you swore your oath of office. I’m talking about the U.S. Constitution and the Montana Constitution.

Frankly – this bodes quite well for progressive tree-hugging dirty hippies like me, given my own assessment of many of the bills that were passed.

…but I digress…..

District Judge James P. Reynolds hit ya’all on a whole list of things. I’ll just name a few:

1.) First Amendment, U.S. Constutition (right to free speech)

2.) Article II, section 7, Montana Constitution (right to free speech)

3.) Fourth Amendment, U.S. Constitution (the right to be protected from unreasonable search and seizure)

4.) Article II, section 11, Montana Constitution (“the people shall be…secure from unreasonable searches and seizures)

5.) Article II, section 3, Montana Constitution (“the opportunity to pursue employment…is itself a fundamental right”)

6.) Article II, section 10, Montana Constitution (right to personal privacy)

Boy – that’s quite a laundry list of constitutional rights violated by a majority of both the Senate and the House

What you’ll hear from them – or some of them – will be that “we had to do something!” and “if I didn’t do that, they’d of repealed it!”

Hmph. It was one thing to participate in the shit scramble party to write something up – it was an entirely different thing to vote for it.

Shame on you all. Each and every one of you.

Voters will hopefully remember this, as those lists of legislators that vote for this bill that many many people had said was unconstitutional and violated basic rights didn’t have any concern for rights. All they were thinking of was political expediency and gain.

If they’ll violate these rights – and really, do we really have to school a Republican-controlled legislature on the basic rights of a person’s ability to make a living? To speak and advertise? To be protected from unreasonable search and seizure?

Obviously we do. I say we school them out of office.

(Thank you to the Missoulian for reporting the story and posting the judge’s injuction.)

by jhwygirl

Seems everyone is getting on the bandwagon of revenue increases these days – you’ll recall the Senate recently voted to kill ethanol subsidies (we’ll see where the tough-talking House goes with that one…), then GOP leaders in the Senate started talking publicly of revenue increases.

Is that pure BS talk? Certainly some say so (as has been exhaustively argued on these pages)…but there are observers suggesting that Grover Norquist and his “no revenue increase” mantra may be becoming insignificant.

Absent of Republicans, in general, looking at more revenue increasing proposals, we have President Narayana Kocherlakota of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis – at a weekend bankers conference held here in Montana – calling on Congress to reduce the amount of mortgage interest and debt payments that households and corporations can deduct to trim incentives for leverage.

Now – is that something I can go along with? Capping the mortgage interest deduction? Debt interest? Obama’s been calling for it since he got elected. A bi-partisan White House deficit-reduction commission picked these two things out as something that should be considered.

Anyway – those are my thoughts. Do we have a perfect storm brewing? Are old-school Republicans calling out the Tea Party? If Republicans (the Tea Party, more aptly) continue to ignore any-and-all revenue increasing ideas, they’re going to find themselves on the wrong end of the voting poll. That’s just plain numbers, folks. If all they have left is to attack Social Security and Medicare, then they aren’t honestly looking at the situation.

If they aren’t honestly looking at the situation, they’re saboteurs.

By CFS

We all know that corn ethanol takes away resources from growing food, but by how much might astonish you.  According to author Alexis Madrigal in his book Powering the Dream, USDA statistics from 2010 show that fully 1/3 of the United States corn harvest went into our collective gas tanks.

That 1/3 of US corn production is akin to a subsidy for the wealthy.  You see, the more wealth and income a person has the more cars a person owns and consequently the more miles a person tends to drive (who wants to be on a bus with a bunch of stinky people), consuming proportionally more gas.  Conversely, the higher up the income scale one climbs the less a person spends on food as a proportion of their income.  The exact opposite is true of the lower-income scales, whome spend a much larger proportion of income simply feeding themselves and their families while spending less on transportation.  So, corn ethanol subsidies are essentially robbing from the poor and giving to the rich, a kind of reverse Robin Hood.

Bringing it down to the scale of Missoula, would you rather help out the people that live on the South Hills in Mansion Heights, or the people that live in doublewides in East Missoula?

Just how much is 1/3?  The US corn harvest in 2010 was 13.1 billion bushels.  Yes that is 13.1 with a B! A record-setting year in terms of acreage under production and yield even in the face of record grain prices.

So, fully 4.3 billion bushels of corn was converted into ethanol.  Those 4.3 billion bushels yielded 12.1 billion gallons of ethanol (based on my calculations from the ratio I derived thanks to this link) out of a total US supply of 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol which gives us 10% of the total gasoline supply.

That’s a lot of numbers… but bear with me.

So, to fill just 10% of our voracious appetite for fuel (18 million barrels of oil/day) uses roughly 26.4 million acres of American (Fuck Yeah!) farmland.  So while the addition of corn ethanol to our fuel supply hasn’t put much of a dent into American gas prices or our consumption of foreign oil, you can see in the chart below just how much biofuels have effected the price of corn.  The steep increase in price coincides nicely with the increase in total corn used for ethanol seen in the chart here (scroll down toward the bottom).

And also coincides nicely with the increase in the commodity price of beef.  Beef, it’s where most of the corn goes.

Obviously, the increase in price isn’t all due to increases in the amount of corn ethanol produced, but the pattern fits nicely together.  The real point of all these numbers I’ve thrown in front of you is to show the sheer scale of the impact that ethanol has on the food market (quite a lot) and the extent of the impact on the fuels market (almost non-existent).

In the end ethanol subsidies are part of the larger package of policies in this country that give breaks to those with an excessively disproportionate share of this country’s wealth.  These subsidies might not be that large in the scheme of things relating to our total budget deficit, but they are symptomatic of our larger cultural tendency to reward the rich and punish the poor.

by jhwygirl

Please consider this an open thread.

A new study shows that the death penalty costs $300 million per person.

The main drug used in lethal injection is no longer in production in the U.S. That means that no state can obtain the drug legally. (with a hat tip to Steve Dogiakos)

If you haven’t read this piece, you should. From Time Magazine’s political blog Swampland, it’s an indepth look at Montana’s Tea Party. The piece is recent – June 17th.

So yeah…more national attention on Montana.

Has anyone read Sarah Palin’s InBox yet?

Public Policy Polling has all kinds of polling out on Montana 2012 races. With both a Senate and a Governor’s seat open, there’s lots of national interest.

Must read from The Nation on reimaging our economic future. There’s lot’s to it – a series of articles – but well worthy of bookmarking.

Pogie reports on this weekend’s gathering of the John Birch Society with featured guest Derek Skees. It’s a must read. And do remember – that’s straight-up serious stuff he’s talking about.

Button Valley recently threw down on the economic realities of Arch Coal, one of Montana’s newest raider of taxpayer-owned natural resources. Poor Arch Coal. Thank Goddess the Montana taxpayers were able to subsidize their bid for the state’s schoolchildren’s coal. Corporate coal welfare – what would the industry do without it.

Which reminds me – Steve Bullock for Attorney General. Only.

from jhwygirl – I’ve talked in the past about a “value-added” economy, meaning one where raw materials are added to in value. This is where jobs and revenue are created. It would be my preference that we focus our economic growth policies (regulatory and tax) on the “value-added” side and not the extraction of raw resources side. That is because the “value-added” is far more economically advantageous than the mere exportation of raw resources.

Below is a guest post from Matthew Koehler. I’ve taken some liberty there at the end with Roy Keene’s LTE, wishing not to post the entire piece, and instead providing highlights.

This piece is by forester, logger and private timber broker Roy Keene from Eugene, Oregon. While the article deals mainly with Oregon, it also includes eye-opening figures from the greater Pacific Northwest region about the tremendous amount of uncut public lands timber already sold and under contract in the Pacific Northwest.

Right now in the Pacific Northwest there is enough timber already under contract to logging companies and timber mills from federal and state forest lands to fill nearly 500,000 logging trucks (that’s enough logging trucks lined up end-to-end for nearly 4,200 miles. Imagine log trucks lined up end-to-end from Missoula to New York City and back again!) Yet this 2 billion board feet of public timber remains uncut because of the economy, lack of construction and glut of homes and developments already built, but unoccupied.

Yet, given these facts, some politicians want us to believe the timber industry is “starved for timber” and that we need to mandate more logging of our national forests to create “timber jobs?”

~~~
Roy Keene, a forest consultant and private timber broker in Eugene Oregon writes in a guest viewpoint for The Register-Guard:

Drive the Columbia River from Longview into Portland, and you can see big log ships lined up. At least 500 timber jobs leave the Northwest weekly as boatload after boatload of raw logs are exported to Asian mills.

The Business Insider website reports, “While Canada has drastically raised lumber shipments to China in recent years, the U.S. has instead expanded exportation of logs to Chinese sawmills and plywood manufacturers. With exports up 150 percent,” the Insider says, “the U.S. is now the third largest softwood log supplier to China.”

Updated U.S. Forest Service data show 1,100 million board feet of logs shipped out of the Northwest in 2010, compared to 700 million feet in 2009. This year’s first quarter exports, at 390 million board feet, are double the 191 million shipped in 2010’s first quarter.

Here in Missoula County, “value-adding” to timber is a scarcity with Smurfit and Stimson having closed. Pyramid in Seeley is still steaming forward, having specialized on some sort of wood product. Does make you wonder where all the logs are going that you see on the highways.

Keene continues (keeping in mind he writes from Oregon):

Today’s political ploys to increase logging on public lands are little different than what they’ve always been — well rewarded resource plundering. The reality is that global timber corporations are being allowed to exploit the Northwest like a Third World resource center. To honestly restore our jobs and forests, this inequity needs to be resolved by stopping the largest loss first — the unrestricted export of raw logs.

In 1990, DeFazio implored the first Bush administration to resolve domestic timber shortages by invoking the Export Administration Act. This would have eliminated log exports from all public and private lands. Instead of attempting to increase federal timber harvesting, Oregon’s congressional delegation should ask President Obama to do what Bush wouldn’t — invoke this act. Keep the huge volume of Northwest timber already harvested or sold here at home.

Stop raw log exports, and Oregon’s timber workers can significantly swell their ranks to meet the world’s increasing need for high-quality finished wood products. It’s a win-win for the people and forests of the Northwest!

Can’t argue with that.

by jhwygirl

In Washington, at least. And some of the biggest players, too – Sen. Lindsay Graham? Sen. Tom Colburn?

Will we see sacred cows fall? Graham cites ethanol subsidies, and calls for ending “…a bunch of other subsidies that go to a few people” and put(ting) the money “back into the federal treasury” for debt reduction.

Looks like reality is making headway in the Senate, if not pissing off Grover Norquist, who may be seeing the beginning of his own insignificance.

Let’s hope, huh?

The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn is taking notice of the refreshing honesty coming from the GOP, pointing out that Reagan’s Budget Director David Stockman admitted that any austerity measures would most certainly make the jobs situation worse:

(Fareed) Zakaria noted that a policy of austerity, along the lines of what Stockman was recommending, would probably make the jobs situation worse. “Yes,” Stockman responded, “the scenario is pretty grim.” Stockman then went on to predict another decade of double-digit unemployment. “It sounds like very harsh medicine,” he said. “But it happens to be a very harsh reality.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty grim. Republican’s can’t impeded every solution offered – in this particular case, Reich was advocating for a massive infusion of infrastructure spending – and so far all I’ve heard them call for is cutting social security and medicare.

Both of which would cost them dearly, politically.

Well…I see I’ve digressed. I do find it interesting that GOPers like Lindsay Graham and Tom Coburn are talking about raising revenues. If they’re saying that, there’s more where they came from.

by jhwygirl

Thought I’d update a post I did last week, given that the Senate took another vote on ending ethanol subsidies – this one an amendment from California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

A 73 – 27 bipartisan vote moved forward a repeal of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit, to be included in the Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011.

Both Montana Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus voted in support of repeal.

~~~
Found this spreadsheet which shows that of all U.S. corn production, 28.7% ends up in our gas tanks.

by jhwygirl

Montanan’s – and the world – first found out about Rep. Denny Rehberg’s push for “hard science” about two weeks ago when he pushed for an amendment that would require “hard science” before the FDA could enact regulatory controls.

Rehberg’s amendment passed. Whee for him, right? And screw the health of Americans….Rehberg was finally able to add something to that very slim resume of his.

Not really…..Rehberg – even as chair – couldn’t follow procedure, having attempted to legislation through Appropriations, which is against House rules.

How embarrassing. Let’s point out here that Denny is chair of that committee. Clearly, he isn’t very effective and doesn’t understand some of the basic parameters of his own committee. I’m sure he blames it on his staff.

What exactly is “hard science”? Here’s the definition, right out of Denny’s original amendment:

Sec. 740. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Food and Drug Administration to write, prepare, develop or publish a proposed, interim, or final rule, regulation, or guidance that is intended to restrict the use of a substance or a compound unless the Secretary bases such rule, regulation or guidance on hard science (and not on such factors as cost and consumer behavior), and determines that the weight of toxicological evidence, epidemiological evidence, and risk assessments clearly justifies such action, including a demonstration that a product containing such substance or compound is more harmful to users than a product that does not contain such substance or compound, or in the case of pharmaceuticals, has been demonstrated by scientific study to have none of the purported benefits.

Yep. Humans as lab rats – body counts required.

Honest to Goddess. And don’t you know those tea party people think they are oh so smart by coming up with the term “hard science” for this crap.

What was Rehberg’s original intent of his amendment? To stop the FDA from regulating what many have said for decades is the overuse of antibiotics in livestock – which is resulting in humans increasingly becoming bacteria resistant, resulting in the need for stronger and stronger antibiotics (or death).

Take a look a the FDA’s apparently-not-“hard-science” report.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee last week threatened to take up Denny Rehberg’s “hard science” cause – having ingeniously found a way to get around that can’t-legislate-from-House Appropriations thing.

Trouble for Rehberg and the rest of the tea party patriots down there in the House is that a bipartisan group of Senators have offered up their own bill which would restrict the use of antibiotics in cattle.

So the tea party bats are loose, crapping in the U.S. House now..and we’ve got dueling bills on an issue that has been generally agreed upon accepted science. Until Denny Rehberg came up with his own new concept: “hard science”.

It’s sad, really. In the future, historians will look back upon this early 21st century political scenery and find accounts of elected officials not only ignoring science, but dismantling the very foundations built by America’s greatest legislators and administrations all to appease the corporate interests of the upper 2% of the population.

By JC

“It’s the economy, stupid.” — Bill Clinton’s battle cry against George HW Bush during the 1992 presidential campaign.

Open thread on the state of the economy, and what to do about it. Have at it folks. What are your dots, and how would you connect them?

This is what campaign ’12 will be all about. Nothing more, nothing less. Robert Reich sets the stage. All else is just noise.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention. Robert Reich was Clinton’s first Secretary of Labor. Wouldn’t mind seeing Obama bring him in to bolster his economic team, which seems to have lost all of its free thinkers lately.

by jhwygirl

A GOP proposal is gaining traction, with support from both the White House and congressional leaders of both parties, that will all but eliminate direct payments, while leaving a program of crop insurance in place.

The Washington Post quotes Sen. Chuck Grassley: “There are no sacred cows. The bottom line is, ag should be cut like everything else, but no more than anything else. I think direct payments will be done away with.”

Not hard to imagine how Montana Rep. Janna Taylor is going to feel about that, being that she took (you just know there has to be paperwork involved – the U.S. isn’t just handing out checks) $1,017,490 in direct farm subsidy from 1995-2009. All in all, 33 Montana legislators, 30 being Republican, took over $7M in farm subsidy during that period – many of them being the loudest callers for “small government.”

~~~
If today’s vote in the Senate is any indication, WaPo might be calling the end of farm subsidy a little early – a vote today on Coburn’s Amdt. No. 436, which would have eliminated subsidy for the ethanol industry, was soundly defeated 59-40.

Senator Tester Voted Yea, while Baucus voted Nay

BCFS

Just ignore anything thing that comes out of a politician’s mouth when discussing oil prices, whether that politician may be President Obama or Denny “I do believe I fell off my horse” Rehberg.  For that matter you can also ignore Faux News’ claim that financial speculation is the key culprit of high oil prices because the reality is that the main driver behind oil prices is a lack of sufficient supply.

The Oil Drum has a great analysis (which continues in the comments) up at their site that comes to this very conclusion.  It’s a long, and a very technical post, but well worth the read.

The basic problem the world is facing in the short-term is that the great oil exporters aren’t so great anymore.  You see, the major exporters have been massively developing their countries over the last 20 years trying to diversify their economies away from a dependence on oil exports.  This has strangely had the reverse effect of making their economies more reliant on oil.

In 2005 total world exports were 40.8 million barrels per day (mbpd) as compared with 35.7 mbpd in 2009, a  12.5% decline in only a matter of 4 years.  While data might not be available for 2010, the news only gets worse.  Both Russia and China have instituted export restrictions so as to support their domestic economies.  This will lead to a further reduction in total oil exports.  The news out of Russia, being the world’s second largest oil producer, does not bode well for the oil importing countries of the world.  Add in the fact that Saudi Arabian oil production peaked in 2005 and Russia peaked in 2007.  No country can replace these two producers and so the decline in world exports will continue and with it prices at the gas station here in America will continue to rise.

Two additional variables complicate the situation.  The first is political.  Already the Arab Spring is effecting oil exports coming out of the Middle East.  But on-top of the unrest directly leading to reductions in oil production regimes that are desperate to hold on to their power are already starting to spend oil revenue on social programs with the aim to buy the silence of their populace.  That leaves less money to invest in future oil production and will lead to an otherwise faster decline in production.

The second, is the economic principle of diminishing returns on investment.  This is an economic fact that was drilled into my head in economics class.  Usually, this principle is couched in the terms of labor vs. capital.  Each additional laborer produces a certain amount of profit, add too many workers and that rate of return decrease and will eventually go negative.  Same with capital.

Energy markets are subject to the same principle but in a slightly different manner.  The principle here is “energy returned on energy invested” (EROEI).  Back in the day when oil was first discovered, the EROEI was in the range of 30-50, meaning for every unit of energy expended in production, 30-50 units of energy were actually produced.  Now however, we are down to the point of extracting oil at an EROEI under 10, with tar sands right about 5.  So we are reaching the point of having to expend a lot more energy and money to get just a little bit of energy in return.

Now, You can take this principle and expand it a bit further.  Lets take for example infrastructure investment, in this case our national highway network.  Because this type of investment is public, the return on investment would be the total economic activity spurred by said investment, ranging from the construction jobs created directly from the investment to the development of real estate on former farmland and the sale of cars that fill up said highways.

Between 2004 and 2008 23,300 miles of additional roadway were built in America.  Now the first 23,300 miles that were built in the system way back under Truman contributed much more to the economic prosperity of our country than the last 23,300 miles.  Why is that?  It’s because of all that previous investment.  Not only is that last 23,300 miles a marginal amount at this point compared with all that previous investment,  but all those thousands of miles already built require a lot of investment each and every year just to maintain.  All the maintenance required to keep up that old investment takes away from the ability of a nation to invest in new infrastructure.

This same phenomenon is occurring in places like Saudi Arabia.  Once you’ve gotten to all the easy oil, you have to spend an increasing amount of money just to tread water.  From The Oil Drum:  Saudi Arabian oil officials met with Halliburton to discuss plans to boost their oil-directed rig count by roughly 30%.

According to a Saudi oil official interviewed by Reuters, the investment in new drilling rigs “is not to expand capacity. It’s to sustain current capacity on new fields and old fields that have been bottled up.” (1) This news on its own should be troubling as it infers that the Kingdom is facing significant declines on currently producing fields. Even more troubling is the recent statement by another senior Saudi oil official that the Kingdom “expects oil production to hold steady at an average of 8.7 million barrels per day to 2015.”

Increasing investment by 30% just to stay barely above water.

Drill-Baby-Drill!

by jhwygirl

Oh, the places I could go with that….

The Missoulian has an Associated Press story reporting that Governor Brian Schweitzer is heading to China to tout Montana wheat, beer, tourism and coal.

That’s a good thing, and hopefully the Governor does well. Montana has its own special draw, and hopefully he’s taking a bunch of old cowboy boots and hats with him to hand out. They’ll love that stuff.

Let’s hope he leaves the bolo tie at home, though.

It’d be nice if Brian pushed on China for real investing here in Montana – something more than just building a railroad that required condemnation of private lands so that they can get their coal. Thing is – if Montana is going to strip mine the Tongue River Valley for China’s benefit, they should be giving us something more than a handful of jobs.

Butte has silicone recycling that has been doing quite well. That should pair up well with China’s forward thinking and growing solar cell industry. There’s just one example of investment potential for China.

MonTech, MSU and UM could probably benefit immensely with partnerships with China…as would Chinese universities. Let’s hope he goes there, too.

Last year, China bumped from ranking #5 in the world’s economy, to #2. That’s crazy growth, but I als think that it is a whole bunch of smoke-and-mirrors given the overall lack of quality in their infrastructure along with the manipulation of their currency and heavy subsidy of basic industries. Regardless, that kind of lead should not be ignored.

Nor should their their serious and thorough disregard for human rights.

I have a love-hate thing with China. Its culture is beautiful. They suck on human rights. Absolutely SUCK on human rights. They are growing and have the growth potential to blow the whole world out of the water. All of those are things that should not be ignored.

If Montana can have a role that is more than just immediately colonizing ourself for China’s eventual world take-over, then I’m all for it.

Good Luck Governor Brian. Please don’t take Jag with you.

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

by jhwygirl

Oh boy…what? A new union? Those crazy liberals!

Yeah…no.

Dairgold Creamery in Bozeman is laying off 2/3 of its workforce – 35 to 40 people. It’s cheaper to send raw milk to Salt Lake City (which is, incidentally, hiring) for pasteurization and will save Dairgold trucking miles and costs.

My heart goes out to those workers and their families. Those were undoubtedly good stable jobs. Then there’s the tax base.

Well – I’m in for co-opting it. A dairy co-op. Buy the thing, Montana – just like the local co-op grocery store. Don’t let Dairgold dismantle the thing like Smurfit intended…or like Stimson who is letting its whole facility cave in and rot on stilts (as they are doing with dozens of historic homes in Bonner).

Montana needs to continue value-adding to its raw dairy products. Montana-made milk. Yogurt. Ice Cream. While I’m more of a soy-milk fan, I don’t see that about to break any trend here in Montana….so milk is a pretty stable commodity, I’d say.

It all starts with an idea. Sitting around and saying “oh well,” doesn’t work.

BCFS

So… My better half is contemplating purchasing a new vehicle, which means that I get to have some fun doing internet research and reading car magazines on possible options.  She decided that she wanted better gas mileage than her current Subaru provides (28 mpg), and I convinced her that she if she wanted a significant improvement that she should go with a diesel, specifically a Jetta TDI (used or new).  The only problem it seems is that you can’t find a diesel car within 500 miles of Missoula: of course you can find hundreds of diesel Chevy Silverado 3500s.  The dealers seem to think that they wouldn’t sell which means that the closest diesel cars are embargoed in Seattle, Denver, or Salt Lake City.

This isn’t the only barrier that crops up when you want to get your right foot on the gas pedal of a diesel.  Prices of diesels in the used car market have significantly risen in the last half decade as fuel economy suddenly became important to people.  Used Jetta TDIs routinely go for several thousand dollars above their suggested blue book value making a slightly used TDI almost as expensive as a brand new one.  A diesel Jetta is the “cheap” option as many of the other diesels available in America are European luxury models.

And that gets me to my question of the day… Where the fuck are the American diesels?  Half of all cars sold in Europe are diesel.  If you want to buy an American made diesel vehicle in this country you have a lot of option that look like this:

Other than that you have to go with a European manufacturer if you want a car and not a truck.  Audi has 4 diesel models available in the US; BMW 3; Mercedes 7; Volkswagen 7; GM 0, Ford 0; Chrysler 0.  And Audi, BMW, and Mercedes cars aren’t exactly cheap and so aren’t feasible for most Americans to purchase.

Petrol prices are once again averaging $4/gallon and are nearing the record high reached in 2008 and yet the mix of cars available in America has changed very little even in the face of rising prices spanning the last decade.  As of 2008, the average passenger vehicle in America got 25.6 mpg compared to 25.1 mpg in 2001.  That’s American innovation for you.

But this being America, we like big sweeping plans to solve issues, the simple solutions are just plain boring.  T. Boon Pickens has his idea for converting the American passenger vehicle fleet to natural gas and Obama wants us to believe that plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles (EVs) are the technological answers to our commuting nightmares.  Both of those options might be viable long-term solutions to our dependence on oil to drive our economy, but in the short-term neither really makes all that much sense.

The problem with both EVs and NGVs is that they both require whole new systems of distribution and manufacture to develop.  We are talking about investments in the trillions of dollars here to undertake the necessary research, develop new, scalable manufacturing techniques, convert factories, and build the distribution system that will allow Americans to plug-in or fill up their car with natural gas.

Diesel doesn’t require any of that.  The distribution system is already in place.  American car makers might have to spend $50,000 grand buying an advanced diesel car from Europe and reverse-engineering the engine but that’s about all the research they would have to undertake to catchup with European manufacturers.  And diesel cars could show an immediate impact on fuel efficiency, often providing two or three times the fuel efficiency than gas engines currently in use in America.

In the end, diesel isn’t the answer to our oil-dependence (and talk of our energy addiction would make this post too long) as we are going to run out of crude anyway.  What diesel can provide is a bridge between today and whatever system comes along in the future… whether that may be flying cars or living in termite mounds.

by jhwygirl

Eminent domain has been something that our Governor Brian Schweitzer wants addressed.

What he and a whole bunch of others in both the legislature and in Canada and elsewhere want is for the Montana-Alberta Tie Limited (MATL) to be able to build its line where they want to build it. Meaning that Canadian company Tonbridge Power, Inc. needs to be able to condemn private property for the many that are standing in the way.

Wasn’t there an outcry back in 2005 over Kelo v. New London? In that case it was one homeowner.

Aren’t there whole skyscrapers built around little houses in NYC?

It seems to me this is capitalism and the free market at its finest. There’s a ranch owner up near Choteau that doesn’t want the lines going through a particular area on his property. Tonbridge is a private company. They don’t have the power of eminent domain. Eminent domain is for public uses. Tonbridge just wants to move its power from Alberta to Colorado and California.

Shouldn’t the private company then deal in the true free market?

Offer him more money. At some point, it’s either going to be cost effective or not. Then you move the line.

And I understand what that means – but that’s the free market. Embrace it, baby!

The Montana GOP is floating a new proposal. Remember, there’s a whole bunch of people that want this thing, not just Schweitzer, not just Tonbridge, not just Northwestern Energy, (who also wants to be able to condemn for its Mountain States Transmission Intertie (MSTI), and not just some Democrats.

The original bill, HB198 , was truly bipartisan creation..

Sen. Essmann, from Billings, has an amendment that would not allow condemnation of “collector” lines from smaller energy sources (say, a wind farm here in Montana?)…but would still bring the straight line of authority and loss/benefit between the private property (Tonbridge or Northwestern Energy).

The idea that the the state would not want to step in on this issue like is astounding.

Further, this opens a key to corporate interests picking the shortest most profitable line. Plan first, takings later. Guaranteed.

Essmann’s proposal, frankly, ensures that we’ll have tons of lines crossing the landscape and no planned consolidation which would make investment significantly easier and reducing impact on Montana’s greatest resource (and I shouldn’t have to say what that is).

The solution needs to eliminate that direct authority of private interests over private property and the individual Montanan.

There also has to be some true public benefit. not a handful of jobs.

One of these days – and especially after this session – someone’s going to count all the jobs, who they went to (brought in from out-of-state?) and what they did (my bet is that we end up with a whole bunch of attorneys, judges and copy stores).

Alas – those darned Montanans and their crazy property rights ethic. They take offense to handing over eminent domain powers to private corporations. I don’t know that it matters much that they’re from Canada..or that the people, benefiting from the power line are in California and Colorado.

And Canada too, I guess.

What Montanans don’t want to see is an open door for a private entity to come in and decide that they want to profit off of what many have called the west’s breadbasket of wind and have the feds authorizing lines with no regard to whether the private property owner or the locally and state-level elected authorities approve of the thing.

This reversion to and embracing of Montana colonialism astounds me. We’re prostituting ourselves with the state’s resources that are not unlimited.

Coal? Otter Creek, we gave that away. Oil & gas? Nowthey’ll be drilling first and then doing an environmental review.

Even these powerlines. While advocates for allowing a private corporation to condemn private property for their own private interests gain cry “this is for green energy” their calls are fake. Aside from the particular facts of MATL, the issue isn’t what it carries – it’s the power it gives to private entities.

Tonbridge and Northwestern Energy are ramping up pressure. Northwestern recent filed an amicus brief in the current case in Tonbridge’s appeal of a lower court which ruled that eminent domain authority only rests with the state. Teton County’s Choteau Acantha has the fullest reporting I’ve seen on this.

Concerned Citizens Montana is a website formed by those not supporting eminent domain ability for private companies, and it has an aggregate of information from many places.

Will the legislature hand over private property takings rights to private entities?

Let’s hope some true conservative libertarian sense reigns.

by Pete Talbot

It was one of the broadest coalitions I’ve seen in years.

But it was hard to get crowd estimates in the rolling front yard of the Capitol — over a thousand for sure.  Folks kept pouring in from around Montana, connecting with friends and sharing the wrath.

The rally literally took off at the end: a march around the Capitol grounds with all the signs and fired-up people, just as the sun was breaking through the clouds, and to the PA playing “We’re Not Going to Take It” by Twisted Sister.

This followed the speeches which were many, but short and to the point: a Billings firefighter, a Bozeman pastor, a Missoula small business owner, a veteran, a Blackfeet Indian, to name a few.

The themes were “Courage, Not Cuts,” “These Cuts Hurt,”  “We Have the Money, Reverse the Cuts,” and “Work That Matters.”

It was an eclectic mix: ironworkers and teachers, environmentalists and health care activists, Crow and Blackfeet, emergency service workers and the disabled … and kids.

(More photos and copy below the fold.)

Continue Reading »




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