Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

by jhwygirl

These Public Service Commission races often go overlooked. Few elected offices can have such a direct impact, daily, on your life and your pocketbook than the people up in Helena who are hearing requests from utility companies for rate hikes and such. Maybe it’s time to pay attention. Brad Molnar is running for Public Service Commissioner for District 2, which is out near Billings. He is running against Ron Tussing, who has been endorsed by both the Montana Conservation Voters and The Progressive Democrats of Montana. Both Jay and I have written about Brad Molnar previously, here and here.

Perhaps the better question is: How (at the very least) ethically-challenged can Brad Molnar, incumbent and candidate for Public Service Commission District 2, be?

The guy is a sitting Public Service Commissioner, and he solicits donations from both Northwestern Energy and PPL Montana (two donations of $1,000 from Northwestern and one $1,000 donation from PPL Montana). He solicits donations from corporations over which he is elected to oversee?

Dirty.

MCA 45-7-104 has been on the books for how long? But seriously, does Molnar really need to be told that as an public servant he shouldn’t be soliciting, accepting, or agreeing to accept any pecuniary benefit from a person known to be subject to such regulation, inspection, investigation, or custody or against whom such litigation is known to be pending or contemplated?

Or how about MCA 2-2-104, which prohibits a public officer, legislator, or public employee from accepting a gift of substantial value or a substantial economic benefit tantamount to a gift? A gift that that would tend improperly to influence a reasonable person in the person’s position to depart from the faithful and impartial discharge of the person’s public duties?

Oh – and the state does give us a definition of “gift” in MCA 2-2-102:
“Gift of substantial value” means a gift with a value of $50 or more for an individual.
(b) The term does not include:
(i) a gift that is not used and that, within 30 days after receipt, is returned to the donor or delivered to a charitable organization or the state and that is not claimed as a charitable contribution for federal income tax purposes;

So did Molnar return his gifts within 30 days? Only one of Northwestern Energy’s $1,000 gifts were returned within 30 days – the other had been long spent – and was returned only after Northwestern Energy had requested it be returned. As for PPL Montana’s $1,000 gift? Doesn’t look like it – but they did ask Molnar to quit using the materials. He has, of course, refused to do so.

Molnar apparently never saw a problem with either donation – in this letter to Commissioner Unsworth (of the state’s Political Practices), he defends himself by saying he’s returned only the $1,000 from Northwestern Energy.

You know – this stuff is pretty darned basic. He’s an elected official. He regulates over utilities. He oversees both Northwestern Energy and PPL Montana. He reviews and votes on rate hikes that both of these businesses request to have imposed on the citizens of Montana.

You simply don’t solicit donations from utility companies and spend them when you are a Montana Public Service Commission elected commissioner – or someone running for the office.

by Rebecca Schmitz

Terrific. The guy hasn’t even been elected yet, and he’s already hanging up a “Mission Accomplished” banner.

by jhwygirl

Relied on Wall Street. Just three years ago.

I’m thinking Mildred and few thousand shareholders are thinking differently right now. McCain better stay far far away from them with that privatization talk.

In 2005, McCain and Bush stood together, advocating for private accounts for social security.

So Economic Einstein and Republican Presidential nominee John McCain, just three short years ago, felt that Wall Street was the appropriate place for people to place their trust in their long-term economic security?

Let’s see – the AIG bailout was $85 billion. Economist are estimating the total bailout costs will be $900 billion. Today, the Bush/Paulson Administration requested a $700 billion dollar no-strings-attached bailout package that will raise the national debt ceiling from $10.615 to $11.315 trillion.

Take a moment to let those numbers sink in, people. Clinton left Bush, 8 long and torturous and ethically devoid years ago, with a surplus.

And all this destabilized in just 3 years? Today those same Wall Street people are greedy? Where were thee three years ago, pal?

Obama/Biden, though, know the real story. Biden’s been hitting McCain hard on the campaign trail – and if you have a few moments tomorrow, I highly recommend watching CNN’s “On the Campaign Trail” to see just how hard. For a taste of some real Straight Talk:

“If John cares so much about this now, where was he a week ago? Where was he a month ago? Where was he 5 years ago? I’ll tell you where he was. He was bragging to the folks on Wall Street, the executives who now he calls greedy, he was bragging to them how he was going to shred the regulation that fetters them, that ties them down,” Biden said, calling those regulations “the very things that protected ordinary people on Main Street.”

“All of a sudden it’s ‘my goodness there’s greed on Wall Street. My goodness we need common sense regulation. My goodness,’” he continued. “This is a simple simple choice people have. It’s a choice between those who think that the marketplace and the corporations and the wealthy of America should go unfettered and have no regulation, and those of us who think there should be common sense rules to protect transparency so people can see the ability to know where your dollars are going.”

“John has said to the folks on Wall Street, and again I’m quoting here – this is in the Wall Street Journal – I’m always for less regulation. Here now, John has said he’s going to crack down on the greed on Wall Street. The greed of American corporations,” he said.

“Lets take a look at John’s conversion here. Something happened on the road to Damascus. John fell off his horse, but he got back on the same horse.”

Make no mistake, McCain’s privatization plans for Social Security have deep roots. Senator (now Republican Presidential nominee) John McCain’s plans go back more than 25 years. Here’s one of his speeches from 1999.

As Biden put it: He may have had a political epiphany, but it sure wasn’t a policy epiphany.

Or, as ABC News’ George Will put it, a Conversion of Convenience (even if you are on dial-up, this one is worth the wait):

This is McCain/Palin. This is the Republic Party.

Vote accordingly folks.

by jhwygirl

Over at Left in the West, Jay brings us word of Art Noonan, executive director of the Montana Democratic Party, and their complaint filed May 12th against PSC commissioner Brad Molnar and his violations of state ethics law.

Here’s a link to the official complaint.

Why isn’t the Noonan/Montana Democratic Party’s complaint even listed as a formal complaint? Two other complaints, made after Noonan’s, have apparently made it to the docket.

Did I say “two other complaints”? Two other complaints against Molnar?

Just what is 4&20 fav Art Noonan and The Montana Democratic Party complaining about?

1. Use of campaign materials without the proper disclaimer.
2. Use of corporate (PPL and Northwestern Energy) sponsored campaign materials.
3. Use of materials that appear to be paid for with public sources.
4. Falsely implying support from individuals in his campaign materials

Hasn’t the state sued PPL for 40 or 50 years of using its rivers? Isn’t something like a $40,000,000 settlement being discussed? And Northwestern Energy? Don’t even get me started there…

To top it all off, even after being called on to stop using these materials by School District 2 and the Billings Chamber of Commerce, he said that he’s just too cheap to buy new pamphlets. He’ll use the brownout pamphlets until they’re gone.

“What is so wrong with dated brochures?” Molnar said. “I’m a fiscal conservative, and I just can’t throw anything away.”

Molnar apparently continues to use state funds towards his re-election: In August he sent out a fund raising letter using his Montana government email address and phone number.

The only complaint against Molnar on the Commissioner of Political Practice’s docket that has gotten a hearing date (September 4th) – the one filed in June – had to be postponed to give Molnar time to consult his attorney.

Let’s get this straight – Molnar was served with a complaint from the Commissioner of Political Practices back in June and he’s only recently retained an attorney?

This guy serves on the Public Services Commission (and 4 previous terms as a state legislator) and he doesn’t have the brains or the forethought to hire an attorney when ethics charges are filed against him? When he knows there is going to be a hearing?

Because if he does have brains, then he’s intentionally undermining the process.

So which is it?

It’s bad enough that the Commissioner of Political Practices is woefully understaffed so much so that is isn’t able to do timely investigations into election ethics violations. But to have a candidate willfully undermine the process is worse.

by jhwygirl

You know you’ve gone too far.

As of tonight, McCain/Palin are up to 55 – counted by nonpartisan organizations such as FactCheck.org, Wall Street Journal, CNN and Associated Press. Click the pic to get an up-to-date listing.

by Rebecca Schmitz

From Time’s Joe Klein:

There is a tendency in the media to kick ourselves, cringe and withdraw, when we are criticized. But I hope my colleagues stand strong in this case: it is important for the public to know that Palin raised taxes as governor, supported the Bridge to Nowhere before she opposed it, pursued pork-barrel projects as mayor, tried to ban books at the local library and thinks the war in Iraq is “a task from God.” The attempts by the McCain campaign to bully us into not reporting such things are not only stupidly aggressive, but unprofessional in the extreme.

by Rebecca Schmitz

If you have a few spare moments to spend online, and need further proof that the “drill drill drill” crowd’s solution to our energy problem isn’t one at all, be sure to read this interview with Shock Doctrine author Naomi Klein on the Onion’s AV Club.

by jhwygirl

Montana’s FWP Commission voted on Tuesday to reduce the trapping limit for wolverines from 10 (last year’s limit) to 5.

We blogged about this issue here. And if any of you contacted FWP with comments – Thanks!

Montana is the only state in the lower 48 that allows trapping of wolverines. It is a Montana Species of Concern, and a USFS and BLM listed Sensitive species.

FWP Commission Chair Steve Doherty, who wanted a moratorium on trapping of wolverines, opposed the vote – but noted that reduction of the limit is a step in the right direction.

Doherty may get his wish. Opponents filed suit against the USFWS on July 8th, in an effort to have the animals listed as Endangered Species.

KPAX, it should be noted, is the only Montana news source that I could find that covered this story.

by Rebecca Schmitz

Rule #18: Don’t insult your campaign contributors. Or their children.

Oops.

by jhwygirl

The Jackson Hole News and Guide gives us the details on Schweitzer’s letter to the USDA, which criticizes Wyoming’s practice of operating elk feedgrounds and Bridger-Teton National Forest’s recent approval of renewing state leases on the National Forest.

“Despite long-standing acknowledgement of the problem, it now appears that Wyoming Game and Fish and the USDA are the only two entities who believe these feedgrounds are not a major contributing factor to the Greater Yellowstone Area being the last remaining reservoir for brucellosis in the nation,” Schweitzer said in the letter.

“Montana had done everything in its power to prevent the transmission of brucellosis to its cattle herd,” he said. “Meanwhile, USDA has insisted upon application of antiquated herd-to-herd regulations for disease transmission in cattle that have nothing to do with transmission from wildlife. As a result, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming at best continue to experience a yo-yo effect with respect to brucellosis status. At worst, the net effect is a permanent loss of status.”

“The Forest Service has taken a firm step to continue franchising the feeding of elk, while [USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services] continues to employ outdated, inapplicable and heavy-handed regulations, and threatens the state with loss of its brucellosis status.”

The Governor’s letter goes to to say that he is considering opting out of the Greater Yellowstone Interagency Brucellosis Committee (GYIBC) memorandum of understanding:

“I am questioning the wisdom of signing this document, when it has not been demonstrated to me that all parties are truly committed to finding realistic solutions.”

Conservation groups have sued to stop the feedgrounds, so needless to say, they are pleased with the Governor’s position.

Considering opting out of the GYIBC MOU is certainly an option that needs to be very seriously considered. Slaughtering bison is not the solution. Not in any way. Montana can not participate in the slaughter of wildlife as a reasonable practice for managing brucellosis.

The GYIBC’s members include the Wyoming Game & Fish, the USDA Forest Service, and the US Fish & Wildlife Service – all agencies which manage, promote and/or have feedgrounds on the lands they manage.

Consider the GYIBC’s goal:

It is the Goal of the Greater Yellowstone Interagency Brucellosis Committee to protect and sustain the existing free-ranging elk and bison populations in the Greater Yellowstone Area and protect the public interests and economic viability of the livestock industry in the States of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.

Given the GYIBC’s goal, its members, and their actions, the Governor has no choice: Opt Out – Now.

by jhwygirl

Sent to me by an astute reader, Governor Schweitzer fired off a letter on Tuesday to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, criticizing Wyoming’s elk feedgrounds, which many say are a breeding ground for brucellosis.

Bravo!

This was one of the developments out of Tuesdays Board of Livestock meeting – the other being the revival of the split-state status, in which the brucellosis hot spot around Yellowstone is subject to vaccine and other mitigative measures, leaving the rest of the state without having to subject its cattle to the extra round of oversight. Schweitzer has pushed for this method for years now. Under a split-state status, only 5% of Montana’s cattle would be affected.

Now if he can stand strong and put an end to the bison slaughter for now – either that or start the slaughter of elk too, since they’ve been the root cause of Montana’s last two cases of brucellosis – then maybe now we can move forward to real solutions instead of hysterical political “kill the bison” mentality.

I’ll note, too, that the Board of Livestock story – and the mention of the Governor’s letter to the USDA – was mentioned in Forbes Magazine. It’s that important, folks. People are paying attention.

Thank you, Governor, for a step forward.

by jhwygirl

This comes to us via Electric City Weblog.

The Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC) was denied access to City of Great Falls records pertaining to the possibly soon-to-be-ill-fated coal-fired Highwood Generation Plant being constructed for Southern Electric Generation and Transmission.

The feasibility study is apparently problematic for the city – City Attorney Gliko said that even the preliminary draft was off-limits, citing that “no feasibility study existed, per se,” and that the city was not required to produce preliminary drafts under MCA 2.4.601(2)(ii)(c).

Looks like Great Falls will be picking up the tab on MEIC’s attorney fees too. Ouch.

We’ve blogged on Great Falls here in the past. This is one of my favorites: Quashing Public Comment and Police Strong Arm Tactics in Great Falls.

Big KUDOS to MEIC and its staff. They’ve got an eye on the Highwood Plant and five other proposed coal-fired plants across the state.

You can download the entire order here.

by jhwygirl

State veterinarian Dr. Martin Zaluski is nearing completion of the testing of adjacent herds to the infected cow that cost Montana its brucellosis-free status and is encouraged by the results. So far, none have tested positive.

He’s also had this to say:

“All of the testing so far has focused on ruling out cattle as the potential source,” Zaluski said. “As testing eliminates cattle sources, the likelihood that the infected cow contracted the disease from elk increases.”

What’s odd about that statement is that he’s automatically gone to elk.

Why is the state’s veterinarian reaching to elk as the cause when we’ve been rounding up bison and slaughtering them for what – 12 years now? Maybe more?

Then on other fronts, Bridger Teton National Forest Supervisor Kniffy Hamilton reauthorized 5 Wyoming state-run elk feed grounds on national forest lands for 20 years. She held back on one that doesn’t need re-auth until 2011.

Ever wonder why brucellosis only seems to be a problem in-and-around the Yellowstone ecosystem?

The problem is going to get worse before it ever gets better with Wyoming feeding elk and the USFS approving their feedgrounds.

Meanwhile, one Wyoming rancher was content to spay his whole herd rather than submit to testing. Wyoming recently had a cow test positive for brucellosis.

That’s one way to ensure Wyoming won’t lose its brucellosis-free status.

So, hey – as a solution, I suggest we open up 5 extra tags per hunter for the Gardiner/Livingstone and West Yellowstone areas. I’ll take my 5 all for area 313 please. Should make trophies pretty easy to get, don’t you think?

by jhwygirl

My view hasn’t changed on this subject, so let me first just get this out of the way:

Trapping, on the other hand, seems to me to be a chicken-shit way of conquering wildlife. The hunter doesn’t hunt – he sets a trap and walks away. In Montana, he doesn’t even have to check it. Wildlife deserves a much more noble ending – and man should offer at least that much respect.

FWP is seeking input on their trapping and furbearer regulations. Deadline is July 18th. You can enter comments here.

First the lowlights:
–FWP proposes to add wolves to the repertoire. Gee, that’s what I’ve always wanted! A wolf fur coat! It can shed all over the place and I don’t even have to feed it! Imagine the complements!
–They’re proposing to increase the bobcat quota. Bobcats are in the lynx family, and Canada lynx are a USFS Threatened species, a BLM Special Status species, and a Listed Threatened species for FWP. Now, why in the hell would you do that? Why are we even hunting a state Listed Threatened species?!

Wait – got one more…..
–FWP is also proposing – keeping still with the lowlights here, folks – to continue hunting wolverines.

Montana is the only state in the lower 48 that allows hunting of this Montana Species of Concern, and a USFS & BLM listed Sensitive species.

A handful of environmental groups recently filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the US Fish & Wildlife Service based on their failure to protect wolverines in the lower 48.

Consider this, from Footloose Montana:

Oppose the allowance of wolverine trapping. Facts: Wolverine face an uncertain future ─ in fact what we know about this elusive creature is that the stability of its populations are tenuous at best – so much so that the species was petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Yet Montana is the only state in the lower 48 to still allow commercial and recreational trapping! Trappers consider wolverines trophy animals ─ their pelts are valued at close to $300 each. Researchers estimate that there are between 100 to 200 members of this rare species in the entire Rocky Mountains. Although federal protection under the Endangered Species Act was recently denied by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the results of several research studies conducted over the past five years all point to the imminent dangers wolverines face and the possibility of regional extinctions of the species throughout their historic range. Studies show that trapping pressure can be intense on regional populations. Moreover, in the face of climate change and increasingly fragmented and shrinking habitats, it is incumbent upon wildlife managers to do all that they can to protect this rare species.

Now some highlights:
— FWP plans to close the heavily human trafficked Blue Mountain, Rattlesnake and Pattee Canyon Designated USFS Recreational areas to trapping.
–They are also proposing to change the setback distance from public trailheads from 300 to 1000 feet.

Click on pic for story.

Now here’s one that is an improvement, but I use that word lightly. It’s a start in trying to gather some statistics on part of the problem. It fails to address the other non-targeted species that get caught in traps, since there is no requirement to report. I also find the inclusion of the word “accidental” problematic:
–Changes proposed to require the reporting of accidental dog captures to the nearest FWP regional office within 48 hours.

~~~~~
It only takes a minute folks – hell, you’re already in front of your computer for crying out loud! – please consider clicking here and letting FWP know what you think.

You might want to consider leaving “chicken-shit” out of the email.

by Rebecca Schmitz

I know mine was when I spotted this in the Wall Street Journal yesterday:

Former Clinton strategist Mark Penn…is hiring former Bush adviser Karen Hughes…to offer a one-stop crisis-communication and public-affairs shop to corporations caught in front-page headlines or faced with a changing Washington.

Oh, I know that many Republicans and Democrats play nicely together. But the abhorred Penn and the vacuous Hughes using their Washington connections to save corporate malfeasants from bad PR? That’s enough to make me reach for a bottle of Tums.

We’re living in a kleptocracy, indeed.

by Rebecca Schmitz

Imagine being Rep. Roger Koopman for a moment. No, really. Go drink a quadruple shot of espresso, yell at your kids, kick a fawn–whatever it takes to get that angry and aggressive. Imagine yourself wanting to purge your political party of people you feel are “socialists”. Imagine finding like minded individuals to help you achieve this goal. Surely, like you, these people would be so proud of their activities and opinions they would openly reveal themselves to the voters and the media, right? Right?

Not these guys.

Whether or how these groups coordinated their efforts is unclear. Officials from most of the groups did not return telephone messages, ignored e-mails or declined to say much about what they are doing. What is unusual about most of this latest collection of groups…is their formation just before the election and their relative obscurity and secrecy, says state Political Practices Commissioner Dennis Unsworth.

Apparently Koopman’s (and John Sinrud’s–he has ties to some of the groups, and Ed Butcher’s–but we’re all used to Ed and his family being less than forthcoming about their political associates) pals don’t answer the telephone, provide their phone number, let alone provide the correct digits, or even stay on the phone once they’ve said “Hello?”

Speaking of Ed Butcher, since these groups have become his BFFs let’s remember what District Judge Dirk Sandefur said two years ago, when he declared that Butcher’s son’s efforts to influence Montana politics were marked by a “pervasive and general pattern of fraud”:

At least 43 of the signature-gatherers, who vouched for thousands of signatures, listed “false or fictitious” addresses on their sworn affidavits turned in with the signatures, Sandefur noted. That violation alone casts doubt on the petitioners’ credibility, and that oath is critical to guarding the integrity of the initiative process, he said.

Credibility. Integrity. Qualities that start with simply putting the correct e-mail address down on a form. Or just picking up the phone.

by jhwygirl

I marked my calendar a little over a week ago for Scott McClellan’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, which will be looking into the leak which exposed CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Valerie Plame was undercover investigating the trafficking of yellowcake uranium in Niger, and trying to keep the stuff out of Iraq. Her name was leaked out of the Whitehouse, and Scooter Libby was subsequently found guilty of obstruction of justice, for failing to reveal the source of the leak. Libby’s sentence was quickly commuted by President George W. Bush.

Shows the Whitehouse’s commitment to national security, huh?

Hearing begins at 8am (MST), and C-Span radio will be streaming. Go to C-Span for specifics.

by jhwygirl

News of this comes to us via jockyoung of Daily Kos, who received a push-polling call yesterday from “Central Research” – a mysterious New York research firm.

Here’s his report:

With the Montana primary approaching, I just received an anti-Baucus push poll that was fairly well disguised as a legitimate poll. It wasn’t particularly nasty, but with standard push poll types of questions like “Would you be more or less likely to vote for Baucus if you knew he voted to raise your taxes over 200 times?” Has anyone else in Montana received this call yet?

All I could get from the questioner was that he was calling out of New York and worked for “Central Research.” I don’t know if the fact that he had trouble reading the questions had anything to do with the nature of the outfit. Has anyone heard about this? Is this sufficiently egregious that we should look into it, or has this become standard campaign fare?

The poll started off with a few minutes of various standard poll questions about voting preference, candidate favorability, and opinions on standard issues. They asked about all federal offices in Montana as well as Governor Schweitzer (which he couldn’t pronounce correctly). Although they tried to mix things up pretty well, it was clear they were focusing on Max Baucus (he even had trouble with that one).

After a couple of rounds of that, it went directly to the push poll, starting with “Would you be more or less likely to vote for Baucus if you knew the following statements to be true.” I refused to answer each one of these, but stayed for all 10-15 of them to see what was going on.

They were fairly standard loaded questions on hot button issues like ANWR, the “death tax,” gay marriage, and Congressional pay raises (e.g. “His salary has tripled while median income for Montanans has gone down.”)

They then of course ended with the classic question: “Knowing the above statement to be true, NOW would you be willing to vote for Baucus regardless of his opponent?”

Besides being a push poll, I assume this was an attempt to find out which attack ads would have the most effect with voters – the questions were worded as typical attack-ad rhetoric.

What do we do about these things? I don’t have time to go on a lone crusade to figure this out and complain, but I would certainly participate if others wanted to look into it.

Has anyone else in Montana received this call yet?

I’m wondering the same – has anyone gotten this call? – although they probably wasted little $ calling Missoula, I know we’ve got readers from other corners of the state.

by jhwygirl

Monday night’s The Daily Show – which shows at midnight Tuesday morning here in the mountain west – had an extremely interesting interview with Douglas Feith, former Undersecretary for Defense Policy – the man who helped formulate the war in Iraq.

So there I was a midnight, trying to fall asleep. Stewart interviewing Feith about his book, War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism. {yawn}

Boy, I was wrong.

Maybe he thought he’d get the cakewalk that McCain got last week when Stewart let the defacto Republican presidential candidate escape any question regarding his pastor problems (Pastor I-hate-Catholics Hagee and Pastor Rod Islam-is-a-false-religion-that-must-be-destroyed-by-America Parsley).

Far from it – Feith was but-but-buttin’ from the get go, but only after a deadpan “holy crap” look on his face from Stewart’s first real question out of the box, after first asking him what was his favorite baseball team. Video is best, really – like I said, the look on his face was priceless, but here’s some highlights:

Stewart: oh, man. we really disagree. mets. “war: indecision.” what if it boils down to that, i like the mets, you like the phillies. the whole thing falls apart. it seem like in reading it sort of the basic idea of the book– and tell me if i’m wrong– that a lot of what we know about the run-up to the iraq war, a low of the conventional wisdom is wrong. this idea that, i think it’s something that you might take offense to that we were misled into war somehow. (one person applauding)…
settle down. it will be a long ten minutes, lady. the idea we’re misled in a war is wrong. now, from this side of it, i always felt like we were misled. so, let’s bridge that gap in ten minutes. what makes you say we were not misled? what was so honest about….

Feith: i think the administration had an honest belief in the things that it said. some of the things that it said about the war that were part of the rationale for the war were wrong. errors are not lies. i think much of what the administration said was correct and provided an important argument that leaving saddam hussein in power would have been extremely risky even though the president’s decision to remove him was extremely risky.

Stewart: let me stop you there because the president’s decision to remove him was extremely risky. that’s not the sense, i think, that the american people got in the run-up. (applause) the sense that you got from people was not… the sense was, we’ll be greeted as liberators. it will last maybe six weeks, maybe six months. it will pay for itself. all these scenarios that were publicly proffered never happened. you said something that i thought was interesting. the common refrain that the post war has been a disaster is only true if you had completely unrealistic expectations. where would we have gotten those expectations? (laughing)

Feith: well, there were a lot of things that did not go according to expectations. we know that the war has been bloodier and costlyier and lengthyier than anybody hoped. but the president had an extremely difficult task. after 9/11, there was a great sensitivity to our vulnerability. and the president had to weigh– and what i do in the book is i look at the actual documents where secretary rumsfeld was writing to the president and powell and rice and the vice president and general myers and others. i talk about what they said to each other and what they were saying back to secretary rumsfeld. what you see is there was a serious consideration of the very great risks of war. i think that many of them were actually discussed with the public. but to tell you the truth, looking back one thing is absolutely clear. this administration made grocerors in the way it talked about the war. some of them are very obvious like the….

Stewart: that was all we had to go on. you know, that was… i guess the difference in my mind is if you knew the perils but the conversation that you had with the public painted a rosier picture, how is that not deception? that sounds like… when you’re sell ago product…. ( applause ) what it sounds like for me. sorry. the fact that you seem to know all the risks takes this from manslaughter to homicide. it almost takes it from like with the cigarette companies. if they come out and say, no, our products i think are going to be delicious. you go back and you look and they go, well, they actually did talk about addictiveness and cancer. isn’t that deception?

And so it goes – and that was only the beginning.

Every once in the while you see something on the television that makes you want to get up and cheer like you’re sitting in the endzone at Heinz Field and its 4th and 10 and Roethlisberger is earning his pay.

Stewart’s interview was one of those times.

Here is the full transcript.

There’s also uncut video – as I said, the look on Feith’s face is priceless. Part I and Part II.

by jhwygirl

It could be if you live in an unzoned area of Missoula County – as Greenough and Lolo residents know. It’s also a potential if you live anywhere else in Montana that is unzoned – which is, ah, like most of the state.

Look – this stuff isn’t hysterics here, folks – even though I’ve blogged about this One, Two, Three, Four times here – and even once at Left in the West. It’s reality. The potential of multiple gravel pits surrounding your house, in fact, is a very real possibility.

Just ask Kathy Brekke, of Gallatin County, about the possibility of gravel pits surrounding your home.

And playing the Missoula County Poor Poor Pitiful Me thing after the fact – much like our local officials are doing right now over the whole Plum Creek/USFS fiasco (all an excuse to not zone, if you ask me) isn’t going to work.

Especially here in Missoula, where our county commissioners, supported by County Attorney Mike Sehested, have stood by and done nothing when other counties – Gallatin and Lewis & Clark come to mine – have at least attempted to stop the gravel pit lunacy.

Someone please explain to me how our county attorneys (here and here) can have such a starkly different opinion as to whether citizen-initiated emergency zoning is so impossible due to state regulation of gravel pits when other county attorneys quite apparently think differently?

Once a gravel pit is proposed, it’s already too late. Same with those subdivisions and their exempted 35 gpm wells and their 100-foot well isolations zones that can be on your property and their septic tank seepage zones that can be on your property. State blames county, county blames state – guess who’s left holding the bucket?

Put your boots on folks, ’cause that bucket’s getting mighty full.

With regards to gravel pits, it is already too late thanks to recent court rulings that have directed MT DEQ to issue gravel permits after 30 days irregardless of MEPA review – that is, in the absence of MEPA review.

How our state courts can do this – with utter disregard for our Montana Constitution, Article IX, which requires that “The state and each person shall maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations,” is mystifying.

Frankly, it illustrates quite well the ineptitude of our legislature, at times – because approving a law that requires permits to be issued in 30 days, without addressing potential (potential? who’d of seen that one here, huh?) constitutional conflicts seems pretty inept. And cutting back or not increasing the amount of staff to meet those constitutional obligations also shows ineptitude.

I mean, how do they do this stuff? “Yep, 30 days, sounds good to me – I know I wouldn’t want to have to wait for a permit for a 20 year operation of a gravel pit for more than 30 days – sure, I’ll vote for that,” – is that how they do it? Do these guys even realize the work load of the current staff and that public scoping is, at minimum, typically 2 weeks?

It’s also showing ineptitude on DEQ’s part too – Has DEQ asked for any funding or personnel on their latest wish lists? Nope. That bureaucratic ineptitude, folks, in the face of Judge Sherlock’s recent ruling where he did not fault the DEQ for the agency’s inability to complete the environmental analysis, writing that the department has “insufficient personnel and resources” to do so.

Look Missoula – you have three great-at-playing-the-victim commissioners – Larry Anderson, Bill Carey and Jean Curtiss all standing by and doing nothing. You have a Governor who is also taking a laissez-faire attitude, and a Department of Environmental Quality that is taking a (dare I say) criminally negligent approach to environmental review.

George Ochenski of the The Missoula Independent, writes of the situation – and closes by calling on the Good Governor with this statement:

This is no way to run a state—especially Montana. The “new day” we were promised by Gov. Schweitzer appears to be dawning in the din and dust of unregulated mines. Schweitzer could call a special legislative session to change the law immediately. The question is: Will he?

So here’s my closing statement: Governor Schweitzer – our rights to a clean environment are being ignored by your administration and by our state courts. Open pit mining should not go unregulated or unscrutinized, nor should it be rubber-stamped. The DEQ is showing some serious signs of not only ineptitude, but lack of funding and staffing. DO SOMETHING.

And to my Missoula County Commissioners – QUIT PLAYING THE VICTIM, even though you do it so well, AND DO SOMETHING TOO.

by jhwygirl

A friend mentioned it, and I went looking. It’s real hard to prove that something doesn’t exist. After all – if it didn’t happen, how do you prove it didn’t happen?

And maybe that is the point of it all.

Two weeks ago I wrote that the Symbiotic Relationship of the Bush Administration and the Mainstream Media has No Boundary. That piece detailed the relationship between the mainstream medias so-called military analysts (retired Army General James Marks, retired Army Colonel John C. Garret, retired Air Force General Joseph W. Ralston, retired General Paul E. Vallely, retired Major General Bob Scales – hell, the list goes on…) and the Pentagon, which provided them with perks and inside scripted talking points. The Times article went on to expose the corporate connections these so-called analysts have, and the conflict of interest resulting from the inherent financial benefits they stood to gain from keeping the war machine moving along, irregardless of the dangers it posed for our troops. Irregardless of the truth it masked.

Has there been a mention of that extensive article by the New York Times on any of the television news outlets? No.

How many times has the New York Times article been mentioned since its publication two weeks ago? Twice. Two pieces, both being on the April 24th PBS NewsHour.News coverage in the week following the New York Times article

This illustrates, for me, why blogs are all the more important in today’s media. News sources – local and national – are failing us, folks. While blogs won’t replace traditional media, they can serve to keep important issues in the public’s eye, and they can serve to give attention to the issues that affect our everyday lives.

by jhwygirl

Mike Mease, co-founder of the Buffalo Field Campaign will be in town this weekend for a presentation by the Buffalo Field Campaign at the Missoula County Public Library. The event is Saturday, May 3rd, from Noon to 1:30 p.m.

A slide show – Lessons Learned from the Wild Buffalo – will be shown, followed by a short film, “Protect the Wild Bison”. After that, Mease will be available for a Q&A session.

Mease started the quest for fair treatment of the Yellowstone bison back in the winter of 1996-97, when a (at the time) record slaughter of 1,100 bison occurred at the hands of the Montana Department of Livestock.

This year, the Department of Livestock has slaughtered over 1,284 bison this year – and more than half of the Yellowstone herd has now been lost, in part, to the heavy snows and harsh winter. The record slaughter is due to this harsh winter, as bison traveled outside the park in search of food.

Bison, like nature, know no fence.

I wrote of this slaughter, “Bison Mis-Management Plan”, when the number of bison massacred hit 1,200 and wildlife managers put a halt to the slaughter of pregnant bison in an effort to preserve what is left of the genetic health of the last free-roaming bison herd in North America.

Inform yourself. Meet Mike Mease. The Montana Department of Livestocks and the Montana Stockgrowers Association’s actions are deplorable. Listen, Learn and Speak Out.

Remember this: There is NO KNOWN CASE OF BRUCELLOSIS TRANSMISSION TO DOMESTICATED CATTLE THAT HAS OCCURRED FROM INTERACTION WITH YELLOWSTONE BISON. The only known cases of transmission to domesticated cattle have been from wild elk.

by jhwygirl

A little over a week ago I wrote about the NY Times story which exposed the who’s-up-whose-ass relationship between the Bush Administration and the media’s so-called military analysts – those retired generals that you see on every major news station telling us that the surge is working, that the troops have enough armor, that we are winning the war in Iraq.

In other words, one more shame on the Bush Administration.

At least I didn’t see the honorable General Wesley Clark on that list. At least some of the retired military still look out for the men that they previously commanded.

And boy, you should have heard the reaction from the two Army veterans of the Iraq war when I forwarded that story to them.

On Thursday, Representative Ike Skeleton (D-MO), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, had a whole hell of a lot to say about the article.

Why is it that only Democrats have come out on record as being appalled of the behavior of not only the Pentagon but the retired generals also? Not one of Montana’s conservative bloggers have expressed outrage over this either. When you think of how many Montanans are in the reserves, and serving in Iraq, or have served in Iraq, don’t you think that maybe even one of them would express some disappointment? Aren’t these guys supposed to support the troops? How is remaining silent about retired generals who were more concerned about their consulting fees than the troops they served with supporting the troops?

Principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense Robert Hastings halted the feeding of information to those military analysts after seeing the NY Times article, saying that he is concerned about allegations that the Defense Department’s relationship with the retired military analysts was improper.

Stars and Stripes has the story.

by jhwygirl

See it for yourself. Notice the title.

VA email – February 13, 2008

Senator Tom Harkin’s (D-Iowa) office said statistics provided earlier this year by the VA showed that 790 veterans under VA care attempted suicide in 2007.

790? Talk about fuzzy math.

790 does not equal 12,000. Unless your a tool of the Bush Administration.

That’s nearly 33 attempted suicides by military veterans per day.

Sen. Harkin, Sen. Patty Murray (D- WA) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) introduced legislation Tuesday calling on the VA to track how many veterans commit suicide each year. Currently, VA facilities record the number of suicides and attempted suicides in VA facilities – but do not record how many veterans overall take their own lives.

On Monday, a class action suit brought by veterans groups opened in San Francisco charging a “systemwide breakdown,” citing long delays in receiving disability benefits and flaws in the way discharged soldiers at risk for suicide had been treated.

Kerri J. Childress, a department spokeswoman, said Monday that there were an average of 18 suicides a day among America’s 25 million veterans and that more than a fifth were committed by men and women being treated by Veterans Affairs.

Fuzzy math continues.

So if it’s not mistreatment of living veterans, and it’s not disrespect after they’ve given their lives in service – it’s lies about the reality this illegal war is bring to our sons and daughters, our families – our nation.

Mayor of Mahem, commenting on a previous post, Americans Don’t Know How Many U.S. Soldiers Have Been Killed in Iraq, explained to us the reality he already knows:

…I have a family member that has returned from Iraq in apparent good health, only to find out later that they will never be the same. This is especially disturbing to the son of a Vietnam conflict veteran who has watched a father fight that war over and over again for the last 40 years. The cost to our country for this war will be paid for the next fifty years. Not by those who who gave all, their sacrifice and that of their families is immeasurable. The long term cost of caring for physically injured and mentally effected US servicemen will be a heavy load for US families to carry. Say a prayer tonight for the 19 year old North Dakota farm boy walking through an alley in Bagdad or the twenty six year old sergeant and father of two from Los Angeles on duty in Fallujah.

There is a fire burning in the middle east and the fuel for that fire is our children.

I cry for my nation. I cry for its soldiers.

God Bless.

by jhwygirl

With this winter being a record year for bison slaughter as part of a so-called Bison Management Plan, Yellowstone Park managers have placed a priority on saving pregnant bison due to the record number of bison sent off to slaughter this year – 1,217 shipped to slaughter from the Stephen’s Creek capture facility alone.

The number of bison killed last winter was 67. The second highest year was 1996/97, when 1087 bison were slaughtered.

Few things can get me into a rant more than this so-called Bison Management Plan. There is NO KNOWN CASE OF BRUCELLOSIS TRANSMISSION TO DOMESTICATED CATTLE THAT HAS OCCURRED FROM INTERACTION WITH YELLOWSTONE BISON.

The only known cases of transmission of brucellosis to domesticated animals have been from elk.

That is, in fact, what was confirmed of the last herd that had to be destroyed – the Morgan Ranch herd out of Bridger.

Yet the Montana Stockgrowers Association continues to say that bison pose a “real threat.” Vice President Errol Rice “applauds” the record slaughter operations this winter and says:

‘‘We’re still not discounting (the possible) transmission from bison to cattle.”

I bet Rice still believes there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, too.

So, Mr. Rice, please tell me, when are we going to start rounding up elk and slaughtering them?

Slaughtering an animal that is meant to roam, that will cross out of an artificial ecological border is inane. It won’t work. It isn’t working. We can slaughter all the bison we want, and we will still have brucellosis because its transmission to domesticated cattle (and horses, in the past) has been from elk.

From ELK.

Brucellosis is transmitted by the afterbirth. Bison birth on USFS lands surrounding the park that are leased for grazing. Bison give birth in March and April. The afterbirth is long gone, having been picked over by coyotes and raptors and ravens and other scavengers long before grazing begins on those lands in mid-June.

Here’s the thing – as long as winter elk mingle with cattle on grazing lands, we will have brucellosis.

So either slaughter the elk – which everyone knows isn’t going to happen – or start vaccinating cattle at a cost of $2/head.

It’s a disgrace. It doesn’t work. And it isn’t management.

Few local news agencies covered this story. (KPAX out of Missoula, KULR out of Billings, and the Helena Independent Republic) Could it be because of all the bullying that the Montana Stockgrowers Association is doing? At what point does common sense overtake strong arm tactics? Science overtake the hysterics of the Montana Stockgrowers Association?

Montana is playing politics with an issue that should be ruled by science and logic.

How much of Montana taxpayer money will continue to be wasted while these bullies quash fact and common sense and champion propaganda?

Look – when the GAO is telling you it is a waste of time and money? Well, someone needs to listen.

by Rebecca Schmitz

Ahhh, spring. It’s a marvelous time in the northern Rockies. It’s wonderful to see our fellow creatures–trout, wolf, waterfowl, grizzly bear–repopulate their historic range or return to Montana from their wintering grounds. Some creatures are even finding their ecological niche:

Former Sen. Conrad Burns has registered as a lobbyist

Isn’t it inspiring to watch nature at work?

by jhwygirl

The Jeanette Rankin Peace Center is hosting Oscar-winning filmmaker Barbara Trent and her latest documentary Soldiers Speak Out at the Roxy Theater tomorrow.

A wine and cheese reception begins at 6:30 p.m., and a Q&A with the filmmaker follows the screening. Suggested donation is $10 ($5 for those living lightly). RSVP at543-3955, or via email at peace@jrpc.org.

A half-hour documentary, Soldiers Speak Out is told entirely from the mouths of American veterans who have been to the Iraqi war and are now opposing it. They discuss how they came to join the military, their experiences in training and in war, and what led them to the point where they decided they could no longer, in good conscience, participate in the war or keep silent.

The film provides a sobering view of the war in Iraq, and sheds light on the growing and anti-war and anti-occupation movement within the military and their families.

On Thursday, Ms. Trent will be at UM’s UC Theater for a presentation of her feature-length award-winning documentary COVERUP: Behind the Iran Contra Affair. Two screening are being held, one at 5:30, and another at 7:30 p.m. Both will be followed by a Q&A session. COVERUP is one of eleven films being brought to UM as part of the Montana Peace & Justice Film Series for Spring 2008.

COVERUP: Behind the Iran Contra Affair exposes several of the most disturbing chapters in the history of U.S. covert foreign policy, and presents a tale of politics, drugs, hostages, weapons, assassinations, covert operations and the ultimate plan to suspend the U.S. Constitution.

Trent’s film was the first to reveal the ‘October Surprise’ hostage deal (the Reagan/Bush campaign deal with Iran to delay the release of the 52 American hostages until after the 1980 election), and is the only film that presents a comprehensive overview of the most important stories suppressed during the Iran Contra hearings.

Ms. Trent’s visit to Missoula is sponsored by Students for Peace and Justice, Jeanette Rankin Peace Center, Associated Students of the University Montana, Film Studies, the History and English Departments, Environmental Studies Program, Women and Gender Studies Program, Davidson Honors College, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and the Empowerment Project, and provide locals and students alike with an excellent opportunity to see some power films and Q&A a seasoned activist who has publically exposed criminal activities in the White House, Pentagon and the CIA.

Barbara Trent has been the target of at least three FBI counter-intelligence operations. Appointed as an Expert Senior Training Specialist for the VISTA Program under Jimmy Carter, Ms. Trent has been decorated with the Gasper Octavio Hernandez Award by the Journalist’s Union in Panama, and is a recipient of the American Humanist Association’s Arts Award for her “courageous advocacy of progressive ideas.”




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