Archive for the ‘Regressives’ Category

by Pete Talbot

Walls come and go. The sieve-like wall that separates Mexico from the U.S. is being fortified, and an additional “virtual fence” is in the works. The Berlin Wall is history. The Great Wall of China endures. Israelis are building walls to keep Palestinians out.

So how about a wall along the Missoula-Ravalli County line? I believe this would make folks on both sides of the wall happy. It would keep all the Communists and sexual deviates from corrupting Bitterroot youth. It would keep the right-wing nut jobs from stirring up trouble in Missoula. It’s a win-win.

I don’t have a lot of examples of Communist or sexual deviate infiltrators but I have plenty of right-wing nut job anecdotes.

Dallas Erickson. He keeps reminding Missoulians how morally bankrupt we are. He’s worried that perverts are lurking in our bathrooms. He’s also a big crusader for Wal-Mart.

Or this guy, Glenn Kimball of Corvallis. I’ll skip over his wacky Celebrating Conservatism street demonstrations and cut straight to this quote from a letter to the Missoulian:

Montana’s own Democratic U.S. Sen. Max Baucus is admittedly a socialist. He has served in Congress way too long, and his recent support of unconstitutional Obamacare unveiled his true colors.

Mr. Kimball might be right about Max serving “way too long,” but I missed Baucus admitting that he’s a socialist (must have been back in that tough 2008 race against Bob Kelleher). Christ, I wonder what that makes me?

And I didn’t realize that the watered-down health care bill, which, with the help of Max, is a minuscule change from the status quo, is also unconstitutional. Even Rob Natelson thinks the health care legislation is here to stay.

Then there are the kids packing (toy) heat and lining Highway 93 in support of the Second Amendment. I wasn’t aware it was in jeopardy, particularly in light of recent Supreme Court rulings.

The list goes on-and-on.

Of course, there’d be a toll booth in the wall. That way, both counties could garner some much needed revenue, but it would keep the general riffraff and obstructionists away — in both counties.

Now I know there are progressives in the Bitterroot, just like there are right-wingers in Missoula. Perhaps some sort of window sticker that would allow like-minded folks to travel between counties without being charged a toll; you know, Bitterroot progressives get free admission into Missoula and right-wing Missoulians get a free pass to Ravalli County.

Anyway, it’s a thought.

(Update: Here’s another reason to build that wall, courtesy of Jay over at LiTW.)

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by jhwygirl

I certainly hope the Dems in Kalispell are paying attention to this.

Democratic candidate for HD8, Dane Clark, of Kalispell was handing out tea party pamphlets, packin’ heat (because rumors of agent provocateurs, it seemed prudent) and passing out campaign lit for Mark French, Republican primary congressional wingnut racist bigot from Sanders County.

~~~~
James Conner never writes enough for me. I wish he wrote more – but it looks like he’s done two pieces recently, both regarding Flathead County politics.

I did read his eulogy for friend Loren Kreck, back when he posted it a couple weeks ago. Loren Kreck is an environmental hero that I had never heard of, yet generations of Montanans – generations of people – will benefit from his diligent work to preserve the North Fork of the Flathead.

James? You did Loren righteous. It’s a beautiful piece of writing.

by JC

Via TPM: “Our plan is not to shout them down… but to infiltrate them and push them farther from the mainstream.”

tea party


The scheme reads like a sequel to “Being John Malkovich”: Levin’s group of protesters plan to get in the heads of tea partiers at the Tax Day Tea Parties nationwide Thursday and manipulate them right out of relevance. They’ll dress like tea partiers, talk like tea partiers and carry signs like tea partiers. In fact, according to Levin they’ll be completely indistinguishable from tea partiers, except for one thing — they won’t be out-crazied by anyone.

This sounds like fun! Time for a Missoula Chapter of “Crash the Tea Party” anyone? Everybody’s favorite Rick Jore will be on hand at the Missoula Tax Day Rally, and the MIssoulian has other times and places in western Montana for rallies.

The Missoula rally, billed as a “nonpartisan, nondenominational rally of concerned Americans” by organizers, takes place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday in front of the federal building on Broadway.

And don’t forget to check out the Crash the Tea Party forums to see what events may be going on in your neighborhood!

by JC

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

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

angry bagger

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

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

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

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

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

by JC

wingnuts

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

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

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

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

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

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

by jhwygirl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by JC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And a specific job forecast (p. 38):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

jobs

by jhwygirl

I missed this one, but came across it over the weekend. It is an editorial written by Laura Lundquist, a non-traditional student working on her master’s degree in journalism at the University of Montana. It’s not just an opinion piece – she did a bit of research going back to Rep. Denny Rehberg’s voting record and points out:

Rehberg was first elected in 2000, entering Washington politics at the same time as that other financial wiz, George W. They inherited a federal budget that had been running surpluses and wound up adding more than $4 trillion to the national debt. Then they left us with the economic mess we have now.

Where was Rehberg’s crusading call then?

It might have been stifled by all the shouts of “yea” he made when voting for appropriations. Rehberg’s “yea” votes far out-numbered his “nay” votes from 2001 through 2006 on budget issues. For example, in 2005, one of his more negative years, three of his 37 votes were “nay.” He barely questioned a single dollar being spent or a single tax cut.

She notes a reversing trend in 2007 when Democrats took control of congress, where he switches to only supporting appropriations bills that also include tax cuts:

Then, suddenly the trend reversed in 2007. Did this coincide with Rehberg having a sudden economic epiphany? A more likely explanation is that the Democrats gained control of the House in 2007. Since that point, at least half of his votes have been against. Now in his contrarian mode, he supports budget bills dealing only with tax cuts, including the $152 billion 2008 Stimulus Plan, and agriculture appropriations, so as not to anger his primary supporters, Montana’s farmers and ranchers. But if he is re-elected and if, at some point, the Republicans regain control, my guess is that suddenly “yea” will be his catch phrase again, even if it means greater deficits.

And how are those tax cuts working out for ya’, Denny? The funny thing is that by his black-and-white thinking, we should just eliminate all taxes all together and this country would run itself. There’s never any rhyme or reason to the conservative call for tax cuts, it’s just tax cuts tax cuts tax cuts.

Lundquist explains the lack of logic behind Rep. Denny Rehberg’s recent call for more tax cuts:

Here, let me explain: Cutting taxes may help the economy but doesn’t reduce the deficit. Taxes are income for the government. Reducing taxes reduces the government’s income. How is the government supposed to control the deficit with less money when it can’t even do it with the money it has? If you couldn’t pay your rent with your current income, you’d be crazy to request fewer hours.

Ms. Lunquist has all kinds of goodies tucked into her well-researched op-ed. Be sure to check out and read the whole thing.

Our illustrious Representative Denny Rehberg? He might do best to take a little Economics 101. I’m thinking the Billings campus of UM might have one available for him.

Or maybe at least a Billings staffer that can screen Rehberg’s emails before they go out and make him look foolish.

by jhwygirl

In case you were wondering where the Koopman Crazy Train and his looney litmus test all began, check out Chuck Johnson’s column on Professor Rob Natelson.

Sweet!

What I find most interesting about all this litmus test stuff is that Montana GOP Chair Will Deschamps seems willing to sit back and throw regular old Republicans to the Koopman purity wolves. Republicans like Senator Dave Lewis (R-Helena), along with Rep. Llew Jones, R-Conrad, Rep. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, and Rep. Jesse O’Hara, R-Great Falls:

“The party doesn’t anoint anyone. The anointing is done by the candidate and the voters,” Deschamps said.

He said primaries can “sharpen” candidates, and help them raise money. Still, he admitted that primary fights can get ugly.

“I suspect that when it comes to incumbents, it might get a little messier, but that’s our election process.”

Lewis – who has 10 years experience in the legislature and is recognized by those on both sides of the aisle as one of the few who has a damned through understanding budgetary issues (even though there may be some philosophical disagreement) – had this to say:

Look, I work very hard to try to represent six counties, and Roger can take his shot,” Lewis said. “I don’t believe in tax increases. I balance the budget by cutting spending. I’m pro-life, but I couldn’t answer the questionnaire, so I tossed it. If Roger wants to get someone to run against me, go for it, and we’ll have a primary. I’ve got a 10-year voting record in the Legislature. If he has any questions, he can take a look.

You’d think Deschamps might have some misgivings about publicly supporting the whole hot mess, considering that Montana has Democrats in both Senate seats along with the entire executive branch of state government, but hey – go ahead. I’ll pop the corn.

by jhwygirl

I commiserate with Matt when he says “I needed some good news today” – which, incidentally, is a post about good news in an area overseen by one of the few on my very short list of bright lights in elected officials – Denise Juneau.

That would be elected officials. My list for bright lights amongst Democratic party elected officials makes that list even smaller. Ms. Juneau, obviously, makes both.

Healthcare? Finance reform? MASS failure?

I find myself wondering whether we are electing people to merely get re-elected, or are we electing people to go to Washington or Helena to get something done?

Domestic policy is tough to do – it’s why Republicans tend to try and avoid it as much as possible. War and outside distractions are always good to ensure a lopsided balance of focus, and that’s why we see that kind of stuff more frequently with certain parties. IMNSHO, of course.

People pay attention to domestic issues. Change is hard. It’s scary. Someone’s gonna get pissed off. Lobbyists and corporate interests prey on that kind of stuff. Legislative Paralysis, though, appears to be the norm. Failure to act because someone’s going to get mad is the “action” we appear to be getting.

Inaction has apparently become the option of choice.

I don’t care at what level of government you’re looking at – even Ravalli County officials are being called out on it’s reactionary decisions based on emotions more than fact.

Whatever happened to doing what’s right?

At the state level – and I’ve been working my way through the last state legislative Water Policy Committee meeting – Jim Rokosch (a Ravalli County Commissioner, incidentally) tells state legislators that (paraphrased) ‘you can not delay action (on exempt wells) merely because it’s complicated or controversial. You were elected to do a job and you need to protect property rights and public health and safety.’

Amen, Mr. Rokosch.

Mr. Rokosch was referring to the numerous times the legislature (and the state DNRC and DEQ) have attempting to address the myriad issues surrounding exempt wells, failing to do anything due to both the vocal outpouring by a minority like the Montana Building Industry Association and the complexity of the issue.

Then there’s Washington D.C. You’d have to have a full-time job lately to follow national stuff. Healthcare? Finance reform? Good Goddess, that stuff changes by the minute.

Montana election season is open. We got our lone congressional seat to get excited about (and I’m all about grassroots hardworking supersmart intelligent I-see-him-everywhere Tyler Gernant.) We have the state house legislative races – and not only will local races be important, plenty of seats statewide will deserve statewide support from progressives everywhere – along with a handful of state senate races that will deserve the same statewide attention.

I see Montana going into special session to address the budget situation. It doesn’t look like we’ll be gaining any jobs until sometime in 2011. Revenues are dropping, and there’s yet a complete analysis of the effects of the closing of Smurfit. Frankly, the repercussions on that have yet to begun, yet alone receive any fiscal analysis. When we go into that special session – in the middle of an election run – we’ll see where the real legislative workhorses are. Weeding out the slack should be easy with such a backdrop.

I’m not wishing on a special session…but ignoring the reality is, in some way, the product of the Legislative Paralysis that became the approved budget that has us here now. Keep in mind, that budget was knocked out by joint conference committee in the last days of the session. Some might view that as inexcusable, considering the only constitutionally mandated job that is required of the legislature is to get the budge approved within 90 days.

I’m going to try and get excited about election season..but Democrats? Elected Democrats? You gotta help me out.

~~~~~
I almost retitled this post Legislative Paralysis, but I see I’ve come full-circle, back to “Meh”….so “Meh” it is.

by jhwygirl

Since when did Renee Mitchell ever give a ^#&* whether a developer was going to be able to “stay afloat”?

Good lord, the false trolling that woman will go through trying to scare up a big green ugly monster on something like a $5,000,000 grant to a developer who is going to rehab blight (increase tax revenues for the city) and provide essential housing for working class folk here in Missoula.

The Missoulian’s Keila Szpaller has the rundown on the grant, which passed after as much wrenching around as most of council could muster…the vote coming down 7-3 on the side of bringing $5,000,000 influx of economic development into Missoula.

I’m sure Jon Wilkins is so proud he’s aligned himself with these bitter petty individuals.

by JC

Happy, happy Joy, joy!!!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Yeah baby. Run Sarah run!!!

Update: Glenn Beck ruled out a Palin-Beck ticket today:

“Beck-Palin, I’ll consider. But Palin-Beck — can you imagine, can you imagine what an administration with the two of us would be like? What? Come on! She’d be yapping or something, and I’d say, ‘I’m sorry, why am I hearing your voice? I’m not in the kitchen..”

Aren’t these two just so… precious?

by JC

Well, now we know what the republicans really think about health care and the plight of the poor. Senator Lamar Alexander basically acknowledged the third world status of the less fortunate Americans among us.

The plan, said the Senator from Tennessee, is “arrogant in its dumping of 15 million low-income Americans into a medical ghetto called Medicaid that none of us or any of our families would ever want to be a part of for our health care.”

“Medical ghetto” indeed. Better a medical ghetto than sitting on the street outside a community health care clinic that has little or no services available to you.

These guys really do live in an alternate universe. One where poor blacks get free health care via Medicaid, and gosh, what a travesty that we’ll lump in another 15 million Americans… AMERICANS… with them.

Heaven forbid that a white senator from Tennessee would have to tell his low income and white constituents that they’re going to have to share Medicaid with the rest of them ghetto dwellers.

I guess we can say at this point: “and now you know the rest of the story.” Arrogant, indeed.

by jhwygirl

Sometimes I think I don’t pimp this blog often enough. This will be a bit of a rant.

Sad to see Missoula’s progressive talk radio AM930 go. So suddenly – and I’ve missed anything if it’s been mentioned elsewhere.

Now – I don’t know when it happened, but Tuesday I settled in the wheels for an early long drive east and couldn’t figure out if someone had messed with the settings on my radio or if whoever it was on the airwaves was some guest host…but clearly, it wasn’t progressive. Sure enough, later that day I got an email.

So now there are 3 conservative stations on the dial here (at 3)? 930, 1290 and 1340? Or something like that?

Now, I imagine Gap West (who owns all three of those stations and a near handful of others around town) is probably claiming that he’s not able to generate any ad revenue on that station. Would seem hard to believe, given he owns the other two regressive stations and Missoula is a progressive town, university and all.

Glad I have satellite radio because I’d rather listen to talk or news at times, and I sure don’t want to listen to that stuff. I’ll turn Gap West Missoula radio back on when they put progressive talk back on air.

by jhwygirl

In the form of $549,349 in campaign contributions from big oil.

From Montana Conservation Voters.

Inquiring minds want to know…

by JC
grumble

Update: The Button Valley Bugle beat me to ‘tubes on this theme, with a post from friday

From Venom is not a strategy:

“Republicans celebrate every time America fails and cheer and applaud for more failures in the future. Republicans have moved well beyond political opposition into a state of actual abhorrence for our country. I can only imagine the abject joy that will be felt and demonstrated by Republicans should another real tragedy strike America. They not only agree with the Taliban, they have become the Taliban.”

Update, 10-13-09: 289-34. That’s how many thousands of hits asking the question “Why do Republicans Hate America” vs. “Why do Democrats Hate America” gets at Google today. Not exactly scientific, but a telling number, nonetheless. And a lot of fodder for thought.

“Sen. Max Baucus… is, not surprisingly, one of the biggest beneficiaries of this one-two punch from the lobbyists and their clients”

by JC

Nothing like spending $829 billion dollars and still having 25 million people, all legal citizens under the age of 65, left out of the health care insurance system under Baucus’ current reform “efforts.” You can read all the gory details at the CBO, if you have stomach for such things.

So Baucus has written a bill that increases the inequity in America, more sharply defining the edges between the haves and the have nots. And for the have nots, he has devised a system of penalties, excise tax fines, and possible IRS criminal prosecutions ending with jail time.

Yes, Max will threaten you with jail, if you don’t hand over your own money, along with your government subsidy (if you’re one of those who get to must participate in the $829 billion dollar insurance corporation bailout) to the private health insurance corporation of your choice (that is if there is more than one or two insurance corporations operating in your state).

And to go with this nice bit of news, I’d like to show you a new video from our friends at the Sunlight Foundation talking about the role corporate and lobbyist bundling dollars play in our Senator’s business. This is another piece of their ongoing collaboration with OpenSecrets about the role of bundling lobbyist dollars in buying our politicians loyalty.

They were even kind enough to use our own Senator Baucus as their first case study. Enjoy!

From the Sunlight Foundation:

The deal is that decision makers (i.e. senators) in the health care debate are not only receiving big bucks from members of the health and insurance industries – but also from the numerous individual lobbyists that represent the industries. All of that money “clustered” or “bundled” together is much more influential than any contribution by itself. So, when one of the lobbyists in a cluster walks into a meeting with a representative, it stands to reason that representative listens to them …how do we say… with a more fully tuned ear.

As citizens holding government accountable, another way to think about this new information is that while yesterday you may have looked up a lobbyist online and seen only that the individual had contributed a couple hundred dollars to a senator, you can now see the entire ‘bundle’ of contributions around that lobbyist or company which can total in the tens of thousands. MUCH more ‘influence’ than what was previously reflected.

Larry Makinson, one of Sunlight’s senior fellows that led our investigation probably said it best: “When we saw a dozen, two dozen, even three dozen lobbyists for a single company giving to the same members as their clients, we were frankly stunned.”

…Standing out, as usual, in our first examination is Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, and author of the main health care reform bill now being debated in the Senate. He is, not surprisingly, one of the biggest beneficiaries of this one-two punch from the lobbyists and their clients. From January 2007 through June 2009, Baucus collected contributions from 37 outside lobbyists representing PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry’s chief trade association, and 36 lobbyists who listed drug maker Amgen Inc. as their client.

In all, 11 major health and insurance firms had their contributions to Baucus boosted through extra donations from 10 or more of their outside lobbyists…

Oh. And those $829,000,000,000 (that’s 829 BILLION dollars)? Without a public option, that money mostly will go to health insurers.

Payola 21st century-style. Corruption at its worst. And it is coming from our very own Montana Senator.

I think it is time to put our Senator out to pasture at the family sheep ranch. Baaaaa.

by jhwygirl

Good Fantastic news this afternoon for pro zoning reform in the City of Missoula. Judge Sherlock has released his 9 page opinion which denies Lawsuiters Dick Haines & Renee Mitchell (Councilpersons for Ward 5) and Ward 4’s Lyn Hellegaard their Writ of Mandate, seeking the city to comply with public noticing requirements.

At the heart of their complaint was the idea that the city should send an individualized notice to each and every property owner in the city telling them precisely how they would be affected by the zoning rewrite.

The scores of public meetings, of stakeholder meetings, of public notices, of public information put on on the cities website, the public hearings themselves – and even the scores of stories written by Missoulian reporters was not enough for these Lawsuiters…..but apparently, was enough for Judge Sherlock.

If you see any of these people this weekend? Thank them for wasting taxpayer time and money (in the form of City Attorney and his staff Jim Nugent, along with the Office of Planning & Grant’s staff time…plus the reams of paper generated).

Now let’s see what they do. The core of their complaint – as they state it – is the lack of public involvement. Since that legal question has been asked and answered – by a judge – let’s see how they vote now that the issue has all been cleared up for them.

by JC

Click on the graphic for a larger version. Print it out, it’ll make a great dart board target!baucus wheel

Thanks to the work of the good folks at the Sunlight Foundation, we’re able to see how bundling works its magic on Congress in general, and Max Baucus specifically.

The Foundation took a look at the donations that lobbyists and their families made to politicians like Baucus–the same politicians that their corporate employers made significant donations to. So all of the recent reports of the magnitude of Baucus’ glad tidings from his corporate donors puppeteer manipulators just foreshadowed the magnitude of the problem.

The chart above shows how the effect of campaign dollar bundling–donations from both the corporation (light blue) and its lobbyists (darker blue)–greatly increases the stranglehold they have on a politician. In Baucus’ case, the lobbyists actually have given more money than their employers! One might say that they are purchasing job security, along with advancing their clients’ legislative goals.

And of course, we all know who the source of these funds is–the U.S. taxpayer, who stands to lose as their dollars continue to flow to these corporations and their manipulators, only to be recycled through this bundling game once again. The ultimate corrupt feedback loop.

The Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics co-released an in-depth study on this phenomenon:

A new collaborative investigation by the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics has found that many of the major players in the health insurance reform debate have hit members of Congress with a one-two punch of campaign contributions from at least 10 of their hired, outside lobbyists on top of donations from their employees or political action committees.

Since January 2007, more than 500 individual lobbyists who fit these criteria donated roughly $2.8 million to 61 members of Congress who also received about $1.9 million from the companies’ PACs or employees. These lobbyists represented 25 major health care and health insurance organizations.

Not only did these contributions go directly to the politician’s coffers, they were directed to places like Max Baucus’ Glacier PAC, which is a nice and handy slush fund that he can use to pay for things like motels, airplane tickets, coffee, drinks, parties, car rentals. You know, all of the nice things that the rest of us have to pay out of our monthly paycheck. Thanks to a new investigative database and report from ProPublica, we can check in on our Senators’ spending habits:

In the past three election cycles, lobbyists and special interests poured $355 million into these funds, making them the second-largest source of political money for sitting members of Congress.

Legally, lawmakers are free to spend the leadership PAC money pretty much as they wish.

Lobbyists and lawmakers can — and do — use it to travel together to play golf at Pebble Beach, ride snowmobiles in Montana’s Big Sky Country and go deep-sea fishing in the Florida Keys. The lobbyists don’t pay the costs directly. They contribute to the leadership PAC, which then pays the lawmaker’s resort and travel bills.

Hmmm… $46,721 from Glacier PAC to Bucks T4 and $36,616 to the Cabin Bar. IT’S PARTY TIME…WHOO HOOO!!! Check out the list of Glacier PAC expenses, if you want to see the dirty laundry. Nothing like an expense slush fund of $261,925 for “Entertainment, events, and travel.” Oh, and did I mention that the Glacier PAC managed to spend $1,198,023 in just 2007-8? Nice…

So how widespread is the practice of bundling? We may never know. The Hill had a nice piece about the practice last month, concluding that little has changed:

“This is going to be the dog that never barked,” said Paul Ryan, an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center, which advocates for campaign finance reform.

“It tells me one of two things, which is these fundraisers were not very successful or the public is not getting the lobbyist bundling disclosure it thought it would with this legislation.”

So rest assured that our Congress is doing all it can to raise money to travel and have big parties protect the public interest and do the people’s work on the great issues of the day like health care reform.

by JC

Now just where is that Republican health care plan that Cantor and Boehner promised the country months ago?

Last night, in a controversial speech on the House floor, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) announced that the Republican alternative health care proposals would force sick Americans to “die quickly”:

It’s my duty and pride tonight to be able to announce exactly what the Republicans plan to do for health care in America… It’s a very simple plan. Here it is. The Republican health care plan for America: “don’t get sick.” If you have insurance don’t get sick, if you don’t have insurance, don’t get sick; if you’re sick, don’t get sick. Just don’t get sick. … If you do get sick America, the Republican health care plan is this: “die quickly.”

Anybody want to defend republican support for the status quo here?

And for those that think republicans have a plan for health care reform, why didn’t they git ‘er done during their time in control of Congress and the Bush White House?

And all of you with out-dated conservative ideas and/or tea bagger noise with no political base to work from, you’re just pissin’ in the wind here.

by jhwygirl

We have a fancy-schmancy statistics page that tells us (it isn’t too scientific or anything) who is reading what, where they’re linking in here from, and what they are searching on search engines to get to 4&20’s stuff.

I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or anything, but “satan” has been running pretty high on the list lately, as has “John Hendrickson”.

I am not joking.

So in an effort to save what may be some newer locals (hopefully they are registered voters in Ward 2), I thought I’d recap some of the best of Councilperson John Hendrickson over the last couple years:

Missoula Councilman Hendrickson Doesn’t Just Quash Public Comment, He Ignores It

Another City Council Resolution

More Back-Peddling on Roundabouts from Ballas, Hendrickson, Nicholson, Wilkins and Haines

Council Antics Buried in the Financial Folly of this Past Monday

Great Minds Think Alike

John Hendrickson’s Budget Cuts or the Other Names to Remember

The Lunacy that is John Hendrickson (Live Blogging) That one was a good one, if I don’t say so myself

Hendrickson Hates Seniors

The Not So Anonymous Zoning Petition and the Yellow-Bellied Rants of John Hendrickson

Live Blogging City Council Zoning Rewrite

What Murky Mess the City Council Curmudgeons Have Weaved for Themselves

Do These People Not Resemble Brown Shirts?

and finally?

The Tomfoolery, Shenanigans of Councilpersons John Hendrickson, Renee Mitchell, Lyn Hellegaard and Ward 3 Candidate John Quandt

Anyways…just trying to make it easier on the voters, don’tcha know….

Looney tUNes

by JC

Thought for day: aren’t the leaders of the Republican Party just as looney as the leaders of Libya, Iran and Venezuela?

looney-tunes

by JC

scofflaws
I’ve known that it would eventually come to this. Us single payer advocates liked the simplicity of the system: auto enrollment for all citizens. You get sick, or have an accident and need health care, you just go to the doctor or ER and get it. If you hadn’t signed up for the plan yet, that was no problem. You could do it at the point of health care delivery.

Now that single payer is no longer on the table, universal health care (or 94% universal in the Baucus plan) can only be achieved through coercion. Buy insurance–either private or through some nebulous, and yet to be contrived public option or coop–or pay a fine. Penalty. Whatever.

So we have been asked to accept the regressive notion of mandates, necessary to maintain the status quo of corporatism in private health care insurance monopolies, in order to (almost, kinda, sorta) achieve the progressive goal of universal health care.

This is where the libertarian streak in many of us progressives really starts to jump out, and to join forces with conservatives to question just what in the hell are democrats turning into?

You see, I’m against a mandate that is enforced through the IRS. Always have been–since I first read about it last year in Baucus’ white paper–and always will be. And I don’t like the government mechanism to assist those who can’t afford a private or public plan relying on the use of tax credits. There are far better ways of doing it.

Lower and middle income people with any sort of tax offset will never get the tax credits needed to buy the insurance–unless mandaters come up with a mechanism to bypass offsets, which I’ve never heard of the IRS doing. And I have yet to see a mechanism by which Baucus’ plan will guarantee credits to those with offsets.

Of course, there are those that will say that people with IRS offsets aren’t worthy enough to qualify for subsidies to help pay for insurance. A new “Uniquely American™” tale of two cities.

Basically, I’m against the IRS getting involved in health care in any fashion. Just doesn’t make sense, even when mandaters propose “exceptions.” See, there are going to be at least 6% uninsured in the faux nuevo universal care system that is being proposed and marked up as we read.

Are all 6% going to be given exemptions? Will the rest who are mandated, but unexempted be subject to fines? What will happen to non filers? Homeless and/or mentally ill? Round ’em up and ship them off to scofflaw and debtor jail-camps? Tattoo a “Need Not Apply” disclaimer on the arms of those living under bridges, or who have defaulted on student loans, have unpaid back taxes, or missed child support payments?

Dude, better get straight with the IRS quick, or they’ll have another way to strong-arm you into compliance.

In some ways I read into Baucus’ proposal a carrot-and-stick approach to bolstering IRS and tax law compliance. Health care being the carrot, and penalty, fine and jail being the stick. All hail the mighty IRS health care compliance cops. Let’s build an even more unjust system of haves and have nots. Piss off the IRS in any way, and you’ll just have to suffer the consequences of unaffordable, unsubsidized health insurance. Take that! Off with you!

In an exchange on George Stephanopolous’ “This Week” between Senator Chuck Grassley, Baucus, and Joint Committee on Taxation chief of staff, Thomas Barthold, we discover that the penalty for not submitting to mandation is in effect a penalty excise tax, enforceable under current IRS tax laws.

Grassley: It gets back to something that President Obama was speaking about on the Sunday talk shows, trying to say that it’s not true that the penalty for not getting insurance is a tax, referring to the individual mandate.

The mark before us makes it pretty clear that the penalty is a tax, it looks like the tax is now up to about $2,000 dollars a year, so Mr. Barthold, isn’t the penalty here an excise tax and won’t it affect people making under $250,000 dollars a year?

Barthold: Senator Grassley, the penalty proposed in the Chairman’s mark, is as you observed, it’s structured as a penalty excise tax, we have other penalty excise taxes in the internal revenue code…

We have not done a combined distribution analyses across income to specifically answer your question but to the extent that yes we think that some people would be subject to the penalty excise tax when everything shakes out we would expect that some would have incomes less than $200,000 dollars.

Baucus: Let me just say on that point, that’s an interesting question. This is really a penalty that’s being collected by the Internal Revenue Service…

And of course, if you flout those laws and don’t–or can’t–pay the penalty, you are subject to an up to $25,000 dollar fine, and 1 year in prison. To further illuminate this problem, Senator Ensign specifically asked Barthold about the penalty for not having insurance, the potential fine for not paying it, and ultimately jail time:

Under questioning from Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), Barthold said the IRS would “take you to court and undertake normal collection proceedings.”

And to underscore his point, Barthold provided Ensign with a hand written note to that effect, that I posted above.

On the bright side, I hear that you get free health care while in prison.

On the down side, it is so odd that I find myself siding with Senator’s Grassley and Ensign on this matter. How democrats ever wound up accepting such a regressive compromise as Baucus’ IRS mandated non-universal health care system, when one with auto enrollment made so much more sense is beyond me. Well, beyond me until I read Baucus’ campaign finance reports, that is.

I hope that some fine progressives in the House find a way to do away with the regressive nature of this system, and work to fix it. Otherwise, the feds are going to have to figure out a way to pay for and provide lots of free health care via the government run federal penitentiary system–a true single payer system, if ever there was one. And I guess you get a hot meal and place to sleep with that, too.

by JC

A new study published online yesterday by the American Journal of Public Health brings to the fore the stark reality of undertaking underwriting in America. Modern insurance corporation underwriting has become the de novo death panel of the 21st century.

While tea baggers spent the month of August crying about how health care reform was going to pull the plug on grandma, and Sarah Palin breathed life into lies about government death panels, almost 4,000 Americans died prematurely because of lack of health care stemming from no health insurance. I have before, and will continue to lay the blame at the feet of those who fight against true health care reform.

It is unforgivable that this nation continues to struggle to provide the basic human necessity of health care to its citizens. While insurance reforms may, if successful, lead to a lowering of this number, that will be cold comfort to the hundreds of thousands of families that will have had to bury their loved ones before their time.

According to HarvardScience:

The study, conducted at Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Health Alliance, found that uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts, up from a 25 percent excess death rate found in 1993.

“The uninsured have a higher risk of death when compared to the privately insured, even after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors, and baseline health,” said lead author Andrew Wilper, M.D., who currently teaches at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “We doctors have many new ways to prevent deaths from hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease — but only if patients can get into our offices and afford their medications.”

The study, which analyzed data from national surveys carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), assessed death rates after taking into account education, income, and many other factors, including smoking, drinking, and obesity. It estimated that lack of health insurance causes 44,789 excess deaths annually…

Deaths associated with lack of health insurance now exceed those caused by many common killers such as kidney disease. An increase in the number of uninsured and an eroding medical safety net for the disadvantaged likely explain the substantial increase in the number of deaths, as the uninsured are more likely to go without needed care. Another factor contributing to the widening gap in the risk of death between those who have insurance and those who do not is the improved quality of care for those who can get it.

“Historically, every other developed nation has achieved universal health care through some form of nonprofit national health insurance. Our failure to do so means that all Americans pay higher health care costs, and 45,000 pay with their lives.” — Steffie Woolhandler, study co-author, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and a primary care physician at Cambridge Health Alliance

by Pete Talbot

Well, she’s at it again — my lamebrain (distant) relative who sends obnoxious, right-wing emails to my poor wife. This was last week’s. Here’s today’s (I apologize for some of the small fonts. This email arrived in a strange format — at least one that I wasn’t able to manipulate. The line above the stamp reads, USPS New 42-Stamp!!! Celebrates Muslim holiday.):

Fw_ NEW STAMP 1

Fw_ NEW STAMP

The final line in the email says, They (MUSLIMS) don’t even believe in Christ, & they’re getting their own Christmas stamp! BUT, don’t dare to dream of posting the ten commandments on federal property! This is truly UNBELIEVABLE !!!

Unbelievable is an understatement. This email comes from a self-proclaimed Christian, too. Guess she missed those teachings of Jesus’ — you know: tolerance, understanding, loving one’s fellow man.

Of course the greatest travesty here is lumping all Muslims into radical extremists and terrorists. This comes from small minds. I was fortunate, back in my film making days, to have traveled to many different countries — some of them Muslim. I met many exceptional people in these Muslim nations who treated me as if I were family (and were way more tolerant than this so-called Christian relative).

The Christian religion doesn’t exactly have an unblemished record. Think the Inquisition, the Crusades, burning “witches” at the stake, and the slaughter of so many “heathens” throughout history.

I’m also pretty sure that President Obama hasn’t “directed the United States Post Office to REMEMBER and HONOR the EID MUSLIM holiday season with a new commemorative 42-cent First Class Holiday Postage Stamp …” although it wouldn’t be that big a deal if he had. I believe he has a few more pressing things on his plate.

I like to think this stuff comes from the lunatic fringe but it’s still scary. I’ll keep posting these emails to offer some insight into the mind of a paranoid, right-wingnut.

Perhaps someday this relative will find a link to these posts of mine and she’ll disown me. I can live with that.

[UPDATE: Here is some background information on the stamp from an older press release from the USPS.  According to the release the stamp in question would be in, at least, its third re-issue (the first being on Sept. 1, 2001, during the George W. Bush administration).  Hat tip to Craig Moore.]

by JC

bride of baucus

It was only a matter of time till Baucus heeded the deadlines that President Obama and Majority Leader Harry Reed set out, and dumped his bill into the Finance Committee. In an 18 page press release (didn’t anybody ever teach these guys PR 101), Max outlined the framework of his bill. You also can read the Chairman’s Mark, if you are so inclined to sift through the 223 page Mark.

I’ve often said that Max Baucus positions himself in the middle of a legislative battle in such a way that he gauges the success of his compromising by the degree to which he offends the most people on both sides of his position. To that end, I’d say that Max must be celebrating a huge victory tonight, as it seems that he has not been able to garner any positive political support from either democrats or republicans.

But I think that a good place to begin the debate over Baucus’ efforts comes from HCAN, Health Care for America Now!, a “a national grassroots campaign of more than 1,000 organizations in 46 states representing 30 million people dedicated to winning quality, affordable health care.”

What did HCAN! have to say about Baucus’ bill today?

“The Baucus bill is a gift to the insurance industry that fails to meet the most basic promise of health care reform: a guarantee that Americans will have good health care that they can afford. The Baucus bill would give a government-subsidized monopoly to the private insurance industry to sell their most profitable plans – high-deductible insurance – without having to face competition from a public health insurer.

Under the Baucus bill, employers would have no responsibility to help pay for their workers’ coverage and would be given incentives to have workers pay more for barebones insurance. Americans who don’t get health benefits through work would still not be able to get good, affordable coverage.

We urge Senators on the Finance Committee to replace the Baucus plan with legislation that will do what the Senate HELP Committee and three House committees have done: guarantee that Americans have good health insurance that they can afford with the choice of a strong national public health insurance option.”

So now that Max has failed at appeasing the GOP in an attempt to secure at least one vote (after he had crowed about getting 75-80 senators to sign on to his efforts), it appears that his bill will have to undergo a severe transplant in order to make it out of the Senate Finance Committee, and for the Senate to move forward.

In other news, the stock market took kindly to the Baucus/Wellpoint bill with a 3% surge in health insurer stocks on news of the bill’s release.

insurer profits

Quid pro quo at its worst.

by jhwygirl

Boy…where to go with this story, from Missoulian reporter Keila Szpaller.

Ward 2 incumbent and candidate John Hendrickson apparently couldn’t make it to the city council meeting Monday night, but in his absence, he sent a letter, read by Lyn Hellegaard (who has a hard time attending committee meetings).

Quite a complimentary pair, those two.

Councilman John Hendrickson apparently has a problem with the 1st amendment. Free speech and all that. So much so that he had Lyn Hellegaard read a letter from him, to council, berating Ward 3 councilman (and candidate) Bob Jaffe for his lisserv MissoulaGov.

Was it really that important, John, that you had to send a letter? Your issue couldn’t wait until next week? Or next committee meeting? Really – if that’s your sense of urgency, get a blog and I’ll plug each and every post you do. Promise.

Wish you thought that way about affordable housing. Or mental health care. Or homelessness. Or potholes.

Jaffe’s liserve is open to everyone. Anyone can read it, and if you register, you can get the updates mailed directly to you, and you are also able to comment. No secrets.

It’s also done on Jaffe’s own server – or server space he’s paying for. Meaning – not city space/time/money.

Prior to that, the goings-on of committee meetings – most of which are held during the day – were unfamiliar to most, unless you have cable and the time to watch them rebroadcast on MCAT. Way back in my beginning posting days here at 4&20, I’m pretty sure I ranted about how difficult it was for the general public to find out what happened at committee meetings because the minutes didn’t accurately reflect what actually happened.

If you don’t like what Jaffe’s writing? Guess what? DON’T READ IT!

If you don’t like what Jaffe’s writing? Guess what? POST A COMMENT AND LET HIM KNOW!

Paul Sopko, former Planning Board member, does it all the time.

What Hendrickson and Hellegaard don’t like about Jaffe’s blog is that their whole world of uncivilized ill-informed behavior at committee meetings (well, maybe not Hellegaard, since she rarely attends) is exposed for everyone to see.

In Jaffe’s liserv, a reader can begin to understand that inaction is apparently an option with Hendrickson and Hellegaard and Mitchell.

With Jaffe’s liserv, a reader can realize how many gosh-darn times that Hendrickson brings up the Broadway Diet (something he campaigned on 4 years ago, in case anyone is looking to determine how effective he’s been on his own pet issues over these past 4 years).

with Jafee’s liserve, a reader can understand how many times, over and over, Ward 5’s Renee Mitchell will repeat the same questions over and over and over again.

Frankly, it becomes comical due to the sheer magnitude of personal agendas and uninformed repetition of (there’s no other way to say it, folks) lies regarding the zoning rewrite.

John Quandt, candidate for Ward 3, and Bob Jaffe’s opponent, got into the fray by demanding an apology of Jaffe for having made reference on his liserve to Quandt characterizing city employee’s as lazy. Quandt, at the recent Pachyderm candidates forum, made reference to what he termed as ‘city workers leaning on shovels,’ as he made his case for privatization of some city services

Jaffe, for his part, declined to apologize and instead publicly lamented that he wished that the forum had been recorded.

Quandt made his demand for an apology during Monday night’s council meeting. During the meeting. He demanded an apology for something wrote on a liserv operated by Councilperson Bob Jaffe on his own private time.

I mean – if Quandt or Hendrickson or Hellegaard or anyone ANYONE has problem with what is being said on that liserv, either make a comment or create your own liserv or blog and say what it is you need to say. Demand your apologies, call him a liar – whatever.

Blogs, for the most part, are free. WordPress offers them…and so does Blogspot.

In fact, I dare say ’cause I kinda know these things: Any jackass can get one, with minimal effort.

But for Quandt to insert his campaign onto the floor of city council…well, one can imagine what we’ll get if the guy were to get elected.

~~~~~~~
In other news, in other city council chambers, the City of Bozeman approved urban chickens, with nary an opposing public comment.




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