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Barack Obama
"Lincoln Sells Out Slaves"
by: Rob Kailey - Sep 13
1 Comments
If You Haven't Seen This
by: Rob Kailey - Apr 28
5 Comments
Impeach the President?
by: Rob Kailey - Mar 16
15 Comments
It's the system, stupid!
by: Jay Stevens - Oct 24
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Rob Kailey is a working schmuck with no ties or affiliations to any governmental or political organizations, save those of sympathy.
2010 election

It still hurts in the morning

by: Jay Stevens

Wed Nov 03, 2010 at 09:07:40 AM MST

Ouch. Well, you know the results of the national elections. Just about what we expected. But in Montana? Triple ouch.

To wit:

Rehberg, as expected, coasted to victory. McDonald picked up 34 percent of the vote, which was two points better than John Driscoll in 2008, a candidate who didn't campaign and endorsed his opponent. Rehberg vowed to work on the economy. Watch out, economy.

Both Don Ryan and Ken Toole lost their election bids for PSC. Two things: this means the end of consumer protection from the PSC, and Brad Molnar is now chair of the commission.

CI-105 passed 73 - 27 percent, and the Californication of Montana's government budget begins.

The GOP captured the House, and it's not even close. The Democrats lost more than 15 seats, including Mike Jopek's Whitefish seat to...Derek Skees. H*ll, Bryce Bennett won HD92 by only a couple hundred votes, a seat Robin Hamilton won by two thousand in 2010. The GOP looks like they'll also build on their 4-seat Senate majority, but not by much.

On the bright side, Beth Baker won her bid for the Montana Supreme Court, and, right now, Kendall Van Dyk has a small lead in SD25 over Roy Brown.

Mulling the results, I am again reminded how much national media narrative influences state elections. To punish Montana Democratic legislators for fiscal reasons is insane. The state's run smoothly under Democratic governance: the governor and legislature have consistently produced budget surpluses while safeguarding the public services that Montanans want. Why, it was the Democratic caucus that fought for CHIP expansion, which was overwhelmingly approved of by the voters - and which Republican legislators opposed.

Then again reason hardly ruled the 2010 election. After all, the national Democratic ticket ran on healthcare reform. And now they're being voted out for enacting healthcare reform. Go figure.

Whatever. This Montana legislative delegation looks even more combative and radical than that which tried to shut down the state government in 2007, and at one point voted the HHS budget down to $1. My hope is that this bunch will concentrate on testing Glenn Beck's theories of constitutional law by passing all sorts of bills negating federal law (which will likely be tossed out in court) instead of taking their radicalism out on the school systems and other social services.

Then again, when confronted with an actual budget - instead of the fantasy budget of their conservative day-dreams - maybe they'll realize the complexity of governance and act accordingly.

Discuss :: (17 Comments)

While away the hours

by: Jay Stevens

Tue Nov 02, 2010 at 09:38:09 AM MST

6:18pm MST Wulfgar! finally gives us his take on CI-105 and I-164. (Way to wait til the last minute, dude!)

On 105, he warns against the "Californication" of Montana, which is a real threat if this trend of putting anti-tax measures directly into the Constitution takes off. After awhile, when you cut off funds for the state, you lose things like...oh...public education, affordable university education, buses, police, fire, etc & co. Yes, we know you all don't like the DMV, but the answer is bureaucratic reform.

And maybe the best response I've seen to I-164: "The working poor need an alternative for credit.  Hopefully, I-164 will open a gap into which others will move.  As a society, we often focus on the fact that these folks are poor, and ignore that they are working, very hard most often.  They need a safety net as much as anyone else.  Payday lenders have given them that.  Passing I-164 won't alleviate the need for such.   It will only appease a symptom, and certainly not cure the disease."

5:55pm MST Cher is cool.

3:25pm MST "Quentin Tarantino got into the spirit of Halloween by dressing as a Mexican wrestler and crashing a series of parties on a bus packed with hot women."

Hm, I'm beginning to think a career change is in order.

3:00pm MST Weird. ABC cuts Breitbart from their post-election coverage. I'm actually surprised, but not entirely convinced it was because he's a hack. More likely because he tried to push them into giving him a bigger role.

2:00pm MST Hm. Either the 2010 midterm victory of the Tea Party mark the first step of the descent into fascism, or the Tea Party will have absolutely no effect on Washington DC.

Or, it could be somewhere in between.

1:47pm MST Well...the good news for climate change is that we'll have depleted our oil and gas reserves before the end of the century...

1:20pm MST Kossak Jed Lewison: "Yikes. The polls haven't even closed and Republicans are already talking about shutting down government when they take over the House."

1:05pm MST Yes, because a fascist dictatorship would be swell!

12:50pm MST (h/t Cowgirl) Slate posts Max Baucus' mug in an op-ed entitled, "Whom will Democrats blame for their midterm defeats?"

Health care might not have happened without Sen. Max Baucus of Montana. Then again, it might have happened a lot faster. Over the course of four months in 2009, Baucus made one compromise after another-scrapping the public option, killing the employer mandate-in order to attract Republican votes that never materialized. That gave Republicans time to demagogue the bill and ate up valuable time on the congressional calendar-time that could have been used to pass legislation like immigration reform or an energy bill (which, of course, would probably have hurt Democrats, too).

With the WSJ reporting top Dems want White House shakeup, it'll be interesting to see what happens to Jim Messina, too.

11:55am MST A little perspective for you today, in what promises to be a Republican resurgence: a number of experts ponder what life will be like in 2050.

11:45am MST What the h*ll. I'll just throw on random, semi-relevant links for the rest of the day, until polls close.

Like, this: What the f*ck has Obama done so far?

8:30am MST While you're waiting to hear the returns, you could pass the time by listening to This American Life's midterm election program, "This Party Sucks." You won't hate it.

And a big shout out to the SF Giants.  

Discuss :: (12 Comments)

...and the rest of Dennison's top ten legislative races...

by: Jay Stevens

Mon Nov 01, 2010 at 13:17:10 PM MST

Okay. Here's the rest of the races Mike Dennison mentioned in his report on the 10 races to watch on election day. These are the Republican-held seats that could flip Democratic.

SD 25 (north-central Billings): Easily the most-watched, most-expensive legislative race in the state, with Democratic Rep. Kendall Van Dyk mounting an aggressive, well-financed challenge to Republican Sen. Roy Brown, who's trying to win a second term. Van Dyk has unleashed a torrent of attack mail against Brown, labeling the former oil developer a tool of "big oil" and other business interests. Brown is striking back by casting Van Dyk, a staffer for Trout Unlimited, as an environmental ideologue bent on killing resource jobs.

If you haven't heard about this race, you're probably living under a rock, politically speaking. The most contested race of the 2010 election. And ugly, to boot.

Kendall Van Dyk proved he's a legisator that gets stuff done: he was the force behind the passage of 2009's HB 190, the stream access bill that ensured Montana anglers have access to Montana rivers, and the first stream access bill passed in 25 years - despite years of controversy and previous bills. Van Dyk's a "lifelong conservationist, a farm kid, a dedicated sportsman, and one of the hardest workers in Montana politics."

In contrast, his opponent, the former oil executive Roy Brown was named by the League of Conservation Voters as one of the nation's "dirty dozen" state-level legislators, a dubious honor to say the least. And in a disturbing turn of events, the state senator recently abandoned his usual moderate stance on issues, and tacked hard right this election cycle, courting Nutcase Koopman and backing
the faulty lawsuit against the recent healthcare bill. And a quick swing through our archives will remind you of Brown's ill-fated and polarizing bid for governor in 2008, which he lost by 35 points and barely edged out a candidate who refused to run and endorsed his opponent, and a perennial parliamentarian candidate of dubious faculties.

It's easy to forget in all the Sturm und Drang surrounding this race that Kendall Van Dyk is the candidate that has an actual history of bipartisanship and compromise in passing legislation that benefits all Montanans, while Brown has steadily and noisily shifted to the right to consolidate his base and woo the Tea Party.

Van Dyk for SD 25.

HD24 (northeast Great Falls, Malmstrom Air Force Base): Republican state Rep. Brian Hoven, who won a close, surprise victory in 2008 in this district that leans Democratic, faces a challenge from well-known teacher and coach Gary Lucero, a Democrat.

This is what I wrote about Brian Hoven in 2008: "Brian Hoven is a businessman and the Chair of the Cascade Republican Party; he ran once for SD12, advocating for Great Fall's coal-burning plant. He wants to eliminate property taxes (d*mn the schools!), slash taxes for business, put a cap on medical lawsuits, favors prayer in school, school vouchers, and is pro-choice. The usual big business Republican." To be fair to Hoven, he was one of the few House Republicans to buck his party's leadership and supported the implementation of CHIP expansion in the last legislature.

Gary Luchero is a popular local middle-school teacher, running on a campaign as a pragmatic moderate. Check both candidates' positions in this Great Falls Tribune profile and KRTV interviews of the race.

HD47 (Billings Heights): Democrat Pam Ellis, a retired schoolteacher and principal, is trying to pick up this open seat held by a retiring Republican. Her opponent is Republican James Knox, a tea party favorite and operator of a computer business.

Ah...James Knox. You really have to sift through Cowgirl's archives to get the full effect of the man's...er..."abilities," from donning costumes, to spamming his candidacy in comment forums using anonymous accounts, from his irrational obsession with the Billings fire department, to his planting of hidden cameras in his yard signs, the man is a "shaky" candidate at best. And that's not even addressing his views, which are pure Tea Party.

Pam Ellis is a Billings native and a retired elementary school teacher with, naturally, a strong platform and promise to be an advocate of education. She's also a proponent of home energy efficiency, renewable energy, and a balanced budget.

Frankly, the choice is friggin' clear, even if you're a Republican. Ellis.

HD77 (Jefferson County): This largely rural district between Helena and Butte has long been held by Republicans, but Democrats hope Sheila Hogan of Clancy can put the now-open seat in their column. Hogan, who runs a job skills program in Helena, narrowly lost a race here four years ago to Rep. Scott Mendenhall, R-Clancy. Her opponent this time is bar owner Alan Hale of Basin.

Here's what I wrote about this race: "HD 77 stretches over much of Jefferson county, and includes a slice of Helena. Here, born-and-bred Butte-ian and miner's daughter, Sheila Hogan, is battling a "constitutional Republican" looking to hand over the keys of the state to multi-national extraction and energy corporations. Hogan is the executive director of the Career Training Institute, and a long-time advocate for jobs in the state, which makes her the ideal candidate in this economic slump marred by joblessness." Hogan!

Check out the the HD 77 profile in the Helena IR, and the interviews with the candidates by KXLH.

HD100 (west Missoula County): Democrat Willis Curdy, a retired teacher and former smokejumper who lost narrowly in this district two years ago, is running again, this time for an open seat. Banker Champ Edmunds is trying to keep the seat Republican.

Willis Curdy was the last-minute replacement candidate (for the stricken Democratic primary winner) to tackle Bill Nooney in Missoula's sole GOP-controlled House district, HD100. This time around he's not only had time to prepare for the election, he's battling for an open seat after Nooney's withdrawal from public service.

Curdy's a fave of the b'birders - a "4th generation Montanan, small business owner, retired high school teacher and retired smokejumper." (I wonder what was harder, the parachuting into wildfires or managing teenagers...) He's running to protect public lands and on a platform of job creation. Edmunds, a banker and Navy vet, just isn't up to snuff.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

From the World Wide Web: I-164

by: Jay Stevens

Sun Oct 31, 2010 at 19:26:45 PM MST

And now, one of the more high-profile initiatives, I-164:

Under Montana law, deferred deposit (payday) lenders may charge fees equaling one-fourth of the loan, which, as an annual interest rate could range from 300 percent to 650 percent. Title lenders may charge similar interest rates. I-164 reduces the interest, fees, and charges that payday lenders, title lenders, retail installment lenders, and consumer loan licensees may charge to an annual interest rate of 36 percent. It prohibits businesses from structuring other transactions to avoid the rate limit. It also revises statutes applicable to pawn brokers and junk dealers.

I-164 reduces the licenses and examination fee revenue paid to the State because certain lenders may not renew their licenses.

Matt and I have written a few posts on the payday loan initiative, and b'birder pbear, of course, has been a vociferous advocate for the initiative. Of all the initiatives, this one's spawned the most heated debate.

Check it out:

*  *  *

The BillGaz' Ed Kemmick: "I tend to agree with George McGovern, the very liberal former senator from South Dakota and 1972 presidential candidate who wrote a Wall Street Journal column on the subject a couple of years ago.

"McGovern said payday loans seem 'reasonable when all your other options, such as bounced checks or skipped credit-card payments, are obviously more expensive and play havoc with your credit rating.'

"He wondered why we allow state lotteries, 'knowing some people are betting their grocery money.' Good question. Maybe we shouldn't allow poor people to play the lottery, dump money into keno machines, smoke cigarettes or drink booze.

"Because we all know what's best for 'those people,' don't we?"

*  *  *

pbear: "good god ed. i am too shocked at your oblivious piece to respond. it is simply too wrong of you to take your experience and extrapolate from this brief and painless transaction and apply it across the board to all montanans. please get out and visit with some real working poor ed before your piece gives these contemptible bastards the right to condemn people to their heartless system of squeezing the last drop of blood from those who are most vulnerable."

*  *  *

Dave Budge: "This, to me, smacks of the smoking ban; do-gooders who think they know what's best for people who have no clue about the consequences of what they're proposing - which will be an end to the industry in Montana if the law is passed. It's passage is likely to be a boon to pawn shops - which ultimately can cost consumers much more than a pay day loan in the surrendered value of property."

*  *  *

Moorcat: "Let me state up front that I cannot be completely unbiased about this measure. My daughter, while attending college in Washington, ended up afoul of one of these payday lenders and she simply couldn't dig herself out until we found out about and dug her out ourselves. For many that use these services, it ends up being a never ending cycle that eventually drains what little funds they have.

"The opposition to this measure will tell you how irresponcible these people who use these services are and they have tried to paint these individuals in a very bad light. It is too bad for them that far too many voters in Montana know people that have been screwed over by these vultures. They will also tell you how harmful it is that the government would regulate their 'Free Market enterprise' but again, that argument falls flat. These people are nothing more than legal Loan Sharks and until someone steps in and calls them on thier BS, it will continue unabated. If you can't already tell, I am voting FOR this initiative. If it means that these vultures close up shop and head to greener pastures, so much the better."

*  *  *

Gregg Smith: "I oppose I-164 on a number of grounds, but primarily because I am frankly sick and tired of people trying to decide who should be in business and who should not. Of course, the people pointing the finger at other businesses necessarily believe that their business is immune from such attacks because they do the work of the angels, right?...

"It's not me you should worry about, though. I am never going to push an initiative to try to interfere with someone else's livelihood.

"There are people out there who will, though. So before everyone convinces themselves that they do the work of the angels, just remember:

"Next time it might be you."

*  *  *

The BillGaz editorial board: "Before Montanans vote on Initiative 164, which would cap rates on payday loans, they really ought to know how Montana law already regulates these small, short-term loans.

"The largest payday loan debt allowed by Montana law is $375.

"Loans can't exceed 25 percent of the borrower's verifiable monthly take-home income, can't exceed $300 in any case and can't be made for a term longer than one month. The loan fee can't exceed 25 percent of the loan. Thus a $300 loan with a $75 fee is the maximum allowed by law....When proponents of Initiative I-164 say that payday loans 'are a debt trap of repeat borrowing,' they don't say that 'trap' is limited to $375....

"Supporters of I-164 complain that payday lenders are charging 400 percent annual interest. But these are small loans made for a month or less. The initiative would limit payday loans to a 36 percent annual percentage rate. With simple interest, 36 percent amounts to $3 per month. The initiative would limit the fee on a $100, 30-day loan to $3.

"No business could afford to make such loans, according to Bernie Harrington, president of EZMoney Check Cashing. The federal law that capped interest rates on payday loans to military personnel and dependents at 36 annual percentage rate effectively prevents them from getting loans, Harrington said.
Whether a payday loan is a good deal or not depends on the borrower's circumstances. Sure, it would be preferable to avoid paying a fee to borrow a couple hundred dollars for two weeks. But if the alternative is bank overdraft fees or late charges on credit card accounts, a payday loan may be the better choice.

"There's one more thing for voters to consider. With the regulations that Montana has already placed on payday lenders, 87 licensed businesses statewide employ more than 500 people. If I-164 becomes law, they probably will be out of work on Jan. 1.

"Montana law already restricts payday lending to prevent the trap that I-164 purports to fix."

*  *  *

The Missoulian editorial board: "While Montana law does prohibit borrowers from taking out more than one loan at a time, borrowers often 'flip' or 'churn' their loans by taking one out right after another to keep caught up with their repayments. In fact, according to Montana Women Vote, the average borrower in the U.S. will 'flip' their loans eight times in a year and pay a total of $800 for a $300 loan. These borrowers essentially remain perpetually in debt to payday lenders. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, a full 76 percent of the total annual volume of payday loans in this country is comprised of churned loans.

"Given this reality, it is unconscionable that Montana continues to allow unscrupulous lenders to prey on its residents by allowing them to charge sky-high rates. At least 17 other states have lower interest-rate caps than Montana, and the federal government has moved to protect our military by setting a 36 percent cap for service members....

"Opponents of this initiative also say that a 36 percent cap would force them out of business and put hundreds of Montana workers out of a job. The Women's Foundation of Montana counters that the 87 licensed lending businesses in the state employ less than 180 Montanans, and that a full 70 percent of these businesses are owned by out-of-state companies.

"The Montana Division of Banking and Financial Institutions reports that last year, payday lenders issued nearly 150,000 loans and raked in $7.5 million in interest and fees from fewer than 35,000 borrowers. That's an average of four loans per borrower.

"But as we know, thousands of Montanans took out a lot more loans than that. How many of them were surprised and dismayed to find that the fee that seemed so reasonable when broken out into a single 30-day loan, turned into an overwhelming number when stacked up over the course of the year?

"It's time to put an end to this predatory 650 percent annual interest rate. We can end it by voting 'yes' on I-164."

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Great Falls Tribune endorses Beth Baker for the state's highest court

by: Jay Stevens

Sat Oct 30, 2010 at 10:38:33 AM MST

Yesterday the Great Falls Tribune endorsed Beth Baker for the Montana Supreme Court:

Baker...notes that "I've spent much of my career defending the judgments of district judges" as a lawyer for the state.

"The functions of the two courts are completely different," she said in an interview.

The trial courts are chaotic and lately somewhat overburdened, she said, while the Supreme Court is "where you go when a mistake is made or rights are violated."

Serving on the high court is a "more studious" occupation requiring diligence and independence, she said - an occupation for which she's well qualified.

We agree. Her listening ability and analytical nature are well suited for the Supreme Court.

Finally, there's another angle to idea of diversity on the high court that is at least worth mentioning: She'd be only the second woman on the present seven-member court.

Given Swandal's troubling efforts to identify his campaign with the Tea Party wing of the Republican party for a race that's supposed to be non-partisan - frankly, I don't think partisanship should have a place on the bench - the choice is clear.

Beth Baker should be your choice for the Montana Supreme Court in 2010.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

From the World Wide Web: I-161

by: Jay Stevens

Wed Oct 27, 2010 at 06:01:53 AM MST

Next up, I-161:

...{R}evises the laws related to nonresident big game and deer hunting licenses. It abolishes outfitter-sponsored nonresident big game and deer combination licenses, replacing the 5,500 outfitter-sponsored big game licenses with 5,500 additional general nonresident big game licenses. It also increases the nonresident big game combination license fee from $628 to $897 and the nonresident deer combination license fee from $328 to $527. It provides for future adjustments of these fees for inflation. The initiative allocates a share of the proceeds from these nonresident hunting license fees to provide hunting access and preserve and restore habitat.

I-161 increases state revenues over the next four years by an estimated $700,000 annually for hunting access and an estimated $1.5 million annually for habitat preservation and restoration, assuming that all nonresident hunting licenses are sold. It also increases general nonresident hunting license revenues by inflation.

This is one of those initiatives that requires a little bit of background. Basically, some independent hunters aren't happy with the exclusive agreements that some outfitters and private landowners are making that reserve hunting rights on the land for outfitter clients. They want more landowners to participate in the state's Block Management Program, "which pays landowners to allow hunters on their lands." In short, hunters are worried that outfitters are squeezing in-state hunters from the land in favor of wealthy out-of-state trophy hunters.

It's not clear how I-161 is supposed to achieve that goal, or even if it is. Kurt Kephart, the initiative's author, often talks about ending the state subsidy for outfitters - the nonresident hunting licenses reserved for them - and, in this sense, the initiative seems like a big f*ck you to the industry and to out-of-state trophy hunters. What's sure is that, if the initiative passes, outfitters won't be able to guarantee licenses for out-of-state clients, and most clients will book hunting trips only after the June lottery. Maybe I-161 backers are hoping that fiscal uncertainty for outfitters will inhibit them from making deals with landowners, or that landowners might prefer to work with the Block Management Program and the state's sure money. As an added bonus, I-161 should put more money into the Block Management Program itself.

I'm torn on this one myself. It's always fun to poke wealthy out-of-state tourists, especially the big-game trophy hunters. And I like the idea of keeping Montana open to Montana hunters. Still...I don't know. Seems like an ill-fitting suit. Sure, there's a problem here, but does the initiative actually fix it?

While I sympathize deeply with Kurt Kephart and other Montana hunters who feel like they're getting systematically shut out of Montana hunting grounds, I'm recommending "no" on I-161.

Read on for other views.

*  *  *

Wulfgar!: "I am a hunter, and a Montanan. And more to the point, I don't believe in subsidizing industry, especially when there is no reason to do it, and it involves a very real cost in revenue and resource. I will vote yes on I-161." Wulfgar! opines that outfitters won't be hurt by the initiative; out-of-state big-game hunters will still come to Montana and hire outfitters to hunt.

*  *  *

problembear: "guides and outfitters provide much needed commerce to montana. at a time of increasing unemployment in this state it is not wise to shackle an industry which provides jobs for so many montanans and montana businesses used by their clients."

*  *  *

Kurt Kephart, author of I-161: "{W}hy does the state of Montana guarantee wealthy nonresidents a hunting license...while requiring all other nonresidents to enter a drawing in order to obtain one...? Why do wealthy nonresidents garner special privileges?

"Voting yes on Initiative 161 will curb attempts by individuals to control and privatize the public's wildlife by abolishing the special 'guarantee' offered to predominately wealthy nonresident hunters. I-161 will require all nonresidents to enter a drawing for an equal opportunity at a license. Fairness, and not wealth, will be the determining factor in which nonresidents will receive hunting licenses."

*  *  *

The Missoulian: "{The argument that I-161 would make the allocation of nonresident hunting licenses fair} ignores the fact that license applicants are subject to another kind of inequity - the monetary kind. An outfitter-sponsored big game license costs $1,250, or about twice as much as a license for a resident, which costs $643.

"I-161 seeks to do away with outfitter-sponsored licenses and replace the lost money by raising nonresident fees. So nonresidents would not only have to enter a drawing for their licenses, they would pay more for the privilege. That's not a level playing field. That's a marked disadvantage to nonresident hunters - and therefore, a disadvantage to every business that relies on Montana's reputation as a great place to hunt....

"{A}bolishing outfitter-sponsored licenses provides no guarantees that outfitting companies will stop paying private landowners for exclusive permission to hunt their land. And really, only a scant 6 percent of state landowners who own elk habitat have exclusive agreements with outfitters or have a lease or fee agreement to access their lands...

"Neither do we know how much money the state stands to gain by charging more for nonresident licenses....Unfortunately, the risk would all be borne by Montana's outfitters and other businesses that enjoy a late-year boost from out-of-state hunters. And that's why it is important to join them in voting 'no' on I-161."

*  *  *

And then there's this crap-tastic "opinion" from the NRA-ILA, the lobbying arm of the NRA: "Laws related to hunting and wildlife management strategies should be firmly rooted in science, not driven by a wealthy few who can produce the most emotionally-appealing 30-second television commercial during an initiative campaign. For this reason, NRA has always opposed "ballot box" wildlife management.

With regard to the specific provisions, Kephardt's I-161, through its significant fee increases, threatens to make the same monumental mistake made in Idaho last year. Non-resident license fees there were increased with expectations of proportional increases in revenue. The move backfired, resulting in a $1 million shortfall because fewer hunters purchased the more expensive licenses. With already poor budget conditions, a similar shortfall in Montana will jeopardize important wildlife management and conservation projects - ultimately detracting from hunting opportunities for all hunters in the state....

"{I}t is up to NRA members to inform your friends, families, co-workers and fellow hunters about the folly of signing Kephardt's {sic} I-161 ballot initiative! Your voice and efforts today will make a tremendous difference. Make no mistake about it, the anti-hunting radicals are watching. If I-161 succeeds, they will learn from Kephardt's {sic} methods and try to circumvent the standard policy-making system and public processes that have stymied them through the years and use deceptive 30-second sound bites to advance their radical agenda."

Un-f*cking-believable. Makes you wonder if the administrative assistant who penned this has actually ever held a gun. Mark Henckel corrects the erroneous claims laced through this thing (including the misspelling of Kephart's name!), but let's just pause for a moment on "anti-hunting radicals..." Seriously, how the h*ll do you call a bunch of hunters looking for wider access to hunting "anti-hunting radicals"? If Montana outfitters wrote a big check to the NRA to make I-161 go away, they should ask for their money back.  

Discuss :: (8 Comments)

Dennison's top ten legislative races...the first five...

by: Jay Stevens

Tue Oct 26, 2010 at 07:18:36 AM MST

Mike Dennison recently profiled 10 important races for the control of the Montana legislature. Here are his identified seats held by Democrats (with notes):

House District 8 (central Kalispell): An open Democratic seat, this district always features a razor-close race, and this year has the added element of a third-party candidate. Bill Jones, a dentist and former Republican state legislator seen as a moderate, is running as an Independent, along with Democrat Bryan Schutt, a local architect, and Republican Steve Lavin, a Montana Highway Patrol officer.

LiTW has already spilled ink on this race. Schutt's our man. Donate. Volunteer. Contact.

HD20 (south Great Falls): Another open Democratic seat in a district that usually has close races. Republican Steve Fitzpatrick, an attorney, is squaring off against Democrat Donna Zook, an advocate for the mentally ill.

Again, another race mentioned here on LiTW. Donna Zook is our candidate, an early and steadfast opponent to the Highwood coal-fired plant.

Her Republican opponent, Steve Fitzpatrick, an attorney highly regarded by Gregg Smith at ECW, has wildly outraised Zook, cashing in on a whopping $25,965, according to the Great Falls Tribune, an obscene amount for a House race. What gives? Sadly he lacks a website, so we can't really check him out, but we can get a glimmer of an idea from the GFT profile of the HD20 race. In the questionnaire, this is how Fitzpatrick defines how he's different from Zook: "We need to bring new ideas and a new perspective to the Legislature. We can't continue to promote the same policies that have resulted in enormous debt and the highest level of joblessness since the Great Depression."

(A) The Montana state budget is not running a debt. (B) The policies that have led to high joblessness are free market policies: the deregulation of the financial industry. Are you telling me you're a progressive reformer, Fitzpatrick? I don't think so. What you have here is GOP electioneering bullsh*t, which challenges Gregg's characterization of the man as "honest."

Contact Zook, or donate.

HD36 (northeastern Montana corner): Rep. Julie French, D-Scobey, who knocked off a Republican incumbent four years ago in this rural district, now faces her own stiff challenge from Republican Austin Knudsen, a Culbertson attorney who grew up on a local farm and ranch.

This is what I wrote about French and HD36 before: "Scobey resident Julie French is our only incumbent in the battleground House races. Elected to the House first in 2006, she became the Democratic Majority whip in only her second term in office. She sits on the Human Services and Rules committees, and was vice chair of the Agriculture committee. In 2008, she was the primary sponsor of several bills, including an attempt to revise Montana's medical marijuana laws, which was killed by gross partisanship. Her opponent, Austin Knudsen, is a lawyer and big-business Republican running against health care reform."

Donate. Contact.

HD78 (East Helena): Two relatively well-known candidates are squaring off for this open seat, which Democrats have been winning by close margins in recent years. Democrat Joe Cohenour, a Highway Patrol trooper, is trying to succeed his wife, Jill, who can't run because of term limits. Republican Steve Gibson, a longtime administrator at the state Department of Corrections, lost a 2008 bid for the seat.

The Helena IR ran a good, in-depth profile of this race. Both candidates are well qualified for the seat, and Gibson's years of experience of public service tell me he recognizes the value of good government, and won't be voting to eliminate the HHS budget. Cohenour served on the Helena school board and supported the district's health and sex ed curriculum, and he's the pro-choice candidate in this race.

Really what it comes down to is if Gibson's really the moderate he paints himself to be. Can he resist the crushing pressure of the Republican caucus and vote against the interests of what has been a very radical bloc the last two sessions? Based on the experience of past Republican moderates - I'm guessing not. Cohenour, on the other hand, has a ringing endorsement from Montana Conservation Voters.  Admittedly he wasn't my first choice, but if we want to avoid letting the inmates run the asylum, he's your man. Donate. Contact.

Senate District 17 (Havre and portions of Hill, Blaine counties): House Speaker Bob Bergren, D-Havre, is trying to move up to the Senate by winning this open seat held by an outgoing Democrat. He faces a stiff challenge from Republican Rowlie Hutton, a well-known minister at a Christian Church in Havre.

This is what Yellowstone Kelly wrote about this race: "For the D's to have any shot at controlling the Senate, Bergren, the outgoing Speaker of the House of Representatives, must hold this seat. Hutton is the pastor of one of those large Sunday warehouse churches. If Bergren commits himself to the task at hand, this seat should stay blue. Advantage at outset:Slightly Bergren."

Bob Bergren is our man here. There's not much out there on Rowlie Hutton, but what there is hints that this guy is going to be a pretty fierce social conservative. Take this GFT profile of SD17. This is what Hutton has to say (amidst egregious use of scare quotes) on the back end of the report: "The role of government is to help people lead quiet and tranquil lives. Voters want someone who is not part of the back-slapping culture, but will instead fight for the people rather than governing against them. I believe in the sanctity of life and limited government. The recent controversy in Helena surrounding the forced sex education curriculum is a good example of government out of touch with the people. This is not the first time this issue has reared its ugly head. A proposal was made in the last two sessions to make this a statewide effort. I would oppose this - my opponent voted for it."

The Helena sex ed and health curriculum was done legally, in the open, and with the input of the community; it is not an "example of government out of touch with the people," it's government representing the interest of the community. H*ll, anti-health-curriculum crusader Kristi Allen-Gailushas dropped her lawsuit against the program because she received no support from the community. Oh, and the legislature has no power over the curricula decided on by local school boards. In short, this is pure, unmitigated lying bullsh*t intended only to rile the base.

Donate to or contact Bob Bergren for volunteer work.

I'll get to the second half of Dennison's article later...

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From the World Wide Web: CI-105

by: Jay Stevens

Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 11:00:40 AM MST

So...the initiatives. Folks have been offering up their two cents across the Intertubes, so I thought I'd compile the views in one post on each initiative. I thought I'd start with CI-105, which is essentially a ban on a tax that does not exist:

CI-105 amends the Montana Constitution to prohibit state or local governments from imposing any new tax on transactions that sell or transfer real property, such as residential homes, apartments, condominiums, townhouses, farms, ranches, land, and commercial property, after January 1, 2010.

The initiative is the brainchild of a Chicago-based real-estate organization called the National Association of Realtors, and abetted locally by John Sinrud. Who you may remember.

So...the opinions:

Eric Feaver, MEA-MFT president: "Eric Feaver said that amending the state constitution to implement such a ban unfairly circumvents the traditional legislative process. He said constitutional amendments like CI-105 'represent very bad public policy.'

"'If it passes, it will end up squeezing ever tighter potentially valuable revenue streams for the state,' he said.

"Feaver also worries that the initiative's passage would set a new standard for how Montana sets tax policy.

"'This initiative will establish a precedent that other entities - not just Realtors - will want to exploit,' he said, adding that once CI-105 is on the books other groups will seek to ban taxes they consider 'troublesome.'"

Moorcat: "Why would we want to put such a specific pre-emptive measure in the Constitution? Shouldn't this be handled at the legislative level? It makes no sense to me to un-necessarily add an amendment to the State Constitution for a specific event (one which hasn't happened yet). The Constitution is suppose to the framework we hang our laws and operation on, not the specific "How to" of meeting that framework. This issue does not belong in the Constitution. The people who want to prevent this tax from passing need to keep thier concerns at the Legislative level- where they belong. I am voting NO on this Initiative."

Helena IR: "There is plenty of room for debate on a realty transfer tax. But that debate should be carried out in the domed building along Montana Avenue in Helena, not via yard signs and slick TV ads. A 'no' vote on CI-105 will help preserve the integrity of our state constitution and keep this tax issue where it belongs."

problembear: "i have the most trouble coming up with a stand on this because i highly distrust those who are pushing for it. i also question how it would stand up to constitutional review by the montana supreme court. but, i am in favor of it simply because with unemployment so high, i don't think we want to take any more money out of the hands of homeowners who are selling low as it is in this climate."

Wulfgar: "t doesn't take a genius to see that it is the effort of an industry to favor itself at the expense of Montana's Constitution and it's democratic process. The legislature sets taxation, not out of state realtor associations. So, to CI-105, I say no."

Me: "So...what's going on here? Is this a reaction to a provision in the health care bill that would slap a 3.8-percent tax on high-end real-estate sales? Or real-estate transfer taxes in other states? Whichever, it's true...that more expensive homes will incur more tax penalty under such a system - if it were ever to be implemented in the state.

"But...why not impose a real-estate transfer tax on high-end hobby houses? You know the kind - the ones with a gajillion acres and obstructing our access to rivers and wilderness areas. What a great idea!

"So here's what we do. First, vote down CI-105. Then, in the legislature, pass a real-estate transaction tax on Montana's super-deluxe McMansions."

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Missoula election volunteering opportunities

by: Jay Stevens

Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 10:41:19 AM MST

So...wondering what you can do to keep our government in reasonable hands? Here's what's going on in Missoula: got an email from a friend letting me know the schedule for volunteering in on behalf of the Missoula County Democrats, MDLCC, OFA, MoveOn, and COPE (and probably a few other organizations). Here it is:

October 20 - 21 (Wednesday and Thursday): Phone banking, 4:30 - 8:30pm, Union Hall

October 23 (Saturday): Canvassing, meet at the Union Hall at 10:30am.

October 24 (Sunday): Canvassing, meet at the Union Hall at 1:30pm.

October 25 - 29 (Monday - Friday): Phone banking, 4:30 - 8:30pm. Union Hall.

October 26 & 29 (Tuesday and Friday): GOTV training for phone calls, lit drop, and poll watching, 5:30 at the Union Hall. (Lasts about 30 minutes.)

October 30 (Saturday): Canvassing, meet at 10:30am and 1:30pm, Union Hall.

November 1 (Monday): Phonebanking, 1pm - 9pm, Union Hall

November 2 (Tuesday): Election Day! Lit Drop, Poll Watching, Phone Calls, etc & co. 5am, on...

Update (by Matt Singer) -- Since I'm affiliated both with this website and with Forward Montana, I just wanted to clarify that Trick or Vote is an entirely non-partisan canvass, not in partnership with the Democrats, MoveOn, or OFA. Additionally, readers should feel free to go to TrickOrVote.org to find local events in Great Falls and Billings as well. The Missoula event should be huge, with an after-party featuring local funk band Kung Fu Kongress -- it should be great.

Update 2 (by Matt Singer) -- And additional volunteer opportunities from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana:

October 24th: National phonebank to defeat Initiative 62, the anti-choice ballot initiative in Colorado. Locations include Billings, Helena, Great Falls. Contact stacey.anderson@ppmontana.org

October 24th: Canvassing for Joe Cohenour from 1pm-3pm. He voted for the Helena Health Curriculum!! Contact stacey.anderson@ppmontana.org

October 28: Planned Parenthood is phonebanking pro-choice voters across the state from 5:30-7:30pm.
Missoula: tannis.hargrove@ppmontana.org
Billings: josh.hemsath@ppmontana.org
Helena: stacey.anderson@ppmontana.org
Great Falls: stacey.anderson@ppmontana.org

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Ignorance on parade, and what you can do about it

by: Jay Stevens

Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 07:53:22 AM MST

Ouch. I've stayed away from the hubbub surrounding Christine O'Donnell - GOP and Tea Party Senate candidate in Delaware - frankly, I don't care about her sexual history or hypocrisy in private acts. A lot of that stuff is just noise. But then I saw this video of O'Donnell "debating" Democrat Chris Coons on the First Amendment:

Why is it those who know the least always say things like, "that just proves how little you know..."?

For those of you who can't watch the video, O'Donnell spends the bulk of the video interrupting and bullying Coons with her "view" of the First amendment. Here's a sample from debate around teaching Intelligent Design in public schools:

O'Donnell: ...that theory {of Evolution}, if local school districts want to give that theory more credence than Intelligent Design, it is their right! You are saying, it is not their right! That is what you've gotten our country into, is the overreaching arm of the federal government, getting into the business of the local communities. The Supreme Court has always said it is up to the local communities to decide their standards. The reason why we're in the mess we're in is because our so-called leaders in Washington no longer view the indispensable principles of our founding as truly that: indispensable. {cross talk} We're supposed to have independent government, low taxes {cross talk}...

Coons: One of those indispensable principles is the separation of church and state.

{snip}

O'Donnell: Where in the Constitution does it say "separation of church and state"?

{audience laughter}

You have to hear O'Donnell's tone of voice to understand the surprised and contemptuous laughter. Because it seems from her tone that O'Donnell is genuinely mystified that such a notion actually might appear in the text of the Constitution. That's underscored by a question aimed at the candidates about amendments to the Constitution that the candidates may or may not agree with or wish to have changed - a question served up in the wheelhouse of a Tea Party candidate, what with all their unique interpretation of the Constitution - only O'Donnell has trouble remembering which amendment says what, and basically fumbles the question. She obviously does not know her Constitution.

And here's the last exchange of the video:

Coons: It is important for us, in modern times, to apply the Constitution, in my view, as it exists today and as it's been interpreted by our justices. And if there are settled pieces of Constitutional law, like the separation of church and state, like the individual right to reproductive freedom that Roe versus Wade represents, that we live with, and have lived under for decades, in my view, it is important to know whether you have, on my side, a candidate who believes and supports those things, and on the other hand candidate who -

O'Donnell: Let me just clarify, you're telling me the separation of church and state is founded in the First Amendment.

Coons: The government shall make no establishment of religion.

O'Donnell: That's in the First Amendment?

Coons: Yes.

Unbelievable.

And O'Donnell's not alone in her incredible ignorance surrounding our "founding" or the Constitution. Closer to home is HD4's Derek Skees, believer of the constitutionality of secession and nullification, and advocate of Willard Cleon Skousen's The 5,000-Year Leap, recently profiled in The New Yorker:

Skousen's pronouncements made him a pariah among most conservative activists, including some on the right-wing fringe. In 1962, the ultraconservative American Security Council threw him out, because members felt that he had "gone off the deep end." In 1971, a review in the Mormon journal Dialogueaccused Skousen of "inventing fantastic ideas and making inferences that go far beyond the bounds of honest commentary," and advancing doctrines that came "perilously close" to Nazism. And in 1979, after Skousen called President Jimmy Carter a puppet of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Rockefeller family, the president of the Mormon church issued a national order banning announcements about his organizations.

...In 1981, he produced "The 5,000 Year Leap," a treatise that assembles selective quotations and groundless assertions to claim that the U.S. Constitution is rooted not in the Enlightenment but in the Bible, and that the framers believed in minimal central government. Either proposition would have astounded James Madison, often described as the guiding spirit behind the Constitution, who rejected state-established religions and, like Alexander Hamilton, proposed a central government so strong that it could veto state laws.

Skousen's book was, of course, revived by Glenn Beck, one of Skees' heroes, and probably the main culprit for confounding the ideas of many Americans with factually incorrect notions about American government and history.

Which would be okay if, say, we were talking about my brother-in-law or the guy at the end of the bar who was slurring conspiracies over his post-work screwdriver, but we're talking about candidates for public office who, if elected, will have the power to write laws for the nation and Montana. Ignorance of this level is dangerous when it's accompanied by power.

Who to blame? Beck for propagating this crap? The people arming themselves with misinformation and spreading it? Those running for office under these ideas? The media for gutlessly standing to the side and refusing to challenge the accuracy of their misstatements? The power brokers, who see in these people an opportunity to wrest government from the danger of progressive reform?

Your guess is as good as mine. You can't do anything about it in Delaware, but you can do something about it in Montana.

Will Hammerquist for HD4. Volunteer. Donate.

Discuss :: (17 Comments)

Bryan Schutt for HD8

by: Jay Stevens

Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 17:40:01 PM MST

Well...the reaction to my appeal to LiTW readers to donate to blog battleground candidates was tepid, to say the least. Disinterest? Disinclination to take a meaningless online poll? True Democratic discontent? Maybe it's the economy...

Whatever. I won't be doing a hard push for fundraising like I did in '08. But I'm not throwing in the towel. JC had this to say, and he makes a good point:

I've seen almost no begs come across my inbox looking for help for dem candidates in Missoula County, or for McDonald. And I've got a 600 person listserve of activists and progressives I manage in the Missoula area. What gives? In 2008, I had many such requests. Enthusiasm for getting together and doing things is very low.

Interesting. Are candidates and their staffs suffering from an enthusiasm gap? Do they expect bad losses and are pulling into their shells and planning for 2012? Whatever - it takes votes to win, and it takes door-knocking to get out the vote. In the days leading up to the election, I'm going to push candidates who'll be in tight races across Montana. I'll give you contact info and websites when I can. And, hopefully, a few folks searching the Intertubes for info on their area candidates might be able to find some good information here that will help them decide who to vote for...

Without further ado, let's talk about Bryan Schutt. HD8 - Kalispell - is a swing district, see-sawing between Democrats and Republicans for several terms. Last term, Democrat Cheryl Steenson served the district. It's an interesting field, including Republican Steve Lavin and former Republican HD 9 representative, Bill Jones. Despite this being the GOP's turn at the seat, Jones' wildcard entry here could tip the race to Schutt.

Lavin, in the Flathead Beacon piece promised not to touch basic welfare programs like Medicare, Medicaid, or CHIP - but his issues page is so bland and evasive, it's impossible to tell if he would go along with his party's recent attacks on CHIP or the HHS budget. The one issue that stands out is his call for a repeal of Montana's medicinal marijuana law. Jones was a supporter of the "13 mutineers," who solved the legislature's Scott-Sales-engineered budget impasse with Governor Schweitzer. He also was a supporter of CHIP expansion in 2007, and left the GOP over deep differences in the party's partisanship and direction. Jones is definitely someone who'll stand up for his personal beliefs and not let either party bully him. Still, he's no friend of the environment.

I've talked about Schutt before in the context of the primary, in which he was challenged by a Derek-Skees-like Tea Party conspiracy theorist. Schutt's a pro-union, pro-education, pro-environment Democrat, promising to work as a moderate in the House.

Here's an interesting quote from his website:

As an architect, I work with regulations every day.  I know we need regulations to function as a society. The Legislature can usually write rules that cover 90% of situations well.  But at the margins, we can find far too many examples where the cost of the regulation is higher than the benefit derived. As I help write new laws, I will work to include a sunset clause, so we can re-examine our work in several years. I will back variance processes for unforeseen conditions and hardship exemptions for those situations where a one-size-law-fits-all solution is not practical.

That, my friends, are the words of a good pragmatic progressive. It's not about big government or more government, it's about good government.

Kalispell's not far from Missoula, JC. He probably would appreciate some help on the doors.

Donate on Act Blue.

Volunteer.

Contact.

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Are you ready?

by: Jay Stevens

Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 18:53:15 PM MST

A couple of weeks ago, I kicked off LiTW's battleground legislative races fundraising...and nobody showed up.

So...with less than a month to go, and the Tea Party measuring the state capitol for drapes, are you ready now?

Poll below the fold.

Discuss :: (10 Comments)

Well, maybe there should be a tax!

by: Jay Stevens

Tue Oct 05, 2010 at 09:58:34 AM MST

KRTV's Helena Bureau Chief Marnee Banks jumped into the blogosphere recently (h/t Cowgirl) with The Banks Account, and yesterday brought up CI-105, an initiative that not too many are talking about.

First off, CI-105. The ballot language:

There is no existing state or local tax on transactions that sell or transfer real property in Montana. CI-105 amends the Montana Constitution to prohibit state or local governments from imposing any new tax on transactions that sell or transfer real property, such as residential homes, apartments, condominiums, townhouses, farms, ranches, land, and commercial property, after January 1, 2010.

Okay, so it's a ballot initiative that would overturn a tax that, erm, doesn't actually exist.

According to Banks, the backers of the initiative are the Montana Association of Realtors, represented by...Chuck Denowh! Who has a well-heeled history of setting up astroturf organizations for corporate initiatives! So...you know...what's the catch to this thing?

{Helena City Commissioner} Paul Cartwright says CI-105 is a scam from the National Association of Realtors. He also claims N.A.R. dumped over $1 million into Montana to get this initiative passed. "Back in my day we used to call these outside agitators," Cartwright added.

Then Cartwright went on to claim, "Perhaps the N.A.R. is bankrolling David and Charles Koch." Cartwright claims the Koch brothers own a 250,000 acre matador ranch outside Dillon. He says CI-105 would help landowners like the Koch's much more than it would the average Montanan.

"Is the National Association of Realtors in it to help me, or in it to help the Koch brothers?" Cartwright asked. "If you look around the table and can't see who the sucker is, it would be you," Cartwright said as he told the commission he will be voting against CI-105.

Helena Mayor, Jim Smith, also spoke out and said he didn't understand the logic behind this initiative either.

So...what's going on here? Is this a reaction to a provision in the health care bill that would slap a 3.8-percent tax on high-end real-estate sales? Or real-estate transfer taxes in other states? Whichever, it's true what Cartwright says, that more expensive homes will incur more tax penalty under such a system - if it were ever to be implemented in the state.

But...why not impose a real-estate transfer tax on high-end hobby houses? You know the kind - the ones with a gajillion acres and obstructing our access to rivers and wilderness areas. What a great idea!

So here's what we do. First, vote down CI-105. Then, in the legislature, pass a real-estate transaction tax on Montana's super-deluxe McMansions.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

"Bush wasn't an aberration"

by: Jay Stevens

Wed Sep 29, 2010 at 09:13:22 AM MST

One of the excellent, new b'bird bloggers - Duganz - already touched on Obama's remarks from his Rolling Stone interview, in which Obama that progressives "need to shake off this lethargy. People need to buck up....If people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place."

It's not the first message from the White House chiding lefties to get over themselves and come back to the polls in November. In Madison this week, Obama urged students to vote in the mid-terms. "The biggest mistake we can make," said the President, "is to let disappointment or frustration lead to apathy and indifference." And, of course, V-P Biden urged Democrats to "remind our base constituency to stop whining," saying the president has done "an incredible job."

Well...er...hm. I now turn to Peter Daou who, in a post excoriating the Obama administration over its invocation of state secrets in request to dismiss a lawsuit against the assassination order out on US citizen al-Aulaqui, explains why it is liberal bloggers and progressive activists don't "stop whining":

Virtually all the liberal bloggers who have taken a critical stance toward the administration have one thing in common: they place principle above party. Their complaints are exactly the same complaints they lodged against the Bush administration. Contrary to the straw man posed by Obama supporters, they aren't complaining about pie in the sky wishes but about tangible acts and omissions, from Gitmo to Afghanistan to the environment to gay rights to secrecy and executive power...

As president, Obama has done much good and has achieved a number of impressive legislative victories. He is a smart, thoughtful and disciplined man. He has a wonderful family. His staff (many of whom I've worked with in past campaigns) are good and decent people trying to improve their country and working tirelessly under extreme stress. But that doesn't mean progressives should set aside the things they've fought for their entire adult life. It doesn't mean they should stay silent if they think the White House is undermining the progressive cause....

From gay rights to executive power to war to the environment, the left increasingly believes the Obama White House lacks the moral courage to undo Bush's radicalism. If anything, the Aulaqi case is an indication Obama will go further than Bush to "prove" his strength.

When the Obama administration appeared to collude with BP to bury the Gulf spill, squandering a historic opportunity to reverse the anti-green tide, it was a moment of truth for environmentalists. Now, it is dawning on some Americans that Bush wasn't an aberration and that a Democratic administration will also treat fundamental rights as a mere nuisance.

Point.

We'll let Kevin Drum take the counter-point:

If you're, say, Glenn Greenwald, I wouldn't expect you to buy Obama's defense at all. All of us have multiple interests, but if your primary concern is with civil liberties and the national security state, then the problem isn't that Obama hasn't done enough, it's that his policies have been actively damaging. There's just no reason why you should be especially excited about either his administration or the continuation of the Democratic Party in power.

On the other hand, if your critique is the broader and more common one - that Obama has moved in the right direction but has been too quick to compromise and hasn't accomplished enough - then I think you should take his defense of his record way, way more seriously. It's all too easy...to convince yourself that he could have waved a magic wand and gotten a bigger stimulus and a better healthcare bill and stronger financial regulation and a historic climate bill. But honestly, you have to buy into some pretty implausible political realities to believe that (Olympia Snowe would have voted for a trillion-dollar stimulus, there were Republican votes for a climate bill if only it had been a bigger priority, healthcare reform could have been passed via reconciliation, Harry Reid could have unilaterally ended the filibuster, etc.). The votes just weren't there and the president's leverage over centrist Dems and recalcitrant Republicans just wasn't very strong. Maybe he could have done better, but the evidence says that, at best, he could have done only a smidge better.

Putting aside Drum's creepy, amoral dismissal of civil rights as a "primary concern" for a few dedicated individuals, he's got a point. The real stumbling block of reform and institutional change has been the Senate. When the Obama team pats itself on the back for its accomplishments - a stimulus bill, the bailout, financial reg, healthcare - it's because it was d*mn hard to get those bills passed. And they did it.

But...assassination programs against US citizens isn't nothing. Foot-dragging on DADT isn't nothing, nor was his administration's offensive defense of DOMA. His near absence in the healthcare debate wasn't nothing - some pressure here and there might have got us a public option. But that's assuming he even supported a public option, and you get the feeling he didn't. And who can forget the sordid back-room deal the administration cut with Big Pharma? Which is to say, these things matter, and they haven't been entirely out of Obama's hands.

And then there's Drum mulling over the alternative:

Well, if the prospect of ripping apart healthcare reform, shutting down the government, deep sixing START, slashing social spending, and reliving the glory days of investigations over Christmas card lists isn't enough to get you motivated, I guess I'm not sure what is.

Whee.

Discuss :: (13 Comments)

Moving the goal posts

by: Jay Stevens

Thu Sep 09, 2010 at 16:08:37 PM MST

Rachel Maddow is the bomb. As Greg Sargent points out, one of her recent segments is on GOP NV Senate candidate Sharon Angle's statement that, if conservatives don't win at the ballot box they'll take "Second Amendment" remedies. Maddow notes that this kind of statement from a mainstream candidate doesn't seem to earn much of a reaction from the press this election.

It's as if the line for the kind of rhetoric we tolerate has been moved, significantly.

Sargent:

The conventions of political reporting mostly dictate that the press cover quotes like these in terms of how politically damaging they are. Is this latest quote a bad gaffe, or isn't it? How badly will it hurt her with independents? Will it actually help her with the base?

What's asked far less often is this: What does it say that a major party candidate for Senate actually believes these things? It's almost as if no one really wants to go there.

And let's not forget that, when the political news is saturated with extremist speech, thanks to the Tea Party, et al, this kind of stuff seems almost...well...normal from conservatives these days. Of course, that's a feature, not a bug. Moving the goal posts and all that.

On the other hand, it's encouraging to see that the recent comments by Tim Ravndal have generated so much national interest and outrage. I guess folks still get mad when a d*uchebag jokes he's going to murder folks because who they happen to sleep with...

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It's war!

by: Jay Stevens

Tue Sep 07, 2010 at 08:18:43 AM MST

"Ilk" is an ugly word. Its definition isn't inherently negative: it simply means "sort, kind." Its ancestry is actually noble: Scots used it in the 18th century to describe landed families. ("Guthrie of that ilk" {the family Guthrie}.) Still, whenever I hear people slung into "ilk," it's as if they're dehumanized. Maybe it's a typical American individualist reaction against homogeneity; maybe it's a personal thing, having been "ilked" a number of times by Budge. The point here is that I don't use the word lightly. Reducing people to stereotype is a pull I definitely feel here on the Internet, and something I try to resist.

So it's with deliberation, after reading the Facebook comments by Jason Priest and Tim Ravndal, and dealing with the Bitterroot's  bathroom-obsessed vanguard, that I lump the recent proponents of paleo-conservative homophobia into an ilk. And following the lead of her ilk, Kristi Allen-Gailushas has declared war on the gay community:

Fantastic. I guess all of what came before - the "joke" about hanging gays from barbed wire (like Mathew Shepard), the policy that tries, in essence, to exterminate gays - all of that was just a hobby.

I'm not sure why Allen-Gailushas and her ilk are so obsessed with gays. I'm not sure why they're so adamant on telling us who gets to believe what, and from where they think they derive the power to do so, but this isn't just a weird little blip on the state's political radar. These people are legislative candidates, and they stand a good chance of controlling the state legislature this year. The threat is real.

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You can lead a donkey to water...

by: Jay Stevens

Fri Aug 13, 2010 at 08:15:22 AM MST

Man...I don't know what to say. Is anybody surprised about this?

Gallup, a pollster, reckons that a mere 28% of Democrats are "very enthusiastic" about voting, compared to 44% of Republicans. By the same token the Pew Research Centre found in June that only 37% of liberal Democrats were "more enthusiastic than usual" about going to the polls, compared with 59% of conservative Republicans. And according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll the same month, the categories of voters whose interest in elections has dimmed the most since the last one are liberals and those who voted for Mr Obama (see chart). "You can't deny the level of disappointment," says Raul Grijalva, a Democratic representative from Arizona and head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Not me. I'm not surprised by Republicans' low approval ratings, either. I guess that's what happens when your party starts a couple of wars it couldn't finish, tanks the economy, and brings torture to the United States.

Still, it looks like it's the Democratic party that will suffer losses this November, largely because of the "enthusiasm gap" - the Democratic base just isn't fired up to vote.

And it's not like we couldn't see it coming. My prediction last year when the unenthusiastic Democrats started surfacing:

{Blogger Steve} Benen says the solution to Democratic woes is for party leaders to pursue an aggressive reform policy in health-care, climate change, union legislation, etc & co, that will reawaken the base. Don't expect that, however. Expect the news that Democratic voters are dropping out to spur politicians to again tack to the right to woo the voters that are planning to go to the polls. That is, of course, more in line with the actual record of many politicos.

Nailed it. The odd thing is that it appears Democrats ascribe their failures to being too liberal. No, it's because voters see them as ineffective:

Americans are growing more pessimistic about the economy and the war in Afghanistan, and are losing faith that Democrats have better solutions than Republicans, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

Underpinning the gloom: Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the economy has yet to hit bottom, a sharply higher percentage than the 53% who felt that way in January.

IMHO, Democrats needed to pursue an aggressively progressive agenda, all the while stumping on the principles of progressivism. Americans like principled politicians. Instead, Democrats are leaping for cover and hoping this resurgent anti-incumbency doesn't push them out of office, and the media has again internalized rightwing spin and ascribe Democratic failures to a conservative electorate...which is simply not true.

Don't believe me? Check out the rapidly moving poll numbers on Americans' view towards gay marriage. It's an issue that's been in the public eye for two decades, and the public debate surrounding it has allowed gay rights' activists and marriage proponents to continually hammer on their core principles of equality and civil rights, and - pretty quickly! - views of Americans have shifted towards favoring gay marriage, especially those of young people. That is, if you fight for what you believe in and provide good, compelling arguments that embody American principles, you will move the nation.

The irony here is that, on the other core issues surrounding this Congressional session, progressive positions started out popular. A majority of Americans favored the public option. A majority of Americans want climate change legislation. Talk about a missed opportunity...

In short, Democrats deserve to lose seats this election. Only I suspect they won't learn the lesson that those results will serve up. Instead, expect a further rightward shift and shying away from the principles that got them there in the first place...

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2010 battleground races: Will Hammerquist

by: Jay Stevens

Tue Aug 03, 2010 at 06:45:23 AM MST

Okay, let's consider last week a mulligan. Will Hammerquist's fundraiser went well, but our online fundraiser was...a disaster.

We all talk about getting better people involved in politics. This is your chance. Do the right thing:

Goal Thermometer

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Battleground House races: It's Hammerquist-time!

by: Jay Stevens

Mon Jul 26, 2010 at 10:18:44 AM MST

Okay, folks. First up, Will Hammerquist, Democratic candidate for HD

To begin with, Hammerquist is a native of the Flathead valley. His parents moved to the area in the 1970s. His father started out working on a ranch, then later got into the building business. His mother, a nurse, initially worked in the hospital in Browning. They settled in Creston, where Will grew up. He attended Flathead HS, and then Montana State with a degree in economics and political science.

Hammerquist has an interesting resume. During college, he was a student lobbyist for MSU students; afterward, no doubt influenced and abetted by his father's building business, he was director of member services for the Montana Contractors' Association. After his stint with the contractors, Hammerquist joined the campaign staff of Lt. Governor John Boehlinger, and later served in the governor's office as a policy adviser. His latest gig is with the National Parks Conservation Association,where he serves as program manager for the Northern Rockies regional office, where he's been instrumental in protecting the North Fork of the Flathead River from Canadian oil, gas, and mining activity.

The thrust of his campaign? Jobs.

In case you're not from the Flathead, the county has been struggling with joblessness. According to the Flathead Beacon, joblessness is down from its record-setting mark in March, but obviously double-digit unemployment (which fails to include the long-term unemployed) is a problem.

Hammerquist is campaigning around job creation, proposing ways to bring startup business to Flathead county, find workforce training money, and incentives for keeping money in the local economy. In a short telephone interview with Hammerquist, Will mentioned using more of the in-state lending program money for small business lending (much of money is currently invested in the bond market, which shows lower return than on local business investment). He also stumped for a "made in Montana" campaign, similar to the "Jersey Fresh" campaign.

And he favors giving local and small businesses a break or vacation from the state's business equipment tax.

In short, he knows the needs of his community, and is thinking about concrete ways to address problems.

Don't let the website of his opponent, Derek Skees, fool you. On the site, Skees depicts himself as a reasonable, apolitical "statesman." Nothing could be farther from the truth. A fund-raising letter sent by Skees reveals that he thinks he was "called by God" to run for political office. He's also a member of the divisive and ueber-partisan Tea Party coalition, on whose survey, Skees revealed that he thinks he has a special mission to be a legislator, and besides Ron Paul, the "most influential human being in his life" is the vituperative Father Coughlin of the 21st century, Glenn Beck. Cowgirl also has video of Skees distributing "The 5000-year Leap," which James Conner describes as "Willard Cleon Skousen's notorious tome that's become a bible for the teabaggers."

In the Leap, Skousen argues that the U.S. Constitution is based on the Bible, not on Enlightenment philosophy as most mainstream historians contend. Glenn Beck, like Skousen a Mormon, wrote the forward to the current edition of the book, which is popular among those teabaggers who favor making the U.S. a theocracy.

According to the Northwest Montana Patriots, Skees "...teaches a class on the 5,000 Year Leap and the U.S. Constitution every week to a large group." On his campaign's website, Skees promises to "...measure every aspect of my office through the Founders Basic Principles (Skees' link to  The Leap) and vote only to their measure."

If setting up an American theocracy is your cure, Skees is your man.

But then, as Hammerquist himself says, "whacky-ism doesn't create jobs."

Two things:

Donate. Now. I've set up a LiTW Hammerquist page, and created an easy goal: $300.

Goal Thermometer

This is easy. You folks could do this in your sleep. Three hundred. Donate what you can: five bucks, ten bucks, fifty bucks.

The second, for the Missoula-bound: Will's having a fundraiser in the Garden City on Wednesday. Here's the info from the info:

What: Will Hammerquist for Montana House Event
Date: Wednesday, July 28th
Time: 6:00 PMPlease

Hosts: Kevin & Jodi Hammond
Co-Hosts:
Dave Wanzenried
Tara Jensen
Greg Lind
Matt Singer
Cynthia Wolken
Jessica Grennan
Betsy Hands
Jennifer Hensley
Land Tawny
Matt Leow & Sarah Cobler
Julie Hammerquist
Dave McAlpin
Ellie Boldman Hill

Three Facts about Will:
~Endorsed by MT Conservation Voters
~Not Accepting any PAC or Corporate Funds
~Works for non-profit conservation organization

Email me for location and other information.

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Montana GOP vies for the pedophile vote

by: Jay Stevens

Thu Jul 22, 2010 at 19:01:48 PM MST

The news: Montana GOP is campaigning against a state-wide sex ed program.

Ouch! Is the title of the post fair? It is if you approach issues like the Montana GOP, by taking things out of context and blowing them out of proportion and preying on the fears of everyday voters, it is. Like Breitbart!

So here the state Republican party goes after a sex-ed program in Helena that's not really very controversial -- its "sins" are that it teaches kids about different kinds of households, that there are proper words for genitals, and acknowledges that other kinds of sex, besides vaginal, exist. Obviously the problem here is that right-wingers are apoplectic that kids might learn gays exist and lead happy and productive lives (not to mention, have hot sex). Oh, and the sex ed program emphasizes abstinence...

Only in Fox-News-Speak, this is "graphic" or "explicit" sex! "Teaching kindergarteners graphically about sex"! And it's spreading! Across the state! And only with a majority of Republicans in the legislature can you and your children be protected from these sex-crazed libruls!

Except that, according to the Office of Public Instruction, the state constitution "forbids the Legislature from dictating the details of any kind of school curriculum statewide, leaving such choices to local school boards." So there's that.

If this sounds familiar to you political junkies, it should. Wa-a-a-a-y back in the 2008 presidential election, conservatives tried to make a fuss over Obama's support for a similar sex ed program in Illinois. Time's Ana Marie Cox then:

Obama has supported legislation to teach children about "inappropriate touching;" he's not for handing out cucumbers or bananas or probably even cheetos in show and tell. I imagine that the lessons would be short and involve pointing at a doll and in general be less explicit than a "Suite Life of Zach and Cody" episode.

She then noted that this kind of sex ed for kindergarten that Obama supported (and similar to Helena's) was similar to that of the United Church of Christ! Here's a snippet:

United Church Of Christ Promotes A Sexual Education Curriculum For Kindergartners That Focuses On Helping Children Identify and Avoid Sexual Abuse. "Our Whole Lives K-1 supports parents, teachers and pastors in educating children about birth and sexuality. The program affirms all kinds of families and helps children identify and avoid sexual abuse. Activities include stories, songs, arts and crafts."

So...if Republicans oppose giving kindergarten students the tools to battle sexual abuse...that means, of course, they favor pederasty!

Simple, isn't it?

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