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Barack Obama
"Lincoln Sells Out Slaves"
by: Rob Kailey - Sep 13
If You Haven't Seen This
by: Rob Kailey - Apr 28
Impeach the President?
by: Rob Kailey - Mar 16
It's the system, stupid!
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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.

What to Take From the Democratic Convention

by: Russel

Sun Sep 09, 2012 at 01:56:11 AM MST

Now that both conventions are completed and we have passed the magical date of Labor Day, the campaign for President begins in earnest with the next big dates coming in October with the debates. Before looking ahead, we should look at the recent past, specifically these conventions. One is left with the impression that when all is said and done despite the spin from both sides- pro and con- nothing has really changed.

For the Democrats, the big talk is the speech last night by Barack Obama. It was not the knock-out speech that our Orator-in-Chief is capable of provided the teleprompter is running. Absent that little technological marvel, Obama is quite a blubberer. For my money, Tammy Duckworth gave perhaps the best speech for the Democrats, not Obama, not Biden, and not anyone else. Despite the allegations thrown at Paul Ryan, he gave a speech that was red meat with a smile while focusing on leadership and a vision of the future. Quite frankly, I lost interest in Romney's speech about three-quarters of the way through and failed to watch Obama's speech at all. Although I did not watch Clinton's speech, I read the transcript. If anything, the Democratic convention proves that Bill Clinton is still the heart and soul of the Democratic Party, not Obama. That simply underscores the Ryan speech. If Obama as President cannot be the "leader" of their own party, are we to accept him as leader of the free world?

Of course, both cities had their logistical problems although Tampa handled a passing hurricane much better than Charlotte handled the threat of afternoon thunderstorms. Because of Hurricane Isaac, some pundits questioned Florida as a site for future conventions ignorant of the fact that Tampa itself has not been hit by a hurricane in about 100 years. They also ignore the fact that moving a convention from the end of August to July does not guarantee the lack of hurricane activity. And likewise, North Carolina is not immune to hurricanes. Put another way, the weather was as big a story for both conventions as the some of the news coming out of the actual conventions.

Both party conventions had some interesting floor action. For the GOP, it was the appearance of Ron Paul on the convention floor and some rules wrangling. But that was about it for the Republicans. For the Democrats, however, there was an ugly floor scene when the party's platform was changed allegedly by a two-thirds vote, although the amount of "NO's" and boos heard suggested otherwise. Specifically, this was in response to the removal of that nasty word "God" from the platform and, for the first time, the removal of Jerusalem as the recognized capital of Israel. That latter issue led to some interesting spin from the likes of former DNC Chair and Presidential candidate ranter, Howard Dean, who explained that it was not specifically mentioned because it was an understood given. You know things are bad when Anderson Cooper of CNN stated that DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz was living in an alternate universe regarding her spin on the issue. Most importantly, we now find that Obama had signed off on the original platform.

From the list of speakers at the Democratic convention, it would appear that they intend to take advantage of the so-called gender gap between female acceptance of Obama versus Romney. In effect, their convention turned into, at times, a pro-choice rally by parading the likes of the leaders of NARAL, Planned Parenthood and Sandra Fluke before the cameras. Fluke stated that the GOP would have women dying in emergency rooms if they are denied contraceptive services in their health care plans. Of course, the Republicans and specifically Romney are apparently just out to kill lots of people by denying them certain health care options. But, this is simply keeping in line with the scare tactics of the Democrats in the hopes of garnering votes. Despite this "illustrious" group of female speakers, it is interesting to note that although they focused on reproductive rights, they said little about kitchen table economics. We did have Eva Longoria telling us that she did not need a tax cut. Of course, she could always direct her accountant not to take any of the tax breaks she is afforded so that she can then "pay her fair share."

There is good news and bad news for the GOP. The bad news is that the Democrats, ironically, did a better job on the foreign policy front than the Republicans. Despite the speech by Kerry that, incidentally, had some factual errors (Tina Fey playing the role of Palin said she could see Alaska from her house; Palin never said it) that are actually rather old, stale jokes now, trotting out dinosaurs like John McCain to make the Republican case for foreign policy is looking backwards, not forwards. Thankfully, Condi Rice refocused the discussion although she started talking about domestic issues like education reform. But, unlike the Democratic rants, Rice's speech was intelligent. The good news for the GOP is that foreign policy is not the major issue in this year's campaign, unlike 2004. All Romney needs to do in the debates is look competent as most people will vote based on economic issues. Also, it is suggested that he adopt an international populist stance and talk tough about our relations with China as that would be a winning foreign policy argument.

Politico stated that both parties played to their base. Quite frankly, this writer did not see that too much from the Republicans. Interestingly, it was the GOP keynote speaker, Chris Christie, who stressed bipartisanship. We did not hear that phrase very much from the Democrats as speakers like Pelosi, Longoria and Warren played more to the class warfare tactics evident from the Democratic side. And one Democratic base constituency we did not hear too much from was Al Gore and the environmentalists. In fact, where is Al Gore? Prior to the GOP convention, news outlets were reporting that the Republican platform had removed exceptions for rape and incest for abortion. This they claimed was a play for the social conservative faction. However, the abortion language in the 2012 platform was actually largely unchanged from the 2008 platform. However, removing references to God and Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is clearly a more glaring appeal to the Democratic base than anything the Republicans did.

It was also interesting to note that while Rahm Emanuel can sum up the Obama presidency as "Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive," we heard very little about TARP, the Obama stimulus and climate change. This is strange for a candidate who was going to cease the rise of the oceans four years ago and who saved the country from the brink of financial collapse. Of course, being accustomed to plagiarism, Biden then stole that line from Rahm Emanuel on the campaign trail. They also failed to mention that General Motors is hardly a healthy comoany and represents a $26 billion loss and counting to the taxpayers at this point and that most of their growth has been from sales in China. One guesses it can be called collective outsourcing of jobs at taxpayer expense which I argue is ten times worse than anything Bain Capital ever did.

As I mentioned earlier, I turned off Romney's speech and never watched Obama's speech. However, on some replays of the Obama speech, I did catch some of the yawns from the audience- and these are his people. Most news outlets said more people were talking about Clinton's and Biden's speech than they were about Obama's speech. Things must be bad when a person recognized and adored by the media as a great speaker elicits yawns and guffaws from the very adoring media. It did not help Democrats either as a brand when some delegates talked about "eliminating" certain Republicans or comparing them to Nazis. Off course, the media saw no "code words" in these statements because, after all, it is only that racist Tea Party that uses code words.

The bottom line is that neither candidate, quite frankly, deserves a bump from their convention performance. But, there was greater expectations for Obama and he fell flat. Everyone was saying that Romney needed to deliver the speech of his life. He didn't and it doesn't matter. Because both candidates performed to a draw with maybe a slight advantage for the Republicans, the status of this race will remain unchanged. Either the debates or actions and statements on the campaign trail will have a greater impact. If anything, the Democratic convention showed that Democrats are hypocrites with no vision of the future other than the status quo. Their ideas are stale and rooted in the past era of the New Deal and the Great Society. Republican ideals and ideas are more forward looking that keep the current social safety nets solvent until real, sustainable fundamental reforms can be enacted.

In the final analysis, the Democratic convention can best be met with a shrug of the shoulders and a "ho-hum" attitude. In effect, they wasted three days of valuable air time on television.

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A Clear Statement of Principles

by: Rob Kailey

Mon Aug 01, 2011 at 14:50:50 PM MST

After a pleasant weekend spent mostly away from the 'Tubes, I awoke this morning to much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the fact that the Congress may be close to passing a budget/deficit/debt resolution bill.  No one seems happy with it, and I'm not either, even though the specifics remain illusive.  Paul Krugman thinks it's a disaster.  Booman attempts to see the glass as half full.  A valid point of contention is the call for a "Super-Congress", 12 special folk who have the ability to make or break the nation's economic future .. to a point.  That's insidious and likely not very Constitutional.  An invalid point of contention is that Congress is enacting the wrong policy, the point about which Krugman is very shrill.  I agree that this austerity push is the wrong direction for economic policy, but that isn't the claim being made.  The claim at hand is that these people don't have the authority to do this contrary to the people's needs and the people's will.  Yes, they really do because ~we~ gave it to them when ~we~ elected them.  Just ask the voters in Wisconsin.  Sometimes politicians lie.  Okay, most of the time, politicians lie.  It's often helpful to remember political reality is what it is, and saying you want to do something you fail to do is not always a lie.  That's because, quite simply, others carrying the authority ~we~ gave them might just disagree.

As of this writing, the Senate will pass this deficit reduction 'compromise'.  Nate Silver is handicapping that the House won't.  I'm not going to bother linking to Twitter because that could all change in the next hour.  But what is, or at least should be, clear is that Congress is pursuing this effort.  That is as it should be.  Not the result, of course, but the effort certainly.  What has struck me strongly through this whole debate is the importance given to one man, truly desperately, by both the right and the left.  This is all about President Obama.  We have been lied to, duped, by a meme far beyond the idea policy should be what we want it to be.  We have been duped into thinking that we have a unitary executive.  I can't count the number of times I have written that the President is the executor of the will of Congress, and that Congress is the representative body of the American people.

All sorts of progressive folk this past two days are writing that they will never again vote for Barack Obama.  I'm not disagreeing with them.  I just think they're following a path set by the right that will damage the country far more than accepting the austerity thematics/dramatics.  These folk are buying into the idea that we have a unitary executive.  They have accepted what the right has worshiped as gospel for at least 30 years.  They think we have a king we can vote for.  We don't.  In fact, we have a populace that increasingly accepts that we don't have a role in governance, and we elect 'leaders' who have no principles by which to govern.  We blame the President for not being what he/she was never meant to be.

Alex Knapp makes really great points:

Any prioritization scheme amounts to the Treasury making de facto appropriations decisions.

   I think this is worrisome. But on the other hand, it goes to a trend in our politics that has been escalating since the 1960s. More and more, Congress has been willing to simply forego its role in making policy to the President. This trend has only been highlighted during the Obama Administration, because Obama, more than any President in recent memory, has been deferential to Congress' role as policymaker. We saw that in the Health Care Bill and Stimulus Packages, and we're seeing it now in the debt ceiling fiasco. The result is an almost desperate flailing by Congress to get the President to do something. That's a bad thing for Constitutional governance.


   Third and finally, however, there's a lot of rhetoric in conservative circles about fidelity to the Constitution. Well, it's clear who's supposed to originate budget and revenue related policy: Congress. Not the President. Congress. All the Constitution allows is for the President to veto budget laws. Yes, we've established a tradition of the President putting forth policy, but it's just that - a tradition. And not a healthy one.

That's the point that keeps getting missed with the frustration, desperation and agitation over this debt ceiling fiasco.  It isn't Obama's job to fix this problem.  It wasn't his job to fix health care, or DADT or DOMA.  It isn't the job of the President to "fix" Congress.  It's ours.  And holy crap have we dropped the ball.  'Fixing' Congress should be the clear principle we follow.  After all, it's stated very clearly in the Constitution that that's our job, our goal and our agreement by which we will live with ourselves in this country.

President Obama has already said that this debate may be the one that 'gets him fired' next year.  If the 'Tubes are to be believed, it will be.  To me, that's fine.  He's already done more for the effort of forcing Congress to represent in 3 years than any President I remember in the last 30.  He's tried to get Congress to do it's job.  We progressives love to talk about how we want to hold politicians "accountable".  Obama has actually attempted to do that.  I respect that effort.  It won't make me vote for him; I have other reasons to do that.  But his efforts speak clearly to my principles, chief among them supporting the rule of law as defined by the Constitution.  I don't like this budget "compromise", which is more of a capitulation.  But if we want different, perhaps we'd be better served by getting the Tea Party and corporate Republicans out of our governance.

I've no interest in having the same tired arguments about how corporations force every hand in the voting booth save our special digits, when we bother to bring them.  There is no point to discussing how big money purchases our politicians.  If all that caterwaul is universally true, then there isn't a damned thing we can do anyway, and all this smack talk about how Obama is dead to our principled selves is just ego blather.  Our politicians will do what we want when ~we~ remember who they serve and why.  They take an oath to serve the Constitution.  It's hard for them to remember that, I'm certain, when the electorate forgets that we implicitly serve the Constitution as well, as it serves us.  A unitary executive doesn't serve anyone, and there is strictly no principled point to demanding that it will.  That's where the Republican/Tea Party fails the principles of the Constitution.  If the American people didn't agree with them, the Overton Window wouldn't be drifting to the right.  I wonder why many on the left are so willing to follow those lemmings off that cliff.

I haven't any doubt that there will be those who read this and say to themselves "He's just a Demorat/Obamabot defending President Betrayer".  Hardly.  Turner, over at 4 &20, sarcastically asked:

   Would President Bachmann please you?

My answer:  Yes, IF I could have a Congress that actually represented the will of the people, and was actually capable of accomplishing anything.

(X-posted at A Chicken Is Not Pillage)

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Nancy Pelosi Is My Goddess!

by: Rob Kailey

Fri Apr 15, 2011 at 15:09:27 PM MST

Teapublicants expected more victimization, those sad sad puppies.  Nancy spanked their nose with their own stupid paper:

The vote was on the Republican Study Committee's alternative budget -- a radical plan that annihilates the social contract in America by putting the GOP budget on steroids. Deeper tax cuts for the wealthy, more severe entitlement rollbacks.

Normally something like that would fail by a large bipartisan margin in either the House or the Senate. Conservative Republicans would vote for it, but it would be defeated by a coalition of Democrats and more moderate Republicans.

As Dems flipped to present, Republicans realized that a majority of their members had indeed gone on the record in support of the RSC plan -- and if the vote closed, it would pass. That would be a slap in the face to Ryan, and a politically toxic outcome for the Republican party.

So they started flipping their votes from "yes" to "no."

In the end, the plan went down by a small margin, 119-136. A full 172 Democrats voted "present."

I think Nancy owes Boner some ulcer meds.

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Bah!! Back to the Blog and fighting for our rights.

by: Doug Coffin

Fri Feb 18, 2011 at 22:42:22 PM MST

The battle is joined. Witness Madison, Wisconsin and soon Ohio. Public employee unions are the last bastion of unions in America. Currently, about 8% of private sector workers belong to unions while more than 1/3 of public employees still belong to unions. Conservative America and their corporocrat supporters are out to change that, for the worse.

As result of their lost rights to organize and bargain collectively, private sector employees have seen dwindling wages, pensions and health care benefits while their workweek increases to about 48 hours per week. Public employees, because they're still organized, still have some reasonable benefits left. The coporatocracy and their minions, like Governor Walker (R-WI) are out to drive a wedge between public and private employees and then drill a stake through the last vestige of those who stand for employee rights in America.

What is at stake? Historically, organized labor is responsible for:
- The forty hour work-week.
- Abolition of child labor.
- Paid vacations.
- The minimum wage.
- Women's and civil rights/ anti-discrimination.
- Worker's compensation.
...and much more. Why was Martin Luther King in Memphis, TN in 1968? He was supporting sanitation workers who were on strike when when a right-wing extremist shot him to death. He was standing up for worker's rights and the right to collective bargaining. The very rights that Gov. Walker is trying to take away. Bottom line: Civil rights, labor rights and education are joined at the hip. Martin knew that fundamental truth, and you should too.

If the corporatocracy has their way, you will lose those rights forever. They will ban the right for workers to organize and bargain collectively with their employer for decent wages and working conditions. Discrimination, poor wages, longer work weeks, vacations, health care benefits and more are all at hand when the right to organize disappears.

Who is the corporatocracy? They are the CEOs and Wall Street financiers who are reaping billions in profits while denying the little people their few. They are the billionaires who buy off our politicians so that hey can get tax cuts, and then convince the ignorant that government deficits result from too much spending. They insist that we have to cut social security, medicaid, WIC and other social support programs to pay for the tax cuts. That's exactly what's happening in WI and in WDC. The deficit comes not from too much spending, but from too many tax cuts for the corporatocracy.

Example: Bill Gates is the hidden face of the corporatocracy. His Gates Foundation funds the
National Center for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) that masquerades as pro-education. But they are partners with the extreme union-busting Center for Union Facts with their "Labor Pains" web site. They are hot to abolish teachers unions, and if they nail the other public employee unions along the way, so be it.

Bottom line: The farther we go down the path to Kafka's Amerika the more we will pay in blood to reverse directions.

We'll be in Helena on Monday (Feb 21st) to fight for our rights. We hope to see you there.


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America vs America: Who wins?

by: Doug Coffin

Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 13:08:20 PM MST

On this first Sunday of 2011, we can see the battles of 2011 shaping up. The Sunday papers are full of alarmist articles that light reader's hair on fire with dire projections/predictions and editorials that ponder solutions. Much of the focus is all about government, the proper role, cost and efficiencies thereof and how those can be melded into a return to prosperity. These are not new problems or new arguments. They portray Americans as pitted against one another, and that is the reality. The real question is: How do we get a collective "win" out of this confrontation?

What we're really seeing is an animalistic, epic battle for resources that all societies face when scarcity comes, and come it will in cyclical economies. A NY Times front page story http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01... is prototypical in what we should expect to see in 2011. It pits the "public employee" against the "working American" and ponders the resolution.

The Garden State (NJ) is accurately portrayed as the most severe example of the problems facing state governments across the country. The NYT article is well written, but it is written for the business reader and published in the Business section which begs a question. Does any newspaper have a "Labor" section? Naturally, the unions don't come off well in the story, nor do public employees or teachers. The reader's comments smoke the author out pretty well on these items.

The lead NYT editorial then discusses the unfelt economic recovery and how cuts on the state and local level will mitigate any real economic growth and/or reduction in unemlpoyment in 2011. True, bad news for Obama and bad news for America.

Montana's Lee newspapers are running a parallel piece by Charles Johnson that frames the debate in the upcoming legislature.  The Helena Independent posted op-eds by MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver and GOP State Senator Ryan Zinke, both very decent people with the best interest of Montanans at heart. Those op-eds, while not diemetrically opposed, do represent different interests. "Smaller government" with a "structurally balanced budget" i.e. a much smaller budget across the board, cannot be consistent with the perceived necessary provision of government services to sustain our health, welfare and economy in the 21st century. Something has to give. So Montana is, indeed, a microcosm of the nation. Published salutes to Jim Peterson and Mike Milburn are also prominent in today's papers along with editorials hoping for collective, sound solutions. Wouldn't we all love that; optimism abounds at the beginning of the legislative session.

In framing the America vs America conflict, let's first consider the "public employee", painted as the poster-child of big-bad government by business and anti-labor interests. The fact is, as pointed out by Feaver and many in the the NY Times reader's comments, that most public employees are hard working middle class Americans. They live right next door, they pay the same taxes and have the same real-life problems as private sector employees. The agenda and rhetoric of anti-government, anti-labor conservative corporocrats provides the proof: Public employees are unionized by necessity as a means to defend themselves and protect their interests. From my "professional left" (and proud of it) perspective, the right to organize as a workforce is fundamental, and public employees are no exception. Of course, my corporocrat counterparts would disagree.

Now let's consider the private sector employee. Concomitant with their loss of labor-organization and collective representation, they have suffered declining wages and benefits for the last thirty years. This is largely the upshot of Reagan's 1980's new conservatism where the CEO is king, stock prices are THE barometer for success in business, and employees are chattel. The losses for defenseless private sector employees, as compared to the unionized public sector, have set the stage for the current middle class cannibalism that is a large part of America vs America.

Reagan's policies gutted labor law enforcement in favor of the Gilded Age ideology, but the anti-labor public relations victory from his bully pulpit did much more to lower the status of unions in the public eye. Unlike public employees, private sector employees largely lost the right to organize and collectively represent their interests. Make no mistake, poor leadership and corruption in organized labor have played right into the conservative game plan all along. But I would submit that pendulum is starting to swing back as Americans recognize the necessity for collective representation in the workplace and modern union leadership is vastly improved over the Hoffaesque versions of the past. The major challenge for modern labor leaders is to avoid the past affliction of promoting their union over the necessity of representing the best interests of their member-employees. Political bargains made by union leaders are often too compromising on that front.

So, the sectorized split of the American middle class among public and private sector employees, or unionized versus non-union employees, is a large part of today's America vs America battle. The other main component is provided by income disparity. Reagan and now Obama both make no apology for unfettered attainment of wealth, be it legitimate or otherwise. Witness the latest financial crash and TARP bailout. There is no doubt that the losses of the middle class have directly translated into gains for Reagan billionaires. This Ayn Rand ideology most certainly proves true in the New Gilded Age transfer of wealth between classes. So it should be according to our new conservatives and corporocrats.

Therein lies the class warfare, income disparity version of America vs Amercia. It recently played out in the federal lame duck session whereby conservatives and Obama cleverly linked unemployment benefits to tax cuts for the wealthy. That link had no legitimacy except to provide a false debate of one versus the other. New-Gilted-Age corporocrats, Republican and Democratic alike, got their uppper-income tax breaks while the perception of Obama's protecting the poor and unemployed played to gullible liberals (....er...excuse me "progressives").

The next act in that play comes this spring where "cutting the deficit" means open season on government benefits for poor and middle class Americans. Look for Obama and congressional leaders repeat the strategy of the lame duck session, were "compromise" nets out to more for the business class at the expense of the populace. And so the beat of modern corporatocracy goes on, further dividing America by income and class.

The bottom line here is that Americans cannot expect a government that is overwhelmingly influenced by the business class to fairly represent their interests as employees. They simply have to do that themselves. The first step is to deny any legitimacy to the notion that public employees are substantially different than those in private sector. Indeed, the private sector workforce needs to emulate the public sector by both defending and utilizing their right to organize and provide collective representation.

Moreover, I would submit that, done correctly, an organized workforce is a net positive for business and economic growth. Striking a proper balance of power in the workplace provides accountability for management, shared goals and ownership and ultimately a fairer means to spread the resulting economic benefits between economic strata. Once again the overriding principle applies that only education-training and organized collective representation in the workplace can protect wages and income for employees.

However, too narrow a focus on Montana and even the United States leads us to forget that we live in a global economy. The competing interests are not limited to our shores vis the flat, smaller world as the niche for resource competition. Global oil consumption is the best example. American consumption has actually declined in the last two years, but our domestic prices are rising because emerging nation (China and India) consumption has risen. America vs America does not serve us well if we're to compete in the global arena.

Ultimately the 21st century economy with its New Gilted Age onset represents our greatest challenge. America's test is to manage our intranational competition so that we can prevail in the international arena. That starts to play out in our 2011 legislature beginning this week. Will something emerge from the postulates of Zinke and Feaver that will ultimately prevail over the Dave Lewis agenda? Are the promises of the GOP leadership, namely Sen. Peterson and Rep. Milburn, valid in constructively working with Governor Schweitzer and even the minority Democrats? If so then we might expect that the session will result in sound, collective solutions from the 2011 session.  

Results on the national level are a quantum step up from Montana. Will the populist Obama that we elected prevail over Obama the corporocrat who is now governing? Will sound, collective decisions from the federal government allow America to regain a balance between labor and management and between economic strata, that is so critical to the future of our nation? Conventional wisdom states that a stable, prosperous middle class is the base alloy of our democracy. Achieving that economic goal intranationally is the only means to competing internationally in both economic and social terms. Finding the line between healthy internal debate and a disparate ravaging for resources between sectors seems difficult.  

Those questions, on the local, national and international levels define 2011 and the ongoing 21st century. The competition for resources tests our individual and collective ability to reason verus our animal nature to compete. Perhaps the first federalist paper states it best: "Whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind."

The author of that paper, Alexander Hamilton, and the other founding fathers saw that as specific to their era. Realistically, our very human nature dictates that we must face that test regularly, and 2011 is no exception.

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Montana State Budget Battle Shapes up

by: Doug Coffin

Thu Dec 09, 2010 at 06:12:47 AM MST

The upcoming budget battle for the state legislature has taken shape. The Montana Organizing Project sponsored a forum yesterday in the Missoula Public Library. Tara Veazey from the Montana Budget and Policy Center laid it out in stark terms. Basically, there is a $700 million dollar difference between what the Governor proposed and the Republican legislature plans to dispose. That is $700 million out of a $4 billion dollar budget for the biennium, or about 18% of the budget. The Gov proposes $3.94 billion, about $200 million over present expenditures and commitments. The GOP is proposing to start at 5% below the previous budget $3.28 billion. Those are huge differences, the battles will be tough and the stakes are high.

For most state agencies the Governor's budget is the high water mark. It's hard to imagine that the GOP will actually add much to any of the Gov's proposed numbers. They have about $200 million to work with to stay under the $3.58 billion legislative fiscal divisions revenue estimate, but there is also $240 million remaining from the previous fund balance. Look for the GOP to cut taxes with the business equipment tax at the top of the list. No, they won't find other revenue to make that up, instead they'll look to cut spending.

The Gov estimates $3.6 of revenue for the biennium.  The Gov's budget is also woven together, so pull one thread and the whole thing comes apart. That thread is likely education funding or the transfer of $100 million from current state funds/reserves into the general fund.

Budget battles not withstanding the MOP forum was straight on in demonstrating that the central function of government is not to manage a budget. Government is supposed to provide services and as David Ewer, the Gov's Budget Director likes to say "Government medicates, educates and incarcerates". So most of he state budget goes to medicaid, CHIP, K-12 education, Higher ed, and prisons. Under the GOP plan, when we factor in tax cuts, state government will be providing a lot less in terms of services.

That means college students will be paying higher tuition, localities will have to raise property taxes to fund our schools and maintain their services, doctors and hospitals will have to charge more and cut services. The GOP would argue that cutting government services creates more jobs and stimulates the economy. Democrats argue that education is the "speartip" of the 21st century economy and that health care is a right, not a privilege. Of course, being a lefty and an educator I'm coming down with the latter. However, a large majority of conservative Montana voters came down with the former. The stakes are huge, because if those voters and the GOP are wrong, Montanans will suffer the consequences for decades.    

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UM Economics Expert: A Political Dead End?

by: Matthew Koehler

Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 13:58:14 PM MST

(This is definitely worth a gander. - promoted by Rob Kailey)

This commentary from Dr. Thomas Michael Power, Research Professor and former Chair of the Economics Department at the University of Montana, was on Montana Public Radio earlier in the week. - mk

A Political Dead End?
By Dr. Thomas Michael Power

I wonder sometimes what the rest of the world thinks about the volatility of American politics. Four years, as well as two years ago, President Bush and his Republican allies had incredibly low approval ratings and Americans sent more Democrats to Congress, statehouses, and legislatures, and, ultimately, a Democrat to the White House. Republicans were repudiated. Commentators wondered if the Republican Party had a future as it began fighting within itself over the source of voter disaffection.

Just two years later voters have returned a majority of Republicans to the House of Representatives as well as to many state legislatures and statehouses. It certainly might cross some people's minds that we just cannot make up our minds or that we are a bit crazy, politically speaking.

But interestingly, polls of those independents who voted Republican in last week's election indicate that support for Republicans and their core policies remains low. Voters were voicing dissatisfaction with the continuing pain and destruction associated with the Great Recession and the failure of those in power to effectively do something about it. So incumbents were turned out of office and Democrats, being in the majority, made up many of those incumbents.

This result is not likely to be very productive for the American people and economy nor bring any "change" to Washington DC. The surging Republicans did not receive a mandate to pursue their more extreme agenda items such as dismantling Social Security and Medicare, weakening environmental regulation, turning Wall Street loose again to inflate another destructive bubble, or getting the government more involved in trying to dictate the most intimate aspects of our personal lives.

Nor can the Republicans deliver on their proposals to cut the federal deficit. They want to keep all of the Bush tax cuts in place and continue to aggressively prosecute the two wars that Bush started. Those were the sources of the Bush deficits even before the Great Recession hit. It is very unclear what it is the Republican will set out to cut in order to trim the deficit: Expenditures on highways and other vital infrastructure? Support for the military? Expenditures on helping us educate our kids? Support for the millions of unemployed? Food Stamps for families? Medical care for low income families? It seems unlikely that the aggressive pursuit of any of these will improve the Republicans' standing with the majority of American voters.

The Republican congressional leadership seems to recognize the fact that there is little they can do about the issues that so many Americans are worried about: namely jobs and the federal deficit.

Speaking candidly before their handlers told them to tone it down, that leadership made clear that their objective over the next two years is not to fix any of the nation's economic problems but, rather, to embarrass the President and Democrats in Congress so that Republicans can claim the Whitehouse and both Houses of Congress in the 2012 elections. That is, the next two years will be used for unrelenting partisan attacks that represent an early opening of the 2012 presidential election campaign.
That will produce nothing but more paralysis, gridlock, and negative partisan bickering. It certainly does not represent responsible governing, but it is, unfortunately, all that we are likely to get.

Despite the official proclamation that the recession ended early this year and the economy is now growing, we certainly are not out of the economic woods yet. There are more jobs losses coming in state and local government as stimulus money runs out and state and local budgets have to be balanced. The foreclosure avalanche is still growing and is likely to spread from residential homes to commercial real estate. Even those who do not risk losing their homes have seen the value of their assets, the most important of which for most people is their home, decline drastically. This makes them substantially poorer than they were two years ago and is likely to suppress household spending for some time to come. The ongoing housing mortgage crisis will also keep the construction industry from bouncing back. The stagnation and high unemployment rates will continue.

That will force deficits higher. As an International Monetary Fund report recently pointed out, most of the increases in government deficits here in the US as well as in other developed countries are tied to declines in tax revenues due to workers earning less, household buy less, and firms producing less. The deficits are not due to the explosive growth in new discretionary spending that can be quickly cut. If we cannot get households buying again and firms hiring so that that can produce more to meet the rising demand, we are not going to do anything significant about either jobs or the deficit.

That is why the bumper sticker political dialogue we are having about "cutting the deficit" by "shrinking government" or magically stimulating businesses to create more jobs to produce things no is in a position to buy is just so much hot air that will get us no where.

If you thought this last political campaign was pointlessly nasty and unproductive, just watch the next two years!

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

It's the system, stupid!

by: Jay Stevens

Sun Oct 24, 2010 at 18:37:25 PM MST

Matt wrote about Ryan Lizza's piece on the failure of climate-change legislation in the Senate, and found in it reason to "abolish the rules" of the Senate, which are "making our nation ungovernable." You probably know filibuster reform had me at "hello," so I put the article on the back burner, only slogging through it today.

Spoiler alert! I'm going to give away the ending, so if you want to be surprised, stop reading now!

The bill failed because of a combination of partisan Republicans, commercial interests' control of Congress, and fearful Democrats with a too-steady eye on polling numbers:

In September, I asked Al Gore why he thought climate legislation had failed. He cited several reasons, including Republican partisanship, which had prevented moderates from becoming part of the coalition in favor of the bill. The Great Recession made the effort even more difficult, he added. "The forces wedded to the old patterns still have enough influence that they were able to use the fear of the economic downturn as a way of slowing the progress toward this big transition that we have to make."

..."The influence of special interests is now at an extremely unhealthy level," Gore said. "And it's to the point where it's virtually impossible for participants in the current political system to enact any significant change without first seeking and gaining permission from the largest commercial interests who are most affected by the proposed change"....

As the Senate debate expired this summer, a longtime environmental lobbyist told me that he believed the "real tragedy" surrounding the issue was that Obama understood it profoundly. "I believe Barack Obama understands that fifty years from now no one's going to know about health care," the lobbyist said. "Economic historians will know that we had a recession at this time. Everybody is going to be thinking about whether Barack Obama was the James Buchanan of climate change."

Quite the shocker, eh? Okay, maybe not. But certainly the failure of climate change legislation is the icing on the cake of the systematic failure of government, finance, and media. Sure, in DC-land, it was collateral damage in its strange Kabuki theater, but climate change is the biggest crisis we've ever faced, our response to it here and now likely determining whether our planet will be habitable for humans in the next generation or so. (Sorry, kids. A bunch of Senators didn't like the idea of hurting coal industry short-term profit.)

There's More... :: (7 Comments, 667 words in story)

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...

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Searching for a third option

by: Jay Stevens

Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:09:00 AM MST

I have no doubt that what Ochenski writes this week is correct:

The air has gone out of the Democrats' balloon, not in a burst, but in a series of tiny, endless leaks. Now, we are treated to the same choice we've had in the past-voting for the lesser of two evils this November. So take your pick; it's either the wicked corporate-puppet Republicans or the supposedly slightly less wicked, corporate-puppet Democrats. The White House, too late, sees the writing on the wall. Unfortunately, it's in their own hand.

Or, as Greg Sargent put it in a beautiful riposte to the usual insider complaining about blogger and activist "lamentations...unhinged from historical context or contemporary political realities," "the White House has remained captive to a Beltway culture that fetishizes bipartisanship and has failed to seize this historical moment's potential to dramatically expand the boundaries of what's politically possible...."

There are political realities - like the Senate filibuster, Ben Nelson, and deep-pocketed lobbyists - and, given the context, the Obama administration has achieved much, from a DC perspective. Passing a health-care reform bill was nearly politically impossible - but then we ended up with a deeply flawed bill that doesn't address what's wrong with health care. Finance reform was difficult in the face of high-finance lobbying, but the bill only creates new regulations and a new regulatory agency, which will no doubt be under-funded and under-staffed. That is, no real reform happened.

These "victories" preserve institutions that shouldn't be preserved.

Good bye base of the Democratic party. The probable story of the 2010 midterms won't be the "Republican resurgence," although that will be the media line, it'll be Democratic indifference. We already saw that in the Montana primary, in Missoula county's state-low and anemic voter turnout numbers.

But retreat into personal change isn't the answer. Derrick Jensen:

At this point, it should be pretty easy to recognize that every action involving the industrial economy is destructive (and we shouldn't pretend that solar photovoltaics, for example, exempt us from this: they still require mining and transportation infrastructures at every point in the production processes; the same can be said for every other so-called green technology). So if we choose option one-if we avidly participate in the industrial economy-we may in the short term think we win because we may accumulate wealth, the marker of "success" in this culture. But we lose, because in doing so we give up our empathy, our animal humanity. And we really lose because industrial civilization is killing the planet, which means everyone loses. If we choose the "alternative" option of living more simply, thus causing less harm, but still not stopping the industrial economy from killing the planet, we may in the short term think we win because we get to feel pure, and we didn't even have to give up all of our empathy (just enough to justify not stopping the horrors), but once again we really lose because industrial civilization is still killing the planet, which means everyone still loses.

With corporate industry being preserved at all costs by the people we put in power to combat that power, and individual action meaningless as social change, Jensen mulls another option:

The third option, acting decisively to stop the industrial economy, is very scary for a number of reasons, including but not restricted to the fact that we'd lose some of the luxuries (like electricity) to which we've grown accustomed, and the fact that those in power might try to kill us if we seriously impede their ability to exploit the world-none of which alters the fact that it's a better option than a dead planet. Any option is a better option than a dead planet.

The question is, how to go about the third option? Peter Shelton in this week's Indy gravitates towards Earth First!: "When the news spread last year about Tim DeChristopher's impromptu act of civil disobedience in Utah, I thought: Somebody is finally reviving the lost art of environmental monkey-wrenching."

Only those tactics didn't work before, and the media and industry has long since learned how to deal with acts of prankish civil disobedience. It's as good as doing nothing. Worse. This stuff got us Nixon and Reagan and the Bushes. Plus this kind of action is devoid of a coherent means to a goal and devoid of empathy or understanding. "Hope stands in the way of action," said a modern monkey-wrencher; "I don't like the human race," says another, described as expressing a "hard-earned misanthropy." Both attitudes show a fundamental ignorance of how desperate working-class families in rural areas are for work, usually provided by the extraction industry. There's a problem here, but targeting the working stiffs trying to pay the mortgage on the double-wide isn't the answer. So, yeah, count me out.

Other solutions seem equally fruitless. A third party? In winner-take-all elections? Recipe for marginalization and conservative radicalism. "Revolution" is naïve and violent and often produces results worse than the original problems, and chances are the "people" won't be with you.

Personally, I like the idea of finding and electing better people. I think one of the reasons we're stuck with the current political situation, is that the leftward shift of the electorate happened too quickly. There are still too many old-guard politicos in office, with seniority and entrenched insider notions about institutions and governing.

Discuss. What should we do? What should be our methods and goals and expectations?

I know some of you will take this opportunity to rant and rail against this blog, against the state's Democratic delegation, against the president, and against the efforts of honest people. Still, I challenge you: speak positively. What's the best way to turn things around?

Discuss :: (47 Comments)

Bipartisan Curious: Legalize Queer

by: Matt Singer

Fri Jul 09, 2010 at 11:04:59 AM MST

Gregory Smith is fed up with the Republicans and their decision to call for criminalizing gay. But he also asks a pretty good question -- where are Montana Democrats on this?

The answer can fall pretty clearly into two different categories:

  1. The Democratic Party platform this year endorsed non-discrimination legislation similar to what passed in Missoula this spring. Going beyond just legalizing gay and all the way into legalizing queer, the platforms' contrast couldn't be starker.
  2. The Democratic Party also clearly isn't talking about this issue.
To be frank, I don't really understand #2 here. Non-discrimination and civil unions have majority support in Montana. I can't imagine that the Republican Party plank here has support among anything near a significant number of Montanans. Just check out a few reactions from some actual Montana Republicans who condemn the plank as "bigotry pure and simple" and "short-sighted, hypocritical, mean-spirited, asinine activism." Those aren't liberals parading as Republicans. They're the words of an active central committee member and from a former Rehberg staffer -- pretty decent bonafides.

So where's the response from our Democratic elected officials calling this out in language at least as strong as these Republican grasstops? It'd be nice to see.

Discuss :: (9 Comments)

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they are out to get you

by: Jay Stevens

Thu Jul 08, 2010 at 10:13:30 AM MST

There's been plenty of talk about LiTW's new policy on featured writers, some of it constructive, some of it...well...a tad paranoid. And the accusations that have been flung about our loyalties in the wake of the discussion on health care, for example, have been pretty hilarious.

Of course, the majority of criticism against Matt specifically have come from a vocal minority with their own agendas and apparent keen insight into the hearts and minds of people they've never met, and normally I wouldn't bother responding, but during the discussion in the comments, I remembered this quote from the Missoula Independent profile on Singer from way back in 2007:

Not everyone in progressive politics feels comfortable with Singer's dual role as progressive political organizer and left wing blogger. Tester spokesman Matt McKenna says it's hard to know how to deal with the likes of Singer, who wears many-and very different-hats from time to time.

"Left leaning bloggers in Montana are trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up," McKenna says. "Do they want to be journalists, activist, insiders, strategists, or critics? You can't be all of those things. Yet that's what a lot of these guys are trying to do."

McKenna says it can be frustrating dealing with Singer, who at times supports Tester publicly, at times criticizes Tester and other Democrats, and at times attempts to reach out as CEO of Forward Montana for support.

I guarantee you that's a common, unspoken sentiment among many political insiders who are still uneasy with blogs, bloggers, and people like Matt.

It's probably worth reminding everyone, but this is a blog, and meant to be the personal political opinions and policy ideas of its writers. Sometimes our opinions change. Sometimes our interest and enthusiasm about different policies or politicians change. Sometimes our opinions don't match yours.

Discuss :: (24 Comments)

Doing the right thing unexpectedly trumps politics

by: Montana Cowgirl

Wed Jun 23, 2010 at 17:19:36 PM MST

I don't know about you all, but it seems to me like it was about time Montanans got one of those faith-restoring moments when doing the right thing unexpectedly trumps politics and common sense actually prevails.

Last month you read here that Senator Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) had been considering pushing the ball forward on the international effort to save the Flathead and Glacier National Park from degredation created by proposed coal mining operations in Canada.

The word on the street up in the Whitefish, where this issue looms extremely large, is that Zinke will introduce a bond measure in the state legislature to accomplish this.  At the bottom of all of this is the filth and effluent and goo that would run off into the river and into the Montana Flathead valley if the Canadian mining were to go forward.  Max has been talking about it for 30 years but has never actually done anything about it. Tester doesn't seem much engaged at all.

Schweitzer got an MOU signed, but the progress stopped there because of the lack of a federal appropriation.

The Flathead Beacon is now reporting that there may be hope for moving forward with what it calls "the historic agreement banning natural resource development along the North Fork Flathead River, signed by Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell" in spite of previously deadlines and current obstacles.

In a May 26 posting, the blog Left in the West reported on a rumor that Whitefish Republican state Sen. Ryan Zinke was planning to introduce a bond measure in the next Legislature to compensate the B.C. mining firms for their sunk costs if an agreement had not been reached on the payment by then. Reached last week, Zinke said he hasn't been involved in any negotiations and would need to learn more about the issue, but that he would contact Schweitzer to discuss such a measure if it is still necessary next year.

"I haven't talked to the governor's office on options, but it's not out of the realm of possibilities and I'd certainly consider it," Zinke said. "If we can't figure something out, then I would work with the governor to move on something."

Kudos to Sen. Zinke for giving a damn about his district and his willingness to work with the Governor to come up with a solution even though they aren't of the same political party.  Of course it's a smart political move on his part too, given that his name is in the mix for GOP gubernatorial candidate in 2012, as Jay notes below.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Gernant More Than Doubles McDonald's Fundraising in Most Recent FEC Filings

by: jhwygirl

Sat May 29, 2010 at 15:46:37 PM MST

( - promoted by Jay Stevens)

While both Tyler Gernant and Dennis McDonald are airing statewide commercials, Gernant's campaign sure looks healthier with a 2-1 ratio of cash-on-hand in the final days of the campaign.

In the last reporting period, which closed May 19th, Gernant raised $21,551.28 compared to McDonald's $10,455.77.

McDonald's figure doesn't include the $18,000 he loaned himself in just this last reporting period - this brings his total loans to his campaign to $28,835.00.

Gernant did not loan his campaign any money this last reporting period - but he has loaned himself a total of $1,800 since the beginning of his FEC reporting.

McDonald has taken a total of $2,200 in PAC contributions to Gernant's $100.  But neither compares to Dennis Rehberg's total of $252,701.00, which includes $15,500.00 this reporting period (an extra $1,000 coming in May 27th from the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Assn PAC of Fredrick, MD).

A fine final reporting period for Tyler Gernant leading up to the Jume 8th primary - and on the heals of a very successful last reporting quarter, as I noted in this post (from 4&20), titled Real Analysis of the Gernant/McDonald Democratic Primary $.

Momentum means a lot - and sadly, it does and will take money to take unseat Dennis Rehberg.  With Gernant outraising his opponents the last two reporting periods, and with more cash on hand, Gernant is showing the organization and the steam needed to win Montana's lone congressional seat for the Democrats.

Discuss :: (19 Comments)

Gernant Makes Coal a Primary Issue Against McDonald

by: Matt Singer

Thu May 06, 2010 at 10:48:59 AM MST

Interesting press release just hit my inbox from the Gernant campaign, hitting McDonald hard on his support for developing Otter Creek (going so far as to call it "Palinesque"):
At a recent candidate forum at the University of Montana, McDonald said unequivocally that he supports coal mining in Montana's Otter Creek area, stating "I have been very much in favor of developing all of our resources; coal should be a big part of it." Gernant responded, "I thought I was in a Democratic primary, but it sounds like I'm running against Sarah Palin.  McDonald is using the same rhetoric to describe his energy policy that Sarah Palin used to describe her backward-thinking ideas for America's energy future."
Otter Creek is at the forefront of a lot of folks' minds. And as the last vote on the state land board indicated, the Democratic Party is very much divided on the question.
Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Fundraising Analysis of the 2010 Democratic Congressional Primary Race

by: Montana Cowgirl

Sat Apr 24, 2010 at 17:46:10 PM MST

If you believe that people who are from Montana, who have a real interest in this state and have actually set foot on Montana soil should be influencing the outcome of our elections, you'll be interested in this.

Here are the most recent Democratic congressional candidate fundraising totals based on the FEC reports as of April 24, 2010:

Dennis McDonald (D) $139,261
Tyler Gernant (D)  $103,014
Sam Rankin (D)  $8,639
Melinda Gopher (D) $ 0

Of the candidates, the top recipient of in-state contributions was Dennis McDonald, while the top recipient of out-of-state cash was Tyler Gernant, according to Open Secrets.

They report that McDonald raised twice as much in-state money as Gernant. That's more money from actual constituents who will be represented by the winner of this contest, people who care the most about its outcome.

It says something that McDonald has more money, but where the money comes from also speaks volumes.  

Discuss :: (20 Comments)

40 Days Until Sestak-Specter and Halter-Lincoln

by: Senate Guru

Thu Apr 08, 2010 at 11:05:27 AM MST

{First, a cheap plug for my blog Senate Guru.}

40 days from today - on May 18 - we will see two HUGE primaries for U.S. Senate.  Even though these races aren't in Montana, they impact Democrats across the country and, well, the entire country as a whole.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak will try to upset Republican-for-decades Arlen Specter.

In Arkansas, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter will try to upset corporate lackey Blanche Lincoln.

These two races are tremendously important to defining who and what the Democratic Party is and what we will be fighting for.

If you can volunteer for these candidates (or encourage friends and family in Pennsylvania and Arkansas to do so), that would be amazing.

Of course, if you can help with a contribution to either or both via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page as soon as possible, it will make a big impact.

Expand the Map! ActBlue page
Joe Sestak

Facebook, Twitter

Volunteer Page
Bill Halter

Facebook, Twitter

Volunteer Page
Expand the Map! ActBlue page

Polling shows that both Specter and Lincoln are at risk of - if not likely to - hand these Senate seats over to far-right-wing Republicans. (And, even if these two retain the seats, that's not much better on many key issues.)

Congressman Sestak and Lieutenant Governor Halter winning these primaries are critical to keeping these seats in truly Democratic hands. Your support can help make that happen!  Please hop over to the Expand the Map! ActBlue page right away to make a contribution - an investment in the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party to pull out an old expression - and show your support.

Thanks SO much for any support you can provide. 40 Days.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Nobody loves a centrist

by: Jay Stevens

Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 06:59:54 AM MST

Traditional media types love the notion of a "centrist," whatever that is.

Take Evan Bayh's sudden gut shot to the Democratic party and president Obama. Read Charles Lane's analysis:

Millions of Americans long to tell their bosses "take this job and shove it." Hardly any have the power and money to do so, especially in these recessionary times. Sen. Evan Bayh (D) of Indiana, however, is the exception. His stunning retirement from the Senate is essentially a loud and emphatic "screw you" to President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. For months now, Bayh has been screaming at the top of his voice that the party needs to reorient toward a more popular, centrist agenda -- one that emphasizes jobs and fiscal responsibility over health care and cap and trade. Neither the White House nor the Senate leadership has given him the response he wanted. Their bungling of what should have been a routine bipartisan jobs bill last week seems to have been the last straw....

Quitting the Senate was a no-lose move for the presidentially ambitious Bayh, since he can now crawl away from the political wreckage for a couple of years, plausibly alleging that he tried to steer the party in a different direction -- and then be perfectly positioned to mount a centrist primary challenge to Obama in 2012, depending on circumstances.

For Lane, Bayh's sudden departure was a noble, gutsy maneuver that should propel him into the middle of a primary challenge of Obama, as if he's become a "centrist" rebel. Daniel Larison picks that notion apart, nothing that party voters tend to eschew losers like Bayh who quit the team and over issues they actually like. But even if Bayh, say, chose to run as an independent, he'd probably run into the problems that NYC mayor Bloomberg did when he put out feelers in '08:

Centrists" do not run insurgent campaigns very well....There are no passionate, vocal groups of voters eagerly demanding that government be more solicitous of corporate interests and more willing to start wars overseas. There are not many large voting blocs requesting the offshoring of whole industries. To be a "centrist" is necessarily to champion the interests of concentrated power and wealth and to ignore and deride as "populist" insanity anything that stands in the way of those interests. Who has ever heard of an explicitly anti-populist political insurgency? Insurgents always set themselves up as the independent outsiders who will stand up for the people against the establishment. Just imagine Bayh trying to sell himself as the establishmentarian who wants to tone down the "radicalism" of Obama's Rubinite economics and his Clintonian hawkish foreign policy. What Lane proposes is that an old DLC-type Democrat will be positioned to win over a party that is increasingly disgusted by the overrepresentation of DLC-type Democrats in the current administration. This misreads the mood of the party and the substance of administration policy very badly.

Good bye, Bayh. Don't let the door hit you in the *ss on the way out.

Discuss :: (25 Comments)

What Republicans believe

by: Jay Stevens

Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 10:01:38 AM MST

So Research 2000 did a poll on Republicans' beliefs and...well...they're kind of crazy. Nearly 70 percent of self-identified Republicans, for example, are open to the idea of impeaching President Obama. Sixty-three percent are certain he's a socialist. Forty-two percent are certain Obama wasn't born in the United States, and another 22 percent are unsure.

Of course, it's easy to claim some sort of superiority...without seeing a similar poll of self-identified Democrats asking them about their favorite conspiracy theories. That 9/11 was an inside job, say. It could that people are irrational, not just Republicans.

But I do like Nate Silver's observations of the poll. He noticed that the answers to the poll questions varied little, if at all, with demographics. Regardless of your age, location, or gender, pretty much you believe the same sorts of things.

This accounts for what might be the Republicans' greatest strength as we head into the November midterms as well as their greatest liability. The strength is that they can somewhat comfortably adopt a nationalized, one-size-fits-all message. They don't have to worry about the constellation of constituencies that Democrats have: labor voters, Baby-boomer liberals, blacks, Hispanics, college-educated technocrats, libertarianish younger voters, etc. Their base is the same pretty much everywhere, and actuating a strategy that appeals to that base is not challenging.

The liability, meanwhile, is that while the Republican base might be the same pretty much everywhere, the rest of the electorate isn't. Some states and districts have different ratios of Republicans to Democratic and independent voters. Moreover, they have different types of Democratic and independent voters, some of whom may be amenable to the Republican message and others of whom won't be.

The question is, how did this happen? How did the base of one party come to believe all the same things in the same way? That some of these monolithic beliefs include outright delusions - the Obama birth canard, for example - points to success in messaging, whether by cable news, talk radio, or email chains. Obviously simple messages are getting out and reinforced as they're passed along.

One thing, too, that neither Kos nor Silver mentioned is that the demographics of Republicans are skewed strongly towards white males to begin with. While the breadth of Republican demographics are similar in belief, what's not said is that most of the other demographics are small. That homogeneity probably also aids the message. Republicans probably congregate in the same places, talk the same language, and participate in the same activities. That's probably also why many are under the delusion that they represent "real" American values and ideas - the opposite is true, of course, they're actually a minority of the population - they don't really get out much.

All of that is opposite to the left. The left spans class, race, language, education, and the rural/urban divide. Democrats in Portland, Oregon, are vastly different from those in the Salish-Kootenai nation. They hardly interact, let alone hear the same unified message.  

Discuss :: (13 Comments)

Don't back off

by: Jay Stevens

Sun Jan 24, 2010 at 23:44:33 PM MST

Read this post, especially if you are a Democratic politician hesitant to cast a vote for fear of blowback from Republicans:

Democrats can be assured that Republicans will attack them, regardless of what they do.  Democrats could eliminate the estate tax permanently, slash the capital gains tax, repeal the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, invade Iran, and pass a Constitutional Amendment outlawing abortion, and Republicans would still attack them -- with exactly the same vehemence and vigor that Republicans have now.  That's politics.  It's how partisan politics is played...

My advice to Democrats unsure about what to do is this: think about the actual bill, and what its effects would be if it became law.  If in your judgment those effects would be bad for your constituents, then odds are they will dislike it, blame you for it, and you'll be in trouble.  If those effects would be good for your constituents, then vote for it.  Then figure out how you're going to sell the thing and yourself, based on that vote.  But don't back off of it because you think it will open you up to attacks; you're wide open right now, and you'll remain wide open regardless of what you do.

Discuss :: (6 Comments)
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Purely Hypothetical, of course, but - The best candidate for the Republicans for US Senate is:
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Blog Roll
  • A Secular Franciscan Life
  • Big Sky Blog
  • David Crisp's Billings Blog
  • Discovering Urbanism
  • Ecorover
  • Great Falls Firefly
  • Intelligent Discontent
  • Intermountain Energy
  • Lesley's Podcast
  • Livingston, I Presume
  • Great Falls Firefly
  • Montana Cowgirl
  • Montana Main St.
  • Montana Maven
  • Montana With kids
  • Patia Stephens
  • Prairie Mary
  • Speedkill
  • Sporky
  • The Alberton Papers
  • The Fighting Liberal
  • The Montana Capitol Blog
  • The Montana Misanthrope
  • Thoughts From the Middle of Nowhere
  • Treasure State Judaism
  • Writing and the West
  • Wrong Dog's Life Chest
  • Wulfgar!

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