The John Bohlinger and Dirk Adams campaigns are naturally pushing hard on Steve Bullock not to appoint John Walsh, the lieutenant Governor, to the US Senate to fill the vacancy left by Max Baucus. Continue reading
The big news today is that Max Baucus is Obama’s choice for ambassador to China.
On the one hand it’s surprising, because Max has shown signs of slowing down in recent years Continue reading
More than 130,000 low-income people in Montana saw a cut to assistance buying food for their families on November 1st.
Now, a group of Senators and Congressmen are working out how much more they will cut help for hungry families, just in time for the holiday season.
Please call Senator Max Baucus’s office on this issue. You can email too but it’s better if you call. He currently sits on the conference committee for the Farm Bill that is working on a “compromise” between the House’s $40 billion cut and the Senate’s $4 billion cut to SNAP – on top of the cuts implemented at the first of the month.
[Note: This is a guest post by independent political blogger Moorcat, who has written some recent popular posts on Cowgirl about the Affordable Care Act.]
This evening, my wife received an email from Steve Daines – our lone House of Representatives Congressman. In this email, he states he is taking a “survey” of the reactions of Montanans to the Federal ACA insurance exchange. Everything you ever wanted to know about how Steve Daines’s position on the ACA can be found in that email. For brevity, I will simply provide a link to this message posted on his official Legislative website. Continue reading
A public opinion poll was released today showing that Congressman Steve Daines has an abysmal 39% job approval rating. The poll is conducted annually by Montana State University professors and students, in Billings. Steve Bullock has a strong rating at 53%. Baucus and Tester are in the 40s, Tester having perhaps been unavoidably dragged down by what’s going on in Washington, and by Obama whose numbers in Montana are very poor (29%).
If we are to believe this poll, it means that Daines is the most unpopular Montana elected official since Judy Martz.
Max Baucus is starred in his own show this week, the Economic Summit in Butte, with headlines describing the firepower he’s brought in, the impressive list of CEOs. It makes Baucus look powerful, and of course a big event in a Montana city is good for the city, fills up hotel rooms and bars and restaurants and rental cars and so on.
But a few observers, including the Helena Vigilante and the New Republic, have observed that the conference is not all that it seems, and is much more than one might immediately realize. They have noted that these captains of industry have come at a price. They have agreed to come kiss Baucus’s ring because he is the man that, as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, doles out corporate tax breaks and statutory loopholes in federal law, which allow major American corporations, and CEOs, to pay an astonishingly low tax rate, the lowest in American history, and to screw consumers and citizens.
Seen in this way, the summit could be viewed as a farcical commentary on everything that is wrong with American government and policy. A politician wants to boost his cred with the people, and to do so, he puts together a mega event that costs, not benefits, ordinary citizens. The Oracle CEO, for example, arrived to talk about how he wants to bring jobs back to Montana. But Oracle has an application in the pipeline to bring 600 foreign workers to it’s operation in Bozeman to do those jobs–instead of hiring Montana or even American citizens, using a thing known as an H1N visa that allows big companies to use imported foreign labor at a savings.
Richard Anderson, the Delta CEO, also spoke about his desire to help Montanans.
Of all the emblems of how the consumer is getting increasingly screwed in our society, Delta is one of the mightiest. Here was the CEO, sitting on stage and acting as if he cares so deeply for the Montana consumer of his product.
He has a funny way of showing it. The outrageous prices paid by Montanans are bad enough, but Delta has fashioned an economic model where passengers are treated like cattle, not humans. The consumer is dictated the terms. On one recent flight, I dropped my phone and couldn’t pick it up until the flight ended, because there was so little legroom that I was stuck and couldn’t even reach down. On the flight before that, it was too dim to read a book because there were fewer reading lights than rows, because they had stuffed so many seats in. And the bag fees–which we were once told was due to fuel costs–have become a permanent thing even though Delta now owns an oil refinery and is thus at least partially immune to fuel costs (and the CEO in fact bragged to the audience in Butte about this very thing). And don’t get me started on the smell of these planes or the $19 dollar gas station quality food, or the $15 internet.
Finally, let’s recall that if you want to speak to a live person when you book a flight, you are charged an extra $25 for the pleasure of it, and are routed to a person in a foreign country who works for 10% of what a US worker would cost. (In general, union labor was not a very popular thing among most of the company execs who spoke in Butte).
Anderson’s compensation last year was $12.6 million. And he’s not doing anything he shouldn’t do, really. His job is to squeeze every last dollar out of the consumer. Delta’s stock has risen impressively in the last several years. He is thus successful.
Most businesses, however, cannot treat a customer like this, because they’d lose their customers. But Delta, and United, and other airlines, and players like Verizon, Blue Cross and many banks and cable companies, and hospitals–they gradually position themselves into positions of strength, and they’ve also spooked Congress into not taking action to protect the consumer. In some countries, including many modern thriving democracies, consumers are protected from quasi-monopolistic strong arm tactics like what Delta does.
Not in America. Customers routinely lose in the face-off. The consumer has very few allies in Washington. That’s the imbalance that needs to be righted. Anderson is doing his job, and thus Congress needs to do its. But it doesn’t. Congress instead works for Anderson.
I’m tempted to have a violent, allergic reaction to the President’s advocacy of using force in Syria, given our hangover from the Iraq War, given that the Assad family has been killing Syrians wrongfully, tens or even hundreds of thousands of them, with conventional weapons for decades with no apparent concern on the part of the free world, and given that the White House has not provided much of a vision for a post Assad Syrian regime.
But of all the people on earth to be advocating for a new military engagement in the middle east, Barack Obama is probably the least likely. For this reason alone, I believe, we should avoid a rush to judgment and think critically about what’s going on. Barack Obama does not strike me as a person who shares George W. Bush’s love of military invasion.
Also, John Boehner and Eric Cantor, two giant right-wing jerks who have never before supported anything the President has put forward on any topic or issue, immediately announced their support for the President. This, despite the major political peril of doing so–a strike in Syria, and a bad result, could mean the ouster of both of them, from leadership, or even from office by Tea Party primary challengers in their own districts (conservative voters are anti-war as of late, now that a black man is President).
I assume, therefore, that whatever intelligence Obama showed them was not of the George Bush Dick Cheney Don Rumsfeld junk-bond variety, but of the blue-chip variety, the kind with 99% certainty, the kind that we should have demanded before giving support to Bush to invade Iraq. I find it impossible to believe that Cantor and Boehner would go out on this potentially suicidal limb based on speculative intelligence.
Obama may also have planned a two-step all along: get authorization and prepare to bomb, and look resolute, knowing (or hoping) that Assad will be forced to make a deal. Then tell Russia’s Putin that if he’s going to carry on a bromance with Assad, he needs to step up and broker a deal. This is the outcome that might actually now be in the offing.
But it could not occur without Assad’s belief in a credible military threat from America.
Seen this way, if things work out for Obama and America with regard to Assad’s chemical weapons, people like Steve Daines–who announced yesterday that he opposes granting the President the option of using force–might end up finding themselves on the wrong side of history. Obama may end up masterfully solving the problem by bluffing Assad into folding his hand. Daines and his faction will be found to have tried to obstruct it all, worrying instead about opinion polls. So, for that matter, might Tester and Baucus if they vote against authorizing force. Presumably, Democrats are going to try to buy a little time here, and keep neutral while they carefully analyze what’s happening. That would be smart.
Then again, it’s been only ten years since we were lied to by an administration that cooked up false intelligence to create a war. We should recall the pathetic appearance of Colin Powell at the UN, where he played a scratchy audio tape of two Arabs mumbling something barely audible, and presented it to the world as evidence that Hussein was a nuclear threat. It was laughably unpersuasive. But, sheepish Democrats, fearing a vote against a war that might eventually prove successful in a narrative written by Republicans, buckled. They did the wrong thing, and ended up on the wrong side of history. It cost Hillary Clinton the presidency, most likely.
And so, ironically, could Republicans do the wrong thing in this case by opposing the President’s request. It’s hard to tell. I might ordinarily be inclined to say “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” (or as George Bush’s famously butchered it, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice….uhhhh….fool me I won’t get fooled again!!”)
But the fundamental difference between now and then: we had an imbecile for a president; now we have an intelligent leader. And one thing I do know: Obama is not the type to falsify intelligence for the purposes of taking the country to war.
One more thing: as Dick Cheney and company went around on the eve of the Iraq war, trying to claim that Hussein was behind 9/11 and that he was on the verge of having a nuclear missile pointed at us (all complete nonsense), we can imagine that Steve Daines was out there cheerleading for him, acting like a young Republican in all of his asinine conservative glory, pumping his fist on behalf of Bush’s team, parroting the Bush team’s idiotic slogans, and accusing anybody who opposed the the President of not being a patriot, and of being “with the terrorists.” Now he is suddenly a dove. He apparently thinks war is unjustified even though, from the sound of it, the presence of WMD in this current case is unquestionable, whereas the last time it was doubtful. What is his standard, therefore, for when force is necessary?
While some politicians do everything in their power to hide from any real discussion of issues, State lawmaker Rep. Amanda Curtis (D-Butte) has been all over the Montana press standing up for doing what’s right.
Contrast this with Congressman Steve Daines’ typical M.O.: sliding under the radar in support of his D.C. special-interest backers, but hiding from any real discussions with Montanans–on the rare occasion he even visits Montana on one of his 239 vacation days in 2013.
On Tuesday, Curtis headlined a capitol steps rally urging Montana Senator Max Baucus to change his mind on background checks-he opposes them. She has quite a personal story:
State Rep. Amanda Curtis, D-Butte, told how at age 17, in May 1997, she and her family were awaken by a call from the police in the middle of the night telling them to come to a Billings hospital. They learned her 16-year-old brother had shot and killed himself playing Russian roulette at a party.
She also told of a 10-year-old boy in Butte who was killed by another student in 1994, and how a close family friend was killed after being shot in the face.
“These are not extraordinary circumstances,” Curtis said. “I would be willing to bet that every single one of you that’s here today either has been directly affected or knows someone who has been directly affected by gun violence.”
Curtis, who is considering a race for the U.S. House, called for common-sense solutions.
Curtis told her hometown paper why she was standing up to Baucus and the NRA lobby:
Curtis supports background checks on all gun purchases that would also include the sale of firearms at gun shows. She says this is “common sense” gun reform that nearly 80 percent of Montanans support.
Curtis believes many politicians avoid addressing gun control issues for fear of losing voter support. She also says the gun lobby in Washington has great influence over politicians.
Curtis said she isn’t afraid to voice her opinion on an issue in which she strongly believes. Even if it may cost her votes.
“You can’t legislate based on your re-election,” she said.
Amanda Curtis also did an hour on Montana Public Radio’s “In Other Words” this week, talking about the Montana legislative session, her famous internet videos, and the labor movement.
And while Daines’ main message is blaming “Washington” for the problems he’s creating there, Amanda Curtis’ message is for Montanans to show up get more involved. Curtis had her TEDx (an independent version of TED talks) speech released nationwide. The focus of the speech is on the importance of showing up and saying YES to seeking public office.
Last week, Butte Representative Amanda Curtis (D) spoke to Chuck Johnson about running statewide in Montana, saying:
“If that opportunity presents itself, I would be crazy to say no. I know that I have an army of supporters, a list of people who would give money and a number of people who said they would quit their jobs and work for a campaign.”
What to make of all the gossip? The good news, at least, is that gossip is no longer just for blogs, but is now a mainstream media pursuit in Montana. The latest dish is about Tester and Baucus, supposedly sticking knives in Schweitzer and forcing him to drop out of the US Senate race.
Or at least that’s the allegation raised in this week’s Great Falls Tribune piece by John Adams. It’s an interesting idea, but not entirely substantiated by anything I’ve read so far. “Unnamed operatives” and “anonymous sources,” long shunned by the Montana press (admirably so), were cited by an Australian tabloid as claiming that Schweitzer was done in by the two senators. This story, in turn, was the basis of a story by the Tribune.
It’s easy to believe that Tester and Baucus didn’t want Schweitzer around. That much is common sense. Schweitzer always had a way of sucking the air out of the room when the three of them were together and often one-upped them, looking good at their expense by ridiculing the US Senate as an institution, and its work product (deserved ridicule, by the way). That was always Schweitzer’s favorite pastime.
And the three men fought for column space on issues in Montana. A good example is the North Fork of the Flathead, a wild ecological spot which Schweitzer brought protection with a treaty with British Columbia, a move that caused the Montana press corp to laud Schweitzer and chide Baucus, who had worked on the issue in the Senate for many years but was never quite able to nail it down.
But it seems far fetched that they would take concrete steps to stymie him. Even if you believe that Schweitzer wanted to become Senator (a questionable proposition, his exploratory activities notwithstanding), what, precisely, might Tester and Baucus, or the people that work for them, have done to “sink” Schweitzer, as the Tribune posits?
Did they try to discourage Harry Reid and Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, and their fundraising apparatus known as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign, from supporting Schweitzer? Was Obama, perhaps via Baucus acolyte Jim Messina, involved? Obama has a mixed opinion of Schweitzer, who not only remained neutral in the 2008 Montana presidential primary but also was a critic (from the left) of Obamacare, and also failed to toe the party line with the administration on resource issues like wolves, bison, the Keystone pipeline and so on.
Did any or all of these folks plant the questionable story in the newspaper a few weeks ago, about “dark money” groups that are connected to a former aide of Schweitzer’s who once worked in Washington? The Baucus team almost certainly had opposition research on Schweitzer, and for a good reason: Baucus always stood a chance of being challenged by Schweitzer in a primary. There is no chance that Baucus did not have a dossier on Schweitzer.
This morning the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) has launched a new TV ad pressuring Max Baucus to support background checks for gun sales, something over 79% of Montanans support according to the post recent Montana-specific poll.
Starting tomorrow, the ad will run for a week in Montana, on broadcast and cable in the Helena, Missoula and Billings media markets. It will also run on cable in Washington, DC on MSNBC and CNN.
The PCCC’s initial expenditure is over $50,000 — and will increase with online fundraising from the group’s national membership–about one million members.
You can see the ad here:
The ad features Claire Kelly, a gun owner and grandmother from Stevensville, who is one of the of 23,000 gun owners supporting sensible gun reform at GunOwnersForReform.com
Lawmakers in the Senate have said background checks would come up for another vote this year, U.S. News’s Rebecca Metzler reports. After the Progressive Change Campaign Committee’s full-page newspaper ads ran in 20 papers across Montana this past week, the NRA announced a newspaper ad last Thursday specifically attacking the citizen’s group and defending Baucus. As Greg Sargent at the Washington Post writes, this ad “suggests the NRA may still believe Baucus is gettable as a vote for Manchin-Toomey.”
Here’s the transcript of the ad:
I’m a grandmother, a hunter and a gun owner.
I’ve been the victim of a home invasion.
I hid my girls in a closet, called for help, aimed my handgun at the door and waited.
Guns can protect us but we’re less safe with guns in the wrong hands.
79% of Montana voters support background checks.
So why did Senator Max Baucus vote against us?
Senator Baucus, now that you’re retiring, please put Montana first.