Tag Archives: Mike Milburn

Fuzzy Math

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish–Dr. Seuss 1965

The Montana Legislature, we now learn, was using strange counting methods and fuzzy math, from day one.

The chief forecaster for how much money the state should expect to have in its coffers on a quarterly basis is Terry Johnson, who reports to legislative leadership.  He and Schweitzer butted heads throughout the last four sessions session, because Schweitzer was evidently crunching the numbers and thought that there was more money available than was being estimated by Johnson, who takes marching orders from his bosses Jim Peterson (R-Buffalo) and Mike Milburn (R-Cascade).  As a result, as in states like Wisconsin, Florida and other places where the Tea Party as created a false premise panic about a lack of funds, the Republicans in the 2011 session were able to justify across the board cuts. Cuts in education, cuts in assistance to poor, and the denying hard working state employees a 1% pay raise they were slated to receive after years of going without.

In fact, the board of regents has announced that tuition at the University system must now be raised because of the Republican legislature’s cutting of funding for higher Ed.

Yesterday, I saw a mailing from the Policy Institute, a group run by Pat Williams, Ken Toole and other progressives, discussing the importance of standing up for what you value.  The mailing attributed democratic losses in 2010 to a tendency to try to reach persuadable voters at the expense of the base.   I agree with much of this.

But it also needs to be understood that many Democratic legislators seem not to have the stomach for butting heads with GOP front-man Terry Johnson and his crew, and instead enjoy singing kumbaya with him. Those who were guilty of this, and consider themselves progressives, now need to take a good, long look in the mirror.

UPDATE: Hamm on Wry has a good discussion of the Republican’s pathetic response.

Kerns Angry

The GOP circular firing squad has begun. Right-wing wacko Krayton Kerns, a Montana state rep from Laurel who ran for House speaker but lost out to the more moderate Mike Milburn, is fuming about the fact that the GOP allowed Schweitzer to eat its lunch during the session.

Expect to see plenty of GOP hotheads like Kerns in the aftermath of the GOP session debacle.

And of course, it will be all peppered with hilarious nonsense. In typical right-wing, Limbaugh-Beck mold, they will argue with facts that they pluck from some parallel universe. Kerns, for example, is outraged that the budget agreed to by the GOP and governor “is not balanced”, even though it leaves the state with an almost $300 million surplus.

He says Schweitzer “got everything he wanted,” even though there were cuts to education and other programs that were a part of the final compromise. And he says taxes will increase, even though there is no reason at all that they should.

Most of all, he’s pissed that his bill–which was intended to allow the carrying of concealed weapons in bars churches and schools–was vetoed by the Schweitzer. Never mind that every law enforcement group in Montana–like the highway patrolmen, sheriffs, cops, and others down on the line, opposed Kerns’s bill (will these folks start voting for Democrats?).

If I were making a psychological profile, I’d posit that Kerns is really just pissed at himself, for humiliating his party by proposing lunatic legislation, only to have the Governor throw it, and lots of other lunatic legislation, back in his face of the GOP with great success.

My favorite wound-licking tactic by wingnuts will also, no doubt, rear its head in the days to come: that the GOP lost its legislative battle because it “sacrificed conservative values.” That is, that the Republicans should have acted MORE conservative and not try to moderate themselves. In other words, go with the Tea Party and ride the wave. When ever Republicans lose or fail, the wackos always trot out this horse as the excuse.

Also, it’s clear when listening to the rantings of lunatic Kerns, and others like him, that there are two people who do not have political futures in the GOP, and these are Peterson and Milburn.

The Blame Game

The end of the legislative session should have been a triumph for Senate President Jim Peterson and Speaker of the House Mike Milburn — a celebration of the Republican agenda that the Republican incumbent Congressman Denny Rehberg could tout in his U.S. Senate race.  But if you read the latest series of news reports, topped of with Milburn and Peterson’s latest complaining in guest editorial form one finds only whinging, finger-pointing, and dejection.

“This is extremely disappointing,” said House Speaker Mike Milburn, R-Cascade, summing it up in in the Ravalli Republic.

In news reports about the GOP’s breach of budget deal, GOP leadership is coming across as increasingly desperate it their attempts to place the blame on the other party, rather than where it really lies –with themselves.

Here’s how the blame game went down.

At first, Peterson tried to claim to the press that he couldn’t understand how he had reneged on the deal.

“We did everything that he asked us to do,” added Senate President Jim Peterson, R-Buffalo. “I don’t see there is any reason for him to break the deal, other than he just wants to.”

Then, when the public  got wise to the fact that the GOP hadn’t delivered the bills their leaders promised,  Peterson and Milburn put out an awkward spin on the deal, saying they hadn’t really promised to deliver anything on their end, only to try to make an attempt.

Milburn said the deal was to have a vote on not only SB94, but also on a pay increase for state employees and a $100 million bonding bill for state construction projects — but that he didn’t promise that any of them would pass. All three bills were killed by the House last Thursday.
“I can only do what I can do,” said Milburn, who voted for SB94 but voted against the other two measures. “I don’t have total control over everyone.”

Which is just a pathetic way of saying that their caucus hadn’t granted them the authority to act on its behalf.  If this is true, they shouldn’t have written checks that their caucus wouldn’t cash, making commitments and promises that their own colleagues were unwilling to uphold (whether through incompetence an lack of leadership ability or the GOP takeover by the far right fringe it is unknown).

There’s a problem with this claim  that Milburn “could only do what he can do.”  It simply isn’t true.  The GOP leadership could have gone to their caucus at any time during the negotiations to ask them if they had they would vote to pass the measures that were part of the deal.  Their caucus could have done so and then Peterson and Milburn could have let the Governor know — and moved forward with the negotiations on other fronts.  Failure to make this happen shows that the  budget battle was between Republicans and Republicans, rather than between the parties.  As it was, that they had come to the table on false pretenses.

Fast forward to today.  Schweitzer is using the breach of trust as an opportunity to fix a slate of GOP bills with line-item vetoes.  He nixed a GOP tax on businesses and a bill to gut voter passed initiatives–actions that benefit the people of Montana.

Meanwhile, the GOP leadership is playing the blame game, while at the same time still making the ludicrous claim that the session was a smashing success because – get this -  that they had spent less time trying to make a budget that any legislature in previous history (as if this slamming through of  the peoples business with less than diligent oversight is a good thing.)  No wonder it needs a few last minute line-item fixes.

Sine Die

The legislature adjourned Sine Die last night, which in Latin means “without day” (and in Helena-speak means “we’re outta here”).

Dramatic reversal of fortune for Democrats, who came to the session as heavy underdogs facing the real possibility of becoming road kill. The GOP, upon sweeping the elections and achieving record majorities in both houses, came to town ready to make Montana Right Wing History.

Instead, Dems ran circles around the GOP for the better part of the session.

Jon Sesso and Carol Williams, the House and Senate Leaders for the Ds, thoroughly outclassed Jim Peterson and Mike Milburn, who spent most of the session looking dazed and confused, as the radicals in the GOP caucus dictated the terms and humiliated the Republican Party, an effect felt so far and wide that even Denny Rehberg’s numbers sank as a result.  Often the leaders could not even get commitments on votes from their own caucus, even when the GOP leaders had made commitments to Dem leaders that they would deliver votes.  From day one, Dems were disciplined and had a plan.  The GOP never recovered from their early advocacy of crazy and kooky bills that made their way onto national network news shows, Comedy Central, CNN, MSNBC and FOXNews.  Strangely, the GOP seems not to ever have felt at all remorseful about the bad publicity this gave Montana.

Schweitzer supplied some theatrics to put the nail in the coffin, with his wildly successful cattle branding veto party, one of the funniest stunts in Montana political history, one that left the GOP looking stupid, weak and deflated, and “bat-crap”crazy unable to respond in any meaningful way.

The 800 pound gorilla in the room the whole session was a several-hundred-million-dollar surplus created by Schweitzer and the Dems during previous sessions and over the last interim, which was bad news for the GOP because they showed up with a hammer but found no nails.   In the end, the GOP will do doubt try to brag about a minimal cut of government spending, hoping that nobody reads the fine print: the Schweitzer administration had already reduced spending–submitting a budget with a myriad of thoughtful cuts before the session even began. So it was a semantic reduction for the GOP’s talking points that was ultimately agreed upon.

On big ticket items, the GOP talked tough, like Tea Party types; but fortunately they got stared down, and blinked, in the end.  Like their effort, wildly popular among the Tea Party, to refuse all federal funds.  The funds were restored in the final agreement.

Also problematic for the GOP, and good for the state, is an overhaul of the work comp system.  Working hard in the backrooms throughout the session was Rick Hill and his wife Betti.  Evidently Hill believed that having his paws and prints all over a legislative fix of Montana’s very expensive worker compensation program (premiums were the highest in the nation as of the start of the session) would be beneficial to his upcoming campaign. That dream came crashing down when Schweitzer got Milburn and Peterson, in front of all the cameras at a press event, to admit that whoever the architects of the current work comp system were, they sure as hell screwed things up. Who was the architect of the current system? Rick Hill.  At the signing ceremony, I’m told that Schweitzer commended the legislators who produced the work comp fix, commended them for “their courage in being willing to admit that Rick Hill and Marc Racicot created one of the worst and most expensive work comp systems in the country.”

On the lighter side, good news that none of the famous “nut-job” bills–like the spear-hunting, the birther bill, the legalize discrimination bill, the militia bill and the nullification bill, etc.–became law. They were all either vetoed with a branding iron or died in the legislature at the hand of a coalition of D’s and a few moderate Rs. Whether these Rs can survive the Tea Party wrath in the next GOP primary is an interesting question.  I am sure Roger Koopman will weigh in on it.  Unfortunately, so much time was spent on nut-job bills–and an 18th century social agenda–that there wasn’t time to put together anything meaningful on jobs.

Plenty is left to be ironed out, and the Governor will do doubt be busy vetoing or signing bills for a while, including the medical marijuana revision that is very controversial. It also looks like some crap referenda will be on the ballot next fall.  But overall, in the 2011 legislature, it is safe to say that the donkey handed the elephant its ass, in a very unlikely upset.

Montana Legislature Moves to Add Semen to Marijuana Prohibition Bill

[This hilarious spoof article has been making the email rounds -author unknown. I have posted the spoof in it's entirety below for your reading pleasure.]

Sen. Essman adds last minute semen ban to marijuana legislation

By CHARLES S. JOHNSON IR State Bureau | Posted: Friday, April 29, 2011 12:00 am | (0) Comments

The last hours of the Montana Legislature were met with harried anticipation in the adjudicative body’s Republican Caucus today in Helena. Legislators rushed to finalize many pieces of legislation including the much debated repeal and review of Montana’s 2004 citizen passed initiative 148 allowing the legalization of Medical Marijuana. Senator Jeff Essman, R-Billings, rushed to add an important Amendment to his SB 428 which would all but end the medical marijuana industry in Montana.

Following a year of contentious and highly public moves by the medical marijuana community to bring the drug into the mainstream, the Republican dominated legislature had vowed to “remove the scourge of Marijuana and its many ills from the state.” The final touches to the legislation to do just that were only finalized today after tearful testimony on the Senate floor by Republican Senator Jeff Essman of Billings where he stated his desire add an outlaw of semen to his bill.

“Gentlemen, we have done a great thing corralling in these dopers and their evil weed, but only today was I made aware of a substance whose danger matches, yes even succeeds that of the scourge of Mary Jane, gentlemen I speak of semen. Yes semen, that most disgusting of fluids… that most common enemy of mankind itself. Now many of my brothers here in this body may be asking why semen, why now?

I’ll tell you why, because just recently scientists have discovered the true properties of semen are harmful beyond what we previously thought. The evils of lust, violence and odd behavior in young men, pollution, high school dropout and human overpopulation are all caused by semen we know for sure. Semen stands right up there with marijuana as one of nature’s great mistakes! But now many of the same properties we can point to in marijuana are being discovered in semen while we do nothing to stop its proliferation. Scientists recently discovered that semen may cause euphoria, alleviate depression and decrease the risks of some cancers. Sounds just like marijuana to me.”

Marijuana advocates and constitutional scholars, who were already critical of Essman’s legislation citing medical privacy concerns and a moralistic tone struck during debate of the bill were dumbfounded by Essman’s move to add semen to the list of substances banned under the new legislation. “I mean, wow, this guy is freakin crazy. I told you these bastards were crazy. Essman’s gone off the deep end now. I mean, how the hell does he expect to enforce this?” asked Marijuana advocate Jim Gingery of the Montana Medical Growers Association.

Constitutional scholars who had already criticized Essman’s marijuana repeal bill citing the privacy concerns with handing over medical records of all marijuana patients in Montana to law enforcement were much more diplomatic in their criticism of Senator Essman’s new Amendments banning semen. “We told the Governor this bill was unconstitutional on its face. Handing over medical records is illegal for anyone to do, but banning a body fluid. That’s ludicrous, this doesn’t have a legal foot to stand on,” said constitutional lawyer and former Montana Supreme court Justice Terry Trieweiler.

Senator Essman and his Republican caucus disagree with the contention that their legislation to ban semen with marijuana is unconstitutional. “First off, everyone has disagreements about constitutionality. It’s just how you interpret it. The Governor’s office, these dopers and the constitutional scholars all have it wrong. We’ve found we can ban any damn thing we want in our state, natural or not. Scientists tell us marijuana chemicals naturally occur in the body and we can ban that, so why not semen? Scientists now know for certain the dangers of semen, especially to women. I mean science don’t lie.”

The scientist Senator Essman speaks of and has used to justify his new amendments linking semen and it’s marijuana like effects is Lazar Greenfield, M.D. Dr. Lazar is a world renowned surgeon and until recently, he served as president-elect of the American College of Surgeons. He’s a professor and a titan in medical science. In an article titled “Gut Feelings” in February’s issue of Surgery News he extolled the therapeutic benefits of semen to women’s health and cited peer reviewed evidence that semen, like marijuana, was known to cause euphoria in those who were exposed to it. He cited evidence from a recent study of semen and its effects on humans. Dr. Lazar was forced to resign after publicly coming out as a semen advocate.

The study Lazar cited was authored in part by Dr. Steven M. Platek, Ph.D, the editor-in-chief of Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience and a co-editor of Evolutionary Psychology whose evidence Essman cites as critical in his link of Semen to marijuana. “They say only 5 percent of the ejaculate is sperm”. Essman says.

Scientists say what’s left is seminal plasma, which is a rich concoction of chemicals, including many that have the potential to produce mood-altering effects derived from hormones, neurotransmitters, and endorphins.

“What is the rest of semen made up of,” Essman asks. “We need to know before we go off half-cocked allowing this stuff into our communities. This sounds just like the evidence we heard on marijuana. It’s got all these unknown chemicals, like a gazillion of them that do all sorts of crazy stuff. If this substance is so therapeutic, then why can’t we take it to a lab, isolate its beneficial properties and prescribe it like any other drug. If semen is so good, let’s let doctors put it in a pill and prescribe it. Until we can do that I want to see it gone from our communities.”

Essman and his Republican counterparts do not expect stiff opposition to their semen ban. “We know this stuff is bad,” added House Speaker Mike Millburn, the most ardent supporter of Essman’s SB 423. “My aunt’s cousin’s daughter’s babysitter told me she’d heard that more and more middle schoolers were experimenting with semen and that in high school semen could be found in almost half of all the kids there. That’s just too much, you expect college kids to have this stuff, but now kids as young as 12. Dangerous stuff, we gotta get rid of it, and the old sock approach aint gonna cut it,” Millburn added emphatically.

The bill heads to the Governor’s desk again today. Stay tuned for updates.

Montana Republican Math

As we wait for the legislature to resume and the GOP leaders sharpen their pencils, let’s discuss national politics, and math. The Tea Party and the mindless GOP and FOX news are all out in force, enraged at Obama’s suggestion that perhaps taxes ought to be raised as a way of paying off the debt.

To be sure, Obama has added his share of debt with maybe trillion and a half dollars–give or take–of stimulus and health care reform (the bailout ended up in a near wash because banks paid most of it back, so its not a big ticket item).

During the 2000s, Bush entered us into two invasions and occupations that have cost, let’s say, a trillion a piece. At the same time, he cut taxes. I’m told these are the only two wars in American History for which taxes were not raised as a way of paying for the war.

Of course not only were they not raised, they were lowered. Exactly how this accounting was suppose to work is something that not a single Republican in America has yet explained.

And remember, Bush and the GOP Congress that helped him pull off this feat were enabled or abetted by cheerleaders for both the wars and the tax cuts, cheerleaders like Denny Rehberg, Conrad Burns, Will Deschamp, Erik Iverson, Rick Hill, Chuck Denowh, Scott Sales, Bob Brown, Roy Brown, John Mercer, Martz, Marc Racicot, Jim Peterson, Mike Milburn and the entire brain trust and vanguard of the GOP past present and future who believed that two trillion dollars in wars can be covered by a tax cut.

And now again. The hot new thing lately is Paul Ryan, Republican Wonderboy, who’s “bold” plan for reducing 14 trillion of deficit calls for taxes to be cut–again. How does this make sense? Anyone?

Analysis: GOP’s “Get Your Women’s Health Care at Walgreens” Strategy Backfires

The national and state budget negotiations are shaping up to be a recipe for disaster for the GOP, largely because the  Republican Party is being held hostage by hard-line right-wing forces: the tea party obsessed with cutting the budget (even though here in Montana we have a $300 million surplus) and the religious right  are focused on cutting family planning and birth control – the one way to get to their supposed goal of reducing abortions. As Montana GOP Senate Finance Committee Chair Dave Lewis (R-Helena)  acknowledged, these groups are calling the shots and the budget is being crafted to please them.


The GOP’s actions will harm their approval ratings with independent voters, which are key to winning elections for either party .  Independents aren’t interested in ideology. They’re interested in problem-solving and passing a lean, rational budget. But state House Speaker Milburn (R-Cascade) isn’t worried about independents,  he’s worried about the wingnuts in his own caucus, a strategy that will backfire for him like it backfired for the GOP nationally. 

As Politico reports, Republicans were forced to give up the ridiculous cuts to family planning at the national level because it made them look absurd, allowing Democratic leaders to depict Republicans as willing to shut down the federal government in order to cut funding for women’s health care services.  (It is already illegal for federal funds to be used for abortions, and has been for decades.)

This strategy didn’t work so well for Republicans at the national level, an
Americans don’t want to talk about abortion. When asked to name the most important issues facing the country, abortion ranks very low. They especially don’t want to see the abortion debate sabotage more urgent matters — like getting a federal budget and keeping the government open.

The effects of the national GOP’s strategic bungle aren’t over yet.  Here’s the latest from the Colbert Report

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