Buley: Politics and comedy, hand in glove

Sometimes, the jokes, they just write themselves. So when Sarah Palin spouts off telling President Obama “Go big or go home” when confronting ISIS, is this what she means? It might call into question John McCain’s judgment when he blathers on during his weekly appearance on Meet the Press. Remember he’s the guy who wanted to entrust Palin with the nuclear codes.

Buley: Republicans represent corporations, not people

In a surprise to absolutely no one, Senate Republicans, on a strict party line vote, voted to kill a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizen’s United decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Citizen’s United decision infamously held that corporations are people, money is speech, and therefore corporations can spend as much on elections as they want.

Of course, Citizen’s United is an extremely unpopular decision. Numerous polls show that up to 80% of Americans oppose the decision. That is a huge majority, it is almost impossible to get 80% of Americans to agree on anything. 75% of Montanans have already VOTED to overturn the decision! So, obviously, Republicans don’t represent people in the usual definition, they only represent corporate people. Why? Because that’s where the money is.

Both of Montana’s Democratic Senators voted for the Amendment and the 80%. However, one Senate seat is up for election this year. The Democratic candidate, Amanda Curtis is deeply opposed to Citizen’s United. The Republican candidate, Steve Daines loves him some Citizen’s United. Daines loves them so much, he’s actually accepted $10,000 from Citizen’s United itself this year.

Buley: Zinke endorsed by “birthers”

On his campaign website, republican Congressional candidate Ryan Zinke trumpets his endorsement by the Political Action Committee Combat Veterans for Congress. I went to the Combat Veterans for Congress website and it is about far right as a group can get. For example, in an article on the main page entitled “Obama Gaslighting American Citizens!”, there is a list of grievances about the Obama administration, including the debunked “scandals” of Benghazi, the IRS, voter fraud and even Obamacare. There is also a lamentation of “Pelosi and Reid vilification of the Supreme Court because of the Hobby Lobby decision.”

So, that seems like a question for Mr. Zinke when he finally talks to the public, “Do you believe the employer should make a female employee’s health decisions, or should the employee?”

The next article on the page raises the old “birther” questions of the legitimacy of President Obama’s birth certificate and Social Security number. The PAC freely admits it only supports Republican candidates and has never supported a combat veteran running as a Democrat. The question is: Does this PAC endorse Zinke because he’s as nutty as it?

Buley: Zinke’s grandma isn’t running for Congress

I recently wrote about Republican Congressional candidate Ryan Zinke pulling out of a debate in Billings, apparently unwilling to answer questions from voters. We still don’t know much about Zinke’s positions on policy. The television ads he has been running tell the story of his grandmother coming to Montana. That’s nice and all, but his grandmother isn’t running for Congress. The rest of the commercial just states that Zinke was a Navy Seal.

I’m grateful to Mr. Zinke for his service, but I fail to see how simply being in the Navy has given Zinke any particular insight to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, poverty, land use, wilderness, income inequality, economics, or any other issue relevant to Montana voters. In fact, for most of Zinke’s adult life, he was insulated from having to consider any of these issues as he was in the Navy between 1985 and 2008.

Not to denigrate Zinke’s military service, but simply having been a Navy Seal doesn’t make someone beyond reproach. Does anyone remember the Republican Congressman from California, Duke Cunningham? He was elected after being a a distinguished Navy combat career and was eventually sent to prison for accepting $2 million in bribes.

RICH BULEY: Vote Democratic!

Barack Obama: Great President, or Greatest President? I don’t know. But, I do agree with Forbes Magazine: “Economically, President Obama’s administration has outperformed President Reagan’s in all commonly watched categories. Simultaneously the current administration has reduced the deficit which skyrocketed under Reagan. Additionally, Obama has reduced federal employment, which grew under Reagan (especially when including military personnel) and truly delivered a “smaller government”.

So, if want smaller government and deficit reduction as well as a booming stock market, the choice is clear: vote Democratic!

RICH BULEY: What the GOP is really all about

What a great day it is to celebrate the magic of the free market and the liberation of deregulation! The Public Service Commission voted to allow Northwest energy to buy the power generating dams in Montana from PPL. This will make the second time Montana’s rate payers get to purchase the exact same assets resulting in the highest rates for electricity in the region! Man, if that doesn’t get you excited about deregulation, I don’t know what will.

This fiasco goes back to the halcyon days of the mid 1990s when Montana state government was totally controlled by Republicans. Marc Racicot, who later cashed in as a D.C. lobbyist for (surprise) energy companies, was the Governor. Current Stevensville Legislator Fred Thomas was also an ambitious legislator in those days, and was the rising star of the Montana GOP.

In 1997, Senator Fred and Governor Marc believed that any regulation was bad and that the free market system was the cure all for whatever ailed us. So, they, together with the executives of the Montana Power Company, decided to deregulate Montana Power so it could sell its assets and try to make some quick money as a telecom company. Montana Power then sold its dams, which had been built by ratepayer money, to a Pennsylvania firm, PPL. Of course, the consumers were told that the magic of the free market system and competition would make energy rates plummet. Except, the result for ratepayers was the opposite, rates skyrocketed. Then, the telecom company went bankrupt in 2003 and shareholders got 29 cents a share, down from $65 a share at the time of deregulation.

Now, in a magnificent victory for the Republican mantra of the infallibility of the free market and deregulation, we Montana rate payers get to pay $870 million for the same dams that we had already paid for once. Sure, everyone in Montana has been paying out the nose for this debacle since 1997 and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, but at least Marc Racicot got to move to D.C. where he doesn’t have to pay these rates, and he got rich. And really, isn’t that what the Republican ideal is? A few getting rich off the backs of millions?


RICH BULEY: Be afraid, be very afraid

A few days ago, two men who had spent 30 years in prison and who had been sentenced to death were released from prison because they were innocent. DNA evidence was finally tested showing that the men were innocent of a murder and rape of an 11 year old girl. Over the years, 317 wrongfully convicted men have been exonerated by the Innocence Project, many of them on death row.

So, why am I writing about this particular exoneration? For a couple of reasons. This was a very heinous crime which caused a lot of publicity.  In 1994, an unrelated case came before the U.S. Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of the death penalty. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, in declining to review the case, [consider]“for example, the case of the 11 year old girl raped by four men and then killed by stuffing her panties down her throat. How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared to that!”  That was the same case. Scalia would have been absolutely giddy sending the wrong men to their death. Scalia also famously claimed in a 2005 opinion that no innocent man had ever been killed by the death penalty and sarcastically wrote, because its a joke to him: “the innocent’s name would be shouted from the rooftops by the abolition lobby.” Somehow, I don’t think Justice Scalia will be shouting these two names from the rooftops.

The two men were convicted and sent to death row even though there was no physical evidence tying them to the crime. There was, however, a confession by both. The two men were 19 and 15 at the time of the crime and both had IQs in the 60s. When law enforcement coerces a confession, the real criminal goes free. In this case, the DNA belonged to a man who was free to rape and murder another girl a month later. No physical evidence and a suspect confession, does that remind anyone of another case? Like Barry Beach?

The other reason I’m writing about this case is how it was used for naked political purposes. The Republican Party in North Carolina used the rape and murder to demonize a Democratic candidate who had simply voted for “The Racial Justice Act.” So what if the photo on the mailer was an innocent black man? Be afraid, be very afraid, and remember to vote Republican!


RICH BULEY: “Right to Work” won’t work for you

On Labor Day, a federal holiday meant to celebrate the contributions of workers, the Missoulian bizarrely chose to run a guest editorial extolling the supposed virtues of “right to work” legislation. Workers in right to work states earn about 7% less in wages than comparable workers in other states. That calculation only takes into account wages, not the health care, sick leave, and retirement benefits often denied non-union workers.

The “right to work” propaganda has led a lot of people to falsely believe that getting rid of unions will save workers money because they will not be forced to pay union dues. What it has actually done is contribute to the destruction of the middle class. As union membership has declined, the share of wealth to the the top10% of earners has increased. Check out this one simple graph:

You may notice that 50% of all income went  to the top 10% in 1928 when union membership was only 10%. The golden age of income equality was between about 1940 and 1960, also known as a period of huge economic expansion. We have now regressed to 1928. “Right to Work” works well for a select few, unfortunately, you probably aren’t one of the fortunate few.

RICH BULEY: Zinke doesn’t have what it takes

Labor Day’s passage means it’s time for the campaign season to heat up. Already, a Missoulian editorial has called out Republican candidates Steve Daines and Ryan Zinke for sending out deceptive and misleading campaign mailings.

Zinke also made news with the headline, “U.S. House Candidates Won’t Debate in Billings After Zinke Backs Out.”. The article details how Zinke agreed to a statewide televised debate with Democratic candidate John Lewis to be held in Billings on September 29th. With Zinke refusing to face the voters, there will be no debate in Billings for he first time in decades.

Zinke then had the chutzpah to claim that it was Lewis’ fault for Zinke’s broken promise, when it was Zinke who stated that Sept. 29th was the only date he had open. By the way, Lewis is still committed to the 29th.

Zinke has centered his whole campaign around his past of being a Navy Seal. In his campaign literature he has stated, “Leadership takes guts, internal fortitude, and honor.” Okay, let’s break that down. Zinke doesn’t have the guts or internal fortitude to face the voters and set forth his views. How can voters believe that Zinke has guts in politics when he won’t even face questions? And, how about honor? Honor means keeping your word. Zinke picked the date, confirmed the date and then backed out. Even worse, he lied about it being Lewis’ fault. Is that Zinke’s idea of honor? Zinke has shown himself to be the opposite of what he himself considers to be a leader.


RICH BULEY: Daines represents the Koch brothers

This year’s Senate race in Montana is shaping up to be one of the most critical in a long time. It is a race that may very well decide control of the U.S. Senate and the direction of the United States.

On one side is the Democratic candidate, Butte math teacher Amanda Curtis. She will represent the 99% of Montanans who are not billionaires. On the other side is Republican Steve Daines who will represent the Koch Brothers, the fourth and fifth wealthiest individuals in America.

Why do I say that Daines will be representing the Kochs? As always, one needs to follow the money. The Koch brothers, who are each worth $36 billion founded and funded a Super PAC known as Americans for Prosperity. Americans for Prosperity intends to spend $125 million on elections this year. The PAC has already run ads for Daines in Montana. Daines is prominently featured on their website. Here he is on their website, with the bizarre headline “Thank Daines for choosing to lead.” Why is that bizarre? Because it was about Daines following the GOP House leadership in wasting time voting 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. That’s what AFP considers leadership to be? Still don’t think Daines is tight with AFP and the Kochs? Daines’ Montana state director was just named the director for AFP Montana.

So, you may be asking yourself, “OK, but do the Kochs really control the Republican Senators? I’m glad you asked because the answer is a resounding, “Damn right!” Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently spoke at a secret  gathering of the 1% organized by the Koch brothers. Unknown to McConnell, his talk with the rich donors was secretly recorded. In his talk, he promised the 1% that if the Republicans gained a majority in the Senate, they would get rid of financial regulations so big banks can rip us of even more. He promised that he wouldn’t even ALLOW DEBATE on increasing the minimum wage or on reforming student loans.

It wasn’t just McConnell playing the toadie to the billionaires. Republican Senatorial candidates from Iowa, Arkansas, and Colorado were recorded giving their undying gratitude and loyalty to AFP for making their careers. There can be no doubt as to the purpose of the gathering since it was titled, “The Senate: a window of policy opportunity for principled leaders”.

There can be no doubt that a vote for Steve Daines is a vote for the oligarchy. If Daines wins and the Republicans control the Senate, the Senate will be run by Charles and David Koch for their benefit, not yours.