The Billings Outpost

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Congress needs limits on terms and seniority

The strident “debate” over what to do with our ailing health-care sector is a perfect example of much that’s wrong with the U.S. political system.
First of all, too many members of Congress are corrupt. Let’s face it. They take money from those with a direct interest in the outcome and then try to convince voters it carries no influence. We should replace them with representatives committed to the public interest.

Second, the health-care reform discussion is being manipulated behind the scenes to the point that average people are hard-pressed to cut through the manufactured fog enough to recognize their best interest.

Third, hired guns are working 24/7 to make sure this issue, along with others, so damages President Obama’s credibility that not only will no reform take place, but the Republican presidential nominee will reclaim the White House in 2012.

On the plus side, the voting public has the power to do something about all of it.

I’ve heard the discussion out in the hinterlands the past couple of weeks, and there’s a ton of ignorance and confusion out there ripe for exploitation.

It’s astounding how much people are blaming a new president who’s been in the White House for seven-plus months for problems that are decades (or longer) in the making. No doubt it comes with the territory, but it’s ludicrous.

Political memories are short. It’s as if George W. Bush’s eight years of lies and incompetence didn’t exist, and our current dilemmas are all a Democratic plot. Of course, the Dems are part and parcel of our financial quagmire, but once they snagged 60 votes in the U.S. Senate, it was all supposed to be roses and champagne. Right.

Which brings up the twin problems of congressional seniority and lack of term limits. It takes time to learn the system in Washington, D.C., but it makes no sense to keep promoting members who have done nothing more substantive than warm a chair for decades. Whatever happened to talent and statesmanship?

Congress, ever hypocritical, likes to exempt itself from laws that members might otherwise support, such as the Freedom of Information Act and term limits. Yet, if term limits applied to Congress, we wouldn’t have U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairing the Finance Committee and looming so large in thwarting true health reform.

Splitting ranks

The reform issue has caused a rift among Montana Dems who support Sen. Baucus’ “bipartisan” approach and those who want a single-payer system or a strong public option in any reform legislation.

Someone sent me a link Sunday to a post by a blogger called “Montana Maven.” Entitled “Rancor in the Ranks: Rebellion from the Montana Democratic Central Committees,” it states that repeated reform petitions sent to Sen. Baucus’ office had been “answered only by repeated injury and neglect” until advocacy letters went to the president.

Three days after the Aug. 14 town meeting in Belgrade with President Obama, “Montana Maven” notes that an unusual conference call took place between Sen. Baucus and a number of central committee chairs.

“The meeting was pretty raucous,” according to the post, and apparently consisted of Sen. Baucus stressing party unity and the need for bipartisanship and the party chairs reminding the senator that “principle and people must take precedence over process and politics.”
The group, representing 18 Montana counties, later issued a statement about the call, saying that Sen. Baucus indicated he wants a public option in health-care reform and that he doesn’t trust insurance companies to regulate themselves.

Meanwhile, Sen. Baucus was not scheduled to attend his party’s convention this weekend in Bozeman and had not set up any public events in Montana to discuss the health-care reform issue while Congress is on its annual summer break.

Raising Arizona

Travel guru Arthur Frommer was so appalled that police allowed protesters carrying weapons to mill around outside an Aug. 17 presidential appearance at the Phoenix Convention Center that he refuses to vacation in the state. The travel guide author wrote in his Aug. 19 blog that he wasn’t advocating a travel boycott of Arizona, but that he was “shocked beyond measure” the state would permit such a thing.

“I will not personally travel in a state where civilians carry loaded weapons onto the sidewalks and as a means of political protest. I not only believe such practices are a threat to the future of our democracy, but I am firmly convinced that they would also endanger my own personal safety there,” Mr. Frommer wrote, adding that his sentiments had nothing to do with partisan politics.

Arizona is one of 43 states that permit “open carry” for weapons. Phoenix police said one man, who had an AR-15 slung over his shoulder, was within his rights and not doing anything illegal. No doubt wanting to stem any bad PR, the mayor of Phoenix called Mr. Frommer and invited him to come for a visit.


Riding high

On a recent trip to Portland, I noticed that bike riders were more than usually in evidence and riding an amazingly wide variety of two-wheeled contraptions. Some had special seats for kids built on the front, while others sported special commuter features. There were even a few folks who seemed to live on their bikes.

Riders use bike lanes where they exist, which is a lot of places in Portland, but where there aren’t any, they sometimes ride about a third of the way into a vehicle lane, meaning that a driver either has to slow down and trail behind them, wait for a chance to move into the next lane and get around them, or turn off onto a side street. None of those techniques works too well in a city crowded with traffic and people trying to get wherever they’re going in a big hurry.

To illustrate the political heft bicyclists enjoy in the City of Roses, the 14th annual Bridge Pedal on Sunday morning, Aug. 9, totally or partially closed eight bridges across the Willamette River for 6.5 hours so an estimated 17,000 bicyclists could enjoy the views without competition from cars.

Quote of the week

“Enough sitting. It’s time Max Baucus stands up and is counted, and if he can’t get up on his own then Rahm Emanuel with someone hefty should go grab him by the scruff of his neck, stand him up and shake some sense into him. Standing by the likes of Grassley only counts with the insurance profiteers. It doesn’t count with us. Stand up, Max Baucus, stand up for what’s right or you’ll be sitting down for a long, long time!”
– Donald Sutherland, actor, on Huffington Post, Aug. 18.

Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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