The Billings Outpost

Maybe collars would get Congress’ attention



After years of writing about politics and other relatively serious subjects, I was just about convinced that nothing much could shock me anymore. Not so. After recently watching CSPAN, I was floored by how much time members of Congress waste in pointless posturing and partisan bickering, not being available for votes, and generally off screwing around instead of minding the people’s business.

None of those things is surprising in concept, but actually seeing it happening on TV is really startling. If you ever find yourself wondering why nothing of substance seems to get done in Congress, watch CSPAN for a while and you’ll soon figure it out.

Those fervent partisan speeches when a House member or U.S. senator stands at a podium and foments about something using props such as posters on an easel? While they may appear to be addressing a room full of people, they’re really speaking to nearly empty seats because almost nobody is there except staffers taking minutes and pages waiting for errands to run.

Half the time it seems like whoever is presiding in the U.S. Senate has to order a quorum call so enough senators can be rounded up to take a vote. At a minimum, those 100 highly paid elected officials in the Senate need to have GPS tracking devices put on them so the person with the gavel can more easily figure out where they are.

Here’s a better idea: How about shock collars? That way, when some of those expensive suits are out in a hallway being interviewed by Fox News or MSNBC or whomever about their latest pet peeve or partisan strategy to undermine the other guys, they can be startled into action and reminded in a very noticeable way that they’re supposed to be working.

There are still some decent and hardworking members of Congress, but not nearly enough of them to fix the situation, and increasing numbers of them are retiring or getting fed up and quitting. It’s no wonder the U.S. electorate is so disillusioned and discouraged about the state of the country. Let’s hope enough voters actually start “throwing the rascals out” at the ballot box. Then maybe we can start over and elect folks who will dedicate themselves to serving the country instead of serving themselves.

Going off

Former Gov. Brian Schweitzer has again shot off his mouth in an impolite fashion, and this time it was a little too politically incorrect to be ignored, at least by a large chunk of the national, regional and local press. He recently indicated to a National Journal reporter that U.S. Sen. Eric Cantor set off his “gaydar” and that Southern men are a “little effeminate.”

Schweitzer followed up that doozy by essentially comparing U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to a hooker in terms of first supporting and then opposing National Security Agency spying.

“She was the woman who was standing under the streetlight with her dress pulled all the way up over her knees,” he reportedly said. “And now she says, ‘I’m a nun,’ when it comes to this spying. I mean, maybe that’s the wrong metaphor — but she was all in!”

Feinstein was later asked on CNN for her response to this and replied, “My first reaction was that I laughed. To tell you the truth, he’s got clearly a rather large mouth and all sorts of things come out. I think that’s really too bad, but it is the way it is.”

Schweitzer apologized for the gaffes on Facebook, stating that he “recently made a number of stupid and insensitive remarks,” adding that he was “deeply sorry and sincerely apologize for my carelessness and disregard.”

However, some thought it was too little, too late. On June 19 on Crossfire, S.E. Cupp and Stephanie Cutter gave Schweitzer their “Outrage of the Day” (toning that down to “amusement”), calling his comments “over the line” and noting that, “‘Guns, gaydar and hookers’ sure would have made an interesting presidential platform.”

Others have flatly disqualified Schweitzer from any serious consideration in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. “This time the loose cannon was aimed back at the ship,” said Ben LaBolt, a Democratic Party strategist.

Drinking deaths

A new report on alcohol consumption from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that nearly one in 10 deaths in this country among working-age adults (defined as those aged 20-64) between 2006-2010 were due to excessive drinking, and that 71 percent of the approximately 88,000 who died were men.

As for the top states regarding the percentage of deaths attributable to alcohol, Montana was right up there at No. 6, surpassed only by New Mexico, Alaska, Colorado, Wyoming and Arizona.

In the CDC study, excessive alcohol consumption was defined as binge drinking (five or more drinks on a single occasion for men and four or more for women) or heavy weekly consumption (15 or more a week for men and eight or more for women). The study also noted that alcohol was the fourth-highest cause of preventable deaths in the U.S. during that period, with smoking, poor nutrition and lack of activity as the top three.

Money reports

Monday of this week was when congressional campaigns were supposed to close the books on April-June contributions and prepare for the next quarterly filing due July 15 to the Federal Election Commission. No doubt Montana’s House nominees (Ryan Zinke and John Lewis) and U.S. Senate nominees (John Walsh and Steve Daines) are busy looking under every rock and emailing every would-be supporter for money.

The next campaign filing deadlines are Oct. 15 and 23, 2014, to cover the pre-election contribution periods of July 1 to Sept. 30 and Oct. 1-15, respectively. Any campaign contributions federal candidates get between Oct. 16 and Nov. 24 won’t have to be reported until Dec. 4, which is exactly a month after the general election.

Quote of the week

“This is a systemic problem we have here. We have an inability to get the truth in real time. And the media has complete inability to find out the truth in real time. And when it’s right in front of their face, they don’t always report it. And so we really have a problem here because if we don’t know what the truth is in this country, we don’t have a country. It’s end of story. It’s not our country anymore.”

— Charles Lewis, author of “935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity,” on “Moyers & Company,” June 27.

Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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