Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Two Thirds of Montana Residents Approve of Governor Schweitzer's Performance

In a state with a registered Republican majority, Montana Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer is getting love from two thirds of his state.

A recent SurveyUSA poll indicates that 66% of Montanans believe Schweitzer is doing a good job.

Here are the numbers from the article:

Montana Schweitzer, Brian Democrat approve 66% disapprove 27%

Talk about across the board appeal!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Brian Schweitzer to host energy conference

Leave it to Governor Schweitzer to take the lead in hosting what is a conference to plan for Montana's energy needs but also a blueprint for the current resident of the White House to emulate:

Eight governors to attend energy conference in Bozeman

The governors of eight states will gather in Bozeman next month for a two-day conference being held to develop a long-term energy policy for the state of Montana.

Govs. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Christine Gregoire of Washington and Dave Freudenthal of Wyoming will be among those attending the Montana's Energy Future Symposium, taking place Oct. 18 and 19 at Montana State University.
The conference is the brainchild of Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who is using it to bring together the best minds to tackle everything from energy production to environmental protection.

"Only by working together will we be able to form a stable, long-term energy policy that protects the citizens and ratepayers of Montana, protects our environment, while further strengthening our economy," Schweitzer said in a prepared statement released Wednesday.

The conference will mostly consist of work sessions, covering such topics as natural gas production and transmission; the state's coal industry; renewable resources; biofuels; tribal perspectives on energy development; and carbon sequestration, which has been touted as a possible solution to global warming.

Panelists will include representatives from the energy industry, environmental groups and a wide variety of other interests.

"The overall goal is to bring together experts from all walks of life to come up with the most effective energy policy in the state of Montana," Rhonda Whiting of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council said. She is one of two people organizing the conference for the governor's office.

The main event will be a governor's panel on energy policy moderated by Schweitzer on Oct. 18. All the governors will participate except Richardson, a former U.S. secretary of energy. He will instead deliver the lunchtime address on Oct. 19.

For the rest of the article, go here.

Joshua Frank profiles Brian Schweitzer, Montana politics and winning the west

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer receives praise in this Joshua Frank article for counterbias.com.
(Joshua Frank is the author of "Left Out!: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush", published by Common Courage Press. To contact Joshua or to learn more about his new book, visit brickburner.org.)
Winning the West: Progressives 'Stand Up'

September 9 2005
by Joshua Frank

There is something going on in Montana. Call it neo-populism. Last November, Montanans voted in favor of medical marijuana and shot down an initiative that would have returned open-pit, cyanide heap-leach mining to the state. Mining companies put up millions to raise support for the bill, but Montanans didn't bite. The barons were defeated.

Montanans also forced Republican Gov. Judy Martz from office. She had a horrible record and her popularity plummeted in the waning months of her tenure. In fact, Martz was so hated that she decided not to run for reelection. Instead of replacing Martz with another conservative, Montanans opted to elect Brian Schweitzer, a wealthy cattle rancher from the state. Schweitzer is fast becoming recognized as a prototype of the leadership the Democratic establishment is looking for. Indeed, Democrats could learn a few things from Schweitzer. He's vocal. He isn't fond of Bush's Iraq venture, insisting that National Guard troops ought to return immediately and he lets up know it. He thinks Bush's war on Social Security is also bogus. He is working hard to put money back into the pockets of Montana farmers and has a consistent record of speaking out against neoliberal trade agreements. Besides, he's said he thinks Washington is blatantly corrupt.

"If I stay in Washington for more than 72 hours," Schweitzer said after a recent visit, "I have to bathe myself in the same stuff I use when my dog gets into a fight with a skunk."

This doesn't mean Schweitzer is a radical by any means. He's got a long way to go before Trotsky enthusiasts will ever embrace him. Indeed, progressives and others in Montana should continue to pressure Schweitzer to adopt the issues they believe in.

That is how victory is won.
For the rest of the article, go here.

Brian Schweitzer, in his own words, on energy policy

This entry speaks for itself. It is Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer addressing one aspect of what is so badly needed in our country: a national energy policy.
Gov: Synfuels are the future
Gov. Brian Schweitzer

I have a passion for energy, particularly clean, affordable energy like biodiesel, ethanol and wind power that can be produced in America. So when earlier this year a top Pentagon official told me of the military's interest in using clean-burning diesel fuel made from coal rather than oil, I was all ears.

Most people are surprised to learn that the technology for using coal to make fuels like diesel, gasoline and jet fuel has existed for 80 years, and was used in America as early as 1928. The largest applications of synfuel technology were notorious: Germany in the 1940's, and South Africa during apartheid. Both made their synfuel out of coal when the world would not sell them oil. Today, South Africa produces 200,000 barrels a day of clean fuel each day. Commonly called "Fischer-Tropsch" or "synfuels", these liquids have remarkable properties: they burn cleaner and perform better than petroleum fuels, and require no engine modifications.

Jobs and Economic Benefits

With 120 billion tons of coal in the ground, Montana is as well suited to make synfuels as any state in America. This is why over the last several months I have been meeting with top energy executives, scientists and investors to get the ball rolling on a coal-to-liquids fuel complex in eastern Montana.

The benefits to our state would be tremendous. In liquid fuel terms, Montana's coal is the equivalent of one-quarter of the oil in the entire Middle East. Even by developing a fraction of these reserves, we can create jobs, bring much-needed economic development to eastern Montana, and produce ultra-clean fuel to distribute around the West.

Energy Independence

In the larger context, synfuel production would give America energy independence in the purest sense: American fuel, made on American soil by American workers. With additional domestic fuel supplementing foreign imports, the U.S. would not be at the mercy of price-fixing dictators, or international speculators that cause wild market fluctuations in the price of fuel.

At the same time, we could provide valuable independence to our military, currently the largest single consumer of foreign oil in the country. The Department of Defense, expected to be a key player in the Montana fuel project, needs a fuel supply that is stable, dependable and made in America. Montana can fill this order.

Clean Technology

We all want to reduce emissions. Synfuel moves beyond "clean coal technology" to accomplish that goal. In the production process, coal is first turned into syngas. Sulfur, arsenic and mercury, as well as greenhouse gases, are safely removed and the syngas is then converted to crude products that can be distilled into a variety of fuels that burn dramatically cleaner than conventional fuels. Furthermore, the technology is flexible. While one by-product is electricity, the end product can be diesel, gasoline, syngas, or looking toward the future, hydrogen to power ultra-clean fuel cells.

Montana's Energy Future

Given the benefits of this technology, it is tragic that America has sat idly as countries like South Africa, and more recently China, Qatar and Malaysia, have built synthetic fuel plants. We put a man on the moon 67 years after the Wright Brothers' first flight. It's now been 80 years since the U.S. government first made fuel from coal, yet American citizens are being forced to empty their bank accounts to buy fuel. Four years after 9-11, our federal government has not devised a national strategy for dissolving the foreign oil chains that bind us to the world's dictators.

I, for one, have had enough. Next month in Bozeman, I am hosting a summit of seven governors along with state and national leading energy experts to discuss the future of domestic energy in both Montana and America. While only one of many promising solutions to America's dependence on foreign oil, coal-to-liquids technology is going to be a major topic of discussion at that conference. With an oil crisis in America and a war being waged in the world's oil center, it is time to invest in a clean, affordable American fuel. Working together, we Montanans will lead the way.

Brian Schweitzer and other governors smell a rat

That good 'ol free market system manages itself.

How many times have we heard that bromide?

Unfortunately, far more times than we have heard of the various HealthSouth, Tyco, Enron, Adelphia, World.com, Halliburton, etc. economic scandals where we cynically surmise that the free market was JUST ABOUT to step in and take control right before all those respective hells broke lose.

Yes, there are those ghouls who live to profit from the hardship and misery of others. Many are currently descending on the Gulf Coast.

But sometimes it not just the amoral individual doing such nasty deeds. Sometimes, it is a cabal at work utilizing precise and heartless decision-making

Congratulations to the appointed officals mentioned in the following article. Nothing will come of the call for a governmental investigation but at least we know where these officials stand.
Gov. joins call for gas price probe By The Associated Press - 09/21/2005

Gov. Brian Schweitzer and seven other Democratic governors are asking Congress to investigate possible gasoline-price gouging in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and refund any ill-gotten profits to consumers.

The letter, sent to the Bush administration, cited a study by University of Wisconsin-Madison economist Don Nichols that found the hurricane was not fully to blame for high gasoline prices. The study estimated that for pump prices to reach $3 a gallon, the price of crude oil would have to be about $95 a barrel. Prices for crude have been holding at around $65 a barrel.

Ten refineries were knocked out by Katrina but Nichols said windfall profits are still involved.

‘‘Somebody is sitting on money they didn't earn,'' he said, ‘‘because they were in the right place at the right time.''

Ed Murphy of the Washington D.C.-based American Petroleum Institute said refining capacity was tight before Katrina hit and that it was reduced further by the storm. ‘‘That put upward pessure on petroleum prices,'' he said. ‘‘It's a no-brainer.''

Historically, Nichols said, the markup between the price of a gallon of crude and a gallon of gasoline is about 85 to 90 cents a gallon including refining, distribution and taxes.

At $50 for a 44-gallon barrel of crude, he said, the pump price should be about $2 a gallon, a little more or less in some states depending on taxes. At $65 a barrel — nearly identical to the price in Tuesday afternoon trading — a gallon should be about $2.30.

But as of Monday, the average cost of a gallon of regular was $2.78 nationwide. A week ago, it was $2.95 a gallon.

In Montana, the average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline was $2.82, 31 cents higher than a month ago, according to AAA MountainWest.

Jim Rink, a spokesman for AAA, said many factors influence the price of gasoline, such as state taxes and retailers who raise prices to drive down demand and preserve low inventories. The automobile association spokesman said he would rather see different state attorneys general or the Federal Trade Commission start an investigation.

Besides Schweitzer, governors signing the letter were Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, Rod Blagojevich of Illinois; Jennifer Granholm of Michigan; Christine Gregoire of Washington; Ted Kulongoski of Oregon; Bill Richardson of New Mexico; and Tom Vilsack of Iowa.

For the rest of the article, go here.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Brian Schweitzer teams up with United Stockgrowers of America & Ranchers-Cattlemen Legal Action Fund

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer displays yet again his willingness to go to bat for the little guy in the following article. Wouldn't having such a person in the office of the Presidency of the United States be such a turn-around from the current and longstanding Washington D.C. method of operation of only-greed-is-good, corporate rule? You bet.

Let Schweitzer-ism out of the barn in 2008. It's time. Check that, it's past time.
September 14, 2005
Cattlemen's Group Wrangles With Its Former Allies


BILLINGS, Mont., Sept. 10- In a cramped office sandwiched between cattle auction yards and the looming white tanks of an oil refinery is the headquarters of a growing cowboy rebellion against federal trade policies and the large beef-packing companies they once regarded as allies.

It is the office of the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, or R-Calf USA, an organization of ranchers founded in 1999 that says its membership has doubled to 18,000 in the last year.

The organization has found an ally in Montana's governor, a former rancher who last month called the Agriculture Department "stooges" of the meatpacking industry. And it has drawn the ire of a rival beef group and Canadian ranchers by managing to keep the border closed to Canadian cattle for several months this year.

Staking its ground against the Bush administration and meatpackers, who depend on a steady supply of cattle, R-Calf contends that the threat of mad cow disease is still too great to allow Canadian cattle into the United States.

"Our competitive advantage is we produce the best beef under the best conditions," said Bill Bullard, chief executive of R-Calf. The Department of Agriculture, Mr. Bullard said, was "attempting to compromise those very health and safety standards" by allowing the import of Canadian cattle.

For years, most cattle producers were part of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, based in Colorado, whose members include large packers and cattle feeding operations.

But issues like the North American Free Trade Act, the recent Central America Free Trade Act, mad cow disease and mandatory country of origin labeling have fenced off segments of the industry. Producers have found themselves on the other side of many of these issues from packing houses like IBP and Tyson.

"Anything we've brought forward to help U.S. cattle producers be more competitive, N.C.B.A. has been opposed," said Leo McDonnell, the president and founder of R-Calf, who breeds bulls near Columbus, Mont. "As great as the global market is, we're a dying industry."

An obituary may be premature, but the number of cattle has fallen, to 104 million this year from 125 million in 1981, and producers declined to 989,000 in 2004 from 1.3 million in 1989, according to Agriculture Department statistics.

Some industry observers are surprised by the growth of R-Calf. If anything, ranchers are seen as independent types not quick to join organizations. But the group speaks the same language as its members and is narrowly focused on ranchers' concerns.

"R-Calf is run by people who look and talk like cowboys," said Mikkel Pates, a reporter for Agweek in Fargo, N.D., who has written about the organization. "And they are."

...The ranchers' rebellion has received support from Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana, a Democrat who has cultivated a populist streak. He says the large meatpackers have grown too powerful.

"They control not only the market, but the regulatory agencies," Mr. Schweitzer said.

"It's a revolving door," he said...

For the rest of the article, go here.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Washington Post Discovers Brian Schweitzer

Today's Washington Post carries an excellent profile on Brian Schweitzer. Schweitzer diagnoses the ills of the national Democratic Party and details what it will take to win back the hearts and minds of this nation:
Putting the Big Sky In a Populist Frame
Montana's Rookie Democratic Governor Shows Party What It Takes in Red State

By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Staff Writer
September 5, 200

BUTTE, Mont. -- The Democratic governor of this red state was discussing his "God-given" political gifts while seated in his gubernatorial aircraft.

"You know, if John Kerry could do what I do, he'd be president," said Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who was a mint farmer until last November and is now being talked about as the kind of brassy populist the Democrats need to win back the White House.

Schweitzer, broad of shoulder, red of face and sure of self, was barnstorming in Big Sky country -- four towns in 11 hours, sweet-talking local Republicans, praising random Montanans for the excellence of their dogs and slapping backs in barrooms. He was advertising all that he has done for the 917,000 people of his state since they elected him as their first Democratic governor in 16 years. Schweitzer won by four percentage points, while Kerry lost here to President Bush by 20 points.

In the airplane between the mining town of Butte and the ranching town of Dillon, Schweitzer raised the altitude of his pronouncements and diagnosed the Big Picture: how Democrats could change their losing ways, seize the levers of power and be, well, like him.

"Be likable, be self-deprecating, don't be a know-it-all using a lot of big words," said Schweitzer, 50, who mixes plain speaking with ranch dressing: blue jeans, a bolo tie, cowboy boots and, always somewhere nearby, a border collie named Jag.

"In politics, it doesn't matter what the facts are," he said. "It matters what the perceptions are. It is the way you frame it."
For the rest of the article, go here.