Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Winston-Salem Journal says look at Brian Schweitzer

It would be inappropriate to state that 'Schweitzer-mania' has reached North Carolina but the Winston-Salem Journal has taken notice of Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer.

Look at this editorial:
November 27, 2005
The Montana Solution
Winston-Salem Journal

Brian Schweitzer has an idea that could make both tree-hugging liberals and truck-driving conservatives ecstatic. In the process, his plan could greatly enhance national security, reduce the balance of payments deficit and relieve the president of the United States from the embarrassment of having to hold hands with the king of Saudi Arabia.

Schweitzer is the governor of Montana, a state with 120 billion tons of known coal reserves - enough to produce liquid fuel equal to one-quarter of all the Middle East's oil reserves.

You can almost see The New York Daily News headline now - "Bush To Saudis: Drop Dead!"

It's not a pipe dream, although the coal-to-fuel process could fill more than a few pipelines between Montana's eastern grasslands and the nation's gas stations. This is a proven technology, already in use in South Africa. The Chinese are building plants, too.

Schweitzer is trying to build the Montana economy, and it makes sense to build coal conversion plants close to the coal fields. If it happens, it will be an economic bonanza for a poor state with a small population.

Coal-to-fuel conversion has been available for almost a century, but the United States did not embrace it because the oil business has so much clout in Washington, Schweitzer says.

But many of the oil companies now consider themselves energy companies and there is interest in developing just the kind of projects that Schweitzer proposes. He's met with officials from both Shell Oil Co. and a South African firm in hopes that they'll build a conversion plant in Montana.
For the rest go here.

To Democrats looking for success: look west

John B.L. Soule was right. So much so, that Horace Greeley copied him. Greeley's appropriation of Soule's original "Go west young man..." slogan about success to be found in the west is in play yet again with an article in today's New York Times.

And yes, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer receives prominent play.
The Nation
Out West, Democrats Roam Free

Published: November 27, 2005


THE gun-loving, pickup truck-driving, church-going, jeans-wearing governor of Montana - a Democrat in his first year - was reveling in his poll numbers on a day when broader surveys found that barely a third of the people approved of their national government leaders.

"Look at these numbers," said Gov. Brian Schweitzer, pointing to the annual Montana State University survey showing him with a job approval rating of 69 percent - 27 points higher than President Bush in Montana and 21 points above the Republican senator, Conrad Burns, who is up for re-election next year. "People seem to like what we're doing."

Across the vast inland sea of Republican red, in states like Kansas, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Arizona, other Democratic governors are soaring at the same high level of approval in the polls. They may not look much like coastal Democrats, and they may not talk much like their party leaders. At times, they act as if they would rather catch the bird flu than have their pictures taken with Howard Dean, the Democratic Party chairman who often runs into "scheduling conflicts" with the governors whenever he visits.

But as Democrats look to nationalize the Congressional elections next year, they have been traipsing off to political backwaters likes Helena, Cheyenne, Wyo., and Topeka, Kan., for tips from Heartland Democrats. The breed that has long been ignored, but was forced early on to learn some survival strategies, is now in vogue.
For the rest of the article, go here.

The Billings Gazette gives kudos to Brian Schweitzer

Contrast the following with the Bush Administration worshipping the 'secrecy-above-all-else' altar. If democracy is of, by and for the people, who do you want leading it--those who disdain the public's right to know or Brian Schweitzer?
Gazette opinion: Schweitzer defends public's right to know

November 17, 2005

Despite the weather, there was sunshine in Helena this week. Gov. Brian Schweitzer sought to protect the people's right to know in a complaint he filed against the board responsible for eight public pension funds.

A complaint filed for the governor in District Court alleges that the Public Employees' Retirement Board violated the state's open-meetings statute as well as the Montana Constitution's mandate for public access in meetings held between August and November. Schweitzer's complaint challenges the PERB's recent meetings on these points:

# Failing to include action items, such as the executive director's retirement and the hiring of a new executive director, on its printed agendas.

# Holding board and committee meetings in secret, having provided no public notice of the meetings.

The governor asked the court to void those meetings as well as the entire selection process for a new executive director and the job offer that was made after the meetings.

The Gazette ends its editorial with:

...Schweitzer had already taken some extraordinary steps in his administration to increase public information about state government. The governor has opened his Cabinet meetings and even meetings in his office to the media.
Montana's governor is making good on his promise of open government. That's good news for all Montanans.
To read the entire editorial, go here.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Schweitzer's coal panacea gets front-page treatment in New York Times, DailyKos

Governor Schweitzer's innovative energy plan -- which we were among the first to trumpet back in July -- scores a front-page article in the New York Times today:

If the vast, empty plain of eastern Montana is the Saudi Arabia of coal, then Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a prairie populist with a bolo tie and an advanced degree in soil science, may be its Lawrence.

Rarely a day goes by that he does not lash out against the "sheiks, dictators, rats and crooks" who control the world oil supply or the people he calls their political handmaidens, "the best Congress that Big Oil can buy."

Governor Schweitzer, a Democrat, has a two-fisted idea for energy independence that he carries around with him. In one fist is a shank of Montana coal, black and hard. In the other fist is a vial of nearly odorless clear liquid - a synthetic fuel that came from the coal and could run cars, jets and trucks or heat homes without contributing to global warming or setting off a major fight with environmental groups, he said.

"Smell that," Mr. Schweitzer said, thrusting his vial of fuel under the noses of interested observers here in the capital, where he works in jeans with a border collie underfoot. "You hardly smell anything. This is a clean fuel, converted from coal by a chemical process. We can produce enough of this in Montana to power every American car for decades." ...

"I'm just a soil scientist trying to get people in Washington, D.C., to take the cotton out of their ears," Mr. Schweitzer said with somewhat practiced modesty. "But if we can change the world in Montana, why not try it?"

It's a fantastic article, and is being trumpeted on the front page of Daily Kos by Jerome a Paris, the editor of European Tribune. Jerome starts out with some pretty favorable comments on the article, but then begins asking the tough questions:

That's the major drawback of his plan. That 150,000b/d plant (which represents just 1% of imports, and even less of total consumption), apart form its price, will require about 2mt/y of coal - about 2% of Montana's current production, i.e. vast quantities of the stuff. That's why I would not tout CTL as the magic bullet. It's certainly one of the solutions that can be used to diversify gasoline/diesel sourcing, but it is unrealistic to expect it to provide more than a fraction of total demand. 20% of imports - 2.5 mb/d will require $120 billion of investment and a 30% increase in Montana's coal production, a worthy goal for the next 10 or 15 years, but unlikely to be reached without a major political push.

My answer: this reasoning is decidedly circular. What Schweitzer is proposing IS a "major political push" -- and he's got all the reins of power in Montana, the Executive and both Legislative houses, so why shouldn't he be able to pull it off? I simply don't see the logic in criticizing the idea because it needs political capital to succeed when that capital is already being provided by Schweitzer.

Jerome continues:

Governor Schweitzer has said all the right things on this topic, but we will need to hold him accountable for these promises, and make sure that the goal is not to get cheap gasoline, but to get clean gasoline, because the consequences will otherwise be pretty stark - for Montana grasslands, for the quality of air in the region, and for global warming.

But at least he is keeping energy up and center in the political debate, he is keeping the initiative with a smart proposal, and he is associating Democrats with a lot of positive concepts. We should encourage him to continue, so long as the "clean" part is not forgotten.

Here I agree with Jerome -- Schweitzer needs to enforce cleanliness regulations against the companies he invites to mine Montana for his panacea. But knowing Schweitzer, I don't think it's likely he will forget -- he's an environmentalist through and through. Again, I think this is a pretty moot point.

But hey -- I'm glad the ideas are finally out there, being discussed in national media and on national blogs. Mark my words: as I said in July, Schweitzer's coal panacea is going to revolutionize American energy, and maybe even be the Gov's ticket to national political office. Energy Secretary Schweitzer, anyone?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Brian Schweitzer gets even more 'love' in Seattle

Joel Connelly, a columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, seemingly can't get enough of Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. Here he is again, with Schweitzer taking a deliberate swipe at the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC):
November 18, 2005

Big Sky governor has big dreams


CHENEY -- A sky-high dreamer from the Big Sky State, Gov. Brian Schweitzer aims to make Montana government a lobbyist-free zone and to "create the new energy center of the world."

The mint farmer and cattle rancher -- he once exported bull semen -- has already accomplished a near impossible task. He has revived the Democratic Party in an inland-west state snubbed by his party's presidential candidates.

A statewide poll released last week by Montana State UniversityBillings gives Schweitzer an approval rating of 68 percent, compared with 45 percent for President Bush. Schweitzer is getting noticed in nearby states.

The Montana governor whipped off his bolo tie for auction recently at a Spokane fund-raiser for Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. It went for $2,500.

"He's not your Seattle-type Democrat," said state Rep. David Gallik, a legislator from Helena who once worked as a U.S. Senate aide in Seattle.

Schweitzer was quick to make the same point during a visit to watch Eastern Washington play his alma mater, Montana State. "Well, look," he said, "the Democratic Party has allowed a few to be defining its message, but the party is a big tent."

But the governor is no fan of the Democratic Leadership Council -- the centrist outfit, once headed by an ambitious Arkansas governor named Bill Clinton, that is populated by Washington, D.C., lobbyists and funded by their corporate overlords.

"Washington, D.C., is a giant cesspool filled with special interests," Schweitzer said. "Unless we change the culture of Washington, D.C., we're not going to change the country."

In Helena, Schweitzer has adopted a policy of not allowing any lobbyist to serve on a state board or commission.
For the rest of the column, go here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Brian Schweitzer featured in this column

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer received some more ink in this Joel Connelly/Seattle Post Intelligencer column. Be sure to click on the link to read the rest of the article. Schweitzer ends it with a corker.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005

West is a moving target on wildlife protection


In the buffet line at a Greater Yellowstone Coalition conference a few years back, mogul Ted Turner regaled two young Greenpeace activists on the pleasures of shooting and skinning deer, with tips on preparing venison.

The greenies, both vegans, were turning green by the time they reached the salad table.

Distinctive breeds of conservationists are found in different corners of the West. Where you stand is, in large measure, a function of where you live.

Three events yesterday underscored the point.

# Under sustained pressure from Seattle-area greens, the National Marine Fisheries Service upgraded its listing of Puget Sound orcas from a "threatened" to an "endangered" species.

The listing is the culmination of a 30-year battle against threats to the great marine mammals, from their capture by aquariums to hidden toxic dangers.

# On the same day, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced plans to revoke Endangered Species Act protection from the grizzly bear population around Yellowstone National Park. It argued that the grizzlies have recovered and that bears will get top priority in managing 5.9 million acres of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

The revocation sets up a furious battle pitting on the one hand state wildlife managers and the hunting-oriented National Wildlife Federation -- which support delisting -- against such outfits as the National Resources Defense Council and Earthjustice, which fear "open season" on ursus horribilis.

# The ides of November saw resumption of Montana's controversial bison hunt outside boundaries of Yellowstone National Park. The first buffalo was shot by a 17-year-old who won a coveted license in a drawing.

Animal-rights activists were on hand to film the skinning. They have mounted furious protests at the close-range shooting, describing it as a "slaughter" of animals that venture outside the national park.

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, one of the Democrats' rising stars in the West, has no qualms about the hunt. Schweitzer was one of 6,000 hunters who applied for 50 licenses to shoot a buffalo.

He didn't get a license but has a debt to pay. Schweitzer must deliver five buffalo steaks to Gov. Christine Gregoire as part of a bet on last Saturday's Eastern Washington-Montana State football game. The EWU Eagles beat the MSU Bobcats 35-14.

What to make of these crosscurrents?

Brian Schweitzer is proud that the Big Sky State has the largest population of grizzly bears remaining in the Lower 48 states.

He has also proposed capturing and checking every animal in the Yellowstone buffalo herd for brucellosis, a disease that bison can transmit to cattle on ranches outside the park.

At the same time, the governor owns a 12-gauge, and points out that Montana has one of America's highest gun ownership rates but one of its lowest rates of gun violence.

"We like open spaces, cherish clean water and love magnificent landscapes with few roads," Schweitzer said in an interview during last Saturday's game.

"We also fish and hunt. We like guns. I don't like it when guns get demonized. Hunters are conservationists. People live in Montana, stay in Montana, when they are paid less than elsewhere. Why? Our lifestyle."

Montana has a population of 971,000. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey, done in 2001, 723,000 of them fished, hunted or watched wildlife. Any effort to restrict hunting rights, or cut off fishing access to streams, gets danders up...
For the rest of the article, go here.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Montanans give Brian Schweitzer a big thumbs up

Today's Billings Gazette contained an article about the feelings of Montanans towards various state political figures and the such. We zeroed in on this:
Schweitzer gets majority nod in poll

Most Montanans like the way Gov. Brian Schweitzer is doing his job, according to a poll conducted by Montana State University-Billings students.

More than 68 percent of the 401 state residents interviewed for the poll taken the first week in November said that they approved of Schweitzer's job performance. More than 14 percent disapproved, and about 17 percent were undecided.

The highest approval rating that Schweitzer's predecessor, Judy Martz, received was nearly 37 percent in 2001, said Craig Wilson, MSU-Billings political science professor and a co-director of the poll with sociology professor Joe Floyd.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Helena Independent Record gets 'personal' with Brian Schweitzer

We can't really call it a 'political' article in The Helena Independent Record but it's still a worthwhile read on Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer:
He’s not all politics
By MARTIN J. KIDSTON - IR Features Writer - 11/07/05

A fan of John Cougar and author James Michener, Gov. Brian Schweitzer has a decidedly lighter side, which he’s fond of sharing when not talking politics.

His black polyester slacks don’t quite cover the scuffed toe of his equally black work boots. But as the light glints off the airplane’s window at 16,000 feet, the governor’s bolo tie shines as brightly as his enthusiasm. Even as Brian Schweitzer works the daily grind as the state’s first Democratic governor since Ted Schwinden was elected in 1981, he’s not all politics all the time.

In fact, there’s a decidedly lighter side to the man who has made developing Montana’s energy resources one of his top political issues.

On a recent flight to Washington to welcome the first wave of Montana soldiers back from Iraq, the governor showed he could banter with the best of them, telling stories and, on the way home, even singing a song or two.

When the conversations died he turned to his newest book, “More Montana Campfire Tales,” by Dave Walter, before pulling out a game of Trivial Pursuit and putting his passengers to the test.

“What 1975 blockbuster sees Roy Schneider utter, ‘We need a bigger boat’?” the governor read from the card. The answer came from the back of the plane. “Jaws.”

That was an easy one. But truth be told, Schweitzer said he doesn’t have time to watch movies.

“I might watch a movie on TV or HBO or something,” he said. “But even when I wasn’t governor, I didn’t have time to go to the movies.”

Schweitzer does make time for music, though he doesn’t yet have an iPod and his taste for pop culture goes back to an earlier time. In passing, he did mention Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, but he left the likes of Nelly, Atomic Kitten and Shakira out of the conversation.

Pressed with the question, Schweitzer showed little hesitation as he declared his two favorite songs — John Cougar’s 1985 hit “Small Town,” and Jerry Jeff Walker’s 1975 release, “LA Freeway.”

“Pack up all your dishes, make note of all good wishes,” Schweitzer sang. “Say goodbye to the landlord for me; Sons of b….s always bore me.”

It doesn’t sound familiar but that’s no surprise given how most of the reporters on this flight could pass as one of the governor’s children.

But the generation gap hasn’t hurt Schweitzer’s “cool” factor. In fact, Rolling Stone Magazine recently ranked him as the nation’s “hot governor” in its 2005 “Hot List” issue.

Schweitzer only grinned about the publicity and said his daughter doesn’t think he’s as “cool” as Rolling Stone does.
For the rest of the article, go here.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Brian Schweitzer and others governors to Bush: don't even think about it

The federal effort to involve the United States military in command-and-control of state disaster relief efforts isn't going over to well with some of the nation's governors, Brian Schweitzer included:
Governors chafe at greater military role
By MATT GOURAS, Associated Press Writer
Friday, November 4, 2005

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Several governors are fuming over a Bush administration suggestion that the active military take a greater role in disaster response, calling it an attempt to usurp state authority over National Guard units.

Governors in Washington, Mississippi, Michigan, Arkansas, West Virginia, Delaware and Alabama are among those who have panned the idea, questioning whether it would even be constitutional.

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, among the harshest critics, said the issue promises to be a major topic at the Western Governors Association meeting in Phoenix next week.

"I'm going to stand up among a bunch of elected governors and say, 'Are we going to allow the military without a shot being fired to effectively do an end-run coup on civilian government? Are we going to allow that?'" Schweitzer said. "We're going to have a little civics lesson for some leaders who are apparently out of touch in the military."
For the rest of the article, go here.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Even the folks at REASON Magazine are getting aboard the Brian Schweitzer bandwagon

Well, one 'folk' is, Matt Welch, the associate editor of REASON. Tell me, is this a blessing or a curse?
November 2, 2005
Democrats need a breath of mountain-fresh air
By Matt Welch

FOR MAYBE the first time since the Gingrich revolution rocked their world in 1994, Democrats smell electoral blood in the water.

The conservative crackup over Harriet E. Miers, followed by the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby — both directly on the heels of the bungled federal response to Hurricane Katrina — have unleashed a long-suppressed crisis of conscience and faith within the Republican church.

After more than a decade of controlling the House of Representatives, and after five years of a White House spending binge that would make even Lyndon Johnson blush, Republicans are coming to the awkward realization that they have become the party of Big Government as we know it.

Instead of balancing budgets, eliminating government agencies and paring back entitlements, Republicans have run up the largest debt in history, birthed the biggest new federal bureaucracy in 50 years and created the most expensive entitlement since Medicare. Instead of "restoring dignity to the White House," as they promised, Republican leaders are being charged with criminal corruption and obstruction of justice. President Bush's popularity is getting lower by the week, and a housing bubble is looming precariously over an already fragile economy...

...If voters are fed up with irresponsible Big Government cronyism, why not offer a responsible alternative that keeps government out of people's lives except when necessary? After all, libertarian-leaning Republicans and independents are in play like they haven't been since at least 1996, and there's no saying they can't be won over by the Democrats...

...Montana's Democratic governor, Brian Schweitzer, a gun-toting farmer, has won massive popularity in a deeply red state with his pragmatic environmentalism and emphasis on energy production...
For the complete article, go here.