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Putting Montana Back on the National Radar

Tiger Max, Evel Denny, Buffalo Brian and Mini-Max Jon

by PAUL RICHARDS

Montana politics are fun again! It seems like eons since we were amused by bald-faced buffoonery by the likes of former U.S. Rep. Marlenee and former U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns.

Sure, we’ve had 35 years of consistently reliable incoherence from U.S. Sen. Max Baucus in his natural mental state. And, the captivating antics of U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, in his alcohol-induced “wild and crazy guy” state.

But, it’s been a full five and a half years since Rehberg visited Kazakhstan, drank six shots of vodka, called the locals “coneheads,” fell off a horse, and broke his ribs. And, a full 27 years since Baucus traded in then-wife Ann Geracimos for now-former-wife Wanda Minge. Pretty boring.

Of course, Baucus has since achieved stardom inside the Beltway for raking in more special-interest money than any other senator. Last year, Baucus raised $12 million, much of it from industries he “regulates,” with 87 percent coming from non-Montanans.

Baucus is also infamous for his staff’s incessant “revolving door” relationship with K Street. Over two dozen former Baucus employees now lobby for the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries. Was anyone really surprised when Baucus sold us out on health care? But, hey, that’s politics. Again, pretty boring stuff.

In the past, Montanans have cut Baucus a lot of slack, due to his awkwardness and speech impediments. But, Baucus’s inherent ineptitude is now a topic of national discussion, due to his spectacularly disastrous flameout regarding health insurance.

However, to the fickle public, predictable machinations like caving on health care apparently don’t hold a candle to personal proclivities. Who would have guessed that Baucus would pull a Tiger Woods concerning his wife and his girlfriend? But, you’ve got to hand it to Woods. At least, Tiger never nominated his mistress to be head of the PGA Tour.

As for Rehberg, drinking too much, insulting locals, falling off something, and breaking bones is one thing in Kazakhstan, but quite another at home. A boatload of inebriated Republicans revelers roaring their 22-foot-long craft at 4,000 rpm and 40-45 miles per hour straight into the shoreline of Flathead Lake is bound to receive a bit more media coverage.

By doing an Evel Knievel (whose 37 broken bones earned him a revered entry in the Guinness Book of World Records) last August, Rehberg demonstrated with profundity the “cojones” necessary to win the demographically-significant and much-coveted Butte alcoholic vote.

Add to this, our effervescent Gov. Brian Schweitzer bragging that, “No governor in Montana history has sent more bison to slaughter than this governor,” in reference to the senseless killing of more than 2,800 of the imperiled last remaining wild migrating bison in the world.

After his sycophancy before the Montana Stockgrowers Association, “Buffalo Brian” then quickly elbowed his way to be the Last Best Passenger on board the Tester Logging Bill Hindenburg.

For the past couple of years, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester has been OK fulfilling his designated role as “mini-Max,” quietly focusing on veterans’ affairs, and subscribing to Baucus’s tutelage that securing corporate cash from inside-the-Beltway lobbyists is of superior import than audaciously standing up for cashless commoners from far-off Montana hinterlands.

But, in pushing a bill projected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for industrial-scale logging of national forests that have NO commercial timberlands, “mini-Max” Tester has now also established himself as worthy of commemoration in the pantheon of politicians. Even the U.S. Forest Service, which never saw a timber sale it didn’t like, had to oppose mini-Max’s largesse for a mere four timber corporations.

In retrospect, 2009 was a great year! “Tiger Woods” Baucus, “Evel Knievel” Rehberg, “Buffalo Brian” Schweitzer, and “mini-Max” Tester – thanks to their selfless toils, Montana at long last regained its rightful place on the national political radar screen.

PAUL RICHARDS a Boulder, Montana area businessman and former member of the Montana House of Representatives, ran for the U.S. Senate in 2006. Founder of the Deerlodge Forest Defense Fund, he served for many years as an official member of the Deerlodge National Forest Technical Advisory Committee. He can be reached at: paul@prmediaconsultants.com