Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday roundup and branding -- the Gazette, and beyond...

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Carbon County Moos on the brucellosis affair: Over the last couple of days, Montana Headlines has been expressing opinions on the recent brucellosis happenings. We've referred readers to blogging rancher Sarpy Sam, and now want to do the same for Karbon Kounty Moos, whose story is a more up-front and personal one -- and should be read.

The Democrats are coming, the Democrats are coming!: To take over the intermountain West politically, that is. As Montana Headlines has pointed out before, the Democratic resurgence in this region is real, and has many causes.

One, of course, is that the West has never been as solidly Republican as is commonly assumed. Another is big-spending Republicans on the national stage and an ill-conceived (and then botched) war.

Yet another is the combination of Republicans getting lazy and flat-out beat on the ground in this region -- not having the imagination and creativity to deal with shifting demographics and issues of concern while still holding onto core principles.

And there is, of course, the fact that the Democratic party has finally figured out that in order to win in the West, they have to abandon -- or at least soft-pedal -- some of their liberal shibboleths (think Senator Tester on gun rights or illegal immigration.)

Having the opposition co-opt one's positions, of course, means that Republicans have won certain battles. It also means that Republicans have to be bright enough to realize that if they try to keep using the same old play-book, they're going to keep getting beat.

A Republican resurgence in the West will come -- the fundamentals are still stacked in our favor -- but we will need some good leaders.

Deployment limits: This past week, attempts were made in the Senate to place limits on the length of deployments to Iraq and to mandate periods of time at home between tours in Iraq. Both attempts failed to get the required 60 votes to move forward. Both Montana Senators voted for the limitations, and both Wyoming Senators voted against the limitations.

Here in the Montana blogosphere, reaction from the left included an R-r@ted one from Left in the West, and from somewhere in the general vicinity of the right, The Western Word likewise expressed disappointment that the bill didn't pass.

Having limitations on the length and number of overseas combat tours and on length of time between tours is nothing new. Many of the old-timers from WWII recall that the mindset at that time was that no-one came home until the war was won. That wasn't exactly true, since very late in the war, a Advanced Service Rating Score was initiated to help decide who got to go home first.

But this system was developed by the military itself -- they had a mission to accomplish, and after winning in Europe, they had an excess of troops overseas. They wanted an equitable way of determining who came home when.

In Vietnam, the idea of a one year tour of duty was developed -- again by the military itself. Its wisdom has been debated, but it is how things were done at that time. (In most wars, flight crews have often had their tours determined by the number of missions or sorties they are required to fly, rather than measuring the tour according to a certain length of time.)

Anyone who has served in the military knows exactly how long they could potentially be sent on an overseas TDY, and whether and for how long that tour could be extended -- again, all under military regulations for the particular branch of service at that time. There is nothing quite like getting on a military aircraft in time of conflict, not being exactly sure where you are going or when (or whether) you will be coming back. That is, however, an intrinsic part of military service.

The military itself has two competing interests that have to be taken into consideration in deciding how long tours are, who does them, and who has to return for further tours: First -- accomplishment of their assigned mission, and second, recruitment and retention. From the military's perspective, this is a balancing act, and it varies from service to service and from job to job within each branch of service.

Even when a draft is on, the balancing act continues with regard to "recruitment" and retention, since drafts are politically unpopular, and also because some draftees elected to extend their time in service voluntarily.

Ultimately, these decisions need to be made within the military itself. Congress has no role in making such decisions, and Sens. Tester and Baucus were wrong to vote for the Webb amendment.

Some felt that since Webb was a combat veteran, that he should have been heeded. In fact, as a combat veteran and former Secretary of the Navy, Webb knew better than to introduce this amendment. It was a politicized act meant to tie the President's hands in Iraq. In some cases it may have helped troops and the mission, and in other cases it would have hurt both. Regardless, it is not the job of Congress to decide.

As Montana Headlines has repeatedly stated, what Congress can do is to deauthorize a military action. To "undeclare war," so to speak. The proposed Byrd amendment sounds like an approach that is constitutional. Sen Tester has, incidentally, expressed his support for this amendment.

Granted, the Byrd amendment hasn't materialized yet, so we don't know exactly how it will be worded.

In general, Sen. Byrd has been a strong proponent of holding firmly to separation of powers -- which in recent years has meant holding firm against executive over-reach. He has also in the past spoken about "the pitfalls of usurping the Executive Branch’s role in an ongoing war," so one supposes the legislation will be carefully written to reflect that as well.

Lonely older women will hate Fred Thompson: According to Susan Estrich, that is. Keep in mind that Estrich is famous for her brilliant management of the Dukakis presidential campaign. But she is an entertaining political commentator.

The upshot of her recent commentary is that older single women are tired of seeing single guys their age date and marry younger women (a shocking recent trend,) and they will take it out on Fred Thompson by voting for the other guy (or gal,) since Thompson married a "trophy wife."

Sounds like Estrich is miffed that Thompson didn't chase her during nearly his two decades of being single.

Another liberated modern woman had the same first impression, but on looking at the situation again, realized that she was following the kinds of prejudices that she would condemn in others.

How will it all end up? Who knows? But early indications are interesting -- liberals have sniped at Thompson for being married to a 40 year old blonde who has the audacity to be sexy, smart, successful, and Republican (those danged liberated women -- gotta do something about 'em,) and they've even floated the rumor that Thompson is gay (and you can just hear them add, "not that there's anything wrong with that...")

Now where have we seen the homosexual-friendly Democratic Party indulge in gay-baiting before? Oh, yeah. Right here in Montana.

Anyway, it is interesting that Democrats seem to have directed more fire at the undeclared Thompson than they have on all of the other GOP candidates combined.

The Loonies are coming, the Loonies are coming!: The strong Canadian dollar has cash registers ka-chinging in northern Montana.

The taxability of the $400 election-year "check in every pot": We have already discussed the needlessly complicated means of getting that golden $400 check from the Montana government.

Now, we learn from the Missoula Independent that those who itemized deductions on their income-tax return in 2006 will have to declare the $400, while those who took the standard deduction in 2006 won't have to declare it as income.

According to H & R Block District Tax Specialist Nancy Eik, that’s because itemized returns allow for larger deductions, so “you already got a deduction for the $400 last year.”


Let's try that another way: the purpose of a standard deduction is to eliminate the hassle and paperwork of itemized deductions, both for the majority of taxpayers and for the government.

The number is set at a level determined by the government to exceed the amount of deductions that most taxpayers would be able to take. Therefore, by definition, those who don't itemize are almost always getting a bigger deduction than they would otherwise be entitled to.

So this "tax specialist" has it exactly backwards, it would seem.

This little part of the bill would seem to be yet another bit of election-year pandering (should we be surprised, given that the entire schemata is designed around election-year pandering?)

Most Montanans presumably take a standard deduction rather than itemizing, so most Montanans won't have to declare the $400 check as income. And most of those who do have to declare it as income probably weren't going to vote Democrat in the first place.

You've gotta hand it to the Democratic strategists in Montana -- they're no amateurs.

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