Archive for September 15th, 2006

Out here in the West, there’s a strong movement to retake our communities from corrupt and incompetent politicians. Western values have always tended towards a hands-off, live-and-let-live approach alongside strong neighborly values. In other words, it’s none of my d*mn business what you’re doing over there, but if you’re stuck, I’m here to help.

Over the past 20 years or so, Westerners had been attracted to the small-government message of Republicans, resenting what they thought were social engineering experiments and too much bureaucracy from the Democrats.

How things have changed.

Since President Bush was elected, the Republican leadership has repeatedly shown its incompetence, corruption, and indifference to the values that won it elections. President Bush has had five years to strengthen our national security and has instead squandered our good will and willingness to help on an ideological crusade in Iraq, while allowing government and our national debt to balloon to obscene sizes. Not only that, but the administration has also begun to wage war on Americans – government officials are listening in on our phone conversations, are following our web traffic, have dumped the Patriot Act on us, threatening our right to bear arms and our very liberty.

The West has had enough.

Here in Montana and in our neighboring states of Idaho and Wyoming, several strong Democratic candidates have emerged to challenged heavily-favored incumbents. All of the candidates have made a strong and public commitment to national security, health care costs, education, and ethics reform. In other words, they are representing the values and issues of ordinary Westerners. Of America.

I’ve written up a quick blurb about four important races I’ve talked about here on my blog: the Montana Senate race, the Wyoming and Montana at-large House races, and Idaho’s 1st House district race. Check out the candidates and issues and do what you can to help America take back Congress.

Montana’s Senate race

The Senate race is, of course, the marquee race. Democrats need to turn six seats from red to blue to win a majority in the Senate, and Montana’s is one that’s vulnerable. The two candidates couldn’t be more different and aptly represent the larger issues that are at stake this election cycle.

On one hand you have Republican Conrad Burns, one of the five worst U.S. Senators, according to Time magazine. He was in thick with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff (pdf), and is suspected of changing his vote in Congress for Abramoff clients at least two times: once for the Saginaw Chippewa tribe, once on behalf of the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association — on a bill that would have effectively ended forced prostitution, among other things. His former chief fundraiser is accused of fraud.

If that weren’t enough, Burns is renowned for saying stupid things. He called firefighters lazy and taxi drivers “terrorists.” He’s made a series of racist and sexist remarks, and has been caught on video sleeping during hearings, answering phone calls during campaign speeches, and more.

In Congress, he’s been a rubber stamp for the Bush administration on the Iraq war, torture, warrantless wiretapping, and the Port Dubai deal. During the campaign season, he’s run a decidedly negative campaign that deliberately and falsely smears his Democratic opponent.

(That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Check out Montana blogs for more: Left in the West, Intelligent Discontent, Cece-in-MT, Wrong Dog’s Life Chest, the brothers Moorcat and Wulfgar!, and Granny Insanity for more of the gory details.)

On the other hand you have Jon Tester:

In many respects Tester is running less on the issues than on his personal character, pragmatic outlook and salt-of-the-earth heritage. He has a good sense of humor, a big, genuine smile and a certain folk charm people out here respect — not the canned, political persona that campaigns sometimes try to sell to unassuming farmers and ranchers. He stresses that he’s not a career politician….He emphasizes his instinctive empathy: “For some reason, I don’t know what the hell it is, but we can connect with people,” he says.

Tester is a third-generation Montana farmer, former basketball referee, music teacher, and butcher. During his term as the Montana state senate president he built a reputation for honesty and the ability to build bipartisan consensus. It was during his tenure as senate president that Montana reaped a $500-million budget surplus.Jon’s concerns are also Montanans’: health care, alternative energy, national security, a solution to the mess in Iraq.

Jon’s candidacy has sparked a stunning and effective grassroots movement in the state, which in large part enabled the Big Sandy farmer to stage a 25-point upset over Democratic primary front-runner and State Auditor John Morrison, despite being outspent 2-to-1.

The choice really couldn’t be clearer. Help Jon bring integrity back to Congress. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to send some with the vast potential to change Washington for the better. Jon Tester is exactly the kind of man who should be representing us.

Montana’s At-Large House race

The other statewide race this election – the House race – just isn’t getting much attention. It pits incumbent Republican Dennis Rehberg against challenger Monica Lindeen in another battle between a corrupt and out-of-touch DC insider and a feisty Montana Democrat with an excellent record in the state legislature.

Rehberg is a real winner. Not only has he supported Bush at every turn, he received a failing grade from the Drum Major Institute for his votes affecting the middle class, he voted against the minimum wage the same week he gave himself a pay raise, wants to eliminate the estate tax, and opposes Net Neutrality.

Rehberg’s also involved in a number of Montana-based scandals, including INSA and the Carter county lobbyist scandal; like Burns, he apparently feels that government exists to personally enrich himself and his pals.

Lindeen, on the other hand is an advocate of Net Neutrality, ethics reform, affordable health care, and energy independence, and is a strong opponent of the encroachment of the executive on our civil liberties. In the state legislature, Lindeen was an advocate of affordable secondary education.

Like Jon Tester, Monica Lindeen is a hard-nosed Montana Democrat and a lifelong native of the state. The daughter of a truck driver and a waitress, she put herself through school, started her own business – an early local Internet provider – and then served four terms in the state legislature marked by her reputation for competence, hard work, and ability to forge bipartisan coalitions.

She’s just the right kind of person we need in Washington DC right now. We need someone who knows how to govern, who won’t fleece the taxpayers, who won’t be influenced by lobbyists, and who will stand up to the Republican party.

Unfortunately the House race is getting overshadowed by the Senate race in traditional media circles and here on the Internet. Rehberg as the incumbent has all the financial advantages. Monica needs our help.

Help turn Montana BLUE! Contribute!

Idaho’s 1st House district race

In the country’s most conservative and reliably Republican of states, a Democrat threatens a Republican stronghold, and for good reason. In this district, the Republican nominee is so incompetent and extreme that even his fellow conservatives are deserting him in droves.

Meet Bill Sali. He’s backed by the fiscal extremist group, Club for Growth, who advocate the dismantling of Social Security and public schooling. In the Idaho state legislature, Sali lost his committee seats through sheer incompetence and is rumored to enjoy the enmity of Idaho’s other Republican representative, Mike Simpson, because of his tendency to grandstand for television. Idaho’s Speaker of the House, Republican Bruce Newcomb, said of Sali, “That idiot is just an absolute idiot. He doesn’t have one ounce of empathy in his whole fricking body.”

Ever since Sali won the primary, Republicans have consider the seat in danger. In July, Sali was a recipient of national GOP largesse as a member of a group of Republican candidates who are in “vulnerable” seats or who face “serious election difficulties.” Disgruntled Idaho Republicans have formed a group supporting Sali’s opponent, Larry Grant, and during a fundraiser with Dick Cheney, only 3 of 104 state legislators attended.

Larry Grant, on the other hand, former executive of Boise-based Micron Technology Inc, is well-known for his competency and fairness. He’s a fiscal conservative and moderate on social issues, running a campaign around ethics reform, health care reform, a plan for Iraq, and responsible federal spending.

(Grant has fantastic support from the blogosphere, including Julie Fanselow’s Grassroots for Grant and Red State Rebels, 43rd State Blues, Fort Boise, IdaBlue, Liberal Idaho, and F-Words.)

Despite having a 2-to-1 funding advantage (thanks, Club for Growth!), the latest poll shows Grant leading by eight points, 22 to 14 percent with a shocking 61 percent undecided. Sali’s lost half his support since the last poll; now we just need to get Grant’s message out there, so people will feel comfortable voting for him.

You can help oust Sali and put an honest man – Larry Grant – into office.

Wyoming’s At-Large House race

One of the more unheralded pick-up opportunities for the Democrats is in in Wyoming – Dick Cheney’s home state. There in the at-large House race Democrat Gary Trauner is giving incumbent Republican Barbara Cubin a race.

Trauner is another example of a Western Dem. A businessman – co-founder of an Internet Service Provider in the state – he’s running on a slate of no-nonsense issues: lobbyist reform, alternative energy, and health care reform. Basically he’s a competent and honest candidate who has pledged to bring an end to the kind of improper and unethical doings of the GOP and other fat-cat Congressmen in DC:

I will always raise my voice against wrongdoing, improper action or abuse of power, no matter the party or the political consequences. I will ‘do the right thing’ by putting the people I serve ahead of political calculation and party politics.

Incidentally, he’s got his own blog, of which he’s the sole contributor, a rarity these days.

Jackson Hole News and Guide has an excellent profile on Trauner that shows why he’s put this race into play:

From afar, Trauner’s campaign strategy seems like the wanderings of an idealist whose rose-colored glasses have obscured the modern political landscape. Trauner’s campaign manager, Linda Stoval, a 20-year veteran of Wyoming politics, argues exactly the opposite. Trauner’s approach is the only one that will work in the quirky political landscape of this large and scattered state.

“Even though the state is so big, people still expect to know the people they have elected,” she says. “Whether it happens or not, it means a lot to people that they have met him, especially at this level a race. In my mind [going door to door] is a necessity for Democratic candidates but I have been campaigning here for 20 years and have never seen it at this level.”

Meanwhile his opponent Barbara Cubin, who narrowly escaped the Republican primary, is…well…not quite all there. A 2003 incident sums up her competency nicely:

Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.) was engaged in a heated debate yesterday with Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) on the floor of the House yesterday over a gun control bill Watt was urging lawmakers to support an amendment to the legislation that would prohibit drug addicts or people undergoing treatment for drug addiction from purchasing guns; Cubin was working to defeat the amendment.

Cubin said, “So does that mean that if you go into a black community, you can’t sell any guns to any black person?”

Trauner and Cubin are nearly neck-and-neck on campaign funds: Cubin has $235K to Trauner’s $205K. A May poll (the latest I could find) showed Cubin leading by only four points, 47-43%, an astounding figure considering the state where the race is taking place.

Trauner needs help. Check out his website. Donate or volunteer.

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I’ve seen this buzz around lately, first on Charlie Rose last night, and today in a comment on Left in the West, that Republican get-out-the-vote efforts gives the GOP an advantage heading into November. Evidence? Why Lincoln Chaffee’s primary victory against Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey. (A lot of “f’s” in that race.”)

This is probably the worst bit of analysis I think I have ever seen. Did these people actually look at the numbers of voters? The targeted voters for the Republican voter drive? For a little dose of reality, check out the Hotline’s analysis: “How Chaffee Won.”:

Behind the curtain, Chafee’s campaign spent $500,000 to squeeze out every conceivable voter from neighborhoods across the state. They searched for independents who voted Democrat in municipal elections but who had once upon a time voted for a Republican for president or governor or senator. There were a few of those. They looked for non-affiliated voters in Republican neighborhoods. Using microtargeting techniques, they even tried to figure out which committed Democrats might be tempted to vote for Chafee.

Once having identified some 42,000 potential supporters, Chaffee’s gang went after them, hard, urging them to go out and vote for the incumbent Republican Senator.

It didn’t faze [Chaffee’s staff] when Laffey’s campaign bragged about meeting their targets. Chafee had simply found more voters. Laffey’s turnout was sufficient for a universe of Republicans and identified conservatives. But Chafee had found just about every Republican he could hope for and managed to attract at least 10,000 non-Republicans to his tally. One Republican in the state estimates that as many as 60 percent of the primary electorate were not affiliated with the Republican Party. (More than 20,000 Rhose Islanders requested formal disaffiliation forms after voting.) Chafee even managed to blunt Laffey’s margin of victory in Cranston to just a few hundred votes.

The second missing piece to this puzzle is that Lincoln Chaffee is a moderate Republican, the only member of the GOP who voted against the Iraq War. He’s pro-choice, a supporter of gay marriage, an environmentalist, opposed Bush’s tax cuts, favors using federal funds for stem cell research, etc & co.

His opponent is a fiscal extremist and found most of his support from the Club for Growth – a group that wants to dismantle Social Security and public schooling.

So where did Chaffee find his extra voters? Why, from the moderates and centrists of the state, the very folks who approve of Bush at a 22 percent clip. Got that? It’s likely that Chaffee supporters were drummed up to vote for an anti-Bush, anti-GOP Republican moderate.

And still — still — despite the voter drive, despite moderates’ support of Chaffee’s anti-establishment politics, still state voters are more likely to vote for Chaffee’s Democratic opponent, Sheldon Whitehouse. Hotline:

The same factors that drove Chafee’s victory are giving his Democratic challenger, Sheldon Whitehouse, some comfort. The universe of identified Chafee voters is at least 20,000 less than the number of Democrats who voted for Whitehouse in yesterday’s noncompetitive primary.

So saying Chaffee’s efforts will help aid the GOP in November in the key races across the country seems…well…divorced from reality. 

Chaffee’s strategy will not work in Montana. Moderates, who are generally disposed to dislike President Bush and prefer Democratic candidates this election cycle, cannot be scooped up and convinced to vote for Conrad Burns. It ain’t gonna happen.

No, my friends, if Conrad Burns is going to win this election, he’s going to have to discourage voters from going to the polls.

Everybody knows by now how terrible a Senator Burns is. They’ve heard the accusations. That’s why Burns has started a vicious attack campaign smearing Jon Tester, calling him an ally of al Qaeda and deliberately misrepresenting Jon’s record to the public. He’s trying to make Jon look equally as unpalatable a candidate as he is.

If there’s a low turnout, that means only the party faithful will vote. And the GOP is counting on being able to rally its legions to their cause, even if it’s an old, corrupt, off-kilter cause.

Is it working? If you believe the polls, it may be backfiring. I mean, haven’t you had enough of all the bitter invective from the GOP? Aren’t you tired of the name-calling and the in-fighting? Aren’t you tired of the incompetence and corruption?

Support Jon.

Links…

The latest Rasmussen poll numbers on the Senate race are insane!

And of course what would a week be without a dumb maneuver pulled by our junior Senator?

Cece brings you the hearing on the constitutionality of CI-97. IMHO, looks doomed, eh?

Kossak sandlapper continues his excellent coverage of Rich’s initiatives, focusing on the recent Montana court decision to throw out the terrible trio.

Ugh. A Ravalli county man is responsible for setting at least 19 Bitterroot wildfires, probably more.

Senator Reid: Specter’s NSA wiretapping bill dead. Good riddance.

Locally owned media does news better, concludes the FCC in a report it tried to hide. Why does deregulation always seem to scr*w the consumer? (Hat tip Granny.)

Bush: “Bin Laden is Hitler. That is, no big deal.”

Bush unhinged by opposition from Colin Powell.

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) demonstrates how to project strength on the issue of national security. Incidentally everything she says is true, which is a rhetorical skill the GOP lacks this election cycle.

Ann Richards tributes: Montana’s Nicole R, Kossak wmtriallawyer, Salon’s Liz Smith and Lou Dubose, the Houston Chronicle’s Kever and Feldman, and the WaPo’s Joe Holley. Good-bye to a true hero of American politics.

New West photo contest winners are posted…some great shots of the West.

Patricia Goedicke’s memorial is this Sunday, September 17, at 3:00 pm in the Del Brown Room of Turner Hall on the University of Montana campus.

For more on Patricia, check out the obituaries in the national press. Also, I received an email press release with a lovely summation of Patricia’s career:

Through her poetry, her teaching and her life, University of Montana Professor Patricia Goedicke was an inspiration to countless UM students and community members. Goedicke, who taught poetry at UM from 1981 to 2006, died this summer at age 75 from pneumonia, a complication of lung cancer.

At 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17, the University’s Department of English, in conjunction with the College of Arts and Sciences and the President’s Office, will honor Goedicke, a beloved colleague, at a memorial gathering in the Dell Brown Room in Turner Hall.

All are invited to attend.

Born in Boston June 21, 1931, Patricia McKenna graduated from Middlebury College in 1953 and received a master’s degree from Ohio University in 1965. “Between Oceans,” her first book of poems, was written the year she married Leonard Wallace Robinson, editor, writer and “love of her life.” Leonard Robinson died in 1999.

Goedicke and her husband lived in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, during the 1970s, where she wrote several books of poetry, including “Crossing the Same River,” which engages her first bout with cancer: “sweet steadfast cells of love/forever replacing each other/and ringing.”

Tireless in her devotion to the art of poetry, Goedicke became legendary for dramatic delivery and incisive editing in workshops at her McLeod Street home in Missoula – the setting for many of her poems, the place where she “ran barefoot . over the stony asphalt” to see the full moon “riding between clouds/over the windy streetlight.”

Goedicke wrote 12 books of poems during her career and received numerous fellowships and awards, including the William Carlos Williams Prize from “New Letters,” a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Rockefeller Foundation Residency in Bellagio, Italy, and the H.G. Merriam Award for contributions to literature in Montana.

She wrote free verse that was uncompromising in its engagement of political violence, sexual ecstasy, disease and what one critic called the “wonder and misery of being alive.”

Her most recent volume, “As Earth Begins to End,” was declared one of the top 10 books of poetry in 2000 by the American Library Association. In the title poem, she declares, “I’ve never been able to tell/where we end and the earth begins beyond us.”

A memorial scholarship fund has been established in Goedicke’s name at the University. Those who would like to contribute may do so by sending a check to the UM Foundation, P.O. Box 7159, Missoula, MT, 59807-7159. Please note “in memory of Patricia Goedicke” on all donations.

Here’s the UM Foundation’s website, where you can donate online.




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