Archive for November 13th, 2006

Dave Budge pointed it out over at his blog, but it’s more than worthy of repeating here: the Rocky Mountain Ballet Theater is putting on its Christmas Spectacular at the Wilma Theater here in Missoula on November 25 & 26.

Budge and I agree occasionally disagree on politics, but we both encourage your patronage of Montana Arts. The RMBT is a great organization. So plunk down your $18 (for adults) or $13 (for children) and enjoy a fine dance program.

Tickets are available at Rockin’ Rudy’s, Worden’s Market, the RMBT studio on 2704 Brooks, or over the telephone at (406) 549-5155.

by Jay Stevens 

You may remember there were some squeakers in the legislative battles. Here are some reliable rumors on the counting of provisional ballots, etc:

–HD 58: Krayton Kerns (R) and Emelie Kay Eaton (D) are tied, which means the good Guv gets to pick who fills the chair…

–HD78: Scott Mendenhall (R) looks like he’s beaten Sheila Hogan (D), and the tally will fall outside the recount margin.

If these results stand, it will be Dems with 50 seats, GOP with 49, and Constitution Party with 1. That means a razor-thin edge for the Democrats in the state legislature…

by Jay Stevens 

In the runup to the election, I wrote a post on about the divisive rhetoric employed by the GOP – the “Nattering Nabobs of Negativity” – and how it’s permeated the Republican base, and might have been a reason for the stunning results for the Democratic Party last Tuesday.

But in the post, there was also a tacit warning that encouraging simplistic narratives around good and evil in American politics (i.e., dissent is “treason) might translate into action. After all, if you believe opposition to Iraq is betrayal of your country, and betrayal should be met with death, then it follows those that disagree with you should be killed. As proof, I cited John Couglin, who wanted me tortured, and the Ohio retiree who said someone should stick an AK-47 in liberal talk-show host Stephanie Miller’s “glory hole.”

As if to confirm this impression of right rhetoric harming the GOP, some pundits claimed the 2006 election results were a call for civility in politics. After all, moderates and independents swung heavily to the Democrats, and not necessarily for any particular set of issues or plans or agenda espoused by the party leadership. I’m sure many voters were turned off by the GOP’s consistently shrill and negative rhetoric during the election.

Those of us that expected the right to cool their ardor for extremist rhetoric were sorely disappointed. After all, many righties actually thought the election was a mandate for conservatism. So when al Qaeda hailed the results of the 2006 election, you can only guess the reaction from the right. Ultimately I’m with Steven Taylor: al Qaeda probably doesn’t understand American politics and doesn’t really care about the policies as long as George Bush is dealt a blow.

what is the likely goal here? Clearly al Qaeda is looking for any victory it can muster in a war that is as much about propaganda and perception as anything else. And again: their target audience is not us, but rather those sympathetic to al Qaeda’s cause. Of course they want to cast the elections (and Rumself’s resignation) as a victory–it is essentially at no cost to them whatsoever. The CBS story linked above uses the appropriate verb for what al Qaeda is doing: taunting.

In the post, Taylor wonders why anyone would take an al Qaeda spokesperson seriously:

Of course, part of the answer is grounded in blind partisan loyalty that sees the Republicans as somehow the sole keepers of defense and security and the Democrats as the party of appeasers and cowards. Such a dichotomy is quite incorrect, but it does infuse the thinking of many.

The bottom line is that yes, there are policy differences between the two parties, but the choice not between victory and defeat.

It would help our public discourse (as well as the policy making process) if we were all mindful of that fact.

The result of this discourse is seen in the actions of California conservative, Chad Conrad Castagana, who sent white powder and death threats in envelopes to prominent public figures who openly disagreed with the President’s war policies. Castagana was a self-identified “conservative Republican,” fan of Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, and Michele Malkin, paleo-conservative on immigration, who frequently commented on right-wing blogs.

As Evan Derkacz rightfully notes, Castagana is a disturbed individual acting alone, not to be confused with the majority of conservatives who post online, or even who subscribe to the meme that Democratic victories equal terrorist victories, who are quite normal, not prone to random death threats or potential for violence. That is, there’s no organized conspiracy to intimidate those that would dissent against the government.

But I do completely agree with Dave Neiwert:

Haters like the people Castagana claims as his heroes — Coulter, Malkin, Ingraham, just for starters — are constantly engaging in the worst kind of directed primarily at liberals. It is simply an inevitability that, when this kind of hate is broadcast to millions of people daily, some of them are eventually going to start acting it out in fashions precisely like this. And worse.

For way too long we’ve heard the idea that liberal bloggers and commentators are the extremists, but our “crime” is the desire to create a strong opposition political block to the President and the Republican Party. Our “crime” is to get involved in the political system and work for change.

And for way too long, we’ve seen right-wing provocateurs like Michele Malkin, Ann Coulter, and Rush Limbaugh escape any semblance of criticism in traditional media venues. Coulter and Malkin often appear on mainstream news programs and national politicians – like the Vice-President – regularly give interviews to Limbaugh. It’s time these people were marginalized by viewers and the news organizations that abet them. They are hate mongers; their vitriol falls on ears all to eager to act out the fantasies fed to them.


Linked a little late, but Big Sky Blog has a fantastic tribute to veterans.

JT gets the “cowboy” treatment from the New York Times and the LA Times. (Hat tip to Courtney Lowrey.)

Shane kicks off the new site, Montana Netroots, with a post on Montana’s upcoming bison hunt.

Flathead Valley development demonstrates why a regulatory-takings bill is a bad idea.

Tim Giago on First Amendment struggles in Indian country.

Interesting point made over at Western Democrat: essentially Tom Vilsack’s official entry into the presidential race makes Nevada the first real caucus. Which might mean the Democratic ticket will have a distinctly Western feel…

Denver elections official on “investigative leave” after election-day debacles.

Glenn Reynolds demonstrates one reason why voters preferred the Democratic Party. It’s so they won’t have to put up with this garbage anymore.

Yesterday, it was Chuck Schumer who won the midterms. Today it’s Emanuel Rahm. Sort of odd, considering those two were stumbling blocks right up until the end.

Chuck Todd has a pretty d*mn good analysis of the elections, with a warning that the GOP should not turn hard right, although IMHO it’s likely to happen.

Colby reminds us of Pelosi’s February ethics reform bill. It was ambitious. It was wide-reaching. It’s time to revive it.

Steve Benen reminds us of why the battle to lower drug costs for seniors is politically crucial.

The big loser in the 2006 elections: Dick Cheney. It is a testament to W’s weakness as a leader that the V-P had so much say in foreign policy for so long.

This is not a surprise if you’ve been following the rhetoric from the President’s die-hard supporters: coup talk from the far right.

A California man arrested for sending fake anthrax death threats to Olbermann, Stewart, Letterman, Pelosi and other critics of the administration. You think they send this *sshole to Gitmo? Don’t hold your breath.

Speaking of Olbermann, the SF Chronicle’s Nevius thinks that he just needed to find his voice.

Pelosi back Murtha for role as House Majority Leader. Kevin Drum analyzes the battle for the party’s spot. Because Hoyer’s too close to K Street – and ethics is going to be huge issue in ’08 IMHO – Murtha should be the man.

by Jay Stevens 

As the dust settles after Election Day, the upcoming political landscape is becoming a little clearer. In today’s Missoulian, Noelle Straub examines the upcoming roles of Montana’s Congressional delegation. There’s the buzz of JT’s Appropriations seat, the possibility of minority-party member Rehberg’s loss of his Appropriations seat, but the main thrust of the article is Max Baucus’ new powerful role as chair of the Senate Finance Committee:

It’s a wonderful surprise, a great opportunity, a huge challenge,” Baucus said in a telephone interview. “Now is the opportunity to do some things that are helpful and constructive.”

With gavel in hand, Baucus can decide which bills come up and what hearings the panel holds.

“It’s up to me,” he said.

The committee has jurisdiction over a wide range of major issues, including health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid, all taxes and revenue, welfare, international trade agreements and Social Security.

“I’m getting a lot of telephone calls from senators who want to be on the committee,” he said. “It’s a very popular committee.”

The only Montanan ever to head Finance, Baucus said the position will “really put Montana on the map.”

Aye, there’s the rub. Baucus really does have the potential for putting Montana on the map. But that’s not such a good thing.

You see, one of the items on Nancy Pelosi’s first “100 hours,” is to give Medicare the ability to negotiate drug prices with big drug companies. It’s a no-brainer. It would mean lower costs for the government and less of a burden on taxpayers. Sure, big pharmaceuticals might take a slight hit in profit, but that’s the free market for ya’. It’s a good idea, people like it, and it would help ease deficit pressure.

Only thing, Baucus is against it:

One potential obstacle to swift action is that some lawmakers, including Democrats, may want to hold hearings. Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat poised to become chairman of the Finance Committee, voted in March against a proposal authorizing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Aides said that he wanted to give the program more time to work, but that he was willing to consider such proposals.

Leftys everywhere – including right here, in this seat – are a little concerned about Baucus’ role in the upcoming session in Congress. The Plank’s Michael Crowley opines that Baucus “is likely to tack rightward” in preparation for his upcoming re-election bid in ’08, despite the fact that Schweitzer’s and Tester’s brand of economic populism seems to be perty dang popular in these parts.

Let’s be frank. Baucus’ previous stance on this issues isn’t all that different than, say, Dennis Rehberg’s. Or Conrad Burns’. Maybe Baucus really believes the idea is bad. Maybe he’s got friends in big pharm. Who knows?

Max Baucus did give Jon Tester a lot of support this past election season. I heard he had a lot of fun doing it, too, and enjoyed the feeling of unity Democrats here in the state presented. Let’s hope that Baucus continues this spirit of unity into the upcoming Congressional session and votes like a Democrat. Otherwise there might be strong support to find a real Democratic populist to run in a primary: after all, the only thing we’d have to lose is an obstacle in the chair of the Senate’s Finance Committee.

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