Archive for November 27th, 2006

by Jay Stevens

Matt got to this first, but the Montana House Republicans chose Bozeman Representative Scott Sales to be their leader. A better choice couldn’t have been made – for the Democrats.

First Sales is an “outspoken conservative,” according to the report, Sales promised to make future elections even uglier than they were in 2006:

The fireworks were in the House Republican race, where Sales beat out a more moderate candidate and promised to use the chamber to groom Republicans for future races.“Our leadership has failed us,” Sales said, promising Democrats will be hit harder in future elections and challenged on legislative policies.

Republican Corey Stapleton, who was expected to be picked by the GOP as their House leader, mentioned that he’d like to work with Governor Schweitzer to increase funding for education in the state. Sales bristled.

Sales dismissed the idea of putting more money in higher education, saying “I think Corey and I are going to have to have a conversation.”

Besides being anti-education, an obstructionist, and proponent of negative campaigning, Sales has a very…er…unimpressive record in Montana’s House. Over the last two legislative sessions, exactly one of Sales’ bills was voted into law, and that was the creation of a Class B-13 Nonresident Youth Big Game Combination License. Um. Yippee.

As for his rejected proposals, well, there’s quite a few more of those. There’s the usual opposition to hate crime legislation (and those pesky civil and human rights) and funding for scholarships, education, and charity; and a proposal to eliminate the position of commissioner of higher education. (The first step in killing off public education?)

The one that cracks me up is his proposal to lift the ban on big-game trophy hunting. That one shows that he’s woefully out of step with Montana’s hunters, most of whom do it for the meat, not for the antlers. That’s the fancy Texas businessmen way of hunting, which usually means dumping the carcass somewhere and hiring a Montana guide to do the actual shooting. And come to think of it, that’s probably why Sales likes this bill, because somebody’s likely to cash in at the cost of our wild spaces.

But the most telling bill in Sales’ history is his support of a regulatory-takings initiative that’s much more extreme than Howie Rich’s version, CI-154. Sales’ bill would allow property owners to collect compensation “with respect to any statute, administrative rule, or ordinance enacted between the date that the person purchased the land and [the effective date of this act].” Imagine the lawsuits that one would burden the state with. Ugh.

The first casualty of Sales’ tenure as the leader of the House Republicans? The GOP’s “handshake with Montana,” (pdf). I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing – but considering that he’s from the conservative wing, I’m guessing his “handshake” is probably more like a “kick to the b*lls” to working- and middle-class families.

The defeat of the GOP in recent years has little or nothing to do with back-room dealing and redistricting as harried MT GOPers claim. Instead, the party is laced with corruption and has tacked hard right in recent years. It’s only good news for the Democrats, who will open their arms to moderates like Sam Kitzenberg and his constituency, that Sales will push his party right and promises to make the Republican party’s participation in the 2007 legislative session a bitter cacophany.

by Jay Stevens 

I don’t know if you saw this story in the Thanksgiving edition of the Missoulian, but a church that was burglarized recently by three teenagers chose to react to the situation in a different way than we’re used to in these times.

Teens broke into South Hills Evangelical Church recently and stole money and electronics and did thousands in damage to the facility. But instead of reacting with anger, church members got together and made the boys and their families gift baskets:

…last Sunday, Pastor John Erbele devoted his sermon to the young men, preaching about mercy and forgiveness.“He challenged members of the church to give love baskets,” Reimer said. “They’re sitting in the office right now, and we hope to get them to the families on Thanksgiving Day. We’ve collected several hundred dollars’ worth of gift cards, Xboxes and controllers, a DVD, a VCR. All three young men still live with their parents or grandparents, so we hope the message will be clear.”

It’s a great story, where Christian charity is given to the very people that transgressed their property. Anybody who’s been robbed, burglarized, or mugged knows exactly how vile the crime is. It feels like a violation, especially if someone enters your home. To not only forgive, but to reach out to the teens with kindness, takes an extraordinary amount of compassion.

And the story obviously resonated. It was picked up by Fox national wire services and the BBC, and run in papers in Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania, and was even carried out by the ultimate English-language expatriate paper, The International Herald Tribune. So what are some larger issues behind this small and community event? Why did it resonate?

First, I think there’s an odd irony in the story. Many conservative Christians who would – correctly – view this act of generosity towards its own attackers as a noble and Christ-like act also think that any, say, non-violent approach to terrorism (economic aid to the poorest region of the Middle East, for example) is akin to “appeasement,” and only encourages more terror. By that same logic, the teens of Missoula should be lining up to burgle SHEC in their spare time.

While I’m not saying that it’s not possible to hold two contradictory thoughts in your head at the same time – I do recognize the vast difference between the two examples – I would like to point out that it is possible to react unexpectedly and from strength of character rather than strength of muscle.



Montana Jones loves Canada. After reading his post, I do, too.

And then there’s the other Montana state legislator who’s “switching” parties…only he’s not really switching. Just sort of.

Courtney Lowery on the new Green Congress, and other Western political links.

Idaho Democrats pleased by 2006 election results and ready to try again next time.

The Denver Post does a piece on our Good Guv as an example to the Democratic Party on how to win elections.

Fenberg and Diaz suspect young Rocky Mountain voters have the power to change the course of history in 2008. (Matt has more.)

Pogie has a post on educating the “undeserving poor” that is spot-on. Enough of the patronizing and accusatory message that the poor are morally or spiritually insufficient.

Glenn Greenwald on why the media is taking so keen an interest in the battle for the House Intelligence Committee chair: “It would have meant that those who continue to prop up this war and this administration, either actively or passively, are going to suffer a loss of prestige and credibility. And that is exactly why it is so important to them that Jane Harman become House Intelligence Chair and why Pelosi’s refusal to allow that will unleash even more hostility towards her.”

Big Oil is manipulating the price of gasoline. I, like Matt before me, am not surprised.

Kevin Drum finds a simple solution to the Medicare-prescription-drug-brouhaha: “requiring drug makers to give Medicare beneficiaries their lowest price, as companies must for Medicaid, the state-federal health-insurance program for the poor and disabled.”

Jeff Sharlet warns against Christian fundamentalists’ attempts to change American culture and history.

The LA Times’ Matt Welch looks into John McCain’s ideology and does not like what he sees: “He’ll kick down the doors of boardroom and bedroom, mixing Democrats’ nanny-state regulations with the GOP’s red-meat paternalism in a dangerous brew of government activism.”

Bob Woodward goes after the most powerful member of the Bush administration: Laura. My, how the worm has turned…

The government is skewering whistleblowers, encouraging mismanagement in its bureaucracy.

The Revealer discusses Madonna, blasphemy, and network censorship.

Retired General Barry McCaffrey says we need to stay in Iraq another Friedman.

The term “Friedman Unit” has now entered the popular lexicon. (Follow the link for a chart of how often the “Friedman Unit” has been used by politicians and pundits.) It’s a fascinating term, one that accurately shows this kind of thinking is an unending loop and a reason why we’re still in Iraq.

John Kurz dispels “conventional wisdom” on the coverage of the Iraqi War.

Meanwhile, SCOTUS is set to hear a landmark case on global warming: “A dozen states as well as environmental groups and large cities are trying to convince the court that the Environmental Protection Agency must regulate, as a matter of public health, the amount of carbon dioxide that comes from vehicles.”

A New Hampshire Republican mulls over the state of conservatism in New England.

Austin Bramwell “surveys the wreckage of contemporary conservatism.” Amazing insider critique of all that’s wrong with contemporary conservative ideology’s intellectual failings in regard to Iraq and terrorism. A must read.

Steve Benen mulls Atlantic’s list of the most influential Americans.

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