Archive for April 26th, 2007

by Jay Stevens

Jon Tester has posted a speech he gave to the Twenty-First Century Democrats yesterday on The Huffington Post. It was a great speech and should remind us all who worked our tails off to get this man into office that it was worth it.

On power:

But power can be seductive. And its power, I think, that causes politicians to stop being true to who they are. The press and the pundits tend to talk about powerful politicians… those with the best committee assignments… the most seniority… or the highest leadership position. And when you start thinking about power as something granted to you by your party’s leadership… or by the rules of the Senate… I can see how someone can get wrapped up in the trappings of power.

But the fact is, the Constitution is pretty darn clear about where our power comes from – it comes from the people that elect us. And that’s it. Our power comes from them. Once you forget that… I can see how it can be a challenge to remain true to who you are.

Although it’s peppered with the usual praise of Montana and his upbringing as a primary component in the creation of his character, he also had this to say:

When Kelly told me that Twenty First Democrats was honoring me for being one of these authentic candidates, it got me thinking about what it means to be authentic.

Maybe it’s because of where I’m from…

Maybe I’ve never had much trouble being what folks out here call authentic. . .

Maybe it’s because I like who I am…

Maybe it’s because I believe every body is equal …

Maybe it’s because I appreciate people who work hard.

Good stuff, worth a read. If you do, you discover the principles at the heart of our burgeoning Western Democratic populist movement…

by Jay Stevens

As you’ve probably no doubt seen, there’s video of the Mike Lange outburst! What struck me about watching it – and what wasn’t evident from the original reports on Lange’s rant – was that the profanity came in the midst of a speech on the “honor,” “integrity,” and “dignity” of the House Republican caucus!

It only gets worse, of course. Here’s the transcript of a CBS interview with Lange:

Lange: Everything I said in there is exactly what I mean, it’s exactly what I stand on, and I’m not budging off one comment of it, not one word of it. I meant the truth, and that’s not showmanship, that’s called dignity and honor.

Florio: Telling someone to stick it up his ass is called “dignity” and “honor”?

Lange: In the real world, you bet it is. When the shoe fits, wear it. I gotta go back to work, thanks.

And with that quip, the House Majority leader scuttled offstage.

The “real world”?

In the real world, what we’re seeing could be the result of term limits. Simply put, House Republicans are too inexperienced. They don’t understand the process. (Of course that doesn’t explain why House Democrats aren’t exhibiting the same childishness.)

The Governor is the big winner in all of this. In a nice summation of the situation the Legislature finds itself — and sadly a few days too late – George Ochenski prophetically predicted such a car crash might happen:

Montanans had best brace themselves for the end of what is undoubtedly one of the worst legislative sessions in the state’s recent history….But how could we possibly know with no end in sight to the bitter partisan squabbling that turned a deliberative policymaking institution into a locker-room brawl between opposing teams? No matter. One way or another the blame game is about to start big time—and with it will come a political spin cycle that promises to be dizzying.

Ochenski had hard words for all of the players – accusing the Governor specifically of skipping out when he was needed most, of failing to meet and talk with Republican leaders.

But this incident gave his supporters plenty of ammunition. After all, Lange’s tirade happened after Schweitzer tried to hammer out some compromise on key bills. Lange has made it questionable whether House Republicans are capable of discussion, let alone compromise!

But is that a surprise from lawmakers whose supporters say things like this?

“Mike Lange is the only House Republican majority leader we have…” –What’s this “we” stuff? You’re pretending Mike Lange represents you? Whatever you are trying to insinuate, he belongs to my party and not yours, and I am damn proud of him for calling a spade a spade.

And you wonder why Republicans at the state and federal levels have pursued policies that have divided the nation?

The Governor, of course, has played the situation like a fiddle. Check out this response to Lange’s apology:

“I said to Mike Lange, ‘We should never take the measure of a man at his weakest moment,’” the governor said. “I tried to comfort him. I think I gave him some comfort.”

In short, Lange’s outburst has backed the Montana GOP into a corner. If they don’t compromise, and the session runs for weeks during the summer, and there’s a state government shutdown, the video evidence makes it clear who’ll take the fall. If the House Republicans do bend on their demands, then Lange will have violated his own back-alley “principles.” It’ll be a self-defined sign of legislative “weakness.”

And regardless of the outcome of this legislative session, this video clip has iced whatever chance Lange had at a federal-level job. As a Senate candidate, Lange will offer Baucus as much challenge as his upcoming primary contender – i.e., none — promises to be. As a gubernatorial candidate…well…Lange’s already been upstaged and out-maneuvered by the Democratic candidate. It’s not easy to unseat a man who publicly sympathizes with you for your bungling.

But worse still – at least for the Montana GOP – is that Lange promises to become a national laughingstock. Can you imagine how the NRSCC, NCCC, and RNC feel about this clip?

Also, from around the blogosphere, condemnation is near universal.

Montana Headlines doesn’t write much, but you can almost hear his forehead hit the keyboard as the House Republicans continue to ignore his excellent advice.

Sarpy Sam:

Common courtesy and decency are obviously a dying commodity. What I can’t figure out is how the party of “family values” thinks such profanity and vitriol upholds their party standards?

The Montana Misanthrope:

Like it or not, sir, you are in the minority. You can throw a tantrum, point an accusing finger, and hyperventilate all you want, but doing so will not move an agenda, and it does not serve the interests of this state or your party. And just so you know, the former is more important than the latter, because it is apparent that you don’t grasp that.

TMM also finds Lange’s outburst typical of the state’s Republicans and, as a conservative, worries about the party’s future.

Ed Kemmeck probably summed it up best (and his post is worthy of a full read):

…if you haven’t watched the video of Lange’s speech, which is attached to the first two stories mentioned above, do. It shows Lange apparently getting a little teary-eyed toward the end of his tirade, and saying to his colleagues, “You’re ladies and gentlemen with honor and integrity” — and saying it without a hint of irony! He also tells them he would be willing “to go off a cliff with you.” That could prove to be a prophetic remark, as that seems to be exactly where Lange is leading them.

Oh, and that was the reaction from the state’s conservative and independent blogs…

by Jay Stevens

On the front page of yesterday’s Missoulian, Tristan Scott addresses the recent “spate” of bike deaths in Missoula, bringing our total this year to two, and three since October. That’s news, because there were none all of 2004 and 2005.

I’d agree with the report that it’s hard to draw any conclusions about traffic infrastructure or culture causes from the three deaths:

–The October death occurred when 14-year-old Colin Heffernan was run over during Rolling Stones weekend – but he was riding without reflectors, helmet, or lights at night and was struck by someone who simply didn’t see him.

–Roy Smith, 64, was killed at the intersection of Reserve and Mullin “where he either fell or was knocked off his bike and then rolled underneath a semitrailer.” It’s one of the worst and most congested intersections in the entire city, and way out in the big box-store sprawl of North Reserve.

–And then was the recent death of Stacie DeWolf, 50, who was – apparently – targeted by a drunk driver in broad daylight on a busy, but not bike-hostile, Toole Avenue.

Hefferman’s death was attributable to lack of biker awareness (no lights or reflectors?); Smith’s to bike-hostile infrastructure; and DeWolf’s to random malice. The first two were perhaps preventable through infrastructure change; the third, sadly not.

In the end, most bike experts quoted in the story could only explain the incidents on conflicting cultures. Phil Smith, Missoula’s bicycle-pedestrian program manager, perhaps said it best:

“In Missoula we’ve got public streets that have to serve everybody’s needs and we need everybody to be responsible,” said Phil Smith. “We really need to foster a culture in which everyone respects everyone else using the roadways.

“So what kind of program could we launch to solve this problem?” Smith asked. “The answer is I don’t know. The behavior and attitude of everyone on our roadways needs to change. It’s not something the government can fix.”

Missoula still has a lot of streets and intersections that are bike-hostile. North Russell, say, or Third Street between Russell and Reserve. Or the intersection of Van Buren and East Broadway. Or, or, or.

In the meantime, while we demand better bike lanes, we bikers, as always, need to stay alert, over-cautious and well-equipped with helmets, lights, and reflectors. And if we’re not sure, disengage from traffic! We can always hop off our bikes and off the road.

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