Archive for September 20th, 2010

by jhwygirl

This past Saturday, The Indy’s award-winning supermontanacolumnist George Ochenski gave the keynote speech at the Flathead Democrat’s Annual Harvest Dinner. Never one to hold back on the truth, the big GO delivered a barn-burner, closing to a standing ovation and inspiring all who attended.

It’s no secret that I absolutely worship George Ochenski. He says he isn’t a political strategist, and he says he isn’t a political leader, but there isn’t a doubt in my mind that the Democrats would be a in a better place – the Montana Democrats would be in a better place – if he were.

Ochenski is an inspiration to me and many others. I say that without a doubt as to the truth of that statement.

I also doubt he’d been able to finish this speech if I were there – I’da been standing on my chair, fist raised, shouting as loud as I could “Hell yeah!” before he’da been half-way through. Jess Grennan knows what I’m talking about.

Want to know what it means to be a Democrat? Wonder, these days, what it should mean? His entire words are a must-read. I’m tempted to print out a few copies and send ’em to Washington. And Helena.

The Speech

Before I do my Rod Sterling imitation and welcome you to the Twilight Zone that is modern-day politics, I’d like to personally thank those folks who made it possible for me to be here tonight. First and foremost, the Flathead Democratic Women and the Flathead Democratic Party for their kind invitation to speak. I’d also like to thank Margie Gignac for all her work and extend special appreciation to JoLynne and Jerry Yenne for kindly allowing my wife and I to use their great cabin where we enjoyed a very peaceful evening last night.

But the sand is running through the hourglass, so let’s jump right into the Twilight Zone and try to make some sense of the strange and swirling maelstrom into which American politics have descended.

First, I’d like to talk about “Why the Right is Wrong”…the easy part of this speech.

As we all know, having lived through eight nightmare years of the George W. Bush and Dick Cheney cabal, the Republicans have nothing, I repeat, nothing to offer us in the way of a vision for a better future.

You all remember, as do I, the phony campaign promises by Republicans to “restore dignity” to Washington following the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency. Their first move, aided and abetted by Montana’s own Governor Marc Racicot, was to “restore dignity” by stealing the election through voter intimidation, hanging chads and a conservative Supreme Court that decided it was more important to “move on” than accurately tally the votes of the people. And so we wound up with George Bush in the White House.

Perhaps, were it not for the September 11 attacks, Mr. Bush would have been the incompetent one-term president so many predicted. But that was not to be. Instead, a shocked, paranoid and complicit Congress – both Democrats and Republicans – cranked the wheel hard to the right through a series of events from which we have not recovered to this day – and may never fully recover.

Instead of dignity, we got deception. Instead of transparency, we got obfuscation, secrecy and denial of access to formerly public information. Instead of the Republicans’ much-vaunted “fiscal conservatism,” we tipped off the edge of wildly out-of-control spending, launching two wars and vastly increasing the military and intelligence agency budgets while domestic needs took a back seat and civil liberties, freedom and privacy were sacrificed to the umbrella excuse of “national security.”

In a throwback to the Age of Imperialism, Bush launched two wars, neither of which was justifiable and both of which, sadly, are still ongoing.

The invasion of Afghanistan was cloaked in the “mission” to kill or capture Osama bin Laden. But Afghanistan, with its towering Hindu Kush Mountains, is a wild country that has never been successfully occupied by any foreign force. The bones of the British Empire still molder in the Khyber Pass more than a century after their failed attempts at domination. Likewise, the rusted remains of Soviet tanks and helicopter gunships still litter the countryside decades later, an all-too-grim reminder that modern superpowers have no more chance of success there than the horse-borne armies of the past.

And now, of course, American blood mixes with the dust of centuries on Afghanistan’s forbidding landscapes while Osama bin Laden, wherever he may be, laughs at America’s folly in thinking we, unlike all others, can somehow subdue Afghanistan’s wild tribes. He laughs, too, as our Treasury is sucked dry by the effort, a grim parallel to the fiscal crisis widely blamed for the collapse and subsequent fracturing of the Soviet Union that, in fact, is having the same effect on our nation.

Shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq fell into the Bush-Cheney crosshairs, despite the fact that Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11. What it did and does have to do with is oil. The world of oil is the world of Dick Cheney, and as we heard time and again, “Iraq is floating on a sea of oil.”

So it was that Bush, Cheney and their military-industrial complex advisors and a complicit Congress launched another war at a cost vastly exceeding what it would have taken to simply buy the oil if we wanted it so badly.

But of course that doesn’t take into account the other costs. The dead men and women of our Armed Services, the fractured families, those who returned home broken or beset with the demons of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the uncounted casualties inflicted upon the people of Iraq. We still have 50,000 troops in Iraq today, suffering and dying while the debt burden for future generations continues to rocket skyward as the true price of this calamitous war becomes ever more clear.

Perhaps even worse than these unimaginable military and financial disasters is the policy and social detritus left in the wake of the failed Republicans. Warrantless search and seizure, extraordinary renditions, (more commonly called international kidnapping and torture), and a nation at war with itself.

Long after Bush’s infamous “you’re either with us or against us” rhetoric has faded, the reality of what that did to our country lives on. We are no longer a country united in our goals and holding high the torch of Liberty, but one in which, neighbor turns suspiciously against neighbor, where distortion and outright lies replace truth and open debate, and where our own government spies on us, puts us on “do not fly” lists without our knowledge, and even marks American citizens for assassination without the benefit of a trial or the opportunity to present defense…thus crumbling even the most basic foundation of our judicial system that, as a people, we are all “innocent till proven guilty.”

And this is where the Tea Party comes into the picture. Continue Reading »

by Pete Talbot

“We support the clear will of the people of Montana expressed by legislation to keep homosexual acts illegal,” reads a plank in the state’s GOP platform.

So, most Montanans think that two consenting adults of the same gender should go to jail if they want to have sex. Interesting.

“I think your average Montanan would say the environmentalists have gone too far in stopping growth and stifling the economy,” says Bill Gallagher, Republican PSC candidate in District 5.

It’s environmentalists, not Wall Street and the resulting financial meltdown, that have stopped growth and crippled the economy — at least according to your “average Montanan.” Again, interesting.

This begs the question, what is an average Montanan? The Montana Republican Party, with some exceptions, thinks we’re homophobic anti-environmentalists.

It’s not easy or wise to pigeonhole people, especially Montanans. Examples I know of: a gay football coach, a Prius-driving logger, a lesbian wrangler. The Montanans I’ve met, for the most part, are a tolerant lot. They also have great respect for the outdoors. And this isn’t just in leftyville Missoula. With in-laws in Babb and Billings, and gigs in towns from Eureka to Broadus, Wolf Point to Sula, I’m constantly surprised by the depth and understanding of your “average Montanan.”

Sure, one will run into the occasional Neanderthal, but Montana doesn’t have a corner on that market.

(A quick aside. I wish I could vote in this PSC race but the Bill Gallagher/Ken Toole contest isn’t in my district. Ken Toole is a consumer advocate and industry watchdog. Gallagher is a shill for the utilities. And if Toole loses and the Republican wins in Montana’s northern District 1 [Don Ryan-D and Travis Kavulla-R] then Brad Molner would become chairman of Montana’s PSC. Scary stuff.)

I obviously disagree with the Montana Republican Party that Montanans are an intolerant lot and are opposed to environmental safeguards. Au contraire.

Some folks get stirred up by the far-right rhetoric — much of it coming from out of state: images of drag queens marching arm-in-arm up to the altar of the local Pentecostal Church, or claims of an end to all logging, mining, grazing, hunting and fishing if an environmentalist is elected. This ain’t going to happen.

And I have faith that “average Montanans” will look beyond the fear-based messages put out by the likes of Gallagher and the state Republican Party.




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