by Pete Talbot

There are lots of ways to interpret the news and write the story.

One version would say the Democrats “took a big gamble” when they tried to block a pair of bills.

Another might read:

Old, straight, paranoid white guys try to cling to power by suppressing the vote.

Guess which way Lee Newspapers’ Mike Dennison took?

Now I have a lot of respect for Dennison.  He’s covered the Capitol and other statewide issues quite well for many years.  He’d probably get into trouble with corporate (and Lord knows there aren’t a lot of jobs in journalism out there these days) if he wrote the lede that needs writing.

Because let’s face it, the Republicans in the Montana Legislature are, for the most part, a bunch of scared, intransigent, backward-thinking white guys (and a few women) who see the way the rest of the country is trending.  And it’s not in their direction.

The Montana GOP could try to moderate its policy, be more inclusive and play the long game.  Or it could attempt to keep young people, immigrants and the disenfranchised from voting.

It’s doing the latter.

So while I appreciate the mainstream media’s legislative coverage, I’ll look to the blogs for the ledes that cut to the chase.


  1. Eric

    Pete – the Dems were trying to obstruct us – (you & I) from getting to vote on referendums – who tried to suppress the vote ? It’s the Dems. It amazes me how frightened the Dems are of us voters.

    • petetalbot

      Good point, Eric. We don’t need no stinkin’ legislature. Let’s just put everything on the ballot in the form of a referendum.

  2. Big Swede

    “Or it could attempt to keep young people, immigrants and the disenfranchised from voting.”

    I’m curious. Could you be more specific on the word “immigrants”?

    • Pete Talbot

      I should have defined this better. How about recent naturalized citizens who look and/or sound different than most Montanans, and may be intimidated by a process that keeps getting tougher-and-tougher to negotiate?

  3. Eric

    The Dems agreed with me – and properly apologized & backpedaled today –

  4. Pete Talbot

    Whoa, Eric, that’s one obscure interpretation of what happened. Most folks see it as a compromise offered by the Democrats to move forward on important legislation. Hardly back-peddling or an apology, unless you have a source that I’m not familiar with.

  5. Eric

    Today, still shaking in their boots, they offered to have the tables refinished if they scratched them up –

  6. Pete Talbot

    Hey Eric, I appreciate your comments. I really do. If you would be so kind as to link to your sources every once in awhile, I’d appreciate them even more.

    • Pogo Possum

      Here is the article Eric is referring to, Pete:

      Senate Democrats offer to pay for damaged desks

      April 12, 2013 10:28 am • Associated Press
      HELENA — Democrats are offering to pay for the damage caused when they pounded mugs on their Senate desks during last week’s attempt to drown out a floor session.

      http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/senate-democrats-offer-to-pay-for-damaged-desks/article_1762e295-e1c8-5553-bc95-46f2df1de914.html

  7. Pogo Possum

    You know things aren’t going well for your party, Pete, when one of the more liberal columnists in Montana points out how badly they blew it. Check out Ochenski’s guest column in the Missoulian today. http://missoulian.com/news/opinion/columnists/george-ochenski-things-get-ugly-as-legislature-winds-down/article_8ab77938-a587-11e2-9464-001a4bcf887a.html

    Here are a few highlights:
    “The single most destructive action to any hope of cooperation between the two political parties started with the failed attempt by Senate Democrats to shut down the Senate on April 5.”

    “But for some unfathomable reason, the Senate Democrats announced their intent to issue the call in an open caucus, immediately alerting the Republican leadership to their plans.”

    “Adding insult to injury, the Democrats not only failed to stop the referendum bills from being transmitted, they eventually signed a letter from the Republican leadership that acknowledged their role in disrupting the decorum of the Senate, encouraging disruption from those in the gallery, and prohibiting “the practice of pounding on the desk to get recognition.”

    “As a final indignity, Senate Republicans quickly passed a new rule requiring a majority vote for a call of the Senate, thus dooming future minorities from ever using the procedure again.”

    Quite a few news sources have repeatedly pointed out the Democrat’s ill thought out and poorly received stunt may have doomed a compromise to pass several key pieces of legislation.

    Finally, cap all this off with the Democrats publicly agreeing to pay for the damages to state property like a bunch of guilty high school kids who got caught vandalizing school property and it hasn’t been a good week for Democrats.

  8. Pete Talbot

    I’m a bit disappointed with Ochenski these days. A few weeks ago, he chides the Democrats for being too passive.

    http://missoulian.com/news/opinion/columnists/george-ochenski-democrats-unwilling-to-fight-for-what-s-right/article_99c10a8a-9505-11e2-8f9c-0019bb2963f4.html

    Now he’s complaining that they’re being disruptive. You can’t have it both ways, George.

    I also believe that the Republican’s move to put all these bills on the ballot as referendums is a terrible way to get things done; dare I say irresponsible and cowardly?

    Plus, Pogo, you’re pulling selective quotes from Ochenski’s column. He’s also criticizes Republicans:

    “With less than two weeks remaining in the session, Republican vitriol is even targeting fellow Republicans …”

    It’s a screwed up legislature and has been for the last few sessions, mainly because you have a bunch of dark money, tea party radicals who have no concept of compromise, and these folks are in leadership positions.

    • Pogo Possum

      Pete, you could also easily and accurately say, that “….it’s a screwed up legislature because you have a bunch of uncompromising, strident, liberal minority Democrats who, torpedoed their own legislation by insulting Republican moderates who have demonstrated a willingness to compromise, by throwing a temper tantrum on the Senate floor when they tried to deny Montana Senators (through unethical means) the right to vote on bills that would give Montana voters the opportunity to vote on two referendums that would determine how Montanan’s vote in future elections. “

      With regards to “selective quotes”, it is interesting that Ochenski’s criticism of Republicans is almost a footnote compared to the thrashing he gave his own party.

      Finally, I wonder what Ochenski and Dennison think about being called “main stream”?

  9. Pogo Possum

    Here is a late response to your earlier post concerning Tracy Stone-Manning’s appointment to the DEQ and her recent Senate Hearing. Considering the importance of the office of DEQ and the impact its decisions have on a vast area of Montana’s environmental, recreational, agricultural and business activities, the difficult questions directed at Tracy were generally appropriate and acceptable.

    To clarify, Senator Barrett did not criticize Tracy for her husband’s actions, she, instead, asked her if she agreed with some of her husband’s stated positions. That is a reasonable question. If a Republican appointee to the DEQ had a spouse who wrote a book denouncing global warming as a hoax, the first question from Democrats would be if the nominee also held that position. If a nominee’s spouse owned a coal company, or was fracking in the eastern Montana Bakken oil fields, I bet even you would be asking a lot of questions.

    The Earth First questions, while embarrassing for Tracy, were also appropriate. Again, if a Republican nominee had any distant association with a violent group in his/her youth, Democrats would be screaming bloody hell. Again, you would be among the first demanding answers. Republican questions and comments, while uncomfortable for her, were very mild compared to how Democrats may have treated a Republican nominee in a similar situation.

    That said, Tracy is a big girl and demonstrated to all in attendance that she has poise and grace under fire. She answered the questions well and demonstrated, as evidenced by some of the business people who testified on her behalf, that she has a vast knowledge of the issues, has a history of working with both business and environmental groups, listens to all sides and, most importantly, she is not a whacko environmentalist (sorry Eric, you are wrong on this one). While I might prefer someone with more business experience and conservative leanings, she is an acceptable Democratic nominee to head the DEQ. I wish her well.

    I don’t have an inside track on how GOP Senators will vote on her appointment (it is currently held up in committee) but I have spoken with a few Republican Senators who feel she will ultimately be confirmed.

    Concerning Pat Williams failed appointment to the Board of Regents, it was two of his own former staff members speaking against his appointment plus a recording of the actual interview Pat gave to the New York Times that showed critical contradictions in his public statements and testimony to the Senate committee that was his ultimate downfall.

    Finally, I do agree, Pete, that your wife has impeccable credentials. She is smart, gracious and well respected. You are a lucky fellow to have her.

    • JC

      EF! is no more a violent group than the tea party is:

      “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

      When’s the last time a tea party politician has been questioned about whether or not he/she supports drawing the blood of patriots and tyrants?

      • Pogo Possum

        Not a “violent group” JC? Tell that to mill worker George Alexander who was injured when a bandsaw shattered when it hit a tree spike.

        Earth First co-founder Dave Foreman’s militant “how to” book “Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching” gave clear instructions on how to spike trees, destroy equipment and sabotage logging projects. One of Earth First’s leaders was nearly killed when a bomb she was transportting blew up in her car.

        Even Tracy ran from this group of “angry people” as fast as she could when she realized who they were what they promoted.

        • JC

          Um, you’ve got your history all mangled up. Judi Bari was a victim of the bombing, and she won her civil lawsuit (posthumously) against prosecutors who defamed her and didn’t pursue an actual investigation. She was framed:

          “On June 11, 2002, a federal jury returned a stunning verdict in favor of Bari and Cherney. The jury found that six of the seven FBI and Oakland Police defendants framed the two activists.”

          • Steve W

            JC, thanks for more history of the war on people by the elites. Pogo i think is fighting for the elites, though. I think he’s aware of it too. Facts have never stopped him.

  10. lizard19

    Pogo, do you hear any concerns from more moderate Republicans about being purged for votes they’ve made this session?

  11. Pogo Possum

    The main concerns I hear from my moderate Republican friends in the legislature is how difficult Democrats are making it for Republicans who are willing to compromise on key bills. They cite the childish attempt to blow up the Senate earlier this month as a key example.

    My moderate Democratic friends echo the same concerns and are embarassed by many of the decisions of the Democratic leadership that appear designed more to grab headlines than help the passage of key legislation.

  12. JC

    EF! any more violent than these people, Pogo?

    Again, when’s the last time a tea party politician or political appointee was asked if they supported gun violence to achieve political goals?

  13. JC

    And Pogo, don’t forget the 2009 DHS report on rightwing extremism (“poli-terrorism”???).

  14. Pogo Possum

    JC……..I am well aware with your fascination with the Tea Party. That still doesn’t take away the fact that Earth First and specifically its co-founder Dave Foreman preached sabotage and published literature encouraging budding young eco terrorists to commit illegal activities that could do harm to property and people.

    It was a letter sent through the Missoula Earth First organization and written by one of these eco terrorists (who was ultimately prosecuted) claiming he committed a terrorist act by spiking trees that helped Tracy decide to leave the organization.

    I am curious. Were/are you a member of Earth First, JC?

    Have you committed any “Eco Defense”/”Eco-Terrorism” or “Monkewrenching” in the past?

    • Steve W

      Pogo, did you put that bomb in Judi Bari’s car? If it wasn’t you, do you know who did it? Did you morally support that act?

      Thanks in advance…

      • Pogo Possum

        And this, children, is a fine example why you shouldn’t use drugs.

    • JC

      “Sent through the Missoula Earth First Organization”

      I have to laugh at your ignorance of history, Pogo. The letter was sent by an individual, not by — or through — an organization. Tracy just (foolishly) assisted. That person was a mentally unstable individual who was used by the feds to infiltrate and frame innocent people. He also attempted to frame me and others.

      And as to “membership”, Earth First! maintains no membership. So no, I was not a member but I did participate. And I did know Judi Bari, so it perturbs me when people like you disparage her, when she was the victim of a terrorist act. It also makes you look like an ignorant fool.

      Though I committed no crimes during my years of activism, I was investigated by the feds in an attempt to intimidate my and others’ journalism into silence.

      But I still find it curious that you would obsess over the writings of Dave Foreman from 30 years ago, while people who support GOP politicians today espouse radical extremism and encourage armed terrorism to achieve their political and ideological goals.

      So I’d have to ask you if you’ve ever committed a crime in your line of work? Or accepted help/assistance from tea partiers that advocate violence?

      Are you willing to denounce tea party dialog advocating violence, and/or violent acts by members of the tea party?

  15. Pogo Possum

    I did a bit of googeling last night JC and I see you have kept close to your fellow travelers over the years. The organization names may have changed but the ole’ gang is still hanging together.

    The “EF! maintains no membership” line is just a legal defense mechanism to shield financial dealings and defend your buddies when the shit hits the fan and the FBI shows up. It allows you to feign ignorance and more easily disassociate yourselfs from your more reckless violent “members” when they get caught burning or blowing something up like Michael Scarpitti or Rodney Coronado. Or you can just claim the one who got caught doing the group’s work was a “….. mentally unstable individual who was used by the feds to infiltrate and frame innocent people.”

    And no, I have never committed a crime and equally important, I have never encouraged anyone to commit a crime unlike many of the aging Earth First followers. I am not a Tea Party member either and don’t respect folks who advocate criminal violence.

    Foreman may have written his famous manifesto 30 years ago but the Earth First still uses a “wink wink” we don’t advocate violence but go ahead a do it ’cause we dont condem it either approach.

    From the Earthh First web site:

    “Although some individual Earth First!ers may be active monkeywrenchers, the Earth First! movement officially neither advocates nor condemns monkeywrenching.”

    “Monkeywrenching is not mindless—targets are carefully picked for their strategic value. There is a time and a place for everything.”
    http://earthfirstjournal.org/subsection.php?id=2

    It is all a bit hypocritical, but then, as the EF! web site points out…….”Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury” for an Earth First “participant”.

    I can see why Tracy ran from this group as fast as possible.

    And by the way, the jury found OJ innocent, too.

    • JC

      You make it sound like being an environmentalist is a crime. You’re really getting paranoid and self-righteous here.

      If you’re going to go all ballistic about “aging Earth First followers” you might want to understand what it is that many of us are doing — and advocating violence ain’t it.

      On the other hand, you might want to make sure your path has been clear, as I know how to use the googlizer, too. Tea party followers are great at “wink wink” too.

      “I… don’t respect folks who advocate criminal violence”

      Can I take that as a renunciation of the sorts of tea party displays that I showed in the photo above? Or even though you don’t “respect” tea party members who advocate violence, you’ll take their support, and “wink wink” at the political rallies?

      How about it Pogo? You renounce tea party violence, and I’ll renounce earth first! violence.




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