Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday roundup and branding -- the Gazette, and beyond...

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Knowing a place: It isn't unusual to have someone in Montana claim to know a river or a piece of land well. Ranchers and farmers certainly tend to know every nook and cranny of their land, especially when they grew up there.

Ed Kemmick had a beautiful piece on a Columbus man who sets a high bar for knowing a river -- more particularly "his" 20-mile stretch:

Over the years, Ostwald has swum in it, waded it, inner-tubed on it, navigated it by canoe, raft and jet boat, walked up and down its banks.

He has fished every tributary in those 20 miles, investigated every ravine and gully. He has hunted game on its banks, run trap lines, explored its environs for human and natural artifacts.

Nine years ago, he was even married on it.

While the modern condition has introduced a level of nomadism of unprecedented scale, at the heart of a traditional life well-lived is being rooted in a place and knowing it well.

Thanks to Kemmick for giving us yet another living example of someone doing just that.

Rehberg on SCHIP: We're glad to see that in Rehberg's recently released editorial on SCHIP that he pointed out the inconvenient truth that it was a Republican Congress (of which he was a part) that created the program in the first place -- for children whose families made too much for Medicaid and not enough to afford private insurance or who had otherwise fallen through the cracks.

He points out what was wrong with the original House bill that he opposed, such as benefits for illegal aliens, inclusion of adults in a children's program, and robbing Medicare Advantage programs.

In short, he kept his promise to vote for a more reasonable bill -- and incidentally, it was a bill that does no less for children than did the original House bill for which Democrats and Montana editorial boards were beating the wearying "it's for the sake of the children!" scare-drum.

He calls on President Bush not to veto the bill, but truth to be told, a veto wouldn't be the worst thing for the legislation, since there are many more improvements that could be made. Rehberg himself alludes to one when he points out how many currently eligible children are not enrolled. These lowest-income families need the program the most, and more effort should be put into enrolling them, rather than trying to turn the program into a lower-middle-class entitlement program.

There are those who say, "If we can spend a gajillion dollars in Iraq we can...(insert favorite pet project.)" Not really -- someday we will be out of Iraq, and we are, after all spending half of what we used to spend on defense, as a percentage of our GDP. On the other hand, government entitlements are, as Ronald Reagan used to say, "the closest thing to eternal life you'll ever see on this earth," or something to that effect.

Since entitlements and vote-buying domestic spending are forever, it is worth grinding these bills down until they are the very best and careful legislation they can be.

Sens. Max Grassley and Charles Baucus: In a tribute to a Senator who "embodies the most ancient of conservative principles, a suspicion of institutional power," the New Republic reminds us of what a gem Sen. Charles Grassley is, and how utterly unappreciated he has been by most of the Republican Party over the last decade.

TNR notes that "it's incredible that Grassley has retained this disposition during the Bush years, when amassing institutional power became conservatives' reigning m.o."

Also making an appearance in the article is our Montana Sen. Max Baucus, who has taken a lot of heat from lefty Democrats for many things, including allowing Grassley to continue to set much of the agenda of the Senate Finance Committee, even though the Dems are now ruling supreme:

Losing his Senate Finance chairmanship in January, Grassley was himself to the end. When incoming Democratic chairman Max Baucus presented him with the parting gift of a wooden gavel, Grassley groused, "It probably cost more than it should, and more than I would have spent on somebody else." Luckily, his colleagues knew him well: Baucus assured him that the gavel was not a new purchase but Grassley's old one. "OK, so it's worn out," Grassley said. "Thank you very much."

An interesting bit of human interest, but what follows tells more of the real story, and it is a story that should remind Democrats that in Washington, what goes around eventually comes around -- and that this applies to good behavior, and not just bad:

Grassley's behavior when he was in the majority means that, in the minority, he retains more power than Republicans who screwed their opposition counterparts. Baucus has scolded officials who appear inclined to pay less attention to the demoted Grassley, telling them, "If Chuck asks you something, it's like I asked you for it."

Though Baucus is also worried about private equity, he's allowed Grassley to take as much--if not more--of the lead on the issue. It's a battle in which Grassley's passion for fair government can shine. His continued prominence also feels just because, out of all the Senate Republicans, he probably deserves the least blame for their 2006 catastrophe.

(...Grassley is) still stunned by what happened, and he even entertains the possibility that, via some convoluted mechanism, it might have been all his fault.

Though he noticed his colleagues running wild, "I stood by the sidelines," he says.

The hypothesis is unconvincing. It's hard to imagine other Republicans would have accepted behavioral advice from a guy like Grassley. But at least--unlike other Republicans--he's willing to say he's sorry.

Indeed -- of all the things that Republicans need to be doing right now, the most important thing is a little self-examination in the wake of the well-deserved 2006 blood-letting, and Grassley is one of the guys who can show us the way.

No men with boas in Montana? Say it isn't so! : From the Helena IR -- Women sported giant flashing glasses and pulled feather boas from around their necks to wave at the stage. Men, well, men didn’t.

You don't say.

Boas, glasses, whatever, Elton John is someone who took pop music to heights of genius -- and he still gives people their money's worth at age 60. And that's something that not every aging rocker can say.

One of the things that is worth taking note of with any strutting star is to take a look at the band. Davey Johnstone on guitar and drummer Nigel Olsson (who was the first major drummer to realize that headphones make a world of difference on-stage and not be embarassed to wear them) have been recording and touring with Elton John for most of what is now nearly 40 years -- something else that most aging rockers can't claim.

Missing is bassist Dee Murray, but he's dead, so he has an excuse. And while he's even older than the piano player, percussionist Ray Cooper should be mentioned, who recorded and toured with that lineup, and who also did some unique work when he and "Sir Elton" toured by themselves as a duo. And to think you used to have to prove yourself in battle to be made a knight... My but how England has changed.

And while we're at it, how about another one with Ray Cooper on percussion... plus Eric Clapton and his band doing backup. As we said, still giving folks their money's worth and even singing on pitch.

Look Right: This weekend, we made note of the new "Dextra Montana" wire that has been popping up on conservative blogs around Montana, including Montana Headlines (just look to the right side -- where else? --of this screen.) In a similar spirit, we'd like to link to Last Best Place, where one can find a nice summary of some recent conservative blog-entries from around the state. Check it out.

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