Seasonal gratitude 

Thanks to give, turkeys to roast

Thanksgiving rolls around once more and, as always, we who are lucky enough to make our homes in Montana have plenty about which to be thankful. And while roasting turkeys isn’t something in which my vegan friends would be interested, the change of power in our nation’s capital bodes well for roasting some gobblers that really deserve it.

First, the thanks. Montanans of all political persuasions can be thankful for the sheer beauty of our surroundings. Our mountains pierce the sky, our clear and beautiful rivers wend their way through green valleys, our forests hold an almost endless bounty of wildlife, and our fertile plains stretch to the horizon in a massive expanse of limitless space and freedom.

Those who seek joy in the natural world find an abundance of opportunity here. For anglers, our famed rivers provide world-class fly-fishing while our lakes and reservoirs hold a varied cornucopia of species, from the tasty perch to the rare and beautiful golden trout of the high mountain glacial potholes. Likewise, Montana’s vast expanses of still-natural habitat provide an incredible panoply for those who hunt. The thick cottonwood bottoms hold the wily whitetails while legendary elk haunt the mountainous wilds and fleet antelope sweep across the prairie grasses, kicking up pheasants as they go. Wild turkeys stride majestically through the ponderosas, and further up blue grouse burst from the pines in a roar of feathers. What you won’t see in Montana is game farms, where wild animals live in shoot-for-hire pens—and for that, we should be thankful, too.

While neighboring states see their herds of game animals diminish and hunting seasons shorten to mere days, Montanans enjoy a five week big-game season, our herds are healthy and productive, and the great traditions of the hunt live on. And of course for those who would rather watch wildlife than shoot it—a growing segment of the population, by the way—this same abundance provides virtually limitless opportunities for enjoyment.

And as long as we’re giving thanks, let’s not forget those who spend their time in the political trenches fighting to preserve our magnificent legacy for future generations. Anyone who thinks we would have what we have without decades of effort by countless citizens who have so valiantly struggled to preserve our water quality and quantity, maintain suitable habitat for our diverse wildlife, or keep our open spaces open and undeveloped are sadly mistaken. A quick trip over Montana’s borderline will soon find one asking, “Where are the animals? What happened to the antelope and deer? How come we aren’t seeing any pheasants?” The answer is simple: Others have not stewarded their resources with as much vision, care, and commitment as have we, and their lives are poorer because of it.

Speaking of politics, Montanans should be thankful that we sent Jon Tester to D.C. Forget for a moment the party affiliation, the ugly race, or the razor-thin outcome and simply think of what it means to have a real organic farmer in the U.S. Senate. Finally we have someone who gets it about chemical inputs. Someone who knows that crops can be grown successfully without being drenched in pesticides and oil-based fertilizers. Someone who can stand up to the powerful lobbyists of industrial-strength factory farms and say, “There’s another way. A way that doesn’t poison our water, air and wildlife or turn our crops into Frankenfoods through genetic manipulation.” It’s likely to be lonely fighting those battles on the Senate floor, so don’t hesitate to let Jon know how much you appreciate what he’s doing on behalf of future generations.

Now let’s move on to some turkeys that need roasting. The first one, of course, is already in the oven. Donald Rumsfeld, the fast-talking architect of the Iraq war, got lopped shortly after the election returns were finalized and few are likely to miss his twisted logic or mind-numbing explanations for the incredible mistake of Iraq. But Rumsfeld is just one of a huge flock of gobblers who took over Washington as part of the Bush team.

How about Condi Rice? Remember her threats that if we didn’t invade Iraq post haste that we’d be seeing “mushroom clouds” here at home. Or John Bolton, who was appointed by Bush to be America’s ambassador to the United Nations while Congress was in recess. If there’s a line heading out the door, Bolton certainly won’t be far behind Rumsfeld.

Or how about Paul Wolfowitz and his band of neoconservatives who developed the hyper-aggressive Project for a New American Century? These are the people who advocated a “policy of military strength and moral clarity” that, as part of their so-called vision, includes the control of space, which they call the new “international commons.” Given the number of Bush associates and congressional chums who have been brought down by scandals, it seems a safe bet that we can discard the “moral clarity” out of hand. But the militarization of space continues…and Wolfowitz and his pals certainly deserve some basting and heat for their part in this senseless and repulsive national strategy.

And then there are the Big Dogs themselves, Bush and Cheney. Although incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says she won’t seek impeachment, it is unclear whether or not that’s a decision she can make. The law provides that impeachment is the punishment for “high crimes and misdemeanors” by the president and vice president. Something tells me when the new Congress gets going on its investigations, those subpoenas are going to turn up actions by both Bush and Cheney that fit the description.

If and when such evidence arises, the only way these gobblers will escape their overdue punishment is for Bush and Cheney to pardon each other’s crimes and resign. It likely won’t happen, but it would be a fitting end to this benighted presidency—and one for which we could all be thankful.

When not lobbying the Montana Legislature, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Independent. Contact Ochenski at

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