Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

by jhwygirl

Was anyone surprised to hear that former Griz football player Trumaine Johnson was arrested on a DUI last night? Probably not. The fact that he’s a NFL cornerback for the St. Louis Rams is whatt made it just a little out of the ordinary.

Only a little.

Reading the Missoulian report, it seems that Trumaine Johnson refused the breathalyzer.

Well now, I thought, “doesn’t he realize we get warrants now in this state when people do that?

But as I read through the Missoulian’s report, it appears the City of Missoula Police merely cited former Griz player Trumaine Johnson for refusing the breath test, along with another citation for driving without headlights and the DUI charge.

Awww, isn’t that nice?

So Johnson will get off with some minor traffic tickets. No evidence for the DUI will make that a tough conviction.

I’m sure it was jet lag.

He was caught at Front and Owen. Which is St. Patrick’s Hospital property, and about 3 blocks from the Emergency Room entrance where blood tests are, I suspect, pretty easy to obtain.

Not only is Johnson getting special treatment from the City of Missoula PD, it looks like the NFL has already decided his fate – they’re gonna hit him up with a little dent in his beer money.

Real leadership failure all the way around. You wonder why we have situations like we have here and in Steubenville and scores of other communities? It’s a systemic failure.

One of those “it takes a village” moments.

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by Pete Talbot

Can sustainability reduce crime?

The Bakken oil boom is drawing some less-than-desirable elements to Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota.  Of course, crime in boom towns is nothing new: think Henry Plummer, the vigilantes and Alder Gulch.

And apparently we haven’t evolved much from gold camps of the 1800s — environmentally or culturally.  One can still see the mountains of tailings from the dredges that plied Alder Creek over a hundred years ago.  Or visit the Virginia City Museum where Clubfoot George’s clubfoot, looking a bit like a standing rib roast, is on display (apparently he was dug up after being hanged by the vigilantes and his foot was removed for posterity).

And what have we learned, environmentally, since those days? Witness the Berkeley Pit, Colstrip, ASARCO, Basin, the Barker-Hughesville mining district … (and who really knows what all those chemicals pumped deep into the ground in the name of fracking will do to the water tables in the Bakken Play).

But it’s the cultural degradation that’s in the news these days: crime, infrastructure issues, housing shortages, Walmart parking lots filled to capacity with RVs, overcrowded schools and man camps.  And, according to Dennis Portra, the mayor of the metropolis of Bainville, Mont., on the North Dakota border, “Korean prostitutes parking their RV in Bainville for a summer.”

Now I’m pretty sure there’s no way you can sustainably drill for oil or gas but there has to be a more sensible approach.  A permit system that slows development comes to mind, more regulation of where, when and how.  A greater pay-to-play system so that the impacts on schools and neighborhoods and highways and, well, everything is at least somewhat mitigated.  Make sure that there is land, sacred land, that just isn’t touched.  And slow the development way down so that locals get first crack at the jobs to reduce the influx of alleged murderers like these two or this guy.

I realize that we aren’t going to go cold turkey on our oil addiction but really, this cyclical boom and bust is absurd.  How’s this helping to stabilize oil prices or getting us to look at alternatives to an ever dwindling supply of oil? What’s the Williston Basin going to look like when the boom plays out in 20 years?  This is one bad economic model.

And now they’re sinking test wells further west: Choteau, Lewistown, on the lands of the Blackfeet Nation:

“This entire region of the Rockies holds untapped potential that can contribute much needed supplies to help meet U.S. demand,” says Marathon spokesman Paul Weeditz.  The Rockies, apparently, were put here for oil, gas and mineral extraction to meet our never-ending needs.

We really need to get a handle on this, for the sake of a sustainable energy future, for our environment and for our way of life.  It could even put a dent in our homicide rate.

By CFS

A favorite theory of mine about the fall of the Roman Empire states that centrifugal force (outward) eventually became too much for the centripetal forces (inward) to counteract in the whirling machine that was Roman society.  The costs of holding the Empire together became too much for the benefits of Empire to overcome and slowly portions of the Empire were abandoned, forgotten, or fell away from a lack of resources or will to keep hold of certain possessions.

I bring this up because I wonder… I wonder how far along America is down this road once trodden by Rome.

For almost a thousand years, Rome was the shinning city atop seven hills in whose direction her neighbors cast their glare with envy. Rome – at the founding of the Republic – was a revolutionary idea, an idea that  Romans delivered to the world at the tip of the sword, the base of a road, through amazing organizational skills, and a promise.  The promise that no matter how low a station a person might occupy on their birth to this world the rewards of Roman citizenship could be within one’s grasp.  Citizenship was a symbol,  not even a Roman freedman bowed to a foreign king.  A foreign king might have immense power, but was not the equal of even the lowest Roman.

The idea of Rome, more so than her machinery, was the true glue to which divergent cultures, when coming into contact with Rome, could not escape its inward pull.  The benefits from such technological innovations as voting, legal representation,  logistics, and roads helped a great deal.  But still, the idea that with every conquest, ever glory, every extension of Roman roads another mile from the heart of Empire would result in the improvement of the human condition was the true essence of Rome’s might. For centuries these forces helped the Romans to build perhaps the greatest empire in our short-lived history.

However, centrifugal forces eventually ate into the benefits that Rome could provide, and once the cost/benefit swung away from favoring Rome, her hegemonic status wavered and slowly fell.  Pressure from maintaining a standing army responsible for 1,930,511 sq mi, limits of state bureaucracy, the end of conquest as economic policy, public works that were not maintained and allowed to fall into disrepair, and many other factors put pressure on the state’s ability to maintain a machinery of such immense scope.  The greatest centrifugal force was perhaps the eventual establishment of the principate, an institution by its very definition originally put in place as a stop-gap measure against forces pulling the Empire apart.

Circumstances arose within the last century of the Republic that threatened to tear Roman power and society apart.  The accumulation of so much power  and wealth in the hands of so few had led to a wild escalation in a fanciful game known as politics.  To control Rome was to control the world and bestowed upon the ruling faction the ability to completely wipe out one’s political opponents.  Of course this happened multiple times and it was only through the principate that a cap on deadly political ambitions could be placed.  The principate worked as directed for some time, but eventually became the object of concerted and prolonged power-struggles.  Resources were pulled from investing in Rome’s future and protecting her holdings to fighting civil wars for control of the state machinery.

To bring this back to more modern times, we, like Rome, have found ourselves with an accidental Empire, and we, like Rome, find ourselves with an increasingly hectic political theater more interested in fighting over power than with investing in the future of our country.  And as Congress and the Senate become ever more dysfunctional we are blessed with an increasingly insular Presidency in the process of gathering an ever greater amount of power within its institutional walls.  And our greatest strength, that American sheen that draws people around the world to American ideals is starting to tarnish.

Maybe the stench of decay is especially pungent at the moment and the cliff on which we look over a precipitously steep drop to the jagged rocks below, but whatever the situation, it sure feels as if the Chevy V-8 is only clunking along on 2 cylinders.

By CFS

We all know that corn ethanol takes away resources from growing food, but by how much might astonish you.  According to author Alexis Madrigal in his book Powering the Dream, USDA statistics from 2010 show that fully 1/3 of the United States corn harvest went into our collective gas tanks.

That 1/3 of US corn production is akin to a subsidy for the wealthy.  You see, the more wealth and income a person has the more cars a person owns and consequently the more miles a person tends to drive (who wants to be on a bus with a bunch of stinky people), consuming proportionally more gas.  Conversely, the higher up the income scale one climbs the less a person spends on food as a proportion of their income.  The exact opposite is true of the lower-income scales, whome spend a much larger proportion of income simply feeding themselves and their families while spending less on transportation.  So, corn ethanol subsidies are essentially robbing from the poor and giving to the rich, a kind of reverse Robin Hood.

Bringing it down to the scale of Missoula, would you rather help out the people that live on the South Hills in Mansion Heights, or the people that live in doublewides in East Missoula?

Just how much is 1/3?  The US corn harvest in 2010 was 13.1 billion bushels.  Yes that is 13.1 with a B! A record-setting year in terms of acreage under production and yield even in the face of record grain prices.

So, fully 4.3 billion bushels of corn was converted into ethanol.  Those 4.3 billion bushels yielded 12.1 billion gallons of ethanol (based on my calculations from the ratio I derived thanks to this link) out of a total US supply of 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol which gives us 10% of the total gasoline supply.

That’s a lot of numbers… but bear with me.

So, to fill just 10% of our voracious appetite for fuel (18 million barrels of oil/day) uses roughly 26.4 million acres of American (Fuck Yeah!) farmland.  So while the addition of corn ethanol to our fuel supply hasn’t put much of a dent into American gas prices or our consumption of foreign oil, you can see in the chart below just how much biofuels have effected the price of corn.  The steep increase in price coincides nicely with the increase in total corn used for ethanol seen in the chart here (scroll down toward the bottom).

And also coincides nicely with the increase in the commodity price of beef.  Beef, it’s where most of the corn goes.

Obviously, the increase in price isn’t all due to increases in the amount of corn ethanol produced, but the pattern fits nicely together.  The real point of all these numbers I’ve thrown in front of you is to show the sheer scale of the impact that ethanol has on the food market (quite a lot) and the extent of the impact on the fuels market (almost non-existent).

In the end ethanol subsidies are part of the larger package of policies in this country that give breaks to those with an excessively disproportionate share of this country’s wealth.  These subsidies might not be that large in the scheme of things relating to our total budget deficit, but they are symptomatic of our larger cultural tendency to reward the rich and punish the poor.

By CFS

Twitter and Facebook are increasingly becoming a part of people’s daily life and when it comes to politics, social media is an indispensable tool for organization, spreading information, and connecting people of like-minded attitudes.  But few politicians are actually making good use of these new tools.  Rather sadly, many politicians are using the tools to their own detriment or are simply using them to insulate and shut out criticism.

 

Here in Montana, politicians are beginning their primary pushes which means the long process of building a support network and raising funds, and in today’s age that means using twitter and Facebook to directly connect with as many people across the state as possible.  But so far this cycle our would-be political representatives seem a bit clueless.

Here are my suggestions of how our crop of Montana politicians can use social media effectively:

  1. Engage, engage, engage.  If you are using Twitter as a repository of press release like boring links, don’t even bother… I’m looking your way @DennyRehberg.  Twitter is a continuous conversation, be part of it, open your ears, and actually have a back and forth.
  2. Get rid of the staff.  I know social media can be a time-suck, but it is disingenuous to represent yourself on twitter and have a staff be the one tweeting.  If its overwhelming, have two accounts, one for the campaign run by a staffer, and a personal account that is solely yours.
  3. Don’t mass follow people… it just looks desperate and is akin to what sleazy internet marketers do.  That means you Franke Wilmer, who followed me the other day.  The first politician to seek me out for a follow.  Your followers, whether on Twitter or Facebook should come organically and not be sought after.  If you are a good candidate people will naturally gravitate to you.
  4. Make it personal, but not too personal.  Followers should feel as though they have an in on who you are and what your campaign is about that they can’t get via the television news, blogs, or newspapers.
  5. Google search for James Knox (R) Billings.  Look at his use of social media, then proceed to do the exact opposite.  Threats, crazy assertions, and lying in the social media sphere only get you ridicule and draw people’s attention who then quickly tear your arguments apart and make you look like the fool you are.
  6. Have a filter.  Before you hit that send button, think for a second whether you really want to put what you just typed out their.  As a politician you should realize that many of your followers are probably reporters, bloggers, and political insiders that will make as much noise and trouble for you given any opportunity.
  7. Be creative and witty.  Social media is geared to short bits of information, and to get attention you need to put out creative and authentic updates, being boring will kill you.
  8. Finally, study what people have done right.  For Montana, that means taking a look at how state legislators Ellie Hill, Bryce Bennett, and Mike Miller have used social media, especially during the hectic legislative session.  They were the best source on how things were shaping up at the capital and even during the busiest of times, kept their followers in the loop on legislative developments.  For my money, they are the best examples of politicians using Twitter effectively.

Other than that, good luck to all our candidates, except for Denny Rehberg, may Tester bitch slap you with his two-fingered hand.

For those of you interested in getting more information on our crop of Montana candidates take a look at the list I have compiled below.

Senate:

John Tester (D): Campaign site, @jontester, Facebook
Denny Rehberg (R): Campaign site@Rehberg2012, Facebook

Congress:

Franke Wilmer (D): Campaign site@Franke4Congress, Facebook

Dave Strohmaier (D): Campaign site@DaveForMontana, Facebook

Steve Daines (R): Campaign site@DainesforHouse, Facebook

Kim Gillan (D): Campaign site

Governor:

Rick Hill (R): Campaign site@RickHill2012, Facebook

Ken Miller (R): Campaign site, Facebook

James O’Hara (R): Campaign site, Facebook

By CFS

Since the Republicans showed their true communist colors and adopted the slogan “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” with the passage of SB 423 ridding the fledgling medical marijuana industry of the profit motive patients will inevitably suffer and the black market will invariably fill the void left by the current caregiver system.

I wonder what the Republicans think all these MMJ growers will do once they become outlawed… Sell their equipment on craigslist? More likely, these growers that have sunk thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of dollars into their business will continue to grow for the black market where they can actually make money… Tax free at that. These people are small business entrepreneurs after all, and they just need government to get out of their way.

Anyway, there is a great Slate feature that I suggest anyone interested in this issues should read. The article is written by a woman whose son suffers from a severe form of autism and the only thing that she has found that helps her child is marijuana. There are four parts to the series spanning a two year period of her family’s struggle with the disorder and how, through the use of medical marijuana, they have been able to live a more normal and happy life.

BCFS

So… My better half is contemplating purchasing a new vehicle, which means that I get to have some fun doing internet research and reading car magazines on possible options.  She decided that she wanted better gas mileage than her current Subaru provides (28 mpg), and I convinced her that she if she wanted a significant improvement that she should go with a diesel, specifically a Jetta TDI (used or new).  The only problem it seems is that you can’t find a diesel car within 500 miles of Missoula: of course you can find hundreds of diesel Chevy Silverado 3500s.  The dealers seem to think that they wouldn’t sell which means that the closest diesel cars are embargoed in Seattle, Denver, or Salt Lake City.

This isn’t the only barrier that crops up when you want to get your right foot on the gas pedal of a diesel.  Prices of diesels in the used car market have significantly risen in the last half decade as fuel economy suddenly became important to people.  Used Jetta TDIs routinely go for several thousand dollars above their suggested blue book value making a slightly used TDI almost as expensive as a brand new one.  A diesel Jetta is the “cheap” option as many of the other diesels available in America are European luxury models.

And that gets me to my question of the day… Where the fuck are the American diesels?  Half of all cars sold in Europe are diesel.  If you want to buy an American made diesel vehicle in this country you have a lot of option that look like this:

Other than that you have to go with a European manufacturer if you want a car and not a truck.  Audi has 4 diesel models available in the US; BMW 3; Mercedes 7; Volkswagen 7; GM 0, Ford 0; Chrysler 0.  And Audi, BMW, and Mercedes cars aren’t exactly cheap and so aren’t feasible for most Americans to purchase.

Petrol prices are once again averaging $4/gallon and are nearing the record high reached in 2008 and yet the mix of cars available in America has changed very little even in the face of rising prices spanning the last decade.  As of 2008, the average passenger vehicle in America got 25.6 mpg compared to 25.1 mpg in 2001.  That’s American innovation for you.

But this being America, we like big sweeping plans to solve issues, the simple solutions are just plain boring.  T. Boon Pickens has his idea for converting the American passenger vehicle fleet to natural gas and Obama wants us to believe that plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles (EVs) are the technological answers to our commuting nightmares.  Both of those options might be viable long-term solutions to our dependence on oil to drive our economy, but in the short-term neither really makes all that much sense.

The problem with both EVs and NGVs is that they both require whole new systems of distribution and manufacture to develop.  We are talking about investments in the trillions of dollars here to undertake the necessary research, develop new, scalable manufacturing techniques, convert factories, and build the distribution system that will allow Americans to plug-in or fill up their car with natural gas.

Diesel doesn’t require any of that.  The distribution system is already in place.  American car makers might have to spend $50,000 grand buying an advanced diesel car from Europe and reverse-engineering the engine but that’s about all the research they would have to undertake to catchup with European manufacturers.  And diesel cars could show an immediate impact on fuel efficiency, often providing two or three times the fuel efficiency than gas engines currently in use in America.

In the end, diesel isn’t the answer to our oil-dependence (and talk of our energy addiction would make this post too long) as we are going to run out of crude anyway.  What diesel can provide is a bridge between today and whatever system comes along in the future… whether that may be flying cars or living in termite mounds.

by jhwygirl

Because we elect people like Rep. Alan Hale, of Basin Montana. Legislators that have no problem standing up for the right to drink and drive.

If case you missed the action on the floor of the Montana House today, here’s a cut of Rep. Hale championing drinking and driving as “a way of life that has been in Montana for years and years,” and that all the laws aimed at cracking down on DUI’s are destroying small business.

There is so much wrong with that statement – can’t call it logic – that I honestly don’t know where to begin.

Certainly Hale was squalling his war cry for more than just himself? A majority of voters in Basin and Boulder and House District 77 support this point of view?

Or was Rep. Alan Hale purely serving his own economic interests?

Supermontanareporter John S. Adams, at his blog The Lowdown points out that Hale owns a bar.

It’s not hard to put together…especially when bill passed the volatile GOP-controlled House 88-12.

So Hale put out the last hail that only his ale-loving mind could put out: It’s anti-business!

He probably could have gotten a few more votes if he had said that he had personally talked to several tavern and bar and restaurant owners and all of them had personally told them that they were going to have to close up shop.

I hope the people of Boulder and Basin and the rest of House District 77 that elected this neanderthal remember Rep. Hale’s priorities come 2012: Business and profit over lives and safety of both the general public and the drunk driver.

Don’t miss Pogie on Rep. Hale’s pro-DUI speech, either.

Honestly? I’m kind of embarrassed for all of my Republican friends. When they do talk about what is happening up there, they’re embarrassed.

I’d say that Rep. Hale isn’t helping things in that department.

On that note – has Rep. Knox yet remembered whether he’s ever sold marijuana before? You’d really think he’d want to clear that up.

~~~
I also want to say “HA” to all of you who criticized me for saying that drinking and Montana is a way of life here and that the culture has to change. If I recall I was accused of overstating the issue.

Think of the comfort level Hale had today (misguided as it were) as he stood there on the floor championing drinking and driving. Mind boggling.

Or not.

By Duganz

Just seven months after 9/11 I attempted to board a flight for Washington, D.C.

I was 17, a junior in high school. Oh, and I was this huge punk rock geek boy who had blue hair, wore (embarrassingly enough) several sets of studs and spikes, about three feet of chain on my wallet, and a Fat Wreck Chords hoodie every day.

So, to some degree, I get why I was held on the floor of the Missoula Airport by two armed National Guardsmen while I was patted down and my shoes were confiscated. I spent a great deal of time trying to look like trouble, and these guys bought the facade. Still, I remind you, I was 17 and a freaking kid from Anaconda, Montana. I had never once been arrested (not for lack of effort on the part of my hometown’s police force). I didn’t do drugs, or drink alcohol. Even more telling, I was on a school trip sponsored by Close Up Washington, which you had to apply to. I was for all intents and purposes a good kid–one with blue hair, but a good kid.

But that morning in April 2002 I was held as if I were a danger to America. Another guy I went to school with was held as well. He was a redneck, boot wearin’, big buckle kinda guy, so maybe my hopes that I was messed with for my hair is misplaced.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. The issue is that I was treated like a criminal because I did not know my Chuck’s were setting off the metal detector, and that lack of knowledge got me searched by two guys with guns.

The main point here is that I was scared shitless for absolutely no reason because I was never a threat, and the government had no right to assume I was.

The Transportation Safety Administration treated me poorly because they were afraid of planes blowing up, and the world ending. It was just a few months after we saw 3,000 people die on TV on a looping repeat of media pandering, and propagandist fear mongering. I get where they were coming from. That said, I am a firm believer in the following words:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

That’s the Fourth Amendment, and what a grand message it is. Coming right after amendments giving me right to words, guns, and keeping the Army out of my home, the Fourth means that police cannot just stop and search you without cause, or a warrant––one that is specific in what they will search.

The TSA ignores this of course by assuming one thing: You want to kill people. If they do not believe that, then they are violating your civil rights, as well as mine. And for what? What the hell does the TSA actually accomplish? Last time I checked one nutcase nearly blew up a plane with his shoe, and another (Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab) tried setting his crotch on fire. (Ironically the TSA isn’t sure these new scanners would detect the infamous crotch bomb, so that’s nice.)

Both made it through security, and onto airplanes–hell, Richard Reed did it the month after the TSA began. Imagine if within 30 days of starting a job you made that huge of a mistake. You’d be fired. But, luckily our government is slow, woefully inefficient, and all about look instead of effort, so everyone kept their jobs.

Here’s some numbers: the TSA has more than 56,000 employees, and a budget of $8.1 billion to accomplish jack. I mean, come on, you’d think with that amount of money and that many people watching it wouldn’t come down to people on flights stopping terrorism.

Well, the government felt that way too, so they’ve recently added a fresh indignity to the business of flight: the naked scanner.

There have been plenty of blog posts and articles written about just how awful these things are, but in case you haven’t seen evidence, this is straight from the government:

As you can see in the third picture (from the left) that’s a penis. Also, the woman, first picture, has some love handles and a flabby ass (image 2). The TSA says that they delete the images, but, um, they don’t. Honestly, does that matter that much after a stranger gets to see your crotch? Aren’t you exposed too much even if the image is deleted? And isn’t it unnerving that a government that won’t allow “profanity” on TV will do this to it’s citizens? (“Sorry, you can’t show Janet Jackson’s nipple, unless you’re checking it for weaponry.”)

But, after all of that I have on observation to make:

You’re only scanned at the security gate. That’s it. If a terrorist wants to make an impression this holiday season, Mr./Ms. Martyr only needs to get in the crowd, and detonate. Getting on a plane with a bomb would endanger between 30 and 200 people. Blowing up at the crowded security gates…well, that’d make for some dead infidels.

So how the hell is the TSA making us safe? It ain’t.

The TSA is the window dressing our government likes to put up to satiate the needs of frightened middle class white people. They do things like this so you can feel a bit safer, and feel is it. You only feel. It isn’t real. It’s like HCR, the “missile defense shield,” or Jell-O. It’s just something to make you feel better, but ultimately provides nothing. Even if it apparently makes some anti-liberty nutbags feel better (One, Two).

But there are things you can do: Opt out of the scanner, and while you’re being given a pat down help educate the government official stomping on your rights by showing them a handy copy of the Bill of Rights. I carry one with my ACLU membership card. And speaking of the ACLU, they are on our side, so feel free to help them by joining.

Also remember this: your liberties are not worth sacrificing for the idea of safety.

***

Update at 10pm, Monday:

My wife wishes to add two points:

  • She is sad that I will no longer be allowed to fly, and
  • Magician/libertarian Penn Jillette turned me on to the tiny Bill of Rights cards, so give credit where credit is due.

By Duganz

Kill a person and you’ll go to jail for life. Kill an entire town and, well, it’s a different story. Today is the anniversary of just such a crime.

Thirty years ago oil conglomerate Atlantic Richfield Company drove a knife into the side of Anaconda, Montana–my hometown. I wasn’t alive to see the looks on people’s faces that day, but the look has never fully left. Twelve-hundred people lost their jobs, and the town lost a lifeline.

That’s not something that goes away, maybe ever.

In my mind Anaconda hearkens back to a different America, one that fueled an industrial boom and a daunting suburban sprawl––company people in a company town. You see it everywhere: Flint, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and New Jersey. The cookie-cutter homes lining the cookie-cutter streets, now slowly decaying as those better days recede further into the past. These were places where guys who couldn’t turn out court briefs, but could turn a wrenches, were welcome; a place where collars were bluer than any nearby water. Conjure to mind your favorite Norman Rockwell… that was Anaconda. It is a perfect representation of the 1950s Pop Culture zeitgeist.

After the Washoe Smelter closed there came a mass exodus of desperate people who took to the road looking for a future in a crumbling American economy (sound familiar?), and a changing world they were no longer meant for. Conjure if you will another stark American image: The Grapes of Wrath.

Those who stayed behind gobbled up what jobs they could to keep themselves going, holding out hope for more jobs that never have returned in quite the fashion everyone was hoping for.

Deer Lodge County lost 66 percent of it’s tax base in 1980, and recovery has been long and hard, and not entire. I remember when my Dad, who until recently worked as a CNA at Montana State Hospital, got a pay raise in 1994 and announced that he was finally making what he did when he worked on the Smelter in 1978. That’s a tough show to watch, and a tough reality to grow up in.

If prosperity was trickling down during the 80s and 90s, Anaconda was nowhere near the faucet. Makes one wonder what Reagan was thinking when he proclaimed it Morning in America back in 1984. Maybe it was morning somewhere – like on Michael Eisner’s yacht – but in Anaconda, Montana it was night, and a cloudy one at that.

*** Continue Reading »

By @CarFreeStpdty

Hell, we haven’t even found the path yet!

Nor have we seemed to figure out that we should  put the shovel down and stop digging ourselves a bigger whole with the policies our exalted officials seem to enjoy passing.  It’s about time we woke up to the need of reforms that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are willing to deliver, (probably preaching to the Choir on that one).

Attempts in the past 2 years to stem financial catastrophe have only led to further enriching the global elite, exporting our wealth, continuing the trend of  impoverishing this country’s middle class, and holding off true reform measures for some later day of reckoning.  Four recent articles do a good job of  highlighing this problem:

  1. Are the American people obsolete?
  2. Do the Rich Need the Rest of America?
  3. U.S. employers push increase in cost of healthcare onto workers
  4. How to End the Great Recession

Continue Reading »

By CFS

I’m not going to delve into the controversy surrounding Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s use of “the word that no white person should say for fear of having their career ended,” for lack of tact and not really caring about all the Mediawhores talking heads getting a chance to shout about something for five minutes before moving onto the next sensationalized story that’s not really a story.  Rather I would like to take the opportunity to share a clip of my favorite comedian, Louis CK’s thoughts on the subject… Enjoi.

by jhwygirl

I’m not saying anything more than go read it at Pogie’s.

By CFS

“We are the army out to free men!” – Sheriff Richard Mack

I just want to get back to building an army and preparing for a revolution.” – Schaeffer Cox

“While the State exists there can be no freedom; when there is freedom there will be no State. – Vladimir Lenin

That last quote by Lenin could have easily come from the mouth of your average American Libertarian.

This last weekend saw Ravalli County political group Celebrating Conservatism host the first ever Liberty Convention held at the Adams Center on The University of Montana campus.  While the Adams Center might have seemed a little hollow with so few people in attendance, that fact didn’t  seem to bother the convention organizers.  “This,” said Mona Docteur, the driving force behind much of Celebrating Conservatism’s activities, “was mainly a chance to network with like minded individuals.”  But while the numbers might have been small, the philosophical foundation from which the Liberty movement is building upon is not; it is bold, steeped Western anti-government sentiment and rugged individualism, and wants to radically change the relationship between the individual and the state.

The fact that Conservatism is in the name of the group is an insult to true Conservatives.  Conservatism as a political and social philosophy is one that respects traditional institutions that work to uphold the functioning of a society and rejects radical change.  Many of the people brought into speak at the Liberty Convention made a point to specifically call for a radical break from current political institutions and radically reshape American society.  On the surface of things, Celebrating Conservatism and many similar small groups around Montana and the West are pushing for many policies that many would associate with conservatism… gun rights,  states sovereignty, small government, and individual freedom.

Peel back the public veneer and what this movement wants is much more radical; a libertarian utopia devoid of any from of central government “tyranny,” and ultimate freedom for the individual.  When speaking about the “proper” role of government Gary Marbut – local Missoula gun rights advocate and author of the Firearms Freedom Act – questioned whether building highways was a legitimate use of government authority.  If a so called  “conservative” is questioning the building of roads you can imagine his opinion on the BLM, Forest Service, Social Security, DUI laws, etc.  To them, individuals should operate as they see fit without any regulation upon behavior… except for vigilante justice dispensed by local citizen militias and an armed populace.  I guess a clean gun is supposed to make for good neighbors.

Many of the speakers at the convention expressly stated such beliefs based not only upon political philosophy but also scripture.  2008 Constitution Party Presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin – whom spoke Friday night – in a May 19th 2010 article available on his website predicts the breakup of the United States and applauds the prospect of states succeeding from the union (in the same article he also claims that bringing women into the military is a globalist plot to make our military less efficient and weaken our national security to the point that wee can’t operate without UN support).

Red Beckman – perpetual tax protester and long time militia movement supporter – shared this same view that the tyrannical Federal Government will be brought down because we as a nation have forsaken God and that, just as the USSR was brought down by God, the Federal Government will disappear as part of God’s will.  He also stated that illegal immigration was God’s curse on this nation for the Roe v. Wade decision.  They don’t just see the fall of the American Empire… they actively want to push it over the edge.

This group sees themselves as being oppressed by a tyrannical and unjust government that time and again ignores the constitution and has usurped individual freedom.  How they propose to reshape the political landscape is truly nothing short of a revolution.  Red Beckman implored the audience to follow the example of Romanian soldiers whom in 1989 turned on and killed the dictator.

The one feature of language used throughout the convention that surprised me was the constant allusions to and mentioning of “building an army.”  Speakers referred to the audience as “foot soldiers” and Mona Docteur asked them to, “stand on the front lines.”  As much as they disparaged against socialism, communism, and specifically the Bolshevik Revolutionaries it seems that they share much in common with the Bolsheviks in their formative year.  The pattern of history the Liberty Movement sees themselves part of is awkwardly similar to how Marx and Lenin foretold the fall of the oppressive Tsarist regime.

Just as the Bolsheviks saw themselves as the awakened and enlightened vanguard that would lead Russia to a proletariat democratic utopia; the Liberty Movement’s professional revolutionaries  on display this last weekend talked of “leading the charge,” and “bringing enlightenment to the rest of America,” from this small base of people that can, “see the truth,” of how oppressive and tyrannical the government is.  Speaker Schaeffer Cox – Fairbanks, AK militia organizer – talked of, “being right on the edge of having to bloody our swords… revolutions are not instituted, they are provoked, and they are provoked by government.”  Sounds oddly like “a revolution is impossible without a revolutionary situation,” declared by Vladimir Lenin.

The normal person involved in these meetings and the movement are just that… normal people that are simply fed-up with the current political atmosphere and I’m sure they wouldn’t consider themselves revolutionary.  A lot of the allusions to revolution might be hyperbole… but it seems to me that these luminaries, the professional revolutionaries of the Liberty Movement, believe what they are saying.  They are in no why cynical and actually quite optimistic in their assessment of what they can and will accomplish and are attempting to build a larger coalition across the West.

Groups like these feed off of troubling and uncertain times and today is full a many challenges and uncertainties about the future.  Just as in the 1930s this country, saw a large uptick in communist and fascist party membership people today are looking for a fresh political movement that will provide a clear way forward and a promising future to those that currently see only despair.  While this movement is small today no group that openly talks of revolution should be ignored.  Rather they should be studied to understand the mechanisms by which they operate and grow so that their very legitimate concerns may be addressed within society at large.

Vladimir Lenin established his first revolutionary group in 1895, it wasn’t until 1917 that the revolution came to fruition… jolted violently to life by the collapse of the Russian economy after WWI.  The Liberty Movement is predicting such a collapse… hoping for such a collapse… and biding their time until such a collapse happens.

by jhwygirl

It’s not just a cultural Montana thing – and I do believe the general attitude towards drinking here in Montana is something that can be ascribed to a culture attitude here in the state – it’s a systemic failure.

How is it even possible that someone could be arrested for DUI twice in the space of 5 hours?

This wasn’t the first time that this has happened, I have no doubt. I believe this is the result of more than an individual’s choice – it is laws that allow this to happen and a society that produces individuals that don’t see anything wrong with getting behind the wheel after drinking yet alone those that don’t see anything wrong with getting behind the wheel in the hours after being released from jail on a DUI charge.

Consider contacting your legislator and asking them what they think should be done about drinking and driving in this state. Consider emailing your legislative candidates and asking them what they think should be done about drinking and driving in this state. This has got to stop.

In the meantime, know that the legislature is taking comments on proposed DUI bills for the next legislative session. Inform yourself, and participate in the process.

By CFS

Missoula is a fine city… a city I’m proud to call home because of its culture, people, neighborhoods, beer, scenery, architecture, etc.  I am one of those many thousands of people that are not “native” but were attracted here over the last three decades because of how great the Missoula lifestyle is and after nearly a decade of living here I feel like this is my hometown.  And so I hope you can understand my frustration when Missoula is derided as the basket case of Montana.

The argument heard over and over again from various people goes something like this; “Bottom line, the problem is Missoula is run and heavily populated by Liberals*,” originally from the evil, socialist, and morally corrupt state of California. Those damn hippies hate anyone who dares to try and start a business and, “are vocally anti corporate*”.  All these transplants are ruining Missoula for the Missoula natives; outsiders add to congestion, low wages, a bad job market, unaffordable housing, and worse government.  If only local government would get out of my bathroom, stop preventing me from getting from point A to B with all this traffic calming bullshit, and stop telling me how I can advertise my business Missoula would be a great place and Smurfit-Stone never would have pulled out.

I’ll attempt to address and dissect these complaints in an ongoing series about Missoula and will argue that Missoula’s liberal culture is perhaps its greatest asset and that many of Missoula’s weaknesses are in fact geographical in nature rather than political or cultural.

Lets start with the claim that liberalism is destroying Missoula economically.  Its perfectly true that Missoula is a transformed town from the mill-town it once was 30 or 40 years ago, but what western town or city hasn’t seen radical shifts in their economies?  Resource extraction, manufacturing, and the associated supporting infrastructure and jobs have seen major declines since the late seventies all across the country.  This isn’t because of liberals but because of capitalism… markets have been opened up and such industries are now mainly based in low wage countries in Asia.

So all you haters don’t blame liberals… blame other nations full of people working harder at lower wage rates… if only they would unionize we might get our jobs back.  The conservative blame game pointed at Missoula’s liberals comes out of frustration with change and an unknown future.  They see change all around them from the subdivision swallowing up farm fields and the mill jobs disappearing to the bike lanes going in all over town and they don’t understand where all this change has come from or where it will lead… so they lash out at the closest thing, local liberals.

Despite Missoula’s transformation and loss of old economy employment the town hasn’t been hit terribly hard economically through most of the last 40 years… in fact Missoula has experienced a higher rate of job growth than conservative leaning and business friendly Billings.  According to The Bureau of Business and Economic Research’s Montana Regional Economic Analysis Project Missoula experienced job growth of 216% from 1969-2008 while Billings job growth was 168% and Montana and National growth was a slower rate of 118% and 99% respectfully.  Average employment growth in Missoula beat Billings every decade since the seventies and thats with Billing’s boom in the oil and natural gas service industry.  Even in the current economic climate Missoula’s job losses have been less than those experienced in the early 80s, about 2.5% compared with about 9%.  Income growth has also outpaced Billings, with Missoula experiencing total personal income increase over the same time period by 318% as compared to Billings (273%), Montana (204%), and the Nation (228%) as a whole.  Not bad Missoula!

It is exactly because of Missoula’s more liberal and open culture combined with its recreational opportunities and lifestyle that has attracted such growth and not tax rebates and large corporations.  Economists Thomas Power and Richard Barret make a great case for the “New West” economy in their book Post-Cowboy Economies.   Their argument is that faltering industrial economies have opened up the west for new economic opportunities based not on resource extraction but on environmental quality, in-migration, recreation/tourism, and knowledge based services (finance, engineering, medical services, etc).  The old western economy and the new western economy were both mutually exclusive, unable to exist simultaneously within the same geographic space.  This new economy is bringing along more prosperity, wider ranging economic development, and booming growth as evidenced by the fact that the Mountain West was the fastest growing region in the 90s and aughts.

This “New West” economy has produced huge gains for Missoula.  Between 2001-2007 Missoula County saw net employment growth of 10,632, or 15%, with growth being the greatest in the professional and technical services (27%), healthcare (13%), arts/entertainment/recreation (44%), education (38%), real estate (70%), administration (41%), and finance (10%).  During that same time Missoula County’s poulation increased from 97,400 to 107,552, or 10.4%.

So yes… Missoula has experienced an amazing amount of change in the last several decades fueled mostly by in-migration and shifting employment and industrial sector growth.  Its utter poppycock that Missoula has a lousy economy even given the current situation.  Missoula has been a leader in many fields and has developed first class educational and healthcare services for our region that not only attract people to Missoula but also act as the area’s largest employers.

The recent closing of the last remaining mills in the area and the loss of Macy’s might play heavily within the communal psychology of Missoula but are largely beyond the control of locals.  While the loss of over 400 Stone Container jobs is a big loss and affects many families its a sign of strength and diversity that such a loss makes such a small dent in total employment.  Such local events are part of the process of resetting the economic playing field to allow capital to be freed from unprofitable economic pursuits.  New opportunities that are net yet in sight will come to occupy these vacant spaces.  We aren’t experiencing anything different from anywhere else in the country and are in far better shape than similar communities in the Detroit area or Phoenix suburbs.

So all you haters… get over the hate and embrace the closest liberal you can find and lets work together to bring Missoula into the future as a strong regional leader… otherwise suck on Missoula’s barm.

*Quotes from various local online comment sections

by jhwygirl

No one is responsible for anything any more.

That’s from guest host on tonight’s Rachael Maddow Show Chris Hayes, Washington editor for The Nation. He listed off all kinds of ‘passing the buck’ blame games, from 9/11 (Bush passing the blame onto everyone but his own administration) to Katrina (Mayor Nagin blaming everyone but himself for any role in the disaster that unfolded) to the latest, the oil volcano spurting in the Gulf of Mexico – a deep-water well that was categorically excluded from the National Environmental Protection Act by the Mineral Management Bureau of the Department of the Interior.

Today BP, Halliburton and Transocean all were called on the floor of the Senate to answer questions as to who’s to fault for the disaster.

BP (who holds the categorically excluded oil lease) blamed Transocean, the owner of the rig that exploded….Transocean blamed Halliburton for a “failed cement” job, and Halliburton blamed BP, since they own the lease.

Three monkeys, all pointing at each other – and isn’t that just the way?

It’s getting old. This scene has played out in politics for far too long. Frankly, I’m a little sick and tired of government calling whomever up to the floor of congress – and I don’t care if it’s the head of FEMA, the head of the FBI, or bank or oil executives – to ask hard questions and then none of it goes anywhere.

Congress should be looking at themselves. Seriously. They’re as much to blame, frankly, as the BP/Halliburton/Transocean monkeys that were up there in D.C. today.

It’s not as if these events result in a review of government regulations as they exist….what continues is self-enforcement and self-policing of industries as important to the core of our economy as banking – and no solutions proposed with actual follow-through legislation to the problem as they laid it bare in front of America via C-Span and MSNBC.

Just one more bit of rant, if ya’all will indulge me – When WHEN are we going to rid ourselves of Halliburton?! How many gosh darn times do they have to be called up to the Senate before someone figures out a way to dissolve this piece of crap corporation that has ripped off Americans; disregarded our soldier’s safety so much so that sons and daughters have come home from Iraq and Afghanistan in body bags due to their negligence; the raping of civilians in foreign countries under the protection of government contracts; and now the latest environmental disaster laying out before us in the Gulf.

Was anyone surprised when they heard Halliburton was involved in this latest disaster? I know I wasn’t.

What is they say? Those that can’t learn from their history are doomed to repeat it?

by jhwygirl

I’m just going to cut-and-paste today’s email from legislative services….

The Law and Justice Interim Committee (LJIC) invites public comment on its preliminary bill drafts concerning Montana’s DUI laws. These preliminary bill drafts are posted on the committee’s website at the legislation link under publications. These bill drafts are not finalized recommendations so they do not yet appear in the LAWS data base.

Comments on the bill drafts should be emailed to DUIbillcomment@mt.gov. Or, you may mail your comments to Sheri Heffelfinger, Legislative Services Division, P.O. Box 201706, Helena, MT 59620. Please be sure to include your name, the name of the organization you are representing, if any, and the bill draft number to which your comments apply.

~~~~~~
I’ve merely perused the titles, but it looks like they’re actually proposing some useful stuff. Local electeds might want to make sure to take a look – there might be some “unfunded mandate” stuff in there that could be of some concern.

It’d be nice to see felony convictions moved up to the 3rd DUI (at least) – but eliminating the 5 year “go back” to determine a felony DUI conviction is a good thing. I’d also like to see tougher sentencing (and I mean tougher probation and suspended sentencing guidelines) on 2nd DUI’s and up. Failing to step down on these 2nd DUI offenders only enables recidivism. Something along the line of Attorney General Steve Bullock and Lewis & Clark County’s program, I think, is a great idea.

Please take a moment to pass this link – or at least cut-and-paste the legislative services email – to anyone and everyone that you know might be interested. The best solution to this issue requires the people of Montana to participate in the solutions.

by jhwygirl

Today’s Bozeman Chronicle has a story up compiling city police statistics for 2009.

While most crime declined, DUI arrests were up 22% – from 491 in 2008 to 600 in 2009.

I point this out only as another bit of anecdotal evidence that Montana has a drinking problem.

I don’t know if Missoula City Police do this…or if our county Sheriff’s Department does it either…but I’m sure plenty of us would all find the numbers interesting. There’s always been a tendency to downplay violent crimes here, too. I’d say this might be a good way of assessing, overall, how the community is addressing any number of problems.

The solution isn’t purely tougher laws – Montana’s well beyond that when it’s regular media fare to have 4th and 5th DUI arrests and domestic violence crimes in the news. We need to start with solutions geared towards our children and our culture.

Bottom up solutions are often less costly in the long run than dealing with the issue on the tail end. Beyond the monetary concerns, think of the lives impacted by what publicly begins with an arrest. The tragedies are far reaching.

by jhwygirl

I’ll be following this story.

They had to apprehend the husband.

I’ll also be be thinking about this previous post.

by jhwygirl

With seemingly little backlash from the tailgating Griz fans. Lauded at homecoming..and still packing them in.

Hauck doesn’t have to care. Clearly, Hauck can do whatever he wants, with little backlash from the University administration, from the fans, or from the Board of Regents.

At least some responsible journalists are stepping up to the plate. Indy editor and primary blog poster Skylar Browning hit Hauck on the eve of homecoming, reporting that the Kaimin had notified its readers that it no longer could effectively provide sports coverage for the Griz football team.

So 3 weeks after the Kaimin does some unflattering – but factually accurate – reporting on Hauck’s handling of an umpteenth violent criminal act involving the Griz team, Coach Hauck is still taking out hissy-fits on the University reporters who cover the team?

As Browing gets at the highlight of inadequacies surrounding Hauck:

Hauck’s killing himself here. Assuming he still aspires to coach at a FBS school, what’s a potential employer going to think of a coach who gets rattled by student reporters in Missoula? That’s not to mention his shady three-year-running record of having players caught in high-profile assault charges. If Hauck quit holding a grudge, held his players more accountable and faced the issue head-on, he could actually focus on what he sometimes appears to enjoy: coaching football.

Where’s the Missoulian? A full week after the Kaimin reporting that it could no longer effectively cover the Griz – after having its sports writer witness Hauck’s asshole-ish behavior (having repeated the question to Hauck that Hauck berated the Kaimin reporter for) – the Missoulian finally brings the story to the notice of Missoulian readers everywhere.

Other than that, the only noise emanating from the Missoulian concerning Hauck’s irresponsible and border-line criminal behavior has been a lone LTE, by Missoulian Donna Hall.

But check the comments on the Missoulian’s late-is-better-than-never article. Seems the public isn’t all slap-happy let’s-win-at-any-cost Hauck-is-a-Superstar happy with the the handling of the Griz football program issues.

Maybe they realize now how absolutely accurate Browing is? That if Hauck’s gonna get rattled by some student reporters (and that statement should not serve to reflect on the skills of the Kaimin’s reporters), how is he going to hit big time?

Yesterday, sports blog Deadspin got at the Hauck story, and it seems they’re looking at it the same way: If Hauck can’t handle the heat of a university paper, he might want to rethink his game plan. (That, too, came to 4&20 via the Indy’s blog.)

And now, college sports writer for the New York Times, Pete Thamel is taking notice of Hauck’s childish irresponsible behavior.

All of this, for me, comes down to what it is UM symbolizes, and what makes UM valuable. Is it the Griz? Or is it education and ethics and social responsibility?

Hauck is stomping on the latter – he may be the coach of the Griz, but he is also a leader both at UM, in Missoula, in Montana – and yep, to Griz fans all over. When he recruites poorly and then covers up the crimes of his proteges, he’s facilitating their behavior.

problembear is wondering the same.

I’ve asked, and I don’t remember if it was on these pages our in conversation, but what is it that Missoulians and the University and the Board of Regent’s needs? A shoot-out on the streets? Will it mean more or less if its downtown as opposed to the University District? Or maybe if it happens in the Rattlesnake it really isn’t OK?

I mean – the charges that came out 2 years ago were kidnapping, assault and weapons charges. That’s a home invasion, folks. Missoula Montana?! Then there was a murder arrest wrapped up there somewhere – but it was Hauck’s protege’s buddy up visiting from southern California, and he was extradited, so I guess that makes it OK?

Or maybe it’s the boys-will-be-boys mentality? Kind of a more sanguine version of the everybody-drinks-and-drives-here-in-Montana defense thrown up by Sen. Greg Barkus and Rep. Denny Rehberg fans?

Whatever it is, it needs to stop. The fans, the university administration and the Board of Regents need to take a hardline with Hauck – assist him in recruiting, because obviously he’s learned few lessons in those regards – and set some standards for grades and academic achievement and responsibility. Perhaps the team should be required to be involved in extra-curricular activities that are community-based?

Failure to expect better will continue to result in more of the same.

Other than that, I’m thinking some anger-management classes are in order for Senator Hauck, himself.

by jhwygirl

So no one’s gotten to this yet? Whee!

But seriously…no surprises there, right?

Senator Greg Barkus (of Kalispell) had 3 felony charges filed against him, in what was a day of minute by minute (practically) updates from a bunch of Montana news tweeters as the charges played out. NewWest has Dan Testa’s report from the Flathead Beacon.

Barkus’ BAC was .16 – twice the legal limit – 1 hour and 45 minutes after the crash.

4 hours after the crash, Barkus’ BAC was .12.

Barkus appeared in court today. He and his lawyer have already disputing the BAC figures, saying he’s got receipts showing he didn’t purchase enough alcohol to be that drunk…or something like that.

How soon before he surfaces his ‘..but my gps was broke‘ defense?

The “my gps was broke and even though I was drinking, I wasn’t drunk because, you know, it’s Montana and drinking and operating a motorized vehicle is no big deal, and it’s a good thing that I nearly killed people that were my friends, because, like, could you imagine what would happen to me if I had nearly killed someone I didn’t know?” defense. Yeah – that one.

Besides that…with all that national press, he might as well give ’em a little extra to write about. I mean – even Roll Call picked it up.

Ouch!

by jhwygirl

Morning walk with dogs
Air wafts with scent of fruit trees
Lovely day today

by jhwygirl

Subject: AIG

Some of the best:

AIG is not equipped to be able to balance the ethical considerations involved in paying huge executive bonuses. Although a “person” under the law, there’s no person called AIG who can undertake this type of a priori moralizing. Paying the bonuses was the only way this corporate “person” could get a sound night’s sleep. It could rest assured that it was satisfying its marching orders, its prime directive. It’s really a simple “life,” being a corporation-person. No complicated morality issues, no fear of death by natural causes, but certainly a fear of death by dissolution, or bankruptcy. Every part of those articles of incorporation and bylaws are designed to avoid this type of death. And it’s avoided by making shareholders happy, by maximizing profits. The only consideration running through the corporation’s “mind” is how can “I” do these things?

Over at Left in the West.

by Rebecca Schmitz

Or maybe not. I know you guys.

So I finally got around to dining at Caffé Dolce’s new location on the corner of Beckwith and Brooks last night. It was a big deal for me because as a gigantic (in both senses of the word; I [hearted] the Linguini con Funghi e Formaggio a little too much) fan of the late lamented Perugia, any restaurant the Risho family is a part of, I want to eat there.

Ahem.

In my humble semi-professional amateur foodie opinion, here are (still) the best Italian restaurants in Montana.

1) Marie’s in Stevensville
2) Ferraro’s in Bozeman
3) Higgins Alley in Missoula

Don’t get me wrong: Caffé Dolce is good. But it isn’t great. That distinction belongs to Marie’s and Ferraro’s. I do believe I’ve been transported to other worlds while eating their food. As for Higgins Alley, well, the fresh gnocchi in gorgonzola cream sauce is sex on a plate. I know, I know. I should mention Lydia’s in Butte or even Rikki’s (not really hardcore Italian, but the pasta is pretty good) in Great Falls. In Billings there’s…well, I don’t really know what’s over in Billings. My experience there is limited. Maybe there’s something on Montana Avenue?

What do you think? What’s the best Italian in Montana? Or do we even have* good Italian food?

*This is pretty much the way I feel about decent Mexican restaurants in Montana: they don’t exist.

RIP James Crumley

by Rebecca Schmitz

A few years ago at the Montana Festival of the Book a friend and I attended a panel discussion at the Wilma about mystery writing. It featured C.J. Box, Neil McMahon, James Lee Burke and James Crumley.  Near the end, the moderator announced that the authors would sign books in the lobby after the session. I had my copy of The Last Good Kiss; my friend clutched The Mexican Tree Duck. After a short delay, Burke, Box and McMahon were sitting under the shabby gilded lights and red flocked wallpaper (this was before that hideous pastel paint job) in the lobby. James Crumley was nowhere to be found. I remember a few people were having a heated discussion in a corner. One of them broke away and ran out the main doors. He reappeared five minutes later, out of breath. “Crumley headed straight for the bar”, he panted. “Someone’s bringing him back right now.”  

When I got to the head of Crumley’s line about twenty minutes later, he took The Last Good Kiss from my hands. “What the fuck did you buy this for?” he growled.

The death notice in today’s Missoulian includes an observation from one of his friends: James Crumley had “a real hard-nosed exterior”. Maybe so, but I definitely saw a twinkle in his eyes that night.

by Rebecca Schmitz

Guess who’s a VIP now? Check it:

That's right, suckers!

Oh, you’re right. I guess that postcard could be for anyone. Well, here’s further proof. My name’s on the invite.

I can't believe it either.

If you’ve ever read The Thread That Would Not Die, you know that Steve Edgar, the owner of our new Hooters, has kindly invited me and a guest to the grand opening next Saturday night. Just think about it: all it took to become a VIP was writing a throwaway post several months ago.

You guys should really get your own blogs; the magic could happen to you, too.




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