Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Questioning Missoula County Attorney Van Valkenburg

Posted By on Wed, Jul 20, 2011 at 10:00 AM

Great Falls Tribune Capitol Bureau Chief John S. Adams recently posted on his blog, The Lowdown, a detailed analysis of Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg's decision-making process in a high-profile Montana Innocence Project case.

It's a complicated issue with tons of background, so summarizing here won't do Adams' post justice. I recommend reading The Lowdown piece, titled "Double-standard for perjury in Missoula County?", in its entirety.

But I'll attempt to cut to the chase: In the Montana Innocence Project case, the victim of a prison rape, who was 13 at the time, has said he made up the story. The victim, who is currently serving a sentence in Deer Lodge for underage sex, hasn't signed a sworn statement. Adams suggests it's because Van Valkenburg opposes granting the victim immunity; the victim could be subjected to a perjury charge that would lengthen his stay in Deer Lodge. Meanwhile, the accused, Cody Marble, who has maintained his innocence all along, remains a registered sex offender.

Adams compares Van Valkenburg's unwillingness to work with this new information to a rape case Adams covered in 2006 while working at the Independent. (Full disclosure: In addition to Adams being a former Indy staff reporter, the executive director of the Montana Innocence Project, Jessie McQuillan, is also a former Indy staff reporter.) In that 2006 example, two Missoula police officers admitted to giving false testimony in court.

After comparing the two cases, Adams concludes:

It appears from his statements and actions that Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg places a higher value on preserving convictions than serving justice.

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Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, Jul 20, 2011 at 9:00 AM

Find Rob Brezsny's "Free Will Astrology" online, every Wednesday, one day before it hits the Indy's printed pages.

ARIES (March 21-April 19): I dreamed you were in a cake store. Every delicious kind of cake you could imagine was there: carrot cake, strawberry cheesecake, gooey butter cake, rich chocolate cake with four layers of cherries and whipped cream, birthday cakes that must have been baked in paradise. Sadly, there was a problem: You weren’t allowed to buy anything, even though you had enough money. A big sign on the wall said, simply, “Absolutely no cakes available for Aries.” What do you think my dream means? More importantly, what are you going to do about the situation? I suggest that in my next dream, you get a friend to buy a cake for you. Either that, or go to a different cake store. One way or another, the astrological omens say it’s high time for you get the cake you want.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

U.S. House candidate Franke Wilmer, on line one

Posted By on Tue, Jul 19, 2011 at 12:00 PM

Unlike the 2012 heavyweight bout between Tester and Rehberg for U.S. Senate, candidates in the wide-open U.S. House race face the challenge of name recognition.

Missoula voters are familiar with local council member Dave Strohmaier, of course, but few east of Drummond know the Democrat. And those in eastern Montana may recognize state Rep. Franke Wilmer of Bozeman and state Sen. Kim Gillan of Billings, also Democrats, but they're new names to most of western Montana. Republican front-runner Steve Daines is facing the same problem—a recent poll showed 64 percent of likely GOP primary voters had no idea who he was.

Perhaps that's why Wilmer just called my house.

The MSU political science professor who, so far, has raised more money than her primary opponents, says she has personally called more than 5,000 voters in the last couple weeks in an effort to get her name out there. She said she's particularly interested in reaching folks in Missoula who probably know very little about her.

Wilmer spoke to me mostly about her background, which ranges from field research in the former Yugoslavia during the war to waiting tables. She said her experience is what separates her from her competition.

That and a trusty phone list, of course. When I got off with Wilmer she was preparing to make more calls.

Steel Pulse canceled

Posted By on Tue, Jul 19, 2011 at 10:20 AM

Tonight's Wilma concert has been called off due to the band's "serious travel issues on their way to Missoula." If you're stuck with tickets, The Knitting Factory suggests the following:

Refund information is as follows: Ticketfly tickets bought online or by phone will be automatically refunded. Tickets purchased at Rockin’ Rudy’s must be returned to the store.

If you're now looking for something else to do this evening, consider Tornado Rider at the Badlander. The band sounds a little different from Steel Pulse, and fun. Read Jason McMackin's review in this week's Indy, or just check out the video below.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Oil leaked on Blackfeet Reservation

Posted By on Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 1:01 PM

Officials on the Blackfeet Reservation this morning confirmed that an oil leak occurred on a flow line in the Southwest Cut Bank Sand Unit on June 12. Grinnell Day Chief, oil and gas manager for the Blackfeet Department of Commerce, says the company that owns the line repaired the leak in June but neglected to report the incident, which came to light when landowner Tim McDonald contacted tribal officials on July 12. Representatives from the tribe, the Bureau of Land Management and the EPA all visited the site, and the BLM estimates roughly 15 to 20 barrels of oil—or 630 to 840 gallons—leaked from the line into a coulee, eventually spilling into Cut Bank Creek. Indian Country Environmental Associates, an independent contractor in Browning, was authorized on July 13 to conduct cleanup efforts.

Environmental activist Ruben Moreno shows the oil on his hands after taking a sample from the pool behind him.
  • Destini Vaile
  • Environmental activist Ruben Moreno shows the oil on his hands after taking a sample from the pool behind him.

Andy Pierce of FX Energy Inc., the company that owns the flow line, says the company was unaware of the extent of the spill when they made repairs in June. The flow line connects two stripper wells to an oil gathering system. Each of those wells produces about a barrel of oil a day, Pierce says.

“On the scale of, for example, the Exxon leak down on the Yellowstone River, it’s miniscule," Pierce says. "But it’s still a serious matter. We take this very seriously.”

Pierce adds that the ExxonMobil pipeline rupture in Montana earlier this month, which spilled an estimated 42,000 gallons into the Yellowstone River, "carries more oil in an hour than our field makes in a year.”

“We weren’t aware of it," Pierce says. "These little flow lines will leak from time to time…we saw the leak and fixed it and thought that’s all there was to it...We thought we had it all.”

Day Chief says the nature of the leak doesn't change the fact that resource extraction companies operating on the reservation are required to immediately report such incidents to tribal authorities so third-party containment efforts and cleanup can begin. That process "wasn't followed here."

“As the oil and gas director for the tribe, it’s going to make me real leery of that particular operator in the future," Day Chief says of FX Energy. "This is something that should have been reported and the proper protocol wasn’t followed. We’ve had minor leaks in the past by different operators and those are immediately brought to our attention. It should have been the same way here.”

In fact, Day Chief believes that much of the damage caused by the leak may well have been prevented had FX Energy contacted the tribe earlier. With prompt response, he says Indian Country Environmental Associates could have prevented the oil from spilling into Cut Bank Creek.

“There’s no other way to describe it other than it was just negligence on their behalf,” Day Chief says.

David Spotted Eagle of the Blackfeet Environmental Office says the FX Energy leak is almost identical to the 2008 incident involving Montana's Provident Energy Associates. The Provident storage tanker spill created a 10-by-20 foot pond of oil in Pondera County, killed more than a dozen migratory birds and leaked into the Two Medicine River. Indian Country Environmental Associates handled that incident as well, and Spotted Eagle says “the cleanup was a success.”

A group of environmental activists visited the site in early July to confirm a tip they'd heard on the reservation. One of them, former Browning resident Reed Perry, says he was "appalled. We heard about it totally by rumor." He adds that "the way we found [the leak] was from the smell." Perry finds the leak particularly troubling because it took officials over a month to publicly report the incident.

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Encore: Gillian Welch, David Rawlings at the Wilma

Posted By on Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 12:00 PM

After big local concerts we'll look to post the best bootleg video. First up: last night's sold-out show at the Wilma featuring Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.

Here's the actual encore, during which Welch and Rawlings step out from behind their mics and apparently onto the head of "gackarama1." Odd angle, nice audio.

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Montana Nazi twins now Montana hippie twins

Posted By on Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 9:50 AM

Kalispell residents Lamb and Lynx Gaede, formerly of Nazi-themed pop group Prussian Blue, broke their media silence with The Daily. In a story published yesterday, Lamb and Lynx reveal that they're over the whole white nationalist thing.

“My sister and I are pretty liberal now,” Lamb told The Daily.

The twins’ mother, April Gaede, who has been a prominent member of racist fringe groups like the National Alliance and the National Vanguard, brought up her daughters with the ethos of white nationalism — a mix of racial pride, anti-immigrant hostility, Holocaust denial and resistance to the encroachment of “muds,” i.e., Jews and nonwhites.

But after enrolling in public school and moving to Montana — a predominantly white state, albeit one with a decidedly hippie-ish vibe — Lamb and Lynx decided they simply no longer believed what they’d been taught.

The twins, now 19, are still playing music and now painting "astrological themes, mostly." Both are also passionate supporters of medical marijuana; they're registered users through the state. Lynx, who was diagnosed with cancer in high school, says it saved her life.

As for their mother, the twins say she still has a "fixation" on the future of the white race, but she's supportive of their new direction.

The first signs of a change of heart came in 2007 after a British documentary showed the twins rebelling against their mother's beliefs. But even after their latest news, the Gaede's transformation is still a work in progress. When asked about whether the Holocaust happened, Lynx told The Daily "certain things happened."

"I think a lot of the stories got misconstrued. I mean, yeah, Hitler wasn’t the best, but Stalin wasn’t, Churchill wasn’t. I disagree with everybody at that time.”

Lamb concurred. “I just think everyone needs to frickin’ get over it,” she said. “That’s what I think.”

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Extra, extra: In Other News, online

Posted By on Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 9:00 AM

In this week's installment, eye explosions, ancient excrement, and the effect of Botox on texting speed.

Curses, Foiled Again
While a sheriff’s deputy was giving Louis Cruz, 55, a sobriety test after stopping him for driving erratically in Okaloosa County, Fla., Cruz suggested that a “bad foot” might be affecting his response to the test. When he leaned down to show the deputy the foot, he accidentally revealed an ankle holster. Lacking a permit to carry a concealed weapon, Cruz was arrested. (Northwest Florida Daily News)

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Happiest Hour: Bottled Highlander Beer in store

Posted By on Sat, Jul 16, 2011 at 10:56 AM

Breaking beer news: Highlander Beer, Missoula’s century-old beer brand that disappeared in the 1960s and was revived in 2008, will be available in 22-ounce bottles in August.


Plaid pride: I recently bellied up at Sean Kelly’s for a pint of Highlander with trademark attorney Bob Lukes, who led the effort to bring the beer back. “I think it’s really cool that you can go to a bar like this now and order a Highlander,” Lukes said. Though the beer tastes quite different than it did back in the day. Lukes, in partnership with Whitefish’s Great Northern Brewing Co., reinvented Highlander as a Scottish red ale. It’s very drinkable, a little malty, and, as Lukes says, “it doesn’t have the smokiness or heaviness of Cold Smoke,” The Kettlehouse’s popular Scotch ale.

Bring it home: Highlander will be available in a bottle for the first time since 1964. Lukes says to look for its distinct red and black plaid label in convenient and grocery stores around western Montana and in Bozeman.

Road bowling?: For more Celtic flavor, check out the annual Celtic Festival Missoula on July 30 in Caras Park. Lukes and his wife Shannon launched the celebration of Celtic culture last year. It features Irish road bowling, Celtic Zumba dancing, music, storytelling, and, of course, plenty of Highlander.

Happiest Hour celebrates western Montana watering holes. To recommend a bar, bartender or beverage for Happiest Hour, e-mail

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Soundcheck: Sara Bareilles at the Wilma

Posted By on Fri, Jul 15, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Three questions in advance of the Grammy-winner's sold-out show tonight.

1. Who the hell is Sara Bareilles?
While not exactly a household name, she sings this song, which you've no doubt heard:

2. Will she play this cover tonight?
I bet "yes." Her version of Beyonce's "Single Ladies" has been viewed nearly 1.5 million times:

3. What's Sara's recent big news?
She's been named as the third celebrity judge of NBC's "The Sing-Off," alongside Ben Folds and Boyz II Men's Shawn Stockman. She's replacing former Pussycat Girl Nicole Scherzinger. I'm guessing if you have a ticket to tonight's show and that's exciting to you, this news is also important.

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