Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Beer and politics

Posted By on Wed, Mar 28, 2012 at 11:15 AM

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This post covers some news regarding President Obama's home brews, Big Sky Brewing, and the increasing possibility of shipping local beer via the United States Postal Service. Clearly, these are vital topics that local readers need to know about. All come from a recent Politico article that focused on beer's considerable influence inside the Beltway.

We'll cover each one in reverse order:

1. To help increase USPS revenue, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced a bill last week that would allow USPS to ship wine and beer. The 21st Century Postal Service Act, which is co-sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.), aims to increase USPS revenue and capitalize on the growing craft brewery market.

Can you imagine the requests from Missoula expats wanting shipments of Cold Smoke and Dump Truck Summer Bock?

2. The Senate Small Brewers Caucus met last month over beers from Big Sky Brewing. This is a direct result of Sen. Max Baucus being co-chair of the caucus. Montana's senior senator has been a proponent of small brewers, including them in his Montana Jobs Economic Engine Initiative and touting the fact Montana has the second-highest number of small breweries per capita in the nation. It's worth noting Rep. Denny Rehberg is on the House version of the same caucus.

One suggestion: Perhaps Baucus and Rehberg can influence state laws that put an unnecessary cap on otherwise thriving local brewers.

3. Did you know the White House brews its own beer? This isn't local, or new, but it's still cool. It started a year ago, and there are three varieties to date: White House Honey Ale, White House Honey Blonde Ale and White House Honey Porter. Even cooler: The beehive that supplies the honey is located on White House grounds.

Read more at Politico.

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The Rockies Today, March 28

Posted By on Wed, Mar 28, 2012 at 10:56 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Montana U.S. senator sponsors bill to block oil exports
Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester introduced legislation that would prohibit oil that flows from Alberta to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast via the Keystone XL pipeline from being exported to foreign markets.
Billings Gazette (AP); March 28

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Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, Mar 28, 2012 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): A few months after America invaded Iraq in 2003, soldier Brian Wheeler wrote the following to help us imagine what it was like over there: “Go to the worst crime-infested place you can find. Go heavily armed, wearing a flak jacket and a Kevlar helmet. Set up shop in a vacant lot. Announce to the residents that you are there to help them, and in the loudest voice possible yell that every Crip and Blood within hearing distance is a PANSY.” As a character-building exercise, Aries, I highly recommend you try something like this yourself. APRIL FOOL! I was just kidding. What I just said is not an accurate reading of the astrological omens. But this is: Get out of your comfort zone, yes, but with a smart gamble, not a crazy risk.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Forest Service wants to cut down 270 of its biggest trees for some seeds

Posted By on Tue, Mar 27, 2012 at 3:05 PM

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The Flathead National Forest released a proposal last week that calls for cutting down 270 of its biggest and healthiest western larch trees to acquire seeds that will, ironically, help restore the forest.

The proposal, which is currently open for public comment, recommends the felling occur over the next 10 years and to focus on "dominate and co-dominate trees that display vigorous growth with healthy crowns." The Forest Service contends that cutting down the entire tree is the safest and most efficient way to get the larch cones and the tiny seeds therein.

The Swan View Coalition is calling BS on the FS. The group is asking supporters to contact the Forest Service and demand a less invasive process that saves some of the forest's strongest trees. For instance, the group says they could simply remove the cones, or remove a limited number of branches per tree, then remove the cones from the limbs on the ground. Keith Hammer, chair of the coalition, even detailed the alternatives in a letter addressed to the Forest Service:

We urge you to spread tarps under the selected trees and then remove a few limbs per tree. This will capture clean cones with minimal damage to the trees, which will be left alive to spread their genes for generations. Limbs can be removed by tree climbing, shooting beanbag lines over limbs, by lift truck, or by a weighted line suspended from a helicopter. Or, you can simply spread tarps under trees where squirrels are actively dropping the mature cones from the canopy.

Seed collection guides find helicopter collection using a rake basket to be cost-effective when done correctly, with the added advantage of aerial selection of the best trees.

The Forest Service was clearly expecting some backlash — and to hear these very alternatives.

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The Rockies Today, March 27

Posted By on Tue, Mar 27, 2012 at 10:25 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Montana economist says it's time for deep cuts to farm aid
The U.S. House Budget Committee is pursuing a $30-billion cut to agricultural programs, about $7 billion more than the House and Senate Agricultural committees are considering, and Vince Smith, a Montana State University economist, said the time has come to drastically reduce aid to farmers and ranchers.
Billings Gazette; March 25

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Montana is heavily influenced by Fox News (and Weird News)

Posted By on Tue, Mar 27, 2012 at 9:30 AM

I know what you're thinking: Isn't that headline redundant? Very funny. We're actually being serious, according to new data compiled by Bitly and reported by Forbes and Huffington Post.

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Forbes worked with Bitly and its data on millions of Web clicks to find the most influential media outlets in the country. Montana was one of three states to heavily favor Fox News. The others were Texas and Mississippi.

Huffington Post crunched the same data from Bitly and found another trend for Montana: we're weirdly obsessed with Weird News. Turns out the site experienced an unusual spike in traffic to its Weird News page in January, and wanted to learn why. Here's what Associate Editor Steven Hoffer found:

Where in the world was the highest concentration of this gained traffic, you might ask? Montana and Wyoming, says Forbes.

"Weird News is a great portion of what they are reading there... they love it at a greater rate than the national average," Jon Bruner, the site's data editor told Huff Post.

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Why is this? Bruner has a few educated guesses — the spike could be the result of a "taste-maker's" shared link that just stuck — but we're going with this idea: nobody knows.

Perhaps folks in Montana and Wyoming just love strange animals? Perhaps state governments are pushing more tax dollars toward dethroning Florida's legendary status as most bizarre state?

Or, perhaps it ties back to our preference in national media.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Extra, extra: In Other News, online

Posted By on Mon, Mar 26, 2012 at 9:00 AM

In this week's installment, beware of auto-correct.

Curses, Foiled Again
After Michele Grasso, 27, was convicted of drug dealing in 2008, he disappeared and eluded Italian authorities until this February, when he posted photos on his Facebook page of himself at London’s Madame Tussaud’s wax museum posing with a model of Barack Obama and working as a waiter. Italian police contacted British police, who arrested Grasso and returned him to Italy. (Italy’s ANSA news agency)

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The Rockies Today, March 26

Posted By on Mon, Mar 26, 2012 at 8:59 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

EPA identifies 3 Montana plants that need to cut airborne pollutants
As part of its effort to eliminate haze in national parks and wilderness areas across the nation, the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing that three plants in Montana cut emissions: the Colstrip coal-fired power plant in eastern Montana, the Holcim cement plant near Three Forks and the Ash Grove cement plant near Montana City.
Flathead Beacon (AP); March 26

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Anti-government groups increase 755% in three years

Posted By on Fri, Mar 23, 2012 at 10:55 AM

Staggering numbers from the Southern Poverty Law Center show that the number of anti-government groups in the U.S. jumped from 149 in 2008 to 1,274 last year. The center counts 14 such groups in Montana.

"The growth was fueled by superheated fears generated by economic dislocation, a proliferation of demonizing conspiracy theories, the changing racial makeup of America, and the prospect of four more years under a black president who many on the far right view as an enemy to their country," wrote SPLC.

The center identifies anti-government groups, or the "Patriot movement," as "conspiracy-minded groups that see the federal government as their primary enemy."

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In Montana, the groups that made the list included the statewide Order of Constitution Defenders, Militia of Montana in Noxon, and We Are Change, which is based in Missoula.

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The Rockies Today, March 23

Posted By on Fri, Mar 23, 2012 at 10:45 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Montana judge suspends future bison transfers from Yellowstone Park
Montana District Judge John McKeon sided with Montana ranchers and property owners who had sought a restraining order to halt transfers of bison held in quarantine facilities north of Yellowstone National Park to reservations, and put future transfers on hold but would not order the bison already transferred back to the holding facility.Great Falls Tribune (AP); March 23

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