Friday, March 23, 2012

March Madness: Schweitzer ousted in "Sweet 2016"

Posted By on Fri, Mar 23, 2012 at 8:30 AM

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God forbid March pass without everyone trying some version of their own bracket competition. There's a bracket for all-time MCs, a bracket for attractive women, a bracket pitting sex against chocolate, and surely many others. The Washington Post, meanwhile, created the Sweet 2016, wherein voters cast their ballots for prospective presidential candidates ... in four years.

Like his home state Montana Grizzlies, Gov. Brian Schweitzer made the field, an honor by itself. But that's where the good vibes ended. He earned a tough eighth seed against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Dems' favorite. And, like UM against Wisconsin last week, Schweitzer got smacked by the bigger name. According to results posted by the Post, Cuomo scored a decisive 84 percent of the vote.

Cuomo now faces Virginia Sen. Mark Warner in the Elite Eight.

Schweitzer is left wondering what if — and whether or not he'll make the "One Shining Moment" montage.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Rockies Today, March 22

Posted By on Thu, Mar 22, 2012 at 10:34 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Colorado company gets go-ahead to build Montana wind farm
NorthWestern Energy Corp. gave Denver-based Compass Wind the go-ahead to begin building a 25-turbine wind farm on private land between Geyser and Raynesford, and Montana's largest utility has a contract to purchase all 40 megawatts of power produced by the wind farm.
Great Falls Tribune; March 22

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Support local author, score free book

Posted By on Thu, Mar 22, 2012 at 9:10 AM

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Local author Mark Sundeen has been getting a ton of positive local and national press for his latest book, The Man Who Quit Money, so hopefully you've already picked up your copy. But if you haven't, and if you're curious about the seemingly impossible lifestyle described in the book, an upcoming event is just for you.

The Missoula Public Library will host Sundeen and "the man" from the book, Daniel Suelo, as well as an impressive panel of experts on April 18 for a discussion titled, "Could you quit money?" The panel consists of Christian Cryder, pastor at All Souls Missoula and founder of Imagine Missoula; Kate Keller from the Missoula Community Food Co-op and Occupy Missoula; Bob Giardano, executive director of the Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation and founder of Free Cycles; and Josh Slotnick, who you know from Garden City Harvest and the PEAS Farm. The event, which is purposely scheduled for the day following Tax Day, begins at 7 p.m.

But here's the really cool part: In the spirit of the "gift economy," and to foster community engagement, the publisher of The Man Who Quit Money, Penguin Group USA, will provide free copies to those who RSVP for this event in advance.

To reserve your book, email the library. Books will be available for pickup at the library's Reference Desk beginning April 4.

For more information about the event, visit the library's website. For more information about The Man Who Quit Money, visit Sundeen's website or the book's Facebook page.

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AIDS activists arrested at Rehberg's D.C. office

Posted By on Thu, Mar 22, 2012 at 7:57 AM

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A demonstration by AIDS activists Wednesday morning targeted Rep. Denny Rehberg of Montana and other congressmen for their role in "sneaking in" a federal ban on clean needle exchange programs. Ten activists were arrested outside Rehberg's office. Capitol Police put the total number of those arrested at 29; activist organizations say the number was actually 32.

The Huffington Post described the background of the demonstration:

Rehberg was targeted for his role as chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee on health and human services, where he led the effort to ban funding for needle exchange programs, adding it to a House spending bill that funded the federal government through fiscal year 2012...

The ban was originally adopted in 1989 but was finally lifted by Congress in 2009. Republicans lawmakers quietly slipped the ban back into their spending bill in December of last year.

In addition to Rehberg, activists targeted Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). There were also rallies in New York outside the offices of Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. The groups taking credit for the demonstrations were Housing Works, Health Global Access Project and Citiwide Harm Reduction.

Activists are against the ban because studies show that clean needle programs help curb the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, and reduce the rate of new HIV infections among injection drug users by as much as 80 percent. The Huffington Post article also notes that additional research shows "syringe exchange programs do not increase the numbers of injection drug users and can further reduce long-term healthcare costs for people with HIV or hepatitis C."

Indy reporter Jessica Mayrer wrote a 2010 cover story about outreach workers across Montana working on HIV and hepatitis C prevention programs, and how drastic cuts to funding were affecting their efforts.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Rockies Today, March 21

Posted By on Wed, Mar 21, 2012 at 10:53 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Montana courts to hear MATL condemnation lawsuits in April
The developers of the Montana-Alberta Tie Line and the 34 landowners in Teton and Pondera counties in Montana will be in Teton County District Court April 9 for a preliminary hearing on condemnation proceedings to obtain easements for the transmission line, and on April 12-13, a similar hearing involving 12 landowners in Cascade County will be held by District Judge Thomas McKittrick.
Choteau Acantha; March 21

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Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, Mar 21, 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): Not bad for a few weeks’ work, or play, or whatever it is you want to call this tormented, inspired outburst. Would it be too forward of me to suggest that you’ve gone a long way toward outgrowing the dark fairy tale that had been haunting your dreams for so long? And yet all this may just be a warm-up for your next metamorphosis, in which you make an audacious new commitment to becoming what you really want to be when you grow up.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Montana receives poor grade in State Integrity Investigation

Posted By on Tue, Mar 20, 2012 at 4:30 PM

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The Center of Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group, gave Montana a D+ grade for its "ambiguous ethics laws, weak disclosure requirements, and inconsistent enforcement" in a new report. The State Integrity Investigation looked at each state's "corruption risk," and handed Montana failing grades in public access to information, judicial accountability, state pension fund management, ethics enforcement agencies, and lobbying disclosure. Montana finished with a 68%, or D+, good enough for 27th out of 50 states. No state received an A.

New Jersey placed first with a B+.

The New York Times editorialized about the report and its overall negative discoveries:

For all the reform talk by many governors and state lawmakers, very little has really changed in most capitals over the decades. Budgeting is still done behind closed doors, and spending decisions are revealed to the public at the last minute. Ethics panels do not bother to meet, or never enforce the conflict-of-interest laws that are on the books. Lobbyists have free access to elected officials, plying them with gifts or big campaign contributions. Open-records acts are shot through with loopholes.

And yet all the Republican presidential candidates think it would be a good idea to hand some of Washington’s most important programs to state governments, which so often combine corruptibility with incompetence.

A detailed explanation of Montana's grade is also available online, written by author and UM journalism professor Dennis Swibold. He provides some valuable historic context to Montana's open government laws, most notably how it seized power from the Copper Kings and crafted a new constitution. He also notes how that past has afforded the state a reputation it doesn't necessarily deserve.

Today Montana enjoys a reputation for open government ... but the reality in Big Sky country doesn’t always match the image, in part because finding money to boost transparency is a tough sell in light of more basic needs like schools and services for the poor.

Partly as a result, access to public records varies by agency and sometimes lags behind advances in information technology. Weak disclosure requirements and inadequate staffing frustrate efforts to monitor lobbying and track the assets of officials responsible for overseeing public funds.

Ethics laws suffer from ambiguity and weak enforcement, and a rash of top-level hires by the current administration has raised questions of cronyism.

Swibold's summary should be required reading — if for no other reason, it explains how on earth Montana could ever rank lower than New Jersey in anything.

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The Rockies Today, March 20

Posted By on Tue, Mar 20, 2012 at 10:32 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Yellowstone bison shipped to Fort Peck Reservation in Montana
On Monday, Montana officials moved 64 bison from Yellowstone National Park that had been held in quarantine for years to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, putting in motion a long-contested plan to repopulate herds on reservations with the genetically pure bison, and opponents to the plan quickly sought a temporary restraining order.Christian Science Monitor (AP); March 20

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Monday, March 19, 2012

The most interesting man in the world

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2012 at 3:35 PM

Charles P. Pierce on gubernatorial candidate Neil Livingstone: "His biggest problem, I fear, is that half the people in Montana are going to see his TV commercials and run out and buy a case of Dos Equis."

This is not Neil Livingstone
  • This is not Neil Livingstone
The Esquire political writer weighed in over the weekend on the widely circulated, wildly rich AP profile of Livingstone. Pierce picked up on all the usual points — pirates, hookers, a Ferrari — and gushed at the possibilities.

Pierce frequently writes about Rep. Denny Rehberg (he likens him to Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles), but admits Livingstone may be his new favorite Montana subject.

That's not exactly a good thing for Livingstone.

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Party primary like it's 1952

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2012 at 2:52 PM

Pat Williams served nine terms as a U.S. representative from Montana. After his retirement, he returned to Montana and taught at the University of Montana. He occasionally writes op-ed columns, and recently submitted this one on how this year's presidential primary kicked up memories of party politics 60 years ago.

Here's his column, in its entirety:

Memory often flirts with a singular episode from one’s past. This year’s presidential primary campaign has me remembering a political season from my teen years. Intrigued and inspired by politics done right, I was captivated by the 1952 Democratic and Republican conventions. Many candidates sought their party’s nomination but only two held the imagination and support of both the public and the convention delegates, and neither of those candidates either wanted or sought the presidency. Back then, unlike today, state presidential primaries and caucuses were virtually non-existent. Party leaders selected the presidential nominee, working through the many hundreds of state delegates to the two national conventions.

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