The Indy wish list 

(because you can't always get what you want...)

You hippies and your dogs
Every spring, bounding along the Kim Williams Trail, napping under the bench at Bernice’s Bakery, tripping along Rattlesnake Creek, frequently trailing tattered bits of hemp rope, come all of Missoula’s brand new puppies, and they’re not at the end of anything but their owners’ earnest incredulity. They’re tottering across busy intersections, free and unattached. They’re whining at the humane society. They’re squatting in your front yard while you feverishly look for an ID tag with a number to call or an address to which to deliver the creature. You might be asking the dog questions like, “Where is your collar?” and giving instructions like “Go home…Lassie,” when, all of a sudden, ambling across the street, in a pair of pants sewn with enough fabric to clothe a small nudist colony, and frequently holding the other end of a tattered bit of hemp rope, is the owner. We wish all the dogs of Missoula ID tags, and we wish their owners the understanding that puppies, which inexplicably morph into dogs, may require more daily attention than dreadlocks or facial hair do.

Most of Us™
In a class full of 50 states, Montana received the only F on this year’s Mothers Against Drunk Driving annual report card. MADD called the state “abysmal,” noting the number of alcohol-related crashes in Montana, its failure to set 0.08 percent as the legal blood-alcohol limit, and a lack of support for making failure to wear a seat belt a primary traffic violation. Sounds like it’s time for a special Christmas screening of Blood on the Pavement or Boozer Behind the Wheel, a film remembered for the infamous line, “Hey man, I thought you said this thing could move!” These words are shouted by a glassy-eyed passenger who eggs on the drunk driver of a pick-up full of teenagers (in Montana, according to recent news reports, those teens rank second in illicit drug use and fourth in drinking). How does the film end? A fair question, as it seems Montana has forgotten.

Amy Martin, singer-songwriter
It was a year of corporate greed and malfeasance, the already obese fat-cats frantically siphoning more loot into their bulging treasure chests. At the expense, naturally, of those who work for a living. It was—it is—a year (a decade? an age? a…?) of corruption, politicians breeding fear in their constituents and then exploiting it for their own piggy banks. Enter Amy Martin, local antithesis. Martin sings for peace and donates money to countries the U.S. plunders. She hopes people realize that they need song as much as they need bread and water. Martin has the songs, and her CD sales can help buy the bread and clean water. This holiday season, we wish Martin a few months on Billboard charts, where she can share the basic necessities—food, music—and simultaneously help people “visualize whirled peas.”

Richard Crofts, Commissioner of Higher Education
Last February, Crofts asked reporter Bob Anez to leave a meeting of higher education officials. When the AP reporter refused, Commissioner Crofts promptly cancelled the meeting. According to the U.S. and Montana constitutions, every citizen has a right to observe government in action. Fourteen news organizations—they may have a better handle on the law than Crofts does—sued. Crofts might get away with it, but not without a special present from Santa. One of Santa’s elves, who has a talent for calligraphy, is writing out the First Amendment, which will be framed in gold leaf and then bolted to the wall above his desk. We’ll also give him a gift certificate at Painless Steel to have Montana’s open meetings statute tattooed onto his left thigh.

Yellowstone’s buffalo
America’s buffalo have it rough, arguably as rough as any native American creature to survive Western expansion. Tolerated in but a fraction of their traditional range—the high, protected enclave of Yellowstone National Park—our nation’s remaining wild bison head to their historic lowland calving grounds every year to winter. But when they cross the imaginary park boundary, they’re greeted by Montana state officials waiting to shoot them dead or “haze” them into capture facilities en route to slaughter. The reason? Although such a transfer has never been documented, the buffalo carry a cattle-introduced disease that could be re-introduced to Montana’s sacred cows. The result? Thousands of buffalo are abused and butchered by the Montana Department of Livestock and other government agents.

So to the buffalo go 4,045 bullet-proof vests, extra-large, to protect them from a state-sponsored slaying that officials are hinting could be the nation’s largest pile of dead tatanka in years.

Missoula theaters
It seems a tenuous situation confronts many of Missoula’s less mainstream cinemas. The Crystal Theatre folded due to lack of business, though it has since hosted a couple of events. The International Wildlife Film Festival began an ambitious fundraising campaign to make the historic Roxy Theatre its permanent home. Also, the Northside neighborhood hosted the first-ever Missoula Outdoor Cinema event, showing Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Raiders of the Lost Ark at the Head Start School. Organizers hope to include films from local filmmakers at next year’s festival, if the support is there. Here at the Independent, we want to give these theaters what they really need: money. But a check is such an impersonal gift, so instead, we would like to give Missoula’s struggling cinema scene a fresh crop of rich patrons with a love for independent films, wildlife films and local low-budget, D.I.Y. productions. How ’bout it, dear wealthy reader (we know you’re out there somewhere). Would you be Missoula’s cinema Santa?

Gay partners of the Montana University System
Carla Grayson and Carol Snetsinger sued the university system last February for not providing health benefits for their same-sex partners. The court recently ruled that one particular piece of paper is critical to providing benefits for partners: a marriage license. Here’s to government-sanctioned relationships, and please don’t dwell on the fact that many couples have signed papers purchasing homes together or name each other in their wills. Giving the court system a sense of proper moral obligation is a tall order, so we thought some properly signed marriage licenses—make multiple copies, please—would make excellent stocking stuffers for all the gay partners of the MUS.

The Dems
He has the confidence, conviction and teeth Democrats haven’t seen since the days of Jimmy Carter. He’s motivational mastermind Tony Robbins, a man’s whose smile could sell ice to the Eskimos. Now, more than ever, the party of Gore and Clinton needs to rebuild its collective backbone and stand up for what it believes in: universal health care, environmental protection, access to education, tax fairness and peace before war. In his classic book, Awaken the Giant Within, Robbins “unleashes the sleeping giant that lies within all of us—teaching us to harness our untapped abilities, talents and skills.” The Dems have two years to re-win the hearts of voters who’ve been turned off by a party as shallow as a huckster’s promise and as predictable as an infomercial. We’ll provide copies of Robbins’ book. Better start reading.

Bonner Development Group
BDG is a classic shill organization, ostensibly representing the interest of a small community while drawing the lion’s share of its funding from the two mega-companies that stand to lose the most from Milltown Dam’s removal. But one of those companies, Northwestern Corporation, has evidently seen the writing on the wall.

A couple of weeks ago, Northwestern restructured in a way that left Northwestern Energy as a limited liability corporation with but a single listed asset: the Milltown Dam. The reorganization limits the parent company’s liability in the Superfund cleanup to $15 million, which is the amount of liability agreed upon by Northwestern and ARCO when the utility bought Montana Power.

So to the BDG we wish the Milltown Dam itself, or rather any salvageable remains of the rock-and-timber structure once it has been removed. Possible uses: a postmodern roadside attraction (“The Slagpile That Used to be a Dam”), a museum, or a nifty (full-liability) kiddy playground.

George Dennison, president, University of Montana
When you hear the name Dennison, you often hear diversity mentioned, too. It’s probably on his Christmas list—more diversity at the UM. For goodness sake, God speed, and for a couple of reasons. If he were to get his wish, a student making the journey from China wouldn’t have been turned around and denied the trip (and a U.S. education) before even leaving the country (as happened to a grad student last September). And maybe the students at the UM would grow so accustomed to living with people who don’t look exactly like that person reflected in the mirror that they wouldn’t throw racial slurs across campus as carelessly as they sling Frisbees over the oval on the first days of spring.

Jenny Siler, author of Shot
So far this year, the only thing the Independent has given local author Jenny Siler is a big lump of coal in the form of one of the harshest book reviews the paper has published in years. Aside from other problems, an Independent book reviewer was concerned with the amount of product placement of brand name commodities in Siler’s latest, Shot. Of course, Siler’s debut novel, a thriller titled Easy Money, received a rave review from the Independent, so we like to think that we’re about even. But, in the spirit of the holidays, we would like to bequeath Jenny Siler with a multi-million dollar book/movie deal. If this holiday wish comes true, we hope Siler will be too busy counting money and deciding between Julia Roberts and Juliette Lewis for leading lady to worry about what we peon writers at the Missoula Independent might think.

The Griz
What do you give to the I-AA conference defending champions? Well, let’s consider the facts. The Griz will travel to Lake Charles, La. to take on McNeese State, the top-seeded team in the tournament on Sat., Dec. 7. In the past, the Griz have not fared well against McNeese: UM has lost both times the teams have met. So, we’ll give the Griz what they need most: a cheer from afar for a repeat of last week’s performance against Northwestern State. Two kick-off returns for touchdowns by UM wide receiver Jefferson Heidelberger would indeed be a nice feat to duplicate. Ultimately, however, our gift will be to thank the Griz for an exciting season upon their return, win or lose.

Cat-Griz game ticket camper-outers
Santa sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, and if you’re one of the idiots who perpetrated the spree of vandalism, littering, bottle-throwing and public defecation while camping out for tickets to the Cat-Griz game, the jolly elf has got you down for a very special present. He’s going to kick down the door to your house, tip his smelly garbage all over the floor and take a series of colossal dumps on your every treasured possession. He’s going to deface, defile and otherwise ruin everything of yours he can get his hands on, and when he’s done he’s going to tie you down in your own filth and let the cops chuck Zima bottles at your face. It’s only fair. Have yourself a merry little Christmas, you incredible dickheads.

Judy Martz
Boy our governor’s had it rough. Popularity ratings for the self-proclaimed “lapdog of industry” are lower than those granted a resigning Richard Nixon, and yet Montana’s “leader” shows no signs of heeding a rising call to move along. But due to the Indy’s history of aggressive coverage of Gov. Martz, we thought it might be time to provide her with a surprisingly generous gift: a plane ticket to Lapland.

Yes, as her pals in industry continue to speed climate change, causing fewer of Montana’s lakes to freeze solid in the winter, Montana’s former competitive speed skater can join the thousands of Laplanders already living in this northern-most Scandinavian region. A lapdog in Lapland, Gov. Martz can then relegate her sharpened blades to cutting up the ice, and not the heart of Montana’s few remaining wild places.

Greg Wilson and Alyssa Carlson, Big Sky News anchors
Montana’s newest television celebrities from Iowa don’t need a foreigner’s phrase book to perform their digital miracle on local station KTMF. With time, Big Sky News anchors Greg Wilson and Alyssa Carlson will learn that “you-bet” means “affirmative” out here, and that our bluebloods say “crick” instead of “creek.”

What they do need is an asbestos firewall between the news and entertainment halves of parent company EBI Video. That’s because in addition to Big Sky News, the company produces family-entertainment videos from a Christian perspective. We don’t want Wilson and Carlson confusing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with Noah’s Ark.

The 1997 Montana Legislature and Touch America CEO Robert P. Gannon
The ill effects of the energy deregulation bill passed by the ’97 Lege are well-documented. But it’s interesting to note that the two main players in the deal are suffering along with the rest of us.

The Legislature (because of term limits and elections, it doesn’t have the same lineup as five years ago, but it’s still dominated by Republicans who cowed to Montana Power) now faces the unenviable, Herculean task of creating a budget out of the state’s financial morass. And Touch America, which ram-rodded the ’97 bill as Montana Power in order to transform itself into a progressive telecom company, is on the brink of bankruptcy.

So to offending members of the ’97 Lege and TA execs, we wish spots next to each other in the Perpetual Unemployment Line for the Karmically Challenged. We haven’t worked out the details of this Purgatorial existence yet, but we’re thinking something Sisyphean, with an omnibus bill replacing the rock.

The Jeannette Rankin Peace Center
What they really want, and what most of us really want, is peace. Sadly, it looks like this is a gift humanity—ignoring the wisdom of Rankin, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and most of the world’s religious texts—isn’t ready to give itself. So in place of the impossible, we’d like to give the Peace Center its very own reporter. This reporter (who will also be a crack photographer) will have a single beat—peace. With 99 percent of the world’s journalists concentrating on war, it’s worth having at least one solid writer devoting his or her time to the occasionally under-covered efforts of Missoula’s peace advocates.

Rep. Michelle Lee (D-Livingston)
Lee, whose dream is to give Gov. Judy Martz the boot, has already seen one wish come true: Martz’s approval rating has tanked (bottoming out at around 20 percent). But Lee wants more. This Montana Rocky Balboa has her Clubber Lang on the ropes, all she needs is St. Nick’s signature (and 62,454 others) to make her recall petition more just a sugar-plum vision. The Indy can’t provide all the signatures, but we’ll definitely loan Lee some extra pens from our storage closet if she runs out.

Grizzly bears
To the griz go the guns. These marginalized critters are barely permitted to live in two percent of their historic range, and nearly every time a bear takes an amble out of one of the five “designated” areas, s/he is shot dead—often by government officials.

And really, there is no greater symbol of a real Montanan than the grizzly bear: these native Americans will be independent, weapon-toting locals with a strong commitment to family, a well-defined belief in individual property rights and a strong inclination towards hands-off government. If the great bruins could access the same arms as fear-mongering reintroduction opponents, a well-balanced, productive ecosystem might be returned to island wilderness areas such as the Selway-Bitterroot. Until the bears are armed, the almost-unsustainable ursine gene pools currently present in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem (maybe 20 bears) and the Selkirk Mountains (another 20, perhaps) will end the era of a truly wild west.

Play Ball Missoula
Tireless champions of bringing professional baseball to the downtown area, Play Ball Missoula has faced two major obstacles in its four-year odyssey to build a ballpark for Missoula’s rookie-league team, the Osprey. And with last summer’s favorable state Supreme Court decision finally squelching the opposition’s efforts to block construction at Play Ball’s riverside site adjacent to McCormick Park, the only thing standing between reality and a gorgeous, privately-financed ballpark is the matter of a few million dollars.

With fundraising efforts slowed by the ripple effect of a stagnant economy, we wish for Play Ball a gift that would go a long way in securing the Garden City’s own field of dreams: a naming-rights donor. And while the primary concern of corporate sponsorship is longevity (remember Houston’s “Enron Field”?), we’d hate to see a soulless, cumbersome moniker for the stadium (a la Houston’s current “Minute Maid Park”). Anybody know a rich company named after a certain river-roaming, fishing bird? “Osprey Stadium” sure has a nice ring to it…

Bill Slaughter, director of the MT Department of Corrections
As director of the Department of Corrections, Bill Slaughter is caught between two conflicting ideas about how we want to live in Montana. His budget and the number of convicts in prison don’t agree, so he’s releasing some offenders to parole officers in communities like Missoula earlier than planned.

That’s because Gov. Judy Martz would rather use subtraction than addition to cover the state’s $250-million deficit, and because voters want drug offenders to serve hard time. So our gift to Slaughter, since we can’t cut a check that large, is a step-ladder with which Slaughter can climb onto the legalization bandwagon.

Sure, voters in Ohio, Arizona, and Nevada ultimately rejected ballot measures that would have decriminalized or fully legalized marijuana. And, sure, activists in Florida and Michigan didn’t even get their measures on the ballot. But Canada is still considering a proposal to liberalize cannabis laws, and if Santa has his way, Montana will too.

Montana voters
This year’s ballot was harder to digest than Aunt Edna’s fruitcake. When not full of seemingly meaningless numbers and legal jargon, the summaries of the initiatives contained actual (apparent) lies. With some summaries so puzzling they may have led voters toward a total logic breakdown, it’s time for all of us to receive our government-issue ballot initiative decoder rings. A perfect stocking stuffer, each ring allows us to actually understand what we’re voting for (that is if C-37 and C-38 haven’t hamstrung the initiatives process entirely by the next election).

University Homeowners Association
Were the occupancy standards naughty or nice? With students’ loud parties, third-world lawns and endless name calling, it’s clear that the University homeowners thought they were nice (even though many consider them naughty, illegal and discriminatory). But come on homeowners, like it or not, you can’t just wave a wand and be gone with the students. Besides, how can you be University Homeowners without the University? Since what you wanted got vetoed by Mayor Kadas, we’re giving you what we can—an open invite to any and every student party in the neighborhood. Take a break from complaining and landscaping; you’ve got carte blanche to take bong hits, play guitar on the stoop at 3 a.m., and barf on the neighbor’s lawn, even if it’s your own.

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