Thursday, May 25, 2017

House race takes its most bizarre turn yet with Gianforte’s alleged assault of reporter

Posted By on Thu, May 25, 2017 at 11:02 AM

The race for Montana’s sole U.S. House seat took a House of Cards turn yesterday evening, and it all began with a tweet. A few minutes after 5 p.m., Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs announced on Twitter that “Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses.” The incident took place at the Republican candidate’s Bozeman campaign headquarters, and Jacobs’ claims were supported several hours later with a blow-by-blow account from a Fox News crew that was present during the altercation. According to the story, the crew saw Gianforte slam the reporter to the ground and "watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter."
Greg Gianforte, pictured here during his 2016 gubernatorial race, was charged with misdemeanor assault Wednesday night after an altercation with a reporter. - PHOTO BY ALEX SAKARIASSEN
  • photo by Alex Sakariassen
  • Greg Gianforte, pictured here during his 2016 gubernatorial race, was charged with misdemeanor assault Wednesday night after an altercation with a reporter.

The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Department cited Gianforte for misdemeanor assault, which carries a maximum penalty of $500 or six months in jail. Gianforte is scheduled to go before a judge by June 7. According to the citation (shared online by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle’s Whitney Bermes, who earned props from national media outlets for her Twitter coverage last night), Gianforte will have to appear in court in person.

Shortly after Jacobs’ initial tweet, the Guardian posted audio of the confrontation, which started with Jacobs querying Gianforte about the Congressional Budget Office’s report on the American Health Care Act. The 40-second clip escalates quickly, with Gianforte first referring the reporter to campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon. After some scuffling noises, Gianforte can be heard shouting, “I’m sick and tired of you guys.” He then shouts for Jacobs to “get the hell out of here.”

The account from Gianforte’s campaign didn’t quite line up with the contents of the audio, or with the account from the Fox News crew. Scanlon claimed in a statement that Gianforte attempted to grab Jacobs’ phone, at which point Jacobs grabbed Gianforte’s wrist and the two went down. “It's unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ,” the statement concluded.

The incident quickly drew national attention, trending strongly on social media and becoming the top thread on Reddit by 9 p.m. Twitter users were either aghast or cracking jokes. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called on Gianforte to drop out of the race. The Missoulian rescinded its endorsement of Gianforte, writing, “He showed Wednesday night that he lacks the experience, brains and abilities to effectively represent Montana in any elected office.” Sen. Steve Daines, a longtime associate of Gianforte’s, tweeted this morning that “Greg Gianforte needs to apologize.”

There’s no telling yet what impact this late development might have on the race's results. Today is Election Day, and it’s possible that even with the front-page nature of Gianforte’s alleged assault, some voters haven’t heard about it yet. Others have already cast their ballots—45 percent of registered voters statewide, to be exact. And though House Speaker Paul Ryan did say this morning that he believes Gianforte should apologize for his actions, he added the whether to send Gianforte to Congress remains up to the people of Montana. Not exactly a condemnation there.

As we wrote in our endorsement of Democrat Rob Quist last week, no one in the Indy newsroom could make an argument in favor of Gianforte. Now you can add temperament to our long list of reservations about his fitness for office. If one reporter doggedly pursuing an answer to a question is enough to make him snap, how can we expect Gianforte to cope in the halls of the United States Capitol?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Buyouts offered to 8 percent of UM full-time faculty

Posted By on Mon, May 22, 2017 at 9:35 AM

Around 50 veteran professors at the University of Montana have been offered early retirement incentives as the university prepares for another round of downsizing.

The figure is substantially lower than the 80-100 buyout target state officials floated in April while securing a $2 million legislative earmark to offset "faculty termination costs." Buyouts alone seem unlikely to achieve the university's overall staff reduction goals.

Offers are limited to full-time, tenured faculty who are at least 65 years old and are already eligible to retire. Of the university's 613 full-time faculty, 48 qualify for the incentive, communications director Paula Short says.

That's about 8 percent of full-time faculty.
  • Photo by Cathrine L. Walters
Interim President Sheila Stearns acknowledged the program's limited scope in a campus email last week, writing that the university must follow direction from state higher education officials "who have identified the finite financial resources for us to address our long-term financial obligations and the associated fiscal impacts of our current student:faculty ratio."

The plan released May 12 does not target faculty in specific departments, as the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education had previously suggested would be necessary. Such a scenario would have been more contentious on campus.

In addition to standard sick leave payouts, professors who accept the offer will receive a lump sum payment equal to half of their current salary, according to a copy of the letter posted to the university's website. Their employment will end on July 17.

State officials put typical "termination costs" for veteran faculty at $25,000. UM's associate vice president for human resources, Terri Phillips, says she has not calculated the cost if all 48 professors take the incentive. Short says the package was developed with cost in mind.

Eligible faculty must submit a preliminary response to the offer by May 31.

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Good theater and the meaning of life in Between the Lines' production of Stupid Fucking Bird

Posted By on Sat, May 20, 2017 at 1:45 PM


Stupid Fucking Bird reminds me of one of the best Onion headlines in the history of the Onion: “‘I Can’t Do This Anymore,’ Think 320 million Americans Quietly Going About Day.” The play, which is a kind of remix and update to Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, deals with existential crisis in a raw, heartbreaking and hilarious way. What’s the point of anything? Do we really just have to go on and on being disappointed, over and over again, until we die?

The play begins with Mash and Dev bickering over whose life is worse. “What are we, in a fucking Dickens novel?” Mash quips.

“And I'm unhappy in love,” Dev says. “I'm unhappy in love! I mean, you know I love you ridiculously and you, you know, barely tolerate me... But mostly I'm really, really poor.”
Over the course of three acts, this unhappiness becomes the foundation of a surprisingly fun experience.

Missoula's Between the Lines production of Stupid Fucking Bird doesn't squander the script. Directed by company founder Mason J. Wagner, the cast does an incredible job of taking the audience on an adventure that walks the line between tragedy and comedy. This is a play that takes a lot of risks, and in the beginning it’s easy to feel a little panicked that you’re going to be locked into two and half hours of super whiny characters doing a bunch of navel gazing. But the best part of Stupid Fucking Bird is that it both wallows in existential malaise and then, with comic brilliance, acknowledges the melodrama. There’s metaphor (the bird), there’s the breaking of the fourth wall, there’s a little audience participation, and there’s an entirely non-traditional ending that is neither a twist nor any kind of predictable catharsis.

It’s always worth seeing any local production featuring "E.T. Varney," whom most people will recognize as a prominent actor not named E.T. Varney. Varney's portrayal of Dr. Eugene Sorn is endearing. Part of the gimmick of Stupid Fucking Bird is that it’s self-referential, and characters constantly address the audience and make fun of the play. Sorn’s monologues are some of the best moments, and Varney is a natural at getting the audience on his side as he sips a cocktail and reflects on how emotional all the other characters are.

I’d love to provide some critique here, but the truth is that every actor is great in this production. I’m not going to mention them all because they all stand out as capturing multi-dimensional flawed, funny, desperate, selfish characters, but it’s definitely worth mentioning Nathan Snow, whose Conrad, the playwright within the play, is particularly well rendered as his frustration with love and theater forces him to take unsettling action. He so believes in a world where happiness and authenticity can happen, and Snow nails that character in all his sympathetic unraveling.

In the play's beginning, the dialogue and acting feel a bit stereotypically theater-y, but it isn’t long before the script and characters begin to upend the format. It’s a twisting, turning story, and it’s an investigation into despair and longing. There’s good music, and the audience never feels quite safe from the action and emotion on stage, since the dialogue often seems directed at the viewers, and the storyline often dissects itself. Stupid Fucking Bird is both a critique of theater and a love letter to it, and no one should miss a chance to see this production.

Stupid Fucking Bird continues at the Roxy Sat., May 20, at 7:30 PM and Sun., May 21, at 2 PM and 7:30 PM. $20.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Creationist researcher suing National Park Service because it won't let him study Grand Canyon rocks

Posted By on Thu, May 11, 2017 at 2:57 PM

In case the drawing of Jesus riding a T. rex on a paddleboard in Glacial Lake Missoula on today's Indy cover wasn't enough of a hint, this week's feature is about creationists. Last month, some locals invited Kentucky-based ministry Answers in Genesis to put on a creation conference at the University of Montana. It drew more than 1,000 people.

Turns out that as our story went to press, the Phoenix New Times reported that one of AiG's Missoula speakers, creation scientist Andrew Snelling, is suing the U.S. Department of the Interior for religious discrimination because National Park Service officials denied his research application in Grand Canyon National Park.

Snelling wants to collect rocks from the park to use for his work.
  • Wikimedia Commons
The Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom filed the lawsuit on Tuesday, alleging the NPS violated his First Amendment rights to free speech and religious freedom, his Fifth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection, and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2000, the New Times reports. The complaint also cites a May executive order by President Trump on religious freedom.

Here's the best part, from New Times:
In the federal complaint filed on Tuesday, ADF uses several key e-mails by scientists who put their feelings in writing to demonstrate the bias Snelling says he encountered.

"It is difficult to review such an outlandish proposal," Ron Blakely of Northern Arizona University told NPS officials in 2014, when he was asked for his opinion about Snelling's proposal. 

Click here to read the full story. And check out the Indy's cover story, "Muddy the Waters: Ken Ham, Greg Gianforte, and the creationist assault on science in Montana," too.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Photos: Ink, cake and machines at Blaque Owl's anniversary party

Posted By on Wed, May 10, 2017 at 6:01 PM

For the first two hours of Blaque Owl Tattoo’s 6th anniversary party everyone was afraid
to cut into the cake because it looked so cool. But then again, everything in Blaque Owl looks cool. The tattoo shop opened its doors for May’s First Friday and welcomed the public
to come in and have a beer and check out the work by local artists on display throughout the front rooms.
The Blaque Owl tattoo shop in downtown Missoula celebrated six years - of business this weekend and opened its doors to the crowds downtown on a Missoula spring evening.
  • The Blaque Owl tattoo shop in downtown Missoula celebrated six years of business this weekend and opened its doors to the crowds downtown on a Missoula spring evening.
Blaque Owl was opened in April of 2011 by Mike Shaefer (aka “Shaf”) who has been a tattoo
artist since the early 1990s. There are currently nine artists laying down ink at Blaque Owl,
including Shaefer, although he said he doesn’t do nearly as much tattooing as the others
nowadays. Shaefer takes his work a step further and builds and sells his own tattoo machines, which are also used by many of the artists at Blaque Owl.
Mike Shaefer’s tattoo machines use magnetic pulses to generate the rapid motion required to effectively push and pull an inked needle in and out of - skin. He sells them at
  • Mike Shaefer’s tattoo machines use magnetic pulses to generate the rapid motion required to effectively push and pull an inked needle in and out of skin. He sells them at
Schaefer’s machines are like a steampunk I SPY scene in microcosm. They are made of items like straight razors, worn paper currency and intricate metal shapes and cogs.
Tattoo artist and body painter Melissa Thompson applies paint to a very patient individual.
  • Tattoo artist and body painter Melissa Thompson applies paint to a very patient individual.

During the party, Shaefer was wading through the crowd talking to friends and guests with his son, Johnny, on his shoulders. The party attracted visitors of all types, inked or not. Fake tattoos were being passed around for kids and anyone else that wanted them, and in one of the shop windows tattoo artist and body painter Melissa Thompson was hard
at work turning a human being into a temporary work of art. 
Louise Spencer gets work done on a tattoo by artist Britt Felgate. Spencer had been in the chair for about two hours, a stint she described as “not - bad.”
  • Louise Spencer gets work done on a tattoo by artist Britt Felgate. Spencer had been in the chair for about two hours, a stint she described as “not bad.”

In the back, several customers were getting some work done. Someone eventually did tear off a corner of the cake, causing a wave of hungry visitors to do the same, and it was close
to gone in a matter of minutes. 
Artist Ian Caroppoli, Rebekah Ghaddar and Bridget Stoltz man the front desk during the party.
  • Artist Ian Caroppoli, Rebekah Ghaddar and Bridget Stoltz man the front desk during the party.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Happiest Hour early edition: The 25th annual Garden City BrewFest

Posted By on Fri, May 5, 2017 at 4:16 PM

Where you’re drinking: Yeah, as if you don't already know. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the bulk of Craft Beer Week, tomorrow, May 6, is Missoula’s annual Garden City BrewFest. And it’s become something of an Indy tradition over the years for us to pick through the offerings ahead of time so as to give our beer-sodden readers a nudge in the direction of a few thirst-inducing brews. Without further ado—because seriously, we’ve all got some drinking to do—here’s a rundown of the taps we’ll be elbowing our way to come Saturday.

Enter the dirty 30s:
This year marks the 25th anniversary for Montana’s oldest brewfest, but that’s not the only commemoration on display. Bayern Brewing (Montana’s oldest craft brewery. Theme!) is celebrating its 30th year producing beer in the fine tradition of Germany’s purity law. To honor the occasion, Jürgen Knöller and his compatriots have brewed up a 30th anniversary pilsener. If the flagship Bayern Pilsener it’s based on is any indication, this 5.4 percent ABV beer will be well worth the hype.

Not quite to sweet 16: Bayern isn’t the only Montana brewery marking a milestone in 2017. Helena-based Lewis and Clark Brewing has officially turned 15, and while that’s still a ways from legal drinking age, it’s as good an excuse as any to release an anniversary IPA. The description promises a hopped-up, pleasantly bitter brew with the brawniness of a varsity linebacker—7.4 percent to be exact.

One birthday slightly used: OK, so this one’s a holdover, but it’s still worth mentioning. Last year, Red Lodge Ales tapped a new brew commemorating the 125th anniversary of Yellowstone National Park’s Lake Hotel. The 1891 Summer Ale—infused with honey and boasting a mellow, citrusy taste—was enough of a success that it’s back to ring in the hotel’s 126th birthday. Or, you know, just provide Missoulians a 5.1-percent break from all those high-octane IPAs.

Old brewery, new brew: Usually when the Garden City BrewFest rolls around, the offerings from Harvest Moon are pretty familiar—namely Beltian Wheat or Pig’s Ass Porter. This year the brewery has cooked up something new: a seasonal called Watermelon Wheat. As the name suggests, this American wheat beer is pretty big on the watermelon flavor. And since the brew is still in diapers, so to speak, we’ll consider this one a “first birthday” situation.

Where the party's at:
The 25th annual Garden City BrewFest kicks off at noon on Saturday, May 6, in Caras Park. Certain brews tend to go pretty quick, so get there early.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Photos from Tuesday night's Lil Wayne show at the Adams Center

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 3:13 PM


UM buyouts a 'win-win-win?' Not so fast.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 11:09 AM

Any buyouts offered to University of Montana faculty and staff will likely be limited to those whose academic programs or departments are targeted for downsizing, the Montana University System’s human resources director says.

Such an approach could put senior and junior faculty at odds, and may strain a process that faculty union leaders hoped could offer an alternative to mass layoffs as UM prepares to cut its budget by millions over the next two years.

“It gets more sensitive the more specific the buyout becomes,” says University Faculty Association spokesperson Lee Banville. “How do you not turn this into, ‘Senior faculty retire now or junior faculty lose their jobs,’ which could be a very destructive conversation to have.”

UM President Sheila Stearns and Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian began discussing buyout options just weeks after Stearns took over as interim president in December, as the Indy first reported. The proposal gained momentum last week when university system officials made a deal with the governor’s office and lawmakers to earmark $2 million from 9-1-1 dispatch funds to cover “faculty termination costs” at UM.

MUS spokesperson Kevin McRae described the proposal, which cleared the Senate, as a potential “win-win-win,” the Missoulian reported.

It could just as easily become a lose-lose.

McRae tells the Indy that for early retirement incentives to be effective, they must align closely with the university’s downsizing goals, which Stearns has signaled will target specific academic offerings and services. Otherwise, he says, “you lose the whole point of what this is about.”
  • Photo by Cathrine L. Walters
That means only faculty in certain academic programs and support staff in certain sectors would receive buyout offers.

“That’s indeed a question for the university and I don’t think they’ve gotten there yet, but to me, I think it has to be department by department,” McRae says.

McRae is part of a group of MUS and UM administrators who are hammering out legal and logistical questions related to the proposal, dubbed the Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program, or VERIP. (A separate UM working group administered an anonymous survey to faculty and staff last month.) He says the commissioner’s office and Stearns’ staff are working as “one big team” on the project. UM Communications Director Paula Short says the team’s discussions are still in "very early stages."

Administrators have not yet approached the University Faculty Association about details of a proposal. But a highly “strategic” incentive package is a far cry from the typical, broad-based approach that faculty union officials assumed would take place, in which buyouts are offered to any faculty or staff members who meet age or employment criteria. Contacted last week, UFA President Paul Haber told the Indy his sense is that offers would not target specific areas on campus.

If they did, “We would certainly look at it very hard,” Haber wrote in an email.
A timeline announced by Stearns this spring calls for program “prioritization” over the summer, with cuts to be recommended in September. McRae says no buyout offers would be made until that analysis is complete.

Even if the buyout proposal proves unworkable, or finds few takers, UM would still be able to use the $2 million legislative earmark to help pay costs associated with layoffs. State employees are entitled to a sick leave payout upon termination, which McRae says can cost more than $25,000 for a veteran faculty member.

The state allocation could pay costs associated with eliminating approximately 80 positions, but McRae says the $2 million figure was reached without a particular layoff target in mind. And, in fact, the amount may not be enough.

“It will help substantially. Whether it will cover it all, we don’t know,” McRae says.
Montana universities are poised to absorb a $4.7 million cut for each of the next two years. They will also not receive millions in inflationary adjustments. Legislators, however, have been more willing to ante up state funds that they know will be used to reduce costs at UM, McRae says.

“They expect to see action,” he says. “Legislators see this will go toward action.”

But on Wednesday, even that was uncertain. The bill containing the legislative earmark, Senate Bill 294, appeared to be taken hostage during negotiations between Gov. Bullock and Republicans over infrastructure funding and was not yet scheduled for a House vote in the Legislature’s waning moments.

If the bill dies, the university system—or its tuition-paying students—will be covering the full cost of layoffs.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Photos from Tuesday night's Of Montreal show at the Top Hat

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 3:23 PM


Monday, April 17, 2017

Indy sign (inevitably) vandalized

Posted By on Mon, Apr 17, 2017 at 10:53 AM

The Missoula Independent's street-facing sign was turned into a punchline over the weekend.

Making a joke that Indy staffers have heard repeatedly since the paper was acquired by Lee Enterprises last Thursday, someone spray painted over the first two letters of the newspaper's name so it reads as "dependent."
The Missoula "dependent," get it? - PHOTO BY DEREK BROUWER
  • Photo by Derek Brouwer
  • The Missoula "dependent," get it?

Publisher Matt Gibson noticed the damage when he arrived at the office Monday morning and filed a police report.

"I can't believe it took this long for our sign to get vandalized," he says. The red-and-white sign is a decade old.

The Independent was independently owned since its founding in 1991. The paper is now under the same corporate umbrella as the Missoulian.

Read the newsroom's initial response to the sale here, and keep an eye out this Thursday for full coverage.

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