Friday, August 31, 2012

History of debating an empty chair dates back to a Montanan (of course)

Posted By on Fri, Aug 31, 2012 at 2:20 PM

Following Clint Eastwood's unforgettable conversation last night with an empty chair, the Smithsonian took a moment to remind folks that this bit of theater has been performed before. In fact, it dates back to at least 1924 when vice-presidential nominee Burton K. Wheeler, a U.S. Senator from Butte, addressed an invisible President Calvin Coolidge.

The Smithsonian quotes Safire's Political Dictionary quoting from Wheeler's autobiography:

In Des Moines, I hit on an original showmanship gimmick. The hall was jammed to the rafters… I said, “You people have a right to know how a candidate for President stands on issues, and so far President Coolidge has not told you where he stands on anything… so I am going to call him before you tonight and ask him to take this chair and tell me where he stands.” People in the auditorium began to crane their necks to see if Coolidge really was somewhere on the premises. I pulled a vacant chair and addressed it as though it had an occupant. “President Coolidge,” I began, “tell us where you stand on Prohibition.” I went on with rhetorical questions in this vein, pausing after each for a short period. Then I wound up: “There, my friends, is the usual silence that emanates from the White House.” The crowd roared in appreciation.

It sounds like Wheeler's stunt went over better than Eastwood's. There were other examples of empty chair speeches over the years, but take pride, Montana, in starting this trend.

(H/T to the Montana Historical Society, which tweeted a link to the Smithsonian story. Follow them @MTHist)

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Tonight: Origami Ghosts haunt the VFW

Posted By on Fri, Aug 31, 2012 at 1:36 PM

These dance moves might not be quite as wild as Missoula's legendary "dancing couple" but they're pretty fun. The video from Seattle band Origami Ghosts appears to star bassist Jim Smith and a cat named Laurel who is not so amused by the dancing.

The band, who plays tonight at the VFW, is the project of Bellevue, Wash. native John Paul Scesniak and is a little bit anti-folk and Americana with the shiny mountain-pop of bands like The Shins. Scesniak has been recording "bedroom pop" songs since the early 1990s and the band has performed in all manner of venues from bowling alleys to artist lofts to auditoriums. Don't miss your chance to see them.

Origami Ghosts plays the VFW in Missoula tonight, August 31, at 10 PM. 21+. $5.

The Rockies Today, Aug. 31

Posted By on Fri, Aug 31, 2012 at 10:57 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Purebred Yellowstone bison born in New York zoo
The work done by Colorado State University researchers has culminated in the birth of a genetically pure Yellowstone bison at the Bronx Zoo, the first in a campaign to produce a purebred herd of bison that will eventually be released back onto their historic ranges in the West.
Denver Post; Aug. 31

Montana wildfire more than doubles in size on Thursday
The Pine Creek Five in Montana's Paradise Valley is now estimated to be more than 12,000 acres in size, and has destroyed at least five homes.
Billings Gazette; Aug. 31

Elk-brucellosis working group make recommendations to Montana FWP
The 12 members of the Elk/Brucellosis Working Group met with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission on Thursday and said they had come up with five options designed to stop the spread of brucellosis from elk to livestock that included higher limits for elk hunts and better fences to keep cattle from elk.
Helena Independent Record; Aug. 31

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Angel has landed

Posted By on Fri, Aug 31, 2012 at 10:55 AM

Back in May the Indy Blog wrote about popular hard-rock station The Blaze cutting its local programming. Instead of a playlist controlled by someone in Missoula, the station's parent company, Townsquare Media, handed programming duties to its "rock format leader" in Grand Rapids, Mich. The result was less airplay for regional bands and more Nickelback and Creed — and a vocal group of listeners upset over the changes.

“I will confirm that I am no longer in charge of programming music at The Blaze,” said Angel Hughes at the time. Angel had been at the station since 2001 and in charge of its playlist since 2002. She was also an instrumental part of building The Blaze's reputation as a leader of local music, promoting tons of shows. When Hughes left The Blaze June 15, Demonlily Entertainment hosted back-to-back nights of thank-you shows featuring a who's-who of the Montana metal scene, with Universal Choke Sign, Warcry, Blessiddoom, Beef Curtain and Mahamawaldi, among others, acknowledging Angel's 11 years of service to the rock community.

The Blaze, meanwhile, replaced Angel's morning show with "Free Beer and Hot Wings," a Howard Stern-like zoo featuring five guys based in Grand Rapids.

Fast-forward to Monday, and good news for local music fans: Angel has re-appeared on local airwaves as the regular afternoon host on Z100, "Missoula's only classic rock station." She's also been named promotions director of Cherry Creek Radio's five Missoula stations.

"It's still just me being a goofball," she says of the new on-air gig.

Although the format is different, Angel says she'll continue some of her old show's staples, like the Rock Report and Radio Activity, a rundown of upcoming events. She says she's also talking with her new programming director about eventually adding local music to her weekend show, Saturdays from noon to 4.

"It's good to be back," she says. "And I can tell you, it's really refreshing to work at a station that's locally programmed."

You can catch her weekday show today at 3 p.m.

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Rockies Today, Aug. 30

Posted By on Thu, Aug 30, 2012 at 1:49 PM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Evacuations ordered in Montana as new wildfires roar to life
The Pine Creek Fire first reported south of Livingston on Wednesday forced evacuations as high winds pushed it across hundreds of acres, and evacuations were also ordered on the Rosebud Fire that made a 1,000-acre run in southeastern Montana on Wednesday afternoon.
Billings Gazette; Aug. 30

Dispute over renewable energy in Idaho makes financiers wary
Idaho Power Co. has asked the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to allow it to limit electricity production from wind farms at times of low demand, and the unresolved dispute has created uncertainty in the renewable-energy market, making it hard for wind power developers such as Greece-based GEK Terna to get funding for projects like GEK Terna's 138-megawatt Mountain Air wind farm, scheduled to go online in October.
Idaho Statesman (AP); Aug. 30

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Montana loses two leaders

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 10:45 AM

Two great Montanans left us recently to go on to a greater place.

Bob Brown is a former Montana Secretary of State, State Senate President and Republican gubernatorial candidate.
  • Bob Brown is a former Montana Secretary of State, State Senate President and Republican gubernatorial candidate.
Joe Mazurek was a wise and insightful peacemaker. His passing was not unexpected, but his legacy for fairness and gentle persuasion will live on in the memory of all those who had the good fortune to work with him in the political process of our state.

Jim McGarvey was a brave and gallant fighter. He could sometimes be unkind to the King’s English, but never to a loyal friend. Montana’s legendary union leader, he was the true friend of working class people, and never forgot his common roots in the “sacred city” of Butte. He’ll be fighting for “the little guy” in spirit and by example as long as his memory lives.

I knew them both, very well, for over forty years. While college students, Joe and I first met while lobbing the legislature to lower the voting age. We later served together in the legislature where I saw him perform public duty countless times with no expectation of receiving credit or even recognition for his dedicated service.

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The Rockies Today, Aug. 29

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 10:31 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

NorthWestern Energy's wind farm on budget, on schedule
On Tuesday, representatives from NorthWestern Energy, Compass and other companies involved in the construction of the Spion Kop wind farm took members of the media on a tour of the Montana wind farm which is scheduled to go online later this year.
Great Falls Tribune; Aug. 29

Montana wildfire grows to 3,000 acres overnight
The Nineteen Mile Fire was first reported on Tuesday near Whitehall and evacuations were ordered for homes near the Montana wildfire, which was 3,000 acres in size by Wednesday morning.
Montana Standard; Aug. 29

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Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 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): I’m afraid your vibes are slightly out of tune. Can you do something about that, please? Meanwhile, your invisible friend could really use a Tarot reading, and your houseplants would benefit from a dose of Mozart. Plus—and I hope I’m not being too forward here—your charmingly cluttered spots are spiraling into chaotic sprawl, and your slight tendency to overreact is threatening to devolve into a major proclivity. As for that rather shabby emotional baggage of yours: Would you consider hauling it to the dump? In conclusion, my dear Ram, you’re due for a few adjustments.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Amid allegations of corrupt cops in Lake County, Montana wrestles with how to police its police

Posted By on Tue, Aug 28, 2012 at 3:48 PM

On June 22, the Montana Legislature’s Law and Justice Interim Committee held a hearing on allegations of misconduct involving several law enforcement officers in Lake County. Sarah Hart, an assistant attorney general representing Montana Public Safety Officer Standards and Training Council, or POST (a quasi-judicial board that polices the police), stood before the committee and proposed two changes in law that would “really, really help POST” investigate complaints against cops in Lake County and elsewhere in the state.

One was to designate POST a criminal justice agency, which would allow it access to confidential criminal justice information. The other was to grant POST investigative authority, a change intended to streamline the way complaints against officers are assessed. Hart asked the committee to draft bills for the 2013 legislature to consider. The committee, chaired by Sen. Jim Shockley, a Republican from Victor, said it would.

But several officers in Montana would rather not give POST these new powers, Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir among them. In a July 16 letter to then-POST Council Chair Winnie Ore, Muir, who is also president of the Montana Association of Chiefs of Police, expressed concerns about “the manner and direction…that the POST Council has been headed with respect to its role in public safety oversight.” POST’s legislative proposals “have generated significant suspicions that there is an underlying undisclosed motive,” Muir wrote, “which has been occasionally referred to simply as ‘a power grab.’” He singled out POST Director Wayne Ternes.

POST’s legislative proposals were discussed at a two-day POST meeting in Helena two weeks ago, which Muir attended. Muir says there were “a lot of inaccuracies and a lot of misperceptions being perpetrated by Mr. Ternes.” POST ultimately placed Ternes on administrative leave while a third party investigates his conduct.

“We’re taking a step back, taking a breather,” says Steve Barry, POST’s acting chairman since Winnie Ore resigned earlier in the month, a move she says was unrelated to the investigation. Barry expects the investigation to be completed in a couple weeks. Ternes didn’t return calls seeking comment.

Muir says he’s worried that if POST’s proposals become law, the agency, which certifies the state’s law enforcement officers, could “just come in and flex the licensing authority and force people to give statements adverse to their interests.” He wants POST to remain “strictly an administrative agency.”

Shockley still supports POST’s proposals. “It’s good public policy to have an agency look independently at any allegations of misconduct,” he says. He believes the push-back can be explained this way: “Even if the sheriff or chief of police are entirely innocent, they don’t want their [department’s] dirty laundry aired. They’d rather handle it themselves.”

And then Shockley brings it back to what started this whole debate: “There’s something going on in Lake County that the county attorney, sheriff and attorney general do not want known.”

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Montana Warden Frank Bowen's investigation of Lake County poachers results in reassignment

Posted By on Tue, Aug 28, 2012 at 11:56 AM

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Warden Frank Bowen, who for more than two years pursued poaching charges against several law enforcement officers in Lake County, has been reassigned—temporarily, for now—to the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

Frank Bowen
  • Frank Bowen

The move, made official on Aug. 14, appeared to result from the stiff resistance Bowen faced in investigating the poaching cases, none of which have been prosecuted. Bowen, for example, received multiple death threats, and earlier this year Lake County Attorney Mitch Young filed a formal complaint against him, which was found to be without merit. Even FWP has tried to keep Bowen quiet, requiring the Montana Legislature's Law and Justice Interim Committee to subpoena him to testify about the findings of his investigations at a hearing in June.

In the memo to Bowen explaining the reassignment (PDF), Warden Captain Lee Anderson wrote:

Given the current [Montana Public Safety Officer Standards and Training Council (POST)] investigation into Lake County, the notice of intent to sue FWP by other law enforcement officers in Lake County, the unwillingness of County Attorney Mitch Young to prosecute any of your cases, combined with threats to your personal safety and jurisdictional questions regarding state game warden authority on the Flathead Indian Reservation, we feel this reassignment is in your, as well as the Department’s best interest for the time being.

Anderson's memo mentions Bowen's intentions to file formal complaints with the Attorney General's Office and the Office of Disciplinary Council against Young for smearing Bowen and refusing to prosecute his cases.

We want to make it clear that FWP does not support you doing this in your official capacity as a Montana Game Warden. FWP does not have control over what you do in your personal time as a private citizen. However, FWP has a responsibility to safeguard confidential criminal justice information from dissemination. It is FWP Legal Counsel's opinion that the use of confidential criminal justice information gathered in your official capacity as a Game Warden to file complaints would be a prohibited use of department information.

Bowen was unavailable for comment.

Poaching is one of the allegations of misconduct involving law enforcement officers from various agencies in Lake County. There are several others. POST, the state agency that polices the police, is investigating at least seven Lake County officers and could revoke their badges. Meanwhile, five current and former officers in the Lake County Sheriff’s Department filed a federal lawsuit alleging that four of their colleagues, including Sheriff Jay Doyle, retaliated against them for bringing forward evidence of wrongdoing within the department.

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