Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Rockies Today, Oct. 25

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2012 at 10:57 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Montana, Idaho report on wolf hunters' success
After the six-week archery season and not quite a week of rifle season completed, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks reports that 24 wolves have been killed, with wolves taken in 12 of the state's 17 hunting zones, and across the border in Idaho, 65 wolves have been killed during that state's hunting season, which continues through June of next year.
Montana Standard; Oct. 25

Texas company buys 65% of BLM oil, gas leases auctioned in Montana
The parent company of Shale Exploration LLC wants to lease 200,000 acres of land in northeast Montana for oil and exploration, and at Wednesday's Bureau of Land Management auction, the company was the successful bidder on 153 of the 237 parcels auctioned in Montana.
Billings Gazette (AP); Oct. 25

PPL Corp. wants to sell Montana subsidiary's share of coal-fired power plant
The parent company of PPL Montana wants to sell the Montana utility's ownership interest in the coal-fired generation plant in Colstrip.
Great Falls Tribune; Oct. 25

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ever wonder how the pumpkin gets on Main Hall every year?

Posted By on Wed, Oct 24, 2012 at 4:21 PM


Well, wonder no more.

Indy photo intern Eric Oravsky happened to snap this image Sunday night of an unnamed prankster climbing Main Hall like it's some slab of rock in the Bitterroot.

If you're unfamiliar with this annual prank, Indy reporter Jessica Mayrer wrote about it last year in our Fresh Facts guide.

Every fall right around Halloween someone impales a pumpkin on the top of the University of Montana’s Main Hall. The tradition has been passed down through multiple generations of students willing to brave the steep climb to UM’s pointy clock tower spire.

Pranksters like to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, but the UM rumor mill helped law enforcement nab one culprit in 2004. According to UM Chief of Public Safety Jim Lemke, officers tracked the suspect through word of mouth and the climbing gear he left behind. The young man was a skillful climber who was charged with trespassing. Lemke, who has college-aged children himself, has spent part of his 10-year tenure at UM unsuccessfully trying to deter the fall rite, even threatening to position security guards or install cameras around Main Hall to spook would-be impalers. He’s had no luck, but does offer a word of warning: “It’s a long drop down. And you don’t bounce well on concrete.”

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The Rockies Today, Oct. 24

Posted By on Wed, Oct 24, 2012 at 10:44 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Economics, not politics, driving force of U.S. energy policy
President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney disagree somewhat on energy policy, but the explosion of natural gas supplies in the country has changed the landscape of the country's energy use, and the outcome of the election probably won't affect energy policy much, but the same can't be said about environmental policy. An analysis.
New York Times; Oct. 24

Montana high court says lease of state's coal reserves fine
The Montana Supreme Court issued a decision Tuesday that said the decision of the State Land Board to lease 587 million tons of coal to Arch Coal in 2010 without first doing an environmental review did not violate the state's Constitution.
Helena Independent Record; Oct. 23

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Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, Oct 24, 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): In the coming days, many of your important tasks will be best accomplished through caginess and craftiness. Are you willing to work behind the scenes and beneath the surface? I suspect you will have a knack for navigating your way skillfully and luckily through mazes and their metaphorical equivalents. The mists may very well part at your command, revealing clues that no one else but you can get access to. You might also have a talent for helping people to understand elusive or difficult truths. Halloween costume suggestions: spy, stage magician, ghost whisperer, exorcist.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Election 2012: Why is Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry's stamping money?

Posted By on Tue, Oct 23, 2012 at 3:20 PM

Three weeks ago, Ben Cohen—the “Ben” in Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream—started stamping paper currency. The stamps read “Money is not free speech” or “Not to be used for bribing politicians.” Cohen is now head stamper of Stamp Stampede, a nonprofit selling rubber stamps to promote a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United.
The Indy caught Cohen on his cell last week, just before a flight from Arizona to California. Mostly we wanted to ask why the heck he’s stamping money. [This Q&A has been edited for length].


Indy: So, Ben, we were just curious. What promoted the co-founder of an ice cream company to weigh in so heavily on corporate money in politics?

Ben Cohen: It’s really clear to me that the root of most of our problems in terms of how the government works and the decisions that get made is money in politics. Essentially corporations and very wealthy people paying politicians money to pass laws that are in their own narrow self-interest. All those billions of dollars we’ve been reading about that are being spent on the presidential election campaign this year are being spent by people who have a purpose and an agenda in terms of what they want politicians to do.

Most people on the street, they’re smart enough to know corporations aren’t people. Certainly it wasn’t the intent of the Founders to give corporations the same rights as people, but that’s what the Supreme Court has done. In order to overturn those things and get back to the way America was supposed to be, as I learned in elementary school, we need to amend the constitution.

Indy: A constitutional amendment is no easy thing to pull off. What makes you think initiatives like Stamp Stampede or Move to Amend have a chance of convincing Congress to pass one?

Cohen: Before the Occupy movement started up, I felt like that’s not possible. But I think the Occupy movement demonstrated that it is possible to bring together a massive, broad-based, grassroots movement to demand that change. The last constitutional amendment, the one that changed the voting age from 21 to 18, that went through in about two years. So it is possible.

Indy: How quickly has Stamp Stampede caught on?

Cohen: We just started it about two weeks ago, and...I think we’ve sold over 1,000 stamps so far. Move to Amend, another organization that’s working on this as well, I think they’ve distributed over 500 stamps. I’d say it’s definitely starting...It’s meeting my expectations in terms of how many stamps have been ordered. Now we just need to make sure people use them.

Can you hold on just one second while I tie my shoes?

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Natural Grocers set to open Missoula store next week

Posted By on Tue, Oct 23, 2012 at 10:41 AM

About a week before it opens, the scene inside Natural Grocers is a flurry of people unpacking cardboard boxes and loading shelves. Chad Johnson, the store’s mustached and bespectacled 34-year-old manager, who’s training a new hire how to use the cash registers, reluctantly breaks for a quick interview, but can’t escape the commotion. “There’s no quiet spot,” he says. “We’re opening a store.”


Natural Grocers, a Colorado-based organic grocery chain, opens its Missoula location on the corner of Third and Reserve streets in Missoula on Oct. 30. The store marks the chain’s 60th location and aims to tap into the Garden City’s seemingly insatiable appetite for organic foods. “There’s a huge buzz for it,” Johnson says. “We’re just really excited to be in Missoula, and to offer awesome products and solid jobs.”

He says he interviewed about 50 people at Missoula Job Service for positions at the new store, and hired 25 full-time employees. Right now they’re being ordered around by Natural Grocers’ “ops team,” as Johnson calls it, a squad that gets new locations around the country from empty to open in about two weeks. The ops team oversees every detail, down to the exact height of each adjustable supermarket shelf. “That’s how dialed they are,” he says.

Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, as the chain is officially called, was attracted to the Missoula market because it’s been “an epicenter of active and healthy lifestyles,” said company co-president Kemper Isely in a statement. “Our new store product offerings and outreach programs fit perfectly with the city’s culture, residents and visitors.”

The company opened its first Montana store in June, in Billings, and plans to open a third, in Helena, in December.

The Missoula location’s just a mile down Third Street from the Good Food Store, the city’s well-established independent organic grocer. Asked if he’s concerned about the competition, Good Food Store spokesman Layne Rolston says, “Not so much.”

“We’ve always felt like the more [businesses] that are celebrating organic and getting organic food in front of people the better,” Rolston says. “That’s what we’re about, too. And we think there’s probably room for more than one or two or three people selling organic food in Missoula.”

Inside Natural Grocers, Johnson takes a more competitive tack. “We’ll open up and let our prices talk for us,” he says.

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The Rockies Today, Oct. 23

Posted By on Tue, Oct 23, 2012 at 10:40 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Alberta First Nation to argue Shell's Jackpine mine violates treaty
The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, with support from conservation groups and human rights organizations, will take its case against Shell Canada's expansion of its Jackpine oilsands mine to the Energy Resources Conservation Board and Joint Environmental Review Panel, and argue that the Alberta oilsands mine threatens the band's traditional territory and thus violates its treaty rights.
Edmonton Journal; Oct. 23

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Election 2012: The Senate race's diminishing returns

Posted By on Mon, Oct 22, 2012 at 4:01 PM

Saturday night brought Montanans the fourth and final Senate debate between incumbent Democrat Jon Tester and Republican Congressman Denny Rehberg. But between the first debate in Big Sky in June and this weekend’s performance, the returns for voters have gradually diminished. Beyond a fairly constructive discussion on the Affordable Care Act, most of the hour-long debate in Bozeman came back to the same talking points and heated barbs we’ve seen before. See full video below.

Rehberg and Tester at the June debate in Big Sky.

For example, Rehberg—back to the flustered, twitchy debater we saw in Billings on Oct. 8—once again kicked off his opening remarks with a jab at Tester for voting with President Obama “95 percent of the time.” It was old in Billings, and a week older in Kalispell on Oct. 14. Tester quickly refuted the claim, as he always has, by accusing Rehberg of distorting his record. Later, when given a chance to ask Tester a question on Obamacare, Rehberg prefaced his query with the comment, “We’ve already established the fact that you voted with President Obama 95 percent of the time.” Tester lashed back. “No we haven’t.” In truth, neither candidate has clean hands when it comes to distorting records. But we weren’t looking for more vague talking points and ad-style attacks. We were hoping for substance, the kind that would help the estimated two percent of undecided voters make an informed decision come Election Day.

Saturday also marked yet another tired back-and-forth on the estate tax, referred to by conservatives as the “death tax.” Tester favors extending the Bush-era tax cut exemption for couples inheriting estates worth less than $10 million; Rehberg wants to deep-six the tax completely. The discussion between the candidates didn’t, and never has, addressed the fact that, according to a study conducted by a trio of IRS researchers, only two to three percent of all deaths in the U.S. were subject to estate taxation even under the Clinton-era exemption of $1 million. In 1998, only 50,089 of the 103,892 people who filed estate tax returns actually paid any taxes. That’s the type of fact we’d like to see dropped in a debate like this.

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Remembering George McGovern, "The Last Best Liberal"

Posted By on Mon, Oct 22, 2012 at 10:45 AM

George McGovern died Sunday at the age of 90. Brad Tyer profiled the former presidential nominee and Bitterroot resident for a 2003 Indy cover story titled "The Last Best Liberal."

In memory of McGovern, here's a link to the entire story, which includes many quotes from McGovern that could still apply today:

“I wrote that article,” he says, “because I think that practically every gain that this country has made in the last 200 years has been at the initiative of liberals, usually over the opposition of conservatives…I think the liberals have been out in front and that’s where I want to be.”


“I think the liberals are too timid, They’ve just lost a number of elections, including the last one…and the interpretation I think of too many liberals is that that means we were just too far from the mainstream, we’ve got to get back in the middle of the road. Don’t rock the boat on Iraq, don’t rock the boat on tax deductions of any kind, no matter who they go to.

“I think we need to be told that it makes no sense to grant a 1.4 trillion reduction in taxes for the wealthiest people in this country and then announce that we don’t have enough money to provide prescription drugs for old people. I think it’s wrong for a great country like this to provide big tax giveaways to the people that least need it, then shortchange the schools, the health care, the environment….”

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The Rockies Today, Oct. 22

Posted By on Mon, Oct 22, 2012 at 10:39 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

U.S. Supreme Court asked to review Montana campaign-spending case
Twelve plaintiffs, led by the American Tradition Partnership, have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider Montana's campaign spending limits on statewide political races after a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals put a federal court decision lifting those limits on hold, and contributions made during the six-day period to Republican candidates are being challenged in court.
Flathead Beacon (AP); >Oct. 22

Natural gas a losing proposition for operators
The glut of natural gas has pushed the price of the fuel down 60 percent, and the companies that have punched hundreds of holes to pull the plentiful fuel out of the ground in the United States are taking a major hit to their bottom lines.
New York Times; Oct. 19

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