Monkey Jam

Bananas are a staple at our house. Because of my ADHD, my body has this bad habit of burning off important minerals – like potassium. Without it, you end up with horrible cramps if you do any strenuous work – something I do a lot of – so bananas have become a necessity when we go to the store.

No matter how many we end up using, there is always one or two that end up going over-ripe before they can get used or eaten. Instead of throwing those away, we freeze them with the intention of using them in baking at a later time. In our defense, I have made more than one (failed) attempt at making banana bread and other things with them, but I certainly haven’t kept up with the increasing space that the frozen bananas are taking up in our freezers. A few days ago, I came across a recipe for Banana Jam (also called Monkey Jam). I figured I would give it a try.

The concept for the recipe seemed pretty straight forward but I chose to follow my own recipe instead for various reasons. First, I used a crock pot instead of a pot on the stove. This has worked well for me before and it seemed the way to go this time. Second, I used far less sugar than the recipe called for (I have cut WAY back on my sugar intake for medical reasons) and did use liquid pectin to make up for it so the jam would properly jell. This is the recipe I used -

5 quarts of peeled bananas
5 cups of sugar
1 package of Certo brand Sure Jell Premium liquid fruit pectin

1) I defrosted the bananas overnight and in the morning, I peeled them into the crockpot. As a general rule, 4- 5 bananas yield about a pint – but your mileage may vary. I ended up with about five quarts of bananas in the crock pot.

2) I cooked the bananas for 3 hours on low. You don’t want to stir the bananas initially because you lose a lot of heat in a crockpot when you open the lid.

3) After three hours, I was able to mash the bananas with a potato masher. What consistency you want is up to you. I wanted a fairly pulpy consistency, so I didn’t over-mash the bananas.

4) Add the sugar and the pectin. According to the original recipe I started with, they didn’t add pectin as bananas have a lot of natural pectin and they used a LOT of sugar in their recipe. I didn’t want anything that overly sweet, so I reduced the amount of sugar and added pectin. The amount of sugar I added was based on tasting the mixture after adding the sugar. I found a median amount that maintained the banana flavor but wasn’t overly sweet. This is a matter of personal preference – feel free to experiment on your own with this.

5) Cook the mixture on high for 2 hours stirring every 20 – 30 minutes. If you want thicker jam, leave the lid off the crock pot and cover it with a metal splatter screen. This allows excess moisture to cook off, making your jam thicker. Don’t cook it too long like this, though, or it will give your jam a burnt flavor.

6) While the mixture is cooking down, prepare your canning jars and your hot water bath.

(NOTE – This write-up assumes that you know how to water bath can. If this is new to you, please research this method of canning. Attempting to can fruit in a pressure cooker can be dangerous and is highly discouraged under most circumstances)

7) Ladle the mixture into your canning jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Process time for cup size jars is 10 minutes (adjusted by altitude – meaning that, for me, that means 25 minutes because we are at 5000 feet).

This recipe yielded 21 cup sized jelly jars. The recipe was very successful and the jam set up nicely. The consistency was perfect for jam and the flavor was what I was shooting for.

Some variations you might try -

A) if you want your Monkey Jam to take more like banana bread, substitute ONE of the cups of sugar with a cup of packed brown sugar and add one teaspoon of cinnamon and nutmeg

B) if you are looking for a consistency similar to apple butter, I would suggest running the warm banana mixture though a blender at slow speed before you add the sugar and pectin.

While I am very pleased with the results of this recipe, my next batch (and yes, we still have lots of frozen bananas in our freezer.. ) will be an attempt at making Strawberry/Banana Jam.

Posted in Montana Life | Tagged | Leave a comment

Why Eric Cantor Lost

Occam’s Razor -  states that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Other, more complicated solutions may ultimately prove correct, but—in the absence of certainty—the fewer assumptions that are made, the better.

The political world is basically losing their collective mind over the recent loss by House Representative Eric Cantor – the Republican Representative from Virginia’s Seventh Congressional District and the number 2 man in the Republican Leadership in the US House – in his primary against a relatively unknown and underfunded Tea Party Candidate, Dave Brat. Everyone seems to have a theory (or a list of reasons) why Cantor lost ranging from Cantor’s arrogance, to the resurgence of the Tea Party. What surprises me about all this is that the most obvious reason is basically being ignored.

That wasn’t a far statement. There are a few pundits that did mention the obvious, but they failed to follow up on their statements. In fact, one pundit not only mentioned it, he based his entire article on it – and then concluded that it was so obvious, it couldn’t be the reasons.

The reason Eric Cantor lost is because only 13% of the registered voters in his district showed up to actually vote. It is as simple as that. 65,000 voters voted in the primary. In 2012, 381,000 people voted from that district in the election. The number of actual registered voters is even higher. It didn’t take a lot for even an unknown candidate like Brat to win. It is simple math.

Most of the national pundits are making their lists or claiming to have the answers why Cantor lost. Paul Krugman is claiming it is due to the death of “Movement Conservatism” - where a candidate runs on one platform and then moves to another platform after winning. I would almost buy into that argument if “Movement Conservatism” (or “Movement Liberalism” was the watchword of the day in today’s politics. Leigh Ann Caldwell of CNN gives her seven reasons why Cantor lost. In truth, I don’t necessarily disagree with any of her reason – except that they are symptoms of the problem with American Politics and can probably be said of almost every candidate running for re-election. Sally Kohn claims that Cantor lost because America is getting tired of the same old Republican Leadership. Again, I don’t buy it. There were REPUBLICANS that voted to oust Cantor in favor of a relatively unknown Tea Party candidate. I could go on listing reasons like Cantor’s compromises with the Democrats (that is a joke, but the punchline is that Brat used that platform as his running platform against Cantor), Cantor’s unwillingness to spend more time in Virginia, etc. It is all punditry at it’s finest and ignores the very large elephant in the room – the 13% voter turnout.

When you have 13% of the voting populous choosing your candidates for you, of course surprises like this happen. A little more than one voter in ten made this choice for Virginia’s Seventh District. All Brat had to do was convince one in ten people in his district that Cantor should be replaced. He obviously accomplished that task. Cantor is out and now the Republican hopes in that District are hung on a man who started out his new candidacy with the statement “I don’t have a well crafted response” to issue questions.

One pundit actually went down the road of voter turnout – Philip Bump of the Washington Post. He tries to make the claim that voter turnout couldn’t be the reasons because, in this primary election, 13% of the voters turned out instead of the smaller numbers in previous elections. I have to admit, when I read that only 13% of the voters turned out in this election, I thought it had to be a mistake or mistype. When I read Bump’s article, and found that in previous primary elections even less turned out, I am actually stunned. On average, less that 10% of that district’s voters turn out to vote. What the HELL?

The bottom line is this. Voting is a right guaranteed to the citizens of the US. Men (and women) have fought for that right and are continuing to fight for your right to vote. If you do not exercise that right, you are part of the problem. Eric Cantor lost his election because 83% of the voters in his district failed to get to the polls and exercise their right to choose their representative.

There is a short speech in one of my favorite movies of all time that addresses this -

Good evening, London. Allow me first to apologize for this interruption. I do, like many of you, appreciate the comforts of every day routine- the security of the familiar, the tranquility of repetition. I enjoy them as much as any bloke. But in the spirit of commemoration, whereby those important events of the past, usually associated with someone’s death or the end of some awful bloody struggle, a celebration of a nice holiday, I thought we could mark this November the 5th, a day that is sadly no longer remembered, by taking some time out of our daily lives to sit down and have a little chat. There are of course those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now, orders are being shouted into telephones, and men with guns will soon be on their way. Why? Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn’t be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now high chancellor, Adam Sutler. He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent. Last night I sought to end that silence. Last night I destroyed the Old Bailey, to remind this country of what it has forgotten. More than four hundred years ago a great citizen wished to embed the fifth of November forever in our memory. His hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than words, they are perspectives. So if you’ve seen nothing, if the crimes of this government remain unknown to you, then I would suggest you allow the fifth of November to pass unmarked. But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek, then I ask you to stand beside me one year from tonight, outside the gates of Parliament, and together we shall give them a fifth of November that shall never, ever be forgot.

If you want to know what is wrong in politics today – you have no further to look than your own mirror. We, the Voters, are failing this country. We are failing to demand better representation. We are failing to demand that only people have the right to determine our elections, not corporations. We are failing to hold our elected representatives to their word. We are failing to force our representatives to curb the excesses of the rich and bring back stability to our middle class. This is OUR failure and it is up to us to fix it. Eric Cantor lost because the people in his district failed to vote.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think Eric Cantor was a waste of space in Congress. He exemplifies many of the things that myself (and most of the voting populous) despise in our current politicians. All that said, the man that won the primary is far worse and it is the lazy, apathetic and disenfranchised voters of that district that have inflicted this moron on us all.

Posted in Federal, Politics, State | 2 Comments

Still here and some changes coming

As some of you know, last July, our lives changed pretty dramatically. To make a VERY long story short, my wife and I brought our daughter and her family back from Tennessee. This had to be done but it put a pretty big strain on both my wife and I. That is the reason this blog has gone almost dark since last summer. We were so busy taking care of things (ours and theirs) that I just didn’t have time to blog. Things have changed once again.

Our daughter and her family have moved into a place with another of our daughters and we now have the house to ourselves. It has been a month since they moved out and we almost have the house back together. There are some large projects we are doing now that we are alone, but I find I have time to start focusing on some of the things I like to do rather than the things I HAVE to do to keep things in one piece.

What this means for this blog is that I will be writing again. It also means I can pursue something I have wanted to do for some time – create an informational blog for some of the things I actively work with. The Road Less Traveled will remain active and it’s focus isn’t going to change much. I will still be discussing politics, Montana life and the things that strike me as “blog worthy”. The new blog will be primarily focused on Hiking, Guns and Shooting, Archery, Knives and Swords and Prepping/Self Reliant living. Since the new blog is primarily an informational site, I am sure that some of those discussions will find their way over here (those topics tend to breed political discussions and the new site will not allow for those discussions).

I have a number of things I want to talk about here already, but I am still working out the details. There are some interesting new developments with the Dillon Government, the State primaries are tomorrow, and the Federal Government is still the mess it has been for the last decade or so. I make no promises, but there WILL be more posts coming – and even some surprises in store. Hope to see you here…

Posted in Blogging | 1 Comment

Dillon Politics erupts again

Recently I posted about the fact that Mayor Malesich was defeated in the last election here in Dillon and that our new Mayor, Mike Klakkon would be taking over the position at the first of the year. As is normal in Dillon Politics, it didn’t take long for things to blow up completely. Stick with me here, there is a lot to discuss.

My history with Dillon Politics -

I am not a newcomer to Dillon Politics (as anyone that has been reading me for years knows). For four years, I followed Dillon politics – recording City Council meetings, City committee meetings, getting involved in elections etc. At one point, a “member of the city administration” contacted my ISP and threatened them with a suit if they didn’t take down my webpage. I changed ISP’s and continued to report on the City Government anyway. I was even arrested at the behest of Mayor Malesich and in collusion with the City Councilman (Swede Troaddson) my wife was running against for City Council. That story made statewide news, but nothing really changed in Dillon Government.

So when I say that I am used to Dillon Politics, it is coming from a position of having “been there and done that”. I have hundreds (if not thousands, I have never really counted) of hours of video and I have spent more time than I care to think about following Dillon City politics. It got to the point where I had to decide if it was worth it to continue following it or just focusing on the things that I needed to focus on – our house, my knife and sword making, and our life. I made the choice to stop spending 60 hours+ a week dealing with the idiocy.

A New Day –

Last November, the Dillon voters had a clear choice – Mayor Malesich and his “spend, spend, spend” mentality or Mike Klakken and his platform of reducing the cost of city government on the Dillon taxpayers. By a large majority, the people of Dillon chose Mike. Malesich, true to form, made some nasty remarks about both Mike Klakken and the Dillon Newspaper on his way out, but now Mike is the new Mayor.

What wasn’t well reported in the local paper was the situation with our City Councilmen. Dillon has four wards and each ward has two City Councilmen. For the last six years, those positions have been very hard to fill. In some cases, only the incumbent ran. In some cases, the incumbent was stepping down and only one candidate ran. Sadly, in most cases, NO ONE ran and the position was either appointed or a candidate submitted a last minute writein application – ensuring they would have the position with a single vote.

This last election was no different. Four city council positions were up for election. Three of the incumbents for those positions chose not to run . The one that did run (Lynn Westad) ran unopposed. In each of the three wards with no candidates, a single person submitted a write-in application. This ensures that they will have the position as long as a single person votes for them. NOT ONE OF THESE CANDIDATES WON A REAL ELECTION. They didn’t have to campaign, they did not have to find out what the voters wanted, and they serve no one but themselves.

I know two of the candidates that won this way. Swede Troaddson is the new Ward 4 councilman and given my experiences with Swede, you can imagine my joy that he is now “representing” the people of Ward 4. He couldn’t win in a real election so he took the backdoor and now he is making decisions for not only this Ward, but all the Wards of Dillon. He “won” with 25 votes.

The other candidate is Dick Achter. He previously served on the Dillon City Council and while I personally had no real issue with him, I questioned some of his votes while he served. I actually like Dick, but I am not sure how he will represent the citizens of Dillon. He “won” with 12 votes.

I know very little about William R Shafer, the new Councilman for Ward 3. He was not on the council while I was following the City Council so I have no idea what his politics are all about. He “won” with 16 votes.

While I applaud these councilmen (well, not Troaddson) for stepping up as Councilmen, I do not have any reason to believe that they represent anyone. They did not campaign, they did not have to talk to the people of their ward and they not did get “elected” in the traditional sense.

What it does, though, is reinforce the obvious disconnect between the City Government and the citizens of Dillon. I will get to more on that later.

The History of the War for Power –

Nothing short of an outright struggle for power existed in the Dillon City Government while I was recording it. Mayor Malesich presented himself as “The Decider” (yes, he actually said that at a city council meeting and I have it on tape). It was his contention that he was the final authority for all things relating to Dillon Government. He supported council members (like Swede) that supported his authority and did everything he could to drive off those council members that disagreed with him. The list of Council members driven off is long and many of them didn’t even finish out their terms. He was not above using personal attacks either – as evidenced by him having me arrested when my wife ran for office.

Many on the Council – at least those that weren’t in Marty’s inner circle – resented this power grab and many of the City Council meetings erupted in heated arguments, shouts and even threats of suits (usually by Malesich and his pet attorney Wilber, but sometimes by Councilmen themselves). Malesich declared himself the “Chief law enforcement Officer” of the city – supposedly giving him some kind of special rights in enforcing his agenda and based on a misrepresented “interpretation” of an Attorney General Opinion. Malesich claimed the right to decide legislative issues through the use of a “tie breaking vote” when he could only get four of eight council members to support his agenda. This situation continued on up to the time he left office. It is no wonder that the Dillon City Council is concerned about the new Mayor and how he will deal with the City Council.

The Situation Now –

Mike Klakken ran for Mayor on a platform of fiscal responsibility. It is not a surprise to anyone that actually lives in Dillon that his platform was successful. In the last eight years, we have seen out water and sewer bills doubled, our Street maintenance tax go up by 254%, other taxes in the city increase and we were saddled with just short of 10 million dollars of debt in just the last two years for Malesich’s pet projects. The people of Dillon spoke with their ballot – they are done with the ridiculous increase in public spending by the City Government. They elected Mike to reign in public spending and MIKE KLAKKEN WON THE ELECTION BY A FAIRLY LARGE MARGIN. The people of Dillon made it clear what they wanted.

It is no surprise that many in Dillon aren’t happy with the City Attorney – Wilber Gilbert III. He was the threat behind every nasty statement the Mayor made. Malesich should have trademarked the phrase “If you don’t like it, Sue me”, he said it so often in City Council meetings. In fact, at one point, I had a montage of Malesich saying it over and over in different meetings on my blog. Malesich liked to go to court and everytime he took us there, Gilbert made thousands – regardless of whether we won or lost. In one year, the city shelled out over 95,000$ to Gilbert, making him the highest paid public city attorney in Montana. This is an area that we can certainly save money on. There is no reason Dillon should be funding such a sum for a City Attorney. If Gilbert wants to make a fortune, let him make it in the private sector – where he actually has to, you know, work.

Likewise with our city Treasurer, Ty Cobb. Dillon didn’t have a full time Treasurer before Malesich appointed Cobb and then increased his part time position to full time. Many believe that Dillon doesn’t need one – in fact, few cities our size do. The fact that Ty Cobb makes just short of 50K is ludicrous. This is another area that the City of Dillon should save money on.

Now both of these positions serve at the pleasure of the Mayor. This is written into our ordinances. The Mayor appoints those positions and the City Council approves them. That was one of the things that got Malesich in trouble – he signed the contract for Wilber without City Council approval. It was one of the charges in the Recall against Malesich that Judge Tucker upheld.

The Struggle begins –

It should come as no surprise that the Dillon City Council would want to push back some of the authority that Malesich usurped while in office. I know if I sat on the City Council, that would be one of my concerns. Unfortunately, they took it too far. Like any power pendulum, they dug in their feet and by deciding not to work with the Mayor, they have created a very broken City Government.

It should also come as no surprise that the one that kicked it off was Troaddson. The City Council meetings started off well enough and it was obvious that Mike was willing to work with the City Council from the beginning. One of the council members wanted the public comment moved to the back of the agenda (an idea that was originally proposed by Malesich to cut down on city residents commenting, but I will get to that later) and Mike was willing to do that. Then the shitstorm happened. Mike went to get his appointments approved.

Let’s be very clear on this. The ordinances are easy to read and quite specific – the Mayor Appoints certain positions in City Government and the City Council has the right to approve or disapprove the appointments. THE CITY COUNCIL DOES NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO APPOINT THOSE POSITIONS.

Klakken wanted to appoint James Dolan (the attorney that is currently representing the city part-time with Wilber) to the position of City Attorney full time. Dolan was willing to do the position for 30.000$ less than the city is currently paying both Dolan and Gilbert. That is a savings of $30,000 EVERY YEAR – a significant chunk of change.

Klakken also wanted to appoint Neal D Straus to the position of City Treasurer and take that position back to a half time position – again a savings to tens of thousands of dollars for the City.

The meeting went downhill from there. There was shouting, accusations and some less than helpful input from our crazier element (like Norma Duffy). I recommend you watch the video (start at about eight minutes in). In my opinion, no one really handled the situation well (other than the lawyer that explained why Lynn Westad was an idiot, but .. well.. we already knew that). It should also come as no surprise that the one to start the idiocy was none other than Swede Troaddson – the city is going to pay dearly for him being back on the city council.

The bottom line is that the council voted to NOT to allow those two appointments. The problem is that it leaves our City in a very interesting position. Gilbert and Ty’ contracts have expired. They expired the first of the year. Since Klakken hasn’t appointed them, they technically aren’t working for the city in those positions. Since the City Council refused to allow Klakken’s appointments to those positions, those positions are technically vacant. This is what happens when egos get in the way of governance. To be fair, there is a line in the ordinances at the very end of the Mayor’s section that says that the appointed officers can serve the city until new officers are appointed, but that leaves the city in some legal gray area – most especially in the area of city finances. It also opens up the city to suit as neither of these individuals are operating under contract.

The City and the City Government -

More than half the people in this city can’t tell you who their councilmen are. They used to be able to, but not now. In point of fact, most simply don’t care anymore. There is a very good reason for that.

When I first started recording city council meetings, it wasn’t unusual for me to have to jockey for a seat where I could set up my video recorder. I would arrive before the doors were open and be the first one through the door so I could set up. There were the people that ALWAYS attended, but there were also usually at least 10 – 12 members of the community that were there to give input or to listen about some new ordinance being considered.

In the four years I recorded the city council meetings, that number dropped over time – and there were lots of good reasons for it. First, when the public was asked to come to a council meeting to give input on an item, the vote on the item was scheduled immediately after that public input. In essence, the city government was saying we want your input but we aren’t going to listen to it – we will do what we want and if you don’t like it, you can sue us. Then came the many attempts to completely silence public input – proposals to limit who could talk to the city council and how long they could talk, threats of arrest if anyone pissed off the mayor or council, policies to prevent city council meetings from being recorded, moving the public comment to the back of the agenda so the public would have to wait through a 2 – 3 hour meeting before expressing their concerns to the city Council - the list goes on. Longtime residents have been told that their opinion doesn’t matter for so long that they have accepted that and moved on. Very few people here in Dillon believe that anything we say or do will matter at all when it comes to City Government. I confess that I, too, am pretty much of that opinion.. UNDER MALESICH. Now things have changed – at least I hope.

People stopped running for City Council positions. The people that were appointed – more often than not – were people that would support Malesich’s agenda even when it went against the will of the people of the city. City Councilmen stopped being seen as representatives and more as pawns in Marty’s power game. Fewer people ran for positions until it got to the point that the only people running were people invested in the supposed authority of the position.

Then you have the local paper – The Dillon Tribune. I have written before that the Dillon Tribune is pretty much a PR paper for the City but that is somewhat unfair. It used to report at least some of the more interesting things that occurred at City Hall. They were on top of the story when Malesich and Troaddson had me arrested. They questioned some of the more questionable actions by the City Government. Then – all of a sudden – all that ended and it ended overnight. The story is that the reporter making writing those articles got chewed out because friends of the Mayor’s were calling the paper and threatening to pull their advertising. Personally, I don’t know. I do know that in a span of less than a month, reporting on City Hall dwindled to fluff peices. When the Tribune reported on City matters, it was always perfunctory and vague. Facts were in short supply and very little controversy was reported. When there was controversy reported, it was almost as if the paper was trying to start controversy. Very few Dillon citizens (at least the ones that have not stopped caring altogether) see the Dillon Tribune as good source of information on our city Government.

If you want an example, you don’t have to go any farther than our most recent edition (the Trib is only published once a week). The Headline of the front page article is “Who’s the boss” – Mayor, council could clash over appointments. It is obviously meant to stir controversy and they succeeded in spades, though they missed a few pertinent facts along the way.

Now it was already understood that there was going to be some acrimony over the appointments. Everyone in town knew that Klakken probably wouldn’t appoint Wilber back the position of City Attorney. It was also pretty much assumed that Klakken would not keep Cobb either. I am guessing (but it is an educated guess given the comments I have gotten from my blog post on the election) that many people who voted against Malesich were also voting against Gilbert and some of the other members of the Malesich administration. Rumors were running rampant in town and one of our real Crazies posted online how Klakken was going to fire “everyone” in the city administration. Those of us that actually asked Klakken, knew that he was trying to save the city some money by replacing Gilbert and Cobb.

What really irritated me about the Trib article is that they used Swede Troaddson as the “counterpoint” to the Mayor’s desire to appoint the new Treasurer and Attorney. They list Swede Troaddson as having been “elected” in Ward 3 (he is the Ward 4 councilman) and that he had taken a hiatus from serving on the council. Bullshit. Troaddson didn’t take a hiatus, he didn’t retire, he was soundly defeated in a real election by my wife. He didn’t represent our Ward then and he certainly will not represent out Ward now. He wasn’t elected, he was handed the booby prize by submitting a writein application the last day of the application period. I guess that would have ruined the narrative, though.

The article fails to mention that the appointments were being made to save the city tens of thousands of dollars, they fail to do any kind of fact checking at all in that article. Swede’s insistence that it is the authority of the City Council to appoint those positions is absolutely NOT supported by our ordinances and as a former City Councilman he should have known that. Swede’s insistence that Klakken would have to wait until those people retire or “screw up so bad” that the council removes them is also not in keeping with our ordinances. The office holders in question work by contract and appointment. Both appointments are up as of the first of the year and Klakken is within his right to make those appointments.

Well, the jury is in. The City Council, led by Swede Troaddson, made it into a pissing contest and once again, the citizens of Dillon are screwed, our city government is not operating in accordance with our ordinances or law and there appears to be nothing we can do about it – in other words, business as usual.

Posted in Local, Politics | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Breaking: Major Change in the Montana US House race

Recently, I posted about the Montana US House Race. Today, an announcement was made that makes this race a lot easier to figure out.

As I posted in my last article, Former US House Representative, Dennis Rehberg was considering entering the race. This would have made him the presumptive Candidate for that seat, and in all likelihood, he would have won. Today, he announced that he has decided to not enter the race because he wants to focus on his family and businesses. This changes the complexion of the race completely.

On the Republican side, not much has changed. The race is currently a four way race between Corey Stapleton, Matthew Rosendale, Ryan Zinke, and Drew Turiano. Former Montana Secretary of State Brad Johnson is considering a run in this race and  State Sen. Elsie Arntzen of Billings claims that she will be entering the race next week.

On the Democratic side, there is only John Lewis. A number of other candidates MIGHT enter the race (the cutoff date is March 10th) but it is unlikely at this point.

As of this time, there is also an Independent in the race – Shawn White Wolf - and it appears the Billings Gazette article completely overlooked him. This is a bad idea but I will get to that later.

The reason I said this race has now become a lot easier to parse is that – without Rehberg in the race – the race becomes a lot simpler. With four to six Republicans in the race, the primary battle will become brutal, ugly and damaging. We need only look at what happened in 2012 with the Governor’s race to see that. The Republican candidates unloaded on each other far more than any Democratic candidates did and the winner of that primary was damaged goods as a result (not that Hill was a great candidate to begin with). Expect this primary fight to be even bloodier because, with the exception of Stapleton and Zinke, there isn’t a lot to distinguish the difference in the other candidates. To make an impression, expect at least four of the six candidates to go on a quest to show “how conservative” they are – meaning just how wingnut they can get. Zinke will stay above it for a couple of reasons – not the least of which is that his voting record is hardly conservative in the traditional sense. Stapleton will flirt with the wingnut right (like he did in the Governor’s race) but he can’t afford to alienate his strength – the young republicans that favor him over any of the other candidates.

In my opinion, it will likely come down to Stapleton and Zinke. Zinke has more money than Stapleton but he is (rightly) seen as an outsider – someone who spends more time cozying up to interests outside Montana rather than representing Montana. Both Zinke and Stapleton can claim a military background (though Zinke has already tried to misrepresent his military background for effect) and both have some name recognition. Brad Johnson can claim name recognition but it isn’t a good thing for him because that name recognition is also tied to a number of very public scandals. Expect the other candidates to take full advantage of those scandals during the primary.

Regardless of who wins the primary, they then have to face off against Lewis and White Wolf. Lewis has proven to be a fundraising machine (raising millions even before the first of the year) and he has political connections all over Montana given his previous job as State Director for Senator Max Baucus. He is also likely to inherit at least some funds from his former boss.

Lewis has a lot going for him. He seems to be well spoken, he is active in both social media and with the more mainstream media, and he is young. He projects both confidence and energy and I fully expect him to come with an already prepared platform. I have seen at least two ads for Lewis and they are both professionally done and will appeal to the Democratic base – especially the youth base that is so important in Montana. Since a midterm election is all about getting out the vote, it is easy to see that Lewis will probably be good at getting out the younger vote.

More importantly – given that Rehberg bowed out – Lewis’s campaign just got a whole lot easier. Instead of campaigning against a presumptive candidate like Rehberg starting today, Lewis can spend the next six months (until the primary) watching the Republican candidates eat each other while he works to get his name on the tongues of every single Montana voter. He can run a completely clean, issue driven campaign until the primary and by the time the dust settles on the Republican side, Lewis will be the candidate to beat.

The Wild card in all this is Shawn White Wolf. I am ashamed to say I know very little about him. He ran for the Montana house of Representatives in 2010 and at this point, I can’t even tell you what district he ran in. I know very little about this candidate other than he is a Native American and he was a counselor for the Montana United Indian Association.

What I can tell you is that he is already active on social media. Just two days ago, he took Bohlinger to task for something Bohlinger put up on his facebook site. Shawn has a facebook presence, a twitter account and a LinkedIn account. Like me, he claims to be a fiscal conservative and a social progressive. To quote the KXLH article -

White Wolf he said he’s not going to immediately reveal his stances on any major issues.

Instead, he plans to travel around the state listening to voters and trying to get the 12,000 signatures it will take to get on the ballot.

It sounds like he is serious about this candidacy and it raises a number of questions. Follow me for a second…

Traditionally, the Native vote in Montana has gone predominately Democrat. This shouldn’t come as any surprise given that it is usually the Democrats that are concerned about Native American issues and it is usually the Republicans that are trying to suppress the Native American vote (I wonder how Brad Johnson feels about a Native American in the US House Race?). More importantly, he is laser focused on the issue most likely to resonate with Montana voters – both Democrat and Republican – JOBS.

Usually, when there is a third party candidate in a Montana election, it is either a libertarian (see, the US Senate Race in 2012) or a Republican running as an independent to bypass a primary challenge. These candidates usually suck voters from the Republican side of the equation. With a Native American candidate, running on a platform designed around jobs and improving the Montana economy, will he take votes from the Republicans or the Democrats?

It will be interesting to see how this race develops. I can see Lewis taking a fairly significant lead before the Republican Primary is decided and I am not convinced that the Republican candidate will be able to bounce back enough to defeat Lewis in the general election - assuming that Shawn doesn’t upset the race with his campaign. Given Shawn’s online presence, as well as the online presences of the Republicans in this race, expect a loud, dirty and bloody campaign, though.

And before anyone asks, I am not picking a favorite in this race yet. I don’t know enough about all the candidates to pick this race. I will admit to liking Lewis at first blush. I definitely do NOT like a number of the Republican candidates (Brad Johnson needs to simply fall back under the rock he crawled out from under). I don’t know enough about Shawn White Wolf to like or dislike him, though I do like the focus he has already put on jobs. The telling point will be if he can actually follow up that focus with real, workable plans to address the issue. If he does – expect him to pick up a LOT of support.

 

 

Posted in Politics, State | Tagged | 1 Comment

On Monster Making

I sat down today to write a post about LR-121, a rather disgusting piece of racist legislation passed here in Montana and now being held up in the courts. I got into a “Discussion” about this legislation with Ingemar Johannson on Intelligent Discontent this morning and it seemed like a good topic. While I was working on that article, I ran across another article on Montana Cowgirl (yes, I am doing a trial run on that site now that the Cowgirl is moderating comments) about a Montana House race for District 84 (Helena). The article had some factual issues and I commented on those issues, but what struck me was the connection between these two articles – the attempt by both Republicans and Democrats to “Monster Make”.

Anyone that has been around the Montana political blogs for a while should be able to remember Rob’s series of articles on Monster Making a number of years back. They were well written and made the point very well – even if they did focus only on the Republican attempts to do so. They really need to make another appearance (HINT HINT, Rob) because they are just as germane now as they were then.

In the intelligent Disconnect article, Don was pointing out the failings of one of the more disgusting Montana Representatives – David Howard, Senate District 29. This Republican makes no effort to hide his racist and bigoted agenda. He is responcible for a number of really vile things but one of his crowning “achievements” was selling LR – 121 to the Montana Public. LR – 121 was a bill aimed at the horrible problem of Illegal Aliens in Montana -

AN ACT DENYING CERTAIN STATE-FUNDED SERVICES TO ILLEGAL ALIENS; ESTABLISHING PROCEDURES FOR DETERMINING A PERSON’S CITIZENSHIP STATUS; PROVIDING THAT THE PROPOSED ACT BE SUBMITTED TO THE QUALIFIED ELECTORS OF MONTANA; AND PROVIDING AN EFFECTIVE DATE AND AN APPLICABILITY DATE.

Now while I will be writing a post about this legislation (and it is really just as disgusting as it is unconstitutional), I want to point out that this legislation was passed by the voters of Montana – 79.51% to 20.49%. That is a landslide and there is no other way to look at it. So how did Howard manage to sell an unconstitutional and blatantly bigoted bill to the people of Montana in such a way as to get almost 80% of the voters (liberal and conservative alike) to vote for it? Easy. Monster Making.

When Howard set out to get this bill passed, he created a Monster for the voting public – the filthy, disgusting and greedy Illegal Alien. He told us that these leeches were sucking our treasury dry with their constant attempts to gain free services and goods from the state. Most Montanans were so enthralled by this monster story, they never stopped to ask a few basic questions like “How many illegal aliens are there really in Montana?” and “How much money in public services are these illegal aliens actually getting?”. In point of fact, these questions were never answered by Howard or his group (though they were answered by those that opposed this legislation – the answers were just ignored).

Howard had put the monster in the very room with us and we were so afraid of the monster, we swung that pen and put a stake through the very heart of the monster by passing this legislation – a piece of legislation that will cost Montana taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars if it is ever allowed to be enforced.

Now the dust has cleared and the lights are up. The workers are sweeping the popcorn out of the aisles and we realize that we – in our fear of the Monster – passed a horrible piece of racist legislation. This law was legally challenged before the ink was even dry and the courts (rightly) found it lacking - in every way. An injunction was slapped against it and now it sits – another piece of paper with crap written on it – until the courts make a final decision. It will be found unconstitutional (like every other bill of this nature has been found unconstitutional) but Howard gets to pat himself on the back for saving us from the Monsters.

The Cowgirl article uses the same kind of Monster Making only it is the Democrat version. In her article about Mary Dunwell filling as a candidate in House District 84, she attempts to create a Monster out of the Republican incumbent for that seat. She attempts to tie Rep Steve Gibson to failed Republican Representative Todd Akin. Unless you live under a rock, you know who Todd Akin is. He is the idiot that coined the phrase “legitimate rape” and made the statement that women shouldn’t have to worry about pregnancy after a “legitimate rape” because “the body will shut the whole thing down”. Now I completely agree that Todd Akin is a disgusting piece of crap that should have been flushed down the political toilet long before he was finally defeated, but with no real evidence or source, Cowgirl attempts to scare liberals by trying to link Gibson to Akin.

This is a much weaker attempt at Monster making than the previous example and it fails quickly on even a cursory examination. That said, it is still Monster Making and just as duplicitous as the Howard example.

Fact is, Democrats have never been as good at Monster Making as the Republicans have (at least not in my experience). I am sure Rob has his own reasons why that is, but I believe it is for a very simple reason. Conservatives are easier to manipulate with Monster Making than liberals are. Stay with me for second.

Conservatives – at their very core – are about maintaining and fixing the status quo. They do not like change and any change that does occur has to be done in a slow, measured way. Liberals, on the other hand, embrace change – in fact, they thrive on it. It is one of the things that makes compromise in our political system so important – unrestrained change leads to chaos, and no change leads to stagnation. The compromise between these two makes America the Great Experiment.

Because conservatives don’t like change -even resist change violently – creating a Monster is easy. Creating a monster for a liberal is much harder and takes a great deal more work. Liberals are also more likely to question the monster… let’s examine the monster and see if really is a monster… I am not saying that liberals are any smarter than conservatives – just that they tend to question things more.

Let’s be clear here – Monster Making is dishonest and should be called no matter who is doing it. If we are going to have clear and honest debate about the issues we face today, we need to leave the special effects and makeup kit at home. Let’s all take the time to look behind the mask and stop accepting Monster Making.

Posted in Federal, Local, Politics, State | Tagged | 5 Comments

The Big Tent Joke

Back in the late 70′s, when I first started to vote, the world was a very different place – and so was American Politics. The Republicans were the party of the working man. They were the ones wearing the crew cuts, with the pocket protectors and were the engineers, workers and manufacturers that made the American Economy run on time. The Left were the anarchists that wanted to burn the government to the ground, save the flowers and plant the trees. At that time, there were really only two parties and both could actually claim to be “big tent” parties. Each party ran the gambit from the ultra partisan to the moderates. Independents were something entirely different then than they are now.

Over the last 3 plus decades, I have watched the evolution of those parties into what they are now. The left is far more moderate than they were when I started voting and a typical middle of the road democrat today would have been considered either an independent or moderate Republican then. There are still members of the left that would be very happy to burn our governmental system to the ground and start over, but they are more the fringe, rather than the norm. The modern Democrats are interested in fiscal responcibility and they are far more friendly to business than they ever were. While they still cling to the idea of “Governmental solutions” to everything, they are often correct in making that distinction, given the failure of private sector to address issues. Much of this change is due to the “Rebranding” done to the Democratic Party by President Clinton after two decades of steady defeats at the hands of the Republicans.

On the other hand, I have watched the party of Ike, become the party of Corporatism, Cronyism and Evangelicals. I have seen the concept of “get yours, meathead” take such a hold on the Republican party, I have wonder if there is anyway back from that. Just the idea of “trickle down” economics is so blatantly ridiculous, you have to wonder how anyone ever bought into it in the first place. There are now at least seven “third” parties that I can think of off the top of my head, and even though they don’t do any better in elections than they did in the 70′s, they are far more vocal, active and influential than ever before.

The other thing about politics today, is that the idea of a “big tent” party politics is gone. Not just less obvious, not just weakened, but dead with a stake through it’s heart. Both parties claim to be “Big Tent” but their claims are beyond laughable. The Democrats have more of a claim to the idea of “Big Tent” but even they are becoming more Corporatists and less voter centric. They spend more time fighting the very people they should be embracing  – their moderates – than they do the opposing party. The end result of all this is entire section of the American voting populous that is disenfranchised. I am sadly caught in that gray area between the parties. The result of this hyper partisanship is obvious to the most casual observer – the most “Do nothing Congress” in decades, the Government shutdown, the stalled recovery from the Great Recession… the list goes on. Worse, it is the average American that is paying for these avoidable situations.

The idea that the Republicans aren’t Big Tent anymore is painfully obvious and often pointed out by the national media. They have lost touch completely with minorities, they have embraced their evangelicals (kicking those of us that aren’t evangelical to the curb) and they have given in to the hard, rigid right exemplified by the Tea Party Patriots. Unlike many Montana blog writers, I do not for a second believe that all Republicans buy into the Tea party Bullshit, but I do believe that they fear a primary challenge so much from these people that they give in quietly to their demands. During the Government shutdown – engineered by the Tea party Republicans – many Republican Congressmen expressed their belief that what they were doing was wrong but they feared the consequences of bucking the Tea party or the Republican Leadership. Speaker Boner could have stopped the whole thing but he was afraid of losing his leadership position if he went against the wishes of the loud mouthed minority in his party. No one with two brain cells to rub together would ever consider the Republicans the “The Big Tent” party.

Sadly, though it goes unreported and unlamented, the Democrats have adopted a similar stance with their party. No Montana Democrat exemplified this more than Norma Duffy – failed candidate for the Montana House race in District 72. On Democratic blogs she viscously attacks any left leaning person who doesn’t immediately and fawningly concede to her obvious superiority. If anyone has the temerity to argue with her, she doesn’t argue the issue, she dives into Google to look her “harasser” up in an insane attempt to find any kind of dirt she can on the person. She has even gone so far as to call county officials in Jefferson County in an attempt to get one person in legal trouble after he made the mistake of arguing with her. This is face of the modern Democratic Party in Montana.

I would like to say that I am joking, but even the Montana Cowgirl Blog (at one time, the most viewed left leaning blog in Montana), has given into her insanity. After recent dustups on the Cowgirl site involving Norma and another “interesting” individual, Larry Kralj harassing numerous commenters to the point that the Cowgirl site was dubbed a “toxic waste dump”, Cowgirl instituted a policy that the comments would be moderated. Even as multiple people were heaving a sigh of relief, though, Cowgirl posted a fawning and directed appeal to Norma to come back to the site. Norma.. the one that claimed that Democrats should undergo a “purity test” to be considered Democrats and called my brother – a man that has publicly supported Montana Democrats for decades with his money, blood, sweat and tears – a “Republican Plant”. Any question of whether the Cowgirl site will remain a toxic waste dump have been answered.

Anyone that even hints that either party is the “Big Tent” party at this point is laughable. It should come as no surprise that Montana is headed back to being a solid “Red” state. Unless something radically changes between now and November, the Democrats will lose one of the two Senate seats to a Republican. It is also quite likely (in fact, a given if Rehberg enters the race) that the US House seat will stay Republican. The Montana Legislature is solidly hard right and the PSC seat being vacated is likely to go to one of the most radical, batshit crazy, hard right politicians in Montana. There is little movement to stop it because the Democrats are so busy purifying their brand that they can’t get it together to win an election.

The really sad thing about all this is that moderates like me (and likely the majority of the Montana voting population) are not represented by either of these extremes. We have to suffer through the insanity that these extreme politicians want to force on us. If the hard right wins, the working poor suffer (for example, the move to deny the Medicaid expansion leaving 70,000 working Montana families out in the cold when it comes to health insurance). If the hard left wins, we get to deal with things like assault weapon bans that do nothing to address real crime and bloated governmental initiatives that stifle business growth and put even more people out of work. There is no “win” in any of this and until one of the two parties actually wakes the hell up, we can expect more of the same…

Addendum - as an introduction into an upcoming post and a link to what I am talking about here, I would like to point out that – in my not so humble opinion – no Political party is more adept at turning a working, positive situation into a complete defeat. Eight years ago, under one of the most popular (and Democratic) Governor the State of Montana has had, the Democrats controlled every major State position in Government and Elected a moderate Democrat (Senator Tester) over the incumbent Republican (Conman Burns) to the second Montana Senate Seat. Even the State legislature (which granted was nominally Republican) seemed for the most part sane and effective. Now, 8 years later, our Legislature is a nutcase shambles that has made national news for it’s bat shit crazy antics, the Democrats barely carried most of the high State political positions and lost the Attorney General’s office to a Republican that is openly wingnut. This year, unless something radically changes, the PSC will go completely Republican, the Senate Seat held by Democrat Max Baucus will be taken by Corporatist Steve Daines and the House seat held by Daines will likely go Republican (definitely if Rehberg enters the race as he is rumored to be doing). The Democrats in Montana are going to piss away the gains they made under Schweitzer and when the dust settles, they will huddle around and wonder where it all went. Me, not so much. I will just have to deal with the consequences.

Posted in Federal, Local, Politics, State | 4 Comments

The Echo Chambers we live in

It is no secret that we, in America, are currently experiencing the most hyper-partisan political environment we have had in over a century. It is reported in the news (both local and national) and even the news from other countries poke fun at us for it. Moreover, there is more than ample evidence that that hyper-partisanship has cause us real damage, both financial and societal. So why, given the damage this has done, don’t we do something about it?

There are lots of reason but (in my not so humble opinion) one of the lead causes is that we currently live in a state of echo chambers. For those that don’t recognize the term, it simply means to exist in a state where the people around you share your views and echo your own views back to you.

Again, this shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. In 2012, when the Republicans were reeling from the defeat they suffered in their Presidential race (as well as many House, Senate and State races), some of the more aware members of that party got together to try to figure out why they lost and how they didn’t see it coming. The so called Autopsy report pointed out many reasons for this loss but near the top of the list was the idea that they spent too much time listening to each other and not enough time listening to the people that actually… you know… vote. They relied too heavily on “internal polls” which skewed the actual reaction of the voting public in their favor and they were so busy patting themselves on the back for doing a good job (Good job, Brownie…) that they missed the fact that America wasn’t so convinced.

Sadly, this state of affairs is not just a Republican thing. Look at any Democratic or self identified Left Leaning blog and then look at the comments. In those comments, anyone having a viewpoint not in lockstep with the authors of the blog are vilified and insulted. Anyone expressing a similar view is congratulated and idolized. Some blogs even go to the extent of allowing commenters to break the stated rules as long as the commenter is attacking someone with a differing view. The end result is a blog that has lost touch with the reality of electorate and only beholden to their own views – sometimes in complete disregard to logic or history.

I get that it is easy it deal with people who agree with and share your own views. It really is. You don’t have to justify your stances, you don’t even have to use accurate information. They eat up whatever you say – as long as it jives with their own opinion.

Sadly, America is not homogeneous. We represent the entire spectrum ranging to radical, nutcase left to radical nutcase right. We have Greens, Anarchists, Socialists, Communists, liberals, progressives, moderates, independents,  libertarians, Constitutionalists, neo-cons, evangelicals, Tea party “patriots”, and ultra conservatives. When an echo chamber ignores that simple fact, they not only do a disservice to the electorate, they do a disservice to themselves.

To accomplish anything in this political ideological mess, you have to be able to work with the people around you, regardless of whether they share your ideology or not. If you start by insulting their ideology or by calling everyone self identifying with that ideology “morons”, “idiots” or “earth haters” or “hippy communists”, you stop any chance of them EVER working with you and it ends up one big tug of war where everyone loses.

In general, everyone believes that their ideology is “right” or they wouldn’t identify as that ideology. When you start a discussion with “your ideology is wrong” (even if it is…), you have ended the discussion, whether you know it or not. Moreover, when that person attacks you for your ideology, you have no one else to blame than yourself. You created a hostile environment from the start, they are just responding to it.

It is time we get out of the echo chambers we have built around ourselves. It is time we put away the rhetoric of strife, inflexibility and hatred and it is long past time that we start working together. If we don’t, the pain we suffered with the economic crash of 2007 will be nothing to coming financial crash created solely by our inability to work together as a country. Instead of spending hours of the day explaining to anyone who will listen how “dumb” or “uneducated” the opposing side is, spend those hours trying to find a common ground with them because no one wins if we don’t figure out how to do that.

Before anyone says it, I am just as guilty of the name calling as anyone else. I do try to save my name calling for particular individuals that actually exemplify the name I am using but sometimes I get a little carried away and speak in generalities. I have tried to work on that, but I am human and make mistakes, too.

Posted in Federal, Local, Politics, State | 1 Comment

I am a Shooting Enthusiast

I am a shooting enthusiast. That does not mean that I am a “gun nut” or a “2nd Amendmenter” or any other derogatory term you wish to apply to me. I am a shooting enthusiast and it means that I like to shoot. I own guns, I shoot guns on a semi-regular basis and I enjoy participating in gun related activities. I also happen to be an amateur gunsmith – which is just added value to me to being a shooting enthusiast.

I know the difference between an M4A1 Assault rifle (the selective fire carbine currently in use by the US military forces), an H&K MP5 selective fire Personal Defense Weapon and a Bushmaster Varminter Sporting rifle. Calling the Bushmaster rifle “an assault rifle” will not only generate a laugh from me, it will tell me you have no idea what you are talking about. If you want to have a discussion with me about guns, please for the love of whatever deity you hold holy, learn something about what you are talking about.

As a gun enthusiast, I enjoy talking about guns. This does not mean I “worship” guns or that I sleep with one clutched tightly to my breast at night. It does not mean that my guns are “penile extensions” or “macho enhancers”. It simply means I like to talk about guns. I have studied the engineering behind them, I have studied their history and I have even studied their function. I know why most military rifles have pistol grips and I know why there is a difference between a piston driven AR and a direct gas impingement AR. Some people study cars, some study horses, I have studied guns. It has made me a better shooter and it aids in my gunsmithing. This does not make me crazy, paranoid or mentally deranged. Quit treating me as if it did.

I am not a member of the NRA. I am not interested in being a member of the NRA. I personally feel that the NRA has lost sight of it’s originally purpose and now serves as nothing more than a mouthpiece for the gun manufacturing industry. I do not support lobbyists and I certainly do not support an organization that no longer has my best interests at heart. I do not need the NRA to tell me who to vote for and I think the way the NRA has inserted itself in American politics is destructive. Stop trying to get me to join the NRA. Until the NRA gets back to it’s gun safety roots, we have parted ways.

Don’t try to bullshit me with false talking points. I am very aware of the reality of gun deaths in the US and probably understand them better than you do. First and foremost, gun deaths does NOT equal gun violence. Any attempt on your part to equate the two will result in the afore mentioned laughter. Gun violence is NOT just an American phenomenon (though I will grant that the US has more than any other country) and psychos with guns can be found likewise all over the world. Don’t try to tell me that gun violence is worse now than it was 10 years ago, because that is blatantly wrong. Gun violence has gone down fairly consistently for decades – in part because of better law enforcement tools.

Likewise, do not try to tell me that there is nothing we can do to make gun violence go down. That is utter bullshit. Nor do we have to infringe on the right (yes, I used the word Right) of gun ownership to reduce gun crime. A basic background check is not an infringement of your rights and it can, in fact, create a speedbump to the illegal purchase of a firearm by someone that shouldn’t have one. Yes, I do believe that some people shouldn’t have access to firearms – especially those people that have proven they are a danger to society. I was at the forefront of the NRA push for universal background checks two decades ago and I find the NRA’s stance today laughable. I think that people who use firearms to commit crimes should go away for longer periods of time and there would even be jail space for them if we would simply stop jailing people for smoking a weed – but that is an argument for another time. Nothing will eliminate gun violence completely, but there are things we can do to reduce that violence.

Likewise, stop trying to tell me that “assault rifles” should be banned because they contribute to gun violence. Less than 3% of all gun crime in the last ten years were done with a military style rifle (in fact, due to the fact that the Dept of Justice has a hard time tracking what is an “assault rifle” and what is a sporting rifle, the actual percentage is probably lower than that – per the director of the Dept of Justice). Whether a firearm is capable of carrying 5 rounds or 50 seems to make no difference at all in whether that weapon will be used in a crime. Making laws based on what a firearm “looks like” is asinine, in my opinion. Don’t bother to try to change my mind on that, either. I am pretty comfortable making that statement given the lack of effect the Brady Act had on gun crime. Accept some simple facts at this point – the first being that it is almost impossible to separate military style rifles from sporting rifles today. They are the same. Every major firearms manufacturer makes a military style rifle for sporting and the AR style sporting rifle is the most popular rifle on the market. It is so popular, in fact, that they now make that rifle in almost every popular sporting round – .243, .270, .308, 30-06, hell, they are even coming out with .300 win mag AR. I personally have no use for a .223 rifle, but they seem damn popular with other shooting enthusiasts.

Quit trying to convince me that President Obama will, single handedly, come to take my guns away (supposedly prying them from my cold dead fingers). That simply isn’t going to happen. No one is coming to take your guns away (unless you shouldn’t have them in the first place and that is a whole ‘nuther story…). In fact, President Obama was, single handedly, the best thing that every happened to the gun world. People were so afraid that he would use his “Negro ray of death” (hat tip to Jim Wright) to steal away our guns that they went out and bought more guns in six months than were sold in the previous three years. After the push to enact some kind of laws to prevent massacres like Sandy Hook, the gun market once again surpassed even the buying craze of 2008 and 2012. I would venture to say that President Obama sold more guns than any President of the last four decades. Gun manufacturers should get down on their knees and thank President Obama for his help in making their bank accounts flush.

Any time you want to have a rational, calm and reasonable discussion about guns, I am your guy. If want to rant about how I am a nutcase for owning them or a nutcase for not being a member of the NRA, save your breath. I am not interested in hearing what you want to say and I am not interested in wasting my breath to talk to you.

Posted in Federal, Guns and Gunsmithing, Politics, State | Leave a comment

The Montana US Houses Race 2014 in a nutshell

So in my last post, I took on the 2014 Montana US Senate Race. As of the time of this writing, very little has changed though there have been some interesting posts about this race on other blogs. I will recap some of them in another post. This one will be about the schizophrenic Montana US House Race.

This race would have been very simple had Steve Daines not bagged on running for re-election. Instead, he jumped into the Senate race when Sen Baucus announced that he wouldn’t be seeking re-election. Not to take anything away from Montana Democrats, but there are very few candidates that could have come forward with a reasonable chance to beat Daines had he sought re-election. This has nothing to do with Daines’s platform and everything to do with politics in Montana. I can expand on that later in a different post if anyone is interested but I digress from the focus of this post.

I will start with the easy one. The Democrats only have one candidate for the US House currently running – John Lewis, former state director for Senator Max Baucus. Another candidate – Melinda Gopher – announced she was running for the seat but later withdrew her candidacy. There are rumors that she is thinking about entering another race but as far as I can tell, she hasn’t officially declared for any. There are also a number of potential candidates on the Democratic side that have said they are considering it, but nothing official yet.

So who is John Lewis? I have to admit that I had no idea who he was until very recently. While I do pay attention to Montana politics, he is a relative unknown – mostly a “behind the scenes” kind of guy. He isn’t so behind the scenes now. He has already started to aggressively establish an issues based platform (and I like that he started with what he would do if he won rather than why people should not vote for his opponent). He is also active on social media and is aggressively campaigning. James Conner has a pretty detailed post on his blog, “The Flathead Memo” on why he feels that John Lewis stands a fair chance of winning this race. I like his work on the article, but there is a new wrinkle in this race that may derail Lewis’s chances. More on that later.

There is also an independent candidate that has declared – Shawn White Wolf, counselor for the Montana United Indian Association. I know nothing about this candidate so I will not even venture a comment on his candidacy. I need to do a lot more research on him.

Now we get to the really messy race. The Republicans currently have five declared candidates (though one of them has also expressed an interest in another race and claims he will give an answer this coming week on which race he is running in). The candidates currently are, Matthew Rosendale, a Montana State Senator from Glendive, Brad Johnson, a former Montana Secretary of State, Corey Stapleton, a former State Senator and failed candidate for Montana Governor in 2012, Drew Turiano, real estate investor, and Ryan Zinke, former State Senator and candidate for Lieutenant Governor in 2012. None of these candidates are all that strong and given the field, it is anyone’s guess at this point who the presumptive winner would be in a primary. My personal opinion, is that it would come down to Brad Johnson and Corey Stapleton as they have more name recognition in Montana.

I will save my take on all these candidates for later posts since there are some very colorful individuals on this list and a more in depth post is warranted on at least three of them. I will simply say that, of the five listed candidates, the “best of the bunch” in my opinion is Corey Stapleton and that isn’t saying much.

To add to this mess on the Republican side of the field, former US House Representative Denny Rehberg pulled a surprise announcement about a week ago that he is thinking of getting back into politics by running for his old seat. This news was first released on Aaron Flint’s conservative talk show and has since been picked up by various Montana news sources.  Rehberg’s return has also been the topic of discussion on a few blogs in Montana, including Intelligent Discontent and Flathead Memo. The general take on the left is that Rehberg has burned his bridges, shown himself to be a liability and can’t beat a serious candidate. While I agree to some extent with that idea, I think they are underestimating the power of incumbency in Montana. Denny didn’t lose his seat because he lost an election. He gave up his seat to take a shot at running against a popular incumbent Senator (Senator Tester in 2012).

Consider the facts. Denny Rehberg is a multi-millionaire with moneyed interests in at least four separate large population areas. Yes, he is blowhard with a very public drinking problem but he is also a household name in Montana. He has a pre-existing support and campaign structure, a willing and able political machine and could easily have the backing and support of both the Montana Republican party (and their political PACS) as well as the National Republican Party (and their political PACS). The moment Denny announces his candidacy, he becomes the presumptive candidate to beat. I will state his flat out. There isn’t a single Republican candidate in the race or considering a run that can hope to defeat Rehberg in a primary. Even were the Tea Party to get completely behind one of the candidates (probably Rosendale given what I have seen of the candidates), they still wouldn’t amount to more than 25% of the primary vote. Rehberg would skate easily through the primary. The only question would be how serious a candidate Lewis is.

I am not saying Lewis couldn’t win if Denny enters the race. Lewis appears to be a smart candidate with a lot on the ball. As the former State director for Max Baucus, he had to have learned something about running a campaign in Montana and has to have constructed a serious network that he can tap now. One would presume that Max would also step in to help him out. All that said, what I think it would take is for Lewis to spend the next 10 months quite literally going to every single flea spec town in Montana and shaking every hand he lays eyes on. Further, it will take something I haven’t seen since Senator Tester’s race against Conman Burns – a concerted effort on the part of Montana’s Democrats to educate the electorate on Lewis and, more importantly – to GET OUT AND VOTE.

As it stands now, if Rehberg enters the race, unless something seriously changes in the way Montana politics work, Rehberg will go back to Washington as our US Representative. If Rehberg doesn’t enter the race, it will come down to either a race between Brad Johnson and Lewis (I think Lewis would easily win that one) or Corey Stapleton and Lewis (that one is still likely a Lewis win but he will have to fight for it).

This should prove to be an interesting race that is likely to be completely ignored because of the US Senate race. Lots can happen between now and November and just keeping track of the players will be hard in this race.

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