A Dead Horse: One Last Lashing

To paraphrase Lt. Colonel Frank Slade: ‘Oh uh, Waded- about your little problem- there are two kinds of people in this world: those who stand and face the music, and those who run for cover.  Cover is better.’  Cover is all in the perspective.  The Regents, Christian and Cruzado may all see themselves as having faced a painful decision and ‘faced the music’ because of their conflicted feelings and ‘hurt hearts’.  Others, like many of us, see them as having done nothing more than run for cover.  In pouring their conflicted and tormented hearts out to anyone in the room or tuned in via the internet they exposed themselves in having opted for the easy path.  To lament the pain of the decision and then vote in favor of accepting money, and lots of it, from a discriminating racist really only serves as an attempt to gain sympathy.  In reality, to have wrestled with the decision and then voted down the ‘gift’ would have been facing the music in a more than a few ways.  However, that horse is dead on the ground and it’s getting to be time to move on.

There still exists a problem and one that will bring itself back to the Regents at some point in the not so distant future.  Whose money do they accept and who’s do they turn away and for what reasons.  In fact, and on a deeper level, this is a timeless question: how much Le_penseur_de_la_Porte_de_lEnfer_(musée_Rodin)_(4528252054)will it take to buy the moral and ethical compass of a human being.  Humankind has fought with this animal since the quest for food and shelter was managed and we could consider greater things in the world.  For instance, getting someone else to do our dirty work for us and in hopes that there will be personal gain as a result.  Gianforte may have achieved just that in getting President Cruzado and those poor and tortured Regent’s to do just the same.

Maybe we should go easy on everyone involved here.  After all, no one has figured this out yet and this isn’t the first time anyone has had to look in the mirror and wonder about who they are and what lives inside their own soul.  For instance, shortly after the end of World War II a great deal of information was discovered that had been gathered as a result of incredibly horrific human torture.  Many of those tortured were ‘subversives’ to a pure nation: minorities, gays, disabled, the unwanted of that pure nation.  As a result of that inhumane torture we gained a much more accelerated understanding of multiple physical conditions both induced and environmental.  The very real question at the time, and today an academic one: should that knowledge be used knowing how it had been gathered and that it would likely save lives or should it be destroyed knowing that it’s origination was far to horrific and unethical to be considered.

By no means does Gianforte’s ‘donation’ rise to this example.  However, as an individual who has a public record of stating his personal point of view regarding humankind that does not match up to his own theological standards, there is far more to his $8 million than just a name on a building.  There is truly the question of what is the greater good.  In this case the question should have been one is it ethical to accept and promote his brand of quiet, calm hate while ignoring the souls and minds of those who will pass under that name each day and wonder what that pang of uneasiness is within themselves.  And speaking of an uneasy feeling, it has to be wondered out loud after having made that decision and taken Gianforte’s tainted money: President Cruzado, what is that uneasy feeling that wakes you up during the night?  Or does it?


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’ body’s a part of.’

The Woolly Mammoth In The Room

gop_mammoth_logo_stickers-rb8007047024544819d9283fa4798589a_v9waf_8byvr_512Over the past two days the Montana Board of Regents met in Havre to discuss their usual lofty business. Of note on their agenda was an action item to approve the acceptance of a ‘donation’ from gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte in the amount of $8 million dollars. The brief discussion surrounding the ‘generous gift’ was well scripted and precisely choreographed to include carefully planted questions that allowed both President Cruzado and Commissioner Christian a wide berth of the prehistoric beast in the room: donor Gianforte is a candidate for governor of the State of Montana. Cruzado and John Paxton pounced on the opportunity to regale all of the Gianforte’s many contributions to MSU over the course of the last 20 years. While well-rehearsed and prepared, the discussion lacked any level of energy, enthusiasm and spirit. A tightly controlled plan and atmosphere will do that.

One of the most overused words on the script was ‘timing’. Cruzado and Christian obviously paid attention to the noise surrounding this proposal and did some whitewashing to convince Montana that the ‘timing’ is now and acting in the here and now means the future for all students. Forget the notion that accepting this $8 million dollars leaves the Regents in a position of diminished credibility. As fully expected, the Regents have accepted Gianforte’s ‘generous gift’. In ignoring the question of political ethics they have fed the beast that is devouring any legitimacy of an authentic electoral process. As referenced in a past post, money is green to the Regents and the Commissioner, therefore, no one will be turned away. Real time ethical or moral issues be damned.

So let’s all just call this what it really is, a blatant move on the part of Candidate Gianforte to earn free press and promote his ‘technology’ jobs idea for Montana. Let’s also not pretend he didn’t have a lot of help. Perhaps for another $8 million Gianforte could sign off on a confidential agreement to have all ethics and philosophy courses removed. After all, we really don’t want leaders, like the Board of Regents, thinking in terms of a larger ethical picture or approaching proposals like this ‘donation’ at this particular ‘time’ by using a critical thought process.


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’ body’s a part of.’

Gilded Age II

When did Montana’s political parties abandon organized labor?  Oh I know you will hear loud howls from the left that it ain’t so and siren calls from the right the Republicans will bring back the good paying jobs in mining and timber; in the meantime, organized labor dreams of the halcyon days of industry and union density when Montana workers ranked 12th in the nation in wages.  Guess what, the good old days are done and we had better damn well figure out what’s next because if we continue like we are then the Greg Gianforte’s and Steve Daines’ of the world will continue to warp Montana’s political culture and feed the working class to the wolves of the 1%.

And it isn’t just on the national level that we have lost our political way, we have continually elected representatives and senators to the state legislature who don’t care about solving problems.  These demagogues meet for 90 days every other year and instead of doing the business of the state spend 85 days of the session using anything and everything as a political football to the extent that they failed an infrastructure bill on the last day of the 2015 session in a vainglorious attempt to come away with what the tea party Republicans, led by Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen, called a victory.  This victory costs Montana communities across the state much-needed improvements of deteriorating infrastructure and denied thousands of working men and women the opportunity at good paying jobs.

Now we are in the primary chase and then onto the general election.  This is the time for some cold hard truths!  Montana will never regain its status as a mining and timber producing giant.  Montana politicians have to get off their asses and help grow the state’s economy beyond the obvious; and labor has to let go of the past, stop flirting with the right, sleeping with the left, and figure out what’s next for Montana’s working/middle class.  Finally, the rank and file members of organized labor need to realize that Montana’s political parties have abandoned organized labor because they, the workers, have abandoned their unions.   The last Gilded Age lasted almost thirty years; we are at least a decade past that mark now.  It’s time Montana’s working/middle class woke up and got off their collective asses and reclaim their future.


‘Maybe all men got one big soul every’body’s a part of.’

OCHE Surfaces, For a Small Fee

As the news of Candidate Gianforte’s ‘donation’ to MSU has spread there has been a missing presence by the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, until yesterday. Kevin ‘If It’s Good for the Kids’ McRae, on behalf of Commissioner Christian, is all but willing to take the tidy sum of $8 million from a current gubernatorial candidate, because, well, ‘We don’t play politics’. Then again, it may be a challenge to find a time when any campus has ever turned down money from anyone, after all, if it’s ‘…good for students, good for Montana…’ then it’s just ‘good’. Then there’s the confidential agreement floating around a public institution….
Of the many problems with this scenario, Gianforte’s party affiliation is not one of them, it’s just an easier out for the Commissioner’s Office in search of safe harbor. The problem is that he is running for the position of Governor of the State of Montana and it’s a hot race. If current Governor Bullock were to broker the same deal he would be deserving of the same level of criticism and from the same groups. Montana State University AlumniUntitled design Foundation President and CEO Chris Murray has said this ‘donation’ has been in the works for four years now. It’s no coincidence that the deal was signed on the heels of the news that Gianforte had sued the state over public access. Gianforte needed a win and Murray gladly handed it to him on an $8-million-dollar silver platter.

The Regents face a difficult decision this week. They haven’t found themselves in this position by chance either. There has been concern expressed by OCHE that if the Regents postpone the decision or deny the proposal Gianforte will rescind his offer. That seems difficult to grasp from a candidate who is running on the slogan ‘GregForMontana. Taking his money and going home (to New Jersey) just wouldn’t be ‘…ForMontana’. Gianforte could ask that the decision be held off until after the election and allow his donation to be just that, a gift to MSU; well, a gift that will forever bear his name. He could also allow the process to continue to move forward, as he is today. If the regents decline his donation, which they won’t, he can claim politics forced the decision and become the victim. If the regents postpone the decision to their November meeting, then he’s got something to talk about as he campaigns. Some might see this as well played, a little like Rick Hill’s $500,000 play in the 2012 Governor’s race.
It is clear that Greg ‘The Dandy’ Gianforte has come to town to spread his money around. Chris Murray and the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education want to help him do just that.
‘Maybe all men got one big soul every’body’s a part of.’

For Sale: Montana State University

Montana Cowgirl is operating at full throttle. Earlier this week came the story of Lord Gianforte attempting to keep the commoners off the king’s forest and now the news of hisFOR SALE (3) attempt to buy a large piece of public education real estate to go with his private Petra Academy.  Cowgirl’s story speaks for itself and the Regents should be sweating around the collar about now.

There’s a side story here. The Montana University System and the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education have a long history of selling off buildings, in a manner of speaking.  A few easy examples: Washington Grizzly Stadium at the University of Montana and the Jake Jabs College of Business & Entrepreneurship at Montana State University.  Jake Jabs, now there’s a name.  In 2011 Jabs donated $25 million to MSU.  Two years later the Board of Regents moved through an agenda which included the name of the school and a building in response to his most generous donation.  That $25 million looks more like a purchase instead of a donation.

On its surface Jabs’ purchase appears to be out of benevolence. A few layers down, Jabs has an interesting perspective on business and in particular, organized labor.  Jabs essentially bank rolled a Colorado ballot initiative called Amendment 47 or more simply put, right-to-work.  In fact, a headline from The Colorado Statesman in 2008 reads ‘Jabs sheds camouflage, shows right-to-work stripes’.  Another article from the same year in the Denver Business Journal reads ‘Jabs touts right-to-work initiative’.  http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/stories/2008/10/06/daily19.html  Unfortunately, labor leaders got to the sitting Board of Regents too late with what should have been obvious information and construction was a sure thing.  Montana’s campuses are organized wall-to-wall and labor has a long history of working closely with MUS and OCHE to maintain harmony.  A building named after Jabs just doesn’t sit well.

Washington, Jabs, Gianforte. They all offer up, by Montana standards, substantial amounts of money to struggling campuses and the Regents who can’t seem to find a win to increase funding for public universities and colleges as each legislative session passes.  Despite a donor’s past record, personal beliefs, character, and now political aspirations, the Regents are more than happy to take those ‘donations’ in return for a new building with a name on it.  It could be to them, money is just green so they just take it and no one will remember in a few years anyway.  But history stands as anyone will see when they enter the campus of Montana Tech and are greeted by none other than Marcus Daly, Copper King.  Daly has a place at Tech.  Daly also has a place in politics, he bought and sold.  Jabs has his receipts.  Candidate Gianforte has his bid in for the pending sale.


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’

No Trespassing: By Decree of Lord Gianforte

single-a-fish-story-ch-gallup[1]Why does Montana have low wages? It’s the price we pay to live and recreate here. Isn’t that what our parents always told us? Ask just about any native Montanan about their childhood and they’ll tell you stories of camping, fishing, hunting, hiking, rock hounding, exploring and just playing in the mountains of Montana. And where does all of that take place? Primarily on public lands. And how do Montanans get to that public land? Primarily through access routes and access sites. One such example is a fishing access site and one such site is on the East Gallitin River in Bozeman. And who is the not so good neighbor of that public access site? Gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte. That would be the same candidate who wants to ‘create jobs’ and bring Montanans back home to work. But clearly not to play.
Gianforte would have us believe this is all just a misunderstanding. He loves to have people park on his property and canoe down the river, even though in his complaint they were harming his property. The real story is that ‘Greg For Montana’ hired the now guilty Art Wittich to sue the very state Gianforte hopes to spend his hard earned money to become the CEO of. Talk about ‘tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are’. From the multiple stories floating around it sounds like there was a flurry of exchanges between Wittich and FWP back in 2010 (about the same time he was engaged in illegal campaign coordination), yet none of those exchanges have been made public. (No doubt the highly trained and bloodhound state bureau of Lee Enterprises will sniff out those emails in short order.)
Back to public lands. Gianforte has clearly aligned himself with key players involved in attempts to bring federal lands under control of the state land board and then with a slate of candidates who’s only mission in being elected is to gain control of the land board. In their minds, this will dawn a new day of land control for the purpose of economic development and resource extraction. Also read that to mean the sale and locking off of public lands.
IMG_4937Gianforte had to paths to follow on this access issue. Pay a friendly visit to FWP and talk through the issue and ask them to take a look to see how they might resolve in the best interest of all parties, to include recreationalists. Or hire an angry, anti-government attorney to sue the State of Montana and then let the case just drop and allow him to bring it to court another day, perhaps on a day in November when the votes are counted. Greg’s path is clear as the court records show. And as clear as his path was, his course for the future of Montana is also clear, public access will no longer be public and public lands will no longer be public.


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’

Larry Come Lately

concussion[1]Have you ever seen the Class C high school running back stagger out on to the field to carry the ball one more time after he’s been hit in the head about five times too many for his, or anyone else’s good? Then you’ve seen Larry Jent enter yet another election cycle.  On the last day to file and almost at the last possible minute Larry dropped off his paper work and entered the Montana Attorney General’s race as though he had been planning it all along.

Jent is no stranger to state wide or national races. He’s also no stranger to the bleary eyed look of the regularly defeated.  Most recently he slogged through a gubernatorial primary against now Governor Steve Bullock.  To all who watched it take place it was not only embarrassing but downright uncomfortable to have to talk to Jent through his painfully short race.  It should also be noted that the Democratic Party that now appears to embrace him for entering the race all but shunned him at their 2012 nominating convention.  If you were fortunate enough to not have experienced the awkwardness of the day then you missed Jent barely being introduced in a room of mildly attentive delegates.  In contrast, a packed lunch and fiery introduction of Bullock by then Governor Brian Schweitzer.  The stage had been set and Larry was dealt yet another staggering blow.  Everyone knew it, except Larry.

Fast forward another four years to some of those same players who should now be enjoying whiskey in the glass and you’ll quickly put together who is embracing Jent for yet another run towards a line he can’t cross. You see, Larry just can’t win an election and should have stuck to, in his own words, being a simple country lawyer.  Well, a West Point graduate simple country lawyer.  Maybe the old guard players stood on the sidelines discussing how they’d have played the game and just couldn’t stomach what was taking place and, again, tapped Larry on the shoulder.  More likely, he was shoved on to the field.

Back before there was a race, and much to the disgust of the Democratic Party, organized labor came out early to endorse Attorney General Tim Fox. And to make matters worse, Fox is a republican.  Clearly, labor examined the race, examined the lack of energy by the democrats, examined the inability to recruit a reasonable candidate, examined Fox’s record as AG and examined Fox’s record with labor.  One plus one is two and the problem was solved. Word has it that Jent started sniffing around labor for a co-endorsement, rather, emissaries came on his behalf.  More likely, the ‘smarter than the rest of you’ players who taped Larry up again came of their own accord to plant the idea of an endorsement.  And for no other reason than the fact that Larry is a democrat who was a reasonable legislator.  True to his nature, Larry has been late off the snap for that process as well.  The current guard of labor surely won’t devalue themselves by marginalizing their process.

There are two great ironies in this play. First, by suiting Larry up yet again and letting him stumble out on to the field, Tim Fox has been given a spring board and an actual race.  Had he been left alone he would have run against no one, barely campaigned and been given no opportunity for a victory speech in November.  The field is now set for a 2020 Governor’s race by Fox and given his track record that may not be such a bad thing. The problem for democrats is that he’s got open field in front of him and the goal line is 2020.

The second and most disturbing irony has been in motion for some time and was last most evident as democrats waited with anticipation for a reluctant Steve Bullock to announce that he would run for governor in 2012. The problem?  Long game planning.  Former leaders who are now sitting back to enjoy that whiskey should have been identifying and developing leaders for the next race and the next generation of progressive believers.  When Pam Bucy ended up on the losing side of the scoreboard in 2012 the democratic party nodded off to sleep off the hangover of winning a US Senate seat and every state wide office, except one.  That nap lasted almost four full years.  No conversations, no identification, no encouraging and no preparing.  Unfortunately, this isn’t a symptom isolated to an attorney general’s race or Montana.  The current presidential race has left most recognizing that you can vote for the lesser of two evils, it’s still evil.  In fact, for both parties, it’s just the same tired players trotted out on to the field, again and again.

So don’t pity bruised and battered Larry Come Lately. He’s just trying to carry the ball and convince himself, and the party faithful, that he can cross the goal line.  But if you don’t want to see this game played out yet again it’s high time to get to work on the future and let the old whiskey drinkers enjoy their glory years together on the porch, as far away from the action as possible.


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’