In Montana today, a federal judge said the First Amendment doesn't protect a pro-Nazi internet publisher from being sued for instructing his readers to unleash a "troll storm" that materialized in a barrage of anti-Semitic threats against a Jewish woman and her family in Whitefish. Read the rest
We left Claresholm after eating a continental breakfast of terrible coffee and decent muffins. The hotel’s owner chatted lazily with us as we noshed. He had been a manager of Woolworth's department stores, from Toronto, Ontario to Terrence, British Columbia. He served the chain loyally for decades of his life, never questioning when they sent him north, east or west. They fired him after 27 years of service. He’d become redundant.
I told him that I remembered eating grilled cheese sandwiches at the Woolworth’s lunch counter where I grew up. There was pride in his voice as he told me that, before McDonald's came along, the department store’s lunch counters were the biggest restaurant chain in the world.
The sun was high for it being so early in the day. We heated the RV’s engine for a half hour before wheeling south.
It’s a strange time to write for a living. Where normally I expect to raise an eyebrow when I tell folks what I do, my vocation of late has roused opinions and suspicions. I wasn’t sure if I would stand up to questioning at the border. I needn’t have worried: the border guard was more concerned about where we were going, how long we’d be there and whether we had any contraband onboard. In her rear view mirror, my wife saw our border guard staggering through a pee-pee dance from her booth to the border patrol facility a few feet away as we drove off.
The mountains are different here than they are in Alberta. Read the rest
I've always felt a spiritual connection with grizzly bears. They're slow, chunky and have an overwhelming affection for peanut butter--just like I do. From time to time, I'm fortunate enough to spot one, or at least the signs of one's passing, while we're in Alberta. But, as they generally don't want anything to do with people, being able to spend a prolonged amount of time with one is an incredible treat.
It's a treat that I had the opportunity to partake in earlier today.
Around 30 minutes outside of Bozeman, Montana, we saw the first sign for it: Montana Grizzly Encounter. I wasn't into it at first: captive bears aren't cool. I checked out their website as we drove. Rescue bears. Rescue bears are very cool. Five minutes later we were pulling into the Montana Grizzly Encounter. Sixteen bucks for two adults and a score of steps later, we were in.
MGE was founded in 2004 and has been giving homes to bears rescued from cruel captivity ever since. Five of the six bears that MGE shelters were rescued from inhumane situations from all across the United States. Their sixth bear, Bella, was an orphan discovered in Alaska. On her own, she wouldn't have stood a chance. At the sanctuary, she's living the best life that she possibly can. You won't find any bars or cages at MGE. The bears have a temperature controlled enclosure that they can enter or exit as they please. There's a large area for the bears to do bear things in outside of the public eye. Read the rest
With my wife's gig in north central Alberta spinning down for another year and the cold charging hard at us like a bull moose in rut, it's once again time for us to head south. This year, thanks to the two weeks it took me to replace a lost passport, we started off later than we would have liked.
We left Calgary late in the day. No matter how much lead up we have, there always seems to be a few last things to do. Saying goodbye. Picking up snacks for the road. Double checking our rig's engine, air bags, air brakes, tires and all else. Even after receiving my passport last Friday, we waited until today--Wednesday. The weather was too coarse to risk in the rig.
We aimed at Lethbridge as a first night target. Not far, but out of Calgary and within reach of the border early tomorrow morning. As the dusk settled in, we noted that our headlights were not up to the task of leading us. The bulbs would need to be replaced. But not tonight. We made for Claresholm: a highway pass-through town on the road south. By the time we pulled off for the evening, it had already hit -10. We lurked through town, the size of a semi truck with our Jeep in tow, searching for a dark corner of asphalt to call ours for the night. On with the generator. On with the furnace to warm our dog and our bones. Read the rest
Governor Steve Bullock [D-MT] has signed an executive order banning state agencies from procuring internet service from ISPs that violate net neutrality principles like throttling, blocking and paid prioritization.
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Whitefish Energy's had quite a week: last week the two-person company from Whitefish, Montana (hometown of Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke) was awarded a $300M contract to help rebuild the power-grid in Puerto Rico, with some very favorable terms including $462/hour for subcontracted supervisors, no penalties for nonperformance, and a guarantee that the government wouldn't audit its expenditures.
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Whitefish Energy is the 2-person Montana company from Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's hometown of Whitefish, Montana that was awarded a $300M contract to help remediate Puerto Rico's shattered electrical grid, billing its subcontractors at $462/hour for supervisors and $319.04/hour for linesmen in a sweetheart deal that banned Puerto Rico from auditing the company's expense reports, or penalizing it for nonperformance.
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When mainland US cities like Houston and Miami get hit by hurricanes, they rely on mutual aid deals with out-of-state and Canadian power authorities to rebuild, as hundreds of skilled maintenance workers flood in and work for free to get their grid up and running; but debt-crushed Puerto Rico is paying $300 million to Whitefish Energy, a two-person company from Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's hometown of Whitefish, Montana.
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Greg Gianforte is a short-tempered, hyper-conservative Montana political hopeful who is standing for the GOP in a special election for a Congressional seat; he is also invested in Russian firms that are under US sanction. Read the rest
Moonlight Gliders is a beautifully shot and reported piece on mating season for Montana's flying squirrels. Among the amazing facts shared by Alexander V. Badyaev: they can glide while carrying rather large pine cones in their mouths. Read the rest
District Judge John McKeon sentenced an unnamed man to 60 days in prison plus a suspended 30-year prison sentence (which he will avoid if he completes a sex-offender treatment program and other parole conditions) after the man pleaded guilty to repeatedly raping his own daughter, who was 12 years old at the time. Read the rest
Since 1976, Susan Cahill of All Families Healthcare has been in family practice in Montana, offering compassionate family/reproductive health services -- including abortion. It is for this reason that her clinic was all but destroyed by violent thugs, who even trashed her irreplaceable personal mementos. An Indiegogo fundraiser has brought in about $32K so far. Read the rest
A letter from the Department of Justice to the Missoula County Attorney's Office in Montana concludes that the state's police and prosecutors ignore and downplay rape complaints, intimidate and blame rape victims, and, most damning, that prosecutors decline to bring cases against accused rapists even when there is an abundance of evidence against them -- including confessions.
Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg says they're lying. The DoJ says that Van Valkenburg's stalled and ignored their investigation, and failed to reply to more than half a dozen requests for meetings and details. The DoJ reports says that one of the rape victims they investigated was only five years old, and the adolescent boy who assaulted her was sentenced to two years of community service; the prosecutor allegedly told the victim that "boys will be boys." Read the rest
Freelance journalist Jessica Grose has a fascinating "long read" in Slate this week (and I'm not kidding about the long part, 8,000 words!) about Bear True Crimes: wild bears in and around Yellowstone National Park who, for one reason or another, attack humans.
Why does this happen? What's it like for the humans who survive? Who investigates the attacks, all CSI-style with DNA analysis and whatnot, and figures out what to do with the problem bears? Is it right to kill them?
Grose's report begins with the story of a mother bear who attacked campers in late 2011. Snip:
The euthanization of the bear known as “the Wapiti sow” was the culmination of a series of horrifying events that had gripped Yellowstone for months, and alarmed rangers, visitors, and the conservation biologists tasked with keeping grizzly bears safe. In separate incidents in July and August, grizzlies had killed hikers in Yellowstone, prompting a months-long investigation replete with crime scene reconstructions and DNA analysis, and a furious race to capture the prime suspect. The execution of the Wapiti sow opens a window on a special criminal justice system designed to protect endangered bears and the humans who share their land. It also demonstrates the difficulty of judging animals for crimes against us. The government bear biologists who enforce grizzly law and order grapple with the impossibility of the task every day. In the most painful cases, the people who protect these sublime, endangered animals must also put them to death.
Read Grose's "A Death in Yellowstone: On the trail of a killer grizzly bear," then read her interview with a woman who was attacked by a grizzly and lived to tell the tale. Read the rest