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THE MOST popular brand names in Montana? Dodge, Amazon, and Prilosec, according to research based on Google searches done by Montanans.
Really? Sounds odd, doesn't it?
You'd think that NorthWestern Energy might have been one of the top three, as it has been in the news a lot lately due to its purchase of PPL's dams. Or maybe a company like Budweiser, since Montanans not only like their beer, but they grow much of the barley used to produce it.
WHEN IT comes to taxes, which state is the fairest of them all? Montana is, according to a survey done by WalletHut, a personal-finance site. Really?
Even a lot of Montanans will be surprised by that finding, thinking they pay an awful lot in taxes. But they actually tend to pay less than taxpayers in other states. Why?
Because Montana is one of only five states with no general sales tax. And to make up for that lack of revenue, the state takes a bigger chunk of change from energy producers and big property holders.
Interestingly, both liberals and conservatives who were surveyed ranked Montana as the fairest state in terms of taxation. Now, how often do you see folks on either side of the political spectrum agree on something, especially an important issue like taxes?
Makes you wonder why Montana's tax system isn't more of a model for other states.
IF YOU, as a Montanan, spend much time fretting over natural disasters, you are wasting your time. Why's that? Because you are living in what is one of the safest -- if not the safest -- states in the country, according to Time magazine.
Time recently analyzed all the natural disasters that regularly strike the country, and charted out the number of deaths caused by those disasters on a county-by-county basis. The magazine included earthquakes, hurricanes, wind chills, avalanches, drought, floods, deluges, high tides, tornado, and wildfires.
It found, lo and behold, that the safest county in the country was Montana's Sweet Grass County, with Wheatland County No. 3 No. 2 was Washington County in Idaho.
The most dangerous counties were in New Jersey, which had been struck by Hurricane Sandy, and California.
ACTOR Jon Voight, who has starred in dozens of films and TV shows, including Coming Home, for which he won an Oscar, was in the Glasgow area recently researching a new movie role.
Voight spent a couple days with the Etchart, Cornwall and Page ranch families to help prepare him for a film he's doing about a patriot American rancher, says Montana radio broadcaster Aaron Flint.
He also had some time to polish his bartending skills, where he thrilled customers by serving drinking at the Montana Bar Friday evening.
JIM MESSINA, a University of Montana graduate and President Obama's campaign manager, got hitched last weekend in Paradise Valley to Dr. Tara Cromley.
Guests came from more than 20 states and six countries, and including China Ambassador Max Baucus, one of Messina's former bosses. Many other former Obama staffers were on hand, as was former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
MONTANANS are proud to see the state show up on a lot of national "top five" lists. But here's one that no Montana politician would want to show up on: Washington Post's list of the most disastrous campaigns of 2014.
Winning the honors, of course, at No. 5 is Montana Sen. John Walsh.
The Post noted that Walsh started the year on an up note when he was appointed to the US Senate, giving him more visibility as he geared up his Senate campaign. His fundraising picked up. But then the New York Times dropped a bombshell: News that Walsh had plagiarized a large part of the paper he submitted for his master's degree. Walsh dropped out of the race, and was replaced by fellow Democrat Amanda Curtis of Butte.
"He may be off the ballot," The Post said of Walsh, "but that achievement did land him on another list: the five most spectacular political flameouts of 2014 -- so far."
SEN. JON Tester and his wife Sharla got stuck in the nation's capital during the debt-ceiling crisis in the summer 2011. There was a lot of down time -- the sort of idle period when Tester would normally scoot back to Montana to schmooze with voters and work on his farm. But the Democratic senator didn't dare leave town because of the prospect of last-minute votes aimed at averting the debt crisis.
So what did Tester and his wife do to fill the time? We'll let Dave Parker, Montana State political science professor, tell the story.
THE INDUSTRIAL Workers of the World, also known as the Wobblies, were a colorful part of Montana's history a century ago. Union recruiters focused on miners and lumberjacks, making Montana a key target. But the radical views of IWW organizers often turned off Montanans.
"The most extreme of America's pre-World War I labor groups, the IWW rejected political action, arbitration, and binding contracts," says historian Pamela Toler. "Instead they put their faith in the strike and nothing but the strike. Inspired by European syndicalism, the IWW wanted to organize all workers into 'One Big Union," with the ultimate goal of a revolutionary general strike that would overthrow capitalism and create a workers' society."
The Wobblies were so extreme -- and low in numbers -- that they ended up playing into the hands of corporate powers. Some Montanans speculated that the Wobblies were really corporate plants, brought in to forment resentment against all unions, including more moderate ones. It didn't take long for the IWW to fade from view.
Yet, surprisingly, there are still a few Wobblies around. One is none other than Kevin Curtis of Butte, the husband of the Democratic candidate for the US Senate, Amanda Curtis.
There is even a monthly IWW newspaper, the "Industrial Worker" -- a journal for which Amanda Curtis has written articles, including a piece about restoration of the Butte grave of IWW martyr Frank Little.
Curtis's ties to the IWW become a campaign issue? Probably not. The first, and
only, poll on the race between Curtis and Congressman Steve Daines shows the GOP candidate with 20 point lead, and his strategy so far seems to be to ignore his opponent rather than mention her
name and give her any publicity.
Despite her lack of name recognition, Curtis has attracted a number of positive national media articles, including ones by the New York Times, Politico, and ABC News.
UPDATE: When an NPR reporter recently asked Curtis about her connection to the IWW and noted that the organization's preamble sounded like "contemporary communism," she didn't deny that it had a somewhat communist message or that she had an affinity for it. She also said she was on the side of working people, providing voters a "clear distinction" with the "millionaire Congressman" Steve Daines.