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A Montana Patrol officer responds to a vehicle rollover accident east of Havre on Tuesday. Driving conditions were even more treacherous on Wednesday, with a number of sections of highway across northern Montana closed due to blizzard conditions. Schools in some parts of Montana also closed. A winter storm warning was in effect for most of the state through Thursday morning. (Havre Daily News)
A daily digest of Montana news
Feb. 18, 2018
JIM MESSINA, the University of Montana graduate and 2012 manager of Barack Obama's presidential re-election campaign, raised eyebrows the other day when he appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" and knocked the relevance of public polls so early in an election campaign.
"I think all public pollsters should be shot," he declared.
Messina, who graduated from UM's journalism school in 1993, has been honored by the university on several occasions. He was named a distinguished alumni in 2013, and also was the university's commencement speaker that same year.
After graduation, he worked for US Sen. Max Baucus before he became a top official in the Obama Administration, and then ran Obama's re-election campaign manager. He was hailed by the media as the "Fixer" for his work on the Obama campaigns and political promotions.
But in more recent years his political success has been more decidedly mixed. After leaving the Obama Administration, he set up a political consulting firm that has put much of its focus on campaigns in Europe, where he suffered a series of defeats that included the Brexit vote and the Italian reform plan.
THIS IS quite a coup for Montana Tech: The top spot in the rankings of the 50 Best Value Engineering Schools 2018.
The survey said Montana Tech graduates earn an average of over $80,000 a year, while paying tuition of only about 11,000 a year. Montana Tech scored a perfect 100 in the survey and beat out many better known schools.
"Montana Tech’s mining school has over a century of experience preparing professionals to build, fortify, and extract mines from the mining capital of the nation, which makes for a curriculum that is uniquely useful to the local economy," the site said. "It’s no wonder Montana Tech graduates have a 98% placement rate in the mining industry..."
MONTANANS like to think Big Sky Country is friendlier than other places. And now there's empirical evidence that's true. At least, it's certainly true when it comes to online interactions.
A recent study by Wired and Disqus looked at the percentage of hostile online comments coming from each state, as well as well as the number of folks who reported they'd been harassed online.
The study employed software that mapped the "troll topography of the United States” as it scanned in the internet looking for comments that were “rude, disrespectful or unreasonable” and could prompt users to leave discussions.
Montana was ranked the 9th friendliest state, with New Hampshire No. 1, and the two Dakotas Nos. 2 and 3. Nevada was ranked the least friendly state.
Reflecting on the rankings and all the hostility present on the internet, Ed Kemmick at Last Best News tells the story of Megan Phelps-Roper, the grand-daughter of Fred Phelps. Phelps, who founded the Westboro Baptist Church, infamous for its attacks on gays. veterans, and others. Phelps-Roper followed her grandfather's footsteps by taking to Twitter to attack enemies of the church, but over time began to engage her online opponents. A few were patient and kind with her, and she eventually dropped her extreme views and left the church.
The lesson, as far as Kemmick is concerned: Internet trolls thrive on insults, but patience and kindness could prove a lot more effective in changing people's minds.
MISSOULA'S always had a reputation for being, well, a little out-of-step with the rest of Montana.
So when its daily newspaper, the Missoulian, did a feature on a loon that landed on the Clark Fork River in Missoula, Al Acheson of Superior couldn't resist poking a little fun at the Garden City in a letter to the editor. Acheson quoted the lede to the article, which said: "This may sound crazy to the rest of Montana, but Missoula is no place for loons."
Quipped Acheson: "Now, that is funny! Ha ha ha ha."
The "campiest" place on planet Earth? According to the New York Times, it is Great Falls' infamous Sip 'n Dip Lounge, known for having women dressed as mermaids swim in an underwater pool that's visible through a window from the bar. The bar also features "Piano Pat" Spoonheim, who has played her "jazzy" style music since 1963.
Times reporter Brook Barnes describes the Sip 'n Dip as a "kitsch-tastic tiki bar" hidden inside the O'Haire Motor Inn where a dozen women -- three are currently out on maternity leave -- rotate as the bar's mermaids. But Spoonheim, who plays three nights a week, seems to be as much of a hit as the mermaids.
Barnes says the Sip 'n Dip has become a magnet for travelers around the globe, "a must-visit for fans of Americana run amok — the wacky places where the human spirit gushes to the surface in an unexpected geyser." She quotes one visitor, a teacher from Illinois, who called it a "bucket-list place."
Of course, this being the Times, Barnes couldn't help but take some condescending shots at Great Falls, which she says can be a "soul-deadening place." She started her story this way: "When a study recently found Great Falls the least gay-friendly city in Montana, one man wrote on a local news website, “Let’s keep it that way.” Mermaids are totally tolerable, though." (Nothing like using one idiot's remarks to represent the thinking of an entire city, huh?)
The "recent" study Barnes refers to was done more than four years ago by the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGBT rights. Its study gave Great Falls low marks for such things as lacking a human rights commission, policies on bullying, and a non-discrimination laws. The report also marked the city down for having a median household income of only $42,487 (the report doesn't explain how that level hurts the LGBT community more than it hurts other parts of the community.)