2018 in Retrospect: The Posts We Hope You Read This Year

In his essay Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson opens with a critique of looking backward, writing ” Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes.” It’s a call for looking at the world with new eyes, new values, and new perspectives and a useful reminder that all of these end of year posts sites endlessly push at us may not have that much value.

Today, though, I’m going to reject Emerson’s advice and offer one last retrospective look, not at our most-read or least-read posts, but the ones that I hope that you either read this year or will consider taking a look at over the brief, quiet interlude we’ll all have before the legislative session comes to town.

While perhaps politicians and the press are, like sharks, dead, if they stop moving forward, it’s easy to lose sight of stories that matter past the moment they were published and should be recalled when candidates decide to run for office in the future.

Back in a truly terrible 2005 editorial about Conrad Burns and Brian Schweitzer, the Independent Record offered some insight I’d forgotten about, they told us that they abandon stories without “a new news peg,”  suggesting that the publication of such old news renders the newspaper stale. While I understand the argument they’re making, that’s also how stories about government corruption and malfeasance get forgotten in subsequent campaigns and even how some issues that deserve continuing attention seem to fade away.

Overlong introduction accomplished, here are a few of the pieces we hope you’ll experience for the first time or re-read and give new thought to.

Thanks for sticking with us for another year and making 2018 the best year at the Montana Post!

Steve Daines is More Outraged About Criticism of the NRA Than the Deaths of Children

When contrasted with the rote expression of prayer for the victims of one mass killing after another, Daines seemed almost human in his response to Delta last night, and most importantly, actually said he would take action instead of offering empty words. There was no promise from Senator Daines after Parkland, Sutherland Spring, Las Vegas, or any of the other sites of horrific carnage to do anything about a country that makes it easier to get a weapon of war than access to healthcare, but when a small discount for NRA members flying was threatened, our Senator leapt to call for action.

Senator Fielder and Representative Manzella to Celebrate Racist, Anti-Government Extremists This Saturday

It’s tempting to dismiss this band of misfits who like to play dress up and pretend they are a militia, but as the SPLC and FBI have both noted, these groups provide fertile breeding ground for domestic terrorism ranging from armed standoffs with law enforcement to lone wolf actions.

Daines Calls Kavanaugh’s Victims Liars on National TV, But Won’t Allow FBI Investigation, Why?

I will not be debating our one-term Senator Steve Daines on this point, but merely pointing out that he is calling all of these accusers liars as his use of the term “smear campaign” states that he does not believe these victims and would prefer to victim shame and use justifications rather than assess the facts as they come.

Must Read: Public Lands Opponent Matt Rosendale Staged His “Public Lands” Hunting Photo Shoot on Private Land

It’s perhaps even more telling that Rosendale was misrepresenting a private parcel owned by a rich Marylander as public land because that’s the ultimate aim of East Coast elites who want to transform our state into what many in the anti-public lands movement want to see: fenced off parcels only open to those well-heeled or connected enough to gain access and closed off to the rest of us.

“Commander” Zinke Cannot Help Himself from Screwing Over Veterans

Zinke has sold out Montana’s and America’s veterans, conservationists, disabled, children, and elderly (well most everyone) because he is beholden to a corrupt administration that reflects his values. Shame on everyone who got him to where he is.

Tim Fox Guarding the Hen House

When you’re surrounded by the three stooges of misanthropy at the federal level in Zinke, Daines, and Gianforte at the three stooges of Helena in Stapleton, Arnzten, and Rosendale it is easy to fly under the radar and that is Tim Fox’s master plan. Do nothing and hope no one on either side notices.

Too Busy Posting Mugshots and Human Misery, the Local Paper Ignores Incredible Student Achievement at Helena High

A monthly rogues’ gallery of mug shots certainly helps us observe human misfortune, but it does nothing to help us see the causes of crime or solutions we haven’t considered. We might see pain and desperation, but we certainly don’t understand it better or empathize any more when these stories are presented as an opportunity to sit in judgment over people who have not yet been, and may never be, convicted of any crime. It’s despair pornography, and it debases our community.

Senator Daines Takes Credit for Butte Veterans Home He Voted Against

Steve Daines is the model for what is broken about American politics. In his undistinguished term, while his Democratic colleague has had thirteen bills signed by a Republican president, Daines has had to satisfy himself with making headlines for pandering proposals to ban flag burning that went nowhere and proposals to prevent abandoned federal buildings from becoming blights on their communities the way the one in Billings has that went nowhere.

Are the Billings Police Above the Law?

Are the police in Billings out of control? I’m not talking about the fact that Billings police officers killed two people within 24 hours last week, nor even that 12 people have been shot and killed by law enforcement officers in Billings in just the past six years. While those deaths—and the shocking number of “officer-involved killings” in Montana certainly deserve more attention, my focus today is on another way officers are not held accountable: when they are involved in professional misconduct and not named.

TAX SCAM FALLOUT: Billionaires Get Richer, Corporations Begin Firings and Wages Stagnant for American Workers

Wage growth will not happen by politely waiting around and hoping our benevolent corporate overlords throw us some table scraps. We need to take it. We must demand higher wages. We must demand a living wage in every state or organize to collectively bargain for fair wages.

We’re #1! In income inequality, that is

The phony “populist” message of a Donald Trump: deregulation or immigrants stealing your jobs or “tax cuts paid for by growth” or repealing Obamacare… are all wearing thin. So, Democrats, don’t shy away from a progressive, economic message. A living wage would be a good start, as would a more progressive tax system and a single-payer health care plan. And maybe we can put a dent in income inequality in Montana and the rest of the country.

Why Won’t the Secretary of State’s Office Respond to Public Records Requests?

I’m not a reporter, just a citizen, but the beauty of the Montana law is that it protects the right of every one of us to inspect the records produced by government officials. Montana’s transparency laws are some of the most powerful in the nation, protecting our right to know how government officials are spending their time and our resources. They don’t have the right to hide embarrassing information or information that might hurt them politically; they’re obligated to provide what we ask for so that we can provide a check on government abuse, waste, and fraud.

There’s nothing wrong with “identity politics”

Which leads to this: for God’s sake, get behind the Williams for Congress campaign. Here’s hoping she is more aggressive on single-payer health care, campaign finance reform and environmental issues, but you know incumbent Greg Gianforte will do everything he can to rollback any progress made for anyone outside of wealthy white male Americans.

President Scott Sales and Montana Republicans Want a Sales Tax

In a radio interview with Voices of Montana, Senate President Scott Sales said he wants a statewide sales tax, so Republicans can eliminate the income tax in Montana. Republicans continue to pursue backward policies that make the rich pay less in taxes while the middle class and Montana families pay more.

Incompetent Corey Stapleton Just Cost Montanans A Quarter of a Million Dollars

I’ll be honest—I assumed we had reached peak Stapleton when Montana’s Secretary of State spent state resource urging voters to invalidate their own ballots by signing them. That led to Stapleton threatening to sue this publication before realizing (or being told) that there is an almost absolute right for citizens to laugh at their government officials. But never a man to let a little competence get in the way of completely mishandling his job, Stapleton seems to have topped himself, this time mailing 417,000 inaccurate Voter Information pamphlets to the people of Montana.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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