Caught My Eye…

Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases. – John Adams

Welcome to the big show to end the week – “Caught My Eye” (CME).

If you are a first-time visitor, CME is posted right here every Friday morning! This is when I take a look at some of the stories I did not have time to write about during the week. I often throw in a touch of sarcasm to make you smile – or to irritate you just a little – maybe both.

Today’s topics that caught my eye this week include U.S. Customs & Border Protection and the Montana delegation, Montana’s military, Daines’ staff, Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike McGrath, Barrett Kaiser, Jesse O’Hara, plus much more!

U.S. Customs & Border Protection:

Elected officials say they want to save taxpayer money and stop excessive spending, but when it comes time to cut some services in their state to save money, they whistle a different tune.

A classic example happened this week when the U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced plans to implement a pilot program closing the Port of Raymond in Northeast Montana for six hours per day, between 1:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.

There’s an average of about three vehicles that cross the border during this time. Three vehicles in six hours! (Source)

U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) wrote a letter to the CBP Commissioner basically saying “Not In My Back Yard” (NIMBY):

As voices for Montana in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives we urge CBP to suspend this latest attempt to unduly harm rural regional commerce by reducing the Port of Raymond’s hours of operation.

U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) addressed the issue back in November when the plan was to close the crossing for eight hours a day saying, “I strongly believe a reduction in hours at this facility harms the United States’ potential to maximize economic growth through increased trade with Canada.”

Give me a break. Let CBP save us a few dollars.

Although the operation of the Port of Raymond accounts for just a little piece of the big pie, the actions by Daines, Zinke, and Tester are a great example of why our government is $19 trillion in the red.

So next time you hear one of the three stooges members of the congressional delegation talk about saving taxpayer money or cutting the spending, tell them they are full of it…

Montana’s Military:

There’s been a lot of boasting coming from the Montana Congressional delegation this week about the work they are doing on behalf of Malmstrom Air Force Base and the Montana Air National Guard.

Malmstrom will supposedly be getting newer helicopters in a few years. That’s good news. The Air Guard’s C-130s will be undergoing modernization in the future, too. A new missile maintenance facility is planned at Malmstrom – and it’s really needed.

All these wonderful things are planned for down the road.

It’s time for a reality check – There will be a new administration running the show in less than a year. Who knows who will be the next Secretary of Defense or the next Secretary of the Air Force. The new leadership may not care that much for land-based missiles or C-130s. So it is good news, for now, but it’s not a done deal.

Let me continue to rain on the parade…

Although U.S. Senator Steve Daines and U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke have not been on duty for very long in the House and Senate, U.S. Senator Jon Tester has. Tester is the senior member and many of the losses in Montana’s military came during his watch.

So it’s time to remember that when push came to shove, the Montana Congressional delegation rolled over and allowed the Air Force to take 50 missiles from Malmstrom which cost the base about 500 jobs. They also allowed the jets to be taken from the Air National Guard. All three were against the expansion of the Powder River military training complex basically telling the world that Montana’s skies are closed.

So with all the boasting going on and the Montana media cutting and pasting the press releases from Tester and Daines, I thought it might be time for a dose of reality.

Daines’ Staff:

The publication LegiStorm reported this week that the staff of Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) has added another member to its military-centered roster.

Kurt Freshley, a four-year veteran of the Marine Corps, will be the 11th member of Daines’ staff with a military bent. With Freshley’s hire, one-quarter of Daines’ staff of 44 has a military-based role or experience in the armed forces.

I applaud Daines for hiring veterans.

MT Supreme Court Chief Justice:

Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike McGrath filed for re-election this week. I doubt he will have much, if any, competition. So far he has zero competition.

The Great Falls Tribune has the story about McGrath filing for reelection HERE.

Prior to his election as Chief Justice, he was elected twice to the office of Attorney General (AG) for Montana. When he ran for Attorney General, he ran as a Democrat. He was a county attorney several years before that.

So McGrath is a life-long politician. Judges should not be politicians and judges should not be out and about campaigning and raising money to keep their jobs. It degrades the office and the court. Montana should change the process of electing judges at every level. People who donate to a judge’s campaign should be banned from appearing in front of that judge.

I don’t think I have ever voted for McGrath. I don’t plan on starting this year. He’s a politician, not a judge.

The term for the Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice is eight years. It pays $137,570 per year. You have to be 18 years of age, a U.S. Citizen, and reside in the state for 2 years immediately before taking office. You also have to be admitted to practice law in Montana 5 years prior to the date of the election.

In Case You Missed It:

-Barrett Kaiser of Billings says, “Montana Sen. Fielder enables Bundy-style extremism.” Kaiser is a senior advisor to the Center for Western Priorities, a nonpartisan public lands watchdog group based in Denver.

-Jesse O’Hara, who is a former Great Falls resident, claims, “Some folks are going way beyond politics as usual” in his column about the upcoming trial pitting the Montana commissioner of political practices against Rep. Art Wittich, R-Bozeman. O’Hara is a former Republican Montana state senator and representative.

One More Thing:

I recently spent a day in deep thought about life. That happens when you get older. During my deep thoughts about life, I realized that since my birth I have gained a tremendous amount of weight. I started life at five pounds four ounces.


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  1. I just want to verify that I read that right….. Senator Daines has a staff of 44?

    • Kathy – That seems about right for a U.S. Senator. – JmB

      • I never thought about it before. No wonder nothing gets done!! I know he has an office here in Bozeman ( as does Tester). I used to live by it and it was only open part time. The majority of the staff must be in Washington D.C. It’s hard to think of that many people times 100 keeping busy!! Ate the representative staffs about the same size? That is bigger than many businesses in Montana.

      • Thanks Greg. Good questions. Seems we are going around in circles. -JmB

      • Kathy: U.S. Representatives have a lot fewer people on their staff, although some like Montana’s Representative cover whole states like a U.S. Senator does. – JmB

      • Thanks for the answer Jackie. I know I got “off topic” but it hit me, that’s a lot of people. I think Greg’s suggestion for having them be here is a great one.

      • Kathy- No problem. Thanks for reading. -JmB

    • In my opinion, Daines needs to take a page from Gianforte’s playbook.

      Get some of those staff telecommuting from Montana. Send them back to those part-time offices and get them sitting there doing their job.

      Do we need that many people in Washington? This way, we’re getting more of that salary into Montana communities, not the D.C. communities. I’m sure D.C. communities are nice…but c’mon.

      Even 5 of those staffers in key cities around the state could bring in $100,000 to $200,000 in additional salary spending. That creates more jobs in those communities.

      C’mon, Daines – you can do this. That goes the same for Tester and Zinke as well. I don’t mind Zinke raising money and spending it like a drunken sailor, I just wish more of that spending happened here in Montana.

      I’d also like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that Senator Mike Mansfield did all his own mail, usually before any other staffers arrived. I bet he’d be appalled at a staff numbering 44, or even more than 10.

  2. I think it’s odd that before it was made official, McGrath was endorsed by MEA-MFT.

    • HighPoint – That is interesting in a couple areas.

      First, I guess maybe McGrath told some people close to him or the leadership of the MEA/MFT that he was running before he actually filed. Second, why do these groups “endorse” before the deadline to file for office has even arrived, which is March 14. It seems to me that they are not exactly as open-minded with their endorsements as they claim. Who knows who will file for office between now and March 14?

      Thanks for your comments – JmB

  3. Since the Montana media isn’t reporting on this, I’d like to mention it.

    North Korea.

    This week we saw Tester trotted out to say that North Korea would be contained. Please, someone give me a break.

    Are we forgetting that Tester’s fellow Democrats, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, allowed North Korea to pretty much have its nuclear program? That was back in 1994, 22 years ago now. One of the deals was that we’d give them a bunch of food for famine relief as well. That all went right to the North Korean army – the people saw none of it.

    Tester allowed the same failed policies to happen in Iran. 22 years ago we set up the situation that’s allowing North Korea to test fire missiles. Their goal is to get one to reach America.

    Last year we turned around and did the same thing, allowing Iran to do the same thing.

    What are we doing? Who are these people that supposedly represent us?

    We see that both parties are nothing more than stooges for the military industrial complex. Politicians make a lot of money by first, giving those countries what they need to make weapons, and then effectively forcing our country to be engaged in constant weapons mobilization because of it.

    Meanwhile our roads and bridges fall apart. The inner-cities decay. People in rural areas lose hope.

    What are we doing?

    • Thanks Greg. Good questions. Seems we are going around in circles. -JmB

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