I knew the Montana stare was a thing


I came to Montana from Iowa by way of New York City. Two of those places discourage staring. When I began to think that a larger-than-usual number of strangers in Montana’s restaurants, shops, and passing vehicles were staring at me, I came to the reasonable conclusion: I was insane. Because I am a crazy person, I think people are staring at me when all they want is to eat pancakes with their weird families. As a rule, when you move someplace and develop theories about what people are like there, you are wrong. But then I read this profile of Montana travel author Russell Rowland implying “the stare” is a thing:

Rowland said during one of his favorite interviews, Fallon County farmer Jerry Sikorski invited him to smell his soil. Others, mostly people in tiny eastern Montana towns, gave him “the stare.”

“Those who encounter ‘the stare’ should not panic,” Rowland wrote. “Although at first glance, the stare suggests that you might want to turn around and go back to your car, the explanation is pretty simple. The stare comes from seeing the same 25 or 30 people day after day for the past five or 10 years.”

That was my explanation, too: as population density goes down, the social acceptability of eyeballing me in the laundromat goes up. But this explanation boils down to “they’re staring because they’re rubes.” I don’t want to think that.

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Report from human foosball

The author plays human foosball, enthralling spectators.

Human foosball on Saturday afternoon at Missoula’s Kettlehouse—photo by Foxhole

Human foosball is much like regular foosball. Rows of players try to kick a ball into a goal. They can only move side-to-side. It is played at a bar while drinking, so as it progresses it becomes both more competitive and more terrifyingly arbitrary. The best way to score is not the carefully considered shot but the element of surprise. The main difference—other than that human foosball is played on human scale—is that tabletop foosball players cannot reach one another, to prevent breakage. Human foosball does not incorporate that design.

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Combat! blog makes tons of money, isn’t useful


There is no Combat! blog today, because I am busier than a one-legged man in an office that requires travel among several work stations, some of which are separated by stairs. While I get that paper, how about you read this fine and sometimes blood-drawing essay on the smug style in American liberalism? Props to Attempt for the link. We’ll be back Monday with something better, or at least longer.

Meanwhile, in Cascade County, MT

Rep. Randy Pinocci (R–Sun River) on Facebook

Rep. Randy Pinocci (R–Sun River) on Facebook

One thing I learned from Randy Pinocci’s Facebook timeline is that his wife is about take away his phone.  The rest we must gather from the news. The man from Sun River made headlines last week, when someone gave the Fairfield Sun-Times a copy of an email in which he proposed “a law that says impersonating a reporter is against the law maybe after we put a few of these idiots in jail we can get better reporting.” Bro, you must use punctuation when calling people idiots. It seems like Pinocci was pretty worked up when he wrote that, and he subsequently told the Sun-Times he had no intention to propose such a law. He was just sayin’ stuff.

One of Pinocci’s fellow Republicans from Cascade County, JC Kantorowicz, has been engaging in a little stuff-just-saying of his own. At a meeting of the county Republican Central Committee regarding delegates to the state convention, he became frustrated by the schedule and seemed to threaten a rival’s life. A transcript:

JC Kantorowicz, primary candidate in SD 10: “So does this mean I have to come back on the 21st to keep [former Rep.] Roger Hagan and [rival SD 10 candidate] Steve Fitzpatrick from going?

Chairman George Paul: Well, there’s a good chance you’re going to have to come back.

Sec. Judy Tankink: Unless you have a proxy. Would a proxy work in a situation like that?

Kantorowicz: A bullet would.

That’s not cool, but Kantorowicz has assured the Great Falls Tribune that he intended no threat, “implied or implicit,” to harm anyone. “If I make a remark because I’m tired as hell, I’m hungry, I want to go home and I sure as hell don’t want to come to the next meeting, it’s a flippant remark,” he said.

When I get tired, I talk about shooting people on-record at political party functions, too. Kantorowicz and Pinocci are on one side of a rift in the Cascade County Republicans that mirrors the larger split in the Montana GOP. Hagan and Fitzpatrick are moderates. Pinocci and Kantorowicz are hard-right conservatives. Their faction has largely been kept from the levers of power, partly because the schism has weakened the Republican majority in the legislature and partly because moderates have shut the right-wingers out. That’s probably a good thing, but it has accustomed them to operating in the realm of pure rhetoric.

Loose talk has become the modus operandi of Montana’s conservatives. They stand so little chance of making laws that their careers have become performances. Their speech, like their politics, is mostly theoretical. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.

Nightmare army/death cult has trouble with the books

An ISIS checkpoint outside Beiji refinery in Iraq

An ISIS checkpoint outside Beiji refinery in Iraq

The Islamic State is the combination Pizza Hut/Taco Bell of 21st-century geopolitics. It’s a terrorist organization and a state. It’s a brutal army and a pious theocracy. It’s our enemy, but it is also our fault. The only way ISIS is not like a Pizza Hut/Taco Bell is that it is not profitable. Back in January, it cut its fighters pay by half. Last week, the Washington Post announced that it was paying $50 a month—more if you have a wife and/or sex slave—and was struggling to supply electricity and medicine to the regions it controls. It turns out ISIS is good at taking over Iraq but bad at running it. Of whom does that remind me?

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