Good country people for Carson, Benji Hughes, and the charm of first dates

Singer-songwriter Benji Hughes

Singer-songwriter Benji Hughes

Last week, the Federal Election Commission announced that Ben Carson had raised more money from individual donors in Montana than any other candidate. Like Montanans themselves, his donors cluster around Billings and Kalispell, but they are also more widely distributed than donors to any other candidate. They live in the boonies. This supports the hypothesis I developed during my independent research in Iowa, where I found that Carson had the support of 100% of voters on my great aunt and uncle’s hog farm. He is the candidate of good country people.

That he is not the candidate of the GOP tells us something about the changing dynamics of Republican politics. Carson is not the different from the two other men leading his field. Like Trump, he has no previous experience in government. Like Cruz, he made a name for himself as an outspoken—some might say obstreperous—critic of President Obama. But unlike Trump and Cruz, Carson is meek. His meekness is a quality that good country people hold dear, but in the 2016 Republican nominating contest, talking loud and crazy is a feature, not a bug. You can read all about in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent.

But that’s not all the Indy has to offer. Valentine’s Day is this weekend, and that means it’s time for the annual Love and Sex issue, featuring essays on subjects from strip clubs to the slow fade, Valentine’s for ironists and the charm of first dates. That last one is by me. You can read ’em all here, and I recommend that you do. There’s Jamie Rogers in there, and he is always good.

Meanwhile, Benji Hughes is getting better. If you’ve been foolish enough to let me control your stereo, you’ve probably heard The Mummy, a strange and pleasing song from his 2008 debut. That sprawling double album is fun, but it felt more like a series of ideas for songs rather than a developed work. Eight years later, Hughes has released his second album, Songs in the Key of Animals, and it’s great. It’s got the same 1970s modal sound, but the songs are more fully formed and, as the album progresses, heartfelt. That’s a positive development for a talented artist who has verged on novelty music before. You can read my review here. I consider this track the single:

You’ll find that sweet jam on my Winter 2 mix, which I have recorded as a single, continuous track and uploaded to SoundCloud, because CD drives are a vanishing species. I didn’t think I did much this week, but I guess I’ve been pretty busy. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!

$2.3 million later, Tester reverses on fiduciary rule

Sen. Jon Tester before the tragic events of Operation Mayhem

Sen. Jon Tester before the tragic events of Operation Mayhem

Back in 2010, Montana’s Senator Jon Tester voted in favor of the Dodd-Frank Act and its authorization of the federal government to create a fiduciary rule. The fiduciary rule is dry, but it’s important. Generally understand as a response to financial advisors’ tendency, before the 2008 crisis, to push clients toward investments that paid high commissions rather than ones that suited their needs, the fiduciary rule would require advisors to put their clients’ financial success ahead of their own.

That makes sense, especially after you’ve watched subprime mortgage derivatives wreck the world economy. Lawyers are required to prioritize their clients’ interests, and so are clinicians. Maybe that’s why the fiduciary rule is overwhelmingly popular—except, of course, with the financial services industry. It has also recently become unpopular with Sen. Tester, who joined Republicans in attempting to block implementation of the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule last month.

In unrelated news, the financial industry has donated $2.3 million to Sen. Tester this year, bringing his career receipts from that sector to $3 million. Maybe he just wanted to give us all an object lesson in how  conflicts fiduciary of interest work. Either he has reaped monetary benefits at the expense of the Montanans whose civic investment he manages, or he knows a really good reason why the fiduciary rule is bad that he should explain to us right away. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. I’m going to make scrambled eggs and oatmeal for lunch, because I’m sick, and I demand pastes.

Romney keeps it surreal in the Hamptons

“We removed it to make his mouth more efficient!”

My favorite aspect of the 2012 presidential election is the micro-genre of news story in which Mitt Romney does some Richie Rich shit. This weekend was delightful, as Romney held a trio of fundraisers in the Hamptons. You may remember the Hamptons from such experiences as client invites you to his summer home to reinforce the idea that he is your boss, or this. That was hilarious when I was twelve, but now that I am older I prefer the sort of sardony you can only get from the New York Times:

A woman in a blue chiffon dress poked her head out of a black Range Rover here on Sunday afternoon and yelled to an aide to Mitt Romney, “Is there a V.I.P. entrance. We are V.I.P.” No such entrance existed.

Well played, Michael Barbaro and Sarah Wheaton. But for the prize pig Romney donor quote of the weekend, you’ll have to click on the jump.

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“We don’t know what we don’t know”

Thomas Nast's famous cartoon depicting the Tammany Ring

The foregoing quote comes from Ellen S. Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, speaking to the New York Times about Super PAC donors. Tuesday did not just give us the primary that sealed the Republican nomination; it was also the day that various super PACs disclosed their funding, sort of. America’s bold experiment in calling money speech has yielded roughly eleventy gajillion dollars for both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, although Romney seems to have netted slightly more. A lot of his donors are whom you’d expect:  a coal company, a lobbyist for Altria, Haley Barbour’s nephew. Others are a little trickier, including a quarter million dollars from a corporation “with a post office box for a headquarters and no known employees.” Thomas Jefferson must be rolling over in his slave grave.

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The other fun thing that happened at the debate

Google search results for "rick santorum"—note that the top result is a paid advertisement, and that the neologism is beating the original.

In all the chanting for death and keeping promises to seniors, we lost track of the other exciting development from the CNN Tea Party Republican Debate. Wolf Blitzer fielded questions from Twitter, one of which asked the candidates what they were doing to attract the Latino vote. Before Herman Cain could angrily shout whom?, Rick Santorum jumped on it:


Santorum is doing the same thing to attract Latino voters that he’s doing to get votes from outside his personal church: nothing. When I first read this quote in print media, I assumed his “illegal—I mean Latino—voters” was a snide jab. Now I’m not so sure. We are talking about the man who, at the first Republican debate, said that if—when!—Rick Santorum becomes President, “the world as we know it will be no more.” Whether he just said illegal already and had it in his cache memory or was deliberately conflating ethnic identity with false citizenship, Santorum can be forgiven, because he was pursuing the objective of the debate: messing with Rick Perry.

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