Allright, there are a lot of interesting stories to share with you, but I am simply running out of time- so here’s the weekend wrapup…
First, The Flathead Beacon’s Kellyn Brown covers the “empty threats” from Gov. Steve Bullock’s office, after The Billings Gazette’s Tom Lutey attempted to get the details on a $45 million Bakken aid proposal.
Another reporter, Northern Broadcasting Network’s Aaron Flint, first reported on the aid package story under the headline: “Bullock Trying to Mend Fences in Eastern Montana.” He was working off a message forwarded to him that said the governor was about make an announcement in the area.
So, the news broke before the governor’s office wanted it to. Who cares? It certainly wasn’t worth the follow-up headline that Flint reported: “Top Bullock Staffer Threatening the Billings Gazette.”
Speaking of threats…
From The Missoulian- Panetta: Greatest U.S. threat is ‘inability to deal with budget’
The power to hunt down a terrorist like Osama bin Laden may not be enough to protect the United States from the folly of its own spending problems, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told a Missoula audience Thursday.
“Our most dangerous national security issue is our inability to deal with the budget,” said the man who’s also directed the Central Intelligence Agency and Office of Management and Budget, and chaired the U.S. House Budget Committee. “We need tax reform and a budget deal that tells us where the U.S. is going. If we cannot fix this, we will not be a strong nation in the future. We will be a nation in decline.”
Missoula Indy: Montana State University can’t refuse huge gift
Recently, Montana State University President Waded Cruzado announced a $50 million donation—a university record—from Norm Asbjornson, owner of AAON, a Tulsa, Okla.- based heating and cooling equipment manufacturer.
Asbjornson is a 1960 MSU graduate in mechanical engineering, so fittingly, the money is earmarked for a new engineering building on the Bozeman campus to be named in his honor. Unfortunately for good public relations, the day before university regents met to approve the gift, it was revealed that Asbjornson was also the largest anonymous contributor to a “dark money” campaign organization featured in a Frontline documentary on PBS.
According to bank records, Asbjornson contributed $50,000 to a group called Western Tradition Partnership in 2008, and his company contributed $20,000 more in 2010.
So, The Missoula Indy wants MSU to turn down a $50 million contribution- all because the contributor exercised his First Amendment rights to free speech? ‘Nuff said…
Politico’s “Morning Energy”- W.H. – DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE:
The White House didn’t offer an official response when POLITICO asked about yesterday’s Rolling Stone piece (http://rol.st/1npFVAk ) saying that two unnamed administration sources say President Barack Obama “all but decided to deny the permit for the pipeline.” But White House spokesman Matt Lehrich later wrote on Twitter: “Tip for reporters: nobody who knows POTUS’ thinking on Keystone is talking and nobody who is talking knows.” He also offered the standard White House statement that the pipeline decision is in the hands of the State Department and will be “made on merits.”
Speaking of Keystone XL: Warren Buffett says his company’s BNSF railroad firm likely won’t need to buy more rail cars thanks for the delay in the pipeline’s construction. Reuters: http://reut.rs/1igoMr2
I also have to give the hat tip to “Morning Energy” for this Reuters piece- Buffett: No need for more BNSF rail car buys on Keystone delay
Warren Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N), said on Wednesday the company’s BNSF railroad unit probably will not need to expand its rail car purchases as a result of delays in the Keystone pipeline construction.
Among the worries he cited was the potential for cyber attacks at Berkshire companies, particularly those with large physical facilities such as BNSF and utility operations.
Meanwhile, TheStreet.com notes how ConocoPhillips (led by a Montana native as CEO) can blow past its 52-week high.
ConocoPhillips(COP_), the world’s largest independent energy producer, is looking to higher-margin production to get bigger.
Over the next four years, ConocoPhillips expects to increase its output at a compounded annual growth rate of between 3% and 5%. This will be driven by 20% per year growth in output from the Eagle Ford, Bakken and the Canadian oil sands at the same time it cuts its lower-margin gas output by an average of 6% per year through 2017.
During this period, the company said it will spend nearly $16 billion each year on capital expenditures, 95% of which will flow towards lucrative projects with margins of more than $30 per barrel. Moreover, 30% of its annual capital budget will go towards the development of its assets in the Eagle Ford, Bakken and Canadian oil sands.
A retired Army Colonel and prominent leader in the American Legion in Montana has now been promoted to serve in a two-star position. The military’s Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) has this:
FORT MCCOY, Wis. — James Mariska was appointed an Army Reserve Ambassador for the state of Montana March 21 by the Chief of the Army Reserve, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey W. Talley.
Mariska joins more than 100 Army Reserve Ambassadors throughout country to help promote awareness and understanding of Army Reserve units and soldiers within their assigned states. Army Reserve Ambassadors are a two-star equivalent and represent the Chief of the Army Reserve without salary, wages or related benefits. Army Reserve Ambassadors develop awareness and advocacy with community leaders and are vitally important bridges to communities across the nation.
Mariska lives in Billings, Mont., and is a retired Army colonel, having served as both enlisted and officer for 34 years. He also retired as a financial adviser and banker in 2006 and has Bachelor Degrees in both Science and Finance from the University of Montana.
Some of Mariska’s Army honors include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal and the National Defense Service Ribbon w/ Bronze Star. His civic duties include being a trustee for the University of Montana Foundation and also a member of the Congressman Steve Daines (R-MT) Service Academy Selection Board.
As an Army Reserve Ambassador, Mariska will help educate local and state businesses, as well as government and social sectors on the Army Reserve’s mission, significant contributions and resource needs. Mariska can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One final note- stay tuned: On Sunday morning I have the honor of joining the Big Sky Honor Flight of WWII veterans back to THEIR memorial in Washington, DC. I’ll be reporting live during our statewide radio show Voices of Montana from 9-10AM Monday morning.