27 June 2016
Note to readers
Flathead Memo is standing down today.
26 June 2016
24 June 2016
More on log supply for Weyerhaeuser
23 June 2016
Shutdown of Weyerhaeuser wood products mills at C. Falls no surprise
No one who contemplated Weyerhaeuser’s acquisition of Plum Creek for more than five seconds was surprised by yesterday’s announcement that the lumber and plywood mills at Columbia Falls are closing, with a net loss of at least 100 jobs that pay well. If the operation were still profitable and its economic future bright, Plum Creek’s owners would not have cashed out.
The medium density fiberboard plant, pictured below in a photograph from 1989, will continue operating — MDF is a modern, value added, product for which there’s a reasonably steady market — as long as wood fiber remains available. The lumber and plywood mills in Kalispell probably will continue operating as long as the MDF plant does, but were I a young man, I would not expect to work there until I became eligible for Social Security.
The huge volumes of standing timber that seemed limitless when D.C. Dunham moved his sawmill from northern Minnesota to Columbia Falls in 1946 are gone, as are the timber mining practices that fed hundreds of millions of board feet to northwestern Montana mills during the 30-year timber boom era that began in the 1950s. The accumulated growth of centuries that was stripped from the mountains has been replaced by second and third growth stands that contain much less volume.
Weyerhaeuser blamed its decision to shutdown the mills in Columbia Falls on a shortage of sawlogs, insinuating that the shortage is caused by mismanagement of our national forests. That what mill owners aways say when they decide to shutter their operations. But it’s not a shortage of logs that’s the problem. It’s a surplus of mill capacity. Weyerhaeuser is downsizing its mill capacity to bring it into equilibrium with Mother Nature’s capacity to grow trees.
There’s also a surplus of wooden-headed politicians from both political parties who are stumbling over each other as they try to blame the limitations of nature on the federal government.
At least Weyerhaeuser announced its closures on the first day of summer, not on the day after Christmas. Whether or not that kindness was intended, it helps those losing their jobs if they don’t face winter heating bills and cold, dark, days right away.
22 June 2016
Note to readers
Tomorrow, a look at Gov. Bullock’s 26-page paper, The Future of Montana Electricity, and the closing of Weyerhaeuser’s plywood and lumber mill in Columbia Falls.
21 June 2016
Bypass aesthetics — soundwalls, cranes, and bridges
It’s time for another look at progress on the stretch of the westside Kalispell bypass that’s within easy walking distance of my home, the stretch from Parkridge south to the intersection with Highway 2. Most of the earthmoving is finished, the roadway is smooth and easily (but not legally) driveable, sound walls are being erected, and bridges are slowly taking form. Paving should begin fairly soon.
20 June 2016
U.S. Supreme Court lets stand important state gun control laws
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would not hear a challenge to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision (PDF) in Shew v. Malloy, No.15-1030, which upheld state laws restricting the sale of certain semiautomatic rifles (the civilianized AR-15 is an example of the genre) in Connecticut and New York.
The circuit court decided the case on 15 October 2015, four months before the death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. It may be that the court is split on the issue and is waiting for a ninth justice to be confirmed before taking up a case presenting it. In the meantime, I highly recommend reading the circuit court's decision, which is notable for its clarity.
19 June 2016
They’re coming to take our guns away
They’re coming to take our guns away,
They’re coming, it could be tonight.
Who is coming? I ask, Say, hey.
Who put you in such a great fright?
Obama is coming, you liberal, you fool,
Obama, the AF and T,
In black helicopters with a blue ray death tool,
And handcuffs for mamma and me.
They’ll seize our weapons, they’ll melt them down,
To leg irons and FEMA camp quods,
Our children will learn we simply left town,
That we’ll return there aren’t any odds.
That’s why I’ve barred my windows and doors,
And beam lasers high in the sky,
They’re coming to take our guns away,
I’m ready — just let them try.
For freedom is found in the barrel of a gun,
In gunpowder, brass, and hot lead,
Our blood they may spill, but still we’ll be free,
Although we may all end up dead.
We won’t let them take our guns away,
Not ever, not now, not tonight.
Obama and Hillary, stay out of our sights,
We’re armed and we know all our rights.
Okay, okay, my neighbor, my friend,
I now understand your great fright,
When worst comes to worst, when they really do come,
You can count on me doin’ what’s right.
When that black whirlybird does land on your lawn,
And jackboots and handcuffs appear,
I’ll say you skedaddled, sneaked out before dawn,
And invite them in for red beer.
18 June 2016
Democrats are in worse trouble than Bernie Sanders says they are in
Speaking to his supporters two days ago, thanking them for their efforts and accomplishments while signaling that his campaign for the Democratic nomination was no longer in high gear, Sen. Bernie Sanders addressed the predicament of the Democratic Party:
Here is a cold, hard fact that must be addressed. Since 2009, some 900 legislative seats have been lost to Republicans in state after state throughout this country. In fact, the Republican Party now controls 31 state legislatures and controls both the governors’ mansions and statehouses in 23 states. That is unacceptable. [Transcript]
And it’s actually worse than that. Writing at Vox on 19 October 2015, Matt Yglesias reported:
In what Democrats should take as a further bleak sign, four of the 11 states where they control both houses of the state legislature — Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Illinois — have a Republican governor. This leaves just seven states under unified Democratic Party control.
Here’s how red the map is:
17 June 2016
Institutionalized discrimination in the
Democratic Party’s delegate selection process
Saturday last, as Pete Talbot has reported at Intelligent Discontent, the national campaign for Bernie Sanders imposed its will on the selection of Montana’s pledged to Sanders delegates to the Democratic National Convention. I found the intervention outrageous, and still do, but the party’s rules allow, indeed seem to mandate, such meddling to assure that Montana’s delegation to the convention is properly “diverse.”
Here, in a passage from the delegate selection rules (PDF) for Oregon’s Democratic Party, is how delegate diversity will be assured:
16 June 2016
A British “advice surgery” is where constituents cut to the chase on issues
Murdered (possibly assassinated) British Member of Parliament Jo Cox was shot down, and kicked, and stabbed, outside a library in Birstall, West Yorkshire, England, where she had just concluded a “constituent surgery,” sometimes called an “advice surgery.”
That’s a new term to me, and I would have rather learned about it in any way other than reading the Guardian’s report on her death.
The American equivalent is a listening session for constituents featuring the elected official for the district. For example, a town hall meeting or a clinic for constituents.
I’m referring to Cox’s death as a murder, not as an assassination, because at this point the motive of the killer has not been established. As I’ve observed previously, first reports are always incomplete, and many times not accurate. Resisting the temptation to jump to conclusions has great intellectual merit even if that isn’t emotionally satisfying. But I’m not ruling out the possibility that it was an assassination.
Does expanding Flathead High School make sense?
The trustees of School District 5 think so. They’re asking the voters to approve $28.8 million in bonds this fall, with $18.2 million going for upgrades at parking space starved Flathead High that would increase the school’s capacity by 150 students. One million is allocated for acquiring parking space, but only on a willing seller basis.
This makes little sense to me. Instead of pouring more money into an old building in a bad location, the trustees should be making long range plans to replace Flathead High with a new school on a tract of land large enough to accommodate 100 years of growth.
If more classroom space is needed, add another wing to Glacier High, where there is plenty of land and the building is only a decade old. That would make Glacier High the larger school by a significant amount, but there’s no reason the district’s two high school need to be roughly the same size.
Moving students from Flathead High to Glacier High also would solve the parking problem at Flathead High.
I doubt this bond will pass. And at this point, I don’t think it should pass.
15 June 2016
Senate District 3: a tale of three turnouts
Senate District 3 (map), comprising House Districts 5 and 6, runs from north of Whitefish to northern Kalispell. In last week’s Republican primary, Rep. Keith Regier, a resident of HD-6, defeated Don Kaltschmidt, a resident of HD-5, by 106 votes, 1,851 to 1,745. Kaltschmidt prevailed in HD-5 by 97 votes, but lost HD-6, the more conservative house district, by 203 votes.
Although HD-5 has more registered voters than HD-6, the turnout in HD-6 was considerably higher than in HD-5 (see table below). The turnout fell as voters went down the ballot (see graph below). For those wondering, I did not find evidence of a Democratic crossover to help Kaltschmidt.
Close elections, incidentally, are hard on the losers. Kaltschmidt, I suspect, is an unhappy man who is wondering what small thing he could have done, but didn’t, that would have lifted him to victory. And it’s possible (but not likely) there was something more he could have done that would have won the election for him. But a closer analysis suggests that he came as close as he did because he did so many things right. He challenged the current Montana House Majority Leader, a man with the experience of four legislative and several school board elections, and the support of powerful economic interests — and came within 106 votes of beating him. That’s not the outcome Kaltschmidt sought, but objectively, it was no mean accomplishment. He did well, very well.