A Flathead Valley, Montana, based independent journal of observation, analysis, and opinion.

Index to January – July, 2008, Archives

12 August 2008

Smoke from the Deep Draw Fire

Deep Draw smoke plume

Smoke from the Deep Draw Fire west of Elmo rises above the Salish Mountains and streams east in this photograph taken near the KM Ranch Road south of Whitefish yesterday around 1800. Place your cursor on the image to see a grayscale version in which the plume stands out more clearly from the sky.


8 August 2008

Dennis Rehberg inflicts robo calls on constituents

Rep. Dennis Rehberg The problem with robo (robot) calls is not their content. The problem is that they exist at all. The telephone rings. You answer. A metallic voice begins speaking without pause, and it quickly seems, without end. If you hang-up before the call is finished, the robot often calls back to finish the job. And if you're out of ring reach, the unsolicited, unwanted message is left on your answering machine.

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3 July 2008

Digital security run amok at the Montana Department of Transportation

MDT Director Jim Lynch’s slide show on Highway 35 traffic issues near Flathead Lake is as good a place as any to start. Delivered at public meetings on 4 & 5 June 2008 in Polson and Kalispell, Lynch’s presentation is now available for download from MDT as a 3.5-megabyte PDF.

There’s just one problem. That PDF — and apparently every other PDF produced by MDT; even PDFs of agendas for public meetings — is crippled with security restrictions that defy common sense. You can open the PDF, you can print it, and if you’re handicapped (blind), you can extract the text for accessibility.

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27 June 2008

The depressing health care political news from Obama

The Politico’s Ben Smith reports that Neera Tanden, Hillary Clinton’s former director of policy — and perhaps the leading architect of Clinton’s health care plan — has joined Barack Obama’s campaign as the director of domestic policy.

Hillaryites will rejoice at this news. But those of us who favor a sensible health care policy will not.

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4 June 2008

Observations on the 3 June 2008 Montana Primary

Notes on Flathead County

There were three surprises. Brittany MacLean defeated Gil Jordan for the Democratic nomination for Senate District 2 (Whitefish and Columbia Falls and points north). I have informal reports that Jordan, a man of considerable accomplishment, may have had a personality that rubbed voters the wrong way. MacLean’s Republican opponent in November will be Ryan Zinke, a retired naval officer who grew up in Whitefish. Zinke easily defeated Suzanne Brooks in a campaign that was marred by rumors of anti-Zinke robo calls.

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29 May 2008

Mushroom cloud over Glacier National Park

Updated 9 August 2008

Mushroom cloud over Glacier Late in the afternoon yesterday, a huge cloud began building over Glacier National Park. By 2000, it towered tens of thousands of feet over the park. Not quite a supercell, it exhibited the classic anvil form of a cumulonimbus formation.

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22 Aril 2008

Proposed Whitefish High School drug testing: no appeals of test results?

That’s certainly one interpretation of the following paragraph from the draft policy (download here):

Any student who willfully provides a false sample or otherwise tampers with a sample or undertakes any effort to obstruct, evaluate or impair the accuracy of the drug test will be suspended from participation in the current activity season and the next season for which the student would have been eligible and qualified to participate.

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10 April 2008

Glacier High biomass boiler update

At School District 5’s school board meeting on 8 April, the trustees of School District 5 were briefed, in what I thought was a rather elliptical manner, on the biomass boiler problems at Glacier High School. The bottom line is that the installed equipment is not tough enough to handle the hogged wood that the district wants to burn. In a one-page handout (PDF), facilities manager Chuck Cassidy presented the board with three options:

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8 April 2008

Glacier High’s heating plant: an embarrassment, not a scandal

Updated. It’s not a scandal, but it is an embarrassment: Glacier High School, my sources tell me, was built with the wrong equipment for burning the hogged wood chips that were intended as the school’s primary heating fuel (the backup fuel is natural gas).

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3 April 2008

Entering the security cocoons of Obama and HRC

If you attend the 5 April 2008 Democratic dinner in Butte, at which Obama and Hillary Clinton will speak, will your name and photograph end up in a Secret Service and/or Homeland Security database?

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1 April 2008

Milbourne Institute releases rare photograph of winter flood of 1900

Old Steel Bridge, 29 February 1900 The great flood of 1964, which took out bridges, roads, and homes, and submerged dozens of square miles of the Flathead in June of that year, is the definitive flood for our valley. But we have experienced other floods of note, among them the inundations of 1894, 1916, 1933, and 1948.

Recently, another major high water event in the Flathead came to light — the late winter flood of 1900 — thanks to researchers from the…

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20 March 2008

Montana Democrats bungle ticket sales for Clinton-Obama event

Updated. If the Montana Democratic Party cannot sell tickets to a popular event efficiently and fairly, a simple exercise compared to running a major campaign, how can it expect to win elections?

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17 March 2008

A policeman’s palm is sweetened

Baucus supporter sweetens palm of Kalispell cop. If you live in Boston, or even Butte, a Saint Patrick’s Day parade is a big deal, a grand march down main street followed by a rousing good time in beer soaked pubs. In Kalispell, however, Saint Patrick’s Day is mainly an excuse to get drunk on green ale, and the parade is an anemic event that’s held out of habit. And so on Saturday, 15 March 2008, graying bagpipers skirled up Kalispell’s main drag…

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6 March 2008

Fighting Starlings & Flathead Panoramic dot com

Fighting starlings, by James Conner. Fighting Starlings. Making photographs of birds requires four things: patience, luck, a long lens, and bait, in this case suet from a big box store on whose board of directors a current presidential candidate once sat. Using a 55–200mm DX Nikkor, I shot through two plate glass windows. Luck delivered the Harpy-like pose. Window glass degrades the image some, but not by much if you keep the windows clean and the lens wide open and as close to the glass as possible. Larger image.

Flathead Panoramic. We humans have panoramic vision, but most of our cameras do not. Therefore, making a panoramic photograph requires making a series of overlapping images from a single point, keeping the focus and exposure constant. Later, the images are stitched together digitally using software such as Photomerge, the panorama creating software included in the current versions of Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. Flathead Panoramic displays a number of panoramas of the Flathead that I've made during the last two decades.


21 February 2008

Shooting the moon

Lunar eclipse A clear night in February in the Flathead? During a total eclipse of the moon? The odds of experiencing that happy coincidence are only slightly higher than the odds of winning the Irish Sweepstakes. But last night it happened: the sky was clear and the darkening moon was visible from my front porch.

I mounted an old 400mm lens on a digital SLR, and made 80 images of the eclipse, one of which, showing the almost totally eclipsed moon dimly illuminated with Earthshine, you see to the right. With the camera’s sensitivity at 800, the lens wide open at f/5.6, the exposure was one-half-second. I saved the images in the RAW format and processed the files for a daylight color balance.

The hardest part of making this kind of photograph is not getting the exposure right; it’s keeping your southern exposure from icing-up while you stand still in the below freezing night. But if you’re interested in learning more about the technical aspects of shooting eclipses, the good people in the Flathead’s Big Sky Astronomy Club will be glad to help you.

1 February 2008

Making campaign finance molehills into mountains

Few things exasperate me as much as the predilection of both Republicans and Democrats to make a mountain out of a molehill when they discover a technical, but otherwise unremarkable, violation of campaign finance laws.

Earlier this week, a mountain was manufactured by Democrat Kendall Van Dyk, a well regarded state representative from Billings. Van Dyk discovered to both his horror and glee that a fellow named David Fulwiler donated $100 to Roy Brown, the Billings state senator who is running for the Republican nomination for governor…

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27 January 2008 (updated 9 February 2008)

Jesse Laslovich — ambition triumphs over wisdom

Jesse Laslovich Update, 9 February. I now believe that Laslovich must live in SD-43 to satisfy Montana’s residency requirements. I have extensively revised this posting.

Suppose that you and your wife both worked in Helena, owned a house there, and lived in that house. Wouldn’t you call Helena home, and use a Helena address if you filed for political office? That’s I would do, and I think, what most people would do.

But not 27-year-old Jesse Laslovich. Although he and his wife, Jill, own and live in a house in Helena, where he works in the Attorney General’s office…

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25 January 2008

Jim Dupont’s website…

Update: Dupon’s website has been developed. …has been registered — it’s http://www.jimdupont2008.com — but as of 1330 MST today, it’s not on the web. The URL takes you to a note at godaddy.com reporting that the domain has been parked. It was registered on 16 January 2008, which suggests it was an afterthought or that the retired Republican sheriff didn’t decide to run for county commissioner until just before filing opened. I’m betting there’s plenty of money behind Dupont and that his website will be highly professional. His campaign, incidentally, already has made one mistake: it didn’t register www.jimdupont.com, which opens the door to mischief.


22 January 2008

Schweitzer for VP? Montana’s Democrats better hope not

Writing in today’s Washington Post, Chris Cillizza lists potential Vice Presidential candidates for both parties. The last on his list for the Democrats? Montana’s governor, Brian Schweitzer:

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16 January 2008

Did Rehberg abuse his frank?

Dennis Rehberg Updated 17 January. You know the campaign for a seat in Congress is about to begin when the incumbent, in this case Montana’s Republican Congressman, Dennis Rehberg, sends you campaign literature — at taxpayer expense — disguised as an informational mailing for constituents. What I received (PDF) from Rehberg last week was a classic example of that dodge. A large, glossy, four-color, custom-sized card sporting his frank (more on that in a moment), it affirms his steadfast opposition to the unholy trinity of fraud, waste, and abuse, that hoary straw man of every politician, and informs us that he has introduced “critical earmark reform legislation.”

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