Serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis. © James Conner.

February 2014 Archive


28 February 2014

Old Max Lenington just can’t help himself

Seventy-year-old Max Lenington, Yellowstone County’s treasurer and a man unafraid to speak his mind, is in the news again — and again, it’s for speaking his mind in an ugly letter he ought not have sent to the editor of the Billings Gazette.

Lenington has apologized for the letter, which he admits was “over the top.” But he can’t seem to help himself and plenty of people, Democrats and Republican alike, think he should resign now instead of finishing his term, which expires at the end of the year, and retiring, which he says he’ll do.

…read the rest


27 February 2014

Peter Musgrove’s Wind Energy: a review

Wildhorse wind farm, near Ellensburg, WA.

It’s an expensive paperback, $38, and the author expects his readers to be intelligent. But for those willing to invest the money, and read with their brains fully engaged, Peter Musgrove’s Wind Power will return a wealth of knowledge on wind energy.

Once a lecturer in engineering at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, Musgrove finished his career working on wind energy in the private sector. Unlike most American books on wind energy, which are either homebrew manuals or engineering tomes, Wind Power is both an elegant history of wind energy and an analysis of wind energy public policy issues in both Europe and the United States.

…read the rest

Derek Skees releases endorsements


Rewritten & expanded. Former U.S. Senator Conrad Burns and current Public Service Commission chair Bill Gallagher head a list of political heavyweights endorsing Derek Skees for the Republican nomination for the District 5 seat on the PSC. Gallagher, the District 5 incumbent, is not seeking re-election because of illness.

Skees represented House District 4 in the 2011 legislature, but chose to challenge Monica Lindeen for Montana State Auditor in 2012 instead of running for re-election to the legislature. Lindeen beat Skees 53.5 to 46.5 percent, but Skees beat Lindeen by 88 votes in the PSC District 5 counties.

…read the rest


26 February 2014

Bob Keenan challenges Scott Reichner in Senate District 5

Former Bigfork state senator Bob Keenan filed for the Republican nomination for SD-5 (map) late last week. He’ll square off with Rep. Scott Reichner, the three-term incumbent of current HD-9. This will be an interesting match-up, and one that at this point I consider a toss-up.

I’ve updated Flathead Memo’s table of Flathead candidates.

With the 10 March deadline for filing approaching, there are still no Democratic candidates in HD-4, HD-7, HD-9, HD-10, SD-4, and SD-5. Democrats have a bad habit of waiting until the last day to file, so there’s a high probability that most of these districts will be contested in the general election. House District 7 is a swing district that could elect a Democrat. Senate District 4 probably leans Republican, but could elect a Democrat if (a) the electorate sours on the Republican nominee, and (b) Democrats nominate a good candidate.


25 February 2014

Petroleum, a pipeline, and Dirk Adams


Dirk Adams filed for the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate late last week. Given John Walsh’s advantage in fundraising, lead in endorsements, and status as a U.S. Senator, I’d say the odds of Adams’ winning the nomination are only slightly better than the odds of winning the Irish Sweepstakes. Still, if he runs a high minded, issues oriented campaign, he could do a lot of good for both his party and himself even if he doesn’t beat Walsh.

One issue opportunity is energy.

Adams is the only major candidate to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry 800,000 barrels a day of heavy crude oil from Alberta to refineries in gulf coast Texas. Shoveling and steaming the bitumen based oil out of the Athabasca Tar Sands generates 10–20 percent more greenhouse gases in the well to pipeline phase than, for example, sweet light crudes. Opponents of the pipeline believe stopping it could hold tar sands oil production to its current two million barrels per day, and thus retard global warming.

…read the rest


24 February 2014

Quality of Maker Faire exhibits was uneven

There were dozens of exhibits at the Maker Faire at FVCC on Saturday, but the quality of the exhibits was uneven. Many exhibitors displayed the objects they made, but provided little or no written or visual information on how they made their objects. Only a few exhibitors had displays showing both what they made and how they made it. Most were there to show and talk.

Master explainer Alan McNeil’s 3D printer exhibit, for example, featured his printer manufacturing 3D objects, a three-panel display explaining what 3D printing is and how it works, and examples of the objects he has manufactured with it. He attracted dozens of people, especially rapt young people whose questions he answered with patience and precision.

I suspect some exhibitors were there simply to advertise their wares, and were loath to provide any information on how they make what they made lest they disclose their methods and impair their competitive advantage. That’s human nature, I suppose, and akin to a cook’s hoarding a recipe. But I think such fears are exaggerated.

At least two highly accomplished luthiers displayed their exquisitely crafted fiddles and instruments. Even if they had provided me with detailed blueprints and instructional videos, and all the necessary materials and tools, I could not have returned home and begun producing comparable stringed instruments. Knowing how a master craftsman builds something is not the same as being able to build it just as well yourself. You can take home the drawings for the fiddle, but unless you also take home the luthier, you’re not going to make the same music.

My advice to next year’s exhibitors: provide written and visual materials that explain how you make what you made.

…read the rest


23 February 2014

Electricity generation in 2012 by fuel

Is hydroelectric power renewable energy? Some point to annual weather cycles and say yes, the rain falls, flows to the sea, rises to the clouds, and returns as rain and snow. Others say, yes, but: although the water cycle is eternal, dams are not. They fill with silt and become waterfalls that generate spray and nothing more.

…read the rest


22 February 2014

Maker Faire does better than fairly well

Alan McNeil of Kalispell explains three dimensional printing to young men paying rapt attention. The faire was well attended and will be an annual event, I suspect.

Saturday roundup

Sens. Jon Tester and John Walsh start Saturday at 0800 in Kalispell. Details below, and free coffee at the event.

At the more civilized hour of 1000, a “makers faire” kicks off at FVCC, sponsored by both the college and the Flathead County Library, aka ImagineIF Libraries. One of the exhibits is on making a pneumatic cannon, which, if it shoots potatoes, should fit in with the library’s plan to offer a workshop on building a chicken coop.

After you get back from the faire, you can read my comments on the Keystone XL pipeline and possible political blackmail by green voters and organizations.

…read the rest


21 February 2014

Dr. Ed calls Frank Garner a “flaming Democrat” and
Tammi Fisher a “puppet of Bruce Tutvedt”

Ed Berry, Ph.D

That would be Edwin Berry, Ph.D, the Flathead’s leading global warming denier, whose attractively designed PolyMontana blog provides a smorgasbord of polemics by conservative and tea-stained authors.

Garner, of course, is the former Kalispell police chief who’s running for the Republican nomination for House District 7 (map) against Ronalee Skees, wife of Derek. Fisher is the former Kalispell mayor who’s running against state Rep. Mark Blasdel for the Republican nomination for Senate District 4.

Writing in the comments section of young-earther Roger Koopman’s Libertarians can help Republicans eject RINOs, Berry says:

…read the rest


20 February 2014

Tammi’s already on Facebook fishin’ for votes


Campaigning is underway in the Republican primary for Senate District 4 (map) in Kalispell. Former Kalispell mayor Tammi Fisher is running ads (screenshots below) on Facebook, asking viewers to hit the “like” button, and providing a link to her campaign website.

One like is from Scott Davis, a leader of the Kalispell Quiet Skies campaign that last November successfully rolled back a proposed expansion of the Kalispell City Airport. Fisher also opposed expansion.

…read the rest


19 February 2014

Front yard astronomy

A little after 0200 this morning, the sky started clearing, revealing the moon to the south, and wispy clouds backlighted by a strong auroral display to the north. My sidewalk and driveway were slick with black ice, so I limited myself to stepping onto my lawn just off my front porch and obtained the following photograph. A friend in eastern Montana reported clear, dark skies and a spectacular display of the northern lights.


18 February 2014

Why I’m not calling for Van Valkenburg’s resignation now

I’m beginning to think I’m the only liberal blogger in Montana who isn’t, figuratively speaking, standing in front of the Missoula County Courthouse with a bucket of tar and bag of feathers demanding that County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg resign forthwith and spend the rest of his life repenting the sins the U.S. Department of Justice asserts he committed.

That’s because one never should take the prosecution’s case — in this instance, the DOJ’s case — at face value. Van Valkenburg and his deputy county attorneys may be guilty as charged, but they’re entitled to present a defense before judgment is passed. An accusation never obviates the need for a fair trial.

But I do hope the situation is resolved sooner than later. Regardless of the merits of the DOJ’s letter, the controversy over whether women involved in sexual assault cases are getting a fair shake from Missoula’s county attorney is hurting the community and depriving women of faith in the justice system.

Van Valkenburg’s truculence exacerbates the situation, making its resolution harder. He’s wise he’s not seeking re-election. And at some point, he might be wise to step down before his term expires. But right now, that’s his call, not mine.



17 February 2014

Tearjerker television and the Bode Miller interview

The smarter people at NBC never will admit it, but Kirsten Cooper’s interview of Bode Miller was exactly what the network’s producers wanted: painful, and thus dramatic, video of a grown man losing his composure and breaking into tears when asked one question too many about his brother’s death.

Miller graciously absolved Cooper of misbehaving in the interview, but that doesn’t absolve NBC, or television in general (and in particular, the worst offender, CNN), from the reprehensible practice of asking those it interviews not what happened, but “how do you feel?” in hope of inciting an emotional outburst that will set the internet and talk radio abuzz with outrage or admiration, and thus improve ratings and increase profits.

That’s what Cooper and her bosses set out to do. They did it expertly. And they did it because America’s Olympics transfixed couch potatoes aren’t that interested in an interview about the technical aspects of running the Super G. “Bode, please tell us how you gained time at Gate 6 when everyone before you lost almost four-hundredths of a second,” elicits “well, I noticed everyone was skidding on the ice, so I shot a straighter line and increased my edge angle by 15 degrees,” which elicits a change of channels by society matrons in Savannah who don’t know shush from schuss but tuned in hoping Bode, or someone, would cry during the post-race interview.

Olympic coverage has become tearjerker television, reality television at almost its worst (the worst is National Geographic’s Snake Salvation), highly offensive but highly profitable. It’s a damned disgrace.



16 February 2014

Must reads for Sunday

Updated. Today’s must read blog posts are at Montana Cowgirl, Intelligent Discontent, and 4and20blackbirds.

Cowgirl has a long post on the tea party’s attempt to disassociate itself from the bumbling Republicans on the Ravalli County Commission. Be sure to read Commissioner Foss’ close to deranged letter on the Flathead Water Compact.

At Intelligent Discontent, Don Pogreba concludes his detailed discussion of the U.S. Department of Justice’s letter criticizing how the Missoula County Attorney’s office handles accusations of rape and sexual assault with a call for the immediate resignation of Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg. Pogreba provides a link to the Missoulian’s story on the letter, which in turn provides a link to the letter. In a follow-up post, Pogreba urges Montana's attorney general, Tim Fox, to assist in resolving the situation.

At 4and20blackbirds, Jhwygirl, writing with tightly controlled fury, also urges Fox to become involved

Given Van Valkenburg isn’t running for re-election, I’m content to let him serve the remainder of his term and retire. The DOJ’s letter serves as the prosecution’s brief, and the prosecution’s brief always makes the accused seem guilty, so I’m loath to convict him without more information. Still, his truculent response to both the letter and the DOJ’s investigation of his office raises eyebrows, does him and his office no good in the court of public opinion, and undoubtedly generates rather than soothes fears that victims of sex crimes will not be treated justly by his office.

Although Van Valkenburg may intend to defend himself and concede nothing forever, he can best serve his community and successor by quickly reaching a responsible agreement with the DOJ.



15 February 2014

Saturday roundup

Today, brief discussions of Sen. John Walsh’s military records, Jason Priest’s legal and political predicaments, residency requirement for state legislators, and cross-county legislative districts in Flathead County. I was tempted to offer a comment or two on the Republicans’ ridiculous big stink over Gov. Steve Bullock’s following the law when he appointed Walsh to replace Max Baucus in the Senate, but decided there was no sport in tommy-gunning ripe carp.

…read the rest


14 February 2014

Flathead Democrats still need legislative candidates

Halfway through the 10 January through 10 March filing season, Republicans have filed for every legislative district (map) in Flathead County, but Democrats are without candidates in five districts, including two Kalispell districts — HD-7 and SD-4 — that Democrats have a chance of winning.

Lists of filings are maintained by both Montana’s Secretary of State and Flathead County’s elections department. PDFs of candidate’s C-1 and D-1 forms are available from Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices. Detailed maps of the districts are available from the redistricting commission, and Flathead County’s GIS department. And below, Flathead Memo’s list of Flathead legislative candidates.

Most of Flathead County is rural/suburban. Districts in those areas are heavily Republican. But districts — Hd-5, HD-3, and HD-7 — in the county’s three major urban areas, Whitefish, Columbia Falls, and Kalispell, can be and have been won by Democrats in the last ten years.

…read the rest

Best wishes for a happy Valentine’s Day


13 February 2014

Jason Priest charged with less than saintly behavior


Updated. I think we can safely conclude that Republican State Senator Jason Priest won’t be filing for re-election. Yesterday, reports the Billings Gazette, he was charged with crimes that, if convicted of committing, could lead to his spending more than one Christmas in the slammer:

…read the rest and
watch special video


12 February 2014

Biden swears in Sen. John Walsh


Janet Walsh holds the Bible as Vice President Joe Biden administers the oath of office to her husband, Sen. John Walsh.


11 February 2014

Walsh announces conflicting governance priorities


According to a press release (full text below) from his Senate office, John Walsh’s governance priorities are civil liberties, spending cuts, and jobs — and apparently in that order.

These priorities, two of which are mutually exclusive, strike me as being determined by polling results.

Running as a guardian of civil liberties responds to reasonable fears that the National Security Agency’s snooping on Americans violates privacy, guts freedoms, and needs to be curbed. There’s widespread support across the political spectrum for that position. There, he’s on solid political ground.

But he’s on shaky political ground, and in policy quicksand, when he simultaneously advocates reducing the deficit and creating job.

…read the rest


10 February 2014

Denise Juneau would have been a much better choice

Today Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announced his choice for Lt. Governor: Angela McLean, head of the board of regents for Montana’s university system, a former schoolteacher. It strikes me as a pander to educators and identity politics appointment.

I'm left wondering whether Bullock simply has contempt for elected officials other than himself, or whether he’s so sure he’ll never die in office that he’s not obligated to choose someone who’s ready to be governor if a wayward asteroid obliterates him on his way home tonight.

I wish Ms. McLean well. But I also wish Bullock had chosen someone who had at least run for dogcatcher. Given he wanted to appoint an educator and woman, Denise Juneau would have been a much better choice. Juneau has won statewide office twice, and her star shines brightly. Perhaps it shines too brightly for Bullock’s comfort.


Magenta trademarked, some people just see red

Magenta, also known as purple and fuchsia, is an extra-spectral color, a color not found on the spectrum of visible light as a single wavelength. It’s a combination of red and blue wavelengths with greater intensity than any green wavelengths that are present (in the additive primaries system, magenta can be described as minus green).

In the realm of kings and queens and glorious extravagances, magenta, usually known as purple, is a royal color.

And in the realm of frivolous lawsuits, it’s the color that a federal district court judge in Texas decided was protected by trademark. At the Washington Post, Brian Fung has the details.

…read the rest


9 February 2014

Area of Flathead legislative districts compared to all Montana districts


8 February 2014

Injury ends Olympics for Whitefish’s Maggie Voisin

Slopestyle skier Maggie Voisin injured her right ankle during practice yesterday, forcing her to withdraw from the event. That’s a shame, and a disappointment for her and her hometown, Whitefish, MT. Her friends and community not only formed a formidable cheering section, they pitched in to make it possible for her family to attend the Olympics with her.

At 15, Voisin has a bright future in her event if she can stay healthy, and could well represent the U.S. again in four years. In the meantime, she and everyone else should give Vladimir Putin a boot in his bottom for building an exceedingly dangerous slopestyle course that’s better suited for toughening Spetsnaz than showcasing the razzle-dazzle of trick skiing.


7 February 2014

John Walsh’s possible road to victory in November


Gov. Steve Bullock announced today he’s appointing Lt. Gov. John Walsh to serve the remainder of Sen. Max Baucus’ term. No surprise here. Walsh wanted the job, and the conventional wisdom is that serving as interim Senator will help him in his campaign to be elected this fall to a full six-year term in the Senate.

Bullock did not announce who will replace Walsh as Lt. Governor. I suspect he has someone in mind, but wants to hold a separate press conference to introduce his choice.

Walsh needs all the help he can get. Right now, he’s not raising the amount of money he needs — he has one-fourth as much cash as Rep. Steve Daines, the putative Republican nominee for the Senate — and hasn’t heard the last of his adventures with the Army’s inspector general. Serving as Senator raises his profile, improves his access to money, and gives him a leg up on seniority if he wins in November.

…read the rest


6 February 2014

Congratulations, Max. Will Juneau become Lt. Governor?

Updated. Our congratulations and best wishes to Sen. Max Baucus on being confirmed as ambassador to China on a 96–0 vote. Max voted present, and the senators from Kansas, and Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Republicans all, did not vote.

Gov. Steve Bullock will hold a press conference at noon tomorrow, and the expectation is that he’ll announce who he will appoint to serve the 11 months of Baucus’ term. I expect he’ll appoint Lt. Gov. John Walsh, whom he has endorsed for the Democratic nomination for the Senate, unless Walsh changes his mind about wanting to be appointed.

Actually, the more interesting question is: whom will Bullock appoint to replace Walsh as Lt. Governor? I think there’s a fairly strong probability he’ll pick Montana’s superintendent of public instruction, Denise Juneau, who will be termed-out in 2016 and has strong credentials for public service.

Update. At the Billings Gazette this evening, Charlie Johnson reported that Bullock may be considering for Lt. Governor two women apparently without experience in electoral politics:

Among the names being mentioned for lieutenant governor, according to State Bureau sources, are Angela McLean, an Anaconda educator who chairs the state Board of Regents, and Meg O’Leary, director of the state Commerce Department under Bullock and former director of sales and marketing at Big Sky Resort.

John Walsh lacked experience in electoral politics (he was well versed in National Guard politics). I thought Bullock picked him in spite of that, but if Bullock is considering appointing as Lt. Governor another person without experience in electoral politics, perhaps Walsh was picked because he hadn’t run for, or served in, electoral office. Is it possible that Bullock deeply disdains or fears other elected officials?

As for Baucus, he must still present to the Chinese government his credentials as ambassador. That’s usually a formality, and presumably the Chinese have quietly approved of his appointment, but there’s always a remote possibility — lottery ticket odds, really — that an unforeseen foreign policy crisis could provoke Beijing to reject Baucus. I wonder how much Mandarin he can learn at 72.



5 February 2014

John Walsh adds issues page to his website


John Walsh has finally added issues and about pages — they’re called What John Fights For and John’s Story — to his website. This is a smart move, as it counters criticism that he’s hiding his platform from the voters. His energy plank is missing, but I expect it will be inserted into his platform soon. I’ll examine his planks later this month. I’m using the rest of this post to examine some design elements of his website, and others, that concern me.

…read the rest


4 February 2014

Breaking news! Facilitators fear it’s too cold for forest planning!

Update, 5 February 2014. At 1655 yesterday, the temperature at Glacier International Airport was 4°F; the wind was ENE at 10 mph. At 2155, the temperature had dropped to -2°F, the NE wind was 22 mph gusting to 33 mph, and the wind chill — which scares the bejesus out of facilitators, but has little effect on the properly dressed — was -26°F. That’s not cold enough to cancel a meeting of adults.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Never mind that everyone involved in revising the Flathead National Forest’s forest plan probably owns a down parka, warm boots, and a winterized vehicle. Never mind that many are experienced winter campers. It’s cold outside, and the facilitators for this week’s meetings have quailed at the prospect of going to work in winter weather. Stay home, they say, stay warm.

Here’s the official message, followed by a screen shot of the NWS’s forecast:

…read the rest


3 February 2013

Tar sands action rally in Whitefish at 1700 today

Environmentalists in the Flathead will gather in Whitefish at 1700 today as part of a nationwide “rapid action rally” protesting the development of Alberta's oil sands.

The rally’s location is 600 2nd ST E. in Whitefish. That’s the corner of Highway 93 and 2nd ST, and appears to be the front lawn of the Whitefish Middle School. There may be parking places within walking distance. Dress warmly, as it will be cold and windy. The organizers urge bringing signs.

The rally is a response to the U.S. State Department’s release of a Final Environmental Impact Statement concluding that constructing the Keystone pipeline would not affect the development of the oil sands. Whitefish’s rally also protests the proposed Otter Creek coal mine in southeastern Montana.


Should Denver’s head coach be fired?

Were I the owner of the Denver Broncos, I’d seriously consider firing head coach John Fox. Down 36–8 to the Seattle Seahawks at the end of the third quarter, it was clear the Broncos were beaten and beaten badly. Yet Fox kept Denver quarterback Peyton Manning in the game, hoping perhaps for a miracle despite Manning’s ineffectiveness, when he should have replacing him with Brock Osweiler.

Would Osweiler have turned around the game? No. But why risk an injury to Manning in a lost cause? Once a coach knows his team won’t win, he’s obligated to prepare for the next game or season by protecting his starters and giving his reserves playing time. San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich understands that, but Denver’s coach, Fox, does not. Denver’s players deserved better.


2 February 2014


A Montana state senator spends Saturday night in jail

It’s Jason Priest, a very conservative Republican from Red Lodge. According to the Billings Gazette, he’s charged with “first offense partner family assault and resisting arrest.” I think partner family assault is legalese for wife beating.

Montana Cowgirl is following the story, and I encourage you to visit her website and join in the discussion.


1 February 2014

Walsh isn’t raising enough money to win


Democrats cannot be happy with John Walsh’s fundraising efforts. In the last quarter of 2013, he raised $583,000, ending the year with $435,500 in the bank. Republican Steve Daines raised $1 million in the same period, ending 2013 with $1.9 million in the bank.

I think it’s too early to conclude that national Democrats have written off the Senate seat Max Baucus is vacating, but Walsh’s anemic effort is a bright red flag that something is wrong. By comparison, Open Secrets reports that Jon Tester raised $13.3 million during the 2009–2013 cycle.

If Walsh doesn’t pick up the pace and pull in at least $2–3 million by the end of March, waging a winning campaign will become next to impossible.

…read the rest