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

April 2014 Archive


31 May 2014

Expect heavy Democratic crossover voting in Tuesday’s primary

Expect to see abnormally low turnouts in Tuesday’s Democrat primaries in districts where (a) hard right Republicans are running against self-described responsible Republicans, and (b) there’s no Democratic primary and/or weak Democratic candidates who have little or no chance of winning in November.

That’s because there are organized efforts by Montanans who usually vote for Democrats to encourage Democrats to cross over to the Republican primary — crossing over is legal and sometimes morally imperative — and voting for the more moderate candidate. I know of at least two county level efforts, and yesterday Mike Dennison reported that the MEA-MFT, Montana’s largest labor union, is blessing voting for some Republicans:

“We’re telling people out there that there are some Republicans we like,” MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver said Friday. “If you have a candidate who is supporting your issues, and they’re Republicans, you’ve got to support them.”

Feaver has sent emails to MEA-MFT members in recent days, identifying the two-dozen or so contested GOP legislative primaries across the state that feature harder-line conservatives versus more moderate Republicans.

I’ve not seen any of Feaver’s emails. But in the Flathead, there are three Kalispell area districts with Republican primaries between hard right and relatively moderate candidates where crossover voting could make the difference:



30 May 2014

All students should take final exams

According to the Daily InterLake, Glacier and Flathead high schools want to abandon the school district’s half-baked policy that allows students with stellar attendance records to opt out of final exams.

That would be a long overdue return to sanity. The premise of the opt-out policy is that it’s more important for students to be in the classroom than finding out whether they learned anything while they were there.

One argument — rationalization, really — used to support the opt-out policy was that final exams aren’t the only way of evaluating learning. But the principals of Glacier and Flathead eviscerated that notion during their presentation to the school board earlier this week:

Both schools came to a consensus that all students, regardless of attendance, should take final tests. Fusaro said that removing the attendance incentive also may change perceptions that final exams are a punishment for missing school; instead they prepare students for college.

“I saw kids graduate with a 3.8 GPA from high school and never take a single exam, but when they get to college, what do you take — pretty much exams — and they were definitely not prepared for their first year so they definitely had to study and that’s part of the impetus looking at this,” Fusaro said.

How did students who had that hard a time in college ever receive a 3.8 GPA?

I’m old fashioned. I believe grades should reflect a student’s mastery of the subject matter, and nothing else. No points added or deducted for attendance. No grades based on socialization, on working with others, on attitude, or on anything except the subject matter. And the evaluations of a student’s mastery of the subject matter must be rigorous standardized tests that allow valid comparisons across school, district, state, and national boundaries.

It’s exasperating that allowing students with goody-two-shoes attendance records to opt out of final exams is even an issue. The policy never made sense, never should have been adopted, and should be repealed. Pronto.



29 May 2014

If you support a woman’s right to choose, attend this event Friday

It’s a fundraiser (details), so bring your checkbook — and bring a friend. It’s at the Central School Museum in Kalispell. Reception at 1730, a screening of the film On Hostile Ground, featuring Susan Cahill, at 1815. Cahill herself will be there. This is a good event for a good cause. If you attend, you’ll meet a lot of good people and have a good time.

Broadbandit Charter seeks signatures on self-serving I-172

Chutzpah may not be a strong enough word to describe this. Montana Cowgirl has the details. Charter Communications, formerly Bresnan, the television cable company, doesn't like paying its fair share of taxes. So, having lost its case at the Montana Supreme Court, Charter is sponsoring a ballot initiative (I-172, PDF) to do what the court wouldn’t do, and what Charter suspects won’t pass muster with the legislature and governor: lower Charter’s taxes.

Charter’s signature gatherers are paid, provided by a Georgia based firm that specializes in obtaining signatures for “Wet Up” initiatives in dry areas in the southern Bible belt. Expect to see them at the polls Tuesday. Don’t sign their petitions unless you want to set in motion a chain of events that will raise your taxes.


At GOP debate, Zinke says he would impeach Obama


Ryan Zinke succumbed to a bout of Benghazi Fever last night at the Americans for Prosperity sponsored Kalispell debate for Republican candidates for the U.S. House, grudging admitting he would impeach President Obama. Virginia based Americans for Prosperity is bankrolled by the Libertarian Koch brothers. Here’s Jim Mann’s account in the Daily InterLake:

…read the rest


28 May 2014

Cal Scott does a fundraising belly flop

Update, 28 May. Cal Scott’s C-5, finally online (his filing was timely, MCOPP was slow), reveals the campaign finances of a man whose political career is almost over. He’s raised just $1,470. Two donors gave him a total of $270. He loaned himself $1,200, and gave himself $1,500 in in-kind contributions. The accounting on this can be tricky, and the C-5 can make it trickier; if the in-kind contributions are added to the $1,470, he raised $2,970. Looking at it another way, he raised either five or ten percent as much as Phil Mitchell.

…read the rest

Monitary (sic), monetary, and Montana Political Practices

Montana’s Form C-5 is the Candidate Campaign Finance Report that all candidates receiving $500 or more in contributions must file. It’s available from the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices as a PDF into which information can be entered, and as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.

Here’s how MCOPP spells “monetary” on the spreadsheet:


I hope neither the author nor the proofreader of the spreadsheet is chosen as MCOPP’s representative in a spelling bee.



27 May 2014

Flathead Democratic candidates not raising much money

So far, only House District 5 (Whitefish) incumbent Rep. Ed Lieser, and Lynn Stanley, candidate in the nominally open House District 8 (west Kalispell) have raised serious money for their campaigns. Lieser has raised $7,714 (that includes a $1,000 loan from himself) and has $4,719 in the bank. Stanley has raised $4,860 and has $3,050 in the bank.

In House District 3 (Columbia Falls and north), a seat a Democrat could win, Zac Perry reports raising $50 and $50 in the bank. He also reports $23 in contributions of less than $35, and one $50 contribution, so he may need to file an amended report. This is not a fundraising effort that can lead to victory in November.

In House District 7 (Kalispell), a district Democrats can and do win, Alex Schaeffer reported raising no money and having no money in the bank. The C-5 campaign finance report of his primary opponent, 18-year-old high school student Catherine Henderson, is not yet online. Schaeffer isn’t trying. He’s just a name on the ballot. Democrats in HD-7 may well crossover and vote for Republican Frank Garner. In 2008 in this district, Democrat Cheryl Steenson raised over $25,000 and defeated incumbent Republican Craig Witte.

In hard right House District 11 (south of Kalispell and Flathead Lake’s north and west shores), Kim Fleming reports raising $800 and $800 in the bank. Her sole contribution was $800 from herself.

I’ll have more tomorrow.


Wake-up video, Vince Gill, et al, Mystery Train


26 May 2014

How high the Flathead River without Hungry Horse Dam?

The short answer, by my calculations, was 16.4 feet on the gage at Columbia Falls yesterday, three feet over flood stage, running just under 76,000 cubic feet per second.

The actual values at 1330 MDT yesterday were 13.57 feet and 48,200 cfs (mainstem gage). Hungry Horse Dam was discharging 3,500 cfs (the value changed by the hour), holding back almost 30,000 cfs. Were the dam’s reservoir not absorbing the South Fork Flathead’s flow (gage), fields and yards in the Flathead Valley along the river would be under water in a moderate flood comparable to the floods of 1974 and 1975. Before the dam, significant floods occurred approximately twice a decade (hydrographs of the Flathead’s greatest floods).

…read the rest

Morning video: Johnny I hardly knew ye


25 May 2014

Flathead GOP fundraising: Blasdel & Garner lead Fisher & R. Skees

Updated 28 May to include Cal Scott’s information.

Campaign finance reports (form C-5) for Montana candidates were due in the office of Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices on Friday, 23 May 2014. Many are now available online. Here’s what I’ve learned so far about some of the Flathead’s most important primary election candidates.

Senate District 4, Blasdel v Fisher

Money is the mother’s milk of politics, and State Rep. Mark Blasdel has three times as much of it as does his opponent in the Republican primary for Senate District 4 (Kalispell, map), former Kalispell mayor Tammi Fisher. He’s spent 150 percent as much as Fisher, and has eight times as much money in the bank. See Table 1, below. Fisher donated $2,000 to her own campaign. Blasdel donated nothing to his.

…read the rest


24 May 2014

Flathead River boat landing east of Kalispell


Taken just before 1900 DMT on 23 May 2014. The river is full, and just out of its banks in lower areas.


23 May 2014

Go jump in the river


Flathead area search and rescue squads gathered at the Flathead River Friday evening to practice man overboard drills. Here, a volunteer jumps in the river, displaying good form. The Flathead was running at approximately 45,000 cfs at Columbia Falls when this photograph was taken. That's just over flood stage.


22 May 2014

Replace Shinseki, but don’t privatize the VA

Veterans receive excellent medical care from Veterans Hospitals and clinics, but they have to wait much too long to receive it. It's a systemic problem of long standing that I suspect is almost entirely due to grossly insufficient funding. It’s in the news because a VA hospital in Arizona is accused of cooking the books on waiting times, and in doing so, costing the lives of veterans who had to wait too long.

Maddow blogger Steve Benen today posted an excellent overview of how VA hospitals fit into the American health care systems, reporting that once again there are calls for privatizing the system. He thinks that's a mistake. So do I.

The ultimate remedy is replacing our hodgepodge of private and public health care systems with a cradle to grave, everyone covered for everything, zero-dollar, generously funded federal single-payer system financed by progressive taxes. When that happy day arrives, Republicans no longer will have a political incentive to starve the VA to make its health care system seem stingy and cruel.

Indeed, Republicans could today start funding the VA at a no-wait level. But don't expect a outbreak of that kind of responsibility any time soon, especially during an election year. At this point, the Obama administration's options are limited to what can be done without Congressional approval.

One option that Obama should exercise is replacing retired Army general Eric Shinseki, a fine man who cares for our soldiers, as head of the VA. Shinseki has too much respect for, and trust in, the chain of command, and he strikes me as being out-of-touch with the VA at the local level. What the VA needs now is young, energetic leadership that will bypass the chain of command to get things done, a troubleshooter who will jet around the country opening doors, demanding answers, and holding people accountable for their misdeeds — someone who will install in the VA both a sense of fear, and a sense of hope. Shinseki is not that man.

Morning music

Grace Slick at Woodstock. Not her best performance of the song, but the classic setting.


21 May 2014

MT ACLU’s same sex lawsuit will hurt progressives at the polls

The Montana Chapter of the American Civil Liberti

es Union has filed a lawsuit, Rolando v. Fox, asking that a federal district court in Great Falls declare as unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution the Montana Constitution’s Article VIII, Section 7:

Marriage. Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.

History: En. Sec. 1, Const. Initiative No. 96, approved Nov. 2, 2004.

Montana’s voters approved CI-96 (PDF, p.22) by a two-to-one margin, 295,070 to 148,263.

Given the regularity with which federal district courts are striking down bans on same sex marriages, I think there’s a high probability that this lawsuit will prevail.

…read the rest

Missoula’s Democrats endorse censorious candidate for sheriff

Updated with response by Ben Darrow, Missoula. Why did Missoula County’s Democratic Party endorse for sheriff a man, T.J. McDermott, whose lack of support for free speech would earn the admiration of Vladimir Putin’s KGB?

McDermott, a Missoula County sheriff’s deputy and detective holding the rank of sergeant, filed a complaint against the sheriff’s office, alleging he was the victim of on-the-job discrimination because of his political beliefs. A human rights hearing officer found his complaint had merit, so McDermott and the sheriff’s office negotiated a settlement of “$60,000 and a promise of affirmative relief from the county,” reported the Missoulian.

And that affirmative relief? According to the Missoulian:

…read the rest


20 May 2014

Are opponents of the Flathead Water Compact looking to Congress?

Montana and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are reopening negotiations on the Flathead Water Compact, mainly I think to address technical issues. I doubt the result will mollify the hard core critics of the agreement, and thus expect whether to approve the compact to remain a campaign issue in Montana’s legislative elections.

My impression of the compact — and I’ve read it, the appendices, and the written testimony from the 2013 legislature — is that it’s fair, and frankly a lot better for non-tribal members than one might have expected given the legal trump cards the CSKT hold. I can find nothing in the agreement that’s likely to shut down agriculture or housing or industrial development anywhere.

So what do the opponents of the agreement really want? What is their strategy?

…read the rest

Under & over exposure — mistakes or creative techniques?

Once upon a time, “underexposure” and “overexposure” described mistakes.

Underexposed negatives lacked sufficient density. Overexposed negatives were too dense. Underexposed prints were too light. Overexposed prints were too dark. Underexposed color transparencies were too dark. Overexposed color transparencies were too light. Underexposure and overexposure were failings, embarrassments, proof of shameful incompetence.

…read the rest at The Blogger’s Lens


19 May 2014

Memo to primary voters: Walsh is the most electable Democrat

Sen. John Walsh

John Walsh is campaigning against Steve Daines. Dirk Adams and John Bohlinger are campaigning against John Walsh. The resulting dynamic distorts the differences between the three Democrats, with Walsh appearing more conservative than he probably is, and Adams and Bohlinger appearing more liberal than they may be.

But any of these Democrats would be a more liberal U.S. Senator than tea-stained Republican Steve Daines, an affable ideologue who represents the rich, and the high and the mighty, mighty rich. Ergo, the most important question for Democratic primary voters is not “who’s the most liberal Democrat of all,” but “who has the best chance of beating Steve Daines in November?”

For me, the answer is John Walsh, followed, at a significant distance, first by Dirk Adams and second by John Bohlinger.

…read the rest

Shooting the Moon to determine the focal length of a lens


The full moon not only is a splendid sight, it’s an object of known width that can be used to determine the focal length of a lens — or to verify the marked focal length of a lens (manufacturers sometimes round focal lengths to the nearest five millimeters, so a lens that’s with an actual focal length of 178mm could be sold as a 180mm). And if the focal length of a lens is known, the size or distance of objects can be inferred from a photograph, so the exercise has practical applications. Check out this tutorial at The Bloggers Lens.

…read the rest at The Blogger’s Lens


18 May 2014

Introducing The Blogger’s Lens

Wondering whether my long promised post on shooting the Moon to determine focal length will ever make it to the internet? Well, it will — trust me — and when it does, it will be posted on The Blogger’s Lens, my new website on a blogger’s approach to photography. I hope to upload this evening what has become a very long post. In the meantime, if you have a moment, check out the links.


17 May 2014

Jill Abramson’s dismissal — no lasting consequences

Exactly why New York Times Publisher Arthur Sultzberger, Jr., fired the Times’ executive editor, Jill Abramson, probably won’t be known until after she’s dead. According to various sources, Abramson and the NYT negotiated a settlement that includes a non-disparagement agreement, which is biz jargon for “she got hush money, and both parties agreed to make nice and not sue.” Third parties, of course, remain free to speculate on the reasons for her demise, and some, possibly with axes to grind, are making the most of the opportunity. But after the squall blows itself out, Abramson’s departure from the times won’t have a discernible consequence on journalism.

AP’s shorter stories edict short-changes readers

But a change of policy at the Associated Press will have significant consequences. With a few exceptions, stories should be 300–500 words.

The news wire service said that readers “do not have the attention span for most long stories” and that too much valuable time is being wasted on cutting down such stories. Carovillano noted that AP’s readers and members have spoken and are “near-unanimous” in their desire for shorter content.

It’s more likely that editors, not readers, have the short attention spans. And even more likely, I think, that the AP wants reporters to churn out more stories in the same amount of time.

In a way, this is a retreat to an earlier era. When I was a journalism student, the local daily enforced an arbitrary 300-word policy. Reading the paper’s stories, one learned what happened, to whom it happened, and where and when it happened, but little about why and how it happened. It was better than a headline service, but not much better. The paper’s editor scorned in-depth reporting as an intellectually pretentious affectation practiced by snob reporters with college degrees.

That’s not an era to which anyone should want to return. The days of distributing news on dead trees are numbered. Within a decade, I expect that almost all news will be distributed on the internet, where the news hole is infinitely deep and stories, and accompanying graphics, can be as short or long as the subject matter requires. The AP’s shorter stories edict is short-sighted and short-changes readers.



16 May 2014

Single-party governance, not working together, gets things done


Flathead Democratic Party float in 2012.

Working together has enormous appeal for most Americans, and especially for Democrats, for whom compromise is an intrinsic rather than an instrumental virtue, and for whom bipartisanship is a sacred doctrine. Political friction exasperates people, who regard it not as a process that sparks creativity but as bickering. But as Jonathan Chiat observes in his report on the demise of the Shaheen-Portman bill on energy conservation, bipartisanship and compromise are dead, and single-party governance is the antidote to partisan gridlock:

The framers of the Constitution didn’t expect elected officials to sacrifice their own power. They designed a system intended to align the interests of those officials with the public good. The trouble is that they did not anticipate the rise of political parties. Decades of ideologically diffuse parties — a Democratic coalition cobbling together urban liberals and Southern segregationists, a GOP joining Rockefeller progressives with McCarthyite reactionaries — masked this fundamental problem. In the modern system, single-party rule is the only condition that should be expected to produce major legislation. Americans want the two parties to get along, but they fail to understand that this requires one of them to acquiesce in its own defeat.



15 May 2014

Should Kalispell Democrats cast crossover votes?

Will Democrats in Kalispell cast crossover votes in the Republican primary? Yes. In large numbers? That’s possible. Should they cast crossover votes? That’s not an easy question, but in some situations crossing over is not just an ethical choice but a moral imperative.

The predicate for this dilemma is the Flathead Democratic Party’s failure to recruit strong Democratic candidates in two Kalispell legislative districts in which there are clear choices between standard conservatives and tea party reactionaries in the Republican primaries. If Republicans are destined to win those districts in November, Democrats might be wise to consider using their primary votes to rescue the GOP's moderates from their party's Taliban.

…read the rest


14 May 2014

Full moon over Kalispell


Taken this morning at 0200 MDT with a Nikon 300mm lens on a Nikon APS-C (DX) digital single lens reflex. The moon subtended 0.533 degrees of arc. I also photographed the moon with two other lenses as part of my project to determine the focal length of the lenses. I hope to have the details up this evening. My 300mm Nikkor measured 301mm. There was, however, one surprise.



13 May 2014

Determining focal length by shooting the moon

There’s a full moon tonight — and an opportunity to determine the focal lengths of your long lenses, which may have actual focal lengths that differ from the focal length inscribed on the lens (focal lengths tend to get rounded off). Here’s how to do it:

Use a tripod. Wait until the moon is near its zenith — an hour or two on either side will yield acceptable results. Center the moon in your viewfinder, set your focus to infinity, and shoot until you obtain an image with the most detail your system can record. Note the date and time (make sure your camera’s date and time functions are set correctly). Shoot at maximum pixels, and in RAW if you have it and software to process it.

Leave your normal and wide-angle lenses in your camera bag. There’s a better method for determining the focal length of wide and normal lenses.

Work in an image processing application, and some highs school math, come next. I’ll run through some examples for you tomorrow. Tonight I’m shooting the moon with an APS-C DSLR and prime lenses ranging from 100mm to 400mm, plus a combination with a 1.5X teleconverter. If you’re shooting zooms, start at the longest end and work down through the focal lengths marked on the barrel of the lens.


12 May 2014

Nature’s polka dots


Our overnight low was 25°F. After sunrise, I noticed the polka dot grid on the table on my back porch. The effect was visible only at a very narrow viewing angle. Using an image processing application, I expanded the contrast to illustrate the effect.


11 May 2014

Registered sex offender’s charges won’t hurt Garner

A police chief who serves long enough will have his detractors. Some will argue he wasn’t tough enough on crime, others that he was too tough or worse. Into the latter category one usually finds people who were arrested, convicted, and incarcerated on the chief’s watch, and who believe they got a raw deal or just want revenge.

Frank Garner, now running for the Republican nomination for House District 7 (Kalispell; map), was Kalispell’s chief of police when Ronald Glick was charged and convicted by a jury of sexual assault. Glick spent five years in prison. His current status, according to the Montana Department of Corrections, is probation, and he lives in Kalispell. He’s registered as a Level 1 sex offender, which MDC says means “The risk of a repeat sexual offense is low.”

Glick believes he was wrongly convicted, blames Garner, and has filed lawsuits to exonerate himself. So far, his legal initiatives have not been successful. There’s no need to litigate Glick’s issues here as Montana Cowgirl has a full report on his accusations, plus an extensive discussion on the merits of his contentions. A second discussion can be found at the Northwest Liberty News. And Glick has a blog where he provides extensive commentary on his situation.

Will Glick’s accusations hurt Garner? No. If Glick somehow proves he was convicted wrongly, and is exonerated through the criminal justice system, then Garner’s role in the wrongful conviction will come under scrutiny. The likelihood that will occur seems vanishingly small. Until then, Glick has all the credibility that society assigns to a registered sex offender who spent five years in the penitentiary after a jury convicted him of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl.

Note to readers. I’m accepting feedback — just hit the button at the upper left — on this post, but I’m not publishing comments.



10 May 2014

Montana primary election turnout 1972–2012



9 May 2014

Updated historical turnout statistics for Montana

As regular readers of this website know, I favor measuring voter turnout as a percentage of the Voting Eligible Population, and have published turnout statistics for 1920–present. I’ve updated my historical turnout spreadsheet with Voting Age Population data for 1948–1970, when 21 was the minimum voting age. And I’ve posted a new historical turnout page with a fuller explanation of voter turnout statistics.


8 May 2014

What’s next for the information technology levy?

The info tech levy for the Kalispell high schools failed by 248 votes. Flipping 125 votes would have produced a victory. That will tempt the school board to run the levy again. And the levy probably should be run again — but only if there’s an aggressive campaign to pass it.

There may have been a time when levies passed easily. But they don’t now. It’s not enough for the school district to hold informational meetings, write opeds for the local newspapers, and secure editorial endorsements. A strong case for the levy must be made, and that case must be carried door-to-door by a well organized and funded campaign.

…read the rest


7 May 2014

Why levies fail & low turnout FVCC election

Turnout in yesterday’s school board and levy elections in Kalispell, and the Flathead Valley Community College trustee elections, was shamefully low. By my rough reckoning, the turnout for the Kalispell elections was under 40 percent of the registered voters. The turnout in the FVCC election may have been below 25 percent.

I doubt that any levy for SD-5’s high school can pass unless it’s run as part of the general election, and then probably only in Presidential years. The economy is still anemic, and there’s an anti-tax mood in the outlying districts that seems to be strengthening. People opposed to tax increases are highly motivated to vote, and exercise a disproportionate amount of clout in low turnout elections.

…read the rest


6 May 2014

I voted — in person — as always


That’s yours truly depositing his ballot in the school board and technology levy elections in School District 5 in Kalispell today. As always, I voted in person and on Election Day. It was a mail ballot election, so what you see me sticking in the slot is the mail ballot security envelope. My thanks to SD-5’s staff for their good cheer and obliging my request for this photograph.

I think the elementary levy will pass, but the high school levy might not.

Holding these elections just one month before the primary makes no sense to me.

MT Family Foundation targets Tammi Fisher


Tammi Fisher, the former mayor of Kalispell now running for the Republican nomination for Montana’s Senate District 4 (Kalispell; map), had the good sense not to respond to a questionnaire from the Montana Family Foundation, which two years ago ran a nasty campaign (story one, story two) against Republican State Senators Bruce Tutvedt and Carmine Mowbray. Tutvedt survived, but Mowbray didn’t.

Now, the MTFF is taking shots at Fisher and making what I consider to be a de facto endorsement of Fisher’s opponent, State Representative Mark Blasdel, a deeply conservative legislator.

“Which candidate stands for LIFE?” is the headline on the MTFF’s card (page one, page two; both PDFs) that compares the stands of Blasdel and Fisher on three issues:


      * Opposes abortion mandates found in Obamacare

…read the rest


5 May 2014

Voting in a low turnout primary begins tomorrow

Absentee voting for Montana’s 3 June primary begins tomorrow, affording citizens the opportunity to cast early votes instead of enjoying another month of campaigning before making up their minds. In the 2012 general election, 54.4 percent of the votes cast in Flathead County were cast by absentee ballot. As always, I’ll cast my vote in person at my local polling on election day.

Expect a low turnout primary election

Since 1998, the turnout of Montana’s voting eligible population in midterm primary elections has ranged from 24.7 to 29.8 percent (see the graph below). The high point was in 2006, when there was a spirited Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, and a throw the bums out mood among national voters (who returned control of Congress to the Democrats). That level of excitement doesn’t exist this year for either party, so VEP turnout probably will be in the 25–30 percent range. I hope it’s higher, but I’m not counting on it.



4 May 2014

Midnight photography


3 May 2014

Saturday roundup

Flathead River and its forks all running high

Two warm and breezy days produced enough snowmelt to bring the North Fork and Middle Fork up to twice their median discharge. The outflow at Hungry Horse Dam was chopped by approximately 50 percent. Still, the mainstem Flathead's discharge at Columbia Falls is at 29,800 cfs. That will fall overnight, but the river is within 2.5 feet of its flood stage of 13 feet and the snowpack is heavy. If you live in low lying areas, keep one eye on the water, your other eye on the forecast, and make sure your written evacuation checklist is current. Flathead Memo has consolidated links to Flathead streamflow gaging stations on a special page.

John Lewis speaking in Kalispell tonight

Democratic U.S. House hopeful John Lewis is the featured speaker at tonight's spring dinner for the Flathead Democrats. He's the best Democratic candidate for the U.S. House since Nancy Keenan in 2000, and possibly the best since Pat Williams retired. His immediate problem is his primary opponent, John Driscoll, a rogue Democrat who supports the budget of Republican Paul Ryan.

Montana's Democratic Party has formally endorsed Lewis, and rightly so. It should also formally condemn Driscoll.

Rahm Emanuel, Mayor One Percent

Chicago is a Democratic city with a de facto Republican mayor, argues Kathleen Grier at The Baffler:

…One gets the strong impression of a man cryogenically frozen in the year 1995, a man who hasn’t learned a thing since. Take, for example, his recent Washington Post op-ed, which opposes universal pre-K (“Universal mediocrity cannot be our goal,” he writes). Or read this recent Financial Times interview with the man, in which—I kid you not—he blathers on about the virtues of “midnight basketball.”

Most tellingly of all, consider the fact that literally one of his best buddies—a man he vacations with, in fact—is Illinois’s Republican gubernatorial candidate and centimillionaire venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, a Scott Walker type who’s running on a platform of making Illinois a right-to-work state. (Rauner charmingly refers to AFSCME, the public employee union, as “Af-scam-ee.”)



2 May 2014

First Amendment 1, Citizens for a Better Flathead 0

This morning the Flathead County Commission approved a notice of intent to amend the county’s zoning regulations to remove durational limits from political signs. Commissioners Krueger and Holmquist voted Aye. Commissioner Scott, who’s running for re-election, abstained. Lynnette Hintze has the story at the InterLake.

Durational limits, clearly unconstitutional, are being struck down or repealed across the nation. Nevertheless, Citizens for a Better Flathead, which usually has better sense, mounted a campaign to retain the limits, arguing that protecting people from alleged insults to scenery was more important than abiding by the Bill of Rights.

Let’s hope that the scenery über alles agitators lose their adore for prior restraint of free speech.


Voters remorse in Great Falls?

That’s a distinct possibility. A school district in Great Falls is conducting its spring election by mail ballot — which means early voting is possible — which means they who cast early votes are stuck with their votes — and which means than some who cast early votes for school board candidate Cyndi Baker might now be wishing they hadn’t.

Yesterday, Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices slapped Baker with a Finding of Sufficient Facts to Show a Violation of Montana Campaign Practice Law. Both the Montana Cowgirl and the Great Falls based The Western Word blogs have excellent posts on the details, and Cowgirl has a wonderful photograph of Cyndi in her Statue of Liberty costume standing next to Cleve Loney in his American Revolution costume, so please visit their websites for the details and discussion. Baker’s in a heap of legal trouble.

She also may be in like Flynn (I doubt it) thanks to receiving early votes cast by voters who may now wish they had waited until election day to make up their minds.

That’s the problem with early voting. Something that would affect a voter’s choice could happen between the early casting of a vote and election day. But once votes are cast, they can’t be changed. Voters who cast stupid early votes are stuck with their stupidity.

Kalispell is using a mail ballot this spring for school board and levy elections. I’m submitting my ballot in person late in the afternoon on election day. I never cast early votes. Neither should you.



2 May 2014

Lenticular clouds above the northern Flathead


Late afternoon yesterday. Lenticular clouds are a sure sign of high winds aloft.


1 May 2014

Discuss whether to have the death penalty, not how to inflict it

Lethal injection isn’t the only allegedly humane way to execute a human being. A condemned man could be drugged into unconsciousness, then gassed with carbon monoxide (Jack Kevorkian used CO, and it worked well). Or, drugged into unconsciousness, wrapped in C-4 explosive, dropped in a deep hole, and blown to Kingdom Come. I can think of other methods. So can you.

But in the aftermath of Oklahoma’s horribly botched execution of Clayton Lockett, we should not be discussing execution methods and protocols. We should be discussing whether there should be executions. Writing in the United Kingdom’s Daily Telegraph, Alice Arnold says:

…read the rest

Will the Flathead County Commission cave on durational limits?


At 0900 tomorrow, the Flathead County Commissioners will again take up whether Flathead County’s law on signs should be brought into constitutional compliance by removing durational limits on political signs. The commissioners discussed the issue on Friday, 25 April, but tabled the matter so they could further study the proposed amendment.

That’s the official story. Unofficially, the commissioners find themselves between a rock known as the U.S. Constitution, and a hard place comprised of Flathead residents who want to encounter as few political signs as possible for the least possible amount of time. The commissioners are looking for compromise that runs afoul of neither the Constitution nor the Flathead sign haters.

…read the rest