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

November 2014 Archive


30 November 2014

Did the wind atop Big Mountain really hit 219 mph?

No, it probably didn’t. The quality control value is “suspect.” Most likely, the anemometer malfunctioned, possibly because of the weather.

To obtain these values, go to Mesonet, select Kalispell-Glacier NP at the upper left, and click on the symbol at Big Mountain. The table of hourly readouts is below the map.




29 November 2014

Lead footed legislators want to drive too damned fast


Kansas was my favorite state when I drove from Minnesota to college in Texas. The speed limit on the Sunflower State’s freeway was 80 miles per hour. What an enlightened state, I thought, oblivious to the dangers of zooming along at 118 feet per second. Had I then known Montana’s speed limit was “reasonable and prudent,” I might have held the Treasure State in even higher regard. But I grew up, slowed down, and stayed alive.

Montana slowed down, too, prodded — some would say coerced — by the federal government. Now our highest daytime speed limits are 70 mph on two-lane highways, 75 mph on rural interstates. That’s still too fast for me, but as Charles Johnson reports, not fast enough for several Montana legislators, who have asked the legislature’s lawyers to draft bills to raise the daytime speed limit on interstates to 80 mph. Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy (D-Box Elder) would also up the limit on two-lane highways to 80 mph, thus ensuring a legal closing speed of 160 mph (235 fps) just before someone loses control and initiates a head-on crash that kills everyone in both vehicles.

These bills are libertarian grandstanding by legislators who like to drive fast and think they are better drivers than they really are. If they need to travel faster than they can now drive legally, they should become licensed pilots and fly to their destinations.



28 November 2014

An hour-by-hour prediction for the approaching storm

Today’s high will reach approximately 50°F at 1500 MST, then begin falling as the wind shifts to the south, then the northeast, and rain arrives, followed by snow as midnight nears. The National Weather Service publishes an hour-by-hour weather prediction table that many readers will find useful. I’m battening down my hatches and shopping for groceries, so this may be my only post for today.


27 November 2014 • 6:27:25 MST

Best Thanksgiving wishes from Straylena and myself

May your Thanksgiving bring good company, good food, much laughter, and the blessings of peace.




26 November 2014 • 2:46:28 MST

If no resurrection for Brown, then no justice for Wilson

That’s the position of America’s hard line leftists. For far too many people, the only relevant facts of the Michael Brown/Ferguson case, and the only facts on which widespread agreement exists, are (a) Michael Brown, a black man, is dead, and (b) Darren Wilson, the white policeman who killed him, is alive. From there the understanding of the case diverges, and diverges rapidly.

…read the rest

GOP rescues House education committee from moderate leadership

Montana Cowgirl has the story, and an eye-popping one it is. The education committee’s chair is 23-year-old home schooled and home school advocate Sarah Laszloffy, daughter of the foundation’s leader, Jeff Laszloffy. Her vice chair is Debra Lamm, a former foundation employee beginning her first term in the legislature.

The committee has legislators far better qualified to serve as chair and vice chair. Laszloffy and Lamm were chosen to make a point, to tell the public and the Bullock administration that there will be efforts to return public education to the Three Rs, and to get rid of sex education programs that the family foundation and others believe promote homosexuality and promiscuity.

These are the same reactionary sectarians who defeated Sen. Carmine Mowbray (R-Polson), and almost defeated Sen. Bruce Tutvedt (R-Kalispell), in the 2012 primary.

One has to go back to the 2007 legislative session and education chair Rick Jore to find an education committee chair so ill fitted for the position.


Did the Ferguson grand jury cheat America out of a show trial?

As protests against the Ferguson grand jury’ decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, continue across the nation, an ugly and deeply troubling argument is emerging on the left: not indicting Wilson cheated America, and especially Brown’s supporters, out of a public trial.

Those making this argument assert the prosecutor’s job was to present only evidence that supported an indictment, so that Wilson could be put on trial and the facts of his encounter with Brown evaluated in public instead of in the secrecy of a grand jury’s proceedings. They believe the grand jury, hoodwinked by a pro-police prosecutor, usurped the public’s right to a public trial.

Consider that a moment. A grand jury has the right and responsibility not to indict if it believes the evidence does not support a conviction. The leftists clamoring for a trial of Darren Wilson reject that proposition. They want Wilson charged with a crime and put on trial even if the evidence is too flimsy to support a conviction. They want a show trial, because they know that the expense and stress of a trial, even a trial ending in a not guilty verdict, would injure Wilson. They would indict a man for whom evidence to convict was lacking just so they could see him sweat in the courtroom. That’s how they would punish Wilson for killing Brown.

That’s not justice. That’s a betrayal of justice, an attempted lynching.

Those who disagree that Michael Brown’s supporters were cheated out of a show trial will themselves be punished — denounced and figuratively tarred and feathered by the left’s self-appointed Keepers of The Truth and Guardians of Ideological Orthodoxy.

As Ferguson burns, I leave you with Yeats:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.



25 November 2014 • 10:02:52 MST

Ferguson: so far, no injuries or deaths, just vandalism

President Obama called for calm. So did Attorney General Holder. The people protesting the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson paid the President and his chief law enforcement and civil rights officer no heed. They took to the streets with their matchbooks and hatchets, breaking windows, setting fires, not just in Ferguson, MO, but around the country. So far, no one has been injured or killed, but that luck probably won’t hold.

There was always the possibility that the facts of the shooting in Ferguson would support the policeman’s version of the events. That seems to be the case. Reports in the New York Times and elsewhere suggest that Brown, a powerful young man who stood 6-foot-four and weighed almost 300 pounds, had just robbed a convenience store, roughing up the clerk, then swaggered down the middle of the street, where, confronted by Wilson and told to move to the side of the road, he slugged Wilson through the police car’s open window. Wilson, fearing great injury to himself, shot Brown in the hand. A few tens of seconds later, Brown, apparently amok, charged Wilson, who shot Brown dead.

I doubt the fact that Brown was black and Wilson white had anything to do with how the incident went down; that Brown said to himself, “I’m gonna punch-out that honky pig,” or that Wilson said to himself, “Gonna kill me a nigger; self-defense.” Brown’s color didn’t matter. He was a huge person, belligerent and enraged, who stupidly provoked a life and death confrontation with a man with a gun. No one should be surprised at the outcome.

A question to ponder

Would Barack Obama have won re-election had these events happened in the summer and fall of 2012?

…read the rest


24 November 2014 • 22:04:55 MST

Ferguson grand jury does not indict cop, lawlessness begins

Protests, some violent, began after the grand jury investigating the death of Michael Brown decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for murder or any other crime. Brown’s parents asked that protests be kept peaceful. So did Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama. Their words had little or no effect. The rampage began and is still on as of the time of this post.

The grand jurors must be granted deference unless solid proof that they erred can be produced. They heard dozens of witnesses, considered many reports, and were in the best position to sort out the conflicts in the testimony. They were obligated to indict if they believed there was probable cause that a crime had been committed, and that there was sufficient evidence for a conviction. And they were obligated not to indict if the evidence led them elsewhere.

A good many of the protesters who are breaking windows, setting fires, tipping over police cars, and menacing reporters, tonight may say, indeed may even believe, they’re seeking justice. But they’re not. They’re seeking revenge. They want Darren Wilson punished regardless of whether he actually broke the law. They’re taking advantage of the situation to express outrage over grievances accumulated over years, placing their faith not in law or government but in hammers and torches and destruction. And some, I suspect, don’t much care whether anyone is injured or killed.

Thanksgiving begins in three days. No one should consider the reaction to the grand jury’s decision as a blessing to be counted.



24 November 2014 • 8:22:09 MST

Let Walsh and Daines finish their terms

Updated 25 November 2014 at 7:51:59 MST.Sometimes, a blogger can outsmart himself. Yesterday I erred when I seriously entertained the proposition that Sen. John Walsh’s appointment to the U.S. Senate may have ended with the 4 November general election. That argument can be made, but upon further consideration I do not find it persuasive. Therefore, I’ve modified this post accordingly.

Updated 24 November 2014 at 9:16:51 MST. Some Montanans, Republicans mostly, want John Walsh to resign as U.S. Senator so that Senator-elect Steve Daines can be appointed in his place, thus giving Daines extra seniority. And since that would leave Montana’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives vacant, Ryan Zinke could be appointed to that position, thus giving him extra seniority.

…read the rest


23 November 2014 • 23:21:40 MST

Verbal race war in Flathead Beacon’s comments section continues

When should the comments section on a story be closed? That’s the question now confronting the Flathead Beacon regarding Tristan Scott’s report on the 17 November 2014 meeting of the Whitefish City Council. As I began writing this post, the tally had reached 539. I don’t know whether any comments have been deleted, but I do know that in my opinion, many that have remained online do not contribute to a reasoned discussion of the issue.

So why is the thread still open? Is the Beacon collecting comments for future use by its editorial staff and/or other investigators? Is the Beacon just curious to see how many comments will be posted?

In the real world, rallies, demonstrations, and other assemblages, must end. The people involved, having made their point, must disband and move on to something else. But online, the mob disperses much more slowly, if at all. Indeed, it can become larger and increasingly unstable and unhinged as trolls foment trouble. That’s happening now in the comments section on Scott’s story. Whether to close comments is the Beacon’s call, but I hope that call is under consideration.

Closing comments might anger some commenters. If so, their remedy is starting their own website.



22 November 2014 • 16:56:18 MST

Why did voters shoot down a 911 tax for Flathead County?

As I expected, yesterday’s hand recount of the 911 tax referendum confirmed that the Nays prevailed. An additional 11 votes were found, breaking six for and five against the tax, which lost by 10 votes.

The counting machines mistakenly rejected 11 ballots. The machines might have malfunctioned — my cursory review of the literature suggests the error rate in well maintained optical scanning counters is one in 5,000 to 10,000 ballots — but we don’t know that they did. A machine may function perfectly, yet reject a ballot on which the voter’s intent is clear but not marked in a manner the machine can recognize (see 44.3.2402 Determining a Valid Vote in Manually Counting and Recounting Paper Ballots). For example, the voter didn’t blacken the oval, but circled For or Against.

The closeness of the vote will encourage the county leaders to run the referendum again, believing they can use the next two years to make the case for the tax. There will be a temptation to put the issue to the voters in the primary election of 2016, but that would be a mistake. The best chance of passage will be in the 2016 general election.

So why did voters reject the 911 tax? Four reasons, I think.

  1. It was proposed fairly close to the election, leaving little time to campaign for it and perhaps causing voters to think the county was trying to sneak the tax through without a full discussion. Tax proposals don’t pass themselves. The default position of the voters is NO. Proponents of a new tax must make a convincing case for it. That didn’t happen.

  2. An emergency services tax was on the ballot for Kalispell, where the 911 tax did not do well. Kalispell voters may have been irked by what they saw as a sneaky last minute double whammy, as a continuation of a never ending pile-on of taxation.

  3. An uneasiness about an improving but still uncertain economy, in which the benefits of the recovery have not been enjoyed much by voters on the lower end of the income scale. A $25 per year tax might seem like chicken feed to county officials, but it might wipe out the annual cost of living adjustment of someone on Social Security.

  4. A sense among voters that the people behind the campaign to fund the new 911 center may have lied about future costs to ensure that the 2008 bond passed. I supported that bond measure, but if I knew then what I know now, I would have opposed it.



21 November 2014

Evil smelling trolls stink-up the Flathead Beacon’s comments section

Flathead Beacon reporter Tristan Scott wrote a fine report on the comments against hate that were delivered to the Whitefish City Council on Monday. Although the Daily InterLake and Whitefish Pilot also published excellent accounts of the meeting, Scott was the only reporter who linked Monday’s crowd to the crowd that in the spring of 2010 massed at the Flathead County Library in Kalispell to protest a very small group that was legally showing Holocaust denial films in the basement of the library.

Scott’s report is now hard to find on the Beacon’s website, but that hasn’t stopped 345 people, some of whom one wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley, from commenting. Some, I suspect, are from people who live thousands of miles from Whitefish. Here’s a comment, constitutionally protected, but utterly depraved, and typical of comments often made by bigots and bullies hiding behind pseudonyms.



Morning video: “There was a time when strangers were welcome here”

Neil Sedaka’s The Immigrant, (lyrics) set to photographs of immigrants arriving in the United States at the beginning of the 20th Century.




20 November 2014

Rolando v. Fox removes barriers to same sex marriage in Montana

Ten years ago, by a 2:1 margin, Montana’s voters approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and that only. Yesterday, in Rolando v. Fox, Federal District Judge Brian Morris ruled the voters were wrong; that the amendment violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution:

The Court PERMANENTLY ENJOINS the State of Montana and its officers, employees, agents, and political subdivisions from enforcing Article XIII, section 7 of the Montana Constitution, Montana Code Annotated section 40-1-103 and section 40-1-401, and any other laws or regulations, to the extent that they Case 4:14-cv-00040-BMM Document 44 Filed 11/19/14 Page 17 of 18 18 prohibit otherwise qualified same-sex couples from marrying in Montana, and to the extent that they do not recognize same-sex marriages validly contracted outside Montana. This injunction shall take effect immediately.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox says he’ll appeal Morris’ ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. It’s not likely the Ninth will overturn the decision, nor is it likely that the Ninth or the U.S. Supreme Court will put a hold on Morris’ injunction. Same sex couples are already lining up to obtain marriage licenses.

Rolando removes legal obstacles to same sex marriage in Montana. That’s because marriage is a civil matter. But opposition to same sex marriage based on religious and biological arguments will continue. I would not be surprised were Republicans in the Montana Legislature to pass resolutions condemning Judge Morris’ decision. And thundering denunciations of homosexuality and activist judges will issue from many a pulpit this Sunday.



19 November 2014

Tutvedt’s censure, no love for hate, goodbye Motl

Interesting as well as important issues are developing locally as well as in Helena. Here are a few.

Farewell, Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl

President-to-be of the Montana Senate Debby Barrett (R-Dillon) has requested LC0014, which has the Short Title of Resolution to not confirm Jonathon Motl as commissioner of political practices. No surprise here. Motl’s done a good job, clearing a backlog of complaints, not playing favorites, and not putting up with nonesense — which of course is the problem from the Republican point of view.

Motl’s recommended at least 12 bills to reform election laws in Montana. I hope they get a fair hearing.

Flathead Republicans censure Republican State Senator Bruce Tutvedt

Chuck Johnson has the story at the Billings Gazette. Tutvedt represents Senate District 3 (map), and is the biggest irrigator in Flathead County. He also supports the Flathead Water Compact, which in the eyes of the fire eaters now running the Flathead GOP is heresy. The censure amounts to political cannibalism.

No love for hate in Whitefish

At the urging of the local human rights group Love Lives Here, dozens of concerned citizens appeared before the Whitefish City Council two days ago to proclaim their support for human rights and lack of love for white supremacists, part time Whitefish resident Richard Spencer in particular. They want the council to adopt an anti-hate group ordinance that would put Spencer out of business and maybe even out of town. Both the InterLake and Beacon published good reports on the meeting.

Drafting an anti-hate group ordinance that passes constitutional muster will not be easy, and adopting such an ordinance carries the risk of inviting expensive litigation the city would have little hope of winning. There’s also a risk — I don’t know how big — that turning the spotlight on Spencer so brightly could attract the attention of knuckleheads who might bring their assault rifles into Whitefish to support and protect Spencer. Remember what happened with Cliven Bundy?

As this situation develops, remember that so far, Spencer hasn’t broken any laws in Whitefish.


Morning video — Good morning, Captain, good morning Son…

Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, accompanied by Norman Blake and Randy Skruggs, singing the Mule Skinner Blues on the Johnny Cash show in 1971.


…read the rest


18 November 2014

Jim Keane takes aim at PowerPoint presentations — again


Is it possible that State Senator Jim Keane (D-Butte) doesn’t like PowerPoint presentations? That’s not an unreasonable interpretation of his request for a bill with the short title of Assess a fee for PowerPoint presentations.

Or is he just trying to raise money? In the 2013 legislative session, he requested a bill with a similar title, Assess a fee for PowerPoint presentations to fund retirement system:

NEW SECTION. Section 1. Electronic visual presentation to legislative body or committee prohibited without payment of fee.

  1. An individual may not make a slide or other electronic visual presentation to the house or senate or to a standing or interim committee of the legislature unless a fee is paid as provided in this section by the individual intending to make the presentation.

  2. The fee is in the amount of $250 for a presentation of up to 5 minutes in length and $500 for a presentation of more than 5 minutes in length. The presiding officer of the body or committee before whom the presentation is to be made may, in the presiding officer’s discretion, waive the fee required by this section.

  3. The fee required by subsection (1) must be deposited in the state special revenue fund and must be appropriated to the pension trust funds established in 19-2-501.

  4. This section does not apply to a presentation made by a member of the legislature or a member of the staff of the legislature or to a presentation required by the house or senate or by a standing or interim committee of the legislature.

  5. The house and senate may adopt rules, and the legislative council and the public employees’ retirement board may adopt rules of procedure to implement this section.

That bill died in process. How did it die? Because he didn’t introduce it:

Per Joint Rule 40-50(2); Failure to introduce a bill within 2 legislative days of delivery results in the draft being canceled

That’s right. He wasted valuable staff time to indulge his irritation with PowerPoint presentations. Some might call it a petty abuse of power.

Still, Keane’s not wrong if he doubts that PowerPoint is the greatest advance in communications since the invention of language. PowerPoint encourages thinking in bullet points instead of complete sentences. See Edward Tufte.



17 November 2014

Whitefish City Council notes

Helicopter landing pads and an expensive parking garage are on the Whitefish City Council’s agenda tonight, and a local human rights group will speak in favor of a hate ordinance during the time allotted for public comments.

Helicopter landing pads

Suppose you are rich and can afford to jet from the city to the country for a weekend. You don’t want to waste a moment, do you? So Friday afternoon you take a helicopter from your office to an airstrip, board your private jet, fly to Glacier Park International Airport, and break the speed limit driving your Hummer to your multi-million-dollar home on Whitefish Lake. It’s that ride in the Hummer that galls you. A helicopter would be faster and more dignified. Noisier, too, but that’s a problem for the lazy little people who didn’t earn the right to do whatever they can afford to do. Unfortunately, those lazy little people live and vote in Whitefish, where the people they elected to the city council just might ban private helipads within the city limits. Let’s hope the council does just that. The council might also want to consider buying the town constable another radar gun, and setting the fine for speeding to the speeder’s wealth and ability to pay.

…read the rest


16 November 2014 • 5:54:19 MST

Regier’s clandestine meeting almost worthy of Gilbert & Sullivan


There was a schoolboy aspect to the caper. Slips of paper with a meeting date and time furtively passed to Republicans newly elected to the Montana House of Representatives. A motel basement away from the Capitol as a meeting hall. And an expectation that only the invited would appear, thus ensuring frank discussions that Republican majority leader Keith Regier (HD-4) and his lieutenants did not want reporters and the voters to hear.

But someone talked out of school, sending the meeting’s time and coordinates to reporters John Adams and Shane Castle, who arrived at approximately 2000. Regier immediately adjourned the meeting. Adams reported:

Regier said the sole purpose of the meeting was to hand out the survey, not to discuss legislation. Regier insisted that the Republican lawmakers did not plan to discuss issues, only survey members of the caucus.

He who believes that will believe anything.


Some think the meeting violated Montana’s open meeting laws. There are arguments both ways, but that discussion misses the larger point. In Tallyrand’s legendary words, “It was worse than a crime. It was a mistake.” (There are many phrasing reported, as well as some reports that the bon mot was not Tallyrand’s.)

And not just a mistake, but an immensely entertaining and embarrassing mistake. Almost a Gilbert and Sullivan worthy mistake. The Republican caucus is fractured along ideological lines. It takes a special kind of innocence to believe that a clandestine meeting of that caucus would — could — stay clandestine.

Regier did accomplish two things. He held himself and his caucus up to public ridicule. And he did distribute his questionnaire — not just to his caucus, as intended, but to the whole wide world he didn’t want to know about it. That red in his cheeks is not from a brisk winter wind.



15 November 2014 • 5:37:23 MST

Earthquake report

A 4.5 earthquake occurred a couple of miles NNE of Whitefish last night. I felt a small jolt, much like hitting a pothole, but experienced no shaking. My cat awakened, looked out the window once and around the room twice, then went back to sleep. No damage. If I were a certain kind of preacher, possibly one belonging to a null class, I would argue the temblor was the Lord’s punishment for voting for Republicans. But at just 4.5, far from enough punishment.

…read the rest


14 November 2014

Tester promises to compromise — not fight — for Montana

In War: Resolution. In Defeat: Defiance. In Victory: Magnanimity. In Peace: Good Will.

—Winston Churchill.

I just received an email letter from Sen. Jon Tester that Kumbayacrats will love. He didn’t promise to fight for Montana, but jhe did promise to work with the Republicans to compromise for Montana. In the spirit of President Obama, he’s setting himself up to be Sen. Reasonable, always in pursuit of the Republicans’ moving goalposts that no Democrat will be allowed to reach.

That’s the approach of the big kahunas in Montana’s Democratic Party. I prefer the approach articulated by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in his column in the Huffington Post two days ago.

Tester’s letter could have been shorter and stronger:

…read the rest

Evening video: Mississippi John Hurt performing I shall not be moved

This should be one of your anthems, Democrats.


13 November 2014 • 10:03:43 MST

Tester unlikely to win in 2018 with 2010 or 2014 turnout


Jon Tester rode a throw the bums out wave to a plurality victory in the 2006 midterm election. The voting eligible turnout was 57.1 percent. He was re-elected in the Presidential election of 2012, again with a plurality. The voting eligible turnout was 62.9 percent. Can he win a third term in the midterm election of 2018? At this point, that seems doubtful.

Tester had three advantages in 2006: (1) a weak opponent in the aging and visibly slowing 71-year-old incumbent, Conrad Burns; (2) Stan Jones, the Libertarian safety valve for disgruntled Republicans, who drew thousands of votes from Burns; and (3) the highest VEP turnout in a Montana midterm election since 1994.

Six years later, he had another weak opponent, Rep. Denny Rehberg, whose campaign was poorly run; another Libertarian safety valve, Dan Cox, who drew 6.6 percent of the vote; and a VEP turnout exceeding 60 percent.

Tester most likely will have none of those advantages in 2018:

  1. Assuming he’s re-elected in 2016, Ryan Zinke, a much stronger candidate than Democrats like to admit, would be Tester’s most probable opponent. And with four statewide campaigns behind him, Zinke would have more statewide campaigning experience than Tester.

  2. There may not be a Libertarian on the general election ballot in 2018. Republicans in the 2015 legislature will approve another top two primary referendum — and this time they won’t make drafting mistakes that get it kicked off the ballot. If it passes, Tester would have to win a majority of the votes, something he’s not yet been able to do.

  3. Without a Libertarian on the 2018 general ballot to absorb Republican votes, Tester probably needs a VEP turnout of at least 60 percent. Given how many Democrats refused to vote in 2010 and 2014, I think a VEP turnout of 60 percent in 2018 is highly improbable.

Tester’s not yet toast, but he’s in trouble. If he wants to avoid going back to being just farmer Jon, he must find a way to engage, energize, and get to the polls the disillusioned, disaffected, and feckless Democrats who blew off the ballot box in 2010 and 2014. There may not be a way to do that if he tailors his message to so-called independent voters who are thought to favor Republican policies.


Morning video — The Prodigal’s Resolution

Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band performing Charles Wesley’s The Prodigal’s Resolution at the Broadmead Baptist Church in Bristol in 2007. Have patience with the introduction and you will be rewarded. Wesley, incidentally, wrote more than 6,000 hymns.



12 November 2014 • 9:09:26 MST

Montana’s aging electorate

Montana, on 29 March 1971, was the eighth state to ratify the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that lowered the voting age to 18. At that time, Montana’s voting eligible population comprised approximately 63–64 percent of the state’s population. Today, that percentage is up to 77.5. Montana’s population is aging; our voters are older, among the oldest in the nation. Only Maine, Vermont, West Virginia, and North Dakota have higher VEP to population ratios. Only Maine’s VEP turnout was higher than Montana’s in 2014, the worst turnout for a general election since 1942.



11 November 2014 • 6:30:46 MST

MT’s 2014 VEP turnout the lowest since voting age lowered to 18

Provisional votes were counted yesterday, boosting the statewide total by at least 5,800 votes. That raised this year’s turnout slightly, but it’s still below 50 percent. As a nation, the eligible voter turnout was 36.2 percent.



10 November 2014 • 18:02:33 MST

Flathead 911 tax down just 11 votes after provisional ballots counted

Updated at 23:50:38 MST. Four-hundred-sixteen provisional votes were cast (the number of provisional ballots cast was equal to or greater than 416). Almost 58 percent of the provisional votes favored the 911 tax.

The new count is 15,201 for, 15,212 against. Before the provisional ballots were counted, the tax was down 72 votes. That means the provisional votes broke strongly for the tax, a highly improbable result if the provisional ballots were a sample representative of all ballots cast in the Flathead. I suspect a lot of first responder types and their families and friends cast provisional ballots.

This will go to a recount, but absent fraud, a mechanical or electrical induced bias, or a programming error, the results are likely to stand. After the canvass, I’ll calculate the probability of a flipped outcome.


9 November 2014 • 23:15:02 MST

Forest Service says Jewel Basin may be too crowded to be Wilderness

The Jewel Basin Hiking Area in the Swan Range east of the Flathead Valley was designated a foot travel only administrative reserve under Regulation U-3a, the last of Bob Marshall’s famous U Regulations still in effect after the passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964. The designation protected the wilderness values of the Jewel, but the Forest Service wasn’t protecting it until it could be added to the wilderness system. Instead, the Forest Service — which loathed wilderness — was trying to prove that it could manage the Jewel without the benefit of the Wilderness Act, thus keeping the area out of the wilderness system.

…read the rest


8 November 2014

Removing obstacles to voting on Election Day


That’s me, just after inserting my paper ballot into my precinct’s counting machine at the Flathead Fairgrounds on 4 November 2014. That precinct was open for 13 hours, from 0700 to 2000. I’m not working a 12-hour shift 20 miles from my polling place, so finding time to vote in person does not inconvenience me. In fact, my polling place is within walking distance of my home.

But were I working a 12-hour shift south of Kalispell, and my polling place were in Columbia Falls, I might find voting in person a practical impossibility. People in that situation are condemned to casting absentee ballots, no matter how much they might prefer voting in person.

One alternative the state should consider is opening the polls at 0600 and closing them at midnight. That makes much more sense than a system that in practice forces some voters to vote by absentee ballot when they’d much rather vote in person on Election Day.



7 November 2014

Will Monday’s Flathead Ebola forum inform or patronize?


Updated at 18:59:50 MST. The Flathead County Health Department now has a bare bones Ebola page. See updated links below.

Updated 9 November at 9:40:37 MST. A winter storm watch is in effect until 1800 MST on 10 November, when the forum is scheduled to commence. Check to make sure the meeting has not been canceled before heading for the meeting hall.

Actually, it might do both. That’s why I plan to attend, my unhappiness with the poor acoustics at FVCC’s Arts and Technology Building notwithstanding. It begins at 1800 and ends at 1930 MST. For details, please consult Flathead Regional Medical Center’s meeting announcement.

Gov. Steve Bullock just announced Montana’s Centers for Disease Control based protocols for dealing with Ebola, so the meeting is timely. Unlike Maine, New Jersey, and New York Governors LePage, Christie, and Cuomo, who could be cast as Larry, Curly, and Moe, in The Three Stooges Meet Ebola, Bullock hasn’t made a fool of himself by trying to imprison everyone with a connection to Africa in a quarantine camp with Gitmo levels of security. Still, he and everyone in public health want to assure the public that the situation is under control, so there’s always the danger that calm presentations of the science will be replaced or supplemented by the “now, now, don’t worry your pretty little head; trust us” approach that infuriates people and causes some to further distrust authority.

…read the rest


6 November 2014

Some scattershot post-election analysis

The election is over except in Louisiana, but the counting of the ballots isn’t, not even in Montana or the Flathead. Still, the election’s outcome becomes clearer each day, and some lessons are beginning to emerge.

…read the rest

2014 absentee ballot return rate below average

The rate of return for absentee ballots in Montana’s 2014 general election was below the 2006–2014 average. That probably is why 2014’s turnout of registered voters was lower than 2010’s. I predict that a few months from now, researchers will report that the return rate for the age 18–29 cohort was significantly down from 2006 and 2010, especially among identified Democrats. The big question is: why?



5 November 2014

Turnout as function of county size & diff from 2010

As a very general rule, the smaller the county, the higher the turnout rate. Size is not the only factor, but it’s an important one. The first graph below plots turnout as a function of the number of registered voters in a county. The second graph compares the turnout rate in 2014 with the turnout rate in 2010. Note: both graphs use a logarithmic X-axis. Download data (Excel spreadsheet).


Montana 2014 turnout was lower than in 2010

Updated at 12:45:57 MST. The turnout of registered voters in the 2014 Montana general election was 54.5 percent, 1.9 points lower than in 2010. The turnout of the Voting Eligible Population was just 46.6 percent, the lowest since 18-year-olds began voting in 1974. This year’s numbers might change slightly, very slightly, after the official canvass, but nothing will change the fact that a turnout so low is both shameful and delegitimizing to democracy.


Download expanded turnout spreadsheet



4 November 2014

Flathead Memo pulls the plug on the live blog

Results are coming in too slow to make this a worthwhile endeavor. I’ have analysis sometime tomorrow. I may post on Twitter (@jrcflatheadmemo) from time-to-time throughout the evening and night.

My advice to candidates: do not concede until the last vote is counted and it’s clear beyond doubt that you have lost. Get some sleep and make your statements in the morning, or if necessary, even later.

Latest Montana registration and absentee voting statistics

These numbers are current as of daybreak today. So far, 196,700 absentee ballots have been returned. That’s a return rate of 78.9 percent, which probably will exceed 90 percent once all the votes are counted. The turnout of registered voters is at 29.3 percent. If the final turnout of registered voters is under 60 percent, Democrats are in trouble.

For detailed, county-by-county data on current and historical absentee voting data, download this spreadsheet. More information is available on the MT SecST’s website.

Update. Flathead Memo’s historical voter information spreadsheet includes Voting Eligible Population data that are not published by the MT SecST. It was last updated this morning, the file’s name notwithstanding.


Download spreadsheet for above table


Election Day at Flathead Memo

After voting, I’ll be posting sporadically throughout the day. Then, after the polls close, I’ll start live blogging here and on Twitter starting around 2100 (there are some after the polls close events I’m attending).

My thanks to the men and women who stood for election, and to all who contributed their time and money to the candidates and issues of their choice. The campaign is over, but the polls are open until 2000 MST. Elections matter, so vote and help others do same.

Morning video — One Particular Harbor

Non-political, feel good music, by Jimmy Buffett, who sings of where the palms sway in the trade winds, the sun shines, and there’s a warm beach and cold rum spiked pineapple juice. Crank up the gain, and start the day with rhythm.



3 November 2014

Elections to watch in Montana and the Flathead

There are five statewide, one regional, and five Flathead County elections that Flathead Memo will be watching on Election Night.


Justice of the Montana Supreme Court

Incumbent Mike Wheat versus Lawrence Vandyke. A well-liked man with a splendid judicial temperament, Wheat has plenty of legal experience. Vandyke, a much younger man with modest legal experience, especially in Montana, is a tea party ideologue with heavy backing from business interests and social conservatives. The contest has attracted much national attention, both for its cost and the meddling mailer from rogue political scientists at Stanford and Dartmouth.

…read the rest


Senator Jon Tester, Governor Steve Bullock, and Lt. Governor Angela McLean share a chuckle during the Democrat’s get out the vote rally in Kalispell on Sunday morning.


2 November 2014

Morning video — Happy Days Are Here Again!

For my friends in the Democratic Party, Mitch Miller and his singers belting out the theme song of Franklin Roosevelt’s 1932 Presidential campaign that rescued the country from Herbert Hoover, the Republican Party, and trickle down economics.



1 November 2014

Morning video — Carmeltia

Named by the Phoenix New Times as one of The 10 Coolest, Scariest, Freakiest Songs About Heroin, Carmelita was written by Warren Zevon in 1972. Zevon released his own version in 1976. Linda Ronstadt released hers a year later. But the most powerful version I’ve heard is this all acoustic performance by former heroin addict Willy DeVille that was recorded in Berlin in 2002. He knew of what he sang. His voice will stay with you.