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

Archives index, 1– 15 November 2015


15 November 2015

Twenty bombs is not a massive attack unless they’re nukes

Ten French warplanes dropped 20 bombs on ISIS targets in Syria today in retaliation for the terrorist attacks in Paris. This was fully justified and no surprise. But unless the bombs were nukes, a 20-bomb mission is not a “massive” attack. France needs to moderate its rhetoric and drop 20,000 more bombs on ISIS.

ISIS: it can be contained, but not defeated

But a Presidential candidate who says something so sensible will be defeated.

Remember John Kerry’s comment in 2004 that successfully dealing with terrorism required reducing it to the level of a nuisance? He was right, but that wasn’t what Americans wanted to hear. They wanted an end to terrorism, for it to be wiped out once and for all. They wanted (and still want) to be perfectly safe — so when Kerry told them that wasn’t possible, but that they could be reasonably safe, they turned George W. Bush, the man who promised perfect safety.

That’s what led to this exchange (transcript) at last night’s Democratic debate in Iowa:

Dickerson: All right, thank you, Governor. Thank all of you.

The terror attacks last night underscore biggest challenge facing the next president of the United States. At a time of crisis, the country and the world look to the president for leadership and for answers.

So, Secretary Clinton, I’d like to start with you. Hours before the attacks, President Obama said, “I don’t think ISIS is gaining strength.” Seventy-two percent of Americans think the fight against ISIS is going badly. Won’t the legacy of this administration, which is-- which you were a part of, won’t that legacy be that it underestimated the threat from ISIS?

Clinton: Well, John, I think that we have to look at ISIS as the leading threat of an international terror network. It cannot be contained, it must be defeated.

That’s what people want to hear. So, that’s what they’ll hear from Hillary.

But it’s nonsense. As Bernie Sanders reminded everyone, the leaders of ISIS are religious lunatics who want to turn the calendar back a thousand years. They may be so crazy that they burn themselves up. Let’s hope they do. But because ISIS is an idea and movement as well an organization, it cannot be pounded into submission by military might; not by the most powerful nation in Christendom, not by the Muslim nations in the Middle East.

But ISIS can be contained, and the damage it does outside its borders minimized, through the judicious application of military, economic, social, and religious force.

Unfortunately, not one candidate for President, Republican or Democrat, has the courage to tell the voters that truth. The voters want perfect safety. And the politicians want to win the election.



14–15 November 2015

Sunrise, sunset, and civil twilight at the Stillwater solar garden

Flathead Electric’s Stillwater solar garden will be used as a benchmark for other photovoltaic arrays in the Flathead. So far, FEC has focused on the economics of the project, but has not yet provided a lot of information on the solar science involved. Rather than wait for something that might never happen, Flathead Memo will present an occasional, and rudimentary, post on the sunshine part of the project.

Today, FM provides a spreadsheet of five daily values for the sun for 2016: (1) beginning of morning civil twilight, (2) time and azimuth of sunrise, (3) time and altitude of meridian transit (solar noon, also called high noon), (4) time and azimuth of sunset, and (5) end of evening civil twilight. At meridian transit, the sun’s azimuth is 180°, but as displayed in the analemma below, the time of day by the clock varies. The spreadsheet provides data for both standard and daylight saving time.

…read the rest

Could David Lenio get a fair trial in Flathead County?

Lenio’s attorney, public defender Brent Getty, raised that question in Vince Devlin’s latest report in the Missoulian. Lenio’s detractors made incendiary accusations yesterday in a report by Bill Morlin, who writes for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog, that Lenio violated the terms of his bail. Writes Devlin:

Lenio’s attorney, public defender Brent Getty, said he had no comment on the allegation that his client had violated the terms of his release.

“But I would reiterate, at the same point, that I am getting very concerned about publicity over this case in the last week, and its effect on Mr. Lenio’s right to a fair trial if this goes forward,” Getty said.

According to Morlin:

David Joseph Lenio was busy this past summer, re-Tweeting 348 messages – many of them anti-Semitic and hate-filled – and defying the judge’s order, even as his defense attorney and Flathead County, MT, prosecutors reportedly discussed a plea deal that could allow him to duck a felony conviction and get his firearms returned.

While authorities are apparently unaware of Lenio’s current social media presence, they still haven’t said publicly how the 28-year-old accused Twitter terrorist got access to post hate messages on Facebook while locked in a Montana jail cell where there is supposed to be no Internet access.

Now, the possibility of a plea-deal for Lenio is drawing national attention with an Internet petition drive — already with 5,797 signatures, including 324 from Montanans — strongly opposing any plea bargain that leaves Lenio facing anything short of a felony conviction.

“Tell Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan: ‘Do not settle for any outcome that might allow Lenio to own guns again,’” the petition by the Coalition to End Stop Gun Violence says.

Ladd Everitt, the coalition’s director of communications, told Hatewatch that only a felony conviction will prohibit Lenio from purchasing and owning firearms. If the prosecutor agrees to a misdemeanor plea or pre-trial diversion that allows Lenio to get his guns back, “then blood will be on [the prosecutor’s] hands if Lenio takes advantage of the situation to carry out his declared plans.”

Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry, reports Devlin, is skeptical of accusations that Lenio could have obtained a smartphone while he was imprisoned in Flathead County’s calaboose.

I believe most jurors are smarter and more responsible than judges and attorneys suppose. The notion that pretrial publicity taints the jury pool angers me. I suspect Lenio could get a fair trial in Flathead County provided the judge kept control of the trial. This situation isn’t at the Sam Sheppard level … yet.

But given conventional wisdom and court practices, if the case did go to trial, Getty would have a good argument for a change of venue. He might even have an argument for sequestering the jury (locking up the jurors without a trial, and depriving them of access to the outside world, a reprehensible practice).

I wish the people who want Lenio convicted of a felony would have the decency and intellectual discipline to withhold judgement until after they’ve heard his defense. They’re making a mockery of the right to a fair trial, revealing themselves as hotheads with little regard for civil liberties, and taking a step they shouldn’t take down the road to Vigilanteville.



13 November 2015

An updated comment on the terrorist attacks in Paris

Update, 14 November, 0720 MST. We now know that ISIS conducted the attack, apparently in retaliation for French air attacks on ISIS in Syria. Earlier this fall, ISIS took out a Russian airliner with a bomb, again apparently as retaliation for Russia’s air strikes in Syria. I think there’s a fairly high probability that ISIS will try to murder American civilians, either in the U.S. or, more likely, abroad. None of this should be unexpected. None of this should change our daily behavior or attitude (see Fallows, below).

Updated. The Guardian is live blogging the situation. It just published the statement of France’s President, François Hollande, which contains these paragraphs:

Faced with terror, France must be strong, it must be great and the state authorities must be firm. We will be.

We must also call on everyone to be responsible.

What the terrorists want is to scare us and fill us with dread. There is indeed reason to be afraid. There is dread, but in the face of this dread, there is a nation that knows how to defend itself, that knows how to mobilise its forces and, once again, will defeat the terrorists.

You may wish to compare Hollande’s statement with President George W. Bush’s statement on 11 September 2001, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Day of Infamy speech on 8 December 1941.

There are reports that some citizens of Paris are taking to the streets waving French flags in defiance of the terrorists. It’s good they are doing that instead of quavering in darkened homes, afraid to even peek out the window. Update, 1916 MST. France has declared a national state of emergency and ordered every to stay inside.

Accepting danger but not cowering in fear, as The Atlantic’s James Fallows observed a decade ago, is the wise approach to living with terrorism:

There will always be a threat that someone will blow up an airplane or a building or a container ship. Technology has changed the balance of power; it is easier for even a handful of people to threaten a community than it is for the community to defend itself. But while we have to live in danger, we don’t have to live in fear. Attacks are designed to frighten us even more than to kill us. So let’s refuse to magnify the damage they do. We’ll talk about the risk only when that leads to specific ways we can make ourselves safer. Otherwise we’ll just stop talking about it, as we do about the many other risks and tragedies inevitable in life. We will show that we are a free, brave people by controlling our fears. We admired Britain during the Blitz because people went about their lives rather than fretting at every minute that they might die. Let us be admirable in the same way.


Is Ivanpah the worst solar electric project in the world?

Possibly not, but it’s among the top contenders. And, reports the Riverside, CA, Press-Enterprise, Ivanpah — which is supposed to produce clean energy — burns enough natural gas that it’s a greenhouse gas emitter that’s required to join California’s cap and trade program to reduce carbon emissions.

Some background. Located in the California desert near the border with Nevada, Ivanpah is a dual fuel steam electric generating facility, with sunlight serving as the primary fuel. Mirrors focus sunlight on a boiler atop a 460-foot tower; there are three towers, each with its own field of mirrors. The boilers drive steam turbines that spin the generators. It looks like something Jules Verne or Rube Goldberg might have designed.

The other fuel is natural gas. In the morning, it heats the boilers so that when the sun rises, there’s enough steam pressure to start generating immediately. And if there’s a rare cloudy period, natural gas keeps the boilers hot enough to provide uninterrupted generation. Ivanpah has approval to burn 525 million cubic feet of natural gas a year.

Ivanpah could be run as a natural gas fired steam plant. In fact, I suspect there are plans to do just that at night.

There’s a place for solar thermal projects. But it’s not in schemes of the Ivanpah genre. It’s on rooftops, heating water for residential and commercial use. Ivanpah is expensive, ridiculously complicated, and possibly dishonest. It’s an embarrassment. Look for it to be decommissioned when wind driven sand scours the mirrors to the point they need refinishing.


Flathead Electric’s solar panels are not selling like hotcakes

Photovoltaic panels at Flathead Electric’s Stillwater solar garden are selling slowly. According to Ross Holter, FEC’s solar garden chief who spoke at FVCC last night, only 130 or so of the array’s 356 panels have been purchased by members of the rural electric cooperative. The 285-watt-DC panels cost $900 each, and can be paid for in a lump sum or in 12 payments, each $75 and added to the purchaser’s electric bill.

I don’t think FEC expected such slow sales. Initially, panels were limited to one per member. That restriction’s been removed. And the interest free $75 per month payment plan has been added.

Holter said many of the purchasers thus far are people 65 and older who plan to bequeath their panels to their heirs.

Until the end of 2016, purchasers of FEC’s panels can take a 30 percent solar tax credit. That brings the price per panel down to $630, shortening the payback period. After the tax credit expires, the panels will be much more difficult to sell.

FEC may have thought that the project would be so attractive that the panels would sell themselves. If so, that was a mistake. I wonder whether FEC’s sales forecast was based on hard data, on standard market research, or on the enthusiasm of the solar advocates who lobby the cooperative do to more solar projects.

I think FEC would be wise to consider expanding its Stillwater FAQ with more engineering information on the array’s design — why, for example, a tilt of 30° instead of the array’s latitude of 48.3°? — and monthly and hourly outputs, and more information on the behavior of the sun at this latitude.



12 November 2015

An informal comparison of 60-watt equivalent CFL & LED bulbs

Left, CFL. Right, LED.

There’s a seminar on solar energy at Flathead Valley Community College this evening, so its a good day to look at my informal comparison of two energy efficient replacements for the 60-watt incandescent light bulb. The replacements, pictured at left, are a spiral compact fluorescent lamp and a light emitting diode lamp, both with Edison bases. I bought the CFL at Costco for approximately two dollars several years ago, and the LED at Walmart for $2.44 over the weekend.

The bulbs are close to the same size, but the LED bulb is 50 percent heavier. They’re suitable for most, but not all, legacy fixtures. I installed them in a metal shaded gooseneck utility light rated for a 60-watt bulb. I made electrical measurements with a Kill-a-Watt meter, but would have used an oscilloscope had I had one.

Here are the numbers:


I lacked equipment to mention three variables: color temperature, spectrum, and lumens. To my eye, the color of the light was warm. I couldn’t discern any difference in brightness or color between bulbs. But a camera might, which is why it’s useful to exam the spectrum with a diffraction grating (a CD or DVD can serve as a poor man’s diffraction grating). LEDs may have closer to a black body spectrum than CFLs. I didn’t have a light meter sensitive enough to measure the difference between 800 and 900 lumens, so I just accepted the nameplate rating, recognizing the number probably is rounded up or down from two significant figures.

Two caveats. I have no idea how reliable these bulbs are. I’ve had good luck with the 13-watt Feit bulbs. They do last for years. The LED bulb is an unknown, but given its price I would not be surprised were it to have a high failure rate. The LED has a long lifetime, but the built-in ballast for it probably isn’t as robust. And, with a sample size of one, I have no idea how much manufacturing variation there is.



11 November 2015

I should have watched the debate with the sound off

The best way to make sense of last night’s debate probably was watching the rerun with the sound turned off while reading the transcript. I wasn’t smart enough to do that.

Some takeaways:

Ben Carson. His voice is so steady and soothing that people get lost in the melody and don’t hear the lyrics. Shame on the moderators for not grilling him on the deviations from the truth in his life story.

Donald Trump. He’s running on style, not substance, presenting himself as a take-charge trouble shooter who will know what he needs to know when he needs to know it. Last night he needed to know that China was not part of the TPP, but didn’t. Rand Paul did.

Rand Paul. Like everyone else on stage, he had a tax “reform” plan that depended on magic asterisks and divine exemptions from Christian charity and the laws of economics. But he did well on foreign policy. Unlike Marco Rubio, he doesn’t believe in shooting first and trying diplomacy later.

Marco Rubio. Of all the debaters, he was the most skilled at avoiding a straight answer to a straight question. At times I thought he was selling war bonds. And like Jeb Bush, he needs to restart the Cold War so that the world makes sense again.

Jeb Bush. A new persona. He spoke more rapidly and with greater self-assurance, the result, no doubt, of extensive (and emergency) media training. He still comes across as a man who wants to govern but not campaign.

John Kasich. He didn’t help himself with the audience, but he may have with voters by arguing that facts matter and that government has a duty to help working Joes on Elm Street as much as gambling Joes on Wall Street.

Ted Cruz. He’s a hard metal man. He’d prosecute the gambling Joes on Wall Street, then return the country to the gold standard. He clearly hasn’t read Barry Eichengreen’s Golden Fetters. As befits a man from Texas, home of Rick Perry, he could only remember four of the five cabinet departments he’d eliminate.

Carly Fiorina. Turn off the sound. She looks and gestures like a Stepford wife. Read the transcript. She’s clueless. Her big moment? She one-upped Trump on knowing Vladimir Putin. She also presented herself as an expert, experienced executive. That took chutzpah (but not shame; she has none).



10 November 2015

Stinginess and gratuitous complexity cripple our health care system

Expanded Medicaid goes into effect in Montana today. There are, reports Molly Priddy at the Flathead Beacon, specialists ready to help people navigate the system, which is not true Medicaid but, thanks to Republican cruelty and Democratic inability to win a majority in the legislature, bastardized and privatized, expanded Medicaid.

Yes, the system may be an improvement on health care before the Affordable Care Act. And Montana’s soak the poor expanded Medicare that Democrats so shamelessly cheer may help some who would not have been helped before.

But let no one lose sight of the fact that our system is stingy and hideously complex. Even Medicare, a single payer system, doesn’t cover everything, forcing financially strapped seniors to purchase outrageously expensive supplemental policies.

What we need, what should be our right, is American Care — an everyone covered for everything federal single-payer system, every American automatically enrolled at birth, financed by progressive taxes. If we had American Care, we wouldn’t need private health insurance. If we outlawed that parasitic industry, the savings would pay for American Care.

But we don’t have American Care because Republicans are cruel and Democrats embrace single-payer opponents like Hillary Clinton.

Will this nation ever come to its senses on health care? Or is the crooked timber of humankind incapable of rescuing itself from the knuckleheads and merciless ideologues we choose to govern and provide a health care system?


Action in Missoula, thuggery at Missouri, vulgar intolerance at Yale

Today is a day of action for underpaid working people. In Missoula, the action is at the Missoula County Courthouse at 1500–1600. Join them if you can. This is occurring all over the nation, but maybe not in the Flathead. How many will join the action is anyone’s guess. I suspect most of the underpaid will be working because they can’t afford to take off time to join the festivities.

Intolerance at Missouri and Yale. The University of Missouri’s president and chancellor resigned yesterday following protests incited by some racist incidents on campus. There was a hunger strike — hunger strikes are death threats, with the strikers threatening to off themselves to extort concessions — and the black players on the football team said they wouldn’t play until the university’s president resigned. They got their way, scoring a touchdown by refusing to take the field. Ultimately, it appears that powerful alums feared the dispute was hurting, or would hurt, fundraising. Jeopardizing fundraising is a capital offense for a college president. Failing to stare down mutineers and caving into to hunger striking blackmailers is not. The last college presidents with backbones might have been S.I. Hayakawa and Robert Hutchins.

…read the rest


9 November 2015

When does 82 beat 95?


When Hillary Clinton has the League of Conservation Voter’s Action Fund’s 82 rating and Sen. Bernie Sanders has only a 95 rating. How do we know this? Because the LCVAF is endorsing Clinton for the Democratic nomination for President.

Reports the Washington Post:

The decision to back Clinton over two Democratic rivals with equally strong, if not stronger, liberal environmental records shows the extent to which some environmentalists are concerned the Obama administration’s policies could be rolled back under a Republican president. The group’s president, Gene Karpinski, said it needs to activate volunteers and donors early to make sure Clinton is strongly positioned for the general election.

The LCV Action Fund picked Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley because “the stakes are so high” and Clinton “has proved she’s an effective leader who can stand up to the big polluters and push forward an aggressive plan to tackle climate change,” Karpinski said.

I think this is part of an effort to pressure Sanders and O’Malley to fold their tents before the primaries commence. Establishment Democrats fear a primary will damage Clinton and burn up her cash, leaving her too weakened to win the Presidency. Some may even fear that Sanders could win the nomination; that a 75-year-old member of the Democratic wing of the Democratic party could become President, wreaking havoc on the plans of stockbroker and bond trader Democrats to polish Wall Street’s apple.


The Keystone XL pipeline: only temporarily dead

One of my Twitter followers reminded me that the owners of the Trans Mountain Pipeline put their expansion project on hold just before President Obama denied the Keystone XL pipeline a permit to cross the United States. I appreciate the reminder.

Somehow, I forgot to include Governor Bullock’s response to Obama’s decision. Here it is:

President Obama’s decision to deny approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline is wrong and bad for Montana. The jobs, economic benefit, and energy security the pipeline would afford Montana, especially eastern Montana, are now lost due to the dysfunction that has come to define Washington, DC.

Dysfunction does define Congress, thanks to a gleefully obstructionist Republican Party, but this was one time that Washington did function. Bullock just doesn’t like the decision. Moreover, he can’t afford to get crosswise with the unions — no Democrat running for statewide office can — so his statement is not unexpected. That’s why I’m cutting him, and Sen. Tester, some slack on this. But not much slack.

There is no connection between the Keystone XL and the trains of oil that travel from the Bakken across Montana and on to the refineries at Anacortes, WA. Whether or not the Keystone XL ever gets built, Bakken oil bound for Anacortes will travel by rail as long as there’s no pipeline to ship it there.

Finally, the Keystone XL is only temporarily dead, not forever dead. When the price of oil rises again, and it will, and oil friendly governments are installed in the USA and Canada, the Keystone XL will rise from the grave and need killing all over again.



7 November 2015

Love Lives Here targets Flathead prosecutor Stacy Borman on Lenio case

Yesterday, District Judge Heidi Ulbricht granted a continuance in the David Lenio case, pushing the trial date back to 19 January 2016 to give his defense attorney and the Flathead County Attorney time to work out a plea bargain.

Meanwhile, the Flathead human rights group Love Lives Here and Glacier Jewish Community-B’nai Shalom are mounting a furious and frenetic campaign to keep the county attorney from agreeing to a plea to anything less than a felony. There’s a rally scheduled for 0900 or 0930 on Monday, 09 November, on the courthouse steps in Kalispell. And through Rabbi Francine Green Roston there’s an email campaign to lobby the prosecutor. Roston says:

…read the rest

Obama kills Keystone pipeline — Tester & labor scream bloody murder

President Obama killed the Keystone XL pipeline yesterday, and it will stay dead until a pipeline friendly President replaces him in the White House. That President won’t be named Clinton, O’Malley, or Sanders.

Not all Democrats are happy. Sen. John Tester issued a statement titled “President Threatens Energy Security:”

“I’m disappointed with the President’s decision. After dragging his feet for years on the Keystone pipeline, the President missed an opportunity to strengthen America’s energy security. This decision prevents more good-paying Montana jobs and ensures that we continue to do business with hostile countries in the Middle East. “

Tester has been calling on President Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline since 2010.

Tester’s clearly peeved, but that’s no excuse for accusing the President of weakening the energy security of the United States. He could, and should, have issued a bland and unremarkable statement of disagreement.

…read the rest


6 November 2015

Human rights group demands that David Lenio be convicted of a felony

Remember David Lenio? The young man from Michigan who moved to Kalispell, made some ill-advised Tweets, and found himself jailed in Flathead County on charges of malicious intimidation and criminal defamation? In September, District Judge Heidi Ulbricht dismissed the criminal defamation charge on constitutional grounds, but let stand the malicious intimidation charge.

Lenio, back in Michigan with his family, told me earlier this fall that he was doing well and working 50 hours a week while waiting for his legal ordeal to end. That end may be approaching. According to the Flathead Beacon, Lenio’s attorney, Brent Getty, filed a motion to postpone Lenio’s trial, which was scheduled to begin Monday:

“The Defense requests a continuance to allow time to finalize the potential resolution of this matter,” Getty wrote. “Discussions are ongoing and the matter may be able to be resolved, without the need for a trial, as early as next week.”

In other words, Getty’s trying to make a deal, probably one in which Lenio pleads guilty to a misdemeanor or two, receives a suspended sentence, and agrees to return to Michigan.

That possibility has local human rights advocates in an uproar. This afternoon I received a media advisory from a woman named Ina Albert, that reads:

…read the rest

Whitefish’s municipal election turnout was 46%; rest of Flathead, 14%

Whitefish conducted its 3 November 2015 municipal election via mail ballot. Forty-six percent of the ballots were returned. For the rest of the Flathead, basically for Columbia Falls and Kalispell, only 14 percent of the registered voters cast ballots. Here’s the turnout summary:


For a breakdown, you can download my spreadsheet based on the county election department's official returns. The numbers are the same, but the Excel file is easier to work with than the county's space delimited file that's kind of a blast from the mainframe past.

…read the rest


5 November 2015


Flathead Memo will resume posting new material on 06 November.


4 November 2015

Denise Juneau announces she’s running for the U.S. House


She filed her paperwork with the Federal Election Commission, and her website is online. In the grand tradition of today’s candidates when they announce, she has a page for making donations, but not a page on the issues.

Her biography stresses her connections to Montana, and includes this:

Denise’s Montana roots run deep. Her family’s ancestry traces back to before Montana was even a state, possibly 54 generations on this soil.

Fifty-four generations. That will impress the “I was born in Montana and have a birthright those who moved here don’t have” crowd. It might have a bearing on getting elected — I’m skeptical — but it has absolutely no bearing on her ability to represent Montana in Congress.

She needs to raise at least $4–5 million to be competitive. To do that, she’ll need to take strong, progressive, stands on the issues as she makes the two cases she must make: why Joe must go, and why me to replace thee. That will be tough. She’s starting very late.


What happens if Jon Tester doesn’t run for re-election in 2018?


Will Sen. Jon Tester run for re-election in 2018? And if he doesn’t, whom would Democrats choose to replace him? Those questions are quietly being discussed in some Democratic circles these days. And some unsettling ideas are receiving more consideration than they deserve.

If Tester runs in 2018, he faces a very difficult election. He won both of his terms by a plurality when Libertarian candidates peeled off enough of the conservative vote to deny victory to Republicans Conrad Burns in 2006 and Dennis Rehberg in 2012. Although a midterm, the 2006 was a wave election with abnormally high turnout. The last two midterms, 2010 and 2014, were low turnout elections that badly hurt Democrats.


Could 2018 be a midterm with abnormally high turnout? That can’t be ruled out, but at this point there’s no reason to believe that would happen. A repeat of 2010 and 2014 is much more likely.

…read the rest

New poll suggests Bernie is just as electable as Hillary

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds Hillary Clinton running dead even with Ben Carson nationwide, but beating Donald Trump soundly and Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush narrowly. It also finds Bernie Sanders runs just as strongly against Trump and Rubio (Sanders v. Carson and Sanders v. Bush were not polled).

There are two takeaways from these results. First, Sanders is just as electable as Clinton. And second, and perhaps most important, the fundamental matchup is Democrat v. Republican. The differences between the candidates are much less significant than the differences between their parties.



3 November 2015

Grizz ballers outta jail, power plan meeting, the bypass & Two Mile

University of Montana football players busted for burglary are released. According to the county attorney, the cops didn’t provide sufficient evidence to support a burglary charge. The cops have been instructed to find more evidence. William Skink’s skeptical commentary on the mess is a good read.

There’s a Kalispell hearing on the new Northwest Power Plan on Monday, 9 November. Glacier Climate Action volunteer coordinator Steve Thompson has the details:

Please attend a public hearing in Kalispell on Nov. 9 in support of a sustainable and energy efficient future in Montana. Flathead Electric Co-op in Kalispell will host the region’s first public hearing on the new Northwest Power Plan prepared by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

Public hearing information:
Kalispell, November 9th
6:30 — 8:00 pm
Flathead Electric Board Room
2510 US Highway 2 East, Kalispell

The draft Plan prioritizes efficiency and will reduce carbon pollution and promote clean energy resources. So Glacier Climate Action encourages people to speak in support of the plan The Plan impacts Flathead Electric Co-op because it is binding on Bonneville Power Administration, and FEC buys power from BPA.

More info:

Kalispell bypass construction makes Two Mile Drive motorists uneasy. Preparations to build an over the bypass bridge on Two Mile are underway. Utility lines have been relocated, moved underground. Now the old cottonwoods that lined the road are gone and at least 100 feet on each side of Two Mile have been scraped down to black earth. A detour paralleling Two Mile is next, followed by bridge building — in the dead of winter — and flagmen and delays. While Kalispell’s city fathers and bypass boosters are whooping and hollering that the promised land — the promised asphalt paved land — is finally here, those of us who drive the road will be fuming and seething at the delays and the inconvenience. From our standpoint, this is change, not progress.



2 November 2015

Congratulations, Kansas City Royals

If residents of Great Falls thought there was too much celebrating in their city last night, I suggest they consider blaming Mike Brown at The Western Word. His Kansas City Royals won the World Series in fine style last night, giving him reasons aplenty for uttering a few whoops and hollers.

My congratulations to the Royals, clearly the better, more seasoned, team. Their arms matched the Mets’, and their bats had more pop.

The Mets might have blown last night’s game when manager Terry Collins foolishly let Matt Harvey start the ninth. Harvey, who had already thrown 102 pitches, promptly issued a walk, then gave up a double. Still up a run, Collins pulled Harvey for a reliever. As a managerial decision, it was tantamount to letting a car go in the ditch before replacing the driver.

But the Mets’ bullpen isn’t that strong, so perhaps they couldn’t have held a two-run lead with a reliever starting the ninth. And I don’t for a moment believe they could have won two straight in Kansas City.

The worst part of the game? It was the end of major league baseball in 2015. No more MLB until next spring — and that makes the winter colder.



1 November 2015

Daylight saving time, griz footballers busted, ugly Missoulian website

We’re back on standard time — and I don’t like it. Writing at Vox, Joseph Stromberg argues that we should observe daylight saving time all year long. He’s right, and his case is irrefutable.

Does the “F” in University of Montana football stand for felony? After losing to Portland State 35–16, three Grizzly football players celebrated by getting themselves busted for burglary in the wee morning hours today. Reports the Missoulian:

Van Ackeren is the third Griz starting linebacker to be arrested this season. Herbert Gamboa received a six-month deferred sentence after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct in August after instigating a fight at a house party. Gamboa was suspended for the team’s first home game. Jeremiah Kose had been arrested the same week for failing to appear in court on three misdemeanor traffic violations.

The players are innocent until proven guilty. But their arrests certainly suggest that the university’s athletic programs recruits players for their athletic prowess, not for their good moral character. Is there a way to clean up this mess? Yes. Sweep intercollegiate athletics out of the university. That will require a pitchfork as well as a broom.

The Missoulian’s new website is a disorganized eyesore. It sprawls over my 24-inch display like a broadsheet page of grocery store coupons. If I change the width of my window, the webpage reorganizes itself. In the trade, this is known as “responsive design” because it adapts — shapeshifts — to the space available on the device on which it’s displayed. At Flathead Memo’s headquarters, it’s known as irresponsible design. We promise never to employ it.

Google is behind responsive design. Google believes that soon, almost everyone will visit the internet with smartphones, so Google wants website developers to dumb down their websites to comport with Google’s vision of the future. The Missoulian has dumbed down its website. So have a lot of other newspapers and magazines (two of the worst offenders are the National Journal and The Atlantic).



31 October 2015

As October ends

Halloween — give the kids candy. Some years ago, I decided to save trick-or-treaters from sugar. So I handed out two number two pencils to every masked beggar that rang my doorbell. My dentist would have applauded. But no one else did. The next morning I found my driveway littered with broken pencils.


Welcome back, Amanda Curtis. She announced she’s running for HD-74 down in Butte-Silverbow land. HD-74’s current representative, Democrat Pat Noonan, is termed-out and running for the Public Service Commission, opening up the seat. Curtis, who has not yet filed her C-1 with political practices, served in the 2013 legislature, making a name for herself by posting daily selfie video reports on the internet.

She didn’t run for re-election so that Noonan could have a safe seat, then in 2014 found herself running for the U.S. Senate as a last minute replacement after John Walsh withdrew his candidacy following the revelation he was a plagiarizer (the National War College revoked his masters degree and ground his name off the bronze honor roll). After a faltering start, she gave a good account of herself.

Curtis is a young mathematics teacher and an accomplished folk musician. Montana’s Democrats need more like her.

Health insurance premiums are skyrocketing. Federal government officials are urging consumers to shop around, reports the New York Times, lest they get clobbered by huge price increases. Blueshield and Bluecross price increases will make people livid. Two examples:

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee said the 36 percent rate increase was necessary because it had lost money on its marketplace business after underestimating the use of health care by its new customers.

In Minnesota, officials approved increases averaging 49 percent for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, the largest insurer in the market. Even with the increases, the company said, “Blue Cross is likely to experience continued significant financial losses through 2016.”

I strongly suspect that a lot of health insurance companies deliberately lowballed initial prices to draw in customers, all the while intending to jack up prices in a year or two knowing that most people simply want to choose a policy and stick with it. Only economists in love with gratuitous complexity have fun comparison shopping for health insurance. For everyone else, it’s an annual ordeal worthy of a prescription for Valium — and a scathing indictment of the Affordable Care Act’s dependance on private health insurance instead of an everyone covered for everyone federal single-payer system financed by progressive taxes.

If you’re voting on Tuesday, wear a raincoat and heavy sweater. The Flathead’s forecast calls for rain or snow and a high of just 42°F. I doubt anyone will have to wait more than a few minutes to vote. A mail ballot would increase turnout, and some municipalities, egged on by local election departments, are voting by mail, but a better solution would be putting municipal (and school board) elections on the general election ballot in even-numbered years.

I continue to oppose mail ballots, by the way. They reduce the experience of voting from a solemn rite of democracy exercised in the presence of one’s neighbors to a ho-hum experience akin to paying a utility bill exercised at the kitchen table in the presence of one’s salt shaker.



30 October 2015

Black Lives Matter disrupts Hillary’s speech in Atlanta

Updated. Clinton had just started speaking when a dozen or so BLM protestors, stormed the stage massed at the front of the audience and began chanting, trying to shut her down.

Fortunately, civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis was present. He placed his hands on the leaders of the protest, quieting them, and helped get them escorted from the meeting hall before they could do more harm. I would have frog-marched the narcissistic punks to the nearest jail, locked them up, and thrown away the key.

Grace Slick at Woodstock, singing Somebody to Love

Musically, this was not the best performance of Somebody to Love. But for for sheer energy and morning mischievousness, and that smile of Slick’s that made every guy fall in love with her, it can’t be beat. Today’s her 76th birthday.

Brian Schweitzer opts for youth, endorses 52-year-old Martin O’Malley

Schweitzer, O’Malley

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is polling at just over zero in his effort to win the Democratic Presidential primary, so his being endorsed by former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer can only help. Schweitzer also agreed to serve as co-chair of O’Malley’s campaign, their differences on gun control and other issues notwithstanding.

There was, notes Ed Kilgore at the Washington Monthly, a time when Schweitzer was considered a credible alternative to Hillary Clinton. Then he used his Techicolor powers of expression to offend various pillars of the Democratic establishment, effectively taking himself out of serious consideration for President or even Vice President.

He climbed aboard O’Malley’s ship six days ago. I missed the announcement, although I did notice Kilgore’s comment on the event. So I’ll close with Kilgore’s penultimate and ultimate paragraphs:

Well, Schweitzer never got past the “exploration” stage, and pretty much blew up his slim prospects by making remarks about Diane Feinstein that sounded sexist and remarks about Eric Cantor that sounded homophobic.

I mention all this because Schweitzer just resurfaced at the outmost periphery of the presidential contest by endorsing Martin O’Malley’s candidacy. Interestingly, both his statement of endorsement and O’Malley’s statement hailing his endorsement mention that the two former governors “don’t agree on every issue.” I’m guessing this is an allusion to Schweitzer’s famous opposition to gun regulation, a bedrock principle of Western Populism that does not play real well among Democratic audiences in Iowa or New Hampshire. But in any event, Schweitzer’s reduced standing in national Democratic politics suggests maybe he should have given more consideration to a run for the Senate in 2014. Had he run and won, he’d be a really big deal right now.