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

Archives index, 16–31 October 2015


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 call’s 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.



29 October 2015

How insult differs from argument

Masters of the pithy phrase, the bon mot, are assured of being quoted and discussed. But they are not assured of being persuasive. At times, one does better by supplying the facts sans adjectives and letting one’s audience supply the indignation; by forgoing the insult and sticking to the argument — even when the argument is less colorful and less satisfying to deliver.

…read the rest

GOP debate, 911 tax, Kalispell sales tax, the death penalty and Hillary

GOP Presidential debate. The Washington Post has an annotated transcript in which John Kaisch comes across better that he did in person, and in which Carley Fiorina comes across worse than she does in person.

Experts evaluate the candidates on what they say, but most viewers evaluate them on how they say it, deferring approvingly to candidates who speak smoothly and with great self-assurance, who sound as though they know what they’re talking about.

…read the rest


28 October 2015

Helium heads and the blimp that got away

The unmanned surveillance blimp that became untethered in Maryland is down in Pennsylvania. So is electricity for 18,000 Pennsylvanians. Here’s how CNN said the blimp wasn’t shot down:

The military took no kinetic action to bring it to the ground, according to the Pentagon, though there is no further information at this point about how it came down.

It probably came down because the blimp’s masters sent it a radio message to vent helium. The more important question is how such a harebrained, helium headed, project ever got approved in the first place.

Flathead Bernie booster calls Hillary Clinton the “oligarchs queen bitch”

There are strange things happening in the Bernie Sanders boosting world. One is asking his supporters to sign a pledge to vote for him on 8 November 2016 — even if he isn’t the Democratic nominee. Another is the sad spectacle of a local Bernie booster, a woman truly committed to getting him elected, disparaging Hillary Clinton with trash talk.

The pledge is available online. So far, I’ve found one website and one Facebook page promoting it. There are surely many more. Needless to say, I think it’s a bad idea that could help a Republican win the White House.

…read the rest

Republican debate day video

This evening at 1800 MDT, the Republican Presidential candidates take CNBC’s stage in Denver to discuss money. The candidates with the highest polling number, Ben Carson and Donald Trump, have no experience in government. Carson’s expertise is in cutting open children’s brains. Trump’s is in building hotels and firing people on reality television. The other candidate with absolutely no experience in governing is Carley Fiorina, who built her reputation on cutting HP’s profits in half. They’ll be joined by Jebbie and the rest the fellows who actually served in elective office and are polling in single digits because of it.

While you’re waiting for the fireworks, or the fizzle, here’s a tea party recruiting video for your amusement.



27 October 2015

Do Montana’s schools discriminate against diabetic students?


I don’t know the answer, but the map at left, which shows the 29 states that allow school employees to administer insulin and, in emergencies, glucagon, makes me wonder whether the answer is yes. The map accompanies today’s New York Times’ report that many schools do discriminate — illegally — against Type 1 diabetics. I’m outraged, but not really surprised. Deep down, educators and school boards want only smart, healthy, and cheerfully obedient students enrolled in their schools. All other students, unless they’re star athletes, are troublemakers who should get educated elsewhere.


Election coverage at the MSM and Obama’s budget deal

Flathead legislative elections. At the Flathead Beacon, Tristan Scott reports on the status of candidacies in the Flathead’s legislative districts, noting that the ideological divisions within the Republican Party will make for some interest primaries. Serious candidates are already filing their C-1 statements with Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices, so it’s good that the mainstream media are picking up the story now instead of waiting for January, when formal filing begins.

So far, interesting elections and candidates are emerging in House District 3, where unmistakably conservative Taylor Rose wants to unseat Democratic incumbent Zac Perry; in Senate District 3, where tea party stalwart Rep. Keith Regier hopes to replace termed-out Sen. Bruce Tutvedt; and Senate District 6, where Sen. Janna Taylor’s retirement opens a spirited Republican primary contest between former SD-6 senator Carmine Mowbray and HD-11’s Rep. Albert Olszewski, M.D. Scott reports that teenaged Whitefish gun lover Chet Billi plans to file for HD-5 “…as a Republican when he turns 18 later this year.”

National budget agreement. Yesterday I expressed concern that Obama’s deal with Boehner and McConnell included cuts to Medicare and Social Security. Details were lacking at that time, but I was concerned because I’m convinced that Obama doesn’t like older people and I believe he’s all too willing to sacrifice these programs on the altar of compromise for the sake of compromise. At the Plum Line today, Greg Sargent confirms these programs will be cut, and reports that the cuts have not placed all advocates for them on a suicide watch:

On Medicare and Social Security: Nancy Altman, the president of Social Security Works, a group that strenuously opposes benefits cuts and argues for their expansion, tells me that the deal “doesn’t actually cut benefits or really hurt beneficiaries who aren’t gaming the system.”

Altman says the Medicare cuts are all on the provider side, which could harm beneficiaries at some point, but it’s not a major concern. “On the Medicare side, they limited their cuts to far in the future, and to providers,” Altman says. “There’s time to correct that.”

Corrections will require a working Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, and a Democratic President. That’s not likely to occur anytime soon. In the meantime, by threatening a government shutdown and a debt ceiling crisis, Republicans extorted concessions on Social Security and Medicare from Democrats. That does not make Democrats look strong.

This puts Sen. Bernie Sanders on the spot. Will he stick to his principles and vote against the deal? Or will he vote for the bill to support a Democratic President who’s willing to starve old people to feed the generals?

Update. I’ve received reports that last night on the Rachel Maddow Show Sanders said he will vote against the deal.



26 October 2015

Is Obama selling out the old and crippled?

Ever since he took office, Barack Hussein Obama has been itching to make a Grand Bargain that includes cuts to Social Security and Medicare. That’s one of the reasons why so many Americans 65 and older are no longer voting for Democrats. They no longer trust Democrats to protect social insurance programs dating from the New Deal and Great Society.

Now, Obama may have succeeded. The New York Times reports that Obama just struck a deal with Speaker of the House Boehner and Senate Majority Leader O’Connell to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for cutting social insurance:

While congressional aides cautioned that the deal was far from certain, and the Treasury Department declined to comment, officials briefed on the negotiations said the emerging accord would call for cuts in spending on Medicare and Social Security disability benefits.

Paying Republican debt limit blackmail by taking money from the old and the disabled is reprehensible.

If these reports are true, there’s no fight left in Obama. And there never was much fight in him in the first place.


More news from the Bernie booster front


The campaign’s pace is picking up. My thanks to all who help me keep up with it. Today, info on another meeting in Kalispell, more links to Bernie pages, and Secret Squirrel’s argument that Sanders is to Hillary Clinton as Ralph Nader was to Al Gore.

Flathead Sanders supporters meet tomorrow, 27 October, at 1700 in the downstairs meeting room of the Flathead County Library (AKA ImaginIF Libraries) in Kalispell. For more information, get in touch with Lisa Morrow by telephone (406-249-3981) or email. The group has a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/groups/flathead4bernie.

…read the rest


25 October 2015

Four freedoms and progressive taxes

State of the Union addresses used to be serious speeches, not the mawkish, partisan spectacles that today's Presidents inflict on Congress and the nation. One of the greatest was Franklin D. Roosevelt's address of 1941, delivered before a somber Congress as our nation was arming, becoming the arsenal of democracy, for the war already raging in Europe. Best known as the Four Freedoms Speech, it also contained a call for personal sacrifice, including higher taxes:

I have called for personal sacrifice. I am assured of the willingness of almost all Americans to respond to that call.

A part of the sacrifice means the payment of more money in taxes. In my Budget Message I shall recommend that a greater portion of this great defense program be paid for from taxation than we are paying today. No person should try, or be allowed, to get rich out of this program; and the principle of tax payments in accordance with ability to pay should be constantly before our eyes to guide our legislation.

If the Congress maintains these principles, the voters, putting patriotism ahead of pocketbooks, will give you their applause.

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

  1. The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.

  2. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.

  3. The third is freedom from want — which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.

  4. The fourth is freedom from fear — which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor — anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

All Americans eligible to vote for President next year, in primaries and the general election, should consider reading and discussing FDR’s speech with their families and friends.

How the speech was written is explained by Marist University, which also makes available for download a PDF of the typewritten pages of FDR’s reading copy. The text also is available at The American Presidency Project at the University of California at Santa Barbara. And for your convenience I’ve typeset the speech in a PDF for printing.


Bernie’s boys and girls in Montana need to play well together


When grassroots efforts spring up spontaneously instead of growing from seeds planted by a campaign’s organizers, the organizations that do sprout sometimes jostle with each other for time in the spotlight and for recognition as the real organization.

There’s a bit of that happening with local grassroots efforts for Bernie Sanders in Montana. It needs to stop. Everyone working for Sanders needs to work with his campaign. There’s a way to do that.

After posting my announcement of a 21 October meeting for Sanders supporters in Kalispell, I received this useful information from a friend in Missoula:

You mention a Bernie organizing meeting in the Flathead today, but nothing is posted on [link to berniesanders.com page for Montana events].

Can you encourage Bernie organizers to use https://go.berniesanders.com/page/event/create to create events so that people can find them?

Also encourage organizers to check-out and get involved with using Bernie’s Toolkit for Self-Organizing.

I encourage Montana’s Bernie boosters to do more than just meet and write opeds and letters-to-the-editor. Get out and be seen. The next Democratic debate is on 14 November. It should be a good one, with the field down to Sanders, Clinton, and O’Malley. My advice: do honk-and-waves at noon and 1700 on the day of the debate. Even if it rains or snows. In fact, especially if it rains or snows. You can discuss issues with each other while you wave and smile. And in the Flathead, if you let me know when and where, I’ll be there with my camera.



24–25 October 2015

Hillary’s B+, good links, juvenile exile, Patricia and Mexico

Not behaving as a witch at the witch hunt was enough

Democrats should temper their enthusiasm for HRC’s Benghazi committee performance. She’s not the first Secretary of State to do well before a hostile committee. During the investigation of the Iran-Contra scandal, then Secretary of State George Schultz testified before the Senate committee that ate Oliver North alive. Schultz testified without aides or notes, never stumbled, and never lost his cool. Facing a witch hunt, HRC simply had to avoid being a witch. Whether aid from Ativan or a similar pharmaceutical helped her keep her cool is unknown (but would have been a good idea), but she did use notes and a sizable contingent from Hillaryland was seated behind her for support. She earned a B+, not an A, and certainly not the honorary doctorate her uncritical advocates would bestow upon her for besting Trey Gowdy and his fellow bumblers.

Pat Noonan for PSC and resource links for Denise Juneau

At Big Sky Words, Greg Strandberg has detailed posts on Rep. Pat Noonan’s run for the PSC and Denise Juneau’s trial balloon for the U.S. House. Bookmark his page on Juneau, as it has numerous useful links.

Sheriff Curry wants to exile juvenile inmates to Missoula.

That, reports the Flathead Beacon, would free up 14 beds for adult offenders, taking some of the pressure off the overstuffed Flathead County jail.

That’s not my preferred solution. Exile in Missoula isolates the juveniles, makes it harder and more expensive for their families to maintain contact with them, and drives up of cost of providing them with legal representation. No doubt some incarcerated juveniles are headed for a life of crime no matter where they are imprisoned, but making it harder and costlier to get them back on the straight and narrow makes no sense.

Curry’s proposal certainly calls attention to the county’s need for more jail cells, but before sending juveniles into exile, let’s review the existing adult prisoner population to determine how many actually need to be locked up. Is it possible that the presence in the pokey of some who cannot make bail amounts to preventive detention?

Sierra Madre del Sur takes the huff and puff out of Patricia

Hurricane Patricia hit the west coast of Mexico with 165 mph winds, doing far less damage than anticipated thanks to good planning and a bit of luck — major cities avoided a direct hit — then weakened into a tropical storm after hitting the northern end of the Sierra Madre del Sur. Although a Category V hurricane, the storm’s most powerful winds extended only 15 or so miles outside the eyewall. Mexico has major problems, but it does a good job of dealing with hurricanes.



23 October 2015

Worthy reads elsewhere

Is Ryan Zinke left of the Republican mainstream? Probably, reports Montana State University political scientist Dr. David Parker, who looks at several methods of ascertaining a legislator’s place on the political spectrum. Parker provides expert, accessible, unbiased analysis.

An unhappy journey from Syria to Sweden. Looking for a better, safer, life, Ahmad Majid and his extended family escape from Syria with the clothes on their backs and not much more. After months, and much uncertainty and travail, they arrive in Sweden, where they’re not entirely welcome. The New York Times has their story, and hauntingly evocative photographs of their journey. Read this while there’s still time for a walk in the sunlight.

Black Lives Matter should address black on black violence. That’s John McWhorter’s opinion, presented in a thoughtful oped at the Washington Post.

How much electricity does the average Chinese home use? An interesting question, but one that won’t be answered by the Huffington Post’s story on Apple’s plan to install 200 megawatts of photovoltaic capacity in China. Quantifying an electricity generation project in terms of an “average home” is one of journalism’s least useful practices. The average home must be, but seldom is, quantified: size, kilowatt hours used, peak demand, and so forth. And the nameplate capacity of a photovoltaic array is realized only when the sun is bright and the sunbeam is square to the PV panel. Overall, Apple’s project is interesting, but the technical details in the story are exasperatingly fuzzy.

The ugliest yacht in the world? Just possibly, reports gCaptain, which has photographs of the vessel. Built in Germany for a Russian tycoon with unique, possibly pornographic, tastes, it looks to me like the result of a naval architect’s having had one rum too many before drawing the sail plan.


Today’s college textbooks cost too damn much

Want to get ripped off? Royally? Just buy a college textbook these days. Textbook authors and publishers are gouging students with the shamelessness and ruthlessness of a rogue derivatives trader. For example, the Los Angeles Times just reported that a math professor at Cal State Fullerton was reprimanded for choosing a textbook on linear algebra and differential equations that cost just half of the college’s standard text, a $180 tome that just happened to be written by the math department’s chairman.

That’s not chump change, especially for students. And it’s certainly more than I paid for my math textbooks. In 1965, my freshman year, I paid $10.95 for Schwartz’s Analytic Geometry and Calculus. That’s $64 in today’s dollars, or approximately one-third the price of the book at Cal State Fullerton.

… read the rest

Clinton 1, Bengquisition 0; Denise Juneau may run for Congress

Bengquisition gives Clinton 11 hours of free publicity. Hillary Clinton kept her cool. Rep. Trey Gowdy and his fellow Republican witch hunters did not. The result? The hunted ate the lunch of the hunters. It speaks ill of the Republican Party that its members in the U.S. House of Representatives ever thought the American deaths at Benghazi were anything but the cost of doing business in a dangerous world. And it’s downright shameful that Gowdy, et al, tried to exploit that tragedy for partisan gain. There’s poetic justice in their witch hunt’s making Clinton look Presidential.

Head of public instruction Denise Juneau for Congress? That’s a possibility, reports Pete Talbot at Intelligent Discontent. She sent up a trial balloon yesterday — a balloon that I missed, so thanks to Pete for his blog post.

Juneau would make a fine U.S. Representative. Whether she would make a fine candidate is another matter. Four years ago, she beat Sandy Welch (a better candidate than Democrats like to admit) by considerably less than a landslide. If reports that she’s not an effective fundraiser are true, that’s a huge problem. Beating Ryan Zinke will require at least $4–5 million. And she would be starting late, almost a year late; probably too late.

Re-electing Gov. Steve Bullock is the top 2016 priority for Montana’s Democrats. Capturing Montana’s sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives is a low Democratic priority, and except for the 2000 election, when Nancy Keenan mounted a credible campaign for an open seat, has been since Pat Williams retired in 1997.

A good, well funded, Democratic candidate has a reasonable chance of winning the seat in Presidential years, but probably can’t hold it in midterm elections. Therefore, Democrats want a Congressional candidate who will neither embarrass their party nor suck up money that could fund other campaigns.

If Juneau does run for the U.S. House, I hope she runs as a true blue Democrat, as an economic reformer of the Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren genre, not as a socially moderate deficit hawk pandering to so-called moderate Republicans.



22 October 2015

Rep. Keith Regier wants to represent Senate District 3


Republican Rep. Keith Regier, currently majority leader in the Montana House of Representatives, wants to be the state senator representing SD-3 (map), which encompasses Whitefish and points west. He filed his C-1 statement with Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices on 19 October. This allows him to form a campaign committee and begin raising money. His treasurer is Katie Bollweg of Whitefish.

This is not a surprise to students of Flathead politics.

Regier now finishing his fourth term in the House, currently represents HD-4 (map), a deeply conservative rural district south of Columbia Falls. Due to term limits he cannot run for another term in the state house.

Republican Sen. Bruce Tutvedt currently represents SD-3, but because of term limits cannot seek a third term in the state senate.

…read the rest

Gowdy’s witch hunters will be remembered as nasty Barney Fifes

Whatever one thinks of Hillary Clinton, Rep. Trey Gowdy and his fellow witch hunters are overmatched on this. Clinton knows more than they do, and the facts support her. Gowdy and his colleagues will start as bullies and end as boring partisans and ignoramuses. As long as Clinton keeps her cool, she’ll come across as the rational one, winning some votes with her performance. Gowdy will try to be remembered as the current incarnation of Joe McCarthy, but probably will prove himself a mean-spirited Barney Fife. I’ll read about it later, but I’m not going to waste my day watching it.

Golden sky, black Jewel

As I write this at 0932 MDT, the fog is lifting under clouds that hide the sun. The light is flat and bluish gray. Prozac weather. But just before 0800 the sunrise was spectacular, red and gold against the silhouette of the Swan Range’s Jewel Basin ridge. Here’s how it appeared from my front yard.


…read the rest


21 October 2015

What Joe Biden’s avoiding a Last Hurrah means for Democrats


Joe Biden today, in what must have been one of the hardest moments of his life, announced he won’t pitch his tent on the Presidential campaign trail again. He did that twice before, in 1988 and 2008, each time folding his canvas after embarrassingly few voters entered. But after those campaigns he could tell himself there could be another day; he could still be President.

That’s no longer true. Biden’s still hale, but at 72 he knows this was his last chance. His decision not to run was final, even if slightly hedged to save face. He’ll end his career as a successful Vice President and sunny politician, not as a beaten and weary old man who sought one hurrah too many. A man could do much worse, and many have.

…read the rest

Sorry, fellow bicyclists — rolling “stops” should stay illegal

It happens all too frequently. I’m in my Ford, stopped at a stop sign, signaling a right turn, when a fool on a bicycle passes on my right and blasts through the stop sign, hardly slowing. Sometimes that happens just as I start my turn.

This dangerous and disrespectful practice is legal in Idaho, hence its name, the Idaho Stop. Now, reports the New York Times, San Francisco, where hordes of bicyclists scoff at stop signs, may legalize rolling “stops” by bicyclists.

In Montana, reports the Missoulian, bikewalkmontana.org and the Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation want Idaho Stops legalized. So far our legislature has resisted the idea, but the bicyclists will be back in 2017 lobbying for the change.

It’s a bad idea. Stop signs are for everyone. And coming to a complete stop on a bicycle, which means brakes locked and a foot on the road, is not an onerous maneuver, not even for those of us north of 60. My mountain bicycle has good brakes and low gears. I have absolutely no difficulty coming to a complete stop, then getting started again, block after block after block.

…read the rest


20 October 2015

Memo to CSKT: no more dam name changes, please


Just 45 days ago, ownership of Kerr Dam was transferred to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, who renamed it the Salish-Kootenai Dam. That seemed like a good choice.

But not good enough, it turns out. The dam has yet another new name, reports the Missoulian, the Séliš, Ksanka and QÍispé Dam, the rough pronunciation of which is “SEH-leesh, k-SAHN-kah and qw-leese-PEH Dam.” That’s followed by a pause to untangle your tongue.

Take it from me: virtually everyone will call it either the SKQ Dam or, to honor the name’s multitude of glyphs, the Diacritical Dam.



19 October 2015

Flathead Bernie Sanders group meets in Kalispell Wednesday


Flathead Valley for Bernie Sanders is meeting for three hours (or less) Wednesday evening, 21 October, in the downstairs meeting room at the Flathead County Library (AKA ImagineIF Libraries). I think the contact information in my 14 August post on the group is still good, but if you’re for Bernie, just show up. You’ll be welcome.

More information on Sanders is available at his campaign’s website, and at Feel the Bern, where you can download files for printing snazzy fact sheets on Sanders.


County Commissioners give Flathead voters the one-finger salute

If at first you can’t persuade the voters to approve a special tax district to fund your 911 center, don’t ask for their consent again. Instead, avoid another election. Just establish the tax district by fiat.

That’s the current operating principle for the Flathead County Commission, which wants to inflict a per person 911 tax — a capitation tax, one of the most hated taxes in history — on homeowners. Reports the Daily InterLake:

…read the rest

Another reason why we need national single-payer health cares

Sloan McGillis, a seven-month-old in Missoula, has a huge tumor on her face. Fortunately, it’s operable and will be removed at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York in January.

Unfortunately, her parents may be stuck with 100 percent of a six-figure hospital bill — even though they have health insurance. They’re what’s known as out of network:

…read the rest


18 October 2015

Sunday bound for glory music

Few groups are as caffeinated as the Old Crow Medicine Show. Or as good. Here they are in Austin, TX, with friends, performing a whirling dervish version of Woody Guthrie’s This Train is Bound for Glory. Brothers and sisters, Hallelujah!



17 October 2015

Images from Brian Schweitzer’s Power Up press conference


Former governor Brian Schweitzer held a plein air press conference in Whitefish yesterday, explaining and promoting his new book, Power Up.energy. Always a master showman, he was in vintage form, delivering an almost hour-long explanation of his book, then taking questions. Sam Wilson has an excellent report at the InterLake. Today, Schweitzer held a book signing at the same location.

Power Up.energy is both a plea for energy independence, for not spending our blood and treasure on Arab oil, on conflict oil, and a broad brushed road map for getting there. It’s a slim volume, somewhere between a short book and a long monograph, that Schweitzer hopes will ignite a conversation on energy production and conservation. Do I agree with everything I’ve read in it thus far? No. Do I agree with a lot of what he says? Yes — and I find his ideas on using battery storage for load shifting and peak shaving of considerable interest. I’ll have a full review after thoroughly studying the book.

Meanwhile, here are a few photographs from the press conference. I also have some video, but have yet to review it for suitability for publication.


…read the rest


16 October 2015

Brian Schweitzer’s Power Up and other energy news


Former Gov. Brian Schweitzer just published a book on energy, Power Up. He’ll be be at the Whitefish community theatre tomorrow from 1000 to noon for a book signing. I won’t be there. I bought the Kindle version last night, and not even a man of Schweitzer’s distinction gets to write on my screen. But if you haven’t bought the book yet, and prefer a hard copy, tomorrow’s a good time to get the book and Schweitzer’s signature.

Interesting things are happening in energy. Off the Netherlands, a floating tidal power platform is up and running. Green Tech Media reports that cheap solar has come to Wisconsin. And so in places it has. But Wisconsin also has Madison Gas and Electric, which last year tried to boost its monthly fixed charge from $10 to $69. After a jolt of adverse public opinion, MGE changed its mind. And in California, citizens are directing their wrath at the new net metering schemes proposed by that state’s investor owned utilities. Similar schemes have been proposed in other states, including Montana.


SD-6’s Janna Taylor says “no more” & anoints Olszewksi her successor

Looking for political fireworks next spring? You’ll find them in Senate District 6 (map), which runs from Polson to Kalispell and encompasses most of Flathead Lake. Incumbent Janna Taylor (R-Dayton) yesterday announced she won’t seek a second term — she’s retiring from politics to travel and enjoy her grandchildren — and that House District 11’s Rep. Albert Olszewski (R-Kalispell) will run to replace her in the State Senate.

Olszewski must first get past former Sen. Carmine Mowbray, who filed her C-1 with Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices on 8 September 2015.

Mowbray lost to Taylor 1,630–1,792 in a bitter and ugly primary in 2012. There was considerable crossover voting in that primary, and there may well be significant crossover voting in the 2016 primary. On the political spectrum, Mowbray occupies a spot next to Sen. Bruce Tutvedt — and along with Tutvedt in 2012, was subjected to a cannonade of negative advertising from the Montana Family Foundation — advertisements that Tutvedt called lies.

Tutvedt survived his primary challenge from Rollan Roberts II by just 71 votes, won re-election, and became a leader in the fight against dark money.

Although term limits preclude Tutvedt’s running again for the State Senate, he’s eligible to run for a seat in the Montana House of Representatives. He could file for the GOP nomination in HD-4, where term limits prevent incumbent Keith Regier from running again. He could also run in HD-11. But Tutvedt’s running for anything other than his life would not be popular with the tea party dominated Flathead GOP, which censured Tutvedt for his support of the CSKT water compact.

Olszewski’s decision to run for the Senate opens HD-11 (map), a seat safely Republican. One possible GOP candidate is tea party favorite Mike Hebert, who lost to Olszewski 855–918 in the 2014 primary. Hebert also lost a bid for the Flathead Valley Community College board of trustees.

No one will mistake Olszewski, a surgeon, for a progressive, but during the last legislative session, he did vote and speak against legalizing the sale of raw milk. He was more responsible on that issue than some Democrats.