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

Archives index, 16–30 September 2015


30 September 2015

Founder of Montanans for Ron Paul files C-1 for House District 3


His name? Taylor Christian Wildebour Rose. His party? Republican. His ambition? To replace Democrat Rep. Zac Perry as Columbia Falls’ representative (HD-3, map) in the Montana legislature. His platform? As yet, unknown, but it may include white planks. His C-1 was received by Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices on 21 September 2015.

Wildebour, in case you’re wondering, is an established surname, probably with roots in Dutch, German, or Afrikaans. Wilde roughly translates as “wild.” Bour may be Romanian for aurochs, the now extinct wild ox from which domestic cattle derive. Wildebour: an interesting name.

And, Taylor Rose, an interesting man.

He graduated in 2011 from Jerry Falwell founded Liberty University in Lynchberg, VA, with a “B.A. in International Relations with a minor in Strategic Intelligence at the Helms School of Government.” He’s bilingual in English and German.

According to his résumé, he’s “…affluent with modern campaign technology such as i360,” and has an “Affluent knowledge of international, national and local politics.” I probably should have inserted [sic] after “affluent,” but perhaps he became a rich man through his association with campaign technology, and perhaps his vast knowledge of politics is that of a rich man.

Rose has been organizing for the Montana Republican Party in Great Falls and Kalispell. Of more interest, perhaps, is his association with the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research, and his former association with World Net Daily, a right leaning internet news outlet that does not enjoy universal respectability.

…read the rest

Service academies prepare future officers for bar fights

Do we want punch-drunk officers leading our military forces in battle? That seems like a stupid question — of course we don’t — but the answer, reports the New York Times, is: Yes! Boxing is a required course at our Army, Navy, and Air Force academies.

According to academy officials, it’s justified despite causing more concussions than football because it’s the best, perhaps the only, way to instill courage in battle in our future officers. Unless those officers are products of R.O.T.C. programs:

…read the rest


29 September 2015

An iPhone and selfie stick will neither impress nor intimidate

Years ago, a political operative in Minneapolis whom I knew used to inflate the importance of a political event by sending to it a camera crew with a huge video or movie camera and powerful lights. Neither videotape nor film was needed. If the event merited the expense of that much equipment and manpower, it must be important.

I was reminded of that showmanship by today’s story at Petapixel on a Swiss television station’s switch from a big crew and equipment to a lone reporter with a iPhone and selfie stick. iPhones lack telephoto reach, but they have excellent image quality; better image quality than the video and 16mm movie cameras of yore. But the presence one person with an iPhone never will hype the importance of an event the way Pete’s camera crew did.

An iPhone, incidentally, is ideal for covering a lot of events. It’s inconspicuous, has high image quality, and can send photographs to the internet in near real time. There are even applications for instantly sending to the internet videos the police might attempt to confiscate.

Do I use an iPhone? No. I prefer a small but high quality camera with better optical reach (a Nikon P310, usually) that doesn’t look like a professional camera and thus attracts much less attention than my big DSLR and telephoto lenses. Sometimes a big camera has its place, but more often than not iPhones and small cameras are the best choice for photographing events at which one can move around freely.



28 September 2015

Flu shot refuseniks are fools and public health menaces

I’m on a blogging lite schedule for a couple of days while I tend to exigent matters, one being obtaining a flu shot. If you have Medicare Part B, you’re covered — your shot costs you nothing — but if you’re condemned to private health insurance, as Jon Cohen reports in Slate, you might not be covered.

There are several flu vaccines, including a high dose variant for old people. The Center for Disease Control has a good table of the different approved vaccines, and there’s even a special website, www.flu.gov, for the malady.

Everyone not allergic to the vaccine should get an influenza vaccination. That’s especially so for health care workers. Refuseniks are both fools and menaces to public health.



26–27 September 2015

FEC solar garden dedication & Ravalli County considers a bad idea


Blood moon over Kalispell

Perfect seeing for the eclipse. This is the actual color at totality. I didn’t hear a single howl while I was making photographs. But the night is still young and there are many strange people out there.

Human rights organizations boycott CERA conference

Christopher Cunningham has the details and a gallery of images at his website.

Flathead Electric officially dedicates Stillwater photovoltaic array

Flathead Electric’s community solar project was sprinkled with holy electrons this week at a ribbon cutting ceremony featuring cooperative members who own panels in the array. FEC reports on this project on the coop's Facebook page. The ceremony is a good peg on which to hang a feature story on the project, so it may be covered in Daily InterLake.

Thus far, FEC is allocating just one panel per cooperative member. FEC estimates that one panel will produce 359 kilowatt hours of electricity a year. The payback period? Twenty-one years. As an environmentally responsible project, it gets high marks. As an investment, it will give your stockbroker a nosebleed.

Would I buy a panel in the Stillwater array? No. Neither would I install a net metered photovoltaic array unless I could throw a crossover switch to power my home from my array if the grid crashed. My goal is personal energy independence, getting off the grid, obtaining my electricity from a battery bank charged by a PV array and back-up generator. I already have solar powered walkway lights — a good example of distributed independent generation — but unfortunately, I’m still connected to FEC’s grid for the rest of my electrical needs.

Ravalli County’s government study commission wants troika style county commission

County commissions comprising three commissioners serving six-year terms are horse-and-buggy governments that ought to be retired. If one commissioner is on vacation and the other two disagree on an issue, such an declaring a state of emergency due to a natural disaster, the commission becomes deadlocked, unable to discharge its obligations. If two of three commissioners have a cup of coffee at, say, Starbucks, they comprise a quorum and thus violate Montana’s open meeting law. A commission with five or seven members, serving staggered four-year terms, is a much better system.

Ravalli County has a five-member county commission with four-year terms, but the members of the county’s government study commission, reports Perry Backus in the Missoulian, wants to revert to the troika system, believing that “…three commissioners could manage the county’s business, with the move saving money via reduced administrative costs.”

Why not just one commissioner, elected for life and not subject to recall? That would save even more money on elections and administration, and put an end to bickering among the commissioners.



25 September 2015

U.S. House headed for Banana Republic Times

Extraordinary, and extraordinarily disturbing, news out of Washington, D.C., this morning. Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner is resigning from Congress by the end of October. His departure allegedly is voluntarily, but clearly he was driven out by his party’s Taliban Caucus, which believes that shutting down the government, an act of extortion bordering on civic suicide, is preferable to waiting to win control of the government through an election.

We are heading for the most serious Constitutional crisis in American history. We may not wind up in End Times, but we’re sure headed for Banana Republic Times.



24 September 2015

Letting Deutschland reindustrialize after WWII was a mistake


Volkswagen was founded by the Nazis before World War II. The people who created that cute little bug also created a global conflict in which tens of millions were killed, six million of them in an attempt to extirpate an entire religion. Thus it should surprise no one that 60 years later, VW gassed Americans in America by disabling emissions controls on VW diesel engines.

Volkswagen, James Stewart of the New York Times reports, has a “…clannish board and a deep-rooted hostility to environmental regulations among its engineers.”

The former Volkswagen executive said Volkswagen’s engineer-driven culture takes the notion even further. He said the engineers feel that the politicians are guilty of rank hypocrisy, especially in the United States, also grumbling that electric cars make no sense as long as power plants are burning fossil fuels.

“There’s an attitude of moral superiority there,” he said. “The engineers think they know best.”

That Volkswagen is nonetheless obliged to obey applicable environmental laws, he said, is a notion likely to fall on deaf ears in Wolfsburg, especially compared to demands to be No. 1 in sales. (The motive for the software evasion is widely believed to have been to increase sales of diesel-powered cars in the United States.)

Such attitudes are hardly confined to Volkswagen, and a willingness to circumvent environmental regulations may emerge at other automakers. But Volkswagen’s board may be especially insulated from outside opinion, given its paucity of independent directors.

…read the rest


23 September 2015

Brad Johnson makes his campaign for governor official


Brad Johnson, currently representing Distict 5 on Montana’s Public Service Commission, and a former Montana secretary of state, announced today that yes indeed, he’s running for governor.

That’s hardly news. Back on 23 June, he filed his C-1 Statement of Candidate form with Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices, announcing he was running for governor on an exploratory basis. He immediately launched www.bradformontana.com, a full-fledged campaign website that does not contain the word “exploratory.”

An aside. Exploratory candidacies are farces that ought not be permitted. One is a candidate or one is not. Let the filing for the next election begin the day after the statutorily required date for completing the official canvass for the last election. If candidates want to raise money, they can file then or any time thereafter until the cutoff date that’s necessary to provide time to prepare the ballots.

Johnson has run for so many offices that he’s open to accusations of being a chronic candidate. But he’s also won a major statewide office and a major regional office. Just as important, he knows how to campaign. He may be too moderate to be nominated, but he might be a better general election candidate than political tyro Greg Gianforte. But I doubt Johnson can beat Steve Bullock, who’s been a good governor and who’s liked by Montanans.


Sunflowers that survived into late September


My gardening skills could make plastic flowers wilt, so when my posies are still alive at the start of fall, I celebrate. These sunflowers were flattened by a thunderstorm a month ago, but survived their double whammy from Mother Nature and Flathead Memo’s founder and editor. With the hat, I’m an inch or two under six feet.


22 September 2015

Flag this guy as a teabagger


Noon today in Kalispell on Highway 2. He was speeding. Then he parked in front of a casino.

Blogroll changes

There are a few changes in our blogroll. Bozeman Chronicle reporter Troy Carter’s 406 Blog is new, as is Jason Newell’s Stupidparty Math v Myth. Jason’s a smart guy with a smart website that even links to an old Flathead Memo post. You’ll find Troy under Montana and Jason under Politics.

Also added, under Montana, the Institute for Research and Education in Human Rights (IREHA), and, under On the Right, the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA). When IREHA and CERA meet, sparks can fly and policemen may keep paddywagons and handcuffs at the ready.

Gone is Copper Commando, the serious conservative site written by the young turks of the right in Montana. I didn’t always agree with it, but it was a good website and I’m sorry its authors had to shut it down.



21 September 2015

Scott Walker ends his campaign for President

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is ending his campaign for the Republican nomination for President. The latest polls put him at zero percent. Which is not surprising given he’s been campaigning and debating with a “huh?” look on his face.

Walker never finished college. Now we know why: he just wasn’t smart enough to do it. Once on the big stage, the lights exposed him as a mean spirited subfeatherweight who hates organized labor but has not the slightest clue about how the world functions. Americans do not give such men the power to use The Bomb.

Will the door hit him on the way out? Answer: what’s to hit?


More people means more crooks and more slammer cells

A larger jail for a larger population. Thirty years ago, when Flathead County built a 63-cell hoosegow, the county’s population numbered 57,600. Now that jail is overcrowded, holding 100 or so, and the county’s population numbers 93,000. A little math —
(93/57.6) x 63 = 102 — suggests the increased number of prisoners may be due mainly to the increase in population.

…read the rest


20 September 2015

Flathead Lake and the droughts of 2001 and 2015

Twice since 2000, droughts have resulted in below normal Flathead Lake levels for the summer recreational season, which runs approximately from June through mid-September. In 2001, a drought less severe than the drought of 2015, the level of the lake dropped the farthest. There was no drought management plan in place then. There was this summer, and as displayed in the graphs below, the lake didn’t drop as much.

Major droughts in the Flathead occurred in 1931, 1941, 1944, 1977, 1987, 1988, 1992, 2001, and 2015. Annual hydrographs of Flathead Lake, 1908–2015.



19 September 2015

Montana statewide partisan candidates who have filed C-1s

Filing the C-1 Statement of Candidate form with Montana’s Commissioner of Political Processes allows candidates to begin fundraising in advance of their formal filing for office with the Secretary of State in January, 2016. Serious candidates do this months in advance of the formal filing date.

Thus far, as displayed in the table below, at least one Republican has filed a C-1 for each of Montana’s five statewide partisan offices; four have filed for governor, and State Sen. Taylor Brown reportedly is testing the waters. No Democrat has filed a C-1 for attorney general. State Rep. Matt Monforton reportedly is considering a primary challenge to incumbent GOP AG Tim Fox.

The occupants of these offices comprise Montana’s Land Board, which manages state trust lands. At present, Democrats hold a 4–1 majority. Were Republicans to become the majority, the current balance between conservation and development would be recalibrated.




18 September 2015

A theme song for the GOP’s blue clad debating devil


If Carly Fiorina weren’t running for President, she’d be giving TED talks on how to strut, prance, and BS your way into anything. She knows how to talk her way into a job — and how to do a job on the truth without cracking a smile or missing a beat.

In Wednesday’s Republican debate she defended her disastrous tenure at HP by asserting she increased HP’s top line, omitting her shrinking of HP’s bottom line — and she lied like the Devil about Planned Parenthood, then effortlessly doubled down on her slander when George Stephanopoulos called her out.

Fiorina is one of those public figures for whom the truth is just one option. She’ll have a hot run for a while, but this campaign will founder on the same reef on which her campaign against Barbara Boxer foundered: her appalling, irrefutably documented, record of personal greed and corporate incompetence that was told in a classic 30-second attack ad.

Her campaign needs a theme song. I recommend Mitch Ryder’s 1966 classic. His best performance can be watched only on YouTube, but this version approaches the same level of raffish energy.


Reduce food waste crusaders get sanctimonious

Growing up, food not eaten was defined as waste. I ordered to “join the clean plate club — eat what’s put in front of you!” Refusing to gobble down inedible goulash that never should have been placed in front of a human being was deemed a sin of Biblical proportions that would condemn me to Eternal Hell. Worse, I was lectured, if I shoveled the glop in my bowl into the garbage disposal instead of my mouth, little children in India would go hungry.

That bogus argument never goes away. It reappears in different incarnations, such as this one at Think Progress yesterday in a story, The U.S. Government Wants to Cut Food Waste in Half:

…read the rest


17 September 2015

Judge Ulbricht dismisses criminal defamation charge against Lenio

On Tuesday, 15 September, district judge Heidi Ulbricht threw out the criminal defamation charge against David Lenio, ruling that Montana’s criminal defamation statute is too broad and that Lenio’s disturbing Tweets were speech protected by the Constitution. That won’t make certain people happy, but it was the right call. Lenio never should have been charged with criminal defamation, and his plight attracted unfavorable national attention.

Ulbricht let stand the charge of malicious intimidation, leaving Lenio the choice of going to trial or agreeing to a plea bargain. I don’t think there’s a strong case against him on this charge, but the county attorney’s office may pursue it just to save face. If it does go to trial and Lenio is convicted, I think there’s more than a slim possibility the conviction would be overturned on appeal.

Lenio’s rants disturbed people. I interpreted them not as threats but as awkward and unsettling pleas for help. If someone said he would benefit from some counseling, I would not argue to the contrary.


In CNN’s GOP debate trash trumped substance

I still can’t decide what was worse: the questions or the answers. Jake Tapper and his fellow interrogators asked questions designed to goad the candidates into attacking each other; television at its worst. The candidates largely succeeded in their quest to not deliver bon mots or straight answers.

We learned that Jeb Bush smoked weed, which may be why he would put Margaret Thatcher on the sawbuck; that Donald Trump doesn’t need Social Security; that belligerent Sen. Cruz has earned a new nickname, Gunboat Ted; that Mike Huckabee and Scott Walker belonged in kiddie table debate; that Chris Christy doesn’t understand Social Security; that Ben Carson understands vaccination better than he does taxes; that Marco Rubio has the group’s glibbest grasp of foreign policy and wants to land Air Force One in a free Cuba; that Carly Fiorina looks good in blue and has blond Don’s number; that John Kasich showed up; and that Rand Paul is just as flakey as Ron Paul.

Most of all, we learned how bad CNN can be at trying to turn a political debate into show biz. If this happens again, remember to plug your ears and close your eyes.


Battery backed, utility scale, photovoltaic array is a breakthrough

After the sun sets on Kaua‘i, Hawaii, next year, photovoltaic generated electricity will be available on demand, according to the island’s electric utility, Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative. KIUC just signed a 20-year deal with SolarWorld for a 17-megawatt photovolatic array that will be coupled to a 52-megawatt-hour battery that will feed 13 megawatts of firm power to the grid. That solves the problem of matching solar generation to loads that peak after dark.

According to greentechmedia, KIUC will pay 14.5 cents per kilowatt hour, a bargain in Hawaii, which has the nation’s most expensive electricity. In the Flathead, the true cost per kilowatt hour for residential customers can exceed ten cents. Battery backed solar probably is not economical on a utility scale in the Flathead yet, but if the KIUC project succeeds, the day when it could succeed here may be closer than we now think.



16 September 2015

Tycoons on white horses & advice for candidates

Does Democratic polling report Gianforte is the choice of GOP voters? My hunch is that the answer is Yes. That would explain why the attack dog operation of the Montana Democratic Party (Montana Republicans have attack dogs, too) is chewing on Gianforte’s instead of Brad Johnson’s ankle. On paper, Johnson is a more formidable candidate, but political experience seems to be a negative with Republican voters these days.

There’s national polling data that indirectly suggests why Gianforte may be popular with Montana’s Republican stalwarts. Writing at the Plum Line in today’s Washington Post, Greg Sargent reports (scroll down):

A new New York Times/CBS News poll finds that 39 percent of Republican voters think Donald Trump would give them their best shot at winning the White House next year. Only 11 percent say that about Jeb Bush. And nearly half of Republicans want someone from the private sector as the nominee.

In Montana, Gianforte is the tycoon on a white horse. To those who see him as such, his political inexperience is an asset, and his wealth is proof of accomplishment and ability. His major problem, one GOP legislator told me, is his religion, which may be too intense and far from the mainstream for the comfort of Montanans.

Advice for candidates: get your ducks in a row before filing your C-1 form with Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices. For all intents and purposes, filing your C-1 is not just a hoop through which you must pass to begin raising money legally: it’s the de facto declaration of your campaign. Once you file your C-1, you’re a candidate and filing with the Secretary of State becomes just a formality.

Therefore, the day you file your C-1, you should have:

  1. A website with your biography, your campaign mugshot, and your issues platform and planks, as well as links for donating money and volunteering;

  2. Campaign business cards with your campaign telephone, email, and website URL; and

  3. A press release announcing that you just filed your C-1 because you’re running for (insert the position you seek) to do the goods and prevent the bads you list on your website’s issues page.

If you’re an incumbent in a safe district, you can get away with ignoring this advice. If you’re a challenger in a swing district, and all you want to do is raise money and ignore issues, you should have few fears that you will win.