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

Flathead Memo Archives, 16–30 April 2016


29 April 2016

Notes on the death of Conrad Burns

Former Sen. Conrad Burns died this week. He was 81. Burns, born in Missouri, won the first of three senate terms in 1988, defeating two-term incumbent Democrat John Melcher, born in Iowa, 51.9–48.1 percent. George H.W. Bush carried Montana 52.1–46.2 percent. Burns received a boost when President Ronald Reagan vetoed the wilderness bill that Melcher had moved through Congress.

Eighteen years later, Burns lost to Jon Tester 49.2–48.3 percent in a three-way election in which Libertarian Stan Jones, the blue-faced man, received 2.6 percent of the vote. Jones’ skin color resulted from argyria, which he developed from ingesting colloidal silver, apparently to protect himself against the day when a civil apocalypse made antibiotics unavailable.

…read the rest

How much water to produce a bottle of water?

There are several answers depending on the methodology, and the differences are large enough to fuel some pretty colorful cocktail party debates. What we in the Flathead want to know right now, of course, is how much water the Montana Artesian Water Company will use to produce a bottle of its hoped to be famous (and profitable) deep aquifer water from its well near Egan Slough.

The simple answer: MAWC will use 1.2 liters of water per one-liter bottle. That’s according to information on file with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.


…read the rest


28 April 2016

Water For Flathead’s Future announces 10 May public meeting

Water for [the] Flathead’s Future, the new organization opposing the water bottling plant proposed near Egan Slough, will hold its first membership meeting on Tuesday, 10 May, 1800–2000, in the basement meeting room at Sykes in Kalispell. The room can hold 220, so spread the word and bring your friends. More information is available on WFFF’s website.

The application of Creston residents Lew and Larel Weaver, owners of the Montana Artesian Water Company, for the right to pump 700 acre-feet of water from a 220-foot-deep well tapping the deep aquifer was approved by Montana’s Department of Natural Resources earlier this year. Numerous objections to the approval have been filed, initiating a review process that could stretch out for years.

The Weavers defended their project in a letter published in today’s Flathead Beacon.

This dispute will be one of the most complex water rights and water quality issues in the Flathead’s history, and may become one of the most bitter. It involves not just whether a water right was granted properly, but whether shipping bottled water out of state violates Montana’s statutes governing the export of water. Even if the water right passes legal muster, there are serious questions concerning the local impacts of the bottling plant.

Is bottled water an intrinsically evil product? Some opponents of the bottling plant think so. As I explained in my 12 April post, Of aquifers, bottles, and lawyers, I do not. Nor do I believe that plastic containers are intrinsically evil. Given the intensity of the debate over the water right and the proposed bottling plant, concerns about bottled water and plastic bottles inevitably will be voiced, probably clouding rather than clarifying the discussion.


Seeking out the poorer quarters where the ragged peoople go

We’ll start the morning with The Boxer, performed by Simon and Garfunkle on David Letterman’s show in, I think, the 1980s, their voices slightly roughened by age. This version contains a verse (Now the years are rolling by me…) not in the version on the Bridge Over Troubled Waters album. Notable for both its melody and lyrics, The Boxer contains a haunting description of poverty, Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters where the ragged people go, looking for the places only they would know.



27 April 2016

Casting an informed vote in school elections is almost impossible

I have until Tuesday evening to learn enough about five candidates for the School District 5 school board to cast an informed vote. It’s not proving an easy task.

There are few sources of information readily available. None of the candidates seems to have a website, let alone a website with detailed biographical information and positions on policy. No candidate has mailed me a letter asking for my vote. I did find one news story on Mary Tepas, but it wasn’t that helpful.

What would I like to know about the candidates? Here’s a partial list:

…read the rest

Primary notes

Donald Trump may win the nomination, but he won’t destroy the Republican Party if he loses the election in November. Democrats should abandon that hope. Four years after the Goldwater debacle in 1964, Richard Nixon was elected president. If Trump, who may be a stronger candidate than Democrats expect, begins falling behind the Democratic nominee (probably Clinton), the GOP, which is strong in Congress and the states, will protect its down-ballot candidates, probably preserving the status quo and condemning the nation to another four years of partisan gridlock.

…read the rest


26 April 2016

Democratic senate primary in Maryland bedeviled by identity politics

Should Democratic voters in Maryland choose their candidate for the U.S. Senate on the basis of legislative ability, or on the basis of race and sex?

Here’s how Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the NY Times describes the contest:

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Election administration blunders in Montana and Maryland

School District 5 mail ballot package has inconsistent ballot marking instructions. A sharp-eyed reader alerted me to the situation, which is embarrassing to the school district, but not a reason to cancel the election.

…read the rest


25 April 2016

Note to readers

Flathead Memo is standing down today.


23 April 2016

Plum blossom time again in Kalispell


22 April 2016

There’s a reason for Earth Day, sings Tom Lehrer

My long, cautious journey to an incandescence free home

I used to be an early adopter of innovative, energy efficient, lighting technologies. But early compact fluorescent bulbs tempered my enthusiasm. Knowing I was using less energy made me feel virtuous, but the harsh greenish-blue light and balky ballasts left me irritable and depressed.

I quickly realized my priorities were wrong. Subordinating bright, friendly, light to energy efficiency produced a psychologically hostile environment. What I needed were warm and pleasing lights that also were energy efficient.

…read the rest


21 April 2016

Flathead campaign notes — the GOP primary in SD-3

There are three primary election contests of note in the Flathead, all Republican. Two are for the legislature, the other is for county commissioner. The campaigns are beginning to engage voters, as absentee ballots for the 7 June primary will be mailed out in early May.

Today, a look at the contest in Senate District 3 (map, snapshot PDF).

An open seat currently held by term limited Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, considered a responsible Republican by his friends and a Republican in name only (RINO) by the tea party wing of the GOP, SD-3 comprises House District 5, a Democratic leaning swing district, and also an open seat, and House District 6, a deep red district currently represented by Republican Rep. Carl Glimm, who is running for re-election.

In 2014, HD-5 was won by Democrat Ed Lieser. HD-6, by Glimm — and by a wider margin than Lieser’s in HD-5. At this point, I rate SD-5 as likely Republican.


The Republicans vying to replace Tutvedt are Montana house majority leader Rep. Keith Regier, term limited in House District 4, where his son, Matt, is running to replace him and start a dynasty, and automobile dealer and rookie candidate Don “Don K” Kaltschmidt.


Both men are conservative, but Regier is far more conservative and rigidly ideological. Whitefish ultra-conservative Joe Coco is holding an event today for Regier and HD-5 candidate Chet Billi at Coco’s office in Whitefish.

Kaltschmidt is running television ads (not yet on his YouTube page) and, as this photograph proves, kissing babies. A rookie candidate, but with at least some of the instincts of a seasoned pro.

Television can be effective, but it can be expensive compared to other means of communicating with voters. The campaign finance reports for the primary will be interesting. I would not be surprised if the winning Republican in SD-3 spends $20,000 or more.

Melissa Hartman is unopposed for the Democratic nomination for SD-3. Therefore, if the Sanders v. Clinton contest appears settled by the time Flathead residents mark their ballots, there’s a potential for a crossover vote against Regier. The potential is increased by the possibility that Democrats might also want to influence the Republican county commissioner contest between incumbent Pam Holmquist and challenger Tim Harmon.



20 April 2016

Put Frances Perkins on the $20 bill, not Harriet Tubman


President Andrew Jackson looked like a president, handsome with a full head of silver hair. He opposed nullification and secession. He also owned slaves and shot Indians, activities that appall today’s sensibilities. In the Democratic Party, he’s persona non grata. Jefferson-Jackson dinners are close to extinct.

Jackson’s looking like a president is why he’s on our $20 federal reserve note. His slave holding and shooting Indians is why he’ll be replaced on the twenty. Today, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced Jackson’s mug will be replaced by Harriet Tubman’s. A union spy during the Civil War, Tubman is a civil rights hero to many.

But if a woman must be on the twenty — and I’m not convinced that one must — I’d choose Franklin Roosevelt’s labor secretary, Frances Perkins, who served 12 years in the job and without whom Social Security might never have become law. Only one person, FDR himself, was more important to the passage of the Social Security Act. She did far more than Tubman to make America a better place, and ought to be honored first.


Notes on the New York primary

Big wins for Trump and Clinton. Trump received 60.5 percent of the vote, Clinton 57.9 percent. Republicans cast 860,000 votes, Democrats 1.8 million. Trump won all areas of the state, but a few by only a plurality. Clinton won the big urban areas — Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, New York City — the clusters of black and hispanic voters that favor Clinton by large margins. The NY Times has excellent maps. CBS has a good interactive page on the exit polls of Democrats.

The closed primary helped Clinton. In states with open primaries and caucuses, Sanders draws large numbers of self-identified independents. Many independents are not true independents. They are, rather, closet partisans who don’t want to make their political affiliation a matter of public record. Many are younger. New York’s closed primary disenfranchised all of Sanders’ supporters who were Democrats by any reasonable measure but who had registered as independents. This helped Clinton, who draws high support among older and old line Democrats. New York, incidentally, has the nation’s harshest laws on changing party affiliation.

Montana’s open primary should help Sanders. I doubt there will be much crossover mischief if the Republican contest remains competitive.

…read the rest


19 April 2016

GOP legislative candidate Chet Billi campaigns in camo with gun

Slightly updated, 20 April. Dressed like Fidel Castro, Republican candidate for House District 5 (Whitefish, map) Chet Billi delivered a campaign speech in Depot Park in Kalispell on 16 April, a long gun strapped to his back. James White of the Northwest Liberty News recorded the event, which also can be seen on YouTube.


Billi at the conclusion of his speech. This is a still frame from the NWLN’s high quality video. The man at right also was the master of ceremonies at the Oath Keeper’s Second Amendment Rally two years ago.

Luis Korda’s legendary image of Camilo Cienfuegos and Fidel Castro as they entered Havana in 1959.

Billi, still a student at Whitefish High School, also is ramrodding the campaign for I-175, the ballot measure that would allow school employees to pack concealed heat.

Approximately 40 persons, some carrying sidearms or long guns, attended the event. Billi was the only legislative candidate present.

At a similar event two years ago, legislative candidates Jerry O’Neil, Ronalee Skees, Mike Hebert, PSC candidate Derek Skees, and congressional candidate Matt Rosendale, Republicans all, spoke. All wore standard business clothing; none openly carried a weapon.

Billi, however, in a scene right out of Ammon Bundy’s occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, campaigned for political office costumed like the leader of a banana republic junta.

Weapons have no place at political events. We employ political campaigns to settle our differences through the exchange of ideas, arguments, and information. A candidate who delivers a speech while carrying a rifle and wearing camouflage violates the social contract, and through his conduct, declares himself bereft of the judgment we require in elective office.

Lay down your weapon and pull on your civvies, Chet. The voters are looking for brains, not bullets.



18 April 2016

Allegiant, FVCC, and high priced Democratic dinners


Allegiant Airlines is switching to Airbus jets. The Las Vegas based carrier’s MD-80s will disappear from the Flathead’s skies during the few years, reports Aviation Week, to be replaced by Airbus 319s and 320s. There’s still life left in the MD-80s, but finding replacement parts is harder, and thus maintenance is more expensive.

Most airlines try to keep their aircraft flying 24/7, but Allegiant sometimes has a utilization rate of less than five hours a day per jet. Allegiant’s business model works because the low cost of amortizing its old fleet more than offsets the extra cost of flying less fuel efficient airplanes.

…read the rest


17 April 2016

Gianforte-Robinson bless loser of a land management proposal


At first blush, Lesley Robinson, Greg Gianforte’s choice for lieutenant governor, seems a lot more sensible on public lands than Sen. Jennifer Fielder. If Fielder could wave a magic wand, federal public lands in Montana would be transferred to the state, which then would manage them for the highest dollar, and just might sell all or most to private citizens who would invite drilling rigs and chainsaws in, and keep hikers and hunters out.

Robinson, however, writing in the Flathead Beacon, says:

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U Cal chancellor Chemical Katehi tries to scrub internet

We’re not going to let her get away with this.

“We” is me and every other blogger and journalist, among others. “Her” is Linda P.B. “Chemical” Katehi, chancellor of the University of California at Davis, where campus cop Lt. John Pike sprayed combat strength pepper into the eyes and faces of peaceful, seated demonstrators in 2011:

…read the rest


16 April 2016

Maple leaf emerging