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

Archives Index, 2017 December 16–31


31 December 2017 — 2049 mdt

Synthetic twin lens reflex photography


Before Instagram repopularized the format, square images were the product of drugstore processed 120-size film (57mm x 57mm) exposed with twin lens reflexes such as the Rolleiflex, Rolleicord, Yashica Mat 124, Minolta Autocord, and a variety of inexpensive fixed focus TLRs sold by Kodak. The square 3.5-inch prints often were made on deckle edged glossy paper and stapled together in a small booklet.

Old square images differ from Instagram square images in three ways:

  • Shallower depth of field;
  • A normal instead of wide-angle view; and
  • A waist level perspective.

…read the rest


30 December 2017 — 1356 mdt

Will Montana gain a seat in the U.S. House after the 2020 census?

That could happen, but the probability that it will happen is low unless Congress increases the size of the U.S. House of Representatives from 435 to approximately 700 members.

The day after Christmas, Election Data Services released its analysis of the effect of population trends on the post 2020 census reapportionment of Congress, using U.S. Census Bureau data. EDS examined three scenarios. Under two, Montana stays a one-Representative state. Under the third, Montana gains a seat in the U.S. House, but just barely.

…read the rest


27 December 2017 — 2147 mdt

Montana’s independent political blogs

Montana has six independent political blogs — blogs not officially attached to or formally affiliated with an organization — that generally publish at least five days a week, and one that publishes weekly. If there are others, please let me know.

…read the rest


26 December 2017


25 December 2017


24 December 2017

A Visit from St. Nicholas

A Visit from St. Nicholas, published anonymously in 1823, usually is attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, who some years later asserted he was the author. Moore’s authorship is disputed — see Who Wrote “The Night Before Christmas”?, by MacDonald P. Jackson (2016) — but the poem’s popularity is not.



23 December 2017

Joy to the World

One of my family’s favorite Christmas carols. A warmly photographed performance with a vigorous conductor.



22 December 2017

After the storm

Panorama from my front porch.


20 December 2017 — 1225 mdt

Today is the last day of fall

And Flathead Memo is standing down for the rest of the day so its editor and janitor can shovel snow, and then try to avoid checking the news, which keeps getting worse by the minute, for the rest of the day. So far today:

  • Congress has passed the GOP’s reverse Robin Hood tax cuts.

  • A federal court has declared a mistrial in the Cliven Bundy case because of prosecutorial misconduct.

  • Amtrak apologists continue to troll Twitter, trying to shut down criticism of the railroad that continues to kill its passengers.

  • A local columnist has admonished people who are mistreated to forgive their tormenters — “Family and friends routinely push your buttons. Get over it and love them regardless.” — instead of busting them in their chops and kicking them in their southern exposures. “Get over it” means “You have no right to your emotions, don’t inconvenience me with your outrage, anger, or pain,” and is one of the cruelest phrases known to humankind.

A white blanket covers the countryside around me, but the failings of humanity leave me in a mood darker than midnight. It’s time for a break and a drink.


20 December 2017 — 0631 mdt

Train wreck music for Amtrak

One of the most famous railroad ballads. Vernon Dalhart’s 1924 version reportedly sold a million copies. The fight over the song’s copyright was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Larry Aaron’s The Wreck of the Old 97 contains an excellent history of the ballad.



19 December 2017 — 1553 mdt

Will someone go to jail for the WA Amtrak crash?

Updated, below. Probably not, if history is any guide. Whether someone should be imprisoned as punishment for causing the crash that killed at least three and injured dozens more is a question for which the answer must await the results of the investigation. But we know from the train’s data recorder that it was barreling along at 80 mph heading into a 30 mph curve when it jumped the tracks. That means it blew through two slow down signs.

…read the rest


18 December 2017

State legislative districts compared

Montana has some of the nation’s least populous legislative districts.


17 December 2017

Flathead Memo stand down continues

Thanks for visiting. We will resume posting on Monday, 18 December 2017.

12 December 2017 — 2225 mdt

Hey, there, Roy Moore, oh don’t you fondle me

Roy ran in Alabama,
With a leer down to his knee,
Girls too young to marry,
Made him sweat and say “Hee Hee.”

…read the rest


12 December 2017 — 1347 mdt

Alabama senate; Matt, Roy, and Donald;
MT districts Dems can win; recommended reads

Alabama’s special senate election underscores the limitations of polling. Voting in the election concludes this evening. The contest between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones has been heavily polled, but the results have been wildly inconsistent, with some polls reporting Moore leading by ten points and others reporting he’s ten points behind. At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver explains how different polling methods are producing such disparate results, and offers a friendly reminder that polling cannot provide the precision and certainty that many demand.

Matt Rosendale stands by Trump and Roy Moore

Rosendale, Montana’s Republican state auditor, seeks the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat now occupied by Democrat Jon Tester. Republicans value loyalty, and Rosendale knows it. Not embracing Moore might not cost as many votes as not embracing Trump, but it would costs votes, and might make working with Moore more difficult were both Moore and Rosendale to be elected to the senate. Politically, Rosendale’s loyalty to Trump and Moore is commendable and smart. Morally, it’s as fragrant as a fresh road apple at high noon in August.

…read the rest


11 December 2017

Note to readers

Flathead Memo is standing down today.


9 December 2017

Grandpa’s Way of Life

The Spinney Brothers in 2013 performing Brink Brinkman’s nostalgic Grandpa’s Way of Life:

I’d love to throw cell phones out the window,
and go back to grandpa's way of life


8 December 2017 — 1309 mdt

Friday briefs

The week of the earliest sunsets started yesterday. At the Stillwater solar array three miles north of Kalispell, the sun sinks below the southwestern (235°) horizon at approximately 1643 (actually, a few minutes earlier because the horizon isn’t flat). The sun rises tomorrow in the southeast (125°) at approximately 0816. The sun starts setting later beginning 14 December, but the sun continues rising earlier through early January. At meridian transit, the sun is 19° above the horizon, just one degree higher than its lowest transit of the year. You can calculate the times of sunrise, sunset, meridian transit, and the beginning and ends of civil, nautical, and astronomical twilight, for your location at the U.S. Naval Observatory's website.

Kalispell City Council makes two mistakes

One is adopting the nostalgia fueled plan to make old downtown Kalispell a paradise for foot traffic by narrowing main street and slowing down traffic to the point of enraging drivers.

…read the rest


7 December 2017 — 1459 mdt

Senate Democrats sacrifice Al Franken
on the altar of political expediency

Succumbing to pressure from more than 30 Democratic senators, including Sen. Jon Tester, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) announced this morning he’s resigning from the Senate in the next few weeks. There’s considerable speculation that Minnesota’s Democratic governor, Mark Dayton, will appoint his state’s lieutenant governor, Tina Flint Smith, as Franken’s replacement.

The last lieutenant governor appointed to the senate to replace a resigning senator was Montana’s John Walsh, whom Gov. Steve Bullock tapped to replace Sen. Max Bacus following Baucus’ resignation to become ambassador to China. Walsh won the 2014 primary for the Democratic nomination to complete Baucus’ term, but resigned the nomination following revelations he had plagiarized his masters thesis. State Rep. Amanda Curtis replaced Walsh on the ballot, but lost to Steve Daines. Some Minnesota commentators believe Smith would be a placeholder who would not seek election to the remainder of Franken’s term.

…read the rest


6 December 2017 — 1544 mdt

Democrats should not shut down the government over the DREAM Act

Today, most eyes are on the Democratic lynch mob that’s driving Al Franken out of the U.S. Senate because he’s been accused of squeezing womens’ rumps and other minor forms of sexual misbehavior.

Franken’s ouster — which seems certain — will not shut down the government, which would do real harm. But a power play on immigration by other Democratic senators might, reports Vox. Advocates of the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for approximately 800,000 immigrants, virtually all from Latin America, who when very young were brought to the United States, illegally, by their parents. Culturally, the Dreamers are American. But unless protected by the DREAM Act, or a change of heart by President Trump, our border police will round them up and deport them. That’s why:

…read the rest


6 December 2017 — 0638 mdt

Morning music: Mule Skinner Blues

An outstanding performance of Jimmy Rogers’ classic by the Nova Scotia based Spinney Brothers, who, alas for bluegrass fans, no longer are touring.



5 December 2017 — 1616 mdt

Fuller seeks GOP nomination for House District 8


John C. Fuller, a former teacher at Flathead High School who lives near Whitefish, is seeking the Republican nomination for HD-8 (map), an open seat due to its current representative, Steve Lavin (R-Kalispell), being termed out. At the beginning of December, Fuller filed a C-1 form, which allows him to begin raising money, with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices.

Fuller, a deeply conservative man of Medicare age, worked for U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, and ran unsuccessful campaigns for FVCC trustee, for state representative in Whitefish, and (if memory serves me correctly) for Montana’s superintendent of schools. In recent years he’s accompanied Ryan Zinke’s contingent in local parades, sometimes traveling by horseback (he’s an expert rider; his email handle is apacherider), other times by shanks mare.

Fuller is the first candidate to emerge in HD-8, but he may not be the last. The district is solidly Republican, and thus an attractive district for Republicans with political ambitions.


Fuller, at left, marches with Rep. Ryan Zinke’s dog walkers in the 2016 Independence Day parade in Kalispell.



4 December 2017 — 1327 mdt

Political briefs

Will Rob Quist be the seventh candidate for the Democratic nomination for Congress? Logicosity reports that Quist, who lost the 25 May 2017 special election to Greg Gianforte, but did better than any Democrat since Nancy Keenan in 2000, is sounding out Democrats to determine how much support he might have for another run. If he chooses not to run again, Quist, who’s well liked, can still help Democrats by raising money and issues.

DNRC chief John Tubbs wants to be governor

That’s the word on the environmental street, where he has his defenders and detractors. Tubbs has become controversial, some would say radioactive, for his sudden, inexplicable, hostility to the Flathead Basin Commission, the funding for which he unilaterally, and possibly illegally, gutted. If he runs, at this point he can only count on support from environmental and hook and bullet groups that receive grants from the DNRC.

Is Gov. Bullock slow-walking appointments to the FBC?

Again, that’s the word on the street. Not finalizing appointments of citizen members of the commission, and ordering agency representatives not to attend meetings, is a way to deprive the commission of a quorum, and thus paralyze its ability to take any action.

Bullock’s complicity in wrecking the FBC is puzzling. He has national political ambitions — the U.S. Senate in 2020, possibly Vice President in 2020, possibly a cabinet in a Democratic administration — yet he’s jammed a boot on the neck of a commission that makes Montana a national leader in addressing trans-jurisdictional water basin issues. One would think he would find that leadership a political asset.

FBC needs citizen members independent of the governor

I propose adding three elected, non-partisan, citizen representatives to the commission, allocating the positions by population based on legislative districts within the Flathead River basin (essentially Flathead and Lake Counties). That would provide citizen input that’s independent of the governor. I recommend that a bipartisan group of legislators now request that a bill to accomplish this be drafted for introduction in the 2019 legislature.



3 December 2017 — 1610 mdt

Prez MacDonald likes fast food

President Donald Trump may be MacDonald’s best customer, according to reports in The Atlantic and the Washington Post. A typical meal: two Big Macs, two Filet-O-Fishes, a chocolate malt, and presumably a couple of French fries. That’s 2,400 calories, reports The Atlantic’s James Hamblin, a physician, plenty of fuel for a bout of Tweeting.

It’s also, Hamblin says, a cardiologist’s nightmare:

A dinner of that size would offer caloric energy for a full day. The 3,400 milligrams of sodium more than doubles the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 1,500 milligrams per day. The meal provides almost no fiber — and also offers more white bread than anyone would do well to eat in a week. This is all ominous for the president’s cardiovascular system.

Here’s a tune the Tweeter-in-Chief can whistle past the graveyard:

Prez MacDonald likes fast food,
Filet-O-Fish to go.
His brain on fries,
Tells many lies,
Ho ho ho ho ho.

With a Big Mac here,
A Big Mac there,
Fries and lies are everywhere,
Prez MacDonald likes fast food,
Filet-O-Fish to go.



2 December 2017 — 0320 mdt

American democracy’s black December

By a 51–49 vote last night, the U.S. Senate approved a take from the poor and give to the rich rewrite of our tax laws that will increase the deficit by a trillion dollars and also open the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development. In the coming weeks, it will be combined with the tax code rewrite passed by the U.S. House, possibly into something worse, and signed into law by President Trump, a billionaire who knows he isn’t rich enough.

The New York Times calls the Senate’s bill a Historic Tax Heist. It’s that, and more. After they finish rigging the tax code for the rich, Republicans will turn their attention to gutting Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, and a multitude of programs that provide a safety net for the least fortunate among us. Their goal is permanently shrinking government, and shifting the cost of the government that remains to people of modest means.

In a less stable nation, such brazen theft would provoke a revolution, with gated communities razed by mobs with pitchforks and torches, and crooked politicians hanged from lampposts at high noon. We’re not to that point in the United States, at least not yet. But we will become an increasingly sullen, sour, cynical, and selfish people, less willing to help our neighbors, less engaged in community building, less capable of the optimism, good will, and generosity, that serve as a civil society’s foundation. Inside the gates with guards, the rich will thrive. Outside the gates, life will begin devolving into a dystopia that would frighten Hobbes.

Arresting this slide to the bottom requires Democrats’ taking at least one house of Congress next year. That’s possible, but in my judgment, improbable. The Democratic Party remains infested with identity politics, obsessed with race and sex, still beholden to Wall Street, still resistant to progressive economics. Perhaps the party can break free of Hillary’s fetters and reverse its decline, but I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it. In fact, I wouldn’t even bet a rotten fence post.



1 December 2017 — 1659 mdt

There’s a way to protest the rehiring of Bobby Hauck:
vote against the 10-mill university levy next year

Bobby Hauck, a football coach whose 2003–2009 tenure at the University of Montana combined victories on the gridiron and big trouble off it, is back. His rehiring was announced this morning.

…read the rest


1 December 2017 — 0859 mdt

Democrats & taxes, and bringing back Bobby

“We promise to raise regressive taxes” will not be a winning issue for Montana Democrats. After the disastrous regular and special 2017 legislative session, Democrats are desperate to raise more revenue.

…read the rest