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

Archives Index, 2017 Feburary 16–28


28 February 2017


The legislature’s transmittal break starts Thursday. Meanwhile, there’s a desperate push to address non-revenue bills before the transmittal deadline takes effect. This push, made necessary by the foolish 90-day restriction on legislative sessions, makes legislators weary, grumpy, and prone to mistakes.

Amanda Curtis’ press censorship bill tabled in committee. HB-553 was clearly unconstitutional, but seven Republicans voted for it anyway to send a message of disapproval to Montana’s news media. Curtis, by offering a bill she had to know was blatantly unconstitutional, significantly diminished her reputation as a serious legislator, and established herself as an enemy of civil liberties.

Rep. Jeremy Trebas (R-Great Falls), an accountant, loses attempt to let merchants punish customers who pay with credit and debit cards. Tabled in committee, HB-506 would have allowed businesses to add three percent to bills paid by plastic:

Section 1. Card transaction fee. A merchant, vendor, creditor as provided in 31-2-102, or other party may charge a card transaction fee of up to 3% of the total amount of a transaction if a purchase or other payment is made with a credit or debit card. A financial institution or credit card company may not prohibit collection of the card transaction fee as provided in this section.

There are still business owners who hate credit and debit cards because the banks issuing those cards charge a small fee for each transaction, thereby slightly reducing the profit. To some owners, those who pay with cards are thieves. Other, smarter, more decent, owners take the transaction fees into account when setting their prices.

For lower income people, the Trebas Plastic Tax would have been a three percent cut in income. Trebas won in 2016 by only 110 votes. The voters in his district will hear about HB-506 when he runs for re-election.

Ryan Zinke will be confirmed as Secretary of the Interior this week. As soon as he resigns his seat in the U.S. House, Montana must call a special election to replace him. At this point, it looks as though the election date will occur sometime in late May or early June. Montana’s Secretary of State has a single page fact sheet on nominations and fees. Both political parties should schedule their nominating conventions for this weekend.

We may be condemned to an all mail ballot election. Democratic leaders, and county clerks and recorders, love all mail ballot elections, but I do not. With early voting, the campaign will be very short, a 45–60 mass media and direct mail blitz.

At this point, the leading Republican candidates appear to be State Senator Ed Buttrey of Great Falls, and Bozeman businessman Greg Gianforte, who blew almost $6 million of his own money losing the gubernatorial election to Steve Bullock last fall.

The leading Democrats are Rob Quist, Rep. Amanda Curtis, and Rep. Kelly McCarthy. Quist may have a lead in convention delegates, but he does not command a majority of delegates. Curtis’ supporters, keeping in character with the darker reputations of Butte and of labor unions, are playing rough in the comment sections of liberal political blogs. Quist’s and McCarthy’s supporters are less vocal and much more civil.

If the Democratic convention is deadlocked initially, McCarthy is the likely compromise candidate.

There are other Democratic and Republican candidates, but I see none as a serious contender. These candidates are engaging in self-promotion, and depending on how they handle themselves, may derive some benefit from their candidacies. None strikes me as having sufficient followers to be a kingmaker.

House shoots down packin’ in the schoolhouse. The vote on the second reading on HB-385 was 43–57. Rep. Frank Garner (R-Kalispell) voted against the bill, delivering a short but very effective speech in opposition.

The Gunpowder Caucus will learn nothing from this defeat. Instead it will remember everything, and return with a similar or identical bill in 2019. Packin’ in the schoolhouse is one of those bad ideas that enjoy eternal life because they are based on philosophical beliefs as strong or stronger than religious convictions, not on practical considerations of real world conditions.



27 February 2017

Zach Brown’s anti-painkiller bill defeated on 3rd reading

Rep. Zach Brown’s (D-Bozeman) bill, HB-409, to handcuff physicians and dentists who prescribe opioid painkillers died on its third reading in the Montana House of Representatives on Saturday, 47–50 with three legislators absent. A day earlier the house had approved the bill 53–47 on its second reading.

Eleven legislators, including two from the Flathead, changed their votes after the bill’s second reading. There were some strange bedfellows pairing, with Whitefish Democrat Dave Fern and Lakeside Republican Derek Skees both supporting the bill.

Table 1: Changed votes and Flathead votes

Download spreadsheet of all votes on HB-409

Whether Brown will try to revive the bill remains unclear. His jihad against opioids has substantial support from the Democratic Party’s bite-the-bullet caucus, whose hysterical fear of opioid painkillers is as strong as the Trump sycophants’ hysterical fear of Muslim refugees.

How so many Democratic legislators in Montana became deaf to the cries of people in pain remains a mystery.



25 February 2017

Perez elected DNC chair — Hillary finally wins an election

The urban, screw rural America, Democrats who suck up to Wall Street, the Democrats who supported Hillary Clinton, and who presided over the party while it lost Congress, the White House, state legislatures, and governorships, retained their control of the party today when Clinton and Obama toady Tom Perez was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The crew that ran the ship on the reef gets to stay on the bridge instead of walking the plank.

Republicans should welcome Perez’s victory. He’ll define the party in negative terms, as Not Trump, and continue the same divisive identity politics that led to Hillary’s defeat and that is shrinking the party into a social coalition in which there is no room for white working class men; that is retreating into urban enclaves. This self-narrowing ensures that Democrats will stay out of power for decades, perhaps longer.

Most traffic accident news photographs have little or no social value

Commercial television remains notorious for its if it bleeds, it leads, news reports. And the more bleeding and mangled metal, the better for television ratings. “Deadly crash at Children’s Park. Many dead, much blood. Film at eleven.” And in the age of social media, the announcer can add, “Sneak preview images now on KRAP TV’s Facebook page.”

The names of the dead and injured usually yare withheld until the next of kin has been notified, but titillatingly gory photographs are published almost immediately even if they contain information that could identify the victims. Not surprisingly, sometimes someone learns of a family member’s violent death not from a policeman at the door, or even on the telephone, but from seeing a photograph of the fatal wreck.

That kind of “journalism” may build circulation or viewership, but it does not provide a positive service to the community.

…read the rest


24 February 2017

Why are MT’s Dem legislators so anti-painkiller and pro dirty milk?


Update, 27 February. HB-409 was defeated 47-50 on its third reading on Saturday. Three state representatives were absent.

Original post begins here. Why are so many Democrats in Montana’s House of Representatives so cruel and irresponsible on health care and public health?

Earlier this week, 13 Democrats joined their Republican counterparts to whoop HB-325, which legalizes sales of raw milk, an unhealthy substance, through the House.

Today, 35 Democrats, including both Democrats representing the Flathead, Zac Perry and Dave Fern, voted for HB-406, Rep. Zach Brown’s (D-Bozeman) heartless — and unnecessary, absolutely unnecessary — bill to make it much more difficult to obtain opioid painkillers. Or as a friend put it, to find relief in the arms of Mother Morphine.

These bite the bullet Democrats were joined by 18 Republicans, only one of whom, Rep. Derek Skees (R -Lakeside), was from the Flathead.

These Democrats are willing to let their fellow Montanans, including children too small to protect themselves from science rejecting parents, drink unpasteurized milk — and they are willing to let people suffer pain by placing draconian restrictions on prescribing opioids.

Why? Why are these Democrats — all of whom, I suspect, decry the Republican Party’s denial of science — so eager to weaken public health protections and deny pain relief to the afflicted? Why are these Democrats being so stupid and cruel? Why? Why do they think the world is better when people are sick from raw milk and groaning in agony because they can’t get the painkillers they deserve. It makes absolutely no sense.


Amanda Curtis wants to curtail freedom of the press in Montana


Update, 1255 MST. The Missoulian has a good report on the bill’s hearing this morning. Rep. Bob Brown (R-Thompson Falls) moved to approve the bill immediately, but withdrew his motion after Rep. Nate McConnell (D-Missoula) objected.

Sometimes, legislators irresponsibly play to the crowds on bills like this. HB-553 is clearly unconstitutional, but it might end up receiving majorities in both houses of the legislature because legislators want to give the news media the back of their hand, and to curry favor with voters who dislike the news media. That outcome would pass the buck to Gov. Bullock, forcing him to veto the bill or sign it and pass the buck to the judiciary.

Does this help Amanda Curtis with delegates to the Democrat’s nominating convention? I don’t know. Many Democrats have a cramped view of free speech and freedom of the press, and are appallingly willing to subordinate the First Amendment to over-developed social sensitivities. I think her sponsorship of HB-553 is sincere, but that her commitment to protecting civil liberties is weak. Some Democrats may like that.

Begin original post. This morning, the judiciary committee of the Montana House of Representatives will hear House Bill 553, which would impose a prior restraint on the publication of certain photographs by the news media. It’s a short bill being carried by Rep. Amanda Curtis (D-Butte), who wants to replace Ryan Zinke in the U.S. House of Representatives.

NEW SECTION. Section 1. Prohibition against publication of fatal accident scene photographs on social media prior to notification. A news media organization may not publish on a social media platform photographs of a fatal accident scene that make it possible to identify a victim of the fatal accident before the next of kin of the deceased has been notified of the death.

NEW SECTION. Section 2. Codification instruction. [Section 1] is intended to be codified as an integral part of Title 44, chapter 5, part 3, and the provisions of Title 44, chapter 5, part 3, apply to [section 1].

Title 44, chapter 5, part 3, of the Montana Codes Annotated addresses the dissemination of criminal justice information.

Curtis may be trying to prevent law enforcement photographs of people killed automobile accidents from being released until after the next of kin have been notified — but that’s not what her bill says. HB-553:

  • Applies to all photographs, including those taken by news media personnel, not just to photographs made by law enforcement personnel.

  • Fails to define “social media platform,” thus implicitly falling back on Justice Stewart famous “I know it when I see it” formulation (Jacobellis v. Ohio).

  • Fails to provide an enforcement mechanism.

In short, it’s so poorly drafted that its author should consider a refresher course in drafting legislation. I suspect it may have been drafted in a great hurry.

Beyond those defects, it’s an unconstitutional prior restraint on publication, and therefore a prima facie violation of the First Amendment. It’s censorship, pure and simple, reckless and egregious, irresponsible and pernicious.

Should photos of the dead be published before their next of kin have been notified? There’s little reason for doing so. And I cannot find anything in a quick search of the internet to indicate that it’s a problem in Montana. But the government has no business telling the owner of a photograph of an automobile accident when he can publish it.

If HB-553 is intended to control the use of photographs created by law enforcement personnel, the bill should be rewritten to forbid releasing the photographs until the next of kin have been notified. That would accomplish the bill’s stated purpose without gutting the First Amendment and attacking freedom of the press in Montana.

Those are questions to consider over the next two years. In the meantime, kill HB-553



22 February 2017

Note to readers

Update, 24 February. Too much is happening to stand down fully at this time. Flathead Memo is standing down until Monday, 27 February.

Daylight saving time repeal passes senate 36–14 on 3rd reading

SB-206 now goes to the Montana House, where its evening darkness loving supporters will try to whoop it through without meaningful deliberation, just as it was whooped through the Montana Senate.

On the third reading, Democrat Mary McNally (Billings) and Republican Jeffrey Welborn (Dillion) changed their votes from Nay to Aye, increasing the reactionary bill’s veto proof margin.

An extra hour of daylight is much more useful in the evening than in the morning, before people on the clock leave for their jobs and classrooms. In the Flathead (download spreadsheet), daylight saving time extends the sunset to 2142 MDT in mid-June, and the end of civil twilight to 2200 or later from 24 May through 25 July. Tourists and people with day jobs like that. Regressing to Mountain Standard Time would make the Flathead and western Montana less attractive to tourists.

So why this sneaky push, a push that’s on in other states, to repeal DST? Thus far, I’ve identified these arguments:

  • DST doesn’t save energy. At best, the jury is out on that.

  • DST encourages people to go out and spend money in the evening instead of staying home, praying, and stuffing more dollars under their mattresses.

  • DST isn’t “natural.” Neither is standard time. What’s natural is local apparent time keyed on local solar noon (see analemma). That suffices for primitive societies, especially societies near the equator, but modern, industrial, societies must run by the clock.

  • Cows cut their output of milk during switches to and from DST. That was an especially potent argument I encountered in Minnesota decades ago. Apparently, there were big clocks in every milking stall and the temperamental bovines retaliated for the change by reducing their output of milk. At least that’s what I remember some farmers saying.

  • DST makes the sun rise too late, thus endangering school children in the morning. That’s an argument, but not a convincing one. Civil twilight for the Flathead commences at approximately 0730 or earlier through mid-October. If bus stops are well lighted, a few days of heading for school in the dark should not be a problem.

  • Changing clocks twice a year is a terrible bother that wastes time and distresses the fragile psyches of today’s Montanans. Many of my clocks make the switch automatically.

  • The twice-annual changeover coincides with increased automobile accidents. That’s possible, but surely there are ways to mitigate that. Even Montana’s drivers, who love to break the speed limit, who love to drink while driving, who love to drive while drunk, can eventually be retrained to be responsible whether or not they’re driving on DST.

  • DST is a Democratic policy that must be opposed on principle by Republicans, who are committed to remaining behind the times.

  • DST is a Republican plot to help businesses make more money, which is to say it's a plot to redistribute money from the poor to the rich.

  • DST is unnatural, not organic, an affront to the gods of the heavens and earth, an evil akin to requiring that only pasteurized milk can be sold. When the legislative session ends, I will see how well the votes against DST correlate with the votes for legalizing some sales of raw milk.

SB-206 can be killed in the Montana House, but only if the proponents of DST give their legislators an earful of sound arguments, delivered intensely but politely. They need to start now, to accost their legislators during the transmittal break.


Dave Fern one of 13 Dirty Democrats voting for raw milk

Update, 1600 MST. The bill was approved 69–30 on the third reading today. Six Democrats and one Republican changed their votes from the second reading, among them Rep. Amanda Curtis who changed her vote from Aye to Nay. Why she initially voted for the bill escapes me, but I thank her for voting against the bill on the third reading.


Rep. Dave Fern (D-Whitefish), one of the Flathead’s two Democrats in the legislature, joined with 58 Republicans to vote for HB-325, Rep. Nancy Ballance’s (R-Hamilton) bill to legalize selling raw milk — a proven dangerous substance — in Montana.

Rep. Zach Perry (D-Hungry Horse) voted against the bill.

Two other notable Democrats, Rep. Kelly McCarthy of Billings, and Amanda Curtis of Butte, both of whom seek the Democratic nomination to replace Ryan Zinke in the U.S. House, voted for the bill, joining Fern’s vote to ignore settled science and good public health policy. House minority leader Jennifer Eck also voted for the bill.

Only one Republican, Walt Sales, voted against the bill.

Here are the 13 Dirty Democrats who voted to let parents feed unpasteurized milk, a known health hazard, to their defenseless children:


On 9 February, as the committee hearing on HB-325 approached, I wrote:

If history is any guide, dozens of earnest, self-confident, advocates of raw milk will stand before the microphone, extolling the virtues of drinking untreated milk, rejecting science, and quoting crackpot after crackpot. Some will attempt to frame the issue as a question of food freedom.

These testifiers and their friends already have flooded legislators with messages and phone calls, demanding that they vote for the bill.

What also hasn’t changed is that pasteurization is settled science — long settled science. It’s what high school students learn in every competently taught course on biology.

Furthermore, pasteurized milk is a tremendous public health success. Laws requiring pasteurizing milk are supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Center for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and thousands of responsible scientists and health care professionals.

Legislators — all of whom presumably paid attention when pasteurization was discussed in their high school biology classes — have a duty to recognize that pasteurization is settled science and good public policy no matter how many lovers of untreated milk testify in support of HB-325, and no matter how many calls and letters praising raw milk they receive.

This is a public health issue. It is not a food freedom issue.

When Democratic legislators ignore science and vote as food freedom crackpots implore them to vote, they undermine the Democratic Party’s claim to be the reality based political party that grounds public policy in science and common sense. Shame on them.


Two dam glory holes

Glory hole spillways often are a feature of concrete arch dams that block narrow canyons. Hungry Horse Dam, built by the Bureau of Reclamation in the early 1950s, has a glory hole, as does another, smaller, BuRec dam, the Monticello Dam in California.

Water behind Monticello is flooding down that dam’s glory hole, as can be seen in this photograph at the Weather Underground. Below that image is my early 1980s photograph of the glory hole at Hungry Horse. The Twistedsifter website has an excellent collection of photographs of dam glory holes.

California Storms

The glory hole spillway in Lake Berryessa behind the Monticello Dam in Napa County, California.


The glory hole at Hungry Horse dam, photographed in late winter. I used a 24mm lens on a 35mm SLR.



21 February 2017

MT Senate votes 34–16 to repeal daylight saving time

Ten Democrats and 24 Republicans voted for SB-206, Sen. Ryan Osmundson’s bill to repeal daylight saving time in Montana, on the bill’s second reading in the Senate today. Eight Democrats and eight Republicans voted against the bill.

The Flathead’s delegation split three-to-two for the bill, with only Senators Blasdel and Regier having the wisdom and courage to oppose this outrageous attempt to steal the evening sunlight from people who work by the clock.

The table below displays the vote by party and position. You can download the table as a spreadsheet.

…read the rest

MT Senate votes today on repealing daylight saving time

The Montana Farm Bureau and other haters of daylight saving time are trying to whoop its repeal through the legislature. Last week, the Montana Senate’s state administration committee approved SB-206 eight to zip. Today, the bill goes to its second reading in the Senate. Who’s carrying this crazy legislation? Sen. Ryan Osmundson (R-Buffalo).

If SB-206 becomes law, Montana will, in effect, observe Pacific Daylight Time for two-thirds of the year. When it’s noon in Seattle, it will be noon in Sidney, MT, near the border with North Dakota. Montana would be two hours behind North Dakota, one hour behind Wyoming, southern Idaho, and even parts of southeastern Oregon, and in clock-lock with Arizona.


Why the Farm Bureau opposes daylight saving time escapes me. At the committee hearing, the bureau’s representative said farmers work from sunup to sundown. That’s fine. But why should a guy on a tractor force people who work by the clock to lose an hour of daylight in the evening?

You can use the legislature’s universal messaging application to urge your blessing in the senate to kill SB-206.



20 February 2017

Gun nuttery is poisoning the legislature's ability to think clearly

There’s a shortage of time at the legislature. That’s partly a result of a constitutional constraint that should be loosened or repealed, and partly the result of Republican legislators who continue to have the brass to waste time on nutty gun bills that will die on Gov. Steve Bullock’s veto desk. Here are a few gun bills that are killing time and the power to think clearly:

Packin’ heat in the schoolhouse. At 1500 MST today, the Montana House of Representatives’ judiciary committee is scheduled to vote on on HB-385, Rep. Seth Berglee’s (R-Joliet) dishonestly labeled “Montana School Safety Act” that would allow school employees with a concealed carry permit to pack handguns in Montana’s school. At present, only law enforcement officers can do that.

This bill is born of the delusion that if gunfire erupts in the cafeteria, Janitor George, an overweight slow mover with a hero complex who’s never fired a shot in anger, will throw aside his mop, draw his snub nosed .38 revolver, race from the other end of the school, burst into the cafeteria, and in less than a second, calmly ignore the confusion, identify the shooter and blast him to kingdom come.

That’s how all of us want to believe we would behave in that situation. But it’s fantasy. If a shooting does occur (statistically, school shootings are rare events), George might mistakenly shoot a teacher or student, and because he’s using a gun, be shot himself when the police arrive. That’s why school officials and law enforcement leaders want George to leave his piece at home and to hunker down and call 911 if he hears what he thinks is gunfire. The smart drill is duck and dial, not draw and discharge, and legislators were so advised:

…the bill had its first hearing in the House Judiciary Committee last week, and more than two dozen opponents testified against it.

The intent of the bill is to encourage school employees to “protect and defend” their students. But parents, teachers and others who actually spend their days in the schools are more concerned about the increased risks posed by Berglee’s bill. The potential for a tragic accident, should an employee fail even once to keep a firearm out of reach of a very young student, or a mentally unstable older student, is just too great a threat. It’s a far greater threat, statistically, than a random outside shooter.

Concealed carry in the legislature for legislators. Kalispell Republican Rep. Randy Brodehl, a former fire chief, is carrying HB-280, which passed the House 53–45 last week, with only one Democrat, Rep. Bradley Hamlett of Cascade, voting for it.

There’s no rational justification for legislators’ packin’ in the capitol, which is secured with guards. If legislators are worried about their safety, they should beef up the security squad. But although beefing up security’s the rational approach, it’s nowhere near as much fun as concealing a pistol and entertaining the fantasy that just like Janitor George, they’ll save the day when a screaming jihadi clad in ninja black, a checkered keffiyeh, and a dynamite festooned suicide vest, bursts into the capitol firing an AK-47 on full auto.

Besides that, having the special right to carry a concealed weapon where no other civilian can is an easy way for a legislator to make himself feel important, very, very, important.

Nullifying federal laws prohibiting firearms in the U.S. Post Office. House Bill 246, also sponsored by Brodehl, passed the legislature last week on a party line vote. Rep. Hamlett, who apparently didn’t understand the lesson on nullification when he studied the Civil War, voted Aye. The Missoulian’s editorial yesterday was unable to conceal its scorn:

…this legislation specifies that a “person may carry a lawfully possessed firearm on any portion of property open to the public and owned or leased by the United States postal service, including within postal service stores or mailrooms or on adjacent sidewalks, streets, and parking lots.” Of course, this directly contradicts federal laws, which is why the bill also helpfully states that such laws are “not effective in this state and may not be enforced.”

Legislators should know better. No state can simply declare a federal law or regulation “not effective.” This attempt to supersede United States law shows a stubborn refusal to deal in reality.

HB-246 now heads to a losing encounter with Gov. Bullock’s veto pen.

Bullock certain to veto HB-262. This, Mike Dennison reports, is the no permit needed to carry a concealed pistol bill that Bullock vetoed in 2013 and 2015:

At his weekly meeting with Capitol reporters, Bullock said Thursday he’ll “take a close look” at the bill before deciding, but that if it’s the same concealed-weapon bill he vetoed in 2013 and 2015, he’d have the same problems with it.

Harris’ HB262 is identical to the bills Bullock vetoed in the previous two sessions.

Each bill says anyone who can legally possess a handgun in Montana cannot be required to have a permit, to carry a concealed weapon.

Passing this bill the third time and expecting it won’t be vetoed again is a perfect example of the classic definition of insanity. Rep. Bill Harris (R-Winnett), in his fourth and last term in the House, is the legislator guilty of extending this crazy tradition.

Where gunpowder, grits, and sidearms may mix. If the eatery you’re at sells burgers as well as booze, Seth Berglee, fronting for Gary Marbut, wants you have the right to carry your concealed hand cannon, provided you have a valid permit for it, while you sip iced tea, gobble fries, and make chitchat with the kids and missus. He’s therefore introduced HB-494, “Providing that a Person with a Valid Permit to Carry a Concealed Weapon May Carry The Weapon into a Restaurant where Alcohol Is Not the Chief Item of Sale.”

That, says Marbut, dean of Montana’s gun nuts, would make for a better world:

It just makes no sense if you have a CWP and are having dinner with your family at Applebees and drinking iced tea that you cannot defend your family just because Applebees has a liquor license.

Defend your family from what? The pistol packin’ drunk at the next table who thinks you sneaked a lecherous look at his wife?

The bill was heard in the House’s judiciary’s committee this morning. A party line vote probably will send it to Bullock’s veto desk.



18 February 2017

Net meter my photovoltaic panels? Never!

My headline poses and answers a hypothetical. Apart from a few stand alone solar powered walkway lights, I do not own photovoltaic panels. My roof and yard are not well configured for a PV array, and the capital investment is not yet within my reach.

But when the day dawns that I can afford a PV system, it’s not going to be hooked up to the utility grid. That’s the last thing I want: spending my money, then turning control of my system over to a utility company in exchange for potentially reduced reliability, a payback period longer than my remaining lifetime, and still lights out if the grid goes down.

I want to get off the grid, not tie myself more closely to it. I want to be able to flip the utility company the bird, and revel in the glory of being energy independent — even if I have to pay a premium that net metering would avoid.

That’s probably not possible in the Flathead on a PV only, or even PV plus wind, basis, at least if one is trying to avoid a multi-megabuck investment. From November through February, our days are too short and cloudy, and Ol’ Sol is too low, to assure a sufficient supply of electricity from the sun and wind, even with oversized panels, turbines, and batteries. Some kind of backup generator, diesel or perhaps a fuel cell, is necessary.

My neighbors, many of whom burn wood, might not complain if I built a small, wood fired steam turbine driven generating plant in my back yard, but I suspect they would draw the line at a smelly diesel chugging away during Christmas dinner.

The only alternative to reverting to the grid during the winter is shutting down my house and spending my days in the desert southwest, or perhaps in Chile’s Atacama Desert, where the skies are not cloudy and gray, at least not often enough to defeat PV systems.

That I might do. Heading south always, always, beats submitting to the utility company.



17 February 2017

Kevin Curtis may be Amanda’s biggest problem

Along with Rob Quist, whom I’ve endorsed, and Rep. Kelly McCarthy, Rep. Amanda Curtis is one of three Democrats with a realistic chance of being nominated for the U.S. House seat that Rep. Ryan Zinke will vacate after he’s confirmed as Secretary of the Interior. All are good people.

Curtis, however, has a problem not shared by Quist and McCarthy: a spouse, Kevin, whose passionate and sometimes brass knuckled defense of his wife, and attacks on her critics, make her appear weak. Today, in a comment on Montana Cowgirl, responding to a comment by Amorette, Kevin reached a new low:

…read the rest

Friday food notes


Just say “No” to “well Yes!” Soups. I’m both a soup and sandwich for lunch man, and a culinary conservative with a narrow pallet. Sometimes I experiment, but I’m never fool enough to eat more than a spoonful of a mistake. My latest mistake? Buying Campbell’s new well Yes! Minestrone with Kale Soup. Yes, it contains ditalini pasta, which fits well in a spoon, and kale, a leaf cabbage that currently has enormous snob value. But it’s short on salt, and even after I added salt had a taste I do not wish to encounter again. The recipe for this liquid may have originated in the marketing department. My verdict? Do I like the soup? Well, No!

Food waste scolds welcome “use by” date “reform.” When a package of broccoli florets is stamped with “Use by Feb. 11,” I interpret “use by” as meaning cook and consume by 11 February or risk a godawful case of food poisoning. My interpretation of “Best if used by Feb. 11, 2018,” is that using it after that date will leave a foul taste in my mouth, and may make my stomach feel as though it’s filled with jumping beans. Therefore, for my own safety’s sake, I treat both dates as “throw out after” dates.

In the eyes of the food waste scolds, that makes me a food waster, an immoral, overly fastidious, selfish, contributor to world hunger whose excessive concern for my own well being results in little children in the inner city or India being denied vital victuals. And not only does it make me a food waster, it makes me a methane generator who helps warm the globe and raise the level of the sea, thereby ensuring that the malnourished who don’t starve to death will drown because I tried to save myself from botulism.

At Think Progress, a website notorious for sanctimonious screeds on food waste, Natasha Geiling writes:

A study conducted by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, and the National Consumers League, which surveyed 1,000 American consumers, found that a more than a third of consumers consistently throw away food that is close to or past its labeled expiration date, despite the fact that there is no federally regulated standard for what these labels actually mean. Far from being a hard-and-fast cut-off date for food safety, expiration labels are mainly the manufacturers best guess for when the product is at peak quality — some food products can least a year or year and a half past their marked “expiration date.”

“Millions of Americans are tossing perfectly good food in the trash because they think it’s not safe to eat after the date on the package,” Dana Gunders, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, and author of the Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook, said in a statement. “This is a critical step toward clearing up the confusion and stopping all of that food, money, water and energy from going to waste.”

Food waste is a huge problem in the United States — around 40 percent of the food produced in this country ends up in landfills, where it decomposes and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Last year, in an effort to curb food waste through legislation, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced the Food Date Labeling Act, which would have set a national standard for expiration labels, and required labels to clearly distinguish between when food reaches peak quality, and when it becomes unsafe to eat.

I’m all for federally mandated, science based, food labeling that helps consumers better judge when food should be considered spoiled. But the day when that happens will be so far in the future that I may be dead. Therefore, until then I shall continue to consider “Use by” as meaning “No damn good after.” To save my southern exposure, I’ll risk raising the sea and lowering the starving into their graves. If you find my attitude horrifying, know that scolding won’t shame me into swallowing evil microbes, but it may provoke a salty and scalding response.



16 February 2017

If the ACA is repealed, blame Hillary, not Trump

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan just released another plan for replacing the Affordable Care Act with a scheme that the New York Times’ Upshot says will help the rich and hurt the poor. No surprise there. It will be whooped through the House, and may pass the Senate under reconciliation rules. If Congress approves the legislation, Trump will sign it.

If he signs it, will Trump ultimately be the one to blame for gutting health care and condemning tens of thousands to ill health or death? No. Hillary Clinton, and the let’s-make-history-by-electing-a-female-President Democrats who subordinated the national interest to selfish and stupid identity politics, ran a blundering campaign, and thus lost a winnable election, will be the people with the most blood on their hands.