The Flathead Valley’s Leading Independent Journal of Observation, Analysis, & Opinion. © James R. Conner.


Archives for 2011

Notes, 1 January 2012. The page is not yet fully up to date. Several short posts in December do not yet have permalinks. The search function uses Google’s powerful software and is the best way to find a subject.

1 January 2012


23 December 2011

When is a half-time man worth more than a full-time woman?

Updated 2 January 2012. When she works at Flathead County’s trash container site in Columbia Falls, according to the Montana AFL-CIO, which reports that working full time, the woman is paid approximately $11.00 per hour. Working only a couple of days a week, the man is paid approximately $15.50 per hour. There may be some issues of seniority involved, but this sure doesn’t look like equal pay for equal work.

If you agree this is a prima facie case of wage discrimination, the AFL-CIO recommends sending love letters, so to speak, to Flathead County Commissioners Jim Dupont, Dale Lauman, and Pamela Holmquist, and the county’s public works director, Dave Prunty.

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13 December 2011

Flathead Memo’s predictions for the GOP presidential nomination

President: Newt Gingrich. His debating skills best match Obama’s.

Vice-President: Rick Santorum. From Pennsylvania, just like Joe Biden.

Fates of the also rans

$10k Toast: Mitt. Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who’s the biggest four-flusher of all?

Texas Toast: Rick Perry. As Bill Clinton said, a good-lookin’ rascal. Also the latest proof of the Peter Principle.

Texas Tea Party: Ron Paul.

State fair lady: Michele Bachmann. Had she won the nomination, Elvis would have been exhumed for her running mate.


3 December 2011

Putting it on the dog at Occupy Kalispell

Occupy Kalispell Dawg Morose, perhaps, but not a Blue Dog. Bowing to no one, this hound’s message wowed the two dozen at today’s Occupy Kalispell honk-n-wave.

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The best from Montana’s blogs and newspapers

State Representative Tom Burnett (R-Bozeman) thinks food stamps weaken character and expand the waistline, and that hunger can be good for the soul. That’s gotten quite some reaction at Montana Cowgirl. You can download Burnett’s 53-page paper at the conservative leaning Montana Watchdog website.

At the Flathead Beacon, in what might be his best column yet, Mike Jopek explains how the Occupied movement has focused attention on the need for social justice. Later this weekend, I’ll be posting my thoughts on the movement’s next step. Meanwhile, down in Missoula, Occupy Missoula plans on tenting through the winter next to city hall, a dubious strategy at best.

Also at the Beacon, editor Kellyn Brown’s retrospective on Kalispell City Manager Jane Howington’s tenure and the search for her successor is another must read.


26 November 2011

Occupy Kalispell’s stalwarts hold post-Thanksgiving honk-n-wave

Neither gloomy skies nor freezing temperatures stayed Occupy Kalispell’s stalwarts from their weekly economic justice for the 99 percent honk-n-wave at Depot Park today. The 22–25, plus or minus a couple, peak turnout has held steady for the last few weeks.

After the jump, a small gallery of images from today’s event.

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16 November 2011

Jefferson Davis was a racist and a slaver, Pastor Chuck

Montana Cowgirl has an excellent post and discussion on GOP gubernatorial hopeful Robert Fanning’s selection of Chuck Baldwin for his running mate. Her story references former Flathead Beacon reporter Dan Testa’s profile of Baldwin, which noted that Baldwin thinks right was on the side of the South during the Civil War.

I found Baldwin’s original “Me in a Nutshell” post on that subject, and what I found stinks to high heaven:

I believe the South was right in the War Between the States, and I am not a racist. (And I invite anyone to ask any of the numerous members of minority races that attend my church to verify that!) Neither do I believe that the leaders of the old Confederacy were racists. In fact, I hold men such as General Robert E. Lee and General T.J. “Stonewall” Jackson in highest regard.

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15 November 2011

A collective bargaining stamp out under a GOP President

There was a time in America when moderate Republicans not only existed but held office, and unions were not persecuted as neo-Bolsheviks by elected Republicans so far to the reactionary right that by comparison Ayn Rand seems kinda pinko.

The proof? A 10-cent “…commemorative postage stamp honoring America’s free collective bargaining system…” (Cornell Library), found among my late mother’s possessions (she saved everything). The date? 13 March 1975. The President? Gerald Ford (left, shown pardoning Nixon), Republican from Michigan, birthplace of Mitt Romney and a state once governed by his father, George Romney, a man moderate by today’s standards but also susceptible to brainwashing by the U.S. Defense Department.


ACLU’s brief in Guggenheim v Montana well worth reading

Montana prohibits same sex marriage, which is fine with me, but does not provide for civil unions with the legal protections afforded by marriage, which is not fine with me.

It’s not fine with Montana’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, either. Yesterday, the ACLU:

…filed its appeal of a Montana District Court decision dismissing the same-sex domestic partnership case, Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana, to the Montana Supreme Court. The appeal argues that the Montana Constitution guarantees fair and equal treatment to all people, including gay and lesbian couples. [From the ACLU’s press release.]

The Montana ACLU’s website has a special section on Guggenheim that’s well worth reading.



14 November 2011

Rehberg exhumes Greg Hinkle’s county supremacy fantasy

HR 1505 is a textbook example of a bill introduced to commit political mischief. It would turn the first 100 miles of our nation — along Mexico, along Canada, and along the seas — into a zone where the constable is king, exempting agencies in the Department of Homeland Security from dozens of environmental laws. DHS neither needs nor wants such sweeping authority, and HR 1505’s author, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and sponsors, among them our own Denny Rehberg, don’t really expect it to pass. They simply want an excuse to accuse environmentalists, Democrats, and the Obama administration of being soft on national security.

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13 November 2011

Thoughts on Penn State, Glacier High, and athletic authoritarianism

Slightly revised on 19 November 2011. I would imagine that the trustees, faculty, and staff of School District 5, and especially the families of football players at Glacier High School, are following the football linked sex scandal at Penn State with a mixture of fascination and dread, but not that much surprise. At least I hope there’s not much surprise.

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12 November 2011

Proposed mountain Jesus land swap is bad land management practice

Rep. Denny Rehberg’s proposal for swapping the national forest land underneath the statue of Jesus on Big Mountain for private land nearby is less sensible than it initially appears. The swap would create an enclave of private land in the Flathead National Forest. That’s not good land management practice.

Rehberg knows this, but he doesn’t give a damn. If creating a private inholding on the Flathead National Forest wins votes by pandering to the overly devout and veterans who think they’re being dissed, the more new private inholdings the better. After all, if Denny’s elected to the U.S. Senate he’ll probably favor selling national forest lands to ranchers, timber barons, and real estate moguls.



10 November 2011

Derek Skees for auditor — the website, the video, the screws coming loose

I don’t quite know how to describe this other than it’s surely one of a kind without being kind to Democratic policies that help people. I won’t say, “enjoy,” but I will say, “watch — and watch out.”

Tuesday’s election in Whitefish proved that Rep. Skees’ odds of winning re-election in House District 4 in 2012 were vanishingly small. But don’t count him out as state auditor just yet. He intends to make the election a referendum on the federal Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Monica Lindeen needs to take him seriously.

Skees is offering himself as a champion of an Ayn Rand inspired libertarian utopia in which you are free to choose not to have health insurance, but are forbidden to band together with your fellow citizens in a “we the people” (government) pool to reduce risk and increase security.



8 November 2011

Smith donated to a Republican precinct committeewoman

Mary Vail, candidate for the city council in Whitefish, is the Republican committee woman for precinct 48 (see map) in the Whitefish area. On 19 August 2011, Vail received $160 from Diane Smith, who announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives on 3 November 2011.

I would like to be a fly on the wall when Smith tries to explain that contribution to the Flathead County Democratic Central Committee.



7 November 2011

Christo the vandal strikes again — with our government’s help!

Updated. If you wrap a public park with five bucks of toilet paper at midnight, you’ll get a stern lecture from the judge and some unpleasant community service. But if you desecrate the scenic canyon of the Arkansas River in Colorado with 50 million bucks of plastic at high noon, you’ll be hailed as a great artist…at least by nature hating snoots with lowbrow tastes, and tourism entrepreneurs hoping to cash in on gawking at Over the River, which is kitsch on a cosmic scale.

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Diane Smith: Ringer? Recovering Republican? Rich opportunist?

Diane Smith The Lord may love a sinner come to Jesus, but the Democratic faithful are considerably less fond of a self-professed convert who shamelessly sinned a mere two months before proclaiming herself a Democrat and announcing she’s a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives. That sinner, of course, is Diane Smith, and her claim that she’s a bona fide Democrat has not played well in the comments section over at Montana Cowgirl, or with me.

Still, there is no litmus test for a bona fide Democrat. The Democratic Party’s canopy shelters many factions and philosophies, some ill at ease with each other. We must look at the totality of a candidate’s political philosophy and behavior before rendering a judgment on that candidate’s bona fides.

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Occupy Kalispell’s honk-‘n-wave draws fewer wavers

Occupy Kalispell’s numbers thinned a bit on Saturday, 5 November 2011. Arriving after 1230, I counted 24. Last week’s peak count was 36. People come and go, however, so the total number of sign wavers for any given day slightly exceeds the peak count.

Permalink & Photos


4 November 2011

Ready or not, Democrat or not, Diane Smith throws her hat in the Democratic ring

Okay, Candidate Smith. Time to put up or shut up. In your “Hey, Montana, I want to represent you in the U.S. House of Representatives” press release, you allege:

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2 November 2011

FVCC President’s Lecture discriminates against the hearing impaired

Updated. I found myself in a taxpayer funded ghetto of silence last night — Room 139 in FVCC’s Arts and Technology building, a nice lecture hall with at least two podiums with microphones. But the speaker, Professor Deni Elliott of the University of South Florida, was speaking softly and without any evidence of an electronic assist, although she was using one. To say all I could hear was an educated mumble overstates the volume.

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1 November 2011

Flathead County’s zoning annulus survey stinks

Updated. Mike Jopek’s thoughts on the county’s survey of landowners in the ring of lands around Whitefish in which the city wants zoning power are below. I thank Mike for granting permission to publish his essay on Flathead Memo. Ed McGrew’s Informed Whitefish and the Montana Cowgirl blog are other sites you’ll want to visit. And you’ll want to read the comments that Citizens for a Better Flathead submitted to the commissioners.

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30 October 2011

Share the wealth honk and wave in Kalispell

Yesterday’s Occupy Kalispell honk-n-wave draws 40

My peak count was 36, but people were coming and going throughout the noon hour, so 40 ± 10 percent is a fair estimate. The event competed with a rally in Helena that drew people from around the state.



25 October 2011

Whitefish school superintendent needs refresher course on first amendment

Whitefish’s superintendent of schools, Kate Orozco, needs a refresher course in the First Amendment. So do some other members of that community.

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The Mountain Jesus belongs on private land

There may be no atheists in foxholes, but there are some in the Badger State, where the Freedom From Religion Foundation makes its headquarters. And it’s the FFRF, representing at least one member in Montana, that on 26 May 2011 advised the U.S. Forest Service that renewing a permit for a religious statue on Big Mountain was illegal.

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24 October 2011

Occupy Together: the creative chaos of nascent democratic change

A political movement begins with faint awakenings, a dim awareness that something is amiss, whispers of concern that later become cries of outrage. Initially just a few people talk among themselves. Someone says, “Let’s get together at the park at noon.” The word goes out through social media —, Facebook, Twitter, cell phones — “join us.” At noon at the park, the first few are joined by a few more, and the community discovers there’s another issue, another group of concerned citizens.

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24 October 2011

Rain thins, but does not wash away, ranks of Occupy Kalispell

I counted 36 demonstrators today, down from Thursday’s 60 and way down from the 95 reported for last Saturday’s outing. There are not as many young people demonstrating in Kalispell as in many other places. That should concern the financiers, as older people who demonstrate against Wall Street likely lost money during Bush 43’s crash, and are not the kind of people to forget and forgive in the polling place.



22 October 2011

Occupy Kalispell plans another noon honk-n-wave today

Another honk-n-wave by Occupy Kalispell is scheduled for noon today on the west side of Depot Park. And there is at least one Facebook page dedicated to the local movement.


20 October 2011

Occupy Kalispell: political diversity & a bogus set of demands

There were only 60 Occupy Kalispell demonstrators on the sidewalk west of Depot Park at noon today, performing a honk-’n-wave for the traffic on Highway 93. But before the one percent take solace in that number, they should consider the diversity of the crowd, and the number of reporters present.

Some of the usual liberal suspects were present, but so was Dane Clark, seen here applying heat to the Federal Reserve. In times past he’s packed a different kind of heat along this sidewalk, and while he’s a very friendly guy, no one who knows him thinks of him as politically walking arm-in-arm with Nancy Pelosi. Clark’s presence at the rally is more evidence that the growing national anger at the scoundrels on Wall Street cuts across party lines.

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19 October 2011

OWS comes to Kalispell

The Occupy Wall Street movement has reached Montana, with people assembling and sometimes marching in several cities, including Missoula and Kalispell. In the Flathead, the next gatherings will be held on the sidewalk on the Depot Park corner of Center and Main in Kalispell at noon on Thursday, 20 October, and again on Saturday, 22 October, same time and place.


17 October 2011


Montana needs instant runoff voting

I used to think that Neil Livingstone’s odds of winning the Republican primary for governor were in the neighborhood of winning the lottery. Now, I’m not so sure. Thursday, Jim Lynch, the deposed head of the Montana Department of Transportation, and once a Democratic candidate for the legislature, became the ninth Republican candidate. With every entry into the race, the percentage of votes that a candidate needs for a plurality shrinks. In theory, all Livingstone, or Lynch, or anyone else needs is one-ninth plus one of the votes cast.

That’s the extreme case, of course. It’s likely that some will drop out, while only a few will mount credible campaigns, so the winning plurality could be in the 20–35 percent range. Compared to what could happen, that doesn’t sound so bad — until one remembers that a candidate with a 30 percent plurality is a candidate that was not the first choice of 70 percent of the voters. A plurality wins election and a large field provides the best opportunity for a zealot — a teabagger, for example — who would lose 80–20 percent in a two-man race, but might win 20–18 percent in a nine-man race, to steal an election.

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11 October 2011

What possessed Jon Tester to vote against Obama’s jobs bill?

Denny Rehberg is fast becoming the only reason for Democrats to vote for Jon Tester. President Obama’s jobs plan is not the strongest possible medicine for economic recovery, but what he’s prescribing is hardly an ineffective dose, and for that reason it’s worth supporting.

Most Senate Democrats agreed — except for Ben Nelson and Jon Tester who joined with every Senate Republican this evening to oppose cloture on the bill.

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11 October 2011

President Obama secretly justifies secretly killing Americans —
Will Democratic candidates remain silent on the issue?

You’re an American citizen. Should the President have the power to accuse you — in secret and without your knowledge — of a grave offense against the United States, find you guilty as charged, sentence you to death, and authorize a secret government entity to kill you, secretly of course, when it finds you, possibly in a way that kills those with you when you are killed?

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26 September 2011

Does the game of football create bullies?

As investigations into the alleged assault on a football team bus from Glacier High School continue, School District 5 authorities are hunkering down, issuing terse promises of full and fair investigations, and reiterating their pledge to do the situation justice. This is what they should be doing, and the extent to which the public finds their comments and behavior trustworthy now depends on their record of trustworthiness in years past…

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22 September 2011

Just how bloodthirsty are Montana’s Attorney General Candidates?

Troy Davis is dead, killed legally by the state of Georgia last night despite profound doubts about the fairness of his trial and the quality of the evidence against him — doubts found credible by no less than former President (and governor of Georgia) Jimmy Carter and retired FBI chief William Sessions. Davis deserved a new trial, as did the people of Georgia, but in the end neither justice nor morality nor humanity mattered, and the executioner had his day.

The debate now turns from Troy Davis to the wisdom of the death penalty itself, an issue that will appear, or should appear, in many campaigns for public office.

One campaign is for Montana’s Attorney General…

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Students creep while coaches sleep

Revised & strengthened. I know: there are other headlines for the hazing or bullying or whatever the hell happened aboard that freshman football team bus from Glacier High School. I considered Bus driver emulates piano player at bawdy house; and Glacier High’s animal bus; and School district gropes for truth about rowdy bus ride. Any would have worked, but if the news reports in the InterLake are true, the creeps crept while the coaches slept.

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What are the odds of winning that perfect attendance car?

What does it mean when Flathead High Principal Peter Fusaro says “I’ll be interested to see how many students we have at the end of the year with perfect attendance…the chances are pretty good to win a new car”?

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3 September 2011

Signatures needed for petition to increase funding for AIDS medications

Please consider taking a moment to ask Rep. Rehberg to increase funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), which helps uninsured and under-insured AIDS patients obtain the medications with which they can stay reasonably healthy and productive. As chairman of the House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Rehberg’s in a position to make a real difference — and according to D. Gregory Smith over at From Eternity to Here, and a real difference is needed:

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2 September 2011

Recommended Labor Day weekend reading

Go to the Labor Day picnics, but stay away from the suds and the jibber-jabber. Instead, grab your Kindle, laptop, or a book, find a quiet park bench, and labor at further informing yourself. Here are some good reads:

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27 August 2011

Record summer streamflow for the combined North and Middle Forks of the Flathead River

If you look at the USGS gaging stations for the North and Middle forks of the Flathead River, you’ll see these rivers are still running well above the historical median (and mean) for middle to late summer. Just how much above the historical norms becomes apparent, however, only after a closer look at the statistics.

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22 August 2011

High winds produce dramatic smoke plumes

Smoke spews from the South Lost Creek Fire in Montana's Swan Range. The fire is 40 miles southeast of the camera.


21 August 2011

Montana’s half-baked, fully Koched Running on Empty Tour

Deregulation pump

After being outnumbered by hundreds of union members in Billings, and harried by counter-demonstrators in Bozeman, Helena, and Missoula, the Koch brothers funded Running on Empty road show must have heaved a sigh of relief Friday evening when 70–80 Flathead tea party stalwarts attended the event in Kalispell’s Depot Park — and nary a counter-demonstrator materialized.

But I was there. With my camera. And I saw plenty of the usual suspects from the Flathead: Rep. Derek Skees, Sen. Verdell Jackson, Ray Thompson, Duncan Scott, Rich Breckenridge, Linda Johnson, Dee Brown, Dane Clark and his ever present video camera. I did not see Scott Sales, Montana director for APF. He was cruising other waters.

…more photographs & text


19 August 2011

Flathead County Democrats move ahead of Flathead County Republicans

Democrats in Flathead County Fair Parade 2011

You won’t see this often in Flathead County, the elephant trudging behind the donkey, so note this in your family’s scrapbook: on 19 August 2011, the Democrats of Flathead County led the Republicans of Flathead County. And the teabaggers, who marched in Kalispell’s Independence Day parade, didn’t show up. Evidently, two parades a year would bust their marching ceiling. And the woman waving at the photographer? She’s Roxanne Brothers, as staunch a Democrats as there is alive


18 August 2011

Fires southeast of Kalispell blow up

The fires burning in the Swan Range blew up at the dinner hour yesterday, fairly typical behavior for forest fires. I shot the images below from my yard NW of Kalispell using a 105mm lens. The first two images are the same frame, shot through a polarizer. The first is full color, the second is a conversion to black and white using a process that simulates a deep red filter. I shot the third image with a Hoya 72 infrared filter, adjusting the contrast to bring out the details of the smoke plume. Note how far the plume has blown in just three minutes, and how the lower cloud of smoke is much darker. The trees at left are bending from the wind.

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14 August 2011

Stutz joins field seeking Democratic nomination for Congress

Rob Stutz

On 10 August, Rob Stutz, chief legal counsel for the 2011 Montana Legislature, a bright guy who knows a jackboot on the constitution when he sees one, and exasperated and concerned by a Republican Party that probably introduced more unconstitutional legislation in the 2011 Montana Legislature than in any previous session, announced his candidacy (verbatim news release) for the Democratic nomination for Montana’s sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In his own words, here’s why he’s running:

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Smoke plume from South Fork Lost Creek Fire in Infrared

South Fork Lost Creek Fire Smoke Plume

Smoke from the South Fork Lost Creek Fire rises above the Swan Range approximately 40 miles southeast (bearing approximately 130°) of Kalispell on the evening of 13 August. The Hammer Creek Fire in the Bob Marshall Wilderness is 70 miles from Kalispell and on almost the same bearing.

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9 August 2011

Across the board crashes drop all stocks

On Friday and Monday, the stock market again proved that a diversified portfolio does not protect investors from an across the board crash. Diversification merely mitigates the impact when an asset that is one of many takes a hard hit. When there’s an across the board crash, when all stocks take hard hits, diversification provides scant protection. That’s why Treasury bonds, low yield notwithstanding, are good investments in financially troubled times.

Don’t bet that the aluminum plant will reopen

I have doubts that the Columbia Falls Aluminum Plant will ever produce aluminum again, the Bonneville Power Administration’s recent offer of 140 megawatts of power over four years notwithstanding, and for the same reasons I cited in my Requiem for an aluminum plant post two years ago: CFAC is an old plant, far from markets, no longer of great importance as an aluminum producer. I think the BPA offer makes far better political than economic sense. If the plant does not reopen, the onus is on Glencore, not the BPA or Montana’s politicians, and I think that’s the point of this entire exercise.


4 August 2011

Informed Whitefish joins Flathead Memo’s blogroll

I’ve added Informed Whitefish, Ed McGrew’s excellent Facebook page for Whitefish issues, to Flathead Memo’s blogroll. If some of the recent posting, including a few from HD-4 Rep. Derek Skees, is any guide, Informed Whitefish probably leans a bit left, but visit the page and judge for yourself. Facebook, which I find cluttered and confusing, provides a commenting system that makes posting anonymous remarks difficult if not impossible, and is used for the labs section on Talking Points Memo.


3 August 2011

Keeping invasive species from spoiling Flathead Lake

A tiny quagga mussel was found on a sailboat at the Dayton Yacht Harbor on Flathead Lake back on 4 March, so I was interested in hearing Erik Hanson’s presentation on aquatic invasive species last night at the Flathead Lakers’ annual meeting. I was not disappointed.

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2 August 2011

Missoulian’s metering shrinks information universe for Montanans

Starting yesterday, the Lee chain of newspapers in Montana (the Missoulian, Ravalli Republic, Billings Gazette, Helena “Independent” Record, and Montana Standard) will let you read for free two news stories every three days. After that, you’ll need your credit card. The cost? Two bucks a month for print subscribers, five for digital freeloaders.

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Reversal of fortune for Montana’s Democrats began in 1988

Montana’s Democratic candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives have taken terrible beatings at the polls since 1996, when Pat Williams retired, and Republican Rick Hill (now seeking the GOP nomination for governor) clobbered Bill Yellowtail. The only exception was Nancy Keenan’s narrow defeat in the 2000 election won by Dennis Rehberg (Hill retired because of vision problems following eye surgery).

It wasn’t always that way.

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Obama & Democrats should have welcomed impeachment

President Barack Hussein Obama had three choices in the debt ceiling fight:

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26 July 2011

Special section on Flathead Lake & floods of the Flathead River

Some of you will recognize the hydrographs of Flathead Lake from a similar page on the old website for the Flathead Lakers, a fine organization for which I worked on a contract basis for many years. When the Lakers’ new (and improved) website was launched last year, not all of the lake levels pages made it back to the internet. This one was of interest, so I’ve reposted it here for the time being.

With the interest in the new flood plain maps for Evergreen, I thought some might be interested in the hydrographs of past floods of the Flathead Valley. I’ve posted both HMTL versions of the hydrographs and PDFs for downloading and printing.

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22 July 2011

Clouds rising over Columbia Mountain

Daines’ dollars dwarf Dem’s dollars

Money is the mother’s milk of politics — and in the race for Montana’s sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, we now know that Republican Steve Daines is well fed, and Democrats Franke Wilmer, Kim Gillan, and David Strohmaier are malnourished. Daines has raised 20 times as much money and has 20 times as much cash in the bank as any of the Democrats (Graph 1).

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7 July 2011

Well, well, well: who’s that walkin’ (behind the fire truck on the right wing)?

Who's that walking'

A politician walks unashamedly behind a fire truck in Kalispell’s 2011 Independence Day parade. Who might that be? And why might he be hosed were he to walk behind a fire truck manned by Billings firefighters instead of Flathead teabaggers?

…find out


4 July 2011

Brass band in Depot Park does Sousa proud

Flathead Valley Community Band

This is what a community needs on Independence Day: a brass band in the park, delivering a rousing rendition of Sousa and patriotic music. And this, on 4 July 2011, is what delighted parade goers in Depot Park in Kalispell. It was a welcome contrast to the no sound of music featured in last year’s parade.


13 June 2011

Ashley Creek flood of 1997

A hot May’s runoff following a record (or near record) snowpack was more than Ashley Creek’s banks could handle. Extensive flooding occurred west of Kalispell. Several feet of water covered the baseball field just north of Airport Road, and some buildings at the city’s sewage plant were flooded. Farther west on Airport Road, near and at an auto junkyard, a substantial lake formed, possibly as a result of an undersized culvert under the road.

Grand Ashley Creek Flood Pano
Larger image
Drag the larger image to the middle of your screen if it seems too dark.

Lone Pine State Park provided the best view of the flooding. On 9 May, I set my camera on a tripod, shooting several rolls of film with different lenses, including the five images from which this panorama was assembled. As far as I know, this panorama is unique. I’ll post detail shots of the flooding as time permits this week.

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♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Anthony Weiner toasts his reputation

He was an effective spokesman for single-payer health care, endowed with a feistiness seldom found in Democrats. Unfortunately, he was also endowed with certain hormones. He’ll be remembered not for his vigorous defense of liberalism but for his risque Twitters. He’s guilty of abysmal stupidity, not criminal activity, and he’s already toast — but Democratic leaders soaked in sanctimony (and the sweat of their fears and trembles) are trying to throw him under a bus as a sacrifice to the electoral gods of 2012. As Glenn Greenwald observes, there’s more than just a bit of hypocrisy in the demands that Weiner resign.



11 June 2011

New Wikipedia Page on the Glacier View Dam

Mike Mansfield didn’t always do good things. One of his worst moves was supporting the Glacier View Dam, which would have plugged the North Fork Flathead River, flooding part of Glacier National Park. Proposed during World War II, the 400-foot-high structure attracted plenty of attention — and opposition, enough opposition to retire the project from serious consideration by 1949.

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Sunflowers emerging from the husk


Sometimes, small cameras are best. Nikon's 12-year-old Coolpix 950 has outstanding macro performance, and its design makes low level shots easy on the photographer.


10 June 2011

Rising Flathead River advances on public privy

Boat launch site on Flathead River

At the boat launch ramp at what I'll always call the old steel bridge park, the rising Flathead River approaches a public restroom that probably should have been located on higher ground.


8 June 2011

River begins flooding boat launch site

Flathead River east of Kalispell

At the boat launch site where the old steel bridge once spanned the Flathead River, river water partially floods the parking lot, flowing clockwise in a circle around an island of trees. I made this panoramic image at 2100 MDT Tuesday evening. Since then, the the river has risen another foot at Columbia Falls.


6 June 2011

Retail transaction tax is really a variable rate sale tax

Suppose you buy a 50-cent bag of peanuts in Kalispell. If Kalispell City Manager Jane Howington gets her way, those peanuts will cost you 59 cents: 50 cents for the nuts, and nine cents for the act of making the purchase. Howland calls the nine-cent fee a “retail transaction tax.”

I call it a de facto variable rate sales tax, and an incredibly regressive one at that. For the peanuts, the tax rate is 18 percent, twice what one pays in Seattle.

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5 June 2011

Why the water experts are worried


4 June 2011

Whitefish’s library secession war makes no sense

One-hundred-fifty years after the Civil War commenced, another war of succession is being fought, this time between strong willed residents of Whitefish and Flathead County’s library system.

The figurative firing on Fort Sumter occurred this week when the Whitefish Library Association filed for a temporary restraining order prohibiting the county library from removing books and other items from the library building in Whitefish.

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5 May 2011

What was the turnout for the FVCC trustee election?

Flathead County currently has 55,515 registered voters. According to the preliminary returns, 13,127 votes were cast. Two positions were on each ballot, so somewhere around 6,500 ballots were cast. Or to put it another way, approximately 6,500 people voted. If all Flathead registered voters were eligible to vote, then the turnout was just under 12 percent. That’s shamefully low.


4 May 2011

Flathead Electric’s residential rate increase is higher than 3.5 percent

We received Flathead Electric’s letter a few days ago. “Flathead Electric Cooperative will be implementing an average annualized rate increase of 3.5% across all rate classes as a result of increased wholesale power costs.” Later on, we’re told that “The majority of residential members will experience an increase of less than $3.50 per month.”

Notice how the letter begins by describing the rate increase as a percentage, then switches to a dollar figure for residential increases. That’s because, as displayed on the graph below, the percentage increase for residential customers is well above 3.5 percent.

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Here are the remarks the President should have made to report bin Laden’s death

President Obama was windy and mawkish when he announced that Osama bin Laden was dead. Here are the remarks he should have delivered:

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If you live in the Flathead's floodplain, keep your chest waders handy

The Flathead’s snowpack is high, but the flow in unregulated streams is low. That, say the National Weather Service’s forecasters, suggests a late runoff and high water, especially if warm weather is compounded by gullywashers in the mountains.

One way of making sense of the situation is comparing the combined flows of the Flathead River’s north and middle forks to the historical record. Both forks are wild, so their behavior is a good indicator of current conditions and has some predictive value.

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FVCC and school districts must do better at presenting and archiving election results

According to an obscure announcement on FVCC’s website, incumbent trustees Tom Harding, John Phelps, Robert Nystuem, and Shannon Lund were re-elected yesterday with a “majority of precincts reporting,” whatever “majority of precincts means.”

The announcement provides vote totals for all candidates, but omits precinct level results, and the number of registered voters and ballots cast in each precinct, making it impossible to determine the turnout.

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3 May 2011

Elections by acclamation should be eliminated

I voted for FVCC incumbent trustees Nystuen and Lund today. Along with John Phelps and Tom Harding, they’re doing a good job. I found no reason to replace any of them with the slate of tea party reactionaries led by 76-year-old Ed Berry, Ph.D.

Nor did I find any reason to believe that the trustees acted illegally by canceling uncontested elections, or by filling vacancies by appointment shortly before an election. Montana’s law allows such decisions.

But these are bad practices, anti-democratic practices, and the law should be changed.

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3 May, 21 & 24 April 2011

Walker Kuhl

Memorial service. Walker’s memorial service will be held at the beautiful Glacier Camp on the west side of Flathead Lake at 1600 on Saturday, 7 May. Details, and a call for photographs, are on

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4 April 2011

Republicans train sights on Medicare and Medicaid

If you read nothing else today, read Steve Benen’s round-up on the GOP’s scheme to get rid of Medicare and Medicaid, two of the most successful and just government programs in history. Follow the links, then consider advising Baucus and Tester that both programs need to be more generous and expanded.


21 March 2011

Who paid for this advertisement?

Update, 29 March 2011. School District 5 placed the ad. Because it did not say “vote for the levy,” it was considered an informational ad, not a political ad, and there was no legal requirement for a “paid for” disclaimer.

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11 March 2011

House committee rescues Montana from stone age hunting

Updated on 14 March 2011. Montana’s would-be spear hunters can put their loincloths back in storage. Yesterday the Montana House of Representatives’ committee on fish, wildlife, and parks tabled SB-112, Sen. Greg Hinkle’s Stone Age Hunting Act of 2011.

I listened to the committee’s hearing. Hinkle was the only proponent. Dave Pauli opposed on behalf of animal control workers. The Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks’s head honcho took his position atop the fence, one leg on each side, to deliver informational testimony. Among the problems raised were:

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10 March 2011

Blackjacking Frank Miele's by belittling his wife is lowdown

Over at Montana Cowgirl’s blog there’s a discussion of Daily InterLake editor Frank Miele’s latest column, It’s the ‘AP world,’ but not everyone is buying their vision. I disagree with Frank’s take on Matt Gouras’ story on the tea party’s effect on Montana’s image, but that’s not why I’m calling attention to Cowgirl’s blog today.

Someone using the pen name “Doug” has posted several comments blackjacking Frank’s by belittling his wife. It’s lowdown, not germane to Cowgirl’s post, and a poster child for what’s wrong with anonymous commentary.

Update. Cowgirl removed Doug's comments on Frank's wife.

That’s why I continue not to employ software that lets Flathead Memo’s readers post comments automatically and anonymously. I don’t shout from the shadows on this website, and I don’t let my readers cheapen the discourse by doing so.


5 March 2011

Support School District 5’s building reserve and technology levy.

I’m voting for School District 5’s building reserve and technology levy on March 22 — and I urge my fellow voters to also vote “aye.”

I’ve made that choice, and make that request, knowing that many voters have been hurt, and are still hurting, as I’ve been hurt and am still hurting, by the Great Recession; and knowing that many voters share my concern that School District 5 has made some mistakes that cost it trust and all of us money.

But voting against the levy is not the best way of punishing the trustees and administrators for their sins. Our opportunity for dealing with the trustees comes in May when trustees stand for election.

Nor should we hold them responsible for our stupid and unfair system for funding school. Most are just as frustrated with the system as their constituents are. But the place to send a message on, and seek relief from, the funding mess is the legislature, not the voting booth in a local levy election.

The question now before us is whether the building reserve and technology money is needed, and whether the amount requested is reasonable under the circumstances. The answer to both questions is “yes,” although the latter “yes” should not be uttered as loudly as the former. I think the request could have been leaner.

But we cannot, and should not try to, hold the trustees and the administrators to a standard of perfection. Do they make mistakes? Of course. But on the whole, they’re good people doing a pretty good job, and it’s in our enlightened self-interest to cut them a little slack.

If the levy fails, the community — not just students, teachers, administrators and staff — will be hurt. Education is a community responsibility (which is why school elections should be held as part of the fall general election). When defensible school levies fail, communities injure themselves educationally, economically, and socially, and weaken a foundation of a civil society.


3 March 2011

Help keep the Flathead Health Center open

Republican parsimony could deprive a thousand or more Flathead residents of the medical care provided by the Flathead Health Center. The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to defund this badly needed program.

If the Senate concurs, our friends and neighbors who use the FHC will be forced to use the emergency room, or perhaps to grit their teeth and die alone in agony and in the cold and dark.

Supporters of the FHC are holding an open house from 0800 to 1800 (that’s my best guess; announcements vary) at the Gateway West Mall (just west of the intersection of Two Mile Drive and Meridian Road, behind the post office). (The organizers call it a “rally,” but no rally lasts ten hours.) Attend if you can, and above all let Senators Baucus and Tester know the FHC must be funded.

Then, write letters to our blessing in the Senate, and our blessing in the White House, reminding them that a zero-dollar (no co-pay) single-payer system that covers everything is the only health care system that can cover everyone at a reasonable cost, and without the mind numbing complexity that bedevils the current system. Remind that as long as the private health insurance industry exists, a just and universal health care system cannot.


27 February 2011

Is Glacier High School unsafe in freezing weather?

Updated, 3 March 2011. That’s a fair question following extensive water damage to the school after a pipe failed. According to the InterLake, officials think a frozen fire suppression line ruptured.

A fire suppression line froze? In a school, supposedly state-of-the-art, less than a decade old? In temperatures one expects for this time of year (the mean temperature for 20–26 February was 14°F with a high of 36°F and a low of -9°F)?

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Lewis has not made the case for privatizing the CF veterans home

There may be a case that privatizing the Montana Veterans Home in Columbia Falls will improve the lives of the veterans living there, but Helena State Senator Dave Lewis has yet to make it.

And from what I can tell, he hasn’t really tried to make that case. I think his primary motives are (a) union busting, and (b) helping the private nursing home industry make more money at the expense of quality health care for veterans.

And I think his statistics are so broad as to be meaningless. On the face of it, the Columbia Falls facility is more expensive per patient than the Glendive veterans home, the operation of which is privatized. But dividing the total cost by the number of veterans does not provide a useful number. I doubt that the disparity is solely or even largely due to differences in labor costs — but even if that turns out to be the case, higher wages are not necessarily an inefficiency, as Lewis seems to suppose.

One variable is the physical plant. I’d be interested in an independent energy analysis that identifies the energy use per patient using a statistic that takes into account differences in climate; for example, BTUs per thousand degree days per patient. Suppose such a study found that the Columbia Falls facility used half again as many BTUs per degree day per patient. Reducing that expense requires installing more insulation and more efficient heating machinery, not slashing the wages of the medical staff.

I suspect, however, that such an analysis is the last thing that Lewis and his capitalist cronies want.


17 February 2011

Governor Schweitzer and the big, bad, feds

It wasn’t that long ago that Governor Brian Schweitzer was warning tea party legislators that he would veto bills that were clearly unconstitutional (or, like the spear hunting bill, SB-112, frivolous).

Maybe he’ll stick to his guns on that. Let’s hope so.

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16 February 2011

Rep. Wagner embarrasses himself and Montana

If you do nothing else today, visit Montana Cowgirl’s blog and watch Anderson Cooper’s devastating interview with Rep. Bob Wagner (R-Harrison), the legislator behind HB-205, Montana’s birther bill. It’s as good an example of invincible ignorance as you’ll ever watch.


15 February 2011

Contemporary nullifiers are misreading James Madison

Rep. Denny Rehberg is among the guilty. In his excellent story on nullification bills before the legislature, and of nullification’s disreputable past, Helena Independent Record writer Mike Dennison reported that Rehberg used the language of the nullifiers when he addressed the Montana Legislature on 7 February 2011:

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13 February 2011

Singing the Flathead High School sprinkler levy blues

Will voters in School District 5 approve a $6.1 million building reserve levy next month? I have my doubts. Unemployment remains high in Flathead County; that and uncertainty over future economic growth will make voters exceedingly reluctant to raise their taxes.

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11 February 2011

Some thoughts on the demise of the vote-by-mail bill

I oppose early voting and voting by mail. I was therefore pleased when Montana’s house of representatives rejected HB-130 on the third reading. But I was not pleased that so many Republicans voting “Nay” justified their decision to kill the bill as a vote against election fraud. Nor was I overjoyed when some Democrats began questioning whether the overnight switch of 15 GOP votes was engineered by Denny Rehberg.

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Oregon voter turnout 1980 – 2000

In 2000, Oregon’s voters approved a referendum that switched the state to an all mail ballot system. Supporters of vote-by-mail argued that Oregon’s turnout increased after the all mail ballot system was adopted, citing the turnout of registered voters to support their claim.

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5 February 2011

Hey there, Dr. Cox — your comments are too good to be legal

Have you ever submitted comments on a proposed highway, or any project proposed by any government? Have your comments included numbers, calculations, graphs, discussions of a technical nature? As a citizen, not as a certified expert such as an engineer?

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3 February 2011

Birther bill supporters are the fire-eaters of the 21st Century

Montana’s birther bill, HB-205, was heard in the house’s state administration committee yesterday. Similar legislation is before most state legislatures.

Introduced by Rep. Bob Wagner (R-Harrison), HB-205 requires candidates for federal offices, including President, to produce proof of citizenship. Candidates for President — and that’s what this bill is about — would be required to:

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2 February 2011

The Flathead’s apostles of nullification commit legislative mischief

State Senator Verdell Jackson (R-Kalispell) and State Representative Derek Skees (R-Whitefish) have each introduced nullification of federal laws bills that the ghosts of John C. Calhoun and Jefferson Davis would applaud, and that just might cause Andrew Jackson to rise from his grave to once again to put a stop to such nonesense.

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24 January 2011

House judiciary committee chairman publicly rebukes Rep. Skees

Rookie legislator Derek Skees’ performance on behalf of HB-245 earned a rare public rebuke from the House Judiciary Committee’s chair, fellow Republican Ken Peterson of Billings, for not doing his homework before introducing the bill, which the committee tabled on 21 January.

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15 January 2011

Stone Age hunting bill sails through committee

Cavemen of Montana, be grateful. Republican State Senator Greg Hinkle of Thompson Falls failed to establish a hereditary hunting aristocracy in Montana, but he’s having better luck legalizing your right to practice one of the most primitive means of killing animals: spearing them.

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10 January 2010

No more mothers, no more fathers — just parents one and two

That’s the official word from our state department, reports the Washington Post. Hillary Clinton and Barack Hussein Obama have decided that applications for U.S. passports should ask not for the names of one’s mother and father, but for the names of “Parent One” and “Parent Two.”

Why this nonsense? To pay off a class of donors, reports the Post:

The new policy is a win for gay rights groups, a vocal and financially generous Democratic voting bloc that has pushed for the change since Barack Obama began his presidential transition in late 2008.

A win for gay militants, but a loss for common sense. Even children being raised by gay “parents” have a mother, who is a woman, and a father, who is a man. If that biological fact is to be ignored, what’s to prevent future passport applications from also asking for “Parent Three” and “Parent Four” to accommodate more enlightened familial arrangements?

This is political correctness run amok. It’s also out-and-out bribery. It’s going to cost Democrats votes in 2012. And it should.


8 January 2011

Gabrielle Giffords and Will Hammerquist

The shooting of Arizona’s Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and the arrest of former Democratic legislative candidate Will Hammerquist, are of both considerable interest, and situations in which speculation is far from helpful.

Giffords (who is expected to live). Assassinations and attempted assassinations of elected officials in the United States are rare and almost always involve a lone gunman. So are other acts of violence against public officials. Speakers get heckled and shouted down, but that kind of rowdiness doesn’t qualify as violence in my experience. It’s safer out there than a lot of people think. I hope this incident isn’t used as an excuse for a security crackdown.

Hammerquist. According to KPAX TV, Hammerquist was arrested late Thursday, 6 January, booked for “partner family member assault,” a misdemeanor, and released from jail the next morning. This will damage his political career even if he’s completely exonerated. In the meantime, he’s entitled — as are we all — to the presumption of innocence, representation by legal counsel, and a fair trial. And all would do well to remember that this kind of case is well into the “he said, she said” twilight zone where sorting out the truth is especially difficult.



3 January 2011

A note to progressives

If you read nothing else today, read Whose Side is the White House On, by James K. Galbraith — and then take a double dose of Prozac. With the supergiant banks owning both the Republican and Democratic Parties, a dysfunctional Senate operating by unconstitutional supermajority, and a president who more and more seems like the Manchurian Candidate from Wall Street, our country is in far more trouble than most realize. We are fast approaching a point of no return, a point at which we have neither the will nor the power to govern ourselves effectively.

Happy New Year.

Archives: 2010: January – December