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

27 March 2017

Say Goodbye — and welcome to Monday

The New London Chorale is from England, not Connecticut. This sprightly, impish, number has a Gilbert and Sullivan feel to it. But in limited searching I was unable to find the lyrics online. If anyone knows the song’s origin, please let me know.

 

25 March 2017

Flathead public lands supporters rally for Rob Quist

pano

Well over 100 advocatates for public lands assembled at Depot Park in Kalispell today in support of Democratic congressional candidate Rob Quist, who briefly addressed the crowd.

 

24 March 2017

Friday briefs

Daylight Saving Time was rescued by high school sports. Yesterday, the MT House’s state administration committee voted unanimously, and reports the Helena IR’s Jayme Fraser, without discussion, to table SB-206, Sen. Ryan Osmundson’s repeal DST bill that blithely sailed through the MT Senate by a veto-proof margin. Losing an hour of afternoon sunlight would, witnesses told the House’s committee, shut down outdoor sports because many schools didn’t have artificially illuminated practice fields. That revelation almost made me reconsider my opposition to the bill.

Rep. Alan Doane’s high-handed bungling of the MT House’s judiciary committee earned him a pithy rebuke from former Sen. Mary Moe. Writing today at Montana Cowgirl, Moe delivered a civics lesson wrapped in Old Testament wrath. If George Darrow were still alive, he might have admonished Doane in equally pungent terms. A former Republican legislator, George said that citizens testifying before the legislature had the right to be treated with courtesy.

Montana’s constitution does not explicitly require that legislators treat citizens with courtesy. But that is a political norm so widely observed that violations of it jar our senses and are greeted with disapprobation. Being treated courteously by legislators is a fundamental right. Rep. Doane would do well to abide by the first article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

As for SB-305, the debate over it has become far too intense. The county clerk and recorders, who, under the guise of saving money, are trying to prove that an all-mail ballot system is just dandy. If they get their way, they’ll pester the 2019 legislature to make Montana an all-mail ballot state. I’m convinced that many C&Rs hate the logistical challenges of setting up polls and dislike interaction with voters.

Allied with the C&Rs is the Democratic Party’s mail ballot and early voting caucus, which is convinced that early voting and mail voting increases turnout and helps Democrats. Citizens casting their votes in person at public polls on election day doesn’t fit the Democratic Party’s get out the vote operation. Democrats don’t trust their voters. They want to “bank” votes, and to have time to track down and harass voters with non-returned mail ballots.

As I’ve noted before, my investigations indicate that an all-mail ballot favors neither party, and is not likely to increase turnout in a special congressional election.

Ryan, Trump, and McConnell will find a way to pass a bill repealing the Affordable Care Act. They don’t give a damn what’s in it. They’ve spent seven years lying about the ACA and promising to repeal it. Not repealing it is not an option. They’re still lying about the ACA, they’re still determined to repeal it, and they don’t care how many people they hurt because the people they will hurt are not in the tax brackets they want to cut. If you have health insurance and need medical treatment, get treated now, and make sure you never get sick as long as the Republicans are in power.

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23 March 2017

Rep. Doane silences Carole Mackin, boots her from SB-305 hearing
Flathead Memo is publishing in full her suppressed testimony

Helena activist Carole Mackin supports SB-305, the bill to inflict an all-mail ballot on Montana for the 25 May special congressional election. She therefore appeared this morning at the bill’s hearing before the House’s judiciary committee, and began reading her 143-word statement into the record.

But after delivering a few words, Rep. Alan Doane (R-Bloomfield), pounding his gavel banana republic style, shut her down and threw her out. The Missoulian has the details.

I oppose SB-305 — and I deplore Rep. Doane’s high-handed conduct. His determination to make the train run on time no matter how many passengers he leaves in the station or kicks into the weeds makes a mockery of democracy.

Here’s Mackin’s full testimony:

Testifying in support of SB 305 — How a Special Election to fill the 2017 vacancy in the U.S. Representative vacancy may be conducted.

House Judiciary Committee March 23, 2017

I’m here as a property tax payer. I request that the committee concur on SB-305. I’m a property owner in Lewis and Clark County. My property taxes have seen their ups and downs – mostly up. I retired seven years ago, and on average, my property taxes increased by 10% per year.

Yes I’m retired and if things continue as they have, in seven more years my property taxes will eat up half of my annual Social Security payment. That is why I’m interested in any idea that holds down the cost of government.

Property taxes should not drive older Montanans out of their homes. And Republicans should not put politics before fiscal responsibility.

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MT general and primary election turnout is declining

Among Democrats, and even some Republicans, it’s an article of deep faith that early voting and no excuses absentee ballot voting favor Democratic candidates and increase turnout. That’s why the argument over SB-305 is so intense.

But that faith may be based on a false premise. A review of the turnout of Montana’s voting eligible population in general and primary elections from 1972 through 2016 suggests that VEP turnout has declined while voting by absentee ballot, which is almost entirely a mail ballot operation, has increased.


The data displayed by the graph are in an Excel spreadsheet that you can download.

Are the differences between the pre and post absentee era turnout means statistically significant? Possibly. I ran Student’s T and the Wilcoxon test, standard tests for small samples. The differences were significant at the 95 percent level. But because the voting method is only one of several variables that affect turnout, one should be cautious about concluding that early voting and unrestrained absentee ballot voting are responsible for the decline in VEP turnout in Montana.

I suspect, incidentally, that turnout for the special congressional election will be closer to that for a primary election than for a general election.

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Quist & national Dems, mail ballot hearing, unmask thugs bill

With Democrats like these, Rob Quist has enemies in both parties. National Democrats, especially the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), are slow walking help for Rob Quist, reports Logicosity this morning:

…as of this writing, the DCCC is conducting some type of poll to determine if making an investment in Montana is worthwhile. It seems hell-bent on replicating mistakes that have yielded dismal results in Congressional races around the country in the past decade.

There isn’t time for that anal retentive approach. This is a short campaign. Time’s a-wasting. Yes, rushing forward without marking every box on the standard campaign checklist is risky — but keeping the checkbook locked until it’s too late to affect the election is a bet that always loses.

Special election mail ballot bill House hearing is today. The bill, SB-305, probably should be named “The County Clerk and Recorders Relief Act of 2017,” as it’s intended to let local election officials conduct the special election on the cheap. State Republican Party chief Jeff Essmann opposes the bill, contending it will help Democrats. Many Democrats agree with Essmann. I don’t think it will help either party. The only beneficiaries are the C&Rs.

The special election is an unplanned expense, and a significant one. In budgeting terms, it’s akin to a natural disaster: expensive, but not predictable. The legislature should appropriate a million dollars, or so, to pay for the election, taking the money out of the target budget surplus.

Rep. Barry Usher finally has a good idea. You may remember Usher. He’s the first term Republican from Billings, and owner of a motorcycle dealership, who requested a bill that would have banned bicycles and pedestrians from most of Montana’s two-lane highways. That bill went nowhere while his reputation went south.

Now, his reputation may head north, at least in some quarters. He’s introduced HB-571, which makes wearing a mask during “the commission of an offense against pubic order” a felony:

Section 1. Concealing identity during commission of offense against public order.

  1. A person commits the offense of concealing a person’s identity during the commission of an offense against public order if the person wears a mask, hood, or other device that covers, hides, or conceals a portion of the person’s face for the purpose of evading or escaping discovery, recognition, or identification while committing an offense described in Title 45, chapter 8. [Link added by FM.]

  2. A person convicted of a violation of subsection (1) is guilty of a felony and shall be fined an amount not to exceed $5,000 or be imprisoned in the state prison for a term not to exceed 5 years, or both.

If HB-571 is amended to (a) limit the law to banning masks, such as are worn by the black clad anarchists who vandalized Seattle and attacked neo-Nazis in Sacramento last year, and (b) reduce the offense to a misdemeanor, I’ll be inclined to support it. Similar laws to keep the Klu Klux Klan from hiding behind masks were necessary and effective.

In the meantime, when masked protesters begin misbehaving, the police must arrest the thugs on the spot, demask and photograph them, and heave them into the paddy wagon for a quick trip to the slammer.

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22 March 2017

Did all-mail ballot elections increase voter turnout in Oregon?

That’s the official truth as told by former Oregon Secretary of State Phil Keisling and others, and is based on the turnout of registered voters statistic. Writing in the Washington Monthly in January, Keisling said:

Turnout in Oregon, my home state, used to be buoyed by demographics: through the early 1980s, income and education levels were above the national average, and 93 percent of the population was white.

But by 2000, Oregon’s timber industry had collapsed and our population had grown steadily poorer and more diverse relative to the rest of the country. (Today, Oregon’s per capita income is 91 percent of the national average, and only thirteen states have a larger Hispanic share of population.) Meanwhile, from 1980 to 1998, turnout of registered voters fell from about 77 percent to 71 percent in presidential elections, and from about 77 percent to 59 percent in midterms. That decline looked set to continue.

But in 1998, Oregon voters approved a universal vote by mail system. In the 2000 presidential election, voter turnout leaped to 80 percent and has since climbed as high as 86 percent, while midterm turnout rebounded to an average of 71 percent. This decade of higher turnout happened even as Oregon lost its status as a presidential battleground and was seeing far fewer competitive statewide elections.

That sounds impressive — but the turnout of registered voters is the wrong statistic for analyzing voter turnout. Experts in the field, among them Michael McDonald of the United States Elections Project, employ a different statistic, the turnout of the voting eligible population (VEP). The VEP is the voting age population (VAP =>18 years of age) minus foreign nationals, prison inmates, and other disqualified classes. In Oregon, the VEP is 93 percent of the VAP. Registered voters comprise 85 percent of the VEP.

Why VEP turnout is the more illuminating statistic can be illustrated by the imaginary state of Fremont, which has a population of 1.4 million, a VEP of one million, and just 100,000 registered voters. In a general election, 90,000 votes are cast. The registered voter turnout is 90 percent, good enough for national bragging rights, but the VEP turnout is nine percent, low enough to conclude that democracy is in pretty sad shape in Fremont.

Voter registration rolls, incidentally, tend to cycle from inflated with deadwood to deflated by periodic purges of inactive and allegedly ineligible voters.

Which brings us back to Oregon. Did VEP turnout increase after the state switched to all-mail ballot elections? The answers are no for midterm elections, and maybe for Presidential elections.

Applying the Student’s T and Wilcoxon tests confirm’s one’s eyeball evaluation of turnout in the midterm elections: there’s no significant difference between the pre and post all-mail ballot eras. For Presidential elections the all-mail ballot era produces a 3.2 percent higher mean VEP turnout. This is not significant at the 95 percent level, but a difference does exist. Can we therefore conclude that switching to all-mail ballot elections boosted VEP turnout in Presidential elections?

No.

The switch to mail ballots was not the only variable affecting turnout. In 2004, there were eight ballot measures on Oregon’s general election ballot. One concerned taxes. Another addressed timber production. Medical marijuana dispensaries was the subject of another. And one ballot measure defined marriage. Interest in these issues could have boosted turnout regardless of the voting methods, as could have unusually interesting or divisive contests for elective office. Exit polls and other post election surveys might not be of much help in teasing out the mail ballot effect because the sampling error of those surveys may exceed the 3.2 percent difference in the pre and post all-mail ballot eras.

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21 March 2017

Three Mile pedestrian jump still lacks safety fence

Three Mile Drive’s bridge over the Kalispell westside bypass has safety barriers installed on only two of its four corners. The northwest and southeast corners remain unprotected. These sidewalks get substantial foot traffic, often by groups of young schoolchildren. The situation is dangerous. Why installing safety barriers is not a high priority for the officials responsible for the bridge escapes my ken.

Below, images of the bridge’s northwest corner taken on 19 March from the southern end of the eastern sound wall.

pedestrian_jump_wide

A fall — or leap — from the bridge will lead to serious injury or death.

pedestrian_jump_closeup

An enlarged version of the image above.

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20 March 2017

Solar notes — observational and political

Did your children’s schools march their students outside today to measure their latitude with a ruler and vertical stick? Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, the sun’s altitude at solar noon in Kalispell is 42 degrees, and solar noon, formally known as meridian transit, occurred at 1345 MDT on Sunday and today, and occurs at 1344 MDT tomorrow. At that time, the shadow cast by a stick perpendicular to the ground points due north, and the height of the stick divided by the length of the shadow yields the tangent of the sun’s altitude. At the equinox, 90° minus the sun’s altitude equals the latitude. If you don’t live in Kalispell, the U.S. Naval Observatory’s online calculators will generate the time of meridian transit for your community.

A simple experiment, but one everyone should understand. If your children’s school didn’t take advantage of this opportunity, give the science department a failing grade, and let the school board know.

The curve of blinding rhetorical enervation. Rob Quist’s campaign consultants removed the words “solar” and “wind” from his new energy plank:

Quist’s original energy plank. I stand for the development of new energy technologies and utilizing Montana’s natural resources to put us on the cutting edge of wind and solar power. In an age, where countries are going 100% green, we have to be more competitive.

Quist’s new energy plank. Rob supports an energy plan made for Montana and written by Montanans. He understands the importance of developing a comprehensive energy plan that utilizes Montana’s natural resources while exploring new energy technologies that will put Montana on the cutting edge and serve the needs of all Montanans.

Montana Democratic Party’s energy plank. As we confront global climate change, Montana Democrats believe that we must reduce our reliance on fossil fuels through a combination of energy conservation, energy efficiency, and the development of clean, renewable energy sources. We believe that we can achieve this goal AND create or provide transitions into good Montana jobs.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Montana Republican Party’s energy plank. We urge, through private enterprise, the development of energy resources, including alternative forms of energy. We oppose any federal or state government mandate to purchase or subsidize energy development in any form. We oppose any tax on carbon emissions. All cost effective forms of energy shall have equal access to the grid as specified by deregulation. We oppose the federal government yielding to any international pressure to oppose any regulation on domestic energy production or consumption. We oppose any classification of CO2 or other greenhouse gasses as dangerous gasses or pollutants. We stand strongly in support of the completion of the Keystone Pipeline. We are in favor of only those Federal administrative rules that do not exceed the authority of the statute.

Quist’s new energy plank is a Rorschach plank made from weasel wood. It’s written so that voters with very different positions on energy can find in the plank’s generalities support for their preferred policy. The MDP’s platform mentions climate change — but Quist’s new platform omits any mention of global warming or climate change. Even the MT GOP’s platform mentions “alternative energy,” a commonly accepted code phrase for solar and wind and renewables.

Quist’s consultants wrote this energy plank to appeal to weak Republicans and the mythical horde of independents that conventional wisdom believes must be wooed to win the election. Instead of getting credit for taking a clear stand on energy, Quist will earn scorn for pussyfooting around the issue. That’s not how elections are won.

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19 March 2017

DNC & Quist, Hillary’s historic negativity, a House district too big

Has the Democratic National Committee written off Rob Quist? Sen. Jon Tester’s remarks at the big Democratic dinner in Helena last night point in that direction:

Sen. Jon Tester dismissed that the Montana race would be a referendum on national Democrats.

It remains to be seen how much national organizations, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, will invest in the race.

“They’re waiting to see how effective we can run a campaign,” he said. “They’re definitely watching this race.”

Waiting? For what? For polls that guarantee a win? The window for providing effective help is closing rapidly. Absentee ballots go out in four weeks. The time to help, to provide personnel and money, especially money, is now. Otherwise, DNC stands for Do Nothing Committee.

Was Hillary’s historically negative TV ad campaign her fatal mistake? According to researchers at the Wesleyan Media Project, Donald Trump’s television ads were more positive and focused on issues than were Hillary’s, and, by a wide margin. Trump ads addressed concerns of the voters, and promised to “Make America Great Again.” Hillary’s ads denigrated Trump’s character and ignored the voters. Why Hillary thought she’d win votes by ignoring the (deplorable) voters, and demonizing the man who offered them hope remains one of the great mysteries of her campaign.

Montana’s congressional district is among the nation’s least logistically friendly. Of the 432 congressional districts in the Contiguous 48 States, Montana’s is largest in area and population, and has the second lowest population density. If campaign miles travelled per voter were an official campaign statistic, Montana’s congressional candidates would rank near the top of the list.

Montana needs a second congressional district. Increasing the U.S. House of Representatives, which has been stuck at 435 members since 1910, to 700 members would provide that second district. A simple act of Congress is all that's required.

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17 March 2017

A referendum is the worst way to resolve bathroom issues

glimm_carl_100

An ugly fight over law and gender could dominate the 2018 general election if the legislature approves HB-609, Kalispell Republican Rep. Carl Glimm’s “Montana Locker Room Privacy Act,” introduced today. Generically a “bathroom bill” aimed at students with gender identity issues, its based on a premise that’s holy writ among many fundamentalist Christians:

Section 3. Definitions. (7) “Sex” means a person’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth. A person’s original birth certificate may be relied upon as definitive evidence of the person’s sex.

Placing that definition in Montana’s statutes, not the protection of privacy, is the bill’s true purpose. It’s an attempt to settle a question of science by popular vote.

If HB-609 becomes a legislative referendum, a class of people will be singled out for ridicule and abuse during the campaign. And were the referendum to pass, Montana might receive the same boycott treatment that North Carolina received.

If the matter does goe to the ballot, perhaps former North Carolina Governor Pat McCory could manage the campaign. He’s been looking for a job.

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Come down from the mountain, Katie Daly

The ode to Irish whiskey ballad Come Down from the Mountain, Katie Daly, is a favorite of Appalachian bluegrass bands, which, like the Lonesome River Band, usually begin with the first verse, “With her old man, Katie came from Tipperary,” and sing with a clothespin on their nose drone. It’s also a favorite of Irish country music musicians like Mike Denver, who, backed by drums and horns as well as fiddles and guitars, deliver melodious, rollicking performances, and begin with the chorus. I much prefer Katie Daly played country style.

Mike Denver’ version, delivered in his rich, powerful, baritone, is the best, but the video of his performance has been removed from YouTube. As a substitute, here’s Irish fiddler Dessie O’Halloran’s version from a Sharon Shannon concert. As a young man, O’Halloran had silver pipes. But now, writes one hyperbolic reviewer, he sings like a “goat undergoing rectal surgery.” There’s a lot going on in this video — turn off the sound, watch the banjoist in the red shirt, and you’ll still be entertained.

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13–20 March 2017

Flathead Memo is finished standing down until Spring

Update, 17 March. Figuratively speaking, spring has arrived early. I need a break from: reactionary Republicans; prevaricating politicians; lying legislators; dissembling Democrats; black masked anarchists; identity politics; confused and ignorant voters; arrogant bureaucrats; haughty educators; zealots and crackpots and nitwits; global warming deniers; nuts who will register babies but not assault weapons; raw milk legalizers; crusaders for child election judges; cruel fools with an unreasoning fear of opioid painkillers who would deny people in agony the mercy of Mother Morphine; darksiders trying to dismiss Daylight Saving Time. The world has gone crazy, and I’ll go crazy, too, if I don’t step back from the madness for a few days. See you when Spring starts. James Conner.

 

12 March 2017

Who should pay for Colstrip's decommissioning costs?

At E-City Beat today, Public Service Commission Vice Chairman Travis Kuvulla (R-Great Falls), has a thoughtful essay on the costs, financial and human, of closing Colstrip Units 1 and 2. Built more than 40 years ago, the coal fired power plants, each rated at 307 megawatts, are scheduled to close no later than 2022.

The immediate cause of the shutdown is the settlement of a lawsuit brought by environmental groups. But the plants’ age, the inherent dirtiness of coal, and the declining economic viability of coal fired electricity, are factors that would have led to a shutdown sooner than later.

Built in the mid-1980s, Colstrip Units 3 and 4, each rated at 740 megawatts, will continue operating. Therefore, not all Colstrip related jobs will disappear when Units 1 and 2 shut down.

But as Kavulla observes, decommissioning Units 1 and 2 will produce significant adverse economic consequences for the coal workers and their communities.

A plant closure means an instant reduction in property values, a cost shift to the remaining taxpayers in the county, and a lot of stranded assets in the form of local government projects that still have outstanding balances on their bond arrangements. The cost of all of these consequences of the plant closure are things the legislation includes within its definition of “decommissioning costs.” In other words, if the legislation becomes law, the power plant owners will have, among other things, the obligation to pay out howeowners and small businesses who find themselves underwater in their mortgages.

In Planning for Montana’s Energy Transition, Headwaters Economics, in a report released in February, 2016, puts numbers on the situation:

Using the latest available data (2013), coal employment is especially important in Rosebud, Big Horn, and Musselshell counties. In Big Horn County coal mining and coal burning employment is 31 percent of the workforce while these sectors account for 30 percent of all workers in Rosebud County and 20 percent of all workers in Musselshell County. For the other counties, coal employment is relatively less important, reflecting roughly one percent of total employment for Richland County and a lower share in Yellowstone County. .

coal_employment

Trying to mitigate these impacts, Sen. Duane Ankney (R-Colstrip), a former miner who fights as hard as any man alive for the miners he represents, has introduced SB-338, which would require the owners of the coal mines and coal fired power plants to pay into a decommissioning fund. He puts no price tag on the bill, and the fiscal note is not available, but the Great Falls Tribune estimates that SB-338 would provide approximately $40 million for decommissioning. Given the magnitude of the decommissioning impacts, that not nearly as much money as will be needed. The bill will be heard on 16 March.

At this point, I’m leaning toward supporting the bill. It’s wrong to let coal companies strip the wealth from the earth, wrecking the landscape and despoiling land and water, without requiring that they invest in the rehabilitation of the communities and workers’ lives their greed has impacted. Instead of letting Talen, et al, take the money and run, Montana should take money from Talen before running Talen out of the state.

A second response to the shutdown of Units 1 and 2 is Butte Democrat Rep. Jim Keane’s announcement that Speaker Austin Knudsen (R-Culbertson) will introduce legislation authorizing the state to loan the operators of Units 1 and 2 money to keep the old plants from closing before 2022. Keane rightly admits that may not be the best solution, but he wants to do something. Understood. Keane has a storied history of fighting for what he thinks is best for Butte. But instead of using taxpayer dollars to prop up greedy energy companies, he should find money to help the workers who will suffer from the shutdowns.

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Was Rob Quist’s old campaign website hacked?
Are some Missoula Democrats hurting his campaign?

Security issues? At Polson last night, Quist told a friend that his old campaign website was taken down for security reasons, and that an issues page would be added to his new website. I’ve received no specifics, but Friday one of my readers reported a strange entry on Quist’s Facebook page. I checked the Facebook page, but could not find the entry.

The issues and biographical information on Quist’s old website could have been inserted into the new website’s template in just a few minutes.

Thanks to Nathan Kosted, much of his old issues platform is available at Intelligent Discontent.

The robquist.org domain was registered on 8 March 2017.

Missoula mischief? A reader reports today that the pro-Quist door knocking blitz in Missoula was hindered because the Facebook page for the event contained information that was not correct, and was late in being posted. That’s disturbing news. The foul-up may have been just a blunder, but I’m not dismissing the possibility of intentional disruption.

Do all Democrats want to help Quist? Most do, but I’m receiving disquieting reports that for a multitude of reasons, some Democrats regard his candidacy as an attempt to execute a hostile takeover of the Montana Democratic Party and would be delighted if he lost the election, thus putting down his insurgency.

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11 March 2017

Rob Quist’s new campaign website has no issues page

quist_rob_150

Where does Rob Quist stand on the issues? A few days ago, one could find out by visiting his campaign website, www.robquistformontana.com, and reading his issues page.

Today, that website has disappeared, replaced with www.robquist.org. The issues page is gone. So are the biography of Quist and the news page. All that remains are a photograph of Quist, a volunteer sign-up link, and, of course, a link for donating money to his campaign.

Will his new website eventually contain an issues page? Perhaps. After all, Steve Bullock’s 2016 campaign website finally added an issues page in late summer.

But Quist already had an issues page. Why has that been suppressed? Is it because Hilltop and the Montana Democratic campaign consultancy cabal are preparing a sanitized, poll tested, platform built from planks intended to appeal to weak Republicans?

This is clumsy and arrogant campaign management.

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10 March 2017

Kill SB-305, the all mail ballot special election bill

Update, 10 March. I now oppose SB-305, and renounce my previous support for an all mail ballot election. I made a mistake: I was bending over backward to be reasonable (proof I’m a Democrat). But after further reflection and research, I’ve concluded there is no reason to believe that an all mail ballot election will increase turnout for a special Congressional election.

I continue to believe that early voting for the special election should be limited to two weeks; that the legislature should appropriate money to help counties pay for the election, which is a rare event akin to a natural disaster; and that the special election and school elections should be combined (even if the schools object, which of course they would).

…read the rest

Daylight Saving Time repeal bill hearing set for Tuesday

Resources

Daylight Saving Time. By Beth Cook, Congressional Research Service, 9 March 2016. PDF.

Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time. By David Prerau, 28 April 2009. Kindle and hard copy.

Will Montana become 3rd state to ditch daylight saving time? By Tom Kuglin, Helena Independent Record, 5 March 2017.

Map of western time zones if Montana repeals DST.

Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday. Two days later, at 0900, the Montana House’s state administration committee will hold a hearing on SB-206, which would repeal DST in Montana. At present, only Hawaii, 2,500 miles offshore and partly in the tropics, and Arizona, do not observe DST.

Two Flathead legislators, Rep. Frank Garner and Rep. Derek Skees, sit on the House’s state administration committee. Garner requested a bill (LC-1499) with the short title of “Eliminate daylight savings (sic) time,” but the bill’s draft is on hold.

The timing of the hearing is not coincidental. SB-206’s supporters want the committee’s members to consider the bill while some are still mildly exasperated by the changeover.

Why repealing DST is being pushed, both in Montana and in several other states, remains a mystery, but the push seems to be coming from rural Republicans associated with agriculture and may be nothing more than Old MacDonald’s revenge on urban Americans who work by the clock and benefit greatly from DST.

In the Montana Senate’s state administration committee’s hearing, the bill’s author, Sen. Ryan Osmundson (R-Buffalo), a member of the committee, mumbled that he’d received a few telephone calls on the issue, but provided no details. The minutes of the hearing do not indicate that written testimony was submitted. The committee’s executive action lasted three minutes, 16 seconds. Sen. Dee Brown (R-Hungry Horse) said she’d received a few telephone calls from parents, but did not elaborate.

Who is Ryan Osmundson? According to his personal website:

Ryan enjoys hunting and fishing with his [8] children. Ryan has a small business selling agriculture products and farms as well. Ryan is a pilot and attended Colorado Aero Tech to become an A&P mechanic. Ryan also attended Montana Wilderness School of the Bible, where he met his wife Jessica. Ryan was home schooled and grew up in North East Iowa. [Link added.]

I’m tempted to call the hearing and executive session shams, but that supposes unsavory intent. The intent here appears to have been giving a member of the committee a free ride, and to whip matters through the committee before the transmittal deadline. Call it insouciance squared, high school genre fecklessness.

Taking Montana out of time sync with the nation and neighboring states is a serious proposal that merits serious discussion. Thus far, however, the legislature’s approach has been frivolous and irresponsible. The bill’s proponents are trying to ram it through the legislature, evidently fearing that extended discussion of the issue will reveal just how popular daylight saving time is.

If you like that extra hour of sunshine in the evening, when the day is warm, let your legislator and the committee knowpronto.

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9 March 2017

Will the Democratic National Committee help or hinder Rob Quist?

Rob Quist’s campaign needs a lot of money — at least $5 million — and needs it right now. The Democratic National Committee could help raise that money. Only 2,000 donations of $2,500 are needed. There are more than enough Democrats with pockets that deep.

But will the DNC help? National Democrats like and help candidates who produce polls promising a win. But the DNC turns up its nose at long-shot candidates, considering them high-smelling panhandlers who always beg for bread but never win an election.

It looks to me as though the DNC will be a dollar short, an hour late, and proud it didn’t “waste” resources on an old musician with all his fingers who had the temerity to win Montana’s Democratic nomination without the blessing of the party’s ossified leadership.

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Will the Montana Legislature inflict child election judges on voters?

This could be the year that the no one is too young to be an adult wing of the Democratic Party wins its fight to have schoolchildren help administer elections. House Bill 86, carried by Deer Lodge Democrat Kathy Swanson, legalizes Youth Election Judges. HB-86 passed the Montana House of Representatives on 16 February, 53–46, with one absence. All 41 Democrats voted for the bill. Twelve Republicans, including Kalispell’s Frank Garner, also voted Aye. The bill was heard yesterday in the Senate’s state administration committee by the great minds that want to repeal Daylight Saving Time.

Here are the bill’s salient sections:

Section 13-1-101 MCA:

(54) “Youth election judge” means an individual who serves as an election judge and who is:

  1. at least 16 years of age but less than 18 years of age at the time of an election in which the individual serves as an election judge;
  2. a resident of the state of Montana and the county in which the individual serves as an election judge; and
  3. a citizen of the United States.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Section 13-4-107. Qualifications of election judges. (1) Election judges shall must be:
  1. qualified registered electors of the county and of the precinct in which they serve, except as provided in 13-4-102(4); or
  2. youth election judges.

(2) An individual seeking appointment as a youth election judge must have:

  1. written consent of a parent or legal guardian; and
  2. written consent from the individual’s school principal if the individual is a student of a public or private school.

Voting is an adult activity that must be administered only by adults. The place for children under 18 is in school, where their still developing minds and personas can receive proper instruction. That the Democratic Party, the party that most vigorously opposes child labor, believes employing children as election judges is a good idea boggles one’s mind.

HB-86 must be killed in the Senate. If it passes, Democratic Governor Steve Bullock surely will sign it with great fanfare and surrounded by children.

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7 March 2017

Montana Republicans nominate Gianforte for U.S. House
Democrats again sling “New Jersey politician” hogwash

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Brace yourself for a short, brutish, campaign.

Back in November, Bozeman businessman Greg Gianforte lost to Gov. Steve Bullock by a small but convincing margin. After dinner yesterday, his party forgave that loss, overwhelmingly nominating him on the first ballot to run against Democrat Rob Quist for the U.S. House seat vacated by Ryan Zinke.

In his victory speech, Holly Michels reported, Gianforte campaigned against Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as well as Quist, employing what had to be focus group tested lines:

…read the rest

 

5 March 2017

Montana Democrats nominate Rob Quist on 4th ballot

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Rob Quist, the arts advocate and master musician with the big and well traveled hat, became the Montana Democratic Party’s nominee for the U.S. House, defeating Rep. Amanda Curtis 90–69 on the fourth ballot at the party’s convention in Helena today. Rep. Kelly McCarthy was dropped from the ballot after the third ballot.

Here’s an unofficial breakdown of the voting, assembled from reports on Twitter by Mike Dennison and at #mtpol:

dem_results_unofficial

Immediately following the convention, the Democrats held a “Blue No Matter Who” pep rally in Helena to encourage unity and hit the ground running when they return to their homes.

This has to be a bitter disappointment for Curtis, who was the party’s special convention nominee in 2014 after John Walsh was exposed as a plagiarist and had to withdraw as the party nominee for the U.S. Senate. Curtis generated enthusiasm and raised approximately one million dollars, but lost to U.S. Rep. Steve Daines by a three to two margin.

Some of her supporters may not be ready to embrace Quist immediately, but most will eventually, especially if she asks them to vote and work for Quist, which I’m fully confident she will. McCarthy and the other also-rans will also campaign vigorously for Quist.

Indeed, I can imagine campaign rallies at which Curtis, an accomplished folk musician, and Quist play a few songs together.

Quist, also a rancher and from a ranching family, brings to the campaign an easygoing western authenticity that helps him establish cultural common cause with rural voters in much the same way that former governor Brian Schweitzer did. Quist will do just as well as Curtis or McCarthy would have in Montana’s towns and small cities, but he’ll do a bit better than they would have in the countryside. That’s why I endorsed him in early January.

Quist’s best chance of winning will come from focusing on economics and improving the lives of Montanans. He must talk about the voters, not about the Republican nominee. He must not try to appeal to Republican voters by running as Republican Lite. And he avoid getting bogged down in social issues. In short, he needs to run as a lunch bucket Democrat who in Congress will fight for health care, Social Security, the minimum wage, and other programs and policies that improve the lives of the poor and the middle class.

Both Curtis and McCarthy have bright futures in Montana’s Democratic Party. So does Dan West, the young man with impressive science credentials who received a surprising 11 percent of the vote on the first ballot. We’ll be hearing more from him.

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4 March 2017

Saturday roundup

Montana Congressional candidates should address foreign policy at their nominating conventions. The Democrats convene tomorrow, while the Republicans, who want to see whom the Democrats nominate, convene Monday.

How would they address the threat posed by North Korea, a gangster state with nuclear weapons, a rapidly developing missile capability, and paranoid, vicious, leaders? Today’s New York Times reports that our best efforts to slow down the development of North Korea’s nuclear weaponry are not working well.

I believe that Kim Jong-un will keep his finger off the button only if he is fully convinced that if attacked with an atomic bomb, the United States will reduce North Korea to a smoking pile of radioactive rubble that includes the ashes of its leaders. That’s why we must never destroy all of our nuclear weapons, nor renounce our use thereof, nor foreswear launching a nuclear first strike. Any other policy may lead to Seattle and San Francisco being vaporized.

Montana City’s school administrators are handling the negative publicity their lunch shaming proposal has generated with a maximum of truculence, and a minimum of wit. That’s not surprising. Schools are almost as authoritarian as prisons, educators are used to being in charge, expect deference, and some have a very hard time engaging in mutually respectful interaction with adults, especially with adults who are not parents. Some educators are among the nicest people in the world, but others behave like prison guards and immigration and customs enforcement agents.

Some defenders of the lunch shaming proposal are trolling Facebook pages. They found mine. At least one commenter is an elementary school teacher at Montana City. I don’t know whether she’s trolling on her own or at the behest of her superintendent of schools. I deleted several abusive comments, but the prime offender became a repeat offender and I therefore took down the Facebook entry, which you can view here as a PDF.

In California, reports the Sacramento Bee, a legislator has introduced Senate Bill 250, which would protect students from school systems that punish children for the sins and shortcomings of their parents.

Sen. Bob Hertzberg, a Democrat from Los Angeles, is carrying a bill he says will put a stop to schools embarrassing children whose parents fall behind on their lunch payments. Hertzberg says the shaming takes multiple forms: Some students are altogether denied food while others are given paltry snacks.

Such treatment, he says, “undercuts a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school. We also know that embarrassing children in front of peers can destroy their self-confidence.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

A hearing on the lunch-shaming bill is scheduled to take place on March 15 at the Senate Education Committee.

Rep. Frank Garner (R-Kalispell) was denounced by fellow Republican legislators for proposing a modest increase in Montana’s fuel tax. This is the treatment administered to former Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, who, like Garner, believes that a legislator has the responsibility to govern, and that governing is not defined as the knee-jerk rejection of all tax increases.

These are the legislators who denounced Garner:

Rep. Matt Regier, R-Kalispell
Rep. Bill Harris, R-Winnett
Rep. Dennis Lenz, R-Billings
Rep. Derek Skees, R-Kalispell
Rep. Mark Noland, R-Bigfork
Rep. Carl Glimm, R-Kila
Sen. Dee Brown, R-Hungry Horse
Sen. David Howard, R-Park City
Sen. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell
Sen. Al Olszewski, R-Kalispell
Sen. Bob Keenan, R-Bigfork

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3 March 2017

Русский серенада для Джеффа сессий

U.S. Attorney General, and former Alabama Senator, Jeff Sessions gets around. In his youth, there’s reason to believe he was too friendly with the cross burners in white sheets and pointy hats. Now, we know he broke bread with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the 2016 Presidential campaign, then lied about it in his confirmation hearing. From the Klan to the Kremlin. Time to face the music, Jeff. One more K and you’re out.


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2 March 2017

MT school proposes lunch shaming students to punish their parents

That’s the policy the Montana City K-8 school board may adopt, according to a must read report by KXLH’s Mikenzie Frost. Students who made the mistake of choosing parents who are poor or deadbeats, and who have accumulated meal bills of $100 or more, will be fed “alternative meals:”

For breakfast, the “alternative meal” will consist of toast, peanut butter, and either milk or juice. For lunch, students will be given a cheese sandwich, veggie sticks, fruit, and milk as the “alternative meal.”

Although parents rightly call this lunch shaming, Superintendent Tony Kloker disagrees:

Kloker insisted the policy wouldn’t “lunch shame” any student, as the school plans to give students the cheese sandwich discreetly.

“It won’t be in the lunch room in front of everyone, where shaming can happen,” he explained.

How can Kloker possibly believe no one will notice when students condemned to peanut butter toast and government cheese sandwiches are treated differently? Asserting that such a policy can be administered discreetly is an exercise in Trumpian mendacity.

Kloker says he relied on information and advice from the Montana School Boards Association. From that admission, we can make two inferences: (1) Kloker either doesn’t recognize a bad idea when he encounters one, or lacks the courage to oppose a bad idea, and (2) the MSBA is offering advice that amounts to recommending child abuse.

Children have rights and deserve better. They never should be singled out for derision and contempt — which is the official intent of a shame them with cheese sandwiches policy — in order to punish their parents.

All school meals should be paid for by progressive taxation, not by having children pony up lunch money in the cafeteria. That’s the only fair policy.

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1 March 2017

“Infrastructure tax” is a weasel term for “sales tax”

Sen. Mike Phillips (D-Bozeman) and Rep. Dave Fern (D-Whitefish) have asked for bills that authorize local option sales taxes. Neither bill has been introduced, but preliminary drafts are posted on the legislature’s website.

…read the rest

 

28 February 2017

Briefs

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.

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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

HB-409_changed_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.

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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?

dem_skull

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.

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Amanda Curtis wants to curtail freedom of the press in Montana

curtis_amanda_125_mug

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

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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.

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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.

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fern_dave_125_leg

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:

dirty_dems

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.

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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.

hungry_horse_glory_hole

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

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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.

national-atlas-timezones4-annotated

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.