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

6 July 2015

That white man in Whitefish who makes Whitefishers see red

Whitefish is in the national news again, and not in a way that most residents of the Flathead’s most liberal community will like. White supremacist Richard Spencer was mentioned over the weekend in stories in the National Journal and the New York Times on white supremacy and the internet. From the Times:

…Most of the best-known organizations also claim to have disavowed the violence of groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

Richard B. Spencer, the 37-year-old president of the white nationalist National Policy Institute in Whitefish, Mont., embodies this new generation.

He holds a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and studied for a doctorate in history at Duke University. Now he runs an organization that produces papers on issues like racial differences in intelligence and the crime rate among Hispanic immigrants.

Spencer sings to the choir, although he’s seldom heard in Whitefish where there are people who would like to run him out of town. He commits his mischief online and at conferences on white pride that he organizes for people who yearn for an America whiter than titanium dioxide. I won’t say he’s harmless — just the way he raises a liberal’s blood pressure makes me fear for the health of some of my friends — but while he’s making money I don’t think he’s making a lot of converts. Most likely, he’s just finding those who were already too proud of being white.



5 July 2015

Scenes from Kalispell’s Independence Day parade

Fireworks were banned, but not balloon burners, so those who braved predicted high temperatures and winds to watch Kalispell’s Independence Day parade were rewarded with 40-foot-high flames that must have made fire marshals wince. I certainly felt the heat.

And I certainly heard what might be the loudest truck in the world. It had no place in a parade celebrating freedom. Neither did concrete-mixer trucks, candy throwers who threw at me, and squirts with giant squirt guns who hosed the crowds and photographers. Missing, of course, were high school marching bands playing patriotic music; a continued embarrassment, this absence.

Fortunately, there were many fine moments during the parade. Here are some of them:


The balloon company is 2FlyUs.com, with operations in Kalispell and Phoenix, AZ.

…see the rest


4 July 2015

Music for a windy Fourth of July

Happy Independence Day, everyone. The fire winds are stirring, and so is this fine 2009 performance of Shove the Pig’s Foot a Little Closer to the Fire.

Flags are out, and so is a Red Flag Warning:

Timing: Winds will begin to increase around sunrise, becoming gusty by early afternoon. A dramatic wind shift from westerly to easterly will occur by the late afternoon and evening hours.

Today’s Daily InterLake, in a story posted online last night, reports the Polson Chamber of Commerce still plans to go forward with its fireworks show, believing it can shoot the stuff safely over the lake. That’s just not possible, not with the wind blowing harder and onshore in the gloaming. That display will be canceled, and should have been canceled earlier this week.



3 July 2015

Northwestern Energy gets variance to lower Flathead lake

The relevant documents are posted at www.flatheadlakers.org. The lake will drop to 2892 on the USGS gage at Polson, and the outflow from Kerr Dam will be reduced from the Article 56 minimum outflows mandated in the license for the dam. The Federal Energy Regulatory commission approved Northwestern’s request for a variance from the license.

In 2001, another very dry year, the dam’s operator (not Northwestern) unilaterally reduced Kerr’s outflow below the Article 56 minimums. It was a case of not asking permission, then begging forgiveness — but forgiveness was denied, the Article 56 minimums were restored, the lake fell below 2892, and an uproar ensued. I’ll post graphs of this history later today or over the weekend.

As projected, the 2015 departure from Article 56 won’t be as severe as in 2001, and the lake will not drop as low as it did then. That's good, because high water temperatures are already placing thermal stresses on fish.


2 July 2015

Fireworks banned in the Flathead, but the decision was late

Flathead County’s commissioners banned all fireworks displays, public and private, this morning (resolution PDF; fire restrictions chart PDF). A short time later, Whitefish announced the public display at City Beach was canceled.

The county set up a telephone hotline for non-emergency fireworks complaints (406) 260-4161). But if fireworks start a fire or injure someone, call 911. The county should also set up a web page with a form for lodging complaints, but so far that hasn’t happened.

These are the right decisions. The National Weather Service issued a Fire Weather Watch at 1239 MDT today, forecasting high winds and very low relative humidity for Saturday, 4 July.

But making these decisions took far too long. Last week it was obvious that prolonged stretches of record heat combined with a record, or near record, dry June, had driven the moisture from forest, field, and lawn, resulting in a fire hazard usually not encountered until mid-August.

…read the rest

Helena’s memorial to Confederate soldiers

There’s a memorial (a granite fountain) to soldiers of the Confederacy in a public park in Helena — and two city commissioners want it renamed (they propose a naming contest) to honor something else. Montana Cowgirl has the story.

The memorial was given to the city in 1916 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Several members had relocated to Helena from the south. A defender of the memorial, Richard Alberts, argued in a letter to the editor of the Helena Independent Record (link to letter at MT Cowgirl):

This fountain is there as a “Thank You” to the City of Helena for providing the survivors of a very bitter war, which probably destroyed most of their well being and possessions, a place where they could build a future. It just happened that the people saying “Thank You” were the Daughters of the Confederacy. The fountain is not a flag which represents the losing side in the conflict; and, unfortunately, there are those who don’t want their uncompromising reasons for the war to be forgotten. The fountain is an appreciation of a chance to build a future, and to provide “a spirit of union with no feeling between the old North and South;” this is what the Daughters of the Confederacy did not want to be forgotten. There is a big difference in reason between the flag which flew over the South Carolina Capitol and the fountain in Hill Park.

Believe that and you will believe anything. Those Daughters of the Confederacy were not thanking Helena for providing an opportunity to build a future — they were thanking their ancestors for waging war to preserve slavery.

Military service is not intrinsically virtuous. No one should take pride in a forebearer’s service in the Confederate army. No matter how well great uncle Buford fought, he fought in an outlaw army in a dishonorable cause. Like the treasonous generals who led him, Buford was a traitor. Had Buford remained a loyal American, Union soldiers would not have bled and died in that tragic and terrible war. Buford has blood on his hands, and a fountain in a park cannot wash them clean.

Tear down that Confederate memorial. Recycle the granite in the spirit of beating swords into plowshares.



1 July 2015

Whitefish today banned private displays of fireworks

At the Flathead Beacon, Tristan Scott has the story. The Whitefish City Council deserves kudus for acting with celerity.

That leaves Flathead County, whose commissioners will take up Stage 1 fire restrictions — and perhaps a fireworks ban — tomorrow. If they don’t postpone the matter again. I find myself wondering whether they’re slow-walking the process in hope of wet weather. If so, they should know the forecast is for more hot and dry days.