Stahl Peak on 5/23

It’s the time when the snowpack can rise quickly – a cool, rainy Spring.  The latest observation is 34.3 inches of water on the pillow – 151% of the 30 year average.  It is definitely a lot easier to click the link than it was to haul the snow tubes up to get the data in the late seventies.

What happens next is a question for the weather forecasts.  NOAA has released these projections for June, July and August. 

The folks who know about these things are calling for a warmer and drier summer than normal.  If that’s the case, it is good to be going in with a little extra water in the high country.


Fewer Democrats than Hinsdale County

I’m looking at my primary ballots.  Montana has an extremely civilized method of conducting primary elections without forcing people to register with one questionable party or the other.  It’s nice – in South Dakota, the most fervent Democrat I knew had been registered as a Republican for 40 years, just so he could vote in the primaries.  Here, in the privacy of my own home, I can pick the party I want, send it in, and never have to publicly endorse either party.

My Democratic Party ballot includes the names of only three democrats – Monica Tranel, Tom Winter, and Cora Neumann.  They are democrats – Tranel lives in Missoula, Winter in Polson, and Neumann in Bozo.  In short, there are no Lincoln County democrats on the ballot in Lincoln County.  And I don’t have any particular preference for the other 3 – though wikipedia says Monica was an Olympic rower.  I’m not sure that overcomes the achievement of becoming an attorney.  I can think of a couple good reasons to keep attorneys out of the places where laws are made.  Similar arguments go for the clergy.

I’ve checked the telephone book, and found no evidence of Alferd Packer in Lincoln County – but if memory serves (and it does) the 1883 sentencing quote seems relevant: “Alferd Packer, stand up you son of a bitch.  There were seven democrats in Hinsdale County, and you, you voracious man-eating son of a bitch, you ate five of them.  I sentence you to be hanged by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead.  You republican cannibal.  I would sentence you to hell itself but the statutes do not permit it.”  (You can check Alferd Packer out on line – I’m writing from memory because I’d rather print the legend – the actual sentence may have been a bit milder)  Here’s Alferd’s picture:

So I look at the empty democratic primary ballot, with the thought that it is difficult to have a two-party system if one party doesn’t show up.  What societal trends have occurred that the metaphysical ghost of Alferd Packer has his imprint on our ballots?  Heck – Alferd left 2 democrats in Hinsdale County – the closest democrat on our ballot is in Polson. 

The ballots show only a single choice in partisan candidates for local political offices.  If I want to make that choice, I can vote for either Brian Teske or Stuart Crismore to fill the blank spot as county commissioner from Libby.  Doubtless, both fine men.  Have to be.  It’s the only spot on the ballot where we actually have an election.  The other candidates will move unopposed into the offices in November.

We need to stop Alferd Packer’s ghost.  Encourage your local democrats to come out of the closet.  I can remember one brave democrat at the county fair, trying to sell me a raffle ticket, with the argument, “Your side has been in power and caused all these problems. You should at least kick a dollar into helping us.”  I asked “Who are the libertarians who have been in power?” and he left.  I’m thinking that I should have kicked a couple dollars in just to encourage the dems to come out into the open – that blank ballot does show the death of a two-party system . . . and history gives me plenty of examples of single party systems.

Let’s be kind to our local democrats, and see if we can stop the ghost of Alferd Packer from roving around Lincoln County.


A Tombstone in Fortine

There’s a large, expensive tombstone in Fortine Cemetery, dating back to 1918.  The name, Waseles is one of the names the man lived under – but to his contemporaries in Trego and Eureka, he was Mike Smith. 

It tells part – a small part – of the story.  My grandfather bought Waseles’ homestead in 1918. He had met Waseles – but knew him as “Mike Smith.”  P.V. Klinke had the job of settling the estate – and here is the data he had to attempt to run down the next of kin.  On the east side of Fortine Creek Road, his root cellar is merging with the earth.  On the west side, his log cabin and barns are still visible and maintained.

This 1914 map of Russia pretty well demonstrates the impossibility of finding his next of kin, with only the word “Russia” to go by – Michal Waseles could have been a Finn, a Ukrainian, a Pole – he came to the US from a very different Russia than we recognize today.

You may note that there was an autopsy performed.  At the time Waleses (Smith) died, he was under indictment for torching a couple of logging camps and tossing tools in the pond behind the splash dam on Fortine Creek. (I still use an axehead that I took from the creek, removed the lime, and rehafted.  I had thought it was lost by one of the loggers – but more likely, it was tossed in by Mike Smith and I recovered it 50 years later.)   It had been a time of strife, with the logging strike of 1917 shutting down the woods across the nation.  Waleses had been bossing the crew that ran the logs from Trego to Eureka – but the assumed name of Smith, the legal charges, and the time suggest that he had moved from management to labor activist. 

With no way to find next of kin or heirs, it looks like P.V. (Peter Vigo) Klinke decided to spend all of the estate’s income he could on the finest tombstone for Michal Waseles (AKA Smith) he could, and minimize the share that went to Lincoln County.


Mitochondria and Aging

Mitochondria are one of the types of organelles (cell equivalent to organs) found within our cells. They’re often referred to as the “Powerhouse of the Cell” because of their role in metabolizing food into usable energy. But they may also play a role in aging.

There has to be considerable amount of communication between the nucleus (which controls the cell and houses your DNA) and the mitochondria. Over time, this communication can break down, and this may be what leads to aging (or at least an element of aging).

It makes a certain sense that mitochondria would be important- energy generation is an essential function. Diseases of the mitochondria are severe. But- watch the whole thing:


Using Enough Gun

Sometimes the questions are enough to get you thinking – this time it was “What caliber pistol is best for bear country.  It got me thinking – we’ve seen a lot of changes in what constitutes enough gun since Lewis and Clark came through Montana almost 220 years ago.

The phrase, “Use Enough Gun” comes from Robert Ruark, who did a lot of his hunting in Kenya.  By his standards, William Clark probably used barely enough gun.  His personal rifle for the first trip crossing North America was a 36 caliber flintlock.  If memory serves, it was re-rifled when the expedition spent the winter in Oregon – which suggests it got a lot of use.  Still, I’d figure it was about as powerful as a hot 38 special. 

The other expedition members were using refurbished 1792 contract rifles and muskets – the rifles were 49 caliber, probably using a 48 caliber round ball – probably somewhere around 750 foot pounds of muzzle energy . . . a little less than that paragon of power, the M1 carbine.  It seems a little strange to realize that, in terms of muzzle energy, the whole Lewis and Clark expedition couldn’t match an M1 carbine with a 30 round magazine.

It gets easier to understand how they could put 10 bullets into a Grizzly, then run into the Missouri River to get away.  Lewis and Clark may have been using enough gun when they left Ohio.  By the time they reached the Great Falls of the Missouri, they definitely weren’t using enough gun. 

Glancing at Cartridges of the World, I see that the Sharps “Big Fifty” had a muzzle energy of 1630 foot pounds with a 335 grain bullet, and 1920 foot pounds with a 473 grain bullet.  This cartridge fed the buffalo gun into the 1870’s – and it seems only fair to contrast it against the thirty-thirty’s muzzle energy of 1902 foot pounds with a 150 grain bullet.

I suspect the folks in the Lewis and Clark expedition would have enjoyed having the choices we have today as to what to carry in bear country – whether it’s spray or a sidearm.


The Differences Within a Group

A half-century ago, I encountered the phrase that “the difference within a race is greater than the difference between races.”  Experiences since then have tended to support that view – particularly in the field of genetics.  Twenty-three and me assures me that a bit over 2% of my genome is due to ancestral Neanderthals – typical of folks with northern European ancestry, and non-existent in the sub-Saharan folks.

The fossil record in Australia and New Guinea was primed and ready to show the Denisovan component as the genetic record was decoded from a finger bone.  That, plus the Neanderthal remains and tools on a couple of Mediterranean islands show that mankind was going to sea long before the species became H.sapiens sapiens. 

I’m a sociologist – my training is to look at the differences between people being cultural, a result of learned behavior rather than biological.  Color seems one of the least significant differences – we’re products of our upbringing, our culture, our education systems.  Still, we seem to be moving into an era where we will be noticing biology’s effects on human behavior as well as cultural and social influences.

The geneticist folks have it figured that blue eyes showed up somewhere around 10,000 years ago – I figure that actually means the trait showed up and reproduced enough that blue eyes are fairly common today.  Heaven only knows how many traits showed up, were unsuccessful in the mating game, and disappeared.  Light skin color (more or less white) shows up about 6 or 7,000 years ago – whether in Europe or East Asia.  This is 21st Century data – unknown when I started my studies.

Sociobiology (E. O. Wilson) is a field of biology that looks to explain human behavior in terms of genetics and evolution.  The Wikipedia entry says “Within the study of human societies, sociobiology is closely allied to evolutionary anthropology, human behavioral ecology, evolutionary psychology, and sociology.”  My training is in cultural ecology and sociology, so I am more a student in my reading here – though a student with training in research methodology.  Suffice to say, the concept has face validity.  On the other hand, so does examining behavior as I’ve learned half a century back.  I suspect I have to be cautious in which premises I accept and reject.

Wiki’s entry “Studies of human behavior genetics have generally found behavioral traits such as creativity, extroversion, aggressiveness, and IQ have high heritability. The researchers who carry out those studies are careful to point out that heritability does not constrain the influence that environmental or cultural factors may have on those traits.” seems to support Murray’s observations in Human Diversity The Biology of Gender, Race And Class.

At the beginning of Ch. 14, Murray writes: “I focus on the genomics revolution in this chapter because it will have broader direct efforts on social science than will developments in neuroscience.  To do quantitative neuroscience research, you need to be a neuroscientist and have access to extremely expensive equipment such as MRI machines.  The results of the research will inform a variety of social science questions, but the work won’t be done by social scientists.  In contrast, the products of the genomics revolution, especially polygenic scores, will be usable by social scientists with no training in genomics by the end of the 2020s in the same way that IQ scores are used by social scientists with no training in creating IQ tests.”

He cites Plomin as he explains “Clinical psychology will move away from diagnoses and toward dimensions.  One of the revelations of recent research is that polygenic scores are normally distributed, thereby demonstrating that genetic risk for psychological problems is continuous.  There is no gene that moves a person from normal to psychologically disordered.  In fact, the words “risk” and “disorder” no longer have the same meanings they once did.”

Murray cites three conclusions (p.294):

  1. Human beings can be biologically classified into groups by sex and by ancestral population.  Like most biological classifications, these groups have fuzzy edges.  This complicates things analytically, but no more than that.
  2. Many phenotypic differences in personality, abilities, and social behavior that we observe between the sexes, among ancestral populations, and among social classes have a biological component.
  3. Growing knowledge about human diversity will inevitably shape the future of social sciences.

It’s been a great time for a sociologist.  I’ve been able to stand on the shoulders of giants and see further because of their research, and the next generation, with tools unimagined when I began, will move my chosen science further from the methodologies that granted doctorates and professional powers to folks who developed classification criteria by consensus.


Why Can’t We Have An Election?

I just got my primary ballot and noticed the extreme lack of candidates. On both ballots there are plenty of positions with one candidate or no candidate at all. If you can only vote for one candidate, is it an election?

The following are running unopposed:

  • Michael Cuffe for State Senator
  • Niel A. Duram for State Representative
  • Jim Hammons for County Commissioner
  • Robin Benson for Clerk and Recorder/Auditor/Assessor/Surveyor
  • Darren Short for Sheriff
  • Steven Schnackenberg for Coroner
  • Marcia Boris for County Attorney
  • Taralee McFadden for County Superintendent of Schools
  • Sedaris Carlberg for County Treasurer
  • Mathew Cuffe for District Court Judge
  • Jay C Sheffield for Justice of the Peace

There is no candidate for public administrator. The only races with multiple candidates will be for United States Representative, for County Commissioner (district 1), for Supreme Court Justice #1, and for Supreme Court Justice #2.

In short, there were multiple candidates to vote for in only 25% of the races.

When was the last election?

It feels a bit odd to be asking “When was the last time there was an election?” about something local. As a kid, I sort of assumed that elections happened everywhere in our country, as scheduled, and it was only foreign countries that lacked elections. Unfortunately, it’s a question worth asking. About the Trego School Board, certainly. Last year, we were writing about vacant school board positions, and the need to get an application in to the school clerk, for an election to be held in May. That’s what should happen (every year). What actually happens (and not just on… Continue reading When was the last election?


Lincoln County Facing More Elections by Acclamation

With the primary ballots available (due back by June 7th), it’s become evident that we can expect more candidates elected by acclamation, since 69% of the races are candidates running uncontested.

Some of our previous comments on local elections:

Be Nice to the Candidates

I can claim that I am an elected school trustee.  So can the school board members in Fortine and Eureka.  Yet I (and probably most of them) was elected by acclamation.  There may be a more politically correct way to describe it – but the reality is that I was elected without anyone voting for me.  A lot of school trustees share that reality – but I don’t believe it is a good situation. The challenge is that, on far too many local boards and commissions, we have the same situation.  When a candidate can be elected by acclamation, without…

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Uncontested Elections

What do you call it when only one person runs for office? An uncontested election. It seems like this must be a bad thing, and also that it is increasing in frequency. Is it? It seems, given the explanation about removing term limits at the last Interbel Meeting, that the situation is at least increasing in the telephone cooperatives. Watching the local school board shows a similar trend. How common are they by state? The data’s a bit hard to find- but at least some of it is out there. According to in 2020, 100% of Wisconsin’s local elections…

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Consolidated Polling Increases The Cost of Voting in Person

It’s only about four and a half miles from downtown Trego to the Volunteer Fire Department for Fortine, which is where we used to go to vote. Going into Eureka (as per that letter we all received from the county) will increase the distance by about thirteen miles (according to google maps). The distance I am supposed to travel to vote just got multiplied by a bit over 3. Of course, I live in downtown Trego, which means that my distance increased less than most. Looking at a map, it looks like the furthest up Fortine Creek Road are now…

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Time to Start Watching for Ticks

The weather is warming and the first ticks have been spotted. We’re fairly fortunate in the limited number of tick-borne illnesses common to our area, but they’re still worth watching for, and not just for us. Like humans, dogs can get a variety of tick-born illnesses:

  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Lyme Disease
  • Canine Bartonellosis
  • Canine Ehrlichiosis
  • Canine Anaplasmosis
  • Canine Babesiosis
  • Canine Hepatozoonosis

Tick diseases in Montana

Spring has sprung, and our first ticks are out and about.When folks start talking about illnesses transmitted by ticks, the first to come up almost always seems to be Lyme Disease. While Lyme Disease is the most common tick-borne disease among Montanans, you don’t need to worry about picking it up around here – it… Continue reading Tick diseases in Montana


Thoughts on Bureaucracy

Max Weber developed most of the theory on bureaucracy – he viewed it as a rational method to improve efficiency . . . and in many ways, he was correct.   Still, it was Max who described the final evolution of bureaucracy: “It is horrible to think that the world could one day be filled with nothing but those little cogs, little men clinging to little jobs and striving towards bigger ones – a state of affairs which is to be seen once more, as in the Egyptian records, playing an ever-increasing part in the spirit of our present administrative system, and especially of its offspring, the students. This passion for bureaucracy … is enough to drive one to despair. It is as if in politics … we were deliberately to become men who need “order” and nothing but order, become nervous and cowardly if for one moment this order wavers, and helpless if they are torn away from their total incorporation in it. That the world should know no men but these: it is such an evolution that we are already caught up, and the great question is, therefore, not how we can promote and hasten it, but what can we oppose to this machinery in order to keep a portion of mankind free from this parceling-out of the soul, from this supreme mastery of the bureaucratic way of life.

As I started reading social theory, I got hung up on Weber – a conflict theorist who was accused of arguing with the ghost of Karl Marx (and Karl’s is not a bad ghost for the sake of argument) who favored the rationality of the bureaucracy, yet recognized the horror it could inflict.

A half century after Max Weber’s widow put his work into print, Jerry Pournelle produced The Iron Law of Bureaucracy: “In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals that the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.”  Unfortunately, my experience with bureaucracy has tended to support Dr. Pournelle’s observation.

Current applications of Weber’s approach to bureaucracies and management can be seen at: and it is probably easier than reading the original Max.  

Still, if we look at the Iron Law of Bureaucracy in terms of local government and services, we can see how it works.  Seventy-five years ago, Lincoln Electric began with people – possibly imperfect people – who believed in bringing electricity to their part of rural America.  It wasn’t just a job, it was a mission.  Just fifteen years later those same believers brought telephones to rural people.  It was a mission.  InterBel developed one more mission – bringing the internet to our rural area, and that cooperative maintains at least some of the mission orientation.  Over at Lincoln Electric, the employee and board focus is more on maintaining the bureaucracy, with the original goals outdated and forgotten – despite the number of neighbors who live off the grid.  It’s a natural bureaucratic tendency – Pournelle’s Iron Law

If we look at the public school system, we see where the local school board has been largely replaced by the professional bureaucrats housed in the Office of Public Instruction.  I have a feeling that there is a sub-species of teacher that lusts after a bureaucratic post.  The old joke, when school boards had more power, went “Be kind to your D students – before you retire, you’ll be working for them.”

It’s not the only joke that suggests the educational bureaucrats – I think it was George Bernard Shaw who wrote “Those who can do.  Those who can’t, teach.”  It didn’t take long for the addition: “Those who can’t teach, teach teachers.”  A while later the harsh phrase came “Those who can’t teach teachers administrate.”  Somewhere in these jests is hidden the Office of Public Instruction.

The Economic Research Service shows that Lincoln County’s economy is government dependent.  I suspect that means we have a lot of bureaucrats.