Firearms and Marijuana

An illegal combination, under federal law. Regardless of the legality at the state level, marijuana is still classified at the federal level as a schedule 1 prohibited substance. This means that possessing both is a federal crime, punishable by up to $10,000 and as many as ten years in prision.

The Montana Free Press contacted the Bureau of Alcohol,Tobacco and Firearms to confirm, learning that the Federal Gun Control Act prohibits anyone who uses a controlled substance from purchasing firearms or ammunition.

Even if its medical? Yes. Even if it is medical, federal law still prohibits possession.

While the possession of marijuana alone is still a federal crime, it carries only a $1000 and up to a year of jail time for the first conviction. Add a firearm to the mix, and the potential consequence is multiplied by ten.

The state of Montana has an estimated 66% rate of gun ownership. Estimates suggest that about 20% of the adults in the state use marijuana, but those are probably low (given that using was illegal at the time of the survey, it seems very likely that people would under-report). Given these numbers, it is very probable that the two groups intersect. Federal law makes that risky.


Complexity May Be a Flawed Solution

One of the great perks of a faculty career was learning from people whose abilities exceeded mine.  One popular professor who qualifies is Jordan Peterson – it isn’t that he expresses thoughts that are beyond my abilities.  He often describes the things that I know but can’t articulate – he clarifies things that I normally leave vague and undescribed.

Joseph Tainter isn’t so well known – but he carries Robert Merton’s thesis on unanticipated consequences into an approach that shows where to look for the things we do not anticipate.  Thirty years ago, Tainter published The Collapse of Complex Societies.  A review and presentation of his hypothesis is available at  and it’s worth looking at.  Tainter’s hypothesis suggests that socially we are well past the spot where increased complexity can yield increased productivity.

Here’s a quote from Dr. Tainter, that will hopefully get you to click the link and listen to more of his thoughts: 

“Sustainability requires that people have the ability and the inclination to think broadly in terms of time and space. In other words, to think broadly in a geographical sense about the world around them, as well as the state of the world as a whole. And also, to think broadly in time in terms of the near and distant future and what resources will be available to our children and our grandchildren and our great grandchildren.

One of the major problems in sustainability and in this whole question of resources and collapse is that we did not evolve as a species to have this ability to think broadly in time and space. Instead, our ancestors who lived as hunter-gatherers never confronted any challenges that required them to think beyond their locality and the near term(…)

We have developed the most complex society humanity has ever known. And we have maintained it up to this point. I have argued that technological innovation and other kinds of innovation evolve like any other aspect of complexity. The investments in research and development grow increasingly complex and reach diminishing returns. We cannot forever continue to spend more and more on technological innovation when we’ve reached the point of diminishing returns, which I argue we have reached.

Our system of innovation is going to change very significantly over the next twenty to thirty to fifty years or so. By the end of the century, our system of innovation will not be anything like what we know today. It will have to be very different. And it’s likely that innovation is not going to be able to solve our problems as readily as it has done to this point.

The technological optimists have assumed that the productivity of innovation is either constant or increasing. And in fact, what I think my colleagues and I can show is that the productivity of innovation is actually decreasing. What that means is that we will not forever be able to solve resource problems through innovation(…)

And so individuals need to take responsibility for their own ignorance. As I said, our species did not evolve to think broadly in terms of time and space and if we’re going to maintain our way of life, people have to learn to do so. People have to take responsibility for knowing and understanding the predicament that we’re facing. I have argued over the last few years that we need to start teaching early school age children in K to 12 to think differently, to think broadly in terms of time and space – to think historically, to think long-term about the future, to think broadly about what’s going on in the world around us instead of the narrow way – the narrow, local way – that most people live and think. So I put responsibility on individuals to broaden their knowledge.”


The Fred Herrig Story

This photo of Ant Flat’s first Forest Ranger, Fred Herrig, was taken from

The book is online, and tells the early stories of the area.  The following article, from tells the story.


Fred Herrig was a rough and ready, early-day Forest Ranger. He administered the area of Ant Flats, Tally Lake, and part of the North Fork during his tenure. Herrig was from Alsace-Lorraine, was very dark, and wore a handlebar mustache.

A veteran of service in the Spanish-American War with Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, he was the largest man in the regiment. He punched cows for Roosevelt on his ranch on the Little Missouri in North Dakota. When Roosevelt organized the Rough Riders for his Cuban campaign, Fred was packing ore in British Columbia. Roosevelt wired him from San Antonio, Texas, to come down and join them. Herrig did. In Roosevelt’s book “The Rough Riders,” Herrig is mentioned several times. He was breveted second lieutenant (a commission higher than that for which he received pay) for special services for tracking a string of mules, loaded with machine guns, that got away during a skirmish. Several full-blooded Indians gave up the job. Then Fred tracked the mules into Spanish territory and recovered the mules and the guns.

After Roosevelt became president, he appointed Herrig as Forest Ranger with headquarters at Ant Flats. Herrig built the first Ranger Station there in 1904.

Herrig told the story that, in 1905, he sent in a monthly diary with a lot of daily records reading, “Rained hard, stayed in camp.” When his next check was quite a bit short, Herrig saw to it that it never rained so hard again. A story which persisted over the years was that the Supervisor became perturbed at Herrig one day and relieved him of his responsibilities as Forest Ranger. When President Roosevelt learned of this, he immediately sent out orders for Fred to be reinstated.

There is also a story that Teddy Roosevelt, on a western tour, saw Fred in the audience and motioned for him to come to the speaker’s platform. But before this big, dark, villainous-looking fellow got very far, he was collared by two plainclothesmen.

(Some of the details regarding Fred Herrig were provided by material written by Edward G. Stahl. Stahl left the Forest Service in 1911; he died in 1957.)


Free Covid Tests

As with gym membership provided my university, there is an argument to be made that nothing the government hands out is free. The gym membership wasn’t either- it was part of an activity fee that wasn’t optional. So in the strictest sense, the covid tests aren’t free. You paid for them, at least in some part, if you payed taxes.

Of course, like that activity fee, you’ve already paid it. So you might as well, if you’re interested, have some sent to you.

You can get four- that’s per household, not per person. So, if you live alone, that’s four for you. If you live with your parents, young children, and additional family members, the ratio goes down considerably.

The tests were, in theory, going to be available earlier, but they should at least start shipping via the US postal service sometime around the end of this month. Of course, no system the government implements is without flaws. This one has a few glaring ones.

The first issue had to do with the one per address. Apartment dwellers have the same physical address (or at least, mostly the same), so that became a bit problematic. We can use our PO Boxes, which, if only one household is using the PO Box will work out well enough.

It’s not going to be equal distribution, far from it. It will send proportionally more to those who have more physical addresses, or fewer people in a household. Large families and multi-generation households will receive proportionally less.


In Case you Missed It

Around this time last year the Annual Ryan Wagner Ice Fishing Derby took a place on Murphy Lake- this year, the Derby will be on the 12th of February. The Trego Pub is raising money for the scholarship fund via Pint Night, on January 26th.

Murphy Lake was bustling for the 16th Annual Ryan Wagner Ice Fishing Derby

Murphy Lake was bustling with activity Saturday (February 6th). It was the 16th Annual Ryan Wagner Ice Fishing Derby. Money raised at the derby goes to the Ryan Wagner Memorial Scholarship, which provides scholarships to Lincoln County High School students. The scholarship fund will also accept direct donations. Parking was crowded, and the lake spotted…

We were also making some predictions about the 2022 elections, at about the same time, noticing just how much the stimulus checks resembled junk mail, and considering what to do when the official data just isn’t good data.

The 2022 Election will pull in Out of State Money

As the data from the 2020 Census comes in, Montana’s likelihood of getting two congresscritters approaches 100%. The 1910 Census showed enough population to justify 2 representatives, and the 1990 Census dropped the state down to a single congressman.  This Census brings us back to a pair – which should be interesting in terms of…

Stimulus payments, not junk mail!

Covid19 stimulus payments have begun to trickle into North Lincoln County again, and as the current PSE/Postmaster of Fortine, I feel it’s quite important to spread this information around. You see, some of these stimulus payments aren’t as official-looking as they could be. The above piece of suspicious-looking mail is actually a stimulus payment from…

When the official data isn’t good data

As I was retiring, the American Community Survey(ACS) was replacing the long-form Census questionnaire.  There is merit to the argument that a survey can provide data that is as good as a form that one out of six people fill out – both are, after all, actually surveys.  Still, as a rural sociologist whose primary…

A Science for Everyone, Demography

Wells-Barnett Becoming Barbie

I note that Mattel is making a Barbie doll that honors Ida Wells-Barnett.

They note that she was a journalist, suffragette, and had a role in founding the NAACP – to me, her unusual strength was the use of statistics in her research on lynchings.  She deserves mention in her early role in social research and reliance on statistics.  Still, the article doesn’t include the quote that I find easy to remember:

I’m a Montanan.  My state’s legal tradition begins with vigilantes hanging a crooked sheriff and his minions.  In 1884, Granville Stuart organized another vigilance committee – now known as Stuart’s Stranglers – to end rustling.  In a short time, Stuart’s Stranglers killed at least 20 rustlers, and numbers up to 100 are written in some accounts.  By the end of the Summer, Granville Stuart was president of the Stockman’s Association.  Stuart’s activities, despite the poor record keeping, made 1884 the highest year for lynching white men in the US. (My readings suggest that the first recorded use of the numbers 3-7-77 was by Stuart’s Stranglers and not by the Vigilantes of Montana 20 years earlier)

Douglas Linder has published the data series Ida Wells started (maintained at Tuskegee) on lynchings by state and race. Clicking the link will give you an idea of how solid the lady’s research was – and how racist it was in some areas.

I’ll be looking for the Barbie – but I want mine to be holding a lever action Winchester.  She may not have been granted a graduate degree – but her work was important in developing American Sociology.


Trego School Adopted New Salary Schedule

The Trego School board adopted a new salary schedule during the meeting on Wednesday, January twelfth. The new salary schedule will be applicable starting in the fall of the upcoming school year.

The schedule is split into three sections, by number of teaching endorsements.

Single Endorsement
Experience yrs$33,920$34,598$35,290$35,996$36,716
Dual Endorsement
Experience yrs$37,450$38,387$39,346$40,330$41,338
Third Endorsement
Experience yrs$42,372$43,643$44,734$45,852$46,999

Trego’s Salary Schedule is unusual in a few ways. While most salary schedules increase with the number of years of teaching experience, few consider the number of teaching endorsements. Though some offer fixed bonuses for coaching.

A teaching endorsement is granted by Montana’s Office of Public Instruction. These can include K-8 endorsements, which allow the teacher to teach any subject to students from kindergarten to 8th grade, as well as music and art. High school teachers are typically licensed for their specific subject areas -in my case, a Broadfield Science license allows me to teach science for grades 5-12. Special Education, Counseling, and Administrative Endorsements can also be found in public schools.

For comparison, Eureka’s Salary Schedule can be found on their website.

In comparison, this salary schedule has far more years of teaching experience included, and considers twenty further credits beyond a master’s degree.

The base salary for a teacher fresh out of school, without any credits past a bachelors degree would be slightly lower in Eureka, except that the district starts new teachers at step three on the schedule. Trego’s schedule is similar, but adding endorsements (this varies in difficulty, but typically involves some coursework and passing a praxis test) provides teachers with the more significant pay increase than additional coursework does alone.


Phone Centric Identity

Well, I’ve rejoined the modern world. Which is to say that I finally replaced the cell phone that only works (sometimes) when plugged into an outlet. In some ways, a fairly easy process (removing simcards is far simpler than the unfamiliar might expect, but requires fine motor skills and reasonably good eyesight). In others, it was an excellent demonstration on just how dependent we are on the darned things.

You need a cell phone to activate a cell phone. Two factor authentication: When did I decide that was a good idea. When doing the initial setup, I was prompted to login to my account. Username? Check. Password? Check. Text Message Confirmation? Shoot.

No, I couldn’t get text messages on the phone I was setting up, while setting it up. No, I wasn’t near my computer to respond to a confirmation email (fool that I was, I’d been relying on the phone to check the email as well!). Once I (finally) logged in, all of the subsequent accounts proceeded in much the same way.

Suffice to say, it was an interesting experience, and really drove home the point that we are extraordinarily reliant upon cell phones to prove our identity. Is this really you? Type in this code within ten minutes.

It turns out this has a lot to do with mobile identity software. Essentially, your cell phone is used as a proxy to determine if you are a real person (and the person you say you are). Mobile phones have a number of advantages. The ability to take pictures means that they can be used for facial recognition (take a selfie with your government issued ID), or to recognize your fingerprints.

The major reason for using the two-factor identification is fraud prevention. Essentially username/password combinations are, as a rule, not particularly secure. You have a whole identity associated with your phone. The time you’ve had the number, the calls, the contacts, the places you’ve made those calls from. A huge amount of records that prove you are a real person, living within an approximate area: Your “Phone Centric Identity“.

This neatly explains why your cell phone can become so important to figuring out who you are- but doesn’t do a whole lot for helping you if you don’t have one (or have access to yours).


Red Cross Blood Shortage

The Red Cross has declared a blood shortage– the number of people donating has dropped 10% since covid began. The majority of blood drives are college campus associated, so covid has led to a decrease there as well, especially with recent cancellations due to an increase in the omicron variant. This combines with a typical seasonal decline as travel becomes more difficult during the winter months.

The Red Cross is responsible for 40% of the blood supply, and with the shortage, hasn’t been able to meet the needs of hospitals requesting blood.

Blood, like the majority of human tissues, can’t be fabricated in the laboratory. The only source of blood for people that need transfusions is blood from donors. While researchers are looking into ways to grow organs, and artificial skin has been approved by the FDA, the vast majority of human tissue comes from donors. Either organ donors, or grafts from elsewhere in the patient’s body.

The Red Cross is requesting both donations (blood and platelets) and volunteers to help with organizing and operating blood drives. They are currently automatically entering anyone who donates into a drawing for $500 gift card.

All blood types are needed, especially types O- and O+. People are still eligible to donate if they have had the covid vaccine, though they’ll need to know which vaccine they received. More about eligibility requirements can be found here.


My Privilege

Yesterday, the ophthalmologist shared the news that I have the beginnings of macular degeneration.  My first response was a stab of fear – macular degeneration took Dad’s sight, so I have some familiarity with what it can do.  The second response was the same as I had for colon cancer – I’ll get home, pull out the statistics, and figure out where I am.  The third response was a sense of gratitude. 

Gratitude.  I was in the 7th grade when I wound up with glasses – Dr. Yamamoto explained my vision was better than 20-15, not quite 20-10.  20-10 means that what the hypothetical normal person could distinguish at 10 feet, I could see at 20.  From age 12 on, I wore glasses to achieve better than normal vision.  My reading speed went to 800 words per minute, then 1,300.  Normal reading speed is around 300 wpm.  Tests are much easier for fast readers – particularly multiple choice tests.  The astigmatism that showed up in my undergrad years took a couple of years before it stabilized and the optometrist could prescribe the right correction – but gratitude is the best word I have.  In the academy, the fast readers have the real privilege.  The glasses kept me using iron sights through my 50’s.

Between 45 and 50, I went through the challenges of bifocals – finally listening to an optometrist explain that most people got them 5 or 10 years earlier.  The message I internalized was “Quit sniveling.”  He wasn’t rude enough to put it that way – but I had nearly 40 years of corrected vision that was well above average, during my working years.  It has finally dropped to the bottom edge of 20-20 at 72.  Gratitude for the privilege.  In my late 50’s I wound up with a blepharoplasty – sagging eyelids had taken part of my field of vision.  A morning’s surgery on the upper eyelids and the field of vision was back.

My physician sent me to the ophthalmologist to be tested for diabetic retinopathy.  The good news was that there’s no sign of that.  The bad news was the beginnings of macular degeneration.  Those two words brought the half-minute of fear – it was macular degeneration that brought blindness to my father.  But the bright side is that, at 72, his shooting and reading was behind him (and his driving should have been).  I still have 20-20 vision at 72 (though it scares me to realize I share the road with folks who have 20-40). 

Dad got his cataract surgery after macular degeneration had done its worst.  I’m scheduling mine soon, to get the most out of it.  I’m hoping for a recovery that brings back the ability to focus on the front sight of the 1903A3 rifle – and if I don’t get it, there are better scopes available than I added for Dad.

The percentages for macular degeneration don’t seem to be as easy to extrapolate as they were for colon cancer.  With colon cancer, I had the oncologist’s prediction of survival to 2012 – but I am better at stats than he.  My calculations obviously were also better – in June, I’m 10 years past his designated life expectancy.

So what data is available on macular degeneration?  I’ll be doing a couple months research on the topic to find out what to expect.  I’ve had a lifetime of outstanding vision because of corrective lenses.  I’m grateful the diagnosis came at 72 – and it’s just the first caution sign on the road.