Wednesday, August 31

Assessing Blame Right Now is Wrong

Lately, a number of blogs on both sides of the political spectrum have been attempting to score political points over the crisis caused by Hurricane Katrina.

On one side of the aisle, guys like Matt Singer are trying to blame the extent of the damage on Bush. On the other end of the pendulum, people with axes to grind remind us that 9/11 was "worse."

Guys, can we please rescue the survivors not yet evacuated and bury the dead before we start the recriminations? Let's all pull together now; there will be time enough for this crap next week or next month.

Comment Spam is Evil

I am starting to get a lot of comment spam. I am deleting it as soon as I get it, but it is pretty annoying.

To the spammers; your unsolicited commercial comments are not welcome here. Don't make me turn off unmoderated commenting.

NOLA Disaster Requires your Assistance

The images and stories coming out of the disaster that was New Orleans are horrifying. This is not the time for politics or debate. Now is the time to provide help.

Personally, I believe that the city must be moved. It makes no sense to mock nature by living under sea level between two large bodies of water.

Even after the immediate effects of the disaster are tallied, an almost incalcuable human cost will have to be borne to move and rebuild.

As others have noted, there will be significant costs throughout the US, as well. Much of our country's oil comes through the Gulf Coast; that spigot has now been closed. The flooding has almost certainly wiped out much of this season's rice and soybean crop; the cost for those staples will dramatically increase.

There are many worthwhile charities. Give to at least one of them.

UPDATE: FEMA has a list of charities attempting to help on its website.

Thank you Tom Siebel

Methamphetamine abuse is, in my opinion, the biggest problem now confronting Northcentral Montana. Everything else pales before the destruction and ruined lives that this drug is leaving in its wake.

Many of the problems facing our citizens such as poverty, unemployment, incarceration, theft, bankruptcy, etc., can be directly attributed to meth abuse. It is the biggest scourge of our community.

Yesterday, software executive and Montana resident Tom Siebel began a two year media campaign to try and stem the problem.

Todah Robah Mr. Siebel! I deeply hope that this effort will bring some success.

Help Support Park and Ponder

This morning, the Tribune reported on a string of vandalism that has attacked a local cafe, Park and Ponder in Gibson Park. This Spring and Summer have brought much too much of this. Maybe now that school has started, all of this vandalism will stop.

In any case, the Robertson's are very nice people, and do not deserve this kind of tsuris. They run a very nice cafe, and it would be a shanda if these hooligans forced them to close up shop.

So, go and have lunch there today. Buy a coffee there tomorrow. They deserve our support.

Tuesday, August 30

Help the Hurricane Victims in the Gulf Coast

Hurricane Katrina created billions of dollars in damage, uprooted hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed tens of thousands of private homes. We do not yet know the cost in injuries and deaths.

Will you consider helping by donating to a disaster relief fund? There are many to choose from. I have attached an email I just received from the Union of Reform Judaism. The URJ has created a fund, and is housing refugees at its campsite in the area.

-----Original Message-----
From: URJ.ORG []
Sent: Monday, August 29, 2005 3:16 PM
Subject: Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who have been affected by Hurricane Katrina's destructive force. While the extent of the damage will not be known for several days, even weeks, it is anticipated that the damage will be substantial, affecting large parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. The Union for Reform Judaism has therefore opened its disaster relief fund to aid both our congregations and the general communities affected by the hurricane. You may donate now at

Canadian residents: if you wish to receive a tax receipt, please send your donation directly to the Canadian Council for Reform Judaism at 3845 Bathurst St., Suite 301, Toronto, Ontario M3H 3N2

Using the following guidelines, a task force of lay and professional leaders will help us determine how best to allocate monies raised through the Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief Fund:

* The Union will evaluate which organizations are best equipped to provide direct services and make donations to these organizations

* Member congregations that sustain damages that are not covered by insurance may receive funds from the emergency relief fund

Information regarding the hurricane and contribution allocations will be updated on the URJ website as we receive it.

The Jacobs Camp in Utica, MS, is providing food and shelter to those who were forced to evacuate, including members of New Orleans area congregations and the residents and staff of the Louis Davis Developmental Center for Adults with Cognitive Disabilities.

Through our concern and support, may we strengthen those who are in need.


Robert M. Heller
Chairman of the Board

Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie

Friday, August 26

Washington Post publishes Story on Lipson

The Washington Post ran a story today on the interloping Las Vegas developer (motto: Don't Drink the Water) who is attempting to trademark the phrase "Last Best Place".


Friday, August 19

City Commissar Castigates Commission Candidate; Claims Cannot Campaign in Commons

Sorry, sometimes I cannot resist a little alliteration. ;-)

However, I think a serious and disturbing thing happened in our city last month. On July 17, the City held its annual "Riverfest" party. The party was held on public property, along the riverfront.

City Commission Candidate Stuart Lewin thought to use the opportunity of the event to get out the word for his race for the City Commission. Seems like a natural, right? After all, I am no lawyer, but I always learned in civics class that one of the primary purposes of public spaces is to facilitate civic discussion of public affairs.

Well, the city does not exactly agree with that interpretation. The City apparatchik responsible for organizing the event, Ms. Keri Langille, told Lewin that "vendors" had to pay a $75 fee. When Lewin refused to pay this fee and asked what law he was breaking by campaigning in a public park, apparently she yelled at him, lied to him about a conversation she was having at that moment via cell phone with the city attorney, and had two police officers threaten him with imprisonment for disorderly conduct.

Again, I am no lawyer. However, I think that this case goes beyond the pale. While I have no problem with a municipality making reasonable restrictions on speech in advance for the preservation of public safety (prohibiting yelling fire in a crowded theater, for example), I have a big problem with the city making a prohibition like this on the spot. Our right to speak, express ourselves and assemble is an important civil liberty, and should not be unreasonably infringed.

Vendors should pay a fee. That is reasonable. But a guy on a bike handing out flyers?

Disclosure; Stuart is a family friend. We are pretty far apart on our politics, but he is an honest man with integrity. However, I do not intend for this blog to endorse any candidate for any race at any time.

I am coming a bit late to this party, as both the Tribune (here) and GeeGuy (here, here and here) have written about the incident.

Tuesday, August 16

Talk about EBS over at the Electric City Blog

Geeguy has been very proactive in his posts about the month-long Lewis and Clark party that ended up costing our community $500 thousand. (Disclaimer; I helped plan one of the events). I am not going to re-post my comments which are in his blog. Read the posts and comments here, here and here.

It is important that we properly account for the money spent on this event/party. It is also important that we take away appropriate lessons on planning, scale and feasibility. However, I think that it is also important that we do not overly punish public officials for taking a calculated risk that could have paid off handsomely to our community.

Monday, August 15

Fish is Good -- or not

Eat lots of fish like tuna! It contains omega-3 fatty acids, will reduce cholesterol, increase brain activity and make you a better person!


Avoid fish like tuna! It has high concentrations of mercury, will stunt brain activity and kill you.

Which is the truth? Both? Neither? I really have no idea.

Recent stories in media like the Wall Street Journal have talked extensively about this. A story about two weeks ago talked about a kid who ate tuna every day, and was damaged as a result. In addition, there is a commentary in today's Journal talking about this concern as a myth. (registration required).

I really like tuna. I have two small kids, and they also really like tuna. I have no idea what the truth is here. I don't think anybody else knows either.


Wednesday, August 10

City Water Park Plan All Wet

Well, the vacation from blogging is almost over. While I have been slacking (from posting, at least), the news from Great Falls keeps getting more and more interesting. In the coming days, I will write some “delayed” posts about things that have come up this summer.

The first issue that really got my blood boiling was a front-page article in the Tribune on the city’s swimming facilities. Apparently, the city hired an engineer to take stock of the city’s pools, and suggests $2-3 Million in repairs and upgrades. While some of the recommendations are repairs and may make sense (new gutters and filters, etc.), a number of the ideas seem to be cooked up out of an idea that “You have to entertain the swimmer, rather than just give him a pool of water” (quoted from the prospective contractor).

It is thinking like this that gave our city the multi-million dollar white elephant flow rider. We will be paying the bill for that thing for years, and the only net result has made a Sunday outing to Mitchell Pool less affordable and enjoyable (“But Dad, Why can’t I ride the $9 per day Flow Rider????”)

Included in this grand scheme are some truly bad ideas for “upgrades” to the Marony Natatorium:

Addition of a hot-water spa would run $97,000, and wave-generation equipment would add $112,000. Expanding the building with an atrium and event room would cost another $523,500, Milne said. (from the article)

Excuse me, but why does the Nat need a hot water spa, wave-generation equipment, an atrium or an event room? I swim at the Nat during my lunch hour three times per week (or at least I try to do so). It is usually quite crowded as it is. Why fix what isn’t broken?

I will go on the record and state my opinion—the city should provide holes in the ground with clean water. Efforts should be made to keep those holes in the ground affordable to the most people possible.

Anything fancier than a hole in the ground should be left to private developers. If a business model could be made for a positive cash flowing wave rider, it would be built. If not, it should be left alone.

Thursday, August 4

The Hiatus Continues

Well, this blog is still on hiatus. I expect to be posting again in a few weeks, after this crazy summer begins to slow down.

In the meantime, have you been reading The Electric City Web-log? This blog is spot-on in some of its commentary on the goings on in our city. Many times in the last few weeks, I have been tempted to write a post on the Wave Rider, the Skate Park, management of the Four Season's Arena and the Explore the Big Sky event. However, I have been pleased to find that GeeGuy has got it covered.

Also, I highly recommend Mike's blog, The Last Best Place. Mike has an interesting perspective on agriculture in Western MT, and gives another Jewish perspective to living in the Big Sky State.

Both blogs are very worth reading. Hopefully, I will be back before too long.