Thursday, April 27

City Budget Meetings to be held June 12, 14

The City has scheduled staff presentations to the City Commission on budget requests for the upcoming fiscal year. The meetings, which are open to the public, will take place on June 12 and 14 in the Gibson Room of the Civic Center.

I have appended the City's press release below.


City Clerks Office
City of
Great Falls

PO Box 5021
Great Falls, MT 59403

**********PRESS RELEASE**********

Date: April 27, 2006
Re: City Budget Work Sessions
Contact: Cheryl Patton, Assistant City Manager (406-455-8417)
Melissa Kinzler, Budget Manager (406-455-8476)

The City Commission will be meeting to hear final staff presentations June 12 and 14. The meetings will be held in the Gibson Room located on the second floor of the
Civic Center, 2 Park Drive South and are open to the public. Following is the schedule for the meetings.

Monday, June 12, 2006
8:00 Fire
9:00 Community Development
10:00 Break
10:15 Library
10:45 Housing Authority
11:15 Park & Recreation

Wednesday, June 14, 2006
8:00 Public Works
9:30 Planning
10:00 Police
11:00 Fiscal Services - Electric City Power
12:00 Legal
12:15 Admin - City Clerk, Managers, Human Resources

Monday, June 19, 2006 (if needed)
8 to 12 To be scheduled

Tuesday, April 25

Never ... EVER ... Again

Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocast Remembrance Day.

If we are going to make the slogan "Never Again" a reality, we must remember the crimes perpetrated by the Nazi regime.

I have the honor of giving the welcome and invocation at the Yom HaShoah service that will take place today at the Capitol Rotunda in Helena at 4 p.m. Here are the remarks I will be presenting:
Welcome … Alechem Shalom.

We come here today in this symbol of our State’s authority to remember the systematic, bureaucratic annihilation of 6 million Jews and 3 to 5 million others; including the gypsies, the mentally or physically disabled, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Communists and political dissidents, trade unionists and Freemasons, among others; by what was at the time the German authority, the Nazi regime and its collaborators. Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The Nazi’s made the Shoah, or Holocaust, their central act of State during the Second World War. Theirs was a crime unique in the annals of human history, different not only in its quantity of violence but in manner and purpose as a mass criminal enterprise organized by the State against mostly defenseless civilian populations.

The Shoah was not simply a throwback to medieval torture, but a thoroughly modern expression of bureaucratic organization, industrial management, scientific achievement and technological sophistication. The Nazi’s spared no expense in their effort and kept meticulous records of their murders on the most sophisticated computer equipment in the world, ironically using technology developed for the newly formed U.S. Social Security Administration.

However, we are not solely here to mourn the dead. After the war, there was much debate about when, or even if, to set a date to remember this great crime. After all, the Jewish faith, one that was no stranger to sorrow, already had Tisha B'av, a date set to commemorate its griefs.

We are here today to honor those that fought back; those that resisted. Yom HaShoah falls on the Jewish date of Nisan 27, the anniversary of the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

On this date 63 years ago, Nazi troops and police entered the Warsaw ghetto to deport its 60,000 surviving inhabitants to the camps. 23-year-old Mordecai Anielewicz led 750 resistors who fought back against a full division of 12 thousand heavily armed and well-trained Germans with a few smuggled weapons and whatever else they could scavange.

These outgunned and starving ghetto fighters held its own against the German war machine for almost a month, but on May 16, 1943, the resistance’s was broken by superior Nazi armament. The Ghetto was “liquidated.” We must remember their courage.

You will also hear today of Jews who fought bravely as partisans in resistance groups that operated under cover of the dense forests of Eastern Europe. An estimated 20 to 30 thousand resistors were surrounded by captive populations which frequently collaborated with what should have been the common enemy, and were often betrayed by those who were in essence their fellow victims. It was a resistance by an army without arms, by the old and sick, the frail and the young.

In many areas of Nazi-occupied Europe, resistance took the form of aid and rescue. Bystanders transformed themselves into rescuers, and in the process became outlaws against the Nazi’s. They faced real risk of death and torture themselves, following a code of right and wrong which was simply out of fashion. Rescuers, who before the war were strong backbones of their communities, found themselves isolated since their neighbors viewed people who harbored Jews as selfish and dangerous because they risked the lives of those around them.

A rescuers life was intricate and terrifying. A careless word, a forgotten detail, one wrong move could lead to the death of both themselves and their charges. The home atmosphere was disrupted; husbands and wives gave up their privacy and children found themselves sleeping with strangers they had to learn to call brother, sister, aunt or uncle because if you were raided at night, you couldn’t have the wrong number of beds unmade.

You had to be careful about buying too many groceries at one store, as groceries could become suspicious. You couldn’t talk out loud because neighbors would hear voices. In some cases, neighbors reported you if they thought you had too much garbage for the size of your family. The Nazis offered rewards for information that led to the capture of Jews. Informers were everywhere.

If we are to realize our goal of “Never Again,” we must remember the tragedy of this great crime. We must also rise up against genocide anywhere, as is now occurring in Darfur.

In our faith, we have a prayer that seems appropriate for this occasion. It is the “Shechiyanu” a prayer of thanksgiving:

(Baruch Ata Adonai Elohanu Melech Ha-olam, Shechiyanu v’keyamanu v’hegeyanu lazman hazah)

Blessed are you, our Lord our G-d, Ruler of the universe, for giving us life, for sustaining us and enabling us to reach this season.


Friday, April 21

Good Post over at Craig's Place on Senate Race

For a lot of reasons, I am staying away from commenting much on the race for Montana's Senate seat. However, I recommend to you this post over at Craig's place. Well written and cogent.

Monday, April 17

Is This Your Butcher?

What with all the discussion of super-modified porcine over at Budge's place, I thought I would share a great photo sent to me a while ago. I won't say from where.

However, look at the text at the bottom of the advert ...

Wrong, but not too far from Correct

I received this information the other day.

While we are a pretty small minority, I know for a fact that there are Jews in the Montana counties listed as "none reported." In the big scheme of things, I guess it doesn't matter how accurate the census data really is. However, I know a few folks in Havre and Shelby that will be interested to learn that they don't exist.

As Always, Dry Bones is Relevant and Hilarious

For many years, the Jerusalem Post has published a cartoon called "Dry Bones" by Yaakov Kirschen. It always succeeds in being topical, relevant and HILARIOUS.

Today's cartoon is no exception. It revolves around a lesson that we read in the Haggadah; that "in every generation, an enemy rises up against us." Given what comes out of the mouth of the President of Iran on an almost daily basis, this seems to be true.

Kirschen says it best himself:

When Christian kids are little they are taught about the Easter Bunny who comes hippity hoping down Bunny Trail, bringing baskets of colorful Easter Eggs, and jolly Santa Claus,who slides down the chimney, bringing his sack of Christmas toys.
When we grow up, the Christians discover that their tales were charming deceptions, and the Jews discover that their childhood "fairytale" is indeed an historic truth.

Friday, April 14

Three More Days

Taxes are due on midnight, Monday evening. Three more days and I get to unchain my wife from her desk.

Actually, I will let you in on a trade secret. Anyone who comes in with their Wal-Mart bag filled with crumpled receipts and wants taxes from here on out has the choice of filing their extension themselves, or having my wife file it for them.

Thursday, April 13

Want to buy a bike?

A couple of months ago, I bought my first bicycle since I was a kid. The prospect of gas staying in the mid $2s finally got to me, and I have been having a great deal of fun cycling all aroung our fair city.

Unfortunately, I bought a bike that was a little small for my 6'4" frame. My bike, a Cannondale M500, only has a 19" frame and I now know that I need one with a 23" frame. So, I am listing my bike for sale. It is up on craigslist here.

April 13, 2006; price reduced to $199 O.B.O.

April 25, 2006; item sold. Please do not inquire about bike, as it is -gone-.

Neighborhood Council 7 vacancy

I have just learned that Kim Thiel-Schaf has resigned from Neighborhood Council 7. I would like to thank her for her service to our neighborhood.

We need involved neighbors like Kim to help make the lower North and South sides great places to live, work and play. If you live in the neighborhood -- the lower North and South sides, from the river to the West and North; to 12th Street (15th Street in some areas) on the East and 10th Avenue South to the South; please consider joining the Council.

To put in your name, come to our next regular meeting. Council meetings are on the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Civic Center Gibson Room.

Courthouse Decision a fait accompli

The courthouse decision has been announced, and the new courthouse will be on the West side. David has a nice discussion about the new location online here.

Note that I say announced, not made. I think the decision was made months ago. Actually, I wrote that this location was the most likely placement for the new courthouse back in September, in this post.

As in many cases in our fair city, I suggest to you that the public comment and bid process just was window dressing on a backroom deal made in the first place. The article in the paper said that no downtown property owners submitted a final bid. That really doesn't tell the whole story. I know a few downtown property owners who didn't bother submitting a bid because the GSA told them that their property would not be suitable even if they did submit.

I am glad that the West side will see some much needed development. However, that gladness is balanced by sadness for the difficulties that this decision will place on small businesses and eateries in the downtown. From Bert and Ernies on 2nd Avenue South to Good Eats on 2nd Avenue North; and for many great family owned businesses between the two, harder times may be ahead.

However, it doesn't have to be that way. The downtown jobs that will now move to Central Avenue West can be replaced. At a minimum, there may be available space for a large employer on the upper floors of the post office. As a community, lets do what we can to make a zero-sum, win-lose situation into a win-win.

Wednesday, April 12

Ziessen Pesach

Hard as it is to believe it, Pesach is again here! Even though it seems like the holiday just sprang up on us, our chametz has been removed and burned and we are preparing for the Seder.

Mike has some great Pesach links up on The Last Best Place. They are worth the read.

A Ziessen Pesach, and Gut Yom Tov!

Monday, April 10

AIPAC Case Raises Troubling Questions about our Government's predilection with Secrecy

The ever-relevant Secrecy News has an interesting post about the troubling nature of the AIPAC case.

From the post:

It bears repeating that the two defendants, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, are not accused of being agents of Israel or any other foreign power. The government has stipulated that they are not. Although they are charged under "the Espionage Act," this is not an espionage case.

What makes the whole affair more peculiar still is that the defendants did not even request the disclosure of the information they are accused of mishandling.

"Nowhere is it alleged that Dr. Rosen or Mr. Weissman stole, paid for or even solicited the information that they allegedly received," the defense noted in a January 19 motion to dismiss.

A theory of the law that would penalize such informal transactions between citizens and government officials is obviously susceptible to extreme abuse.

Well said.

More on Specialty Hospitals, Surgery Centers and General Hospitals

All these points are well taken. And for me, they highlight a few things:

First, any institution providing health care needs to be independently accredited and supervised by a third party, financially disinterested organization. Although I am woefully ignorant of details, I believe that happens.

Second, it is a patient's responsibility to do their own research about these institutions (and their physician) prior to receiving (at least planned) care. While this is not possible for emergency rooms, it should be possible for just about any other time a patient seeks care. As in every time you go out to purchase something, caveat emptor.

Third, it would be nice if our media would highlight these ratings to try and ensure that the population in an area were aware of them without really trying. Since the media is privately owned, we really cannot call that a resposibility.

Perhaps this is an area of responsibility for our local government?

Fourth, the proliferation of specialty hospitals (or surgery centers, or whatever) are a national phenomena. A tiny market like Great Falls really has little impact on this. We are only along for the ride.

I was only half tongue in cheek when I compared doctors to mechanics. The presence of outside regulators and certifying agencies (in this case the State, the AMA and other bodies) is the real difference. I can look at those ratings and (in theory) make an informed choice based on the past performance and adherence to standards of those providing my medical care.

The rub really starts to come in, and IMO, the Clinic's hat turns a shade grayer, when you start to factor insurance into the equation. The Clinic's MontanaCare insurance program is probably one of the most common employer provided health insurance option in our town. And that program provides real financial incentives to use Clinic facilities whenever possible, and strong financial disincentives to use other facilities in almost any situation.

Pressure from a doc sending me to a Clinic facility in which he has a financial stake I can handle. Paying three or four times more to use a Benefis facility is another thing altogether.

Friday, April 7

Alan Dershowitz Answers Charges in Mersheimer-Walt anti-Israel Paper

Anyone reading about the relationship between Israel and the United States in the past few months has heard quite a bit about a working paper by Academic Dean and Professor Stephen Walt and Professor John Mearsheimer of Harvard University. That paper presents a conspiratorial view of history in which the Israel Lobby has a “stranglehold” on American foreign policy, the American media, think tanks and academia.

Noted Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz has written a reply to Mersheimer and Walt, titled Debunking the Newest – and Oldest – Jewish Conspiracy: A Reply to the Mearsheimer-Walt “Working Paper”.

The reply is worth reading.

Thursday, April 6

Supreme Court Decision Bad for Great Falls Patients

It looks like the Supreme Court fell for it.

The Clinic's surgery center, which has been in business for about five years, has been shuttered by a Supreme Court injunction. The Court granted Benefis, our supposedly non-profit local hospital, a temporary stay against competition. Since it has been in business for years, I wonder why there was really a need for an immediate injunction against the surgery center's operation? Was there really a risk of an imminent harm against Benefit? I really doubt that anything had changed other than ownership.

Ownership seems to be the crux of the Hospital's (and incidentally, one of my honored contributor's) argument. For the past few weeks, Great Falls residents have heard that we cannot trust physician-owned and operated hospitals. As the argument goes, if we submit ourselves to care by a facility whose ownership is by our care providers, we will suddently be subject to all sorts of unnecessary procedures from substandard equipment.

Again, I ask why the practice of medicine is so different than the practice of any other profession? Why is it a good thing to go to an independent mechanic with good references, but an anthema to go to a physician-owned hospital? Why is a physician-owned hospital more likely to screw me?

The market should affect any provider of health care the same way. If a hospital, regardless of ownership, uses shoddy equipment and charges extra for unnecessary procedures, then customers (patients) will vote with their feet and utilize other providers, as long as there are other providers available in the market. Competition keeps everyone honest, and provides a solid incentive to maintain a quality "product."

The Court should swiftly decide this case and allow the surgery center to open. It is worth noting that the jobs of more than thirty families have been halted by this Court decision.

Tuesday, April 4

Did I Miss the Memo ????

Why is Immigration policy suddenly the most important issue facing America? I guess that is what I get for missing a meeting ...

Funny aside, this is so contrived that I cannot really understand it. Immigration has been a vexing issue since at least the founding days of our country. However, it is not really pressing.

While I agree that immigration policy is of importance, our nation has many more urgent issues before it.

So why is it now the issue du jour?

CAMERA Exposes Mazin Qumsiyeh's lack of Credibility

Last Fall, an anti-Israeli (and, I submit, more than borderline anti-Semitic) organization called "Wheels of Justice" toured Montana at the invitation of several "Peace Seeker" groups throughout our State. That organization brought with them a former Yale biology teacher, Mazin Qumsiyeh.

I just learned that The Committee For Accuracy in Middle East Reporting has published a paper about Qumsiyeh. That paper is available here.

I know that Qumsiyeh is still regularly published by several organizations in our State. Those organizations should be aware that Qumsiyeh is less interested in the truth than he is in eliminating the continued existence of Israel. Any organization supporting Qumsiyeh should be aware that by extension, they are supporting the same goal.

Monday, April 3

I Haven't Felt That Self-Conscious since the 10th Grade ...

Regular readers of this blog may recall that I regularly swim during my lunch hour at the Moroney Natatorium in downtown Great Falls.

Well, to make a long story short, my high-school (and jr. high; and grade school) swim coach has also begun swimming during the noon hour at the Nat. The Nat was very crowded this afternoon, and we shared a lane.

I haven't been that self conscious in a very long time. In my mind, I could very clearly hear him, at the top of his lungs; "Hustle, Hustle Weissman! Get that head down Weissman! Stretch on those kick-offs Weissman! Why so Pokey, Weissman?" He wasn't actually saying any of this, mind you. I don't know if he was even thinking it.

Coach Bob was a very large influence on my life. However, I don't know that I need to relive the past so quite so intimately ...

Sunday, April 2

George Willett Should be Complemented on an Incredible Ski Season

2005-2006 deserves to be remembered as one of the best ski seasons in recent memory. Week after week at Showdown, our local hill, the snow was incredible and well maintained, and crowds were plentiful.

Today is the last day to ski the hill for the season (unless, of course, you want to hike up and earn your turns). It is also the last day to get a great deal on a season pass for the 2006-2007 season, and your last opportunity--forever--to ride the poma lift or rope tow. Both will be replaced (the rope tow with a beginners chair, opening many new trails) over the summer.

The ski season was also great for my family. Every Saturday, I took the kids up to the hill (and got the family out of my wife's hair so that she could work in peace at home). My kids, five and seven, both started the year as strong intermediate skiers. I am proud to say that both can now ski on any trail on any mountain they like. Yesterday, I was thrilled to take my kids down Geronimo and Glory Hole. My boy, five, just pointed his skis down the headwall and went.

All in all, a great season. We are looking forward to November!

Revised Animal Control Policies Should be Swiftly Approved

This is a good policy.

After about six months of work and hard listening, Humane Society director Chuck Tourtillott has come up with a revised animal control policy for the Electric City. The committee drafting the policy includes Tourtillott, Mayor Dona Stebbbins, Sue Ann Stephenson-Love, Park and Rec official Jon Thompson, Sherriff's representative Linlee Van Wicklin, Veterinarian Jack Newman and Retired Police Chief Bob Jones. This policy has excised some ideas that were, let me say, daft.

Among the excised ideas;

  • Requiring cats to be collared and leashed when outdoors (every try to walk a cat on a leash?)
  • Restricting dog ownership to two animals
  • Increasing cat registration fees to the level of dogs.
Of course, not everyone is happy about this new policy. Today, the paper quoted an individual who was upset that wandering cats kill neighborhood squirrels.

And that is a bad thing?

See here and here for some of my thoughts on our infestation by the evil tomato eating Chip and Dale.