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

17 September 2017

A sunshine break for me, Red Molly for you

This sunshine won’t last, so I’m spending most of the day outdoors, not blogging. Meanwhile, here’s the folk and bluegrass group Red Molly (named for a character in a ballad about a 1952 Vincent motorcycle) belting out Gillian Welch’s Tear my Stillhouse Down (be sure to catch David Rawlings’ riff on his archtop guitar).


16 September 2017 — 1315 mdt

How will the school threat crisis affect the Muldown bond election?

It might just help the bond pass.

Yesterday, ballots for the $26.5 million Muldown elementary school bond election were mailed to voters (the ballots must be returned by the close of business on 3 October). If the bond is approved, Whitefish’s elementary school, a leaky building that’s half a century old and beyond economical repairs, will be replaced by a modern building that will be more energy efficient, more pleasant for teachers and students, and large enough to accommodate 20 years of growth.

It undoubtedly will be more secure, with fewer and stronger access points, and security devices such as video cameras that monitor the school inside and out. A decade ago, when I toured Glacier High in Kalispell, I was impressed by how much attention was paid to security.

Besides brick, mortar, and steel, security features, new schools can incorporate cyber security features, such as defenses against school records being encrypted and held for ransom by a crook in Bulgaria.

The folks campaigning for the bond’s approval should consider using the opportunity afforded by the current situation to remind voters that a vote for the bond is a vote for more and better security. That’s a reasonable argument, and it ought to be welcomed by the community.



16 September 2017 — 1315 mdt

Sheriff calls school threat case “cyberterrorism”

According to a press release (below) from the Flathead County Sheriff, law enforcement officers, including agents of the FBI, are in contact with the person behind the threats. They do not know who are where that person is. He could be in Kila, Michigan, Timbuktu, the Ukraine, or anywhere else on Earth. They may know what he wants, but they continue to refuse to release that information to the public. But the sheriff is calling the threat cyberterrorism. Here’s the news release, which the Daily InterLake’s Matt Baldwin published on Twitter this morning:

…read the rest


15 September 2017 — 2114 mdt

What happens if the cops can’t catch the creep threatening our schools?

Classes cannot be canceled forever. Or, as a practical matter, not for much longer. Children must be educated. Community activities must resume. Our daily round must be restored, even if it is at higher risk of disruption than before.

Will schools reopen with beefed-up security?

Will a false alarm be declared? Sheriff Curry, reports the Missoulian, now says ““Based upon our estimation, without revealing any details of the investigation, we certainly feel that there is a credible threat, or at least a potentially credible threat.”

A potentially credible threat? That’s an artful phrase. To me, it’s a predicate for a face saving statement to the effect of “Folks, we can finally relax. A diligent investigation revealed this was a clever hoax. We’re sorry for the disruption, but to play it safe we had to take it seriously. That’s our job.”

Meanwhile, the nature of the alleged threat is still being withheld from the public. I’ve been advised that this is standard procedure, which it undoubtedly is, and that being deprived of the facts is nothing to be concerned about, which is nonsense. When a county shuts down its schools, a city (Whitefish) bolts the door to city hall, businesses cancel sales (the Sportsman Ski Haus), public events are canceled (the oil and water don’t mix program sponsored by Trout Unlimited, et al), the public needs to know why.

Most threats are hoaxes. The damage done is from the reaction to the threat, not from the threat’s being carried out. If someone decides to blow up a school, he’s going to plant the bomb, light the fuse, and perhaps make a last minute warning call from an untraceable burner phone. He’s not, with one exception, going to reduce the probability of success by issuing a threat.

The exception is an attempt to extort money, to force the release of a prisoner, or to force a change in public policy. Because Sheriff Curry and school officials are being so tight-lipped, we cannot rule out the possibility that someone is trying to extort money by threatening to blow up a school, shoot a student, or do another bad thing. Our schools, of course, by being shut down, are being held hostage right now.

If this is attempted extortion, our law enforcers could be stalling for time while they attempt to capture the extortionist. They could also be stalling for time while they raise the ransom (which might have to be paid in Bitcoin).

But doing all that while keeping the public ignorant stands democracy on its head.

Public officials must hold themselves accountable to the public. That requires releasing information the public needs to evaluate the decisions and conduct of those officials. If information can be kept secret while a school system is shut down, the doors to city hall are locked, and commerce is curtailed, because of fears of something that’s unknown but is alleged to exist, we’re living in a police state, not in a democracy.



14 September 2017 — 1103 mdt

What does withholding the nature of the
threat that closed Flathead schools accomplish?

All schools in the Flathead, public and private, and Flathead Valley Community College, are closed today because someone sent the schools email and text messages threatening to do something bad. According to the Flathead Beacon, “persons of interest” are being interviewed by the county sheriff and the FBI.

Because the investigation is in progress, the public and parents are being kept ignorant of the nature of the threat. That’s the official justification for keeping secret what the texter/emailer threatened to do.

Yet, the person who made the threats knows what he threatened to do. So do school authorities and law enforcement agents. How would the investigation be harmed by releasing what was threatened to be done?

Unofficially, of course, keeping parents and the public ignorant of the nature of the threat deprives them of the information they need to assess the judgment of school officials and law enforcers. “Trust us,” demand the agents of ignorance, “we know what we’re doing and we have everyone’s best interests at heart.”

Most people will trust the authorities, and trust them blindly. The specter of children being harmed always causes parents and decent citizens to demand erring on the side of safety — to demand a risk free environment, which is an impossibility — and school administrators, skilled in covering their backsides, are happy to oblige.

But keeping the public ignorant, an objective not found in education’s mission statement, invites speculation, may leave people more fearful than the facts warrant, and generates resentment toward, and mistrust of, authority.



13 September 2017 — 1736 mdt

The Flathead’s Birch Grove private air quality monitoring station

Approximately four kilometers southwest of Glacier International Airport, a citizen scientist has installed two meteorological stations that display realtime results for temperature, humidity, and wind (Birch Grove 1, published at the Weather Underground), and suspended particulates (Birch Grove 2, published at Purple Air).


There are numerous private wind, temperature, and humidity, stations in the Flathead, many connected to the U.S. Weather Service’s Mesonet. But private particulate monitoring stations are rare. Indeed, Birch Grove 2 may be unique to the Flathead.

Birch Grove 2 employs low cost (<$500) equipment manufactured by Purple Air. Thus far, 564 Purple Air particulate monitors have been installed around the world, but mostly in the United States. There are two in Montana: Kalispell and Helena.

The low cost of Purple Air’s equipment could initiate a paradigm shift in air quality monitoring. If the equipment proves durable, and the measurements accurate and reliable, a grid of air quality monitors of the Purple Air genre could be installed in the Flathead Valley for a few thousand dollars. Being able to check the PM 2.5 realtime reports for the grid nodes closest to home would liberate the Flathead’s population from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s single station for their PM 2.5 data.

If anyone does undertake such a project, the funder should require that the realtime data be available to the public in real time, and not hoarded by academic researchers seeking the glory of being the first to publish.



12 September 2017 — 1811 mdt

Grant Kier announces for Congress on the day
Hillary Clinton’s I was Robbed! book is released

Is this a coincidence? Perhaps not. Kier, reports the Missoulian’s Holly K. Michels, this evening will formally announce his entry into the Democratic primary for the U.S. House of Representatives. His leap into the ring follows John Heenan’s, and they may be joined by State Rep. Tom Woods, Bozeman, and former State Senator Lynda Moss, Billings.

Heenan supports single-payer health care. Kier apparently does not, Michels reported:

While he supports a broad look at ways to fix the affordability of health insurance and access to health care, and is glad people like former U.S. senator and ambassador to China Max Baucus has called for a switch to a single-payer system, he wants to see faster fixes to the Affordable Care Act before greater policy shifts are discussed.

“What’s critical is recognizing the Affordable Care Act was a big step forward but it doesn’t work perfectly and needs fixes,” Kier said. “We need to make a quick change, to pull people together from both sides of the aisle to look at how we can fix these things and make those changes right away, and then if we want to debate bigger changes that’s fine.”

Hillary Clinton, of course, not only opposed single-payer health care, but during her campaign against Bernie Sanders actively attempted to discredit the idea of single-payer health care, a policy — and political — choice that kept her in good standing with the health insurance industry and the manufacturers of prescription drugs. Heenan supports single-payer, and thus is courting Democrats aligned with Bernie Sanders. Kier, therefore, may be brushing single-payer aside to appease the Clinton wing of the party, which still cuddles up to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

Kier may have a campaign website — an anonymous person registered kierforcongress.com — but as of 1700 today it showed only a looping video of a kitten playing on a kitchen table.

Hillary — settling scores by throwing her book at everyone

Hillary Clinton ran for President for one reason, and one reason only: to be the first woman elected as President of the United States. She tried cloaking her gender based candidacy in dozens of position papers, but her fundamental message, not always concealed, was “Vote for me because I’m a woman; because it’s my turn; because I’m a woman.” She ran a strategically and tactically incompetent campaign, proudly crowing she would put a lot of coal miners out of work, and disparaging white working class voters she needed in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, as racist and homophobic deplorables.

But will she accept responsibility for her defeat? Oh, no; hell no. She’s convinced she would have won if Bernie hadn’t bashed her during the primary; if the Russians hadn’t tampered with her campaign and the DNC; if FBI director Jim Comey had kept his mouth shut; if sexist men, and in her worldview all men are sexist, hadn’t voted against her because she was a woman. Her loss was everyone’s damn fault except her own. She wuz robbed!

In my view, she never should have been nominated. She was too old, running for the wrong reasons, and temperamentally unsuited to the job she sought. Yet, if Tim Kaine had been at the top of the ticket, and she had settled for second, I think she probably now would be vice president.

If you want to read What Happened to try to understand Hillary and how she feels, by all means do so. But if you want to know what really happened, read Shattered, by Allen and Parnes.

To borrow a verse from Jimmy Buffet:

It’s Hillary’s claim,
That Jim Comey’s to blame.
But we know: ‘twas her own damn fault.



11 September 2017

Another Flathead Valley football smoke bowl is averted

Two years ago, in a fit of football über studenten sicherheit, football crazed Glacier High School played a football game in the smoke at Concussion Flats (aka Legends Field) in Kalispell despite an air quality designation of Very Unhealthy at the kickoff.

There was no Smoke Bowl in Kalispell last week. Glacier was in Bozeman, where the air was suitable for heavy breathing. And it’s possible school officials came to their senses sufficiently to subordinate athletic entertainment to protecting the health of student athletes and high school football fans. I hope so, but in my experience, high school coaches and administrators are slow learners these matters.

Whether there were no games by accident, or by design, it’s good the football flats were unoccupied last Friday — the air in the Flathead was twice as bad as it was two years ago (2015 graphs).


Highway 93 at 1633 MDT on 5 September.

…read the rest


8 September 2017 — 1437 mdt

Admiral Nimitz’s wisdom on preparing for heavy weather

When a hurricane, a forest fire, or high water, approaches, do smart people wait until the roof rattles, they choke on smoke, or water laps at their door, before they reef the sails, batten down the hatches, wrap their house for fire, cancel athletic events, evacuate, or head for high ground?


By then it is too late. They must act while they still can.

After losing three destroyers in the typhoon of 18 December 1944, a storm sometimes called Halsey’s Typhoon, and the storm in which Captain Queeg was removed in Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny, Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander of the Pacific fleet, issued a letter made famous by its timeless wisdom on when to prepare for adverse weather. Nimitz’s final paragraph should be the forward to every disaster preparation plan, and read by every official faced with the dilemma of needing to act to prevent harm, but not wanting to act too soon lest the expected crisis, such as playing a high school football game in dense smoke, not materialize

In conclusion, both seniors and juniors alike must realize that in bad weather, as in most other situations, safety and fatal hazard are not separated by any sharp boundary line, but shade gradually from one into the other. There is no little red light which is going to flash on and inform commanding officers or higher commanders that from then on there is extreme danger from the weather, and that measures for ships’ safety must now take precedence over further efforts to keep up with the formation or to execute the assigned task. This time will always be a matter of personal judgment. Naturally no commander is going to cut thin the margin between staying afloat and foundering, but he may nevertheless unwittingly pass the danger point even though no ship is yet in extremis. Ships that keep on going as long as the severity of wind and sea has not yet come close to capsizing them or breaking them in two, may nevertheless become helpless to avoid these catastrophes later if things get worse. By then they may be unable to steer any heading but in the trough of the sea, or may have their steering control, lighting , communications, and main propulsion disabled, or may be helpless to secure things on deck or to jettison topside weights. The time for taking all measures for a ship’s safety is while still able to do so. Nothing is more dangerous than for a seaman to be grudging in taking precautions lest they turn out to have been unnecessary. Safety at sea for a thousand years has depended on exactly the opposite philosophy. [Emphasis added by Flathead Memo.]

If Saturday is a smokeless, sunny, clean air, day, consider Nimitz’s wisdom before castigating decision makers as frightened old fools because they canceled marathons, dragon boat races, and track meets, in the expectation that the Flathead’s air would be fouled with very unhealthy smoke.



8 September 2017 — 0724 mdt

Did a Montana newspaper commit the
largest numerical error in journalism history?

USGS description of 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens
Over the course of the day, prevailing winds blew 520 million tons of ash eastward across the United States and caused complete darkness in Spokane, Washington, 400 km (250 mi) from the volcano. Major ash falls occurred as far away as central Montana, and ash fell visibly as far eastward as the Great Plains of the Central United States, more than 1,500 km (930 mi) away. The ash cloud spread across the U.S. in three days and circled the Earth in 15 days.

In all likelihood, yes — and the honor belongs to the now defunct Kalispell Weekly News. Here’s what happened.

Fine volcanic ash reached the Flathead less than a day after Mount St. Helens erupted on 18 May 1980. Very fine, but gritty, it filled the Flathead Valley with a powdery tan cloud, limiting visibility, and giving the air a heavy feeling when breathed (that didn’t stop some fools from jogging).

Rough measurements produced startling, four-figure, values for suspended particulates, which are reported as micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m^3). In Kalispell, the peak particulate concentration was 7,355 µg/m^3.

But the KWN’s reporter, a competent journalist working under great stress and unfamiliar with air quality issues, reported the value as 7,355 megagrams per cubic inch (I’m working from memory, as I think I discarded the clipping). That translates to 449 million kilograms per cubic meter, 80,000 times the density of the planet Earth, and half the density of a white dwarf star (but just one-millionth the density of a neutron star).

I reckon the error as 12 orders of magnitude, but urge readers to make their own calculations and to let me know if I missed the mark, and so, by how much.



7 September 2017 — 2141 mdt

Note to readers

I expect to begin posting again tomorrow. The effects of a virus I’ve been fighting were compounded by this week’s awful air quality, and I just haven’t had the energy to concentrate on writing. Thanks for reading Flathead Memo. James Conner.


1 September 2017 — 1401 mdt

Tornow missed 14 August withdrawal deadline

Yesterday, Tom Tornow announced he’s withdrawing as a candidate for municipal judge in Whitefish. He’s shut down his campaign’s website and suspended campaigning — but his name will be on the 7 November ballot because he missed the 14 August deadline for having his name struck from the ballot. He’ll receive some votes, and in a close election between Kristi Curtis and William Hileman, Jr., those votes could determine the election’s outcome.

There’s undoubtedly a backstory to his belated decision to stop campaigning that was not addressed in his withdrawal announcement. Perhaps that will be revealed in the coming weeks. In the meantime, he deserves the thanks of his community for standing for election and for his efforts to make Whitefish a better place to live.


Sperry Chalet probably won’t be rebuilt

The old chalet burned down yesterday, it’s tinder dry wood ignited by the Sprague Fire. No one was injured. Many were saddened by the demise of the chalet, which has a large and relatively well-heeled constituency, and which is a relic of the European “all this luxury in wilderness” style of backcountry visitation that dominated the early days of Glacier and many large national parks. Quite likely, there will be a campaign to rebuild the chalet.

In the anti-wilderness Trump administration, anything is possible, but the likelihood the chalet will be rebuilt is low. Rebuilding would be extremely expensive. More important, the location isn’t suitable for a chalet. Were the site now unoccupied, even a backcountry campground there might not pass environmental muster, and a new chalet never would be approved. The National Park Service should knock down the stones that didn’t burn, remove the trash, restore the site to its pre-chalet condition, and ban horses from the trail. That will require money, and probably entail some unpleasant skirmishes with the historic preservation zealots, but it’s the best solution for the park and future generations.



31 August 2017 — 2154 mdt

Montana’s leaders must call a special legislative session
to raise firefighting money and repeal automatic budget cuts

Montana’s firefighting fund is empty, thanks to (a) more forest fires than anticipated, and (b) an irresponsible raid on the fund to plug budget holes. Now, reports the Missoulian, Montana budget director Dan Villa says money to fight the fires will be transferred from other accounts. Translation: money will be taken from programs to help the people who need them most, but who have the least power to fight for them; from the old, the sick, and the poor.

…read the rest


31 August 2017 — 1742 mdt

A new sheriff for the Flathead & a judicial election in Whitefish

Will Flathead County elect a new sheriff in 2018? My sources report that incumbent sheriff Chuck Curry plans to retire (that could change). As of August’s end, Keith Stahlberg, a Flathead deputy sheriff with the rank of sergeant, and former deputy sheriff Calvin Beringer, had filed C-1-A forms with Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices. Stahlberg filed on 24 June, Beringer on 16 August. Filing a C-1-A allows a candidate to start raising campaign money before the 11 January 2018 opening of filing for office.

The domain name stahlbergforsheriff.com was registered on 15 July. beringerforsheriff.com was registered on 10 August. Both were registered by proxy to hide the owner’s name, but there’s no doubt these are the candidates’ future campaign websites.

Beringer appears to be the same Calvin Beringer who is leader with the local chapter of Act for America, a organization that human rights groups consider hard core anti-Muslim.

Whitefish municipal judge candidate Kristi Curtis
says Montana law requires a full-time judge

Update, 2215 MDT. The InterLake reports that Whitefish municipal judge candidate Tom Tornow has withdrawn from the ballot.

One of her opponents, Tom Tornow, believes a part-time judge is all Whitefish needs. On 27 June, I took Tornow to task for that and a few other things. Curtis, who now has a campaign website, also has doubts about a half-time municipal judge. Here’s what she says about the issue:

Section 3-6-106 of the Montana Code Annotated states: “Sessions of court — departments. (1) The municipal court must be in continuous session from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on every day except nonjudicial days.” Typically, nonjudicial days are holidays. [Link added by Flathead Memo.]

I question the data relied upon by the candidate to support his belief this is a part-time position. As the Whitefish City prosecutor for the last two years, I am aware of the increased caseload since 2006, when one of my opponents had his last contact with the court. For example, in the two years I have been the prosecutor the number of DUI cases has doubled. DUIs are typically the most time intensive cases, and the ones most likely to go to trial.

Further, real property taxes are based on property values and mill levies. The hours a judge works has no effect on taxes. While the wage paid to a judge could potentially reduce the budget, which is funded through property taxes, that decrease would not result in any property tax reduction.

I submit the proposal of a part-time position is a ruse to allow the candidate to pursue his ongoing private practice, thereby depriving the citizens of Whitefish of a committed and focused judge. If elected, I would commit 100% to the position, including personal attendance in the courtroom to review search warrant applications for DUI forced blood draws at any time of the day or night, Saturday and Sundays included!

This could be a lively, expensive, and potentially divisive, judicial campaign, and further proof that an election is a terrible way to select a judge.

Flathead Memo will monitor this election, but will not endorse a candidate.



29 August 2017 — 1710 mdt

Visibility dropping rapidly in the smoke choked Flathead

This note is mostly for my out-of-state readers. Those of you in Montana, and especially in the Flathead, can see the air thickening with smoke. The PM2.5 reading at 1600 was 70.3 micrograms per cubic meter — officially deemed unhealthy — and heading up. The PM2.5 concentration is at least five times higher in Seeley Lake and other locations. Here, the acrid 90°F air stings my eyes and has triggered an awful headache. Inside my house, where I’m bunkering down, it’s 75°F, but my eyes still sting and my head still hurts.

August is ending — and with hurricanes, floods, fires, fools goose stepping in Charlottesville, and a President with his foot in his mouth and his brain in neutral, it’s beginning to seem like End Times.


25 August 2017 — 2137 mdt

Did Wrasslin’ Greg smile for his mug shot?


We don’t know — yet. As per his standard policy, Gallatin Attorney Marty Lambert is refusing to release the mug shot of Rep. Greg Gianforte unless a court orders him to do so. But Gianforte probably didn’t smile. I think that’s against the rules. And being forced to be fingerprinted, and to pose for a booking photograph — to be treated like a common criminal — is nothing to smile about.

Not releasing mug shots before a conviction is good policy. After a conviction, treating them as confidential criminal justice information makes no sense. Lambert, a Republican, is covering his southern exposure. And playing both sides, as he asked the court to order Gianforte to submit to being photographed and fingerprinted. The Bozeman Chronicle already has asked the court to order the mug shot released.

Will Gianforte fight the release of his mug shot? That’s possible…

…read the rest


23 August 2017 — 1314 mdt

Flathead Memo commits eighth grade science,
measures intensity of sunlight during the eclipse


While President Trump was staring at the sun with his unprotected orbs, I was watching an image (right) of the eclipse projected through a pinhole — and using my 45-year-old Weston Master 6 light meter, which reads out in candles per square foot, to measure the intensity of the sunlight every few minutes.

My NASA designed, homebuilt, pinhole projection viewer, made from a cereal box, duct tape, and aluminum foil (Teflon coated, a slick touch), is at right. A sheet of white paper is glued to the bottom inside. A ten-cent apparatus that provided a ten-dollar view.

I measured the illumination from the sun, incident light in photographic lingo, rather than the light reflected from a gray card. The reading is the same, but measuring incident light, a standard technique in cinematography, is easier and gives more consistent results.


…read the rest


23 August 2017 — 0812 mdt

More bombast from the Bully in Chief

It’s already Wednesday, and Donald Trump still hasn’t behaved in a way that should make Americans proud of their President.

Monday. During the eclipse, an aide shouted, “Don’t look!” He immediately, reflexively, smirked and squinted at the sun with his naked eyeballs, setting a horrible example for the nation. His diehard supporters loved it, of course, as they hate experts, and his impudent squint flipped one to the professional class — teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists — his loyalists despise.

…read the rest


21 August 2017 — 0001 mdt

How Flathead Memo’s chief blogger will view the eclipse

I’m viewing it indirectly. In my judgement, there’s really no safe way to view the eclipse outsize the zone of totality, and certainly not in the Flathead, where ten percent of the sun will not be blocked. That’s enough sunlight to burn your retinas in just a few seconds.

Be wary of eclipse glasses. Even those with light blocking filters that meet NASA recommended specifications may have random, and minute, difficult or impossible to detect, defects that pass retina wrecking levels of light. I’m watching a projected image of the eclipse, using a viewer similar to the one described in this short video:

The eclipse begins at 1016, reaches its maximum at 1131, and ends at 1251. More at the Flathead Beacon.

Photography. You can record the change in the intensity of sunlight by photographing a scene. Put the sun at your back. Mount your camera on a tripod. Frame a scene without much sky. Just before the eclipse begins, switch your camera to manual and select the shutter speed and f-stop for a normal exposure. That’s your exposure for the rest of the eclipse; don’t change it. Photograph the scene at regular intervals — five or ten minutes. As the eclipse progresses, the recorded image will darken. Tomorrow, I’ll explain how to convert those images to a light curve.



19 August 2017 — 0220 mdt

High flying at the Flathead County (NW MT) Fair

I visited the fair Thursday, walking from my home 1.5 miles to the west and arriving at 1710. That’s a good time of day for photography, with the hard shadows and haze reddened sunlight (although twilight is best for shooting the brightly lit carnival), but a bad time for moving quickly as the crowds are building and long queues formed at the gut bomb booths for overpriced soda pop and greaseburgers.


This is a crop of the next image.

…see the rest


16 August 2017 — 1025 mdt

Donald Trump doesn’t know how to be President — and never will

All who hoped Donald Trump would become even a minimally competent President had their hopes dashed yesterday when he falsely equated the murderous neo-Nazi violence at Charlottesville with the infuriating, but not lethal, misbehavior of a few dozen Antifa miscreants. In these situations, when the nation’s psyche is bruised, when evil is unmistakable and must be condemned, a President must provide moral clarity and calming leadership. Trump provided neither. Instead, he delivered a red-faced rant that revealed he understood neither the events he was addressing, nor his obligations as our nation’s leader. His conduct was as frightening as it was embarrassing.

As Ed Kilgore observed today at New York:

It is also difficult after this performance to harvest any misapprehension that Trump is just playing the fool to manipulate public opinion. There is no sense in which there is a popular majority for the causes he now seems to be defending, and it’s not like the neo-Confederate right is going to find itself another national political champion.

No, it is increasingly clear that with Donald J. Trump, what you see is what you get, and what we got in this presser gone mad was Archie Bunker on paranoia-inducing steroids. By contrast, his remarks on Monday condemning the white riot in Charlottesville looked forced, like a statement made as part of a plea bargain. The minute he had a chance, as stunned aides stood by, he set us straight.

It is going to be a very long three-and-a-half years, and if Trump runs for reelection after incidents like this one, his slogan might as well be “Make America Hate Again.”

The United States will survive the assembly of neo-Nazis, members of the Klan, and other white supremacists. This was not the first time American Nazis and the KKK joined hands:

A meeting of the minds— of sorts— was held on August 18, 1940 when honored guests bedecked in white robes arrived at Camp Nordland. Two groups with mutual interests, the German-American Bund and the Ku Klux Klan, were having a get-together. One estimate suggested thirty-five hundred people were in attendance. Another put the rate much lower, with perhaps only one thousand present, and just one hundred of them Klan members.

Bernstein, Arnie. Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund (p. 273). St. Martin’s Press. Kindle Edition. Link added by Flathead Memo.

No one should have illusions Trump will change for the better. That’s not his temperament. Indeed, as he ages in office, his faculties may erode, his judgment may decline further, and his behavior may become more erratic and dangerous.

In a parliamentary government, Trump’s conduct yesterday probably would have resulted in a vote of no confidence and his ouster as the prime minister. Not having that immediate remedy for removing a leader who become unfit to serve is a defect of our presidential system with fixed terms of office.



15 August 2017

A break from fiddl in’ with politics


14 August 2017 — 1437 mdt

Happy Birthday, Social Security


Eighty-two years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, one of the most important, popular, and successful, social insurance programs in American history. It’s lifted tens of millions of older Americans out of poverty, and lifted a terrible financial burden from their children and families.

In Montana, reports Social Security Works (PDF for MT), “Social Security provided benefits to 217,758 Montanans in 2015, around one in five (21.1 percent) residents. Montanans received Social Security benefits totaling $3.1 billion in 2015, an amount equivalent to 7.2 percent of the state’s total personal income.”


But, as Michael Phelan of https://www.socialsecurityworks.org/ noted by email today, there are still reactionaries who would consign Social Security to history:

…read the rest


13 August 2017 — 1946 mdt

Flathead residents stand in solidarity with Charlottesville

Ten Flathead adults, and one toddler, stood in solidarity with Charlottesville today, assembling on short notice at Kalispell’s Depot Park. The honk-n-wave, which drew plenty of honks, was organized by Big Sky Rising, and the Flathead members of Democratic Socialists of America. I was there with a camera.


…see the rest


13 August 2017 — 0632 mdt

Antifascist solidarity vigil set for 1300 today in Kalispell

Sponsored by the Kalispell DSA and Big Sky Rising, the vigil begins at 1300 in Depot Park in Kalispell, lasts an hour, and will be peaceful. Leave your ski masks and black shirts at home.

More details are available on the Facebook page for the vigil.

Being part of this vigil is a fine way to express support for civil society, civil discourse, and equal rights for all. The NWS weather forecast is for clouds, 15+ mph winds, the mid-seventies, and a 40 percent probability of rain showers or thunderstorms.



13 August 2017 — 2219 mdt

Montana Democrats release names of new officers

These are the men and women who will lead the Montana Democratic Party during the 2018 election cycle. The cognoscenti will recognize many of the names. Mary Sexton served in state government. Rep. Bryce Bennett is completing his fourth term as a Missoula legislator. Kelly McCarthy is a legislator in Billings. Lynn Stanley chairs the Flathead Democratic Party.

The clinical language — male and female — is the party’s language. I would have granted the officers the dignity of being considered men and women.

I extend my thanks and congratulations to all for taking on these duties.

Contact information is available at http://www.montanademocrats.org.

State Chair: Mary Sexton
State Vice-Chair: Bryce Bennett
State Secretary: Sue Tarpey
State Treasurer: Sandi Luckey

Western District Female Chair: Lynn Stanley
Western District Male Chair: Donavon Hawk
Western District Female Members: Stacie Anderson, Eve Franklin
Western District Male Members: Andy Shirtliff, Lewis YellowRobe

Eastern District Female Chair: Elizabeth Marum
Eastern District Male Chair: Kelly McCarthy
Eastern District Female Members: Hannah Nash, Vicki Dickinson
Eastern District Male Members: Ming Cabrera, Jack Trethewey



12 August 2017 — 2001 mdt

Free speech is the biggest loser in Charlottesville

As a constitutional principle, the right to exercise free speech is not contingent upon the content of that speech (note 1). Richard Spencer, and the white supremacist groups that gathered in Charlottesville, VA, last night and today, needed and obtained parade permits, but they did not need Virginia’s blessing of their message to obtain those permits. Their message of white supremacy is, of course, abhorrent, but that’s beside the point.

Unfortunately, some who disagree with the white supremacists’ message also disagree that the white supremacists have, or should have, the right to free speech. These self-appointed, self-righteous, deciders of what speech the rest of us should be able to hear, the black clad, Antifa thugs, came to Charlottesville determined to deny the white supremacists their rights. “Tensions began to escalate Friday night,” reported the Washington Post,

…read the rest


12 August 2017 — 0906 mdt

Saturday roundup

Montana Democrats reject community outreach delegate proposal. Kelly Kortum, vice chair of the Gallatin County Democrats, Tweeted late last night that the proposal failed on a voice vote. Kortum spoke against the proposal, noting in his speech that the CODs did nothing to bring the MDP closer to operating on the principle of one Democrat, one vote. Later, he read Flathead Memo’s analysis of the proposal.

Tester rightly warns Democrats can’t talk just to the choir

Speaking at the MDP’s convention yesterday, Sen. Jon Tester, who faces a tough re-election race next year, warned that Democrats cannot win if they talk only to Democrats. He’s right. Getting the choir to church is important, as is not inciting the unrepentant and irredeemable to dance with the Devil, but Democrats must pay more attention to those who can be saved with a little love and persuasion. In recent years, the party has concentrated on getting its base to the polls, and has done a rum job of providing other voters with compelling reasons to vote for Democrats. That’s one reason Hillary Clinton lost Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. She simply assumed that if the choir was whistled to the voting booth, the party could be spared the bother of wooing the souls that could be saved.

Political persuasion is not pandering. Some Democrats, especially the blue doggies, are experts at pandering. That’s because it’s easy to adopt the opposition’s position on an issue. But persuading a voter to agree with your platform and beliefs is hard. It requires skill, patience, persistence, and the willingness and ability to honor the intellect of the persuadables — and for too many Democrats, that’s become a lost art.

Commissioner Mitchell: clandestine cottonwood killer

Flathead County Commissioner Phil Mitchell admits he killed — without permission — cottonwood trees in a state park next to his land. Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry concluded the amount of damage done qualified Mitchell to be charged with felony criminal mischief. Now Mitchell’s apologizing, begging forgiveness.

He’s also trying to beat the rap, so his apology is of dubious sincerity, and he doesn’t deserve any forgiveness. Not asking permission to take down the trees was not an honest mistake. He knew what he was doing was wrong, but he reckoned he could get away with it. In my view, he’s apologizing not because he’s genuinely remorseful, but because he wants the court to punish him with a kiss on his hand instead of a boot in his rear.

On social media, some of his constituents are suggesting that he resign from the county commission. That’s certainly an option. So is community service, such as picking up beer cans along Highway 93. And I would order him to write a 2,000-word essay praising cottonwoods.



11 August 2017 — 1159 mdt

The Montana Democratic Party is not organized on
the principle of one Democrat, one vote

Montana’s Democrats convene their rules and officers convention in Helena this weekend. When the convention concludes modified rules may be in place, and new officers may be in charge.

The delegates to the convention are not chosen on the basis of one Democrat, one vote. Instead, they represent counties, partner organizations, party honchos, and incumbent Democratic legislators and state and national elected officials (official list).

In this scheme, little Fallon County that gave Steve Bullock 368 votes for Governor in 2016, is allocated four convention delegates. So is Missoula County, which gave Bullock 108 times as many votes (39,717). That’s worse than the imbalance in the U.S. Senate. You can download a spreadsheet with these data.

There ought to be a rules change to reduce this imbalance. But none was proposed. Instead, there’s a proposal to give every county two “Community Outreach Delegates,” which is akin to increasing a flat tax by a couple of points. I’ll get to the CODs in a moment.

…read the rest


10 August 2017 — 1057 mdt

Is Grant Kier launching his campaign for Congress?

Earlier this year, Logicosity reported that Grant Kier, head of the Five Valleys Land Trust, was pondering a run for the Democratic nomination to challenge Rep. Greg Gianforte, the Bozeman businessman who punched his way to victory in the 25 May 2017 special congressional election.

Today, on the eve of the Montana Democratic Party’s rules convention, the Missoulian reports Kier is resigning as head of Five Valleys, effective at August’s end. That’s one indication he’s probably running.

Another is the parked internet domain, kierforcongress.com, registered at dreamhost.com on 25 July 2017. Unlike heenanforcongress.com, which is registered in John Heenan’s own name, kierforcongress is registered anonymously, and therefore cannot be directly linked to Kier. It’s probably his, but it might have been registered by mischief makers or domain squatters.

The MDP’s rules convention begins tomorrow in Helena. I’ll have more on it, and its rejection of the principle of one Democrat, one vote, later today.



8 August 2017 — 1908 mdt

On the eve of the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki,
President Trump channels Truman’s threat to vaporize Japan


Seventy-two years ago this week, the United States detonated atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (6 August 1945) and Nagasaki (9 August 1945; left), obliterating large areas, killing tens of thousands, horribly wounding tens of thousands more, and finally impressing upon Japan’s leaders that they had lost the war and must surrender immediately to save what was left of their nation.

Emperor Hirohito, after some fancy footwork to thwart a palace coup, to avoid being assassinated by war-crazed military officers, announced in a wire recording broadcast over national radio on 15 August 1945that Japan had surrendered. The instruments of surrender were signed aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945.

In his 6 August 1945 statement announcing the bombing of Hiroshima, President Harry Truman warned Japan’s leaders of what their refusal to surrender would bring:



7 August 2017 — 1703 mdt

Does John Heenan’s campaign have an internet presence?

Updated 9 August. Yes, Heenan has a presence on the web.

When Rob Quist announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House, he had a website and reached out to bloggers.

Today, Billings attorney John Heenan announced he’s a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House seat now occupied by Greg Gianforte. Heenan notified newspapers and television stations. The Last Best News has an excellent story on Heenan’s candidacy.

Heenan did not send his announcement to Flathead Memo, although he may have sent it to other blogs in Montana.

Update. The Western Word reported this morning that Heenan does have a website. It’s heenanforcongress.com. The domain was registered on 23 June 2017.

He does not seem to have a website. Obvious domains such as heenan4montana.com have not been registered. I did not find him on Facebook, although he may be there. Nor could I locate contact information for him other than a form on his law firm’s website.

Being hard to get in touch with is not a winning campaign strategy.

But his position on health care, as described by the LBN, could be a winner:

Of particular concern to him, he said, are the many people forced into bankruptcy as a result of medical emergencies, either because they had no insurance or couldn’t afford high deductibles. He said he has represented dozens of people in those situations.

“I really feel strongly that we just shouldn’t be a country where people have to file for bankruptcy, or worse, because they have a medical emergency,” Heenan said.

“Medicare for all makes sense,” he continued. “It ought not be treated as pie in the sky. It makes sense for regular people and it makes sense for businesses that compete in the international economy” against companies that don’t have to provide their workers with private insurance.

If Heenan ever gets around to reading Flathead Memo, he may find he agrees that what I call American Care (2017 post, 2013 post), which could be called Super Medicare, is the best single-payer system.

Flathead Memo is not making an early endorsement in this election. But Flathead Memo does endorse candidate’s reaching out to bloggers and having campaign websites online before throwing their hats in the ring.



6 August 2017 — 1724 mdt

The political renascence of coal


While Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke gallops around the west, wearing a black hat and looking like Hollywood’s image of a westerner in charge, his agency’s political hirelings, the New York Times reports, are crunching numbers and twisting words so that more coal can be mined. No one should be surprised.

As a result, more land will be ruined, more air will be fouled, more mine owners will make bigger profits (or take smaller losses), and more coal miners will be gulled into believing that their greenhouse gas producing jobs are safe.

It’s a big con, of course, but Zinke, and his patrons, Don the mendacitor, and Don the prairie dog assassin, think it wins elections, and have good reason to think that. And it’s a siren song to the ears of men whose jobs are threatened and whose futures are in doubt: “A man he hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

If a man wants to hear, to read, the truth about coal, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis is a good place to start. For statistics on coal, visit the Energy Information Administration. There’s more on the Beyond Coal project at Bloomberg. Mentioned in the NYT story, the Western Values Project may have useful information on coal and cleaner energy, but it appears to be a front organization for the Democratic Party and its source of funding in a mystery.



5 August 2017 — 19535 mdt

Rosendale’s Carbon2018 strategy

Matt Rosendale, reports the Gazette’s Tom Lutey, believes his path to the U.S. Senate runs through Colstrip, which he would liberate from expensive state and federal regulations, and produce electrical power, and profits, for decades through the application of “clean coal” technology:

On Colstrip, Rosendale favors the development of clean coal technology to deal with the carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. The U.S. Department of Energy last year, at the request of Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, estimated that it would cost $1.2 billion or more to retrofit Colstrip power plant with technology capable of capturing carbon dioxide, which would then be sold to petroleum companies interested in pumping the pollution into old wells to release stubborn oil reserves.

However, there is no functional production-scale carbon-capture technology available now and Colstrip faces deadlines for at least partial closure. Colstrip Units 1 and 2 are to close in the next six years under terms agreed to by Talen Energy and Puget Sound Energy to settle a pollution lawsuit. Two Oregon utilities with ownership shares in Colstrip Units 3 and 4, are obligated by law to begin phasing out coal power from the energy delivered to Oregon customers within the next 13 years. [Highlighting added.]

“Clean coal” is a lie, a political slogan, not a viable technology. . Even if the CO2 is captured completely, an impossibility, and no particulates, or sulfides, or other unhealthy compounds, are released into the atmosphere, strip mines will still wreck the land.

Moreover, if the recovered CO2 then pushes liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons out of the ground somewhere else and into combustion engines and turbines, greenhouse gases will be released; for there is no technology for sequestering the CO2 generated by motor vehicles and airplanes. What Rosendale proposes amounts to moving the pollution next door, not preventing its release.

Colstrip’s voters deserve better than this. They know their world is changing, that natural gas, solar, and wind, are displacing coal, and that the future will not be found in their rear view mirrors. They’re caught between a past to which they cannot return, and a future for which they’re poorly prepared. Like Trump, Rosendale’s campaigning on false hope, promising he’ll make the future like the past. It’s a cynical promise he can’t keep, a politician’s promise no one should believe.



4 August 2017 — 1453 mdt

Another note to readers

It doesn’t happen often, but today it did happen: I became so engrossed in researching a subject that I ran out of time to write about it. My apologies. I’ll try to manage my time better, and plan to post tomorrow. JRC.


3 August 2017 — 0847 mdt

Note to readers

Flathead Memo is standing down today.


2 August 2017 — 1738 mdt

Is the distribution of raw milk now legal in Montana?

Rep. Nancy Ballance’s (R-Hamilton) bill (HB-325) to legalize the sale of raw milk in Montana died in the MT Senate on 11 April 2017. But the anti-pasteurization movement is alive and well in Montana — and through the office of State Auditor Matt Rosendale, it may have found a way to legalize the distribution of raw milk in Montana despite the failure of Ballance’s bill.

Yesterday, the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund reported:

Montana residents can now get legal access to raw milk through purchasing securities, giving them ownership interest in a dairy animal or dairy animals. Dairy farmers wanting to sell stock in their animals need to obtain an exemption from the state securities registration requirement; the farmers fill out an application for the exemption with the Office of the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance (OCSI). Please do not contact OCSI. [Bold italic in original.]

If you want to contact OSCI, here’s the direct link: http://csimt.gov/securities/.

Apparently Montana’s Department of Livestock may not challenge Rosendale’s circumvention of the legislature, and the will of Montana’s citizens:

During recent communications with OCSI officials, DOL leadership indicated it would honor the exemptions, changing its prior policy. DOL would still have oversight over raw milk producers operating under the exemption. FTCLDF member Chris Rosenau was instrumental in forging the breakthrough on the DOL policy. Rosenau has led the effort to pass a raw milk bill the last three legislative sessions in Montana. OCSI limits stock offerings to ownership in four cows with 25 solicitations (meaning a maximum of 25 stockholders) per offering. It is not clear at this point how many goats could be included in an offering, but the number is probably around the same as for cows.

DOL will likely continue to regard the typical herd share arrangements existing in Montana (and many other states) as illegal even though Montana law provides a strong argument for their legality.

Rosenau, who has spent thousands of uncompensated hours working for a change in the state raw milk laws, regards the new DOL policy as a foot in the door and a step towards expanding raw milk access in the state. She plans on working with legislators to introduce another raw milk bill in the next legislative session.

FTCLDF drafted documents for the farmer member mentioned earlier who successfully obtained the exemption in 2016. Montana dairy farmers interested in applying for the exemption can contact us. Again, please do not contact OCSI. [Contact link in original.]

The raw milk lawyers may be looking for a test case through which they can seek a court’s blessing of this securities scheme.

I’ll give Rosenau and her allies credit for tenacity. Like the Taliban, like the Affordable Care Act hating Republican U.S. Senators, they rebound from each defeat, demanding that the legislature legalize the sale of raw milk, and attacking the scientific authority of the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institute of Health, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, all of whom consider raw milk too dangerous for human consumption.

In the last three Montana legislative sessions, Rosenau, et al, have bamboozled the MT House of Representatives into approving raw milk legalization bills, expert testimony to the contrary not withstanding. The MT Senate, fortunately, has killed all of the bills, thus saving Montana’s citizens from the political indulgences and cowardices of huge majorities of the MT House.

The effort to legalize the sale and distribution of raw milk in Montana is a rejection of science and a frontal assault on our system of public health. It it succeeds, raw milk will sicken people, and may kill some.

So will repealing or gutting the ACA. Rosendale supports that. Ergo, it’s no surprise to learn that his agency apparently has joined hands with the raw milk zealots who are hellbent on destroying an effective public health system.



1 August 2017 — 1717 mdt

Tester’s a stronger candidate than Rosendale reckons


Montana Auditor Matt Rosendale yesterday announced he’s running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Jon Tester, who’s running for a third term. Rosendale joins State Senator Albert Olszewski, M.D., (Kalispell), Troy Downing (Bozeman), Ron Murray (Belgrade), and possibly Russell Fagg (Billings) in believing that given President Trump’s popularity in Montana, and Tester’s history of close elections, the burly farmer from Big Sandy is ripe to be replaced.

A more careful reading of the tea leaves suggests otherwise.

…read the rest


31 July 2017 — 1217 mdt

Blue Doggies are always for sale

Politico reports that in their quest to seize the U.S. House of Representatives next year, Democrats are sending whistles of welcome to the Blue Dogs, the rural red state conservatives who caucus with the Democratic Party but all too often vote with the Republicans. That report incited me to write new lyrics for an old Patti Page song. Enjoy.

Is that a Blue Doggie in the Congress?
The one with the GOP tail,
He wiggles and wags at Mitch McConnell,
I'll bet that Blue Doggie’s for sale.

Blue Doggies like private health insurance,
They say single-payer’s third rail,
They bow down and kiss up to Big Pharma,
Blue Doggies are always for sale.

Blue Doggies believe they’re just pragmatic,
At liberals they shudder and quail,
They cut deals that betray Dem progressives,
Blue Doggies are always for sale.

We don’t need Blue Doggies in the Congress,
We don'’t need their brand of betrayal,
Replace them with big-hearted progressives,
Send Blue Doggies down Satan’s dark trail.



30 July 2017 — 1950 mdt

Don’t lay down your sword & shield — health care repeal is still alive

Keep resisting. We haven’t won. The U.S. Senate is still in session, President Trump is still demanding that Congress repeal the Affordable Care Act, and Republican Senators Graham (SC), Dean Heller (NV), and Bill Cassidy (LA), are colluding with Trump and Mitch McConnell to find something that will win 50 votes. The depth of their obsession and determination makes Captain Ahab’s mad adventure seem like a dilettante’s dalliance with a sweet rose.

The normal legislative rules don’t apply. Health care remains under siege. Friday’s vote on Skinny Repeal was setback, but not the kind of defeat that causes soldiers to throw away their weapons and trudge back to their day jobs, broken, demoralized, never to fight again. McConnell came up short, but just one vote short — and no one should assume that Collins, Murkowski, and McCain, will vote against all bills that repeal, or tamper with, the ACA. Mitch and his henchmen will keep trying until January, 2018, stopping then only if Democrats win at least one house of Congress.

This is a battle of ideology, a war of attrition, a fight to the death. The barbarians are still at the gate. Therefore, continue resisting. Increase your intensity. Expand your campaign. Maintain your guard. Never give up. Never give in.



30 July 2017 — 1515 mdt

Do MT Democrats believe that only tall men should hold office?

Montana’s Democrats, and others, are rightly criticizing Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton for his campaign against the virtually nonexistent threat of voter fraud. He has no proof that voter fraud exists, but he has faith that it does, and on that issue seems to have a zealot’s immunity to facts and logic.

He also has one less department head at MT SecST. Derek J. Oestreicher, an attorney, and Stapleton’s choice to head SecST’s elections and voter services department, resigned last week. Oestreicher, according to Logicosity, and the Missoulian, apparently resigned because of the strength of his disagreement with Stapleton’s jihad against voter fraud.

Unfortunately, Logicosity accompanied its report with a cheap shot at Stapleton’s physical stature:

Derek, an attorney by trade, and his former principal, one who suffers from a severe case of Napoleon Complex… [Link in original.]

Stapleton stands several inches under six feet. Oestreicher is six feet with some inches to spare.

But as I noted when taking Montana Cowboy to task for belittling Stapleton’s stature, Stapleton was tall enough to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy, tall enough to serve his country as a naval officer, and tall enough for the voters of Montana, who chose him as their secretary of state last November.

Alleging that he has a Napoleon complex, that because of his height he has an inferiority complex, that he’s too short to be a good public servant, is high school locker room level bullying at its worst. It’s the politics of personal destruction. It’s disgraceful. It needs to stop. Now.



29 July 2017 — 1636 mdt

Could this be the mother of all political Venns?

Celinda Lake, the Democratic pollster who graduated from Montana State University, recently delivered a PowerPoint presentation, Comparing the Voting Electorate in 2012-2016 and Predicting 2018 Drop-off, for the Voter Participation Center, whose mission is:

…to increase civic engagement among the Rising American Electorate: unmarried women, people of color, and millennials.

The Democratic Strategist has a serviceable discussion of the data and methodology covered in the PowerPoint presentation (I’m not going to call a PPP a report; see Tufte). I’ll therefore defer to that discussion and the presentation for those details, but I will call your attention to the Venn diagram depicting the RAE, and report the turnout drop-off Lake predicts for Montana’s 2018 general election.

First, the Venn diagram from the PPP (page 8):

…read the rest


28 July 2017 — 1300 mdt

Tester takes Daines’ bait, votes against single-payer


Yesterday, Sen. Jon Tester cast a vote that will — and should — infuriate many Democrats. Joined by Democratic Blue Dogs Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and independent Angus King (ME), Tester voted against Daines’ amendment (Senate Amendment 340 to Senate Amendment 267 to H.R. 1628, the House’s bill to gut the Affordable Care Act) to create a single-payer health care system for the nation. The amendment failed, 0–57, with 42 Democrats and independent Bernie Sanders voting “present.”

Daines, who voted for all of Mitch McConnell’s bills to deny health insurance for tens of millions of Americans, offered his single-payer amendment to embarrass Democrats, hoping to peel off a few Democratic “No” votes so that Republicans could claim that the single-payer bill died a bipartisan death.

Tester, et al, no doubt thinking voting against Daines’ mischief amendment would inoculate them against charges they are European socialists hellbent on helping the improvident and undeserving, seized the opportunity and granted Daines and Mitch McConnell their wish.

Unlike Daines, Tester voted against all of McConnell’s bills. Give him credit for that.

But what does he believe should be done to improve the ACA, which leaves millions uninsured, and permits the sale of high deductible insurance policies that are next to worthless?

If Tester believes that health care is a right, or should be a right, what kind of health care system does he propose that would provide equal protection under the law? An everyone covered for everything federal single-payer system financed by progressive taxes would provide equal protection under the law, but what other system would?

Voting against Daines’ sucker the Blue Dogs amendment was a mistake. King, Tester, and the other Democratic defectors should have voted “Present.”



27 July 2017 — 1514 mdt

Flathead County’s Stage II fire regulations
may be dangerously solicitous of agriculture

Yesterday, the Flathead County Commission abruptly imposed State II fire restrictions (PDF) on private land within the county — with one glaring exception.

Agricultural activities pursuant to § 76-2-901, et seq., M.C.A.

Here’s the “farming is too important to be subjected to equal protection under the law” section of Montana’s statutes:

76-2-901. Agricultural activities — legislative finding and purpose.

(1) The legislature finds that agricultural lands and the ability and right of farmers and ranchers to produce a safe, abundant, and secure food and fiber supply have been the basis of economic growth and development of all sectors of Montana’s economy. In order to sustain Montana’s valuable farm economy and land bases associated with it, farmers and ranchers must be encouraged and have the right to stay in farming.

(2) It is therefore the intent of the legislature to protect agricultural activities from governmental zoning and nuisance ordinances.

It gets just as hot and dry on a farm as it does in a suburban backyard, and a stray spark ignites flammable material just as easily. The only difference is that most farms are open land, and thus may be a bit breezier than a suburban backyard in which trees break the wind. Once ignited, a fire may spread faster and farther in a farm’s field than in a sheltered suburban backyard.

The commissioners are rolling the dice. Hoping that no farmer gets careless or unlucky, the commissioners are holding farmers to a lower standard than the rest of us so that farmers with a day job can fire up their tractors during the late afternoon, when the heat of the day peaks, relative humidity is lowest, the wind is rising, and the risk of fire is the greatest.

If you live in the suburbs, don’t mow your lawn after lunch — just keep your garden hose and your cell phone handy in case Farmer Jones, home at last from a day in the sawmill, weary and possibly not fully attentive, makes a mistake and sets the neighborhood on fire. First, call 911 to summon the fire brigade. Then call the commissions to give them hell for gambling with fire.

Commissioners must stop scanning documents to PDFs

The county’s Stage II fire edict is a two-page PDF. It was written on a computer, probably using Microsoft Word, but instead of being saved as a text-based PDF that’s searchable and from which text can be copied and pasted, the document was converted to a raster image, then output to a PDF.

Governments, and some private entities, do this to prevent the document from being indexed by search engines; and to make it as hard as possible for readers to search the document and to extract text from it. Bastards. And, hypocrites. They know what they’re doing, and after they’ve done it, they have the temerity to complain that voters have a dim view of government and public officials.



25 July 2017 — 1411 mdt

Senate vote proves there are at most two “moderate” GOP senators

Shortly after 1300 MDT today, the U.S. Senate voted 51–50 to begin debate on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Montana’s junior senator, Steve Daines, voted for the motion, as did so-called “moderates” Dean Heller (R-NV), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Shelley Capito (R-WV), and certified maverick John McCain (R-AZ). Only two Republicans, Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), voted against it.

Last week, Capito said “I didn’t come to Washington to hurt people.” But her vote today proves she’s stayed in Washington long enough to overcome that noble intention.

McCain, a life long beneficiary of government health care, voted to let the mischief begin, then delivered a speech lauding bipartisanship and criticizing Democrats for passing the Affordable Care Act on a party line vote, conveniently not admitting that the ACA vote was party line because Republicans decided to oppose everything that President Obama proposed. His return to the Senate was dramatic. His call for bipartisanship, given his vote against the ACA, was hypocritical.

The Republican strategy is clear: find enough votes to pass something, anything, that President Trump will sign, call it repeal, call it victory, and then move on to providing the filthy rich with a tax break that spares them the indignity of not being able to afford a new private jet.



23 July 2017 — 2318 mdt

Red herrings, rump elections, phantom fraudsters of the ballot box


Trump’s “I can pardon myself” is a red herring to distract us from the GOP’a assault on health care. The debate is fascinating, but the issue isn’t ripe (except in a figurative sense). Meanwhile, reports Politico, Mitch McConnell and his lieutenants remain determined to pass a bill that guts the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid:

…read the rest


19 July 2017 — 1745 mdt

Defending Obamacare is not enough —
we must replace it with American Care

Nothing has more lives than a bad idea promoted by bad people. As long as bad people — that is, Republicans — control Congress and the Presidency, bills to repeal and/or gut Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act, will continue to be introduced, in many cases put to a vote, and in some cases, passed by at least one house of Congress. Meanwhile, the executive branch will do everything in its power, and possibly beyond its legal power, to sabotage the ACA.

Bearing that in mind, don’t celebrate the demise of McConnell’s latest bill. Don’t even think of heaving a sigh of relief. The demise is only temporary. The GOP’s determination to deprive the middle class and the poor of decent health insurance will continue forever.

Therefore, the resistance must continue forever. Full force. Relentlessly. Without quarter.

But resistance alone is not enough.

The ACA is better than the status quo ante. Ergo, it must be defended. But it leaves millions uninsured, and blesses deductibles so large that for many the risk of a medical bankruptcy remains frighteningly high. It does not provide equal protection under the law.

Progressives must begin making the case — and making it fortissimo — for what I call American Care: an everyone covered for everything federal single-payer system financed by progressive taxes.

American Care will be opposed by the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party, the wing that sold its soul to, and made its peace with, the private health insurance industry (one of the most parasitic, most economically worthless, most morally degenerate, industries the world has ever known). Who can forget the reckless, dishonest, morally depraved, attack on Bernie Sanders’ single-payer proposal made by Hillary Clinton’s campaign? And according to Pete Talbot at The Montana Post (the former Intelligent Discontent), Jon Tester, like Max Baucus before him, wants single-payer off the table:

… Sen. Jon Tester recently held an impromptu meeting with Missoula Democrats, basically firing up his base. Health care was a heady topic, and an audience member asked about advancing a single-payer plan. Tester responded that keeping the ACA (Obamacare) in tact was a big enough battle — single payer was off the table.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could play offense instead of defense? … [Highlighting by Flathead Memo.]

Thank you, Sen. Tester, for defending the ACA. But don’t be a Wall Street Democrat. Your resistance to, and dissing of, the most economically efficient, and the only truly just, health care system, is shameful, embarrassing, and wrong.



17 July 2017 — 1536 mdt

A ballot box history of Montana’s 6-mill University Levy

Voters next fall get to decide whether to retain the 6-mill university levy, first approved in 1920 (overview), that currently raises approximately $20 million per year (legislative fiscal note). Supporters of the levy, reports Edward R. Burrow at Logicosity (post 1, post 2), are organizing a campaign to promote the measure that may cost $2.7 million. Burrow worries that an expensive levy campaign will compete with Democratic candidates for the same pot of money, possibly costing Democrats seats in the legislature. I share Burrow’s concern.

Burrow, commenting on Hilltop Public Solutions’ proposal to manage the campaign for the level, reports:

…read the rest


17 July 2017 — 2148 mdt

GOP health care moon shot moons the public


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced tonight that he’s pulling his healthcare bill in favor of a bill that repeals the Affordable Care Act but delays approving a replacement for two years. His announcement came after Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) said McConnell’s bill wasn’t conservative enough. Added to the already announced opposition from Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Susan Collins (R-ME), and John McCain’s medical absence, that left McConnell without the votes to pass his bill.

But the repeal now, replace later, option is just as crazy as deciding to land on the Moon, and once there, figuring out how to get home.

There’s no guarantee that the fools on the moon will figure out how to get home. Likewise, there’s no guarantee that the GOP will figure out a replacement for the ACA, although a case can be made that the replacement Trump, Ryan, and McConnell, favor is the status quo ante, and that therefore they would let the clock expire and welcome back the good old days of denying insurance for pre-existing conditions and reinstating the other evils the ACA banned or diminished.

McConnell may welcome heading for the Moon without a ticket home as he might believe that would provide the leverage he needs to peel off a few weak Democrats, allowing him to say that the replacement for the ACA had bipartisan backing. Indeed, that may be have been his plan all along.

Meanwhile, Americans who need health insurance are being mooned by the senior senator from Kentucky.