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

25 April 2017 — 1631 mdt

MS termination accusation is big trouble for Gianforte


When he owned Brightworks 27 years ago, did Greg Gianforte fire a crackerjack salesman after learning that he had multiple sclerosis? Raw Story reports that he did, and has published the legal documents on which the report is based.

If true this is major league trouble for Gianforte because it goes to character, depicting him as a man for whom making a fast dollar is the highest reason for doing anything.

Frankly, it suggests he may be the kind of man who would have fired Rob Quist from his band for having had gall bladder surgery — as a man who has more gall than compassion and decency — and as not the man Joe and Jane Montana would want voting on health care legislation.

Thus far, Gianforte’s response has been “no comment.” That buys him 24 hours to pull together a response, but it does not refute Raw Story’s report. Unless Gianforte provides a compelling response that survives vigorous fact checking, this revelation will cost him votes, possibly a lot of votes, possibly enough votes to lose the election.



25 April 2017 — 1429 mdt

Don’t mark your congressional absentee ballots before 18 May

Absentee ballots are being mailed today, enabling voters to start voting in the 25 May special congressional election almost 30 days in advance of the end of the election. Ten years ago, I observed that this is not a good idea:

[Allowing voting 30 days before the end of the election] turns election day into election month (or some extended period). If ballots are cast during a long period of time instead of on a single day, voters are no longer making a decision after having been exposed to the same events. They are no longer applying their knowledge and beliefs to a shared set of facts. I know that reality departs a bit from that ideal, but the principle is sound and I think we should make every attempt to observe it.

…read the rest


24 April 2017 — 0638 mdt

Legislative notes

Montana’s legislature will adjourn sometime this week, but it won’t be until mid-May that we’ll fully know how much damage was done, and how much mischief was avoided. There were some minor victories:

…read the rest


23 April 2017 — 2112 mdt

Flathead Memo considers withdrawing endorsement of Rob Quist


On 4 January 2017, I endorsed Democrat Rob Quist for Congress. Today, I’m considering withdrawing that endorsement because Quist’s campaign is wrongly and in my judgment, mendaciously, claiming that his Republican opponent, Bozeman businessman Greg Gianforte, is a New Jersey multimillionaire. Here’s a paragraph from a press handout under his campaign’s letterhead that was emailed this evening:

…read the rest


23 April 2017 — 1941 mdt

Sunday roundup

Two Flathead legislative seats will be open in 2018. Republican Reps. Steve Lavin (HD-8, Kalispell) and Randy Brodehl (HD-9, Evergreen) are serving their fourth terms. Because of term limits, they cannot be on the ballot for the MT House next year (but Article IV, Section 8(3) of Montana’s constitution allows them to run for a fifth term as write-in candidates).

These are long shot districts for Democrats, but they are not out of range districts, especially in turbulent times. With good candidates, hard work, and a few breaks, these districts might turn blue. Ergo, Democrats should begin recruiting candidates and welcome contested primaries.

Potential candidates should begin raising money now, and walking and, from time-to-time, door knocking, these districts this summer. Democrats should not, incidentally, recruit reluctant, dour, candidates. Voters don’t enjoy voting for candidates who aren’s having fun and don’s radiate hope and joy.

Now is an especially good time for recruiting because the talents of activists are on display as they work to send Rob Quist to Congress. There’ll be plenty of interest among Republicans.

Tammi Fisher, the former mayor of Kalispell who lost to Sen. Mark Blasdel in the 2014 GOP primary for SD-4, is a possibility for HD-8. Taylor Rose, who lost to incumbent Democrat Rep. Zac Perry in HD-3 last November, is a possibility for HD-9.

Seven Flathead legislators cast anal retentive votes on SB-319. Five years ago, Aspen Many Hides came to her Polson High School graduation wearing a mortarboard decorated with beads sewn into by her mother. But just before the grand march began, a school official laid down the law: if you want to be part of the ceremony, the beads must go. And so, with Many Hides weeping, her frantic mother removed the beads.

Not Many Hides.

Thanks to Sen. Jen Gross (D-Billings), that injustice, that act of official sanctioned racial discrimination, won’t happen again in Montana, at least not legally. Friday, 21 April, Gov. Steve Bullock signed into law SB-319, Gross’ bill that explicitly permits “…wearing traditional tribal regalia or objects of cultural significance at a public event … ‘Public event’ means an event held or sponsored by a state agency or a local government, including but not limited to an award ceremony, a graduation ceremony, or a public meeting.” The bill takes effect immediately.

The Flathead’s legislative delegation split on the bill, with three members of the MT House voting Aye, and six voting Nay (full vote: 67–33). In the MT Senate, four of the Flathead’s five senators voted for the measure (full vote: 38–12). Sen. Keith Regier, a former educator and school board member, voted for the bill. His son, Rep. Matt Regier, voted against it.




22 April 2017

Always carry a camera


This intense fragment of a double rainbow appeared in the east-southeast sky near Lone Pine a few minutes before sundown as I was walking northwest of Kalispell after dinner yesterday. Often the full arc of the rainbow is visible, but if it was I missed it while I was walking west. When I turned east and spotted it, only these golden arcs were visible. But what a sight, with the snow capped Swan and Mission Mountains in the distance. This is why we live here. Enjoy Earth Day.


21 April 2017 — 1739 mdt

Rob Quist’s “I love guns” ad channels Rosendale’s “I shot the drone” ad

Rob Quist’s campaign express is rolling faster every day. Money is rolling in, more than $2 million so far. National Democrats are finally rolling in, mostly so they won’t be blamed if Quist crashes and burns. And television ads are rolling out. The latest ad (below) proclaims Quist’s undying love for the Second Amendment. More on that in a moment.

…read the rest


21 April 2017 — 1014 mdt

A song for those who looked north, saw hope, and risked everything

Artists from Willy DeVille to Willie Nelson have recorded Ry Cooder’s powerful Across the Borderline, which was written for The Border and sung for the movie by Freddy Fender. Here, Calexico and Ray Wylie Hubbard join Nick and Helen Forster in a soulful performance.



20 April 2017 — 1815 mdt

New MT turnout spreadsheet, labor v. MEIC, K. Regier v. Sherman

New Montana voter turnout spreadsheet. You won’t find all of these data at the website of Montana’s Secretary of State. I’ve updated the absentee ballot fields, and added records for Montana’s last two statewide special elections, which were held in November, 1971, and June, 1993. The 1971 special election was the first statewide election in Montana in which 18-year-olds voted.

Labor versus the Montana Environmental Information Center. The MEIC, the Sierra Club, the Northwest Energy Coalition, and Renewable Northwest, climbed into bed with Big Energy and the Montana Chamber of Commerce, and other business and right wing interests, to oppose SB-338, Sen. Duane Ankney’s (R-Colstrip) bill to hold the owners of Colstrip responsible for the damage closing Colstrip will do to the displaced coal miners and powerplant employees and their communities. SB-338 passed the MT Senate 43–6, but was tabled in a tie vote in the MT House’s Energy, Technology, and Federal Relations Committee. On 18 April, an attempt to blast the bill from the committee failed 40–59.

…read the rest


19 April 2017 — 1358 mdt

Turnout in Georgia’s 6th, mail ballots in Montana’s 1st

Turnout in the jungle primary for Georgia’s sixth congressional district approached midterm election levels, reports Ed Kilgore, who worked there many years as a high level politico. Democrat Jon Ossoff won 48 percent of the vote, not enough to avoid a runoff, but it was an impressive showing all the same. Ossoff, notes Kilgore, probably did not benefit from early voting.

Republicans won an estimated 58 percent of an elevated election-day turnout, and as was the case in several states last year, it appears Democrats were harvesting early votes that would have been cast for them in any event, not adding to their totals.

Montana’s 25 May special election will be a hybrid of absentee mail ballots and traditional election day voting at the polls. Speaker of the MT House Austin Knudsen, reports Mike Dennison, refuses to schedule a floor vote on HB-83, which contains Gov. Bullock’s amendatory veto allowing county clerk and recorders to hold the election by an all-mail ballot. In theory, the bill could be blasted onto the floor with a 60-vote supermajority, but the all-mail ballot supporters lack the votes.

Montana’s Democrats are in high dudgeon over the all-mail ballot election’s demise, righteously proclaiming that opponents are feckless spendthrifts who are costing Montana a whopping $750,000, and suppressing votes.

…read the rest


18 April 2017

Montana Associated Press flunks News Reporting 101

Here’s the lead (I neither like nor use “lede”) paragraph from an Associated Press story in today’s Missoulian, Senate endorses utility cost-sharing plan in surprise vote:

The Montana Senate has endorsed a bill that would require NorthWestern Energy to absorb some of the financial burden that results from unexpected outages instead of passing all of those costs to its customers.

What’s missing?

  1. The number of the bill, and its short title.
  2. The name of the legislator who introduced and is carrying the bill.

Okay, I’ll concede those data need not be in the lead paragraph — but if they’re not in the lead, they ought to be in the second paragraph — and they sure as hell ought to be somewhere in the story.

But — inexcusably — they’re nowhere in the story.

I think the bill is HB-193, “Revise utility electric cost recovery,” jointly sponsored by Reps. Tom Woods (D-Bozeman) and Daniel Zolnikov (R-Billings).

Delete “I think” and the paragraph above fits nicely after the lead.

Contrary to what the Associated Press obviously believes, a bill’s number and short title, and the name of the sponsoring legislator, are important to readers.

A student at any reputable journalism school who wrote a story omitting a bill’s number, short title, and sponsor, would receive a huge, red, “F” on his assignment and fail News Reporting 101.

So why are MT AP writers getting paid to omit vital information from their stories, and why are the Missoulian’s editors not correcting the AP’s mistakes before publishing the story?



17 April 2017 — 2316 mdt

Note to readers

Flathead Memo had to stand down today.


16 April 2017

May Easter’s bunny bring a day that’s sunny


Last year, Easter was early. This year, it’s 20 days later — not the latest possible, but late enough. Moreover, it’s on the same day as Easter for the Eastern Orthodox Church, which bases its calculation on the Julian calendar instead of on the Gregorian calendar used in the west. You’ll find more information at Flathead Memo’s Calculating the date of Easter.

At The Conversation, you’ll find The very strange history of the easter bunny, a light-hearted but not for little children look at fertility, rabbits, eggs, and a symbolic bunny.

Forbes has The curious history of Easter eggs from birth to burial, a serious but enlightening read. Tomorrow, the 139th White House Easter Egg Roll will be live-streamed, but reportedly not an especially trumped-up affair. Will all the eggs be white? Will the event’s level of organization be consistent with the level of organization thus far endured in this administration?