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

6 February 2016

Rosendale goes for state auditor, GOP goes for lands board


State Senator Matt Rosendale (R-Glendive) announced yesterday that he’s running for state auditor. If elected, he would serve as Montana’s commissioner of insurance and securities, and have a seat on the state’s lands board.

Rosendale, a wealthy real estate developer, spent approximately one million dollars of his own money in an unsuccessful campaign for the Republican nomination for the U.S. House in 2014. He released a zany campaign video in which he used a deer rifle to shoot down a peeping drone. He also attended a Second Amendment Rally in Kalispell that was sponsored by the Oath Keepers.

…read the rest


5 February 2016

Montana Democrats still committing credibility suicide

Jason Pitt, spokesman for Montana’s Democratic Party, was at it again yesterday, issuing a press release calling Bozeman businessman Greg Gianforte a “New Jersey multimillionaire.” That’s a lie. Gianforte’s a Montana multimillionaire.

And Pitt’s not the only one lying about Gianforte. In a post at Montana Cowgirl this morning, Justin Robbins called Gianforte a “New Jersey billionaire.”

I’m not going call out Pitt, et al, every time they employ this lie. But I will from time-to-time to remind them that they’re committing political malpractice and credibility suicide, and helping Gianforte instead of hurting him.



4 February 2016

Hillary is a self-righteous scold I’ll never listen to again

I’ll vote for the Democratic nominee even if that nominee is Hillary Clinton. But I’ll never again watch her debate. Or give a speech. Or deliver a sound bite on the evening news. She’s not Presidential. She’s a self-righteous scold. I cannot imagine her staying calm in the Situation Room. I can imagine her getting us into war, but that probably won’t happen because I also can imagine her losing to a Marco Rubio/John Kasich ticket.

Here’s her Tammy Wynette moment during Bill Clinton’s Presidency. You’ll recognize her way of expressing disdain if you watched tonight’s debate:


Are Montana’s independent political bloggers a vanishing breed?

The Missoula Independent asks that question in a 4.500-word article by Alex Sakariassen in which Flathead Memo is mentioned:


…read the rest


3 February 2016

Iowa’s Democratic caucuses are unnecessarily complex and opaque

In the Iowa caucuses, Republicans count the votes, but Democrats count the votes, make arcane calculations, then announce the outcome not in votes but in delegate equivalents, keeping the raw vote tallies secret. I’ve never understood why. It complicates the process, obfuscates rather than clarifies, and multiplies the opportunities for error. That’s a problem in close contests.

Did this gratuitous complexity and opacity result in an inaccurate Democratic count? Some think so. USA Today has a good story on the situation.

…read the rest

MEA-MFT and the GOP, and other Montana briefs

Montana’s biggest union endorses Republican Tim Fox for attorney general. Although organized labor usually endorses Democrats, it’s not a wing of the Democratic Party. In 1972, for example, the Teamsters endorsed Richard Nixon, possibly in exchange for Nixon’s pardoning Jimmy Hoffa. Now the 18,000-member MEA-MFT has endorsed Republican Tim Fox, Montana’s incumbent attorney general, for re-election. If re-elected, Fox reportedly plans to run for governor in 2020, so the union’s leadership is playing a dangerous game.

…read the rest

Where does Denise Juneau stand on the issues?


Democrat Denise Juneau wants to be Montana’s next representative in the U.S. House of Representatives, but she doesn’t seem to want to tell us where she stands on the issues. After Mike Dennison reported yesterday that she’s gay, which caught me by surprise, I checked her website: lots of her personal story, but nothing on the issues.

To borrow a term of emphasis from Bernie Sanders, I don’t give a damn whether she’s gay — that will neither hurt her among Democrats nor help her among Republicans — as long as she doesn’t run an identity politics campaign and comes clean on the issues.

I want to know where she stands on Social Security, health care, energy, foreign policy, breaking up the big banks, college tuition, progressive taxation, helping the middle class get ahead instead of falling behind.

As a citizen and voter I have a right to know where she stands on the issues. As a candidate, she has a responsibility to come clean on the issues.

In detail.




2 February 2016

The natural laws governing average drivers

These laws are not theoretical. They are derived from observations I made while driving through a snowstorm yesterday.

  1. The average driver’s speed is inversely proportional to the road’s coefficient of friction.

  2. The average driver’s speed is inversely proportional to the visibility.

  3. Average drivers believe that reducing risk requires increasing speed to spend less time in the danger zone.


Preliminary takeaways from the Iowa caucuses

8:11:58 MST. With the counting 99+ percent complete, the New York Times reports that Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders by three tenths of one percent, and that Ted Cruz won the Republican caucuses with 27.7 percent of the vote. Some quick takeaways:

…read the rest


1 February 2016

Gianforte is picking cherries and sour apples

Republican gubernatorial hopeful Greg Gianforte ran into some quantitative turbulence on MTN’s Face the State (watch it on YouTube) yesterday when Montana State University political scientist David Parker asked him whether Montana’s economy was really as bad as he claims.

Gianforte’s been saying that Montana ranks 49th in wages, just above Mississippi, a right to work state that still enjoys the Confederacy’s love of cheap labor. His number comes from the Transactional Records Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.

Writing at Big Sky Political Analysis, Parker reports that by other measures, Montana is doing better than next to last:

…read the rest

What I learned at the precinct caucus

I grew up in Minnesota, and thus have some experience with the precinct caucus system as was practiced there by the Democratic Farmer Labor Party. Iowa’s caucus system is similar.

Precinct caucuses reward motivation, enthusiasm, and organization. An insurgency with fired-up and well led activists can have disproportionate success at a caucus if more mainstream campaigns are caught napping and fail to get their activists to the precinct.

…read the rest


31 January 2016

Sunday briefs

More on the SD-47 Democratic primary. According to Logicosity, former Rep. Joey Jayne is anti-choice and prone to taking extreme positions. Being anti-choice reduces a candidate’s chance of winning a Democratic primary. Democrats across Montana will be watching this primary closely.

Logicosity, incidentally, is analyzing legislative contests with an insider’s knowledge and acumen.

Confirmation bias and the Finicum shooting video. The FBI released aerial video of the shooting of LaVoy Finicum in the belief it would confirm the official version of why he was shot. Instead, much to the FBI’s surprise and dismay, the video, which many find ambiguous, has raised doubts that law enforcement authorities are telling the truth. What caused law enforcement to misjudge the public’s reaction so badly?

…read the rest

No, Washington Post, Hillary and Bernie are NOT in a statistical tie

Today’s Washington Post reports that the latest Des Moines Register poll found Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders by three points. Because the poll’s margin of error is four points, the Post says:

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are locked in a statistical tie in the hard-fought and unexpectedly close Iowa Democratic presidential contest, a new Des Moines Register-Bloomberg poll found Saturday.

The respected survey found Clinton commands 45 percent of Democratic support and Sanders 42 percent. The poll of 602 likely Democratic caucus-goers has a margin of error of 4 percentage points, meaning Clinton’s lead is within the margin of error. The survey comes three days before the first presidential voting of 2016 and reflects a late surge by Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont who was once considered a long shot here.

A true statistical tie would be 45–45 or 42–42. Hillary’s three-point lead translates into a 77 percent likelihood that she’s actually leading; a lead is not a tie.

…read the rest


30 January 2016

Saturday political roundup

Rep. Albert Olszewski, M.D., as Greg Gianforte’s running mate? He’s one of three possibilities named by Matt Monforton at his Republican Uprising blog. The others are young Rep. Daniel Zolnikov and Rep. Nancy “Raw Milk” Ballance, whom Monforton describes as Montana’s Margaret Thatcher. Olszewski voted against legalizing the sale of raw milk. Thatcher was a chemist before she became a politician, so it’s possible the scientist in her supported pasteurization more than her inner libertarian supported the sale of raw milk.

If as governor Gianforte became too steamed over an issue, Dr. Olszewski as lieutenant governor would have credibility if he warned Gianforte to watch his blood pressure.

Zolnikov is just 28 years old. Montana’s 1972 constitution sets the minimum age for governor at 25 years of age. The minimum in Montana’s 1889 constitution was 30. There was an effort during the drafting of the 1972 document to allow an 18-year-old to qualify for governor (the voting age had just been lowered to 18), but cooler heads prevailed. The age 30 minimum makes more sense, and should be readopted.

New York Times endorses Hillary Clinton. Not unexpected, but disappointing nonetheless. HRC is a policy technician whose natural top step on the political ladder is deputy chief of staff. She’s not a crisis manager — I shudder at the consequences of her taking that three-in-the-morning call — and her judgment, as exemplified by her email debacle, isn’t sound. Bernie Sanders has good judgment and is a capable crisis manager, but he scares the bejesus out of Wall Street and the banker owned Democratic establishment. That’s why the Times endorsed HRC — and one reason why I support Sanders, the last of the New Dealers. I also support Sanders because I believe he has a much better chance of winning than HRC.

Democratic primary battle developing in Senate District 47. That’s the district (map, district snapshot-PDF, Indian majority districts map-PDF) that stretches from Missoula to Polson, comprising HD-93 on the north and HD-94 on the south. Termed-out Rep. Daniel Salomon (R-Ronan), who current represents HD-93, is running for the Republican nod for SD-47. Rep. Kimberely Dudik (D-Missoula) is running for re-election in HD-94, which she won by just 48 votes in 2014. Facing off for the Democratic nomination are Missoula attorney Tom France, and former Rep. Joey Jayne, St. Ignatius, also an attorney. Jayne consistently introduced legislation to repeal the death penalty, which is a double plus on my scorecard.

In 2014, more Republican than Democratic votes were cast in SD-47, but a strong Democratic candidate running a strong campaign with a strong get out the vote operation might have a chance in 2016.


The voting age population in HD-4 was 25 percent American Indian (download spreadsheet) in the 2010 Census. That could provide an advantage for Jayne in the Mission Valley. France (whom I know; he did the legal work on Conner v. Burford) may have an advantage in Missoula, but he’s off to a slow start; no website yet. Both would make excellent legislators.

Are Flathead Republicans conceding House District 5? HD-5, Whitefish, leans Democratic. The seat is open thanks to Democratic Rep. Ed Lieser’s retirement. Democrat David Fern, who has served many years on the local school board, filed for HD-5. So far, no Republican has filed, or even filed a C-1. There’s speculation that high school student Chet Billi, who is promoting I-175, the let-high-school-teachers-pack-heat-in-the-classroom initiative that’s approved for signature gathering, may file for HD-5 as a Republican. I expect a more seasoned Republican will file for the seat.



29 January 2016

FBI video does not prove Finicum shooting was “righteous”

Updated at 13:46:22 MST. Yesterday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released a 26-minute, low resolution video of the operation that ended in the shooting death of Robert LaVoy Finicum. After viewing the video several times, and going through the shooting segment frame by frame, I find myself wondering whether Finicum could have been taken alive. He should have been taken alive.

I have some comments. But first, a description of the video and images that I extracted from it.

…read the rest


28 January 2016

Teabagger Gerald Cuvillier files for HD-13 as a Democrat — again


Sanders County tea partier Gerald Cuvillier has once more filed for the Democratic nomination in House District 13. He also filed for HD-13 as Democrat in 2014 — despite having served as vice chair of the Sanders County Republican Party.

In 2014 HD-13 Democratic primary he received 95 votes. Real Democrat Weylin Achatz received 372. In the general election, Republican Bob Brown defeated Achatz 2,772–1,143.

Cuvillier ran for the Trout Creek school board last fall. He came in third (and last) in an election for two trustee positions, receiving 12.3 percent of the vote.

Why Cuvillier is committing this mischief again is a head scratcher. Judging from his frequent comments in the Flathead Beacon, he’s still guzzling the tea. In fact, by comparison, Ted Cruz seems a socialist.

So what happens if Ryan Zinke and Greg Gianforte make campaign stops in Trout Creek? Will they pose for a selfie with “Democrat” Cuvillier?