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

16 February 2018 — 0953 mst

Pusillanimous politicians are not the prime nemesis of sensible firearms laws

Gunpowder crazed voters are. Convinced that their survival and self-respect depend on owning firearms that are weapons of war, weapons designed for killing and maiming people as rapidly and efficiently as possible, these voters have decided that mass shooting, while deplorable, are an acceptable price for being able to own AR-15 rifles and other military style weapons. These voters are the reason there’s cowardice in Congress. The militant extremists at the National Rifle Association are also factors, but the NRA would not wield the clout it does if so many voters weren’t so crazy in love with guns.

The Parkland murders will not provoke reform. As described in The Atlantic by James Fallows, we’ll wring our hands and wail — the ritual is well established — then wait for another mass murder committed by a lunatic armed with an AR-15. As a nation, we say we care, but we really don’t because we don’t act. At some point, perhaps, enough blood will be spilled, and enough brains will be splashed on the sidewalk, that our conscience is awakened and finally we melt all the AR-15s and their genre down to leg irons. But that day won’t break anytime soon. For now, as a nation, we choose to accept more spilled blood, and more splashed brains, because we think those are the colors of freedom.



16 February 2018 — 0906 mst

Montana candidates issue statements on the Parkland school murders

Updated at 1419 MST. Democratic candidates for the U.S. House John Heenan, Grant Kier, and Kathleen Williams, yesterday issued statements reacting to the Valentines Day school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 and wounded 15. Their full statements are below, along with the statement Lynda Moss issued today. I’ve offered Lynda Moss, the last of the four candidates who have paid the filing fee for the office, the opportunity to have her statement, if she issues one, published here.

…read the rest


15 February 2018 — 1224 mst

John Heenan has a big lead in Montana Post’s online poll

The online poll at The Montana Post of preferences in Montana’s Democratic primary for the U.S. House is not based on a random sample of voters. And at least one candidate, Kathleen Williams, issued Tweets urging her supporters to pack the poll for her.

But Williams is in third place, slightly behind Grant Kier, and well behind the leader, John Heenan. Lynda Moss and Jared Pettinato failed to break two percent.

…read the rest


13 February 2018 — 1608 mst

Missoula Rises’ lowdown attempt to sabotage the Cole Lecture

Missoula Rises, a left leaning political group, thinks highly of itself, but has a low opinion of Joe and Jane Citizen’s ability to think for themselves. Therefore, the Missoulian reports, the group’s self-appointed arbiters of what other people should be allowed to hear attempted to deny people access to this evening’s Jeff Cole Distinguished Lecture at the University of Montana (the university is the lecture’s venue, but not its sponsor).

Their tactic? Reserving tickets for the event they intended to boycott, hoping to keep the Dennison Auditorium at least half empty:

…read the rest


10 February 2018 — 1236 mst

45Q tax credits will not reverse coal’s decline

A generation ago, during the successful campaign to legislate a limited ban on phosphate detergents for the Flathead, the Soapers, led by Proctor and Gamble, argued, with straight faces, that instead of banning phosphates, we should remove them from the sewage before the effluent reached the Flathead River and Flathead Lake. Their premise — that it’s better to pollute and then clean up the pollutant than not to pollute in the first place — rightly provoked derisive guffaws, but one had to admire their chutzpah.

Today, the “pollute, then clean-up,” argument is being made by the people who dig and burn coal. Mine coal, they say, burn it, then capture the carbon dioxide and inject it into the ground, where it can’t function as a greenhouse gas. Not afraid to employ an oxymoron in support of their business, they call their burn and bury strategy “clean coal technology.”

Friday, they received a major subsidy when 45Q tax credits were included in the budget bill signed by President Trump:

…read the rest


9 February 2018 — 2116 mst

Flathead legislative and county filings update

Whitefish Democrat Mary Custer filed this week for House District 6 (map), challenging three-term incumbent Republican Rep. Carl Glimm, who has filed for a fourth and final term. Largely rural and suburban, HD-6 is deeply conservative, with a Democratic base of approximately 30 percent:

…read the rest


7 February 2018 — 1541 mst

Bullock wants a legislature that protects all hardworking
Montanans —but fails to call for a Democratic majority


In an oped published in most Montana newspapers late last week (Flathead Beacon), Gov. Steve Bullock said, “Throughout the legislative session, I repeatedly warned Republican leaders that building a budget on false revenue projections would result in even deeper cuts to services. And it did.”

Now Bullock is asking Montana’s voters to elect a legislature that will approve:

…read the rest


6 February 2018 — 1717 mst

Note to readers

Flathead Memo intends to resume publishing tomorrow. The editor and janitor has been attending to medical matters for the last few days. Thanks for visiting. We appreciate your interest.

3 February 2018 — 1043 mst

More candidates file in the Flathead

Keith Stahlberg, Sid Daoud, and Gerald Cuvillier, filed for Flathead area legislative and county offices this week (master chart below).

…read the rest


31 January 2018 — 0509 mst


29 January 2918

Note to readers

Flathead Memo is standing down today and possibly tomorrow, and probably will publish infrequently for the rest of the week. Thanks for visiting, and please continue to check back.


26 January 2018 — 1221 mst

Non-disclosure agreements in political campaigns undermine democracy

During Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign, reports the New York Times this morning, she refused to fire a staffer against whom there were accusations of sexual harassment. Instead, he was ordered to submit to counseling and his pay was docked. The women he allegedly harassed was moved to a different job.

This can be viewed either as Hillary’s giving a sinner a second chance, or as her turning a blind eye to misbehavior. My personal opinion, based on the story, is that giving the guy a second chance was the correct decision.

But what most struck me in the story was this:

…read the rest


25 January 2018 — 1548 mst


Tester cast a principled vote for community health centers —
but Montanans may think he voted to help illegal immigrants

Jon Tester’s vote to shutdown the government isn’t what’s getting him into trouble. It’s his principled, but politically risky, vote against reopening the government.

That’s because most news stories framed the issue as a vote on protecting the Dreamers, the young people who entered the U.S. illegally as children when their parents brought them into the country without proper authorization. Mostly from Mexico and Latin America, culturally they’re American, hard working, fluent in English, a big net plus for our nation. But unless Congress passes, and the President signs, legislation legalizing their presence here — something not likely to happen as long as Donald Trump is President and Republicans control Congress — they may be rounded-up by immigration agents and deported to the nations where they were born.

Protecting the Dreamers is an important object, but Tester didn’t vote to keep the government closed to protest Sen. Schumer’s deal to punt on immigration. In a 21 January email to Montanans, Tester wrote:

…read the rest


24 January 2018 — 0905 mst

Flathead filings: GOP county commissioner primary now a 3-way race

Filings chart

County commissioner. Ronalee Skees, who lost to Frank Garner in the 2014 House District 7 Republican Primary, has filed for the Flathead County Commission seat now occupied by Republican Gary Krueger. She joins Jay Scott, the former fair manager who lost the nomination to Krueger in 2014, and termed out Rep. Randy Brodehl (R-Evergreen), once a Kalispell fire chief. Skees, the youngest of the three candidates, is married to Rep. Derek Skees, who represents HD-11.


Cal Beringer, Brian Henio, and Jordan White, have filed for the Republican nomination for Flathead County Sheriff. Beringer and White, former members of the sheriff’s department, filed on 11 January. Henio, still a member of the department, filed after incumbent sheriff Chuck Curry announced his retirement. Keith Stahlberg, also a member of the department, filed a C-1 for the position last summer, and has a fully developed website for his candidacy, but has yet to file.

The candidates’ websites suggest the major campaign issues will be who will buy the most radios, who will build the biggest jail, and who will make the most arrests for drug offenses.

…read the rest


22 January 2018 — 1916 mst

Short shutdown & net neutrality in Montana

Shutdown. Democrats criticizing Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) for agreeing to a reopen the government deal that does not protect the Dreamers might want to temper their disapproval. Democrats never had the votes to pass progressive legislation on immigration. And they won’t have the votes until they win the White House and a working majority in both houses of Congress.

But in exchange for agreeing to fund the government another three weeks, they got a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Under the circumstances — the GOP controls Congress and the White House — that’s an acceptable outcome. It would have been a better outcome had community health funding been included, and had the continuing resolution not included another $31 billion in tax cuts.

Net neutrality. Gov. Steve Bullock announced today that companies contracting with the State of Montana must agree to protect net neutrality. Montana is the first state taking this step, but it won’t be the last. Whether the requirement holds up in court remains to be seen, but from both a political and policy standpoint it was the right thing to do.



21 January 2018 — 1408 mst

Kalispell women’s rally drew 450–500

That range is based on a count of heads in a high resolution panoramic image I made of the crowd at 1230 MST, just before the speechifying began.


I shot the panorama’s images from the steps of the speaker’s pavilion in Depot Park. You can download the 10,000-pixel-wide image (2 MB) if you’d like to make your own count.

…read the rest


20 January 2018 — 0017 mst

Kalispell Women’s March leaders have plan to sic cops on hecklers

The leaders of the Kalispell Women’s March have a plan for dealing with dissenters: if necessary, have the police throw them out of Depot Park. Here’s the official word:

…read the rest


19 January 2018 — 1443 mst

Kalispell Women’s March & Friday roundup

Progressive women are assembling in Kalispell tomorrow to rally for democracy and diversity. Cliven Bundy is speaking in Paradise. And Congress, by not doing its job, is doing a job on democracy.

Kalispell Women’s March

The rally, one of many around Montana and the nation, celebrates “equality, diversity and democracy.” It begins at noon tomorrow in Kalisell’s Depot Park, and concludes two hours later. The speechifying begins at 1230. Among the speakers are:

…read the rest


18 January 2018 — 0702 mst


Montana’s Democrats should rally to John Heenan’s flag

Having the wisdom and courage to take forthright, sensible, positions on the most important issues matters. That’s why I’m voting for John Heenan for the Democratic nomination for Montana’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

…read the rest


17 January 2018 — 0426 mst

Anchorage is closer to North Korea than Honolulu is

And Kalispell is only 600 miles farther from North Korea than Honolulu is, a ballistic missile time difference of perhaps ten minutes. Of course, Pearl Harbor is a more militarily significant target than the yacht club at Somers. Honolulu residents probably do have more reason than Kalispellians to fear being vaporized by an atomic bomb from North Korea.


Larger image. An old-fashioned school globe and a length of string is a good way to measure great circle distances, especially for children old enough to know the Earth is a spheroid.

…read the rest


13 January 2018 — 0134 mst

President Trump’s loathsome immigration comments divert
spotlight from his administration’s sabotage of Medicaid

President Trump’s reprehensible characterization of Haiti and other impoverished, low quality of life, black, nations in equatorial latitudes has drawn condemnation across the political spectrum as a racist attack on black people. Although he used his pejorative adjective to modify the word “countries,” not people, the context of his diatribe leaves no doubt he was describing people, not nations, and asserting that white people are superior to black people. That’s the classic definition of racism. His unpresidential comment rightly brought opprobrium on himself and his nation.

Unfortunately, his comment on immigration also diverted many progressives from a far more important development: his administration’s endorsement of a work requirement for allegedly able-bodied recipients of Medicaid, followed immediately by an approval of Kentucky’s scheme for kicking tens of thousands out of Medicaid:

…read the rest


12 January 2018 — 1605 mst

Rep. Frank Garner gets primary challenge

Robert Welzel, a former Marine aviator who now flies civilian cargo jets, today filed for the Republican nomination for MT House District 7 (old downtown Kalispell; map). Incumbent Republican Frank Garner, the popular former Kalispell police chief, filed for re-election yesterday.

…read the rest


10 January 2018 — 1958 mst

Montana Dems are better at electing governors than state legislators

Democrats suffered disastrous defeats in state legislative elections during Barack Obama’s administration. Legislatures flipped from Democratic to Republican control. Radical conservatives resisted expanding Medicaid, and used their power to gerrymander legislative and congressional districts (see David Daley’s Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count).


Montana was no exception.

…read the rest


4 January 2018 — 1757 mst

Alan McNeil, 1951–2017


Alan McNeil, a friend of 30 plus years, died of a heart attack on 29 December, returning from a grocery buying trip to Kalispell. He was 66. Al is survived by his mother, Cecily, son Henry and daughter Fiona, and brother Bruce.

I learned of Al’s death only today. Needing a respite from outside input, I had not opened my email, which contained the bad news, since Christmas. I last saw Al at his family’s Thanksgiving dinner, but was not able to join them for dinner on Christmas.

…read the rest


3 January 2018 — 1118 mst

Tom Woods ends quest for Congress on a terrible note


Yesterday, State Rep. Tom Woods (Bozeman) ended his campaign for the Democratic nomination for Montana’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, citing fundraising difficulties. His decision was not a surprise, Logicosity reported. According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle’s Freddy Morales:

…read the rest


1 January 2018 — 1932 mst

Will 2018 bring a Throw the Bums Out! election?

Democrats hope so, Republicans fear so, and at least some analysts think so. I think some bums may get thrown out in what’s now known as a wave election, but I don’t think the probability that voters will give a lot of elected bums the heave-ho is as high as many suppose. My caution is based not on polling results but on my observation that Democrats have a preternatural ability, demonstrated vividly in the 2016 Presidential election, to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

…read the rest