The Flathead Valley’s Leading Independent Online Journal of Observation, Analysis, & Opinion. © James Conner.


31 December 2012

If the fiscal cliff is avoided, Republicans win

It’s possible a deal may be reached, at least in the Senate, on the so-called fiscal cliff (really a gentle sidewalk to street wheelchair ramp over a low curb), before the New Year arrives. If so, writes economist Jeffrey Sachs:

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Some of the best of some of Montana’s blogs in 2012

Election years provide plenty of grist for commentary and news stories, so it's not surprising that in 2012 Montana’s bloggers posted some of their finest work. What follows is a sampling of some of the best:

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29 December 2012

Dr. Annie Bukacek and the politics of packing hidden heat

Dr. Annie Bukacek, Kalispell’s leading libertarian physician, put some distance between herself and the notion of doing no harm this week with an essay on Ed Berry’s PolyMontana arguing that more citizens carrying concealed weapons is a good thing. Montana Cowgirl has the story, including Bukacek’s reliance on long discredited studies on the alleged social benefits of packing hidden heat.

There was a time when the progress of civilization was measured by the lessening of the need for citizens to go about their daily business armed. Being able to walk the streets unarmed without fear was a sign of progress, of a high level of public safety obtained by arming the constable so that citizens could leave their firearms at home. Now this venerable metric of public safety and a civil society is rejected by Bukacek, the NRA, legislators like Krayton Kerns, and others who, having sniffed too much gunsmoke, think the world is safer when all citizens have big irons on their hips.



26 December 2012

Brian Schweitzer leaves Montana a better place — a much better place

Flathead Beacon political writer Mike Jopek has a nice retrospective on Governor Brian Schweitzer, whom the people of Montana, in their great collective stupidity, prevent from running for a third term. Montanans fear, without any supporting evidence, that once a man masters governing, he becomes dangerous and should be replaced by a neophyte who requires on-the-job-training.

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21 December 2012

Help Wanted: school guard, armed

Update. You’ll want to read this, too.

Duties. Will patrol school looking for armed intruders, capturing or killing said intruders without injuring innocent bystanders. Will wear uniform and bulletproof vest, and carry high powered firearms, tear gas, and flash bang grenades.

…read the rest


18 December 2012

Over-reacting to the Sandy Hook murders

School massacres, of which shootings are a subset, are rare events that are difficult if not impossible to predict. Over-reaction to a school massacre is an all too common event that can be predicted easily. Here are a few so far:

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16 December 2012

Welch recount was a victim of bad law

Sandy Welch’s request for a recount ended badly when she was unable to raise $115,000 to pay for it.

And because Denise Juneau’s victory won’t be confirmed by a recount, some will argue, citing the district court’s conclusion that election administration errors alleged by Welch constituted cause for a recount, that Welch was robbed, that Juneau’s win was not legitimate.

Why Welch thought she had a reasonable chance of winning a recount when she trailed her opponent by 2,231 votes remains a mystery, but she was within her rights to ask for a recount — and the state should have paid for it.

That’s because recounts are not just for candidates, or even primarily for candidates. Recounts protect the the voters’ right to fair and accurate elections by confirming, or reversing, elections so close that the winning margin might be due to error. Recounts establish the legitimacy of elections and governments.

Montana’s statute allowing a candidate losing by more than a quarter percent, but no more than a half percent, of the total vote a recount provided the candidate pays for it is bad law. The premise is that the willingness of donors to contribute to the recount bond confirmes there is a reasonable chance of winning, thus deterring recounts that are highly unlikely to flip the election. But the “you pay for it” rule doesn’t weed out super long shot recount requests from candidates rich enough to post the recount bond themselves.

I’d get rid of the rich man’s recount window, and revisit the equal to or less than 0.25 percent threshold to see whether it should be changed. Fair Vote, which Lee reporter Mike Dennison contacted for his excellent story on Welch’s recount request, has published a report, Statewide Election Recounts: 2000–2009, that’s as good a starting point as any.

Finally, I do not find persuasive allegations that a recount of Welch v. Juneau was simply an attempt to discredit Linda McCulloch’s oversight of the election and to gather evidence that would support Republican efforts to pass voter suppression legislation in the 2013 legislature. Except for the alleged programming mistake in Lewis and Clark County, all of the errors cited in Welch’s complaint to the district court occurred after the polls closed. I suspect that Welch and her advisors genuinely believed there were systemic errors that resulted in Juneau’s wrongly winning. Losing is hard, and a close, or apparently close, election can have an adverse impact on a losing candidate’s judgment.


6 December 2012

Jerry O’Neil and the wages of high school dropouts

For this excursion into economic sadism, the scene must first be set:

Imagine there’s a burger joint on the edge of Freedom Village, Prescott Wokker’s wildly popular and profitable Fire Brick Grill, beloved for its hearty aromas, earthy ambience, and, especially, its $21.75 King Cholesterol Burger, a cardiologist’s nightmare of juicy charcoal grilled range fed ground sirloin, hickory smoked bacon, sugar cured ham, seven gourmet cheeses including Dave Budge’s bleu, jalapeno barbecue sauce, Cherokee Purple and yellow and red Brandywine tomatoes, sweet Walla Walla and red Wethersfield onions, Turkish green olives, and chilled Romaine lettuce, on a lightly toasted 9-inch whole wheat bun seasoned with garlic and butter, served with giant deep fried batter dipped mushrooms and red Yukon potatoes roasted with garlic, olive oil, and mesquite. It’s especially popular with the linemen on the Freedom Village high school’s football team, and sumo wrestler wannabes.

…read the rest


5 December 2012

Bozeman legislator still wants to legalize callow election judges

Not all bad ideas come from Republicans. Franke Wilmer, the Bozeman Democrat who will represent House District 63 in the 2013 legislative session, is once again pushing a bill to allow 16-year-olds to serve as election judges. In the 2011 legislative session, representing HD-64, she introduced a similar measure, HB-88, which, fortunately, died in committee. Wilmer carried that bill at the request of Linda McCulloch, Montana’s Secretary of State, who thinks having youth election judges will mitigate an alleged shortage of election judges.


There are plenty of pools of adults who could be tapped for election judge service. For example, teachers and public employees (make election day a mandatory holiday).

Election judges too young to vote is a bad idea. Governing is an adult activity. Sixteen-year-olds lack the maturity, experience, and judgment to vote, and therefore lack the maturity, experience, and judgment to serve as election judges. And that’s true even if they’re wise enough to be Democrats.

Wilmer should drop this request and spend her time on things to help Montana.



4 December 2012

Further thoughts on Welch’s recount

News reports published yesterday after I uploaded my 3 November post on Sandy Welch’s decision to seek a recount make the situation much more interesting.

Updated Sandy Welch probably cannot win a recount story first posted on 11 November.

First, a summary of the new information with links to the stories quoted. Then, some comments on what I think is happening.

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3 December 2012

Welch requests a recount — may earn a failing grade in math


Incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau was re-elected on 6 November, defeating her Republican challenger, Sandy Welch, by 2,231 votes, a margin of 0.476 percent. That put her in the “you can have a recount if you pay for it” window — and today, simultaneously exercising that right and questionable judgment, Welch filed for a recount.

I doubt she has a snow cone’s chance in Beelzebub’s barbecue pit of prevailing. Welch, of course, thinks her odds are better than that.

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29 November 2012

Ed Buttrey’s Dissolving Dad Act of 2013

Put off by the thought of burying or cremating Dad? Not ready to commit him — or just his head — to join Ted Williams in cryo storage? Well, there might be another way out, thanks to State Senator Edward Buttrey (R-Great Falls). Buttrey has requested LC0226, a bill to “Authorize alkaline hydrolysis as a means of final disposition.” I suspect it will become better known as Montana’s Dissolving Dad Act of 2013.

…read the rest


19 November 2012

Welch recount post updated

Updated 19 November. After the provisional ballots were counted, Juneau’s lead increased from 1,374 to 2,209 votes. I’ve inserted the new numbers in the paragraphs below.

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13 November 2012

Gold bug bites Rep. Jerry O'Neil


Rep. Jerry O’Neil, the lovable libertarian gadfly that the good people of Columbia Falls just decided to return to the legislature, is a hard money man. According to a fine story in the InterLake by Jim Mann, O’Neil wants his legislative salary to be paid in silver and gold.

Why? O’Neil fears the dollar will lose its value because the federal government will pay down the national debt by printing greenbacks. In support of his request, he cites Article 1, Section 10, of the U.S. Constitution, which reads in part:

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11 November 2012

Sandy Welch probably cannot win a recount


Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Sandy Welch faces a huge decision later this month, after the official canvass of votes is completed: whether to ask for a recount in her race to unseat incumbent Democrat Denise Juneau, whom she trails by 1,374 votes (that number will change slightly after the provisional votes are fully counted), a 0.296 percent difference.

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9 November 2012

Montana’s turnout down from 2008

Turnout in Montana’s 2012 general election, both as a percentage of registered voters and the voting eligible population, was down from 2008 and comparable to 2004.

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6 November 2012

Election day images in Kalispell, Montana

All images made at the Flathead County fairgrounds in Kalispell at approximately 1700 MST. I used my Nikon S3000 carry-around camera.


…see the rest

Desperate Rehberg resorts to robocalls

Robocalls are illegal in Montana, but there’s no practical way to stop them. They can be placed from another state, or even from another country.

So it’s not surprising that Denny Rehberg, who’s trailing slightly in the polls, is inflicting on Montana’s voters robocalls from Arizona’s governor, Jan Brewer, praising Rehberg and urging Montanans to send their only congressman to the U.S. Senate.

Democratic Sen. Jon Tester’s campaign manager, Preston Elliot, responded with this statement:

Congressman Rehberg’s use of robocalls in Montana isn’t just illegal, it’s an irresponsible substitute for campaigning on his own behalf — which he’s proven himself incapable of. That’s why has to rely on out-of-state politicians to do his work for him.

Set aside the dubious legality of the calls. Why would Gov. Jan Brewer have any credibility with any group of Montana voters other than Rehberg’s choir? She’s a hero to the “papers, please,” “send them damn beaners back to Mexico,” crowd, but to the more civilized members of Montana’s electorate, she’s pretty much a mean mamma and political joke. A robocall from Jan Brewer urging a vote for Smith may well convince a moderate Montanan to vote for Jones.

Besides that, neither robocalls nor anything else is likely to change minds or affect turnout at this stage of the election. The real beneficiaries of Rehberg’s robocalls are the campaign consultants who are dialing for dollars.

Election day photography

I probably won’t be doing much photography today, but I have two kits ready just in case — one for daylight, the other for after dark:

Daylight. Nikon DX DSLR with an 18–135mm DX zoom. In the camera bag, a 12–24mm f/4 DX zoom, a 35mm f/1.8 DX prime, and an SB-600 flash, plus extra batteries, memory cards, and a variety of filters.

After dark. Nikon DX DSLR with the 35mm f/1.8 DX prime. In the bag, the 12–24mm f/4 zoom, a 50mm f/1.8 prime, a chipped 105mm f/2.5 manual focus prime, and a 55–200 DX zoom, plus the flash, etc.

I don’t expect to use the flash much, if at all. It’s there for situations the fast primes can’t handle. During the day, I’ll shoot at ISO 400. After sundown, I’ll crank up the sensor sensitivity as needed. The camera offers 6400, and I know from my own tests that I can push that four stops, to ISO 100k, with results acceptable for my purposes.

I also carry a very small Nikon, an S3100, just in case something happens to the DSLR or the need to be unobtrusive outweighs the need for the image quality of the DSLR.


5 November 2012

Montana Voter registration as percent of VEP lags behind 2008

On the eve of the 2012 presidential election, Montana has more registered voters than ever — but the percentage of the voting eligible population that is registered is slightly more than two percent below number for 2008. That’s because Montana’s population, now at approximately one million, has grown and the registration of newly eligible voters has not been as efficient as in 2008.

…read the rest

Average of late October polls gives Bullock a 1.7 percent lead

The average of late October polls of likely voters puts Steve Bullock and Rick Hill in a functional tie — Bullock leads by 1.7 percent. There is, however, considerable volatility in the numbers. One of the most recent polls, conducted for the Lee newspapers by the Mason-Dixon firm, put Hill ahead by three points; another, conducted by the Mellman Group, using a larger sample, put Bullock ahead by seven points with 10 percent undecided. The probability that Bullock is leading Hill is 83 percent.

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Flathead Memo calculates Tester’s odds of winning are 3:2

Based on the weighted average of five late October polls (Table 1), the odds that Jon Tester will win a second term in the U.S. Senate are three to two. Four of the polls report Tester leads by one to two points, while the other — the Mason-Dixon poll commissioned by the Lee newspapers — puts Tester four points behind Denny Rehberg. Tester’s mean lead is 0.6 percent lead with a margin of error of 1.6 percent. That translates into a ballot lead probability of 64 percent, or 3:2 odds.

…read the rest


4 November 2012

Look for updated averages tonight or tomorrow morning

A PPP poll (PDF) just out reports Tester leads by two points, Bullock and Hill are tied, and Daines with just a 4-point lead over Gillan. I expect more polls to be released today. Rather than update my averages poll by poll, I will wait until the glut of releases of final poll subsides before updating.

Average of gubernatorial polls gives Bullock a 1.5 percent lead

Updated to include Mellman poll. The average of October polls of likely voters puts Steve Bullock and Rick Hill in a functional tie — Bullock leads by 0.2 percent. There is, however, considerable volatility in the numbers. One of the most recent polls, conducted for the Lee newspapers by the Mason-Dixon firm, put Hill ahead by three points; the other, conducted by the Mellman Group, using a larger sample, put Bullock ahead by seven points with 10 percent undecided.

…read the rest


3 November 2012

Flathead Memo October polling average has Tester leading by 0.7 percent

Six of the eight October polls of Montana’s 2012 U.S. Senate election reported Jon Tester leading Denny Rehberg by one or two points. One, the 14 October Rasmussen poll, reported a 48–48 percent tie. And one, the 31 October Mason-Dixon commissioned by the Lee newspapers, reports Rehberg leading by four points, 49–45 percent.

Flathead Memo’s average of the eight polls has Tester leading 46.7–46.0 percent, That’s a functional tie.

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1 November 2012

We now know for sure why Greg Barkus crashed his boat

Two years ago, I wrote that “…my best guess is that Barkus looked at his GPS, thought he was heading for the Flathead River instead of the Swan River, and put his boat hard right; right into the rocks….” That indeed is what happened. See my updated post from 8 November 2010.



31 October 2012

Report released!

Download the 155-page, 6MB, PDF from CREW.

The judge expanded his order to include the people who had paid their $82.50. More on that later.

Judge tricks public on Barkus crash report

Update. After mulling the situation, I find myself wondering whether Flathead County Clerk Peg Allison, who must know Greg Barkus and probably knows Denny Rehberg, is doing as much as she could to represent the public’s interest in having the report released quickly and at a reasonable fee ($82.50 is not reasonable for a PDF; in fact, a fee for a PDF is never reasonable).

Is it possible she believes — or knows — there is something in the report that would hurt Rehberg more if disclosed before the election than will the speculation about the report’s contents that will exist until the report is released? And if she is taking politics into consideration, why is she doing so? As an elected official, she is obligated not to allow partisan considerations to affect her decisions. Along with the judge, Peg Allison has some explaining to do. End update.

Begin original post. Want to obtain a copy of the Barkus crash report? It will still cost you $82.50 for the PDF — but just paying that unreasonable fee won’t be enough. Although releasing it to the Associated Press and a non-profit puts the report in the public domain in every practical sense, and citizens might be able to obtain a copy if the AP puts the PDF online (which it might do, but not before it writes its stories), you’ll also need to present Flathead Clerk of Court Peg Allison with a court order (yes, you’ll have to file a motion with the judge) before she can give you a copy.

Those are the facts. I’ll let my readers supply the indignation. Here’s Allison’s email to the good citizens who thought they had a right to obtain a copy of the report:

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29 October 2012

Barkus crash report will be PDF — and cost $82.50

Updated. If you want to review the Barkus boat crash report, the good news is that it will be available as a PDF. The bad news is that the electrons will cost over 80 dollars. Flathead Clerk of Court Peg Allison blames the judge. I blame the feckless lawmakers and elected officials of Montana. The salient passage from the judge’s order is below. Allison’s letter follows:


Mr. Conner,

Yes, I am planning to release the document by Wednesday and yes, it will be in pdf format. Per the Judge’s order it will be available to anyone that wishes to pay the statutory rate for copies of documents in Montana. That total is $82.50 (or $85 if you need for one to be mailed hard copy), which must be paid in advance.

Our mailing address is
Clerk of District Court
920 South Main, Ste 300
Kalispell MT 59901

Peg Allison
Clerk of Court
Flathead County



25 October 2012

The Democrats who finished behind Kim Gillan in June stand behind her in October


In an impressive display of party unity — and good old common sense — the six Democrats who finished behind Kim Gillan in the primary for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives just wrote and released — on their own initiative — the following letter urging Montanans to vote for her.

…read the rest


23 October 2012

Flathead Memo thanks Dick Skees for the free publicity —
And, free of charge, sets the record straight on some facts

I wasn’t sure whether Dick Skees (Derek’s father) read Flathead Memo until I opened today’s Daily InterLake and found on page 7 his full-page advertisement denouncing Democratic county commissioner candidate Gil Jordan for not sharing Skees’ political philosophy. There, in Skees’ first bullet point, was the proof of readership:

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21 October 2012

George McGovern, 1922–2012, R.I.P.

Buttons from the 1972 campaign.

16 October 2012

New Rasmussen Poll reports Tester & Rehberg tied at 48 percent

I’ve updated my 12 October report on three major Montana races with the U.S. Senate results from the 14 October Rasmussen Poll that were released today. I’ll update Gillan v. Daines and Bullock v. Hill when that information becomes available.

…read the rest


15 October 2012

Obama’s fundraisers employ collection agency tactics

Update. Politico published a similar story today at 1357 MDT. I uploaded my post at 1113 MDT.

Some months ago, I made a mistake. I subscribed to the Obama-Biden campaign’s email list, foolishly expecting to receive useful information. Instead, I received, virtually on a daily basis, appeal after appeal for money, a direct consequence of the President’s rejection of federal financing for his re-election campaign. Until last week, the appeals, to the best of my recollection, were friendly.

Then, on 12 October, Deputy Campaign Manager Julianna Smoot sent me the following attempt to shame me into sending Obama-Biden money:

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At least 45 percent of Montanans will believe anything

That’s the only conclusion I can draw from this finding from the 10 October poll of Montana by Public Policy Polling:


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12 October 2012

Latest poll averages: Tester tied, Bullock ahead, Gillan behind

Updated. The averages of polls (graphs below) released since Labor Day contain sobering messages for three Montana Democrats:

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9 October 2012

Is Brittany MacLean ashamed to be running as a Democrat?

It’s a fair question. She won the Democratic nomination for House District 8, old Kalispell and surrounds, but her campaign website makes no mention of that fact, presenting her instead as an independent who wants to lower taxes.

Her chances of beating Republican incumbent Steve Lavin are slim to zero — whether she runs as a Democrat or as a de facto right leaning independent. She sought the Democratic nomination, so she should be running as someone who’s proud to be a Democrat.

Flathead’s 99 percenters stand down after 52nd consecutive honk-n-wave


Three legislative, and one county commissioner, candidates joined the final honk-n-wave rally by Kalispell’s Depot Park on Saturday, 6 October.

Gil Jordan, running for county commissioner against the less well educated than we thought Cal Scott, participated in 50 of the demonstrations. Democratic legislative candidates Jim Mahnke (HD-5), Diane Taylor (HD-7), and Rodrik Brosten (HD-9) also were present, as, of course, 99 Percent stalwarts such as Pauline Sjordahl, pictured left.

Scott, incidentally, joined the 22 October 2011 honk-n-wave, urging the arrest of domestic terrorists, starting with wall street.

…read the rest


4 October 2012

Let’s not let Judge Lovell’s campaign contributions crisis go to waste

Yesterday, Senior Federal Judge Charles Lovell ruled that limits on individual campaign contributions to candidates for state office are unconstitutional. Montana now becomes the 14th state without limits on individual contributions to state candidates.

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1 October 2012

Nicholas Schwaderer has a right to be peeved at the Missoulian

Yesterday, the Missoulian reported a young woman’s sensational allegations that four years ago, a 2012 legislative candidate, running as a Republican, sexually assaulted her. Various left-leaning websites — among them, Montana Cowgirl and Montana Street Fighter — seized on the story, suggesting that the candidate, Nicholas Schwaderer, was, to put the matter as gently as possible, a lout and worse.

In mid-afternoon today, I published the following comment on Montana Cowgirl:

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29 September 2012

Is growing antipathy toward GOP policies helping Jon Tester?

It certainly seems possible. A Global Strategies poll conducted 23–25 September for the League of Conservation Voters, and released on 27 September, reported that Jon Tester led Denny Rehberg 44 to 42 percent, with seven percent favoring Libertarian Dan Cox and seven percent undecided. The margin of error is four percent, and the probability that Tester is leading is 69 percent. There is an ongoing discussion of this poll at Intelligent Discontent.

I’ve added the data points to the plots in my 25 September post on Tester and the polls.

…read the rest


27 September 2012

Memo to Kim Gillan: stop playing identity politics


Kim Gillan has a problem she needs to solve: how to restrain herself from playing identity politics. In her closing statement at the 25 September debate in Missoula, she shamelessly argued that she should be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives because she’s a woman.

And it didn’t stop there.

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25 September 2012

Initial reaction, Gillan-Daines debate

I don’t agree with Steve Daines on policy, but I found I liked the guy. He appeared relaxed, quietly confident, well informed, articulate, and likable.

Kim Gillan was equally well informed, but not as articulate and clearly had been prepped to hammer home her talking points regardless of the question asked. She missed no opportunity to assert she’s a problem solver, and invented a couple of opportunities as well.

…read the rest

Polls still indicate that Jon Tester is in big trouble

Jon Tester

Updated 29 September, to add Global Strategy poll. Six months ago, I reported that polling results indicated Jon Tester’s campaign was in trouble. Republicans applauded my fairness and perspicuity, while Democrats bemoaned my disloyalty and lack of faith. This report may cause those refrains to be reprised.

Another half year of polling reveals virtually nothing has changed. Tester’s still trailing Denny Rehberg, not closing the gap, and running out of time. At the New York Times’ Five-thirty-eight blog, Nate Silver reckons there’s a 60 percent chance Rehberg will win.

…read the rest


22 September 2012

Kim Gillan and the polls: bad news follows good


Updated. A week ago, a Public Policy Polling survey showed Republican Steve Daines leading Democrat Kim Gillan by just three percentage points, 40 to 37, with 15 percent undecided and Libertarian David Kaiser at nine percent. That put Gillan within striking distance of Daines, and she began receiving additional (and long overdue) help from the Democratic Party.

Yesterday, however, brought Gillan bad news.

…read the rest


19 September 2012

Rick Hill — a man for all religions

Democrat Steve Bullock squared off against Republican Rick Hill in Helena in their first gubernatorial debate last night. Not surprisingly, abortion was discussed. Bullock wholeheartedly embraced a woman’s right to choose. Hill embraced the “right” of religious sects to choose for a woman:


13 September 2012

Follow-up on my “What’s the matter with our state department?” post

Updated. I’ve learned in the last 36 hours that the headline for my 11 September post should have been “What’s the matter with our embassy in Egypt?” That’s because an embassy public relations man gone rogue released — in defiance of direct orders from the state department — this statement (which was quoted in part in the Washington Post story that I quoted in part):

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11 September 2012

What’s the matter with our state department?

Updated (see note below). Religion besotted Muslims, outraged because a movie produced in the United States depicted the Prophet Mohammad (a hanging offense in Muslimdom), attacked our embassy in Egypt and our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where a U.S. State Department official was killed.

…read the rest

Voters should approve Kalispell’s $3.4 millon elementary bond

Updated. I recommend voting for School District 5’s $3.4 million bond to build eight new elementary school classrooms, and a new central catering kitchen. It’s a responsible proposal for providing badly needed classroom space and modernizing the catering system.

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A somber moment on a sunny day 11 years ago


A Flathead County paving crew sitting on my lawn listens to reports of the attacks on New York City and the Pentagon while waiting for a new batch of mix. The foreman asked why I was photographing the crew. “Posterity,” I replied. The Whitefish range is in the background.


8 September 2012

Is this Kim Gillan’s last hurrah?

Updated. I think so. Gillan’s down in the polls, cash poor compared to Steve Daines, forsaken by national and state Democrats, drawing small crowds, and just not catching fire. The question is not whether her campaign’s in deep trouble, but whether it can be salvaged — and the odds that it can are lottery ticket low. Unless she does something bold, provocative, and compelling, and soon, and catches a couple of lucky breaks, she’ll be the ninth consecutive Democrat to lose an election for Montana’s sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

…read the rest


23 August 2012

Flathead elections that Democrats could win in November

Voting begins in six weeks. In the Flathead, there are just three — possibly four — local contests that Democrats have a fighting chance of winning: House Districts 3 and 4, Senate District 2 (HD-3 and HD-4), and if you like long shots, the Whitefish centered county commissioner district. After Labor Day, I’ll look at each district more closely. Meanwhile, some snapshots of each race:

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14 August 2012

School District 5’s funky catering Kitchen

Ever wonder what the galley looks like on a tramp steamer that’s seen better days? A tour of the School District 5 catering kitchen at Flathead High School provides the answer:

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12 August 2012

Frankly, Rep. Rehberg, your campaign should have paid the postage

1 comment

Rep. Denny Rehberg claims voters should consider him a friend of Medicare and Social Security. After all, he voted against the Ryan budget and Obamacare. And he’s using government money to let Montana’s older voters — alive and dead — know how good a friend of senior citizens he is.

…read the rest


6 August 2012

You’re on Trailhead Camera, part 2 — deconvolving the smile.

Last week I reported that the trail cameras employed by the current Glacier visitor use study are defocused so individuals cannot be identified. That’s been the protocol for a long time.

But after corresponding with the study’s director, University of Montana professor Wayne Freimund, there was one loose end: Freimund said he had not run tests to determine whether image processing technology — deconvolution — could bring blurred images back into focus.

…read the rest


3 August 2012

Double rainbow over Kalispell

A heavy thunderstorm just before sundown yesterday produced this double rainbow. I needed two frames with an ultra-wide-angle lens to capture both arcs. The odd appearing geometry results from the panorama’s cylindrical mapping. Between the primary and secondary arcs is a dark area, named Alexander’s band after Alexander of Aphrodisias.


1 August 2012

Smile: you’re on Trailhead Camera

Updated. Glacier National Park is conducting a visitor use survey that uses trail cameras to photograph objects moving along the trail. Triggered by infrared sensors, and probably employing IR illumination at night, the camera provides the information needed to distinguish critters from hikers.

This technology has been around a while. Because much less visual information is needed to separate humans from animals than to identify humans, the cameras can be defocused so that faces are not recognizable.

…read the rest


30 July 2012

Lake County Deputy Ben Woods thinks the Aurora moviegoers were gutless

Updated. Did gutless moviegoers contribute to the severity of the theatre massacre in Aurora, Colorado? Ben Woods, a 30-year-old self-described “slightly overweight” sheriff’s deputy in Lake County, seems to think so. Writing in the Daily InterLake (the oped is online at the Bigfork Eagle), he contends:

I am sure that if one unarmed person in that theatre in Aurora, Colo., had jumped on this “crazed gunman,” then dozens of others would have followed suit. The problem is that there wasn’t one person who took such action for others to follow.

…read the rest


22 July 2012

Your hand isn’t steady, and your aim isn’t true, when you’re scared witless

Updated. Suppose you’re hiking in the Great Bear Wilderness, moving with a hitch in your gait because of that big iron on your hip. Suddenly, you’re face-to-face with a mamma grizzly, a big mamma grizzly, a big mamma grizzly and her cubs.

As you take notice, your adrenaline surges. Mamma griz takes notice, too, rising on her hind legs and issuing a snarl that would scare the bejesus out of a SEAL Team Six member smoothed out on Valium.

What do you do? Slowly back away, then bolt for that nearby pine tree? Or, are you one of those people who’s dead certain he would be cool and steady in that situation; unperturbed, deadly accurate while never breaking a sweat; someone immune to the adrenaline shakes; someone who would kneel, calmly draw his trusty sidearm, and start blasting away at Big Mamma?

…read the rest


18 July 2012

Is the Montana Regulation Project necessary?

Does Montana’s regulatory environment erect gratuitous barriers to entrepreneurship? Conservative bloggers Dave Budge and Gregg Smith think it might, and in response have started the Montana Regulation Project:

…read the rest


11 July 2012

GOP Care fails the moral test of government. Does Obamacare?

The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, is constitutional. But it still doesn’t cover everyone. And if it doesn’t cover everyone, how well does it meet the moral test of government that Hubert Humphrey so eloquently described two years before his death?

The moral test of a government is how it treats those who are at the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadow of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.

In the table following my comments, I offer my assessment of how well three systems of health care — single-payer, Obamacare, and GOP Care — meet Humphrey’s test.

…read the rest


7 July 2012

Occupy Kalispell — still waving for honks after all these months


Occupy Kalispell still conducts an hour-long honk-and-wave at Depot Park starting at noon on Saturday. Nine showed today, down from two dozen or more six months ago. Gil Jordan, Democratic candidate for Flathead County Commissioner, is holding the "1% Richer, 99% Poorer, 100% Unfair" sign. His opponent in November, Cal Scott, also participated in an Occupy Kalispell honk-and-wave.


6 July 2012


Zinke starts super PAC — sells $25 water bottle

This one caught me by surprise. State Senator and ex-Navy SEAL Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) has launched a super PAC — Special Operations for America — to defeat President Obama. He’s partnered-up with retired major general Paul Valley’s Stand Up America. And, and I’m not making this up, he’s selling Kor water bottles in the SOFA store.

Once Zinke was thought a future governor. Then he met Neil Livingstone. Now, he’s selling water bottles online. As Ed Kilgore would say, Lord a mercy.



4 July 2012

Democrats on parade


Flathead County Democrats marching in Kalispell’s Independence Day parade. I shot 700+ frames, so look for more images later today or perhaps tomorrow morning.


28 June 2012

Now we know why Scalia was so grumpy last week

Eventually, why Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the U.S. Supreme Court’s least conservative justices to uphold Obamacare will come to light. Eventually, of course, will be years, probably decades, in the future. For now, we can only turn to the opinion itself for clues.

I’d like to think Robert’s humanity finally asserted itself, and perhaps it did, but I suspect he had two objectives less noble in nature: protecting the court from self-inflicted injury, and producing an opinion with the narrowest possible view of federal powers.

There was ample precedent and argument for upholding Obamacare. The case against it was 95 percent political and five percent legal. Striking it down would have been a political act — legislating from the bench — at least as disreputable as Gore v. Bush, and far more damaging to the court’s reputation as a disinterested arbiter of law. Roberts understood that.

Roberts also understood that by joining the majority and writing the opinion he could assert the narrowest possible view of federal power, thus, from a conservative’s point of view, making it as difficult as possible for the opinion to be used as precedent supporting liberal decisions.

That must have rankled the court’s most conservative justices, who wanted to throw out and stomp to a pancake the Affordable Care Act regardless of the damage to the court’s reputation and legitimacy. Now we know why Scalia was so grumpy and intemperate when the court handed down its decision on Arizona’s papers please immigration law. He knew he had lost on health care.



27 June 2012

Photograph of the day


Pallets stacked behind Kalispell’s Costco. I made this image with a Nikon Coolpix S3000, a very small, inexpensive, camera that fits in a shirt pocket or belt pouch. The best camera? It’s the one that you use.


20 June 2012

Jay’s recount, Paula’s experiment, free speech & Whitefish, GOP stink

Scott likely to lose recount. Jay Scott, 30 votes behind Gary Krueger after the official canvass, asked for a recount. I’m not surprised — a lot of second place finishers request recounts in very close elections; it’s how human nature operates — but I’d be very surprised if Scott wins the recount. Unless Flathead Clerk and Recorder Paula Robinson’s counting machines had an appallingly high error rate, say one in one hundred, and/or dozens of ballots were marked for Scott in a way that fooled the machines but would be clear to the eye, Scott probably has less than one chance in a thousand of winning according to my latest back-of-the-envelope calculations.


Do the experiment right, Paula. In a related matter, reports the InterLake, Robinson plans to conduct an experiment to determine the effect of ballots staying folded for weeks before being run through the counting machine. I urge both caution and a consultation with a professional statistician. If the effect is very small, say one in a thousand, many thousands of ballots, each marked as a voter would mark them, which means marking them by hand, each run through the machine only once, must be run through a sampling of machines to have any hope of obtaining a quantifiable result. That’s a lot of work, and not inexpensive. I’d do a literature search first.


Whitefish may soil First Amendment. Whitefish’s planning board will take public comment Thursday night on a proposal to tighten durational limits on political signs. The planners behind the proposal are playing with constitutional fire. Duration limits on political signs are content based, and therefore unconstitutional, limits on free speech. The key Supreme Court decision is City of Ladue v. Gilleo. A federal district court case citing Gilleo, Curry v. Prince Georges County, should also be required reading for everyone in Whitefish.

In Kalispell, in 2003, an elected official became outraged when a city council candidate, Bob Herron (the same Bob Herron who just ran for county commissioner), ignored the city’s durational limit on political yard signs. I wrote at the time that Gilleo and Curry “…will be cited by Bob Herron if he is forced to sue to keep his campaign signs in public view — and if he sues, he will win.”

Besides, what’s not to love about political yard signs? Democracy in action is much prettier than house for sale signs.


Lowbrow Republicans raise high stink. If you thought the election was headed to the toilet, you received proof outside the Montana Republican Convention in Missoula last weekend. Someone parked his Obama Outhouse outside the convention hall. It was moved across the street after GOP leaders leaped into damage control mode, but by then the convention had been stunk up. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank mentioned it yesterday, and one can only imagine what Letterman, et al, did with it.

What struck me most, though, was the report that the privy’s bullet holes were painted on, not shot through. Perhaps the builder’s pistol was too well concealed for him to find it in time to plug the plywood. Perhaps. It could also be that these supposedly stalwart supporters of the Second Amendment are actually paintball sissies who faint at the first whiff of gunsmoke.



18 June 2012

Bigamy by double proxy marriage —
only in Montana, blessed in the Flathead


Col. James H. Johnson III (from Military Corruption). Perhaps Telly Sevalas can be exhumed to star in the movie. Mr. Clean would be miscast.

Unwittingly blessed, to be sure, but that’s what seems to have happened (skip to Flathead Connection). The 14 June 2012 Stars and Stripes reports that Col. James H. Johnson III, son of a Lt. General, and an “…honor graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, “ was convicted of fraud, bigamy, and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, and sentenced…to a reprimand and a $300,000 fine” after a court-martial in Kaiserslautern, Germany:

He [was] charged with six violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and 27 specifications or counts, including bigamy, adultery, fraud, forgery and making false statements, all in connection with an illicit affair he conducted with an Iraqi woman.

…read the rest



16 June 2012

School District 5 consultant stiffs public’s right to know

Today’s Daily Interlake (print edition only) reports that School District 5 trustee Jack Fallon, was removed from the school board’s committee considering retirement services proposals for disclosing the time and date of a committee meeting to the district’s former business manager, Todd Watkins.

Fallon’s dismissal, and the reasons for it, are important — but at least as important is the highhandedness of Jack Young, the Billings, MT, based consultant the district hired to oversee the request-for-proposals project. According to the IL:

…read the rest


13 June 2012

Would Democrat Kim Gillan cut Medicare?

That’s the question her campaign website’s Supporting Our Seniors section on issues raises. I think the answer is: yes. Here’s what she says:

…read the rest


12 June 2012

2012 Montana primary underscores need for instant runoff voting

The 2012 Montana primary was not a poster child for the blessings of a plurality wins electoral system.

Seven of ten Democratic voters wanted someone other than Kim Gillan as their nominee for Congress. Two of three Republican voters wanted someone other than Rick Hill as their nominee for governor.

…read the rest

Jay Scott and the angst of Almostland

Psychologically, losing an election by just a few votes is far more disturbing than losing by a landslide. Candidates who fall just a few votes short forever wonder what it was they could have done differently that would have secured victory. Often, the answer is: “Nothing. You came as close as you did because you did virtually everything right.” It’s an answer the head accepts, but the heart rejects. Almostland is a vale of what-ifs that haunt and torment.

Almostland is where county commissioner candidate Jay Scott now finds himself…

…read the rest


8 June 2012

Provisional ballots unlikely to reverse Jay Scott’s electoral fortune

Don’t expect the 100 or so provisional ballots to change the outcome of the Republican primary in CD-3, where Gary Krueger leads Jay Scott by 15 votes. It could happen, of course, but the probability that it will are very low; lottery ticket winning low.

…read the rest


6 June 2012

Bucy’s victory broader than the raw numbers suggest

Democratic Montana Attorney General candidate Pam Bucy won 34 of Montana’s 56 counties, and received large majorities in in Gallatin, Missoula, Lewis and Clark, Park, and Yellowstone counties (see the graph and spreadsheet below. Laslovich received large majorities in only two counties: Silver Bow and Deer Lodge, the counties of his youth and the seats of his political base. I also think that Bucy, to my mind the better qualified of the two, benefited from an identity vote from some, but not all, Democratic women.

…read the rest

2012 primary turnout was comparable to 2004 primary

Montana's primary turnout for 2012 was comparable to the turnout for the 2004 primary. I've updated the graphs in yesterday’s post accordingly. The PDFs of the graphs, incidentally, can be viewed at 200 percent with excellent resolution.

…read the rest


5 June 2012

Election live blog

Well, close to live. Comments on elections in the Flathead and elsewhere. Live blog page.

A risky projection of the May PPP survey for the Demo U.S. House

This is based on a very small sample — less than 200 — and I distributed the 41 percent undecided on a proportional basis, so take it with a grain of salt. Not table salt, but the big pellets in your water softener.

By the traditional calculus, Gillan is the favorite because of her advantage in fundraising, and because she obtained endorsements from organizations and current and former legislators that can help her with mailing lists, money, and foot and phone soldiers. She also has the most baggage to drag around in the general election. The blue dog house of the Democratic Party loves her. I live elsewhere.

Montanans not taking primary elections as seriously as they once did

Updated with 2012 primary statistics. Montana's primary turnout for 2012 was comparable to the turnout for the 2004 primary. I've updated the graphs below accordingly. The PDFs of the graphs, incidentally, can be viewed at 200 percent with excellent resolution.

If turnout is the measure of how seriously voters take an election, Montana’s voters are taking primary elections less and less seriously. Whether turnout is measured by the percentage of registered voters casting ballots, or by the percentage of the voting eligible population (voting age residents minus ineligible persons such as foreign nationals and imprisoned felons) casting ballots, the trend line is down, as shown in Graph 1 below.

This is worrisome. Low turnout weakens government, the legitimacy of which derives from the consent of the governed…

…read the rest


4 June 2012

Kalispell honk-n-wave for Stutz today


Rob Stutz Will Help Democrats Win in November


By Rob Stutz, Democratic candidate for U.S. House

(Note. This column is a companion to a guest column Stutz wrote for the Montana Cowgirl Blog,“How Democrats Will Win the US House Race in November.”)

The top story in Montana politics is Montana’s stand against the corrupting power of money in politics. This might not be obvious in the traditional political reporting about “who raised more money.” What voters really need to know is which candidates put people first.

…read the rest


31 May 2012

Censorship at Flathead High, cheap shot at Tutvedt, Perry’s pussyfooting, & I-166

Censorship is alive and well at Flathead High School, reports the Montana ACLU and the Montana Cowgirl blog. According to the ACLU, a student was forced “…to change her shirt saying, ‘Legalize Gay,’ or to go home.” Some of her classmates organized a protest supporting her exercise of free speech.

There are two possible explanations for the behavior of the school’s authorities: (a) it was a standard end-of-the-school-year bully boy reminder of who’s in charge, possibly coupled with a desire to retaliate against a student the authorities didn’t like, or (b) it was a maladroit attempt to support the student’s message. I’ going with Explanation A.


Cheap shot at Tutvedt. Prominent Kalispell Democrat Dale McGarvey took what I consider a cheap shot at Republican State Senator Bruce Tutvedt with a front page advertisement in today’s Daily InterLake. Tutvedt, together with senate cosponsors Carmine Mowbray (R-Polson) and Bradley Hamlett (D-Cascade), carried SB-409, a bill establishing valuation methods for leases and sales of state lands. As a result, the annual lease for the Girl Scouts camp on Lower Stillwater Lake will increase from $5,000 to $25,000.

That may be more than the Girl Scouts can afford — but Montana’s constitution requires obtaining full value from state lands, so there’s nothing nefarious about SB-409, which passed both houses with huge majorities. McGarvey has a long record of supporting education, which is in part supported by revenues from state lands — so why did he run this ad? Does he want Rollan Roberts II to win the GOP nomination for SD-3?


Perry’s pussyfooting. Democrat Zac Perry is again running for the legislature in House District 3, which encompasses Columbia Falls and points north. And once again, his Republican opponent is Jerry O’Neil, a politician not unknown in the Flathead. In today’s InterLake, Perry starts a letter with “I understand and respect the current HD3 incumbent’s position….”

Memo to Perry: this is the kind of pussyfooting that loses elections. Not only is it okay to utter your opponent’s name, it’s actually helpful. And stop writing letters to the editor. Candidates should write opeds.


Gather signatures for I-166. Tim Baldwin, the GOP candidate for House District 4, recently published a well written and well worth reading essay in support of I-166, the initiative that, if it makes the ballot for November, would write into law the principle that corporations are not people. Stand with Montana, the organization behind I-166, needs help gathering signatures at the polls on 5 June. If you support I-166, please consider manning a clipboard and petition station on election day.

(Note. Stand with Montana’s website is quirky and not Mac friendly, but you should be able to find a way to contact the head honchos and volunteer to gather signatures.)



28 May 2012

Memo to MT Political Practices: put the amended campaign finance reports online

Scroll to the bottom of the image below and you’ll see this disclaimer: “This service offers a view of the original report only. Contact our office for amended versions of the reports.” I have no idea how long the disclaimer has been there. I didn’t notice it before today because it never occurred to me that Montana’s political practices commission would do something so irresponsible.

This is not a trifling matter. Correcting a campaign finance report requires filing an amended report. In my experience, most errors are minor mistakes that don’t significantly distort the original report. But not always. And without reviewing the amended report, there’s no way of determining how much confidence one should have in the original report’s accuracy.

…read the rest


25 May 2012

A campaign in the weeds


22 May 2012. West of the bicycle path along Highway 93, Big Mountain in the background. How a sniper hiding from the traffic would position a campaign sign, but not the best way to the seal the deal with the voters driving by. Rollan Roberts II would have four cheery lasses, with rings on their fingers and bells on their toes, dance next to the highway waving the sign.


24 May 2011

Flathead High School: winning über alles

Have the evils of intercollegiate athletics trickled down to high school athletics? It appears so, according to Dillon Tabish’s report in the Flathead Beacon on newly hired Flathead High School wrestling coach Scot Davis’ unsavory past.

Davis was a winning wrestling coach during a 26-year career at the high school in Owatonna, Minnesota. And, it turns out, he was in the kind of trouble that I usually associate with college coaching: recruiting violations:

Before Davis retired, the Owatonna school district conducted an investigation after emails from 2008 surfaced showing conversations between Davis and the family of a high school wrestler in California. The emails proved to be “undue solicitation of a student,” a violation of a Minnesota State High School League bylaw, and the school district imposed a one-year suspension on Davis. The Eligibility Committee of the MSHSL approved a similar suspension and tacked on an additional year, barring Davis from all state-sanctioned programs for two years beginning last October.

Flathead High School hired him anyway, placing winning above ethical behavior. This decision, coming in the wake of the football scandal at Glacier High, speaks ill of the school district’s priorities and judgment. No wonder the voters turned down the building reserve levy.

I know that parents with athletic ambitions for their children move into school districts with winning athletic programs. Academic concerns provoke similar moves. People have the right to live where they want.

But, athletic recruiting at the high school level? Coaches seeking out and persuading families to move to a coach’s school district? There’s no need for that, and the practice ought to be banned and subject to severe penalties for both the school and the coach (who should be dismissed in every case). A public high school’s mission is education. There is no place in that mission for athletic recruiting, or for coaches who are not full time teachers.


22 May 2012

Governor Schweitzer among the first to sign I-166 petition


Volunteers throughout Montana — Dr. James Mahnke, right, among them — are gathering signatures to put ballot measure Initiative-166 on the general election ballot in November. Here’s the ballot language:

Ballot initiative I-166 establishes a state policy that corporations are not entitled to constitutional rights because they are not human beings, and charges Montana elected and appointed officials, state and federal, to implement that policy. With this policy, the people of Montana establish that there should be a level playing field in campaign spending, in part by prohibiting corporate campaign contributions and expenditures and by limiting political spending in elections. Further, Montana’s congressional delegation is charged with proposing a joint resolution offering an amendment to the United States Constitution establishing that corporations are not human beings entitled to constitutional rights.

…read the rest


16 May 2012

Photo of the day: a young sunflower emerges into sunlight


9 May 2012

Brenneman victory likely to stand

According to preliminary election returns, former Flathead County Commissioner Joe Brenneman defeated incumbent School District 5 Trustee Ivan Lorentzen 330–325, a margin of five votes, which is 0.76 percent of the total votes cast. That excludes an automatic recount, but permits Lorentzen to obtain a recount if he pays for it (state recount handbook).

Unless there was a blunder or a systemic error that skewed the counting, the outcome is likely to stand. Random errors are just as probable to be distributed in Brenneman’s favor as in Lorentzen’s. In the meantime, congratulations to Brenneman on his victory, and thanks to Lorentzen for his long and responsible service as a trustee.

Rerun the Kalispell building reserve levy in the 6 November 2012 general election


With yesterday’s defeat, multi-million-dollar building reserve levies for the Kalispell high school district have failed in three consecutive elections. The latest levy lost by less than 200 votes, which might tempt the trustees to run another election as soon as possible — a temptation to which the trustees ought not yield.

Another low key campaign in the spring has a low probability of success. My recommendation: put the levy on the 6 November 2012 general election ballot. Use the next six months to mount an effective campaign for the levy.

And, avoid mistakes like the yard sign at left. It lacks name and contact information for the person or group behind it, an omission that basically says “Go away. We don’t want your help.” The sign gets the issue wrong as well. Education was not on the ballot. A building reserve levy was.



8 May 2012

Did Neil Livingstone really sign this crackpot pledge?

Ed Berry reports it is so — and if he’s right, it’s downright shameful that a man so worldly, accomplished, and intelligent has put his name on a document — the Montana Constitutional Governance Pledge — that’s inciting dry rattles of approval from the bones of Jefferson Davis, John C. Calhoun, Robert E. Lee, James J. Kilpatrick, and Harry F. Byrd, Sr.

…read the rest


2 May 2012


Is Kim Gillan really this popular with men?

Is Kim Gillan really ten percentage points more popular with men than women?

That’s what the latest PPP survey of Montana U.S. Senate and House races reports. But is that differential believable? Why would any woman running in a Democratic primary do so much better among men than women?

…read the rest


1 May 2012

Tester leads Rehberg by 5 percent in 1 May 2011 PPP survey;
Gillan leads Demo House primary with 21 percent & 41 percent undecided

A poll released today by Public Policy Polling, a firm associated with Democrats, reports that incumbent Democrat Sen. Jon Tester leads Republican challenger Rep. Denny Rehberg 48–43 percent with nine percent undecided.

…read the rest


28 April 2012

Selfish Montanans get Optimum Cable to deprive
Western Montana citizens of Spokane PBS station KSPS

Montana’s look inward forces have reason to celebrate this weekend. PBS television station KSPS from Spokane is finally gone from Optimum Cable’s services for Western Montana. And with that, cable’s blackout of TV from Spokane is complete.

…read the rest


24 April 2012

Schweitzer misses mark with polygamy comments:
but religion is a legitimate topic in politics

Updated. Why Gov. Brian Schweitzer thought it helpful to offer his thoughts on Mitt Romney and polygamy continues to escape me. It’s not that Schweitzer got the overall picture wrong: Mitt’s father, George, was born in Mexico to parents living in a colony of dissident Mormons. Although Mitt’s grandparents were monogamous, his great-grandfather reportedly did practice polygamy.

But that was five generations ago. Today’s Church of Latter Day Saints, of which Mitt Romney is a conventional member, renounced polygamy in the late 19th Century. Polygamy does survive, but only in a few small communities; Pinesdale, Montana, is one. They’re social curiosities, and administrative headaches for the states in which they’re located, but they’re not a political threat.

So what possessed Schweitzer to try to connect Mitt Romney to polygamy? Was his tongue loosened by Demon Rum? Was he frustrated from dealing with Pinesdale? Or with reactionary Republicans who also happen to be Mormon? Perhaps we’ll learn the answer when he publishes his memoirs. Meanwhile, he’s ignited a lively discussion.

…read the rest


23 April 2012

A sign of life in Tutvedtland


Republican State Senator Bruce Tutvedt’s re-election campaign became visible last week when his election signs, often side-by-side with Rick Hill for Governor signs, began popping up across his district, sometimes within a softball’s throw of GOP challenger Rollan Roberts II’s signs. Tutvedt also updated his website to say he’s running for a second term.

More is undoubtedly happening, or will be soon: direct mail, telephone calls, door-to-door, and advertisements in the print and electronic mass media. Two weeks ago, for example, Roberts sent out a 4-page letter (an expertly written and formatted letter) and is conducting honk-and-waves. The third GOP candidate, Jayson Peters, a former Kalispell city councilman who now manages Sykes, has a few yard signs out and a website. Like Roberts, Peters is running to the right of Tutvedt, a feat of some distinction as Tutvedt is not known as a Ripon Society Republican.

So far, I’ve not detected third party activity in this primary, but it would not surprise me if it occurs.



19 April 2012

Occupy Kalispell & Tea Party: a peaceful crossing of left and right


Occupy Kalispell met the Northwest Montana Patriots at solar high noon on 15 April — and nothing extraordinary happened. There was a brief commingling of signs, a brief exchange of pleasantries, then the Occupiers, who started at noon, returned home, replaced on the sidewalk by Depot Park by approximately as many NW MT Patriots.

Ken Miller, candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, worked the small crowd. He was in town for the Lincoln-Reagan Dinner that evening. Gil Jordan, Democratic candidate for county commissioner, and Occupy’s chief organizer, worked the crowd and waved at the noon hour traffic.

…read the rest (will load slowly)


13 April 2012

Occupy Kalispell — half a year of honk-n-waves and still going strong

More photographs below.

Tomorrow at noon, Occupy Kalispell begins its 27th consecutive honk-and-wave in support of percolate-up economics, and a fair and responsible distribution of wealth. Occupy’s chief organizer, Gil Jordan, has stayed the full hour for all 26 honk-and-waves, and intends to stay the full hour for the next 26 events.

Jordan, a life long social activist, filed for the Democratic nomination for county commissioner for the north valley seat that became open when Jim Dupont died. Unlike one of the candidates (photo) for the Republican nomination for the commission, Jordan is proud to have been photographed at Occupy Kalispell.

After Occupy Kalispell concludes its honk-and-wave at 1300, the tea party types will take over Depot Park for a three-hour protest against taxes and most everything else since 1910.

…read the rest


7 April 2012

Rollan Roberts campaigns aggressively — should Bruce Tutvedt be worried?


The conventional wisdom is that Bruce Tutvedt, the Kalispell Republican representing Senate District 3, will stomp the toe jam out of newcomer Rollan Roberts II in the June primary. Tutvedt, goes the wisdom, is so well known, so well liked, and so much a native of the Flathead as to be de facto local royalty, that only a lightning bolt to the head while plowing during a thunderstorm could deny him a second term. That was my initial take when Roberts filed for the SD-3 GOP primary.

…read the rest

Is Jon Tester trying to run as de facto non-partisan?

There are facts pointing that way. I could not find the word "Democrat" or a Democratic logo on his website. An ad on CBS affiliate KPAX TV pictured Tester saying he was for common sense Montana, not partisan infested Washington, D.C. He said he approved the ad, but I neither saw nor heard anything telling us he's a Democrat. And two new 30-second video ads aimed at veterans omitted all mention of political affiliation.

…read the rest


5 April 2012

Cumulative polling results suggest Tester is in trouble with the voters

A new Rasmussen Poll reports that Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg leads incumbent Democrat Sen. Jon Tester by three points. This is consistent with other polling results over the last 18 months. Tester is in trouble with the voters, and no amount of partisan spin-doctoring can obscure the facts.

A comparison with the polls (graphs below) for the 2006 Senate race, which Tester won with a narrow plurality, brings Tester’s predicament into sharp focus.

…read the rest


2 April 2012

Will striking down Obamacare will lead to a single-payer system?

What happens if the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act — aka Obamacare — in part or entirely?

One body of opinion, typified by E.J. Dionne Jr., holds that a single-payer system becomes more likely if the individual mandate is struck down:

…read the rest