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


Archives: July & August, 2013


31 August 2013

Will Obama make America an international vigilante?

Updated. Cruise missiles are not on their way to Syria, although President Obama certainly wishes they were. Earlier today he announced (full text) he believes the United States should conduct a military strike on Syria, but that he first would seek congressional debate and approval.

His reason for attacking Syria? National security, of course:

This attack is an assault on human dignity. It also presents a serious danger to our national security. It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. It endangers our friends and our partners along Syria’s borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons, or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm. (Emphasis added.)

…read the rest


29 August 2013

Obama may be ready to go, but I’m not

Doing something to be credited for doing something strikes me as what’s driving the Obama administration’s lurch toward initiating military hostilities with Syria. Even if the administration provides hard proof that Assad ordered the use of nerve gas, that in itself is not sufficient justification for American military intervention in a domestic conflict between a murderous government and murderous Islamist insurgents. It’s hard to understand how a man ruthless enough to loose nerve gas on his own citizens would be intimidated by a few cruise missiles and GPS guided bombs.

Moreover, American military action in Syria has the potential to ignite more regional conflict in the Middle East. Iran says that it will attack Israel if we attack Syria. That’s probably bully-boy bluster, but it can’t be entirely disregarded as such.

As for me, I’m weary of wars in Islamic lands. Let’s hold our fire and let the Syrians settle their own affairs regardless of how much blood they spill. What’s happening there is reprehensible, but it’s their affair, not ours.


John Lewis’ skeleton website may reveal more than he intended

Democratic U.S. House candidate John Lewis does have a campaign website — His campaign registered the domain name with GoDaddy through a proxy on 12 August.

At present, the website’s just one page, with three elements: his campaign logo, a link for accepting contributions, and “paid for by” information. There was no contact us link as of early this morning.

Hidden in the HTML source code, however, in a META tag providing information for search engines such as Google, is a paragraph summarizing what I expect will be his platform:

…read the rest


28 August 2013

GOP website spoofs Democrat Lewis


Former Sen. Max Baucus staffer John Lewis just announced he’s seeking the Democratic nomination for Montana’s sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. If he has a campaign website, I can’t find it.

But I can find, the spoof site put up by the Republican National Congressional Committee. It’s the first site that comes up on Google if you enter a search term containing Lewis’ name, Montana, and house or Congress.

This is not a sure-footed start for Lewis.

…read the rest


24 August 2013

Ninth Circuit invalidates Montana Firearms Freedom Act

Yesterday the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down its decision in Mont. Shooting Sports Ass’n v Holder, reminding us that Montana’s legislature and governor do not always act wisely.

The story dates back to 2009, when Joel Boniek, then a Republican state representative from Livingston, introduced HB-246, better known as the Montana Firearms Freedom Act, and generally considered the brainchild of Gary Marbut, the firearms enthusiast from Missoula who is the Montana Shooting Sports Association. Section 4 of HB-246 stated in part that:

…read the rest


22 August 2013

Bradley Manning’s saga keeps getting sadder and weirder

The sad part is his sentence. He earned his dishonorable discharge and some prison time for unilaterally releasing classified documents he had no authority to release, but I agree with the New York Times that his sentence of 35 years is excessive. I would have given him five years, less time served. His punishment is designed to fit not the crime, but the message the government wants to send to other leakers. Perhaps a future president will commute his sentence, but President Barack Obama, a rigid and moralistic man, will not.

…read the rest


19 August 2013

Comprehensive voter turnout statistics for Montana

This is for Montana’s elections cognoscenti. Montana’s Secretary of State only publishes statistics for the turnout of registered voters, possibly because this is the turnout statistic that makes Montana look best. But there is another turnout statistic, the percent of the Voting Eligible Population (age 18+ and not disqualified from voting), that’s equally important, especially when considering elections policy. I’ve therefore put together an Excel spreadsheet and a webpage that brings together in one place VEP and RV turnout, along with other statistics, as a public service.

Go to turnout statistics


17 August 2013

A parade with politicians, Sousa bands, and Mr. Vermin


Updated. Yesterday’s long Northwest Montana Fair parade featured excellent bands and music, fire trucks with flashing lights and loud sirens, pulchritudinous lasses on horseback, and political organizations from the left, right, far far right, and ersatz Monty Python Land. I stood near the intersection of Main and Center, photographing every entry. InterLake editor Frank Miele stood elsewhere, watching his son march with the outstanding Glacier High band. Below, a few of the 617 images that I shot.

…read the rest


15 August 2013

Democrat Dirk Adams breaks logjam, announces for U.S. Senate


At last, at long, long, last, a Democrat stopped waiting to see what Steve Daines will do and announced he’s seeking his party’s nomination for the U.S. Senate.

He’s 62-year-old Dirk Adams, a Wilsall rancher, businessman, Harvard trained lawyer, and life long Democrat. He’s never before sought political office.

Adams decision to run was made in July, reports Mike Dennison, and he’s assembling a campaign organization. Meanwhile, Adams isn’t saying much beyond “I’m running.”

…read the rest


14 August 2013

Cory and the Booker show

Yesterday, New Jersey’s Democratic voters selected flamboyant Newark mayor Cory Booker as their nominee to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant when Frank Lautenberg died in June. Booker becomes Senator Booker in October, when the election is held. No Republican wins a U.S. Senate election in New Jersey, not even if he steals votes. I would have voted for Rep. Rush Holt, a scientist who’s smart, well informed, and a serious legislator, but I didn’t get the chance because I’m smart enough not to live exist in New Jersey.

Booker’s smart, possibly well informed, but he won’t be a serious legislator. He’ll be too busy giving interviews and speeches, and appearing on Rachel Maddow’s and similar shows to raise his profile for 2016, when he expects to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate.

Loose nukes at Malmstrom?

Maybe the bombs are secure, but if they are, they’re secure despite the way the Air Force handles them. According to the Air Force’s official press release:

…read the rest


13 August 2013

Montana court upholds anti-consumer milk labeling rule

Few things are as exasperating — and unfair, unwise, wasteful, and potentially dangerous — as agricultural laws and rules designed to help farmers by denying useful information to consumers. A prime example of the genre is the Montana Department of Livestock’s old rule establishing a sell-by date for pasteurized milk, which in part reads:

(2) No grade A pasteurized milk may be put in any container marked with a sell-by date which is more than 12 days after pasteurization of the milk for sale in Montana.

…read the rest


7 August 2013

How politicians prove they’re not leaders

It’s easy. They just stand on their soapbox, never shy or subtle, and tell everyone they’re leaders. For example:

“I’m a leader, but my opponent couldn’t follow Teddy Roosevelt out of a gunny sack.”

Or, “The issue in this campaign is leadership. I’m a proven leader. My opponent is a proven failure at leadership.”

Adding “Trust me!” is a nice touch, as is “That’s right, a leader, a man whom others follow, and rightly so, because the Lord God (Gawd, in the South) Almighty handed down the word: ‘Thou shalt be a leader. Go forth into the village square and remind your followers that I sent you to lead them out of the wilderness of leaderless government.’”

…read the rest


6 August 2013

Senate watch: Democrats dawdle while campaigning time burns


Denise Juneau announced yesterday that she won’t run for the U.S. Senate. Although that’s not a surprise, her taking so long to make up her mind suggests to me she gave it serious enough consideration that she commissioned a poll to assess her prospects of winning. If so, her prospects were revealed as dim to nonexistent.

That leaves Lt. Governor John Walsh, once a general in the National Guard but a political tyro, as the last Democrat with statewide name recognition who might have a chance of winning. He’s discussed a run for the senate with Gov. Steve Bullock, but as yet has made no decision.

He’d better make a decision pronto. Democrats have lost half a year due to Brian Schweitzer, who took his own sweet time and then soured on running. If Walsh thinks he has until Labor Day to decide, he’s deluding himself. If he’s going run, he needs to start running now.



5 August 2013

Thoughts on the sale of the Washington Post

I no longer buy printed newspapers or magazines, have not for several years, and never again will do so on a subscription basis. I get my news from online publications, including the New York Times. I read the online Washington Post, but I don’t have a subscription to it.

Still, I was startled today upon learning that the Washington Post, a publicly traded business largely controlled by the Graham family, is selling the newspaper (and some related holdings) for $250 million to Jeff Bezos, a billionaire best known as the founder and head honcho of Amazon. My first thought: how fast is Katharine Graham spinning in her grave?

…read the rest


2 August 2013

Flathead Memo back online after server crash

If you couldn’t reach Flathead Memo earlier today, it was because our server in Provo, Utah, crashed, taking down Flathead Memo, our email, and even the website of our hosting company. The precise cause of the crash has not been released, and there are unconfirmed reports that a denial of service attack (DoS) may have contributed to it.

Update. Whether there was a DoS attack now seems doubtful. Reports from the company owning Bluehost indicate hardware problems, and possibly a single point failure with a router.


31 July 2013

Conducting chemical warfare against sleeper cells (of wasps)

Wasps, my friend, Alex, reminds me, are some of the most advanced creatures on Earth. But when they advance on me and my meal while I’m dining on my patio, they earn a chemical ride to Kingdom Come.

…read the rest & see the pix


25 July 2013

Thoughts on our national surveillance state

Flathead Memo focuses on state and local issues, so until now I’ve resisted commenting on our national surveillance state, the astonishing scope of which continues to be revealed. But all governments, national to municipal, collect data on those they govern, and presumably serve, so Big Brother’s watching is worth a comment even by local bloggers.

Big Brother is doing a lot of watching. He has been for a long time, but he’s increased his surveillance by at least an order of magnitude since a handful of suicidal terrorist murdered three thousand people on 11 September 2001. He’s increased it with the support of most Americans, who fear acts of terrorism more than they fear the loss of their freedoms to heavy handed security.

…read the rest


23 July 2013

Changes in Montana’s online commentariat

A daily newspaper can exist for decades. So can big television and radio stations. Not so the small independent political blogs one finds in Montana. Most blogs here are either one-man operations, or at best, the casual collaboration of a small group of like-minded people, and they seem to last approximately a decade before fading away or changing so much they become something new.

…read the rest


22 July 2013

Radio news makes you an ignoramus — or worse

I’ve spent a good part of my summer away from my usual gateway to the world, a high speed internet connection and a powerful desktop computer driving two large displays. Instead, I’ve relied on free wifi — public libraries, supermarkets, etc. — a 13-inch laptop computer, and radio.

I’ve learned some things, and I’ve got good and bad news for you.

…read the rest


21 July 2013

Tester was the weakest Democratic statewide winner in 2012

Not all Democrats were overjoyed by my conclusion that Jon Tester was/is a weak candidate and campaigner, but the numbers don’t lie: Tester was the weakest of the five Democrats who won statewide offices in Montana in November, 2012.

Although more votes were cast for the U.S. Senate than for any other office, a rarity, Tester ranked fourth in total votes received, fifth in percentage of the votes received, and along with gubernatorial candidate Steve Bullock, won with a plurality, not a majority. Indeed, on a percentage basis, Tester did slightly worse in 2012 than he did in 2006.

…read the rest


19 July 2013

Why Tester stuck his shiv in Schweitzer’s back


Brian Schweitzer campaigned hard for Jon Tester in 2006. And Tester needed the help, defeating incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Conrad Burns by just 3,562 votes.

Last week Tester returned the favor with dirty dealings — rumors of dark money sins by Schweitzer and allegations that Schweitzer wasn’t a team player — that persuaded Schweitzer to suddenly decide against running for the U.S. Senate next year.

…read the rest


18 July 2013

GOP cast set for Law-n-Order Kalispell legislative reality show

First there were the Charlie Stenvig and Frank Rizzo reality shows in Minneapolis and Philadelphia, featuring mayors who were ex-cops without a liberal bone in their bodies.

Now the Flathead’s Republicans are reprising the theme for three house and one senate legislative districts in and around Kalispell. Here’s the cast:

…read the rest


16 July 2013

Farewell Brian Schweitzer — hello Senator Daines?


What disturbed me most about Brian Schweitzer’s sudden and unexpected decision not to run for the U.S. Senate was how quickly he struck his tent and walked away instead of holding his ground and fighting back when his enemies, Republican and Democratic, started taking pot shots at him last week. He’s clearly lost the hunger that spurred him to victory in 2004 and 2008, and no longer has the heart to defend himself. Worst of all, it’s possible he did something for which there is no defense, and was arrogant enough to think he could get away with it, in which case he ill served Montana’s Democrats in a way best described with words that would make a mule skinner blush.

His departure almost certainly ensures that Montana’s next U.S. Senator will be Republican Steve Daines, and increases the probability that the GOP will control the U.S. Senate in January, 2015. And Daines will be the nominee; brush aside that nonsense that 66-year-old Marc Racicot will enter the contest.

…read the rest


5 July 2013

Draft Schweitzer Independence Day rally in Kalispell


More than five dozen supporters of Brian Schweitzer gathered in Whitefish on the evening of 3 July for free music, free food, and the freedom from Republicanism that will attend Schweitzer’s election to the U.S. Senate in 2014. It was, organizers told me, one of the biggest and most enthusiastic Draft Schweitzer meet-ups yet held.

Eighteen hours later, just after the Independence Day parade, organizers of another Draft Schweitzer rally served free ice cream and free political wisdom in Kalispell’s Depot Park. A few images of event are below.

…read the rest


1 July 2013

Arizona firefighter deaths reveal need for better methods

Nineteen firefighters burned to death in an Arizona forest fire yesterday, a tragedy that reminds one of Mann Gulch and Storm King. We don’t know all the details yet, and won’t for weeks or months, but we do know that high winds, evidently unexpected, drove the flames that killed the fire crew. In the final analysis, I think we’ll find that human error caused the disaster. In the meantime, it’s already clear that some changes are necessary.

…read the rest