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

Archives: November & December, 2013


31 December 2013

Bakken oil boom has negative impacts on the Flathead

That shipping oil by rail is dangerous was underscored yesterday when a 100-plus-tanker-car oil train derailed 25 miles west of the North Dakota-Minnesota border. Approximately 20 oil tankers — no one knows for sure, as it’s still too hot to get close enough for an accurate count — are burning, generating sooty particulates and toxic gases that prompted Casselton, ND, officials to evacuate much of the town.

A standard petroleum tanker car holds approximately 670 barrels of oil (roughly 28,000 gallons), so roughly 13,000 barrels of Bakken crude are going up in smoke. That’s a lot of oil, but just 1.3 percent of the Bakken’s daily production, which has exceeded the capacity of the pipelines serving the Bakken fields. Pipelines are safer, but they take time to build, so there will be many more crashes of oil trains before new pipeline capacity becomes operational.

At present, most of the trains carrying Bakken oil are heading east, but as the oil field’s production grows, so will the number of oil trains traveling west, along the Flathead River, and through the Flathead Valley. Even if the probability of 20 tank cars filled with oil going into the river is low — and I don’t know that it is — the consequences of a 20-car spill would not be insignificant.

…read the rest


30 December 2013

Meet the candidates from Kalispell Regional Medical Center


There are at least two Republican legislative candidates in Kalispell who work for the Kalispell Regional Medical Center: Frank Garner, who is running in House District 4, old downtown Kalispell, and Tammi Fisher, who is running in Senate District 4, which comprises House Districts 7 and 8. HD-8 is adjacent to the western side of HD-7.

…read the rest


29 December 2013

Anal retentive inspector general blackens Walsh’s reputation

If you’re having trouble finding an example of anal retentive bureaucratic reasoning, you need look no further than the Army Inspector General’s six-page opinion (PDF) that U.S. Senate candidate John Walsh “…used his government position for private gain.”

The IG concluded that Walsh used his federal email account to “solicit/coerce officers and warrant officers to become members of NGAUS in order to further his election as the NGAUS Vice Chairman, Army.” Here’s the full paragraph (note the “…official use only. Dissemination is prohibited…” admonition at the bottom):


That’s usually known as leadership

The alleged private gain was not pecuniary. Walsh was trying to drum up political support for Montana’s National Guard, political support that would help procure better equipment and benefits for members of the Montana guard. In other words, he was a commander working to obtain every advantage for his subordinates. That’s usually known as leadership. I strongly suspect that similar activities occur in most if not all states.

Someone in the guard didn’t like having his arm twisted, and may have held a grudge against Walsh on an unrelated matter. That someone complained that because Walsh used his federal email account to promote the guard association, he was misusing government resources to obtain a private advantage. The IG found a minor, technical violation of federal email rules, and employed anal retentive bureaucratese to write a six-page opinion when a one-paragraph, half-page opinion would have sufficed. Those six pages converted a wee little molehill to a righteous mountain, but looked a lot better on the IG’s staff officer’s record than a sensible one-page-one-paragraph report.

Still, exactly why Walsh used his government email account for his project instead of a private email account deserves a clear explanation. It was probably convenience. But if he was addressing his messages to government email addresses — I don’t know whether he was — he might have reckoned that keeping the email in-house was a reasonable security procedure.

This incident was known to Governor Steve Bullock before he selected Walsh as his running mate. Bullock, an attorney, rightly judged the matter as small beer and not a disqualifier for elective office. The only reason the matter is being raised now is that control of the U.S. Senate is up for grabs. The stakes are higher, and Republicans will do anything to drive a stake through Walsh’s reputation.

Further reading. Charley Johnson’s report in Montana’s Lee Newspapers.


States where Republicans are ten feet tall


In the eyes of Democratic politicians, that is. Before West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant agreed to run for the U.S. Senate seat now occupied by retiring Democrat Jay Rockefeller, 10 WV Democrats refused the honor of running to succeed him, reports the New York Times, evidently citing WV’s rightward slide and bemoaning the lack of a guarantee they would win.

That rightward slide, greased by cultural issues and powered by the economics of coal, is real, and so are the consequences for Democrats who, despite holding a two-to-one advantage in voter registration, and winning WV’s last elections for governor and U.S. Senator, fear they’re hitched to a dark star — Barack Hussein Obama — that will pull them down to defeat.

So rather than subjecting themselves to the travails of campaigning, and the shame of losing in a good cause, and taking a chance they might win, 10 fair weather WV Democrats stayed on their porches, nodding wisely in sorrow as Ms. Tennant stepped into the rain they’re sure will wash her away after she’s first squashed by giant elephants. And if she wins, they’ll be the first to claim credit for her victory, a claim that will have in it a perverse element of truth.

Frank Garner — nine feet tall and growing?


WV’s Democratic midgets have kin in other states. In Montana, for example, some Flathead Democrats are sure that Frank Garner, the erstwhile Kalispell police chief now running for the Republican nomination for Montana House District 7 (old downtown Kalispell), is at least nine feet tall and growing. They see Garner not as an untested candidate for a dangerously reactionary political party, but as a political Goliath, and see themselves not as Davids but as dwarfs Garner’s Brogans will stomp into huckleberry jam. And so, to the best of my knowledge, no Democrat is yet willing to run in HD-7, although one might still step forward if he can stop trembling long enough to move his Nike clad feet.

…read the rest


27 December 2013

Law enforcement officers should shoot less and negotiate more

Earlier this year, the Flathead County Sheriff’s SWAT squad shot, but failed to kill, a suicidal woman who was brandishing a pistol and announcing her determination to force law enforcement officers to kill her. An investigation that followed reported the deputy who shot her twice with his AR-15 assault rifle fired 15 times (a full clip?), hitting a SWAT vehicle at least half a dozen times. According to the Daily InterLake, the report concluded the deputy complied with all policies and procedures, and Sheriff Chuck Curry said no changes in procedure were necessary.

I would not expect Curry to say anything else, at least in public. He’s standing by his deputies. He may, however, quietly make changes to lessen the probability that similar situations lead to gunfire. He should.

None of this surprises me. As Radley Balko observes in Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, our police forces are becoming increasingly militarized, with police departments obtaining vehicles designed for urban warfare, assault weapons such as the AR-15, and adopting more aggressive and harsher policies.

In Why Cops Pull The Trigger: Pulling Back The Curtain On Police Shootings, Nicole Flatow reported that police officers are trained to shoot to kill, and to shoot until their firearms are empty:

Once police turn to their guns, protocol is to aim for the chest or head and to keep shooting until the threat is removed. In other words, they are aiming to inflict grievous bodily harm if not death — not minor injury. So why are police turning to a deadly weapon simply to incapacitate an unknown threat when other, lesser measures, might do?

A good question, and one that ought to be asked locally as well as elsewhere. In the meantime, I recommend that Flathead law enforcement officers begin the New Year by resolving to shoot less and negotiate more when confronted by suicidal women with pistols.



26 December 2013

Will Chuck Baldwin run for the U.S. Senate?

Chuck Baldwin

Will Chuck Baldwin, preacher and former Presidential candidate for the Constitution Party, run for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Max Baucus?

Someone writing for the Wikipedia thinks that’s a possibility. The Wiki’s page on the 2014 Montana election for the U.S. Senate lists Baldwin as a “potential” candidate. His companion potentials are zany Rep. Krayton Kerns and, and this is really a stretch, former Rep. Denny Rehberg, a two-time Senate loser expected to cash in as a lobbyist next year.

The GOP nominee, of course, will be Rep. “Shutdown Steve” Daines. But mentioning Baldwin as a potential candidate is a nice touch, and the Wiki page is both a comprehensive survey of Montanans with potential senatorial ambitions, and a nicely constructed parody of a Wiki page for an election.

There’s a similar page for the 2014 Montana election for the U.S. House of Representatives.

I have no idea how long these pages have existed, or who brought them into existence. But I suspect they were authored by university types with droll senses of humor.



Christmas, 2013

Season’s Greetings


24 December 2013

John Lewis may have better chance than conventional wisdom suggests


Montana’s Democrats used to win elections for the U.S. House of representatives with some regularity. From 1920 through 1990, Democrats held a 31-5 margin in western congressional district elections, while Republicans held a 24-12 margin in eastern district elections. Montanans cast 4.6 million votes for Democratic congressional candidates, 4.1 million for Republican candidates. Western Montana was deep blue, eastern Montana reddish purple, and by a three to one margin, Montana sent Democrats to the House. (Download 1920–2012 MT U.S. House elections spreadsheet.)

Then Montana’s political world reversed poles. The 1990 Census cost Montana one of its two seats in the House. Montana became a single district state in 1992. And four years later, Montana Democrats became extinct in the U.S. House.

PDF for printing.

Values above zero percent represent Democratic victories; values below represent Republican victories.

…read the rest


20 December 2013

Tester’s wilderness & logging bill still needs fixing


Four years ago, I gave Sen. John Tester’s wilderness and logging bill a conditional endorsement: amend it, pass it, but don’t brag about it. My endorsement was contingent upon removing the logging mandates from the bill.

That almost happened, but as the Missoulian’s Rob Chaney reported yesterday, Sen. Tester’ price for supporting his own bill is keeping the logging mandates intact:

…read the rest

Whom should Bullock appoint to replace Baucus?

Update. Obama just nominated Baucus as ambassador to China. Max Baucus is still a Senator. He has not yet been nominated to serve as ambassador to China — but neither of those facts has deterred speculation on whom Gov. Bullock should appoint to serve the remainder of Baucus’ term. Most commentators in Montana expect Bullock would appoint John Walsh, or possibly an elder statesman such as Pat Williams. Walsh, wisely, has avoided commenting on the situation.

Outside Montana, inside the Washington, D.C. beltway, someone launched a little balloon bearing the name of Jim Messina, Baucus’ former chief of staff, the manager of President’s Obama’s 2012 campaign, and now a political consultant to the conservative party in Great Britain. I’m pretty sure that Messina is he who launched the balloon, thinking he has nothing to lose and that former Sen. Jim Messina would look damn good on his resume (at Political Animal Ed Kilgore had the same reaction). In fact, just launching the balloon is an effort to establish him as Senatorial material, a step up from campaign staff. Messina’s balloon is little, its hot air is cooling, and before long it will be back on the ground, deflated and disdained.

…read the rest


18 December 2013

Baucus to Beijing, Walsh to Washington, D.C.?


That’s what Politico is reporting. President Obama will nominate Sen. Max Baucus as our next ambassador to the People’s Republic of China. And if the Senate confirms Baucus, Montana Governor Steve Bullock probably would appoint his Lt. Governor, John Walsh, to replace Baucus in the U.S. Senate:

That would suck the air out of the campaigns of Walsh’s rivals for the Democratic nomination for Senate, Dirk Adams and John Bohlinger, and condemn Republican Rep. Steve Daines to running against an incumbent Senator instead of for an open seat.

None of this would surprise me. Democrats want to hold the Senate and can’t afford to surrender the seat Baucus now holds. Baucus may well be willing to inhale the foul air of Beijing instead of the sweet air of Bozeman. That would save him a cold turkey return to private life. One is reminded that Mike Mansfield accepted an appointment as ambassador to Japan after serving in the Senate, although he served his full term before moving to Tokyo.

Politically, this is a risky maneuver for Democrats because it is so obviously a political maneuver that’s designed to help John Walsh at the cost of depriving Montana of the benefits of Baucus’ seniority. Footwork that fancy may not sit well with many voters: see Nate Silver’s analysis of the subject (thanks to Don Pogreba at Intelligent Discontent for the link, which eluded me while I was writing this).

If Baucus does resign from the Senate to become ambassador to China, Bullock could appoint a distinguished elder statesman to serve the remainder of Baucus’ term: retired Rep. Pat Williams.



17 December 2013

John Walsh needs to get going


So far today, I’ve received two press releases from John Walsh’s campaign.

The first release, Walsh demands fix to unconstitutional NSA overreach, urges a national solution to a national problem (unlike John Bohlinger, who wants to rein-in the NSA through an amendment to Montana’s constitution).

Release number two criticizes Steve Daines for voting against the budget deal, and thereby against a provision to increase what physicians are paid for treating Medicare patients.

So far, so good.

…read the rest


12 December 2013

CFAC will never produce aluminum again

Columbia Falls never was an ideal location for an aluminum plant. It had access to cheap hydropower, partly from Hungry Horse Dam, but bauxite, the ore from which aluminum metal is produced, was shipped to the plant by rail. Eventually, and predictably, adverse economics led to the plant’s closing in 2001.

Since then, hope has sprung eternal among former plant workers and Montana politicians, who kept seeking cheap power for a plant long after it was clear that plant never was going to reopen as a six-pot line operation.

Writing in this week’s Hungry Horse News, Richard Hanners summarized the pathetic state of the plant:

…read the rest


11 December 2013

When school pipes freeze, don’t blame Jack Frost

West Glacier’s school was damaged over the weekend when a pipe above the kitchen burst, flooding the kitchen, offices, and gymnasium. According to the InterLake’s report, school officials said cold weather was the culprit:

…read the rest


10 December 2013

Old John Bohlinger proposes new constitutional initiative


He’s running for the U.S. Senate, but 77-year-old erstwhile Republican and not fully come to Jesus Democrat John Bohlinger has his eye and mind on the Montana constitution.

And Montana’s constitution, he says, is no longer good enough. He wants to amend it through a constitutional initiative, reports the AP’s Matt Gouras:

…read the rest


9 December 2013

My neighborhood at twilight, a light snow falling


Taken from my front porch with an old digital camera.


8 December 2013

Pro FNF editorial indicates FNF is feeling heat for favoritism

Kalispell’s Daily InterLake today published an editorial defending the declaration by the Flathead National Forest’s Joe Krueger that the FNF would give “…a lot of weight” to the forest plan alternative proposed by the Whitefish Range Partnership:

The Flathead Forest’s team leader for forest planning remarked that the partnership’s recommendations will be “given a lot of weight,” as they should, because forest planning rules that were adopted in 2012 put a strong emphasis on encouraging thoughtful, substantive public input through collaborative efforts. And that’s precisely what they’re getting in this case.

The InterLake would not be rushing to the defense of Krueger and the FNF unless they were feeling somewhat beleaguered by criticism that they were playing favorites, which they were, and that playing favorites was unprofessional, which it is.

…read the rest


4 December 2013

Coming soon to MT: A legal Puff’s Tragic Drag-In Shop

At some point, recreational marijuana probably will be legalized in Montana. I’m for decriminalizing the weed — its classification as a Schedule I drug is stupid and destructive — but I’m not for smoking it, medicinal circumstances excepted, let alone driving under its influence.

Still, decriminalization is on its way, and so is the regulatory circus now playing in the state of Washington, where the Seattle Post-Intelligencer now has a Pot Blog. Pay attention, Montanans. The future looks like Haight-Ashbury circa 1967.

Student health insurance blues

Montana Cowgirl has an excellent report on how Montana Public Radio ended up hauling water for health insurance companies on student health insurance. To my mind, this is more proof that we need a single payer system, and that the private health insurance industry is a menace to quality healthcare.

A special session on Medicaid expansion is not a good idea

At 4and20blackbirds, JC has long, thought provoking post on expanding Medicaid in Montana and the merits of calling a special session. He quotes Flathead Memo extensively. If legislative minds have changed since the legislature adjourned, a special session would be the fastest way of expanding Medicaid. But no minds have changed. If anything, the Republicans intent on depriving low income people of decent medical care have hardened their opposition to expanding Medicaid. My opinion? A special session would accomplish nothing and should not be called.

Shooting thy senile neighbor

When a senile 72-year-old knocks on your door, do you call the police and let them handle the old gent, or do you stand your ground and shoot him? In Georgia, reports the New York Times, one man stood his ground and used his Glock to put Gramps six feet under the ground.

Montana also has a stand your ground statute that provides a defense for questionable violence. The more I contemplate the situations and concerns that generate support for stand your ground laws, the more complexities I see and the less sure I become that these laws are an intrinsic evil. That doesn’t mean I think homeowners should kill senile old men who appear on their doorsteps after dark — calling the cops and giving the guy a cup of coffee is the better response — but I don’t think anyone should be required to step aside when meth crazed thieves come to steal everything you own, or that you should meekly surrender your wallet when a six-foot-eight psychopath with Olympic sprinter speed says, “give me your money or I’ll break your neck.”

4 December Permalink


3 December 2013

Privatizing the city airport’s management: a bad idea

Kalispell, reports the InterLake, is considering hiring Red Eagle Aviation to run the Kalispell City Airport. Red Eagle is the sole fixed base operator at the airport. Kalispell’s city manager, Doug Russell, thinks that would save money.

I think it’s an exceeding bad idea. What’s good for Red Eagle is not necessarily what’s good for Kalispell. The arrangement would have a built-in conflict of interest.

If the city wants Red Eagle to run the airport, it should sell the airport to Red Eagle.


It’s best not to get lost

Over Thanksgiving, two hunters got lost west of Kalispell on Haskill Mountain, near Lake Rogers. Realizing they were lost, they stopped and called for help. A volunteer search and rescue team found them and reunited them with their truck and a known location in two or three hours. A SAR leader heaped praise on the lost men for making smart decisions after they realized they were lost.

Getting lost, however, results from unwise decisions. Hunters who become lost have miserable land navigation skills. Equipped with map, compass, and GPS receiver, and the knowledge to use them, knowing where one is, and knowing the way back home, is within everyone’s grasp. But there is not enough focus on the importance of not getting lost. Instead, the focus is on what to do if one becomes lost.

Land navigation probably should be taught in our public schools as a standard, and required, subject. Unfortunately, it’s not. Instruction in the subject is left to private groups such as the Boy Scouts, hiking clubs, and orienteering groups, and on the water, similar associations and the Coast Guard and its auxiliaries. Outside of the armed services, there’s no standard navigation curriculum. Some people fall through the cracks. Later, some of these people become lost. I think fewer would become lost if land navigation were a mandatory subject in our public schools.


LED Christmas lights: safer and less expensive

Several years back, I gave my incandescent Christmas light to charity, replacing them with LED lights, which run cooler and require less power. Over the weekend I placed 240 C-5 and 200 C-9 lights on two bushes near my front porch. Yesterday, before the blizzard roared in, I measured the lights’ electrical draw with my Kill-A-Watt meter: 23 watts. Burning the lights six hours a day during December will consume three to four kilowatt hours, and cost approximately 25 cents.



2 December 2013

Unprofessional conduct at the Flathead National Forest

The man in charge of revising the forest plan at the Flathead National Forest, Joe Krueger, and his boss, forest supervisor Chip Weber, exercised questionable professional judgment in their remarks on the forest plan alternative developed by the Whitefish Range Partnership.

…read the rest


30 November 2013

The WRP agreement — grand bargain or deal with the Devil?

Thanks to David Hadden of Headwaters Montana, I have a copy of the Whitefish Range Partnership’s forest plan alternative for the North Fork of the Flathead National Forest. It’s a scanned copy, so the maps are Rorschach images, but Hadden is assembling a small enough to email version that should be available soon, so get in touch with him if you’d like a copy. The agreement’s rollout was infelicitous, but the infelicities are being addressed, and Hadden, et al, should be cut a lot of slack. They’re trying to do the right thing.

One thing that struck me right away as I began reading the agreement was that I knew many of the WRP’s members. Some are close friends and colleagues of decades. There’s a lot of local expertise and brainpower in the partnership, and I didn’t see the name of anyone I would expect to be acting in bad faith. Of course, I did see the names of people I thought would be wrong in a good faith way.

…read the rest


26 November 2013

An open letter to Super 1 Foods

Updated. Local grocery stores throughout the Northwest, including Super 1 Foods, used a payment processing firm that got hacked. The Missoulian has the best story. Now our debit and credit cards are at risk. Am I steamed? You bet. I’m protecting myself by paying cash, and through the following open letter to Super 1 Foods, I’m lodging my complaint about this preventable debacle.


This is a complaint, a bitter complaint, and a complaint from a customer of many years who has shopped at Super 1 Foods because of its quality food, clean stores, friendly employees, fair prices, and no customer loyalty card. Those are good things.

But as I’ve just learned, Super 1 Foods has no effective security. That’s a very bad thing, and the reason for my complaint. Your lax payment processing system may have compromised my debit card — and I won’t know until strange charges start draining my bank account.

Now that you’re aware of the problem, you’re advising customers to pay with cash or a check — which is half bad advice. Only a fool would trust you with the information printed and embedded on a check. If I shop at Super 1 again, and that’s a big, big “if,” I’ll pay only in cash.

…read the rest

A sign of the times


A panhandler in north Kalispell, near the Hu Hot Hut and Walmart. His position complies with Kalispell’s draconian new anti-panhandling ordinance. I don’t know whether the police ordered him leave after I left. What I do know is that I didn’t see any giving for which he could offer thanks.


25 November 2013

In Kalispell today, a low sun at high noon

At high noon in Kalispell today, which occurs at 1225 MST, the sun will be just 21 degrees above the horizon. A six-foot man standing on main street will cast a 15.6-foot shadow due north, and someone driving due south may find no baseball cap has a bill long enough to block the glare. After 8.8 hours of sunlight, the sun will set at 1649 MST at a bearing of 239 degrees, southwest by west. Because our horizon is mountainous, the actual length of sunlight will be a little less than 8.8 hours.

With each passing day, the sun will sink lower at meridian passage until it bottoms out at 18 degrees on 21 December, the winter solstice and the first day of winter (but not the first day of wintry weather). At high noon on the solstice, our six-foot man’s shadow is 18.5 feet long, three times his height. Six months later, at the summer solstice on 21 June 2014, with the sun 65 degrees above the horizon at transit, his shadow will be 2.8 feet, roughly half his height, and shorter than his winter’s shadow by a factor of six.

When I was a student, calculating these values was a chore, and the libraries available to me didn’t always have printed tables of sunrise-transit-sunset times. Now, thanks to computers and the internet, calculating positions of astronomical objects and times of twilights, rises, transits, and sets, is within everyone’s grasp.

…read the rest


24 November 2013

Whitefish Range rump agreement far from a done deal

Another rump caucus, the Whitefish Range Partnership, has reached agreement on how a tract of National Forest land, this time in the Whitefish Range, west of Glacier National Park, should be managed. Rob Chaney of the Missoulian has the story.

The agreement has no force of law, but it does have political weight that will be recognized by Congress, which has the power to designate wilderness, and the U.S. Forest Service, which is starting another round of forest planning. Many of the WRP’s proposals are intended to be incorporated in the next forest plan, which will have the force of law.

Here, from Chaney’s report, is what we know so far:

…read the rest

Airport expansion losers file complaint against winners

Given how bitter the battle was, it’s no surprise that the losing side in the Kalispell City Airport referendum has filed a complaint with Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices, alleging that members of the anti-airport expansion group, Quiet Skies of Kalispell, committed campaign finance violations. The InterLake’s story has details, and you can download the complaint here (scroll down to number 31, Welch v. Davis).


Columbia Falls based Sandy Welch, the former Republican candidate for Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, and now a political consultant with Whitefish based Checkered Flag Strategies, filed the complaint, naming Quiet Skies associated Scott Davis as the defendant. She managed the losing Save Our Airport campaign.

According to the InterLake:

…read the rest


22 November 2013

JFK remembered


I was a sophomore in high school, in my English class, when the awful news reached us: the President had been shot in Dallas. Later I learned John F. Kennedy was dead. As a member of a deeply anti-New Deal family — my mother, a Texas New Dealer, excepted — I was no fan of the President, but as the day lengthened I was overwhelmed with a sense that something terrible had happened. And before returning to school several days later, I joined millions in watching Jack Ruby murder Lee Harvey Oswald on live television.

…read the rest

Expanding Medicaid by ballot initiative is not without risk

With the backing of Governor Bullock, progressives are pushing an initiative for the November, 2014 ballot, that would authorize Montana to accept federal funds for expanding Medicaid in Montana. Approximately 70,000 Montanans would be eligible for the program.

But there’s a catch, and it’s a big one. As Mike Dennison reports, securing voter approval is not enough:

…read the rest

Bohlinger — the old horse is fighting the wrong war

Erstwhile Republican John Bohlinger is running for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senator. That’s a national office, so he should be discussing national issues. Instead, he’s advising Governor Bullock to call a special legislative session on Medicaid expansion, apparently oblivious to the fact that the legislators who rejected expanded Medicaid in the 2013 session have not changed their minds. He’s both stirring the wrong pot and expecting to cook a new soup with the same old ingredients.

The old John Bohlinger was a gentleman as well as a politician. This John Bohlinger, older and apparently less wiser and restrained, is an embarrassment.

Don Pogreba has more at Intelligent Discontent.



21 November 2013

Tester and Baucus help Senate partially restore majority rule

Jon Tester and Max Baucus were among the 52 Senators who today voted to restore majority rule on most Presidential nominations. Which is to say, they voted for a rules change curtailing the requirement for a 60-vote supermajority to invoke cloture (end debate). It’s a long overdue decision to revert to the Constitutionally required way of doing business in the Senate — a decision, as Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo observes, that was strongly opposed by Pro Choice Democrats:

…read the rest


20 November 2013

PPP poll reports low name recognition, GOP advantage

Public Policy Polling just released the results of a 25-question survey taken 15–17 November. Steve Daines and the Republican candidates for the U.S. House all win hypothetical match-ups with Democrats, mostly by margins of 10 percent or more. In the Democratic Senate primary, Walsh leads Bohlinger 39–31 percent.

PPP surveyed 952 Montana voters, including an oversample of 469 usual Republican primary voters and 381 Democratic primary voters, from November 15th to 17th. The margin of error for the overall survey is +/- 3.2%, +/-4.5% for the GOP sample, and +/-5.0% for the Democratic portion. PPP’s surveys are conducted through automated telephone interviews.

…read the rest


19 November 2013

Memo to John Walsh: lash yourself to the mast & stay the course


Add John Walsh’s name to the list of wobbly Democrats who need to lash themselves to the mast and stay the course on the Affordable Care Act. Walsh, report The Hill and Talking Points Memo, endorsed Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) bill to let people keep substandard insurance policies:

In Montana, Democratic candidate Lt. Gov John Walsh, through a spokesman, has said that the Obamacare rollout was “disastrous” and has called for Congress to “insurance companies accountable.” His campaign has also argued that the Obama administration hasn’t taken enough steps to fix the problems with the health care law. Walsh has embraced a proposal by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), another Democrat in a 2014 Senate race, which would require insurers to maintain plans for current policy holders. [TPM]

…read the rest


16 November 2013

Lindeen shows spine


Montana’s State Auditor, Monica Lindeen, thinks President Obama’s panicky response to complaints over canceled health insurance policies is an unwise complication. She’s right. Outlawing worthless health insurance policies is one of the Affordable Care Act’s most important components and it should not be eviscerated by a President with Hamlet-like tendencies and Congressional Democrats who forgot their morning dose of spine starch. Obama, to be fair, was trying to limit Democratic defections on the hill, but his self-abasing performance was more an act of penitence, of gratuitous humility, than of political leadership. Memo to Obama and invertebrate Congressional Democrats: lash yourselves to the mast and stay the course.

Depressing news on the Hillary front

Dan Balz, at the Washington Post, reports the Democratic Party is organizing for the 2016 Presidential election on the assumption that Hillary Clinton will be the nominee. That’s depressing news. If elected, HRC would be, at 69, the second oldest person to take the Presidential oath of office for the first time. She ran an embarrassingly incompetent campaign in 2008. She has a history of serious health problems, including blood clots. Her ties to Wall Street are deep and dangerous. And she runs under a divisive banner of identity politics. She’s bad news for Democrats, but good news for Ted Cruz.

Walsh is choice of Bullock, Tester, and Baucus

There’s no doubt John Walsh is the choice of the Democratic establishment. Governor Steve Bullock endorsed Walsh yesterday, and Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus are helping him raise money. John Bohlinger seems to be the choice of Brian Schweitzer. And Dirk Adams, he with the interesting banking history? So far he seems to be the choice of Dirk Adams, and only Dirk Adams, but he’s evidently hired a Washington, D.C., area firm that flacks for Democrats and probably will be on the primary ballot. He reminds me of Larry Williams.

Walsh still has not fleshed out his campaign’s website, although he’s had plenty of time to do so. This is a mistake. Now that Steve Daines has formally announced he’s running for the Senate, he’ll start using some of the millions he raised to define Walsh — and he’ll succeed if Walsh doesn’t start defining himself right now.

Socialist defeats Democrat in Seattle

In Seattle, voters elected socialist Kshama Sawant to the city council, throwing out incumbent Democrat Richard Conlin. Samuel Knight at the Washington Monthly has a good summary of the situation and what it might mean. Sawant’s victory provides hope that Wall Street Democrats — liberal on social issues, but turn-the-bankers-loose on economics — may be losing clout in the party. Let’s hope so.


14 November 2013

Worth reading: Skinner on dark money, Jopek on gender politics

Provocative essays by Flathead Beacon columnists Dave Skinner (last week) and Mike Jopek (yesterday) are worth reading.

…read the rest

Bullcrap from Bulldog

The Bulldog Finance Group, a Washington, D.C., management outfit for Democrats, produces gobbledygook that would make academic grantwriters jealous. Here’ in an especially dazzling example of the art, Bulldog explains its fundraising strategy:

Acting on this political paradigm, Bulldog Finance Group has developed a novel and cost-effective approach to fundraising for Democratic political campaigns and nonprofit organizations scaling local, state and national levels.

At the core, the diversity of our employees, whose backgrounds span politics, campaigns, communications, finance, marketing and research, drives our approach to political fundraising. Simply put, the synergies created by having a team of cross-functional experts allows us to formulate and execute dynamic fundraising strategies that closely represent the heterogeneous target audiences that we must reach.

Furthermore, by developing a meticulous understanding of the values, vision and ideals that shape our clients’ missions and agendas, Bulldog Finance Group is able to effectively design, grow and sustain important political relationships, create and syndicate clear communications and micro-target the maximum amount of obtainable capital – all of which are essential tactics to reaching fundraising success.

According to the Montana Streetfighter blog, Bulldog is advertising for a campaign manager for a Montana Senate campaign. It could be Bohlinger or Dirk Adams, but I suspect Bohlinger has a deep enough black book that he doesn’t need to advertise for a political topkick. Adams strikes me as much more likely to hire a headhunter.



13 November 2013

Obamacare panic, Lee death spiral, Bohlinger campaign

Obamacare panic. Dismayed by the fiasco, shaken by constituent complaints over canceled health insurance policies, and worried about the 2014 elections, even liberal Democrats in Congress are proposing risky legislative fixes of the cure is worse than the disease genre. Ed Kilgore at the Washington Monthly thinks Democrats need to take an even strain, and I agree.


Death spiral at Lee newspapers. After reading at a brief report on the troubled newspaper chain’s bad habits of reporting less news while paying big bonuses to the executives responsible for the losses, I was going to write a long post on the subject, but Don Pogreba at Intelligent Discontent beat me to it with an outstanding post that’s a must read. If you have a retirement plan, you probably don’t want Lee’s stock to be part of it.


Bohlinger’s campaign. Is former Lt. Governor John Bohlinger’s campaign a last hurrah, a last gallup for an old war horse who can’t stand having been put out to pasture? Or it is something else, perhaps an attempt to avenge Brian Schweitzer’s ignominious demise as a potential Senate candidate? After almost identical stories in the National Journal yesterday, and Talking Points Memo today, I’m beginning to wonder. Why is the 77-year-old recovering Republican running for a nomination he has no hope of winning, and for a six-year term he might not live long enough to complete?

Neither NJ nor TPM mentioned Bohlinger’s age. Instead, they reported how he stole some of the limelight from Steve Daines’ “I’m running for the Senate” announcement last week, and quoted Schweitzer as saying Bohlinger would win were the primary held today (I have my doubts on that). Those were nice media scores for Bohlinger’s flacks, and miserable examples of sloppy reporting that should bring shame on two good publications.

Bohlinger, incidentally, is not as liberal as his advocates claim. Intelligent Discontent reports his record on abortion is checkered at best (he’s Catholic, which cannot be ignored), and that his support for labor could have been stronger.

If Bohlinger actually files for the Democratic primary, he enables John Walsh, the certain Democratic nominee, to raise money for both the primary and general elections, and gives Walsh a chance to sharpen his campaigning skill, both good things. Harry Reid might not want a genuine primary contest, but I don’t share Reid’s fear on that. But if Reid does have legitimate concerns over Bohlinger’s motives, well, so do I. Is his candidacy a last hurrah — or is it the final flight of an avenging angel?



11 November 2013

Flathead elections department mush

Flathead County’s elections department has posted preliminary returns from last week’s municipal elections — but not in a particularly useful form. The vote totals for candidates are there, for all three incorporated cities (Columbia Falls, Kalispell, Whitefish), but turnout information for each city is not. Instead, there is this:

…read the rest


9 November 2013

A look at and the Flathead

My background includes database construction and website design, so I poked around for a couple of hours after midnight last week. I knew that even without political constraints and mistakes, and the generally sorry state of government information technology, building was a daunting task because of the complexity of the health insurance system the Affordable Care Act created. And I knew that in addition to the system’s programming logic, there were the problems of data integrity and data compatibility.

What I found was sobering.

…read the rest


7 November 2012

Red berries in the early morning snow


These berries are very small — a quarter-inch or so — and as you can see, very red. The hang from vines that festoon the arborvitae along my front porch, bringing welcome color to gray winter days.


6 November 2013

Daines and Bohlinger announce for U.S. Senate

Montana has two more candidates for the U.S. Senate seat up for election in 2014: Republican Rep. Steve Daines, 51, and former Lt. Governor John Bohlinger, 77, running as a Democrat. Daines’ is a serious candidacy. He’ll win the GOP nomination. Bohlinger’s is a last hurrah that will help John Walsh raise money and sharpen his message and campaigning skills.

Both Daines and Walsh are doing voters a disservice by not providing full-fledged campaign websites. Daines scrubbed his website during the last few days; right now, there’s not much there (but what was there, I saved). Walsh is still at the holding page stage, which is not only inexplicable but borders on campaign malpractice: by not using his website to define himself, he risks being defined by Daines and the Republicans.

I’ll have more on the Senate and House races later this week.

South defeats North in Kalispell’s airport civil war

As our election map shows, the airport expansion referendum was very much a not-in-my-back-yard issue. Votes for the referendum signified opposition to airport expansion, and as the graph below shows, the closer to the airport, the greater the support for the (airport expansion) repeal referendum. But nowhere was there strong support for expanding the airport. Even north of Highway 2, in the prosperous wards where I suspect many pilots and aircraft owners live, opinion was evenly divided.

…read the rest


5 November 2013

Kalispell City Airport referendum

Updated 2124 MST. I think a large turnout favors those trying to repeal the airport expansion ordinance, but even an overwhelming victory for either side probably does not settle the issue permanently. Regardless of the outcome, the airport will remain open because of the long term leases the city improvidently granted a decade ago. That means there’s plenty of time for the election’s losers to regroup and refight the battle.

Update. The referendum to repeal airport expansion was approved 1,881 (55 percent) to 1,528, reports the Flathead Beacon. Those numbers may change slightly after the official canvass later this month. has been issuing updates throughout the evening, and probably will have another update reporting the final tally. Save Your Airport didn’t prevail, but it deserves praise for its use of Facebook.

Flathead Community College and health care

FVCC, reports the Beacon, is limiting adjunct faculty to teaching 10 credits this spring to avoid having the adjuncts classified as full-time employees and thus become eligible for health care benefits. Montana Cowgirl greeted the news with a scathing post, The Hardees of colleges, arguing that FVCC’s labor practices are as loathsome as those at certain fast food joints. Given what I know, FVCC does appear intent on avoiding paying health care benefits instead of helping employees obtain those benefits, but I’d like to know more. FVCC uses a lot of adjuncts to teach a course or two, often non-credit, of the basket weaving genre. That’s probably acceptable. What’s not acceptable is using part-time adjuncts to avoid hiring full-time faculty for standard academic courses. If that’s what FVCC’s doing, that needs to change.

The county and the auction barn lease

Earlier this year, the Flathead County Commission inexplicably failed to seek half a million in grant money for a new agency on aging building, probably at the fairgrounds. That earned denouncements from across the political spectrum, and generated speculation that certain commissioners might have been paying off a political debt. That speculation will resurface now that Charles Lapp is seeking a two-year lease on the old auction barn now housing the agency, and hinting he’d be delighted if the county bought the barn. I’d be delighted if this affair didn’t have an odor that reminds me of beached carp decaying under a summer sun.

Daines’ plank on health care is mostly stale air


Tomorrow, Republican Rep. Steve Daines announces whether he’ll run for re-election to the U.S. House or go after the U.S. Senate seat now held by Sen. Max Baucus, who is retiring. Daines is trying to build suspense by not tipping his hand, but only fool would bet on another run for the House. Ryan Zinke, Matt Rosendale, and Corey Stapleton, would not have announced their candidacies for the GOP nomination for the House unless Daines had quietly assured them he was running for the Senate.

Daines’ website omits the office he seeks, but everything else is there: the family photo, his stands on the issues, a contact page, and a page for online donations.

Over the course of the campaign, I’ll examine Daines’ positions on the issues, but given his notoriety as a charter members of the Shutdown Caucus that tried to gut the Affordable Care Act, the first plank in his platform to examine is health care. Here’s his health care plank, complete with both capitalization variants for Obamacare:

…read the rest


4 November 2013

Zinke trolls Facebook for “Obamacare screwed me” horror stories


Revised and expanded. Did your health insurance that you thought President Obama promised you could keep just get canceled? If so, or have a friend in that predicament, Republican candidate for the U.S. House Ryan Zinke wants to know — and he wants to know badly enough that he’s trolling Facebook hoping to hook your story:

…read the rest


3 November 2013

Why the city airport expansion debate is so intense

At its heart, the debate over expanding the Kalispell City Airport is about privilege, not need.

The need for the airport vanished several years after 1942, when what is now Glacier Park International Airport, a modern airport with a 9,000-foot runway, instrument landing system, control tower, and modern passenger terminal, was built. Today, the city airport is a convenience for owners and pilots of single-engine airplanes burning leaded gasoline, not a necessity for the community.

But the airport could become a burden on the city of Kalispell. In an oped in today’s InterLake, Kalispell Mayor Tammi Fisher and three council members explain the problem:

…read the rest