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


Archives: September & October, 2013


31 October 2013

Airport expansion debate turns ugly

Most voters in Kalispell probably have made up their minds on the airport expansion referendum. But as election day approaches, the campaign continues building to an ugly crescendo that will ring in the community’s ears long after the ballots have been counted.

Today we learned that airport expansion backers set up a pro-expansion website under the name of the anti-expansion group Kalispell Quiet Skies. Such punkings are not unheard of — Democratic U.S. House candidate John Lewis received one from the GOP a few weeks back — but they’re underhanded, corrupt public discourse, and unworthy of serious adults.

Questionable charges of fraud also corrupt public discourse — and regrettably, such charges have been made.

…read the rest


29 October 2013

John Fuller’s latest diatribe


Before reading John Fuller’s latest diatribe at the Flathead Beacon, even some conservatives might want to fortify themselves with a double bourbon. Writing from the right on “After the Shutdown,” the retired teacher from Flathead High delivered these rhetorical road apples:

…read the rest


28 October 2013

Weasel words & chameleon planks

Word for weaselly word from a major Montana candidate’s campaign website:

Energy security: finding a responsible balance. Montana is uniquely positioned to be a world leader in energy development with all of our energy resources: wind, solar, natural gas, oil, geothermal energy, coal mining and biofuels. [This candidate] supports responsible policy that balances all of our energy resources, with an eye toward the future. In Congress he will support a strategy that will protect Montana jobs in both traditional and renewable energy development.

In politics, this is known as “all of the above.” It’s a chameleon plank that turns the color the voter wants to see. What are the candidate’s priorities? Why, they’re the voter’s priorities.


Energy reporters need to define the “average” home

What is an average home? That’s the question raised by two recent stories on electrical generation, one by the Daily InterLake’s Ryan Murray, the other by the National Journal’s Amy Harder.

Murray reported on 25 October that Stoltze Land and Lumber will sell electricity from its wood fueled generator to the Flathead Electric Cooperative for the next 20 years, a deal big enough to attract Montana Governor Steve Bullock who toured the plant last week, remarking:

…read the rest


27 October 2013

Sunday briefs

The National Weather Service issued a high wind warning for later today, when an Alberta Clipper will roar in with snow, cold, and tree breaking winds, so I’ve been battening down the hatches instead of blogging this weekend. But it’s time for a cuppa java and a few brief comments. Update at 1510 MDT: the Clipper’s arrived, blowing 33–41 mph at the airport, half that at FM’s HQ near Kalispell.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

John Walsh, candidate for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senator, will speak to the Flathead Democratic Women at their meeting in Kalispell tomorrow. Follow the FDW link for details. I hope Walsh will address foreign policy. He should, given the Senate’s constitutional obligations on treaties. He’s earned a demerit for not yet having a full campaign website, but earned a commendation for his timely criticism of Rep. Daines reprehensible contributions to the government shutdown.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Kalispell City Council candidate and city airport expansion opponent Chad Hanson went way out on a limb earlier this month when he rhetorically wondered whether fraud was behind far too high estimates of airport operations (takeoffs and landings). The short answer: questionable assumptions, not fraud, lead to the way-too-high estimates. I’ll post the longer answer Monday or Tuesday. Meanwhile, Hanson needs to cool his rhetoric.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Updated. Apparently, no one told President Obama that the United States has been eavesdropping on friendly foreign governments such as Germany’s. Now he’s embarrassed, personally apologizing to those leaders, and looking weak. Possibly, the eavesdroppers — almost certainly working for the National Security Agency — thought they were protecting the President by keeping him ignorant of their activities. If so, they weren’t thinking. Obama needs to fire some high ranking officials, and to fire them right now, both as punishment for what they did and to prove he’s in charge.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Can we make war on pain, and not on painkillers? The Montana Meth Project is back, declaring war on “prescription drug abuse,” and others, reports the Missoulian, are marching with it. By prescription drugs, they primarily mean opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycontin. I understand their concern, but I think their reaction and methods verge on hysteria and will result in people in severe pain not receiving medications strong enough to provide relief. The MMP and its fellow crusaders will dispute that, of course, but such demurrals are pro forma and ought to be discounted. In certain respects, incidentally, the MMP falls in the moderate camp. Some war on painkillers people seem to think that pain is God’s will, and that those in pain should seek relief from prayer, not pills.



23 October 2013

Neighbors, but perhaps not friends


Pro and con yard signs on Seventh Street West in Kalispell. In the sections of Kalispell I've visited so far, this is the only sign I’ve seen supporting airport expansion. There are many signs opposing airport expansion.


22 October 2013

The RSZ of the GOP a House seat seek


The third hat is in the ring for the Republican nomination for the U.S. House, thrown there yesterday by former State Senator Ryan Zinke of Whitefish. His Stetson joins those of Glendive’s Matt Rosendale, who threw his in last week, and Billings’ Corey Stapleton, whose hat has been there so long it’s turning to stone.

Incumbent Rep. Steve Daines still has not announced his intentions for 2014, and according to the Flathead Beacon won’t until next year, but it’s now certain he’ll run for the U.S. Senate and therefore quietly flashed a green light at Zinke, Rosendale, and any other Republican who prefers the House near the Potomac to a home on the range.

…read the rest


19 October 2013

Let’s work together to make our roads safe for everyone


Melinda Barnes is the executive director of Bike Walk Montana, an organization dedicated to making and keeping bicycling safer in Montana. That’s no small task, as I’m reminded every time I’m almost sideswiped or run into a ditch by a driver needing a refresher course in courtesy. September, Melinda observes, was a lethal month in Montana for pedestrians and a bicyclist, so I’m pleased she gave Flathead Memo permission to post her essay on what making our roads safer will take.

…read Melinda’s guest post

Rep. Daines explains why he voted to reopen the government


Late yesterday I received a gracious letter from Rep. Steve explaining his vote to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. He did not explain why he thought it necessary to shut down the government, probably because there’s no reasonable explanation for that behavior.

Here’s his rationale for voting for the Reid-McConnell compromise:

…read the rest


18 October 2013

An HTML coder looks at John Lewis’ campaign website


Unlike most bloggers, I write the HTML code for my website, a practice that sometimes leads me to look at the source code of other websites. So when John Lewis formally announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Montana’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and his campaign’s website became fully operational, I looked at his website’s source code as well as its content. That led to an investigation I hadn’t intended to make, to the table below that summarizes its results, to a code snippet inconsistent with his born in Montana to run for Congress theme, and to confirmation that he’s using open source software, a good thing.

…read the rest


17 October 2013

House teabaggers claim journalists stabbed them in the back

The teabaggers who pushed John Boehner and the GOP caucus toward Armageddon are not blaming their defeat on his weak leadership or their own miscalculations. According to several stories at Talking Points Memo, they’re arguing they weren’t able to hang tough long enough because the the mainstream news media didn’t tell America the truth about Obamacare and what the Republicans were doing. In other words, these holy warriors believe they were stabbed in the back by journalists.

…read the rest

Shutdown Steve’s deathbed conversion


Rep. Steve Daines and 86 of the House’s 232 Republicans voted late yesterday to end the Republican precipitated government shutdown and to raise the debt ceiling. Why did vote Aye? Did he come to Jesus and try to start atoning for his sins? Or did his sense of political self-preservation persuade him to deviate from the political principles that caused him to join Boehner’s insurrection in the first place?

…read the rest

In Boehner’s “Good Fight,” echos of the Confederacy’s “Lost Cause”

After the Civil War, defeated Confederates such as Jubal Early worked to turn public attention away from their failed fight to perpetuate slavery. Early claimed the hopelessly outnumbered South had, in a Lost Cause, defended its enviable and genteel way of life. The South had lost the fight, he argued, but not its honor. It was, as the University of Virginia’s Dr. Gary Gallagher explains, an emotionally appealing but intellectually dishonest rationalization of a dirty, bloody war that many in the South embrace even today:

…read the rest


14 October 2013

When Congressional extremism becomes homicide

The debt ceiling must be increased by midnight, Thursday, 17 October, or the United States of America begins defaulting on its debts. That will have dire economic consequences, and the longer the default lasts, the more dire the consequences will become.

Rep. Steve Daines won’t be adversely affected by those consequences immediately. He’s rich. If Wall Street panics, his portfolio will shrink, but he’ll have no difficulty paying for shelter, food, and medicine. No gain, perhaps, but also no pain.

…read the rest


12 October 2013

GOP House hopeful Rosendale hires help from Texas


Over at Intelligent Discontent, Don Pogreba reports that GOP U.S. House hopeful Matt Rosendale — an erstwhile Maryland resident now living in Glendive, MT, a miserable, low, little town just west of the Dakota border — has hired a campaign operative with a colorful history that would not make all ethical people proud.

…read the rest

Council candidate Carlson deploys lawn signs, needed or not


Kalispell Ward 1 city council candidate Sandy Carlson probably doesn’t need to put up her lawn signs. As the InterLake’s Tom Lotshaw reported a few days ago, she’s for most intents and purposes running unopposed:

In Ward 1, candidate Joseph Apple is running against Sandy Carlson. Apple tried to get his name off the ballot but cannot, and said he will decline the position if he is elected.

Carlson’s sign contains too many words, a common error. I strongly suspect her sign designer did not put a full sized proof on a lawn and drive past a few times to see how easily it could be read.



9 October 2013

Why I’m not blogging today


The view to the southwest from my back yard. The backlit cottonwoods are even brighter and more intense when viewed in the open air.


8 October 2013

Pay no attention to Larry Williams

He’s 70 years old, basking in the Caribbean sunshine, and he’s no more returning to Montana to lose a third campaign for the U.S. Senate than he’s having his left testicle removed at high noon in the Capitol Rotunda in Helena on Monday. Like Marc Racicot and John Bohlinger, he’s indulging himself with a final strut in the gaslight, imagining he’s feeling the love one last time, and having fun playing games with reporters who should be spending their time on important stories. Steve Daines will file for the Senate, and Larry Williams will file back to his wicker chair under the palms, never, we hope, to be heard from again.



7 October 2013

Shutdown survival guide: how to eat on a dollar a day


Money for food stamps (SNAP) could run out at the end of the month. So could money for the Women, Infants, and Children program. Neither program provides enough money to eat as well as the Boehner-Cruz cabal, but each helps people stay alive. SNAP, for example, pays approximately ten bits per meal.

Can you stay alive on less? On just a dollar a day?

Yes, at least for a while. It won’t be fun, it won’t be tasty, it will scandalize nutritionists, and disturb physicians, but it can be done. It’s called the noodles and oil diet, aka the Daines Diet. It’s not a balanced diet, and healthy only to the extent that surviving is better than starving (although in a sense you’ll be slowly starving), but it does provide your daily caloric requirements.

Adult men and women require (PDF) approximately 2,200 and 1,800 calories per day respectively. A standard package of ramen noodles contains 380 calories, and costs $2.24 at Walmart. A pound of Blue Bonnet margarine contains 2400 calories (~ 70 cents/oz) and costs $0.92 at the same health food emporium. Twelve cartons of ramen costs $26.88. Four pounds of margarine costs $3.68. Your monthly total is $30.56, or $1.02 per day, which rounds off to a dollar a day. That gets you 1,800 calories per day, enough for women, and enough for men if they slow down a bit and accept losing a pound or two a month. The noodles and oil provide the carbohydrates and fat, and the eater provides the protein by converting muscle mass to blubber.

Ideal? Of course not. A viable survival strategy? You betcha, at least for a month or two. A reason to vote only for Democrats? Damn right.


It’s getting colder: Buddy, can you spare a sleeping bag?

“It’s getting colder,” Chris Krager of Kalispell’s Samaritan House homeless shelter reminded us Friday:

…read the rest


4 October 2013

It’s not a fever or a tantrum — it’s revolution without gunfire…so far

Revised 6 October. Progressives who think that shutdown supporting House Republicans are fundamentally reasonable souls temporarily gripped by fever and throwing a temper tantrum, a fever that will break and a tantrum that will end, miss the chilling truth about the shutdown and the GOP. The Republicans are not crazy people behaving like children — they’re political extremists, zealots, behaving as revolutionaries. The shutdown and the impending debt default are the opening battles in a far right attempt to nullify the last two presidential elections and roll back progressive programs dating back not just to the New Deal, but to the days before the progressive income tax became law.

…read the rest


3 October 2013

Sonju eschews House race — will Daines chicken out on Senate?


Kalispell State Senator Jon Sonju abruptly announced today that he’s not running for the U.S. House of Representatives. He cited the usual, and never to be taken lightly, family considerations, but I wonder whether he’s received word that Rep. “Shutdown” Steve Daines has decided to run for a second term in the House. Sonju’s candidacy was predicated on Daine’s vacating his House seat to run for the Senate.

…read the rest

John Walsh announces for U.S. Senate


Updated. Lt. Governor John Walsh announced this morning that he’s running for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senator to “…to tackle the national debt and defend those who don’t have a voice: Our seniors, our veterans, our children.” The full press release is below.

Walsh said nothing about the shutdown of the federal government or the impending disaster that will occur if the debt ceiling is not raised two weeks from now — but he should have said something. The shutdown and possible default are too important to go unremarked by a man who would be Senator. Update: he’s now on record on the shutdown. Details below.

…read the rest

Ready for a tea party U.S. Senator nicknamed Buckethead?


David Leaser wants to be a U.S. Senator, but he didn’t want the job he took at Glacier Park International Airport. He did 22 years in the Navy, rising to the rank of chief petty officer with a speciality in air traffic control, a skilled position with considerable responsibility. You can read about him at Together We Served, where you can also read this:

…read the rest


2 October 2013

Kalispell tea party sympathizer seeks GOP senate nomination

The Associated Press reports that David Leaser, the air traffic control manager at Glacier Park International Airport, and 10-year resident of the Flathead, will seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2014. Rep. Steve Daines is expected to run for the Senate, and will announce when he can spare a moment from his war on food stamps and the Affordable Care Act, Leaser’s candidacy will provide Daines will fundraising advantages. Leaser might even be able to make Daines look moderate by comparison, an unpleasant thought.


Must reads on the federal government shutdown

At The Western Word, Jack Brown, who once worked for Conrad Burns, notes that “Tea Party members like Cruz and Daines are the reason many of us moderates have said, ‘See ya’ to the GOP.”

…read the rest


1 October 2013

Posters for picketing Shutdown Steve Daines


Progressives should be picketing Rep. Steve Daines’ offices in Billings, Helena, Missoula, and Great Falls, as long as the shutdown of the American government continues. Here are two posters (PDFs) you can download and print: Steve the Food Stamps Scrooge, and Shutdown Steve.


Obama chooses most painful shutdown method

Instead of making every effort to keep government information online, Obama’s administration appears to be making every effort to shutdown, disable, or cripple government websites to drive home the point that the government must be shuttered because Congress failed to pass a continuing resolution.

…read the rest

Shutdown hits Glacier’s website, but workarounds may exist

Update, 1044 MDT. All NPS pages are on the server, but the NPS won’t let us visit them. Use Google cached pages (instructions below), and let the White House know this is mean-spirited and unnecessary.


Logan Pass, Mt. Reynolds, and Mt. Jackson, from Mt. Gould. Larger image.

Jim Mann at the Daily InterLake reported this morning that not only is Glacier National Park not letting people in because of the shutdown, it’s trying to deny access to its website: “People visiting Glacier’s website will be redirected to a national website notifying them of a shutdown, and all of Glacier’s social media will be suspended.”

There are ways of getting around that redirect.

Unless the redirect is inserted into all of the pages of Glacier’s website, we may be able to visit the website by avoiding the home page. Enter this search term in Google:

That will bring up a list of pages at Glacier’s website. Try the links. Some may work. Moreover, most of the pages are cached by Google and thus beyond the government’s control. You can reach the cached page by clicking on the little inverted red triangle.

Google link example


If you have time, please let me know whether you found a workaround that was successful.



29 September 2013

Pettitte completes his career in style

Most careers in professional sports end with a whimper, not a bang. Jump shots that once swished through the net bounce off the rim. Passes than once hit receivers with pinpoint precision are intercepted. Pitches that once produced strikeouts are pounded into the cheap seats. When the great ones stay too long, the memory of their final appearance is sad.

But not always.

…read the rest


28 September 2013

Tim Baldwin’s take on the liberty movement

Over at Ed Berry’s PolyMontana blog, Tim Baldwin has an interesting essay on the Liberty Amendments and the liberty movement. And GOP candidate for the U.S. House Corey Stapleton has some interesting comments on Baldwin’s essay. Baldwin, author of Freedom for a Change, has an independent streak that I suspect sometimes dismays his readers. Agree with him or not, progressives should not ignore him.

Draft Max Baucus committee formed


Fed up with Brian Schweitzer’s refusal to run for the U.S. Senate, disgusted by the dithering and dawdling of other Democrats thought worthy of the nomination, and worried that the only declared Democratic candidate is Dirk Adams, a man with a colorful banking history, a group of Democrats led by retired attorney Paul Van Tricht has formed a Draft Baucus committee to persuade the 71-year-old senator to seek one last term.

The committee’s organizational committee meets in Billings on Thursday, 3 October, at 1900 in the second floor study room of the public library in Billings, at 510 North 28th Street.

…read the rest


27 September 2013

Daines seeks gotterdammerung moment on health care


Our federal government may shut down at midnight Monday, or default on its debts 17 days later, because the GOP’s suicide caucus in the U.S. House — to which Montana’s blessing in the House, Rep. Steve Daines, belongs — seeks a gotterdammerung moment on health care.

This is not politics as usual, jaded commentaries from the usual mainstream media pundits notwithstanding. Along with last week’s despicable attack on food stamps, it’s part of a fanatical scheme to incinerate our social safety net in the belief that those suffering misfortune brought their woes upon themselves and should not be rewarded for their sloth and sin. As Sojourners President Jim Wallis, writing about SNAP (food stamps), put it last week:

…read the rest


26 September 2013

Daines on verge of flunking Politics 101


When Brian Schweitzer decided not to run for the U.S. Senate, Steve Daines stepped into the frontrunner’s role, although he has yet to step into the ring (he will, probably next week). Daines doesn’t need a mistake free campaign to win, but he does need to avoid big mistakes that cause voters to lose confidence in him. That’s Politics 101.

Daines probably doesn’t see shutting down the federal government, or causing the federal government to default on its debts, as political or policy mistakes, let alone big mistakes, but I do — and I think a majority of Montana’s voters will, too.

Schweitzer, incidentally, headlines the Flathead Democrats’ Harvest Dinner on next Friday, 4 October. Tickets are still available and can be purchased online. But if you expect him to say anything kind about Steve Daines, you’re likely to be disappointed.



25 September 2013

Sonju is the Republican frontrunner for the U.S. House

When Steve Daines throws his hat into the U.S. Senate ring, probably Tuesday, Kalispell Republican State Senator Jon Sonju will throw his hat into the U.S. House of Representatives ring, probably Wednesday. Sonju, reports Charles Johnson, is ready to throw and simply waiting for Daines to announce for the senate.

He’s hired Republican strategist and former state GOP Chairman Erik Iverson, who works for Moore Information, a polling firm. Iverson was a key adviser to the 2012 U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Denny Rehberg, who lost a close race to U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.

The Montana Street Fighter blog is not impressed:

…read the rest

The time to organize against the top two referendum is now

Over at the Montana Jungle Primary website, I just posted an update on Legislative Referendum 127, which, if approved by Montana’s voters in the 2014 general election, will replace our partisan primary with a top two primary. Boiled down to its essence, LR-127 is a Republican scheme to kick Libertarians, whom they blame for defeating Denny Rehberg and Rick Hill last fall, off the ballot.

Democrats, Libertarians, and good government groups, must form an independent organization to defeat LR-127. The time to do this is now. Otherwise, there’s a substantial probability that Montanans will find their general election ballots controlled by a two party tyranny.

…read the rest


24 September 2013

What risk of brain injury is safe for your son the football player?

Your son is a ninth grader, a freshman in high school. He’s big, athletic, likes football, and wants to play football — not touch or flag football, but tackle football, the full contact, head conking, knee wrecking, violent kind of football that millions of Americans love watching, especially if their son or brother is on the field of battle.

Here’s the question you won’t like pondering. At what point does the risk that your son will suffer a brain injury playing become too high to be acceptable? Or to put it another way, how many concussions, or near concussions, or hard knocks to your son’s noggin, can you accept?

…read the rest

Is Judge Baugh emblematic of an elected judiciary?

I encourage you to visit The Western Word and read Jack Brown’s new post on Judge Baugh and the state of Montana’s judicial system. A lot of bloggers and newspapers have commented on Baugh, urging that he resign or be removed from the bench, but few have discussed the situation in the context of what can happen when judges are elected instead of appointed. Brown thinks electing judges leads to uneven judicial quality, and his opinion has merit.

Whether the 71-year-old Baugh will resign if pushed hard enough is problematic. Old men can be stubborn, especially if pushed. He might just dig in his heels and even file for re-election. He needs a face saving way out, but at this point there probably isn’t one.


Memo to the U of M: drop intercollegiate athletics
instead of building a $3 million study hall for jocks

When I was in high school, the team members of the sport in season ate in their own special dining room, which was slightly elevated above the main cafeteria floor. Some argued it was a necessity, that it ensured a balanced diet and enough food for athletes, and contributed to the esprit de corps required for victory on the fields and floors of competition. Perhaps. But no thinking person disputed that the training table told the athletes they were special; they knew it, and they made sure, damned sure, that the lesser mortals known as their fellow students knew it, too, and paid proper respect.

…read the rest


23 September 2013

New commenting system coming

We’re testing a new commenting system that should make it easier for visitors to post comments. This is a much requested feature and we’re pleased to provide it. At the beginning it will be moderated, and even after the cows come home anonymous comments will not be allowed.

Meanwhile, we’re performing some long deferred website maintenance this week, so posts may be infrequent, sporadic, and short than usual. Today we updated the blogroll, paring it down some.

Below, some eye candy from my back porch.


Dwarf sunflower


21 September 2013

Does Kalispell really need its very own airport?

Does Kalispell need its very own airport? If so, what’s the best place for it? If not, should the current city airport remain open? Those are the fundamental questions underlying the the dispute over whether to expand the current city airport south of town.

…read the rest


20 September 2013

Why the dickens is Daines such a food stamp Scrooge?


Yesterday, Rep. Steve Daines joined 215 other Republicans in approving a $40 billion cut in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, once and forever known as food stamps) over the next ten years. No Democrat voted for H.R. 3102, although some didn’t vote, and 15 Republicans voted against it.

The impact on Montana and the 129,000 Montanans currently on SNAP? According to the Center for Budget Policies and Priorities (CBPP), approximately 12,000 would become ineligible for the program. In 2012, the monthly mean per person benefit was $127, so Daines voted not only to keep food from the hungry, he voted to deprive Montana — and Montana farmers and grocers — of $1.5 million each month.

This isn’t tough love or smart economics. It’s ideology run amok. And it directly hurts not just the down and out, but Republican businessmen, and indirectly hurts the entire state. How on earth can our congressman justify casting this vote?



19 September 2013

Walsh may be getting closer to running for the U.S. Senate

Is Montana’s lt. governor, John Walsh, finally getting ready to become a candidate for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senator? There are some signs, faint signs to be sure, pointing that way. A 16 September story in U.S. News reports:

…read the rest


18 September 2013

I’d vote against expanding Kalispell’s city airport

Updated. Kalispell’s 84-year-old city airport is in trouble. Its runway nearing the end of its service life, it must close or expand. Once surrounded by open fields, today the city airport is surrounded by businesses and residential neighborhoods (large image). It’s not a setting in which a new airport would be approved, and therefore not a setting in which expansion makes sense.

Nevertheless, a lot of the people who run Kalispell want to expand the airfield. Unless Kalispell's voters say NO in November, a facility rendered superfluous by Glacier Park International Airport nine miles to the north-northeast may get a new lease on life and a longer runway. I'm not a resident of Kalispell, but if I were, I'd vote against expansion.

…read the rest


17 September 2013

Racicot opts out of senate race — will Daines now opt in?

After months of imagining himself as a U.S. Senator, former Montana Governor Marc Racicot announced yesterday that he would not run for the senate seat being vacated by Max Baucus. That’s no surprise — the 66-year-old Washington, D.C., lawyer now making big bucks was indulging himself by basking one more time in a rapidly dimming limelight — but it does clear the way for Steve Daines to announce for the Senate. Or, perhaps it forces Daines to make a decision, as he no longer can say he’s deferring a decision out of courtesy to Racicot.

…read the rest

Navy Yard shootings won’t provoke tighter gun laws

In a better world, yesterday’s rampage in the Navy Yard that left 13 dead, counting gunman Aaron Alexis, would set in motion events leading to the passage of legislation tightly regulating firearms and including a national firearms registry. In the real world, however, the murders will provoke an outcry that quickly fades and we’ll be left with the same laws we have now. That’s not because a majority of public opinion opposes tighter firearms regulation. As Ed Kilgore at the Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog puts it:

…read the rest


10 September 2013

Is Obama is the foreign policy heir to Woodrow Wilson?


President Obama will address the nation at 2100 EDT. He’s expected to make his case that Congress should authorize the use of military force in Syria, possibly while arguing that while he wants the blessing of Congress, he doesn’t need its permission.

Obama reminds me of Woodrow Wilson, a proud, serious, highly moralistic man who never entered a room in which he found someone more intelligent than himself. On 2 April 1917, in his “The world must be made safe for democracy” speech, Wilson asked a joint session of Congress for a declaration of war against Germany. Some key excerpts are below, but the entire speech is online and I encourage you to read it in full.

…read the rest


9 September 2013

What kind of Democrat is Dirk Adams?


Well, he’s the kind with the guts to run for the senate seat Max Baucus is vacating. That’s a plus, and at the moment that makes him one of a kind. And he was a classmate of Sen. Charles Schumer, which makes him a classmate of the senator from Wall Street (and a man not ashamed to drop a name).

But he thinks Citizens United was decided rightly. The Montana Street Fighter reports he opposes raising the minimum wage. And Politico reports his banking career had downs as well as ups. One down was in Little Falls, Minnesota (birthplace of Charles Lindbergh), where his story might be entitled Adventures in SubPrimeville:

…read the rest


6 September 2013

A possible realpolitik case for attacking Syria

Is there a scenario in which a U.S. attack on Syria might make realpolitik sense? Yes: an attack leading to a new government of Syria that destroys its stocks of chemical and biological weapons. In theory, if the U.S. received credible assurances from the insurgents that upon ousting Assad they would ask the international community to help get rid of Assad’s chemical and biological arsenals, assisting the insurgents with airstrikes would be consistent with our policy of eliminating most weapons of mass destruction.

Could such a deal be cut with the insurgents? Could that deal hold? I have my doubts. The rebels would promise anything to have American air power deployed on their behalf. Once in power, they could change their minds, although from a Western perspective that would not be in their enlightened self-interest. But between the first U.S. bomb and a rebel victory, I think Assad would use every weapon at his disposal to hold on to power. Far from deterring Assad, I think a U.S. attack would convince him he had nothing to lose by gassing his adversaries again, and again, and again.

How will high schools teach the “Should we bomb Syria?” debate

In fact, will they teach it at all? The debate begins in earnest next week, when Congress reconvenes and takes up resolutions to authorize the use of military force (AUMF) in Syria. If Congress approves war, and I suspect it will, high school seniors who enlist in a military service next spring could find themselves being shot at in short order. They have a vested interest in the debate, and to my mind our schools have a duty to address the subject.

If I were in charge, I would require that students and teachers spend their evenings watching at least two hours of the debate on C-Span, assign at least an hour a day of reading on the issue, and lengthen the school day by an hour so that the debate could be discussed and the issues taught. I might also hold classes for half a day on Saturday.

That won’t happen, of course. The time is available, but the will to make that use of it isn’t. Our high school system provide almost no flexibility for adapting the curriculum to address extraordinary current events. Not only would my scheme interfere with football practice — and we all know that football is more important than civics — it would run afoul of contracts with teachers unions and encounter resistance from parents who think homework of any kind is cruel and unnecessary.

My high school experience provides no guidance on the issue, incidentally. School was still recessed for the summer when Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in August, 1964. My classmates and I learned about Vietnam in college or in the jungles of Southeast Asia. And at least one classmate’s name is etched on the black granite of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. If Congress votes to make war on Syria, how many of today’s high school seniors will have their names etched on a similar wall?


4 September 2013

Judging Judge Baugh

Todd Baugh is the district judge in Billings who sentenced a man to 15 years in prison with all but 30 days suspended for violating the terms of a plea bargain in a case devolving from a charge of statutory rape. Because the young woman involved committed suicide before she could testify against the 40-something school teacher who had intimate relations with her when she was just 14 years old, the original statutory rape case never came to trial.

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Guest opinion: Billings will not stand for victim blaming

By Marian Bradley, Kate Olp, and Sheena Rice

Like so many of you, we were angry this week. We were angry at Judge G. Todd Baugh for his inappropriate comments about a 14-year-old rape victim, and we were angry at a legal system that allowed a rapist to walk away with just 30 days in jail. But as this week has passed, we have come to realize that our anger is ultimately directed at more than one situation or individual: it is directed at the whole of a culture that could allow something like this to happen.

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2 September 2013

Tammi Fisher right to question 911 board structure


Kalispell mayor Tammi Fisher recently sent the 911 center’s board a letter questioning, among other things, the wisdom of a board with an even number of members; board meetings held during the day instead of the evening, and; the amount of information posted on the 911 center’s website. She was right to do so, and frankly it’s high time that these issues were raised. There’s the appearance of some dysfunction, and the inability to keep directors more than a year or two is a red flag that cannot be ignored.

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