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

August 2014 Archive


31 August 2014

Feel good music for the last Sunday in August

Chiquitita, first performed in 2013 by Andre Rieu’s orchestra, followed by ABBA’s performance in 1979.


30 August 2014

Curtis hires Tester man as communications director


Curtis’ campaign director, Clayton Elliott, announced the hire at 1513 MDT today:

[Les] Braswell has served the past three years on Senator Jon Tester’s communications team, both in Missoula and Washington, D.C.

“Adding Les to our campaign team will ensure Amanda gets her grassroots message out to Montana voters” said Clayton Elliott, Curtis’ campaign manager. “Amanda will spend the next 66 days talking about the issues that Montana’s working families care about.”

According to his Linkedin profile, Braswell was awarded a B.S. degree in political science in 2009 by the University of South Carolina at Columbia. After an 8-month run as deputy finance director for Dwight Drake for Governor — short on cash, Drake quit the race — Braswell worked for a polling and public relations firm, Crantford Reasearch, before joining Tester’s office as a press intern in August, 2011, winning a promotion to deputy press secretary in December, 2012.


Morning music for a day of Air Force acrobatics

Also, a day of recruiting and indirect lobbying for expensive new jets. The Air Force’s Thunderbirds are in the Flathead for two days of exciting flying. They always put on a good show, so if you can afford it, grab your wallet and your ear plugs, and a rain parka just in case, and follow the traffic jams to Glacier International. I’m seven miles to the southwest, so I’m setting up on my front porch with a long lens.

Meanwhile, here’s the Air Force’s song, known to me from childhood — my father was Air Force — as the Wild Blue Yonder.


29 August 2014

Memo to Democrats: don’t start a video tracking arms race

In Kalispell on 27 August, America Rising’s video tracker was using a consumer grade Sony camcorder, probably the same video camera Andrea Marcoccio was doing her best to keep from recording Amanda Curtis in Missoula. If conduct such as Marcoccio’s becomes the norm, the tracker with the Sony camcorder will become the decoy and the politician will be video recorded with other equipment, such as this baseball cap. And the designated Democratic agent on paparazzi patrol will be recorded being a pest and bully by another concealed camera.


Democrats should fire Andrea Marcoccio

Updated. Why? For deliberately, and apparently joyfully, interviewing with the First Amendment rights of America Rising video tracker Brian O’Leary. Here’s the Missoulian’s account:

At the event, she faced a wall of video cameras and smattering of students and other audience members, and she spoke over a quiet but persistent video battle that played out right in front of her.

Brian O’Leary, with America Rising, continually adjusted and lifted a camera to try to film Curtis, and Andrea Marcoccio, head of the Montana Democratic Party, squared off with him step for step, pushing up a posterboard to try to block the conservative political action videographer from taking footage.

A spur of the moment decision to harass? I doubt it. Much more likely she was deliberately sending a signal to other Democrats that thuggish conduct toward video trackers has the approval of the mightiest of the mighty in the Montana Democratic Party. “Get in his face, and stay in his face;” that was her message.

That wasn’t the first time a Democrat got between Curtis and O’Leary. On 17 August, Missoula city council member Jason Wiener, after first removing his name tag, interposed himself between Curtis and O’Leary, and not in a friendly way.

…read the rest


28 August 2014

Amanda Curtis draws big crowd in Kalispell


There were a lot — 100+, to my eye — of happy Democrats at Amanda Curtis’ meet and greet in Kalispell yesterday. After years, decades even, of trying to muster enthusiasm for Blue Dogs like Max Baucus, these people were overjoyed to meet a Democrat from the Democratic wing of the party, a chili pepper from Butte who practices politics with the zest of Franklin D. Roosevelt. I was there, and I took a few photographs (including a photograph of the video tracker from America Rising who follows her around Montana).

…read & see the rest


27 August 2014

Sweet music for a sweet day

The Sun’s shining, the mercury’s rising, and Amanda Curtis’ is coming to town. Time for a toe-tappin’ performance of Maple Sugar by mandolin master Jesse McReynolds.

Home schoolers, the Common Core, and God

According to Think Progress, God is the core common to most home schoolers, who are not subject to the Common Core Standards, but who also think the standards a nefarious mind control scheme and therefore oppose them with a righteousness worthy of Jerry Falwell or Increase Mather. A good read that may leave you both scratching your head and lunging for a bottle of whiskey.

Amanda Curtis needs a better campaign website is a disaster. It’s disorganized, changes in appearance on an almost daily basis, sprawls across my 24-inch computer display, and at the moment (0445 MDT) does not even have her photograph on the home page. There’s a link for donating money to her campaign, but not a link to a set of reasons for voting for her.

Most of her internet activity is on her Facebook page, but Facebook pages and Twitter are complements to a website, not substitutes for it. Curtis has been driving around the state, meeting people, raising money, and until this week, serving as her own campaign manager, so getting her website into campaign shape probably wasn’t her highest priority, and understandably so. But now it needs to be brought up to professional standards.

Meet Montana’s Democratic counties

Sen. Jon Tester won just 16 of Montana’s 56 counties in 2012 — and he lost Flathead County, a black hole for Democrats, by more votes than in any other county. Steve Daines will outpoll Amanda Curtis in the Flathead by 7,000 to 9,000 votes, possibly more if the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote operation falters. That’s why Curtis is visiting Kalispell this evening: to inspirit local Democrats to hold down Daines’ margin of victory in Montana’s largest deep red county.



26 August 2014

Rick Hill believe Amanda Curtis has a schoolteacher’s temperament

Montana Cowgirl has the full story. Hill, the Republican who served two terms in the U.S. House following the retirement of Pat Williams, tweeted, via the GOP’s state chairman, that Curtis has a “course nature.”

Well, what else would she have? She teaches school. That tweet says far more about the GOP’s attitudes toward education and teachers than it does about Curtis — and if it turns out “course” was “coarse” misspelled, then it’s more proof that the high and mighty want to trickle down on the working Joes and Jills – in Republican eyes, the unwashed — in Butte.


25 August 2014

Amanda Curtis is coming to Kalispell

She’ll be at the Glacier Art Gallery at the KM Building from 1700–1900 on Wednesday, 27 September, for a meet and greet. I think you’ll still be welcome if you leave your checkbook at home and come just to discuss issues, but her campaign’s website is suggesting a $35 donation.

John Lewis releases TV ad I hope he withdraws

It’s time Democratic candidate for the U.S. House John Lewis released an ad. Past time. He needs to make more noise or he’ll be invisible to the voters — and Mr. Invisible has never won an election.

But this is TV spot that should have remained invisible. He’s back to running against “gold plated” Congressional pensions, evidently on the theory that voters hate Congress so much that they favor impoverishing retired members of Congress to the extent that taking bribes could become more acceptable and attractive. And the platinum plated pensions and golden parachutes awarded to the big kahunas on Wall Street who cause crashes and wreck the economy? They don’t seem to offend Lewis, who is, one needs reminding at times like this, running as a Democrat.

Here’s the script, followed by the ad.

I’m John Lewis. And this is my family.
Wait, hold on, that’s more like it.
With us, what you see is what you get.
Unlike my opponent, I don’t have my own super PAC trying to buy me a seat in Congress.
But I do have a plan to cut wasteful spending, cut Congress’ pay and get rid of their gold plated pensions so we can keep our promises to our veterans and our seniors.
I’m John Lewis and I approved this message to make Congress work for Montana.

The only subtitle is John Lewis for Montana, so if you’re like me and always mute commercials, you’ll be spared the nonsense about Congressional pensions, the righteous indignation over Zinke’s superpac, and the bemoaning of wasteful Congressional spending (what he thinks is wasteful is never mentioned; you’re supposed to fill in that blank so you will believe he agrees with you).

My advice to Lewis and his propagandists: withdraw that ad and cut one giving me good reasons to vote for you. And at the end of the ad, just say “I’m John Lewis and I approved this ad.” Omit the “…to make Congress work for Montana.” If your ad is good, you’ve already delivered that message.


Rasmussen poll shouldn’t panic Democrats


Three days after Amanda Curtis received the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, Rasmussen Reports polled 750 likely voters from Montana on whether they would vote for Curtis or her Republican opponent, Rep. Steve Daines. The result, plotted below, puts Daines 20 points ahead of Curtis. Rasmussen did not include Libertarian candidate Roger Roots in the question, so his number is hidden among the undecided.

At 35 percent, Curtis is receiving the bedrock, Yellow Dog, support of the diehard Democratic base. Her numbers should improve as she becomes better known. Democrats should neither panic over Rasmussen’s numbers nor dismiss the poll as Republican biased and unreliable. I’ll update the chart as more polls become publicly available.



24 August 2014

Flathead County proposes regressive 911 tax


I supported the 2008 bond measure to finance the consolidated 911 center for Flathead County. I thought it would produce administrative efficiencies that would reduce response times and save money. I was half right: response times have been reduced. But whether it’s saved money is doubtful.

My mistake? Believing that a logical, fair, long term plan for funds for operating expenses would be in place before vote r approval for the construction bond was sought. Instead, the plan evidently was “let’ get the bricks and mortar in place, and then the taxpayers will have to pay whatever it costs to run it the way we want it run.” That’s how government behaves, and it’s stupid and unfair. In private enterprise, seldom is anyone fool enough not to include operating expenses, including maintenance, as part of a construction package.

…read the rest


23 August 2014

With Lewis gaining on him, Zinke chickens out of Billings debate


Updated to fix bad link. Republican U.S. House candidate Ryan Zinke (left) won’t be debating his opponents, Democrat John Lewis and Libertarian Mike Fellows, in Billings on 29 September. In a series of maneuvers worthy of a French farce, Zinke first agreed to the debate, withdrew from it three hours later, and finally said Lewis was to blame. Billings Gazette political reporter Tom Lutey has the story, and at Intelligent Discontent, Don Pogreba has a withering commentary.

What happened? Primarily, Zinke didn’t want Fellows onstage, obtaining exposure and news coverage in Montana’s biggest media market. Lewis is closing the range on Zinke, and Republicans are deeply worried that Fellows will take enough votes from Zinke that Lewis wins. A secondary factor: in pre-primary debates, Lewis was a little quicker on his feet than Zinke, so not debating removes the risk that Zinke will embarrass himself while discussing issues.

Chickening out, and in such a maladroit way, probably indicates that recent polls known to Zinke but not the public reveal he’s in serious trouble with both Fellows and Lewis. His about-face won’t improve his public image as a man who doesn’t fear politics because he’s seen war, but he and his campaign obviously believe the cost of ducking the debate is significantly lower than the cost of participating in it.

Closing the range on Zinke

Thus far I’ve found only two publicly available polls on the election for the Montana House. Both have Zinke under 50 percent; Vox Populi’s, conducted 3–4 August, has him under 45 percent. Take care not to read too much into these polls: they’re aging and because both major campaigns will kick into overdrive starting Labor Day. I’ll update this graph as new polls become available, and begin aggregating the polls once enough data become available.



22 August 2014

A Just Say Yes theme song for Amanda

In a TEDx talk at the public library in Butte last year, Amanda Curtis delivered her signature phrase: “you show up, and you say yes.” Here’s Highway 101’s Paulette Carlson singing what could be Curtis’ theme song, Just Say Yes, which reached the top of the country music charts in 1988.

The album’s name? 1012.


More late blooms on my back porch


21 August 2014

Prepare to bite a bullet, or a leather wrapped stick

As feared, the Food and Drug Administration, bowing down to addiction hysteria, is imposing drastic new restrictions on hydrocodone, an effective opioid painkiller that provides relief for millions.

I’ve no doubt that some of the people demanding the new restrictions are driven not just by an unreasoning fear of addiction, but by a belief that effective analgesics deprive people in pain of a character building path to God’s grace through enduring their agony with dignity and courage.

Don’t expect a decrease in addiction or deaths from overdoses. The addicts will find another drug, probably heroin. They always do. But perhaps church attendance will rise as those in pain pray for it to stop instead of relying on an effective pain killing medicine.

Progress? No. Politics, yes. And most certainly not how to make a kinder, gentler, America.

Amanda Curtis hires campaign manager, raises $110,000

Amanda Curtis has hired 28-year-old Clayton Elliott to manage her campaign for the U.S. Senate. Elliott is the outreach director of the Billings based League of Rural Voters, which appears to be associated with the Northern Plains Resource Council, where he worked as a field organizer in 2012.

The press release announcing Elliott’s hiring describes him as an “experienced grassroots organizer” but did not report whether he had ever managed a political campaign. I suspect he has not.

There probably won’t be many people over 30 on her paid staff. This campaign might resemble a children’s crusade, at least to eyes as old as mine.

$110,000 in just four days

The press release also reported Curtis has raised $110,000 in the last four days. That’s a good start. But she needs to raise 20 times as much, and she needs to raise it yesterday.



20 August 2014

Wilder Than a Grizzly’s Dream

That’s Nameless Range’s nifty cartography oriented blog that should have been added to Flathead Memo’s blogroll long ago. You’ll especially enjoy GPS-Enabled USGS Maps of Yesteryear, which includes before and after maps of Hebgen Lake, which was created by the big earthquake in 1959 that killed 28 persons.



19 August 2014

Meet the Flathead’s supporters of the John Birch Society

Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, and the ghost of Robert F. Welch, Jr., would have felt right at home. There, two booths south of the Flathead Democrat’s booth at the Northwest Montana Fair in Kalispell, was the John Birch Society, which from 1962 until 2008, when he died, National Review founder William F. Buckley had kept from tainting the conservative movement. In a book on Barry Goldwater he was writing, Buckley said “The wound we Palm Beach plotters delivered to the John Birch Society proved fatal over time.”

But with Buckley dead, and no conservative replacing him to keep the crackpots at bay, the JBS is back, drinking tea and riding higher all the time — and without a trace of shame for Robert Welch’s legacy. How boldly — and proudly — the Flathead JBS displayed the names of its local supporters, several of whom the cognoscenti will recognize instantly as tea party leaders and politicians.

That’s right. I took photographs, and now I’m publishing names.

Here are the names:

…read the rest

Amanda’s bodyguard handles video tracker poorly

Updated with the name of the burly guy. When she accepted the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, State Rep. Amanda Curtis became a major public figure. So did her husband, although to a slightly lesser extent. With that status come two things she’d rather not have, but can’t avoid: video trackers, and a major loss of privacy.

Both major political parties employ video trackers, the eager young men and women who follow and record the opposition’s candidates, hoping to catch or provoke an embarrassing moment that can be used against the candidate later. In 2006, for example, Sen. George Allen (R-VA) lashed out at a Democratic tracker, calling him a “macaca,” which the public considered a racial slur. Allen lost a close election to Democrat Jim Webb.

A tracker caught up with Curtis on Sunday, video recording her (below) as she entered an automobile in an alley in Missoula. She and burly Ward One Councilman Jason Wiener handled the event poorly…

…read the rest


18 August 2014

Act Blue account for Amanda Curtis now online


People who want to buck her up and keep her in the saddle now can send her as many bucks as they can spare up to the limit of $2,600 by using the Act Blue account just set up for her.

A political analyst quoted by George Ochenski today thinks the election is over. It’s not, but her odds of winning could be better. At this point, Steve Daines is in so strong a position he might survive being caught taking indecent liberties with Jesus’ little lamb on the 50-yard line at halftime of the Grizzlies-Bobcats game. But Amanda Curtis just might change those odds in her favor, so give her time, give her money, give her support, and don’t give up working hard to win.

Riding in twilight: a bicyclist dies in Whitefish

Bicyclist Jared Frederick Kinney died when a sport utility vehicle struck him in the deepening gloaming in Whitefish at approximately 2130 MDT on Thursday, 14 August. He was 28 years old, and had just moved to Whitefish from Wayland, NY.

Kinney may not have been riding in the safest manner possible, reports the Daily InterLake:

According to a news release from the Whitefish Police Department, evidence at the scene indicated the bicyclist may have been riding against traffic and had no headlight or taillight on his bike.

The color and reflectivity of his clothing were not reported in the InterLake’s story, and so far as I can determine, the Whitefish Police Department’s press release is not available online.

Riding against traffic speaks for itself. Not having a headlight is covered by Section 61-9-201 of the Montana Code Annotated:

…read the rest


17 August 2014

Democratic women celebrate 100 years of women’s suffrage


Democrats marching in the NW Montana Fair parade

The video uploaded to YouTube is much sharper than what YouTube streams to you. Still, you’ll get the picture: Flathead County’s Democrats put on a good show.


16 August 2014

Is this Amanda’s campaign website?

On 11 August, the domain was registered at by an unknown party. It’s message:

Let us know how you can help!
We have very little time, so everything will help!

There’s a form for submitting one’s name, but neither a plea for money nor a biography of Curtis nor any stand on any issue. It may, and I stress may, be her official website. I have no way of knowing. It’s certainly possible it’s the work of a third party mischief maker.

A note to readers who do not build their own websites. With off-the-shelf website development applications, a candidate’s website can be completed and reasonably well polished in just a few hours — if there’s a sense of urgency. The domain registration costs less than $15 per year, and a hosting plan for the first month should cost less than $100. So she should have had a website in the can, ready to be uploaded one second after she was nominated.

Curtis wins nomination, 82 to 46

In the end, it wasn’t close. The 128 of the 129 delegates who voted rolled the dice, choosing a fresh face, a young face, to replace John Walsh as the Democratic Party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate. Walsh’s chances of winning were slim even before his plagiarism was exposed. Hers are slimmer.

Her first challenge? Resisting efforts to follow the same issues script that Walsh used — especially that part of the script that made him a debt and deficit scold worthy of Paul Ryan. Her guide on that issue should be Paul Krugman. The Walsh campaign embraced a Blue Dog economic plank in hopes of peeling off a few Republican voters who trembled at the size of the national debt, but possibly trembled more at the way their party treated women. Curtis must let the deficit scolds stew in their stockbrokers' offices while she stumps for jobs and rebuilding America.

She must also debate Daines. My recommendation: once a week, every week, starting after Labor Day.

Good luck to her. This will be an interesting experiment.



15 August 2014

Curtis must tell her supporters: “Stop bashing Adams!”

Mike Dennison’s report in the Missoulian is depressing. Union leader Eric Feaver and others are slinging mud at Dirk Adams as fast as they can shovel it. It’s not necessary, it’s unseemly, it brings politics in general, and Feaver and others in particular, into disrepute, and it besmirches the good name of the Democratic Party. Feaver’s throwing elbows so sharp he risks reminding people of Dave Beck and Jimmy Hoffa.

I’m sticking with Amanda Curtis for the reasons I explained below — but I’m calling on her to issue, and to issue right now, a strong statement telling her supports to put their shovels back in the shed; to stop bashing Adams; to shut the hell up.


If I were a delegate, I’d vote for Amanda Curtis


It’s down to State Rep. Amanda Curtis and rancher Dirk Adams for the emergency Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat once occupied by Max Baucus. Curtis is the choice of the unions, of the feminists, of forward looking Democrats. Adams is the choice of many of those who voted for him in the primary, and of those who don’t trust anyone under 50 years of age.

Ostensibly, officially, it’s an open convention. In reality, it’s a coronation and campaign kickoff for Curtis. Adams’ presence will force Curtis to make a case for being nominated, which is good: right now she’s running on excitement, which is necessary but not sufficient.

For some Democrats, her being exciting and a woman is reason enough to nominate her, but campaigns are about issues as well as personalities. She needs to prove she understands national issues and explain where she stands on them. And she needs to reject female gender identity politics or the votes of women that her identity politics attracts will be offset by the votes of men who can’t abide gender identity politics.

Nevertheless, were I a delegate to the nominating convention, I’d vote for her.

I’m thankful that Adams stepped forward last summer when no other Democrat had to courage to seek the nomination. And I applaud him for working the delegates (like Curtis, he’s calling them all) and not throwing in the towel just because the unions are flexing their muscles. His opponents are wrong to denigrate him.

But Amanda Curtis represents the future. Moreover, she represents the long overdue and mighty welcome resurgence of organized labor in Montana’s Democratic Party. Insofar as I can determine, she’s neither a Wall Street Democrat like Hillary Clinton, nor an acolyte of Robert Rubin or Tim Geithner. I think she’s best described as a modern lunch-bucket Democrat who isn’t afraid of the company goons and the Washington, D.C., political consultants. She’ll fight for the 99 percent — and that’s more than good enough for me.



14 August 2014

Wanzenried out, AFL-CIO endorses Curtis

The Curtis bandwagon is picking up speed and mass. Today the AFL-CIO endorsed her. Organized labor sees an opportunity to seize iron control of Montana’s Democratic Party and thus is making its biggest power play in years.

Meanwhile, State Sen. Dave Wanzenried said he will not have his name placed in nomination, citing his belief he couldn’t win, and unexpected concerns over his wife’s health. That leaves Dirk Adams as the only real challenger to Curtis.

Adams will be under heavy pressure to stand up at the convention and ask that Curtis be nominated by acclamation. That might happen. Curtis’ nomination is a done deal. Now the push is for solidarity, for party unity.

Incidentally, does anyone know whether Curtis issued a statement today celebrating the 79th birthday of Social Security?

Happy Birthday! Social Security

Seventy-nine years ago today, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the most important social legislation every passed by the U.S. Congress. It’s withstood the test of time, and so far, the test of attempted tampering by Republicans, and lately, some Democrats who should know better. Most Democrats, however, work to protect and improve the program, and many — will John Lewis be among them? Update: he was — today will issue statements supporting the program.

Amanda’s five minutes of issue avoidance


Yesterday, Democratic State Rep. Amanda Curtis, candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, released another of her nose-too-close-to-the-lens videos. She could have used the five minutes to explain why she was the best choice to replace John Walsh on the ballot, and to outline her position on the issues. Instead, she lectured on the process the nominating convention will employ on Saturday, then said she would be nominated and that she would accept the nomination. She was not burdened by excess humility.

That video didn’t sit well with me. Her performance straddled, and occasionally crossed, the line separating healthy self-confidence from smirking arrogance. She may be a good nominee, but this won’t be counted among her finer moments.

This was, incidentally, a very cleverly crafted video. See how carefully the rifle on the wall framed her. Someone was working the camera. And the unspoken message is she’s comfortable with firearms. It’s possible the issue avoidance was deliberate, so that the rifle is what viewers remember most.


13 August 2014

Legislative candidates in the 2014 general election

A fairly up-to-date list of Montana’s candidates for the legislature is now available at the website of Montana’s Secretary of State. It can be viewed online or downloaded as a CSV (comma separated values) file that can be opened in a spreadsheet or database. Unfortunately, the list does not contain the URLs for the campaign websites of many candidates, and the CSV file does not put first and last names into separate fields. There are other infelicities in the CSV file, so I separated the first and last names, made some other improvements, and converted the CSV file to an Excel file that you can download. Flathead candidates are highlighted in light blue.

Bring your raincoat to the Northwest Montana Fair

And if you’re a food vendor, plan to sell more hot coffee than cold drinks. Thunderstorms, some of them potentially gullywashers, are in the forecast. Make sure your health insurance is paid-up and covers food poisoning if you plan to grab a bite at one of the eateries at the fair. It’s a tough business, and sometimes, as the Missoulian reported a few days ago, some food vendors behave badly, becoming public health menaces. This is why government regulation is necessary, and why Flathead County’s public health officials will be prowling the fairgrounds, sniffing for rotten meat and looking for cooks with dirty hands. I seldom eat at the fair, and when I do, I buy only from local vendors.

Smoke turned the supermoon yellow-orange


Just after midnight on Monday, I photographed the full moon in a smokey sky. It wasn’t its usual silvery self. Even high above the horizon it appeared yellow-orange because of the smoke particulates in the atmosphere. Earlier it was so dimmed by the smoke it was hardly visible. And Tuesday morning it was extinguished by the smoke before it fell below the horizon, which foiled my plan to photograph it with a timbered ridge in the background.

The night before, after civil twilight, I took a long walk in the rolling, open country northwest of Kalispell. I had a wonderful view of the enormous Moon rising, and once astronomical twilight began, of the planets and stars emerging in the darkening sky. This is the time of day to walk during the heat of summer. One does have to keep an eye peeled for skunks (here’s what to do if your eye wasn’t peeled enough), and carry various lights and flashers for safety, but the rewards of strolling in the twilight far outweigh the downsides.


12 August 2014

Is Amanda Curtis’ U.S. Senate nomination a done deal?

It sure looks like it. If not completely locked down, it’s very close to being so. An 11 August story by Mike Dennison reports that the 34-year-old math teaching legislator has the backing of the powerful MEA-MFT.

She’ll also have strong support from those women in the party for whom nothing is more important than gender identity politics.

Dave Wanzenried, 65, and Dirk Adams, 63, still express an interest in the nomination. Both have strong resumés But I don’t think they have much of a chance of beating Curtis.

If nominated, Curtis has little chance of beating Daines, who has a huge head start, millions in cash, and a nice guy personality that creates a reality distortion zone around his tea party politics. But she could travel around the state, waving the progressive flag, gaining experience and exposure that would serve her well in a campaign to succeed Denise Juneau as chief of Montana’s Office of Public Instruction. She might inspire midterm Democratic stay-at-homes to actually vote, which would be a great help down ticket.

Republican Sandy Welch, who came within 2,000 votes of Juneau in 2012, has already announced she’ll run for the position again. Democrats will need a very strong candidate to beat her.

The MEA-MFT’s support would give Curtis an instant statewide political network and the ability to quickly raise enough money to campaign. Of the other candidates, only Dirk Adams could raise money quickly, by self-funding. The MEA-MFT, and other unions, will of course support the Democratic nominee, but MEA-MFT members will give more money and knock on more doors for one of their own.

I doubt the Democratic Party’s honchos — the ones who recruited John Walsh and thought they could finesse his weaknesses — want a bona fide open convention; just a convention that appears open. They want a convention that ratifies the choice they’ve made in advance. Then they’ll expect the rank-and-file to support the annointed, just like they did with John Walsh. If so, that will be a tougher sell than it was in January.

I don’t know Amanda Curtis; never met her. She’s smart, enthusiastic, and green as Ireland after a spring rain. What little I know of her I like. But that’s an observation, not an endorsement.

But I do know this for sure: if she’s nominated, as I think she will be, we’ll know there’s a generational change in Montana’s political guard.

Morning video: Union Maid

Woody Guthrie’s rousing song of solidarity, sung at a concert for the late Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday. Amanda Curtis has that spirit.



11 August 2014

Memo to Democrats: Monica Lindeen official title is State Auditor

Update: link to names fixed. Wondering who are the delegates to the Democratic nominating convention on Saturday? They’re names are now online, along with the office they hold that qualifies them as delegates.

There’s one big error, however: Monica Lindeen is listed as “Commissioner of Insurance & Securities.” She’s not, regardless of how many letterheads have been changed in defiance of Article VI of Montana’s Constitution:

Section 1. Officers

  1. The executive branch includes a governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, superintendent of public instruction, and auditor.
  2. Each holds office for a term of four years which begins on the first Monday of January next succeeding election, and until a successor is elected and qualified.
  3. Each shall reside at the seat of government, there keep the public records of his office, and perform such other duties as are provided in this constitution and by law.

Lindeen is still the state auditor of Montana, although her job is more properly described as the commissioner of insurance and securities. That’s why in November voters will be asked to approve C-45, a constitutional amendment changing the name of the auditor’s office to Commissioner of Insurance and Securities.

I support C-45. It seems a no-brainer, but I’m not sure it will pass. In 2006, a similar constitutional amendment was rejected by a two to one margin. It would be better to list Lindeen as State Auditor and in parentheses note her job is regulating insurance and securities.


A long, rough road to the Democrat’s nominating convention

This will be a long, turbulent week for Montana’s Democrats as they prepare for their Senate nominating convention on Saturday in Helena. There’s no shortage of online analysis, and some of it falls into the must read category:

My sources report that some — I’ll identify them once I confirm their names — who want the nomination are pushing hard, perhaps too hard, already annoying delegates to the convention.

My advice to the delegates:



10 August 2014

A Democratic warhorse now unlikely to replace Walsh on ballot

After John Walsh withdrew his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, the conventional wisdom had a seasoned Democratic elder such as Nancy Keenan or Dave Wanzenried replacing him on the ballot. That probably won’t happen. Keenan, reports the Flathead Beacon, told Pat Williams Friday she would not run. This morning, Montana Cowgirl reports her sources told her that Franke Wilmer, the sixtysomething MSC professor and state representative, has decided to continue campaigning for election to the state senate.

There’s now developing an argument that because there’s virtually no chance Democrats can hold the seat, the replacement candidate should be a younger Democrat with statewide potential who would gain valuable experience by running in a statewide election. Amanda Curtis, an obvious possibility for Montana’s Office of Public Instruction in 2016, fits that description. So does Jesse Laslovich, the ambitious law and order former legislator, who may covet a crack at Montana Attorney General in 2016. Democrats would, I believe, be much more enthused by Curtis than by Laslovich.


Ryan Zinke does not consider modesty a political virtue

Modesty supposedly has virtue, but certainly not in politics. The louder a candidate toots his horn, the better known he becomes. The brasher, the better. It’s a lesson Republican Congressional candidate Ryan Zinke has learned well.

After he released some of his military records, he told reporter Charles Johnson:

“To suggest that my career was anything but brilliant is dishonest,” Zinke said.

He may be right, but Lord is he careful not to say things such as “I believe my Naval career was constructive and honorable” that could be construed as understatement.

He hasn’t released all of his service records, and probably won’t. In fact, he probably can’t. Some, I suspect, are classified; probably rightly so. But not releasing everything that can be released enables Democrats to argue that he’s hiding something.

Perhaps he is, but he’s not the type who hides his bushel under a basket.

At Intelligent Discontent, Don Pogreba just posted his take on Zinke’s release of some of his military records.


Trial balloon




9 August 2014

Flathead data for tonight’s supermoon


Download a spreadsheet with hourly data on the Moon’s altitude, azimuth, illumination fraction, distance from Earth, and semi-diameter. If you’re interested in determining the focal length of your camera’s lenses by shooting the Moon, the tutorial is at The Blogger’s Lens.

Who turned-in John Walsh to the NY Times?

At first I reckoned Republicans or big right wing operations were responsible. And they might be. But if they blew the whistle, why didn’t they wait until 12 August, until suicide was his only option for escaping the ballot, thus condemning Democrats to a candidate who’d be both an object of pity and a laughingstock for the rest of the campaign?

Some — not all, but some — possibilities:

…read the rest

Little downside for person replacing Walsh on the ballot

An Associated Press story published in the Flathead Beacon reports former Rep. Pat Williams said that Nancy Keenan told him yesterday she was “absolutely not” interested in running for the U.S. Senate.

No one who accepts the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat now occupied by John Walsh will incur the opprobrium of the Democratic Party if Steve Daines wins the election. The person who accepts the nomination will earn the party’s gratitude for making the run, plus gain valuable experience as a statewide candidate.

State Rep. Amanda Curtis, for example, would put herself in a good position to run for chief of the Office of Public Instruction, a post now held by Denise Juneau who runs afoul of term limits in two years. And since Curtis is not seeking re-election to the legislature, her running for a federal office would not endanger Democratic prospects for gains in the legislature.

Expect a lot of trial balloons being released this week by potential replacement candidates and aspiring kingmakers.



8 August 2014

John Walsh brought down his candidacy all by himself

He plagiarized large parts of a paper he submitted for his masters degree from the Army’s war college. He committed a willful act of intellectual dishonesty. He stole. There may be an explanation, but there’s no defense for what he did. Officers and gentlemen do not gundeck term papers, official reports, or any other documents. They just don’t. He couldn’t plead justification, although his short-lived PTSD defense was an attempt to do just that (and itself raised serious questions about his fitness to serve in high elective office). He could only beg forgiveness. But Montanans were not in a forgiving mood. They rightly concluded his sin went to character, to judgment, to fitness to lead, and his begging for moral charity left him with an empty tin cup. He is, I believe, fundamentally a good man with a long record of public service — but also a man with a flaw that disqualifies him for public office. He did the honorable thing when he withdrew his candidacy.

Some Democrats, angry and disillusioned, are directing their fury at the New York Times for reporting his plagiarism, and at unsympathetic editors at Montana’s major daily newspapers. Plagiarism isn’t all that big a deal, they contend, and Walsh should not have been denounced as a thief of intellectual property and encouraged to end his candidacy. In the view of these Democrats, which is sincere, Walsh should be forgiven his plagiarism and the newspapers shouldn't make a big deal out of his war college misadventure. I profoundly disagree. That argument sends to students everywhere the message that plagiarism isn’t that big a deal, which is not a message that ever should be sent to any student.

Worse for Walsh may be yet to come. The war college may revoke his degree, grinding his name off the bronze plaque listing the college’s graduates. Were he still on the ballot and that happened, Steve Daines, the Republican Party, and right wing PACs would begin running Walsh the Defrocked ads in addition to the Walsh the Reprimanded and Walsh the Plagiarist ads already running. You can imagine the visual of sparks flying as his name is ground from the plaque. Even if he were underwater in the polls, those ads would be run because they would blacken the Democratic brand, discouraging Democrats from voting and hurting John Lewis and down-ticket Democratic candidates. Walsh’s withdrawal spares his fellow Democrats from being spattered with the mud that would have been slung at him.

John Walsh’s fate involves tragedy, and certainly invites literary references. But he — and he alone — brought it on himself.


Democratic nominating convention a week from tomorrow

Democrats will convene at 0730 at the fairgrounds in Helena on Saturday, 16 August, to nominate a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat now occupied by John Walsh. At this point, given the quick “Not me!”s issued by Denise Juneau, et al, it appears that anyone with a pulse who claims to be a Democrat and meets the constitutional requirements for the office will be welcomed as a political savior. I’m reminded of Yeats:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Detailed report on energy in Montana now available

Understanding Energy in Montana, a 148-page report by Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality for the legislature 2013–2014 Energy and Telecommunications Interim Committee was released yesterday. It’s a must read for political candidates, public officials, bloggers, energy activists, and reporters and editors.

Some of the report’s summations on electricity consumption and cost are, unfortunately, mush. More on that in another post.

Is the ISIS worse than Saddam Hussein?

I find myself wondering that following reports of the ISIS’s murderous — and religiously motivated — behavior. Hussein was no angel, but insofar as I know, he never beheaded Christians who refused to convert to Islam. Given we gave Hussein the heave-ho, and thus set in motion the chain of events leading to the reign of terror by the ISIS, I think we’re obligated to protect the Kurds and Yazidi by using airpower to blow the ISIS fanatics to Kingdom Come. I don’t like coming to that conclusion, but that’s where the facts lead.

Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and the end of war with Japan


On this day in 1945, two days after Hiroshima, Japan, was nearly obliterated by an atomic bomb, a Silverplate B-29 Superfortress named Bock’s Car dropped a more powerful atomic bomb on Nagasaki. One week later, following an attempted coup by military officers intent on continuing the war, Emperor Hirohito announced by radio that Japan was surrendering. The formal surrender ceremony occurred on the battleship Missouri on 2 September 1945 in Tokyo Bay.

In his radio message, Hirohito said:

…read the rest


7 August 2014

How Walsh’s replacement will be chosen

Montana’s Democratic Party has written rules covering this situation and others. Below, Rule 15, for filling a vacancy in a statewide office. Download Montana Democratic Party Rules.

…read Rule 15

Walsh withdraws his candidacy for the U.S. Senate


Sen. John Walsh’s message was timestamped 1441 MDT, reading in part:

The 2007 research paper from my time at the U.S. Army War College has become a distraction from the debate you expect and deserve. I am ending my campaign so that I can focus on fulfilling the responsibility entrusted to me as your U.S. Senator. You deserve someone who will always fight for Montana, and I will.

Walsh made the decision that had to be made, and announced it with a gracefulness that does not always characterize such announcements. I’ll provide analysis tomorrow. Today, I thank him for his service in the Senate and for running for the Senate. I truly wish this had turned out differently, not just because of what is at stake, but because a fundamentally good man is paying so heavy a price for a moment of weakness so many years ago. His campaign’s denouement was necessary, but it doesn’t seem fair.

My best wishes to the Senator, his family, and to those in his Senate and campaign offices who have worked for him so hard and so loyally.


Montana now has little power to stop a GOP Senate takeover

Montana’s Democrats would be anguished over Sen. John Walsh’s self-inflicted predicament even if Democratic control of the Senate were not at stake. It’s a personal tragedy and a political nightmare under the best of circumstances.

But these are not the best of circumstances. Republicans could gain control of the Senate — indeed, there are plenty of forecasts that control of the chamber will flip to the GOP — and initiate a reign of policy terror that President Obama might not be strong or wise enough to resist. With a Republican Congress, there could be ugly cuts in vital social insurance programs such as Social Security and Medicare, as well as programs such as food stamps. If you think that sounds overwrought, read Seth Michaels’ essay, The Consequences Of An All-Too-Likely Republican Senate.

Until Walsh’s academic sin was revealed, he was closing the gap with Rep. “Shutdown” Steve Daines, a tea party policy zealot whose extreme votes are less appreciated the more Montana voters learn about them. There was a legitimate chance that Walsh, that Montana, could help save the Senate from the red tide. Now that chance is much, much smaller, which is why Democratic activists are so dismayed and discouraged by Walsh’s plight.


Morning video — What Did You Learn in School Today?

I have some education related business this afternoon, so what better way to start the morning than with a north of the border rendition of What Did You Learn in School Today? I’ll report back later if I do learn anything.


6 August 2014

Don’t condition a Walsh withdrawal on first finding a replacement

Updated. If John Walsh withdraws his candidacy for the Senate, Democratic leaders will want to have a replacement candidate signed-up before he announces his departure. But no potential replacement will admit an interest while Walsh is still the nominee. That would be a breach of party solidarity, and appear to be a disloyal and self-serving attempt to shove him over a cliff. Once he withdraws, if he does withdraw, an honest and productive discussion on a replacement candidate can begin. And I believe that current demurrals of interest notwithstanding, a replacement would be found rather easily.

Update, 7 August. If Walsh has decided to withdraw, then discussions on who will replace him have begun. But no potential replacement will publicly admit an interest until the withdrawal decision is announced.


New poll shows Walsh losing support

Updated. A Vox Populi poll (PDF) of 798 registered voters conducted 3–4 August, well after Sen. John Walsh was exposed as a plagiarist, reports Rep. Steve Daines now leads Walsh 47 to 34 percent with 18 percent undecided. That’s significant because prior to the plagiarism revelation, Walsh had closed the gap to the mid single digits. Now the gap is back to double digits, and Walsh’s support has fallen precipitously, although not as far as some might have expected. That’s because 34 percent is just about rock bottom for any Democrat in what’s essentially a two-man race (Libertarian Roger Roots skims off Republican votes). Walsh is down to the level of Yellow Dog Democrat support.

…read the rest

Evidence mounts that Walsh will withdraw from Senate race

His campaign has gone silent. He’s canceled events, including a fundraiser in Jackson Hole. My sources report support for him among Democratic activists and leaders is fading fast, and that while few have put anything in writing, many have have said his campaign cannot be salvaged and that he must withdraw, preferably yesterday. He’s lost the confidence of his party.

Two names top the list of replacements:

…read the rest

Morning video — Dire Straits and the Walk of Life


5 August 2014

John Walsh’s longest week

This is the longest week of John Walsh’s campaign. Monday, 11 August, is the last day he can withdraw as the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate. After that, he’s on the ballot whether or not the Army War College strips him of his masters degree.

Meanwhile, he’s lost the support of Montana’s two largest newspapers, the Billings Gazette and the sometimes more liberal Missoulian, plus the Great Falls Tribune and Kalispell’s Daily InterLake. He’s also lost the support of influential left-leaning Missoulian columnist George Ochenski.

Polls conducted at the end of July and later should be released late this week. I think they will report considerable erosion in support for Walsh, and Daines’ support firming-up a few points north of 50 percent. That will hurt fundraising and demoralize Democrats, further reducing the odds that he can win — odds that were already very low.

…read the rest

Morning video — for John Walsh, Lonesome Valley

Elephant Revival and Jimmy LeFave perform Lonesome Valley. Bonnie Paine plays the washboard. Bridget Law plays the electric fiddle.


4 August 2014

School District 5 is still letting students escape finals

Students at Flathead and Glacier High Schools no longer can escape final exams by compiling goody-two-shoes attendance records, but, the InterLake reported Friday, there's still a way for students to escape what should be mandatory:

The new incentive comes after both high schools decided to discontinue the practice of allowing students to opt out of final exams based on attendance.

The reasoning behind the change is that students would be better served taking final exams in preparation for college.

Flathead seniors in their seventh or eighth semesters will still be able to opt out of finals if they earn a 90 percent, or above, semester average in classes.

There's been some backsliding by the people running the schools. At the end of May, the IL reported that all students would be required to take finals:

…read the rest

Morning video, A World of our Own

A wonderful song, wonderfully sung, in wonderful black-and-white, offered as a tribute to the bubble-wrapped, Hamasphilic, mainstreamphobic, half-wacked bloggers and conspiracy cultists who turned a once great progressive blog into a laughingstock of the internet. But let’s not give up on those birds just yet. Perhaps they can escape their twilight zones and return to daylight. With grace, amazing things can happen:

Oh, still they are lost,
Will they ever be found,
Pray at last they reality see.


3 August 2014

Hamas and its crazy founding covenant

America's anti-Semites and loathers of Israel — and there are many, far, far too many — must have turned cartwheels of joy Friday when the New York Times reported that the fighting in Gaza is generating a serious outbreak of antisemitism in Europe.

So, too, turning cartwheels of joy must be the leaders of Hamas, for inciting fresh antisemitism in Europe and America is why Hamas — officially designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State on 8 September 1997 — provoked another deadly Israeli incursion in Gaza, hoping for massive civilian casualties that the world would blame on Israel.

…read the rest


2 August 2013

White and blue


1 August 2014

Americans should blame Hamas for the killing in Gaza

A cease fire in Gaza brokered in part by the United States lasted less than two hours, reports the New York Times. The immediate cause was a Hamas raid, launched from a tunnel, in which an Israeli soldier was captured. It’s not clear whether the raid was a deliberate breach of the cease fire or the result of a group of Hamas militants not knowing there was a cease fire:

…read the rest

Memo to Walsh’s defenders: plagiarism is not a virtue

Supporters of John Walsh, and there are many, need to be careful how they argue his keep-my-plagiarism-in-context defense, which he presented to the editorial board of the Billings Gazette earlier this week:

Walsh told The Gazette editorial board his 33 years in the National Guard and his performance as a U.S. senator shouldn’t be eclipsed by revelations that he plagiarized portions of a 2007 research paper at the Army War College. The New York Times broke the plagiarism story last week as issues key to the Walsh’s re-election began to emerge in the Senate.

“I’m very hopeful that Montanans will look at my overall career and not just this one serious blemish on my career and evaluate me on the entirety instead of just this one issue,” Walsh said.

It’s a valid defense, and a good one, but it’s based on the concept of forgiving the sinner, not minimizing the sin. Walsh admits his act of plagiarism was seriously wrong, but asks Montanans to keep it in context. He’s done a lot of good in his life, he argues, asking voters to conclude that the good he’s done far outweighs his war college lapse. He seeks forgiveness.

Unfortunately, not everyone defending him understands that. In a letter to the Helena Independent Record, Gary Turcott, invoking the principle that often we learn more from a mistake than from something that went right by accident, argues that the Bay of Pigs fiasco made John Kennedy a better president because “Good leaders learn from their mistakes, and they move forward with a determination not to repeat them.”

Turcott invites us to conclude that the more mistakes a leader makes, the better a leader he becomes. Under that theory, plagiarism becomes a virtue. We should lament that Walsh plagiarized only once, thus depriving himself of opportunities to improve his leadership skills.

The defense of forgiveness and context is valid and strong. The defense that plagiarism isn’t all that bad and actually provides men an opportunity to become better leaders is neither valid nor strong nor forgivable.