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

January 2014 Archive


31 January 2014

Tim Fox concedes MT’s statement of accuracy law is unenforceable

Montana’s Attorney General, Tim Fox, conceded yesterday that Matt Monforton, the conservative attorney running for the Republican nomination in HD-69 (Bozeman area), would prevail in his quest to keep part of Montana’s MCA 13-35-225, Election materials not to be anonymous — statement of accuracy — notice — penalty, from being enforced, and committed the legal equivalent of throwing in the towel:

In the Answer, which is being filed concurrently with this Response, The State admits that the Statute, as amended, remains unconstitutionally vague. See Answer and Concession of Defendants (Doc. 18) at 2, ¶ 2, and 6, ¶ 21. The State does not intend to enforce the Statute.

That’s a start. The next step is repealing the offending section of the statute, an act more likely to occur if Monforton wins, but not that likely to occur at all because legislators, and not just in Montana, seem unable to resist the temptation to pass unconstitutional legislation that gives incumbents an advantage.


Humiliating and starving children to punish parents

There are enough people working in education that some will fall off the low side of the bell curve on commonsense and decency. The latest example, described by the Salt Lake Tribune, comes from Utah:

A cafeteria manager has been placed on paid administrative leave as the Salt Lake City School District investigates the seizure of school lunches from up to 40 young students with unpaid meal tabs.

The lunches were taken away Tuesday at Uintah Elementary, a move that has sparked outcry from parents, lawmakers and outraged observers who have created a sensation on social media.

That’s right. They weren’t quietly told they couldn’t have lunch. They were served. Then, their food was taken from them and thrown away. At high noon. In public.

After the children had been thoroughly humiliated and frightened, they were served fruit (an apple?) and milk (water might be healthier) in a patronizing act of mitigation

The incident brought together at least one Republican and one Democrat in Utah’s legislature, with the Republican calling for firing the lunch thief, and both men vowing to find a legislative solution so that something like this never happens again. A good idea, that.

There’s a foolproof way of preventing such sadistic stupidity. End the practice of charging students and parents for school meals. Hunger impairs learning. Therefore, feed everyone, pay for the vittles with tax revenues, and forbid co-payments.

I have no idea, incidentally, how school districts in Montana handle these matters. But I would not be surprised to learn that what happened in Utah could happen here.



30 January 2014

Memo to Sen. Tester: time to close Malmstrom Air Force Base


Update, 1911 MST. It gets worse by the hour. The Great Falls Tribune reports that the number of Malmstrom missile officers being investigated has risen to 92, and that replacement officers are being sent to Malmstrom.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

There’s a huge problem with the security and safety of nuclear weapons at Malmstrom Air Force Base — and Sen. Jon Tester’s desire to keep the base’s 150 nuclear tipped Minuteman III missiles in Montana may be clouding his judgment. I hope that’s not the case, but that’s not the message I’m hearing from him.

Late yesterday I received from Sen. Tester an electronic newsletter boasting of his efforts to prevent the removal of missile silos from Malmstrom Air Force Base (Great Falls):

I first stopped in Great Falls to meet with Air Force Secretary Deborah James. We discussed the future of Malmstrom Air Force Base, and I reminded her that Congress will reject efforts to unfairly penalize the ICBM force. The government funding bill prevents any study that could lead to the removal of Malmstrom’s missile silos. [Emphasis added.]

This morning, the Associate Press reported that even more launch officers than first thought are being investigated for cheating on readiness examinations:

The number of officers in the nuclear corps who have been implicated in a cheating investigation has more than doubled to at least 70, officials said Tuesday. That means that at least 14 percent of all launch officers have been decertified and suspended from missile launch duties.

All are at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., which is responsible for 150 Minuteman 3 nuclear missiles, or one-third of the entire Minuteman 3 force. The officials who disclosed the higher number spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the information by name while the investigation is ongoing.

This is more than one rotten apple in a barrel. It’s dry rot on a staggering scale in a branch of the military that’s entrusted with the custody of weapons that can kill tens of millions of people.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel admitted as much Friday when he convened a two-hour meeting of the top admirals and generals in our nuclear command to discuss whether Malmstrom’s situation is the product of a systemic breakdown in leadership:

Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said the officials spent the bulk of the meeting discussing the breadth of the problems, which include low morale, cheating and serious security lapses, and how to begin solving them.

“I think the general consensus in the room was that we all need to accept the reality that there probably are systemic issues in the personnel growth and development inside the nuclear mission,” Kirby told Pentagon reporters after the two-hour meeting with Hagel. [Also from AP story.]

To me, the obvious remedy is closing Malmstrom, discharging everyone stationed there from the Air Force, and dismantling the missiles, the loss of which would not diminish our nuclear deterrent. We still have over 5,000 nuclear bombs and warheads. I suspect as few as 50 would constitute a credible deterrent.

But closing Malmstrom is not an option thanks to Sen. Tester’s zeal to preserve one of the economic engines powering Great Falls. I don’t doubt Tester’s dedication to keeping federal money in Montana — but when he subordinates the safety and security of nuclear weapons to the economic welfare of a small city in a lightly populated corner of the nation, and that’s what he was bragging about in his newsletter, he’s not exercising sound judgment.



29 January 2014

Slopestyle skiing is art, not sport

Maggie Voisin, a 15-year-old high school freshman in Whitefish, MT, specializes in a skiing event called the Slopestyle. She’s a gifted athlete, the youngest American competing in the Winter Olympics, and the pride of her community. Everyone wishes her well and hopes she returns to Whitefish without injury in what could be the experience of a lifetime.

But is she competing in a sport, or in an artistic competition that requires athletic ability?

…read the rest

A State of the Union speech to depress progressives


President Obama’s State of the Union address (transcript with line numbers, PDF) discussed a number of issues, energy and retirement security among them.

Energy. I consider energy, and in particular the transition from hydrocarbons to solar and wind, as one of the nation’s four most important issues (the other three are health care, jobs, and retirement security). Obama’s energy policy is simple: do everything. Here’s how he described it last night:

Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy. The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades. [SOTU, line number 140.]

Energy independence is an illusion. It’s also a dog whistle used by both parties for “We ain’t gonna let them dirty Arabs hold us hostage to their oil.” All of the above means avoiding choices. A Republican President would do the same, perhaps with slightly more emphasis on hydrocarbons, especially coal, and slightly less emphasis on solar and wind.

Retirement security. Traditional defined benefit private pensions are disappearing, even at profitable corporations such as Boeing (where Boeing executives making tens of millions a year just blackjacked the machinists union into surrendering pension benefits that took decades to win). Workers are now condemned to schemes such as 401k accounts that go boom and bust with Wall Street.

President Obama did acknowledge the problem:

Let’s do more to help Americans save for retirement. Today, most workers don’t have a pension. A Social Security check often isn’t enough on its own. And while the stock market has doubled over the last five years, that doesn’t help folks who don’t have 401ks.[SOTU, line number 324.]

But did he propose increasing Social Security benefits, something that would help seniors today as well as tomorrow? No.

He’ll only help mañana. And not by proposing increases in Social Security and Medicare benefits:

…tomorrow, I will direct the Treasury to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: MyRA. It’s a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg. MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in. And if this Congress wants to help, work with me to fix an upside-down tax code that gives big tax breaks to help the wealthy save, but does little to nothing for middle-class Americans. Offer every American access to an automatic IRA on the job, so they can save at work just like everyone in this chamber can. And since the most important investment many families make is their home, send me legislation that protects taxpayers from footing the bill for a housing crisis ever again, and keeps the dream of homeownership alive for future generations of Americans. [SOTU, line number 326.]

No risk? How can he say that when the program doesn’t even exist yet? If he were in the software business, this would be considered an announcement of vaporware.

And why no call for increasing benefits for Social Security and Medicare? Both social insurance programs are Godsends for old people, but neither program is generous. As the President admitted, a Social Security payment by itself often isn’t sufficient. And Medicare covers much less than 100 percent of a senior’s medical expenses, thus condemning seniors who can afford it to purchasing private Medigap insurance. It’s a disgraceful situation for which Obama, a man rich and still young, offers no improvements. I find myself once again wondering how much he really cares about old people.

Kisses and kicks from Walsh and Lewis

Democratic senate and house hopefuls John Walsh and John Lewis issued short statements faintly praising the President that had in common a weird tea partyesque fixation with cutting spending and reducing the national debt. Below, each man’s full statements.


The president says taking responsibility is a fundamental part of uniting our country. I agree. But like most Montanans, I believe the president must do more to protect law-abiding citizens and end the NSA’s surveillance program. As leaders, we must have the courage to responsibly cut our debt, cut spending and live up to the promises made to America’s veterans.


I appreciate the President calling on Congress to work together because we have much more to do to create more good-paying jobs and close loopholes that send American jobs overseas. I remain very concerned about the President’s stance on many issues including his defense of an overreaching National Security Agency. And I’m disappointed by the lack of commitment to cut more spending and reduce our deficit.

Democrats who call for austerity — and that’s what cutting spending produces — betray the hard-working, paycheck-to-paycheck living people they seek to represent.



28 January 2014

Senate hopeful John Walsh releases all of his military records

That’s 400 pages of records, according to the press release I just received from Walsh’s campaign. This is a smart move — overdue, but still smart — that will put into context that inspector general’s pissant finding that Walsh abused his command authority and the subsequent reprimand issued to Walsh.

I do not know where to get a copy of his records. Perhaps that information will be in his next press release. Perhaps the documents will be posted on his still virtually worthless website (although I wouldn’t count on that anytime soon).

Pete Seeger, R.I.P.

Pete Seeger, the folksinger for whom “legendary” seems too weak a word, died at 94 yesterday. No man ever stood straighter or prouder for what was right. His songs will echo forever in our hearts and minds, and the example he set will inspire humankind to its last generation. Here’s Pete singing We Shall Overcome:


27 January 2014

SOTU and the Winter Olympics — two events I’m not watching

State of the Union Address. I’ll read Obama’s speech, but I won’t watch it or even listen to it. Instead of being a straightforward report on where we are as a nation, and where we should be and should go as a nation, it’s become agitprop, a spectacle tinged with pathos and bathos and an embarrassment to our country. And if that weren’t enough to put me off, I’ve never been able to abide Obama’s arrogant and condescendingly professorial delivery.

The Winter Olympics. Hollywood is known for shamelessness, but the most unrestrained tinsel town production appears dignified compared to the Olympics. There are still a few events — for example, speed skating and downhill skiing — where there’s a clear and objective measure of victory, but more and more there are glitzy productions such as figure skating where victory is determined by subjective methods, by the opinions of judges. That’s show biz, not sport. It’s a sad indictment of American culture that so many people drink beer and gorge on potato chips while watching this stuff instead of going skiing themselves or simply getting out in the sunshine and walking a few miles (which is what I do).


Do WIFE letters really help candidates? Should they?

In his decision on Ward v. Miller, Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices, Jonathan Motl, reports that the campaign of Rep. Mike Miller (R, HD-84) sent voters letters from Miller’s wife. The handwritten letters were printed in blue ink on custom sized pink paper and mailed in hand addressed pink envelopes. The message, presumably, was “I love my guy, and so too should you.” Motl calls these WIFE letters.

Why would — should — such a letter have any effect on a voter? What else would a loyal and loving wife say about her politician husband?

The only time I might pay attention to a letter from a candidate’s wife is if it said “My husband was just indicted for buggering little boys. I think he’s guilty as hell, I’ve kicked him out of the house and filed for divorce, and I urge you to vote for anyone but him.”



26 January 2014

Recommended Sunday reads

Paul Valley: “What would John Wayne do?”

That’s what Bigfork’s favorite retired army two-star suggested that a tea party gathering in South Carolina employ as a guiding principle, reports Mary Claire Kendall at Ed Berry’s PolyMontana website. The Duke, who helped fund George Wallace’s 1968 campaign for President, would, of course, make a movie of the Green Berets genre. Lights, camera, fiction.

On the right

I’ve expanded Flathead Memo’s blogroll with a few links to conservative leaning websites. One is Tim Baldwin’s Liberty Defense League. Tim is the conservative half of the Flathead Beacon’s Two for Thought feature, which this week looked at the future of the tea party. After reading the essays by Tim and Joe, you’ll want to visit the Democracy Journal to read Theda Skocpol’s Why the Tea Party’s Hold Persists.

Paranoia of the superrich

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo posted a perceptive essay analyzing venture capitalist Tom Perkins’ crazy assertion that criticism of the one percent and income inequality is tantamount to the terrorism of the Kristallnacht in 1938. Perkins and his ilk believe their wealth entitles them not to be criticized, especially by the ne’er do wells who fail to accumulate as much money as they do, a dangerous notion given the vast political power their wealth can buy.

Flathead global warming debate

At the Daily InterLake, there’s yet another exchange of long opeds on global warming — the last such exchange for a while as editor Frank Miele’s patience with this seemingly endless debate has finally expired. My advice: read Jerry Elwood’s essay first, then quaff a double Wild Turkey before braving the screeds by Ed Berry and Pamela McCormick. My view on global warming? It’s still January and my lawn is greening. That’s not evidence of a cooling trend.



25 January 2014

Voter falloff — and reverse falloff — in House District 8

More votes are cast in the contests at the top of ballots than in the contests farther down the ballot, a phenomenon known variously as voter falloff, voter rolloff, down ballot abstention, and undoubtedly by other names.

Some academic research indicates one cause is choice fatigue, especially on very long ballots; voters grow weary of indicating choices and decide not to cast more votes. Another cause, I’m sure, is simply not being acquainted with down ballot candidates or issues and therefore abstaining on the principle of doing no harm.

…read the rest

An ambiguous headline (and great photo)

Ever since completing Professor Fenske’s course in logic, I’ve been a connoisseur of examples of unintended ambiguity. Here’s a headline from today’s Talking Points Memo website that would be ambiguous if it did not end with (photo):

…read the rest


24 January 2014

Baucus in transition

Here’s how Sen. Max Baucus responded to a recent letter from a constituent:

…read the rest

The platforms upon which Steve Daines stands


Like Democratic Senate hopeful John Walsh, Republican Rep. Steve Daines, now running for the U.S. Senate, has a campaign website that asks for cash and contact information, but little else.

But unlike Walsh, Daines has an online history, so we know where he stood in the past. Given his decision not to uncover his 2014 platform yet, voters should assume he stands on these three platforms and endorses all planks that he does not explicitly repudiate:

…read the rest

Montana ballot measures that bear watching

There’s a potential for a glut of initiatives and referenda on Montana’s November ballot, with three measures ordered by the legislature and a dozen submitted by citizens. Not all will make the ballot. And not all will be covered in this round-up. The full list is on the Montana Secretary of State’s website. The following are on my watch list.

…read the rest


23 January 2014

Hillary Clinton’s time to be President has passed


If elected President in 2016, Hillary Clinton would, at 69, be the oldest person after Ronald Reagan to take the oath of office for the first time. She has a history of health problems. But she and her supporters who blindly follow her give every indication they believe she’ll live forever.

Democrats with this attitude do not belong to a reality based community.

Nor do they care if they belong to a reality based community. They’re part of an identity politics personality cult that has as its highest priority electing a woman President. For these Democrats, electing Hillary Clinton President would do for women and gender equality what electing Barack Obama was supposed to do for blacks and racial equality.

In the absence of any credible Democrat declaring for the Presidency, her star, the only one in the Democratic firmament, appears to shine brightly, just as did in 2007, when she was still under 60 and untested on the Presidential stage. Once again, she and her acolytes are attempting to create an aura of inevitability, of invincibility, a sure sign they learned nothing from her last campaign.

All that has changed is that she’s grown older. And, grown old.

Hillary Clinton’s time has passed. If she truly wants to help her country and her political party, she’ll admit that, abjure seeking the nomination, and urge Democrats to nominate someone younger. For example, Andrew Cuomo. So will Democratic activists and superpacs such as Priorities USA Action (which the New York Times reports is now controlled by Clintonlanders).



22 January 2014

Walsh stiffs Demo dinner, stays course

Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful John Walsh was a no-show at a Yellowstone Democrats dinner last night, reports the Billings Gazette’s Tom Lutey. Walsh’s primary opponents, Dirk Adams and John Bohlinger, showed.

Walsh’s campaign manager spokesman, Aaron Murphy of Hilltop Strategies, told Lutey Walsh had a scheduling conflict. Adams claimed Walsh decided to raise money instead of attend the dinner, but provided no details.

My guess is that Walsh was avoiding a forum in which he might be asked questions he’d rather not answer. And he might have been at Hilltop with his campaign’s staff working on a strategy to contain the damage done by revelations he’d been reprimanded by the Army’s vice chief of staff and had failed to make flag rank.

…read the rest


21 January 2014

John Walsh is in big trouble, and may not survive


Democratic Lt. Gov. John Walsh (Col. U.S. Army, ret.), his human frailties notwithstanding, would serve Montana in the U.S. Senate far better than tea party Republican Rep. Steve Daines. Walsh cares about regular people while Daines cares about rich people.

But Walsh may never win election to a six-year term. He’s bleeding from self-inflicted wounds that I suspect will leave him just strong enough to win the primary, but too weak to defeat Daines in the general election.

…read the rest


20 & 21 January 2014

Latest Guard revelations embarrass, and may hurt, Walsh


Updated and corrected. Democratic Senate hopeful John Walsh is back in the news, and not in a good way. Charlie Johnson of the Lee Newspapers reports that unlike most Montana National Guard adjutant generals, he was not promoted to brigadier or major general in the U.S. Army upon retiring from the guard.

The reason? That inspector general’s finding that Walsh used his Army email account for personal gain when he urged officers to join an organization that lobbies for better equipment and funding for the Guard. It was an anal retentive finding on the order of a parking violation, but it had consequences reports Johnson:

…read the rest

Imagine if the library had more duct tape

The Flathead County Library — aka ImagineIF Libraries — found $40,000 to take the place out of the library’s name, but it couldn’t find, or perhaps want to find, a sawbuck for a new roll of duct tape to reseal the light globes flanking the steps to the library’s main entrance. Imagine what might be repaired if library director Kim Crowley and the library’s board of trustees had their priorities straight.


…read the rest


19 January 2014

Judge Richard Cebull, revisited

Remember Judge Richard Cebull, one of Montana’s blessings on the federal bench? He who used his court email account to unwisely forward an off-color joke about President Obama? He who was not applauded for his sense of humor and subsequently was subjected to a misconduct inquiry by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals? He who retired, apparently hoping to keep all the facts under seal? I’m sure you do.

Well, Judge Cebull is back in the news — the national news — because more facts have been released, and they don’t exactly burnish his reputation. His fondness for off-color and politically incorrect humor was considerable. He distributed hundreds of jokes he might have better left untold.

…read the rest


18 January 2014

Flathead GOP primary voters prefer hard right candidates

On paper, Frank Garner is the more impressive candidate in Kalispell’s new House District 7 (same boundaries as the present HD-8). A affable former police chief with wide experience in civic activities, he’s well known and well respected by both Democrats and Republicans. One doesn’t doubt he would hold his own as a legislator.

His opponent, Ronalee Skees, lacks as impressive a résumé. She’s best known as the wife of Derek Skees, the tea party Republican elected to HD-4 in Whitefish in 2010, and now running for Montana’s Public Service Commission in District 5. That doesn’t mean Ronalee wouldn’t cut the mustard in Helena, but it does mean that voters making their choice on the basis of the candidates’ experience accept more risk if they choose her.

But the better candidate according to the conventional wisdom doesn’t always win:

…read the rest


17 January 2014

Zinke is strongest GOP fundraiser in U.S. House primary

Updated. Amount raised, cash in the bank, amount loaned to self, and burn rate. These are the four most important summary statistics in political fundraising. By these measures, the candidates with the highest marks are Democrat John Lewis and Republican Ryan Zinke. Here, in one chart, are the numbers, assembled from newspaper stories and campaign press handouts:

…read the rest


16 January 2014

Air Farce at Malmstrom AFB


Thirty-four Force Officers responsible for launching nuclear missiles at Malmstrom Air Force base at Great Falls have been accused of cheating on monthly proficiency tests.

Apparently, the officers used cell phones to share answers via text messages. And weren’t even smart enough to cover their tracks.

According to an Air Force general, there’s nothing to worry about:

…read the rest


15 January 2014

Mulling the Flathead County Library’s rebranding misstep


Imagine if a library’s name conveyed a sense of place. For example, the Flathead County Library. Now, imagine if the sense of place is removed from the name and replaced with — drumroll — ImagineIF Libraries.

But we don’t need to imagine that. It just happened. The Flathead County Library is now the ImagineIF Libraries, a placeless, generic name that could be used in Kansas, Kentucky, Florida, or any English speaking country in the world.

…read the rest


14 January 2014

Calculating latitude in your head

Yesterday I was visiting with an old friend who now lives in Hong Kong. “What is Hong Kong’s latitude,” I asked, vaguely aware it was near the Tropic of Cancer. She said she couldn’t remember, but that Hong Kong to Bali was a four-hour flight, and Bali, due south of HK, was on the equator.

That was enough. Assuming the airliner averages 500 mph, the distance is 2,000 miles. One degree of latitude is 60 nautical miles. Our math put HK 33 degrees north of the equator. Reckoning that was too far north, I estimated 25–30 degrees to correct for the difference between nautical and statute miles.

Back at home, I checked the internet for the precise figures:

…read the rest


13 January 2014

If a train burns in Whitefish, are there escape routes for all?

A friend living north of the railroad tracks raised that point this morning, and it’s a good one. In summer and fall, when roads through the forests and Whitefish Range are passable, there’s an escape route to the north. But in winter, getting out become much more difficult. And hunkering down in place is not a choice for a medical emergency, for example.

Flathead County’s new chicken coop library

Forty-thousand dollars buys a lot of books periodical subscriptions. But at the Flathead County Library, it bought a new name for the library system: ImagineIF Libraries — a generic name with no sense of place — and plans for the library to build chicken coops. I’m not kidding.

As described by Molly Priddy at the Flathead Beacon:

…the library staff will be out interacting with the clients more, continuing to build relationships and make the library more than just a warehouse for books.

Another part of the rebranding – which was designed by Ricochet Ideas, a marketing company out of Denver – is the hiring of a new outreach and programming librarian, Megan Glidden.

Glidden said the library system would be embracing new activities, such as building chicken coops and then auctioning them off, as a way to provide services to the community outside of books and media.

This is change, but not progress. A library that plans to build chicken coops needs a change of leadership.


12 January 2014

It’s foolish to worry about terrorist attacks on oil trains in Flathead

Both the InterLake and Flathead Beacon have run detailed stories on the passage of 100-car trains carrying Bakken crude oil through the Flathead. This is especially worrisome given the low (140°F) flash point of the Bakken’s light sweet crude. A derailment could have severe consequences: oil fires, oil spills, or both.

One commenter at the InterLake feared the trains are targets for terrorists and thought it not responsible for the subject to be discussed in public. A terrorist attack on an oil train passing through Whitefish is, of course, a possibility, but the probability one will occur is very, very, low. I don’t consider it something to worry about. It’s sad that some people are so fearful about such things.


11 January 2014

Conservative attorney challenges 2013 MT election law

An important First Amendment lawsuit was filed against Montana in federal district court yesterday by a conservative attorney from Bozeman, Matthew Monforton. He’s challenging the constitutionality of SB-392, passed in the 2013 legislature by wide margins and codified as MCA 13-35-225, Election materials not to be anonymous — statement of accuracy — notice — penalty, which mandate that a candidate’s printed campaign materials describe an opponent’s votes in a particular way. Charlie Johnson has the long story at the Missoulian:

…read the rest


10 January 2014

GOP candidates associated with hospital get primary challenges

Rewritten. The challenges are from the hard right in all three campaigns. Whether this is a coordinated attempt by tea party Republicans to block candidates who might be sympathetic to the notion that hospitals would benefit from federal dollars that teabagger Republicans don’t want Montana to accept is an open question, but whether or not it is, the effect is the same.

The hospital associated candidates are Frank Garner, HD-7; Tammi Fisher, SD-4; and Albert Olszewski, MD, HD-11. For more on Garner and Fisher, see my Meet the candidates from Kalispell Regional Medical Center post from 30 December 2013.

Here’s how the challenges break down:

…read the rest

GOP Gotcha! gets Lewis

Two days ago, Democratic candidate for the U.S. House John Lewis’ campaign released a statement beginning:

(BILLINGS, Mont.) - U.S. House candidate John Lewis has raised more than $200,000 over the past three months — the most ever raised by a Democratic U.S. House candidate in the fourth quarter before an election year.

I didn’t use it. That kind of boast, aimed mostly at Lewis’ supporters and potential donors instead of the general public, should be made within the campaign to boost morale, not released to the news media to pound one’s chest in public. But if it is released to the whole wide world, it had better be right on the facts.

…read the rest

Flathead County legislative candidates 10 Jan 2014

Updated 1908 MST. As of this morning, 16 Flathead candidates had either filed for office, filed form C-1, or formally announced their candidacies. I’ll update the table below at the end of each day and make it available as a spreadsheet beginning next week. The spreadsheet will contain contact information for the candidates.

…read the rest


9 January 2014

Flathead Filings — GOP contest in HD-7 (downtown Kalispell)


Ronalee Skees, wife of Derek Skees (the former tea party state representative who just filed for the Public Service Commission), filed for HD-7. So did Frank Garner, the former Kalispell police chief who’s now security chief at Kalispell Regional Medical Center. Garner announced his candidacy last spring, shortly after the legislative session concluded. Here, it’s a reasonable conclusion that some Republicans do not think Garner is a true tea-blue Republican.

Memo to candidates: send us your press kits

Filing for elective office in Montana opens at 0800 this morning and closes at 1700 on 10 March.

If you are a candidate, you should have a press kit ready with your mug photo, biography, issues statement, and contact information including the URL of your website.

Don’t have a press kit? Don’t have a website? Then you’re not ready to start campaigning.

Flathead Memo will cover Flathead and statewide elections in as much detail as possible. If you’re a candidate, campaign manager, party operative, or someone who knows, please put us on your media email list and send us your press kit. Use jrc [at] FM does not accept anonymous tips, etc.

Chris Christie’s wide waist and heavy hand are related

Usually, whether a politician is slightly overweight is irrelevant to his ability to serve. But in the case of New Jersey’s morbidly obese Republican governor, Chris Christie, I think it is. He wasn’t born with a gene that condemned him to obesity. He simply lacked the restraint to stop eating, always having another donut, and ate himself into gross rotundity.

That lack of restraint is why he’s not the jolly fat man of yore. He lacks the self-discipline that civility requires, so when he’s confronted with something he doesn’t like, such as a constituent with the temerity to challenge his wisdom, he releases his inner thug and tries to stomp the other guy into toe jam.

That’s why I’m convinced of two things. First, even if he didn’t order the traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge, he created the political climate that made it inevitable. Second, if as President he received that three o’clock phone call, he’d push the button instead of gathering more facts. The mere thought of President Christie makes Hillary Clinton look good by comparison.


8 January 2014

Flathead Memo: Lewis proves fundraising prowess


Democrat candidate for the U.S. House John Lewis is raising the kind of money it takes to win an election. As of 1 January 2014 he had raised $396,000, reports the Missoulian, and had $328,000 in the bank.

Both the amount raised and the low burn rate are encouraging metrics, indicating his campaign is moving full speed ahead while conserving resources. In 2012 several Democratic house hopefuls burned through their cash like besotted sailors at a house of ill repute.

…read the rest


7 January 2014

Gender identity politics infests elephant country

Identity politics, the bane of the Democratic Party, has now infested the Republican Party, reports the inside-the-beltway publication, Roll Call. Worried that too few Republican women serve in the U.S. House, several female Republican U.S. Representatives are actively supporting a woman running for the GOP nomination for the Florida special election to replace Rep. Bill Young, who died before the holidays.

Reps. Diane Black of Tennessee, Lynn Jenkins of Kansas and Ann Wagner of Missouri are supporting state Rep. Kathleen Peters for the Republican nod on Jan. 14. She faces lobbyist David Jolly, and the GOP winner will run in a highly competitive special election this spring.

The number of women in the House Republican Conference stands at 19. At least two of those female Republicans have already indicated they won’t return to the House in 2014, which means numbers could get worse — unless they make an effort to help female candidates win primaries.

“I prefer not to be engaged in Republican primaries. They tend to be messy,” Jenkins said in a Dec. 3 interview with CQ Roll Call. “But in reality, I’ve watched a lot of strong conservative women not make it past primaries.”

Their reason for supporting state representative Kathleen Peters? Peters has two X chromosomes. She’s a she, and the U.S. House GOP women supporting her want more GOP women in the house. It’s that simple. Their message: “Boys, stay home. It’s our turn.” Gender is more important than policy.

This GOP trio’s hostility toward men pales, of course, compared to the widespread hostility Democratic women have toward men. There’s Emily’s List, ostensibly independent and nonpartisan, but functionally part of the Democratic Party’s women’s identity caucus that recruits candidates on a women first, policy second, basis that’s designed to exclude men from public service. That caucus doesn’t see it that way, of course — its members believe they are obtaining compensation for past discrimination instead of committing discrimination — but that’s the effect of their actions, and one reason, I believe, why men tend to prefer the Republican Party; why Democrats have trouble winning elections.

The fundamental premise of identity politics is that only members of a group defined by a shared characteristic, usually a physical characteristic such as race or gender, can fully represent that group’s interests. It’s the downside of diversity, a tribal instinct that successful pluralistic democracies transcend, but it always lurks in the background as a path to balkanization, to political disfunction and destabilization.

Humankind is not doing so well that it can afford to exclude from public service people on the basis of gender, race, or some other identity that has nothing to do with the ability to serve.



6 January 2014

How America can improve primary and secondary schools

The United States of America is one country. But within our nation there are thousands of school districts and school boards, many academically contemptible, almost all sports addled, and independent to the detriment of the country. Here’s how to begin improving our primary and secondary schools:

…read the rest


5 January 2014

Brown to candidates: If you did something, they will find out


That could be the title of Jackie M. “Mike” Brown’s new ebook, Preparing for the Race: 50+ Questions for the Potential Candidate, a short, wry, and very useful introduction to the fine political art of opposition research.

Brown knows, and knows how. Now author of The Western Word blog, he spent years working for elected Republicans, among them Sen. Conrad Burns (quite a journey from his childhood as the son of a union Democrat). Part of that work was learning as much as possible about the opposition candidate; his life, wife, dog, and tax returns.

…read the rest


4 January 2014

Derek Skees could win PSC District 5 seat


Derek Skees, the tea party approved former Republican state legislator who represented Whitefish in the 2011 Legislature, announced yesterday that he’s running for the Montana Public Service Commission in district 5 (map), where incumbent Bill Gallagher is losing his fight with cancer and will not run for re-election. Ryan Murray of the Daily InterLake has the details.

Helena Democrat Galen Hollenbaugh also announced he’s running for the PSC-5 seat.

Skees should be considered the favorite. Democrat Ken Toole won the seat in 2006 by 190 votes over a weak opponent, Republican Mike Taylor. Toole’s victory in 2006 was an anomaly. He rode the Democratic wave that carried Tester to victory, facing a Republican opponent who was far from top tier (far from second tier, too), yet barely won.

…read the rest

Predicted “Polar Vortex” scares bejesus out of weather wussies

I grew up in northern Minnesota, where winter temperatures often dropped to minus 30°F, minus 40°F, and lower. I still remember a night in February that was minus 48°F when Nancy finished a performance at a coffeehouse, and we were more than a little worried that the cold might crack her guitar before we got it home. The guitar survived intact.

I don’t miss weather that cold. It was inconvenient — cars barely started, frozen tires thumped and bumped, and fuel oil bills were sky high — but it wasn’t dangerous for the prepared. When cold weather was forecast, we pulled on an extra sweater, plugged-in the car, and stayed warm.

We never trembled in fear that a polar vortex would swoop down from the north pole, freeze drying everything in its path, threatening the very existence of civilization.

But today’s weather wussies do. Here’s a paragraph from a Huffington Post story alerting Americans to a cold snap:

The temperature predictions are startling: 25 below zero in Fargo, N.D., minus 31 in International Falls, Minn., and 15 below in Indianapolis and Chicago. At those temperatures, exposed skin can get frostbitten in minutes and hypothermia can quickly set in because wind chills could hit 50, 60 or even 70 below zero.

Come on. Those are global warming temperatures to those of us who experienced minus 48°F in our youth. They’re startling only to the weather wussies below the Mason-Dixon line, the sun-baked and half-baked who define a cold snap as temperatures below 60°F, and who lunge for the Southern Comfort, the grog serving as human anti-freeze in the land of cotton (and cottonmouths), at the first hint they might have to use their air conditioners as heat pumps.

Get a grip. When the weatherman forecasts cold, don’t throw up your hands in despair — just stay cool, throw another log on the fire, and enjoy a hot buttered rum.



3 January 2014

Needed national political reforms

Politicians always tell the voters, “send me to Washington, D.C., and I’ll clean up the mess there.” But they never tell us how they will clean up the mess. I’m not a politician, so I will. Here’s how:

…read the rest

John Walsh The Anointed & John Walsh The Evasive


Lt. Gov. John Walsh is the Democratic Party Establishment’s choice for the nomination for the U.S. Senate seat now occupied by Sen. Max Baucus. Gov. Steve Bullock has endorsed Walsh, and so have Sens. Baucus and Jon Tester. Walsh is holding fundraisers across Montana, and in places like Washington, D.C., where the fattest cats are found. In person, I’m told, he’s impressing donors.

In public, however, he’s holding out on voters by not spelling out his positions on the issues. Several times a week his campaign emails statements taking to task Rep. Steve Daines, the putative Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, for sins against the commonweal (there’s a lot to work with here, so Walsh is being selective), but three months after declaring his candidacy, Walsh refuses to add a detailed issues page to his campaign’s website.

…read the rest

Rehberg starts New Year with “I’m Back!” trial balloon


Do Republican voters still love Denny Rehberg? Denny wants to know, so yesterday he told a few reporters he was thinking about running again for the U.S. House seat he vacated for the honor of losing the 2012 U.S. Senate race to Jon Tester.

…read the rest


2 January 2014

Dancing with Mary Jane under the Big Sky

Recreational marijuana is now legal in Colorado under state law (it’s still illegal there under federal law), and those who love dancing with Mary Jane are fouling their lungs and getting sky high.

An initiative to legalize marijuana in Montana may be on the ballot in 2014, and while it might not pass this year, a similar initiative has a very high probability of passing in the next decade. Montana will then find itself in the same predicament as Colorado and Washington: regulating a drug that is legal under state law, but illegal under federal law, the supreme law of the land.

…read the rest

Who are the Montana Guard’s banana republic officers?

Over at Intelligent Discontent, Don Pogreba has going a spirited discussion on the allegations that John Walsh committed a near treasonable sin by using his official email account to urge members of Montana’s national guard to join an association that lobbies for better equipment and pay for members of the guard. It’s a sin on the order of a parking ticket, but without the fine.

But the banana republic officers involved in the complaint to the army’s inspector general, and who leaked a military document stamped “For official use only. Dissemination is prohibited…,” are committing very serious violations of written and unwritten codes — they’re meddling in electoral politics, and worse, meddling in a clandestine fashion worthy of Oliver North.

…read the rest


1 January 2014

Montana political reforms for the New Year

If I had almighty powers, these are the reforms I would make. Unfortunately, such powers are not mine, so I’ve identified what needs to be done to make these proposals fact.

Happy New Year!

  1. Eliminate term limits. Needed: a constitutional amendment.

  2. Reduce the size of the legislature. Needed: a majority vote for a small reduction, a constitutional amendment for a large reduction.

  3. Require annual legislative sessions, and remove limits on the length of sessions. Needed: a constitutional amendment.

  4. Require all electronic campaign finance reporting, and more frequent reporting. Needed: a majority vote.

  5. Repeal 13-35-402 of the Montana Codes Annotated (fair notice period before election). Needed: a majority vote.

  6. Repeal 13-35-301 of the MCA (adoption of code of fair campaign practices). Needed: a majority vote.

  7. Repeal all durational limits on political signs. Needed: a majority vote in a lot of jurisdictions, or a lot of aggressive lawsuits.

  8. Establish a political “Don’t bring your campaign to my door” list with criminal penalties for violations. Needed: a majority vote.

  9. Repeal “no excuses” absentee voting. Needed: a majority vote.

  10. Allow early voting only on the two days prior to election day. Needed: a majority vote.

  11. Outlaw mail ballot elections. Allow mail ballot voting only for voters with proven disabilities that prevent their casting ballots at a polling place.

  12. Require that all elections other than primary elections be held as part of the general election in even-numbered years. Needed: a majority vote, but it might be best to hard wire this into Montana’s constitution through an amendment.

  13. Raise the minimum age for the Montana House of Representatives to 25; for the Montana Senate, to 30; for Governor, Lt. Governor, and justices of the Montana Supreme Court, to 40; for all other statewide elected officials, to 35; for all other elected officials except judges, to 25; for judges, to 35.