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

July 2014 Archive


31 July 2014

Shutdown Steve earns another nickname: Sue ‘em Steve


Yep, Montana’s blessing in the U.S. House of Representatives voted to authorize the House to sue President Obama for being a Democrat while serving as President. A Democratic President actually is not illegal, but Sue ‘em Steve and all but five of the Republicans in the House think it should be. So they voted to sue Barack Obama, then scampered back to their districts where they’ll campaign, eat corn dogs at county fairs, and perhaps enter hog calling contests, something they should be good at. Soooo-eeeee!, Steve.



30 July 2014

Walsh case also puts U.S. Army War College on trial


Plagiarism detection software such as Turnitin was available when John Walsh wrote and submitted his Strategic Research Project paper to the U.S. Army War College. Why didn’t the USAWC require that he run his paper through Turnitin or another checker before submitting it for review and grading? And why didn’t the USAWC run a plagiarism check on Walsh’s paper after it was submitted?

Not only would a self-check have caught instances of plagiarism generated by sloppiness (not all, probably, but enough to make the exercise worthwhile), but the requirement itself, especially coupled with the after submission check by the school, would have served as a powerful deterrent to academic misconduct.

But the USAWC doesn’t take such commonsense measures says its provost, Lance Betros, as reported by the Associated Press yesterday:

…read the rest

Lady from Whitefish organizes Lady Godiva bike ride for Missoula

When Whitefish got too small for Nita Maddux, she moved to Missoula, and from there to places around the world. Now back in Missoula, Maddux, a Libertarian with, it appears, libertine leanings, has organized a birthday suit bicycle tour for the morning of Sunday, 17 August, in Missoula precincts where there are no shortage of eyeballs. Like all promoters, reports the Missoulian, she knows how to put a good spin on a dubious project:

The ride isn’t about nudity, per se, Maddux said, adding she isn’t a nudist but is comfortable with her body and has ridden in a similar annual ride held in Portland, Oregon, several times.

People really are afraid of being naked, she said. “But with that, that’s the exact point.”

The ride is about courage, people being themselves and stripping away conceptions based on appearances, Maddux said.

“It’s not about sex. It’s about authenticity,” she said.

That explanation is authentic jive. Believe it and you ’ll believe anything. Of course the ride involves sex. That’s why riders will expose parts of their skins best bared in the privacy of their bedrooms.

There ought to be a song to commemorate such an event — and thanks to Ray Stevens, there is.


29 July 2014

Democratic doofus flips off GOP tracker

Shot by a GOP tracker at a gathering for John Walsh in Helena on Saturday, 26 July. The flipper’s name appears to be Chuck Butler. This kind of sophomoric gesture, however soul satisfying it was for Mr. Middle Finger, does nothing to help John Walsh.

lass="update">Update. A source who knows for sure confirms it is Chuck Butler:

Chuck worked for Judy Martz and has normally been a Republican. He is involved with [a] health co-op that is after some federal help. Probably accounts for his battlefield conversion to a Democrat.

…see the still images


28 July 2014

Monday wrap-up

Flathead Memo’s blogroll now links to Greg Strandberg’s 2014 Montana Election Blog. Strandberg, a young University of Montana graduate who spent five years teaching English in China, ran in the 2014 Democratic primary in House District 98, losing to Democratic warhorse Willis Curdy. Strandberg frequently comments on Montana’s progressive blogs, so it’s good he’s writing his own blog. Pay him a visit, see what you think.

The U.S. Army’s war college has a student handbook and a 158-page Communicative Arts Directive that address plagiarism and proper citation practices for papers written by the war college’s students. The handbook and CAD in effect during John Walsh’s tenure at the war college may have differed slightly from these more recent versions, but probably not significantly.


The tragedy of John Walsh


Imagine picking up your morning newspaper. Above the fold you see a huge photograph of your father, the mayor, in the village square at high noon — with his pants down. It’s a coffee spitting moment. Unless he’s sunning his flagpole at gunpoint, there’s no defense for his behavior. You’re stunned, aghast, mortified, tempted to get blotto in record time.

Questions abound. Was this his first exhibition? Was he arrested? Fundamentally he’s a good man, honest and hard working — but can he still do his job? Will voters still support him? Should he resign as mayor?

While you’re still reeling, your sister, not quite in full panic mode, calls. “My god, my god, my god. What should he do? What should we do? Is there anything we can do?”

That’s the predicament in which Montana’s voters find themselves with Sen. John Walsh following the New York Times’ report that he submitted a heavily plagiarized, 24-page Strategy Research Project paper, [The] Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy, to the Army’s war college in partial fulfillment of his Master of Strategic Studies degree. The NYT’s report is devastating, powerfully convincing. It sure looks like he’s guilty as hell.

…read the rest


27 July 2014

John Lewis needs to raise more money & make more noise — pronto


John Lewis is behind Ryan Zinke in the polls, and behind both Zinke and Nancy Keenan, the Democratic candidate in 2000, in raising money. Lewis does have more money in the bank than Zinke ($622k to $97k), who spent every dollar to win the primary, but that advantage won’t last long. Zinke’s an accomplished fundraiser.

Both, but Lewis especially, are raising less money than Nancy Keenan and Dennis Rehberg did in 2000. In the graph below, the totals for Lewis and Zinke are through the second quarter of 2014. The totals for Keenan and Rehberg are for their full campaigns.

In addition to raising more money, Lewis needs to make himself a lot more visible and audible; sun bright and fortissimo. And pronto — because there’s not much time left. Early and absentee balloting begins just ten weeks from now, on 6 October.



26 July 2014

New Flathead Memo comment policy

Most blogs allow readers to post comments automatically, and to write under pen names instead of their real names. Anonymous commenting is the scourge of the internet — it brings out the worst in people, and it also brings out the worst people — so Flathead Memo’s commenting policy always has been the electronic analog of standard newspaper letters-to-the-editor policy: provide your real name, and enough information that I can verify who you are. Readers don’t like that, so sometimes a year has passed without a single comment. But Flathead Memo’s readership continues to increase.

…read the rest


25 July 2014

How Bernard DeVoto shot down the granddaddy of land grabs

Bernard DeVoto

Updated. Attempted grabs of federal land are nothing new.

Before the current attempt of Montana State Senator Jennifer Fielder and her tea party buddies to transfer federal lands to the states, there was the failed James Watt led Sagebrush Rebellion of the Reagan years.

Before the Sagebrush Rebellion, there was the granddaddy of all attempted land grabs, the stockgrowers led attempt in the late 1940s and early 1950s to convert the public domain to private ownership by first delivering it to the states.

And before the stockgrowers and their allies could get away with grabbing the federal lands — our lands — historian and magazine journalist Bernard DeVoto shot down their scheme with a series of devastating exposés in Harpers, where he wrote the Easy Chair, beginning with the classic and enduring The West Against Itself.

As DeVoto’s biographer, Wallace Stegner, tells the story in The Uneasy Chair, DeVoto was in Boise, Idaho, near the end of a long western trip, when his friend in the U.S. Forest Service’s regional office, Chet Olson, tracked him down.

…read the rest


24 July 2014

Human Events poll — bad news for Lewis

Republican Ryan Zinke leads Democrat John Lewis by 12 points in the election for the U.S. House according to a poll conducted by Gravis Marketing for the conservative magazine, Human Events. Eleven percent were undecided, while six percent prefered Libertarian Mike Fellows.

In the race for the U.S. Senate, Republican Steve Daines led Democrat John Walsh by four points, with seven percent undecided and six percent preferring Libertarian Roger Roots. Gravis conducted the poll before the New York Times reported that Walsh plagiarized large parts of a paper he submitted to the war college, so the new numbers should be taken with a ton of salt.


Lewis needs to start making more noise. A lot more noise. And pronto.

Gravis sampled 741 registered voters and reports a margin of error of four percent. My calculations indicate a 3.6 percent MOE. Below, the current version of Flathead Memo’s graph of Walsh v. Daines.


John Walsh is not quite yet a dead man walking

Montana Democrats who read yesterday’s New York Times story on John Walsh’s plagiarized war college paper probably have ghastly hangovers this morning. And rightly so: the revelation did not improve Walsh’s chances of winning the election. Still, it’s too early to pronounce him a dead man walking and run away from his campaign. Something might happen that offsets this setback.

I’ll probably provide some analysis over the weekend or early next week. Meantime, at Intelligent Discontent, Don Pogreba, who teaches English and knows a thing or two about proper citations and boneheaded students, tries to put Walsh’s plagiarism in political context. At the Copper Commando, the new blog by Young Gun Republicans, the commentary is less kind to Walsh, (and Pogreba).



23 July 2014


John Walsh and the case of the missing citations

Update. Walsh’s campaign says the document at issue was a paper, not a masters thesis. I have corrected this post accordingly.

The New York Times reporting that Walsh omitted numerous citations in a war college paper he wrote, and presents evidence that will be hard to refute. According to the Times, Walsh was 46 years old when he wrote his thesis 14-page paper, so he can't plead it was a youthful indiscretion that should be ignored. Montanans should withhold judgment until Walsh explains himself, which had better be pretty damned soon. And his explanation had better be pretty damned convincing.

Moreover, if the Times is right, Steve Bullock will have to explain why he didn’t do a better job of vetting Walsh.

Update, 2138 MDT. Walsh made himself available to the news media this afternoon, so stories on his situation are being published. There’s one in the Flathead Beacon, and there’ll be others. As an editor, I take a mighty dim view of plagiarism and sloppy attribution. I also take a dim view of rushing to judgment. I’m going wait until the weekend to provide analysis. In the meantime, I urge Democrats not to give up on Walsh. He’s politically wounded, but he’s not dead.


4and20blackbirds evicted from Flathead Memo’s blogroll

Well, I’ve had it with 4and20blackbirds. It used to be Missoula’s best blog, and one of Montana’s best. But the people who made it the best are no longer blogging on a regular basis — maybe not even blogging on an irregular basis — and the prime replacement, William Skink, who writes under the nom de plume Lizard, while prolific, and passionate about his beliefs, doesn’t begin to fill their shoes.

For me, the last straw is the set of posts and comments on the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over the separatist held Ukrainian areas that abut Russia. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Boeing 777 was brought down by a surface-to-air missile, very little to no reasonable doubt that the launch button was pushed by the separatists, possible with Russian help, and every reason to believe that the shootdown was an accident (but still a war crime).

Lizard and JC disagree, which is their right — and a right that I’ll defend. But their arguments verge on hysteria. They don’t trust the mainstream media, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, or the Guardian. They seem to see a conspiracy behind every sunflower. They hate the United States and its government with a black bile that corrodes their judgment. Today, for example, JC actually tried to link Secretary of State John Kerry to paramilitary forces near Donetsk:

…read the rest

Montana Supreme Court got it right in Cross v. VanDyke

Yesterday, Montana’s supreme court ruled 4-3 that Lawrence J.C. VanDyke meets the constitutional requirements for serving on the state’s supreme court. He’ll be on the general election ballot in November. His opponent is current justice Mike Wheat.

Vandyke was admitted to Montana’s law bar in 2005, but took inactive status (probably to save money in dues and fees) while he practiced law out-of-state. In 2012, he was returned to active practice in Montana. That, a district court concluded, meant he didn’t meet constitutional requirements for serving on the state’s supreme court. Overturning the district court, the supreme court ruled that VanDyke’s taking inactive status did not vitiate his admission to the bar, which the four-justice majority believes is functionally indistinguishable from the practice of law.

After reading Justice Beth Baker’s not all that distinguished opinion, I reluctantly concluded the court decided the case correctly. Montana’s constitution requires that candidates for attorney general must be actively engaged in the practice of law in Montana for at least five years, but does not impose that requirement on candidates for the supreme court. The fault is with the 1972 constitution:

…read the rest


22 July 2014

Good reads on four other Montana blogs today

Montana Cowgirl has an astute analysis of the impact of today’s federal appeals court decision on the Affordable Care Act. The Fourth Circuit upheld the ACA, but a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit ruled that premium subsidies for polices purchased through the federal exchange were illegal.

Montana is in the Ninth Circuit, so neither decision affects Montanans who obtained health insurance through the federal exchange. At least not yet. If an en banc hearing by the D.C. Circuit upholds today’s ruling, the issue goes to the Supreme Court where good things might not happen.

…read the rest


21 July 2014

Walsh gains on Daines in latest PPP poll

If a new poll from Public Policy Polling is correct, the gap between Steve Daines and John Walsh has closed from 18 to 7 percentage points in the last month. Daines has lost 7 points and Walsh has gained 4 points. Libertarian Mike Fellows was not included in the poll.

Below, a graph of the last five public polls on this contest. Although the latest PPP poll is the first with (barely) overlapping error bars, curb your enthusiasm if you're a Democrat. The probability that Daines is leading is 95 percent. A second caveat: we don't know yet whether this poll is an outlier. A third: Walsh is still below 40 percent.

Still, the election appears to be narrowing. That will help Walsh raise more money, and should improve the morale of his campaign and Democrats.


Steve Daines and the art of 30-second swiftboating

Montana’s U.S. Senate and House campaigns are being largely fought by 30-second television commercials. Some money is being spent on direct mail and other ink and paper media, but most of the money spent by the candidates and third party propagandists pays for television advertising.

I wish it were not so. TV ads are aimed at the heart, not the head. Mostly they use sound, motion, and a few words to hammer home one idea, or half-idea, that causes the viewer to feel good about the candidate or bad about the candidate’s opponent. Unless one video records the commercial spot for playback and study, one’s exposure to the content is fleeting (only radio spots are worse in that regard). And frankly, how many television viewers who are not political junkies record and study political spots?

Fortunately, Mike Dennison of the Lee State Bureau writes reviews of political ads that are published in the Billings Gazette and sometimes other newspapers. Great Falls blogger Mike Brown, a former Republican political operative, critiques ads at The Western Word. Today, Brown looks at Steve Daines’ latest ad, Injustice. And at Intelligent Discontent, Don Pogreba often comments on TV ads.

…read the rest


20 July 2014

Steve Daines, Pat Toomey, and “More jobs, less government”

Daines’ sign aboard the Sykes truck in the 2014 Independence Day parade in Kalispell

In early April, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and two equally progressive colleagues blocked Sen. John Walsh’s bill to protect the North Fork of the Flathead. A close to identical bill by Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT) had passed the House a month earlier.

One might suppose Daines did not appreciate the Toomey Trio’s maneuver. If so, forgiveness came quickly. Near the end of June, Steve Daines held a fundraiser with Toomey in Washington, D.C. The mother’s milk of politics heals many wounds.

Money, reports a friend who did some digging, probably wasn’t the only thing Daines got from Toomey. He also adopted Toomey’s campaign slogan from 2010. Here’s the rest of what he unearthed:

…read the rest


19 July 2014

Flight 17 and the fogs of war and speculation

Blogger’s note. There’s a discussion on Flight 17 at Missoula’s 4and20blackbirds blog, where there’s not a lot of love for, or trust in, the United States. Or Israel. And navigation is one of my prime interests. Ergo, an excursion beyond the Flathead and Montana.

At the New York Times today, James Fallows, writer for The Atlantic, former aide to President Carter, and pilot, defends Malaysia Airlines’ decision not to emulate Air France and give wide berth to Ukraine’s war zone. Fallows’ is a legalistic defense that, as I noted in the comments, doesn’t cut the mustard all that well as common sense.

…read the rest, see the map

Unhealthy air in the Flathead

I’ve added two air quality links (under weather) to the blogroll at left. One takes you to hourly data for particulate concentrations in the Flathead, the other to Montana’s extensive wildfire and smoke report.

As of 0800 today (the report lags real time by an hour or two), the concentration of fine particulates (≤ 2.5 microns) was approximately 60 micrograms per cubic meter, which translates as “Unhealthy” in all three durational averaging categories. If you live in the Flathead, you know that already as visibility is down to five miles (visibility and health effects breakpoints).

The hourly data page provides links to the data pages for yesterday and previous days. There’s probably a link somewhere for all the data, but as yet I haven’t found it. I have, however, put the Flathead data for the last week into an Excel spreadsheet that you can download.



18 July 2014

Before the smoke really rolled in

Sunsets are why I enjoy walking late in the day, and why I always carry a camera (in this case, a very small camera). This is west of Kalispell.


17 July 2014

Whitefish, the planning doughnut, and eternal conflict

After reading, and rereading, the Montana Supreme Court’s decision in the Whitefish planning doughnut case (Phillips v Whitefish), I think the logic of Chief Justice McGrath’s dissent is more compelling than the logic of Justice Rice’s decision. I also think the justices in the majority were looking for, and found, a way to uphold the county in order to uphold a principle of county supremacy.

It’s a tough loss for Whitefish, Ed McGrew, Dan Weinberg, and their fellow critics of county planning, zoning, and enforcement. These are good people, community leaders, and I hope for Whitefish’s sake they stay involved in land use planning issues.

These conflicts will continue, and not just in Whitefish. I live in a 40-year-old subdivision west of Kalispell. When I moved here, the city limit was a mile to the east. Now it’s 500 feet to the north, and the change is abrupt. No sidewalks or curbs run along my street. No streetlights pollute the night sky. But in the now close-by city, there are curbs, sidewalks, and streetlights, and the houses are connected to city sewer and water. At some point, my neighbors and I expect Kalispell to behave like Putin and try to annex our area against our will.

From an urban planning standpoint, doughnuts — extraterritorial jurisdiction — make sense because they make annexation easier — easier for both the city and the annexed. People willing to exchange liberty for the security of city services and authority support planning doughnuts. People who value liberty more than sidewalks, streetlights, city utilities, and higher taxes, oppose planning doughnuts. There is no middle ground, and there will be no middle ground. Boundaries will change, but as long as there are both cities and counties, the conflict will endure.



16 July 2014

Whitefish wants to win basketball games too much

Coaching the Whitefish High School basketball team pays $5,000 a year. That’s extra money for a retiree, but not a living wage for a man still in his working years.

If a young coach is not employed full time — full time teaching at the school where he coaches is my preference — he must, if married, depend on his wife’s income, be independently wealthy, or begin drawing down his savings as he travels a one way road to poverty.

A responsible school district does not put a man in that position. But the Whitefish school district, which just hired Phoenix, AZ, resident Curtis Green as its boys basketball coach, does:

… read the rest

Are younger Democrats becoming less progressive?

Thomas Edsall’s The Coming Democratic Schism is today’s must read for Democrats — especially for older Democrats, who may want to pop an extra Prozac to fortify themselves for the experience.

Young Democrats, reports Edsall, have a strong libertarian streak and, compared to older Democrats, far less confidence that government can, or should, do more to mitigate suffering and deliver social and economic justice.

Here are a few examples:

…read the rest


15 July 2014

Daines has many more fistfuls of dollars than Walsh

Campaign finance reports for the second quarter for Montana’s two federal elections are beginning to trickle down from the campaigns along with attempts to spin less than glorious numbers. At this point, the campaigns are the source of information because the Federal Election Commission's reports end at 14 May 2014.

The best spin came out of John Walsh's campaign, which fell another $150,000 behind Steve Daines:

Take a look at the Q2 fundraising numbers Daines released this afternoon: just $1.4 million. Daines had a money advantage even before Walsh announced, left over from his Congressional campaign and has tapped into a GOP network eager to flip the Senate.

Still, John Walsh kept pace. He bested beltway expectations and brought in $1.25 million.

Falling another $150,000 behind is not keeping pace. It’s not fatal, but it’s not good. Much more important, Daines reported $1.7 million in the bank at the end of the quarter, while Walsh had just $0.7 million. That disparity puts Walsh in a very difficult position. He’ll need to maintain a brutal schedule in August begging for votes and dialing for dollars to improve his situation.

I’ll address independent expenditures in another post.

The cash on hand situation is reversed in the contest for the U.S. House, with Democrat John Lewis reporting $623,000 in the bank, six times the working cash of Republican Ryan Zinke, who KRTV reports has less than $100,000 in the bank.

Zinke knows how to raise money. He’ll make up that difference pretty quickly.

Lewis needs to keep raising money. His $500,000 advantage is temporary. Still, he’s in the best position to win of any Democrat who has sought that seat since Pat Williams retired.



14 July 2014

Should we boycott Walgreen?

We’ll know shortly, probably in early August. Now headquartered in Illinois, Walgreen is considering merging with an European firm and changing its corporate headquarters to Switzerland, thereby lowering its tax bill in the United States by billions. It’s a maneuver known as “inversion”. Montana Cowgirl has additional information.

According to the New York Times:

In Walgreen’s case, an inversion would be an affront to United States taxpayers. The company, which also owns the Duane Reade chain in New York, reaps almost a quarter of its $72 billion in revenue directly from the government; it received $16.7 billion from Medicare and Medicaid last year.

If Walgreen inverts, it will be legal. But it shouldn’t be.


13 July 2014

The Flathead’s in the Border Patrol’s “Papers, please” zone

Two of every three Americans live within 100 miles of our international borders, land and coastal. In Montana the 100-mile zone extends from the Canadian border south to 47.55° North Latitude, as displayed on these maps:


…read the rest


12 July 2014

Was Dubya too liberal (and green) for Shutdown Steve?


It seems so. Two days ago, Rep. Steve Daines voted for Rep. Michael Burgess’ light bulb amendment to the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (HR-4923). A favorite with tea party Republicans, Burgess’ amendment prohibits the Energy Department from enforcing energy efficiency standards for light bulbs — standards that President George W. Bush signed into law in 2007.

Burgess argues that the marketplace, not government, should set energy efficiency standards. He also believes Americans have a right to buy any kind of light bulb they want; even bulbs that are energy hogs; even bulbs that are dangerous. For Burgess, and for Shutdown Steve, it’s an issue of personal liberty that transcends society’s interest in greater energy efficiency and the environmental benefits thereof. Besides, they argue, energy efficient light isn’t as eye-pleasing as good old incandescent light:

…read the rest


11 July 2014

Welcome Montana Floodlight and Copper Commando

You’ll find two more links in the On the Right section of Flathead Memo’s blogroll: and Both are new, both are anonymous, both appear to be the work of the Responsible Republican wing of Montana’s Republican Party. It’s possibly a bit unfair to group them with the likes of Ed Berry’s, but at this point they fit there better than anywhere else.

There are not many good political blogs in Montana that publish frequently, which for me means at least once a week, and even fewer good conservative political blogs that publish frequently. Most conservative blogs in Montana fade away after a few months, so here’s hoping that MontanaFloodlight and CopperCommando have more staying power. In any event, we welcome them to the web.

…read the rest


10 July 2014

Mr. President, you should have visited the border

President Obama needs a vacation — and a heart. In Texas yesterday to begin a “…two-day visit to the state for Democratic fundraising and an economic event,” he refused to visit the border with Mexico to view firsthand the humanitarian crisis of thousands Central American children seeking refuge in the United States, and most important, to meet with the refugees. He said, reports the Washington Post, he was…

…“not interested in photo ops” and challenging Congress to give him new authority to respond to the situation.

“Nothing has taken place down there that I’m not intimately aware of,” Obama said during a hastily arranged news conference….

And he doesn’t want to be photographed in the company of desperate brown children, some here illegally, and thus call attention to their plight and our responsibility to address it in a manner more humane than herding the little refugees into a bus bound for whence they came.

… read the rest

Music for Obama

Here are Joan Baez and Jackson Browne performing Los Companeros (also known as El Salvador) in the Ventura theatre in 1989.


9 July 2014

Oil train derailment evacuation zones for Whitefish

Forest Ethics has a new website, Oil Train Blast Zone, with an interactive map displaying the evacuation zones for a derailed oil train, and an oil train that’s on fire (a burning train could still be on the tracks). Here’s a screenshot for Whitefish.


I do not, incidentally, fully agree with this statement by OTBZ:

We do not need the extreme oil transported by these trains. The crude oil carried by train is more explosive and more toxic than conventional crude oil; it is also more carbon intensive.

There are many types of crude oil. The sweet light crude from the Bakken oilfields that passes through Whitefish is more volatile, and thus more easily ignited, than heavier crudes. But the heavy crudes from the Athabasca Tar Sands probably have a greater carbon impact because of the fossil fuel consumed to dig it out of the ground and steam it into a transportable liquid.


John Lewis would eliminate Congressional pensions. He’s wrong.


Yesterday, Democratic U.S. House candidate John Lewis released a five-point plan (PDF) to clean up Congress (and win votes in Montana). Among them, an ill-advised attack on Congressional pay and pensions:


Members of Congress voted themselves better pension benefits the majority of the people they represent. If elected, Lewis will support legislation to eliminate the Congressional pension program. Since 2001, members of Congress have voted themselves seven pay increases. Yet, in the last three decades, most Americans have not seen a significant increase in earnings. In the face of a $17 trillion federal debt, it’s time for Congress to do its part by enacting an immediate 10 percent pay cut and ending gold-plated pensions.

Congressional pensions are prophylactics against corruption. Eliminating them would do nothing to improve pensions for the rest of us — but would create every incentive for a Congressman to legislate in a way that ensures a lucrative post Congressional career with a deep-pocketed entity that benefited from his votes in Congress.

Lewis harms rather than helps with this pandering to popular contempt for Congress. In my judgment, his C.L.E.A.N. Platform verges on demagoguery and throws punches at straw men.

Montana’s voters want to know what Lewis will do in Congress that helps them, not what he will do to Congress.



8 July 2014

Why a top two primary appeals to Montana’s GOP establishment


All wings of Montana’s Republican Party share two beliefs/grievances:

  1. Libertarian candidates sometimes draw enough votes from Republican candidates in the general election that Democrats win by pluralities. As I reported yesterday, that’s happened four times in 26 statewide elections since 2004.

  2. Democratic crossover votes are polluting the Republican Primary, sometimes changing the outcome. That happens, but my research suggests the outcome is rarely changed.

But Republicans disagree on the remedies.

…read the rest


7 July 2014

The electoral facts & the MT GOP’s “We wuz robbed!” belief

Montana’s Republican establishment believes that Libertarian candidates in effect threw the 2006 U.S. Senate, and the 2012 U.S. Senate and MT gubernatorial, elections to Democrats Jon Tester and Steve Bullock, who won by narrow pluralities. Had Libertarians not been on the ballot, goes this line of thought, Libertarian voters would have marked their ballots for Republicans, who would have won.

Republicans believe this beyond a moral certainty. It’s become an article of faith, a truth, handed down by Divine Providence, not subject to dispute. The Republican mantra: “We wuz robbed!”

But were they robbed? Would those who voted for Libertarians all have voted for Republicans if Libertarians had not been on the ballot? It’s possible, but not easy to prove.

…read the rest

After closing time at the Flathead County Library


I know, I know. The name was changed to ImagineIf Libraries. But I prefer a name with a place, so to me the Flathead County Library always will be the Flathead County Library.


6 July 2014

Why Ronalee Skees & Tammi Fisher lost Republican primaries

A month ago, Rep. Mark Blasdel won the Republican primary for Senate District 4 (Kalispell), defeating former Kalispell mayor Tammi Fisher by a two-to-one margin despite a Democratic crossover vote for Fisher, by far the least conservative of the two. Yet in House District 7 (old downtown Kalispell), Frank Garner handily defeated the much more conservative Ronalee Skees, not needing the Democratic crossover votes he received.

What happened?

…read the rest


5 July 2014

Kalispell’a 2014 Independence Day Parade

It was a long parade, with many colorful entries. My colleague shot 56 minutes of HD video. I shot over 750 unique still images, a few of which are below.

As usual, there were no marching bands. Neither Flathead nor Glacier High School thinks celebrating Independence Day is an event important enough to deign provide a band playing patriotic music. Fortunately, the Flathead Democrats provided a trio that played Yankee Doodle. Strange, isn’t it, that Democrats support public education, but public schools don’t support Independence Day. Given how hard passing levies has become, one would think the schools would take every opportunity to show as much community spirit as possible. Instead, their contribution to Kalispell’s Independence Day parade is silence.


Under a blue marble sky, spectators wait for the parade to begin.

…see the rest


4–7 July 2014

Flathead Memo lightning break

Lightning off my porch on 18 July 2007.

I’ll be posting sporadically at best through Monday. A heavy thunderstorm crashed through a couple of hours after dawn on 3 July, taking out an external USB hub and my DSL modem. A reset restored the hub, but so far the DSL modem refuses to respond to similar therapy, so I’m condemned to publicly available resources such as the wifi at Flathead County Library (aka ImagineIf Libraries). That limits my ability to upload new posts, conduct research online, and use email.

My computer was not damaged by what I believe was a surge rather than an outage. Along with my monitors, external drives, and printers, my computer is well protected by a 650 VA APC uninterruptible power supply that also provides solid surge protection. It’s an expensive UPS — and it just paid for itself many times over.

Enjoy the holiday. I’ll return to a full posting schedule next week.


3 July 2014

Red sky at morning


The view from my front lawn at 0530 this morning. The distant peaks are in Glacier National Park. The tip of Mount Reynolds is visible above the right shoulder a closer peak.

Literacy and unbalanced educators

At today’s New York Times, there’s a Room for Debate discussion on something called “balanced literacy.” Apparently it involves forcing students to work in groups, an educational enthusiasm embraced by the crowd that believes it’s more important that children work together in ways that make educators smile than master the material they’re supposed to be studying.

But I sought a clear definition of “balanced literacy,” so I consulted the Wikipedia, where I learned that:

Balanced literacy is a curricular methodology that integrates various modalities of literacy instruction. Assessment-based planning is at the core of this model. The balanced literacy approach is characterized by explicit skill instruction and the use of authentic texts. Through various modalities, the teacher implements a well-planned comprehensive literacy program that reflects a gradual release of control, whereby responsibility is gradually shifted from the teacher to the students.

Huh? There is little connection between literacy and paragraphs like that. Nevertheless, that definition of “balanced literacy” does, in its clumsy way, suggest that “balanced literacy” does indeed force students, who are by definition ignorant, into groups where they are expected to replace their teachers as the experts in the subjects they’re supposed to be studying.

No wonder so many parents and teachers opposed standardized testing. They’re afraid that good standardized tests would expose “balanced literacy” as a fraud.



2 July 2014

West Glacier real estate, investigation of trappers, sunshine on TV ads

It’s the hottest day of the year so far, and it’s bringing some of the hottest news. Below, links to stories on an important real estate sale at West Glacier, possible campaign finance irregularities by pro-trapping organizations, and a new sunshine requirement for political ads on television.

Extremely valuable West Glacier real estate changes hands

Vince Devlin at the Missoulian has the story. The Lundgren family sold its real estate holdings at West Glacier to the Viad corporation of Phoenix, AZ. A press release at Viad confirms the sale.

Compared to many gateway to National Parks communities, West Glacier is a sleepy, not terribly tacky, little town. That may change. Viad did not purchase hundreds of acres of real estate to preserve West Glacier’s current ambience. And it’s not likely that the kind of development Viad undertakes will cater to low-rolling tourists or be all that light on the land.

Pro-trapping organizations under investigation

Trapping is a traditional activity in Montana. It’s also a dirty, nasty, cruel, and unnecessary activity that ought to be banned. And now, reports Montana Cowgirl this morning, two of the major pro-trapping organizations are being investigated for alleged violations of campaign finance laws:

In fact, the two pro-trapping organizations are now under investigation for alleged multiple violations of campaign finance and financial reporting. According to a complaint filed with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, the trappers held a big auction to raise money they said would be used to oppose the trapping ban. Yet a review of the organizations’ filings with OPP shows that they never reported the $25,000 in profits they claimed to have earned from the auction–in any of their PAC or incidental committee reports.

Then there are these photos, which appear to show MT Trappers Association Vice President Jason Maxwell using a FWP trailer and booth to display its materials and banner–their banner opposing the trapping ban initiative I-169. If this turns out to be the case, this would be is a violation of state ethics and political activity laws, because state agencies and public funds/resources are not allowed to campaign to support or oppose ballot initiatives.

There’s more, and none of it is good.

TV Contracts for political ad are supposed to be online

Cowgirl also reports that beginning yesterday, television stations are supposed to post online all contracts for political advertising. There’s some compliance, but it’s spotty. The contracts reveal who pays for the ads and how much they cost.

Smart voters hit the mute button when a political ad appears and avert their eyes until the ad ends. They get their information about candidates elsewhere. Unfortunately, not all voters are smart.



1 July 2014

Walsh criticizes Hobby Lobby decision, but holds some fire


After the Hobby Lobby decision (PDF) was handed down, Democratic Sen. John Walsh issued a short statement, from which the following is excerpted:

…employers have no right to deny women basic health coverage for birth control, and noted that Congressman Steve Daines’ aggressive anti-choice policies are an even greater threat to women’s health care:

Today’s ruling means women could pay hundreds of dollars more per month because their bosses get to determine the type of health care they receive. The decision echoes a disturbing effort by Montana’s Congressman to deny women everywhere their fundamental freedom to private health care. Congressman Daines would go even farther and outlaw common forms of birth control for all women. We cannot allow Washington to infringe upon the right to make private health choices.

I agree with Walsh as far as he went, but he could have gone a lot farther. As Talking Points Memo’s Sahil Kapur reports this morning, Hobby Lobby could affect millions:

…read the rest