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

Archives index, 16–31 December 2015


31 December 2015

Thanks, and a few local notes

Thanks to Flathead Memo’s sources, tipsters, readers, and the individuals who took the time to provide feedback. You helped make this a better blog. I look forward to hearing from you, and working with you, in 2016.

Will lieutenant governor designee Cooney be Teflon Mike? I think that’s likely. He earned his reputation of being one of the nicest people in politics by being just that. Nevertheless, Republicans will try to tear him down. A long discredited accusation that he used government equipment to run his campaigns surfaced on Twitter soon after his being tapped was announced. And because he’s a lifelong public servant, he’ll be accused of never having held a real job.

Flathead taxpayers successfully protest new 911 tax district. No one should be surprised. Our county commission, sheriff, and 911 overlords, handled this just about as poorly as was possible. They started with a bad idea, a capitation tax for residential property owners. Then, after their bad idea was voted down in 2014, they sought to bypass the voters and establish the tax district by fiat. That won’t be forgotten by the voters in 2016.

Part of the problem is the irresponsible way government finances public buildings. In the world of private business and individual home ownership, the costs of buying or building a structure and operating it are considered at the same time. But government takes a different approach. When that Cold War structure off Stillwater Road was built, the bond issue paid for the bricks, but not for future operating expenses. Now it’s clear that from the gitgo the operating principle for the people behind the center was “If we build it, the taxpayers will be forced to pay later to operate it.” Taxpayers seldom take kindly to be manipulated that way.

A tax revolt could be brewing in Flathead County. School District 5 wants new schools and levies. The sheriff wants a new jail. The Flathead County Library (AKA ImagineIF Libraries) wants a new building. The 911 directors want a dedicated source of operating funds. Each project may seem affordable when viewed in isolation, but add them up and the total can be staggering and unaffordable.

Instead of building new schools, let’s operate existing schools all year long. The current school year is an artifact of the era when children were needed down on the farm during the growing season. Let’s fully utilize the classroom space we have now instead of building more classrooms that will sit empty for months.

Incandescent lighting finally retired at Flathead Memo. The last incandescent light bulb in my home, a 52-watt wimplight, was taken out of service yesterday, replaced with a 10-watt (measured) LED bulb that allegedly emits 800 lumens. This completes a years long project during which I was transformed from a risk taking early adopter of innovative lighting technology to a cautious, risk averse, late adopter. Along the way I learned some things I’ll share with you next year.



30 December 2015

Bullock taps Cooney for Lieutenant Governor

Gov. Steve Bullock’s new lieutenant governor will be Mike Cooney, former Montana Secretary of State and state legislator. It’s a smart choice, and not entirely a surprise. There may be a few disgruntled Democrats who thought Bullock was obligated to replace a woman with another woman, but most Democrats will applaud Bullock’s choice, heave a sigh of relief, and really mean it when they whoop Happy New Year! at midnight tomorrow.

Bullock’s campaign website already bears Cooney’s name. He may have amended his C-1 to include Cooney’s name, but if so it has yet to be placed online by Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices.

According to the Missoulian, Montana’s Secretary of State has not yet received Angela McLean’s resignation (it’s expected tomorrow), so she’s still lieutenant governor — and at least in theory could become governor if Bullock slips on a banana peel and expires before her resignation becomes effective. Were that to happen, would she appoint Cooney lieutenant governor and resign as governor to honor Bullock’s wishes?


Net metering in Montana, independent voters in New Hampshire

More information on net metering in Montana is now available. The legislature’s interim committee on energy and telecommunications is studying net metering in Montana, and may draft model legislation for the 2017 legislative session. Earlier this year, the committee sent a questionnaire to Montana’s electric utilities. The completed questionnaires are available on the committee’s website.

Now the committee, which will meet in Helena on 15 January (agenda, PDF), has posted (see SJ-12 materials) its staff’s analysis of the questionnaires as well as comments by the Public Service Commission and others. These are must reads for people interested in community solar and net metered rooftop solar.

Electric utility lobbyists will swarm the interim committee and its members, so it’s essential that proponents of wind, community and rooftop solar, and net metering, keep themselves fully informed and relentlessly birddog the committee, its members, and all those lobbyists and their employers.

So-called independent voters and New Hampshire. There are few, perhaps one out of ten, truly independent voters — voters without any partisan leanings — and they tend to be low information voters who don’t always vote. But self-identified independents comprise a third or so of the electorate. Most self-identified independents actually are closet partisans, often weak partisans, who for various reasons want to keep their partisan leanings secret.

In New Hampshire, self-identified independents, formally known as undeclared voters, and who number 40 percent of registered voters, can vote in the primary of their choice. This morning’s New York Times reports that de facto crossover voting in the granite state could affect the fortunes of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. If Democratic leaning undeclareds take Republican ballots to vote against Trump, Hillary Clinton could benefit. But so far there’s no evidence that an organized crossover campaign exists.

The large number of undeclared voters is why the Democratic National Committee’s cutting off the Sanders’ campaign’s access to the party’s voter files was such a big deal. Through phone calls and the analysis of other data, political parties and candidates have a pretty good idea which way the undeclared voters lean. That’s vital information for efficient get out the vote efforts, targeted issue communications, and begging for money fundraising.

Declaring oneself a political independent provides plausible deniability about partisan affiliation, but it doesn’t hide one’s partisan leanings from a sophisticated campaign.



29 December 2015

Blogroll additions and changes

I’ve added a new section on wind and solar (photovoltaics, primarily), and to the existing energy section added links to the Energy Star program and the California Energy Commission’s voluntary LED specification (PDF). These sections may be expanded, as energy may become a major issue in the 2016 election. In Montana, for example, net metering will be paid much attention, as will coal fired generation of electricity.

LtGov watch, scathing Star Wars review, old courthouse trees

Lieutenant governor watch. Angela McLean starts her new job in education on Monday, and may actually go on the payroll on Friday, New Year’s Day. Therefore, Gov. Steve Bullock probably will appoint his new lieutenant governor on Thursday, the last day of 2015. Whom will he appoint? I have no idea. But he’s down to his third strike, so he’d better smack at least a clean single to the outfield.

Neither Bullock nor his aides should suppose that announcing his appointment on New Year’s Eve will lessen news media scrutiny of his choice. Reporters will take a couple of days to toast the New Year and recover from their toasts, then they’ll start asking questions, a lot of questions. So will Republican opposition researchers, perhaps even the same folks who unearthed John Walsh’s academic indiscretion.

I wish both Bullock and McLean well. May their new year be happier than 2015.

New Star Wars movie: box office hit, artistic bust. Maybe even a ripoff. Here’s an excerpt from Michael Hiltzik’s review, Admit it: ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ stinks — and here’s why, at the LA Times:

It was said of George Lucas that he originally envisioned “Star Wars” as the first of a trilogy, which became reimagined as a series of three trilogies, and ended with two. Now we’re at seven films, and anyone who thinks “Star Wars” will end at nine features doesn’t know their Disney. The company, you see, is not really a movie studio, but an entertainment conglomerate. For Disney, “Star Wars” will be the gift that keeps giving. You, the consumer, are the mark who keeps paying.

“Star Wars” sequels, prequels, and requels are destined to be part of moviemaking into the infinite future. One can envision Hollywood eventually turning out only two products: “Star Wars” movies and James Bond movies, each periodically “rebooted” for a new generation of customers by casting the latest new young stars in new costumes facing the same old perils and uttering the same old quips, with every other vestige of creative originality relegated to the void and forgotten.

Sanitation logging at the old Flathead County Courthouse. The tall evergreens flanking the old courthouse are top heavy, one is rotting, and both must come down to assure public safety, says Jed Fisher, director of the county’s parks. He has supporting evidence in the form of two reports — reports that the county commission should put online. He also has a certain amount of trepidation about sawing down the trees early one morning, given their iconic status, so he and the commissioners appear to be softening-up the public for the felling.

Presumably the old trees will be replaced with healthy new evergreens and not a pair of giant flagpoles or antenna towers.

Before the chainsaws start, the building and trees should be thoroughly documented photographically, and at least some of the photographs should be stored at the Flathead County Library and placed in the public domain. The height and volume of the trees also should be documented.



28 December 2015

Does Love Lives Here love a fair trial?

I’m beginning to have doubts that the Flathead’s leading human rights organization does. On 19 January, the trial of David Lenio, charged with malicious intimidation, begins (if a deal, still a possibility, isn’t cut first). A charge of criminal defamation was dismissed in September on constitutional grounds.

Yesterday, in a letter in the Flathead Beacon, three founders of LLH, good men and women all, argued that:

…David Lenio should be convicted of a felony so that he can no longer own or use firearms, will be evaluated by mental health professionals, and treated if he is diagnosed with mental illness.

Figuratively speaking, that assertion translates as “Let’s give him a fair trial and hang him.”

How can these community leaders be so convinced of his guilt without first hearing his defense? They are neither calling for a fair trial nor defending the principle of innocent until proven guilty. Instead, they’re lobbying for a conviction without waiting for the rest of the story.

I doubt LLH’s conduct will “taint” the jury (I take a dim view of the belief that potential jurors are so lame-brained that reading the news renders them incapable of arriving at a just verdict). But LLC’s crusade to convict Lenio may very well taint the organization’s reputation as an advocate for tolerance, fair mindedness, and civility.


The decline, and fall in enrollment, of the University of Montana

Something is rotten in Missoula: perhaps the community, perhaps the university, perhaps both. Enrollment at UMT is shrinking rapidly, while enrollment at Montana State University in Bozeman is growing. As displayed in this graph, it’s close to a zero-sum relationship:

…read the rest


26 December 2015

Bullock not constitutionally required to quickly appoint a new LtGov

Over at Logicosity, Edward Burrow noted on Christmas Eve that 24 days had elapsed since Angela McLean announced she was resigning as lieutenant governor, but there was still no new number two.

Montanans, a normally-patient lot, may soon begin asking, “Is it soup yet?”

The viewers of that wildly popular ad campaign in the early 1970’s, were left to wonder if soups that took longer to prepare had better ingredients than the goopy, canned stuff Campbell’s was peddling.

Burrow thinks Gov. Bullock may have selected McLean’s successor weeks ago.

The delay and silence in selecting a New 2 may be intentional, an attempt to convince observers there is some genius afoot, that Governor Bullock and others have been toiling to find just the right ingredients.

That may have happened before. Burrow provides a link proving that Bullock decided to tap John Walsh to the U.S. Senate long before he announced the appointment.

Two days before Burrow’s post, I wrote:

Expect Gov. Bullock to run out the clock on appointing a new lieutenant governor. Even if he’s already made his selection, and it’s possible he has, waiting until 31 December to announce the lucky person presents the image of great and careful deliberation and vetting, which will help some if this appointment also goes awry. It won’t be lost in the holiday news, as Montana’s reporters will be all over it as soon as they recover from their breaking in the New Year hangovers. As as a humanitarian gesture, it will give Angela McLean a paycheck through the end of the year.

Whether running out the clock is smart politically can be debated. What cannot be debated is that it’s constitutionally permissible. Section 6 of Article VI, The Executive, Vacency in Office, provides:

  1. If the office of lieutenant governor becomes vacant by his succession to the office of governor, or by his death, resignation, or disability as determined by law, the governor shall appoint a qualified person to serve in that office for the remainder of the term. If both the elected governor and the elected lieutenant governor become unable to serve in the office of governor, succession to the respective offices shall be as provided by law for the period until the next general election. Then, a governor and lieutenant governor shall be elected to fill the remainder of the original term.

  2. If the office of secretary of state, attorney general, auditor, or superintendent of public instruction becomes vacant by death, resignation, or disability as determined by law, the governor shall appoint a qualified person to serve in that office until the next general election and until a successor is elected and qualified. The person elected to fill a vacancy shall hold the office until the expiration of the term for which his predecessor was elected.

Although the governor must appoint someone to serve the remainder of the lieutenant governor’s term, there’s nothing in the constitution to prevent the governor from waiting to make the appointment on the last day of the term. Nor is there any penalty for not appointing a new lieutenant governor. Presumably a first term governor who fails to fill a lieutenant governor vacancy could be impeached during his second term, but as a practical matter I suspect the only deterrent is the prospect of unfavorable publicity during the governor’s re-election campaign. And if a second term governor failed to appoint a replacement lieutenant governor, he’d probably get away with it, suffering only a bit of bad publicity.

The authors of the 1972 constitution evidently expected the governor could be trusted to make an expeditious appointment. I would amend the constitution to require making the appointment within 30 days, with automatic removal of the governor from office as the penalty for not meeting the deadline.



Christmas, 2015



24 December 2015

Merry Christmas and Greetings of the Season

Snow is falling in Kalispell, but Santa keeps up with the times and navigates with GPS, so he won’t be late. Besides, he can ride the beams from the thousands of glowing lights that grace my neighborhood. Thank you for reading Flathead Memo. May you and your family have a Christmas filled with fellowship, joy, hope, and peace. — James Conner


A bad day for free speech at the Washington Post; and
Black Lives Matter mob mauls mall and airport in Minnesota

Washington Post helps Ted Cruz by censoring political cartoon. After GOP Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz put his wife and preteen daughters into a political video, the Post’s Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, Ann Teles, Tweeted a wicked drawing accusing Cruz of exploiting his children:


Cruz, in the spirit of overwrought mullahs denouncing images of The Prophet, summoned high dudgeon, demanding that the Post take down the cartoon. The Post complied, apologizing to Cruz, instead of defending free speech, which should be defended with extra vigor when some find the speech in question offensive (as did the Washington Monthly’s Ms. Politically Correct, Nancy LeTourneau).

The upshot? As the Post’s Callum Brochers observed, a win for Cruz:

The cartoon episode does two things for Cruz: One, it gives him a piece of evidence to pull out whenever he wants to argue that the loathsome “mainstream media” doesn’t treat him — or conservatives in general — fairly. At a rally in Tulsa on Wednesday, he did just that, telling a crowd of supporters that “if the media wants to attack and ridicule every Republican, well that’s what they’re gonna do. But leave our kids alone.” And he wasted little time before soliciting campaign contributions, hoping backers would channel their outrage through donations.

Two, the Post’s retraction makes the anti-establishment pushback of Cruz and his supporters seem effective. Remember, this is a candidate who was recently called a “maniac” by GOP front-runner Donald Trump because he has a penchant for tactics — he read “Green Eggs and Ham” to his daughters during a filibuster in 2013 — that ultimately change little and irritate many colleagues.

Setting the Trump-ish language aside, that is one of the knocks against Cruz: he’s full of principle but short on results. Having The Post yank the cartoon allows him to look like he gets results from those predisposed against his — and his supporters’ — worldview.

Black Lives Matter conducts mean-spirited action at Mall of America and Minneapolis airport. In what they alleged was an effort to call attention to 24-year-old Jamar Clark’s being shot dead by police, hundreds of BLM protesters converged on the huge Mall of America in Blooming, MN, causing 80 stores to be closed, then spread out to occupy light rail stations and interrupt traffic at the airport.

Thirteen protesters were arrested (I hope they spend the holidays in jail). Merchants lost the opportunity to make sales. Christmas shoppers were inconvenienced at best — their bags were searched by security staff — and denied the opportunity to purchase gifts at worst. Holiday travelers were delayed; some may have missed flights.

None of the law abiding citizens upon whom BLM visited rage and disrespect were in any way responsible for the death of Clark. Many undoubtedly took a dim view of that shooting, but now they’ll taken an even dimmer view of BLM.

So why did BLM do this? According to the Minneapolis StarTribune:

“We accomplished exactly what we came here to accomplish — we wanted to shut down the highway, shut down the airport and show solidarity with other Black Lives Matter groups,” said Michelle Barnes of Minneapolis, one of the protest organizers.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

In a statement, Black Lives Matter said the demonstration at the airport was to protest Islamophobia and anti-black racism, including discriminatory profiling practices against black people and anyone who is perceived to be Muslim.

“The continued relentless violence against black people is appalling and morally repugnant,” the group said in a statement. “The fact that black people get constantly harassed by police forces at every level, local and federal, in airports, malls, and on the streets of America is no longer acceptable.”

BLM’s behavior wins headlines, but it doesn’t win friends. It’s not just self-indulgent narcissism run amok, it’s a mean-spirited effort to make innocent people suffer. In that respect, it differs little, if at all, from the conduct of jihadis who don’t care who they hurt as long as they hurt someone.

Leftist Americans deranged by racial guilt will applaud BLM’s thuggery. More moderate Americans will applaud the arrests and pray the arrested will do hard time and pay heavy fines.

But one person above all profits from BLM’s irresponsible behavior in Minnesota yesterday: Donald Trump. He just picked up more support. Well done, BLM: that’s what you wanted, isn’t it?



23 December 2015

Note to readers

Flathead Memo is switching to a blogging lite mode over the holidays. Our posts will be less frequent and less detailed unless events warrant more thorough coverage.

Wednesday morning music: Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus

One of my favorites: the Oak Ridge Boys performing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus with soaring, joyful, four-part harmony, backed by a strong band with powerful percussion. I suspect that were he alive today, ol’ George Frideric just might be in the Oak's audience clapping and cheering with everyone else.



22 December 2015

No COLA notices, LED thanks, twisty Two Mile, Bullock & the clock

No COLA notices hit seniors’ mailboxes. According to the Social Security Administration, the cost of living did not increase this year, so recipients of Social Security will not receive a cost of living adjustment. My personal impression is that the cost of food is up, and continues to increase. Gasoline costs less, but expect it to rise when the summer price gouging season arrives, and when the oil companies jack up prices to try to help Republicans win the election. Incidentally, if the cost of living did not increase, why did the Federal Reserve increase interest rates? (Answer: to help rich bondholders.)

Thanks to all who responded to my question on LED lights. I appreciate the feedback, and learned some things that are helping me in my investigation of LED lighting.

Two Mile Drive is about to get twisty. What once was a narrow, but tree lined, country road is about to become a twisting suburban road lined by not many trees. The detour around the bridge over the bypass route is paved, and soon that’s where we’ll drive. It won’t be any fun. And when the bridge is completed, it will go up and over the bypass, so instead of being flat and icy, Two Mile will be hilly and icy. This improves the lives of the people receiving the millions to build the bypass, but it makes life slightly less pleasant, and probably a bit less safe, for those of us who use Two Mile Drive.

Expect Gov. Bullock to run out the clock on appointing a new lieutenant governor. Even if he’s already made his selection, and it’s possible he has, waiting until 31 December to announce the lucky person presents the image of great and careful deliberation and vetting, which will help some if this appointment also goes awry. It won’t be lost in the holiday news, as Montana’s reporters will be all over it as soon as they recover from their breaking in the New Year hangovers. As as a humanitarian gesture, it will give Angela McLean a paycheck through the end of the year.



21 December 2015

Bernie Sanders shines as crisis manager


When he learned that a handful of his campaign’s datameisters peeked at Hillary Clinton’s voter data while NGP VAN’s firewalls were down, Sen. Bernie Sanders acted swiftly and decisively. He:

  1. Identified and fired the data peepers;
  2. Apologized to Clinton, and to his supporters; and
  3. Sued the Democratic National Committee to restore access to the voter file, which the DNC had cut off in breach of contract.

It will now take some gall, and spectacular bad judgment, for Hillary to cut a three-in-the-morning phone call ad trying to raise doubts that Sanders can handle a crisis. That’s especially so given Hillary’s never ending emails saga.

If he becomes President, Sanders will be a fine crisis manager. And he — and we — can thank the DNC’s reckless handling of the data breach for proof he’s a good man in a storm.


Start the first day of winter with Hot Buttered Rum


20 December 2015

Could our next LtGov be named Cooney, O’Keefe, Lewis, or Bradley?

That’s not as far fetched as it sounds. The constitutional absurdity, reported here yesterday, and at Logicosity on 17 December, that excludes currently serving public officials from being appointed lieutenant governor (even if they resign their current office) severely limits the pool of candidates with experience running for office. At Logicosity, Edward R. Burrow wrote:

Don’t be surprised if the appointee is a former statewide office-holder or a former statewide office candidate. A political type. Think name recognition, contacts and contributor lists. (Under the state constitution, current officeholders, including legislators, are not eligible.)

Four names that meet Burrow’s criteria immediately come to mind: Mike Cooney, 61, a former three-term secretary of state and a former state senator; Mark O’Keefe, a former state auditor and candidate for governor; John Lewis, 38, who ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014; and 68-year-old former legislator and gubernatorial candidate Dorothy Bradley. I believe each is still alive and healthy enough to campaign and serve five years, but old enough to, perhaps, not stand in Jesse Lasovich’s way for a run for governor in 2020.

I believe each would accept the office and join the ticket to ensure that Montana’s next governor is not named Greg Gianforte.

There are other Democrats who have run for statewide office, but those names occurred to me first.


Frank Garner seeks second term representing House District 7


Rep. Frank Garner (R-Kalispell) will seek a second term representing House District 7 (map), which is old downtown Kalispell and adjacent neighborhoods. His C-1 statement of candidate form, dated 9 December, is now available on the website of Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices.

Democrat Lynn Stanley also filed a C-1 for HD-7.

Garner won a functionally uncontested election in 2014 after soundly defeating Ronalee Skees in the Republican primary. A former, and well liked, police chief for Kalispell, he how heads security for the Kalispell Regional Medical Center.

In his first legislative term, Garner generally allied himself with the self-described Responsible Republicans caucus that helped Democrats pass Sen. Ed Buttrey’s (R-Great Falls) SB-405, the bastardized expansion of Medicaid of which some people are far too proud, but was loyal to the Republican caucus on process votes.

Garner may receive another primary challenge from the far right, but it has little chance of succeeding. He’s well liked and respected, and has a knack for politics.

HD-7 (HD-8 from 2004–2012) used to be a swing district in presidential elections, but no Democrat has won the seat since Cheryl Steenson won a close election in 2008. She resigned months after the 2009 legislative session to take a teaching job in South America, and now lives in the Puget Sound area. Republican Steve Lavin, now representing adjacent HD-8 (map), won in 2010 and 2012.



19 December 2015

Bullock’s options for new LtGov are constrained in a peculiar way

An obscure opinion written by Montana’s legislative counsel during Brian Schweitzer’s administration apparently prevents Gov. Steve Bullock from appointing a currently serving legislator or elected member of the executive (the Secretary of State, etc.) to replace Angela McLean as lieutenant governor.

This information, quoted below, comes from a source with long experience in state government.

No direct prohibition on appointing serving elected officials to the office of lieutenant governor appears in Montana’s constitution, which provides in Part VI, the Executive:

Section 3. Qualifications. (1) No person shall be eligible to the office of governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, superintendent of public instruction, or auditor unless he is 25 years of age or older at the time of his election. In addition, each shall be a citizen of the United States who has resided within the state two years next preceding his election.

(2) Any person with the foregoing qualifications is eligible to the office of attorney general if an attorney in good standing admitted to practice law in Montana who has engaged in the active practice thereof for at least five years before election.

(3) The superintendent of public instruction shall have such educational qualifications as are provided by law.

Section 5. Compensation. (1) Officers of the executive branch shall receive salaries provided by law.

(2) During his term, no elected officer of the executive branch may hold another public office or receive compensation for services from any other governmental agency. He may be a candidate for any public office during his term.

Section 6. Vacancy in office. (1) If the office of lieutenant governor becomes vacant by his succession to the office of governor, or by his death, resignation, or disability as determined by law, the governor shall appoint a qualified person to serve in that office for the remainder of the term. If both the elected governor and the elected lieutenant governor become unable to serve in the office of governor, succession to the respective offices shall be as provided by law for the period until the next general election. Then, a governor and lieutenant governor shall be elected to fill the remainder of the original term.

(2) If the office of secretary of state, attorney general, auditor, or superintendent of public instruction becomes vacant by death, resignation, or disability as determined by law, the governor shall appoint a qualified person to serve in that office until the next general election and until a successor is elected and qualified. The person elected to fill a vacancy shall hold the office until the expiration of the term for which his predecessor was elected.

To me, a fair reading of the constitution allows the governor to appoint a serving elected official as lieutenant governor provided that official resigns his office prior to the appointment.

But apparently a legislative attorney concluded otherwise:

While the language in the constitution is not precise, the debate on the floor of the [1972 MT constitutional] convention was on point.

Article VI, Section 5 provides: “During his term, no elected officer of the executive branch may hold another public office…”

This language seems to leave open the option of an officer to resigning [that officer’s] office and then accepting an appointment.

Although the language is open to interpretation, the [1972] constitutional convention delegates expressed concerns that legislators in particular might be disposed to exercise favors on behalf of the executive in exchange for an appointment afterward. The takeaway is the delegates’ intention was to deny an officeholder from accepting an appointment to another office even if [that officeholder] resigned.

The chief legal counsel for the legislative services division issued an opinion about 8 years ago specifically addressing the question of legislators. He conclusion is the same. Can’t do it. Unless (or until) the issue is addressed by the courts, the opinion serves as the ruling opinion.

I dimly remember a dust-up over one of Schweitzer's appointments that may have triggered this opinion. If you can supply details, I would be most appreciative.

But as long as that opinion, which I’m hoping to obtain, stands, it appears that Bullock is forbidden by law from dipping into the most logical pool of replacement lieutenant governors.

Requiring legislative confirmation of an appointment to lieutenant governor would cure the potential problem of appointment to that office’s being used as a bribe.

Montana needs to amend its constitution to correct this situation. I’m going to draft an amendment to do just that.


Saturday wake-up video — Mick and Bonnie rockin’ out Let it Bleed

A steaming cup of coffee and Mick Jagger and Bonnie Raitt in San Jose rocking out Let it Bleed — crank up your speakers; crank ‘em way up — will stir your blood this morning. There’s the Stones’ distinctive hard driving beat — and there’re Raitt’s masterful solos on the bottleneck guitar, which she plays like quite no one else. Mick and Bonnie: two old pros still bringing down the house.



18 December 2015

Hello Logicosity and People’s Power League, so long MT Streetfighter

Flathead Memo’s blogroll has two new Montana faces, and one less old Montana face.

Logicosity, chief writer Edward R. Burrow, is a new blog, also with attitude — and with some pretty good connections. It’s a must follow blog for the Montana lieutenant governor story.

People’s Power League, by Carole Mackin, is dedicated to open primaries, dead set against top two primaries, a wonderful source of history on these issues, and a joy to read. This is a long overdue addition to Flathead Memo’s blogroll. Incidentally, Ed Kilgore has an interesting post on how California’s abolition of party primaries is working out for the 2016 election for the U.S. Senate.

Montana Streetfighter, a liberal blog with attitude, is down and at least for now, out. It had a good run. If it reappears, it will be welcomed back.


Bullock-McLean stories will continue until a new LtGov is appointed

If recent posts at Montana Cowgirl and Intelligent Discontent are any indication, Democrats in general, and Gov. Steve Bullock’s campaign in particular, are becoming nervous, even a bit testy, over continuing news coverage of the events leading to Angela McLean’s resignation as lieutenant governor. Some of the criticism leveled at the Lee newspapers has been especially trenchant.

There’s undoubtedly fear that continuing coverage will damage Bullock’s prospects for re-election, but attacking the news media for doing their jobs simply calls more attention to the fundamental question that still begs for a satisfying answer: how did two people so intelligent and accomplished get themselves into such a preventable mess?

…read the rest

Paul’s sane foreign policy; Democratic debate; Dem data breach & peep

Rand Paul: the only sane foreign policy voice at the GOP debate. After I posted my reaction to the 15 December Republican presidential debate, Rep. Nick Schwaderer (R-Superior) Tweeted, “Good post. Paul may be an exception to some of the verses.” A fair point, and one underscored in The Atlantic yesterday by Conor Friedersdorf:

Paul has many flaws, like all his rivals.

But if you’re hoping for a nominee who champions civil liberties even in war time; opposes a proxy war with Russia; opposes “carpet-bombing,” war with Iran, or punishing innocent Muslims; and is temperamentally and ideologically unlikely to overreact to terrorism, then Paul is the GOP candidate for you. I realize that I am describing a collection of positions that may appeal more to centrist elites than large swaths of the GOP primary electorate. And yet I notice those elites are more favorably disposed to Bush, Rubio, and even Cruz than to Paul.

They should reconsider their opinion of Paul.

Having watched the Kentucky senator struggle in the polls, I’d started to hope that Kasich, who has good qualities, would gain traction. But with Kasich declaring his desire to lash out at a nuclear rival and launch a Persian Gulf-style invasion of Syria, during a debate in which Paul turned in the strongest performance of his career, Paul deserves to surge. There is no saner voice in the GOP primary debate about ISIS.

Rand Paul 2016: Because everyone else’s foreign policy is terrifying

Democratic National Committee connives for Clinton. The third Democratic debate is tomorrow evening at 1800 MST at St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH, sponsored by ABC News, the New Hampshire Democratic Party, and the Manchester Union-Leader. ABC’s David Muir and Martha Raddatz will moderate. Politico has full details.

The last Saturday evening before Christmas is a strange time for a debate. The DNC will say it just worked out that way, but I strongly suspect the DNC wants to keep viewership down lest its unofficially anointed, Hillary Clinton, stumbles, and that damned liberal, Bernie Sanders, shines.

Sanders campaign stumbles over DNC voter data breach. The DNC’s voter database is outsourced to NGP-VAN, a data technology company that works for Democrats. All Democratic candidates use it. NGP-VAN is supposed to maintain a firewall between the campaigns, but apparently the firewall has dropped from time-to-time, creating a security breach. Campaigns that find the firewall down are supposed to report the problem and not look, but yesterday a staffer for Sanders gave in to curiosity and peeped at Hillary Clinton’s operation. The DNC suspended Sanders’ access to the vote file while the incident is investigated. Sanders rightly fired the peeper.

Normally, this would have been taken care of in-house. Why tell the world that NGP-VAN has security issues? I suspect no real damage was done, but the incident gave the pro-Clinton DNC an excuse to slap down Sanders for having the temerity to challenge Clinton for the nomination. DNC chair Rep. Debbie Wassermann Schultz may be tempted to use this as an excuse to cripple Sanders’ campaign by permanently denying him access to the voter database — but if she makes so foolish a move it will hurt Clinton because voters will conclude that the fix is in. Look for the suspension to be lifted, but only after as much damage as possible is done to Sanders’ reputation for honesty.

Is it time to remove Wassermann Schultz as DNC chair? No. It’s past time.


Friday morning music: Tom Connors stompin’ out Gumboot Cloggeroo

In late summer, 1975, I was in Winnipeg, Manitoba, for an exhibition of Soviet Union spacecraft. Before heading back to the U.S., I stopped at a communist/socialist bookstore, where I bought a Tom Connors 33-rpm album (there were lots of interesting books, none of which I wanted to explain to Customs on the way home).

Stompin’ Tom was a fierce Canadian patriot, no friend of the U.S., and a musician more comfortable in a beer hall than a concert hall. Most of his songs sounded the same; were it not for his stompin’ board, he might have been named Three-Chord Connors. Here he is in a dance hall setting, stompin’ out Gumboot Cloggeroo. Make sure you listen long enough for the dancing girl to appear.



17 December 2015

Budget bill drains America first, repeals country of origin meat labels

President Obama says he will sign the budget bill cobbled together this week. It contains a win for big oil that may prove an economic plus for Montana, and a repeal of country of origin food labeling laws that’s a big win for Mexico and Canada, but a huge loss for every American.

…read the rest of this very long post


16 December 2015

Flathead Memo’s musical analysis of the GOP’s Las Vegas debate

Last night’s Republican debate reminded me of debates between candidates for judge, county attorney, sheriff, or attorney general. No matter the question, the answer is always “I’ll hang ‘em higher than anyone else.” Somehow Trump, Cruz, and their stagemates managed to avoid promising to destroy ISIS by reducing Syria and northern Iraq to a glowing, glassy plain, but they vied with each other to see who could come closest.

Mike Brown at the Western Word promises comment on the debate at his blog this morning. Since the debaters didn’t face the music on terrorism or anything else, I dashed off a few verses to Home on the Range in their honor.

Home at the Vegas debate

I went to a home,
Where Republicans roam
Where the sounds of campaigning did play,
Where never was heard,
An intelligent word,
And the voters did tremble and pray.

…read the rest