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

Flathead Memo Archives, 1–15 April 2016


15 April 2016

Could a toxic top of the GOP ticket poison Zinke’s re-election odds?

It’s not likely, but it’s also not altogether unthinkable. Popular down ballot politicians can lose an election if their political party is perceived by the voters as too dangerous to govern. With the near certainty that the Republicans will Donald Trump or Ted Cruz for president, there is now murmuring in respectable quarters that nominees so extreme not only would fail to win the White House, but might take down the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress.

Accordingly, writing at Rasmussen Reports, Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley of Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, have moved Montana’s seat in the house from “safe Republican” to “likely Republican:”

…read the rest


14 April 2016

Twenty minutes of Hillary v. Bernie was all I could endure

Hillary Clinton’s going for the knockout punch against Bernie Sanders in tonight’s debate on CNN. Her Trump-like swaggering and sneering caused me to knock the event — which CNN, going for conflict, not enlightenment, was conducting like a TV game show — off my screen before half past the hour.

…read the rest


13 April 2016

Megabucks for more schools, Republican public safety plan

Are School District 5’s voters ready to approve a $61 million bond issue? We may find out this fall. A committee studying the situation has concluded that Kalispell needs two more elementary and one more middle school, plus repairs and renovations to existing facilities, and will urge the district’s trustees to put the question to the voters this fall (possibly in a special election; that’s not yet clear).

This will be a hard sell. The economy continues to improve, but to improve very slowly and unevenly, with considerable uncertainty for many people. Recipients of Social Security, who did not receive a cost of living allowance increase last year, and may not this year, may be reluctant to approve an increase in taxes. Others may wonder whether conducting school all year instead of leaving classrooms empty in the summer could reduce the need for new schools (later this spring, I’ll have more to say on year around school).

Republicans and public safety. When a political party starts talking about presenting a public safety plan to elected officials six months before an election, it’s fair to ask whether the real purpose of the plan is to generate a campaign issue that helps that party’s candidates.

In the Flathead, Rep. Frank Garner (R-Kalispell), head of security at the Flathead Regional Medical Center, and a former Kalispell police chief, is part of a local Republican group, the Pachyderm Club, that’s looking at public safety and ways of addressing public safety issues. They’re holding a public meeting on Thursday, 14 April, at the Red Lion Inn, in Kalispell, starting at 1800 MDT.

Citizens should insist that those arguing there’s a public safety problem provide proof that a problem exists, and proof that proposed solutions will make a real difference. Be wary of trust us statements of the “experts say there’s drug problem, so we need more constables, more jail cells, more drug counselors, more laws restricting the sale and use of opioids, and no more bleeding heart liberal judges” genre.



12 April 2016

Of aquifers, bottles, and lawyers

Opponents of the Montana Artesian Water Company’s plan to bottle and sell groundwater pumped from the Flathead aquifer near Egan Slough have formed a new organization, Water for Flathead’s Future, that’s dedicated to keeping that plant from filling even a single bottle with water from the Flathead’s aquifer.

Here’s how WFFF describes its goals and mission:

…read the rest


11 April 2016

It’s a two party system in the MT House of Representatives

A Democrat or Republican almost always wins. Montana held 600 state house of representatives district elections during 2004–2014 (download spreadsheet). Third party (Libertarian, Green, and Constitution) and independent candidates were on the ballot in 67 of those elections — but only one candidate who was not a Republican or Democrat has won a legislative seat.


…read the rest


8 Apri 2015

Confirmation of influenza outbreak in the Flathead

The InterLake reports there’s a late-in-the-season outbreak of the H1N1 influenza virus (Influenza A) in the Flathead — and that according to the Centers for Disease Control, this year’s influenza vaccine is just 59 percent effective.

My own experience this week confirms both the outbreak and the vaccine’s efficacy, which is why I’m standing down for the rest of the day and possibly for the weekend.


7 April 2016

Election year politics and Colstrip lead to cloud cuckoo land

Let’s start with the facts. The coal fired electricity generating plants at Colstrip are 40 years old and nearing the end of their economic lives. They’re also dirty, one of the nation’s top 20 sources of greenhouse gases.

In fact, their being dirty is why they were built in Montana. The electricity they generate goes mostly to the Pacific Northwest’s west of the Cascades energy consumption corridor, while the carbon dioxide, particulates, and noxious gases go into the Big Sky, not into the atmosphere over Puget Sound.

…read the rest


6 April 2016

Aquifer presentation draws overflow crowd and uniformed LEOs

If you attended this evening presentation, held at FVCC, on the Flathead’s aquifer, you undoubtedly arrived early. I arrived a few minutes late, by which time parking space was hard to find and the crowd was standing room only, spilling out into the hall from the elegant but little theatre. Clearly, the people who organized the event did not anticipate how popular the presentation would prove. FVCC does have bigger rooms, and if necessary they can be used on the weekend.

Just as clearly, the college anticipated trouble. When I arrived, a sheriff’s cruiser was parked next to the main entrance. A uniformed officer sat on a bench next to the theatre’s entrance.

“Why,” I asked him, “is a uniformed officer’s presence necessary?”

“The college requested that we be here,” he replied, pleasantly.


Perhaps FVCC has been receiving threats both blood curdling and credible. Perhaps the people running FVCC read about a terrorist attack in Europe and suffered nightmares about suicide bombers from ISIS or student rowdies from Missoula causing trouble at a lecture on groundwater hydrology. Perhaps they thought Ammon Bundy had busted out of jail and was enroute with an armed occupation force. Who knows?

I hope the presentation was video recorded and will be make available to all on YouTube in 24 hours, and that the professional reports will be available as PDF downloads without fees (we’ve alread paid the fees with our taxes).


Important presentation this evening on Flathead ground water

Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology scientists John Wheaton and James Rose will make presentations on The Deep Aquifer & Subsurface Geology of the Flathead Valley, beginning at 1830 in the theatre of the Arts and Technology Building at Flathead Valley Community College.

The program promises to be interesting on its own merits, but it should also be very useful for citizens seeking a better understanding of groundwater and aquifer issues as they pertain to the proposal to bottle ground water near Egan Slough. The fish hatchery at Creston has filed a formal objection to the water bottler’s request for a water right for annually withdrawing 700 acre feet from the aquifer.

I hope to see you at the presentation.


The Wisconsin primary’s biggest loser was Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders decisively won the Wisconsin Democratic primary yesterday. That will keep his campaign going, money flowing to it, and leave Hillary more exasperated than ever that so many Democrats want a liberal nominee.

In the Wisconsin Republican primary, Ted Cruz, a dangerous reactionary, beat Donald Trump, a dangerous ignoramus, by 13 points, receiving 48+ percent of the vote. There is an increasing likelihood that no candidate will win a majority of the delegates before the GOP convention convenes.

If the decision goes to the convention, I think the most likely GOP tickets are Cruz-Kasich and Paul Ryan-Kasich. Either ticket could argue we need a vigorous new leader, not an old man or woman, and if running against Hillary, could also argue that dynasties in the White House are good for television but not for the country.

That makes Hillary the cheese state’s biggest loser. No wonder she’s becoming frustrated.



5 April 2016

More on the Democrats’ lost majorities

Can the Democrats’ lost congressional majorities be attributed solely, or mostly, to Republican gerrymandering — or, as I posited yesterday, is gerrymandering only one of several factors that switched the U.S. House of Representatives to Republican control beginning in 1994, with Democrats winning house majorities only in 2006 and 2008 since then?

…read the rest

Lawn signs, loathed by grumps, might help win close elections


If you’re thinking about using lawn signs in your political campaign, you’ll want to read Logicosity’s wry analysis of the technique. They might make a positive difference in a close election.

Provided, of course, the signs are designed to be read by people motoring down the street at 45 feet per second or faster.

The fewer words, the better. Nothing more is needed than the last name of the candidate and the office sought. In the cluster of signs at the right, on Highway 2 in Kalispell, Rehberg’s sign is easy to read. Steve Lavin’s is not.

Outdoor advertising agencies have standard tables of letter sizes that are legible at given speeds and distances.

Lawn signs are endorsements. They provide some name recognition, and in larger campaigns, may provide a measure of a candidate’s ability to organize.

I love fields full of good lawn signs. They tell me that Democracy is alive and well.

But to a certain genre of grumps, political lawn signs are the dandelions of democracy, visual pollutants to be controlled by unconstitutional durational limits on their display. Flathead County repealed its durational limits, but similar laws remain on the books of many communities. Democrats seem to favor durational limits more than Republicans do.



4 April 2016

Even if Dems win Congress in 2016, they probably can’t hold it in 2018

Impressed by the Republican Party’s apparent dysfunction, and the presumed unpopularity of its 2016 presidential nominee, some Democrats and political analysts are beginning to entertain the possibility that the Democrats can recapture control of the U.S. House of Representatives as well as the U.S. Senate.

Don’t bet on it. And don’t bet on Democrats recapturing control of the Montana Legislature, either.

…read the rest

Jury doesn’t buy Wittich’s story, but Hillary buys love of MT Dems

Art Wittich probably didn’t need to violate campaign finance laws to win Senate District 35 in 2010. I suspect he could have won simply by sticking to the straight and narrow and working hard at his campaign. He beat Democrat Diane Elliot 6,625–2,962. But, reported John Adams of the Montana Free Press, Friday evening a jury found Wittich guilty of running out of bounds, concluding that he:

  • Failed to maintain and preserve records of his campaign contributions from his 2010 primary election.
  • Illegally accepted and received corporate contributions from his 2010 primary election.
  • Failed to report all contributions, including coordinated in-kind contributions, in his 2010 primary election.

Today, Wittich probably is thinking, “I’ll appeal the jury’s verdict.” But what was he thinking in 2010 that made him believe there would not be adverse consequences for what he was doing?

Did Hillary Clinton buy the love of the Montana Democratic Party? Paradise Valley Margot resident Kidder thinks so. Writing in Counterpunch, she said:

Collusion between the Clinton campaign and the DNC allowed Hillary Clinton to buy the loyalty of 33 state Democratic parties last summer. Montana was one of those states. It sold itself for $64,100.

Yesterday at Reptile Dysfunction, William Skink discussed Kidder’s charges and the joint funding arrangement in detail, occasionally employing colorful language. Be sure to read today’s follow-up.

Clinton’s arrangement for shared fundraising is smart politics for her campaign. She’s sharing some wealth, which state Democratic parties appreciate; not a lot of wealth, but some, and all of it mighty welcome to those receiving it.

Bernie Sanders does not have a similar arrangement, which makes him look a bit like a cheapskate. But even were he sharing his wealth, it probably wouldn’t buy him love from establishment Democrats. They want jobs in her administration.



3 April 2016

The percentages of “Us” and “Them” in Montana

Let’s begin with definitions. “Us” means a resident of Montana who was born in Montana. “Them” means a resident of Montana who was born somewhere else. “Us” are the anointed, the ones with the birthright to call themselves Real Montanans. “Them” are The Others, the immigrant class who must forever pay the price of not choosing mothers wise enough to give birth in Montana.

How do I know this? I have it on the authority of Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. The About section of his re-election campaign’s website spells it out clearly:

…read the rest


2 April 2016

Two Flathead teenagers are running for the MT legislature

Both are just 18 years old. Both are students at Whitefish High School One, senior Chet Billi of Whitefish, running for House District 5, is a Republican. The other, junior Cody Casazza of Columbia Falls, running for Senate District 2, is a Democrat.

Neither has a realistic chance of winning. But each may learn some lessons in life taught only through the experience of asking for the approval of the voters.

…read the rest

Sanders not the first major Democrat to seek presidency at 74


That honor belongs to Alben Barkley, the senator from Kentucky who served as Harry Truman’s vice president — and as the oldest vice president in U.S. history. Two months after Truman announced he would not seek re-election in 1952, Barkley said he was available for the nomination, his age, heart problems, and cataracts notwithstanding.

But when Barkley arrived in Chicago, the president of the United Automobile Workers union, 45-year-old Walter Reuther, told Barkley that labor wanted a younger candidate. The Democrats nominated Gov. Adlai Stevenson of Illinois, 52, who lost to Dwight Eisenhower by 7 million votes, carrying just nine states and winning only 89 electoral votes.

…read the rest


1 April 2016

Peasant Polly’s Soups & Stews is coming to Evergreen

Kalispell, HANS. There’s good news today for hearty eaters who are weary of pretentious restaurants that sell overpriced, undernourishing food: Peasant Polly’s Soups & Stews plans to open one of its famed chow down shacks in Evergreen sometime after Memorial Day.

…read the rest