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

Flathead Memo Archives, 1–15 August 2016


15 August 2016

Should GOP fair parade marchers fear anti-Trump guerrilla theatre?


There’ll be a few Trumpers tramping down Main Street, sporting “Make America Great Again” baseball caps and waving “Trump-Pence” signs. But I suspect most Republican fair parade marchers will carry signs promoting local candidates and Greg Gianforte and Ryan Zinke.

Trump’s menacing zaniness invites satire and guerrilla theatre, so don’t be surprised if a critic of Trump sneaks into the Republican parade contingent Rosie Ruiz style, carrying a sign with Trump’s snarling mug and the words “Rich White Trash 4 Prez.”



13–14 August 2016

Weekend roundup


Happy Birthday!, Social Security. Franklin Roosevelt’s greatest accomplishment, and the most important social legislation in America’s history, is 81 today — and going strong. In this photograph of the signing ceremony, Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, other than FDR the most important of the act’s architects, stands behind FDR’s right shoulder. The best way to keep Social Security going strong? Vote for Democrats.

Worried about terrorists shooting and/or blowing up the Flathead? Wondering how to respond? Worry not. Flathead Valley Community College has just the course for you: Emergency Management 200-90, Responding to Terrorism. Here’s the online description:


There’s no syllabus online (nor does there seem to be an online syllabus for any of FVCC’s courses); just this blather. Neither is there a reading list. And the instructor is “staff.” Staff could be anyone from a Harvard Ph.D. in international security to the number two guy on the Flathead sheriff’s SWAT squad, or an itinerant Islamophobe who makes his living by lecturing local yokels on the alleged existential threat to western civilization posed by Syrian refugees.

The curious intersection of Bullock for Governor, the Montana Wilderness Association, and Salsa Lab. As reported by the Associated Press’s Matt Voltz yesterday, MWA and other conservation organizations have been running newspaper ads urging readers to send Gov. Bullock a thank you for his public lands agenda and support of public access to those lands. More ads ran today, and yet more may run tomorrow.

The ads I’ve seen direct readers to a website, www.mtgreatoutdoors.org, that urges supporters of public lands to send Gov. Bullock messages supporting his efforts to keep public lands public and to preserve access to public lands. He’s earned that praise, but www.mtgreatoutdoors.org, a domain registered by MWA on 6 April 2012, is where things get interesting. If you direct your browser to www.mtgreatoutdoors.org, it goes to:

Salsa is a Bethesda, MD, company that provides fundraising, online advocacy, and marketing, software to:

…help nonprofits achieve their mission. As your cause partner, we strive to create tools that make it easier for social good organizations to engage communities, raise funds, rally supporters and make their voices heard.

MWA uses Salsa’s Donor Pro platform to accept online contributions. On Bullock’s campaign website, www.stevebullock.com, the Join Our Campaign page is served by Salsa:

The common thread of Salsa could be coincidence, of course. But I find myself wondering why MWA redirected www.mtgreatoutdoors.org to Salsa when providing an email link to Gov. Bullock’s public lands operation would have been easy. Here’s one way to do it:

Send Gov. Bullock an email message praising his public lands positions:


Go ahead, give the link a try. You can modify the subject line, and send the governor a unique message instead of the canned prose that MWA and its collaborators are suggesting.

That simple formulation eliminates the need to redirect the page to Salsa’s server, and eliminates, or at least tremendously reduces, the possibility that someone might put Salsa and Salsa together and come up with what might a false positive for coordination between Bullock’s campaign and the MWA et al. ads.

The least healthy Olympics ever? Probably. And given the reports of doping, also one of the dirtiest. Sailing events held on sewage contaminated waters. Swimming pools filled with water that’s green because Brazil has yet to master the science of keeping swimming pools clean. And, of course, the ever present threat of becoming infected with the Zika virus.

Should the summer games have been canceled, or moved to a safer venue? Of course. Did any of the people in charge have the courage to do the right thing? No. Will they ever? Of course not. There’s too much money involved. One last question: am I watching or following the athletic contests down in Stinkwaterville and Zikaland? No.



12 August 2016

Father Time benches Alex Rodriguez

Sometimes, aging baseball players end their careers on a high note. Red Sox great Ted Williams hit a home run in his last at-bat. Yankee Andy Pettite pitched a 5-hit complete game in his last start, beating Houston 2–1. Both were 41 years old.

Others do not. Warren Spahn, perhaps the best left-handed pitcher in history, should have retired at age 42 after a 23–7 season. Instead, he played another two years, winning 13 but losing 29.

This evening, Alex Rodriguez, now 41, plays his last game in a Yankee uniform. He’s spent most of the summer on the bench, his ability to make contact with the ball all but gone, a drag on his team, and an embarrassment to himself. Why has he hung on so long? There are 40 million reasons. He’s getting paid $22 million for the season, and will be paid another $21 million next year despite being released after tonight’s game.

…read the rest


11 August 2016

Voter registration is down from 2012 — can Bullock still win?

Suppose Montana’s gubernatorial election were held today. If in each county the same fraction of registered voters that cast votes for Steve Bullock in 2012 voted for him today, and Greg Gianforte received Rick Hill’s 2012 fraction, who would win?

Bullock would prevail. But his margin of victory would be approximately 4,800 votes, down from his margin of 7,571 votes four years ago. (My quick-and-dirty county by county analysis is available as a spreadsheet that you can download.)

Statewide, the number of registered voters in early August is down 23,999 voters from November, 2012. Especially important, compared to 2012, there are marked differences between counties. Cascade, Lewis and Clark, Missoula, and Silver Bow — all Democratic strongholds — are down by thousands, while Republican stronghold Flathead County is up by 2,751.

…read the rest


10 August 2016

Trump’s “2nd Amendment” comment is banana republic junta rhetoric

“Second Amendment solution” is a code phrase for settling political disputes with gunfire. It’s popular among the militia types, and was even employed by Nevada’s Sharron Angle, the Republican who lost to Harry Ried in the 2010 U.S. Senate election.

Now Donald Trump is using the phrase. It’s not clear whether he thinks the “Second Amendment people” should, or would, be targeting Hillary Clinton or the justices she would appoint to the Supreme Court. But it is clear that the notion of settling political differences by shooting instead of debating each other does not trouble him.

But it troubles me. And it should trouble all decent, law abiding Americans. There’s no reason for our country to settle political differences like a banana republic.



9 August 2016

Flathead Memo needs your help to track these ads & door knocks

Flathead Memo needs some help from its readers on these subjects:

The Praise Bullock on publics lands ads. If the advertisement below, or one similar to it that, has appeared in your local newspaper, or on a local television station, or for that matter in any local mass media, in the last week, please let Flathead Memo know about it. If you wish to provide a confidential answer to this question, please use our Tips Email option.

MCV vote-by-mail canvass in Bozeman, Livingston, and Missoula. The Montana Conservation Voters Action Fund announced yesterday that it’s spending half a million dollars to conduct a 28,000-household door-to-door canvass in these communities to distribute literature supporting Gov. Steve Bullock, and urge voters to cast mail ballots for him. If you’re one of the 28,000, please let us know about your experience. Again, if you wish to provide a confidential (but not anonymous) answer, please use our Tips Email option.

Many thanks for your help.




8 August 2016

Proof that a Montana woman knows her place

The Kalispell Westside Bypass, which features the Great Noise Walls of the Flathead, is nearing completion. Paving has begun. Stop lights and inconvenience are everywhere, as are flaggers clad in safety yellow, and wearing orange hardhats. This friendly flagger, guarding the bridge at Three Mile Drive, allowed me to photograph the sticker — the prettiest sight on the bypass — on her helmet.




6 August 2016

Note to readers

Flathead Memo is standing down for a couple of days. Enjoy your weekend and check back Monday.


4 August 2016

Gianforte aims to win the gunpowder vote

No one ever lost an election in Montana by proclaiming his love for guns, or by claiming that his opponent was wimping-out on the Second Amendment. When Gov. Brian Schweitzer spoke of his affection for firearms, his listeners smelled gunsmoke, and the gleam of joy in their faces made the glint of polished brass seem dull.

But sometimes, love is not enough — especially if it’s coupled with common sense.

Schweitzer’s successor, Steve Bullock, a good man on guns, but not the showman Schweitzer was (few acts are tougher to follow), aroused the ire of Montana’s Gary Marbut led gunpowder lobby when he vetoed Republican bills — one would have allowed concealed carry without a permit — that made a mockery of firearms safety:

“While I will fiercely defend the 2nd Amendment rights of our citizens, I cannot support an absurd concept that threatens the safety of our communities by not providing for the basic fundamentals of gun safety or mental-health screening,” he wrote in his veto message on House Bill 298.

Bullock also vetoed HB203, which would prohibit any state or local officials in Montana from enforcing any future federal restrictions on gun or weapon-magazine ownership.

Those vetoes of irresponsible Republican gun uncontrol measures are what prompted the sign in this photograph from Republican candidate Greg Gianforte’s Facebook page:


The “.223” answer to the question about the Governor’s Cup is, of course, the caliber of the AR-15/M-16 assault rifle. After the mass shootings and the murders of policemen this year, posting that smart aleck answer required some brass, which the gunpowder caucus will applaud.

The civic safety caucus, which is still the majority, would applaud less brass and more common sense. Brandishing firearms in support of a political candidate is the hallmark of a banana republic, not a mature western democracy such as the United States.



2 August 2016

Steve Bullock’s issues free campaign website is an outlier


Update, 19 August. Bullock’s website now has an issues section with 16 headings, something for almost everyone. Twelve states elect governors this November. Only two major party candidates, Steve Bullock (D-MT) and Eric Holcomb (R-IN), have campaign websites lacking a page listing the issues the candidate wants to address.

That page goes by various names: Issues, Positions, Priorities, Platform. Usually is a primary page to which there is a prominent link on the home and all other pages, but sometimes, as on Greg Gianforte’s website, the page is buried (Gianforte’s issues page is under the About Greg menu heading).

…read the rest