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

Flathead Memo Archives, 16–29 February 2016


29 February 2016

Don’t help waltz Mary Jane down the Old Initiative Trail

Several ballot measures addressing marijuana have been approved for signature gathering. CI-115 and I-178 would legalize the recreational use of marijuana under state law. It would, of course, remain illegal under federal law.

I-176 would make drugs that are illegal under federal law illegal under state law.

I’m not signing petitions for any of these ballot measures. I will vote against all that make the ballot. I urge everyone to do the same.

Marijuana should not be a Schedule I drug. But until it’s removed from that status, state legalization can be trumped by federal law. The place for legalization to start is in Congress, not in the legislatures of the states. And certainly not in the polling booths of the states.

It’s time for the people who support legalizing marijuana to dance with candidates for public office instead of trying to legalize Mary Jane by waltzing her down the Old Initiative Trail. Without a friendly legislature, they’ll just get a pro marijuana initiative passed only to have it overturned by the anti-cannabis politicians they’re trying to make an end run around.


Will Democratic crossover be a factor in SD-3’s Republican primary?

kaltschmidt_125_right Kaltschmidtregier_125_looking_left

Senate District 3 (map) comprises liberal leaning, mostly urban, House District 5 and deeply conservative, and virtually all rural, House District 6. SD-3 is an open seat because its current senator, Bruce Tutvedt (R-Kalispell), cannot run again because of term limits (Tutvedt could run for a house seat).

No Democrat has filed for SD-3 yet, but two Republicans have: Montana House Majority Leader Rep. Keith Regier, currently representing HD-4 where term limits make him a lame duck, and political tyro Don Kaltschmidt, best known as the master salesman who built Don K Chevrolet into one of the Flathead’s leading automobile dealerships.

Of the two Republican candidates, Kaltschmidt probably is the least conservative. He thinks killing SB-416, the $150 million infrastructure bill was mistake, while Regier is still proud he helped kill the measure. Kaltschmidt also believes he’s more progressive on conservation issues, which will help him in Whitefish.

Tristan Scott of the Flathead Beacon reports Kaltschmidt is backed by former state senator and Montana secretary of state Bob Brown, and former state senator U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke. Bea DePratu, widow of state senator Bob DePratu (R-Whitefish) is his treasurer. Former state representative Scott Reichner signed-on as campaign manager.

No senatorial election has been held in SD-3 since the last redistricting, but the results of the district’s house seats in 2014 midterm election suggests SD-3 leans Republican:


Presidential elections increase turnout, especially for Democrats, but it seems unlikely that the Democratic majority in HD-5 will increase enough to offset the 7:3 Republican majority in HD-6. Thus, the most important election in SD-3 in 2016 is the Republican primary in June.

That gives pragmatic Democrats who are willing to commit a bit of political mischief a considerable incentive to vote for Kaltschmidt in the Republican primary.

And that possibility, in turn, gives Regier’s supporters a powerful incentive to run a Republican ringer in the Democratic primary in HD-5 against David Fern in order to keep Democrats home. Holding HD-5 is far more important to Democrats than replacing Tutvedt with Kaltschmidt.

I give Kaltschmidt even odds at best. He’s starting late (he filed on 18 February; Regier, on 14 January). His website, donkforsenate.com, still contains only an ugly “under construction” page. Still, he seems to be ahead of Regier in that department; I can’t find a website for Regier’s campaign. Although Kaltschmidt says he’s not a novice, as a candidate he is, and novices tend to make mistakes. His greatest assets are his knowledge of Whitefish, and the affability that makes him a successful salesman.

Regier’s greatest asset is having won four elections. But they were easy wins that may not have prepared him that well for the stiff challenge he’ll get from Kaltschmidt.

Expect mass media blitzes: newspaper ads, mailers, television and radio spots, internet ads, and phone call after phone call after phone call until the voters scream “no more!” Will Don K or Keith or one of their volunteers knock on the doors of Whitefish residents? Probably. Will the primary become exciting? Highly likely. This could be a Donnybrook.



28 February 2016

BH Photo Video may need boycotting

Brooklyn based BH Photo Video, a major online retailer from which I’ve purchased a few items (my primary online store is Adorama), is in hot water with the federal government for allegedly discriminating against women and ethnic and racial minorities. Petapixel has the lowdown and a link to the official complaint:

B&H “has systematically discriminated against Hispanic employees and female, black and Asian jobseekers at its Brooklyn Navy Yard warehouse,” the government says. B&H is a federal contractor, so it’s forbidden from discriminating in employment and is required to take affirmative action for employment equality.

“B&H fell far short of this responsibility and created deplorable working conditions for employees at its Brooklyn warehouse,” says Patricia A. Shiu, director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

Photographers must decide for themselves whether to boycott BH, keeping in mind that the Department of Labor’s allegations must be proven. As a practical matter, whether to boycott is a moot issue for me. I’m not planning purchases, and I’ve not used BH for years. When I did use BH, I had no complaints. But if I need something available at BH, my need won’t be met until this situation is resolved in favor of the workers.



27 February 2016

Hillary wins primary in a state she can’t win in November

As expected, Hillary Clinton has won South Carolina’s Democratic primary in a landslide. The New York Times reports she was the overwhelming choice of black voters, while white voters favored Bernie Sanders:

After supporting Barack Obama in 2008, African-American voters, who will be the dominant force in the coming Southern primaries, turned out in droves for Mrs. Clinton here. They supported her over Mr. Sanders by a 5-to-1 ratio, while he won the bulk of white voters, according to early exit polling.

If that exit polling holds true, Democratic voters split along racial identity lines. This probably means Clinton will win the deep south on Tuesday.

But neither she nor Sanders will carry the deep south in the general election. With the possible exceptions of Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina, the deep south will vote for the Republican nominee in November.

In my opinion, it does not augur well for the Democratic Party that its nomination could be won in states that Republicans will carry in the general election.


West Kalispellians cannot bypass inconvenience

Starting next week, the heavy hauling and mighty inconveniences begin. Five hundred truckloads a day of roadbed gravel will be trucked from a gravel pit near Stillwater Road to the bypass. Roads near Glacier High School will be closed to prevent inconveniences to the haulers.

Meanwhile, there will be delays on the ugly detour on Two Mile Drive as flagmen stop motorists to accommodate the bypass builders. This will make the morning rush hour more interesting. Those of us living west of the detour can avoid it by driving west on Two Mile to Spring Creek, turning north on Spring Creek, then east on Three Mile Drive. On Spring Creek, watch out for a speed trap near the cell phone tower.

Stillwater Road already sports “rough road” warnings. It may be renamed Axel Busting Lane after the bypass is completed.

Stillwater Road near the junction with Three Mile Drive.

Parkridge and Bypass. Cleaning this clogged culvert should be fun.



26 February 2016

Updates and corrections

Update. House District 5 candidate Chet Billi (R-Whitefish) does have a campaign website — and it’s a better looking website than many. A tip of the hat to Chet for letting me know his legislative campaign is on the internet.

Update. House District 93 will have contested Republican and Democratic primaries. More on this over the weekend. I expect the CSKT water compact will figure in the debate.

Correction. Contrary to my report yesterday, Champ Edmunds is no longer a candidate for the Republican nomination for state auditor. He has not amended or withdrawn his C-1 at political practices, but he did announce that he was folding his campaign and supporting Matt Rosendale, who has filed a C-1. My thanks to a pair of sharp-eyed readers for catching my mistake.

Bernie won’t win South Carolina tomorrow. Neither he nor Hillary will win it in the fall. The last Democrat to carry the state was Jimmy Carter in 1976. The primary’s become a test of support among black voters, many of whom seem to distrust Sanders because he represents one of the nation’s whitest states. The campaign for the Democratic nomination needs to focus on economics, not race. A fair and robust economy benefits all.


Forget last night’s debate; remember this land was made for you and me

By the time last night’s Republican debate finished, I was ready to throw my mouse through my computer’s monitor, quaff a double Wild Turkey, and then quaff another. A lot of the world was watching — and what our friends and foes saw was the politics of anger and malice, the politics that brings freedom to its knees, not the politics of hope that leads to better days.

We had the politics of hope eight years ago, and I’m for getting it back.

Pete Seeger was nearing the end of his 90th year when he, Bruce Springsteen, Tao Seeger, and a powerful chorus, closed the 2009 inaugural concert with a joyful rendering of Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land. Forget last night’s debate. Remember this:



25 February 2016

Monica Lindeen files for Secretary of State


Montana State Auditor Monica Lindeen today filed for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state. Her Republican opponent likely will be former State Senator Corey Stapleton.

Current secretary of state Linda McCulloch, completing her second term in the job, is retiring, forced out by term limits. She previously served eight years as Montana’s superintendent of public instruction.

Former legislator Jesse Laslovich is running for the Democratic nomination for auditor. He’ll likely face either Champ Edmunds or Matt Rosendale, currently the majority leader in Montana’s state senate. Rosendale, who announced for auditor earlier this month, still has not filed for the position, and is thought by some to be a potential candidate for lieutenant governor on Greg Gianforte’s gubernatorial ticket.

Lindeen was one of Montana’s first internet service providers. She served four terms in Montana’s house of representatives. In 2006, she unsuccessfully challenged incumbent U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg. Two years later, she leveraged what she learned during that campaign into a successful run for auditor, beating Duane Grimes by 32,000 votes. In 2012, she won re-election with a 33,000-vote victory over Derek Skees.

Montana’s secretary of state is the state’s chief elections officer, keeper of the Great Seal of Montana, and steward of various records.



24 February 2016

Barragan challenges Skees in HD-11 Republican primary

Educator and former School District 5 (Kalispell) school board member Jean Barragan, Lakeside, filed yesterday for the Republican nomination for House District 11 (map), the sprawling and deeply conservative district north and west of Flathead Lake. Her opponent will be former Rep. Derek Skees, who filed on 14 January.

The seat is open because its current occupant, Rep. Albert Olszewski, (R-Kalispell) filed for Senate District 6 (map) to replace the retiring Janna Taylor (R-Dayton).

Barragan is getting a late start.


Trump’s win in Nevada: flipping the establishment the bird

Some readers have wondered why I haven’t posted anything about Donald Trump’s big win in the Republican caucuses in Nevada yesterday.

That’s because there’s nothing for me to say that hasn’t already been said by someone else. Trump’s supporters are using the election to give the establishment their middle finger. They like his style, and are so jaded that policy doesn’t matter. It really is that simple.

Marsy’s Law is a bad idea

I was going to explain why CI-116, aka Marsy’s Law, formally known as the Victim’s Rights Initiative, is a bad idea — but Edward R. Burrow at Logicosity beat me to the keyboard, making all the arguments I was planning to make.

Marsy’s Law originated in California, where the state’s constitution is larded-up with statutes masquerading as constitutional principles. See California Crackup. If CI-116 passes, the larding of Montana’s constitution with statutes begins.

I won’t sign a petition to put CI-116 on the ballot. If it makes the ballot, and it probably will, I’ll vote against it. If it passes, and it just might, I’ll probably revise downward my opinion of the intelligence of the average Montana voter.


Stand together against fear rally in Kalispell on 1 March

Peaceful assemblies to let the world know that Montana is a place of “inclusivity and compassion” will be held in Helena, Missoula, Billings, and Kalispell, on Tuesday, 1 March.

The gatherings are intended to counter the anti-refugee “national security” rallies held recently by Montanans who fear that resettling Syrian refugees under the Big Sky could allow ISIS terrorists to sneak into our state.

Kalispell’s rally begins at 1700 in Depot Park, and ends an hour later with (probably) a group photograph. I’ll be there.

Organizations sponsoring the rallies include Soft Landing Missoula, the Jeanette Rankin Peace Center, Montana Human Rights Network, Montana Women Vote, NCBI, and the Missoula Interfaith Collaborative.

Flathead Memo will supply addition details as they become available.



23 February 2016

Retired educator makes heavy work of backcountry photography

Pallets, shot with 117g Nikon S3000.

On walks around town and country, and sometimes on hikes, when I want only the means to snap photographs that trigger memories, I carry a 117-gram digital camera the size of a credit card. With careful technique, meaning keeping my hands steady, I can record images that make good letter-sized prints.

Retired science teacher Lee Silliman, as reported in a wonderful story by the Missoulian’s Rob Chaney, uses battleship caliber equipment, a seven-kilogram 8x10 view camera (a beautifully constructed and maintained wood and brass Wisner), plus a heavy tripod, film holders, and ancillary equipment that probably increases his photograph load to at least 12 kilograms.

…read the rest


22 February 2016

Paul Starr ought to admit he’s really a red-baiting Republican

As a young man in 1984, Princeton professor Paul Starr won a Pulitzer Prize for The Social Transformation of American Medicine. With Robert Kuttner and Robert Reich, he founded The American Prospect magazine, generally a liberal publication, in 1990.

His fall into sin began in Bill Clinton’s administration when he helped devise Hillarycare, the private health insurance based scheme that would have condemned tens of millions to health maintenance organizations. His input into the development of Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act is a bit murkier, but in Remedy and Reaction (2011), he defends the ACA and attacks advocates of a single-payer health care system.

Starr supports Hillary Clinton — and despises Bernie Sanders.

Today in Politico, Starr excoriated Sanders, arguing that the Vermont Democrat is an old-fashioned, private enterprise hating socialist who probably is a closet Bolshevik:

Socialism and Sanders have their heart in a different place—economic equality before all else. Socialism is still the dream of those who don’t worry about concentrating power in the state or about the perverse effects of making goods and services available at a zero price.

Starr, of course, does not worry about concentrating power in corporations, Wall Street investment gamblers, or reactionary billionaires like the Koch brothers. His faith is in the Invisible Hand and the wisdom of the market, not in the benevolent hand of we-the-people working collectively for the common good through democratically elected government.

That’s the Republican economic philosophy.

Why, then, is Starr supporting Hillary Clinton instead of someone like Jeb Bush, John Kasich, or Rand Paul?

Simple. Starr is a social liberal. He’s pro-choice. He believes in affirmative action and race based remedies. Like Bill and Hillary Clinton, he’s a private enterprise worshipping social progressive known as a New Democrat.

And he’s a McCarthyesque red-baiter who impugns Sanders’ patriotism:

In 1980, Sanders served as a presidential elector for the Socialist Workers Party, which supported the nationalization of industry and expressed solidarity with revolutionary dictatorships, including Iran (this at the time Iran was holding American hostages).

The Princeton professor who wrote that paragraph wants us to believe that Sanders — who is Jewish — is an economic totalitarian with a traitor’s soul who loves Islamic theocrats more than he loves America.

Will Hillary Clinton disown Starr’s scurrilous hatchet job? Or will she remain silent, hoping the professor’s diatribe helps put her in the White House?

Will Paul Starr stop pretending he’s a Democrat and admit he’s really an Adam Smith Republican? Don’t hold your breath. And remember to duck when the mud he slings flies your way.


Time to make fundraising candidates unnecessary in Montana

At Logicosity, Edward R. Burrow observes that Steve Bullock still has not filed for re-election as governor — nor has any other Democrat. He further observes that many donors have already maxed-out their contributions to Bullock for both the primary and general elections. If there is not a contested Democratic gubernatorial primary, Bullock will have to refund a lot of money.

That’s because Montana law only allows contributions to campaigns for contested primaries. The system therefore encourages candidates to pray their campaigns are blessed with a weak primary opponent, allowing them to raise money they won’t need to spend on the primary.

Whatever the rationale for this system, the practical effect is the encouragement of the moral equivalent of fraud: primary candidates who are on the ballot not raise issues, but only to help their opponent raise money. Shameful? No. It’s worse than shameful.

This law should be repealed. Let candidates collect contributions for both the primary and general, whether or not the primary is contested.



21 February 2016

Young Chet Billi — boy, does he hate unions!

Whitefish teenaged gun lover Chet Billi is running for the Republican nomination for House District 5. Today, Logicosity reports Billi's not a union man. Instead, he’s a Lochner loving right-to-worker, a free rider who enjoys union won wages but refuses to pay his fair share for obtaining those wages.

Billi’s Democratic opponent will be Whitefish school board member David Fern. His most effective argument against Fern might be an accusation that Fern and his fellow trustees preside over a school system that failed to cure Billi of his Lochnerian ways.

In case you’re wondering, Billi did not send his press release to Flathead Memo.



20 February 2016

Malheur at night, and Flathead Memo maintenance day

We’re mostly working under the hood at Flathead Memo today, tuning-up the HTML code and working on new features that will appear soon — if we spend some time under the hood instead of at the keyboard.

Meanwhile, here’s an image that may help my friends and family in the nation’s more densely populated areas understand how isolated the Great Basin’s high deserts are. Below, I’ve identified urban clusters west of the 111th meridian on NASA’s Earth at Night image.

Cliven Bundy and his sons live in one of the most sparsely populated areas in the Lower 48 States, the high and dry basin and range country that runs from southeastern Oregon to just over the California border. Making a living here produces hard men and women — some so hard-headed and independent that they live in a separate reality. It’s not that they’re Mormon, although some are, nor that they live within the proposed State of Deseret, although they do, it’s that socially and politically isolated in their little kingdoms, seldom challenged, unwavering in their idiosyncratic beliefs, they’ve become cult-like to their own detriment.

They’re not terrorists, but some are thugs — and all are clueless about American history and government. They occupied the Malheur Wildlife Refuge to mount a soapbox and amplify their grievances, imagined and real, against the government. They sought to be heard, and were. Were they seditionists who sought to declare the Malheur Free State and start a civil war? Some preened and strutted as though they were, but in my view they were merely simpletons conducting lowbrow street theatre in just about the most stupid way possible. Now, removed from their soapbox, but probably still not grounded in reality, having earned their fate, but perhaps not having learned their lesson, many are destined to spend years in a federal lockbox.

Larger image



19 February 2016

Montana Democrats continue to start press releases with a lie

Jason Pitt and his mendacious bosses at the Montana Democratic Party were at it again today, sending out a press release that started:

HELENA -- As New Jersey multimillionaire Greg Gianforte continues his regulation roundup tour, he still fails to roundup Montanans to attend his events, and fails to round up answers to important questions from reporters or attendees.

Gianforte’s a multimillionare. But he lives, works, votes, and made his fortune in Montana. He’s not a New Jersey anything. He’s a Montanan, a Montana multimillionaire. And Pitt and his xenophobic, mendacious, bosses know it.

Yet they persist in starting their press releases with an obvious, demonstrable lie. I’ve never encountered anything like it.

When I find a blatant lie in the first sentence of a press release, I stop reading. Nothing in the rest of the press release can be trusted. That’s why in Public Relations 101 students are taught to stick to the facts.

This isn’t the party’s playing bad cop to Steve Bullock’s good cop. It’s the party playing stupid in a way that does not make Bullock look intelligent.

And by not issuing a public statement admonishing his political party to tell the truth and to show some respect for Gianforte and everyone else who had the wisdom as adults to move to Montana, Bullock is signaling that he approves of the “New Jersey multimillionaire” lie.

That’s a mighty peculiar way to build a reputation for honesty. Perhaps Bullock has decided that belonging to an honest political party is the wrong way to get re-elected.

Does this trouble everyone? No. More than one cynic has advised me that lying about Gianforte is just politics and not a big deal. The great sin, they tell me, is pointing out the lie instead of repeating it with the conviction of a man who knows the lie is Heaven’s revealed truth.

Yes, some Democrats have sunk that low.

My advice to them: take no pride in being lowdown. Climb out of the slime, cleanse yourself in the righteous rains, beg the Lord’s forgiveness, and help Montana’s Democrats make an honest party of themselves.


Why should Democrats care about the South Carolina primary?

After realizing she would be steamrollered in the New Hampshire primary, Hillary Clinton’s campaign began arguing that her loss there mattered little because New Hampshire was too white while South Carolina “looked more like America,” meaning the Palmetto State has more black residents.

And South Carolina does. According to data from Pew, in 2012, blacks comprised 27 percent of South Carolina’s voting eligible population, but just one percent of New Hampshire’s. That puts New Hampshire 11 points below the national mean of 12 percent — and South Carolina 15 points above the mean. In that sense, both states are outliers.

That’s just one difference. Here are others:

Why should Democrats care about South Carolina? It doesn’t look more like America than New Hampshire. It hates organized labor. And it won’t supply one electoral vote for the Democratic nominee for President.



18 February 2016

Westside bypass at the muddy stage of construction

The Three Mile Drive bridge over the westside Kalispell bypass provides a good view of the state of the project. It’s also a mile’s walk from my home, and thus easy to reach on foot. Earlier this week, in late afternoon, I used a pocket camera to make some images of the construction.


North from the Three Mile Bridge. Retaining walls are under construction, supplies are stockpiled, and the bottom of the swale is muddy.

…read the rest


17 February 2016

I never met a health insurance company I didn’t hate


And I think I never will. Here’s how I learned how to loath the big company that provides my prescription medications under Medicare, Part D. MPD, as you may recall, is the prescription drug benefit George W. Bush rammed through congress. Coverage is not provided through Medicare but through private health insurance companies. That’s in accord with the economic religion practiced by Republicans.

Initially, my coverage started well. My physician prescribed generic medications. My insurer paid, and my co-pay was around a dollar a refill. Had I needed a $100 a pill superdrug for something serious, I expected to go broke and probably file for bankruptcy.

But I never expected what happened to me in the last two weeks. My pharmacy, and evidently my insurer, started using software to screen my prescriptions for drug interactions. That’s not a bad idea, but it can work out badly if minor interactions receive the same size red flag as major interactions.

In my case, it did work out badly.

The screen flagged two generics I’ve been taking twenty years. Apparently one study — not yet replicated — reported a interaction that increased reports of muscle pain by a factor of 25: from 0.2 percent to 5.0 percent. I’m not having any muscle pains, although my sphincter began to tighten as I learned more about the situation.

Because the software flagged a possible interaction, my insurer refused to honor its policy and pay for my prescription without a release from my doctor. My pharamacy faxed the release to my physician several times. No response. The pharmacy learned of the situation on 29 January, but didn’t tell me about the red flags until late on 11 February, after I had met with my doctor and had him renew the prescription that triggered the red flags.

By Monday I’d been out of the medication for several days, which was the worse case scenario. Fortunately, I had enough money to pay the full retail price — a sky high, gouge the sick price — so I’m back on my medications, following doctor’s orders.

Tomorrow I’m hand delivering the necessary paperwork to my physician. I think he can get it straightened out. And my pharmacy promises to ask the insurer to pay up. But a lot of things could go wrong.

Thus, I’m worried. And I’m increasingly steamed. But I’m not surprised. Private health insurance companies exist to make money for their stockholders and high riding executives. They do not exist to provide a medical service. Their operating model is the same one all insurance companies employ: collect premiums, deny benefits.

What I never will understand is why this is the kind of health care system my fellow Americans want, vote for, and cheer.

P.S. I’ve withheld names to avoid a lawsuit from the insurers. My pharmacy made a couple of mistakes, but otherwise has been helpful. And my physician, whom I’ve known for decades, joins me as one of the two people being screwed by the insurer. Hillary Clinton defends this health care system. That's a major reason why I support Bernie Sanders.



16 February 2016

Gianforte inflicting robo calls on Montanans

I hope you’re hearing it here first. Otherwise, you’ve already been victimized.

For those unable to play the recording, which was left on an answering machine (no, not mine), Gianforte’s inviting people to a telephone town hall for his regulation roundup tour.

Regulation roundup means rounding up and slaughtering regulations that capitalists don’t like.

I’ll leave it to the legal experts to decide whether this robo call is legal. I’ll leave it my my readers to decide whether it’s annoying.


Senate Republicans are now waiting for Justice Ginsberg to die

The quorum for the nine-member U.S. Supreme Court is six. Because the court can function with as many as three vacancies, replacing Justice Scalia does not prevent the court from deciding cases, although some cases may need to be deferred or reheard because the justices are evenly split.

Republicans will block a Democratic president’s appointees to the court as long as they have the power to do so. If President Obama is replaced by another Democrat, that president’s nominees will not be confirmed. Instead, Mitch McConnell and his caucus will wait for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the oldest justice, to die. With Ginsberg in the grave, conservatives will hold a four to three majority, the court will have a quorum, and the right wing will be back in business.

Would the Republicans really be so brazen as to do that? You bet they would. As Martin Longman noted at the Washington Monthly yesterday, they’re already doing that with the second circuit court of appeal.

A Democratic president’s nominees to the supreme court will be confirmed only when Democrats win at least 60 seats in the senate, or win a clear majority in the senate and have the wisdom and courage to repeal the filibuster. The odds of winning the lottery are higher.