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

Flathead Memo Archives, 1–15 July 2016


15 July 2016

The ballad of Pence and Trump

Tune: Loosely based on I’ve Got Sixpence, as I remember the melody. Mark Bowman’s performance is not quite as I remember the song. So, you’ll have to improvise. And, add verses.


Trump chose Mike Pence,
Indy Govie Mike Pence,
Trump chose Mike Pence,
To be his running mate.

Trump chose Mike for his flair,
For his white and shining hair,
And because he’ll help him make this country grate.

He’s no liberal, believe me,
No touchy-feely wimp who'll deceive thee,
He’s a righteous man of God and liberty,
Who’s always trollin’ trollin’ home.

Mike’s a tea man,
A true believin’ tea man,
Mike’s a tea man,
He’s got ideology.

He believes in what’s right,
He’s sure he’s seen the light,
From fact his faith will always keep him free.

Mike’s no liberal,
No touchy-feely liberal,
Mike’s no liberal,
He makes the far right look almost far left.

He abominates the gays,
He says their wicked ways,
Will leave them of the grace of God bereft.

Trump chose Mike Pence,
Indy Govie Mike Pence,
Trump chose Mike Pence,
To make this country grate.

He’ll save us from sin,
But not the looney bin,
If Donald Prez becomes this county’s fate.


Friday briefs: terror in France, changes at WFFF

Bastille Day murders. One man, one 20-ton rented refrigerator truck, 84 dead, more than 200 injured, at least 50 critically. Hard to stop, a large truck need not be filled with explosives to kill dozens. It just needs to be driven into a crowd by a madman soured on humanity. This will frighten people, for it’s not hard to imagine the tactic being employed again. Politically, I think it probably helps Donald Trump.

Changes at Water for [the] Flathead’s Future. Sandy Perry, whose energy and organizing acumen built a powerful movement opposing a proposed water bottling plant in Creston, near the Flathead River, has stepped down as WFFF’s leader. Deirdre Coit replaces her on an interim basis. Thus far, WFFF’s campaign against the water bottling plant has been close to a textbook example of how to organize.

On 1 August, the Department of Environmental Quality will hold a hearing on whether to issue a wastewater discharge permit for the bottling plant. On 5 August, WFFF will present to the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation a major brief contending that:

…selling Flathead Valley’s water for consumption out of state does constitutes “out of state use” of that water. The DNRC’s assertion is that it does not constitute “out of state use” of that water. Give us your thoughts at www.waterforflatheadsfuture.org/contact-us.

WFFF’s legal theory, which strikes me as dubious, appears to be based on MCA 85-2-311, Section 4, which governs appropriating and transporting water for use outside the state. My understanding of the statute is that it’s designed to thwart schemes such as Ralph Parson’s grandiose North American Water and Power Alliance; the 1964 Udall-Dominy scheme, described in Cadillac Desert, to divert 10–15 million acre-feet of Columbia River water to the Colorado River basin (and thence to Los Angeles); or various proposals to divert part of the Yellowstone River to Denver. Water, remember, flows uphill to money and power, so the fear of an out-of-state raid on Montana’s water is not without historical basis.

Here, the question is whether 85-2-311 applies to 20-ounce bottles of groundwater that may be sold outside of Montana. After it’s pumped out of the ground, the water will be filtered, sterilized with ultraviolet C, and sealed in small plastic bottles. To my mind, that makes it a value added product like beer or soda pop, although healthier. No one has ever seriously argued, or perhaps even argued, that shipping suds brewed in Montana to markets outside Montana is an out-of-state use of water. WFFF gets an “A” for legal bootstrapping, but I won’t be surprised if a court gives the argument the boot.



14 July 2016

Today’s must read report on identity politics

I don’t like Hillary Clinton, but I’m voting for her because it would not be in my enlightened self-interest to suffer Donald Trump as president. Among white men with a college degree, that puts me in a minority. Writing in today’s New York Times, Thomas Edsall reports:

…read the rest


13 July 2016

Best description yet of Hillary’s email predicament

Recent polls suggest the presidential election will be close, and that Donald Trump is closing the gap with Hillary Clinton. It’s possible That Trump is getting a boost from the approach of the Republican convention (if the convention is a fiasco, the boost will be inverted), and that Clinton’s email troubles have cost her some support.

Jeffrey Toobin, writing in the New Yorker, has the best description yet of how and why Hillary shot herself in the foot with her private email system:

That Clinton would even install such a rattletrap system suggests the influence of the Starr legacy. Clinton wanted a way to shield her personal business (which was her right) while also conducting State Department business on the same e-mail account. As a Washington veteran, she should have known that such a system was fraught with peril. Most government officials avoid the problem by keeping a separate account, like one on Gmail, for private e-mail. Clinton could have done that and avoided the problems, but instead she jerry-rigged a system that supposedly could handle both personal and professional work. It was a terrible idea.

When first confronted by reports about the e-mails, Clinton reacted like a cornered perp, denying everything. She had to know (as most everyone in Washington does) that the government vastly overclassifies information, so her flat denial that there had been any classified information on her server was destined to be disproved, as it was. Retreating from that line, she said that nothing “marked” classified was on her server, and that, too, turned out to be wrong. (Not very wrong; there were just a few classification marks among her thousands of e-mails, and even those may have been mistakenly applied.) But Clinton’s visceral distaste for being the target of partisan smears led her to overreact, overdeny, and make a bad situation worse. As a victim of partisan vendettas, she couldn’t recognize a good-faith F.B.I. investigation when she saw one. But that’s what the F.B.I. delivered, in the form of a public scolding from Director James Comey (which she deserved), as well as a demurral of criminal prosecution (which was also correct).

This goes to judgment and temperament. Compared to Trump, Hillary scores well on these qualities. But on an absolute scale, she does not. I still believe that her natural position is deputy chief of staff for legislative affairs.


Enviros issue poorly organized press release on Colstrip 1 & 2 shutdown

Thanks to an agreement announced yesterday, the Colstrip 1 and 2 generating units will be shutting down by 2022 — but Colstrip units 3 and 4, which are newer and larger, will remain online, burning coal, belching smoke, making money, and employing Montanans.

 Updated 15 July  Units 1 and 2 each have 358-megawatt nameplate ratings, and a net capacity of 307 MW. They began operating in 1975 and 1975. Units 3 and 4, approximately twice the size, went online in 1984 and 1984. (Source: IEEFA.)

The continued operation of units 3 and 4 is as important as the shutdown of units 1 and 2, but the Montana Environmental Information Center and the Sierra Club did not make that clear in their press release (PDF) on the agreement until the eleventh paragraph. Here are the first three:

BILLINGS, Mont. – Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC) and Sierra Club reached a historic agreement today with Puget Sound Energy and Talen Energy to retire the oldest and most financially risky coal­burning units at the Colstrip coal plant in Colstrip, Montana.

Units 1 and 2 – which were built in the 1970s and lack state­of­the­art pollution controls – have faced serious problems remaining competitive as energy markets shift dramatically. Meanwhile, Washington and Oregon, which are the main customers for Colstrip’s electricity, have sent clear signals that they no longer want coal­generated power and prefer more clean energy. Under the agreement, which was filed with the District Court in Missoula, Pennsylvania­based Talen and Seattle­based PSE have until July 2022 to retire the two units.

Today’s decision marks an opportunity to use Colstrip’s existing transmission system to build out more clean energy and export it to Washington and other states. The American Wind Energy Association ranks Montana third for wind power potential in the United States. Montana’s wind resource has the potential to power 6.4 million average homes by 2030 according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

And here’s the eleventh paragraph, which should have been the third:

Colstrip’s two newer units, built in the 1980s, are not covered by the agreement and will continue to run.

The shutdown agreement may have blindsided Governor Steve Bullock. It certainly won’t help his re-election campaign, as the organized interests that will be hurt by the shutdown may decide that Democratic energy policies are bad for both business and labor.



12 July 2016

Gianforte should donate river access land to state


Bozeman businessman Greg Gianforte is under attack again, this time by the Democratic Governors Association, for his lawsuit to end a river access easement on the riverfront property on which his home is located. The DGA’s 30-second video ad is amateurish — and mendacious in its assertion that Gianforte’s a New Jersey intruder; he isn’t — but it does make the point that Gianforte has undercut his credibility on stream access by his handling of the matter.

There’s a simple way for Gianforte to put this issue behind him. He should donate the land in question to the State of Montana. He can afford to do so. If he holds onto the land, it’s hard to resist the conclusion that he’s playing a long game, hoping to get rid of the easement sometime in the future. Alternatively, he could cut a deal with the state to purchase land or an easement for river access somewhere else in exchange for getting rid of the easement on his land.

Meanwhile, I simply do not understand why the DGA, the Bullock campaign, and the Democratic Party, continue to lie that Gianforte’s a “New Jersey multimillionaire.” Their conduct makes me ashamed to be a Democrat. As readers may remember, I’ve written about this before. Here are the links to a few of my posts on the subject:

Let’s be clear on one thing. These lying Democrats are not perjuring themselves. They’re not under oath. But they are embarrassing themselves, and many good and decent members of their party, without being aware that they are, such is their lack of shame. By their behavior, they’re declaring they have no moral obligation to tell the truth; that everything is subordinate to the exigencies of winning. They consider themselves hard-ass politicos, egg breakers and knee-cappers who get things done and keep people in line. Indeed, they’re swaggeringly proud of that image. But I believe they’re bringing discredit on the effort to re-elect Steve Bullock. Therefore, at least once a month, I’m going to reprimand them and urge them to repent and abandon their evil ways.


Dead tree memory modules at loss leader prices

It’s never too early to start luring parents to stores to buy school supplies and other things. At Walmart in Kalispell, the current loss leader is a spiral bound notebook, bearing the Sustainable Forestry Initiative certification notice, for seventeen cents. It’s a good notebook, with perfed, 3-hole, pages that can be torn out and placed in a 3-ring binder. I bought five.

I wonder how many students still take notes using paper and pen. iPads and laptop computers have a lot of advantages, especially for people whose handwriting is not easy to read.




11 July 2016

Black Lives Matter protests will help Trump

Black Lives Matter wants to provoke a conversation on race. That’s why it’s employing confrontational tactics. But it’s making terrible organizing mistakes:

  • In Dallas, the BLM protesters included men wearing camouflage and carrying long guns, an image reminiscent of the Black Panthers in 1968. Whether the armed protesters were invited to bring their weapons to the protest is one question. Whether the organizers asked the armed men to leave the protest is another. When Mica Johnson began killing police officers, all of the armed protesters became potential suspects (and insofar as I can determine, not one shot back at Johnson).

  • In Inglewood, CA, Sunday night, hundreds of BLM protesters shut down the 405 freeway, at a minimum inconveniencing law abiding citizens. This is ongoing as I write, but I suspect BLM wants to provoke arrests.  Updated at 1830 MDT.  No arrests were made because the police stayed several blocks away (LA Times).

  • In Baton Rouge, LA, BLM protesters were arrested by the dozen for walking along a highway without a sidewalk. I strongly suspect the protest was designed to goad the police into making arrests. In Louisiana, not much goading is required for the gendarmes to break out the handcuffs and billy clubs, and to start breaking heads.

BLM is not responsible for Mica Johnson, a nut case whose military service made him more dangerous. A lot of problems are prevented when men like him are killed in foreign wars, but in Afghanistan, he was a bricklayer and nail pounder, not a ground-pounder. He survived the Taliban only to die when the Dallas police used a robot and C4 to blow him to kingdom come.

But BLM is responsible for employing in-your-face confrontation that’s intended unsettle white people. The ostensible rationale for this tactic is that shock is necessary to get people to listen and engage, but I think the real rational is to use confrontation and rage to intimidate and punish. BLM wants to anger and frighten white people. It’s succeeding.

This will help Donald Trump, assuming he’s the nominee, at the ballot box, just as it helped Richard Nixon at the ballot box in 1968. Trump doesn't need to rant and rave. He needs only to express his support for preserving the rights of all, and for ensuring domestic tranquility. The message will be clear, and voters on the fence will feel safest in his back yard.



10 July 2016

Cheap labor Democrats weaken $15/hr minimum wage plank

The good news is that the national platform committee agreed on a plank calling for a national minimum wage of $15 per hour (the current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour). The bad news is that Hillary Clinton’s campaign added weasel words. Here, reports Politico, is the new language

We should raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over time and index it, give all Americans the ability to join a union regardless of where they work, and create new ways for workers to have power in the economy so every worker can earn at least $15 an hour.

Here’s CNN’s account of how the minimum wage plank was adopted:

Democrats amended their platform late Friday to call for a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage — a Sanders priority from the outset of his 2016 campaign.

The amendment calls for the change “over time” — less specific language than Sanders had wanted, making it a concession for Clinton.

The amendment calling for the $15-an-hour federal minimum wage was introduced by former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, a Sanders supporter.

Mary Kay Henry, the international president of the Service Employees International Union, proposed adding language that included the phrase “over time.”

The phrase “over time” reminds me of the phrase “with all deliberate speed” from Brown v. Board of Education. It accepts a $15 per hour minimum wage in principle, but weakens the urgency of getting to $15 per hour. The phrase translates as “no hurry; take your own sweet time.”

Why Clinton is being so refractory on this escapes me. Walking into Walmart in Kalispell last week I encountered a sign announcing that the store was hiring at a starting wage of $11–13 per hour. If market pressures already are forcing the big box stores to that wage range, $15 per hour is far from a whopping big increase. And the dogma of trickle-down economics notwithstanding, there’s no credible evidence that increasing the minimum wage is a zero-sum game that reduces the number of jobs.

Therefore, why raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour over time? Raise it to $15/hour now.


Bridge beams and other westside bypass matters

Beams are being placed for the Two Mile bridge over the westside bypass, and streetlights to illuminate the on and off ramps at Three Mile Drive stand tall along the roadbed. I strongly suspect this will result in light pollution.


The bypass from Three Mile Drive to Two Mile Drive.

…view the rest


9 July 2016

Dallas shooter used a Russian designed military rifle

In case you’re wondering, Dallas police shooter Micah Xavier Johnson used a carbine designed by Russia for military use, reports CBS News:

A law enforcement source told CBS News the suspect was armed with a SKS semi-automatic assault rifle and a handgun, CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milton reports.

According to the Wikipedia, the SKS fires a 7.62x39 mm round and has a 10-round magazine that’s reloaded by a stripper clip. The Soviets introduced it in the early 1940s as a lighter alternative to their standard military rifle. In the early 1950s, it was supplanted by the AK-47.

Millions of the SKS were manufactured, by Russia and other nations, such as China, and the weapon is used by civilians as a hunting and target shooting firearm. A cursory Google search yielded prices in the $300–600 range for the SKS. By comparison, a high quality model of the AR-15 design can sell for $1,500–2,000.

Johnson used his SKS as a sniper rifle. Although not designed for that purpose, it got the job done.



8 July 2016

First reports always are incomplete, and often are wrong

 Final update, at 1444 MDT.  Not only were the first reports incomplete, they seem to have been wrong. Although the authorities have not completely ruled out additional shooters, the murders appear to be the work of one man, identified by the NY Times as 25-year-old black army veteran who served in Afghanistan. According to the Dallas chief of police, the shooter was targeting white police officers. The story is developing quickly, and of course is being covered well by the mainstream media. My approach remains one of measured skepticism. It may be quite some time before I publish anything on the policy implications of this incident.

That’s the approach I’m taking with the shootings in Dallas. Five police officers were killed, six more wounded, several seriously, and a civilian may be been wounded. There was more than one shooter, but at 0600 MDT this morning, we don’t know who did the shooting, why, or what kind of weapons were used.  Updated at 1114 MDT.  The Dallas Morning News reports seven officers and two civilians were wounded.

We can tentatively infer from the coordination of the ambush that this was not the act of a lone madman. But we cannot infer that it was terrorism. It might have been a small group settling a personal dispute with the police. Or there might be another explanation. We’ll find out soon enough. Updated at 1114 MDT.  Whether there was more than one shooter is now in doubt. One gunman, who reportedly said he wanted to kill white people, is dead. Confusion and uncertainty abound.


Is it a bear attack when a bicyclist collides with a bear?

That’s one question reporters were asking themselves as they wrote stories about Brad Treat, who was killed by a bear last week after running into it on his mountain bicycle.

Initially, reporters were told Treat was attacked by a grizzly bear while riding his mountain bicycle in the vicinity of West Glacier, and that’s what was reported. The authorities then began doubting whether the bear was a grizzly, whereupon reporters carefully wrote stories to convey that uncertainty and report what the agencies were doing to resolve it (DNA analysis).

Finally, more details of the encounter became available. Treat, riding fast down a narrow trail with limited sight distance, had crashed his bicycle into the bear, which instead of running away attacked and killed him.

When I learned of the collision, I had to rethink my image of the incident. The initial reports suggested that an aggressive bear, perhaps surprised, perhaps protecting cubs, charged Treat, knocking him off his bicycle, then killed him. Instead, Treat unwittingly provoked the bear, which then turned on him and killed him.

Here’s how Justin Franz at the Flathead Beacon described the incident:

…read the rest

MT Democrats begin major organizing effort in Indian Country


Montana’s Democrats commenced a major organizing effort in Indian Country with the hiring of Amy Croover as the director of the party’s Native Vote Program. Reports Democratic spokesperson Kirstin Cates:

Croover comes to the Montana Democrats most recently from Portland where she worked as a policy coordinator for Metro. But prior to that, the Salish Kootenai College graduate worked on Sen. Jon Tester’s campaign in 2006 and spent the next seven years as his Native American Liaison. Her bachelor’s degree is in environmental science and she is finishing her master’s degree in public administration from Portland State University.

Croover is hiring field organizers (job description).

Turning out the Indian vote is critical for Democrats, and is not always easy. According to a 27 June Associated Press story:

…read the rest


6 July 2016

Bernie should endorse Hillary after she’s nominated

Unless she dies before 27 July, the day when I believe the formal ballot to choose a nominee will be held (I could not find a schedule on the convention’s official website), Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic Party’s candidate for President of the United States. After her acceptance speech the next night, I expect that Bernie Sanders will join her on the podium and produce an unmistakeable gesture of support and solidarity. He’ll endorse her and stump for her.

That will be good enough for me. In fact, it will better than I feel capable of doing right now. I’ll vote for her — that’s in my enlightened self-interest — but at this point I can’t bring myself to endorse her.

But it won’t be good enough for a lot of her supporters. They want Bernie to endorse her yesterday. Like the pack of playground bullies that they are, they want him to cry “Uncle!”, to abase himself with a concession speech in the seventh inning, so that they and she can bask in the glory of seeing the man who had the temerity to challenge her drop to his knees and kiss her feet.

Bernie is playing hardball to obtain needed changes in the Democratic platform. That’s both his right and smart politics. No one should be surprised. He’d be a fool to surrender his leverage with a premature endorsement. What the Hillaryites really want when they demand he endorse her now is not just some kind of primal satisfaction from rubbing his face in the dirt, but the least unfriendly to Wall Street platform possible.


Not all six-pointed stars are Stars of David

Donald Trump avers that as president, he’ll solve problems by hiring the smartest experts. His campaign’s handling of the Star of David controversy provides little reassurance that he practices what promises.

Over the weekend, Trump’s social media operation Tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton on a background of one-hundred-dollar Federal Reserve Notes. “Most corrupt candidate ever!” was in white letters inside of a red, six-pointed, star. It was not his campaign’s original artwork: it was an image copied from a right wing website notorious for its anti-semitic tendencies. Given the context, many observers concluded the star was the Star of David, and that Clinton was being accused of being bought and paid for by evil Jewish bankers.

According to Kevin Drum, at Mother Jones:

Trump deleted the tweet within a few minutes and photoshopped a circle on top of the star. Then he went on offense, claiming that the star was really a sheriff’s star, not a Star of David.

We got the arrestingly stupid sheriff’s star defense because an apology would have been politically correct. But the reference to the sheriff’s star does raise a valid point: a six-pointed star is not an anti-semitic symbol in and of itself.

The six-pointed star polygon, also known as the hexagram (Greek) or sexagram (Latin), is one of the oldest geometric objects, probably because of its ease of construction (one needs only a compass and straight edge). Most drawing applications, including those for creating advertisements, provide tools for creating stars, and various stars in the encapsulated PostScript format (.eps) are available in clip art libraries.

Trump’s Tweeter easily could have created a similar image using a six-pointed star and not generated a controversy. But instead of pushing the polygon button, he pushed the rip-off button, and gave Clinton’s social media warriors an opportunity to play Gotcha.



5 July 2016

Kalispell’s 2016 Independence Day parade

The weather was perfect. The parade was not, but it was good enough that the thousand or so citizens lining Kalispell’s main drag should not have felt cheated — unless, of course, they expected presidential level politics. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans displayed even a single sign bearing the name of their party’s presumed nominee for president. For that, we must await the parade during the Flathead County Fair next month.


Grayer and slower, but still firm and focused.

…see more images


4 July 2016

Kingdom Coming, Yankee Doodle, and a dandy Fourth

Here’s the Boston Pops with a medley of Kingdom Coming and Yankee Doodle to help you whistle up a dandy Fourth of July. This evening I’ll be standing a fireworks and fire watch in my backyard, a fire hose in one hand, a cell phone with 911 on speeddial in the other, and a pulaski within lunging distance, hoping that my neighbors exercise common sense when the high winds that are forecast rise. Between now and then, I’ll be training my camera on various local events, and hope to share some images with you later today.



3 July 2016

Dry Bones

The Cathedrals southern gospel quartet, here performing Dry Bones, had one of the best bass singers ever, and were in demand as back-up singers for solo artists as well as for their own performances. The audio is clear, but a bit weak; you may need to crank up the gain.



2 July 2016

Racicot’s rant, Hillary meets with FBI, MWPA puts stump in its mouth

Former Republican Montana governor Marc Racicot never will run for office again. He’s 68, making big money in Washington, D.C., and has no reason to fear the wrath of Republicans who voted for Donald Trump. That’s why he’s willing to write an oped in the Washington Post, cudgeling Trump:

But after long and careful consideration, I cannot endorse or support their [Republican voters] decision to express their frustration, anger and disappointment by selecting Trump as the Republican nominee for president. Trump has demonstrated neither the aforementioned qualities of principled leadership, nor offered any substantive or serious conservative policy proposals consistent with historical Republican Party platform positions. Both, in my humble view, are indispensable preconditions to his selection as the Republican candidate for the office of president of the United States.

As a result, I cannot endorse or support Trump for president. And I offer my prayer for a second miracle in Cleveland.

My question for Racicot: if your prayer isn’t answered, if Trump is the Republican nominee, perhaps paired with a vice presidential candidate such as Newt Gingrich or Paul LePage, will you endorse and vote for Hillary Clinton? Or will you remain silent, perhaps voting for Libertarian Gary Johnson, or not casting a vote for president, hoping that Hillary wins without your help? I'll expect your answer after the GOP convention.

Lawyered-up, Hillary Clinton meets with the FBI to discuss her private email operation. Counting herself, there were six lawyers in her delegation. Two were aides who are also attorneys, and may have been there as witnesses instead as part of her legal team. Still, it doesn’t look good, as where there are lots of lawyers, there’s potentially lots of trouble. Instead of bringing her entourage, she should have brought just herself and one junior attorney to underscore the insignificance of the meeting.

Clinton’s defense of clinton-dot-com is that it was legal, which it probably was, but that it was a mistake, which it surely was, reminds me of Tallyrand’s famous remark, “it was worse than criminal, it was a mistake.” She has yet to admit that it was wrong in a moral sense, and that’s why the controversy won’t disappear. Now all she can do is lash herself to the mast and ride out the storm.

Bill’s chatting up Loretta didn’t kill Hill’s bid to be president. Some observers think Bill Clinton hurt Hillary by visiting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch during an airport stop this week. It looks a bit cozy, but if I were spinning the event, I’d say “All this proves is that Bill Clinton still has an eye for the ladies. That’s good because it means he still has his mojo.” Bill Clinton without his mojo is too sad a thought to contemplate.

The Montana Woods Product Association demonstrates how to bungle a political endorsement. Instead of endorsing no one, and making that crystal clear, the MWPA, undoubtedly trying to hedge its bets, tried to curry favor with both gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Steve Bullock and Republican Greg Gianforte. The latter treated the MWPA’s letter as an endorsement, which Gianforte then began touting.

Now the MWPA says it didn’t endorse Gianforte, something that Cianforte’s campaign, incredibly, disputes.

My advice for the MWPA. Endorse clarity. Get off the fence before your southern valley is as sore as the campaigns you’ve embarrassed.


Montana Democrats chicken-out on minimum wage

Yesterday, the national Democrat’s platform committee released the draft platform for 2016 (PDF). It’s still subject to tweaks, and there could be attempts to eviscerate the more progressive sections, but it’s more progressive than I expected given the probable nomination of Hillary Clinton. That’s especially so on the minimum wage, which national Democrats want raised to $15 per hour:

Minimum Wage. Democrats believe that the current minimum wage is a starvation wage and must be increased to a living wage. No one who works full time should have to raise a family in poverty. We believe that Americans should earn at least $15 an hour and have the right to form or join a union. We applaud the approaches taken by states like New York and California. We should raise and index the minimum wage, give all Americans the ability to join a union regardless of where they work, and create new ways for workers to have power in the economy. We also support creating one fair wage for all workers by ending the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers and people with disabilities. [Page 3.]

By contrast, Montana’s Democrats, in their 2016 platform (PDF), call for raising the minimum wage, but avoid specifying a number:

Jobs, Business and the Economy ACTION Agenda

  • Raise the minimum wage to a living wage standard so that Montanans do not have to exist on inadequate wages or seek publicly funded assistance while employed. [PDF page 17, lines 23–24.]

Labor ACTION Agenda

  • Increase the federal minimum wage and index it annually to increases in the cost of living to offer some protection to those workers at the lowest end of the economic scale.
  • Raise the minimum wage to a living wage standard so that Montanans do not have to exist on inadequate wages or need to access publicly funded assistance while employed. [PDF page 17, lines 46–49.]

(Note. The Montana document has line numbers that restart every page, but not page numbers. When the omission of the page numbers is corrected, I hope the line numbers scheme will be changed to consecutive numbers.)

Montana’s Democrats clearly fear that endorsing a $15 per hour minimum wage will generate unendurable opposition from small business owners, many of whom are social Democrats, as well as the usual opposition from the big box stores, such as Walmart. The party thinks that endorsing the concept of a higher minimum wage while avoiding putting a number on the increase will appease the wage raisers but not enrage the wage payers. I think the formulation will enrage the raisers, who will consider avoiding a number as cowardice, and disconcert the payers, who will wonder just how high the Democrats are willing to go.

I’m not cutting Montana’s Democrats any slack on this. Back in January, in a post on the minimum wage, I wrote:

Every time someone proposes raising the minimum wage, it triggers the right’s Pavlovian reaction to economic justice. Those who worship at the altar of cheap labor warn, with Richard Nixonesque gravitas, and with faces so straight they seem set in epoxy, that paying workers more will hurt businesses and cost the jobs of low wage workers.

Those who believe that will believe anything. Actually, raising the minimum wage puts more money in the economy and helps people pull themselves out of poverty.

If paying hamburger slingers at least $15 per hour causes a half-dollar increase in the price of a cheeseburger, or even double that, I’ll gladly pay it and add a tip. So will all decent people.

Do the platforms of political parties matter? Yes. Writing at the Washington Monthly today, David Atkins explains why:

Does all of this brouhaha over the platform actually matter? It depends on whom you ask. For many, the platform is an irrelevant document that serves only to anger both sides in a war of pointless posturing–and that is possibly true assuming that candidates ignore the platform. But platforms signal the expectations of the party’s base, which is increasingly important as elections become more about turning out one’s base rather than appealing to a shrinking group of persuadable voters. While Sanders and Clinton supporters will fight endlessly on social media and comment threads over who is the “real” base of the party, the reality is regardless of whom they voted for, members of the party’s base (and ideologically aligned independents) generally want to see a true universal healthcare system as in most other industrialized countries, higher taxes on the wealthy, much more stringent climate protections, a curb on Wall Street’s activities, solutions to the student loan crisis, etc. Having those desires reflected in the party’s platform creates a signal light by which Democratic candidates can navigate in the future. It also creates a blueprint for state and local Democratic clubs and central committees around the country to align their own platforms and for use in evaluating candidates for endorsement from governors and senators to local service board members.



1 July 2016

Sen. Tester votes against hedge fund slavery for Puerto Rico


Along with Senators Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders, and nine other Democrats, Jon Tester voted against the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act two days ago. Puerto Rico is in big financial trouble and needs help, but Tester and his colleagues considered PROMESA too harsh.

Sen. Steve Daines also voted against PROMESA, but I’ve found no evidence he considered the bill too draconian.

And draconian it is, reports Isaiah Poole at the Campaign for America’s future:

The legislation – which has the acronym PROMESA, Spanish for “promise” – imposes on the island’s approximately 3.5 million residents a financial control board that will determine how the government spends its money and how businesses on the island are regulated. That control board would have the power to slash government spending in order to ensure that Wall Street investors who purchased Puerto Rico bonds would be paid.

It also allows the federal minimum wage on the island to be lowered to $4.25 an hour for workers 24 and under. Plus, businesses in Puerto Rico would not have to comply with regulations that would increase the number of workers eligible for overtime pay that will go into effect December 1. That means workers earning as little as $24,000 a year could be asked to work 50, 60, 70 hours or more a week without earning an extra dime in pay.

The legislation sends an unmistakable message: If you are a financially struggling Puerto Rican – and that is most of the island’s residents – you will be expected to sacrifice more: fewer government services, lower wages and higher taxes. For the wealthy, it says, in so many words, “We got your back.”

Worse, reports Poole:

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton supported this legislation, calling it “imperfect” but nonetheless joining a number of House and Senate Democrats who felt pressured by the July 1 default deadline to agree to many of the demands of conservative Republicans and Wall Street lobbyists.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, was among the Democrats who voted against the bill, calling it on the Senate floor “legislation smacking of the worst form of colonialism, in the sense that it takes away all of the important democratic rights of the American citizens of Puerto Rico.”

A tip of the hat to you, Sen. Tester, for voting against this shameful hedge fund relief act.