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

Flathead Memo Archives, 16–31 March 2016


31 march 2016

Thursday political roundup

The Bullock-Buttrey connection. Logicosity published Part I today. Sen. Ed Buttrey (R-Great Falls) sponsored the legislation that rescued hospitals and private health insurance companies with a privatized, bastardized, form of Medicaid expansion.

Susan Sarandon, Bernie or bust, and echos of PUMA past. Actress Susan Sarandon (Thelma and Louise, Bull Durham) supports Bernie Sanders so staunchly that she might not support the Democratic nominee if Bernie loses to Hillary. At The Atlantic, David Graham has the wry commentary.

Montana v. Wittich. At Montana Cowgirl, John Adams continues reporting the trial. The story is important, but it’s also inside baseball esoteria for most voters.

The Great Exception: The New Deal and the Limits of American Politics. At Democracy, Sam Rosenfeld reviews Jefferson Cowie’s rather depressing new book on the New Deal’s political legacy and future.

Hillary and company lose their cool, start bashing Bernie. Hillary and her supporters are weary of Bernie Sanders. They’re perplexed and exasperated by his support, and increasingly angry that he’s not stepping aside so that she can waltz down a red carpet to the nomination. Their tempers are short. Today, they reached the breaking point. Pro choice organizations denounced Sanders for his reaction to Donald Trump’s proposal charge women seeking abortions with crimes. And Hillary, reportedly flustered by a question on whether she accepts donations from the oil patch, and probably needing a good night’s sleep and a Valium, blurted “I am so sick, I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me. I’m sick of it.” Not the best strategy for bringing the party together after the convention.


Welcome to Montana’s blogosphere, Plains Speaking

Plains Speaking is the new blog at the Northern Plains Resource Council, one of Montana’s oldest and most effective conservation organizations. I’ve added it to Flathead Memo’s blogroll, and thank Montana Cowgirl for bringing Plains Speaking to my attention.


30 March 2016

Political briefs

Greg Gianforte’s private giving is a legitimate public issue. He’s resisting that notion, but it’s an argument he’ll lose — and should lose. His choice of causes, organizations, and people, to fund reveals much about his values and judgment, and provides insight into the priorities he would set as governor. That matters to voters. So does his public giving, as Don Pogreba notes at Intelligent Discontent.

Gianforte’s trying not to say foolish things. That’s why he’s ducking questions with “No comment,” and resisting questions he considers unfair, irrelevant, or dangerous. He’s not the first businessman turned politician to employ this approach, which makes sense of a kind. What he doesn’t say can’t be quoted to his disadvantage. But by not saying anything, he clears the field for his opposition to define him. Candidates are always better off if they define themselves.

If Donald Trump is the Republican presidential nominee, will Republicans lose majorities in Congress and state legislatures? That still doesn’t seem likely, but it no longer can be dismissed as a lottery odds long shot. At some point, certain conservative voters — especially establishment Republicans who abominate the unwashed authoritarians backing Trump — may decide the Republican party cannot be trusted to control the government. If these voters refuse to mark their ballots for Republican candidates, Democrats could regain the majorities they lost in the debacles of 2010 and 2014.

But Trump, as Thomas Edsall warns in today’s New York Times, should not be underestimated:

The comparatively low levels of support for Trump among college-educated Republicans, women, young voters and those with incomes above $100,000 suggest that these voters are most likely to sit out the election or to vote Democratic if Trump is the nominee. Conversely, groups that gave him higher than average support in the primaries — the less well educated, those with incomes below the median, men and rural voters — are likely to deliver his best margins in the general election.

If there are two key themes in the election so far, one is Trump’s ability to enrage; the other is his ability to exceed expectations. The disregard of liberal and conservative elites for working and middle class voters has manifested itself in a consistent underestimation of the anger, resentment and pessimism of these voters — and hence of their electoral power.

A long presidential primary campaign is good for the Democrats. Not everyone thinks so, of course. Some of Hillary Clinton’s supporters, angry that Bernie Sanders had the temerity to challenge her for the nomination, and not a little worried that he still could win, want Bernie to strike his campaign now and clear Hillary’s way to the nomination. That makes no sense to me. Thus far, their campaign has been an exchange of ideas that presents quite a contrast, and quite a favorable contrast, to the Republican’s exchange of insults.

Some of Hillary’s supporters, certain that she’ll win the nomination, want the primary campaign to end now so that Bernie’s supporters have time to get over their hurt feelings and join her campaign, and so that she can start campaigning against Trump. Self-righteous Hillaryites are flooding the internet with sanctimonious taunts imploring Bernie’s backers to swallow their pride and kiss up to Sister Clinton.

Nothing, however, more effectively illustrates how the two parties differ than the night and day contrast between the campaigns they’re running.

That tit for tat is best ignored. After the Democrats choose a nominee, the party will close ranks and work 24/7 to win the election.



29 March 2016

More than 38,000 have enrolled in MT’s privatized expanded Medicaid

That number comes from the Montana Budget and Policy Center, which on a relative scale is a liberal institution in this state. The legislature’s fiscal analyst predicted that by fiscal 2019’s end, 46,000 of the approximately 70,000 thought to be eligible would be enrolled in the system, so in a way the 38,000 figure is good news.

On balance, having even Montana’s bastardized expansion of Medicaid provides poor people with at least rudimentary health insurance. Of course, it’s private health insurance, the program is administered by a private party (Blue Cross, if memory serves me correctly), and the poor must pay a two percent income tax (that’s called a premium) for the privilege of joining a system designed to teach them personal responsibility (don’t become poor, don’t get sick).

…read the rest

The email, not spam, asked: “Will you go to jail?”

As intended, that question, from the Bold Progressives, got my attention. The Bold Progressives and upwards of a hundred allies will engage in nonviolent civil disobedience in early April to underscore just how fed up they are with Citizens United campaign finance decision that’s billionaires buy elections. The email invited me to join the festivities:

…read the rest

Best baseball reference in political commentary so far this year


After serving two legislative terms starting at age 21, Sarah Laszloffy decided not to seek re-election this year. That’s a bit of a surprise, at least for me. And for some, it may have come as a bit of a relief given her association with the Montana Family Foundation, founded by her father, Jeff Laszloffy a former legislator himself.

At Logicosity yesterday, Edward R. Burrow published an analysis of Sarah Laszloffy’s legislature tenure that contains what may be the best bon mot produced by Montana’s online commentariat this year:

Papa was a regular at each Committee meeting. While seeking to be inconspicuous, he was able to secure a spot each time the Committee met so as to have eye-to-eye contact with his daughter, whom he and his spouse meticulously home-schooled.

There were no overt signals from Papa. No, instead, there were subtle squints and chin rubs of the type any third base coach would envy. Those non-verbal cues were undoubtedly honed to perfection at the close of business each day. Sarah lived with Papa.

Montana not only can live with Burrow’s literary skills. Montana can live for them.


Guerrilla campaigning — websites for cannon fodder candidates

Remember the text heavy, black-and-white, one-third page campaign card? Unless you’ve been around long enough to remember dial telephones, you might not. Today’s political propaganda — websites included — dazzles with glossy color, often while glossing over inconvenient details.

For a political party’s chosen, the candidates who can win, the chroma, gloss, and gloss overs, are provided by professionals with access to sophisticated social science research (see Issenberg’s The Victory Lab).

Not so for the party’s cannon fodder candidates, the loyal souls who run in hopeless districts. They won’t get much help, especially in designing useful websites. “Use Facebook and Twitter,” they’re told, then turned loose to fend for themselves. At best, they’re condemned to generic designs offered at a discount to discourage deviations from the party’s message. It’s triage, although that’s seldom admitted.

But even cannon fodder candidates need campaign websites in addition to Facebook pages and Twitter account. Websites anchor social media and serve as the campaign’s library and communications central.

…read the rest


28 March 2016

A gender equality theme song for Donald Trump

Donald Trump likes trophy wives, but I’m not sure he’s all that fond of women in general — unless, of course, they know their place is kinder, küche, und kirche. A man with those sensibilities needs a special gender equality theme song for his campaign. I recommend Shel Silverstein’s Put Another Log on the Fire, made famous by Tompall Glaser in 1975. Here’s Tompall performing the song a bit more recently.



27 March 2016


26 March 2016

An early Easter

Tomorrow is Easter, which fell on 5 April last year. Although the date of Easter is commonly held to be the first Sunday after the first full moon after the start of spring, it’s actually the first Sunday after the first ecclesiastical full moon after the vernal equinox. I refer you to the explanation of the date’s determination that I posted last year. My best wishes for an enjoyable holiday.



25 March 2016

Sanders County is too sovereign for its own good

Jack Ryan, a twenty-something resident of Sanders County, is on the run, wanted by the federal government for allegedly breaking laws at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. On Monday, a federal court unsealed an indictment charging him with:

…”depredation of government property” for allegedly digging two trenches or latrines next to a makeshift camping area at the refuge and causing more than $1,000 worth of damage.

An FBI Evidence Response Team began scouring the scene after the occupation ended Feb. 11, and agents found “significant amounts” of human feces in at least one of two large trenches, prosecutors previously said. Investigators also found an “improvised road on or adjacent to grounds containing sensitive artifacts,” prosecutors said.

Ryan faces a second criminal count of allegedly conspiring with the 25 other defendants to prevent employees of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management from using the refuge from Jan. 2 to Feb. 11. He also faces a third count of allegedly possessing guns or other dangerous weapons or causing guns or other dangerous weapons to be present at the federal refuge in Harney County.

As they say in the south, that boy’s in a heap of trouble — and he’s compounding his trouble by not surrendering peacefully.

Reports Vince Devlin of the Missoulian:

Jeanette Finicum, the widow of the refuge occupier who was killed by Oregon police on Jan. 26, wrote on Facebook that Ryan’s family “has said that they have decided ‘the arrests stop here,’ and that they intend to ‘make a stand.’ ”

Sanders County Sheriff Tom Rummel quickly sought to ward off any potential for a local conflict.

In a Facebook post on the Sanders County Sheriff’s Office page Monday afternoon, Rummel wrote there is no evidence that Ryan, 25, is in Sanders County at this time, that the Ryan family has an attorney who is in contact with the FBI, and that he is hopeful a peaceful resolution will be worked out.

“At this time, I believe a peaceful resolution is being achieved and outside citizen involvement will not be needed,” Rummel wrote.

Meanwhile, reports Devlin, hundreds of people sympathizing with the Malheur occupation, and perhaps holding political views similar to those held by Cliven Bundy and his sons, are overwhelming Rummel with email and other messages urging him to protect Ryan by asserting the authority they believe he has to tell the FBI and federal officials what to do. That authority doesn’t exist, of course, but a political fringe known as the sovereign citizens movement (the subject of Justin Robbins’ post today at Montana Cowgirl) believes it does.

Sanders County has more than its share of sovereign citizens, which makes for interesting politics. Its isolated, disgruntled, sometimes impoverished, residents — not all, but more than its share — reinforce the conspiracy theories of each other, creating a zone of altered reality in which the political right thrives. I suspect Donald Trump would poll well there.

That means Rummels walks a tightrope. I think he knows he could end up in a federal penitentiary if he interferes with the FBI, and therefore will not actively harbor a fugitive from justice. But I suspect he will posture and pontificate in an effort to maintain his sovereign bona fides with the people who elected him.

Jake Ryan has no future as a fugitive. He’ll be caught. He can help both himself and Rummels by turning himself in pronto. Helping Sanders County emerge from its reality distortion zone won’t be quite so easy.



24 March 2016

Westside bypass photo of the day

From Parkridge Drive to Three Mile Drive, the westside bypass runs between Empire Estates on the west and a series of subdivisions on the east, starting with Barron Way at the north. I made this image from the cul de sac at the southern end of Barron Way. This homeowner cannot be happy that the project comes so close to his house. If a sound wall is erected to attenuate traffic noises, it might also block his view to the west and intercept late afternoon sunlight. Progress? Not for the people living next to the bypass.




23 March 2016

Four Flathead legislative candidates removed from the primary ballot

 Updated at 21:10:58 MDT.  Three Four Flathead legislative candidates were removed from the primary ballot today for failing to meet the deadline for filing required forms with Montana's commissioner of political practices. They are:
  • Shawn Guymon, who filed as a Libertarian in House District 3 (Columbia Falls and north). Guymon's departure helps Republican Taylor Rose in his effort to unseat incumbent Democrat Rep. Zac Perry, who won by a plurality in 2014.

  • Jack Kearns, who filed against teenager Chet Billi in the Republican primary in House District 5 (Whitefish), an open seat. Billi will face Democrat Dave Fern in the general election in November. The district leans Democratic.

  • Laura Hartland, who filed against incumbent Republican Rep. Mark Noland in House District 10 (Bigfork). Update. Democrat George Dickenson also was removed, leaving Noland without opposition; not that any Democrat had a chance of winning this deep red district.

That leaves two contested primaries, both Republican, in the Flathead.

  • In Senate District 3, which encompasses HD-5 and HD-6, Rep. Keith Regier is facing off against Whitefish automobile dealer Don “Don K” Kaltschmidt.

  • And in House District 11, former Rep. Derek Skees is running against Jean K. Barragan. Skees, an increasingly polished campaigner, had his first organizational meeting last Thursday. Barragan has a long history in the area, but Skees is hungry, hard working, and has the edge.


Listen Liberal — the book all good Democrats should read by Easter

My introduction to the Democratic Party occurred in the mid-sixties, at a Democratic Farmer Labor bean feed in northern Minnesota. My fellow college students and I were substantially outnumbered by the union men and women who were the party’s stalwarts.

Today, those of us with college degrees often outnumber less well educated Democrats at party functions. Indeed, with only a B.A. degree and some graduate level credits, I’m often one of the least well educated Democrats present when the party meets.

It’s no longer Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal working class coalition. Working class whites — those with less than a college education and who work for wages — sometimes are no more welcome than a battalion of Archie Bunker clones whistling Dixie, chewing snoose, and waving the Confederate flag.

As Thomas Frank observes with his usual trenchant clarity in his new book, Listen Liberal: Or, Whatever Happened to the Party of the People?, today's Democrats are the party of technocrats and professionals.

It’s a book that’s meant to get you steamed — and if you’re a Democrat with any New Deal blood left in your veins, it will. Here are a few excerpts:

…read the rest

Gotcha games that political parties love — and voters hate

Last week, the Republican scored, accusing Gov. Bullock of flying to campaign events in the taxpayers’ airplane and on the taxpayers’ dime. After reviewing all the costs of flying to an official state function and then staying a couple of extra hours for, say, a fundraiser, Bullock concluded his re-election campaign owed the state some money. He paid promptly. A bit embarrassing, and an unforced error, but not a big deal.

This week, the Democrats scored. Greg Gianforte, he of the no PAC money pledge, was caught — there’s video — in PACland in Washington, D.C. Montana Cowgirl has the story. GG does qualify for the hypocrite of the week award, but his backers won’t pack in their support because of that.

And, of course, the Montana Democratic Party continued its risible practice of calling Bozeman businessman Gianforte a New Jersey multimillionaire.

There’s no scandal here other than the scandal that some newspapers are taking this tit-for-tat seriously instead of spending time reporting on things that make a real difference in the lives of Montanans.



22 March 2016

Backyards and the westside bypass

It's a tight squeeze for the off ramp to Three Mile Drive for southbound traffic on the westside bypass. For these homeowners on Empire Loop, a high density neighborhood, it's more than a tight squeeze — it's a sheer drop at the property line and the sounds and sights of high speed traffic. A high sound wall might attenuate the traffic’s rumble and roar, but probably at the cost of blocking the view of the Swan Range. These developments do not increase the value of the properties next to the off ramp. Is this progress? Only for the people driving the bypass.


The southeast corner of the Empire subdivision, on the west side of the bypass just north of Three Mile Drive, where I stood to make this photograph.

…read the rest

Cherry juice and bottled water

At the InterLake, Seaborn Larson reports that the juice of retail reject cherries will be bottled in a warehouse on Finley Point this summer. Known as culled cherries, the rejects are the cherries damaged by weather. At least I hope that’s all they are. I would not want to drink juice squeezed from wormy or bird pecked cherries

…read the rest

Terrorist attacks in Brussels will help Trump and Cruz, but hurt Hillary

Bombs in Brussels will solidify support for Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, but could hurt Hillary Clinton. The Democratic Party’s debacle in November, 2014, followed the ISIS beheadings earlier that year. Writing in The Atlantic on 17 September 2014, Peter Beinart reported:

As a result of the ISIS beheadings, the percentage of Americans “very worried” about terrorism has just hit a seven-year high. Once again, women are more afraid than men. According to a CNN poll last week, women are 18 points more likely to say they are “very” or “somewhat” worried that someone in their family will be the victim of terrorism. According to Pew, they are six points more likely to call terrorism “very important” to their vote this fall.

Fear is humankind’s most powerful emotion. When afraid, people choose safety over freedom. They rally to leaders who exude self-confidence, certainty, and strength. They rally to strongmen. And women, as they’ve done throughout human history, look to their menfolk for strength and protection. The terrorist attacks in Brussels will help Trump, Cruz, and the Republicans, but hurt Hillary and the Democrats. I suspect Bernie Sanders will be hurt less than Hillary.



21 March 2016

Pedestrian jump at Three Mile bypass bridge still open to public

Guardrails at the northeast and southwest corners of the bridge over the westside bypass at Three Mile Drive protect motorized vehicles from rolling off a precipice — but at the northwest and southeast corners, there’s nothing to protect pedestrians from the same deadly drop. There’s not even a warning sign.

I walk in the area. Hit the read the rest link to view a few of my photographs of the pedestrian jumps. Below, an image of a fortuitous juxtaposition of celestial, terrestrial, and aeronautical objects.


The water tank at the bypass and Parkridge Drive. If you look closely, you can see the waxing moon — and if you look even more closely, you can see a pale dot below and to the left of the moon. That's a hot air balloon.

…read the rest


19–20 March 2016

What’s missing from this Don K for Senate District 3 sign?  UPDATED 


 Updated at 11:48:16 MDT.  Candidate Kaltschmidt’s campaign website and Facebook page are now live. My thanks to Don K. for taking time on a Sunday morning to provide a heads-up.

Whitefish automobile dealer and rookie candidate “Don K” Kaltschmidt is running for Senate District 3 (map). On this somewhat cluttered campaign sign (larger image.), located across Meridian from Albertsons in Kalispell, the URL (www.donkforsenate.com) for his campaign’s website is missing. Not only that, his website still has only a generic holding page. That’s right: there’s not even a holding page with his photograph, telephone number, email address (donkforsenate@gmail.com), and donation link; a page a competent website designer could code from scratch in less than 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, his opponent in the Republican primary, Rep. Keith Regier, has a fully developed campaign website.

The sign is located approximately 1.8 miles south of SD-3’s southern border, which intersects with Highway 93 at Four Mile Drive.




18 March 2016

Where is the MT Democratic Party’s 2014 platform?

It’s not on the party’s redesigned, and dumbed down for mobile, website. Instead, there’s a draft platform with planks so general that some probably could be adopted by the Republican Party.

Also missing, the party’s rules.

Fortunately, the 2014 platform is cached on Google. So are the rules from 2011. And I have copies of the 2010, 2012, and 2014 platforms.

The platforms of the national parties are archived at various locations on the internet, such as the Presidency Project at the Santa Barbara campus of the University of California.

I’m sure the Montana Democratic Party is not trying to hide its 2014 platform. Providing a link to it probably just slipped through the cracks when the party’s website was redesigned.



17 March 2016

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, readers

Flathead Memo is standing down today, and perhaps tomorrow, but will return to posting no later than Saturday.

16 March 2016

MT SecST’s online list of candidate filings is not satisfactory

Looking for a list of the candidates who filed for the Montana legislature this year? You’ll find it at the website of Montana’s secretary of state. You can even download the list in a comma separated format (CSV) that can be imported into a database or spreadsheet.

But the downloadable version is not formatted according to best practices. Here are a few examples:

…read the rest