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

Archives: 1–16 September 2016


15 September 2016

Partisan attempts to toss candidates from ballot
are dismissed by supreme courts in MT and MN

Ill advised attempts to have candidates booted from the ballot were shot down this week by state supreme courts in Montana and Minnesota.

In Montana, in a lawsuit initiated by MT GOP chairman and State Representative Jeff Essmann, the court ruled 5–1 (PDF) that Libertarian Roger Roots, candidate for Secretary of State, could remain on the ballot despite non-standard compliance with Montana’s campaign finance reporting requirements.

In Minnesota, the court ruled (PDF) that the Democratic Farmer Labor Party’s lawsuit to remove Donald Trump from the ballot was barred by laches (the DFL waited too long to file the lawsuit). The MN GOP had submitted the names of alternate electors for Trump in a non-standard manner.

In both cases, the attempts to have the candidates thrown off the ballot were motivated by crass political considerations.

…read the rest


14 September 2016

When the Garrison Dam flooded Elbowoods, North Dakota,
convicts and southern gravediggers had to move the cemetary

Garrison Dam flooded 155,000 acres of prime Missouri River bottomland running through the Fort Berthold Reservation. The inundation required massive relocations:

By the fall of 1954, relocation was complete. A new road system was constructed, school buildings were built, churches and cemeteries were moved, the agency was housed in its new quarters at New Town, the Four Bears bridge was removed from its original site, and installed as part of the new bridge west of New Town, North Dakota.

Aerial image of the impounded Missouri River approaching the ghost town of Elbowoods, ND, in the summer of 1953.

As described by the Center for Land Use Interpretation:

Two-hundred-mile-long Lake Sakakawea, the third largest reservoir in the country, flooded a quarter of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, forcing the relocation of 325 families, nearly 80 percent of the population on the reservation at that time. Many moved to a newly established community called New Town, where now 1,500 members of the Three Affiliated Tribes live a modern life with a large casino. [Link added.]

Those who were adults at the time of the relocation now are very old. The living memory of the event soon will disappear forever. Learning of an event from a survivor of it makes a much deeper impression on one’s memory than learning of it from a book. That’s why I was very pleased when one of my regular readers — a person I’ll call A.C. — sent me the following account of his friendship with a man from Elbowoods, ND, a town flooded by the dam. My thanks to A.C. for giving me permission to share it with you.

In the early 1980s, when I was farming in NE Montana, I had a Native American man in his 50s working for me who was from Elbowoods, ND.

He had been a bronc rider in his younger years and walked with a limp from those type injuries. He could make anything out of leather. But he could fix anything and was also up early to go to field. He never drank when working for me, but when my job was over he would feel useless if he couldn’t find work and would start drinking. He never complained about this situation.

He recalled the heart breaking removal from the Missouri river bottom by the Corp of Engineers. His family had a cattle ranch. He was most sad about the removal of native graves. He said no locals or natives would take this work as there is nothing more evil then disturbing a burial site. He recalled how they had to use convicts and black grave diggers from the south to do the work.

In 1984 the government returned the minerals under lake to tribe but not to individual Indian owners so these families who were forced out now do not enjoy Bakken wealth.

He was a tough cowboy but talking of this would bring him to tears. He though proudly served in military. However his family could not get their feet back on the ground ranching, and he became a alcoholic and drank himself to death.

When I heard he died I drove … to pay my respects. At the funeral home I asked to see him and was told rather rudely there were no funds to bury him. There would be a pauper’s funeral, and you know he was an alcoholic. This man was a very hard worker but broken by the system. I asked what would a nice casket and funeral cost which at time he said $3,500. I took out my check book wrote that amount and said even alcoholic Indians have friends. I didn’t do it as a protest but he was a friend. I’ll never forget the look on that funeral directors face.



13 September 2016

Note to readers

We had to stand down all of today and most of yesterday, but expect to resume posting on Wednesday, 14 September.


12 September 2016

A song for Hillary: Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu

Johnny Rivers, best known for Memphis and Mountain of Love (2013 performance), does the honors in 1973. Like Hillary Clinton, who’s five years younger, he’s still alive, still performing, still drawing standing room only crowds.

Clinton’s problem is not pneumonia — she’ll recover, and she’s playing it smart by not jetting off to California to raise money — but her, and her campaign’s, penchant for secrecy, and for blithely maintaining nothing’s amiss when clearly something is (she had a hell of a cough, but waved off legitimate questions with “Oh, it’s nothing, just allergies). What she should do now is issue detailed health updates twice a day, giving the press more than it wants, proving she has nothing to hide.



11 September 2016

Whitefish’s Solidarity with Standing Rock Rally set for 13 September

The Glacier Climate Action organization announced today that on Tuesday, 13 September, at 1600 in Whitefish’s Depot Park, there will be a rally (details) in support of the Standing Rock Sioux’s opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). GCA also has a Facebook page.

This is one of many solidarity with Standing Rock rallies that will be held across the country on Tuesday. According to GCA:

…read the rest

We still live in unreasonable fear of terrorism

We’re safer from terrorism today than we were 15 years ago. That’s the considered judgement of terrorism expert Daniel Byman, writing at Vox two days ago. I agree. In fact, I’ve always thought we were safer on 12 September 2001 than we were the day before: 19 terrorists were dead, and thus permanently out of the hijacking business; and starting with Flight 93, passengers swarmed hijackers instead of meekly submitting to the thugs.

But safer though we are, we seem more frightened than ever. Instead of adopting a defiant attitude, instead of deciding that while we may live in danger, we should not live in fear (see Fallows), we’ve decided, almost by default, that we should live in fear regardless of the actual level of danger. That may be due partly to humankind’s survival instincts — but I think it’s also due to unscrupulous politicians exploiting fear in the pursuit of votes.

One of those unscrupulous politicians was President George W. Bush, whose speech to the nation on the evening of 11 September did not impress me at the time. Indeed, one of my first posts at Flathead Memo unfavorably compared Bush’s Nine-Eleven speech with Franklin Roosevelt’s A date which will live in infamy speech following the attack on Pearl Harbor. I even wrote the speech I thought Bush should have given (PDF).

Rereading Bush’s speech today, I find it better than I did 15 years ago. But I still believe he failed to recognize the ultimate objective of the terrorists. That’s why in the speech I believe he should have given, I wrote:

What I cannot and will not promise is that terrorism will never again visit our nation. Dangerous currents of zealotry and malice flow throughout the world, currents that will, on occasion, send waves of violence against our shores. But terrorist attacks are rare events. It is an objective fact that Americans are much more likely to be injured or killed by automobile accidents than by terrorist attacks.

Therefore, as we begin our response to today’s attacks, let us remember a great truth about America: we can be defeated only if we defeat ourselves.

The terrorists intended to spill American blood, and they succeeded. But their ultimate goal was to frighten us into surrendering our freedoms in exchange for the illusion of greater safety. Their definition of victory is an America that reacts to today’s attacks not by remaining true to its principles, but by abandoning its freedoms for the false security of a police state. They hope to panic us into committing national suicide.

They did panic us into passing the Patriot Act.



10 September 2016

Latest registered voter numbers for Montana suggest
November’s turnout may be smaller than in 2012

Just over 5,400 new voters were registered during the last 30 days, bringing Montana’s total to 663,043. That’s 18,565 fewer than on election day in 2012. Much of the decline is in counties carried by Steve Bullock in 2012.

Nevertheless, my back-of-the-envelope calculations indicate that if Bullock receives in each county the percentage of the registered voters who voted for him in 2012, and Greg Gianforte reprises Rick Hill’s percentages, Bullock will win by just under 5,000 votes. Take that with a pound, not just a grain, of salt.

Below, I’ve plotted the change from 2012 as a function of the number of registered voters in 2016.

Voter registration numbers are notoriously variable. After each election, elections administrators remove the deadwood from the registration rolls, after which new voters are registered through a variety of mechanisms and the rolls grow again.

Regular voter registration ends on 11 October. Late registration begins the same day. Thus, it’s possible that at the end of 8 November, there will be as many registered voters in Montana as there were four years earlier. But for that to happen, the current rate of new registrations must double.

I favor automatically registering voters once they reach 18 years of age and do not belong to an excluded class, such as felons still in the slammer.



9 September 2016

Recommended books on the history of big dams in the Dakotas

Garrison Dam, one of several environmentally destructive federal boondoggles, and one of the worst U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects ever, which is saying something given the competition for that honor, flooded 155,000 acres of prime Missouri River bottomland running through the Fort Berthold Reservation.

In the famous photograph below, reproduced in Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert, Tribal Council Chairman George Gillette breaks into tears on 20 May 1948 as Secretary of the Interior Krug signs the contract, negotiated under legal threat, with the tribes.


In addition to Cadillac Desert, the books below provide detailed accounts of the dam wars in the Dakotas that provide the historical context for the current Standing Rock standoff.

…read the rest

Obama appointed judge denies Standing Rock Sioux’s injunction request

 Updated at 17:28:58 MDT.   Judge Boasberg’s decision notwithstanding, the U.S. Department of Justice announced late today, in a story reported by the Washington Post, that:

“The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws.”

Original story. Federal district court judge James Boasberg today denied, in a 59-page memorandum opinion, the Standing Rock Sioux’s request that he enjoin construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline pending resolution of the tribe’s lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Boasberg, educated at Yale and Oxford, and a graduate of Yale’s law school, was appointed to the D.C. district in 2011 by President Barack Obama.

Boasberg’s long memorandum opinion lays out, in painstaking detail, the history of the dispute. I suspect he did so to establish the facts on which an appellate decision is based (the Associate Press reported today that the decision will be appealed). He begins:

…read the rest


8 September 2016

Jill Stein and running mate Baraka charged with two misdemeanors;
Photographs of her bulldozer graffiti released by Morton County sheriff

North Dakota has issued warrants for the arrests of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and her running mate, Ajamu Baraka. Each is charged with one count of criminal trespass and one count of criminal mischief. Here’s the official language from the criminal complaint:

At said time and place, the Defendants, knowing they were not licensed or privileged to do so, entered onto private property posted against trespassers.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

At said time and place, the Defendants spray-painted graffiti on a Caterpillar belonging to another.

And here are the photographs, released by Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, of the D8T that Stein and Baraka allegedly illegally decorated. I’ve enhanced these images. The sheriff’s images, made with a Nikon D7200 and 18–200mm lens, were severely underexposed.


Stein’s dark red “I approve” is barely visible. Place your cursor over the image to view a grayscale version that shows her accomplishment clearly.

…read the rest


7 September 2016

If Jill Stein is a spray paint vandal, Jill Stein is a fool

According to various news reports, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein (Harvard M.D.) will be arrested for vandalizing a bulldozer at a construction site for the disputed Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.

…read the rest


6 September 2016

Trump leads Clinton by 13 points in Montana, reports WashPost poll

This cannot be welcome news for Democrats Steve Bullock, Denise Juneau, and their party’s three other Lands Board candidates. An online poll of 999 registered Montana voters conducted 9 August through 1 September shows Trump doing almost as well as Mitt Romney in a two-way match-up. Romney won 55.4 percent of Montana’s vote in 2012.

Washington Post graphic

Trump’s lead holds in a four-way matchup with the Green Party’s Jill Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson. Stein’s share was five percent, yet Clinton’s share dropped seven points, suggesting that some Democrats defected to Johnson.

A margin of error was not calculated for this poll (see the methodology report) because it was not a random sample. That it was not a random sample, however, does not mean that the result is not valid or has such wide error bars as to be useless.

Nationally, the contest is tightening. At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver surveys the state of the election in Clinton’s Lead Keeps Shrinking. If you do not yet subscribe to FiveThirtyEight’s free newsletter, I recommend signing up for it.


There’s a candidates forum on health care at FVCC tonight –
Will any candidate condemn price gouging on prescription drugs?

A good question. First, logistics. The forum begins at 1800 this evening in Room 139 of Flathead Valley Community College’s Arts and Technology Building. Attend if you can, and bring friends.

Now, about that price gouging. Even cautious, private insurance loving, Hillary Clinton thinks some drug prices are too high, and actually proposes doing something to bring them down:

…read the rest


5 September 2016

Hey! You can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union!

No Labor Day should pass without at least one rousing performance of Woody Guthrie’s Union Maid. On Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday, Billy Bragg and the New York City Labor Chorus did the honors.

Folk musicians can be so serious that listening to their music is painful, but the lively arrangements of The Weavers, the group most associated with Seeger, made listening to folk music fun. Their harmonies set the mark for the folk revival of the sixties. In Deep Blue Sea, below, Ronnie Gilbert’s soaring contralto makes the chorus sail. Odetta’s version trudges.



4 September 2016

Pipeline company thugs attack protesters with dogs and pepper spray

There’s more at Democracy Now, but start with this video report. This protest is not going to end peacefully, and it’s possible the protesters don’t want it to end peacefully. But there’s no need for the pipeline company to use goons.


School lawn sign was produced by school district


Kalispell’s School District 5 wants voters to know there’s a special school bond election on 4 October (on 19 September, ballots will be mailed to voters). That’s why these signs, prepared by the school district using donated money (no tax dollars), are popping up around Kalispell. The signs lack a “paid for” disclaimer and contact information, which is legal but leaves the public wondering whether something nefarious is afoot.

The district wants voters to approve $22.3 million for a new elementary school and improvements to existing structures, and $28.8 million for the high school system, $19.3 million going to way past its prime, 106-year-old, Flathead High School, according to the district’s official cost breakdowns.

At this point, I’m leaning toward voting for the elementary bond, and against the high school bond. I’ll explain why next week.

Information on the bonds that’s available on the district’s website, has answered some of my questions, but not all. The Facility Bond General Information one-pager, for example, contains a column graph, “Kalispell District Enrollment ANB Fall Counts 1993-2015,” that distorts the rate of enrollment increase and fails to state whether the graph applies to elementary or high school students or both.

Holding the election on 4 October instead of placing the issues on the 8 November general election ballot puts the question to the voters before property tax notices are mailed out, and increases the likelihood that organized entities with a vested interest in a “yes” vote — teachers, public employees, sports boosters — may have a disproportionate turnout, thus increasing the probability the bonds will pass.



3 September 2016

Fred Hellerman passes on, but the Honey Wind still blows

Folk music lost the last living member of one of its greatest groups, The Weavers, this week when singer-songwriter-guitarist Fred Hellerman died. Below, New World performs Hellerman’s The Honey Wind Blows. Hellerman’s obituary in the New York Times linked to Glenn Yarbrough’s version. The Weavers helped introduce Israeli folk songs, such as Tzena, Tzena, Tzena, to Americans.



2 September 2016

Candidates removed from ballot had perishingly little hope of winning

Four legislative candidates, two from the Flathead, were removed from the general election ballot this week for failing to file required reports. None had any reasonable expectation of winning.

…read the rest


1 September 2016

MT Democrats survived Green Party candidates in 2002 and 2004

As reported in a post at Montana Cowgirl earlier this week, Will Johnson and Stein create chaos in Montana?, Montana’s Democrats are concerned that Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein will draw enough votes to qualify the Green Party to nominate candidates through a primary election:

There is a downside to all of this: if Jill Stein gets a total vote that equals 5% of whatever the successful gubernatorial candidate receives, it means that the Green Party will have qualified for the ballot in the next few elections. This, in turn, means that Democrats could soon be having to deal with Green Party candidates siphoning off a few points per election, just as the GOP must now deal with the Libertarian party doing the same.

I think Stein will qualify the Green Party for the Montana ballot, just as Ralph Nader did in 2000. But will that hurt Democrats? The elections of 2002 and 2004 suggest the answer is: not always.


In the 2002 and 2004 general elections, three statewide, and six legislative district, Green candidates qualified for the ballot. None won.

  • In House District 13 in 2002, the Democrat won with a plurality. In House District 23 in 2004, no Republican was on the ballot. In the rest of the legislative district elections, the Republican candidate won with a majority.

  • In the 2002 election for U.S. Senator, Democrat Max Baucus won with 64.8 percent of the vote. Green Party Bob Kelleher (who would win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator in 2008) received 2.3 percent of the vote.

  • In 2004, Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb received 0.2 percent of the vote while Democrat John Kerry received 38.6 percent. In that year’s gubernatorial election, won by Democrat Brian Schweitzer with 50.4 percent of the vote, Green Party candidate Bob Kelleher received 1.9 percent of the vote. Kelleher probably reduced Schweitzer’s margin of victory, but he did not deny Schweitzer a majority.

Would the voters who opted for Green Party candidates have voted for the Democratic candidate had the Green Party candidate not been on the ballot? I suspect the answer is “yes” for many, perhaps even most, but not all. Some might not have voted. I cannot imagine a Green Party voter casting a ballot for a right leaning candidate, such as a Libertarian, except as an act of perversity.

Still, in our plurality wins system, a small third party vote can perturb the ideological outcome of an election. Democrats have cause to worry that a strong vote for Stein could hurt Democrats in 2018 and 2020.