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

Archives Index, 2017 August 1–15


15 August 2017

A break from fiddlin’ with politics


14 August 2017 — 1437 mdt

Happy Birthday, Social Security


Eighty-two years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, one of the most important, popular, and successful, social insurance programs in American history. It’s lifted tens of millions of older Americans out of poverty, and lifted a terrible financial burden from their children and families.

In Montana, reports Social Security Works (PDF for MT), “Social Security provided benefits to 217,758 Montanans in 2015, around one in five (21.1 percent) residents. Montanans received Social Security benefits totaling $3.1 billion in 2015, an amount equivalent to 7.2 percent of the state’s total personal income.”


But, as Michael Phelan of https://www.socialsecurityworks.org/ noted by email today, there are still reactionaries who would consign Social Security to history:

…read the rest


13 August 2017 — 1946 mdt

Flathead residents stand in solidarity with Charlottesville

Ten Flathead adults, and one toddler, stood in solidarity with Charlottesville today, assembling on short notice at Kalispell’s Depot Park. The honk-n-wave, which drew plenty of honks, was organized by Big Sky Rising, and the Flathead members of Democratic Socialists of America. I was there with a camera.


…see the rest


13 August 2017 — 0632 mdt

Antifascist solidarity vigil set for 1300 today in Kalispell

Sponsored by the Kalispell DSA and Big Sky Rising, the vigil begins at 1300 in Depot Park in Kalispell, lasts an hour, and will be peaceful. Leave your ski masks and black shirts at home.

More details are available on the Facebook page for the vigil.

Being part of this vigil is a fine way to express support for civil society, civil discourse, and equal rights for all. The NWS weather forecast is for clouds, 15+ mph winds, the mid-seventies, and a 40 percent probability of rain showers or thunderstorms.



13 August 2017 — 2219 mdt

Montana Democrats release names of new officers

These are the men and women who will lead the Montana Democratic Party during the 2018 election cycle. The cognoscenti will recognize many of the names. Mary Sexton served in state government. Rep. Bryce Bennett is completing his fourth term as a Missoula legislator. Kelly McCarthy is a legislator in Billings. Lynn Stanley chairs the Flathead Democratic Party.

The clinical language — male and female — is the party’s language. I would have granted the officers the dignity of being considered men and women.

I extend my thanks and congratulations to all for taking on these duties.

Contact information is available at http://www.montanademocrats.org.

State Chair: Mary Sexton
State Vice-Chair: Bryce Bennett
State Secretary: Sue Tarpey
State Treasurer: Sandi Luckey

Western District Female Chair: Lynn Stanley
Western District Male Chair: Donavon Hawk
Western District Female Members: Stacie Anderson, Eve Franklin
Western District Male Members: Andy Shirtliff, Lewis YellowRobe

Eastern District Female Chair: Elizabeth Marum
Eastern District Male Chair: Kelly McCarthy
Eastern District Female Members: Hannah Nash, Vicki Dickinson
Eastern District Male Members: Ming Cabrera, Jack Trethewey



12 August 2017 — 2001 mdt

Free speech is the biggest loser in Charlottesville

As a constitutional principle, the right to exercise free speech is not contingent upon the content of that speech (note 1). Richard Spencer, and the white supremacist groups that gathered in Charlottesville, VA, last night and today, needed and obtained parade permits, but they did not need Virginia’s blessing of their message to obtain those permits. Their message of white supremacy is, of course, abhorrent, but that’s beside the point.

Unfortunately, some who disagree with the white supremacists’ message also disagree that the white supremacists have, or should have, the right to free speech. These self-appointed, self-righteous, deciders of what speech the rest of us should be able to hear, the black clad, Antifa thugs, came to Charlottesville determined to deny the white supremacists their rights. “Tensions began to escalate Friday night,” reported the Washington Post,

…read the rest


12 August 2017 — 0906 mdt

Saturday roundup

Montana Democrats reject community outreach delegate proposal. Kelly Kortum, vice chair of the Gallatin County Democrats, Tweeted late last night that the proposal failed on a voice vote. Kortum spoke against the proposal, noting in his speech that the CODs did nothing to bring the MDP closer to operating on the principle of one Democrat, one vote. Later, he read Flathead Memo’s analysis of the proposal.

Tester rightly warns Democrats can’t talk just to the choir

Speaking at the MDP’s convention yesterday, Sen. Jon Tester, who faces a tough re-election race next year, warned that Democrats cannot win if they talk only to Democrats. He’s right. Getting the choir to church is important, as is not inciting the unrepentant and irredeemable to dance with the Devil, but Democrats must pay more attention to those who can be saved with a little love and persuasion. In recent years, the party has concentrated on getting its base to the polls, and has done a rum job of providing other voters with compelling reasons to vote for Democrats. That’s one reason Hillary Clinton lost Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. She simply assumed that if the choir was whistled to the voting booth, the party could be spared the bother of wooing the souls that could be saved.

Political persuasion is not pandering. Some Democrats, especially the blue doggies, are experts at pandering. That’s because it’s easy to adopt the opposition’s position on an issue. But persuading a voter to agree with your platform and beliefs is hard. It requires skill, patience, persistence, and the willingness and ability to honor the intellect of the persuadables — and for too many Democrats, that’s become a lost art.

Commissioner Mitchell: clandestine cottonwood killer

Flathead County Commissioner Phil Mitchell admits he killed — without permission — cottonwood trees in a state park next to his land. Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry concluded the amount of damage done qualified Mitchell to be charged with felony criminal mischief. Now Mitchell’s apologizing, begging forgiveness.

He’s also trying to beat the rap, so his apology is of dubious sincerity, and he doesn’t deserve any forgiveness. Not asking permission to take down the trees was not an honest mistake. He knew what he was doing was wrong, but he reckoned he could get away with it. In my view, he’s apologizing not because he’s genuinely remorseful, but because he wants the court to punish him with a kiss on his hand instead of a boot in his rear.

On social media, some of his constituents are suggesting that he resign from the county commission. That’s certainly an option. So is community service, such as picking up beer cans along Highway 93. And I would order him to write a 2,000-word essay praising cottonwoods.



11 August 2017 — 1159 mdt

The Montana Democratic Party is not organized on
the principle of one Democrat, one vote

Montana’s Democrats convene their rules and officers convention in Helena this weekend. When the convention concludes modified rules may be in place, and new officers may be in charge.

The delegates to the convention are not chosen on the basis of one Democrat, one vote. Instead, they represent counties, partner organizations, party honchos, and incumbent Democratic legislators and state and national elected officials (official list).

In this scheme, little Fallon County that gave Steve Bullock 368 votes for Governor in 2016, is allocated four convention delegates. So is Missoula County, which gave Bullock 108 times as many votes (39,717). That’s worse than the imbalance in the U.S. Senate. You can download a spreadsheet with these data.

There ought to be a rules change to reduce this imbalance. But none was proposed. Instead, there’s a proposal to give every county two “Community Outreach Delegates,” which is akin to increasing a flat tax by a couple of points. I’ll get to the CODs in a moment.

…read the rest


10 August 2017 — 1057 mdt

Is Grant Kier launching his campaign for Congress?

Earlier this year, Logicosity reported that Grant Kier, head of the Five Valleys Land Trust, was pondering a run for the Democratic nomination to challenge Rep. Greg Gianforte, the Bozeman businessman who punched his way to victory in the 25 May 2017 special congressional election.

Today, on the eve of the Montana Democratic Party’s rules convention, the Missoulian reports Kier is resigning as head of Five Valleys, effective at August’s end. That’s one indication he’s probably running.

Another is the parked internet domain, kierforcongress.com, registered at dreamhost.com on 25 July 2017. Unlike heenanforcongress.com, which is registered in John Heenan’s own name, kierforcongress is registered anonymously, and therefore cannot be directly linked to Kier. It’s probably his, but it might have been registered by mischief makers or domain squatters.

The MDP’s rules convention begins tomorrow in Helena. I’ll have more on it, and its rejection of the principle of one Democrat, one vote, later today.



8 August 2017 — 1908 mdt

On the eve of the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki,
President Trump channels Truman’s threat to vaporize Japan


Seventy-two years ago this week, the United States detonated atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (6 August 1945) and Nagasaki (9 August 1945; left), obliterating large areas, killing tens of thousands, horribly wounding tens of thousands more, and finally impressing upon Japan’s leaders that they had lost the war and must surrender immediately to save what was left of their nation.

Emperor Hirohito, after some fancy footwork to thwart a palace coup, to avoid being assassinated by war-crazed military officers, announced in a wire recording broadcast over national radio on 15 August 1945that Japan had surrendered. The instruments of surrender were signed aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945.

In his 6 August 1945 statement announcing the bombing of Hiroshima, President Harry Truman warned Japan’s leaders of what their refusal to surrender would bring:



7 August 2017 — 1703 mdt

Does John Heenan’s campaign have an internet presence?

Updated 9 August. Yes, Heenan has a presence on the web.

When Rob Quist announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House, he had a website and reached out to bloggers.

Today, Billings attorney John Heenan announced he’s a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House seat now occupied by Greg Gianforte. Heenan notified newspapers and television stations. The Last Best News has an excellent story on Heenan’s candidacy.

Heenan did not send his announcement to Flathead Memo, although he may have sent it to other blogs in Montana.

Update. The Western Word reported this morning that Heenan does have a website. It’s heenanforcongress.com. The domain was registered on 23 June 2017.

He does not seem to have a website. Obvious domains such as heenan4montana.com have not been registered. I did not find him on Facebook, although he may be there. Nor could I locate contact information for him other than a form on his law firm’s website.

Being hard to get in touch with is not a winning campaign strategy.

But his position on health care, as described by the LBN, could be a winner:

Of particular concern to him, he said, are the many people forced into bankruptcy as a result of medical emergencies, either because they had no insurance or couldn’t afford high deductibles. He said he has represented dozens of people in those situations.

“I really feel strongly that we just shouldn’t be a country where people have to file for bankruptcy, or worse, because they have a medical emergency,” Heenan said.

“Medicare for all makes sense,” he continued. “It ought not be treated as pie in the sky. It makes sense for regular people and it makes sense for businesses that compete in the international economy” against companies that don’t have to provide their workers with private insurance.

If Heenan ever gets around to reading Flathead Memo, he may find he agrees that what I call American Care (2017 post, 2013 post), which could be called Super Medicare, is the best single-payer system.

Flathead Memo is not making an early endorsement in this election. But Flathead Memo does endorse candidate’s reaching out to bloggers and having campaign websites online before throwing their hats in the ring.



6 August 2017 — 1724 mdt

The political renascence of coal


While Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke gallops around the west, wearing a black hat and looking like Hollywood’s image of a westerner in charge, his agency’s political hirelings, the New York Times reports, are crunching numbers and twisting words so that more coal can be mined. No one should be surprised.

As a result, more land will be ruined, more air will be fouled, more mine owners will make bigger profits (or take smaller losses), and more coal miners will be gulled into believing that their greenhouse gas producing jobs are safe.

It’s a big con, of course, but Zinke, and his patrons, Don the mendacitor, and Don the prairie dog assassin, think it wins elections, and have good reason to think that. And it’s a siren song to the ears of men whose jobs are threatened and whose futures are in doubt: “A man he hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

If a man wants to hear, to read, the truth about coal, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis is a good place to start. For statistics on coal, visit the Energy Information Administration. There’s more on the Beyond Coal project at Bloomberg. Mentioned in the NYT story, the Western Values Project may have useful information on coal and cleaner energy, but it appears to be a front organization for the Democratic Party and its source of funding in a mystery.



5 August 2017 — 19535 mdt

Rosendale’s Carbon2018 strategy

Matt Rosendale, reports the Gazette’s Tom Lutey, believes his path to the U.S. Senate runs through Colstrip, which he would liberate from expensive state and federal regulations, and produce electrical power, and profits, for decades through the application of “clean coal” technology:

On Colstrip, Rosendale favors the development of clean coal technology to deal with the carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. The U.S. Department of Energy last year, at the request of Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, estimated that it would cost $1.2 billion or more to retrofit Colstrip power plant with technology capable of capturing carbon dioxide, which would then be sold to petroleum companies interested in pumping the pollution into old wells to release stubborn oil reserves.

However, there is no functional production-scale carbon-capture technology available now and Colstrip faces deadlines for at least partial closure. Colstrip Units 1 and 2 are to close in the next six years under terms agreed to by Talen Energy and Puget Sound Energy to settle a pollution lawsuit. Two Oregon utilities with ownership shares in Colstrip Units 3 and 4, are obligated by law to begin phasing out coal power from the energy delivered to Oregon customers within the next 13 years. [Highlighting added.]

“Clean coal” is a lie, a political slogan, not a viable technology. . Even if the CO2 is captured completely, an impossibility, and no particulates, or sulfides, or other unhealthy compounds, are released into the atmosphere, strip mines will still wreck the land.

Moreover, if the recovered CO2 then pushes liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons out of the ground somewhere else and into combustion engines and turbines, greenhouse gases will be released; for there is no technology for sequestering the CO2 generated by motor vehicles and airplanes. What Rosendale proposes amounts to moving the pollution next door, not preventing its release.

Colstrip’s voters deserve better than this. They know their world is changing, that natural gas, solar, and wind, are displacing coal, and that the future will not be found in their rear view mirrors. They’re caught between a past to which they cannot return, and a future for which they’re poorly prepared. Like Trump, Rosendale’s campaigning on false hope, promising he’ll make the future like the past. It’s a cynical promise he can’t keep, a politician’s promise no one should believe.



4 August 2017 — 1453 mdt

Another note to readers

It doesn’t happen often, but today it did happen: I became so engrossed in researching a subject that I ran out of time to write about it. My apologies. I’ll try to manage my time better, and plan to post tomorrow. JRC.


3 August 2017 — 0847 mdt

Note to readers

Flathead Memo is standing down today.


2 August 2017 — 1738 mdt

Is the distribution of raw milk now legal in Montana?

Rep. Nancy Ballance’s (R-Hamilton) bill (HB-325) to legalize the sale of raw milk in Montana died in the MT Senate on 11 April 2017. But the anti-pasteurization movement is alive and well in Montana — and through the office of State Auditor Matt Rosendale, it may have found a way to legalize the distribution of raw milk in Montana despite the failure of Ballance’s bill.

Yesterday, the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund reported:

Montana residents can now get legal access to raw milk through purchasing securities, giving them ownership interest in a dairy animal or dairy animals. Dairy farmers wanting to sell stock in their animals need to obtain an exemption from the state securities registration requirement; the farmers fill out an application for the exemption with the Office of the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance (OCSI). Please do not contact OCSI. [Bold italic in original.]

If you want to contact OSCI, here’s the direct link: http://csimt.gov/securities/.

Apparently Montana’s Department of Livestock may not challenge Rosendale’s circumvention of the legislature, and the will of Montana’s citizens:

During recent communications with OCSI officials, DOL leadership indicated it would honor the exemptions, changing its prior policy. DOL would still have oversight over raw milk producers operating under the exemption. FTCLDF member Chris Rosenau was instrumental in forging the breakthrough on the DOL policy. Rosenau has led the effort to pass a raw milk bill the last three legislative sessions in Montana. OCSI limits stock offerings to ownership in four cows with 25 solicitations (meaning a maximum of 25 stockholders) per offering. It is not clear at this point how many goats could be included in an offering, but the number is probably around the same as for cows.

DOL will likely continue to regard the typical herd share arrangements existing in Montana (and many other states) as illegal even though Montana law provides a strong argument for their legality.

Rosenau, who has spent thousands of uncompensated hours working for a change in the state raw milk laws, regards the new DOL policy as a foot in the door and a step towards expanding raw milk access in the state. She plans on working with legislators to introduce another raw milk bill in the next legislative session.

FTCLDF drafted documents for the farmer member mentioned earlier who successfully obtained the exemption in 2016. Montana dairy farmers interested in applying for the exemption can contact us. Again, please do not contact OCSI. [Contact link in original.]

The raw milk lawyers may be looking for a test case through which they can seek a court’s blessing of this securities scheme.

I’ll give Rosenau and her allies credit for tenacity. Like the Taliban, like the Affordable Care Act hating Republican U.S. Senators, they rebound from each defeat, demanding that the legislature legalize the sale of raw milk, and attacking the scientific authority of the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institute of Health, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, all of whom consider raw milk too dangerous for human consumption.

In the last three Montana legislative sessions, Rosenau, et al, have bamboozled the MT House of Representatives into approving raw milk legalization bills, expert testimony to the contrary not withstanding. The MT Senate, fortunately, has killed all of the bills, thus saving Montana’s citizens from the political indulgences and cowardices of huge majorities of the MT House.

The effort to legalize the sale and distribution of raw milk in Montana is a rejection of science and a frontal assault on our system of public health. It it succeeds, raw milk will sicken people, and may kill some.

So will repealing or gutting the ACA. Rosendale supports that. Ergo, it’s no surprise to learn that his agency apparently has joined hands with the raw milk zealots who are hellbent on destroying an effective public health system.



1 August 2017 — 1717 mdt

Tester’s a stronger candidate than Rosendale reckons


Montana Auditor Matt Rosendale yesterday announced he’s running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Jon Tester, who’s running for a third term. Rosendale joins State Senator Albert Olszewski, M.D., (Kalispell), Troy Downing (Bozeman), Ron Murray (Belgrade), and possibly Russell Fagg (Billings) in believing that given President Trump’s popularity in Montana, and Tester’s history of close elections, the burly farmer from Big Sandy is ripe to be replaced.

A more careful reading of the tea leaves suggests otherwise.

…read the rest