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

Archives Index, 2017 January 1–15


15 January 2017

Montana’s legislators should show the U.S. Coast Guard some respect

Is a member of your family, or a friend, serving in the United States Coast Guard? As a matter of common practice, not to mention respect, you undoubtedly treat United States Coast Guard as a proper noun and capitalize it.

You would not write:

…one personal flotation device that is approved by the United States coast guard and that is in good and serviceable condition…


Thanks to tradition, if you’re a legislator, a drafter of bills for the legislator, or another employee of the government of the State of Montana you dutifully set aside everything you’ve learned about proper English and follow the peculiar dictates of the Montana Legislative Services Division’s Bill Drafting Manual 2016:

Capitalization rules for bill drafting represent an exception to standard usage. In drafting bills, capitalize as little as possible. Capitalization has no legal significance, and the lower case is easier to read and write.

The big exception, of course, is that the title of every bill is in all uppercase capitals — see the title for HB-234, above — which is very hard to read. All lowercase is hard to read, too.

The drafting manual’s dictate leads to some ludicrous results:

Capitalize geographic names, such as Flathead Valley (but not “community college”) in “Flathead Valley community college”.

Are Montana’s peculiar capitalization rules similar to those of other states? Who cares except people who believe that two wrongs make a right?

Our state’s bill drafting manual is an embarrassment that needs to be revised. It’s time to show the United States Coast Guard and Flathead Community College proper respect.



14 January 2017

Missoula’s Save Our Health Care Rally starts at 1300 Sunday

The large rally features a lineup of powerful speakers, plus a special appearance by balladeer and congressional candidate Rob Quist. It starts at 1300 Sunday, 15 January, in the public meeting room of Missoula’s City/County Library.

The rally is one of many save healthcare rallies being held across the nation tomorrow. And the stakes could not be higher. Thanks to Hillary Clinton’s anemic and feckless identity politics campaign, radical, reactionary, Republicans now control Congress and (starting at 1200 EST on 20 January) the Presidency. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell already are whooping through Congress the bills needed to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with the status quo ante.

Now is the time to stand up and shout — and to shout not just “No,” but “Hell No!, damnit!,” and to shout it so thunderously that the Heavens tremble. Be heard now, or forever suffer the medical blessings of 1917.

Bill Geer is the rally’s organizer. He can be reached at 406-396-0909 or whgeer@bridgemail.com.


  • Sarah Howell (Montana Women Vote) — Medicaid Impacts of ACA Repeal
  • Kevin Stewart (Western Montana Mental Health Center) — Medicaid Impacts on Mental Health and Addiction
  • State Representative Shane Morigeau, HB-95 — Medicaid Impacts on Young Adults and Minorities
  • Bill Geer — Medicare Impacts on Retirees
  • Mark Anderlik — Missoula AFL-CIO Central Labor Council
  • Reverend Amy Carter (University Congregational Church) — Faith Based Concerns on American Healthcare
  • Deb Frandsen — Representing Senator Jon Tester (who has some explaining to do on his vote against lowering drug prices)
  • Rob Quist (Mission Mountain Wood Band) — A Personal Healthcare Story plus a Special Song



13 January 2017

Is Zeno Baucus the Dem Establishment’s stop Quist candidate?

At KXLH, Mike Dennison, in a fine report on Rob Quist, notes that assistant U.S. Attorney Zeno Baucus, Max’s son, may be considering a run for the U.S. House seat that Ryan Zinke will vacate when confirmed as Secretary of the Interior. “Zeno Baucus is considering the race, but has made no decision, sources told MTN News.”

This is a trial balloon. Zeno, or what’s left of Max Baucus’ political organization, wants to judge how much appeal Zeno would have with party insiders who are looking for an alternative to Quist, the endorsee of Brian Schweitzer and thus a threat to the Democratic establishment’s record of losing every Congressional election in Montana since Pat Williams retired.

It’s mighty late in the game to be announcing “Hey, I might like to play; thinking about it; what do you think?” Quist blasted out of the chute at full gallup, but Zeno’s still squatting on the corral fence, dithering. That’s not how elections are won.



12 January 2017

Why did Jon Tester vote against an amendment to lower drug prices?


During last night’s “vote-a-thon” in the Senate on amendments to Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, the blueprint for repealing the Affordable Care Act through the budget reconciliation process, Sen. Jon Tester joined 12 other Democratic Senators (see Table 1, below) to help Republicans defeat an amendment to lower drug prices.

Update. Tester, Booker, and their fellow Democratic protectors of high drug prices, are catching hell from progressives, reports Ed Kilgore at the Daily Intelligencer. And Tester’s vote is hard to square with his position eleven years ago:

Negotiate for lower prescription drug prices. Last year in the Montana Legislature, I sponsored and passed a bipartisan bill to provide real prescription drug relief, cover low-income seniors, and negotiate lower drug prices for Montana senior citizens. I’m serious about making health care more affordable and cutting the federal deficit. In the US Senate, I’ll work to bring the benefit package we delivered to Montanans to the whole country. It’s simple — negotiating for lower prescription drug prices saves tax dollars and helps seniors. Source: 2006 Senate campaign website, testerforsenate.com, “Issues”, Feb 3, 2006.

Here’s the complete text of the drug price lowering amendment they opposed:

SA 178. Ms. KLOBUCHAR (for herself and Mr. Sanders) submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by her to the concurrent resolution S. Con. Res. 3, setting forth the congressional budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2017 and setting forth the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2018 through 2026; as follows:

At the end of title III, add the following:


The Chairman of the Committee on the Budget of the Senate may revise the allocations of a committee or committees, aggregates, and other appropriate levels in this resolution for one or more bills, joint resolutions, amendments, amendments between the Houses, motions, or conference reports relating to lowering prescription drug prices, including through the importation of safe and affordable prescription drugs from Canada by American pharmacists, wholesalers, and individuals with a valid prescription from a provider licensed to practice in the United States, by the amounts provided in such legislation for those purposes, provided that such legislation would not increase the deficit over either the period of the total of fiscal years 2017 through 2021 or the period of the total of fiscal years 2017 through 2026.

Both Democratic Senators from Washington, New Jersey, and Delaware, and both Senators from Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Colorado, opposed lowering drug prices. All of these states have high tech industries, although I’ve never thought of Washington as a center of pharmaceutical manufacturing. But what excuse do Tester and Heitkamp offer for helping Republicans keep prescription drugs prices skyhigh? Neither Montana nor North Dakota is a big pill producing state. Perhaps the answer lies in their campaign contributions.

Table 1




10 January 2017

Montana’s net metering advocates won’t like SB-78

At present, net metering customers of Northwestern Energy are paid the retail price per kilowatt hour for their excess photovoltaic, wind, or (micro)hydro, generated electricity. That will change if Senate Bill 78, introduced by Sen. Keith Regier (R-Whitefish), becomes law.

Regier chaired the Energy and Telecommunications Interim Committee, which approved five net metering bills for the 2017 session of the legislature. SB-78 is not one of the interim committee’s bills. I suspect it was at least partially written by someone representing an electric utility.

The bill seems intended to set as low as possible the price paid for excess generation:

…read the rest


9 January 2017

Montana’s elected leaders and the emails they want to hide

Lee Newspapers state reporter Jayme Fraser has a crackerjack report on how Montana’s legislators and executive branch leaders use private email accounts to hide the public’s business from the public.

The practice is widespread among Democrats and Republicans, but especially beloved by Republicans, many of whom also share an indecent fondness for dark money.

…read the rest


7 January 2017

Sen. Keith Regier wants to weaken campaign finance reports


If Sen. Keith Regier (R-Whitefish) gets his way, Montana’s campaign finance reports will no longer include the occupation and employer of donors. Regier has introduced Senate Bill 87, “An Act Eliminating the Requirement that Candidates and Political Committees Disclose Employer and Occupation Information for Certain Contributions and Expenditures.”

Here’s a section of the bill:

Section 1. Section 13-37-229, MCA, is amended to read:

13-37-229. Disclosure requirements for candidates, ballot issue committees, political party committees, and independent committees. (1) The reports required under 13-37-225 through 13-37-227 from candidates, ballot issue committees, political party committees, and independent committees must disclose the following information concerning contributions received:

(a) the amount of cash on hand at the beginning of the reporting period;

(b) the full name, and mailing address, occupation, and employer, if any, of each person who has made aggregate contributions, other than loans, of $35 or more to a candidate or political committee, including the purchase of tickets and other items for events, such as dinners, luncheons, rallies, and similar fundraising events;

What SB-87 would delete from the C-5 campaign finance report for candidates is identified in yellow in this excerpt from Regier’s own 27 October 2016 C-5:


For example, Regier lists several contributions from the Lantis family of Spearfish, SD, which owns Lantis Enterprises, a business that appears to operate assisting living and nursing homes, some in Montana. Heritage Place, for example, may be the assisted living facility in Kalispell, but although the link to Heritage Place has a URL of http://heritagekalispell.com/, the page produced by that link is in Japanese, and the translated text is not about an old folks home.

SB-87 would not make unearthing a donor’s occupation and employer impossible, but it would exponentially increase the difficult of doing so. And that, not protecting the privacy of donors, undoubtedly is the purpose of the bill. Regier wants to make it much more difficult for voters to learn which economic and policy interests are funding candidates and Political Action Committees; harder to follow the money.

SB-87 was referred to the Senate’s state administration committee yesterday. A hearing date has not been set.

I suggest renaming the bill the “Montana Campaign Finance Opacity Act of 2017.”



6 January 2017

Note to readers

Flathead Memo had to stand down today, but should be back tomorrow.


5 January 2017

Brian Schweitzer endorses Rob Quist for Congress


Former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer today issued a short statement endorsing Rob Quist for the Democratic nomination for the special election to replace Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke as Montana’s lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Quist, making his first bid for public office, announced his candidacy yesterday.

Rob Quist has not spent the last 30 years preparing a run for Congress. He is a political outsider. Rob has told Montana’s story through song for 30 years and has been in every little and big town in Montana. He understands Montana. We hunt, fish and camp, we work hard and we help our neighbors. Who better than Rob Quist to stand for and up for Montana in Washington, DC?

Schweitzer, a political outsider when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2000, was elected governor in 2004, and re-elected by a landslide in 2008. His endorsement carries considerable clout, and will help Quist open doors and wallets in the Democratic Party.



4 January 2017

Rancher and musician Rob Quist will seek Democratic nod for Congress


The big and well traveled hat belonging to rancher and well known musician Rob Quist was thrown in the ring today for the Democratic nomination for the special election for the U.S. House of Representatives. Quist joins Democratic legislators Rep. Amanda Curtis, Kelly McCarthy, and Casey Schreiner, in seeking their party’s nomination, which will be made at a special nominating convention after Rep. Ryan Zinke is confirmed as Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Interior.

Quist said he’s running because:

I have spent a lifetime traveling the state working with and getting to know the concerns and the needs of my fellow Montanans. This is a time of great polarity in our nation and I feel that my skills as a communicator and a consensus builder working for all Montanans could be an asset for our state on a national level.

He will, he promises, work to protect Social Security and Medicare; protect public lands; develop new energy technologies; streamline and simplify the tax code so that it works for everyone; provide higher pay for teachers; support labor and unions; help farmers and ranchers obtain higher prices for their products.

Quist grew up on a ranch near Cut Bank. A graduate of Cut Bank High School, and president of his senior class, he studied physical therapy at the University of Montana, where he played varsity basketball. It was at the university that he formed the now almost legendary Mission Mountain Wood Band, with which he toured nationwide for 12 years. Some of his songs made Billboard’s top 100.

He has a long history of of public service in the arts and education:

Quist has served on the Montana Arts Council for 11 years, on the Board of the Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation of America for six years; has worked with the Montana Department of Commerce as an ambassador to our sister State in Kumamoto, Japan; served as spokesman and advocate for the Montana Food Bank, and recently received a grant from the Office of Public Instruction to develop antibullying programs and a “Native Oral Traditions” program to enhance the arts in our public school systems and promote understanding of our Native Peoples.

Quist and his wife, Bonnie, a former English teacher, live on a ranch near Creston. Their adult children, Guthrie and Halladay, are also involved with education and the arts.

Quist brings to the campaign an easygoing western authenticity that reminds one of former Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who had a knack for reassuring traditional Montanans that he understood them and cared about their concerns. His ability to connect on a cultural level enabled Schweitzer to discuss issues with rural voters in a way that many urban Democrats cannot. Quist has a similar ability to connect with rural Montanans.

He’s certainly connected with me. I think he’s by far the strongest of a group of strong candidates for the Democratic nomination, and he has my support.


Hillary’s losers hired to run Democratic war room

File this under How to Commit Political Suicide. The Democratic National Committee, reports the Washington Post’s Phillip Rucker, is staffing its new war room with Democratic establishment operatives who helped Hillary lose the election.

The DNC’s new communications and research operation, to be staffed by former aides to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, will be one of several efforts from across the Democratic firmament to take on Trump, including the office of Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Center for American Progress and American Bridge.

American Bridge is a superpac created by David Brock, a Democratic incarnation of the brass-knuckled Republican operative, Lee Atwater. If there’s anything that’s too lowdown for Brock, it has yet to make an appearance.

The war room’s priorities?

Key priorities for the new DNC war room will be to shine a spotlight on Trump’s conflicts of interest with his business enterprises as well as on Russia’s alleged interference during last year’s campaign. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia hacked DNC emails, as well as the private email account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, to influence the election in Trump’s favor.

In other words, Democrats are devoting the war room not to saving Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps, and the Affordable Care Act, but to proving that Hillary’s loss was not her own damn fault.

Hillary, her campaign’s leaders, and assorted supporters and sycophants, attribute her loss to three factors, either singularly or in combination:

  • Meddling by Russia.
  • James Comey’s late November letter.
  • Bernie Sanders, who allegedly poisoned the millennial vote.

In other words, her divisive identity politics strategy was sound. Her tactics were brilliant. But she was a victim of skullduggery. She wuz robbed! Maybe even stabbed in the back. Therefore, the remedy is expelling Russian spies, excoriating James Comey, ensuring that Bernie Sanders never runs for President again, and reassuring the Democratic Party that it doesn’t need to change.

The war room is not a response to the clear and present danger of reactionary legislation being whooped through a Congress controlled by radical, heartless, Republicans. Instead, it’s a continuation of the campaign against Donald Trump, a denial of the reality that the electoral votes have been counted and that he will become President on 20 January. It’s also political suicide, the only thing Democrats still do well.



3 January 2017

The political battle manual every Democrat must read

Democrats are constitutionally ill-equipped for political combat. They consider compromise an intrinsic, not an instrumental, good. Reaching across the aisle makes them feel good even when their hand gets slapped. They genuinely disdain and fear confrontation and conflict. In short, they want to make nice.

But making nice is no longer a viable option for Democrats who want to save what’s left of the New Deal and Great Society. That requires making trouble — which is a big problem, for in addition to not liking trouble, Democrats are not very good at making it.

That’s why former congressional staffers and advocates have written Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda. It’s a 26-page manual for political troublemaking that’s a free download.

In an oped in yesterday’s New York Times, its authors said:

It takes a few pages from the Tea Party playbook, focusing on its strategic choices and tactics, while dispensing with its viciousness. It’s the Tea Party inverted: locally driven advocacy built on inclusion, fairness and respect. It’s playing defense, not to obstruct, but to protect.

The guide is informed by a simple principle: Federal policy change in the next four years doesn’t depend on Mr. Trump but on whether our representatives support or oppose him. And through local pressure, we have the power to shape what they consider possible.

This kind of local advocacy can make nearly any member of Congress think a lot harder about his re-election chances. It can ensure that the 10 Senate Democrats up next year in Trump-won states recognize that their best hope for survival lies in bold action to defend democracy rather than cutting deals with a petty tyrant.

It can also weaken the grip of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, on his slim two-vote majority when he tries to empower Mr. Trump. It can drive home for Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, that his constituents won’t accept deals with a would-be dictator. And it can complement the efforts of organizers as they mobilize to support those most threatened by Mr. Trump’s agenda.

Indivisible pays too much tribute to making nice — its authors don’t want to iredeemably offend Democratic pattycakers — but it unerringly identifies the levers and buttons activists much pull and punch to knock members of Congress (and state legislatures) back on their heels.

It’s time to lay down the olive branch and pick up the cudgel. Indivisible explains how to swing it to the greatest effect.



2 January 2017

Montana must archive all official email, etc.

Some of Montana’s Democratic leaders are starting to look like fools on the issue of retaining emails and other official electronic records. Instead of insisting that the state fully discharge its legal and moral mandates to preserve these records, these Democrats are offering partisan defenses of the Democratic officeholders whose emails disappeared, apparently forever.

This morning, Lee Newspapers state reporter Jayme Fraser began her long, detailed, report on electronic records retention with this startling paragraph:



Expect changes in websites of MT SecST, Auditor, and OPI

Republicans Corey Stapleton, Matt Rosendale, and Elsie Arntzen, winners of last fall’s elections for Montana Secretary of State, Auditor, and Superintendent of Public Instruction, take their oaths of office this morning. One of their first tasks will be updating the websites of their offices with the names of the people now in charge. It’s part routine change, part political cleansing.

Later, and in some cases not that much later, they’ll redesign these websites to emphasize their priorities, and to eliminate all vestiges of the previous administration. I hope they’ll do that carefully, breaking few links, but a bull in a china shop approach is possible.

In the meantime, Montanans should download as much data as possible, for some online data may become hard to find, and some may disappear.



New Year’s Day, 2017

Happy New Year!