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

Archives Index, 2017 July 1–14

Flathead Memo did not post on 15 July.


14 July 2017 — 1951 mdt

The Ballad of Kabuki Daines

Sen. Steve Daines, an established man of the right, is doing a masterful job of agonizing and deliberating in public over whether to support the Trump-McConnell bill gutting the Affordable Care Act and sabotaging Medicaid. He’s holding “Facebook townhalls,” asking for input, and doing all the things politicians do to make voters think they have some ownership in their decisions. I think his performance is largely Kabuki theatre. He’s mollifying Montanans. And he’s giving himself some bargaining power to sell his vote to Mitch McConnell.

It’s an old song, which is why my new lyrics are set to an old Credence Clearwater Revival song.

Down at the station,
On a crowd-proof set,
Steve’s a townhall holding,
On the internet.

Health care is the subject,
Caution is his bet,
He plans to vote Repeal!
But not to say so, yet.

He wants to hear the people,
Of the Big Sky State,
He wants to say he listened,
To Mom, and Pop, and Kate.

He wants to seem judicious,
He wants to seem concerned,
He wants to say his vote,
Was based on what he learned.

Some people will believe that,
In Steve they want to trust,
They want to cut Obamacare,
Before the bank goes bust.

They stand with Steve and GG,
They stand with Paul and Mitch,
They stand with Mike and Donald,
They think Nancy is a bitch.

They think the key to health care,
Is refusing to get sick,
That free will, not insurance,
Will always do the trick.

And Steve-O’s in agreement,
Though his counsel he does keep,
While he holds his townhalls,
And free advice does reap.

But when the vote is taken,
When evasiveness does stop,
I bet he backs McConnell,
And Obamacare does drop.



13 July 2017 — 0932 mdt

Sen. Tester wanted some “damn answers” from the Indian Health Service


But he didn’t get them. Acting head of the Indian Health Service Rear Admiral Michael Weahkee stonewalled Tester and the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, led by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), on how the Trump administration’s budget would affect IHS staffing levels. Roll Call’s video of Tester’s questioning of, and increasing frustration with, Weahkee, will make your blood boil.

And it should. According to the Kaiser Health News:

…read the rest


12 July 2017 — 1835 mdt

Democrats: ignore Trump & Russia, focus on health care

Yes, the Kremlin connection is important and fascinating, but it concerns an election that’s over and cannot be overturned. Furthermore, special prosecutor Robert Mueller is investigating the affair. What needs to be done is being done.

Meanwhile, the McConnell-Trump health care bill — which would deprive more than 20 million Americans of health insurance, and gut Medicaid — is pending in the Senate and is far from dead. In some form, it’s likely to pass.

Raising hell about Trump and Russia may be soul satisfying, but it won’t change the outcome of the election. But raising hell about the McConnell-Trump Keep the Poor Away from the Doctor Act of 2017 might do some good.

Therefore, Democrats, ignore the Kremlin connection, focus on the McConnell health care conspiracy, give Steve Daines and Greg Gianforte hell, and do what’s necessary to keep Jon Tester 100 percent opposed to the bill.



10 July 2017 — 0740 mdt

Why isn’t there a forestfire.gov website?

The smoke plume below was rising from the west-southwest when I returned home yesterday. When I tried to find the fire’s location, all I could find on the internet was a story in the Flathead Beacon about a fire west of Kalispell, located between Loon Lake and Rogers Mountain. The Beacon had a map. Later, a Facebook friend reminded me that fire information is available at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov.

Every summer, I need to relearn that URL because the name is so anti-intuitive. There should be a forestfire.gov website, but for the bureaucrats in charge that kind of clarity in a website’s name probably is frowned upon as an amateurish display of candor and clarity.

As for the fire producing the smoke I saw, InciWeb is no help. As of the time of this post, it listed only the July Fire in eastern Montana.


Taken two miles northwest of Kalispell at 1916 MDT yesterday. The smoke is coming from west-southwest, and probably is from the Lazier Creek Fire.



8 July 2017 — 1030 mdt

99°F might not have been a Flathead record, but yesterday was hot

The Flathead was hot yesterday. At the National Weather Service’s station at Glacier International Airport, the mercury reached 99°F for almost half an hour late in the afternoon. That measurement is provisional and may be revised. Here’s the readout (blue and yellow added by Flathead Memo):


Ninety-nine degrees is 30 degrees cooler than the highest reliable observation at Death Valley. Ahvaz, Iran, recorded 128.7°F last week. Last July, Mitribah, Kuwait, had a high of 129.2°F. I’ve experienced highs of over 110°F, and have no desire to experience anything hotter.



7 July 2017 — 0959 mdt

More books for progressives

I’ve updated my list of summer reads for progressives by adding Thomas Franks’ Listen Liberal: Or, Whatever Happened to the Party of the People?, a book I somehow forgot to mention. It’s a powerful, eloquent, convincing, indictment of the Democratic Party.

Eric Laursen’s long and detailed The People’s Pension: The War Against Social Security from Reagan to Obama, also belongs on the list. It’s available through Amazon, but a draft of the book is available for free online.

At Bigsky Words, Greg Strandberg has a list of Good Books for You.

Several readers have suggested other titles. I welcome your recommendations — just submit them through our contact link — and will try to pull together a post on readers’ reads later this summer.



6 July 2017 — 0847 mdt

Montana shook, rattled, and rolled last night

The 5.8 Richter Scale temblor struck near Lincoln, which is 110 miles SSE of Kalispell, at approximately 30 minutes after midnight. And I slept right through the action, not feeling a thing.

Friends living in Helena report more excitement: 10-15 seconds of shaking, and aftershocks. Some, all shook up, grabbed their bug-out kits, opened their windows to mitigate possible gas leaks, and evacuated to their front lawns. Here are Bill Haley and the Comets playing their song.



5 July 2017 — 1457 mdt

Time to prohibit some private fireworks displays

Yesterday was hot and dry, but the wind died at nautical twilight, just in time for the outbreaks of private fireworks in my neighborhood and those adjoining. As far as I know, fires were not started, but that’s as much the consequence of good luck as of careful planning and technique.

As the globe warms, and the population density increases, private fireworks displays constitute a greater and greater fire hazard. Flathead County, Montana’s fifth most populous, has one of the state’s highest population densities and thus one of the state’s highest risks of fire damage from accidents occurring at amateur fireworks displays.

Depending on prayer and good fortune to prevent conflagrations ignited by fireworks is not enough. Neither is education. I think it’s time to prohibit most private displays, especially displays in small neighborhoods, of aerial fireworks.



3 July 2017 — 0845 mdt

Summer reads for progressives

Updated 7 July. Ten weeks of summer remain. If you read a book a week, you can get through this list easily. I recommend starting with Asymmetric Politics, Shattered, and White Working Class.

Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats. Matt Grossmann and David Hopkins, September, 2016. Oxford University Press. Democrats consider compromise an intrinsic good. Republicans consider it a betrayal of principle. That’s just one of many ways America’s two major political parties differ from each other.

The Great Risk Shift: The New Economic Insecurity and the Decline of the American Dream. Jacob S. Hacker, 2008. Oxford University Press. How and why the principles of social insurance upon which Social Security and Medicare rest have been inverted and corrupted by the you’re on your own crowd that dominates today’s Republican Party and threatens three generations of social progress. Read this to understand the philosophical basis of Trump-Ryan-McConnell Care.

White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America. Joan C. Williams, May, 2017. Harvard Business Review Press. Whites without a college degree, once the backbone of the Democratic Party, voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by a 39 percent margin. They love Social Security and Medicare, but hate food stamps, and resent academics and other elites. Williams explains why, and how Democrats can bring the defectors back to the political party that for all its faults still has their best interests at heart.

…read the rest


1 July 2017 — 0959 mdt

Al Franken is guilty of unethical fundraising

Al Franken

Democrats so seldom win because they so seldom learn to treat voters and their supporters with respect. Yesterday, I received a plea for money from one of the alleged good guys, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), writing on behalf of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. He began:

Didn’t know it’s possible to feel guilt while participating in Fourth of July festivities? Well, with healthcare for 22 million people at risk, this year it is.

But there’s another option. Just follow my plan for guilt-free firework viewing:

…read the rest