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

Archives Index, 2017 July 16–31


31 July 2017 — 1217 mdt

Blue Doggies are always for sale

Politico reports that in their quest to seize the U.S. House of Representatives next year, Democrats are sending whistles of welcome to the Blue Dogs, the rural red state conservatives who caucus with the Democratic Party but all too often vote with the Republicans. That report incited me to write new lyrics for an old Patti Page song. Enjoy.

Is that a Blue Doggie in the Congress?
The one with the GOP tail,
He wiggles and wags at Mitch McConnell,
I'll bet that Blue Doggie’s for sale.

Blue Doggies like private health insurance,
They say single-payer’s third rail,
They bow down and kiss up to Big Pharma,
Blue Doggies are always for sale.

Blue Doggies believe they’re just pragmatic,
At liberals they shudder and quail,
They cut deals that betray Dem progressives,
Blue Doggies are always for sale.

We don’t need Blue Doggies in the Congress,
We don'’t need their brand of betrayal,
Replace them with big-hearted progressives,
Send Blue Doggies down Satan’s dark trail.



30 July 2017 — 1950 mdt

Don’t lay down your sword & shield — health care repeal is still alive

Keep resisting. We haven’t won. The U.S. Senate is still in session, President Trump is still demanding that Congress repeal the Affordable Care Act, and Republican Senators Graham (SC), Dean Heller (NV), and Bill Cassidy (LA), are colluding with Trump and Mitch McConnell to find something that will win 50 votes. The depth of their obsession and determination makes Captain Ahab’s mad adventure seem like a dilettante’s dalliance with a sweet rose.

The normal legislative rules don’t apply. Health care remains under siege. Friday’s vote on Skinny Repeal was setback, but not the kind of defeat that causes soldiers to throw away their weapons and trudge back to their day jobs, broken, demoralized, never to fight again. McConnell came up short, but just one vote short — and no one should assume that Collins, Murkowski, and McCain, will vote against all bills that repeal, or tamper with, the ACA. Mitch and his henchmen will keep trying until January, 2018, stopping then only if Democrats win at least one house of Congress.

This is a battle of ideology, a war of attrition, a fight to the death. The barbarians are still at the gate. Therefore, continue resisting. Increase your intensity. Expand your campaign. Maintain your guard. Never give up. Never give in.



30 July 2017 — 1515 mdt

Do MT Democrats believe that only tall men should hold office?

Montana’s Democrats, and others, are rightly criticizing Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton for his campaign against the virtually nonexistent threat of voter fraud. He has no proof that voter fraud exists, but he has faith that it does, and on that issue seems to have a zealot’s immunity to facts and logic.

He also has one less department head at MT SecST. Derek J. Oestreicher, an attorney, and Stapleton’s choice to head SecST’s elections and voter services department, resigned last week. Oestreicher, according to Logicosity, and the Missoulian, apparently resigned because of the strength of his disagreement with Stapleton’s jihad against voter fraud.

Unfortunately, Logicosity accompanied its report with a cheap shot at Stapleton’s physical stature:

Derek, an attorney by trade, and his former principal, one who suffers from a severe case of Napoleon Complex… [Link in original.]

Stapleton stands several inches under six feet. Oestreicher is six feet with some inches to spare.

But as I noted when taking Montana Cowboy to task for belittling Stapleton’s stature, Stapleton was tall enough to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy, tall enough to serve his country as a naval officer, and tall enough for the voters of Montana, who chose him as their secretary of state last November.

Alleging that he has a Napoleon complex, that because of his height he has an inferiority complex, that he’s too short to be a good public servant, is high school locker room level bullying at its worst. It’s the politics of personal destruction. It’s disgraceful. It needs to stop. Now.



29 July 2017 — 1636 mdt

Could this be the mother of all political Venns?

Celinda Lake, the Democratic pollster who graduated from Montana State University, recently delivered a PowerPoint presentation, Comparing the Voting Electorate in 2012-2016 and Predicting 2018 Drop-off, for the Voter Participation Center, whose mission is:

…to increase civic engagement among the Rising American Electorate: unmarried women, people of color, and millennials.

The Democratic Strategist has a serviceable discussion of the data and methodology covered in the PowerPoint presentation (I’m not going to call a PPP a report; see Tufte). I’ll therefore defer to that discussion and the presentation for those details, but I will call your attention to the Venn diagram depicting the RAE, and report the turnout drop-off Lake predicts for Montana’s 2018 general election.

First, the Venn diagram from the PPP (page 8):

…read the rest


28 July 2017 — 1300 mdt

Tester takes Daines’ bait, votes against single-payer


Yesterday, Sen. Jon Tester cast a vote that will — and should — infuriate many Democrats. Joined by Democratic Blue Dogs Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and independent Angus King (ME), Tester voted against Daines’ amendment (Senate Amendment 340 to Senate Amendment 267 to H.R. 1628, the House’s bill to gut the Affordable Care Act) to create a single-payer health care system for the nation. The amendment failed, 0–57, with 42 Democrats and independent Bernie Sanders voting “present.”

Daines, who voted for all of Mitch McConnell’s bills to deny health insurance for tens of millions of Americans, offered his single-payer amendment to embarrass Democrats, hoping to peel off a few Democratic “No” votes so that Republicans could claim that the single-payer bill died a bipartisan death.

Tester, et al, no doubt thinking voting against Daines’ mischief amendment would inoculate them against charges they are European socialists hellbent on helping the improvident and undeserving, seized the opportunity and granted Daines and Mitch McConnell their wish.

Unlike Daines, Tester voted against all of McConnell’s bills. Give him credit for that.

But what does he believe should be done to improve the ACA, which leaves millions uninsured, and permits the sale of high deductible insurance policies that are next to worthless?

If Tester believes that health care is a right, or should be a right, what kind of health care system does he propose that would provide equal protection under the law? An everyone covered for everything federal single-payer system financed by progressive taxes would provide equal protection under the law, but what other system would?

Voting against Daines’ sucker the Blue Dogs amendment was a mistake. King, Tester, and the other Democratic defectors should have voted “Present.”



27 July 2017 — 1514 mdt

Flathead County’s Stage II fire regulations
may be dangerously solicitous of agriculture

Yesterday, the Flathead County Commission abruptly imposed State II fire restrictions (PDF) on private land within the county — with one glaring exception.

Agricultural activities pursuant to § 76-2-901, et seq., M.C.A.

Here’s the “farming is too important to be subjected to equal protection under the law” section of Montana’s statutes:

76-2-901. Agricultural activities — legislative finding and purpose.

(1) The legislature finds that agricultural lands and the ability and right of farmers and ranchers to produce a safe, abundant, and secure food and fiber supply have been the basis of economic growth and development of all sectors of Montana’s economy. In order to sustain Montana’s valuable farm economy and land bases associated with it, farmers and ranchers must be encouraged and have the right to stay in farming.

(2) It is therefore the intent of the legislature to protect agricultural activities from governmental zoning and nuisance ordinances.

It gets just as hot and dry on a farm as it does in a suburban backyard, and a stray spark ignites flammable material just as easily. The only difference is that most farms are open land, and thus may be a bit breezier than a suburban backyard in which trees break the wind. Once ignited, a fire may spread faster and farther in a farm’s field than in a sheltered suburban backyard.

The commissioners are rolling the dice. Hoping that no farmer gets careless or unlucky, the commissioners are holding farmers to a lower standard than the rest of us so that farmers with a day job can fire up their tractors during the late afternoon, when the heat of the day peaks, relative humidity is lowest, the wind is rising, and the risk of fire is the greatest.

If you live in the suburbs, don’t mow your lawn after lunch — just keep your garden hose and your cell phone handy in case Farmer Jones, home at last from a day in the sawmill, weary and possibly not fully attentive, makes a mistake and sets the neighborhood on fire. First, call 911 to summon the fire brigade. Then call the commissions to give them hell for gambling with fire.

Commissioners must stop scanning documents to PDFs

The county’s Stage II fire edict is a two-page PDF. It was written on a computer, probably using Microsoft Word, but instead of being saved as a text-based PDF that’s searchable and from which text can be copied and pasted, the document was converted to a raster image, then output to a PDF.

Governments, and some private entities, do this to prevent the document from being indexed by search engines; and to make it as hard as possible for readers to search the document and to extract text from it. Bastards. And, hypocrites. They know what they’re doing, and after they’ve done it, they have the temerity to complain that voters have a dim view of government and public officials.



25 July 2017 — 1411 mdt

Senate vote proves there are at most two “moderate” GOP senators

Shortly after 1300 MDT today, the U.S. Senate voted 51–50 to begin debate on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Montana’s junior senator, Steve Daines, voted for the motion, as did so-called “moderates” Dean Heller (R-NV), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Shelley Capito (R-WV), and certified maverick John McCain (R-AZ). Only two Republicans, Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), voted against it.

Last week, Capito said “I didn’t come to Washington to hurt people.” But her vote today proves she’s stayed in Washington long enough to overcome that noble intention.

McCain, a life long beneficiary of government health care, voted to let the mischief begin, then delivered a speech lauding bipartisanship and criticizing Democrats for passing the Affordable Care Act on a party line vote, conveniently not admitting that the ACA vote was party line because Republicans decided to oppose everything that President Obama proposed. His return to the Senate was dramatic. His call for bipartisanship, given his vote against the ACA, was hypocritical.

The Republican strategy is clear: find enough votes to pass something, anything, that President Trump will sign, call it repeal, call it victory, and then move on to providing the filthy rich with a tax break that spares them the indignity of not being able to afford a new private jet.



23 July 2017 — 2318 mdt

Red herrings, rump elections, phantom fraudsters of the ballot box


Trump’s “I can pardon myself” is a red herring to distract us from the GOP’a assault on health care. The debate is fascinating, but the issue isn’t ripe (except in a figurative sense). Meanwhile, reports Politico, Mitch McConnell and his lieutenants remain determined to pass a bill that guts the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid:

…read the rest


19 July 2017 — 1745 mdt

Defending Obamacare is not enough —
we must replace it with American Care

Nothing has more lives than a bad idea promoted by bad people. As long as bad people — that is, Republicans — control Congress and the Presidency, bills to repeal and/or gut Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act, will continue to be introduced, in many cases put to a vote, and in some cases, passed by at least one house of Congress. Meanwhile, the executive branch will do everything in its power, and possibly beyond its legal power, to sabotage the ACA.

Bearing that in mind, don’t celebrate the demise of McConnell’s latest bill. Don’t even think of heaving a sigh of relief. The demise is only temporary. The GOP’s determination to deprive the middle class and the poor of decent health insurance will continue forever.

Therefore, the resistance must continue forever. Full force. Relentlessly. Without quarter.

But resistance alone is not enough.

The ACA is better than the status quo ante. Ergo, it must be defended. But it leaves millions uninsured, and blesses deductibles so large that for many the risk of a medical bankruptcy remains frighteningly high. It does not provide equal protection under the law.

Progressives must begin making the case — and making it fortissimo — for what I call American Care: an everyone covered for everything federal single-payer system financed by progressive taxes.

American Care will be opposed by the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party, the wing that sold its soul to, and made its peace with, the private health insurance industry (one of the most parasitic, most economically worthless, most morally degenerate, industries the world has ever known). Who can forget the reckless, dishonest, morally depraved, attack on Bernie Sanders’ single-payer proposal made by Hillary Clinton’s campaign? And according to Pete Talbot at The Montana Post (the former Intelligent Discontent), Jon Tester, like Max Baucus before him, wants single-payer off the table:

… Sen. Jon Tester recently held an impromptu meeting with Missoula Democrats, basically firing up his base. Health care was a heady topic, and an audience member asked about advancing a single-payer plan. Tester responded that keeping the ACA (Obamacare) in tact was a big enough battle — single payer was off the table.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could play offense instead of defense? … [Highlighting by Flathead Memo.]

Thank you, Sen. Tester, for defending the ACA. But don’t be a Wall Street Democrat. Your resistance to, and dissing of, the most economically efficient, and the only truly just, health care system, is shameful, embarrassing, and wrong.



17 July 2017 — 1536 mdt

A ballot box history of Montana’s 6-mill University Levy

Voters next fall get to decide whether to retain the 6-mill university levy, first approved in 1920 (overview), that currently raises approximately $20 million per year (legislative fiscal note). Supporters of the levy, reports Edward R. Burrow at Logicosity (post 1, post 2), are organizing a campaign to promote the measure that may cost $2.7 million. Burrow worries that an expensive levy campaign will compete with Democratic candidates for the same pot of money, possibly costing Democrats seats in the legislature. I share Burrow’s concern.

Burrow, commenting on Hilltop Public Solutions’ proposal to manage the campaign for the level, reports:

…read the rest


17 July 2017 — 2148 mdt

GOP health care moon shot moons the public


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced tonight that he’s pulling his healthcare bill in favor of a bill that repeals the Affordable Care Act but delays approving a replacement for two years. His announcement came after Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) said McConnell’s bill wasn’t conservative enough. Added to the already announced opposition from Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Susan Collins (R-ME), and John McCain’s medical absence, that left McConnell without the votes to pass his bill.

But the repeal now, replace later, option is just as crazy as deciding to land on the Moon, and once there, figuring out how to get home.

There’s no guarantee that the fools on the moon will figure out how to get home. Likewise, there’s no guarantee that the GOP will figure out a replacement for the ACA, although a case can be made that the replacement Trump, Ryan, and McConnell, favor is the status quo ante, and that therefore they would let the clock expire and welcome back the good old days of denying insurance for pre-existing conditions and reinstating the other evils the ACA banned or diminished.

McConnell may welcome heading for the Moon without a ticket home as he might believe that would provide the leverage he needs to peel off a few weak Democrats, allowing him to say that the replacement for the ACA had bipartisan backing. Indeed, that may be have been his plan all along.

Meanwhile, Americans who need health insurance are being mooned by the senior senator from Kentucky.