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

Archives Index, 2017 June 1–15


15 June 2017

Note to readers

We’re in a blogging lite mode this week due to necessity, not choice. This will continue through tomorrow. Our posts will be shorter, and will be uploaded in the evening or later. Thanks for visiting Flathead Memo, and for your forbearance.


14 June 2017 — 2023 mdt

A shooting in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Steve Scalise lies in critical condition in MedStar Washington Hospital Center this evening following surgery for a gunshot wound suffered while he was practicing baseball in Alexandria, VA. The shooter, James Hodgekinson, 66, of Belleville, IL, was shot and killed by Scalise’s armed guards. A police officer and congressional aide also were shot.

Hodgekinson’s motive is not known. He apparently acted alone. And he apparently expected to die, for he made no attempt to conceal himself or escape. My tentative hypothesis: a suicide by cop and an attempted murder.

Hodgekinson’s politics probably played no significant role in his behavior. He supported Bernie Sanders and loathed Donald Trump, but that puts him in a class of tens of millions. Sander’s loss to Clinton, and Clinton’s loss to Trump, didn’t send Hodgekinson over the edge, but something in his personal life did. In time, investigators probably will identify what deranged him.

Given what’s known thus far, there’s no reason to conclude that this was an attack on Democracy. It’s a tragedy, but it’s best not to read too much into it, or to derive much meaning from it. In the end, it’s just another nut run amok whose life ended in bloodshed; his blood and the blood of others.



14 June 2017 — 1231 mdt

Intelligent Discontent transition

Don Pogreba has renamed his excellent blog, Intelligent Discontent, The Montana Post. On Flathead Memo’s blogroll, to which I’ve added The Montana Post, Intelligent Discontent now takes readers to www.themontanapost.com.


12 June 2017 — 1909 mdt

Gianforte avoids jail, but not community service and anger management —
Now he’s trying to avoid being fingerprinted and posing for a mug shot


U.S. Representative-elect Greg Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault today, receiving a sentence of 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management therapy. He accepted that, evidently quietly and stoically.

But according to Whitney Bermes of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, he’s not quietly and stoically accepting the judge’s order that he should be subjected to the indignity of being fingerprinted and having his mug shot taken. He’s fighting that, knowing full well that Democrats will feature his mug shot in ads opposing his re-election.

He might avoid having a formal mug shot taken, but he won't avoid a Democratic artist’s sketch of a mug shot. Pro tip: he might find a real mug shot more flattering than an artist’s rendering of a mug shot.

Berms also reports that:

…read the rest


9 June 2017 — 1749 mdt

Friday roundup

The big story out of Montana this afternoon is that Gallatin County prosecutor Marty Lambert says that on Monday, Greg Gianforte will plead guilty to misdemeanor assault. As part of Gianforte’s “I apologize and you won’t sue” agreement with Ben Jacobs, The Guardian reporter agreed he would notify Lambert that he would not object to Gianforte’s pleading nolo contendere, which led some observers, among them myself, to infer that Gianforte would not be pleading guilty.

Politically, Gianforte’s smart if he pleads guilty instead of nolo contendere. Most voters will consider a guilty plea as a straightforward acceptance of personal responsibility, but regard a nolo contendere plea as an avoidance of full responsibility and as a rich man’s legal trick. The sentence the court hands down will be the same regardless of the plea.

Also politically, Gianforte would have been smarter not to have conditioned his apology on Jacobs’ agreeing not to sue and not to object to a nolo contendere plea. Conditioning the apology undermined its sincerity. Gianforte’s lawyers may have cut too sharp a deal for his political good.

The final test will be whether the sentence handed down gives even a faint whiff of a sweeter than usual deal for a rich man or a politician. Insofar as I know, Gianforte’s a first time offender, his altercation with Jacobs was not premediated, and his roots in his community are more than two decades deep. I would consider a suspended sentence and hands-on community service as fair to all.

Three analyses of the Democrats special congressional election campaign.

At the Missoula Independent, Michael Siebert and Alex Sakariassen, both good reporters, have a 3,000-word review of Rob Quist’s loss to Greg Gianforte. This is a traditional journalistic narrative with qualitative analysis, not a quantitative assessment of the Upshot and FiveThirtyEight genre.

At Intelligent Discontent, Missoula writer Pete Talbot explains where he agrees and disagrees with Siebert and Sakariassen.

At the Flathead Beacon, former Democratic legislator Mike Jopek observes how well Rob Quist did in some Flathead Valley precincts.

There’s a temptation to compare the special congressional election to Bullock v. Gianforte in 2016, but I think comparing it to Lewis v. Zinke in 2014, another non Presidential election, makes more sense. Quist did markedly better than Lewis, especially in Flathead, Gallatin, and Missoula Counties. I suspect this is indicative of both population growth and more sophisticated microtargeting and GOTV efforts by Democrats. I hope to publish more on this later this month.



8 June 2017 — 0653 mdt

Did Greg Gianforte just buy off Ben Jacobs?

That argument can be made. According to the Missoulian, The Guardian reporter Jacobs and Representative-elect Gianforte reached a civil agreement in which Gianforte donates $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In exchange, Jacobs (a) releases all future claims against Gianforte, and (b) sent the Gallatin County Attorney an email stating he would not object to Gianforte’s pleading no contest to the misdemeanor assault charge he still faces. Gianforte asked for the “I won’t object” email.

The agreement reveals Gianforte’s legal strategy, and establishes Jacobs as a man whose silence can be bought.

…read the rest


7 June 2017 — 0529 mdt

Authoritarian educators violate student’s civil rights at FHS graduation


At Flathead High School’s graduation ceremony last Friday, a graduation official ordered FHS senior Zephrey Holloway not to wear his hand painted mortarboard honoring his Blackfeet cultural heritage (Interlake | Beacon). Although Holloway used his smartphone to show the administrator the text of SB-319, Montana’s new law authorizing modified mortarboards such as Holloway’s, his attempt to educate the ignorant administrator failed.

Given the choice of wearing a standard issue mortarboard or being banished to the bleachers as a spectator, Holloway donned the standard mortarboard and joined his classmates. If he was photographed accepting his diploma, he was photographed wearing a standard issue mortarboard, not the Blackfeet honoring mortarboard his grandmother painted for him.

Flathead High’s principal, Peter Fusaro, later apologized for the violation of Holloway’s civil rights — but that apology is an empty gesture that does not redress the injustice. Here’s the salient section of the law that graduation officials considered optional instead of mandatory:

…read the rest


6 June 2017 — 1641 mdt

A strategic complaint to discourage liberals from political participation?

Election day is approaching. Your candidate, running neck and neck with a man who would return us to the days when Kings were in charge and peasants knew their place, needs help from his friends to pass the election post first.

Your telephone rings. It’s your brother-in-law. “Hey, Dan, it’s George. We’re putting together a newspaper insert to help Bob Lyst. The content’s in place, but we’ve gotta raise $9,000 by Tuesday. We really need your help. $500? All right! Hot Damn! Thanks Dan. Give Jane my love. Gotta make more calls.”

Dan raises the money. The insert runs. Bob Lyst loses. And adding injury to insult, a week later you, and everyone else involved in creating and financing the insert, receive from the Federal Elections Commission a copy of a complaint alleging that the insert was coordinated with Lyst’s campaign, thereby violating campaign finance law.

That scenario’s no improbable hypothetical. It actually happened at the end of, and after, Montana’s special U.S. House election that concluded on 25 May.

…read the rest


5 June 2017 — 0920 mdt

What terrorists cannot do to Britain,
the British may do to themselves

No modern western nation has ever had its government overthrown by terrorists. But that’s not the goal of the fools and zealots who murdered and maimed pedestrians in London over the weekend. “The aim of terror,” wrote The Guardian in a trenchant editorial directed at Prime Minister Theresa May, “is to scare us into changing the nature of our democracy.”

Prime Minister May scares easily:

Mrs May gave her most explicit pitch today to policing thoughts rather than acts. This is a bad idea. It rests on a strategy to counter ideology rather than one that counters terrorism. It penalises people for holding unspoken beliefs and promotes a form of thoughtcrime. Such a move would end up with Britain losing the fight against terrorism in a legal minefield of dogma and piety. Mrs May wants us to believe that we face a threat from doctrines that do not espouse violence but somehow mutate into terror by contingency. The conclusion of her speech is that a non-violent person who harbours anti-British, extremist thoughts – to be defined presumably by a future parliament – could be blacklisted, maybe even criminalised. This is a leap away from current policy, although Mrs May has been heading in this direction for years.

May, and President Trump, and the other politicians who think the answer to acts of terror is replacing the freedoms that are the foundation of democracy with the false security of a police state should heed Benjamin Franklin’s warning: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

As I put it in the speech I believe George W. Bush should have delivered on the evening of 9/11:

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.

Opportunistic, demagogic, politicians such as Trump and May are a far greater threat to democracy than crazed jihadis and right wing extremists such as Timothy McVeigh.



3 June 2017 — 1104 mdt

Note to readers

Flathead Memo is standing down today so that its chief blogger can mow his lawn, perform other outdoor activities, and just enjoy a fine, sunny, day.


2 June 2017 — 1046 mdt

Tester needs an extraordinary midterm turnout to win in 2018


Sen. Jon Tester won his U.S. Senate seat in 2006 and 2012 by narrow pluralities. In 2006, he defeated three-term incumbent Republican Sen. Conrad Burns by 3,562 votes, aided by an extraordinarily high midterm turnout— a throw out the bums turnout — and Libertarian Stan Jones, the bluefaced man, who received 10,377 votes. Jones probably drew enough votes from Burns, who, at 71, clearly was losing his mojo, to assure Tester’s victory.

Six years later, running in a Presidential election, Tester again won with a plurality, but the election wasn’t as close. Libertarian Dan Cox received more votes than separated Tester from Rehberg, but an application of the one-half rule(1) suggests that Tester would have won had Cox not been on the ballot.


Next year, Tester stands for re-election in another midterm election. If history is a guide, the probability that the turnout will approach the turnout of 2006 is very low.

…read the rest


1 June 2017 — 1639 mdt

Ideology Trumps science — President exits Paris climate pact

Last year was the hottest in recorded history. Our globe is warming — but today our President, cool to fact and full of hot air, announced he’s withdrawing the United States from the 2015 Paris accord on climate change. You’ll find at the usual places a glut of reports on his decision. And at the National Academies of Science, you’ll find a just-released document on climate science that you can download.

My initial reaction? Reality and Donald Trump do not exist in the same time-space continuum.

Here’s a song by the Desert Rose Band that serves as a comment on the situation. The performance features guitar virtuoso John Jorgenson’s powerful 12-string guitar.