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

Archives Index, 2017 March 1–15


13–17 20March 2017

Flathead Memo is finished standing down until Spring

Update, 17 March. Figuratively speaking, spring has arrived early. I need a break from: reactionary Republicans; prevaricating politicians; lying legislators; dissembling Democrats; black masked anarchists; identity politics; confused and ignorant voters; arrogant bureaucrats; haughty educators; zealots and crackpots and nitwits; global warming deniers; nuts who will register babies but not assault weapons; raw milk legalizers; crusaders for child election judges; cruel fools with an unreasoning fear of opioid painkillers who would deny people in agony the mercy of Mother Morphine; darksiders trying to dismiss Daylight Saving Time. The world has gone crazy, and I’ll go crazy, too, if I don’t step back from the madness for a few days. See you when Spring starts. James Conner.


12 March 2017

Who should pay for Colstrip's decommissioning costs?

At E-City Beat today, Public Service Commission Vice Chairman Travis Kuvulla (R-Great Falls), has a thoughtful essay on the costs, financial and human, of closing Colstrip Units 1 and 2. Built more than 40 years ago, the coal fired power plants, each rated at 307 megawatts, are scheduled to close no later than 2022.

The immediate cause of the shutdown is the settlement of a lawsuit brought by environmental groups. But the plants’ age, the inherent dirtiness of coal, and the declining economic viability of coal fired electricity, are factors that would have led to a shutdown sooner than later.

Built in the mid-1980s, Colstrip Units 3 and 4, each rated at 740 megawatts, will continue operating. Therefore, not all Colstrip related jobs will disappear when Units 1 and 2 shut down.

But as Kavulla observes, decommissioning Units 1 and 2 will produce significant adverse economic consequences for the coal workers and their communities.

A plant closure means an instant reduction in property values, a cost shift to the remaining taxpayers in the county, and a lot of stranded assets in the form of local government projects that still have outstanding balances on their bond arrangements. The cost of all of these consequences of the plant closure are things the legislation includes within its definition of “decommissioning costs.” In other words, if the legislation becomes law, the power plant owners will have, among other things, the obligation to pay out howeowners and small businesses who find themselves underwater in their mortgages.

In Planning for Montana’s Energy Transition, Headwaters Economics, in a report released in February, 2016, puts numbers on the situation:

Using the latest available data (2013), coal employment is especially important in Rosebud, Big Horn, and Musselshell counties. In Big Horn County coal mining and coal burning employment is 31 percent of the workforce while these sectors account for 30 percent of all workers in Rosebud County and 20 percent of all workers in Musselshell County. For the other counties, coal employment is relatively less important, reflecting roughly one percent of total employment for Richland County and a lower share in Yellowstone County. .


Trying to mitigate these impacts, Sen. Duane Ankney (R-Colstrip), a former miner who fights as hard as any man alive for the miners he represents, has introduced SB-338, which would require the owners of the coal mines and coal fired power plants to pay into a decommissioning fund. He puts no price tag on the bill, and the fiscal note is not available, but the Great Falls Tribune estimates that SB-338 would provide approximately $40 million for decommissioning. Given the magnitude of the decommissioning impacts, that not nearly as much money as will be needed. The bill will be heard on 16 March.

At this point, I’m leaning toward supporting the bill. It’s wrong to let coal companies strip the wealth from the earth, wrecking the landscape and despoiling land and water, without requiring that they invest in the rehabilitation of the communities and workers’ lives their greed has impacted. Instead of letting Talen, et al, take the money and run, Montana should take money from Talen before running Talen out of the state.

A second response to the shutdown of Units 1 and 2 is Butte Democrat Rep. Jim Keane’s announcement that Speaker Austin Knudsen (R-Culbertson) will introduce legislation authorizing the state to loan the operators of Units 1 and 2 money to keep the old plants from closing before 2022. Keane rightly admits that may not be the best solution, but he wants to do something. Understood. Keane has a storied history of fighting for what he thinks is best for Butte. But instead of using taxpayer dollars to prop up greedy energy companies, he should find money to help the workers who will suffer from the shutdowns.


Was Rob Quist’s old campaign website hacked?
Are some Missoula Democrats hurting his campaign?

Security issues? At Polson last night, Quist told a friend that his old campaign website was taken down for security reasons, and that an issues page would be added to his new website. I’ve received no specifics, but Friday one of my readers reported a strange entry on Quist’s Facebook page. I checked the Facebook page, but could not find the entry.

The issues and biographical information on Quist’s old website could have been inserted into the new website’s template in just a few minutes.

Thanks to Nathan Kosted, much of his old issues platform is available at Intelligent Discontent.

The robquist.org domain was registered on 8 March 2017.

Missoula mischief? A reader reports today that the pro-Quist door knocking blitz in Missoula was hindered because the Facebook page for the event contained information that was not correct, and was late in being posted. That’s disturbing news. The foul-up may have been just a blunder, but I’m not dismissing the possibility of intentional disruption.

Do all Democrats want to help Quist? Most do, but I’m receiving disquieting reports that for a multitude of reasons, some Democrats regard his candidacy as an attempt to execute a hostile takeover of the Montana Democratic Party and would be delighted if he lost the election, thus putting down his insurgency.



11 March 2017

Rob Quist’s new campaign website has no issues page


Where does Rob Quist stand on the issues? A few days ago, one could find out by visiting his campaign website, www.robquistformontana.com, and reading his issues page.

Today, that website has disappeared, replaced with www.robquist.org. The issues page is gone. So are the biography of Quist and the news page. All that remains are a photograph of Quist, a volunteer sign-up link, and, of course, a link for donating money to his campaign.

Will his new website eventually contain an issues page? Perhaps. After all, Steve Bullock’s 2016 campaign website finally added an issues page in late summer.

But Quist already had an issues page. Why has that been suppressed? Is it because Hilltop and the Montana Democratic campaign consultancy cabal are preparing a sanitized, poll tested, platform built from planks intended to appeal to weak Republicans?

This is clumsy and arrogant campaign management.



10 March 2017

Kill SB-305, the all mail ballot special election bill

Update, 10 March. I now oppose SB-305, and renounce my previous support for an all mail ballot election. I made a mistake: I was bending over backward to be reasonable (proof I’m a Democrat). But after further reflection and research, I’ve concluded there is no reason to believe that an all mail ballot election will increase turnout for a special Congressional election.

I continue to believe that early voting for the special election should be limited to two weeks; that the legislature should appropriate money to help counties pay for the election, which is a rare event akin to a natural disaster; and that the special election and school elections should be combined (even if the schools object, which of course they would).

…read the rest

Daylight Saving Time repeal bill hearing set for Tuesday


Daylight Saving Time. By Beth Cook, Congressional Research Service, 9 March 2016. PDF.

Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time. By David Prerau, 28 April 2009. Kindle and hard copy.

Will Montana become 3rd state to ditch daylight saving time? By Tom Kuglin, Helena Independent Record, 5 March 2017.

Map of western time zones if Montana repeals DST.

Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday. Two days later, at 0900, the Montana House’s state administration committee will hold a hearing on SB-206, which would repeal DST in Montana. At present, only Hawaii, 2,500 miles offshore and partly in the tropics, and Arizona, do not observe DST.

Two Flathead legislators, Rep. Frank Garner and Rep. Derek Skees, sit on the House’s state administration committee. Garner requested a bill (LC-1499) with the short title of “Eliminate daylight savings (sic) time,” but the bill’s draft is on hold.

The timing of the hearing is not coincidental. SB-206’s supporters want the committee’s members to consider the bill while some are still mildly exasperated by the changeover.

Why repealing DST is being pushed, both in Montana and in several other states, remains a mystery, but the push seems to be coming from rural Republicans associated with agriculture and may be nothing more than Old MacDonald’s revenge on urban Americans who work by the clock and benefit greatly from DST.

In the Montana Senate’s state administration committee’s hearing, the bill’s author, Sen. Ryan Osmundson (R-Buffalo), a member of the committee, mumbled that he’d received a few telephone calls on the issue, but provided no details. The minutes of the hearing do not indicate that written testimony was submitted. The committee’s executive action lasted three minutes, 16 seconds. Sen. Dee Brown (R-Hungry Horse) said she’d received a few telephone calls from parents, but did not elaborate.

Who is Ryan Osmundson? According to his personal website:

Ryan enjoys hunting and fishing with his [8] children. Ryan has a small business selling agriculture products and farms as well. Ryan is a pilot and attended Colorado Aero Tech to become an A&P mechanic. Ryan also attended Montana Wilderness School of the Bible, where he met his wife Jessica. Ryan was home schooled and grew up in North East Iowa. [Link added.]

I’m tempted to call the hearing and executive session shams, but that supposes unsavory intent. The intent here appears to have been giving a member of the committee a free ride, and to whip matters through the committee before the transmittal deadline. Call it insouciance squared, high school genre fecklessness.

Taking Montana out of time sync with the nation and neighboring states is a serious proposal that merits serious discussion. Thus far, however, the legislature’s approach has been frivolous and irresponsible. The bill’s proponents are trying to ram it through the legislature, evidently fearing that extended discussion of the issue will reveal just how popular daylight saving time is.

If you like that extra hour of sunshine in the evening, when the day is warm, let your legislator and the committee knowpronto.



9 March 2017

Will the Democratic National Committee help or hinder Rob Quist?

Rob Quist’s campaign needs a lot of money — at least $5 million — and needs it right now. The Democratic National Committee could help raise that money. Only 2,000 donations of $2,500 are needed. There are more than enough Democrats with pockets that deep.

But will the DNC help? National Democrats like and help candidates who produce polls promising a win. But the DNC turns up its nose at long-shot candidates, considering them high-smelling panhandlers who always beg for bread but never win an election.

It looks to me as though the DNC will be a dollar short, an hour late, and proud it didn’t “waste” resources on an old musician with all his fingers who had the temerity to win Montana’s Democratic nomination without the blessing of the party’s ossified leadership.


Will the Montana Legislature inflict child election judges on voters?

This could be the year that the no one is too young to be an adult wing of the Democratic Party wins its fight to have schoolchildren help administer elections. House Bill 86, carried by Deer Lodge Democrat Kathy Swanson, legalizes Youth Election Judges. HB-86 passed the Montana House of Representatives on 16 February, 53–46, with one absence. All 41 Democrats voted for the bill. Twelve Republicans, including Kalispell’s Frank Garner, also voted Aye. The bill was heard yesterday in the Senate’s state administration committee by the great minds that want to repeal Daylight Saving Time.

Here are the bill’s salient sections:

Section 13-1-101 MCA:

(54) “Youth election judge” means an individual who serves as an election judge and who is:

  1. at least 16 years of age but less than 18 years of age at the time of an election in which the individual serves as an election judge;
  2. a resident of the state of Montana and the county in which the individual serves as an election judge; and
  3. a citizen of the United States.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Section 13-4-107. Qualifications of election judges. (1) Election judges shall must be:
  1. qualified registered electors of the county and of the precinct in which they serve, except as provided in 13-4-102(4); or
  2. youth election judges.

(2) An individual seeking appointment as a youth election judge must have:

  1. written consent of a parent or legal guardian; and
  2. written consent from the individual’s school principal if the individual is a student of a public or private school.

Voting is an adult activity that must be administered only by adults. The place for children under 18 is in school, where their still developing minds and personas can receive proper instruction. That the Democratic Party, the party that most vigorously opposes child labor, believes employing children as election judges is a good idea boggles one’s mind.

HB-86 must be killed in the Senate. If it passes, Democratic Governor Steve Bullock surely will sign it with great fanfare and surrounded by children.



7 March 2017

Montana Republicans nominate Gianforte for U.S. House
Democrats again sling “New Jersey politician” hogwash


Brace yourself for a short, brutish, campaign.

Back in November, Bozeman businessman Greg Gianforte lost to Gov. Steve Bullock by a small but convincing margin. After dinner yesterday, his party forgave that loss, overwhelmingly nominating him on the first ballot to run against Democrat Rob Quist for the U.S. House seat vacated by Ryan Zinke.

In his victory speech, Holly Michels reported, Gianforte campaigned against Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as well as Quist, employing what had to be focus group tested lines:

…read the rest


5 March 2017

Montana Democrats nominate Rob Quist on 4th ballot


Rob Quist, the arts advocate and master musician with the big and well traveled hat, became the Montana Democratic Party’s nominee for the U.S. House, defeating Rep. Amanda Curtis 90–69 on the fourth ballot at the party’s convention in Helena today. Rep. Kelly McCarthy was dropped from the ballot after the third ballot.

Here’s an unofficial breakdown of the voting, assembled from reports on Twitter by Mike Dennison and at #mtpol:


Immediately following the convention, the Democrats held a “Blue No Matter Who” pep rally in Helena to encourage unity and hit the ground running when they return to their homes.

This has to be a bitter disappointment for Curtis, who was the party’s special convention nominee in 2014 after John Walsh was exposed as a plagiarist and had to withdraw as the party nominee for the U.S. Senate. Curtis generated enthusiasm and raised approximately one million dollars, but lost to U.S. Rep. Steve Daines by a three to two margin.

Some of her supporters may not be ready to embrace Quist immediately, but most will eventually, especially if she asks them to vote and work for Quist, which I’m fully confident she will. McCarthy and the other also-rans will also campaign vigorously for Quist.

Indeed, I can imagine campaign rallies at which Curtis, an accomplished folk musician, and Quist play a few songs together.

Quist, also a rancher and from a ranching family, brings to the campaign an easygoing western authenticity that helps him establish cultural common cause with rural voters in much the same way that former governor Brian Schweitzer did. Quist will do just as well as Curtis or McCarthy would have in Montana’s towns and small cities, but he’ll do a bit better than they would have in the countryside. That’s why I endorsed him in early January.

Quist’s best chance of winning will come from focusing on economics and improving the lives of Montanans. He must talk about the voters, not about the Republican nominee. He must not try to appeal to Republican voters by running as Republican Lite. And he avoid getting bogged down in social issues. In short, he needs to run as a lunch bucket Democrat who in Congress will fight for health care, Social Security, the minimum wage, and other programs and policies that improve the lives of the poor and the middle class.

Both Curtis and McCarthy have bright futures in Montana’s Democratic Party. So does Dan West, the young man with impressive science credentials who received a surprising 11 percent of the vote on the first ballot. We’ll be hearing more from him.



4 March 2017

Saturday roundup

Montana Congressional candidates should address foreign policy at their nominating conventions. The Democrats convene tomorrow, while the Republicans, who want to see whom the Democrats nominate, convene Monday.

How would they address the threat posed by North Korea, a gangster state with nuclear weapons, a rapidly developing missile capability, and paranoid, vicious, leaders? Today’s New York Times reports that our best efforts to slow down the development of North Korea’s nuclear weaponry are not working well.

I believe that Kim Jong-un will keep his finger off the button only if he is fully convinced that if attacked with an atomic bomb, the United States will reduce North Korea to a smoking pile of radioactive rubble that includes the ashes of its leaders. That’s why we must never destroy all of our nuclear weapons, nor renounce our use thereof, nor foreswear launching a nuclear first strike. Any other policy may lead to Seattle and San Francisco being vaporized.

Montana City’s school administrators are handling the negative publicity their lunch shaming proposal has generated with a maximum of truculence, and a minimum of wit. That’s not surprising. Schools are almost as authoritarian as prisons, educators are used to being in charge, expect deference, and some have a very hard time engaging in mutually respectful interaction with adults, especially with adults who are not parents. Some educators are among the nicest people in the world, but others behave like prison guards and immigration and customs enforcement agents.

Some defenders of the lunch shaming proposal are trolling Facebook pages. They found mine. At least one commenter is an elementary school teacher at Montana City. I don’t know whether she’s trolling on her own or at the behest of her superintendent of schools. I deleted several abusive comments, but the prime offender became a repeat offender and I therefore took down the Facebook entry, which you can view here as a PDF.

In California, reports the Sacramento Bee, a legislator has introduced Senate Bill 250, which would protect students from school systems that punish children for the sins and shortcomings of their parents.

Sen. Bob Hertzberg, a Democrat from Los Angeles, is carrying a bill he says will put a stop to schools embarrassing children whose parents fall behind on their lunch payments. Hertzberg says the shaming takes multiple forms: Some students are altogether denied food while others are given paltry snacks.

Such treatment, he says, “undercuts a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school. We also know that embarrassing children in front of peers can destroy their self-confidence.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

A hearing on the lunch-shaming bill is scheduled to take place on March 15 at the Senate Education Committee.

Rep. Frank Garner (R-Kalispell) was denounced by fellow Republican legislators for proposing a modest increase in Montana’s fuel tax. This is the treatment administered to former Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, who, like Garner, believes that a legislator has the responsibility to govern, and that governing is not defined as the knee-jerk rejection of all tax increases.

These are the legislators who denounced Garner:

Rep. Matt Regier, R-Kalispell
Rep. Bill Harris, R-Winnett
Rep. Dennis Lenz, R-Billings
Rep. Derek Skees, R-Kalispell
Rep. Mark Noland, R-Bigfork
Rep. Carl Glimm, R-Kila
Sen. Dee Brown, R-Hungry Horse
Sen. David Howard, R-Park City
Sen. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell
Sen. Al Olszewski, R-Kalispell
Sen. Bob Keenan, R-Bigfork



3 March 2017

Русский серенада для Джеффа сессий

U.S. Attorney General, and former Alabama Senator, Jeff Sessions gets around. In his youth, there’s reason to believe he was too friendly with the cross burners in white sheets and pointy hats. Now, we know he broke bread with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the 2016 Presidential campaign, then lied about it in his confirmation hearing. From the Klan to the Kremlin. Time to face the music, Jeff. One more K and you’re out.



2 March 2017

MT school proposes lunch shaming students to punish their parents

That’s the policy the Montana City K-8 school board may adopt, according to a must read report by KXLH’s Mikenzie Frost. Students who made the mistake of choosing parents who are poor or deadbeats, and who have accumulated meal bills of $100 or more, will be fed “alternative meals:”

For breakfast, the “alternative meal” will consist of toast, peanut butter, and either milk or juice. For lunch, students will be given a cheese sandwich, veggie sticks, fruit, and milk as the “alternative meal.”

Although parents rightly call this lunch shaming, Superintendent Tony Kloker disagrees:

Kloker insisted the policy wouldn’t “lunch shame” any student, as the school plans to give students the cheese sandwich discreetly.

“It won’t be in the lunch room in front of everyone, where shaming can happen,” he explained.

How can Kloker possibly believe no one will notice when students condemned to peanut butter toast and government cheese sandwiches are treated differently? Asserting that such a policy can be administered discreetly is an exercise in Trumpian mendacity.

Kloker says he relied on information and advice from the Montana School Boards Association. From that admission, we can make two inferences: (1) Kloker either doesn’t recognize a bad idea when he encounters one, or lacks the courage to oppose a bad idea, and (2) the MSBA is offering advice that amounts to recommending child abuse.

Children have rights and deserve better. They never should be singled out for derision and contempt — which is the official intent of a shame them with cheese sandwiches policy — in order to punish their parents.

All school meals should be paid for by progressive taxation, not by having children pony up lunch money in the cafeteria. That’s the only fair policy.



1 March 2017

“Infrastructure tax” is a weasel term for “sales tax”

Sen. Mike Phillips (D-Bozeman) and Rep. Dave Fern (D-Whitefish) have asked for bills that authorize local option sales taxes. Neither bill has been introduced, but preliminary drafts are posted on the legislature’s website.

…read the rest