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

Archives Index, 2017 March 16–31


31 March 2017

Democrats follow the polls, Republicans change the polls

If a congressional candidate polls poorly, or runs in a district that the Republican candidate for President won bigtime, Democrats write him off. To Democrats, polls are holy writ.

But if a Republican candidate polls poorly, his party tries to persuade voters to change their minds.

Which approach wins more elections? The Republican approach.

But losing their majorities in the U.S. House and Senate has only taught the “leaders” at the Democratic National Committee to redouble their faith in a failed approach. Here’s linguist George Lakoff speaking to Salon’s Paul Rosenberg last year:

Well over a decade. During the Bush administration, I talked to the Democratic caucus. I was invited by Nancy Pelosi, and I talked to them about “Don’t Think of an Elephant,” and the strict father/nurturant parent distinction, and I pointed out that one thing strict fathers can’t do is betray trust. It turned out that the Southerners in the caucus agreed strongly, and they wanted to have me work with them on talking about Bush betraying trust. But Nancy said, “Well, we should check with the polls first,” and she checked with one of the major pollsters who said, “Oh no, my polls show that people trust Bush, therefore we can’t use it.” And the idea is to follow the polls, rather than change them. And this is a big difference between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans try to change the polls, whereas Democrats try to follow the polls.

Democrats are trying to practice risk free politics. But there’s no such thing as a risk free election. Not backing a long shot candidate who might win with some help, especially in a special election when there’s not much competition for money, is a decision to forego opportunity. The result is majority free politics. Will you ever understand that, Tom Perez, Nancy Pelosi, et al?



30 March 2017

Blasting SB-305 & shooting the messenger

The debate over SB-305 is profoundly demoralizing. Sen. Fitzpatrick’s (R-Great Falls) bill to allow counties to conduct the 25 May special congressional election by only mail ballots was tabled in the MT House’s judiciary committee yesterday on a party-line vote. Democrats will try to blast the bill out of committee tomorrow. The odds they’ll succeed are vanishingly small.

The debate over SB-305 is demoralizing and exasperating because the bill’s opponents and advocates are advancing their positions with the intensity and certainty of medieval theologians arguing over faith based religious beliefs. Most Republicans, and apparently all Democrats, are basing their arguments against and for the bill on two premises they can’t prove are true: that conducting the election only by mail ballot will increase turnout, and that mail ballot elections favor Democrats.

The truth legislators should be addressing is that special congressional elections are rare, unpredictable, events — we expect members of Congress to serve their full terms, and most do — and thus have the same impact on government finances as natural disasters such as earthquakes and forest fires.

SB-305 tries to mitigate that impact by allowing Montana’s clerk and recorders to conduct the election by mail ballot only. That’s music to the ears of the C&Rs, who have long sought to condemn Montana to all-mail ballot elections.

But the special election’s impact on county budgets also could be mitigated by the legislature’s appropriating money to reimburse the counties, and paying for the appropriation with a one-year income tax surcharge. That approach makes the most sense to me. In fact, that’s public policy that should have been in place long ago.

Rob Quist’s friends are trying to defend him by shooting the messengers of bad news about his campaign. I’ve come under attack by highly partisan Democrats who accuse me of sticking a knife in Quist’s back, but who offer no factual counter to the questions raised by the Billing Gazette’s reports on Quist’s finances. Attacks on me do not help Quist. Coupled with the attackers’ failure to defend Quist with facts, these attacks hurt Quist because they make it appear that his situation is not defensible.

Meanwhile, a reminder to everyone. Flathead Memo is not a Democratic blog.



29 March 2017

Latest financial revelations hurt Rob Quist

After today’s report on Rob Quist’s finances, I wouldn’t bet a cold road apple that he’ll win Montana’s special election for Congress. Billing Gazette writer Tom Lutey reports that Quist played 35 gigs in 2011, but told his bank he was in such poor health he could not work and thus could not make payments on his mortgage.

Facts more favorable to Quist may be missing from Lutey’s report, but the drip, drip, drip, of bad news on this subject is becoming a firehose blast of adverse news that’s drowning out his advocacy for a single-payer health care system.

Quist must address this situation straight on, and soon, in what amounts to a Checkers Speech or his campaign will enter an irreversible death spiral.


Montana Clerk and Recorders misstate voter turnout statistics

In a long letter to Montana’s House of Representatives, seeking to rebut Secretary of State Corey Stapleton’s testimony on SB-305, the bill permitting an all-mail ballot special congressional election, the Association of Montana Clerk and Recorders mischaracterized voter turnout statistics for several states:

Based on eligible voting population from the November 8, 2016 election, states saw the following turnout: Montana 74%, Colorado 74%, Washington State 78% and Oregon at 80%.

“Eligible voting population” is an idiosyncratic term. It is possible that the C&Rs mean “voting eligible population,” which is the voting age population minus foreign nationals, prison inmates, and other disqualified classes. But even if the C&Rs meant “voting eligible population,” the turnout numbers they cited are wrong for that statistic.

Here are the correct VEP and registered voter turnout statistics for the states cited by the C&Rs, and for Minnesota:

Earlier this month, I posted analyses of Oregon’s pre and post all-mail ballot turnout, and of Montana’s general and primary turnout for 1972–2016.


Rob Quist raises $3/4 million from almost 18,000 donations


Democratic congressional candidate Rob Quist raised $754,387 dollars from almost 18,000 donations in “the first few weeks” of his campaign according to Tina Olechowski, his communications director.

The average donation was $40. The median, $15. Two-thirds of the money raised came from donors in Montana.

Update, 1905 MDT. The Missoulian reports that Quist’s Republican opponent, Greg Gianforte, has raised $1.5 million thus far, and that third party groups have committed $700,000 to his campaign.

Some donors may have made more than one contribution. Quist uses Act Blue, which makes it easy (all too easy, according to some reports) to set up automatic recurring donations (read the fine print when using Act Blue).

Raising most of his money from Montana means the Democratic National Committee is letting Quist twist in the wind. The DNC thinks Quist will lose, and thinks it’s smart not to take long shots.

Except in the Confederate south. Down in the Georgia’s sixth congressional district, a high income district gerrymandered to elect Republicans, Democrat Jon Ossoff, running to replace anti-Affordable Care Act Republican Tom Price, who vacated the seat to become Secretary of Health and Human Services, has raised millions of dollars and received help from the DNC even though Ossoff’s odds of victory are not much shorter than Quist’s.

The DNC cares about re-electing Sen. Jon Tester, but doesn’t give a damn about electing a Montana Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives.

The amount of money raised, incidentally, puts Quist’s $2,000 per month campaign salary in perspective. He’s staying alive, but he’s not running a scam. His consultants will take down the big money from his campaign.



28 March 2017

Belittling a man for his height is morally repugnant


As can be seen in this photograph with six-foot-two President George H. W. Bush, Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton was not the tallest man to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy. Nor was he the tallest man to serve as an officer in the U.S. Navy (that distinction probably belongs to seven-foot-one David Robinson). How tall was/is he? Tall enough to serve his country.

But not tall enough for Montana Cowboy, who, in an angry and vituperative post, Secretary “Reefer Madness” Stapleton Brings Henchman to Intimidate Fitzpatrick at SB305 Hearing, ridiculed Stapleton’s short stature:

What later became a scene straight out of the Princess Bride, small man syndrome Stapleton (Vizzini) aided by his giant lackey Derek (Fezzik) began yelling at SB 305 Sponsor Steve Fitzpatrick, “YOU did this. This is all your fault!” Inconceivable! Now get him Derek and make it quick!

Fitzpatrick told him to get out of his face, since Fitzpatrick was seated at the time.

Next, Corey Stapleton, who ran on making the Secretary of State’s office less political, testified as an opponent to SB 305 and went on a very political rant at the tippy top of his itty-bitty lungs. He spouted conspiracy theories about ballots being stolen or fraudulently used. He said his office would be sued. He said he has only been in office for three months and doesn’t know how to do his job. Sounds like another businessman I know. (cough-cough, Mr. President).

That blackjacking violated Stapleton’s human rights. Nothing can justify it. Stapleton’s weird conflation of marijuana and mail ballots was short on logic, but attacking him for not being the tallest man in the room was short on decency.



27 March 2017

Right wing tracker booted from Quist’s Kalispell town hall

Democratic congressional candidate Rob Quist drew to his health care town hall meeting in Kalispell this evening both a 125-person crowd, which stayed for the entire event, and an opposition media tracker, who video recorded the meeting for half an hour before hotel security threw him out at the request of Quist’s campaign aide.


Left, a Hilton security guard. Middle, tracker Robert Rose. Right, Quist's aide, who initiated the heave-ho. This is a grabbed frame from jumpy video that shows Rose’s camera slowly being lowered, possible at the direction of the guard. Rose is working out of Helena, has a college degree in government, and before coming to Montana, which may not have been that long ago, lived in California.

Quist, a practiced troubadour who long ago learned not to be discombobulated by hecklers has nothing to fear from trackers. But his aides are taking no chances. Rose worked Saturday’s public lands rally in Depot Park, a public venue from which he could not be deported, but he told me Quist’s campaign gives him the bum’s rush whenever it can.

I draw the line at letting trackers into private homes and events. But this was a town hall to which the public was invited. Rose was doing no harm and should not have been evicted. Quist’s aides obviously fear their candidate will make a mistake that a tracker will record. They should have more confidence in their man. I would have let Rose stay.


Quist speaks to crowd. There were 100 chairs, all occupied, and people were standing along the walls, sitting on the floor, and leaning in from the hall.


Why I’m still standing with Rob Quist


Democratic congressional candidate Rob Quist had a rough time on the campaign trail last week. His personal finances dominated the news, an unwelcome distraction that won him no votes, and I didn’t do him any favors when I roasted him for letting his campaign staff weaken the energy plank in his platform.

Nevertheless, I’m still voting for him — and still urging that my fellow Montanans vote for him, too.

Why? Donald Trump. Paul Ryan. Mitch McConnell. If Republican Greg Gianforte wins the election, he’ll help the Trump Trio try to repeal the Affordable Care Act, gut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, cut funding for science and the arts, spend more money on the military, and make life harder for all but the filthy, filthy, rich. Like Mitt Romney, Bozeman entrepreneur Gianforte’s lost touch with the 99 percent.

Quist has not. Music is an honorable, sometime glamorous, occupation, but a journeyman musician’s life is hard. The life on the road through which Quist acquired his formidable political skills, his ability to relate to people across cultural line, was hard, sometimes not much more profitable than busking, and it took a toll on his health. He made a living, but it wasn’t easy — and he learned through searing personal experience how serious illness can turn a man’s financial life upside down and put him in a deep hole.

Digging out of that hole hasn’t been easy, but that’s what Quist’s been doing — and he ought to be given credit for that. At Bigsky Words, Greg Sandberg observed:

To me, he’s just a guy scratching and reaching for whatever way he can make a little bit more money to pay off his debts.

Instead of tar and feathering someone like that, we should be happy they’re responsible.


That’s why Quist still has my vote.


Say Goodbye — and welcome to Monday

The New London Chorale is from England, not Connecticut. This sprightly, impish, number has a Gilbert and Sullivan feel to it. But in limited searching I was unable to find the lyrics online. If anyone knows the song’s origin, please let me know.


25 March 2017

Flathead public lands supporters rally for Rob Quist


Well over 100 advocatates for public lands assembled at Depot Park in Kalispell today in support of Democratic congressional candidate Rob Quist, who briefly addressed the crowd.


24 March 2017

Friday briefs

Daylight Saving Time was rescued by high school sports. Yesterday, the MT House’s state administration committee voted unanimously, and reports the Helena IR’s Jayme Fraser, without discussion, to table SB-206, Sen. Ryan Osmundson’s repeal DST bill that blithely sailed through the MT Senate by a veto-proof margin. Losing an hour of afternoon sunlight would, witnesses told the House’s committee, shut down outdoor sports because many schools didn’t have artificially illuminated practice fields. That revelation almost made me reconsider my opposition to the bill.

Rep. Alan Doane’s high-handed bungling of the MT House’s judiciary committee earned him a pithy rebuke from former Sen. Mary Moe. Writing today at Montana Cowgirl, Moe delivered a civics lesson wrapped in Old Testament wrath. If George Darrow were still alive, he might have admonished Doane in equally pungent terms. A former Republican legislator, George said that citizens testifying before the legislature had the right to be treated with courtesy.

Montana’s constitution does not explicitly require that legislators treat citizens with courtesy. But that is a political norm so widely observed that violations of it jar our senses and are greeted with disapprobation. Being treated courteously by legislators is a fundamental right. Rep. Doane would do well to abide by the first article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

As for SB-305, the debate over it has become far too intense. The county clerk and recorders, who, under the guise of saving money, are trying to prove that an all-mail ballot system is just dandy. If they get their way, they’ll pester the 2019 legislature to make Montana an all-mail ballot state. I’m convinced that many C&Rs hate the logistical challenges of setting up polls and dislike interaction with voters.

Allied with the C&Rs is the Democratic Party’s mail ballot and early voting caucus, which is convinced that early voting and mail voting increases turnout and helps Democrats. Citizens casting their votes in person at public polls on election day doesn’t fit the Democratic Party’s get out the vote operation. Democrats don’t trust their voters. They want to “bank” votes, and to have time to track down and harass voters with non-returned mail ballots.

As I’ve noted before, my investigations indicate that an all-mail ballot favors neither party, and is not likely to increase turnout in a special congressional election.

Ryan, Trump, and McConnell will find a way to pass a bill repealing the Affordable Care Act. They don’t give a damn what’s in it. They’ve spent seven years lying about the ACA and promising to repeal it. Not repealing it is not an option. They’re still lying about the ACA, they’re still determined to repeal it, and they don’t care how many people they hurt because the people they will hurt are not in the tax brackets they want to cut. If you have health insurance and need medical treatment, get treated now, and make sure you never get sick as long as the Republicans are in power.



23 March 2017

Rep. Doane silences Carole Mackin, boots her from SB-305 hearing
Flathead Memo is publishing in full her suppressed testimony

Helena activist Carole Mackin supports SB-305, the bill to inflict an all-mail ballot on Montana for the 25 May special congressional election. She therefore appeared this morning at the bill’s hearing before the House’s judiciary committee, and began reading her 143-word statement into the record.

But after delivering a few words, Rep. Alan Doane (R-Bloomfield), pounding his gavel banana republic style, shut her down and threw her out. The Missoulian has the details.

I oppose SB-305 — and I deplore Rep. Doane’s high-handed conduct. His determination to make the train run on time no matter how many passengers he leaves in the station or kicks into the weeds makes a mockery of democracy.

Here’s Mackin’s full testimony:

Testifying in support of SB 305 — How a Special Election to fill the 2017 vacancy in the U.S. Representative vacancy may be conducted.

House Judiciary Committee March 23, 2017

I’m here as a property tax payer. I request that the committee concur on SB-305. I’m a property owner in Lewis and Clark County. My property taxes have seen their ups and downs – mostly up. I retired seven years ago, and on average, my property taxes increased by 10% per year.

Yes I’m retired and if things continue as they have, in seven more years my property taxes will eat up half of my annual Social Security payment. That is why I’m interested in any idea that holds down the cost of government.

Property taxes should not drive older Montanans out of their homes. And Republicans should not put politics before fiscal responsibility.


MT general and primary election turnout is declining

Among Democrats, and even some Republicans, it’s an article of deep faith that early voting and no excuses absentee ballot voting favor Democratic candidates and increase turnout. That’s why the argument over SB-305 is so intense.

But that faith may be based on a false premise. A review of the turnout of Montana’s voting eligible population in general and primary elections from 1972 through 2016 suggests that VEP turnout has declined while voting by absentee ballot, which is almost entirely a mail ballot operation, has increased.

The data displayed by the graph are in an Excel spreadsheet that you can download.

Are the differences between the pre and post absentee era turnout means statistically significant? Possibly. I ran Student’s T and the Wilcoxon test, standard tests for small samples. The differences were significant at the 95 percent level. But because the voting method is only one of several variables that affect turnout, one should be cautious about concluding that early voting and unrestrained absentee ballot voting are responsible for the decline in VEP turnout in Montana.

I suspect, incidentally, that turnout for the special congressional election will be closer to that for a primary election than for a general election.


Quist & national Dems, mail ballot hearing, unmask thugs bill

With Democrats like these, Rob Quist has enemies in both parties. National Democrats, especially the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), are slow walking help for Rob Quist, reports Logicosity this morning:

…as of this writing, the DCCC is conducting some type of poll to determine if making an investment in Montana is worthwhile. It seems hell-bent on replicating mistakes that have yielded dismal results in Congressional races around the country in the past decade.

There isn’t time for that anal retentive approach. This is a short campaign. Time’s a-wasting. Yes, rushing forward without marking every box on the standard campaign checklist is risky — but keeping the checkbook locked until it’s too late to affect the election is a bet that always loses.

Special election mail ballot bill House hearing is today. The bill, SB-305, probably should be named “The County Clerk and Recorders Relief Act of 2017,” as it’s intended to let local election officials conduct the special election on the cheap. State Republican Party chief Jeff Essmann opposes the bill, contending it will help Democrats. Many Democrats agree with Essmann. I don’t think it will help either party. The only beneficiaries are the C&Rs.

The special election is an unplanned expense, and a significant one. In budgeting terms, it’s akin to a natural disaster: expensive, but not predictable. The legislature should appropriate a million dollars, or so, to pay for the election, taking the money out of the target budget surplus.

Rep. Barry Usher finally has a good idea. You may remember Usher. He’s the first term Republican from Billings, and owner of a motorcycle dealership, who requested a bill that would have banned bicycles and pedestrians from most of Montana’s two-lane highways. That bill went nowhere while his reputation went south.

Now, his reputation may head north, at least in some quarters. He’s introduced HB-571, which makes wearing a mask during “the commission of an offense against pubic order” a felony:

Section 1. Concealing identity during commission of offense against public order.

  1. A person commits the offense of concealing a person’s identity during the commission of an offense against public order if the person wears a mask, hood, or other device that covers, hides, or conceals a portion of the person’s face for the purpose of evading or escaping discovery, recognition, or identification while committing an offense described in Title 45, chapter 8. [Link added by FM.]

  2. A person convicted of a violation of subsection (1) is guilty of a felony and shall be fined an amount not to exceed $5,000 or be imprisoned in the state prison for a term not to exceed 5 years, or both.

If HB-571 is amended to (a) limit the law to banning masks, such as are worn by the black clad anarchists who vandalized Seattle and attacked neo-Nazis in Sacramento last year, and (b) reduce the offense to a misdemeanor, I’ll be inclined to support it. Similar laws to keep the Klu Klux Klan from hiding behind masks were necessary and effective.

In the meantime, when masked protesters begin misbehaving, the police must arrest the thugs on the spot, demask and photograph them, and heave them into the paddy wagon for a quick trip to the slammer.



22 March 2017

Did all-mail ballot elections increase voter turnout in Oregon?

That’s the official truth as told by former Oregon Secretary of State Phil Keisling and others, and is based on the turnout of registered voters statistic. Writing in the Washington Monthly in January, Keisling said:

Turnout in Oregon, my home state, used to be buoyed by demographics: through the early 1980s, income and education levels were above the national average, and 93 percent of the population was white.

But by 2000, Oregon’s timber industry had collapsed and our population had grown steadily poorer and more diverse relative to the rest of the country. (Today, Oregon’s per capita income is 91 percent of the national average, and only thirteen states have a larger Hispanic share of population.) Meanwhile, from 1980 to 1998, turnout of registered voters fell from about 77 percent to 71 percent in presidential elections, and from about 77 percent to 59 percent in midterms. That decline looked set to continue.

But in 1998, Oregon voters approved a universal vote by mail system. In the 2000 presidential election, voter turnout leaped to 80 percent and has since climbed as high as 86 percent, while midterm turnout rebounded to an average of 71 percent. This decade of higher turnout happened even as Oregon lost its status as a presidential battleground and was seeing far fewer competitive statewide elections.

That sounds impressive — but the turnout of registered voters is the wrong statistic for analyzing voter turnout. Experts in the field, among them Michael McDonald of the United States Elections Project, employ a different statistic, the turnout of the voting eligible population (VEP). The VEP is the voting age population (VAP =>18 years of age) minus foreign nationals, prison inmates, and other disqualified classes. In Oregon, the VEP is 93 percent of the VAP. Registered voters comprise 85 percent of the VEP.

Why VEP turnout is the more illuminating statistic can be illustrated by the imaginary state of Fremont, which has a population of 1.4 million, a VEP of one million, and just 100,000 registered voters. In a general election, 90,000 votes are cast. The registered voter turnout is 90 percent, good enough for national bragging rights, but the VEP turnout is nine percent, low enough to conclude that democracy is in pretty sad shape in Fremont.

Voter registration rolls, incidentally, tend to cycle from inflated with deadwood to deflated by periodic purges of inactive and allegedly ineligible voters.

Which brings us back to Oregon. Did VEP turnout increase after the state switched to all-mail ballot elections? The answers are no for midterm elections, and maybe for Presidential elections.

Applying the Student’s T and Wilcoxon tests confirm’s one’s eyeball evaluation of turnout in the midterm elections: there’s no significant difference between the pre and post all-mail ballot eras. For Presidential elections the all-mail ballot era produces a 3.2 percent higher mean VEP turnout. This is not significant at the 95 percent level, but a difference does exist. Can we therefore conclude that switching to all-mail ballot elections boosted VEP turnout in Presidential elections?


The switch to mail ballots was not the only variable affecting turnout. In 2004, there were eight ballot measures on Oregon’s general election ballot. One concerned taxes. Another addressed timber production. Medical marijuana dispensaries was the subject of another. And one ballot measure defined marriage. Interest in these issues could have boosted turnout regardless of the voting methods, as could have unusually interesting or divisive contests for elective office. Exit polls and other post election surveys might not be of much help in teasing out the mail ballot effect because the sampling error of those surveys may exceed the 3.2 percent difference in the pre and post all-mail ballot eras.



21 March 2017

Three Mile pedestrian jump still lacks safety fence

Three Mile Drive’s bridge over the Kalispell westside bypass has safety barriers installed on only two of its four corners. The northwest and southeast corners remain unprotected. These sidewalks get substantial foot traffic, often by groups of young schoolchildren. The situation is dangerous. Why installing safety barriers is not a high priority for the officials responsible for the bridge escapes my ken.

Below, images of the bridge’s northwest corner taken on 19 March from the southern end of the eastern sound wall.


A fall — or leap — from the bridge will lead to serious injury or death.


An enlarged version of the image above.



20 March 2017

Solar notes — observational and political

Did your children’s schools march their students outside today to measure their latitude with a ruler and vertical stick? Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, the sun’s altitude at solar noon in Kalispell is 42 degrees, and solar noon, formally known as meridian transit, occurred at 1345 MDT on Sunday and today, and occurs at 1344 MDT tomorrow. At that time, the shadow cast by a stick perpendicular to the ground points due north, and the height of the stick divided by the length of the shadow yields the tangent of the sun’s altitude. At the equinox, 90° minus the sun’s altitude equals the latitude. If you don’t live in Kalispell, the U.S. Naval Observatory’s online calculators will generate the time of meridian transit for your community.

A simple experiment, but one everyone should understand. If your children’s school didn’t take advantage of this opportunity, give the science department a failing grade, and let the school board know.

The curve of blinding rhetorical enervation. Rob Quist’s campaign consultants removed the words “solar” and “wind” from his new energy plank:

Quist’s original energy plank. I stand for the development of new energy technologies and utilizing Montana’s natural resources to put us on the cutting edge of wind and solar power. In an age, where countries are going 100% green, we have to be more competitive.

Quist’s new energy plank. Rob supports an energy plan made for Montana and written by Montanans. He understands the importance of developing a comprehensive energy plan that utilizes Montana’s natural resources while exploring new energy technologies that will put Montana on the cutting edge and serve the needs of all Montanans.

Montana Democratic Party’s energy plank. As we confront global climate change, Montana Democrats believe that we must reduce our reliance on fossil fuels through a combination of energy conservation, energy efficiency, and the development of clean, renewable energy sources. We believe that we can achieve this goal AND create or provide transitions into good Montana jobs.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Montana Republican Party’s energy plank. We urge, through private enterprise, the development of energy resources, including alternative forms of energy. We oppose any federal or state government mandate to purchase or subsidize energy development in any form. We oppose any tax on carbon emissions. All cost effective forms of energy shall have equal access to the grid as specified by deregulation. We oppose the federal government yielding to any international pressure to oppose any regulation on domestic energy production or consumption. We oppose any classification of CO2 or other greenhouse gasses as dangerous gasses or pollutants. We stand strongly in support of the completion of the Keystone Pipeline. We are in favor of only those Federal administrative rules that do not exceed the authority of the statute.

Quist’s new energy plank is a Rorschach plank made from weasel wood. It’s written so that voters with very different positions on energy can find in the plank’s generalities support for their preferred policy. The MDP’s platform mentions climate change — but Quist’s new platform omits any mention of global warming or climate change. Even the MT GOP’s platform mentions “alternative energy,” a commonly accepted code phrase for solar and wind and renewables.

Quist’s consultants wrote this energy plank to appeal to weak Republicans and the mythical horde of independents that conventional wisdom believes must be wooed to win the election. Instead of getting credit for taking a clear stand on energy, Quist will earn scorn for pussyfooting around the issue. That’s not how elections are won.



19 March 2017

DNC & Quist, Hillary’s historic negativity, a House district too big

Has the Democratic National Committee written off Rob Quist? Sen. Jon Tester’s remarks at the big Democratic dinner in Helena last night point in that direction:

Sen. Jon Tester dismissed that the Montana race would be a referendum on national Democrats.

It remains to be seen how much national organizations, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, will invest in the race.

“They’re waiting to see how effective we can run a campaign,” he said. “They’re definitely watching this race.”

Waiting? For what? For polls that guarantee a win? The window for providing effective help is closing rapidly. Absentee ballots go out in four weeks. The time to help, to provide personnel and money, especially money, is now. Otherwise, DNC stands for Do Nothing Committee.

Was Hillary’s historically negative TV ad campaign her fatal mistake? According to researchers at the Wesleyan Media Project, Donald Trump’s television ads were more positive and focused on issues than were Hillary’s, and, by a wide margin. Trump ads addressed concerns of the voters, and promised to “Make America Great Again.” Hillary’s ads denigrated Trump’s character and ignored the voters. Why Hillary thought she’d win votes by ignoring the (deplorable) voters, and demonizing the man who offered them hope remains one of the great mysteries of her campaign.

Montana’s congressional district is among the nation’s least logistically friendly. Of the 432 congressional districts in the Contiguous 48 States, Montana’s is largest in area and population, and has the second lowest population density. If campaign miles travelled per voter were an official campaign statistic, Montana’s congressional candidates would rank near the top of the list.

Montana needs a second congressional district. Increasing the U.S. House of Representatives, which has been stuck at 435 members since 1910, to 700 members would provide that second district. A simple act of Congress is all that's required.



17 March 2017

A referendum is the worst way to resolve bathroom issues


An ugly fight over law and gender could dominate the 2018 general election if the legislature approves HB-609, Kalispell Republican Rep. Carl Glimm’s “Montana Locker Room Privacy Act,” introduced today. Generically a “bathroom bill” aimed at students with gender identity issues, its based on a premise that’s holy writ among many fundamentalist Christians:

Section 3. Definitions. (7) “Sex” means a person’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth. A person’s original birth certificate may be relied upon as definitive evidence of the person’s sex.

Placing that definition in Montana’s statutes, not the protection of privacy, is the bill’s true purpose. It’s an attempt to settle a question of science by popular vote.

If HB-609 becomes a legislative referendum, a class of people will be singled out for ridicule and abuse during the campaign. And were the referendum to pass, Montana might receive the same boycott treatment that North Carolina received.

If the matter does goe to the ballot, perhaps former North Carolina Governor Pat McCory could manage the campaign. He’s been looking for a job.


Come down from the mountain, Katie Daly

The ode to Irish whiskey ballad Come Down from the Mountain, Katie Daly, is a favorite of Appalachian bluegrass bands, which, like the Lonesome River Band, usually begin with the first verse, “With her old man, Katie came from Tipperary,” and sing with a clothespin on their nose drone. It’s also a favorite of Irish country music musicians like Mike Denver, who, backed by drums and horns as well as fiddles and guitars, deliver melodious, rollicking performances, and begin with the chorus. I much prefer Katie Daly played country style.

Mike Denver’ version, delivered in his rich, powerful, baritone, is the best, but the video of his performance has been removed from YouTube. As a substitute, here’s Irish fiddler Dessie O’Halloran’s version from a Sharon Shannon concert. As a young man, O’Halloran had silver pipes. But now, writes one hyperbolic reviewer, he sings like a “goat undergoing rectal surgery.” There’s a lot going on in this video — turn off the sound, watch the banjoist in the red shirt, and you’ll still be entertained.



13–17 March 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.