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

Archives Index, 2017 October 16–31


31 October 2017


31 October 2017 — 1352 mdt

Don’t give money to candidates who don’t publish their platforms

Revised 31 October. Six Democrats (table below) have announced they’re running for Montana’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. A seventh, former State Rep. Pat Noonan, is testing the waters. Four of the six announced candidates, John Heenan, Jared Pettinato, Grant Kier, and Tom Woods, have published their platforms on their campaign websites. Thus far Pettinato’s is a one-plank wonder, but that’s one plank more than Williams and Moss offer.

Their ages range from Pettinato’s 38 to Moss’ 67. Heenan, Kier, and Pettinato, are political tyros. Moss and Williams are former state legislators. Woods is serving his third term in the MT House.

Williams, who announced her candidacy last week, has a website that asks for money — all candidate websites ask for money — but says nothing on issues. Moss has filed with the FEC, but is waiting until Saturday to kick off her campaign. Her website is just a holding page that doesn’t even ask for money.

…read the rest


28 October 2017 — 1455 mdt

Saturday roundup: Zinke, Corey, Spencer, UMT J-school

SecDOI Ryan Zinke denies involvement with Whitefish Energy’s $300 million contract with PREPA — and I believe him. Yesterday, Zinke issued a formal statement asserting that although Whitefish Energy had gotten in touch with him, he had not been an advocate for the company.

…read the rest


27 October 2017 — 1934 mdt

Note to readers

We began the day in an involuntary stand down: a hardware failure severed our internet access. Time that would have been spent writing was spent trouble-shooting and providing oral commentary that came close to setting our office afire. Eventually, swapping out a cable restored internet access, and various liquids and pharmaceuticals restored the editor and janitor’s equanimity. We’ll resume posting tomorrow.


25 October 2017 — 2353 mdt

Is Whitefish Energy’s Puerto Rico deal emitting a foul odor?

Updated. Whitefish is closer to Hawaii (≈ 3,000 great circle miles) than to Puerto Rico (≈ 3,400 GC miles), and tiny Whitefish Energy is basically just a couple of guys making a living by being the prime contractor for building and rebuilding small sections of powerlines. But somehow they managed to obtain a $300 million no-bid contract to rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid, which was damaged by hurricane Irma, and wrecked by hurricane Maria.

The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Daily Beast (Story 1, Story 2, Story 3) have the details.

Because the powerline dudes and SecInterior Ryan Zinke are from Whitefish, and know each other, and because the awarding of the Puerto Rican contract was so irregular, at first sniff the deal seems to emit something between a whiff of something fishy and the reek of something rotten; seems to suggest that Zinke may have lent his hometown acquaintances an improper helping hand. But the whiff may be emanating from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, not SecDOI.

…read the rest


24 October 2017 — 1458 mdt

Montana budget woes: working together is a delusion

The options for resolving Montana’s budget imbalances are higher taxes, preferably on the wealthiest, or tighter belts and less medicine for the least fortunate. Hurting the poor requires only that Gov. Bullock wield the knife and ignore the blood and screams of agony. Raising taxes requires a legislative act, a highly improbable occurrence.

In posts at Logicosity today and yesterday, ERB notes that Gov. Bullock may call a special legislative session to convene on 13 November — and that progress on convincing a majority of legislators to raise taxes instead of reducing expenditures has been slow. The result may be a contentious session that clearly exposes Republican callousness toward needy people, but does nothing to rescue those people from the appalling cuts in social services that are the alternative to an increase in taxation.

But will the legislature even consider raising revenue? I would not be surprised if the Republican legislative leadership tries to adjourn sine die immediately after convening. For these legislators — and the voters who sent them to Helena — discharging their constitutional obligations mean cutting taxes and showing that spendthrift, libtard, bleeding heart, governor who steals from the hard working and gives to the improvident who’s boss.

Democrats who want to avoid a similar outcome following the 2019 legislative must find a way to win a majority in both legislative chambers. As the current impasse proves, the notion that a coalition of Democrats and so-called moderate Republicans can form a stable and progressive governing majority — working together — is a delusion.



23 October 2017 — 1554 mdt

Cole Lecture fiasco hurts UMT journalism school


Larry Abramson (left), dean of the University of Montana’s journalism school, has sterling journalism credentials, and is neither a bigot nor a fool. But in rejecting Maria Cole’s choice of Mike Adams for the 2018 Jeff Cole Distinguished Lecture, he foolishly did too much explaining. Now he’s in trouble, and so are UMT and the university’s journalism school. Keila Szpaller (Story 1, Story 2) at the Missoulian has the details, which I’ll summarize.

…read the rest


22 October 2017 — 0218 mdt

Karen “I would have shot him” Marshall’s Facebook page

Karen Marshall, the Bozeman Republican leader who called into a radio program to assert — in my opinion figuratively but foolishly — she would have shot Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs if he had tried to interview her in the way he tried to interview Greg Gianforte, does not waffle or wobble when expressing her political opinions, especially on Facebook. She’s not, as I’ve learned from my Twitter traffic over the last 18 hours, popular among progressives in Bozeman and Gallatin County.

A look at her timeline explains why. She shares numerous stories from websites on the political right, and some would say, the lunatic fringe right. Examine her timeline and draw your own conclusions, but I suspect you’ll agree she may be too far right to be considered a mainstream teabagger.

…read the rest


21 October 2017 — 0556 mdt

Heenan plays Gotcha!, Fagg attempts cover-up, put your bets on GG

Heenan twists woman’s words to play political Gotcha! Karen Marshall, a member of the Gallatin County Republican Women, used an unfortunate expression when she called into the Voices of Montana radio program, which was interviewing Billings attorney John Heenan, who is running for the Democratic nomination for Montana’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, now held by Greg Gianforte, the Lee Newspapers’ Holly Michels reports:

…read the rest


20 October 2017

Note to readers

Flathead Memo is standing down today.


19 October 2017 — 1447 mdt

A 6-candidate primary is fine — but only with instant runoff voting

Montana’s Democratic primary for the U.S. House is getting crowded. John Heenan, Grant Kier, and State Rep. Tom Woods have announced they’re running and have begun campaigning. Former Billings State Sen. Lynda Moss is hiring campaign staff, reports Nathan Kosted in a nicely researched post at The Montana Post. Kosted also reports that former Butte State Rep. Pat Noonan may throw his hat in the ring. And Logicosity reports that former Bozeman State Rep. Kathleen Williams, an expert on water issues, may run. That’s six — and there could be more.

…read the rest


18 October 2017 — 1618 mdt

Richard Spencer is a headline grabbing nuisance, not a threat to humanity

Tomorrow, at 1430 EDT in the University of Florida’s Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Spencer will deliver a speech, presumably on his love for people with white skin. He’s probably not hoping that his audience will listen respectfully. Instead, he’s probably hoping that leftist AntiFa thugs will shut him down, and with fists and clubs knock down and bloody his supporters, if any show up, so that he can present himself as a martyr to free speech.

…read the rest


18 October 2017 — 0134 mdt

Fire on the mountain west of Kalispell

Powerful western winds raked the Flathead Valley around the dinner hour yesterday, downing trees, knocking over lawn furniture and camper tops, knocking out power to thousands, and fanning fires to life. West of the Foys Lakes west of Kalispell, a fire reported as 40 acres burned into the night approximately 3.5 miles south of my backyard. Toward midnight I photographed the scene, first with a wide angle lens, then with a telephoto lens. Here’s what my camera recorded:


The fire is in the middle of the image along a ridgetop. That alien-like object in the upper left is not a fire starting ray. Rather, it's a antifact produced by internal reflections in the Sigma 24mm f/2.8 AIS lens that I used. Image made at 2235 MDT yesterday.


Fire details, taken with a Nikkor AIS 135mm f/3.5 lens (horizontal angle of view ≈ 10°) at 0032 MDT today. Larger image.

I prefer using these old manual focus lenses for night photography because they have a hard infinity stop and are easy to focus. Later today I’ll train longer lenses on the burn area and publish worthwhile images.



17 October 2017 — 1621 mdt

U.S. Census troubles, and a Flathead Population note

Penny wise, dollar foolish, members of Congress and the Trump administration are underfunding the U.S. Census Bureau and other federal agencies that collect, organize, analyze, and report, thousands of statistics upon which economists, city planners, researchers, and businesses, depend, reports Danny Vinik in an excellent long-form story at Politico:

“If the Obama guys had quietly suggested delaying the Economic Census by six months, there’d be holy hell to pay,” said a former high-ranking appointee in the Commerce Department.

…read the rest