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

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 — 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.



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:

One paragraph provides background, including a graph illustrating the steady erosion of voter support since 1948, and a second touches on voter contact, not analysis.

I was not able to find the election returns for 1948 (a page of the archived results for that year was blank), but I was able to find results for 1958 through 2008.

There has not been a steady erosion of support since 1948. Here are the official results:

…read the rest


14 July 2017 — 1951 mdt

The Ballad of Kabuki Daines

Sen. Steve Daines, an established man of the right, is doing a masterful job of agonizing and deliberating in public over whether to support the Trump-McConnell bill gutting the Affordable Care Act and sabotaging Medicaid. He’s holding “Facebook townhalls,” asking for input, and doing all the things politicians do to make voters think they have some ownership in their decisions. I think his performance is largely Kabuki theatre. He’s mollifying Montanans. And he’s giving himself some bargaining power to sell his vote to Mitch McConnell.

It’s an old song, which is why my new lyrics are set to an old Credence Clearwater Revival song.

Down at the station,
On a crowd-proof set,
Steve’s a townhall holding,
On the internet.

Health care is the subject,
Caution is his bet,
He plans to vote Repeal!
But not to say so, yet.

He wants to hear the people,
Of the Big Sky State,
He wants to say he listened,
To Mom, and Pop, and Kate.

He wants to seem judicious,
He wants to seem concerned,
He wants to say his vote,
Was based on what he learned.

Some people will believe that,
In Steve they want to trust,
They want to cut Obamacare,
Before the bank goes bust.

They stand with Steve and GG,
They stand with Paul and Mitch,
They stand with Mike and Donald,
They think Nancy is a bitch.

They think the key to health care,
Is refusing to get sick,
That free will, not insurance,
Will always do the trick.

And Steve-O’s in agreement,
Though his counsel he does keep,
While he holds his townhalls,
And free advice does reap.

But when the vote is taken,
When evasiveness does stop,
I bet he backs McConnell,
And Obamacare does drop.



13 July 2017 — 0932 mdt

Sen. Tester wanted some “damn answers” from the Indian Health Service


But he didn’t get them. Acting head of the Indian Health Service Rear Admiral Michael Weahkee stonewalled Tester and the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, led by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), on how the Trump administration’s budget would affect IHS staffing levels. Roll Call’s video of Tester’s questioning of, and increasing frustration with, Weahkee, will make your blood boil.

And it should. According to the Kaiser Health News:

…read the rest


12 July 2017 — 1835 mdt

Democrats: ignore Trump & Russia, focus on health care

Yes, the Kremlin connection is important and fascinating, but it concerns an election that’s over and cannot be overturned. Furthermore, special prosecutor Robert Mueller is investigating the affair. What needs to be done is being done.

Meanwhile, the McConnell-Trump health care bill — which would deprive more than 20 million Americans of health insurance, and gut Medicaid — is pending in the Senate and is far from dead. In some form, it’s likely to pass.

Raising hell about Trump and Russia may be soul satisfying, but it won’t change the outcome of the election. But raising hell about the McConnell-Trump Keep the Poor Away from the Doctor Act of 2017 might do some good.

Therefore, Democrats, ignore the Kremlin connection, focus on the McConnell health care conspiracy, give Steve Daines and Greg Gianforte hell, and do what’s necessary to keep Jon Tester 100 percent opposed to the bill.



10 July 2017 — 0740 mdt

Why isn’t there a forestfire.gov website?

The smoke plume below was rising from the west-southwest when I returned home yesterday. When I tried to find the fire’s location, all I could find on the internet was a story in the Flathead Beacon about a fire west of Kalispell, located between Loon Lake and Rogers Mountain. The Beacon had a map. Later, a Facebook friend reminded me that fire information is available at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov.

Every summer, I need to relearn that URL because the name is so anti-intuitive. There should be a forestfire.gov website, but for the bureaucrats in charge that kind of clarity in a website’s name probably is frowned upon as an amateurish display of candor and clarity.

As for the fire producing the smoke I saw, InciWeb is no help. As of the time of this post, it listed only the July Fire in eastern Montana.


Taken two miles northwest of Kalispell at 1916 MDT yesterday. The smoke is coming from west-southwest, and probably is from the Lazier Creek Fire.



8 July 2017 — 1030 mdt

99°F might not have been a Flathead record, but yesterday was hot

The Flathead was hot yesterday. At the National Weather Service’s station at Glacier International Airport, the mercury reached 99°F for almost half an hour late in the afternoon. That measurement is provisional and may be revised. Here’s the readout (blue and yellow added by Flathead Memo):


Ninety-nine degrees is 30 degrees cooler than the highest reliable observation at Death Valley. Ahvaz, Iran, recorded 128.7°F last week. Last July, Mitribah, Kuwait, had a high of 129.2°F. I’ve experienced highs of over 110°F, and have no desire to experience anything hotter.



7 July 2017 — 0959 mdt

More books for progressives

I’ve updated my list of summer reads for progressives by adding Thomas Franks’ Listen Liberal: Or, Whatever Happened to the Party of the People?, a book I somehow forgot to mention. It’s a powerful, eloquent, convincing, indictment of the Democratic Party.

Eric Laursen’s long and detailed The People’s Pension: The War Against Social Security from Reagan to Obama, also belongs on the list. It’s available through Amazon, but a draft of the book is available for free online.

At Bigsky Words, Greg Strandberg has a list of Good Books for You.

Several readers have suggested other titles. I welcome your recommendations — just submit them through our contact link — and will try to pull together a post on readers’ reads later this summer.



6 July 2017 — 0847 mdt

Montana shook, rattled, and rolled last night

The 5.8 Richter Scale temblor struck near Lincoln, which is 110 miles SSE of Kalispell, at approximately 30 minutes after midnight. And I slept right through the action, not feeling a thing.

Friends living in Helena report more excitement: 10-15 seconds of shaking, and aftershocks. Some, all shook up, grabbed their bug-out kits, opened their windows to mitigate possible gas leaks, and evacuated to their front lawns. Here are Bill Haley and the Comets playing their song.



5 July 2017 — 1457 mdt

Time to prohibit some private fireworks displays

Yesterday was hot and dry, but the wind died at nautical twilight, just in time for the outbreaks of private fireworks in my neighborhood and those adjoining. As far as I know, fires were not started, but that’s as much the consequence of good luck as of careful planning and technique.

As the globe warms, and the population density increases, private fireworks displays constitute a greater and greater fire hazard. Flathead County, Montana’s fifth most populous, has one of the state’s highest population densities and thus one of the state’s highest risks of fire damage from accidents occurring at amateur fireworks displays.

Depending on prayer and good fortune to prevent conflagrations ignited by fireworks is not enough. Neither is education. I think it’s time to prohibit most private displays, especially displays in small neighborhoods, of aerial fireworks.



3 July 2017 — 0845 mdt

Summer reads for progressives

Updated 7 July. Ten weeks of summer remain. If you read a book a week, you can get through this list easily. I recommend starting with Asymmetric Politics, Shattered, and White Working Class.

Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats. Matt Grossmann and David Hopkins, September, 2016. Oxford University Press. Democrats consider compromise an intrinsic good. Republicans consider it a betrayal of principle. That’s just one of many ways America’s two major political parties differ from each other.

The Great Risk Shift: The New Economic Insecurity and the Decline of the American Dream. Jacob S. Hacker, 2008. Oxford University Press. How and why the principles of social insurance upon which Social Security and Medicare rest have been inverted and corrupted by the you’re on your own crowd that dominates today’s Republican Party and threatens three generations of social progress. Read this to understand the philosophical basis of Trump-Ryan-McConnell Care.

White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America. Joan C. Williams, May, 2017. Harvard Business Review Press. Whites without a college degree, once the backbone of the Democratic Party, voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by a 39 percent margin. They love Social Security and Medicare, but hate food stamps, and resent academics and other elites. Williams explains why, and how Democrats can bring the defectors back to the political party that for all its faults still has their best interests at heart.

…read the rest


1 July 2017 — 0959 mdt

Al Franken is guilty of unethical fundraising

Al Franken

Democrats so seldom win because they so seldom learn to treat voters and their supporters with respect. Yesterday, I received a plea for money from one of the alleged good guys, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), writing on behalf of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. He began:

Didn’t know it’s possible to feel guilt while participating in Fourth of July festivities? Well, with healthcare for 22 million people at risk, this year it is.

But there’s another option. Just follow my plan for guilt-free firework viewing:

…read the rest


30 June 2017 — 1639 mdt

Backyard sky


29 June 2017 — 1712 mdt

Understand Sam Rayburn to understand why Nancy Pelosi
plans to be the U.S. House’s Democratic leader forever

Sam Rayburn served 21 years as the Democratic leader in the U.S. House, from 1940 until 1961, when he died at 79, his gavel still in his hand. Understanding that is the key to understanding why Nancy Pelosi, now 77 and in her 16th year as the House’s Democratic leader, refuses to consider stepping aside for a younger representative. She intends to beat Rayburn’s record, and probably intends to let the Grim Reaper pry the gavel from her fist.

But as Logicosity and Ed Kilgore observed this week, she’s overstayed her welcome. Her defenders argue that she’s irreplaceable, that her detractors are misogynists, but those are disreputable arguments. Humankind would not have lasted as long as it has were leaders irreplaceable, and opposition to a woman’s remaining in office is not by definition misogyny.

Pelosi has stayed on as Democratic leader far too long for any good that she’s doing. Her deputy leader, Steny Hoyer, is 79, and Jim Clyburn is in his mid-seventies. They enjoy their positions, but they’re selfishly subordinating the good of their party to their personal ambitions. Instead of waiting for death to extinguish their torch, they should pass it to a new generation of leaders.



28 June 2017 — 1418 mdt

Keep the heat on Daines — here’s how and why

Mitch McConnell has delayed a vote on gutting Medicaid. He hasn’t given up, and won’t. He just needs a bit more time to find the price of 50 votes for his bill.

Meanwhile, as Sen. Steve Daines prepares for a “telephone town hall” this evening, the Billings Gazette reports that McConnell’s bill would cost Montana $5.3 billion, and cause the state to “struggle to pay for education, infrastructure.”

Opponents of the bill should not give up, either.

Keep the heat on Daines, directly through calls, letters, and the usual means, and indirectly, through contacts with hospital trustees and executives and other conservative community leaders. Groups such as Big Sky Rising should also consider calling Daine’s donors in Montana and asking them to ask him to oppose the bill. The donor list is available at the Federal Elections Commission.

…read the rest


27 June 2017 — 1439 mdt

Flathead briefs

School District 5 needs to do a better job of vetting applicants for principal. Yesterday we learned that John Blackman won’t be the new principal at Flathead High School because he was exposed as a plagiarist. In an email introducing himself to FHS’s faculty and staff, reports the Missoulian, he ripped off the words of an educator at Strawberry Elementary in Santa Rosa, CA. That’s brazen as hell, and I suspect it may not be the first time he’s claimed another person’s words as his own.

…read the rest


26 June 2017

Note to readers

There’s no shortage of things to blog about, but there’s a shortage of blogging time available this week. Posts will infrequent and probably shorter than usual. Part of this results from our chief blogger’s decision to take a bit of a break, part from nonblogging obligations that have priority.


24 June 2017 — 1621 mdt

Saturday roundup

Government needs to investigate the Presbyterian camp deck collapse that injured 50. Four of the injured remain hospitalized, reports the Flathead Beacon. A friend faces serious surgeries and a long, difficult, recovery. That no one died is remarkable.

According to the Beacon, Lake County’s sheriff won’t open a criminal investigation into the accident. He’s leaving the sleuthing to the insurance companies. That’s a mistake. Someone screwed-up. Who made what mistakes, and why, needs to be determined. There needs to be a public accounting.

…read the rest


23 June 2017 — 1341 mdt

Note to readers

Flathead Memo is standing down today.


22 June 2017 — 2024 mdt

Trump will sign a healthcare repeal bill that combines
the worst of the GOP’s House and Senate bills

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released his party’s Affordable Healthcare Act repeal bill today. I some ways it’s worse that the bill the House passed a few weeks ago. Both bills amount to a whopping tax cut for the rich financed by a whopping health care cut for the poor. It’s Reverse Robin Hood on steroids.

Do not suppose that “moderate” Republicans will make the bill less mean, or keep it from passing in the Senate. There are no moderates in the Republican party. Those who sometimes sound moderate compared to their shrilly ideological colleagues always cave-in to the reactionary right when the vote is taken.

The Senate will pass McConnell’s bill. The conference committee will combine the worst of each chamber’s bill. The result will be passed and signed into law by President Trump.

The Democratic Party is powerless to stop this evil, both now and probably in the foreseeable future. Democrats in the Senate may slow the bill’s passage, but they lack the votes to stop it. Thanks to identity politics, the party no longer can win Presidential and statewide elections, or district elections outside of urban areas. It has condemned itself to what may be a permanent minority status.

If you’re poor, or belong to the middle class, your life depends on your not getting sick. Do not expect help from your fellow Americans. They’re sick and tired of your weaknesses, of your feckless expectation that the government, that the New Deal and Great Society, will rescue you from the troubles you’ve brought upon yourself. They’re freeing you to stand on your own two feet, which they’re convinced God intended.

If you do become ill and survive, the cost of surviving will be a medical bankruptcy. You must now take personal responsibility for your health: exercise, eat your vegetables, take your vitamins, and if you’re religious, pray that you’ll not fall victim to accident, your genes, hostile microbes, or the infirmities of advancing age.

Don’t ask Heaven for help. When Hillary lost the election, she gave the deed to the pearly gates to Donald. The Republicans own Heaven because the Democrats have gone to Hell.



21 June 2017 — 0731 mdt

Is the Montana Democratic Party’s press release machine broken?

During the special congressional election campaign, Flathead Memo received as many as a half dozen press releases a day from the Montana Democratic Party and the Quist campaign. Then the email stopped. The MDP’s last sign of public relations life, a three-paragraph emailed statement on Greg Gianforte’s assault on Ben Jacobs, arrived on 25 May, the day the election concluded.

Sometimes the MDP blows its horn too loudly, or off key, or both, but not to blow it for a month is not a communications strategy that I would recommend.



21 June 2017 — 0645 mdt

Ossoff’s loss was not a surprise

Jon Ossoff’s 3.8 point loss to Republican Karen Handel in yesterday’s special congressional election in Georgia should neither surprise nor demoralize Democrats. Although one of America’s 15 best educated congressional districts, for decades GA-6 has elected reactionary Republicans, among them Newt Gingrich, and most recently surgeon and now Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, by whopping margins. The wonder is not that Ossoff lost, but that he came so close to winning.

…read the rest


20 June 2017 — 1303 mdt

Notes on voter turnout in Montana’s Indian Country

In the 2016 presidential election, 5,334 ballots were cast in Glacier County, home to the Blackfeet and legislative districts 15 and 16, two of Montana’s six Indian majority districts. Six months later, the county’s population essentially unchanged, Glacier’s voters cast only 3,077 ballots in Montana’s special congressional election.

As NPR’s Nicky Ouellet and Rachael Cramer observed last week, that was one of Glacier County’s lowest turnouts in years — a low turnout that coincided with, and possibly in part was caused by, Glacier’s opening only two polling places instead of the usual five.

Glacier was not the only low turnout county in Indian Country in the special congressional election. Turnout also was low in Roosevelt and Big Horn Counties. These three are not the only counties in Indian Country, but they can serve as a rough proxy for Indian Country as a whole.

…read the rest


16 June 2017 — 1512 mdt

Pressure Daines & GG by pressuring hospital boards & executives

All progressives know, or should know, that Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his henchmen are working in secret to write a bill repealing the Affordable Care Act. They hope to sneak it through the U.S. Senate by the Fourth of July, just two weeks from now. It will, as you know from many sources, be profitable for the rich and deadly for the middle class, and especially deadly for the poor.

Although Montana’s progressives should continue applying heat, and plenty of it, to Sen. Steve Daines and Rep-elect Greg Gianforte, they should also apply indirect pressure to Daines and Gianforte by applying plenty of heat to the boards of directors and executives of Montana’s hospitals, who are facing an almost $5 billion shortfall in Medicaid if the ACA is replaced by the Trump-Ryan American Health Care Act.

Daines and Gianforte are rich men who won’t listen to the 95 percent, but they will listen to their social peers, and near peers, who administer Montana’s hospitals and who sit on the boards of those hospitals. Bringing public and private pressure on these people will stiffen their spines and put them in a stronger position to insist that health care for the many should not be sacrificed on the altar of lower taxes for the few.

Some hospitals try to keep the names of their directors secret, a shameful practice that’s solid proof they’re doing things they shouldn’t be doing, and that they don’t want to hear from the public (they’ll say this is done for security reasons, but that’s horse manure). Keep digging.

Keep smiling. But if necessary, start shouting. Do what’s necessary to make yourselves heard.



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.