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

19 January 2017

Avalanches and “safety,” and Sweet Betsy DeVos

Ben Parson was careful, but he still started the avalanche that killed him. At the Flathead Beacon, Tristan Scott has an excellent summary of the report of the accident investigation (and a link to the report). It’s hard to find fault with Parson and his companions. Fit and experienced, they followed best practices. According to the investigators, Parson and his companions “…were all equipped with avalanche transceivers, avalanche shovels, and probes and they read the avalanche advisory that morning.”

Some might consider it a freak accident. Parson was testing the snow at the top of the slope, carving a turn, then setting his skies for a hard stop. When this snow stability test performs as intended, the skis act as a splitting wedge, breaking the slab off below the skis. But when Parson completed his second stop, the stopping force was transferred to a slab of snow extending above as well as beneath him, pulling the slab loose at a fracture zone above his skis. According to the investigators:

At approximately 2:00 p.m. Skier 1 traversed across the relatively broad ridge and into … the western most of the two avalanche paths. He performed two ski pole tests in this area (to determine general snowpack structure), then made one left hand turn followed by an immediate right turn. Between these turns Skier 1 down weighted his skis once or twice in an attempt to test the snow stability. This is a test utilized by experienced individuals to test small test slopes with low or no consequence should an avalanche occur. Shortly after completing his right hand turn he triggered the avalanche, possibly while down weighting. The avalanche broke uphill of Skier 1 and immediately knocked him off his feet (Figure 10).

In hindsight, he misjudged where the snow might detach from the mountain, but his choice of a testing spot may have been rational given what he knew at the time.

A note on avalanche “safety” equipment. After moving to the west as a young man, I attended classes on avalanche safety; among my instructors, the near legendary Cal Tassanari. That was before radio transceivers were available. Instead, we tied avalanche cord to our waist, trailing it behind us as we skied, and carried probes and shovels. The more I learned about avalanches, a fascinating subject, the more cautious I became in the backcountry.

Neither transceivers nor cord nor probes nor shovels make a backcountry skier safer. Nothing makes an avalanche safe or safer. These items do save lives, but they’re rescue devices, to be used after safety has disappeared. Often, they’re simply tools for finding and recovering dead skiers. Carrying them does not reduce the probability of an avalanche. Neither would a portable snow penetrating sonar or radar that could assess snow structure, although that technology might be helpful. As always, the best way to survive an avalanche is not to get caught in one. And the best way not to get caught in one is to stay off avalanche slopes.

Ballad of Sweet Betsy DeVos

President-Elect Donald Trump's choice for Secretary of Education is Betsy DeVos, a billionaire from Michigan who's a darling of the Christian right and no friend of public education. She made such a fool of herself in her confirmation hearing that only music can do her ignorance and cluelessness justice. Therefore, to the tune of Sweet Betsy from Pike:

Have you heard tell of sweet Betsy DeVos,
When asked a tough question she’s at a big loss,
She doesn't know jack, but she knows Don’s her boss,
And she knows Common Core is what she must toss.

Woo hoo dear sweet Betsy,
Her mind’s cluttered not,
Woo hoo dear sweet Betsy,
So full of dry rot.

She touts charter schools, home schooling, and such,
Of law that is federal she doesn't know much,
She’s Michigan's back to the basics schoolmarm,
She’ll learn kids the way they done learned on the farm.

Woo hoo dear sweet Betsy,
Her mind’s cluttered not,
Woo hoo dear sweet Betsy,
So full of dry rot.

Betsy wants schools that are safe and secure,
For staff she wants Glocks kept loaded and near,
Big pistols she’s packin’, not pencils of lead,
She’ll shoot schoolyard grizzlies until they are dead.

Woo hoo dear sweet Betsy,
Her mind’s cluttered not,
Woo hoo dear sweet Betsy,
So full of dry rot.

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18 January 2017

Most Montana motorists probably can afford a 10¢/gallon gas tax increase

The Montana Infrastructure Coalition, which is dominated by groups with a vested interest in big public works projects — roads, bridges, buildings — recommends increasing Montana’s tax on gasoline and diesel fuel by ten cents a gallon.

A ten cents a gallon increase works out to a four percent increase in the price of fuel that costs $2.50 per gallon, and probably is within the means of most owners of automobiles and light trucks who drive up to 2,500 miles a month:

gas_tax_increase

For operators of buses and big trucks, the vehicles putting the most weight on roads, and that use a lot more fuel per mile than Aunt Jenny’s compact sedan, the four percent increase will have a significant impact on operating expenses that they might not be able to pass on to their customers.

I‘m willing to consider a small increase in Montana’s fuel tax. I’m less inclined to support legalizing a four percent local option sales tax for cities such as Billings and Kalispell.

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17 January 2017

Whitefish officials outsmart Daily Stormer on parade permit

American Nazi leader George Lincoln Rockwell used to apply for parade permits (PDF excerpt from Defending My Enemy, by Aryeh Neier) he hoped would be denied so that he could generate publicity by filing lawsuits claiming his constitutional rights were being violated. Another American Nazi leader, Frank Collin, reprised the tactic in 1977 by applying for a parade permit to march in Skokie, IL, which had a large Jewish population and many Holocaust survivors.

Ever since the Daily Stormer announced it would march 200 armed skinheads through Whitefish, I’ve believed that the Stormer’s leader, Andrew Anglin, was using Rockwell’s playbook, hoping his parade permit would be denied on constitutionally dubious grounds, thereby exposing Whitefish as a community of hypocrites, establishing himself as a defender of the First Amendment, and gaining valuable publicity in the process. That explains why his application for a parade permit was incomplete.

But Whitefish’s government and civic leaders didn’t take the bait. Instead, they outsmarted Herr Anglin. As City Manager Chuck Stearns’ letter to Anglin explains, the permit was in the process of being approved when Anglin decided to postpone the march. And it can still be approved it Anglin changes his mind.

There will be special conditions:

…read the rest

Expand KKK mask laws to cover all thugs

Yesterday, a few car loads of hard core left wingers from Missoula, Spokane, and other redoubts of the “direct action” people who have become notorious for vandalism and street brawls, showed up in Whitefish wearing black clothing and masks. There were there to protest the skinhead march that never happened. Yesterday’s protestors stayed within the law. But that’s becoming an exception for the “direct action” crowd, which prefers fighting and vandalism to reasoned political discourse.

At the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999, black clad thugs wearing masks vandalized the business district. Last year, on 26 June in Sacramento, CA, members of anti-fascist (Antifa) groups, and BAMN (“no free speech for fascists”), some wearing black and concealing their faces like bank robbers, led a counter-protest against skinheads that turned into a riot, with 10 people receiving stab wounds. Here’s how The Nation described the Sacramento riot:

…read the rest

 

16 January 2017

Montana health care rallies: modest turnouts but enthusiasm aplenty

Montanans held rallies against repealing the Affordable Care Act in Bozeman, Helena, and Missoula, yesterday. I can’t find a turnout estimate for Bozeman’s rally, which featured Rep. Amanda Curtis, but the Helena Independent Record reports 200 assembled at the capitol. In Missoula, where Democratic congressional hopeful Rob Quist appeared, the turnout was 70 according to the Missoula Current, and 70–80 according to Intelligent Discontent blogger Pete Talbot, who was there. Talbot reports enthusiasm was high.

Those are modest turnouts, large enough to attract some attention, but not large enough to impress or intimidate Montana’s representatives in Congress. If Montana’s save the ACA forces cannot muster larger, much larger, crowds — crowds approaching torchlight and pitchfork mobs — they should switch from rallies to other means of exerting political pressure.

Republicans in Congress may be so hardened by ideology that they’re no longer listening to the voters or common sense on health care issues. Believing that any government involvement in health care is intrinsicly evil, they’re asking what Ayn Rand would do instead of asking what their constituents need.

But it’s possible that some Congressional Republicans are still listening, even if just barely, to hospitals. That’s where I would direct at least some political pressure, as sometimes the interests of the people and hospitals coincide (pressure from Montana’s hospitals was responsible for pushing Montana’s humiliate and harass the poor expansion of Medicaid through the 2015 legislature).

These rallies would not have been necessary if Democrats had not thrown away the Presidency by nominating a weak and loathed candidate, Hillary Clinton, who waged a feckless, mistake-riddled, identity politics campaign.

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15 January 2017

Montana’s legislators should show the U.S. Coast Guard some respect

Is a member of your family, or a friend, serving in the United States Coast Guard? As a matter of common practice, not to mention respect, you undoubtedly treat United States Coast Guard as a proper noun and capitalize it.

You would not write:

…one personal flotation device that is approved by the United States coast guard and that is in good and serviceable condition…

That’s an excerpt from House Bill 234, “AN ACT REVISING LAWS RELATED TO THE USE OF PERSONAL FLOTATION DEVICES.”

Thanks to tradition, if you’re a legislator, a drafter of bills for the legislator, or another employee of the government of the State of Montana you dutifully set aside everything you’ve learned about proper English and follow the peculiar dictates of the Montana Legislative Services Division’s Bill Drafting Manual 2016:

Capitalization rules for bill drafting represent an exception to standard usage. In drafting bills, capitalize as little as possible. Capitalization has no legal significance, and the lower case is easier to read and write.

The big exception, of course, is that the title of every bill is in all uppercase capitals — see the title for HB-234, above — which is very hard to read. All lowercase is hard to read, too.

The drafting manual’s dictate leads to some ludicrous results:

Capitalize geographic names, such as Flathead Valley (but not “community college”) in “Flathead Valley community college”.

Are Montana’s peculiar capitalization rules similar to those of other states? Who cares except people who believe that two wrongs make a right?

Our state’s bill drafting manual is an embarrassment that needs to be revised. It’s time to show the United States Coast Guard and Flathead Community College proper respect.

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14 January 2017

Missoula’s Save Our Health Care Rally starts at 1300 Sunday

The large rally features a lineup of powerful speakers, plus a special appearance by balladeer and congressional candidate Rob Quist. It starts at 1300 Sunday, 15 January, in the public meeting room of Missoula’s City/County Library.

The rally is one of many save healthcare rallies being held across the nation tomorrow. And the stakes could not be higher. Thanks to Hillary Clinton’s anemic and feckless identity politics campaign, radical, reactionary, Republicans now control Congress and (starting at 1200 EST on 20 January) the Presidency. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell already are whooping through Congress the bills needed to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with the status quo ante.

Now is the time to stand up and shout — and to shout not just “No,” but “Hell No!, damnit!,” and to shout it so thunderously that the Heavens tremble. Be heard now, or forever suffer the medical blessings of 1917.

Bill Geer is the rally’s organizer. He can be reached at 406-396-0909 or whgeer@bridgemail.com.

Speakers:

  • Sarah Howell (Montana Women Vote) — Medicaid Impacts of ACA Repeal
  • Kevin Stewart (Western Montana Mental Health Center) — Medicaid Impacts on Mental Health and Addiction
  • State Representative Shane Morigeau, HB-95 — Medicaid Impacts on Young Adults and Minorities
  • Bill Geer — Medicare Impacts on Retirees
  • Mark Anderlik — Missoula AFL-CIO Central Labor Council
  • Reverend Amy Carter (University Congregational Church) — Faith Based Concerns on American Healthcare
  • Deb Frandsen — Representing Senator Jon Tester (who has some explaining to do on his vote against lowering drug prices)
  • Rob Quist (Mission Mountain Wood Band) — A Personal Healthcare Story plus a Special Song

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13 January 2017

Is Zeno Baucus the Dem Establishment’s stop Quist candidate?

At KXLH, Mike Dennison, in a fine report on Rob Quist, notes that assistant U.S. Attorney Zeno Baucus, Max’s son, may be considering a run for the U.S. House seat that Ryan Zinke will vacate when confirmed as Secretary of the Interior. “Zeno Baucus is considering the race, but has made no decision, sources told MTN News.”

This is a trial balloon. Zeno, or what’s left of Max Baucus’ political organization, wants to judge how much appeal Zeno would have with party insiders who are looking for an alternative to Quist, the endorsee of Brian Schweitzer and thus a threat to the Democratic establishment’s record of losing every Congressional election in Montana since Pat Williams retired.

It’s mighty late in the game to be announcing “Hey, I might like to play; thinking about it; what do you think?” Quist blasted out of the chute at full gallup, but Zeno’s still squatting on the corral fence, dithering. That’s not how elections are won.

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12 January 2017

Why did Jon Tester vote against an amendment to lower drug prices?

tester_100_looking_right

During last night’s “vote-a-thon” in the Senate on amendments to Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, the blueprint for repealing the Affordable Care Act through the budget reconciliation process, Sen. Jon Tester joined 12 other Democratic Senators (see Table 1, below) to help Republicans defeat an amendment to lower drug prices.

Update. Tester, Booker, and their fellow Democratic protectors of high drug prices, are catching hell from progressives, reports Ed Kilgore at the Daily Intelligencer. And Tester’s vote is hard to square with his position eleven years ago:

Negotiate for lower prescription drug prices. Last year in the Montana Legislature, I sponsored and passed a bipartisan bill to provide real prescription drug relief, cover low-income seniors, and negotiate lower drug prices for Montana senior citizens. I’m serious about making health care more affordable and cutting the federal deficit. In the US Senate, I’ll work to bring the benefit package we delivered to Montanans to the whole country. It’s simple — negotiating for lower prescription drug prices saves tax dollars and helps seniors. Source: 2006 Senate campaign website, testerforsenate.com, “Issues”, Feb 3, 2006.

Here’s the complete text of the drug price lowering amendment they opposed:

SA 178. Ms. KLOBUCHAR (for herself and Mr. Sanders) submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by her to the concurrent resolution S. Con. Res. 3, setting forth the congressional budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2017 and setting forth the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2018 through 2026; as follows:

At the end of title III, add the following:

SEC. 3___. DEFICIT-NEUTRAL RESERVE FUND RELATING TO LOWERING PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICES FOR AMERICANS BY IMPORTING DRUGS FROM CANADA.

The Chairman of the Committee on the Budget of the Senate may revise the allocations of a committee or committees, aggregates, and other appropriate levels in this resolution for one or more bills, joint resolutions, amendments, amendments between the Houses, motions, or conference reports relating to lowering prescription drug prices, including through the importation of safe and affordable prescription drugs from Canada by American pharmacists, wholesalers, and individuals with a valid prescription from a provider licensed to practice in the United States, by the amounts provided in such legislation for those purposes, provided that such legislation would not increase the deficit over either the period of the total of fiscal years 2017 through 2021 or the period of the total of fiscal years 2017 through 2026.

Both Democratic Senators from Washington, New Jersey, and Delaware, and both Senators from Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Colorado, opposed lowering drug prices. All of these states have high tech industries, although I’ve never thought of Washington as a center of pharmaceutical manufacturing. But what excuse do Tester and Heitkamp offer for helping Republicans keep prescription drugs prices skyhigh? Neither Montana nor North Dakota is a big pill producing state. Perhaps the answer lies in their campaign contributions.

Table 1

sa-178

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10 January 2017

Montana’s net metering advocates won’t like SB-78

At present, net metering customers of Northwestern Energy are paid the retail price per kilowatt hour for their excess photovoltaic, wind, or (micro)hydro, generated electricity. That will change if Senate Bill 78, introduced by Sen. Keith Regier (R-Whitefish), becomes law.

Regier chaired the Energy and Telecommunications Interim Committee, which approved five net metering bills for the 2017 session of the legislature. SB-78 is not one of the interim committee’s bills. I suspect it was at least partially written by someone representing an electric utility.

The bill seems intended to set as low as possible the price paid for excess generation:

…read the rest

 

9 January 2017

Montana’s elected leaders and the emails they want to hide

Lee Newspapers state reporter Jayme Fraser has a crackerjack report on how Montana’s legislators and executive branch leaders use private email accounts to hide the public’s business from the public.

The practice is widespread among Democrats and Republicans, but especially beloved by Republicans, many of whom also share an indecent fondness for dark money.

…read the rest

 

7 January 2017

Sen. Keith Regier wants to weaken campaign finance reports

regier_keith_125_2017

If Sen. Keith Regier (R-Whitefish) gets his way, Montana’s campaign finance reports will no longer include the occupation and employer of donors. Regier has introduced Senate Bill 87, “An Act Eliminating the Requirement that Candidates and Political Committees Disclose Employer and Occupation Information for Certain Contributions and Expenditures.”

Here’s a section of the bill:

Section 1. Section 13-37-229, MCA, is amended to read:

13-37-229. Disclosure requirements for candidates, ballot issue committees, political party committees, and independent committees. (1) The reports required under 13-37-225 through 13-37-227 from candidates, ballot issue committees, political party committees, and independent committees must disclose the following information concerning contributions received:

(a) the amount of cash on hand at the beginning of the reporting period;

(b) the full name, and mailing address, occupation, and employer, if any, of each person who has made aggregate contributions, other than loans, of $35 or more to a candidate or political committee, including the purchase of tickets and other items for events, such as dinners, luncheons, rallies, and similar fundraising events;

What SB-87 would delete from the C-5 campaign finance report for candidates is identified in yellow in this excerpt from Regier’s own 27 October 2016 C-5:

keith_regier_c5

For example, Regier lists several contributions from the Lantis family of Spearfish, SD, which owns Lantis Enterprises, a business that appears to operate assisting living and nursing homes, some in Montana. Heritage Place, for example, may be the assisted living facility in Kalispell, but although the link to Heritage Place has a URL of http://heritagekalispell.com/, the page produced by that link is in Japanese, and the translated text is not about an old folks home.

SB-87 would not make unearthing a donor’s occupation and employer impossible, but it would exponentially increase the difficult of doing so. And that, not protecting the privacy of donors, undoubtedly is the purpose of the bill. Regier wants to make it much more difficult for voters to learn which economic and policy interests are funding candidates and Political Action Committees; harder to follow the money.

SB-87 was referred to the Senate’s state administration committee yesterday. A hearing date has not been set.

I suggest renaming the bill the “Montana Campaign Finance Opacity Act of 2017.”

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6 January 2017

Note to readers

Flathead Memo had to stand down today, but should be back tomorrow.

 

5 January 2017

Brian Schweitzer endorses Rob Quist for Congress

schweitzer_125

Former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer today issued a short statement endorsing Rob Quist for the Democratic nomination for the special election to replace Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke as Montana’s lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Quist, making his first bid for public office, announced his candidacy yesterday.

Rob Quist has not spent the last 30 years preparing a run for Congress. He is a political outsider. Rob has told Montana’s story through song for 30 years and has been in every little and big town in Montana. He understands Montana. We hunt, fish and camp, we work hard and we help our neighbors. Who better than Rob Quist to stand for and up for Montana in Washington, DC?

Schweitzer, a political outsider when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2000, was elected governor in 2004, and re-elected by a landslide in 2008. His endorsement carries considerable clout, and will help Quist open doors and wallets in the Democratic Party.

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4 January 2017

Rancher and musician Rob Quist will seek Democratic nod for Congress

quist_rob_150

The big and well traveled hat belonging to rancher and well known musician Rob Quist was thrown in the ring today for the Democratic nomination for the special election for the U.S. House of Representatives. Quist joins Democratic legislators Rep. Amanda Curtis, Kelly McCarthy, and Casey Schreiner, in seeking their party’s nomination, which will be made at a special nominating convention after Rep. Ryan Zinke is confirmed as Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Interior.

Quist said he’s running because:

I have spent a lifetime traveling the state working with and getting to know the concerns and the needs of my fellow Montanans. This is a time of great polarity in our nation and I feel that my skills as a communicator and a consensus builder working for all Montanans could be an asset for our state on a national level.

He will, he promises, work to protect Social Security and Medicare; protect public lands; develop new energy technologies; streamline and simplify the tax code so that it works for everyone; provide higher pay for teachers; support labor and unions; help farmers and ranchers obtain higher prices for their products.

Quist grew up on a ranch near Cut Bank. A graduate of Cut Bank High School, and president of his senior class, he studied physical therapy at the University of Montana, where he played varsity basketball. It was at the university that he formed the now almost legendary Mission Mountain Wood Band, with which he toured nationwide for 12 years. Some of his songs made Billboard’s top 100.

He has a long history of of public service in the arts and education:

Quist has served on the Montana Arts Council for 11 years, on the Board of the Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation of America for six years; has worked with the Montana Department of Commerce as an ambassador to our sister State in Kumamoto, Japan; served as spokesman and advocate for the Montana Food Bank, and recently received a grant from the Office of Public Instruction to develop antibullying programs and a “Native Oral Traditions” program to enhance the arts in our public school systems and promote understanding of our Native Peoples.

Quist and his wife, Bonnie, a former English teacher, live on a ranch near Creston. Their adult children, Guthrie and Halladay, are also involved with education and the arts.

Quist brings to the campaign an easygoing western authenticity that reminds one of former Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who had a knack for reassuring traditional Montanans that he understood them and cared about their concerns. His ability to connect on a cultural level enabled Schweitzer to discuss issues with rural voters in a way that many urban Democrats cannot. Quist has a similar ability to connect with rural Montanans.

He’s certainly connected with me. I think he’s by far the strongest of a group of strong candidates for the Democratic nomination, and he has my support.

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Hillary’s losers hired to run Democratic war room

File this under How to Commit Political Suicide. The Democratic National Committee, reports the Washington Post’s Phillip Rucker, is staffing its new war room with Democratic establishment operatives who helped Hillary lose the election.

The DNC’s new communications and research operation, to be staffed by former aides to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, will be one of several efforts from across the Democratic firmament to take on Trump, including the office of Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Center for American Progress and American Bridge.

American Bridge is a superpac created by David Brock, a Democratic incarnation of the brass-knuckled Republican operative, Lee Atwater. If there’s anything that’s too lowdown for Brock, it has yet to make an appearance.

The war room’s priorities?

Key priorities for the new DNC war room will be to shine a spotlight on Trump’s conflicts of interest with his business enterprises as well as on Russia’s alleged interference during last year’s campaign. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia hacked DNC emails, as well as the private email account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, to influence the election in Trump’s favor.

In other words, Democrats are devoting the war room not to saving Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps, and the Affordable Care Act, but to proving that Hillary’s loss was not her own damn fault.

Hillary, her campaign’s leaders, and assorted supporters and sycophants, attribute her loss to three factors, either singularly or in combination:

  • Meddling by Russia.
  • James Comey’s late November letter.
  • Bernie Sanders, who allegedly poisoned the millennial vote.

In other words, her divisive identity politics strategy was sound. Her tactics were brilliant. But she was a victim of skullduggery. She wuz robbed! Maybe even stabbed in the back. Therefore, the remedy is expelling Russian spies, excoriating James Comey, ensuring that Bernie Sanders never runs for President again, and reassuring the Democratic Party that it doesn’t need to change.

The war room is not a response to the clear and present danger of reactionary legislation being whooped through a Congress controlled by radical, heartless, Republicans. Instead, it’s a continuation of the campaign against Donald Trump, a denial of the reality that the electoral votes have been counted and that he will become President on 20 January. It’s also political suicide, the only thing Democrats still do well.

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3 January 2017

The political battle manual every Democrat must read

Democrats are constitutionally ill-equipped for political combat. They consider compromise an intrinsic, not an instrumental, good. Reaching across the aisle makes them feel good even when their hand gets slapped. They genuinely disdain and fear confrontation and conflict. In short, they want to make nice.

But making nice is no longer a viable option for Democrats who want to save what’s left of the New Deal and Great Society. That requires making trouble — which is a big problem, for in addition to not liking trouble, Democrats are not very good at making it.

That’s why former congressional staffers and advocates have written Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda. It’s a 26-page manual for political troublemaking that’s a free download.

In an oped in yesterday’s New York Times, its authors said:

It takes a few pages from the Tea Party playbook, focusing on its strategic choices and tactics, while dispensing with its viciousness. It’s the Tea Party inverted: locally driven advocacy built on inclusion, fairness and respect. It’s playing defense, not to obstruct, but to protect.

The guide is informed by a simple principle: Federal policy change in the next four years doesn’t depend on Mr. Trump but on whether our representatives support or oppose him. And through local pressure, we have the power to shape what they consider possible.

This kind of local advocacy can make nearly any member of Congress think a lot harder about his re-election chances. It can ensure that the 10 Senate Democrats up next year in Trump-won states recognize that their best hope for survival lies in bold action to defend democracy rather than cutting deals with a petty tyrant.

It can also weaken the grip of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, on his slim two-vote majority when he tries to empower Mr. Trump. It can drive home for Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, that his constituents won’t accept deals with a would-be dictator. And it can complement the efforts of organizers as they mobilize to support those most threatened by Mr. Trump’s agenda.

Indivisible pays too much tribute to making nice — its authors don’t want to iredeemably offend Democratic pattycakers — but it unerringly identifies the levers and buttons activists much pull and punch to knock members of Congress (and state legislatures) back on their heels.

It’s time to lay down the olive branch and pick up the cudgel. Indivisible explains how to swing it to the greatest effect.

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2 January 2017

Montana must archive all official email, etc.

Some of Montana’s Democratic leaders are starting to look like fools on the issue of retaining emails and other official electronic records. Instead of insisting that the state fully discharge its legal and moral mandates to preserve these records, these Democrats are offering partisan defenses of the Democratic officeholders whose emails disappeared, apparently forever.

This morning, Lee Newspapers state reporter Jayme Fraser began her long, detailed, report on electronic records retention with this startling paragraph:

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Expect changes in websites of MT SecST, Auditor, and OPI

Republicans Corey Stapleton, Matt Rosendale, and Elsie Arntzen, winners of last fall’s elections for Montana Secretary of State, Auditor, and Superintendent of Public Instruction, take their oaths of office this morning. One of their first tasks will be updating the websites of their offices with the names of the people now in charge. It’s part routine change, part political cleansing.

Later, and in some cases not that much later, they’ll redesign these websites to emphasize their priorities, and to eliminate all vestiges of the previous administration. I hope they’ll do that carefully, breaking few links, but a bull in a china shop approach is possible.

In the meantime, Montanans should download as much data as possible, for some online data may become hard to find, and some may disappear.

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New Year’s Day, 2017

Happy New Year!

 

31 December 2016

Except for Bullock, Democrats ran dismal statewide campaigns

Democratic candidate for the U.S. House Denise Juneau won only eight of Montana’s 56 counties. Her Democratic colleague, Montana Attorney General candidate Larry Jent, did worse, winning only three counties. The difference is that Juneau raised over two million dollars and tried to win, while Jent took one for the team.

Below, I’ve prepared a table, based on a spreadsheet you can download, displaying the difference between the Democrat and Republican in each county for six statewide races. If the margin is negative, the value is in gray. If positive, it’s in bold blue. There are only three counties —Deer Lodge, Glacier, and Silver Bow — that all six Democrats won.

…read the rest

 

30 December 2016

GOP pay to play, and other political briefs

 New; 1802 MST.  Rep. Kelly McCarthy (D-Billings) wants to be Montana’s Congressman. McCarthy, just elected to his third term, announced today that he’ll seek his party’s nomination for the special election to replace Rep. Ryan Zinke, who is expected to be confirmed as Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Interior. McCarthy joins Rep-Elect Amanda Curtis (D-Butte) and Rep. Casey Schreiner (D-Great Falls) as candidates for the nomination, which will be awarded at a special nominating convention. In the 2015 legislative session, McCarthy worked to scale back the scandalous practice of legal stealing by law enforcement known as civil asset forfeiture.

Montana GOP’s pay to be considered as a candidate for a nomination scheme is sleazy and dangerous. The party, reports Mike Dennison and others, is charging $1,740 a head to be considered as the party’s nominee in the special election to replace Rep. Ryan Zinke, who is expected to become Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Interior.

All of the Republicans who have announced they’re seeking the nomination probably can afford to write a $1,740 check. But few, if any, could afford a million-dollar, or higher, pay to play fee. A party that can sell the right to seek the nomination for $1,740, the current price, could raise the price to a million or more, thus making a de facto award of the nomination to a millionaire who’s willing to self-fund.

If this fee is legal — and it might not be — it shouldn’t be.

We all have the right to make our grievances public. That includes Sherry Spencer, mother of white nationalist Richard Spencer, who made a public issue of her interactions with Whitefish realtor Tanya Gersh. Her doing so has stirred up a hornet’s nest, and perhaps could have been handled differently, but her son’s detractors have been very public in their opposition to him, and she has the same rights as everyone else.

At this point, the full story of what transpired between Gersh and Spencer should be made public, and all of the documents relevant to it should be published by and on the website of a neutral third party. The Daily InterLake, Flathead Beacon, and Missoulian, are best equipped to do this.

There will be a rally against hate next Saturday in Whitefish. Details.

Rep. Kelly Flynn (R-Townsend) wants to drive faster — legally. He’s requested a bill, LC2274, with the short title “Allow exceeding speed limit when passing on certain 2-lane roads.” I suspect this means he wants to avoid earning a speeding ticket for hitting 85 mph as he zooms around a slowpoke doing 68 mph in a 70 mph zone. If Flynn’s in that big of a hurry, he ought to travel by airplane.

Will Congressional Republicans rein themselves in before they damage government beyond repair? That’s the question raised at Think Progress by law professor Ian Millhiser:

The incoming House majority plans to schedule a vote on the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act (REINS Act) soon after new members are sworn in next Tuesday. A top priority of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the leading lobby group for big business, REINS would fundamentally alter the federal government in ways that could hobble federal agencies during periods when the same party controls Congress and the White House — and absolutely cripple those agencies during periods of divided government.

State Sen. Duane Ankney (R-Colstrip) mentions the REINS Act in the whereases for LC0498, his drafted but still not introduced joint resolution urging Congress to approve the crackpot Regulation Freedom Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I took Ankney to task for this on 3 December 2016, and he should consider himself taken to task again for supporting what amounts to a act of civic suicide. Rep. Forrest Mandeville also requested a bill, a request now on hold, to support the RFA.

The 2017 legislature convenes at noon on Monday, 2 January 2017. Calendar (PDF). Agenda for first week (PDF). The 90th day occurs on 29 April, although that could change. Almost 2,300 bill have been requested. Perhaps 1,200 will be introduced, meaning a baker’s dozen must be dispatched each legislative day. Flathead Memo will cover this session, but perhaps not as intensely as two years ago.

Thanks for reading Flathead Memo. Happy New Year. I’m taking the weekend off. See you Monday.

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29 December 2016

Casey Schreiner will seek Democratic nod to replace Zinke in U.S. House

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Great Falls Democrat Casey Schreiner, just elected to his third term in the Montana House of Representatives, announced yesterday that he’ll seek his party’s nomination for the special election that will be held to replace Rep. Ryan Zinke when (and if) Zinke is confirmed as Secretary of the Interior.

Schreiner joins Rep. Amanda Curtis (D-Butte) as a candidate for the nomination. According to Logicosity’s Edward R. Burrow, with whom I agree, Curtis has the best chance of winning the nomination:

With but one legislative session (2013) and a riveting, but ultimately unsuccessful bid for the US Senate following her appointment less than 80 days before the election, Amanda has obviously made an impression. Her ambition coupled with Eric Feaver’s influence within the D Party gives her the edge. MEA-MFT is already sponsoring posts on Facebook on her behalf.

As Logicosity notes, a lot of familiar names — Denise Juneau, Monica Lindeen, Jesse Laslovich, even John Morrison — are being mentioned as potential Democratic candidates. All lost their last election. None will run. They’re being mentioned only because they’re familiar.

The Democrats need a fresh face and a fresh approach for this election. If the party nominates someone who uses the old median voter playbook that runs the candidate to the right on a platform of squishy and mealy-mouthed planks, trying to win the votes of mythical moderate Republicans, that candidate will lose, and by a three to two margin.

A Democrat who wins this election will win it by running a guerrilla campaign while preaching the party’s old time religion: support for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid; for an everyone covered for everything national single-payer health care system; for food stamps and nutrition assistance for women and infants; for clean energy; for clean air and water; for labor and unions; for tuition-free public colleges; for job security, a closing of the income inequality gap, and a rising tide that lifts everyone. Think Paul Wellstone.

Does such a candidate exist? I hope so. Would Montana’s Democrats, and their deeply conservative and cautious leaders, roll the dice and nominate that candidate? Only if they muster the acumen to recognize that however risky rolling the dice is, it offers a chance of winning while the median voter strategy ensures another defeat.

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28 December 2016

Mary Moe will take hiatus from legislating, but not from writing

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State Sen. Mary Moe (D-Great Falls) this week announced she will resign from the legislature in late January. Her daughter needs help in caring for triplets born prematurely.

But she will, she promised in a comment on Facebook, keep publishing essays on current events. That’s good news. Moe writes with unusual grace and clarity. Her essays, many published at Montana Cowgirl and Intelligent Discontent, improve our understanding of issues and politics.

Her most recent post, What Children Are These, describes the predicament of homeless children, some literally sleeping under bridges, and how they are being helped. It’s an essay both heartwarming and heartbreaking. I’m glad she isn’t laying down her pen.

But I’m worried that her departure from the State Senate will allow important bills to wither on the table, not moving because their primary advocate is no longer in the legislature. In particular, I’m concerned that no one will pick up the banner for LC0162, An Act Revising the Conditions for Compulsory School Enrollment and Attendance; Increasing the Age for Required Enrollment and Attendance to Age 18 or Completion of Requirements for High School Graduation or Equivalency of Completion of Secondary Education with Exceptions;…

Current Montana law (MCA Section 20-5-103) sets the high school dropout age at:

(a) the child’s 16th birthday; or
(b) the date of completion of the work of the 8th grade.

That’s a holdover from the agrarian past, when many thought an eighth grade education was more than enough schooling to work on a farm. Today, however, an eighth grade education and nothing more is a sure ticket to life long poverty, and perhaps a stint or two in the slammer. Moe’s proposed reform is long overdue.

In an ideal world, LC0162 would pass without a dissenting vote. In the legislature, however, it may meet with reflexive opposition from some conservatives, especially those who view education beyond reading, writing, and simple arithmetic, as indoctrination in secular humanism, communistic economics, and impudent disrespect for tradition and authority. And it may encounter impassioned opposition from home schoolers and some religious and ethnic communities.

LC0162 will not pass itself. I hope Moe succeeds in passing its custody and advocacy to another legislator who will work like the devil to make it become law.

As for Moe, I suspect — and hope — she’ll return to the legislature in the not too distant future. Montana needs more politicians like her.

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