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

26 August 2016

Insulin, EpiPen, and our would-be blessings in Congress

An unholy combination of corporate pirates and Congressional poltroons is putting a life threatening financial squeeze on diabetics and people with acute allergies.

It’s an issue heaven sent for Democratic candidates campaigning for affordable health care and social justice. After all, Montanans who hike on public lands sometimes get stun by yellowjackets, and there are tens of thousands of diabetics under the Big Sky. But so far, Montana’s Democratic candidates have remained silent on the subject. Perhaps that’s because those candidates seek the votes of Republicans, a group that considers Big Pharma’s greed as capitalism at its finest.

Meanwhile, good people with critical medical needs are going through hell.

…read the rest


25 August 2016

Nader reportedly carried four precincts in Missoula in 2000

Thanks to Matt Koehler for this interesting historical note. A comment thread at the U.S. Election Atlas reports that in 2000, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader won pluralities in four precincts in Missoula. I have not yet confirmed this with Missoula’s elections administrator.

Precinct 2, Missoula MT
44.15% Nader (215)
36.14% Gore (176)
17.04% Bush (83)
2.67% Other (13)

Precinct 71, Missoula MT
43.79% Nader (247)
34.75% Gore (196)
19.68% Nader (111)
1.77% Other (10)

Precinct 1, Missoula MT
41.33% Nader (205)
40.93% Gore (203)
15.12% Bush (75)
2.62% Other (13)

Precinct 10, Missoula MT
41.06% Nader (147)
40.78% Gore (146)
15.64% Bush (56)
2.51% Other (9)


Meet the vice presidential candidate who conceals his age


The Green Party’s nominee for Vice President, Ajamu Baraka, appears to be in his late fifties, perhaps a bit older. But his exact age is a mystery because he works very hard to conceal that information. None of the biographical information on him that I found on the internet provides the year of his birth, and only a few sources indicate he was born in Chicago. He’s probably old enough to be President, but why is he concealing such basic biographical information? Is there something on his birth certificate he doesn’t want Americans to know about?

Baraka, incidentally, is an accomplished writer of turgid, pompous, prose. That skill could come in handy if he ends up working for the government.


Green Party and American Δ Party make MT presidential ballot

 Updated at 4:20:36 MDT.  Late yesterday, the Montana Secretary of State confirmed that the Green Party’s Jill Stein and the American Delta Party’s Roque De La Fuente will join Libertarian Gary Johnson, Republican Donald Trump, and Democrat Hillary Clinton on Montana’s general election ballot for President.

…read the rest


24 August 2016

Ralph Nader’s best Montana county in 2000 was Missoula

Ralph Nader received 15 percent of the votes cast for president in Missoula County in 2000. That comes as no surprise, given Missoula is a university town where many liberal academics and students considered Nader a free vote — Bush was leading Gore by a landslide margin in Montana — for a party with the platform they believed the Democratic Party should have had. Nader’s next best county was Gallatin, home of engineering oriented Montana State University, where he received 7.9 percent of the vote.

…read the rest

Political briefs

Green Party, Jill Stein, and Ralph Nader. In 2000, Nader received six percent of the statewide vote in Montana, but 15 percent of the vote in Missoula County. I’ve posted a special page on the 2000 presidential vote in Montana. At the Missoulian, George Ochenski reviews what Jill Stein and third party candidates offer Montana’s voters. At the Washington Post, Dana Milbank says that from Jill Stein, he hears disturbing echoes of Ralph Nader.

If Stein makes Montana’s ballot — we’ll know today or tomorrow — her candidacy could result in additional registered voters. That could, in theory, help Steve Bullock, Denise Juneau, and other Democrats. I underscore “in theory,” as there’s no guarantee Greens will deign to vote for Democrats in contests in which no Green candidate is on the ballot. I have difficult imagining that anyone supporting Jill Stein could vote for a Libertarian, but I do acknowledge that strange things happen.

Gianforte wants to sell the governor’s airplane and ground Bullock. Here we go again with another desperate, deplorable, attempt to get this solution for a problem that doesn’t exist off the ground. Bozeman businessman Gianforte knows governors in a state this size need to travel by air, just as he knows that traveling by company plane maximizes the efficiency of many chief executives in private industry. Therefore, his real complaint is not that there’s a State of Montana aircraft for the governor’s travel, or that the governor is flying when he should be driving at high speeds on bad roads — it’s that the governor flying in Montana’s King Air is named Steve Bullock.

This is not a campaign issue. It’s just another cheap shot.

Updated. Will Denise Juneau ever campaign vigorously for Congress? That’s the question asked at Logicosity today. It’s a good question. Her slow loading (for me) website finally has a dedicated issues page — but she’s been running since last year. What took so long? The best spin I can put on this is that she planned to bust out of the barn around Labor Day with a six-week blitzkrieg campaign. If so, it’s none too soon. Time’s been a-wasting.


Can Biz Speak ever be pounded out of business drumbeaters?

My pre-dawn email traffic carried this biz speak gushing paragraph from Instapaper that might have been written by Donald Trump:

Today, we’re incredibly excited to announce that Instapaper is joining Pinterest. In the three years since betaworks acquired Instapaper from Marco Arment, we’ve completely rewritten our backend, overhauled our mobile and web clients, improved parsing and search, and introduced tons of great features like highlights, text-to-speech, and speed reading to the product.

Arrrgh! Every damn news release written by a business flack is infested with every possible variation of the word “excite.” Here, needless words omitted, is what Instapaper should have inflicted on its readers:

Instapaper is joining Pinterest. In the three years since betaworks acquired Instapaper from Marco Arment, we’ve rewritten our backend, overhauled our mobile and web clients, improved parsing and search, and introduced highlights, text-to-speech, speed reading, and other new features, to the product.

Figuratively speaking, we’ll improve our country and language if we give biz speak the business. What an incredibly exciting leap of progress that would be.



23 August 2016

Gianforte’s anti-refugee mailer is a moment of weakness he’ll regret


Fundamentally, I believe that Greg Gianforte, a man of considerable intelligence and accomplishment, is a better man than the one who approved the refugee bashing mailer that the Missoulian rightly excoriated today.

He knows he’s pandering to Montana’s most extreme xenophobes, desperately trying to win a few cheap votes from frightened and cruel voters who represent the worst in our state. After the election, especially if he loses, as he probably will, I think Gianforte, at least privately, will be ashamed of himself for this moment of weakness. For the moment, however, it is Montana that has reason to be ashamed of Gianforte.


The mischief wrought by third parties, and in 2000 by Ralph Nader

Officially, George W. Bush received 537 more votes in Florida than Al Gore in the 2000 election, thereby winning the state’s 25 electoral votes and the presidency despite losing the national popular vote to Gore (download Excel spreadsheet with the details). Bush won Florida by a plurality — but liberal presidential candidates received a majority of the state’s popular vote. If the Florida liberals and leftists who voted for Nader — whose positions on the issues were far closer to Gore's than to Bush's — had instead voted for Gore, Bush would have lost.

Here’s the Florida breakdown:


Nationally, liberal candidates received a majority of the votes cast for President.

…read the rest


22 August 2016

Algerians low-five kids in Kalispell fair parade

Yep, that’s close to a clickbait headline, but it is accurate. Old guys in fezes drive brightly painted little cars up Main Street during local parades, gleefully low-fiving children and even some adults. It’s a staple of local parades, and in another state and time, it was a staple of the parades of my boyhood. Is the practice a safety concern? I’ll leave that to the experts. The old men in the fezes do drive slowly and with great care — and the kids love the experience.


Not a lot of leg room in this little buggy.

…view the rest

Green Party claims Jill Stein will be on Montana’s ballot

 Updated at 17:42:35 MDT.   Green Party candidate Stein now is listed on the MT SecST’s website as “Pending” for president.

Two days ago, I reported that efforts to collect enough signatures to put Jill Stein, the Green Party’s candidate for president, on the 8 November ballot in Montana, had failed. The Green Party, however, believes it has submitted three times the required number of signatures, and that Stein has qualified for the ballot.

…read the rest


21 August 2016

If this were just a 2-party election, Hillary might be losing

As Hillary Clinton’s lead in some public opinion polls increases, her campaign has become so confident of victory that she’s begun mapping her agenda as President. But she might want to stop measuring the drapes and concentrate on campaigning. In polls that include Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Clinton still leads, but only by a plurality. And when the sum of liberal candidates (Clinton and Stein) is compared to the sum of conservative candidates (Trump and Johnson), the contest is dead even with one of every 12 voters undecided or not expressing an opinion.

Download Excel spreadsheet

It’s possibly that Clinton could win the election with a landslide in the Electoral College, yet win only a plurality of the popular vote. She could even win the electoral and popular votes, but lose the liberal vs. conservative vote. That could happen — and if it does, it won’t be a mandate. It will be a prescription for a difficult, mostly gridlocked, four years, and possibly a prescription for a one-term presidency.

If the Republicans had nominated John Kasich or Paul Ryan, Hillary Clinton probably would be losing this election.



20 August 2016

Political parties in the Flathead fair parade

There will be three presidential candidates on Montana’s general election ballot, and possibly a fourth. The three certain candidates are Republican Donald Trump, Democrat Hillary Clinton, and Libertarian Gary Johnson. The possible fourth, according to Montana’s Secretary of State, is “Rocky” Roque De La Fuente. Efforts to collect enough signatures to qualify the Green Party’s Jill Stein for the ballot failed. Update, 22 August: The Green Party claims it collected enough signatures to place Stein on Montana’s ballot.

In yesterday’s county fair parade in Kalispell, the first big parade after the 2016 political conventions, Libertarian Gary Johnson had the biggest sign and fewest marchers. Johnson might do well in Montana as he provides a choice for Republicans who won’t vote for Trump and crumple on the fainting couch as the mere thought of voting for Hillary Clinton.

Near the end of the parade rolled the right wing wagon of the John Birch Society, which becomes more alive the longer William F. Buckley is dead.


Mike Fellows, Libertarian candidate for the U.S. House of Representative, is in the car behind the banner.


Hillary Clinton has abandoned Montana — it has only three electoral votes, and is one of the whitest states in the nation — but Montana’s Democrats have not abandoned Hillary.


That’s Montana auditor candidate Matt Rosendale orthogonal to the parade’s vector. Matt Regier, candidate for House District 4, carries one end of the lands access banner, while an unknown (to me) Trumper lugs the other. In the world of Republicans, access to public lands usually means access not just for hunting and four-wheeling, but also for sawing down trees, shoveling coal, drilling for oil and gas, and digging for gold.


Here’s the throwback to the cold war. I’m surprised there wasn’t an Impeach John Roberts sign on the wagon.



19 August 2016

Civil Air Patrol honor guard leads the fair parade up Main Street


Young men and women such as these are why we remain the strongest nation in the world.

Today is World Photo Day — and Flathead fair parade day

On this day in 1839, the government of France purchased the patent to the Daguerreotype process, the first practical photographic process, and made it a gift to the world. It’s quite a story, and certainly one worth celebrating.

There’s also a story on photography developing on the local level. The Kalispell Chamber of Commerce reviewed its policy on credentialing photographers for the fair parade. There are still some details to work out, but I may be working the parade on Main Street later this morning.



18 August 2016

At long, long, last — Bullock’s website has an issues section

Democratic Governor Steve Bullock’s blitzkrieg re-election campaign has begun. His campaign’s website now has an issues section. On this page, I counted 16 issue headings. There’s something for everyone. And he’s releasing television ads on a frequent basis.

Absentee voting begins on 11 October. Bullock intends to counter Gianforte’s huge self-funding ability by spending most of his money in a massive, seven-week lightning campaign. It’s a savvy strategy that probably will neutralize the Bozeman businessman’s theoretical fundraising superiority.

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates Bullock v. Gianforte as leaning Democratic. Although I’ve not found any public opinion polls on the contest, Bullock has the advantages of incumbency, and Gianforte, a tyro politician, has been making unforced errors. Additionally, the Republican brand has been tarnished by the conduct of the GOP’s candidate for president.

I think the election will be close, but Bullock should prevail by a few points. He might even win with a majority.


Flathead fair parade officials to news media photographers —
Make damn sure you stay on the sidewalk during the parade

I’ve been photographing parades in Kalispell and the Flathead for almost two decades. Last month I photographed the Independence Day parade in Kalispell. I need to move out in the street a bit, but I do this carefully and risk injury to neither myself nor anyone else.

When I learned that the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the parade, was finally going to do a better job of keeping the crowd away from the marchers, which was welcome news, I wanted to support the effort and therefore approached to chamber to find a way to avoid having its parade marshals yank me back on the sidewalk and prevent me from doing my job.

In the course of discussing the matter with the chamber, I learned that the chamber has hired a photographer to record the parade, and that this is something new. That may have a bearing on the following note that the parade’s organizers sent me this morning. The highlighting is mine.

…read the rest

Did adopting a mail ballot increase presidential turnout in Oregon?

The true believers in mail ballots (absentee ballots in Montana) think so. And there’s considerable evidence that in traditionally low turnout elections — school trustee and municipal elections are good examples of the genre — voting by mail results in a higher turnout of registered voters than does voting in person at the poll on election day.

But did voter turnout in the presidential general elections in Oregon, the first state to make voting by mail mandatory, increase after Oregonians began marking their ballots at their kitchen tables instead of in the voting booth?

No. Not as measured by the voting eligible population statistic. That fact has implications for current efforts in Montana to cajole voters into voting by absentee ballot.

…read the rest


17 August 2016

The MOU that Steve Bullock used to kneecap Nancy Keenan

There are two storefront operations for Democrats in the Flathead. One, operated by the Montana Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, is in Whitefish. The other, in Kalispell, is operated by the Montana Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign.

Having two MDP campaign offices in the Flathead seems inefficient, and is, and there’s a story of iron fisted power politics behind it. The coordinated campaign is really Gov. Steve Bullock’s operation, which does things its own way. The official relationship of Bullock’s campaign is spelled out in a memorandum of understanding between the MDP and Friends of Steve Bullock that was reviewed and blessed by Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices at the end of last September.

The MOU kneecaps the MDP’s executive director, Nancy Keenan, who served as a legislator, as Montana’s superintendent of school, and headed the National Abortion Rights League for a decade:

…read the rest


16 August 2016

If Trump loses, his voters — and their grievances — will remain

Donald Trump appears headed for a landslide loss. Democrats are rejoicing, even entertaining visions of recapturing control of both house of Congress.

That’s understandable, but Democrats should curtail their enthusiasm. Even if they run the table nationally, they’ll still be at a tremendous disadvantage at the state legislative level. Montana’s legislature, for example, will remain in Republican hands.

And the tens of millions of voters who made Trump their nominee will stay registered to vote, and continue to be just as angry at the Democratic Party as they were before the election. In fact, they may become angrier because Democrats may double-down on the policies and attitudes that convince these voters that Democrats consider them second class citizens.


Best Republican comment on Trump so far this week

No, it’s not former Secretary of State George Schultz’s “God help us,” response to a question about the possibility of a Trump in the White House, although that comment certainly is among the top contenders for Quote of the Week honors.

But Schultz’s quip pales beside former Bush 43 speechwriter Michael Gerson’s “While Clinton has an ethics problem, Trump has a humanity problem.” Here are the key paragraphs of his must read oped in today’s Washington Post:

I would venture that Trump’s failure among the young has something to do with his assault on the idea of tolerance, particularly racial and religious tolerance. Younger voters are less likely than other age groups to regard racially inclusive language as “politically correct.” They are less likely to believe in “reverse discrimination” and to embrace anti-immigrant attitudes. And, according to the USA Today/Rock the Vote survey, they were not impressed by the GOP nominee’s convention speech. By more than 2 to 1, younger voters said it made Trump seem less human and accessible.

While Clinton has an ethics problem, Trump has a humanity problem. His combativeness and lack of political polish could be advantages among younger voters. But these are tied to a discrediting lack of empathy. It is one thing to go after “low-energy” Jeb Bush or “Lyin’ ” Ted Cruz; it is another to mock a disabled reporter, stereotype Mexicans as rapists, condemn a judge because of his ethnicity, attack the faith of a grieving Gold Star mother, or call for systematic discrimination against Muslims. These are not violations of political correctness. They are violations of human decency, revealing serious moral impairment.


Denise Juneau has a platform one plank wide


Democratic U.S. House candidate Denise Juneau’s campaign website does not have an issues page per se — she’s like Steve Bullock in that regard — but she does have what amounts to a buried one-plank-wide platform on public lands. Here’s how to find it:

  1. Go to www.denisejuneau.com.

  2. Open the News page. Scroll down to Juneau Unveils Public Lands Priorities Focused On Access, Collaboration, Cutting Red Tape, and click on that headline.

  3. On the “Juneau Unveils Public Lands Priorities Focused On Access, Collaboration, Cutting Red Tape,” page, scroll down to “Read more about Denise Juneau’s public lands priorities, here.” Click on “here.”

  4. That takes you — finally — to her poll and (probably) focus group tested agenda for public lands.

When an issues plank is buried that deeply in a candidate’s website, it’s because the website developer was incompetent or because the campaign prefers that as few people as possible read the details. I suspect the latter reason accounts for Juneau’s burial.

I’ve like Denise Juneau, but I don’t like her campaign. She seems to be counting on Democrats’ voting for her simply because she’s a Democrat with an interesting personal story and a single issue. In the Year of Identity Politics, the leaders of the Democratic Party think that’s enough.

I think that attitude insults the intelligence of the voters. I’m growing increasingly sympathetic to the argument that given Ryan Zinke is a virtual lock for re-election, even in the age of Trump, not voting for Juneau, and thus not endorsing her campaign, has moral merit.



15 August 2016

Should GOP fair parade marchers fear anti-Trump guerrilla theatre?


There’ll be a few Trumpers tramping down Main Street, sporting “Make America Great Again” baseball caps and waving “Trump-Pence” signs. But I suspect most Republican fair parade marchers will carry signs promoting local candidates and Greg Gianforte and Ryan Zinke.

Trump’s menacing zaniness invites satire and guerrilla theatre, so don’t be surprised if a critic of Trump sneaks into the Republican parade contingent Rosie Ruiz style, carrying a sign with Trump’s snarling mug and the words “Rich White Trash 4 Prez.”



13–14 August 2016

Weekend roundup


Happy Birthday!, Social Security. Franklin Roosevelt’s greatest accomplishment, and the most important social legislation in America’s history, is 81 today — and going strong. In this photograph of the signing ceremony, Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, other than FDR the most important of the act’s architects, stands behind FDR’s right shoulder. The best way to keep Social Security going strong? Vote for Democrats.

Worried about terrorists shooting and/or blowing up the Flathead? Wondering how to respond? Worry not. Flathead Valley Community College has just the course for you: Emergency Management 200-90, Responding to Terrorism. Here’s the online description:


There’s no syllabus online (nor does there seem to be an online syllabus for any of FVCC’s courses); just this blather. Neither is there a reading list. And the instructor is “staff.” Staff could be anyone from a Harvard Ph.D. in international security to the number two guy on the Flathead sheriff’s SWAT squad, or an itinerant Islamophobe who makes his living by lecturing local yokels on the alleged existential threat to western civilization posed by Syrian refugees.

The curious intersection of Bullock for Governor, the Montana Wilderness Association, and Salsa Lab. As reported by the Associated Press’s Matt Voltz yesterday, MWA and other conservation organizations have been running newspaper ads urging readers to send Gov. Bullock a thank you for his public lands agenda and support of public access to those lands. More ads ran today, and yet more may run tomorrow.

The ads I’ve seen direct readers to a website, www.mtgreatoutdoors.org, that urges supporters of public lands to send Gov. Bullock messages supporting his efforts to keep public lands public and to preserve access to public lands. He’s earned that praise, but www.mtgreatoutdoors.org, a domain registered by MWA on 6 April 2012, is where things get interesting. If you direct your browser to www.mtgreatoutdoors.org, it goes to:

Salsa is a Bethesda, MD, company that provides fundraising, online advocacy, and marketing, software to:

…help nonprofits achieve their mission. As your cause partner, we strive to create tools that make it easier for social good organizations to engage communities, raise funds, rally supporters and make their voices heard.

MWA uses Salsa’s Donor Pro platform to accept online contributions. On Bullock’s campaign website, www.stevebullock.com, the Join Our Campaign page is served by Salsa:

The common thread of Salsa could be coincidence, of course. But I find myself wondering why MWA redirected www.mtgreatoutdoors.org to Salsa when providing an email link to Gov. Bullock’s public lands operation would have been easy. Here’s one way to do it:

Send Gov. Bullock an email message praising his public lands positions:


Go ahead, give the link a try. You can modify the subject line, and send the governor a unique message instead of the canned prose that MWA and its collaborators are suggesting.

That simple formulation eliminates the need to redirect the page to Salsa’s server, and eliminates, or at least tremendously reduces, the possibility that someone might put Salsa and Salsa together and come up with what might a false positive for coordination between Bullock’s campaign and the MWA et al. ads.

The least healthy Olympics ever? Probably. And given the reports of doping, also one of the dirtiest. Sailing events held on sewage contaminated waters. Swimming pools filled with water that’s green because Brazil has yet to master the science of keeping swimming pools clean. And, of course, the ever present threat of becoming infected with the Zika virus.

Should the summer games have been canceled, or moved to a safer venue? Of course. Did any of the people in charge have the courage to do the right thing? No. Will they ever? Of course not. There’s too much money involved. One last question: am I watching or following the athletic contests down in Stinkwaterville and Zikaland? No.