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

4 March 2015

Defending the sinner publicizes the sin

All politicians have defenders. Some are staff. Some are friends. Some are self-appointed. Some are principled. Some are dung-tongued thugs. But all share a common characteristic: they can be so loyal to their politician that their defense publicizes the politician’s sin in ways not helpful to the sinner.

That’s happening now with Sen. Jon Tester, who misrepresented the facts about timber sale litigation in Montana, and with Hillary Clinton, who used her very own private email system (the server was actually bunkered down in her New York home) for U.S. State Department business.

Tester’s defenders are both sending abusive emails to his critics, and openly arguing that he’s done so much good it doesn’t matter if he prevaricates on occasion. Clinton’s defenders make similar arguments, but are more creative.

The form of the argument, of course, is that mistakes should be forgiven in the greater scheme of things if good deeds outnumber the bad.

For example, a defense attorney might tell the jury, “Yes, Mr. Jones had a bad morning during which he robbed the bank and shot dead the teller, but that was just one bad morning, and yes it was a mistake, but overall he’s led an exemplary life, petting his dog, kissing his mother, helping little old ladies across the street, and being nice to children. In fact, the only reason he attempted an unauthorized withdrawal from a selfish financial institution was to take his mother to the golden beaches of the South Pacific before she died. It’s unfair, unkind, and disloyal to condemn him for just one mistake.”

That defense shines another spotlight on the sin, something the defenders of Tester and Hillary might want to keep in mind.


King v. Burwell and Medicaid in Montana

King v. Burwell was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court this morning. A transcript of the session is now available. The case has implications for Montana because if SCOTUS rules for King, subsidies on health insurance policies purchased through the federal exchange will be voided and millions won’t be able to afford their health insurance policies. A decision is expected in June.

Montana’s legislature will adjourn long before June, however, so decisions on expanding Medicaid must be made without knowing the verdict in King. If SCOTUS upholds the ACA, what Montana’s legislature does about Medicaid will stand. But if SCOTUS rules against federal exchange subsidies, decisions in Montana’s legislature could be negated.

…read the rest


3 March 2015

Did Bibi’s speech fire-up Zinke to vote against Obama?

That’s one interpretation of what happened today, and not an unfair interpretation. First, Rep. Ryan Zinke listened to Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech urging Congress not to support the President on a deal with Iran. Netanyahu visibly fired-up some Republicans, whose faces bore the joy usually reserved for schoolboys who have just been willingly brainwashed at a high school pep rally.

Later, Zinke returned to the floor of the House to vote against a clean bill funding the Department of Homeland Security, an agency that probably should stay open if Boehner, Bibi, and Mitch get us into a shooting war with Iran. Then, to let the voters know he had acted to protect them from a President who likes peace too much, he cut loose with a couple of Tweets:


In Zinke’s defense, can he say that a staffer wrote those overwrought Tweets? No. Zinke’s responsible for all Tweets issued in his name, whether he or his staff wrote them.


Did Netanyahu try to channel Churchill?

Does Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, regard himself as the current incarnation of Winston Churchill? Yale’s David Bromwich thinks so, and a turn of phrase in Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress this morning offers some confirmation.

First, Bromwich:

His speech is sure to contain the following elements. Netanyahu will salute the members of both parties. He will remind us that he lived in America for a time, and his unaccented English will confirm this. He will acknowledge that his speech has become a subject of controversy, but he cannot avoid the challenge of this crisis, when his message is especially important. The fate of the United States as well as Israel hangs in the balance. The threat from Iran is the most dire that has faced the world since the rise of Hitler. Just as Fascism arose in more than one country, so has Warrior Islam also arisen in more than one country. This analogy is inevitable given Netanyahu’s ambition to inherit the mantle of Churchill — a piece of drapery several sizes too large for him. [Huffington Post, 01 March 2015.]

Next, Netanyahu:

Now, two years ago, we were told to give President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif a chance to bring change and moderation to Iran. Some change! Some moderation! Rouhani’s government hangs gays, persecutes Christians, jails journalists and executes even more prisoners than before. [NYT transcript.]

Finally, Churchill, speaking to the Canadian Parliament on 30 December 1941:

On top of all this came the great French catastrophe. The French Army collapsed, and the French nation was dashed into utter and, as it has so far proved, irretrievable confusion. The French Government had at their own suggestion solemnly bound themselves with us not to make a separate peace. It was their duty and it was also their interest to go to North Africa, where they would have been at the head of the French Empire. In Africa, with our aid, they would have had overwhelming sea power. They would have had the recognition of the United States, and the use of all the gold they had lodged beyond the seas. If they had done this Italy might have been driven out of the war before the end of 1940, and France would have held her place as a nation in the counsels of the Allies and at the conference table of the victors. But their generals misled them. When I warned them that Britain would fight on alone whatever they did, their generals told their Prime Minister and his divided Cabinet, “In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.” Some chicken; some neck.

Churchill spoke that day as a statesman. Netanyahu spoke today as a politician. Churchill was trying to save his nation. Netanyahu is trying to save his political skin. Today he stood before our Congress, delivering a speech he should have delivered in Israel, should he have delivered it at all, casting not a giant shadow but finding himself engulfed by Churchill’s.


More reasons not to nominate Hillary


She’s a scofflaw — and possibly a security risk. During her stint as Secretary of State, the New York Times reports, she used private email accounts for all of her official business. That’s not only against the laws governing record keeping, but probably also a security violation.

It was only two months ago, in response to a new State Department effort to comply with federal record-keeping practices, that Mrs. Clinton’s advisers reviewed tens of thousands of pages of her personal emails and decided which ones to turn over to the State Department. All told, 55,000 pages of emails were given to the department.

Her expansive use of the private account was alarming to current and former National Archives and Records Administration officials and government watchdogs, who called it a serious breach.

One question yet to be answered: did President Obama know of her email habits, and if he did, why didn’t he put a stop to them?

Why do so many Democrats think it would be wonderful if this arrogant and secretive woman who believes she’s above the law became President? Her judgment is appalling. She botched health care during her husband’s Presidency. Against Barack Obama, she ran a campaign known for infighting, chaos, and one of the highest cash burn rates in political history. Now we discover that as Secretary of State, she ignored a law she found inconvenient (and possibly dangerous to her ambitions). Why would anyone expect her to exercise good judgment as President? Why would anyone expect to follow the law as President?



2 March 2015

Lenio will be arraigned on 19 March; Klundt hearing Wednesday

David Joseph Lenio, charged with malicious intimidation and criminal defamation, is scheduled to be arraigned before district judge Heidi Ulbricht on Thursday, 19 March. Travis Ahner is representing the prosecution. Lenio’s attorney is Brent Getty. The arraignment session — Lenio is not the only person being arraigned — begins at 1330 mountain time.

Zachery Jordan Klundt, charged with vandalizing a health care facility, is scheduled to begin a jury trial before district court judge Ted Lympus on 27 April. Andrew Clegg will represent the prosecution. Klundt’s attorney is Peter Leander. Klundt is no longer on the roster of the Flathead County Jail. Klundt has an omnibus hearing before Judge Lympus on Wednesday, 4 March, beginning at 1330 mountain time. Don’t be surprised if Klundt agrees to a plea bargain instead of going to trial.



1 March 2015

Is David Lenio’s predicament being exploited for fame and money?

David Lenio, accused of threatening to kill schoolchildren, is in the Flathead County Jail, charged with malicious intimidation and criminal defamation, his bail set at half a million dollars. He’s not going anywhere. And he doesn’t seem to be saying anything, which suggests to me he has an attorney who advised him to remain silent.

But after reading Paul Rosenberg’s sensationalist story in Salon, it’s clear that few others are remaining silent:

Rosenberg even brought into the story Richard Spencer, the Whitefish resident who makes money selling soft core white supremacy literature and videos at gatherings of white supremacists around the country. His ideas are abhorrent. In Whitefish he’s a law abiding citizen — but that hasn’t stopped some from wanting to adopt city ordinances to run him out of town.

Does Spencer have a connection to Lenio? No one has alleged that yet, but I won’t be surprised if someone does.

There is great fear among some members of the Flathead community. It’s not necessarily what I would consider rational, but it’s not being feigned. It’s genuine, and it’s making people miserable. They don’t feel safe, and might not feel safe even with a policeman at every door and a national guardsman under every streetlight. They have my sympathy.

Others exploit that fear. Being able to point to David Lenio and Richard Spencer and the bad things they allegedly represent is a good way to raise money. Rosenberg’s article surely will be cited in pitches by fundraisers in the human rights community. Nothing opens a checkbook like a cry that the barbarians are at the door and only your money can stop them.

On the right, of course, in fundraising appeals Lenio and Spencer are replaced by President Obama, the ISIS, and or other villains of the moment. The extremes of right and left are distinguished by ideology, not tactics.

At this point, Lenio is off the street. The people involved in the case should stop talking to reporters. And the prosecutors should drop the charge of criminal defamation, which strikes me as unwise, unnecessary, and arguably trumped-up.



28 February 2015

Notes on the MT Legislature’s first half

CSKT compact, SB-262. It passed the MT Senate 31–19. Opponents in the MT House will try to kill it by bottling it up in committee, and attaching poison pill amendments. I suspect it will reach the floor only through a blast.

Senate supporters of the bill seemed surprised by concerns that the compact might lower the level of Flathead Lake during the summer boating season. Having spent years dealing with the issue of summer lake levels, I wasn’t. The compact won’t affect Flathead Lake’s levels, which are governed by the federal license for Kerr Dam. The reserved water rights compact commission should publish a short paper explaining the difference.

Sen. Fielder’s special interest paid aide. Montana Cowgirl has a good post on this situation, which was uncovered by the Bozeman Chronicle. This situation never should have developed. Fielder displayed remarkably poor judgment, and she’ll be fortunate if she escapes formal sanctions for her behavior.

…read the rest


27 February 2015

Tester’s 4 Pinocchios cast shadow on his straight shooter reputation


Sen. Jon Tester should stop talking about logging until he gets his fury over litigated timber sales under control. Talking to Montana Public Radio a few days ago, he wrongly alleged that every national forest timber sale in Montana was tied up in litigation. After he was called on that untruth, he tried to weasel with statistics instead of issuing a contrite, handsome, unqualified apology for getting it wrong.

That earned him a scathing column by George Ochenski, a 4-Pinocchio whopper of a mistruth certification from the Washington Post, and some wry poetry at 4and20Blackbirds.

This wasn’t the result of poor staff work, or having been misinformed by the agency. It was the result of Tester’s personality and natural resources philosophy.

…read the rest


26 February 2015

CSKT water compact update

Updated at 1423 MST. SB-262, sponsored by Sen. Chas Vincent (R-Libby) passed the MT Senate on the third reading today, 31–19. Only one senator, Gene Vuckovich (D-Anaconda), changed his vote. Vuckovich voted Nay on the second reading, but Aye on the third reading. Update at 2203 MST. The legislature’s website published a corrected vote total after this report was written. Sen. Vuckovich also voted Nay on the third reading. Perhaps someday he’ll explain why.

I record the votes for bills in a private database I designed. Here’s an updated Excel spreadsheet of how our senators voted on the blast and second and third readings of SB-262.

Earlier. SB-262 was approved 31–19 yesterday on its second reading in the senate. Twenty Democrats and 11 Republicans voted Aye, while one Democrat (Gene Vuckovich, Anaconda) and 18 Republicans voted Nay. Three who voted to blast the bill out of committee (Rick Ripley, Frederick Moore, and Vuckovich) cast Nays on the second reading, while one who voted against the blast (Brian Hoven, R-Great Falls) voted Aye. Three poison pill amendments were rejected. The third reading is today. It will pass.

Bigfork Republican Sen. Bob Keenan sought assurances that approval of the compact would not change the level of Flathead Lake. Sen. Chas Vincent, SB-262’s sponsor, wasn’t able to provide a definitive answer, but I can. It won’t. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s license for Kerr Dam authorizes filling the lake to 2893 Somers Datum, and a number of agreements control when, how high, and how fast the lake is raised or drawn down. The issue is important to boaters, who still remember the abnormally low summer lake levels in 2001 (hydrograph) when keels scraped the bottom at some docks. The CSKT are taking ownership of Kerr Dam (which will be renamed), and will have every incentive and obligation to maintain the current regimen of lake levels.

In my judgment, much of the opposition to the compact is philosophical, not practical. In particular, the time immemorial off-reservation instream flows have struck a nerve with some people, who evidently regard the flows as a de facto expansion of the CSKT reservation and part of a tribal irredentist campaign to oust white people from western Montana. This fear of irredentism, based in part I think on occasional over-the-top rhetoric issuing from CSKT members, is so powerful that it impairs the rational faculties of those holding it.