Posted: November 25, 2014 at 10:24 pm by Cowgirl

GOP Packs Education Committee with Homeschoolers, Crackpots, and Convicts

Sarah Laszloffy, Debra Lamm

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Ben Franklin

As bizarre as this may sound, the Montana Republicans have chosen Sarah Laszloffy (R-Laurel) to be Chair of the House Education Committee. Laszloffy is 23-years-old and a major advocate (and product) of homeschooling and promotes using your tax dollars to subsidize private sectarian religious schools. She is also an alumnus of the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, where students of all ages come to learn how to live  “a supernatural lifestyle.” (Who says Republicans are to opposed alternative lifestyles?)

According to the school’s website, Laszloffy and her fellow students learn how to “do the Bible,” —including useful skills such as “how to cast out demons” and other practical solutions to life’s most pressing problems.  [screenshot]

Bethel’s members also purport to have the ability to heal people through prayer and bring the dead back to life, although this failed when one young man at the academy fell from a 200-foot cliff and Bethel students tried for several hours to pray him back to life before calling 911. The victim, who had not actually died yet but was instead unconscious, filed a lawsuit against the students after he ended up a paraplegic.  

Laszloffy quickly removed references to the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry from her Facebook profile once the Cowgirl blog made the information public two years ago, but you can see a screenshot here.

Laszloffy is the daughter of noted birther Jeff Laszloffy who is a lobbyist for the ultra-religious, ultra-right-wing group which calls itself the Montana Family Foundation.  

And if it’s not bad enough that this young ignoramus has been chosen to occupy the GOP’s top education post in the Montana state legislature, consider who her top deputy will be:  the number two Republican on the Education committee will be Debra Lamm (R-Livingston), who also worked for the Family Foundation and in fact was the group’s top lobbyist until this year.  She will be vice chair of the House Education Committee.  

Lamm’s greatest hits include her publicly held belief that improved math and reading standards are connected to the workings of “the United Nations, UNESCO, the ‘New World Order,’ Marxism, Globalism, Islam, etc.” and the culmination “of an envisioned future of  ’dominant elites’ who have been working behind the scenes for over 100 years to ensure its adoption.” She has also worked closely on education policy with the wealthy Greg Gianforte of Bozeman, who builds museums that attempt to prove that dinosaurs lived 4,000 years ago. 

Overall, however, I’d say the big winner in the Laszloffy and Lamm appointments is Chick-Fil-A.   The Family Foundation was behind the enlightened plan to import stale chicken sandwiches to Montana from Chick-Fil-A locations in other states (there are none in Montana) after it announced that it wanted to keep discrimination against LBGT people legal.

But if you thought the bizarre appointments ended there, you’d be wrong.

To be sure, the Montana GOP is a party which has long held a revered place for ignorance in its official party platform–a document which has gone so far as enshrined positions in support of birtherism and the gold standard and making being gay an imprisonable offense.

Even so, newly appointed house education committee member Rep. Matthew Monforton appears to lack faith that Republican voters can tell the difference between someone who’s truly uninformed and someone who’s just faking it to get elected on the GOP ticket.  He’s calling for closed primaries–which would prevent independents, the unaffiliated and anyone but GOP stalwarts from voting in the GOP primary.  Presumably this will help the electoral chances of the truly backward – so that they too m may be appointed to the committee that makes Montana’s education laws.

Rounding out the house education committee is convicted child abuser Gilbert Bruce Meyers of Havre.

What this means for policy isn’t clear.  In the past, Montana republicans have pushed for bills to restore corporal punishment in the classroom–and to expand the concept to all of society by allowing the option of corporal punishment for those convicted of misdemeanor and felony crimes in Montana.

 

Posted: November 24, 2014 at 7:16 pm by Cowgirl

Barrett’s Senate Presidency Is No Victory for Women

In the quiet time before the legislature, let me address an issue that has recently bubbled up.

A few commenters have suggested that I did not adequately herald the arrival of a woman into the office of Senate president.  Debbie Barrett was two weeks ago chosen to fill this post, making her the first woman in Montana to take the job.

Barrett has served in a GOP leadership role before.  Indeed last session, former Senate President Jeff Essmann put out a press release (screenshot) touting state Sen. Debby Barrett as being the first woman to serve as first “Speaker Pro Tem” of the Montana Senate.

But alas, it turned out the legislative branch’s own website shows that the first woman served as Speaker Pro Tem in Montana 20 years ago – when a woman named Marian Hanson held the post.  So Essmann had to issue  an embarrassing correction.   In it, Essmann called Barrett, who has a zero percent voting record with Montana’s leading women’s issue advocates, “a trailblazer for women legislators everywhere.”

If by trailblazer, Essmann means following trails that lead back to a cave in the dark ages for a mandatory transvaginal ultrasound, then Debby Barrett certainly deserves the highest honor.

So achieving the milestone is a victory for Barrett, yes.  But it is not anything close to a victory for women because she is a backward, angry conservative and the antithesis of a feminist. She has a history of voting against women’s rights and issues, including reproductive autonomy, the right not to be discriminated against by insurance companies, the right to safely enter a medical clinic, the right to medically accurate sex education, education, help for seniors and food for hungry kids, and many other issues important to feminists.

And I am sorry to inform my conservative readers, but Barrett’s selection is to a large extent tokenism, carried out by a party that is almost exclusively white guys who are perennially humiliated in the way they talk about women, how they vote on issues important to women, and the way that their party fails to include women in public service.   I would encourage you, for example, to count up the number of women statewide candidates from both parties in the last decade.  It is shocking, but the GOP’s total–including every primary and every general election for Governor, AG, Securities and Insurance Commissioner, Secretary of State and Superintendent of Schools–can be counted on less than one hand, whereas dozens of women candidacies (and incumbents such as Angela McClean) have been successful on the democratic side.  And the proportion of female legislators with an R after their names is equally dismal.

Barrett’s selection is akin to the appointment of Michael Steele, the African American, by the Republicans to be RNC chairman, or the touting by the party of other black people like Ben Carson or Allen West.  These are public showings put on by the Republicans, on the theory that a minstrel show can suffice to address concerns that the party is racist.

Such motivation is, not if not fully, then largely behind the election of Ms. Barrett.  After years of crusty men giving speeches during the legislature about women’s issues, bleating that birth control is for sluts, that women are like cattle or that pregnancy should not be covered by health insurance, something drastic needed to be done by the GOP.  And Barrett was the answer.  But she is not a champion for women, and I will be proven right again and again once the session starts.

 

Posted: November 20, 2014 at 7:02 am by Cowgirl

Whitefish Anti-Racist Battle Featured on Rachel Maddow

The town of Whitefish’s battle against white supremacy was feature on Rachel Maddow last night.    The Flathead Beacon first reported the story. But if you go to the Beacon’s site, beware the comments section, which has been taken over by racists’ sickening ravings that make it obvious why the people of Whitefish don’t want Richard Spencer’s white supremacy group in their town.

Here’s last night’s Maddow Show – the segment on Montana is first up.

Maddow also skewers the local private Big Mountain Club.  That’s because after white supremacist leader Richard Spencer got in a fight with a former McCain advisor on the chair lift, the club decided they could only keep one member – and chose the racist.

The effort to condemn a white supremacy group operating out of Whitefish through the city resolution process is being organized by Love Lives Here, a Flathead Valley affiliate of the Montana Human Rights Network.  To help, you can donate to the Montana Human Rights Network online here. 

 

**UPDATE-  There are two entities- Big Mountain Ski Club-which is not involved in this in anyway and is a local community ski swap- and “Big Mountain Club” which is the entity Spencer is a member of.

Please help spread the word so that this great local group can stop responding to angry emails about Richard Spencer!

 

UPDATE: As of this morning, the online petition drive us up and running.  You’ll be able to find it and sign here from the Love Lives Here Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Love-Lives-Here-in-the-Flathead-Valley/187940888032547

Posted: November 19, 2014 at 7:28 am by Cowgirl

Montana Republicans Step Up Attack on Party Moderates

Chuck Johnson reported yesterday that the Flathead Republican Party has publicly censured veteran Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, R-Kalispell for not being enough of a right-wing TEA Partier and for daring to actually support water rights for the one Montana tribe which still lacks a water compact.

Today, Senate Republicans are expected to announce their committee assignments.  Cowgirl tipsters report that Republicans will stack certain committees with more republicans than merited by the make up of the house and senate (so that some committees are not representative of the proportion of Ds and Rs in the Senate) as a way of thwarting the efforts of moderates to properly represent the views of the people in their districts.

There are also rumors that GOP leadership is pulling more experienced and knowledgable people from committees they’ve served on in the past if right-wingers fear they they will not toe the TEA Party line. The senate may also cut the entire number of members on the senate’s most important committee Finance and Claims.  Whether this is a move to make sure no moderates have a voice on that committee or as a way to punish moderates for past votes I can’t say.   These contortions may help right-wing leadership more easily force its will on GOP lawmakers, but they also ensure the voters of many districts will not have the representation they deserve.

None of these games serve the people of Montana well.

We’ll see if this holds true when the senate assignments are announced today.  House assignments are rumored to be much worse.

 

Posted: November 19, 2014 at 7:12 am by Cowgirl

GOP State Senator Shares Post Comparing Democrats to Slave Owners

Another gem from newly-elected state senator Nels Swandal (R-Gallatin, Sweetgrass and Park Counties). Swandal posted on his Facebook page a quotation and a picture from convicted felon and racist filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, which compares the Democratic Party to slave owners.

image001 (1) 2

 

Republicans have been eager lately to say everything they oppose these days is as bad or worse than slavery–except perhaps slavery itself.  After all, many in Swandal’s party support nullification and secession – nullification is enshrined in the MTGOP platform.  

As TIME reported,nullification also has a controversial history. It was invoked by South Carolina lawmakers seething over tariff laws in the antebellum South, and again during the civil-rights era, when states opposed to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954 used the idea of interposition, nullification’s kissing cousin, as a mechanism to resist integration.” 

Posted: November 19, 2014 at 6:38 am by Cowgirl

You Can’t Represent the People in Your District if You Don’t Know or Care Who They Are

While I think the attached ad is in poor taste due to its use of new GOP state senator Nels Swandal’s infant grandson as a political prop who is supposed to be telling us how great Swandal is, what I think really bothered the people Swandal (R-SD 30) is supposed to be representing is that it failed to include Gallatin County, a portion of which is in SD 30.

It appears Swandal either couldn’t be bothered to find out who he is supposed to be representing the the state legislature–or that he just doesn’t care.

swandal ad

Posted: November 17, 2014 at 7:34 pm by Cowgirl

Tester Gets Top Fundraising Post

It has been announced that Jon Tester has been named Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.  This means that he will be in charge of a major pot of national loot, money that is biennially doled out to democratic candidates for US Senate.  This assignment will serve Tester well especially if he has an interest in leadership or bigger or better committee assignments in the Senate down the road.

Whether it will serve him well at home is another question.  Indirectly it could certainly help Montana if it means that Tester get’s more influence within the Senate.  This could mean more bacon being brought home to Montana. But of course, the assignment allows the GOP to claim Tester is a “DC Insider.”  Fortunately by the time 2018 rolls around Tester probably won’t even still be holding the DSCC post any more, since it rotates every two years.

As for those who work in and around politics in Montana, based on some of the chatter today I feel I should point out that the big dough that Tester gets to raise will probably not find its way into the democratic party until the 2018 Senate race is afoot.  So I’m afraid there will be no immediate windfall for party workers.

The more interesting part of this news is the fact that Tester has been outspoken in his opposition to Big Money in politics, and is even sponsoring a Constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics, to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.  He spoke about it at Harvard Law last week.   To reconcile these two endeavors–fighting against big money, while having to raise it like crazy–will require some nimble positioning to say the least.  It can be done, but it won’t be easy.

Overall, however, the Cowgirl blog endorses this move as a good one for Tester, and he gets best wishes on his new gig.

 

Posted: November 15, 2014 at 5:33 am by Cowgirl

House Republicans Off to a Bad Start with Illegal Secret Meeting

Republican state representatives got busted yesterday for holding an illegal, secret meeting.  John Adams of the Tribune broke the story after he and Shane Castle of the Helena Vigilante were tipped off about it.  It happened in the basement of a Helena hotel.  State law requires that all such meetings to be conducted openly, and that the public receive advance notice.  These rules form the most important set of laws in Montana,  the public access or “right to know” laws, enshrined in the Constitution and the Montana Code, requiring that Government be conducted in the open.

At this meeting, a questionnaire [pdf] was handed out to all of attendees, asking those in attendance to state their position on some hot-button issues such as whether they agree with the TEA Party proposal to annex federal lands away from the U.S. Government.

Republicans furiously to tried to claim to the reporters who crashed the meeting that it was not technically a caucus meeting.  But the questionnaire was labeled:

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 5.08.18 AM

…and thus it was illegal.

Keith Regier, the newly elected house majority leader, distributed this  questionnaire to fellow house members and ran the meeting.  It ended not long after the reporters showed up.

Not a good start for House Republicans, with the legislative session still a month and a half away.  And the last thing on earth that the GOP wants is for every member to have to put in writing whether they support or oppose various TEA Party schemes.

Perhaps the questionnaires were to be used as a kind of conservative purity test.  Such loyalty oathsalliance tests, and party purges have often surfaced among Montana Republicans, who are somewhat obsessed with such things.

Or, given that the survey asked about what they call the “TPL” proposal (transfer of public lands) perhaps Republicans want to determine if they have the votes to do pull it off.  Previously, GOP moderates tried to distance themselves from this stupid and childish idea, especially after the idea got a nearly unanimous endorsement at the recent GOP platform convention.  Moderates backpedalled when it was revealed the transfer would increase our taxes by hundreds of millions, and inflict a major blow to Montana’s tourism economy.

Other questions on the survey included how much money they would like to leave unallocated at the end of the session and what “the priority should be” with regard to the ending fund balance. Each legislator was also asked to try to identify his (or her, but they are mostly men) top priority bill, and what their “thoughts were” about some of Governor Bullock’s priorities which Regier listed, such as the CSKT water compact, Medicaid expansion, campaign dark money,  and preschool.

And here’s an interesting question: are the completed questionnaires (presumably some have already been collected by Regier and stashed by him somewhere) public documents, by law,  which the press and citizens have a right to view?  I sure hope so :)

Posted: November 13, 2014 at 6:48 am by Cowgirl

GUEST POST: New Explosive Sex Crime Allegations Rock Missoula

By Jaime Jesstar, Montana Satirical News (MSN)

MISSOULA, MT — Sources close to Missoula Police Department indicate that 8 male UM students, including Grizzlies quarterback Dirk Wigler, were victimized last week in what appears to be an organized sex crime.  Details are incomplete, but the source reports that the males were lured to the Phi Monta Sigma house, and following a couple of hours of heavy drinking, were repeatedly sodomized by members of the women’s sorority.  While evidence is still being gathered, what’s not in dispute is that some of the victims were sodomized by as many as 5 different women.

Spokeswoman for Phi Monta Sigma, Molly Madashell noted, “Hey, some guys showed up, we pounded down some shots, and then had a little fun.  I’d say it was a pretty typical Thursday night.”  Pressed for specifics about whether any of the boys offered their consent and Ms. Madashell noted, “I don’t remember.  But I’ll tell you what, when Wigler and his friends showed up here wearing all their fall Boglioli sport jackets, straight-legged jeans, and Jack Purcells, they were asking for it.  I mean these guys looked like they were straight out of a Pinterest men’s fashion board.”

A sorority sister, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity said, “The boys were really drunk, most of them passed out, and things just got really out of hand, really fast.  One girl, I think she’s from Three Forks, organized a game called ‘Cowgirl Donkey Punching’ where girls took turns riding on the bare backs of the boys while hitting them in the back of the head with a large black sex toy.  I just had to get out of there after that.  That was too much for me.”

Within an hour of the initial report, MPD dispatched 16 trained trauma counselors—two for each alleged victim, to provide comfort and to gently gather their testimony.  “Immediate preservation of evidence and dealing with the emotional well being of the boys is our primary concern,” notes MPD chief Doug Hnut. “My team of officers and counselors should be commended for working through the night and for the overall urgency of this department’s response.”

Missoula County Attorney Jay Hovah was traveling out of state, but when reached for comment noted he’ll deliver a swift response and throw the full-weight of Montana justice at these girls.  “They have to realize these boys aren’t their play-things.  Addled by suggestive video games, urban music, alcohol, and within the confines of their sexually charged girl-caves, ‘No’ still means no.”  Jay Hovah went on to say, “I don’t care what they were wearing.  I don’t care what they drinking.  You just can’t gang-sodomize boys because you feel like it.”

MT Attorney General, Lee Galfaux, pledged the full cooperation of his department. “As soon as my team finishes their amicus curiae support of Alabama’s law banning Sharia, every last one of them will be made available to support this prosecution.”

A spokesperson for the University of Montana declined to comment.

___ ___ ___

If you’re interested in writing a guest piece for the Cowgirl Blog, email me at the tipline at mntnacowgirl (at) gmail.com

 

Posted: November 12, 2014 at 7:00 am by Cowgirl

2015 Legislative Caucuses Meet Today

How this work – and what it means

Today, Montana’s new and returning legislators will convene for the first time to get some training, meet as R and D caucuses, and vote for leadership.

In the 2015 session there are a number of candidates vying for these offices.  Usually those who are seeking to become the leaders of a chamber reach out to members of their caucus to run for the office.  You’ll also often see those seeking leadership positions attempting to position themselves in the press or social media as leaders – or as attack dogs on the Governor or opposing party.

Today, the Rs will meet on the third floor to “caucus,” while D’s meet on the first.  Then the leadership selection process will begin. Until leaders are chosen,  the person of each caucus with the most seniority traditionally leads the caucus meeting and leadership selection to make it fair if leadership positions are contested.

Then those running for leadership need to be nominated and seconded for Speaker of the House or Senate president.  The nominators and seconders both must give a speech telling their fellow lawmakers why those they are supporting should be their leaders.   After that the candidates for Senate President and Speaker of the House give their own speeches.

Interestingly, members of the caucuses still vote by secret ballot and often the ballot count is never revealed and only known by counters, who must ensure the leader gets at least 50% of the vote or set up a run off.  I’m wondering whether this secrecy is actually allowed given MT open record laws and that caucuses are public meetings in Montana.  Legislators’ other votes are public too.

Leadership positions are very important because leadership of each body not only sets the tone of the session but, in the House, the leader is solely responsible for choosing committee chairs and committee members.  Also, it is the Senate President and the House Speaker who in the final days of the session will negotiate a budget with Governor Bullock.  Don’t let anyone tell you that someone wacky is the best fit for these jobs.  The budget and the committee makeup is too important. It needs to be someone who can work with both sides or nothing will be accomplished.  If the house alienates itself too much from the senate and the executive branch – either through leadership choices or committees or both — then it’s members may find themselves outside the loop and not involved when it comes to key negotiations, decisions, and bill passage.

Senate President

Senate President: In the Senate, the to position is the Senate President and she or he will effectively be chosen today by the Republicans as the majority party in that body, although there is an official confirmation vote on the first day of the session to elect this person.

Senate Committees

In the Senate, unlike in the House, a “Committee on Committees” will be elected today to choose who will serve on each senate committee.  This means senate Committee Chairs and membership will not be announced prior to the session beginning in January. The Committee on Committees will likely have Rs and Ds both.

Speaker of the House

Speaker of the House is the leader of the House, and is chosen like the Senate President, with an official vote of the full House on day one of the 2015 session. Because the four positions I just mentioned get voted on by the full membership of each body, depending on how this plays out and who is running, dems could play a role in the selection of the top two leadership positions of each body.

House Committees

In the House, the Speaker of the House personally chooses the committee leadership for every house committee.  For this reason, it is not likely that the committee chairs and membership will be announced today either.

Senate Pro-Tem and House Pro-Tem

Each body will also elect a Pro-Tem – basically a number two to the Senate President and Speaker.  The duties of this position are pretty much whatever they President and Senate want them to be – these two jobs get an official vote of the full house and senate on the first day of the session too.

Majority and Minority Leaders and Whips

Both the senate and the house each get a majority leader and a minority leader whose jobs it will be to serve as spokespeople for their parties during floor sessions (making objections, asking questions, etc).  Each caucus will also have whip positions who are supposed to “whip” their caucuses into voting together. Only the caucuses vote for these positions, not the full house and senate.

The house and the senate operate independently even if they are controlled by the same party – and the chambers do not always agree.  Typically near the end of the session it is the President and Speaker that complete the final budget negotiations with the Governor, this is why these roles are so important and why it is important that rational individuals and moderate Republicans are in these posts.

Each chamber functions under its own rules that are adopted by the bodies on the first day of session.  While many of the rules are the same in each body there are some significant differences.  There are also partisan differences in each body.  Not only has the house traditionally been more partisan and fractious than the senate, but word on the street is that the Senate’s moderating power will be greater this time because some of the most right-wing senators have moved over to the house.

These changes, plus the natural differences and division between the two bodies traditionally, provide use some clues about how the fault lines of the 2015 session will reveal themselves.

Additionally, it is important to remember that the GOP does not have a veto-proof majority and so will need to work with Governor Bullock in order to accomplish anything.

Committee Membership Selection

In the House, the Speaker appoints all committee’s membership and determines who is to chair each.  This gives the Speaker of the House a lot of power – power which has often been used to appoint imbeciles as chairs of key house committees.

There are several rumors circulating about who will run for leadership in the House.  For the R’s, Austin Knudson,  Steve Fitzpatrick and Ron Ehli are both said to be running for something. For the D’s Chuck Hunter, Pat Noonan, Bryce Bennett, Ellie Hill.

In the senate, those rumored to be running include Debby Barrett, Scott Sales, Mark Blasdel, Fred Thomas (architect of two of the worst MT laws –  deregulation and term limits),  and Jennifer Fielder (who has militia ties) are both said to be seeking some position.  This is frightening.  The GOP lacks women in both houses, and we will likely see some tokenism in play here to make it seem otherwise.  For the dems Jon Sesso is among the names being discussed for Minority Leader.