Monthly Archives: August 2010

Republicans Cut Taxes–By Encouraging People Who Owe Them Not To Pay Them

Even though they love trillion-dollar wars, abolishing all income taxes and the IRS is a favorite mission of the mountain-men and militia-types who seem to constitute about 80% of the Republican party nowadays. There is a central and long-held belief among Republicans,  most likely held by Bowen Greenwood and Will Deschamps as well, that the federal income tax is unconstitutional, because supposedly it was not properly ratified by one of the state legislatures back a century ago when it was amended to the Constitution.


Kudos to Schweitzer and the Democrats for cracking down on out of state tax cheats. The Administration announced this week that there is cash to be gotten from national travel companies that have been booking rooms without paying the 7% hotel tax.


Needless to say, Republicans have never supported the Democrats on any efforts to collect taxes from deadbeat corporations who don’t pay what they owe. In fact, the Rs have often tried to put up road blocks to the Revenue Department’s efforts to collect taxes that are due. During several legislative sessions when Democrats and the Adminsitration tried to get important legislation passed to help them in this effort (like this bill, in 2007), Republicans, lead by visionary statesmen such as Scott Sales, Mike Lange and John Sinrud, did everything they could to kill it.  It’s really bizarre in fact, that Republicans are so averse to any taxes at all that they believe a person should simply nullify the law by disregarding it. Or, the Rs simply go out of their way to take all the teeth out of the enforcement powers of the MT Department of Revenue.

Funny, because Republicans like Hannity, Beck and company, and no doubt their numerous brown-shirt followers in Montana, delighted in uttering the refrain “Democrats like raising taxes, they just don’t like paying them” during Obama’s transition when it was shown that a few of Obama’s cabinet nominees owed back taxes.  Unfortunately, in Montana there can now be uttered a similar slogan: “Republicans believe in cutting taxes, by allowing people to break the law and not pay them.”

Why you should care about the Helena District Court judge race

It’s hard to get information about judicial races, especially on the district judge level, but folks around the state will be interested in the race for Judicial District one, which covers Lewis and Clark and Broadwater counties, because this is the first court in Montana where constitutional issues are often heard.

One of the candidates for this race really stands out in terms of experience, and that’s Jim Reynolds. Reynolds has had experience with a lot of big cases resulting in some important decisions that benefit all Montanans have come out of Jim’s work.

Take, for example, Associated Press v. Senate Republican Caucus: Jim represented 26 newspapers and other media groups to argue that legislative caucuses must be open to the public; he won, promoting transparency in Montana’s government.

Without this, we would have never seen the true colors of Mike Lange, the crazed Republican who went on a profanity laced tirade in a GOP legislative caucus meeting.

Mystery Meat

A reader contacted me not long ago to rehash an old argument that will likely be rekindled this fall.  A vegetarian, this reader was offended that Roy Brown, when confronted in 2008 with a rumor that he was vegetarian, angrily denounced and denied it. You see, this reader was offended that Roy was offended, that Roy would become so irate at the mere suggestion that he, Roy, a Republican, could stoop to such a foul level of humanity as to eat no meat. This made the reader feel bad, feel almost persecuted, by Vegephobia, as if a hate crime had been perpetrated.

Incidentally, for those of you that haven’t heard, Montana Tofu-gate was even profiled in the New Yorker, in a good tongue and cheek piece about Brown, Schweitzer, Republicans and the beef vote.   Although I doubt Roy is a reader of the New Yorker—now that would be a scandal.

At any rate, the thing his reader wanted to emphasize was the two-faced nastiness of Roy in responding to the vegetarian allegation.  After denouncing the blasphemy, he then admitted that he “didn’t eat meat products” for a year. That’s at a minimum, because, remember, Pat Etchart, a Billings pillar of the community, swore on her Bible that she a) has an iron memory for things people tell her, and b) that Roy and his wife both told her directly that they are vegetarian.

So in other words, Roy made fun of something, then admitted he was one, a la Larry Craig and Ted Haggart.

In addition, I don’t know whether Roy is still a vegetarian, but I do know that the question is far more complicated than whether he is or isn’t.  We’ve been looking at this whole thing in far too simplistic a way.  There are as many as six things he could be. Let’s examine some of them.

Roy could be a true vegetarian, meaning no animals, but eggs and milk are ok.  Since he is anti-death penalty, this would be logical.  He could be a vegan, meaning no animal products at all (For that matter, Roy could also be a freegan, meaning he survives by living on reused items that people throw away, living out of dumpsters and the like. But he has a nice house, so probably not.)  He could be a pescetarian, meaning fish but no other animal products (and we know Roy fishes, even if he holds them upside down when he poses for his campaign-lit photo). He could be a fruitarian, meaning only fruit, nothing else. He could be a raw foodist, meaning nothing cooked (very little sushi in Billings so this would be tough.) Or finally, he could be a paleotarian, meaning only a caveman’s diet.  This actually includes meat so it doesn’t fit.  And while Roy does vote like a caveman, I can’t really see him foraging or hunting.

At any rate, regardless of which one of these he is (or was), he shouldn’t act as if there is something wrong with it. He should embrace it and be proud of it.  Heck, had he been more open about it, he might have stolen some votes from Schweitzer in Missoula when he ran for Governor.

Skees is no one’s puppet…unless God is pulling the strings

Derek Skees says he is God’s puppet, problem is, he’s supposed to be listening to the voters of his district, not just the voices in his head.   In the comments to a recent article in the Flathead Beacon, Derek Skees writes.

I cannot speak for any of the other candidates mentioned, but as for myself, I am running my campaign with the help of my awesome wife and the goal of pleasing my creator. That is it.

It’s not our creator but his creator.  You know the one that personally called Skees to run.

I am having a tough time raising funds. I feel called by God to help this Great State return to affluency, and reign in the littany of Government abuses.I am giving all of my Time, Talent and Treasure to this cause and ask for any measure of yours you can give.

I sure hope there is room for others in his pleasings…

I am controlled by no one. I am no one’s puppet, unless God is pulling the strings.

Skees should be working toward the goal of pleasing the constituents. As a legislator, (if he is elected) that is supposed to be his job.

Jerry O’Neil wants to repeal constitutional right to elect U.S. Senators

Jerry O'Neil is full of bad ideas, but this is one of the worst.This week’s bad idea comes from Jerry O’Neil, who wants to repeal Montanans’ constitutional right to elect our U.S. Senators, and give that choice to the Montana legislature.  He’s tried this twice before, most recently when he served in the legislature in 2005, and it failed miserably.

But that was before the Tea Party took over the Montana GOP.

Oh, and did we mention that he’s running for the legislature again, so he’d be the one doing the choosing.  Here’s O’Neil’s rant against our constitutional right to vote for our Representatives in the United States Senate, from his Tea Party questionnaire:

Our U.S. Senators are no longer beholden to our state legislatures and now must campaign to the entire state populace. This creates a financial burden on the candidates that drives them to seek funding from big corporations, big unions, big media, and big social organizations such as AARP.

Once they are elected they are no longer beholden to states’ rights nor committed to holding the federal government in check; instead they must protect the interests of their big contributors and the social organizations that are seeking a nanny state.

In the 2003 Montana legislative session, I introduced Senate Joint Resolution l0 to repeal the 17th Amendment and thus, once again, allow the State Legislatures to appoint our U.S. Senators. While I was able to get it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I didn’t have enough support to get it out of the Senate.

Not willing to give up on the principle, in the 2005 Montana legislative session, I introduced Senate Bill 464 to allow legislative caucuses to nominate candidates for the U.S. Senate. I wasn’t even able to get SB 464 out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

If we let a Tea Party legislature select who should be in the U.S. Senate, we’re going to get Max Baucus and Jon Tester replaced with guys like Mark French.

Sanders County Republicans sure know how to handle a crisis

In case you haven’t been following the doings of the Sanders County Republican Central Committee, folks there have been in a flurry after it came to light on this blog that, the minutes revealed party infighting, scripture reading and, according to their minutes, the committee appeared to have decided to illegally contribute to a non-partisan office race at that meeting, the non-partisan campaign of Nels Swandal for Supreme Court.

The Sanders County Republicans hurriedly posted a response on their website, with a fascinating clarification of their motions.

Now, it appears that the Sanders County Republican Central Committee has found a new solution to their pesky minutes, which have exposed their acts and discussions for us all to read.   That solution? The Chairman issued an edict on what the minutes will, and will not include from now on.

From  the minutes of their most recent meeting, as found on The Focal Point of All Things Republican in Sanders County website:

The Chairman announced the following guidelines for central committee meetings….The minutes will reflect only motions, seconds, that discussion ensued or did not ensue on the motion, and the results of the vote – pass/fail.

Meet Pam Ellis, the woman who must defeat Tea Party oddball James Knox

Pam Ellis, who is running for the House District 47 seat in the Billings heights against one of the weirdest candidates in Montana, has a sharp new website, just launched. What I like so much about it, besides the look and ease of navigation, is the helpful voter information and tools, as well as the informational resources on issues.  It’s more than just, here’s what I believe, but also, here’s what you might find helpful.  Says Pam:

Born and raised in Billings, I understand Montana values and know the importance of hard work. My father died when I was nine; my mom raised me while working full time as a secretary for the Burlington Northern. I put myself through college with the aid of scholarships, loans, and work. After graduation, I worked as an elementary teacher and administrator for more than 25 years. My husband Bob, a Carbon County native, and I celebrated our 40th anniversary in June. After teaching in Indonesia, we returned to Billings in 2002 to take care of our aging parents. We now live in the Billings Heights.

The IR isn’t off the hook yet

I don’t know what Helena IR ‘policy’ might be out there this time, but today’s paper came and went without a single mention of the one-year anniversary of the Rehberg boat wreck.

No update on the legal and criminal trials and nothing on the workers’ compensation claims of Rehberg and his staff – the cost to taxpayers of the whole drunken debacle.

Speaking of policy, James Conner of the excellent blog the Flathead Memo, had some excellent points on the IR’s supposed policy of not writing about political endorsements that merit further examination.  If you read what Doran wrote, he doesn’t actually say the IR has a policy against writing about endorsements, just that “many newspapers” do.

Mr. Doran:

It’s a longstanding policy of many newspapers not to report on political endorsements, unless they somehow significantly break the mold. Political endorsements are a dime a dozen this season.

Mr. Conner:

What was a union endorsement worth when Mike Mansfield was running for Congress, what is it worth now, and how do we know? That’s not necessarily a “this breaks the mold” story, but I suspect it’s a “the mold shrinks again” story, and a story worth reporting. For example, we know that industrial unions lack the clout they had back in the heyday of the Berkeley Pit: can we quantify that decline?

This is not a new idea, and I know it has occurred to the editors of the IR, which I read online from Kalispell. And I certainly understand how difficult it is to allocate resources with so many worthy stories out there and so few reporters available to run them down. If I were in Mr. Doran’s shoes, I might walk the same route he chose.

Still, political journalism in Montana could stand some improvement. In some cases, print editions need to be better coordinated with online editions. which is where the best, most detailed, and enduring stories will be published.

And all political journalists need to start digging deeper into the backgrounds of the candidates, and reporting what they find. A number of Republican candidates, for example, have replied “yes” to teabagger questionnaires asking whether if elected they would support legislation to nullify national health care legislation. That kind of information is getting out on the blogs, but out as much in the traditional print and electronic news media. Doctrines of nullification and succession led to the Civil War. If we elect legislators who espouse, and probably believe, such doctrines, what consequences could that have for Montana?

Pharmaceutical grade weird

James Knox, too wacky to be electable?How are we supposed to believe that James Knox is in touch with the needs and views of the people of his district in the Billings Heights when he’s not even in touch with himself?

In the comments to a Billings Gazette opinion piece endorsing his opponent for city council last election cycle, James Knox logged on as jknox65 (whose profile says he is a fan of the Billings Heights) and defended himself in the third person, as if he was a separate human being. Here’s what he had to say about himself.

First, Knox says he came to his own door to campaign in the rain:

I must applaud Mr. Knox for he is running hard and showing through actions that he wants the position of serving us in the heights. He came to my home while it was raining, thought it was odd he was willing to campaign in the rain, but I could see no alternate motives at all.

I keep reading how people in Billings want representatives that will listen and consider different options. Why not consider Knox? He is running a good company in two states. Perhaps he can bring some good ideas to Billings City Council? Someone here said there is a reason Cimmino was not elected previously and I think they are right.

Then he praises his own weird behavior as “courage”:

The reality is this. Two candidates have tossed their name in the race. One is out there saying hey I am running and hard, the other is running on her name from long ago. Though I don’t knock her for running, seems many want to knock Mr Knox (no pun intended) for putting his funds and effort into this race. Can we really say he is wrong for this? NO! I think we need to consider him and his stances. He has even responded here, the only time I have seen a posting and the man had the courage to put his name to what he said. Most of you have not except after he asked you too. He also put his web site in his comment so others could find out more. How much more transparent can you be. Nice one Mr. Knox!

Examples of just how out of touch James Knox is with the needs and challenges facing the people of Montana abound.  Knox sides with insurance companies, is endorsed by the Tea Party and Roger Koopman, and is rumored to be a homeschooler.

Pam Ellis is the person we need in the legislature. UPDATE: Pam Ellis just launched a sleek new website.

Rattling the cage whilst inside it

According to the dictionary of idioms, the phrase “rattle the cage” means:

to make someone angry on purpose I rattled his cage by telling him I hated his art.
Etymology: based on the idea of rattling (making a noise by repeatedly hitting) the cage to annoy the animal inside it.

The Missoula Independent’s George Ochenski ends each “column” thusly:

Helena’s George Ochenski rattles the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Independent.

The problem is, the only cage Ochenski seems to be rattling these days is the one he’s locked himself in by refusing to veer from the same tired formulaic rut.

Here’s how the formula goes.  Like a Mad Lib, a few words change here and there, but the structure doesn’t vary:

1-There is some kind of environmental issue being decided, it might even be interesting.

2-All the Democrats in Montana are pure evil, especially those that are the most popular, those at the top. Because I say so that’s why, and I’ve been around for like hundreds of years.

3-Everyone should do what I say, and not listen to anyone else, except those that I agree with.

I’ve read this formula time, and time…and time again, and it’s beyond stale.   It’s just a guy getting himself worked up by rattling the cage he built for himself, from the inside.