Monthly Archives: January 2011

A Job for Tony Robbins

If you listened to the Montana GOP’s S.O.T.S. response, or spared yourself 20 minutes of head-pounding boredom and read this weekend’s Chuck Johnson article about it instead, you’ll find that Republican legislators are profoundly lacking in confidence.

While Schweitzer and Montana Democrats point to evidence that Montana’s economy is growing, Republicans are pretty down on Montana.

The improving economic outlook Dems are talking about is also the outlook validated by independent sources.  As Mr. Johnson reports:

[E]conomists at the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research are more optimistic about the state’s future economy.

“After enduring the broadest, deepest recession seen in the state in 25 years, Montanans can expect to see better growth arrive in the state economy in 2011,” Patrick Barkey and Paul Polzin, the bureau’s director and director emeritus, said in their 2011 Economic Outlook.

So if facts and logic don’t persuade Republicans in the legislature, what’s the deal? Maybe they just need a little motivational self help.

I’m talking about Tony Robbins, the motivational speaker famous for infomercials in which he commands people to “unleash the power within,” (and sometimes use that power to mock him, but that’s a different topic.)

How could Tony Robbins help? First, Robbins would likely try to find out what’s causing the R’s pessimism. After all, the caucus has swollen to the highest number of R’s in recent history. (They also seem to be swelling with self regard, from the head down.)

The pessimism and negative view of the state Republicans appear to share could have negative political consequences.  If the leaders of the GOP caucus can’t convince the public that this is a good place to do business, they won’t convince voters that they can they can successfully run the state.

Which means Republicans could be so far gone even Robbins can’t help. He’s got experience motivating millions of people, but GOP legislators and their staff have been successfully unmotivated to step up, make decisions based on facts, science, and research, and do right by Montana for decades.

Lunacy in the Legislature

Rep. David Howard (R-TEA Park City)The black helicopters are circling this session, especially around the tin-foil bedecked head of one T.E.A. Party Republican, Rep. David Howard, who (mis)represents the voters of the Park City Montana area, House District 60.

Howard bills always draw the craziest supporting testimony, and House Bill 274 which was heard on Jan 27 in the House Judiciary Committee, is no exception.

In fact, check out the video below, in which a supporter of this David Howard bill  makes one of the most outlandish claims heard in the Montana legislature to date, and in this session, that’s really saying something.

Rep. Howard’s bill would encourage the harassment of anyone that appears to be something other than Caucasian (read Indians) by encouraging Montanans to file complaints about anyone they believe could be an immigrant working without documentation.  Every single complaint would have to be investigated by the state, even those based purely on race, appearance, and language. After a complaint is filed, businesses would have to defend themselves in an administrative tribunal.  (No word on who would be running the shop on their absence.)

This bill would even allow complaints to be filed based on rumor and speculation. People of color, those who do not speak English, or anyone who “appears” to be foreign will be harmed.  (The fact is, most illegal immigrants in Montana are Canadians, but hey, whatever.)  This would probably lead to harassment of Indians by mouthbreathers, though Indians are the least foreign of anyone in Montana, as they were obviously here first.

The bill also requires every business in the state to sign up for a national database to track citizens.  The system has high error rates and incident testing has shown significant employer abuses, according to opponents of the bill.  Just the kind of thing Montanans (don’t) love.

The video above is an excerpt of a Youtube video originally created by Helena, MT attorney Shahid Haque-Hausrath, of the Border Crossing Law Firm, P.C. Thanks to Mr. Haque-Hausrath for creating the video to help expose the racist testimony and legislation being proposed in the Montana legislature.  You’ll want to watch the full video here, which has lots of crazy, ignorant and racist testimony. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teqRzK…

Who Did Rehberg Spend SOTU ‘Date Night’ With? Teabaggers!

For Tuesday’s State of the Union Address, Montana’s millionaire Congressman was one of the few members of Congress who thought it best to sit with his right-wing buddies instead of reaching across the aisle.

Rehberg at the State of the Union Speech...is that Alexander and Scalise he's sitting next to?Look closely at this photo, and you’ll see Dennis Rehberg (upper left, holding a sheet of paper) sandwiched between Congressmen Steve Scalise and Rodney Alexander, both Republicans from Louisiana, and both fellow members of the Tea Party Caucus.

After Dennis Rehberg refused to participate in the spirit of bipartisanship this week, he did admit the seating arrangement was a “big hit.”  Montana’s two Democratic senators, by the way, sat with Republicans.

But when asked by KECI, Rehberg tried to downplay the issue, saying he doesn’t think the seating chart should get so much publicity.  Maybe not, but if you don’t believe in bipartisanship, you’re going to need a better excuse than this:

“Frankly most of the conversations in Washington aren’t necessarily Republican versus Democrat.  What we find is urban versus rural.”

Really?  Maybe that’s why Rehberg voted twice against New York City’s 9/11 emergency responders.  And it looks he’s having a tough time trying to explain those votes, and his lawsuit against Billings firefighters, to Montanans these days…

Nutwatch: An Analysis

Montana’s TEA Partiers seem obsessed with making Montana into the mecca for right-wing nutters.

The legislature is no exception.   The same day that the state TEA Party Republicans pushed a radical Arizona-style immigration law, they embraced the “birther” conspiracy about President Barack Obama. The Flathead Beacon reported today that state House TEA Party Republican Bob Wagner (R-Harrison) has introduced a birther bill would require Obama and any future federal candidate to show her birth certificate to order to be included on the ballot in the presidential election.

But the birther bill could potentially backfire against the Montana GOP if the public comes to believe that such nutty extremism drives their whole agenda. While the TEA Party wing of the MT GOP has yet to explicitly link its birther bill with the anti-immigration, black helicopter, anti-UN, anti-victims of domestic violence, anti-Indian, anti-vaccine and other conspiracy theory based legislation, it seems clear that all of these initiatives spring from the same desire to play to the right-wing base. The same GOP lawmakers are behind most of the proposals, after all.

By the way, isn’t the fact that Obama’s “illegal” human (as the Helena IR would write) status old news by now? How is Rep. Wagner just now getting around to pandering to the crazies about this? He just likes the Constitution you say?  Sure, he loves it. He loves it so much he chopped it up into pieces, put it in the blender, and freebased it with a little baking soda.

But these bills won’t improve the lives the state’s crackpot conspiracy theorists and TEA party ralliers-nor will they create higher paying jobs or attract innovative businesses to Montana. They will simply humiliate the legislators who’ve endorsed the measures by making them (and our state) the laughingstocks of the nation-a task they set out upon achieving even before they were elected. The birther bill–and the other black helicopter, Area 51-level conspiracy, racist, sexist and fundi bills–are all forms of reactionary hysteria, but much of this legislation could actually cause profound substantive harm to Montana residents.

The more these ideas are linked, the better.

TEA Party Republican Legislator Explains His Opposition to Improving Access to Voting

The Billings Gazette reported this week that the bill by Secretary of State Linda McCulloch to allow for statewide voting by mail is advancing with bipartisan support.  But one Republican who voted against the proposal was Derek Skees (R-TEA Whitefish Kalispell).

In the House State Admin committee on January 24, Skees explained his opposition, which is transcribed below:

I’m all about getting out the vote, but I think getting out the vote is an educational component, not a easing down to the least common denominator and allowing everybody who is a procrastinator to vote. To vote is one of our sacred duties in this Republic, and it is something that those of us that consistently do it take it deadly serious.

We’ll make sure that our registration is up to date that our precinct numbers is up to date, and we’ll make sure that the county has our addresses up to date.

We’ll follow the issue, go to every single one of the forums and we’ll vet our candidates and have a really good decision before the primary and before the general elections.

Those are the people who should vote. We should educate everybody to think and behave that way because it is such an august responsibility for us to do it.  All we’re doing is dropping it down to people who vote on one issue, and they are not fully informed on other issues.

And we’re making it easier for the less informed to vote. I would like to improve the less informed, but I think we should do it through education, not by dumbing down the electoral process. With that in mind, I intend to vote against this bill.

Mr. Skees, I hate to break it to you, but uninformed voters are the very folks who put you in office.

Other Republicans who voted against the bill include:  Reps. Gerald Bennett of Libby; Joanne Blyton of Joliet; Dan Kennedy of Laurel; James Knox of Billings (by proxy); and Tom McGillvray of Billings.

Today’s Must Read Posts on the Montana Legislature

More connections between the legislative philosophy of Derek Skees and Rick Breckenridge (R-TEA Whitefish Kalispell, the major sponsor of the conference that featured white supremacists neo nazis and militia leaders are reviewed at the Flathead Memo, with video.

And over at Intelligent Discontent, where pretty much everything is a “must-read” Pogie gives us a look into the training of the minds that make our laws in two posts.  Be afraid. Be very afraid.

UPDATE: The Flathead Beacon has the story of Peterson’s rebuke of Skees, with a transcript.

Don’t Worry About the Taxpayer-Funded Lobbyists, They’re Still Making Bank

Montanans are watching as the budgets for public school classrooms and care for the elderly and disabled are slashed even as the state has a $300 million surplus.  As the Missoulian reports:

“This is really unnecessary,” said Rep. Trudi Schmidt, D-Great Falls. “It’s too soon to make any drastic cuts. It’s premature. …

“Why this, when we have a balanced budget (proposed by Schweitzer)? It is unbelievable. If you were concerned about the citizens of this state, you wouldn’t be doing this.”

With the total lack of logic going into the GOP’s budget cuts, people are worried–and they should be.

But for those who are looking for something to be hopeful about but also for inspiration, for the knowledge that even if they’re doomed–there are Montanans out there who are totally unaffected by any of the cuts. Take heart. Many a low-income senior will be weeping tears of joy into his can of cat food today, as he learns that yes, lobbyists for the Montana School Boards Association can still find lucrative six-figure salaries denying unemployment benefits to victims of domestic violence right here in Montana.  And their funding comes from dues paid to them by local school districts, with your money.

You were probably pretty worried about the Republican lobbyist/ex-school administrator/think-tanking class all going unemployed once the Republicans slashed school budgets–it has been a rough three weeks since the session started.  Likely some at the MTSBA had to dip into the strategic gold reserves that they have hoarded in their basements — but you will be happy to know that they’re all going to be fine, just fine.

So go out and tell those worried about kids, seniors, and the disabled to stop being such Debbie Downers.

Best Stupid Quotation of the Montana Legislative Session, to Date

The Montana Legislature has not brought us much in terms of wisdom and enlightenment, but so far, it has been…entertaining.  Here are some highlighted stupid quotations said during the business of making Montana law.  Vote for your favorite or add your own in the comments.

1-Keith Regier – (R-Outer Space) On the floor of the House of Representatives, compares Montana women to cattle when arguing for his bill to have the government decide when to force women to bear children.

“Ranchers refer to cows as either preg-tested or open.  Preg-tested cows bring a higher price than open cows.”

Yep, and if you rape a woman you owe her dad 50 pieces of silver.  That’s in the Bible.  You believe women are property.  We get it.  You can’t fix stupid.

You can hear Rep. Regier utter these brilliant words to support his backdoor attempt to take away women’s privacy rights during the House Floor Session on 1/20/2011 Listen Watch, and in the House Judiciary committee on 1/11/2011 Listen.

2-Jason Priest (R-Red Lodge)

“I didn’t want to make changes to someone else’s health care without it being the same as mine.”

These impressive words exited Priest’s mouth to explain why he accepted the Cadillac government health care plan for state legislators, even though he is sponsoring bills to undo “health care reform.”

3-Senator Anders Blewett (D-Great Falls), in tears, speaking about Senator Shockley’s resignation as the chair of the Senate Judiciary committee:

“I don’t think anybody who is here is an angel,” said Sen. Anders Blewett, D-Great Falls. “We’re taking on some important public policy. I think that each of us is probably a hypocrite in some way or another. “

Stupid speaks for itself.  State Sen. Jim Shockley, ticketed last week for having an open container of alcohol in his car,  was correct when he said it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to chair the panel as it dealt with numerous bills to crack down on drunken driving in the state.

4 – Billings Representative Elsie Arntzen wants to wants to extend unemployment benefits for victims of domestic violence to teachers.  Nothing stupid there, rather, Artzen’s bill is logical and compassionate.  The stupid comes from Bob Vogel, swank lobbyist for the Montana School Board’s Association, which says that allowing teachers the same benefits as others when they are victims of domestic violence:

“isn’t a good idea.” 

You know what isn’t a good idea?   Believing that the MTSBA are advocates for education.

Skees Forgets Himself in Chamber, and Confirms His Ties to Militia/White Nationalist Fringe

During the 2010 campaign, when Derek Skees (TEA-Whitefish Kalispell) was confronted by the press about his attendance at a conference that featured white supremacists neo nazis and militia leaders, he brushed it off and said he had no idea that the conference would be featuring such people when he accepted the invitation. Skees was also confronted by the fact that his campaign treasurer, a man named Rick Breckenridge, was one of the conference’s chief sponsors. In response, Skees replaced Breckenridge, presumably as a way of showing that he did not tolerate such hateful activity.

So with that background, enjoy this clip of Skees on the floor of the house January 17, posted online here.

UPDATE: The video appears to be back up.  When you click the link, you’ll get to a page that looks like the screenshot below.  Click “Full Video” (above “Order of Business”) and fast forward to 1:20:55.  (Oh, first you may want to download the terrible application “Real Player” because the legislature uses this terrible video format dot-rm that is not readily viewable with modern equipment that anyone uses.)

UPDATE: You can listen to the  Skees and Breckenridge audio clip here. It’s only a few seconds long.

Calling It Like It Is

The values that the Democrats and Republicans are talking about this session should lead to some common ground:

Governor Schweitzer is focused on higher paying jobs.  So are  Sen. Carol Williams of Missoula, the Senate Minority Leader, and Rep. Jon Sesso of Butte, the House Minority Leader, who co-wrote a guest editorial that highlighted the economic climate that brings higher paying jobs.

From the opinion in today’s IR:

We see a state that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranked No. 1 for entrepreneurs and business start-ups. We see a state that Forbes magazine called one of the fastest climbers among business-friendly states. We see a state with the fastest growing oil production in the nation. We see a state that just opened its first new coal mine in 29 years, producing 235 good jobs. In Butte, we’re proud of the new foundry and 60 workers that are making titanium parts for customers around the world.

Meanwhile, however, the GOP message is all over the place.

First, leader Millburn says Republicans aren’t focused on social issues.  Right.  Next thing you know, a chunk of Republicans runs out with a big media circus all about….chipping away at constitutional rights.

Then another Republican faction claims they are all about the Constitution and forms its own caucus.  Meanwhile, some Republicans are working in committees to lie about the state of the budget in order to make massive cuts to essential services for schools, the elderly and the disabled.

Cuts that aren’t justified given, as Williams and Sesso point out, that last session Schweitzer and the dems:

Passed a balanced budget and left $300 million in the bank to ride out the downturn we saw coming. We’re still in the black today, and the budget we pass for the next two years will keep us there. At the same time, we will eliminate the business equipment tax for most small businesses, reduce homeowners’ property taxes, and keep a healthy balance (more than $100 million) in savings to protect against any more bumps in the road.