Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Bridges of Madison County (and a Tea Party Imbecile)

Montana Representative "Birther" Bob WagnerRepublican Bob Wagner, legislator from Madison County and a half-literate rube Tea Partier who likes to draw national attention to himself, is in the news again.

You will recall that as a legislator, he sponsored a “birther bill” to prevent Obama from being legally allowed to run for president in 2012. He even appeared on Anderson Cooper 360, but forgot to rehearse answers to basic questions and ended up humiliating himself in front of a national audience and turning the Montana GOP into a national joke.

Now, Wagner has outdone himself. A while back, the Governor line-item-vetoed some money the legislature made available for Wagner’s district, for local projects lie bridges and water treatment. Why? Because Wagner voted against the funding. Presumably, if a legislator doesn’t want money for his district, it is because his constituents have expressed to him that they don’t want it either. So Schweitzer figured if the folks in Madison county didn’t want the funds, why not save the money and keep the budget balanced? So he used a line-item veto to delete the funding.

But it turns out that Wagner’s constituents aren’t too happy. They were banking on the funds for a local project. So it appears that when Wagner voted against the funding, he was not voting the wishes of his district but was rather on some sort of frolic of his own.

Indeed, it seems that Tea Partiers were voting against any and all funding and spending of any kind during the legislature, as a matter of principal, while quietly hoping that the votes of more moderate legislators would be enough to pass the funding.

So now, The Madisonian reports, Wagner’s constituents have sued Schweitzer to try to get their money, claiming that he had no authority to veto the spending. Several other Tea Party legislators did the same thing as Wagner, and now these imbeciles, like Wagner, are also feeling heat from local officials in their districts.

You gotta love these guys. One wonders if these legislators, who apparently enjoy saying one thing when they are in their districts, but doing another when they are in Helena, will be invited back for another term.

Trampling on Our Rights

This week’s must read is a guest editorial in the Bozeman Chronicle by Blaine County Commissioner Vic Miller.   The well-written piece explains how Congressman Rehberg’s federal land grab bill amounts to trampling our rights to declare a police state over Glacier National Park, Indian reservations, and a vast swath of public lands. Commissioner Miller says:

it is exactly the kind of Big Government Montanans don’t tolerate. All of us should be up in arms over the prospect of this bill. It infringes on our constitutional rights in the name of freedom – much like the controversial REAL ID Act. In fact, this bill builds off of REAL ID.

Commissioner Miller knows what he’s talking about, he runs a county on the Hi-Line and deals with border issues as part of his job.   Don’t miss the piece on this bill up at Intelligent Discontent either.


Right Wing Pastor Caught Filching Victim Out of Life Savings

A Montana pastor renowned for his bigoted attacks on women and gays will be arrested for setting up fake companies to steal hundreds of thousands from a local man, the Missoulian reports.  Pastor Harris Himes is facing several felonies for theft and fraud.

Himes, who is from Hamilton, is leading the effort to pass a statewide abortion ban in Montana.  He lobbied heavily in the legislature for bills to repeal the ban against discrimination against gays, and tired to pass bills to eliminate Montana’s constitutional right to privacy. During the 2011 legislative session, he even told legislators that he believes gay people should be put to death.  Himes partnered with Republican nutjobs like Bob Wagner and Derek Skees to back outrageous proposals like the birther bill, among others.

Himes and another right-wing pastor who conspired with him in the scam lured the victim to an abandoned building in Mexico that they had claimed was the site of their “investment” and then left him.  This looks pretty bad.  Presumably when you steal money from a gringo and leave him in the middle of Mexico, you’re hoping he doesn’t make it back state-side to turn you in.

The scam was shut down by Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Monica Lindeen.


In its ever-delusional idea of its own moral authority, Montana Roman Catholic Bishops are hosting a conference on “abortion, ‘assisted-suicide’ and euthanasia,” the AP reports today.

As you probably already know, 34 Montanans have recently filed a lawsuit against the diocese in Helena over sexual abuse that they say they suffered at the hands of clergy in Western Montana.

The Bishops seem incredibly eager to either change the subject away from the abuse allegations—or perhaps to ignore it.

Here’s the problem.  Where are the overtures by the Bishops to work with these people to heal what the Church has done to them? Why is it a priority for the Bishops to go after the right of terminally ill Montanans? These are people who are in pain to choose to die in their own time and their own way.  Why is it okay to insert themselves into the bedrooms and doctors’ offices of Montana women–forcing them to bear children against their will…but not to fix what the years and years of wreckage to the lives of those they’ve hurt?

Today, a second child sex abuse lawsuit was filed against the Helena Diocese.

This Year’s Worst Political Ad

This is so random, so bizarre. It’s best just to watch.

After watching this, I can’t decide if TEA Party Republican state legislator Derek Skees is running for a statewide office (charged with regulating the insurance industry), or launching a pro-wrestling career. You be the judge.

Montana TEA Party Leaders Call for Violence Against Political Opponents

The leader of the Billings Montana Shrugged TEA Party and a TEA Party Republican state lawmaker have been caught posting remarks online that imply support for shooting their political opponents.

The incident comes on the heels of another Montana TEA Party scandal.  TEA Party leader Tim Ravndal was forced to resign after his comments about lynching gay people Matthew Shepard style were reported on blogs and in the state and national media.  The latest exchange, which was captured today via screenshot after it caught the sharp eye of Billings politico Kayla Corcoran, is pasted below.  Here’s the screenshot.

James Knox
Up in thought this AM. I often get up early and read, write and so on. Some of my most productive and peaceful moments are between 4 and 5 am… then the sun rises and I want to attack socialists!!!

Jennifer Olsen Totally agree. I’m the same way.

James Knox Kindred souls! Got ammo?

The TEA Party has a penchant for referring to its political opponents as socialists.  As the exchange continues, it becomes apparent that this isn’t rhetorical ammunition she’s talking about.  Here’s the Billings “Montana Shrugged” TEA Party leader again:

Jennifer Olsen Actually, I just bought more :) stocking up. For what…..I’m not entirely sure yet.

Jennifer Olsen That along with rice and beans is going in my safe. Haha, can’t barter with gold.

Ms. Corcoran calls them on the rhetoric.  One would think that this would be the time someone who wasn’t serious would apologize or attempt to clarify the statements as “jokes.”  Instead, Ms. Corcoran is told by Olsen and Knox that she’s the one in need of a reality check.

Kayla Corcoran Mr. Knox, you should be ashamed of yourself. This type of rhetoric is unacceptable, especially from an elected official.
Jennifer Olsen Kaya [sic] – are you serious? ·
James Knox Kayla go to someplace safe…..for your [sic] not in the real world!


After Ravndal was expelled from the Helena TEA Party for his violent bigoted remarks, Olsen spoke up.   But instead of condemning the call for violence against gays, Olsen expressed her support for Ravndal, as you can see from the screenshot here.   Olsen’s is the final comment in the thread.

Olsen signs the TEA Party blast emails and boasts of leading a group of some 3,000 activists.  She was a candidate for vice-chair of the Montana Republican party in 2011 and has filed to run in a contested seat for the Billings City Council.  The Montanafesto Blog also reported that Olsen is the administrator of the Ken Miller for Governor Facebook page. James Knox became one of the most radical TEA Party legislators in the state despite the fact that he was elected to represent a moderately democratic district in the Billings Heights in 2010.

A tip of the hat to Kayla for catching this.  Reader tips are the essence of this blog.  Send your tips to the tipline email here.

This Week’s Worst Political Ad

It’s hard to believe this has already started.  Ten months out from the primary election and one GOP primary candidate for Governor is already on the air.  The extreme earliness is part of why this Corey Stapleton ad is a problem.  When combined with the minute amount of airtime purchased–$15 grand on Monday night football–the ad’s impact is destined for the zero to negative range.  It’s like throwing money down the garbage disposal.

After the last web video he produced was criticized for being a poorly executed knock off of the Eminem Chrysler ad, he must have either switched media firms or ordered a change in direction.

But the new ad even worse.  Here’s why:

Stapleton is running at a time when generic politicians poll at an all time low.  So why would he put up an ad making him look like the very prototype of something people loathe? The generic politician effect is complete with platitudes like “pull ourselves up by the bootstraps” and affected gesturing at :09, :16, and :24.

The ad doesn’t do much for his image. The only thing that stands out in this ad is the wardrobe–and not in a good way.  Stapleton is young enough to own this style of stonewashed jeans, but not in-tune enough to know it’s time to stop wearing them. Is it the worst fashion crime ever committed? Of course not. But when you’ve got one shot at a first impression, why make a choice that distracts from your message. At least he didn’t mention his “childhood addiction.”

Back to the script.  Stapleton says “America is hurting.”  What does that even mean?

What’s hurting is this ad–hurting his chances of being taken seriously.  Stapleton ends with the line “I’ll be that kind of governor.” If he means the kind of governor represented by this ad, he’ll be a generic cliche of an unpopular politician–stuck in a past decade with no new ideas since his time in the legislature.  Not a TEA Partier, but a stock character of a politician at a time when the state wants anything but.


A Look at 2012’s Packed Ballot

There are no less than five citizen initiative proposals that Montanans are trying to get on the ballot though signature gathering campaigns.  This is in addition to the five bad ideas that TEA Party Republicans sent to the ballot to be voted on in 2012.

While people have a general impression that ballot initiatives “are good for turnout,” that’s actually not the case.  Studies have shown time again that while the ability to legislate from the ballot could impact turnout in midterm elections, but it has little or no effect during presidential elections like 2012.

The sheer number of initiatives on the ballot is what is interesting here. There are, so far, ten measures that could be on the ballot.  Five were referred by the legislature, and five are proposed by citizens who must first the signatures necessary.  The general rule of thumb is that the more measures on the ballot, the more likely people are to vote no.  This is partly because people would rather vote for the status quo (vote no) then vote to support something they feel they don’t have enough information on to make a decision.

In this case, since the initiatives are mostly (but not all) bad, this could work in progressives’ favor.  Take a look at what the TEA Party Republicans in the 2011 legislature put on the ballot.:
·    Denying services to undocumented immigrants
·    Gutting the right to medical privacy for women
·    Prohibiting the federal government from enforcing the individual mandate of the ACA
·    Politicizing the election of supreme court justices by district instead of statewide, and
·    Dismantling state government by requiring that money not appropriated by the legislature not be available to future legislatures

This final one might be the worst of the lot.  It would mean that even if there is a large budget surplus like the hundreds of millions we have now, and even if we vote to change the legislature to elect people that will use the surplus the fix the problems caused by the past legislature’s underfunding, our votes won’t matter.    The funding will be sent back to Exxon-Mobil, et al.  Your voice would be silenced.

Here’s an overview of what citizens are trying to get on the ballot–the entire list of proposed initiatives and legislative referenda can be found on the Secretary of State’s web site:

Jury Nullification
This is a proposal to allow juries to say, “the person is guilty, but we don’t like the law so we refuse to convict her.” If you believe that laws should be made under established, open and transparent and visible procedures (and in legislatures accountable to the electorate), you’re probably opposed to this idea.

It’s being pushed by Roger Roots, who the Montana Human Rights Network calls a “racist activist with Montana connections.” The Network became very familiar with Roots when he sued them for $3.7 million for libel in 1994. Roots lost. The Network reports that in 1996, Roger Roots held a rally with Rudy Stanko, a reverend for the racist World Church of the Creator.  Roots is listed as a contributing writer for the racist publication known as “The Jubilee.”

Abortion Ban
This has already failed twice to garner enough support to get on the ballot. In fact, it’s never even come close.  Still, there is no reasoning with fanatics. Despite the fact that according to the most recent polling, 78% of Americans want abortion to remain legal.

Medical Marijuana and Eminent Domain
Here’s where this gets interesting.  These campaigns are both attempts to block two bills passed by the legislature from becoming law.  The first is the unpopular Senate Bill 423, the Jeff Essmann medical marijuana disaster which passed with a veto-proof majority after the legislature voted down a slate of amendatory vetoes. The other is the new eminent domain bill, House Bill 198.

The medical marijuana campaign is expected to get enough signatures by the September 30th deadline.  The eminent domain bill is still uncertain.  Neither issue breaks down along traditional party lines lines. For example, those in favor of green energy and wind power may support the new eminent domain law because it allows transmission lines-the only way to get green energy to market.

On the other hand some environmentalists oppose it because they don’t want the line going through certain areas or because they see it as an increase in corporate power. Conservatives are also divided on the issue. TEA partiers like Art Wittich support the campaign to block the law, while other Republicans want to keep the new law in place.   The web site of the campaign to block the new eminent domain law can be viewed here,  and the site of the campaign to block the new medical marijuana law can be viewed here.

Legalization of Marijuana
Though this initiative has the odd title, “Constitutional right to alcohol and marijuana,”  apparently it is an attempt to get the state to legalize marijuana and treat it like alcohol.

Make it Harder for the Legislature to Change Initiatives
Finally, the initiative to “reserve to the people the power to amend or repeal laws passed by initiative” is a measure that the Billings Gazette reports would require the legislature to send changes or repeal of citizen’s initiatives back to the voters.

Stunning Poll Results, From A Ten-State Survey

I received the following chart today, which gives the results of a recently completed survey of voters in ten states.  It was commissioned by a consortium of groups, including the Montana Policy Institute, a conservative group based in Bozeman.  The poll says that 83% of Montanans believe that state government is being run efficiently, and 55% believe Montana’s economy is on the right track. Montana leads the other states in both categories.

Might I remind everyone that these attitudes about the efficacy of state government are coming at a time when the entire executive branch of Montana is controlled by Democrats?

Two questions were asked: 1) Do you believe that the economy in your state is headed in the right direction or wrong direction?  2) Do you believe your state government is being run efficiently or inefficiently? Here are the ten state results.  Montana is highest in both categories, by a mile.

FL 27% YES 63% NO 47% YES 51% NO
IL 23% YES 74% NO 23% YES 76% NO
IN 28% YES 53% NO 77% YES 16% NO
MI 23% YES 56% NO 41% YES 53% NO
NY 26% YES 58% NO 62% YES 37% NO
MT 55% YES 37% NO 83% YES 17% NO
NC 18% YES 70% NO 55% YES 39% NO
OH 20% YES 71% NO 49% YES 42% NO
PA 29% YES 62% NO 45% YES 53% NO
WI 39% YES 51% NO 57% YES 37% NO

Almost nothing in politics ever polls at 83%.  If a politician jumped into an icy river to save a grandma from drowning, and voters were asked if they approve or disapprove of her actions, it would probably poll only 80-20.  So the 83% percent number is really astounding.  Alas, all of this is terrible news for the Montana Tea Party and the GOP. Montana Teabaggers and Republicans spend their days frothing and foaming and ranting and raving, blurting out lies to crowds filled with angry imbeciles, about how state Government is spending too much money, taxing too much, and regulating too much. None of this information appears to be working. These lies are not affecting voters. Voters like what they are seeing.  So Montana Democrats must now take these poll results, and stuff them down the throats, and up the asses, of their right-wing critics, to victory in 2012.

Montana GOP Campaign Gimmick Backfires

A Republican Party campaign stunt designed to make Montanans think Senator Jon Tester was hiding his position on an issue has had some unintended consequences.

The MTGOP sent out an email saying they were offering a $100 dollar prize to anyone who could get Tester’s position an Obama administration proposal.

So Tester’s campaign spokesperson did so and claimed the prize.  If he doesn’t have to split the hundred bucks with the media outlet who ridiculed the gimmick, he says the money will be donated to the Billings Fire Department to help offset legal fees incurred by the taxpayers over Congressman Rehberg’s lawsuit. Said Aaron Murphy:

“The Montana GOP can make its check payable to the Billings Fire Department to help with legal fees brought on by Congressman Dennis Rehberg’s lawsuit against firefighters.”