Monthly Archives: December 2012

Divorced from Reality

When the Daily Inter Lake asked Rep. Jerry O’Neil yesterday about the Newtown school shooting tragedy, the Columbia Falls Republican responded with his concerns about divorce.

O’Neil noted that Connecticut gunman Adam Lanza, 20, was from a divorced home. Lanza apparently got the weapons he used from his mother, who enjoyed shooting sports. He shot her to death in her bed and then went to the school.

O’Neil claimed his divorce law would keep more families together, but it never passed.

Rep O’Neil believes that it is too easy for women to get a divorce in Montana.  He was a big supporter of House Bill 438 which has been repeatedly voted down by his own colleagues.   Under the proposed law, women would be required to remain married to drug addicts, those who gamble away the family’s life savings, drug dealers, criminals, and just plain bad people–until they had undergone eight weeks mandatory counseling.

Jerry O'NeilTo be sure, Rep. O’Neil believes divorce isn’t the only cause of school shootings in America.  He believes they are caused by too few, rather than too many, guns in schools. He supports legislation to turn teachers into armed soldiers.

But O’Neil doesn’t stop there.   The Montana Republican told the birther website World Net Daily today that he is pushing for two new amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The amendments would make it more difficult for the federal government to regulate firearms and to sign international arms treaties.

O’Neil is concerned about “the growing power of international treaties” and wants to amend the U.S. Constitution to prevent international treaties from being “used to override the U.S. Constitution”–and its second amendment. O’Neil says his other proposal “gives the states the right to make whatever guns they want so long as [firearms] stay inside the[sic] own borders.”

TEA Party Fact Check

Annie BukacekMontana right-wingers are continuing to offer their “solutions” to the Newtown shooting, but those solutions aren’t getting any more credible.

The latest to offer her views is Annie Bukacek.  Bukacek [pronounced BOO'-kuh-check] uses a discredited study to argue on the TEA Party blog PolyMontana this week that the solution to the Newton tragedy is to get a concealed weapon into the hands of as many people as possible.

“Think about it” writes Bukacek. “A criminal planning to commit murder in a public place has to worry that anyone in the area might have a gun. That’s why most mass shootings occur in “gun-free zones.”

She’s pushing for a change in Montana law to get more concealed weapons on the street. A similar law failed to pass the Bat Crap Crazy session of 2011 and is being brought back from the dead by TEA Party Republican and chair of the House Judiciary Committee Krayton Kerns of Laurel.

Bukacek’s screed cites a study which she claims shows that allowing everyone to carry a concealed weapon without a permit reduces mass shootings.  But the supposed study she cites is a fraud.   It’s author, John Lott has been caught using fraudulent data (and lying about it to cover his tracks) in his concealed-carry studies. In fact, the National Research Council’s Committee to Improve Research Information and Data on Firearm examined the research conducted by John Lott and others on concealed-carry laws and found “no credible evidence that the passage of right-to-carry laws decreases or increases violent crime.”

This isn’t the first time Bukacek has been caught using fraudulent information to make her case. Earlier this year the failed anti-abortion crusader and AFP spokesperson appears to have delivered false testimony before the Montana Legislature. On January 21, 2011, Bukacek testified before the state Senate Public Health Committee in favor of SB-161, a bill to nullify federal health care laws, and cited “statistics from a 2010 Investor’s  Business Daily article based on a survey  by the United Nations International Health Organization.”

The article and study she cited then do not even exist, actually, nor does the organization she cites.  In fact, this non-existent study is one that right wing activists have been citing across America, in hearings, in articles, on websites.  It’s become an internet meme.  But it’s a big canard, according to the Center for Public Integrity.    There is neither a study nor even a group called the United Nations International Health Organization.

Sadly, Ms. Bukacek is a licensed physician in the state of Montana, albeit with a religious twist–her clinic, which closed down, was called “Hosanna Healthcare.”  She was also investigated for Medicaid fraud, but she claims it was because she prayed with patients.

Bukacek will no doubt be back in the capitol building this session peddling her unique brand of misinformation and conspiracy theories to the right wing of the GOP. This year, however, they won’t have an excuse to buy it.

Baucus Staffers Depart; the Door Revolves

The National Journal today reports that Max Baucus is losing staff at a rapid pace.  How this exodus bears on the odds of a Baucus re-election in 2014 is anybody’s guess.

But we know how ordinary tax-paying citizens are faring.

His chief-of-staff has announced that he’s leaving to take a job with a “strategic intelligence firm.”  Strategic intelligence firms are companies that use all sorts of channels, and sometimes espionage-like techniques, to get valuable information for which Wall Street investors will pay a king’s ransom.  This is not “insider information” per se; it’s all legal, due to shady loopholes in the law.   And one such type of “intelligence” is the advance notice, beloved by hedge funds and other Wall Street bigwigs, of how Congress might act on a matter under consideration.   Someone with inside knowledge of how a vote is going to turn out, or whether an amendment will live or die, or even what type of language will be inserted into a bill, can sell this information to an investor who can then trade on the information (sell certain defense contractor stocks, for example, if it looks like Congress is about to vote to cut funding for fighter jets).  And “intelligence firms” have made an industry out of gathering this type of up-to-the-minute information on bill status.  60 Minutes did an excellent piece on this scam, and you should watch it. We don’t know for certain that Max’s chief-of-staff will be doing this type of stuff, but it’s hard to imagine that he won’t be.  Its not lobbying, either.  It’s not asking anything of congress other than information.

And another top aide, Baucus’s tax expert on the Finance Committee who shuattled back and forth between Congress and the private sector for many years, is going private once again. Don’t be surprised if he ends up at a company that has benefited handsomely from tax breaks given out by the finance committee over the years.

It’s important to understand that this profit-making careerism has enormous negative repercussions for average Americans.  Tax breaks for major corporations (the chief currency for revolving door specialists) come at the expense of ordinary taxpayers, who must make up the difference to fund government.   Similarly, if you are a person of ordinary means and own stock in a company, any advance notice about some decision that your elected representative might take that will affect the price of your stock should be as available to you as it is to an investment banker who hires snoops to troll around Congress.

MT Republican Legislator Wants More Guns in Schools

Rep. David Howard (R-Park City) believes that school shootings in America are caused by too few, rather than too many, guns in school. He wants to know why the sign on the right isn’t posted in front of ever school in America.

On his Facebook page, Howard explains his views on gun free schools:

This is like zebra’s declaring a section of the Serengeti to be a Lion free zone! They would go out and mark the boundaries, lie down and relax. The lions on the other hand, would be rejoicing and putting out signs that would say “Defenseless Stupid Zebra’s Ahead”.

The godless liberals are forcing America’s kids to be sitting ducks. Sad!

Rep. David Howard (R-TEA Park City)Howard is backing a piece of legislation, along with other Montana Republicans, that would allow students and teachers to bring side arms to school.  This is one of several measures that the GOP believes will make for a safer society.  The other is a bill to allow concealed weapons in bars, banks, schools and state government buildings.  These were vetoed by Schweitzer last session, and will likely be vetoed again.

What Howard and company cannot come to terms with is this basic fact: that in places like Sweden, Finland, Canada, Germany, England and many other strong democracies, there is plenty of hunting and gun ownership, but virtually no school shootings and in fact barely any gun violence at all.  And no, they don’t accomplish it by arming elementary school students.  They do it through common sense regulation.  No assault weapons, no gun show loopholes where you can pay cash for a gun without any record of the transaction.  No 100-round clips of ammo.

The fun part of the upcoming legislative session will be to observe the diminished power that Gary Marbut will wield.  Marbut runs an outfit called Montana Shooting Sports Association, a group he formed to compete with the NRA which he views as too liberal an organization.  He wants guns everywhere, and is the force behind bills like the ones that Howard is pushing.  But it’s crazy stuff that even Montanans, who are gun purists, don’t really go in for.

Rep. Howard is the Chair of the House Human Services Committee of the Montana Legislature.

Here’s a screenshot of Rep. Howard’s post:

 

 

 

MT Republicans Reload with Wacky Gun Bills

Ted WashburnRepublican leaders are scrambling to prevent party members from discussing their new wacky gun proliferation ideas in public, but that hasn’t stopped GOP lawmakers from trying to pass them into law.

Already, Montana legislators are introducing what appear to be some of the exact same bills that went down in flames last session. We’ll know more when the drafts of these bills are made public, but here’s what’s out there so far:

Rep. Ted Washburn (R-Bozeman) is again proposing to legalize hunting with silencers.

Rep. Krayton Kerns (R-Laurel) is bringing back the bill to allow anybody to carry a concealed weapon around without a permit.  (He’s also brought back the bill to give local sheriffs authority over the federal government in terror investigations.)

Alan DoaneAnd new Rep. Alan Doane (R-Bloomfield) wants to “Encourage manufacture of ammunition in Montana to ensure availability.”

This is only the beginning.  The legislative session doesn’t even start until January 7.

 

Sports-minded and Fun

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was forced to come out yesterday and plead with fellow Republicans to be more “circumspect” when they talk about guns.

It’s not helpful” for GOP lawmakers to be speaking publicly about some of their ideas right now, he said.  Boehner’s pleading is a little late.  In the wake of the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, several GOP lawmakers are now calling for arming teachers as a way to prevent mass shootings 

Bringing guns into schools is also a pet project of Montana Republicans.  Just last session, Republicans in the Montana legislature pushed a bill to allow guns in schools (House Bill 558).

And who could forget the fundamentalist Christian school in Montana that decided to raffle off a semi-automatic assault rifle as a school fundraiser this fall.

Stillwater Christian School obtained the assault rifle came from the NEMO rifle plant. Family members of former gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill’s running mate Jon Sonju are NEMO executives.

In addition to bidding on the assault rifle, you could also attend the schools “Stillwater Shootout” fundraising event down at the shooting range in Kalispell, MT.

School officials said they didn’t see a problem raising money with a semi-automatic assault rifle raffle. Rather, they called it “sports-minded and fun.”

This Christian private school doesn’t just work to instill these beliefs into the young minds of school children, it also gets involved in elections.  This year, school leaders sent out an email before the primary urging GOP primary voters to oppose non-TEA Party candidates.

With the hard-right wing now calling the shots, hardly surprising that GOP legislators didn’t just stop with their bill to allow guns in schools.  Montana Republicans also tried to pass new laws last session to:

Lift the prohibition on carrying concealed weapons in bars, churches, banks, and government buildings. (House Bill 384)

Create fully-armed militia in every town (House Bill 278)

Allow anybody to carry a concealed weapon around without a permit.  (House Bill 271)

Force employers to allow employees to bring guns to work in their cars. (House Bill 368)

Legalize hunting with silencers (House Bill 174)

And when they ran out of gun bill ideas, they tried to legalize hunting with hand-thrown spears (Senate Bill 112)

This is not a joke. These were real bills put forward by Republicans in the Montana legislature, unencumbered by common sense.   Republicans can’t say the public has no reason to fear their proposals when they seem to fear open debate of what they truly believe.

Huckabee Identifies Cause of School Shooting

What caused the horrific school shooting in Connecticut?

Mike Huckabee, who was actually the former governor of Arkansas, has the answer.   Huckabee went on FoxNews to share his wisdom with the world.

It’s birth control, which Huckabee calls “abortion pills.” Ninety-eight percent of women will use birth control  at some point in their lives.

Huckabee also claims lawsuits to remove Christmas decorations are to blame.

“Well the predictable left lit up the airwaves and blogosphere with a violent vicious reaction and jumped to the conclusion that I said if we had prayer in school the shooting would not have happened.

Well I said nothing of the sort.  It’s far more than just taking prayer or bible reading out of the schools. It’s the fact that people sue the city if they are confronted with a manger scene or a Christmas carol–that lawsuits are filed to remove a cross that’s a memorial to fallen soldiers.

Churches and Christian businesses are told the surrender their values under the edict of government orders to provide tax funded abortion pills.”

 

The Bathroom Problem

Let’s cut to the chase.  In the three hours of testimony for and against the Helena non-discrimination ordinance, a compelling problem was delineated by the opponents.

Even though hundreds of municipalities, including many major cities–and entire states–have without incident outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, it appears that if Helena decides to offer this legal protection, it will result in an epidemic of predatory transgender flashers, running rampant, showing their genitals to women and children in the ladies room.

That’s the basic talking point that was delivered over and over again by opponent testimony.

One woman even proclaimed that she would never shop again in Helena (no tears here) if the ordinance passed.

So for her, and the other who are convinced that public bathrooms will now resemble bathhouses,  I suggest this product.

Don’t Ever Forget the 2002 Oval Office Incident

People are sometimes baffled by the GOP’s willingness to go to the mat for tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of America.  It makes no economic sense, no political sense, no moral sense, for a political party to expend so much capital on behalf of this tiny elite fraction of the nation, at the expense of the other 98% who are often strapped for cash and could use some help.

Perhaps I can shed some light on this question.  Below, for anybody that has never read about it, is the famous exchange that took place in the Oval office in 2002 just after the GOP had taken over Congress in the mid-term elections.  Having cut income taxes in 2001 in a way that  disproportionately favored wealthy Americans, the Bush Administration now proposed a second round of tax cuts.   The Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, came to the White House to talk it over with Bush, Cheney, Rove and the rest. O’Neill was fearful that a new round of tax cuts would balloon the deficit and cause an unstable economic bubble.  Here is the account of that meeting, from a book review in The Guardian of “The Price of Loyalty,” a book by Ron Suskind about O’Neill’s rocky tenure as treasury secretary:

The administration, as described by O’Neill, was … fixated on granting unprecedented tax cuts to the nation’s richest people who had bankrolled its election campaign. It was not prepared to listen to an anxious Treasury secretary warning of dangerously ballooning deficits. The president was “clearly signing on to strong ideological positions that had not been fully thought through”, Mr O’Neill says…

When the Treasury secretary went to the Oval Office for weekly discussions, he found he did all the talking. “I wondered from the first, if the president didn’t know the questions to ask,” he tells Suskind, “or if he did know and just did not want to know the answers?

”The one time the president does become engaged in economic policy discussion in Suskind’s book, it is to question the orthodoxy of his own administration’s policy during a White House discussion of a second round of tax cuts in November 2002, following triumphal midterm election results.

According to Suskind, who says he has a transcript of the meeting, the president asks: “Haven’t we already given money to rich people? This second tax cut’s gonna do it again.”

The president suggests instead: “Shouldn’t we be giving money to the middle?” But Rove, who has masterminded Bush’s election campaigns since his days in Texas, jumps in at this point in the transcript to urge the president: “Stick to principle. Stick to principle.” “He says it over and over again,” Suskind said. “Don’t waver. This is our due.”

 

O’Neill was forced out a few months later.

And you should know that Montana Republicans follow this same moral code.  One example that comes to mind is the business property tax.  Several times over the last few years, the Democrats have offered up bills to cut the business property tax for small business owners.  The GOP, each time, has expressed a willingness to go along with it, but only on the condition that all businesses get the tax cut.  That includes–ready for this–Exxon Mobil and Conoco Phillips, who own refineries in the state.