Monthly Archives: February 2013

UPDATED: Busted! Student comes forward, fingers Olsen

Watermelongate Solved

by Cowgirl

A young conservative says he was friends with the Chair of the Yellowstone County Republican Party, Jennifer Olsen, on Facebook, and that he received Olsen’s racist Facebook post in his news feed. He even took a screenshot of the incident.

Russ Hart, who is a student, also says that he sent Olsen a message questioning her about the offensive photo (showing an animal trap with a watermelon as bait, and entitled as an “Obama trap”), asking her “are you kidding me?” and that Olsen responded “I just couldn’t resist, LOL.”

He has presented the evidence to Adrian Jawort of the Billings Outpost. Jawort was the first print reporter to break the story.  It ran in the Billings Outpost, Montana’s leading independent weekly, several days before the Gazette ran a piece online and in the Saturday paper.

The lastest development was revealed today in The Outpost print edition which is (UPDATEnow online.  Good Job, Adrian. Outpost editor David Crisp also has some good commentary on the whole debacle on the Billings Blog.

This would suggest that Olsen, head of the Yellowstone County Republican Party, is full of crap (as we have all suspected she is) when she makes her vague allegation that the photo might have been posted to her account without her authority.

It was Hart who sent the screenshot of the whole incident to Nicole French who runs the Montanafesto blog, who published it two weeks ago but, like a good ethical journalist, refused to reveal her source even as she was taking incoming fire, from many Republicans including Olsen.   Now the source (Hart) is talking publicly.  French thus appears to be vindicated. Olsen had accused her of “fabricating” the screenshot.

The Yellowstone County GOP, meanwhile, has claimed that it will not take action against Olsen until it has “completed an investigation” of the matter.  But you will excuse me for chortling at the image of an “investigation” mounted by a bunch of Tea Partiers walking around wearing sidearms.


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More Junk Science from the GOP

by Cowgirl

Today’s TEA Party Republican idiocy comes from David Halvorson (R-Sidney). Speaking on the floor of the Montana House of Representatives, this former director of Montana Right-to-Life offered fake “scientific information” he’d found on the Internet shows “the evil, the absolute evil” that results from allowing women to decide whether and when they will have children.

Halvorson held forth on the classic crank argument that “abortion causes cancer,” and that women who get abortions are “six times more likely to commit suicide.”

As for his scientific evidence, Halvorson, a former voice over performer, argued that his claims are “substantiated by published literature” from a “prestigious” organization. By this he means The Elliot Institute–they’re behind the document Halvorson theatrically brandishes in the video.

This institute is little more than one imbecile who writes papers based on junk science, a man named David Reardon.  Reardon received his “doctorate in biomedical ethics” from an on-line, unaccredited institution, and it shows.   The Elliot Institute doesn’t follow the peer review process in scientific publishing that is designed to maintain standards and further the discovery of scientific truth.  And in its “studies” the institute cites nothing other than it’s own previous articles or letters-to-the-editor, as evidence.

So either Halvorson is incapable of discerning the difference between junk science and otherwise, or he is deliberately using junk science to deceive his colleagues into passing a bill that the legislature’s own attorneys say is unconstitutional, HB 391.

In fact, there is NO association between abortion and cancer, nor any scientific evidence that abortion is hazardous to mental health.

There is an entire body of actual science to back this up. Consider the National Cancer Institute, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology,  California Teacher’s study of 10,000 women, the Nurse’s Health Study II, which included over 100,000 women, and the EPIC Study (over 250,000 women.)  And just a few more: 1234567891011121314151617.

New Petition Backs Williams for Regents

by Cowgirl

There is a new petition (see below) circulating in support of former Democratic Congressman Pat Williams.  Williams is up for confirmation as a regents board appointee.

I for one support Williams, and so you should you all.  He has served this state, in one form or another, longer than just about anybody and as honorably as any public servant we’ve had.  And he has always championed progressive causes, often when it was not so popular to do so.  And his wife Carol has also been a devoted leader.   Anybody opposing Pat for the regents board is a fool. There isn’t anybody more qualified to sit as a regent than Pat Williams, period. We are lucky to have him.

And yet the word on the street is that there is a plot being hatched by GOP legislators to try to take him down, or at least to try to bruise him during his upcoming confirmation hearing.  This grows out of a silly episode from a month or so ago, when somebody in Missoula, upset at Williams’s use of the word “thugs” to describe the football athletes who have been implicated in campus rape cases, began a petition drive to oust Williams.  This is pettiness at its finest.

Now Williams supporters are countering with a petition of their own.    Here it is.  Sign it today, and consider it 15 seconds well spent.

Tea Party Proposes Law to Invalidate Police Roadblocks

by Cowgirl

Former legislator Joel Boniek

Former legislator Joel Boniek

Sen. Jennifer Fielder R-TEA Noxon

Sen. Jennifer Fielder R-TEA Noxon

Last year in Montana, a right-wing lunatic state legislator named Joel Boniek was hauled into court to answer charges that he’d sped through a roadblock in defiance of an officer’s order to keep out.  Boniek was trying to get to his house, but his house was in an area where a forest fire was burning and had been evacuated and blocked off due to the emergency.  As a devoted Tea Partier and general wingnut, Boniek did not recognize the authority of the policeman to keep him away from his private property. Also, during his encounter with the officer before he crashed the barrier, Boniek allegedly reached for a gun that he had with him in the front seat. As the Livingston Enterprise reports, he:

“allegedly argued with the officers and eventually ‘dropped his left hand near what looked like a holster’ before a deputy brought him to the ground….The deputy removed a loaded handgun from the holster, according to court documents.”


For his day in court, Boniek brought with him an angry mob of supporters, who shouted down the Judge and Prosecutor in such a menacing way that they fled the courtroom fearing for their safety.  At that point, Boniek stood up and proclaimed himself regent over the courtroom, and decreed himself innocent of all the charges (before the bailiff told him otherwise, while brandishing his own weapon).

Boniek is no longer in the legislature, needless to say, so to rectify his situation he has apparently prevailed upon a new Tea Party legislator named Jennifer Fielder, to introduce a new law.  This law, SB360, quite simply would allow a person to openly defy police authority and run a roadblock.   The bill would allow such an action, even if it involved brandishing a weapon, to go unpunished.

Alas for stupid Boniek and Fielder, they don’t seem to be aware that you can’t get somebody off by the hook by passing a law after the fact.

Jennifer Olsen, a Week Later

by Cowgirl

No one should defend Jennifer Olsen, the Billngs GOP Chair, for posting a photo of a device designed to trap president Obama by luring him with a watermelon.  But I suppose you could make a case that there could be some amount of leniency due, some forgiveness, based on the reality that people sometimes post things and re-tweet things, or forward things, without much thought.  In an instant, they’ve made a grave mistake that will haunt them forever, perhaps more than they deserve (though they do derve to be held accountable) for doing or saying something without fully thinking it through.

But Olsen’s response has been disappointing, and does not reccomend her any reappraisal.

It would have been easy enough to just remove the item and state that she realized it was in bad taste. Her silence and refusal to even offer an opinion on whether the photo is racist could be taken as a greater indication that she’s a racist than the post itself.   People make mistakes, forward things that they see or things that have come to them, sometimes without thinking.  Or, perhaps more to the point in this case, sometimes they are not smart enough or sophisticated enough to even realize, in the moment of action, that the item is inappropriate or distasteful. We don’t really know what was in her mind as she posted the photo.  Certainly she does not appear to be an intelligent, educated or sophistcated person.

But now Olsen is compounding her problems by keeping mum while allowing the GOP to release an idiotic statement on her behalf, defending her on grounds that “none of Olsen’s 1,000 or so Facebook friends have corroborated” that they ever received the posting, and that the possibility thus exists that Olsen “may have been hacked.”

Meanwhile, Olsen herself has not said that she was hacked. Rather, she issued a garbled statement accusing Nicole French (the Montanafesto blog author with an impeccable reputation who posted a screenshot of Olsen’s Facebook page which clearly showed that Olsen posted the photo) of “making up stories about me because we’ve had a falling out.” She further says that Ms. French’s “posting this about me is all fabricated,” whatever that means.

This response appears to be a “non-denial denial,” as the Watergate journalists  Woodward and Bernstein might have described it.  Olsen can’t decide on an alibi.  She is being vague about whether her defense is that she was hacked or whether somebody, Nicole French or some other person, created some sort of fake image. And Olsen, ou will notice, stops short of making either of these allegations.  She instead parses words and remains factually vague in her outrage, so that she can appear to be some sort of victim, without specifying precisely what malfeasance has been visited upon her.

Which is another way of admitting that she posted the photo.

At any rate, this is a lesson for everyone.  If you do something like this, just admit you were wrong, apologize, and move on to act better in the future.

Republicans Attempt to Blame “Hackers” for Racist Facebook Post

by Cowgirl

The Yellowstone County Republican Party is claiming that a racist Facebook post from the Chair of the Yellowstone County Republican Party may be the work of hackers. In a statement issued to the Billings Gazette today the Republican Vice Chair John Quandt wrote:

It is widely known that hacking is used to apply fraudulent posts in social media frequently. This alleged posting has not been corroborated by any of the over 1,000 friends following the chairwoman’s personal Facebook at the time or any other witnesses. Ms. Olsen has never demonstrated this of her character to anyone on the board or in public to our knowledge. We believe that asking Ms. Olsen to step down as Chairwoman at this time would be premature, unnecessary, and unwarranted. As the matter progresses we will adjust our approach as necessary in a proper and justified manner which portrays the key values of our local Republican party.

Meanwhile the state Republican party said that “racially insensitive conversation is offensive” however, “officials will not interfere with what should be a county committee issue.”

MT GOP Senator Proposes Selective Seating

by Lash

The Montana State Legislature meets in regular session for no more than 90 days in odd numbered years. There are possibilities for special sessions to be called to handle other business, but the most common way for the Legislature to attempt to accomplish things when they are not in regular session is through militia director meetings gold exchanges interim committees.

Membership on these committees is normally four members of each body, with the possibility of adding more should they be needed. It’s typically an even 50/50 split of majority and minority party members, because there needs to be a balance of experience, political leanings, and eye-rolling responsibility.

However, Sen. Ed Walker apparently thinks that things may be a little too “fair and balanced” these days. It’s not clear if he’s just making oh-so-many GOP friends through email that he wants more hang out time, or what, but he’s introduced SB 358.

SB 358 seeks to change the appointment of members of interim committees and the legislative council from two of each to three of the majority and one of the minority. Which would mean that out of both chambers the Montana GOP would get to appoint more of their members to committees that exist to study problems facing the state and inform the rest of the body how to address them.

Perhaps the kicker of it all was that this bill was heard in the Senate Public Health, Welfare, and Safety Committee.

It appears that the GOP doesn’t know that those words do not, in fact, mean what they think they mean, so let’s review what the Montana GOP believes these three things mean as demonstrated by recent activity:

Public Health - Comprehensive sex education that is proven to prevent STIs and pregnancies in student populations is harmful and dangerous. It should never happen.

Welfare - All of our public safety officials are unqualified and should never be allowed to tell us if our on-fire house is dangerous. As property owners that is our call to make, thank you very much.

Safety - The LGBT men and women who work and live in our communities are dangerous felons and should continue to be thought of as such in our legal system.

Well, at least Sen. Walker and Friends* are making their beliefs as Republicans known and differentiating themselves from Democrats. Sen. Dave Lewis gets to pull that piece off his vision board.

So, without a policy leg to stand on, the bill is pretty clear in it’s intent. The Montana GOP has had plans sketched in the margins of their e-mail Burn Books for sometime now to change the face of power in their party and the legislature. But, it’s just disappointing to see it coming in such a blatant manner.

It’s a shameful ploy proving just how big the egos on the far-right are getting when they think this is the kind of time wasting ‘power-play’ voters want to see coming out of a body with such a limited time frame to get things accomplished.

*Call NBC. It’s a sitcom. The pilot will have a crazy blind date mix-up with a certain WI Governor and Aaron Sorkin will write it. Emmy. GOLD. 

Today’s Must-Read Political Blog Post

by Cowgirl

Is up at the Flathead Memo, where James Conner writes about Rep. Steve Lavin’s property owners voting rights act. A sample:

Lavin’s bill does not require the property owners to be white Christian men, but amendments to that effect are always possible, given potential unconstitutionality is not that credible a deterrent to Republican excesses.

Rep. Lavin is a Republican from Kalispell.