Posted: December 18, 2014 at 7:15 am by Cowgirl

Hill and Marbut Tangle Over Castle Doctrine

A Missoula man was convicted yesterday of setting a trap for an intruding foreign exchange student, luring him into the garage so he could shoot someone–has incited a political debate about the Castle Doctrine which allows a person to use lethal force in defense of his home.   Thankfully Rep. Ellie Hill, a legislator from Missoula, voiced her opinion that our Castle statute requires some revision.  The imbecile Gary Marbut, who is Montana’s self-appointed firearms advocate and ran unsuccessfully for the state legislature, said Hill “is shooting in the Dark, just like Karma [the Missoula defendant in the current case] did.”

The castle doctrine, which is found in Montana Code 45-3-103, is explained here by the AP.  The law was pushed through state legislatures across the nation by the right-wing legislation boilerplate factory known as ALEC, who lost billions in corporate funding when it came out that they had done so.

Certainly one problem with these kinds of laws is that they result in accidental shootings of totally innocent people (but like other gun deaths, that scenario is one that Montanans have been willing to live with – at least until now).

Another problem with our law is one that is exemplified by the 2009 shooting in Kalispell.  Two men were involved with the same woman in an escalating triangle.  One was the husband, who stood in his garage one night and looked up to see the other man walking toward the house, and into the garage, unarmed, asking to have a word.  At which point, the homeowner (husband) simply decided to unload his pistol at the entrant.  He later told police that he feared that the man “might assault him.”  Kalispell prosecutors said that the new Castle statute, passed in 2009 through lobbying by gun extremists even though it was vocally opposed by cops and prosecutors, made it impossible to get a conviction.

As the law is written, the man standing in his own garage could legally shoot to kill as long as he claimed to have some belief or feeling that he was going to be assaulted in any way.

This concept, that you can unload your pistol on such a minimal basis and face almost no chance of being prosecuted, is fairly new in America and is the product of sheepish democrats not wanting to get into a debate about gun rights.  The result is that lunatics like Marbut have rolled over everyone and gotten everything they want.  Unfortunately, progressive imbeciles can also be found on this subject, as evidenced on the #mtpol twitter page, where a few democrats were actually agreeing with Marbut and trashing Ellie Hill for daring to suggest that a statute might have been better drafted.

Which goes to show you, they come in all stripes.


Posted: December 17, 2014 at 7:24 am by Cowgirl

Lone Male TEA Party GOP Leader Poses as Non-Partisan Women’s Group to Back Local TEA Party Candidate

New TEA Party Plot to Defraud Voters Comes to Light

TEA Party Republicans in Montana know their ideology is so out-of-touch that Montanans wouldn’t support them if they knew the truth about their beliefs.  So they’ve resorted to dirty, dishonest plots to deceive voters about their candidates.  Here is the latest.

TEA Party Republican Bob Brown, of Sanders County, was elected after the local GOP took out ads claiming the local women's civics group endorsed him, they didn't.

TEA Party Republican Bob Brown, of Sanders County, was elected after the local GOP took out ads claiming the local women’s civics group endorsed him, they didn’t.

The male leader of the Sanders County Republican Party filed paperwork with the state to claim ownership over the name of a local non-partisan women’s group called Women for a Better Sanders County.  He then took out ads in the local paper claiming the group supported TEA Party Republican Bob Brown for legislature.  Brown won.  The Missoulian reported the story this week.

This is the only the latest in a series of deceptive plots hatched by TEA Party republicans to deceive the voters of Montana.

This spring a bunch of TEA Partiers filed paperwork to run as Democrats for local legislative races. 

TEA Party legislator Debra Lamm, the Montana Family Foundation’s lobbyist, used a fake address on her campaign materials to imply that she actually lived in the district she now represents (she doesn’t.)  Lamm won.

Cascade County TEA Party leader Cyndi Baker, who ran for school board this may, created a separate fake organization called “Parents Coalition of for Accountability in Schools” to imply that there was a group supporting her campaign for school board. No such organization exists.  Baker did not win.

But only Dick Wells, who is vice-Chair of the Sanders County GOP, went so far as to pretend that an established, respected, legitimate group supported the local TEA Party candidate.  And get this, when the Missoulian asked him:

if he felt it was deceptive for a lone male to purchase “Women for a Better Sanders County” for the purpose of publicly endorsing a political candidate, Wells said no.

Wells said the name was his because he “bought and paid for it” by filing some forms with the Secretary of State.

If this isn’t voter fraud, I don’t know what is.

Posted: December 16, 2014 at 7:34 am by Cowgirl

The Montana GOP Hypocrite of the Week Award Goes to

…the uber-right lobbying group the Montana Family Foundation.

Let’s hear it for the Montana Family Foundation, who went all Twitter Rambo criticizing another organization–for doing the exact same thing they did.

Both organizations committed what most people would consider a minor reporting mistake – they grouped election expenditures together on the same line, instead of breaking out the races onto separate lines.  But the Family Foundation expressed outrage on social media about the error:

image[2] Screen shot 2014-12-12 at 2.35.34 PM

The COPP ruling referenced in these tweets says Planned Parenthood reported their expenditure incorrectly because it lumped mailers it sent together into one reporting line (instead of breaking it out per candidate).

But what takes these statements beyond annoying faux outrage and into the realm of rank hypocrisy is that this is exactly how the Montana Family Foundation reported its own expenditures, for the exact same election cycle, as you can see from this screenshot.  The full MFF filing is here.

The complaint against Planned Parenthood was filed by Tonya Shellnut, another of the Montana GOP’s hypocrisy heroines. Shellnut ran unsuccessfully against Rep. Mary McNally in Billings, with the backing of the Montana Family Foundation of course.

It seems hypocrisy is the backbone of the Montana Family Foundation.  So pat yourselves on the back Laszloffy and crew. You’ve wowed us once again.


Posted: December 14, 2014 at 8:04 am by Cowgirl

Local Songwriter Writes Song Mocking GOP Dress Code for Legislature, Reporters

The story about the Montana legislature’s ridiculous dress code requiring that women mind their necklines and shirt lengths is receiving lots of attention nationwide, including an article in the New York Times featuring Rep. Jenny Eck (D-Helena), Rep. Caroline Pease-Lopez (D-Billings) and Rep. Ellie Hill (D-Missoula.)

Now, Missoula’s own local singer and songwriter Bob Wire has summed this embarrassment up in song. You can watch Bob perform Montana GOP (Dress Code), his parody song about the Montana House GOP dress code for the 2015 Legislative session, on Youtube here.

Bob Wire and his orginal band, the Fencemenders, made the rounds in Western Montana for years, and Bob still performs to packed houses at favorite Missoula hangouts. Be sure to check out his blog too.

Posted: December 11, 2014 at 10:28 pm by Cowgirl

BREAKING: Montana Chamber of Commerce Endorses Bullock’s Alternative to Medicaid Expansion

The Bozeman Chronicle’s Troy Carter has the story, which includes what the notoriously conservative-biased Chamber of Commerce poll found out about Montanans’ views of extending coverage to 70,000 working poor Montanans.  Go read it. 


Posted: December 11, 2014 at 6:13 am by Cowgirl

VanDyke Leaves State to work for Right-Wing Nevada AG

I guess TEA Party former Supreme Court candidate Lawrence VanDyke really didn’t want to gain any more legal experience in Montana after all.  He’s resurfaced in Nevada working for the right-wing attorney general in that state.

Nevada news outlets are reporting today on the move–and on VanDyke’s chief backers, the national Republican party,  which spent massive amounts of cash to elect VanDyke - and his new boss, Adam Laxalt.

Nevada news outlets are also reporting this morning on VanDyke’s connections to the farthest fringes of the extreme religious right.  Nevada’s attorney general has claimed in the past that his own far-right views won’t impact his decisions as AG, but as Nevada reporter Jon Ralton writes, that’s going to be more difficult now that VanDyke is on the payroll.


Posted: December 10, 2014 at 7:55 am by Cowgirl

TEA Party Leadership in Montana Took Wyoming Dress Code and Made it Stricter

A quick update on dresscode-gate.

First TEA Party Speaker of the House Austin Knudson, after originally refusing to comment, later insisted that it was a member of his staff who created the dress code being mocked across the nation (and apparently referred reporters to that staffer).  Later Knudsen admitted that while he did indeed say it was a member of his staff that made the dress code, “the buck stopped with him,” and began responding to reporter questions.

Knudsen said the Montana dress code “mirrors” one from Wyoming. However the Cowgirl Blog has obtained a copy of the Wyoming document and while indeed many passages are plag taken verbatim, there are a couple of interesting differences.

It seems Montana’s GOP took steps to make Montana’s dress code even more stringent than Wyoming’s.

First, note that the Wyoming document specifically allows bolo ties. That language is stricken from the Montana document.  Here’s Wyoming:

Bolo ties are acceptable forms of neckwear, but the bolo must be worn tight with the top button of a collared shirt buttoned.

Perhaps the offending accessory became so associated with former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer that TEA Party lawmakers can no longer bare the sight of it without being reminded of the regular drubbing he gave them.

Montana GOPers also removed an item from the Wyoming dress code allowing sleeveless dresses–IF and only if they were worn under jackets that is.  Apparently however, the thought that some woman might be sleeveless underneath her suit coat was too much for MT Republicans, so they took it out.

Finally, although Wyoming lawmakers have generously been allowed to wear knit dresses–if sufficiently covered by a jacket. That language is also removed from the MT dress code.  Perhaps  one of these items was the mysterious item number six which was missing from Montana’s dress code.  That document skips from 5 to 7.

Posted: December 10, 2014 at 7:21 am by Cowgirl

While One MT Judge Fights to Keep His Racist Comments Secret, Another Makes His Own Public

Yesterday, the Great Falls Tribune reported that TEA Party Judge Richard Cebull–who sent hundreds of racist, offensive, and inappropriate emails from his work computer–is asking the courts to keep his offensive comments secret from the public.

Meanwhile another Montana judge is hard at work to make his own offensive statements as widely read as possible.

Judge Russell Fagg has penned a column defending Judge G. Todd Baugh, as “a wonderful person” among other things.  Baugh is the judge who  sentenced a 54-year-old  ex-teacher to only 30 days in prison for raping a 14-year-old female student who later committed suicide. Judge Baugh, in issuing the sentence, declared his belief that the girl was “older than her chronological age,” sparking national outrage.

Judge Fagg’s comments, which have appeared in the Billings Gazette and the Helena IR under the headline “Reflections on Judge Baugh and Ferguson” are indeed something to behold.

Besides defending Baugh, Fagg says “the Ferguson outrage puzzles me.”  Fagg goes on to add, “(As an aside, I did hear of all the things stolen, not one pair of work boots was stolen.)”

While these comments along are offensive, Fagg’s support for the grand jury process instead of trial by jury is also appalling.  You can bet that when a grand jury is convened to determine whether to indict a drug dealer, or a murderer, or even a white collar criminal, they don’t get to spend hours on the stand telling their side of the story and shifting the blame.

And so, Judge Fagg’s comments are in one major way worse than than Cebull’s, in that Cebull did not think he was publicly making his comments publicly, whereas  Fagg made the conscious decision to seek as wide an audience as he could get.  Those comments have been published by at least two newspapers.

Apparently, the Billings Gazette has given Judge Fagg a regular column with which to disseminate his views.  Perhaps they will reconsider this decision after this.


Posted: December 8, 2014 at 8:15 am by Cowgirl

Montana Budget and Policy Center and the Partnership for Montana’s Future Host 2nd Legislative Summit Mon and Tues

On Monday and Tuesday, December 8-9, at the Gateway Center, 1710 National Avenue, in Helena, MT, the Montana Budget and Policy Center and the Partnership for Montana’s Future will host the 2nd Legislative Summit.

Events on December 8, Taking a Seat at the Table: Strategies for Leaders from Indian Country, will bring together 60 participants to discuss tactics and strategies to help advocates effectively participate in the 2015 Legislative Session. The session will begin at 9:00 am and end at 5:00 pm.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau will speak at 9:45 am. Lieutenant Governor Angela McLean will speak during the lunch break around 12:15 pm.

Read full agenda for December 8.

Events on December 9, Making an Impact: Advocacy for the 2015 Legislative Session, will bring together nearly 150 national and state experts, influential state leaders, elected officials, policy analysts, and advocates offering their insights and expertise on key state policy matters. Tuesday features panels and discussions on issues related to the state budget, health care, education, conservation, labor, and more. Participants will learn how to coordinate with partners on these critical issues in the 2015 Legislative Session. This day will begin at 8:00 am and end at 5:00 pm. Read the full agenda for December 9.

The evening reception will begin at 6:00 pm and the keynote address by Dr. Avis Jones- DeWeever will begin at 7:00 pm. Dr. Jones-DeWeever is an accomplished scholar, writer, and public speaker. She is an authority on race, gender and the economy, poverty, inequality of educational and economic opportunity, and issues of privilege, power and policy in the US.

The Montana Budget and Policy Center (MBPC) is a nonprofit organization providing in-depth research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues. Their core focus is publishing credible, timely, and easy-to-understand reports on the fiscal policies that most impact low and moderate income Montanans. That research and analysis then informs public policy, the media and the broader public.

The Partnership for Montana’s Future is a coalition of more than 50 organizations that share a common belief that Montana’s future depends on wise investments in education, infrastructure and safe and healthy communities.

Posted: December 5, 2014 at 10:50 pm by Cowgirl

GOP Legislature Releases Mandatory Dress Code, Modesty Standard for Women

GOP also decrees:  Don’t get caught in fleece, jersey, or open-toed sandals

The TEA Party House Republican leadership of the 2015 legislature has issued a new edict, the first of its kind that I have seen.

Because they love freedom and personal liberty, they’ve issued a formal mandatory dress code for anyone who seeks to be allowed into the House floor.  Besides demanding “business formal” dress, the new decree calls on women to mind their necklines and skirt lengths.   House GOP leadership are empowered to police the new edict.

This important policy is written in all capital letters, of course, because what else would you  expect from world-class leaders.

Since this new dress code is not particularly clear, the Cowgirl Blog has provided a handy guide below.   After all, the dress code is not just for legislators but also for “LEGISLATIVE STAFF, MEMBERS OF THE MEDIA, INTERNS AND AIDES” who  “MUST ALSO ABIDE BY THIS POLICY IF ON THE FLOOR WHILE THE BODIES ARE GAVELED INTO SESSION.”

Once you see what’s in the dress code, it’s clear it is targeted at women–and probably reporters.  After all, reporters are really the only people who can access the house floor besides the legislators’ own staff–and a handful of high school “pages.”  Last session, reporters were required for the first time to get special permission or “passes” to be on the House Floor at all.  Then the next thing we know, the senate president is looking into evicting the Associated Press from its capital office. Now this. But let’s get right to the dress code. There are eight rules in the edict, however, rule #6 was not released and we must presume it is being kept secret for some reason.

UPDATE:  GOP Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen is now  blaming his staffer for the dresscode, as you can see in the Bozeman Chronicle article that just came out.

First,  women are ordered to be “SENSITIVE TO SKIRT LENGTHS AND NECKLINES.”

(No similar guidance was provided to men to be mindful of tight or sagging pants and hideously short eagle-carrying-an-assault-rifle-in-its-beak neckties.)

The dress code also bans leggings. The legging ban may be a dig at the young women of Skyview High School who are fighting a dress code policy that unfairly targets young women in Billings.

So leggings are out, as are open toed sandals.  However, under this dress code concealed carry holsters under beige suits with bolo ties would definitely be okay –at least once the legislature passes the obligatory “concealed carry for everyone” bill the TEA Party introduces every year. 


Next, I see that “FLEECE AND JERSEY (SWEATSHIRT) MATERIAL ARE NOT CONSIDERED “BUSINESS FORMAL.”  Somebody needs to tell the dudes that wrote this that jersey and sweatshirt material are two entirely different things, but alas until then the rule stands.  Jersey tops like this are banned:

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 9.33.45 PM

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 9.33.41 PM


While this polyester number as shown on former TEA Party Sen. Joe Balyeat is just dandy:



It also appears that men and women are required to wear suits, or suit jackets at all times or, for women  “a suit-like dress” may be worn, whatever that is.  Unfortunately, that means some of the clothing worn by GOP lawmakers in their own official legislative photos does not meet the new code.

This attire on GOP Rep. Christie Clark is now banned:

christy clark 2

Rep. Christy Clark (R-Choteau)

Also banned would be any reporter who showed up to help inform the public dressed like this – as cardigans have been nixed:


While this garb (the closest thing I could find that might resemble the item supposedly known as a “suit-like dress,” and which ceased to be made 30 years ago) would be allowed:


suit-like dress


The dress code also specifies that “JEANS OR DENIM MATERIAL, INCLUDING COLORED DENIM, IS NOT ALLOWED.”  Which means the apparel worn by TEA Party Rep. Nancy Ballance would be banned:

Nancy Ballance


No mention is made of Colonel Sanders ties, but this must be an oversight and I expect further guidance on this Montana Legislature wardrobe staple soon (shown on former TEA Party Rep. Alan Hale).


Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 8.44.49 PM


But it when it comes to requiring respectful behavior, there are some who would say this dress code appears to be geared more toward cracking down on women than on respectful behavior from men.

(I mean, it certainly would make everyone happier if men were more sensitive about the length of athletic shorts worn at the house/senate basketball game and if all Looney Tunes and Tasmanian devil ties were burned – but the dress code makes no mention of these.)

Instead of forcing backward modesty standards on women, here are some guidelines that the 64th Legislature would do better to adopt:

1. Legislators shall not refer to women as livestock, farm equipment, or household pets – and when debating a bill on breast cancer prevention, shall not berate their colleagues for supporting the “boob bill.”

2. Legislators shall take a breathalyzer test before they are allowed a vote, since they seem to think drug tests should be mandated on poor families.

3. High school pages shall be allowed to learn about the legislative process and not relegated to fetching 57 ice-cream sandwiches a day while being ogled creepily.

4. Legislators shall stop trying trying to hide their actions and true plans from the public and the press.

Bozeman Chronicle reporter Troy Carter tweeted a reaction from House minority whip Rep. Jenny Eck (D-Helena) this morning.  Eck said dems had nothing to do with the dress code.

Screen Shot 2014-12-06 at 8.19.44 AM