Author Archives: Cowgirl

Daines Has Trouble Garnering Enthusiasm

If the latest unscientific Bozeman Chronicle online poll is indeed an accurate predictor of the US Senate race in Montana, then we should expect Amanda Curtis to defeat Steve Daines this November by a comfortable margin. When I checked early yesterday, she had over 2,000 votes and Daines had only a few hundred.

curtis poll

That’s the difference between Democrats and Republican grassroots.  GOP “young guns” are apparently no match for tech savvy progressives, who quickly voted in large numbers for Curtis.  It has tightened today, but she is still beating him by a 1,000 votes.  By percentage, the current standings are:

Daines         R     35%   (1,488)
Curtis           D    58%   (2,413)
Roots            L      3%     (142)
Undecided            2%      (94)

See live results here.

 

 

 

Billings Gazette Makes a Surprise Endorsement

Over the weekend I mentioned how glaringly deficient the Zinke campaign is when it comes to basic campaign strategy, such as dealing with the press, dealing with negative issues, sparring with the Lewis campaign through the daily news cycle, and so on.

 
Today, it got much worse for Zinke. The Billings Gazette–which announced last year that it would no longer be endorsing candidates for office–effectively endorsed John Lewis via a negative editorial about Zinke.

 
It’s as bad an editorial as a candidate will ever get, accusing him of essentially being a dishonest person with no political courage at all. It’s about as bad as the editorials that were written about Walsh after his plagiarism was revealed.

 
A nasty, nasty opinion piece by entire editorial board of the largest paper in Montana. It’s not easy to garner such hatred, especially when one is a Republican.

Here it is.

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Former Congressman Thinks Math Teacher Not Fancy Enough to Run for US Senate

Former GOP Congressman and failed gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill has taken to the internet to attack a Butte math teacher who is running for U.S. Senate. Hill wrote on his Facebook page that state Rep. Amanda Curtis has a “course [sic] nature.”

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Presumably Hill is referring to Curtis’s popular down-to-earth and heartfelt YouTube videos. She made these every day during the 2013 legislative session for her constituents, something Rick Hill would never have stooped to do.

Congressman Hill, during his tenure in the nation’s capital, was known for being something of a diva. Hill was rated by George magazine as the “second most-difficult boss” in all of congress. [Source: The Associated Press, “Magazine Finds Hill Second Most Difficult Boss in Congress,” June 19, 1999.]

To earn this dubious distinction, George noted that the Congressman:

–“angrily hurled a letter opener at an aide”

–Shouted: “I DON’T EAT DELI!!” to a staffer who brought him the wrong sandwich

–“fills some afternoons playing Free Cell, a computer game”’

And Hill went through three chiefs of staff, three legislative directors and three schedulers in two years.

There’s no sign his diva mentality has let up since. He appears to have insisted that his unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign pay for a new car for him to cross the state in luxury.

As a math teacher, Amanda certainly doesn’t spend several months a year golfing at private clubs in California and Arizona (as Hill does), and she likely has enjoyed the occasional deli sandwich without turning up her nose or throwing a fit.  If that makes her “coarse” then so are most of the rest of us.  As a state legislator, she speaks directly to her constituents in YouTube videos for everybody instead of only to a select few at fancy dinners paid for by corporate lobbyists. She understands the key pocketbook concerns of most Montanans and presents a striking contrast to most members of congress. I think most people would call that a good thing.

 

Zinke Has a Media Problem

zinkeputin (1)by Cowgirl

I’ve noticed over the last few months that Ryan Zinke appears to be getting many bad headlines, indicating that he is perhaps a poor tactician whose campaign is not very good at dealing with the press and may also have rubbed the press the wrong way.

 

House Candidates Won’t Debate in Billings after Zinke Backs Out is the most recent headline in the Billings Gazette.  This article reports that Zinke was was scheduled to debate John Lewis but then decided to cut and run.  Worse, his spokesperson tried claiming in the Gazette article that it was in fact Lewis who pulled out of the debate, but when pressed by the reporter, isn’t able to substantiate the claim.

 

A recent Bozeman chronicle headline declared that Zinke Getting Most of His Money From Out-of-State.  Before that it was Zinke Denies SuperPAC Coordination and Why Does Zinke Have Campaign Signs in California? and Zinke has received $116,000 from Employees of Florida Insurance Company Execs.  These are news headlines, mind you, not editorial headlines.  They are positively awful, and we have seen them over and over.  And they are headlines that are appearing in what are essentiallly Republican run newspapers, such as the Missoulian, Helena IR and Billings Gazette. I have rarely seen such a string of bad stories.  But the press, for whatever reason, seems to really dislike this guy.

 

Why do they dislike him so?  Is it because Zinke was so brazen about breaking federal law with his PAC activity, a PAC he controlled up until two weeks before he announced his campaign, after which the PAC immediately spent money “independently” on his behalf?  Or is his the fact that he has hewn to a tired, Tea Party, cookie cutter “Obama is destroying America” type of campaign, which the press probably finds tiresome and empty?  Or is that his “national energy plan” calls for nothing except status quo, staying the course with oil and coal? Or that he has redacted and refuses to release to the press certain key parts of his military record?

 

This is all good news for John Lewis, as is the fact that the Zinke campaign is currently out of cash.

Republican Commissioner Wants Public Records Kept Secret

Republican County Commissioner Susan Good Geise

Republican County Commissioner Susan Good Geise

A Lewis and Clark County Commissioner is fighting to keep Helena residents from learning which businesses have submitted public comments in opposition to making Helena more walkable and bikeable, and which businesses support the transportation upgrade.

In a meeting in Helena this week on local transportation improvements, Lewis and Clark County Commissioner Susan Good Geise demanded that comments from businesses who are fighting against the walking and biking options be withheld from the public. These businesses have filed public comments to protest a special assessment district to fund transportation improvements.

Helena City Commissioner Katherine Haque-Hausrath says the public has a right to know how these businesses are seeking to influence public policies. Montana has very clear, strict public records rules enshrined in the Montana constitution. Nearly every government document is public in the state. It’s never a good sign when those seeking to carve out special protections for themselves seem to believe that their positions couldn’t possibly survive public scrutiny.

Ms. Good-Geise expresses support on her own webpage for finding out what businesses stand for and brag about using her shopping dollars to support businesses who agree with her.  So it is hypocritical of her to attempt to refuse others the same option because their positions might differ from her own.

Susan Good-Geise was not elected by local voters, but rather was appointed to the Lewis and Clark County Commission by the local Republican Party after GOPer Derek Brown quit partway through his term.   She must now face the popular Dennis Small who is the democratic candidate for Lewis and Clark County Commissioner in the November elections. 

So what do you think readers?  Do we have a right to know which businesses support safe walking and biking for children, the elderly, people with disabilities, the working poor without cars, and everyone else, and which do not?  

Do local residents have a right to know which businesses support and oppose making Helena more walkable and bikeable?

View Results

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NEW STUDY: Montanans’ Access to Health Care Among Nation’s Worst

A new study has found that Montanans’ access to health care is among the worst in the U.S.

The July 2014 report by the Commonwealth Fund found that only three states had worse access to health care than Montanans–Idaho, Wyoming, and Alaska, as you can see in this chart.

The information shows that what the TEA party extremists did by refusing to accept the federal funds to cover the working poor was an especially poor decision in Montana, where the lack of access to health care is particularly bad.   You can read the whole study here.

Chart Health Care Access

 

Remember, the Medicaid expansion covers the working poor, people who earn “too much” to qualify for Medicaid now but don’t make enough to qualify for a price break through healthcare.gov.

The earnings ceiling for the coverage gap in Montana is $11,490 a year for a single person. If you make more than this, you could get a price break through the marketplace.

Earning $11,000 a year works out to a monthly income of $916.

  • Average rent for a (cheap, dilapidated) one-bedroom apartment in South Billings/Lockwood: $480/month. $436 left over…
  • Grocery bills: $125/month (Ramen noodles, 20 lb bag of potatoes). $311 left over…
  • Car insurance: $66/month. $245 left over…
  • Gas: $72/month (assuming 300 miles/month, or 10 miles/day to get to your job). $173 left over…
  • Clothing/Sundry items (shampoo, light bulbs, stamps): $25/month. $148 left over…
  • Entertainment: $15/month (1DVD rental on Sat night only). $133/month left over…
  • Utilities: $30/month (or a cheap cell phone). $103/month left over…
  • Savings/Debt: $50/month (making a future, or correcting the past–being responsible) $53/month left over…

That leaves about $53 to buy health insurance if nothing else goes wrong in your life–your car never breaks down, you never go to the dentist, etc.

The cheapest Bronze-level unsubsidized health insurance plan for a 40-year old in Yellowstone is $205/month – or four times more than what this person has left over for health insurance. Even on a bare bones budget without cable, an iPhone or a sports car–Montanans in the coverage gap can’t afford insurance thanks to the Montana legislature.

Remember, this single individual isn’t eligible for subsidies on the Affordable Care Act marketplace because those are only for people who make more than $11,490 per year.  So this person must pay the unsubsidized price.

Montana’s legislators need a reality check. They’ve made it so there is no path for a working poor person in Montana to do the responsible thing by getting health coverage.  This person has only one option:  pray they don’t get sick.

If your legislator doesn’t get it, she or he needs to be replaced.

A Book Burning in the Flathead

While Democrats were electing a new Senate candidate this weekend in Helena, right-wing conservatives in the Flathead were doing what else: burning books.

The so called “God and Country Conference” featured local and national extremists rallying against the government, promoting “confrontational evangelism” and that favorite right-wing past time, burning books.

As the Montana Human Rights Network reports, the event featured: anti-government activist Chuck Baldwin; a variety of carpetbagging pastors from out-of-state demanding more public displays of religious doctrine; a “street-protesting” hate-group preacher from California.  For reasons unknown, the festivities included a cross carrying to a so-called “Ten Commandment park dedication” and highlight of the weekend: a book burning on Sunday night;  Representatives of the Liberty Institute, which has aligned with Montana Supreme Court candidate Lawrence VanDyke in conservative Christian legal cases, were featured prominently in the events.   You can read the whole Montana Human Rights Network briefing on these activities here.