Category Archives: Uncategorized

This is Hypocrisy, Plain and Simple

Media coverage of TEA Party Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen’s response to Montana Governor Steve Bullock’s Healthy Montana Plan has failed to explain that Knudsen’s family farm has benefited from large government subsidies, despite highlighting his upbringing on his family farm and ranch and calls to cut government spending.

Rep. Austin Knudsen (R-TEA-Culbertson) is one of the largest beneficiaries of federal farm subsidy payments– $705,941.00 from 1995-2009 in farm subsidy program payments.  And he’s not alone.  Knudsen has said the following:

“The governor’s budget shoots the moon and is everything. We’re going to want to pare it back.”

“Like most Montanans, I was raised not to spend outside my budget. I want to see to it that Helena does the same, because Helena, like Washington D.C., has a spending problem.”

“Republicans are concerned about federal funding.”

“Excessive taxes and government spending in Montana is another primary concern.” *

“All state programs need reduction, across the board.”**

Knudsen himself receives health coverage paid for by Montana taxpayers–from a “third party administered” plan for state lawmakers just like the Healthy Montana Plan–except that Knuden’s plan is more costly than the plan that will cover the working poor.

He’s also been caught lying about Medicaid expansion – he told the Wolf Point Herald that  that “eventually Montana will have to pay for this entire bill” for Medicaid expansion, when in reality, federal law requires the federal government 100% for the first two more years—but never less than 90% of the costs.  That means for every dollar Montana puts in, the feds put in nine dollars.

Knudsen has not spoken out against other federally funded program in Montana.  From energy to telecommunications, roads, defense contracts, law enforcement, national parks, airports, hospitals and local clinics–all are supported by federal payments.

*Sidney Herald, March 12, 2010, http://www.sidneyherald.com/articles/2010/03/12/news/montana/doc4b9abbd4a4d19825926080.txt.
**Billings Gazette, Know Your Candidates Profile, http://billingsgazette.com/app/candidates/all/2010/?area=daniels.

Top Ten Good Ideas Both Parties Can Support in the 2015 Legislature

The 2015 legislative session begins Monday, January 5th. Instead of looking backward at memorable events of the past year, let’s look forward with the Cowgirl Blog’s countdown of ten good ideas that members of both parties can support this year.

They are:

  1. Create an 80 MPH speed limit at various places on the interstate, where it’s straight and clear. Nothing wrong with this idea if it’s done right. Automobile technology has moved ahead leaps and bounds, and driving 80 or 85 is not what it use to be. And while it’s true that there might be a few more casualties, that same argument (that an increase in speed equals more fatalities) could just as easily be used to defend setting the speed limit at 55. In other words, Montanans are tend to be in favor of trading a small amount of safety for  a lot of freedom. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just the way of the West. One such proposal LC0768 is sponsored by Rep. Mike Miller (R-Helmville).
  2. Reform the Board of Pardons and Parole. Last week saw Gov. Steve Bullock give the boot to Mike McKee, who wanted to be reappointed as Chair of the BOPP even though his legacy is that he made sure that people were locked up and that the key was thrown away. Earlier this year Bullock publicly stated his desire to commute Barry Beach’s sentence so that he could be eligible for parole. McKee stacked the ­person panel hearing Beach’s case with hearings officers that were anti-Beach, thus assuring that Bullock would not get a chance to issue clemency. Conservatives and liberals can both agree that the Constitution grants the power of clemency to the governor and in such cases he should be able to exercise it without the interference of an unpaid bureaucrat. And after all, in the very unlikely scenario that something goes wrong and Beach misbehaves while out on the street, it would be entirely on Bullock, politically speaking. So the GOP has no reason not to work with the governor here.  Rep. Margie MacDonald (D-Billings),  Rep. Ellie Hill (D-Missoula) and others have already been looking at some common sense reforms.
  3. Infrastructure – including for eastern Montana oil-boom towns like those in the Bakken. There are road, bridge, sewer and building projects that Montana needs right now, and interest rates are super-low. Let’s bond for them. Obviously, the GOP will try to tease down the amount that we devote toward these projects but it would be reckless to try to kill all of them, and if Bullock can budget for them and still keep a healthy ending balance, then all or most of what Bullock is proposing can be agreed upon for funding.  Rep. Jeff Wellborn (R-Dillon) is sponsoring this fix.

  4. Health care for the working poor and veterans. Governor Bullock has come up with an alternative to medicaid expansion. Everyone can get behind it.  It will cover tens of thousands of struggling Montanans with basic health insurance without growing the Medicaid rolls or expanding Obamacare.  Veterans and working poor Montanans are trapped in a coverage gap right now, and have no medical insurance nor can they afford it. The federal government is offering billions of dollars of federal funds that will end up going to other states rather than Montana if we deny it. It’s our money, and we’d be stupid not to bring it home to Montana. Bullock’s solution would satisfy the GOP’s pals in the insurance industry by allowing the program to be privately administered by insurance companies for a small percentage, and be far less costly than the private option proposed by Republicans in other states. It would also satisfy the medical community because it increases provider rates for Montana doctors. Republicans in other states have supported such alternatives, and are expected to do so here. And, the Montana Chamber of Commerce, a rock-ribbed-Republican group,  has endorsed the Governor’s plan. A Chamber of Commerce poll of 800 Montanans found that Montanans support for covering the working poor leads by a 20% margin.
  5. Another health care measure would be to end surprise medical bills. Patients lying on the operating table are often not told that the doctor about to perform all or part of their surgery isn’t actually in their insurance plan’s provider network. The patient finds out about it when she receives a surprise bill, a few months later, for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars that the insurance company doesn’t cover.  Rep. Kathleen Williams (D-Bozeman) is sponsoring a law to prohibit this outrageous health industry scam.  It would require that patients be notified up front if the care they are scheduled to receive is covered, so that they may exercise the option to go elsewhere.  And this measure reduces costs throughout the system because if the scammed patient ends up simply not paying the bill because they can’t afford it, the rest of us end up covering it.
  6. Support the Salish-Kootenai Water Compact.  Every federally recognized tribe in Montana has a negotiated water water rights agreement with the state and federal government except one –  the CSKT – and while extreme right-wing legislators, as well as birthers and outright racists have worked to block such an agreement for the tribe in the past, the compact has now been endorsed by Republican AG Tim Fox and even the TEA Party blog PolyMontana.com.
  7. Online voter registration. Half of American states now allow voters to register on the internet, using a drivers license and/or Social Security number.  Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch wants to bring it to Montana, as do all of the county election clerks who are overworked during election season. Nobody can point to a single reason why printing out a form and mailing it in is any more secure than filling out an online form and submitting it electronically.  And unlike many Democratic and Republican election bills, which are often designed to mathematically one party or the other, online nline registration systems can be found in conservative, liberal and battleground states. So it’s a good measure. And conservative Republican Geraldline Custer (R-Forsyth) is sponsoring  the bill, HB 48.

  8. Confirm Jonathan Motl as Commissioner of political practices. The 2013 session saw a bipartisan effort to reform money in politics and provide greater transparency in political donations.  Since then, it has been left to Motl to actually try to enforce the law and by all accounts he has breathed life into an otherwise dormant agency.   He has prosecuted all comers, Ds and Rs. And he’s also been quick to dismiss petty and frivolous complaints that waste everyone’s time.  Moderate Republicans are likely to support him because Motl has prosecuted the criminal money enterprises run by the Tea Party, aimed at bouncing moderate Republicans from office.   The only real loser in a Motl confirmation would be Tea Party leader Art Wittich, whom Motl has taken to court for massive violations of campaign finance law.  A district judge in Helena, Judge Sherlock, issued a decision in which he mocked Wittich’s motion to dismiss the case.  If Motl wins, Wittich could be removed from office.
  9. A ban on e-cigarette sales to kids.  Montana Attorney General Tim Fox says he’s considering it.  Montana has seen bipartisan support for regulating tobacco use – regulating e-cig use by minors will find broad support as well.
  10. Support the microbrewers and microdistillers. A number of bills could address these businesses, and we should get behind whatever legislation helps them and oppose the bills that seek to curtail them. Democrats and Republicans both have an interest in doing everything and anything possible to combat the farce that is much of Montana liquor license law. In a city such as Missoula or Bozeman, a liquor license for a restaurant costs over a million bucks. Neither political party can be very enthusiastic about such laws. In Portland or Seattle, it costs a few thousand at most.

 

2016 and the Montana Governor’s Race

A poll was published earlier this week by the Gravis Marketing firm showing Ryan Zinke and Tim Fox edging out Steve Bullock in 2016.  This poll is not to be trusted.

Gravis marketing is like a broken clock that shows the correct time twice a day.  It was a laughable organization for its conservative bias for a number of years up until 2016, when it’s conservative bias enabled it to be accurate because the electorate ended up being more conservative than anyone had envisioned.  That, and also consider that the poll last week did not include a Libertarian in the survey.

No doubt Republicans will be emboldened by this automated push-button phone poll, but take it to the bank: a real pollster’s numbers will look nothing like what Gravis has produced.

On a related subject, I’ve now conversed with several reporters as well as sources high up in Montana democratic politics, who all say that Greg Gianforte is going to take a pass in 2016 and will not be running for governor, although nobody seems to be able to point to a reason.  We can all look forward to hearing more about this.

You Can’t Represent the People in Your District if You Don’t Know or Care Who They Are

While I think the attached ad is in poor taste due to its use of new GOP state senator Nels Swandal’s infant grandson as a political prop who is supposed to be telling us how great Swandal is, what I think really bothered the people Swandal (R-SD 30) is supposed to be representing is that it failed to include Gallatin County, a portion of which is in SD 30.

It appears Swandal either couldn’t be bothered to find out who he is supposed to be representing the the state legislature–or that he just doesn’t care.

swandal ad

CrowdPAC’s Mailergate Denial is Laughable

Today, the silicon valley start-up company founded by mailergate professor Adam Bonica tried to distance itself from the scandal.

This after Standford University said it has launched an investigation into the connection between the Adam Bonica’s silicon valley start-up CrowdPAC and the fake voter guides Bonica sent to 100,000 Montana voters.

As Talking Points Memo reported this morning, Adam Bonica refused to respond to reporter questions.  Instead, Bonica’s cofounder Steve Hilton tried to claim that CrowdPAC (which Bonica and Hilton launched last month) had no knowledge of the fake voter guides sent to 100,000 Montanans last week–until they read about it in the news.

This is simply laughable.

Bonica is CrowdPAC.  He is the co-founder and chief scientist–and probably the only person who really understands his DIME model on which the whole company is based. He also probably owns at least 20-25% of the company.  There is no CrowdPAC without Bonica any more than there would be a Google without Page and Brin.

So since Bonica sent out the mailers, and Bonica is CrowdPAC, yeah, CrowdPAC knows about them.

Here’s why this matters.

Bonica and Hilton are highly motivated to show the efficacy of the DIME model (that donations predict candidate ideology) now,  in this election cycle, because the next big election is in 2016.  He’s got maybe $2 million in venture capital investments that aren’t going to last that long.   For one thing, CrowdPAC already probably has 3-6 employees–and has five open job announcements for engineers/scientists with an average salary of around $100k.

Start-ups, I’m told, typically get a little seed money and then take 18 months or so to show their concept is monetizable.  Then they use the proof it can make money raise more from investors.

Because Bonica is the brains of CrowdPAC, he has to show–in this election cycle–that it his concept (1) works in the field and (2) can make money or his company won’t go forward. And the lynchpin to monetizing this company/concept is to prove it can impact elections.  Otherwise its just another online academic portal that only political scientists would use rather than a start-up that is commercially viable and worthy of further investment.

When I look at mailergate through this scenario, the experiments don’t appear to be shoddy– they look like they were designed to manipulate the election.  They would need to mask the academic nature of the mailing (which some have called a “mistake”) and to stoke partisan tensions in favor of one candidate or another (which some have called “unintentional”).

This would show why these guys probably thought they’d found the perfect lab rats in Montana.  Montana’s non partisan judicial race was probably one of the easiest to cheaply make partisan with the DIME model in the U.S.

We were likely chosen is the sacrificial guinea pigs for these reasons:

1.  We have a very polarized electorate.

2.  We’ll have high turnout for an off-cycle (non-presidential) election year.

3. We have a low population, meaning we’re seen as a cheap date for this kind of manipulation.

And manipulation it was.  As one of Bonica’s own senior colleagues at Stanford said:

“This is researchers manipulating, or at least seeking to manipulate, politics,” Mr. Krosnick said, referring to the Dartmouth-Stanford experiment. “As appealing as this might be on scientific grounds, the real question is whether it’s appropriate to interfere in this way.”

And these same researchers have manipulated people before:

Mr. Krosnick pointed to a previous study co-authored by Mr. Dropp, who is an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth, in which more than 1,000 email requests were sent to Texas legislators in 2010. The emails appeared to come from Texas citizens, but were actually sent by the researchers to measure the legislators’ response rates.

“It crosses an ethical line to create fictitious people and use government resources for people who don’t exist,” Mr. Krosnick said. “There’s a habit here of lying to people.”

Montanans are sick of being lied to.

We also need to know more about the Hewlett Foundation’s investment in this experiment.

We know that Hewlett Foundation was aware of CrowdPAC, because they posted on their own website here that they were considering making an investment in the start-up. However, they instead decided to invest in non-profit organizations, which CrowdPAC is not.

However, since CrowdPAC essentially benefited from Hewlett funding anyway, what does that say about how for-profit start-ups are able to game the system to make big bucks?

ALERT: Trapping Season Started on Public Lands

A Public Service Announcement from Footloose Montana

Fall is here.  Hunters, hikers, skiers, and all who enjoy public lands, be aware that trapping season is upon us!

The general trapping season is nine months long, September through May. As of September 1, semi-aquatic animals such as beavers, muskrat and mink can be trapped in Eastern Montana.  In Western Montana, the furbearer trapping season begins November 1. Wolf trapping season is December 15 through February 28.  For a $19 license, five wolves can be killed by traps and/or guns.  This means thousands more large traps will blanket public lands already seeded with tens of thousands of traps.

Every year, traps kill at least 50,000 of Montana’s wild animals for their fur and for sport. As conflicts between public land users and trappers increase, a growing number of companion dogs have been maimed and killed. Concealed and baited body-crushing traps, foothold traps and snares catch any animal unfortunate enough to be lured into them.

Trapping for predators, including foxes and coyotes, has no regulations. Traps can be set at any time of the year, anywhere, on hiking trails and public roads. Traps for “furbearing” animals can be set 50 feet away from hiking trails and 30 feet from the centerline of public roads (the length of two pickup trucks).  Foothold traps and body-catching snares can be set 300 feet away from trailheads.  Spine-crushing conibear traps and neck snares can be set 1,000 feet away from trailheads. Traps and snares can be set 1,000 feet away from campgrounds that are accessible by a highway vehicle. Increased trap-setback regulations apply in certain areas in Trapping Districts 1 and 3 (mostly around Whitefish, Eureka and Bozeman, Montana).

Please check the trap map at www.footloosemontana.org  before you go on an outdoors adventure.  Footloose Montana posts trap locations reported by the public. If you have any questions, or if you see a trap, or have the unfortunate experience of encountering one, please immediately report the instance with photos if possible to Footloose Montana at 406-274-1069, or email info@footloosemontana.com.   It is illegal to remove traps.

Background:

Many people think the trapping days of Jim Bridger—almost two hundred years ago—passed into history, but in Montana the 2014 furbearer trapping season begins on September 1.  This means tens of thousands of baited snares, steel leghold and conibear traps are set and hidden, on our public lands.  Today trappers do not suffer the elements as Bridger and his fellow mountain men did.  After setting their traps, they head home, checking their traps whenever convenient.

However, hikers, skiers, hunters and wildlife watchers need to be aware that traps can be anywhere, and must take great caution because of the possible serious injury and death that traps pose to people and their children and pets.   Every year in Montana, pets are injured and killed in non-selective traps—anyone can step into a trap.

The general trapping season begins September 1 and ends May 31. Trapping for beaver began in Central and Eastern Montana on September 1. Trapping of swift foxes in North East Montana and for otter, muskrat and mink begins November 1.

Devices used to trap these semi-aquatic animals include conibear traps and may be submerged along creek and river shorelines; dogs, including bird hunting dogs can easily run across one and be killed or seriously injured.  Trapped animals can suffer for days in panic, suffering hypothermia, hunger and thirst.  Some chew off their feet or wring off entire limbs to escape the pain.

Trapping for bobcat, fisher, pine marten and wolverine begins December 1, through February 15. Not only beavers, coyotes, martens, otters and bobcats are killed in traps and snares, but also rare and endangered species, including fisher, wolverine and lynx, and recently reintroduced species such as the tiny swift foxes.

Trapping seasons mean more traps on the landscape, but trapping for predators has no regulations at all.  Coyote traps, for instance, can be set anywhere year round.  No license is required.  Setback regulations along trails and near campgrounds don’t apply.   There is no season completely safe from traps on public lands.

If your companion animal is caught in a trap, the animal may panic in fear and pain, so it’s best to put your jacket over his head while you release the leg from the trap.  Even if you see no blood, nerve damage and blood loss to the foot can be severe so take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible.  If you can’t open the trap take the trap and your pet to emergency help.  This is a very stressful situation, but it is important to take photos, if possible, and note the exact location of the trap, and any markings on the trap and report to Footloose Montana as well as Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Wheat Supporters Work to Counter Out-of-State and Corporate Money in Supreme Court Race

A group of Montanans has banded together to try to counter the massive corporate and out-of-state expenditures in the supreme court race–the right-wing special interests including the National Republican party who are hoping to buy a Supreme Court race for Lawrence VanDyke.

Here’s the Montana ad to counter this money by Montanans for Liberty:

 

It’s important to spread the word about this race, because there are big differences between these candidates.

Perhaps most importantly, Mike Wheat’s experience dwarfs that of VanDyke, who is an extremist ideologue from out of state who’s beliefs are far outside the mainstream.

Wheat - VanDyke Comparisan piece

GUEST POST: Lawrence VanDyke is the Biggest Threat to Montana’s Outdoor Heritage

By Justin Robbins

The great myth of the 1% in America is that, in this land of opportunity, any one of us could get there. Our history is chock full of examples from Henry Ford to Bill Gates, from Jackie Robinson to Derek Jeter, from Clara Barton to Oprah Winfrey or from Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama. From whatever socio-economic, geographic, ethnic or cultural background you hail, we have an iconic American story that proves you can succeed. That idea constantly tickles the mind of every American citizen, and every other poor bastard dying to be one.

With that established, please allow me, or better still join me to take a long, hard, honest look in the mirror. If you’re anything like me, your circumstances in life are a little better than those of your parents; largely because of their efforts. You are better educated, make more money, and enjoy more luxuries (if only in entertainment options) than mom and dad. They would have it no other way. If you have children, you not only understand your parents’ priorities and sacrifices, but have dedicated yourself to ensuring the pattern continues.

Now, keep looking, and maintain the honesty of your assessment. It is incredibly unlikely you will be in the 1%. The odds are literally astronomical…there’s around a 1 in 750,000 chance you or I will be even a millionaire, let alone billionaire.

My argument here is not one of class warfare. I am neither crying foul, nor claiming status as a victim of anyone or anything. It is merely a summons to stand free of illusion and face reality; unflinching, unforgiving and unwelcoming reality…warts and all. I ask you here because it is only from a firm grounding in reality we may see the world as it is rather than as we would have it be.

For example, my preference would be a world wherein the people who seek elected office in my state would do so out of a sense of duty or service rather than of personal reward. Where education and independent thought are valued, and ignorance is not virtuous. Where conclusions are supported by evidence, and a course of action is chosen by reasoned debate, rather than revelation.

In reality, there are very wealthy, powerful elements in this country looking at the State of Montana the way…frankly, the way wealthy, powerful elements look at anything. They recognize the abundance of natural resources (be it oil, fish and game, or lakefront property), and the very limited means of the average Montanan to engage in meaningful protection or preservation of those assets. Then they see Montanans like Supreme Court Justice Mike Wheat author the opinion that protects our access to our streams and rivers. They can’t have that.

They realize the important role the Montana Supreme Court plays in protecting the rights and privileges of Montana’s hunters, fisherman, hikers and rafters. How one pivotal seat can mean the difference between a public stream access, and their gated, riverside subdivision.

Enter candidate Lawrence Van Dyke…but, just barely. The Montana Constitution requires a Supreme Court candidate to have been admitted to practice law in Montana for five years prior to the election. Van Dyke was inactive in Montana from 2006 to 2013 while working in DC and Texas. Nonetheless, he is on the ballot, and has some pretty professional, expensive literature floating around the state.

While the literature trumpets dedication to the law and the interests of the people, it avoids mentioning what law and which people. As mentioned previously on this site, Van Dyke has an established set of conclusions about the world, informed in large part by a flat earth, creationist ideology, and a back pocket full of Koch. He also has a record of starting with the desired result, and then figuring out how to use the law justify it. We, the people, will not see nor hear him debate his opponent, nor even do a live interview; but he will confide to friendly crowds that he will be the voice on the Court “of right thinking people.” If you still have that mirror handy, look and see if he means you.

You see, in reality, the biggest threat to Montana’s outdoor heritage isn’t “the government” coming door to door to collect your guns. It’s the private fence around the place your dad taught you to hunt. It’s your public lands sold to the highest bidder. It’s a mine clouding up the Smith River, and a pipeline bursting in the Yellowstone River. It’s Lawrence Van Dyke.

Oil and Gas PAC Tries to Prop Up Bangerter’s Flailing Campaign with Misleading Ad

Dave Galt and his Gas and Oil Industry Political Action Committee (PAC) are running an ad on behalf of Helena Republican Liz Bangerter.  This after rumors that her own campaign appears to be struggling to stay afloat.

The ad is pretty misleading.  It appears that the Gas and Oil PAC is trying to paint Bangerter as pro-public lands given even though she opposed stream access and as pro-public school classrooms even though she voted to send our tax dollars to sectarian private schools.

Here is a transcript of the ad, which you can listen to here:

SCRIPT:

Here in the Treasure State, we shouldn’t be exporting our most valuable resource: our kids. Beneath our feet we have the means to provide thousands of high-paying jobs right here in Montana.

Liz Bangerter, candidate for House District 82, knows that natural resource jobs are the ticket to keeping our educated workforce and skilled laborers from leaving the state.

Bangerter will stand up for the generations of today and tomorrow by promoting new employment opportunities for all.

Paid for by the Montana Gas and Oil PAC. Treasurer Dave Galt. PO Box 1186 Helena, MT 59624

Bangerter faces democratic candidate and Helena teacher Moffie Funk in the November election.