Tag Archives: Americans for Prosperity

Amateur Hour: TEA Party Republicans Get Desperate in Attempts to Defeat HELP Act

hc3xcThe big noise in Helena yesterday was the final hearing on a compromise Medicaid expansion alternative, SB 405 which is being carried by Sen. Ed Buttrey, the Republican from Great Falls. It was heard in front of a committee chaired by angry Tea Partier Art Wittich (R-Bozeman).

Humiliated that they were outnumbered 10 to 1 at previous hearings, the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity rented a bus this time and hauled in (and may have actually paid) a few dozen idiots to rant and rave at the lectern about deficits, Obama, “taking back our country,” hatred of the U.S. government, conspiracies and so on. They were still outnumbered by supporters 2-1.

Highlights included testimony from AFP head Zach Lahn, who is in an understandable panic these days because Montana might become the first state where AFP loses the Medicaid battle.  Lahn told the committee that if Medicaid expansion passes, people “won’t take raises or job promotions anymore.”  Yes, that is the intellectual level on which the opponents were making their arguments. I suppose it’s no wonder that the AFP has crashed and burned in this fight in Montana.

Also arriving on the AFP bus was a young man named Chris Puyear, a 22-year-old Tea Partier.  He ranted at the committee that he is “frightened for his future” if Medicaid expansion becomes law.  Puyear left out an important fact: he himself is (almost certainly) covered under the health insurance policy of his father, who is the lobbyist for the Montana Association of Rural Schools, a group that is funded by public money.

Medicaid-Republicans-HealthcareSo if he is frightened for his future, Puyear might think about other people who are 22 years old and have no parents to cover them, have no college education, and earn $12,000 a year. I would say that THEY have the right to be frightened about their future, much more than this idiot who came on the AFP bus.

Then there was testimony from another AFP top staffer, Henry Kriegel. (Before becoming a top man for the Koch Brothers in Montana, Kriegel was a high ranking member in a cult called Church Universal Triumphant, whose members dug a deep bunker and filled it with enough food for ten years, because they thought the world was going to end at any minute.)  In the hearing today, Kriegel made two bizarre assertions. First, he tried to claim that studies show that Medicaid “has no impact on patient outcomes.” What this means is anyone’s guess.  If you have cancer and no health insurance, you can’t get chemo. If you have Medicaid, you can–and from the same doctors everyone else has. These are simple facts, backed up by decades of research.  Indeed AFP’s claims have already been soundly debunked. 

Kriegel then turned to Ed Buttrey, the sponsor, and accused him of having “written his bill in the dark of night” or something to that effect. He said he was furious that Buttrey did not show him the contents of his bill “before it was drafted,” a strange thing to say given that no bill is available to the public before its drafted. It doesn’t exist until there’s a draft.  Several other TEA Partiers took to attacking Buttery personally, presumably because they couldn’t think of any real reason to oppose the bill except, and I quote, “gub’mint ruins America” and “I would know because I was a football coach 30 years ago.”

Finally came the bizarre climax of the hearing. Inexplicably, the Tea Party Republican committee members began offering amendments to the bill, one after the other, turning what is a conservative Medicaid expansion bill into an all out, clean Medicaid expansion bill, arguably  more progressive than the Governor’s opening compromise bill that was killed in Wittich’s committee a few weeks ago. A final amendment changed the bill to a referendum, to be put on the ballot.

And then, with all these amendments added, the same legislators voted the bill down.

If it doesn’t make any sense to you, you are not alone. There was no logic to what was going on.  The best guess is that the ring leader of all these shenanigans, Wittich who is the chair of the committee, thinks that he is “poisoning” the bill so that moderate Republicans in the house–who are backing the Buttrey bill at present–will no longer back it. Alas for Wittich, he apparently doesn’t understand that each of these amendments can be taken off the bill on the floor of the House.

So one thing is clear, from what we saw from the Tea Party today: it’s no surprise that they are losing this battle. These laughable wing-nut tautologies, cherry-picked “arguments” and blatant lies are the best  they’ve got.  They were no match by Sen. Buttrey, who easily shot down every ludicrus statement–and clearly could have done so with one hand tied behind his back. It is amateur hour, and the amateurs are getting desperate.

For more highlights and the latest on what you can do, see the guest post below by Linda Gryczan.

 

A Citizen’s Guide to Who’s Fighting Medicaid Expansion in the MT Legislature

I had a chance to watch the hearing for the Healthy Montana Plan bill, HB 249,last night and could not help noting both few opponents showed up and the type of opposition they offered.

More than 250 Montanans stood up to support Rep. Noonan’s bill, carried on behalf of Governor Bullock, many who had driven hours and stayed for the entire 6 1/2 hour hearing.   It was one of the most incredible hearings I’ve ever watched.

Among the remarkable occurrences, Rep. Ellie Hill (D-Missoula) gave a letter of thanks to everyone who came to support the bill–something I’ve not heard of anyone doing before, but which delighted a few tipsters.  I’m also told Rep. Jessica Karjala (D-Billings) took her seat wearing a blue Healthy Montana “#70000 Can’t Wait” t-shirt, the same kind which were worn by many supporters, who stood in line to testify for at least 2 hours of the 6 1/2 hour hearing to share their incredible stories and to speak out for Montanans in need.

There are two out-of-state groups who are spending big money to make the Montana legislature think the public is opposed to expansion, when really even the most conservative polls have Montanans supporting it by a 20 point margin. Out-of-state money can buy radio ads and post cards, but it can’t come anywhere close to real grassroots support.  And so, it is not surprising that out-of-state astroturf groups weren’t able to come up with much in the way of actual people to oppose the Healthy Montana Plan in the hearing.

Here’s who Americans for Prosperity and the Florida Foundation for Government Accountability was able to convince to speak against Medicaid expansion in Montana:

GFTPP IRS ProtestPresident of the Helena TEA Party, Ed Argenbright.  Ed regaled the legislature at length with his views on federal school funds and the “strings” they supposedly came with.  He did not elaborate on what the strings were and why he was worried about them.  HB 249, as you probably know, has nothing to do with school funding. Perhaps nobody told him.  Apparently, Argenbright was once superintendent of public instruction 30 years ago, in the 80s.

 

Annie BukacekAnti-abortion crusader Annie Bukacek, of Kalispell.  Bukacek is a fundamentalist and former AFP spokesperson who was probably brought to the hearing because she has been, at least at some point, a licensed physician in the state of Montana, albeit with a religious twist.  Her clinic, which has since closed down, was called “Hosanna Healthcare.”  She was also investigated for federal health care fraud, but she claims it was because she prayed with patients. (So much for the TEA Party GOP’s supposed concerns about fraud and abuse in health care.)

Ms. Bukacek appears to have delivered false testimony before the Montana Legislature during the 2011 session. 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. 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.

Americans for Prosperity Paid Staffers. For some reason, perhaps because their ranks were few, AFP sent two paid staffers to oppose the same bill.  One was Henry Kriegel, who a couple of years back was caught on tape admitting that AFP is primarily funded by two Kansas billionaires, the Koch brothers, as you can hear here:

Before working for AFP, Kriegel was a self-appointed Tea Party leader in Bozeman, who was once was busted by the IRS for failing to pay a fortune in income taxes (somehow he got a bankruptcy court to let him off the hook on a large portion of it) and with this qualification under his belt went on to lead the Montana chapter of Americans for Prosperity (the group that gets its money from the Kochs).  From that perch, he has spoken out frequently about the need for tax reform.  Yep.

LT. Col. Robert Welzel, of the Flathead (Retired).  This individual  is the leader of a Chuck Baldwin influenced prepper patriot group in the Flathead. Welzel also leads this Facebook group, which is full of racist posts.  He’s also said some pretty terrible things himself.

Welzel says he is “sick and tired of hearing about Trayvon Martin and even more sick and tired of hearing about how white Americans are racist.”  The truth, said Welzel…wait for it…is that “race does make distinctive differences between us and some of those characteristics might actually make some superior over others.”

He says he has “never personally met or personally know any racists who are Caucasian. After living in both New Orleans and in Memphis, I have met and know racist, but I regret to inform you that the only racists I have ever met have been black.”

He says voting is worthless because “2012 proved that the ballot box was totally ineffective…because a Kenyan was elected for a second term.”  He calls for everyone to stop paying taxes because “honestly, the alternative is armed conflict which would be much costlier.”

 Doing so [ceasing to pay taxes] starves the beast and very clearly communicates not only our resolve and our commitment, but immediately quantifies to the federal government our extreme displeasure. Is this extreme, you bet it is. But make no mistake, war would be worse. Just exactly where is your line in the sand? What abuse do you need to suffer before you’re willing to stand for freedom? Some things are worse than death, and Communism is one of them. BETTER DEAD THAN DEM!

Next was Gina Satterfield the lead singer of a local Helena band called Mabel’s Rage, whose testimony included the statement “Every child is controlled by the Obamacare of Education” and discussed her believe that this was some kind of conspiracy to indoctrinate kids to something – it wasn’t clear what.

From the band’s website:

WARNING! If you are to be a potential fan of Mabel’s Rage it is required to arrive at our shows prepared and be well equipped with straightjackets, rope and gaffers tape (no sticky residue) to restrain from out of control hand and foot tapping, dangerous dancing and grinning with infectious laughter. Armed with original songs that keep you moving to their addictive beat and lyrics that provoke free thought and tell amazing stories, this band is a jewel. From the politically charged “America (You’ve Got Change)’ to the neo-spiritually charged, “Mikey Says,” this band’s fresh, new material keeps you interested throughout.

 

But in spite of the fact that there were 20 supporters for every opponent,  Republicans on the committee refused to do the right thing and instead made a motion for an “adverse committee report.”  This “adverse committee report” means the bill is exempt from being eligible to use one of 6 silver bullets democrats had negotiated – an agreement that 6 bills could be debated on the floor after a vote of 50 legislators.  If an adverse committee report is put on the bill by a GOP committee, the silver bullets don’t apply.

If you would like to contact the members of this committee who did this and ask them why, you may do so by clicking here: http://leg.mt.gov/css/Sessions/64th/legwebmessage.asp  or by emailing them with the addresses below.

Wittich, Art (R) Rep.Art.Wittich@mt.gov
Wagoner, Kirk (R) kirk@kirkbwagoner.org
Berglee, Seth (R) Rep.Seth.Berglee@mt.gov
Doane, Alan (R) alandoane@midrivers.com
Harris, Bill (R) bharris@midrivers.com
Hess, Stephanie (R) Stephhess28@gmail.com
Mandeville, Forrest (R) Rep.Forrest.Mandeville@mt.gov
Olszewski, Albert (R) Rep.Albert.Olszewski@mt.gov
Redfield, Alan (R) redfieldhd61@gmail.com
Ricci, Vince (R) rep.Vince.Ricci@my.gov

The Puppet Show

Yesterday on the floor of the Montana House of Representatives, TEA Party Republican Randy Pinnocci gave a speech in favor of his bill to prohibit the United Nations from the “use of technology for controlling human activity…and the indoctrination of children for global citizenship.” (Which 41 Republicans voted for.)  Pinnoci said the goal of his bill was: “to prevent us from being told what to do by an outside entity.” “What I believe is that if we have a good idea in Montana we should implement it on our own,” he continued.

But two new and separate pieces of investigative journalism in the Bozeman Chronicle and the Flathead Beacon, and documents obtained by Cowgirl tipsters, show that outside entities are indeed telling the Montana legislature what to do, even writing boilerplate bills introduced in Montana and providing direct instruction to legislative bill drafters.

A Florida right-wing group called the Foundation for Government Accountability is instructing Montana legislators and legislative staffers on how to write our laws, and TEA Party lawmakers are attempting to pass boilerplate legislation provided by the same organization. But that’s not the only disturbing evidence of the extent outside forces are pulling the strings at the Montana Legislature.

Inside Job

First,  we turn to the office of TEA Party Senator Jennifer Fielder.  Fielder alone has requested dozens of different bills to address the same scheme – which republicans call TPL for “takeover of public lands.”  The Utah-based American Lands Council has been pushing the idea at at  ALEC conferences.  It is an ALEC boilerplate bill, and it would increase our taxes by hundreds of millions, and inflict a major blow to Montana’s tourism economy.

It has now come to light that the individual that has been serving as Jennifer Fielder’s staffer and legislative aide (granting him full floor privileges amongst other things) was at the same time being employed by the American Lands Council as their registered lobbyist.  Montanans deserve to know what the deal is here including the serious ethical questions raised regarding her own staffer being paid by the American Lands Council.

You can see here screen shots from the commissioner of political practices website showing he is the registered lobbyist of the Utah land-secession group.

And here is a shot of this guy’s Facebook page where the lobbyist publicly posts his position as a Senate Aide.

And finally here you can view a picture with him wearing his official Montana state legislature name badge which grants him unrestricted access to the Senate Floor and GOP leadership.

 Boilerplate and Behind the Scenes Instruction

Yesterday,  the Bozeman Chronicle reported that as many as 1/3 of the bills written by legislative staff come at the request of or under the instruction of outside groups rather than from Montana elected officials.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 7.21.25 AM

 

The group behind this is the Florida-Based “Foundation for Government Accountability” or the FGA.  The group is active in several states – usually working to kill Medicaid expansion as they did in Wyoming and Tennessee.  They also worked to kill Medicaid expansion in Maine, where they conducted a biased “poll”.  A similar push-poll was also in conducted recently in Montana and is expected to be released soon.

Below is a screenshot of that FGA-AFP Facebook AD.

FGA-AFP Facebook AD

You can see the Florida group’s  Montana attack site here: http://dontexpandmt.com/ Here is their Facebook timeline: https://www.facebook.com/TheFGA?fref=nf   Like AFP, the group is spending big bucks to kill Medicaid expansion in Montana with ads and talking points being parroted by right-wing, “legislators” (or should we just call them puppets). The FGA is saying that if we expand medicaid we will lose school funding, highway funding, prison funding, funding for first responders etc., which is obviously a complete lie.

But it doesn’t stop there.

 

The FGA is also behind Fred Thomas’s Senate Bill 206 - one of the worst bills of the 2015 session which would take assistance buying food from thousands of hungry seniors, people with disabilities, and kids. As the Bozeman Chronicle reported:

State Sen. Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville, a longtime legislator, introduced a bill last month to create limits on food stamp assistance in Montana.

Thomas told the Associated Press that he drafted the bill after hearing from store cashiers that food stamps are being used to buy energy drinks, frozen pizza and other items.

According to emails obtained by the Chronicle, the bill was written in large part by the Foundation for Government Accountability in Florida. A copy of the group’s boilerplate bills was provided to drafters.

It’s not just Thomas who is pimping Foundation for Government Accountability boilerplate bad ideas- check out Sen. Cary Smith (TEA -Billings) who is carrying SB 148, an ALEC boilerplate bill also procured from him by the same Foundation for Government Accountability, as you can see here.  That bill aims to strip tens of thousands of the poorest Montanans from Medicaid or food stamps – even though they are still eligible.  As the Flathead Beacon reported:

 portions of a bill introduced in the Montana Legislature, SB 148, which aims to prevent welfare fraud, are taken nearly verbatim from a piece of model legislation by the American Legislative Exchange Council,

This is likely the tip of the iceberg and I expect more such evidence of who’s really calling the shots at the Montana Legislature to come to light.  The Great Falls Tribune and the Flathead Beacon have already reported on the series of fake “town hall meetings” that backfired on Americans for Prosperity recently.

With this latest revelation, Montanans will respond to the bills these right-wing legislators and out-of-state groups are attempting to foist on us with even greater skepticism.  Because while Fred Thomas embarrassingly tries to spin this insider influence for out-of-state special interests as a good thing, I doubt most Montanans would agree. 

 

Montana Astroturf Strategy Backfires on Koch Brothers

hc3xc
This was a bad week for the Koch Brothers in Montana.

Their astroturf “group,” Americans for Prosperity, is fighting Medicaid Expansion.  That’s right–the Koch Brothers, who are worth $50 Billion – each,  are trying to ensure that someone who makes $15,000 is not able to afford health insurance or medical care.

Zach Lahn, a young GOP operative who was once a Steve Daines campaign aide, is now the head of AFP’s Montana chapter.   Lahn has thus been targeting pro-Medicaid Republican legislators, sending mailers comparing them to Obama, demanding that they sign anti-Medicaid “pledges,” and showing up in a suit holding astroturf “town meetings” in their districts designed to intimidate them.

None of it is working, and the town hall meetings have blown up altogether.  In Dillon this weekend, the legislator being targeted, Rep. Jeff Wellborn (R-Dillon, actually showed up like an adult at the AFP meeting and naturally wanted to speak.  Lahn would not allow him to.  Wellborn walked out, as did a number of attendees.  You can see a video of this on the Great Falls Tribune website here-- the crowd was not pleased with AFP’s action.

Rep. Frank Garner (R-Kalispell), the former police chief and now a pro-Medicaid Republican legislator from Kalispell, drove eight hours to be at the town hall meeting in his district this weekend and muscled his way to the podium.   That meeting, too, blew up in Lahn’s face.   A Flathead Beacon reporter covered the event:  You can also see some of the Flathead Beacon’s video coverage on the Great Falls Tribune site.

Garner’s mere presence had a chilling effect on the AFP presentation, which was frequently derailed by laughter, booing and shouting from audience members who overwhelmingly expressed support for Garner.

Following a hasty exchange with AFP State Director Zach Lahn minutes before Thursday’s meeting commenced, Garner took the podium to defend his record before the crowd of mostly supporters, who cheered the lawmaker on.

“I promised the people here when I ran that I would listen to you and not out-of-town special interests,” Garner said to raucous applause. “If every time they want me to sign a pledge card and I don’t do it they are going to rent a room and have a meeting, then this is going to get real expensive. Cause I’m not signing the pledge card.”

This is an example of a Tea Party event gone terribly wrong.  And it indicates to me that the Medicaid expansion battle will likely be won.  The moderates will break away and support some version of the Governor’s proposal.

This debacle in Kalispell (which played out in several other districts as well) is part of a larger emerging trend in the country in which classic Tea Party hooligan tactics are not working out like they used to.  A few years back, Tea Party town hall meetings were places where a moderate Republican would overwhelmed by a Tea Party mob.  Now the opposite is happening. This means that the Tea Party is in retreat. Even AFP’s own employees know how terrible their reputation is.

afp

Perhaps the person who has best summed this all up is GOP Sen. Llew Jones, who penned an op-ed in the Fairfield Sun Times today:

Irrespective of your stance on this, or any issue, these intruders need to get out of Montana politics.   I know that I now consider any issue or individual that AFP advocates for or against as highly suspect.   To me these folks are on the same level as the predator who called my 89 year old mother last week, pretending to be her Grandson, supposedly trapped in a “bad situation” in New York, desperately needing her help, which was defined as $900.00 on her credit card.  “Please Grandma, don’t tell anyone…..!!”   How despicable.. It took my son calling, and me talking to her, to finally calm her down, but she is still very upset and confused.

Predators: get out of Montana, we do not want you here.  We can take care of our own.

The problem AFP is running into is that these districts have rural hospitals that need the medicaid expansion because they currently provide health services to poor people who can’t pay the bills.  Plus Medicaid expansion helps all Montanans – without it, we are all are subsidizing the cost of the uninsured through our insurance bills.  So while Lahn and his pals are making angry speeches at these Munich Beer Hall-type gatherings, Governor Bullock and Lt. Governor McClean are touring the hospital down the street, meeting with workers and even the Republican legislators being targeted, and getting the majority of the community behind them, such as chambers of commerce, as well as local media such as editorial boards. The major newspapers have all turned against AFP and are supporting Medicaid expansion, as has the Montana Chamber of Commerce.

It might seem natural for Steve Bullock to be supporting this but keep in mind that he has taken on a herculean task.  Bullock stands alone as the only Democratic Governor in America who both presides over a Red state and is actively pushing Medicaid expansion.

 

The TEA Party Revolving Door is in Full Swing in Montana

man-leaving-revolving-doorWhen top campaign staff and senior congressional staffers swing in and out of the TEA Party front groups working to influence elections and congressional votes, so do inside information, strategic decisions, money and special access for the TEA Party.

Some call it a form of corruption.  Whatever you call it, the revolving door often leads to TEA Partiers and members of congress working in their own self-interest, rather than that of the people of Montana.

Here are three recent developments you need to be aware of related to the TEA Party’s revolving door in Montana.

First, the Billings Gazette has reported that Zacharay Lahn has switched from his position as Steve Daines’ State director to being the state director for Americans for Prosperity, which is bankrolled by the Koch brothers, as has been often reported.

Lahn, who was also Steve Daines’ campaign manager in 2012, replaces TEA Party state senator Joe Balyeat in the position.  Balyeat was demoted to State Policy Director for Americans for Prosperity.

Meanwhile over at the Montana Policy Institute, which had gone dark after losing some major funding sources, a man named Brent Mead was hired as director to fire the right-wing “think” tank back up again.  Mead swings in from his former position as policy director for the Montana Growth network, as is noted on the also-Koch brother’s funded Americans for Tax Reform’s website.

The Montana Growth Network, as you will recall, is embattled state Sen. Jason Priest’s group which funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into campaigns to buy a supreme court seat for TEA Partier Laurie McKinnon. The group was also revealed to be behind a barrage attack mailers poured into moderate GOP legislative districts to stop the moderates from supporting the Medicaid expansion. Most recently, some of the group’s board members tried to distance themselves from that organization after it was revealed that 70% of the Montana Growth Networks funds came from only five people.  The Montana Policy Network also has ties to ALEC and is also funded by the Kochs.

The third interesting development is that the former head of American Majority in Montana is now working for the Ryan Zinke campaign.  American Majority in Montana is the state chapter of national TEA party group out of Virginia called American Majority.    As the Bozeman Chronicle reported, American Majority gets 70% of its funding from a Koch brother’s funded group.

Jeremy Carpenter was the group’s leader.  He said publicly that the group’s goal is to build up the TEA Party base by teaching people how to be candidates and put tea partiers in offices up and down the ballot from school board to statewide and federal races–doing field work for the TEA Party. Now he’s working for the Zinke campaign as a field director.

All of these groups will be working to influence elections in Montana, and perhaps most frighteningly legislative campaigns. Whether through get out the vote efforts, thinly disguised “issue ads”–attack mailers that read “tell said democrat that kids and puppies don’t deserve to be murdered” mailed out right before ballots, and by organizing right-wing campus groups to train volunteers for campaigns.

 

The Montana GOP Hypocrite of the Week Award Goes to…

…Henry Kriegel of Bozeman.  For leading a bunch which calls itself “Americans for Prosperity” while pushing policies reminiscent of a North Korean prison camp, Henry Kriegel is this week’s winner. Many happy returns of the day.

Kriegel demands in the Great Falls Tribune that the U.S. government let kids go hungry.  To back up his argument, Kriegel turns to some of the most laughable junk science this state has seen in decades, writing:

More than 47 million Americans are now on food stamps — a 70 percent increase during Obama’s first term. It is also rife with abuse. Former Montana state Rep. Tom Burnett has analyzed the misuse of food stamp funds. Burnett claims that $16 billion of the $80 billion spent annually on the food stamp program is used by recipients to buy sweetened beverages alone — items like Sobe, Gatorade and Red Bull — not the staples of meat, vegetables and slow carbs.

Burnett, a former state lawmaker, is no scientist nor research analyst.  He’s a TEA Party crackpot obsessed with cutting food for hungry kids in need.  His self-styled “report,”Hunger in America: The Myth, [word doc] reads like it came straight out of a North Korean propaganda ministry.  It calls for an end to food assistance programs and offers such advice to needy parents as “No whining,” ‘Gather wild berries,’ and in a moment of unintended irony, advises that not being hungry “kills.”

The “information” that Kriegel sites is from Burnett’s blog.  Burnett supposedly compiled this himself by wandering around asking a gas station clerk or two “Do people buy x junk food item with food stamps?” with that wild look in his eyes.  The busy clerks were probably quite eager to get the strange personage out of their store so they could get back to work.

Using logic Kim Il-Sung would have been proud of, Burnett writes that hunger doesn’t exist because he hasn’t seen it:

No advocates parade a line of emaciated children at any school or playground. They just can’t be found.

But that’s not the only reason Representative Burnett has come to the conclusion that no one is really going hungry.  He also bases his case on pictures of fat people he found on the Internet, which he actually includes in his article as “evidence.”

Burnett believes that  kids should be “self-reliant.” If they don’t have enough to eat, they should learn to scavenge and glean food from the garbage to survive. That’s exactly how things work in North Korea, where citizens are forced to scavenge for rats to eat, and chip their own frozen feces out of toilets to use for fertilizer to grow their own food.  (Talk about self-reliance.) Kids in that country are so malnourished that many suffer from stunted growth and serious intellectual disabilities for life.

In fact, as Blaine Hardin wrote of the situation in North Korea, because of what is known as the “eating problem” there, severe malnutrition has caused severe problems. One quarter of those who apply to join the military in North Korea are disqualified for intellectual disabilities – think what that does to  a country’s prospects for prosperity.

And so Mr. Kriegel, sergeant of the TEA Party junk-science spin squad, we salute you as the Montana GOP Hypocrite of the Week.  When you are finished trying to stop hungry kids from getting something to eat, maybe you can write an article about the qualifications, scientific standards, and academic research principles employed by Tom Burnett that would pass muster in a high school classroom.  It wouldn’t take very long to write.  It would be blank.

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.

GOP Launches Job Creation Plan

Today, the Montana GOP laid out its plan to bring more high-paying jobs to Montana.

TEA Party Republican state Rep. Clayton Fiscus (R-Billings) is proposing a bill that would require the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution in all Montana schools.

The Huffington Post and the National Center for Science Education reported this week that ridding our schools of science is Fiscus’ first orders of business.   (If his website is any indication, ridding our schools of technology might be next.)

As the NCSE points out, this brilliant plan has already been declared unconstitutional in Kitzmiller v. Dover, in 2005.

The last time a creationist bill was tried in Montana was in 2001, when Joe Balyeat, now with Americans for Prosperity, introduced it.  This latest effort reaffirms the GOP’s position as the anti-science party.

 

Credibility Problems Plague TEA Party

Montana’s top opponent of the women’s medical privacy and the Affordable Healthcare Act, Tea Partier Annie Bukacek, 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.”  She then read a list of statistics that supposedly indicate how people in countries with universal health care are dying at a greater rate than Americans.  Here’s a copy of her written testimony, and here’s a video clip.

The supposed study she cites is a fraud. It does 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 UNIHO.

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.

She also penned a guest editorial in the June 14 edition of the Flathead Daily Interlake (see page 4 of this PDF) extolling the dangers of vaccination, a favorite topic among black helicopter conspiracy theorists.

Ms. Bukacek’s anti-vaccination claims prompted a rebuke from a far right Republican who sits on the Flathead City-County Health Board, Dr. P. David Myerowitz, who moved to Columbia Falls after retiring from a professorship in surgery at a major university in Ohio.   Dr. Myerowitz called Bukacek’s assertions “disturbing,” as well as “misguided, inaccurate and dangerous.” (You can download a PDF of his response here, see page 8.)

In general, you ascribe very little credibility to any data offered up by the Tea Party. It’s usually nonsense.

Cowgirl Finishes Her Sophomore Year

In July, the Cowgirl Blog turned two.

And, the blog is on the verge of receiving our one millionth viewer.  Montana Cowgirl has been featured on CNN, and in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Mother Jones, and numerous Montana press outlets, much of it in the course of exposing the 2011 Republican legislature for the lunatics that they were (are).

But far more flattering is this: at a recent Washington, DC “summit” of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation group (the Koch brothers’ outfit of angry right-wing misfits), there was a panel at which I am told my blog was the main topic of discussion.  Who is this person, they asked. How does she do her research? What dark arts must she know?

It is truly hilarious that these dingbats believe my blog to consist of some sort of magic.  They view it with a sense of awe and bewilderment, like when Tarzan watched in amazement when he first saw the British artistocrat shave his face with a strait razor.  To the Tea Party set, this blog is an item of technological wonder, believed to emanate from some advanced, alien civilization.

A few pieces of advice for the panel participants. First, if you are literate, you can start a blog.  It costs almost nothing and can be done for free.  Second, if you know how to surf the web, conduct google searches, read a Facebook page and receive reader tips by e-mail, you can do all of the things that this blog does.  (Thank you readers! Your tips make up the most important content on this blog. Send tips to mntnacowgirl (at) gmail.com) True, this sets a high bar for an organization (AFP) whose Montana leaders are Joe Balyeat and Henry Kriegel. But it’s incomprehensible that there is such a dearth of credible GOP blogging in this state. The relative absence of conservative blogging (compared to all the really great Montana progressive blogs you see among those on the blog roll here to the right of this post) speaks volumes about the right wing.

As to the occasional remark made that this blog “lacks courage” because it is penned anonymously, these critics do not understand that anonymous writing is a crucial component of political discourse and has always been so.  Among other examples, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, a 1776 work that set forth the basic principles on which the American Revolution was based,was published anonymously.  I’m sure that Tea Partiers, with their intellectual command of American history, are aware of this.