MT senate might deny hunting licenses to deadbeat dads

Two full-grown males who won’t see their kids this weekend

Did you know that 37% of Montana families who are supposed to get legally mandated child support actually don’t? Arrears exceeded $147 million in 2013, and the state only collected 12% of it. Imagine if one third of defendants were ignoring any other kind of court order. It would be a crisis. But like smoking weed outside of Flippers or running over a bicyclist with your car, not paying child support is one of those things you can get away with. But if Sen. Mike Lang (R-Malta) gets his way, Montana will soon begin denying hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses to deadbeat dads.

That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but apparently it makes a difference. During a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sarah Swanson-Partridge of Glasgow said her former husband went seven years without making his court-mandated child support payments. After a state agency threatened to withhold his trapping and fishing licenses, however, he paid off the overdue child support in one year. In addition to being too depressing to contemplate for more than a few seconds, this anecdote suggests Sen. Lang might be onto a low-cost solution for a sprawling enforcement problem.

But what if not letting deadbeat dads shoot elk actually hurt the families they don’t support? That was the objection raised by Sen. Jennifer Fielder (R-Thompson Falls.) Her statement merits quotation in full:

A number of people in this state that are in poverty, and lack of payment is not always because they don’t want to—sometimes it’s because they can’t. I’m really concerned if we strip away a person’s ability to provide sustenance through wild meat that is obtained by a great number of families through fishing, hunting and trapping in this state, I’m really concerned that we’re not helping families.

We were fools not to consider the many non-custodial parents who pay their back child support in the form of wild game. Either that or Sen. Fielder is contorting her brain to come up with a rationalization for her core principle, “all hunting all the time.” You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent.

While you’re at it, check out local anti-Muslim bigot activist Linda Sauer’s letter to the editor objecting to last week’s column about sharia law. “This bill might not have been necessary if Missoula hadn’t decided to play the phony ‘we’re all so caring and loving here’ card,” she writes, “so a few people could pat themselves on the back for their good deeds and wait for the resettlement money to roll in.” Such contempt for caring and loving is a rare treat, but you can find it again a few letters down, when Ed Kugler complains that leftists “want your rights the way you want them, but those that don’t agree with you, well that’s where your ‘love everyone’ comes to an end.” I’m so sick of these lovemongers undermining the patriotic work of blocking refugees and praying in school. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!

Montana senate prohibits courts from applying sharia law

Montana state senator Keith Regier on the day the capitol slid into Idaho

Sharia law: It’s out there, alternately oppressing women and strengthening terrorists, probably. Even as we speak, communities around the world in one part of the world apply this code of religious governance derived from the sacred texts of Islam. Imams and muftis use sharia law to resolve among their parishioners, much as rabbis and pastors do with the Judeo-Christian tradition. And in the same way that Lutherans who study abroad in China immediately begin trying to replace that country’s legal system with what their minister said, Muslims who immigrate to the United States set about enforcing sharia law. Take it from Gina Satterfield of Helena:

We as a nation and state do not have to wait as a forced host to witness the growing population for this foreign law to implement its totalitarian system.

That Markov chain of Palin-style main ideas came when Satterfield testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of SB97, a bill from Keith Regier (R–Kalispell) that would prohibit Montana courts from applying foreign law. The Senate passed it Friday. Wags might point out that Montana courts already apply a fixed body of law, the US Constitution and the code of Montana. But Regier’s bill will strengthen our resolve against replacing our existing legal system with the informal religious guidelines of literally several Muslim immigrants.

Either that or it’s stunt legislation that rallies bigotry to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. I guess it would depend on whether any Montana court had ever tried to apply sharia law, or if anyone in Montana had ever called for sharia law to be enforced, or if Montana were, as of 2012, the least Muslim state in America. Update: Only the last of these three conditions is true, and Regier’s bill is definitely an unnecessary public performance of Islamophobia. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, which comes with my own ideas for other laws to protect us from foreign customs and futuristic toasters. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.

Backing “Republican/Trump agenda,” Gianforte takes un-Christian turn

Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte and a rhetorical question

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources approved Rep. Ryan Zinke (R–Mont.) as nominee for Secretary of the Interior, bringing him one step closer to vacating his seat in the House. That means Montanans are likely to be treated to another election. In preparation, Bozeman multi-millionaire Greg Gianforte—who took second in last year’s race for governor—has announced his bid for the Republican nomination. Here’s a quote from the email he sent out last Thursday:

This race will be ground zero and the first official battle waged by the Democrats to stop the Republican/Trump agenda. I simply will not stand on the sidelines and allow that to happen. I’m ready to fight for our shared Montana values.

That’s an explicit declaration of support for the national GOP and President Trump. It came at an inauspicious moment, though, because the very next day the Republican/Trump agenda took an ugly turn. In a move that surprised the Department of Homeland Security and garnered injunctions from multiple courts, Trump banned refugees from entering the United States for 120 days, prohibited travelers from seven Muslim nations, and blocked Syrian refugees indefinitely. He did it to keep us safe from terrorism.

Never mind that no refugee has ever committed an act of terrorism on American soil. The important thing is that we’re finally doing something for ourselves, by specifically barring the people who are suffering most. This move puts Gianforte in a tough position. As a Christian, he probably remembers that Jesus said not to let any poor, suffering people into your house, in case one of them tries to hurt you. But as a Biblical literalist who rejects the theory of evolution and once cited Noah to argue against the concept of retirement, he probably also read James 2:14-17:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

That’s just one of several Bible passages that suggest specifically barring people without clothes and daily food from the United States might not be the Christian thing to do. Gianforte is on the horns of a dilemma, here. He’s already paid the political price for the prominent role his faith plays in his public life. Will he now throw over that faith to get behind President Trump, a man who is Christian in roughly the same way as marshmallow Peeps? You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, in which I invite Gianforte to choose his millennia-old belief system over the political fad that started last year. He’s a reasonable man, and I hope he listens. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!

I’m in the Times and the Indy, talking that mess

A newsstand seen through Roddy Piper’s magic glasses in They Live

It’s a big Thursday for Combat! blog, because I am in the New York Times. Apparently everyone who works there drinks, since they deigned to publish my Letter of Recommendation: Pedialyte. Do you know Pedialyte? Our hypocritical modern society markets it as a formula for children, but really it’s for adults. Specifically, it’s for adults who drink and work out to the point of vomiting, even though they are old now and should probably know better. I am old now. But I know nothing! Head on over to the Times and see how I somehow manage to make a living anyway.

In other news, literally, I wrote about John Carpenter’s misunderstood 1988 horror-satire They Live for the Missoula Independent. I first saw They Live in 2006, when it was presented to me as a so-bad-it’s-good eighties misfire. It is that. But at the time, I completely missed the subtext about Reaganomics and the amoral materialism that inspired Carpenter to make the movie in the first place. Today, Reag-o-nomical horror feels relevant again. The country is in the midst of some sort of nightmarish eighties throwback, but the people who most need to hear They Live‘s message have determined the alien conspirators who live among us represent…Jews. Seriously—Carpenter had to go on Twitter to tell internet Nazis it was about yuppies and not the Rothschild conspiracy. That, right there, is a neat encapsulation of our political moment. Even if you don’t care about politics or weird-toned eighties camp, They Live is worth watching for this the greatest fight scene in film history:

Meanwhile, in yet more news or at least opinion, Rep. Barry Usher (R–Roundup) has begun to walk back a bill that would ban bicycles from most of Montana’s public roads. Usher claimed his proposal, which would make it illegal to ride a bicycle outside of a municipal area on any two-lane road without a paved shoulder, was in the interest of bike safety. It seemed more like a motorist convenience bill, designed to save drivers from the danger of having to slow down and wait to pass. Little did he realize that almost none of the highways in the state have paved shoulders. Because the bill also applies to pedestrians and people in wheelchairs, it would make it a crime for people in rural areas to leave their properties, unless they were in cars. For once, though, public outcry has carried the day, and Usher now plans to rewrite his bill if not scratch it entirely. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent.

Victory is sweet. This is the last Combat! blog of the week, because I am going to Seattle tomorrow morning for a fencing tournament. Will I win? Absolutely not. There will be Olympians and shit, and I started fencing last year. But will I have the opportunity to frustrate vastly superior fencers with my weird style, throwing them into the tantrums characteristic of the preppie class? You bet your sweet, unguarded hand I will. I’ll see you Monday, probably with a bunch of weird bruises on my leg.