Daines ducks constituents, complains too few in DC drive pickup trucks

US Senator from Montana and convicted goblin Steve Daines

Steve Daines’s first six weeks as a senator have not been easy. He happened to be presiding over the confirmation hearings for Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month, when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell instructed him to gavel down Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). That got him on the news. Then he cast the deciding vote to confirm Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, despite calls to recuse himself after she gave $48,000 to his campaign. Last week, he came home.

He was supposed to address the state legislature last Tuesday, but a crowd of protestors that gathered at the capitol caused him to reschedule at the last minute. He spoke to the legislature Wednesday, after protestors had safely gone home. The very next day, he went on Twitter. “Montanans can do a better job than D.C. bureaucrats who’ve never driven a pick-up and have a hard time finding Montana on a map,” he wrote.

Root toot ‘merca truck, you guys. This kind of pandering was my least favorite thing growing up in Iowa, where the performance of hick-ness was integral to public life. But the politicians of Montana take it to new heights. The day after Daines complained that the failure of bureaucrats to drive trucks left them unable to operate the US federal government, he posted a video from Big Sandy, in which he claimed to be “getting all over Montana” to talk to his constituents.

The senator didn’t have to drive the back roads to find constituents; they had come to him 48 hours earlier, and he contorted his schedule to avoid speaking to them. Daines has never been a dynamic public speaker. Although he gets +1 to night vision and can be dangerous in groups, his main political advantage is that he is a party man. If you need someone to do what his superiors in the GOP say, Daines is your boy. It is therefore distasteful for him to pretend that he is some salt-of-the-earth type fed up with Washington, DC. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, in which we speculate on his truck-drivin’ bona fides and his life as a freshman in the senate dorms. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!

Breaking: Columnist allowed to make Pinkerton joke

Pinkertons

One of my favorite things about writing for the local newspaper is how often strangers stop me on the street. “Do you know who fast you were going?” they ask. “Why are you drunk at 3pm?” Because I don’t need to contend with the red lights and flashing strollers of the eight or even the five hour workday. I write a column for the local newspaper! The plebes fall away like waves and then dock materials breaking across the prow of a ship.

Sometimes, though, they also ask me where I get my ideas. I say you don’t get ideas; you have to take them. They do not come from the touch of some temperamental muse, nor from some fanciful ethic of “hard work,” but rather from my psychotic determination to make Pinkerton jokes. I direct you to this week’s column in the Missoula Independent, which argues that a bill to grant liquor licenses to retirement homes is “great news for anyone who got 86’ed from Red’s after the Grizzlies won the conference championship against the Nevada Pinkertons in 1922.”

It’s the little things that make it worthwhile. No one could like this historical reference awkwardly crammed into a joke as much as I do, but Brad is a kind editor and lets me use the Indy’s ink to amuse myself. He also let me mansplain regulatory capture and use the word “dicks.” The whole Indy staff is pretty great. Why don’t you go to their website and read my column while absently clicking on all the ads? I’ll wait here until tomorrow, when we’ll be back with Friday links!

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!