Are you a Republican?

Are you a Republican?

It seems some people are confused about which political party best represents their views.  So we put together this list of things to help you decide (with apologies to Jeff Foxworthy) 

If you think it’s a good thing that our Governor, Congressmen and one US Senator are all rich men from out of state—- You might be a Republican.

If you think women and health care providers who help them get abortions belong in jail—- You might be a Republican.

If you think local property taxes should increase while income taxes on big corporations and rich people are reduced—-You might be a  Republican.

If you think climate change is a hoax while we are seeing annual increases in freezing temperatures and record setting drought—-You might be a Republican.

If you think we should spend more money on putting people in jail cells than we spend on educating our children—-You might be a Republican.

If you are happy having delusional conspiracy theorists representing you on the Public Service Commission and in the Cascade County Sheriff’s office—-You might be a Republican.

If you think higher power bills with a guaranteed profit for utility corporations is good for our economy—-You might be a Republican.

If you think nursing homes and hospitals in rural  communities aren’t important to the communities they  serve—-You might be a Republican.

If you think family farms should be replaced by big agricultural conglomerates—-You might be a Republican.

If you think teachers are paid too much and class size doesn’t matter—-You might be a Republican.

If you think public access to Montana’s great outdoors should be reserved for wealthy landowners and their friends—-You might be a Republican.

If you think wearing masks and getting vaccines don’t help control the spread of Covid and other respiratory diseases—-You might be a Republican.

If you think America should refuse to honor treaty rights of Native Americans because they “lost the war”—-You might be a Republican.

If you think that college should be more expensive and put young people on the hook for mountains of debt owed to private lenders at high interest rates—-You might be a Republican.

If you think businesses are attracted to communities with crappy schools and crumbling infrastructure—–You might be a Republican.

If you think elections are being stolen using electronic voting machines—-You might be a Republican.

If you think you are a “self made person” who got ahead without using government services we all pay for like education, the courts, and roads and bridges—-You might be a Republican.

If you think Donald Trump is an honest, patriotic businessman— We don’t know what the hell you are—other than greatly confused.

NorthWestern Energy Pre-approval—AKA Another Way to Screw Consumers

NorthWestern Energy Pre-approval—AKA Another Way to Screw Consumers

It is often hard to understand the convoluted process of regulating electric utilities in Montana.  But that doesn’t stop us from taking a stab at it.

The basics

Electric utilities in Montana (NorthWestern Energy and Montana Dakota Utilities) are monopolies. The benefit of allowing these businesses to operate as monopolies is that it avoids risks created by a competitive market. No one wants to see their utility collapse because they provide a vital service. But monopolies can charge customers whatever they want and customers have no choice but to pay up.  To protect consumers and make sure power providers didn’t go out of business, utilities were allowed to operate as monopolies BUT the price and services they offer would be regulated by the government.  Here in Montana that is done by the Public Service Commission. 

Fast forward to the 1970s

Following the Arab Oil Embargo in 1973, America was in a panic about an energy crisis.  Coal became “America’s Ace in the Hole”  and utilities all over the country began building coal plants. The precursor to NorthWestern Energy, The Montana Power Company, and other utilities in the Northwest built four coal plants at Colstrip.  Units 1 and 2 came on line in 1975 and 1976.  Unit 3 came on line in 1983 followed by Unit 4 in 1985.

Colstrip Unit 3— Let the fighting begin

Though the Public Service Commission allowed Montana Power to charge customers for the cost of units 1 and 2 (including a profit for their stockholders), that was not the case with Colstrip Unit 3. Montana Power was not the only utility building generating plants in response to the Oil Embargo, and by 1983, utilities in the northwest were in surplus and the power from Colstrip 3 was not needed by Montana Power customers.  To make a long story short, Montana Power asked the Public Service Commission to make customers pay for Unit 3. The Commission ruled that the cost of Colstrip 3 would not be covered by Montana Power’s captive customers because the power was not “used and useful”, the standard at the time for deciding if a power plant would be paid for by consumers. Montana Power went off to court and eventually succeeded in forcing its Montana customers to pay for Unit 3. It was a long and ugly fight and as a result Montana Power opted to sell power from Colstrip Unit 4 in the open market rather than try to put it into customer rates.

Fast Forward to 2007—Pre-approval, NorthWestern Energy’s Holy Grail

After the Colstrip 3 fight Montana Power, and it’s successor NorthWestern Energy, never forgot how the requirement that power be “used and useful” had worked to their disadvantage. They argued that it takes a long time to build a power plant and no one could reasonably be expected to predict markets and energy requirements that far in advance. So, they came up with a nifty idea that they should be able to go to the Public Service Commission with their plan to build a power plant and get “pre-approval”. If granted, the cost of the plant (including a profit for their stockholders) would automatically be charged to customers— whether or not it was “used and useful”. They went off to the legislature, which they basically owned, and changed the law to grant them the ability to get pre-approval for future plants.

A brief editorial comment

Pre-approval screws consumers! It represents a huge shift in the risk of building big power plants from utility stockholders to customers.  Reasonable people can disagree whether pre-approval is good or bad for maintaining a healthy power system but there is no question that it reduces the monopoly’s risk from requiring the power be “used and useful” when placed in customer rates. In theory, if the utility’s risk is reduced, stockholders profit should be reduced as well. But NorthWestern remains remarkably silent on this issue.

Enter our Hero, Monica Trannel

Yes, that Monica Trannel. In addition to being the Democratic candidate for the Western District Congressional seat, Trannel is also a consumer advocate and utility lawyer. Representing the environmental group, 350 Montana, she looked at the law which allowed pre-approval in the 2007 legislature and said, “Wait just a minute, fellas This law is unconstitutional” and off to court she went. Her argument was that the law violated a couple of “special legislation” rules in the Montana Constitution because it only applied to one business entity in the state, NorthWestern Energy. The courts agreed, and the pre-approval law was found to be unconstitutional.

NorthWestern Energy Returns to The Legislature

So here we are at the beginning of 2023,.  and NorthWestern Energy is returning to the legislature to “clarify” the pre-approval issue. There will likely be several bills on the pre-approval issue but the first one out of the gate is by Rep. Jerry Schillinger, a Republican from Circle.  This bill will make the pre-approval law apply to all utilities, not just Northwestern energy, in order to bring it into harmony with the Montana Constitution.

NorthWestern Energy says jump!  Republican Legislators ask, “how high?”

WTF406 has already covered the attempt of Great Falls Senator Steve Fitzpatrick to muzzle the state consumer representative in utility matters in the legislative rules.  Fitzpatrick now says he will not pursue his rule making effort.  There will be plenty of bills NorthWestern Energy will try to pass given the Republican majority in the legislature.  Rest assured that Great Falls Republican Legislators will be lining up to give them whatever they want. They always have.

Republicans Attack Abortion Rights for Poorest Montanans

Republicans Attack Abortion Rights for Poorest Montanans

Your intrepid author believes that anytime a person wants an abortion, they should have access. However today we’re specifically looking at those abortions deemed “medically necessary.” For over 20 years, Montanans on Medicaid have had access to medically necessary abortion. Now, Republicans have proposed rule changes to make these life-saving procedures harder to get. Targeting the poorest Montanans, Republicans are inserting bureaucracy into our uteruses.

There are numerous reasons why a person may require an abortion. For example, a woman may miscarry. The fetus has died, but the body has not entirely expelled the dead tissue. This situation can quickly turn deadly, with the woman facing sepsis and death without swift medical intervention. Each pregnancy is as unique as the pregnant person, meaning that “medically necessary” abortion can take on many forms.

Now, Republicans want to violate our medical privacy by requiring irrelevant and deeply personal information. The suggested rule change would require the woman to disclose information such as previous pregnancies and live births. Can you imagine asking a person in a medical emergency to disclose all of their past losses before helping them? These questions are NOT medically necessary, and they don’t inform present treatment whatsoever. Rather, they are invasive big-government overreach. Women do not owe anyone information about their previous pregnancies, abortions, or stillbirths. Requiring them to disclose this serves no purpose beyond Orwellian government monitoring.

In addition to asking questions that are not the government’s fucking business, the rule change would limit who could provide the abortion. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants would no longer be covered. Eliminating these providers means many Montanans wouldn’t have access to the procedure at all. Rural healthcare is already tenuous and this change specifically targets those with the fewest resources.

If these hurdles weren’t enough, Republicans have one more measure to push us closer to dying in bathrooms and alleyways. They’re trying to require “pre-authorization” for this procedure. What happens when you add red-tape to a time sensitive medical procedure? A few things. The pregnant person dies, OR, the abortion takes place later in the pregnancy. That’s right. Republican Reps are creating rules that will actually increase the number of abortions taking place after the first trimester.  

In my professional life, I’ve seen children as young as elementary-age become pregnant from rape and incest. What right do Republicans have to make children continue a pregnancy that their tiny child bodies cannot handle?

And what about those women who find out their fetus cannot survive, for a myriad or reasons? They’re going to make women carry unviable pregnancies longer. Although Republicans want to pretend that all abortion is a result of unprotected sex, that’s simply not reality. Many women have to abort babies that were very much loved, wanted, and planned for, due to medical issues that render the fetus incompatible with life.

And what about miscarriages? Ask any person who has ever miscarried, and they’ll tell you that continuing to carry their dead child in their body doesn’t help the situation. Not physically. Not emotionally. It’s not only deadly, its unspeakably cruel.

Touting themselves as champions of “small government” we see Republicans once again doing the opposite. They’re inserting themselves into our doctor’s offices and medical decisions, and they’re starting by victimizing the easiest target- the poor. Montanans on Medicaid deserve what we all deserve- access to medical care and privacy in our medical decisions. It’s time to tell Big Government Republicans to get the fuck out of our bodies. 

Read more about the proposed rule changes here:

Rep. Lola Sheldon Galloway pushes a doll around in a baby stroller. Lola and her fellow anti-choice extremists spent several weeks harassing Planned Parenthood clients and staff.
When asked about her involuntary participation in this demonstration, the baby doll was quoted as saying, “This is fucking embarrassing.”
Tryon Continues Obsession with Local Woman.

Tryon Continues Obsession with Local Woman.

 Local Woman Remains Uninterested.

If there’s one tax credit I can claim every year, it’s the one I get for living rent-free in Commissioner Rick Tryon’s head. Tryon, like many an aging Republican, has a long history of targeting women. Women in politics. Women in leadership. Hell, even women he’s never met outside of a Facebook comments section. That’s why I know that although I am the current object of Rick’s unblinking attention, I am but the latest in his long history of targeting women who are too loud for his liking. Most of this targeting happens on his right-wing blog, E City Beat.

ECBs prior targets include former City Commissioners, former Mayors, and former legislative candidates.  Although they may write a one-off article about a man they disagree with, the recurring characters on the blog are all women. Accusations have ranged from serious to spurious, one of the more comical being an article where ECB accused a Representative of being a Satanist because they didn’t like her t-shirt.  

At one point ECB created a fake author. The persona was a Queer woman who “wrote” articles for the blog under an achingly bad penname. The ruse was sad and short lived. Rick was quickly called out, owing to his use of a common stock photo in his creation of what ECB assumed a lesbian would look like. (Please note: it was a kind of goth, manic pixie dream girl vibe. I think he has a type.)  

Most recently, Dear Old Rick has attempted to make me sound like a danger to society.   Now, to be clear, this new post itself doesn’t list Rick as the author but rather uses the umbrella of “ECB Staff.” But when you’ve had a dude hate-crushing on you for several years, its easy to recognize the voice behind  the piece. Further, Rick’s frenzied promotion of the piece on his own page indicates a significant degree of investment.

But to my point, this latest article makes me sound way cooler than I am. Anyone that knows me personally knows that I’m basically a Hobbit. I’m short, prefer being left alone, but given enough pipeweed can be persuaded to go on the occasional adventure. And if ECB had simply implied I was a  menace, I wouldn’t dispense any emotional labor responding to this most recent fan fiction. But alas. Despite the compliment to my image, ECB made a fatal mistake. In this re-telling, they completely ruined my joke. Not just misrepresented it, but thoroughly ruined it. 

Call me dangerous. Call me a terrorist. But you will not call me Un-Funny. 

Once again, ECB will be foiled by the very technology they cling to  so desperately for relevance. Sadly, that means I have to explain an interaction on Twitter. I will not call it a “Twitter beef.” I am a woman in my 30s who absolutely should not be using phrases like “Twitter beef.” Please bear with me. None of us are excited to be here.

Picture it. Twitter, 2022. 

A self-described gay Republican is online. And he’s saying some bigoted shit.

For background: An activist posted a picture of Democratic Senator, Ellie Boldman, taking a selfie with Republican Representative, Braxton Mitchell. Mitchell has already introduced homophobic bills for the 2023 session. Additionally, his re-surfaced tweets include him calling people “faggot” repeatedly. 

You with me?

So, activist posts this picture. Activist has in their bio “they/them” pronouns. Self-described gay Republican posts this transphobic comment.

I see self-described gay Republican’s tweets. First, the transphobic tweet. Then, this tweet where dude discusses the recent cost of his dental work. (Democrats want that to be free, btw.)

I point out to self-described gay Republican that saying bigoted things is dangerous. He could get hurt. And he has just said that he can’t afford dental work.

Got that timeline?

Dude: I cant afford dental work again.

Dude: Makes fun of a Queer person.

Me: It’s dangerous to be a bigot, and you can’t afford more dental work!

That timing? I mean, come on. *chef’s kiss*

ECB’s re-telling of this entire interaction really ruins the joke. There’s no regard for context or comedic timing. Thankfully, these screenshots explain the story a little better.  As seen above, far from being the victim, this gentleman was engaging in bigoted speech. He has every right to do so. Just as fellow Twitter users have every right to remind him of the dangers inherit in such bold statements. 

Rick Tryon siding with a transphobe is not surprising behavior. In fact, Tryon’s own past transphobic posts were previously brought up during a commission meeting. And just last summer, Tryon tried to assert a neo-nazi flyer distributed in Great Falls didn’t contain transphobic language, when it very much did.  So Rick teaming up with a man making transphobic comments on Twitter? Yeah, that checks out. 

More importantly, dear readers, ECB’s articles about me often seem like a concerted attempt to deflect attention away from Tryon’s own behavior. Does Rick really think I’m dangerous? I don’t think so. The more likely explanation is that Rick is angry about this article I wrote. Read it here, because Rick doesn’t want you to. It details his recent change of heart regarding a certain safety levy.\

Once again, we see that an attempt was made, but we’re none of us fooled.

I get that I’m on your mind a lot Rick, but don’t kid yourself. You’re not even my coolest nemesis.


ECB impersonates a Queer woman under the guise of an editorial.
ECB accuses Indigenous woman of Satanism because they don’t like her t-shirt.
A quick search of the name “Jasmine Taylor” brings up 3 pages of articles on ECB. Nothing to see here, folks! Just very normal Commissioner behavior.
Where it all began? I’m fairly sure this was the first time I hurt lil old Rick’s feelings. Our Hurtaversary, if you will. Yes, he’s been at this for over 4 years. Also, why did he write in 3rd person?

“This is disgusting” says dude who once threated to beat up an elderly man after a public forum meeting.
“Bridges” of Communication

“Bridges” of Communication

Last night, Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Elsie Arntzen, hosted a forum at Heritage Hall at Great Falls College MSU and it was standing room only. Several Great Falls legislators, school board members, and school district superintendents attended the event.

Why such impressive attendance?

In the days before the event, Great Falls Rising had sent multiple emails with a forwarded message from Great Falls Public Schools Superintendent Tom Moore. In the message, Moore stated “none of the superintendents have received personal invitations to attend” the four events that were scheduled by the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) and he urged people to attend the meeting. To be honest, there has been a lot of broken trust between the OPI and Montana’s public schools. A year ago, the superintendent of every AA school in Montana signed a letter of no confidence in the OPI due to several failings during Superintendent Arntzen’s tenure. A motivation to rally around our schools might have packed the room.

What was the event’s purpose?

Ironically for a meeting about “bridging” communication, communication of the meeting’s purpose was poor. After the first 45 minutes of the forum, one audience member took the mic and asked the question on many of our minds. “What is the purpose of this meeting?”

Elsie Arntzen took back the mic and gifted us with an incoherent, rambling statement. I wrote, “WTF” in my notebook because her answer made zero sense.

Excuse me, what?

The questioning audience member tried to ask her question again, but Elsie either didn’t want to provide the real reason and/or was unable to articulate a response. Great Falls Public Schools Superintendent Tom Moore stepped in and briefly explained that he understood the purpose of the meeting was to have a conversation with the newly elected legislators in our area. To engage our parents, school leaders, and legislators in discussing issues of mutual interest before the upcoming legislative session. It was nice of Moore to try to hypothesize why Arntzen decided to host these forums.

Okay, Superintendent Moore’s answer made some sense – but – an astute audience member asked a great follow-up question. Why were these meetings only scheduled in the “more red” cities of Kalispell, Great Falls, Billings and Stevensville? Why weren’t forums scheduled in Helena, Bozeman, Butte or Missoula? On brand, Superintendent Arntzen’s response was a confusing paragraph of buzzwords. While her answer made little sense, she implied meetings would be held in the bluer cities in the future.

Nothing political to see here people!

If Superintendent Arntzen was expecting a venue to spew anti-public school and “parental choice” gibberish, she sure didn’t get it. When newly elected Daniel Emrich (SD-11) stood up and said that if you want to raise teachers’ salaries, you need to cut administrators’ – the crowd booed! A teacher spoke up and said that we need to keep public dollars in public schools and loud applause broke out.

What did other Republican legislators have to say?

Besides Emrich, a couple other Republican legislators in the room spoke and had tense interactions with GFPS Superintendent Moore. Jeremy Trebas (SD-13) pressed Moore about accountability for student achievement. Moore responded with a graph visually demonstrating all of the extra demands we have put on the shoulders of our educators over the past decades. Scot Kerns (HD-23) complained that communication between the schools and the public needed to be a two-way street. Moore responded by saying there were procedures in place to request information, fill out a form to release salary information. Kerns loudly interjected that he had filled out the form. Moore responded that other legislators have made an effort to go to the schools and work with administrators and teachers directly. It seemed as if he was calling out Kerns’ accusations of non-transparency as being in bad faith. 

Tough subjects were raised. I’m glad our legislators were there to hear them.

People brought up the fact that taxpayers  are  tapped out for increased property taxes. Multiple audience members mentioned that our students needed more mental health and prevention services, not less. That subject was raised in a direct response to Arntzen’s proposed elimination of mandated school counselor ratios.  

Based on the mood in the room, I felt hopeful. Because the word had gotten out, there was a strong, pro-public school sentiment in the room. We didn’t have the attacks on our schools seen at the Kalispell and Stevensville forums. People were speaking out and paying attention. If we want improved student achievement, we need to invest in our children. We can’t do that by asking more and more of individual taxpayers. The state needs to allocate monies properly to fund our PUBLIC schools. An audience member asked, “Who is going to want to teach in five years with these attacks on our public schools?” You heard us, Great Falls legislators. SUPPORT OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS.