by lizard

In yesterdays post about progressive Democrats supporting Obama’s dangerously incoherent foreign policy, one comment stood out, and it wasn’t the bullshit inquiry about what I would do if I was president for a week—it was this comment from feralcatoffreedom:

This is all terribly sad. On “Moon of Alabama” somebody quoted Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi writer. I had the privilege of interviewing him once. Before we invaded that country it had the highest # of PHds per capita. 40% of marriages were mixed ones between Sunni and Shia. There was no big divide. Same for Yugoslavia.

Sarajevo was a wonderful cosmopolitan city where different religions and ethnic people got along just fine.
Everywhere we go, we purposely cause chaos and destruction in order for the war profiteers to line their pockets. On Sundays we dressed in painted faces and pretend to be “Vikings” and watch as soldiers parachute into gladiator arenas. We drink beer and have a good time.

Well everybody else in the world, at least the 99%, also want to have fun on Sundays with their families and watch a little sports or fish or make love. BUT NOOOOO! We make sure that they are all running for cover from bombs and drones or starving or in richer countries are worried about their jobs.

It is too sad for me to really put into words.

I concur, especially the sentiment that everywhere “we” go, we purposely cause chaos and destruction.

Montana Public Radio gave candidates Curtis, Lewis, Daines and Zinke a chance to weigh in on the military strikes that have already started falling on the new terrorist product line, ISIS. Here is Curtis showing what kind of worthless Senator she would be when it comes to the congressional role of authorizing the president to go to war:

Curtis says she doesn’t think Obama needs congressional authorization to implement his plan. Some critics wonder why the President is planning military strikes when ISIS hasn’t directly attacked the United States. Curtis says Senator John Walsh – a veteran who led over 700 troops in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 – has convinced her that these radicals present a clear threat:

“…and that some of the folks who are working with ISIS have the ability to enter into the United States and have made repeated threats that they will continue to kill Americans. I really trust Senator Walsh’s judgment on this and I think he knows what he’s talking about.”

This is such bullshit I don’t even know where to start. Deferring Congressional oversight to the executive is the first mistake. Trusting the judgement of John Walsh is the second mistake. Allowing oneself to become a vehicle for propaganda dissemination regarding the alleged ISIS threat to the homeland is the third mistake.

Since Curtis is a teacher, maybe she would be receptive to a little history lesson. There is a country in the Middle East that funds extremists. The majority of the alleged hijackers on 9/11 came from this country. Oh, and even though they behead their own citizens from time to time (or stone them to death with rocks) they have a cozy relationship with America. Because oil.

And yet, for some odd reason, after the terrorist attack on 9/11, foreign nationals from this lovely country America is allied with were allowed to flee. Patrick Cockburn has a great article at Counterpunch everyone should read, titled Saudi Arabia, 9/11 and the Rise of ISIS. Here’s an excerpt:

The most striking example of Washington’s willingness to protect the Kingdom over complicity in 9/11 is the 28 pages of the official inquiry that were censored and have yet to be published. Senator Graham is not allowed to reveal what is in the chapter that was redacted, but other sources say that they are about connections between Saudi government officials and the 9/11 attacks. Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, in their book The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11, quote a senior American official, who saw the 28 pages before they were excised, apparently on the initiative of President Bush, as saying: “If the 28 pages were to be made public, I have no question that the entire relationship with Saudi Arabia would change overnight.”

Senator Graham has long campaigned to have the 28 pages of the 9/11 inquiry and other documents released. He says, knowing their content, that there is no national security justification for keeping them a secret 13 years after 9/11. He says that some government agencies, notably the FBI, have a motive in keeping information from the public about “their actions and their competence at the time of 9/11”. In Sarasota, Florida, the FBI initially denied having any documents relating to hijackers who were based there but has now handed over 80,000 pages that might be relevant under the Freedom of Information Act, according to Tom Julin, the Miami-based attorney handling the FoI application.

Asked why the US government has been so eager since 2001 to cover up for the Saudis, Senator Graham says that one explanation is the long-term US strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia, going back to the Second World War. There is also the close personal relationship between the Bush family and the Kingdom. But what he finds more difficult to explain is why the “policy of covering up Saudi involvement [in 9/11] persisted under the Obama administration”. Though Mr Obama had pledged to the families of the 9/11 victims during the 2008 presidential election campaign to release the 28 censored pages, it has failed to do so six years later.

From the perspective of the bipartisan perpetual war camp, suppressing the role of an “ally” like Saudi Arabia is not a failure, but a success. Amanda Curtis’ apparent naiveté regarding the US role in enabling the rise of ISIS is another success.

For everyone else trying to eek out a living in our increasingly hostile world, US foreign policy is an absolute fucking disaster.

Some younger people know this, and have articulated their perspective with a manifesto, titled There Is No Future In War. It’s lengthy, so I’ll conclude this post with a shorter selection:

Our true foes–– those endlessly gunning for war–– have been waging an economic war against us. Our foes are the ones who say we must increase Pentagon spending while we cut food stamps, unemployment assistance, public transportation, and low-income housing. They are the ones who want to destroy the social safety net that past generations have worked so hard to build. They are the ones who underfund our public schools – which are more segregated today than they were under Jim Crow – and then privatize them. They are the ones who throw hundreds of thousands of young people in prison, thanks to the racist and classist war on drugs, and then privatize the prisons to exploit and profit off of incarcerated citizens who make close-to-zero wages.

Throwing money at war does nothing to address the real issues we face. We, the youth of our country, are the ones who will feel this pain. The cost of war is sucking us dry; it is burdening us with debts we will never be able to pay back.

Pay attention, Amanda Curtis. These youth are trying to teach you something.

by lizard

I can’t imagine what the families of Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff have had to endure, knowing their loved ones were being held by the brutal extremists US foreign policy has enabled. That knowledge was surely bad enough, but now family members are talking publicly about the added horror of being threatened with prosecution by the Obama regime for trying to raise money to pay the ransoms:

The families of murdered American journalists Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff are speaking out against the US government for making their efforts to free their loved ones a “helpless” endeavor.

The parents of Steven Sotloff, a freelance journalist who was kidnapped by militants in Syria, told Yahoo News on Friday that a member of the president’s National Security Council threatened them with criminal prosecution if they attempted to pay a ransom to get their son freed.

“The family felt completely and utterly helpless when they heard this,” Barak Barfi, a friend of Sotloff who is serving as a spokesman for his family, told Yahoo News. “The Sotloffs felt there was nothing they could do to get Steve out.”

It gets worse. Those alleged Syrian moderates who Obama is hoping will fight both Assad and ISIS were apparently responsible for selling Sotloff to ISIS, a claim the duplicitous Obama regime is disputing.

So now that the pretext is set, the Obama regime is doubling down on those “moderate” Syrian rebels, and progressive Democrats are going along, hook, line and sinker:

There is a remarkable bait and switch happening in U.S. politics: Assad is the big fish that Obama wants hooked and he’s using ISIS to bait the American public. The U.S. president has superbly exploited American’s disgust of ISIS to deepen a war against the Syrian government, the scope and implications of which are completely unspoken.

Bush used a similar logic in Iraq when he “fought terrorism” by instead toppling the secular Iraqi government. And the deceit goes unchallenged in Syria because all of Congress is on board, dragging behind them the boot-licking media.

The “quiet support” of war by the progressive Democrats is especially noteworthy. The progressive superstar, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, has been especially vocal in her support of Obama’s war plans, saying that ISIS should be the nation’s “number 1 priority.” But Warren always conditions her war support with populist catchphrases such as “we can’t be dragged into another Middle East War,” as if investing in the Syrian rebels wasn’t doing exactly that.

The other progressive figurehead, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, also hides his war support under a populist glaze. Sanders shamefully agrees that Obama should ramp up support to the Syrian rebels, while giving the same hollow warning about avoiding another prolonged military adventure. Either the Democrats don’t understand the basic arithmetic of war or they assume the American public is stupid.

So I guess war forever is now simply America’s default position. Thanks for nothing, progressive Democrats.

by lizard

We, the public, invest our money in a variety of ways. Sometimes it’s compulsory, like taxes, and sometimes it’s voluntary, like donations to a worthy cause.

Over 30 years ago Missoulians supported the creation of a not-for-profit hospital, Community Medical Center. Now that investment has garnered a serious return:

Community Medical Center in Missoula has reached an agreement to sell its assets to a partnership between Billings Clinic and a hospital management firm for $67.4 million.

The agreement, announced Tuesday, would transform Community Medical from a not-for-profit corporation to a for-profit hospital and must be approved by the attorney general’s office.

Under the Montana Non-Profit Corporation Act, the proceeds from the sale must be used for similar public benefit, hospital spokeswoman Mary Windecker said. The hospital is still working on the specifics, but Windecker said the money will be used on a long-term basis to benefit health care programs in western Montana. The AG’s office also must approve the way the hospital plans to use the proceeds.

That is a big chunk of change. For a little background on how this hospital was built, this article from last week’s Indy provides some context:

Margie Hendricks sits at a table in the Missoula Public Library and sifts through stacks of documents labeled with slender green, pink and blue sticky notes. Each note is dated in the 75-year-old Hendricks’ tidy cursive to mark milestones in Community Medical Center’s history.

“Don’t let it intimidate you. It’s just stuff,” Hendricks says, as she shuffles through the hospital’s 1976 articles of incorporation and letters from the 1950s detailing how Community acquired its 40-acre parcel at Fort Missoula by way of the county from the federal government.

In the months leading up to the impending sale of Missoula’s Community Medical Center, Hendricks, a soft-spoken mother of six, has spent days digging through the hospital’s founding and guiding documents. She’s trying to understand how a nonprofit entity built by local donations and taxpayer-supported bonds could be converted into a for-profit operation benefiting out-of-state investors. She’s especially troubled by the fact that Community has yet to invite any public discussion of the deal.

“Citizens have contributed to this nonprofit entity for years,” Hendricks says. “They didn’t even give us an opportunity to know.”

In March, Community Medical Center’s Board of Directors announced its intention to sell the local nonprofit hospital to Billings Clinic and the for-profit RegionalCare Hospital Partners of Brentwood, Tenn. RegionalCare is funded by global private equity firm Warburg Pincus. According to the firm’s website, it has invested $50 billion in 35 countries since 1966. Warburg Pincus employs former U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and has committed $300 million to RegionalCare, which owns eight hospitals nationwide.

No, the public didn’t get a chance to weigh in on the sale of this community asset. Hopefully that won’t be the case when it comes to deciding how that 67.4 million dollars can be used to benefit the community that worked so hard to build this valuable asset.

While the money-making side of our disastrous health care system continues looking for lucrative pools of resources to privatize and exploit, Missoula locals tried to raise a little money for Donny Morey, a bartender at Flippers recently diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. It’s pathetic the alleged richest country on earth refuses to provide universal health care coverage for its citizens. Despite the generosity of Flippers patrons, I seriously doubt they raised even a fraction of what it will cost Donnie to get the treatment he needs.

While medical costs and services evolve, public investment in the old saw mill district has some wondering why the private sector still won’t sit and order from the table we, the public, spent around 12 million dollars setting for them:

The city of Missoula has spent more than $12 million of public money in the Old Sawmill District, according to the Missoula Redevelopment Agency.

So far, though, private construction on the former industrial property on the edge of downtown amounts to $0.

“Obviously, we had hoped that there would be private development coming out of the ground by now, and thus far, that hasn’t happened,” said Ellen Buchanan, director of the MRA.

Behind the scenes, however, an estimated $75 million in private development is in “some stage of discussion or letter of intent” for the 45 acres, according to developer Ed Wetherbee. He said the first condominium project, called Polley’s Square, already counts eight reservations.

As long as there is some low-income window-dressing thrown into the mix, this publicly-paved road to private development should work out just fine. Eventually this land will be developed and hopefully new streams of tax revenue will make this deal beneficial to its prime investors—you and me.

by lizard

Ryan Zinke has the ability to flip flop because the political press in Montana won’t do it’s job and hold him accountable. That’s the gist of this post at Intelligent Discontent. Free from media scrutiny, why wouldn’t Zinke say whatever is politically expedient?

With midterm elections looming large, winning is everything. That’s why punk-ass Democrats wet themselves at the thought of Obama taking executive action on immigration reform. They are so scared Republicans will bludgeon them with anti-immigrant xenophobia that they forced Obama to abandon his promise:

President Obama will delay taking executive action on immigration until after the midterm elections, bowing to pressure from fellow Democrats who feared that acting now could doom his party’s chances this fall, White House officials said on Saturday.

The decision is a reversal of Mr. Obama’s vow to issue broad directives to overhaul the immigration system soon after summer’s end, and sparked swift anger from immigration advocates. The president made the promise on June 30, in the Rose Garden, where he angrily denounced Republican obstruction and said he would use the power of his office to protect immigrant families from the threat of deportation.

Here’s my question: what actual political advantage does doing nothing actually give Democrats? Will xenophobes be more likely to vote for Democrats because they are cowards? Doubtful. And what kind of message does this send supporters of immigration reform? Are Democrats confident that those particular constituents will abide by lesser-evilism and still come out and vote for them?

Supporting Democrats is like a battered woman defending her abuser. This time he’s really changed, she says. This time will be different.

War Forever

by lizard

And so it goes.

—Vonnegut

by lizard

Why does the International Monetary Fund exist? Well, if you go to their overview page on their website, you will find reasoning like this:

The IMF promotes international monetary cooperation and exchange rate stability, facilitates the balanced growth of international trade, and provides resources to help members in balance of payments difficulties or to assist with poverty reduction.

In practice, in Ukraine specifically, the IMF isn’t assisting with poverty reduction; it’s assisting with America’s new Cold War against Russia. Here is Michael Hudson, one of my favorite economists, in a piece posted at Counterpunch yesterday:

In April 2014, fresh from riots in Maidan Square and the February 22 coup, and less than a month before the May 2 massacre in Odessa, the IMF approved a $17 billion loan program to Ukraine’s junta. Normal IMF practice is to lend only up to twice a country’s quote in one year. This was eight times as high.

Four months later, on August 29, just as Kiev began losing its attempt at ethnic cleansing against the eastern Donbas region, the IMF signed off on the first loan ever to a side engaged in a civil war, not to mention rife with insider capital flight and a collapsing balance of payments. Based on fictitiously trouble-free projections of the ability to pay, the loan supported Ukraine’s hernia currency long enough to enable the oligarchs’ banks to move their money quickly into Western hard-currency accounts before the hernia plunged further and was worth even fewer euros and dollars.

This loan demonstrates the degree to which the IMF is an arm of U.S. Cold War politics. Kiev used the loan for military expenses to attack the Eastern provinces, and the loan terms imposed the usual budget austerity, as if this would stabilize the country’s finances. Almost nothing will be received from the war-torn East, where basic infrastructure has been destroyed for power generation, water, hospitals and the civilian housing areas that bore the brunt of the attack. Nearly a million civilians are reported to have fled to Russia. Yet the IMF release announced: “The IMF praised the government’s commitment to economic reforms despite the ongoing conflict.”[1] A quarter of Ukraine’s exports normally are from eastern provinces, and are sold mainly to Russia. But Kiev has been bombing Donbas industry and left its coal mines without electricity.

So the oligarchs get to protect their money, austerity is imposed, and Kiev funded it’s failed slaughter campaign in Ukraine’s eastern provinces. Nothing about any of this will assist with poverty reduction.

Meanwhile, in America, the poverty picture is much more extensive than government reports indicate:

More than 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 will be poor for at least a year. Over the same period, more than half will be poor or nearly poor, with income at 150 percent of the poverty line, or about $27,000 annually for a family of three. So poverty in the U.S. is, in fact, a much larger problem than we think it is, and it’s one that most Americans will face.

Poverty is seeping into more places in this country – places it didn’t exist before, as seen in the growing rate of child hunger in wealthy suburbs. Why? Income inequality. It’s harder to kick a field goal when you keep getting moved back up the field. It’s harder to move out of poverty into wealth when that distance is growing by leaps and bounds.

It’s basic math. There’s simply no way that we can have conditions that allow the top 10 percent of Americans to pocket ever-increasing amounts – now 77 percent of the nation’s income, leaving the other 90 percent of people with the 23 percent of income that remains – without growing economic insecurity in the rest of the nation.

The fix? As one TalkPoverty Blog reader put it: “We need more people who are facing poverty in America to stand up and express themselves, to put a real human face (‘yes, I’m your neighbor’) on this politically & socially abstract issue.”

Societal shame keeps people from standing up and expressing themselves, and if they did, who in this country will listen? Our politicians? No, they are too busy with fundraisers to listen to poor people. Our media? No, poverty is depressing and probably not the best way to sell ad space.

I think it’s important to understand that poverty is a result of policy, not the moral failings of the impoverished. I’ve written over and over again that the policies that have been imposed since Wall Street blew up the global economy amount to an escalation of class warfare by those who now totally control our political system. That is the reality facing more and more Americans.

Standing up is not enough. Somehow the marginalized majority must fight back.

by lizard

My oldest son, who is 6, has been really excited to watch football with me this year. Last season I declared that I would again righteously abstain from watching any games. Then my Chiefs teased me into their trap of not losing something like the first 10 games and the first game I watched was the first game they lost, to Denver. From that point on, they struggled. But I was back on the sauce! (as a quick side-note, the Chiefs only lose when I start getting invested in the outcome. Any attempt to tell me this is an irrational, kinda narcissistic superstition will fall on deaf ears).

And then there was the Superbowl last year with the Seahawks finally bringing home the trophy. I remember watching the Seahawks in the old Kingdom when I lived in Seattle as a kid. My favorite player back then was Steve Largent. I met him once, signing headshots at a bank. As a kid, I was delighted.

What initially intrigued my oldest was what I will call my “active viewership” of the games I started investing interest in again. I guess all that yelling and jumping and crying into pillows (not really, but close) inspired him to try to understand what the hell was getting his dad to act like a crazy person.

So this year, at the start of the season, we watched the Seahawks on opening night. My kid is really interested in the rivalries, who I like, and why. He asks all kinds of questions about different teams. I try and explain why I think the Cowboys suck (sorry Duganz) and why I want to watch the Broncos (Manning) even though I am obligated to hate the Broncos, as a Chiefs fan. He listens intently.

What my kids, both of them, saw tonight was a portion of the video of Ray Rice knocking out his girlfriend in the elevator. I literally fumbled with the remote control knowing what was coming, but I double clicked the on/off button and the screen came back on, showing the unconscious body of Janay Rice sprawled face down outside the elevator.

There is so much wrong going on in the NFL, and it’s been going on for a long time. For this particular PR disaster (because that’s how it’s being treated) I’d start by reading Zirin’s take at The Nation. From there I’d ask why it takes video footage to create this kind of outrage. The video of Janay sprawled out unconscious has been out for awhile now. What about seeing the actual blow changes what was known?

I don’t know where football goes from here, though my hunch would be business as usual after the scrutiny blows over.

I also don’t know where I should go with watching it with my kids.

by lizard

Montana and New York have something in common: candidates fighting over the remnants of the old Democratic coalition where labor interests were actually paid more than lip-service to. Also, the conventional wisdom is that both campaigns are doomed.

In New York it’s a primary challenge aimed at Cuomo that has Democrats tired of the neoliberal agenda not totally depressed about what Democrats actually do once in office. Here is an excerpt from Peter Lavenia’s piece at Counterpunch, titled The Limitations of the Liberal Class:

Here in New York, the blogosphere has been awash in stories about the Democratic Party primary challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo by Fordham Law Professor Zephyr Teachout, due to have its denouement this coming Tuesday. Teachout is running as an alternative to the neoliberal Andrew Cuomo, whose time in office has seen him embrace austerity measures, budget cutting for social programs and the expansion – quite literally – of casino capitalism across the state. Teachout will almost certainly lose, though her running mate Tim Wu apparently has a chance of capturing the nearly-useless position of Lieutenant Governor on the Democratic ticket from Cuomo’s fellow neoliberal, Kathy Hochul. Like Bill DeBlasio last year, Teachout is being touted as a part of a great liberal revival, part of a narrative produced by some in the Democratic Party and media that the party has a soul that must be fought to preserve (though somewhat ironically, DeBlasio is a Cuomo endorser).

Yet a Teachout, or even Wu, victory would not be the triumph of resurgent, New Deal, social-democratic-style liberalism: it would simply be a rearguard holding action made by embattled members of what remains of the labor bureaucracy, a layer of staff at middle class civic activist groups, and an increasingly marginalized group of academic legal scholars, of whom Teachout and Wu are perfect examples. These groups have been increasingly squeezed out of the Democratic Party since the early 1970s, when structural pressures within the capitalist world-system caused the growth of the financial sector as a response to declining, and less lucrative, rates of profit in the non-financialized area of core nations’ economies. Starting in the 1980s, a gusher of cash from the finance and real estate sectors (FIRE) allowed the Democratic Party to slowly detach itself from the constituency cemented together by Franklin Roosevelt in his first two presidential election campaigns, usually called the New Deal coalition, between labor and certain sectors of capital. Because labor had long ago abandoned the idea of its own party, and had fled from vibrant Socialist and Communist Parties of the pre-war era, it was increasingly tied to a Democratic Party that only needed it for votes. As American labor unions are now practically nonexistent outside the public sector, neoliberals like Cuomo no longer need them for voter mobilization. Cuomo has even gone so far as to support anti-union charter schools, which has a quiet logic to it as the Democratic Party establishment would now like to actively purge the last remnants of the New Deal coalition.

In Montana we have Amanda Curtis, the labor-savvy math teacher who was selected after the establishment’s choice, John Walsh, imploded. At the Flathead Memo, James Conner suggests that Curtis should run a guerilla campaign that makes her interesting:

What should be more important to Amanda Curtis’ campaign? Enforcing message discipline? Or, making her as interesting as possible?

Her campaign staff’s answer is obvious: message discipline. Keep her on her talking points, deflect or flat out refuse to answer uncomfortable questions, post as little as possible on her website and Facebook page, and block trackers even if that makes her staff look like bullies and diverts them from signing-up volunteers.

That’s how conventional big campaigns are run. They’re advertising exercises, with the candidate serving as the soap or beer. Curtis’ public relations chief, Les Braswell, comes from that background. And of course, this is nothing new. Readers who are my contemporaries will remember Joel McGinniss’ classic about the 1968 Presidential campaign, The $elling of the President.

Curtis, however, has no time to run a conventional campaign. Early voting begins in a month. If she’s going to excite rank and file Democrats, generate enthusiasm among 18–29-year-old-voters, and by example lead young single women and mothers to the polls, she needs to run a guerilla campaign — a campaign that makes her as interesting as possible.

The problem, of course, is that a few challenges here and there to the establishment won’t reverse a trend that has been happening for decades, one that was accelerated by Bill Clinton and now has totally metastasized under Obama to the point that his apparent successor, Hillary Clinton, can openly praise Henry Kissinger and his new book without much concern for the backlash. Here are Clinton’s actual words:

Kissinger is a friend, and I relied on his counsel when I served as secretary of state. He checked in with me regularly, sharing astute observations about foreign leaders and sending me written reports on his travels. Though we have often seen the world and some of our challenges quite differently, and advocated different responses now and in the past, what comes through clearly in this new book is a conviction that we, and President Obama, share: a belief in the indispensability of continued American leadership in service of a just and liberal order.

Hillary and Henry, holding hands and skipping down a road lined with corpses. This is what the Democrat establishment offers us as a choice supposedly distinct from Republicans. The parrots of lesser-evilism agree.

by lizard

The Polish Wolf has broken months of silence to produce a pile of pro-western drivel bashing the BRICS development bank and doing a little NATO cheerleading:

While the international attention is focused on Ukraine and Gaza, something of arguably larger consequence occurred recently: the ‘BRICS’ (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) launched a development bank to compete with the World Bank. This is indeed exciting – while the post-Breton Woods era has produced some impressive economic gains, especially after end of the Cold War, the World Bank is far from living up to its potential, and could surely use some competition. But as far as an antidote the that mythical demon of ‘neo-liberalism’, the New Development Bank doesn’t have a very good chance.

The recent crisis in Ukraine has caused some contrarian-leaning liberals to embrace Russia as a counterweight to American ‘neo-liberalism’; China has long been viewed in the same way. But even a cursory glance at the numbers indicate that this is far from the case. The weighted (by nominal GDP) average Gini coefficient (a method for comparing economic inequality in countries internationally) of the BRICS countries is a whopping 46.2 – by comparison, the US comes in at 36.7, and Mexico, the least equal of the OECD nations, is at 47. In terms of workers’ rights, the environment, or corruption of Democracy, the other prime accusations hurled at ‘neo-liberal’ institutions, the BRICS nations again fail to distinguish themselves as substantially better than the OECD or leading World Bank states.

The lesson? Those who see the US as the cause and center of globally exploitative economic system ought to look twice before assuming that America’s nominal ‘rivals’ represent a better, or even substantially different, system. While there are some truly ground-breaking programs for fighting poverty coming out of Brazil, and some successes as well in the ever-challenging realm achieving democratic governance in a highly multi-ethnic states in India and South Africa, by and large those countries competing economically with the “Washington Consensus” are running parallel to it, using largely the same methods (indeed, with a greater emphasis on state power and centralization), not innovating in some kinder, gentler system. A rival organization to the current global economic norms will not lead to a global system more responsive to inequality and the needs of the poor unless it helps motivate the World Bank/IMF system to reform itself.

First, the crisis in Ukraine is cited without any context as to who instigated the coup and subsequent slaughter and why. Preserving the petrodollar and pivoting to Eurasia isn’t something PW wants to talk about because it exposes why contrarians like myself hope the multi-polar reality represented by Russia will halt the psychotic “Washington Consensus” from sparking WWIII.

Now that Obama’s pivot project has been decimated by Eastern Ukrainians resolve to defend their cities and towns from the murderous coup regime in Kiev, the US has even fewer cards to play. Nuland’s Nazi pals and Porky the chocolate billionaire utterly failed and now must negotiate with Russia with tail tucked between legs.

The lesson? Poking the bear has consequences.

The resolve will now be to keep pushing for NATO expansion, which is insane. Here’s Hagel describing the need to get Georgia under the NATO umbrella:

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says “Russia’s blatant aggression in Ukraine” has made the United States and Georgia determined to build stronger military ties.

Speaking on September 7 in Tbilisi after talks with Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, Hagel called NATO’s September 4-5 summit in Wales “an important milestone in Georgia’s efforts to join” the alliance.

He said the United States would help Georgia fulfill its goal of joining NATO, stressing that “deepening ties between NATO and Georgia are especially important given the dangerous and irresponsible actions” of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In addition to luring Georgia into the NATO fold, the big news out of the NATO summit was the announced intention to create a Rapid Response Force:

As Ukrainian leaders warned on Monday of “a great war” with Russia, NATO leaders meeting in Wales this week were expected to endorse their most concrete response yet to increased Russian military intervention in Ukraine: establishing a rapid-reaction force capable of deploying quickly to Eastern Europe, officials of the alliance said.

The new force of some 4,000 troops, capable of moving on 48 hours’ notice, will be supported with logistics and equipment pre-positioned in Eastern European countries closer to Russia, with an upgraded schedule of military exercises and deployments that are intended to make NATO’s commitment of collective defense more credible and enhance its deterrence.

Pair this with the Russia Aggression Prevention Act and what we have are the conditions for the new Cold War to go hot.

In the comments of PW’s idiotic post, he describes his love of NATO thusly:

NATO’s value is its predictability. Mutual defense is a powerful and much needed idea; it sends a clear signal to both NATO members and those who threaten them that the most powerful military in the world is watching and assessing any potential infringement. The salutary effects are two-fold: on the one hand, it has kept NATO members safe from encroachment, ending Russia’s periodic incursions into Central Europe as well as keeping peace (to an extent) between Greece and Turkey. On the other hand, it has left member countries relatively secure, to the extent that they haven’t needed to build up dangerous arsenals or maintain enormous armies. Turkey’s continuing status as a non-nuclear power (and likely Italy’s, as well) is likely a result of the conventional security it enjoys as part of NATO. If Ukraine and Georgia become full members of NATO, we can expect threats to their sovereignty AND belligerent actions arising from those feelings of threat to decrease. Russia may be frustrated, but the actual potential for conflict will be greatly lessened.

Before the Libya intervention this statement might not seem so ridiculous, but after watching NATO exploit a no-fly zone to empower militias to overthrow Gaddafi, sane people can see the craziness of continued NATO expansion.

Also, the lesson of Libya for despotic regimes like North Korea is simple: NEVER GIVE UP THE DETERRENCE OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. From the link:

Of all the lessons to draw from the ignoble end to Muammar Qaddafi’s brutal regime in Libya, the one about nuclear weapons proliferation is probably not the first tutorial that comes to mind.

But you can believe it is not lost on countries that feel vulnerable, including Iran. And for the sake of global security, the international community must consider what it’s like to be in their shoes.

The lesson is elementary. Eight years ago, Libya agreed to dismantle its infant nuclear program. More than five months ago, NATO began enforcing a no-fly zone in support of Libyan rebels. Would NATO have launched a bombing campaign against Libya if the unpredictable Mr. Qaddafi had possessed nuclear weapons?

Qaddafi’s forceful downfall will make acquiring nuclear weapons all the more justifiable to states that feel threatened by outsiders. In turn, that will erode the vision of nonproliferation that held such promise in the post-cold-war era.

PW sees Ukraine joining NATO as a good thing. Stephen Cohen sees it as a sure path to war with Russia. Here is Cohen discussing the situation on Democracy Now. It’s a must watch.

Western apologists like The Polish Wolf should be shouted down as ignorant warmongers. They are dangerously deluded about the true nature of US hegemony.

by lizard

In the wee hours of Labor Day morning a man from Louisiana was shot and killed outside the Fox Club after an altercation. If you click this link to the Missoulian article please take a few extra seconds to examine the photo of the victim shirtless posing with a pitbull.

That picture worked on me. I don’t know this dude, he’s from some other state, he was beating the shit out of the guy, he got shot and he’s dead and oh well.

Well, then I talked to someone who knew him (the pitbull is a sweetheart, she says) and that image of a thug evaporated. There’s more to the story, but that’s for the authorities to ferret out.

When Michael Brown was killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, the choice of images used by the media spawned the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. Please go to the link and see the juxtaposition of images, they’re quite striking.

I guess Ferguson is down the memory hole now. School is back in session. Football. Fall.

by lizard

Steven Sotloff is the second American journalist to face the device he once aimed—a camera—before having his head severed from his body. As our media pick a part his narrative like vultures before they move on to the next carcass, something caught my attention. Sotloff was one of the first reporters, after the attack in Benghazi, to bring actual first-hand accounts of what happened. This from Mother Jones:

For this TIME article, Sotloff—who covered Libya extensively for the magazine—interviewed Libyan security guards present when the US consulate in Benghazi was attacked. The result is a vivid, meticulous timeline of the events of September 11, 2012.

The well-coordinated assault on the American consulate in Benghazi (or maybe, more accurately, the CIA-run weapons trafficking hub) stills fuels the fever dreams of some conservatives on Capitol Hill. I think Benghazi is worthy of continued attention because I suspect it shows a rift between the CIA and the Obama administration. Susan Rice, at the time, was sent out on the Sunday circuit with false information she was subsequently skewered over.

But who wants to talk about Benghazi and the situation in Libya? Certainly not the formerly yapping R2P interventionists who made absurd claims about how “humanitarian” airstrikes were needed to stop an impending genocide. Now, in the failed state NATO created, even Tripoli has been taken over:

A particular feature of the occupation of Tripoli by Libya Dawn, the newest of the Middle East’s self-proclaimed revolutionary movements, is the focus on residents from the wrong tribe.

The city was captured after a five week battle, involving heavy and indiscriminate artillery bombardments between Libya Dawn and tribal fighters from Zintan, Warshafan and Warfallah. Now residents whose family names indicate membership of those tribes are being rounded-up, whatever their politics, however tenuous their connection with those tribes.

“It happened to a neighbour in another street a few nights ago,” says the student. “They stopped him at a stop light and saw his name. He was beaten and they took him in his own car to his house and broke [destroyed] it.”

He is not the only one. Libya’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Sadik Al-Ghariani, its highest spiritual authority, broadcasting messages of support from a location in the UK, urged Libya Dawn to take a “firm hand” in their newly acquired city, and militias appear to have taken the message to heart.

By day, columns of smoke rise from houses of government supporters set alight, with the Libya Herald newspaper reporting 280 arson attacks, including on the villa of the caretaker prime minister, Abdullah Al-Thinni who has fled. By night, residents from pro-government tribes barricade themselves in their homes.

Attacks and looting have broken out across the city with the interior and electricity ministries and the prime minister’s office ransacked. One woman tweeted returning home to the plush seafront district of Regatta to find it smashed and her property gone.

On Sunday , the US embassy residential compound, evacuated a month ago, also fell foul of the militias. A commander announced it had been “secured”.

The silence from interventionists is despicable. They should admit they were wrong and acknowledge they were duped. That acknowledgement is important because continuing to delude oneself that there is anything humanitarian about US foreign policy enables further destructive imperial projects that absolutely have the potential of sparking a global military conflagration.

Steven Sotloff was killed by a group that spawned from the attempt to overthrow Assad in Syria, another attempted interventionist project. How Sotloff came to be captured by the Islamic State is not known. I wouldn’t put it past the CIA to have been involved, considering Sotloff’s reporting in Benghazi certainly wouldn’t have endeared him to our homegrown terrorist agency.

But don’t listen to me, I’m just some crazed conspiracist spewing black bile.

And the NFL season starts tonight.

Go Seahawks!

Choice

by lizard

A paradigm shift or annihilation as a species. That’s the choice. The systems are broken. Even the parasitic bloat of obscene wealth will eventually, if I may be so crude, have to shit where they sleep.

For those with resources it’s still far enough way. The inevitable can be deferred longer, for those of means. How much longer, no one knows.

The barometer I use is football. Keep that going and the underlying ugliness of systemic entropy can be glossed over indefinitely.

What I try to remember is how many good people do their best within all these failing systems. I wish the scale of our collective manipulation against each other wasn’t so immense and sophisticated and seemingly impossible to surmount.

Paradigm shift or annihilation.

That’s the choice.

by lizard

It’s been nearly 5 months since The Polish Wolf has written anything about the crisis in Ukraine. I have linked to that April post a handful of times because I would think someone who declared that The American Left has Failed on Ukraine would want stay on top of developments. I guess those developments don’t bolster PW’s argument. Does that explain nearly half a year of silence?

In that post PW highlights to examples of “contrarian left” failure. Here’s bullet point number 1:

1. The government currently in Ukraine is not a threat to Russians living in Ukraine. Quite the opposite – Russians in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea are actively undermining the government of Ukraine (No, the status of Russian as an official regional language, by the way, has not changed. Russia Today reported that it has, and to my knowledge has failed to note that the president of Ukraine never signed into law that act).

Well, it’s a full blown civil war now where thousands have been killed and injured, and the violence has greatly escalated this past month (NYT):

The United Nations said on Friday that casualties in the fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels had doubled in the past month, with an average of 36 people killed every day.

At least 1,200 people were killed and 3,250 injured in the period from July 16 to Aug. 17, according to a report released by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. The office described the toll as “very conservative” and said it did not include the 298 passengers and crew who died when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17.

“The trend is clear and alarming,” Ivan Simonovic, the United Nations assistant secretary general for human rights, said in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, according to Reuters. “There is a significant increase in the death toll in the east.”

But, I thought the government wasn’t a threat to ethnic Russians living in Eastern Ukraine? I guess it’s all Russia’s fault. And for interventionists who once used alleged government airstrikes against civilians to justify intervention in Libya, the same playing out in Ukraine gets no attention from those harboring a dangerous hypocrisy.

Let’s now examine the evidence of leftist failure with PW’s bullet point number 2:

2. The government is not dominated by neo-fascists, at least, not yet. Svoboda and Pravdiy Sektor are both still extreme minority parties, and the armed right wing is under heavy police pressure by the Ukrainian government. Indeed, the only party that has anything to gain from Pravdiy Sektor’s gaining power, and the only party acting to make that more likely, is Russia. Both Svoboda and Pravdiy Sektor have loudly opposed admission to the EU or the involvement of the IMF in Ukraine (interestingly, the exact same position toward Ukraine advocated by our local ‘progressive’ blogs), making it seem highly unlikely that they will continue to have Euro-American backing. Hard core nationalism in a multi-ethnic state like Ukraine can only lead to instability, the exact outcome Russia desires, and it can only be strengthened by the constant threat (and fact) of Russian intervention.

The reason I keep on going back to this post is because every time I re-read it, it appears more surreal. The coup government in Kiev continue to use neo-Nazis against Eastern Ukrainians because they actually fight. Yet somehow PW, back in April, was trying to twist their involvement as benefiting Russia—I guess because their undeniable role makes for a difficult PR problem for pro-interventionist like PW. Here’s Parry from Consortium News writing last month about Ignoring Ukrainian Neo-Nazi Storm Troopers:

The U.S.-backed Ukrainian government is knowingly sending neo-Nazi paramilitaries into eastern Ukrainian neighborhoods to attack ethnic Russians who are regarded by some of these storm troopers as “Untermenschen” or subhuman, according to Western press reports.

Recently, one eastern Ukrainian town, Marinka, fell to Ukraine’s Azov battalion as it waved the Wolfsangel flag, a symbol used by Adolf Hitler’s SS divisions in World War II. The Azov paramilitaries also attacked Donetsk, one of the remaining strongholds of ethnic Russians opposed to the Kiev regime that overthrew elected President Viktor Yanukovych last February.

Yet, despite this extraordinary reality – modern-day Nazi storm troopers slaughtering Slavic people in eastern Ukraine – the Obama administration continues to concentrate its criticism on Russia for sending a convoy of humanitarian supplies to the embattled region. Suddenly, the administration’s rhetoric about a “responsibility to protect” civilians has gone silent.

Like I said up thread, paramilitaries like this Azov battalion are willing to fight, which is not something that can be said for everyone tasked with killing their fellow countrymen. Here’s a post from b at Moon of Alabama describing heavy losses from the coup government in Kiev:

Throughout August the Ukrainian president and cabinet, likely following U.S. “advisers”, pushed their army into a big attack on the insurgency held south east areas of the country. But the attack of bad equipped, half trained units ran into problems. Some of them reached their attack targets only to find themselves cut off from any resupply. Without ammunition, gas and food they were locked into place and easy targets for the insurgents artillery.

The attack was stretched too far. The “culmination point in the attack” Clausewitz wrote about was reached and crossed. The negative effects of the attack on its own troops became bigger then the positive effects and the government in Kiev, not recognizing the real situation, still pressed on. It now lost the initiative. The parts of the Ukrainian army not surrounded and caught up surrounded in “cauldrons” retreated to be reorganized.

Some of the “volunteer” territorial battalions are simply going home. There is even a revolt against the defense ministry.

Read the whole post for full context. b has been fantastic in his coverage.

It would be nice if The Polish Wolf shared the perspective of the Ukrainians he’s in contact with. Are they happy going broke waging a civil war against those who would have a more federalized, autonomous position within the country? Will the paltry IMF bailout go to fund a continued military offensive? Who will fight if there are reports of soldiers refusing to fight? The Neo-Nazi groups? Oh, and winter is coming. Is Ukraine prepared?

So far Russia has avoided fully taking the bait. Even the Malaysian shoot down wasn’t enough, and now that bizarre investigation has almost all countries involved reportedly (Global Research, for what it’s worth) signing a non-disclosure agreement:

In the framework of the 4-country agreement signed on 8 August between Ukraine, the Netherlands, Belgium and Australia, information on the progress and results of the investigation of the disaster will remain classified.

This was confirmed at a briefing in Kiev under the auspices of the office of the Prosecutor General Yuri Boychenko. In his words, the results of the investigation will be published once completed only if a consensus agreement of all parties that have signed the agreement prevails. (original emphasis in bold)

Hmmm, that’s a bit odd. Whatever could be the reason for imposing that kind of agreement? And why didn’t Malaysia sign on?

75 years ago today, on September 1st, Hitler invaded Poland, triggering World War II. It is total insanity that 75 five years later an American President is trying his damnedest to start World War III.

by lizard

I’m on my bike a lot in this town, commuting to work five days a week/12 months of the year, biking my oldest who just started first grade to school, trips downtown to the market on the weekend. I love how accessible Missoula is for non-car transportation. I can even appreciate the Missoulian editorial board reminding its readers of the importance to pay attention this time of year to the increased hustle and bustle of a college town revving up for action.

That said, for every bicyclist I see who bikes responsibly, it seems like I see a half dozen idiots rolling obnoxiously down the sidewalk, or against traffic, or suddenly going from biking with traffic to cutting into a crosswalk. All kinds of stupid shit. I was actually standing with my bike on the sidewalk by the courthouse downtown when some dude on a bike clipped my back tire. He was fine and kept going but it certainly got my attention. When I gave him my WATCH WHAT YOU’RE DOING look he actually engaged in a bit of shit talking like it was somehow my fault.

Biking culture varies, and is tiered by class. There’s the pack of cyclists riding down Mullan without a care of what cars have to do to pass them. Then there’s people who are on bikes because other means are either unaffordable or legally prohibited. Bob Wire put out a tweet emphasizing the latter:

When I see a 60-year-old man riding a BMX bike down the street, first thing that comes to mind is: 5th DUI.

To further emphasize the class issues regarding transportation, I’m going to dredge the depths of comments from this Missoulian article about Missoula’s bus line going zero-fare next year:

thomascash: This is a good solution to the homeless during the hours the buses operate but we still have the night time to solve. How much does it cost to idle a bus all night long?

Miss Muralist 12: I’m starting to wonder who really has life figured out, the working class or the shiftless layabouts I see tubing the river every day. These parasites have truly found a host in Missoula. Want to have kids? No worries, the school will give them three squares a day. Need to get around? No worries, free bus rides brought to you by the working folk.

DaveQ: Awesome. Now the transients and homeless can have an airconditioned mobile home to travel in without spending any drug money. Free stuff will attract all the right people to the social experiment called Missoula. When it’s too hot or too cold, you can chill on the bus. If you need to get to the other side of town to do a little pan handling or pickup something for your head, there will be a free ride for you in Missoula. This is progress indeed. The tax payers are footing the bill and the people who use this free ride won’t be the people that are paying for it.

We have some great organizations that support increasing access and use of alternative transportation, like Missoula in Motion and Missoula Free Cycles. Someone should write up an op-ed about rules of the road and basic etiquette for cyclists because too many people act like idiots unaware of the risk they cause others with their behavior.

Alternative transportation is very important in a locale like Missoula. As more people move here air quality is affected, making smoky summer skies and winter inversion skies even worse. But improving access, use and infrastructure is a hard sell when those who benefit act like assholes.

by lizard

If you think Eastern Ukraine has been invaded by Russia the propaganda is working. This post from b @ Moon of Alabama does a great job of getting down to the nitty gritty of it. Read it or don’t. It ain’t the New York Times.

Speaking of the NYT, that’s the rag that featured the spurious “reporting” of Michael Gordon, the propagandist who teamed up with Judith Miller to sell the Iraq war. This article at Counterpunch examines Gordon’s complicity in selling war:

Those in the U.S. who are enthralled by relentless reports of the most demonic acts attributed to President Vladimir Putin and the rebel Eastern Ukrainian federalists a in the NYT (New York Times), NPR, ETC. would do well to look at the track record of the “reporters” dishing out this stuff. What they will find is a trail of deception that is piled with corpses of hundreds of thousands of innocents.

Principle among the purveyors of these bloodletting falsehoods is Michael R. Gordon, chief military correspondent for the NYT, serving over the decades as a trusty pipeline from the Pentagon to you. Although his name should be in profound disrepute, many opposed to war are unaware of his ignoble career or may have forgotten it. Most notoriously he is the co-author with Judith Miller of the front page NYT article planted by Dick Cheney’s minions, which claimed that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), relying on the idea that aluminum tubing being purchased by Iraq was to be used for purifying uranium.

If you go to the first link you will discover the “invasion” of Ukraine got walked back as a mistaken translation of Poroshenko. You can also check out Zerohedge for some perspective.

So what is actually happening in Ukraine? According to Michael Whitney, Kiev is getting its ass kicked bad:

Donetsk and Lugansk have formed militias and taken the war to the enemy. They’ve engaged Obama’s proxy-army on the battlefield and pounded it into mincemeat. That’s why Obama deployed his propagandists to lie about the fictitious “Russian invasion”. The administration needs a diversion because the Novorussia forces (aka-the “pro Russia separatists”) are kicking the holy crap out of Obama’s legions. That’s why Washington and Kiev are in full panic-mode, because none of this was supposed to happen. Obama figured the army would put down the insurrection, crush the resistance, and move him one step closer to his goal of establishing NATO bases and missile defense systems on Russia’s western flank.

The insanity of re-starting the cold war with Russia will have all kinds of unintended consequences. Europe, for example, will be negatively impacted by the sanctions the US is pushing. This article wonders if we’re on the precipice of a global recession:

Last week, initial government released data for the 2nd Quarter 2014 showed the Eurozone economy coming to a complete halt. Germany’s economy—which represents a third of the Eurozone’s total GDP—declined by 0.2%, the first such contraction since 2012. So did Italy’s, while France recorded no growth at all for a second consecutive quarter.

The zero growth for the combined 17 Eurozone economies follows a near stagnation 0.2% growth in January-March. The January-June trend therefore strongly suggests a recession is now emerging in the core European economies—the third such in the past five years.

Europe’s first recession occurred in 2008-09 as it collapsed with the rest of the global economy. It then experienced a historically weak 0.5% economic recovery in 2009-10, only to fall back into another second recession in the subsequent 18 months that wiped out the prior meager 0.5% gains. 2013-14 thereafter saw an even weaker recovery of only 0.2%, and for an even shorter period, which is now being reversed once again.

The Eurozone arguably has never really recovered from the recession of 2008-09. The short, shallow recoveries of 0.5% and 0.2%, which have become progressively shorter and weaker, do not represent a true recovery. Europe has simply been ”bouncing along the bottom” economically now for five years—stagnant at best and slipping in and out of recession.

An important new trend in the Eurozone’s now emerging 3rd recession is that the economic contraction is driven by the Eurozone’s key economic engines—Germany, France, and Italy—and not just its weaker economies on its southern and eastern periphery, as was the case in Europe’s second recession of 2010-12.

The world is going off the rails. Where this madness will take us, no one really knows.

by lizard

Montana Democrats are elated to see the Billings Gazette issue an editorial smack-down of Ryan Zinke’s brazenly stupid escape from the September 29th debate with Lewis. Zinke is clearly slime and, if elected, exemplifies how truly absurd our politics have become. Good on the Gazette for finally realizing what scum papers like theirs usually stenograph for (I doubt the editorial board’s indignation will last for long).

But much of the criticism from progressive blogs toward Zinke has been directed at the obvious signs of illegal coordination with his super PAC, Special Operations for America (SOFA).

All of that is very important and accurate criticism to toss at Zinke, but there’s a problem, and that problem is liberal dark money duplicity as reported in the Indy this week by Ketti Wilhelm and Dennis Swibold. Here’s an excerpt:

While Montana’s far right has never supported dark money disclosure, organizers of I-168 were surprised to hear objections from liberal groups that typically support disclosure. Peterson says he reached out directly to potential supporters on the left, but couldn’t get any bites.

“Everybody says, ‘Yeah, I don’t like dark money,’ but when it comes time to raise the money to get the signatures … people clam up,” he says.

Sandy Welch, a Republican and an organizer for the “Stop Dark Money” initiative, says her group sought support from across the political spectrum, yet managed to raise only about $20,000—a fraction of what it takes to bring an initiative to the ballot in such a large state.

“There are a lot of people who fund political activities who like dark money,” Welch says. “They don’t want it to go away.”

The organizers weren’t the only ones surprised at the initiative’s failure.

“Where were the organizations?” asks Anthony Johnstone, a professor of constitutional and election law at the University of Montana. “Where were the unions? Where was Common Cause? Where were the parties? Without that kind of support, you’re going to have a hard time qualifying an initiative, even on something so recently salient in Montana.”

These large pools of money will never see the light of day if this duplicity persists. You can’t bash the trough of cash then slink off to guzzle your share.

Money buys influence, plain and simple. The vast majority of people in American don’t factor in to the political equation anymore at all. They even reported on this phenomenon in the Washington Post:

Everyone thinks they know that money is important in American politics. But how important? The Supreme Court’s Gilded Age reasoning in McCutcheon v. FEC has inspired a flurry of commentary regarding the potential corrosive influence of campaign contributions; but that commentary largely ignores the broader question of how economic power shapes American politics and policy. For decades, most political scientists have sidestepped that question, because it has not seemed amenable to rigorous (meaning quantitative) scientific investigation. Qualitative studies of the political role of economic elites have mostly been relegated to the margins of the field. But now, political scientists are belatedly turning more systematic attention to the political impact of wealth, and their findings should reshape how we think about American democracy.

A forthcoming article in Perspectives on Politics by (my former colleague) Martin Gilens and (my sometime collaborator) Benjamin Page marks a notable step in that process. Drawing on the same extensive evidence employed by Gilens in his landmark book “Affluence and Influence,” Gilens and Page analyze 1,779 policy outcomes over a period of more than 20 years. They conclude that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

Concentrated wealth supersedes the ballot, so stop expecting the ballot to change the status quo.

by lizard

Matthew Yglesias has a piece at Vox today about The biggest thing that blue states are screwing up:

Robert Gebelhoff and David Leonhardt have a fascinating piece in the Upshot about what they call the growing Blue State Diaspora — the large net flow of Americans out of blue states and into red ones. The two key facts are that between 2000 and 2012, the blue-born population living in red states grew over 20 percent to 11.5 million while the red-born population living in blue states shrank to 7.3 million from 8.4 million.

Gebelhoff and Leonhardt mostly go on to discuss the implications of these flows for partisan politics, but I think what’s most important is the causes. Liberals, in particular, might want to do some reflecting about the fact that Americans are voting with their feet against blue states.

So, what significant factors are behind this diaspora? More from the link:

Conservatives, of course, tend to think they know the answer — Americans are fleeing the high taxes and malgovernment of blue America. The city of Detroit often comes up in this context, and it is certainly true that malgovernment (among other things) has made that city and several others into an increasingly undesirable place to live.

On the other hand, if Detroit were the typical blue American city then houses in the Mission and Park Slope would be cheaper than houses in the suburbs of Atlanta and Dallas. The truth is that while there are pockets of economic pain all around the country, in general Blue America seems like a pretty nice place where wages, incomes, health outcomes, and education levels are generally higher.

So why does everyone leave? Well precisely because houses in Blue America generally aren’t cheap like Detroit. They’re more often expensive like San Francisco. As Dylan Matthews wrote last week, coastal states are generally more expensive.

This doesn’t bode well for those who get defensive when Republicans talk about Liberal elitism. The claim appears to have some merit.

Missoula is a microcosm of this trend within Montana. Most of my friends from the college days had to move away because they couldn’t afford to stay here.

And then there’s the attempt to subsidize affordable housing. Sometimes those attempts are less than successful, like the Burns Street Commons, a project Missoula had to further subsidize with loan forgiveness back in 2012:

A proposal to forgive a city loan to the Burns Street Commons, an affordable housing complex, has not been fully vetted in the public eye and has the potential to give other similar projects a black eye, according to some other supporters of affordable housing.

The North Missoula Community Development Corp. built the Burns Street Commons – 17 units, community space and a grocery store – but the project is struggling with $1.14 million of debt.

To help, the city of Missoula earlier loaned the development corporation $400,000, and on Monday the Missoula City Council will consider forgiving $243,000 of that amount.

Councilman Bob Jaffe, who is recommending the loan forgiveness, said the homes never got enough public support in the first place. So the proposal only brings the subsidy to “within the normal range.”

And according to one resident and supporter of the land trust model, partial loan forgiveness is the best option for affordable home ownership for generations to come. Gabriel Furshong, a resident board member of the North Missoula Community Development Corp., said the benefit of keeping the land permanently in trust has been lost in the conversation.

Maybe it’s just me, but when I think of affordable housing, I think of trying to help the poorest in our community find housing that doesn’t exceed 30% of their income. But for the Burns Street Commons, affordable housing is a condo for $150,000 dollars.

I agree with Yglesias, housing is the biggest thing blue states (and blue cities) are screwing up. If liberals want to actually help the demographics they pander to and take for granted, they might want to reflect on this failure.

by lizard

The New York Times has deliberately stepped in another steaming pile of ugly with a piece today declaring Michael Brown to be ‘No Angel':

Michael Brown, 18, due to be buried on Monday, was no angel, with public records and interviews with friends and family revealing both problems and promise in his young life. Shortly before his encounter with Officer Wilson, the police say he was caught on a security camera stealing a box of cigars, pushing the clerk of a convenience store into a display case. He lived in a community that had rough patches, and he dabbled in drugs and alcohol. He had taken to rapping in recent months, producing lyrics that were by turns contemplative and vulgar. He got into at least one scuffle with a neighbor.

Now, before y’all go and jump on the outrage train, I think it’s important to acknowledge the New York Times has a point: rapping can make negro men unpredictable. Usually cash money and big asses can satiate the primal urges of the negro, allowing for the profitable commodification of their urban sound for the privileged white suburban demographic. But not always.

Two recent examples of off-leash rappers highlight this stark racial reality. First up, Talib Kweli went off on CNN’s Don Lemon for interrupting his critique of CNN’s reporting. Kweli expounded on his frustration and regret for joining the spectacle in a post that really should be read in full. Here’s an excerpt:

I was asked to do an interview with Anderson Cooper. However, when I got there it was Don Lemon on set instead. Apparently, he was filling in for Cooper who had another interview somewhere. Lemon, who I had never met, is a polarizing figure in the black community, you either love him or you hate him. Although I’ve never paid enough attention to him to form an opinion either way, I was impressed that he was on a skateboard. It made him seem down to earth, and I looked forward to the exchange.

I’ve been interviewed on the news many times. Each time the interviewer made sure to say hi, greet me and thank me for coming down. Lemon did none of these things, and I found that odd. Still, I didn’t take it personal. I am not a big mainstream artist, I don’t expect everyone to know or even care about who I am.

Many people were happy at how this interview went. They agreed with my point and my stance. There were also many who were incredibly disappointed with me and felt the interview was a wasted opportunity that became a competition of egos instead. I am disappointed in myself for allowing the interview to become a spectacle which further distracts from the execution style killing of unarmed teenager Mike Brown. Even though I went in with the best intentions, I became a part of the spectacle.

I can’t imagine why a conscious hip-hop artist would get frustrated with a good, upstanding negro news anchor like Don Lemon who, just last summer, offered a simple 5-step fix for struggling black communities. And here they are:

“Here’s number five. Pull up your pants. If you’re sagging, I mean — I think it’s your self-esteem that is sagging and who you are as a person it’s sagging. Young people need to be taught respect and there are rules. [...]

Number four now is the n-word. I understand poetic license, but consider this: I hosted a special on the n-word, suggesting that black people stop using it and that entertainers stop deluding yourselves or themselves and others that you’re somehow taking the word back. [...]

Now number three. Respect where you live. Start small by not dropping trash, littering in your own communities. I’ve lived in several predominantly white neighborhoods in my life, I rarely, if ever, witnessed people littering. I live in Harlem now, it’s an historically black neighborhood, every single day I see adults and children dropping their trash on the ground when a garbage can is just feet away. Just being honest here. [...]

Number two, finish school. You want to break the cycle of poverty? Stop telling kids they’re acting white because they go to school or they speak proper English. [...]

And number one, and probably the most important, just because you can have a baby, it doesn’t mean you should. Especially without planning for one or getting married first. More than 72 percent of children in the African-American community are born out of wedlock. That means absent fathers. And the studies show that lack of a male role model is an express train right to prison and the cycle continues. So, please, black folks, as I said if this doesn’t apply to you, I’m not talking to you. Pay attention to and think about what has been presented in recent history as acceptable behavior. Pay close attention to the hip-hop and rap culture that many of you embrace. A culture that glorifies everything I just mentioned, thug and reprehensible behavior, a culture that is making a lot of people rich, just not you. And it’s not going to.”

(full transcript and video here)

The other rapper (one of my favorites) fronting a genre-busting lyrical overthrow of the capitalist system with his crew, The Coup, had the pleasure of being interviewed by a local Fox affiliate. As Spin reports, it didn’t go as planned:

The Coup’s frontman and occasional Tom Morello collaborator Boots Riley is known for being something of a political firebrand, but, as Cleveland Scene points out, a local Fox affiliate seems to have been blissfully unaware of that fact. The Oakland outfit was set to appear at LKWD Festival in the city on Saturday and festival organizer Kelly Flamos brought him along for an interview during one of the station’s daytime shows. Things did not go quite as Fox planned.

When asked to describe the Coup, Riley outlined his long-running musical project as “a punk-funk Communist revolution band,” which drew a puzzled response from the reporter on hand. That alone might have been enough to upset the Fox honchos, but he continued saying that his goals are to “make everyone dance while we’re telling them about how we need to get rid of the system” and that “exploitation is the primary contradiction in capitalism.”

It all seems like relatively innocent stuff, delivered in an exceedingly calm and matter-of-fact manner, but Flamos later posted an email she received from the station saying that Riley’s “rant” (a loaded word and bald-faced exaggeration) had “not only hurt our station’s credibility, but also the festival’s.

Here is the full email:

 

“Kelly,

I wanted to talk to you about this morning. We set the interview times because have to (sic) hit specific times with live television. I had to get rid of the interview when you guys did not show on time, and now I regret putting it back in.

FOX 8 was not the time or opportunity for Boots to go on his political rant. With his statements he not only hurt our station’s credibility, but also the festival’s. I was looking to do a fun interview and it turned into something entirely different. We will not be reaching out for any interviews in the future.”

 

Boots Riley went to Twitter earlier today to further describe his understanding of the intentional marginalization of his perspective in a series of tweets you have to read:

The problem the FoxNews vid exposes is that it was a mistake4me2b on. MOST media outlets- music&news- dont have me on because of my ideas.

The letter from FoxNews producers exposes that the media forces ppl2edit the voicing of their opinion. “If u say XYZ, ur career will fail.”

If people dont get the message by reading between the lines, the gatekeepers will sometimes say it explicitly.

Some well-known friends of mine were told by music execs during Afghanistan bombing: if they spoke out against war- album wont come out.

The rationale was: speaking out against war would diminish record sales, &that media outlets wouldnt support, so the label couldnt risk it.

So if you wonder why more people don’t know about The Coup, that email gives you a glimpse as to why.

I mean, if ur a promoter, a media outlet threatening to blacklist you for facilitating The Coup is a damn good reason to not book The Coup.

There are MILLIONS of ppl in the US that think the way I do. U won’t hear them on media, so we have a distorted view of what ppl in US think

The reason that views like mine are kept from mainstream media is specifically so we don’t know how radical our own neighbors are.

Amen, Boots.

The New York Times No Angeling Michael Brown is disgusting. Meanwhile, Darren Wilson, the cop who shot Brown, is presumably still out of state, not indicted. Maybe, with reports that Wilson was previously employed in a police department that was DISBANDED because of racial tensions, the focus will shift to the dude who isn’t an unarmed black man shot six times and left to bleed on the street for hours before someone got a sheet to cover him. From the link:

The small city of Jennings, Mo., had a police department so troubled, and with so much tension between white officers and black residents, that the city council finally decided to disband it. Everyone in the Jennings police department was fired. New officers were brought in to create a credible department from scratch.

That was three years ago. One of the officers who worked in that department, and lost his job along with everyone else, was a young man named Darren Wilson.

This won’t go away because there will be more Michael Browns. More importantly this won’t go away because there is a tremendous accumulation of lesser indignities stemming from institutional racism that builds and builds and builds until something breaks.

by lizard

We rolled into Missoula on Friday after a two week road trip vacation to Colorado. It was nice to get back, though I wasn’t quite prepared for the quick disappearance of summer weather and the return of 13,000 students.

We spent most of our time in Colorado Springs, but I did carve out some time to take a quick trip to Denver to legally purchase some high-grade cannabis. Each municipality in Colorado gets to decide if they want to allow recreational cannabis. Colorado Springs has banned recreational retail stores. I talked to one guy at a tattoo/head-shop who said there is interest among city council, but they are waiting to see how Denver’s experiment goes. He also said there is a lot of pressure from the military to keep the ban in place. The military brings a lot of money to the area, so their argument carries a lot of weight.

When I got to Denver I found a store and walked in, a bit nervous. A young woman behind heavy glass took my ID, then buzzed me in. The space was small. The staff wore laniards with name tags and stood almost at attention, attentive and watchful as wide-eyed first timers like myself gaped at large glass jars filled with fragrant buds of Chernobyl Kush and Glass Slipper. The limit for out of state buyers is 7 grams. I ordered a few grams of a sativa strain and a few grams of an indica (for a description of the difference between sativa and indica strains, this High Times article is informative).

The guy helping me went to one of the available touch screen devices used to put in orders and quickly punched in my purchases. A woman at the back of the store, in a room separated from the main display room, filled the orders. I paid her in cash.

The money being generated right now with this new recreational cannabis industry is both an incentive and a barrier. In January, the banks said nope to dope, as reported by the always accurate New York Times, the paper of record that finally, at the end of July, made the editorial decision to publicly advocate for repealing prohibition.

Some banks, it should be noted, have no problem with profiting from illegal drugs, and why should they when the risk of being caught is just fines? And remember, we’re talking blood-drenched cartel money, not entrepreneurial Colorado start-up money.

Colorado is trying a temporary fix with legislation allowing co-ops:

The Colorado legislature on Wednesday voted to create the nation’s first state-run financial cooperative for marijuana sellers, with the aim of giving newly legalized cannabis retail outlets access to key banking services through the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The approval of the so-called “cannabis credit co-ops” came on the final day of the legislative session, as lawmakers seek to address problems marijuana retailers face in having to operate on a cash-only basis, such as burglary threats.

The proposal’s chief sponsor, Representative Jonathan Singer, said the cooperatives are needed because traditional banks and credit unions have been hesitant to serve the burgeoning marijuana industry as long as the drug remains outlawed by the U.S. government.

There is also an investment fund being put together from what started decades ago as a magazine:

When a pot smuggler named Tom Forcade approached Michael Kennedy in 1974 with his plan for a magazine devoted to helping Americans grow weed, Kennedy asked, what’s the point? “He said, ‘The point is, if the government cannot control the means of production of a commodity, then their prohibition is bound to fail,’ ” Kennedy recalls. “Well, 40 years later, we have ’em trembling, don’t we?”

The magazine, High Times, has survived as an icon of dope culture, and Kennedy, a criminal defense lawyer, has improbably ended up as its controlling owner. Now, with marijuana legal in some form in 22 states, the counterculture institution is aiming to raise $300 million for the High Times Growth Fund, which will make private equity investments in the marijuana business.

In Montana, lives are still being destroyed because of prohibition. But that won’t stop the Missoulian from having a little fun with a headline—2 Stoners Face Marijuana Charges After Corvallis Bust:

Two members of the Stoner family were charged with growing marijuana at their family home in Corvallis this week.

Rodney Ray Stoner, 57 and his son, Adam Lee Stoner, 24, appeared this week before Ravalli County Justice of the Peace Robin Clute on felony drug charges after Ravalli County sheriff’s deputies allegedly discovered a grow operation at the elder Stoner’s home.

The charging affidavit in the case said a former Baltimore law enforcement officer and a relative of the Stoners tipped off law enforcement to the alleged grow operation at 877 McWilliams Drive.

Stoner, ha fucking ha ha. Too bad this family will now be financially decimated fighting felony charges. Facing serious time in prison, a plea bargain is likely. Maybe the Missoulian could do some work putting some numbers together regarding what it costs our state to prosecute, incarcerate and/or supervise (probation) people involved in non-violent marijuana production, sales and use (not to mention lost productivity of the people who have their lives destroyed). Just a thought.

Instead of being a criminal, in Colorado I was a customer who paid just over $120 dollars for 6 grams of cannabis. The taxes are steep, but that’s going to be the main incentive for municipalities still on the fence about whether or not to join the Colorado experiment. One of the staff members in the store I talked to said sales in just the month of June was around 24 million dollars (I believe he meant state-wide, not just one store). That’s impressive.

The tide has shifted. It never made sense to enforce cannabis prohibition, but now the economic landscape makes it almost unfeasible to continue paying for enforcement. Instead, we should be focusing more on the dangers of drugs like prescription pain pills and alcohol.

I doubt sanity will penetrate our state legislature any time soon, but maybe our newspapers can stop facilitating shady groups like Safe Community, Safe Kids. That link is to a great post from Montanafesto because apparently it takes unpaid bloggers to do the work reporters should be doing, but can’t when it doesn’t fall in line with the agenda of their corporate paymasters.

By JC

Just wonderin’ what would make all of our readers happier, and because we value your opinion and believe in self-censorship…

Vote for 4 news sources, including a write in for your favorite news sites to avoid!

by lizard

I haven’t watched the war porn featuring journalist James Foley being beheaded by the Islamic State, but I did watch the news break on Twitter and spread. My heart breaks for his family. The ghastly circumstances of his death by itself is hard to fathom, but the public/political manner in which Foley’s death is being processed may almost be worse.

Politically, the UK will now be scrambling to contain the virulent ISIS jihadi contagion. There have already been reports of ISIS supporters in London handing out leaflets. Now, there is speculation James Foley’s executioner is a British citizen:

The British government has started the hunt for the executioner of American reporter James Foley. Foley was killed by beheading and the video of the tragic act was publicly issued by ISIL-run media outlet AlFurqan. Today, the White House authenticated the video and confirmed Foley’s murder.

Prime Minister David Cameron cut his vacation short after just a day of rest to address the situation in Iraq following the discovery of the video, and the belief that the man responsible could be a British citizen. Cameron is working with foreign secretary Philip Hammond to investigate. The executioner in the video was identified as British by his distinct South East/Greater London accent.

The tall British executioner was clad in all black and is wearing a facemask, however, sources within Britain are already starting to identify him. He is the allegedly the leader of a group of British ISIL fighters in Syria. He is known, thus far, only as “John.” A former hostage of these fighters identified him to The Guardian as the head guard in Raqqa. One of his former hostages described him as “intelligent, educated and a devout believer in radical Islamic teachings.” He was born in the United Kingdom.

If Americans weren’t so insulated from their government’s complicity in creating the conditions for ISIS to thrive, Obama would be scrambling more than he is right now as his new Iraq war escalates.

He may even eschew golf, were America not so apathetic about how its tax dollars arm jihadis and militarizes police departments.

But the president does indeed continue to play golf as over a dozen journalists have been arrested by Ferguson police. One sociopath cop was even captured on camera shouting I’m going to fucking kill you.

Obama would have to really stretch his stage skills to portray any real concern for journalists. I mean, considering James Risen has, I think accurately, accused Obama of being the ‘greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation‘, why would anyone expect this administration to be responsive to the police state treatment of journalists in Ferguson (not to mention the institutional racism fueling the unrest in the first place).

ISIS claims to be holding and ready to execute another journalist, Steve Sotloff. There is a pretty good chance that is going to happen, because there is no way Obama would risk looking weak, especially considering a recently disclosed special op mission failed to free Foley and other hostages.

More troops will be heading to Iraq. Air strikes are ongoing. Congress doesn’t give a shit about it’s role so Obama is free to escalate his new Iraq war as he sees fit.

And if journalists want to report from the front lines of American-made chaos, they do so at their own risk.

by lizard

It’s been a little over a month since Malaysian flight 17 was shot down from the skies over Eastern Ukraine. Considering the subsequent month featured a (ongoing) Israeli slaughter of Palestinians and a (ongoing) police/military occupation of Ferguson, Missouri, it is somewhat understandable that most Americans don’t have the mental capacity for continued reflection of a month-old atrocity that significantly escalated the warming Cold war between western governments and Russia.

Well, there are some people who are interested in following through on investigative efforts, like the Dutch:

Ten Dutch prosecutors and 200 police officers are involved in gathering and preparing the evidence for a criminal trial.

There are three main questions about the eventual MH17 trial: Where will it be conducted? What crimes will the accused be charged with? How long before we see the suspects in court?

The Dutch prosecutors are still in the initial stages of the criminal investigation, but they have already dismissed speculation that the trial could be held at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Pepe Escobar has a different take on who may be responsible, and is also more interested in what Malaysia may have to say about this geopolitical mess:

The Pentagon, with 20-20 vision over Ukraine, knows what happened. Russian intelligence not only knows what happened but offered a tantalizing glimpse of it in an official presentation, dismissed by the “West”. The best technical analyses point not to “Putin’s missile” – a BUK – but to a combination of R-60 air-to-air missile and the auto-cannon of an Su-25.

A reader led me to this fair assessment by former USAF and Boeing engineer Raymond Blohm: “With proper vectoring, a Su-25 need not be quite as fast as a Boeing 777 in cruise. It just has to get to a missile-firing position. Since the 777 was not maneuvering, it would be simple to pre-calculate when to get in a certain spot in the sky below the 777. From there, it’s the missile that has the speed and altitude capability to hit the 777. (The R-60 is a very capable missile.) After the missile takes out an engine, both the 777’s max speed and its max altitude are well within the Su-25 fighter’s speed & altitude capabilities. Then, the Su-25 can show off its cannon power.”

Follow the engine wreckage. Follow the cockpit wreckage. Follow the motive. One cannot even imagine the tectonic geopolitical plates clashing were the Kiev regime to be deemed responsible. It would be the vanishing point for the whole – warped – notion of the Empire of Chaos’s “indispensable” exceptionalism.

So as MH370 totally vanished, the MH17 story must also totally vanish. The Dutch and the British might eventually come out and hold a high-profile press conference telling the world what His Master’s Voice finally redacted. Still, one may count on certified, residual outrage, if not puzzlement, by a large number of grieving Dutch families. And one may count on certified outrage by Malaysia as a nation.

On August 7th, Malaysia just came right out and accused Kiev:

A Thursday article in the New Straits Times, Malaysia’s flagship English-language newspaper, charged the US- and European-backed Ukrainian regime in Kiev with shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight MH 17 in east Ukraine last month. Given the tightly controlled character of the Malaysian media, it appears that the accusation that Kiev shot down MH17 has the imprimatur of the Malaysian state.

The US and European media have buried this remarkable report, which refutes the wave of allegations planted by the CIA in international media claiming that Russian president Vladimir Putin was responsible for the destruction of MH17, without presenting any evidence to back up this charge.

The New Straits Times article, titled “US analysts conclude MH17 downed by aircraft,” lays out evidence that Ukrainian fighter aircraft attacked the jetliner with first a missile, then with bursts of 30-millimeter machine gun fire from both sides of MH17. The Russian army has already presented detailed radar and satellite data showing a Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 fighter jet tailing MH17 shortly before the jetliner crashed. The Kiev regime denied that its fighters were airborne in the area, however.

There is still no substantive evidence (save the pathetic reliance on sketchy social media accounts) being presented by US authorities backing up the immediate assertion it was Russian-backed rebels who shot down the plane, killing 298 people. And now there is no real mainstream media attention at all.

It doesn’t look good for the demonize Russia crowd. In the aftermath of this tragedy, James Conner threw a tantrum over our justified skepticism of the western propaganda narrative, calling JC and myself anti-American.

If one thing is certain, it’s that most Americans won’t think about something if it’s not being reported by MSM sources. We are on to other tragedies, like an American journalist being beheaded by ISIS. This ghastly execution is sure to increase public support for Obama’s new war in Iraq. Unfortunately the context of how jihadists were armed by US proxies in Syria to topple Assad, and then mutated into a fighting force capable of taking large parts of Iraq, won’t be a part of our national propaganda reporting.

Without the context of recent history, moving from tragedy to tragedy, Americans are a malleable population very vulnerable to state propaganda. It would be nice if that would change. I doubt it ever will.

by lizard

The Daines campaign will predictably try to tie Amanda Curtis to the Obama regime. Knowing this, I have a wild suggestion for the Curtis campaign: tie Steve Daines to Obama.

How?

Start talking about Obama’s support for the corporate Pandora’s Box known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

For a union gal like Curtis, this should be an easy position to take. The link is an interview with Adam Weissman and lays out quite succinctly the serious global threat of corporate control this partnership poses. Curtis can both distinguish herself from the Obama regime and talk about the damage to American labor past trade agreements like NAFTA have already caused.

I don’t think Steve Daines has taken a position on the TPP yet, but the Curtis campaign should try to get Daines to say if he supports fast-tracking legislation. If he won’t respond to take a position, emphasize the secrecy involved in all the negotiations that have thus far taken place. Tie Daines to Obama that way; say both men want to please their corporate overlords in secret because if people knew what was being planned with this quiet corporate coup, they would be up in arms over it.

This is a critical issue for what remains of our democratic process in this country. Amanda Curtis can take this issue and aggressively separate herself from the corporate neoliberal Democrats that helped spawn NAFTA while associating the corporate empty suit of Steve Daines with the Obama regime.

Just a thought.

by lizard

It’s a good thing Amanda Curtis was selected to replace Walsh because some Curtis supporters were going to make it very difficult to shift from bashing to supporting an Adams candidacy. Don Pogreba even insinuated that Adams could be the one behind the NYT takedown of Walsh. Quite the conspiracy theory.

Now that Curtis has been thrown into this 4th down hail mary scenario, Pogreba has some advice from the sidelines. Part of that advice entails trying to mend the rift establishment Democrat operatives have exacerbated with the Walsh debacle:

Unlike purists who would rather lose elections, I understand the impulse for Montana statewide candidates to run as moderate, or even conservative, Democrats. Winning statewide elections in this state requires a different kind of candidate than winning in legislative seats in Missoula or Butte, and I’m glad we have had a moderate Senator voting for sensible policy rather than Dennis Rehberg voting for anything.

That being said, there’s nothing to be gained by Amanda Curtis positioning herself as a moderate here. For one reason, there’s more than enough video and audio to make it clear that a moderate candidate she’s not. The Republicans are going to do their best to paint her as some kind of a radical; instead of moving to the center, she’d be much better served by embracing the charges—and then forcefully asserting that if supporting working men and women, ensuring adequate wages, and access to education are radical ideas, the problem is with the Republican Party, not her.

The other reason to embrace her liberal view is to inspire young voters to get involved and maybe even increase the passion from some of us old folks. There has certainly been a cost to the Democratic Party as it has moved to the center; working to reinvigorate the liberal base of the Party is probably even more important than winning this race.

It’s good there are some Democrats capable of acknowledging they are in trouble with the youth vote and they are in trouble with their base, because both are true. Of course some of those Democrats still can’t help making smug distinctions between themselves and the “purists” who say essentially the same thing.

Amanda Curtis’ selection will make for some good perception rehab for Montana Democrats and positions Curtis to make a fast rise within the party. But she should be weary of the snakes that now surround her. In that vein, here’s part of a comment from Carla Augustad I ran across at MT Cowgirl:

What ‘Amanda and Kevin should know is that there is NO LOYALTY in Montana’s Democratic party.

Look to former chairman and later candidate Dennis MacDonald, and look to Pam Bucy as well as looking at me, Carla Augustad.

I put myself and my views out there against a person that Idid not know, Mark Blasdel, three tines in a row-not to get myself elected, but to build a Democratic movement.

While I was throwing myself out there for an ideological movement, the Flathead Democrats were saving a few pennies by hiring Mark Blasdel’s publicly funded employees to cater to the Flathead Democrats fundraisers.

The reason that I choose to expose myself here is to highlight the short sighted position of the decision making Democrats in Montana.

The ONLY things that the Montana Democrats, or the Flathead Democrats want from me are cash money (that my SS Disability Payments do not afford), Hell Yeahs (that my conscience cannot go along with) or secretarial services (that I do not have the skills for).

That leaves me pretty much out of the influence loop!

My position here is that Dirk, Kevin and Amanda, really need to be careful of their instant friends.

To emphasize the significance of money, the actual Cowgirl post lays it out explicitly, and even audaciously demands that Adams ponies up some dough:

Now Curtis will have to go from zero to sixty very fast. She will need to raise a mean clip of dough before the reports are filed at the end of the quarter, to show what she’s made of. It’s not clear who sits in her inner circle other than her husband, but let’s hope she’s taking good advice. One thing she must do, for certain, is to keep alive for the next few days the fire that this entire event has lit. She should let it burn out only when there is no more fuel. And everything she does must be done with fundraising in mind. For despite our idealistic feelings that money should not matter, it’s unfortunately about the only thing that does matter nowadays. If you don’t raise competitive cash, you lose big. And it will be that way until we have a public financing system. Curtis’s job is to convert the present excitement surrounding her selection into hard cash. She has about four weeks to do it. By mid September she needs $300,000 in the bank. That would require her to raise close to $500,000. It is a very tall order. Nine out of ten voters today do not even know that she is running for office, let alone know anything about her. That won’t change much despite all the free media she can garner. By the way, Amanda’s first financial ask should be from Dirk Adams, who, as a wealthy Democrat and good sport, should write it for the maximum amount. Amanda should then tweet a photo of the check, showing unity to Adams supporters.

Isn’t that rich?

Amanda Curtis seems like a really intelligent, capable individual who will now experience a compressed political deluge depicting her as an anti-gun union extremist carrying out the liberal agenda of Obama. The Lee newspaper attack machine is already geared up and going on those fronts.

Good luck, Amanda. And be weary of the snakes at your feet.

by lizard

As the utterly contemptuous police chief of Ferguson enacted a second assassination on Mike Brown today, it might be helpful to add some context to the militarized police response making international headlines this week.

Tweets of solidarity and advice from Palestinians on social media hinted at a trend that’s been ongoing for years—not militarization, but Israelification—of US law enforcement:

Under the cover of counterterrorism training, nearly every major police agency in the United States has traveled to Israel for lessons in occupation enforcement, a phenomenon that journalist Max Blumenthal dubbed “the Israelification of America’s security apparatus.” Israeli forces and US police departments are so entrenched that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has opened a branch in Tel Aviv.

In 2011, then St. Louis County Police Department chief Timothy Fitch attended the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) National Counter-Terrorism Seminar, an annual week-long Israeli training camp where US law enforcement executives “study first hand Israel’s tactics and strategies” directly from “senior commanders in the Israel National Police, experts from Israel’s intelligence and security services, and the Israel Defense Forces,” according to the ADL’s website.

Until Thursday night, the St. Louis County Police Department appeared to be the largest most militarized and brutish force operating in Ferguson. “St. Louis County Police” was scrawled across the side of most of the tactical unit vehicles and appeared on the combat-style uniforms of officers aiming assault rifles at peaceful protesters.

The ADL boasts of sending more than 175 senior US law enforcement officials from 100 different agencies to the seminar since 2004, which are “taking the lessons they learned in Israel back to the United States.”

Are Americans going to sit back and take this?

by lizard

In 1893, Katharine Bates wrote a poem about Pikes Peak, the mountain that stands watch over Colorado Springs. That poem was the basis for what later became the song America the Beautiful.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As I walked with my kids and new pup along a beautiful creek, the trash I kept finding in the creek was definitely not beautiful. I think we can all agree on that, right? So, as we fished plastic cups and burst balloons from the water, I thought about how much people in this very conservative city of nearly half a million people really hate paying taxes for services. If having beautiful parks is going to cost us money, then screw beautiful parks. That is apparently the sentiment here. From the link:

In 2009 the city was staring down a $40 million revenue gap and a $700 million infrastructural to-do list, but even when residents were faced with drastic cuts to services, they voted overwhelmingly against a property tax hike. And so, as Zach Patton writes in the September issue of Governing, Colorado Springs’ entrenched base of tax-averse libertarians and conservative evangelicals has created a closely watched model of city management that resembles a civic version of the limbo dance.

How low can Colorado Springs go? Patton reports that the city turned off one-third of its streetlights, removed trash cans from parks, slashed funding to local museums and community centers, and stopped mowing street medians, which became so overrun with weeds that they violated property management codes. Evening and weekend bus service was eliminated entirely. The city flushed 550 people from its payroll.

Looking around my in-laws house, there are beautiful antiques everywhere. There is even a bronze nude statue in one of the rooms. Oh yeah, I thought, some of those artists back in the day used to think the human form was beautiful. Well, I might not be in Missoula right now, but I have managed to stay informed on the latest crisis to descend: naked bicyclists. It appears that there are lots of very passionate descendants of the Puritans ready to burn these evil nudists at the stake for threatening their…their what? I get the annoyance of having some Portland event transposed on our idyllic mountain college town, but there are literally people in tears over this. C’mon, people. Try spending some time in some hell-hole US foreign policy has created, like Libya, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Gaza, Yemen, Sudan, Honduras…I guess what I’m trying to say is be thankful you aren’t being murdered and raped and your home blown to pieces.

Of course if you’re black in America, there is always a chance you’ll be murdered by cops or vigilantes. That’s the ugly truth. It doesn’t matter that it’s 2014 and our president’s pigment is darker than all his predecessors. If you’re an unarmed black teenager, at any moment you might get shot and killed. And then, if people show their intense displeasure, be prepared for cops that look like soldiers. Oh, and if these cops need a media blackout as they terrorize you, then the FAA will be happy to oblige by creating a no-fly zone, so news outlets can’t record the police state response to justified rage.

I’m sorry, that’s totally not the official reason for the no-fly zone. From the link:

The reason listed on the Federal Aviation Commission’s website for the no-fly zone over the city is “TO PROVIDE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES.”

To get more of a sense of what that means, ThinkProgress called the helicopter dispatcher at the St. Louis County Police Department. St. Louis, not Ferguson, has been “responsible for crowd control,” a Ferguson Police spokesperson said.

According to the dispatcher, the department originally requested the no-fly zone — for certain flights; “the ceiling is only at 5,000 feet,” the dispatcher said, though the website actually lists 3,000 feet — for 24 hours. The department then asked the FAA to extend the ban on flying.

The reason? “It’s just for a no fly zone because we have multiple helicopters maneuvering in the area and we were having some problems with news aircrafts flying around there,” the dispatcher, who would only identify himself by his first name, Chris, said.

The effort to stop media from flying over the area to film is troubling, especially in light of reports that police have turned journalists away from the sites of the protests.

Sometimes artistic expression can make an impact on how we perceive violence in our communities and our world. One great example was the project Not A Bug Splat (please go to the link to see the picture):

We hear a great deal about the ruthless ingenuity of military hardware, but this is something else altogether. It is a new device currently on deployment in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. It has the power to startle an enemy for a moment and perhaps even render him incapable of using his weapon afterwards. In the medium-to-long term, the enemy may suffer from impaired judgment and, in some cases, be neutralised. The device is a picture of his victim.

Also, anything Banksy does is brilliant (pics).

But artists sometimes pay a steep price for their artistic sensitivity. Locally, Jaime Kelly killed himself last week, and yesterday the world learned Robin Williams decided to do the same thing. It’s heartbreaking, and it’s also very common. Here’s the wiki breakdown:

Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control, in the United States as of 2010, more people died of suicide than in car accidents. In 2010, the total number of suicide deaths in the United States was 38,364. Historically, suicide rates rise during times of financial stress and economic setbacks. In 2009 it was the 7th leading cause of death for males, and the 16th leading cause of death for females. Suicide was the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24.

Now that a famous person has killed himself, there is the predictable call to de-stigmatize mental illness; to implore those feeling suicidal to seek help; to properly acknowledge the mental health crisis that exists because it’s not a funding priority for a government that only cares what you think if you have money and influence:

A shattering new study by two political science professors has found that ordinary Americans have virtually no impact whatsoever on the making of national policy in our country. The analysts found that rich individuals and business-controlled interest groups largely shape policy outcomes in the United States.

This national outpouring will maybe last for a day or two. Then some other shiny object will come along and nothing will ultimately come of it.

Because America isn’t beautiful.

Empires in decline rarely are.

by jhwygirl

In full disclosure, I am 200% in the Dave Wanzenried for U.S. Senate camp. I firmly believe that if any democrat candidate has a chance to beat Steve Daines, the only person who’s thrown their hat in the ring that has the bonafides to run for the office and the speaking ability to motivate voters is State Senator Dave Wanzenried. Wilmer was another favorite, but she has withdrawn herself from consideration as of yesterday.

The Montana Democratic Party have a chance here (even though many think it is impossible) to reverse a few things about the Montana U.S. Senate seat race here in Montana that have gone pretty much disastrously so far.

They are able to return this race – sort of – to the people. But already the winds are wafting with party insider activities.

We are 84 days out from the election. In terms of an actual horse race, it really hasn’t started its full run, but there’s no doubt winning is a very very uphill battle for the Montana Democratic Party.

Money…name recognition – it’s a K2 climb, baby – no doubt. Montana Dems have to create excitement to raise the money and get some free press name recognition. They’ll need it to get outside money, which they are, unfortunately, going to have to rely heavily given the very little amount of time the candidate will have to raise cash.

But getting Tester elected in 2006 was that, too. He was an unknown underdog up until the primary. I know – I was making calls for him.

So who is the party insider’s choice to run for the U.S. Senate seat? A 34-year old teacher from Butte, who has one legislative session under her belt. Who decided not to run for re-election, but is considering a state senate seat for 2016. She also wrote a video blog, uploaded to YouTube for most of the 2013 legislative session.

Her name is Amanda Curtis.

Now, I watched some of Amanda’s videos back during the session. I don’t really remember much of her speaking on the floor or in committees, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t. Lots of people have talked about her – she’s certainly a favorite at the Montana Democratic party’s online mouthpiece. She’s shown she has smarts. Curtis got two bills (out of 9) passed in the difficult 2013 legislature, while of the 7 that didn’t get anywhere, 1 made it out of the house and into the state senate, at least.

Not bad for a freshman, really.

Is Curtis U.S. Senate material? I started asking around last Friday when her name came up at the Dem mouthpiece. “Hey – what about Amanda Curtis?” Well, there wasn’t a single person who knew who she was. I’ve probably asked about 20 people at this point. Of even the few that read newspapers and have opinions about Montana politics and actually talk about their opinions – no one knew who Amanda Curtis was. When I told them what I knew, the most common response was a general reply that “well, they weren’t really going to win anyway at this point.”

Currently the only name in the ring that has actually carried barrels of water in the legislature for Montana Democrats is David Wanzenried. Here’s Wanz’s work in the 2013 legislature.

Here’s his work in the 2011 legislature

Here’s 2009.

2007 legislature

2005 legislature.

2003 legislature

I’m not going any further back. Plus, this purpose of this post isn’t to highlight Wanzenried’s accomplishments. I don’t know that the legislative website actually goes back to his start in politics – but you get the gist. Wanzenried has a political resume like no other currently wishing to be considered for the Dems U.S. Senate ticket, and substantial work, at that.

But no – insiders at the Montana Democrats, along with MEA-MFT have – and here I’m going to be blunt and politically incorrect, but very accurate in what those insiders have told me – the insiders have decided that only a woman is going to excite the base, and that means Amanda Curtis, a freshman legislator and teacher from Butte, is the person who should be Montana’s next Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, to replace Max Baucus.

To run against Steve Daines.

Now, for the record, back in 2008 I found McCain’s pick of of the unknown-and-lacking-political-resume Sarah Palin to the GOP ticket an insult. McCain picked Palin because Hillary had created such a stir that he needed a Hail Mary that first week of September in 2008. He needed attention and he needed to separate himself from Obama, which had just blown America away with his Hope stuff at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. He needed someone pretty who could grab up some women votes (that Obama was scooping up) and who could excite the youth. McCain and the GOP needed thunder, and they needed the media to give a shit

So they picked a – pardon my vulgarity – they picked a vagina.

They didn’t want a smart woman who could express opinions and thoughts – they wanted someone they thought they could control, and someone that didn’t have a long history to bring up dirt (which sort of came back to bite them, didn’t it?)

I mean – they could have picked Carly Fiorina. They could have picked Elizabeth Dole. Condi Rice! Or Kay Bailey Hutchinson.

But they went with Palin.

It was insulting as a woman that the GOP thought that they could pull votes for McCain by putting any female on the ticket. Not substance – just a woman.

I mean – I can’t stand Carly Fiorina, but I was pissed for her and those other I mentioned. Except Condi – her association w/Bush was enough to make me not care about her.

Sure worked out, though, given the choices. And damn – election night 2012 was over by like 10:30 p.m. MST time, wasn’t it?

I got nothing against Amanda Curtis. She may eventually build a resume that would have her a viable challenge against a candidate like Steve Daines. But if Montana democrats and MEA MFT think that they can elevate a freshman state house representative to a winning US Senate candidate, they are absolutely – dare I say it? – batcrap crazy.

I’d love to have a viable woman potential candidate around. I’ve been reminded by many that now is just as good a time as any. At some point, there’s a choice to be made to support a woman candidate.

Now, unfortunately, does not appear to be that time. If Frankie Wilmer had stayed in, I would have wholeheartedly supported her. Quite honestly, I’m bummed she left the consideration – better to have a pool of quality and experience.

Sadly, without Frankie Wilmer or Denise Juneau, Montana Dems have yet to find themselves a viable woman candidate.

I’m also going to say this – Montana Dems have only themselves to blame for not having a viable woman candidate. They didn’t even have one running in the primary – so they can’t push the blame on Bullock for that.

And the idea that Montana Dems and MEA MFT can push any old female on us as a viable candidate is, quite frankly, sexist.

It’s an insult to me as a woman voter. It’s an insult and it’s sexist.

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