Nature isn’t making it easy for economic activity to happen here in Missoula. December’s First Friday was tonight, and tomorrow it’s Griz football and a Parade of Lights. The weather will be brutal, as it has been all week, so I doubt those who brave the elements will linger downtown for too long, which is bad news for downtown business.
Much to the dismay of my kids, I watched a good portion of this week’s city council meeting on MCAT. The topic being discussed was sandwich boards—or, more specifically, the rules governing sandwich boards downtown. Apparently there is a BIG PROBLEM that necessitates throwing those onerous sandwich board regulations out the window. Because Christmas.
I hope a win for more sandwich boards doesn’t create clusters of signage, impeding pedestrian traffic. Also, there are those notorious transients to contend with.
A perfect storm of sidewalk congestion?
You see where I’m going with this, right? Toward solutions.
Use sandwich boards to cover homeless people.
Youth gone wild!!!
Young men want to fight and young women want to fuck!!
It’s in the papers, folks, and on the television. You’ve been warned!
If you watch Fox news or know people who watch Fox news, then you’ve probably heard about the knock-out game where vicious youth test their youthful vigor by trying to drop unsuspecting victims with a single punch.
I suggest keeping a close, discerning eye on any young males stalking the sidewalks of America, especially if they’re of the colored skin variety, and/or traveling in packs.
When it comes to young women, adult men, you must be alert. They will coyly pose for your cameras, then submit to sexting pictures of their girl parts, and when you don’t acquiesce to their lustful sexual urges, they will exploit illogical sex laws to punish you.
Just ask Dax Cody Kuehn.
Dax is like a totally talented photographer in Missoula, and there are people who want to let you know, anonymously of course, that Dax is unfairly getting snowed by Lolita. From the comments:
Age of consent, sexual texting, and the whole ball of wax is just ridiculous. These “little girls” as everyone likes to portray them, are engaging in risky behaviors that they end up regretting later. Do you honestly think that at 21 she’s going to make better decisions? At 30? At 45? Probably not.
Her actions, as a result of her own low self-esteem, are the cause of something that was NOT predatory, but voluntary – FOR MONTHS! She is “old enough to know.” Hell, kids are old enough to know at 10 these days! Bottom line: She dropped her drawers and hit the “send” button, and then decided to ruin the guy’s life. You can bet she played on the fact that her grandfather is a retired detective, crying crocodile tears over it and saying “I didn’t want him to get in trouble – really.” Boo hoo. So glad he was smart enough to not have any images on his phone. These teens are 16 and 17 going on 34 and 35. Anyone who thinks differently is protecting the wrong group. Girls today are trashy, promiscuous, aggressive and taking the lead of soulless dirtbag losers like Miley Cyrus. I hope her mother’s proud of raising not only a girl with a rockbottom self-esteem (and never knew it???), but one that now knows it’s okay to blow the whistle anytime and somehow wrangle out of the emotional consequences. Atta girl, mom!
Is the dude a dirtbag? Yeah. But he wasn’t preying on a 12 year old, he was flirting with a woman old enough to have sex and virtually on the brink of 30. C’mon! Good job Jason Marks understands this fact.
Not saying this guy is not a creep because clearly he is. But I think this girl is every bit at fault. In fact, I would conclude she ran off to get him in trouble after being rejected. If this would have happened a couple months from now (when she is 18) it wouldn’t even be an article. At 17 (almost 18) I’m pretty sure she knew exactly what she was engaging in. And if her or her mom did 1 second of research on this guy before they hired him or before mom decided to leave her alone and secluded with him they would have seen exactly what type of photo’s this guy does.The whole “I’ve never been told I was sexy so I’m going to send nude photo’s” argument just doesn’t hold a lot of water. With that said…C’mon dude..what the heck man???
Youth, man. I mean, what are we going to do with these crazy kids?
Both of these stories are great opportunities to have awful, general conversations about the worst parts of coming of age: sex and violence.
Cue Jane’s Addiction, Natural Born Killers edition:
Upon hearing the news of Nelson Mandela’s passing, Obama described Mandela as “a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.”
Such nice words from a man who took history in his own hands five years ago to apparently continue bending the arc of the moral universe into the dirt.
Obama says stuff, because that’s what he’s good at. He talks about reforming this, and closing that, but when it comes to action, Obama is a paper tiger, which is being generous.
Take the president’s clemency record:
A ProPublica analysis of Justice Department statistics last November found that Obama had granted pardons at a lower rate than Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush had at the same point in their administrations.
Obama has now granted a total of 39 pardons and denied 1,333.
Here’s a more recent article published before Thanksgiving—that time of year our president pardons Turkeys:
President Obama on Wednesday will pardon a Thanksgiving turkey. Which makes this a good time to ask why a liberal constitutional lawyer who bemoans the bloated prison system and proclaims that “life is all about second chances” is–on the matter of clemency–one of the stingiest presidents in U.S. history?
Put another way: If a turkey deserves a second chance, why not Weldon Angelos?
Angelos was sentenced in 2004 to 55 years’ imprisonment for possessing a firearm in connection with selling small amounts of marijuana. He didn’t brandish or use a weapon, nor did he hurt or threaten to injure anybody. And yet the father of young children and an aspiring music producer was given an effective life sentence because of a draconian federal law requiring mandatory minimum sentences.
Even the judge on his case, Paul G. Cassell, found the sentence “cruel and irrational.” While urging Obama to reduce Angelos’s punishment, the Republican-appointed judge wrote, “While I must impose the unjust sentence, our system of separated powers provides a means of redress.”
Don’t worry pro-Obama liberals, Obama says he’s going to reform that shit. I’m sure he really wants to. Let’s just hope those darn Republicans don’t obstruct him.
Another policy issue where Obama has plunged the arc of the moral universe into hell is GITMO, where prisoners on hunger strikes are still getting force-fed:
Officials at Guantanamo Bay have implemented revised protocols for hunger strikes and force-feeding, according to a Justice Department letter obtained by Al Jazeera. The controversial military detention center keeps scores of detainees imprisoned, often without charge.
The move comes as officials at the base disclosed this week that they would no longer release new figures to journalists on a hunger strike that is currently underway. As of Monday, the last day Guantanamo officials released fresh numbers, 15 prisoners were protesting, up by two from the previous week. All of the hunger strikers were reportedly being force-fed.
According to the Justice Department letter, officials at the base revised their protocols for dealing with the hunger strike and force-feeding methods on Nov. 14 to “better focus on the adverse health effects of clinically significant weight loss on each individual detainee.”
But mystery surrounds exactly what those changes are. Navy Cmdr. John Filostrat, the prison spokesman, declined to disclose details about what exactly changed in the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), or to answer any questions about why the changes were made. Filostrat said to do so would interfere with “operational security.”
I’m sure if Nelson Mandela was engaged in a struggle against US imperialism, using the tactics he employed against apartheid, Obama would have labeled him a terrorist and blown him up with a drone strike or a JSOC raid.
And pro-Obama liberals would have nodded solemnly, defending their guy by explaining what a difficult job it is leading the free world.
Liz recently wrote about the squabbling inside the dem party about how best to expand Medicaid:
“Failure is often more instructive than success.”
While he has a point, I think that folks need to remember the battle over the Healthy Kids Initiative in 2008-2009.
Here’s the quick down and dirty: in 2008, Healthy Montana Initiative, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit ran a ballot initiative campaign to expand access to health care via CHIP and Medicaid for kids in low income families. The campaign was hugely successful and won at the state polls with 70% of voters supporting it. Kids… gotta love ‘em, even it they comes from poor families.
Now the problem with initiatives in Montana is that while they can set up new programs and revenue streams, they can’t appropriate funds. So the initiative had to go the the 2009 Montana Legislature for an appropriation. That Legislature had a deadlocked 50-50 House, and Republicans controlled the Senate 27-23.
The appropriation for the initiative was rolled into HB2, the main funding instrument for the state. So, through a very rancorous session, with the House supporting the Initiative funding, and the Senate trying to gut it at every step of the way, the bill eventually passed with the appropriation intact and the CHIP and Medicaid expansion for poor kids was funded.
A newsletter from the MHRN characterized the legislative battle thusly:
“What was not foreseen was a partisan debacle where many Republicans put anti-government ideology ahead of the health of Montana communities and the clear will of the voters who elected them.
In a stunning disregard for the democratic initiative process, Republicans threatened funding for the Plan at every turn. A majority of Republicans in both the House and the Senate stated publicly and repeatedly that voters did not know what they were voting for and/or the Plan was a step towards ‘socialism.’ They threatened to withhold funding for the program.”
So we see that even when a solid majority of Montana voters give the Legislature a mandate to do something, that mandate goes by the wayside when politickin’ and legislatin’ season arrives. That Legislature was only mildly republican, with the words “tea party republican” yet to be coined during the aftermath of the Obama election, and the Baucus-care debacle. Continue Reading »
I had a moment of inspiration yesterday when suddenly I saw how two unrelated problems could combine and create a solution for both problems.
The first problem is something I’ve been thinking about since relapsing on football (goddamn it Chiefs!!!), and that’s America’s stadium problem. The article is from July, and describes the problem like this:
Over the past 20 years, 101 new sports facilities have opened in the United States—a 90-percent replacement rate—and almost all of them have received direct public funding. The typical justification for a large public investment to build a stadium for an already-wealthy sports owner has to do with creating jobs or growing the local economy, which sound good to the median voter. “If I had to sum up the typical [public] perspective,” Neil deMause, co-author of Field of Schemes and editor of the blog by the same title—the go-tos on the ongoing stadium subsidy story—told me via email, “I’d guess it’d be something along the lines of ‘I don’t want my tax money going to rich fat cats, but anything that creates jobs is good, and man that Jeffrey Loria sure is a jerk, huh?’” This confused mindset has resulted in public coffers getting raided. The question is whether taxpayers have gotten anything in return.
The article goes on to show that, no, taxpayers are not getting anything substantial for the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been dumped into these massive public/private projects.
Missoula’s stadium problem is a bit different. Instead of public money on the front end of this deal (I’m sure there was some kind of financial incentive from the city, like a tax-break or something, but maybe not) the city of Missoula ended up putting the taxpayers on the hook for bailing out the stadium when the financing problems began heading toward foreclosure.
The other problem—which is totally not related to screwed up priorities when it comes to directing public funds—is the threatening behavior of drunk, panhandling homeless people.
Now hear me out.
I think there is a great opportunity for the public to finally get something in return for its coerced investment: an open-air, daytime holding camp for dirty miscreants who may or may not be homeless.
Obviously this kind of use will have to have the proper conditional use permits, but I have faith a city council getting ready to ban sitting/sleeping/lying will be able get this done. And I suspect this issue is something even libertarians and progressives can agree on.
There will have to be portable crappers and maybe a few outdoor heat-lamps, so there may be some cost, but I know Missoulians will come through because, well, that’s just the kind of compassionate community we are.
This obviously won’t be an option during the baseball season, and that’s a problem, because summer is the season that sees migrations of freeloaders breeze through Missoula. Maybe during Missoula’s summer, which lasts for like a month and a half, the open-air camp can be relocated to an area near the detention center.
Well, that’s my modest little proposal for Missoula.
Failure is often more instructive than success. Take, for example, the accumulation of failures that resulted in the big backlash against medical marijuana here in Montana.
People involved in that movement—people like Bob Brigham—should try and learn from their failures, especially when it comes to strategy. I relied a lot on the great blogging perspective of Montanafesto when it came to this issue, like this postmortem on IR-124. Here is one interesting takeaway regarding the decision to make the language of the bill confusing for voters:
Advocates can’t claim it passed because voters didn’t understand because when those opposed to medical marijuana said it was confusing, PFRNR suggested their inability to understand the ballot was a matter of them being too dumb to understand it. (Of course, it was confusing. Obfuscating, even. Everybody knows that. The crafters knew that. It was discussed as confusing since July/August of 2011 . If “confusing” was a strategy, whether it was or wasn’t a “bad” strategy might be debated. But empirically, it was a failed one. However, crafters say this wasn’t the case.)
The reason I’m bringing all this up is because I’m sensing even more failure developing from Bob Brigham’s new focus: cheerleading on behalf of the John Bohlinger campaign for Medicaid expansion.
I don’t really care how this Bohlinger insurgency ultimately plays out in the primary, but I do care about the actual people who will continue to be hurt by this state failing to find a political path for accepting these Federal dollars like all those raging Tea Party hypocrites in Helena who snatch what they can from the Federal teat while finding new ways to punch poor people in the face.
Pogie over at Intelligent Discontent wrote a post over a week ago making some damn good points about the damage of Bohlinger parachuting into this debate.
Maybe muddying the waters is the point. Maybe it’s not about advocating for a winning policy strategy at all, but instead a means of causing political damage to the future political ambitions surrounding this populist issue.
Caught in the crossfire of this unnecessary political battle will be tens of thousands of Montanans who deserve better.
What’s even more frustrating are the underlying political grudges I suspect are lurking behind this sudden tug-of-war happening over Medicaid expansion.
*Edit note: I changed the title of the post to make it a question instead, because I hope failure on this issue is not inevitable.
Reporting on the frenzied crowds of consumers always seems to come off as a bit smug and condescending. This year, the new outrage is over the companies opening on Thanksgiving day, especially Walmart (there were around 1,500 protests yesterday against Walmart’s corporate model, organized by OUR Walmart).
Too often, the critics are not the participants, and those who can afford to wait out the crowds are the ones who sit instead comfortably in front of the television horrified at the stories of violence coming from the unwashed masses.
The class divide becomes even more evident when you look at the companies that decided NOT to open on Thanksgiving, stores like Costco and Nordstrom.
If you want a little peek into the perspective of poverty, I recommend reading Linda Tirado’s piece, titled This is Why Poor People’s Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense. Here’s an excerpt:
Rest is a luxury for the rich. I get up at 6AM, go to school (I have a full course load, but I only have to go to two in-person classes) then work, then I get the kids, then I pick up my husband, then I have half an hour to change and go to Job 2. I get home from that at around 12:30AM, then I have the rest of my classes and work to tend to. I’m in bed by 3. This isn’t every day, I have two days off a week from each of my obligations. I use that time to clean the house and soothe Mr. Martini and see the kids for longer than an hour and catch up on schoolwork. Those nights I’m in bed by midnight, but if I go to bed too early I won’t be able to stay up the other nights because I’ll fuck my pattern up, and I drive an hour home from Job 2 so I can’t afford to be sleepy. I never get a day off from work unless I am fairly sick. It doesn’t leave you much room to think about what you are doing, only to attend to the next thing and the next. Planning isn’t in the mix.
While the poor are kept from gratuitous moments of rest, the next housing scam is taking shape, and it’s a real doozy.
I finally got around to reading the Mother Jones piece, How Wall Street Has Turned Housing Into a Dangerous Get-Rich-Quick Scheme—Again and here’s my initial thoughts: are you fucking kidding me?!?
Basically, all you greed-blind investors, if you loved mortgage-back securities, then you’ll love these new tranches of securitized rent. Here’s the intro:
Over the last year and a half, Wall Street hedge funds and private equity firms have quietly amassed an unprecedented rental empire, snapping up Queen Anne Victorians in Atlanta, brick-faced bungalows in Chicago, Spanish revivals in Phoenix. In total, these deep-pocketed investors have bought more than 200,000 cheap, mostly foreclosed houses in cities hardest hit by the economic meltdown.
Wall Street’s foreclosure crisis, which began in late 2007 and forced more than 10 million people from their homes, has created a paradoxical problem. Millions of evicted Americans need a safe place to live, even as millions of vacant, bank-owned houses are blighting neighborhoods and spurring a rise in crime. Lucky for us, Wall Street has devised a solution: It’s going to rent these foreclosed houses back to us. In the process, it’s devised a new form of securitization that could cause this whole plan to blow up—again.
The piece then focuses on the biggest player in this new playground of greed, a private equity firm, the Blackstone Group.
Few outside the finance industry have heard of Blackstone. Yet today, it’s the largest owner of single-family rental homes in the nation—and of a whole lot of other things, too. It owns part or all of the Hilton Hotel chain, Southern Cross Healthcare, Houghton Mifflin publishing house, the Weather Channel, Sea World, the arts and crafts chain Michael’s, Orangina, and dozens of other companies.
Blackstone manages more than $210 billion in assets, according to its 2012 Securities and Exchange Commission annual filing. It’s also a public company with a list of institutional owners that reads like a who’s who of companies recently implicated in lawsuits over the mortgage crisis, including Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, UBS, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and of course JP Morgan Chase, which just settled a lawsuit with the Department of Justice over its risky and often illegal mortgage practices, agreeing to pay an unprecedented $13 billion fine.
In other words, if Blackstone makes money by capitalizing on the housing crisis, all these other Wall Street banks—generally regarded as the main culprits in creating the conditions that led to the foreclosure crisis in the first place—make money too.
And why not? Who is going to stop this madness before it blows up again? There is no disincentive for these bastards, so they’re back at the trough, snout-deep in the spoils.
It’s tempting to want to take a page from these unaccountable lords presiding over their little fiefdoms, and put a few of their heads on spears as a warning to others to stop doing evil, greedy shit like this, but violence isn’t the answer. Besides, they can direct the police state against hippie squatters in Zucotti Park, and across the country, so scratch that disincentive.
It is important to understand what these monsters are doing, though, and how more people may be put on the street because of their short-sighted recklessness. Here’s more on what securitizing rent may produce:
Depending on whom you ask, the idea of bundling rental payments and selling them off to investors is either a natural evolution of the finance industry or a fire-breathing chimera.
“This is a new frontier,” comments Ted Weinstein, a consultant in the real-estate-owned homes industry for 30 years. “It’s something I never really would have dreamt of.”
However, to anyone who went through the 2008 mortgage-backed-security crisis, this new territory will sound strangely familiar.
“It’s just like a residential mortgage-backed security,” said one hedge-fund investor whose company does business with Blackstone. When asked why the public should expect these securities to be safe, given the fact that risky mortgage-backed securities caused the 2008 collapse, he responded, “Trust me.”
For Blackstone, at least, the logic is simple. The company wants money upfront to purchase more cheap, foreclosed homes before prices rise. So it’s joined forces with JP Morgan, Credit Suisse, and Deutsche Bank to bundle the rental payments of 3,207 single-family houses and sell this bond to investors with mortgages on the underlying houses offered as collateral. This is, of course, just a test case for what could become a whole new industry of rental-backed securities.
Many major Wall Street banks are involved in the deal, according to a copy of the private pitch documents Blackstone sent to potential investors on October 31st, which was reviewed by TomDispatch. Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan, and Credit Suisse are helping market the bond. Wells Fargo is the certificate administrator. Midland Loan Services, a subsidiary of PNC Bank, is the loan servicer. (By the way, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and PNC Bank are all members of another clique: the list of banks foreclosing on the most families in 2013.)
According to interviews with economists, industry insiders, and housing activists, people are more or less holding their collective breath, hoping that what looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck won’t crash the economy the same way the last flock of ducks did.
“You kind of just hope they know what they’re doing,” says Dean Baker, an economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “That they have provisions for turnover and vacancies. But have they done that? Have they taken the appropriate care? I certainly wouldn’t count on it.” The cash flow analysis in the documents sent to investors assumes that 95% of these homes will be rented at all times, at an average monthly rent of $1,312. It’s an occupancy rate that real estate professionals describe as ambitious.
There’s one significant way, however, in which this kind of security differs from its mortgage-backed counterpart. When banks repossess mortgaged homes as collateral, there is at least the assumption (often incorrect due to botched or falsified paperwork from the banks) that the homeowner has, indeed, defaulted on her mortgage. In this case, however, if a single home-rental bond blows up, thousands of families could be evicted, whether or not they ever missed a single rental payment.
“We could well end up in that situation where you get a lot of people getting evicted… not because the tenants have fallen behind but because the landlords have fallen behind,” says Baker.
The back and forth in the last thread about crony capitalism and socialism needs to be expanded to include a term we’ve used here before—neo-feudalism.
So as the media keeps the spectacle focused on the behavior of peasants and Walmartians, remember, the lords are once again moving in for the kill.
Luckily I didn’t need Obamacare talking points to survive Thanksgiving dinner. Instead, after the turkey and stuffing and green bean casserole, I talked with my dad about the rampant systemic greed of capitalism.
I asked my dad if he thought his fellow Christians would ever condemn the greed driving our capitalist system off the cliff, and he immediately mentioned Pope Francis who, if you haven’t heard, is a capitalism-bashing badass:
Pope Francis has attacked unfettered capitalism as “a new tyranny”, urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff.
The 84-page document, known as an apostolic exhortation, amounted to an official platform for his papacy, building on views he has aired in sermons and remarks since he became the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years in March.
In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticising the global economic system, attacking the “idolatry of money” and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens “dignified work, education and healthcare”.
He also called on rich people to share their wealth. “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,” Francis wrote in the document issued on Tuesday.
“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”
Or, if you listen to Rush, beware Marxism:
“I’ve gotta be very caref(ul). I have been numerous times to the Vatican. It wouldn’t exist without tons of money. But regardless, what this is — Somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him. This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the Pope. There’s no such (thing as) ‘unfettered capitalism.’ That doesn’t exist anywhere.”
After referencing Pope Francis, I replied with my obligatory observation, which I’ve made here, that Millennials are apparently warming to the concept of Socialism. Forbes called the findings of the study that broke this bombshell stunning.
To bolster my argument, I cited the fact an openly socialist candidate won a seat on Seattle’s City Council. Her name is Kshama Sawant, and she’s ready to shake things up.
I lived in Seattle a good portion of my life, and my Dad still has a lot of friends who work in the area, so I feel comfortable reporting, based exclusively on my Dad’s description of his Facebook activity, that those in his peer group think Sawant’s call for Boeing workers to take over the factories is sheer lunacy.
A newly elected Socialist city council member wants Boeing machinists to take possession of an airplane-building factory if the company decides to move out of state.
“The workers should take over the factories, and shut down Boeing’s profit-making machine,” Council member-elect Kshama Sawant told union supporters earlier this week, according to KIRO-TV.
Sawant claims Boeing executives are taking part in “economic terrorism” considering out-of-state locations to build the new 777X airliner after machinists rejected a contract that would have guaranteed jobs in Everett for eight years.
Yeah, that’s probably a bit much, and because I’m kinda paranoid, I now wonder if Sawant isn’t some caricature of Socialism designed to poison the waters. Or maybe that was just a hallucinatory vision from my turkeymeat-coma.
Getting into the guts of what is happening, economically, is still very murky terrain for me. One of my go-to informers continues to be Michael Whitney, and his latest piece—Christmas Time on Wall Street—is a must read.
There is one particular nugget that Whitney finds and quotes, and it comes from economist James K. Galbraith, some no-name dude who apparently used this thing called “history” to explain why the Fed’s printing-press policy was going to fail. The title of the article he wrote in 2009 is “No Return to Normal” and here’s the quote Whitney uses:
“Roosevelt employed Americans on a vast scale, bringing the unemployment rates down to levels that were tolerable, even before the war—from 25 percent in 1933 to below 10 percent in 1936… The New Deal rebuilt America physically, providing a foundation … from which the mobilization of World War II could be launched…..
“What did not recover, under Roosevelt, was the private banking system. Borrowing and lending—mortgages and home construction—contributed far less to the growth of output in the 1930s and ’40s than they had in the 1920s or would come to do after the war. If they had savings at all, people stayed in Treasuries, and despite huge deficits interest rates for federal debt remained near zero. The liquidity trap wasn’t overcome until the war ended….. the relaunching of private finance took twenty years, and the war besides.
“A brief reflection on this history and present circumstances drives a plain conclusion: the full restoration of private credit will take a long time. It will follow, not precede, the restoration of sound private household finances. There is no way the project of resurrecting the economy by stuffing the banks with cash will work. Effective policy can only work the other way around.”(“No Return to Normal: Why the economic crisis, and its solution, are bigger than you think” James K. Galbraith, Washington Monthly)
Whitney is using this quote to deflate the idea that the Fed’s exclusive focus on bailing out the private banking system has delivered on the credit-expansion promises used to sell this policy. Without government movement on minimum wage, at the very least, growth will be kept to the corporate juicing of stock buy-backs. Here’s Whitney:
Anyway, from the looks of things, it’s going to be hard to inflate much of a credit bubble in any of the usual sectors: Housing, autos, credit cards or student loans. In fact, I would expect to see less money poring into these areas rather than more.
But if credit doesn’t expand, then the only way the economy is going to grow is if wages go up, the government increases its deficits, or businesses boost capital investment. So, what’s it going to be?
Well, we know wages aren’t going up, so we can scratch that baby off the scorecard right away. We also know that budget-slasher, Obama, is not going to do an about-face and launch another round of fiscal stimulus anytime soon. He’s going to keep hacking away government spending and safetynet programs until his sorry term is up and they ship him back to Chicago to work on his memoirs.
That leaves business investment, right?
Oddly enough, there is some good news on that front, although the details may come as something of a surprise. You see, corporations have been borrowing more but NOT to invest in their businesses. Oh, no. In fact, according to Westpac’s Elliot Clarke:
“…business investment has decelerated from over 9% in June 2012 to little more than 2% in June 2013 ….. From the Fed’s flow of funds data, it is evident that nonfinancial firms have been adjusting their financial structure, funding stock buy backs and acquisitions with borrowed funds. This is not only a recent phenomenon; it has been seen throughout the recovery…
This recovery’s business investment narrative then looks to have been all about US corporates maximizing reported profits (both by making the financial structure more efficient and through acquisitions) as opposed to expanding capacity….” (“How effective has QE been at stimulating credit creation?, Elliot Clarke, Westpac)
How weird is that? So, the Fed’s goofy monetary policies have turned the corporations into hedge funds. They’re no longer building factories, piling up inventory, or buying tools and equipment. They’re simply taking advantage of the surge of liquidity the Fed is pumping into the financial markets to buy back their own stocks and juice the price. Or course, none of this leads to more demand for funds, a stronger credit expansion, more hiring, or a sustainable recovery. All it does is goose equities prices paving the way to bigger end-of-year bonuses, which seems to be the objective.
This is the hot mess of late-stage capitalism. It’s insane. We absolutely need to consider other models of human organization.
That said, let’s hold off on taking over factories. Lasting change is a long game. That may not get you headlines, but the real work is not about getting headlines.
It’s about truly understanding how deeply our crony capitalist system is failing.
Before launching into another post, I would like to thank everyone who reads and contributes to 4&20 Blackbirds. I’ve recently read a few posts from the glory days, and it’s bittersweet seeing the names of people who used to be fixtures here.
I always jump to read a post from a byline other than mine, because it’s rare these days, and I’m not altogether comfortable with being the driving voice of a blog that boasts an impressive roll call of past contributors.
Lately, I’ve hit a ridiculous stride with posting, possibly a bit obsessive/compulsive. I blame Twitter and my lack of self control. There is simply too much happening, but I doubt daily posts is a pace I will keep up.
For now I’m going strong, because even in moments of trying to just watch a silly movie, I find inspiration.
For example, I watched Olympus Has Fallen tonight, and boy howdy, there was some serious carnage.
I’m a bit hazy on the plot, but it has something to do with an elite North Korean special ops kinda deal breaching the White House and taking the president hostage. The antagonist wants to unify Korea and inflict nuclear armageddon on America. That’s the gist.
My favorite part of the movie is when the former secret service traitor has his moment of reveal with the president. The president asks this traitor how much money it takes to be a traitor, and the traitor responds by asking the president how much it takes for Wall Street to buy the presidency, or something to that effect. It’s hilarious.
Luckily, before being executed, this traitor is given the opportunity to repent. It’s very moving.
I’ll probably expound on this later, but if you want to get a head start, read Christmas Time on Wall Street, another frank dispatch from Mike Whitney.
I mean, goddamn.
Missoula’s effort to curb the unsavory behavior of “transients” downtown is not happening in a vacuum. In fact, it’s part of a national trend.
I linked to this NPR piece in a previous post—More Cities Sweeping Homeless Into Less Prominent Areas:
Raleigh isn’t the only city seeking to move its homeless population to a less prominent location. In recent years, municipalities from Seattle to Tampa have cracked down on the homeless and groups that help them.
Nationally, there is an increase in cities responding to visible poverty including homelessness by criminalizing it.
Maria Foscarinis heads the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, an organization that seeks to end homelessness. She says many cities want to revitalize downtown areas.
“And they feel like having homeless people, having visibly poor people in those downtown areas detracts from those efforts,” she says.
Even Los Angeles, with its temperate climate and 50,000+ homeless population, is considering going after those who feed the down and out:
They began showing up at dusk last week, wandering the streets, slumped in wheelchairs and sitting on sidewalks, paper plates perched on their knees. By 6:30 p.m., more than 100 homeless people had lined up at a barren corner in Hollywood, drawn by free meals handed out from the back of a truck every night by volunteers.
But these days, 27 years after the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition began feeding people in a county that has one of the worst homeless problems in the nation, the charity is under fire, a flashpoint in the national debate over the homeless and the programs that serve them.
Facing an uproar from homeowners, two members of the Los Angeles City Council have called for the city to follow the lead of dozens of other communities and ban the feeding of homeless people in public spaces.
“If you give out free food on the street with no other services to deal with the collateral damage, you get hundreds of people beginning to squat,” said Alexander Polinsky, an actor who lives two blocks from the bread line. “They are living in my bushes and they are living in my next door neighbor’s crawl spaces. We have a neighborhood which now seems like a mental ward.”
Should Los Angeles enact such an ordinance, it would join a roster of more than 30 cities, including Philadelphia, Raleigh, N.C., Seattle and Orlando, Fla., that have adopted or debated some form of legislation intended to restrict the public feeding of the homeless, according to the National Coalition of the Homeless.
These efforts—from Orlando to Missoula—will fail because the systems that are suppose to support and treat the core maladies are not working.
Prisons don’t rehabilitate criminals, hospitals don’t treat addicts, and states can’t handle their mentally ill, for starters.
Of course not all folks who find themselves without conventional housing are mentally ill addicts with criminal histories. The stories I highlighted in this post exemplified how some younger people have experienced homelessness.
But the threatening behavior downtown—and there is threatening behavior we should all be concerned about—comes primarily from a very small percentage of people who do have significant substance abuse problems and, too often, underlying mental health issues.
I would also argue there is actually more threatening behavior at night that comes from drunk college kids and other participants of the bar scene, but that doesn’t seem to be a part of this ordinance conversation, although maybe it should be.
The scope of this ordinance discussion needs to be broader and more solution-focused. There are plenty of people in our community who understand the problem and know what needs to happen to make a significant impact on the core problems.
The solutions, though, will take funding and hard work from trained, dedicated professionals, which probably sounds too expensive and difficult.
Instead, communities across the country are hoping to push the unsightly symptoms of addiction and mental illness to other part of town, like city parks and surrounding residential areas.
It won’t work, as we soon shall see.
I’m beginning to wonder if some of Obama’s failures aren’t actually strategic maneuvers against the lingering push of the Neocons.
Syria, for example.
Obama’s failure to sell a direct military intervention against Syria really pissed off Israel and Saudi Arabia. I described their national tantrums in a post titled The New American Century is Getting Old.
And now there is this tentative deal with Iran.
Built into this process is another failure that may be strategic. To avoid an AIPAC beating, there will be a push in Congress to pass legislation for more sanctions, which will kill any possibility of a deal. If Obama doesn’t want this deal to get done, allowing the lobby to use the Congressional service they have paid for could be a win win.
But AIPAC isn’t all powerful, and there are good reasons why the Obama administration may be serious about a deal with Iran.
Since his election last year, Obama has advocated for a foreign policy pivot to Asia. That can’t happen if Iran continues to be the last feverish target for the old New American Century.
The new target is China, and as the sleeping giant yawns and farts itself into waking, it appears there’s a US faction that may have the influence to discard the primacy of Israel in order to realign with the changing geopolitical terrain.
This is dangerous territory for the Obama administration. I also think it’s dangerous for Americans, considering Israel is run by psychopaths who exploit the historical trauma of the holocaust and misrepresent the existential threat coming from Iran.
Though I don’t think it’s for noble reasons, the diplomatic efforts of the Obama administration should be commended.
Build it and they will come…
That is the refrain of fear repeated by some of the people who have opposed the efforts of the Poverello Center’s relocation to West Broadway.
If you’ve driven along West Broadway in the past month, you’ve probably noticed the building part is well under way. As for those who may come and sully our fair city, the Poverello Center has been breaking records for overnight occupancy, exacerbated by the first real cold snap of the winter season. “They” are already here.
Who “they” are is a collection of stories as various as the individual experiences those stories are derived from, and the more stories that can be told, the better our community will understand what factors in to periods of homelessness people experience.
In a Kaimin feature piece published a few weeks ago, a student told his story about choosing to live in a tent at an undisclosed spot along the Kim Williams trail.
Build it and they will come is not a phrase commonly associated with the University, but getting an education is what brought Erik Lembke from Vermont to Montana, and the cost of housing is what factored in to Lembke deciding not to bother with the hassle and camp instead.
The Kaimin article is a good read, but it’s a story filtered through the lens of a student reporter.
For a first person account, I highly recommend reading 7 Things No One Tells You About Being Homeless. Though the Montana town featured in this article is never explicitly named, I suspect it’s Missoula. The article has nearly 1.5 million views.
Homelessness is an incredibly complicated issue that is almost never served well by local media depictions. The Missoulian has done an especially piss-poor job of reporting on this issue, over-utilizing the now pejorative term TRANSIENT in most of its reporting.
As we near a holiday that should conjure thankfulness for things like living inside, eating good food, and spending time with friends and family, I hope my fellow Missoulians will make an effort to move beyond the fear and stereotypes associated with homelessness to see human stories as various as the lived experiences they come from.
There is all kinds of helpful information on the internet to make the Holidays tolerable, and Huffpost wants to ensure its liberal readership is prepared for the
battlefield dinner table, so here’s Every Argument You’ll Need to Win your Obamacare Debate this Thanksgiving. It’s like getting psyched for a football game:
We’ve all got a crazy uncle we love. He might not even technically be an uncle — it’s not something the family likes to get into — but he’s there at Thanksgiving every year just the same, getting heavy handed with the 1.5-liter wine bottle, insisting on calling the dog “bitch,” starting with off-color jokes that made people uncomfortable even before the country “evolved” and finishing with a tea party-inspired screed about the Kenyan in the White House. We’ll call him Uncle Hank.
Everyone has or knows a Hank — that is, except for Hank. Hank has a problem on turkey day: his hopelessly naive, Nation-reading, vegetarian niece who likes to quote from Howard Zinn and tell him about the genocidal roots of the holiday they’ve gathered to celebrate. She wants to spread the wealth around, but has no interest in hard work, no respect for the people who make this country run. She has never signed the front of a paycheck. Let’s call her Emily.
It’s been a rough stretch for Uncle Hank. Thanksgiving after the 2010 tea party wave tasted pretty sweet, but otherwise, he’s had little to rub in when he’s seen Emily — what with gay marriage sweeping the nation and an ascendant multicultural coalition reelecting the black president. Ugh.
But this year, more than the cranberry sauce, more than the deep-fried turkey, more than the pecan pie and more than the Concha y Toro, he’s looking forward to devouring his defenseless niece over the flop that has been Obamacare. He’s ready for his feast of I-told-ya-so.
Here at HuffPost we believe in news you can use, so we’ve put together a guide we hope is just as useful to Hank as it is to Emily. Because what good is having a political opinion if you can’t prove it’s the right one in front of your extended family on Thanksgiving?
Instead of trying to figure out how to antagonize time with family with politics, it might help to remember that plenty of people don’t have family and friends, making the holidays a time of increased depression and all the messy consequences that produces.
Huffpost wants to help with this problem as well, so here’s 8 Tips for Surviving Depression and Anxiety During the Holidays.
Back in August, this is what Eric Holder had to say about Washington and Colorado legalizing cannabis:
The United States government took a historic step back from its long-running drug war on Thursday, when Attorney General Eric Holder informed the governors of Washington and Colorado that the Department of Justice would allow the states to create a regime that would regulate and implement the ballot initiatives that legalized the use of marijuana for adults.
A Justice Department official said that Holder told the governors in a joint phone call early Thursday afternoon that the department would take a “trust but verify approach” to the state laws. DOJ is reserving its right to file a preemption lawsuit at a later date, since the states’ regulation of marijuana is illegal under the Controlled Substances Act.
The “Justice” Department did make it clear there were eight priorities it would reserve the right to prosecute individuals/entities over:
- the distribution of marijuana to minors;
- revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels;
- the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states;
- state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
- violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
- drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
- growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands;
- preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.
It’s the cartel priority that is allegedly behind the recent raids in Denver:
Colorado marijuana businesses raided this week by federal agents are being investigated for a possible connection to Colombian drug cartels, sources told The Denver Post on Friday.
Three sources who have knowledge of the investigation spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the case.
Investigators believe the raided businesses were all “one big operation,” one source said.
On Thursday, federal agents swarmed more than a dozen dispensaries and grow warehouses in Denver, Commerce City and Boulder County, according to sources. At least two homes were also targeted.
I’m skeptical of this rationale because I think the federal government is cozy with their preferred cartel clients, a rather audacious claim seemingly backed up by internal Stratfor emails leaked by Barrett Brown, who is currently serving 10 years in federal prison.
I wrote a post about this back in June, titled Leaks, Fast and Furious. In that post I highlight this quote:
Leaked emails from the private U.S. security firm Stratfor cite a Mexican diplomat who says the U.S. government works with Mexican cartels to traffic drugs into the United States and has sided with the Sinaloa cartel in an attempt to limit the violence in Mexico.
Many people have doubted the quality of Stratfor’s intelligence, but the information from MX1—a Mexican foreign service officer who doubled as a confidential source for Stratfor—seems to corroborate recent claims about U.S. involvement in the drug war in Mexico.
Most notably, the reports from MX1 line up with assertions by a Sinaloa cartel insider that cartel boss Joaquin Guzman is a U.S. informant, the Sinaloa cartel was “given carte blanche to continue to smuggle tons of illicit drugs into Chicago,” and Operation Fast and Furious was part of an agreement to finance and arm the Sinaloa cartel in exchange for information used to take down rival cartels.
The US government, through rogues agencies like the CIA, has a sordid history of drug trafficking, going back to the Vietnam war. It would be more surprising if those activities had actually stopped.
In my book of poems (which you can buy here) I have a long poem titled ANNIVERSARY, because I wrote it last September while celebrating my 10 year anniversary with my wife.
While the poem doesn’t mention JFK, who was assassinated 50 years ago today, it touches on my generation’s Big Event—9/11—and wonders what the younger generations are going to see as they come of age.
To read the poem, click continue. Continue Reading »
In a post that could have been more developed, the Cowgirl takes a little jab at Montana AG, Tim Fox, in a piece titled Has Montana’s Attorney General Privatized His Own Job?
The crux of the piece is that a private law firm—Orrick, Harrington & Sutcliffe LLC—submitted comments regarding an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Fox’s behalf.
The Cowgirl’s post doesn’t really get into what this EIS is all about. It’s about coal. More specifically, it’s about the “proper” EIS scope for a proposed coal export terminal in Washington State.
I can understand why the Cowgirl wouldn’t want to get too much into that whole coal thing, considering our former Governor was such an irresponsible cheerleader for coal, but that’s what this is about. I wrote a post about this last month when Missoula city councilman, Adam Hertz, went on a brief liberal shame campaign for coal.
For more context on this current coal development, I found this article from the Bellingham Herald:
Former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, now practicing law in the Seattle office of the multi-national Orrick law firm, has prepared formal comments for the states of Montana and North Dakota, challenging Washington state’s constitutional right to require a sweeping environmental review of coal export terminal impacts.
“The States (Montana and North Dakota) strongly believe that such regulatory decisions are outside the scope of Washington’s authority under the U.S. Constitution, and improperly burden international commerce,” the McKenna-authored comments say.
Those comments were submitted to state, Cowlitz County and federal regulators now conducting the scoping process for Millenium Bulk Terminals in Longview, Wash.
In remarks issued on his official web page, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox elaborated:
“As one of the most trade-dependent states in the nation, Washington knows full well the importance of access to global markets. Montana is simply asking that Washington regulators follow established law in conducting their reviews,” Attorney General Fox said.
The formal comments submitted by Montana and North Dakota say the Washington Department of Ecology was wrong to mandate a sweeping review of the Gateway Pacific Terminal project in Whatcom County, and Ecology should refrain from doing the same thing in Longview.
The comments were submitted on McKenna’s Orrick letterhead, over his signature.
Here’s what McKenna wrote about Cherry Point, on behalf of his clients:
“Ecology’s EIS scope for the Cherry Point project is unrealistically broad, includes speculative impacts, requires impossible assessments of foreign environmental impacts, and appears to have been designed to hinder the development of that terminal.”
Interesting. I wonder what Steve Bullock thinks about all this.
And I wonder how many more disasters we will watch before we finally understand this can’t go on.
I guess you can’t lose a war if you never stop fighting it.
Where Obama failed in Iraq, he has succeeded in Afghanistan; not success, like winning the war, but success in keeping that war going through at least 2024. And best of all, US troops will have their immunity and retain an ability to violate the homes of Afghans:
Despite the sometimes harsh criticism from Afghan officials during the negotiations, the agreement includes concessions that the Obama administration could not win from Iraq during a similar process in 2011, leading to the final withdrawal of American troops there.
Now, the United States has at least an initial agreement from Afghan officials that American soldiers will not face Afghan prosecution in the course of their duties. And United States Special Operations forces will retain leeway to conduct antiterrorism raids on private Afghan homes — a central American demand that Afghan officials had resisted and described as the last sticking point in negotiations.
In the end, the Obama administration and the Karzai government had more reason to agree than disagree, according to officials on both sides. American officials do not want to see Afghanistan again become a haven for terrorists after it spent billions of dollars and thousands of lives in the war. And the Afghan leadership knows that more than $4 billion in annual international security assistance would simply not flow absent an American military presence to account for it.
What utter fucking horse-shit. A haven for terrorists? Like Libya and Syria? Yeah.
I am so disgusted with Obama’s foreign policy and spineless Democrat support it’s hard to avoid profanity-laced diatribes against it.
The American people need to know this has nothing to do with terrorism. Fuck Obama and his bullshit rationale for war.
And fuck Democrats who continue providing political cover for this travesty.
Did everyone hear the great news about Missoula? When it comes to human rights, apparently we’re perfect because we got a 100 on the human rights campaign equality index. Here’s the proof of how awesome and non-discriminatory we are:
In an index released Tuesday by the Human Rights Campaign, Missoula’s city government got a 100 percent score for the way its laws and policies include people who are LGBT – lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.
City Councilwoman Caitlin Copple, who had championed some changes that put the Garden City in the “all star” category of the Municipal Equality Index, said she was elated with the news.
“I just think it’s incredible that 11 cities were able to get 100 percent, like Missoula, even though they exist in states that lack even the most basic protections,” Copple said. “I think that’s really significant and shows how much our world is changing.”
The index is in its second year and is a project of the Human Rights Campaign and the Equality Federation Institute. It scores cities based on several policies, among them whether they have in place nondiscrimination protections in work, housing and public accommodations; relationship recognition such as a domestic partner registry; domestic partner health benefits; and an LGBT police liaison.
While Caitlin Copple expresses her elation at this good news, on a different front, she is advocating for enhancements to ordinances that have the potential to be vehicles of discrimination against the plague of transients we noble Missoulians must endure on a daily basis.
In a Public Safety and Health committee meeting this morning (which you can check out here) Copple gives some context to this contentious issue. The idea is to make it illegal to sit/sleep/lay on sidewalks in the BID (Business Improvement District) between the hours of 6am to 11pm.
In the video footage of this meeting, Copple says she supports these enhancements because she’s been working downtown since June, and has “seen first hand how out of control it’s gotten downtown”. Another reason Copple cites is a constituent’s anecdotal story of being “accosted” outside Safeway, which, if you ask me, is a pretty stupid example to cite in the context of a ban on sitting/sleeping/lying on a sidewalk.
If this ban gets passed before the end of the year, I hope its subsequent enforcement is done in an equitable, non-discrimantory manner, because it would be so sad to lose that perfect human rights score.
The next titular head of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, showed that she has the necessary skill-set of talking without saying anything for the position.
Michael Whitney described this skill-set in his piece yesterday, titled The Coronation of Janet Yellen:
Yellen is as slippery as they come. She skillfully dodges tough questions by poring over arcane economic theory that sounds like an answer, but really doesn’t reveal anything about how she plans to lead. She also has a good sense of how her diminutive appearance works in her favor making it impossible for male senators to be too tough on her without being seen as “sexist” or “bullies”. Also, she’s already mastered the opaque language of the Fed, that is, she knows how to use circuitous, jargon-laden koans and pompous-sounding gibberish to conceal the Central Bank’s real agenda which is to shift more wealth to its constituents on Wall Street.
On the two questions that were on everyone’s mind–QE and asset bubbles–Yellen was characteristically evasive. While she opined that she would continue to “support the recovery” (in other words, keep the money flowing to Wall Street.) she obliquely added, “the program cannot continue forever.”
How’s that for clarity? In other words, “We’re going to keep doing the same thing, but we’re going to stop, too…. probably.”
To no one’s surprise, the Committee found this answer entirely satisfying.
None of our elected representatives found it necessary to prod Yellen about the failure of the Fed’s QE program because they are hopelessly captured assets of Wall Street. Here is an example from Whitney’s article:
Instead of grilling the candidate on conspicuously-flawed policies that have failed to produce a sustainable recovery after 5 years, ingratiating senators, like Chuck Schumer, felt their time would be better spent congratulating Yellen and singing her praises.
“I think you’ll make a great chair, and your Brooklyn wisdom shines through,” beamed the Senator from New York.
Thanks for that, Chuck. You’re a great American.
Yellen’s finest moment —if you can call it that–was her “bubble-denial” performance which makes her a shoo-in for this year’s Oscar awards. Yellen dismissed the idea that the Fed’s $3 trillion liquidity surge had made markets more frothy.
Instead of simply quoting Yellen’s response, I’m going to take her language and break into lines, so that it resembles a poem. Here is her brilliant response:
I don’t see
evidence at this point
of asset prices, misalignments.
there is limited evidence
of reach for yield
we don’t see a broad buildup
where the development of risks
that I think at this stage
poses a risk
to financial stability.
The rest of the article features Whitney showing why Yellen is full of shit:
Everything is bubbly. Everything. Which is what happens when you pump $3 trillion into financial assets. (The Fed’s balance sheet has exploded to nearly $4 trillion mainly due to QE.)
And did you catch that part about investors dumping $51 billion into companies that ARE LOSING MONEY. Chew on that for a minute. This is just like the dot.com craze when rates were so low that speculators loaded up on everything they could get their hands on. It didn’t matter what you bought, because the loose-goosy monetary policy and uber-leverage kept driving stocks higher by the day. Then–without notice– Greenspan pulled the rug out from under the markets by raising rates which sent equities into the shi**er. Remember that? And now we’re seeing the same thing all over again. It’s like Back to the Future 2.
But Yellen sees none of it, in fact, she wants to keep the money flowing for as long as possible, until the bubble is so humongous that the slightest pin-prick puts the financial system into a death spiral and the real economy slumps back into recession.
It’s madness. Just like it’s madness for the committee to even consider a candidate with Yellen’s dodgy resume. Do we really want someone running the Fed who argued “against” deflating the housing bubble because she thought it would only be “a good-sized bump in the road, but that the economy would be able to absorb the shock”?
I’m glad Larry Summers isn’t going to be getting this gig, but let’s not kid ourselves, Janet Yellen won’t be any better. Under her “leadership” the scam will continue.
I’ve lived in Missoula for 13 years and in that time I’ve become familiar with a handful of Missoula characters who, while I don’t know them personally, I recognize because I always see them around. Some of these characters are no longer around, like Red, the old man who sat in a chair on Main Street and shouted at people as they walked by, and Tommy the Leprechaun. Others are still around, like the couple who seem to be at every Caras Park event, dancing all herky-jerky to whatever music is playing, like they’re having a slow-motion seizure.
One of these characters I’ve known as simply Malamute Guy. I always see him downtown or along the river trail with his dogs.
Malamute Guy’s real name is Layne Spence. I know that because there is an article in today’s paper about an
asshole hunter who shot and killed Layne’s youngest dog, Little Dave, yesterday afternoon near Lolo pass:
Layne Spence was skiing with his three dogs on a quiet logging road in Lee Creek when, according to Spence, a rifle shot echoed through the air.
Then, Spence saw his 2-year-old brown and white dog, “Little Dave,” fall down with a shot to a leg.
About 15 yards away from him and his dogs, Spence saw a man in camouflage holding an assault weapon.
“I started screaming ‘Stop, stop,’ and the man kept shooting,” said Spence, 48, and who is often seen walking his dogs around Missoula’s river front. “And he kept shooting.”
“My dog is lying there, dead and I shouted ‘What are you doing?’ and the guy said, ‘I thought it was a wolf.’ ”
After the man allegedly shot Spence’s dog six times, he took off without another word, leaving Spence to deal with the tragedy of his dead dog.
If you have any information about this despicable “hunter”, please call crimestoppers: 721-4444.
At the very least, this person should never be allowed to “hunt” again. He should also have his guns taken away from him, for life.
Layne, I’m so sorry for your loss.
Well, tonight I finally watched We Steal Secrets, and despite being exposed to the damage-control attacks from the Wikileaks camp via platforms like Twitter, I found the documentary to be quite credible, and compelling.
One of the big takeaways I got from the film is how destructive the cult of personality can be to worthy causes/ideas/movements, especially when moral righteousness is your main public currency.
Maybe this is just my own biased perceptions, but I seem to remember, in regards to the early reporting of the OWS protests, a palpable desire by the media to find personalities to stand-in for the discontent that was being expressed. Not providing those characters seemed to confuse and upset the establishment media.
Despite all the difficult groundwork a non-hiearchal structure takes to maintain, in hindsight it was a smart move, because to this day it’s the idea of OWS that persists, and not the face of some blond-haired Aussie who relished the fame he finally caught.
When it comes to the cult of personality, I’m concerned supporters of Brian Schweitzer are making a similar mistake as the burned supporters of Julian Assange.
Bob Brigham, for example, cites Schweitzer’s stunt of bussing old people to Canada as evidence of a substantive commitment to a single payer health care system in a post at DownWithTyranny!:
For the last decade, Brian Schweitzer has butted heads with Max Baucus over health care. Schweitzer made a name for himself pioneering the bold campaign tactic of taking busloads of seniors to Canada to get their prescriptions filled cheaper. Baucus on the other hand, is PhRMA’s top guy in the senate. Brian Schweitzer has been one of the country’s leading voices for single payer. Max Baucus took out the Public Option and replaced it with the Individual Mandate. And in this senate primary, Baucus’s hand picked successor is sticking with Baucus while John Bohlinger is changing the dialogue to health care as a right and trumpeting the success of the Schweitzer state health clinics for public workers.
When you tie your rope to the mast of personality, it’s a fickle wind that blows your sails.
The primary battle of Johns is not “a battle for the soul of the Democratic Party” it’s a personal grudge match.
Good luck with that, MT politicos.
The last piece of legislation that John F. Kennedy signed into law was the Community Mental Health Act:
On Oct. 31, 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed a bill meant to free many thousands of Americans with mental illnesses from life in institutions. It envisioned building 1,500 outpatient mental health centers to offer them community-based care instead. The bill would be the last piece of legislation Kennedy would ever sign; he was assassinated three weeks later.
Kennedy’s vision was never fully realized, and instead of community-based care, jails and prisons are now the default institutions that warehouse those suffering from mental illness.
It’s ironic that a bill trying to address mental illness would be the last bill JFK signed into law, ironic because the last 50 years has been steeped in a national paranoia due to a broad public disbelief of the government’s explanation of the events that transpired on November 22nd, 1963.
To counter the public’s disbelief in the conclusions of the Warren Commission, the CIA popularized the term “conspiracy theorist” as a pejorative term to smear those who didn’t accept the government’s preferred conspiracy theory. Here is Kevin Ryan describing the roots of the CIA’s conspiracy smear method:
This cultural phenomenon goes back to 1967. At that time, in response to questions about the Warren Commission Report (which President Ford helped create), the CIA issued a memorandum calling for mainstream media sources to begin countering “conspiracy theorists.” In the 45 years before the CIA memo came out, the phrase “conspiracy theory” appeared in the Washington Post and New York Times only 50 times, or about once per year. In the 45 years after the CIA memo, the phrase appeared 2,630 times, or about once per week.
Before the CIA memo came out, the Washington Post and New York Times had never used the phrase “conspiracy theorist.” After the CIA memo came out, these two newspapers have used that phrase 1,118 times. Of course, in these uses the phrase is always delivered in a context in which “conspiracy theorists” were made to seem less intelligent and less rationale than people who uncritically accept official explanations for major events.
After a half-century of CIA inspired ridicule by devout believers of government lies and propaganda, it appears the tides are turning:
Recent studies by psychologists and social scientists in the US and UK suggest that contrary to mainstream media stereotypes, those labeled “conspiracy theorists” appear to be saner than those who accept the official versions of contested events.
The most recent study was published on July 8th by psychologists Michael J. Wood and Karen M. Douglas of the University of Kent (UK). Entitled “What about Building 7? A social psychological study of online discussion of 9/11 conspiracy theories,” the study compared “conspiracist” (pro-conspiracy theory) and “conventionalist” (anti-conspiracy) comments at news websites.
The authors were surprised to discover that it is now more conventional to (believe) so-called conspiracist comments than conventionalist ones: “Of the 2174 comments collected, 1459 were coded as conspiracist and 715 as conventionalist.” In other words, among people who comment on news articles, those who disbelieve government accounts of such events as 9/11 and the JFK assassination outnumber believers by more than two to one. That means it is the pro-conspiracy commenters who are expressing what is now the conventional wisdom, while the anti-conspiracy commenters are becoming a small, beleaguered minority.
Perhaps because their supposedly mainstream views no longer represent the majority, the anti-conspiracy commenters often displayed anger and hostility: “The research… showed that people who favoured the official account of 9/11 were generally more hostile when trying to persuade their rivals.”
Additionally, it turned out that the anti-conspiracy people were not only hostile, but fanatically attached to their own conspiracy theories as well. According to them, their own theory of 9/11 – a conspiracy theory holding that 19 Arabs, none of whom could fly planes with any proficiency, pulled off the crime of the century under the direction of a guy on dialysis in a cave in Afghanistan – was indisputably true. The so-called conspiracists, on the other hand, did not pretend to have a theory that completely explained the events of 9/11: “For people who think 9/11 was a government conspiracy, the focus is not on promoting a specific rival theory, but in trying to debunk the official account.”
I’m providing all this context because last night I watched a really fascinating documentary, Room 237; an in-depth examination of Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic interpretation of The Shining.
I think we can all agree that Stanley Kubrick was an extremely talented film maker, but for many people, it would be absurd to posit that those talents were employed by the government to help stage moon landing footage.
That, though, is one of the interpretations of Kubrick’s version of The Shining. Here’s the basic premise:
The U.S. government hired director Stanley Kubrick to film the fake moon landing and, to protect the lives of himself and his wife, he made 1980′s “The Shining” as a veiled confession of his part in the secret project. This would have seen Kubrick filming the landing conjointly with “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
That’s the argument Internet conspiracy theorist Jay Weidner makes on his webpage “Secrets of the Shining.” Yes, all the new age advertisements, Egyptian fonts and Alex Grey illustrations along the rail make this a very hard sell on the discerning reader. But the whole theory (like the best of them) is strangely fascinating. Weidnere grasps onto various bits of imagery in the film and deviations from Stephen King’s novel as Kubrick revealing his secrets to the unsuspecting audience.
The basic premise is that, in the film, the protagonist Jack Torrance and his son Danny both represent different aspects of Kubrick, the pragmatist and the artistic visionary. Jack (Kubrick’s practical side) makes a deal with the manager of the Overlook Hotel (America) to protect it through the coming winter (the Cold War). Weidner also points out that the Overlook, like America, is new, garish and built on the bones of Indians.
All of this builds on the notion that the moon landings were faked as a show of strength to the Soviet Union. But Weidner waves his crackpot flag a little more fervently by stating it was all necessary to “hide the advanced U.S. saucer technology from the Soviet Union.”
As the half-century smear campaign against conspiracy theorists loses its potency, people will latch on to all kinds of alternative explanations for historical events. Unfortunately that conspiratorial terrain is littered with misinformation, disinformation, and other bits of delusional flotsam.
That said, I still find conspiracy culture fascinating, and will continue writing about it because I think it’s important.
What do Ken Starr, the man who crusaded against president Clinton, and Charlie Gibson, the former host of Good Morning America, have in common?
They are both advocating that a serial child rapist get NO jail time for his crimes. Seriously.
What’s Ken Starr up to these days? According to Virginia court documents, the famously pious former Clinton prosecutor recently pleaded with a Fairfax County judge to let a confessed child molester go free. Because he’s a family friend. Here’s the letter.
It was just one of dozens of letters sent by as many Washington, D.C., and New York City power players—including former ABC News anchor Charlie Gibson, a former aide to Laura Bush, a former GOP congressman, and a powerful partner at the insider law firm Akin Gump—who wrote in praise of Christopher Kloman, a 74-year-old retired Potomac School teacher who has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting several female students under the age of 14. Kloman received a 43-year prison sentence in October.
I really don’t know what to write about this. It was bad enough that Montana child rapist, Stacey Rambold, only got 30 days for his crime. Most everyone was rightfully horrified at the sentence and despicable comments from the judge.
Not DC elites, apparently. Instead these assholes want this particular child rapist to get community service because the guy hasn’t supposedly raped a child in decades.
Here’s an excerpt from Starr’s letter:
Since Mr. Kloman has apparently conducted himself in an acceptable manner for more than thirty years, with no other violations, and he has cooperated with the police and accepted responsibility for his actions, we hope the Court will provide leniency in his sentence.
Mr. Kloman is currently repenting for his past sins and will continue to do so if given a chance to serve his community and neighbors. Community service would be a far better punishment than having him languish in jail.
Here’s Charlie Gibson:
When I was hosting Good Morning America we frequently broadcast stories about forgiveness and I was amazed that some people who were victimized had reserves of forgiveness far greater than mine. Any punishment for Chris now, however, strikes me as retributive not rehabilitative, but at the same time I realize there is a need for accountability. I hope you can find a way for Chris to make amends, stay a part of his truly wonderful family, and contribute something productive and useful to society.
While these scumbags are advocating for leniency for a child rapist, Gibson’s former network, ABC, reported on an ACLU report about over 3,000 people serving life sentences for non-violent crimes:
For more than 3,000 people, nonviolent crimes including siphoning gas from a truck and shoplifting three belts from a department store landed them in prison for life.
In a newly released study, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that more than 3,200 prisoners are serving life sentences without parole for nonviolent offenses.
“In their cruelty and harshness, these sentences defy common sense,” the ACLU wrote in its report. “They are grotesquely out of proportion to the conduct they seek to punish. They offend the principle that all people have the right to be treated with humanity and respect for their inherent dignity.”
The ACLU found that about 79 percent of these prisoners were sentenced for nonviolent drug crimes including possession of a crack pipe, possession of 32 grams of marijuana with intent to distribute and having a stash of over-the-counter decongestant pills that could be manufactured into methamphetamine.
Non-drug-related crimes included attempting to cash a stolen check, shoplifting two jerseys from a sports store and making a drunken threat to a police officer while handcuffed in the back of a patrol car, the ACLU said.
In about 84 percent of the cases documented by the ACLU, sentencing judges had no choice in the sentences because of laws requiring mandatory minimum periods of imprisonment, habitual offender laws and other rules. Prosecutors, in asking for certain charges, have much more control of these prisoners’ fates, the ACLU said.
Justice in America, folks.
Because there’s no shame in my poetry game, I’ve decided to self-publish at lulu.com. Now anyone can purchase a copy of Full Size Pattern by William Skink for the bargain price of $7.50.
It would be great to one day have a reputable publisher take interest in my work, but until that day happens, I can peddle my own vanity press editions for a cheap price that gives me the grand cut of $2 bucks per copy sold.
I haven’t received the copies I’ve already purchased yet, so I’m not totally sure how the formatting will look, but I did receive copies of another project I set up (not available) through Lulu, and it looks pretty nice, certainly much better than the little zines I’ve crudely cut and stapled for friends and family in the past.
Ok, enough self-promotion for now.
It just doesn’t get any more blatant than this: Fed Insider Exposes Giant Central Bank “Easing” Swindle:
A former Federal Reserve official who helped the Central Bank manage its bond buying program, dubbed QE, has admitted that the program is a fraud. In a shocking op-ed in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, Andrew Huszar apologized for his role in the Fed’s $1.25 trillion asset purchase program which he described as “the greatest backdoor Wall Street bailout of all time.”
So far, no one at the Fed has responded to the charges, nor has Congress or the Department of Justice (DOJ) taken steps to investigate allegations that the multi-trillion dollar program was not intended to help Main Street as announced, but to shore up flagging bank balance sheets and zombie financial institutions that would have defaulted without the Fed’s stealth welfare program.
Surprisingly, Huszar’s credibility has not yet been challenged nor his claim that he played a pivotal role in overseeing the program. As he notes in his confession, he was “managing what was at the heart of QE’s bond-buying spree—a wild attempt to buy $1.25 trillion in mortgage bonds in 12 months.” He was asked “to quarterback” the largest giveaway to Big Finance on record. The fact that his allegations have not prompted an thorough investigation of criminal malfeasance at the Fed boggles the mind and points to a justice system that makes no pretense of operating in the interests of the people it is supposed to serve.
I mean, fuck.
But hey, a make-a-wish kid gets to be Batman for a day in San Francisco! And Barack Obama even congratulated him with a Vine vid.
While the president tries to siphon some good publicity from a sick child, his justice department just scored another win against the dangerous threat of hacktivism by sentencing Jeremy Hammond to 10 years in prison:
Jeremy Hammond, the Anonymous hacktivist who released millions of emails relating to the private intelligence firm Stratfor, has denounced his prosecution and lengthy prison sentence as a “vengeful, spiteful act” designed to put a chill on politically-motivated hacking.
Hammond was sentenced on Friday at federal court in Manhattan to the maximum 10 years in jail, plus three years supervised release. He had pleaded guilty to one count under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) flowing from his 2011 hack of Strategic Forecasting, Inc, known as Stratfor. In an interview with the Guardian in the Metropolitan Correction Center in New York, conducted on Thursday, he said he was resigned to a long prison term which he sees as a conscious attempt by the US authorities to put a chill on political hacking.
In another article about Hammond’s case, Kevin Gosztola describes the tactic increasingly used by prosecutors:
What happened today is indicative of how justice increasingly seems to work. One is over-charged and made to experience a level of pretrial punishment before being convicted of any crimes so that prosecutors can ensure the case is won. They intimidate those with limited resources and individuals who believe they did not convict any crime by threatening them with a future where they might be hauled into court to defend themselves again and again.
Similarly, this is what happened in the prosecutions of NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake and CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou. Both have families. Both have children. Both had their lives destroyed by the government. Both ultimately chose to plead guilty—Drake to a misdemeanor violation of improperly accessing a computer and Kiriakou to a violation of the Intelligence Identities and Protection Act. Drake had to complete so many hours of community hours while Kiriakou was sentenced to jail for thirty months.
It is all intended to force the kind of plea that Hammond entered today because the Justice Department does not want hacktivists like Jeremy Hammond or whistleblowers to actually go to trial. They want these people to submit to prosecutors and enter a plea so the Justice Department can have a guaranteed win and not have to bother with arguing the government’s case in a court of law.
This is very important to understand, because it’s become a very common tactic. I actually had a friend subjected to this exact process with a Partner/Family Assault charge here in Missoula. It’s the same tactic that resulted in Aaron Swartz committing suicide.
Luckily for the criminals on Wall Street, these kind of aggressive prosecution tactics will never be deployed on them.
Once upon a time there were two men named John stuck in a realm of obscurity where surely they would have remained, toiling as faceless nobodies, if fate hadn’t intervened.
And for these Johns, fate came wearing a bolo tie.
You guessed it, by fate I mean Brian Schweitzer, our former Governor.
It seems we have the Brian to thank for the primary battle between the two Johns, Bohlinger and Walsh. You see, Brian plucked these two men from obscurity so, because Brian conjured their political worth out of thin air, he obviously feels obligated to insert himself into this surprise primary, a primary I wouldn’t be surprised he had a hand in creating.
Oh yeah, the title of the article I linked to reads: Schweitzer Not Helping Senate Democrats with Montana Primary. Here’s an excerpt:
In a phone interview with CQ Roll Call on Tuesday, Schweitzer said only that he had “conversations” with Bohlinger about “the good, the bad and the ugly” about the Senate and Washington, D.C. He thinks both Democrats would make “very good senators” and could defeat likely GOP nominee Rep. Steve Daines, but deciding the nominee is up to Montana voters.
In his trademark brashness, Schweitzer also claimed some credit for the fight.
“In fact, I guess I’m responsible since I plucked both of them from obscurity,” Schweitzer said. “To ask me to pick favorites is like asking a father to pick his favorite son.”
Sen. Jon Tester and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, have endorsed Walsh as their candidate for the seat of retiring Sen. Max Baucus. Meanwhile, Tester and Baucus are headlining a fundraiser for Walsh on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
Brian Schweitzer will probably continue pulling crap like this to keep his brand relevant for the presidential run he’s clearly fantasizing about.
Now the Walsh campaign will have to spend precious loot on a primary fight while our former Governor, who considers himself a populist outsider, moonlights for CNN Crossfire.
For those who pay attention to the mechanisms of the global corporate elite, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is not new news, considering whispers of the secret negotiations have been wafting out since 2010.
What is relatively new is the wikileaks disclosure of one of the secret draft chapters:
The 30,000 word intellectual property chapter contains proposals to increase the term of patents, including medical patents, beyond 20 years, and lower global standards for patentability. It also pushes for aggressive measures to prevent hackers breaking copyright protection, although that comes with some exceptions: protection can be broken in the course of “lawfully authorised activities carried out by government employees, agents, or contractors for the purpose of law enforcement, intelligence, essential security, or similar governmental purposes”.
WikiLeaks claims that the text shows America attempting to enforce its highly restrictive vision of intellectual property on the world – and on itself. “The US administration is aggressively pushing the TPP through the US legislative process on the sly,” says Julian Assange, the founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, who is living in the Ecuadorean embassy in London following an extradition dispute with Sweden, where he faces allegations of rape.
“If instituted,” Assange continues, “the TPP’s intellectual property regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons. If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”
The legislative process that the duplicitous Obama administration was trying to fast-track is being slowed down thanks to 151 House Democrats. Here is an excerpt of the letter they sent to the president:
We write to express our serious concern with the ongoing negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement (FTA), a potential agreement of tremendous consequence for our country. Specifically, we remain deeply troubled by the continued lack of adequate congressional consultation in many areas of the proposed pact that deeply implicates Congress’ constitutional and domestic policy authorities.
For some time, members of Congress have urged your administration to engage in broader and deeper consultations with members of the full range of committees of Congress whose jurisdiction touches on the numerous issues being negotiated. Many have raised concerns relating to reports about the agreement’s proposed content. While your Administration’s goal was to sign a TPP FTA at the October 2013 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, we believe that to date the process has failed to provide adequate consultation with Congress.
Such opportunity for input from Congress is critical as the TPP FTA will include binding obligations that touch upon a wide swath of policy matters under the authority of Congress.
Beyond traditional tariff issues, these include policies related to labor, patent and copyright, land use, food, agriculture and product standards, natural resources, the environment, professional licensing, competition, state-owned enterprises and government procurement policies, as well as financial, healthcare, energy, e-commerce, telecommunications and other service sector regulations.
The TPP—described as NAFTA on steroids—is incredibly dangerous, and should be opposed by anyone who thinks maybe corporations shouldn’t have full spectrum dominance over the lives of humans across globe.
For a list of the Democrats who didn’t sign this letter, click continue. Continue Reading »