by lizard

Tonight Rachel Maddow strung together three breaches of White House security that bring up some interesting points. Click the link below to watch, as it will be discussed in this post.

http://player.theplatform.com/p/2E2eJC/EmbeddedOffSite?guid=n_maddow_Ajump_140929

It really does boggle the mind that a guy previously flagged for having a mini arsenal and map with the White House circled, and who was later stopped and questioned in proximity to the White House carrying a hatchet, was able to jump the fence and penetrate the White House to nearly the Green Room. Maddow makes a point of showing where a staircase to the second floor private quarters of the President was bypassed by this poor bastard wrecked by war.

The second incident happened in 2011, when another lone wolf fired off some shots at the White House from Constitution Avenue. According to Maddow’s reporting, despite Secret Service personnel on the ground reporting shots fired, the incident was played down. When White House staff, probably the cleaning crew, found debris, the shots were finally “discovered” and connected to the guy who crashed his car and left the gun after firing at the White House.

And third, the least threatening breach of security: crashgate.

Now, a Congress that couldn’t be bothered over a new war in Syria, is coming back to take a forced trip down the Secret Service’s memory lane of fuck-ups:

The hearing is set to focus on a series of security embarrassments over the last several years, including a breach that occurred when a couple crashed a state dinner in 2009, a 2011 incident when bullets struck the White House, scandals involving drinking and prostitution on overseas trips in 2012 and 2013, and 16 separate cases of people scaling the White House fence in the last five years. Ms. Pierson became director in 2013.

According to a law enforcement official briefed on the current investigation, uniformed Secret Service officers at the White House failed to follow several of the agency’s protocols. Although the protocols call for an officer to be standing outside the North Portico door, there was no officer there as Mr. Gonzalez made his way up the steps. The officer who was stationed inside the door failed to lock it after an alarm was sounded that someone had jumped over the fence, the official said.

For those who assumed America was the bestest most exceptional most President-secure nation in the world, it’s time to recalibrate your expectations.

The hearing should be entertaining. Until reading the NYT article, I had totally forgotten about the hookers.

By JC

“… In time democracy can be delivered to
the Ukrainian people.” — Joe Biden to the Atlantic Council


Like father, like son!

Earlier today I read this statement spoken last April by V.P Joe Biden to the Atlantic Council (shortly before his son was appointed to the Board of Burisma, Ukraine’s largest private gas company). It’s just been gnawing at me all day, so I thought I’d ruminate on it a bit — that and I’m pretty sick today, and have a good fever, so the delirium should prove humorous for some of you.

The first problem here is with the notion of “in time.” What the heck does that mean? That we’re going to keep pursuing our goals in and around Ukraine until they are met? I guess the Russian Aggression Prevention Act is all over that notion, basically granting Ukraine the same non-NATO ally status as Israel — meaning that an act of aggression against one of our listed allies is an act of aggression against us — and bombs away! Heck, even Henry Kissinger in his whirlwind book tour interviews thinks we need to not be so bombastic and offer Russia an easy out.

Back to “time.” Today, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem was quoted as saying that the U.S. told the Syrian government that we would bomb ISIS/ISIL for three years. Three years! Is that all the time it takes to deliver democracy (I guess, if it’s not really a “war” with no Congressional authorization it’s ok and will happen sooner)? Let’s see, we’ve been in Afghanistan for 13 years. How’s that democracy thing working out there (hey, nobody said democracy was cheap!)?

Continue Reading »

By JC

Says Babushka to Obamashka:

“I will make you pancakes my child,
just don’t make war on people.”

Must be some new-fangled form of Russian propaganda, no?

by lizard

I have discussed issues of class and privilege in numerous posts here, using my own experiences as a privileged white male to describe how privilege like mine is best summed up by things that didn’t happen to me growing up.

By virtue of marriage my privilege increased. Sell off a parcel of inherited property, pay off student loans and a mortgage. We are essentially debt free and able to provide easily for our kids. My big weak spot is Legos. I have to work at exercising restraint when it comes to buying Lego sets because I don’t want my kids to be spoiled brats riding their daddy’s Lego addiction.

I have discussed Legos in a few posts here, so I feel obligated to provide a link to this very well done and depressing fake LEGO ad showing the Arctic drowning in an oil spill. The fake ad is part of a campaign to get the Lego corporation to drop it’s partnership with Shell oil.

My Lego weakness is a big plastic target for attack. My ability to afford Legos, same. Why? Because I criticize crony-capitalism and it’s resulting environmental degradation while spending hours assembling Lego worlds with my kids in a room dedicated just for Legos.

So why am I writing about toys and my privileged economic status?

The investigation into the Fox Club shooting is what has me again thinking about privilege again. The three week investigation has now been turned over to the county attorney’s office. They are still not releasing the name of the shooter, but the shooter’s identity is known to many who are following this case. The shooter’s daddy is also known, and daddy owns a big construction company here in Missoula.

What’s emerging reminds me of the affluenza case the 24 hour news cycle consumed back in February. Here’s a quick summation of that case:

A judge on Wednesday ordered that Ethan Couch — who drove drunk and caused a crash, killing four people and injuring two — go to a lock-down residential treatment facility.

State District Judge Jean Boyd had already decided the Texas teenager would serve no jail time. He was sentenced last year to 10 years’ probation.

His story made national headlines after a witness claimed Couch was a victim of “affluenza” — the product of wealthy, privileged parents who never set limits for the boy.

Do we have something similar here? Is the shooter a spoiled bully who has been insulated from the consequences of his actions because daddy bails him out of trouble? And because daddy has deep pockets, is that why this investigation is taking so long? Are detectives, and now the county attorney’s office, being extra careful because they know they will be going against the best representation money can buy?

The county attorney’s office got all the materials related to the investigation on Tuesday, but there is no timeline for when charges may be brought against this punk.

The Missoulian, in its reporting of this shooting, is now aligned with witness accounts:

The shooter, described only as a 27-year local man, pulled a revolver from his truck and shot 23-year-old Christopher Michael Hymel, a Louisiana resident in town visiting his girlfriend’s family, once in the chest. Hymel was pronounced dead at a local hospital a short time later.

Witnesses said Hymel had stepped to the window of the man’s truck to discuss the vulgar comments the man had made toward two of Hymel’s female companions.

A fight ensued through the passenger window of the man’s truck. When Hymel stepped back to remove an article of clothing, witnesses told the Missoulian, the man allegedly stepped from his truck, shut his door, raised his revolver and shot Hymel in the chest.

The Missoulian initially reported the shooter was inside the truck when the fatal shot was fired, but that inaccurate account has been scrubbed and replaced. The truth is slowly coming out.

Now, our community will get to see what the privilege of money and influence can buy.

Back in March, I wrote about the return of the debtor’s prison, and in that post I linked to a Nation article about The Town That Turned Poverty Into a Prison Sentence. If you didn’t read the article at the time, please do so now. It’s a stark contrast to this fatal shooting incident where the shooter has had the privilege of not being taken to jail, not being charged for an obvious crime three weeks after the incident, and has not even been named by the media.

I don’t think issues of privilege and class are discussed enough, especially by those who benefit from privilege. When it is brought up, it’s often to undercut some silly righteous stand one may take against little problems, like destroying the planet’s ability to sustain human life.

In the comments of this post, Mark agreed with a sign that read, in part:

CAPITALISM IS KILLING THE PLANET.
FIGHT FOR A SOCIALIST FUTURE!

In response, one of 4&20’s more adept trolls had this to say:

Huh? You have made your life from profiting from capitalism, you are hooked on capitalistic products such as your I devices, live in a home built by capitalism, and consume food produced/sold by capitalistic businesses such as Whole Foods. So, just how are you fighting for a socialist future when you are quite comfortable living out your days from the fruits of capitalism?

That comment should also be directed at those socialist heirs of Rockefeller who have joined the fossil fuel divestment movement. Cynical renewable energy market opportunity or genuine self-interest-driven worry that overwhelming scientific consensus may be right, and the oil party is over? I’m not sure that matters much if the move is in the right direction.

I initially wrote that second to last sentence to read their oil party, then changed it to the because—to bring it back to beginning of this post—Legos, and the high probability I won’t be abstaining from buying them at Target. Or from Ebay. Or if anyone wants to meet me in the parking lot of Target, I’m willing to pay $100 dollars a pound.

What I plan on doing with those Legos is play, with my kids, making our own stuff and developing non-binary story lines where Galaxy Squad aren’t always the good guys and the Insects are sometimes hostile, but that’s mostly because Galaxy Squad acts arrogantly and for some odd reason feels entitled to taking what doesn’t actually belong to them.

In conclusion, I offer this picture of…a Lego holder for my iPhone.

IMG_1150

By JC

Well, it was just a matter of time till President Obama revealed his all-encompassing foreign policy statement. Yesterday, speechifying in front of the U.N. General Assembly, Obama made it perfectly clear what his foreign policy consists of:

“We believe that right makes might…”

Uh, um, ok. I think that historians will have a hey-day with that one. And wedged somewhere in-between ebola and ISIL, he manages to paint Russia even further into a corner:

“We will impose a cost on Russia for aggression, and counter falsehoods with the truth. We call upon others to join us on the right side of history…

This speaks to a central question of our global age: whether we will solve our problems together, in a spirit of mutual interests and mutual respect, or whether we descend into destructive rivalries of the past.”

Unfortunately, Obama has lost Putin’s ear. Once upon a time, those of us who grew up in the Cold War 1.0 found cold comfort of the images of the two presidents of the two superpowers chock full of nuclear weapons carrying around brief cases (we called ours “the football”). Our existential anxiety was ameliorated by the new-fangled communication systems, and photos of the red phone at the desk of each president so they could always be in constant contact with each other (except when Yeltsin was too drunk, or Reagan too senile, or Clinton too… “preoccupied”), and ward off any mistaken notions of aggression that could trigger pushing the fatal fateful button.

But in today’s neocon-fueled foreign policy, we have an administration that relies on subversion, propaganda, strong arm tactics and innuendo to convey a sideways message to our counterpart in eurasia. MAD (mutually assured destruction) foreign policy was based on the notion that there were two rational actors on the world stage, and that given the choice between blowing the world up in a flurry of nuclear strikes or talking, the two actors would talk.

Well, those days are long gone, and while both superpowers have embarked each on a trillion dollar fools errand to “modernize” their nuclear weapons systems, it seems that the comforting visage of MAD has gone south, and rational actors have left the scene. It seems that when Obama calls Putin that he is getting shuffled off on voice mail, only to discover that the mailbox is full, as Andy Borowitz reports:

“In what he called “a provocative and defiant act,” President Obama charged on Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has started letting his calls go directly to voice mail.”

Sometimes humor is a cruel revealer of what may have come to pass between the world’s superpowers. No longer do we hear of any efforts of diplomacy between Obama and Putin. It is all saber rattling on our side, and disbelief in what an empire in chaos and decline is doing to the “New World Order.” Here’s Henry Kissinger:

“Libya is in civil war, fundamentalist armies are building a self-declared caliphate across Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan’s young democracy is on the verge of paralysis. To these troubles are added a resurgence of tensions with Russia and a relationship with China divided between pledges of cooperation and public recrimination. The concept of order that has underpinned the modern era is in crisis…

But vast regions of the world have never shared and only acquiesced in the Western concept of order. These reservations are now becoming explicit, for example, in the Ukraine crisis and the South China Sea. The order established and proclaimed by the West stands at a turning point.”

I guess when the New World Order starts eroding, and Henry Kissinger becomes worried, and President Obama amplifies the Bush Doctrine, then, what is there left to do… besides renew my passport? Duck & Cover?

 

by lizard

Yesterday Counterpunch featured a piece by Jonathan Cook detailing the disturbing reach of Israel’s STASI into the lives of Palestinians. We get this peek into the dark underbelly of Israel’s oppression because 43 individuals signed off on a letter describing their moral objections to what they are told to do in their elite unit, Unit 8200:

According to the refuseniks, much Israeli intelligence gathering targets “innocent people”. The information is used “for political persecution”, “recruiting collaborators” and “driving parts of Palestinian society against itself”.

The surveillance powers of 8200 extend far beyond security measures. They seek out the private weaknesses of Palestinians – their sex lives, monetary troubles and illnesses – to force them into conspiring in their own oppression.

“If you required urgent medical care in Israel, the West Bank or abroad, we looked for you,” admits one.

An illustration of the desperate choices facing Palestinians was voiced by a mother of seven in Gaza last week. She told AP news agency that she and her husband were recruited as spies in return for medical treament in Israel for one of their children. Her husband was killed by Hamas as a collaborator in 2012.

The goal of intelligence gathering, the refuseniks point out, is to control every aspect of Palestinian life, from cradle to grave. Surveillance helps confine millions of Palestinians to their territorial ghettoes, ensures their total dependence on Israel, and even forces some to serve as undercover go-betweens for Israel, buying land to help the settlements expand. Palestinians who resist risk jail or execution.

Anyone who thinks what is occurring in Israel’s petri-dish of oppression won’t eventually be applied with the same vigor here in the states is in denial.

by lizard

America is back, bombing Iraq, and now Syria. America is bombing ISIS, and also a quick add-on, the Khorasan Group. C’mon, America, just dust off the nukes, you know, those nukes Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient, wants to spend billions of our tax dollars to modernize.

Last week Congress voted to arm the exhaustively vetted moderate Syrian rebels, then skipped out of town to hit the campaign trail, because that’s really all these pathetic creatures can manage to do. From July to November, Congress put in a vigorous 8 days. From the link:

One vote on war and Congress is apparently all tuckered out.

House leaders announced Thursday that they were cutting their already abbreviated fall session short and sending lawmakers back home – and onto the campaign trail – more than a week early.

The decision came one day after the House approved both President Obama’s request to arm Syrian rebels and a bill that prevents a government shutdown at the end of the month. The House had initially been scheduled to remain in Washington on Friday and during the first week of October, but Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told members they could leave on Thursday afternoon and wouldn’t be called back until after the November congressional elections.

The Senate is expected to pass both measures on Thursday and leave for the campaign trail by the evening.

Party leaders often shorten the floor schedule ahead of elections to give their members more time to campaign, but this year’s session is brief even under those standards. Including the five-week summer recess, Congress will have been in session for a total of about eight days between the end of July and the middle of November.

I mean, Jesus, how can we put up with this shit?

On Sunday, there were also some nice people who would like to avoid societal suicide, and they came out for a march—400,000 of them. Despite the fact it was mainly a toothless PR stunt, it was still impressive to see the Sunday tv network circle-jerk sessions blackball the event:

The People’s Climate March on Sunday was perhaps the largest climate change protest in history. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of New York City. Celebrities and high-profile politicians were among the marchers. The protest was a huge topic on social media.

All in all, it was a perfect opportunity for some of America’s biggest news organizations to cover the topic of climate change, something that usually gets either ignored or badly handled. For Sunday talk show hosts, there was even a nice political hook, since the march was pegged to a UN summit that President Obama will be attending.

Well, so much for that idea. It seems climate change remains one potentially world-shattering issue that just can’t get any respect on television. No Sunday morning show except MSNBC’s “Up” so much as mentioned climate change, or the march, save for one stray reference on “This Week” by The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel. She pointed out that the march was actually gathering right outside the ABC studios in Lincoln Center where the show is taped.

Congress doing nothing is not new, neither is corporate tv news giving the cold shoulder to climate change as the world burns and floods and storms.

Sad. It didn’t have to be this way.

by lizard

I think reclaiming Missoula’s water system through condemnation proceedings is one of the more critical issues facing our fair town. I am in full support of Engen’s efforts to rectify a botched deal with that devious financial entity—the Carlyle Group—an entity no one should have trusted in the first place.

Shoulda/woulda/coulda won’t get us anywhere. Jason Wiener, for his vote of support for the initial deal, has apologized, which is never easy for a public official to do. Now, with the recent news Carlyle is doing what they previously argued they couldn’t/wouldn’t do—sell Mountain Water Co.—city officials have to navigate two fronts: the legal battle and the PR battle.

The noise on this issue seems squarely focused on Engen and the tyrannical municipality he presides over, not Carlyle’s deceitful behavior.

Carlyle, if readers haven’t noticed, appears to be simply fucking with Missoula. They possess such deep pockets they can probably bleed the legal process to send at least 2 1/2 kids through college for every lawyer involved.

Engen probably won’t survive this, politically speaking. Couple the untold cost of litigation with that story floating around about the Mayor getting a pay raise when he said he wouldn’t and it’s hard to see any larger political future on Engen’s horizon.

All that said, Missoula needs to own our water system. I don’t think I’m overstating the importance of this issue when I say our future depends on it.

by lizard

As a newbie gun owner, it’s my responsibility to learn how to safely handle my firearm. It’s also my responsibility to learn about the laws regarding the use of lethal force.

But I’m confused.

Let’s say I’m a young man sitting in my vehicle outside the Fox’s Club. Maybe I’m the kind of sleazy piece of shit who likes to catcall women for fun, so that’s what I do. Let’s further say a young man accompanying the women I’m harassing takes exception to my obnoxious behavior and approaches my vehicle. An altercation ensues, so I shoot the young man with my handgun and he dies. When the police arrive, I cooperate with authorities.

That’s the gist of what allegedly happened earlier this month between two men. Christopher Hymel, the young man who responded to the alleged harassment, is dead. Nearly three weeks after this incident, the shooter has yet to be officially identified. I did see comments online identifying the shooter, but I think those comments have since been taken down. So far, no charges have been filed.

Here is one comment describing how this shooting went down:

From witness accounts, Chris Hymel was defending women in the parking lot who were being bullied and harassed by the shooter while he sat in his truck, when he told the shooter to respect women, the shooter physically and verbally attacked Chris, blows were exchanged for a few seconds while the shooter was in the truck, this was not one sided by any means. Chris then stepped away from shooter’s vehicle, waited for shooter to exit the vehicle, shooter/killer came out of his vehicle, aimed a gun at Chris who had his arms out to his sides, while witnesses begged shooter not to shoot, of course shooter (being the self-centered coward that he is) shot and killed Chris Hymel. This was not self-defense by shooter it was clear cut murder. Witnesses have identified the shooter, who has previous arrests for crimes against a woman. It is also believed that shooter is an athlete and a big game hunter. He was not in fear for his life, he was looking for trouble and he caused the entire situation. Law enforcement needs to do their job no matter who shooter knows or is related to. I am pro-guns all the way, but guns need to be used by mature, sane, responsible people not criminals who harass women and shoot people for fun.

What was shooter doing in the truck sitting alone, with a gun, at strip club at 1:00 a.m. sounds creepy huh???

Who is the shooter? Why have there been no charges brought against this creep who allegedly instigated this confrontation? Can I keep a loaded handgun in my car ready to go if there is trouble? If I get into an altercation, am I allowed to get out of my car and kill the person? What the fuck is going on here?

And how long does it take to interview witness and review any security camera footage that may exist?

I’m confused. Maybe readers can enlighten me in the comment thread.

by lizard

There is a very interesting feature piece in this week’s Missoula Independent about the cautious return of medical marijuana businesses. The article looks at the new players, describes the court injunction against the more absurd parts of SB 423, and includes some cautionary concern from an old player, Chris Lindsey, who is still on probation and unable to practice law due to being a convicted felon.

The new players have military and intelligence backgrounds, which is a bit curious. First, meet Brian Chaszar:

Whatever he’s doing—making coffee, explaining the hypocrisy inherent in U.S. drug law, describing the advantage of using glycerin over grain alcohol to make marijuana tincture—Chaszar does it with a kind of casual deliberation. He comes across as being unhurried but decisive, methodical but imaginative. He is as knowledgeable about the status quo as he is interested in innovation.

If he sounds more like a graduate student than some stoner, it’s not by accident. Chaszar holds a master’s degree in plant physiology. He has also spent time traveling the world, first with the Air Force and later while working with nongovernmental organizations to combat HIV and AIDS in Africa. Most recently, he managed part of a climate change research project, a job that required constant travel within the U.S., while also running Deep Roots Medicinals, his marijuana growing and delivery business.

Next, meet Kelly McCarthy:

Kelly McCarthy spent 23 years “in and around the U.S. military,” including stints with the National Security Agency, the CIA and Air Force intelligence, where his work included drug interdiction. Now he owns a consulting firm in Billings, serves as a Democratic state representative and is leading the legislative effort to reform the state’s medical marijuana program.

During the last session of the state legislature, McCarthy sought to introduce a bill that would make permanent the changes Judge Reynolds has made to the Montana Marijuana Act through his injunction.

“All I was trying to do,” McCarthy says, “was codify how the law currently operates.”

Though his bill never even made it out of committee, McCarthy says he’s going to renew his effort during the 2015 session. And he’s optimistic the outcome will be different this time. For one thing, he says, society in general is becoming ever more comfortable with marijuana. For another, the current state of the program, which is decidedly tame and contained compared to 2011, is convincing evidence that the state can run a medical marijuana program that isn’t merely a means of legitimizing recreational use. And finally, McCarthy says he has found support for a new marijuana reform bill from “people on both sides of the aisle,” though he’s reluctant to be too specific about who’s joining the effort.

“We just don’t want to spook the deer,” McCarthy says. “We could actually get this done, as long as we don’t turn this into a circus and get too much of a groundswell working against us.”

That groundswell came from a few different places, like Safe Community Safe Kids, run by a shady LDS anti-cannabis crusader.

It also came from ridiculous, sensationalist reporting from the Missoulian, especially when it came to the antics of Jason Christ. The Missoulian made Jason Christ the poster boy for medical marijuana, covering important stories, like a judge wondering how to pronounce Jason’s last name. Seriously:

Any story with the word “Christ” in the headline demands very careful wording.

Such care also applies to pronunciation.

So which is it, District Court Judge Dusty Deschamps on Thursday asked Jason Christ, of medical marijuana fame and the challenging name?

Christ was in Deschamps’ court seeking a continuation of a restraining order against three former employees who are suing him. Shortly into Thursday’s hearing, Deschamps posed the question.

The judge repeated the name twice, pronouncing it as Christ – rhymes with schist – and then Christ as in, you know.

“Christ or Christ,” Christ responded, pronouncing it both ways. “We’ll go with Christ (schist) for now.”

So that’s how Deschamps said it.

In the Indy article, Chris Lindsey discusses what he now sees as his naive reasoning for starting a business that could never be considered legal under federal law, which still idiotically classifies cannabis as a schedule I drug:

Though Lindsey was well aware of federal drug laws, he was confident that his stature within the legal community combined with President Obama’s expressed unwillingness to get involved in state marijuana laws and the existence of a state program would keep him safe from prosecution.

“We were in a good position to do this,” he says. “I knew all the local prosecuting attorneys in my county. I had a good relationship with law enforcement. They knew who I was. Tom [Daubert] was one of the folks involved in bringing the original law to be. We had other people who knew about cultivation and sort of the mechanics of growing and selling marijuana. We all said, ‘We’re in a good position.’ So we formed this company.”

The good position Lindsey thought he was in turned into a nightmare when the feds descended to make an example out of him. Now Lindsey has a better understanding of how the Feds roll:

“The problem that providers have is that they are at the mercy of what the [larger community] does,” he continues. “You can fly straight and have a real rigid system and careful checks, but if the guy down the street has just gotten a skywriter saying, ‘Sell pot to your children. Call me at 1-800 for the lowest bag in town,’ that makes you look bad, and without any protections in place, everybody’s vulnerable.”

Those most vulnerable, Lindsey says, are those who think they’re behaving the best.

“What the federal government does is, it only has so many resources and there’s a very specific strategy that it uses,” he says. “And that is to go after the biggest impact it can. So if you’re the Boy Scout and there have been all these great articles written about how careful you are, you’re actually very vulnerable, because that shows that not even you are immune from prosecution. ‘If we can take this guy out, all you people go too.'”

Without changes at the federal level, it doesn’t really matter what happens next year with the legislative session. Still, it will be interesting to watch what happens, and how it’s reported. Stay tuned…

by lizard

If you go to the Missoulian website right now, you will see three headlines about incidents of violence against women:

A Polson man gets 50 years for brutal attack on ex-girlfriend

Homeless man pleads not guilty to downtown Missoula rape

Man charged with sexually harassing women on campus

Yesterday on Democracy Now, two Columbia students talked about their experiences being sexually assaulted. Please watch it, especially you men. Women already know they will probably be blamed, ignored, lectured etc. for reporting being sexually assaulted.

The woman who speak up, come forward, are incredibly courageous. It’s not just policies that need to be changed. It’s our sick, sick culture that needs change.

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.

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