Don, over at Intelligent Discontent, called for Van Valkenburg’s removal on Friday. I fired this off the next day, not realizing it until afterwards. Does look like we’ve got the good ole’ days of Montana blogging going – an old fashioned blogswarm!
It’s nice to see Liz taking on local politics. I’m particularly glad he immediately jumped on the recent DOJ report with a pointed finger towards Missoula democrats (Thanks for Nothing, Missoula Democrats.) His post illustrates – for me, at least – the dangers of bringing too much friendship and loyalty into issues that aren’t purely political. It’s the citizens that suffer, and if the contents of the USDOJ investigation don’t show it, then nothing does.
I’ve come out of my cave to call as publicly as this blog allows for Van Valkenburg to go. Now, I don’t care if he resigns or if he retires early and with no real notice or if the County Commissioners fire him – but the twenty pages of USDOJ indictment isn’t enough, consider that even if they’re wrong about 50% of it, it’s still enough to call for this woefully inadequate attorney to go.
Hell – even if all but the one act of his office refusing to prosecute a rape where the rapist confessed isn’t true, then Van Valkenburg needs to go. Read just page 14 if you don’t believe me.
Now, my call for Van Valkenburg to go is absent the implication that the entirety of the USDOJ letter surely doesn’t detail incidents that were all immediate acts by Fred Van Valkenburg – the county’s got 17 under attorneys, with a portion of them in the criminal division – but this was all under his leadership. Twenty pages don’t lie. It establishes the pattern I’ve spoken about with dozens of people – many who have gotten so mad that they’ve left spittle on my face – and it leaves no faith that the Missoula County Attorney’s Office can recover under his leadership.
There is a 10-year statute of limitation on rape here in Montana. The USDOJ’s investigation looked back to 2008. Many of these rapes can still be prosecuted, especially when we are talking about rapes where the rapist confessed, or rapes where the rapist all but said the words “yes, I raped her.”
Do I want to see an office headed up by Van Valkenburg prosecute those?
Nope. Go to page 12 and read. Does anything there sound faintly like the Jordan Johnson case? The lack of a full fledged prosecution of a rape case? After reading that my anger once again rose, and my heart broke for the victim who stood so bravely in the face of what was not only the Johnson defense team, but a county attorney’s office that had the commitment to a conviction similar to the attention span of a two-year old.
Yep. It’s time for Missoula to quit circling the wagons – especially the County Commissioners who, very recently, continued to invest faith (and money) into Van Valkenburg’s ill advice. This rape scandal is not an attack, as Lizard recently noted, on the Missoula economy It is not an attack on the Griz football team.
This rape scandal is, now, a well-deserving attack on Van Valkenburg’s legacy of leadership of the Missoula County Attorney’s Office. A failed leadership, nearly half of which is documented is the USDOJ investigative report.
So many have put faith into every ill-advised word of Van Valkenburg – including his premise that his office couldn’t be investigated by the USDOJ because he was an elected official. A ludicrous position when you consider that sheriffs around this nation are elected and they’ve been investigated by the USDOJ for decades.
It’s time for Missoula County Commissioners to take a clue from their Tea Party-loving counterparts to the south. Ravalli County Commissioners didn’t think twice about firing the elected County Treasurer once they saw sufficient and overwhelming anecdotal evidence that she wasn’t doing her job.
Before Ravalli County Commissioners even brought in the auditor to obtain solid proof of wrongdoing, they had the county sheriff escort the elected County Treasurer from the building, and placed her on paid leave.
Now – my preference would be that Van Valkenburg leave of his own volition – that county taxpayers not be burdened with paying this man anything more. Perhaps under that set-up, he’d still be entitled to his pension. That way the local bartenders won’t suffer.
But as it stands now, Van Valkenburg isn’t going to be around long enough to turn the festering diseased criminal division of his office around. And now that’s he’s poked at thr feds w/his frivolous lawsuit questioning their authority to investigate him – summarily dismissed in the USDOJ report, and I expect the same in court – he certainly isn’t the guy who should be negotiating a settlement with the feds. Plainly speaking, it isn’t in the past, present or future sexual assault victim’s interests, and it certainly isn’t in Missoula County’s. Time to go. NOW.
Post script: Huge shout-out to the attorneys I know in the state criminal defenders office, who have taken the time over the last three years to explain to me the dozens of reasons Fred should go. Missoula needs to know that Fred has left dozens of dead bodies (literally and figuratively) in his wake, and this USDOJ investigation is just one facet of his horrible inadequacies.
I am still stuck at page 17 of the damning USDOJ report serving as all but an indictment of Fred Van Valkenburg, pretty much because I can’t see fit to stomach more shirking of duties and violations of basic civil rights by Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg’s criminal department. More than a few things have stuck with me. I’ve also had some time to read the comments at the Missoulian, too, and feel like firing off on two items this rain-soaked evening.
First off, it appears from the comments to the Missoulian article there is still a large contingent of people out there that seem to hold on to Van Valkenburg’s dream that the USDOJ does not hold authority over his office. Many of these people don’t even address the veracity of the USDOJ report – confirming that rape nation and rape apologists and rape culture thrive here in Missoula.
Scary disgusting stuff, really.
Less disturbing in the comments – but still troubling – is the apparent lack of reading comprehension skills among this group of people. It’s not like they had to read to page 12 or anything. The USDOJ summarily dismisses Van Valkenburg’s whining about the USDOJ’s lack of authority over his office quite thoroughly beginning right there on page one. In the end, the mere fact that Van Valkenburg’s office has taken federal monies suffices here – which I might add illustrates yet another legal inadequacy of Fred Van Valkenburg: contractual law.
Oh, I may as well throw in one more legal inadequacy here – the ability to select competent counsel, since he’s dropped $50K into outside counsel to fight the feds on this point.
I look forward to the Federal District Court’s summary judgement here on this point. A summary judgement is, shall we say, a pretty embarrassing way to lose a case?
The second thing I want to take on this evening is what the title suggests – Van Valkenburg’s office’s role in the USDOJ’s investigation and subsequent settlement with the City of Missoula Police. Here, again, the USDOJ lays out repeated situations where the police investigated and documented only to have their work fall into the black cave that we now know is Van Valkenburg’s County Attorney’s Office.
City police apparently got so frustrated with their work going no where, that they created a summary sheet with a spot for the county attorney’s office to provide feedback. Frequently, these weren’t even returned – and when they were, they usually contained only two words: “insufficient evidence.”
That occurred, btw, on a case where the rapist confessed.
Missoula Police are well-trained. Many would say, too much so. This aspect does, though, bode well – or should – for victims of violent crime. Missoulians certainly are getting their tax dollar’s worth in this aspect. But if Van Valkenburg’s tutelage is failing victims of sexual assault, it’s surely failing us in prosecution of other victims of violent crimes as well.
Van Valkenburg has made much of his complaint that the feds want him to have his own staff investigator. Here, too, the USDOJ makes hay of Van Valkenburg’s claims, pointing out that his office fails to coordinate with the police. While they also fail to coordinate with the police, his office also fails to tell the police where further evidence might be obtained to make a case more easily prosecuted. They’re not telling him to hire his own investigator – they’re telling him he should work together with his law enforcement colleagues.
Which is kinda what the police were looking for when they created a summary sheet and a blank section looking for feedback.
City of Missoula Police referred 85 cases to to the county attorney’s office for prosecution between 2008 and 2012. Charges were only filed on 14. Now, think about that: In an unknown number of reported sexual assaults, the well-trained Missoula Police investigated and came to the conclusion that they had sufficient evidence to file charges on 85 cases, yet the county attorney’s office eliminated 83% of them, without even any feedback to police in 29 of those..
Would that shatter any police officer’s work ethic if 83% of your efforts on just sexual assault crimes were shot down by the county attorney’s office?
From page 9:
In addition, Missoula County Attorney’s Office’s approach to sexual violence in Missoula has had significant, detrimental impacts on the law enforcement community’s overall response to sexual assault. The work of Missoula Police detectives is compromised by the fact that, even if the expend the resources to conduct a comprehensive investigation, the County Attorney’s Office often will not even charge the case. One woman reported that the Missoula Police detective in her case informed her that because “no one had a limb cut off and there was no video of the incident,” prosecutors “wouldn’t see this [the rape} as anything more than a girl getting drunk at a party.” whether or not the detective’s characterization was correct, the County Attorney’s actions over time left this detective – and many others like him – with the understanding that non-stranger sexual assault of women, and especially drug-facilitated sexual assault, mut involve physical force or overwhelming and irrefutable evidence to be considered a crime worthy of prosecution.
Mother Jones reporter and Montana native Dana Liebelson quotes a statement emailed to her by Van Valkenburg: “I think that everything the DOJ is saying about our office is false. These people are as unethical as any I have ever seen. They obviously have a political agenda they want to push and the truth does not matter to them.”
Really Fred? you want to go down whining like an 8 year old? Everyone’s picking on you?
If we’re to believe Van Valkenburg, confessed rapists lie, rape victims lie, and yes, even the Missoula Police lie.
I’m not buying it, and I’m not sorry that I don’t. And neither should you.
It’s too bad Bob Dylan didn’t die like a decade ago, because then maybe we could remember him for being the folk-strumming poet of a generation that he was. I say was because one can make a good case that, though Bob Dylan is still alive, his integrity is dead. If you think that’s harsh, read Bob Dylan and the Ethics of Market Fascism at Truthout eviscerating the terrible Chrysler commercial featuring Dylan which aired during the Super Bowl. Here’s a snip from the article:
When corporatism manages to buy the soul of an icon, the poet of the American civil rights movement, we are witnessing a clear sign of the market becoming an Ethics in itself. This is the man who, in May of 1963, walked out of “The Ed Sullivan Show” after CBS executives asked him not to sing “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues,” because it would offend the racist right-wing John Birch Society. Bob Dylan inspired many Americans then. But he must have broken many a liberal and progressive heart with his awfully scripted Chrysler commercial, which is filled with jingoistic lines about American pride and a seriously proto-fascist undertone.
It’s fitting that Dylan killed what little scraps of integrity he had left with a commercial—in terms of mediums, it’s the quintessential vehicle for the ubiquitous consumerism we are all entangled in. And though Dylan is just one symbolic loss on the road to a modern realization of Orwell’s 1984, it feels like a major blow to the once hopeful imagination of the Baby Boomer generation.
Speaking of idealistic Baby Boomers who became willing peddlers of neoliberalism, I was poking around this morning looking for some info on Bill Clinton’s Telecommunication Act and I found this hilarious depiction, which includes gems like this paragraph describing the act’s goals:
The main goal of the Telecommunications Act was to free up the market in the communications industry. President Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, and a majority of the members of Congress supported the Telecommunications Act because it would give members of the public more choices in terms of the telephone services and media they could enjoy at home. This increase in choices would in turn allow Americans to subscribe to various communications services at prices they could afford. Since the Internet had become an important part of many Americans’ lives by this time, federal leaders also wanted to place regulations on it that would protect children from stumbling upon pornographic material. In addition, they hoped to make television more family-friendly by giving parents advanced warnings about the types of content programs might contain.
Choice, competition, lower prices. That is what I call a giant load of bullshit, which should be obvious as Comcast tries to merge with Time-Warner, further exposing the consolidation of our media landscape. In 1983, there were 50 media companies. Now there are just 6, and they are corporate monsters.
So what does this latest merger mean? It could mean Coming Soon: the United States of Comcast (New Republic):
Large companies, even monopolies, are not necessarily contrary to the public interest if they are strictly and intelligently regulated. But in the wake of the 1996 telecommunications act (which idiotically assumed that deregulation would lead to competition) and a pliant Federal Communications Commission, the big telecom companies have progressively avoided regulation. As a result, they are already committing many of the abuses that come with monopoly power, and if the new merger passes muster, will do so with a vengeance.
Monopolies make it more difficult for new entrants to compete. As a result, they allow the larger companies to raise prices without fearing a loss of market share. Since deregulation in 1996, cable prices have risen at about three times the rate of inflation. According to a study from the Free Press, prices for expanded cable service (what most consumers purchase) went up five percent from 2008 top 2013 –almost four times the rate of inflation. Monopolies also allow companies to neglect service to consumers. The American Customer Satisfaction Index rated Comcast and Time-Warner the two worst cable and broadband companies.
Monopolies can also have a corrosive effect on related industries. The big cable companies have been able to squeeze cable content providers—even to cut off access to customers, as Time-Warner did with CBS last fall. If they also own content providers, as Comcast does, they can harm rival content providers—as Comcast seems to be doing to Netflix.
Monopolies also slow innovation, because companies have less incentive to replace older equipment. That was a major argument for the breakup of the old AT&T telephone monopoly in 1982. According to a report from the New America Foundation’s, Open Technology Institute, the United States has lagged behind other countries in the price and quality of its broadband service. The American city with the highest quality internet is Chattanooga, Tennessee, which gets its service from a municipally owned provider.
Under the new merger, the new company—let’s call it Xsanity—will be in an even stronger position to raise prices, neglect service to its customers, squeeze content providers, harm rival content providers and slow innovation. If local, state or national officials attempt to police them, the single big company will have even greater clout. Of course, Comcast will promise to keep prices down, enforce net neutrality, and spur innovation. There is reason, however, not to take these promises seriously.
The times they are certainly changing…but not for the better.
Preaerve the Beartooth Front is written by David Katz, and offers us insights into fracking dangers here in Montana.
Mountains, Plains & People is written by Eric Dietrich, Cops & Courts reporter for the Great Falls Tribune.
I’ve still yet to finish off the USDOJ investigative report into the Missoula County Attorney’s Office, but I am now on page 17. The problem I’ve had in finishing it isn’t time, but that my blood pressure goes up so much I have to get up and punch a wall or two, and then go for a walk. But I”m scaring the neighbors now with all my gesticulations as I power walk Misdemeanor Meadows, so clearly it’s time to fire off a post.
The USDOJ’s report is lots of things. It’s damning. It’s infuriating. It’s disgusting. It’s heartbreaking, It’s sickening. It’s maddening. The adjectives and the feelings are endless. But lessons need to be learned, and actions must be taken.
As I read the USDOJ’s report of sexual assault after sexual assault. Of gang rape. Or rapes unreported because victims already knew of the humiliation that would be handed down by Missoula County criminal prosecutors…I ponder the concept of justice and whether any semblance of it is, at all, reachable.
Does exposing Van Valkenburg’s leadership of the Missoula County’s Attorney’s office suffice? Certainly not – and especially if you attempt to think of it in the perspective of a sexual assault victim.
The statute of limitations for sexual assault in Montana is 10 years. If the victim is less than 18, then the 10 year timeline begins when the victim turns 18. I’ll further point out that having the victim testify is not always needed to prosecute rape.
The USDOJ report lays out violations of not only civil rights and equal protection under our U.S. Constitution, it lays out violations of the same in the Montana Constitution, along with Montana law. As I mentioned above, I’ve only gotten to page 17, but that does mean that I’ve read of at least two specific violations of Montana Code by the Missoula County Attorney’s Office.
Page 10 refers to MCA 46-24-104, which requires the prosecutor in any criminal case to consult and coordinate with the victims of criminal acts. Van Valkenburg’s County Attorney’s Office failed to do this to disastrous results.
Page 17 points to violations of MCA 45-5-501(1)(a) which says that a victim who is incapacitated is incapable of consent. Again – and in a town where it’s well-known by women the need to guard their drinks – this was a part of Montana law that Van Valkenburg and his crew of prosecuting criminal attorney’s were apparently unaware of it’s existence in code.
Both of those state law violations applied to multiple cases investigated by the USDOJ, who operated (let us not forget) without the cooperation of Van Valkenburg’s office. All of these violations, aside from Montana’s constitutional guarantees – many of which mirror the U.S. Constitution – went unprosecuted.
I point these out because this is the area which is now under the purview of Montana Attorney General Tim Fox. In this situation, the groundwork has been laid out painfully and publicly by the USDOJ’s office, and I dare suggest that not only is this is something Tim Fox can not ignore, it should now be his job to take on prosecution of these cases.
I’d like that he also review the negotiated plea agreement with the rapist of a 5 year old, too.
Fred Van Valkenburg is out of the office until something like the 24th of the month. I realize Monday is a holiday, but I would certainly hope that Tim Fox can see fit to have a state investigator in Missoula County’s County Attorney’s Office by Tuesday, beginning interviews and investigations into these state violations and unprosecuted cases.
Justice demands it.
Tim Fox focused a large part of his run for office on sexual predators of children, and his office did take swift action on that issue. It’s time for Tim Fox focus on sexual assault victims, many of whom are (or were) students at the University of Montana. Just as the USDOJ’s agreement with the University is being held up as a model for university and college campuses around the United States, Tim Fox’s intervention here into Missoula regarding violations of state laws concerning sexual assault can be a learning experience for communities around the state – and perhaps legislator’s also.
Earlier this month, Missoulian reporter Martin Kidston wrote a sort of ridiculous piece about “Missoula time” and how this alleged concept of “just chilling” may explain Missoula’s economic stagnation. Though the framing Kidston uses is a bit ridiculous, the complicated issue of Missoula’s economic woes is not. Contrasting Bozeman with Missoula, Kidston makes some interesting observations:
As goes UM, so goes Missoula. It works the other way around as well; it’s a symbiotic dance we can’t escape.
The symptoms of stagnation are all around us, punctuated perhaps by the Missoula Mercantile, which sits empty year after year. Bozeman, in contrast, reports a downtown vacancy rate of just 5 percent.
Looking for other comparisons? Why does the proposed Hotel Fox in Missoula get pushed back while Bozeman approved and will soon see construction begin on a new eight-story, 102-room hotel, making it the tallest building in the city?
“A downtown has to change or it dies,” Bozeman Deputy Mayor Jeff Krauss told the Daily Chronicle. “You see small towns fading away everywhere. We are not one of them.”
This isn’t pointing blame at our local leaders. Rather, I’d like to ask the larger question: What does Missoula want to become and how (and when) will it find its new post-recession identity?
I think a lot of Missoulians would like to see themselves as part of an idyllic liberal college town where we buy healthy food at the farmer’s market and recreate in the wilderness. This is the image of Missoula found in outdoor magazines. For those with the money to make this image their reality, it’s great.
A lot of recent conflicts stem from how Missoula leaders have decided to respond to issues that deviate from the ideal image. From what I have seen, it appears our city leaders are more interested in protecting the image than they are in understanding and addressing the issues.
Chronic homelessness is therefore framed as a debilitating phenomenon disproportionately impacting downtown businesses, and resources are allocated to specifically police the issue. Of course, having their own police officer was deemed insufficient, so businesses decided to push for more, and in their misguided attempt to deal with aggressive behavior, they advocated for ordinances that would criminalize sitting on downtown sidewalks.
Then there are the systemic problems with how our justice system responds to accusations of sexual assault and domestic violence. While some of our leaders have taken steps to improve how victims who come forward to report crimes are treated, the Missoula County attorney’s office, headed by Van Valkenburg, is resisting accountability, and putting taxpayers on the hook.
In tough economic times, societal problems, like substance abuse and domestic violence, increase. This Huffington Post article from two years ago makes that very point:
A new survey by the nonprofit Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) has found that police departments across the country are encountering more instances of domestic violence related to the poor economy, USA Today reports.
More than half of the 700 law enforcement agencies polled for the survey reported seeing a rise in “domestic conflicts” related to the economy during 2011, according to USA Today. That’s a sharp increase from the numbers reported in a similar 2010 survey, when 40 percent of agencies reported seeing an increase in such cases.
Scott Thompson, the Chief of Police in Camden, N.J., spoke to the paper about the survey results and said that his city saw a 20 percent increase in domestic incidents and a 10 percent increase in domestic-related aggravated assaults from 2010 to 2011. Thompson noted that the unemployment rate in the city is currently 19 percent.
“When stresses in the home increase because of unemployment and other hardships, domestic violence increases,” Thomson told the paper. “We see it on the street.”
In today’s Missoulian, this article looks at the same issue, and despite significant increases in reported incidents of domestic abuse, there has been a decrease in cases filed and a decrease in offenders enrolled in court-ordered programs:
According to the Montana Board of Crime Control, violent crime is on the rise – a factor that law enforcement attributes to the recession and the community’s slow economic recovery. When frustrations about money – or the lack thereof – run high, violence in the home is a real concern, explained Deputy Missoula County Attorney Jason Marks.
“I can’t tell you how many (partner/family member assaults) I’ve read where they were arguing about money and it escalated radically from there,” he said.
Missoula County prosecutors filed 132 partner/family member assault cases in 2011, but by 2013 there were only 94 cases on the docket.
That’s a 30 percent decrease in filings.
The city of Missoula’s numbers are similar. In 2011 and 2012, there were 241 and 250 cases, respectively. In 2013, the number of domestic violence cases filed by prosecutors decreased to 187.
The sharp decline could be attributed to more crimes being charged as a higher felony with stricter penalties and longer probationary period, Marks explained.
He doesn’t see the decrease as a problem.
A heightened awareness of domestic violence could be the reason the number of law enforcement reports of partner/family member assault are up, Marks said. He also argues that there’s not a direct correlation between law enforcement reports and cases filed in court.
Doesn’t see the decrease as a problem? Really? Here’s more:
Neither city or county prosecutors could account for the falling number of convicted offenders enrolled in the CAVE and MAN programs.
Scott noted that some offenders are Native American and attend counseling sessions on the Flathead Reservation. Missoula Municipal Court, he said, routinely orders petitions to revoke to make those shrugging off their mandatory counseling enroll in the programs.
“But we don’t handhold them and walk them down there ourselves,” he said.
He said a grant from the Montana Board of Crime Control in 2011 has evolved to help the city court keep tabs on convicted abusers by ordering more petitions to revoke and applying a period of misdemeanor probation.
A study conducted that year by the Missoula Office of Planning and Grants concluded that seven out of 10 people sentenced to anger management classes for domestic violence charges didn’t complete them.
When you contrast this information with how downtown businesses want to increase accountability for the discomforting behavior of people suffering from addiction and mental illness, something is seriously fucked up.
So what do we want to protect, Missoula? Our image, or our citizens?
Missoula Democrats, man, you gotta love ‘em. While “progressive” Caitlin Copple was busy conflating women’s safety with the ordinance amendments she sponsored, criminalizing sitting on downtown sidewalks, Fred Van Valkenburg was busy preparing to go after the Department of Justice to keep Federal scrutiny from uncovering the pattern of awfulness regarding his office’s handling of sexual assaults. It’s no coincidence that just 3 days after Fred filed a motion in district court, the DoJ released their 20 page report citing examples of “terrible things” prosecutors said to sexual assault victims:
Missoula County prosecutors said “terrible things” to victims of sexual assault, told a mother whose 5-year-old daughter had been assaulted by an adolescent that “boys will be boys,” and told another woman “all you want is revenge,” in discussing a decision not to prosecute her sexual assault.
Those were all part of a “disturbing pattern” of deficiencies in the handling of sexual assault cases by the Missoula County Attorney’s Office that place the safety of all women in Missoula at risk, a strongly worded statement from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division said.
Reacting to this news, Van Valkenburg threw a little tantrum:
Later Friday evening, Van Valkenburg received word of the DOJ’s action and called the Missoulian with his response. He was incensed at the federal government’s “totally irresponsible” behavior.
“First and foremost, I think that this is one of the most unfair, unethical things that I have witnessed in 35 years of public life,” Van Valkenburg said. “For the DOJ to dump this report on the news media at virtually 5 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, three days after we have filed a complaint for judicial relief, is totally irresponsible.
“They are trying to manipulate the news in a very, very unfair fashion.”
When I hear Fred whining about ethics and fairness, I think back to how Van Valkenburg crusaded against Missoula voters after we voted to place prosecution of Marijuana offenses at a low priority. In order to circumvent Missoula voters, Fred asked for some help from a state Republican to get legislation passed. Fred got his way:
Marijuana once again is a priority for law enforcement in Missoula County.
So says Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg, who issued a reminder Friday about a new law that takes effect Saturday.
“We’ll be prosecuting the misdemeanor marijuana cases that we have not been doing for the last 4 1/2 years,” he said.
Under the new law, sponsored by Republican Rep. Tom Berry of Roundup at Van Valkenburg’s request, “the power of initiative does not extend to the prioritization of the enforcement of any state law by a unit of local government.”
The law applies only to Missoula County, where in 2006, 55 percent of those voting approved Initiative 2 recommending that crimes related to marijuana be the lowest priority for law enforcement.
It didn’t matter to Fred that the legislation was retroactive. Here’s more from the article:
“Since no other community in Montana can adopt such an initiative and, I’m the person who sought the adoption of this law, it would be hypocritical on my part to continue to follow the lowest priority of enforcement policy in Missoula County,” Van Valkenburg’s announcement said. It asked that Missoula County Sheriff Carl Ibsen and Montana Highway Patrol Captain Greg Watson pass the message along to their deputies and troopers.
Not so fast, said Cynthia Wolken of Missoula, who lobbied for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, at the Legislature.
“It’s not retroactive,” she said, suggesting that the new law applies only to any future such initiatives that might be passed. ” … It troubles me that we have elected officials ignoring the will of the people.”
Wolken, now a Missoula City Council member, said that “I don’t like to see city resources put into going after people for something we said is the lowest priority. I’m troubled that (Van Valkenburg) is over and over attacking what the large majority of Missoulians have sent as a message, loud and clear.”
It looks like 2014 is going to be a great year for lawyers, not so great for Missoula taxpayers, and we have Missoula Democrats to thank. Caitlin Copple has positioned Missoula to get sued by the ACLU, Fred Van Valkenburg has filed suit against the DoJ, and John Engen will be trying to legally wrestle our water from the deep (and evil) pockets of the Carlyle Group.
I am so damn tired of Democrats in this state. Their disturbing pattern of arrogant disregard for their constituents stems from an utter lack of alternatives. There seems to be a prevalent assumption among Montana Democrats that all they need to do is say BOO, THE TEA PARTY!!! and then they can just go along and do whatever they want.
Ethics? Fairness? That’s rich. Missoula Democrats, get your shit together. The cost of your arrogance is not a cost Missoulians can afford.
That is all.
The owners of the Badlander and the Rhino support the Mayor’s version of the panhandling ordinances because they want to protect their paying customers from “solicitors”, the new euphemism for the chronically homeless. This term reflects the messaging from the business community that these ordinances are all about behavior and won’t selectively target specific groups of people, like those without homes. That’s bullshit, but let’s stick with the “behavior” thinking for a minute.
Another word batted around is accountability. The ordinances, it is claimed, are suppose to be tools of accountability for law enforcement. The overreach that undermines this claim is the inclusion of just sitting, sleeping, or lying on the sidewalk as excluded behavior.
Putting that aside, let’s apply the concept of accountability to downtown bar owners and their employees. I took a quick look at the Responsible Alcohol Sales and Training Program (PDF) and under “key laws” I found the Montana statute regarding selling alcohol to intoxicated people:
It is unlawful for any licensee, a licensee’s employee, or any other person to sell, deliver, or give away or cause or permit to be sold, delivered, or given away any alcoholic beverage to any intoxicated person or any person actually, apparently, or obviously intoxicated.
If downtown bars were fined every time they violated this statute, they would go bankrupt. But I guarantee Missoula would be a safer place if bar owners were held more accountable for the rampant binge-drinking they profit from, damn the personal consequences and costs.
And the costs, which I’ve written about before in greater detail, are staggering and bear repeating. This is a breakdown of the annual economic impact on just Montana:
Alcohol induced medical care: 100.7 million
Criminal justice system: 49.1 million
Early mortality/lost earnings; disease/vehicle accidents: 296.8 million
Lost productivity: 53.3 million
Treatment costs: 10.7 million
So yeah, let’s talk about accountability, downtown Missoula bar owners. Let’s talk about going after your profits for destroying people’s lives.
The only time you’ll catch me in a bar downtown these days is after a long week at work with co-workers. Our spot used to be the Rhino. I think it’s time we find a different spot.
I wasn’t sure what to expect at tonight’s city council meeting. I knew there were two competing versions of fixes for the aggressive solicitation/pedestrian interference ordinances in a reconsideration effort initiated by councilman Adam Hertz to avoid a lawsuit by the ACLU. Exhibit A was the Mayor’s version, and Exhibit B was Jason Wiener’s version.
I’m not informed enough to speak to the legal aspects of how the two versions differ, but one bone of contention seems to be whether to include silent solicitation with a sign as part of the prohibitive scope of the ordinances. Wiener’s version removed that part, the Mayor’s version did not. There is also the issue of criminalizing sitting/sleeping/lying on the sidewalk, which would be very problematic if enforced equitably, and a civil liberties issue if selectively enforced.
And then, public comment.
For context, remember these amendments were quickly rushed to a vote last December, so the holidays kept awareness—read: opposition—from poking up its inconvenient head.
Tonight, in addition to comments from MT ACLU’s Anna Conley, Olivia Riutta from the Montana Human Rights Network submitted comments in support of Wiener’s version, albeit with reservations.
Both Riutta’s comments and Sara Howell’s comments, from Montana Women Vote, took issue with how women’s safety has been used to justify the need for these restrictive and probably unconstitutional ordinance amendments. I can’t imagine it was easy to make those comments, considering Copple’s previous alignment with the groups now publicly expressing concerns.
Another notable comment came from Scott, a criminal defense attorney. I was pleasantly surprised someone who deals with the revolving door of disorderly conduct in the legal system spoke up. I also enjoyed the succinct reminder that assertiveness and pepper spray are legal tactics for the public to consider when dealing with threatening behavior (who was that guy?).
And let’s be clear, there absolutely is unsafe behavior happening nightly in downtown Missoula. This is perhaps my favorite part of the public comments.
Scott, the owner of the Badlander, decried the behavior of “solicitors”, like how they puked on his building. No, seriously, he complained about drunken behavior using the term “solicitors”. I’m guessing the preferred shorthand, “transients”, didn’t jive with the “it’s-not-about-homelessness” messaging coming from ban-sitting contingent.
Scott wasn’t the only bar owner who decided to back the mayor. Kevin Head, proprietor of the Rhino, also stepped to the microphone. He made it very clear the panhandlers are not his customers, that they “hit on” his customers.
Hearing that reminded me of a conversation I had with a bartender at the Rhino a few months ago. We were actually talking about these ordinances and she mentioned how a few patrons had put on Santa hats around Christmas and went to the streets, handing out pints of vodka.
Considering tonight’s comments from bar owners, I would appreciate a little criteria for the Missoula public regarding proper drunkenness to help guide us in differentiating respectable drunks from “solicitor” drunks. I would also like a way of analyzing urine samples, to make sure people who drink at their establishments aren’t improperly depositing their fluids.
Ultimately the result tonight was a punt back to committee. And still no indication what the ACLU may do.
Man, it must be tough being president. President Obama is currently grappling with a difficult decision. Should he kill another American with a drone strike? And how is he going to make it “legal”? Apparently Obama’s pledge to shift drone killing from the CIA to the Pentagon has further complicated the issue:
An American citizen who is a member of al-Qaeda is actively planning attacks against Americans overseas, U.S. officials say, and the Obama administration is wrestling with whether to kill him with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy issued last year.
The CIA drones watching him cannot strike because he’s a U.S. citizen and the Justice Department must build a case against him, a task it hasn’t completed.
Four U.S. officials said the American suspected terrorist is in a country that refuses U.S. military action on its soil and that has proved unable to go after him. And President Barack Obama‘s new policy says American suspected terrorists overseas can only be killed by the military, not the CIA, creating a policy conundrum for the White House.
Remember, it’s only killing Americans without due process that creates conundrums. Killing foreigners in countries we aren’t at war with remains conundrum-free.
To keep us informed about Obama’s killing machine and the other fun tools of state control, The Intercept launches today—Greenwald and Scahill’s new online home.
Have a good Monday, comrades.
In the midst of our deep freeze, Missoula had a little excitement last Thursday when two armed robberies triggered a University lockdown. Other schools and businesses also took precautionary measures.
The suspect—who is still at large as I write this—appeared to resemble a 28 year old man, Kevin Briggs, who escaped custody in Bozeman. Earlier in the week police put out an alert that indicated Briggs had ties in Missoula and was presumed to be armed and dangerous.
Yesterday, the Missoulian reported that there is nothing to suggest the armed robber is Kevin Briggs. Police think Briggs may have already left Missoula on a bus. At least that is what they are saying in the paper. I’m not so sure.
Kevin Briggs has escaped custody three times now, this last time in leg shackles. Personally, I think it was Briggs who pulled off the two armed robberies, slightly changing his appearance after holding up the Motel 6, then slipping away as police swooped in.
Putting UM on lockdown was the right call. Students may have laughed it off on twitter, but they are lucky events didn’t take a violent turn on Thursday.
I think Kevin Briggs is still in Missoula, and the indication he may have left via bus could be a ruse set up by the suspect to send police on a wild goose chase. The police may know this, and are using the media to make it look like they’ve taken the bait. I know that sounds like a bad movie plot line, but for some reason I think that scenario is plausible.
Stay alert, Missoula.
First-time filmmaker, Daniel Skaggs, will be showing Missoula a humanizing depiction of “modern train-hoppers” during this year’s Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. After last summer’s inundation of Rainbows, Drainbows and Gutter-Punk “Anarchists”, it’s going to be a tough sell.
The Missoula Indy’s review by Erika Fredrickson probably won’t help Skaggs humanize the subjects he
followed joined across the country for over a year, and this is why:
Besides falling into the Maumee River, which happened toward the end of production, there were a couple other near disasters. In Portland, Ore., just two weeks into meeting and hanging out with Skrappe’s group of travelers, Skaggs got drunk and stole beer from a convenience store and brought it back to the train yard. The cops showed up to haul him off to jail and he found himself in a predicament: take his camera equipment to the jail where it might get lost, accidentally or otherwise, or leave it with his newfound companions? He decided on the latter. After being released six hours later, he nervously wandered through the city trying to track down Skrappe and the gang. He finally found them in the parking lot of a Fred Meyer.
“There were 10 train-riding kids sitting outside with their packs yelling at people and causing a ruckus,” Skaggs says. “And Skrappe, who is such a charismatic individual, comes running up [with] my pack. He was so proud that he had [kept it safe]. And we eventually formed a really strong bond.”
I wouldn’t call getting arrested for drunkenly stealing beer from a convenience store a disaster—I’d call it consequences for an asshole breaking the law.
Though I’ve personally had a few positive interactions with members of this counter-culture, the majority of my interactions have been with rude, entitled punks who have zero regard for the messes they leave behind, and I’m not just talking about trash.
There is a direct connection between the type of behavior Skaggs’ crew apparently exhibit in this film and the panhandling ordinances our city is going to get sued over. We will see what happens this coming Monday, when City Council tries to pass compromise ordinances. From what I’ve heard, there is a good chance the Montana ACLU will litigate anyway. That means taxpayer money will be spent defending ordinances crafted to curb the obnoxious but not criminal behavior of, primarily, the seasonal migrations of travelers Missoula experiences every year.
At the end of the interview, Skaggs says it’s hard to be the object of public disdain:
“It was difficult after a year of being in the trenches, living on the street with these people when I knew I didn’t really have to,” Skaggs says. “And there were a few times when I really didn’t want to do it anymore. I had come from graduating at the top of my class at the university, getting an award and operating my own farm, to putting myself out there on the street being judged every day by the populace.
Attitudes toward these traveling train-hoppers will probably get more negative as the economic engines of late-stage capitalism sputter and choke toward the inevitable cliff. My own animosity comes from watching their hypocritical dependence on local food banks, local ER’s and the generosity of people in the communities they travel through while too many of them get drunk and belligerent.
I wrote a post last June about killing poets. In that post I looked at allegations that Pablo Neruda was poisoned by agents of Pinochet’s regime. That suspicion was put to rest after tests from the exhumed remains of Neruda found no evidence of poison.
The same can’t be said for Hashem Shaabani, an Iranian poet who was killed by hanging after being imprisoned and tortured for 3 years:
Freedom House has condemned the execution in Iran of acclaimed poet and activist Hashem Shaabani.
The watchdog said Shaabani, 32, was put to death on January 27.
An Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal reportedly had sentenced the poet to death, along with 14 others, last July on charges that included “waging war on God.”
I went to my library to look for a poem today, and decided something from the Persian poet Rumi would be appropriate.
Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now.
You’re covered with thick cloud.
Slide out the side. Die,
and be quiet. Quietness is the surest sign
that you’ve died.
Your old life was a frantic running
The speechless full moon
comes out now.
As the Sochi Olympics rev up with the opening ceremonies tonight, a very insightful phone conversation between U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was leaked on Youtube. Over at Moon of Alabama, the host, b, transcribed some of the conversation:
In a conversation leaked online and posted to YouTube on Feb. 6, voices closely resembling those of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland discuss loosely the roles of Ukrainian opposition leaders and the United Nations, and frustration over inaction and indecision by the European Union in solving Ukraine’s political crisis.
The voice allegedly of Nuland adds that Klitschko should not be given a role in government.
“I don’t think it’s necessary, I don’t think it’s a good idea,” she says.
“Yeah… I guess… in terms of him not going into the government, just let him sort of stay out and do his political homework and stuff,” Pyatt says.
Before the call ends, Nuland tells Pyatt she has “one more wrinkle” for him.
Commenting on European pressure put on Yanukovych – or lack thereof – she explains that she has spoken to the United Nations and has gotten an official there who said that Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, agreed to send someone to Ukraine to “help glue this thing and to have the UN glue it.”
She adds: “And you know, fuck the EU.”
“Exactly,” Pyatt replies. “And I think we got to do something to make it stick together, because you can be sure that if it does start to gain altitude the Russians will be working behind the scenes to torpedo it. Let me work on Klitschko, and I think we should get a Western personality to come out here (to Ukraine) and midwife this thing,’’ he adds.
There was some question whether this conversation is the real deal, but Jay Carney essentially confirmed it’s authenticity when he blamed Moscow for the leak:
The White House is suggesting that Moscow is behind a leaked phone call in which a top U.S. official can be heard saying “f–k the EU.”
In the call, which was anonymously posted on YouTube, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt lay out their desired outcome for the crisis in Ukraine and accuse the European Union of not doing enough. White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday that the Russians tweeted out a link to the leaked recording, suggesting they were involved.
“The video was first noted and tweeted out by the Russian government,” Carney said. “I think it says something about Russia’s role.”
The Russian role? What does it say about the American role?
Jay Carney and the administration he propagandizes for don’t have much to worry about, imho. Americans are not very curious about US foreign policy, so I’m sure this simple deflection will be effective.
But for those who do pay attention, this is explicit evidence that Ukraine is a proxy conflict between Russia and western interests.
I wonder what kind of “fireworks” the west has planned for Sochi?
Cherrie Brady, Laura Lee and Susan Smith have some important things to say about Obama’s reckless marijuana comments, but first they want you to know how effective their crusade was in Montana against medical cannabis:
Safe Community Safe Kids was formed by a group of parents out of concern for the unbridled spread of medical marijuana in Montana and its effect on our children, families and community. With the help from parents and others across the state, we were instrumental in passing legislation on this issue.
In 2011, the Montana Legislature passed a bill to repeal the 2004 voters’ initiative on medical marijuana. When Gov. Brian Schweitzer vetoed this repeal bill, the Legislature unanimously passed another bill, Senate Bill 423. The governor refused to sign or veto this bill and because of his inaction the bill automatically became law.
Senate Bill 423 was designed to eliminate the growing medical marijuana industry and turn back to what the voters thought they were voting for, which was allowing patients with debilitating medical conditions to grow and consume marijuana for their own limited use under medical supervision. This was confirmed when the voters would not support a ballot initiative created by the medical marijuana industry proponents to overturn the legislative action. Montana has been the only state that we are aware of whose legislature passed a law to stop the industry that drives medical marijuana.
Good job ladies. You have kept Montana communities safe from the societal destruction of marijuana. I’m sure the people who claim to have “chronic pain” are much better off with oxycodone pills or alcohol, substances that are never abused and/or destroy lives.
It was terrifying to see actual storefronts spring up across the state. Thankfully, SB 423 seems to have produced the desired outcome: eliminate growth of businesses involved with medical cannabis. Now all that illicit drug money can stay in the black market, where I’m sure it never mingles with illegal guns, or other, more dangerous drugs, like meth. Or Heroin.
But these crusading moms aren’t done. No sir, they are OUTRAGED at president Obama’s recent “cavalier” comments regarding weed:
As parents we feel outraged with President Barack Obama’s recent cavalier statement in regard to marijuana. Obama stated, “As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”
Obama’s dismissive approach to marijuana, alcohol and tobacco is sending out approval to our youth to make choices that are detrimental to their health, safety and welfare. We feel it is harmful and confusing to our youth for the leader of our country to suggest that the use of marijuana, alcohol or tobacco is just a bad habit or vice. His action undermines our ability to teach responsible and healthy behavior to our children.
These moms seem like they’re on top of it. They know how dangerously confusing mixed messages can be. Obviously they would never dream of consuming an alcoholic beverage in front of their kids, because then they might have to have a nuanced conversation about excessive consumption versus moderate consumption. And they better not let their kids hang out with kids who have parents that drink or smoke cigarettes. To be extra careful, probably no movies, TV, or music.
Finishing strong, these three courageous parents speak about responsibility, government accountability, and leadership:
As parents, we are the ones who have the responsibility to determine and teach what is best for our children. It is a poor decision for the president to undercut what parents across the nation are trying to teach children. Children should be able to look up to the leader of our country for inspiration. Obama’s example is frightening. He is performing very poorly as the leader of our nation on this issue.
It is our duty as citizens to hold the government accountable for their actions. Therefore we ask that Obama swiftly retract this statement and apologize to parents and children across the nation.
I like how these women seem to think they’re speaking for “parents across the nation” who feel “undercut” by some innocuous and—more importantly—ACCURATE statement by the president about cannabis.
As a parent, I can say quite emphatically that they DO NOT speak for me. The president hasn’t said anything I wouldn’t tell my kids, and I feel sad these women feel like their parenting ability has been compromised by a throwaway presidential quip.
The confusing reality is a MUCH LESS harmful substance—cannabis—is absurdly defined as a schedule I drug by the federal government while MUCH MORE harmful substances, like alcohol and cigarettes, are legally produced, marketed and sold to tens of millions of Americans.
If these parents are telling their kids marijuana is more harmful than alcohol and cigarettes, then they are lying, and lying to your kids is NOT good parenting. Once kids realize their parents haven’t been as forthright as they trusted them to be, then why believe them or any other authority figures when it comes to really dangerous drugs, like meth?
I would like to invite these parents to join the rest of us in reality, where the cost of enforcing cannabis prohibition is pointless, considering it has had no discernible impact on supply or demand.
The misguided, misinformed parents behind Safe Community Safe Kids may have won a little cultural skirmish with SB 423, but the end of cannabis prohibition is inevitable. Who knows, maybe some of the tax money can go toward treatment for those suffering from substance abuse.
That would actually make our community safer.
Apparently it takes the death of a celebrity for mainstream news to suddenly realize there is a drug problem in this country. News outlets like CNN are describing the predictable market factors behind the significant increase in heroin use: increase in supply, decrease in cost, and competition among dealers resulting in higher potency.
What the news is failing to connect, though, is how the decade-long spike in use here in the states correlates perfectly with the increased production in Afghanistan—a direct result of America’s longest war. This NYT report came out just last November:
Despite years of international effort to reel back Afghanistan’s opium culture, cultivation and production hit record levels this year, and programs to counteract them have floundered, according to a new United Nations study.
Given how central an issue the country’s growing drug economy has become — driving official corruption, helping to fund the insurgency, creating instability in neighboring countries and intensifying a domestic addiction crisis — Western diplomats and officials said in interviews that the seeming failure of the drug war in Afghanistan will weigh heavily on the legacy of the dozen-year NATO military mission as it draws to a close next year.
“We have failed, we have lost — that’s all there is to it,” said one Western diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity so as not to offend Afghan government officials.
The new report, the Afghanistan Opium Survey for 2013, projects that the land area used for opium cultivation in Afghanistan, long the dominant supplier of most of the world’s heroin, reached a historic high in 2013 of 516,000 acres, a 36 percent increase from 2012. Now, 19 of the country’s 34 provinces are opium growers, also an increase, and overall production was up by almost half — 49 percent — from the previous year, according to the report, officially released on Wednesday.
When the American-led NATO invasion of Afghanistan commenced at the beginning of this century, opium production had been nearly eradicated by the Taliban. Our corporate media can depict the steady increase of production since the invasion as a failure, but I’m not so sure. I think it’s actually a feature of our presence.
Also, this isn’t new. CIA black ops have long required black budgets to fund their terrorism across the globe, including bringing in crack to predominantly black neighborhoods. Gary Webb dragged this dark reality into the light with his 3-part series, later turned into a book, titled Dark Alliance. Here is how the Los Angeles Times described the piece in 2006:
Many reporters besides Webb had sought to uncover the rumored connection between the CIA’s anti-communism efforts in Central America and drug trafficking. “Dark Alliance” documented the first solid link between the agency and drug deals inside the U.S. by profiling the relationship between two Nicaraguan Contra sympathizers and narcotics suppliers, Danilo Blandon and Norwin Meneses, and L.A.’s biggest crack dealer, “Freeway” Ricky Ross.
Two years before Webb’s series, the Los Angeles Times estimated that at its peak, Ross’ “coast-to-coast conglomerate” was selling half a million crack rocks per day. “[I]f there was one outlaw capitalist most responsible for flooding Los Angeles’ streets with mass-marketed cocaine,” the article stated, “his name was ‘Freeway’ Rick.”
But after Webb’s reporting tied Ross to the Nicaraguans and showed that they had CIA connections, The Times downgraded Ross’ role to that of one “dominant figure” among many. It dedicated 17 reporters and 20,000 words to a three-day rebuttal to “Dark Alliance” that also included a lengthy musing on whether African Americans disproportionately believe in conspiracy theories.
After his career was effectively destroyed by sycophantic corporate journalists, Gary Webb allegedly committed suicide in 2004, and to this day it remains easy to ridicule anyone who cites Webb’s work as a loony conspiracy theorist.
CIA involvement in drug running is no longer just a theory—it’s a substantiated fact. To what degree and for what purpose remain a bit murkier to discern. Money is the obvious motive, but I think there’s more to it than that.
Don’t expect CNN to delve into any of this. The second Justin Bieber does something illegal again, this heroin crisis will be shelved to make room for the next worthless spectacle.
This is a public service announcement. Northern Plains Resource Council is sponsoring a panel in Helena tomorrow night. If ya’all are so inclined, it’s a worth discussion with some well-informed panelists.
Thursday, February 6
6:00 – 7:30 p.m.
Helena College Lecture Hall, Room 125
Join Sleeping Giant Citizens Council for a panel discussion on renewable energy.
· Learn about available rebates, tax incentives, and how you can save money AND start producing clean energy.
· Discuss policy changes to increase Montana’s renewable energy portfolio and ongoing advocacy efforts (and how to push back against fossil fuel interests).
· Hear success stories from homeowners who have installed small scale renewable energy projects.
Panelists will include representatives from Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Montana Environmental Information Center, Sage Mountain Center, and local homeowners with renewable energy installations.
This event is free, but donations will be accepted.
Questions? Contact Page at
Chris Hedges can be difficult to listen to because his assessment of where capitalism is taking the human species is bleak: annihilation.
It’s also true.
Because Hedges’ perspective is the antithesis of “business friendly” I wasn’t sure if the Missoulian would even cover it, but they did. Here’s an excerpt:
Hedges saved his harshest criticism for the Democratic Party, which he said serves the interests of the wealthy instead of the poor and downtrodden that it used to champion.
In particular, he accused former President Bill Clinton of undercutting the labor movement with the North American Free Trade Act and triggering the latest economic collapse by deregulating the nation’s banking industry. He has sued the Obama administration for violating the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution with rules allowing the military to hold American citizens without due process for vague terrorism-related associations.
With this in mind, I’m considering reviving an idea a friend first introduced to me in 2008 as he pitched his support for John McCain for president. Basically he contended that Democrats are more dangerous in power because they neutralize their base while carrying out the same essential policies of the elites, who reside not in America, but a magical place Hedges called Richistan.
There is also an addiction analogy I’ve used, describing how recovery doesn’t usually happen until an addict hits bottom. Maybe a Republican in charge in 2016 will provide the accelerant we need, if we make it to 2016 without WWIII going hot.
Even though I try to remind myself to remain skeptical of Democrat politicians, sometimes I let my defenses down. I did that recently with Dirk Adams because he says stuff like this on his campaign website:
The Senate is a representative body. It belongs to the people, not the parties. The people of Montana and the people of every state deserve Senators who show up. Who listen. Who debate. Who explain.
I can promise you right now that I will never dodge a question. You will know where I stand on every issue. You will know who is working for me and who to get in touch with. I will never turn down an opportunity to hear your thoughts or explain my positions. I don’t know if that’s how political consultants would tell me to behave, but I don’t give a fig for any other way of operating. And if every candidate would take the same tack, I don’t know who would be elected, but I know that we as a party and a country would be better off.
Actually, we would be better off if people like Dirk Adams and his fellow Wall Street gambling addicts weren’t enabled by the party that should be acting as a counter-weight to the corporate takeover we’ve witnessed.
What am I talking about? James Conner provided some important context to what kind of Democrat Dirk Adams would be in office last September. In his article, Conner quotes from this Politico piece examining Adams’ past in banking:
The only Democrat currently running for an open seat in Montana is a career banking executive with a business record that could be problematic for his party if his bid gains steam. In fact, his last bank failed only 18 months ago: the Controller of the Currency closed Home Savings of America of Little Falls, Minnesota in February 2012 when Adams was chairman and CEO of the holding company.
The Treasury Department’s Inspector General chalked the failure up to “an aggressive growth strategy” based on adjustable-rate mortgages and poor risk management practices, among other “questionable activities by the management.” The FDIC, acting as the bank’s receiver, could not find a buyer.
This is the kind of behavior that blew up the economy. Now Dirk Adams wants to portray himself as a rancher. That’s rich. Wait, what was that Dirk?
Personally, I think Montana voters are pretty smart. Montanans know cow patties when they see them. So they can tell the difference between real ideas and a pile of power-grabbing partisan nonsensical BS.
In the reality that exists beyond the political rhetoric, fewer and fewer citizens are even bothering to go through the motions of voting. Can you blame them?
Chris Hedges tried to provide some inspiring oratory after his thoroughly depressing assessment, but my cynicism prevented me from buying in. I left before the end of the Q&A, but a friend told me Hedges talked about being good friends with Greenwald, someone I’ve grown suspicious of because of the kind of corrupting cash that can transform even the most stalwart critic of the US empire into another player in the shadow-play on the cave wall.
Ultimately it was worth listening to what Hedges had to say. I agree with his opinion that resisting what the elite know is coming will be most effective at the local level.
When celebrities die, there is always speculation. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s reported death by overdose earlier today is already being linked to a string of overdoses from fentanyl-laced heroin hitting the east coast. I’m sure in the online fractals of paranoia, the speculation will deepen. Heath Ledger will be involved. And illicit knowledge. What did he know and/or who did he cross?
It’s easy to get caught up in the intrigue. I remember when Paul Walker died thinking of the death of the journalist Michael Hastings. The latter I presume to have been killed in a similar fiery luxury automobile crash, but Paul Walker? What could he possibly know? I waited a few weeks to let the internet do it’s thing, which is this:
Paul Walker and his friend were killed shortly after they discovered a conspiracy to supply victims of Typhon Haiyan with a prototype permanent birth control drug hidden in medicinal supplies and food aid. They had a damning recording and they were on their way to rendezvous with an ally who would have helped them get in touch with the right people. Turns out they were betrayed and someone rigged their car’s breaks to malfunction after a certain speed.
This is all easily dismissed. Don’t think twice, it’s alright. And certainly don’t listen to Dave McGowan discussing the bizarre happenings of Laurel Canyon.
By asking if a “progressive Kristallnacht” is coming, Perkins has curiously decided to begin by going full Godwin. You’ve got to read it to believe it:
Regarding your editorial “Censors on Campus” (Jan. 18): Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its “one percent,” namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the “rich.”
From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent. There is outraged public reaction to the Google buses carrying technology workers from the city to the peninsula high-tech companies which employ them. We have outrage over the rising real-estate prices which these “techno geeks” can pay. We have, for example, libelous and cruel attacks in the Chronicle on our number-one celebrity, the author Danielle Steel, alleging that she is a “snob” despite the millions she has spent on our city’s homeless and mentally ill over the past decades.
This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant “progressive” radicalism unthinkable now?
Hilarious, right? It get’s better. Clearly that whole Occupy thing really hurt the feelings of the wealthy. Here is a quote from a therapist who provides therapy to the wealthy (Mother Jones):
“I think that with Occupy Wall Street there was a sense of the heat getting turned up and a feeling of vilification and potential danger,” Jamie Traeger-Muney, a psychologist who counsels people who earn tens of millions of dollars a year, told Politico on Thursday. “There is a worry among our clients that they are being judged and people are making assumptions about who they are based on their wealth.”
The article goes on to cite a previous story Mother Jones did about the increasing need for therapists to counsel the wealthy, post economic crash:
Although wealth counseling has existed for years, the 2008 financial crisis really sent the aristocracy sprinting for the therapist’s chair. The 2010 Capgemini/Merrill Lynch World Wealth Report, a survey that takes the pulse of zillionaires around the world, found that after the crisis, spooked clients were demanding “specialized advice.” Financial advisers must “truly understand the emotional aspects of client behavior,” the report warned…
“Any time there’s an outside focus on wealth,” it’s not fun for the wealthy, [Traeger-Muney] says. Heirs, she adds, have it the worst: “They feel like they’re in this 1 percent position. They get bad press from people who make fun of them. It feels like their worst nightmare coming true: the idea that they’re now responsible for other people’s unhappiness and lack of wealth, when they didn’t ask for [their millions].”
When you de-personalize wealth accumulation, then yes, wealth accumulators are partly responsible for the unhappiness people have experienced as it relates to the exploding disparity, lack of opportunity, and increased misery of late-stage crony capitalism.
Instead of being upset at those meanies involved in OWS, Tom Perkins and his ilk should be happy that the US police state coordinated such an effective reaction to their encampments.
I do wonder if the message of supporting violent protests in other nations, like Ukraine, might not be a little worrisome for people like Perkins. Clearly our political class doesn’t mind if protestors use violence against governments that are not aligned with US interests. The problem is if you extend that logic to America, Timothy McVeigh is a freedom fighter taking on a corrupt government.
I think Tom Perkins should be worried. The vast, obscene disparity in wealth will lead to greater and greater social unrest as the safety net unravels, opportunities disappear, and people can’t afford to feed their kids. In a world where 85 of the wealthiest people have as much wealth as the poorest half of the entire global population—3.5 BILLION people—something has got to give.
The street battles in Ukraine may be happening half a world away, but I think it’s worth trying to understand what underlies the violence being expressed on the streets of Kiev.
In a previous post about US foreign policy supporting fascists and other extremists, JC provided a link everyone should check out—a photoblog of the protests in Ukraine. It offers both a visual perspective and some important context, important enough to quote at length:
I came to Kiev. I came to see for myself what is happening here. Of course, an hour after arriving at Maidan, you begin to understand that everything what you’ve read in dozens of articles, saw in TV news reports is total crap. In the upcoming reports I will try to, as objectively as possible, to sort out this new wave of Kiev revolution.
Usually reporters try to answer the question: “Who came out to Maidan and why.” Depending on the political leaning of MSM, the answers are different. Some say it’s “fascists who came out to lynch the Moscali (Ukranian derogatory for Moscovites and Russians in general).”, some say “they’re bums and slackers, who’ve got nothing better to do” and “instigators on the government payroll.” In reality, there is no answer. Those who came out are completely different. Remember, how a couple of years in Moscow there was a MSM buzzword “angry townspeople.” Here you see football fans, retirees, office plankton. And everyone is standing together. A sweet, ol’ grandmother is pouring Molotv cocktail in a nationalists’ bottles; and a manager of a large company is carrying ammunition to the student. And as it seems to me at this time, these people do not have a specific plan, nor idea of what to do next. Of course, individually, everyone has their own plan to “save Ukraine.” For some its “we need a couple of crates of AKs and grenades, we’ll sort things out here quickly.” Others “need to ask the world community for help and bring in the UN troops.” At this time there is no central idea of what to do, an idea that can unite and point in one direction the people at Maidan.
The only thing that is completely clear – people came out against Yanukovich.
The burning barricades are visited by people who have come to let out anger and resentment that have accumulated over the years – for the excesses of cops; for the corruption; for the ‘golden toilet’; for the stupidity of the sell-out officials. An elderly man, 80 years of age, walks up to young guys in masks and asks them for a bottle of flaming liquid. They ask him:
“- Grandad, you wont be able to throw it far enough!
– Just give me one, I want to show these beasts that they cannot treat me like this”
Unfortunately, the Ukranians had bad luck with opposition. The street mob is not controlled by anyone. Klichko and his company met with Yanukovch yesterday. Later they came out to the people, began to say something, but no one believes them. And no one wants to follow them. The main mass of people are completely non-political. They come out to kick Yanukovich and his company’s ass. Everyone has their own grievances and vision of the future.
So what’s the message here? If American citizens have no redress for their grievances regarding the corrupting influence of money in our politics are we justified to occupy buildings, build barricades, attack police, and burn DC to the ground?
The use of violence was a heady topic of conversation during OWS. Chris Hedges wrote extensively about avoiding protestor violence and letting the violence of the police state stand in stark contrast to peaceful protests. Chris Hedges will actually be in Missoula tomorrow to give a talk at the University, which will start at 8pm.
But that’s tomorrow. Today is Super Bowl Sunday, a day where money and violence reign supreme. As Roger Goodell pulls in a salary of nearly 30 million dollars, and the NFL enjoys revenues topping 9 billion, you might want to ask yourself why the NFL is a non-profit that hasn’t paid taxes since 1966.
Denis Johnson is known more for his fiction than his poetry, but I’ve long enjoyed his collection The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly. The title of the book is taken from a bizarre work of art created by James Hampton over 14 years. Check it out.
For this week’s poetry series, I’ve selected a short poem from Johnson’s collection. Enjoy!
The towels rot and disgust me on this damp
peninsula where they invented mist
and drug abuse and taught the light to fade,
where my top-quality and rock-bottom heart
cries because I’ll never get to kiss
your famous knees again in a room made
vague by throwing a scarf over a lamp.
Things get pretty radical in the dark:
the sailboats on the inlet sail away;
the provinces of actuality
crawl on the sea; the dusk now tenderly
ministers to the fallen parking lots—
the sunset instantaneous on the fenders,
memory and peace…the grip of chaos…
For in depth Ryan Zinke coverage, Don Pogreba is all over it. In the flurry of Zinke posts at Intelligent Discontent, one post I take issue with is the one declaring Ryan Zinke is wrong on the Keystone XL.
The problem with Pogreba’s selective partisan concern regarding the Keystone pipeline is the fact Montana Democrats, like our senior Senator, Jon Tester, will play a much more influential role in pushing for this disastrous project. Here is Tester in his own words, from his own website, explaining Why I support the Keystone XL pipeline. Here’s an example of Tester’s flawed rationale:
Building the Keystone XL pipeline will help Eastern Montana to reach its full economic potential. The pipeline would run through Montana and include an on-ramp in Baker for oil from the Bakken. The on-ramp will deliver up to 100,000 barrels of oil per day to market. Today, Bakken oil is getting less than market value because of shipping constraints — Keystone XL will help fix that.
I have voted to approve the Keystone XL pipeline three times. I am disappointed that Congress and the president cannot work together to support this common sense project. Built with respect for private property rights and to the highest safety standards, the pipeline will safeguard our most treasured places and increase our energy independence.
Energy security means economic and national security, and a responsibly-built Keystone XL pipeline will make us less dependent on unfriendly countries. We import less foreign oil than we have in decades, but we still have work to do to become energy independent. That’s why I am pushing to keep Bakken oil right here in the United States. After all, it makes sense to power American vehicles and industries with domestic oil instead of sending nearly $1 billion per day to countries that don’t like us.
People who are actually concerned about the impacts of this project continue to have an uphill battle in messaging the realities of what this pipeline will mean for Montanans and for the Earth’s climate. It doesn’t help that our local newspaper shills for this project and our former Governor enjoys eloquently blaming delays on “jackasses” in Washington.
Keeping the partisan crosshairs trained on candidates who will obviously parrot the talking points of the pipeline to get elected is nothing but preaching to the choir, and ignores the people who actually have the influence to push for this disaster to get built.
The pros of this project are lies, and they are being peddled from politicians across the political spectrum. It would be great if partisans like Don Pogreba could include that fact in his narrowly deployed critique of this project’s efficacy.
Like the Ukranian president, Viktor Yanukovich, I am home today on sick leave.
Unlike the Ukranian president, I don’t have to contend with a workplace dealing with fascist elements trying to violently take my job:
Recent months have seen regular protests by the Ukrainian political opposition and its supporters – protests ostensibly in response to Ukrainian President Yanukovich’s refusal to sign a trade agreement with the European Union that was seen by many political observers as the first step towards European integration. The protests remained largely peaceful until January 17th when protesters armed with clubs, helmets, and improvised bombs unleashed brutal violence on the police, storming government buildings, beating anyone suspected of pro-government sympathies, and generally wreaking havoc on the streets of Kiev. But who are these violent extremists and what is their ideology?
The political formation is known as “Pravy Sektor” (Right Sector), which is essentially an umbrella organization for a number of ultra-nationalist (read fascist) right wing groups including supporters of the “Svoboda” (Freedom) Party, “Patriots of Ukraine”, “Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian National Self Defense” (UNA-UNSO), and “Trizub”. All of these organizations share a common ideology that is vehemently anti-Russian, anti-immigrant, and anti-Jewish among other things. In addition they share a common reverence for the so called “Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists” led by Stepan Bandera, the infamous Nazi collaborators who actively fought against the Soviet Union and engaged in some of the worst atrocities committed by any side in World War II.
While Ukrainian political forces, opposition and government, continue to negotiate, a very different battle is being waged in the streets. Using intimidation and brute force more typical of Hitler’s “Brownshirts” or Mussolini’s “Blackshirts” than a contemporary political movement, these groups have managed to turn a conflict over economic policy and the political allegiances of the country into an existential struggle for the very survival of the nation that these so called “nationalists” claim to love so dearly. The images of Kiev burning, Lviv streets filled with thugs, and other chilling examples of the chaos in the country, illustrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that the political negotiation with the Maidan (Kiev’s central square and center of the protests) opposition is now no longer the central issue. Rather, it is the question of Ukrainian fascism and whether it is to be supported or rejected.
I’m not sure if it’s much of a question for deluded warmongers like John McCain, who exhibited his delusions in a little hissy fit about how America was somehow winning the Syria catastrophe before his military intervention was so rudely taken away by the Russians. The link features a video clip where John McCain can be heard saying this to Alexei Pushkov, Chairman of Russia’s State Duma Committee for International Affairs:
We all know what happened in Syria. We were winning and then, of course, 5,000 Hizbollah came in…
Keep that attitude in mind as the previous article picks up:
For its part, the United States has strongly come down on the side of the opposition, regardless of its political character. In early December, members of the US ruling establishment such as John McCain and Victoria Nuland were seen at Maidan lending their support to the protesters. However, as the character of the opposition has become apparent in recent days, the US and Western ruling class and its media machine have done little to condemn the fascist upsurge. Instead, their representatives have met with representatives of Right Sector and deemed them to be “no threat.” In other words, the US and its allies have given their tacit approval for the continuation and proliferation of the violence in the name of their ultimate goal: regime change.
In an attempt to pry Ukraine out of the Russian sphere of influence, the US-EU-NATO alliance has, not for the first time, allied itself with fascists. Of course, for decades, millions in Latin America were disappeared or murdered by fascist paramilitary forces armed and supported by the United States. The mujahideen of Afghanistan, which later transmogrified into Al Qaeda, also extreme ideological reactionaries, were created and financed by the United States for the purposes of destabilizing Russia. And of course, there is the painful reality of Libya and, most recently Syria, where the United States and its allies finance and support extremist jihadis against a government that has refused to align with the US and Israel. There is a disturbing pattern here that has never been lost on keen political observers: the United States always makes common cause with right wing extremists and fascists for geopolitical gain.
Why do our political leaders keep aligning US foreign policy with fascists and other strains of violent extremists?
A childhood taunt comes to mind, deployed with great effect on the playground: takes one to know one.
Yesterday, after a reactionary tweet to the news Jon Tester compared Max Baucus to Mike Mansfield at Max’s confirmation hearing, I figured maybe I should get a little wikipedia background on Mike. This got my attention:
After his ambassadorship, Mansfield served for a time as a senior adviser on East Asian affairs to Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street investment banking firm.
Maybe Mike Mansfield would understand the congressional actions Baucus has been busy with, described in this Truthout piece:
The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on January 16 on a bill that would renew Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) for the President, allowing trade treaties to be “fast tracked” through Congress. The measure was introduced by Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) last week, just as far-reaching “free trade” agreements with Asian and European countries are nearing completion.
Shifting to Obama, who called for a YEAR OF ACTION in his state of the union speech last night, the pundits will likely focus on the meager concession of raising minimum wage while ignoring or downplaying Obama’s promotion of free trade—a cherished neoliberal weapon in the ongoing class war. Here’s John Nichols writing for The Nation:
There was nothing robust or exciting about Obama’s free-trade pitch. There was something entirely predictable, almost routinized about it. But like George W. Bush and Bill Clinton before him, Obama embraced an orthodoxy that no longer makes economic or political sense.
After arguing for “new trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific,” Obama told Congress, “We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority.”
It is no secret that the president wants to cut the deals that are required to establish the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a sweeping new “NAFTA on steroids” trade pact with eleven Asian and Latin American countries. Nor is it any secret that he would like to clear the way for that agreement by getting Congress to give him the fast-track trade promotion authority that allows negotiations to go forward without congressional oversight or amendments that might address labor rights, human rights, environmental and development concerns.
The problem is that the constituencies Obama is hoping to rally in support of initiatives to address income inequality have come to associate multilateral arrangements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement with the collapse of industries, the shuttering of factories and the elimination of hundreds of thousands of well-paid jobs that once sustained middle-class families. The loss of those jobs—in combination with the related weakening of industrial unions and the depression of wages—is well understood to have contributed mightily to the growth of income inequality.
Nichols goes on to point out Obama, the 2008 candidate for president, put free trade agreements like NAFTA in their proper context while campaigning, but now—poof! The deceitful neoliberal in the seat of power actively undermines any shred of credibility when it comes to addressing income inequality by supporting what he campaigned against 5 years ago.
Obama’s selection of Max is more than just a cynical attempt to give John Walsh an edge in the battle for control of the senate—Max is ideologically aligned with Obama’s neoliberal agenda, and will make a perfect spokesperson for the corporate interests Max spent his political career protecting.
Unfortunately American workers don’t factor in these decisions.
If I can find the stomach for it, I may tune in to the state of our union. At least the beginning, to see if Obama will adhere to the mostly consistent projection of confidence that the state of our union is strong.
I don’t expect president Obama to go all Gerald Ford circa 1975:
What I will be looking for is some presidential pushback against the congressional insurrection against Iran diplomacy. I’m also a little curious if Obama will drop any hints about the insidious Trans-Pacific Partnership. I try to avoid using RT as a source, but I’ll lazily reference this:
Congressional leaders on the US trade policy have introduced legislation that would grant President Barack Obama “fast-track authority” to enact three looming global trade accords, including the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership.
House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R) and top Senate Finance Committee members Max Baucus (D) and Orrin Hatch (R) on Thursday unveiled the Trade Priorities Act of 2014 that would require a simple up-or-down vote on major trade deals without the opportunity to offer amendments to pertinent bills.
“The [Trade Priorities Act] legislation we are introducing today will make sure that these trade deals get done, and get done right,” Sen. Baucus said in a statement. “This is our opportunity to tell the administration – and our trading partners – what Congress’s negotiating priorities are.”
The Obama administration is seeking the heightened authority in trade deals, allowing the Executive Branch to smooth congressional negotiations on accords. The two major deals, both long in the works, that are likely to be subject to such legislation are the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the 28-nation pact with the European Union, the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA). The deals would establish the world’s largest so-called free-trade zones.
It would be cool if Obama gave a shout out to Jamie Dimon, like, hey Jamie, nice bonus you got there buddy! In the real world costing your company billions in fines doesn’t usually feature such lavish perks. If you are tempted to be perturbed by Dimon’s illogical compensation, just watch this convenient 60 Minutes gusher about Year Up.
I’m also curious to see if/how Obama spins austerity amidst the continued splurging on “defense”. Those two issues would of course never appear in proximity to each other, but both merit at least a mention.
Anyway, consider this a State of the Union open thread.
I’ve sometimes wondered what allowed me to resist the suburban conditioning of my youth. Was it experimenting with mind-alerting substances? My appetite for reading? My anti-authoritarian tendencies?
After reading a fascinating article yesterday, there’s a new possibility I can add to the potential factors at play in my formative years: Fraggle Rock.
Elizabeth Stevens has a piece titled Why the Ideal Creative Workplace Looks A Lot Like “Fraggle Rock” published last month at The Awl, and it’s a great read. Here’s an excerpt describing Jim Henson’s vision for the show:
“Fraggle Rock” “was made in service of a compelling vision,” Stevenson said. When Jim Henson brought together the three people who would ultimately create the world of “Fraggle Rock”—head writer Jerry Juhl, designer Michael Frith, and writer Joceyln Stevenson—he told them he wanted to make an international show that would “help stop war.” His initial producer on the project, Duncan Kenworthy, said that everyone “almost laughed” at him, because “it’s such a—on the face of it—impossible, enormous, grandiose sort of idea.”
Henson not only made an anti-war show, he did it with a light hand and silliness. The episode “Fraggle Wars” deals with McCarthyism overtly (“My name is Mokey Fraggle, and I am not now nor have I ever been a member of the enemy Fraggles”). But most of the time, the message is imperceptible; it was written in the structure of the show’s universe. In the show there are three species that don’t see eye-to-eye, both figuratively and literally. The Doozers were “knee-high to a Fraggle,” and the Gorgs were sheer giants. In DVD interviews, Kenworthy explained that “Fraggle Rock” modeled how conflicts could be “loosened” by exploring each of the different points of view involved. Adults may be a lost cause, but “the children,” he said, “could understand the Gorgs… the Fraggles… the Doozers, and see why they couldn’t understand each other.”
“Fraggle Rock” was made a few years before the toppling of the Berlin Wall and aired in countries across the world (the United States, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and eastern Europe). It was key that the show rejected the “good versus evil” thinking of the Cold War, and introduced the idea of being a global citizen to an emerging Millennial generation during their most formative years. Did Henson stop war? No, but he may have helped change the attitude of the next generation. The very fact that the show had a compelling mission—this dream of peace—made it a peaceful place to work.
Read the whole article, it’s great. Stevens delves into Henson’s Fraggle Rock workplace to figure why literally everyone who worked on the show said it was the best job they ever had. What she finds is the antidote to corporate culture.
Another world is possible.