by lizard

A few weeks ago I had a really interesting conversation with my dad. Like any healthy teenager, I rebelled against everything I thought he stood for. I held a grudge for years at being dragged from my friends in Seattle to grow up in midwest suburbia. Dad moved us to Kansas for a job at Sprint, where he climbed the corporate ladder to provide his family with a comfortable life, which teenage assholes like myself can pretend to reject but still benefit from immensely nonetheless.

So I rebelled against suburbia and conformity and corporate America blah blah blah.

Well, it turns out my dad was almost like a whistleblower, but his warnings up the chain of corporate command weren’t heeded, and things went south. How south? Here’s an article from the Washington Post (2008):

Sprint Nextel yesterday reported a $29.45 billion fourth-quarter loss and said legions of subscribers continue to abandon its service, many because they can’t pay their bills.

The nation’s third-largest wireless carrier last year courted people with poor credit to boost its number of subscribers. Now the company is feeling the pain disproportionately as the economy weakens and consumers default on their debts.

Essentially what Sprint did was target higher-risk consumers with sign-up gimmicks to prime short-term sales for Wall Street. If you think this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. This is the same short-sighted greed that fed the housing bubble and now, the auto-loan bubble:

Thanks largely to the U.S. Federal Reserve, Jeffrey Nelson was able to put up a shotgun as down payment on a car.

Money was tight last year for the school-bus driver and neighborhood constable in Jasper, Alabama, a beaten-down town of 14,000 people. One car had already been repossessed. Medical bills were piling up.

And still, though Nelson’s credit history was an unhappy one, local car dealer Maloy Chrysler Dodge Jeep had no problem arranging a $10,294 loan from Wall Street-backed subprime lender Exeter Finance so Nelson and his wife could buy a charcoal gray 2007 Suzuki Grand Vitara.

All the Nelsons had to do was cover the $1,000 down payment. For most of that amount, Maloy accepted Jeffrey’s 12-gauge Mossberg & Sons shotgun, valued at about $700 online.

How to react to this problem? Some people think better regulation of lenders might help. Some people would like to just blame the victims of predatory lending for the problem.

Regardless, these risky schemes driven by greed always seem to blow up. Maybe, if there were significant consequences imposed for the architects of these schemes, they would stop building them.

But there aren’t. So they do.

by lizard

There’s an interesting conspiracy theory being put forth by Republicans regarding impeachment. Readers of this defiled political space know I can’t resist a good conspiracy, so here’s the gist (Media Matters):

Right-wing media and Republicans are blaming Democrats and President Obama for allegedly “ginning up” the issue of impeachment for political benefit, but that Pandora’s Box was opened by conservatives themselves, who have been demanding impeachment since Obama first took office.

In an interview with conspiracy website WND (which has its own “Impeachment Store”), Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) told conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi that President Obama “wants us to impeach him now” because “his senior advisors believe that is the only chance the Democratic Party has to avoid a major electoral defeat. Evidently Obama believes impeachment could motivate the Democratic Party base to come out and vote.”

Stockman’s proclamation that the president is “begging to be impeached” was quickly trumpeted as the top story on the Drudge Report and Fox Nation, and Stockman isn’t the only one trying to pin the increase in impeachment discussion on Democrats. While refusing to answer whether impeachment is off the table for House Republicans, incoming House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) claimed “this might be the first White House in History that’s trying to start the narrative of impeaching their own president.”

So now that it’s a conspiracy theory to pin on Republicans, Democrats can focus on that, and not the reality that there actually are grounds for impeaching this president.

To start us off, let’s take a look at the sad lament of a former Clinton aide, Bill Curry, who recently proclaimed that the Democratic Party has lost its soul. I guess a guy who had a front-row seat for what Clinton started would know. Here are some of his thoughts on populism:

One reason we know voters will embrace populism is that they already have. It’s what they thought they were getting with Obama. In 2008 Obama said he’d bail out homeowners, not just banks. He vowed to fight for a public option, raise the minimum wage and clean up Washington. He called whistle-blowers heroes and said he’d bar lobbyists from his staff. He was critical of drones and wary of the use of force to advance American interests. He spoke eloquently of the threats posed to individual privacy by a runaway national security state.

He turned out to be something else altogether. To blame Republicans ignores a glaring truth: Obama’s record is worst where they had little or no role to play. It wasn’t Republicans who prosecuted all those whistle-blowers and hired all those lobbyists; who authorized drone strikes or kept the NSA chugging along; who reneged on the public option, the minimum wage and aid to homeowners. It wasn’t even Republicans who turned a blind eye to Wall Street corruption and excessive executive compensation. It was Obama.

A populist revolt among Democrats is unlikely absent their reappraisal of Obama, which itself seems unlikely. Not since Robert Kennedy have Democrats been so personally invested in a public figure. Liberals fell hardest so it’s especially hard for them to admit he’s just not that into them.

A microcosm of this stubborn liberal buy-in can be found in the Walsh campaign. Calls for Walsh to step down, IMHO, will prove futile and Democrats will be stuck with a Bush doctrine plagiarist until the bitter end. Daines will have enough of the slick veneer corporate loot buys in 30 second niblets to (sadly) convince the low percentage of registered voters who even bother to vote anymore that he somehow represents their interests.

Of course, I could be wrong. I’m sure our local media is salivating for a resignation and new Democrat appointment for Montana’s Senatorial hot seat. After all, there are national implications driving this political drama. Could it be a media storm someone like Denise Juneau could ride, or, at the very least, lose with a bit more dignity in November? What say you Montana Democrats? Do you have the stomach for trying to cram Walsh’s deceitful careerism down your base’s throats?

Getting back on track from that local tangent, a guest post at Zerohedge offers a compelling argument for impeaching Obama now—tomorrow’s tyrant. I’m going to skip over the partisan speculation that precedes this key consideration:

There is a deeper strategic consideration that should concern citizens and politicians. This issue should transcend parochial political interest and political advantage consideration. Not addressing impeachment threatens what is left of the Rule of Law and the Constitution. Not addressing impeachment ensures greater tyranny in the future.

The current president makes Richard Nixon look like a paragon of truth, integrity and honor in comparison. If Obama doesn’t qualify for impeachment, then nobody ever again will.

It is difficult to imagine worse violations of the Constitution, separation of powers and general dishonor of the office than this president has committed. Yet we assuredly will see worse by successors. Impeachment is necessary in order to preserve what little structure the Founders provided. A line in the sand must be drawn that says to successors where they dare not go. Without impeachment Obama’s acts serve as precedents. Future presidents will have immunity to repeat them and add their own variations and enhancements that further stretch the boundaries. The absence of action has the unintended effect of further defining presidential deviancy downward.

Democrats, by failing to hold the executive office accountable for its own enhancements on what Bush accomplished, will be complicit in whatever future mutation of rule by executive decree occurs.

I purposely didn’t say “Obama” in the previous sentence because it really is about the capacity of the office and not the whims of the person holding that office.

That said, there is no way impeachment proceedings against Barack Hussein Obama wouldn’t be, in some capacity, depicted as a political lynching.

Sad how a political race umbrella ensures tomorrow’s tyrant will have today’s established precedent to build on.

Cognitive Casualties

by lizard

When James Conner denounced 4&20 Blackbirds, he included our propensity (JC and myself) for mistrusting mainstream news sources as a contributing factor to our anti-Americanism:

They don’t trust the mainstream media, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, or the Guardian. They seem to see a conspiracy behind every sunflower. They hate the United States and its government with a black bile that corrodes their judgment.

For me, there absolutely has been a corrosion of trust in mainstream news sources. The complicity of the New York Times in the run up to the invasion of Iraq is the worst example of media manipulation, but there are lots of others, which I will get to in a second.

(On edit, the NYT decision to spike the Bush warrantless wiretapping story until AFTER the 2004 election is also way up there.)

First, though, I can’t help highlighting a little blurb from a post at Intelligent Discontent where the self-admitted media scold, Don Pogreba, laments about local political coverage from the Great Falls Tribune:

I got into blogging just over nine years ago as a bit of a media scold. I was troubled that the Montana press didn’t seem to cover stories that needed to be covered and that often the stories took a predictable approach of letting both sides (Democrat and Republican) speak with equal authority, even when one side was clearly not telling the truth. Voices outside of the two parties were largely marginalized.

What a perfect segue to the actual meat of this post: the marginalization of voices outside the mainstream media’s lock-step fealty to Israel (and whatever atrocity IDF soldiers are in the midst of committing).

First up, Max Blumenthal takes a look at how MSNBC responded to criticism from within the network:

MSNBC contributor Rula Jebreal’s on-air protest of the network’s slanted coverage of Israel’s ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip has brought media suppression of the Israel-Palestine debate into sharp focus. Punished for her act of dissent with the cancellation of all future appearances and the termination of her contract, Jebreal spoke to me about what prompted her to speak out and why MSNBC was presenting such a distorted view of the crisis.

“I couldn’t stay silent after seeing the amount of airtime given to Israeli politicians versus Palestinians,” Jebreal told me. “They say we are balanced but their idea of balance is 90 percent Israeli guests and 10 percent Palestinians. This kind of media is what leads to the failing policies that we see in Gaza.”

She continued, “We as journalists are there to afflict the comfortable and who is comfortable in this case? Who is really endangering both sides and harming American interests in the region? It’s those enforcing the status quo of the siege of Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank.”

NBC had another problem with a reporter actually in Gaza because he, you know, REPORTED what he saw, which was 4 kids on the beach playing soccer get blown up. NBC response? Get him out of there:

Ayman Mohyeldin, the NBC News correspondent who personally witnessed yesterday’s killing by Israel of four Palestinian boys on a Gazan beach and who has received widespread praise for his brave and innovative coverage of the conflict, has been told by NBC executives to leave Gaza immediately. According to an NBC source upset at his treatment, the executives claimed the decision was motivated by “security concerns” as Israel prepares a ground invasion, a claim repeated to me by an NBC executive. But late yesterday, NBC sent another correspondent, Richard Engel, along with an American producer who has never been to Gaza and speaks no Arabic, into Gaza to cover the ongoing Israeli assault (both Mohyeldin and Engel speak Arabic).

The good news here is that NBC reversed its decision after a healthy heaping of social media scorn for its clearly political move and subsequent deceit that it was for “security reasons”.

And how about more good news: mainstream media sources seem to be having more difficulties peddling propaganda, and that, I think, is because members of non-mainstream sources are getting more traction when they point out obvious bias and manipulation. Here is a post from writer Greg Mitchell, for example, calling out the New York Times:

NYT tonight finally changes headline on story it posted this morning– which declared, “Gazans and Israelis Tally Damage.” I pointed out here (see below) and via Twitter that the story did not, or could not, point to a single example of Israel damage (beyond it reputation and moral standing, perhaps). Instead, it had Israelis going to the beach (“It’s fun”), holding bar-b-qs and visiting soldiers. Perhaps feeling shame, the paper has finally changed the headline. It also added reference to 21 Gazans in one family killed by Israeli shelling last night–but as always reporter allows Israel flack to claim it must have been because of Hamas fire from nearby.

The way online stories are sometimes subtly changed can be hard to catch. But it happens. In the case of Mitchell helping to coerce the change of a headline, the change made the piece less biased. In this example, caught by b at Moon of Alabama, the change to the NBC article expunged the eyes of the reporter. I will re-quote the two versions with b’s bold emphasis included (using red instead of b’s bold). Oh, and I should mention the article is about strikes near Gaza’s Shifa hospital.

Take one:

Israeli strikes hit within yards of Gaza’s main hospital as well as at a refugee camp on Monday, leaving at least 30 dead and wounded.

The explosion near Shifa Hospital around 5 p.m. local time (10 a.m. ET) caused some damage to the outpatient clinic, according to witnesses including an NBC News crew on the ground in the area. There was no immediate confirmation of deaths or injuries.

Another strike occurred at the Al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza. At least 30 dead and wounded were brought to Shifa Hospital in ambulances, civilian cars and on motorcycles. A NBC News team in the area said the strikes were in “close succession.”

The Israel Defense Forces told Haaretz that a “preliminary investigation has found the Israeli army did not fire at the Shifa Hospital, and the fire is believed to have been Hamas.” The IDF could not immediately be reached to clarify that account on Monday. However, a NBC News journalist witnessed the attack on the hospital and said it had been fired by an Israeli drone.

Take two:

Missiles or rockets struck within yards of Gaza’s main hospital and a nearby refugee camp Monday, leaving at least 30 dead and wounded.

The Israeli military denied reports its forces were responsible for the strikes, saying they were the result of rockets misfired by Palestinian militants.

The explosion near Shifa Hospital around 5 p.m. local time (10 a.m. ET) caused some damage to the outpatient clinic, according to witnesses including an NBC News crew on the ground in the area. There was no immediate confirmation of deaths or injuries.

Another strike occurred at the Al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza. A Palestinian health official says at least 10 people, including children, were killed in Monday’s strikes. An NBC News team in the area said the strikes were in “close succession.”

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that failed rocket launches were to blame.

“A short while ago Al-Shifa hospital was struck by a failed rocket attack launched by Gaza terror organizations. A barrage of three rockets that were aimed towards Israel, struck the hospital. At the time of the incident there was no Israeli military activity in the area surrounding the hospital whatsoever. “

Early reports from the ground said an Israeli drone was responsible for the attack.

The wars and slaughters being waged are being told to us through a parallel war, the information war. The palpable disgust expressed by James Conner that JC and I have created some nefarious alternative reality shows me what a cognitive casualty looks like.

Don’t be a cognitive casualty of the information war. Think possibility, not blind patriotism.

by lizard

Ed Kemmick has a must read on the Billings homeless situation at Last Best News, titled Prairie Lights: Let’s not give up on downtown Billings. The perspective of the piece is incredibly important, considering the stabbing death of a photographer, Michael Sample, by a person who IS NOT HOMELESS has resulted in Billings scrambling to convene a summit on homelessness this October. From the article:

You want to talk about problems with transients on Montana Avenue? Talk to Mike Schaer.

When he moved his computer business to the avenue 33 years ago, there were vacant buildings all along Montana, and “the transients were really all over the place.”

They could buy cheap booze at the Empire Bar, the Rainbow Bar and Lobby Liquor, which was on First Avenue North and even had a walk-up window. And that’s not all.

“There were hookers up and down the street, flagging down cars,” Schaer said.

There has recently been a sense of alarm over the number of transients on the streets of downtown Billings. Business owners vented their frustrations at a public forum and city officials met with the Mayor’s Committee on Homelessness to talk about some solutions.

All well and good, Schaer said, but “it’s a manageable problem. And compared to what it was, it’s no problem at all.”

Interesting historical context to consider from a business owner who has been around for 3 decades. Not only was the “transient problem” worse, so was the downtown infrastructure. And here lies the rub.

Revitalizing downtowns is a national trend. Here is Forbes looking into the demographics fueling investment in downtown business districts:

One of the main factors businesses consider when deciding on where to relocate or expand is the available pool of college-educated workers. And that has cities competing for college-educated young adults. “The American population, contrary to popular opinion, is not very mobile, but there is one very significant exception, what we call ‘the young and the restless,’” explains Lee Fisher, president of CEOs for Cities, a national not-for-profit organization that helps U.S. cities map out economic growth.

And there’s one place this desired demographic, college-educated professionals between the ages of 25 and 34, tends to want to live: tight-knit urban neighborhoods that are close to work and have lots of entertainment and shopping options within an easy walk. In fact this demographic’s population grew 26% from 2000 to 2010 in major cities’ downtowns, or twice as fast as it did in the those cities’ overall metro areas, according to a CEOs for Cities report based on U.S. Census data. That is one of the reasons city planners have been plowing money and resources into revitalizing their core business districts.

“The cities that capture the mobile, college-educated ‘young and restless’ are the ones who are most likely to revitalize their downtowns and accelerate economic progress in their cities,” says Fisher.

Take Denver. Civic and business leaders began work on the city’s Lower Downtown neighborhood in 1989 with the issuance of $240 million in bonds. Today LoDo is a trendy ‘hood of over 100 restored Victorian warehouses and buildings filled with art galleries, boutiques, local eateries and nightclubs. Now Denver is in the midst of a 20-year, seven-mega project plan to expand the revitalization efforts through the rest of the downtown district.

Apparently, like Missoula (which now has 3 planned micro-distilleries eyeing downtown), distillers are moving into reclaimed downtown spaces. From the same link:

Other cities are getting creative with their efforts. Over the past decade, Louisville, Ky., converted much of its subsidized housing downtown to market-rate real estate, and it expanded retail offerings. Now it’s adding a twist. In 2011, the mayor unveiled a public-private initiative to restore downtown Louisville’s Whiskey Row. Buildings were rescued from scheduled demolition by an investor group for promising, with the help of government aid, to preserve the facades of the area’s cast-iron buildings. Two years later renovations are under way, and the buildings are expected to house bourbon-themed restaurants and nightlife spots, adding to the success of nearby projects like the mixed-use Whiskey Row Lofts.

“Bourbon is an industry that is growing in Louisville, especially downtown,” says Alan DeLisle, executive director of the Louisville Downtown Development Corporation. “Distillers are reinvesting downtown where they were once located off the river and we are building visitor centers and a streetscape plan that tells the story of the industry.” Among the bourbon businesses coming back to the area: Mitcher’s Distillery, Heaven Hill and whiskey giant Jim Beam.

So what are some of the problems associated with revitalizing downtown spaces? In Birmingham, it’s the PERCEPTION of crime. Again, from the same link:

In Birmingham, Ala., the number of residents downtown has increased 32% since 2000, with 737 planned units in the construction pipeline. A stadium for the minor league baseball team the Birmingham Barons has been built at Railroad Park, a green space created on a former industrial site next to a rail corridor. Office space absorption was positive in 2012, with net 126,000 square feet leased out, and downtown employment density relative to the southern city’s size is comparable to Philadelphia’s business district, local economists are quick to point out.

Yet, the city is still struggling to overcome a reputation for crime. “Despite the positive there are still people who have a negative view about downtown, particularly around the perception of crime,” sighs David Fleming, chief executive of REV Birmingham, a local economic development organization. “But if you look at the statistics, the chance of being a victim of crime in the central business district is actually less likely than in the suburbs.”

Combine the fear of crime with another national trend—that of criminalizing homelessness—and you can see where perceptions are being bolstered by the passing of more laws in more American cities criminalizing homelessness. This month a report came out tracking this trend (read the actual report here). From the first link:

A new report from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (“Law Center”), No Safe Place: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities, details a startling rise in laws criminalizing homelessness across America – more and more U.S. cities are criminally punishing homeless people for engaging in necessary, life-sustaining activity in public places, even when they have no other options. “There is a severe shortage of affordable housing and a lack of emergency shelter options in our communities, leaving homeless people with no choice but to perform basic acts of survival in public spaces,” stated Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director of the Law Center. “Despite a lack of any available alternatives, more cities are choosing to turn the necessary conduct of homeless people into criminal activity. Such laws threaten the human and constitutional rights of homeless people, impose unnecessary costs on cities, and do nothing to solve the problems they purport to address.”

The number of laws restricting or prohibiting the basic human activities of homeless people has significantly increased since 2011, according to the Law Center’s survey of 187 cities across the country. Over half of the surveyed cities have laws restricting or prohibiting sitting or lying down in public, representing a 43% increase since 2011. Other criminalization laws have become even more prevalent. Laws prohibiting living in vehicles have increased by a dramatic 119% since 2011.

Now, let’s go back to Kemmick’s piece for an alternative approach to criminalizing homelessness. Here is another downtown Billings business talking about their experience running a business downtown, echoing the sentiment that it’s not the crisis some people think it is:

I heard similar sentiments from Clark and Rachel Marten and their son Rudi. They moved their business — Clark Marten Photography — from Columbus to Montana Avenue last summer.

Clark and Rachel had plans to turn the successful business over to their son. He was interested, but he wanted to move the business to Billings.

“That’s where I wanted to live and where most of my clients live,” Rudi said. He also pushed for the downtown location. They are at 2606 Montana Ave., next door to the St. Vincent de Paul charity office, one of the biggest downtown gathering spots for transients, homeless people and poor families.

The Martens have gotten to know many of the street people by name, and they’ve never had a problem. Their beautifully renovated photography business, 10,000 square feet of ground-level and basement space, has never been damaged or vandalized.

They do have a couple of large planters full of flowers out front. Some people thought they were crazy to imagine they wouldn’t be vandalized or stolen. One planter was pushed over one night, but the Martens suspect it was someone leaving a neighborhood bar, not the local transients.

In an odd way, many of the street people seem to respect what they’re doing on the avenue, Clark said, and they’ll sleep in front of St. Vincent de Paul or the building next door, but not in front of his business.

The reason Ed Kemmick’s piece is so important is because, in the battle of perceptions, the noise of those who depict homelessness as a dangerous impediment to downtown gentrification usually drowns out the sounds of fact and reason. Newspapers like the Missoulian offer sensationalist reporting of anything bad that happens while ignoring or downplaying solutions, like the housing first model. This opens the space for further fear-mongering, like what we saw from “progressive” city councilor, Caitlin Copple, who offered the example of a pregnant woman being chased down a sidewalk as justification for her attempt to introduce a ban on sitting downtown between 6am-11pm.

The targets of this fear-mongering aren’t a problem for us to solve, they are people that we should be striving to better understand.

Toward that end, a local film maker, Jon Baker, is embarking on a journey to find his homeless father. He has already begun filming, and his kickstarter campaign is trying to raise 5,000 dollars to cover his costs. With 13 days left, he’s only raised $130 dollars so far.

Jon’s perspective is important. The lens of a son searching for his homeless father is not one traditional media is interested in telling. Please donate to his kickstarter campaign if you can.

by lizard

As Israel bombs schools and hospitals, pushing the death toll over 1,000, a critical piece of information was disclosed regarding the 3 Israeli teens—Hamas was NOT responsible:

The Israeli Police Foreign Press Spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, appears to have falsified the Israeli government’s claim that Hamas was responsible for the killing of three Israeli settler teens in June, by saying responsibility lies with a lone cell that operated without the complicity of Hamas’ leadership.

The kidnapping and subsequent killing of three Israeli settler teens last month is considered to be a flashpoint for the escalated violence in Gaza — that as of day 19 of the conflict has left 926 Palestinians, mostly civilians, dead.

At the time Israeli authorities placed the blame squarely on Hamas, with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu saying “They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by animals in human form. Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay.”

Netanyahu knew this within days of the abduction, but instead of being forthright, he put a gag order on reporters and exploited the situation to maximize incitement toward war. I wonder if this had anything to do with Netanyahu’s deceitful path to war:

After seven years of a bitter and at times lethalrivalry between the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, a historic Palestinian unity government has been sworn in , ending years of division.

The signing ceremony, which seems likely to complicate relations with the Palestinian Authority’s international aid donors in Europe and the US and increase tensions with Israel, was broadcast live in Gaza and the West Bank.

Despite the US secretary of state, John Kerry, telephoning the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to express “concern about Hamas’s role in any such government” ahead of the ceremony, the US said on Monday night that it would work with the new government but that it would be “watching closely to ensure that it upholds principles that President Abbas reiterated today”, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Israel, which suspended peace negotiations in April when a surprise reconciliation deal was signed opening the way to the appointment of the new government, reacted angrily to the deal. The prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, chairing a security cabinet following the signing, told ministers: “Today, Abu Mazen [as President Mahmoud Abbas is known] said yes to terrorism and no to peace.”

Israel must be stopped. Boycott, divest, sanction.

by lizard

Two stories related to guns caught my attention today. First there’s the 80 year old man who shot a woman in the back after her and an accomplice tried burglarizing his home:

Police said Thursday they’re deciding whether to arrest an 80-year-old man who shot a fleeing, unarmed burglar despite her telling him she was pregnant, but they have arrested the woman’s accomplice on suspicion of murder for taking part in a crime that led to her death.

The homeowner, Tom Greer, was cooperating with investigators, Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell said at a news conference. But the chief wouldn’t say whether charges will be recommended when they turn over their case to prosecutors Friday.

He said Andrea Miller, 28, was not visibly pregnant but an autopsy would provide the answer.

Greer told KNBC-TV he shot Miller twice in the back as she ran away.

“She says, ‘Don’t shoot me, I’m pregnant – I’m going to have a baby,’ and I shot her anyway,” Greer said in the interview Wednesday.

The other story is sure to make the guns everywhere crowd ecstatic because it involves a mentally ill man who had his gun rampage cut short by a psychiatrist who had a concealed gun permit and used his weapon to stop the man before he could kill more people:

The patient who opened fire on a caseworker and psychiatrist at a unit of Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital intended to kill the doctor and possibly others – and might have succeeded if the psychiatrist had not pulled his own gun, authorities said Friday.

Richard Plotts was carrying a loaded revolver and 39 bullets when he arrived for his appointment Thursday afternoon, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan said. Plotts got off enough shots to kill caseworker Theresa Hunt and wound psychiatrist Lee Silverman before the doctor drew his own weapon and shot Plotts three times.

“If Dr. Silverman did not have the firearm and did not utilize the firearm, he’d be dead today,” Whelan said. “And other people would be dead.”

Discuss.

By JC

And for today’s edition of “How the Propaganda Rolls”, we bring you stories from the Department of Defense and the Department of State, a snippet from the Ukrainian News Agency, and a link to Congress. It seems that our reliance on information from sources outside the fishbowl here at 4&20 have kicked up a hornet’s nest, so we’ll keep it mainstream today. Well, when one reads between the lines, it even becomes easy to see how the puppet masters work their magic through normal channels.

First off, we have Army General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, and quoted at the U.S. Defense Department’s DoD News website:

Russia’s decision to fire artillery from within Russia onto Ukrainian military positions transforms the security environment throughout Eastern Europe, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday.

“You’ve got a Russian government that has made the conscious decision to use its military force inside of another sovereign nation to achieve its objectives — first time, I think, probably, since 1939 or so that that’s been the case,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said at the Aspen Security Forum.

One just needs to read all the headlines generated by the U.S. government’s public statements, and they’d come to the conclusion that Russia decided to just dispense with letting it’s soldiers in Ukraine fight the battle. They might as well just do it in plain sight themselves. Propaganda accomplished.

But one just needs to jump over to John Kerry’s U.S. State Department’s website, and look at yesterday’s daily briefing — which was held while all of the propaganda was being issued, and the MSM duly reporting it, and the American public slopping it up. Here’s the State Department’s spokesperson starting off with an accusation: “They’re firing artillery from within Russia” and ending up — as the result of some tough questioning — admitting that they “don’t have definitive information about how those Ukrainian jets were brought down.”  Continue Reading »

by lizard

If readers of this blog want to check out Intelligent Discontent, or Montana Cowgirl, or the Flathead Memo, they can simply click the link on the blog roll. But if you want to do the same from any of the three mentioned sites, you can’t because links to this blog have been purposely removed by the respective site moderators.

James Conner at the Flathead Memo was the latest, and he offers his reasoning with this post:

Well, I’ve had it with 4and20blackbirds. It used to be Missoula’s best blog, and one of Montana’s best. But the people who made it the best are no longer blogging on a regular basis — maybe not even blogging on an irregular basis — and the prime replacement, William Skink, who writes under the nom de plume Lizard, while prolific, and passionate about his beliefs, doesn’t begin to fill their shoes.

For me, the last straw is the set of posts and comments on the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over the separatist held Ukrainian areas that abut Russia. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Boeing 777 was brought down by a surface-to-air missile, very little to no reasonable doubt that the launch button was pushed by the separatists, possible with Russian help, and every reason to believe that the shootdown was an accident (but still a war crime).

Lizard and JC disagree, which is their right — and a right that I’ll defend. But their arguments verge on hysteria. They don’t trust the mainstream media, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, or the Guardian. They seem to see a conspiracy behind every sunflower. They hate the United States and its government with a black bile that corrodes their judgment.

Black bile? Sounds like a medical condition. I wonder if there is some kind of treatment available to allow my hatred of America and distrust of mainstream media to transform into the noble bloom of patriotism I am currently deprived of. Something like this:

Here is how James Conner ends his piece justifying his expulsion:

4and20blackbirds has become an alternate reality blog, a realm of conspiracy theories and rants by angry leftists driven by hatred of their nation and soured on humanity. Once an oasis of fact and reason, it’s now a well poisoned by fury and anti-Americanism. I can no longer in good conscience keep it on Flathead Memo’s blogroll.

I’m wondering, should I be listening for the sound of a drone overhead? James Conner is essentially calling JC and myself traitors, and we know what the Obama regime does to traitors. If they are whistleblower traitors, it’s prison. If they are American-born Muslim clerics preaching anti-Americanism, then it’s a drone strike. And if you’re a teenage child of an American-born Muslim cleric preaching anti-Americanism, that’s also punishable by death without due process.

It’s really unfortunate that otherwise smart, perceptive people can’t accept the reality of what is happening in this country. The slide toward fascism is paved by “good” Americans who label our sociopath leaders as patriots and critics like myself as America-hating traitors.

So take us off your blog roll, James. Hopefully that protects your conscience from the poisonous black bile we spew.

by lizard

The political firestorm over John Walsh’s plagiarism has focused primarily on how it will impact his campaign. No surprise there. The Walsh/Daines race is one of a handful of closely watched political contests that will impact the balance of power in the Senate.

After watching the comments roll in on today’s earlier post (somewhat hastily put up) one particular comment from feralcatoffreedom stood out:

OK, so this guy has blundered his way through his career with help from friends with varying excuses for the mistakes. So far that’s just a normal politician. We rarely get the cream of the crop choosing politics as a career. We just don’t. We have to get over the idea that the best and brightest choose to serve. But what I find more troubling about this story is what he plagiarized. Did you read that essay? The “scholars” are as obtuse and stultifying cliched as any of our foreign policy “experts”.
This is what he copied??

““Democracy promoters need to engage as much as possible in a dialogue with a wide cross section of influential elites: mainstream academics, journalists, moderate Islamists, and members of the professional associations who play a political role in some Arab countries, rather than only the narrow world of westernized democracy and human rights advocates.”

Huh? and Duh! This is what is really troublesome. Four “scholars” made up this drivel. This is why we are blundering our way in the Middle East and Ukraine and why ordinary travelers are not safe in airplanes anymore. These are crazy times!

I finally got a little time today to start looking at the actual hodge-podge of lifted language John Walsh used to advance his career seven years ago, and while I haven’t yet read the entirety of the 14 page paper, just the first paragraph was enough for me (you can read the paper yourself here):

When George W. Bush took office in January 2001, few expected that promoting democracy around the world would become a major issue in his presidency. During 2001, the Bush administration did not even address the issue of promoting civil societies, rule of law, free elections and open political processes as major issues of their agenda. During the 2000 presidential campaign Bush and his advisors made it clear that they favored great-power realism over idealistic notions such as nation building or democracy building. Four years later President Bush used his second inaugural speech to define an expansive new mission for American foreign policy based on promoting freedom around the world, it was clear that the president’s interest in democracy was more than a passing fancy.

If you’re thinking it sorta sounds like John Walsh is pimping the Bush Doctrine four years after the disastrous occupation of Iraq, you’d be right. And that timing is important, because Walsh is pining for Iraq to be the shining beacon of democracy for the Middle East right when an act of democracy set in motion the Israeli atrocities happening now. Here’s another excerpt from the junk Walsh passed off as an “academic” paper for the War College (“This project” refers to the occupation of Iraq):

This project will provide a valid argument that the United States must continue to pursue democracy in the Middle East as a key component of the National Security Strategy of the United States of America beyond January 20, 2009 when President Bush leaves office. Democracy is not an unalloyed good and the United States should not blindly attempt to spread democracy to the exclusion of all other goals, but the belief is that U.S. and global interests would be advanced if the world contained more democracies. If the Bush doctrine is successful in laying the foundation for democracy in the region and elsewhere around the world, the spread of democracy in the Middle East will have to remain American policy beyond January 20, 2009. Patience is a must and if we have any hope of successfully promoting freedom as the alternative to tyranny and despair we must be patient.

One problem with this Middle East democracy thing: Hamas.

Elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the legislature of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) were held on 25 January 2006. The result was a victory for Hamas, who won with 74 seats of the 132 seats, whilst the ruling Fatah won just 45. In terms of votes received, Hamas took 44.45% of the vote, whilst Fatah received 41.43%[1] and of the Electoral Districts, Hamas party candidates received 41.73% and Fatah party candidates received 36.96%.

Since the election of Hamas, Israel has collectively punished the captive Palestinian population. I guess Democracy doesn’t work when these terrorists choose the wrong political faction. Same thing happened in Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood.

I don’t see how any self-respecting Montana Democrat can read the drivel Walsh cobbled together and still support the man for higher office.

John Walsh should resign.

by lizard

John Walsh’s campaign to retain the senate seat gifted to him by Governor Bullock has hit a major snag, and that snag is plagiarism:

Senator John Walsh of Montana took most of a 2007 final paper required for his master’s degree from the United States Army War College from other sources without proper attribution. Mr. Walsh copies an entire page nearly word-for-word from a Harvard paper, and each of his six conclusions is copied from a document from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace without attribution.

Rachel Maddow did a piece on this, associating Walsh’s new political problem with Biden’s plagiarism, which derailed his presidential bid, and Rand Paul’s serial plagiarist tendencies.

There is no question as to the plagiarism. Walsh is guilty. The question is, will Montana voters buy the reasoning that Walsh is not an academic, the plagiarism was unintentional and…PTSD:

Walsh, 53, an Iraq War veteran and former adjutant general of the Montana National Guard, told the Missoulian State Bureau Wednesday that he’d made an “unintentional mistake” on the paper and that “a few mistakes in a term paper should (not) define my career.”

“My record is defined by my leadership in the National Guard,” he said. “I excelled on the battlefield. I’m not necessarily an academic. The citations were not done correctly, and I take full responsibility for the paper that I wrote.”

Walsh also said that he “was going through a lot of things” when he attended the War College, such as trying to “reintegrate” himself back into his family, country and job after serving in Iraq. Walsh served 11 months in Iraq, returning in late 2005.

He told The Associated Press he was on medication and being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder when he wrote the paper almost two years after returning from Iraq. He said he is still taking antidepressant medication.

That last part should raise some eyebrows. Is Walsh clinically depressed? What kind of antidepressant medication is he still taking? Do voters have a right to know the mental health status of a candidate?

Walsh’s reasoning for committing this academic offense may have just created new problems for his campaign. Some bloggers are going to be very busy with damage control on this one.

by lizard

Fact: crime rates have been going down for decades. There are plenty of theories why, but nothing conclusive. If I had to go with one, though, it would be the decline of lead exposure. They say correlation is not causation, but there this a ton of data backing up this theory. From the first link:

Rick Nevin, a Virginia economist who consults with the National Center for Healthy Housing (among other studious pursuits) maintains that the decline in crime can be traced to the U.S. ban on lead in gasoline and house paints. In a series of graphs he demonstrates how the drop in the crime rate coincides perfectly with the coming-of-age of the first generation protected from lead exposure. The theory has not been widely researched because how do you study a group that has not been exposed to something? But, lead has long been associated with violent behavior and Nevin insists his research proves a link between the lead ban and a drop in crime not only here in the U.S. but in nine other countries as well.

What makes the decline in crime rates hard to believe is the result, I would argue, of a different kind of exposure: media. Or, to be more specific, the lead-with-what-bleeds 24 hour news cycle.

Any mass-casualty shooting, for example, gets hyper-amplified. As does any horrific incident of violence. The result is our threat perception becomes skewed. I also can’t overstate the vast changes in the media landscape during my lifetime. I was born in 1978. CNN launched two years later. 34 years after that, I can carry instantaneous access to breaking global events in the palm of my hand.

Those of us who choose to expose ourselves to the unhealthy media landscape can try to counter the impact, but it’s difficult. Add an actual personal threat, and it’s nearly impossible.

When I was a kid growing up in the suburbs outside of Seattle, my brother and I had free range of the woods behind our house. My mom has since told me she can’t believe she just let us bike around the neighborhood like there weren’t child rapists hiding behind every tree.

Even here, in idyllic Missoula, I’m acutely aware of potential threats. We have added a puppy to our family, and my wife and I are happy at the thought of her becoming a big, protective girl who will be a badass bitch if given the opportunity to protect the young members of her pack.

I also have that handgun I wrote about buying a few months ago, but it’s mostly kept in the safe to keep the kids safe from the new threat I brought into the home.

What exacerbates my skewed sense of danger is watching the horrors unfolding in other parts of the world. The thought of US exported chaos erupting domestically is something I probably spend too much time worrying about. That said, based on the outcomes of other imperial projects of world domination, I don’t think there’s a chance in hell America is truly exceptional in its ability to be the one lasting empire not susceptible to collapse.

And how to empires collapse? According to Zerohedge, it’s kinda like trickle down corruption:

Before an empire collapses, it first erodes from within. The collapse may appear sudden, but the processes of internal rot hollowed out the resilience, resolve, purpose and vitality of the empire long before its final implosion.

What are these processes of internal rot? Here are a few of the most pervasive and destructive forces of internal corrosion:

1. Each institution within the system loses sight of its original purpose of serving the populace and becomes self-serving. This erosion of common purpose serving the common good is so gradual that participants forget there was a time when the focus wasn’t on gaming the system to avoid work and accountability but serving the common good.

2. The corrupt Status Quo corrupts every individual who works within the system.Once an institution loses its original purpose and becomes self-serving, everyone within either seeks to maximize their own personal share of the swag and minimize their accountability, or they are forced out as a potentially dangerous uncorrupted insider.

The justification is always the same: everybody else is getting away with it, why shouldn’t I? Empires decline one corruptible individual at a time.

3. Self-serving institutions select sociopathic leaders whose skills are not competency or leadership but conning others into believing the institution is functioning optimally when in reality it is faltering/failing.

The late Roman Empire offers a fine example: entire Army legions in the hinterlands were listed as full-strength on the official rolls in Rome and payroll was issued accordingly, but the legions only existed on paper: corrupt officials pocketed the payroll for phantom legions.

Self-serving institutions reward con-artists in leadership roles because only con-artists can mask the internal rot with happy-story PR and get away with it.

4. The institutional memory rewards conserving the existing Status Quo and punishes innovation. Innovation necessarily entails risk, and those busy feathering their own nests (i.e. accepting money for phantom work, phantom legions, etc.) have no desire to place their share of the swag at risk just to improve sagging output and accountability.

So reforms and innovations that might salvage the institution are shelved or buried.

5. As the sunk costs of the subsystems increase, the institutional resistance to new technologies and processes increases accordingly. Those manufacturing steam locomotives in the early 20th century had an enormous amount of capital and institutional knowledge sunk in their factories. Tossing all of that out to invest in building diesel-electric locomotives that were much more efficient than the old-tech steam locomotives made little sense to those looking at sunk costs.
As a result, the steam locomotive manufacturers clung to the old ways and went out of business. The sunk costs of empire are enormous, as is the internal resistance to change.

6. Institutional memory and knowledge support “doing more of what worked in the past” even when it is clearly failing. I refer to this institutional risk-avoidance and lack of imagination as doing more of what has failed spectacularly.

Inept leadership keeps doing more of what once worked, even when it is clearly failing, in effect ignoring real-world feedback in favor of magical-thinking. The Federal Reserve is an excellent example.

7. These dynamics of eroding accountability, effectiveness and purpose lead to systemic diminishing returns. Each failing institution now needs more money to sustain its operations, as inefficiencies, corruption and incompetence reduce output while dramatically raising costs (phantom legions still get paid).

8. Incompetence is rewarded and competence punished. The classic example of this was “Good job, Brownie:” cronies and con-artists are elevated to leadership roles to reward loyalty and the ability to mask the rot with good PR. Serving the common good is set aside as sychophancy (obedient flattery) to incompetent leaders is rewarded and real competence is punished as a threat to the self-serving leadership.

There are more factors cited if you follow the link, but I think you get the point.

And what is the point?

Maybe the point is a cautionary tale. Paying attention to world events by consuming media produces a kind of hyperawareness of threat that doesn’t necessarily correlate with the objective data regarding crime rates.

Or, to state it in even simpler terms, ignorance is bliss.

By JC

“[U.S. intelligence] officials made clear they were relying in part on social media postings and videos.”

How comforting. Foreign policy developed via Twitter, FaceBook and YouTube postings! 

Well, who didn’t see the inevitable backpedalling by everybody who was pushing direct Russian involvement in the downing of MH 17? I guess that would be everybody who jumped on the Obama/Kerry/MSM propaganda bandwagon.

A few snippets from today’s AP story (yes, I’ll quote the AP so as not to cause many of you to run away in disgust at the mention of RT).

“Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that Russia was responsible for “creating the conditions” that led to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, but they offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement.”

Hmmm… and all of the $5b that Vicki Nuland said we invested in Ukraine didn’t have anything to do with it? Or with the millions that NED paid to “social clubs and political organizations” to help the “revolution” didn’t? How about the VP’s son joining the board of a Ukrainian oil & gas company along with John Kerry’s bundler (whose financial partners include the ex-deputy CIA director) and the ex-Polish president that hid our secret rendition (torture) prisons from the world? Any of that help with “creating the conditions” that could result in a civilian air catastrophe?

“…the U.S. had no direct evidence that the missile used to shoot down the passenger jet came from Russia.”

Well, I suppose that the Sun will print a retraction to it’s “Putin’s Missile” edition (not).

“… [U.S. intelligence] officials said they did not know who fired the missile.” 

Sure didn’t stop all the innuendo and accusations. Nor will this little acknowledgement take back all the propaganda that was generated after the catastrophe pointing to Russians and federalists.

“In terms of who fired the missile, ‘we don’t know a name, we don’t know a rank and we’re not even 100 percent sure of a nationality,” one official said, adding at another point, “There is not going to be a Perry Mason moment here.'”

A Perry Mason moment? Who are these guys trying to kid? Just say that you don’t know jack shit, and be done with it. Ya gotta be over 50 to even get the reference to Perry Mason. How about we have a special prosecutor moment: to look into our violations of international law with our meddlings in the world?

“The officials made clear they were relying in part on social media postings and videos made public in recent days by the Ukrainian government, even though they have not been able to authenticate all of it. For example, they cited a video of a missile launcher said to have been crossing the Russian border after the launch, appearing to be missing a missile.

But later, under questioning, the officials acknowledged they had not yet verified that the video was exactly what it purported to be.”

Yep, pure propaganda at work. And all of the MSM in the west bought it: hook, line and sinker. I would say that all of the propaganda was exactly what it was intended to be: the demonization of Russia and Putin.

When our public policy and statements on international disasters rely upon unverified social media and YouTube clips to respond with clumsy propaganda, who knows when the next shoe drops, what will happen. Let’s hope that the next time opportunity presents itself that our President doesn’t fumble “the football!”

Idiots.

Sea Blue Sea

by lizard

The best band in Missoula, IMHO, is the Whizpops. After listening to their album, Sea Blue Sea, for approximately the 748th time, I’m convinced kids in Missoula are some of the luckiest kids around. The album is a brilliant saunter through the sea with dolphins, sea turtles and manatees. I just got my kids headphones for a long car trip we’re getting ready to take, and earlier this evening my three year old sat in a chair and listened to the whole album, singing along.

For me, the Whizpops are a much needed contrast to the destructive forces driving the songs I’m working on. The oceanic theme of Sea Blue Sea sparks my kids’ imagination, offering them a positive vision of the element that sustains life on this planet: water. The lyrical ingenuity and diversity of music styles incorporated make it a kids album parents won’t hate with a fiery passion.

But as I listen to this wonderful music, I can’t help thinking about what humans are doing to this planet. For example, Fukushima.

I try to avoid reading about Fukushima. It’s far enough away that I’m still trying to pretend I’m not directly affected. But there is no avoiding smoke in the Missoula valley. Last week’s choke-fest comes courtesy of Oregon and Washington burning, like this funnel of fire that destroyed around 100 homes.

Smoke isn’t good business. It annoys tourists. I’m saying this because I hope at some point the Missoulian editorial board will realize how threatening their shilling for the Keystone pipeline is. For a quick reminder, here is last year’s op-ed urging pipeline approval. Here is one example of the densely deceitful reasoning put forth by the business-oriented paper of record for Missoula:

However, it’s a good bet that the majority of Montanans are in favor of the project. Certainly Montana’s entire congressional delegation is on board. They understand that the pipeline project will create thousands of new, good-paying jobs and prefer that the U.S. get its oil from its close neighbor and ally, Canada. They note that TransCanada has agreed to a strict set of conditions designed to avoid any environmental damage. Besides, the State Department has concluded that the project carries no significant risk of environmental harm – or of an increased rate of greenhouse gas emissions, given that development of Canada’s tar sands is expected to happen with or without the new pipeline.

In his weekly column, George Ochenski goes after Democrats for their complicity in the war against the environment:

For many years now the Democrats have been largely identified with protection of the environment, a core ideology that not only produces large numbers of voters and campaign contributions, but is also essential to the continuation of life on earth. Today’s Democrats, however, are now almost indistinguishable from Republicans in their lust for fossil fuels, their new-found love of deforestation, and a twisted approach to endangered species restoration.

Let’s start with the Obama administration, which has just announced that it will open the Eastern Seaboard to offshore oil exploration after decades of such activities being banned under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

It’s no great secret that the U.S. is currently producing enormous amounts of oil and gas thanks to nationwide fracking. Led by the Bakken boom, we are producing so much petroleum that the long-standing ban on crude oil exports is being challenged, while massive LNG (liquid natural gas) terminals are built to export natural gas worldwide. All this exploration, pollution and extraction is for corporate profit, not energy independence.

We have no idea what the long-term effects of the wide-spread fracking operations will have on surface and groundwater pollution to earthquake frequency and distribution. We’re already seeing some of the impacts, but until the environmental consequences of stuffing huge amounts of toxic chemicals under high pressure into our underlying geologic strata are “proven beyond a doubt” our politicians give extractive industries the benefit of the doubt.

The depressing reality is this: there is no political will to face the harsh reality of what we are doing to this planet. Politicians can posture and pundits can pander and newspapers can shill all they want. None of that will matter when the full scope of exceeding the earth’s carrying capacity is finally realized.

And by then it will be too late.

by lizard

IDF soldiers have been unleashed on Gaza, and they are going on a murderous rampage, killing over sixty Palestinians in one neighborhood:

Israeli forces heavily shelled the eastern Gaza City neighborhood of Shuja’iyeh last night killing 63 Palestinians, including at least 17 children, and causing thousands to seek shelter in United Nations facilities. This latest attack brings the total number of Palestinians killed since Operation Protective Edge began on July 8, 2014 to more than 350. Over 63,173 are now living in UNRWA shelters across Gaza, nearly 10,000 more than the number of Palestinians made refugees after Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09.

That link is to Mondoweiss, a must read blog for following Israeli atrocities and US political servitude, which was on full display as John Kerry did the Sunday propaganda news shows. There was one slight problem: a hot mic caught a candid expression of criticism from Kerry:

Today, John Kerry made the rounds of the Sunday morning news shows following the Israeli massacre in the eastern Gaza City neighborhood of Shuja’iyeh which killed 63 Palestinians. Although Kerry defended Israel’s actions on air, he was caught with a hot mic off air telling an aide, ‘It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation.” Fox host Chris Wallace asks Kerry about the apparent criticism of the Israeli onslaught, but Kerry sticks to the talking points. The difference between what Kerry says on air and off is mind numbing.

During the off air moment Kerry also says he should leave for the region right away and that he thinks “it’s crazy to be sitting around.”

I’m not sure why Kerry thinks he should go to the Middle East. Does he want to get a closer look at the flechette rounds Israel is using?

The Israeli military is using flechette shells, which spray out thousands of tiny and potentially lethal metal darts, in its military operation in Gaza.

Six flechette shells were fired towards the village of Khuzaa, east of Khan Younis, on 17 July, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. Nahla Khalil Najjar, 37, suffered injuries to her chest, it said. PCHR provided a picture of flechettes taken by a fieldworker last week.

Or does Kerry want to get a closer look at those tunnels that this whole ground invasion is supposedly targeting? I guess one of those tunnels must have been under Othman Hussein’s Gaza home:

The ongoing Israeli onslaught against Palestinians in Gaza has already hit its cultural life with the demolition of the home of artist Raed Issa by an air strike on Tuesday.

This has been followed by the destruction of the house of poet Othman Hussein and his family in Rafah in southern Gaza. According to family friends in the UK who spoke to The Electronic Intifada, the house, located in Shuka, an agricultural town east of Rafah, was hit by tank shells on Thursday, 17 July. The home was completely destroyed, although Hussein and his relations were able to escape harm.

And I’m sure there were probably tunnels under the el-Wafa hospital:

The Israeli army targeted and destroyed the Gaza strip’s only rehabilitation hospital even though Israeli authorities said they did not believe weapons were inside of the facility. El-Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital, which treats long-term injuries and physical disabilities, was heavily shelled Thursday evening causing an emergency evacuation of all staff and patients. El-Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital treats long-term injuries and physical disabilities. All of the patients have some degree of paralysis, require around the clock care and many are on oxygen support and feeding tubes.

Clearly this is just another case of Hamas using paralyzed hospital patients as human shields. Also, Israel is warning journalists as well about how Hamas is putting their lives at mortal risk. Here is the actual announcement featuring this excerpt:

As part of Hamas’ strategy of hiding behind the civilian population it has frequently exploited journalists as human shields, deliberately putting them at risk of injury or death.

Israel is not in any way responsible for injury or damage that may occur as a result of field reporting.

Man, that Hamas is wicked. Did you know they even use telegenically dead Palestinians to further their terrorist cause?

In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Netanyahu accused Hamas of a cynical disregard for human life.

“These people are the worst terrorists — genocidal terrorists,” he said. “They call for the destruction of Israel and they call for the killing of every Jew, wherever they can find them.”

“They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can,” the prime minister continued. “They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want the more dead, the better.”

Hamas wants more dead? I’m sure Israel will oblige. After all, this incremental genocide has multiple purposes, and total expulsion from Gaza appears to be one of them:

Israel must attack Gaza even more mercilessly, expel the population and resettle the territory with Jews, the deputy speaker of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, has said.

Moshe Feiglin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party, makes the call in an article for the Israeli news website Arutz Sheva.

Feiglin demands that Israel launch attacks “throughout Gaza with the IDF’s [Israeli army’s] maximum force (and not a tiny fraction of it) with all the conventional means at its disposal.”

Like John Kerry said: “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation“.

Blogs and Print Media

by lizard

I noticed a little change in this year’s Best Of contest put out by the Missoula Independent. The best blog category has been replaced with a more general best website category removed, leaving the best website category, which was won this year by Missoula Events.

Though the prominence of blogging has diminished over the years, I wrote back in February that blogging is far from being dead. In that post I mentioned how content I have written has been used by newspapers, specifically the Great Falls Tribune.

For traditional media, blog content can be used at no cost to provide a little filler, which I would think is helpful as newsrooms continue to downsize. But there is also friction. Newspapers are no longer the gatekeepers of content and must compete for clicks with us pesky bloggers who don’t have to labor under editors trying to resuscitate their struggling business model.

In the realm of political blogging, liberal bloggers like to think of themselves as more adept than their conservative counterparts, as evidenced by this post from perennial conservative scold, Don Pogreba.

Instead of knee-jerk mockery, I’m hopeful that younger conservatives can push back on the ignorant extremism that has seeped in beneath the banner of the Tea Party, so I look forward to seeing what kind of content comes out of Copper Commando and Montana Floodlight.

But let’s not kid ourselves, bloggers are not that influential. Newspapers, though struggling, are still the dominant form of information dispersal for your average Joe (or Jane) which is why it’s so frustrating to read the crappy reporting on issues like homelessness in our local fish-wrap, the Missoulian.

All that said, it’s still a great privilege, for me, to be able to put up posts that people can read and comment on.

So thank you, readers of 4&20 Blackbirds, for remaining interested in what this cantankerous blogger has to say.

Stay tuned…

*this post was edited for accuracy based on a comment in the comment thread.

By JC

“There Will Likely be Misinformation” – Barack Obama

How prescient and self aware!

BO: We don’t have time for propaganda… Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine.

Evidence? What evidence?

RT: However, it is unclear who fired the missile or where it was fired from. US intelligence officials believe the attack from an area controlled by the pro-Russian separatists, according to the president…

A Ukrainian Buk anti-aircraft missile battery was operational in the region, the Russian Defense Ministry said, contradicting Kiev’s statements. The battery was deployed at a site from which it could have fired a missile at the airliner, the ministry said in a statement. It said radiation from the battery’s radar was detected by the Russian military.

Wouldn’t be the first time the Ukranian military took down a civilian airliner:

BO: We also know that this is not the first time a plane has been shot down in eastern Ukraine.

The Telegraph: Ukraine admits it shot down Russian airliner [in 2001]

Ukraine finally admitted yesterday that its military shot down a Russian airliner that crashed into the Black Sea last week, killing all 78 passengers and crew. Evhen Marchuk, the chairman of Ukraine’s security council, conceded that the plane had probably been brought down by “an accidental hit from an S-200 rocket fired during exercises”.

And who is supporting whom? Pot calling the kettle black??? Continue Reading »

by lizard

Flight MH 17 appears to have been shot out of the sky over Eastern Ukraine today, killing 295 people. The speculation is rampant. If you’re into early speculation on what happened, I suggest sifting through this comment thread at Moon of Alabama. Another post worth considering is this one from Zerohedge, asking why it appears the pilot changed course from the 10 previous MH 17 flights.

Needless to say, this crash will dominate the 24 news cycle. What might not get as much attention is Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza:

After days of waiting and deliberation, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday night directed the IDF to send ground troops into Gaza to strike the terror tunnels into Israel.

Signaling that the initial phase of the ground attack would be limited, a statement put out by the Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon directed the IDF to prepare to expand the ground operation.

The statement said the security cabinet approved the operation after Israel agreed to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal on Tuesday, which Hamas rejected.

That cease-fire discussed between Israel and Egypt (and not Hamas, who learned about it from the media) now appears to have been a flimsy ruse to make it look like Israel made an effort before doing what they had planned on doing all along.

Chile, in response to Israel’s bombing of mostly civilians, has suspended trade and is considering doing more:

Chile has suspended Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations with Israel and is considering the withdrawal of its ambassador to Tel Aviv in protest against the Israeli bombing campaign on Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.

The Chilean-Palestinian parliamentary group told HispanTV that the Chilean government will also seek Israel’s condemnation by the UN Security Council (UNSC) after meeting with the Chilean Foreign Heraldo Munoz.

Chilean deputies and senators of Palestinian origin went to the Foreign Ministry on Monday to demand a stronger position against Israel regarding its actions in the Gaza Strip.

With the number of victims of Israeli attacks passing the 200 mark, parliamentarians of all backgrounds have demanded urgent action by the Chilean government.

Home to a large Palestinian community, the aggression on Gaza has not gone unnoticed in Chile.

So, as the spin cycle goes into extreme over-drive over flight MH 17, I will continue compiling links and writing posts about Israel’s war crimes.

by lizard

The killing in Gaza continues. The latest atrocity committed by Israel is an airstrike that killed 4 kids playing soccer on the beach. They were reportedly misidentified as fleeing Hamas fighters.

But Israelis are an optimistic people who can see the positive in this tragedy, specifically how these kids will not breed since, you know, they are dead.

Dead Palestinian children do present a PR problem for the apartheid state of Israel. But don’t worry, they have a plan for that—Facebook warriors:

As the death toll from Israel’s savage bombardment of Gaza continues to climb, Israel has once again turned to students to sell the slaughter online.

“Although they haven’t been called up to the army yet, they’ve decided to enlist in a civilian mission that is no less important – Israeli propaganda [hasbara],” Ynet’s Hebrew edition reported about a massive initiative organized by the Israeli student union branch at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC Herzliya), a prestigious private university.

“Hasbara,” literally “explaining,” is the term used in Israel for government propaganda aimed at overseas audiences.

“The goal is to deliver a very clear message to people abroad – Israel has the right to defend itself,” Lidor Bar David told Ynet.

Bar David, a student, and one of the organizers of the “war room,” adds, “We want people abroad who don’t know our reality to understand exactly what is going on here.”

Speaking of propaganda, the alleged ceasefire proposal Hamas rejected was a clear scam that Hamas officials only found out about through media reports:

This morning there was some talk of a cease-fire allegedly after an agreement was negotiatated by the Egyptian dictator Sisi. Israel’s security cabinet immediately accepted it.

But this cease-fire agreement was actually written by the war-criminal and Zionist Tony Blair. No Palestinian had even seen it or was involved in its creation. They learned of the “agreement” through the media. It included nothing but a stop of fighting and some vague promise of further talks. For what then did so many people die?

A more sensible deal, offered as a counter-proposal from Hamas, has the following conditions:

Withdrawal of Israeli tanks from the Gaza border.

Freeing all the prisoners that were arrested after the killing of the three youths.

Lifting the siege and opening the border crossings to commerce and people.

Establishing an international seaport and airport which would be under U.N. supervision.

Increasing the permitted fishing zone to 10 kilometers.

Internationalizing the Rafah Crossing and placing it under the supervision of the U.N. and some Arab nations.

International forces on the borders.

Easing conditions for permits to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Prohibition on Israeli interference in the reconciliation agreement.

Reestablishing an industrial zone and improvements in further economic development in the Gaza Strip.

Does Israel want 10 years of peace, or would they prefer to create a Palestinian state at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea?

Or, more likely, does Israel have designs on the 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas valued at 4 billion dollars? From the link:

Since the discovery of oil and gas in the Occupied Territories, resource competition has increasingly been at the heart of the conflict, motivated largely by Israel’s increasing domestic energy woes.

Mark Turner, founder of the Research Journalism Initiative, reported that the siege of Gaza and ensuing military pressure was designed to “eliminate” Hamas as “a viable political entity in Gaza” to generate a “political climate” conducive to a gas deal. This involved rehabilitating the defeated Fatah as the dominant political player in the West Bank, and “leveraging political tensions between the two parties, arming forces loyal to Abbas and the selective resumption of financial aid.”

Ya’alon’s comments in 2007 illustrate that the Israeli cabinet is not just concerned about Hamas – but concerned that if Palestinians develop their own gas resources, the resulting economic transformation could in turn fundamentally increase Palestinian clout.

Regardless of intention, we are seeing the outcome of Israel’s racist incitement and cruel occupation. How long will this latest episode of Israel’s incremental genocide go on?

by lizard

Is America’s influence on the world stage evaporating? That is what the author of this article is asserting:

The most palpable sign of U.S. weakness is its policy toward Russia. Obama’s State Department promised “painful” sanctions for Russia’s policy on Ukraine, but the U.S. hasn’t even managed to inflict a bruise. To really “hurt” Russia economically, the U.S. needs its European allies to obey, and they are turning their backs to Obama’s anti-Russia plans.

The New York Times reports:

“Not only were they [the G7 nations] unwilling to snub the Russian leader entirely, as Mr. Obama sought, they were also reluctant to go along with other efforts to isolate the Kremlin. Most notably, the French government repeated that it would go ahead with the $1.6 billion sale of powerful warships to Moscow along with plans to train 400 Russian sailors in France this month. And other European leaders were cautious about setting further red lines threatening additional sanctions against Russia.”

The Obama administration was especially vexed by France. After France didn’t back down from the arms deal with Russia, the U.S. government fined France’s biggest bank $10 billion, ostensibly for money laundering.

The Bush-like arrogance it takes for the U.S. to fine an overseas French bank has outraged the French government and public alike, and likely won’t make Obama more friends in Europe. But U.S. global domination of the global financial system — because of the U.S. dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency — is one of the last forms of U.S. foreign power, and it too is shrinking.

To emphasize that last point, a new bank for the BRICS has been established to counter the influence of the IMF and World Bank:

The BRICS group of emerging powers have launched a $100bn development bank to be based in the Chinese city of Shanghai, according to a joint declaration.

The group will set up the new bank, with the capital equally shared among the BRICS members – Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa.

The New Development Bank’s first president will be from India while the board’s chairman will be Brazilian, according to the declaration released at a summit in Fortaleza, Brazil.

It is no longer (if it ever truly was) a unipolar, US dominated world. But when will US leadership acknowledge this reality?

Acknowledging reality has never been a strength of this country, especially in this new century where a statement (probably from Karl Rove) like this can be made:

We’re an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality.

In this created reality seemingly forever insulated from objective reality, the Federal Reserve keeps puttering along, pretending low interest rates will get the economy going. From Zerohedge:

The Status Quo has only survived this crushing expansion of debt by dropping interest rates to historic lows. This is a chart of the yield on the 10-year Treasury bond, which reflects the extraordinary decline in interest rates over the past two decades.

The Federal Reserve has pegged rates at essentially 0% for years. That means the strategy of lowering interest rates to enable more debt has run out of oxygen: rates can’t drop any lower, and so they can either stay at current levels or rise.

There are graphs at the link bolstering this point.

So if “quantitative easing” of insolvent banks and 0% interest rates have not sparked the economic activity we were promised, does the Fed have other options? It doesn’t look like it.

Maybe if that debt-creation stemmed from domestic infrastructure investment we’d see better results. But that’s not happening. Instead America is going into debt in order to dominate the global resource wars, and in that effort, America is losing.

In this emerging, multipolar world US foreign policy can no longer rely on the threat/use of its military to intimidate and bully other nations into submission.

Are our leaders capable of shelving the hubris and acknowledging this new reality? The longer they don’t, the deeper they dig.

by lizard

As a new week begins, America’s closest ally in the Middle East continues its disproportionate assault on 1.5 million Palestinians, an assault a handful of US citizens can’t seem to escape:

Mohammed is one of several hundred Palestinians with dual American citizenship who remained in Gaza Sunday night, unable to leave as fighting there entered its seventh day. The Ministry of Health in Gaza said that more than 174 people have been killed in the last week, as many as one-third of them children. While regional and western officials, including those from the U.S., have pressed both sides to agree to a cease-fire, Israel’s top leadership and Hamas officials abroad have said that the recent round of fighting could continue for days, or weeks to come. “I’m so worried, mostly for my children,” said Mohammed, who has been working as a freelance photographer in Gaza for years, and who recently became a TED fellow. “This isn’t easy for anyone, to be stuck here.” Mohammed said she has been trying to leave Gaza for weeks. She entered Gaza through its Rafah border crossing with Egypt last month to visit family, bringing her two young daughters, 3 years old and 18 months old, with her. Once inside, she discovered that to leave required a complex system of bribing Egyptian officials to be put on a “VIP list,” which, if she was lucky, would get them out. “I wrote the U.S. Embassy and they told me they couldn’t help. They said they couldn’t interfere to get me out,” Mohammed said. It was only after organizers from TED contacted the embassy directly that a consular officer got in touch with her, she said.

It’s not surprising the US government is worthless when it comes to actually protecting its citizens from Israel’s tyrannical slaughtering of (mostly) civilians. Just look at the disgusting deference to Israel exhibited by a Democrat Congresswoman over the vicious assault experienced by one of her own Florida constituents:

Tarek Abu Khdeir, a 15-year-old Palestinian-American high school student from Tampa, was brutally beaten in a videotaped July 3 incident in occupied East Jerusalem by Israeli border police. After being thrown in prison, he is now held under house arrest without charges, unable to receive adequate medical care for the extensive injuries he sustained during the beating. (Video of the alleged beating at the bottom of this article) Abu Khdeir’s family has beseeched their congressional representative, Castor, to publicly call for his release and immediate return to the United States. Though her staff has met repeatedly with the family, she has said and done nothing of substance to assist them. “If Tarek [Abu Khdeir] was a Jewish American teen, everybody and their mother would be howling for his release,” Hassan Shibly, chief director of CAIR-Florida and the Abu Khdeir family’s legal representative told me. “What we’re seeing here is a clear double standard.” While sources close to Abu Khdeir’s family say Castor’s staff has treated the family with respect even as they rebuffed their demands, a distant relative who visited Castor’s field office in Tampa to plead for help said she was “yelled out, intimidated, and insulted” by a staffer.

While US officials are servile to the apartheid state of Israel as it commits war crimes, like targeting water/sewer systems and using banned DIME weapons, some US musicians show what it’s like to still have a conscious. In a short article about a Neil Young concert being canceled (because of Palestinian rockets) there is a nice quote from Eddie Vedder:

Meanwhile, Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder on Friday denounced Israel in an expletive-laden tirade during a concert in England. “I swear to f***ing god, there are people out there who are looking for a reason to kill,” Vedder said. “They’re looking for a reason to go across borders and take over land that doesn’t belong to them. “They should get the f*** out, and mind their own f***ing business. We don’t want to give them our money. We don’t want to give them our taxes to drop bombs on children.”

Brian Eno has also gone on record with pointed criticism regarding how Israeli atrocities are being depicted by western media:

In an 11 July letter in the Guardian, Eno, formerly of the band Roxy Music, writes that he had been an “active and vocal supporter of the BBC for the whole of my adult life.” The reason he said was because of its “famous impartiality.” “But now that reputation [for impartiality] is being eroded,” the musician writes. “It’s a drift I started to notice a few years ago, and which I think has become very obvious.” Eno explains:

The most recent incident concerns the killing of three Israeli teenagers in Hebron. This admittedly disgusting crime has received an entirely disproportionate treatment: listening to the BBC one would be left with the impression that killing children had never happened in [the West Bank] before. But it has. And it happens with monotonous regularity. Not, by and large, to Israeli children, but to Palestinians. And not only killing, but imprisonment and torture and day-to-day harassment and brutality. This goes on all the time – and I see little reaction to it from the international media. Unfortunately, that increasingly includes the BBC, which now, like many others, seems to regard Palestinian lives as less valuable, less newsworthy.

Here is another article about the obvious media distortion:

Since the beginning of the offensive, at least 174 Palestinians have been killed and over 1,090 injured, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. Thousands of homes have been destroyed. A handful of Israelis have been injured but none have died from a Hamas launched rocket. Yet despite the disproportionality of the brutality, the establishment media continues to distort the truth by painting Hamas as the sole aggressor. From FOX‘s ‘Gaza Rockets Aimed at Israel: What Would you Do with Just 15 Seconds?’ to liberal alt-news site VOX‘s ‘The Tragedy Never Ends, Palestinian Rockets Force Israeli Peace Conference to Evacuate’ to even Human Rights Watch, a human rights organization that is supposed to be unbiased in its criticism of atrocities, which leads with ‘Indiscriminate Palestinian Rocket Attacks’.

Over the weekend, Israel launched its first ground incursion. More are sure to follow. The media plays a critical role in shaping public opinion. For those in the states, the propaganda keeps Americans in the dark regarding the atrocities their taxes support. Readers of this blog won’t have the luxury of conditioned ignorance. As Israel continues imposing its murderous brutality on a captive population, I will continue compiling links and expounding on the consequences of US complicity in Israeli war crimes. Sadly, there will be more to come.

Singing About Holy War

by lizard

Readers of this blog may have noticed the poetry series I try to update weekly has been on hiatus for awhile. While there is no specific reason for the hiatus, a good portion of my creative impulse has been directed toward song-writing. I have over a dozen songs I’ve been working on in preparation for recording them, so until this little project runs its course, I’m not going to be putting up poetry posts.

For me, songs require tighter adherence to rhythm and rhyme. Taking topics I write about in less structured ways (blog posts and poems) and trying to create songs forces me to be as concise as possible, which I greatly enjoy.

The songs share a thematic concept, which the working title of the album (if I can call it that at this point) highlights: Rise of the Gnostics.

I have written about Gnosticism in previous posts, like this one from August, 2012, so if you’re interested in learning more about this obscure branch of ancient Christianity, check out the post.

I bring this up now because it appears we are on the precipice of a full-blown Holy War:

On the eve of a threatened ground invasion of Gaza, the commander of the Israeli army’s Givati Brigade has told his soldiers that they are engaged in a war to “wipe out” an “enemy who defames” God.

In a Hebrew language letter to his troops published by Israel’s NRG news website and laden with bibilical references, Colonel Ofer Winter writes, “History has chosen us to be the sharp edge of the bayonet of fighting the terrorist enemy ‘from Gaza’ which curses, defames and abuses the God of Israel’s battles.”

“We will act together forcefully and with resolve, with initiative and with deceptive tricks and aim for contact with the enemy. We will do everything to live up to the mission and wipe out the enemy and remove the threat from the Nation of Israel,” Winter’s letter adds.

In Hebrew, the phrase used for “Nation of Israel” refers specifically and only to Jews.

I have a song I wrote a few days ago that I will share below. I have an audio recording of me actually singing it, but I ran into some technical difficulties converting the file into a format I could put in the post, so for now it will be just the lyrics.

*

PROTECTED EDGE

cast your lead
into pillars of cloud
then Palestine dogs
won’t bark so loud

burn boys bodies
kill girls with cars
for god’s chosen people
it’s never too far

but god is a monster
blocking the sun
and the shadows I see
don’t know where to run

ask for her back
and if he won’t give
it’s time to attack
the way we live

so protect your edge
and let hell rain down
Palestine rats
can go underground

the ones who poke up
improve your aim
who will care
since the world’s insane?

I hope one day
the Gnostics rise
and powerless people
open up their eyes

the clouds will pass
and cities fall down
and god can have
his holy dirt mound

by lizard

I don’t expect honest coverage from corporate media regarding the war crimes Israel is committing right now, but ABC’s coverage was so terrible that they were forced to apologize:

Red-faced ABC News officials apologized early Thursday morning for misidentifying shell-shocked Palestinians as Israeli victims of a Hamas missile attack.

The gaffe came during an “ABC World News” report on Tuesday about the rapidly escalating crisis between Israel and the Palestinians. Anchor Diane Sawyer described an Associated Press photo as Israelis “trying to salvage what they can” after a Palestinian missile attack. The image, however, actually shows Palestinians walking through rubble with their belongings following an Israeli air strike.

The mistake was identified by pro-Palestinian journalist Rania Khalek late on Wednesday.

During Thursday’s predawn hours, “ABC World News” posted a statement to its Facebook page acknowledging the error: “On Tuesday night `World News’ aired a report on the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis, including attacks from both sides. In the introduction to the story, we mistakenly identified a family depicted in a still photo. They are Palestinian, not Israeli. We regret the error and will correct it.”

I guess ABC couldn’t find any images of destroyed Israeli homes, like the home that was intentionally targeted, resulting in the death of 5 children, all from the same family:

The exchange of Israeli air strikes and Palestinian rocket fire has continued to escalate into a third day, as health officials in Gaza reported that the deadliest pre-dawn bombardment yet has killed five children from the same family.

Israel also targeted a beach cafe, killing 9 people who were clearly plotting the demise of Israel while watching the World Cup.

How else should we expect the poor, victimized nation of Israel to act? Bomb shelter selfies?

Israel will continue committing war crimes with impunity. Because they can. The result of this barbarous behavior from the apartheid state of Israel ensures there will be new generations of traumatized Palestinians harboring acute hatred of the people inflicting collective punishment on them.

And the cycle continues…

by lizard

In the last few days I’ve run across a few articles I think Montanans should read. The first is a piece from National Geographic, titled Bakken Oil Boom Brings Growing Pains to Small Montana Town. Here is an excerpt:

On a recent evening, as Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Deputy Avis Ball patrolled near Bainville, she pointed out a simple cross next to the highway. It’s the spot where in 2012 she found Brian Doyle, a 49-year-old oil worker from Florida, dead and partially buried in the snow. Doyle was run over and abandoned by his friend, who was later convicted of negligent homicide.

“He’d been laying there for a week in the snow,” said Ball, who patrols the eastern edge of the county alone, often an hour from the nearest backup deputy at the far end of the county.

Earlier this year, Ball said, four men beat a man nearly to death in Williston, put him in the trunk of a car, and dropped him off in a field in Roosevelt County. “When I started, I was taking dog calls,” said Ball, who joined the department in 2011. “Since then it has taken off.”

The FBI has warned that Mexican drug cartels are trafficking drugs to the area, targeting the large paychecks of the mostly young men who work in the Bakken. Felony drug arrests in Roosevelt County rose from 4 to 28 from 2008 to 2012, according to Sheriff Freedom Crawford. Crawford said methamphetamine is the biggest drug problem the county faces, followed by illegal painkillers. But a bigger problem, he said, is the increase in alcohol-fueled fistfights. From 2008 to 2012, assault arrests nearly doubled, to 173.

“Historically, we knew who our troublemakers are,” Crawford said. “Now after the oil field hit, we can’t keep up with it. We don’t know who these people are.”

Speaking of alcohol, the Flathead Beacon has a piece titled Montana and Alcohol—an Abusive Relationship:

A drive past the numerous saloons and bars that line city streets across the state will tell you that Montanans enjoy their alcohol. Montana has the second-highest ratio of bars to people in the U.S., and a new study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows the state also leads the nation in alcohol abuse.

According to the study, which was carried out between 2006 and 2010 and released in June, Montana ranks third in age-adjusted alcohol-attributable deaths (AAD) per 100,000 citizens, behind only New Mexico and Alaska.

Michael Cummins, the executive director at the Flathead Valley Chemical Dependency Clinic, said the drinking problem in Montana is reflective of a broader issue sweeping the rest of the country.

“Most people who drink don’t have a problem,” but the large number of drinkers combined with a lenient culture make alcohol our most abused drug, Cummins said. In Montana, on average 13.2 percent of all deaths for people between the ages of 20 and 64 can be linked to alcohol. In a state that only reached 1 million inhabitants in 2011, an average of 8,713 people suffer alcohol-related deaths every year.

The article goes on to claim that, according to a CDCP study, the annual cost of excessive drinking for the US is 223.5 billion dollars.

The next two articles are personal stories about how folks fall on hard times. The first is a Montana story featured on the public radio series, Mountain West Voices, titled Middle Aged, Professional and Homeless in Montana. Go to the link for the audio—it’s a compelling interview.

The second story is from the Washington Post, titled This is what happened when I drove my Mercedes to pick up food stamps. Here’s an excerpt:

2007 was a grand year for me. I moved back home from San Diego, where I’d produced ‘Good Morning San Diego.’ I quickly secured my next big gig, as a producer in Boston for the 6 p.m. news. The pay wasn’t great, but it was more than enough to support me. And my boyfriend was making good money, too, as a copy editor for the Hartford Courant.

When I found out I was pregnant in February 2008, it was a shock, but nothing we couldn’t handle. Two weeks later, when I discovered “it” was actually “they” (twins, as a matter of fact), I panicked a little. But not because I worried for our future. My middle-class life still seemed perfectly secure. I just wasn’t sure I wanted to do that much work.

Two weeks before my children were born, my future husband found himself staring at a pink slip. The days of unemployment turned into weeks, months, and, eventually, years.

Then my kids were born, six weeks early. They were just three pounds each at birth, barely the length of my shoe. We fed them through a little tube we attached to our pinky fingers because their mouths weren’t strong enough to suckle. We spent 10 days in the hospital waiting for them to increase in size. They never did. Try as I might, I couldn’t get my babies to put on weight. With their lives at risk, I switched from breast milk to formula, at about $15 a can. We went through dozens a week.

In just two months, we’d gone from making a combined $120,000 a year to making just $25,000 and leeching out funds to a mortgage we couldn’t afford. Our savings dwindled, then disappeared.

So I did what I had to do. I signed up for Medicaid and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

by lizard

Israel is getting what it wants, a new military offensive titled Operation Protective Edge:

Israel launched what its military indicated could be a long-term offensive against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday, striking at least 50 sites in Gaza by air and sea and mobilising troops for a possible ground invasion in order to quell rocket attacks on Israel.

The army said its offensive, dubbed Operation Protective Edge, was aimed at striking Hamas and ending the rocket fire that has intensified in recent weeks amid tensions over the killing of three Israeli teenagers and the apparent revenge murder of a Palestinian teenager.

Nearly 300 rockets and mortars had been fired at Israel in recent weeks, including a barrage of about 80 projectiles on Monday alone, the army said. Israel has responded with dozens of air strikes and eight Palestinian militants were killed on Monday. Israel had signalled it would not launch a larger offensive if the militant group Hamas ceased the rocket fire.

“They chose the direction of escalation,” said army spokesman Lieutenant Peter Lerner. “So the mission will go on as long as we feel it is necessary to carry it out. We don’t expect it to be a short mission on our behalf.”

Hamas “chose the direction of escalation” says an army tool. Bullshit. For context, I wrote this post last year which shows how Israel undermined a 6 month truce before launching Operation Cast Lead at the end of 2008.

This new operation was pushed into existence by the murder of three Israeli teens. The Netanyahu regime, instead of being forthright with information about these murders, decided to exploit the tragedy for maximum racist incitement:

From the moment three Israeli teens were reported missing last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the country’s military-intelligence apparatus suppressed the flow of information to the general public. Through a toxic blend of propaganda, subterfuge and incitement, they inflamed a precarious situation, manipulating Israelis into supporting their agenda until they made an utterly avoidable nightmare inevitable.

Israeli police, intelligence officials and Netanyahu knew within hours of the kidnapping and murder of the three teens that they had been killed. And they knew who the prime suspects were less than a day after the kidnapping was reported.

Rather than reveal these details to the public, Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency imposed a gag order on the national media, barring news outlets from reporting that the teens had almost certainly been killed, and forbidding them from revealing the identities of their suspected killers. The Shin Bet even lied to the parents of the kidnapped teens, deceiving them into believing their sons were alive.

The result of this manipulative deceit is racist-fueled violence:

As most of the media have focused on the three Israeli youths, there has been almost no mention of the collective punishment that has been unleashed on the overwhelmingly civilian Palestinian population. The Israeli occupation forces have gone on a rampage that has included: arbitrarily destroying Palestinian homes; burning down two farms and destroying a Mosque; abducting over 600 Palestinians including over 50 children, and bombing the people of Gaza with 34 air strikes in one night.

The attacks by the state appear to have given license to mobs of Israeli settlers to hunt down Palestinian youths. For example, on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 16-year-old Yousef Abu Zagh was shot dead near his home in Jenin refugee camp. A nine-year-old Palestinian girl, Sanabel Mohammed Tus, was hunted down in a car and run over by settlers in the village of Jaba.

The apartheid state of Israel is out of control. It sickens me to think that my tax dollars support this nation saturated with violent racists helping the Netanyahu regime impose collective punishment on Palestinians.

Half-Cocked

by lizard

I have a gun with a long barrel, but it’s only a .22 caliber handgun, so I’m not sure what that says about the size of my penis. Don Pogreba has been thinking about guns and penises, so maybe he can tell me. Here is a quote from that post:

There is probably a more serious post about the insanity of American gun culture to be written today, but it’s a holiday. Instead, I offer this assessment. Psychology Central defines compensation as:

Compensation is a process of psychologically counterbalancing perceived weaknesses by emphasizing strength in other arenas.

If Don had been capable of writing a serious post over the holiday weekend, it might have included the staggering incidents of gun violence in Chicago over the holiday break:

Violence in Chicago continued over the Fourth of July weekend with at least 11 people shot in roughly four hours Sunday afternoon, bringing the total number of people shot since the holiday weekend began to more than 60.

At least seven people have been killed over the long weekend.

There are aspects of American gun culture that seem to be rather unhinged, especially when it comes to the open carry movement. It would be interesting to see what would happen to some of these intelligent gun owners packing heat at Target if they flaunted their guns on the streets of Chicago.

For me, owning a gun is still a bit surreal. I go out about once a week for target practice. I’m slowly getting more comfortable handling a gun, but when my Ruger Mark III misfires (with certain ammunition) it makes me very nervous.

The clash of cultures surrounding guns and the role of government in regulating guns is complicated. I’m not going to get too involved in this post with hashing out the competing ideologies involved. I will say that compensation for some perceived lack of penile virility isn’t the issue, it’s fear. We live in a world increasingly saturated with hostility, which makes the ability to defend oneself with lethal force feel necessary. Maybe that’s an inaccurate perception, but it’s one that has provided part of my own motivation for obtaining and learning how to use a very dangerous tool.

by lizard

In June of 1967, Israel attacked the USS Liberty. The brutal attack resulted in the death of 34 soldiers and over 170 injuries. The Pentagon immediately covered-up this attack, depicting it as an unfortunate accident. But it wasn’t an accident. Israel intended for this attack to be blamed on Egypt to lure the US into the 6 day war. Luckily members of the USS Liberty crew were able to get a distress signal out. Here is an excerpt from a book examining the politics of anti-semitism:

In early June of 1967, at the onset of the Six Day War, the Pentagon sent the USS Liberty from Spain into international waters off the coast of Gaza to monitor the progress of Israel’s attack on the Arab states. The Liberty was a lightly armed surveillance ship.

Only hours after the Liberty arrived it was spotted by the Israeli military. The IDF sent out reconnaissance planes to identify the ship. They made eight trips over a period of three hours. The Liberty was flying a large US flag and was easily recognizable as an American vessel.

A few hours later more planes came. These were Israeli Mirage III fighters, armed with rockets and machine guns. As off-duty officers sunbathed on the deck, the fighters opened fire on the defenseless ship with rockets and machine guns.

A few minutes later a second wave of planes streaked overhead, French-built Mystere jets, which not only pelted the ship with gunfire but also with napalm bomblets, coating the deck with the flaming jelly. By now, the Liberty was on fire and dozens were wounded and killed, excluding several of the ship’s top officers.

The Liberty’s radio team tried to issue a distress call, but discovered the frequencies had been jammed by the Israeli planes with what one communications specialist called “a buzzsaw sound.” Finally, an open channel was found and the Liberty got out a message it was under attack to the USS America, the Sixth Fleet’s large aircraft carrier.

I bring up this false flag attack because it’s evidence of what Israel is capable of to further its agenda.

Two days ago, the Washington Post reported on a “chilling recording” that allegedly implicates Hamas in the abduction and murder of 3 Israeli teens:

The night of June 12, the phones didn’t stop ringing at the West Bank police emergency hotline. Police later said 757 calls lit up the lines. Of those, 155 were pranks. So when another call came – this one two minutes long and filled with singing, shouting and loud booms — the cops didn’t think too much of it.

“They’ve kidnapped me,” whispered a young man, later identified by his parents as Gilad Shaar, one of the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped that night and later killed.

“Hello?” the operator replied in an emergency recording, as described by the Times of Israel.

“Head down!” a man authorities suspect is a member of Hamas yelled in the background. “Head down!”

“Hello?” the operator said again, voice getting louder. “Hello?”

“Heads down, down this! Hands down!” the man yelled as groans sounded in the background. “Take the phone phone from him.” Seconds later, the men begin to cheer and sing a song in Arabic.

How convenient.

What exactly would Hamas gain by committing this horrendous act of violence? The Israeli response is predictable—the murder of these Israeli teenagers has provided Israel with an opportunity to unleash more collective punishment against Palestinians, and that is precisely what is happening, and it’s spiraling out of control.

Details of the revenge-killing of 16 year old Mohammad Abu Khdeir are now coming to light, and I should warn readers the details are gruesome. The autopsy of the charred body indicates Mohammad Abu Khdeir was forced to ingest gasoline then burned alive:

Saber Al-Aloul, the director of the Palestinian forensic institute, attended the autopsy which was carried out by Israeli doctors in Tel Aviv.

Al-A’wewy said Al-Aloul had reported fire dust material was found in Khdeir’s respiratory canal which meant “the boy had inhaled this material while he was burnt alive.”

Another incident of violence may have wider implications because it involves an American-Palestinian teenager nearly beat to death by masked IDF soldiers:

Fifteen-year-old Palestinian-American Tariq Abukhdeir, cousin of recent lynching victim Muhammed Abu Khudair, was brutally beaten by masked Israeli police on Thursday evening in the Shuafat neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem. He has since been arrested and held without charge and denied medical treatment, according to his family and the rights group Addameer.

Tariq’s family lives in Tampa, Florida and have been on vacation in Palestine since early June. They are scheduled to return to the United States on 16 July. Tariq’s next court hearing is scheduled for Sunday, 6 July.

As photos of Tariq’s horrific facial bruises surfaced, so did two videos that show masked Israeli officers punching, kicking and dragging a handcuffed Palestinian in Shuafat.

I’m not going to include the videos here. If you want to see them, go to the link.

How will the US respond? This is an American teenager beat and held without charge by IDF thugs. Will John Kerry make some impotent statement?

How did the US respond when IDF thugs executed a Turkish American teenager on the Mavi Marmara?

The report of the fact-finding mission of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla released last week shows conclusively, for the first time, that US citizen Furkan Dogan and five Turkish citizens were murdered execution-style by Israeli commandos.

The report reveals that Dogan, the 19-year-old US citizen of Turkish descent, was filming with a small video camera on the top deck of the Mavi Marmara when he was shot twice in the head, once in the back and in the left leg and foot and that he was shot in the face at point blank range while lying on the ground.

The report says Dogan had apparently been “lying on the deck in a conscious or semi-conscious, state for some time” before being shot in his face.

Three years after that incident, Obama helped broker a deal between Turkey and Israel:

Israel issued a formal apology to Turkey and agreed to pay compensation over the Mavi Marmara killings of 2010 on March 22 after a phone conversation between the two countries’ premiers, Benjamin Netanyahu and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, that was brokered by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Turkey accepted Israel’s apology, sources from the Prime Ministry confirmed, underlining that Israel had also agreed to ease its blockade on Gaza.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed an apology to the Turkish people for any error that may have led to the loss of life and agreed to complete the agreement for compensation,” the Israeli statement said. The statement said Netanyahu agreed with Erdoğan to normalize ties between Turkey and Israel, while Ankara agreed to cancel legal proceedings against Israeli soldiers who committed the raid against the Mavi Marmara vessel.

The problem with Netanyahu’s statement is there was no error that may have led to the loss of life. Those IDF commandoes intended to kill:

The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet said Sunday that the Palmer report on last year’s Gaza-bound flotilla is expected to be released this week. According to the newspaper, the UN-appointed panel to investigate the raid on the Mavi Marmara vessel has ruled that IDF soldiers boarded the ship with an intention to kill.

At what point will the US stop enabling the apartheid state of Israel?

By JC

If there is one thing you should read today, it is Robert Parry’s lengthy takedown of Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence – the signing of which many of you are “celebrating” today. (Me? I’ll be spending time at the Arlee Celebration today):

On July Fourth, the people of the United States extravagantly celebrate the high-blown expressions on human rights that Thomas Jefferson penned in the Declaration of Independence – especially the noble phrase “all men are created equal.” But Jefferson really didn’t believe that or much else that he said and wrote during his lifetime. He was, in reality, a skilled propagandist and a world-class hypocrite.

Yet, rather than subject Jefferson to a rigorous examination for his multiple hypocrisies, many Americans insist on protecting Jefferson’s reputation. From the Left, there is a desire to shield the lofty principles contained in the Declaration. From the Right, there is value in pretending that Jefferson’s revisionist concept of the Constitution – one favoring states’ rights over the federal government – was the “originalist” view of that founding document.

So, Jefferson – perhaps more than any figure in U.S. history – gets a pass for what he really was: a self-absorbed aristocrat who had one set of principles for himself and another for everybody else. Beyond the glaring contradiction between his “all men are created equal” pronouncement and his racist views on African-American slaves, he also lectured others about the need for frugality and the avoidance of debt while he lived a life of personal extravagance and was constantly in arrears to creditors…

Jefferson may have been America’s original “chicken hawk,” talking cavalierly about other people’s blood as the “manure” of liberty but finding his own too precious to risk. …

The historical record increasingly makes Jefferson out to be a serial rapist, exploiting at least one and possibly more girls who were trapped on his property, who indeed were his property, and thus had little choice but to tolerate his sexual advances…

“A child raised every 2 years is of more profit than the crop of the best laboring man,” Jefferson wrote. “[I]n this, as in all other cases, providence has made our duties and our interests coincide perfectly”…

The reason the Tea Partiers get away with presenting themselves as “conservative constitutionalists” is that Thomas Jefferson engineered a revisionist interpretation of the Founding document, which – as written by the Federalists and ratified by the states – created a federal government that could do almost anything that Congress and the President agreed was necessary for the good of the country…

In his rise to power, Jefferson waged a nasty propaganda war against the Federalists as they struggled to form a new government and endeavored to stay out of a renewed conflict between Great Britain and France. Jefferson secretly funded newspaper editors who spread damaging personal rumors about key Federalists, particularly Hamilton who as Treasury Secretary was spearheading the new government’s formation.

Jefferson’s governmental actions almost always dovetailed with the interests of slaveholders and his own personal finances…

Today, we see Jefferson’s racist legacy in the nearly deranged hatred directed at the first African-American president and in the unbridled fury unleashed against the federal government that Barack Obama heads.

As unpleasant as it may be for Americans who prefer – especially on July Fourth – to ponder the pleasant image of Jefferson as the aristocratic republican with a taste for fine art and a fondness for free-thinking, it is well past time to look at the Declaration’s author as the person he really was, America’s founding sociopath.

Read the whole thing. And then go out and wave your sparklers until they fizzle out, along with our “democracy.”

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