by lizard

I think it’s really constructive to have the former Secretary of State and presumptive Democrat presidential frontrunner comparing Putin to Hitler.

Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday compared Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine to actions taken by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler outside Germany in the run-up to World War II.

Making her first extensive comments about the crisis in Ukraine, Clinton said at a private fundraiser in California that Putin’s campaign to provide Russian passports to those with Russian connections living outside his country’s borders is reminiscent of Hitler’s protection of ethnic Germans outside Germany, according to a report published overnight.

“Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the ’30s,” Clinton said Tuesday, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram. “All the Germans that were … the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right. I must go and protect my people, and that’s what’s gotten everybody so nervous.”

What makes me nervous is a hunch that a good percentage of our political leadership are sociopaths, Hillary Clinton included. That’s the only explanation that makes sense of behavior like this:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shared a laugh with a television news reporter moments after hearing deposed Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi had been killed.

“We came, we saw, he died,” she joked when told of news reports of Qaddafi’s death by an aide in between formal interviews.

The sociopath who makes me the most nervous, though, is our current president, the willing executioner. The article is a Counterpunch piece by Michael Whitney, an economist I’ve been reading and appreciating for years. I know it will be easy for Democrat apologists to dismiss because Whitney quotes a comment from the blog Moon of Alabama—a blog I link to frequently here because it’s been, for me, one of the most important, effective counters to Western propaganda I’ve been able to find.

The best description of Obama I’ve ever read was in the comments section of a foreign policy blogsite called Moon of Alabama by a blogger named “bevin”. Here’s what he said:

“I think that Obama is completely empty of scruples…just a willing executioner. From the ruling class’s point of view he is the perfect figurehead because his mere appearance confuses and disarms so many. He seems to have spent his whole life trying to get chosen to play Judas. And that is all there is in his resume…

They present him as negligent, never responsible, never intentionally connected to an evil act, never drawn into the acts of duplicity by a conscious intent. This is the false image, the disinformation projected about who he is…

It strikes me that Obama is all those things. And that this is the core of the evil in him- that he is without conscience or principle, just an ordinary butcher going about his business, fulfilling the terms of his employment, doing what he was asked to do…

You see him as focused and intentional.

I see him as someone who will sign a stack of death warrants without reading them, or thinking about them again. Remember just after November 2008, waiting to take office, how the Israelis attacked Gaza, obviously to show him who is boss? Didn’t you sense that even they were surprised at the insouciance with which he watched those extraordinary massacres pass before his eyes?

He didn’t care. And he was, at last, relieved of the chore of pretending that he did care about such things.

That’s really what he likes about being President: he can relax while the killing goes on, he doesn’t need to pretend it bothers him, he doesn’t need to pass any kind of moral judgment.

Remember when he asked his step-father “Have you ever killed men?”

The reply he got was “Only men who were weak.”

He has adhered to that moral standard ever since.” (bevin, Moon of Alabama)

That perfectly summarizes the man; an empty gourd who never had any intention of fulfilling his promises, who has utter disdain for the fools that voted for him, and who finds it as easy to kill a man, his family and his kids, as to swat a fly on his forearm. As bevin notes Obama “is a pure confidence man and a sociopath.”

Who gives these sociopaths cover? Apologists who range from high-paid corporate shills to bloggers who shill for free. An example of the latter can be found at Intelligent Discontent, where the Polish Wolf explains why he “hesitates” to call neo-Nazis by their rightful name. The reasoning is (to use one of Don’s favorite words) astonishing:

Aren’t the protestors in Ukraine Nazis or neo-Nazis? It seems quite likely that some of them adhere to radical right-wing ideologies. It’s also clear that the deaths of protestors during the Euromaiden protests have greatly strengthened the hand of the most radical elements. However, even groups like Pravdiy Sektor or Svoboda, I would hesitate to describe as ‘neo-nazis’, if only because I know some very rational, cosmopolitan Ukrainians who believe that these parties are their best chance to gain national sovereignty.

I love the language PW employs here. A squishy phrase like “seems quite likely” is used to minimize the FACT that, yes, right-wing extremists now hold top-level positions within the new government (Reuters, not Counterpunch). And why support right-wing extremists? Because unnamed “rational, cosmopolitan” Ukrainians believe the ends justify the means.

We are quickly getting to the point of escalating tensions where one wrong move on either side could spark an overt military confrontation. If Putin is uncritically depicted as Hitler, the probable intention is to prepare the collective American psyche for the kind of military effort it took to stop Hitler: a world war.

This is not a good time for US foreign policy to be in the hands of sociopaths. Tens of thousands of Russians protested in Moscow against their country’s escalation. Where are American anti-war protesters?

Oh yeah, they basically threw in the towel after Obama got elected.

by lizard

Spiegel International put out a great analysis of How the EU Lost the Ukraine deal to Russia last November. Here’s an excerpt:

“I believe the unprecedented pressure from the Russians was the decisive factor,” says former Polish Prime Minister and intermediary Aleksander Kwasniewski. “The Russians used everything in their arsenal.” Elmar Brok, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the European Parliament, says: “Yanukovych kept all options open until the end, so as to get the best possible deal.”

The official reason for the agreement’s failure is Yulia Tymoshenko, the opposition politician who has been in prison for the last two years. The EU had made her release a condition of the agreement. Yanukovych was unwilling to release his former rival, and last week the parliament in Kiev failed to approve a bill that would have secured her release.

But then there are the financial incentives. In the end, the Russian president seems to have promised his Ukrainian counterpart several billion euros in the form of subsidies, debt forgiveness and duty-free imports. The EU, for its part, had offered Ukraine loans worth €610 million ($827 million), which it had increased at the last moment, along with the vague prospect of a €1 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Yanukovych chose Putin’s billions instead.

The EU had been banking on its radiant appeal, and on its great promise of prosperity, freedom and democracy, but now Brussels must confront the fact that, for the first time, an attempt at rapprochement was rebuffed because the price was wrong. “If Yanukovych doesn’t want to make a deal, then he simply doesn’t want to,” says Brok.

But that was November.

Now it’s March and Ian Welsh presents an interesting alliance for Ukraine that will never happen: China. I’m going to include Welsh’s piece in full below the fold. Continue Reading »

No Place to Die

by lizard

Jail is No place to die, and the Indy’s Jessica Mayrer does a great job scratching the surface of core systemic deficiencies that absolutely reach beyond the jail.

Driving that point home is Catherine O’Day, an amazing person I’ve had the pleasure of talking to a few times about this issue. She is a fierce advocate for both inmates in psychiatric crisis who cycle through county detention and the detention staff responsible for their safety. Here’s a bit from the article:

Missoula social worker Catherine O’Day says it’s disheartening to watch detention center inmates get sober and begin planning ways to tackle their addictions, only to watch them fall apart when they leave.

“I see them losing hope,” says O’Day, who, in addition to running a mental health program at the jail, teaches social work at the University of Montana.

Staying sober requires support, O’Day says. Offenders become pessimistic when they discover how little support exists for them. Columbia University found that in 2005, federal, state and local governments spent $74 billion on incarceration, court proceedings, probation and parole for substance-involved adult and juvenile offenders. That number dwarfs the $632 million spent on offender prevention and treatment.

Among the biggest problems, O’Day says, stems from the fact that Missoula has no alcohol detoxification facility. Detoxing can be deadly, as it was for Wasson. But the only place to go through a supervised withdrawal is at a hospital emergency room or in jail. And, as O’Day notes, “We’re not a detox facility. … Jail is not treatment.”


There is of course litigation involved with the four county jail deaths, which limits what Sheriff Ibsen can say, but he does manage to give us a peek into his Sheriff perspective:

In light of the challenges, Ibsen says he’d welcome more community services. “There should be better ways of dealing with them than putting them in jail,” he says, “because jail I don’t think is fixing them.”

Where you might expect a social worker to criticize, O’Day is doing what she can from inside. That’s an important perspective, and provides the conclusion to the article:

As for O’Day, she bristles when talking about allegations directed at Missoula County jailers. She says it’s unfair for detention center staffers to accept blame for an issue that’s rooted in policies and laws that extend far beyond their control.

“It’s really a systemic failure,” she says. “We can’t change the world out there from in here.”

And what happens out there? A 34 year old drifter gets killed by a train and maybe had some help dying.

There is so much I wish I could say about what is happening, but I don’t, because it wouldn’t be ethical. I wish other professionals felt the same way.

by lizard

At Intelligent Discontent, in a post titled Updated facts about the Crimea, the Polish Wolf claims I’m shouting about unrelated issues regarding Ukraine because I’ve lost on two main points:

1) Ukraine will unarguably be better off in the EU

2) Russia’s actions are illegal and unprecedented, going far beyond even what occurred in Kosovo or South Ossetia.

I do admire PW’s ability to cast Russia’s behavior as “unprecedented” and argue Ukraine is better off in the EU. I’m going to try and summarize some of the key points in the exchanges of the last few days.

In an attempt to probe PW’s resolve in depicting Russian aggression as INVASIONS!, I asked him a simple question (more than once before he answered) about the 2008 armed conflict between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia. Who initiated the violence? To answer my own question, I used wikipedia (and not some pinko rag like Counterpunch):

During the night of 7 to 8 August 2008, Georgia launched a large-scale military offensive against South Ossetia, in an attempt to reclaim the territory.[54] Georgia claimed that it was responding to attacks on its peacekeepers and villages in South Ossetia, and that Russia was moving non-peacekeeping units into the country. However an OSCE monitoring group in Tskhinvali did not record outgoing artillery fire from the South Ossetian side in the hours before the start of Georgian bombardment.[10][55] Two British OSCE observers reported hearing only occasional small-arms fire, but no shelling. According to Der Spiegel, NATO officials attested that minor skirmishes had taken place, but nothing that amounted to a provocation.[56] The Georgian attack caused casualties among Russian peacekeepers, who resisted the assault along with Ossetian militia. Georgia successfully captured most of Tskhinvali within hours. Russia reacted by deploying units of the Russian 58th Army and Russian Airborne Troops into South Ossetia one day later, and launched airstrikes against Georgian forces in South Ossetia and military and logistical targets in Georgia proper. Russia claimed these actions were a necessary humanitarian intervention and peace enforcement.

For more reading on this subject, this New York Times article looks at cables released by Wikileaks to better understand how Georgia was able to fool the Bush administration about the nature of the conflict.

Despite the reality of an unprovoked attack launched by American-trained Georgian forces, PW has this to say:

South Ossetia was not a country. It was recognized as part of Georgia, and is still by every nation except Russia and Abkhazia. In ‘attacking’ South Ossetia, Georgia was exercising its sovereign right to defend its territory. It’s no different than Russia ‘invading’ Chechnya, which they claim to have had every right to do. Therefore, what occurred in Georgia was absolutely in invasion. It was not unprovoked, and I never claimed it was, but it was most certainly an invasion, while Georgia’s action were entirely legal.

Moreover, Russia’s response was entirely out of keeping with the provocation – Russia gave Georgia no time to withdraw and entered into no negotiations before initiating hostilities, and acted entirely unilaterally.

To make sure I understood PW, I asked specifically if he thought Georgie was justified in shelling and killing people. This is his response:

Legally, yes. Ethically? I’m not there – I couldn’t tell you if South Ossetian grievances are valid or not. Given that Russia had already undertaken military action against Chechnya using the same arguments, I can tell you with certainty that Russia was not justified in their response.

It’s of course much messier than that. I will again stick with wikipedia:

A European Union investigation concluded that Georgia had started the “unjustified” war, but that this was a “mere culmination of a series of provocations”. It also concluded that Russia did have the right to intervene in cases of attacks against Russian peacekeepers, but that the further Russian advance into “Georgia proper” had been disproportionate. The commission found that all parties involved in the conflict had violated international law.

The reason I pushed this point is because it shows, from my perspective, the pretzel logic of a western apologist trying to justify one form of state violence as legally justifiable (Georgia’s) while casting the response as disproportionate and illegal (Russia’s). In order to depict Russia’s response as a disproportionate invasion, the historical provocations leading up to this point must be ignored. More on that at the end of this post.

Going back to the first point, PW bases his assertion that Ukraine will be “unarguably better in the EU” on the fact that the top 6 recipients of loans from western financial institutions, like the World Bank and the IMF, have seen improvements according to the Human Development Index (wikipedia).

After a tedious back and forth on this particular (where I suggest he read Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine), PW says this:

I’m not in the business of defending every action the World Bank takes. And I’ve read part of the shock doctrine, I believe – is there a section on Bolivian water rights? My point is that if these flaws were systemic and intentional, one would expect them to have some statistically noticeable effect on the quality of life in the countries who have taken the largest loans from the World Bank…But leaders, even those who profess hatred of the neo-liberal system, continue to ask for loans (think Kirchner). Why? Because they know that restrictive loans still lead to a better living standard, and thus more votes, than no loans at all.

An accompanying sentiment to this statement is this little bit from a response PW makes to JC:

Yes, every country looks out for its own citizens first, and so every country ought to try to maximize its HDI.

I’m assuming by “every country” PW doesn’t mean countries like Libya, Syria, Ukraine or even Russia.

In response, I try to summarize my biased perception on global events with this:

loans create debt and debt becomes leverage to coerce structural adjustment, or austerity. that’s not a flaw, it’s a feature.

of course there is economic development happening, and money going into poor countries has clearly led to some improvements in the measures you’re so fond of citing.

but where you see altruism, I see control. and where you say every country looks out for its own citizens first I say it’s a geopolitical chess game played by global elites and “citizens” are expendable.

If you’ve made it this far in the post, I hope it wasn’t as tedious to read as it was to write. Beyond the quibbling, PW and myself have conflicting world views, and that’s ok.

We should probably both be thankful that we are privileged enough to be able to articulate opposing viewpoints in a country trying to keep up the charade of being that shining city built on rocks stronger than oceans.

We should also be thankful the conflicts beyond our screens and keyboards, largely financed by our tax-dollars and with varying degrees of body-counts, don’t directly threaten our lives and our families.

If only that were true.

Speaking of truth, it can sometimes come from unlikely sources, like Pat Buchanan. After a comment quoting Buchanan, I poked around and found a pretty good take on the situation we’re in with Russia. It was written in 1998, and I’ll quote it in full below the fold. Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

North Missoula Community Development Corporation‘s executive director Bob Oaks – a long-time advocate for all things Missoula professes to support, such as sustainable commercial and residential development and affordable housing – raised some well-informed warning flags on Monday concerning DEQ’s proposed clean-up plans for one of Montana’s many superfund sites.

In fact, Mr. Oaks raised warnings back in October of last year (and probably earlier) concerning the impending clean-up plans. Oaks is no schmuck – he’s a Harvard-educated land-use planner who’s been around Montana long enough to know that when shortcuts can be taken, they will. Here are some of his words of warning from last October:

“…Also, it is likely that before the end of next summer the MDEQ will make a determination on the level of clean-up that will be required of Huttig Building Products for the White Pine facility — a state superfund site.That site’s current zoning, the current growth policy recommendations for it, and previously documented recommendations of city zoning staff and the City-County Planning Board all favor preservation of the site’s relatively open ended M1-R zoning.

This open-endedness should also argue to MDEQ for a requirement that the superfund site be cleaned to the highest standard that can be required by law, one that would also allow some neighborhood-friendly flexibility in the potential for future uses. The desire for a best possible clean-up is a long standing position of the North-Missoula CDC and neighborhood council groups. I believe that this history and the public benefit of proper site clean-up be acknowledged and honored in the organization of any future TIF district. It would not serve the public well if the rigor of any future clean-up be guided or undermined by declaration of an all encompassing urban renewal district designated as an ‘industrial park.

The timing of this initiative worries me.”

Hmmm….and where are we now? DEQ’s proposal is a less-then-full clean-up, with “institutional controls” which will limit development to a highest and best use of light industrial/commercial – throwing a wrench into the M1R (limited industrial-residential) zoning designation, by eliminating residential uses altogether. Bob Oaks’ statement on Monday:

I’m writing to refresh an earlier post to this forum related to the proposed Northside URD. Some fears I had concerning the process are now being realized in the recent MT Dept. of Environmental Quality proposed plan for final cleanup at the site. As now envisioned by MDEQ, there will be less contaminated soil removed and greater imposition of “institutional controls” than would have been required if the superior cleanup to a residential standard were required.

This decision comes from a context of seeing light industrial/commercial development as the sole highest and best use for the site. This judgment is additionally promoted in a letter to DEQ from Missoula Economic Partnership Director, James Grunke, who cites the proposed URD as part of his rationale.

An added piece of this context comes from the “Future Use Memo” to DEQ from Huttig Building Products’ attorney who, in addition to citing Grunke’s letter, states the following: “Historically, housing east of Scott Street accommodated workers employed by White Pine Sash, Clawson Manufacturing, or the railroad. White Pine Sash at one time employed more than 200 workers, and the area east of Scott Street was a convenient location. Now that White Pine Sash and Clawson Manufacturing are out of business, there are far fewer workers on the Property, and employees desiring housing close to their workplace are limited. In fact, there are several houses that are for sale or vacant in the area east of Scott Street. This is an indication that there is little desire or need to live by the Property. Moreover, in recent decades there is no longer a need to live close to work because most workers are mobile and own a car or truck. Additionally, most people do not desire to live in the proximity of the railyard due to the noise and problems associated with the transient population. It is reasonable to anticipate that the pattern of development in the immediate area of the Property will remain industrial and/or commercial.

That MDEQ is now promoting the same conclusions arrived at by Huttig is frankly disturbing. A draft of an NMCDC response to DEQ and a history of the White Pine Facility is available at the NMCDC website:

Oaks raises an important question. Huttig – the owner of the site who is on the hook for clean-up because he took that responsibility on as a condition of purchase placed by the former owners of White Pine Sash who sold the property to him (i.e., eyes wide open, Huttig took on the responsibility voluntarily) – has long advocated a less-than-full clean-up…………and here is DEQ taking up the same recommendation despite the fact that the less-than-full clean-up leaves Missoula and the community with less-than-full options as outlined in multiple community planning documents that have undergone countless community meetings. Because we all know how much Missoula residents love to weigh in on community plans, don’t we?

Who is representing who here? And what will Missoula community leaders and planners do? Roll over or speak up?

DEQ had a public meeting yesterday in Missoula – they are taking public comment through the end of this month. The public notice is here

In addition to the consolidated information at NMCDC’s website, here is the DEQ White Pine Slash newsletter from March and the DEQ proposed plan for White Pine Slash.

Constitutional Crisis?

by lizard

With 60 Minutes talking data sellers and Snowden talking to SXSW, our rapidly changing data landscape is getting some attention. Here’s a portion from the beginning of Snowden’s talk:

Well, thank you for the introduction. I will say SXSW and the technology community – people who are in the room in Austin they are the folks that really fix things who can enforce our rights for technical standards. Even when Congress hadn’t yet gotten to the point of creating legislation to protect our rights in the same manner. When we think about what is happening at the NSA for the past decade ________ the result has been an adversarial internet. Sort of global free fire zone for governments that is nothing that we ever asked for. It is not what we want. It is something that we need to protect against. We think about the policies that have been advanced the sort of erosion of ______amendment protections the proactive seizure of communications. There is a policy response that needs to occur. There is also a technical response that needs to occur. It is the development community that can really craft the solutions and make sure we are safe.

The NSA the sort of global mass surveillance that is occurring in all of these countries. Not just the US it is important to remember that this is a global issue. They are setting fire to the future of the internet. The people who are in this room now you guys are all the firefighters and we need you to help us fix this.

They’re setting fire to far more than just the internet, but for the purpose of this post, let’s stick to how extensive abuses of governments and corporations (is there even a difference anymore?) have become the norm, defended domestically by both Republicans and Democrats. Except maybe not so much Dianne Feinstein anymore, considering the recent and very serious accusations against the CIA for spying on her committee.

The question is this: can Feinstein reconcile her contradictory opinions about the NSA? This Guardian opinion piece takes a look at her political bi-poloar disorder when it comes surveillance and cute little things like the US constitution:

The exasperation with Ms Feinstein is that she directs her sense of outrage only at the CIA. It seems restricted to issues that impact on her. She is outraged when the CIA allegedly hacked into her committee’s computers. She is upset over the alleged intrusion into the privacy of her own staff. And yet this is the same senator who could not empathise with Americans upset at the revelations in the Snowden documents of millions of citizens whose personal data has been accessed by the NSA. It is the same senator who could not share American anger over the revelation of the co-operation in surveillance of the giant tech companies, whether wittingly or unwittingly.

Ms Feinstein not only failed to investigate the NSA with a smidgen of the aggression she has shown towards the CIA but has gone out of her way to be the NSA’s most prominent defender. The day after Edward Snowden revealed himself as a whistleblower last June, she was among the first to brand him a traitor. In the face of revelation after revelation, she praised the professionalism of the NSA. She defended mass data collection as a necessity, arguing that the NSA had to have access to the whole “haystack” to find the one needle, the terrorist. All this dismayed many of her Democratic supporters in liberal California and elsewhere in the US.

This is an area where young, libertarian-leaning conservatives have some overlap—or, what I’m going to brazenly refer to as “common ground”—with progressive-minded Democrats. The alternative to trying to build something positive on that little piece of common ground is to troll and ridicule #MTGOPYoungGuns on Twitter.

After Feinstein’s public accusations Tuesday morning, the phrase constitutional crisis is being used, appropriately so, I would say. Here’s how The Nation is describing the situation:

If what Feinstein alleges is true, it essentially amounts to a constitutional crisis. And she said as much during her speech, describing “a defining moment for the oversight of our intelligence community.”

“I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution, including the Speech and Debate clause. It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities or any other government function,” Feinstein said. “Besides the constitutional implications, the CIA’s search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.”

So what is Obama, the constitutional lawyer, going to do about this crisis? Maybe he should have his DoJ prosecute Diane Feinstein, because she’s kinda acting like a whistleblower, and we know what Obama’s administration does to whistleblower’s they can’t terrorize into committing suicide or fleeing America—they go to jail like John Kiriakou:

John Kiriakou, the former CIA agent who revealed details of the US government’s use of waterboarding against senior al-Qaida suspects, has written an open letter describing his time in federal prison surrounded by drug dealers, fraudsters and child molesters.

Kiriakou is three months into a 30-month sentence having pleaded guilty to disclosing the identity of an undercover CIA officer to an ABC reporter. He is one of six current or former public officials to be prosecuted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act – twice the number of cases instigated by all previous presidents combined.

Kiriakou’s letter underlines in graphic form the personal consequences of the Obama administration’s aggressive assault on leakers. It comes as the attorney general, Eric Holder, is under mounting pressure following revelations that the Department of Justice secretly investigated the activities of reporters working for Associated Press and Fox News in unrelated leak investigations.

Obama could pardon Kiriakou. But he won’t. He’s too fond of using the CIA as his own personal paramilitary force, terrorizing brown-skinned foreigners with drone strikes and killing American citizens without due process.

What this particular issue highlights is that America has been involved in one long, unending constitutional crisis since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Obama had an opportunity to capitalize on hope and change by addressing the flagrant abuses of the Bush administration.

But he didn’t. And we continue to see the consequences of Obama’s failure.


Because you won’t ever hear the truth from our administration. What you will hear is propaganda regurgitated from the mainstream western media.

Full transcript of the speech from Ukraine’s President-in-exile Viktor Yanukovych in Rostov-on-Don, Russia.

After the jump… Continue Reading »

by lizard

I agree with George Ochenski. Washington has gone insane over the Ukraine:

It’s very difficult to discern what possible interest the United States could have in the current situation in Crimea and Ukraine. Yet, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are waving sabers and directly threatening Russia over what they call its incursion into a sovereign state.

In the meantime, members of Congress are coming up with some seriously inane ideas they think might have some effect on Russia without considering the effects they will undoubtedly produce on our own lands, waters and citizens.

Let’s start with the over-the-top reaction of the Obama administration, which pledged a billion dollars to Ukraine without even bothering to ask Congress or the American people what we thought.

A billion dollars is a thousand million. What will that thousand million dollars be used for in Ukraine that’s more important than spending it here at home for our long and growing list of domestic needs? It’ll go to pay off some of the natural gas debt Ukraine has racked up to Russian energy company Gazprom.

But hey, why stop there? Obama has also ordered economic sanctions against Russia and, in a Cold War redux, positioned a destroyer in the Black Sea off the coast of Crimea, sent F-15s to Lithuania and a dozen F-16s to Poland along with 300 troops. It’s safe to say many of our citizens are shocked by this leap to wartime actions – without a shred of consultation with Congress – by the same president who won the Nobel Peace Prize.

So our tax money is in for a cool billion, and the World Bank recently announced a “loan” of 3 billion dollars:

The World Bank on Monday said it plans to provide Ukraine up to $3 billion in 2014 to support the country’s new government in the midst of its current crisis, though only part of the money would be new.

The bank, a Washington-based lender that focuses on ending poverty, already has several projects in Ukraine. About $2 billion in the funds will be disbursed this year as part of ongoing projects.

And another pot of cash, up to $1 billion, would go directly to the government if it implements economic reforms to get its finances in order.

So this nice, new government will get a billion dollars “directly” IF it “implements economic reforms”. I like how this short CNBC piece describes the World Bank’s focus as “ending poverty”. Because it’s the exact opposite—it’s Orwellian doublespeak for imposing neoliberal austerity.

Speaking of the new government, I’m sure that neo-Nazi fascist meme is just Russian propaganda, right? Wrong:

Some have noted that, for the first time since 1945, neo-fascists hold cabinet posts in a European country. They include the Ukrainian interim defense minister, Ihor Tenyukh (a naval commander who has studied at the Pentagon and favors NATO membership); deputy prime minster for economic affairs Oleksandr Sych (chief Svoboda ideologist who as a member of parliament co-authored a bill banning abortion, who’s said that women have the right to avoid pregnancy by “leading an orderly life”); minister of agriculture Ihor Svaika (an agro-oligarch); and minister of ecology Andriy Moknyk (who has served as Svoboda’s envoy to Italy’s neo-fascist Forzo Nuovo. Group).

Other appointments worth noting include the National Security Council chief, Andry Parubiy (co-founder of Svoboda, leader of the U.S.-backed “Orange Revolution” in 2004, and “security commandant” during the Maidan protests directing attacks by the paramilitary organization “Right Sector”); and Deputy NSC chief, Dmytro Yarosh (founder of the “Right Sector”). The Prosecuter-general, Oleh Makhnitsky and Minister of Education Serhiy Kvit are also members of the Svoboda Party.

Imagine a National Security Council controlled by people whom (it now appears) hired snipers to fire on the Maidan crowd, with the intention of blaming this on Yanukovich’s security forces.) This is not business as usual. This is a leap into darkness.

That Oleksandr Sych dude sounds like he’s cut from the same cloth of crusading anti-abortion social conservatives here at home, like the ones in Texas who have decimated access to clinics for women.

The Ochenski piece mentioned Obama’s saber rattling. In Crimea, there is a referendum that may go down on Sunday, which is escalating the situation:

Ukraine’s parliament has warned Crimea’s regional assembly it will be dissolved unless it cancels a referendum over joining Russia.

Kyiv said Crimea had until Wednesday to call it off.

Meanwhile the Crimean Parliament stated on Tuesday it would declare itself an independent state if people vote in favour of joining Russia. It would then officially ask to become part of the Russian federation. In a secret sitting, MPs voted 78 to 3 in favour of a declaration of independence from Ukraine. The declaration cites Kosovo’s separation from Serbia as a legal precedent.

Yep, Kosovo is a good precedent to cite. That’s the problem with America’s blatant hypocrisy. Our actions on the international stage have precedent-setting consequences down the road.

This situation will only get worse. I don’t see how Obama has any room to deescalate rising tensions. The propaganda here at home is just too good to counter with a few speeches. Unfortunately I don’t think Obama has any incentive to step back. The President can’t look weak with midterms coming and control of the Senate in jeopardy.

So let’s escalate a confrontation with a nuclear-armed Russia.

Ochenski has it right, Washington has gone insane.

by lizard

An Act of Terrorism in the Flathead is a political gift for Montana Democrats because it dramatically highlights the threat women face from right-wing extremists. The timing could not have been more perfect.

This weekend, Montana Democrats drank and dropped cash at the Mansfield/Metcalf dinner. The keynote speaker was Cecile Richards, the head of Planned Parenthood. Here is some of what she had to say:

“My message is really how important the elections are going to be in November particularly for women, and how important women voters will be,” Richards told reporters before the dinner.

“Two years ago, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund was really involved in helping re-elect Sen. Jon Tester,” she said. “We know how important he has been to women’s health, what a great leader he’s been in the U.S. Senate. We need some other folks, some other help, and so we’re really excited to be here to talk about women’s health and women’s issues and the role that they’re going to play in this election.“

And what does Richards think of Walsh so far?

“It’s been wonderful to see Sen. Walsh already in action in Washington, D.C.,” she said. “He’s a great, great senator for the state of Montana, and we’ll work very hard to try to re-elect him in November.“

She said Planned Parenthood Action Fund worked hard for Tester and left no doubt that it would for Walsh too.

“What we found (in 2012) is that women were very receptive to hearing from Planned Parenthood as a health-care provider,” she said. “At election time, they trust us to tell them who’s on their side.“

Transforming trust into political currency is always a tricky thing, requiring selective concern and strategic omission.

Last June, a Montana Public Radio piece described why Women and families need comprehensive immigration reform. The organization Montana Women Vote stated what is happening to families across the nation, and it’s heartbreaking:

Between July 2010 and September 2012, over 105,000 parents of children who were US citizens, were deported, with almost 100,000 more excluded or left voluntarily. Parents of kids who are citizens, who have no option but to uproot their children from their community and leave the only life their kids have ever known. In fact, the long-term emotional and psychological effects of this kind of turmoil on children is being studied to understand some of the consequences of our current immigration policies.

And if the entire family in not uprooted, many families with mixed immigration status find that one parent may be deported with the other parent staying in their community, trying to raise their kids. In 2008, there were 4 million kids living in mixed status homes. Our immigration system essentially creates single parent households despite two parents wanting desperately to stay together, work hard, and build a stronger future for their kids.

John Walsh needs to describe his position on immigration reform. We already know what Jon Tester thinks, considering he was 1 of 5 senators who voted to kill the Dream Act 4 years ago (Max Baucus also crossed party lines to kill this meager legislative improvement to a broken system destroying families). For a scathing refutation, Helena immigration attorney Shahid Haque-Hausrath unloaded on Tester’s position in this 4&20 guest post.

Last night certainly wasn’t the venue for talking about tough issues, as MT Cowgirl points out:

Tonight’s guest speaker is Cecile Richards, who is the head of Planned Parenthood of America. This is a good choice as it shows the that Democrats are becoming more comfortable in recognizing how important their stance on medical privacy really is. And her appearance could not be more timely, coming on the heels of a horrible incident of vandalism of an abortion clinic in Montana.

Others on the list include John Walsh, our new senator, as well as Governor Steve Bullock, Senator Jon Tester, and Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen, Superintendent Denise Juneau and Secretary of State Linda McCulloch. And don’t forget the popular Ed Smith, the clerk of the Supreme Court, as well as state House and Senate Leaders Jon Sesso and Chuck Hunter. Bring your money but don’t drink too much, especially if you are giving a speech. Hopefully, we can at least be assured there will be no poetry.

Yes, hopefully no drunken poetry. Delivering stale political rhetoric and taking money is the point of dinners like this.

And remember, money = political viability.

The political season is shifting with the approach of spring, from Twitter spats to candidates like Walsh actually having to run a campaign now, especially considering Bohlinger gave a head-fake and decided to stay in the race. More from Cowgirl:

The Bohlinger deal is interesting since he had given indications, around the time Walsh was appointed Senator, that he would bow out. But now he’s in it for certain. The 77-year-old Republican turned Democrat is a former Lt. Governor, former clothing merchant from Billings and former Marine boxer, and is well known among voters and has a freewheeling style and says what’s on his mind, contrasting to the more measured Walsh. Bohlinger has not raised much money and Walsh has raised a good clip (half a million or more), but that stuff matters only when the money is spent. We shall see how and when (or if) the Walsh campaign chooses to spend some of its war chest in the primary against Bohlinger. Bohlinger, meanwhile, is trying to fashion himself as a progressive, outsider alternative to Walsh. He says Walsh was anointed by Harry Reid and others in Washington.

Oh boy, here we go.

by lizard

Ronald Reagan planted a bomb and it’s still blowing up hospitals. That bomb’s name is EMTALA:

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) is an act of the United States Congress, passed in 1986 as part of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). It requires hospitals to provide emergency health care treatment to anyone needing it regardless of citizenship, legal status, or ability to pay. There are no reimbursement provisions. Participating hospitals may not transfer or discharge patients needing emergency treatment except with the informed consent or stabilization of the patient or when their condition requires transfer to a hospital better equipped to administer the treatment.

The recent closure of another Georgia hospital has combined modern day Republican cruelty of denying Federal medicaid dollars with a Reagan-era BIG GOVERNMENT mandate to just say yes to the uninsured.

The policy is one thing, the reality in the ER is something else.

Here in Missoula, I don’t think it’s a secret St. Pat’s ER is the triage center for the chronically homeless, especially during the winter. The combination of EMTALA and medicaid no-thankya from foot-shooting ideologues in Montana’s legislature will continue negatively impacting one of Missoula’s largest employers.

I have seen and participated in the burnout of useless triage. I have seen how difficult it can be to convince an ER doctor that the chronic drunk he’s seen a hundred times really might do it this time. Of course taking the drunk’s threat of self-harm seriously means waiting the time it takes to sober him/her up so that a mental health professional can properly assess risk. Today I learned if your BAC is around .3 that means about 8 hours in an ER bed.

Forget the whole bleeding-heart liberal appeal to improving services. Broken systems are incredibly expensive. It would be fiscally conservative to find a cheaper fix to what we’re doing now, right?

by lizard

Propaganda is a word that, when used, seems to taint the user. Same thing with psyop. Luckily I ain’t afraid of the taint (ok, that sounds horrible).

A great example of propaganda happened last month when it was reported that a 4-year old was found ALONE in a Syrian desert. Well, that was proven to be simply untrue. The pictures at the second link says it all.

Conspiracy theory is obviously another term that taints, which is why it’s so useful when bugged conversations get leaked regarding speculation that snipers in Ukraine were from the opposition and killed people on both sides of the conflict. The title of this Guardian piece is Ukraine crisis: bugged call reveals conspiracy theory about Kiev snipers:

A leaked phone call between the EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet has revealed that the two discussed a conspiracy theory that blamed the killing of civilian protesters in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, on the opposition rather than the ousted government.

The Estonian foreign ministry confirmed the leaked conversation was accurate. It said: “Foreign minister Paet was giving an overview of what he had heard in Kiev and expressed concern over the situation on the ground. We reject the claim that Paet was giving an assessment of the opposition’s involvement in the violence.” Ashton’s office said it did not comment on leaks.

During the conversation, Paet quoted a woman named Olga – who the Russian media identified her as Olga Bogomolets, a doctor – blaming snipers from the opposition shooting the protesters.

“What was quite disturbing, this same Olga told that, well, all the evidence shows that people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides,” Paet said.

“So she also showed me some photos, she said that as medical doctor, she can say it is the same handwriting, the same type of bullets, and it’s really disturbing that now the new coalition, that they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened.”

“So there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition,” Paet says.

Oh, those crazy conspiracy theorists!

Now, for an example of a psyop, I offer this piece from 2012 describing The Secret History of Pussy Riot. It’s an interesting take that leads me to wonder about the authenticity of the infamous Cossack whipping incident jumped on by western media to highlight Russian brutality during the Sochi Olympics.

There is a line in the movie The Usual Suspects where Kevin Spacey’s character says “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

I think the greatest trick the US ever pulled was convincing Americans it doesn’t use propaganda on its own citizens.

by lizard

John Walsh must have learned from Jon Tester that it’s much more politically advantageous to do things like kill the dreams of immigrant children than risk losing a few ignorant voters they probably weren’t going to get anyway. That’s how I read the disappointing actions John Walsh took when he joined 6 of his fellow Democrats in killing the nomination of Debo P. Adegbile to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. From the link:

Seven Democrats joined with Republicans in blocking a final vote on the nomination, the largest number of Democrats to vote against an Obama nominee, according to Senate aides. Adegbile’s ties to the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, an internationally known prisoner convicted of the 1981 murder of Officer Daniel Faulk­ner, had become the focus of a conservative crusade that boiled over in recent weeks.

A senior aide to one of the senators who voted against the nominee said several senators’ offices were “very angry” at the White House for moving ahead with the nomination even though it could leave Democrats who are facing tough reelection races vulnerable to attack ads.

“It’s a vote you didn’t have to take. It’s a 30-second ad that writes itself,” said the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak frankly.

On Monday, Missoula’s City Council took a hard vote that I’m sure no one was looking forward to taking. Several people on council described the difficulty they had making their decision, including Adam Hertz. The vote on whether or not to include “sitting” in the updated ordinances was very close. If Hertz had voted for the amendment to include sitting, it would have been tied 6-6, and the mayor would have voted yea. But he didn’t, and an almost guaranteed lawsuit the city would fight and probably loose was (hopefully) avoided.

This whole ordinance fiasco led me to a realization that I was wrong 3 years ago when I criticized the Indy’s endorsement of Adam Hertz in this post. Here is the part from the Indy piece I quoted (October, 2011):

The way we’re reading the wind, the conservative bloc should expect to lose two seats. Meanwhile, a Copple victory would give progressives unprecedented control of city government. For some, that’s an exciting prospect. But perhaps they should be concerned. The last time the left had the Missoula Council locked down, back in the mid-’90s under the banner of the New Party, they handled it so badly that within a few short years the group’s label had become political poison and it disbanded.

The ordinance issue was handled very badly, and if it wasn’t for the vote of a young conservative, it would have been even worse. Hopefully Missoula doesn’t still get sued because the city is already singing the union scape-goating blues.

Going back to John Walsh, his campaign is hoping you don’t pay too much attention to his cowardly political pandering by quickly reloading the 24 hour news cycle with this: Senator Walsh introduced Bill to restrict NSA and FBI snooping:

Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., introduced his first bill Thursday, to restrict the ability of federal security agencies to secretly collect phone records and other personal data on U.S. citizens.

Walsh’s bill, titled the Civil Liberties Defense Act, also would require the National Security Agency to purge records of already collected data that don’t comply with standards established by the act.

“As I’ve been traveling around the state … this is an issue that I’m hearing about from Montanans, about the government trampling on our civil liberties,” he said in an interview. “I said that when I came here, I wanted to identify problems, find a fix for the problem and solve that problem.”

John Walsh want see problem. Then John Walsh want find fix for problem. Then John Walsh solve problem.

Go get ‘em Tiger!

If John Walsh is concerned about civil liberties, all he has to do is look at Missoula, where sitting on a public sidewalk downtown nearly became a criminal act.

I read something earlier today (h/t ‏@Schwad4HD14 ) that I’m having a hard time believing, because it’s just too perfect to be true. It’s a story about what happens when an ordinance intended for “those” people is equally enforced:

FORT WALTON BEACH —A local family says their afternoon at a local park was ruined after a homeless person complained to police that they were lying down.

Under the city code, visitors to parks cannot “sleep or protractedly lounge” on seats, benches or other areas.

Michelle McCormick said she and her husband were at Fort Walton Landing Saturday with two young children. She said her husband was wrestling with them when a police officer approached.

“She walked up to us and said, ‘Sir, I’m going to have to tell you to get up. There’s an ordinance against lying down in the park,’ ” McCormick said.

“My husband was just incredulous.”

Police Sgt. Bill Royal said the officer was responding to a complaint from a park visitor.

“We received a phone call, and it was a homeless person,” he said. “He was complaining about individuals lying on blankets near the gazebo.”

The call log indicates the officer made the family aware of the city ordinance that prohibits lying down in the park.

McCormick said the officer was “pleasant enough” but firm about what the ordinance allows.

“My husband sat up and by this time, he was fuming and we packed up to go,” she said. “… (The day) was so spoiled at that point, we didn’t want to stay.”

Police officials said the ordinance is intended to keep people from sleeping in the park and interfering with the use of local parks.

“There’s a safety factor,” Royal said. “You may trip someone.”

City Manager Michael Beedie said he wasn’t sure when the ordinance was enacted but that it was designed to keep vagrants and others from sleeping in the park.

Capt. Tom Matz said the police department cannot discriminate against vagrants and must treat all park visitors equally.

McCormick said the city should not use the ordinance to keep parents from relaxing with their children in a park on a sunny day.

“It’s taking a really big brush to a small problem,” she said. “It’s like they didn’t think about the ramifications.”

A cautionary tale, indeed.

by lizard

In a 7-5 vote, Caitlin Copple’s effort to reinsert the downtown ban on gateway conduct commonly referred to as “sitting” failed:

On Monday night, the Missoula City Council adopted updates to its public peace, morals and welfare regulations. While they prohibit sitting within 10 feet of a business entrance downtown, a bid by Councilwoman Caitlin Copple to ban sitting anywhere on downtown sidewalks from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. was rejected. In a 7-5 vote, councilors Copple, Jon Wilkins, Mike O’Herron, Annelise Hedahl and Ed Childers supported the amendment.

Businesses got nearly everything they wanted out of these ordinances. Lying/Sleeping is still prohibited downtown between 6am-11pm, the distance a person can sit from an entryway increased from 6 feet to 10 feet, and the trifecta of sitting/sleeping/lying on footbridges passed.

Of course getting nearly everything they asked for still doesn’t seem to be enough for downtown businesses, as evidenced by today’s article Downtown businesses worry new laws won’t deter customer harassment.

In that article, Brent Campbell laments about a lack of retail investment in what I consider a case of full-blown Bozeman envy:

But the challenge to protect downtown commerce remains, as does the desire to grow retail in the city center, said Campbell, with the Downtown Association. In his capacity as president of WGM Group, Campbell often travels to Bozeman. He said its downtown has a busy hardware store and strong grocery store on its main drag, along with other local franchises, yet Missoula has “significantly” more employees downtown.

“We have a bigger market. We have a bigger population. Why aren’t those things being invested in in our downtown retail?” Campbell said. “We have lots of investment in nightlife and in banking and law firms. But why aren’t people investing in retail?”

Bozeman and Helena both have Macy’s department stores, and Macy’s closed in downtown Missoula. The Missoula Mercantile at Higgins Avenue and Front Street has been vacant since 2010.

“The rumor is that Macy’s is going to reopen on Reserve Street. So what does it take for us to be able to attract meaningful retail in our downtown?” He said the question is important, and the Mayor’s Downtown Advisory Commission has been working on the matter for a year.

“I think the downtown business community has spoken about what the issue is, and I’m not sure City Council is listening,” Campbell said.

Moving forward, the Missoula Downtown Association will focus on a two-step solution, he said: First, a drop-in center for people who are inebriated, and second, wet housing.

“We want to continue to improve the situation in downtown Missoula,” Campbell said.

It’s good that the MDA wants to move forward, considering they used veiled threats of “compassion fatigue” regarding supporting the 10 year plan to end homelessness. Of course, we heard over and over again that this was about behavior and not homelessness, a claim somewhat undermined by the two-step solution now being mentioned.

In lamenting about the lack of retail downtown to balance the bankers, lawyers and “nightlife” that primarily fuels the economic activity, Campbell answered his own question: Reserve Street. Big box retail offers lower prices and they don’t rip you off with faulty parking meters.

I would say lower prices is the main incentive that draws shoppers to Reserve Street, because Missoula doesn’t have a lot of good paying jobs putting discretionary money into the pockets of Missoulians. Add to that factors like St. Pats, Missoula’s second largest employer, shedding jobs because of the economic climate exacerbated by our state legislature denying medicaid expansion, and you can begin to see there are other reasons impacting businesses downtown.

Speaking of employers, check out this list of Missoula’s top employers from 2009:

1. University of Montana, 3,651

2. St. Patrick Hospital, 1,600

3. Missoula County Public Schools, 1,424

4. Community Medical Center, 1,200

5. DirecTV Customer Service, 1,000

6. U.S. Forest Service, 800

7. Missoula County, 775

8. Wal-Mart, 524

9. City of Missoula, 514

10. Smurfit-Stone Container Corp., 432

11. Montana Rail Link, 254

12. Western Montana Clinic, 252

Going down the list, the University of Montana has shrinking enrollment and budget problems, our two hospitals are dropping jobs left and right, the US Forest Service recently moved out of downtown, our schools have to make sure they can keep raising the pay of their administrators, Walmart pays its employees shit by subsidizing their bottom-line with federal programs, like food stamps, and Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. is gone.

So when Campbell says he wants to “continue to improve the situation in downtown Missoula” I would suggest maybe thinking beyond the boundaries of the BID.

A few days ago Pete Talbot wrote about the front page Sunday Missoulian article examining the perception that Missoula needs to reinvent its economic identity. Pete mostly goes after the Montana Policy Institute for being a right-wing think tank, which I agree is troubling. He concludes his post with this:

Most folks aren’t getting rich in Missoula, but we’ve been buffered from the radical boom-and-bust cycle better than many Montana cities precisely because of our diverse economy. Please keep that in mind and build on it (also, support for a big hike in the minimum wage would be in everyone’s best interest, something you can be sure the Montana Policy Institute is against).

So let’s not pander to the institute’s short-sighted, free-market, non-sustainable model. We have more going for us than that, and the Missoulian, for credibility, shouldn’t be quoting the Montana Policy Institute anymore.

Pete’s right, most folks aren’t getting rich in Missoula. They get rich elsewhere, then move here because the glossy magazines make it look like a high-cultured utopian college town.

Missoula’s past decade of gentrified growth is not a trend intended to help the working class or poor. It’s a type of development intended to upgrade and exclude—great for real estate agents and developers; not so great for someone working at Walmart (or a barista working at Liquid Planet, for that matter).

While many in Missoula may bristle at a comparison to San Francisco, a recent article about how San Francisco is losing its soul to tech-fueled gentrification is a great read. Here is how the piece opens:

Poet and painter Lawrence Ferlinghetti came to San Francisco in 1951 because he heard it was a great place to be a bohemian. He settled in the Italian working-class neighbourhood of North Beach with its cheap rents and European ambience. And before long he put the city on the world’s counter-cultural map by publishing the work of Beat poets such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. But despite his status as world and local literary legend, the 94-year-old co-owner of the renowned City Lights bookshop and publishing house doesn’t feel so at home in the City by the Bay anymore.

He complains of a “soulless group of people”, a “new breed” of men and women too busy with iPhones to “be here” in the moment, and shiny new Mercedes-Benzs on his street. The major art galley in central San Francisco that has shown Ferlinghetti’s work for two decades is closing because it can’t afford the new rent. It, along with several other galleries, will make way for a cloud computing startup called MuleSoft said to have offered to triple the rent. “It is totally shocking to see Silicon Valley take over the city,” says Ferlinghetti, who still rents in North Beach. “San Francisco is radically changing and we don’t know where it is going to end up.”

If gentrification produced equal benefit across the socio-economic spectrum, then I doubt there would be as much tension. But it doesn’t produce equal benefits. That is something for Missoulians to think about as we continue to struggle under the economic consequences of bailing out Wall Street and letting Main Street stagnate and decline.




Imagine my surprise (not) when a friend brought to my attention the above public Facebook post from Intelligent Discontent’s Polish Wolf after our dustup in the comments of Lizard’s post “Cold War Proxy Conflicts Worsening”. I blurred out his name and photo so as to maintain his anonymity.

First off, let’s dispense with the easy stuff. I’m not sure if PW is referring to my being a ‘faux “anti-imperialist”‘ or a ‘faux… liberal’ (he might want to get some tutoring from his high school english teacher buddy on how to construct sentences clearly). Most assuredly I am an anti-imperialist. And I have never claimed, and do not claim, to be a liberal. God forbid I be lumped in with the milk toast politicians that pass as liberal democrats these days.

Maybe he’s insinuating there is no such thing as a liberal that is “anti-imperialist.” I don’t believe that all liberals have descended into neoliberalism, so I’d have to disagree with him on that point, that one could not be both a liberal and an anti-imperialist.

But I need to clarify a few things for those who would pass off a cursory look at the recent history of Ukrainian elections or economics for any indication of whether or not the CIA is involved in fomenting the instability that resulted in a coup, or if this coup is justified. There is much in-depth coverage outside of the mainstream press (and mouthpieces for neocon and neoliberal foreign policy stances).

Much more after the jump… with a “straight face.” Continue Reading »

by Pete Talbot

Some of our city’s development leaders are troubled by a lack of a Missoula “economic identity,” according to a story on the Front Page of Sunday’s Missoulian.

This concern is driven, in part, by a report from the Montana Policy Institute ranking Missoula near the bottom of Montana cities for “business friendliness.”

Of course, the Montana Policy Institute won’t be happy with Missoula until the Clark Fork is running thick with pollutants, we have 1960’s tipi-burner air quality and corporate taxes are back to zero, or less.

The Montana Policy Institute is a far-right “think tank” out of Bozeman funded by, well, no one knows who funds it since its donors are kept secret.

I’m not all that sure that the institute is still in existence.  It’s mostly-blank page on the Internet says, “this website is not updated frequently.”  So, if you want more information, forget about it. There is this on the site: the Montana Policy Institute’s noble goal of “free-market think(ing), dedicated solely to providing policy solutions that promote the liberty, prosperity, and quality of life for all Montanans.” In other words, roll back regulations and taxes.

I applaud Missoula’s economic developers for building partnerships: start ups and entrepreneurs joining with technology resources and government assistance, and linking up with our excellent university and city schools.

We have our economic fits-and-starts here, and it we’d all be happier if our kids could find gainful employment and stay in town. Let’s work on that but not in the way promoted by the Montana Policy Institute.

Most folks aren’t getting rich in Missoula, but we’ve been buffered from the radical boom-and-bust cycle better than many Montana cities precisely because of our diverse economy.  Please keep that in mind and build on it (also, support for a big hike in the minimum wage would be in everyone’s best interest, something you can be sure the Montana Policy Institute is against).

So let’s not pander to the institute’s short-sighted, free-market, non-sustainable model.  We have more going for us than that, and the Missoulian, for credibility, shouldn’t be quoting the Montana Policy Institute anymore.

by lizard

I’ve had several people direct my attention to Ed Kemmick’s new project, Last Best News, and I can see why. His peek into the racist mind of Max Lenington is incredibly well-written. Kemmick also bid his farewell to Montana’s senatorial pork hustler in a piece titled Max Baucus: A long career, a long goodbye. In that article Kemmick describes Baucus as the insider’s insider:

It’s no crime to lack spark, but in Baucus’ case the absence of connection was directly related to how much more comfortable he seemed in Washington than he did when he came back to Montana. He was the professional insider, the quiet political functionary who knows all the right people and trims his sails to catch every passing breeze.

Without Max in that position of influence, Ochenski makes note in his weekly column what that probably means for the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act. I’d read the whole piece, but for a quick summary, here is Ochenski’s conclusion:

The harsh reality is that the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act will likely fall victim to the political sleight-of-hand that brought Walsh to the Senate as Baucus’ replacement. Baucus proclaimed the bill to be “one of his top priorities as he finishes out his final term” and that he was “more determined than ever to bring the Heritage Act to the finish line.”

But the truth is that Baucus is gone and with him, all the power, persuasion and vote-trading that traditionally brings bills to “the finish line.” Instead, we get yet another example of our severely dysfunctional political system.

Instead of reading about dysfunction, I offer an alternative read. Jeffrey St. Clair has a great article celebrating his friend and activist, Mike Garrity. St. Clair opens around a campfire in Western Montana:

Five years ago, I was sitting at a campfire in the foothills of the Bridger Mountains of western Montana, with a few close friends, sipping whiskey while watching a dazzling sunset dissolve behind the ragged peak of Haystack Mountain on the distant horizon. It was my 50th birthday and there was no better place to mourn the passing of the years.

Most of us circled around that crackling fire of lodgepole pine were grizzled veterans of environmental battles and we looked the part. The decades had taken their toll: Bad backs, hip replacements, busted ankles, arthritic wrists, failing eyeballs. One of us stood out, though. He was lean, sinewy and sported the implacable, no bullshit gaze of an auditor at the IRS. His name was Mike Garrity and he was by far the most dangerous figure on the mountain that night, except, perhaps, for the young grizzly that had been sighted rummaging through a berry patch just up the slope earlier in the week.

The article describes how Garrity’s Alliance for the Wild Rockies has been so effective, and it’s not just lawsuits. Some of the collaborations Garrity cobbled together show how good he is at building relationships, even among groups that aren’t natural allies to environmental issues. Here are some examples:

Garrity has a unique gift for getting unlikely folks to take couragous stances in the defense of the environment. For example, in 1996, Garrity helped convince the Southern Utah Loggers Association to sign onto a letter to the Chief of the Forest Service calling for the protection of all roadless lands from logging. Their logic was two-fold: first, they had a legitimate concern about protecting the environment; second, they argued that timber sales in roadless areas were most likely to be bought and logged by large out-of-state corporations.

Garrity pulled a similar coup in the Northern Rockies when he almost single-handedly convinced the Teamsters and Operating Engineers Unions of eastern Washington, to back a plan drafted by the Alliance that called for reintroducing grizzly bears to Central Idaho and western Montana, as well as protecting all roadless lands and ripping out more than 3,500 of existing logging roads that pose a threat to fish and bears.

In a realm that too often lacks encouraging news, Mike Garrity’s activism is a breath of fresh air.  Go get ‘em, Mike!


“You don’t just, in the 21st century, behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext.”
– U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaking on CBS program Face the Nation.

Open thread for the goings on in Ukraine. Anyone curious enough?

by lizard

I’m not going to say who this poet is, yet. I’ll get into that below the fold.


My Heart Is A Wiffle Ball/Freedom Pole

I reared digital moonlight
You read its clock, scrawled neon
across that black
Kismetly … ubiquitously crest fallen
Thrown down to strafe your foothills…
I’ll suck the bones pretty.
Your nature perforated the abrasive
organ pumps
Spray painted everything known to man,
Stream rushed through and all out into
Whilst the crackling stare down sun snuck
Through our windows boarded up
He hit your flint face and it sparked.
And I bellowed and you parked
We reached Marfa.

One honest day up on this freedom pole
Devils not done digging
He’s speaking in tongues all along the
pan handle

And this pining erosion is getting dust in
My eyes
And I’m drunk on your morsels
And so I look down the line
Your every twitch hand drum salute
Salutes mine…
Continue Reading »

by Pete Talbot

I’m not sure why folks band together in moments of crisis, an example being the response of everyone: neighbors, strangers, passers-by; coming together to search for avalanche victims in the lower Rattlesnake.

These same folks might call the cops on you if you’re playing your music too loud or parked in the wrong spot, but during times of crisis …

To a lesser extent, watching folks pitch in to dig out stuck cars, and the sidewalks and driveways of elderly friends and neighbors, well, it gives this old cynic a warm feeling (despite the -20 windchill).

It’s one of those times when right-wing tea baggers, left-wing pinkos, rednecks and hippies come together for the common good.

So I won’t evoke class warfare during this blizzard, lizard.  I’ll just say that this weekend Montanans, particularly Missoulians, have made me proud.

by lizard

Damn you, Twitter. After my white-knuckled escape in a rented Pathfinder from the blizzard besieging Missoula, my weekend getaway has been temporarily thwarted by self-sabotage: I brought my phone. And computer.

Hearing news from my wife about the “urban avalanche” that destroyed a home and buried three people, one of them a child, sent me to Twitter. It was miraculous that all three were pulled from the snowy debris alive.

Of course, I stayed on Twitter, then turned on my computer.

While my friend (who somehow had no problem flying into Missoula this morning) is happily snoring away in our hotel room, I’m currently perched on a bar stool in the swanky lounge (we’re splurging). The place is lively. I overhear a regular customer ask the bartender why it’s so busy tonight. The bartender said a big group from the east coast is in town. “We’re ready for them,” the bartender says. It’s a very large group, but only one tab.

It’s the perfect setting to read Ismael Hossein-Zadeh’s piece on How International Financial Elites Change Governments to Implement Austerity—or, to put it in simpler terms—Global War on the 99%. I strongly suggest reading the whole piece, but for now I’ll excerpt this:

The powerful plutocratic establishment in the core capitalist countries does not seem to feel comfortable to dismantle New Deal economics, Social Democratic reforms and welfare state programs in these countries while people in smaller, less-developed countries such as (al-Gaddafi’s) Libya, Venezuela or Cuba enjoy strong, state-sponsored social safety net programs. Plutocracy’s intolerance of “regimented” economies stems from a fear that strong state-sponsored economic safely net programs elsewhere may serve as “bad” models that could be demanded by citizens in the core capitalist countries.

In a moment of honesty, former U.S. President Harry Truman is reported as having expressed (in 1947) the unstated mission of the United States to globalize its economic system in the following words: “The whole world should adopt the American system. The American system can survive in America only if it becomes a world system”

The article puts in stark terms how this global class war is being waged.

We’ve had some comment-thread discussion on Ukraine, and I’ve written about my weariness of Greenwald’s professional partnership with Billionaire Pierre Omidyar. These two seemingly unrelated topics have been provocatively linked by Mark Ames in a piece examining donations from Omidyar that funded revolutionary groups in Ukraine:

When the revolution came to Ukraine, neo-fascists played a front-center role in overthrowing the country’s president. But the real political power rests with Ukraine’s pro-western neoliberals. Political figures like Oleh Rybachuk, long a favorite of the State Department, DC neocons, EU, and NATO—and the right-hand man to Orange Revolution leader Viktor Yushchenko.

Last December, the Financial Times wrote that Rybachuk’s “New Citizen” NGO campaign “played a big role in getting the protest up and running.”

New Citizen, along with the rest of Rybachuk’s interlocking network of western-backed NGOs and campaigns— “Center UA” (also spelled “Centre UA”), “Chesno,” and “Stop Censorship” to name a few — grew their power by targeting pro-Yanukovych politicians with a well-coordinated anti-corruption campaign that built its strength in Ukraine’s regions, before massing in Kiev last autumn.

The efforts of the NGOs were so successful that the Ukraine government was accused of employing dirty tricks to shut them down. In early February, the groups were the subject of a massive money laundering investigation by the economics division of Ukraine’s Interior Ministry in what many denounced as a politically motivated move.

Fortunately the groups had the strength – which is to say, money – to survive those attacks and continue pushing for regime change in Ukraine. The source of that money?

According to the Kyiv Post, Pierrie Omidyar’s Omidyar Network (part of the Omidyar Group which owns First Look Media and the Intercept) provided 36% of “Center UA”’s $500,000 budget in 2012— nearly $200,000. USAID provided 54% of “Center UA”’s budget for 2012. Other funders included the US government-backed National Endowment for Democracy.

Add to that George Soros gushing about how to Sustain the Ukranian Breakthrough:

Following a crescendo of terrifying violence, the Ukrainian uprising has had a surprisingly positive outcome. Contrary to all rational expectations, a group of citizens armed with not much more than sticks and shields made of cardboard boxes and metal garbage-can lids overwhelmed a police force firing live ammunition. There were many casualties, but the citizens prevailed. This was one of those historic moments that leave a lasting imprint on a society’s collective memory.

How could such a thing happen? Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics offers a fitting metaphor. According to Heisenberg, subatomic phenomena can manifest themselves as particles or waves; similarly, human beings may alternate between behaving as individual particles or as components of a larger wave. In other words, the unpredictability of historical events like those in Ukraine has to do with an element of uncertainty in human identity.

People’s identity is made up of individual elements and elements of larger units to which they belong, and peoples’ impact on reality depends on which elements dominate their behavior. When civilians launched a suicidal attack on an armed force in Kyiv on February 20, their sense of representing “the nation” far outweighed their concern with their individual mortality. The result was to swing a deeply divided society from the verge of civil war to an unprecedented sense of unity.

Whether that unity endures will depend on how Europe responds.

This is simply how the global elite roll, and this is how they will continue to roll until some counter force stops them.

by lizard

Is the normalizing of the surveillance state complimented by First Look Media?

It used to be anyone who thought “they” can watch you through webcams were considered unhinged. Well

Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.

In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.

Glenn Greenwald also has a very important article (drip) at The//Intercept about How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations. I haven’t really dug in yet, but just from skimming the documents the depth of strategic deception appears astonishing.

While I appreciate the information, I remain suspicious of the source and the ultimate intention of these disclosures because it smacks of boiling frogs.

Not a popular position, I know, but watching the lackluster reaction I can’t help but wonder.

by lizard

The debate surrounding sitting on the sidewalk in the Central Business District of Downtown Missoula hit a new low when Dan Cederberg described this problematic sitting as “gateway conduct” at yesterday’s Public Safety and Health committee meeting. A gateway to what? The aggressive solicitation that would STILL BE PROHIBITED if the amendments removing non-verbal solicitation and benign acts, like sitting, pass?

The attempt to keep Missoula from being sued by the ACLU will be taken up by City Council next Monday, March 3rd. I hope Caitlin Copple can make it this time, since she wasn’t at the committee meeting yesterday.

Emily Bentley was in attendance, and had this to say:

There is one main issue at hand. Should sitting on a public sidewalk be banned in all of the Central Business District or should it only be banned 10ft from the entrance to a business? The latter prevailed…for today. There were only 6 people in the committee meeting – myself, Jason, Jordan, Bryan, Jon, and Annelise. Caitlin was absent and many of the other Council members who have voiced support for the CBD ban in previous meetings are not on this committee. This issue will receive extensive debate and may be over turned on Monday evening. I do not support the full ban on sitting in the CBD. Although I agree there is an issue of public safety, I feel strongly that there is benign behavior that will also be made illegal. My toddler had a tantrum downtown last week. He sat down. I don’t want that to be illegal. I also sat down to breast feed him last summer. I don’t want that to be illegal either. I think the benign behavior is overlooked and people take notice of the disruptive behavior, giving the perception that there is only bad behavior. The 10ft ban on sitting is consistent with the 10ft ban on solicitation, which makes it easier for police to enforce. According to the BID, 10ft from businesses takes up about 1/3 of the CBD. The ACLU has grudgingly acknowledged that it is not de facto ban the way that the originally proposed 20ft was.

Emily’s toddler is not the only person throwing tantrums downtown (Missoulian):

“This process kind of feels like a shell game at times, as we’ve been at this for three years,” said Brent Campbell, president of the Missoula Downtown Association. “I’m not sure this is really the best way to create good statutes.”

A few years ago, the council adopted ordinances aimed at establishing some order downtown, but the city center remains messy, albeit popular. Workers still clean up human feces from shop fronts, and pedestrians run the gantlet of beggars asking or accosting them for money on the sidewalks.

What is the best way to create good statutes? How about some data? Brent Campbell is mistaken, it’s actually been 5 years since the original ordinances against aggressive solicitation and pedestrian interference were passed. So in that time, how many citations have been issued? And has the rate of citations increased over the years?

I suspect there may be a reason that kind of information isn’t a part of the conversation.

Bentley also introduced an amendment reintroducing footbridges into the ordinance language:

I made the motion to add the footbridges back into the ordinance. In my opinion when this was removed as part of the Mayors compromise, we threw the baby out with the bath water. The footbridges are the biggest problem in Missoula. There are significant concerns as people have been raped and murdered on them in recent years.

I don’t disagree, especially the footbridge over the tracks from downtown to the Northside. One way to address that is find a more appropriate spot for the Union Gospel Mission.

Speaking of relocation, I hope the MDA can try to remember there are good things happening for their downtown. By the end of the year, the Poverello Center will be moving to their new location on West Broadway, and the Salvation Army just announced their plans to relocate. I found this quote especially relevant:

The Salvation Army is the most recent of several social service providers to announce plans to move out of the downtown area, and Hamilton said it makes sense to relocate as the city tightens laws against panhandling and loitering.

Next I suggest transforming the Ox into a yogo studio and the Howard’s slummy apartments into condos. To protect all these great improvements our city leaders can create some sort of perimeter around downtown. The BID (business improvement district) can then hire more ambassadors to ensure only commerce-minded citizens enter the downtown core.

If only other Montana communities showed their compassion by not letting people sit on sidewalks, maybe that woman who died of exposure in Hamilton would still be alive. And that guy found dead of exposure in Butte.

Unfortunately it doesn’t look like the vote next Monday is going to go the way downtown businesses hope. There may be other options, though. This article may be 5 years old, but I think it still represents outside-the-box thinking that may be of interest to downtown businesses:

As 15-year-old Eddie Holder sprinted from his apartment for school one recent morning, he held his hand to one ear to block out a shrill, piercing noise.

The sound was coming from a wall-mounted box, but not everyone can hear it. The device, called the Mosquito, is audible only to teens and young adults and was installed outside the building to drive away loiterers.

If that doesn’t work, I have other ideas to help save downtown, like remote control sandwich board signs equipped with a cattle-prod-type device that would administer a non-lethal shock to non-commerce minded individuals misusing our public sidewalks.

You’re welcome, downtown businesses.

by jhwygirl

The City of Missoula’s attempts to criminalize homelessness has reached a ridiculous crescendo. Downtown is a mess and don’t you know, it’s all the homeless’ fault. Not the drunks – served at downtown bars – who smash up downtown businesses. Not the drunks assaulting innocent pedestrians on their way home from the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival –’s those darn homeless.

Of latest debate is the ability of people to – yeah, get this – sit downtown. Because, you know, no one should be coming to Missoula Montana and have the audacity to sit. In downtown! Of all places!

Dan Cederberg, a member of Mayor Engen’s downtown advisory committee, is quoted in this Missoulian article covering today’s committee meetings as saying that ‘the council has heard plenty of testimony that many people who sit downtown also end up harassing and intimidating people, so the act is a “gateway” to poor behavior. He said the result is a public safety issue the city must address.’

Sitting is a “gateway” to poor behavior?

Liberals and Progressives? Please phone home because your city is lost.

I’ll tell you what is “gateway” behavior to a poor downtown lacking growth: Public officials and downtown businesses and commerce organizations standing by (because, you know, sitting is bad) with nary a whisper while one of the largest and most historic pieces of commerce real estate not only in Missoula but in western Montana is eyed as a viable site for the county public library.

Let that sink in: the county friggin’ library. A non-tax paying entity taking up one of the largest contiguous parcels of downtown Missoula. A block and a half off of riverfront, and on the main bridged street through downtown?

And before the Friends of the Library come out and whine about me hating all books, I’ll pray that ya’all believe me when I say I’m a big fan of libraries and book reading. Frankly, more people should do it. Newspapers too. Everyone should read and do it often. As often as possible.

And I’m even OK if you sit while doing it!

Yeah – downtown Missoula is turning into a tax-free haven – let’s not forget the University either.

Please grow the hell up and quit blaming everyone but yourselves people.

by Pete Talbot

[What's an emptive?  Lizard says he's posted a preemptive strike (below this post) to a piece I've been working on.  Well, here's my postemptive.  I'm finishing something I've started; not my strong suit.  Damn you, lizard.]

No one really needs me to defend this site.  The contributors do a fine job of responding to comments and criticism, and they even show a little introspection from time-to-time.

But I found this in my inbox a few days ago from someone I respect. For my own reasons, I’ll keep it anonymous but here’s the gist:

I hope you’re following what is going on at 4 and 20 these days.

It seems that there isn’t a Democrat they “like” anymore. Literally, not one.

I’ve been a lurking b’birder from the beginning but I think I finally may let it go.

I mean they’re even going after Pat Williams. I think we’ve got Senator Essman and the Montana Republican party doing enough of that, don’t we?

He/she has a point. This site has made many twists and turns over the years.  It started Democratically-centric, particularly in Jon Tester’s successful bid to unseat Sen. Conrad Burns in 2006. 4&20 has had many contributors since then from all stripes left of center, but it belongs to no one. The opinions are those of the writers and I appreciate them all. There are sites that espouse party line — left, right and center — and I’m grateful for those, too.

Now, the 4&20 reins are in lizard’s hands.  It’s great to see jhwy.girl in the mix again and a post now-and-then from JC.  But this not the site to visit if you’re looking for party talking points. After our founding father, Jay Stevens, I’m the closest to a Democratic apologist and I seldom post anymore.

I enjoy the unbridled ideology this site brings to the ‘sphere.  I can’t always embrace it because of life’s realities.  Example: I’m against coal trains, tar sands, the rape of the Bakken and the Keystone XL Pipeline.  If this was my platform for an upcoming bid for statewide office, how would I fare?  Piss poor, and having just returned from the Magic City, Montana’s largest berg,  where I did some unscientific polling, I say this with conviction.

So, I’ll continue to straddle that line between idealism and pragmatism while  absorbing the musings from the blogs, and hoping we lean to the left as far as feasible in this great state of ours.

by lizard

I’m going to preempt a post Pete Talbot is writing defending 4&20 Blackbirds (it’s been in draft form for 2 days and I couldn’t help taking a peek).

I guess Pete received an email from someone he respects, someone who wants to make sure Pete is following what has been happening at 4&20 lately. And what’s that you ask? Criticizing Democrats.

My criticism is neither new, nor original. After all, the sell out of the Democratic party has been going on for two decades now. For those who don’t wear party lenses, it’s not that difficult to discern.

I think the last 8 years have been particularly hard on Democrats, especially the progressive wing. Bush’s reign was abysmal. That’s why there was so much hope the electoral victory in 2006—returning Democrats to power in Congress for the first time in 12 years—would translate into policy push-backs on immense blunders, like the disastrous Iraq and Afghanistan Wars (because terrorism).

Here’s how an piece interpreted the anti-war polling leading up to the 2006 elections:

The November election is shaping up as a national referendum on the war in Iraq – and the GOP, AKA the War Party, is in deep trouble.

A recent CNN poll asked voters to rank the importance of the war issue: 48 percent said it is “extremely important,” while 38 percent averred it’s “very important.” The same poll shows overwhelming opposition to the war (62 percent, and climbing), and – the shocker – 56 percent believe the war was a mistake, while a mere 40 percent disagree – with the latter figure the lowest on record. The bad news for Republicans: when it comes to Iraq, voters would rather have Democrats in charge (51 percent). After all, a Republican administration, aided and abetted by a rubber-stamp GOP-controlled Congress, lied to them: according to a Newsweek poll, a whopping 58 percent say Bush and his team “purposely misled the public about evidence that Iraq had banned weapons in order to build support for war.”

In 2006 I was 27 years old, still idealistic and politically gullible. I can look back now and say the lack of action from the 2006 elections was the seed of my disillusionment with the only viable political alternative to Republicans. It was only a matter of time before I began putting together the implications of the Clinton years and the global reach of neoliberalism.

But it’s not the criticism of an abstract political philosophy that inspires the vice chair of the Missoula County Democrats Executive Board to slyly subtweet her displeasure at my recent criticism with these two tweets:

Only in some hallucinatory parallel universe would the local democrats be responsible for Van Valkenburg’s negligence and mess.

Oh, a new day and a new article about Fred digging a new hole.

I’m not interested in picking personal fights. I sometimes need to remind myself there are mostly good people trying to do good things within a broken system. And, I should add, there is a lot of shared frustration that gets channeled at different targets, sometimes unfairly.

That said, I don’t think it’s unfair to call out examples of Democrats deviating from the principles they are suppose to stand for.

The cover piece for Harper’s March issue is titled “Nothing Left: The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals“. Here is how Ellen Rosenbush introduces the issue:

How will future generations view the presidency of Barack Obama? In this issue of Harper’s Magazine, we present our latest commentary on the president and his legacy with a cover story by University of Pennsylvania political science professor Adolph Reed Jr. His essay is a compelling assessment of the failure of the American left. He begins with the left’s abandonment of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal principles and achievements, and goes on to criticize both Bill Clinton and Obama for having moved toward the center. Yet Reed’s harshest salvos are directed at the left itself, which he views as effectively dead: it stands for nothing, and is now defined only by its not being the right.

To watch a Bill Moyers interview with Reed, click here.

C’mon, American liberals, don’t give up like Alec Baldwin. It’s not all hopeless. I saw random strangers helping each other in the mess of snow, all day. They were getting things done, practical things, working together for the common good.

It’s still possible.

by lizard

Someone needs to take the figurative shovel away from Fred Van Valkenburg, because he clearly doesn’t have the good sense to stop digging the hole he’s in.

On Sunday, some new wrinkles appeared in Missoula County’s scandal-ridden county attorney’s office, sparking anger from apparently uninformed county commissioners:

At midweek, the county commissioners turned to Montana Attorney General Tim Fox for his take on the Justice Department report, which cited specific cases where victims said their allegations had been ignored or discounted by prosecutors. What they learned surprised them.

While he was still attorney general, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock struck an agreement with the DOJ in June of 2012 – at the outset of the DOJ’s investigation into Missoula’s and the University of Montana’s handling of sexual assault allegations.

The pact called on the DOJ to turn over to the state attorney general – whose office oversees all county prosecutors – any new allegations of sexual assaults or new information about previously reported sexual assault allegations.

Fox, as the current attorney general, sent a letter to the DOJ on Thursday requesting that information, citing the DOJ’s allegations that new evidence had been uncovered and that past cases had been mishandled or inappropriately dismissed.

The 2012 agreement wasn’t made known to county commissioners until last week, a fact that has Landquist livid. She had voted with fellow commissioners Curtiss and Bill Carey to approve a $50,000 appropriation from the county’s general fund for Van Valkenburg to challenge the DOJ’s investigative jurisdiction in U.S. District Court.

If Van Valkenburg knew about this agreement, then he had a responsibility to inform the commissioners before they gave him a $50,000 dollar check to start his legal war against the DoJ. Of course Steve Bullock, who made the agreement back in 2012 when he was the Attorney General, could have also reached out to Missoula County Commissioners, but I guess that’s asking too much of a Governor busy grooming his choice for the US Senate.

Now that Van Valkenburg has been emboldened by the commissioners, it appears there is no target too petty for Fred to take on.

After this online letter to the editor was published a few days ago, written by some obnoxious Californian, Van Valkenburg apparently began an angry email correspondence with the guy while still on “vacation”. That story is hitting the Missoulian today:

A California lawyer is crying foul after Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg sent him “vitriolic” emails in response to an online letter on – attacks he said could have a “chilling effect” on First Amendment rights if leveled at other critics.

Jim Ghidella, a San Francisco-based attorney and Missoula enthusiast, wrote a letter published on that was critical of Van Valkenburg’s decision to use $50,000 of public funds to sue the U.S. Department of Justice.

Ghidella received the first email, then responded, citing the “vitriolic tone” of Fred’s initial email. Here is how Freddy responded:

“You regret the vitriolic tone of my email?” Van Valkenburg wrote. “You ought to be regretting the arrogance you showed by claiming to know something about our suit against the DOJ which you obviously don’t know.”

“I don’t think you know what the word regret means,” Van Valkenburg added.

That sounds like a threat to me. And with this latest embarrassment, the hole just gets deeper and deeper. Van Valkenburg needs to be stopped from creating any more wreckage in the wake of his incompetence. That vacation he’s on should be extended indefinitely.

House of Clinton?

by lizard

I’m going to try and avoid spoilers, but consider this fair warning that the subject of this post is House of Cards. More specifically this post is about how the precursor White House fairy tale known as The West Wing has been officially devoured and deposited like a tantalizing plate of Freddy’s ribs.

If this has been mentioned I haven’t read it yet, but I’m definitely catching a whiff of the Clintons lurking behind Francis and Claire Underwood, which would be timely. Mother Jones recently reported on the return of those “crazy Clinton conspiracies of the 1990s“:

During the 1992 campaign, some right-wingers whispered that Bill Clinton was a Manchurian candidate who had been brainwashed by the Russians when he was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford and took a student trip to Moscow. Others circulated fliers—this was before the internet hit big—claiming he had fathered the son of an African American prostitute. And there were claims that the Clintons were connected to a major drug-running operation that had been based in Arkansas and tied to a series of murders. Yes, murders. Dozens of murders.

Yes, the Clinton body count is a rabbit hole alright, and the paranoid right is salivating over the inevitable Hillary run for 2016.

In the meantime, we can enjoy a work of fiction that political insiders have described as 99% accurate. The 1% that’s unrealistic? Getting an Education bill passed so quickly. That meme was spread by Kevin Spacey as he made the media rounds promoting the Valentine’s day launch of Season 2:

Spacey spoke of a specific day when he had finished working on some of the episodes for the upcoming season and upon coming home had turned on the news. Watching the news he began to feel that the story-lines House of Cards works up are really not that “crazy.”

He also said that after talking to lots of different people, most said that they feel that “99% of the show is accurate and the one percent that isn’t is that you could never get an education bill passed that fast.”

The insinuation of this comment is that murdering those who get in your way, politically, is less unrealistic than the speed in which the show depicts the passage of a major piece of legislation. Kevin Spacey delivered this comment during nearly every interview I saw him in, because it was good for a few chuckles.

House of Cards does strive to be realistic, which is why pundits like Chris Hayes play themselves. There is also a minor storyline involving a hacker forced to work for the FBI that I found interesting, because the fictional character tries to leverage help for the real-life Barrett Brown. It was a curious reference that will hopefully bring more awareness to Brown’s case.

I think the creators of House of Cards are doing us a favor by trying to more accurately depict the scandalous, conniving world of American politics. And it appears insiders agree: this is how business gets done in DC.

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