The day we pay lip service to veterans is today, the 11th of November. This is the day we go through the motions of acknowledging there are people who sacrifice their bodies, minds and families to fighting America’s wars.
So thank, American Veterans.
We should also give a special thanks to the President and the political party he leads for showing Americans how tomorrow’s wars can be fought without as much human cost (on our side, of course) because let’s be honest, after today we’ll return to the status quo of 22 Veterans committing suicide EVERY DAY.
It is my hope that with strong, Democratic leadership, we can reduce the tragic impact on American Vets through the technological innovation of killing poor brown people with robots, and not just by air, like with drones, but by land and sea as well. Not only will we be removing soldiers from the mortal risks of boots on the ground combat, but we will also save a lot of money.
Let’s face it, injured Veterans are expensive to take care of. The ones who don’t save our taxpayer money by committing suicide often have post-traumatic stress and brain injuries that can lead to all kinds of pricey afflictions, like addiction, and addiction can transform proud soldiers into homeless transients begging for handouts on the streets of noble cities like our beloved Missoula, which deters people from expressing their freedom to buy stuff, which hurts business and, by extension, hurts America.
Let’s keep tomorrow’s soldiers from coming home and hurting America!
Of course America will still require some of its citizens to operate these robots, so I think we civilians can go a step further to help tomorrow’s Veterans by supporting a bill to reduce the age of service from 18 to 10, that way we can utilize children’s underdeveloped sense of morality to achieve the battlefield victories our American lifestyle necessitates.
Now, to counter the awful tone of this post, here is Godspeed You! Black Emperor doing THE DEAD FLAG BLUES:
I finally watched the documentary How to Survive a Plague. Wow. If you want to know what focused, relentless, informed direct action can accomplish, please watch it if you haven’t already.
The director, David France, pulls off an incredibly balanced look at the passion/policy dynamics that ultimately splintered the policy-driven Treatment Action Group from ACT UP. Despite the inevitable infighting, the success came from working both fronts: bodies in the streets and appeals from insider podiums, flipping the brain-trust stashed away in the endless little compartments of bureaucracy.
I’m going to try and keep that successful model in mind as I read about (in the Missoulian, of course) the transient epidemic plaguing the streets and wooded areas of Missoula. When these transients aren’t engaging in statutory rape under bridges and fighting over pork chops, they’re leading law enforcement on 120 mph car chases.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say these transients are like the HIV virus. What are people anyway? Big, hot messes of cells, and those cells can be infected by viruses, so the question becomes this: how can we keep our healthy Missoulian cells safe from infected transient cells?
Well, if streets and sidewalks are like veins, where cells flow, then there are policies being discussed that would enhance policies already implemented that aren’t apparently effective in curing downtown from these panhandling, pedestrian interfering transients.
The Indy reported on this latest policy discussion last month in this piece by Jessica Mayrer. It’s an exciting article that has both a picture of a transient, and a lead-in story of a cane-wielding transient that goes something like this:
Ten months ago, a transient wielding a cane chased Jenna Smith from her Higgins Avenue clothing store to her car, which was parked in a lot between Pine and Broadway. Smith was eight months pregnant and terrified.
“I was able to get to my car,” she says. “He was banging his cane on my car.”
Smith owns Cloth and Crown, a women’s clothing boutique. After the incident last winter, she filed a police report and bought pepper spray for all of her employees. The additional precautions help assure the safety of Smith and her staff, but they don’t alleviate an increasing number of recent problems stemming from illegal and unsavory behavior among transients downtown.
Besides being kind of like viruses, transients are also kind of like zombies. I’m sure it has nothing to do alcohol, which does shit like this on an annual basis:
Based on the analyses of 100 individual country profiles, The World Health Organization (WHO) has released The Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health focused on analyzing available evidence on alcohol consumption, consequences and policy interventions at global, regional and national levels.
The harmful use of alcohol is a global problem which compromises both individual and social development. It causes harm far beyond the physical and psychological health of the drinker, including the harm to the well-being and health of people around the drinker. Alcohol is associated with many serious social and developmental issues, including violence, child neglect and abuse, and absenteeism in the workplace.
The harmful use of alcohol (defined as excessive use to the point that it causes damage to health) has many implications on public health as demonstrated in the following key findings:
• Harmful use of alcohol results in the death of 2.5 million people annually, causes illness and injury to millions more, and increasingly affects younger generations and drinkers in developing countries.
• Nearly 4% of all deaths are related to alcohol. Most alcohol-related deaths are caused by alcohol result from injuries, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and liver cirrhosis.
Dealing with the core issues fueling the transient epidemic? Sounds expensive. And after a summer exacerbated by dirty Rainbows, how about we craft something to deal with physical proximity of the infected cells to healthy cells, in the specific area where the infection festers, downtown. Like this:
According to counts conducted by Missoula Downtown Ambassadors, the city’s urban core hosted more panhandlers this year than at any time since 2010. Law enforcement and city officials attribute the influx in part to this summer’s Rainbow Gathering held outside Jackson. The gathering drew nearly 10,000 people, a portion of whom stayed in Missoula before and after the event.
Smith isn’t so much worried about how the transients landed on her doorstep, but rather how to curb their troublesome behavior. That’s why she supports a proposal unveiled during an Oct. 1 meeting of Mayor John Engen’s Downtown Advisory Commission that aims to further limit loitering and panhandling in the city’s urban core. Specifically, the proposal seeks to ban sitting, sleeping or lying on downtown sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Don’t worry, healthy Missoula cells, I’m sure if you do it no one will mind.
by Pete Talbot
May Eastern Washington kick MSU’s butt.
It’s rare that I’ll root for an out-of-state team. Whether it’s the Griz, the Cats or even the Saints; I want Montana schools to win. I was really pulling for the Bobcats over EWU because if the Cats beat the Eagles, and then the Griz beat the Cats, the Griz have a better chance of making the playoffs. I also just like the Cats this year, especially running back and Frenchtown product Cody Kirk.
Then I watched the Steve Daines rollout for the 2014 U.S. Senate race. There was MSU QB DeNarius McGhee with his nose so far up Steve Daines’ derrière that he could peer out Daines’ belly button.
Perhaps McGhee believes he’ll be a millionaire NFL quarterback some day and that Daines will craft tax legislation allowing McGhee to keep all his earnings. Until then, McGhee better hope that none of his family or friends ever have to go on food stamps. Or ever need reasonably priced health insurance. Or (fill in the blank).
Granted, Griz QB Jordan Johnson isn’t problem-free but at least his mug isn’t on TV, stumping for a tea party candidate.
Now I’m no fan of Slokane’s home team: it skanked out a win over the Griz; and then there’s that obnoxious red playing field but today, Go Eagles.
932,000 Americans dropped out of the labor force in October. That is the third highest increase in people falling out of the labor force in US history.
In a totally unrelated story, New York’s Fed Chief stated that big banks apparently have no respect for law:
The head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Thursday that some of America’s largest financial institutions appear to lack respect for the law, a potentially explosive charge against an industry already roiling from numerous government investigations into alleged wrongdoing.
William Dudley, one of the nation’s top banking regulators whose organization helps oversee Wall Street banks including JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, made the comment during a speech focused on the problems posed by banks perceived to be “too big to fail,” and possible solutions to correct them.
But in an abrupt turn, Dudley suggested that regulators may be stymied by “cultural” issues that have negatively affected the nation’s biggest banks.
“Collectively, these enhancements to our current regime may not solve another important problem evident within some large financial institutions — the apparent lack of respect for law, regulation and the public trust,” he said.
“There is evidence of deep-seated cultural and ethical failures at many large financial institutions,” he continued. “Whether this is due to size and complexity, bad incentives, or some other issues is difficult to judge, but it is another critical problem that needs to be addressed.”
We continue to pay for the political consensus that protects criminal bankers while waging a war of austerity against the poor.
If there are no meaningful consequences for law breaking, then the law breaking will continue. Will it ever stop? Do people need to go to where these bankers live and burn their mansions down?
I recently came across an article by Ken Stern in The Atlantic that examines Why the Rich Don’t Give to Charity. It’s an interesting article. Here’s an excerpt:
One of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America is that the people who can least afford to give are the ones who donate the greatest percentage of their income. In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income. The relative generosity of lower-income Americans is accentuated by the fact that, unlike middle-class and wealthy donors, most of them cannot take advantage of the charitable tax deduction, because they do not itemize deductions on their income-tax returns.
But why? Lower-income Americans are presumably no more intrinsically generous (or “prosocial,” as the sociologists say) than anyone else. However, some experts have speculated that the wealthy may be less generous—that the personal drive to accumulate wealth may be inconsistent with the idea of communal support. Last year, Paul Piff, a psychologist at UC Berkeley, published research that correlated wealth with an increase in unethical behavior: “While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything,” Piff later told New York magazine, “the rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people.” They are, he continued, “more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.” Colorful statements aside, Piff’s research on the giving habits of different social classes—while not directly refuting the asshole theory—suggests that other, more complex factors are at work. In a series of controlled experiments, lower-income people and people who identified themselves as being on a relatively low social rung were consistently more generous with limited goods than upper-class participants were. Notably, though, when both groups were exposed to a sympathy-eliciting video on child poverty, the compassion of the wealthier group began to rise, and the groups’ willingness to help others became almost identical.
If Piff’s research suggests that exposure to need drives generous behavior, could it be that the isolation of wealthy Americans from those in need is a cause of their relative stinginess? Patrick Rooney, the associate dean at the Indiana University School of Philanthropy, told me that greater exposure to and identification with the challenges of meeting basic needs may create “higher empathy” among lower-income donors. His view is supported by a recent study by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, in which researchers analyzed giving habits across all American ZIP codes. Consistent with previous studies, they found that less affluent ZIP codes gave relatively more. Around Washington, D.C., for instance, middle- and lower-income neighborhoods, such as Suitland and Capitol Heights in Prince George’s County, Maryland, gave proportionally more than the tony neighborhoods of Bethesda, Maryland, and McLean, Virginia. But the researchers also found something else: differences in behavior among wealthy households, depending on the type of neighborhood they lived in. Wealthy people who lived in homogeneously affluent areas—areas where more than 40 percent of households earned at least $200,000 a year—were less generous than comparably wealthy people who lived in more socioeconomically diverse surroundings. It seems that insulation from people in need may dampen the charitable impulse.
I’d like to compliment the notion expressed above with an interesting piece of writing from John Berger, an English art critic, novelist, painter and poet. Here is a selection from his piece That have not been asked: ten dispatches about endurance in face of walls:
The poor have no residence. They have homes because they remember mothers or grandfathers or an aunt who brought them up. A residence is a fortress, not a story; it keeps the wild at bay. A residence needs walls. Nearly everyone among the poor dreams of a small residence, like dreaming of rest. However great the congestion, the poor live in the open, where they improvise, not residences, but places for themselves. These places are as much protagonists as their occupants; the places have their own lives to live and do not, like residences, wait on others. The poor live with the wind, with dampness, flying dust, silence, unbearable noise (sometimes with both; yes, that’s possible!) with ants, with large animals, with smells coming from the earth, rats, smoke, rain, vibrations from elsewhere, rumours, nightfall, and with each other. Between the inhabitants and these presences there are no clear marking lines. Inextricably confounded, they together make up the place’s life.
The poor are collectively unseizable. They are not only the majority on the planet, they are everywhere and the smallest event speaks of them. This is why the essential activity of the rich today is the building of walls – walls of concrete, of electronic surveillance, of missile barrages, minefields, frontier controls, and opaque media screens.
I’m having a hard time letting this one go. After Liz’s recent post on the seeming opening up of the Missoulian’s editorial page to some forward-thinking words about beginning a community dialog on mental illness, now we have outright lies and opinion masquerading as fact to continue that discussion.
I guess a bone tossed to the left deserves a bone tossed to the right, eh? Such be “balance” on the Missoulian’s editorial page. So what’s got me so ruffled? Well State Sen. Fred Thomas from down the Bitterroot seems to have been parroting some rightwing blather about Medicaid.
I get all of the outrage against Obamacare. I’ve railed against it since it became clear that Max Baucus was going to give us one of his uniquely dysfunctional American “solutions” to the lack of access to health insurance that the poor, the lower middle class, and those with preexisting conditions have.
But I’ve always maintained that through all of the ideology and desire for a workable single payer system, that Obamacare could be considered a good thing when people actually got some insurance that could help them get access to health care. To the degree that it had a positive effect on people’s health and lives, it might a good thing. We could sort out all the ideology and politics and disinformation later. I guess it’s time to let the sorting-out begin.
So when the Missoulian opened the discussion about mental illness, of course, one of the topics has to be the impact of expanding Medicaid to impoverished and homeless populations. But when Sen. Thomas wrote up his
opinion piece tirade justifying the Montana Legislature’s denial of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion using a bunch of lies instead of facts, well, I guess the Missoulian isn’t too concerned about fact-checking it’s “dialog” about mental illness.
Sen. Thomas goes off in two main directions justifying his and the Legislature’s actions: 1) using a study of Oregon’s recent Medicaid expansion and 2) the budgetary impact on Montana State’s fiscal status. I’m not going to get into the debate over the scientific study, as that is well trodden territory (dkos and wonkblog have both taken it on, as have right wingers).
There’s much to debate about Medicaid and how it could be improved, but there is no debate about the difference between being poor and not having any health insurance or Medicaid, or having Medicaid. Any who would suggest that poor people are better off without having some form of access to health care via either Medicaid or private insurance are just pissin’ in the wind.
Suffice it to say that the study’s positive findings (i.e. decreased incidence and severity of depression in those who were newly enrolled in Medicaid for 2 years) have a great impact on the mental illness conversation. If the study would have looked at other forms of mental illness, I’m sure it would have found that a poor and/or homeless person who had mental illness that received Medicaid coverage would have better outcomes, and decreased incidence of symptoms.
Afterall, if you are bipolar or schizophrenic, and living under a bridge not only will you not get diagnosed, you wouldn’t be able to pay for your meds anyways, and get ongoing treatment (and no, Partnership Health in Missoula County does not offer any form of robust mental health services for free, nor does a short stint in the Providence Center’s Mental Health Unit provide comprehensive ongoing care for those without insurance or Medicaid).
Untreated mental illness is one of the largest contributors to both addiction and homelessness in our communities. To the degree that poor individuals with mental illness and/or addiction get meaningful access to either health insurance or Medicaid, they can get treatment that will begin to lessen their burden on our community and their families and they can start contributing to society.
But it’s the point that Sen. Thomas made about the Medicaid expansion’s funding under Obamacare that is such a blatant lie. Here’s what he had to say:
“Potentially a far larger problem with the Obamacare Medicaid expansion was the hole it would blow in our balanced budget. Currently the revenue of the state of Montana is estimated to grow by $318.8 million from the current biennium to the next. So we expect to have $318.8 million more in 2014-15 than 2012-13. This is what provided the revenue to increase our local school K-12 funding, university system and health and human service programs.
The Obamacare Medicaid expansion is expected to cost $179.3 million in the biennium of 2018-19 and $281.7 million the next.
If we were to have expanded Medicaid, we would have committed up to 88 percent of the current revenue growth to this Medicaid expansion cost. That would have eliminated the funding increases we were able to provide for our local schools, university system and health and human services.”
What Sen. Thomas ignores is the FACT that when a state expands its Medicaid services to people under the poverty line (or 138% of poverty at the highest level), the federal government picks up the entire tab for 3 years, and during the period from 2014 – 2022 picks up a total of 93% of the cost. After 2022, the states will be responsible for only 10% of the cost of Medicaid.
So his argument against the State’s expansion of Medicaid largely rests on either an inability to understand the basic facts surrounding Medicaid expansion costs, or a desire to just use lies to justify his and the Legislature’s actions and ideological biases. Neither of which gives him the credibility necessary for the Missoulian to offer him a bunch of space to offer up a pack of lies.
It will be interesting to see how this “conversation” about mental illness and Medicaid plays out in the Missoulian, given that they have set up ground rules where opinion masquerades as fact, and the role of the media is to let a discussion as important as one about mental illness, poverty and homelessness be conducted in a fact-free environment.
When Eric Schmidt arrived at Google, he thought the motto ‘Don’t Be Evil’ was “the stupidest rule ever“. That quote comes from an NPR interview Schmidt did with Peter Sagal. At the conclusion of the interview Sagal jokingly stated that NOT being evil will “never work in American business.”
I agree Peter. Also, not being evil will never work in American government, where continued disclosures about NSA spying expose a level of criminality only the most paranoid citizen speculated on before Edward Snowden began confirming that paranoia was justified last June.
The latest: The NSA’s Invasion of Google and Yahoo Servers.
What a week! Shortly after Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that maybe our government had gone “too far” in its surveillance programs, the Washington Post dropped another Edward Snowden bombshell demonstrating that it is going a whole lot farther than we knew.
If Kerry’s ersatz admission — couched in a defense of National Security Agency surveillance — provoked a collective yawn from many who follow these developments, the latest Snowden stuff snapped us to attention. The Post published an article detailing the NSA’s interception of information coming in and out of Google and Yahoo servers over non-public, internal network fibre optic lines. In December, 2012 alone, the program (revealingly called “MUSCULAR”) processed 181,280,466 Google and Yahoo records that included email, searches, videos and photos.
Up to now, the NSA has defended its actions by telling us it is combatting terrorism through the capture of data in a public space, the Internet, after obtaining court orders. This shows they were lying. MUSCULAR is the theft of about 25 percent of all Internet data from two of the most popular data handling companies with no court orders or advisories in complete defiance of the law and our rights. It is, quite simply, government gangsterism.
And it brings into focus the most important question: why? Because this isn’t about counter-terrorism, not with that many records and their surreptitious capture. This is about surveillance and analysis of the daily communications of an entire country and much of the world.
Maybe this invasion by the NSA is why Google is developing some secretive project that includes two huge barges parked off the west and east coast.
Speculation on what this project could be is rampant. Personally, I’m hoping Google is building a force field to protect America from nuclear fallout if the Fukushima rod-removal goes bad. Or maybe the west coast barge houses a giant laser that will vaporize the island of Fukushima debris the size of Texas heading for the west coast.
Hope springs eternal, right? Just don’t be evil, Google.
While Americans remain deep within the domestic spin cycle of health care reform, the rest of the world is in the midst of a global realignment, away from the obvious instability of the US.
The Project for a New American Century was always a rather psychotic fantasy, probably because it was hatched by psychotic neocons. Thanks to a stolen election and 9/11, some very evil people saw a chance to impose their delusional world view, the one that became possible after JFK was assassinated 50 years ago this month.
The 21st century overreach of US multinational imperialism is the result of a national arrogance and greed that utterly poisoned the post-WWII position America grabbed for itself.
Now we are stuck in a death spiral created by these psychopaths who thought they could hollow out the domestic economy under the cloak of globalization while cutting taxes for the rich and waging wars against the inflated boogeyman of terrorism.
It turns out the free market capitalism championed by America’s psychopath class was crony to the core, and now the world knows it. The rest of the world understands the only thing keeping the big banks afloat is a liquidity trap created by the Fed, putting pressure on the hegemonic role of the US dollar. Michael Whitney has a good interview with Paul Craig Roberts today worth reading. Here’s the first question and Roberts’ lengthy response:
Mike Whitney: Is the US dollar at risk of losing its position as reserve currency? How would this loss affect US leadership and other countries?
Paul Craig Roberts: In a way the dollar has already lost its reserve currency status, but this development has not yet been officially realized; nor has it hit the currency markets. Consider that the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) have announced their intention to abandon the use of the US dollar for the settlement of trade imbalances between themselves, instead settling their accounts in their own currencies. (There is now a website, the BRICSPOST, that reports on the developing relations between the five large countries.) There are also reports that Australia and China and Japan and China are going to settle their trade accounts without recourse to the dollar.
Different explanations are given. The BRICS imply that they are tired of US financial hegemony and have concerns about the dollar’s stability in view of Washington’s excessive issuance of new debt and new money to finance it. China, Australia, and Japan have cited the avoidance of transaction fees associated with exchanging their currencies first into US dollars and then into the other currencies. They say it is a cost-saving step to reduce transaction costs. This may be diplomatic cover for discarding the US dollar.
The October 2013 US government partial shutdown and (exaggerated) debt default threat resulted in the unprecedented currency swap agreements between the Chinese central bank and the European central bank and between the Chinese central bank and the Bank of England. The reason given for these currency swaps was necessary precaution against dollar disruption. In other words, US instability was seen as a threat to the international payments system. The dollar’s role of reserve currency is not compatible with the view that precautions must be taken against the dollar’s possible failure or disruption. China’s call for “a de-Americanized world” is a clear sign of growing impatience with Washington’s irresponsibility.
To summarize, there has been a change in attitudes toward the US dollar and acceptance of US financial hegemony. As the October deficit and debt ceiling crisis has not been resolved, merely moved to January/February, 2014, a repeat of the October impasse would further erode confidence in the dollar.
Regardless, most countries have come to the conclusion that not only has the US abused the reserve currency role, but also the power of Washington to impose its will and to act outside of law stems from its financial hegemony and that this financial power is more difficult to resist than Washington’s military power.
As the world, including US allies, made clear by standing up to Washington and blocking Washington’s military attack on Syria, Washington’s days of unchallenged hegemony are over. From China, Russia, Europe, and South America voices are rising against Washington’s lawlessness and recklessness. This changed attitude toward the US will break up the system of dollar imperialism.
America’s psychopath allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel, are not very happy about the failure of the Obama administration to bomb Assad out of power. In a strange diplomatic move, Saudi Arabia turned down a seat at the UN security council, then continued throwing tantrums. Moon of Alabama takes a good look at Prince Bandar’s hissy fit here.
And how has Israel expressed its dissatisfaction? Bombing shit, of course:
Israel can strike at will and there is very little Syria can do, says the BBC’s Quentin Sommerville
Israeli aircraft have carried out a strike near the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, a US official says.
The official said the strike targeted Russian-made missiles intended for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
Latakia is a stronghold of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, where his Alawite community is concentrated.
This is believed to be sixth Israeli attack in Syria this year. Israel does not comment on specific operations.
Poor president Obama. Last year he told aides that he’s “really good at killing people” and now Israel is showing him up. Maybe Mossad and Prince Bandar can get together and pull off something even more heinous than the Syrian chemical attack to turn public opinion toward their psychotic objectives.
It will be important to keep a close eye on the psychopaths as US hegemony continues to erode. Those of us who persevere through conspiracy smears know what they are capable of.
The Missoulian editorial board thinks it’s time to start talking about mental illness. Since newspapers still have significant power in framing what issues we talk about, it’s good to see some awareness being generated by the Missoulian.
The editorial is just barely scratching the surface, though.
Focusing on the cultural barrier of “silence” is an easy one for a newspaper, because simply by virtue of printing this op-ed, they (the editorial board) are making a much bigger stride in addressing that particular barrier. A much more significant factor, I would argue, is the socio-economic factor—put more simply, who pays?
I wrote a post in September about how the system is failing those with mental illness. That post links to an article describing the decades-long shift from treating mental illness in asylums to warehousing people suffering from mental illness in jails and prisons.
The problems with jailing people in psychiatric crisis are myriad. In fact, there was an incident in Missoula County’s detention center 7 years ago that the Missoulian did a really shitty job covering. Jay Stevens even wrote a post about it at 4&20 Blackbirds, which you can read here.
The Missoulian’s editorial ends with this:
There’s every reason in the world to start talking about mental illness. The more it’s brought into the open, the more those who have some form of mental illness will feel encouraged to bring their problems out of the shadows – and get help.
Yes, let’s bring this problem out in the open, including what happens to the people who can’t pay to get help. Let’s talk about state funding, and health insurance, and co-occurring substance abuse barriers, and judge’s who think treatment courts are cadillac programs we can’t afford (don’t vote for Jenks!). Let’s talk about why more officers don’t have crisis intervention training, and why it takes so long for a mental health professional to respond to psychiatric crisis in the ER.
And let’s talk about how jails and prisons continue to be warehouses for people with mental illness.
Some of us have already been talking about this, because things are not improving. The need seems to be increasing, especially among the population highlighted in the op-ed, veterans, but the resources are not keeping up with the need. I’ll say it again, denying Montanans medicaid expansion continues to be one of the cruelest, costliest decisions made by Republican ideologues who really don’t get it. Or if they do, they don’t care.
Luckily there are people within the system who know better than anyone what’s not working, and what needs to happen to improve things. Crisis can be a catalyst for change. I just hope when it comes to the more difficult parts of this conversation, the Missoulian will continue to help inform its readership about the many barriers to getting help.
O dia de los muertos, how I love you! Every year I’m impressed with the turnout of Missoula’s Day of the Dead festivities, because acknowledging death isn’t something American culture is generally good at doing, and Missoula does it so beautifully!
I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. It’s hard to escape the existential dread made palpable by events like Fukushima, a disaster we should be hearing more about this month as workers prepare to remove the spent fuel rods in reactor 4.
Death—or at least a greek myth that deals with death—plays a prominent role in Arcade Fire’s new album, Reflector. I’m kind of cringing quoting a Time review, but what the hell, here it is:
Arcade Fire is known for music and lyrics that make listeners think, drawing on deep ideas expressed in multiple languages. Their new album Reflektor, out today, is no exception. It’s already been getting lots of attention for its Haitian influences — but there’s another obvious source of inspiration that the band highlights on the album. Two songs, “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)” and “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus),” reference the Orpheus myth. The album’s cover art is a close-up of Auguste Rodin’s 1893 sculpture “Orpheus and Eurydice,” currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition, a full-album teaser video the band released in advance of the record dropping juxtaposed the album’s lyrics and images from the 1959 film Black Orpheus.
That Time piece has a decent breakdown of the Orpheus myth, for anyone interested, but if you really want to experience it, listen to the album. Here’s a taste:
And just because, a Nick Cave bonus track:
I haven’t read too many good reviews of Reflektor. After winning a Grammy for The Suburbs, expectations for this album were immense. For those fans who didn’t abandon the band after their first album (I’m looking at you, hipsters who can’t like anything that non-hipsters start liking) I think this album will provide sublime moments of unfiltered joy.
Maybe my expectations are too low. Hell, I’m just happy to be alive another day.
Philip K. Dick has had a profound impact on me. Most will be familiar with the movies made from his stories, like Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, and A Scanner Darkly. But Philip K. Dick is more than just a science fiction writer. I consider him one of the most important philosophical minds of the latter half of the 20th century.
And if you’re curious why I think that, then you should watch Philip K. Dick—The Penultimate Truth.
When Electric City Weblog went dark, a conservative perspective left the MT blogosphere, leaving no comparable space in which to make sometimes trollish comments. I was adrift.
Then a personal essay by Molly Laich called Gimme Shelter got featured in the Indy. I won’t rehash the problems many had with the editorial leadership at the time, because this post ain’t about that. It’s about the conservative perspective I found thanks to Laich’s depiction of her personal struggle, a struggle that included using food stamps for Good Food Store smoothies; potent catnip for a conservative.
The conservative attention Laich’s personal essay attracted came from Douglas Ernst. I’ll let Doug introduce himself:
Years ago I was in a mechanized infantry unit. I loved it on many levels, except correspondence courses while covered in mud and oil wasn’t something I was willing to do. Professors who lied about the U.S. military on a daily basis prompted me to look into conservatism, and economists like Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell brought me home.
I believe hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance are a recipe for success. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I’m a USC Trojan with a MA in Political Science from American University.
After graduate school I worked at The Heritage Foundation, conducting youth outreach in its External Relations department. I now serve as a Digital Writer at The Washington Times.
After being traumatized by liberal professors in college, then condescended to by liberal Hollywood, Doug has become a bare-knuckled culture warrior. If you want to know the conservative meme of the day, the spin Doug gives it is a little younger, a little fresher.
Doug’s latest piece is about a declaration of war you may not have heard about, because it’s on healthy, white, heterosexual, Christian men.
The post is a reaction to some nefarious, 600 page Pentagon manual obtained by Fox News, and used to train “Equal Opportunity” officers about the unfair advantages virile Christian white men who prefer vaginal intercourse experience. I mean, this:
The 637-page manual covers a wide range of issues from racism and religious diversity to cultural awareness, extremism and white privilege.
I obtained a copy of the manual from an Equal Opportunity officer who was disturbed by the course content and furious over the DEOMI’s reliance on the Southern Poverty Law Center for information on “extremist” groups.
“I’m participating in teaching things that are not true,” the instructor told me. He asked not to be identified because he feared reprisals.
White privilege really is a thing, but as a white man I can say it can be difficult to acknowledge because we hardly ever know when it’s happening. White privilege consists more of what doesn’t happen to us than what does.
Sometimes, college is a place where white men are confronted with that privilege. At it’s best, campuses are diverse environments where different cultures and ideas are examined. But sometimes, college is a place where liberals try to forcefully impose their ideology, which apparently happened to Mr. Ernst:
When I exited the military and entered college, I was shocked by how obsessed with race my college professors were. Their minds were so diseased by intellectual rotgut that they said things like “the American dream is dead” and “all white people are subconsciously racist.” I came to detest everything my professors stood for, because it was obvious that their worldview only sowed anger, distrust, and envy where it didn’t need to exist. At times I often wanted to leave school and return to the military because it was the one place that I knew for sure didn’t have much patience for political correctness and excuses for failure. That appears to be changing…
If officers in the U.S. military are now being subjected to the psychological warfare that professors tried to use on me when I stepped on campus, it’s only a matter of time before things unravel. You can not successfully complete mission after mission if you are told to “assume racism is everywhere, every day.” If you have been told to look at the “battle buddy” next to you in your foxhole and believe that he is a racist, you will behave much differently than if you were allowed to realize on your own that he is and always will be your brother-in-arms.
Douglas Ernst writes red meat posts for the base, so lamenting that healthy, heterosexual white Christian men are being unfairly depicted as racists isn’t a surprising position for him to take. Of course evidence from the Southern Poverty Law Center will be just dismissed out of hand, but here it is anyway:
Before the U.S. military made Matt Buschbacher a Navy SEAL, he made himself a soldier of the Fourth Reich.
Before Forrest Fogarty attended Military Police counter-insurgency training school, he attended Nazi skinhead festivals as lead singer for the hate rock band Attack. And before Army engineer Jon Fain joined the invasion of Iraq to fight the War on Terror, the neo-Nazi National Alliance member fantasized about fighting a war on Jews.”Ever since my youth — when I watched WWII footage and saw how well-disciplined and sharply dressed the German forces were — I have wanted to be a soldier,” Fain said in a Winter 2004 interview with the National Alliance magazine Resistance. “Joining the American military was as close as I could get.”
Ten years after Pentagon leaders toughened policies on extremist activities by active duty personnel — a move that came in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing by decorated Gulf War combat veteran Timothy McVeigh and the murder of a black couple by members of a skinhead gang in the elite 82nd Airborne Division — large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists continue to infiltrate the ranks of the world’s best-trained, best-equipped fighting force. Military recruiters and base commanders, under intense pressure from the war in Iraq to fill the ranks, often look the other way.
I will continue checking in with Mr. Ernst’s bare-knuckled conservative writing for meme-of-the-day regurgitation, but my commenting presence has been frustrating enough that my comments are now regularly removed. If you want to see the kind of comments Mr Ernst prefers, click continue to read one of the more vile contributions from the yes-men allowed to pollute the comment threads, and the positive response it receives from the poor, healthy, heterosexual, white Christian man who authors such junk. Continue Reading »
What do you do when you can’t eat? What do you do when the food banks and the churches and the soup kitchens can’t fill the void left by slashing 5 billion dollars from the SNAP program?
One of every seven Americans will take a hit on Friday when a $5 billion cut in food stamps, the first across-the-board reduction in the history of the decades-old federal program, takes effect.
But if conservative Republicans in Congress get their way, this week’s pullback may be just a taste of what’s to come for some of the almost 48 million Americans who receive benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
What do you do when the combination of Republican obstruction of medicaid expansion merges with up to 20,000 Montana policy holders receiving notice their coverage has been discontinued by Obamacare?
What do you do when Congress refuses to do anything save wait for the next manufactured crisis and the president plays dumb about spying on world leaders?
I could keep going, but you get the point.
Chris Hedges also gets the point, and though I cringe when I read or hear the word revolution, Hedges’ latest piece—Our Invisible Revolution—is a must read. Because this:
It appears that political ferment is dormant in the United States. This is incorrect. The ideas that sustain the corporate state are swiftly losing their efficacy across the political spectrum. The ideas that are rising to take their place, however, are inchoate. The right has retreated into Christian fascism and a celebration of the gun culture. The left, knocked off balance by decades of fierce state repression in the name of anti-communism, is struggling to rebuild and define itself. Popular revulsion for the ruling elite, however, is nearly universal. It is a question of which ideas will capture the public’s imagination.
Revolution usually erupts over events that would, in normal circumstances, be considered meaningless or minor acts of injustice by the state. But once the tinder of revolt has piled up, as it has in the United States, an insignificant spark easily ignites popular rebellion. No person or movement can ignite this tinder. No one knows where or when the eruption will take place. No one knows the form it will take. But it is certain now that a popular revolt is coming. The refusal by the corporate state to address even the minimal grievances of the citizenry, along with the abject failure to remedy the mounting state repression, the chronic unemployment and underemployment, the massive debt peonage that is crippling more than half of Americans, and the loss of hope and widespread despair, means that blowback is inevitable.
The house of cards recovery is past teetering. The Fed is in a liquidity trap. And the rest of the world is slowly side-stepping away from the dollar.
There is some good news, America just surpassed Saudi Arabia in oil production:
While the White House spied on Frau Merkel and Obamacare developed into a slow-moving train wreck, while Syria was saved from all-out war by the Russian bell and the Republicrats fought bitterly about the debt ceiling… something monumental happened that went unnoticed by most of the globe.
The US quietly surpassed Saudi Arabia as the biggest oil producer in the world.
You read that correctly: “The jump in output from shale plays has led to the second biggest oil boom in history,” stated Reuters on October 15. “U.S. output, which includes natural gas liquids and biofuels, has swelled 3.2 million barrels per day (bpd) since 2009, the fastest expansion in production over a four-year period since a surge in Saudi Arabia’s output from 1970-1974.”
Instead of asking some rhetorical question like will that mean a break at the pump and immediate abandonment of the Keystone pipeline? I’d like to offer a poem about one of my most favorite petroleum products, Legos. Happy Halloween! Continue Reading »
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and his liberal majority in parliament are trying to push through secrecy legislation that will dramatically impact the ability of journalists to report on things the public needs to know about, like the world’s worst nuclear disaster ever:
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is planning a state secrets act that critics say could curtail public access to information on a wide range of issues, including tensions with China and the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
The new law would dramatically expand the definition of official secrets and journalists convicted under it could be jailed for up to five years.
Japan’s harsh state secrecy regime before and during World War Two has long made such legislation taboo, but the new law looks certain to be enacted since Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party-led bloc has a comfortable majority in both houses of parliament and the opposition has been in disarray since he came to power last December.
I wonder if activists like Mochizuki, who writes the Fukushima Diary, will face jail time for his coverage if this draconian legislation gets passed into law.
We, the citizens of the world, need to know the extent of the threat we are facing. A government-imposed media blackout is a threat to all of us.
I want to thank Mark Anderlik for providing a bit of perspective to counter the unfair pessimism that concluded my last post. Here’s the comment:
As someone who saw up close the Occupy Missoula movement I still come back to where social movements have been successful in the past – organizing. Not sexy, not easy, not quick. Other things are important too, but as our history has shown time and again that without organizing, change will not be sustained. The branches of the Occupy movement still active (including Missoula) have dug in to organize around specific issues that speak to larger problems. For example a group has been organizing in Missoula around foreclosures, another around the Citizen’s United decision. And now several groups facilitated by the Montana Organizing Project is organizing to create a partnership bank for Montana that has the potential to undermine the stranglehold the “too-big-to-fail” banks have on our economy. Hard work, few headlines, building the foundation for change. The proven way.
The headlines OWS generated can be seen (cynically) as mere commodities peddled by alleged originators, like Micah White, who is now moving on to the next product. Knowing that has some value, I think, but to say everyone who identified with OWS got conned is not helpful, and not accurate. I take JC’s point on this one:
As to Occupy being conned, I really don’t think so. Doesn’t really matter who, why or how a revolution gets kicked off. Once it is underway, it is out of control — it becomes an organic, amorphous mass. Which actually terrified many people — the reformers.
One of my favorite memes that emerged from the amorphous mass of OWS was the People’s Library, because apparently the physical presence of books is something that needs to be celebrated and protected against this evil reasoning: Is there any reason to own paper books beside showing off? Not really.
From that blasphemy I’d like to awkwardly jump to Paul Krugman’s piece on Poetry and Blogging. Seriously. Here’s how he does it:
A non-economics, non-policy post; I just want to give a shoutout to a book I’m reading, and really enjoying: Tom Standage’s Writing on the Wall: Social Media — The First 2,000 Years. I’ve been a big fan of Standage’s ever since his book The Victorian Internet, about the rise of the telegraph, which shed a lot of light on network technologies while also being great fun. Now he’s done it again.
Standage’s argument is that the essential aspects of social media — exchange of information that runs horizontally, among people who are affiliated in some way, rather than top-down from centralized sources — have been pervasive through history, with the industrial age’s news media only a temporary episode of disruption. As he shows, Cicero didn’t get his news from Rome Today or Rupertus Murdochus — he got it through constant exchanges of letters with people he knew, letters that were often both passed on to multiple readers and copied, much like tweets being retweeted.
Even more interesting is his discussion of the Tudor court, where a lot of the communication among insiders took place through the exchange of … poetry, which allowed people both to discuss sensitive topics elliptically and to demonstrate their cleverness. You could even build a career through poetry, not by selling it, but by using your poems to build a reputation, which could translate into royal favor and high office — sort of the way some people use their blogs to build influence that eventually leads to paying gigs of one kind or another. The tale of John Harington — of the famous “treason never prospers” line — is fascinating.
Incidentally, when and why did we stop reading poetry? Educated people used to read it all the time, or at least pretend to; that’s no longer the case. Frankly, I don’t read poetry except on very rare occasions. What happened?
That’s a good question, Paul. I’m working on it.
When Glenn Greenwald announced he was leaving the Guardian to join a new journalism project, I was intrigued. What kind of journalistic endeavor could lure Greenwald away, I wondered? The answer: a seriously bankrolled project.
eBay billionaire, Pierre Omidyar, is dropping a quarter billion dollars to provide Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and others the cover of extreme wealth to do their adversarial journalist thing. Thank the penniless lord we simple consumers of adversarial journalism have a benevolent billionaire to insulate these journalistic brands from the dangers of speaking truth to power.
Something about this whole setup makes me very uncomfortable. Maybe it’s the class war Chris Hedges discusses in this piece from Truthdig. Here’s an excerpt:
The blanket dissemination of the ideology of free market capitalism through the media and the purging, especially in academia, of critical voices have permitted our oligarchs to orchestrate the largest income inequality gap in the industrialized world. The top 1 percent in the United States own 40 percent of the nation’s wealth while the bottom 80 percent own only 7 percent, as Joseph E. Stiglitz wrote in “The Price of Inequality.” For every dollar that the wealthiest 0.1 percent amassed in 1980 they had an additional $3 in yearly income in 2008, David Cay Johnston explained in the article “9 Things the Rich Don’t Want You to Know About Taxes.” The bottom 90 percent, Johnson said, in the same period added only one cent. Half of the country is now classified as poor or low-income. The real value of the minimum wage has fallen by $2.77 since 1968. Oligarchs do not believe in self-sacrifice for the common good. They never have. They never will. They are the cancer of democracy.
“We Americans are not usually thought to be a submissive people, but of course we are,” Wendell Berry writes. “Why else would we allow our country to be destroyed? Why else would we be rewarding its destroyers? Why else would we all—by proxies we have given to greedy corporations and corrupt politicians—be participating in its destruction? Most of us are still too sane to piss in our own cistern, but we allow others to do so and we reward them for it. We reward them so well, in fact, that those who piss in our cistern are wealthier than the rest of us. How do we submit? By not being radical enough. Or by not being thorough enough, which is the same thing.”
I expect this period of submission to the will of the oligarchs to continue. How bad it will have to get before people realize what the consensus of wealth has accomplished is an open question.
Meanwhile, check out Wendell Berry’s interview with Bill Moyers, which aired earlier this month. And if you watch it, try to ignore the icky feeling of watching a Goldman Sachs ad before viewing one of America’s most important poets.
It’s good to remain skeptical, especially when celebrities are calling for revolution.
Russell Brand is using his celebrity to speak more intelligently about politics than any of his interviewers apparently expect. You would think after he ran circles around the Morning Joe talking heads that the BBC would at least be somewhat prepared. Apparently not.
Brand also acted as guest-editor at the New Statesman, where he wrote this piece, which is worth reading. Here is an excerpt:
I have never voted. Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics. Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites. Billy Connolly said: “Don’t vote, it encourages them,” and, “The desire to be a politician should bar you for life from ever being one.”
I don’t vote because to me it seems like a tacit act of compliance; I know, I know my grandparents fought in two world wars (and one World Cup) so that I’d have the right to vote. Well, they were conned. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing to vote for. I feel it is a far more potent political act to completely renounce the current paradigm than to participate in even the most trivial and tokenistic manner, by obediently X-ing a little box.
Russell Brand talks about being conned. He is also a supporter of the Occupy movement, which on the surface seems great. The problem with that, though, is my own increasing concern that everyone who got caught up in the Occupy movement got conned as well. Like I said, it’s good to remain skeptical.
Instead of reading Brand’s piece, which he only did “because it was a beautiful girl asking me,” I suggest reading something far more intriguing: an article that appears in Jacobin, written by Ramon Glazov, titled Adbusted: behind the bizarre ideology that fuels Adbusters.
The article focuses on the magazine’s odd support of Beppe Grillo, an out-there Italian politician described as follows:
This March, Adbusters jumped into what ought to seem like a marriage made in hell. It ran a glowing article on Beppe Grillo – Italy’s scruffier answer to America’s Truther champion Alex Jones – calling him “nuanced, fresh, bold, and committed as a politician,” with “a performance artist edge” and “anti-austerity ideas… [C]ountries around the world, from Greece to the US, can look to [him] for inspiration.” Grillo, the piece gushed, was “planting the seed of a renewed – accountable, fresh, rational, responsible, energized – left, that we can hope germinates worldwide.”
Completely unmentioned was the real reason Grillo is so controversial in Italy: his blog is full of anti-vaccination and 9/11 conspiracy claims, pseudoscientific cancer cures and chemtrail-like theories about Italian incinerator-smoke. And, as Giovanni Tiso noted in July, Grillo’s “5-Star Movement” also has an incredibly creepy backer: Gianroberto Casaleggio, “an online marketing expert whose only known past political sympathies lay with the right-wing separatist Northern League.” Casaleggio has also written kooky manifestoes about re-organizing society through virtual reality technology, with mandatory Internet citizenship and an online world government.
Adbusters could have stopped flirting with Grillo at that point, but it didn’t. Another Grillo puff-piece appeared in its May/June issue. Then the magazine’s outgoing editor-in-chief, Micah White (acknowledged by the Nation as “the creator of the #occupywallstreet meme”) recently went solo to form his own “boutique activism consultancy,” promising clients a “discrete service” in “Social Movement Creation.” Two weeks ago, in a YouTube video, White proposed that the next step “after the defeat of Occupy” should be to import Grillo’s 5-Star Movement to the US in time for the 2014 mid-term elections:
After the defeat of Occupy, I don’t believe that there is any choice other than trying to grab power by means of an election victory … This is how I see the future: we could bring the 5-Star Movement to America and have the 5-Star Movement winning elections in Italy and in America, thereby forming an international party, not only with the 5-Star Movement, but with other parties as well.
It might be cathartic to watch Russell Brand out-wit some stodgy BBC reporter, but his call for revolution, though probably well-intentioned, is, I think, very misguided. Same thing goes for the Occupy movement.
There is a long, rich literary history of writers using pseudonyms. This Economist article describes three reasons writers have chosen to writer under an assumed name:
Many people write under an assumed name. Indeed all the columnists for The Economist—Bagehot, Lexington, Schumpeter and the like—write under inherited pseudonyms. For novelists this practice has long been widespread. In the 19th century Mary Ann Evans took on the name George Eliot in order to separate her novels, such as “Adam Bede” and “Middlemarch”, from flowery female-novelist stereotypes. In America around the same time Samuel Langhorne Clemens published fiction under the name Mark Twain (pictured above, with Eliot and Ms Rowling). Novelists who want to write crime fiction on the side have long masked their identities. John Banville, an Irish novelist who won the Man Booker prize in 2005, writes crime novels as Benjamin Black. Julian Barnes, another Man Booker-winning author, writes thrillers as Dan Kavanagh. And crime writers themselves may also take on different personas. When Agatha Christie, one of the masters of the dagger-and-cyanide genre, wanted to write romantic fiction, she did so as Mary Westmacott. Patricia Highsmith, the author of “The Talented Mr Ripley”, a gruesome thriller of swapped identities, published “The Price of Salt”, a lesbian romance, under the name Claire Morgan.
Three main reasons spurred these writers to take the name of someone else. A pseudonym gives them the liberty to write things they might not otherwise feel able to. It gives them an opportunity to be taken seriously, something especially important to female authors in a world of Victorian male critics, or to dabble in a genre that, despite the work of great crime writers like Raymond Chandler, is still not really considered to be proper literature. Most of all, a pen-name distances established authors from their previous work.
Anonymity online, specifically the anonymous comments on articles and blog posts, is a different creature, and I can understand why Don Pogreba would gravitate toward the conclusion that “…anonymity is an overall negative for online discourse” in a post titled The Psychology of Online Comments.
But if you read the whole post, it turns out that it’s not necessarily anonymity that Don has a problem with, but the cumulative negative tone anonymous commenters contribute to, something to do with a phenomenon called the disinhibition effect. After a quote, Don then says this:
While I have considered moving to the Facebook platform to make comments more likely to be associated with real identities, the most important issue seems to be one of climate, not one of anonymity or individual rude behavior. If the climate of the comments section is hostile, it will encourage more hostile comments—and I am simply tired of dealing with them. I’m also tired of getting drawn into fights that are a profound waste of my time—and embarrassing to be involved in.
It will be interesting to see how Don goes about changing the climate of his comment threads. Already two comments from Mark Tokarski have been removed, but perennial insult artist, Larry Kralj, who referred to John Walsh as a Nazi in this comment thread, still gets free reign.
I addressed Larry Kralj’s ravings at the Cowgirl in this post back in July, and it’s pretty entertaining to reread Don’s comments in that comment thread. Actually, the whole comment thread is worth reading.
I write as “lizard” and publish poems as “William Skink” because it gives me the liberty to write about stuff I wouldn’t necessarily write otherwise, topics like conspiracy culture and illegal drug use. I do take Don’s point that with anonymity comes a greater degree of responsibility, and that’s something I’m going to do my best to remember.
I’m also going to remember that criticizing those in power comes with risks, as one of my fellow contributors can attest to. People in power don’t like being held accountable for their actions, which means, for some people, anonymity provides protection against retribution.
Anyway, thank you to everyone who continues reading this little Montana blog. Without readers, the time I dedicate to keeping this space current and, I would hope, interesting, would be a waste.
Over at Intelligent Discontent, Pogie decided to test my knowledge of how laws are made, and I’m sure I impressed him with my intimate knowledge of Montana’s unique process, which I shall reproduce here:
I know exactly how this process works. there’s a little bunker near the capitol where a fax machine spits out proposed legislation, then it’s carried by horse to the chief liberty inspector of the MT GOP, who rates it for freedom and patriotism. if it passes inspection, it’s reproduced on a scroll made of rawhide and passed around committee for everyone to look at. then, when particularly exciting legislation like this gets signed into law by the Brian, the victors pound whiskey, piss on an effigy of Obama, and shoot a wolf in celebration.
Kidding aside, I do appreciate Pogie’s attempt to saddle Republicans with Montana’s iteration of the Castle Doctrine law because it got me thinking about guns and what people like to do with guns in western states like Montana; use them for sport, for protection, to put food on the table, and whenever possible, to shoot wolves, even if it’s just a hybrid and probably someone’s pet.
Wolves are a touchy subject, I know. Either they’re saving the ecosystem from a terrible imbalance caused by human extermination, or they are part of the nefarious Agenda 21 plot to create forbidden zones where humans (the ones left, anyway) will be barred from accessing.
Wolves, like the Castle Doctrine, is a political issue where Democrats fail science and common sense in order to cover their western flanks from attack. Jon Tester exemplified that behavior when he proved that he was willing to blow up the Endangered Species Act to win an election.
A 3 year study reported on this summer calls into question the assumed impact of wolves on elk herds:
New research from the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Wyoming is starting to shed light on some of these questions. After three years of studying the Clark’s Fork elk herd (about 5,000 animals) in northwest Wyoming, lead researcher Arthur Middleton found that wolves might not be as detrimental to elk populations as many outdoorsmen think.
His research shows that the Clark’s Fork herd’s fate is based on a complex set of variables including habitat, weather, hunting, bears, and wolves.
Here’s another article worth reading by Christopher Ketcham titled Wolves to the Slaughter.
There is plenty of evidence that too often politics is a science-free zone. For wolves, with science out of the way, the hunt is on.
Good job Democrats.
There are a few ways of going at the proliferation of Castle doctrine law, laws which create substantial barriers for prosecutors to actually bring charges when self-defense is invoked. Slate frames it like this:
One amazing thing about the recent spate of laws that make it easier to shoot people and get away with it is how much prosecutors hate them. “It’s an abomination,” one Florida prosecutor told the Sun Sentinel, referring to the state’s “stand your ground” law at the center of the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin. And now we’re hearing from Montana’s county attorneys, sheriffs, and police chiefs, all of whom oppose the 2009 law that expanded the “castle doctrine” to give homeowners more leeway to kill potential intruders.
The law is “a solution that had no problem,” the president of the Montana County Attorneys’ Association said. And earlier this month, the prosecutor for the town of Kalispell cited the newly strengthened castle doctrine in refusing to indict Brice Harper, a man who shot and killed Dan Fredenberg, the husband of the woman Harper was having an affair with. Harper didn’t kill Fredenberg at the end of a violent encounter. He killed an unarmed Fredenberg when he walked into Harper’s garage.
This is clearly bad policy, and in Montana, there are lots of fingerprints on this mess. That means making this a partisan thing instead of a policy thing is a bad idea; it’s automatically divisive and, for Democrats, disingenuous. Cue Don Pogreba’s discontent:
For a party that claims to represent law and order, the Montana Republican Party has certainly done some real damage to the ability of law enforcement officers to arrest and prosecutors to convict those who kill other people using firearms. As a result of 2009 Legislature’s passage of HB 228, it’s very difficult for prosecutors to convict anyone who asserts “self-defense” as a justification for killing someone else.
Here’s the problem with the partisan approach. From Pogo Possum in the comment thread:
Let’s begin by voting out the “macho middle-aged” Democrats still serving in the Legislature today that voted for the Castle Doctrine back in 2009. Here is a list to help you get started.
Frosty Boss Ribs
HB 228, the Castle Doctrine, was hardly a partisan Bill. In 2009, the Montana House was evenly divided with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. 35 of those Democrats (70% of all House Dems) voted for HB228 on the final reading. The Montana Senate was split 23 Democrats and 27 Republicans. 13 of Senate Democrats (57% of all Senate Dems) voted for HB228 on final reading. In total, 58% of the combined Democratic Senate and House members voted for the Castle Doctrine. Don’t forget that then Governor Brian Schweitzer stuffed his Veto into the bottom drawer of his desk and signed the bill.
I look forward to your ridicule and denunciation of these still sitting Montana Democratic Legislators and wannabe presidential candidate Brian Schweitzer who, as you put it, did “some real damage to the ability of law enforcement officers to arrest and prosecutors to convict those who kill other people using firearms”, with the same passion and theatrics as you are directing at Republicans.
If the problem is policy, let’s stick with policy, because the problem of partisanship ensures nothing will happen to change anything.
Along that same vein, Trevor Hultner has a piece titled Liberals and the Libertarian “Contagion” describing the childish antics of “progressives” regarding libertarian participation at some Stop Watching Us rally going on in Washington DC.
Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakistani girl nearly killed by the Taliban, has shown more courage than any Democrat ever has when it comes to Obama’s drone program. Malala transformed a photo-op into an opportunity to point out the reality of what Obama’s killing in Pakistan and Yemen produces: more terrorism.
In a statement released after the meeting, Yousafzai said that she told Obama that she is concerned about the effect of U.S. drone strikes in her country—a portion of the conversation that was omitted from White House statements so far.
“I [expressed] my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism,” Yousafzai said in a statement released by the Associated Press. “Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”
On Tuesday, Amnesty International and Humans Rights Watch tepidly declared that some (not all) of Obama’s “surgical” strikes maybe warrant war crime designation:
The US stands accused of unlawful killing in several documented incidents, on the basis of first-hand witness evidence and official statements. The number of such incidents, in both countries, suggests they are are not “one-offs” but part of a systematic policy that appears inherently illegal.
If the US were to state that it is a party to an armed conflict in Yemen or Pakistan between the governments of those countries and terrorists, principally al-Qaida or al-Qaida-affiliated groups, its actions would be subject to international humanitarian law – the laws of war. But as Human Rights Watch points out, the US, denying the obvious, has not said it is a party to a war in either place, but is instead carrying out ad hoc operations to protect US interests.
Even if it did make such a declaration, the laws of war permit attacks only on enemy combatants and other military objectives, but not those who play a purely non-military role. Civilians are protected from attack.
Reporting on six unacknowledged US strikes in Yemen, Human Rights Watch states: “Two of these attacks were in clear violation of international humanitarian law – the laws of war – because they struck only civilians or used indiscriminate weapons. The other four cases may have violated the laws of war because the individual attacked was not a lawful military target or the attack caused disproportionate civilian harm, determinations that require further investigation. In several of these cases, the US also did not take all feasible precautions to minimise harm to civilians, as the laws of war require.”
Amnesty reaches similar conclusions in Pakistan. If the US is not in a war-fighting situation in either country, then international human rights law applies, meaning that lethal force may only be used if there is an “imminent risk” to human life. This law was also disregarded in several US attacks, Amnesty said.
The US is accused of acting in contravention of Obama’s own guidelines, set out in May, which emulated (but did not officially endorse) international human rights law. Obama said that to be legitimate, a target must pose an imminent risk to the US, cannot reasonably be captured, and can be attacked without putting civilians at risk. As the various cases investigated clearly indicate, these “rules” have been repeatedly and deliberately broken.
So, Democrats, what do you have to say about your war criminal president?
I wrote this post July 1st, 2011, featuring several poems from an anthology called Atomic Ghost. I’m not sure the poem I wrote this morning rises to the caliber of those selections, but it’s certainly appropriate, considering the content.
You, dear readers, can judge for yourself.
OUR BRIGHT FUTURE
won’t it be delightful
when we’re glowing in the dark
when we’re swimming with our tails
in the pools that once were parks
we will be amazing
translucent skin and teeth
and fingers fused with wiry tendons
do not fear the island, William
where tsunami swamped the land
where backup generators died
from the lethal stupidity of man
now the rods must be removed
now the fear descends
if not cooled by water
if not contained, the core
goes full-on China syndrome
melting through the floor
three-eyed fish, The Simpsons
a goddamn funny cartoon
which we’ll be watching longingly
from bunkers on the moon
Isn’t it hilarious one transient beat another transient with a metal rod over a pork chop? Yeah, hilarious. For that kind of dangerous behavior, it’s immediate jail time and a felony assault with a weapon charge.
Smart criminals use different kinds of weapons, like mortgage-backed securities, and these days they hardly ever see the inside of the jail cells they belong in. For a great, infuriating 3 minute breakdown of the JPMorganChase settlement scam, you gotta check out Alexis:
And if you want to anticipate the likelihood of further neoliberal sellouts to the teasurgents, check out Shamus Cooke’s anticipation of The Coming Grand Bargain.
Missoula’s city council voted 10-2 last night to give Mayor Engen the authority to enter into negotiations with the Carlyle Group for the opportunity to purchase what should never have been sold in the first place—our water. I am cautiously optimistic the Mayor can pull it off.
Dick Haines and Adam Hertz were the two dissenting votes, and the reasoning Hertz gave was a bit odd. From the link:
Councilman Hertz, who opposed the ordinance, said he felt like he was being asked to base his decision on feelings instead of figures. He wanted more details about a variety of the related costs before voting on a measure that might lead the city down a costly road of condemnation.
“I’d like to make a decision based on facts, and I haven’t seen any financial projections whatsoever come out of the administration,” Hertz said.
The reason I find this reasoning odd is the juxtaposition to Hertz’s shaming campaign against liberals regarding coal development on the Crow Reservation.
On October 18th, Hertz tweeted this:
Many liberals take pride in supporting tribes. Support the Crow tribe. Don’t block their coal-paved path away from 50% unemployment. #MTPol
Gideon Jones tweeted back several replies, including these:
@AdamHertzMT Several decades of coal mining on AZ, UT and NM reservations didn’t alleviate poverty there. #MTpol
@AdamHertzMT Coal mining did however destroy their aquifers, agriculture, and health. #MTpol
@AdamHertzMT No one buys this selective right wing ‘concern’ for the tribes. Transparent and disingenuous. #MTpol
Hertz’s response? This:
@GideonTJones I’m from the Flathead Indian Reservation. I genuinely care about the tribes. They’ll succeed through opportunity, not subsidy.
As I had suspected, the liberals are up in arms about the Crow people asking them to stay out of their business and stop blocking progress.
One of the problems with Hertz’s last statement is the idea that coal production is only the business of the Crow people. It’s not. It’s also the business of those who live along the transportation infrastructure that will carry the coal to the proposed port, and it’s the business of all us silly humans who breath air in order to live.
In China, where much of this coal will end up, a city of 11 million people was essentially shutdown Monday due to smog:
Choking smog all but shut down one of northeastern China’s largest cities on Monday, forcing schools to suspended classes, snarling traffic and closing the airport, in the country’s first major air pollution crisis of the winter.
An index measuring PM2.5, or particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5), reached a reading of 1,000 in some parts of Harbin, the gritty capital of northeastern Heilongjiang province and home to some 11 million people.
A level above 300 is considered hazardous, while the World Health Organisation recommends a daily level of no more than 20.
The smog not only forced all primary and middle schools to suspend classes, but shut the airport and some public bus routes, the official Xinhua news agency reported, blaming the emergency on the first day of the heating being turned on in the city for winter. Visibility was reportedly reduced to 10 meters.
Go to the Reuters piece for pictures of what this pollution crisis looks like.
Darrin Old Coyote makes his case for the tribe in this op-ed. Here is a small excerpt:
Opportunities for job creation and investment in Montana’s Indian Country are frustratingly scarce. Today, the Crow Tribe has a rare window of opportunity before it, and we are doing everything in our power to take advantage of it before that window closes.
What is this “window of opportunity” and why is there a need to rush this project through? Well, because Montanans may be inclined to support the expansion of an EIS (environmental impact statement) that could slow down the transportation and export of Crow coal:
But this opportunity depends, in part, on the construction of new export facilities on the West Coast. Asking the Army Corps to expand the EIS will certainly delay, and could possibly prevent, the construction of the Millennium port.
Requesting that the scope of this EIS look at environmental impacts in Montana is an unprecedented move and outside the bounds of what most of us think should be included in an environmental review for a coastal port.
For our plans to create jobs and bring new investment to succeed, we must do all we can to see that the construction of new coal export facilities is not impeded unreasonably. I would respectfully request that you at least remain neutral on this issue and not encourage an EIS process that would obstruct important economic opportunities for the Crow Tribe and the state of Montana.
For those who understand the challenges humans will continue to face because of climate change, remaining neutral isn’t an option. More information about the potential environmental impacts should be welcomed by someone who claims to want facts and not emotion to inform his decision.
It would be embarrassing to watch Brian Schweitzer run for president, and lord knows he is only criticizing Hillary Clinton to strengthen his own political brand. That said, I am praying to baby Jesus that Hillary Clinton doesn’t become president.
I hope those who support a(nother) Clinton candidacy can articulate why her brand of neoliberalism is worth voting for, and I hope those who support her have more of a reason than it’s a her, and not a him. We’re not electing a role model for girls.
I know, I’m a white male, so I’m probably not allowed to say that. My existence is one of privileges I have the privilege of not thinking about. I have this annoying preference, though, for substance over symbolism, which has led me to speculate how impactful our current president is for young black men when he’s enabling stop and frisk harassment, continuing the drug war, and protecting bailed out bankers who targeted minorities with subprime loans.
With Hillary Clinton, there are substantive concerns from the left about her ability to address the economic reality that is leading millennials to consider socialism. Here’s Richard Kim, writing for The Nation:
Here’s how I see it: America has a lot of problems, the most acute of which is the yawning gap between the rich and everyone else. According to Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, the top 1 percent captured 95 percent of all income gains in the so-called recovery, while the bottom 99 percent barely gained at all. And the chances of anyone breaking into that uppermost echelon are dwindling. As a slew of recent studies have shown, America has less class mobility than it used to and less than Canada or Western Europe; an American child born in the lowest quintile has just a 6 percent chance of rising to the top quintile—42 percent will stay at the bottom.
These grim data are more than just an abstraction; they are, as Peter Beinart argues in a Daily Beast article on “The Rise of the New New Left,” the defining condition of the millennial generation, who face scarcer job prospects, lower wages, fewer benefits and a weaker social safety net than those before them. All that anger and discontent that boiled up at Occupy Wall Street two years ago wasn’t swept away with the encampments. It’s simmering, waiting, and even if elections aren’t always the conduit for youth insurrections, it’s hard to see a whole cohort sitting the next big one out as the American dream crumbles around them.
It’s also hard to imagine a Democrat of national stature more ill-equipped to speak to this populist mood than Hillary Clinton. Yes, her tenure at State gave her the rehabilitating Texts From Hillary Clinton Tumblr and the thickest diplomatic passport the world has ever known, but a taste for class warfare it most certainly did not. To wit: her decision to house her post-cabinet, pre-campaign apparatus at the foundation her husband started, now rechristened the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. The organization, and the related Clinton Global Initiative, carries some lofty intentions—planting trees in sub-Saharan Africa, empowering women and girls, treating HIV and malaria, and saving endangered elephants. But as Alec MacGillis captured in a devastating feature for The New Republic, it also serves as a kind of global plutocrats’ social club—a Davos on the Hudson where corporate executives pledge millions for the privilege of rubbing elbows with celebrities and world leaders. They also, according to MacGillis, throw some lucre back to the Clinton apparatchiks who greased the wheels, like Doug Band, Bill’s former body man, who managed to turn his lowly position as jacket holder and BlackBerry keeper into a consulting business that afforded him $8.8 million in Manhattan real estate.
In glittering Clintonland, Band is now on the outs, but he was always small fry. The foundation counts among its major partners billionaires and corporate giants like Walmart, Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein, Mike Bloomberg, Hollywood mogul Steve Bing and Paychex chairman Tom Golisano, who habitually ran for New York governor until he moved to Florida in 2009 because, as he explained in a pique-filled op-ed, he’d save “$13,800 every single day” on taxes. Maybe HRC won’t solicit the advice of all these folks, but she surely will solicit their donations. And once she does, how keen will she be to tell them that their gains are ill gotten, that they’ll need to pay more, not in tax-deductible charitable contributions, but in taxes?
This continues to be a ridiculous conversation to be having 800+ days before the 2016 election. But there’s already money being generated, and if you think Hillary Clinton will raise a lot of money for her presidential bid, just imagine what a fundraising gift her candidacy will be for Republicans.
I am so tired of hearing those on the right gnash their teeth about our national debt without acknowledging that simultaneously cutting taxes for the rich while waging trillion dollar wars on the national credit card was a bad idea. That disastrous combination came on the heels of other bad ideas, like Clinton-era financial deregulation, which gave us too big to fail.
The debt doesn’t exist in a vacuum, so until I see some accurate context from those on the right about how we have got to this point, then I’m going to continue not taking their concern seriously, because these right-wing debt warriors are simply manipulated foot soldiers for the 1% war against the rest of us.
Americans may think they still have the luxury of not caring about what the rest of the world thinks about us, but that will soon come to an end, because what we are seeing, at least according to Pepe Escobar, is The birth of the ‘de-Americanized’ world:
This is it. China has had enough. The (diplomatic) gloves are off. It’s time to build a “de-Americanized” world. It’s time for a “new international reserve currency” to replace the US dollar.
It’s all here, in a Xinhua editorial, straight from the dragon’s mouth. And the year is only 2013. Fasten your seat belts – and that applies especially to the Washington elites. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
America has had more than a half-century to lead by example, and that is precisely what our leaders have done. It’s just not the example many Americans thought, because in the states we are still buying the PR campaign of American exceptionalism our governing elite are feeding us. The Xinhua editorial cuts through the sparkly image we have been conditioned to believe by accurately describing the post-WWII behavior of America:
Emerging from the bloodshed of the Second World War as the world’s most powerful nation, the United States has since then been trying to build a global empire by imposing a postwar world order, fueling recovery in Europe, and encouraging regime-change in nations that it deems hardly Washington-friendly.
With its seemingly unrivaled economic and military might, the United States has declared that it has vital national interests to protect in nearly every corner of the globe, and been habituated to meddling in the business of other countries and regions far away from its shores.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government has gone to all lengths to appear before the world as the one that claims the moral high ground, yet covertly doing things that are as audacious as torturing prisoners of war, slaying civilians in drone attacks, and spying on world leaders.
Under what is known as the Pax-Americana, we fail to see a world where the United States is helping to defuse violence and conflicts, reduce poor and displaced population, and bring about real, lasting peace.
Moreover, instead of honoring its duties as a responsible leading power, a self-serving Washington has abused its superpower status and introduced even more chaos into the world by shifting financial risks overseas, instigating regional tensions amid territorial disputes, and fighting unwarranted wars under the cover of outright lies.
As a result, the world is still crawling its way out of an economic disaster thanks to the voracious Wall Street elites, while bombings and killings have become virtually daily routines in Iraq years after Washington claimed it has liberated its people from tyrannical rule.
Most recently, the cyclical stagnation in Washington for a viable bipartisan solution over a federal budget and an approval for raising debt ceiling has again left many nations’ tremendous dollar assets in jeopardy and the international community highly agonized.
Such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated, and a new world order should be put in place, according to which all nations, big or small, poor or rich, can have their key interests respected and protected on an equal footing.
To that end, several corner stones should be laid to underpin a de-Americanized world.
The unipolar arrogance of American military might won’t cut it anymore, as evidenced by the significant diffusing of the impending Syria attack, but that won’t stop America’s billionaire-funded political insurgency from waging class war on the 99%, and they (the tea party) will continue to be useful idiot pawns for those wealthy funders because the 1% understand continued projection of American power relies solely on the vast killing potential of the strongest military in the world.
And that military is getting ready for wars in Africa, which this misleadingly titled NYT times piece describes—U.S. Army Hones Antiterror Strategy for Africa, in Kansas:
Here on the Kansas plains, thousands of soldiers once bound for Iraq or Afghanistan are now gearing up for missions in Africa as part of a new Pentagon strategy to train and advise indigenous forces to tackle emerging terrorist threats and other security risks so that American forces do not have to.
The first-of-its-kind program is drawing on troops from a 3,500-member brigade in the Army’s storied First Infantry Division, known as the Big Red One, to conduct more than 100 missions in Africa over the next year. The missions range from a two-man sniper team in Burundi to 350 soldiers conducting airborne and humanitarian exercises in South Africa.
Isn’t it great how this article works in “terrorist threats” and “humanitarian exercises” in the first two paragraphs? That’s some effective propaganda, NYT.
It’s bullshit, of course. The more relevant reason our tax dollars are funding these military exercises in Africa is containment of China.
I wish more Americans understood this. Destabilizing other countries is not a bug of US foreign policy, but a feature. The failed state of Libya, for example, gives the US a foothold in Africa. When Hillary Clinton becomes president, I’m sure she’ll be just as excited to “help” other African countries as she was when Gaddafi was sodomized and executed:
To ensure our elite have the military they need to bully the world and intimidate their competitors, they will need to continue the class war at home, using the debt to justify attacking the “entitlements” they’ve always despised.
Maybe some of the useful idiots who self-identify as Tea Party members will realize they’re being played for suckers. Or maybe, if the damage to the brand becomes serious enough, the funders may be forced to astro-turf a new political product-line of idiots.
Meanwhile, the world is actively looking for alternatives to an American empire that has violently exploited its position of influence for more than half a century.
I hope the US response to this de-Americanization isn’t WWIII.
Greg Collett, a loser Idaho tea party politician, hates the evil collectivist tentacles of government, but that hasn’t stopped him from utilizing medicaid for his 10 children.
Collett’s use of the government services he would like to destroy has produced some fast online notoriety. Of course those on the left have labeled him a raging hypocrite, but Collett’s peers are also disgusted with his hypocrisy.
Collett, twice a candidate for the Idaho Legislature in Canyon County, isn’t surprised he’s been excoriated on left-wing websites including Gawker, BuzzFlash, Daily Kos and Americans Against the Tea Party.
But he’s also heard criticism from those who share his anti-government views for having taxpayers foot medical bills for eight adopted and two biological children, ages 4 to 17.
In contrast, Collett and his wife, Kelly, say they will pay the fine rather than buy insurance for themselves under the Affordable Care Act.
“I attracted all the attention of all the people who hate Republicans and the tea party,” said Collett, a 41-year-old freelance software developer and University of Idaho alum. “I’ve also attracted the attention of a lot of people in the liberty movement that don’t want to see anybody on welfare.”
Things got so bad, Collett said, he had to clean up his Facebook account and remove contact information from his campaign website. “The level of hatred is just absolutely incredible,” he said. “Messages on my website, emails, I’ve even had phone calls. It’s been pretty intense.”
In an effort to address the haters, Collett wrote up a delicious, 2,900 word response that contains some amazing material, like this:
Let me set the record straight. Yes, I participate in government programs of which I adamantly oppose. Many of them, actually. Am I a hypocrite for participating in programs that I oppose? If it was that simple, and if participation demonstrated support, then of course. But, my reason for participation in government programs often is not directly related to that issue in and of itself, and it certainly does not demonstrate support. For instance, I participate in government programs in order to stay out of the courts, or jail, so that I can take care of my family; other things I do to avoid fines or for other financial reasons; and some are simply because it is the only practical choice. With each situation, I have to evaluate the consequences of participating or not participating.
By way of example, here are a few government programs and policies that I oppose because they do not conform to the proper role of government, yet I participate in them: I am against marriage licenses, but I still got one to get married; I am against the foster care program, but I became a foster parent; I am against property taxes, but I own property and pay the tax; I am against federal ownership of land by the Forest Service and BLM, but I use the land for hiking, backpacking, camping, and fishing; I am against national parks, but I visit them; I am against driver’s licenses, vehicle registration, license plates, and mandated liability insurance, but I comply with all of them to drive; I am against public funding of transportation systems, but I still use them; I am against building permits, fees, and inspections, but I get them as needed; I am against public libraries, but my family uses them; I am against public schools, but I occasionally use their facilities; I am against occupational licensing, but I use the services of individuals and companies that comply with those requirements; I am against USDA inspections, but I still use products that carry their label; I am against the Uniform Commercial Code and designated legal business entities such as corporations, but I use the services of such entities and have set up several of them for myself; I am against the current structure of our judicial system and courts, but I still use them; I am against the 17th Amendment, but I still cast my vote for Senators; and the list could go on and on.
What would Greg Collett do if he gets his ideological way and destroys the evil collectivist government programs he directly benefits from? What fills the void, post-destruction?
Greg Collett doesn’t have any answers, because he’s just a useful idiot dancing for the billionaire funders keeping the Tea Party alive.