by William Skink

Today Saudi Arabia started bombing targets in Yemen, undoubtedly with some level of US support.

Besides exporting oil, Saudi Arabia also exports Islamic extremism in the form of Wahhabism. That means America’s oil pals aren’t shy about demanding the occasional beheading of alleged witches and sorcerers because hey, that’s just how they roll.

Though Wahhabism adherents despise the Shiite sect of Islam, they are not opposed to going after Sunnis as well:

Since the foundation of the Wahhabi sect in the 18th C it has shown extreme hostility towards Sunnis. In fact Saudi Arabia emerged through a series brutal wars with non-Wahhabi Sunnis.

The plight of Shiites in Saudi Arabia is well known, but few know about the rampant discrimination against Sunnis. When the Wahhabi army of Abdelaziz ibn Saud invaded Mecca in 1924 scores of Sunni scholars were killed and Sunnis books burned. Through violence and intimidation the Wahhabis managed to destroy all other Islamic schools of thought in the occupied city.

Until today non-Wahhabi Sunnis are prohibited from giving sermons or lectures in any mosque in Saudi Arabia. Wahhabi preachers routinely insult and condemn Sunnis and their beliefs, but Sunnis are not allowed to even gently criticize Wahhabism. Anybody who dares to do so is fined, thrown in jail or tortured. Non-Wahhabi Sunni books, like classic collections of poetry praising the Prophet (pbuh), are banned and if found, confiscated.

In Yemen, some recent history for context would be helpful, so here’s a bit of background from Moon of Alabama:

In 2012 the U.S. and its Wahhabi Arabic Gulf allies expelled the longtime Yemeni president Saleh and replaced him with his vice president Hadi. There was some hope that Hadi would change the quarrel on the ground and the dysfunctional state but the unrest in the country kept growing and as the oil prices went down so went the Yemeni government.

Hadi could only beg the Saudis to finance him and in return had to fulfill their political demands. Meanwhile al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula kept growing in Yemen, U.S. drone strikes killed more and more tribe members in the south and deserved revenge and a southern independence movement added to the tumult. All this led to the rise of the Houthis (video, 45min).

The Houthis, allied with the former president Saleh and some parts of the dysfunctional Yemeni army, decided to take on the state. In 2014 they captured parts of the capitol Sanaa and expanded the territory they controlled. In January Hadi fled to Aden in the south. Many people belonging to the Houthi groups are Zaidi Shia. Their belief differs from Iranian 12er Shia belief and their religious rituals have more in common with Sunni rituals than with mainstream Shia. Yemen is in general not as sectarian as other gulf countries. Various variants of belief mix and often use the same mosques.

But Houthi, like many other Yemenis, despise the Saudis and their Wahhabism. It is mostly therefore that they are accused of being allied with Iran. While there are certainly some sympathies between Iran and the Houthi groups there is no evidence of outright support.

Ah, there we are, the great boogeyman, Iran. Keeping the propaganda pressure going gets really weird when you start to realize jihadist berserkers are supported by our allies, who behead witches, yet it’s Iran that must be perpetually demonized, sanctioned, and attacked with cyber assaults and assassinations of scientists.

One despicable craftsman of propaganda can be found regurgitated on the Missoulian’s opinion page, Rich Lowry. There is no end to the hilarity that ensues as this tool decries a diplomatic revolution:

The socialist government in France usually doesn’t have much in common with congressional Republicans, for whom both France and socialism tend to be anathema. But the French, according to a Wall Street Journal report, are taking the toughest line among the powers negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program and are alarmed by the Obama administration’s accommodating approach.

“Some U.S. officials,” the Journal writes, “privately believe France is seeking in part to maintain strong ties to Israel and to Arab countries deeply skeptical of Washington’s outreach to Tehran.”

When the Quai d’Orsay is more concerned than Foggy Bottom with maintaining warm ties to Israel, it is a sign of a world turned upside down.

Consider the bizarre confluence of the perhaps-imminent Iran agreement with the administration’s apoplexy over Bibi Netanyahu’s re-election in Israel. The Iran deal will nullify the half-dozen U.N. resolutions calling on Iran to halt all uranium enrichment, at the same time the administration is floating the idea of going along with a new effort to isolate Israel at the U.N., in effect for the offense of re-electing Bibi Netanyahu.

There are barely words for the perversity of this turnabout. It would be a step toward normalizing a rogue state and making a rogue state out of a normal country. It would be a rapprochement with a sworn enemy and a breach with a tried-and-true friend. It would be a diplomatic revolution in keeping with President Barack Obama’s purported realism that has little regard for either our deepest-held values or coldblooded interests.

This is just amazing stuff, and it get’s even better:

Israel holds free-and-fair elections in which Arabs can freely vote, even if Netanyahu made an ill-advised election-day comment about them turning out in droves; in country after country, Sunni and Shia forces kill and maim one another in a vicious fight for dominance by force. Israel builds settlements (mostly in areas that will stay part of Israel in any peace deal); Bashar al-Assad drops cluster bombs on people, and has reportedly returned to using chemical weapons.

It doesn’t take great discernment to see the differences. It takes only a modicum of perspective, which President Obama can’t muster as he sets about engineering a rupture with our only democratic ally in the Middle East.

Wow. Just wow. Where to start?

The racist state of Israel, armed with nukes, no longer even maintains the illusion of desiring a two-state solution. Israel has committed countless war crimes with the assurance that the US will always have its back at the UN. American citizens have been killed, like Rachel Corrie crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer on March 16th, 2003. American soldiers were slaughtered by Israeli war planes in the attack on the USS Liberty.

And just two days ago the Wall Street Journal reported on Israel’s spying on US negotiations with Iran:

Soon after the U.S. and other major powers entered negotiations last year to curtail Iran’s nuclear program, senior White House officials learned Israel was spying on the closed-door talks.

The spying operation was part of a broader campaign by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to penetrate the negotiations and then help build a case against the emerging terms of the deal, current and former U.S. officials said. In addition to eavesdropping, Israel acquired information from confidential U.S. briefings, informants and diplomatic contacts in Europe, the officials said.

What nice friends we have.

While all this is very complicated and depressing to try and sort out, the US/Israel objective seems pretty straight forward: What can’t be controlled must be destroyed.

And so it goes.

by William Skink

There is this quaint notion we get from Economics 101 that supply and demand drive the markets. If you want to pass some standardized test, stick with 101. If you want to grapple with what actually happens in the real world, toss the text book out of the first available window.

It’s not that supply and demand don’t matter. They do. Take, for example, the demand for houses. Most people want to live in one, so there’s demand. For supply, there are plenty of laborers and resources to make use of. But we’re talking some big numbers if you want to play the home buying game. So you need financing.

Well, a few years ago we saw what happens when supply and demand takes a back seat to greed. Perverse incentives fueled an orgy of sub-prime lending, and the contagion went global.

For Montana, the collapse of the inflated housing boom hit labor hard. Mills closed and construction slowed. But despite the pesky constraints of reality, a bipartisan effort from Jon Tester and Steve Daines aims at using big government to shelter an industry from the impacts of Economics 101. And always happy to oblige, the Missoulian is more than willing to stack the story for panhandling loggers:

The U.S. Forest Service needs to quadruple forest restoration acres, while logging could reasonably triple over current levels in Montana, Chief Tom Tidwell said under questioning from Montana’s senators.

Tidwell was before the Senate Appropriations Interior Subcommittee on Wednesday lobbying for a nearly $5 billion budget in fiscal year 2016. Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and Republican Sen. Steve Daines questioned the chief on goals for Montana, pushing for increases in timber production to saw mills and other wood products.

“I don’t need to tell you how important saw mills are as a partner to the Forest Service. We don’t need to drive these folks out of business, and it becomes a taxpayer-funded problem as far as forest management,” Tester said.

Forest restoration, including logging, produced 113 million board feet (see info box) of saw logs, posts and poles and firewood on 9,000 acres in Montana during FY2014. Tester asked if current work was adequate to properly manage 17 million acres of forests.

“It’s not near enough of what we need to be doing to change the conditions on the landscape, to restore the resiliency of those forests and reduce the wildland fire threat to our communities,” Tidwell said, citing workforce reductions and shifting funds to fire budgets. “I’ve tried to be really clear about the challenge we have in front of us, and the need for us to increase the pace and scale of restoration of our nation’s forests.”

Tidwell went on to say that the number of restored acres needed to increase at least four times. He added that individual project size, with authorities granted under the 2014 Farm Bill, needed to significantly expand.

“Especially in your state, we need to be able to move forward with some larger landscape projects similar to what we’ve done in some neighboring states where we can look at not thousands but tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of acres with one environmental assessment,” Tidwell told Tester.

Daines echoed the frustrations of Montana timber mill owners, many running at two-thirds capacity. Many mills are facing layoffs due to lack of logs while surrounded by millions of acres of available timber, he said.

“They’re healthier forests; environmentally the best thing we can do are responsible timber practices,” he said.

Sustainable timber harvest figures are much higher than the 113 million board feet cut in Montana, Daines said. He then asked Tidwell if 300 million board feet was a reasonable goal.

“Three hundred million board feet is very reasonable,” Tidwell replied.

Reasonable? Based on what? Certainly not market fundamentals.

Here are some numbers worth considering, reported on five years ago:

About 3.5 million US residents (about 1% of the population), including 1.35 million children, have been homeless for a significant period of time. Over 37,000 homeless individuals (including 16,000 children) stay in shelters in New York every night. This information was gathered by the Urban Institute, but actual numbers might be higher.

Fox Business estimates, there are 18.9 million vacant homes across the country.

3.5 million people without homes; 18.9 million homes without residents.

And don’t you know, it ain’t all about subprime:

While subprime loans have justly captured much of the ink as the culprit, overdevelopment is a major factor in the dramatic number of vacancies there are today. These are not just the homes of people who took on a mortgage they couldn’t afford; these are newly constructed houses without a buyer on the horizon. It’s not about taking a residence from someone who can’t pay his or her bills and giving it to another person who can’t make payments either, it’s about using resources we have in excess.

If environmentalists weren’t so easily scapegoated, one wonders how the tag-team effort from a Democrat and a Republican to push through big government logging subsidies, while absconding from the principals for free market Capitalism, would be accepted.

The article quoted at length above is fascinating because it tries to acknowledge reality, via quotes from Mike Garrity, but still drifts toward industry propaganda:

The dip in timber for mills came with the downturn in housing demand of the Great Recession, said Garrity, an economist. The downturn was coupled with cheaper logs from Canada via NAFTA, he added.

Whether a 300 million board feet target was attainable would simply depend on where the logs came from and challenges were likely if it harmed fish and wildlife, Garrity said.

Timber-dependent industries in Montana spoke favorably of the potential for increased harvest.

“The exchange between the senators and chief is encouraging,” said Keith Olson, executive director of the Montana Logging Association. “The ability of industry to ramp up will be dependent upon certainty of access to increasing harvest levels.”

“The mills can handle it,” said Julia Altemus, executive vice president of the Montana Wood Products Association. “The mills are running at 60 percent capacity. All the mills would love an opportunity to run at 100 percent.”

Altemus cautioned that the Forest Service in the short term may not have enough current projects in the pipeline to meet a 300 million board feet goal as the cut is typically closer to 100 million board feet.

Public sentiment had largely turned to support for increasing timber harvest and other forest restoration, Daines said. Collaborative based forest projects have the greatest chance of success, and the number of diverse groups agreeing that responsible forest management would have positive economic and environmental impacts was encouraging, he added.

“The level of agreement we have is greater today than it’s ever been in my career,” Tidwell said of collaborative pushes for increased forest restoration.

Restoration? What a joke. The push to “restore” Montana forests is happening despite a lack of demand for home construction, and that’s problematic from several different political angles. For Steve Daines, he’s aiding and abetting Big Government’s intrusion on the Free Market. For Jon Tester, he’s continuing to alienate the people he expects to help reelect him in a few years.

Both politicians will blab about jobs, as if cutting trees is the only kind of work possible in our forests. Instead of government subsidized logging, why not invest in trail maintenance? Well-kept trails would be good for our tourism industry, right?

But that would make too much sense, so don’t expect it to happen. Instead we will be treated to more shill-reporting and deceitful rhetoric from our elected officials.

by William Skink

I came across a very interesting Alternet article titled The More a Society Coerces Its People, the Greater the Chance of Mental Illness. Then, from my free-associative Twitter feed, I read another article about the crisis in our detention facility.

Here is a bit from the first link:

Modernity is replete with institutional coercions not present in most indigenous cultures. This is especially true with respect to schooling and employment, which most Americans, according to recent polls, find alienating, disengaging and no fun. As I reported in July, a Gallup poll released in January 2013 reported that the longer students stay in school, the less engaged they become, and by high school, only 40% reported being engaged. Critics of schooling from Henry David Thoreau and Paul Goodman to John Holt and John Taylor Gatto have understood that coercive and unengaging schooling is necessary to ensure that young people more readily accept coercive and unengaging employment. As I reported in the same article, a June 2013 Gallup poll revealed that 70% of Americans hate their jobs or have checked out of them.

Unengaging employment and schooling require all kinds of coercions for participation, and human beings pay a psychological price for this. In nearly three decades of clinical practice, I have found that coercion is often the source of suffering.

Here’s one situation I’ve seen hundreds of times. An intelligent child or teenager has been underachieving in standard school, and has begun to have emotional and/or behavioral problems. The child often feels coerced by standard schooling to pay attention to that which is boring, to do homework that has no value they can see, and to stay inside a building that feels sterile and suffocating. Depending on the child’s temperament, this coercion results in different outcomes—none of them good.

Some of these kids get depressed and anxious. They worry that their lack of attention and interest will result in dire life consequences. They believe authorities’ admonitions that if they do poorly in school, they will be flipping burgers for the rest of their lives. It is increasingly routine for doctors to medicate these anxious and depressed kids with antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs.

Other inattentive kids are unworried. They don’t take seriously either their schooling or admonitions from authorities, and they feel justified in resisting coercion. Their rebellion is routinely labeled by mental health professionals as “acting out,” and they are diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder. Their parents often attempt punishments, which rarely work to break these kids’ resistance. Parents become frustrated and resentful that their child is causing them stress. The child feels this parental frustration and resentment, and often experiences it as parental dislike. And so these kids stop liking their parents, stop caring about their parents’ feelings, and seek peers whom they believe do like them, even if these peers are engaged in criminal behaviors.

And why are we, as a society, so quick to medicate? Money of course. From the same link:

Once, when doctors actually listened at length to their patients about their lives, it was obvious to many of them that coercion played a significant role in their misery. But most physicians, including psychiatrists, have stopped delving into their patients’ lives. In 2011, the New York Times reported, “A 2005 government survey found that just 11 percent of psychiatrists provided talk therapy to all patients.” The article points out that psychiatrists can make far more money primarily providing “medication management,” in which they only check symptoms and adjust medication.

So much needs to change if we want to have a healthy, well-adjusted population. The coercion inherent in our late-stage capitalist system produces misery, even among the monetary winners.

Another article has been making the rounds online. It’s about addiction and the role isolation plays. From the link:

If you had asked me what causes drug addiction at the start, I would have looked at you as if you were an idiot, and said: “Drugs. Duh.” It’s not difficult to grasp. I thought I had seen it in my own life. We can all explain it. Imagine if you and I and the next twenty people to pass us on the street take a really potent drug for twenty days. There are strong chemical hooks in these drugs, so if we stopped on day twenty-one, our bodies would need the chemical. We would have a ferocious craving. We would be addicted. That’s what addiction means.

One of the ways this theory was first established is through rat experiments — ones that were injected into the American psyche in the 1980s, in a famous advert by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. You may remember it. The experiment is simple. Put a rat in a cage, alone, with two water bottles. One is just water. The other is water laced with heroin or cocaine. Almost every time you run this experiment, the rat will become obsessed with the drugged water, and keep coming back for more and more, until it kills itself.

The advert explains: “Only one drug is so addictive, nine out of ten laboratory rats will use it. And use it. And use it. Until dead. It’s called cocaine. And it can do the same thing to you.”

But in the 1970s, a professor of Psychology in Vancouver called Bruce Alexander noticed something odd about this experiment. The rat is put in the cage all alone. It has nothing to do but take the drugs. What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently? So Professor Alexander built Rat Park. It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, will happen then?

In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn’t know what was in them. But what happened next was startling.

The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.

So here’s a quick summation: our society is sick, and those who can’t be coerced into adhering to the status quo are isolated. Addiction in our society runs rampant, and we further isolate people by throwing them in jail. Treating the symptoms is pointless if we continue ignoring the core problems.

Will we start addressing these core problems before it’s too late? That remains to be seen.

MT Legislature

MT LEGISLATURE

they do not stalk their prey with sword
they do not call it war on poor
they get their dick pills on our dime
they have no shame, they waste our time

I, as poet, send voodoo curse
discarded ghosts will rise again
you will not elude the reach
of unquiet desperation

—William Skink

by William Skink

Tomorrow David Lenio is being arraigned on felony charges for his hate-filled, threatening escalation online. It will be an interesting case to follow. My first reaction was one of weariness at the 9/11 conspiracist angle national media outlets, like Salon, were using.

Locally, the Cowgirl is making use of this case to bash the habitual push by Montana Republicans to put guns everywhere:

As the fight to nullify federal gun laws, force guns into college campuses and workplaces and encourage the proliferation of concealed weapons and ammunition stockpiles rages in in the Montana legislature, the Missoulian is reporting today that a man who threatened to kill hundreds of school kids and Jewish leaders will be arraigned in district court in Missoula this Thursday for “felony charges of intimidation and criminal defamation.”

David Lenio is the white -supremacist, 9/11 conspiracy theorist, and holocaust denier who tweeted comments saying he wants to execute “grade school students” and “shoot up a school” and a synagogue, and put “two in the head” of a rabbi or Jewish leader. He also said he hoped to go on a killing rampage until “cops take me out.”

What hasn’t been acknowledged so far is the economic angle. This is a grouping of tweets Salon highlights because the time and frequency of the tweets indicates an increased level of agitation:

2:55 a.m. – 12 Feb. 2015: “Talk mental health all you want but if I must work for piss poor #homeless slave #wages & can’t get property in my homeland..I may kill kids”

2:57 a.m. – 12 Feb. 2015: “I bet I could get at least 12 unarmed sitting ducks if I decide to go on a killing spree in a #school Sounds better than being a wage slave”

3:38 a.m. – 12 Feb. 2015: “USA needs a Hitler to rise to power and fix our #economy and i’m about ready to give my life to the cause or just shoot a bunch of #kikes…”

3:50 a.m. – 12 Feb. 2015: “If I had to pick between being homeless or shooting up a school and becoming dead, I’d say shooting up the school… Social security my ass”

Lenio can be prosecuted and imprisoned for whatever length of time the court deems appropriate, but that won’t change the core economic reality guaranteed to exacerbate social unrest. I’ll say it again, what we are seeing play out in Helena and across the nation is class warfare. David Lenio is a symptom of a larger sickness, a canary in the coal mine warning the air is too toxic to breathe.

Will we listen?

by William Skink

I associate spring with death. While there are personal reasons for this, there are also quantitative reasons that scientists still can’t quite figure out, and it has to do with suicide (May, 2005):

Psychiatrists have been scratching their chins over this one for years. Counterintuitively, the arrival of spring and the long sunny days it ushers in, mark a staggering rise in suicide rates.

This week, mental health experts at the Priory group said that May is the peak month for suicides in Britain. “The increase can be dramatic, with up to 50% more successful suicides in some cases,” says Chris Thompson, director of healthcare at the Priory group. In Britain, about 6,300 people take their own lives each year, 90% of whom are likely to have mental health problems.

The seasonal effect is seen all over the world, with the northern hemisphere witnessing a big rise in suicides in May and June and the southern hemisphere seeing a similar rise in November. While no one has a complete explanation as to why, the leading theory is that the increase is down to the effects of sunlight on our hormones.

According to Thompson, the seasonal changes that bring most of us out of winter apathy may work against those who are coming out of severe depression. “It is a harsh irony that the partial remission which most depression sufferers experience in the spring often provides the boost of energy required for executing a suicide plan,” he says. “Spring is a time for new beginnings and new life, yet the juxtaposition between a literally blooming world and the barren inner life of the clinically depressed is often too much for them to bear.”

This topic comes to mind after reading reports that one of the three UM student deaths over the weekend was an apparent suicide.

In 2013, the Governor appointed 6 members of the state’s first suicide review team. There are of course warning signs and strategies of prevention to implement and a National Suicide Prevention Hotline, but is it working? Hardly. And it’s not just the seasons, there may also be generational trends:

Suicide rates among middle-aged Americans have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern that a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry and easy access to prescription painkillers may be particularly vulnerable to self-inflicted harm.

More people now die of suicide than in car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which published the findings in Friday’s issue of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. In 2010 there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 38,364 suicides.

Suicide has typically been viewed as a problem of teenagers and the elderly, and the surge in suicide rates among middle-aged Americans is surprising.

From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among Americans ages 35 to 64 rose by nearly 30 percent, to 17.6 deaths per 100,000 people, up from 13.7. Although suicide rates are growing among both middle-aged men and women, far more men take their own lives. The suicide rate for middle-aged men was 27.3 deaths per 100,000, while for women it was 8.1 deaths per 100,000.

The most pronounced increases were seen among men in their 50s, a group in which suicide rates jumped by nearly 50 percent, to about 30 per 100,000. For women, the largest increase was seen in those ages 60 to 64, among whom rates increased by nearly 60 percent, to 7.0 per 100,000.

If you know a friend or family member struggling, say something. Suicide prevention is possible. This story of a would-be-jumper off the Golden Gate bridge is a powerful reminder of what human connection can do.

Remember Ukraine?

by William Skink

I decided to take a quick stroll down memory lane by rereading the shallow assessment of how The American Left has Failed on Ukraine. Written by the Polish Wolf nearly a year ago, it’s clear, at least to me, that his arguments have not aged well. Because there isn’t really that much substance to it, there isn’t much worth quoting. PW simply makes two claims, without evidence, that supposedly prove this alleged leftist failure, and those are:

1. The government currently in Ukraine is not a threat to Russians living in Ukraine. Quite the opposite – Russians in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea are actively undermining the government of Ukraine (No, the status of Russian as an official regional language, by the way, has not changed. Russia Today reported that it had, and to my knowledge has failed to note that the president of Ukraine never signed into law that act).

2. The government is not dominated by neo-fascists, at least, not yet. Svoboda and Pravy Sektor are both still extreme minority parties, and the armed right wing is under heavy police pressure by the Ukrainian government. Indeed, the only party that has anything to gain from the radical right gaining power, and the only party acting to make that more likely, is Russia. Both Svoboda and Pravy Sektor have loudly opposed admission to the EU or the involvement of the IMF in Ukraine (interestingly, the exact same position toward Ukraine advocated by our local ‘progressive’ blogs), making it seem highly unlikely that they will continue to have Euro-American backing. Hard core nationalism in a multi-ethnic state like Ukraine can only lead to instability, the exact outcome Russia desires, and it can only be strengthened by the constant threat (and fact) of Russian intervention.

A few weeks after PW wrote this, the tragedy in Odessa occurred. Since then, things have only gotten worse.

After that April post, PW stopped writing about Ukraine at ID. It was an issue he obviously felt strongly about, so I’m not sure why the sudden stop. It’s an issue I feel strongly about as well, seeing as how this civil war is a brutal, bloody trap set for Russia by the west, and has the potential to spark a global conflagration between two countries with lots of nukes on hand.

I did keep writing, and whoa boy did it make some people upset. I’ve been called lots of things, but the visceral reaction by James Conner to our speculation about the circumstances of MH17 being shot down was one of the best denouncements I’ve had the pleasure of receiving:

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

Like PW, James Conner is not writing about the current status of the MH17 investigation, an issue that he must feel passionately about to make such a public, and personal, display of breaking ties with this corrosive, bile-soaked blog.

But Robert Parry, at Consortium news, is definitely still interested in what happened to MH17 and he doesn’t believe the laughable assertion that our intelligence agency has added ZERO updates to the report since it was released 5 days after the MH17 was shot out of the sky, killing everyone on board:

Despite the high stakes involved in the confrontation between nuclear-armed Russia and the United States over Ukraine, the U.S. intelligence community has not updated its assessment on a critical turning point of the crisis – the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 – since five days after the crash last July 17, according to the office of the Director of National Intelligence.

On Thursday, when I inquired about arranging a possible briefing on where that U.S. intelligence assessment stands, DNI spokesperson Kathleen Butler sent me the same report that was distributed by the DNI on July 22, 2014, which relied heavily on claims being made about the incident on social media.

So, I sent a follow-up e-mail to Butler saying: “are you telling me that U.S. intelligence has not refined its assessment of what happened to MH-17 since July 22, 2014?”

Her response: “Yes. The assessment is the same.”

I then wrote back: “I don’t mean to be difficult but that’s just not credible. U.S. intelligence has surely refined its assessment of this important event since July 22.”

When she didn’t respond, I sent her some more detailed questions describing leaks that I had received about what some U.S. intelligence analysts have since concluded, as well as what the German intelligence agency, the BND, reported to a parliamentary committee last October, according to Der Spiegel.

While there are differences in those analyses about who fired the missile, there appears to be agreement that the Russian government did not supply the ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine with a sophisticated Buk anti-aircraft missile system that the original DNI report identified as the likely weapon used to destroy the commercial airliner killing all 298 people onboard.

Butler replied to my last e-mail late Friday, saying “As you can imagine, I can’t get into details, but can share that the assessment has IC [Intelligence Community] consensus” – apparently still referring to the July 22 report.

I’m glad there are people like Robert Parry continuing to track events in Ukraine. Ukraine might not be getting mainstream headline attention right now, but spring is coming, and with spring comes war. I suspect the recent flurry of Putin is ill/dead speculation is prepping the American psyche for Russian regime change.

It seems plausible, at least to me, that our entire political class is insane. Of course I’m just an anonymous blogger in Montana, so what the hell do I know, right?

by William Skink

It was requested of me to cut some slack. Instead, I’ll write another post to address a question brought up in yesterday’s attempt to add a little context to the Daines as Dangerous as the Ayatollahs post at ID. Here are the question:

But are you saying that Iran should have nukes, liz, as a deterrent, and that Libya wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in today if it had them? Maybe everyone should have nukes, then.

I’m not going to answer directly. There are consequences to how the US wielded NATO to decapitate the Libyan state, consequences this blog (sans Pete) brought up repeatedly. One of those consequences was the message it sent to Iran regarding the wisdom of abandoning its nuclear program. But don’t take it from me, take it from this Harvard guy who has a “Dr.” in front of his name. Writing for the Belfer Center, Dr. Eugene Kogan describes how coercive diplomacy in Syria could rehab the damage done by NATO’s destruction of Libya. On Syria Kogan has this to say:

As the world watches whether Iran will give up its nuclear work, Tehran is watching what will happen to Bashar al-Assad once all of his chemical weapons are destroyed. While seemingly unrelated, the nuclear negotiations with Iran and the (halting) disarmament of Syria share a strategic connection. At stake is the efficacy of coercive diplomacy—the use of threats to persuade another actor to change its behavior.

Coercion is an important tool of statecraft because it allows a state to achieve its objectives “on the cheap”—without resorting to war. The possibility that the United States might employ military force no doubt contributed to Bashar al-Assad’s decision to give up his chemical arsenal.

Nobel Prize winner Thomas Schelling wrote almost 50 years ago that coercion works if punishment for miscreants is contingent on their behavior. The threat “one more step and I shoot,” Schelling wrote, would only be effective if one added, “And if you stop I won’t.” Reassurance inherent in this statement is critical for coercion to work. The speaker threatens devastating consequences for noncompliance, yet promises to lift the threat if the target does as he is told. “To be coercive, violence has to be anticipated,” Schelling explained, “And it has to be avoidable by accommodation.”

So how does Libya damage coercive diplomacy, and why does it matter for Iran. Kogan continues:

In negotiations over weapons of mass destruction, quid pro quos are particularly important. No rational actor can be expected to give up a deterrent capability if there is a possibility that in doing so he would be increasing the possibility of becoming a target for regime change. Yet, this fundamental idea was seriously damaged by the Libyan example. In 2003 Muammar Qaddafi gave up his nuclear weapons program and for several years basked in international limelight, including by giving lengthy diatribes at the United Nations. Yet, in 2011, a NATO military coalition enabled the domestic rebellion to overthrow (and eventually kill) the Libyan dictator.

This created a damaging perception: if you give up weapons of mass destruction, the United States just might decide to violate its promises and overthrow you. Those who make this argument point to Iraq (no nuclear deterrent—Saddam overthrown) and North Korea (a nuclear deterrent—Kim Jong Un succeeded his father Kim Jong Il with no end in sight for the Kim dynasty). Both countries have engaged in horrific human rights abuses; the only factor that accounts for their wildly different fates was that one of them had nuclear weapons to keep the superpower at bay, and the other did not.

Given the fate of countries that can’t deter America’s truly dangerous foreign policy, Iran has good reason to be weary. The evidence exists in the smoldering remnants of Libya and the re-ignition of the Cold War with Russia. Speaking about the latter, here’s someone who knows what it’s like to be lied to—Gorbachev:

With both sides flaunting their respective nuclear arsenal, Gorbachev told German magazine Der Spiegel the world “will not survive the next few years” if either side lost its nerve in the current stand-off. “Moscow does not believe the West, and the West does not believe Moscow. The loss of confidence is catastrophic.”

Although critical of his successor, the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner nonetheless believed Mr Putin was just reacting based on NATO’s flamboyant aspirations to expand, fuelled by the United States’ “dangerous winning mentality.” He said US-led NATO’s eastward expansion has destroyed the very essence of the European security order which was written in the Helsinki Final Act of 1975. The bloc’s expansion, he claimed, was a 180-degree turn away from the Paris Charter of 1990. He said the latter was made together with all European states to finally leave the Cold War in the past.

“We won’t survive the coming years if someone loses their nerve in this overheated situation,” Gorbachev said. “This is not something I’m saying thoughtlessly. I am extremely concerned.”

Focusing on the borderline treasonous behavior of 47 Republicans may make Democrats sleep better at night, but when it comes to the threat of nuclear weapons being used, I think we need to be more worried about the only nation in the world that has actually used them. And we should also be worried about Israel, a country that refuses to sign the non-proliferation treaty (Dec 3, 2014):

The United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday criticized Israel for failing to join the international non-proliferation treaty and urged it to renounce its arsenal of nuclear weapons. The U.N. also approved a resolution, introduced by Egypt and backed by all Arab nations, calling on Israel to place its nuclear facilities under international oversight, according to media reports.

The U.N. General Assembly reportedly said that Israel, which has so far refused to officially admit to having nuclear weapons, is the only country in the Middle East that has not ratified the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and urged it to “accede to that treaty without further delay … not to develop, produce test or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons, to renounce possession of nuclear weapons.”

Going back to the Kogan piece, he concludes with this:

“Perceptions are reality in international politics,” Mike Mansfield, former U.S. ambassador to Japan, once wrote. The U.S. would be well-advised to pay attention to the perceptions its actions create. Iran is carefully watching whether Assad without chemical weapons will suffer the same fate as did the dictators in a non-nuclear Iraq and a denuclearized Libya.

Well said.

by William Skink

There are some interesting underlying assumptions to unpack in Pete Talbot’s latest contribution to Intelligent Discontent, starting with the title: Daines, Republicans as Dangerous as the Ayatollahs. The post takes on the open letter to Iran 47 Republicans disgraced themselves by signing, a move so stupidly partisan even some Republicans admitted it was a dumb idea.

The first assumption is, obviously, that Iran is dangerous. The deal being developed includes a 10 year time-out on enrichment. There is already plenty of IAEA inspections happening, something a certain nation in the Middle East armed with a few hundred nukes can’t say. But it’s Iran that’s dangerous, despite cooler perspectives pointing out that there is scant evidence that Iran’s leadership is dangerously irrational and/or suicidal.

What people in this country have an especially difficult time understanding is that there is a very logical argument for Iran to achieve weaponized nuclear capacity, and that is the deterrent argument. Nations that give up chasing that deterrent, like Libya, get decapitated and thrown into chaos, thanks to all those gosh darn optimistic humanitarian interventionists suckered by monsters like Hillary.

Pete’s post is a reaction to an interview with Steve Daines on some lesser propaganda platform than Fox News. Daines signed the letter, and is therefore the predictably awful politician we know him to be. Not surprisingly, when the topic shifted to Venezuela, equally stupid ideas were discussed, including a dumb quote from Dick Morris:

Morris said that Venezuela leads an anti-U.S. coalition of countries in South America and the Caribbean, and that the administration could neutralize Venezuela by declaring an oil embargo on the country: “That would stop their oil sales and kill their economy in a matter of weeks.”

Good idea. After doing untold damage to the Middle East, let’s alienate all our neighbors to the south.

That is how the post ends. What is completely omitted is the executive action Obama took JUST THIS WEEK. I guess for that we’ll have to go to Counterpunch to read about how Obama is channeling his inner-Reagan:

On Monday, the White House took a new step toward the theater of the absurd by “declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela,” as President Barack Obama put it in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner.

It remains to be seen whether anyone in the White House press corps will have the courage to ask what in the world the nation’s chief executive could mean by that. Is Venezuela financing a coming terrorist attack on U.S. territory? Planning an invasion? Building a nuclear weapon?

Who do they think they are kidding? Some may say that the language is just there because it is necessary under U.S. law in order to impose the latest round of sanctions on Venezuela. That is not much of a defense, telling the whole world the rule of law in the United States is something the president can use lies to get around whenever he finds it inconvenient.

So who is alienating who? Who is really dangerous? Lesser-evilism keeps the focus squarely on Republicans. To do that, some important stuff gets omitted, and that’s too bad.

THE CONFERENCE

I learned the alchemy
of bureaucracy
to conjure a few dollars
from the last piggy bank
Wall Street
has yet to falsely claim

when I was done
I left Embassy Suites
to drive a U-Haul
back to Missoula

but only if we survive
this Motel 6, in Billings

from our approach
down the poorly lit street
from the first steps in
“the lobby” I knew
that some rooms resonated
not-knowing-what-tomorrow-brings
use

far beyond the awareness
of my father-in-law
who I drove with for 24 hours
from his old stone home
in the Midwest

far beyond the privilege
of just having a home
to return to

the alchemy of bureaucracy
is no fractional trading
or quantitative easing
sucking all worth
to the top

it’s telling a story
the doctors can’t tell
because they don’t even know
where to start

where do we start?
not Helena
start close to home
and from the root of that lack
branch out

—William Skink

by William Skink

Sure, the Republicans who want to keep punishing poor people by denying Medicaid expansion are craven, hypocritical partisans, especially if one looks at what happened in Helena on Friday through a Democrat partisan lens, which is all the author of that post is capable of. Luckily I don’t have that affliction and am therefore able to add a little bit more context to how we got to this point in Montana.

Two years ago there was a very good chance of getting Medicaid expanded in Montana. What happened? Freshman Democrat legislator, Tom Jacobson, pushed the wrong button:

Some states have declined to expand Medicaid because they oppose Obamacare. Others worry about the financial burden of expanding the entitlement. But there appears to be only one state where the Medicaid expansion failed due to a Democratic legislator accidentally voting against it.

Congratulations, Montana.

“We’re tremendously sorry about what happened,” Minority Leader Chuck Hunter, a Democrat, said of the mistaken vote. “Montanans are the losers in this outcome.”

The mistake sent the bill back to committee to die. It was terrible. And trying to change the mistake wasn’t possible because the provision of addressing mistakes like this could only be used in situations where the change wouldn’t effect the outcome of legislation. In this case it would have, so the wrong vote stood.

After this embarrassing debacle I hoped Montana Democrats would regroup and speak with a unified voice about the dire need of 70,000 Montanans. That hope quickly dissipated when it became clear that Medicaid expansion was going to be a political football used by the Bohlinger campaign.

While Democrats were busy bickering among themselves, Montana AG, Tim Fox, successfully stalled the signature gathering for the Healthy Montana Initiative.

Then, in 2014, Democrats got their asses handed to them and now here we are. The result? Montanans will continue to suffer, hospital expenses will continue to balloon (the cost of which is passed along to all of us) and over 10,000 jobs WON’T be created.

Most of the blame should be directed at the Republican ideologues who never miss a chance to bash poor people in our state. I despise them more than words can effectively convey.

But I’m not a partisan hack, so I extend my disdain to Montana Democrats, who can’t seem to get their shit together to alleviate the suffering of 70,000 Montanans.

This is a sad situation for Montana. Those on the ground of the class war don’t have the luxury of political posturing. We desperately need Medicaid dollars. Placing blame solely on Republicans may serve political purposes for Democrats, but it doesn’t tell the whole story of how we got here.

by William Skink

David Joseph Lenio has become the face of tragedy averted. Thanks to social media vigilante Jonathan Hutson, Lenio’s online escalation was identified and documented in a manner that allowed authorities to intervene before any violence occurred. That is, without question, a good thing.

Now that violence, which appeared imminent, has been stopped, this intervention may become a case-study for further interventions. Over at Salon, Paul Rosenberg’s piece carries this title: “Dozens of threats to execute grade-school kids: Madness of the 9/11 truther”.

First, I want to acknowledge this is a difficult post to write because it touches on so many issues that I grapple with, like poverty, mental illness and conspiracy culture. I’m also the father of a first-grader, same as Jonathan Hutson, so I can relate to this:

By day, you see, Hutson is communications director for the Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a job he’s held since last Dec. 1. But 24/7 he’s the father of a first-grade son, and that’s the role that was really key in motivating him, especially after his hate-filled interlocutor—original identified only as “@PyschicDogTalk2”— asked him where his own children went to school.

“That chilled my blood,” Hutson recalled, and it motivated him to keep working until the suspect, David Joseph Lenio, was safely in custody. By then, he’d already encountered “dozens of threats to execute grade-school kids and Jews.”

“It’s very difficult as a dad trying to explain to my first-grader what was going on,” Hutson reflected. “He got up on Sunday morning and he saw daddy on the computer, and he heard daddy on the phone, and he wanted me to play video games with him. And I wanted to, but I just couldn’t.” The pain was palpable in Hutson’s voice. “So I had to explain to him why I couldn’t play with him, why I had to be stuck on the computer and on the phone. And it broke my heart to shatter his innocence and reveal to him the idea, which was totally novel, that a bad man with the gun would want to shoot grade-school kids. And brag about it on the Internet.”

“His eyes got really wide and he thought about that all day,” Hutson continued. “That night, when I was putting him to bed, he said, ‘Daddy can you tell the police my idea? That man should be locked up for a long time, until he’s much, much better.’

“‘Yes, sweetie, I will,’ [Hutson replied]. And I did.”

Hutson offered a profile of Lenio, and after Lenio was apprehended, Hutson’s assumptions proved to be very accurate:

“While I profiled this gentleman, I told the FBI and local law enforcement that the man threatening to shoot up a school and a synagogue was a young and athletic white supremacist, worked a low-paying job, probably in a restaurant, possibly as a cook, and that he enjoyed snowboarding and marijuana, and that he owned more than one gun,” Hutson said. “I said they could track his IP address through his Twitter account. [Which proved crucial in apprehending him.] I said he had a history of negative experiences with mental healthcare.”

Hutson then ticked off all the ways that had proven true. “When they arrested this white supremacist, he had just finished a day of snowboarding in Montana. He had marijuana and a pipe in his van (along with jugs of urine). He worked as a cook in a local restaurant, and had three guns. He had on Sunday retrieved ammunition and two rifles—a bolt-action and a semi-automatic—from his storage locker. His father, who lives in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area told Michigan police that he believed his son was mentally ill.”

This case provides a perfect opportunity to conflate conspiracy theory with mental illness. Rachel Rivas, executive director of Montana Human Rights Network, expounds on the implications:

Yet, it’s a mistake to think that only crazy people think the way Lenio did. The point was addressed head on by Rachel Carroll Rivas, executive director of the Montana Human Rights Network. On the one hand, “It is important to note that there are only a few actors in these larger extremist movements that act violently on their legitimate frustrations of economic insecurity,” she said, but “it is also important to remember that while some of those violent actors may struggle with mental health instability, the ideology of these movements can make everyday people spin deeper and deeper into the fear, scapegoating, and conspiracy theories to the point of violence.”

Now that Lenio is no longer an imminent threat, we can look at that same online material to see what it can tell us about how that ideology works to warp people’s understanding. Rivas said something more that drives home how important this can be. “Just like far-right extremists succumb to conspiracy theories that give simple answers to complex questions, society as a whole does the same when placing the blame only on the individual and/or their mental state and not on the movement, ideology, beliefs and those spewing hate through the microphones,” she said. “In addition, we vilify those struggling with mental health issues when we call all of these violent actors ‘crazy.’ There is more to it and it behooves us to understand and stand against these beliefs and movements of the extremist right.”

Yes, there is more to it. But nuance is not something the American populace excels at. Instead my worry is unstable outliers, like Lenio, will be exploited to stifle legitimate criticism of certain issues, like Israeli policy in the Middle East, and blowback from allowing U.S. allies, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to fund jihadist movements, like the ISIS.

Here’s more from the Salon piece:

Precisely because Lenio’s online ideological ramblings are so uneven, crude in some ways, sophisticated in others, they provide an interesting way to approach such material. One of his most telling YouTube creations is “Channel Surfing for 9/11 Truth: A Video Investigation,” a nearly 90-minute video, combining his own ramblings with a variety of video clips from different sources. It provides examples of his muddled, illogical and/or self-contradictory thinking, at a more leisurely pace, so that watching it one can become familiar with the themes, catchphrases and mental tics that obsesses him, as well as the fears and forces he is struggling with.

The video started off to be a short five-minute distillation created for the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Lenio explains. But he just couldn’t fit everything into such a compact format. In fact, it takes him almost 13 minutes of multilayered digressions to get to the first clip of his compilation. He makes clear at the beginning that he’s not interested in proving that 9/11 was a hoax; instead he simply asserts it as a fact, citing physical evidence that Popular Mechanics comprehensively refuted long ago, with more recent updating as well. Rather than proving his case, he wants to focus on who would benefit, and how—which, logically, does nothing to prove the underlying assertion—but does make it more psychologically satisfying to embrace.

Similarly, he also says, “Israelis were involved with it, it’s just a fact.” He says there were “some factions” of the U.S. government involved, but, “There were some people that were loyal to another government. And that’s Israel.” Then he adds, “You know when you start talking about Israel, and Jews or whatever, that’s taboo, the Holocaust, or whatever.” In short, he takes for granted a whole constellation of conspiracist beliefs, and he takes the fact that others find this odd, unproven or even unbelievable as proof that he is in the know and others are foolish or ill-informed.

And so the stage is set for equating truthers with mental illness and the capacity for violence:

This reflects an aspect of conspiracist thinking that I talked about in a previous story for Salon. Regarding conspiracy theories, the philosopher Brian L. Keeley observed, “These theories throw into doubt the various institutions that have been set up to generate reliable data and evidence. In doing so, they reveal just how large a role trust in both institutions and individuals plays in the justification of our beliefs. The ultimate point of such theories, then, is to destroy the foundations of how things are known—not just to question specific factual claims.

While engaged in this sort of destructive process, it helps to adopt a “reasonable,” “non-threatening” demeanor, and to the best of his ability, this is just what Lenio does in the video, “Just keep in mind, there’s no hate in this video,” he says, straight-faced. “I’m not saying that all the Jews did it, or whatever.” Then, however, he begins to slip: “But at times some of the things I say, I feel that kind of sounds like skin-headish shit, and like, until I started investigating 9/11, I never thought I’d say some of the things I’ve said about Jews. So, I don’t know, I’ll probably make a video about what I think about Jews, too…. I’m not spreading hate, I just want a real investigation in 9/11.”

Beware the slippery slope, dear citizens. One second you may have doubts about the official story of 9/11. Then, before you know it, you’re a crazy, holocaust denying conspiracy theorist plotting to kill grade school kids and Jews.

What this article doesn’t delve into is the fact that our various institutions absolutely DO NOT generate reliable data and evidence. Look no further than Jon Tester’s lies about logging to confirm that trust in our elected officials and the institutions they oversee is not warranted.

How far are we from equating institutional distrust to conspiracy theory to mental illness? Not far, I would say. Deeper cynics may claim we’re already there.

by William Skink

A gaff is defined as a spear or spearhead for taking fish or turtles; a handled hook for holding or lifting heavy fish; a metal spur for a gamecock.

A gaffe is a mistake made in a social situation.

Maybe someone could clue in the editorial staff at the Missoulian about the difference an “e” makes: Tester lawsuit gaff reveals real frustration with logging litigation.

Here is the hilarious opening of the “article”:

Anyone who’s worked a fire lookout knows it’s tough to tell a wisp of morning fog from the smoke of a fresh lightning strike.

Not to excuse last week’s “four Pinocchios” gaff Sen. Jon Tester made regarding timber lawsuits, but it’s really hard to figure out just what the U.S. Forest Service is up to.

Let’s put aside the irony of the word selection for a moment. What the Missoulian is trying to accomplish for our senior Senator is a downshift of his Big Lie to a simple mistake. And once that’s done, change the subject:

And Tester’s misstatements about problems with national forest management may reveal a hotter issue: Congress’ fixation on changing the way people can challenge the agency in court.

It’s hard to find words to describe this kind of “reporting”. Tester lies about litigation so blatantly that he’s called out by the Washington Post, and the Missoulian decides to give the bulk of the article to those with…concerns about litigation:

“There’s nothing in the cut-and-sold reports about lawsuits – it’s just about timber sales,” said Todd Morgan of the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. “And that doesn’t get at this spider web of connectivity, where one project gets litigated and it has an impact on lots of other projects. What they’re measured by is not always really clear.”

What is clear is that Montana Democrat Tester’s Republican colleague Sen. Steve Daines was on the same subject last week.

On Thursday, Daines challenged Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell on “the implications of fringe lawsuits on the responsible management of Montana’s national forests and highlighted the severe effects that diminished timber output has had on Montana’s economy,” according to spokeswoman Alee Lockman.

Tidwell apparently agreed, responding: “The litigation definitely does impact and it’s not just the litigation. When we get a temporary restraining order, we have to stop and wait. Every time we get a lawsuit, the same staff that would be preparing for the next project, they have to prepare to go to court.”

My emphasis on “every time” because that’s just not true. For anyone actually following this closely you will know that litigation doesn’t always stop logging projects from continuing. But hey, for a paper that can’t even choose the right word for a headline, why bother with facts in the content of the article, right?

I sympathize with activists like Matthew Koehler. Because it’s an ongoing battle just to counter top-level politicians and local media, who blatantly lie and spread propaganda, resources must be expended in the scramble to get accurate information out. If the intent is to keep more honest organizations occupied in perpetual damage control over messaging, then it’s an effective tactic.

This is how the article wraps up:

“Clearly, there is a great deal of frustration with litigation,” University of Montana political science professor Rob Saldin said. “Tester clearly misstated the situation, but I do not feel we’re at a place where this frustration is unwarranted. Some are saying litigation is holding things up, and others say the courts are the only thing we have to prevent catastrophe on our national forests. I think we really need to have this dialogue and we need more accurate figures and information. That’s the only way we can get a better assessment if we’ve blown things out of proportion or there’s real merit there.”

Sure, let’s have a dialogue. It should start off with the people who made “misstatements” apologizing for poisoning the dialogue with lies. Anything less signals this farce will continue, abetted by the servility of our local media.

The F Word

THE F WORD

never no how say
Fascism flies the stripes
and stars the world over
deny, deny, deny
never ever compare
Nazis to The Hill
a holocaust in Mesopotamia?
a Bush the same as Bill?
no, cast the Adolf shadow
upon the old Great Bear
good Americans nod their heads
giving up their share
to feed their death machine
to world war the globe
never no how say
how close we fit the mold

—William Skink

by William Skink

I wanted to do a follow up to the last post, Jon Tester’s Big Lie, because based on one commenter (Dan) I’m getting the feeling there is some reluctance to acknowledge just how blatantly obvious Tester’s lie was, not to mention the subsequent damage control, which wasn’t much better. That is why Jon Tester earned himself a 4 Pinocchio rating on the lie spectrum from Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post. From the link:

Logging on federal lands is an important part of Montana’s economy, with the Forest Service having the complex role of seeking to keep the forests healthy while also keeping the state’s mills running. Meanwhile, environment groups in the region are active in making sure the agency does not violate key laws, such as the Endangered Species Act.

Thus, there is an inherent tension. Even so, in 2014, the Forest Service’s Northern Region which includes Montana, met its timber harvest goal for the first time in over 14 years. The region harvested 280 million board feet — enough to build nearly 10,000 homes.

The Forest Service also recognizes the important role of environmental groups who challenge some of its decisions. “Things should be litigated that need to be litigated,” said Heather Noel, a Forest Service spokeswoman. “If there is something the Forest Service has missed, it is very healthy. We absolutely should be tested on that.”

But, despite Tester’s protestations, there is relatively little litigation involving timber sales — and even when there is, it generally does not halt logging operations.

First of all, let’s examine Tester’s claim about every logging sale. According to Tom Martin, a Forest Service deputy director for renewable resource management, there are 97 timber sales under contract in Montana’s national forests. Of that number, just 14 have active litigation, so about 14 percent. But only four of the sales are enjoined by a court from any logging.

These four sales are the Miller West Fisher timber sale in Kootenai National Forest, two Glacier Loon sales (Swan Flats Stewardship and Lunar Kraft Stewardship) in Flathead National Forest and Meadow Creek in Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. We might question the inclusion of Meadow Creek on this list because Forest Service records show the agency itself pulled the decision without explanation. In the Flathead case, the Forest Service choose to appeal rather than accept a court decision ruling against it, thus extending the delays itself.

In any case, even if one accepts the Forest Service’s definition of enjoined sales, just 4 percent of the timber sales cannot be logged because of litigation.

This is very specific information that I doubt even the most ardent supporters of our senior senator can deny. He lied. And then he dug deeper. Here’s more from Kessler:

Meanwhile, there are problems with Tester’s revised statement. In that case, he tried to change the subject by changing the metrics. “What we gave was volume of sales,” acknowledged David Smith, another Forest Service spokesman. “That’s quite different from number of sales litigated.”

But it turns out that the volume of sales under litigation (69.4 million board feet) was being measured against annual timber volume (145.3 million board feet). That is apples and oranges, since “very little of this 69.4 million has been cut this year,” Noel acknowledged.

Moreover, “under litigation” is a rather expansive term because it includes projects which are still being logged even as disputes are settled in courts. (The Forest Service also sometimes counts as “under litigation” areas which are not under contract or where an environmental group simply has said it intends to sue.)

The Forest Service ultimately provided a figure of 271.3 million board feet that is under contract in Montana, as of Dec. 31, 2014. Given that many of the projects being litigated are being logged, it is unclear how much has been cut already. So the only reliable figure we can use is the projected volume of the four projects that are enjoined from any logging: Miller West Fisher (15.4 million board feet), Swan Flats (6), Lunar Kraft (4.3) and Meadow Creek (2).

That adds up to 27.7 million board feet, or about 10 percent of board feet remaining under contract. That’s a far cry from “nearly half.”

We should also note that of Montana’s nine national forests, only three have projects under contract that have been halted by litigation.

Politicians lie. The joke is you can tell when they lie because their lips are moving. But this is more than just a lie. It’s a purposeful escalation against people Tester has labeled extremists, the same provocative term John Boehner used after Obama vetoed the Keystone piepeline. Why is that important? Because it actually endangers people’s lives, as this tweet from John S. Adams indicates:

John S. Adams @TribLowdown:

@HelenaVigilante I’ve interviewed people who were physically threatened w/ violence & had their home shot at over forest policy issues.

It’s sad, thinking back to 2006, the hope that many of us had when we cast votes for Tester. Now my hope is that a reckoning will come in 2018. Tester isn’t just a proven liar–he’s a reckless politician willfully misrepresenting an issue that some people are willing to commit crimes over. And litigation, when it works, only works because the courts determine that laws are being broken.

If low-information wing-nuts think litigation has stopped ALL timber sales, then who knows what some unhinged, gun-toting actual extremist will do to the people they identify as being responsible for something that was never true to begin with.

Jon Tester should apologize directly. So far the damage control has been no better than the lie itself. Montanans deserve better.

It would also be nice to hear something from Tester’s supporters, the ones who would be expressing their outrage if this was a Republican lying so blatantly about an issue so many people feel very strongly about.

by William Skink

there once was a man told a whopper
about the environmentalists he hates
but if supporters ignore it
then who will deplore it
when he runs again in 2018?

*

Jon Tester lied big time on Montana Public Radio, and so far only one of his targets, Matthew Koehler, has called him out. That is until today, when Ochenski’s column hits the stands.

Here is Tester’s lie: “Unfortunately, every logging sale in Montana right now is under litigation. Every one of them.”

And here is the truth from Ochenski’s column:

• The Bitterroot National Forest has not seen a single timber sale litigated since 2006, which is before Tester even went to the Senate. Zero.

• There was not a single timber sale lawsuit filed on the Lolo National Forest from 2007 to 2012 and then had two lawsuits of which only one is still current. In the meantime, 99 active timber sales were conducted from 2005 to 2010.

• The Flathead National Forest has 13 active timber sales, with four lawsuits pending.

• The Region 1 National Forest announced in October of 2014 that it had reached its timber target goal, logging 280 million board feet of timber. Notably, that’s the first time Region 1 met its timber harvest goal in 14 years because the agency “overhauled its litigation strategy” according to Regional Forester Faye Krueger, who told reporters, “the main emphasis is on threatened and endangered species” saying the agency is paying close attention to previous court rulings and working hard to develop projects that get it right the first time.

Besides lying about the lawsuits, Tester conveniently omitted discussing the 2014 Farm Bill, under which some 5 million acres of Montana forestland that Gov. Steve Bullock nominated can be logged with little or no environmental analysis or public review and comment.

Is this a problem for Montana Democrats? Do they care their Senator came to office with the help of environmentalists, and now their Senator bashes them every chance he gets? Do they care Tester lies, misrepresents, labels non-collaborators as “extremists” and uses legislation to get around pesky things like the Endangered Species Act? (after decrying riders that is the method Tester used to delist wolves).

At the national level Democrats are trying to figure out why they got their asses kicked, politically speaking. Well, Tester has provided a very tangible example of why more and more people are saying to hell with voting. We don’t believe you. We don’t believe you really stand for anything save pleasing whoever you think will get you reelected.

If Montanans are inclined to vote for Jon Tester again, will they even realize what kind of deceitful person they are sending back to the snake pit in DC? Probably not. Will our local media unpack this whopper? Will any of those “progressive” bloggers make noise about this deceit? Besides a few voices, so far there has been mostly silence.

And so it goes.

by William Skink

When you lose a competition you were trying to win, one course of action is to figure out why you lost in order to adjust for the next go around. The Democrat machinery has apparently put the cogs into motion to generate an internal report, as reported by McClatchy DC (h/t jhwygirl):

Democrats have become a confused political party with a muddled message and an inability to turn out enough of its loyal voters, a party task force charged with how to revive the embattled party said Saturday.

“I am here to tell you the Democratic Party has lost its way,” said Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky, who presented the report to the Democratic National Committee WINTER.

Ok, I’m a sucker for the platitudes of moral failing, so let’s see what this process of reflection has produced.

“In order to win elections, the Democratic Party must reclaim voters that we’ve lost, including white Southern voters,” the report said. But the party also has to “excite key constituencies such as African American women and Latinas.”

Beshear talked tough about the DNC shortcomings. “This should be the time for Democratic leaders to rise up to the forefront as defenders of the people and we think we have,” he said.

But, he said, “the American people by their votes don’t agree with us.”

Hmmm, maybe it’s because you just aren’t explaining it pretty enough for us.

The Democratic Party, he added, “has too often allowed its message to become muddled.”

Placating a patchwork of demographics is a difficult job, and Democrats aren’t doing it very well. The other side has no problem lying (the real translation of muddled message) to their constituents in order to create enough blind outrage leading “white Southern voters” go out and vote…for Republicans.

So what did this internal report advise?

The Democratic task force, which will continue meeting through the spring, offered some general recommendations for change.

It called for an effort to “create a strong values-based national narrative” that encourages people to vote. Beshear urged better defining the Democratic brand, rather than just appear to be a series of policy statements.

Democrats had counted last year on strong turnouts by women, Hispanics, younger voters and African-Americans, but turnout was down from 2012. Get people out, officials said Saturday, and Democrats will do well.

“When we vote, we win,” said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

A strong values-based national narrative? What the hell is that? What it’s not is an admission of the real problem: what Democrats actually do (or don’t do) once elected.

The McClatchy piece ends with this:

Though hundreds of millions were spent last year on ads, organizing and other strategies, party leaders insisted they’d prosper if they stressed their commitment to helping the middle class and the less fortunate.

“Democrats care about so many things. Republicans only care about taxes,” said Patsy Keever, North Carolina Democratic Chairman.

Sometimes, the insiders said, people got too many messages. “There are so many things Democrats care about, but not every Democrat cares about every issue,” Keever said.

Too many messages? That’s rich. I guess hundreds of millions of dollars spent on ads can’t change the reality people are actually experiencing in their day to day lives.

If I had to write a quick poem about it, it might go something like this:

AMERICA’S HELPING HAND

I like my national narrative
values-based, and strong
like how NATO helped out Libya
with lots of helpful bombs

and in this wondrous story
we help our friends, Ukraine
but only the western ones
who never shoot down planes

I like my national narrative
and the freedom fighters we arm
who never become jihadis
who blowback helpful harm

by William Skink

On almost every foreign front the U.S. is escalating, which I’m guessing is why Obama wants Congress to give him cover for the new war he’s already started with that old, dusty AUMF. Truthout frames it succinctly:

As President Barack Obama presented his proposed Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to Congress, he declared, “I do not believe America’s interests are served by endless war, or by remaining on a perpetual war footing.” Yet Obama’s proposal asks Congress to rubber-stamp his endless war against anyone he wants, wherever he wants.

It’s kind of like how Obama said he ended the war in Afghanistan, but not really. I hope the new AUMF includes a new war against the various factions that have torn Libya apart after that little humanitarian thing that happened a few years ago. Go Hillary 2016 yeah!

I’m not breaking from the mediocre poetry I’ve been keeping myself to here just to toss the usual jabs, no, instead I must commend Obama for what looks like maybe could possibly be a significant push back against apartheid Israel being led by a man who may have finally over-played his hand.

Here’s Mark Gaffney via Counterpunch:

Finally. After many years of official hypocrisy, a US president appears to be playing hardball with Israel. The other day, the US government declassified a 1987 report documenting Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program.

I have been a critic of President Obama, but one has to admire the timing of the release which I suspect was ordered by the White House. Next month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak before Congress, at the behest of House speaker Boehner, and the topic of Netanyahu’s address reportedly will be Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. The fact that neither Speaker Boehner nor the Israeli government first cleared the speech with the White House has become controversial, and for good reason. Several prominent members of Congress, among them Senator Leahy, have already indicated they will boycott the speech, which will be a transparent attempt at an end run around the president.

Israeli PM Netanyahu is a smooth talker, but he is in no position to lecture Iran or any other state about nuclear weapons. The just-declassified report shows up Netanyahu for what he is, a liar.

All sixteen US intelligence agencies agree there is no hard evidence that Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons. As a signatory of the nuclear non proliferation treaty, Iran’s nuclear power program is fully safeguarded by IAEA inspections. Israel by contrast is a rogue state that secretly developed nukes while thumbing its nose at the world. Israel has long refused to sign the NPT.

The declassified 1987 report indicates that from the 1980s on the US was well-informed about Israel’s hidden nuclear agenda. Israel’s nuke program is evidently a carbon copy of the US program.

We know that Israel smuggled nuclear technology (triggers, known as krytrons) out of the US, highjacked a ship on the high seas loaded with uranium ore, deceived US inspectors, and much more, all the while lying about its true intentions.

It also appears that Israel provided the IAEA with phony documents about Iran’s nuclear program.

Timing is everything in politics. With the report now public, Obama will be in a stronger position to apply pressure on Israel to sign the NPT and open its nuclear sites to IAEA inspectors; or face the prospect of losing US economic and military aid. Why? Because a US law (the Symington amendment of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act) bars the US from giving aid to nations that engage in clandestine nuclear weapons proliferation. For many years, the US chose to ignore the law. But now that Netanyahu plainly intends to stir up trouble for Obama in Congress over Iran, the president has apparently decided to take off the kid gloves. If Obama follows through, and I hope he does, it will the smartest policy move of his presidency. The president deserves all the support that we the people can give him on this issue.

Damn. I wonder where this will go.

Kenneth Rexroth addressed a conference of Western Writers in 1936 with an essay titled The Function of Poetry and the Role of the Poet in Society. For those not familiar with Rexroth, he was known as an eclectic radical:

A prolific painter and poet by age seventeen, Rexroth traveled through a succession of avant-garde and modernist artistic movements, gaining a reputation as a radical by associating with labor groups and anarchist political communities. He experimented amid Chicago’s “second renaissance” in the early 1920s, explored modernist techniques derived from the European-born “revolution of the word,” played an integral part in the anarchist-pacifist politics and poetic mysticism that pervaded San Francisco’s Bay Area in the 1940s, and affiliated himself with the “Beat Generation” in the mid-1950s.

The essay I’m excerpting for this post comes from a collection edited by Bradford Morrow, called World Outside The Window (New Direction, 1947). Right from the start Rexroth has my attention:

I believe that to a certain extent always, but in modern times especially, the poet, by the very nature of his art, has been an enemy of society, that is, of the privileged and the powerful. He has sometimes been an ally and spokesman of the unprivileged and the weak, where such groups were articulate and organized, otherwise he has waged an individual and unaided war.

Modern times? 1936, to most Americans, is probably ancient history. It is, after all, nearly 80 years ago. But there’s resonance—a 2015, post-modern overlay of that time between the Great Depression and the lead up to world war—that’s unsettling.

Later in the essay Rexroth describes some of the economic pressures on what could be possible if not for the lack of support for the arts:

Vanguard or rear guard, it makes very little difference today. Our most significant poets, whatever limited prestige and reputations they may enjoy, are nonetheless outcasts from this society. We may not all of us be extraordinarily distinguished or considered tremendously significant in the world of letters, but insofar as we are poets, we are enemies of this present society. None of us is in the position of my friend in New York. We either have some non-literary source of income, or we are employed by the WPA, but it is only an accident that we are all not so many Villons. The forces which control much of the world, forces which in America and in California are striving to suppress the democracy and creative freedom we have, have little use for us. They are committed to the belief that the sword is mightier than the pen. We are outcasts in their eyes already. None of us makes a living by poetry, although we think it one of the most important activities man has ever had or could ever hope to have as long as society remains as it is.

We have met to preserve the minimum conditions under which creative work is possible. We have not met to form a literary school or to persuade each other of the advisability of our individual techniques. We have not met to discuss Proletarian art, Surrealism, or heroic couplets. As writers we can make a significant gesture of defiance in the faces of those who are trying to remove America from the civilized world. But alone we cannot do very much else. There is a potential audience of all the producing classes of the West, which obviously we have not reached. We are conscious of the dangers which threaten what civilization we have. It is our job to awaken this audience to these dangers and to ally ourselves with the common people who have already awakened. It is they, not we, who will be the deciding factors in the coming struggle. Any moderately efficient fascist police could in a month silence or exterminate every honest writer in America. But they could not so easily dispose of farmers and workers, the common people upon whom the life of the country depends. It is still possible to rally the American people to the defense of their democracy.

I don’t know, Kenny. I think democracy is gone.

THE WORLD IN 2015

eye of the beholder, what do you see
planned for the world in 2015?

I see a rocket coming from Churchill’s head
and from Cameron’s the rise of a mushroom cloud

I see Amazon packages drone through the air
as Spiderman swings over Alice in Wonderland
gazing at Cheshire perched on a branch
sprouting from Obama’s left leg

there’s a Panda on steroids dwarfing a Sumo
holding an outdated battery
and a crop duster hovering over a kid eating noodles
near the red-tied chest of Putin

of course The Pied Piper is playing, far left
with a nod to the British Invasion
now 50 years old
emblazoned on the bass of a drum set

the tortoise in the middle is most likely Fabian
which means when they strike, they strike hard
(lines of emphasis around the shell
makes ominous two arrows marked 11-3 and 11-5
buried near the tiny feet of Alice)

jive man in a smart blue suit, hand up in salute
stands front and center of the show
with an odd Ghost peeking out from his right leg
browsing a brochure that says VACATION

at least, we can say, we aren’t Hollande
being penetrated by the stare of a woman
with wings and a nest full of eggs
attached to the front of her head

next, in red letters, behind Panda,
on what looks like a sandwich-board
this: PANIC
and below that: Federal Reserve

this is just some of the fun one can have
when setting a global agenda
call it art, propaganda or cryptic disclosure
symbols operate in a realm beyond words
and those in the know get the message

—William Skink

HSBC

HSBC

H is for having a haven from taxes
H is for smack and the money it makes
H is for holding long after the taking
H is for hellfire if they don’t play along

S is for secrets, for sensitive discretion
S is a silence that covers all crimes
S is the way snakes like to slither
slowly behind signs over long periods of time

B is for business basted in greed
B is for blowback blasting civilians
B is a bank for monsters and cheats
who believe their bodies are far beyond reach

C is for coming, the inevitable consequence
C is for cameras through which they will watch
C is the crisis they latch on to like ticks
counting each drop they suck from the host

—William Skink

YOGA PANTS

men who can’t restrain grey matter
are deeply afraid of yoga pants
laugh it up all you want
that one would legislate leggings
and attempt to dress-code necklines
speaks to broken control mechanisms
in the modern heterosexual male
that can’t be ridiculed away

ladies, dudes are having difficulties
with the paradigm shift underway
me, I proudly pee sitting down
and bought my young son a skirt
because he likes playing dress up
and Lego Friends, not Star Wars

that’s ok with me
because it’s not about me
it’s about doing what’s most comfortable
for you

I hope this means
some of us are evolving

—William Skink

CHAPEL HILL

Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha
were executed by an atheist, Craig Hicks
in a Chapel Hill, North Carolina apartment
but atheists aren’t regularly depicted as terrorists
so there will be no calls for all atheists to denounce
this cowardly act by the inevitably labeled “lone wolf”
who, I am sure, we will later discover
has been diagnosed with some psychological malady
that will account for this callous act of hate
then we can shake our collective head
and go back to thinking about more important things
like how in the world could Beck beat Beyoncé
for best album of the year at the Grammy’s?

—William Skink

by William Skink

Missoula’s TEDx will be Friday, February 20th on campus. X = independently organized TED event. TED is an acronym for the ever expanding series of lectures that focus on Technology, Entertainment and Design.

This year’s lineup looks fun, if you’re into that kind of thing. Considering the theme is language, I checked to make sure there was a poet represented, and sure enough I saw they wisely selected Sheryl Noethe.

I’ll add my two cents here about language, specifically the fits and starts of developing writers. The move I recently made required dealing with a tremendous amount of crap. There were file cabinets long forgotten with all kinds of papers. We had lived in this house for over 13 years, and the secretions of my undergraduate work at UM had never been properly dealt with. So I sifted and tossed through the mounds, getting distracted in reading decade-old poems and journals.

Not much in those early years stands up to time. I mostly wince at what I wrote, hearing the clumsily appropriated styles of other writers.

Despite the wince factor, sometimes I’m reminded of the experimental flourishes that surprised me at the time, and still do all these years later. I wrote the following poem I think in 2005, and it still strikes me as strange in a way I don’t really get. For what it’s worth.

*

SEEKING THY CREATURE CALM

It was revealing you hating me so
I wondered if ever I might dance again
I searched in the aching woods
And found frightening proof of untidiness

O how thy star might revel free
If not for this crass plan, you wretch
Thy skin like a film over water
Is bereft of its target, so fetch

No, thy skin never knew these woods, love
And her eyes never saw thy mess
The too many places of your aim
Colored with thy Rosiest distress

But that star in your eyes, void of name
Acts like The Hunter’s claimed prize
The Kingdom hasn’t pillars of fame, love
Just trees in the shrinking wild

If love is a grub, you’re the woodpecker
While the stink in the air hovers close
And the leaf that is lung is so yellowing sad
That I cannot even mention The Rose

If only the scent of time paused
Thy grub might butterfly free
And you and your creature calm
Would leave the rest of us be

—William Skink

The Hill

THE HILL

on her way to the throne
she beheaded a snake
erupting with glee
when she heard on her phone
he was dead

they tried to stop her
opening back channels
but she moved with singular intent
to rip the heart
out of Tripoli

when she gets to the throne
O sisters and brothers
prepare yourselves

she ascends
on a ladder made of bones
to do the dark work
she auditioned for

—William Skink

True Detective

TRUE DETECTIVE

it doesn’t ripple for everyone
upon touch
the image looking back at itself
unaware

through a certain lens
True Detective
is just fiction
overlapping a body
pulled from the river
in a quiet college mountain town
not so quiet
underneath

under noses
papered over with disinterest
overdoses are just background noise
(though I’ve been told differently
by a juicer playing
some sort of angle)

through a certain lens
patterns emerge
dismissed as the product
of an unstable mind

patterns of kids gone missing
patterns of what power does
and gets away with

the memorial cross
beneath the bridge
no longer stands

I think it was burned
for warmth

—William Skink

by William Skink

This is the first of what I’m hoping will be a continuing series of Missoula-centric haikus. Enjoy!

~

long line, Five on Black
The Oxford makes me nervous
fine, Taco Del Sol

~

pay to see water
flow in the form of river
at Finn and Porter

~

despite the regret
despite what it does to you
Wendy’s, I love you

~

no more Food for Thought
omelets on the patio
and hungover cooks

~

they named it Faceclub?
why did they name it Faceclub?
what a silly name

~

outside the food truck
bros man-handle each other
red bull and vodka

~

Good Food Store is Holy!
blessed be what emanates
from its divine glow!

~

to puke on your shoe
is to be at the Food Farm
when you shouldn’t be

~

nice food at Top Hat?
a far cry from drugs and booze
on Wasted Wednesdays

~

plunk drunk with Plonk talk?
shame walk or junk in trunk honk?
how about zonk-hump?

~

Panera sunrise!
where is my Panera sun?
ah, Einstein Bros.

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