Archive for November, 2010

by problembear

http://ravallirepublic.com/news/local/article_c5a31582-fc35-11df-8736-001cc4c03286.html

so long bud, next time i give a peanut to a camp robber jay on the trail,  i will think of you….


Finnegan’s is closed…

By Duganz (Above photo courtesy of Alisia Duganz)

I’m heartbroken, and feeling at a loss for words right now. Finnegan’s was the first place in Missoula that I took ownership of. My friends and I spent sophomore year of college reclined in booths drinking coffee, perusing the spinning glass tank of pie, and telling jokes while trying to feel like we were adults–or maybe just cast members from Swingers, I can’t be sure.

I remember one night in particular where a table of us started quoting lines Office Space to each other, and half of the surrounding tables joined in while the others watched. “Lumbergh fucked her!” we screamed until they told us to get quiet or get walking. Those moments of strangers connecting are rare, and infrequent–like first snows, and first loves,.

There were waffle fries and drag queens the first night I hung out with Alisia, my wife. I thought she looked pretty. She thought I was funny.

A Twitter update from the Montana Kaimin announced the end to 23 years of business. I saw it and texted some friends. One immediately responded with a memory from the night of April 11th, 2008. He remembered how a group of us left the Union Club following a night of drink and dance, and wandered down to Finnegan’s for greasy food and black coffee. He asked if I was there (to his credit, he was quite drunk that night). I said, yeah, I was there.

That was the night that, among so many friendly faces and a crowd of merry folks fresh from last calls around town, I leaned over to Alisia and told her for the first time that I loved her. She replied in kind, and only months later I proposed. I’m not saying that Finnegan’s was the best place to eat, or be, or to woo a potential mate. But it was something special in the way that certain inanimate objects will always be special to us–like your first baseball glove, or car.

Tonight I sat in a car outside the restaurant while Alisia took photos of the barren, empty eatery. I watched the glass pie tank and the warm neon sign glow in the dimly lit storefront. And in the booths to the left, for just a moment, I saw friends shooting the shit, telling stories, and wondering when Gabe would bring us another carafe of his sorry excuse for coffee.

You want to lament the loss of Macy’s? Macy’s was a confusingly structured store with inadequate parking, and florescent lights. But Finnegan’s? That was something special.

By Duganz

I remember sitting in my high school computer lab when we started shocking and awing Iraqi civilians, and soldiers into oblivion. Some of my classmates were cheering. I was 18 so I could only think of Johnson, Nixon, and the story my Dad’s plan to run to Canada when he got his draft number (just a few months before the end of the Vietnam draft).

We’ve been fighting in Afghanistan for over nine years, and in Iraq nearly eight years. The cost of the wars has exceeded $1 trillion. Nearly 100,000 American troops have been wounded, and thousands have died.As for civilians of those two nations, thousands are dead, homeless, or slowly descending into a mindset wherein bombs are a fashion statement.

All those years, all that money, and all of those wounded human beings and I still have yet to get a sound reason for this question I’ve had all along: “Why are we fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?”

It’s a childish question, I know. But it is nonetheless relevant. The Left has laid blame on reactionary tactics (Afghanistan), and corporatism (Iraq). The Right is quick to beat the purity drum with a ratta-tat-tat roll for FREEDOM! FOR! ALL! The Left arguments may be true, we may be in these conflicts for empty reactionary reasons and our ongoing desire to burn dead dinosaurs. I don’t know.

As for the Right’s reasoning, well, I don’t know how an occupation creates freedom. And I mean that literally. How are people free if armed soldiers are walking around telling them what to do?

I ultimately want to believe the best in all people, even former President George W. Bush. I want to believe that he got bad intel, and that he stretched facts for pure reasons (it ain’t likely, but I want it to be true). I want to believe that we are still losing lives and money for the cause of freedom, even if I feel that war is a misguided means to an end when it comes not from the people, but from an outside force.

But, hell, it’s probably just imperialism and greed.

I want answers to why this has happened, and why it’s still going on. I’m Cruise in A Few Good Men. I want the truth (and, sadly, my government seems to think more like Nicholson).

So I decided to email Sen. Jon Tester, Sen. Max Baucus, and Rep. Dennis “Denny” Rehberg that one simple question: “Why are we fighting wars Iraq and Afghanistan?”

I didn’t put anything else in the email. Just the question; no slant or bias. I could have asked how any of them sleep at night knowing they could save lives, or if each flag-draped coffin means something to them. I could have asked Baucus if his nephew dying changed his mind.

I only used those eight simple words.

For those of you who have never emailed our national representatives, the easiest way is through the email forms available at their websites (links above). You give some personal info (most likely for future mailers), select a topic from a pre-made list, and then you’re free to write a little message.

But here’s something interesting:

At Tester’s site you cannot select Afghanistan as a topic, but you can ask about Iraq; Baucus apparently wishes to avoid talking about either (regret those votes Max?) as neither war is an available topic so I chose “foreign policy”; Denny is the only one providing an option for both under the heading “WAR.” I’m not lying. His topic list has the word “WAR.” Just like that. In CAPS. Like it should be proceeded by a grunt and the words “Good god, y’all. What is it good for?”

My emails have been sent. I’m waiting for responses.

I’ve been waiting for nearly ten years. I’ll post the responses as they come in.

***

Update (5:20pm): I posted this on Twitter at approximately 5:10pm MST. Rep. Rehberg’s account is verified. Sen Tester’s is not. It’s possible that Mr. Smith can infact no longer go to Washington, but Mr. Duganz can go to the internet.

by jhwygirl

Call me crazy, but extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich…the top 2% of income earners in the U.S. while adding an additional $700 billion to the deficit and not extending unemployment benefits is the sheer definition of lack of common sense, no?

Ignorance?

The Bush Tax Cuts didn’t create jobs and added to the deficit, and even the Senators and Representatives that voted for them in the first place knew this, which is why there was a termination on them because of the deficit it was known that they’d create.

The Washington Post has an nifty graphic to show the Obama v. Republican proposal:

Unemployed people – and the national figure is something like 9.6% (Montana’s is 7.3) – spend pretty much everything they get in unemployment, right? 100% of what they spend goes right back into the economy?

The cost of extending unemployment benefits? $65 billion.

The economic impact of that $65 billion? $80 billion.

Compare that figure to the $700 billion cost of extending benefits to singles making more than $250,000 and couples making more than $500,000 and then factor in that Republicans want the unemployment benefits paid for by spending reductions while they have said no quid pro quo deal on tax cuts for the rich.

I come up with “huh?”

Struggle as I may, I can not for the life of me figure out the logic behind a talking head – and there are plenty of ’em with this position – that would stand there and defend the current GOP position on these tax cuts for the rich. How do these people reconcile the unavoidable dichotomy of the situation? I mean – does it really work to avoid reality? In government?

Cause it’s slapping me along with a whole hell of a lot of others of us down here around.

So explain to me – anyone.

Anyone that understands this GOP mindset.

by problembear

this is one of the best posts i have seen on the top 5% of our wealthiest citizens fighting to renew their bush tax cuts in spite of the fact that they are actually prospering in this recession while the rest of us are losing ground.

a break from politics

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2r4eriN9as&feature=related

 

by problembear

rather than debating about how america and the world should be run politically, i now feel that my time is better spent in revealing positive things people are doing to try to make the world a better place. Darrell Kipp is one such person who deserves recognition for his work with montana’s children. watch it and you will feel better.


By JC

Nast

I don’t know why. For whatever reason, tonight I found myself revisiting the same old rubbish from the Tea Party and Rush Limbaugh about “The Great Thanksgiving Day Hoax” (via Mises) about how the original Pilgrim Thanksgiving is all about how socialism failed. I’m not going to dredge up a bunch of links and clips–they’re all over the place this week and are easy to find, and all point to the same story refabricating the meaning of the Pilgrims early days. You all can argue about the meaning of Thanksgiving in the comments if you choose. I’m not going there. Instead, I went searching for some counter-point and to try and learn something.

So, I’m just going to offer up this great political cartoon (which sums up my feelings nicely) from Thomas Nast (a “radical republican”) published in 1869 in Harper’s Weekly. The uber-right can go off on their ideologizing of the meaning of Thanksgiving. But Nash ties into the sentiment about how Thanksgiving is all about us being a melting pot of peoples, ideas, and customs. His was a progressive vision that has become lost in the right’s quest for white nationalism and purist economic ideology. Don’t forget to click on the comic to see the enlarged version, and some commentary from the NY Times and HarpWeek.

happy thanksgiving everyone!

by problembear

discovered this drink while stranded in a snowbound cabin many years ago…

12 ozs boiling hot water

one packet of swiss miss

one ounce baileys

one stick of cinnamon to stir lightly and enjoy.

p/s  when you aren’t feeling like alcohol it is hard to beat a cup of  evening in missoula tea. great for beating colds too!

what is your favorite cold weather drink?

By Duganz

Just seven months after 9/11 I attempted to board a flight for Washington, D.C.

I was 17, a junior in high school. Oh, and I was this huge punk rock geek boy who had blue hair, wore (embarrassingly enough) several sets of studs and spikes, about three feet of chain on my wallet, and a Fat Wreck Chords hoodie every day.

So, to some degree, I get why I was held on the floor of the Missoula Airport by two armed National Guardsmen while I was patted down and my shoes were confiscated. I spent a great deal of time trying to look like trouble, and these guys bought the facade. Still, I remind you, I was 17 and a freaking kid from Anaconda, Montana. I had never once been arrested (not for lack of effort on the part of my hometown’s police force). I didn’t do drugs, or drink alcohol. Even more telling, I was on a school trip sponsored by Close Up Washington, which you had to apply to. I was for all intents and purposes a good kid–one with blue hair, but a good kid.

But that morning in April 2002 I was held as if I were a danger to America. Another guy I went to school with was held as well. He was a redneck, boot wearin’, big buckle kinda guy, so maybe my hopes that I was messed with for my hair is misplaced.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. The issue is that I was treated like a criminal because I did not know my Chuck’s were setting off the metal detector, and that lack of knowledge got me searched by two guys with guns.

The main point here is that I was scared shitless for absolutely no reason because I was never a threat, and the government had no right to assume I was.

The Transportation Safety Administration treated me poorly because they were afraid of planes blowing up, and the world ending. It was just a few months after we saw 3,000 people die on TV on a looping repeat of media pandering, and propagandist fear mongering. I get where they were coming from. That said, I am a firm believer in the following words:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

That’s the Fourth Amendment, and what a grand message it is. Coming right after amendments giving me right to words, guns, and keeping the Army out of my home, the Fourth means that police cannot just stop and search you without cause, or a warrant––one that is specific in what they will search.

The TSA ignores this of course by assuming one thing: You want to kill people. If they do not believe that, then they are violating your civil rights, as well as mine. And for what? What the hell does the TSA actually accomplish? Last time I checked one nutcase nearly blew up a plane with his shoe, and another (Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab) tried setting his crotch on fire. (Ironically the TSA isn’t sure these new scanners would detect the infamous crotch bomb, so that’s nice.)

Both made it through security, and onto airplanes–hell, Richard Reed did it the month after the TSA began. Imagine if within 30 days of starting a job you made that huge of a mistake. You’d be fired. But, luckily our government is slow, woefully inefficient, and all about look instead of effort, so everyone kept their jobs.

Here’s some numbers: the TSA has more than 56,000 employees, and a budget of $8.1 billion to accomplish jack. I mean, come on, you’d think with that amount of money and that many people watching it wouldn’t come down to people on flights stopping terrorism.

Well, the government felt that way too, so they’ve recently added a fresh indignity to the business of flight: the naked scanner.

There have been plenty of blog posts and articles written about just how awful these things are, but in case you haven’t seen evidence, this is straight from the government:

As you can see in the third picture (from the left) that’s a penis. Also, the woman, first picture, has some love handles and a flabby ass (image 2). The TSA says that they delete the images, but, um, they don’t. Honestly, does that matter that much after a stranger gets to see your crotch? Aren’t you exposed too much even if the image is deleted? And isn’t it unnerving that a government that won’t allow “profanity” on TV will do this to it’s citizens? (“Sorry, you can’t show Janet Jackson’s nipple, unless you’re checking it for weaponry.”)

But, after all of that I have on observation to make:

You’re only scanned at the security gate. That’s it. If a terrorist wants to make an impression this holiday season, Mr./Ms. Martyr only needs to get in the crowd, and detonate. Getting on a plane with a bomb would endanger between 30 and 200 people. Blowing up at the crowded security gates…well, that’d make for some dead infidels.

So how the hell is the TSA making us safe? It ain’t.

The TSA is the window dressing our government likes to put up to satiate the needs of frightened middle class white people. They do things like this so you can feel a bit safer, and feel is it. You only feel. It isn’t real. It’s like HCR, the “missile defense shield,” or Jell-O. It’s just something to make you feel better, but ultimately provides nothing. Even if it apparently makes some anti-liberty nutbags feel better (One, Two).

But there are things you can do: Opt out of the scanner, and while you’re being given a pat down help educate the government official stomping on your rights by showing them a handy copy of the Bill of Rights. I carry one with my ACLU membership card. And speaking of the ACLU, they are on our side, so feel free to help them by joining.

Also remember this: your liberties are not worth sacrificing for the idea of safety.

***

Update at 10pm, Monday:

My wife wishes to add two points:

  • She is sad that I will no longer be allowed to fly, and
  • Magician/libertarian Penn Jillette turned me on to the tiny Bill of Rights cards, so give credit where credit is due.

by Pete Talbot

Despite temperatures in the teens and a nasty Hellgate wind, Missoula was Montana’s hot spot this weekend. Lots of folks out-and-about, and here’s what I gleaned, politically, from overheard conversations (sources, unbeknownst to them, include Sen. Jon Tester, state senators John Brueggeman and Ron Erickson, state house members Sue Malek and Bryce Bennett):

The Montana Legislature will be a microcosm of the U.S. Congress. Both the state house and the U.S. House of Representatives have substantial Republican majorities.

The Republican majority is much smaller in the state senate and the Democrats have a slight edge in the U.S. Senate. The similarity in these two senate bodies, if the Democrats can hang together, will be the ability to stop veto overrides by the Republicans.

We’ll have to wait and see how much the President and our governor wield the veto pen. Judging from some of the bills already being considered in Helena, and the rhetoric coming from the newly elected in the U.S. House, there could be ample veto opportunities.

Here’s a link to the Helena bills. Prepare to take a week off if you want to review them in detail — there are already hundreds.

Some that came to my attention: Missoula’s only Republican legislator, Champ Edmunds, wants to repeal (not just revise) Montana’s Environmental Policy Act. So much for the Montana Constitution’s “clean and healthful environment” clause. Helena’s Republican Senator Dave Lewis wants a resolution demanding that Congress withdraw the United States from the United Nations. I can’t think of anything less important to a Montanan’s day-to-day existence than the doings at the UN. Thompson Fall’s Greg Hinkle (R) has a slew of wacko bills (example: Restrict authority of FWP to regulate ammo or firearms for hunting, otherwise known as “hunting whitetails with a grenade launcher” bill).

Well, the list goes on-and-on.

From the Democrats I listened to, there was guarded optimism. They certainly won’t be advancing any groundbreaking, progressive legislation but feel they can withstand the most virulent bills offered up by the Republicans. The trump card being a Democratic governor in Montana and a Democratic President.

Democrats at both the state and national level see some fissures in the GOP as the Tea Party types jostle for power and prestige with the more establishment Republicans. Democrats also offered encouragement for 2012, which, of course, they have to do after the drubbing of 2010. The point they make, though, is things just aren’t going to get that much better in the next two years, especially considering the dearth of bills from the Republicans actually addressing unemployment, fixing health care, getting us out of wars or reducing the deficit. And the voters, being a fickle lot, will toss the Republicans they just elected.

Finally, some links to outdoor issues in the lame duck Congress and budget considerations in the Montana Legislature to go along with my keen political insights.

Above The Law?

by lizard

Usually when I hear the term “above the law” I think of a person or corporate entity who has the money to circumvent our judicial process. But after following the news reports about a woman who has been reeking havoc in our community since last March, it appears I need to broaden my thinking about how some chronic law-breaking individuals don’t receive the same degree of enforcement as you or I would.

The individual I am talking about is the notorious “Meter-Reader Scooter” bandit, Carey Sterling. According to this article, Ms. Sterling was released from jail about 10 days ago. Before being released, judge Deschamps stated “You’re about as free a spirit as anybody I’ve ever run into, but somehow you’re going to have to keep yourself under control.”

Well, it appears Ms. Sterling is not capable of controlling herself. Read this account of her recent behavior and tell me whether or not this woman should be allowed on the streets. Here is the gist of the situation:

Carey Sterling was sentenced just last week for stealing the Missoula Parking Commission’s scooter and the judge gave her credit for the time she already served in jail and she was given a deferred sentence.

“Please don’t do anything in the next six months except pay this off,” Missoula District Court Judge Dusty Deschamps said when he sentenced Sterling last Tuesday and told her to pay off her fines.

But sometime in the last week Sterling got out of jail and then on Wednesday she went into the Missoula Police Department to confess to an arson.

Prosecutors say in court documents that the officer she was speaking to told her she didn’t have enough details about the crime and that it needed to be investigated further.

The officer also thought Sterling was trying to get back into jail and he told her he wouldn’t arrest her at that time.

Sterling then told him “Well I guess I will just have to assault you then.” She then kicked him in the shin, punched him in the face and sat down waiting to be arrested.

The officer went in to talk to his supervisor and when he came out he saw that Sterling set a garbage can on fire in the entrance of the police department.

Sterling is being charged with assault on a peace officers and negligent arson.

So, this recent behavior should ensure that Carey is back in jail. Right? Wrong.

According to the Missoula County Jail Roster, Carey was booked on November 17th, at 5:27pm, for negligent arson, which is a misdemeanor, and felony assault on a police officer. Pretty serious, right?

I guess not serious enough to warrant a full day in jail. Carey was released from custody the following day at 2:46pm.

So, if Ms. Sterling continues her law-breaking behavior, which there is every indication she will, be sure to thank Judge Orzech.

I guess some people don’t face the same sort of consequences for their illegal behavior as the rest of us. This particular individual seems to be confounding local law enforcement. And instead of dealing with it, they are simply shirking their responsibility and putting a dangerous woman out on the streets to do God knows what next.

Hopefully she doesn’t kill someone.

Freedom Scope - Nuclear Disaster

by Pete Talbot

Thanks for making the world a more dangerous place to live. A special “thank you” to Arizona Senator Jon Kyl (R) for blocking a vote on slashing U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.

Not voting for the treaty is a lose-lose proposition. There will be no reduction of warheads (by about one-third) and there will be no on-site inspections for compliance (inspections expired about a year ago).

A scorched Earth is now a partisan issue. Disgusting.

Betrayer-In-Chief

by lizard

A punch to the gut and kick to the balls.

That is what this administration has done by signaling yet another unbelievably spineless cave-in by continuing to use the deficit nuclear option with tax cuts to the rich (who are doing just fine) and the Debt Commission reporting their suggested slashes to the already tattered remnants of the New Deal.

This is class warfare, and the Obama administration isn’t even putting up a fight.

The last paragraph of Michael Hudson’s latest piece from Counterpunch is a good summary:

What we need is a Futures Commission to forecast just what will the rich do with the victory they have won. As administered by President Obama and his designated appointees Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke, their policy is financially and fiscally unsustainable. Providing tax incentives for debt leveraging – for most of the population to go into debt to the rich, whose taxes are all but abolished – is shrinking the economy. This will lead to even deeper financial crises, employer defaults and fiscal insolvency at the state, local and federal levels. Future presidents will call for new bailouts, using a strategy much like going to military war. A financial war requires an emergency to rush through Congress, as occurred in 2008-09. Obama’s appointees are turning the U.S. economy into a Permanent Emergency, a Perpetual Ponzi Scheme requiring injections of more and more Quantitative Easing to to rescue “the economy” (Obama’s euphemism for creditors at the top of the economic pyramid) from being pushed into insolvency. Bernanke’s helicopter flies only over Wall Street. It does not drop monetary relief on the population at large.

As Republicans at the state and national level wring their hands together and snicker about the scorched-earth policy they plan to unleash on us, the Democratic leadership appears utterly incapable of clearly articulating what is at stake here. Whether this incapacity stems from incompetency or complicity is not important.

Tax cuts for rich people will bury us deeper in debt. Slashing health and human services will create a level of desperation unseen since the Great Depression. How much longer is this insane charade going to continue? In two more years we will be even more fucked over than we are now, which for those paying attention, is kind of hard to believe.

The cuts that will be pushed through are not just some abstract attack on the “social safety net.” It will result in the ACTUAL LOSS of REAL JOBS. Jobs, I might add, that help keep the seething masses from turning into Visigoths and Gauls tearing down the gates of Rome.

It’s like John F. Kennedy said: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.

And we all know what happened to him.

by Pete Talbot

The death of the political blog Left in The West has been greatly exaggerated.

While it’s hard to do to justice to the writings of Jay Stevens and Matt Singer, there are some new posts up that deserve your attention. Matt Koehler, someone named Rustin (who follows Bozeman issues) and 4&2O’s own problembear have been filling the void. Rob ‘Wulfgar!’ Kailey has a post up and is also administering the site. This is all good news.

So, if you thought that LiTW had bitten the dust, think again, and pay the site a visit:

http://leftinthewest.com/

American Poets: Ed Lahey

by lizard

Ed Lahey was born in Butte in 1936. A man of the mines, one might think Ed would make an unlikely poet. Luckily Ed had a supportive father who, according to the author’s note, saw his son writing a poem at the age of 15, asked to see it, read it, and kept it in his billfold until his death.

I saw Ed read at Shakespeare & Co. five years ago when his book, Birds Of A Feather first came out (published by Clark City Press). The man wields his words with clarity and resonance. A student of Richard Hugo’s, Ed learned and found his own voice; a voice that distilled his experiences in the mines into potent shots of verse.

But before we get to the poetry, I’d like to get political for a second (I don’t think Ed would mind).

Part of what I see as the terminal fracturing of the left is the fissure between environmentalists and the remaining laborers who still scrape their livelihoods from extractive industries, like mining. this divide seems to position intellectual liberals wielding degrees against the “hard working patriots” the Republican party has successfully wooed to the “conservative” camp.

But once upon a time, when America had a strong manufacturing-based economy, labor ensured the left was a strong counterbalance to the inherently exploitive nature of capitalism. Ed’s poems spring from the days when those who sweat for their dollars were still capable of reminding the boss’s the beast of labor could bite hard when acting in broad solidarity.

*

CONTRACT MINERS

Underground we fought the earth together.
For the hell of it, and Peacock copper.
From the womb she was no tender lover.
The stone-boat rocker wouldn’t budge
a crumb to a beggar’s cup,
or toss a meatless bone
to a blind man’s bitch. Until we made her.
Compressor moan and drill chatter
in her lamp-lit face
forced surrender form the stone.

Midwife to the mine he taught me how
to spit a round and slant a lifter.
He grinned greenhorn at my back
when I smelled fear curl thru the drift
and cling to shaky fingers
as each to each they lit spliced fuses
one by one. And then we ran,
down the cross-cut tunnel
Soon the shudder of ground
brought us back to witness birth.

The mice sat in the corner of our eyes.
They were wise. We watched them listen
to the timber groan beneath
gravid loins of working earth.
With care and art, mindful of the mice,
we imitated moles. We spilled thru mealy
low grade zones to court her frigid heart,
where once solutions boiled
and, dying darkly, cooled.

This poem seems to be about the fight between working men and the earth (personified as feminine), so its language is appropriately visceral and misogynistic. It fits.

Other impressions?

by jhwygirl

Montana’s GOP is shoring up for a showdown for Speaker of the House. Every Tea Partier’s favorite Krayton Kerns – truly on the extreme edges of tea partyism – is expressing a desire to hold the seat.

Mike Milburn of Cascade was the favorite. Here’s his voting record.

Kerns, by comparison, is billing himself as “more conservative.”

~~~~~
Kerns is, of course, a puppet of another Tea Partier plus gun nut plus state’s rights advocate plus so-called constitutionalist Gary Marbut (president one-man chief lobbyist for the Montana Shooting Sports Association). Remember that crazy gun bill from last session? HB228?

Kerns’.

So how much influence will Missoula resident and right-wing loon Gary Marbut have with the Montana Legislature? Marbut, I assure you, is trying to figure out just the same.

So he’s getting started early this year, trying to score one of his mouthpieces into the Speaker of the House position.

Speaker is a pretty important position – as the Billings Gazette explains:

The speaker sets schedules, grants committee assignments, assigns legislation and controls much of the business of the chamber. The position is a key figure in negotiations with state Senate leaders and the governor’s office.

Who’s going to run the show? Marbut, Kerns and his merry band of Tea Party jesters, or the Montana GOP?

If anything, can I ask that someone consider that he’s got one of the most annoying nasally whining weaselly screechy sounding voices I’ve ever heard. Pitty all reporters that’ll have to deal with that. Do they really want Krayton out there on camera?

Come to think of it…that could be fun.

By Duganz

Politico reports that millionaire, excuse me, Republican, Steve Daines will be the first pachyderm to throw his hat into the ring against Sen. Jon Tester in 2012. This of course stands against the logical idea most people had that Rep. Dennis “You drive the boat” Rehberg would be going after the seat (He’s accomplished nothing in the House, so it’s about time he try and accomplish nothing in the Senate).

But Daines is saying he’ll have a big announcement Saturday, and it may very well be this run for Senate. (Here’s a Facebook page promoting it…)

It would appear the Montana Democrats are readying for the challenge from Daines, a pro-life/anti-tax/”kill the Muzzlams!” candidate if ever they could find one. They’ve filed a complaint against Daines with the Federal Elections Commission saying that he is already running for Senate, albeit secretly and (the kicker…) illegally. Their evidence? This:

To quote comedian Marc Maron…. “What the fuck?!” That’s quite clearly a political campaign ad. From start to finish.

But wait, there’s more.

Common Sense Montana, producers of the above, are now running a new ad on Montana radio that is dizzying with just how much bullshit it is willing to dole out. Of course I couldn’t find a way to snag the file of the ad (see prior link), but here is a bit of the transcript:

SFX:[door open]

Norm:This the patent office?

Bitsy:Yessir!

Norm:I want to patent this [thud].

Bitsy:My, what a big question mark!

Norm:It’s a Tester-Tester. Push this button and it asks a question Jon Tester can’t answer…

…at least with a straight face. Like this…

SFX:[Mnemonic: Bzzzz + computer whirring + ding]

TEST:“Why did Jon Tester cast the single deciding vote in favor of ObamaCare?”

Bitsy:[breath]…He can answer that?

Norm:Uhhh…No.

ANNCR:The way Jon Tester poses in manly Montana pictures makes you think we have a tax-fighting farmer working for us in Washington. Turns out he was the one vote the President needed to force us into ObamaCare…and he stood with Obama, not Montana. Jon Tester’s not running in November, but you can visit TesterTester dot org and ask more questions he…just can’t answer.

If you read that and said, “Wait. Wasn’t that *Rep. Bart Stupak who stalled the Health Care bill and then got what he wanted and was thus the deciding vote?” well, of course, you’re not the kind of person to vote for Steve Daines, or be led astray by such an ad. (Also, on a more personal note, how freaking sexist is it that the guy’s name is “Norm” and the woman’s name is “Bitsy”? Not the least bit, right? *Groan*) But how many people have already forgot Stupak’s name? I’m betting plenty, and so is Steve Daines and his cronies.

Anyway…

Who is Common Sense Montana? Good question. I can’t answer that. If you go to CommonSenseMontana.com you go directly to the Tester ad and are left without any explanation of who these folks are. However, if you move your cursor over either link on the page (“Home” or “Blog”) you see this:

So, that’s convenient. Montana is being manipulated by a Colorado group (so it appears… stay with me). Nice. An outside group adopts a homebase name and face and starts pushing an agenda. Perfect.

Common Sense Issues, the folks behind ideasforcolorado.com, represents the epitome of everything that is the rightwing scare base. The group is headed by Harold “Zeke” Swift, a rightwing ideologue from Procter&Gamble who helped push Mike Huckabee into the national spotlight. Here’s they’re mission, stated via GuideStar.org:

The organization’s primary exempt purpose is educating and informing American citizens about issues related to public policy and about working together to encourage opinion leaders and public officials to approach and seek solutions to the problems faced by Americans using basic common sense principles.

Again, to quote Marc Maron, “WHAT THE FUCK?!” How any of their ads are about “working together” is beyond me, I mean, my god, the above are anything but inclusive.

But the real kicker is that Common Sense Issues is based in Cincinnati, Ohio (That’s close to where Zeke lives), the Colorado connection comes via another Huckabee guy, Patrick Davis.

Davis, as his page shows, has a big ol’ issue with our Senators Max and Jon.  He’s also (by his client list) a HUGE supporter of the Teabaggers. More than that, however, is Davis’ past: he was a Conrad Burns insider via the Republican National Senatorial Committee.

Yup, that’s right, one of ol’ Burnsie’s guys is coming back trying to oust the guy who defeated Conrad.

And these are the people backing Steve Daines. He is their ideological front man in Montana, an anti-personal liberty conservative who is going to fight to repeal or end any health care reform efforts, back corporate America, and ultimately move us further right. Having worked with Swift at Procter&Gamble, and with Davis during the Burns years, Steve Daines is a well-connected and well-financed Republican puppet; a businessman of high class and low morals.

In other words: Meet the competition.

Me? I’m with Jon Tester, a really nice guy who runs a Montana farm, and is the furthest you can get from being a political ideologue. He ran a campaign in Montana, with Montana voters.

Plus, he liked the jacket I was wearing in the above photo. You know why? Cause he isn’t just posing for “manly” photos. He’s a real damn man… missing fingers he lost farming.

And the best part: He’s not some puppet backed by nutty Christians from out of state. He’s just Jon.

Author note: This piece originally called Rep. Bart Stupak a Senator. Commenter “Doug” caught that.

“It was an accident… I’ll leave it at that.”

–Montana State Senator Greg Barkus on his drunken and near fatal escapade last year
barkus drunken crash site
By JC

With his November 29th trial pending on three felony counts for “piloting” his boat with Denny Rehberg and staff to a near fatal crash on a rocky outcropping on Flathead Lake, outgoing Montana State Senator Greg Barkus decided that the cards were stacked against him, and filed for a plea agreement. And of course, his attorney waited until the day after the election to file the motion:

Glazier said the timing of his motion for a change-of-plea hearing – one day after the Nov. 2 election, which saw Rehberg re-elected to a sixth term – had nothing to do with politics. The date of the filing had only to do with the court’s scheduling docket and the fact that plea negotiations have wrapped up.

“Quite frankly, it didn’t even cross my mind,” Glazier said. “He’s termed out anyway, so the election wasn’t a concern.”

So… let’s get this straight. The lawyer for a prominent politician didn’t even think that filing a motion the day after the election had any political motive? And that the passenger on that boat was a U.S. Congressional Respresentative running for reelection, and whose name was on that ballot?

That flies in the face of all sensibilities. Of course, the real political move was done when the judge set the trial date for almost a month after the election. Just a minor detail so the defense could have a little plausible deniability.

And of course, the details of the plea bargain won’t be known for a while:

[Flathead County Attorney Ed] Corrigan was not available for comment on Monday, but Vickie Eggum, administrator for the Flathead County Attorney’s Office, said details of the agreement would not be released until the document had been signed and finalized.

Hmmm… That’s the same Ed Corrigan who endorsed Senator Barkus as being “tough on crime.”

Let’s just see how tough on crime big Ed turns out to be. Of course, in the era where some peeps have greater privileges than others, who you are dictates how you are charged, and how your crimes are settled in “plea agreements.”

Let’s not forget the case last summer where the Morgan Stanley Wealth Manager, Martin Erzinger, recently had his hit and run charges reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, because…well, he drove a Mercedes, and a felony might impact his job, and…blah, blah, blah.

Senator Barkus is term limited, and doesn’t have a job to worry about. But he has friends in high places. Some who boast about being tough on crime. Let’s just see how tough they are on Denny Rehberg’s friend, even when he almost killed Rehberg, and left Rehberg’s Chief of Staff with a brain injury and other disabilities that he’ll have to deal with the rest of his life.

And finally, I’ll leave you with a quote from commenter madderthanhell at the Great Falls Tribune who sums up my feelings rather well:

“No, Greg, it was not an accident, you were drunk off your rear”

Once more, a well-connected politician who believes the law does not apply to him commits a crime and seriously injures the people around him and will walk away with his get out of jail free card intact. How can someone with no code of ethics act ethically in the legislature? To say nothing of those who helped him skirt the law.

“It was an accident,” he said. “I’ll leave it at that.” No, Greg, it was not an accident, you were drunk off your rear and it was reckless endangerment at best, attempted manslaughter at worst. You deserve to wake up in a 6×8 cell next to Otis, the drunk. Oh wait, I forgot, you are Otis the drunk. Hey Greg, give us a preview of what your gonna do next year, be DUI and run over a hooker somewhere?

By JC

Well, it was just a matter of time until our Governor’s hollow words took a turn to the right. In a little noticed story tucked back inside the B Section of last Sunday’s Missoulian, we find out that Exxon–the world’s richest corporation–is protesting nearly a million dollars in taxes in the small Montana town of Lockwood. The protest amounts to 44% of the town’s tax base, and will cost 18 jobs:

Leaders in Lockwood met with ExxonMobil executives and representatives from the Montana Department of Revenue on Thursday to discuss Exxon’s decision and the ramifications it could have for the school district.

“What we will do we don’t know at this point,” said Eileen Johnson, superintendent of the Lockwood School District.

District officials first heard the news from Exxon officials when they met on Thursday. Exxon sent five officials to the meeting, including two of its tax experts from Houston.

Those officials traveled to Helena on Friday to meet with state leaders. A call to Exxon’s Lockwood office Friday was not returned.

“Meet with state leaders…” Hmm, I wonder just what the governor or his underlings are telling Exxon? “C’mon on in, the door’s open, we need your ‘jobs, jobs, jobs.'” I wonder what the next public proclamations from Schweitzer will be about this situation? Push harder for the project because we need even more jobs now? Maybe Exxon is pushing for a little bit of quid pro quo? Pay to play? Extortion…??? So many questions, and so few answers.

I know many of our commenters here think that Exxon and the Canadian oil cartel are such fine upstanding corporate citizens, what with they provide us all the tar for our hippy bike paths. But when the world’s richest corporation has the ability to throw small communities in our state into total disarray and turmoil by simply protesting its taxes, well then, they are no friend to our state and should be dealt with accordingly.

And in related news:
tar sands resistance

International Tar Sands Resistance Summit, Nov 19-22 at Lubrecht

The Indigenous Environmental Network and Northern Rockies Rising Tide are pleased to announce the “International Tar Sands Resistance Summit,” which will take place November 19-22 at the Lubrecht Experimental Forest conference center, 30 miles east of Missoula, Montana, USA. The summit is designed to be a place where individuals representing tar sands-impacted communities can come together to strategize, learn skills and network in order to grow and strengthen the international effort to effectively resist the most destructive industrial project on the planet, the Alberta tar sands. The four-day convergence will focus primarily on connecting individuals and communities affected by the Alberta Tar Sands, the XL Energy Pipeline, and the proposed mega-load shipments. This event is free and open to the public, but due to limited space we will have to cap the number of attendees. Feel free to register online , but please be sure to read the information provided on the form.

by lizard

When I hear Republicans talking about Government spending, my eyes glaze over and my brain recoils. As far as messaging goes, the persistent depiction of Democrats as the main offenders in Government largesse has been wildly successful. As far as reality goes, our national GDP is over 14 trillion dollars, and our national deficit, according to the US National Debt Clock is $13,732,848,917,316.31. If current trends continue, our deficit will be 100% of our GDP by 2025.

We didn’t get to this point because Democrats are the evil socialist spenders the right portrays them to be. We got here because the insane philosophy of unregulated free market capitalism has bought a bipartisan consensus in Washington D.C., and has spent the last several decades spreading across the globe, searching for new markets to exploit. This metastasized form of capitalism has killed and corrupted virtually all the regulatory power of the government, and has incrementally rolled back the advances hard working Americans fought and died for at the beginning of the last century, putting the robber barons in their place.

The result is we no longer have a government or media independent of corporate control. The New Deal is dying before our eyes as Republicans gnash their teeth about spending. And their solution? Destroy the social safety net for millions of Americans who scrape by in the wage-slave service sector economy that has taken the place of the manufacturing base they helped move to China and Mexico.

The corporate stranglehold is sickeningly obvious when it comes to war. Through the most significant bipartisan consensus, “defense” spending will stay “off the table” as the spending crisis heats up, and other top national priorities fill the corporate airwaves, like repealing health care and taking out Obama (politically of course).

So, while Republicans go big with their scorched earth policies of total negation, remember, we will still have enough money to spend more on our war machine than the rest of the world COMBINED. That means billions of taxpayer dollars to support the apartheid state of Israel, and billions of dollars to provide payoff “military aid” to countries like Egypt and Pakistan. And hundreds of millions of dollars to blow on corrupt multinational corporations. And there is absolutely no political will to address this insanity in either party.

*

And now, a personal anecdote.

The only surprise this election produced for me was an e-mail I received from my Father a few days ago. To put this in context, my Father has never been very open with me about his political views. I suspect he voted for Bush in 2000, and since then the only political conversations we have tend to be one-sided diatribes that I unload with such frequency it’s become something like a schtick he quietly suffers through.

The reason I think my Father’s little e-mail rant merits inclusion here is because it comes from a man who dedicated a good portion of his life to working for corporate America, specifically Sprint. What that dedication meant was traveling at least two weeks every month as he climbed the corporate ladder. When my Father learned the hard lesson that loyalty and hard work doesn’t exclude you from down sizing when the company starts going down hill, it’s entirely possible my diatribes began sounding less like relatively youthful defiance and more like legitimate criticism of a broken system.

So I asked my Pops if I could pass on his political disgust, and he said why not. Here it is:

I thought the main goal of elected officials was supposed to be governing well and finding solutions to problems facing the people and the nation. I thought that the political parties were supposed to put our interests first, not their interests (i.e., getting money from special interests and getting re-elected). When I hear that the main goal of the Republican party is to deny Obama re-election, it makes me sick. Pharisees, that’s what they are. They holler in the temple and the streets about their virtue and their godliness, all the while seeking only to enrich themselves. They have no compassion. They have no sense of compromise. They are anxious to do harm to the good of the People if it will benefit them. Anyone who voted for a Republican should be ashamed of their vote to put these scoundrels and Pharisees back into office where they can do harm to the People and our nation. We are in for a very bad two years. If the Republicans disdain any attempt to build a consensus and find compromise solutions, I hope Obama vetoes every bill they put forward and it becomes very, very clear that the Republican party is only seeking to benefit themselves, even at the expense of the nation. Shame on the Republican party and anyone who voted for them.

by jhwygirl

I’ve been hampered in my blogging since Tuesday when I (feebly) installed a new wireless router and ended up with a laptop that won’t connect. Tonight I cave and plug in the damned ethernet.

In between that time I got one of those neat ereaders. Fun.

All of that being said, Jay, the founder of this blog 4&20 blackbirds and principal blogger over at Left in the West, gave me a call Wednesday morning to tell me that he was moving on. It was a busy day for me and I have to admit I kinda didn’t think it was actually going to happen..I guess?

But then the post went up. Or I should say the emails started. Either way – whoa.

It was something that was briefly discussed when he moved to PA, but I guess I never saw a need for it…even though I knew that Jay was involving himself locally – which is a great thing.

But then the next day the other foot – Matt Singer – drops? Seriously, I was like WTH?

I have more admiration and regard for Matt Singer than I can put into words. Or if I did, I’d embarrass him or at least make his face all red. Though that hasn’t stopped me from trying every once in a while when he was extraordinarily newsworthy, and you can search our Matt Singer archives here for posts.

Here are two guys that have made an indelible foot-in-the-ass imprint on the politics of Montana. For more than half a decade.

Then tonight I find out that there is a going away party for Matt. So his heading to Oregon isn’t happening in a while, it’s happening soon – and all of this becomes so much more real.

For me personally, both Jay and Matt are the reason I blog – so ya’all can pretty much blame them both equally there – and for Jay’s part, when he headed on to take the helm as COO of Left in the West, he handed the reigns over here.

So the blame on Jay can be spread on a little thicker, I guess.

And Jay made it a point in our conversation on Wednesday to say how much he enjoyed the writers here….always the cheerleader for opinion and discussion. Always.

Wulfgar! wrote his own thoughts about Matt and Jay’s goodbye to Montana politics. Wulfgar! is another one who can whomp some darned fine progressive blogging out, and I have to say I am somewhat relieved by reading his posts that he doesn’t show any of the same indications.

Montana progressive politics will never be the same – but they also wouldn’t be what they are without the imprint of Matt Singer and Jay Stevens.

Go be famous elsewhere. The world deserves it.

Photo of curly bear wagner -courtesy Montana PBS


by problembear

time for an open thread discussion about something that has nothing to do with politics…..

what bothers you in general?

i will kick it off with my own personal two conundrums:  bears don’t understand two things about humans…………..

1. why rake leaves? i mean, you don’t see us animals out in the woods raking leaves. it is a natural cover of protective mulch and a great source of nutrients for whatever plants come up in the spring. so why rake?  i see my neighbors raking madly away and bagging it all up to go to the dump with lots of wasted  energy and plastic bags. why? and then they have to go to missoula ace hardware in the spring to buy fertilizer……why?

2. many humans have nothing but disdain for someone that they call goody-two-shoes? what the hell is wrong with having two shoes?

please answer these questions for me and please let us know what is bothering you today….. preferrably nothing to do with politics. thanks

discusss away.

also, i would like to leave you with a piece of wisdom from an old friend…

“If you hate people, you are controlled by those people.” – Curly Bear Wagner, late great Blackfeet leader

by problembear

last tuesday, the super-majority of montana voters of all political parties gave our verdict on payday lenders 71% to 29%. it was a whitewash which included overwhelming support by both democrats and republicans. now i am getting indications that out of state slime devils/vampires are gearing up to bribe our state legislature to override our decision on allowing businesses to charge our working poor 300 to 650% interest. i am writing an open letter to the legislature…….

——————————————————————————————-

dear legislator for the people of the state of montana:

congratulations on your election/re-election to represent the people of the great state of montana. just a friendly reminder. before you begin to pack for the trip to helena, be sure and stow this away……

the people of the state of montana already decided for you on the payday/vehicle title loan question.

NO MEANS THE HELL NO!

now good luck on your next session and remember we will be watching and making sure that you represent our interests in helena this winter, not the interests of well-heeled out of state interests who want to profit by fleecing us. and this stands for lots of issues. but especially payday lenders.

Sincerely,

71% of the voters of the great state of montana.

——————————————————————————————–

now, where did i put that wooden stake?

well here we are…

by problembear

i never met either matt singer or jay stevens but i am sure they are perfectly good guys. we differed to say the least on many occasions about many things which are not important to rehash here. but the fact that they pioneered this venture for montana back in 2006 leads me inevitably to respect both of them for their devotion to participatory government and for their huge contribution to giving otherwise powerless voices a stage upon which to vocalize opinions. and even more importantly they gave their vast audience of participants from all over the state the power to comment and to differ with them virtually without fear of being muzzled. many’s the time i have watched matt and jay get raked over the coals over at left in the west and wondered how long it would take for them to ban someone. but it rarely happened. that is very admirable.

i have learned what little manners i have in this strange world from watching j-girl’s even-handed but firm and spirited approach to her varied subjects; ….all out tooth and claw fights and then good natured ribbing and good lessons in logic from wulfgar,  ….lessons in humility and occasional clear-eyed views of the other side’s perspective from pogo and goof (mr benson) ;…. lessons in being a smart ass from big sweed (ingie) …. lessons by the way, which my s.o. says i did not need as my skills were far too developed in that regard before blogging….. but the best examples that could be found in how to clearly and articulately write a post in montana usually began with reading either matt or jay. they will be sorely missed.  i know both of those guys will do well wherever they end up. they both have good communication skills that are rare and difficult to find in this day and age. much success to you matt and jay.

———————————————————————————————-

onward and upward:

the voters have spoken and we must give up our petty squabbles now and give the political dust some time to settle while we wait to see what happens next. i have decided to no longer waste my time with inter-party political hissy fits anymore. i will concentrate on causes and as an independent i will attempt to cease to pick sides anymore in the political circus. this post today represents a break from blaming republicans for all of our troubles anymore, castigating democrats because they didn’t do what i wanted them to do, or bothering myself anymore with some silly thing called a tea party.

exit polls show that americans are sick and tired of all the parties. they just want jobs and some semblance of the country to start making sense to them again. i mostly blame the assholes like predatory banks who take our handout and then spit in our eye when we ask them for a little restraint in foreclosing on people’s homes, corporate ceos who use this country for a toilet while they hire workers off shore, and government representatives who ignore the clear majority view of their constituents in order to please those who finance their reelections. these are the main culprits in poisoning the well of american politics and underlining  the loss of confidence in the political process of our government by most americans……

i will be attempting to hibernate during the lull between now and the start of the montana legislature but should the need arise, what i will do is throw in my two cents when needed to help a cause i am interested in; whether it is human rights, homelessness, wilderness or simply attempting to keep creeps and criminals from infesting and swindling this country anymore, whether it is a lobbyist from Pfizer pharmaceuticals or a senator of any party running for reelection who turns his back on his constituents to please his corporate masters  or just some nut who gets his jollies  by intimidating homosexuals. while i won’t participate in any more partisan politics you can be assured that i will be there to greet the assholes with a swipe or two.

———————————————————————————————–

and if the rumor is true that payday lenders are gearing up for a legislative attempt to circumvent the will of the people of montana, you can be expecting me to hound you all the way back to the grave we dug for your predatory asses.  if there is one thing i have learned in this life the hard way it is that the assholes never quit so you better not quit either.

peace out ………for now.

by Pete Talbot

It appears you can buy the Montana Constitution. Witness CI-105.

Here’s how it’s done: select your special interest initiative; make sure there isn’t an organized, moneyed constituency to oppose it; spend a ton on TV, radio and mailings; threaten a loss of equity in your home and a tax increase, and do it during a recession.

The stars aligned for Montana Realtors and their mouthpiece, the Chicago-based National Association of Realtors. (It was the national association that pumped more than $2 million into this race, which is something like 99% of the money spent on this campaign.)

Now we have a constitutional amendment that benefits a narrow, self-interested industry. And we’re hamstrung if we ever want to use a real estate transfer tax to balance a budget or mitigate other, more onerous taxes or maybe get a few dollars out of those second or third million-dollar McMansions that sprout up in exclusive Montana resorts.

Speaking of the Montana Constitution, it did my heart proud to see voters reject the initiative to rewrite our constitution. Our constitution is an excellent document that was hammered out in a bipartisan manner in 1972 and it endures. And fiscally speaking, a rewrite is an expense we don’t need during these tough budgetary times.

I was pleased to see I-164 pass. This ballot initiative put a 36% interest cap on payday loans. The libertarian voice in my head said, hey, if someone wants to pay an exorbitant interest rate for a short-term loan, what the heck. But, Wulfgar! summed up my final thoughts on this initiative:

Yes, 300% (more) interest is way too high. I get that. There still needs to be an alternative for the working poor … (snip) … Hopefully, I-164 will open a gap into which others will move. As a society, we often focus on the fact that these folks are poor, and ignore that they are working, very hard most often. They need a safety net as much as anyone else. Payday lenders have given them that. Passing I-164 won’t alleviate the need for such. It will only appease a symptom, and certainly not cure the disease.

Finally, I-161, the outfitter v. local hunter initiative. I called hunter friends and family members, and got opinions all over the map, literally and figuratively. I heard more dissension and debate on this initiative than the other three combined … but this is Montana, after all.  To be honest, since I’m one of the few Montana males who doesn’t hunt, or so it seems, I didn’t lose any sleep over this one. I voted against it and my wife voted for it, so we canceled each other out. The initiative passed 185,546 to 159,346, apparently freeing up more licenses for resident hunters but not really dealing with the bigger issue of hunter access.


By Duganz

Ronald Smith is set to die on January 31, 2011. That’s 88 days.

His final sentence came down yesterday in Deer Lodge, Montana, two days after a Helena judge imposed an injunction staying Smith’s execution.

But there are many more issues behind this: the state doesn’t have any sodium thiopental on hand to kill Smith, nor does the state have a place to execute Smith since they took Montana’s least homely trailer off its foundation–not to mention that Smith’s attorney’s filed papers back in January arguing that executing someone in a trailer, without medical staff was wrong (thus the injunction). So there’s that.

So what will happen now? District Judge John Larson says it’ll be up to the State Supreme Court to figure out which order needs to be followed.

Meanwhile, Smith’s attorneys will send a clemency request to the Board of Pardons within the next 10 days. The BoP will recommend to Brian what they think is the correct choice. Ultimately Brian will decide what to do. And we already know his answer: Kill.

It’s going to be a long couple of months for Ronald Smith, and it will be interesting to see how everything works out legally–and with international relations. It’s also interesting to read the international spin on this. From  the Toronto Sun:

“We’ll have to start a fairly elaborate planning process which begins with identifying staff to volunteer,” said [Montana State Prison Warden Mike] Mahoney.

Executions aren’t in the prison job description, so Mahoney needs people willing to work the equipment.

“We’ll have a meeting to ask for volunteers — by law, the only one who’s required to be involved is me.”

You might expect the warden to be a man hardened to the task, but Mahoney admits his three visits to the death chamber have been the worst part of his job.

“It’s without question the most difficult thing that I have to do as the warden,” said Mahoney.

“I can’t speak for other people who witness it, but you walk into a room, and when you walk out again, someone has lost their life.

“That, I think, is a life-changing experience — you know what will happen, but when it does, it’s a very profound moment.”

A callous killer of killers, Mahoney isn’t.

As an aside, I think it should be mentioned that Mike Mahoney is carrying a terrible burden on his shoulders, and I can’t imagine how difficult his day is just knowing that he’s going to go through it. Again. I truly wish that even if you’re a person for executing Smith, you take a moment to think of Mr. Mahoney, and how this will weigh on him.

And while you do that, read this:

The warden expresses sympathy for staff at the prison where Smith has lived since 1983, when he pleaded guilty to the murders of Thomas Running Rabbit Jr. and Harvey Mad Man Jr..

Twenty-seven years is a long time to get to know someone. In a facility filled with difficult criminals, Mahoney says Smith — now a grandfather — has always been an easy inmate to work with.

“This is a guy who we’ve provided custody and care for years, and that’s another dimension people don’t often think about,” said Mahoney.

“You’re not satisfying the order of a court on some total stranger — this is a person that all of us have dealt with for a good number of years, and staff would tell you he’s been a fairly easy inmate to deal with.”

If Mahoney is worried about his staff, the warden is also concerned about Smith’s reaction to the looming execution date.

“We obviously will be concerned about his state of mind, so we’ll have the mental health staff go around, to see if he has a desire to speak to anyone in that capacity, or a clergyman,” said Mahoney.

Those are some tough words to read, and I think a tough concept for people “on the outside” to understand. Having worked with incarcerated felons (several summers working at Montana State Hospital) I can say that eventually, for the most part, you stop thinking about people as murderers, and criminals, and start thinking of them as “the guy really good at cribbage” and “the one with the dirtiest jokes.” It’s the only way you can deal with that population: by remembering each day that no matter what they did, they are here now, and you’ve got to deal with them or find a new job. In Deer Lodge, Butte, and Anaconda, a “new job” is sometimes not gonna happen, especially with the benefits the state provides, so people adapt.

So whether or not you see Ronald Smith as human, someone working at MSP does. They may even see him as a person that — in another situation — they’d count as a friend. That’s a price for the death penalty that we’re not wont to talk about, and I’m glad the Sun brings it up.

But no matter what we all still have one question to answer: Is state-sanctioned murder okay?




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