Archive for April 22nd, 2011

Open Letter to Governor Schweitzer regarding SB423,
Medical Marijuana Policy Courtesy of a Keystone Cop Process

A guest post by Kate Cholewa of

Dear Governor Schweitzer,

I know you have many issues on your plate and a record number of idiotic bills coming to your desk. I hope you have a moment to consider the process by which the legislature came to develop SB423. The process was like watching the Keystone Cops making law. The result, the conference committee report on SB423, is a thinly veiled repeal of the medical cannabis law in Montana.

An interim committee met over the summer and came up with a bipartisan bill, HB 68, which created a licensing structure for medical cannabis businesses. Rep. Sands chaired this committee and spearheaded the bill. A big part of the discussion from Sands, the interim committee, and at the time, law enforcement, was the need for storefronts so that this system would be out in the open – zoned, yes – but not operating under the radar. So the far-sighted business people did what far-sighted business people do, they opened storefronts, if they didn’t have them already, and positioned themselves for compliance.

Sen. Lewis also forwarded a regulatory bill, SB154. The provisions in it stacked the deck, favoring some in the medical cannabis workforce over others. The overall model didn’t drive quality. But that’s not what did it in. The bill included a 10% tax on growers, some of which was slated to be used to fund senior services. But the tax wasn’t going to fly with Lewis’ fellow Republicans. The bill was D.O.A. At the hearing, Sen. Lewis presented a substitute bill, which has come to be known as the Grey Bill. It was a clunky piece of work though it better represented what kinds of regulations were needed than did SB154. To a lesser degree than SB 154, it also played favorites with the work force. Some provisions were silly. But it really doesn’t matter. Sen. Lewis wasn’t really behind it. He tossed it on the table and turned and walked away just to vote for repeal later. But this isn’t really surprising. This sort of thing is Lewis’ M.O.

(More after the break)

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I’m not going to break the big news–we’re going to leave that up to Pete whenever he shows back up, but 4&20 has many reasons to celebrate, and I hear there may be a flock gathering somewhere’s about town tonight. And I don’t want to mix that up with the other reason I have to write this. So I’m going meta here.

What I want to point out, in response to a comment I took down yesterday for violating a rule I imposed on one particular abusive troll, are a few stats about this site. Here’s a clip from the comment I took down:

“…this circle jerk is getting more pathetic by the second. If any of you would actually get beyond the boundaries here, or quit whining about your own sweet sadness, you’d see that this website is losing readership far faster than some others you brave liberals might pretend are being dominated by your little … members…

For the last week, I’ve gotten more emails telling me that this website is the suck than I have that tell me how much of an asshole I am… You are welcome to disbelieve me.”

I left out all of the insults and BS that led to my pulling the comment. But the gist being that because some of us write outside the mainstream, and have the temerity to criticize the center, that we are negatively affecting this site’s readership is just wrong.

And that sort of commentary coming from someone whom used to be more widely respected in the Montana blogosphere attacking our credibility and readership needs to be answered. And because it was I, mostly, who have inspired this angst in our critic from the center, I don’t want to leave it up to jhwygirl or Pete to defend the site from my opening my mouth (or typing stream-of-thought, which is what I do).

I’m a big boy. I can take my lumps and punch back. And I hear it when some people say I have been less than sociable in my discussions–I know when to say mea culpa and not be so blunt in the future.

Anyways, the facts:

The last quarter, Q1 2011 saw a rise in page views of 12% over Q1 2010, and 36% over Q4 2010!

And lest we think quarterly results may not be the best marker, a look at this April’s numbers show us on track to have a 27,000 page view month. To put that in perspective, we have only had 2 27,000 page view months in the last 2 years.

So clearly our writing is not negatively affecting our viewership. Not that that doesn’t keep some from trying to intimidate writers here into keeping silent, and running them off of other blogs. This attempt to stifle dissent and over-the-top bullying and abusive approach to trying to control the blogs, in the words of some is “troubling.” But it has gotten me to thinking of the role of the dissident and the critic–criticizing the mainstream from the fringes– in today’s society, on which I may have more to write in the future.

And the last accusation from the comment I took down:

“you’re going to be attracting the conflict trolls”

You mean people like you, Rob?

Anyways, I just wanted to point out some wonderful site news, of which more will be said soon, and to say this on the glorious Earth Day:

VIVA 4&20!!!

By Duganz

If you haven’t yet, take time this weekend to download and read through “Three Cups of Deceit” by Jon Krakauer. It’s free, well written, and will leave a terrible taste in your mouth.

If you have been living under a rock this last week let me summarize the week’s biggest scandal: Greg Mortenson, Bozeman resident, best selling author, and head of the Central Asia Institute, is a big fat liar covered in liar sauce.

Krakauer details each of the lies Mortenson told in his book “Three Cups of Tea,” which include: falsifying why he built a school in Korphe, Pakistan, misappropriating funds from the non-profit CAI (to the tune of over $7million), lying about a kidnapping, and not building schools he’s claimed to have built! There’s more, but I want to encourage you to read the small, free book rather than just watch the 60 Minutes episode that rehashes (poorly) Krakauer’s work.

People have been coming to Mortenson’s defense all week, with his biggest defense coming from Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times. Kristof has written about Mortenson before, and admits in his column that he’s a big fan, and tries to downplay Mortenson, in effect, stealing money from a non-profit.

I don’t know what to make of these accusations. Part of me wishes that all this journalistic energy had been directed instead to ferret out abuses by politicians who allocate government resources to campaign donors rather than to the neediest among us, but that’s not a real answer. The critics have raised serious questions that deserve better answers: we need to hold school-builders accountable as well as fat cats.

Kristof drops that nugget, along with others, to mount his defense of Mortenson based on this: sure he may have lied, but he did do good–the idea being that his works outweigh his sins. As Kristof says, “…even if all the allegations turn out to be true, Greg has still built more schools and transformed more children’s lives than you or I ever will.”

Fine. But that doesn’t excuse Greg Mortenson lying, and deceiving good people giving up their money to make the world a better place. Mortenson’s work, and his lies, are separate issues. Yes, he’s done good, but he’s also a lying shit. Those two facts can exist simultaneously. Education for Afghan girls: Good. Misusing charitable funds for personal gain: fucking evil.

Also, this is not only about good deeds vs lies. It comes down to the fact that Mortenson has been accused (and I think the evidence adds up) of misusing donated money for personal gain. As Krakauer points out in his book, Mortenson uses CAI funds to travel to speaking engagements where he recounts the lies in his books. Upon giving his talk he is reimbursed by the event promoters. But, Mortenson does not then reimburse CAI. (FYI, flying out of Bozeman, Montana costs a fair penny.)

Even Kristof takes a moment from his ham-fisted stroke job of a column to say, “I am deeply troubled that only 41 percent of the money raised in 2009 went to build schools…”

Lying is never good, and using good deeds to justify lies is immoral. I don’t know, nor do I understand, why Greg Mortenson felt he needed to lie to justify his good deeds. I only know that he was wrong to deceive people, and wrong to waste their money on his own frivolity.

Greg Mortenson is not a hero, he’s a lying shit who also did some good. Hopefully a better person will come along to pick up his cause, with honesty.

Mortenson, chilling with his "Taliban kidnappers," who were not Taliban, and also did not kidnap him.

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