Archive for January, 2012

by jhwygirl

I’m getting a little sick of hearing Newt Gingrich whine about the negative campaigning of “Massachusetts liberal Mitt Romney.”

Isn’t that negative campaigning? Newt calling Mitt Romney a “Massachusetts liberal”? Isn’t the word “liberal” an insult in the GOP world?

And sometime we’re going to have to have a discussion about negative campaigning. When it’s factually true, and relevant to the campaign, is it negative campaigning? Or just facts that the candidate who is the objet d’affection of said campaign feels are negative?

Because there’s a difference between the two, don’t you think?

All of that being said, one of Newt’s complaints is that he doesn’t deserve to be “attacked” over his ethic charges when he was Speaker of the House. Nor his large fine. And nor his subsequent resignation. That’s because while the House had concluded that he violated Federal tax code, they left those charges up to the IRS, which eventually dropped the charges.

Based on that, Newt claims the ad is unfair. Clearly, Newt doesn’t understand ethics.

See – the way I understand it, an ethics violation occurs when there is even the implication of impropriety. That’s the thing about ethics – the law doesn’t actually have to have been broken – a reasonable suggestion or implication of impropriety that has people question….your ethics….is enough.

Lawyers, judges…government officials: These are the people you typically hear charges of ethics violations. Why is that? Well – who polices these people? Who knows the laws? Who is the law? Those charged with that task should be held higher.

Clearly Newt’s failed that test.

Is it proper to push the law to the outermost reaches of ethical boundary? By the very people who write and interpret and administer said law?

Gingrich needs to get himself a dictionary. For someone who treats everyone as if they are stupider than him, it’d be a start.

As for Newt Gingrich getting himself some ethics? The realm of that possibility departed back in the 90’s.

by lizard

I can’t wait until we start killing prisoners for sport, like in the dystopia depicted in the Steven King story turned crappy movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Running Man.

I don’t think we’re that far off, and lately I’ve been thinking that maybe it’s time we just embrace violence. Kill who needs to be killed. I mean Jesus Christ, it doesn’t always have to be such a bummer, does it? And didn’t Obama just prove that to be true, bookending his SOTU with a celebration of death?

In the free market of moral outrage, those of us who go through the motions of expressing concern are free to choose which atrocities to be disturbed by, and which ones to sort of let slide. I wasted nearly a minute of my life tweeting to some guy who calls himself BardOfEarth because he went ballistic over a cat that had its head bashed in and the word “Liberal” scrawled across its dead corpse.

The image of the dead cat is terrible, but these are terrible times, and in the free market of moral outrage I choose to be more disgusted that a Marine can get off with just a pay cut and drop in rank for slaughtering women and children in Haditha than for some sick fuck’s misplaced political rage.

My twitter feed is a mosaic of moral outrage, and I’m sorta getting tired of this woman from #Bahrain. Her father and husband have both been tortured in prison and she’s always talking about terrible shit happening. I’m considering unfollowing her. Or maybe tweeting her that The State killing their little uprising doesn’t blip in the US, because Bahrain lends America its oceanic parking lot for its 5th fleet. And to spit in her face, the president quietly supplies Bahrani royalty with weaponry:

President Barack Obama’s administration has been delaying its planned $53 million arms sale to Bahrain due to human rights concerns and congressional opposition, but this week administration officials told several congressional offices that they will move forward with a new and different package of arms sales — without any formal notification to the public.

In a recent exchange with a fellow blogger, there were some thoughts shared regarding the philosophical opposition to war as juxtaposed to the sometimes vicious behavior of (all of us at times) bloggers and commenters; civil discourse abandoned for mud wrestling, implying an inability to practice what one preaches. Guilty.

Despite my own personal failings, in the free market of moral outrage, I’m gonna continue using my market share of the social media revolution to amplify my personal mosaic of moral outrage. And to make the tediousness of my anti-imperial brand more palatable, I’ll keep offering poetic interludes, like this one, that explores the possibility that at times I behave like a dickish somnambulist: Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

Worthy sources are confirming GOP gubernatorial primary candidate Ken Miller – who’s hitting Rick Hill’s insurance big business connections pretty hard – will be announcing one of Bozeman’s newer residents Billie Orr as his Lieutenant Governor running mate soon.

Who is Billie Orr? From her Wikipedia page:

Billie J. Orr, Ed.D. is an advocate for education reform. She is the former president of the Education Leaders Council, and former deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction for the state of Arizona . She was the principal of Kiva School in Scottsdale, Arizona from 1994 to 1997.

She lives in Bozeman, Montana, is active in the Tea Party movement and is a Republican candidate for the Montana House of Representatives.

As Arizona Superintendent of Education Ms. Orr implemented the most vigorous charter school program in the country.

Makes me want to look at how education is doing down there in Arizona, considering her 20+ years of influence there….

I will say I ran into a guy at Costco a while back with a Ken Miller t-shirt on. When I stopped to ask him about “Ken Miller” he actually knew a good bit about the candidate (usually I find the opposite). We had a short pleasant chat, and about 25 minutes later he “found” me and provide me with some literature.

Miller’s got some enthusiastic supporters – that one being from Mineral County, as I recall. Now it looks like he’s got a Tea Party favorite for his running mate. Both, I’m sure, will serve him well as he fights Hill’s cash – which (on hand) is 88 times more than what Miller’s got earmarked for the primary.

Seems everyone’s fighting big money these days. Even the good old GOP candidates – Gingrich included.

America – and Montana – is now for sale to those able to purchase the best government they can afford.

by lizard

I went looking through my Pablo Neruda to find a poem for Newt Gingrich. I found one that seems appropriate in Neruda’s collection, titled Fin de Mundo, published by Copper Canyon Press (2009). I’m going to feature the poem in its native ghetto language first. For those of you who can’t read Spanish, William O’Daly’s translation of this poem into the language of prosperity is below the fold. Enjoy!

TAL VEZ

Es cuerdo el hombre que voltea
y parpadeando en el alambre
cambia de piel y paladar
buscando el sol o el equilibrio.
(La astucia cambia de color
y el conservador no conserva
sino las máscaras que usó
ya convertidas en ceniza.) Continue Reading »

Shameless Alcoholism

by lizard

So I was watching the latest episode of the Showtime series Shameless the other night when I witnessed something profound.

*spoiler alert*

The drunken patriarch of the family, Frank Gallagher (played brilliantly by William H. Macy), had been laying the groundwork for a long-con on a woman who is dying. Slowly he ingratiates himself with little favors, exploiting her loneliness and fear. It becomes apparent his target is her city pension, not just to the viewer but too his mark as well. When she calls him on it, he lays out a justification for why she should do it. It’s a convincing pitch; he wins her over by pledging to keep her memory alive after she dies, that she’ll be remembered; he’ll even go once a week to church to light a candle for her. I think what Frank digs deep to touch is a more profound fear than just death; it’s a fear of the total obliteration of self, of having no trace left behind of your life on earth.

But it’s all a con, and the awful turn in this agreement between an alcoholic and a dying woman comes when a beeper goes off while the woman is in the shower. You see, she’s waiting for a heart to become available, because she needs a transplant, which Frank knows, which is why he calls the hospital and tells whoever on the other end of line that the needy organ recipient had already died.

It gets even worse, but I don’t want to ruin the whole episode. Needless to say, the show earns its title, with every episode.

I am actually going somewhere by mentioning all this. Shameless is an important narrative being told about the ravages of alcoholism, a narrative newspapers can report on, but can’t fully contextualize. Editors can certainly push certain aspects of the symptoms, like featuring three separate stories related to alcohol abuse in the Montana section of the Missoulian a few days ago, or focusing on “Transients” without getting in depth about why our culture turns so callously against drunks who have drunk themselves into the misery of perpetual intoxication on the streets, but it shouldn’t be their responsibility alone to tell us why these things are happening under our collective noses.

A comment here at 4&20, posted this morning by “Opal”, reminds us again of what continues to happen here and all over the country:

Apparently another homeless person has died on the sidewalk in Missoula. The death is being reported on Keci and Kpax, but not in the Missoulian this morning. The Irony of the death on the same day as the project homeless connect event, and during the city’s homeless awareness week. Sad.

As the city slowly develops its 10 year plan to end homelessness, I hope the role alcohol plays in destroying people’s lives is fully considered.

While that happens, there will continue to be those on the margins of our society who slowly drink themselves to death. They all have their stories and their reasons, and those stories, I would argue, are really important for us as a society to listen to, to understand, because there have to be better ways for communities to respond to chronic issues, like alcoholism.

A problem, it should be noted, that may only get worse as economic conditions decline.

by Pete Talbot

Baucus pulls a Rehberg

The rhetoric was pure Rehberg but it came from the mouth of Max Baucus.  On the heels of the State of the Union address, the first comment from our congressional delegation was Max blasting Obama for not ramming through the Keystone XL pipeline.

Granted, it was just a local TV news snippet and I’m sure the station was looking for the most controversial quote, but Max gladly provided it.

He joins the ranks of Joe Leiberman, Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln as party skanks.  Montana Republicans should be grateful that Max Baucus is their senior senator.

Baucus says he’s “quite disappointed” that Obama didn’t reference the pipeline.  Here’s the link to the 10 p.m. newscast.  Max is about four minutes in.  Viewing not recommended for those with a queasy stomach.

On the other hand

In light of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, both Baucus and Tester are pushing for a Constitutional amendment that would regulate campaign spending.  This will be no cakewalk as it takes two-thirds of both chambers and three-quarters of the states (38 states?) to ratify the amendment.  Maybe just making our elections publicly financed would be easier, although I’m sure that, too, would end up in SCOTUS.

Of course Rehberg likes the idea of unlimited corporate influence in elections.  He believes there just needs to be more “sunlight” (or transparency) in campaigns, which mens a five-minute scroll of all the contributors at the end of a sixty-second negative hit spot on TV.  Yeah, right.  Like we can’t already figure out where all the millions of dollars are coming from.

It will be interesting to see how aggressive Congress is in advancing this amendment and how accountable members will be to citizens (and by citizens, I don’t mean corporations).

Update: Here’s Pogie’s take on Rehberg and Citizens United.

Poetry As Stress Reliever

by lizard

Stress can be like a caged animal caught in your chest, kicking your bowels, stiffening your limbs. Today it bit me good, and so I’m taking a mental health day. After I decompressed for a while, I picked up the book of poems currently gracing my night stand—Reading Novalis In Montana, by Melissa Kwasny. I flipped through and settled on a poem that but smacked me good (it’s actually the second poem of a twelve poem series). Thanks, Melissa! Continue Reading »

by lizard

During the first era of Newt, I didn’t really give a shit about politics. I was just your average privileged white male midwest suburban teenager maximizing my fun time during the ’94 Republican revolution and subsequent contract with America.

What does stick out quite vividly is the political and legal battle over what President Clinton did or did not do with his penis. It was around this time in my life that I started developing what would later become a serious allergy to “social conservative” family values.

Hate is too strong a word, but I really despise the social conservative, Focus-on-the-Family-type morality crusaders who stand against the simple dignity of legal rights for gay couples, which is why Newt Gingrich’s victory tonight makes me so happy.

Newt or Mitt, it ultimately doesn’t matter, social conservatives are going to be gagging to the polls either way, and that makes me smile. The tea party wave they’re still riding on is currently crashing; their political darlings don’t stand a chance. Now they must choose between the corporate Mormon vulture capitalist who incubated Obamacare in Massachusetts, or the serial monogamist/wannabe swinger (polygamist?) who was ousted as speaker on ethic charges and later pocketed cash lobbying for Fannie Mae.

If I was Axlerod I’d be tweeting smug sports analogies too. But instead of reproducing that tweet, I’d like to end with a tweet from Markos:

I don’t ever want to hear Republicans talk about “family values” ever again

by lizard

This week’s LWPS takes a look at Frank Marshall Davis, a black poet and alleged communist who played a prominent role in influencing our president, the closet Marxist, Barack Obama.

I received Davis’ book of collected poems, titled Black Moods, last week. I tried to find the most outlandish poem in the collection, and settled on the poem “To Those Who Sing America”. The poem, slightly altered from its original format, is below the fold. But beware, dear readers, if Davis influenced our president, altering the ideological course of his life, then there’s no telling what effect his verse may have on you… Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

It’s more than a bit shocking – regardless of your political persuasion, I’d like to think – when a state senator and a congressional primary candidate champions the short-term economic boom to the shops in downtown Billings that occurred when Exxon spilled crude from its pipeline into the Yellowstone River this past July.

That’s the kind of thing you’d expect our current Representative Denny Rehberg might say, given his love for oil & gas industry money – Representative Rehberg ranks 14th in receipts of oil & gas industry money of all recipients there in Washington.

Instead, it was state senator Kim Gillan (D-Billings) who made the remark at a forum for several of the candidates held by The Policy Institute this past weekend. I have tremendous respect for The Policy Institute. They’ve provided excellent policy testimony – especially on budget issues – to legislative committees. Frankly, it’s a bit surprising that Gillan would say such a thing given the audience.

During a Q&A moderated by former Representative Pat Williams, candidates were asked about the Keystone XL pipeline by TransCanada – whether they thought the pipeline was good or bad (or both) for the economy. Gillan was up first with her answer – and I wish I had some video or audio, but alas, audio and video were not permitted – and she said that “there are people in Billings that think the oil spill was a good thing, that it was good for business. They are looking at their watches and asking can we do this again next year?”

The room fell quite with shock. First murmurs…then low boos. What. Was. She. Thinking?

One also has to wonder the company she keeps. Where – even if she was attempting a joke – something like that were considered funny.

Somewhere along the line I read that Montana has the most EPA cleanup sites. The Milltown Dam to Anaconda cleanup is the largest cleanup site of all. Helena (her district) has a big old cleanup site they’re trying to figure out what to do with right now, doesn’t it?

I’m guessing Gillan thinks all that is good economic development too.

Her remarks have been bugging me since I heard about them – I’ve often pondered if there wasn’t a certain attitude in the legislature with regards to mining/oil/gas development that was a lot of “let it roll” combined with “it’ll be a big cleanup site in the future.” Her remarks lead me to believe that I just may not be completely cynical…that there’s actually some truth to what should be pure fiction.

Gillan ranks first in the Democratic field for pulling in cash ($124,145 this last Q), followed by Franke Wilmer ($107,117) and Dave Strohmaier ($49,078). By comparison, Republican Steve Daine’s collected $546,327.

Yeah. Over a half a million buckaroos, Montana.

~~~~~~~

Gillan’s out for me with this kind of news. At least this cleared up any lingering doubts I had about being open to persuasion.

Dave Strohmaier, for his part, has done quite well, picking up a number of endorsements. Strohmaier’s also been hard working and well received around the state. At this weekend forum he got glowing reviews. His answer to the Keystone XL question called for more thorough economic and environmental studies – and he questioned the moving target on the number of long-term jobs it would create.

Franke Wilmer is a strong candidate, having served 3 legislative sessions in the House, representing moderate Bozeman. She’s a scrapper, too – just read her biography).

On Keystone XL, Wilmer pointed out that if “you take the jobs out of the pipeline, no one likes the pipeline.” She went on to point out this is the reason we need to strengthen our unions. “If we had a stronger unions to negotiate for clean jobs,” said Wilmer, “this wouldn’t even be an issue.”

Thank Goddess these two got it right.

Hello Winter!

by lizard

This winter storm is phenomenal, and not just because of its humbling disruption to our daily routines. Extreme weather like this does something to a community, something encouraging. And because I’m a writer, I wrote something about it.

Stay safe, Missoula!

*

when snow won’t stop falling
when the world becomes whiteout
and the landscape, fused by fluff—
the town shuts down
and people do what they can for each other

by jhwygirl

Dave Gallik’s resignation as Commissioner of Political Practices was quick and fast – Great Falls Tribune reporter John S. Adams continues the scandal story this morning with news of events at the Capitol yesterday, which include Gallik repeatedly stating that the staff had called the police on him, despite that apparently not being true.

I have to say, to me, it almost comes off as him making light of the situation as he walked off to the Governor’s Mansion to discuss his resignation.

What is disturbing in Adams’ story is not the soap-opera scene (which the public seems to need as blame is apparently cast on vengeful women), but the apparent lack of any oversight on the Commissioner of Political Practices. Or the lack of anyone willing to step up. Adams goes through the three offices that the office staff apparently reported their allegations to:

Two staff members from the commissioner’s office told the Tribune they raised detailed concerns about Gallik’s behavior with Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s office and the Legislative Audit Division. They said they also reached out to Attorney General Steve Bullock’s office, but were told by an attorney who works on political practices complaints that the matter did not fall within the attorney general’s jurisdiction.

So they went to the three most logical choices and all three failed to address the situation? And right now the State Administration and Veterans Affairs Interim Committee is trying to determine who has the authority to oversee the office?

Don’t you think Montana should of had these things figured out? There’s so much to say about what is wrong with what Adams’ lays out in his article, I don’t know where to begin. Luckily, I’m tired as it’s been a long day and tomorrow’s another. I do love winter.

It’s easy to get caught up in all the soap opera scene of this situation. It’s also pretty childish to immediately start a defense by making accusations of political motivations against Adams. Given his history for accuracy, quite frankly, it be best for most of the parties involved that this die a quick death.

It’s a sad state of affairs when rather than address the issues of oversight of the chief political oversight office in this state, we’re more concerned with the motivations behind the whistleblowers who attempted to seek compliance with what is – afterall – state law.

When accusations are thrown against a reporter when none of the facts have been called into question.

And guess what? With some oversight of the office, Dave Gallik might have still been in office today. Had any one of the three offices that the office staff contacted with their allegations had then contacted Gallik and reminded him of state policies, he might have taken a different path.

One nagging question I have? Was Gallik told that he could do his private practice and rental property work from his state office? I’m guessing SAVA will eventually figure that out?

~~~~~~~

A number of people around the Montana blogosphere have also written this story up. Don Pogreba has a couple of posts now (I actually missed his first post), and here is Don’s piece on Gallik’s resignation.

James Conner – who, really, all of you should be reading – has two posts up, one on Improving Montana’s commission on political practices and another The Political Practices mess.

Jack the Blogger also kicks in with his analysis of the mess of the office, first having called on Gallik to resign, and today with his assessment of the ineffective mess that is the Office Of Political Practices.

ALSO, Gregg Smith over at Electric City Weblog had this analysis of the situation and how it correlates with past allegations by the GOP. He also has a quick take on the resignation that undoubtedly has some truth to it, even though he admits it to being entirely speculatory.

Finally, Montana Watchdog, a conservative newsource for state politics, has a few posts also. Here’s Phil Drake’s piece on Gallik’s resignation.

Getting What We Pay For

by lizard

With Dave Gallik resigning, there’s been quite a frenzy of speculation. In the comment thread of j-girl’s post, some comments from James C. and Pete T. caught my attention, and considering some other headlines in the paper today, deserve some additional consideration. Here are the comments :

James: If the job paid better, much better, we might get better people, and people who don’t feel the need to moonlight.

Pete: While I tend to agree, James, by Missoula payroll standards, $57+k ain’t chump change. If this job opens up, I’m available.

James: It may not be chump change by Missoula standards, Pete, but I don’t think that’s the standard against which the commish’s ought to be measured. It’s an important position and the salary ought to be commensurate with the responsibility, and with the professional credentials necessary to do the job well. We do get what we pay for. In this case, we didn’t pay for much and we’re not getting much.

I see James point of view, and agree whole heartedly that a salary “ought to be commensurate with the responsibility”, but all I need to do to rattle that notion is mention teachers.

According to teacher-portal, a teacher in Montana has an average starting salary of $25,000, and an average overall salary of just under $40,000. I’m not sure if those numbers hold up, but they sound about right from those I know who teach in Montana. Considering the responsibility of, you know, helping to shape the future of America by teaching its youth, I’d say we, as a society, are failing big time.

But not everyone in education gets so meagerly compensated. Here’s the headline that jumped out at me this morning: Regents Likely to Pay Higher Education Commissioner $283K Salary.

I guess the thinking goes, in order to attract quality candidates, the salary and benefits need to be comparable to similar administrative positions. Here is a big chunk from the article.

That annual salary is a pay increase of $69,487 above what Commissioner of Higher Education Sheila Stearns earns currently, but it’s the same annual salary as University of Montana President Royce Engstrom and Montana State University President Waded Cruzado.

The state has offered Christian a deferred compensation package worth $455,000 over 10 years, if the commissioner stays on for five or more years. That is slightly less than the deferred compensation plans offered to both Engstrom and Cruzado, which are worth $500,000 each.

The deferred compensation plan becomes available to the 46-year-old Christian at age 65, when he will receive $35,000 annually for three years and $50,000 annually for seven years, totaling $455,000 over a decade. The plan is a way for the university system to sweeten the pot for Montana’s upper-level university management, who are generally making $60,000 to $80,000 less than their counterparts in four surrounding states, said Kevin McRae, associate commissioner for communication and human resources.

But being competitive doesn’t make sense for this particular pay increase, because the position was never advertised or opened to the public, something that has caused a little bit of grumbling. But grumbling doesn’t really seem to bother the decision makers. It didn’t back when Alex Apostle got his lavish pay increase (after asking teachers to basically forego theirs), and it won’t now.

Economic disparity is a serious problem that those at the top don’t have to take seriously (yet). They have their rationalizations, and if that doesn’t work, they can afford private security.

It’s too bad those same rationalizations don’t work for those lowly teachers who toil in overcrowded classrooms and buy their own supplies.

I remember seeing something recently about the Finnish education system, so I looked around and found this BBC News report. Here is a little tidbit that sounds so nice, I wish it applied here, in the states:

Teaching is a prestigious career in Finland. Teachers are highly valued and teaching standards are high.

Maybe someday we’ll be able to say the same for our teachers. Because despite all the rationalizations, I fail to see how paying administrators more money will make our education system any better. Instead of increasing the quality of teachers, it will just increase the cleverness of formulaic schemes to bring drop-out rates down.

by jhwygirl

Boy. What to say about Great Falls Tribune state reporter John S. Adams’ most recent investigative piece exposing misuse of state funds by Dave Gallik, Commissioner of Political Practices?

The evidence is pretty damning – considering it seems that the entire staff of the department is standing by the accusations.

Seems Gallik is utilizing his office to run his private practice, logging pay hours that weren’t worked (over half!) and increasing the contract outsourcing of legal work.

How’s that for stimulating the economy?

The Commissioner position is appointed. It’s a six-year term. During the past legislative session, Governor Brian Schweitzer appointed Jennifer Hensley to head up the empty seat – an appointment that was rejected in the last days of the session (if I recall correctly – feel free to interject) due to objections over Hensley’s political background.

Gallik was then appointed, leaving the post temporarily filled, where Gallik would surely be asked to resign should the chief executive post eventually go to Republicans.

Political shenanigans from both parties aside, it’s a disgrace to see this kind of activity out of the Political Practices Commissioner for multiple reasons – first and foremost for his misappropriation of state tax dollars. In this case – do read Adams’ story – Gallik is not only en flagrante over his use of the office for his own private enterprise, he’s downright self-righteous about his perceived ability to do so.

Further, Gallik is a lawyer. Isn’t this sort of activity an ethics violation by the pithy standards of the Montana State Bar? Gallik is giving all lawyers a bad name, and he’d doing it out of the Office of Poltiical Practices.

(Probably not) finally – We got an election year coming up. Is this the oversight the citizens of Montana are going to have over this upcoming election?

Sad.

I’m guessing with this last story, supermontananreporter John S. Adams won’t have a front seat at Schweitzer’s last State of the State address.

With Friends Like This…

by lizard

In July of 2008, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen made some serious waves when he warned Israel about overtly attacking Iran. The big perceived slap, though, was the reference Mullen made to the USS Liberty incident, which occurred during the 6 day war, in 1967:

In early July, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen visited Israel to discuss the Iranian nuclear program with his Israeli counterpart, Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, and other Israeli officials.

During the talks, Adm. Mullen cautioned that the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty in 1967 is the type of incident that should be ‘avoided in any future military actions’ in the Middle East, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The USS Liberty, a $40m state-of-the-art surveillance ship, was ‘inadvertently’ attacked by Israeli fighter jets and torpedo boats in international waters north of the northern Sinai Peninsula coast.

The attack, which lasted at least 40 minutes, claimed the lives of 34 American soldiers and wounded at least 170 crewmembers.

Since then, the bulwarks against an overt attack on Iran by some combination of US/Israeli forces, have been significantly weakened, with a series of dangerous provocations pushing a confrontation ever-closer.

With that in mind, it might be helpful to ask what kind of person is Netanyahu; is he someone the US can trust to deal honestly with the current situation of escalating tensions, or is he a dishonest manipulator not to be trusted. The link features a rare glimpse into a man who, in an unguarded moment 9 years ago, boasted to some Jewish settlers how he destroyed the Oslo accords during Clinton’s presidency. He also called the high level of popular American support for Israel “absurd”.

In discussing this issue in a previous post, Turner implied my hypothetical statements toward Israel would be met with accusations of anti-semitism, which is of course true. Discussing the reality of America’s special relationship with Israel is very dangerous, and gets shut down by watch dog groups like the ADL all the time. I even recall a speaker for the presidential lecture series at UM being heavily criticized by professors like Stewart Justman (I haven’t found the letter he and others penned yet, but I’m looking) for wading into these dangerous waters.

I hope Uri Avnery is right, and Israel won’t attack Iran. But according to the very insightful German blogger I follow, the strategy is to goad Iran into retaliation.

It’s not anti-semitic to state the simple fact that Israel, as an ally, cannot be trusted. A recent revelation that Israeli Mossad posed as CIA agents, and recruited terrorists, is currently making the rounds in the regions of the blogosphere I frequent. For those of us familiar with the proclivity of Israel to use the tactic of false flag, it’s not surprising. As evidence for why Israel is not trustworthy, it’s important. This from the link:

Buried deep in the archives of America’s intelligence services are a series of memos, written during the last years of President George W. Bush’s administration, that describe how Israeli Mossad officers recruited operatives belonging to the terrorist group Jundallah by passing themselves off as American agents. According to two U.S. intelligence officials, the Israelis, flush with American dollars and toting U.S. passports, posed as CIA officers in recruiting Jundallah operatives — what is commonly referred to as a “false flag” operation.

There are saner individuals speaking out, like ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who called an Israeli attack on Iran “the stupidest idea I have ever heard”. But those saner elements are increasingly leaving government, not being asked to participate.

Where US/Israel goes from here is anyone’s guess. There is some speculation that a weak (though rabid for war) GOP field may cause Israel’s rightwingers to do something before the election this fall. With all the AIPAC stooges in place in Congress, Obama wouldn’t risk doing anything that could be perceived as being “soft” on Iran before November, compromising his reelection efforts.

Alexander Cockburn declared yesterday that war on Iran is not a matter of “If”. Near the end of the piece, he discusses the oil industry, explaining how rising tensions have been a boon for oil profits:

As for the embargoes of Iranian oil, Obama is most certainly doing the oil industry a big favor. There have been industry-wide fears of recession-fueled falling demand and collapse of oil prices. That has led to industry-wide enthusiasm (aided by heavy pressure from the majors) for strongly cutting total world oil production (and enjoying the bonuses flowing from the subsequent world price rise), with all the cuts to be taken out of the hide of the Iranians. The Financial Times made clear the need to shrink world production in the following key paragraph in a report last week: “Oil prices have risen above $110 a barrel since Iran threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil chokepoint, accounting for about a third of all seaborne traded oil. Oil fell to a low of $99 in October amid global economic growth worries.”

As Pierre Sprey remarked to me, “Note also that this is one of those rare but dangerous moments in history when Big Oil and the Israelis are pushing the White House in the same direction. The last such moment was quickly followed by Dubya’s invasion of Iraq.”

Chilling.

by lizard

When I talk about the age of mistrust, I don’t mean to imply that we are progressing from some nostalgically utopian age of trust, like this comment from that post seems to insinuate:

Yeah, if we could only go back to those more trusting days .

When they were loading boxcars to Auschwitz and Siberia.

The pure evil most humans shudder to recall—the systemic Nazi extermination of Jews (and gypsies and gays, too)—now solidly justifies America’s involvement in WWII. We were the good guys saving Europe from fascism.

We are no longer the good guys, not when a simultaneous war for the hearts and minds has to be waged to sustain the tentacles of US imperialism.

Oh yeah, and we’re losing that war as well.

The poetry part of this week’s LWPS takes a peek at nostalgia. The two poems I’ve selected come from a Pulitzer prize winning collection of poems by poet Stephen Dunn, titled Different Hours, published in 2000. Enjoy. Continue Reading »

by lizard

As I was listening to some NPR primary coverage last night, something struck me. The discussion was about exit polling, and the guy being interviewed said something about foreign policy being a non-existent concern for voters. The interviewer asked if it was an open question about which issues concerned voters, and the guy (representing PEW I think) said no, people were asked about specific issues, but the exit poll itself included no questions about foreign policy. The interviewer sort of laughed, and said something to the effect of, well, how do you know what voters think about it if you don’t ask them?

Brilliant question, right?

Ron Paul’s strong second place finish must be making establishment types nervous. I may be reading too much into an exit poll NOT asking about foreign policy, but I can’t help connecting that with the constant attacks against Paul, from the right, targeting his “isolationist” foreign policy ideas as being the crazy positions that make him unsuitable for office.

It’s very important, for the establishment types, to ensure terms like “anti-war” conjures up images of leftist commie hippies. But after a decade of imperial insanity, the painful reverberations of the human cost of war have been spreading among families of soldiers, and I would speculate that may have something to do with the fact Ron Paul’s foreign policy positions are apparently not deal breakers for over 20% of New Hampshire primary voters.

I have a hunch that cynicism, skepticism, and outright opposition to the bipartisan consensus of ever-expanding war is growing. And it’s growing beyond the crude characterizations of anti-war protestors reenforced by bitter culture warriors.

Ron Paul is playing an important role for those of us who think foreign policy is just as important an issue to discuss during this electoral process as the economy is. And I, for one, will continue to use Ron Paul’s candidacy as a tool to push the topic, despite the consternation of lesser-evil Democrats who refuse to see how dangerous Obama’s prosecution of the War on Terror has been, and will be, once he handily disposes of Mitt “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.” Romney in November.

Foreign policy has GOT to get more attention. Tensions with Iran continue to escalate, with another nuclear scientist getting assassinated (the link is Greenwald’s take, a must read). And in Pakistan, the lull of drone strikes after that whoops NATO air strike (which killed dozens of Pakistani soldiers) is over.

Maybe the media will start paying attention when Iran finally does something in retaliation to all the provocations it continues to endure. And maybe Americans will take the situation a little more seriously when a hot war breaks out, and gas at the pump skyrockets, flinging the economy into a flat out depression.

Until then, pass the popcorn, because watching conservatives try to rally behind a flip-flopping vulture-capitalist Massachusetts-governing Obamacare-originator Mormon, who has extended family living in Mexico (and even employs some of those *gasp* Mexicans) should be fun.

GO DEMOCRACY!

The Age Of Mistrust

by lizard

I’m afraid we’ve entered the age of mistrust, where nothing is certain, and everything is suspect. Let me try to explain.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of trust lately, and it wasn’t until my response to the professor that those thoughts finally started crystallizing.

While I think Rob Natelson is cynically exploiting the Obama-as-Marxist meme (for a paycheck?), it would be unfair of me (and hypocritical?) to just dismiss the fact that lots of people believe what the Professor is peddling, that Obama is a secret “closet” Marxist.

What I think may be happening is this: we are experiencing a slowly worsening crisis of trust, and it’s permeating more and more aspects of our daily lives. People don’t trust vaccines, the food supply, the money supply, government, science, corporations, and they sure as hell don’t trust politicians, so it shouldn’t be surprising that this trust deficit makes fertile ground for conspiracies of all colors.

In order for us to operate in this increasingly dysfunctional system of late capitalism, it has become necessary for us to choose which conspiracy to believe in. Lot’s of religious folks choose the conspiracy of evil, believing Satan and his legion conspire to fill the realm of hell with the souls of the damned. Leftists choose the conspiracy of capital. Rightwingers partake of different dishes, like communist conspiracies, radical islamist conspiracies, and homosexual conspiracies.

The vein of conspiracies I choose to entertain circulate around the notion of a global elite and resource scarcity, but I don’t go all the way down the rabbit hole. For example, I believe in tactics like false flag attacks and fake “color” revolutions, but I don’t believe in “the illuminati”.

Macro trends fascinate me, and this crisis of trust seems like a big one. Or maybe I’m totally wrong. In any case, expect more inquiries along these lines as 2012 progresses.

by lizard

For those who weren’t paying attention to the constitutional violations of the Bush administration (I’m looking at you, “conservatives”) John Yoo is a member of the neocon cabal who should appreciate Obama’s self-interested reluctance to hold those vultures accountable for their crimes.

Instead, Yoo has been somewhat brazen by defending his role in the post-9/11 assault against America’s alleged “principles”. Here’s a taste of an old Salon piece titled John Yoo Is Sorry For Nothing:

Portraying himself as a dedicated public servant whose legal opinions were simply part of a “prudent and responsible … careful contingency planning” for “a worst-case scenario,” Yoo sarcastically writes that to judge from the media coverage of the memos, “this careful contingency planning amounted to a secret plot to overthrow the Constitution and strip Americans of their rights … According to these critics, the overthrow of constitutional government in the United States began with a 37-page memo, confidentially issued on Oct. 23, 2001.” Yoo warns that if the Obama administration fails to do the same kind of “planning” — more to the point, if it continues to “seriously pursue” officials like him who did that “planning” — it will endanger America. Melodramatically conjuring up a Mumbai-like urban massacre, Yoo says that holding him and other Bush administration officials accountable will “restore risk aversion as the guiding principle of our counterterrorism strategy.”

Yeah, risk aversion. Because we can’t have anyone worried about stuff like laws and constitutional rights when prosecuting the war against terrorism, which now can include any one of us.

*

That Salon piece is from March, 2009. Two months before that, Obama waffled and fluttered when responding to George Stephanopoulos on This Week. Maybe this clip included just enough stuttering of false teeth to make criminal sycophants like Yoo sweat a bit:

Since then, what could possibly entice an un-prosecuted enemy of the constitution like Yoo to stick his fat face above ground, to enter the fray? According to the title of Yoo’s recent dump at the National Review Online, it’s Richard Cordray and the Use and Abuse of Executive Power (I’m not kidding).

The opening is priceless:

Some think me a zealous advocate of executive power, and often I am when it comes to national security issues. But I think President Obama has exceeded his powers by making a recess appointment for Richard Cordray (whom I respect and have no problems with as a nominee) to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

But I think the crux of Yoo’s beef comes from this exorcised nugget of bullshit:

The president’s power over what are known as “recess appointments” stems from Article II of the Constitution, which grants him the authority “to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.” The Constitution does not define what a “recess” is — the Senate adjourns for short periods of time, and the question becomes when an “adjournment” becomes long enough to turn into a “recess.” In the past, attorneys general and presidents have thought that an adjournment would have to be longer than at least ten days to become a “recess.”

But President Obama is making a far more sweeping claim. Here, as I understand it, the Senate is not officially in adjournment (they have held “pro forma” meetings, where little to no business occurs, to prevent Obama from making exactly such appointments). So there is no question whether the adjournment has become a constitutional “recess.” Rather, Obama is claiming the right to decide whether a session of Congress is in fact a “real” one based, I suppose, on whether he sees any business going on.

Obama can kill whoever without due process. And one of the architects who built the framework of legal cover for torture is trying to ring the constitutional warning bell over a recess appointment?

*

The above is just a long lead-in to this poem and bonus tune by Leonard Cohen. Enjoy.

*

ANY SYSTEM

Any system you contrive without us
will be brought down
We warned you before
and nothing that you built has stood
Hear it as you lean over your blueprint
Hear it as you roll up your sleeve
Hear it once again
Any system you contrive without us
will be brought down
You have your drugs
You have your guns
You have your Pyramids your Pentagons
With all your grass and bullets
you cannot hunt us any more
All that we disclose of ourselves forever
is this warning
Nothing that you built has stood
Any system you contrive without us
will be brought down

—Leonard Cohen

Obama The Closet Marxist

by lizard

Rob Natelson has a new post up at ECW, titled Is Obama A Closet Marxist?. It’s simply amazing.

The post stems from a comment Rob made on Budge’s post about why Libertarians should reject Ron Paul. When a commenter said the following:

“Quite honestly I have come to believe that whoever wins elections has very little effect on what happens to the general public”

Rob replied with this:

— that is generally, but not always, true. We need institutional change more than a change in particular politicians. But sometimes an outlier like Obama can effect significant change. So if the difference is between, say, a Kerry and a Bush it probably doesn’t matter hugely—Kerry would be more liberal, but the GOP would push back harder. But when you elect someone who, if not a closet Marxist certainly acts like one, that does make a difference. If we don’t get a new President in 2012, institutional change becomes that much more difficult.

Dumbfounded that a former university professor could make such a ridiculous claim about our president, I asked the professor what he based his assertion on. I didn’t really expect Rob to answer, but he proved me wrong and put up this list of evidence that Obama is a closet Marxist. Check it out:

* Nationalization of companies and functions (GM, student loans, etc.).
* Attempted government takeover of health care (and he wanted a socialized insurance company, the “public option,” as well).
* Heavy government “investment” in favored parts of the economy (Solyndra, for example).
* Expansion of federal spending to peacetime heights—with more requested.
* Huge expansion of the regulatory state.
* Campaigns as a classic anti-capitalist class warrior, railing against “Wall Street” and “the wealthy.”
* Seeks far more graduated income tax.
* Fixation on promoting labor unions as political as well as economic forces.
* After purportedly being against it, wants power to lock people up without habeas corpus.
* Father a genuine, professed Marxist.
* Admits in his bio being influenced by Marxists as a youth.
* Describes feeling during his brief time in the private sector as “a spy behind enemy lines.”
* Associates with Marxists like Bill Ayers and the “liberation theology” crowd.

I’m sort of at a loss how to respond. Luckily others aren’t, and there are already some good comments countering Rob’s assertion, especially Ryan Morton’s response.

Really, I think it’s sad that Rob is willing to contribute such slop to the political conversations raging across the country. These erroneously-spun Marxist tendencies supposedly exhibited by our President have more to do with crony capitalism, corporate welfare, and the revolving door between government and the private sector than “Marxism”.

by Pete Talbot

Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis

Pearls Before Swine

This is in response to the Polish Wolf’s post over at Intelligent Discontent.  While some of his stats are interesting, his premise is flawed.  Basically he says that the 99% are responsible for their economic plight by shopping at WalMart, buying imported clothing and purchasing gasoline.  There’s a grain of truth to this, I suppose, but I’m thinking that the policies of the last few decades have more to do with wealth inequalities: economic policies that favor Wall Street over Main Street, Free Trade agreements that benefit corporations more than workers, and energy policies that promote carbon-based fuels over renewables and conservation.

Montana Supreme Court rules

Or maybe I should say the Montana Supreme Court rocks!  I certainly have more respect for the majority of Montana Supremes than the majority of SCOTUS justices.  In a 5-2 vote, the justices ruled against the kooky triumvirate of Western Tradition Partnership, Champion Painting Inc. and Gary Marbut’s Montana Shooting Sports Association Inc.  Unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, Montana justices don’t believe corporations should be able to buy and sell elections.

Look up pompous ass in the dictionary

And you’ll see a picture of George Will.  In his latest column, he promotes the Keystone XL pipeline, the Canadian tar sands and fracking in general.  He pooh-poohs climate change, the EPA, the National Labor Relations Board and student loans.  He believes “conservatives should stride confidently into 2012” … “because progressivism exists to justify a few people bossing around most people … ”  He has that backwards, of course, but because he uses a lot of two-dollar words, people think he’s smart.  He’s not.

And locally

Usually reliable reporter Gwen Florio reports on a woman who’s attempting to disqualify Justice of the Peace John Odlin.  This stems from two misdemeanor charges against the woman for “community decay.”  What the hell does that mean?  Did she beat up on some curbs and gutters?  Forget to paint her porch?  Dump raw sewage into a neighborhood park?  I’m dying to know.  Anyway, the Montana Supremes call her case against Odlin “frivolous.”




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