Archive for March, 2012

Mars And Venus

by lizard

There has been a swirling of thoughts surrounding gender roles storming in my head the past week that I’m finally going to try and put into words. The analogy of strolling through a minefield seems applicable.

For the purpose of this post, there are two significant factors at play here.

First, the ongoing scandal surrounding the “rape-tolerant” culture at the University of Montana, and the correlation between sexual assault and the role of men in positions of institutional power (read: football players).

Second, the ongoing project of feminism, which I’ve been re-familiarizing myself with since Adrienne Rich passed a few days ago.

Before we continue, it might be helpful to define the oppressive social system that feminism was engaged with a half century ago: Patriarchy.

Patriarchy is a social system in which the male gender role acts as the primary authority figure central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination. Many patriarchal societies are also patrilineal, meaning that property and title are inherited by the male lineage.

This system of privilege is what feminists like Adrienne Rich took on. The following quote is from a collection of selected prose titled On Lies, Secrets, and Silence ((1966-1978). The title of the essay is “Husband-Right and Father-Right”:

Much male fear of feminism is the fear that, in becoming whole human beings, women will cease to mother men, to provide the breast, the lullaby, the continuous attention associated by the infant with the mother. Much male fear of feminism is infantilism—the longing to remain the mother’s son, to possess a woman who exists purely for him. These infantile needs of adult men for women have been sentimentalized and romanticized long enough as “love”; it is time to recognize them as arrested development, and to reexamine the ideal of preservation of “the family” within which those needs are allowed free rein even to the point of violence. Because the law and the economic and social order are heavily weighted in favor of men, the infantile needs of adult males are affirmed by a machinery of power which does not affirm or validate the needs of adult women. Institutionalized marriage and mother hood perpetuate the will of male infants as law in the adult world.

The role of power for men is something feminists saw as institutionally engrained, which I agree with. But, by ascribing the role of privilege to men as a preferable social position, the imprisonment of male identity took a backseat to the need for the role of women to become more assertive.

What I mean by the imprisonment of male identity is the societal expectation that men act as the “bread-winners” of the family unit. That’s like so 1950’s, right?

The erosion of this conventional male role is not something feminism has seemed very concerned with, but it should be. As the role of women becomes more equitable and competitive, the shifting role of men in our society hasn’t garnered the same degree of attention as the changing role of women.

When it comes to sexual assault and domestic violence, for example, women are predominately seen as the victims, and men, the aggressors.

I read a post today that challenges this dynamic of women=victim/man=aggressor, which you can read here.

The author of the post (sometimes 4&20 commenter Moorcat) describes a very personal sexual experience where he was drugged and restrained against his will by someone who he had a personal relationship with.

It’s a courageous piece that complicates the expected male role of being the presumed sexual instigator of sexual assault.

*

Men need help. We’re not suppose to cry, because that kind of emotional expression is seen as weakness. There is a whole set of socially conditioned expectations that make it very difficult for men to become the self-actualized “whole” human beings that feminists like Rich sought for women to realize.

If the role of women is still being reconstituted, then there needs to be open channels for men as well as their roles get redefined in this post-industrial landscape.

Adrienne Rich, RIP

by lizard

Adrienne Rich, a phenomenal poet and fierce activist, passed away yesterday at the age of 82.

Her book of poems Diving Into The Wreck won Rich the National Book Reward in 1974, which she initially refused to accept, though she later acquiesced, accepting the prize along with poets Alice Walker and Audre Lord, “on behalf of all women whose voices have been silenced,” Rich explained.

Over the decades, as Rich continued a prolific output of verse and prose, her streak of defiance remained strong. In 1997, while Clinton was in office, Rich refused to accept the National Medal of Arts, stating:

“Art means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage”

Below the fold I’ve included an excerpt from a speech Adrienne Rich gave, which is available in book form, titled Poetry And Commitment. The excerpt explains how poetry transformed a commander in the Israeli Defense Force. Continue Reading »

By JC

Just thought I’d throw this up as an open thread. I’m sure everybody’s got a take, an anecdote and/or a link. Maybe it’s all just a bunch of CYA by Engstrom, I don’t know. Go for it.

Via the Missoulian:

“O’Day said he did not believe the firing was directly related to a recent decision to allow Grizzlies quarterback Jordan Johnson to practice with the team after a UM student filed a police report and received a civil no-contact order against Johnson. The women alleges she was sexually assaulted by Johnson; his lawyer has denied the allegation.
However, the firings do come on the heels of a university investigation into sexual assaults involving students, some of them allegedly UM athletes.”

Sure, not directly related. But when you add up about a hundred indirectly related bad calls…

by lizard

Health care is back in the headlines thanks to the SCOTUS hearing. How nice to be revisiting the pleasantries of that notorious summer of hate, when people were literally frothing with rage at public forums, while advocates for single payer were promptly shown the door by our very own snickering Max Baucus.

The whole thing is such a mess, I really don’t know what to say about it. With Baby Boomers starting to hit 65 last year, we will have 77 million aging Americans that will shatter what’s already badly fractured now of health care if our politicians don’t get their shit together and actually GET SOMETHING DONE!

This is how Dave Budge over at ECB put it recently:

I’m saddened by the understanding that my kids are strapped supporting the pathetic baby-boom generation with an entitlement state of which they never voted to create and have little voice in changing. I find that aspect of our lives the ultimate in “unfairness.”

Though I’ve been harsh on the Boomers at times on these pages, they are collectively looking at a very grim future, all with the knowledge that what they may break, their grandkids and subsequent generations will have to pay for.

I read a post this morning that I highly recommend reading, titled Who Wants to be an Old Queen? It’s featured on City Lights new blog, and written by Tommi Avicolli Mecca.

Here is a snip that includes some figures that show how LGBT seniors face additional barriers to aging comfortably:

According to studies, queer seniors are poorer than their straight counterparts. With more and more cuts to programs that help them (budgets are never balanced on the backs of the 1%), seniors stand to get poorer and less able to fend for themselves. Queer seniors are half as likely to have health insurance, and two-thirds as likely to live alone, not to mention face discrimination in medical and social services, retirement homes, and nursing care facilities.

As the politics of positioning dominates the discussion of the health care crisis (that will continue to be a crisis no matter what SCOTUS decides) we, as Americans, can probably almost universally agree that we are not getting the representation we desperately need from our elected officials.

by Pete Talbot

Will the tea party candidate take out the moderate Republican? Will the progressive beat the mainstream Democrat?

Lots of races will be decided in a little over two months.

In about 40 days, you will receive your primary election ballot in the mail (if you filed for an absentee ballot).

And if you’re in a heavily Democratic district and there’s a legislative primary, the state senate or house winner takes all. Same with the strong Republican districts.

There’s a Democratic attorney general primary; a Republican secretary of state primary; lots of PSC primaries; and nonpartisan supreme court and district court races that will winnow down some candidates.  There are county commissioner races.

Of course, there’s a congressional race: seven Democratic candidates and three Republicans.

The U.S. Senate race has a Republican primary (Vote Teske!).

And the governor’s race, with seven Republican candidates (and their running mates) and two Democratic teams competing.

Who knows, if the Republican Party hasn’t settled on a presidential candidate by Tuesday, July 5, Montana might get to play a role there.

Campaign folks in the know tell me that 50 percent of all voters in the 2012 election will be using absentee ballots — and 40-50 percent of all absentee ballots are filled out within the first week of voters receiving them.

You should also know that by voting early absentee, you’ll be getting fewer annoying campaign phone calls, emails, etc.  Any campaign worth its salt will scrub you from its get-out-the-vote list once it knows you’ve already voted.

No endorsements here (except Dennis Teske for U.S. Senate in the Republican primary — a man among men!).  Just a heads up that the primary election will be happening before you know it, so it would be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the candidates.

Here’s the Montana Secretary of State’s website.  It can answer a lot of questions and also direct you to your county elections office. Sample ballots should be available for viewing soon (right Linda?). Don’t forget to vote!

Rocky Mountain High

by lizard

The danger posed to our society by marijuana has been dealt another decisive blow. After this Flathead Valley landlord feels the hard fist of justice, others will think twice about renting space to the dark, criminal underbelly of Montana.

Thankfully, not everyone in this country is dedicated to stomping this societal scourge from existence. Two states—Colorado and Washington—have the opportunity to perform some legislative alchemy, transforming current criminals who use cannabis into law-abiding adults acting in accordance with state law. Of course that last part is the kicker, because no matter what the states do, the Feds still have the power to swoop in and seize everything.

How fiercely is the federal government willing to fight the building momentum to end cannabis prohibition?

What started as a propaganda campaign exploiting racial prejudices to cover for more economic reasons has dragged on for the better part of a century, justifying big federal expenditures and feeding the growing prison industry. It’s insane.

One thing we can probably bet on is the federal government taking over-zealous measures to control the uncontrollable recreational use of marijuana. Like, banning cardholders from buying guns.

Maybe the saner side of the 2nd amendment crusade and those who support ending cannabis prohibition can find common ground?

Whether or not I may be a little high right now is like totally immaterial. Sobriety is for Mitt Romney.

by lizard

William Carlos Williams is mostly known as the poet who wrote that poem about the red wheel barrow glazed with rain water; he is less commonly known as one of the key innovators of the Modern push to break free from convention.

Spring And All (published 1923) has been described as a “manifesto of the imagination”, and it’s from this larger work that the excised wheel barrow poem is cut from.

For poetry nerds, New Directions released a facsimile edition of the original last year.

Below the fold is an excerpt that has nothing to do with white chickens. Continue Reading »

Poem For Trayvon

by lizard

my hoodie is brown
I got it at REI
I won’t die in it, shot
walking home from the store
I won’t cry out for help
as some non-cop vigilante
confronts me
sparking a chain of events that
will never be known
like the awful fact Trayvon
17 years old
is never coming home

—William Skink

Ripple Effect

by lizard

One of the most dangerous aspects of US foreign policy is how short-sighted it often seems. The long-term potential of blowback is ignored as the need for short-term results gets hyped and (usually) violently carried out.

The coup that just occurred in the North African nation of Mali (Jakarta Globe) is a good reminder that violent conflicts have ripple effects:

Mali’s Tuareg rebels pressed on Friday with an offensive in the north as mutinous soldiers faced a global backlash for staging a coup over the government’s handling of the insurrection.

The African Union temporarily suspended Mali, Europe froze aid and the United States threatened to do the same amid a chorus of rebukes over the coup in a country key to fighting drug trafficking and extremism.

The coup opened the way for Tuareg rebels to deepen their hold on the north, and their National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) said it had seized the town of Anefis between the key cities Gao and Kidal.

The MNLA said on its website it “will continue the offensive to dislodge the Malian army and its administration from all the towns of Azawad” — their professed homeland in the north of the bow-tie shaped west African nation.

The rebellion sparked the coup Thursday by soldiers who say they have been ill-equipped to fight off the desert nomads, many of whom are heavily armed after returning from fighting for Libya’s slain dictator Moamer Kadhafi (my emphasis).

This coup is a difficult thing to frame for Western consumption, so it probably won’t get too much attention.

Another interesting tidbit from the article is this brief description of the coup’s leader, Amadou Sanogo:

The green-beret mid-ranking captain, who speaks with a raspy voice, also revealed he had spent much time at training programmes in the United States, in Georgia and at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia.

He said he was trained under a US scholarship as an English instructor.

Man, I sure hope he didn’t get any lessons on how to win hearts and minds from his US military trainers, because if he did he’ll be in trouble quick.

Luckily, the global outcry has been diverse, and the US is even threatening to withhold Mali’s allowance until Sanogo gives the country back.

The World Bank and the African Development Bank suspended aid after Mali’s first coup in 21 years and the US threatened to lift $70 million in military and economic aid if constitutional rule was not returned.

China added to the critique which has poured in from the United Nations, France and across Africa.

Hey, something China and America can agree about; total silver lining, right?

Africa is heating up, and I’m not talking about the “liberal hoax” of global warming. I’m talking about AFRICOM looking for a home.

by jhwygirl

The University of Montana has released its rape investigation report. At least I can say that President Engstrom is finally sounding sincere:

“We have had a serious issue with sexual assault and we have to take bold and decisive measures to move toward the elimination of sexual assault,” he said in a telephone interview. “It is a new time for the university with respect to sexual assault. We are as serious as we can possibly be about this matter.”

The university’s legal counsel David Aronofsky had input to the university’s rape scandal report with a memo (which Engstrom makes reference to in the Engstrom’s 4-page report (which doesn’t appear to be online,) saying that the university shouldn’t be assisting athletes in finding legal council.

Not because it’s a conflict of interest or anything, given that the University oversees this fabulous Student Code of Conduct they repeatedly refer to – but because of the appearance of impropriety of treating one class of students (athletes) different from the rest.

Oh – and also because it might open the U to an NCAA violation.

Engstrom’s 4-page comprehensive report on UMontana’s ongoing rape and sexual assault scandals references the fact that 5 students are no longer with the University after they completed their investigations into reported assaults. He would not – because of that fabulous Student Code of Conduct – say whether they had graduated, dropped out or been expelled. Three more cases were dismissed for lack of evidence, while in 3 more cases, the students are appealing sanctions that resulted out of the investigation.

Missoulians and the victims probably feel oh-so-safe knowing that President Engstrom and his lawyers have investigated and sanctioned 3 students while 5 more are gone.

Gone where? From the registrars roles? Have they moved into my neighborhood? Are they here in the community?

Did they head down the road to MSU in Bozeman? Or perhaps Montana Tech over there in Butte?

And what about the University’s obligation to not obstruct the law. Pretty sure they can’t write a Code of Conduct for anyone – even President Engstrom – that says you can have knowledge of a crime such as assault and not have to report it (along with the evidence) to law enforcement officers.

Otherwise, that’s really pretty much a civil rights violation, regardless of whether the victim reported the crime to the proper (THE POLICE) authorities.

Which brings me again to say – If you are on campus, your 911 call is going to the university cops. Take that advice for what its worth.

City Police 24 hour number is 552-6300.

I’m not joking when I say this – but there needs to be an investigation. An investigation into the very (un)timely homeland return by a Saudi Arabian student accused of two incidents involving rape and sexual assault. An investigation into whether the University has knowledge of a crime or crimes and isn’t turning over that information to the City of Missoula police.

Will even ONE legislator speak up about the University system hiding behind this Student Code of Conduct? Do we need changes to the law?

Surely there’s a law that requires people with knowledge and or evidence (such as investigations) of criminal activity to report it?

I give Engstrom’s “report” a D+.

~~~~~
You know? There’s an ongoing pattern here of perpetrators of sexual assault being removed from campus, one way or another and clearly with the assistance of evidence of sexual assault or rape.

Who’s protecting whom here, I have to ask?

What kind of Student Code of Conduct does this University have that perpetrators of sexual assault are afforded protection from their crimes?

by jhwygirl

Caught this one last week, the day after I pondered whether the free-market Tea Party-controlled Ravalli County Board of County Commissioners would subsidize Denny Washington’s MRL rail line into the Bitterroot.

Which they did.

And it’s not that I thought it was the wrong thing to do – the point of that musing was that when it comes down to brass tacks, the government has a role in jobs – and it isn’t always “cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes.”

Which hasn’t worked, yet they still beat that drum. Honestly, I think the real agenda is to dismantle government.

But I digress….

Up in the community of Noxon, Sander’s County residents are decrying the closing of the Bull River Family Medicine Clinic that is operated by the Clark Valley Hospital (located in Plains.)

The clinic serves the small communities of Noxon, Heron and Trout Creek.

The Clark Valley Hospital has operated the Bull River Family Medical Clinic at a deficit of $76K a year for the last two years.

Community members are upset with the Clark Valley Hospital for their decision, saying that “We’re the poorest part of the county, and the farthest away from the hospital. You should be doing more here.”

It’s an hour drive for residents of Noxon to the Clark Valley Hospital – and about an hour and a half drive for the residents of Heron. So this is a pretty big deal, and if I lived up there, I’d be upset with this decision.

Nor am I sitting here in Missoula, a hub of medical accessibility for easily a couple hundred thousand people, finding some sort of enjoyment out of this situation…me, someone having supported (the horror!) healthcare reform.

But it is fair to point out that Sanders County is a Republican stronghold, and a Tea Party hotbed of activity. Republicans who will continue to attack healthcare reform with every single ALEC-written law that they can put through the next session (and you can darn well bet they’ll be going after birth control, too.)

Republicans who sponsored – and passed on a party-line vote [CORRECTION: John Brenden SD18, John Esp HD61, Krayton Kerns HD58, Steve Gibson HD78 all voted “NO” to this bill. Thanks to the person who pointed this out.] – a bill that puts a referendum forward that, if passed on the ballot this fall, will somehow prohibit the health insurance purchase requirement of the federal health care reform bill.

The Bull River Clinic’s problem, it appears, is that it doesn’t have enough patients. The people in that community are going outside of their community for healthcare, while another clinic in Hot Springs – which serves the same size of population – has 3 times as many patients.

Use it or lose it, I guess. Market rules.

So the poor people or the senior citizens that don’t like to drive a hour or more to Plains or Sandpoint Idaho to see a doctor are basically shit out of luck when it comes to healthcare, because the young and those with money are able to drive for theirs.

What’s 220 miles of gasoline cost for a F-250 pickup these days?

It’s only healthcare. Having a baby? A heart attack? Take the drive, or tough it out on your own.

I sincerely hope the residents up there find a solution that allows the Clark Valley Hospital to keep that clinic open. I have no doubt there are residents up there that need those vital services.

One has to wonder how many good paying jobs will be leaving Noxon should that clinic close, too.

Hopefully the community members up there consider the implications of their vote this November. Will they elect a legislator that will support laws that ensure and enhance availability of basic services like healthcare?

Or will they vote for someone who will throw their rural constituents to the Free Market?

by jhwygirl

The last candidate forum I wrote about, Kim Gillan touted oil spill disasters as a job creation industry for Montana, so who knows what can happen.

There’s 7 – SEVEN – candidates on the Democratic side, so let’s hope the Montana Standard maintains well enough control to let everyone speak, while ensuring that we get a wide variety questions put out there for them to answer.

Mark you calendars – and I plan to be there to live blog or tweet the thing.

April 3, 7 p.m., at the Montana Tech Auditorium.

AND – in an added bonus, the Montana Standard is taking suggestions for questions. You can email your suggested questions to editor@mtstandard.com

by lizard

Francis Ford Coppola is finally bringing the generation-defining book by Jack Kerouac, On The Road, to the big screen. He’s owned the book rights since 1979, and numerous attempts to get the project going have fell through over the years, including one that cast Ethan Hawke and Brad Pitt to play Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty. Here’s the trailer tease:

I can’t help thinking back fondly on reading On The Road for the first time (though my introduction to Kerouac was the much better novel, imho, Dharma Bums).

I was of course much younger, which I think is a requirement, because when you break it down, On The Road is a coming of age tale, one that trapped its author when it burst on the scene in 1957, spreading the seductive youthful appeal of being hip, cool, and beat.

Though I’m interested in seeing this adaptation of Kerouac’s paean to Beat counter-culture, I’m a little more weary about the historical context and continuing cultural relevance of the book and the movement it helped shape.

What makes me the most weary is how some of the mechanisms of cultural control that the Beats were, to some extent, rebelling against, like segregation of race and criminalization of drugs, are still being employed today. Continue Reading »

by lizard

Synchronicity is an interesting phenomena. From Wikipedia:

The idea of synchronicity is that the conceptual relationship of minds, defined as the relationship between ideas, is intricately structured in its own logical way and gives rise to relationships that are not causal in nature. These relationships can manifest themselves as simultaneous occurrences that are meaningfully related.

Synchronistic events reveal an underlying pattern, a conceptual framework that encompasses, but is larger than, any of the systems that display the synchronicity. The suggestion of a larger framework is essential to satisfy the definition of synchronicity as originally developed by Carl Gustav Jung.

Before I continue, I need to thank frequent 4&20 commenter larry kurtz for being an unwitting instigator of the synchronicity that inspired this post. Though it annoyed me at first, and I’m still a bit unsure what he means by it, with a bit of google sleuthing I at least understand the reference. Here’s an example:

Uzani, his army with fists open. Uzani, his army with fists closed.

Shaka, when the walls fell.

Ultimately what this means is a failure to communicate.

The reference is to a Star Trek episode (the next generation).

The synchronicity occurred today, when I was flipping through a book titled Finding What You Didn’t Lose: Expressing Your Truth and Creativity Through Poem-Making, by John Fox (Putnam Books, 1995). Below the fold is the relevant excerpt I read in the bookstore today. Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

I’m going to admit something here that is going to date me quite a bit, so here goes: I remember the recession of the mid-70’s. I remember gas rationing, I remember the calls to eliminate the very new EPA. I remember the Cuyahoga River out in Ohio catching on fire. I remember strong pro-American anti-foreign anything sentiment surrounding the purchase of anything. Honda owners and dealerships were objects of criticism and picket lines.

No where in there – or any of the other 4 recessions since then (which doesn’t include this current one) – do I recall America pimping itself out as much as it is now.

And no – I’m not talking about the Keystone Pipeline or the MSTI line…or Otter Creek coal and the railroad that’s taking the stuff to China.

I’m talking about the idea of speed-tracking citizenship to rich foreigners in exchange for investment here in America.

The program is known as EB-5, or Greencard Through Investment program.

For one million buckaroos and the creation of 10 “permanent” full-time jobs, U.S. citizenship can be yours.

Half a million if you pull it off in a “high unemployment or rural area.”

I don’t begrudge anyone citizenship here in the United States. Our country was founded by immigrants – and more importantly, it was built by immigrants. All but war criminals (we’ve got our own) are welcome in my mind.

It is, though, patently unfair to grant U.S. citizenship to the richest of the poorest and worse of nations. The Missoulian story I link to above cites Missoula developers Ed Wetherbee and Kevin Mytty’s quest for a Chinese investor.

A Chinese investor that likely paid barely living wages to people who (between work and commute) pull 15 hour days in order to make that million. A Chinese investor who likely paid off government party officials in exchange for stolen public lands that resulting in the displacing of whole communities or any other number of beneficial arrangements. The Chinese economic system is not only notoriously corrupt, it’s a shell-game of fake investment.

Of course, that sort of corruption is just par the course for someone seeking U.S. citizenship, isn’t it?

I don’t like it. It isn’t fair. It’s ripe with the stench of corruption. U.S. citizenship should not be beholden to the highest bidder, on the easiest speediest path.

Leaving the poorest behind or at a disadvantage in what the U.S. should consider the most valued is not the right thing to be doing.

by lizard

My wife thinks I’m bullshitting with this one, but I’m not. I am considering voting Mitt Romney for president, and here’s why.

Mitt is not a good liar, as evidenced by the GOP primary race. That’s why he can’t convince the loony right that he’s down for their Christian jihad. I bet a president Mitt Romney would be equally awful at being deceitful, which is a good thing. His stale, mechanic delivery when talking will be a totally ineffective sheen over the continued looting of the public trust. Because the lies of President Mitt will be more transparent, it will be easier to stoke outrage and organize opposition.

As a perfect expression of late-stage capitalism, Mitt Romney is an ideal fall-guy. Sure his economic policies will be terrible, but that’s the point. Since there is absolutely no political will to do any of the things necessary to actually address the systemic failures we’re seeing (thanks to the total takeover of the two party system) then let’s put a true vulture capitalist in the hot seat, so we can really see (sans hopium) how these bastards intend on dismantling every last strand of the safety net.

Electing Mitt Romney may even make us safer from external attack. People all across the world will say “If those Americans elected him, they must be crazier than we thought.” People have a natural reluctance to engage with someone who is obviously mentally unstable. The world will realize how deranged we’ve become if we elect Mitt Romney, and will definitely think twice before doing anything provocative.

The reason I’m entertaining making this (I’ll admit) repellant statement with my presidential vote is because I have absolutely no faith that Obama will make any miraculous transformations during his second term.

As Obama’s long-form campaign ad, The Road We’ve Traveled, stirs the hibernating emotions of sometimes discouraged Democrat supporters, I think of all the counter-weight dragging down hope and stifling change.

Gee, lizard, such a negative Nancy. Why not just give in to the lurking flicker of hope that Obama will emerge from his first term cocoon to become a second term butterfly of progressive change?

You’re right, voice in my head. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking. Please forgive me. To make things right, I’ll offer Guggenheim’s Obama love-fest below the fold Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

Champion the so-called free market? Walk the walk they’ve trumpeted down there for the last 4 years or so, spreading havoc on planning and development in the valley?

Today, Ravalli County commissioners were deciding whether to offer up county taxpayer funds to keep the Montana Rail Link line open (which would, incidentally, play a significant role is whether 200 or more people stay employed.

Already Greg Chilcott – who is now looking to be downright liberal in comparasion to his cohorts – is trying to soften the blow (it seems) by reminding everyone that MRL “didn’t come to the county looking for the money.”

Of course, Chilcott might be the lone drummer of that beat, I don’t know.

I will be very interested to see what they do down there.

Military Malfeasance

by jhwygirl

It’s the military brass that should go on trial for the massacre of innocents in Afghanistan. I am not making excuses for the hell that Staff Sargent from Fort Lewis Washington reigned down on the people of Afghanistan – let me be clear about that.

Lizard is right – we need to get out. Now. The US has done nothing but inflict illegal war-criminal murder over and over in that nation – I don’t know how you “fix” that. Ever.

But a military that sends a guy on 3 tours such that he is away from his home and family 50% of the time…and declares him fit for duty after a traumatic brain injury needs to stand trial for its malfeasance.

They don’t want to reinstate the draft. They pay these men and women crap. They don’t provide them with adequate training or medical care, and they try to renege on the promises to these people who sacrifice so much.

Hate the mission, not the soldier.

Fort Lewis? Remember Billings Montana Staff Sargent Calvin Gibbs? He was sentenced to life in the last year or so for killing for fun – tossing grenades at Afghani farm kids and then cutting off body parts for trophies.

He, too, with multiple tours.

The real people responsible for this will never be held accountable – from the President who put us there, to the one who has kept us there…to the Senators and congressional Representatives that continue to fund the damn thing (while cutting soldier benefits and pay) while they bellyache about withdrawal proposals which are too fast.

Then we’ve got officers in the line of authority that are making decisions that put these guys out there in the field with a gun in their hand. All from their cozy desks at the Pentagon, which they arrive at after a nice 45 minute commute on the beltway.

How many more shooters are out there? I mean, really?

Listen to this Afghani relay his thoughts on the shooting.

If we’re there for some chivalrous ideal of Democracy, someone needs to check themselves. Democracy by the end of a gun isn’t Democracy. From the Afghani’s perspective, we’re the terrorists, and I can’t blame them at all for believing that.

They’re living it.

by lizard

On September 11th, 2001, America was attacked by terrorists. Most of those alleged terrorists were from Saudi Arabia, but instead of retaliating against the Saudis, America’s cowboy-in-chief launched wars of aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq. Wars like that, waged “preemptively” against countries that posed no imminent threat, is the kind of stuff Nazi leaders were hung for.

America’s military might wasn’t unleashed against Saudi Arabia because they are our friends, almost as special as our Israeli friends. Remember, when every single commercial plane across American airspace was grounded after 9-11, America’s special Saudi friends were allowed to fly home.

Considering that kind of privilege, I was kind of surprised when the Saudi Arabian role in the 9-11 attacks became New York Times news a few weeks ago. Here’s the lead in:

For more than a decade, questions have lingered about the possible role of the Saudi government in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, even as the royal kingdom has made itself a crucial counterterrorism partner in the eyes of American diplomats.

Now, in sworn statements that seem likely to reignite the debate, two former senators who were privy to top secret information on the Saudis’ activities say they believe that the Saudi government might have played a direct role in the terrorist attacks.

“I am convinced that there was a direct line between at least some of the terrorists who carried out the September 11th attacks and the government of Saudi Arabia,” former Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, said in an affidavit filed as part of a lawsuit brought against the Saudi government and dozens of institutions in the country by families of Sept. 11 victims and others. Mr. Graham led a joint 2002 Congressional inquiry into the attacks.

Who thinks this story has legs? Probably just extortion for campaign donations.

Meanwhile, the campaign for hearts and minds in Afghanistan has been effectively slaughtered.

16 dead civilians, 9 of then children, bodies burned. Varying accounts of how many soldiers involved, but the “official” story is one soldier, in custody.

maybe this would be a good time to say STOP THIS STUPID FUCKING WAR RIGHT NOW GODDAMN IT!

But no, even 2014 is too soon for some assholes.

What should US soldiers—who it must be noted are NOT all psychotic maniacs—do for the next two years, after the images of pissing on corpses, burning the Koran, and now a Haditha-like massacre incites more violence? Get them the fuck out of there, Mr. President. This is your Tet (says PJ Crowley).

Too bad it’s an election year, and Obama’s brand features bad-ass, terrorist-killing foreign policy chops. Can’t confuse the consumers voters this close to the used-by date in November.

But honestly, how the hell can anyone justify continued boots on the ground to 2014? Can’t we just shift to total remote control killing from air-conditioned cubicles in Nevada?

Keeping US soldiers in Afghanistan for political purposes is dereliction of duty. It never made sense to begin with, and now things are really going to go to shit.

It’s time to end the war in Afghanistan as soon as logistically possible.

by lizard

With this weekly poetry series, I’ve expressed my opinion about the distinction between song writers and poets (that post was less of a polemic than it was a petty gripe), but I haven’t really expressed my deep love for music, of all kinds.

This past week I’ve been working on a list poem using primarily musicians and band names from my personal collection. The list reflects the title of my first radio show as a local KBGA dj—the Schizophrenic Friday show. Though I had some reservations at first about the required playlist I had to include in my lineup, I came to really enjoy the sometimes odd juxtapositions that came into play. Lately, for some reason, I’ve been feeling nostalgic about my time on air playing music for Missoula. I wish I had the time to get back to it, but I just don’t right now.

Music, though, has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. And there’s something very powerful about how an unexpected tune that pops up on the radio (or, more likely, on my shuffle) can lead one to grandiose thoughts of the universe’s ability to speak through the musical medium; that maybe music touches on a deeper set of vibrations that underlies the bits of ephemera that float through our lives, day in and day out.

So enjoy the poem, enjoy this little sneak peek at spring we’ve had this past week, and let this post be a break from the incessant political chatter many of us choose to expose ourselves to on a daily basis. Continue Reading »

By JC

…Why Democrats acting more and more like Republicans and moving to the right continues to be cause for cheer among Montana’s self-appointed dem cheerleading squad, and acting like a republican implies being “smart”:

“Once again, a smart Democrat is making inroads into a traditionally Republican place–the military.”

And glorifying our military excursions into the middle east is a positive moment for the Montana Dem Party and candidate Bullock… why???

I now return to my sabbatical. Talk amongst yourselves.

Info Wars

by lizard

I read a really fascinating article today, first published 15 years ago in the US Army War College Quarterly (their online archive can be searched here).

The title of the piece is “Constant Conflict” written by Ralph Peters. Here is how Peters sets the tone:

We have entered an age of constant conflict. Information is at once our core commodity and the most destabilizing factor of our time. Until now, history has been a quest to acquire information; today, the challenge lies in managing information. Those of us who can sort, digest, synthesize, and apply relevant knowledge soar–professionally, financially, politically, militarily, and socially. We, the winners, are a minority.

For the world masses, devastated by information they cannot manage or effectively interpret, life is “nasty, brutish . . . and short-circuited.” The general pace of change is overwhelming, and information is both the motor and signifier of change. Those humans, in every country and region, who cannot understand the new world, or who cannot profit from its uncertainties, or who cannot reconcile themselves to its dynamics, will become the violent enemies of their inadequate governments, of their more fortunate neighbors, and ultimately of the United States. We are entering a new American century, in which we will become still wealthier, culturally more lethal, and increasingly powerful. We will excite hatreds without precedent.

Remember, this is 1997. Obviously, in the 15 years since, none of this has come true. Information technology has democratized information, and we now live in a utopia of honest, vigorous engagement by a well-informed public…right?

Peters continues later in the piece with this cheery assessment:

As more and more human beings are overwhelmed by information, or dispossessed by the effects of information-based technologies, there will be more violence. Information victims will often see no other resort. As work becomes more cerebral, those who fail to find a place will respond by rejecting reason. We will see countries and continents divide between rich and poor in a reversal of 20th-century economic trends. Developing countries will not be able to depend on physical production industries, because there will always be another country willing to work cheaper. The have-nots will hate and strive to attack the haves. And we in the United States will continue to be perceived as the ultimate haves. States will struggle for advantage or revenge as their societies boil. Beyond traditional crime, terrorism will be the most common form of violence, but transnational criminality, civil strife, secessions, border conflicts, and conventional wars will continue to plague the world, albeit with the “lesser” conflicts statistically dominant. In defense of its interests, its citizens, its allies, or its clients, the United States will be required to intervene in some of these contests. We will win militarily whenever we have the guts for it.

There will be no peace. At any given moment for the rest of our lifetimes, there will be multiple conflicts in mutating forms around the globe. Violent conflict will dominate the headlines, but cultural and economic struggles will be steadier and ultimately more decisive. The de facto role of the US armed forces will be to keep the world safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault. To those ends, we will do a fair amount of killing.

And here’s another snip I found, well…just read it:

There is no “big threat” out there. There’s none on the horizon, either. Instead of preparing for the Battle of Midway, we need to focus on the constant conflicts of richly varying description that will challenge us–and kill us–at home and abroad. There are plenty of threats, but the beloved dinosaurs are dead.

We will outcreate, outproduce and, when need be, outfight the rest of the world. We can out-think them, too. But our military must not embark upon the 21st century clinging to 20th-century models. Our national appetite for information and our sophistication in handling it will enable us to outlast and outperform all hierarchical cultures, information-controlling societies, and rejectionist states. The skills necessary to this newest information age can be acquired only beginning in childhood and in complete immersion. Societies that fear or otherwise cannot manage the free flow of information simply will not be competitive. They might master the technological wherewithal to watch the videos, but we will be writing the scripts, producing them, and collecting the royalties. Our creativity is devastating.

There are certainly some misses in the article, but it’s a fascinating look into how the military, 15 years ago, tried to anticipate how the radically shifting currents of information flow would effect the world we live in.

*

I came across Ralph’s “Constant Conflict” via a much more current article (March 9th), by Alastair Crooke, titled “Syria: Straining Credulity?

In the article, Alastair cites Peters’ piece, and goes on to analyze how aspects of the information war are playing out in the Syrian theatre. Part of his assessment is that even the US military can become a victim of its own information warfare. I’m including a large portion of the article below the fold. Continue Reading »

by Pete Talbot

Consider this an open thread because I’d like others’ insights into this race.

Here’s my rather rambling take on Montana’s U.S. House race.  The candidates are Kim Gillan, a state senator out of Billings; Diane Smith, a newcomer from Whitefish; Dave Strohmaier, a Missoula City Councilor; Helena lawyer Rob Stutz; and Franke Wilmer, a state representative from Bozeman. Jason Ward of Hardin has also filed but doesn’t seem to be actively campaigning.  Melinda Gopher is also rumored to be a candidate but she hasn’t filed yet. The FEC has John Abarr filed as a Democrat but since the former Ku Klux Klan organizer has dropped out, I won’t go there.

First, the money side of the equation as of Dec. 31, date of the last filing report:

Name Total Contributions (from time announced running until Dec. 31, 2011) Fourth Quarter contributions (October – Dec. 31, 2011)
Steve Daines, R $953,505 $173,315.68
Kim Gillan, D $175,159 $52,014.76
Franke Wilmer, D $154,877 $55,260.93
Diane Smith, D $100,033 $100,033
Dave Strohmaier, D 72,151 $23,080.24
Robert Stutz, D $13,315 $3,265

Republican Steve Daines, the basically unopposed millionaire, has more campaign money than all the Democrats put together but that’s not the focus of this piece.

Democrat Diane Smith wasn’t at the ‘Pasty Party’ held in Missoula Sunday night and sponsored by the Missoula County Democrats. Gillan, Strohmaier, Stutz and Wilmer were, and they all spoke.

So I don’t have any personal experience with Smith but there’s this: she has about $75 grand in the bank (I like round numbers, so let’s say $100K raised and $25K spent).  She’s only been in the race since November so that’s a pretty good chunk of change she’s raised.  Smith touts her support of gay and choice issues but stresses her fiscally conservative business roots.  She received a few contributions from Whitefish and Bigfork but the majority of her money comes from the D.C. area, where she was in the telecommunications business.  The Flathead Memo has an interesting piece on the lack of transparency from Smith’s contributors.

The Memo also has stories on Smith’s past contributions to Republican candidates here and here.  It may not be a big problem in the general election but she has to get through the primary where the committed Democratic voters take a dimmer view of this.

Next up in the fundraising department is Kim Gillan with about $100 grand left in the bank.  She’s on top of the Democratic contribution heap with $176K raised.  She spoke at the ‘Pasty Party’ about her experience in the Montana Legislature and struck a moderate tone.  Lots of current and former legislators greeted her warmly.

Will Gillan split the moderate vote with Smith?  Maybe, somewhat. There are a lot more Democrats in Billings than there are in the Flathead, though, and name recognition will play a role.

The other aspect is that progressives tend to turn out for the primaries so maybe a moderate doesn’t have the leg up that they’d have in the general.

And there’s the Missoula factor: more registered Democratic voters in this county than any other Montana County.  Will Missoula Democrats turn out?  Will they vote for the hometown boy?

Which brings me to Dave Strohmaier, who has $15 grand in the bank.  He’s raised $72K.  The most passionate speaker at the ‘Pasty Party,’ he trotted out his local government credentials, his advocacy for a southern-tier passenger rail line and his strong support of GLBT issues.  Strohmeier was well received by the audience, the enthusiasm palpable, but it was his hometown crowd.

Rob Stutz spoke next.  His campaign isn’t taking any PAC money, which is admirable, and he advanced that.  Tough call, though, not taking the PAC money one might need to tell supporters he’s not taking PAC money.

Stutz has raised $13 grand and has about $6K left in the bank.

He also says his unique campaign has the best chance of beating Daines in November, although I’m sure the other candidates feel the same way.

Franke Wilmer spoke last, about international policy — which is refreshing because most congressional candidates gloss over this — but I’m not sure how this plays to the masses.  She also offered her blue-collar roots and experience in the Montana Legislature as references.  She’s the only candidate to come out publicly against the Keystone XL Pipeline (as opposed to our governor and congressional delegation) and that shows some chutzpah.  Wilmer received the second-most enthusiastic response from the crowd.

She’s raised a good amount of cash, $155 grand, and has $55K in the bank.

So it’s in play: a Missoula progressive, with less money but in a heavy Democratic county against a Bozeman progressive with more money but in a county with fewer Democratic voters.  The conventional wisdom is that being tagged ‘Missoula’ is harder to overcome in the rest of the state than being tagged ‘Bozeman.’

Then there are the moderates, Gillan and Smith, although Gillan has paid her dues in the legislature and with the party.  Both say that a moderate — someone who can work across the aisle — has the best chance of beating Daines in the general.

And then there’s Rob Stutz, who could peel away enough votes to be a spoiler in all four of the above-mentioned races.

In a primary like this, the most organized campaign with the best media and strongest ground game should come out on top. Moderation, money, passion and principles — and the candidates’ message — are important, too, but with this many in the field, it will be hard to get a message to resonate with anyone other than those who follow politics closely.

Any one of these candidates would be a vast improvement over either Rehberg or Daines, but you know that.

No primary endorsements from me here, just some info.  I await your comments with bated breath.  With your help, I’ll do more and better handicapping soon.

by Pete Talbot

The folks who practice in front of Judge Cebull say he’s a stand-up kinda guy.  What else are they going to say?  Also …

“Many of the attorneys contacted for this story declined to comment on the record,” says the Great Falls Tribune.  And there aren’t any quotes in the article from those who may have been wronged in court (read: potential appellants) or comments from other federal judges (surprise, surprise).

Cebull has apologized and has asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to investigate.  He admitted that the content of the email was “racist” and “awful,” but said that he is not racist.

“I didn’t send it as racist, although that’s what it is. I sent it out because it’s anti-Obama,” said the judge.

This story will play out for months, mostly under the radar.  Here’s the background for those who’ve been away from the news.

Another anti-Obama slam, this time directed at a Georgetown University law student, came from right-wing spokesman Rush Limbaugh.  He called an advocate for birth-control coverage at religious institutions a “slut.”  You know the story but here’s a recap.

Limbaugh finally apologized but not until Republicans started distancing themselves from the remarks and advertisers cancelled.

Anyway, I expect this sort of anti-Obama, misogynistic trash from Limbaugh; not so much from Montana’s chief federal judge.

Living in Missoula, most of the criticism of Obama that I hear comes from the left, so I’m always amazed at the vitriol that comes from the right.  I’m talking a deep-rooted hatred.  The right wingers didn’t like Bill Clinton (“Slick Willie, as they called him) either, but there didn’t seem to be such a profound hatred.  And Clinton’s and Obama’s policies arent all that different.

So I have to wonder if there isn’t a little racism in this hatred from the right.

by lizard

I’ve featured a poem from Cate Marvin before, which you can read here.

I said in that post she’s a poet to keep an eye on. The more I read of her, the more I believe that’s the case. This week’s poem, CLOUD ELEGY comes from her first second collection, titled Fragment of the Head of a Queen (2007, Sarabande Books). Enjoy. Continue Reading »

by lizard

For those who supported the “humanitarian intervention” imposed on Libya by NATO, it must be asked what responsibilities should the nations that provided the planes and bombs have post-intervention? Is there any sense of obligation from those who advocate the toppling of repressive regimes to ensure the power vacuum doesn’t get filled with equally oppressive violators of human rights? Otherwise, what the hell is the point of intervening?

On Friday the U.N. released a report, and it’s not good news for those who rallied for intervention (and obviously bad news for Libyans as well, who, we should remember, have no choice but to suffer the consequences).

While the report indicates Gaddafi’s regime perpetrated war crimes, it also points the finger at NATO and paints a bleak picture of post-Gaddafi abuses by those celebrated rebels:

The report concluded that Colonel Qaddafi’s forces had perpetuated war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, torture and attacks on civilians using excessive force and rape.

But the armed anti-Qaddafi militia forces in Libya also “committed serious violations,” including war crimes and breaches of international rights law that continue today, the 220-page report said.

Through this past January, militia members continued with the mass arrests of former soldiers, police officers, suspected mercenaries and others perceived to be Qaddafi loyalists, the report said. Certain revenge attacks have continued unabated, particularly the campaign by the militiamen of Misurata to wipe a neighboring town, Tawergha, off the map; the fighters accuse its residents of collaborating with a government siege.

Such attacks have been documented before, but the report stressed that despite previous criticism, the militiamen were continuing to hunt down the residents of the neighboring town no matter where they had fled across Libya. As recently as Feb. 6, militiamen from Misurata attacked a camp in Tripoli where residents of Tawergha had fled, killing an elderly man, a woman and three children, the report said.

The commission remains “deeply concerned” that no independent investigations or prosecutions appear to have been instigated into killings by such militias, the report said.

Will Obama, or Susan Rice, condemn humans rights abuses by the people that are filling the vacuum his administration helped create? No, because it’s already on to other targets for the humanitarian treatment: Syria.

Once again, I need to give credit to the Moon of Alabama for posts like this one. The propaganda campaign for intervention is collapsing, and it seems like momentum for intervention is quickly abating.

Below the fold are two videos that allegedly show how two reports from Syria were staged. I don’t claim this as definitive proof that the whole opposition to Assad’s regime is manufactured, but it certainly raises a lot of questions, especially about the role of Al Jazeera’s reporting in the region. Continue Reading »

Everybody Knows…

by lizard

There is a quote from zerohedge that popped up on my twitter feed that sums up the Euro-mess quite succinctly:

Everybody knows that everyone in Europe is lying about everything.

To illustrate this point, check out this video of an Irish journalist rendering Klaus, a European Central Banker, speechless:

Back at home, Mike Whitney describes why a strategic backlog of foreclosures is being kept off the market:

The reason that housing prices have dipped only 33.6 percent in the United States instead of 60 percent as they have in Ireland, is because the big banks have been keeping inventory off the market. If the millions of homes–that are presently headed for foreclosure–were suddenly dumped onto the market, prices would plunge and the biggest banks in the country would be declared insolvent. That’s why the banks have slowed the flow of foreclosures. According to Amherst Securities Group’s Laurie Goodman, “….2.8 million borrowers haven’t made a payment in over a year. Add that to the over 450,000 real estate owned (REO) units and you have approximately 3.2 million that are in the shadows. We are liquidating about 90,000 homes a month. That’s about 36 months of overhang; a really shocking number.”

What more to say? How about a song instead.




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