Archive for May, 2012

by lizard

What can anyone say about the situation in Syria after seeing bloody pictures of dead children? These are the moments where words just don’t do the job. They fail. It’s too awful to imagine. Whoever did it should face lethal justice. That’s the visceral reaction.

I read an article today by John Bradley at the Daily Mail that is worth reading about Syria: Yes, Syria is a tragedy but it would be madness for Britain to intervene. From the link:

The expressions of outrage over Houla and the consequent threats of military action all feed into the conventional Western narrative of the Syrian crisis whereby Assad is portrayed as a bloodthirsty tyrant and the rebels as heroic freedom-fighters trying to liberate the Syrian people from oppression.

It is a picture that has been sedulously cultivated by the anti-Assad opposition, who are masters of manipulative propaganda aimed at gullible Western politicians, broadcasters and protest groups.
But the truth about the violence in Syria is far more complex than Assad’s enemies would have us believe.


While the uprising began as a series of peaceful demonstrations by ordinary Syrians, the simplistic notion of good versus evil no longer reflects the reality.

Even on the most basic level, we do not know what actually happened at Houla. ‘Truth is the first casualty of war,’ goes the wise old dictum, and all we have at the moment are the contentions of either side.

The rebels are blaming Assad, while the President’s regime strongly disputes any responsibility for the killings at all, pointing out that most of the victims seem to have been shot at point-blank range, whereas the Government forces at the time were using heavy mortar fire against the rebels.
Self-serving propaganda? Perhaps, but in this most bitter of conflicts, tales of atrocities have often been exaggerated and exploited.

Read the whole piece. I found it to be a reasonable, cautious OpEd about an awful situation that’s getting worse…and will not be helped, IMHO, by the West’s self-serving agenda.

by lizard

The title of this post—Carrying The Darkness—comes from the title of an anthology of Vietnam War poetry edited by W. D. Ehrhart and published by the Texas Tech University Press in 1989. Here’s a quick bio of the editor from the link:

W. D. Ehrhart (b.1948) enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1966 at the age of 17. He fought in Vietnam with 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, receiving the Purple Heart Medal, the Navy Combat Action Ribbon, and two Presidential Unit Citations, and earned the rank of sergeant.

The poem I’ve selected is from John Balaban, titled After Our War. Continue Reading »

Memorializing War

by lizard

When it comes to sacrifice, those who enlist represent a very small percentage of the general public. We see them in airports, making connecting flights like the rest of us. But they aren’t like the rest of us. And no matter how much national pageantry gets directed their way during holidays like Memorial Day, the 365 day-a-year need of our veterans is a sensitive subject for a country that doesn’t collectively go to war like the WWII generation did.

This Nation piece (originating from TomDispatch.com) conveys a similar sentiment, titled Why America Can’t Keep Fighting 1 Percent Wars:

America’s wars are remote. They’re remote from us geographically, remote from us emotionally (unless you’re serving in the military or have a close relative or friend who serves), and remote from our major media outlets, which have given us no compelling narrative about them, except that they’re being fought by “America’s heroes” against foreign terrorists and evil-doers. They’re even being fought, in significant part, by remote control—by robotic drones “piloted” by ground-based operators from a secret network of bases located hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from the danger of the battlefield.

Their remoteness, which breeds detachment if not complacency at home, is no accident. Indeed, it’s a product of the fact that Afghanistan and Iraq were wars of choice, not wars of necessity. It’s a product of the fact that we’ve chosen to create a “warrior” or “war fighter” caste in this country, which we send with few concerns and fewer qualms to prosecute Washington’s foreign wars of choice.

The results have been predictable, as in predictably bad. The troops suffer. Iraqi and Afghan innocents suffer even more. And yet we don’t suffer, at least not in ways that are easily noticeable, because of that very remoteness. We’ve chosen—or let others do the choosing—to remove ourselves from all the pain and horror of the wars being waged in our name. And that’s a choice we’ve made at our peril, since a state of permanent remote war has weakened our military, drained our treasury and eroded our rights and freedoms.

by Duganz

Well, it only took former congressman Pat Williams a few minutes to lose my respect. I say minutes because I re-read his quote to the New York Times roughly 30 times. And then I just felt sad.

“I’m very sorrowful one of the premier universities in the Rockies has been scandalized by a few knuckleheaded students,” said Pat Williams, a former United States congressman and a member of Montana’s Board of Regents. “The football team has been terribly hurt by this.”

That is the embodiment of all that is wrong, tragic and sad about the University of Montana rape scandal. These alleged crimes are being treated like a tragic inconvenience rather than a terrifying and awful wrong that’s left victims.

In those two sentences Williams just… Christ, what doesn’t he do?

Knuckleheads? Rape is NOT knucklehead behavior. Knuckleheads are like Larry, Moe and Curley (Shemp as well). Knuckleheads come out dancing in togas during a party and fall down comically much to everyone’s joy. Knuckleheads is also a now closed Missoula rib joint.

But knuckleheads don’t rape, sick men rape. Williams is far too smart for me to believe he confused the term “knucklehead” with “alleged rapist.”

To equate rape with knuckleheaded behavior is jaw-droppingly wrong. It’s like calling a serial killer an “overzealous playmate” or a genocidal murderer a “driven politico lacking a defined moral compass.”

And then we come to that second sentence. The poor football team.  The poor, tortured football team. Those poor players who have done no wrong but are now associated with the crime of rape… Just awful. That actually is sad. Those student athletes not implicated in any alleged rape have reason to be upset.

That reason, of course, is that UM and rape are now as closely associated as USC and recruitment violations. Personally, I’d rather the recruitment violations and I’m sure those players agree.

But the focus of Mr. Williams should be on the victims of rape and not on the fucking football team.

As a proud alum (’07) I just want to say that my pity is with those victims. I hope they find peace and can be happy, healthy people.

And, Mr. Williams, that’s what you should have said.

By JC

“Thinking about Image and Truth.” With those words, last week the Missoula Independent in its “etc.” editorial column took the Jezebel article that has been making waves around the country, to task:

“Last week at the Indy, there were groans as staffers read the website Jezebel’s article “My weekend in America’s so-called rape capital.” It was the product of writer Katie J.M. Baker’s recent trip to Missoula…

Clearly, Baker came with an agenda, coupled with the belief that she was the only feminist to step foot in town, and she ignored the kinds of complexities that could have made her story interesting.”

Wow. So the Indy now believes that anyone who tries to come to Missoula to get an independent outsider’s view of what may be going on also gets tagged as distorting the truth about rape culture in Missoula. That they are unable to comprehend the “complexities” of this town that would make the story more interesting to them.

Instead of just letting the story stand on its own as adding to the body of information to be written about what is wrong in Missoula — the story contains extensive reporting from interviews Baker held with Missoulians — the writer of the Indy’s editorial decided to invoke “Image and Truth” in such a way as to discredit Baker. What an un-friggin’-believable ad hominem attack on Baker. And kudos to the Missoulian and our own jhwygirl for following the story wherever it may lead, and to expose whomever needs to get some light shone on them.

Then the Indy author had the temerity to attempt some back-handed hypocritical and censorial journalistic slap by telling Baker her work was useless, and instead suggest what should and shouldn’t be written about Missoula:

“And yet, to depict Missoula as a place overrun with dumb kids who condone rape is disingenuous and useless. A better story might have asked how a town with such a good reputation, one constantly spotlighted in outdoors and travel magazines, fell so far—and a better story would have asked what we’re going to do about it.”

Well, no… Baker did not depict Missoula as “a place overrun with dumb kids who condone rape”, that’s the Indy’s strawman at work. Baker simply let the words of Missoulians speak for themselves and reported them with some commentary and factual context. What is disingenuous and useless is for Missoula’s so-called liberal and progressive alternative weekly to lambast other journalists, when they have yet to do any useful reporting on the one topic that is roiling our community. So watch out all you journalists and bloggers out there. If you don’t write about rape in Missoula to the Indy’s standards, you’re going to get attacked. Must defend image, even at the expense of the truth.

Hey Indy, why don’t you write the stories you wish others would have (instead of writing the ones that got your staff groaning). Why don’t you write some articles about how far Missoula has fallen from its celebrated high-lights and what we are going to do about it? Isn’t that your job? Or is your job to criticize those who are attempting to put some outside perspective on our good-ole-boy network and tolerance of rape culture, because… maybe it hurts your bottom line somehow?

So yeah, you got me thinking about image and truth. About how our community gets so caught up in the fishbowl phenomena that we can’t even comprehend an outside perspective on our problems (and yeah, I’m talking about you too, Fred Van Valkenberg and your disbelief at being the subject of a federal investigation).

And you know what, I think the Indy’s editorial take on Baker’s story on rape in Missoula — let’s beat up on the messenger — is about as unproductive and damaging as can be, and will do nothing to bring the dialog and soul-searching needed in this community to address the issues and bring about change. It serves to stifle independent thought, investigation and debate. You are a part of the problem here, Missoula Independent. Try being a part of the solution, instead.

by lizard

Eileen Myles has a new book out, titled Snowflake / Different Streets (reviewed here by Jacob Kahn of the Indy).

An accomplished poet like Myles, who spent last spring in Missoula as the visiting Hugo writer teaching at UM, doesn’t need to fret too badly about how to get a book of poems published. This from Kahn’s review:

Myles came of age in the New York art world of the ’80s, initially as an avant-garde punk-poet who hung around the likes of Patti Smith and other art-world badasses. Since then, she’s published over 20 books (including fiction, non-fiction, plays and even a libretto, in addition to poetry), ran for president in 1992 as the first openly female and lesbian write-in candidate and shared the stage with Sonic Youth. She currently appears on the newest Japanther record, “Rock’n’Roll Ice Cream,” reading from Snowflake / different streets.

Obviously a poet with a badass pedigree like Myles has choices when it comes to publishing, and for this latest book she chose Wave Books.

I have at least a half-dozen Wave Books titles in my collection, including a signed copy of Michael Earl Craig’s Thin Kimono, so when I saw a link on Silliman’s Blog, I eagerly clicked.

What I found was a great piece written by Broc Rossell for the Los Angeles Review of books—Portrait of a Press: Wave Books.

Here’s a teaser:

If you’re getting the sense that Wave has a different idea of what constitutes a “book” or a “publication” than other publishers, you’re on to something. That aesthetic is embodied in everything from how Wave supports its poets, through and beyond the editorial process, down to the way Wave books look, and it’s a stance Wave authors buy into. The books themselves seem to be conceptualized as curiously isolated moments in a sustained lifestyle of creativity.

“The only difference between a publication and a performance is the format,” says Myles. Myles sees the book as “a trailer of the performance. When you do a reading you stand up and you read these seven poems, the event is constructed just like a book is.

“When you’re writing a poem or an essay or even a novel, it’s improvisational; you’re opening your mind up and making choices, and so the book and the performance resemble each other. The only difference is the form, the accommodation to time. When I have people in front of me in a room, I only have so much time, and I have to make choices; some of them are even predetermined. There is a downpour of language we exist in. And a writer just makes different choices for different occasions, which is what literary form is, finally: a kind of occasion.”

The personalities that make Wave Books breathe have exhibited a manic dedication to the occasion of poetry. In 2006, their Poetry Bus Tour embarked on a 50 cities in 50 days tear across the states that included a stop in Missoula (up Butler Creek).

I was lucky to be in attendance that evening as a fantastic smattering of poets bounced their amplified voices off the hills.

So in the spirit of performance, instead of text, I offer this performance by Michael Earl Craig. Enjoy!

by jhwygirl

Missoula Mayor John Engen apologized today in an email to all city employees…only, as Lizard points out, it was more likely born out of being caught than truly giving a shit about impinging on free speech.

And for evidence of that, I point to the last two paragraphs of Sunday’s Missoulian piece. It’s pretty clear that up until darn near press time, Engen was still justifying his position of trying to silence Officer Geoff Curtis:

On Friday, Engen termed Curtis “pretty passionate about his university. It was just one of those situations where it probably was not the most appropriate choice, given what his career choice is.”

While Engen said “there was an offer (to apologize) during a particular meeting. I don’t think we need to do it today.”

Later, he texted the Missoulian to say that “Curtis is a really good young officer and his was a minor mistake born of good intentions.”

Yeah. So he apologized. Only after what was probably a hundred phone calls and him trying to figure out how he could sit through the city council public meeting tonight.

A thanks to councilperson Adam Hertz for first bringing that letter to our attention. Mr. Hertz posted the entire contents of Mayor Engen’s comments here in this comment.

And once again I offer a super huge THANKS to reporter Gwen Florio and the Missoulian for the continued investigation into this sexual assault and rape scandal enveloping the City of Missoula, County Attorney Fred Van Valkenberg’s office and the University of Montana. And extra thanks to her for those last two paragraphs above. That’s attention to detail – and makes a difference even today, imo.

by jhwygirl

The disgusting underbelly of the good old boy’s club – ‘you cover our ass, we’ll cover yours’ mentality – has been pretty much laid bare over this weekend in a series of articles from the Missoulian’s Gwen Florio.

On Saturday we got Emails show UM, city accounts differ on Saudi rape suspect and UM dean implicated 4 football players in gang rape, emails reveal – a lowlight hightlight of that being U. Montana Vice President and thug Jim Foley’s great offense to the term “gang rape” and that the university’s own legal council David Aronofsky had been advised by the National Association of College and University Attorneys that hiding a felon behind the student code of conduct may violate state laws.

Geez – you have to go to law school to know that? Because that’s what many of us have been complaining about for months.

And just to repeat a salient point here – when you deny someone justice, you have violated their civil rights.

Just in case anyone is wondering why the U.S. Justice Department civil rights division is in town.

I also tend to think that Coach Pflugrad won’t be showing up to that office he still has over there at U. Montana.

This morning we get even nastier news that thug Foley sought to use the so-called Student Code of Conduct against the rape victim who had been speaking publicly about the handling of the rape and sexual assault cases at the U.

AT WHAT POINT IS FOLEY GONE? FOR THE SAKE OF THE UNIVERSITY AND ALL STUDENTS ON CAMPUS, I DON’T CARE WHAT IT COST – GET THIS THUG OUT OF THE UNIVERSITY SYSTEM. PERIOD.

The fact that his questions were even friggin’ tolerated among university administration who were part of his emails on this tactic – the story naming then-Dean of Students Charles Coutur, chief council David Aranofsky, and UM’s director of equal opportunity and affirmative action Lucy France – is beyond comprehension.

At this point, if every parent in this state – if every parent of every out of state child – and if every alumni from everywhere hasn’t contacted the Montana Board of Regents to direct them to take a comprehensive investigation and correction of this malfeasance, then they should be now.

Even more disgusting for Missoulians, the every-so-pleasant Mayor John Engen was right in there with U Montana’s Vice President Tim Foley and President Royce Engstrom. Working feverishly to protect the University of Montana image (and those that had violated the rights of sexual assault victims), even after Engstrom & Co. had facilitated the escape of the Saudi rapist – while violating the civil rights of Missoula City Police officer Geoff Curtis.

Progressive Mayor Engen? Calling a cop out on the carpet and sending him to apologize to UM President Royce Engstrom for an email he send while off duty and from his private email account?

And just to repeat a salient point here – the First Amendment which protects free speech is a civil right.

How does an elected official send a police officer – who is charged with enforcing the law and protecting the rights of others – off to apologize for exercising his right to free speech? The pornographic assault on the constitution with just this one incident is simply astounding.

And sure – there will still be those out there defending our illustrious Mayor Engen, because after all, he’s a nice fun guy. Tells lots of great jokes at parties.

Katie J. M. Baker at Jezebel picked up an important piece of information (imo) in her weekend in the U.S.’s new Rape Capitol – and those of you still wishing to give the oh-so-nice Mayor John Engen a pass would do wise to take notice. Because things aren’t going to change here until all of the problem players are held in check.

Ms. Baker refers to Engen’s interview with CNN’s with Erin Burnett, which I had caught live. I was caught off guard with Burnett quizzing Engen on reports that the police were hading out pamphlets on false reporting penalties to rape and assault victims. Engen’s interview had left me upset not only for his inability – even with the justice department in town looking into civil rights violations – to grasp the seriousness of situation, but also his convoluted excuse-making for Chief Muir’s handing out of pamphlets.

Engen also falsely puts forth that Muir didn’t believe in the literature he was handing out. Now – anyone that pays attention here in Missoula knows that Muir did put forth that most rape reports were false until he was corrected by council woman Cynthia Wolken.

Ms. Baker went a digging on that one and spoke with the woman who had brought forth that allegation.

The next few weeks were even more frustrating for Kerry. The detective assigned to her case canceled meetings, failed to call her back, and told Kerry “not to expect much.” After interviewing a tearful Gabe, the detective concluded he was so distraught that he was possibly suicidal. “I was like, great, I’m glad you’re so concerned about his well-being,” Kerry said. When she asked Police Chief Muir why it mattered if she had a boyfriend, he told her that most rape reports are false. After she argued that, in fact, generally accepted data suggests only about six percent are indeed false, Muir emailed her a dubious 2009 report from The Forensic Examiner supporting his claims. “I guess I just didn’t want you to think I was just pulling stuff out of thin air,” he wrote.

Engen defending Police Chief Muir without having the full picture was just a glimpse into his draw-the-wagon’s-up-boys mentality…and it’s even uglier now to look at now that we know the exchange between him and Engstrom…and that he sent a police officer over to apologize for criticizing the university.

Jezebel took a beating in the comments on her post a little – Missoulians and/or UMontana connected people attaching her for coming into “my town” and “my university.” I read Jezebel with too irregularity (I admit) but I do know they don’t give a shit about being criticized. Goddess bless ’em, because this story needs all the attention it can garner.

Even today, in the comments of the Missoulian – with emails of Engen and Engstrom and Foley exposed – there are those that continue to defend the entire group of sycophantic administrators complicit in Missoula and the university’s rape and sexual assault problem.

I know that isn’t what Missoula is about. Goddess help us if it is.

by jhwygirl

With the Clark’s Fork rising, search efforts on a 15 mile stretch of river were called off after efforts both last night and this morning and afternoon failed to turn up the body of a male 19 year old UM student.

The student had jumped into the river with a female companion early yesterday evening around 6:30. Response was instantaneous, as community member Mikal Anderson was on the trail adjacent to the Madison Street footbridge (where the jump was made.) Anderson – a certified EMT and lifeguard instructor – jumped into the river after the young man who had immediately showed signs of trouble once he surfaced briefly from the jump.

I hope he gets the public thanks that he deserves for his effort.

While the loss of a life under such a reckless act does leave me shaking my head wondering why anyone would jump into the flooding waters of a Montana river, what I heard on KECI on this evening’s news leaves me very disturbed. And concerned for the still-visibly shaken Danielle Chesley who witnessed the jump.

Ms. Chesley tells the the story of a young man who was goaded into jumping by a girl – even after having expressed a fear of the water and its temperature. here is the interview, but be warned that you might find it upsetting.

My heart goes out not only to the family of the victim, but also to Danielle – who expresses concern for the (as of yet) unnamed victim’s family. While the family will no doubt struggle with this loss, they will struggle more with the knowledge that some companion of their son prodded him to do something despite his clearly demonstrated misgivings over his ability to handle the situation.

A tragedy. In some ways, a tragedy multiple times over.

After watching the KECI interview, I can’t help but think of what bullying does. Hazing is another form of bullying – and whether the victims are 9 or 19, the results can be tragic. Undoubtedly there was no intent to cause harm, but there also appears to be a lack of concern for the personal safety of the victim.

I am leaning towards this having been a situation of bullying – and I am left wondering what we can do as a society to change the community standards that create an environment where this kind of behavior happens.

Life is never perfect and there will always be tragedies – but recognizing the factors that bring about situations like that which resulted in the tragedy witnessed by Danielle Chesley yesterday evening may be one step in ensuring that a life is saved the next time someone considers pushing someone too far. Or the next time someone considers “yes” to doing what the victim did when the jumped from the bridge.

by jhwygirl

Lots of people have been asking me – today alone I had 3 people ask me about their ballots. There are only a handful of votes I’m certain about, and for Montana’s next U.S. Representative, Bozeman’s Franke Wilmer is my choice, hand’s down, as the best person to represent Montana’s interests in Washington D.C.

Wilmer’s been a favorite around this blog going back to at least 2009. In a politically schizophrenic town like Bozeman – who doesn’t seem to be either Republican or Democrat – Wilmer’s been elected to the state House 3 times, showing she knows how to represent her constituents who are clearly a mixed bag.

I mentioned the women’s gathering in Helena a few weeks back? Here’s Franke Wilmer speaking to the crowd of about 250 people that gathered that day.

I already know Wilmer’s record. I’ve watched her in 3 legislative sessions now, and I know Wilmer knows her issues. I also know she knows how to speak to them. What I like about this video is it shows the thoroughness with which Wilmer approaches the issues. It’s that kind of knowledge that gives her the voice of conviction needed for Montanan’s (and the rest of the U.S.) in Washington D.C. right now.

If I had signed up for absentee ballot, I’d show you a picture of her dot blackened…but for now I will continue to endorse Franke Wilmer to anyone who asks (and those of you reading here.)

(In a fuller disclosure, I’ll note that this last session, Franke departed from one very key issue I wrote extensively about, even before the session began: Eminent domain. That bill passed, and Schweitzer signed it into law. Still stings for me and many others. Regardless, I’m moving on.)

by lizard

I have a lot of respect for Joshua Clover. He has made the choice to risk what too many American poets timidly avoid—participation:

In some ways, Clover, a California native with two volumes of poetry to his name, is reminiscent of poets like the Soviet Union’s Joseph Brodsky or Chile’s Pablo Neruda, for whom the life of the poet was inherently political. At the very least, they were not hidden away in MFA programs, but engaged with the real world and its all-too-real problems. While the American poet is often shy, poets in other parts of the world have had to be bold.

I consider any intersection between politics and poetry to be fascinating, so naturally Clover’s participation in OWS direct action got my attention.

From this Harriet piece by Mathew Timmons, I found this wonderful collaborative statement written by Joshua Clover and Juliana Spahr:

And we would like to say that we think poets have been very involved in politics this last year or three, and we believe they have been involved and committed in part because they are poets but that doesn’t mean they have been involved only as poets. And this distinction seems crucial right now. It may be that the present situation asks us to give a lot of our time to other matters, and we write less poetry in this case, and that is the answer adequate to politics. But this is still what we do as people who write poetry — we are not renouncing this desire that is poetry by recognizing that politics sometimes wants other things of us. And it may be that we feel the need to engage the present situation with poems — that, again, does not make us more or less people who write poems. Maybe we are saying something as improbable as it is simple: that being a poet, if it is to be in any way meaningful, doesn’t mean being a person who engages the world through poems. It means being a person who is in the world and for whom writing poems is one possibility in trying to figure out what is needed. It means recognizing the political as the case, as the situation, before we have been captured by the question that begins, “As poets….” We ask first: what does the situation need to help it along? Poems are neither the answer nor not.

For a sample of neither the answer nor not, this week’s poem comes from Clover’s the totality for kids (2005, University of California Press) enjoy!: Continue Reading »

by lizard

This report has some startling numbers from the absolutely racist Stop and Frisk program. Here are some quick numbers from just last year:

In 2011, 685,724 New Yorkers were stopped by the police.
605,328 were totally innocent (88 percent).
350,743 were black (53 percent).
223,740 were Latino (34 percent).
61,805 were white (9 percent).
341,581 were aged 14-24 (51 percent).

Below the fold, a poem of sorts, or more like an imagined conversation. Continue Reading »

In an Ideal World

by jhwygirl

In an ideal world writers would be ethical. Journalists would be unbiased. Bloggers would be independent.

Now that isn’t what happens all the time.

One thing that is true, and does apply specifically to the current situation is this: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

That force was put into play here in Montana a few years back. Now it is a bunch of forces just pushing of of each other.

The shame of it is that the real policy issues then fall by the wayside. Which is really what the puppet masters wanted in the first place.

Ultimately, life isn’t fair. Politics? Much less so.

For those in any of it with the best of intentions, the better thing to do – in the words of my friend who has rattled many a cage, George Ochenski – is to Keep On Keeping On.

by lizard

Although I have cringed at the titles of her pieces, Katie Baker, writing for Jezebel, has a must read follow up to her initial post titled Entire Montana Town Under Investigation for 80 Alleged Rapes.

My Weekend In America’s So-Called ‘Rape Capital’ documents a literal weekend exploration of our suddenly infamous town.

After four days, here is the gist Katie is taking away from her time spent here:

Nearly everyone I meet in Missoula — on porches, at coffee shops, in bars — agrees on three points. The first is that the city’s police force is a joke, ill-equipped to deal with the heavy interstate narcotics flow (the federal government has officially designated the area as a “high intensity drug trafficking area”), drunk driving (even the head of the student health center has a DUI under his belt), and — yes — sexual assaults that occur on a regular basis. The second point is that rape is very bad. And the third is that the girls in Missoula are the type who “make shit up for attention.” Girls “cry rape” in Missoula, say the girls of Missoula, who are often quicker to blame “sluts” for getting themselves into sketchy situations than are guys. I’m told over and over again that, thanks to the allegations that have surfaced over the past few months, more and more girls are blaming their post-hookup shame on the guys they — in the minds of so many of the Missoulians I meet — happily and carelessly took home the night before.

The picture featured at the top of her post is a highway sign that reads:

Welcome to Missoula (please keep an eye on your drink).

And what Missoula downtown bar more than likely inspired this warning? Based on this from the article, I’d say Stockman’s:

I am dying to meet some football players, and ask everyone I meet if they can help that happen. A few people try, but their Griz friends never text back once they hear there’s a reporter in town. “Go to Stockman’s” is their next best suggestion. I actually start tallying the number of people who tell me to go to Stockman’s if I want to get roofied or raped. (Also, bizarrely, most people I meet, both guys and girls, claim to have been roofied in Missoula at some point.) The one unabashed Stockman’s fan I meet tells me it’s the best late-night bar because “everyone is so wasted at Stock’s that anything can happen. Everyone is wasted, dancing, and it’s the perfect excuse to flirt with the people you’ve seen in class all semester.” But I lose count of those who call it the “creep bar,” or the “date-rape bar,” or the bar that’s impossible to leave without getting groped at least once. These are often the same people who say girls in Missoula are “well, kind of asking for it.”

I commented on an earlier post that I think Stockman’s and the Bodega are two hot spots for predatory drugging, and if this reporter considered tallying the associations with getting “roofied” and going to Stockmans after just four days of casual investigative visitation, I’d say maybe that’s a good place to start asking some questions.

I recommend reading the whole article. It’s tough, but fair.

I also suggest listening to Sally Mauk talking with sociologist Michael Kimmel.

There are some good places to focus some attention in light of this quick American biopsy of a sleepy mountain college town and its problem with its various public institutions and how they respond to allegations of sexual assault.

The prevalence of young women who eagerly participate in victim blaming is one example, as evidenced by Poor Clarissa’s letter that the Kaimin ran.

I wonder how long the Feds will take investigating. My prediction is they will announce their findings after Griz season is over, during winter break, and long after fall elections.

by Ross Keogh

I received an email from State Senate Candidate Tyler Gernant today that contained one of the more substantive policy proposals that I have seen this primary season. I wanted to share it, as I think it deserves broader attention as a practical and initial legislative solution to corporate influence in our political process. In his words:

“So I’m proposing a simple solution until Citizens United is overturned. First, require all corporations that wish to influence our elections to register to become eligible to electioneer. Second, electioneering corporations must publicly disclose their shareholders list, which they are already required to keep by law. Finally, no corporation registered to electioneer would be permitted to receive state contracts or favorable benefits from the state. We shouldn’t be using taxpayer dollars to fund corporate campaigns so they can just get more of our tax dollars.”

While we wait for grass roots permanent solutions, like Stand With Montanans to Mature, Tyler’s suggestions would seem to start the ball rolling in limiting corporate power over our elections.

Game On

by lizard

In a not-very-productive conversation I’ve been having, the person I’ve been mixing it up with took issue with how I referred to politics as a game, like it was some ad hominem attack. Campaigns are contests, and contests have winners and losers, right? Yeah, a game.

The ultimate political game is the presidential race, and to win that game it seems any semblance of common sense constraint gets tossed out the window with the ends justifying the means method of political combat.

In order to become the titular figure head of America, there have been some serious accusations leveled at past victors, like Ronald Reagan. The term October Surprise became associated with the theory that the Iranian hostage situation was prolonged by Reagan, who supposedly cut a secret deal to embarrass Carter and ultimately win the election.

With that in mind, it seems the reckless right, driven by the scary-crazy social conservative wing, may be willing to exploit a blind Chinese dissident to score political points against Obama.

Regardless of that level of speculation, Mitt Romney decided to idiotically insert himself into a sensitive diplomatic matter. Here’s the gist of what he said:

Mitt Romney condemned the Obama administration’s handling of blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, calling the episode “a dark day for freedom” and “a day of shame” for President Obama if, he couched, reports are true that American officials communicated threats to Chen’s family.

Romney’s comments are dangerous, because at the very least it shows how willing he is to exploit a sensitive diplomatic tight-rope walk for short-term political gain. When it comes to playing games, this would be called “playing dirty”.

I read an article last month by Andrew Levine that was interesting, but kind of alarmist and overly speculative, imho. Here’s how it starts:

Will Mitt Romney and Benjamin Netanyahu concoct a war with Iran? Not if they have a tenth of the sense they were born with. But that’s not much consolation when we’re dealing, on the one hand, with a vulture capitalist and one time Mormon bishop whose flip flopping gives opportunism a bad name and, on the other, with a fascistically inclined ethnocratic zealot on a mission from God.

To pivot from national politics to local politics, M. Storin at Intelligent Discontent is accusing the Pam Bucy campaign of illegal robo calls and soliciting readers for evidence. We’ll see how that goes.

It makes one wonder, if the end is winning at any cost, then is the means whatever you can get away with?

by lizard

Every day I’m amazed how my two kids are developing—absorbing and processing their experiences of this world—and if I think too much about it, it sort of freaks me out. Parenting is an immense responsibility. It’s also a crazy dance of adjustments hoping on-the-fly parental innovations will work against new strategies these crafty little ones develop to get what they want.

What my (almost) 4 year old really wants—his currency, in parent-speak—is “screen time”. This includes computer, television, and the most precious (or maybe I should say, pernicious) device, in his eyes, the holy iPhone.

I have to admit, watching him press the button, slide his finger across the touch screen, then go to the settings to put it on “airplane mode” is a little disturbing, and makes me think about how this brand new tech-integrated generation born the first decade of the 21st century is going to be affected.

Luckily, in our house, Mom and Dad quickly issued a parental decree limiting screen time. We don’t want our kids developing nature deficit disorder, which is sadly the reality of too many kids. And we are blessed to live in Missoula, where nature is out our backdoor.

What kids absorb from the deepflow of consumer culture, like my kids will to some degree since their parents watch tv, use computers, and fiddle with those goddamn iPhone apps, is a bit staggering. Limiting exposure feels like a good idea.

Trying to be as aware as possible about what my kids absorb is what this week’s featured poem takes a stab at describing. Enjoy. Continue Reading »

by lizard

I didn’t want to derail jhwygirl’s post taking Bullock to task for his political calculation to win an election, but this post is along the same lines, looking at another single issue revolt that may play some role in how some Montanans decide to vote: medical marijuana.

Bullock may get a bit scraped by how he’s essentially shrugged his shoulders as the Feds came blowing in to bust a bunch of Montanans who thought they were operating within state law (and some who were not).

Pam Bucy may also not receive potential support for her role in opposing SB 326 as a spokesperson for the Montana Police Protective Association.

To show the kind of anger that exists out there, below the fold there’s a letter by Shane “Moose” Combs, of Helena, which was recently published in the Indy. I don’t share the same degree of anger because it doesn’t affect me personally. I don’t know anyone with the degree of need some people truly have, so I don’t feel viscerally betrayed by the politicians that had an opportunity to fix something instead of fuck it up worse.

That said, it is something I’m going to be thinking about when I vote. Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

Quite a dust storm kicking up over the gay marriage position articulated by Montana’s Democratic candidate for governor and current Attorney General Steve Bullock in a recent interview with Charles S. Johnson, Billings Gazette’s State Bureau Chief.

Bullock joined all seven GOP candidates in an anti-gay marriage stance, taking what he surely felt was the safest bet, siding with civil unions instead. From the Billings Gazette:

Bullock said, “I do not favor changing the constitution but would support legislative measures giving committed same-sex couples the opportunity to be together, free from discrimination.” This would include allowing a person to visit his or her partner in the hospital, he said.

The first response I saw was a post from Roberta Zenker of Transmontana, titled Just Say No to the Bullock. Read the entire post, please…and I’ll leave you with how Roberta summed up her feelings on Bullock’s position:

Please forgive my passion on this, but I am hurting. I have been wounded too many times by the results of colloquial thinking. My view is that the LGBT community needs to see itself as a voting block – one that has been denied far too long. I can no longer accept the default position of voting for Dems not because they support our interests, but because they are the lesser of evils. I am getting to the point that I prefer the poison that I know – one whose ideals and actions are susceptible to court challenge, rather than the one that lurks in the conference rooms and minds of hypocrites who accept my donations and volunteer work, but would throw me under the bus for the sake of political expediency.

Forgive that opinion? Hell no – I stand with her.

Today I see D. Gregory Smith with a post titled Steve Bullock Just Lost My Vote. What does DGS have to say?:

I have to say I’m very disappointed in Steve Bullock. Ironically, he apparently is unaware of the pain and suffering of LGBT persons in his state because of legislative discrimination (including a sodomy law still on the books)- or he’s unwilling to acknowledge us in the face of staying safe and winning votes. Barack Obama, on the other hand, has done some amazing things, like already (2 years ago) extending LGBT partner visitation rights in most hospitals. What has Steve Bullock done for us lately ever? Not much. I’m taking the Bullock sticker off of my car.

Bullock is running in a Democratic primary taking a GOP position on gay marriage. Taking a position that will likely be a variation of Mitt Romney’s when-he’s-backed-into-a-corner position on LGBTQ marriage equality.

And to be clear to those of you who think that civil unions and gay marriage are two in the same? They are not.

Are gays a voting block – you betcha. I understand a little how both D. Gregory and Roberta feel – as an environmentalist I feel like every cycle where we near an election, I am supposed to STHU about any criticism of the Democratic candidate because there are other issues more important. Does that compare to being denied rights that my friends and neighbors have? Not at all – but I make that comparison noting that for some reason, my concerns – just like D. Gregory Smith and Roberta Zenker’s – are somehow less important than other issues. Which I’ve come to realize over many years of voting is solely the issue of getting re-elected. We are not supposed to criticize the Democratic candidate because any criticism can harm that candidate in the general. Because the alternative is (most absolutely) far worse.

Because. Because. Because.

Because if you don’t vote for (the Democrat) it’ll all be your fault.

I don’t know how far this is going to take Steve Bullock this time. Democrats across the state have been given a fake candidate and a real candidate – the real candidate taking a position on what many consider to be what should very much be a civil rights issue. Does it harm him in the general?

Its a disgrace for the Democratic Party – and and absolute disaster for the Montana Democrats.

I won’t hold my breath waiting for electeds and officers of the above to express any dissatisfaction with Steve Bullock’s comments. It is, of course, election season – when those electeds and officers abide by the democrat’s version of Ronald Reagan’s Golden Rule: Speak no evil of fellow Democrats. At least during election season. Something I spoke about that a little here in this previous post.

Bullock’s lost my vote. His anti-gay marriage position has sealed it (I had issues with his Otter Creek vote also) for me. And as it stands now, not just for the primary but for the general. I decided some time back that I’m not voting the lesser of two evils.

I will only vote for progressives that are progressives. DINOs, especially, are out of the running for my vote.

Anti gay marriage candidates like Steve Bullock? Not a chance.

by jhwygirl

Still more rolling on the University of Montana rape scandal – the U.S. Department of Education is investigation the University of Montana over its handling of (at least) 11 rapes of UM students over the last 18 months.

Title IX violations would be devastating, and have a disastrous effect on federal funding availability. The U.S. Department of Education has already found violations in how UMontana handles criminal complaints.

They’ll be coordinating with the U.S. Justice Department’s investigation into civil rights violations by UMontana, the City of Missoula Police and County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg’s office.

Van Valkenburg – as a reminder folks – is an elected official, who is up for reelection in 2014.

We’re only getting started on this, Montana. I have little doubt an NCAA investigation is impending…and (just a reminder) UMontana president Royce Engstrom’s contract is up in June. You can speculate for yourself what that means.

In other news – I hope you all caught this editorial by the the UMontana Kaimin editorial board, published two Mondays ago, February 23rd: Go Back to D.C. Jim Foley.

Bold, and much respect in the face of the actions of other leaders within UMontana – such as outgoing ASUM president Jen Gursky who has publicly stood by the University’s handling of the rape and sexual assault scandal since December. A bit troubling, considering her political aspirations here within the City of Missoula – and under the Democratic Party banner.

Vice-president Jim Foley fired back on Friday – showing, quite frankly, his lack of understanding of how the UMontana presents its editorials (a theme they touched on in their call to have him removed) – by saying that he was “staying in Missoula.” While he continued to hid behind privacy concerns (for who, I ask: The victims or the criminals?), he did offer his perspective of the 1st Amendment:

An anonymous and poorly written editorial attacking one’s character is not the signal we should be looking for in print journalism in the 21st century. I like the idea of the Kaimin being the watchdog of UM; however, as the saying goes,the watchdog never barks at one of its own family members. The Kaimin can do better.

So Foley supports the The Kaimin’s right to watchdog journalism – they just shouldn’t watchdog the University.

One is left wondering exactly what kind of education Mr. Foley received in his past life given this lack of comprehension of the 1st Amendment and his understanding of watchdog journalism.

Maybe he should sit in on a constitutional law class. Might do everyone good.

by jhwygirl

County Attorney Fred Val Valkenburg was one of at least two Missoula officials who fired back at the U.S. Justice Department today with a denial of any wrong doing, saying that “we are deeply disturbed” by the allegations and current investigation into any wrongdoings by the county attorney, city police and the University of Montana of their handling of rape & sexual assault cases here in Missoula.

Van Valkenburg is only now “deeply disturbed”?

All I can say to that is “Finally.”

~~~
The U.S. Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for the civil rights division Thomas Perez answered back to Van Valkenburg:

We don’t know (what has gone wrong.) That is why we are conducting an investigation. Ahh – there are a lot of women in this community and there are a lot of other stakeholders in this community who have strong concerns right now about the manner in which sexual assaults have been handled.

The DOJ’s preliminary investigation says that there were over 80 rapes in Missoula over the last 3 years, and 11 reported in the last 18 months involving University of Montana students.

80 rapes here in the City of Missoula over the last 3 years, and only now are Chief Muir and Van Valkenburg “deeply disturbed.”

Join the club. I’ve been a bit disgusted myself over the last few months.

(A thanks to kpax news tonight – I couldn’t find the video they used for tonight’s 10 p.m. news, otherwise I’d of linked to it. Van Valkenburg and Perez’s statements were taken from that report.)

May Day, 2012

by lizard

I tried to catch network news tonight to see how the May Day protests were being reported, considering there’s been some hype about this being the relaunch of #OWS. Unfortunately Obama’s well-played May Day appearance in Afghanistan successfully dominated the headlines, which had lots of positive angles for the reelection effort.

Not having images of thousands of protesters mobilized across the country featured prominently on the boob-tube was just one of them.

Instead on the tube we had Obama saying things like

“As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it is time to renew America.”

As the campaign version of Obama got his moment before the serious war machinery, talking about renewal and other meaningless political rhetoric, activists were getting the old NYPD/FBI intimidation treatment:

Oliver said the National Lawyer’s Guild is aware of at least five instances of NYPD paying activists visits, including one where the FBI was involved in questioning. (He wouldn’t elaborate.) We spoke to three of these activists.

In the first case: activist Zachary Dempster said that six NYPD officers broke down the door of his Bushwick, Brooklyn apartment at around 6:15am this morning. Dempster said they were armed with a warrant for the arrest of his roommate, musician Joe Crow Ryan, for a six-year-old open container violation. But Dempster believes this was an excuse to check in on him, as he’d been arrested in February at an Occupy Wall Street Party that was broken up by cops, and charged with assaulting a police office and inciting a riot.

After running his ID, a detective questioned Dempster in his bedroom for about five minutes about tomorrow’s May Day protest, he said.

“They asked what I was doing tomorrow, and if I knew of any activities, any events—that was how the conversation started,” Dempster said. Dempster said he’s not planning doing much, as his case from February is still open. Dempster’s roommate was also asked about him and May Day.

I’m sure this is all just to keep us good Americans safe, because there are lots of threats out there. To emphasize that point, I can point to another dangerous plot thwarted by the FBI. This time, instead of dark-skinned suspects, the FBI has produced 5 caucasians who were allegedly plotting to blow up a bridge in Cleveland:

Five men, at least three of them anarchists, plotted to blow up a bridge near Cleveland, but there was no danger to the public because the explosives were inoperable and were controlled by an undercover FBI employee, the agency said Tuesday in announcing the men’s arrests.

The target of the plot was a bridge that carries a four-lane state highway over part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in the Brecksville area, about 15 miles south of downtown Cleveland, the FBI said.

Authorities said three of the men were arrested Monday and are self-described anarchists, not tied to international terrorism.

Occupy Cleveland media coordinator Jacob Wagner said at least some of the suspects had attended the group’s events but that they weren’t affiliated with or representing the group.

So not terrorists, but anarchists, which, really, is almost as scary. AND they went to some occupy meetings in Cleveland. What a gift!

Notice, though, that this was another example of a “non-threat” threat, because the bombs were “controlled by an undercover FBI employee”.

The FBI has become very good at busting plots they help concoct then trap stupid people in. Also, great timing, but I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

Those who continue building occupy wallstreet into a movement capable of taking on the systemic corruption and cronyism of late-stage capitalism are going to be in for a bumpy spring/summer. Obama may talk about renewal, but when it comes to the suppression of dissent, for his administration, it’s business as usual.

by Pete Talbot

I almost missed this comment.  It was buried in the “Contact 4&20 Blackbirds” site.

So, sure, Nancy, glad to help.  Here’s the skinny:

My husband and I have started a campaign to get Rush Limbaugh off the air in Missoula. We delivered a petition with over 1600 names to KGVO about a month ago; since that time, we have created a website, rushoutofmissoula.com, on which we list local and national advertisers on the program, and their contact info. As of today, 17 advertisers have pulled their ads from the show. We would appreciate your including this info on your blog for a bit of time – and would love to see some more signatures (we’re over 1700 now), and feedback! Thanks for your time, Nancy Cooper




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