Archive for October, 2012

by jhwygirl

Released a half hour ago by citizens for responsible ethics in washington the entire court file on the Barkus/Rehberg drunken boating accident in August 2009 has been placed online for everyone to see.

HERE are the papers, and HERE is the report from CREW’s Anne Weismann.

I’m off to reading…….

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By JC

“This election is not between Obama and Romney, it is between corporate power and us.” — Chris Hedges

There have been many asides and aspersions cast about the blogosphere and elsewhere about 4&20 lately concerning why we have or haven’t had much to say about the 2012 elections (or where we choose to write them). Both Liz and jhwygirl have alluded to their reasons — combinations of disgust over corruption and hypocrisy, among others —  and I decided 6 months ago to hold my tongue during the long run up to the election. Pete’s been putting up some posts at PoliticalMontana.

I choose not play into the hands of party hardliners who want to accuse us independent lefties of somehow being responsible for whatever dem losses that transpire (either directly through third party votes, voting regressive, or somehow doing the work of the right by suppressing dem, independent or undecided voters as we try to hold a politician accountable). Actually, I really don’t care if dem/lib/progressive party activists lambast me, as I really doubt that I have much influence over established voting patterns, outside of the few phone calls I get from fam and friends asking about issues or candidates on their absentee ballots.

If anything, the attacks have pushed me (and many others) further away from the mainstream of contemporary electoral politics, and solidified our views that the system as it is, does not provide avenue to meaningful reform. So it becomes an exercise in how, if, or to what degree does one participate in elections, knowing that anything less than a soft revolution is necessary to bring about the conditions in which our future can realistically be built. Or are apocalyptic visions of the future really just a matter of degree and timing, and resistance is futile?

So the following article, “Why I’m Voting Green” by Chris Hedges comes at the appropriate time for me to do a “me too” ditto on his take and his conversation with Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party nominee for President. While I believe that Hedges does a good job in his article and interview with Stein, I still think that he isn’t willing to go the extra mile and approach directly the question of whether or not capitalism and democracy can coexist. I for one, don’t think that they can — at least not as currently conceived and constructed.

The policies that Stein advance are likely to be better liked by those to the left of the political spectrum, and if this election were only about policies, she most likely would win. But our elections no longer are about policies — or maybe they are not about the big questions of out times: empire & war; capitalism; climate change; eroding civil liberties, etc.. They more and more are about wedge issues designed by the corporate funders of our elections meant to instill fear, and reduce the voting populace (and the less the better) to contests based around ignorance and deception, to which the defending party turns into the lesser of two evils and harm reduction candidacies. And there are many who believe that the better harm reduction is done when democrats are in minority status in the Senate.

Having said all that, I will vote, as down ticket races still have some meaning at the local and state level. There are several ballot issues to be voted on that are designed to either restrict further our civil liberties, undo the work of bat shit crazy legislators, or to begin the process of identifying the roots of some of our electoral and constitutional problems.

Instead of just taking Hedges’ piece and reducing it to blurbs to illuminate, or asking you to click a link and jump to another website, I’ll include Hedges’ piece intact, and hope that you take the time to read it, and comment here.

Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

In case you missed it, supermontanareporter John S. Adams busted out in his blog this morning with a preview of tomorrow (Tuesday) night’s Frontline on PBS, titled Big Sky, Big Money.

It’s a political “BOOM” if I’ve ever seen one – pulling together a strange connection of a stolen car, a meth dealer, the Montana GOP and American Traditions Partnership, ProPublica paired up with Frontline, releasing their report this morning.

I’m still reading through it all, but all I can say right now is that I’m really disgusted. What the ProPublica/Frontline report lays out is NOT a group of one or two bad individuals, but really an institutionalized and flagrant disregard for Montana law.

For a party that attempts to Lord some sort of moral superiority over Democrats. Or liberals. Or progressives – it’s a pretty sickening case of hypocrisy. They like the salutation “Patriot”? More like “Traitor.”

What’s clear is this: The Montana GOP are running candidates that are flagrantly violating established Montana law. This isn’t some sort of Ed Butcher bloc of crazies. The ProPublica/Frontline reports on 23 Montana legislators? How many more are there that we don’t know?

These guys swear to uphold the Montana and the U.S. Constitution. Obviously, it means nothing – they’ve got their own interpretation of it, and that’s how they fly.

It’s disgraceful.

Set your DVR’s for 8:30 p.m. tomorrow. Go read What everyone’s talking about: Big Sky, Big Money” over at The Lowdown – he’s got tons of links.

by lizard

My poetry library just passed 600 titles. The book that did it, James Welch’s Riding the Earthboy 40, is a book of poems I’m surprised took this long for me to find.

James Welch was born in Browning, Montana, and studied under Richard Hugo. It’s Montana literary lore. This week’s (somewhat tardy) poetry series comes from that collection. Enjoy! Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

At this point the unethical behavior of GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill and attorney general candidate Tim Fox is pretty astounding. To be clear, I’m not talking about things like Rick Hill’s lobbyist connection to the insurance industry nor Tim Fox’s ethical conflicts with running for an office when his own private work has him profiting off of American Tradition Partnerships, the “Citizen’s United” group which has sued the State of Montana to allow corporate money into our elections and to eliminate maximum limits in campaign donations.

I’m talking about Rick Hill keeping $.5 million bucks and Tim Fox keeping $32,000 in anonymous money laundered through the Montana Republican Party in a donation during a six-day window between court rulings on the American Traditions Partnership v Bullock State of Montana case which has out of state interests suing the state to remove maximum limits to campaign donations.

On October 9th, Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Steve Bullock won an appeal to the 9th District Court a week after a lower court had removed Montana’s campaign donation limits. It was in that six-day time period where the Montana Republican Party let loose with a $532,000 donation to the two offices that clearly they desperately would like to win in November’s election.

Which should raise concern for any voter.

There’s more unethical murkiness to this – and Charles Johnson details it here: On August 30th, the Montana Republican Party had $64,450 in the bank, but on October 4th – the day after the ruling which opened that six-day window – the Montana Republican Party somehow found $500,000.

Want more unethical murkiness? Executive director Bowen Greenwood won’t say where the money came from either – telling Johnson that it would show up when they made their next campaign finance filing.

Now really? Why not let Montanans know where $500,000 came from? When it has to be reported anyway? Is that the Montana Republican Party’s attitude toward transparency?

Why am I asking these questions when clearly I already know the answer?

The whole darn thing reeks to an astounding level. At a time when objections to money in politics is at an all-time high, Rick Hill and Tim Fox and the Montana Republican Party are essentially part-and-parcel with American Traditions Partnership/Citizen’s United in seeking to dismantle Montana’s long time laws regarding campaign finance.

I won’t get into the whole legal/illegal maneuverings going on between both campaigns – that’s going to play out long after the election is done. It also detracts from some of the very important choices we have, and pulls voters that don’t pay real attention away from resources that might and should be focusing on those other very real issues.

What is fact about Rick Hill and Tim Fox keeping $532,000 in anonymous money given to them during a six-day window between court rulings on a case seeking to dismantle Montana law – emphasis added here since Rick Hill and TIm Fox are seeking state offices – is that they are UNETHICAL.

Lets say that again: UNETHICAL.

And ETHICS, my friend, isn’t necessary about law – ETHICS is about the APPEARANCE of improper behavior.

And Montana, my friend, has laws about that…and I mention that because while I said I wasn’t going to get into the whole legal/illegal maneuverings, I will again add emphasis here in stating that Montana has ethics laws for its elected and appointed officials – and we have Rick Hill and Tim Fox not only seeking to dismantle Montana’s laws and are currently seeking elected offices in the State of Montana.

Either they have no understanding of ethics.

Or they do and they don’t give a damn.

Either way, what Rick Hill and Tim Fox are doing by keeping $532,000 in anonymous money is UNETHICAL.

Neither of them deserves to be elected. Hill and Fox are working to dismantle Montana laws, they’re skirting around court rulings, and they and their party are bathing themselves with anonymous money.

Hill and Fox are UNETHICAL and are flaunting it at Montanans.

by lizard

The last presidential debate was wildly unimpressive if you were watching for policy distinctions between the two candidates. If you were watching to get wasted, you probably loved the groveling Israel lovefest that erupted from both men.

Mitt did particularly bad, exposing how empty a vessel he will be for whatever neocon slime his handlers will pour into him, if elected. If elected, we’re sure to get the full Sparta.

If Obama is elected, we’ll get more of what we’ve been getting for 4 years: a cosmetic repackaging of US Imperialism.

The latest, creepiest terminology has just begun trickling into my twitter feed: Disposition Matrix.

The link is to an article titled Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists, put out just this evening by the Washington Post. It’s Obama’s new WAR ON TERROR OVERSEAS CONTINGENCY OPERATIONS product line, and it’s really, really not good:

Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the “disposition matrix.”

The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. U.S. officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the “disposition” of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.

Although the matrix is a work in progress, the effort to create it reflects a reality setting in among the nation’s counterterrorism ranks: The United States’ conventional wars are winding down, but the government expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years.

Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaeda continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight.

“We can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us,” a senior administration official said. “It’s a necessary part of what we do. . . . We’re not going to wind up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying, ‘We love America.’ ”

That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism. Targeting lists that were regarded as finite emergency measures after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are now fixtures of the national security apparatus. The rosters expand and contract with the pace of drone strikes but never go to zero.

It doesn’t matter who wins in two weeks when it comes to developing the infrastructure of systematic killing Obama has expanded, significantly. From the same article:

For an administration that is the first to embrace targeted killing on a wide scale, officials seem confident that they have devised an approach that is so bureaucratically, legally and morally sound that future administrations will follow suit.

During Monday’s presidential debate, Republican nominee Mitt Romney made it clear that he would continue the drone campaign. “We can’t kill our way out of this,” he said, but added later that Obama was “right to up the usage” of drone strikes and that he would do the same.

Yeah voting!

Speaking of voting, Bradblog Strikes Back! against Think Progress for smearing members of the liberal blogosphere, including Brad, with the conspiracy theorist label for writing about voting machines and following the money.

It’s a great article, with an e-mail exchange and the curious observation that Forbes, initially included in the smear, was quietly removed from the Think Progress article online.

The privatization of our public voting system has never been addressed, so it’s still a problem.

And instead of taking it seriously, the conventional response, even when credible journalists report factual political connections, is to smear the messengers with the conspiracist pejorative.

Maybe Brad Friedman should consider himself lucky. The Disposition Matrix is in its infancy, and has yet to include his obviously insane conspiratorial ravings in its growing reach.

Missoula Lock Up

by lizard

Kathleen Jenks, Missoula’s head municipal court judge, needs to be commended. Because of her systematic dismantling of alternatives to jail, the bottleneck in the system has become the jail, and the jailers aren’t too happy about it.

Jenks should be commended because she is showing Missoula how problematic her unipolar, hammer/nail approach to judicial accountability is, in practice. After Jenks’ing treatment courts and effectively scorching the earth of that decision by firing Marie Anderson, it’s now the work program being subjected to intentional judicial atrophy:

In the past, just 5 percent of the people Judge Louden sentenced in Municipal Court did jail time, said Peggy Turner, an administrative assistant in the detention center. She said the bulk of them – 75 percent to 80 percent – served their sentences through the work program instead, but Judge Jenks isn’t using that program.

“She’s starting to throw everybody in jail instead of letting them do the work program,” said Turner, who schedules people in the program.

The program allows people to work off their sentences; one day of work equals two days in jail. People do maintenance at the facility, they work at the fairgrounds, and many request hours at the animal shelter.

“It gives them a chance to do something constructive rather than waste their time in jail,” Harris said.

It costs less, too, Turner said: The work program costs $35 a day, and jail costs $100 a day. She used to have six or eight people working every day, and the schedule would be full two and a half months in advance. Now, she said, she doesn’t have enough people to work, and she’s only scheduled a week or week and a half out.

The result? Keila Szpaller leads her Sunday piece with this:

For the first time since it opened, the Missoula County jail has been consistently full for months, and tensions inside are running high, according to detention center staff.

The jail on Mullan Road has been operating since 1999, and it accommodates roughly 224 adult inmates from the local courts. Detention manager Mark Harris said the facility is considered full when capacity hits 80 percent.

“The last 10 months, we’ve been at capacity every day,” Harris said. “Before that, we occasionally got there, but not for a long period at a time.”

In the past, most of the inmates had committed serious crimes, but the population makeup has changed, too, detention officials said. Now, the bulk of the cells are filled with people who have committed minor offenses.

There are aspects of this increased job security for jailers that I agree with, like DUI offenders getting prolonged opportunities for introspection.

But when it’s someone who is obviously mentally ill, a detention facility and its staff are not prepared to provide adequate care, as recent history and costly lawsuits have shown.

If cost is the main concern, then let’s start doing the math of cramming the jails and starving the work program. And if that math doesn’t work, then maybe it’s time for some voter math, like how many days until Jenks is up for reelection.

16 Days Left…

by lizard

At least we can laugh at it, right? Saturday Night Live only had to slightly deviate from the actual presidential debate performance to be funny. Libya? Mitt bombs, in like a totally metaphorical way, and Obama drops the mic (which is much better than dropping actual bombs on actual people).

Obama needs all the help he can get right now, with just 16 days left. Polls, the strange statistical creatures that they are, aren’t being nice to the Obama campaign, as reported by this Huffington Post article:

National polls released on Tuesday reinforced the conclusion that Republican nominee Mitt Romney has received a significant “bounce” since last week’s debate against President Barack Obama, erasing Obama’s lead and gaining a slight edge in some surveys.

So, as a pathetically small percentage of eligible voters get ready to vote (some on machines in swing states that simply can’t be somehow tied to Bain because that would be fucking ridiculous) is there anything that might hurt Mitt’s surge this late in the game?

Greg Palast has done a lot of work to arrive at the number 15.3 million dollars. That is how much money Mitt and Ann got as a result of the evil, socialist auto bailout.

While this number, properly deployed, could possibly benefit Obama, it’s also a number that might call into question who exactly this socialist wealth re-distributor actually distributes money to.

But don’t tell the nuts on the far right Obama is distributing their tax money to Mitt Romney, because they are very committed to a particular narrative, as exemplified by this comment from Dave’s prediction Mitt is gonna win:

Millions of people are of the same opinion as I am. This will NOT become a socialist nation. We will NOT have the “fruits” of our labors confiscated. We will NOT see governance by executive order continue. Make no mistake about it, Obama is a socialist. He has surrounded himself with people who are openly communist, scum of the earth. He wants to see the US weaken and lose stature in the world. The rise of Islam to rule the world is just fine with him. Wasn’t there a “world war” in the middle ages, the Crusades, fought to stop Muslims from ruling the world? What are the current events of today?

I don’t know if there is any data on how many people voting for Mitt are doing so to stop the Socialist/Communist takeover of America, but these accusations have been carefully nurtured and exploited by the GOP for pretty much the whole, long campaign. Why? Simple, because stoking delusional angst is an important part of their effort to turn out the base.

Speaking of bases, Obama still has a problem with his. Naysayers nipping at the heals of the president do have an accumulating drag on momentum. In that vein, Mike Whitney reports on the first sell out of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. For a president that wanted to suck up that OWS burst of energy, it seems the sucking just isn’t sustainable when what sucks is what actually happens—or doesn’t happens—with those arrogant criminals on wall street.

This from the Wall Street Journal:

“Federal regulators are considering giving mortgage lenders protection from certain lawsuits…

The potential move, which would be a partial victory for mortgage lenders, is part of a broader effort to write new rules for the U.S. housing market in the wake of the mortgage meltdown. The proposal for the first time would establish a basic national standard for loans, known as a ‘qualified mortgage.’ (“Home Loans May Get Shield”, Wall Street Journal)

And this is how Whitney ends his piece:

The banks don’t need full legal immunity. What they need is tough-minded regulators breathing down their necks 24-7, ready to slap them into leg irons and drag them off to the hoosegow for the slightest infraction. That’s what they really need.

But, then, you already knew that.

That’s called preaching to the choir, because it’s far from certain whether or not Americans actually understand the degree of criminal activity still being perpetrated against us by the 2BIG2FAIL money junkies.

Mitt clearing 15 million from a federal bailout he publicly opposed—that Obama gave him—is really quite amazing, when you think about it.

Of course, that’s the problem: both sides have good reason to avoid doing anything to make potential voters think about how bipartisan the corruption is.

By JC

By JC

By JC

Mansplaining

by lizard

Gender is such a volatile aspect of the post-debate analysis, only an asshole with a dick would follow up some flippant sing-song bullshit post with another attempt at acknowledging the obvious: chicks aren’t doing so well in this particular political cycle.

Of the three presidential debates, Candy Crowley represents the sole female moderating voice tasked with shaping the two-dude rhetorical tango we got to see last night. Here’s what Alyssa Rosenberg had to say in her ThinkProgress piece about that before last night’s debate:

It’s already frustrating that the lone female moderator for the presidential debates was assigned to the town hall-format debate, a setting where the Gallup Organization picks the audience, who in turn get to submit questions. Crowley can cut questions and order them, and there is room for her to ask follow-up questions, though she is obviously constrained by the subjects the attendees prioritize. Through both the first presidential debate and the lone vice-presidential debate, there’s been a single question asked about issues that particularly concern women, Martha Raddatz’s query about how Vice President Biden and Congressman Ryan’s religious beliefs affected their personal views of abortion. There are a lot of questions that could be posed about the candidate’s national approaches to abortion policy alone, not to mention the inquiries that moderators, male and female alike, could make into the many creeping restrictions on women’s reproductive health and autonomy on the state level.It’s frustrating that women should have to be responsible for raising questions about issues like contraception or pay equity, which of course affect men as well. But given that it seems that if women and the men who care about these issues care about these issues want to see them discussed, women have to ask them ourselves, it’s difficult to see Crowley assigned the debate with this format and its limitations.

Women got short-changed in the first debate, so expectations were high.

And how did Mitt respond?

He said stuff like this:

Now, one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort, but number two, because I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce, that sometimes they need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said, I can’t be here until 7:00 or 8:00 at night. I need to be able to get home at 5:00 so I can be there for — making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said, fine, let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.

We’re going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the economy I’m going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they’re going to be anxious to hire women. In the — in the last four years, women have lost 580,000 jobs. That’s the net of what’s happened in the last four years. We’re still down 580,000 jobs. I mentioned 3 1/2 million women more now in poverty than four years ago.

What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy, so strong that employers are looking to find good employees and bringing them into their workforce and adapting to a — a flexible work schedule that gives women the opportunities that — that they would otherwise not be able to — to afford.

Oh Mitt! Cheerio, good boy.

Over at Slate, that quirky Yglesias hopefully doesn’t fall into the category of mansplaining when he says this:

I am favorably disposed toward both full employment and flexible workplace scheduling. But what Romney is saying here is that due to their family responsibilities women are burdened with an inherent disadvantage in the labor market. In conditions of full employment, firms do become desperate for workers and are willing to do things they won’t do in weak labor market. High-margin businesses, for example, hand out raises to competent experienced workers. And firms of all kinds take risks on people they wouldn’t otherwise go for—those who lack formal credentials, those who might have had legal problems in the past, smart people who seem to lack experience, and so forth. Romney’s suggestion is that a woman—at least a woman with a family—is basically like a high school dropout with a felony conviction in his background. A marginally employable worker who’ll get a job if and only if the labor market is super-tight. After all, everyone knows mom needs to be home at 5:00 to start cooking dinner.

But maybe dad should cook dinner!

After all, not every job can be flexible. When I was little my mother worked in the art department for Newsweek and it simply wouldn’t have been possible for someone to perform that job without working very long hours a couple of days a week. Since you want your newsweekly to be reasonably timely, a huge share of the final proofing and layout decisions have to be made as close to the shipping day as possible. That means you work incredibly long hours on the closing days, and compensating time off at other points in the week. If you’re a parent in a job like that, someone else has to take care of your kids when you’re closing the issue. As it happens, my dad wasn’t much of a cook at that point in his life and my recollection is that we would usually order pizza. But one way or another, it was quality family time and cherished childhood memories for me as well as a totally indispensible offloading of childcare responsibilities that were simply incompatible with my mom’s job.

Note from the quote above Matt Yglesias is the product of a traditional two-parent household. That’s probably why he hasn’t contributed to the uniquely American epidemic of gun violence yet. Because, according to Romney, there is a direct connection between gun violence and the parent-to-kid ratio.

I’m no Nate Silver, but I will make a brash prediction: there will be women voting for Mitt Romney, like probably in the thousands.

Who are they, and what are they thinking?

Binders Of Women

by lizard

The title of the post is both a twitter meme and opportunistic title of a poem I just wrote, because tonight’s presidential debate was…inspiring!

*

B.O.W.

open thy binders
you vagina deciders
who stop wars by shutting your legs
who have baby machines
god put in your bellies
quick, a vigorous protection!!!
not from the cocks
some sheathed, some not
one eyed and blind as a mole
who dig in your dirt
and delegitimize hurt
acting the Mt. Everest of Assholes
no, protect cells
and life’s rapid growth
who cares what personal hells
her body has known
after all, it’s on loan
for that miraculous storm of life
which requires protection
and strict legislation
to kill the right of her choice
to make whatever decision
(with Dad’s consultation?)
especially if it means she could die
so yes family planning
and screw stupid banning
of access to contraception
but life after birth
has diminishing worth
like these two dickheads fighting
for election

—William Skink

by lizard

Dorothea Lasky has a great article titled What Poetry Teaches Us About the Power of Persuasion at The Atlantic. Here’s a snip:

The 60 students waiting patiently to get into one creative writing section at an elite private college where I taught loved writing poetry. The 2 year olds I used to teach over a decade ago in a wealthy day care loved poetry, too. Even in their pre-writing state, they recited poem after poem for me, and I wrote each one down for them to then illustrate. At an underserved elementary school, I read Merwin, Sexton, and Whitman poems out loud, and the 5 year olds in in the class loved to bounce around the rhythms and the sing-songy rhymes, along with the slanted ones. It was the music of poetry that they loved. The music of poetry is a delight for the mind.

A lot of people argue that poetry is “difficult” or that it has no real value for children’s future. That’s just not true. If you think poetry isn’t important to your students, you are not listening to them. You are not noticing the headphones in their ears, blasting poetry to soothe their walk to class. You are not thinking of them in their rooms at night, writing down their experiences. It may be that you are defining poetry too dogmatically.

Great children’s books are pure poetry, and my kids love it. For awhile now my oldest son has been mimicking his dad writing poems by typing strings of letters on my computer, and we practice reciting poems into the microphone mommy makes daddy keep in the garage.

During one of these garage sessions my son was making up titles to his poems. This week’s poetry series is simply two of his titles because, though I’m obviously biased, I think they’re brilliant. Enjoy!

*

THE SCREAMING NEVER BEGINS

WHERE THE RAILROAD TRACK IS ON THE WALL

—William Skink’s 4 year old son

by lizard

How do you say “I’m sorry that bomb blew up your wedding party” in Pashto?

Thanks to a contract from the Department of Defense, the University of Montana’s Critical Language and Cultural Program is one of the few places you can learn dialects like Pashto and Dari. That program, as reported in today’s Missoulian, is currently flourishing.

“The bottom line is, we’ve grown to become the best language and cultural course in the U.S.,” said Donald Loranger, director of the program. “We’ve broadened our base to include other languages – Korean and Arabic – and we’re the school of choice for people who want to get fluent, which you need to do to win and the hearts and minds of people.”

Loranger regurgitates the premise of counterinsurgency in this article like our media regurgitates propaganda (poorly edited, I might add, unless the director of a language program can’t speak English well).

After completing this nationally renowned program, will students be able to explain to Afghanis in their own language why we’ve invaded and occupied their country for 11 years? Hell, it would be fantastic if Americans could get a coherent explanation in English about why we have so many resources deployed in Afghanistan instead of the morphing rationales we’ve been handed during this last decade.

The focus is beginning to shift, as Loranger points out in another quote:

“As Pashto declines in its importance, and it hasn’t yet, we’ll have to be positioned to do other things,” Loranger said. “We started up our Korean program, and there’s more emphasis on Dari. We hope to do Chinese down the road.”

Yes, let’s do Chinese down the road. Maybe I’ll give my kids a head start. Anyone know of any Mandarin immersion programs for 4 year olds?

by lizard

Last December, Kathleen Jenks replaced Donald Let ‘Em Go Louden as head judge for Missoula’s Municipal Court. Now, instead of a judge with an appropriate street handle for being notoriously lenient, we have a judge with a last name that’s become a sort of verb to those facing a more vigorous degree of accountability for their actions—getting Jenks’d.

More accountability for repeat offenders is welcomed by some, and not necessarily seen by this blogger as being a net negative.

But not every repeat offender is effectively dealt with through purely punitive measures.

Fortunately, Missoula has been at the innovative forefront with treatment courts, or co-occurring courts.

Unfortunately, that effort got recently Jenks’d.

Missoula Municipal Court no longer refers offenders to treatment courts designed to help people with substance abuse and mental health issues get their lives back on track before their behavior gets too out of control.

Municipal Court Judge Kathleen Jenks said she made the decision a couple of months ago after realizing that only a single person from Municipal Court was assigned to the last session of the treatment court, formally known as Missoula Co-Occurring Treatment Court.

Among other issues, Jenks said, the city just doesn’t have the resources to devote that much time and money to one person.

“It’s like the Cadillac” of court systems, she said, lauding the goals of treatment courts. “But I don’t know that we can right now, given our volume, afford the Cadillac.”

In response, a recent Missoulian editorial put it like this:

Calling the Missoula Co-Occurring Treatment Court a “Cadillac” option, Jenks explained in a Missoulian news story last Sunday that the city doesn’t have the resources to devote to such a small number of offenders.

These are for the most part non-violent offenders who have agreed to follow a detailed plan to receive a reduced or deferred sentence. These are people whose run-ins with the law stem from their struggles with substance abuse or mental illness. These are people who, given the right kind of help regaining control over their lives, will not commit the same offenses again.

So it’s a matter of devoting sufficient resources now to prevent recurring offenses – or devoting them on an exponential scale in the future. Drug courts, veterans courts and mental health courts will not be the best option for every offender – that doesn’t mean they should be eliminated as options altogether.

I whole-heartedly agree. And so does Theresa Conley, who coordinated the treatment courts until this year. Yesterday, her op-ed was published in the Missoulian. You can read it in full, below the fold. Continue Reading »

Pants On Fire

by lizard

Congressional kabuki for partisan political points. What else could motivate the almost universally despised congressional slugs from slithering out of a perfectly nice recess to explore the Libyan consulate attack?

In their clamor to hold this hearing, who cares what kind of sensitive information they may broadcast, right? It’s election season, so gotta hit the president while it can hurt.

And if that works, maybe there’s a way to include a recent attack at a US embassy in Yemen that killed an embassy employee. That’s good stuff right there, for the GOP.

Republicans are acting their part as disgusting political creatures pimping death even before those deaths are confirmed, like in Mitt’s lie-loaded run at the presidency, where exploiting the Libyan “consulate” attack is no big thing.

It took the mother of a dead Navy SEAL publicly shaming Romney to finally get that slick-haired asshole to stop using her son’s death for political gain.

Unfortunately the congressional inquiry—despite the political opportunism that motivated it—is significant, because once again the Obama administration has been caught spinning out false information as it manages international embarrassments.

That’s a nice way of saying it looks like they were lying.

In February of 2011, I wrote a post about Raymond Davis. Obama went in front of the cameras and lied about Davis being a diplomat. He wasn’t.

But lies on both sides are so pervasive, it hardly moves the needle on the American speedometer to point it out (to get that thing going, compromising the integrity of football is the way to go).

It will be interesting to see how foreign policy gets treated in upcoming presidential debates. Romney will try to out-hawk Obama on Syria, and Obama will continue to spin the forced exit of combat troop from Iraq as his idea.

Here’s something true: both presidential candidates are skilled liars. It’s like a prerequisite for office.

by lizard

Kansas City Chiefs fans are serious about their football. I spent 5th grade through high school growing up in Kansas City, so I know. I took football much more seriously back then.

Well, Chiefs fans got put in their place by Eric Winston—an offensive lineman who plays for the Chiefs—after a truly disgraceful display by Chiefs fans at Arrowhead stadium last Sunday. I can’t say it any better than Eric does, so please watch the clip below.

On A Positive Note…

by lizard

Things are looking up, Missoula. The Griz won, the young man who violated Missoula with his Rape Nation vandalism got the disproportionate justice a mountain college town with a PR problem deems necessary, and Flathead’s high-end housing market is rebounding, according to some generous Sunday “reporting” by the Missoulian.

In that particular article, I found this insightful comment from Theresa Mondale, who works for United Country Real Estate:

“Yes, people are starting to realize the end of the world is not coming,” Mondale says. “I routinely have high-end potential buyers contacting me.”

For Democrats in damage control mode, the weekend was made significantly less depressing with the Friday jobs numbers showing unemployment dipping below 8%.

To make that news even sweeter, the talking point from the lunatic right was so conspiratorial, anyone who touched that particular effluent of paranoia got deemed a jobs truther.

Good times.

Of course, there are always downers, like that judge who swept away those pesky limits on Montanan’s bulging check books and their deep-pocketed capacity to give top dollar to their favorite candidates.

But mostly, things are fantastic.

Oh, and only 30 days left…

by lizard

A few weeks ago, I fled the Missoula valley with my better half for a weekend in the Paradise valley. We spent most of Saturday making a cursory incursion into Yellowstone, and later that night I started writing a poem.

When I write anything of moderate length, it seems my thematic tendencies have a way of creeping in.

For the past two years the project I’ve been working on—a book length poem titled “Z”—has been built around the idea of being at the end of something, something big. The poem I’ve been tinkering with these past two weeks is a good representation of the larger work it’s a part of.

Before getting to the poem, I should mention there is a reference to beings I call the shamans of entropy. I’m not going to say much about them, but I will say they play a prominent, mostly metaphorical role in the larger poem as co-conspirators to the darker forces represented by the Archons. Enjoy! Continue Reading »

War On Hold For Big Bird

by lizard

For the moment it appears two wars are on hold so Americans can talk about Big Bird at an initial rate of 130,000 tweets per minute during the presidential debate.

Two wars you say?

Yes, because things happen in the world while we watch our Coke/Pepsi candidates fizz fuzzy math at us.

For example, a family got shelled in Turkey, killing five. That resulted in Erdogan making a play for parliamentary war powers.

Turkey’s PM has said his country has no intention of starting a war, after parliament in Ankara authorised military action inside Syria.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the authorisation was purely deterrence but he also warned that his country’s determination should not be tested.

Parliament earlier approved military action in response to Syria’s deadly shelling of a Turkish town.

Sure, no intention at all. Because NATO isn’t going along with it right now. Because America has a choice to make before more wars can start.

And that’s also why Bibi has had to deflate his war hard-on. Uri Avnery covers it pretty effectively, here.

In conclusion, instead of words, pictures.

By JC

Yes, isn’t empire wonderful?

President Zoloft?

by lizard

Way to go, President Obama. Last night, your supporters across the country got to see the passion that those in Wisconsin saw when it came to their fight against the Koch-funded assault against organized labor: nada.

The MSNBC lineup went apoplectic after the debate. Why didn’t Obama use the firepower of the 47% video? Why didn’t Obama stand up for women? Why did he spend so much time looking down, jotting notes? Why did he let a candidate, who had a truly despicable showing in September, get back in the race? WTF?

The best explanation I’ve heard is the bubble of the presidency insulates America’s CEO from anything resembling direct dissent. Simply put, in the last four years, no one has talked to the president like that. And it showed.

The more important take away from this debate is how narrow the range of politically acceptable topics is, as defined by the blue neckties.

Pathetic.

There might be another reason the President appeared so detached. For years, there have been whispers that Obama is clinically depressed, necessitating either Zoloft or Wellbutrin. The link is to a Gawker article put up in September, 2011:

We’re told by a source inside the Times that the paper is preparing a story arguing that Obama no longer finds joy in the political back-and-forth, has seemed increasingly listless to associates, and is generally exhibiting the litany of signs that late-night cable commercials will tell you add up to depression. Or maybe Low T.

Either way, the investigation was described to us as taking seriously the notion that Obama may be suffering from a depressive episode. Of course, absent a telltale Wellbutrin prescription or testimony from the man himself, it’s really impossible to achieve a reliable diagnosis. And a story like “Obama Appears to Suffer From Depression” can be easily downgraded to “Political Travails Begin to Take Personal Toll on Obama.” So the story in question, if it ever comes out, may not end up supporting the depression thesis. But rest assured: There are people at the Times who, based on the paper’s reporting, believe Obama is depressed—the kind of depression where, if he weren’t the president of the United States, he wouldn’t be getting out of bed in the morning.

Though the above article is just speculation, it highlights a growing need to find some reason why President Obama hasn’t met the unrealistically high expectations set before him four years ago.

In the wake of last night’s terrible performance, those whispers about the President’s mental health may start up again.

Regardless, last night was not a good night for Democrats working to keep their party’s leader in power.

If you want to keep your job, Mr. President, you need to act like you want it.

by lizard

The word sanction is bloodless. It gets thrown about in its current political form as the inadequate option being used currently against Iran.

But sometimes stories emerge to put a name, and a set of experiences, to the reality of what sanctions do to actual people.

And it’s important to remember that sanctions hurt innocent people, not the psychotic leaders of the countries the psychotic leaders of America have beef with.

The story that got to me today is the story of Dr. Shakir Hamoodi, as recounted by Glenn Greenwald.

Hamoodi came with his wife to the US in 1985 to work toward his PhD in nuclear engineering from MU and, not wanting to return to the oppression of Saddam’s regime, stayed in the US. He was offered a research professor position at the university, proceeded to have five American-born children, all of whom he and his wife raised in the Columbia community, and then himself became a US citizen in 2002.

But US-imposed sanctions after the First Gulf War had decimated the value of Iraqi currency and were causing extreme hardship for his large family who remained in Iraq…

The sanctions regime decimated Hamoodi’s family. His elderly blind mother was unable to buy basic medication. His sister, one of 11 siblings back in Iraq, suffered a miscarriage because she was unable to buy $10 antibiotics. His brother, a surgeon, was earning the equivalent of $2 per month and literally unable to feed his family…

The article goes on to explain how nearly a decade after Dr. Hamoodi “violated” Iraqi sanctions by sending a sustenance pittance to his family, he has been convicted and sentenced to 3 years at Leavenworth.

Greenwald states it bluntly:

The reason his relatives were starving and living in abject misery was precisely because the US government enforced years of brutal sanctions. To have that same government then turn around and punish him for the “crime” of helping his family members survive is warped sadism.

To pivot to the man who wants to keep his job, it should be asked: is Obama’s foreign policy sadistic?

Answer: yes.

First, let’s take the newly non-terrorist terrorist group, MEK, and how Obama’s state department delisting them is a slap in the face for average Iranians:

As everyone knows, since the revolution of 1979, the United States and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) have been BEFs — best enemies forever. While the US occasionally offers its solidarity to the people of Iran and criticizes the regime’s human rights record, its policy of sanctions and isolation actually strengthens regime hardliners. So it’s not surprising that on some days Iranians think: with an enemy like the US, why would the IRI need any friends?

Last Friday, September 21st, was one of those days. The State Department, under pressure from powerful but unknown powers, leaked the news that the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), a shady quasi-cultish group with a history of violence and intimidation, would be delisted from the US foreign terrorist organizations (FTO) list. Iranians inside and outside the country rarely agree about anything. They find common ground in their love of pomegranates, pride for Iranian athletes competing internationally, respect for Mohammad Mossadeq, the 1950s prime minister who nationalized Iranian oil before being ousted in a US-backed coup, and deep contempt if not hatred for the MEK.

Those who lived through the early years of the Iranian revolution remember the MEK’s violence, which was justified somehow by their curious mix of Islam and Marxism. But the real animosity for the movement arose when they went into exile, settling and supporting Saddam Hussein in the 8-year Iran-Iraq war. As a British-educated former Iranian senior civil servant once said to me: “During World War II siding with the enemy was treason and punishable by death. The MEK committed treason, and the Iranian public will never forgive them.”

Before this delisting, these nutjobs were terrorists. That means when people like Howard Dean and Rudy Giuliani were taking money to “lobby” for their delisting, a casual observer may wonder if that’s not somehow providing material support to terrorists for services of access rendered.

Prison for Howard and Rudy? Ha!

But when it comes to Obama’s sadistic foreign policy, it gets worse.

A week ago a report by Stanford and New York Universities, titled Living Under Drones, makes the case that certain Hitler references to Obama’s policies are less hyperbolic than many would like to admit.

Here’s the subtitle of the article: The CIA’s Predator drones are bringing to Pakistan the same horror that Hitler’s doodlebugs inflicted on London:

Sometimes it is difficult for those comfortably ensconced in the west to understand. But for me, it brings to mind my mother, Jean Stafford Smith. In 1944 she was 17. She had left the safety of her school (she had been evacuated to the countryside) to do a secretarial course in London. Each evening she took the bus home from Grosvenor Place, behind Buckingham Palace, to her digs off Tottenham Court Road. Back then, darkness would truly descend on the city, as the blackout was near total.

Sixty-eight years on, my mother retains vivid memories of the gathering gloom. One night a week, she climbed the tower of a local church to spot for the fires that might spread from an explosion. When the doodlebugs (as V1s – Hitler’s drones – were called) came over, she knew that she was safe so long as she could hear the engine. She knew, too, that the drones were indiscriminate killers, and that only when they fell silent did she have to worry where they might fall. Some of the engines apparently cut in and out, like the oscillating buzz of a chainsaw, heartstopping for the potential victims below.

Combine Obama’s state-sanctioned terrorism abroad with continuing the assault on civil liberties at home (by appealing the permanent injunction against the indefinite detention provision of the NDAA), and it seems, for some people, like Conor Friedersdorf, that’s a deal breaker.

The whole liberal conceit that Obama is a good, enlightened man, while his opponent is a malign, hard-hearted cretin, depends on constructing a reality where the lives of non-Americans — along with the lives of some American Muslims and whistleblowers — just aren’t valued. Alternatively, the less savory parts of Obama’s tenure can just be repeatedly disappeared from the narrative of his first term, as so many left-leaning journalists, uncomfortable confronting the depths of the man’s transgressions, have done over and over again.

Keen on Obama’s civil-libertarian message and reassertion of basic American values, I supported him in 2008. Today I would feel ashamed to associate myself with his first term or the likely course of his second. I refuse to vote for Barack Obama. Have you any deal-breakers?

Sure I do Conor, but even better, sometimes I have poems, and this one is from Charles Bukowski: a little atomic bomb

this one features beats:




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