Archive for January, 2013

by lizard

Apparently 68 Montana state legislators think that, for only $100,000 dollars, they will be able to find a way for law enforcement to determine if drivers are operating under the influence of marijuana, the dangerous, schedule I drug you can now smoke legally in Colorado and Washington.

How you ask? Law enforcement will carry special electronic devices equipped to show clips of Pineapple Express; a grin is an allowable limit of THC, but anything above a slight giggle will result in an on-the-spot quick-response blood test.

Obviously, that won’t be the method, but the article at the first link is woefully short on specifics regarding the effectiveness of testing for THC in a manner that proves intoxication while driving. For example, this is all the article says about those opposing this bill:

Opponents argue that testing is unreliable and can measures agents that don’t cause intoxication, but remain in the blood stream long after impairment.

This bill will be just one of many ways in which our taxpayer money will be wasted in Helena this year (Jerry O’Neil’s spanking bill is another example)

I guess there are plenty of state legislators who want to continue their crusade against marijuana, a crusade that came after years of inaction regarding what voters ok’d in 2006, ultimately culminating in the fear-mongering campaign against medicinal marijuana during the 2011 legislative session.

In response to this useless, anti-science legislation, I’m tempted to throw my useless blogger support behind Missoula’s very own Champ and his DUI scarlet letter bill:

Sponsored by House Representative Champ Edmund House Bill No. 276 seeks to revise DUI laws by forcing offenders to inherit orange licenses plates to identify themselves while driving.

Some might compare a new DUI bill to the scarlet letter. It will brand your vehicle for five-years with orange licenses plates with the beginning letters DUI.

I don’t think public shaming is a good idea, but I do think Montana is a state with a serious drinking problem, so if we’re going to talk about driving while impaired, then we need to be talking primarily about alcohol.

In a Billings Gazette article that includes the term “DUI fatigue” in the title, a result of the last legislative session is actually credited with being effective and therefore possibly expanded. From the article:

The most notable success in 2011 was the passage of the “24/7” law that requires repeat DUI offenders to submit to breath tests twice a day, at their own expense. (Ankle bracelets that react to alcohol use are options, albeit more expensive ones, for people who live far from testing centers.)

Before 24/7, those convicted of DUI who continued to drink – let alone drive – suffered consequences only if they were caught, said Maj. Tom Butler of the Montana Highway Patrol.

With 24/7, the consequences are immediate: Skip a test, get a warrant. Blow “hot,” go to jail.

The program became law under the watch of then-Attorney General Steve Bullock, who heavily promoted it. Now governor, Bullock noted last week that of the 157,000 tests administered under 24/7 during the past 15 months, 99.7 percent showed that the offender hadn’t had a single drink.

Such results are so promising that there’s a move to apply the 24/7 concept to other crimes, such as domestic abuse, where alcohol is a frequent factor, Butler said.

“Unfortunately, alcohol is a root cause of a significant number of law enforcement calls,” he said.

Alcohol is that, and so much more.  

For some good news about a new inpatient treatment option here in Missoula, and some jaw-dropping numbers about the economic impact of alcohol abuse, click continue to read more. Continue Reading »

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by jhwygirl

What could get me wanting to try and throw out a few words? A bill seeking to repeal last session’s eminent domain debacle, HB198.

I won’t go into the past gory details on the 2011 eminent domain bill – you can click that link above for that – what I will do is offer a heartfelt THANKS to Sen. Debby Barrett, a Republican out Dillon.

Sen. Barrett has proposed SB180 which is a straight all-out repeal of HB198, which handed eminent domain powers straight to the utility corporations, and eliminating any role of assuring that the taking of private property was for public gain, yet alone fair compensation.

In other words, big business who’s priority is only bigger profits, and not necessarily Montana’s best interests, could crisscross this Montana with whatever form of transmission infrastructure they choose, to deliver their energy from..say…Canada to Colorado…and little old property owner in Dillon Montana is left to deal with the barrage of lawyers from big business.

Thank you? You have to wonder what the hell the people who voted for HB198 were thinking and you can’t really paint the Democrats with the lack of respect for private property rights – plenty of Republicans voted for this crappy bill, including Republicans Sen. Dave Lewis and Reps. Janna Taylor, Wendy Warburton and Duane Ankney.

For the Missoula people that care about private property rights, know that only Sen. Dave Wanzenried and Rep. Ellie Hill voted NO to that bill. Occasional commentor (from way-back) Rep. Mike Miller – a self-described Libertarian, I believe – also voted NO to this bill.

Last week, Sens. Wanzenried, Augare, and Windy Boy signed on as co-sponsors to Sen. Barrett’s bill. I’ll be watching this one closely.

Let’s see who respects private property rights, and who wants to let private corporations do what they will, with only the promise of “fair compensation” from their army of lawyers knocking on our Montana neighbor’s doors.

max-amgen

“What is the best policy for Montanans and people across the country lies at the heart of every decision Chairman Baucus makes,” said Meaghan Smith, a spokeswoman for Mr. Baucus. “It’s as simple as that.”

By JC

I’m not going to dissect this story. What with all the hoopla over at Pogie’s Place, and Pete’s article below, it seems that there is a crack in the dem distortion field that protects incumbent, yet corrupt, politicians from the scrutiny they deserve.

In this case, Senator Baucus once again has been caught with his pants down, getting serviced by the health care industry — this time by Amgen and its lobbyists. It’s the usual story of revolving door crony capitalism: former Baucus Chief of Staff goes back to work in the industry, lobbies his former boss and plies him with campaign contributions, then manages to insert last minute provision benefiting company into the ram-rodded fiscal cliff bill with Sen. Amgen’s Baucus’ approval.

The story originated with investigative reporters at the NY Times, and has spread all over (half a million hits for “Baucus + Amgen” at google already) the internet, but as Mark over at PoM notes, “All corruption that has ever been reported on Montana office holders has originated out-of-state, and local media like Lee newspapers ignore it unless it gains s national traction.”

Yawn, just another day at the local Baucus corruption media newsline, relegated to a LTE submission.

In any case, if dems were really concerned about their politician’s corruption, they’d take quick notice, and begin casting a wide net for a replacement for Max (with all due respect for Ellie Hill’s distancing herself from the race). While Max’s last election victory (a 73%-27% shellacking of Bob Kelleher–one of his campaign managers called it “the easiest job I’ve ever had”) was basically a “gimmie” that the republicans ceded by not putting up a candidate, one can be assured that they smell blood on the water this time ’round.

And Baucus’ revolving door, that is emblematic of everything wrong with Congress, is certain to be his achilles heel. Acquiescence (i.e. lesser of two evil arguments) is acceptance at this point. Dems who willingly support Baucus will have to explain how they can overlook his corruption. The cognitive dissonance  MT Dems are going to experience over Max is going to be the single-most interesting part of the primaries lead-up, and the election should he make it to the generals.

I’ll leave you all with a small clip from Bill Moyers talking with a Congressman about this issue:

Continue Reading »

by Pete Talbot

Pogie, over at Intelligent Discontent, has a post up on Sen. Max Baucus’ re-election bid.  To date, it has generated over 150 comments, so it must be an issue that many people are following, closely.

(The only post of Pogie’s that has received a higher volume of comments was on gun violence, but that subject is guaranteed to bring out more nuts than a Tea Party convention.)

Pogie says that despite Max’s flaws, unless there is a viable challenger in the primary who can go on to beat the Republican in the general election, he’s supporting Max.

Now I have great respect Pogie (Don Pogreba) and his site – I often go to Intelligent Discontent first when I open my laptop – but I’m not ready to concede his point.  And I planned to comment at his site but since my comment was going to run longer than his post, I thought I’d try something here at good ol’ 4&20.

I appreciate Pogie’s concern, having just read an article in the Washington Post about how Republicans are eating their own — the subject being how far-right candidates win in the primaries only to lose in the general elections.  Could this happen to the Democrats in Montana if a more progressive candidate won in our primary?

It’s possible.  But maybe, just maybe, voters are fed up with candidates who take a stand only after they’ve taken a poll, and who receive more in special interest campaign contributions than the GDP of most African nations.

Continue Reading »

Inaugural Recap

by lizard

The bleak, post-holiday doldrums known as “January” gets a little jolt every four years with a presidential inauguration speech. These are wonderful events, in which the most bad-ass, blow-you-up country to ever exist in all of human history sends figurative power from one dude to the next dude.

Four years ago, our new president’s skin color signified a monumental shift in the possibility of American politics, and only a privileged caucasian asshole would say anything to minimize what that means.

But since I’m more of a reptilian asshole, I’m going to dive straight into a quick refresher on how, shortly after being sworn in, president Obama received a ridiculously presumptuous Nobel Peace prize, framed thusly by HuffPost:

The announcement drew gasps of surprise and cries of too much, too soon. Yet President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday because the judges found his promise of disarmament and diplomacy too good to ignore.

The five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee – four of whom spoke to The Associated Press, said awarding Obama the peace prize could be seen as an early vote of confidence intended to build global support for the policies of his young administration.

They lauded the change in global mood wrought by Obama’s calls for peace and cooperation, and praised his pledges to reduce the world stock of nuclear arms, ease U.S. conflicts with Muslim nations and strengthen its role in combating climate change.

Too good to ignore?  Too good to be true would have fit better, but in the forums I frequented back then, pointing out the initial betrayals of president-elect Obama with examples like his cabinet appointments—fucking Geithner—was met with a wild hysteria of incredulous disdain.

Then, after four years of watching his foreign policy evolve into the nightmare we see today, the president conjured the stones to say this:

A decade of war is now ending…

Sure, ending after four years of escalating drone strikes, even on Christmas Eve of last year:

There was no ceasefire from the Obama administration during the holiday. In fact, it appears they waited until Christmas Eve on purpose to conduct a couple strikes as there had not been action in the covert drone war in Yemen for well over a month.

In earlier wars, there may have been some kind of a truce because most of the soldiers and their families would be celebrating Christmas, however, characteristic of drone warfare, the drone pilots who carried out the order to fire upon suspected militants were nowhere near the area of the strike. They were completely detached and, depending on where they were when they directed the flying killer robots to attack, they were likely able to go home and see their family on Christmas Eve.

Because of these kind of discrepancies between words and actions, I tend to think the president may continue saying one thing, while doing the exact opposite. You cynics out there may call that lying. I call it performing the duties of his office.

The first big test of Obama’s word/action problem may be the Keystone pipeline:

A day after Obama made a strong commitment to climate in his inaugural address, the governor of Nebraska signed off on the pipeline, leaving it up to the White House to decide on the fate of the project.

“Construction and operation of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline … would have minimal environmental impacts in Nebraska,” Dave Heineman, the governor of Nebraska, wrote in a letter to the White House.

The approval now leaves the fate of a project seen as a litmus test of the administration’s environmental credentials entirely in Obama’s hands.

The Keystone pipeline has local consequences, as jhwygirl highlighted in this post.

It’s also a cause even the Sierra Club is willing to be disobedient over:

Earlier this week, the Sierra Club announced that it is lifting its long-standing institutional prohibition on civil disobedience so that it can protest the development of the tar sands. The club’s board of directors approved the change, which executive director Michael Brune made public on Tuesday. While staff and board members have previously participated in acts of civil disobedience in a personal capacity, this is the first time that the organization will take part.

With all this alleged momentum behind taking scary climate trends seriously, it’s not yet clear how the more prominent push for new gun legislation will influence the policy goals of Obama’s second term legacy-machine.

And then there’s the strategic retreat of congressional Republicans with the debt ceiling:

A plan to suspend the federal debt limit cleared a key hurdle in the House on Wednesday, easing the threat of a government default for at least four months.

But congressional leaders were already looking toward the next crisis: deep automatic spending cuts that look increasingly likely to hit the Pentagon and other federal agencies on March 1.

The next crisis is already penciled in, and congressionally speaking, obstruction is still the dish of the day.

Stay tuned…

by lizard

I’ve been working on a poem this week that I think is finally finished, so I’m going to share it here to kick off this football-less weekend. When I become a famous American poet, I could see this poem being good fodder for anthologies (obviously poets don’t need to be published to have big egos).

If Missoula had consistent poetry readings, this is the kind of poem I would love to read in front of an audience. If I wasn’t so busy with work and kids, I would get a monthly reading going myself. I heard awhile back that Bernice’s Bakery has a monthly reading, but I’ve never gone to one, so I don’t know if it’s still happening. If any B-bird readers know more, please let me know in the comments.

Anyway, the poem. Have a great weekend! Continue Reading »

by lizard

Who the hell booked Lupe Fiasco for an inaugural event celebrating Obama? Whoever it was, I bet they wish they did a little googling first, because this (first posted June, 2011):

A few weeks ago, the political right criticized President Barack Obama for having Common, a Chicago-native rapper, to the White House for a poetry reading.

Now, the situation’s turned on its head, as a Chicago rapper is attacking the President for being too far right in his foreign policy.

In an interview on “What’s Trending,” a CBS News video segment, Lupe Fiasco — a rapper known for his socially conscious and politically charged lyrics — had some harsh words for the president.

“In my fight against terrorism, to me, the biggest terrorist is Obama, and the United States of America,” Lupe told host Shira Lazar. (Scroll down to watch the interview.) He went on to explain the comment:

“I’m trying to fight the terrorism that’s actually causing the other forms of terrorism. You know, the root cause of terrorism is the stuff that the U.S. government allows to happen, and the foreign policies that we have in place in different countries that inspire people to become terrorists. And it’s easy for us because it’s just some oil.”

In another interview, Lupe had this to say:

Lupe Fiasco is on a press run in support of his upcoming album Food & Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1, and during an interview in Philadelphia with Power 99FM’s Mina SayWhat, Lupe had some criticism for President Obama. When asked about who he feels is putting out positive images, he responded, “On one hand, you have someone who is a great speaker, but kills little children – our President.” He continued, “I’m talking about ordering a drone attack. Ordering drone attacks that go and kill mothers, innocent bystanders, children. Militants too, but the collateral damage. You’re responsible for that, too.”

When Mina defends the President, saying that any killings of innocent people as a result of Obama’s orders are not intentional, Lupe responded, saying, “A drug dealer can say the same thing. ‘I didn’t mean to kill all the people in the restaurant. I was just trying to get that one dude who killed my cousin. Just so happened that that little girl was there.’ Same thing.”

Geez, Lupe, why you gotta be all like opinionated and stuff?

So some genius decided to book Lupe Fiasco, and he busted out a 30 minute anti-war song. Then his microphone was cut, but he kept going. Then the lights flashed. Then he was removed from the stage.

Incompetence, or the work of a deep GOP mole trying to embarrass the President? You decide.

Joking aside, suppressing free speech is not a great way to start a new term, but hey, anyone expecting a progressive butterfly to emerge from the first term’s cocoon of corporate neoliberalism is delusional. A president who wages this kind of war against whistle blowers is not going to suddenly appreciate being told the truth from those below him.

If Lupe’s #fiascogate (sorry) isn’t absurd enough, this week’s poem, titled To the Drone Vaguely Realizing Eastward, has also caused a bit of a stir, though not for being about drones, but for the author’s use of the word queef.

The author, Michael Robbins, is a great poetic mish-masher of culture. I wrote up this post a few months ago about absurdity, which concluded with a poem from Robbins, from his book Alien Vs. Predator (Penguin, 2012).

To read the poem, click for more, or go to Michael Robbins’ tumblr page. Enjoy! Continue Reading »

by lizard

“As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.”

—Martin Luther King

It seems so effortless for some Democrats to act morally superior to Republicans, but while they celebrate the inauguration of President Obama, and point gleefully at all the craziness and infighting happening on the right, maybe seeing a list of children and teenagers killed by Obama’s drone program will remind them that the person who will occupy the White House for the next 4 years is a man with lots of blood on his hands.

Also important to note, this list of dead kids is by no means comprehensive, as it only compiles casualties in Pakistan and Yemen.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: drone warfare does not make us safer, and it does not decrease the number of people in other countries who want to kill Americans. It does the opposite.

Here is the list:

PAKISTAN
Name | Age | Gender
Noor Aziz | 8 | male
Abdul Wasit | 17 | male
Noor Syed | 8 | male
Wajid Noor | 9 | male
Syed Wali Shah | 7 | male
Ayeesha | 3 | female
Qari Alamzeb | 14| male
Shoaib | 8 | male
Hayatullah KhaMohammad | 16 | male
Tariq Aziz | 16 | male
Sanaullah Jan | 17 | male
Maezol Khan | 8 | female
Nasir Khan | male
Naeem Khan | male
Naeemullah | male
Mohammad Tahir | 16 | male
Azizul Wahab | 15 | male
Fazal Wahab | 16 | male
Ziauddin | 16 | male
Mohammad Yunus | 16 | male
Fazal Hakim | 19 | male
Ilyas | 13 | male
Sohail | 7 | male
Asadullah | 9 | male
khalilullah | 9 | male
Noor Mohammad | 8 | male
Khalid | 12 | male
Saifullah | 9 | male
Mashooq Jan | 15 | male
Nawab | 17 | male
Sultanat Khan | 16 | male
Ziaur Rahman | 13 | male
Noor Mohammad | 15 | male
Mohammad Yaas Khan | 16 | male
Qari Alamzeb | 14 | male
Ziaur Rahman | 17 | male
Abdullah | 18 | male
Ikramullah Zada | 17 | male
Inayatur Rehman | 16 | male
Shahbuddin | 15 | male
Yahya Khan | 16 |male
Rahatullah |17 | male
Mohammad Salim | 11 | male
Shahjehan | 15 | male
Gul Sher Khan | 15 | male
Bakht Muneer | 14 | male
Numair | 14 | male
Mashooq Khan | 16 | male
Ihsanullah | 16 | male
Luqman | 12 | male
Jannatullah | 13 | male
Ismail | 12 | male
Taseel Khan | 18 | male
Zaheeruddin | 16 | male
Qari Ishaq | 19 | male
Jamshed Khan | 14 | male
Alam Nabi | 11 | male
Qari Abdul Karim | 19 | male
Rahmatullah | 14 | male
Abdus Samad | 17 | male
Siraj | 16 | male
Saeedullah | 17 | male
Abdul Waris | 16 | male
Darvesh | 13 | male
Ameer Said | 15 | male
Shaukat | 14 | male
Inayatur Rahman | 17 | male
Salman | 12 | male
Fazal Wahab | 18 | male
Baacha Rahman | 13 | male
Wali-ur-Rahman | 17 | male
Iftikhar | 17 | male
Inayatullah | 15 | male
Mashooq Khan | 16 | male
Ihsanullah | 16 | male
Luqman | 12 | male
Jannatullah | 13 | male
Ismail | 12 | male
Abdul Waris | 16 | male
Darvesh | 13 | male
Ameer Said | 15 | male
Shaukat | 14 | male
Inayatur Rahman | 17 | male
Adnan | 16 | male
Najibullah | 13 | male
Naeemullah | 17 | male
Hizbullah | 10 | male
Kitab Gul | 12 | male
Wilayat Khan | 11 | male
Zabihullah | 16 | male
Shehzad Gul | 11 | male
Shabir | 15 | male
Qari Sharifullah | 17 | male
Shafiullah | 16 | male
Nimatullah | 14 | male
Shakirullah | 16 | male
Talha | 8 | male

YEMEN
Afrah Ali Mohammed Nasser | 9 | female
Zayda Ali Mohammed Nasser | 7 | female
Hoda Ali Mohammed Nasser | 5 | female
Sheikha Ali Mohammed Nasser | 4 | female
Ibrahim Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 13 | male
Asmaa Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 9 | male
Salma Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 4 | female
Fatima Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 3 | female
Khadije Ali Mokbel Louqye | 1 | female
Hanaa Ali Mokbel Louqye | 6 | female
Mohammed Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye | 4 | male
Jawass Mokbel Salem Louqye | 15 | female
Maryam Hussein Abdullah Awad | 2 | female
Shafiq Hussein Abdullah Awad | 1 | female
Sheikha Nasser Mahdi Ahmad Bouh | 3 | female
Maha Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 12 | male
Soumaya Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 9 | female
Shafika Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 4 | female
Shafiq Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 2 | male
Mabrook Mouqbal Al Qadari | 13 | male
Daolah Nasser 10 years | 10 | female
AbedalGhani Mohammed Mabkhout | 12 | male
Abdel- Rahman Anwar al Awlaki | 16 | male
Abdel-Rahman al-Awlaki | 17 | male
Nasser Salim | 19

by lizard

After the Sandy Hook shooting, a mother’s blog post about her struggles with her mentally ill son went viral. In response, Sarah Kendzior criticized the mother, Liza Long, for violating her son’s privacy:

Children deserve privacy, especially troubled children. A child does not deserve to have his mother embark on a media tour promoting him as a future mass murderer.

The two women ended up reconciling, and released a joint statement that ended with this:

We both agree that privacy for family members, especially children, is important. Neither of us anticipated the viral response to our posts. We love our children and hope you will respect their privacy.

Our nation has suffered enough in the aftermath of Newtown. We are not interested in being part of a ‘mommy war’. We are interested in opening a serious conversation on what can be done for families in need. Let’s work together and make our country better.

That the attention was not anticipated is important to note. If Liza Long had known she was about to thrust her son and his mental illness into the national spotlight, the result probably would have been much different.

Unfortunately thrusting 8 year olds into the national spotlight is the sort of ends-justify-the-means political strategy the Obama administration is willing to deploy, and the usually dependable Crooks&Liars are all too eager to play along, featuring the letters of Taejah, Grant, Hinna, and Julia.

To put in context the social/emotional development of 8 year olds, consider these behavior traits:

Children need guidance, rules, and limits.

They need help in solving problems.

They are beginning to see things from another child’s point of view, but they still have trouble understanding the feelings and needs of other people.

Many children need help to express their feelings in appropriate ways when they are upset or worried.

The politics of going uber-emotional with kids just a few years older than the 20 victims of Sandy Hook is exploitive, plain and simple. It also opens the door for any opinionated blowhard to lecture children, like this blogger does:

Hinna seems like a nice little girl. Sadly, her parents are the kind of people who don’t mind her being turned into a political pawn.

While the behavior of Hinna’s parents is rather sick, it is President Obama who is the Grade A Loser for ultimately using a little girl as a human shield. Now the “war on women” smear will be converted into a “war on children” for anyone who disagrees with the administration’s proposals. Indeed, if the president was being philosophically honest with the public he would admit that he too subscribes to a third-grader’s logic on the issue: “No guns. No guns. No guns. No guns.” He would admit that deep down he wants an amendment to the Constitution, but that he could never muster the two-thirds supermajority of both Houses of Congress necessary to propose it, and the three-fourths of the states needed for ratification. (Shhh! Don’t tell anyone, but a lot of Obama voters own guns and would never give them up.)

Someone needs to tell Hinna that there are no guns in federal prisons, either — but people still get hurt. Badly. And some of them die incredibly gruesome deaths, too. The federal government controls everything these bad men and women do each day, from the moment they wake up until the moment they go to bed, and criminals still find creative ways to kill each other. And so, the way to have less successful shootings by madmen is not to have a police state that goes around trying to round up all the guns and counting bullets to find out if you have eleven or twelve in a magazine instead of ten — it’s to concentrate more attention on the behavior of madmen.

The problem I have with the above quote is that, for the most part, I agree. And that’s a problem for Obama’s second term momentum.

Did someone say serious conversation? No, hashtag GunAppreciationDayRituals is much more fun (@billmon1):

#GunAppreciationDayrituals Gather by the gun rack in the living room, recite favorite chapters from The Turner Diaries.

#GunAppreciationDayrituals Dress village idiot up as BATF agent, curse and throw mud, have village priest perform symbolic exorcism.

#GunAppreciationDayrituals Try out positions from Carbine Sutra — ancient Hindu guide to gun eroticism.

#GunAppreciationDayritual Abstain from sex with wife (just like every other day, in other words).

I’m not sure the usual scare tactics of invoking extreme right boogeymen (who do actually exist in small numbers, and are kinda scary up close) combined with the emotional appeal of 8 year old children reading letters will be oomph enough to move the needle away from gun worship.

I could be wrong, especially if something else happens.

Reality Check

by lizard

Reality isn’t doing too well these days. I don’t know when exactly the seeds of suspicion were sewn, but they’re springing up crazy shoots everywhere—even in January!

I resisted paying any attention to the Manti Te’o hoax until tonight, then relented (no need for any “alternative” news sites for this one) and what emerges is a deeply layered, multi-character hoax that appears so intricate the mind balks at imagining who would do this, and why. Here’s an example:

“I talked to my girlfriend every single day,” Te’o told Themel. “I slept on the phone with her every single day. When she was going through chemo, she would have all these pains and the doctors were saying they were trying to give her medicine to make her sleep. She still couldn’t sleep. She would say, ‘Just call my boyfriend and have him on the phone with me, and I can sleep.’ I slept on the phone with her every single night.”

He would spend eight hours a night with someone, somewhere, breathing on the other end, he told Thamel.

Te’o recounted how his girlfriend who was “on a machine” after being in a coma.

“We lost her, actually, twice. She flatlined twice. They revived her twice,” he said. “It was just a trippy situation.”

Less layered, and certainly not a hoax, is the recent self-inflicted marketing wounds by Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey.  The cognitive dissonance here is how far the CEO’s ideological slips deviate from the inclinations of his customer base.

In an interview with Mother Jones, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey shares his view that “climate change is perfectly natural and not necessarily bad,” and his belief that “free-enterprise capitalism works much, much better than either socialism or some type of fascism where government controls and directs business—which is where I believe we are headed now.”

Mackey also used the “F” word—Fascism—in an interview with NPR, then had to walk it back, tail between legs, because he suddenly remembered the lucrative demographics his brand appeals to.

And that it can get real in the Whole Food’s parking lot, really quick:

Mackey acted confident on Morning Joe that his ideological stupidity won’t hurt his company. He’s probably right. Sustaining any kind of moral outrage is not something I expect stereotypical Whole Food customers to be capable of.

The saddest, most discouraging alternate reality gaining traction is the Sandy Hook Hoax meme. It took less than a month from WTF inconsistencies (that still bother me) to a full-blown theory perceiving the entire narrative as staged, including no actual dead first graders; the equivalent of no planes hitting the towers on 9/11.

It’s gotten so bad, a man who helped shelter 6 kids and a bus driver has been getting harassed by “Newtown truthers”:

“I don’t know what to do,” sighed Gene Rosen. “I’m getting hang-up calls, I’m getting some calls, I’m getting emails with, not direct threats, but accusations that I’m lying, that I’m a crisis actor, ‘how much am I being paid?’” Someone posted a photo of his house online. There have been phony Google+ and YouTube accounts created in his name, messages on white supremacist message boards ridiculing the “emotional Jewish guy,” and dozens of blog posts and videos “exposing” him as a fraud. One email purporting to be a business inquiry taunted: “How are all those little students doing? You know, the ones that showed up at your house after the ‘shooting’. What is the going rate for getting involved in a gov’t sponsored hoax anyway?”

“The quantity of the material is overwhelming,” he said. So much so that a friend shields him from most of it by doing daily sweeps of the Web so Rosen doesn’t have to. His wife is worried for their safety. He’s logged every email and every call, and consulted with a retired state police officer, who took the complaint seriously but said police probably can’t do anything at the moment; he plans to do the same with the FBI.

While I have been watching the Sandy Hook skepticism evolve into a muddied pool of hashtag totalhoaxnuts, I simply can’t get all fired up for the opportunistic rush to blow serious political capital on gun control. Though I can’t find the tweet, I think it was @BobBrigham who speculated Obama’s gun control fight will invigorate the GOP, getting them back in the game by virtue of Dems poking their Fed-stick in the Repub crazy nest.

That may actually be the thinking behind Cantor’s strategic retreat, jettisoned into the news equivalent of a blackhole known as “Friday”.

House Republicans said Friday afternoon they’ll vote next week on a plan to raise the ceiling for three months. “Next week, we will authorize a three month temporary debt limit increase to give the Senate and House time to pass a budget,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said in a statement. “Furthermore, if the Senate or House fails to pass a budget in that time, Members of Congress will not be paid by the American people for failing to do their job.”

That last part about pay, which probably isn’t constitutional (referring I guess to those quaint parchments some folks think we should give up on) is just a decorative paper tiger to soften retreat.

Meanwhile, gun froth will take the place of debt ceiling, and both sides will be whipped into a partisan frenzy.

Will the Obama Administration be in a stronger position three months from now, for the next showdown?

A lot can happen in three months; a lot more crazy shoots to come (2/11?)

by lizard

In March of last year, I wrote this post about the coup in Mali. I titled that post “Ripple Effect” because from what I read, it was clear that Mali’s destabilization was due, in part, to the unforeseen consequences of the Libyan intervention.

Now it’s ten months later, and France has decided it needs to blow up Islamic terrorists. Why? I’m sure Reuters will give us the whole story:

The attacks on Islamist positions near the ancient desert trading town of Timbuktu and Gao, the largest city in the north, marked a decisive intensification on the third day of the French mission, striking at the heart of the vast area seized by rebels in April.

France is determined to end Islamist domination of northern Mali, which many fear could act as a base for attacks on the West and for links with al Qaeda in Yemen, Somalia and North Africa.

Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France’s sudden intervention on Friday had prevented the advancing rebels from seizing Bamako. He vowed that air strikes would continue.

“The president is totally determined that we must eradicate these terrorists who threaten the security of Mali, our own country and Europe,” he told French television.

Yeah, no. When it comes to western military interventions, there are always underlying motivations that don’t get widely reported. For France and Mali, it’s important to understand the context of France’s long history of colonial exploitation of western Africa. This article gets closer to the resource concerns France has in the region, specifically, uranium:

The current problems of the Tuareg rebellion and French intervention in Mali could be linked to uranium. Stefan Simanowitz wrote in 2009: “A key reason that the governments in Mali and Niger are not keen to give the Tuareg greater autonomy is that the areas that they inhabit are home to vast natural resources… [with] the world’s third largest uranium reserves as well as substantial oil reserves.” He pointed out that French mining company Areva had lost its almost complete exclusive right to Niger’s uranium. This could easily explain why France could not afford to lose Mali as well.

There is also the geopolitics of China’s influence in Africa to consider, which this article takes a good look at.

The important question is, how can America get a piece of this action? Well, it appears that yesterday some terrorists attacked a gas field in southern Algeria, and took some hostages, including Americans:

Islamists angry over Algeria’s support for the French offensive in Mali attacked a gas field in southern Algeria, killing two people and seizing hostages, including Westerners, Algeria’s interior minister said Wednesday.

The Westerners, accompanied by Algerian security forces, were en route to Ain Menas Airport when they were attacked early in the morning by another group of no more than 20 people, Diho Weld Qabliyeh told Algerian state television. The security forces returned fire, and the attackers withdrew to the base of the petroleum operation, some 3 kilometers away, he said.

Upon arrival at the base, he continued, the attackers “took in a number of Westerners and Algerians — some people told us they were nine, some people told us 12.”

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Americans were among the hostages.

And the show goes on.

*UPDATE

Reports this morning indicate 35 hostages and 15 kidnappers were killed:

The spokesman for the Masked Brigade, which had claimed responsibility for the abductions on Wednesday, told a Mauritanian news agency that the deaths were a result of an Algerian government helicopter attack on a convoy holding kidnappers and hostages.

No word yet on how many Americans are among the dead.

Aaron Swartz, Dead At 26

by lizard

Before yesterday, I didn’t know who Aaron Swartz was, but as the news of his alleged suicide spread online over the weekend, I learned enough to understand why the outpouring of grief and anger has been so acute.

At the age of 26, Aaron had accomplished more than people twice his age. One significant example: he was instrumental in stopping SOPA, which is the subject of this incredibly inspiring keynote speech Aaron Swartz delivered last year:

Here’s a bit more of his bio, from mashable.com:

Born in 1986, Swartz co-authored the first specification of RSS when he was 14. He also started Infogami, a service funded by Y Combinator that was later merged with social networking site Reddit.

Swartz also co-founded Demand Progress, an advocacy group that rallies people “to take action on the news that affects them — by contacting Congress and other leaders, funding pressure tactics, and spreading the word in their own communities.”

In July 2011, Swartz was arrested for allegedly harvesting 4 million academic papers from the JSTOR online journal archive. He appeared in court in Sept. 2012, pleading not guilty.

That last line about Swartz’s legal troubles is what many are speculating may have contributed to his decision to take his own life. He was in the midst of an aggressive prosecution that could land him 30 years in prison.

The best perspective on that case I’ve read comes from the expert witness, Alex Stamos, who felt compelled to set some things straight:

I did not know Aaron Swartz, unless you count having copies of a person’s entire digital life on your forensics server as knowing him. I did once meet his father, an intelligent and dedicated man who was clearly pouring his life into defending his son. My deepest condolences go out to him and the rest of Aaron’s family during what must be the hardest time of their lives.

If the good that men do is oft interred with their bones, so be it, but in the meantime I feel a responsibility to correct some of the erroneous information being posted as comments to otherwise informative discussions at Reddit, Hacker News and Boing Boing. Apparently some people feel the need to self-aggrandize by opining on the guilt of the recently departed, and I wanted to take this chance to speak on behalf of a man who can no longer defend himself. I had hoped to ask Aaron to discuss these issues on the Defcon stage once he was acquitted, but now that he has passed it is important that his memory not be besmirched by the ignorant and uninformed. I have confirmed with Aaron’s attorneys that I am free to discuss these issues now that the criminal case is moot.

I was the expert witness on Aaron’s side of US vs Swartz, engaged by his attorneys last year to help prepare a defense for his April trial. Until Keker Van Nest called iSEC Partners I had very little knowledge of Aaron’s plight, and although we have spoken at or attended many of the same events we had never once met.

Should you doubt my neutrality, let me establish my bona fides. I have led the investigation of dozens of computer crimes, from Latvian hackers blackmailing a stock brokerage to Chinese government-backed attacks against dozens of American enterprises. I have investigated small insider violations of corporate policy to the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and have responded to break-ins at social networks, e-tailers and large banks. While we are no stranger to pro bono work, having served as experts on EFF vs Sony BMG and Sony vs Hotz, our reports have also been used in the prosecution of at least a half dozen attackers. In short, I am no long-haired-hippy-anarchist who believes that anything goes on the Internet. I am much closer to the stereotypical capitalist-white-hat sellout that the antisec people like to rant about (and steal mail spools from) in the weeks before BlackHat.

I know a criminal hack when I see it, and Aaron’s downloading of journal articles from an unlocked closet is not an offense worth 35 years in jail.

Stamos proceeds to lay out the facts of the case, facts that led to an easy conclusion that prosecutors were being exceptionally aggressive in going after Swartz over the electronic theft of academic papers.

Lawrence Lessig describes his perception on the prosecutorial zeal in this response:

Here is where we need a better sense of justice, and shame. For the outrageousness in this story is not just Aaron. It is also the absurdity of the prosecutor’s behavior. From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The “property” Aaron had “stolen,” we were told, was worth “millions of dollars” — with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.

Aaron had literally done nothing in his life “to make money.” He was fortunate Reddit turned out as it did, but from his work building the RSS standard, to his work architecting Creative Commons, to his work liberating public records, to his work building a free public library, to his work supporting Change Congress/FixCongressFirst/Rootstrikers, and then Demand Progress, Aaron was always and only working for (at least his conception of) the public good. He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.

For remember, we live in a world where the architects of the financial crisis regularly dine at the White House — and where even those brought to “justice” never even have to admit any wrongdoing, let alone be labeled “felons.”

In that world, the question this government needs to answer is why it was so necessary that Aaron Swartz be labeled a “felon.” For in the 18 months of negotiations, that was what he was not willing to accept, and so that was the reason he was facing a million dollar trial in April — his wealth bled dry, yet unable to appeal openly to us for the financial help he needed to fund his defense, at least without risking the ire of a district court judge. And so as wrong and misguided and fucking sad as this is, I get how the prospect of this fight, defenseless, made it make sense to this brilliant but troubled boy to end it.

Even Aaron’s parents, with their official statement, put their son’s death in context:

Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.

Today, we grieve for the extraordinary and irreplaceable man that we have lost.

There is no justice in the American judicial system.

Not when there is actually a bank, HSBC, that has been officially declared too-big-to-prosecute for laundering drug money:

DOJ attorneys argued that aggressively prosecuting HSBC could destabilize the entire international banking system. Breuer said in an interview with the Washington Post, “If you prosecute one of the largest banks in the world, do you risk that people will lose jobs, other financial institutions and other parties will leave the bank, and there will be some kind of event in the world economy?” In other words, banks that break the law by laundering money for drug cartels and rogue states are immune from criminal prosecution because a global financial meltdown could be triggered.

So while bankers can break the law with total impunity, a brilliant young man is broken by the state and its minions—in this case, Carmen Ortiz, a person even Chris Hayes singled out in his response on his show:

You should know his death is a good reason to revisit the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the law under which he was prosecuted, since it is far too broad, and to take a hard look at Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, whose office prosecuted Aaron with such recklessly disproportionate vigor, and who is reportedly considering a run for governor.

(I expect Anonymous is already at work on that one)

Two days ago I didn’t know anything about Aaron Swartz. Now I know how much I have to thank him for.

by lizard

Alex Jones made some headlines for himself recently by going berserker on Piers Morgan. While I can’t stand Alex Jones, the self-promoting carney of conspiracy culture didn’t disappoint his followers with his antics. And while Piers Morgan sat there, trying not to react to Jones’ aggressive goading, I bet he was thinking—this is great, I don’t even have to argue my points because this guy is making my case for me by acting like a lunatic.

Here’s the video:

For a good analysis of Alex Jones’ statements, Benjamin Studebaker takes the time to address them, one by one.

Another video that I ran across features a youtube dude who calls himself “marked guardian”, a guy who likes to walk around with an AR15 strapped to his back so he can test police officers:

I wonder if the police officers would treat this kid any differently if he wasn’t white.

I’m not particularly qualified to discuss guns. I do, however, recognize the difficulty pro-gun people are going to have in advocating for their side when all manner of gun-nuttery will be used to ridicule them.

And there is plenty of gun-nuttery to choose from. One example is in today’s Missoulian, with an article titled ‘Patriot’ Group looks to create armed community. If you are interested in becoming a part of this rightwing, counterculture community called The Citadel, there is an application process:

To win residency to The Citadel, applicants would have to agree to a list of conditions, such as following the U.S. Constitution, and being able to shoot a man-sized steel target at various distances with a handgun and rifle.

Members must keep an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle handy, along with at least five magazines, 1,000 rounds of ammunition and other supplies. Stocking provisions for one year is also required.

“The responsibility for maintaining functional arms and ammunition levels for every member of the household shall fall to the head of household,” the application form reads. “Every able-bodied Patriot will be responsible for maintaining a Tactical Go Bag or Muster Kit to satisfy the Minuteman concept.”

The group says it won’t have a leader. There will be no home ownership fees, no “recycling police” and no ordinance enforcers from city hall. Homes would be poured of concrete, the website says, to achieve maximum strength.

A rational conversation about guns won’t be easy in this country. Hell, a rational conversation about anything seems increasingly difficult.

Will gun extremists ever understand how useful they are for the gun control side of the argument? Doubtful.

by lizard

I haven’t read James Wright extensively, but I picked up a few books in Bozeman, which prompted this post back in September.

To reorient myself to Wright for this post, I consulted the ubiquitous wikipedia, and found this tidbit:

Technically, Wright was an innovator, especially in the use of his titles, first lines, and last lines, which he used to great dramatic effect in defense of the lives of the disenfranchised. He is equally well known for his tender depictions of the bleak landscapes of the post-industrial American Midwest. Since his death, Wright has developed a cult following, transforming him into a seminal writer of significant influence. Hundreds of writers gathered annually for decades following his death to pay tribute at the James Wright Poetry Festival held from 1981 through 2007 in Martins Ferry.

Earlier in the week, I pulled Wright’s Collected Poems from the shelf and read a poem titled TO THE POETS OF NEW YORK. Sufficiently floored, I let it stew, and came up with a bit of writing I’ve been working on since yesterday. Enjoy! Continue Reading »

by lizard

Project Homeless Connect is a wonderful, one-day event that features over 70 service providers. It will be taking place this year on the 24th of January, from 9:30am-4:00pm, at the First United Methodist Church, across the street from the Public Library.

This event requires a lot of volunteer support, so if any local B-Bird readers are interested, you can go here to sign up to volunteer.

Volunteers are paired up with folks who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, and then accompany them through the maze of services. I volunteered for this event a few years back, and it was a great experience.

by lizard

I’m going to paraphrase what A.I.G. essentially said to us lowly taxpayers who bailed out their publicly cushioned asses: Fuck you, America, we want more.

The board of A.I.G. will meet on Wednesday to consider joining a $25 billion shareholder lawsuit against the government, court records show. The lawsuit does not argue that government help was not needed. It contends that the onerous nature of the rescue — the taking of what became a 92 percent stake in the company, the deal’s high interest rates and the funneling of billions to the insurer’s Wall Street clients — deprived shareholders of tens of billions of dollars and violated the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits the taking of private property for “public use, without just compensation.”

I will try to not cuss my way through this whole post, but ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?

For some context, Taibbi’s latest is a great distillation of the unbelievable deceit perpetrated against the American people:

We were told that the taxpayer was stepping in – only temporarily, mind you – to prop up the economy and save the world from financial catastrophe. What we actually ended up doing was the exact opposite: committing American taxpayers to permanent, blind support of an ungovernable, unregulatable, hyperconcentrated new financial system that exacerbates the greed and inequality that caused the crash, and forces Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup to increase risk rather than reduce it. The result is one of those deals where one wrong decision early on blossoms into a lush nightmare of unintended consequences. We thought we were just letting a friend crash at the house for a few days; we ended up with a family of hillbillies who moved in forever, sleeping nine to a bed and building a meth lab on the front lawn.

Twitter these last few days has felt like an overwhelming inundation of unbelievable bullshit being shoved down our collective throat by corporate takers and rapers.

Dave Zirin over at The Nation has been utterly dismantling football with two must read articles:

RGIII and the Crisis of Liberalism in the United States

and

Notre Dame and Penn State: Two Rape Scandals, Only One Cry For Justice

If you haven’t maxed out on disgust yet, there’s the fiscal trough corporate pigs thrust their faces in while the media told us scary stories.

In addition to NASCAR and Disney, Goldman Sachs is always down for more loot:

Subsidies for Goldman Sachs Headquarters – Sec. 328 extends “tax exempt financing for York Liberty Zone,” which was a program to provide post-9/11 recovery funds. Rather than going to small businesses affected, however, this was, according to Bloomberg, “little more than a subsidy for fancy Manhattan apartments and office towers for Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Corp.” Michael Bloomberg himself actually thought the program was excessive, so that’s saying something. According to David Cay Johnston’s The Fine Print, Goldman got $1.6 billion in tax free financing for its new massive headquarters through Liberty Bonds.

Gee, I hope that offsets their forced divestment from sex trafficking.

It appears our appetite for this kind of abuse is bottomless.

Meanwhile, with debt ceiling looming, Obama is ready to offer up a tasty platter of concessions, like a diminishing dish called chained CPI while Django Unchained plays in the background.

It smells like cat food.

In conclusion, Taibbi:

So what exactly did the bailout accomplish? It built a banking system that discriminates against community banks, makes Too Big to Fail banks even Too Bigger to Failier, increases risk, discourages sound business lending and punishes savings by making it even easier and more profitable to chase high-yield investments than to compete for small depositors. The bailout has also made lying on behalf of our biggest and most corrupt banks the official policy of the United States government. And if any one of those banks fails, it will cause another financial crisis, meaning we’re essentially wedded to that policy for the rest of eternity – or at least until the markets call our bluff, which could happen any minute now.

Yeah, Social Security is the problem. No, really, for them it is.

Insecurity is easier to exploit.

*

Howdy!

Looks like you got yourselves a Republican supermajority for awhile. Congratulations.

According to the initial reporting from the Republic of Mizzula, the winds will be blowing free of subsidy here in Montana because…

…state energy policy should focus on “affordable and reliable power for Montana families and businesses without preference to the kind or source of energy or special interest,” Gallagher said.

But this letter is not about subsidizing wind power. Instead, it’s about the immense power your Republican supermajority now wields over the fate of…taxis.

Jessica Murray, the co-owner of Missoula’s Green Taxi, says her company consistently gets calls from locals who need rides to medical appointments. But Green Taxi, with its fleet of two Toyota Priuses, has to turn those requests down, because it’s not licensed by the Montana Public Service Commission, which regulates motor carriers in the state, to transport patients.

An interesting barrier, or, one might say, an onerous, small-business killing regulation.

I would be curious to hear what The Montana Regulation Project thinks about the role of the PSC in administering this rigorous licensing process.

Anyway, good luck PSC Republican supermajority. And to everyone in Helena as things get going, if you’ve had too many adult beverages, support local business and take a cab!

Sincerely,

Liz

by lizard

There is an article by Kevin Drum at Mother Jones that should be required reading for everyone, titled America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead.

Here is the basic assertion: the rise of violent crime rates in the 60’s and 70’s, and the subsequent decline in the 90’s, looks to be causally related to the prevalence of lead in gasoline used after WWII. The evidence supporting this assertion is quite strong. Read the article.

This article, if it gets the attention it deserves, could represent a paradigm shift in how we look at crime rates and the allocation of resources to reduce crime. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

At the same time that we should reassess the low level of attention we pay to the remaining hazards from lead, we should probably also reassess the high level of attention we’re giving to other policies. Chief among these is the prison-building boom that started in the mid-’70s. As crime scholar William Spelman wrote a few years ago, states have “doubled their prison populations, then doubled them again, increasing their costs by more than $20 billion per year”—money that could have been usefully spent on a lot of other things. And while some scholars conclude that the prison boom had an effect on crime, recent research suggests that rising incarceration rates suffer from diminishing returns: Putting more criminals behind bars is useful up to a point, but beyond that we’re just locking up more people without having any real impact on crime. What’s more, if it’s true that lead exposure accounts for a big part of the crime decline that we formerly credited to prison expansion and other policies, those diminishing returns might be even more dramatic than we believe. We probably overshot on prison construction years ago; one doubling might have been enough. Not only should we stop adding prison capacity, but we might be better off returning to the incarceration rates we reached in the mid-’80s.

If this shift happens, a sociological theory used aggressively by politicians like Rudy Giuliani called the broken window theory may finally get the criticism it deserves.

The link above is to the city of Missoula’s official website, where the application of the broken window theory by local law enforcement is proudly trumpeted:

The term “Broken Windows” comes from the metaphor used to describe this concept.

“If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge.”

This theory says that the little things matter.

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani adopted the Broken Windows Theory and implemented a community-policing strategy focused on order maintenance. Graffiti was washed nightly from subway cars, subway turnstile jumpers arrested and trash picked up among other things. Minor, seemingly insignificant, quality-of-life crimes were found to be the tipping point for violent crime. When New York “windows” were repaired, crime dropped.

The Missoula Police Department has made the Broken Windows theory an integral part of our law enforcement strategy, with the emphasis on maintaining our high standard standard of living we currently enjoy today.

One of the localized consequences of the alleged success of this “theory” was Missoula’s city council passing an ordinance banning panhandling aggressive solicitation back in August of 2009:

The ordinance prohibits begging in an “aggressive manner,” such as touching a person without asking, following someone being solicited and using violence. It prohibits telling lies to get money, and it also bans soliciting in some public places, such as near ATMs and within six feet of an entrance to a building.

Councilors voted 7-4 to adopt the main ordinance, with opponents saying it appeared the rules wouldn’t be equally enforced among all solicitors. They didn’t want to pass a law that inadvertently banned the kinds of solicitations many community members support, such as high schoolers holding up signs for free car washes. The following council members voted against the ordinance: Jason Wiener, Pam Walzer, Stacy Rye and Marilyn Marler. Councilman Bob Jaffe was absent.

Wiener, who represents the downtown area, said he could back the rules that clamp down on aggressive acts. But he suggested striking the portion of the law that outlines the places and distances where people may and may not solicit – aggressively or otherwise.

He said with a “wink and a nod,” it appeared that part of the ordinance was going to be selectively enforced. And the new rules mean even peaceful people can’t ask for anything at all in some places, like 20 feet from from an outdoor patio or cafe.

Understanding that lead appears to be a significant environmental factor in the increase in violent crime rates across the country doesn’t take away from the need to address violent crime when it occurs, but I do hope a better understanding of root causes will inform future social responses we, as a community and a country, take.

Last October, the Missoulian reported that our local jail is consistently full due, in part, to our new municipal judge’s abandonment of treatment courts. Continuing on this path will inevitably lead to the need to build a bigger jail, and doing that will require lots of money.

If that is the path we choose, I have a suggestion how we could generate some of the money. Aggressively enforce open container laws across the socioeconomic strata of Missoula.

That would mean instead of just “transients” getting tickets they can’t/won’t pay (leading to expensive time spent in jail) Missoulians walking around with plastic cups of wine on First Fridays and tailgating Griz fans can be ticketed as well.

Yeah, like that would happen.

by lizard

The violent gang-rape and subsequent death of a 23 year old woman in New Delhi, India, has once again wrestled attention toward the systemic threat women face around the world.

When this kind of atrocity happens in another country, especially a country populated by dark skinned people, it becomes an opportunity for lighter-skinned countries to emphasize the otherness of rape.

In an article from Counterpunch yesterday, Jessica Namakkal concludes her piece with a shot at the “western press” and it’s coverage:

The Western Press has responded to the violence and the protests in India with a plea to act more like a civilized country. A New York Times editorial, titled “Rape in the World’s Largest Democracy,” published on December 28, 2012 reads,

Many victims, shamed into silence and callously disregarded by a male-dominated power structure, never go to the authorities to seek justice.

Women are routinely blamed for inciting violence against them.

Are we really meant to believe that this is particular to India? According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), 54% of all sexual assaults in the United States are not reported to the police, 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail, and one out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape, the overwhelming number of whom are women of color.

The New York Times, in line with other major international publications, are calling on India to address violence against women, because, “India, a rising economic power and the world’s largest democracy, can never reach its full potential if half its population lives in fear of unspeakable violence.” This sentence, written during the same month that witnessed the second-largest mass school shooting in American history, and during an election year that saw the GOP challenging the rights of women to access health care, birth control, and abortion services, indicates a lack of self-awareness of superpowers like the United States to issues facing all people, not just those in “less developed” nations such as India. While it is certainly true that the Indian people are currently faced with an urgent need to come together and work for the improvement of gender relations and the rights of women, this situation is not unique to India. The rape and murder of the unnamed 23-year-old woman in Delhi should serve as a wake-up call to people around the world that gender inequalities, sexual violence, and the repression of minority voices are built into the structures of the nation-states that claim to protect us. While historians do not always have access to the silenced voices of women from the past, the women and men of India are currently out in the streets screaming for the whole world to hear. The only hope there is in eliminating the rampant sexual violence that exists, not just in India but globally, is in challenging those who repress these voices, and who continue to perpetuate the neo-colonial patriarchal state.

Back here in America, in Steubenville, Ohio to be exact, an alleged rape-culture celebration by two members of a high school football team is getting serious attention, thanks in part to Anonymous’ intrusion into the case.

The description of the alleged crime is extremely graphic:

Witnesses, some also on the football team, testified at a probable cause hearing that Mays and Richmond spent most of the night of Aug. 11 standing over, directing, transporting, and otherwise controlling the blacked-out drunk victim, who they carried to three separate parties. According to the New York Times, witnesses claim that Mays and Richmond tried to coerce the victim into oral sex, exposed her naked body as a joke to other partygoers, penetrated her digitally, and exposed themselves to her. Other Steubenville students on Twitter and YouTube say they witnessed even worse violations, including urinating on the victim and anal rape, though these are not official statements. (And sadly, these students were more delighted than upset by what they allegedly saw.) While it appears that multiple students taped and photographed the alleged assault, officials claim they haven’t been able to turn up much in the way of evidence, because the evidence has been deleted.

If true, or even remotely accurate, one has to wonder how many young people were at these multiple parties, who through their failure to stop this grotesque revelry, silently condoned it.

For those of us who live in Missoula, temporarily dubbed America’s rape capital by Jezebel writer Katie Baker, we have all experienced the extreme discomfort of being forced to realize how deeply the roots of our rape culture go.

At the Indy, this response exhibited the need to pick apart the messenger. I can understand the hope that a visiting journalist would take a more balanced, nuanced look at the dynamics of our town when reporting on such an emotionally charged issue, but at the same time I feel like, well, the scandal here is so far reaching, it’s time to take our lumps, allow the investigations to proceed (Fred), and do a little collective introspection about how rape culture got so engrained and easily dismissed by our community leaders.

Here’s an excerpt from Baker’s story:

Most people I speak with struggle to differentiate between drunk sex and drunk sexual assault. They’re unable to parrot the politically correct buzzwords they think they should say (“no is no”) without adding a caveat or two (“but girls here are attention whores.”) For example, everyone agrees that, in the words of a man I meet under the disconcertingly fluorescent lighting at a divey sports bar called Missoula Club, football players in particular “don’t need to rape to get fucked.” This is despite the fact that at least six of the school’s football players were involved in the cases currently being investigated by the federal probe.

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.”

Though I do my best to be perpetually righteous (kinda-snark) I was called out back in February for how I angrily responded to the allegation of sexual assault by a Saudi Arabian exchange student attending UM.

So while I post colonial critiques of the Western response to the rape and murder of a young woman in India, when these issues get closer to home, and more emotional, sometimes ugly things rise to surface. It did with me, obviously.

Earlier today, I read this article at Salon.com about a fatwa being issued by a Saudi Arabian cleric calling for “short-term marriages,” for fighters in Syria, a euphemism for rape. Then tonight, when I tried to find the story, it wasn’t there.

Instead I found a mea culpa from Alternet, titled Exhibit A in How an Islamophobic Meme Can Spread Like Wildfire Across the Internet, and after the mea culpa, a bit of digging behind how this story came to be:

…the story also raises many questions. For starters, where did it come from? AlterNet inadvertently picked it up from the overtly anti-Islamic Clarion Fund site. Others pointed to the Iranian regime-backed Press TV as the primary source on Dec. 31, 2012. But the earliest English language reporting comes on December 29 from an obscure YouTube news site called Eretz Zen, tagged as a YouTube channel by a “secular Syrian opposed to having [his] country turned into a Taliban-like state.”

What’s extraordinary and depressing is that a slew of Web sites picked up the story and ran with it, some claiming legitimacy because others had posted it and clearly no one bothered to do some basic fact-checking. Arguably this is just the nature of the net and minute by minute news updates. The story was too sensational to give up. But one would imagine that if a similar story emerged about a Christian cleric or a rabbi, someone, somewhere would have paused before posting it. Sadly, in the case of stories about Muslim clerics or Islamists the same red flags don’t seem to apply.

Perhaps Western journalists are so ignorant of Islam and the cultures in the Middle East that they are willing to believe anything. It’s nothing new — after all, Western notions of the East were always immured in sexual decadence and the allure of harems. That was a trademark of the patronizing Orientalism of the past. Today we have a phobic version of Orientalism — expecting and only seeing and reporting the bad and the ugly.

It’s not just ignorance that fans these flames. The Syrian war is being manipulated by all sides and if journalists and their Web sites want to be taken seriously, they need to be bit more savvy about who’s who on the net. The Clarion Fund is so extreme in its Islamophobia it’s almost satirical. Anything it posts must be taken with a pinch of salt and more. Press TV is the English language satellite station of the Iranian regime. Given that the Syrian conflict is turning into a de facto proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, it should come as no surprise that either side would opt for any smear tactics and propaganda for its own ends. Finally, the timing of the so-called story should have been questioned. It broke just as the world was up in arms about the death of a 23-year-old Indian woman gang-raped by six men on a bus. It’s hard to imagine this would be so coincidental.

While the global political dynamics behind this false report are difficult to track, the domestic politics of the GOP’s war against women is a bit simpler to understand, because it goes something like this:

Fuck you.
Fuck you.
And transvaginally fuck you.

Of the many interconnected issues facing us in 2013 and beyond, the violence and oppression of women across the globe will be central. And while thinking globally is important, it’s how we respond locally that ultimately matters.




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