Archive for March, 2013

by lizard

April is a month for poetry. This coming Monday is April 1st. Last April I compiled a long list of links to all the poetry posts I had written up to that point. That number was 65. In the year since that compilation, I’ve add 44 more links.

Before that long list of links, a poem about March, because the cruelest month is still a few more days away. This poem is from Jim Harrison’s most recent collection, Songs of Unreason (Copper Canyon Press, 2011). Enjoy!

*

MARCH IN PATAGONIA, AZ

Some days in March are dark
and some altogether too glittery
and loud with birds. There is recent news
of ancient cosmic events that have lost
significance. I recognize the current
moon from Granada several years
ago, a big Spanish moon though here
it hangs over Mexico, shining on blood
and the music wandering lost in the air.
At the ranch starving cattle
bawl loudly in the drought.

—Jim Harrison

For 109 poetry links, click here–> Continue Reading »

by lizard

The Editorial Board of the Missoulian—Publisher Jim McGowan, Editor Sherry Devlin, and Opinion Editor Tyler Christensen—want Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Though I have little doubt Obama’s state department will eventually do just that, it’s worth examining why our local editorial board decided to shill away their paper’s editorial voice supporting this disastrous project:

Eventually, President Barack Obama is going to have to make some sort of decision about the Keystone XL pipeline project. So far he’s managed to put off signing the presidential permit needed to move the project forward – and it looks like he has a little more time still.

But within the next couple of months, the U.S. State Department will complete its review of the environmental impact statement, and all signs point to an official recommendation to approve the pipeline. Obama should be ready to add his support for this important addition to the nation’s energy infrastructure.

First, I may need some help understanding something. How can a pipeline built by a foreign corporation for the ultimate goal of enriching its shareholders be construed as adding to America’s national energy infrastructure? Am I missing something?

Selling this mess to Americans hinges on carefully managing the cost/benefit perceptions of a public mostly removed from the negative impacts of building and maintaining an oil pipeline.

Before the obvious cheerleading about jobs, Baucus and “widespread” support is highlighted. Then, as weakly as possible, the “vocal opposition” is described:

Last Friday, the U.S. Senate made its position clear with a 62-37 vote in favor of the project. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., co-authored the nonbinding budget amendment in an attempt to send a strong message about the proposed pipeline’s significance. The Senate vote reflects widespread support for the project, including in Montana, notwithstanding a good deal of vocal opposition from opponents, including in Montana.

Some famous names have joined the movement to convince Obama to reject the permit application. Many environmentalists are concerned about potential oil spills. Some of them argue that the pipeline would result in increased greenhouse gas emissions. And, of course, in his recent State of the Union address, Obama all but ordered Congress to slow climate change by addressing greenhouse gas emissions.

After this meager effort, it becomes clear the writers of this editorial had to preserve their strength in order to heave out the following bit of salesmanship:

However, it’s a good bet that the majority of Montanans are in favor of the project. Certainly Montana’s entire congressional delegation is on board. They understand that the pipeline project will create thousands of new, good-paying jobs and prefer that the U.S. get its oil from its close neighbor and ally, Canada. They note that TransCanada has agreed to a strict set of conditions designed to avoid any environmental damage. Besides, the State Department has concluded that the project carries no significant risk of environmental harm – or of an increased rate of greenhouse gas emissions, given that development of Canada’s tar sands is expected to happen with or without the new pipeline.

The thousands of good paying new jobs, one of the biggest hyped benefits, are almost all temporary. A report in 2010 estimated that number was around 118,000 jobs. That number has since been cut in half, and the number of permanent jobs? According to a state department report: 35.

The State Department has just this week released a report which actually estimates a far lower number of jobs will be created by the Keystone XL pipeline. The one to two year construction phase of the pipeline will likely only create around 42,100 jobs, and this number would fall to just 35 permanent jobs in order to perform maintenance and inspections along the entire length.

A possible cost of a pipeline is the cost to humans, the environment, and the taxpayer pocketbook if a spill happens. Thank goodness there are “strict conditions” that TransCanada has agreed to. And the state department says “no significant risk of environmental harm”.

That certainly wasn’t what the Governor of Nebraska was saying back in August of 2011.

And then there’s that whole getting our oil fix from a friend instead of a foe. I have a different understanding of who friends and foes are, and for now I’ll just leave it at that, because there’s more editorial to consume.

But if it is approved, the Keystone XL pipeline extension would carry up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the Port of Morgan on the Montana-Canadian border, through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska to connect to an existing pipeline in Steel City, Neb., and eventually reach the Gulf Coast. This portion of the pipeline would cover nearly 900 miles and cost more than $3 billion.

TransCanada first forwarded the pipeline proposal in 2008; received Canadian approval just two years later. The U.S. portion of the project, meanwhile, is still under debate. Montana and South Dakota have both granted their approval; Nebraska recently signed on as well after TransCanada agreed to route the pipeline around environmentally sensitive areas.

On March 1, the State Department released its supplemental EIS. It is now conducting the 45-day public comment portion of this laborious and time-consuming process. Once this chapter of the Keystone XL pipeline saga has ended, Obama should finally close the book on it. He should go ahead and sign the permit.

Remember folks, TransCanada is going to sell this shit anyway to someone, so Obama should just get it over with. And honestly, he really needs to stop stringing along the hopeless hopefuls hoping Obama won’t do what us cynics now expect him to do, like protect Monsanto.

I guess this is just the fucked up world we live in, a world where a shilling editorial board pimps itself for oil while asshole MT Republicans kill 12,000 jobs and destroy the opportunity to insure 70,000 uninsured Montanans.

Thank the almighty lord I’m getting the hell out of town next week. I need a little vacation.

by jhwygirl

Major rumbling began maybe 2 weeks ago – a bill designed to kill Montana craft breweries as we know it. Lizard, though, I should point out, gave us the foreboding preview back in February with his The Politics of Beer post. HB616 has been put forth by Great Falls Rep. Roger Hagan at the request of the Montana Tavern Association.

The fiscal note has a pretty plain language summary of the bill. It does significantly change the licensing fee for breweries and it changes production limits such that virtually all current “small breweries” would then be reclassified with higher licensing costs, jumping from $200 to $100,000.

The hearing was held today in House Business & Labor. The room was packed, with proponents of the bill largely being bar and tavern owners. One proponent of this bill stood out – Big Sky Brewing located right here in Missoula.

Outcry began immediately – as is the way things go on twitter – and a petition was started calling for a boycott of Big Sky Brewing.

It’s a huge shame that Big Sky Brewing is siding with the loathsome Montana Tavern Association. Instead of positioning themselves to enhance and promote craft brewing here in Montana, they’re only concern is their own competition.

Beer is one industry where it is possible to grow, purchase and produce the finished product, maximizing economic output here in Montana – and creating a string of Montana jobs. The economic benefit of 100% value-added production is significant and something the Montana legislature should be encouraging.

This legislature can’t see fit to suspend the gas and oil tax holiday for the oil and gas corporations, yet they’ll hit up small craft brewers – some that are actually the conduits of economic development for small towns all over the state – for $100,000 licensing fees.

Ridiculous. Next time they talk about how unfriendly Montana is to business, they better look in the mirror at this one. A purely Montana industry and they’re doing the best they can to impede its growth.

Gun Reform

by lizard

Awful, terrible, constant death happens because of guns. Suicide death, murder death, accident death.

And for every action, like the North Hollywood Shootout of 1997, there is an equal and opposite reaction, like militarizing the police to keep pace with the streets.

In the 16 years since the North Hollywood shootout, a lot of bad things with guns have happened. The last one, the most incomprehensible one, is not producing the legislative action gun control advocates were hoping for.

While support for universal background checks polls close to 90%, states like Louisiana want to make it easier for felons to get guns:

A New Orleans judge ruled last Thursday that a law forbidding felons from owning firearms infringes their rights to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the state’s newly amended constitution.

Although Louisiana already had extremely permissive gun laws (and the second highest gun-murder rate in the country), last November voters overwhelmingly passed an initiative backed by the National Rifle Association that made gun ownership a fundamental right with the same levels of protection as the freedoms of religion and speech.

The amendment requires judges to review gun-control legislation using “strict scrutiny,” the most stringent standard of judicial review. In his decision, Judge Darryl Derbigny wrote that statute RS 14:95.1, which bars firearm ownership for people convicted of violent crimes, such as murder, assault, rape and battery, and certain misdemeanors, is “unconstitutional in its entirety.”

While that doesn’t seem like very sensible legislation (especially after the murder of Tom Clements in Colorado) reactionary legislation like this keeps moving forward. Why?

I recently read an interesting Mother Jones interview with Dan Baum, a self-described “weirdo” liberal who loves guns. This question and subsequent answer is worth thinking about:

MJ: The NRA and the gun lobby are opposed to almost all proposals regulating firearms. Do most average law-abiding gun owners share this hard-line mentality?

DB: I personally have met very few gun owners who oppose background checks. But very few of them, even the ones that don’t want an AR-15 with a 30-round magazine, believe that limiting the amount of rounds in a magazine is going to contribute materially to public safety. What worries them is being told you are not to be trusted with these things, and that is really offensive because gun owners derive a tremendous amount of pride from being able to live alongside very dangerous things, use them effectively, and not hurt anyone. When a politician or a pundit who obviously has very little experience or no experience with guns, like Charles Schumer or Dianne Feinstein, says to your ordinary gun owner, “You cant be trusted with more than 10-round magazine,” it really strikes the wrong chord. The bulge of the gun guys demographic is middle-aged, rural white men with some college, and that is a demographic that has been losing ground economically and culturally for the past 30 years. So along comes the NRA with an analysis: You want know why you’re so pissed off? Because the liberals want to take away your guns.

Universal background checks seems like a common sense, middle ground compromise, something heavily backed by the polling. Why not at least support that?

Besides, biometric palm scanners are not that far off, technologically speaking.

Something to look forward to?

by lizard

American foreign policy continues to include the use of terrorism as a tactic to achieve its objectives on the global stage.

The dirty wars fought in latin America during the 70’s and 80’s—wars that put presidents in jail for their role—are being currently tried in a court in Argentina:

A Buenos Aires courthouse heard charges against 25 defendants accused of human rights abuses during the operation, which saw brutal dictatorships in the Southern Cone collude to kill an estimated 80,000 people in the 1970s and 1980s.

Among them were Jorge Videla, 87, and Reynaldo Bignone, 85, former de facto presidents during Argentina’s 1976-1983 military rule.

They are already serving life sentences for their role in the regime’s Dirty War against subversion.

America’s role in these wars is no secret. Operation Condor, for example, provided latin American death squads with weapons and US training, which they then used to terrorize civilian populations in order to suppress leftist movements from spreading.

American leaders who perpetuated these campaigns of terror were never held accountable, so instead of facing prison sentences for the evil utilized during this time period, the use of terrorism has become an established method of counter-insurgency.

Thanks in large part to Bradley Manning and wikileaks, the Guardian has exposed how one man—James Steele—was allowed to take his experiences in latin America to Iraq, where he trained Shia militias and helped them establish torture centers to fight the Sunni insurgency:

The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the “dirty wars” in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war.

Colonel James Steele was a 58-year-old retired special forces veteran when he was nominated by Donald Rumsfeld to help organise the paramilitaries in an attempt to quell a Sunni insurgency, an investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic shows.

After the Pentagon lifted a ban on Shia militias joining the security forces, the special police commando (SPC) membership was increasingly drawn from violent Shia groups such as the Badr brigades.

A second special adviser, retired Colonel James H Coffman, worked alongside Steele in detention centres that were set up with millions of dollars of US funding.

Coffman reported directly to General David Petraeus, sent to Iraq in June 2004 to organise and train the new Iraqi security forces. Steele, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2005, and returned to the country in 2006, reported directly to Rumsfeld.

The allegations, made by US and Iraqi witnesses in the Guardian/BBC documentary, implicate US advisers for the first time in the human rights abuses committed by the commandos. It is also the first time that Petraeus – who last November was forced to resign as director of the CIA after a sex scandal – has been linked through an adviser to this abuse.

There is an hour long video that goes into much greater detail, and it’s something everyone should take the time to watch.

Failure to understand how America has used terrorism in the past ensures it will continue to happen. And it does continue to happen.

In Syria, instead of empowering the Assad regime to kill its own people, American policy has been investing in the insurgency. It doesn’t seem to matter that the Syrian insurgency includes foreign jihadists who have no qualms about killing civilians in suicide bomb attacks. To get rid of Assad, the ends justify the means, and the means is supporting insurgent terrorism to destabilize the state.

One of the big challenges for the US has been establishing credible opposition leaders, but it appears they now have their man—Ghassan Hitto:

Ghassan Hitto, who was has been elected by Syria’s National Coalition to serve as the first prime minister of the country’s opposition, is a business executive who has lived in the US for decades.

Hitto’s election took place on March 18 in Turkey, which has been instrumental in backing Syria’s armed opposition.

Until last year, Hitto was a senior IT executive at a technology communications firm in Texas, with a role in local civic life, but largely focused on his job of more than a decade.

He has worked for high-tech and telecommunications companies for 25 years, 16 of which he spent in executive management roles.

But in November he abruptly quit his job “to join the ranks of the Syrian revolution”.

Not surprisingly, Hitto’s “election” has not unified the disparate factions of the Syrian opposition:

A dozen members of the Syrian opposition have frozen their membership of the rebel council that earlier this week picked Ghassan Hitto, a Syrian-born naturalized American, as an interim prime minister for rebel-held territory in the country.

The walkout underscores the monumental task facing the 50-year-old former IT executive in trying to unite the fractious rebels who for two years have battled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a civil war that has become more desperate and brutal with each passing day.

As the war in Syria rages on, the red line Obama established may have been crossed:

With the United Nations preparing to investigate claims of a chemical weapons attack in northern Syria this week, the question of whether chemical weapons were used overshadows the lingering nuance of who may have used them.

It’s not a small distinction. President Barack Obama has long said that Syrian government deployment of its substantial stores of chemical agents, including the nerve gases Sarin and VX, would cross a “red line,” and possibly lead to military measures. The administration has also warned that failing to secure the chemicals, and letting them fall into the hands of rebels or other non-state fighters in the two-year civil war, may also prompt an American response.

It doesn’t appear to matter which side may have used chemical agents; either way, the US can now claim the need to secure the chemical weapons.

To make America’s exporting of terrorism palatable to Americans, imposing regime change on Syria, like Libya, is framed as a humanitarian intervention. Anyone who believes that is being suckered by western propaganda.

America’s foreign policy is never about protecting civilians. It’s about power projection and resource competition. And when it comes to achieving its objectives, the ends always justify the means.

by lizard

During my long-gone undergrad days at UM, the professor who most influenced my development as a poet was Joanna Klink, so I was delighted to read in the paper a few days ago that Joanna won the Letters Award in Literature. Congratulations Joanna!

My advocacy for poetry sometimes puts a target on me. Douglas Ernst, the conservative blogger I linked to in my previous post, took some shots at me recently. Though poetry certainly wasn’t the topic being discussed, it was included in Doug’s personal attacks against me for having the audacity to describe his blogging as partisan.

The post itself was another iteration of the conservative obsession with the debt. Using a tumor metaphor, Doug goes after Dick Durbin and liberals, at one point stating:

Liberals are masters at twisting and contorting language until people throw up their hands in frustration or simply go along with whatever definition they’ve come up with on that day.

Pointing out things like the corrupting influence of Wall Street on both parties is not something Doug likes to acknowledge, so when I bring up stuff like that, comments like this start flying:

I guess we’re all not as smart and wonderful as you. Science, Technology, Politics, Poetry (Where can I buy your award-winning poetry? Or are you another failed, angry and bitter artist?). You can do it all! But the world hasn’t properly rewarded you, I guess. So you go around bashing other people, making condescending comments, and generally just being a c**k.

In a later comment, Doug indicates it’s not poetry he despises, but liberal poetry taught by liberal professors in the dreaded liberal-infested college campus environment. After declaring Rage Against the Machine’s frontman, Zach De La Roca, is not a poet, Doug moves on to a broader attack on liberals and poetry:

There’s plenty to be said for Zack’s sad line breaks, or the cliche crutches that allow him to hobble through it all until the big “Do not be afraid” conclusion, but that’s for another time. Instead, I’d rather focus on the liberal reflex to substitute poetry and song for coherent public policy alternatives to the grievances they’ve worked themselves up into a drum circle over.

Years ago, when I was at USC, the anti-war movement was in full swing. I had college professors give extra credit for anti-war poetry and attendance to Michael Moore movie screenings. Students gathered on campus dressed in black for “die-ins”. (They represented dead civilians, perhaps the human shields that shilled for Saddam…) War was “wrong” under any circumstances. When asked about the culpability of brutal dictators who respond to challenges to their authority by wiping out entire villages—silence. When asked how one practices diplomacy with an adversary who starts the negotiation process with calls for the end of Western Civilization—silence. And yet, it is the conservative college student who is looked at as somehow lacking in the intellectual chops department.

I have news for our liberal friends: Not only do young conservatives have the intellectual goods, but there’s a few of us who can go toe-to-toe with you in the creative realm. Perhaps one day Zack De La Rocha and I will have a poetry smack down here in Washington, DC. Busboys and Poets, De La Roca? I’m game if you are. Mano-e-mano. I’ll even let Alan Colmes be one of the judges.

The liberal/conservative binary is a very narrow lens through which to view poetic expression.

That said, I think there’s an interesting dynamic exposed by this young conservative’s desire to engage culturally with the perceived liberal dominance of the performing arts.

Doug is representative of a generational shift happening among younger conservatives right now, especially conservatives with libertarian leanings. I think that’s been evident with the increasing reluctance of even establishment conservatives to fight the anti-libertarian sex wars against the LGBT community.

But there is also a lingering cultural insecurity it would seem among young conservatives like Doug.

It’s too bad his college experience in a poetry class resulted in so much personal disdain against what amounts to a liberal caricature of “anti-war poetry”.

The most powerful anti-war poetry, IMHO, comes from people who have actually experienced war. This isn’t the cliche, anti-war sentiment being expressed by liberal cartoon characters. It’s poems that come from poet’s like Brian Turner, who write lines like these:

The shocking blood of the men
forms an obscene art: a moustache, alone
on a sidewalk, a blistered hand’s gold ring
still shining, while a medic, Doc Lopez,
pauses to catch his breath, to blow it out
hard, so he might cup the left side of a girl’s face
in one hand, gently, before bandaging
the half gone missing.

(from Here, Bullet; Alice James Books, 2005)

Also, Carolyn Forché, herself a phenomenal poet, edited an anthology titled Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness. I think it’s one of the most important collections of poems that exists in the English language. It’s worth checking out.

Anyway, for this week’s poetry post, I would like to reproduce a poem by Douglas Ernst, titled “Model Student”. It can be read in the full context of his blog post by following the “liberal poetry” link. I think it’s a fine poem for being an undergrad poem (most of my stuff from the undergrad days are pretty terrible). Enjoy! Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

Was anyone surprised to hear that former Griz football player Trumaine Johnson was arrested on a DUI last night? Probably not. The fact that he’s a NFL cornerback for the St. Louis Rams is whatt made it just a little out of the ordinary.

Only a little.

Reading the Missoulian report, it seems that Trumaine Johnson refused the breathalyzer.

Well now, I thought, “doesn’t he realize we get warrants now in this state when people do that?

But as I read through the Missoulian’s report, it appears the City of Missoula Police merely cited former Griz player Trumaine Johnson for refusing the breath test, along with another citation for driving without headlights and the DUI charge.

Awww, isn’t that nice?

So Johnson will get off with some minor traffic tickets. No evidence for the DUI will make that a tough conviction.

I’m sure it was jet lag.

He was caught at Front and Owen. Which is St. Patrick’s Hospital property, and about 3 blocks from the Emergency Room entrance where blood tests are, I suspect, pretty easy to obtain.

Not only is Johnson getting special treatment from the City of Missoula PD, it looks like the NFL has already decided his fate – they’re gonna hit him up with a little dent in his beer money.

Real leadership failure all the way around. You wonder why we have situations like we have here and in Steubenville and scores of other communities? It’s a systemic failure.

One of those “it takes a village” moments.

by lizard

Though supporters outnumbered opponents in the confirmation hearing for Pat Williams yesterday, it was who decided to stand up and oppose Pat that’s raising eyebrows—former Williams staffer and former UM vice president, Jim Foley.

For those who don’t remember things that happened a year ago, BOTH Pat Williams and Jim Foley were trying to downplay the rape scandal as it was developing last year. Jim’s repellant behavior was exposed thanks to a FOIA request, which produced e-mails detailing how Foley wanted to punish the alleged rape victim through the student conduct code:

University of Montana Vice President Jim Foley was so troubled by the student’s decision to talk about the school’s handling of her case that he sought to discipline her under the Student Code of Conduct.

“Is it not a violation of the student code of conduct for the woman to be publicly talking about the process and providing details about the conclusion?” Foley emailed then-Dean of Students Charles Couture in March.

Jim Foley got what he deserved for how he chose to play the PR game; he got fired.

And Pat Williams? Despite playing the same PR game last May with this remark printed in the NYT, Williams evolved his “knucklehead” depiction of UM football players to the now infamous “thug” depiction, which drew the ire of UM football worshipers.

I think it’s important to remember, especially for those supporting Williams for the Board of Regents, how Pat Williams tried to do EXACTLY what the rest of the old boys network was doing; damage control:

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

If those who support Pat Williams want to make his political legacy the justification for his confirmation, what about this statement? What does it say that Pat’s instincts as this scandal was developing was to downplay the incredibly serious allegations by suggesting it was just a “few knuckleheaded students” responsible for scandalizing UM?

It’s too bad some people have such short memories. Montana’s University system needs a fresh perspective, one that prioritizes student safety over protecting athletics.

Is that too much to ask?

by lizard

I have a hard time taking the Bloomberg soda war seriously, including the shrill shouts of TYRANNY from the conservative blogosphere.

Is the soda ban lubricating a slippery slope toward health-based Nazism? Hardly. It’s just another stupid nanny state swipe at the symptoms of a much deeper sickness.

I’ve been impressed with what can actually grab and sustain people’s attention in this country. The National Defense Authorization Act? Yawn. Limit how much soda I can have per order? TYRANTS!!! Walmart workers trying to unionize? Meh. Replacement Refs blow a call at the end of a football game? FREAK OUT!!!

There is actually an alarming example of tyranny on display, happening right now, but you won’t find it if you’re frothing at the mouth for a BIG GULP.

Today Mike Whitney reported on Rick Snyder’s coronation of Kevyn Orr as Detroit’s new “Emergency Financial Manager”:

Far-right Governor Rick Snyder has ignored Michigan voters and installed Washington DC attorney Kevyn Orr as Detroit’s emergency financial manager (EFM), a position that will give Orr sweeping powers to tear up labor contracts, slash pensions, cut public services, and privatize city-owned assets. From March 28–the date when Public Act 436 kicks in –Orr will make the decisions that would normally be decided by elected officials, primarily the mayor and the city council. In other words, Detroit will become the first city in the US to have its democratically-elected government replaced by a financial dictator.

When I first heard about this legislative madness getting passed in Michigan, I was aghast. How can any politician, from either party, go along with this?

It’s important to understand that a financial crisis, if it’s serious enough, creates fantastic opportunities for power grabs. Just look at how Europe’s sovereign debt crisis created opportunities for technocrats to grab power in Greece and Italy:

It is well established that incumbent parties tend to suffer electorally in tough economic times, and the recent period provides many examples. Elections in the UK, Ireland, Spain and Greece led to governing parties losing, catastrophically in the case of Ireland, merely disastrously in the cases of the UK and Spain. Elsewhere fringe nationalist parties such as True Finns in Finland or the New Flemish Alliance in Belgium made major gains. The only notable exception to this pattern is Germany, where Angela Merkel is the only major European leader to have survived a post-crisis election.

The sovereign debt crisis affecting the Eurozone periphery has taken this logic a stage further: in Greece and Italy, governments have fallen before they have had to face the electorate. The replacement of Papandreou by the unelected former ECB member Papademus followed Papandreou’s public commitment to a national referendum on the EU’s bailout proposal, a project vehemently opposed by the European ‘Troika’ (the EU, IMF, and the European Central Bank). In Italy, Berlusconi’s scandal-tainted reign in power ended as Italian bond yield spreads hit dangerous highs, and EU pressure helped force his resignation and replacement by former European Commissioner Mario Monti.

These episodes may appear to be a political innovation borne out of the need to address an unprecedented financial and economic crisis. This is only true in part. In fact, technocratic, non-partisan rulers fit in perfectly with the way in which European institutions for economic governance have been designed. The Maastricht Treaty laid down rules and created institutions which would remove a good part of the economic policy autonomy that national governments in the EU had previously enjoyed. Policies such as the size of the public deficit and the public debt, formerly the subject of intense political debate between national political parties, were to be subject to strict fiscal rules. Similarly, the creation of an independent European Central Bank with sole control over monetary policy marked the end of decades of political debate over the appropriate balance between price stability and employment.

The EU’s debt crisis has moved to a new level this week with the Cyprus experiment; an attempt to seize depositor money with an alleged one-off “tax”. If anyone is curious why this little Mediterranean Island has suddenly become so important, this Naked Capitalism post is a good place to start.

But for those who aren’t curious, and instead prefer gnashing teeth over soda bans, Bloomberg’s nanny state restriction on soda size is, IMHO, a very convenient distraction.

First they came for our BIG GULPS…

America’s Great Shame

by lizard

At 10 years since the launch of Operation Iraqi Liberation (to use the original name with the appropriate acronym, OIL) and over 22 years since Operation Desert Storm, there is little evidence that any significant number of people in the United States have a realistic idea of what our government has done to the people of Iraq, or of how these actions compare to other horrors of world history. A majority of Americans believe the war since 2003 has hurt the United States but benefitted Iraq. A plurality of Americans believe, not only that Iraqis should be grateful, but that Iraqis are in fact grateful.

Iraq War Among World’s Worst Events

Since 2011 the U.S. has been expanding the CIA’s role in Iraq as radical Syrian rebels threaten the border region, according to Adam Entous, Julian Barnes, and Siobhan Gorman of The Wall Street Journal.

Officals told WSJ that the agency provides support to Iraq’s Counterterrorism Service (CTS) — comprised of SWAT-like units and U.S.-trained Iraqi special forces — which reports directly to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

CIA Effort In Iraq Places US Spooks On Syria’s Three Largest Borders

Will we ever get it?

by lizard

Some people, to feel better about themselves, will make fun of other people. This happens in politics as well. There is no better way to make yourself feel good about being a Democrat, for example, than focusing on how awful Republicans are.

At Intelligent Discontent last week, Don offered a post titled Your Week in Modern American Conservatism where he looks at what happens to the “hive-deluded mind at Fox News” when a progressive pundit—a black woman—makes an appearance to suggest that instead of telling women to arm and protect themselves from rapists, maybe, just maybe we should be telling men NOT TO RAPE. Not surprisingly the woman who dared to state this obvious point—Zerlina Maxwell—is now the target of malicious online attacks.

In the comments, I offered a solution that I thought a Democrat might be open to: kill all evil Republicans with drone strikes. When I asked if modern liberalism supports killing anyone, anywhere, at any time with drones, I got a numbered response from the Polish Wolf. Here is his 3rd and 4th points:

3. If anything, I prefer he do it with drones because at least a drone assassination is very hard to deny, and very hard to pin on ‘rogue elements’. When the president orders a drone strike, he takes personal responsibility for the outcome. That’s a big improvement over more traditional methods.

4. The reason liberals of your variety (I won’t even try to label them, because any label will be objectionable to you or to me) really oppose drones seems pretty simple: they lay bare the farce that is national sovereignty in the modern world. The idea that nations operate only inside their borders except in times of war has been absurd since at least the second world war and has never truly applied outside of Europe. But it is only the supposed violation of sovereignty that makes an American drone strike in Yemen any different than a Yemeni army action in Yemen with the same effect, or that makes providing weapons to a rebel group more frowned upon than providing weapons to a government. Since liberals o your sort cannot manage to come to terms with that, they must oppose the use of drones in warfare.

This issue is only beginning to gather steam. In my twitter feed this morning, I read a Reuters article titled As Drone Monopoly Frays, Obama Seeks Global Rules:

The United States was the first to use unmanned aircraft fitted with missiles to kill militant suspects in the years after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

But other countries are catching up. China’s interest in unmanned aerial vehicles was displayed in November at an air show . According to state-run newspaper Global Times, China had considered conducting its first drone strike to kill a suspect in the 2011 murder of 13 Chinese sailors, but authorities decided they wanted the man alive so they could put him on trial.

“People say what’s going to happen when the Chinese and the Russians get this technology? The president is well aware of those concerns and wants to set the standard for the international community on these tools,” said Tommy Vietor, until earlier this month a White House spokesman.

Obama wants to set the standard for the international community on these tools? I’m guessing the idea of allowing China and Russia (or Iran) to kill anyone they define as an imminent threat, anywhere in the world at anytime, isn’t very palatable for the Obama administration. But what right does any politician from America have to suggest other countries can’t do exactly what we are doing?

Here’s a crazy fucking idea Mr. President: if you didn’t want other regimes to have the power to kill anyone they feel threatened by anywhere in the world, then you shouldn’t have brazenly expanded that power for yourself.

But Democrats and their online cheerleaders don’t want that conversation, and we won’t have that conversation as long as progressive bloggers like Don Pogreba keep focused on the worst examples of what he tries to broadly paint as “modern conservatism”.

If progressives could avoid the easy bait provided by a fractured, dysfunctional Republican Party, they might see other things more clearly as well, like how modern liberalism, aka neoliberalism, is positioned to attack entitlements, and the only thing in the way is Republican obstructionism.

The issue of chaining the Consumer Price Index (CPI), for example, is being described by Gene Sperling, one of Obama’s chief economic advisers, as Obama’s preference and not just some carrot to entice Republicans.

Will progressives mobilize against policies that will significantly hurt the most vulnerable in this country? If you’re John Stauber, who recently described the progressive movement as a PR front for rich Democrats, the answer is no.

And that’s too bad, because the neoliberal agenda is tantamount to economic warfare, and after years of in-debting and impoverishing the populations of other countries, it’s finally within reach of significantly slashing benefits here at home.

by lizard

The selection of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope is bringing new scrutiny to the role of the Catholic Church in the dirty war that plagued Argentina and other Latin American countries in the 70’s.

Instead of examining Bergoglio’s role in the torturing and murdering of leftist dissidents and others who opposed the brutal, US-supported dictator, I’d like to take a look at the renegade Jesuit, Daniel Berrigan. For a quick bio, the youtube clip below is a good place to start. Then there’s a poem from Berrigan’s collection of poems titled Time Without Number (The Macmillan Company, 1957), a collection that won the Lamont Poetry Prize in 1957.

Enjoy!

*

THE WORKMEN

This is the body the seasons sold for money—
one by one they guarded and grew his frame:
we were hardly ready for him and he was ready.
This is the one.

These are the nettles sprung from sweating Cain.
Gather them up: they are holier far than flowers:
let us see the brow of the laborer glisten with them.
These are the thorns.

These are the coldiron embers of Lucifer:
these are the arrogant stars pushed out of heaven.
Then give him a handful of stars: heap stars at his feet.
These are the nails.

This is the prime redwood of all the world.
It is tougher and taller than he: it will swing him high:
it will hold him high forever if so we wish.
This is the cross.

—Daniel Berrigan

by jhwygirl

I’ve been watching this bill – and goddess knows there are 300 bills far more important than this one – so I admittedly am “pimping the blog” here to rant, as briefly as possible, about SB114.

It ticks me off for the hypocrisy. For making absolutely no sense. For costing the taxpayers. For passing huge costs on to local governments. All this from a so-called conservative.

SB114 is a bill that would have the registration fee paid on a car go with the car when its sold. So if you sell your car and have 8 months left on the plates, that 8 months of registration is going to follow the car. And if you buy a used car that was registered in Montana, then you’d get whatever is left on that vehicle. If anything.

I watched Sen. Taylor in committee and on the floor of the senate on this one – and her logic is that most people in Montana buy used cars and only the people who buy new cars are going to get screwed, but they can afford a new car so that doesn’t matter. How this tea party, ALEC and agricultural subsidy-loving Senator Janna Taylor from up near Flathead thought that giving away the registration money paid by the seller to the buyer of the car (which could be a dealer or a private buyer) made sense is beyond me.

If I paid the registration fee, then why in the world couldn’t Sen. Taylor see fit to see that I get to keep whatever of that which I paid somehow in MY pocket, and not someone else’s?

That’s aside from the extra processing her scheme is going to require given that no matter what, a person has to register the car for title – and normally the plates and title are done at the same time. Now people will still have to do the registration and somehow tie the previous registration to the plates they’re going to use, and still yet after the time they somehow acquire on the used car they bought, they’ll have to come back and get tags – again!

Make your head spin? That’s ultra-conservative thinking for ya!

AND – and you knew there was even crazier crazy wrapped up in conservative Sen. Janna Taylor’s “great bill” – This bill is going to cost the taxpayers – i.e., reduce revenue – by over $11 million over the next four years.

In other words – the fiscal note on this is ugly.

Not only that – see that line there on the fiscal note about the reduction to county revenues? Well, the fiscal note is only analyzing the impact on the state’s general fund – not counties. So Janna’s taking a chunk out of counties. Counties around the state that all are struggling with keeping up with infrastructure repair and maintenance.

Oh – the votes on this are just as ugly, imo – in the senate, this ridiculous costly bill breezed with a final vote of 36 to 9 – meaning that a whole bunch of Democrats voted for this thing too.

Locally, Missoula’s Sen. Cliff Larson was happy to give away $11 million in state revenue over the next 4 years, and god knows what kind of impact to the local county coffers.

Do remember, people, that someone has to somehow pay for that revenue that they’re giving up……

What you have to just LOVE about this is Sen. Janna Taylor’s “rebuttal” of the legislative fiscal division’s fiscal note. It essentially amounts to this:

I disagree with the fiscal note because the note is mathematically correct given the limited information available, but did not consider common sense.

Ahh….common sense!!!

She goes on with specifics – like “The exact number is unavailable, but less than stated.” She also notes that different numbers have been used over the years – and cites this is an example of “the difficulty the Motor Vehicle Division of the Department of Justice and the Governor’s Office of Budget and Planning.”

Don’t get it? Neither do I – and that was verbatim.

Today, SB114 had its second reading on the House floor. It, too, breezed awfully easy with an 80 to 20 vote (Missoula legislators in the House taking the correct “NO” to the bill.)

Correction: Baucus challenger Rep. Champ Edmunds voted in support of Sen. Janna Taylor’s bill. Missoula’s “other” Republican, David “Doc” Moore voted against. All Missoula Democrats in the House voted No.

Bullock can’t sign this, unless he wants every county commissioner beating down on his door and sending hate mail. How any conservative can so freely spend $11,000,000 over the next 4 years in this environment, screw counties out of who know’s how much revenue – AND then take some of it directly from my pocket is mystifying.

Anyone who voted for this one should be embarrassed.

And seriously – don’t these guys and gals have more important things to take care of than to create a bureaucratic nightmare that’s going to double-hit taxpayers at the state purse AND the county?

by lizard

Two days ago, in the afternoon, a rather large police response occurred downtown. It resulted in three people being arrested, one of them zapped with a taser. There is footage on the internets (KPAX) but I’m not going to include it in this post, because it’s how the story is described in words I’d like to look at; words like “brawl” and “rumble”…

MISSOULA – Police say alcohol was the source of a brawl in downtown Missoula on Tuesday which was captured on video. The rumble didn’t end until police brought out their Tasers.

Three people were arrested and one was tased on Tuesday after police say a fight broke out over a bottle of alcohol.

The three were taken to the jail without further incident and they’re all facing misdemeanor charges.

Police Sergeant Jerry Odlin said, “During the incident there were approximately 30 people on either side of the street yelling — some people in support of us, some people in support of the transients, wanting us to just leave them alone.”

First, I have to ask: how do reporters determine who qualifies as a “transient” in this town? I’ve long had a problem with how that term gets thrown around in local media. Now, according to this story, a transient-on-transient fight over a bottle of booze escalated into lots of cops and a crowd of 30 people on two opposing sides, shouting support.

Here’s the next paragraph:

He added that incidents like this are rare, especially during the day, but when they do, it becomes dangerous: “The longer we stay in that situation the worse it can possibly be, because people will feed off of that behavior, so we try to get the situation handled as quickly as possible, but we do it as safely as possible.”

The turn in the next paragraph is important, because what is reportedly rare, according to a police Sergeant, is about to get insinuated as much more prevalent, though only one business person came forward with specific examples, and a total number of businesses contacted by the reporter is not cited:

Almost every business this reporter spoke with could mention an incident where someone had to call police to resolve a problem involving transients. One woman who works downtown said she started carrying pepper spray after being chased and harassed by a homeless man.

Some businesses didn’t want to go on camera, but employees told us they’ve seen homeless people fighting, throwing up and urinating on sidewalks, vandalizing their property, and chasing away customers.

Matt Maddox, a manager at Sushi Hana, said he sees intoxicated homeless people causing problems.

“Some of them get aggressive, they try to ask you for money and sometimes no; is not a good answer for them,” he said. “It just doesn’t look that good when there is four or five people sitting out front passing around a paper bag full of booze.”

What about that aggressive solicitation ordinance? Did criminalizing aggressive panhandling not fix the problem?

In the final paragraph, there’s a hint as to why this situation got almost unmanageable, and dangerous:

Missoula police normally have an officer patrolling downtown on foot, and that position is currently open. Some businesses said having an officer present downtown does make a difference because they know that help is just around the corner.

That help is described in much greater detail in this article from nearly 3 years ago. It’s a great article describing why this position worked (hint: it takes the right person), so read it all, but for the sake of illustrating why budget constraints matter, I’d like to highlight this:

Pifari’s position as the dedicated downtown police officer was born of a recent agreement between the Missoula Police Department and the downtown Business Improvement District, which has long wanted a seasonal police officer dedicated to patrolling the downtown area.

In recent years as instances of disorderly conduct, aggressive panhandling and other public nuisances have risen to the fore, downtown business owners hoped the police department would ramp up its vigilance.

Budgetary shortfalls and staffing constraints have made those requests difficult to fulfill, said Police Chief Mark Muir. And although the Police Department has always maintained a downtown presence, cutting an officer loose to patrol Missoula’s city center full time just hasn’t been possible.

Until last month, when the BID agreed to fund a temporary seasonal position for a two-month trial period.

I’m going to have to leave it at that, because that’s where work begins.

by lizard

For possessing firearms while growing cannabis in accordance with state law, Chris Williams was sentenced to 5 years in jail.

For raping two 14 year old girls when he was 21 years old, Shawn Lowe was sentenced to 90 days in jail.

For endangering the lives of rescue workers, Sean McCoy faced 10 years in jail and a $50,000 dollar fine because he rigged up to a logging truck and repelled off the Madison bridge (serious eco-terrorist activity).

For waterboarding 4 kids, threatening a school, and a Partner Family Assault, William Province will have to spend a whopping two years…ON PROBATION!!!.

Did I mention this menace was found in possession of body armor, multiple assault rifles, and armor-piercing ammunition?

Words fail.

by jhwygirl

There is nothing that city council can do that will cause more permanent harm to any semblance of affordable housing in this valley than to approve their current rezoning of the whole city for ADU’s (Accessory Dwelling Units.)

Beyond that truth, the latest back-and-forth on this insane proposal is the question surrounding the city’s plan to require the owner of an ADU to live on premises. Questions have run the gamut of “Can the city even enforce this?” to “How would the city even enforce this?”

The Missoulian’s Keila Szpaller’s latest delves into this issue along with other very real possibilities that any reasonable entity should consider before writing something that they actually intend to enforce.

What I have said to myself over these questions the last two weeks – and this is when I really regret not having a Missoulian account with which to comment – is this: How or Could the city enforce this? They aren’t enforcing their current ordinances on ADU’s! Why would any presume that they would enforce this new everyone-can-have-one rule when they aren’t enforcing their current rules on dwelling units?

And isn’t there an inherent conflict of interest on the council for 2 or more city council people? Councilors who own and/or live in an illegal ADU?

The mere fact that their association with illegal ADU’s has been openly discussed in public meetings is proof enough of the intent of the city to enforce its owner-must-live-on-site rule. To think any different is really rather irrational.

I also can’t help but ponder the silence of affordable housing advocates. The idea that the city council is going to turn every square inch of this city into an “investment property” by doubling the density potential on single-family dwelling zoned neighborhoods is absolutely insane. Depending on the design standards they end up settling on, you can add 10-20% (at least) on top of the value of a lot in what is currently a single-family zoned area.

With a unit already built? Who knows what that’ll pull down. Oh – and you can bet that a potential ADU will be a selling point on those selling who haven’t built one yet. Add on a premium for that!

Will it be good for the city? Property values will increase because instead of buying a single family home, new buyers will be writing proforma’s to show the bank how the rental of an ADU will increase their income. This will increase the amount of property taxes collected. Is that good for the city? I guess it depends on how you look at it.

I am sitting back just shaking my head. But then again, I did that when the bailed out the ballpark. And the affordable housing project for a second time. And when they blessed the sale of our water. And when they seriously considered an Arts Center. And when they accepted an RFP from a developer who said they had to have a prime piece of real estate for free in order to make their proposal work.

Election season can’t come soon enough..

by lizard

Usually, when it comes to political rhetoric, creating jobs and supporting small businesses are touted as top priorities. Unfortunately, what politicians say is often at odds with what they actually do once in office. In today’s Missoulian, there is plenty of evidence that our state legislators are not immune.

Two years ago, instead of fixing the problems with medical cannabis, a legislative crusade to kill the burgeoning industry was launched, and with the help of sensationalist journalism, they succeeded.

Now, after 6 bills to amend the screw up have already been killed this year, there is a legislative long shot to fix what the 2011 legislature so tremendously screwed up—SB377.

The 2011 law was intended to make it harder for people to get medical marijuana cards and squeeze the profits out of the industry.

In June 2011, there were 30,000 medical marijuana carders in Montana and about 4,400 providers registered with the state to supply pot to cardholders. As of last month, the numbers had plummeted to about 7,500 cardholders and 300 providers.

“To me, what the bill comes down to is two things,” Wanzenried said Friday. “It provides a seed-to-sale tracking system to track all products, and it provides a remedy for many of these lawsuits.”

He said the law hasn’t proved workable.

“This is an issue that doesn’t go away,” Wanzenried said. “The litigation is costing taxpayers.“

What is it going to be, Montana state legislators? Will your moronic anti-business medical cannabis law get dealt with in a sensible manner, or will the courts have to continue stomping on the provisions that dictate through regulatory zeal (which conservatives are allegedly against) that providers can’t be financially compensated for their efforts, along with other stupid provisions crafted to destroy the medical cannabis industry?

While the fate of medical cannabis is up in the air, another industry is in the crosshairs: the craft brewing industry.

In his weekly column in today’s Missoulian, George Ochenski takes a look at how our legislators are trying to expand their anti-business attacks on local businesses by carrying out the will of the Montana Tavern Association, an issue I touched on in this post about the politics of beer.

Ochenski gets into the history of craft brewing in his column today, explaining how the regulations already in place are some of the most restrictive in the nation, yet despite those initial attempts to handcuff economic growth by our elected officials, the Montana Tavern Association wants to totally hobble its competition:

What’s giving the Tavern Association heartburn, if you believe its rap, is that bars and taverns have to purchase a liquor license to sell retail beer and hard liquor. These licenses are issued by the Montana Department of Revenue and are based on population so there are a limited number of licenses available and acquiring one can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Breweries must also be licensed, but are allowed to sell their beers on-site to the public without having to spend the money for a full liquor license.

This argument is not new. Indeed, for those who have been following the evolution of Montana’s craft brewing industry, these same arguments were used in the early and mid-’90s to stifle every attempt at providing a legal framework in which craft brewers could ply their art and practice their business.

But in the late ’90s, the Legislature finally realized that a new industry was knocking on its door, pleading to be allowed to do nothing more than work hard, produce a saleable and sought-after product, and bring their local communities the opportunity to enjoy that product on the premises where it was made.

Yet, in finally giving its approval to craft brewing, the Legislature put some of the most restrictive measures in the nation on what, when and how our breweries and their taprooms can operate. For instance, no person may be served more than 48 ounces of beer per day and taprooms may only serve beer between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. And unlike bars and taverns, the license to run a brewery does not come with an associated right to operate lucrative video gaming machines that produce tens of thousands of dollars per year per machine in revenues.

In spite of these harsh regulatory restrictions, Montana’s craft brewing industry has thrived. Indeed, it is a model of the qualities we value in Montana. Enthusiastic entrepreneurs take the risks to start breweries, invest significantly in the equipment and facilities necessary to brew great beer, offer their products to the general public and have found a willing and grateful customer base that truly appreciates the quality and variety of their local brews.

From its tiny start, Montana’s craft brewing industry has grown to a $50 million a year industry in a mere 15 years and Montana now ranks second in the nation in craft breweries per capita. They range from our largest cities to tiny places like Wibaux and Philipsburg, where locals love their brews.

Now, however, the big and ugly foot of the Montana Tavern Association is trying to stomp the breweries back into the barley dust from which they came. The bill has yet to be introduced, but the unofficial draft copy of the measure requested by Rep. Roger Hagen, R-Great Falls, LC1429, is outlandish.

Since our state only engages in its legislative efforts every two years, it’s incredibly important for our legislators to make the most of their time in Helena.

But instead of crafting the legislation we Montanans need and deserve, there has been entirely too much time wasted on embarrassing legislation that quickly becomes fodder for national media outlets to ridicule.

by lizard

At the annual Mansfield-Metcalf dinner, Montana Democrats got to bask in the post-victory glow of Obama’s campaign guru, Jim Messina.

And what did Montana Democrats learn from the boy-faced architect of Obama’s electoral success? Technology was one of the things that made a difference:

Another major takeaway from the campaign, Messina said, was how technology and new media has changed by light years since 2008 when he was chief of staff on the Obama campaign. By 2012, Facebook was 10 times larger than it was in 2008, he said.

“On Election Day in 2008, we send out one tweet because we thought it was a silly technology that would never go anywhere,” Messina said. “Now Twitter is one of the ways people communicate.”

By 2012, Messina said he didn’t care if Obama supporters organized people online or did it in their neighborhood on the doors, “just as long as I can track it.

“We were able to really able to change the way you do politics because of technology,” Messina said.

What you won’t read in the Missoulian article is how the tech-network that helped propel Obama to victory has evolved into another manifestation of dark money:

Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign was the most technologically advanced political operation in American history, a techie’s wet dream. The campaign, led by Jim Messina, amassed and distilled vast quantities of voter data, built apps and networks to mobilize voters and enlist volunteers, and practically perfected the science of email fundraising. Post-election, Messina and his lieutenants weren’t about to let their data files, email lists, algorithms, and grassroots machine simply gather dust. Instead, they will soon launch Organizing for Action, a standalone advocacy group created to bolster Obama as he pursues his second-term agenda. Messina wrote in an email to donors and staffers that the new group “will be a supporter-driven organization, as we’ve always been, staying true to our core principles: ‘respect, empower, include.'”

But there’s a rub: Organizing for Action will be formed under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, and will not be required to disclose its donors. (The Los Angeles Times first reported this.) For context, Karl Rove’s dark-money juggernaut, Crossroads GPS, is a 501(c)(4), as is the Koch-backed national conservative group Americans for Prosperity. The decision to make Organizing for Action a dark-money nonprofit makes sense strategy-wise: as a nonprofit the new group can meet and coordinate with members of the Obama White House, which it couldn’t do as a super-PAC. But the decision flies in the face of Obama and the Democrats’ supposed commitment to transparency.

Yeah, this doesn’t bode well for that “supposed commitment to transparency” Obama gives lip service to. And who will be directing the dark money? You guessed it.

Jim Messina is now free to peddle his influence, and helping his former boss, Max Baucus, win reelection, will be just one of the ways Messina is monetizing his role for Obama. From the Missoulian article:

He recently formed the Messina Group, a three-person consulting firm in Washington, D.C., to advise political campaigns and nonprofit groups on the lessons they learned in the Obama campaign, especially grass-roots organizing, new media and technology. Among his clients is the Democratic National Committee.

Baucus, who is running for a seventh term in the Senate, isn’t one of Messina’s clients, but Messina added: “I will do anything I can to help him. I think his re-election is crucial for Montana. I think Max Baucus will absolutely be re-elected because he does what’s right for Montana.”

Messina also is the unpaid national chairman of Organizing for Action, a nonprofit advocacy group where the Obama campaign donated its leftover campaign funds to push for the president’s legislative agenda.

He also is giving paid speeches around the world.

So Messina will “do anything” to help Max retain his powerful position as a top-level prostitute for corporate access. Yippee!

The data monster Messina helped create is a serious cause for concern. In Minnesota, for example, this article describes how the seemingly innocuous “Grandma Brigade” is funneling data about friends and family into a massive database for future use.

Much of the data the Grandma Brigade collects is prosaic: records of campaign donations or voters who have recently died. But a few volunteers see free information everywhere. They browse the listings of names on Tea Party websites. They might add a record of what was said around the family Thanksgiving table — Uncle Mitch voted for Bachmann, cousin Alice supports gay marriage.

One data volunteer even joked about holding “rat out your neighbor parties,” where friends would be encouraged to add notes about the political views of other people on their block.

Once information about individual people is entered into the state party’s database, it doesn’t stay in Minnesota. Almost all the information collected by local volunteers like the Grandma Brigade also ends up in the party’s central database in Washington.

Few places have data volunteers as dedicated as the ones in Minnesota, which has been held up as a model for other state Democratic parties. Both Democrats and Republicans have centralized databases that, among other things, track opinions you share with local campaign volunteers.

Each piece of information the parties have stored about you might not be too interesting on its own. But taken together, they’re incredibly powerful. Political campaigns are using this voter data to predict voters’ behavior in increasingly sophisticated ways.

If this is the path Montana Democrats want to take, so be it.

But if the only thing that matters is winning the next election (and political snakes like Jim Messina are willing to “do anything” to do just that) then addressing the continued corruption of the whole political process will never happen.

by lizard

When I declared LETTERS TO WENDY’S one of the most important books of poetry from my X-ish generation, I wasn’t kidding. It’s like Nietzsche leapt into the overmedicated, bloated vessel of Joe Wenderoth’s brilliantly conjured fast-food philosopher-poet writing “comments” to Wendy’s.

August 8, 1996

Foucault says knowledge wasn’t made for understanding but for cutting. For the Wendy’s worker, that’s especially true. The Wendy’s worker knows—he does not understand—and his knowledge is alive with results. It is only for us to understand. In understanding, we construct, justify, and secure ourselves above work. This is how we conceal the knives and restrict their us to the production of delicious results.

~

December 8, 1996

To stroke another customer’s head. Run my fingers through his hair and whisper to him: “you’re going to be all right…” I would be called responsible for doing all of this if he was bleeding to death on the floor, but I would be called inappropriate if I did it when he was in good health. I would be, like all trustworthy prophets, called a nuisance and promptly arrested.

~

September 22, 1996

Wendy’s will burn, Wendy’s will jerk, Wendy’s is open forever. Wendy, however, will never appear. Wendy will never speak or laugh—she will never give herself away. Wendy will never sit upon my knee, or your knee, or the knee of any living organism. Wendy will restrain herself in almost every fashion. Wendy’s will burn, Wendy’s will jerk, Wendy’s is open forever.

To obtain this book of poems? and then actually plow through is worth it. There is a twisted language when brought to life might be worth examining. Or, of course, maybe not.

April 9, 1997

Let’s lay all our drills out in the open. How else shall we ever come to know the full smothering brilliance of the gloss? This is no time to tolerate useless testimony! This is no time to explore the mammy system as if it could be regulated more effectively! This is a time for looking the other way! This is a time for leaving infants on stoops! This is a time, above all, for relaxation.

~

April 10, 1997

Resolute dissonance. I love the way the grass punches through the dream of a fixed ground and burns itself alive. The punch has a sound, as does the dream and the burning alive. They keep one another. They are a war. It’s not a war that can be won. They conflict—they inflict one another. I love the way the grass punches through the dream of a fixed ground and burns itself alive.

If anyone embarks on LETTERS TO WENDY’S, may I suggest the twitter accompaniment of tweets by @robdelaney ? (#terrific)

My dad taught me to read, camp, and stuff feeling down so deep they won’t manifest as a catastrophic stroke until 2039.

~

CAPRICORN: Write the name of your crush on a fruit rollup & make love to it behind a car wash.

~

Thrown up & shit on by my children before 6 AM. Now I’m going out into the world to pay it forward.

~

.@Walmart

help me ,

~

I bet if you wrote the word “steampunk” on a piece of wood, a Mumford & Son would materialize & offer to buy it from you w/ a bag of silver.

~

My son just made a pants noise I’ll describe as “beef liqui-blast.”

Both LETTERS TO WENDY’S and @robdelaney ‘s tweets require prolonged exposure to really appreciate. And both leave me feeling mildly deranged.

March Open Thread

by lizard

It’s tempting, like swatting low hanging fruit, going after Rand Paul’s brand of kook to distract from the content of his filibuster, but the reality is almost no one from team Dem was willing to do the same.

If calling this fascism is still too unpalatable, then let’s find a new term to describe Eric Holder saying “Nah, fuck it, prosecuting bankers could spook the economy…”

What will Bill McKibben do when Keystone goes through? Will he Aaron Swartz himself? No, Bill has a role to play, and as long as he plays it right, no threat of a half-century prison sentence will be necessary.

I know someone who needs to be in jail right now, because he’s a danger to himself and others in this community. I see every day where the gaps are significant, and it’s getting worse.

There is a lot going on right now, too much to actually keep track of.

Consider this an open thread.

By JC

Now they’re not just too big to fail, they’re too big to prosecute. Attorney General Eric Holder testified about the obvious lack of D.O.J. prosecution of big banks:

“I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if we do prosecute — if we do bring a criminal charge — it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.”

So our banks are not only enjoying the rights of personhood, they also have been given immunity from the law. How much more evidence do people need that the era of economic fascism is upon us?

by lizard

I kept my initial post about the verdict of Jordan Johnson’s rape trial brief because I wanted a chance to listen to the responses, and there were plenty.

Here is one worth reading (Missoulian):

For victims of date rape, the process on display during the Johnson trial was more important than the jury’s decision, said Cindy Weese, of the YWCA Missoula. The trial illustrated what victims confront when they choose to report those crimes.

“It’s going to be a grueling process, and their life is going to be exposed to everyone,” said Weese, YWCA director. “… No matter the verdict, (the case) is going to have a chilling effect on victims of sexual assault.”

Every imaginable seed of doubt was used to great effect by the defense. Was the woman seen horribly depressed at every moment of the subsequent year? If not, then she must be in it for the attention, or the notoriety, or the pure vindictive-bitch glory of revenge…for what? JJ’s indelicate post-coitus behavior?

Jezebel writer Katie Baker, who pissed off lots of folks in Missoula by actually coming here and examining our rape culture last May, wrote an article about how JJ was very easily acquitted of rape. Near the end of the article, she says this:

It’s incredibly frustrating that the jurors didn’t feel there was enough evidence to show that Johnson actually raped the woman in part because she was visibly happy that the administration was actually taking action against the football team and, probably more importantly, visibly conflicted about being part of a case that received so much attention. But this is why rape cases are so difficult to prove, especially when the people involved are intoxicated aquaintances — and the accused is a sexy football player.

The main problem the jury had, though, which I highlighted in the first post, was whether or not Jordan Johnson knew the sex was not consensual.

Along those lines, a blog post by a UM professor caught my eye, titled Why I Need a Sexual Assault Reality Check. Here is the bulk of the post:

Last week I accidentally discovered a disturbing online video that sarcastically demeans the sexual assault awareness training we use at the University of Montana. It features a very creepy man. In my experience, it’s rare to see and hear someone who is CLEARLY misogynistic. I may be going out on a limb here, but it appears that a very creepy misogynistic man made this video.

Despite his creep factor (did I mention he was creepy?), he makes a point in the video that I’ve heard before. It goes something like this: During sexual encounters it’s the woman’s responsibility to say “No” in a way that is clear and explicit and unequivocal. If this message isn’t delivered and received, then the sexual encounter can or should continue.

Now, I’m all for women speaking up. That’s a good thing. But for me, the problem of this message is the assumption that because males are built to want and need sex, they’re basically unconcerned with how their partner is feeling and in the absence of a clear and unequivocal message, should simply proceed toward intercourse.

This assumption—that men don’t care how their partner is feeling—seems wrong to me. In my limited experience (myself, my friends, my clients), I’d conclude this: Although most men want sex, they also want their partner to want sex. Maybe I’m going out on another limb, but I think most men prefer their sexual partner to clearly and unequivocally say “Yes!” about having sex.

Once again, in thinking about the dynamics of rape culture, it comes down to education—or, more importantly, who is doing the educating. Without explicit sex education early in life, what fills the void is porn and a popular media culture that objectifies women and emphasizes sexual conquest over a shared sexual experience.

An example of our media culture’s treatment of women was on full display recently at the Oscars, with Seth MacFarlane’s song We Saw Your Boobs.

The link is to a Huffington Post article that points out that four of the scenes Seth cites in his disgusting song are rape scenes—Boys Don’t Cry, The Accused, Lawless, and Monster.

Rape culture is pervasive, and it’s learned. It won’t be easy to change the culture, but that is where the change needs to happen.

Goodbye Loved One

IMG_0699

by lizard

Before kids, our kids were our dogs. Dexter is on the left, and Banjo the right. The picture is the view from Blue Mountain.

Banjo had been throwing up for the last few days, barely eating anything. We knew a few months ago his time was short. He had nose bleeds, but then he had good weeks. Tonight we had to say good bye, and it’s tearing my shit up bad right now.

Knowing it was inevitable, and knowing my oldest son is old enough to have his parents not bullshit with him about what was going to happen, we talked to him about it. We told him he was going to see mom and dad cry a lot when the time came to say good bye to Banjo (I write that and still can’t fucking believe it).

Surgery exposed the massive tumors impacting his bowels and squeezing his heart. We drove to the Vet and said good bye. As a family, we sat with Banjo as the pet doctor put him to sleep. It happened fast.

I’d like to think Banjo’s spirit jumped in the car with us, sitting in the back seat one last time, watching as we took one of his favorite drives out to Blue Mountain. Because that sounds like a nice story to imagine, that’s what we told the kids.

RIP Banjo

P1010066

The Verdict

by lizard

Jordan Johnson was acquitted of rape because the jury had doubt whether Jordan knew what he was doing:

One of the jurors said Friday evening that “we were kind of hung up on the fact that we just couldn’t do a conviction because we weren’t sure whether Mr. Johnson was aware of whether the sex was non-consensual.”

The hangup for the jury was not whether or not the sex was consensual, but whether Jordan Johnson knew it was NON-consensual.

Now that this particular plaintiff and this particular defendant have had their day in court, I expect there to be those in our community who will claim Missoula’s systemic problem with responding and investigating allegations of rape are behind us. For those people, I would remind them that the federal investigations are ongoing, and include over 80 cases.

Tucked away in the comments of the Missoulian story is a comment from a woman that describes her own confusing experience with sexual assault. I’m going to include it below, in addition to an awful response, because I think it highlights the education we, as a community, still desperately need. Continue Reading »




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