Archive for May, 2013

by lizard

Tomorrow is June. That means in just over a month, thousands of folks will gather somewhere on public lands to project their good vibes for world peace in a ceremony that culminates on the 4th of July. The name of the group that puts on these national gatherings is The Rainbow Family of Living Light.

Today there’s an article about one of the scouting camps. There is still no definitive information on a finalized location, but there’s this:

Cairns said the Rainbow Family has other scouting groups in Montana, but she didn’t know where. The scouters will take their findings back to a loose-knit council; one of the Rainbow Family’s websites says the council will convene June 7 to 9 to make a decision on where to camp in Montana for about a week.

One unidentified Rainbow blogger said they’re looking in the Yaak and the Crazy Mountains.

Another article worth reading is an Indy feature from 13 years ago, written by Ken Picard accompanied by photos from Chard Harder. The piece is titled From Babylon to Wisdom.

Hopefully everything goes smoothly. An influx of this size can be a strain on local resources, and like any large group of people, there will always be a small percentage that don’t adhere to the proclaimed values of the majority.

That said, if you come in peace, I ain’t got no beef, ’cause respect is a two way street.

by lizard

The negative impacts of alcohol are rampant in Montana. Back in January I wrote this post comparing efforts to devise testing methods for marijuana impairment while driving versus efforts by Montana legislators to address drunk driving. In that post I cited some huge numbers that alcohol abuse costs the state annually, which are worth repeating here:

Alcohol induced medical care: 100.7 million
Criminal justice system: 49.1 million
Early mortality/lost earnings; disease/vehicle accidents: 296.8 million
Lost productivity: 53.3 million
Treatment costs: 10.7 million

If you check out that post, you will also find a link to a Billings Gazette article about “DUI fatigue”. For those who take notice of the constant headlines of alcohol related fatalities, it is more than just fatigue. It’s despair.

And it certainly doesn’t help to read about state senator Shannon Augare (D-Browning) reportedly fleeing a traffic stop:

The Glacier County Sheriff’s Office reports that deputies responded to a complaint of an erratic driver on US Highway 2 on Monday, May 26th, just before noon.

Deputies made contact with the suspect vehicle approximately nine miles west of Cut Bank; the driver of the vehicle was identified by a deputy as Shannon Augare, a Montana State Senator (D-Browning).

A press release from the Sheriff’s Office states that the deputy observed several indications that Augare may have been driving while impaired, and smelled an “overwhelming” odor of an alcoholic beverage.

Augare reportedly advised the Deputy that he had no jurisdiction and stated he was going to leave.

The deputy tried to take Augare’s car keys, and advised him not to leave, but backed away when Augare reportedly began to drive away while the deputy was reaching into the vehicle.

There is a simple way to stop the dangerous combination of drinking and driving: mandate ignition interlock devices for all cars.

An ignition interlock device or breath alcohol ignition interlock device (IID and BAIID) is a mechanism, like a breathalyzer, installed on a motor vehicle’s dashboard. Before the vehicle’s motor can be started, the driver first must exhale into the device; if the resultant breath-alcohol concentration analyzed result is greater than the programmed blood alcohol concentration (which varies between countries), the device prevents the engine from being started.

At random times after the engine has been started, the IID will require another breath sample. The purpose of this is to prevent someone other than the driver from providing a breath sample. If the breath sample isn’t provided, or the sample exceeds the ignition interlock’s preset blood alcohol level, the device will log the event, warn the driver and then start up an alarm (e.g., lights flashing, horn honking) until the ignition is turned off, or a clean breath sample has been provided. A common misconception is that interlock devices will simply turn off the engine if alcohol is detected; this would, however, create an unsafe driving situation and expose interlock manufacturers to considerable liability.

Is it necessary to go this route? No question it would save lives. For fiscal conservatives, it would probably save money as well.

by lizard

I Want to Believe, by Jarrod Shanahan, is a brilliant essay on the intersection between capitalism and the trappings of conspiracy culture. I’m not too familiar with The New Inquiry, but I give them credit for being willing to engage this topic.

The essay is in two parts. You’ll have to click the first link for the whole thing, but below I’ve included the first part. Continue Reading »

by lizard

Today thousands hundreds of thousands of people will be marching against Monsanto. The fight against Monsanto is happening on several fronts. At the Federal level, a senate vote to allow states to require GMO labeling was defeated, but at the state level, Connecticut’s senate passed legislation requiring GMO labeling.

On another front, a bee keeper in Illinois is fighting allegations that his bees were infected by foul brood, but there’s more going on than just those allegations:

An Illinois beekeeper whose bee hives were stolen and allegedly destroyed by the Illinois Department of Agriculture has stirred up a hornet’s nest with his questions on why the state did this, and most importantly, what they did with his bees.

The state claims the bees were destroyed because they were infected with a disease called foulbrood.

But when the 58-year apiary keeper had his hearing—three weeks after the removal of his bees without his knowledge—the state’s “evidence” had disappeared, leaving more questions than answers about the raid on the beekeeper’s hives.

Some people, including the beekeeper, Terrence Ingram, suspect the raid has more to do with Ingram’s 15 years of research on Monsanto’s Roundup and his documented evidence that Roundup kills bees, than it does about any concerns about his hives.

Interestingly, the state’s theft targeted the queen bee and hive he’d been using to conduct the research.

Which brings us to this week’s poetry post featuring Sylvia Plath, a poet who knew a thing or two about bees:

In the autumn of 1962, only four months before her death in February 1963, Sylvia Plath wrote a cluster of extraordinary poems about Bees. She had taken up beekeeping that June and wrote excitedly to her mother in America to describe the events of attending a local beekeepers’ meeting in the Devon village of North Tawton, where she had moved with her husband, Ted Hughes, and their young daughter in September 1961. Her son was born there in January 1962. It seemed to be an idyllic setting for a perfect family life – with bees.

To read Plath’s poem, The Swarm, click continue. Continue Reading »

by lizard

Yesterday, Eric Holder submitted a letter, at the behest of president Obama, acknowledging that his administration has killed 4 US citizens:

Ahead of a major speech on counterterrorism policies tomorrow, the administration of President Barack Obama has officially declassified information related to drone strikes against four American citizens and also acknowledged for the first time that they were killed by the United States.

A letter sent to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee by Attorney General Eric Holder reads, “The President has directed me to disclose certain information that until now has been properly classified. You and other members of your Committee have on numerous occasions expressed a particular interest in the Administration’s use of lethal force against US citizens. In light of this fact, I am writing to disclose to you certain information about the number of US citizens who have been killed by US counterterrorism operations outside of areas of active hostilities.”

“Since 2009,” the letter continues, “the United States, in the conduct of US counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda and its associated forces outside of areas of active hostilities, has specifically targeted and killed one US citizens, Anwar al-Aulaqi. The United States is further aware of three other US citizens who have been killed in such US counterterrorism operations over that same time period: Samir Khan, ‘Abd al-Rahman Anwar al-Aulaqi and Jude Kenan Mohammed. These individuals were not specifically targeted by the United States.”

Later today, president Obama’s “major speech” will be delivered. Consider this post an open thread.

Systemic Malarkey

by lizard

On the 11th of this month, president Obama said this about the housing market:

“Today, seven years after the real estate bubble burst, triggering the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and costing millions of responsible Americans their jobs and their homes, our housing market is healing. Sales are up. Foreclosures are down. Construction is expanding. And thanks to rising home prices over the past year, 1.7 million more families have been able to come up for air because they’re no longer underwater on their mortgages.”

Mike Whitney has been tracking the housing disaster for years now, and when he calls this statement by our liar-in-chief “malarkey” he is being charitable. Here’s how Whitney counters the bullshit being spewed by Obama:

What a load of malarkey. The truth is housing is in a shambles. Starts are down, inventory is tight, demand is weak, mortgage originations are flat, household formation has fallen off a cliff, (The homeownership rate is now at levels last seen in the mid-1990s), and the entire industry is precariously propped atop artificially-low interest rates and the Fed’s bogus $40 billion per month QE giveaway.

Does that sound like a thriving market to you?

No, Mike, it doesn’t.

From the very beginning, it was clear Obama had no plans to hold the big banks accountable for massive fraud. Back when the hopium was still potent and being imbibed by Democrats, stacking the cabinet with Wall Street sycophants was something that had to be either ignored or downplayed.

Because the core problems with the housing market haven’t been addressed, the banks are looking to suck in more victims with government backed loans that require no down payment. Don’t believe me? Read the whole article. It’s beyond maddening this shell game is being allowed to continue. It’s criminal, and Obama is complicit.

This should be a scandal, but it’s not.

Speaking of scandals, because of the disaster in Oklahoma, Democrats get a reprieve from having to hear about their Nixonian president doing to the AP what he’s been doing to whistleblowers for years, among the other scandals plaguing the administration.

And speaking of the disaster in Oklahoma, I was incredibly disappointed to see Bob Brigham gleefully politicize the destruction yesterday evening with tweets like this:

Cost of @jiminhofe climate change denial. RT @AP State medical examiner’s office: 37 killed in Oklahoma tornado; death toll expected to rise

It doesn’t make much sense to give disaster aid after severe weather to people who elect climate change deniers. Unafforbable cycle of waste

Will the harsh realties of climate change dampen this activist’s support for his beloved coal cowboy, Brian Schweitzer? I doubt it.

Maybe we should finally acknowledge that we don’t have a political system capable of producing the kind of leaders we need to address big problems, like an economy manipulated by criminals and an environment heating up from the destructive inclinations of humans.

So let’s stop investing hope in political shucksters and pathological liars, and start doing the work ourselves. Plenty of folks are already doing it, both inside the system and outside.

If more people play a direct, active role in addressing the systemic inequities affecting billions of people across the globe, then there’s hope. There’s no hope in sending impotent little tweets to stupid politicians taking orders from their funders.

by lizard

This week’s poem is from a collection by Mary Oliver titled Twelve Moons (Little, Brown and Company, 1972). It’s her fourth collection; a tight package of poems. So with that, here’s this week’s selection.

*

ENTERING THE KINGDOM

The crows see me.
They stretch their glossy necks
In the tallest branches
Of green trees. I am
Possibly dangerous, I am
Entering the kingdom.

The dream of my life
Is to lie down by a slow river
And stare at the light in the trees—
To learn something by being nothing
A little while but the rich
Lens of attention.

But the crows puff their feathers and cry
Between me and the sun,
And I should go now.
They know me for what I am.
No dreamer,
No eater of leaves.

—Mary Oliver

by lizard

If you violate a city ordinance, district judge Ed McLean is making sure you won’t see any jail time:

A District Court judge has ordered Missoula’s Municipal Court judges not to send defendants to the county jail for violations of city ordinances.

In his written order, District Judge Ed McLean said only those defendants accused of breaking state laws should be in the Missoula County Detention Facility, which has been at capacity for 18 months.

“A municipal judge may not send someone to the Missoula County Detention Facility for violation of a municipal ordinance,” McLean wrote. “If the judge sends someone to the Missoula County Detention Facility for violation of a state statute, then the judge must cite the statute under which the person is being detained.”

I don’t know what’s going on between the County jail and the City Municipal Court, but I would suspect there are multiple factors at play. One of those factors is the still relatively new head judge, Kathleen Jenks.

Last October, I wrote about how Jenks is not supportive at all of treatment court options for repeat offenders who have co-occurring mental health and addiction problems. Then, a few weeks later, I wrote this post about the problems at the jail.

Well, it’s no surprise things appear to be getting worse, and in this week’s Independent, yet another factor is discussed: Counsel Cuts. Here is an excerpt from the article explaining how forced furloughs can keep people languishing longer in jail:

One of the immediate effects of budget cuts is furloughs. Since mid-April, Rhodes and every other employee of the FDOM have been forbidden to work the second Friday of each two-week pay period. It may not seem like a lot, but Rhodes says given his already hectic work schedule—he represents as many as 35 clients charged with felonies at any given time—one less day in the office is significant.

“When you’re prohibited from working one out of 10 business days, it interferes undoubtedly with the flow of work,” he says. “I’ve already had an instance where I had to reschedule a motion to suppress because the hearing was set for a furlough day.”

He says in another instance, he was forced to ask a judge to push back a sentencing hearing that was scheduled for a Friday he was not allowed to work. That client, he says, will be forced to remain in the county jail until the scheduling issues can be resolved.

It’s a bad situation, and it’s getting worse. Of course, if you’re someone who racks up multiple violations of city ordinances, and you don’t care about mounting fines, then the news today is probably good.

by lizard

Missoula In Motion wants us to see commuting differently, and May 12-25 is their commuter challenge.

I bike to work all year round, which is just one of the many reasons I love living in this town. I enthusiastically support building transportation infrastructure that includes consideration for pedaling, foot traffic, and accessibility for those with disabilities.

That said, the behavior of some cyclists in this town better change, because there are entirely too many clueless, entitled dicks pedaling around with complete disregard for anyone around them.

After a long, demanding day of work the last thing I want to encounter as I’m biking across a car-packed Orange Street bridge is some moronic hippie with dreads biking at me, against traffic. And yes, dude, I did call you a fucking idiot as you squeezed me into traffic because you can’t figure out which side of the road to bike on.

I think alternative transportation advocates need to get ahead of the inevitable backlash that’s building by doing some proactive education before someone like Dave Strohmaier gets out his ordinance pen and crafts something unnecessary like his social host law.

It’s too bad more people don’t possess this thing called common sense. If you’re biking on a sidewalk, for example, you should realize that sidewalks are intended for pedestrians—they are NOT roads, so don’t bike like you’re on one. There are times I bike on sidewalks, but I do so slowly, and it’s usually because I’m towing my kids behind me.

A little consideration goes a long way. And when consideration is lacking, I guess we’ll have those quality of life officers doing whatever they can to address the simmering discontent.

by lizard

I guess six months into the second term means it’s scandal time, and Obama has a twofer with the IRS thing and the AP snooping thing—really a three-fer if you count the blazing phoenix of Benghazi.

Scandal, scandal, scandal. How to respond? For Democrats, there are at least a few handy-dandy talking points from Media Matters Action Network regarding the AP thing.

Meanwhile, Monsanto scores big at the Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that Indiana farmer Vernon Bowman infringed Monsanto’s patent for genetically modified soybeans when he bought some of those seeds from a local grain elevator and used them for a second, late-season crop.

In a lawsuit, Monsanto argued that Bowman, a man in his 70s who has farmed the same land for most of the past four decades, violated the contract he signed when he initially bought the seeds in the spring. The contract stated that none of the harvest from the first batch of seeds, known as Roundup Ready because they are resistant to the weed-killing chemical of the same name, could be saved for replanting.

The CIA turfing with State and the DOJ spying on AP and IRS going after conservative 501(c)(4)s, so much fun fodder for the pundits.

And as those scandals feed headlines, corporate ownership of our food supply is strengthened.

Speaking of ownership, and closer to home, Ochenski’s column yesterday is a must read: Pirates raiding the Treasure State.

Big money can be persistent. But where are the Big Rigs?

Exactly.

by lizard

Any artistic medium—poetry, film, music, etc.—derives its meaning from the subjective experiences of its audience. There is no static, fixed meaning when it comes to interpreting artistic expression.

Film is a very interesting medium. In its crudest, commodified form, Hollywood produces entertainment known as movies to make as much money as possible. People don’t spend their hard-earned money to be lectured about the ills of US imperialism, for example (well, some do). They want to see good guys whoop bad guys.  It’s a pretty simple formula.

Who the bad guys are, though, can be a touchy issue. I haven’t seen Iron Man 3, but after reading this post by conservative blogger Douglas Ernst, it’s clearly a movie I should see:

The good news about Iron Man 3 is that it’s a sharply written, well-directed movie. The bad news is that while some of the messages it conveys to the audience hold incredible truth (e.g., “we create our own demons”), it might just be the conspiracy-theorist must-see blockbuster of the summer.

Do you have any friends who think 9/11 was “an inside job”? Iron Man 3 is the movie for them. (You might want to consider getting new friends if that’s the case, but in the mean time you could still enjoy a solid movie.) Do you have any friends who refer to the “military industrial complex” at parties so they sound smarter than they really are? Iron Man 3 is the movie for them. Do you have friends who hate “Big Oil” and “fat cats”? Iron Man 3 is the movie for them. Director Shane Black ingeniously — or perhaps devilishly? — devised a film that is drenched in anti-Americanism in a way that will leave many Americans exiting the theater not even knowing they’re all wet. At the showing I went to in Tyson’s Corner, Va., many people even burst out clapping twice during the film. On many levels, Mr. Black deserves kudos. That’s not easy to do.

Hollywood is one of Ernst’s favorite targets, because in Hollywood, America-hating liberals enrich themselves with their unfair depictions of the consequences of misusing American power, and people love the products they produce.

Last night I watched a “buddy cop” movie starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. Lethal Weapon came out in 1987, and was number 1 at the box office for 3 weeks, ensuring several sequels.

I didn’t see the movie when it first came out, because I was only 9, but I did eventually see it. What surprised me when I saw it for the first time in well over a decade was Gibson’s character, Riggs, telling his buddy partner (played by Glover) how he was a part of Air America and the Phoenix Program, actual CIA projects operating in Vietnam.

Filtering this stuff through film is brilliant. It gets it out there in a form that can be totally controlled and—because it’s just a movie—delegitimized. Instead of grappling with the realities of what this country did in Southeast Asia, we can be entertained by a 90 minute cinematic depiction that propels a fictionalized character into the vengeful role of lethal good guy righteously killing the bad guys.

I wonder if blogging was around in 1987, if comments like this would be aimed at Lethal Weapon:

The liberals got a hold of this movie! Wouldn’t you know the true bad guy was an American and American military soldiers while the poor Muslims were innocent and we are the bad people. Plus, the symbolism of him blowing up his suits and his girlfriend not wanting to help out the military was all anti-military, anti-guns, anti-Americans. I just felt like Obama was the director of this movie and im very disappointed. At the end what is he trying to say that iron man is done he’s now some great liberal who doesn’t need a suit? JUST HORRIBLE!

Many Americans desperately need their culture to maintain the evil of the other and the noble righteousness of America. When that doesn’t happen, they get upset.

My advice to the commenter above is to watch Zero Dark Thirty to alleviate the trauma experienced by watching Iron Man 3.

My advice to everyone else: they aren’t “just movies” so pay attention to what the wizards in Hollywood are conjuring.

by jhwygirl

It ended up the do-nothing U.S. House of Representatives passed three kumbaya bills and two not-jobs-creation bills last week. One of those not-jobs-creation bills is the Full Faith and Credit Act that we wrote briefly about the other day – HR807. This bill actually hurts employment by telling the Treasury what order in which to pay bills.

HR807 passed with only Republican votes – while 8 Republicans joined with Dems in NAY to passage. Which tells you what kind of bill this is.

Where was Montana Rep. Steve Daines? He voted yes.

The second non-kumbaya bill and the other real work damage the GOP-led House did last week was the Working Families Flexibility Act – HR1406.

That name sure sounds nice, doesn’t it

The Working Families Flexibility Act repeals a portion of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 – the portion that requires employers of hourly wage earners to pay time-and-a-half for work hours over 40. Instead of pay, an employer (e.g., not the employee) can opt to pay out those overtime hours as “comp time” – a bank of hours, like vacation or sick time.

And guess what? The employer doesn’t have to pay it out to you when you and your employer part ways. Not only that – imagine the impacts to an employee (i.e., a father or a mother) who turns down overtime?

Where was Montana Rep. Steve Daines on this bill that both destroys job creation and exposes hourly wage earning families to risky and unfair labor practices? Rep. Daines voted yes.

75 years of standing labor law – built on events that brought about its need – and Daines votes to do away with overtime pay.

Now – this bill ties in nicely with the GOP’s never ending quest to damage and roadblock the Affordable Care Act. If employers can’t cut employees back enough to avoid having to provide healthcare, at least then they could force everyone to work 50 hour work weeks, with compensation that only increases what might be nonexistent sick and vacation leave! See how fascism works?

And before you think they’ve given up on this quest to gut-punch the Affordable Care Act, Rep. Michele Bachmann’s bill to repeal said bill – HR45 is schedule for the floor this week.

Used to be “jobs jobs jobs” we heard from the GOP, but that has been quite a while. It’s one thing to myopically focus on other issues (like Benghazigate?) but it’s an entirely different thing when you start taking pot shots at jobs and American hourly wage earners, both already spread thin.

Pay attention here, Montana. Steve Daines is going to be running for something in 2014. Don’t let these votes fade from memory.

Stranger Than Fiction

by lizard

Tom Robbins is a brilliant writer. In 2000, his book Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates explores contradiction through a lovable CIA agent, Switters, who gets cursed by a shaman named “Today is Tomorrow”.

One of the aspects of the book is the depiction of a struggle within the CIA between “Angels” and “Cowboys”. Though I read this book years ago, that concept has always stuck with me. I don’t think it’s outlandish to assume struggles happen in big, powerful government agencies.

We can enjoy Robbins’ work as fiction, but for us to know with any accuracy the actual struggles within the CIA is doubtful.

Take Benghazi. Last November Paula Broadwell mentioned the CIA was holding Libyan militia prisoners at the “consulate” site.

Since then, that angle—denied vociferously by the CIA (like their word means anything)—has completely dropped from what has become a purely Republican sledge-hammer to inflict as much damage on Hillary Clinton as possible.

Because Benghazi is a Republican sledge-hammer, there is no Democrat interest in what happened—only partisan ridicule. There is no significant inquiry into what the CIA was actually doing in Benghazi, like whether or not the CIA was overseeing arms heading to Syria.

The Republican/Democrat binary is becoming more and more problematic. I prefer thinking in terms of the Angel/Cowboy binary Robbins uses.

There is more going on behind the scenes than we’ll ever know, but every once in awhile alarming things surface. Back in August of 2007, this happened:

Six AGM-129 ACM cruise missiles, each loaded with a W80-1 variable yield nuclear warhead, were mistakenly loaded on a United States Air Force (USAF) B-52H heavy bomber at Minot and transported to Barksdale.

The wikipedia page for this little known event is titled United States Air Force nuclear weapons incident. You would think the media would be all over something like this, even in the dog days of summer, but this story virtually disappeared in days. Instead it became a topic of interest in fringe land where incidents go to be forever discredited and devalued.

Six years later we have another story relating to our arsenal of nuclear weapons that should be getting much more attention than it has so far.

Air Force sidelines 17 nuclear missile officers; commander cites “rot” in system:

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel demanded more information Wednesday after the Air Force removed 17 launch officers from duty at a nuclear missile base in North Dakota over what a commander called “rot” in the force. The Air Force struggled to explain, acknowledging concern about an “attitude problem” but telling Congress the weapons were secure.

Hagel reacted strongly after The Associated Press reported the unprecedented sidelining of the officers at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., where one of their commanders complained of “such rot” that even the willful violation of safety rules — including a possible compromise of launch codes — was tolerated.

This alarming story is especially noteworthy, considering it’s coming on the heels of Obama calling for more money to “modernize” our nuclear stockpile:

WASHINGTON, April 10 (RIA Novosti) – US President Barack Obama on Wednesday proposed boosting funding for the Energy Department to modernize the nation’s existing nuclear weapons in what analysts say is part of a bargain he struck with Republican lawmakers to secure their support for the New START deal with Russia to reduce nuclear stockpiles.

In his federal budget blueprint unveiled Wednesday, Obama called for $7.87 billion in funding “to maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent,” an increase of $654 million, or 9 percent, compared to the 2012 budget.

Obviously a good way to reduce something is to spend more money on it.

War is Peace, after all.

by lizard

There is a ton of poetry in my collection I have yet to read. There are quite a few posts that feature poems I have just discovered.

This week’s poem is one of those. I found it in the anthology titled The Outlaw Bible of american poetry, edited by Alan Kaufman. From the link:

In forms ranging from the epistle through the manifesto to the hip-hop lyric, The Outlaw Bible presents over six hundred pages of countercultural writing divided into sections with titles like “Slammers”, “Meat Poets”, and “American Renegades”. The anthology also includes interview material, photographs, articles, and biographical information.

The eclectic mix of poets includes Ai, Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka, David Trinidad, Diane diPrima, Joy Harjo, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Sapphire, as well as those not traditionally thought of as poets in the literary sense (Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Janis Joplin), and writers who primarily wrote in alternate genres (Henry Miller, Norman Mailer, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor).

Anthologies, in my opinion, should be books of discovery; chances to include a multitude of voices (I list a few of my favorite anthologies here).

Rebecca Fransway is the new voice I discovered today, and apparently she made a bit of a stir over a book of poems that is now no longer in print. This from her wikipedia page:

She is the author and editor of a controversial book published in 2000, 12-Step Horror Stories: True Tales of Misery, Betrayal & Abuse in AA, NA, and 12-Step Treatment. This book was banned in Davis bookstores and some U.S. bookstores because of complaints from treatment centers and members of local twelve-step groups. It is out of print, but is available for free online.

Needless to say, I’ve already placed the order.

And now, the poem. Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to take an upteenth attempt at damaging U.S. economic stability and growth tomorrow with a number of bills coming to floor vote, six of which would once again embrace derivatives as a legitimate stable investment for our financial institutions.

Taxpayers beware. There is nothing prohibiting bailouts.

Passing out of House financial services on Tuesday and coming to a vote tomorrow is the Full Faith and Credit Act coming to a vote will prioritize U.S. debt and interest over the priority of running the government. Things like keeping the lights on, paying soldiers, social security & disability payments. You can see how willing to negotiate the House GOP Republicans are going to be for the upcoming debt ceiling discussion, estimated to come to Washington DC sometimes during that oh-so-pleasant month of August.

Six other bills which also passed out of financial services yesterday will weaken derivatives regulations within Dodd-Frank.

Addendum: Democracy Now reports that only six members of the House financial services committee voted NO to weakening the already
weak Dodd-Frank derivative regulations.

This’ll infuriate people who thought Dodd-Frank was weak to begin with. Pretty sure that both Lizard and JC fall into that category. I know I’m there.

HR992, the Swaps (meaning derivatives) Regulatory Improvement Act, will allow FDIC insured and uninsured foreign banking entities supervised by the Federal Reserve to utilize derivatives.

That’s right – one of the base elementary causes of the 2007 economic crash is being welcomed back for taxpayer insured FDIC banks.

As a bonus, the bill continues the bailout prohibition exemption for these banks. Which means in plainer language that FDIC insured banks can continue to be bailed out. Ahhh, the pleasures of Dodd-Frank.

I’ve seen or heard plenty saying that the Full Faith and Credit act isn’t likely to pass filibuster – but I’ve yet to see or hear the same for the nasty derivative porn. I say it’s amazing but it really isn’t anymore – the crap these electeds get away with. Because truth be told, it rests on us who keep elected these fools. But here we are, an already weak bill being weakened again. Embracing derivatives? Geezus.

What will Daines do? I’ll be calling his D.C. office first thing tomorrow morning (202-225-3211) to let his staff know where I stand – and that I’ll be watching.

by jhwygirl

In what is either another misguided attempt or act of malfeasance in search of affordable housing, Missoula City Council approved Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) for all residential zones.

I’ve written once about this ADU proposal. My main objection is the negative impact it is going to have on affordable housing. Other issues are just as valid, such as the higher taxes it will bring. Enforcement is a huge issue for many, the city notorious for not wanting to enforce stuff (like fireworks?) Council also didn’t provide much for convincing answers to how they could enforce the “owner occupied” portion of the law – especially when questioned about previous legal opinions to the contrary.

So I see this story in the Missoulian from city government reporter Keila Szpaller and I just shake my head. There is a picture of an advocate for ADU’s – Ms. Brown is quoted as saying “ADUs are not the end of the world. They are not the end of Missoula as we know it. They are another affordable housing option, and as an older individual, I’m looking for those.”

BUT – read the caption under the photo which accompanies the article, and the advocate for affordable housing says she wants to build a cottage to rent out the main house.

I ask you: How is that creating affordable housing? Ms. Brown, who owns a house, is going to build a guest cottage to live in and then she’s going to rent out her university district home. Now – I’m sure this has already been all worked out, but let me explain how this is going to work because now we’ve been given such a clear example.

Occupant of said house – who is likely having trouble keeping up with property taxes, in addition to having a need to downsize – is going to go to the bank and present the finance officer with a plan for how much they are going to rent the main house. Estimating taxes, costs and revenues, they’ll then offer their home as collateral.

Bam! Property values have increased for that lot because of the improvements. So the neighbors next door with a family and two working incomes who were able to afford their 3 bedroom home are now faced with a tidy uptick in their property values. And the cycle goes on.

The comments on Ms. Szpaller’s story don’t miss that, either.

A motion was made to have the ADU proposal go to the voters, but that was struck down. No surprise there – the city had previously taken a city-wide survey to prove how everyone like the idea and the results were that a majority was not in support of the proposal.

In the end, Councilors Jason Wiener, Alex Taft, Cynthia Wolken, Bob Jaffe, Ed Childers, Mike O’Herron, and Marilyn Marler voted for the ADU’s – and Jon Wilkins, Adam Hertz, Caitlin Copple, Dave Strohmaier and Dick Haines voting no.

So THANK YOU Jon, Adam, Caitlin, Dave and Dick for voting no.

The city’s going to get sued. They pretty much know that. The truth is, they don’t really care. The city has insurance coverage for this type of thing, so their cost is minimal as opposed to the organizing of funds that the opponents are going to have to do to hire an attorney.

Sad. It’s really a nasty thing when government – whether it be town, city, county, state or federal – takes the position that “you can’t sue city hall.” They have their staff and insurance pool of attorneys – any individual or group has to then step up and get the job done. I believe that is the case here, illustrated by the city’s previous survey, and Monday’s night failed vote to take it to the voters.

In this case, I have no doubt. Myra Shults has been out in front of this for a while. I may be wrong, but I believe she used to be a Montana Association of Counties (MACo) staff attorney for land use issues. Ms Shults was also up front and center with the gravel pit issue down near Lolo back several years ago.

Ms Shults was successful in that the gravel pit was halted – and without her involvement, I don’t know that it would have happened.

I may even donate some popcorn money to the cause.

by lizard

As the situation in Syria continues to worsen, the political dynamics remain largely the same: blame any atrocity on the Assad regime, and try to minimize or ignore evidence to the contrary.

Over a year ago, violence in Homs was initially being pinned on the Assad regime. Luckily we have blogs that are sometimes capable of successfully countering western propaganda, and with this particular situation, that is precisely what the blog Moon of Alabama was able to do:

What was surely meant to be a clever display of media-friendly visuals to illustrate Syrian regime violence in Homs, has instead raised more questions than answers.

US State Department satellite images of the embattled city were posted on Facebook last Friday by US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, who complains: “A terrible and tragic development in Syria is the use of heavy weaponry by the Assad regime against residential neighborhoods.”

The “satellite photos,” says Ford, “have captured both the carnage and those causing it – the artillery is clearly there, it is clearly bombing entire neighborhoods…We are intent on exposing the regime’s brutal tactics for the world to see.”

But within 24 hours, the blog Moon of Alabama had taken a hammer to the ambassador’s claims. A detailed examination of satellite imagery by the bloggers revealed numerous discrepancies in Washington’s allegations. Mainly, their investigations point to the fact that Ford’s satellite images were “of guns training within military barracks or well known training areas and not in active deployment.”

Fast forward to today, and the big question is whether the Assad regime has used chemical weapons. If I’ve learned anything from trying to track the developments in Syria, it’s to be extremely skeptical of claims the Syrian regime has actually done what it’s being accused of.

According to this Reuters piece, skepticism is very warranted:

(Reuters) – U.N. human rights investigators have gathered testimony from casualties of Syria’s civil war and medical staff indicating that rebel forces have used the nerve agent sarin, one of the lead investigators said on Sunday.

The United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria has not yet seen evidence of government forces having used chemical weapons, which are banned under international law, said commission member Carla Del Ponte.

“Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,” Del Ponte said in an interview with Swiss-Italian television.

“This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,” she added, speaking in Italian.

As’ad AbuKhalil, also known as the Angry Arab, was an early supporter of regime change for Syria. That is no longer the case:

This was never a “revolution”. I among other leftists in Lebanon signed a petition early on after the events in Deraa in which we denounced the regime and mocked and dismissed its narrative of armed groups roaming the country and shooting at people. I now figure that I was dead wrong: I do believe that armed groups were pre-prepared and armed to strike when orders (from Israel and GCC countries) arrive. They had a mission and it had nothing to do with the cause of liberation of Syria from a tyrannical regime.

Now that Israel has unilaterally decided to start bombing Syria, who knows where the escalating violence will lead (it should also be noted Israel gave the US no warning it was about to strike targets in Syria).

It’s good to see at least one leftist cheerleader for regime change step back from the carnage and admit being duped. I doubt he will have more company from western media sources, because their job will still be to justify military intervention.

I would also like to state, again, how grateful I am to bloggers like b @ Moon of Alabama for continuing to critically examine western media claims. When it comes to tracking the developments of US foreign policy, I’ll take MoA over CNN any day.

Stay tuned…

by lizard

Howard Kurtz has made a name for himself writing about the media. In addition to 5 books, Kurtz also wrote media analysis for the Washington Post, has his own CNN show and, until quite recently, had a nice-paying job at The Daily Beast.

Kurtz’s recent departure from The Daily Beast is generating some interesting speculation. Was he fired for going after Jason Collins? The timing and degree of stupidity in Kurtz’s gotcha attack certainly makes that seem plausible. Here’s how Kurt Eichenwald’s Vanity Fair piece opens:

That was fast.

Howard Kurtz is out at The Daily Beast less than a day after setting off an Internet conflagration with what was, without doubt, one of the most embarrassing pieces of drivel ever published by a major news outlet. Kurtz, the national media scold whose own independence has been questioned because of his work with multiple media outlets, decided to weigh in on the historic Sports Illustrated cover story in which Jason Collins revealed he was gay—the first major American team athlete to do so. Collins was showered with congratulations for his courage.

But Howie just got riled up, and so he decided to post what he seemed to believe was the ultimate “gotcha”—Collins may have revealed he was gay, but he didn’t reveal he had been engaged to a woman.

Another, less tantalizing reason involves Kurtz’s involvement with Daily Download, a side project Kurtz was spending more and more time writing for.

Personally, I don’t care why Kurtz was fired. I’m just happy to see the bastard get a taste of his own medicine.

You see, Howard Kurtz is a prime example of media gatekeeping who achieved his lucrative position by trashing journalists who actually took risks in the subjects they reported on:

For nearly a quarter century, Howard Kurtz has served as hall monitor for Washington’s conventional wisdom, handing out demerits to independent-minded journalists who don’t abide by the mainstream rules. So, there is some understandable pleasure seeing Kurtz face some accountability in his ouster as bureau chief for Newsweek and The Daily Beast.

However, the more salient point is that Kurtz, who continues to host CNN’s “Reliable Sources” show, should never have achieved the level of influence in journalism that he did. Throughout his career, he has consistently – and unfairly – punished journalists who had the courage to ask tough questions and pursue truly important stories.

When one looks at the mess that is modern journalism in the United States, a chief culprit has been Howard Kurtz. Yet, his downfall did not come because of his smearing of fellow journalists – like Gary Webb and Helen Thomas – but rather from a blog post that unfairly criticized basketball player Jason Collins after he revealed that he was gay.

Gary Webb, for those who don’t know, was ruthlessly smeared for a 3 part series exposing CIA’s complicity in drug trafficking. From the link:

Most of the nation’s elite newspapers at first ignored the story. A public uproar, especially among urban African Americans, forced them to respond. What followed was one of the most bizarre, unseemly and ultimately tragic scandals in the annals of American journalism, one in which top news organizations closed ranks to debunk claims Webb never made, ridicule assertions that turned out to be true and ignore corroborating evidence when it came to light. The whole shameful cycle was repeated when Webb committed suicide in December 2004.

We continue to be a population of misinformed, ill-informed individuals because of lapdogs like Howard Kurtz. I’m sure, with his servile skill-set, he will get another well-paying job guarding the gates.

by lizard

A young doctoral candidate in international relations—Nussaibah Younis—got some nice NYT op-ed space to advocate for regime change in Iraq. Also, this is 2013.

NOBODY wants another civil war in Iraq, yet events are propelling it in that direction. War can be averted only by a new political understanding among three main groups — Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs and Kurds — but Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has become too divisive to deliver it.

So the United States, together with Iraq’s neighbors, must press Mr. Maliki to resign so he can be replaced with a more conciliatory figure.

Last week, Iraq experienced the most serious escalation of violence since 2006, when it slid into civil war. Now it risks being sucked into a catastrophic vortex of regional violence centered on Syria.

To contrast this doctoral candidate’s call for a collaborative coup to install a more “conciliatory figure” for the people of Iraq, I suggest reading Charles Mann’s piece at Mother Jones (first printed in The Atlantic), provocatively titled What If We Never Run Out of Oil?

Apparently, Japan is heavily invested in finding a way to tap Methane Hydrates, hoping that form of energy could do for them what fracking has done for meeting US demand.

It’s an interesting read, and certainly more encouraging than the possibility of Iraq coming apart at the sectarian seams.

by lizard

Brian Schweitzer won a seat on the board of the Stillwater Mining Co. I certainly don’t have any special insight into what that means for Montana’s open senate seat, but that of course won’t stop me from speculating.

Brian’s stance on “clean” coal, Keystone, and guns has already received some scrutiny from the left, as evidenced by a Daily Kos piece titled Brian Schweitzer: bold progressive or just another fossil fueled politician?

It would be a mistake to define Schweitzer’s populism as progressive. It would also be a mistake to expect a popular Montana governor to be everything a lefty like myself would want.

Instead of getting into all the pros and cons of a Schweitzer run for senate right now, I thought I would take a different approach.

Language fascinates me, and this week’s poem is a found poem featuring language taken straight from the Clinton Group’s philosophy statement. This group is a New York based, globally diversified hedge fund that, along with Brian, spearheaded the attempted takeover of the Stillwater Mining Co.

Enjoy!

*

PHILOSOPHY STATEMENT

Through our fundamental research
trading and risk management
we
recognize and dynamically allocate capital
to attractive
opportunities.

Our expertise
across the capital structure, markets and globe
provide us with
a unique macro vantage point.

Our deep re-
search and op-
portunistic trading
help to ensure we
optimize our portfolios

while limiting risk.

Our quantitative equity strategy
combines behavioral
and other market inefficiencies
in an unbiased, multifactor approach.

The system,
which was developed in-house,
is based on ten years of actual, time-tested trading.

It uses leading research
on statistical arbitrage and adaptive systems
that recognize repetitive market behavior and patterns.

This data-intensive investment approach
seeks to successfully identify
and combine the hidden factors
that drive the returns
of individual securities and market segments.

—Clinton Group

by jhwygirl

Late last month, U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell sent letters out to the states asking for a return of (presumably) 10% of the Secure Rural Schools funds payed out in January of this year.

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead was pretty quick to criticize the fed’s move – and just in the last few hours Mead appears to have made up his mind: He won’t be returning the money.

I won’t go into the specifics on SRS funds, though that link gives a great rundown on what they are where they come from and all that good stuff. Basically, though, SRS funds come from the revenue generated on federal lands. It’s paid out proportionally to each state – and each county – based on the amount of revenue generated and the amount of land in each county. It’s also based on the previous years revenues.

So the payments made in January of this year were based on 2012 revenues.

Is this government welfare? I don’t think so. Here in Missoula County, 49% of the lands are federal, state or local govt. owned. None of that land is taxed, and yet the Sheriff’s Department, for example, is out there dealing with criminal activity on USFS roads.

For the state’s lands, Fish Wildlife and Parks is, by some weird law, required to recycle its funding from the legislature back to the local county by paying taxes. How that makes sense, I’ll never understand.

I assume that Montana Dept. of Revenue has already distributed those SRS funds. I also assume most counties have incorporated it into their budgets. In Lincoln County, it’s a pretty significant hit, with their share of the sequestration return equaling their road fund.

Which could lead me to the messed up way the state’s gas tax money is distributed, but it’s a little late now and I’ve probably already bored ya’all to tears.

All of that being said, I’ll be calling Bullock tomorrow to tell him to tell Tidwell to “take a hike” – and calling Baucus, Tester and Daines to suggest to them that they should reassess the government wanting what is essentially their 2012 calendar year tax payment to Montana refunded.

by lizard

Against my better judgement, I’m going to direct readers to a trolling declaration by Rob Kailey that blogging is worthless as he laments the lack of viable “new blood” in the Montana blogosphere:

A rather serious question: Is it possible to foster new blood in the Montana blog’o’sphere?

My initial response is “No”. Given the appeal of Facilebook and the Twahters, there isn’t much reason for people to blog anymore. The larger political bases are covered, the sentimental self-indulgence has moved to Facebook, and the need to be needed has fostered Twitter. So, from a purely user-need orientation, there is no point to blogging, for any of us.

From a reader-need perspective, there is little to be offered. There is no safe place. Every website is rife with trolls. Concern trolls like Craig Moore, and Belief beggars like Tokarski. Every website seems in intellectual competition with others. The holy writ of 4 & 20 cannot be denied by anyone, and Intelligent Discontent is just pablum for the masses. Dog forbid anybody should read Left in The West. It isn’t fashionable. Montana Cowgirl is beneath notice, except maybe to EVERYONE, and Montana Streetfighter can’t be bothered to actually engage with any other blog with a link (or check their moderation queue, apparently.) Then there are the flood control experts, mostly interested in releasing the Damn/Dam, commenters like Larry Kralj. There is little point to actually reading blogs anymore. And from a personal perspective, there’s damn little point in writing them.

Rob appears sad that the glory days of the Montana blogosphere are over. People who contributed to those days have long since gone. Matt Singer, for example, abandoned his stewardship of Left in the West, and the blog went downhill quick. Some would say the same of my time at 4&20 Blackbirds.

After Jay Stevens started this blog, lots of contributors have come and gone. jhwygirl, JC, and Pete Talbot still contribute, but according to the guy who ran Left in the West into the ground, it’s my presence at 4&20 that’s the big cause for concern:

4 & 20: Jay, you started this website and it was one of the best. Turning it over to egos like Lizard? Bad move. No matter how many precious kudos this site gets from the Missoula community, it is still just a an inbred horrorshow. Lizard doesn’t seem to care at all about Montana or Montanans. JC doesn’t seem to care about anyone but himself. Jhwygirl has fled, mores the pity. Pete is still engaged, and that’s the only reason this website deserves a C.

I enjoy contributing to this blog, and I plan on continuing to do so. Being able to synthesize various media sources reacting to the events of the day, in addition to my own speculation, makes this medium still worth the investment of time and energy. Being able to share poetry is another big draw for me.

The Montana blogosphere is not as dynamic as it used to be, and I doubt much “new blood” will be forthcoming. While some want to spend their time lamenting the loss of past glory, I’m going to just keep plugging away.

To those who continue to read this dead medium: THANK YOU!




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