Archive for July, 2013

by lizard

Radley Balko has a timely book titled Rise of the Warrior Cop: the Militarization of America’s Police Forces, percolating interest in curious directions.

Because I’ve been told sources matter, I must warn readers that the first link goes to I should also mention Radley is of Cato stock.

Luckily, there is a huffpost option and this Salon review, if that’s more your flavor.

I also like this post from A Lightning War for Liberty, which references the Salon article and highlights that the number of annual SWAT raids tops 50,000, up dramatically from its origins, which you can get quick overview of here.

None of this is to say good policing is not needed, or possible. But the trends of militarization are disturbing, and the concern, according to the sources, appear to transcend the R/D charade.

by lizard

I put “Bradley Manning” into the old search engine, and here are the first headlines:

Acquitted of aiding the enemy… (CBS)
Found not guilty of aiding the enemy… (Washington Post)
Acquitted of aiding the enemy, still may face long jail term… (Chicago Tribune)
Found not guilty of aiding the enemy… (CNN)

And then there’s the BBC: Guilty of espionage:

Pte Manning, 25, has been convicted of 20 charges in total, including theft and computer fraud.

He had admitted leaking the documents to anti-secrecy organisation Wikileaks but said he did so to spark a debate on US foreign policy.

The leak is considered the largest ever of secret US government files.

He faces a maximum sentence of up to 136 years. His sentencing hearing is set to begin on Wednesday.

Tomorrow Manning will learn whether his sentence will amount to being in prison for the rest of his life.

And James Clapper walks free after lying to Congress, a felony.

And Halliburton gets fined pocket change—$200,000—for destroying evidence related to the Gulf oil spill.

And JP Morgan will pay their penance for rigging energy markets.

Bradley Manning, guilty of espionage for disclosing war crimes.

Not Jane Harman, who actually tried to peddle her influence on behalf of two Israeli spies:

The California Democrat with a longtime involvement in intelligence issues, was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department to drop espionage charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington.

Harman was recorded saying she would “waddle into” the AIPAC case “if you think it’ll make a difference,” according to two former senior national security officials familiar with the NSA transcript.

In exchange for Harman’s help, the sources said, the suspected Israeli agent pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., then-House minority leader, to appoint Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections, which the Democrats were heavily favored to win.

Seemingly wary of what she had just agreed to, according to an official who read the NSA transcript, Harman hung
up after saying, “This conversation doesn’t exist.”…

Bradley Manning sacrificed his freedom to push a conversation about America’s destructive role on the world stage into existence. At the very least, what we owe Manning, and all the other courageous whistle blowers, is to pay attention.

by lizard

At the beginning of this month, on July 4th actually, a poet friend I hadn’t seen in years blew through town on a treasure hunt.

We talked for as long as my kids allowed us, filling in the years. My friend, in discussing his own recent work with translations, described a dampening effect on his tendency toward the anti-pastoral, a dominant theme of his early verse.

Since that delightful encounter I’ve been tinkering with a poem, but it’s a rather cliche rendering of the anti-pastoral I’d like to flee, but can’t. To soften that, I recently picked up a book of poems by Gary Soto, titled a simple plan (Chronicle Books, 2007).

This week’s poetry post, because of neglect, is a twofer: Pastoral/Anti-Pastoral. Enjoy. Continue Reading »

by lizard

It’s hard to pay attention to foreign policy with summer heat and a royal baby getting birthed, but there are two jail breaks that may be important to note.

The first jail break happened earlier this week in Iraq, freeing hundreds of prisoners:

The Justice Ministry reported Tuesday that 260 prisoners had escaped from Abu Ghraib. Other officials put the number at 500 on Monday but said about 150 were recaptured as police and troops fanned out to set up roadblocks on highways leading to Jordan and Syria.

The escapes of Al Qaeda operatives is expected to intensify fears among Iraqis that their government has shown itself to be incapable of protecting them since U.S. forces withdrew two years ago, the Gulf News agency said in a report about Al Qaeda’s ascendancy in Iraq and neighboring, civil-war-torn Syria.

The second jail break happened in Benghazi, Libya, in just the past 24 hours, and is reported to include over 1,000 prisoners:

About 1,200 inmates have escaped from a jail in the restive Libyan city of Benghazi.

A security official told the AP news agency that most of the escapees were facing serious charges.

Another report said a riot had taken place inside the al-Kwafiya prison.

The jailbreak comes a day after the assassination of a prominent political activist triggered protests in the city, although it is not clear whether the two are connected.

So I guess things aren’t going all that well in two countries where the US used its military power to impose regime change. Who could have foreseen that?

Speaking of foreseeing things, Paul Craig Roberts thinks he’s foreseeing a US plan for a preemptive nuclear strike on China.

For some light reading, click continue… Continue Reading »

by lizard

The Missoula Independent has a feature piece this week—To Serve and Deflect—that highlights what happens when investigative journalism focuses the lens on systemic corruption of the public trust. Matthew Frank and the Indy should be commended for taking on the pervasive corruption of the Lake County Sheriff’s department. It’s been a three year ordeal that, according to Indy president, Matt Gibson, is not yet over:

The Missoula Independent’s investigation into allegedly widespread corruption among law enforcement officers in Lake County started in 2011, when an anonymous source unexpectedly delivered a stack of documents to our office. For pursuing the pervasive wrongdoing, sheriff’s deputy Terry Leonard lost his job, as did POST Director Wayne Ternes and FWP Game Warden Frank Bowen. Bringing this story to light hasn’t been altogether easy for us, either. POST and then-state Attorney General Steve Bullock named us as defendants in a lawsuit they filed to keep POST’s investigation a secret.

It’s become a common tactic of government agencies in Montana. Faced with requests for constitutionally guaranteed public information, officials increasingly head straight to Montana District Court, where they file for declaratory judgment seeking guidance from the bench about their legal obligations. Predictably, the court cases drag out for months, and you know what they say about justice delayed. Just as significantly, the pre-emptive lawsuits preserve the government’s ability to stick interlocutors with a big legal bill.

In this case, POST argued that the accused officers’ rights of privacy outweighed the public’s right to know. We argued that whatever individual privacy rights the officers might have, they don’t apply when an individual breaches the public trust. And we complained that POST had abrogated its legal duty to make its own determination about the officers’ rights and turn over its files before bringing a lawsuit blocking our records request.

In the end, the officers either explicitly waived their privacy rights or the court sided with us. POST’s suit against the Indy took a year to get to this point, and it’s not done yet.

Now we get to argue about the attorney’s fees.

Montana law clearly gives plaintiffs in public records cases an opportunity to recover attorney’s fees from the government, if the plaintiffs prevail. But when the government’s the aggressor and sues first, as in this case, it’s not so obvious how the judge might rule, even if the government loses. That’s a significant stumbling block even for robust businesses like the Indy. Imagine the chilling effect on the small community papers in rural counties, or on ordinary citizens, who naturally share all the same rights to public information as professional news reporters.

Thanks to the zeal of crusaders like Leonard and the dedicated professionalism of Bowen, four of the alleged malefactors in Lake County have received disciplinary penalties. It remains to be seen how citizens will deal with the remaining loose ends, like the uncredentialed officer on the job in Ronan and the elected officials in Lake County who tolerated the lawless culture there and thwarted efforts to change it. But one thing’s obvious: For many, many years now, key officials at virtually every level of government have gone out of their way to prevent citizens from discovering what Lake County’s lawmen have been doing wrong.

I’m sure the delaying tactics had nothing to do with the 2012 election season and Montana’s AG, Steve Bullock, running for Governor.

If you read that first sentence from Matt Gibson, this whole investigation began with an anonymous source dropping off documentation. That sounds like the act of a whistleblower.

When Bradley Manning engaged in similar actions to expose the criminal acts of the US military, he didn’t just lose his job, he lost his freedom. Manning was also tortured with solitary confinement for months in an attempt to coerce him into implicating Assange.

I guess that’s why Eric Holder felt the need to explicitly tell Russian officials that, don’t worry, America won’t execute or torture Edward Snowden.

WASHINGTON — In an effort to break the international standoff over fugitive Edward Snowden, the Obama administration has assured Russian authorities that the American on the lam after revealing top-secret U.S. intelligence operations won’t face the death penalty or torture if he returns to the United States.

Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. wrote to his Russian counterpart to say that Snowden’s claim to need political asylum in Russia for fear of abuse or execution if returned to the United States was “entirely without merit,” the Justice Department disclosed Friday.

Some people should lose their jobs. Eric Holder is a glaring example. He has zero credibility presiding over the US (in)justice department.

If Matt Gibson is concerned about how Montana agencies are reflexively using the courts to burden investigations with court costs, then he must really be concerned about how the Obama administration is aggressively going after whistleblowers, without precedent.

The most recent news from the kangaroo court presiding over Manning’s case is the judge’s refusal to dismiss the ‘aiding the enemy’ charge. This is very bad news for investigative journalism:

The decision this past week by the presiding military judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, to refuse to dismiss charges of “aiding the enemy,” which carry a potential death sentence (though prosecutors have said they will not pursue it), is particularly important. Colonel Lind said Private Manning’s military training would have given him knowledge that the information he divulged could be seen by America’s foes.

“He was knowingly providing intelligence to the enemy,” she said, according to Reuters.

But that standard is an almost impossible one in the Internet era, when anything published is instantly available worldwide, Manning’s supporters say. The result is that anyone who wants to inform fellow Americans about secret government actions – as Manning’s defense lawyers claim he was trying to do – is in danger of life in prison, or perhaps even death.

“The idea that you can execute someone for an offense that had no element of intent or even specified effect, or that you can face life in prison or death simply from informing an enemy or potential enemy in the process of informing fellow citizens for their benefit is potentially a lethal blow to the First Amendment or freedom of speech and the press,” says Daniel Ellsberg, the former intelligence specialist who released the Pentagon papers – a classified history of the US policies in the Vietnam War – some 40 years ago.

That precedent could be damaging “specifically to investigative reporting on matters alleged to be security issues,” adds Mr. Ellsberg, who has been a staunch defender of Manning’s actions. “You can’t inform the public of wrongdoing by your government without informing the world.”

I wish the big news of this past week was the House vote on the Amash/Conyers amendment. Even the little post I wrote about it got less views than anything I’ve written in the last few months.

The fascist wing of the Democratic Party aligning with the clinging remnants of the Neocon faction exposes, IMHO, political possibilities on both sides of the isle.

The most interesting possibility for me continues to be how both parties are trying to respond to the Libertarian wild card. Montana Democrats, for example, were willing to halt state government with their “call of the senate“, potentially squandering whatever slim chance Medicaid expansion had, to (in-part) kill the two top-tier primary bill.

The political landscape is wide-open. Stay tuned…

by lizard

The fire that started today, between Frenchtown and Missoula, was sparked by a lawn mower going over a rock:

A new wildfire burning just east of Frenchtown and west of Missoula has grown to over 550 acres and prompted several evacuations. The fire – started by a mower sparking on a rock this afternoon – has forced homeowners between Mill Creek and Fred Lane to evacuate as firefighters attack the blaze from the ground and the air.

We could be looking at a pretty serious fire season in Western Montana. A cool, rainy June means more growth that will dry out and become potential fuel.

It’s not the story of the Billings woman who got her 13th DUI charge dismissed, it’s this response in the comments from CodyFromCowboyCountry you have to read: Continue Reading »

by lizard

The big news today is NOT another worthless speech by the president. The White House attempt to “refocus” on the economy smacks of desperation. Why?

The big news that broke late this afternoon represents a political unraveling of the conventional fabric of partisan politics. It wouldn’t be outlandish to say a whole new landscape of possibilities now exists.

For example, today we witnessed the pro-surveillance alignment of Michelle Bachman and president Obama. Yeah.

More importantly, today we witnessed a House vote that took a majority of Republicans siding with the Obama administration to squash the Amash/Conyers amendment, and even with a majority of Republicans siding with the president, the margin was a thin 12 votes (to see how the votes split, go here).

Here is an excerpt from the initial NYT framing:

The amendment to the annual Defense Department spending bill, written by Representatives Justin Amash, a libertarian Republican from Western Michigan, and John Conyers Jr., a veteran liberal Democrat from Detroit, turned Democrat against Democrat and Republican against Republican.

It would have limited N.S.A. phone surveillance to specific targets of law enforcement investigations, not broad dragnets. It was only one of a series of proposals — including restricting funds for Syrian rebels and adding Congressional oversight to foreign aid to Egypt — intended to check President Obama’s foreign and intelligence policies.

But in the phone surveillance program, the House’s right and left wings appeared to find a unifying cause. Representative Raúl R. Labrador, Republican of Idaho, called it “the wing nut coalition” and Mr. Amash “the chief wing nut.”

The frayed fabric of political partisanship didn’t just start unraveling today. Two years ago, when Dennis Kucinich tried to push for congressional action against Obama’s regime change humanitarian war in Libya, he got more support from Republicans than from Democrats. How did Democrats feel about this strange bedfellow vote?

One Democrat called it the “sign of the apocalypse.”

An anti-war resolution authored by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who spent years trying to impeach the last Republican president for prosecuting an illegal war, won more support from Republicans than Democrats on the House floor.

That was the case Friday as the House debated how to respond, belatedly, to President Obama’s military intervention in Libya. Kucinich’s resolution, which would mandate an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces absent congressional authorization, failed by a wide margin, 265-148, but it garnered votes from more than one-third of the Republican conference. Eighty-seven Republicans voted for the measure compared to 61 Democrats.

To better understand the new emerging political calculus, I highly recommend spending 5 minutes watching this clip from a recent All In episode examining the intent behind Liz Cheney’s bid for a senate seat:

While I’m no fan of Rand Paul, I am very interested in the libertarian trend shaking American politics. I think there is real fear among “the establishment” (whatever that bland term may mean) about how to manage these shifts in the political terrain.

However it ultimately came about, seeing this unusual bipartisan alliance push back against the surveillance state is encouraging.

Actually, we know how this all came about: his name is Edward Snowden, and tonight he got the conversation he was hoping for.

Thanks Ed.

PSA: Poverello Center

by lizard

The path to a new emergency shelter and soup kitchen for the Poverello Center received a huge boost with a $450,000 community development block grant.

The “Help Build Hope” campaign—an ongoing effort where any amount helps—is aiming to raise $1.6 million dollars. According to the article, those efforts are within $350,000 of being realized.

For more information on services, or to donate online, check out the Pov’s new website.

Bakken and Beyond

by lizard

The development of the Bakken formation is visible from space. The boom is on, and people are benefiting. From the link:

This oil rush is so sudden, so enormous, North Dakota now has the lowest unemployment rate in the country. More than 41,000 workers got jobs there between 2008 and 2012. Only seven years ago, the U.S. was importing 60 percent of its oil. Now imports are down to 42 percent. The Bakken fields are helping to improve energy security.

Hoping to also benefit, the city of Missoula spent 500,000 dollars to figure out how to make money from the Kuwait of the prairie. From the link:

Missoula’s economy is poised to take advantage of opportunities in the Bakken, according to the Missoula Economic Partnership.

“We’re kind of positioning Missoula as the entry point, surprisingly enough, to the Bakken,” president James Grunke said last week to members of the Missoula City Council.

Initiated by Mayor John Engen after the economy crashed, the Missoula Economic Partnership works on economic development. The city of Missoula invested $500,000 in the program when it launched in 2011, and Wednesday, Grunke and the MEP’s director of business development shared several updates with members of the council.

Grunke kicked off his report touting the opportunities in the Bakken, noting its potential despite being hundreds of miles away. The oil fields are of interest statewide, he said, and servicing the Bakken on the manufacturing front requires being several hundred miles away to tap an available workforce.

Also reportedly servicing the Bakken, on the trafficking front, Mexican drug cartels:

GLENDIVE – Jails in the Bakken area are overbooked and law enforcement is maxed out as drug-related crime surges in Montana and North Dakota oil patch communities.

Deputies, prosecutors and local drug counselors made the case Friday for more federal help during a Glendive meeting with federal drug czar R. Gil Kerlikowske and U.S. Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont, and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D. All agreed that a massive influx of some 20,000 to 30,000 well-paid oilfield workers was bringing new criminal challenges to a region so rural it’s often characterized as frontier.

Asking for federal assistance should first begin with this question: to what degree is the federal government enabling certain cartel enterprises north of the border as a way to manage a war that won’t ever be won?

Demand for black market commodities, like meth, is fitting for a form of economic opportunity that causes so much ecological devastation.

For example, to the north, in Alberta, something very troubling is going on, something ‘no one understands‘:

Oil spills at a major oil sands operation in Alberta have been ongoing for at least six weeks and have cast doubts on the safety of underground extraction methods, according to documents obtained by the Star and a government scientist who has been on site.

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. has been unable to stop an underground oil blowout that has killed numerous animals and contaminated a lake, forest, and muskeg at its operations in Cold Lake, Alta.

The documents indicate that, since cleanup started in May, some 26,000 barrels of bitumen mixed with surface water have been removed, including more than 4,500 barrels of bitumen.

The scientist said Canadian Natural Resources is not disclosing the scope of spills in four separate sites, which have been off bounds to media and the public because the operations are on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, where there is active weapons testing by the Canadian military.

The company says it is effectively managing and cleaning up the spills.

Of course there is some anonymous scientist guy allegedly afraid of getting fired for saying this:

“Everybody (at the company and in government) is freaking out about this,” said the scientist. “We don’t understand what happened. Nobody really understands how to stop it from leaking, or if they do they haven’t put the measures into place.”

Why would a scientist fear retribution?

To answer that question, another must read from John Adams: Rep. Knudsen loses his job over bills that irked the oil and gas industry.

Austin Knudsen sounds like a Republican who was trying to do something positive for his constituents, and that sounds like the kind of Republican who might be even more motivated to oppose the bullying of an industry that fights any meager concessions communities try to nibble away from their bottom line.

by  JC

Hot on the heals of my post earlier this week  — which raised the call for my public lynching, and the ostracizing of 4&20, by dem party loyalists, apologists and hand-wringers for having the temerity to quote a source from World News Daily (there, I said it again, so you all can just quit reading now) — and Montana Superreporter John Adams’ great investigative report into Montana ex-Governor Brian Schweitzer’s dark money machine, I just felt that the dog days of summer were a good time to delve into the matter a little deeper.

Two seemingly unrelated pieces of information, when combined, escalate the gravity of the situation far beyond the simple politics with which most people want to whitewash this kerfuffle. The first piece from John Adams’ story:

“That group [Council for a Sustainable America] in 2009 received a $335,000 contribution from the Democratic Governors Association three months after Schweitzer was elected chairman of that organization.”

The second comes from writer Jerome Corsi:

“Allegations of fraud against Attorney General Eric Holder, other top Justice officials, several prominent Democratic operatives – including a major contributor to Hillary Clinton – and Credit Suisse Bank has been re-ignited by a federal bankruptcy judge’s decision that also apparently has derailed the U.S. Senate bid of a former Democrat governor.”

Why Jerome Corsi? Well, in case democrats need to be reminded, Corsi was one of the architects behind the Swift-boating of Senator John Kerry in 2004, and was co-author of the book Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry”Yes the book was full of untruths, as was his book about Obama in “The Obama Nation.” Obama’s campaign was successful in rebutting Corsi’s book, while Kerry’s was not, and he lost the election by many accounts to “Swift-Boating”.

It is no secret that Brian Schweitzer would rather be U.S. president than a U.S. Senator. So when the man who helped tank one Senator’s presidential bid (and tried again unsuccessfully with Obama) takes notice of what some people thought was a shoe-in for Senate, well then it is fair game to talk about, WND or not. Further investigation stemming from Adams’ and Corsi’s writings have taken a long and winding road. Continue Reading »

by lizard

The Economy, stupid! Isn’t that what it’s all about? So why does it keep sucking? Mike Whitney and Alexander Cockburn (the latter, RIP) think it’s because Bernanke is no Hjalmar Schacht, who, I should probably note, was hired by Adolf Hitler.

From Whitney’s piece Hitler vs. Bernanke:

Why was Adolph Hitler able to lift Germany out of the Great Depression, when policymakers in the US–particularly the Fed–have failed so miserably?

Let’s look at the facts: When Hitler came to power in 1933, the German economy was in a shambles. Millions of people were out of work, a number of large banks had collapsed, the market for German exports had dried up overnight, and a US-led lending freeze (withdrawal of credits under the Young Plan) had thrust German industry and finance into a severe slump. By 1932, German industrial production was nearly half of what it had been a year earlier. Unemployment soared from 1.5 million in 1929 to more than 6 million in 1933.

Enter Hitler, who had been sworn in as chancellor under President Paul von Hindenburg in January, 1933. Hitler appointed German economist and banker, Hjalmar Schacht, as President of the Reichsbank and Minister of Economics. Schacht, in turn, launched a groundbreaking fiscal stimulus program that rebuilt the nation’s worn infrastructure and put millions of people back to work. At the same time, Schacht took steps to strengthen the currency, jettison the gold standard, and impose capital controls, all of which served to reinforce Germany’s economic independence.

In contrast, Whitney takes his shot at Bernanke:

Clearly, “Depression expert” Bernanke’s performance pales in comparison to Schacht’s and for obvious reasons. While zero rates and bond purchases (QE) have been good for risk assets, (Stocks are up more than 140 percent since their March 2009 lows.) unemployment is still above 7 percent, real wages are trending lower, GDP has shriveled to below 2 percent, 47 million people are on food stamps, and inequality is greater than anytime since the Gilded Era. The facts speak for themselves; Bernanke’s policies have only benefited the investor class. The real economy is still flat on its back.

The market is still juiced and waiting for another heart attack while we wait for congressional Democrats to get their shit together.

The shit that link points to is the Schumer gang stalling for Wall St so they can play with derivatives abroad (the link is safe, it goes to Mother Jones).

Voter turn out for the midterms might be interesting to look at, postmortem. According to this piece from Ezra Klein (he’s safe to) of the 30 million eligible, but unregistered Americans, 51.6% were uninterested or refused.

The Economy is floundering, and the political will to address it is virtually non-existant. Let’s hope another Hitler doesn’t appear to exploit the social instability this overt class war continues to produce.

By JC,

Ok, I’m just going to repost this blog from deza4america. While most of the facts are verifiable, there is still much alleging going on, so I’m going to let the allegers do their thing (and he puts together the narrative so much more eloquently than could I) and hopefully some wonderful investigative journalist can pick up the pieces and move forward.

Holder faces fresh charges.. scandal is no stranger to these cronies!!
by deza4america in Today’s Outrage!!

Eric Holder, the king of scandal, now faces charges of fraud, along with other top justice officials, democratic operatives (including major contributors of Hillary Clinton), and Credit Suisse Bank after the judge dismissed a bankruptcy judgment against real estate developer, Tim Blixseth. The judgment of bankruptcy was allegedly a result of a fraudulent loan made by Credit Suisse, and stripped Blixseth of his ownership of Yellowstone Club, a luxury ski and golf resort in Montana.

Blixseth also alleges that the defrauding scheme was planned by his ex-wife and Ron Burkle, supermarket guru responsible for raising over $1 million for Hillary Clinton’s ’08 campaign. This decision has also derailed the former governor of Montana, Brian Schweitzer (D), from seeking a bid for senate in 2014.

There are allegedly several hundreds of pages showing Holder and his assistant (criminal department), Lanny Breur, blocked the prosecution of disputes involving the Yellowstone Club, now owned by Burkle.

Further allegations show that Holder and Breuer also sought to shield the federal prosecution of Credit Suisse Group AG (client of law firm, Covington and Burling), and the Democratic Party operatives who played an alleged role in the fraudulent financing and bank lending practices. Holder and Breuer were partners for Covington and Burling before becoming an Obama staff members!

The decision by the judge dismissed a $40 million fraud claim against Blixseth, that had been enforced by… wait! another man with ties to the Clintons, Ralph Kirscher. It is further alleged that this decision by Kirscher was fraudulently influenced by Schweitzer. Which, led to Blixseth’s ex-wife and Sam Bryne, a Boston real estate investor with Democrat Party ties being able to purchase the Yellowstone Club at substantially under market value shortly after the bankruptcy had been declared.

Additionally, Burkle, Bryne, and Schweitzer funneled over $1.2 million to Schweitzer’s re-election campaign through various avenues trying to hide the ties between the various parties!!

I’ll append the comment I made (with some edits/additions) on Liz’s blog post from the other day, after the jump: Continue Reading »

by lizard

It was recently reported on Spiegel Online that former president Jimmy Carter said this: America no longer has a functioning Democracy.

Not that Americans are paying attention.

Congress, though, is displaying a faint pulse, and good for them.

Today it even approached lively as the deputy director of the NSA disclosed how his agency fans out 3 hops from suspected terrorists instead of the previously (known-to-Congress) 2 hop. From the Guardian piece:

The National Security Agency revealed to an angry congressional panel on Wednesday that its analysis of phone records and online behavior goes exponentially beyond what it had previously disclosed.

John C Inglis, the deputy director of the surveillance agency, told a member of the House judiciary committee that NSA analysts can perform “a second or third hop query” through its collections of telephone data and internet records in order to find connections to terrorist organizations.

“Hops” refers to a technical term indicating connections between people. A three-hop query means that the NSA can look at data not only from a suspected terrorist, but from everyone that suspect communicated with, and then from everyone those people communicated with, and then from everyone all of those people communicated with.

Today’s disclosure happened because Edward Snowden decided to become a whistleblower.

We will of course continue to have elections in which a really discouraging percentage of voters go through the hassle, and that hassle will be escalated and racially deployed.

And elections will continue to matter. In Montana, we experience the most direct impact from the decisions made by our state legislators, like ideologues punishing their constituents by killing Medicaid expansion. But top ticket political fights usually take up most of the oxygen in the room.

I don’t know what kind of fight Max Baucus’ aide, John Lewis, could bring to a Senate run, but this article indicates the idea is being floated out there. That is a really bad idea.

Another bad idea, Liz Cheney. That said, what her run may represent is fascinating.

Chris Hayes discussed the Cheney run as a proxy war between neocons and the Rand Paulians, who garner libertarian street cred by criticizing the interventionist consensus of neocons and liberal hawks.

I’d like to write more on the Libertarian angle, but my mom recently unearthed my old collection of space Legos, and I’ve been spending an embarrassing amount of time the last few days. So, gotta go.

by lizard

This weekend, Montana Democrats are meeting up in Lewistown. The new executive director, Andrea Marcoccio, will have a tough job now that Schweitzer’s inevitability has suddenly morphed into a liability. Keep in mind these quotes from Marcoccio were taken before Brian’s big announcement yesterday:

Andrea Marcoccio, who took over three months ago as the party’s executive director, will give delegates her assessment of the state of party.

Asked for a preview Wednesday, Marcoccio said, “Coming off 2012, it’s a great place to be. We have work to do, but we’re really confident that 2014 will be another stellar year for Democrats.”

Democrats won the top two state races in 2012. Tester defeated then-U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., in a tough race, and Bullock, then attorney general, narrowly edged former U.S. Rep. Rick Hill to capture the governor’s seat.

Democrats also held onto most other statewide offices, as Auditor Monica Lindeen, Secretary of State Linda McCulloch and Juneau all were re-elected.

In 2014, the big races will be for the open Senate seat that Baucus has held since 1978 and the House seat won in 2012 by first-term Republican Rep. Steve Daines. At present, Daines is mulling over whether to jump into the Senate race or seek re-election.

“We’ve got a deep bench of folks,” Marcoccio said. “I think there’s great opportunity for us. Daines is vulnerable.”

It’s now time to explore what depth exists, sans Brian. In just a cursory exploration of the cyber-terrain this morning, the Schweitzer mesa run by the Cowgirl offered the rabid musings (as usual) of Larry Kralj in the comments. Larry isn’t afforded a platform to spew over here, so he expressed his delightful opinions over there about myself, Missoula, and the candidate I’m keen on, Denise Juneau:

And right on cue, the greeny, weeny, whiny, ferny, fruity, drum thumpin’ lumpen from Zoola rejoice that Schweitzer is out so that they can find the lamest, limpest, wimpiest, most apologetic pathetic dinkwad of a dildonic candidate that they can FIND to run a heroic losing race to make another statement! It’s what they do! Think of it as hanging off that bridge politically! You see, SURE it is pointless and means nothing, and you still lose, but by GOD they made a statement!

Sorry, fellas, but stick to what you do best. Losing and pontificating!

Craig Moore seized on the depiction, and asked Larry this:

The candidate I saw Lizard name was Denise Juneau. So you are saying she is “the lamest, limpest, wimpiest, most apologetic pathetic dinkwad of a dildonic candidate…” So I take it you will not support her if she runs.

And Larry responded with this:

Lizzard’s an idiot. They want a virgin, someone who passes their imaginary purity test! Well, it ain’t happenin’! Oh sure, I like Denise, but I don’t think that she can pull it off. But I DO get a leetle concerned that every candidate that is mentioned as passing the purity test is a woman. Are there REALLY no REAL men in this state other than Schweitzer and Bullock?? The one that ran against Daines was a joke. Depressing, isn’t it? Charisma STILL counts when you’re outgunned in the money department a million to one!

I didn’t realize charisma was a gendered characteristic, but that is the least troubling aspect of Larry’s ravings. The most troubling aspect is the lack of moderation on the part of the Cowgirl. I guess misogyny, emasculation, and attacking an entire town is not something worthy of intervention, or at the very least, a slight rebuke.

Larry does make a good point about money, though, and when we talk about money, there is no room for Mizzoola virgin purity tests. There is room, however, for dark money ties and double standards for candidates with a BIG D next to their name.

That link is to another important article by John Adams, and it further describes what I suspect is the issue that’s keeping Brian from running.

Larry’s response to this emerging story?

I am VERY tired of the anonymous slanderous assholes out there who CLAIM to be Dems! Jesus, the asshole from Wisconsin, jonny adams, has POISONED the well here in Montana! Time for Wisconsin to reclaim their village idiot! This is pura CACA to attack a man anonymously! That is why I have ALWAYS used my name! I want no truck with cowards!

This beer-swilling Schweitzer loyalist should be called out by his peers, otherwise folks might start thinking that those on the other end of this rabid dog’s leash condone his barking.

by lizard

I don’t want to minimize the verdict that’s blowing up the internet and hopefully NOT stores and neighborhoods as the night progresses, because it’s a terribly sad situation. Back in March, I wrote this post for Trayvon. That link will have to stand as this week’s poetry post.

I’ve kept MSNBC on in the background, and it’s hard to not feel the emotional pull of injustice. The racial history of this country seems to be leaping from the past into the present. Things are not good.

But as I listened to Melissa Harris-Perry talk about the personal impact on her and her family, I couldn’t help but overlay her open letter to Edward Snowden. Here’s the whole condescending mess:

Dear Ed,

It’s me, Melissa.

I hear you’re looking for a country. Well, wouldn’t you know, I have an idea for you! How about…this one?

Come on back to the U.S.A., Ed. I know you’re not super pleased with the government these days–and I feel you. The information you revealed about surveillance raises serious issues about the behaviors of our leaders and how they justify and hide those practices from the public. But, here is the deal: it’s time to come home and face the consequences of the actions for which you are so proud.

I know you must feel you’ve already given up a lot to reveal government secrets: your well-paid job, your life in Hawaii, your passport.

And maybe your intentions were completely altruistic–it’s not that you wanted attention, but that you wanted us, the public, to know just how much information our government has about us. That is something worth talking about. But by engaging in this Tom Hanks-worthy, border-jumping drama through some of the world’s most totalitarian states, you’re making yourself the story.

We could be talking about whether accessing and monitoring citizen information and communications is constitutional, or whether we should continue to allow a secret court to authorize secret warrants using secret legal opinions.

But we’re not. We’re talking about you! And flight paths between Moscow and Venezuela, and how much of a jerk Glenn Greenwald is. We could at least be talking about whether the Obama administration is right that your leak jeopardized national security. But we’re not talking about that, Ed.

We’re talking about you. I can imagine you’d say, “Well, then stop! Just talk about something else.” But here’s the problem, even if your initial leak didn’t compromise national security, your new cloak-and-dagger game is having real and tangible geopolitical consequences. So, well, we have to talk about…you.

We’re talking about how maybe now you’re compromising national security by jumping from country to country, causing international incidents and straining U.S. relationships with Russia and China. Really. Important. Relationships. And we’re talking about how you praised countries like Russia and Venezuela for “standing against human rights violations” and “refusing to compromise their principles.”

I mean, where do you even come up with that kind of garbage, Ed? What are you thinking?

I understand that you don’t want to come back. To do so would mean giving up your freedom, definitely before the trial, and likely for several months or years thereafter.

I get it. It’s in its prisons where the U.S. commits actual human rights violations.

More than 80,000 prisoners are held in solitary confinement, some for years, some indefinitely, despite the fact that solitary is cruel and psychologically damaging.

I know those aren’t the human rights violations, though, that you’re complaining about, Ed. But you might not have anything to worry about, anyway. Unlike most of the people in solitary confinement–including Private Bradley Manning, on trial for giving data to Wikileaks–you have cultivated a level of celebrity that itself will act as protection if you ever find yourself in U.S. prison. You’ve made a spectacle of yourself, and the Obama Administration will be very careful about how it treats you. Unlike all those other prisoners.

So come on home, Ed. So we could talk about, you know, something else.



For a good critique of this letter, read Kevin Gosztola’s piece at FDL. I find this excerpt interesting:

Harris-Perry’s contention since at least June 29 has been if Snowden really considers himself someone who engaged in an act of civil disobedience he should “face the consequences” like Martin Luther King Jr. or Nelson Mandela did.

As I wrote when she spoke about Snowden on her show, this whole argument that Snowden should have martyred himself and been arrested and faced life in prison if he really wanted to commit civil disobedience would be much more credible if Harris-Perry actually covered whistleblowers and had whistleblowers on her program to talk about these issues. A look over past shows indicates that on less than five programs there has been mention of “whistleblowers.”

I particularly highlighted the case of Pfc. Bradley Manning, a case of a soldier engaging in multiple acts of civil disobedience. He is on trial right now, facing the possibility of being put in prison for life. He disclosed the “Collateral Murder” video, the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs, the US State Embassy cables, the “Gitmo Files,” a report from the Army Counterintelligence Center that presumed WikiLeaks was a “threat,” etc. Whether Harris-Perry is that familiar with his case, I do not know. She has not covered it at all on her program.

Omission works, and with tonight’s verdict escalating racial tensions, the corporate media that employs Harris-Perry will have plenty to focus on.

It won’t matter that, legally speaking, Zimmerman’s acquittal did not come as a surprise for those who closely watched this case, as evidenced by this slate article posted July 10th.

Just like it doesn’t seem to matter to Melissa Harris-Perry that the 4th amendment is being daily violated by the NSA.

Omission works. Another little story you will probably hear nothing about is Bernanke’s complete 180 on juicing the economy:

It’s been less than a month since tough-talking Ben Bernanke threatened to pull the rug out from under the stock market by scaling back on his $85 billion per-month liquidity program called QE, and now, he’s done a complete reversal without batting an eye.

On Wednesday, Chairman Flipflop announced that Central Bank monetary policy would be “Highly accommodative…for the foreseeable future.” This is a shocking about-face from his June 19 announcement it “would be appropriate to moderate the monthly pace of purchases later this year”. There’s a world of difference between stepping on the gas and tapping on the brakes.

The scam that is our economy can’t be too extensively reported on, because doing so could induce panic. And we’re not there yet.

And we’re not there yet probably because The Really Creepy People Behind the Libertarian-Inspired Billionaire Sea Castles need a little more time to make their dreams a reality.

by lizard

Jon Tester “bet the farm” that Brian Schweitzer would throw his bolo tie into the race for Max’s senate seat. This morning Brian proved Jon wrong, and said no thank you to a senate run, so it’s a good thing the folksy phrases our politicians toss around are just rhetorical.

The Hill’s piece declares Brian’s decision “a major blow” for Democrat efforts to retain the seat.

And, of course, Republicans are trying to use today’s announcement to salt the field. From the article:

The National Republican Senatorial Committee pounced after the decision, saying it was based on Schweitzer’s recognition that not even he could win in 2014.

“Just two days ago, Senate Democrats were quoted promising Brian Schweitzer tremendous resources to get in the race,” NRSC Communications Director Brad Dayspring said in a statement. “We did our homework and there was a lot of rust under Schweitzer’s hood — a LOT of rust.”

How much of that “rust” came from disgruntled Democrats? This politico article made folks like Don Pogreba very angry. This is how Don concludes his post:

As a final note to the Democratic sources who found it necessary to run to a D.C. journalist to tear down Schweitzer, why not have the courage of your convictions and give your names? It seems an awful lot like “bullying” to me to anonymously attack someone online. Democrats certainly don’t have to like Governor Schweitzer, but they also don’t need to be doing dirty campaigning for Republicans.

And in response to today’s news, Don put up another post, which concludes with this:

If there is any truth to the terrible Politico reporting that Democratic sniping against Schweitzer helped push him out of the race, I hope those Democrats are terribly satisfied with themselves. There’s nothing more energizing to Democratic candidates and supporters than knowing that people within the party are going to tear down candidates who don’t massage their egos sufficiently.

Schweitzer did have great polling in Montana, and likely would have given Daines or anyone else a fierce fight. But there is discontent out there regarding how Brian governed, and I certainly don’t blame the anonymous sources cited in the Politico article for wanting to be anonymous. This comment from one of Don’s post echoes the sentiment I’ve heard:

I’m glad he’s not running for Senate. Governor Schweitzer made some terrible personnel choices in his appointments, leading me to doubt his ability to govern rather than to react to affronts to his ego. You could always count on him to be on the side of whatever position would garner the most votes this week and get TV/radio/print time rather than making quiet, difficult choices. There was very little benefit in abusing the Republican’s in the legislature, and abusing staff in his executive departments, which he did routinely.

I’ve had beers with the guy at the Blackfoot, met him several times at his house and at events around town, think he is a likable fellow when he chooses to be, but he is clearly in need of adult supervision. I would not advise any close friends to work with him because I do not trust him or his motives. I agreed with some of his larger policy/budget choices, but not his style of governing or his willingness to shaft people who worked for him to get his way. It wasn’t a one time thing: it was a hallmark of his administration. We don’t need more people like that in positions of influence in DC.

Brian isn’t running, so squeeze out a few tears over a few beers, folks, and move on.

Oh, and I’d be willing to knock on doors for Denise Juneau. Just saying.

by lizard

Conspiracy culture can be fun. Take, for example, the passionate interest in celebrities like Jay Z. There are clearly signs of illuminati affiliation at the 2013 Grammy Awards, implicating Jay Z, Beyonce, and Rihanna. If that’s where you want to go, there are lots of fun lyrical references and hand signals.

And then there’s this, a photo with a Jay Z look-a-like from 1939, reported on by International Business Times:

From the article:

The black-and-white photograph, titled “Harlem Loiterers,” shows a Jay-Z look-alike wearing a pea coat and newsboy cap and sitting on the front railing of a building while making eye contact with the camera. The New York Public Library’s prestigious Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has confirmed the photograph was taken by an American photographer named Sid Grossman in 1939.

The photo first started gaining attention last Thursday after a Reddit user uploaded it onto that site, drawing dozens of comments and Jay-Z-themed puns — “If you havin’ loan problems I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but shanty towns ain’t one;” “If the dust bowl comes, go and brush your shoulders off” — as well as claims that the photo was clearly evidence of “supernatural” forces at work. Several “plausible” theories are already bouncing around the web.

I hope readers are still with me, because I’m about to shift from conspiracy culture to an actual well thought out plan to snatch info from people. And it involves Jay Z. And people are loving it.

Jay Z’s App and Obama’s Criminal Enterprise, by Alfredo Lopez, is a fascinating article about the unique tech-launch of Jay Z’s new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, and the tech resistance one man started with with a simple, koan-like tweet:

Naw…I’m cool

Why does that tweet matter? Because we may be approaching critical mass. Here is the beginning of the article:

To gauge the real impact of a historic development like “the Snowden revelations”, it’s sometimes useful to examine how wide it’s being felt. An illustration: Jay-Z’s “Magna Carta Holy Grail” Samsung cellphone app. I’ve a feeling some may not know what I’m talking about because, up until this past Friday, neither did I. But my May First/People Link colleague and office buddy Hilary Goldstein (who has often been the source of ideas for my writings here) sent me an email with a link to a story about the controversy and it got me thinking about how our society has succumbed to a massive crime and how this might be a kind of “critical mass”.

The story starts with a Tweet by a respected Hip Hop artist named Michael “Killer Mike” Render. The Atlanta, Georgia resident issued a tweet this week displaying a graphic of the registration screen for the Magna Carta Holy Grail App with the cryptic but powerful message: “Naw…I’m cool.” The app (a term used to describe small applications often used on hand-held devices) lets the user download a new album (called “Magna Carta Holy Grail”) by Hip Hop super-star Jay-Z.

The meaning of the message (a bit more dismissive than “Thanks but no thanks”) is significant because over a half million people had already said “yes” to that App and had downloaded it to their phones. In the process, they gave Samsung their names, specific GPS location, approximate network location and the phone’s precies id and status as well as permission to “modify or delete contents” from their USB storage, stop the phone from sleeping and get full access to their network communications.

In other words, you give them a treasure trove of information about you in exchange for downloading a “pre-release” version of this album.

Why give in to such an intrusion? The most obvious answer is to get an advanced copy of the already critically acclaimed album by one of the greatest musical artists of all time.

The flip side of critical mass is overload tune-out. It’s a mixed bag, this brave depraved new world.

by lizard

Alcohol’s capacity to destroy continues to amaze me.

I’ve written posts like this one comparing the cost of trying to test for marijuana impairment while driving ($100,000!?!) vs. the negative economic impact alcohol has in Montana. I’ve actually written more than a few posts about different aspects of alcohol, sometimes political, sometimes human interest.

Like, we humans should be interested in something that so consistently fucks up so many people’s lives.

One of the problems of addressing alcohol’s many consequences—like the too often fatal results of driving while intoxicated—is that those in positions of political power sometimes have their own personal struggles managing their behavior while under the influence.

In May of this year, when a sheriff’s deputy responded to a complaint of an erratic driver, and that driver identified himself as state senator Shannon Augare, then fled the scene, the fallout was political, and predictable. People like Bob Brigham sent out tweets like this:

The Deputy (from racist department) was trying to illegally steal his car keys & had no jurisdiction to keep him.

All things considered, the sheriff’s deputy made a good choice to not further escalate the already dangerous situation by pursuing Augare. I’m not sure “car jacking” is a really accurate description of this deputy’s response.

Last month, federal prosecutors got involved.

And earlier this evening, Marnee Banks reported that Augare was asked to step back from his interim committee work:

HELENA – Montana Senate leadership has asked Senator Shannon Augare (D-Browning) to step back from his legislative duties while his federal DUI case is pending.

Augare was absent from the Wednesday meeting of the Law and Justice committee held at the Capitol.

The committee is charged with overseeing the Montana Department of Justice and has been instrumental in cracking down on drinking and driving.

Augare has been charged with obstructing a peace officer, driving under the influence of alcohol, and reckless driving after a controversial traffic stop in May.

Senate President Jeff Essmann (R-Billings) called the charges “serious” and says he does not think it’s appropriate for Augare to participate in interim work.

Democrats are just going to have to take the political hits on this one. Because Rehberg. And because of problematic tribal sovereignty issues, like whether or not tribes should report DUIs that occur on tribal lands. For Shannon Augare, that issue is also a part of this story:

HELENA — Months before a state senator and Blackfeet leader allegedly fled a sheriff’s deputy who suspected him of drunken driving, a tribal judge expunged two DUI convictions from the record of the senator’s brother and said the tribe shouldn’t have reported them to the state.

Those erased convictions by Chief Judge Allie Edwards had the effect of reducing a felony charge to a misdemeanor in the case of Shawn Augare, who had been facing his fourth DUI for a stop on Dec. 31, 2011, in Glacier County off the reservation.

As a result, District Judge Laurie McKinnon — now a state Supreme Court justice — ordered Augare on Nov. 14 to pay a $400 fine for his new DUI misdemeanor conviction instead of a possible sentence of 13 months with the Department of Corrections for felony DUI.

Neither fines, nor jail time, nor extended periods of incarceration seem to be effective. I wonder if an effective use of ignition interlock devices would be effective, but of course that could get expensive.

And really, that would just be another swipe at a symptom. Substance abuse itself is often a symptom masking deeper afflictions.

by lizard

When your choice is between bad and worse, it’s logical to choose the least bad thing. For example, if you transport oil and other fuel by train, this can happen:

Early Saturday morning a train carrying crude oil that was supposed to be stopped for the night rolled downhill toward the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec — less than 10 miles from the U.S. border near Eustis, Maine. It then derailed and caused several powerful explosions and set fires that were still burning on Sunday.

The explosions destroyed the town’s center and killed at least one person, though police are having a difficult time reconciling missing persons reports and expect the death toll to increase. Lac-Megantic’s town center has bars and restaurants that become popular in the summertime, but these places of nighttime revelry turned into disaster zones as explosions caused intense heat, flames, and large plumes of black smoke. The town’s fire chief described the scene as a war zone.

Honestly though, words fail at the scope of this blaze:

Contrast that image with the oil gushing down suburban Mayflower, Arkansas:

I’m sure that contrast isn’t being missed by TransCanada, and its political champions here in Montana, like Jon Tester, Max Baucus and Brian Schweitzer.

Montana politics is another arena where bad and worse gets dressed up and flung around like monkey poo against plexi-glass.

To keep with the poo analogy, imagine the poo is dark money. The worse peddlers of dark money were investigated by Frontline, focusing on American Tradition Partnership. If you haven’t seen it, please do.

For the merely bad (at this point) we have the Council for a Sustainable America, connected to the assumed senatorial candidate and former Montana Guv’ner, Brian Schweitzer. I’d suggest reading John Adams’ whole piece, but here’s an excerpt:

On Monday, FOX Business News reported that Schweitzer, a potential 2014 Democratic front-runner for Montana’s open U.S. Senate seat, in 2009 formed a 527 political action committee that later gave more than $300,000 to a Washington, D.C.-based political nonprofit.

FOX’s David Asman alleged the Helena and Washington-based nonprofit groups appeared to have been formed for the sole purpose of doing political work for Schweitzer, a violation of IRS rules.

Asman connected the Helena-based PAC Council for Sustainable America to Schweitzer because on the group’s 2010 990 report to the IRS it listed the same Helena post office box address as Schweitzer’s 2008 gubernatorial campaign.

The merely bad continues with this story when you consider the role Dave Gallik played. Again from Adams’ piece:

Former Rep. Dave Gallik, D-Helena, the man Schweitzer appointed in 2011 as Commissioner of Political Practices, was treasurer of the Helena-based group until it dissolved in 2010. Gallik’s signature appeared on the group’s 2010 990 form in August 2011, but Hall said the group had not been active for more than a year at that point and the 990 filing was a required formality.

I find Dave Gallik’s involvement in this brewing scandal intriguing because, back in January of 2012, a “big brouhaha” went down at the Office of Political Practices, overseen by Mr. Gallik. That link is to a Cowgirl post, so take that into consideration:

A big brouhaha erupted this weekend at the Office of Political Practices.

On Sunday, John Adams of the Great Falls Tribune broke the story that four workers at that office, permanent state employees, went to Adams and told him that Gallik was committing ethical violations because he was mixing his public duties with with his private law job.

According to the Adams story and subsequent reports, the four women, pictured below, alleged that Gallik sent e-mails on the state system in which he conducted his private legal business affairs, which is not permitted. The four clerical employees also alleged that Gallik had not properly filled out his time sheet, and was crediting himself for more hours than he had actually worked. Gallik did send emails to his law office, the Tribune article revealed, and he admitted to having filled out his time sheet improperly but said it was done under a misunderstanding of the rules of state compensation. He said he subsequently corrected the error after receiving guidance from these women and from the governor’s chief advisor.

There was a definite buzz going around the web after this story appeared. Some said it was Gallik’s folly to try to juggle these two careers. Some bloggers sensed a fishy smell surrounding the entire situation. Highly discussed on several blogs were various suggested motives of the employees to have gone through Gallik’s office and take photos of the content of his desk as they did.

Also a big topic of discussion was the photo of the four women, glaring out at readers in a marinade of rage, with a dash satisfaction, several of their faces exhibiting a barely detectable yet unmistakable smirk. Predictably, some sexist comments made their way around the blogs. Here we stick to business and facts.

Sure, business and facts.

Politics is a dirty game, which is why the majority of us non-insiders get rather disgusted by the lips and assholes that are a part of the sausage making process.

But that’s the system we have.

It might not, at first, seem applicable, but it might be useful to consider the concept of harm reduction:

Harm reduction can be described as a strategy directed toward individuals or groups that aims to reduce the harms associated with certain behaviours. When applied to substance abuse, harm reduction accepts that a continuing level of drug use (both licit and illicit) in society is inevitable and defines objectives as reducing adverse consequences. It emphasizes the measurement of health, social and economic outcomes, as opposed to the measurement of drug consumption.

Our political system is addicted to money, and our species is addicted to oil. Because abstinence is unrealistic, the question becomes how can we reduce the harm of these addictions?

by lizard

When I wrote this post about Ron Paul back in December of 2011, the comments I received were interesting.

The flak I got from the progressive left is the most illuminating. Here is one example; the homophobe being Paul, and the pragmatist being Obama:

if you’re really saying that you’d prefer an “honest” racist, sexist homophobe over a pragmatist who is slowly making our country better, you’re nuts.

And why is “honest” Ron Paul lying about statements he made years ago about blacks? What else would he lie about?

Stop reading Counterpunch! Every time you go there you come back thoroughly unhinged.

Libertarianism is an easy ideology to ridicule, partly because its adherents don’t consistently adhere to libertarian principles at all.

For example, any libertarian who supports restrictive immigration policies, or any level of state involvement with a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body, is not really worth listening to.

That said, I still find the stereotyping annoying, especially when it comes from someone like Jamie Kilstein, a mostly talented “left-wing political comic” who I mostly enjoy following on twitter, and was thoroughly entertained to have had a brief exchange with after I responded to this tweet:

Libertarians are stoned republicans. Or 16 year old white dudes. Or both.

I won’t bore readers with all the nuances of the exchange, but there are a few more tweets from Kilstein worth reproducing:

1) The thing is libertarians who follow me. If you privatize everything the poor get fucked. That’s republican….

2) …there are other people that want to end the war on drugs, cool liberties crackdown, etc, that aren’t selfish assholes.

3) Holy shit stop acting like you have beaten the right left dichotomy by being libertarian. Rand fucking Paul is on your team.

Jamie Kilstein’s brand incorporates the tolerated space of leftist criticism embodied by Christopher Hayes’ presence on MSNBC. If I wanted to be cranky, I’d say just that association with corporate media negates any of the positive things Jamie Kilstein has done, like his righteous attacks on the tolerance of rape jokes within the male-dominated power structure of stand-up comedy.

Instead of being cranky, I’m curious what those on the left hope to accomplish with time wasted on ridiculing libertarians?

Even though it hasn’t been the most prominent part of the NSA story, it also hasn’t gone unnoticed by the mainstream left that Edward Snowden identifies as a libertarian, as evidenced by this Slate piece titled Edward Snowden: A libertarian hero:

One of the more amazing documents to emerge from the NSA leak drama isn’t classified. It’s a photograph of Edward Snowden, sitting on a bed, with his laptop across his knees. The laptop has two stickers on its back, one from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (“I Support Online Rights”) and one from the Tor Project, the nonprofit volunteer-run group that produces online privacy tools designed to protect individuals from digital surveillance.

Talk about your massive security clearance failures! If I were an NSA contractor, I might be predisposed to look askance at giving top-secret access to a libertarian-leaning employee who personally endorses anti-tracking tools and advocacy organizations that see surveillance — by anyone, government or the private sector — as a threat to civil liberties. Snowden might as well have had the words “information wants to be free” tattooed to his forehead.

But then again, if libertarian-leaning EFF supporters were discriminated against by government intelligence contractors, those contractors might encounter serious obstacles in fully staffing their IT departments. The tech company system administrator who distrusts government is an outright cliché. The Internet is chock-full of them — indeed, geeks with well-thumbed copies of “Atlas Shrugged” played a not-insignificant role in building the Internet.

It’s no secret the libertarian trend is a problem for Republicans. This comes from the CATO institute circa 2006:

Libertarian Party candidates may have cost Sens. Jim Talent and Conrad Burns their seats, tipping the Senate to Democratic control. In Montana, the Libertarian candidate got more than 10,000 votes, or 3 percent, while Democrat Jon Tester edged Burns by fewer than 3,000 votes. In Missouri, Claire McCaskill defeated Talent by 41,000 votes, a bit less than the 47,000 Libertarian votes.

This isn’t the first time Republicans have had to worry about losing votes to Libertarian Party candidates. Sens. Harry Reid, Maria Cantwell, and Tim Johnson all won races in which Libertarian candidates got more votes than their winning margin.

As further evidence of this winning tactic, Tester’s 2012 campaign dipped into the dark side to, ahem, engorge the potency of Tim Cox with dark money:

In the waning days of Montana’s hotly contested Senate race, a small outfit called Montana Hunters and Anglers, launched by liberal activists, tried something drastic.

It didn’t buy ads supporting the incumbent Democrat, Sen. Jon Tester. Instead, it put up radio and TV commercials that urged voters to choose the third-party candidate, libertarian Dan Cox, describing Cox as the “real conservative” or the “true conservative.”

Where did the group’s money come from? Nobody knows.

Libertarians may make convenient targets for those traveling in hip circles of privileged access, but outside Gotham, it plays differently.

by lizard

While Americans celebrated their independence yesterday, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) held an emergency meeting over the international stop and frisk of Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales:

An emergency UNASUR meeting has demanded the governments of France, Portugal, Italy and Spain apologize for forcibly halting President Morales’s plane in Austria due to suspicions Edward Snowden might have been aboard.

The Cochabamba Declaration issued at the summit also denounced “the flagrant violation of international treaties.”

The treatment of President Morales is significant. In a piece up today at Counterpunch, Diana Johnstone expounds on what this incident may signal for European servitude to US interests in an article titled The Servility of the Satellites:

The Snowden affair has revealed even more about Europe than about the United States.

Certainly, the facts of NSA spying are significant. But many people suspected that something of the sort was going on. The refusal of France, Italy and Portugal to allow the private aircraft of the President of Bolivia to cross their airspace on the mere suspicion that Edward Snowden might be aboard is rather more astonishing.

Together, these revelations confirm the completion of the transformation of the “Western democracies” into something else, an entity that as yet has no recognized name.

The outrage against the Bolivian President confirmed that this trans-Atlantic entity has absolutely no respect for international law, even though its leaders will make use of it when it suits them. But respect it, allow it to impede their actions in any way? Certainly not.

And this disrespect for the law is linked to a more basic institutional change: the destruction of effective democracy at the national level. This has been done by the power of money in the United States, where candidates are comparable to race horses owned by billionaires. In Europe, it has been done by the European Union, whose bureaucracy has gradually taken over the critical economic functions of independent states, leaving national governments to concoct huge controversies around private matters, such as marriage, while public policy is dictated from the EU Commission in Brussels.

But behind that Commission, and behind the US electoral game, lies the identical anonymous power that dictates its desires to this trans-Atlantic entity: financial capital.

While the EU represents captured terrain by global financial gangsters, as evidenced by the continued austerity campaign against the masses, South America continues to offer a critical contrast to that model, especially Venezuela.

With the news today that Venezuela’s democratically elected president, Nicolás Maduro, offered Edward Snowden asylum, investigative journalist Greg Palast offered a bit of context explaining what Venezuela did, under Hugo Chavez, to earn such hatred from the US:

Just after Bush’s inauguration in 2001, Chavez’s congress voted in a new “Law of Hydrocarbons.” Henceforward, Exxon, British Petroleum, Shell Oil and Chevron would get to keep 70 percent of the sales revenues from the crude they sucked out of Venezuela. Not bad, considering the price of oil was rising toward $100 a barrel.

But to the oil companies, which had bitch-slapped Venezuela’s prior government into giving them 84 percent of the sales price, a cut to 70 percent was “no bueno.” Worse, Venezuela had been charging a joke of a royalty – just 1 percent – on “heavy” crude from the Orinoco Basin. Chavez told Exxon and friends they’d now have to pay 16.6 percent.

Clearly, Chavez had to be taught a lesson about the etiquette of dealings with Big Oil.

On April 11, 2002, President Chavez was kidnapped at gunpoint and flown to an island prison in the Caribbean Sea. On April 12, Pedro Carmona, a business partner of the US oil companies and president of Fedecamaras, the nation’s chamber of commerce, declared himself President of Venezuela – giving a whole new meaning to the term, “corporate takeover.”

For Americans, who collectively suffer from severe short-term memory loss, that is the backdrop for these comments from Maduro:

“I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American Edward Snowden,” Mr. Maduro said during a televised appearance at a military parade marking Venezuela’s independence day.

Mr. Maduro said he had decided to act “to protect this young man from the persecution unleashed by the world’s most powerful empire.”

The desperate push by the US to capture Edward Snowden is bringing up all kinds of baggage. For example, as Obama sought a despicable photo-op in South Africa as Mandela is hovering at death’s doorstep, suddenly the 37 year political imprisonment of Leonard Peltier is percolating to the surface with articles like this:

Barack Obama has taken his two daughters on a dramatic visit to the Robben Island cell once occupied by Nelson Mandela.

Let’s hope he takes them next to the one now occupied by Leonard Peltier.

Mandela was famously held by the apartheid South African government for 27 years. He became a global symbol, then president of his nation.

Mandela was charged, among other things, with attempting to overthrow a government, which he admitted.

For 37 years, Peltier has consistently denied the charges against him, which arose from a native American resistance action at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

His bitterly contested 1977 conviction in the killing of two FBI agents came in Fargo. Peltier has since been held under extremely harsh circumstances in a variety of US prisons. He has been denied a wide range of basic rights, been severely beaten, and can’t get much-needed medical care. Now in his late sixties, Leonard’s health has dangerously deteriorated.

As an indigenous activist, Peltier has been deemed a political prisoner by Amnesty International and numerous other human rights organizations.

Hey America, I’m not sure what the hell y’all celebrated last night, but if it’s our dear founders and their fancy words, then it might be time for a little national introspection, because we are going down a very bad road.

by lizard

An old friend and fellow poet gave me a ring today. I hadn’t talked to him in years, and he was only in town for a day, so we squeezed in a few hours to catch up.

The impetus for his sudden road trip from Portland was, he told me in all seriousness, a treasure hunt. He rented a car with a few friends and started driving east because there is an actual stash of gold, jewelry, and other valuable artifacts hidden somewhere in the Rocky Mountains north of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Even better, there is a map in the form of a cryptic poem written by the person who hid the treasure, and that person’s name is Forrest Fenn.

After America’s sparkly b-day splooge finished exploding in the night sky, and our feral children dropped from sheer exhaustion, I found this Daily Beast piece titled If You’re Hunting for Forrest Fenn’s Buried Treasure, Start Here.

You can start there if you want, or you can start with the poem included in a memoir titled The Thrill of the Chase that allegedly alludes to where this rich eccentric stashed at least a million dollars in loot… Continue Reading »

by lizard

Weldon Kees disappeared on July 18th, 1955. An article in the New Yorker (2005) titled The Disappearing Poet opens with this:

It is almost half a century since San Francisco police found a 1954 Plymouth Savoy on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge. On Tuesday, July 19, 1955, a highway patrol reported that the car, belonging to a Weldon Kees, had been discovered with the keys in the ignition. Two of Kees’s friends, Michael Grieg and Adrian Wilson, went to search the apartment of the missing man. There they found, among other things, his cat, Lonesome, and a pair of red socks in a sink. His wallet, watch, and sleeping bag were missing. So was his savings-account book, although the balance, which stood at more than eight hundred dollars, would remain that way. There was no suicide note.

Weldon Kees didn’t get a lot of attention from his peers or later scholars partly because he was more formal when all the cool kids were doing free verse. The tone of a Kees poem, though, is often the tone of a blistering cynic using his bitter poetic alchemy to transform the constraints of form into a formal vehicle of attack.

Take, for example, this villanelle by Weldon Kees (the first in a 5 poem cycle): Continue Reading »

by lizard

The wikipedia entry for the Rainbow Family of Living Light offers a decent general description:

Rainbow Gatherings are temporary intentional communities,[1] typically held in outdoor settings, and espousing and practicing ideals of peace, love, harmony, freedom and community, as a consciously expressed alternative to mainstream popular culture, consumerism, capitalism and mass media.

Rainbow Gatherings and the Rainbow Family of Living Light (usually abbreviated to “Rainbow Family”) are an expression of a Utopian impulse, combined with bohemianism, hipster and hippie culture, with roots clearly traceable to the counterculture of the 1960s. Mainstream society is commonly referred to and viewed as “Babylon”, connoting the participants’ widely held belief that modern lifestyles and systems of government are unhealthy, unsustainable, exploitative and out of harmony with the natural systems of the planet. The original Rainbow Gathering was in 1972, and has been held annually in the United States from July 1 through 7 every year on National Forest land.[2] Throughout the year, regional and international gatherings are held in the United States and throughout the rest of the world respectively.

Relations with law enforcement and local communities are frequently an issue. Media coverage is often unfavorable, focusing on drug use, nudity, assaults, fugitives, serious traffic charges such as drunken driving and the countercultural aspects of the assemblage. Nevertheless, the Gatherings have proven a durable and international phenomenon for over 40 years.

The thing about the system is it’s the inescapable matrix in which we exist, and a large gathering of those carrying the torch of the long-ago commodified counter-culture can’t help but cause resources to be allocated toward “managing” their impact.

Yesterday the Governor signed an order of emergency to free up funds for Beaverhead County. One area already impacted is medical services. From the article:

Carol Kennedy, chief clinical officer for Barrett Hospital and Healthcare in Dillon, said as of Monday the hospital had received 49 emergency room visits from people with the Rainbow gathering at a total cost of $101,000. The hospital received a total of 30 ER visits in 2000 from Rainbow Family members.

Barrett Hospital will have access to state emergency money to help cover those costs.

Kennedy is hopeful that a medic tent setup last week at the gathering and manned by Rainbow volunteers, including an ER doctor from Kentucky and a midwife from Missoula, will reduce the number of Rainbows visiting the Barrett emergency room.

I think the media has so far been pretty fair with its coverage. In his weekly column, Ochenski recalls the 2000 gathering, and contrasts the impact on the land of the Rainbow Family with then Governor Racicot’s. It’s worth reading.

Anyway, I hope the positive outweighs the negative this week, because times are tough for a lot of people, and resources are limited.

by lizard

Obama’s Africa trip is disgusting for a variety of reasons, but I think the jail cell photo op is somewhere near the top of the list:

After visiting the jail cell on South Africa’s Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison during the long struggle against apartheid, President Obama wrote on Sunday about the bravery of Mandela and others who demanded their rights.

In a message he added to the island’s visitors book, the president said:

“On behalf of our family we’re deeply humbled to stand where men of such courage faced down injustice and refused to yield. The world is grateful for the heroes of Robben Island, who remind us that no shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit.”

This coming from a President who has continued to allow the torturing of prisoners at Gitmo with force-feeding as nearly 50 of the 166 prisoners left are trying to starve themselves to death.

This coming from a president who claims the power to kill “militants” with drone strikes, including double-tap strikes that target first responders, something widely seen as a serious war crime.

And this coming from a president who has waged an unprecedented war on whistleblowers, including Edward Snowden, who is now stateless thanks to the weaponizing of his citizenship status.

Speaking of Snowden, he has apparently released a statement through wikileaks, but there has been doubt expressed about its authenticity. You can find the whole statement here, but I’d like to highlight this part as being worth reading, even if its provenance is in question:

In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.

Anyways, I hope Obama has a successful time in Africa shilling for corporations to Feed the Future of the world’s population. One company really excited about the Feed the Future initiative is, you guessed it, Monsanto:

Our company has made a three-pronged commitment to improve sustainable agriculture: We will do our part to help farmers double yields in our core crops of corn, cotton and soybeans between 2000 and 2030, while producing each bushel or bale with one-third fewer resources in aggregate (such as land, water and energy). And, just as importantly, in so doing we will help farmers to earn more and improve the lives of their families and rural communities.

We made this commitment in recognition that we are privileged to work in an amazing industry – agriculture – that is at the heart of some of our planet’s biggest challenges, ranging from hunger, malnutrition and rural poverty to land degradation, water scarcity and climate change. And, most importantly, we made our pledge knowing that we cannot achieve it alone. Our cornerstone strategy is to actively engage and seek collaboration from a wide range of partners in the public sector, private sector, academia and civil society.

That’s why I am so excited by Feed the Future and its inclusive approach to making measurable and sustainable progress in agricultural development. Monsanto, as one partner among many, stands ready and willing to contribute to this initiative. We want to do our part to help achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger and poverty with urgency. USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah, when introducing Feed the Future to the Chicago Council Symposium on Agriculture and Security in May, asked for private-sector input. “Tell us what countries and donors can do to reduce constraints on business operations,” he said. “And please explore with us whether our tools to encourage investment . . . would help you make the commitment to invest greater resources in these specific value chains and countries.”

Value chains? That’s some slick corporate speak. It’s too bad they don’t really express themselves, like Paula Deen.

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