Archive for March, 2014

by lizard

What does a Montana legislator’s alleged attack on his 4 year old daughter and estranged wife have in common with the alleged plans of Turkey to use a false flag attack to justify retaliation against Syria? Answer: the media’s power to omit.

Before jumping on the bandwagon of condemnation against the Billings Gazette editor for choosing NOT to include the Jason Priest affidavit on its website, I’d like to say I find the practice of publically splashing pre-trial documentation across newspapers and websites to be deeply troubling.

I had a friend last summer accused of domestic abuse, and the police report became a Missoulian story. After spending over a month in jail (he couldn’t afford bail and was too traumatized to remember phone numbers of friends) the case fell apart because the truth of a spurned partner lying about the alleged attack came out. Was there a follow up story from the Missoulian clearing his name? Of course not.

That said, since the Billings Gazette has no problem publically proclaiming the alleged misdeeds of your average Joe, the editor’s decision to abstain in the case of Jason Priest absolutely warrants the attention of media watchdogs like Jim Romensko.

Local omission by local media is one thing (I don’t have a lot of respect for local media, especially after being recently outed by a local reporter to someone close to the Mayor’s office). National media omission of a leak regarding a false flag attack on a NATO nation is an entirely different creature.

Zerohedge is the source I’ll link to for the leak that Turkey planned a false flag attack designed to trigger retaliation against Syria. I passed over RT, Press TV, and Info Wars, if that tells you anything.

Here is some of the confirmed planning of the false flag event:

Ahmet Davutolu: “Prime Minister said that in current conjuncture, this attack (on Suleiman Shah Tomb) must be seen as an opportunity for us.”

Hakan Fidan: “I’ll send 4 men from Syria, if that’s what it takes. I’ll make up a cause of war by ordering a missile attack on Turkey; we can also prepare an attack on Suleiman Shah Tomb if necessary.”

Feridun Sinirliolu: “Our national security has become a common, cheap domestic policy outfit.”

Ya?ar Güler: “It’s a direct cause of war. I mean, what’re going to do is a direct cause of war.”

Feridun Sinirolu: There are some serious shifts in global and regional geopolitics. It now can spread to other places. You said it yourself today, and others agreed… We’re headed to a different game now. We should be able to see those. That ISIL and all that jazz, all those organizations are extremely open to manipulation. Having a region made up of organizations of similar nature will constitute a vital security risk for us. And when we first went into Northern Iraq, there was always the risk of PKK blowing up the place. If we thoroughly consider the risks and substantiate… As the general just said…

Yaar Güler: Sir, when you were inside a moment ago, we were discussing just that. Openly. I mean, armed forces are a “tool” necessary for you in every turn.

Ahmet Davutolu: Of course. I always tell the Prime Minister, in your absence, the same thing in academic jargon, you can’t stay in those lands without hard power. Without hard power, there can be no soft power.

For a great analysis on how this bombshell has been reported by western media, please read this post from b at Moon of Alabama.

False flag is one of those terms that seems to signal content too conspiratorial to be taken seriously. It doesn’t seem to matter that there are historical precedents, like the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which proves the effectiveness of deploying this useful tool of strategic escalation.

Thanks to our media, we don’t even have to burden ourselves with this false flag conversation, because most Americans will have no idea what the PM of Turkey is up to, just like most Americans had no fucking clue where Crimea was on the map before Hitler Putin invaded and annexed it.

Instead of conventional media informing its readers, it’s left to us (mostly) uncompensated bloggers to bring attention to what our media refuses to cover.

Pathetic.

by lizard

Caitlin Copple is still getting criticism from a perennial attendee of city council meetings, Kandi Matthew-Jenkins. It all stems from how Copple chose to respond to a comment back in December, when her crusade to criminalize sitting on downtown sidewalks first got publicly debated. After Copple described the non-sitting action of a transient solicitor chasing a pregnant woman in downtown Missoula, a young man described his experiences growing up in Chicago, which he likened to a war zone, and contrasted the debate about solicitors to one being had by a bunch of privileged white people.

Caitlin Copple, seemingly offended at being referred to as white and privileged (she is), wanted to remind this young man that having a penis means he can’t understand the constant fear women experience while downtown, where the solicitors (with penises) roam freely, chasing pregnant women every chance they get.

Luckily for Copple, city attorney Jim Nugent says she’s in the clear:

In a March 18 legal opinion, however, city attorney Jim Nugent said Copple’s comments do not appear to be constitutional violations, and Matthew-Jenkins isn’t eligible to launch a recall attempt since she lives in a different ward than Copple.

“The city council member comments do not violate any discrimination law,” Nugent wrote. “The city council member did not refuse, withhold or deny anything from anyone based on their protected class status.”

Now the trick will be how to legally stifle Matthew-Jenkins from expressing her disdain for Copple.

Matthew-Jenkins, who comments frequently at council meetings, had voiced her complaints against Copple for weeks. Her strident tone and direct attack on Copple concerned some council members, including council president Marilyn Marler and councilman Alex Taft, who has cited a council rule that calls for order at the meetings.

The rules mandate decorum from council members, the mayor, staff and members of the public “to maintain a productive atmosphere and the integrity of governmental business.

“Comments may indicate a concern for an issue … (but) may not include use of loud, threatening or abusive language, ” reads a portion of the rules.

Matthew-Jenkins, though, said she never meant to intimidate Copple, and she said the Ward 4 representative isn’t “incapable of working hard.” At the same time, Matthew-Jenkins said she will not be deprived of her right to free speech.

If Copple is feeling threatened, I guess she is proving that threatening behavior is possible from people without penises.

Springtime in America

by lizard

How can the unbelievably audacious story of what Wall Street CONTINUES TO GET AWAY WITH flit by with nary a blink from the citizenry? Media?

Who cares, it’s spring, so what if the hollow beasts of finance are once again burrowing their snouts in the public trough looking to insulate themselves from the next inevitable crisis. The link is another Michael Whitney piece examining The Economic Scam of the Century:

The leaders of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, Sen. Tim Johnson (D., S.D.) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R., Idaho), released a draft bill on Sunday that would provide explicit government guarantees on mortgage-backed securities (MBS) generated by privately-owned banks and financial institutions. The gigantic giveaway to Wall Street would put US taxpayers on the hook for 90 percent of the losses on toxic MBS the likes of which crashed the financial system in 2008 plunging the economy into the deepest slump since the Great Depression. Proponents of the bill say that new rules by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) –which set standards for a “qualified mortgage” (QM)– assure that borrowers will be able to repay their loans thus reducing the chances of a similar meltdown in the future. However, those QE rules were largely shaped by lobbyists and attorneys from the banking industry who eviscerated strict underwriting requirements– like high FICO scores and 20 percent down payments– in order to lend freely to borrowers who may be less able to repay their loans. Additionally, a particularly lethal clause has been inserted into the bill that would provide blanket coverage for all MBS (whether they met the CFPB’s QE standard or not) in the event of another financial crisis.

This legislation is of course supported by the president. If you want to see how the mainstream media depicts this scam, here’s an AP piece:

A plan to phase out government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and instead use mainly private insurers to backstop home loans has advanced in Congress.

The agreement by two key senators and a White House endorsement sent shares of Fannie and Freddie sinking Tuesday. Fannie stock fell $1.79, or more than 30 percent, to $4.03. Freddie dropped $1.48, or 26.8 percent, to $4.04.

The plan would create a new government insurance fund. Investors would pay fees in exchange for insurance on mortgage securities they buy. The government would become a last-resort loan guarantor.

“Last-resort loan guarantor” is one hell of a phrase. Thanks AP. And thank you, president Obama. Maybe this despicable servitude to Wall Street will finally open the eyes of Democrat supporters to the true nature of the enabling role Democrats play in our totally corrupt political system.

Shifting to our government’s unconstitutional snooping by the NSA, president Obama is asking Congress to fix the problem because we all know Congress is really good at passing constructive legislation to protect our constitutional rights. What isn’t getting a lot of media attention is the fact that Obama, if he wanted, could simply not re-authorize the bulk storage of our metadata. This program requires re-authorization every 90 days, so at the end of March Obama will sign off on another 90 days of our constitutional rights being violated by our government.

Thanks Obama!

Then there’s the continued posturing with Russia regarding the crisis in Ukraine. After Obama’s incredibly unhelpful depiction of Russia as a regional power, he laughably defended America’s credibility regarding the ongoing disaster that is Iraq, 11 years after Bush lied our country into one of the worst foreign policy blunders in our short history. The title of this Washington Post article is Obama gives Iraq war a more positive spin:

President Obama, whose presidential campaign in 2008 took off in large part because of his criticism of the Iraq war, on Wednesday used that war as a contrast to what Russia is doing in Ukraine.

Speaking in Brussels, Obama dismissed suggestions by Russia and its supporters that the Iraq war undercuts the United States’ credibility in criticizing Russia’s incursion into Crimea in Ukraine.

“It is true that the Iraq War was a subject of vigorous debate – not just around the world, but in the United States as well,” Obama said. “I happened to oppose our military intervention there.”

Obama added: “But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory, nor did we grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state could make decisions about its own future.”

I don’t even know where to start with that comment. How about a list of attacks and violent deaths that occurred on just March 1st of this year:

At least 70 people were killed and 50 more were wounded in today’s attacks. Meanwhile, the United Nations, Iraqi government and Agence France-Presse released their casualty figures for February. All three found that more than 700 people were killed in Iraq during the month — not counting militants. Including those militants, Antiwar found that at least 1700 people were likely killed.

Near Falluja, security forces killed six militants. One child was killed and nine others were wounded during a shelling attack in nearby towns.

Gunmen killed two soldiers and wounded three more at a Khalidiya checkpoint. Four policemen were killed in a drive-by shooting.

A car bomb in Hit killed one person and wounded two more.

Security forces killled one militant and wounded two more in Ramadi.

West of Ramadi, seven gunmen were killed.

Outside of Anbar province:

Security forces killed 31 militants in southern Nineva province.

In Mosul, six militants were killed.

Three militants were killed in a clash in Latifiya. A sticky bomb wounded an officer in Latifiya.

A bomb killed three people and wounded 10 more in Tuz Khormato.

An I.E.D. in Baiji killed two soldiers and wounded four more.

A woman was killed in a double bombing in Balad Ruz that also left five women and a child wounded.

One patrolman was killed and three more were wounded in an I.E.D. blast in Shurqat.

A soldier’s body was found in Dibiss.

In Abu Saida, gunmen killed a civilian.

A bomb killed a military official in Hawija.

Six people were wounded in a blast in Baghdad. A kidnapped girl was rescued.

In Kirkuk, a rocket wounded a family of four.

This is the Iraq America has left behind after a decade of war based on lies, a war Obama only “ended” because Maliki refused to allow Obama to renegotiate Bush’s Status of Forces Agreement that held US forces to an established timeline of withdrawal.

The economy is in shambles, our constitutional rights are violated every day, and our foreign policy has reignited the cold war with Russia. Convincing Americans that Democrats aren’t as corrupt and dangerous as Republicans is going to be a hard sell.

by lizard

It’s funny to see a headline from Politico declaring The rich strike back because I think by “strike” the piece is referring to the continuing tantrums being thrown by the beneficiaries of obscene wealth disparity in America. Of course the tantrum includes a Nazi analogy:

In two-dozen interviews, the denizens of Wall Street and wealthy precincts around the nation said they are still plenty worried about the shift in tone toward top earners and the popularity of class-based appeals. On the right, the rise of populists including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz still makes wealthy donors eyeing 2016 uncomfortable. But wealthy Republicans — who were having a collective meltdown just two months ago — also say they see signs that the political zeitgeist may be shifting back their way and hope the trend continues.

“I hope it’s not working,” Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot and major GOP donor, said of populist political appeals. “Because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.”

Langone’s comments — sure to draw ire from those who find such comparisons to Nazi Germany insensitive — echo previous remarks from venture capitalist Tom Perkins, who likened the actions of some in the Occupy Wall Street movement to the Kristallnacht attacks on Jews in 1938. Perkins gave several interviews after the ensuing uproar, but he never really backed away from the comparison. And Langone showed no hesitancy in invoking the Nazis when describing current populist rhetoric.

To contrast the tantrums of wealth, Bill Moyers looks at a significant increase in homeless families in DC:

City officials didn’t see the surge coming. Last winter, DC placed 463 families in shelter. This year, the Department of Human Services tried to play it safe with a worst-case-scenario forecast of 10 percent more homeless families in shelter than last year, or 509. But already in November, 617 percent more families required shelter than in November 2012. There was no way the city could keep up.

With spring around the corner, the city’s requirement to house homeless residents seeking shelter will end, but the crisis itself will continue. And as the rec-center dwellers find themselves facing the street, there’s little consensus on why there are so many more homeless families this year, how we should be providing for them, or what’s to prevent the same thing from happening next winter.

Apparently DC has a seasonal requirement to house homeless families they struggled to meet this winter. Read the whole article for the personal story of what the homeless family shuffle means for actual people with names.

Then there’s this article about the homelessness crisis in Silicon Valley:

Not everyone is benefiting from Silicon Valley’s latest tech boom.

As rents soar, nearly 55% of Silicon Valley workers do not make the $90,000 necessary to support a family of four in the region. The area has the fifth-largest homeless population in the country, and in the past three years the problem has gotten much worse, according to the latest Silicon Valley Index.

If only the cost-savings of providing housing to the homeless was truly understood:

It is cheaper to give homeless people a home than it is to leave them on the streets.
That’s not just the opinion of advocates working to end homelessness, nor is it the opinion of homeless people themselves. It is a fact that has been borne out by studies across the country, from Florida to Colorado and beyond.

The latest analysis to back up this fact comes out of Charlotte, where researchers from the University of North Carolina Charlotte examined a recently constructed apartment complex that was oriented towards homeless people.

Moore Place opened in 2012 with 85 units. Each resident is required to contribute 30 percent of his or her income, which includes any benefits like disability, veterans, or Social Security, toward rent. The rest of the housing costs, which total approximately $14,000 per person annually, are covered by a mix of local and federal government grants, as well as private donors.

In the first year alone, researchers found that Moore Place saved taxpayers $1.8 million. These savings comes from improvements in two primary areas: health care and incarceration.

Gee, I wonder if a place like Missoula could alleviate the burden on ER’s and jail with this kind of housing?

by lizard

Pete Talbot is disappointed and disturbed that I would join the ranks of Republican gun enthusiasts, which he makes very clear with this comment:

I’m disappointed, liz. Joining the ranks of Gary Marbut? Seriously listening to Adam’s discourse on dropping methheads with a .22 hollowpoint v. a 9mm jacketed? Good company.

I’ve had whackos in my life, too, but I’m 60-years-old and never felt the need for a handgun. I’ve seen far more damage — suicides, accidental shootings, rage homicides — than legitimate acts of self defense.

What I find more disturbing is your comment on social and economic turmoil getting worse. You can buy an arsenal of weapons, move up some draw in the Bitterroot or Sanders County, and hole up. Or you can embrace your community, work with others to make things better and envision a world that has fewer guns rather than more.

While Pete did walk back his comment a bit, it’s that last paragraph I find the most intriguing. I’m going to assume Pete hasn’t read about this NASA-funded report about the potential for an “irreversible collapse” of our industrial civilization that specifically mentions resource exploitation and economic inequality between the wealthy elite and the rest of us as risk factors that have contributed to collapses in past complex societies, like the Han, Roman, and Mesopotamian empires. Here’s an excerpt:

By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.

These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: “the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity”; and “the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or “Commoners”) [poor]” These social phenomena have played “a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse,” in all such cases over “the last five thousand years.”

I wish I could just ignore the plausible nightmare scenarios where the social order breaks down and we are left to our own devices. Maybe I am just being paranoid. After all, I live in Missoula, and what can go wrong in our idyllic mountain college town, right?

After a lot of thought I completed the transaction yesterday and purchased a Ruger Mark III .22 caliber pistol. It took me about 20 minutes to fill out the paperwork. When I told my father, he told me it’s probably one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done.

I have two young kids and what I just did dramatically increases the chance they will die in our home from a gun-related accident. The responsibility I have as a parent is tremendous.

I truly appreciate the feedback from readers about this decision, especially this comment from Nameless Range:

Hey lizard I think others gave you good advice and you’re going the right way with getting a 22.

I think it is important to recognize though that having a gun in your house increases the probability that your children will die due to a gun accident. We all like to think we are outliers but the statistics are pretty clear.

I have a gun in my house for self-defense and I have two small children. If you’re going to have one gun I think it is worth your while to put as much thought into the safe you will have that gun in as the gun itself. I have a quick safe which is a four button combo. Practicing getting your gun out of the safe Safely and quickly is a must or else the purpose of having a gun is really defeated.

I would also not hide the fact that you have a gun from your children. Force them to associate your gun with danger and terrible consequences. You don’t want to instill fear of others into them, But I think it is better to explain gun safety and rules to them as opposed to creating some sort of forbidden fruit effect about the gun in dad’s closet.

I’ve wrestled with these things myself. I own many guns but only one is accessible. As a gun owner, don’t shy away from the fact that having a gun in your house increases the chances of your family members dying because of a gun. That’s a cost-benefit analysis you have to make yourself.

I did not see this post coming.

This is the kind of practical advise I was hoping for, because it both acknowledges how difficult the decision process is while providing some common sense suggestions about how to manage increased risk of a tragic accident happening.

My wife and I have already started the conversation with our kids about guns. I want them to be as aware and informed about guns as possible so they know how dangerous guns can be, but I also don’t want to create the “forbidden fruit effect”.

So thanks again for the feedback, even the criticism. For me this is a practical matter, and the political sectarianism, like Pete, is getting old. If I get to be 60, the year will be 2039, and like I told Pete, I’m not feeling all that optimistic about 2039. My outlook would be different if I knew there was the political will to begin substantively addressing the damage human beings are doing to the planet. Unfortunately our politicians are still playing the Great Game against old adversaries. If that doesn’t change I shudder to imagine the kind of world my kids will inherit.

by lizard

At Intelligent Discontent there is a lengthy discussion surrounding the question posed in the title of the post: When is Self-Defense Permissible in Montana?

I’ve been thinking about guns and gun ownership for awhile now, and I’ve finally decided to purchase my first handgun. I figure there is some expertise among our readership, so suggestions are welcome. I’m looking for a smaller caliber firearm that’s simple and dependable. I’m interested in mainly home-defense, not stopping a Grizzly.

A Tale of Two Photo-Ops

by lizard

The term photo-op is short for photograph opportunity. According to wikipedia, the term was coined during the Nixon administration:

The term was coined by the administration of US President Richard Nixon. William Safire credited its coinage to Bruce Whelihan, an aide to Nixon Press Secretary Ron Ziegler. Ziegler would say Get ’em in for a picture, and Whelihan would dutifully announce to the White House press room, There will be a photo opportunity in the Oval Office.[2]

The term has acquired a negative connotation, referring to a carefully planned pseudo-event, often masqueraded as news.[3] It is associated with politicians who perform tasks such as planting trees, picking up litter, and visiting senior citizens, often during election cycles, with the intent of photographers catching the events on film, generating positive publicity.

The event that produced the two photo-ops, put on by Meals Wheels, is called Community Champions Day. In this Missoulian article featuring a photo of Missoula city councilwoman Caitlin Copple, the event is described as a day of awareness:

For Missoula City Councilwoman Caitlin Copple, volunteering with the Missoula Aging Services’ Meals on Wheels program is about more than dropping off a nutritious, hot meal to elderly and homebound clients. It’s also a chance to connect on a personal level with some of her constituents and meet people who she otherwise wouldn’t get to know.

“I’ve done it the past two years, and it’s a whole lot of fun,” she said. “I think it’s an important service to our community and it kind of exposes me to a different group of people than I come in contact with as a 30-year-old Missoulian.”

Copple, along with several other local and state officials, volunteered on Thursday to ride along with the regular drivers who volunteer for the Meals on Wheels program. They were taking part in Community Champions Day, an annual event meant to raise awareness for the Meals On Wheels Association of America, or MOWAA.

I think it would probably be unfair to depict Copple’s photo-op as a little media rehab for the hits she took leading the charge against sitting on sidewalks in downtown Missoula. I do wonder, though, when Copple is quoted as having “done it the past two years” if that just means doing this annual, one day event twice, or if there is more implied volunteering happening.

The photo-op that does deserve more acute criticism is Steve Daines, because he really is a Cylon corporatist shill. Count on Cowgirl for tossing out red meat so commenters can lash out at Daines and…Meals on Wheels? Apparently.

Sam:

Why did the Area Agencies on Aging let him do this? Who’s in charge over there? So they just say –sure, we’ll let you pretend to support this and vote to cut it – why didn’t they say no, you voted to cut the program , that would be dishonest to Montana seniors? Show some backbone people and stop helping Daines lie to the public. Incompetence abounds.

Publius II agrees:

Excellent point, those coordinators – who volunteer (unlike the ‘paid’ DO nothing congressman) – should NOT have been ‘swooned’ by this guy, but
put him on the spot and tell him to show some moral courage….the little funding and volunteers are HELPING a heck of a lot more seniors than ‘Do Nothing, Shut Down’ Steve can accomplish, denying healthcare to the grand-children (remember GOP always ‘whining’ about the burden on future generations, but don’t acknowledge a polluted world) while
peddling his ‘snake oi’……………

The best part of the Cowgirl comment thread comes from a Meals on Wheels staff member, Curt Hammond, who says this:

I’m the Nutrition Program Manager for the Meals on Wheels Program in Missoula. Mr. Daines was our guest on Monday. This photo-op was not “staged” as you imply. We asked him to participate in our “Community Champions Day” which is part of a month-long fundraising campaign to support our local program. Mr Daines packed up the meals for his route and went out into the community and our CEO drove him to deliver about 10 meals to the clients on that route (it was a small route to accommodate his schedule). He was able to see some of the homes of our most at risk clients. We gave Mr. Daines an opportunity to learn what the impact our program has on a person’s ability to remain safe and independent in their own home, and I appreciated that he listened to our concerns about budget cuts. While I may not agree with his politics, I applaud him for participating in our event and for delivering meals that day.

What does Hammond get in response? Comments like this:

Jan Thomas:

Wow. Yikes – you make him a community champion for voting to cut and even eliminate the program! Incredible.

Lynn:

Daines does not have a soul, he sold it a long time ago

Hammond makes one more reply:

All those who chose to participate in this event were given the opportunity to see first-hand the importance of the program. Perhaps as a result he will become our advocate – perhaps not, but we are doing our part to educate all participants on the realities of senior hunger.

The shots at Meals on Wheels are grossly misplaced, and Hammond does a good job taking the risk of commenting on a blog to counter the smears.

Spring is the season makes crocuses and photo-ops bloom.

by lizard

I wrote this cheery post about dystopian narratives late last year, mentioning specifically The Walking Dead, House of Cards and Sons of Anarchy.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been binge-watching the first two seasons of American Horror Story. I finished season 2 last night, and holy hell, it’s a web of themes pushing all my buttons.

In the spirit of tv series I find compelling and endearing and relevant I offer a poem. Enjoy.

*

POEM

6 Feet Under stole my heart
Nate, David, Claire
my cherished Sunday ritual
the first to get me snared

Battlestar was sci-fi fun
Cylons planted like sleeper cells
but I didn’t weep when it was done
I didn’t know the deeper hells

watch David morph to Dexter
his dark passenger kills for good
then Breaking Bad’s transformation
of Walter White to Heisenberg

they want to let us peek and gawk
House of Cards not just a show
it’s time to ask, if the dead can walk
how deep does this Horror go?

goodbye Ruth Fisher, Nate is gone
now you spread black wings of death
horror lurks in home, asylum
where Cromwell’s a Nazi scientist

America hides its paperclips
in pockets made of human skin
you got to be a True Detective
to spot their plot before they win

—William Skink

by lizard

A few days after Gaddafi was brutally attacked, possibly sodomized with a metal rod, then killed by the Libyan “rebels”, Don Pogreba wrote up a little paean to western intervention titled Libyan Intervention: Another Example of Rational Humanitarian Foreign Policy. In hindsight the post appears almost delusional, especially this part:

I don’t celebrate the death of anyone, but it’s hard to feel terribly sad about the fact that the Colonel is no longer in a position which allows him to torture and kill indiscriminately. Eventually, people rise up to take down despots. It’s often ugly, even brutal, but it will happen—and I’d prefer a national security policy which works to prevent those people from being slaughtered.

In the end, the US and NATO did an admirable job. They used a relatively inexpensive mission which gave the rebels breathing room in which they could defend themselves against a despot. And then the people of Libya did the rest. We can’t know what kind of government or future Libya will have, but I think we can be sure that it will be better than the past two generations.

Following eight years of disastrous foreign policy, this was another sign that the Obama administration is simply far more competent when it comes to national security and military issues than the previous administration. In less than three years, he’s overseen the elimination of Osama bin Laden, led the effort towards killing of some of his chief deputies, drawn up firm plans to finally end Bush’s destructive war in Iraq, and done his best to navigate the complex issues of the Arab spring and its aftermath.

That certainty of generational improvement looks much different three years after NATO stopped dropping bombs, and while cheerleaders of intervention appear to have abandoned paying attention to the consequences of the actions they supported in Libya, people like Patrick Cockburn have not. Case in point, an article from Cockburn about The Implosion of Libya:

Libya is imploding. Its oil exports have fallen from 1.4 million barrels a day in 2011 to 235,000 barrels a day. Militias hold 8,000 people in prisons, many of whom say they have been tortured. Some 40,000 people from the town of Tawergha south of Misrata were driven from their homes which have been destroyed. “The longer Libyan authorities tolerate the militias acting with impunity, the more entrenched they become, and the less willing to step down” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Putting off repeated deadlines to disarm and disband militias only prolongs the havoc they are creating throughout the country.”

Unfortunately, the militias are getting stronger not weaker. Libya is a land of regional, tribal, ethnic warlords who are often simply well-armed racketeers exploiting their power and the absence of an adequate police force. Nobody is safe: the head of Libya’s military police was assassinated in Benghazi in October while Libya’s first post-Gaddafi prosecutor general was shot dead in Derna on 8 February. Sometimes the motive for the killing is obscure, such as the murder last week of an Indian doctor, also in Derna, which may lead to an exodus of 1,600 Indian doctors who have come to Libya since 2011 and on whom its health system depends.

Western and regional governments share responsibility for much that has happened in Libya, but so too should the media. The Libyan uprising was reported as a simple-minded clash between good and evil. Gaddafi and his regime were demonised and his opponents treated with a naïve lack of scepticism and enquiry. The foreign media have dealt with the subsequent collapse of the Libyan state since 2011 mostly by ignoring it, though politicians have stopped referring to Libya as an exemplar of successful foreign intervention.

Can anything positive be learnt from the Libyan experience which might be useful in establishing states that are an improvement on those ruled by Gaddafi, Assad and the like? An important point is that demands for civil, political and economic rights – which were at the centre of the Arab Spring uprisings – mean nothing without a nation state to guarantee them; otherwise national loyalties are submerged by sectarian, regional and ethnic hatreds.

Past positions from pro-interventionists is what leads me to be weary of current claims being made about Ukraine, especially when people like PW condescend by asking then Answering Leftist Questions About Ukraine:

But the new government will certainly lead to the expansion of neo-liberalism, which is bad, right? This is also a common criticism – that somehow integrating Ukraine in the EU will bring about powerful pressure for ‘neo-liberalism’, which is poorly defined but generally associated with privatization and the creation or tolerance of extreme wealth inequality. Interestingly, this line of argument is also used by Svoboda, one of those nasty right wing parties, to encourage Ukrainian nationalism. Fortunately, both Svoboda and the US left wing are wrong on this point. If by neo-liberalism we mean the weakening of the welfare state and expansion of inequality, then neo-liberalism cannot be reasonably associated with the EU, as four of the five most egalitarian nations in the world are members of the EU, and every EU state has a lower level of inequality than Russia.

An article by Jack Rasmus asking Who Benefits From Ukraine’s Economic Crisis? is helpful in understanding the concerns the “US left wing” have, and why we are not wrong:

While the final version of the latest IMF package for the Ukraine is still in development, past relations and deals between the IMF and Ukraine indicate some likely characteristics of ‘Deal #2’ due on March 21. (Deal #1 was the agreement reached on February 21 between the IMF and the pre-Coup government of President Yanukovich. While that former deal was agreed to on the 21st, it was upset within 12 hours by the violent street actions of proto-fascist forces and the still unidentified sniper killings of more than 100 protestors and police forces in Kiev).

Former agreements and proposals between the IMF and Ukraine since the ‘Orange Revolution’ of 2004 resulted in IMF loans to the Ukraine as follows:

2005 IMF deal terms: $16.6 billion in loans to Ukraine

2010 IMF deal terms: $15.1 billion in loans to Ukraine

December 2013: Ukraine requests another $20 billion from IMF

The Orange Revolution of 2004 resulted in severing much (but not all) of the Ukrainian economy from Russia. That caused significant economic contraction for the Ukrainian economy for several years after. Think of the similar effects of the severance as if the west coast economy of the US—California, Oregon, Washington—were stripped from the USA and joined Canada. While the rest of the world economy, including Russia, enjoyed a moderate real economic recovery from 2004-07, Ukraine did not benefit much due to the economic severance from Russia that followed 2004 and the Orange Revolution. Ukrainian GDP declined or stagnated. In other words, the IMF deal of 2005 did little for the Ukrainian economy.

Then came the global economic collapse of 2008-09, generated largely by US, UK and western banks’ over-speculation in financial securities. The Ukrainian economy and GDP, like many economies, collapsed by more than -15% during those two years. That led to the second IMF deal of 2010. Ukraine believed the second deal would open its exports to western Europe and that would generate recovery. However, the European economy (EU) itself slipped into a second, ‘double dip’ recession in 2011-13, and demand for Ukrainian exports did not follow as anticipated. Ukrainian GDP again stagnated after a short, modest recovery, and then slipped into a recession again in the second half of 2013. In short, the 2010 IMF deal did little for Ukraine as well.

In fact, the 2010 IMF probably slowed economic recovery, as it required a 50% increase in household gas prices and corresponding cuts in subsidies for the same. That significantly reduced aggregate consumption demand by Ukrainian households and slowed the economy. So did corresponding IMF demands for reductions in government spending, which were a precondition for the $15.1 billion 2010 IMF package.

One of the reasons no doubt that the Yanukovich government last December 2013 decided to forego another IMF deal was the reported requirement by the IMF that household subsidies for gas be reduced by 50% more once again. Other onerous IMF requirements included cuts to pensions, government employment, and the privatization (read: let western corporations purchase) of government assets and property. It is therefore likely that the most recent IMF deal currently in negotiation, and due out March 21, 2014, will include once again major reductions in gas subsidies, cuts in pensions, immediate government job cuts, as well as other reductions in social spending programs in the Ukraine.

I await the intelligent, rational interventionists to explain why doing the same thing and expecting different results is good policy.

by lizard

Money. If you have it, you can do things, like spend 9 years in litigation against the city of Missoula in a complicated land grab stemming from the reconstruction of South Avenue. Money can also provide insulation from litigation, as this little bit from the article highlights:

According to Orr, the city could have pursued a legal claim against WGM Group, but it didn’t take the opportunity. Court records show WGM’s surveyor testified he believed the land belonged in the right-of-way given historic records.

This whole case could have been avoided, and taxpayer money could have been saved, but it appears there were other, more personal considerations at play behind the decision to litigate against a property owner who regularly protests his tax burden instead of pursuing claims against Brent Campbell’s WGM Group:

After many conversations, the Wohls lawyered up, and Orr sent a couple of letters to the city to try to settle out of court. He wanted to send a third, but after reading one piece of correspondence from the city, Glen Wohl said enough was enough.

The city had sent a letter to Orr making note of all the times Wohl had appealed his tax payments. Montana law allows property owners to appeal real estate assessments, and, Wohl said, “I’ve done it a lot over the years because I have a fair amount of property.”

“You pay your taxes, you just pay them under protest,” Johanna Wohl said.

“I was really offended by that,” Glen Wohl said of the letter.

“Then, he knew it was going to be personal,” Johanna Wohl said.

In contrast to this local drama, a recent article from The Nation describes what happens to people who don’t have money in a piece titled The Town That Turned Poverty Into A Prison Sentence:

At the single stoplight in Harpersville, Alabama, Debra Shoemaker Ford saw the police lights flash. On that January day in 2007, she steered her beat-up black Chevy Blazer into the parking lot, under the big red dot advertising Jack’s restaurant. The officer said she had a taillight out. He asked to see her license.

Ford didn’t have one. Her license had been revoked after she failed to pay a court judgment against her for a traffic ticket in a nearby town. She hadn’t worked since a car wreck a decade earlier, surviving instead on disability payments of about $670 a month. That meant generic washing powder instead of Purex. Cigarettes, when she allowed herself, were rationed, each drag a pleasure measured in pennies. To pay the ticket, plus the fee to reinstate her license, would have meant going without essentials. Though she knew she shouldn’t, Ford, a small white woman in her 50s with a fringe of bangs and a raspy voice, regularly climbed behind the wheel of the old Chevy. In rural Alabama, it’s the only way to get around.

Ford left the parking lot with tickets for no proof of insurance and driving without a license, which would come to $745 with court costs. She didn’t know it yet, but they would also cause her to spend years cycling through court, jail and the offices of a private probation company called Judicial Correction Services. JCS had contracted with the town of Harpersville several years earlier to help collect on court fines, and also to earn a little something extra for itself. It did this by charging probationers like Ford a monthly fee (typically between $35 and $45) while tacking on additional fees for court-mandated classes and electronic monitoring.

Ford tried to meet her mounting debt to Harpersville, but as the months passed and the fees added up, she fell behind and stopped paying. In June 2007, the company sent a letter telling her to pay $145 immediately or face jail. But the letter was returned as undeliverable—a fact that did not stop the Harpersville Municipal Court from issuing a warrant for her arrest. Almost two years later, in January 2009, Ford was arrested on that outstanding warrant and promptly booked in the county jail—where, to offset costs, the town charged her $31 a day for her stay.

Ford spent seven weeks in jail, during which time her debt grew into the thousands. She did not, however, see the inside of a courtroom. All the lawyer hired by her family managed to do was to eventually get her transferred to a work-release program, which stopped her jail fees from growing and allowed her to live in a closed facility, the Shelby County Work Release Center, while going to work. Ford found a minimum-wage job at a local thrift store, but after buying food and handing a cut to the work-release program—40 percent of her gross earnings—there wasn’t much left to pay off the fines that kept her there. What had started as a simple traffic violation had become an indefinite sentence in a debtors’ purgatory—one that would take years to pay her way out.

“It shouldn’t have been that much punishment,” Ford recalled later. “I was guilty—no license and no insurance—but I was trying to fix it. I was trying to make my wrong right, and there was no way they was gonna let me.”

Please read the whole article, it’s incredibly disturbing. And it’s happening here in Missoula (maybe this would be a good story for our local media to cover). The difference is Missoula hasn’t gotten to the point of forcing people to pay for the cost of their incarceration and probationary supervision. But let’s say you get a ticket for open container, and you don’t pay, then a bench warrant is issued and jail time is served.

Maybe debtor’s prisons will be the future housing solution for the Millennial generation. Ralph Nader has a piece in Counterpunch today titled What A Destructive Wall Street Owes Young Americans where he puts forward the radical notion of taxing Wall Street transactions to help Millennials with their trillion dollar student debt burden. Here’s a quick recap of the problem:

Wall Street’s big banks and their financial networks that collapsed the U.S. economy in 2008-2009, were saved with huge bailouts by the taxpayers, but these Wall Street Gamblers are still paid huge money and are again creeping toward reckless misbehavior. Their corporate crime wave strip-mined the economy for young workers, threw them on the unemployment rolls and helped make possible a low-wage economy that is draining away their ability to afford basic housing, goods, and services.

Meanwhile, Wall Street is declaring huge bonuses for their executive plutocrats, none of whom have been prosecuted and sent to jail for these systemic devastations of other peoples’ money, the looting of pensions and destruction of jobs.

And here’s the solution:

Millions of young Americans (called Millennials, between ages 18 and 33) should start agitating through demonstrations, demand petitions and put pressure on the bankers and members of Congress. First the plutocrats and their indentured members of Congress should drop their opposition to a transaction tax on Wall Street trading. A fraction of a one percent sales tax on speculation in derivatives and trading in stocks (Businessweek called this “casino capitalism”) could bring in $300 billion a year. That money should go to paying off the student debt which presently exceeds one trillion dollars. Heavy student debt is crushing recent graduates and alarming the housing industry. For example, people currently between the ages of 30 to 34 have a lower percentage of housing ownership than this age group has had in the past half century.

A Wall Street transaction tax was imposed in 1914 and was more than doubled in 1932 to aid recovery from the Great Depression before it was repealed in 1966. But the trading volume then was minuscule compared to now with computer-driven trading velocity. A tiny tax – far less than state sales taxes on necessities – coupled with the current huge volume of trading can free students from this life-misshaping yoke of debt.

Mounting debt and the destruction of economic opportunity will continue to impact an entire generation, the generation I should add who will be taking care of aging Boomers.

by jhwygirl

I saw nothing in the news about this until I opened a cryptic email from the Governor’s office last week telling me how he took steps to stop the SNAP cuts brought on by the most recently approved Farm Bill.

Under the Farm Bill, more than 2,000 Montana households would see their nutrition assistance deeply slashed. These irresponsible cuts would force many Montana seniors and people with disabilities to choose between putting food on the table and paying for medications and other necessities. It would also cut $2 million of spending to Montana businesses.

These cuts were unacceptable, so yesterday I took action to stop them. Thanks to a common sense solution, we protected this important nutrition assistance for the most vulnerable Montanans and prevented the harm to Montana businesses.

What did Governor Bullock do? The Billings Gazette gives us the specifics. It really wasn’t much:

Gov. Steve Bullock authorized changes to the home heating assistance program for the poor on Wednesday.

For a mere $24,000 – by dropping food stamp assistance from $50 in heating assistance over 5 years to $21 in heating assistance over 5 years – Governor Bullock saves SNAP cuts for more than 2,000 struggling Montanans.

And in the process – it’s well known that for every $1 in food assistance, $1.70 is created in economic stimulus – Bullock preserved at least $3.4 million in economic stimulus here in Montana.

As an agriculture state? Where SNAP assistance can be spent at local food markets? Logic wold tell us that the dollar economic stimulus factor is even greater.

Of course, Bullock’s move sent Speaker of the House John Boehner into a tizzy.

I hope Boehner lost sleep. Lots of it.

I’m smiling – and I’ve no doubt the Governor’s conscience is clear.

Good move, Steve – good move.

by lizard

I think it’s really constructive to have the former Secretary of State and presumptive Democrat presidential frontrunner comparing Putin to Hitler.

Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday compared Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine to actions taken by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler outside Germany in the run-up to World War II.

Making her first extensive comments about the crisis in Ukraine, Clinton said at a private fundraiser in California that Putin’s campaign to provide Russian passports to those with Russian connections living outside his country’s borders is reminiscent of Hitler’s protection of ethnic Germans outside Germany, according to a report published overnight.

“Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the ’30s,” Clinton said Tuesday, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram. “All the Germans that were … the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right. I must go and protect my people, and that’s what’s gotten everybody so nervous.”

What makes me nervous is a hunch that a good percentage of our political leadership are sociopaths, Hillary Clinton included. That’s the only explanation that makes sense of behavior like this:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shared a laugh with a television news reporter moments after hearing deposed Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi had been killed.

“We came, we saw, he died,” she joked when told of news reports of Qaddafi’s death by an aide in between formal interviews.

The sociopath who makes me the most nervous, though, is our current president, the willing executioner. The article is a Counterpunch piece by Michael Whitney, an economist I’ve been reading and appreciating for years. I know it will be easy for Democrat apologists to dismiss because Whitney quotes a comment from the blog Moon of Alabama—a blog I link to frequently here because it’s been, for me, one of the most important, effective counters to Western propaganda I’ve been able to find.

The best description of Obama I’ve ever read was in the comments section of a foreign policy blogsite called Moon of Alabama by a blogger named “bevin”. Here’s what he said:

“I think that Obama is completely empty of scruples…just a willing executioner. From the ruling class’s point of view he is the perfect figurehead because his mere appearance confuses and disarms so many. He seems to have spent his whole life trying to get chosen to play Judas. And that is all there is in his resume…

They present him as negligent, never responsible, never intentionally connected to an evil act, never drawn into the acts of duplicity by a conscious intent. This is the false image, the disinformation projected about who he is…

It strikes me that Obama is all those things. And that this is the core of the evil in him- that he is without conscience or principle, just an ordinary butcher going about his business, fulfilling the terms of his employment, doing what he was asked to do…

You see him as focused and intentional.

I see him as someone who will sign a stack of death warrants without reading them, or thinking about them again. Remember just after November 2008, waiting to take office, how the Israelis attacked Gaza, obviously to show him who is boss? Didn’t you sense that even they were surprised at the insouciance with which he watched those extraordinary massacres pass before his eyes?

He didn’t care. And he was, at last, relieved of the chore of pretending that he did care about such things.

That’s really what he likes about being President: he can relax while the killing goes on, he doesn’t need to pretend it bothers him, he doesn’t need to pass any kind of moral judgment.

Remember when he asked his step-father “Have you ever killed men?”

The reply he got was “Only men who were weak.”

He has adhered to that moral standard ever since.” (bevin, Moon of Alabama)

That perfectly summarizes the man; an empty gourd who never had any intention of fulfilling his promises, who has utter disdain for the fools that voted for him, and who finds it as easy to kill a man, his family and his kids, as to swat a fly on his forearm. As bevin notes Obama “is a pure confidence man and a sociopath.”

Who gives these sociopaths cover? Apologists who range from high-paid corporate shills to bloggers who shill for free. An example of the latter can be found at Intelligent Discontent, where the Polish Wolf explains why he “hesitates” to call neo-Nazis by their rightful name. The reasoning is (to use one of Don’s favorite words) astonishing:

Aren’t the protestors in Ukraine Nazis or neo-Nazis? It seems quite likely that some of them adhere to radical right-wing ideologies. It’s also clear that the deaths of protestors during the Euromaiden protests have greatly strengthened the hand of the most radical elements. However, even groups like Pravdiy Sektor or Svoboda, I would hesitate to describe as ‘neo-nazis’, if only because I know some very rational, cosmopolitan Ukrainians who believe that these parties are their best chance to gain national sovereignty.

I love the language PW employs here. A squishy phrase like “seems quite likely” is used to minimize the FACT that, yes, right-wing extremists now hold top-level positions within the new government (Reuters, not Counterpunch). And why support right-wing extremists? Because unnamed “rational, cosmopolitan” Ukrainians believe the ends justify the means.

We are quickly getting to the point of escalating tensions where one wrong move on either side could spark an overt military confrontation. If Putin is uncritically depicted as Hitler, the probable intention is to prepare the collective American psyche for the kind of military effort it took to stop Hitler: a world war.

This is not a good time for US foreign policy to be in the hands of sociopaths. Tens of thousands of Russians protested in Moscow against their country’s escalation. Where are American anti-war protesters?

Oh yeah, they basically threw in the towel after Obama got elected.

by lizard

Spiegel International put out a great analysis of How the EU Lost the Ukraine deal to Russia last November. Here’s an excerpt:

“I believe the unprecedented pressure from the Russians was the decisive factor,” says former Polish Prime Minister and intermediary Aleksander Kwasniewski. “The Russians used everything in their arsenal.” Elmar Brok, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the European Parliament, says: “Yanukovych kept all options open until the end, so as to get the best possible deal.”

The official reason for the agreement’s failure is Yulia Tymoshenko, the opposition politician who has been in prison for the last two years. The EU had made her release a condition of the agreement. Yanukovych was unwilling to release his former rival, and last week the parliament in Kiev failed to approve a bill that would have secured her release.

But then there are the financial incentives. In the end, the Russian president seems to have promised his Ukrainian counterpart several billion euros in the form of subsidies, debt forgiveness and duty-free imports. The EU, for its part, had offered Ukraine loans worth €610 million ($827 million), which it had increased at the last moment, along with the vague prospect of a €1 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Yanukovych chose Putin’s billions instead.

The EU had been banking on its radiant appeal, and on its great promise of prosperity, freedom and democracy, but now Brussels must confront the fact that, for the first time, an attempt at rapprochement was rebuffed because the price was wrong. “If Yanukovych doesn’t want to make a deal, then he simply doesn’t want to,” says Brok.

But that was November.

Now it’s March and Ian Welsh presents an interesting alliance for Ukraine that will never happen: China. I’m going to include Welsh’s piece in full below the fold. Continue Reading »

No Place to Die

by lizard

Jail is No place to die, and the Indy’s Jessica Mayrer does a great job scratching the surface of core systemic deficiencies that absolutely reach beyond the jail.

Driving that point home is Catherine O’Day, an amazing person I’ve had the pleasure of talking to a few times about this issue. She is a fierce advocate for both inmates in psychiatric crisis who cycle through county detention and the detention staff responsible for their safety. Here’s a bit from the article:

Missoula social worker Catherine O’Day says it’s disheartening to watch detention center inmates get sober and begin planning ways to tackle their addictions, only to watch them fall apart when they leave.

“I see them losing hope,” says O’Day, who, in addition to running a mental health program at the jail, teaches social work at the University of Montana.

Staying sober requires support, O’Day says. Offenders become pessimistic when they discover how little support exists for them. Columbia University found that in 2005, federal, state and local governments spent $74 billion on incarceration, court proceedings, probation and parole for substance-involved adult and juvenile offenders. That number dwarfs the $632 million spent on offender prevention and treatment.

Among the biggest problems, O’Day says, stems from the fact that Missoula has no alcohol detoxification facility. Detoxing can be deadly, as it was for Wasson. But the only place to go through a supervised withdrawal is at a hospital emergency room or in jail. And, as O’Day notes, “We’re not a detox facility. … Jail is not treatment.”

Amen!

There is of course litigation involved with the four county jail deaths, which limits what Sheriff Ibsen can say, but he does manage to give us a peek into his Sheriff perspective:

In light of the challenges, Ibsen says he’d welcome more community services. “There should be better ways of dealing with them than putting them in jail,” he says, “because jail I don’t think is fixing them.”

Where you might expect a social worker to criticize, O’Day is doing what she can from inside. That’s an important perspective, and provides the conclusion to the article:

As for O’Day, she bristles when talking about allegations directed at Missoula County jailers. She says it’s unfair for detention center staffers to accept blame for an issue that’s rooted in policies and laws that extend far beyond their control.

“It’s really a systemic failure,” she says. “We can’t change the world out there from in here.”

And what happens out there? A 34 year old drifter gets killed by a train and maybe had some help dying.

There is so much I wish I could say about what is happening, but I don’t, because it wouldn’t be ethical. I wish other professionals felt the same way.

by lizard

At Intelligent Discontent, in a post titled Updated facts about the Crimea, the Polish Wolf claims I’m shouting about unrelated issues regarding Ukraine because I’ve lost on two main points:

1) Ukraine will unarguably be better off in the EU

2) Russia’s actions are illegal and unprecedented, going far beyond even what occurred in Kosovo or South Ossetia.

I do admire PW’s ability to cast Russia’s behavior as “unprecedented” and argue Ukraine is better off in the EU. I’m going to try and summarize some of the key points in the exchanges of the last few days.

In an attempt to probe PW’s resolve in depicting Russian aggression as INVASIONS!, I asked him a simple question (more than once before he answered) about the 2008 armed conflict between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia. Who initiated the violence? To answer my own question, I used wikipedia (and not some pinko rag like Counterpunch):

During the night of 7 to 8 August 2008, Georgia launched a large-scale military offensive against South Ossetia, in an attempt to reclaim the territory.[54] Georgia claimed that it was responding to attacks on its peacekeepers and villages in South Ossetia, and that Russia was moving non-peacekeeping units into the country. However an OSCE monitoring group in Tskhinvali did not record outgoing artillery fire from the South Ossetian side in the hours before the start of Georgian bombardment.[10][55] Two British OSCE observers reported hearing only occasional small-arms fire, but no shelling. According to Der Spiegel, NATO officials attested that minor skirmishes had taken place, but nothing that amounted to a provocation.[56] The Georgian attack caused casualties among Russian peacekeepers, who resisted the assault along with Ossetian militia. Georgia successfully captured most of Tskhinvali within hours. Russia reacted by deploying units of the Russian 58th Army and Russian Airborne Troops into South Ossetia one day later, and launched airstrikes against Georgian forces in South Ossetia and military and logistical targets in Georgia proper. Russia claimed these actions were a necessary humanitarian intervention and peace enforcement.

For more reading on this subject, this New York Times article looks at cables released by Wikileaks to better understand how Georgia was able to fool the Bush administration about the nature of the conflict.

Despite the reality of an unprovoked attack launched by American-trained Georgian forces, PW has this to say:

South Ossetia was not a country. It was recognized as part of Georgia, and is still by every nation except Russia and Abkhazia. In ‘attacking’ South Ossetia, Georgia was exercising its sovereign right to defend its territory. It’s no different than Russia ‘invading’ Chechnya, which they claim to have had every right to do. Therefore, what occurred in Georgia was absolutely in invasion. It was not unprovoked, and I never claimed it was, but it was most certainly an invasion, while Georgia’s action were entirely legal.

Moreover, Russia’s response was entirely out of keeping with the provocation – Russia gave Georgia no time to withdraw and entered into no negotiations before initiating hostilities, and acted entirely unilaterally.

To make sure I understood PW, I asked specifically if he thought Georgie was justified in shelling and killing people. This is his response:

Legally, yes. Ethically? I’m not there – I couldn’t tell you if South Ossetian grievances are valid or not. Given that Russia had already undertaken military action against Chechnya using the same arguments, I can tell you with certainty that Russia was not justified in their response.

It’s of course much messier than that. I will again stick with wikipedia:

A European Union investigation concluded that Georgia had started the “unjustified” war, but that this was a “mere culmination of a series of provocations”. It also concluded that Russia did have the right to intervene in cases of attacks against Russian peacekeepers, but that the further Russian advance into “Georgia proper” had been disproportionate. The commission found that all parties involved in the conflict had violated international law.

The reason I pushed this point is because it shows, from my perspective, the pretzel logic of a western apologist trying to justify one form of state violence as legally justifiable (Georgia’s) while casting the response as disproportionate and illegal (Russia’s). In order to depict Russia’s response as a disproportionate invasion, the historical provocations leading up to this point must be ignored. More on that at the end of this post.

Going back to the first point, PW bases his assertion that Ukraine will be “unarguably better in the EU” on the fact that the top 6 recipients of loans from western financial institutions, like the World Bank and the IMF, have seen improvements according to the Human Development Index (wikipedia).

After a tedious back and forth on this particular (where I suggest he read Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine), PW says this:

I’m not in the business of defending every action the World Bank takes. And I’ve read part of the shock doctrine, I believe – is there a section on Bolivian water rights? My point is that if these flaws were systemic and intentional, one would expect them to have some statistically noticeable effect on the quality of life in the countries who have taken the largest loans from the World Bank…But leaders, even those who profess hatred of the neo-liberal system, continue to ask for loans (think Kirchner). Why? Because they know that restrictive loans still lead to a better living standard, and thus more votes, than no loans at all.

An accompanying sentiment to this statement is this little bit from a response PW makes to JC:

Yes, every country looks out for its own citizens first, and so every country ought to try to maximize its HDI.

I’m assuming by “every country” PW doesn’t mean countries like Libya, Syria, Ukraine or even Russia.

In response, I try to summarize my biased perception on global events with this:

loans create debt and debt becomes leverage to coerce structural adjustment, or austerity. that’s not a flaw, it’s a feature.

of course there is economic development happening, and money going into poor countries has clearly led to some improvements in the measures you’re so fond of citing.

but where you see altruism, I see control. and where you say every country looks out for its own citizens first I say it’s a geopolitical chess game played by global elites and “citizens” are expendable.

If you’ve made it this far in the post, I hope it wasn’t as tedious to read as it was to write. Beyond the quibbling, PW and myself have conflicting world views, and that’s ok.

We should probably both be thankful that we are privileged enough to be able to articulate opposing viewpoints in a country trying to keep up the charade of being that shining city built on rocks stronger than oceans.

We should also be thankful the conflicts beyond our screens and keyboards, largely financed by our tax-dollars and with varying degrees of body-counts, don’t directly threaten our lives and our families.

If only that were true.

Speaking of truth, it can sometimes come from unlikely sources, like Pat Buchanan. After a comment quoting Buchanan, I poked around and found a pretty good take on the situation we’re in with Russia. It was written in 1998, and I’ll quote it in full below the fold. Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

North Missoula Community Development Corporation‘s executive director Bob Oaks – a long-time advocate for all things Missoula professes to support, such as sustainable commercial and residential development and affordable housing – raised some well-informed warning flags on Monday concerning DEQ’s proposed clean-up plans for one of Montana’s many superfund sites.

In fact, Mr. Oaks raised warnings back in October of last year (and probably earlier) concerning the impending clean-up plans. Oaks is no schmuck – he’s a Harvard-educated land-use planner who’s been around Montana long enough to know that when shortcuts can be taken, they will. Here are some of his words of warning from last October:

“…Also, it is likely that before the end of next summer the MDEQ will make a determination on the level of clean-up that will be required of Huttig Building Products for the White Pine facility — a state superfund site.That site’s current zoning, the current growth policy recommendations for it, and previously documented recommendations of city zoning staff and the City-County Planning Board all favor preservation of the site’s relatively open ended M1-R zoning.

This open-endedness should also argue to MDEQ for a requirement that the superfund site be cleaned to the highest standard that can be required by law, one that would also allow some neighborhood-friendly flexibility in the potential for future uses. The desire for a best possible clean-up is a long standing position of the North-Missoula CDC and neighborhood council groups. I believe that this history and the public benefit of proper site clean-up be acknowledged and honored in the organization of any future TIF district. It would not serve the public well if the rigor of any future clean-up be guided or undermined by declaration of an all encompassing urban renewal district designated as an ‘industrial park.

The timing of this initiative worries me.”

Hmmm….and where are we now? DEQ’s proposal is a less-then-full clean-up, with “institutional controls” which will limit development to a highest and best use of light industrial/commercial – throwing a wrench into the M1R (limited industrial-residential) zoning designation, by eliminating residential uses altogether. Bob Oaks’ statement on Monday:

I’m writing to refresh an earlier post to this forum related to the proposed Northside URD. Some fears I had concerning the process are now being realized in the recent MT Dept. of Environmental Quality proposed plan for final cleanup at the site. As now envisioned by MDEQ, there will be less contaminated soil removed and greater imposition of “institutional controls” than would have been required if the superior cleanup to a residential standard were required.

This decision comes from a context of seeing light industrial/commercial development as the sole highest and best use for the site. This judgment is additionally promoted in a letter to DEQ from Missoula Economic Partnership Director, James Grunke, who cites the proposed URD as part of his rationale.

An added piece of this context comes from the “Future Use Memo” to DEQ from Huttig Building Products’ attorney who, in addition to citing Grunke’s letter, states the following: “Historically, housing east of Scott Street accommodated workers employed by White Pine Sash, Clawson Manufacturing, or the railroad. White Pine Sash at one time employed more than 200 workers, and the area east of Scott Street was a convenient location. Now that White Pine Sash and Clawson Manufacturing are out of business, there are far fewer workers on the Property, and employees desiring housing close to their workplace are limited. In fact, there are several houses that are for sale or vacant in the area east of Scott Street. This is an indication that there is little desire or need to live by the Property. Moreover, in recent decades there is no longer a need to live close to work because most workers are mobile and own a car or truck. Additionally, most people do not desire to live in the proximity of the railyard due to the noise and problems associated with the transient population. It is reasonable to anticipate that the pattern of development in the immediate area of the Property will remain industrial and/or commercial.

That MDEQ is now promoting the same conclusions arrived at by Huttig is frankly disturbing. A draft of an NMCDC response to DEQ and a history of the White Pine Facility is available at the NMCDC website: http://www.nmcdc.org.

Oaks raises an important question. Huttig – the owner of the site who is on the hook for clean-up because he took that responsibility on as a condition of purchase placed by the former owners of White Pine Sash who sold the property to him (i.e., eyes wide open, Huttig took on the responsibility voluntarily) – has long advocated a less-than-full clean-up…………and here is DEQ taking up the same recommendation despite the fact that the less-than-full clean-up leaves Missoula and the community with less-than-full options as outlined in multiple community planning documents that have undergone countless community meetings. Because we all know how much Missoula residents love to weigh in on community plans, don’t we?

Who is representing who here? And what will Missoula community leaders and planners do? Roll over or speak up?

DEQ had a public meeting yesterday in Missoula – they are taking public comment through the end of this month. The public notice is here

In addition to the consolidated information at NMCDC’s website, here is the DEQ White Pine Slash newsletter from March and the DEQ proposed plan for White Pine Slash.

Constitutional Crisis?

by lizard

With 60 Minutes talking data sellers and Snowden talking to SXSW, our rapidly changing data landscape is getting some attention. Here’s a portion from the beginning of Snowden’s talk:

Well, thank you for the introduction. I will say SXSW and the technology community – people who are in the room in Austin they are the folks that really fix things who can enforce our rights for technical standards. Even when Congress hadn’t yet gotten to the point of creating legislation to protect our rights in the same manner. When we think about what is happening at the NSA for the past decade ________ the result has been an adversarial internet. Sort of global free fire zone for governments that is nothing that we ever asked for. It is not what we want. It is something that we need to protect against. We think about the policies that have been advanced the sort of erosion of ______amendment protections the proactive seizure of communications. There is a policy response that needs to occur. There is also a technical response that needs to occur. It is the development community that can really craft the solutions and make sure we are safe.

The NSA the sort of global mass surveillance that is occurring in all of these countries. Not just the US it is important to remember that this is a global issue. They are setting fire to the future of the internet. The people who are in this room now you guys are all the firefighters and we need you to help us fix this.

They’re setting fire to far more than just the internet, but for the purpose of this post, let’s stick to how extensive abuses of governments and corporations (is there even a difference anymore?) have become the norm, defended domestically by both Republicans and Democrats. Except maybe not so much Dianne Feinstein anymore, considering the recent and very serious accusations against the CIA for spying on her committee.

The question is this: can Feinstein reconcile her contradictory opinions about the NSA? This Guardian opinion piece takes a look at her political bi-poloar disorder when it comes surveillance and cute little things like the US constitution:

The exasperation with Ms Feinstein is that she directs her sense of outrage only at the CIA. It seems restricted to issues that impact on her. She is outraged when the CIA allegedly hacked into her committee’s computers. She is upset over the alleged intrusion into the privacy of her own staff. And yet this is the same senator who could not empathise with Americans upset at the revelations in the Snowden documents of millions of citizens whose personal data has been accessed by the NSA. It is the same senator who could not share American anger over the revelation of the co-operation in surveillance of the giant tech companies, whether wittingly or unwittingly.

Ms Feinstein not only failed to investigate the NSA with a smidgen of the aggression she has shown towards the CIA but has gone out of her way to be the NSA’s most prominent defender. The day after Edward Snowden revealed himself as a whistleblower last June, she was among the first to brand him a traitor. In the face of revelation after revelation, she praised the professionalism of the NSA. She defended mass data collection as a necessity, arguing that the NSA had to have access to the whole “haystack” to find the one needle, the terrorist. All this dismayed many of her Democratic supporters in liberal California and elsewhere in the US.

This is an area where young, libertarian-leaning conservatives have some overlap—or, what I’m going to brazenly refer to as “common ground”—with progressive-minded Democrats. The alternative to trying to build something positive on that little piece of common ground is to troll and ridicule #MTGOPYoungGuns on Twitter.

After Feinstein’s public accusations Tuesday morning, the phrase constitutional crisis is being used, appropriately so, I would say. Here’s how The Nation is describing the situation:

If what Feinstein alleges is true, it essentially amounts to a constitutional crisis. And she said as much during her speech, describing “a defining moment for the oversight of our intelligence community.”

“I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution, including the Speech and Debate clause. It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities or any other government function,” Feinstein said. “Besides the constitutional implications, the CIA’s search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.”

So what is Obama, the constitutional lawyer, going to do about this crisis? Maybe he should have his DoJ prosecute Diane Feinstein, because she’s kinda acting like a whistleblower, and we know what Obama’s administration does to whistleblower’s they can’t terrorize into committing suicide or fleeing America—they go to jail like John Kiriakou:

John Kiriakou, the former CIA agent who revealed details of the US government’s use of waterboarding against senior al-Qaida suspects, has written an open letter describing his time in federal prison surrounded by drug dealers, fraudsters and child molesters.

Kiriakou is three months into a 30-month sentence having pleaded guilty to disclosing the identity of an undercover CIA officer to an ABC reporter. He is one of six current or former public officials to be prosecuted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act – twice the number of cases instigated by all previous presidents combined.

Kiriakou’s letter underlines in graphic form the personal consequences of the Obama administration’s aggressive assault on leakers. It comes as the attorney general, Eric Holder, is under mounting pressure following revelations that the Department of Justice secretly investigated the activities of reporters working for Associated Press and Fox News in unrelated leak investigations.

Obama could pardon Kiriakou. But he won’t. He’s too fond of using the CIA as his own personal paramilitary force, terrorizing brown-skinned foreigners with drone strikes and killing American citizens without due process.

What this particular issue highlights is that America has been involved in one long, unending constitutional crisis since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Obama had an opportunity to capitalize on hope and change by addressing the flagrant abuses of the Bush administration.

But he didn’t. And we continue to see the consequences of Obama’s failure.

By JC

Because you won’t ever hear the truth from our administration. What you will hear is propaganda regurgitated from the mainstream western media.

Full transcript of the speech from Ukraine’s President-in-exile Viktor Yanukovych in Rostov-on-Don, Russia.

After the jump… Continue Reading »

by lizard

I agree with George Ochenski. Washington has gone insane over the Ukraine:

It’s very difficult to discern what possible interest the United States could have in the current situation in Crimea and Ukraine. Yet, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are waving sabers and directly threatening Russia over what they call its incursion into a sovereign state.

In the meantime, members of Congress are coming up with some seriously inane ideas they think might have some effect on Russia without considering the effects they will undoubtedly produce on our own lands, waters and citizens.

Let’s start with the over-the-top reaction of the Obama administration, which pledged a billion dollars to Ukraine without even bothering to ask Congress or the American people what we thought.

A billion dollars is a thousand million. What will that thousand million dollars be used for in Ukraine that’s more important than spending it here at home for our long and growing list of domestic needs? It’ll go to pay off some of the natural gas debt Ukraine has racked up to Russian energy company Gazprom.

But hey, why stop there? Obama has also ordered economic sanctions against Russia and, in a Cold War redux, positioned a destroyer in the Black Sea off the coast of Crimea, sent F-15s to Lithuania and a dozen F-16s to Poland along with 300 troops. It’s safe to say many of our citizens are shocked by this leap to wartime actions – without a shred of consultation with Congress – by the same president who won the Nobel Peace Prize.

So our tax money is in for a cool billion, and the World Bank recently announced a “loan” of 3 billion dollars:

The World Bank on Monday said it plans to provide Ukraine up to $3 billion in 2014 to support the country’s new government in the midst of its current crisis, though only part of the money would be new.

The bank, a Washington-based lender that focuses on ending poverty, already has several projects in Ukraine. About $2 billion in the funds will be disbursed this year as part of ongoing projects.

And another pot of cash, up to $1 billion, would go directly to the government if it implements economic reforms to get its finances in order.

So this nice, new government will get a billion dollars “directly” IF it “implements economic reforms”. I like how this short CNBC piece describes the World Bank’s focus as “ending poverty”. Because it’s the exact opposite—it’s Orwellian doublespeak for imposing neoliberal austerity.

Speaking of the new government, I’m sure that neo-Nazi fascist meme is just Russian propaganda, right? Wrong:

Some have noted that, for the first time since 1945, neo-fascists hold cabinet posts in a European country. They include the Ukrainian interim defense minister, Ihor Tenyukh (a naval commander who has studied at the Pentagon and favors NATO membership); deputy prime minster for economic affairs Oleksandr Sych (chief Svoboda ideologist who as a member of parliament co-authored a bill banning abortion, who’s said that women have the right to avoid pregnancy by “leading an orderly life”); minister of agriculture Ihor Svaika (an agro-oligarch); and minister of ecology Andriy Moknyk (who has served as Svoboda’s envoy to Italy’s neo-fascist Forzo Nuovo. Group).

Other appointments worth noting include the National Security Council chief, Andry Parubiy (co-founder of Svoboda, leader of the U.S.-backed “Orange Revolution” in 2004, and “security commandant” during the Maidan protests directing attacks by the paramilitary organization “Right Sector”); and Deputy NSC chief, Dmytro Yarosh (founder of the “Right Sector”). The Prosecuter-general, Oleh Makhnitsky and Minister of Education Serhiy Kvit are also members of the Svoboda Party.

Imagine a National Security Council controlled by people whom (it now appears) hired snipers to fire on the Maidan crowd, with the intention of blaming this on Yanukovich’s security forces.) This is not business as usual. This is a leap into darkness.

That Oleksandr Sych dude sounds like he’s cut from the same cloth of crusading anti-abortion social conservatives here at home, like the ones in Texas who have decimated access to clinics for women.

The Ochenski piece mentioned Obama’s saber rattling. In Crimea, there is a referendum that may go down on Sunday, which is escalating the situation:

Ukraine’s parliament has warned Crimea’s regional assembly it will be dissolved unless it cancels a referendum over joining Russia.

Kyiv said Crimea had until Wednesday to call it off.

Meanwhile the Crimean Parliament stated on Tuesday it would declare itself an independent state if people vote in favour of joining Russia. It would then officially ask to become part of the Russian federation. In a secret sitting, MPs voted 78 to 3 in favour of a declaration of independence from Ukraine. The declaration cites Kosovo’s separation from Serbia as a legal precedent.

Yep, Kosovo is a good precedent to cite. That’s the problem with America’s blatant hypocrisy. Our actions on the international stage have precedent-setting consequences down the road.

This situation will only get worse. I don’t see how Obama has any room to deescalate rising tensions. The propaganda here at home is just too good to counter with a few speeches. Unfortunately I don’t think Obama has any incentive to step back. The President can’t look weak with midterms coming and control of the Senate in jeopardy.

So let’s escalate a confrontation with a nuclear-armed Russia.

Ochenski has it right, Washington has gone insane.

by lizard

An Act of Terrorism in the Flathead is a political gift for Montana Democrats because it dramatically highlights the threat women face from right-wing extremists. The timing could not have been more perfect.

This weekend, Montana Democrats drank and dropped cash at the Mansfield/Metcalf dinner. The keynote speaker was Cecile Richards, the head of Planned Parenthood. Here is some of what she had to say:

“My message is really how important the elections are going to be in November particularly for women, and how important women voters will be,” Richards told reporters before the dinner.

“Two years ago, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund was really involved in helping re-elect Sen. Jon Tester,” she said. “We know how important he has been to women’s health, what a great leader he’s been in the U.S. Senate. We need some other folks, some other help, and so we’re really excited to be here to talk about women’s health and women’s issues and the role that they’re going to play in this election.“

And what does Richards think of Walsh so far?

“It’s been wonderful to see Sen. Walsh already in action in Washington, D.C.,” she said. “He’s a great, great senator for the state of Montana, and we’ll work very hard to try to re-elect him in November.“

She said Planned Parenthood Action Fund worked hard for Tester and left no doubt that it would for Walsh too.

“What we found (in 2012) is that women were very receptive to hearing from Planned Parenthood as a health-care provider,” she said. “At election time, they trust us to tell them who’s on their side.“

Transforming trust into political currency is always a tricky thing, requiring selective concern and strategic omission.

Last June, a Montana Public Radio piece described why Women and families need comprehensive immigration reform. The organization Montana Women Vote stated what is happening to families across the nation, and it’s heartbreaking:

Between July 2010 and September 2012, over 105,000 parents of children who were US citizens, were deported, with almost 100,000 more excluded or left voluntarily. Parents of kids who are citizens, who have no option but to uproot their children from their community and leave the only life their kids have ever known. In fact, the long-term emotional and psychological effects of this kind of turmoil on children is being studied to understand some of the consequences of our current immigration policies.

And if the entire family in not uprooted, many families with mixed immigration status find that one parent may be deported with the other parent staying in their community, trying to raise their kids. In 2008, there were 4 million kids living in mixed status homes. Our immigration system essentially creates single parent households despite two parents wanting desperately to stay together, work hard, and build a stronger future for their kids.

John Walsh needs to describe his position on immigration reform. We already know what Jon Tester thinks, considering he was 1 of 5 senators who voted to kill the Dream Act 4 years ago (Max Baucus also crossed party lines to kill this meager legislative improvement to a broken system destroying families). For a scathing refutation, Helena immigration attorney Shahid Haque-Hausrath unloaded on Tester’s position in this 4&20 guest post.

Last night certainly wasn’t the venue for talking about tough issues, as MT Cowgirl points out:

Tonight’s guest speaker is Cecile Richards, who is the head of Planned Parenthood of America. This is a good choice as it shows the that Democrats are becoming more comfortable in recognizing how important their stance on medical privacy really is. And her appearance could not be more timely, coming on the heels of a horrible incident of vandalism of an abortion clinic in Montana.

Others on the list include John Walsh, our new senator, as well as Governor Steve Bullock, Senator Jon Tester, and Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen, Superintendent Denise Juneau and Secretary of State Linda McCulloch. And don’t forget the popular Ed Smith, the clerk of the Supreme Court, as well as state House and Senate Leaders Jon Sesso and Chuck Hunter. Bring your money but don’t drink too much, especially if you are giving a speech. Hopefully, we can at least be assured there will be no poetry.

Yes, hopefully no drunken poetry. Delivering stale political rhetoric and taking money is the point of dinners like this.

And remember, money = political viability.

The political season is shifting with the approach of spring, from Twitter spats to candidates like Walsh actually having to run a campaign now, especially considering Bohlinger gave a head-fake and decided to stay in the race. More from Cowgirl:

The Bohlinger deal is interesting since he had given indications, around the time Walsh was appointed Senator, that he would bow out. But now he’s in it for certain. The 77-year-old Republican turned Democrat is a former Lt. Governor, former clothing merchant from Billings and former Marine boxer, and is well known among voters and has a freewheeling style and says what’s on his mind, contrasting to the more measured Walsh. Bohlinger has not raised much money and Walsh has raised a good clip (half a million or more), but that stuff matters only when the money is spent. We shall see how and when (or if) the Walsh campaign chooses to spend some of its war chest in the primary against Bohlinger. Bohlinger, meanwhile, is trying to fashion himself as a progressive, outsider alternative to Walsh. He says Walsh was anointed by Harry Reid and others in Washington.

Oh boy, here we go.

by lizard

Ronald Reagan planted a bomb and it’s still blowing up hospitals. That bomb’s name is EMTALA:

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) is an act of the United States Congress, passed in 1986 as part of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). It requires hospitals to provide emergency health care treatment to anyone needing it regardless of citizenship, legal status, or ability to pay. There are no reimbursement provisions. Participating hospitals may not transfer or discharge patients needing emergency treatment except with the informed consent or stabilization of the patient or when their condition requires transfer to a hospital better equipped to administer the treatment.

The recent closure of another Georgia hospital has combined modern day Republican cruelty of denying Federal medicaid dollars with a Reagan-era BIG GOVERNMENT mandate to just say yes to the uninsured.

The policy is one thing, the reality in the ER is something else.

Here in Missoula, I don’t think it’s a secret St. Pat’s ER is the triage center for the chronically homeless, especially during the winter. The combination of EMTALA and medicaid no-thankya from foot-shooting ideologues in Montana’s legislature will continue negatively impacting one of Missoula’s largest employers.

I have seen and participated in the burnout of useless triage. I have seen how difficult it can be to convince an ER doctor that the chronic drunk he’s seen a hundred times really might do it this time. Of course taking the drunk’s threat of self-harm seriously means waiting the time it takes to sober him/her up so that a mental health professional can properly assess risk. Today I learned if your BAC is around .3 that means about 8 hours in an ER bed.

Forget the whole bleeding-heart liberal appeal to improving services. Broken systems are incredibly expensive. It would be fiscally conservative to find a cheaper fix to what we’re doing now, right?

by lizard

Propaganda is a word that, when used, seems to taint the user. Same thing with psyop. Luckily I ain’t afraid of the taint (ok, that sounds horrible).

A great example of propaganda happened last month when it was reported that a 4-year old was found ALONE in a Syrian desert. Well, that was proven to be simply untrue. The pictures at the second link says it all.

Conspiracy theory is obviously another term that taints, which is why it’s so useful when bugged conversations get leaked regarding speculation that snipers in Ukraine were from the opposition and killed people on both sides of the conflict. The title of this Guardian piece is Ukraine crisis: bugged call reveals conspiracy theory about Kiev snipers:

A leaked phone call between the EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet has revealed that the two discussed a conspiracy theory that blamed the killing of civilian protesters in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, on the opposition rather than the ousted government.

The Estonian foreign ministry confirmed the leaked conversation was accurate. It said: “Foreign minister Paet was giving an overview of what he had heard in Kiev and expressed concern over the situation on the ground. We reject the claim that Paet was giving an assessment of the opposition’s involvement in the violence.” Ashton’s office said it did not comment on leaks.

During the conversation, Paet quoted a woman named Olga – who the Russian media identified her as Olga Bogomolets, a doctor – blaming snipers from the opposition shooting the protesters.

“What was quite disturbing, this same Olga told that, well, all the evidence shows that people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides,” Paet said.

“So she also showed me some photos, she said that as medical doctor, she can say it is the same handwriting, the same type of bullets, and it’s really disturbing that now the new coalition, that they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened.”

“So there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition,” Paet says.

Oh, those crazy conspiracy theorists!

Now, for an example of a psyop, I offer this piece from 2012 describing The Secret History of Pussy Riot. It’s an interesting take that leads me to wonder about the authenticity of the infamous Cossack whipping incident jumped on by western media to highlight Russian brutality during the Sochi Olympics.

There is a line in the movie The Usual Suspects where Kevin Spacey’s character says “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

I think the greatest trick the US ever pulled was convincing Americans it doesn’t use propaganda on its own citizens.

by lizard

John Walsh must have learned from Jon Tester that it’s much more politically advantageous to do things like kill the dreams of immigrant children than risk losing a few ignorant voters they probably weren’t going to get anyway. That’s how I read the disappointing actions John Walsh took when he joined 6 of his fellow Democrats in killing the nomination of Debo P. Adegbile to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. From the link:

Seven Democrats joined with Republicans in blocking a final vote on the nomination, the largest number of Democrats to vote against an Obama nominee, according to Senate aides. Adegbile’s ties to the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, an internationally known prisoner convicted of the 1981 murder of Officer Daniel Faulk­ner, had become the focus of a conservative crusade that boiled over in recent weeks.

A senior aide to one of the senators who voted against the nominee said several senators’ offices were “very angry” at the White House for moving ahead with the nomination even though it could leave Democrats who are facing tough reelection races vulnerable to attack ads.

“It’s a vote you didn’t have to take. It’s a 30-second ad that writes itself,” said the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak frankly.

On Monday, Missoula’s City Council took a hard vote that I’m sure no one was looking forward to taking. Several people on council described the difficulty they had making their decision, including Adam Hertz. The vote on whether or not to include “sitting” in the updated ordinances was very close. If Hertz had voted for the amendment to include sitting, it would have been tied 6-6, and the mayor would have voted yea. But he didn’t, and an almost guaranteed lawsuit the city would fight and probably loose was (hopefully) avoided.

This whole ordinance fiasco led me to a realization that I was wrong 3 years ago when I criticized the Indy’s endorsement of Adam Hertz in this post. Here is the part from the Indy piece I quoted (October, 2011):

The way we’re reading the wind, the conservative bloc should expect to lose two seats. Meanwhile, a Copple victory would give progressives unprecedented control of city government. For some, that’s an exciting prospect. But perhaps they should be concerned. The last time the left had the Missoula Council locked down, back in the mid-’90s under the banner of the New Party, they handled it so badly that within a few short years the group’s label had become political poison and it disbanded.

The ordinance issue was handled very badly, and if it wasn’t for the vote of a young conservative, it would have been even worse. Hopefully Missoula doesn’t still get sued because the city is already singing the union scape-goating blues.

Going back to John Walsh, his campaign is hoping you don’t pay too much attention to his cowardly political pandering by quickly reloading the 24 hour news cycle with this: Senator Walsh introduced Bill to restrict NSA and FBI snooping:

Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., introduced his first bill Thursday, to restrict the ability of federal security agencies to secretly collect phone records and other personal data on U.S. citizens.

Walsh’s bill, titled the Civil Liberties Defense Act, also would require the National Security Agency to purge records of already collected data that don’t comply with standards established by the act.

“As I’ve been traveling around the state … this is an issue that I’m hearing about from Montanans, about the government trampling on our civil liberties,” he said in an interview. “I said that when I came here, I wanted to identify problems, find a fix for the problem and solve that problem.”

John Walsh want see problem. Then John Walsh want find fix for problem. Then John Walsh solve problem.

Go get ’em Tiger!

If John Walsh is concerned about civil liberties, all he has to do is look at Missoula, where sitting on a public sidewalk downtown nearly became a criminal act.

I read something earlier today (h/t ‏@Schwad4HD14 ) that I’m having a hard time believing, because it’s just too perfect to be true. It’s a story about what happens when an ordinance intended for “those” people is equally enforced:

FORT WALTON BEACH —A local family says their afternoon at a local park was ruined after a homeless person complained to police that they were lying down.

Under the city code, visitors to parks cannot “sleep or protractedly lounge” on seats, benches or other areas.

Michelle McCormick said she and her husband were at Fort Walton Landing Saturday with two young children. She said her husband was wrestling with them when a police officer approached.

“She walked up to us and said, ‘Sir, I’m going to have to tell you to get up. There’s an ordinance against lying down in the park,’ ” McCormick said.

“My husband was just incredulous.”

Police Sgt. Bill Royal said the officer was responding to a complaint from a park visitor.

“We received a phone call, and it was a homeless person,” he said. “He was complaining about individuals lying on blankets near the gazebo.”

The call log indicates the officer made the family aware of the city ordinance that prohibits lying down in the park.

McCormick said the officer was “pleasant enough” but firm about what the ordinance allows.

“My husband sat up and by this time, he was fuming and we packed up to go,” she said. “… (The day) was so spoiled at that point, we didn’t want to stay.”

Police officials said the ordinance is intended to keep people from sleeping in the park and interfering with the use of local parks.

“There’s a safety factor,” Royal said. “You may trip someone.”

City Manager Michael Beedie said he wasn’t sure when the ordinance was enacted but that it was designed to keep vagrants and others from sleeping in the park.

Capt. Tom Matz said the police department cannot discriminate against vagrants and must treat all park visitors equally.

McCormick said the city should not use the ordinance to keep parents from relaxing with their children in a park on a sunny day.

“It’s taking a really big brush to a small problem,” she said. “It’s like they didn’t think about the ramifications.”

A cautionary tale, indeed.

by lizard

In a 7-5 vote, Caitlin Copple’s effort to reinsert the downtown ban on gateway conduct commonly referred to as “sitting” failed:

On Monday night, the Missoula City Council adopted updates to its public peace, morals and welfare regulations. While they prohibit sitting within 10 feet of a business entrance downtown, a bid by Councilwoman Caitlin Copple to ban sitting anywhere on downtown sidewalks from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. was rejected. In a 7-5 vote, councilors Copple, Jon Wilkins, Mike O’Herron, Annelise Hedahl and Ed Childers supported the amendment.

Businesses got nearly everything they wanted out of these ordinances. Lying/Sleeping is still prohibited downtown between 6am-11pm, the distance a person can sit from an entryway increased from 6 feet to 10 feet, and the trifecta of sitting/sleeping/lying on footbridges passed.

Of course getting nearly everything they asked for still doesn’t seem to be enough for downtown businesses, as evidenced by today’s article Downtown businesses worry new laws won’t deter customer harassment.

In that article, Brent Campbell laments about a lack of retail investment in what I consider a case of full-blown Bozeman envy:

But the challenge to protect downtown commerce remains, as does the desire to grow retail in the city center, said Campbell, with the Downtown Association. In his capacity as president of WGM Group, Campbell often travels to Bozeman. He said its downtown has a busy hardware store and strong grocery store on its main drag, along with other local franchises, yet Missoula has “significantly” more employees downtown.

“We have a bigger market. We have a bigger population. Why aren’t those things being invested in in our downtown retail?” Campbell said. “We have lots of investment in nightlife and in banking and law firms. But why aren’t people investing in retail?”

Bozeman and Helena both have Macy’s department stores, and Macy’s closed in downtown Missoula. The Missoula Mercantile at Higgins Avenue and Front Street has been vacant since 2010.

“The rumor is that Macy’s is going to reopen on Reserve Street. So what does it take for us to be able to attract meaningful retail in our downtown?” He said the question is important, and the Mayor’s Downtown Advisory Commission has been working on the matter for a year.

“I think the downtown business community has spoken about what the issue is, and I’m not sure City Council is listening,” Campbell said.

Moving forward, the Missoula Downtown Association will focus on a two-step solution, he said: First, a drop-in center for people who are inebriated, and second, wet housing.

“We want to continue to improve the situation in downtown Missoula,” Campbell said.

It’s good that the MDA wants to move forward, considering they used veiled threats of “compassion fatigue” regarding supporting the 10 year plan to end homelessness. Of course, we heard over and over again that this was about behavior and not homelessness, a claim somewhat undermined by the two-step solution now being mentioned.

In lamenting about the lack of retail downtown to balance the bankers, lawyers and “nightlife” that primarily fuels the economic activity, Campbell answered his own question: Reserve Street. Big box retail offers lower prices and they don’t rip you off with faulty parking meters.

I would say lower prices is the main incentive that draws shoppers to Reserve Street, because Missoula doesn’t have a lot of good paying jobs putting discretionary money into the pockets of Missoulians. Add to that factors like St. Pats, Missoula’s second largest employer, shedding jobs because of the economic climate exacerbated by our state legislature denying medicaid expansion, and you can begin to see there are other reasons impacting businesses downtown.

Speaking of employers, check out this list of Missoula’s top employers from 2009:

1. University of Montana, 3,651

2. St. Patrick Hospital, 1,600

3. Missoula County Public Schools, 1,424

4. Community Medical Center, 1,200

5. DirecTV Customer Service, 1,000

6. U.S. Forest Service, 800

7. Missoula County, 775

8. Wal-Mart, 524

9. City of Missoula, 514

10. Smurfit-Stone Container Corp., 432

11. Montana Rail Link, 254

12. Western Montana Clinic, 252

Going down the list, the University of Montana has shrinking enrollment and budget problems, our two hospitals are dropping jobs left and right, the US Forest Service recently moved out of downtown, our schools have to make sure they can keep raising the pay of their administrators, Walmart pays its employees shit by subsidizing their bottom-line with federal programs, like food stamps, and Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. is gone.

So when Campbell says he wants to “continue to improve the situation in downtown Missoula” I would suggest maybe thinking beyond the boundaries of the BID.

A few days ago Pete Talbot wrote about the front page Sunday Missoulian article examining the perception that Missoula needs to reinvent its economic identity. Pete mostly goes after the Montana Policy Institute for being a right-wing think tank, which I agree is troubling. He concludes his post with this:

Most folks aren’t getting rich in Missoula, but we’ve been buffered from the radical boom-and-bust cycle better than many Montana cities precisely because of our diverse economy. Please keep that in mind and build on it (also, support for a big hike in the minimum wage would be in everyone’s best interest, something you can be sure the Montana Policy Institute is against).

So let’s not pander to the institute’s short-sighted, free-market, non-sustainable model. We have more going for us than that, and the Missoulian, for credibility, shouldn’t be quoting the Montana Policy Institute anymore.

Pete’s right, most folks aren’t getting rich in Missoula. They get rich elsewhere, then move here because the glossy magazines make it look like a high-cultured utopian college town.

Missoula’s past decade of gentrified growth is not a trend intended to help the working class or poor. It’s a type of development intended to upgrade and exclude—great for real estate agents and developers; not so great for someone working at Walmart (or a barista working at Liquid Planet, for that matter).

While many in Missoula may bristle at a comparison to San Francisco, a recent article about how San Francisco is losing its soul to tech-fueled gentrification is a great read. Here is how the piece opens:

Poet and painter Lawrence Ferlinghetti came to San Francisco in 1951 because he heard it was a great place to be a bohemian. He settled in the Italian working-class neighbourhood of North Beach with its cheap rents and European ambience. And before long he put the city on the world’s counter-cultural map by publishing the work of Beat poets such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. But despite his status as world and local literary legend, the 94-year-old co-owner of the renowned City Lights bookshop and publishing house doesn’t feel so at home in the City by the Bay anymore.

He complains of a “soulless group of people”, a “new breed” of men and women too busy with iPhones to “be here” in the moment, and shiny new Mercedes-Benzs on his street. The major art galley in central San Francisco that has shown Ferlinghetti’s work for two decades is closing because it can’t afford the new rent. It, along with several other galleries, will make way for a cloud computing startup called MuleSoft said to have offered to triple the rent. “It is totally shocking to see Silicon Valley take over the city,” says Ferlinghetti, who still rents in North Beach. “San Francisco is radically changing and we don’t know where it is going to end up.”

If gentrification produced equal benefit across the socio-economic spectrum, then I doubt there would be as much tension. But it doesn’t produce equal benefits. That is something for Missoulians to think about as we continue to struggle under the economic consequences of bailing out Wall Street and letting Main Street stagnate and decline.

By JC

Polish-Wolf-3-2-2014

*

Imagine my surprise (not) when a friend brought to my attention the above public Facebook post from Intelligent Discontent’s Polish Wolf after our dustup in the comments of Lizard’s post “Cold War Proxy Conflicts Worsening”. I blurred out his name and photo so as to maintain his anonymity.

First off, let’s dispense with the easy stuff. I’m not sure if PW is referring to my being a ‘faux “anti-imperialist”‘ or a ‘faux… liberal’ (he might want to get some tutoring from his high school english teacher buddy on how to construct sentences clearly). Most assuredly I am an anti-imperialist. And I have never claimed, and do not claim, to be a liberal. God forbid I be lumped in with the milk toast politicians that pass as liberal democrats these days.

Maybe he’s insinuating there is no such thing as a liberal that is “anti-imperialist.” I don’t believe that all liberals have descended into neoliberalism, so I’d have to disagree with him on that point, that one could not be both a liberal and an anti-imperialist.

But I need to clarify a few things for those who would pass off a cursory look at the recent history of Ukrainian elections or economics for any indication of whether or not the CIA is involved in fomenting the instability that resulted in a coup, or if this coup is justified. There is much in-depth coverage outside of the mainstream press (and mouthpieces for neocon and neoliberal foreign policy stances).

Much more after the jump… with a “straight face.” Continue Reading »

by Pete Talbot

Some of our city’s development leaders are troubled by a lack of a Missoula “economic identity,” according to a story on the Front Page of Sunday’s Missoulian.

This concern is driven, in part, by a report from the Montana Policy Institute ranking Missoula near the bottom of Montana cities for “business friendliness.”

Of course, the Montana Policy Institute won’t be happy with Missoula until the Clark Fork is running thick with pollutants, we have 1960’s tipi-burner air quality and corporate taxes are back to zero, or less.

The Montana Policy Institute is a far-right “think tank” out of Bozeman funded by, well, no one knows who funds it since its donors are kept secret.

I’m not all that sure that the institute is still in existence.  It’s mostly-blank page on the Internet says, “this website is not updated frequently.”  So, if you want more information, forget about it. There is this on the site: the Montana Policy Institute’s noble goal of “free-market think(ing), dedicated solely to providing policy solutions that promote the liberty, prosperity, and quality of life for all Montanans.” In other words, roll back regulations and taxes.

I applaud Missoula’s economic developers for building partnerships: start ups and entrepreneurs joining with technology resources and government assistance, and linking up with our excellent university and city schools.

We have our economic fits-and-starts here, and it we’d all be happier if our kids could find gainful employment and stay in town. Let’s work on that but not in the way promoted by the Montana Policy Institute.

Most folks aren’t getting rich in Missoula, but we’ve been buffered from the radical boom-and-bust cycle better than many Montana cities precisely because of our diverse economy.  Please keep that in mind and build on it (also, support for a big hike in the minimum wage would be in everyone’s best interest, something you can be sure the Montana Policy Institute is against).

So let’s not pander to the institute’s short-sighted, free-market, non-sustainable model.  We have more going for us than that, and the Missoulian, for credibility, shouldn’t be quoting the Montana Policy Institute anymore.

by lizard

I’ve had several people direct my attention to Ed Kemmick’s new project, Last Best News, and I can see why. His peek into the racist mind of Max Lenington is incredibly well-written. Kemmick also bid his farewell to Montana’s senatorial pork hustler in a piece titled Max Baucus: A long career, a long goodbye. In that article Kemmick describes Baucus as the insider’s insider:

It’s no crime to lack spark, but in Baucus’ case the absence of connection was directly related to how much more comfortable he seemed in Washington than he did when he came back to Montana. He was the professional insider, the quiet political functionary who knows all the right people and trims his sails to catch every passing breeze.

Without Max in that position of influence, Ochenski makes note in his weekly column what that probably means for the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act. I’d read the whole piece, but for a quick summary, here is Ochenski’s conclusion:

The harsh reality is that the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act will likely fall victim to the political sleight-of-hand that brought Walsh to the Senate as Baucus’ replacement. Baucus proclaimed the bill to be “one of his top priorities as he finishes out his final term” and that he was “more determined than ever to bring the Heritage Act to the finish line.”

But the truth is that Baucus is gone and with him, all the power, persuasion and vote-trading that traditionally brings bills to “the finish line.” Instead, we get yet another example of our severely dysfunctional political system.

Instead of reading about dysfunction, I offer an alternative read. Jeffrey St. Clair has a great article celebrating his friend and activist, Mike Garrity. St. Clair opens around a campfire in Western Montana:

Five years ago, I was sitting at a campfire in the foothills of the Bridger Mountains of western Montana, with a few close friends, sipping whiskey while watching a dazzling sunset dissolve behind the ragged peak of Haystack Mountain on the distant horizon. It was my 50th birthday and there was no better place to mourn the passing of the years.

Most of us circled around that crackling fire of lodgepole pine were grizzled veterans of environmental battles and we looked the part. The decades had taken their toll: Bad backs, hip replacements, busted ankles, arthritic wrists, failing eyeballs. One of us stood out, though. He was lean, sinewy and sported the implacable, no bullshit gaze of an auditor at the IRS. His name was Mike Garrity and he was by far the most dangerous figure on the mountain that night, except, perhaps, for the young grizzly that had been sighted rummaging through a berry patch just up the slope earlier in the week.

The article describes how Garrity’s Alliance for the Wild Rockies has been so effective, and it’s not just lawsuits. Some of the collaborations Garrity cobbled together show how good he is at building relationships, even among groups that aren’t natural allies to environmental issues. Here are some examples:

Garrity has a unique gift for getting unlikely folks to take couragous stances in the defense of the environment. For example, in 1996, Garrity helped convince the Southern Utah Loggers Association to sign onto a letter to the Chief of the Forest Service calling for the protection of all roadless lands from logging. Their logic was two-fold: first, they had a legitimate concern about protecting the environment; second, they argued that timber sales in roadless areas were most likely to be bought and logged by large out-of-state corporations.

Garrity pulled a similar coup in the Northern Rockies when he almost single-handedly convinced the Teamsters and Operating Engineers Unions of eastern Washington, to back a plan drafted by the Alliance that called for reintroducing grizzly bears to Central Idaho and western Montana, as well as protecting all roadless lands and ripping out more than 3,500 of existing logging roads that pose a threat to fish and bears.

In a realm that too often lacks encouraging news, Mike Garrity’s activism is a breath of fresh air.  Go get ’em, Mike!




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