Archive for June, 2015

Hey

by jhwygirl

Absent being contacted by Jay the other day, I was and have always been hoping to get back to writing.  There were less than a dozen reasons why I sort of dropped off regular blogging about three years ago.    It coincided with a period in my life where I think I decided I didn’t want to be angry all the time.  The rape situation in Missoula was eating me up and I felt like I was screaming into a vacuum.  Blogging was getting hostile, even though I rarely commented.  Had people telling me what I should write about, if not how I should do it.  And as Liz mentioned in something somewhere, I do feel I paid a price. Personally, if not professionally.

While I’ve always been wanting to get back to writing, it’s something that’s been on my mind with great weight in the last week or so.  I’ve suffered a tremendous loss, and any writer knows that writing is cathartic.  With this loss though, I’ve also had to fight that anger I was pretty much able to rid myself off three years ago.

So while I’ve wanted to come back to writing, I’ve concerned myself with that anger that can rise up in me.

What three years of rest from regular blogging has given me is a better perspective on utilizing anger.  I hope.  I think  I know a little better now that there is nothing in life that will benefit from coming from a place of anger.  That actually may be coming with age, lol.  My east coast industrial upbringing has given me a pretty thick skin, and I know blogging has gotten pretty rough.  Let’s just say I’m not expecting any welcomes and I’m OK with that.

I am dealing with an immense loss.  What has occurred here has added to that.  Fate is what it is, and this month is an example to me that a 2 by 4 can come out of no where and whop you on the head without any warning, at any time, and try and take you down.  But it is because of the things I am personally dealing with that I am rather ungracefully saying that I can not and will not insert myself into situations between others. I won’t even say I wish I could, but know that I am simply too mentally and physically exhausted to do so.  If that upsets anyone – anyone – I apologize.  I wish I were stronger.

With that, I’ll say that interim committees are starting into swing in the legislature, and Stacy Rye is back on the political scene, throwing her hat in the ring for Missoula County Commissioner.  With the loss of Supermontanareporter John S. Adams, and now Mike Dennison and Chuck Johnson from the state capital, I’d like to do my part and get back to facilitating awareness of legislation in action.

In other words, some pretty milquetoast stuff.

And electing Stacy Rye to Missoula County Commissioner should be a no-brainer.

Finally, I want to thank all of you who have offered support and sympathy this last week or so. It is not only much appreciated, but much needed.  I am grateful for the support.

4 and 20 blackbirds

by Jay Stevens

When I started 4 and 20 blackbirds — what? — nine years ago, I had a vision for the site. It was simple. I’d create a blog that would give a platform for progressive voices in a media environment that shut out all but the most saccharine of “conventional wisdom” and grating right-wing voices on cable television and talk-show radio. And it was in the context of some crazy times — we were in the middle of an ill-conceived, poorly planned, poorly run and unethical war in Iraq. Republicans ran Congress and beat down all opposition voices with the club of 9/11 and specter of terrorism.

The blog was also started, then, to tout the candidacy of Jon Tester for Senate.

How things have changed.

Jon Tester is a US Senator. We’re no longer in Iraq. We have a Democratic president. And there are still plenty of issues that should energize us, unite us.

One thing that’s changed is that there’s no shortage of voices in 2015. Everyone has access to blogging tools and social media, and can comment on forums like Reddit. Anybody with an opinion can voice it anywhere. If there’s a problem now, it’s that incivility and extremism drowns out good, productive conversation and information. You don’t need to look much further than Gamergate or the trollish response to Reddit’s decision to ban its “Fat People Hate” to understand that.

There’s still a need for a good progressive voice, though. Now, instead of having to cut through the bloc of mainstream media, it needs to rise above the cacophony of angry, irrational voices.

I’ve been away for awhile. I stopped writing for the Montana blogosphere in 2012. Recently, I’ve had my attention somewhat forcibly drawn back to this site. Imagine my surprise when I saw the discussion here — fantastic plots equating Bernie Sanders with Hilary Clinton’s conspiracy to….what? Well, it’s hard to say. Only that the international Jewish conspiracy is involved somehow. And Vladimir Putin is a hero.

Whatever. Maybe some of it is true. Who knows? What I do know is that whatever content that is on the site isn’t very popular. The readership has dropped 75 percent in the past year or so, from its high-water marks in 2011 and 2006. And it’s likely a majority of today’s hits are from a few obsessive readers and commenters who check in and post dozens of times a day. But, honestly, with Lee Enterprises cutting its state political bureau, now is the time for informative writing about state and local politics. Now is the time for reasoned views about the critical issues that affect everyday Montanans and Missoulians.

Which is why I put a lockdown on the site for now. It’s time for a reboot.

I don’t know what will happen to the site. I hope it will continue. I’ve asked jhwygirl to step up again, and I think she’s game. We’ll try to recruit new writers, and we’ll keep some of the old ones. But we’ll redirect the site to opinions and news that people need and like. Maybe there’ll be a redesign. Maybe not!

In any case, I think it’s time to get back to the site’s original vision. Thanks to all who have been a part of this site. I do appreciate it, despite my harsh words. I’ll leave the comments open for discussion. I’m sure not a few of you will simply call me names, but I’m hoping for some positive feedback and ideas for the future.

Thanks!

By JC

Today’s read is an interview by the Saker of Michael Hudson, who the Saker refers to as “the best economist in the West”. We can quibble about politics and the economic fallout designed and approved of by the rentier class as they prepare their August meeting, but how often is it that we look to history and economic theory when trying to understand the present, and plan for the future?

Hudson’s voice in the debate rising about how to structure economies, in the face of the failure of the Soviet-style communism and the failure of “free market” capitalism to meet the needs of any but the elite, is a welcome respite to the usual left-right and neolibertarian-socialist views on economy. Throw in the debates over the so-called “free trade” agreements, and we have a global economy swirling down the drain into a 21st century economic version of the dark ages.

Enjoy!

The missing item in today’s economic reforms is what classical economics focused on, from the French Physiocrats through Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill to Marx and his contemporaries: freeing industrial economies from the rentier carry-overs of European feudalism. The focus of classical value and price theory was to free economies from economic rent, defined as unearned income simply resulting from privilege: absentee land rent, mineral and natural resource rent, monopoly rent, and financial interest. The aim should be to prevent rent-extracting activities – defined as purely predatory transfer payments, an economically unproductive zero-sum activity.

The classical labor theory of value aimed at isolating those forms of income (land rent, monopoly rent and interest) that were socially unnecessary, and simply were legacies of past privilege. The halfway alternative was to tax land rent and monopoly rent (Henry George, et al.). The socialist alternative was to take natural rent-producing sectors into the public domain.

Europe did this with the major public utilities – transportation, communications, the post office, and also education, public health and pensions. The United States privatized these sectors, but created regulatory commissions to keep prices in line with basic cost-value. (To be sure, regulatory capture always was a problem, especially when it came to railroad charges…

Classical economics was a doctrine of how to industrialize and become more competitive – and at the same time, more fair – by bringing prices in line with actual, socially necessary costs of production. The resulting doctrine (with Marx and Thorstein Veblen being the last great classical economists) was largely a guide to what to avoid: special privilege, unearned income, unproductive overhead.

The aim was to create a circular flow model of national income distinguishing real wealth from mere overhead. The idea was to strip away what was unnecessary – what Marx called the “excrescences” of post-feudal society that remained embedded in the industrial economies of his day. When the great classical economists spoke of a “free market,” they meant a market free from rentier classes, free from monopolies and above all free from predatory bank credit.

Of course, we know now that Marx was too optimistic. He described the destiny of industrial capitalism as being to liberate economies from the rentiers. But World War I changed the momentum of Western civilization. The rentiers fought back – the Austrian School, von Mises and Hayek, fascism and the University of Chicago’s ideologues redefined “free markets” to mean markets free for rentiers, free from government taxation of land and natural resources, free from public price regulation and oversight. The Reform Era was called “the road to serfdom” – and in its place, the post-classical neoliberals promoted today’s road to debt peonage.

Today’s Cold War may be viewed in its intellectual aspects as an attempt to prevent countries outside of the United States from realizing that (contra Thatcher) there is an alternative, and acting on it. The struggle is for the economy’s brain and understanding on the part of governments. Only a strong government has the power to achieve the reforms at which 19th century reformers failed to achieve.

The alternative is what happened as Rome collapsed into serfdom and feudalism.

 

by William Skink

In a few flurries of tweets between myself and former Blackbird blogger, Jay Stevens, I’ve witnessed the ease in which progressives are manipulated. It started with his tweets about the FIFA scandal. I, of course, tried to point to the geopolitical implications, which obviously makes me a Putin fanboy. Here is one tweet from Stevens:

Can’t wait to see how @madpoet19 spins the Fifa-arms-for-votes story…

The story referenced in the above tweet is about arms deals being traded for World Cup votes, which the Guardian covered a few days ago. From the link:

The shockwaves from the corruption scandal that brought down Sepp Blatter continue to reverberate, with claims in Germany that the 2006 World Cup vote was influenced by a shipment of rocket-propelled grenades and allegations in Egypt that a Fifa executive solicited bribes during the 2010 bidding race.

As seven Fifa officials continued to fight extradition to the US over claims they were involved in a “World Cup of fraud”, Blatter’s right-hand man Jérôme Valcke remained at the centre of speculation over what he knew about a $10m payment to the disgraced former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner. And pressure on the Football Association of Ireland also grew amid the fallout from its admission that it agreed a secret €5m (£3.6m) payment after threatening legal action in the wake of Thierry Henry’s handball that led to the goal that ended their chances of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

Instead of looking at a geopolitical contrast to this latest iteration of FIFA corruption, we have no further to look than the cesspool of corruption the State Department became under Hillary’s tutelage. If Jay thinks the FIFA arms-for-votes story is bad, I wonder what he thinks about chemical weapons deals for Clinton Foundation donations:

The approval of American chemical weapons sales to Egypt as Mubarak’s associates were stocking Clinton family interests with cash is but one example of a dynamic that prevailed though Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. During the roughly two years of Arab Spring protests that confronted authoritarian governments with popular uprisings, Clinton’s State Department approved $66 million worth of so-called Category 14 exports — defined as “toxicological agents, including chemical agents, biological agents and associated equipment” — to nine Middle Eastern governments that either donated to the Clinton Foundation or whose affiliated groups paid Bill Clinton speaking fees.

That represented a 50 percent overall increase in such export approvals to the same countries over the two years prior to the Arab Spring, according to an International Business Times review of State Department documents. In the same time period, Arab countries that did not donate to the Clinton Foundation saw an overall decrease in their State Department approvals to purchase chemical and biological materials. The increase in chemical, biological and related exports to Clinton Foundation donors was part of a larger jump in overall arms sales authorized by Hillary Clinton’s State Department to foreign governments that gave her family’s foundation at least $54 million, according to a previous IBTimes analysis.

The State Department, the Clinton campaign and the Clinton Foundation did not respond to questions about the deals.

I don’t know if this constitutes me “spinning” the FIFA corruption, but it certainly provides an example of domestic corruption that a Democrat supporter like Jay Stevens may want to take into consideration as the inevitable Clinton campaign chugs along.

I can anticipate Jay’s response because in an earlier spat he distanced himself from supporting Clinton by stating he’s a Bernie supporter. Well, allow me to spin that as well, because there is more going on with Bernie Sanders campaign than meets the eye. Michael Arria asks a good question in a Counterpunch piece today, titled Why is the DNC Sending Out Pro-Bernie emails? Good question. And the answer may be found in Sanders’ promise not to run as an independent when he inevitably folds to the Clinton Juggernaut:

Ironically, it seems that the DNC and left-critics of the Sanders campaign agree on a very important fact: they believe Sanders will attract a number of young voters and activists, then dutifully tell them to vote for Hillary when he drops out. The DNC sees that outcome as a win and leftists see it as a loss, but both perceive his dropout as inevitable. “Hillary Clinton certainly doesn’t regard Sanders as a threat,” writes Ashley Smith at Jacobin, “She knows that the national election business follows the golden rule: whoever has more gold, wins.

The early disclosures of Hillary Clinton’s disgusting use of the State Department won’t negatively impact her candidacy because they are coming out at a time when progressives like Jay Stevens will default to his Bernie support. Bernie provides the progressive cover by getting attention for his progressive positions, then, when smashed by Clinton cash, he will bow out and tout the pragmatic lesser evilism support of the sociopath, Hillary Clinton.

Well played, DNC.

Murderers in Montana

by William Skink

If you want to brutally murder someone and not spend the rest of your life in prison, Montana seems like the place to do it.

Earlier this month a woman (oddly referred to in the title of the article as a “murderess”) was arrested in Hamilton for a DUI. While this woman luckily didn’t kill anyone with her car, in 1987 she did kill another woman by stabbing her 30 times in a motel room. Why? This woman stole her friend’s coat:

Redcrow, formerly of Hot Springs, was convicted in Missoula of the August 1987 murder of Marie Ila Richie, 22, who was stabbed to death in what was then the Sweet Rest Motel.

Richie angered Redcrow by stealing a jacket of Redcrow’s friend, Kathy Glover. The two women beat Richie as she walked west along the south bank of the Clark Fork River.

When police responded, they found Richie covered in blood, but she refused help.

Redcrow and Richie returned to a room at the Sweet Rest that Redcrow shared with her boyfriend, Paul Regudon. Once there, Redcrow stabbed Richie repeatedly while Regudon watched television, according to testimony at the trial in 1988.

Richie was stabbed more than 30 times before Redcrow and Regudon carried the body to a nearby island in the Clark Fork River, where they were found by police a short time later. Regudon was later acquitted of a charge of accountability to murder.

This brutal murder, a later escape from prison, and multiple parole violations didn’t stop our criminal justice system from putting this woman back on the streets. I found this part of the article particularly confusing:

Missoula County District Judge Doug Harkin sentenced Redcrow to 50 years in prison for deliberate homicide and another 10 for use of a weapon. He also designated her a dangerous offender, which meant she had to serve half her sentence, less good time, before being eligible for parole.

In 2000, the state Sentence Review Board increased Redcrow’s sentence from 60 years to 90 years, but suspended 40 years of the term. The result was her prison term was trimmed by 10 years, which made her eligible for parole earlier.

The second story in the paper today features a man who stabbed his wife in trouble for now threatening to stab his girlfriend:

A Missoula man who in 1990 was convicted of mitigated deliberate homicide for fatally stabbing his wife faces new charges for allegedly threatening to stab his girlfriend and her 25-year-old son early Saturday morning.

Frank Belmarez, 48, is charged with two counts of assault with a weapon.

Belmarez has been out of prison since 2011, and had been dating the victim for two years prior to the most recent assault.

According to charging documents, he came home to a residence on the 2100 block of Kensington Avenue early Saturday. He was reportedly intoxicated and wanted to continue drinking with his girlfriend, who was asleep in a bedroom.

When she refused his reportedly drunken request, Belmarez allegedly became angry and pulled out his folding knife.

“I’m going to stick you, then gut your son,” he allegedly said to her.

To contrast these killers and the freedom they somehow managed to acquire, we have the sad story of Barry Beach, serving 100 years without the chance to parole. Last month Beach lost at the Montana Supreme Court:

Montana’s Supreme Court dealt the latest blow to Barry Beach’s quest for freedom today –and again it was by a single vote.

In a 4-3 decision, the court ruled Beach should not be re-sentenced simply because he was a juvenile at the time of the 1979 murder of Poplar Montana valedictorian Kim Nees-the crime for which Beach is serving a sentence of 100 years without parole.

Beach confessed to killing Nees but soon afterwards insisted that confession was coerced by detectives in Louisiana, where he was picked up on a minor charge and later confessed to the Nees murder. No physical evidence connects Beach to the killing.

His case has captured international attention since Dateline began reporting on the case in 2008.

Dateline’s reporting turned up new witnesses, whose testimony led a judge in 2011 to order a new trial for Beach and to free him on bond.

After serving 27 years in prison, Beach was released in 2011 and lived and worked without incident in Billings, Montana for 18 months. But in 2013, Montana’s Supreme Court -again in a vote of 4-3–voided the decision to grant Beach a new trial and sent him back to the state prison in Deer Lodge, where he remains today.

I guess this is how we do “justice” in Montana.

Sometime this month a psychopath by the name of Kevin Lino will be sentenced for beating, torturing and executing a fellow homeless person under the Reserve Street bridge last summer. I wonder how quickly the state will try to put this killer back into our community? Stay tuned…

by William Skink

A pastor friend of mine put a New York Post article on his Facebook feed. The article is about a massive, silent cultural revolution that has changed America. Here is the opening salvo in the next iteration of the culture war:

It happened without a Summer of Love, without Timothy Leary, without a groovy anthem or a shaggy new national look. In the past decade or so, there’s been a silent revolution in American culture, one at least as profound as the ’60s upheavals.

We’ve hardly taken notice of it, because it happened in people’s minds instead of in the streets, happened in ordinary people instead of in the elites and the punditocracy.

Compared to just a few years ago, we have a completely different set of ideas about what constitutes acceptable behavior. As Caitlyn Jenner puts it in her new reality show, “I’m the new normal.”

I am reluctant to perpetuate the culture war by referring to the “upheavals” of the 60’s in those terms, but that is the language Kyle Smith, writing for the New York Post, chooses to use.

What follows is a weird mix of polling showing the cultural shifts with issues like gay rights, marijuana use and raising kids born out of wedlock. To provide contrast to where we are in 2015, post-Caitlyn Jenner, Smith takes us back to the long-gone days of 2002:

Consider America circa 2002: Not that different from today, seemingly. A time traveler who spent a few hours walking around your town then and now might have a difficult time filling a small notebook with observations about what’s changed. Maybe there are more Starbuckses. And what happened to Blockbuster Video?

Yet support for gay marriages to be treated the same as straight ones went from 39% just nine years ago to 60% today, according to Gallup. As recently as 2010, a clear majority opposed gay marriage. Today, a large majority support it.

As for the broader issue of whether gay and lesbian relationships are even morally acceptable, only 40% said yes in 2001. Today that number stands at 63%.

In other words, more Americans are OK with homosexuality than were OK with divorce (59%) in 2001. A decade ago, a plurality of Americans did not even believe that homosexuality is innate.

This silent victory in the ongoing cultural war, which includes LGBT rights, is compared to the less successful push to normalize Marijuana use. And some how morality gets dragged into the picture. And Ellen DeGeneres. It gets confusing:

Today, by a margin of 51% to 30%, Americans think if you’re gay, you were born that way.

What caused all these changes? It’s hard to say. Older Americans are dying off. Popular culture not only deals with homosexuality approvingly, but has added more and more gay personalities to the mix.

In 2002, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” had not yet debuted. As my colleague Sara Stewart noted, today she’s “our culture’s lovable gay grandma.”

Are we more attuned to pop culture than we used to be? Maybe. In the 1960s and 1970s, marijuana usage became a hugely popular theme in entertainment. Public opinion, though, did not follow.

In 1969, the year of “Easy Rider,” support for legal pot stood at 12%. As recently as 2003, it was still only 34%. But in the last two Gallup polls on the subject, in 2013 and 2014, support hit an outright majority for the first time.

And yet only 7% told Gallup in 2013 that they themselves currently take marijuana.

Choosing to use a substance like Marijuana (or caffeine, alcohol, nicotine) is not analogous to trying to understand and live according to one’s sexual/gender orientation.

In a fantastic twist of irony, some guy tried to call into question Caitlyn Jenner’s bravery on Facebook, contrasting her coming out with an image of war-time heroism. The irony arrived when the viral post led to the eventual provenance of the image:

Soon after he shared the photo, it went viral. However, several commenters quickly identified the irony in the photo Coffey shared.

The image is credited to Mark Hogancamp, who created the photo as part of an exercise to manage his pain after he was nearly beaten to death by five men in New York 15 years ago because he was crossdressing. He suffered serious brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, which he combats by creating World War II narratives in one-sixth scale using dolls.

I cried when I read this story, just like I cried when I listened to the story of Sissy Goodwin on NPR driving to work one day in April:

Sissy Goodwin teaches power plant technology at Casper College in Wyoming. The 68-year-old Vietnam veteran dresses in women’s clothing, wears bows in his hair, likes his skirts exactly 17 inches short, and prefers his toolboxes in pink.

Sissy is also straight. And he wasn’t born with that name. His given name is Larry, but one day after a woman on the street called him sissy in a derogatory way, he chose to fully adopt the name. He says he was initially upset, but felt that by taking on the name he was taking ownership of her insulting comment.

His wife, Vickie, didn’t know he wore women’s clothing when they met, but has stood by his side for more than four decades.

“I knew I had to hide my behavior,” Sissy told 66-year-old Vickie during a recent visit to StoryCorps. “So I tried to be very macho, as you know. The second or third date I took you on I rode in a rodeo.”

I desperately hope that the acceptance of gender fluidity is the new normal, because my youngest son’s life may depend on it.

He is only four years old, but his preferences began emerging well over a year ago. He would take towels and ask his mother or myself to tie them to his waist, like a skirt. He preferred the “girl” colors over the boy ones, and gravitated to Lego Friends instead of Star Wars. Eventually he began raiding my wife’s closet for colorful tops. I distinctly remember buying him his first dress at Target.

My son still dresses like a boy at pre-school because he knows his classmates may make fun of him. He isn’t feeling brave enough to confront that just yet. Otherwise, even in public, he prefers dresses.

So far the only negative reaction has been some old woman at the Good Food Store telling my wife that my son should be wearing jeans. Thankfully her generation is dying out.

Earlier today, I joined my friend’s family in beating the late spring heat at Frenchtown Pond State Park. I was admittedly relieved when my son traded his dress for swim trunks. After swimming, though, it was back to wearing the dress. Nothing bad happened, but part of me is always subconsciously ready for confrontation.

I can’t put into words how amazing my kids are. My oldest has had his moments of being embarrassed and annoyed that his brother likes to wear dresses, but we address it as honestly and directly as we can. We tread carefully, though, because parental attention between siblings is a precious commodity, so we don’t want little brother’s inclination to be an attention-suck that older brother becomes resentful of.

If my son doesn’t have the support of his immediate family, the statistical probability that he will some day attempt suicide is staggering:

According to surveys, 4.6 percent of the overall U.S. population has self-reported a suicide attempt, with that number climbing to between 10 and 20 percent for lesbian, gay or bisexual respondents. By comparison, 41 percent of trans or gender non-conforming people surveyed have attempted suicide.

The most recent, comprehensive data on suicide attempts was gathered by The Williams Institute, in collaboration with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Its report, Suicide Attempts Among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults, analyzed responses from 6,456 self-identified transgender and gender non-conforming adults (18+) who took part in the U.S. National Transgender Discrimination Survey. The results are staggering.

Beyond the overall number of suicide attempts, the rates are consistently high from respondents ages 18 to 65, when they begin to recede. Trans men are the most impacted, with 46 percent reporting an attempt in their lifetime. Trans women are close behind at 42 percent, and female-assigned cross-dressers report rates of 44 percent.

What we are seeing is not some silent revolution, as reported by the New York Post. It’s evolution.

And it has nothing to do with smoking weed or single parent households, Kyle Smith.

By JC

Vladimir Putin sat down with several Italian newspapers recently, in advance of his visit to Italy, and weighed in on many topics: relations with Europe and the U.S.; Ukraine; empire; and much more.

Consider this an open thread on the resurgence of the Cold War.

“…As for some countries’ concerns about Russia’s possible aggressive actions, I think that only an insane person and only in a dream can imagine that Russia would suddenly attack NATO. I think some countries are simply taking advantage of people’s fears with regard to Russia. They just want to play the role of front-line countries that should receive some supplementary military, economic, financial or some other aid. Therefore, it is pointless to support this idea; it is absolutely groundless. But some may be interested in fostering such fears. I can only make a conjecture.

For example, the Americans do not want Russia’s rapprochement with Europe. I am not asserting this, it is just a hypothesis. Let’s suppose that the United States would like to maintain its leadership in the Atlantic community. It needs an external threat, an external enemy to ensure this leadership. Iran is clearly not enough – this threat is not very scary or big enough. Who can be frightening? And then suddenly this crisis unfolds in Ukraine. Russia is forced to respond. Perhaps, it was engineered on purpose, I don’t know. But it was not our doing.

Let me tell you something – there is no need to fear Russia. The world has changed so drastically that people with some common sense cannot even imagine such a large-scale military conflict today. We have other things to think about, I assure you…”

by William Skink

The Guardian has some of the latest updates regarding the FIFA scandal after Sepp Blatter resigned a few days ago, including an FBI investigation into Blatter and Interpol issuing red notices for former FIFA executives. Quite the mess if you’re a soccer fan.

I’m not, and really could care less about this scandal. I see this through the lens of geopolitics, which I think is a much better way of understanding what is going on. Corruption? Ha, the United States comes off as immensely hypocritical when it selectively goes after corruption for its own political reasons.

To contrast this FIFA scandal, let’s take a look at recent developments in Ukraine.

Because it’s not in America’s interest for these developments to be making big, splashy headlines, it’s sources like Robert Parry at Consortium News we must rely on. And Parry doesn’t disappoint. The latest? President Poroshenko has appointed the Neocon darling, ex-Georgian President Saakashvili, to “govern” Odessa. Yes, that’s right, the corrupt ex-prez of Georgia, who picked a fight with Russia by attacking Russian peace keepers in South Ossetia, has been given Ukrainian citizenship and control of this ethnically Russian province. And instead of a media feeding-frenzy, the compliant NYT actually tries to justify the coup government’s penchant for appointing foreigners to top-level positions. From the link:

New York Times correspondent David M. Herszenhorn justified this imposition of a newly minted Ukrainian citizen on the largely Russian-speaking population of Odessa by saying that “the Ukrainian public’s general willingness to accept the appointment of foreigners to high-level positions underscores the deep lack of trust in any government after nearly a quarter-century of mismanagement and corruption.”

But Herszenhorn made no apparent effort to gauge how willing the people of Odessa are to accept this choice of a controversial foreign politician to govern them. The pick was made by President Petro Poroshenko and is just the latest questionable appointment by the post-coup regime in Kiev.

For instance, shortly after the Feb. 22, 2014 putsch that ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych, the new U.S.-endorsed authorities in Kiev named thuggish oligarch Igor Kolomoisky to be governor of Dnipropetrovsk in southeastern Ukraine. Kolomoisky, regarded as one of Ukraine’s most corrupt billionaires, ruled the region as his personal fiefdom until he was ousted by Poroshenko earlier this year in a dispute over Kolomoisky’s use of strong-arm tactics to maintain control of Ukrainian energy companies. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine’s Oligarchs Turn on Each Other.”]

Poroshenko also has granted overnight Ukrainian citizenship to other controversial foreigners to hold key positions in his government, including Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, an ex-U.S. State Department official whose qualifications included enriching herself through her management of a $150 million U.S.-taxpayer-financed investment fund for Ukraine. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine Finance Minister’s ‘American Values’.”]

Before this fugitive from his own country—wanted for human rights violations and embezzlement—had his political career resurrected by a corrupt Ukrainian billionaire, he was chilling in Brooklyn, living a charmed life:

Mikheil Saakashvili, who served as the president of Georgia for nine years before being voted out in 2013, now lives a charming existence in a cozy Williamsburg high-rise, rumored to be the same building where Tumblr founder David Karp resides. When he isn’t riding the L train to Cafe Mogador or making poignant observations about his fellow Brooklynites (“[Hasidic Jews] walk around in these big hats!”), Saakashvili spends his time plotting his return to Georgia, a move he thinks will be made possible by growing anti-Putin sentiment.

Of course, there is that pesky indictment for allegedly using the country’s money to pay for stuff like Botox and art created using the body of a naked lady, but that’s nothing an enterprising hipster ex-president can’t get past.

Anyone who thinks this country gives two shits about corruption hasn’t been paying attention. Corruption is everywhere, so when it’s used as an excuse to go after an organization like FIFA, astute observers understand there are deeper motivations at play.

by William Skink

There’s a curious piece from NBC Montana about a new shelter for Veterans opening near Whitefish (h/t @Lgpguin). Maybe @Lgpguin will get some clarification on what is intended by the use of the word “shelter” since she asked for a definition. Here’s the opening details:

This summer, a shelter for homeless veterans is opening up near Whitefish.

Glacier Hope Homes will house 35 veterans.

The site currently operates as a resort on Hodgson Road. The new shelter will take over in the same location on August 4.

The property features 17.5 acres of land and 12,000 square feet of indoor space.

Officials are paying for the project via private investors, a federal grant and funds from Medicaid, Medicare and Veterans Administration benefits.

Glacier Hope Homes will cost residents $1,500 per month.

Um, ok. Kind of expensive for homeless Veterans to afford, but saying you’re helping Veterans does seem to create a warm glow that resists skepticism.

It would be great if the reporter (who looks like she just graduated J-School) employed some skepticism, though. Who are these officials? Who are the private investors? What’s the name of the federal grant? Will there be medical staff? If not, how does this “shelter” plan on billing Medicaid and Medicare?

There are no answers to any of these questions. Instead there’s this:

“We are going to take care of veterans, senior veterans and homeless veterans and encompassed in that is more than room and board,” said Glacier Hope Homes Executive Director Jason Stevens. “We are going to provide educational opportunities. We’re going to provide job opportunities. We have a lot of amenities.”

Stevens says the facility plans to launch a kind of buddy system, where veterans of different generations can pair off and get to know each other.

Maybe it’s just the short format of NBC Montana reporting, but to me Glacier Hope Homes sounds like a scam. I hope Glacier Hope Homes gets a little more scrutiny before they start serving homeless Veterans. Veterans have complicated issues that often require clinically trained professionals to address, especially if those issues have resulted in episodes of homelessness. Launching a buddy system just won’t cut it.

If this new shelter hasn’t done it’s due diligence, politicians will hear about it quickly. For all the criticism I’ve heaped on Jon Tester, his office has been very responsive to Veteran issues.

Thank you @Lgpguin for catching this one!

UPDATE

NBC Montana changed the article to better clarify who will cover the 1,500 dollar cost per resident. The first stab at this story clearly stated that Glacier Hope Homes, and I quote, “will cost residents 1,500 per month.” That apparently wasn’t accurate, so the article now reads:

Officials are paying for the project via private investors, a federal grant and funds from Medicaid, Medicare and Veterans Administration benefits to cover the $1,500 monthly cost of operation per resident.




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