Archive for the ‘civil rights’ Category

by jhwygirl

The City of Missoula’s attempts to criminalize homelessness has reached a ridiculous crescendo. Downtown is a mess and don’t you know, it’s all the homeless’ fault. Not the drunks – served at downtown bars – who smash up downtown businesses. Not the drunks assaulting innocent pedestrians on their way home from the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival – nope..it’s those darn homeless.

Of latest debate is the ability of people to – yeah, get this – sit downtown. Because, you know, no one should be coming to Missoula Montana and have the audacity to sit. In downtown! Of all places!

Dan Cederberg, a member of Mayor Engen’s downtown advisory committee, is quoted in this Missoulian article covering today’s committee meetings as saying that ‘the council has heard plenty of testimony that many people who sit downtown also end up harassing and intimidating people, so the act is a “gateway” to poor behavior. He said the result is a public safety issue the city must address.’

Sitting is a “gateway” to poor behavior?

Liberals and Progressives? Please phone home because your city is lost.

I’ll tell you what is “gateway” behavior to a poor downtown lacking growth: Public officials and downtown businesses and commerce organizations standing by (because, you know, sitting is bad) with nary a whisper while one of the largest and most historic pieces of commerce real estate not only in Missoula but in western Montana is eyed as a viable site for the county public library.

Let that sink in: the county friggin’ library. A non-tax paying entity taking up one of the largest contiguous parcels of downtown Missoula. A block and a half off of riverfront, and on the main bridged street through downtown?

And before the Friends of the Library come out and whine about me hating all books, I’ll pray that ya’all believe me when I say I’m a big fan of libraries and book reading. Frankly, more people should do it. Newspapers too. Everyone should read and do it often. As often as possible.

And I’m even OK if you sit while doing it!

Yeah – downtown Missoula is turning into a tax-free haven – let’s not forget the University either.

Please grow the hell up and quit blaming everyone but yourselves people.

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by jhwygirl

Lizard has had two posts now calling out local democrats – Thanks for Nothing, Democrats and Rape Culture, Missoula Democrats, and Criminalizing Poverty – on their lack of acting with principles most often associated with the Democratic Party.

Lizard points out in his first post that the overwhelmingly progressive city council (yeah, they run as nonpartisans but we all know they’re democrats) are working to criminalize homelessness. He points out that the Board of County Commissioners (all democrats) is suing the feds, saying they’ve no jurisdiction over our county attorney, the illustrious Fred Van Valkenburg, and then Liz points out that oVan Valkenburg – a democrat, himself – chose to not only ignore a county initiative that decriminalized marijuana, but that he actually notched up prosecutions of possession!

A comment from former Poverello Director and State Representative Ellie Hill (HD94 – Missoula) takes us to Lizard’s second post where he takes on former Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir’s recent editorial in support of Van Valkenburg and Missoula County’s lawsuit against the feds. Now, admittedly Muir’s politics are unknown since he wasn’t an elected official – but he is standing not only in support of the very Tea Partyesque lawsuit, he’s also referring to the USDOJ as “ultra-liberal.” Liz then continues on to call out Ms. Hill’s apparent change in positions on her advocacy for the homeless, citing quotes by Hill in Missoulian reporter Keila Szpaller’s blog, Missoula Red Tape.

For good measure, Lizard closes out his post with reference to former US Representative Pat Williams’ ‘knucklehead” comment about rapists at the University of Montana, finely documented by the truly lustrous architect of words, Patrick Duganz.

Yes, it’s hard to find what many might refer to as “true progressives” or “good democrats” here in Missoula these days. Wagons are circled, that’s for sure. That “speak no ill” rule certainly applies in state democrat politics.

A few days ago a friend pointed out to me that Ravalli County – a conservative Tea Party bastion – sure knows how to address incompetence, even when it involves what is an elected office. That person was right. With unproven allegations of malfeasance, Ravalli Board of County Commissioners had County Treasurer Valerie Stamey escorted from the building by the county sheriff. They then hired an outside audit firm, brought in a interim treasurer and also a retired judge to independently oversee the investigation. Stamey remains on paid leave as the investigation continues.

Compare that to Missoula County Board of County Commissioners. With serious allegations made by the USDOJ who have quite clearly said that County Attorney Van Valkenburg has “put women’s safety at risk,” Van Valkenenburg apparently still has access to his office! There are not only allegations of violations of state and federal law, there is significant documentation by the USDOJ that civil rights were violated – that’s the kind of stuff that exposes the county to millions of dollars in lawsuits.

Instead, the county steams forward not by addressing the allegations, but on the hope of a now disgraced county attorney who thinks that the feds don’t have jurisdiction over civil rights violations.

This situation is no longer about who has jurisdiction over who – it’s over who violated civil rights and who is going to continue to maintain the status quo.

With documented allegations of civil rights violations and the failure of the Board of County Commissioners to act, it’s not going to be just Fred Van Valkenburg and Missoula County’s name on the lawsuits that have an easy in to being filed. His enablers will also be on the hook, should they fail to act.

And – dare I suggest – that may include the State of Montana, since there are documented allegations of state law in that 20 page document also. I’ve only heard crickets out of Helena, so far.

Missoula was worried about the cost of implementing the USDOJ’s recommendations? They might start to think about those civil rights lawsuits. That stuff can be real real expensive.

Look – Van Valkenburg poked at the dragon. The dragon bit back in a big way. In doing so, the dragon shined a big light on civil rights violations. If anyone things things are going to get easier, they’re dreaming.

Not only that – Van Valkenburg can’t defend himself or the county from these allegations. Consider that. Van Valkenburg had to hire outside council to sue the feds…he and the county sure can’t defend themselves against the civil rights violations that are now on their way down the pike.

by jhwygirl

I am still stuck at page 17 of the damning USDOJ report serving as all but an indictment of Fred Van Valkenburg, pretty much because I can’t see fit to stomach more shirking of duties and violations of basic civil rights by Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg’s criminal department. More than a few things have stuck with me. I’ve also had some time to read the comments at the Missoulian, too, and feel like firing off on two items this rain-soaked evening.

First off, it appears from the comments to the Missoulian article there is still a large contingent of people out there that seem to hold on to Van Valkenburg’s dream that the USDOJ does not hold authority over his office. Many of these people don’t even address the veracity of the USDOJ report – confirming that rape nation and rape apologists and rape culture thrive here in Missoula.

Scary disgusting stuff, really.

Less disturbing in the comments – but still troubling – is the apparent lack of reading comprehension skills among this group of people. It’s not like they had to read to page 12 or anything. The USDOJ summarily dismisses Van Valkenburg’s whining about the USDOJ’s lack of authority over his office quite thoroughly beginning right there on page one. In the end, the mere fact that Van Valkenburg’s office has taken federal monies suffices here – which I might add illustrates yet another legal inadequacy of Fred Van Valkenburg: contractual law.

Oh, I may as well throw in one more legal inadequacy here – the ability to select competent counsel, since he’s dropped $50K into outside counsel to fight the feds on this point.

I look forward to the Federal District Court’s summary judgement here on this point. A summary judgement is, shall we say, a pretty embarrassing way to lose a case?

The second thing I want to take on this evening is what the title suggests – Van Valkenburg’s office’s role in the USDOJ’s investigation and subsequent settlement with the City of Missoula Police. Here, again, the USDOJ lays out repeated situations where the police investigated and documented only to have their work fall into the black cave that we now know is Van Valkenburg’s County Attorney’s Office.

City police apparently got so frustrated with their work going no where, that they created a summary sheet with a spot for the county attorney’s office to provide feedback. Frequently, these weren’t even returned – and when they were, they usually contained only two words: “insufficient evidence.”

That occurred, btw, on a case where the rapist confessed.

Missoula Police are well-trained. Many would say, too much so. This aspect does, though, bode well – or should – for victims of violent crime. Missoulians certainly are getting their tax dollar’s worth in this aspect. But if Van Valkenburg’s tutelage is failing victims of sexual assault, it’s surely failing us in prosecution of other victims of violent crimes as well.

Van Valkenburg has made much of his complaint that the feds want him to have his own staff investigator. Here, too, the USDOJ makes hay of Van Valkenburg’s claims, pointing out that his office fails to coordinate with the police. While they also fail to coordinate with the police, his office also fails to tell the police where further evidence might be obtained to make a case more easily prosecuted. They’re not telling him to hire his own investigator – they’re telling him he should work together with his law enforcement colleagues.

Which is kinda what the police were looking for when they created a summary sheet and a blank section looking for feedback.

City of Missoula Police referred 85 cases to to the county attorney’s office for prosecution between 2008 and 2012. Charges were only filed on 14. Now, think about that: In an unknown number of reported sexual assaults, the well-trained Missoula Police investigated and came to the conclusion that they had sufficient evidence to file charges on 85 cases, yet the county attorney’s office eliminated 83% of them, without even any feedback to police in 29 of those..

Would that shatter any police officer’s work ethic if 83% of your efforts on just sexual assault crimes were shot down by the county attorney’s office?

From page 9:

In addition, Missoula County Attorney’s Office’s approach to sexual violence in Missoula has had significant, detrimental impacts on the law enforcement community’s overall response to sexual assault. The work of Missoula Police detectives is compromised by the fact that, even if the expend the resources to conduct a comprehensive investigation, the County Attorney’s Office often will not even charge the case. One woman reported that the Missoula Police detective in her case informed her that because “no one had a limb cut off and there was no video of the incident,” prosecutors “wouldn’t see this [the rape} as anything more than a girl getting drunk at a party.” whether or not the detective’s characterization was correct, the County Attorney’s actions over time left this detective – and many others like him – with the understanding that non-stranger sexual assault of women, and especially drug-facilitated sexual assault, mut involve physical force or overwhelming and irrefutable evidence to be considered a crime worthy of prosecution.

Mother Jones reporter and Montana native Dana Liebelson quotes a statement emailed to her by Van Valkenburg: “I think that everything the DOJ is saying about our office is false. These people are as unethical as any I have ever seen. They obviously have a political agenda they want to push and the truth does not matter to them.”

Really Fred? you want to go down whining like an 8 year old? Everyone’s picking on you?

If we’re to believe Van Valkenburg, confessed rapists lie, rape victims lie, and yes, even the Missoula Police lie.

I’m not buying it, and I’m not sorry that I don’t. And neither should you.

by jhwygirl

A little over two weeks ago, Missoulian reporter Keila Szpaller brought us the story that the city of Missoula has wrongfully arrested and even jailed people on illegal warrants issued over the past 10 years.

That’s a pretty big deal – and you have to assume she didn’t get much love from anyone in the city for looking into to wrongful arrests. The issue stems in a large part from illegal warrants.

There’s also been the mistaken identity thing – and this past weekend, the Missoulian detailed just that in the arrest of a man 30 years older than the man they should have been arresting.

Which says something about the arresting officers, does it not? I mean – imagine trying to tell them they’ve got the wrong person and they’re not even looking over their paperwork? Good lord!

I know a lot of people don’t give a crap about stuff like this. I’ve been told – when discussing the death penalty and the possibility of killing an innocent person – that “well, they were doing something wrong if they were arrested,” as if the people that get wrongfully arrested somehow had it coming to them. Even if they aren’t guilty of the crime for which the state is putting them to death.

I was very disturbed by Keila’s story. I witnessed a situation just as she writes of last year….and while I considered then and even try now to write something about it, I know it is not in anyone’s best interests that I do it here. Which I why I have much respect for Ms. Spzaller for having written that article. She didn’t make any friends and I highly doubt anyone was overly helpful as she dug for information.

So for me there were layers of disturbing to that story. Aside from the somewhat personal connection to the topic, as a citizen of Missoula it’s pretty disturbing to know that civil rights violations are going on with people being jailed unlawfully. Understanding the lack of places to turn to for assistance makes it even worse. Small towns tend to protect themselves.

What I also found disturbing was the attitudes expressed by city officials concerning such illegal arrest warrants. Spzaller starts off her story with this statement:

City officials say the incidents are rare and that Municipal Court has revised its procedures so it no longer issues bad warrants. The matter is a concern, said Judge Kathleen Jenks, but she knows of only a couple of people wrongfully detained on the invalid warrants.

“Really, there aren’t that many people getting picked up on old, illegal warrants,” Jenks said.

I don’t know who the city officials are that she refers to, but “rare” incidents of illegal arrest are – I’m sorry – a pretty big friggin’ deal.

Now, it’s clear from the article that new Judge Jenks has taken steps to try and keep these illegal arrests from continuing, but to acknowledge “only a couple of people” have been illegally arrested and to be quoted saying that “there aren’t that many people” being arrested on illegal warrants seems a bit flippant to me.

Szpaller speaks with deputy city attorney Carrie Garber:

In the worst-case scenario, a person is arrested on the weekend and remains in custody for two days because they can’t bail out, Garber said. The illegal warrants affect the people who are least able to pay a $50 or $200 bond; many people may not even know their arrest was improper, she said.

Garber said the practice took place for years, and she would not be surprised to find that “hundreds” of people went to jail because of it. When Judge Marie Andersen worked in the court, she started the practice of reviewing files before signing warrants, Garber said.

Garber said she tried unsuccessfully to encourage Louden to change the procedure, and she’s pleased Judge Jenks has done so.

In a worst-case scenario??? The practice took place for years?? She would not be surprised to find hundreds went to jail on illegal arrest warrants?? Louden didn’t give a shit??

Gerber’s boss, apparently, wasn’t giving a crap.

One quote that has really stuck in my craw since reading it back on January 27th, and it was one that came from long time city attorney Jim Nugent:

He isn’t aware of any recent arrests, and no one has sued the city over the matter, Nugent said. People may seek legal recourse if they believe their rights have been violated, but they must show they’ve been harmed, he said.

“They’d have to show damages,” Nugent said. “I don’t think a lot of money would be at issue because what’s their damages?”

“Because what’s their damages?”??? That quote there hearkens back to the conversation I relay above on the death penalty. These illegal arrests don’t mean much because..at some point the person had done something wrong so it doesn’t matter?

They don’t mean anything because these people that we’re arresting illegally don’t have the means to come back and sue us and even if they did, they don’t make a lot of money so whatever damages they incur would be minor?

They don’t mean anything because no one is going to believe them?

If you haven’t read Keila’s article, please do. It’s a worthy read.

Good newspaper writing, at it’s best – serving the public’s best interests, even when it isn’t easy.

by jhwygirl

Updated below

NBC KECI news reported last night that Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg is refusing to cooperate with the Department of Justice investigation into the handling of rape and sexual assaults by the University of Montana, the city police and the Missoula County Attorney’s office.

You’ll remember that Mr. Van Valkenburg was “deeply disturbed” over the investigation when the DOJ came knocking back in May.

Some of you might be familiar with Sheriff Arpaio and his latest civil rights violation? The arrest of a 6-year old which also violated a Presidential executive order?

Most Montanan’s probably don’t realize the connection that both Fred Valkenburg and Joe Arpaio have..and if history is any indicator, Mr. Van Valkenburg might want to reconsider his relection bid for Missoula County Attorney in 2014.

First off, remember Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice? Not only is he heading up the civil rights investigation into the University of Montana/Missoula rape and sexual assaults – announced May 1st – he’s the same guy who’s been investigating Sheriff Joe Arpaio since 2008 for civil rights violations. That’s back when George Bush Jr. was president.

Small world, huh?

In that investigation, Perez has recently filed suit against Arpaio’s department for a “pattern of unlawful discrimination” by law enforcement officials.

Hmmm…

Leading up to that – keeping in mind the DOJ has been down in Maricopa County since 2008 – Perez has dealt with a very uncooperative Sheriff Joe Arpaio, having to sue the guy into cooperation. The New York Times reported “Obama administration officials called the suit the first time in 30 years that the federal government had to sue to compel a law enforcement agency to cooperate with an investigation concerning Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

Really?

Looks like Fred Van Valkenburg is gearing up for the same sort of lawsuit – and one has to wonder just how much his bloviating reticence is costing the taxpayers. Not only that, what does he have to hide?

Why wouldn’t an attorney cooperate with the deputy of the highest law officer in the United States?

Is this how a county attorney should behave? Why should I, for example, cooperate with Fred Van Valkenburg if he came knocking? Is this really the example of a county attorney that we want here in Missoula? In Montana?

And again – Where in the world is Montana’s Attorney General Steve Bullock on this DOJ civil rights investigation? Doesn’t Montana have civil rights laws?

I’ve also always been told that a county attorney is also a deputy of the state’s attorney general. If that is the case, what does Bullock have to say about Van Valkenburg’s lack of cooperation?

Bueller? Bueller?!?

And consider that last April Fred Van Valkenburg welcomed the feds into town as they came in a attacked the state’s medical marijuana laws.

Add him to that hypocrite tag, I guess.

Per the KECI report (make sure to watch, as Fred is in fine form whining about how he’s not going to be bullied) reporter Will Wadley waves around letters from both Van Valkenburg and the Department of Justice. Kind of a shame that he doesn’t link them on line. It’s not like they were one liners – he shows multiple pages with lots of little words and legal arguments. Would be nice if KECI would share that with the general public. I kind of think Fred’s letter would be quite interesting. Let’s see the guy’s defense.

Hell – Maybe Fred should put his response to the DOJ up on his website. Inquiring taxpayers want to know!

Still, Wadley breaks a good story – and I’m glad to have seen it. Frankly, I hope the national media picks up on it, too.

For Missoulians? This is your tax dollars at work. It’s also your vote at work, since Van Valkenburg is an elected official, accountable to the voters.

We’re in for a long haul folks – I’ve had numerous conversations and most people seem to be operating on an assumption that we’re going to seem some resolution to this investigation sometime in the near future – the end of summer…soon. If history is any lesson here, Perez is going to be coming to Missoula for many many visits…and with Van Valkenburg pulling an Arpaio on the whole DOJ investigation, the DOJ is going to be at it for years.

~~~
Missoulian reporter Jenna Cederberg has her report on Van Valkenburg’s refusal to cooperate with the DOJ. Her story includes links to the letters between Van Valkenburg and the DOJ.

by jhwygirl

When bigots and racists are allowed in the very institutions that implement law on the public individual, the whole legal system is called into question.

Makes me also wonder about what we don’t hear. This latest story from Great Falls Tribune Helena bureau reporter John S. Adams leaves me with the startling realization that the people employed at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency making decisions over who to investigate and prosecute for immigration violations can be bonafide bigots.

Last September, ICE officer Bruce Norum sent Helena immigration attorney Shahid Haque-Hausrath a long-circulated Islamophobic email titled “You worry me.” Shahid is a Muslim and a natural born citizen of the United States, raised by parents who immigrated from Pakistan. He is also a well-respected attorney who has been honored for his pro bono work assisting low-income Montanans.

Haque-Hausrath details the event, and subsequent suspension-pending-investigation of ICE officer Brude Norum on his blog. Go read it in his own words. He also links to the GFT John S. Adams news articles.

Last Monday, as Adams reports in today’s paper, Haque-Hausrath and his attorney met with ICE officials who told him that Bruce Norum would be reinstated in his same supervisory position. They offered nothing more than the explanation that it was a personnel matter.

While local ICE officials did not return calls, an ICE spokesperson out of Dallas said that they would look into it – but hadn’t responded to inquiries to that progress as of late Friday.

Haque-Hausrath isn’t pleased. Neither am I as I read this – Norum is the senior most ICE official here in Montana. He oversees immigration operations here in Montana and makes decisions on whether to arrest or investigate suspected undocumented aliens or to detain or deport individuals.

Apparently you can be a racist, work in ICE enforcing U.S. immigration law, and also openly espouse unconstitutional views.

Oh – and harass private individuals with hate-filled emails.

~~~~~~
Montana sure isn’t a strange to these kind of brazen hate mongers – chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Richard Cebull sent out racist anti-Obama email last February, and defended it, saying that he simply didn’t like President Obama and that he didn’t send it because of the racists content (which he acknowledged.)

I’ll note that supermontanareporter John S. Adams broke that story, too.

Cebull eventually apologized but it took a few days. Multiple human rights entities petitioned for his resignation. Two ranking Democrats on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee have since called for a congressional hearing into Cebull’s email, and a judiciary panel has been investigating the matter since April.

Cebull is still sitting on the bench – we’ve yet to hear if the panel will find him in violation of the ethical standards befitting a judge. I’m sure that panel is just hoping it’ll all fade away. I doubt it. National attention has been thrust upon Cebull, with Mother Jones questioning his ethics, the Washington Post reporting on the investigation, and even the New York Times called for his resignation.

Montana has racists, sure it does – and it’s America with ’em in its courts and Department of Homeland Security.

by jhwygirl

County Attorney Fred Val Valkenburg was one of at least two Missoula officials who fired back at the U.S. Justice Department today with a denial of any wrong doing, saying that “we are deeply disturbed” by the allegations and current investigation into any wrongdoings by the county attorney, city police and the University of Montana of their handling of rape & sexual assault cases here in Missoula.

Van Valkenburg is only now “deeply disturbed”?

All I can say to that is “Finally.”

~~~
The U.S. Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for the civil rights division Thomas Perez answered back to Van Valkenburg:

We don’t know (what has gone wrong.) That is why we are conducting an investigation. Ahh – there are a lot of women in this community and there are a lot of other stakeholders in this community who have strong concerns right now about the manner in which sexual assaults have been handled.

The DOJ’s preliminary investigation says that there were over 80 rapes in Missoula over the last 3 years, and 11 reported in the last 18 months involving University of Montana students.

80 rapes here in the City of Missoula over the last 3 years, and only now are Chief Muir and Van Valkenburg “deeply disturbed.”

Join the club. I’ve been a bit disgusted myself over the last few months.

(A thanks to kpax news tonight – I couldn’t find the video they used for tonight’s 10 p.m. news, otherwise I’d of linked to it. Van Valkenburg and Perez’s statements were taken from that report.)

by jhwygirl

Tucked in last week’s story on councilman and Democratic congressional candidate Dave Strohmaier and his fellow councilman Jon Wilkins bringing back the cell phone ordinance for more discussion “based on successful work in other communities,” was a little sentence or two that made me wonder just how aggressive city cops were willing to go to enforce Missoula’s texting-while-driving law

You know – the story where Jon Wilkins was quoted as saying “I think the cellphone usage is out of control in Missoula,” and that it was “just going to get worse”?

Tucked in that story were these two paragraphs, with my emphasis added:

There have been a significant number of changes around the country and the state of Montana since Missoula has undertaken to pass our no-texting-while-driving ordinance,” said Muir, who noted that April happens to be National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

It’s hard to tell if someone is texting or dialing, and police have issued just 12 citations since the law took effect, Muir said. A motorcycle cop wrote half of those because from his vantage point on the bike, it was easier to look down at a driver and see that the motorist was, in fact, texting.

Goddess bless Missoulian reporter Keila Szpaller, btw. She gets those details – and most of the time probably wonders why no one ever notices.

Of 12 citations written, one cop has written half of those citations because from his vantage point it was easier to look down on the driver and see that the motorist was texting?

Really? Is he doing this while riding his bike? Or while he is stopped at a light or sign next to or behind the driver?

I don’t want to sound theatrical or unreasonable, but what ever happened to reasonable cause? The right to…awww, let’s just go right to the U.S. Constitution, Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

I recognize that police have a dangerous job. I consider myself pretty well-informed of the risks they take every day when the put on that uniform and go to work. But that being said, I can’t not for the life of me imagine how one cop has managed to rack up 50% of the tickets for texting-while-driving on reasonable cause suspicions that led to him looking into the laps of drivers.

It also makes me wonder what other tickets he’s given out and under what circumstances.

Wilkins thinks cell phone use is “out of control”? I’m thinking we’ve got the cops using that cell phone ordinance for more that what it was intended.

And one cop who might be a little “out of control.”

4th Amendment be damned, Missoula! We might have someone texting-while-driving! Even while stopped at a light!

by jhwygirl

The University of Montana has released its rape investigation report. At least I can say that President Engstrom is finally sounding sincere:

“We have had a serious issue with sexual assault and we have to take bold and decisive measures to move toward the elimination of sexual assault,” he said in a telephone interview. “It is a new time for the university with respect to sexual assault. We are as serious as we can possibly be about this matter.”

The university’s legal counsel David Aronofsky had input to the university’s rape scandal report with a memo (which Engstrom makes reference to in the Engstrom’s 4-page report (which doesn’t appear to be online,) saying that the university shouldn’t be assisting athletes in finding legal council.

Not because it’s a conflict of interest or anything, given that the University oversees this fabulous Student Code of Conduct they repeatedly refer to – but because of the appearance of impropriety of treating one class of students (athletes) different from the rest.

Oh – and also because it might open the U to an NCAA violation.

Engstrom’s 4-page comprehensive report on UMontana’s ongoing rape and sexual assault scandals references the fact that 5 students are no longer with the University after they completed their investigations into reported assaults. He would not – because of that fabulous Student Code of Conduct – say whether they had graduated, dropped out or been expelled. Three more cases were dismissed for lack of evidence, while in 3 more cases, the students are appealing sanctions that resulted out of the investigation.

Missoulians and the victims probably feel oh-so-safe knowing that President Engstrom and his lawyers have investigated and sanctioned 3 students while 5 more are gone.

Gone where? From the registrars roles? Have they moved into my neighborhood? Are they here in the community?

Did they head down the road to MSU in Bozeman? Or perhaps Montana Tech over there in Butte?

And what about the University’s obligation to not obstruct the law. Pretty sure they can’t write a Code of Conduct for anyone – even President Engstrom – that says you can have knowledge of a crime such as assault and not have to report it (along with the evidence) to law enforcement officers.

Otherwise, that’s really pretty much a civil rights violation, regardless of whether the victim reported the crime to the proper (THE POLICE) authorities.

Which brings me again to say – If you are on campus, your 911 call is going to the university cops. Take that advice for what its worth.

City Police 24 hour number is 552-6300.

I’m not joking when I say this – but there needs to be an investigation. An investigation into the very (un)timely homeland return by a Saudi Arabian student accused of two incidents involving rape and sexual assault. An investigation into whether the University has knowledge of a crime or crimes and isn’t turning over that information to the City of Missoula police.

Will even ONE legislator speak up about the University system hiding behind this Student Code of Conduct? Do we need changes to the law?

Surely there’s a law that requires people with knowledge and or evidence (such as investigations) of criminal activity to report it?

I give Engstrom’s “report” a D+.

~~~~~
You know? There’s an ongoing pattern here of perpetrators of sexual assault being removed from campus, one way or another and clearly with the assistance of evidence of sexual assault or rape.

Who’s protecting whom here, I have to ask?

What kind of Student Code of Conduct does this University have that perpetrators of sexual assault are afforded protection from their crimes?

by jhwygirl

A private park, right? Is it the NYPD planning on coming in to remove the protesters? Is it their job to enforce trespassing?

And are the trespassers really trespassing on a public space that has been open without discrimination to people of the public?

In other words – Does the public have a prescriptive right to this public space owned by Brookfield Properties? I’m pretty sure a lawyer could make a pretty good case for public use of this space.

And certainly, free speech is a long-standing public use pretty much everywhere. As is political speech.

It’s unclear what is planned for Brookfield Properties to clear the area – and of course, we’ve moved so close to corporatism (or fascism, for those of you with stronger opinions – like me) – what with NYPD bought and paid for by JP Morgan Chase – that it’s entirely possible that Mayor Bloomberg is going to utilize NYPD to remove peaceful protesters from what is inarguably a public space, albeit owned by a private entity.

That’s a George Ochenski link people…don’t miss it.

I’m not a New York City taxpayer here (obviously) but I’d have a problem with my tax dollars being used to provide security to private property for unregulated public uses that have been allowed on the property for years.

On the other hand, perhaps Brookfield Properties is planning on bringing in the Pinkerton Guards, like Andrew Carnegie brought in to try and bring and end to the Homestead Strike of 1882.

That didn’t go well. Blood spilled on the streets, and Carnegie carried that guilt with him for the rest of his life.

Incidentally, when Andrew Carnegie sold Carnegie Steel, he sold it to JP Morgan.

Swing it now to 2011…perhaps it’s Halliburton-KBR they’re going to bring in to Zuccotti, who knows.

What I do know is that whatever happens down there is going to happen under the watchful eye of the nation.

~~~
This nation could benefit from an immersion course in American history if you ask me. And a dose of constitutional history and law thrown in, too. That wiki link on the Homestead Strike would be a good start.

Another good mandatory history lesson I would assign if I were queen – and this isn’t just for Montanans, though current conditions here make the lesson especially relevant – is a read on The Copper Kings and the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. There’s a whole lot of lesson learning to go on in there – and not the crap written by Ayn Rand in ….in everything that hypocritical corporate whore ever wrote.

by jhwygirl

Every year, the Montana Pride Network puts on a gathering somewhere in Montana to celebrate diversity and equality. This year’s celebration was held in Bozeman, which rolled out a gracious welcome to all who attended this state-level event held June 17th, 18th and 19th.

In the video below you’ll see starting around the 30 second mark our own fabulous b’birder (albeit infrequent, but we don’t hold it against him because he is doing really fabulous work with the Montana Human Rights Network) Jamee Greer. You’ll also see another person whom I respect, Bozeman Mayor Jeff Krauss, speaking on the important of equality. Most politicians here in Montana wouldn’t speaking so publicly on this issue – Krauss proposed Bozeman’s equality ordinance at the first public meeting after he took office.

“You Are Loved” is the title:

You Are Loved from Wet Paint Studios on Vimeo.

The video was done by Wet Paint Studios. It is a film partnership started by Vanessa Naive and Jeff Dougherty, and this is their first video documentary. You can also hit that link and go to their facebook…but I’m all yucky on facebook, so I’m not linking it here.

:)

I look forward to the day that equality for all is just the way it is. That we don’t even have to talk about equality or gay marriage as if gay marriage is different from marriage. I long for a day when government stays out of churches and churches stay out of government. How can one human being deny another human being his human right to express love?

The time is coming. Equality is coming. Let’s bring it here faster by speaking openly in support of equality, whether you are straight, gay, lesbian or queer. We are all brothers and sisters. It’s time to speak for each other.

by jhwygirl

…because it will happen.

by appalachianfreedom

I am listening to my first Lady Gaga album today, a gift from a friend. I decided to Google Ms. Gaga to learn a bit more about her when I stumbled upon an interview in which she admitted to leaving the love of her life for her career and indicated that she may never marry. This really struck me personally, as I pretty much made the same decision in order to continue my education and travel to new places. In the wake of the most recent publicly condemned sexual tryst perpetrated by a male politician (Weiner), I thought I could squeeze in a rant regarding America’s desire to cling to its imagined narrative of the family unit.

Let’s begin with the news from the 2010 census that married households are no longer in the majority. Only 48% of households reporting contained a married couple. By contrast, in 1950 that figure was 78%. Demographics researchers point to many factors influencing this shift including a higher proportion of college educated people, employment instability, and income inequality. On a side note, I wonder how marriage equality for the gay and lesbian community would affect these numbers?

We may not soon know because both the notions of marriage and family are polluted with imagined traditions and mores (like most of America’s narrative). These falsehoods are perpetuated through the Christian-right. A simple week spent reading about the history of marriage in America, however, would clear up any and all questions regarding the “tradition” of marriage. I would suggest Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation by Nancy Cott, the Stanley Woodward professor of history and American studies at Yale. In her book, Cott reveals that attitudes and norms about sexuality in our country were far different than today, and highly variable, especially in the early American west.

Marriage following the American Revolution was a hodgepodge mix of civil “contracts” which established gender roles through a series duties and legal rewards. These contracts were not only between the two consenting parties but also with their respective communities (hence the witness needed to be married, the questioning of the audience as to whether the two should be married, and the church bells that would ring signifying that the community was to enter a contract). These contracts were beneficial to men in that they owned all of their wives current and future earnings. The contracts were beneficial to women because their husbands were obliged to protect and provide for them and their children.

This is not the only perk, as you may be aware, as married men and women enjoy many privileges not afforded to single people. While most of us may be familiar with the tax incentives, a 1996 General Accounting Office report found over a thousand instances where being married granted a benefit, right, or special status. There is a definite economic benefit to being married and that is the true origin of the creation of marriage. During the American Revolution, the Christian monogamists were in the minority globally, which was discovered and well documented during British colonialism. It was fortunate for them at the time that the early American revolutionaries envisioned the union of marriage mirroring the union of the colonies. Marriage was the “sublime and refined… principle of union.” The belief was that society would benefit from monogamy.

The portion of society that benefitted the most was the upper-class. Arranged marriages were ways to unite family business and capital to ensure that they stayed tied to certain bloodlines. Not a surprise, everything that required property or legal rights went to husband. The wife was a feme covert – meaning that she had no legal recourse in contracts, assets, or suits without the consent of her husband. Wives were also not allowed to participate in politics of their own choosing, instead they were confined to their husband’s political affiliation. In a simplification of the institution, husbands owned their wives and all of their assets legally through marriage at this time.

Gender was not the only realm in which marriage was used to discriminate. To perpetuate the white majority ruling class, interracial marriages were not permitted. Not just between white and black, but between white and anything non-white. The list included Asians, Indians, and non-anglo Europeans. To give an idea of how prevalent this marriage discrimination was, some states had laws that prohibited interracial marriage until 1967 (Loving v. Virginia).

My point is that when Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-Minnesota, 6th district) continues to publicly denounce marriage equality for the gay and lesbian community as she did at the Faith and Freedom Conference in D.C. this week, she is not acknowledging the evolution of marriage in America that allowed her to do so. Perhaps marriage was originally intended for “one man and one woman,” but if we are being strictly traditional in marriage, Rep. Bachmann would have to speak her views through her husband, assuming that he shares those same views of course. She seems to be alright with the evolution of marriage that allowed her more equality with her husband, but is against any further evolution in which she has no benefit.

On a personal note, I think that the idea of marriage is rapidly deteriorating in our country. We are so painfully reminded each day that lifelong monogamy might not be ideal for everyone. I propose that instead of seeking equality in marriage for same-sex marriages, let’s instead abolish the economic perks that marriage affords people. I realize that this may be a bit circular, but investigating purchasing my first home recently, I realized that it makes about as much economic sense to have Jim Cramer as your broker as it would to be single and buy a home. As with everything else; it seems that the facts, both historical and statistical, are meaningless to some people. We will never get anywhere until we change the values that people base their decisions upon. Yes, I am talking to you Rep. Bachman. I want you to consider the true historical framework of marriage, not just its distorted religious narrative.

Marriage was used to discriminate against sex, then race, and now sexual preference. I know that all we need is time for a mass paradigm shift to finally be accepting of same-sex relationships, but maybe we can speed to the next evolution of American marriage faster by combining the fight for equality while highlighting the ever-increasing failure it is as an institution. Lets dis-incentivize marriage!

Primary Source:

Cott, N. (2000). Public vows: A history of marriage and the nation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Sen. Jon Tester supports anti-immigrant policies and impedes immigration reform.

A guest post by Helena Immigration Attorney, Shahid Haque-Hausrath, posted by Jamee Greer

Jon Tester (D-MT) is facing a tough run for re-election to the U.S. Senate, but he just keeps giving progressives more reasons not to vote for him. His track record on immigration issues has been abysmal, as I’ve written about before. Make no mistake about it — Tester is probably the worst Democrat in the Senate on the issue of immigration, and he is one of the most vocal. The way he talks about the issue, you would think Montana wasn’t one of the states with the least number of immigrants in the whole country.

Despite outrage over his despicable vote against the DREAM Act, Tester hasn’t decided to leave immigration policy to states that actually have a dog in the fight. You won’t see him bragging about his DREAM Act vote, mind you — after all, Daily Kos famously called him an “asshole” for that reprehensible vote, and he doesn’t want to rekindle the ire of the netroots crowd. However, he has continued to make his anti-immigrant positions a core part of his campaign, jumping at every opportunity to link immigration to national security concerns. For instance, when a college in California was found to be enrolling foreign students without proper accreditation, Tester quickly issued a press release noting that “several of the terrorists who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001, had entered the country using student visas.”

Recently, Jon Tester put up two web pages on the issue of immigration that are so ignorant you would think Tester locked anti-immigrant zealots Mark Krikorian and John Tanton in a room with a bottle of whiskey and posted whatever they came up with.

In fact, these two immigration pages are so wrong-headed that they require some analysis and interpretation to fully make sense of them. One web page outlines his unsophisticated view of the immigration issue in four paragraphs. His other page lists his immigration “accomplishments.” (By accomplishments, Tester seems to mean ways he has screwed immigrants and wasted federal money.) I’ll review both of the pages together.

Jon’s position on immigration is simple: people who wish to immigrate to the United States must follow the rules, and we must enforce them. That’s why Jon opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants.

During his first year as Senator, Jon helped put a stop to a bill that would have granted amnesty to illegal immigrants living in the United States.

Jon voted in 2007 to defeat the Immigration Reform Bill, telling his colleagues, “We don’t need hundreds of pages of expensive new laws when we can’t even enforce the ones we’ve already got on the books.”

Where do we start? Polls have consistently shown that the people think our immigration system is broken and want some form of immigration reform. The last time our immigration laws were substantively changed was in 1996, and almost everyone agrees that those changes were ineffective — in fact, they created more problems than they solved. People are frustrated by the federal government’s failure to act, and don’t believe that “enforcement only” solutions are going to work. As a result of the federal government’s inertia, states like Arizona, Utah, and Georgia have begun to enact their own immigration policies, which raise significant constitutional concerns including due process violations and racial profiling. While I strongly oppose state level enforcement of immigration laws, and I believe that these state laws are misguided, it is difficult to fault the states for at least trying to take action when the federal government will not.

Yet, Jon Tester considers it an “accomplishment” that he has ignored the will of the public and done absolutely nothing to fix our immigration system. In fact, he is proud that he helped derail immigration reform in 2007, and has continued to sabotage efforts to reform our immigration laws. It’s nice that he sets the bar so low for himself, but the rest of the country is expecting a little more.

Tester refuses to acknowledge that our system needs to be fixed, stating “we don’t need hundreds of pages of expensive new laws when we can’t even enforce the ones we’ve already got on the books.” The problem, of course, is that our system is broken and we need to reform our laws in order to more effectively enforce them. Current immigration reform proposals aim to increase enforcement on the border and interior of the country, but recognize that in order to curb undocumented immigration we also need to fix some of our laws that are creating the problems in the first place. For instance, our laws include huge gaps in coverage, where many family members have no reasonable opportunity to immigrate legally to the United States. Among other things, reform proposals would open new paths to family-based immigration that were causing needless undocumented immigration.

Tester remains willfully obtuse in his opposition to so-called “amnesty” for immigrants who lack lawful status. “Amnesty” means a general pardon for an offense against the state, but Tester uses the term “amnesty” to refer to any changes in the law that would create a path to legalization — even if the path is strenuous and imposes a strict set of requirements. He even used the term amnesty to refer to the DREAM Act, which would have created a seven (or more) year path towards citizenship for men and women who serve our country in the military or go to college. There is no “amnesty” on the table, and there hasn’t been for years. Instead, what is being proposed is a way for immigrants who are already here to earn their way back into lawful status by paying fines, back taxes (if they haven’t already been paying like most immigrants), and potentially even community service. After all, even Newt Gingrich understands that it is not realistic to deport all of the 11 million people who are here without status.

Finally, comprehensive immigration reform won’t be expensive, as Tester states, but will actually increase wages for all workers and improve our economy. Time and again, it has been proven that spending money on border security alone, without any other changes to our laws, is untenable and ineffective. Nevertheless, Tester has chosen to advocate these “enforcement only” solutions.

Instead [of immigration reform], Jon has focused his energy on boosting security along America’s borders, particularly our northern border with Canada. From his seat on the influential Appropriations Committee, Jon has secured investments to combat the flow of illegal drugs into the United States, as well as critical investments upgrading Ports of Entry along the Canadian border.

That same year, Jon introduced and passed into law a measure requiring the Homeland Security Department to report on weaknesses along the northern border and develop a plan for improving northern border security.

So let me get this straight: Instead of working for immigration reform to help the entire country, Tester is pushing for huge government expenditures to protect us from Canada? It is foolish to tout Canadian border security as an alternative to comprehensive immigration reform, because it is clear that the risks from an unmonitored northern border have almost nothing to do with the larger immigration problems our country is facing.

While the GAO issued a report stating that Department of Homeland Security needs to work better with other agencies and partners along the northern border, the GAO didn’t endorse Tester’s crusade to spare no expense to “secure” the border. Indeed, the GAO previously pushed back on claims about insecurity on the northern border.

Nevertheless, Tester is so eager to appear strong on immigration enforcement that he managed to get an appropriation for military grade radars on the Canadian border. He also wants to expand the use of unmanned drones (and they are already being used in some areas). Those radars and drones would have come in handy last year, when I helped a Canadian kid who got lost and accidentally drove his ATV across the border.

As George Ochenski put it: “For most Montanans, the border with Canada has never been and likely will never be seen as a threat. After all, the U.S. and Canada share the longest border on the continent, and it has been our ally in world wars as well as regional conflicts. It’s also our largest trading partner and our closest, largest and most secure source of oil. Treating Canada as some variant of Pakistan’s border is, in a word, insulting to both Montanans and our Canadian friends.”

Jon was the only Senate Democrat to put his name on legislation pumping new resources into border protection for new technology and new border patrol officers. Jon cosponsored the measure after securing a pledge that a certain percentage of those new resources would be spent along the northern border.

Here’s a tip for Tester’s staffers: When you’re the only Democrat to put your name on a piece of legislation, its probably nothing to brag about. The bill that Tester is referring to is actually a corollary to one that was introduced by his opponent, Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT). Jon Tester partnered up with Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-AZ), among other Republicans, to co-sponsor a $3 million amendment. This bill also funded construction of the fence along the Mexican border — a project that has been abandoned and condemned as a tremendous failure and waste of billions in taxpayer dollars.

And from his seat on the influential Appropriations Committee, Jon has secured investments to combat the flow of illegal drugs into the United States, as well as critical investments upgrading Ports of Entry along the Canadian border.

One of Tester’s “critical upgrades” was a $15 million dollar renovation to the border station in Whitetail, MT, which was reported to get about five crossings a day and no commercial traffic. After facing criticism for needless spending, Tester and Max Baucus reduced the appropriation to only $8.5 million. Meanwhile, Canadian officials closed the road leading to this border station, rendering the whole project useless. This embarrassing episode didn’t make Tester’s list of accomplishments.

Of course, even though he votes against any legislation that isn’t directed purely towards deporting immigrants, Tester wouldn’t want you to get the impression that he is against immigration:

Jon knows that legal immigrants, like his grandparents, helped build America into what it is today. But he also believes that no one is above the law.

In public statements and constituent letters, Tester is constantly stating that his grandparents “waited in line” and followed the rules, implying that new immigrants should be expected to follow the same process. However, it appears that Tester’s ancestors entered the country in 1916 — before our current immigration system even existed. At that time, our immigration policy was comparable to an “open border” policy. Years later, quotas were enacted to limit immigration and more stringent criteria for entry were developed. It was not until 1965 that the current Immigration and Nationality Act was enacted, with its very limited methods for gaining permanent residence in the U.S.

There is no question that Jon Tester’s ancestors faced a dramatically different immigration system than those who are immigrating today. Tester and other enforcement advocates often evoke the image of a “line” that immigrants must simply wait in. However, the truth is that for most immigrants, there is no “line.” Tester’s own grandparents may not have been able to enter the country under our current immigration scheme.

Jon Tester seems intent on mimicking Rehberg in many ways, including sharing his anti-immigrant views.

Jon Tester’s vocal anti-immigrant positions have placed Montana progressives in a difficult position. Contrary to the attacks of those who want to silence any opposition to Tester’s bad policies, none of us are excited about the prospect of his opponent, Dennis Rehberg, being elected to the Senate. Indeed, Rehberg’s stance on immigration is no better than Tester’s. However, Tester’s ignorant views on immigration are also making it impossible for us to lend him our vote.

Tester’s positions on immigration are not gaining him support with Republicans, but they are causing a split among Democrats. The best thing for Jon Tester to do is distance himself from the issue of immigration, because each time he opens his mouth, he brings many progressives closer to sending a difficult message: The progressive movement cannot tolerate a Democrat who has an anti-immigrant agenda, regardless of the consequences.

Shahid Haque-Hausrath blogs about local immigration issues at Border Crossing Law Blog.

by jhwygirl

Montana Rep. Kristen Hansen’s pro-discrimination bill, HB516 was pulled from second reading today and referred back to committee with a 44-4 vote on the Senate floor.

Interesting.

by jhwygirl

In a post titled “Profiting from Hypocrisy“, blogger montanafesto exposes the troubled hypocrisy of Rep. James Knox and his pro-repeal medical marijuana stance. First the video:

Read montanafesto’s post. Rep. James Knox offered his services to a medical marijuana business, at a greatly discounted price because his business “was slow.”

There’s more – montanafesto takes Knox on in Facebook…and now, apparently, an email has been removed from the website because Knox was threatening his lawyers.

Neither here nor there, now…the Billings Gazette has picked up the story.

Wonder if Knox has threatened to sue them, too?

~~~~~~~
So all this insane personal intrusion schizophrenic state-rights/anti-state rights Montana Republican party-led legislating has me now more than just barely pondering: What is it these guys and gals are doing up there? Rep. Warburton is obsessed with making my vagina a crime scene….Rep. Kristin Hansen wants to treat LGBTQ human beings as something less than such, and now we have Knox falling all over himself to provide discounted services to the medical marijuana community.

What is it they say? People in glass houses should not be throwing rocks?

What else is there to explain this regressive hate-filled legislation? There’s a ton of it out there.

Kuddos to you, montanafesto!

by jhwygirl

Aside from my own personal feelings on texting-while-driving regulations (texting only being pretty much unenforceable) the Montana GOP sent quite a message in the legislature on Friday, such that Senate Minority Leader Carol Williams at the end of the day called it “Black Friday” and “the absolute worst day of the legislative session.”

HB516 moves forward out of Senate Judiciary to a floor vote probably Monday. Amendments were made on Friday that aim it at ordinances only, leaving intact Bozeman’s equality resolution. (Search HB516 here for more background.)

The conservative attack on the budget was in full mode in Senate Finance Friday morning, and among the leaders speaking out against unnecessary cuts and a lack of priorities were the governor’s budget director David Ewer and Health & Human Services Director Anna Whiting-Sorrel. The message was loud and clear from Schweitzer’s office – and even Bloomberg Businessweek picked up the story.

There was more, and to be honest, I am ill-informed on the entirety of it all. As for the topic at hand, though…..

HB241, a bill that would make texting-while-driving illegal, with a $100 fine was postponed indefinitely on the floor of the Senate after passing Senate Judiciary on an 8-4 vote. The bill was proposed by Sen. Christine Kaufmann.

Match that up with the House Judiciary tabling Senator Tom Facey’s bill which would have taken Montana’s laws which make intercourse between two consenting people of the same sex illegal.

SB276 cleared the Republican-controlled Senate with a 49-1 vote.

That law is, btw, unconstitutional under the Montana Constitution….and it is also proudly part of the Montana Republican Party platform.

The Montana GOP is an embarrassment.

I wonder if the House Republicans have the guts to allow it to a floor blast vote.

If they don’t allow a floor blast vote, they’re cowards.

by jhwygirl

We’ve written a number of times about Havre Montana Representative Kristen Hansen’s pro-hate bill HB516.

In brief summary, the bill would nullify Bozeman and Missoula’s equality ordinances – Bozeman’s of which extended equal protections to all its employees and Missoula’s, a more extensive ordinance which extended equal protection to gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered individuals in the City of Missoula. It survived at least 3 attempts at recall petitions, and received overwhelming support from Missoula’s community when the hearing was held.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in the Senate. More specifically, I don’t want to think about what’s going to happen in the Senate. The facts are that this is a hate bill and there is no overwhelming state interest at hand that requires the legislature to attack local government rule and authority.

It is also hate.

If the real issue were some conflict with the Montana Human Rights Act, then Hansen and the rest of the hate mongers out there that voted in approval of this thing in the house would be proposing a bill that added GBLT individuals to the protections under the Title 49.

That hypocrisy is exhibited by the fact that the same committee that approved HB516 also killed HB514 which would have extended equal protections under the Montana Human Rights Act.

In ridiculously transparent hypocrisy, House Judiciary members argued in favor for HB516 saying that GLBT individuals were already protected under Title 49’s Montana Human Rights Act while the very same people listed to testimony and voted against HB514.

HB514 also failed a blast motion on the floor.

Hypocrites.

Republican Representatives Steve Fitzpatrick (Great Falls),Steve Gibson (E. Helena), Brian Hoven (Great Falls), and Max Yates (Butte) split from their party – all voting against HB516 and in support of equality and local government control.

Fitzpatrick and Gibson stuck with their no votes on the blast motion for HB514.

The hearing for HB516 is Monday, March 14th at 3 p.m. in Room 405, Senate Local Government committee.

by jhwygirl

There is a bill geared at denying equality to certain people in Montana that will be heard in legislative committee today. It applies retroactively in an effort to quash Missoula and Bozeman’s equality ordinances which extended protections to gays, lesbians and transgendered persons (Bozeman’s not being as far reaching).

There was also some quick maneuvering of the schedule to bring this to hearing…and the committee moved up their start time to 7 a.m. to boot. This bill was introduced on the floor first reading just last Saturday. Special treatment, I’d say.

In addition, along with the quick schedule changes there has been an ongoing discussion about comments. This legislature, controlled by a majority GOP, so they’re holding every committee chair, has been quite disciplined about public comment to the point of a FOX news fair-and-balanced point of view. Equal time, regardless of the number of people.

Now-I understand the need to set some limits – but to just stop the public from comment? I would highly suggest that you take a moment, if you haven’t, to listen to or watch a committee session to see what I mean. I have it on channel 67.

Wisconsin is doing at least one thing right out there – they went overnight in testimony the other night to allow everyone who wanted to testify, testify.

Nothing like last year’s bridge access hearing, as an example, which went on to darn near midnight if not later. Just to allow testimony from everyone that wanted to testify.

In House Judiciary tomorrow (with the meeting starting at 7) HB516, a bill entitled “AN ACT PROHIBITING LOCAL GOVERNMENTS FROM ENACTING ORDINANCES, RESOLUTIONS, OR POLICIES THAT CONTAIN, AS A PROTECTED CLASS, ANY CLASSIFICATION NOT SPECIFICALLY INCLUDED AS A PROTECTED CLASS UNDER STATE LAW; AND PROVIDING AN IMMEDIATE EFFECTIVE DATE AND A RETROACTIVE APPLICABILITY DAT

It is proposed by a legislator out of Havre, Rep. Kristin Hansen.

Because, you know, Havre doesn’t want all those crazy Missoulians coming up that way and expecting equality and stuff.

In a serendipitous counterbalance, HB514, from Rep. Edie McClafferty, of Butte will be heard, a bill with a short title of “Protect sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.”

So we have yet another nanny-state Republican proposed bill – this one geared at stopping a Missoula ordinance that failed multiple referendum attempts.

Oh – and you know what local politicians here support this nanny-state big government bill? Councilors Dick Haines, Lyn Hellegaard and Renee Mitchell. Haines at least had the guts to vote “no” in committee to the City of Missoula opposing the oridnance. Lyn and Renee? The merely abstained.

Ward 5? Ward 4? You got some real hate-filled people representing you on city council. Let’s hope you do better next time around.

I know Bozeman’s Mayor Krauss will be there to testify. I’ve not heard who from Missoula’s local government will be there to represent, but I’d love to update if anyone knows.

House Judiciary won’t likely take executive action today. They wouldn’t have the guts, as there will undoubtedly be an huge number of people in opposition to this bill in attended. Please take the time to contact legislators and them know that Montana should be a state that supports equality. That Helena should stay out of running local government…and instead of trying to run local government, perhaps they should start funding it instead of making all kinds of “unfunded mandates” up there every session while limiting local taxing capability to 1/2 the rate of inflation.

You can use this online messaging form and contact the whole committee at one time, or by choosing a legislator. It does not appear that they’ve got software in there that allows you to pick more than one legislator at a time. Hopefully they’ll add that in the future. Or at least “up to 5” or something like that.

By Duganz

Tuesday October 12, 2010 should have been one of the single greatest days in the history of American Civil Rights: The end of Clinton’s idiotic “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” and the freedom of brave soldiers to be able to serve openly as gay and lesbian.

But, the Democrats are in power, so we get this:

The Pentagon said Wednesday it had not issued written guidance on a judge’s order throwing out the ban, and commanders in the field said they did not know how to proceed on sensitive questions like pursuing existing investigations against gay service members.

You don’t know how to proceed with an order to stop? You stop. You just stop. You stop when ordered to stop. It’s easy. Think, Was I ordered to stop throwing people out of the Armed Forces due to their sexual preference? If the answer is yes you stop throwing people out of the Armed Services due to their sexual preference.

But maybe there’s a reason behind the confusion…

The Justice Department worked into the night Wednesday on its response to the judge’s ruling but gave no indication when there would be an announcement. Its first move may be to seek a stay, or temporary freeze, of the order. If that request is rejected, the department probably would turn to the federal appeals court in California.

Obama’s Justice Department is going to appeal a court case that called a dumb law unconstitutional, because… why? The Obama administration consistently says it is against DADT. Before the Federal Government got around to giving all people rights, the federal courts did. Even the most ignorant of people (I’m looking at you “Creation Scientists”) have heard of Brown v. Board of Education. Brown ended segregation in schools. After that decision in 1954 private groups, civil groups, and the government were able to erode the damages done by moronic Southern Racists.

So why not instead of fighting the courts, embracing that other branch given power under our Republic’s Constitution, and then point at Republicans and say, “Make your move, oh Great Defenders of our Constitution.” The paradox would make Christine O’Donnell’s head explode.

Alas, because of the weak-to-non-existent spine of the Democrats we get this in a statement from anti-DADT group Servicemembers Legal Defense Network:

The law still has a chance of being repealed in the lame duck session of Congress. Service members must proceed safely and should not come out at this time.

Lack of leadership from the Democrats has put fear into the hearts of those fighting for freedom. And, ironically, the reason that Democrats aren’t leading on this issue is fear––fear of not getting re-elected.

But here’s the skinny: there is right, and there is wrong. It is RIGHT to stand up for gay Americans and their rights. It is WRONG to think of one’s own self-interest as far as getting more power. It is WRONG to allow 13,000 servicemembers to be discharged because of your lack of guts. (It is also wrong, just saying, to ignore an order from a judge Mr. President.) Even though most Senate Democrats (Not the ones from Arkansas) voted to repeal DADT, few are talking about it in their re-election campaigns.

So now we’re stuck with a President who despite being against a law, wants to appeal a Federal Court’s decision, and a Congress–House and Senate–that can’t get its act together enough to pass the smallest of Civil Rights legislation.

And again, as I’ve said here before, it is within President Obama’s power to end DADT on his own… Just like the judicial branch has the power to end DADT… and the Legislative has the power to end DADT (but doesn’t cause they are myopic wastebags)…

by Jamee Greer

One.
This weekend in Serbia, a gay pride celebration was disrupted by almost 6000 rioters throwing molotov cocktails, stun grenades and bricks – and chanting slogans like “death to homosexuals!”.

“Serbia will guarantee human rights for all its citizens, regardless of the differences among them, and no attempts to revoke these freedoms with violence will be allowed,” Tadic said.

Belgrade mayor Dragan Djilas said damage was estimated at more than euro1 million ($1.39 million).

Right-wing groups say the gay events run counter to Serbian family and religious values. Most of the rioters Sunday were young football fans whose groups have been infiltrated by neo-Nazi and other extremist organizations.

Serbia is seeking membership in the European Union, which requires certain human rights standards be met before they can join.

Two.
New York State gubernatorial candidate, Carl Paladino, told a gathering of Orthodox Jewish leaders in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on Sunday that children are being “brainwashed” into believing homosexuality was acceptable and normal.

“That’s not how God created us,” he said, reading from a prepared address. “I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family, and I don’t want them brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option — it isn’t.”

And then, to applause at Congregation Shaarei Chaim, he said: “I didn’t march in the gay parade this year — the gay pride parade this year. My opponent did, and that’s not the example we should be showing our children.”

Newsday.com reported that Mr. Paladino’s prepared text had included the sentence: “There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual.” But Mr. Paladino omitted that statement when he gave the speech.

Paladino went on to say to the media, “Don’t misquote me as wanting to hurt homosexual people in any way. That would be a dastardly lie.”

Three.
Another gay teen has taken their life, this time in Norman, Oklahoma. The 19 year old had attended a City Council public hearing earlier in the week which included discussion on the receipt of a mayoral proclamation recognizing October as Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Transgender History Month in Norman. The proclamation was approved 7-1, after three hours of graphic, homophobic testimony.

One man said he moved to Norman because he thought it was the kind of place that would never accept the GLBT community with open arms. A woman, who described herself as “bi-racial,” said she was tired of the GLBT plight being compared to Civil Rights.

Some of those who opposed the proclamation claimed that members of the GLBT community would use it to infiltrate the public school system, essentially allowing the “gay lifestyle” to become a part of the curriculum.

Others claimed that council recognizing October as GLBT History Month was a waste of their time. Some members of the audience even suggested that any council members voting in favor of the proclamation may have trouble getting reelected.

Numerous residents also claimed the Bible was their guiding light, citing the ancient text as their primary reason for opposing the proclamation and the GLBT community in general.

And for those in attendance, it was hard to ignore the intolerant grumblings, the exasperated sighs and cold, hard stares that followed comments from supporters of the GLBT proclamation.

By @CarFreeStpdty

you have to result to finding news from an Australian news site, the World Socialist Web Site, and a Rusian news station – see, Obama can’t be a socialist because the real socialists still left in this world hate him just about as much as they hated G.W.

CIA director Leon Panetta filed a legal brief to stop a lawsuit filed by the ACLU against the federal government challenging its acquired taste for assassinating its own citizens. The administration doesn’t want the lawsuit to go through because… well… it would be embarrassing, potentially damaging leading into the elections, and challenge the extra-legal authorities of the Imperialist Presidency.  Already the State Department is attempting to invoke “States Secrets” as a defense against the lawsuit.   Arguing that the judicial branch has no authority here and that the Administration can act as judge, jury, and executioner… and assertion perhaps more egregious than almost anything Obama’s predecessor pulled off.  Amy Goodman featured the story as the top headline on Monday’s show here.

The story first developed when details became available that an American citizen, Anwar Al-Awlaki, wound up on a CIA hit list for materially supporting terrorism.  This got a little play in the MM and a small snippet here by Duganz, but basically it was quickly forgotten by most Americans because we all assume he’s guilty.  I mean just look at him, those beady little eyes, his un-American clothing, and a name slow-talking Midwesterners can’t wrap their tongues around.  I’m not defending any of his actions, because well, he’s a bearded douche.  Just do a Google video search for more videos like this where he openly calls on American Muslims to participate in Jihad against their own country.  While his words hold a great deal of inconvinient and sad truth, an examination of his motives would be for another post.

No, the real story is this seemingly final stride we are taking as a nation into the abyss of police statedom, an abyss nations do not come back from.  No matter how big of a douche this man is he is still an American citizen, born in America and so entitled to all the rights that any other Amiercan citizen is afforded.  And even if his actions and words constitute treason, which they probably do, treasonous people still get trials.  But now we have the development that the administration is actively engaging in “targeted killings,” of US citizens overseas, a policy that Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, openly admitted all the way back in February.

“…he was speaking publicly about the issue to reassure Americans that intelligence agencies and the Department of Defense “follow a set of defined policy and legal procedures that are very carefully observed” in the use of lethal force against U.S. citizens.

and

“We don’t target people for free speech.”

I feel reassured… don’t you?  It’s good to know they have a process for this type of thing, so that some bearded hipster doesn’t get mistaken for an anti-American Muslim cleric.

You know he's a patriotic American by the PBR pride he's displaying

G.W., with the collusion of Democrats, already effectively killed habeas corpus with the PATRIOT Act way back in 2001 so we’ve had a full nine years to get accustomed to our rights getting violated on a regular basis.  Now they have a process so that they don’t kill the wrong American talking about the evils of American policies.  At least Bush had the decency to try and give the American people a credible cover-up scandal when his administration violated the Constitution and international law.  Now instead of Bush hiding his hubris behind a half-cocked smirk we have the Obama administration upfront stating that they just took a steamer on the Constitution and wiped with the Declaration of Independence.  I guess that is Change We Can Believe In©, instead of an administration that spits in our coffee and then mixes it in before being served we now have one that spits directly in our face as we try to order.

Former Reagan Administration Official, Paul Craig Roberts says it better than I can…

Yes, the U.S. government has murdered its citizens, but Dennis Blair’s “defined policy” is a bold new development. The government, of course, denies that it intended to kill the Branch Davidians, Randy Weaver’s wife and child, or the Black Panthers. The government says that Waco was a terrible tragedy, an unintended result brought on by the Branch Davidians themselves. The government says that Ruby Ridge was Randy Weaver’s fault for not appearing in court on a day that had been miscommunicated to him. The Black Panthers, the government says, were dangerous criminals who insisted on a shoot-out.

And again here on Russia Today.  Oh how far our press has sunk that a former Reaganite has to go on a Russian news program to openly talk about the injustices our government commits, not to mention that the irony is thick enough to choke on.

Add on top of this last weeks FBI raid against anti-war protesters with “terror links” and other preemptive raids on activists and all hope seems to just drain out of me.  Back in the good old days Democrats would at a minimum feign disgust and outrage at situations like this, at least until our short American attention spans turned our heads in a different direction.  So lets all just go back to bashing the Tea Party and fighting over where specific houses of worship can be built and pretend like this is still America.

by jhwygirl

This is just a quick follow-up to last week’s post about the City of Bozeman’s resolution in support of Montana’s same sex couples and their lawsuit against the State of Montana for its Defense of Marriage Act.

With Montana in the national news spotlight for the Montana GOP’s platform criminalizing homosexuality, this resolution highlights some of the things I touched on in that previous post – namely that to have the State of Montana defend an unconstitutional law (unconstitutional by both Montana Constitutional and U.S. Constitutional standards) is sheer lunacy.

I’ve preached many a time on the pyramid of laws that we have – the Constitution is the ultimate law of the land, and all others must comply. Shame on any legislator (or administration or attorney general) that does anything less than defend against those guiding principles.

Bozeman’s resolution is unique in that it is the first resolution directed towards state government telling them to put an end to segregating and treating same sex couples differently under government sanctioned institutions like marriage.

Montana has far more important things to address in court than to try and rehash an issue that has been resolved in our highest courts already. Not only has Montana’s Supreme Court resolved the issue, the U.S. courts have utilized Montana’s Supreme Court decision as precedent in many federal cases confirming the right to privacy.

Conservatives everywhere should be in support. Nothing speaks more loudly against the principles of small government and intrusion than a law that defines marriage.

Please take time to read the Bozeman Chronicle’s article on last Monday’s resolution proposed by Mayor Jeff Krauss.

Bozeman Mayor Jeff Krauss wants his city to set an example for other cities across Montana by being the first to pass a resolution supporting the seven same-sex couples suing the state for the same rights as married couples.

“These couples are really walking out on a limb to put their faces forward, to put their stories forward, and I think they deserve the support,” Krauss told the Chronicle.

Jeff Krauss, btw, identifies as a Republican. The Mayor’s office and City Commission posts are non-partisan.

Montana’s GOP might be nuts, with “over two-thirds” of its membership voting in support of criminalizing homosexuality – but not all of Montana’s GOP agree. We that support equality should keep this in mind, and not create an environment where the GOP members that want to come out in support of equality – that want to speak out and tell their party that they are wrong – have exactly that environment which allows them to speak in support of small government and against its intrusion into private lives.

Montanans for equality should constructively embrace the national attention being thrust upon us now and leverage it to allow the state’s GOP members that do support equality to do so without fear of repercussion. That one-third out there need the breathing room to take care of the business at hand.

By Duganz

This post could really use a picture of Seattle-based Molly Norris. I just didn’t think it ethical to post one because she is now in hiding on the advice of the FBI due to threats by stupid, misguided fools who want to kill her.

They want her dead for a joke she made at the expense of the Prophet Muhammad––also not pictured… for, um, obvious reasons.

I will however post a picture of this guy: His name is Anwar al-Awlaki, and he’s a Yemeni-American cleric who is alleged to have inspired the Fort Hood shooting, among other attacks. He’s also the one who put Norris on a “hit list.”

He’s a bastard-coated bastard with bastard filling.

Back in April Norris drew a cartoon lampooning the fact that certain (not all; let’s not generalize) Muslims become so angry at depictions of the prophet Muhammad, which Islam kind-of-but-not-really forbids. This was at the time when Comedy Central was punking out because South Park was making jokes about Muhammad depictions. So Norris drew a cartoon declaring May 20th “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.”

WARNING!!!!!! Clicking “Continue Reading” will lead you to the dreaded cartoon.

Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

On Monday at Bozeman’s City Commission meeting, Mayor Jeff Krauss put forth a resolution that formally supports equality rights for same sex couples in the State of Montana.

The resolution calls on the State of Montana and its Attorney General to support equality rights for gay and lesbian couples by supporting the couples which filed suit against the State of Montana back in July of this year for failing to offer legal protects to same sex couples as it does to other families in the state.

Bozeman’s Chronicle doesn’t put every story online – and the budget was certainly a big issue that caught the attention of the press, no doubt…but hopefully they’ll be covering this story soon.

And Bozeman’s City Commission? Good for them for seeking to speak in support of the same-sex couples of their community and the rest of the state.

Missoula City Council? Missoula Board of County Commissioners? Speak up – let Governor Schweitzer and Attorney General Steve Bullock know that they both need to speak up in support of equality rights for gay and lesbian couples in this state.

Bozeman leads on calling on Montana to do the right thing – let’s hope Missoula follows.

by JC

Via HuffPo:

In a major victory for gay rights activists, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday that a voter initiative banning same-sex marriage in California violated the Constitution’s equal protection and due process rights clauses.

After a five-month wait, 9th Circuit District Court Judge Vaughn Walker offered a 136-page decision in the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, firmly rejecting Proposition 8, which was passed by voters in November 2008.

“Although Proposition 8 fails to possess even a rational basis, the evidence presented at trial shows that gays and lesbians are the type of minority strict scrutiny was designed to protect,” Walker ruled.

“Plaintiffs do not seek recognition of a new right. To characterize plaintiffs’ objective as “the right to same-sex marriage” would suggest that plaintiffs seek something different from what opposite-sex couples across the state enjoy — namely, marriage. Rather, plaintiffs ask California to recognize their relationships for what they are: marriages.”

“Proposition 8 places the force of law behind stigmas against gays and lesbians, including: gays and lesbians do not have intimate relationships similar to heterosexual couples; gays and lesbians are not as good as heterosexuals; and gay and lesbian relationships do not deserve the full recognition of society.”

This is a huge decision folks! Finally, the road to sanity in regards to gay marriage has been paved by a judge with some intelligence. Here are a few highlights of the decision:

In deciding the case, Walker offered a variety of findings that may be as important as the ruling itself. Among them were the following:

  • “Sexual orientation is commonly discussed as a characteristic of the individual. Sexual orientation is fundamental to a person’s identity and is a distinguishing characteristic that defines gays and lesbians as a discrete group. Proponents’ assertion that sexual orientation cannot be defined is contrary to the weight of the evidence.”
  • “Individuals do not generally choose their sexual orientation. No credible evidence supports a finding that an individual may, through conscious decision, therapeutic intervention or any other method, change his or her sexual orientation.”
  • “Same-sex couples are identical to opposite-sex couples in the characteristics relevant to the ability to form successful marital unions. Like opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples have happy, satisfying relationships and form deep emotional bonds and strong commitments to their partners. Standardized measures of relationship satisfaction, relationship adjustment and love do not differ depending on whether a couple is same-sex or opposite-sex.”
  • “Marrying a person of the opposite sex is an unrealistic option for gay and lesbian individuals.”
  • “Same-sex couples receive the same tangible and intangible benefits from marriage that opposite-sex couples receive.”
  • “The availability of domestic partnership does not provide gays and lesbians with a status equivalent to marriage because the cultural meaning of marriage and its associated benefits are intentionally withheld from same-sex couples in domestic partnerships.”
  • “Permitting same-sex couples to marry will not affect the number of opposite-sex couples who marry, divorce, cohabit, have children outside of marriage or otherwise affect the stability of opposite-sex marriages.”

Perhaps the most important political finding that Walker made was his conclusion that the fact that Prop 8 passed as a voter initiative was irrelevant.

That the majority of California voters supported Proposition 8 is irrelevant, as “fundamental rights may not be submitted to [a] vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”

And let’s not forget that Montana has a Constitutional ban on gay marriage passed in 2004. That ban was challenged in court last month:

Seven gay couples in Montana filed a lawsuit against the state Thursday for its failure to provide legal protections to gay couples and their families.

In 2004 voters approved a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage or same-sex couple recognition.”

Should be a slam-dunk case, given the findings in Judge Walker’s decision!

Update: Here’s a link to Judge Walker’s Decision at Scribd.

by jhwygirl

I am beyond disgusted with this kind of stuff. If I’ve never written to the fact that the Constitution is the ultimate law of the land, I’ve written nothing.

Today I find that the MT GOP, at its most recent convention, re-affirmed its 2008 platform calling for making homosexual acts criminal.

And lest you think I’m making this up – mainly because the page link I provided has been removed today by the MT GOP – here is a cached version, courtesy of the google.

Now – these Einsteins of the MT GOP apparently have no respect for the Montana Constitution, nor the United State’s Constitution. See, both the Montana Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of the United States of America have struck down “anti-sodomy” laws.

The Montana Supreme Court did so in Gryczan v. State, 942 P.2d 112 (1997). Not only that, Gryczan and the right of privacy it has conferred has been reaffirmed over and over again by both the Montana courts and other state and federal courts repeatedly since its rendering.

The United States Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy laws in Lawrence et. al. V. Texas (02-102) 539 U.S. 558 (2003), finding a constitutional protection to sexuality. Only Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

In other words – it’s no government’s business what anyone does in their bedroom.

Where does it stop, MT GOP? What is it you want? Are there not enough problems out there facing Montanan’s? Have you no respect for the ultimate law of our land? Of our nation?

By Goddess, something is really failing us here, Montana – I am gosh darn sick and tired of politicians on both sides of the aisle proposing voting for passing and signing bills into law that violate the constitution (be it the Montana Constitution or the Constitution of the United States).

It’s beyond disrespectful that politicians think they can push the boundaries of these precious documents as if saying to The People “Go ahead and sue me – you can’t afford the fight.”

It’s pretty friggin’ simple – policies must obey rules; rules must obey laws; laws must obey the Constitution. It’s not a “sometimes” thing. It’s not something that should only followed when it’s convenient or when the “other party” is in charge

It’s all the time.




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