Archive for the ‘Crony Capitalism’ Category

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 JC

I’ve been spending far more time reading than writing lately, as writing and nursing blog posts eats up more time than I’m willing to expend. However, I think it time well spent to point folks to articles that begin to make sense of the precarious position our nation or world finds itself in.

So pull up a comfy chair on this grey and dreary spring day (thought the rain is most wonderful), pour a cup of coffee, tea or what have you and dig in.

Today’s reading comes from William R. Polk, Losing the American Republic. Here’s the end of Part 1 (Part 2 hasn’t been published yet, but I’m looking forward to it).

Lessons Needed Learning

It would be rewarding if one could say that our experience in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan has made us wiser in our approaches to Somalia, Syria, Libya and Yemen, but it is hard to substantiate that conclusion. Yet the lessons are there to be learned. There are more, but consider just these few:

  • Military action can destroy but it cannot build;
  • Counterinsurgency does not work and creates new problems;
  • Nation building is beyond the capacity of foreigners;
  • Piecemeal, uncoordinated actions often exacerbate rather than solve problems;
  • The costs of military action are multifold and usually harm not only the attacked but also the attacker’s society and economy;
  • Reliance on military action and supply of weapons to the client state encourages it to undertake actions that make peace-seeking harder rather than easier;
  • War radiates out from the battlefield so that whole societies are turned into refugees. In desperation they flee even far abroad and create unforeseen problems.
  • The sense that the attacker is a bully spreads and converts outsiders into enemies;
  • Failure to understand the society and culture even of the enemy is self-defeating;
  • Angry, resentful people eventually strike back where they can and so create a climate of perpetual insecurity.

The result of such actions is deforming to the central objective of an intelligent, conservative and constructive American foreign policy — the preservation of our well-being.

by  JC

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

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

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

The second comes from writer Jerome Corsi:

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

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

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

By JC,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by jhwygirl

Sen. Debby Barrett’s bill to repeal last session’s eminent domain debacle had it’s hearing in Senate Energy and Telecommunications yesterday. A roomful of people, with overflow out into the hall, testified overwhelmingly in support of SB180

Northwestern Energy’s attorney Mr. Fitzpatrick spent a significant amount of time – after great theatrical preparation for his opposition testimony – continuing to blur the lines between merchant lines and distribution lines.

Distribution lines being lines which actually serve public uses here in Montana. Public uses that are regulated by the PSC. Public uses that have an elected official answering for the public uses that have, at times, been reason for an eminent domain taking of private property.

2011’s eminent domain bill handed handed the power of eminent domain to private corporations for the purposes of economic development. That, my friends, is the equivalent of the famously decried Kelo v. City of New London, which held that a private property could be condemned by developers in the name of economic gain and tax revenue.

Below the fold is Sen. Debby Barrett’s proponent statement and Missoula Sen. David Wanzenried’s comments submitted to the public record for SB180.

Before I do that, though, I’m going to provide the email addresses of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee and ask you all to write these guys and tell them that keeping eminent domain power in the hands of private corporations in the name of jobs or economic gain or the guise of some sort of public beneficial review during the Large Facilities Siting Act review is wrong. Tell them eminent domain is a necessary component of government, but that the power belongs with the government and not in the hands of a private corporation. Here are the emails:
ronarthun@gmail.com, robyn@robyndriscoll.com, jessmann@mt.gov, vjack@centurytel.net, jergeson4senator@yahoo.com, ljones@mtbus.net,kaufmann@mt.net, cliff@larsenusa.com, Jason@priest2010.com, ajolson@midrivers.com, tropila@mt.net, cvvincent@hotmail.com,ewalker@edwalker2010.com

Barrett and Wanz’s testimony below…. Continue Reading »

max-amgen

“What is the best policy for Montanans and people across the country lies at the heart of every decision Chairman Baucus makes,” said Meaghan Smith, a spokeswoman for Mr. Baucus. “It’s as simple as that.”

By JC

I’m not going to dissect this story. What with all the hoopla over at Pogie’s Place, and Pete’s article below, it seems that there is a crack in the dem distortion field that protects incumbent, yet corrupt, politicians from the scrutiny they deserve.

In this case, Senator Baucus once again has been caught with his pants down, getting serviced by the health care industry — this time by Amgen and its lobbyists. It’s the usual story of revolving door crony capitalism: former Baucus Chief of Staff goes back to work in the industry, lobbies his former boss and plies him with campaign contributions, then manages to insert last minute provision benefiting company into the ram-rodded fiscal cliff bill with Sen. Amgen’s Baucus’ approval.

The story originated with investigative reporters at the NY Times, and has spread all over (half a million hits for “Baucus + Amgen” at google already) the internet, but as Mark over at PoM notes, “All corruption that has ever been reported on Montana office holders has originated out-of-state, and local media like Lee newspapers ignore it unless it gains s national traction.”

Yawn, just another day at the local Baucus corruption media newsline, relegated to a LTE submission.

In any case, if dems were really concerned about their politician’s corruption, they’d take quick notice, and begin casting a wide net for a replacement for Max (with all due respect for Ellie Hill’s distancing herself from the race). While Max’s last election victory (a 73%-27% shellacking of Bob Kelleher–one of his campaign managers called it “the easiest job I’ve ever had”) was basically a “gimmie” that the republicans ceded by not putting up a candidate, one can be assured that they smell blood on the water this time ’round.

And Baucus’ revolving door, that is emblematic of everything wrong with Congress, is certain to be his achilles heel. Acquiescence (i.e. lesser of two evil arguments) is acceptance at this point. Dems who willingly support Baucus will have to explain how they can overlook his corruption. The cognitive dissonance  MT Dems are going to experience over Max is going to be the single-most interesting part of the primaries lead-up, and the election should he make it to the generals.

I’ll leave you all with a small clip from Bill Moyers talking with a Congressman about this issue:

Continue Reading »

By JC

“President Barack Obama’s inauguration committee will accept unlimited corporate contributions to fund its January festivities, a spokeswoman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee confirmed…”

Need we pretend anymore who runs this country?

by jhwygirl

In case you missed it, supermontanareporter John S. Adams busted out in his blog this morning with a preview of tomorrow (Tuesday) night’s Frontline on PBS, titled Big Sky, Big Money.

It’s a political “BOOM” if I’ve ever seen one – pulling together a strange connection of a stolen car, a meth dealer, the Montana GOP and American Traditions Partnership, ProPublica paired up with Frontline, releasing their report this morning.

I’m still reading through it all, but all I can say right now is that I’m really disgusted. What the ProPublica/Frontline report lays out is NOT a group of one or two bad individuals, but really an institutionalized and flagrant disregard for Montana law.

For a party that attempts to Lord some sort of moral superiority over Democrats. Or liberals. Or progressives – it’s a pretty sickening case of hypocrisy. They like the salutation “Patriot”? More like “Traitor.”

What’s clear is this: The Montana GOP are running candidates that are flagrantly violating established Montana law. This isn’t some sort of Ed Butcher bloc of crazies. The ProPublica/Frontline reports on 23 Montana legislators? How many more are there that we don’t know?

These guys swear to uphold the Montana and the U.S. Constitution. Obviously, it means nothing – they’ve got their own interpretation of it, and that’s how they fly.

It’s disgraceful.

Set your DVR’s for 8:30 p.m. tomorrow. Go read What everyone’s talking about: Big Sky, Big Money” over at The Lowdown – he’s got tons of links.

By JC

by jhwygirl

Governor Brian Schweitzer had an op-ed in today’s New York Times today. I am reprinting it here in it’s entirety because (a) it’s an op-ed and (b) he’s our Governor.

Schweitzer is throwing his weight behind Stand With Montanans, a group working to ban corporate campaign spending here in Montana under Ballot Initiative 166. The national attention he can draw to this issue – transposed with Montana’s history’s role not only here in Montana, but nationally – is invaluable.

Make no mistake Montana – there are those out there here in this state (with funding from Canada and out-of-state) that are working to removal all barriers to corporate spending here in Montana. It’s a good thing that Schweitzer taking a leading role on this issue.

Mining for Influence in Montana

IN Montana’s frontier days, we learned a hard lesson about money in politics, one that’s shaped our campaign-finance laws for a century and made our political system one of the country’s most transparent.

Those laws, and our political way of life, are now being threatened by the Supreme Court — which is why I recently signed a petition for a federal constitutional amendment to ban corporate money from all elections.

Montana’s approach to campaign law began when a miner named William A. Clark came upon a massive copper vein near Butte. It was the largest deposit on earth, and overnight he became one of the wealthiest men in the world. He bought up half the state of Montana, and if he needed favors from politicians, he bought those as well.

In 1899 he decided he wanted to become a United States senator. The State Legislature appointed United States senators in those days, so Clark simply gave each corruptible state legislator $10,000 in cash, the equivalent of $250,000 today.

Clark “won” the “election,” but when the Senate learned about the bribes, it kicked him out. “I never bought a man who wasn’t for sale,” Clark complained as he headed back to Montana.

Nevertheless, this type of corruption continued until 1912, when the people of Montana approved a ballot initiative banning corporate money from campaigns (with limited exceptions). We later banned large individual donations, too. Candidates in Montana may not take more than a few hundred dollars from an individual donor per election; a state legislator can’t take more than $160. And everything must be disclosed.

These laws have nurtured a rare, pure form of democracy. There’s very little money in Montana politics. Legislators are basically volunteers: they are ranchers, teachers, carpenters and all else, who put their professions on hold to serve a 90-day session, every odd year, for $80 a day.

And since money can’t be used to gain access, public contact with politicians is expected and rarely denied. A person who wants to visit with a public official, even the governor, can pretty much just walk into the Capitol and say hello. All meetings with officials are open to the public. So are all documents — even my own handwritten notes and e-mails.

All this is in jeopardy, though, thanks to the Supreme Court and its infamous Citizens United ruling. In February the court notified the office of Montana’s commissioner of political practices, which oversees state campaigns, that until further notice, we may no longer enforce our anti-corruption statute, specifically our restriction on corporate money.

The court, which will make a formal ruling on the law soon, cited in the 2010 Citizens United case that corporations are people, too, and told us that our 110-year effort to prevent corruption in Montana had likely been unconstitutional. Who knew?

The effects of the court’s stay are already being felt here. The ink wasn’t even dry when corporate front groups started funneling lots of corporate cash into our legislative races. Many of the backers have remained anonymous by taking advantage of other loopholes in federal law.

But it’s easy to figure out who they are: every industry that wants to change the laws so that more profit can be made and more citizens can be shortchanged.

I know this because I’ve started receiving bills on my desk that have been ghostwritten by a host of industries looking to weaken state laws, including gold mining companies that want to overturn a state ban on the use of cyanide to mine gold, and developers who want to build condos right on the edge of our legendary trout streams.

In the absence of strict rules governing campaign money, these big players will eventually get what they seek. I vetoed these bills, but future governors might sign them if they have been bribed by the same type of money that is now corrupting our State Legislature.

This will mean, sadly, that the Washington model of corruption — where corporations legally bribe members of Congress by bankrolling their campaigns with so-called independent expenditures, and get whatever they need in return — will have infected Montana.

That’s why, in the event we don’t win in the court, I’m also supporting a federal constitutional amendment that would enshrine the right of a state to ban corporate money from political campaigns. I’m hoping the rest of Montana will join me — indeed, the petition will be presented to voters in November.

It’s not much, but it’s a start. If other states get into the act, maybe we can start a prairie fire that will burn all the way to Washington. In the meantime, we will see whether the court decides to blow the stink of Washington into Montana, or whether we can preserve our fresh mountain air.

by jhwygirl

I’m going to admit something here that is going to date me quite a bit, so here goes: I remember the recession of the mid-70’s. I remember gas rationing, I remember the calls to eliminate the very new EPA. I remember the Cuyahoga River out in Ohio catching on fire. I remember strong pro-American anti-foreign anything sentiment surrounding the purchase of anything. Honda owners and dealerships were objects of criticism and picket lines.

No where in there – or any of the other 4 recessions since then (which doesn’t include this current one) – do I recall America pimping itself out as much as it is now.

And no – I’m not talking about the Keystone Pipeline or the MSTI line…or Otter Creek coal and the railroad that’s taking the stuff to China.

I’m talking about the idea of speed-tracking citizenship to rich foreigners in exchange for investment here in America.

The program is known as EB-5, or Greencard Through Investment program.

For one million buckaroos and the creation of 10 “permanent” full-time jobs, U.S. citizenship can be yours.

Half a million if you pull it off in a “high unemployment or rural area.”

I don’t begrudge anyone citizenship here in the United States. Our country was founded by immigrants – and more importantly, it was built by immigrants. All but war criminals (we’ve got our own) are welcome in my mind.

It is, though, patently unfair to grant U.S. citizenship to the richest of the poorest and worse of nations. The Missoulian story I link to above cites Missoula developers Ed Wetherbee and Kevin Mytty’s quest for a Chinese investor.

A Chinese investor that likely paid barely living wages to people who (between work and commute) pull 15 hour days in order to make that million. A Chinese investor who likely paid off government party officials in exchange for stolen public lands that resulting in the displacing of whole communities or any other number of beneficial arrangements. The Chinese economic system is not only notoriously corrupt, it’s a shell-game of fake investment.

Of course, that sort of corruption is just par the course for someone seeking U.S. citizenship, isn’t it?

I don’t like it. It isn’t fair. It’s ripe with the stench of corruption. U.S. citizenship should not be beholden to the highest bidder, on the easiest speediest path.

Leaving the poorest behind or at a disadvantage in what the U.S. should consider the most valued is not the right thing to be doing.

by jhwygirl

It’s more than a bit shocking – regardless of your political persuasion, I’d like to think – when a state senator and a congressional primary candidate champions the short-term economic boom to the shops in downtown Billings that occurred when Exxon spilled crude from its pipeline into the Yellowstone River this past July.

That’s the kind of thing you’d expect our current Representative Denny Rehberg might say, given his love for oil & gas industry money – Representative Rehberg ranks 14th in receipts of oil & gas industry money of all recipients there in Washington.

Instead, it was state senator Kim Gillan (D-Billings) who made the remark at a forum for several of the candidates held by The Policy Institute this past weekend. I have tremendous respect for The Policy Institute. They’ve provided excellent policy testimony – especially on budget issues – to legislative committees. Frankly, it’s a bit surprising that Gillan would say such a thing given the audience.

During a Q&A moderated by former Representative Pat Williams, candidates were asked about the Keystone XL pipeline by TransCanada – whether they thought the pipeline was good or bad (or both) for the economy. Gillan was up first with her answer – and I wish I had some video or audio, but alas, audio and video were not permitted – and she said that “there are people in Billings that think the oil spill was a good thing, that it was good for business. They are looking at their watches and asking can we do this again next year?”

The room fell quite with shock. First murmurs…then low boos. What. Was. She. Thinking?

One also has to wonder the company she keeps. Where – even if she was attempting a joke – something like that were considered funny.

Somewhere along the line I read that Montana has the most EPA cleanup sites. The Milltown Dam to Anaconda cleanup is the largest cleanup site of all. Helena (her district) has a big old cleanup site they’re trying to figure out what to do with right now, doesn’t it?

I’m guessing Gillan thinks all that is good economic development too.

Her remarks have been bugging me since I heard about them – I’ve often pondered if there wasn’t a certain attitude in the legislature with regards to mining/oil/gas development that was a lot of “let it roll” combined with “it’ll be a big cleanup site in the future.” Her remarks lead me to believe that I just may not be completely cynical…that there’s actually some truth to what should be pure fiction.

Gillan ranks first in the Democratic field for pulling in cash ($124,145 this last Q), followed by Franke Wilmer ($107,117) and Dave Strohmaier ($49,078). By comparison, Republican Steve Daine’s collected $546,327.

Yeah. Over a half a million buckaroos, Montana.

~~~~~~~

Gillan’s out for me with this kind of news. At least this cleared up any lingering doubts I had about being open to persuasion.

Dave Strohmaier, for his part, has done quite well, picking up a number of endorsements. Strohmaier’s also been hard working and well received around the state. At this weekend forum he got glowing reviews. His answer to the Keystone XL question called for more thorough economic and environmental studies – and he questioned the moving target on the number of long-term jobs it would create.

Franke Wilmer is a strong candidate, having served 3 legislative sessions in the House, representing moderate Bozeman. She’s a scrapper, too – just read her biography).

On Keystone XL, Wilmer pointed out that if “you take the jobs out of the pipeline, no one likes the pipeline.” She went on to point out this is the reason we need to strengthen our unions. “If we had a stronger unions to negotiate for clean jobs,” said Wilmer, “this wouldn’t even be an issue.”

Thank Goddess these two got it right.

by jhwygirl

The artist who did the original Hope poster for Obama – LA artist Shepard Fairey – has just designed his second #occupywallstreet poster.

Quite the message.

By JC
(This is but the opinion of one Occupier in Solidarity, and not the consensus of OccupyMissoula) 

Many people do not understand what the Occupy movement is all about, and preconceptions and prejudices abound. I have spent most of the last two weeks working to understand this movement and help organize OccupyMissoula. I’m not sure why I stuck my neck out, and devoted all my time, but it has changed the way I look at politics, movements, and my community.

In the words of an elderly gentleman I have known and respected for the 25 years I have lived in Missoula, “this is the most important movement I have seen since the the Great Depression.”

Similarly, last night I had the honor to meet 4 young high school students who had decided to put on suits and come down to the County Court House and OccupyMissoula to “check things out.” We had a great conversation and I felt inspired that our youth feel the same concerns that our more experienced community members do, and felt compelled to participate, and to write about their experience (one of them was a writer for their high school’s newspaper).

It took an article in no less than Fox News, tweeted across the internet in a “Holy Shit” moment to put it all into perspective for me: “The key isn’t what protesters are for but rather what they’re against.” Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

This is rich, all things considered. Here in Montana we’ve got two Canadian companies working on condemnation of private property (via the gift of Governor Schweitzer and this past legislative session’s HB198) for their Canadian-incorporated tar sands pipeline and the MATL transmission lines.

And in New York City there’s Canadian company Brookfield Properties, incorporated under the laws of Canada prepping to evict peaceful political protesters from the open and publicly used Zuccatti Park in Wall Street.

I’ve pondered Montana’s colonialism often here – this one’s a favorite – and even most recently, I’ve noted how the Keystone pipeline for Exxon’s tar sands seems to parallel that same move towards our own national colonialism.

And now we have a Canadian company on Wall Street evicting political protesters? With the blessing and assistance of the NYPD?

America has gone 360…from colonizing to being the colony.

 
When the history is finally written, though, it’s likely all of this tumult – beginning with the Arab Spring – will be remembered as the opening salvo in a wave of negotiations over the dissolution of the American Empire. — Dave Graeber in The Guardian

By JC

One has to look overseas to get some perspective on the movement that is growing in Liberty Plaza just a few blocks away from Wall Street and the World Trade Center. Mainstream American media has turned a jaundiced eye away from the true happenings in NY City. Instead, we will get a few sound bites and scenes of arrests, as the media always looks to the confrontation, instead of the substance of any protest movements on the left. Some of the media will attack them for who they are, posing them as juveniles in nothing more than an extension of their culture wars.

#OccupyWallSt and its rapidly expanding national movement Occupy Together, with occupations in over 52 locations across the country, are truly an organic grassroots organization. They are not faux grassroots pretenders like the Koch brothers’ funded rebranding of the activist right wing GOP and conservative movement as tea partiers. There is little doubt remaining that the tea party only serves as cover for corporatist America and a distraction for the media, so they can ignore the real revolution that is growing in America.

The UK’s Guardian News and Al Jazeera have done vastly better jobs covering the emerging movement as it grows from the ideas of a few organizations like Adbusters, Anonymous and the U.S. Day of Rage.

The following quote from an article in The Guardian clearly examines the birth of the #OccupyWallSt movement as a generational movement built out of other similar movements of the last 40 years. So we undoubtedly will get a bunch of pejorative statements about how they protesters are all young, or unemployed, or college kids, or lgbt, or dress funny, or homeless… And that is exactly why they are protesting. Because our society no longer takes their concerns or needs seriously

Why are people occupying Wall Street? …

There are obvious reasons. We are watching the beginnings of the defiant self-assertion of a new generation of Americans, a generation who are looking forward to finishing their education with no jobs, no future, but still saddled with enormous and unforgivable debt. Most, I found, were of working-class or otherwise modest backgrounds, kids who did exactly what they were told they should: studied, got into college, and are now not just being punished for it, but humiliated – faced with a life of being treated as deadbeats, moral reprobates.

This movement springs directly out of the anti-globalisation, global justice, and anti-transnational/WTO corporate rallies and protests of the last few decades. Take a look at the protests and accompanying police brutality, and it all begins to look familiar.

The response from the police, and lack of interest from mainstream corporate media and the corporations they are protecting will only serve to amplify the call out to people to join this movement.

When the history is finally written, though, it’s likely all of this tumult – beginning with the Arab Spring – will be remembered as the opening salvo in a wave of negotiations over the dissolution of the American Empire. Thirty years of relentless prioritising of propaganda over substance, and snuffing out anything that might look like a political basis for opposition, might make the prospects for the young protesters look bleak; and it’s clear that the rich are determined to seize as large a share of the spoils as remain, tossing a whole generation of young people to the wolves in order to do so. But history is not on their side.

We might do well to consider the collapse of the European colonial empires. It certainly did not lead to the rich successfully grabbing all the cookies, but to the creation of the modern welfare state. We don’t know precisely what will come out of this round. But if the occupiers finally manage to break the 30-year stranglehold that has been placed on the human imagination, as in those first weeks after September 2008, everything will once again be on the table – and the occupiers of Wall Street and other cities around the US will have done us the greatest favour anyone possibly can.

Is there any question as to why a whole generation is coalescing together to rise up against an establishment that seeks to disempower and repress them? “Grown-ups” will dismiss all of this as idealist leftist propaganda and poo-poo it, and attempt to ridicule and cast it aside. Remember the “don’t trust anyone over 30” mantra of the 60’s protest movement? Payback is a mo-fo. But this movement will not wither in the night, nor will hundreds or thousands of arrests deter it. The only thing that will assuage this movement will be when their voices are heard, and America changes.

Yes, Wall Street is our street. And that point will be hammered home until its ivory tower denizens and police protecters are brought back down to earth.

Feel free to post your favorite article or resource about #OccupyWallSt. We’ll keep posts like this going for the duration of the occupation, so that we can keep abreast of what is going on.

by jhwygirl

Americans for Prosperity got some national attention on their “Drill Baby Drill” tour, but not exactly the kind that they probably wanted.

MSNBC has Billings NBC station KULR’s reportwith video – of Koch Industries-funded “Running on Empty” tour as it made its stop in Billings Montana championing maintaining tax subsidies and eliminating regulatory controls on big oil.

In watching the video what I wonder is how friggin’ selfish do you have to be to be protesting the price of a gallon of gasoline when the very places you are talking your tours to have homeless families and bankrupt food banks?

How ridiculous that that spectacle of a tour look in an economy like this? Really? The price of gasoline?

They found out. 50 supporters of big oil were overtaken by “hundreds” of anti-Koch Industries/Americans for Prosperity “Running on Empty” protesters.

I’m sure they think that’s unfair. No one stopped them from meeting, just as no one stopped those protesters. Simple numbers….but we all know how poorly the Tea Party is with numbers, don’t we?

American’s for Prosperity “Running on Empty” stops here in Missoula tomorrow – noon – at Bonner Park. Hopefully you are aware that Alice and her friend the Mad Hatter will be there – along with a band of friends. I hear it will be quite the show.

UPDATE: Apparently they got even less of a welcome in Helena today.

Honestly, I won’t be surprised if they just drive on by. Scott Sales and his buddies paid for by Koch Industries don’t have the guts to stand in here in Missoula after the welcome they received east of the divide.

Hilarious.

by jhwygirl

Well, since yesterday’s post on Koch Industries-funded Americans for Prosperity’s “Running on Empty” Tour coming to Missoula without a location, they’ve since announced they’ll be at Bonner Park.

I’m sure we can thank AFP’s Montana state director Scott Sales for finally getting that critical piece of information up for this very popular Tea Party event.

I don’t know what, precisely, the Missoula Area Central Labor Council, the Montana Organizing Project and others are planning, but I got an email yesterday saying they were “sponsoring a strongly humorous response to this tour that is “Running on Empty.” We will present an updated version of Lewis Carroll’s classic “Mad Tea Party” from Alice in Wonderland. And we will have other humorous activities. Please come ready to laugh AFP out of town!”

Hmmmmmmm….

So Friday folks, while Koch & Co. are serving up their Tea Party with the sole purpose of eliminating and and all impediments to domestic oil – while keeping those tax subsidies intact for Exxon and BP and…well… Koch Industries, there will be a group of Missoulians serving up their own Tea Party.

Don’t miss the show at Bonner Park – Friday, noon.

Let’s give American’s for Prosperity a better welcome than what they got when they kicked off their tour in Jacksonville. Seems like could use some company. Show ’em some Montana hospitality!

And don’t forget to wear your Mad Hat.

by jhwygirl

Koch Industries-funded Americans For Prosperity’s Running on Empty Tour is coming to town, and they’re clearly afraid of Missoula.

They’re so afraid of the liberals here in this little ol’ university town of Missoula Montana that they’ve removed Karl Tyler Chevrolet from its event’s calendar for the tour, replacing it with “TBD”.

Missoula is the only stop in Montana with a location yet to be determined.

The Running on Empty Tour stops here Friday at noon.

Supermontanareporter John S. Adams had a piece in Sunday’s Great Falls Tribune that provides some background on Americans For Prosperity and the main thrust of its Running on Empty Tour:

Kyla Wiens, an energy advocate for the Montana Environmental Information Center, said the driving force behind AFP is one of the nation’s wealthiest energy companies working to preserve its profits.

AFP was founded in 2004 by billionaire Charles Koch, of Koch Industries. Forbes magazine listed Koch Industries No. 2 on its list of America’s largest companies in 2009 with revenues toping $100 billion. The company made its fortune in diversified companies involved in oil refining, minerals, commodities trading, and others.

According to the New York Times, AFP’s budget surged from $7 million in 2007 to $40 million in 2010, an election year.

Wiens says AFP’s claim — that “illegal” offshore drilling moratoriums, the canceling of oil and gas leases on public lands and the Endangered Species Act are driving up gas prices — is false.

“They are just wrong and they are lying intentionally,” Wiens says. “This is just false rhetoric from the Koch brothers’ group that is funded by industry and is working to protect big oil’s profits.”

For the local connection, it’s good to find out that Scott Sales (a long-time favorite ’round these parts) is president of the Montana chapter of Americans For Prosperity Foundation. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise – Scott Sales has long been a corporate apologist who defended tax cheats while a state legislator.

What’s really surprising is that Scott Sales is apparently one of the last people on earth who will still champion the free market.

Yep – that’s right. Supermontanareporter John. S. Adams grabs a quote from Scott Sales championing the free market for the oil industry:

Sales says the free market, not government regulation, will bring energy prices down.

“That’s the beauty of the free market. If there’s a lot of something, it means you’re going to have fewer dollars chasing more product. Conversely, if you have supply restrictions, you have more dollars chasing fewer commodities,” Sales says.

Hilarious. Free market is impeded by regulation. Not subsidy.

Scott Sales, still the idiot we always knew he was.

~~~~~~~
I’m hearing rumours of a counter-protests for Koch & Co. when they hit Missoula.

I guess that’s if they hit Missoula, given that Americans For Prosperity and Scott Sales seem pretty scared to even let Missoula and Montana know where it is they’re going to be stopping.

And you know what, if I had to guess, maybe they’ll be stopping to refuel here at a Holiday Station. Why? Because Holiday Station gets its fuel from the Canadian Tar Sands, and it’s refined in Canada by Flint Hill Resources.

Who owns Flint Hill Resources?

Flint Hill Resources is wholly owned by Koch Industries.

When I get info on the Missoula welcoming party for Koch/Americans For Prosperity/Scott Sales Tour, I’ll let ya’all know.

(a hat tip to @KirsteninMT for the Holiday Station info – big THANKS to her for that!)

by jhwygirl

First a brief recap: Boehner submitted a budget proposal after he walked away – very publicly – Monday night after President Obama’s speech. His said his bill would save $1.2 trillion, but yesterday, CBO came back with it scored as saving only about $850 billion. So Boehner – who had scheduled the thing for a floor vote Wednesday night – had to pull it due to the disappointing results.

Dems, for their part, had submitted a plan that they said would save “almost $3 trillion.” CBO scored it and – just like the Republican plan – it came back shy of its touted amount: only $2.2 trillion.

For all the tough-talking Boehner and Cantor and Paul have done on the budget, and for the dismissive review they’ve given of anything coming from the other side of the aisle, I’da thought those Einstein’s would have been a little closer. I mean – they didn’t even hit the the $1 trillion point.

Beyond that, Boehner’s bill relied largely on caps on discretionary spending and the interests savings that would have resulted. Boehner tells the nation Monday night that he’ll save the budget crisis – that government is too big – and by Wednesday he’s handed over some sophmoric bill that doesn’t (a) meet the numbers he put out and (b) – more importantly so given all his caucus’ tough talk – doesn’t do any shrinking of government. Doesn’t offer any real reform. Liar. Hypocrite.

But getting back to the topic at hand…

The GOP had a little coaching session last night due to the disappointing review the CBO gave to Boehner’s budget bill. The highlight of the session was a clip from the movie The Town when one thug (played by Ben Affleck) says to another “we’re gonna hurt some people,” and then they proceed to bludgeon two men and then shoot one. In hockey masks.

This link will take you to the full clip – it can not be embedded.

After viewing the clip, Florida Republican and outspoken freshman Rep. Allen West, R-Fla. stood up and said, “I’m ready to drive the car,” surprising even many Republicans.

Ben Affleck was asked what he though – here it is, directly from Huffington Post:

(I)n a statement his spokesperson provided to The Huffington Post, he suggested that Republicans use a different one of his movies next time they need to whip votes.

“I don’t know if this is a compliment or the ultimate repudiation,” said the actor, who is currently in Turkey directing and starring in “Argo,” an adaptation of the Tehran hostage crisis. “But if they’re going to be watching movies, I think “The Company Men” is more appropriate.”

That latter Affleck flick focuses on the plight of middle age men who have been laid off during the recession. (One of them, depressed about being unemployed, later kills himself.)

I wrote yesterday about corporate America thumbing their nose at us unwashed masses?

Last night, the GOP did the exact same thing. Then they beat the crap out of us with baseball bats.

And cheered.

by jhwygil

Call it crisis profiteering, call it disaster capitalism – but airlines companies are doing what private corporations do: They maximize profits.

I’ve long made the argument many times in many scenarios that raising taxes or fees does not mean that those costs will be passed on to consumers.

I’ve said that in regards to housing costs, especially. Propose to raise building fees and every realtor and contractor in the city is down in city hall saying that if fees are increase, affordable housing will be no more. Propose to adopt the International Building Code in the legislature and there’s a whole bucket-load of legislators willing to decry the move as something that will make housing unaffordable.

I don’t know that I’ve ever heard any elected official dispute this unfounded complaint. They’ll regurgitate that just like cattle and their cud – some reiterating the claim, others accepting it while lamenting that it (the raise in fees, the new regulation) has to be done.

Say it often enough, and it’s true. Right?

Well, here’s an example of the the basic fact of capitalism: The cost of the product is what the market will bear.

Witness this past week – the GOP-controlled U.S. House of Representatives has refused to extend operating authority for the FAA. What that means is that 4,000 FAA employees have been furloughed without pay. Traffic controllers are, of course, still on the job.

For now. And just to point out the politics of this situation – is there any doubt that we will have an FAA? Air traffic controllers?

In addition to those 4,000 FAA employees that have been laid off, more than 90,000 airport construction and expansion projects have been shut-down. These are projects in process. These aren’t federal jobs, per se – but they are 90,000 construction jobs that then impact the construction supply industry and then the local grocery store and the gas stations and the mall*marts and on and on.

ALSO part of the FAA shut-down is their inability to collect the taxes that are placed on train and plane tickets.

So what did the airline industry do? They raised their ticket prices equal to the taxes on the tickets.

Capitalism is a lovely thing, isn’t it? The market supported that price for a ticket – it had no connection to actual cost of the product. Eliminate a tax and the price stayed the same. In fact, I bet each CEO called each other up and they all agreed it made sense.

And taxes are pretty significant on a plane ticket. An average of $61 per.

Somewhere the RICO Act weeps.

This poor website’s story was relevant for about 2 seconds.

MOST corporations operating in the U.S. pay no taxes.

The U.S. bailed out banks that not only made record profits – they paid little to no taxes. Take Bank of America, for example – BOA received a $1.9 billion refund.

So here we are in a budget debacle. The GOP and Rep. John Ineffective Boehner refuse to eliminate corporate tax breaks while their lobbyists lobby on their corporate employer’s behalf to ensure that is exactly what occurs – and corporations fly in the face of the whole so-called deficit disaster up there in Washington and raise the price of the airline tickets equal to the taxes that would have been collected.

It’s a “screw” to America, people. Hear them laughing?

Let’s not forget that the GOP is never without it’s ideology: Know why the House GOP is holding up extending FAA operational authority – something that has been done 20 times since 2007? Republicans want to toll back a new union elections rule that was adopted by the National Mediation Board last year.

Ideology first. Talking points second. Policy non-existent. Thank you Tea Party, I expect nothing less.

by jhwygirl

It isn’t like I didn’t know this was coming, but I was sickened by the front page headline on the Great Falls Tribune this morning:

33 landowners face condemnations

I won’t rehash the sordid mess, but I will say that with adequate media coverage of this matter, the effect it would have on the next legislature would be deafening. Guaranteed.

If it’s one thing that will wake up Montanans it’s when private property is condemned. Find out it is for a private company for private profit? That won’t be good either.

Find out it’s not even an American company? Probably even worse. Realize that the only people getting jobs are the attorneys and their paralegals?

Ummm. Yeah.

Tonbridge was granted direct eminent domain authority over private property here in Montana. The legislature got lazy and the Governor, quite frankly, demanded it. Now private citizens will have to hire lawyers and face down private companies with little protection, other than the judge, to ensure that personal and property rights that are guaranteed in our constitution are protected and equitably compensated when true public benefit can be demonstrated.

Given our history here in this state?

Most obscene is the fact that Tonbridge spent enough money in cigars and steaks and 75 year old scotch that they had a special clause inserted into the bill guaranteeing it would apply to them (other state law does not allow them to apply retroactively.)

Corporate porn.

By CFS

Two days ago I posted something that people found offensive, vulgar, and homophobic. To anyone I may have inadvertently offended with my words i am truly sorry. I honestly didn’t realize it would be taken in that manner.

I didn’t stop to think, and filter out what might be offensive. I shot from the hip while my temper was up. Thank to those that informed me of my errors, I have learned a valuable lesson that I could only learn through making such a mistake.

by jhwygirl

Montana’s Public Service Commission voted 3-2 to keep hidden pricing information on two wind energy projects that Northwestern Energy (NWE) is considering to purchase.

The vote was a Republican/Democrat split with Bill Gallagher, Travis Kavulla and Northwestenergy tool Brad Molnar voting to keep the information from the public and Democratic commissioners Gail Gutsche of Missoula and John Vincent of Gallatin Gateway voting against the request.

NWE, located in South Dakota, is the largest utility provider in Montana. They’ve decided to buy a proposed 40-megawatt wind farm near Geyser that is being developed by Compass Wind of Denver. They had considered two other developer’s (Invenergy and Sagebrush Energy) projects.

So the PSC is going to review NWE’s purchase of Compass Wind’s project by comparing it to project information submitted by the losing developers on their losing projects? And it isn’t consumer’s right to know the costs of those projects that were in consideration.

That’s a big “Screw You” to Montanans from an agency who’s pure mission is to protect consumer interests when it comes to public utility services.

Gail Gutsche and John Vincent? Thanks.

I’ll remind everyone here that Gail Gutsche will be running for re-election in 2012 (I hope). Let’s keep her around, OK?

This is a guest post from Larry Winslow of the Northern Plains Resource Council – It outlays some of the issues of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, all brought to the forefront because of Exxon’s crime of negligence on the Yellowstone River. I’m extremely grateful for his information – jhwygirl

The rupture and release of 42,000 gallons of crude oil from an Exxon pipeline beneath the Yellowstone River brings home to Montanans the need for improved oversight and careful planning of the Keystone XL pipeline. The Keystone XL pipeline is proposed to carry corrosive tar sands oil across 250 miles of Montana en route from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. Its route will include 400 water crossings in Montana, including the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers.

The difference between the two pipelines is huge, with the Keystone XL pipeline projected to carry 22.5 times as much oil per day as the Exxon pipeline. The 12-inch Silvertip Exxon pipeline that ruptured July 1 carried 40,000 barrels of Wyoming crude a day to the Exxon refinery east of Billings. TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline will be 36 inches in diameter and carry up to 900,000 pressurized barrels of corrosive tar sands oil a day.

More than 200 miles downriver from the Exxon spill, Buffalo Rapids Irrigation District in Glendive shut down its pumps Saturday morning as a precaution. It had yet to turn them back on Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m concerned about oil getting into our irrigation system. This concerns me and my neighbors,” said James Whitmer, board member of the Buffalo Rapids Irrigation District said.

TransCanada’s Keystone I pipeline in eastern North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska began transporting Alberta tar sands oil a year ago and is already responsible for 12 oil spills, despite TransCanada’s reassurances that a spill-incident of 50 barrels or more would only occur once every seven years.

“This really scares me,” said Doris Frost of Miles City, a member of the Northern Plains Pipeline Landowners Group who irrigates from the Yellowstone River where the Keystone XL pipeline is planned to cross. “We are talking about a pipeline that carries more than 20 times the oil that the Exxon pipeline carries, and it’s far more corrosive material. The State Department, Montana DEQ, and everyone else involved in the permitting process needs to take a hard look at what is being proposed.”

A report released in February by the National Resources Defense Council and other groups showed that pipelines carrying diluted tar sands (bitumen) have a higher rate of corrosion failure. Diluted bitumen is the heavy tar sands oil extracted, mixed with natural gas condensates.

“The oil industry is always saying that the chances of a leak are nil to zero, and responses in the case of a leak would be quick and thorough,” said Carl Weimer of the Pipeline Safety Trust. “However, that wasn’t the case with the Gulf oil spill, the Enbridge pipeline spill in Michigan, the Chevron pipeline spill in Salt Lake City, and the dozen spills on TransCanada’s Keystone I pipeline.”

The U.S. State Department, which has authority to grant a presidential permit approving Keystone XL’s construction, had its initial Environmental Impact Statement rejected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as “inadequate” because significant environmental impacts had not been sufficiently evaluated. The State Department is now preparing a second EIS. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has yet to issue its permit as well. Members of the Northern Plains Pipeline Landowners Group have requested that DEQ attach specific conditions to any permit to improve the safety of the pipeline.

In Congress, a House subcommittee passed fast-track legislation in mid-June that would order Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to reach a decision on the project by November 1. The bill now has to be voted on by the entire House. The bill would compel Clinton to over-rule demands for a further review of the project from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and disregard local safety concerns from landowners along the Keystone XL pipeline’s 1,700-mile route.

by jhwygir

For up-to-the-moment news from an affected landowner, please read Alexis Bonogofsky’s twitter timeline.

Of greatest interest today, she reports that Exxon did not send out their specialized crews today.

Nice, huh?

While MSNBC reports that Exxon officials are now saying the spill could extend beyond the 10 miles they’ve originally reported.

You don’t say? And I’m loving those qualifiers (could? Really? We’re in flood!)

Please take notice of the wildlife photos on that MSNBC story.

On that note, Ms. Bonogofsky, ranch owner of Blue Creek Farms has also reported on the immediate loss of wildlife from her Yellowstone River ranch.

I cry for her loss. It is heartbreaking to hear of this devastation. I wish there was something I could do.

Watch Mike Scott, who is co-owner with Alexis of Blue Creek farms, question Exxon in this KTVQ-NBC Billings report and video.

And again – on that note – ranch owners Alexis and Mike were kicked out of the press conference and public officials did nothing to stop this banishment.

The agriculture industry is being ruined down there along the Yellowstone and public officials are allowing Exxon to clean up their image by keeping affected landowners out of press conferences? Shame to any and all who escorted Alexis and Mike out of that press conference.

by jhwygirl

The story develops – this from the Seattle Post Intelligencer:

Pruessing (Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. president) also said that the 12-inch pipeline had been temporarily shut down in May because of concerns over the rising waters on the Yellowstone. He said the company decided to restart the line after examining its safety record and deciding the risk was low.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, which oversees pipelines, last year issued a warning letter to Exxon Mobil that cited seven safety violations along the ruptured Silvertip pipeline. Two of the warnings faulted the company for its emergency response and pipeline corrosion training.

And this…

The 20-year-old pipeline was last inspected in 2009 using a robotic device that travels through the line looking for corrosion, dents or other problems, Pruessing said. Tests to determine the pipeline’s depth were taken in December, and at the time, the line appeared to be 5 to 8 feet below the riverbed, he said.

So Exxon inspected the line and provided the report. These are guys with a history of safety violations – yes, here in Montana too.

Please notice the language “the line appeared to be 5 to 8 feet below the riverbed”. Did they inspect it or not? How could you be off by 5 to 8 feet? Or was that a guess?

Why the government hasn’t learned its lesson over self-regulation is beyond me. At minimum, the permitting process should included ongoing fees for inspections, and the government should be hiring 3rd party contractors to do these inspections.




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