by William Skink
It was requested of me to cut some slack. Instead, I’ll write another post to address a question brought up in yesterday’s attempt to add a little context to the Daines as Dangerous as the Ayatollahs post at ID. Here are the question:
But are you saying that Iran should have nukes, liz, as a deterrent, and that Libya wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in today if it had them? Maybe everyone should have nukes, then.
I’m not going to answer directly. There are consequences to how the US wielded NATO to decapitate the Libyan state, consequences this blog (sans Pete) brought up repeatedly. One of those consequences was the message it sent to Iran regarding the wisdom of abandoning its nuclear program. But don’t take it from me, take it from this Harvard guy who has a “Dr.” in front of his name. Writing for the Belfer Center, Dr. Eugene Kogan describes how coercive diplomacy in Syria could rehab the damage done by NATO’s destruction of Libya. On Syria Kogan has this to say:
As the world watches whether Iran will give up its nuclear work, Tehran is watching what will happen to Bashar al-Assad once all of his chemical weapons are destroyed. While seemingly unrelated, the nuclear negotiations with Iran and the (halting) disarmament of Syria share a strategic connection. At stake is the efficacy of coercive diplomacy—the use of threats to persuade another actor to change its behavior.
Coercion is an important tool of statecraft because it allows a state to achieve its objectives “on the cheap”—without resorting to war. The possibility that the United States might employ military force no doubt contributed to Bashar al-Assad’s decision to give up his chemical arsenal.
Nobel Prize winner Thomas Schelling wrote almost 50 years ago that coercion works if punishment for miscreants is contingent on their behavior. The threat “one more step and I shoot,” Schelling wrote, would only be effective if one added, “And if you stop I won’t.” Reassurance inherent in this statement is critical for coercion to work. The speaker threatens devastating consequences for noncompliance, yet promises to lift the threat if the target does as he is told. “To be coercive, violence has to be anticipated,” Schelling explained, “And it has to be avoidable by accommodation.”
So how does Libya damage coercive diplomacy, and why does it matter for Iran. Kogan continues:
In negotiations over weapons of mass destruction, quid pro quos are particularly important. No rational actor can be expected to give up a deterrent capability if there is a possibility that in doing so he would be increasing the possibility of becoming a target for regime change. Yet, this fundamental idea was seriously damaged by the Libyan example. In 2003 Muammar Qaddafi gave up his nuclear weapons program and for several years basked in international limelight, including by giving lengthy diatribes at the United Nations. Yet, in 2011, a NATO military coalition enabled the domestic rebellion to overthrow (and eventually kill) the Libyan dictator.
This created a damaging perception: if you give up weapons of mass destruction, the United States just might decide to violate its promises and overthrow you. Those who make this argument point to Iraq (no nuclear deterrent—Saddam overthrown) and North Korea (a nuclear deterrent—Kim Jong Un succeeded his father Kim Jong Il with no end in sight for the Kim dynasty). Both countries have engaged in horrific human rights abuses; the only factor that accounts for their wildly different fates was that one of them had nuclear weapons to keep the superpower at bay, and the other did not.
Given the fate of countries that can’t deter America’s truly dangerous foreign policy, Iran has good reason to be weary. The evidence exists in the smoldering remnants of Libya and the re-ignition of the Cold War with Russia. Speaking about the latter, here’s someone who knows what it’s like to be lied to—Gorbachev:
With both sides flaunting their respective nuclear arsenal, Gorbachev told German magazine Der Spiegel the world “will not survive the next few years” if either side lost its nerve in the current stand-off. “Moscow does not believe the West, and the West does not believe Moscow. The loss of confidence is catastrophic.”
Although critical of his successor, the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner nonetheless believed Mr Putin was just reacting based on NATO’s flamboyant aspirations to expand, fuelled by the United States’ “dangerous winning mentality.” He said US-led NATO’s eastward expansion has destroyed the very essence of the European security order which was written in the Helsinki Final Act of 1975. The bloc’s expansion, he claimed, was a 180-degree turn away from the Paris Charter of 1990. He said the latter was made together with all European states to finally leave the Cold War in the past.
“We won’t survive the coming years if someone loses their nerve in this overheated situation,” Gorbachev said. “This is not something I’m saying thoughtlessly. I am extremely concerned.”
Focusing on the borderline treasonous behavior of 47 Republicans may make Democrats sleep better at night, but when it comes to the threat of nuclear weapons being used, I think we need to be more worried about the only nation in the world that has actually used them. And we should also be worried about Israel, a country that refuses to sign the non-proliferation treaty (Dec 3, 2014):
The United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday criticized Israel for failing to join the international non-proliferation treaty and urged it to renounce its arsenal of nuclear weapons. The U.N. also approved a resolution, introduced by Egypt and backed by all Arab nations, calling on Israel to place its nuclear facilities under international oversight, according to media reports.
The U.N. General Assembly reportedly said that Israel, which has so far refused to officially admit to having nuclear weapons, is the only country in the Middle East that has not ratified the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and urged it to “accede to that treaty without further delay … not to develop, produce test or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons, to renounce possession of nuclear weapons.”
Going back to the Kogan piece, he concludes with this:
“Perceptions are reality in international politics,” Mike Mansfield, former U.S. ambassador to Japan, once wrote. The U.S. would be well-advised to pay attention to the perceptions its actions create. Iran is carefully watching whether Assad without chemical weapons will suffer the same fate as did the dictators in a non-nuclear Iraq and a denuclearized Libya.
by William Skink
There are some interesting underlying assumptions to unpack in Pete Talbot’s latest contribution to Intelligent Discontent, starting with the title: Daines, Republicans as Dangerous as the Ayatollahs. The post takes on the open letter to Iran 47 Republicans disgraced themselves by signing, a move so stupidly partisan even some Republicans admitted it was a dumb idea.
The first assumption is, obviously, that Iran is dangerous. The deal being developed includes a 10 year time-out on enrichment. There is already plenty of IAEA inspections happening, something a certain nation in the Middle East armed with a few hundred nukes can’t say. But it’s Iran that’s dangerous, despite cooler perspectives pointing out that there is scant evidence that Iran’s leadership is dangerously irrational and/or suicidal.
What people in this country have an especially difficult time understanding is that there is a very logical argument for Iran to achieve weaponized nuclear capacity, and that is the deterrent argument. Nations that give up chasing that deterrent, like Libya, get decapitated and thrown into chaos, thanks to all those gosh darn optimistic humanitarian interventionists suckered by monsters like Hillary.
Pete’s post is a reaction to an interview with Steve Daines on some lesser propaganda platform than Fox News. Daines signed the letter, and is therefore the predictably awful politician we know him to be. Not surprisingly, when the topic shifted to Venezuela, equally stupid ideas were discussed, including a dumb quote from Dick Morris:
Morris said that Venezuela leads an anti-U.S. coalition of countries in South America and the Caribbean, and that the administration could neutralize Venezuela by declaring an oil embargo on the country: “That would stop their oil sales and kill their economy in a matter of weeks.”
Good idea. After doing untold damage to the Middle East, let’s alienate all our neighbors to the south.
That is how the post ends. What is completely omitted is the executive action Obama took JUST THIS WEEK. I guess for that we’ll have to go to Counterpunch to read about how Obama is channeling his inner-Reagan:
On Monday, the White House took a new step toward the theater of the absurd by “declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela,” as President Barack Obama put it in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner.
It remains to be seen whether anyone in the White House press corps will have the courage to ask what in the world the nation’s chief executive could mean by that. Is Venezuela financing a coming terrorist attack on U.S. territory? Planning an invasion? Building a nuclear weapon?
Who do they think they are kidding? Some may say that the language is just there because it is necessary under U.S. law in order to impose the latest round of sanctions on Venezuela. That is not much of a defense, telling the whole world the rule of law in the United States is something the president can use lies to get around whenever he finds it inconvenient.
So who is alienating who? Who is really dangerous? Lesser-evilism keeps the focus squarely on Republicans. To do that, some important stuff gets omitted, and that’s too bad.
I learned the alchemy
to conjure a few dollars
from the last piggy bank
has yet to falsely claim
when I was done
I left Embassy Suites
to drive a U-Haul
back to Missoula
but only if we survive
this Motel 6, in Billings
from our approach
down the poorly lit street
from the first steps in
“the lobby” I knew
that some rooms resonated
far beyond the awareness
of my father-in-law
who I drove with for 24 hours
from his old stone home
in the Midwest
far beyond the privilege
of just having a home
to return to
the alchemy of bureaucracy
is no fractional trading
or quantitative easing
sucking all worth
to the top
it’s telling a story
the doctors can’t tell
because they don’t even know
where to start
where do we start?
start close to home
and from the root of that lack
by William Skink
Sure, the Republicans who want to keep punishing poor people by denying Medicaid expansion are craven, hypocritical partisans, especially if one looks at what happened in Helena on Friday through a Democrat partisan lens, which is all the author of that post is capable of. Luckily I don’t have that affliction and am therefore able to add a little bit more context to how we got to this point in Montana.
Two years ago there was a very good chance of getting Medicaid expanded in Montana. What happened? Freshman Democrat legislator, Tom Jacobson, pushed the wrong button:
Some states have declined to expand Medicaid because they oppose Obamacare. Others worry about the financial burden of expanding the entitlement. But there appears to be only one state where the Medicaid expansion failed due to a Democratic legislator accidentally voting against it.
“We’re tremendously sorry about what happened,” Minority Leader Chuck Hunter, a Democrat, said of the mistaken vote. “Montanans are the losers in this outcome.”
The mistake sent the bill back to committee to die. It was terrible. And trying to change the mistake wasn’t possible because the provision of addressing mistakes like this could only be used in situations where the change wouldn’t effect the outcome of legislation. In this case it would have, so the wrong vote stood.
After this embarrassing debacle I hoped Montana Democrats would regroup and speak with a unified voice about the dire need of 70,000 Montanans. That hope quickly dissipated when it became clear that Medicaid expansion was going to be a political football used by the Bohlinger campaign.
While Democrats were busy bickering among themselves, Montana AG, Tim Fox, successfully stalled the signature gathering for the Healthy Montana Initiative.
Then, in 2014, Democrats got their asses handed to them and now here we are. The result? Montanans will continue to suffer, hospital expenses will continue to balloon (the cost of which is passed along to all of us) and over 10,000 jobs WON’T be created.
Most of the blame should be directed at the Republican ideologues who never miss a chance to bash poor people in our state. I despise them more than words can effectively convey.
But I’m not a partisan hack, so I extend my disdain to Montana Democrats, who can’t seem to get their shit together to alleviate the suffering of 70,000 Montanans.
This is a sad situation for Montana. Those on the ground of the class war don’t have the luxury of political posturing. We desperately need Medicaid dollars. Placing blame solely on Republicans may serve political purposes for Democrats, but it doesn’t tell the whole story of how we got here.
by William Skink
David Joseph Lenio has become the face of tragedy averted. Thanks to social media vigilante Jonathan Hutson, Lenio’s online escalation was identified and documented in a manner that allowed authorities to intervene before any violence occurred. That is, without question, a good thing.
Now that violence, which appeared imminent, has been stopped, this intervention may become a case-study for further interventions. Over at Salon, Paul Rosenberg’s piece carries this title: “Dozens of threats to execute grade-school kids: Madness of the 9/11 truther”.
First, I want to acknowledge this is a difficult post to write because it touches on so many issues that I grapple with, like poverty, mental illness and conspiracy culture. I’m also the father of a first-grader, same as Jonathan Hutson, so I can relate to this:
By day, you see, Hutson is communications director for the Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a job he’s held since last Dec. 1. But 24/7 he’s the father of a first-grade son, and that’s the role that was really key in motivating him, especially after his hate-filled interlocutor—original identified only as “@PyschicDogTalk2”— asked him where his own children went to school.
“That chilled my blood,” Hutson recalled, and it motivated him to keep working until the suspect, David Joseph Lenio, was safely in custody. By then, he’d already encountered “dozens of threats to execute grade-school kids and Jews.”
“It’s very difficult as a dad trying to explain to my first-grader what was going on,” Hutson reflected. “He got up on Sunday morning and he saw daddy on the computer, and he heard daddy on the phone, and he wanted me to play video games with him. And I wanted to, but I just couldn’t.” The pain was palpable in Hutson’s voice. “So I had to explain to him why I couldn’t play with him, why I had to be stuck on the computer and on the phone. And it broke my heart to shatter his innocence and reveal to him the idea, which was totally novel, that a bad man with the gun would want to shoot grade-school kids. And brag about it on the Internet.”
“His eyes got really wide and he thought about that all day,” Hutson continued. “That night, when I was putting him to bed, he said, ‘Daddy can you tell the police my idea? That man should be locked up for a long time, until he’s much, much better.’
“‘Yes, sweetie, I will,’ [Hutson replied]. And I did.”
Hutson offered a profile of Lenio, and after Lenio was apprehended, Hutson’s assumptions proved to be very accurate:
“While I profiled this gentleman, I told the FBI and local law enforcement that the man threatening to shoot up a school and a synagogue was a young and athletic white supremacist, worked a low-paying job, probably in a restaurant, possibly as a cook, and that he enjoyed snowboarding and marijuana, and that he owned more than one gun,” Hutson said. “I said they could track his IP address through his Twitter account. [Which proved crucial in apprehending him.] I said he had a history of negative experiences with mental healthcare.”
Hutson then ticked off all the ways that had proven true. “When they arrested this white supremacist, he had just finished a day of snowboarding in Montana. He had marijuana and a pipe in his van (along with jugs of urine). He worked as a cook in a local restaurant, and had three guns. He had on Sunday retrieved ammunition and two rifles—a bolt-action and a semi-automatic—from his storage locker. His father, who lives in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area told Michigan police that he believed his son was mentally ill.”
This case provides a perfect opportunity to conflate conspiracy theory with mental illness. Rachel Rivas, executive director of Montana Human Rights Network, expounds on the implications:
Yet, it’s a mistake to think that only crazy people think the way Lenio did. The point was addressed head on by Rachel Carroll Rivas, executive director of the Montana Human Rights Network. On the one hand, “It is important to note that there are only a few actors in these larger extremist movements that act violently on their legitimate frustrations of economic insecurity,” she said, but “it is also important to remember that while some of those violent actors may struggle with mental health instability, the ideology of these movements can make everyday people spin deeper and deeper into the fear, scapegoating, and conspiracy theories to the point of violence.”
Now that Lenio is no longer an imminent threat, we can look at that same online material to see what it can tell us about how that ideology works to warp people’s understanding. Rivas said something more that drives home how important this can be. “Just like far-right extremists succumb to conspiracy theories that give simple answers to complex questions, society as a whole does the same when placing the blame only on the individual and/or their mental state and not on the movement, ideology, beliefs and those spewing hate through the microphones,” she said. “In addition, we vilify those struggling with mental health issues when we call all of these violent actors ‘crazy.’ There is more to it and it behooves us to understand and stand against these beliefs and movements of the extremist right.”
Yes, there is more to it. But nuance is not something the American populace excels at. Instead my worry is unstable outliers, like Lenio, will be exploited to stifle legitimate criticism of certain issues, like Israeli policy in the Middle East, and blowback from allowing U.S. allies, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to fund jihadist movements, like the ISIS.
Here’s more from the Salon piece:
Precisely because Lenio’s online ideological ramblings are so uneven, crude in some ways, sophisticated in others, they provide an interesting way to approach such material. One of his most telling YouTube creations is “Channel Surfing for 9/11 Truth: A Video Investigation,” a nearly 90-minute video, combining his own ramblings with a variety of video clips from different sources. It provides examples of his muddled, illogical and/or self-contradictory thinking, at a more leisurely pace, so that watching it one can become familiar with the themes, catchphrases and mental tics that obsesses him, as well as the fears and forces he is struggling with.
The video started off to be a short five-minute distillation created for the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Lenio explains. But he just couldn’t fit everything into such a compact format. In fact, it takes him almost 13 minutes of multilayered digressions to get to the first clip of his compilation. He makes clear at the beginning that he’s not interested in proving that 9/11 was a hoax; instead he simply asserts it as a fact, citing physical evidence that Popular Mechanics comprehensively refuted long ago, with more recent updating as well. Rather than proving his case, he wants to focus on who would benefit, and how—which, logically, does nothing to prove the underlying assertion—but does make it more psychologically satisfying to embrace.
Similarly, he also says, “Israelis were involved with it, it’s just a fact.” He says there were “some factions” of the U.S. government involved, but, “There were some people that were loyal to another government. And that’s Israel.” Then he adds, “You know when you start talking about Israel, and Jews or whatever, that’s taboo, the Holocaust, or whatever.” In short, he takes for granted a whole constellation of conspiracist beliefs, and he takes the fact that others find this odd, unproven or even unbelievable as proof that he is in the know and others are foolish or ill-informed.
And so the stage is set for equating truthers with mental illness and the capacity for violence:
This reflects an aspect of conspiracist thinking that I talked about in a previous story for Salon. Regarding conspiracy theories, the philosopher Brian L. Keeley observed, “These theories throw into doubt the various institutions that have been set up to generate reliable data and evidence. In doing so, they reveal just how large a role trust in both institutions and individuals plays in the justification of our beliefs. The ultimate point of such theories, then, is to destroy the foundations of how things are known—not just to question specific factual claims.
While engaged in this sort of destructive process, it helps to adopt a “reasonable,” “non-threatening” demeanor, and to the best of his ability, this is just what Lenio does in the video, “Just keep in mind, there’s no hate in this video,” he says, straight-faced. “I’m not saying that all the Jews did it, or whatever.” Then, however, he begins to slip: “But at times some of the things I say, I feel that kind of sounds like skin-headish shit, and like, until I started investigating 9/11, I never thought I’d say some of the things I’ve said about Jews. So, I don’t know, I’ll probably make a video about what I think about Jews, too…. I’m not spreading hate, I just want a real investigation in 9/11.”
Beware the slippery slope, dear citizens. One second you may have doubts about the official story of 9/11. Then, before you know it, you’re a crazy, holocaust denying conspiracy theorist plotting to kill grade school kids and Jews.
What this article doesn’t delve into is the fact that our various institutions absolutely DO NOT generate reliable data and evidence. Look no further than Jon Tester’s lies about logging to confirm that trust in our elected officials and the institutions they oversee is not warranted.
How far are we from equating institutional distrust to conspiracy theory to mental illness? Not far, I would say. Deeper cynics may claim we’re already there.
by William Skink
A gaff is defined as a spear or spearhead for taking fish or turtles; a handled hook for holding or lifting heavy fish; a metal spur for a gamecock.
A gaffe is a mistake made in a social situation.
Maybe someone could clue in the editorial staff at the Missoulian about the difference an “e” makes: Tester lawsuit gaff reveals real frustration with logging litigation.
Here is the hilarious opening of the “article”:
Anyone who’s worked a fire lookout knows it’s tough to tell a wisp of morning fog from the smoke of a fresh lightning strike.
Not to excuse last week’s “four Pinocchios” gaff Sen. Jon Tester made regarding timber lawsuits, but it’s really hard to figure out just what the U.S. Forest Service is up to.
Let’s put aside the irony of the word selection for a moment. What the Missoulian is trying to accomplish for our senior Senator is a downshift of his Big Lie to a simple mistake. And once that’s done, change the subject:
And Tester’s misstatements about problems with national forest management may reveal a hotter issue: Congress’ fixation on changing the way people can challenge the agency in court.
It’s hard to find words to describe this kind of “reporting”. Tester lies about litigation so blatantly that he’s called out by the Washington Post, and the Missoulian decides to give the bulk of the article to those with…concerns about litigation:
“There’s nothing in the cut-and-sold reports about lawsuits – it’s just about timber sales,” said Todd Morgan of the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. “And that doesn’t get at this spider web of connectivity, where one project gets litigated and it has an impact on lots of other projects. What they’re measured by is not always really clear.”
What is clear is that Montana Democrat Tester’s Republican colleague Sen. Steve Daines was on the same subject last week.
On Thursday, Daines challenged Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell on “the implications of fringe lawsuits on the responsible management of Montana’s national forests and highlighted the severe effects that diminished timber output has had on Montana’s economy,” according to spokeswoman Alee Lockman.
Tidwell apparently agreed, responding: “The litigation definitely does impact and it’s not just the litigation. When we get a temporary restraining order, we have to stop and wait. Every time we get a lawsuit, the same staff that would be preparing for the next project, they have to prepare to go to court.”
My emphasis on “every time” because that’s just not true. For anyone actually following this closely you will know that litigation doesn’t always stop logging projects from continuing. But hey, for a paper that can’t even choose the right word for a headline, why bother with facts in the content of the article, right?
I sympathize with activists like Matthew Koehler. Because it’s an ongoing battle just to counter top-level politicians and local media, who blatantly lie and spread propaganda, resources must be expended in the scramble to get accurate information out. If the intent is to keep more honest organizations occupied in perpetual damage control over messaging, then it’s an effective tactic.
This is how the article wraps up:
“Clearly, there is a great deal of frustration with litigation,” University of Montana political science professor Rob Saldin said. “Tester clearly misstated the situation, but I do not feel we’re at a place where this frustration is unwarranted. Some are saying litigation is holding things up, and others say the courts are the only thing we have to prevent catastrophe on our national forests. I think we really need to have this dialogue and we need more accurate figures and information. That’s the only way we can get a better assessment if we’ve blown things out of proportion or there’s real merit there.”
Sure, let’s have a dialogue. It should start off with the people who made “misstatements” apologizing for poisoning the dialogue with lies. Anything less signals this farce will continue, abetted by the servility of our local media.
never no how say
Fascism flies the stripes
and stars the world over
deny, deny, deny
never ever compare
Nazis to The Hill
a holocaust in Mesopotamia?
a Bush the same as Bill?
no, cast the Adolf shadow
upon the old Great Bear
good Americans nod their heads
giving up their share
to feed their death machine
to world war the globe
never no how say
how close we fit the mold
by William Skink
I wanted to do a follow up to the last post, Jon Tester’s Big Lie, because based on one commenter (Dan) I’m getting the feeling there is some reluctance to acknowledge just how blatantly obvious Tester’s lie was, not to mention the subsequent damage control, which wasn’t much better. That is why Jon Tester earned himself a 4 Pinocchio rating on the lie spectrum from Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post. From the link:
Logging on federal lands is an important part of Montana’s economy, with the Forest Service having the complex role of seeking to keep the forests healthy while also keeping the state’s mills running. Meanwhile, environment groups in the region are active in making sure the agency does not violate key laws, such as the Endangered Species Act.
Thus, there is an inherent tension. Even so, in 2014, the Forest Service’s Northern Region which includes Montana, met its timber harvest goal for the first time in over 14 years. The region harvested 280 million board feet — enough to build nearly 10,000 homes.
The Forest Service also recognizes the important role of environmental groups who challenge some of its decisions. “Things should be litigated that need to be litigated,” said Heather Noel, a Forest Service spokeswoman. “If there is something the Forest Service has missed, it is very healthy. We absolutely should be tested on that.”
But, despite Tester’s protestations, there is relatively little litigation involving timber sales — and even when there is, it generally does not halt logging operations.
First of all, let’s examine Tester’s claim about every logging sale. According to Tom Martin, a Forest Service deputy director for renewable resource management, there are 97 timber sales under contract in Montana’s national forests. Of that number, just 14 have active litigation, so about 14 percent. But only four of the sales are enjoined by a court from any logging.
These four sales are the Miller West Fisher timber sale in Kootenai National Forest, two Glacier Loon sales (Swan Flats Stewardship and Lunar Kraft Stewardship) in Flathead National Forest and Meadow Creek in Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. We might question the inclusion of Meadow Creek on this list because Forest Service records show the agency itself pulled the decision without explanation. In the Flathead case, the Forest Service choose to appeal rather than accept a court decision ruling against it, thus extending the delays itself.
In any case, even if one accepts the Forest Service’s definition of enjoined sales, just 4 percent of the timber sales cannot be logged because of litigation.
This is very specific information that I doubt even the most ardent supporters of our senior senator can deny. He lied. And then he dug deeper. Here’s more from Kessler:
Meanwhile, there are problems with Tester’s revised statement. In that case, he tried to change the subject by changing the metrics. “What we gave was volume of sales,” acknowledged David Smith, another Forest Service spokesman. “That’s quite different from number of sales litigated.”
But it turns out that the volume of sales under litigation (69.4 million board feet) was being measured against annual timber volume (145.3 million board feet). That is apples and oranges, since “very little of this 69.4 million has been cut this year,” Noel acknowledged.
Moreover, “under litigation” is a rather expansive term because it includes projects which are still being logged even as disputes are settled in courts. (The Forest Service also sometimes counts as “under litigation” areas which are not under contract or where an environmental group simply has said it intends to sue.)
The Forest Service ultimately provided a figure of 271.3 million board feet that is under contract in Montana, as of Dec. 31, 2014. Given that many of the projects being litigated are being logged, it is unclear how much has been cut already. So the only reliable figure we can use is the projected volume of the four projects that are enjoined from any logging: Miller West Fisher (15.4 million board feet), Swan Flats (6), Lunar Kraft (4.3) and Meadow Creek (2).
That adds up to 27.7 million board feet, or about 10 percent of board feet remaining under contract. That’s a far cry from “nearly half.”
We should also note that of Montana’s nine national forests, only three have projects under contract that have been halted by litigation.
Politicians lie. The joke is you can tell when they lie because their lips are moving. But this is more than just a lie. It’s a purposeful escalation against people Tester has labeled extremists, the same provocative term John Boehner used after Obama vetoed the Keystone piepeline. Why is that important? Because it actually endangers people’s lives, as this tweet from John S. Adams indicates:
John S. Adams @TribLowdown:
@HelenaVigilante I’ve interviewed people who were physically threatened w/ violence & had their home shot at over forest policy issues.
It’s sad, thinking back to 2006, the hope that many of us had when we cast votes for Tester. Now my hope is that a reckoning will come in 2018. Tester isn’t just a proven liar–he’s a reckless politician willfully misrepresenting an issue that some people are willing to commit crimes over. And litigation, when it works, only works because the courts determine that laws are being broken.
If low-information wing-nuts think litigation has stopped ALL timber sales, then who knows what some unhinged, gun-toting actual extremist will do to the people they identify as being responsible for something that was never true to begin with.
Jon Tester should apologize directly. So far the damage control has been no better than the lie itself. Montanans deserve better.
It would also be nice to hear something from Tester’s supporters, the ones who would be expressing their outrage if this was a Republican lying so blatantly about an issue so many people feel very strongly about.
by William Skink
there once was a man told a whopper
about the environmentalists he hates
but if supporters ignore it
then who will deplore it
when he runs again in 2018?
Jon Tester lied big time on Montana Public Radio, and so far only one of his targets, Matthew Koehler, has called him out. That is until today, when Ochenski’s column hits the stands.
Here is Tester’s lie: “Unfortunately, every logging sale in Montana right now is under litigation. Every one of them.”
And here is the truth from Ochenski’s column:
• The Bitterroot National Forest has not seen a single timber sale litigated since 2006, which is before Tester even went to the Senate. Zero.
• There was not a single timber sale lawsuit filed on the Lolo National Forest from 2007 to 2012 and then had two lawsuits of which only one is still current. In the meantime, 99 active timber sales were conducted from 2005 to 2010.
• The Flathead National Forest has 13 active timber sales, with four lawsuits pending.
• The Region 1 National Forest announced in October of 2014 that it had reached its timber target goal, logging 280 million board feet of timber. Notably, that’s the first time Region 1 met its timber harvest goal in 14 years because the agency “overhauled its litigation strategy” according to Regional Forester Faye Krueger, who told reporters, “the main emphasis is on threatened and endangered species” saying the agency is paying close attention to previous court rulings and working hard to develop projects that get it right the first time.
Besides lying about the lawsuits, Tester conveniently omitted discussing the 2014 Farm Bill, under which some 5 million acres of Montana forestland that Gov. Steve Bullock nominated can be logged with little or no environmental analysis or public review and comment.
Is this a problem for Montana Democrats? Do they care their Senator came to office with the help of environmentalists, and now their Senator bashes them every chance he gets? Do they care Tester lies, misrepresents, labels non-collaborators as “extremists” and uses legislation to get around pesky things like the Endangered Species Act? (after decrying riders that is the method Tester used to delist wolves).
At the national level Democrats are trying to figure out why they got their asses kicked, politically speaking. Well, Tester has provided a very tangible example of why more and more people are saying to hell with voting. We don’t believe you. We don’t believe you really stand for anything save pleasing whoever you think will get you reelected.
If Montanans are inclined to vote for Jon Tester again, will they even realize what kind of deceitful person they are sending back to the snake pit in DC? Probably not. Will our local media unpack this whopper? Will any of those “progressive” bloggers make noise about this deceit? Besides a few voices, so far there has been mostly silence.
And so it goes.
by William Skink
When you lose a competition you were trying to win, one course of action is to figure out why you lost in order to adjust for the next go around. The Democrat machinery has apparently put the cogs into motion to generate an internal report, as reported by McClatchy DC (h/t jhwygirl):
Democrats have become a confused political party with a muddled message and an inability to turn out enough of its loyal voters, a party task force charged with how to revive the embattled party said Saturday.
“I am here to tell you the Democratic Party has lost its way,” said Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky, who presented the report to the Democratic National Committee WINTER.
Ok, I’m a sucker for the platitudes of moral failing, so let’s see what this process of reflection has produced.
“In order to win elections, the Democratic Party must reclaim voters that we’ve lost, including white Southern voters,” the report said. But the party also has to “excite key constituencies such as African American women and Latinas.”
Beshear talked tough about the DNC shortcomings. “This should be the time for Democratic leaders to rise up to the forefront as defenders of the people and we think we have,” he said.
But, he said, “the American people by their votes don’t agree with us.”
Hmmm, maybe it’s because you just aren’t explaining it pretty enough for us.
The Democratic Party, he added, “has too often allowed its message to become muddled.”
Placating a patchwork of demographics is a difficult job, and Democrats aren’t doing it very well. The other side has no problem lying (the real translation of muddled message) to their constituents in order to create enough blind outrage leading “white Southern voters” go out and vote…for Republicans.
So what did this internal report advise?
The Democratic task force, which will continue meeting through the spring, offered some general recommendations for change.
It called for an effort to “create a strong values-based national narrative” that encourages people to vote. Beshear urged better defining the Democratic brand, rather than just appear to be a series of policy statements.
Democrats had counted last year on strong turnouts by women, Hispanics, younger voters and African-Americans, but turnout was down from 2012. Get people out, officials said Saturday, and Democrats will do well.
“When we vote, we win,” said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.
A strong values-based national narrative? What the hell is that? What it’s not is an admission of the real problem: what Democrats actually do (or don’t do) once elected.
The McClatchy piece ends with this:
Though hundreds of millions were spent last year on ads, organizing and other strategies, party leaders insisted they’d prosper if they stressed their commitment to helping the middle class and the less fortunate.
“Democrats care about so many things. Republicans only care about taxes,” said Patsy Keever, North Carolina Democratic Chairman.
Sometimes, the insiders said, people got too many messages. “There are so many things Democrats care about, but not every Democrat cares about every issue,” Keever said.
Too many messages? That’s rich. I guess hundreds of millions of dollars spent on ads can’t change the reality people are actually experiencing in their day to day lives.
If I had to write a quick poem about it, it might go something like this:
AMERICA’S HELPING HAND
I like my national narrative
values-based, and strong
like how NATO helped out Libya
with lots of helpful bombs
and in this wondrous story
we help our friends, Ukraine
but only the western ones
who never shoot down planes
I like my national narrative
and the freedom fighters we arm
who never become jihadis
who blowback helpful harm
by William Skink
On almost every foreign front the U.S. is escalating, which I’m guessing is why Obama wants Congress to give him cover for the new war he’s already started with that old, dusty AUMF. Truthout frames it succinctly:
As President Barack Obama presented his proposed Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to Congress, he declared, “I do not believe America’s interests are served by endless war, or by remaining on a perpetual war footing.” Yet Obama’s proposal asks Congress to rubber-stamp his endless war against anyone he wants, wherever he wants.
It’s kind of like how Obama said he ended the war in Afghanistan, but not really. I hope the new AUMF includes a new war against the various factions that have torn Libya apart after that little humanitarian thing that happened a few years ago. Go Hillary 2016 yeah!
I’m not breaking from the mediocre poetry I’ve been keeping myself to here just to toss the usual jabs, no, instead I must commend Obama for what looks like maybe could possibly be a significant push back against apartheid Israel being led by a man who may have finally over-played his hand.
Here’s Mark Gaffney via Counterpunch:
Finally. After many years of official hypocrisy, a US president appears to be playing hardball with Israel. The other day, the US government declassified a 1987 report documenting Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program.
I have been a critic of President Obama, but one has to admire the timing of the release which I suspect was ordered by the White House. Next month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak before Congress, at the behest of House speaker Boehner, and the topic of Netanyahu’s address reportedly will be Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. The fact that neither Speaker Boehner nor the Israeli government first cleared the speech with the White House has become controversial, and for good reason. Several prominent members of Congress, among them Senator Leahy, have already indicated they will boycott the speech, which will be a transparent attempt at an end run around the president.
Israeli PM Netanyahu is a smooth talker, but he is in no position to lecture Iran or any other state about nuclear weapons. The just-declassified report shows up Netanyahu for what he is, a liar.
All sixteen US intelligence agencies agree there is no hard evidence that Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons. As a signatory of the nuclear non proliferation treaty, Iran’s nuclear power program is fully safeguarded by IAEA inspections. Israel by contrast is a rogue state that secretly developed nukes while thumbing its nose at the world. Israel has long refused to sign the NPT.
The declassified 1987 report indicates that from the 1980s on the US was well-informed about Israel’s hidden nuclear agenda. Israel’s nuke program is evidently a carbon copy of the US program.
We know that Israel smuggled nuclear technology (triggers, known as krytrons) out of the US, highjacked a ship on the high seas loaded with uranium ore, deceived US inspectors, and much more, all the while lying about its true intentions.
It also appears that Israel provided the IAEA with phony documents about Iran’s nuclear program.
Timing is everything in politics. With the report now public, Obama will be in a stronger position to apply pressure on Israel to sign the NPT and open its nuclear sites to IAEA inspectors; or face the prospect of losing US economic and military aid. Why? Because a US law (the Symington amendment of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act) bars the US from giving aid to nations that engage in clandestine nuclear weapons proliferation. For many years, the US chose to ignore the law. But now that Netanyahu plainly intends to stir up trouble for Obama in Congress over Iran, the president has apparently decided to take off the kid gloves. If Obama follows through, and I hope he does, it will the smartest policy move of his presidency. The president deserves all the support that we the people can give him on this issue.
Damn. I wonder where this will go.
Kenneth Rexroth addressed a conference of Western Writers in 1936 with an essay titled The Function of Poetry and the Role of the Poet in Society. For those not familiar with Rexroth, he was known as an eclectic radical:
A prolific painter and poet by age seventeen, Rexroth traveled through a succession of avant-garde and modernist artistic movements, gaining a reputation as a radical by associating with labor groups and anarchist political communities. He experimented amid Chicago’s “second renaissance” in the early 1920s, explored modernist techniques derived from the European-born “revolution of the word,” played an integral part in the anarchist-pacifist politics and poetic mysticism that pervaded San Francisco’s Bay Area in the 1940s, and affiliated himself with the “Beat Generation” in the mid-1950s.
The essay I’m excerpting for this post comes from a collection edited by Bradford Morrow, called World Outside The Window (New Direction, 1947). Right from the start Rexroth has my attention:
I believe that to a certain extent always, but in modern times especially, the poet, by the very nature of his art, has been an enemy of society, that is, of the privileged and the powerful. He has sometimes been an ally and spokesman of the unprivileged and the weak, where such groups were articulate and organized, otherwise he has waged an individual and unaided war.
Modern times? 1936, to most Americans, is probably ancient history. It is, after all, nearly 80 years ago. But there’s resonance—a 2015, post-modern overlay of that time between the Great Depression and the lead up to world war—that’s unsettling.
Later in the essay Rexroth describes some of the economic pressures on what could be possible if not for the lack of support for the arts:
Vanguard or rear guard, it makes very little difference today. Our most significant poets, whatever limited prestige and reputations they may enjoy, are nonetheless outcasts from this society. We may not all of us be extraordinarily distinguished or considered tremendously significant in the world of letters, but insofar as we are poets, we are enemies of this present society. None of us is in the position of my friend in New York. We either have some non-literary source of income, or we are employed by the WPA, but it is only an accident that we are all not so many Villons. The forces which control much of the world, forces which in America and in California are striving to suppress the democracy and creative freedom we have, have little use for us. They are committed to the belief that the sword is mightier than the pen. We are outcasts in their eyes already. None of us makes a living by poetry, although we think it one of the most important activities man has ever had or could ever hope to have as long as society remains as it is.
We have met to preserve the minimum conditions under which creative work is possible. We have not met to form a literary school or to persuade each other of the advisability of our individual techniques. We have not met to discuss Proletarian art, Surrealism, or heroic couplets. As writers we can make a significant gesture of defiance in the faces of those who are trying to remove America from the civilized world. But alone we cannot do very much else. There is a potential audience of all the producing classes of the West, which obviously we have not reached. We are conscious of the dangers which threaten what civilization we have. It is our job to awaken this audience to these dangers and to ally ourselves with the common people who have already awakened. It is they, not we, who will be the deciding factors in the coming struggle. Any moderately efficient fascist police could in a month silence or exterminate every honest writer in America. But they could not so easily dispose of farmers and workers, the common people upon whom the life of the country depends. It is still possible to rally the American people to the defense of their democracy.
I don’t know, Kenny. I think democracy is gone.
eye of the beholder, what do you see
planned for the world in 2015?
I see a rocket coming from Churchill’s head
and from Cameron’s the rise of a mushroom cloud
I see Amazon packages drone through the air
as Spiderman swings over Alice in Wonderland
gazing at Cheshire perched on a branch
sprouting from Obama’s left leg
there’s a Panda on steroids dwarfing a Sumo
holding an outdated battery
and a crop duster hovering over a kid eating noodles
near the red-tied chest of Putin
of course The Pied Piper is playing, far left
with a nod to the British Invasion
now 50 years old
emblazoned on the bass of a drum set
the tortoise in the middle is most likely Fabian
which means when they strike, they strike hard
(lines of emphasis around the shell
makes ominous two arrows marked 11-3 and 11-5
buried near the tiny feet of Alice)
jive man in a smart blue suit, hand up in salute
stands front and center of the show
with an odd Ghost peeking out from his right leg
browsing a brochure that says VACATION
at least, we can say, we aren’t Hollande
being penetrated by the stare of a woman
with wings and a nest full of eggs
attached to the front of her head
next, in red letters, behind Panda,
on what looks like a sandwich-board
and below that: Federal Reserve
this is just some of the fun one can have
when setting a global agenda
call it art, propaganda or cryptic disclosure
symbols operate in a realm beyond words
and those in the know get the message
H is for having a haven from taxes
H is for smack and the money it makes
H is for holding long after the taking
H is for hellfire if they don’t play along
S is for secrets, for sensitive discretion
S is a silence that covers all crimes
S is the way snakes like to slither
slowly behind signs over long periods of time
B is for business basted in greed
B is for blowback blasting civilians
B is a bank for monsters and cheats
who believe their bodies are far beyond reach
C is for coming, the inevitable consequence
C is for cameras through which they will watch
C is the crisis they latch on to like ticks
counting each drop they suck from the host
men who can’t restrain grey matter
are deeply afraid of yoga pants
laugh it up all you want
that one would legislate leggings
and attempt to dress-code necklines
speaks to broken control mechanisms
in the modern heterosexual male
that can’t be ridiculed away
ladies, dudes are having difficulties
with the paradigm shift underway
me, I proudly pee sitting down
and bought my young son a skirt
because he likes playing dress up
and Lego Friends, not Star Wars
that’s ok with me
because it’s not about me
it’s about doing what’s most comfortable
I hope this means
some of us are evolving
Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha
were executed by an atheist, Craig Hicks
in a Chapel Hill, North Carolina apartment
but atheists aren’t regularly depicted as terrorists
so there will be no calls for all atheists to denounce
this cowardly act by the inevitably labeled “lone wolf”
who, I am sure, we will later discover
has been diagnosed with some psychological malady
that will account for this callous act of hate
then we can shake our collective head
and go back to thinking about more important things
like how in the world could Beck beat Beyoncé
for best album of the year at the Grammy’s?
by William Skink
Missoula’s TEDx will be Friday, February 20th on campus. X = independently organized TED event. TED is an acronym for the ever expanding series of lectures that focus on Technology, Entertainment and Design.
This year’s lineup looks fun, if you’re into that kind of thing. Considering the theme is language, I checked to make sure there was a poet represented, and sure enough I saw they wisely selected Sheryl Noethe.
I’ll add my two cents here about language, specifically the fits and starts of developing writers. The move I recently made required dealing with a tremendous amount of crap. There were file cabinets long forgotten with all kinds of papers. We had lived in this house for over 13 years, and the secretions of my undergraduate work at UM had never been properly dealt with. So I sifted and tossed through the mounds, getting distracted in reading decade-old poems and journals.
Not much in those early years stands up to time. I mostly wince at what I wrote, hearing the clumsily appropriated styles of other writers.
Despite the wince factor, sometimes I’m reminded of the experimental flourishes that surprised me at the time, and still do all these years later. I wrote the following poem I think in 2005, and it still strikes me as strange in a way I don’t really get. For what it’s worth.
SEEKING THY CREATURE CALM
It was revealing you hating me so
I wondered if ever I might dance again
I searched in the aching woods
And found frightening proof of untidiness
O how thy star might revel free
If not for this crass plan, you wretch
Thy skin like a film over water
Is bereft of its target, so fetch
No, thy skin never knew these woods, love
And her eyes never saw thy mess
The too many places of your aim
Colored with thy Rosiest distress
But that star in your eyes, void of name
Acts like The Hunter’s claimed prize
The Kingdom hasn’t pillars of fame, love
Just trees in the shrinking wild
If love is a grub, you’re the woodpecker
While the stink in the air hovers close
And the leaf that is lung is so yellowing sad
That I cannot even mention The Rose
If only the scent of time paused
Thy grub might butterfly free
And you and your creature calm
Would leave the rest of us be
on her way to the throne
she beheaded a snake
erupting with glee
when she heard on her phone
he was dead
they tried to stop her
opening back channels
but she moved with singular intent
to rip the heart
out of Tripoli
when she gets to the throne
O sisters and brothers
on a ladder made of bones
to do the dark work
she auditioned for
it doesn’t ripple for everyone
the image looking back at itself
through a certain lens
is just fiction
overlapping a body
pulled from the river
in a quiet college mountain town
not so quiet
papered over with disinterest
overdoses are just background noise
(though I’ve been told differently
by a juicer playing
some sort of angle)
through a certain lens
dismissed as the product
of an unstable mind
patterns of kids gone missing
patterns of what power does
and gets away with
the memorial cross
beneath the bridge
no longer stands
I think it was burned
by William Skink
This is the first of what I’m hoping will be a continuing series of Missoula-centric haikus. Enjoy!
long line, Five on Black
The Oxford makes me nervous
fine, Taco Del Sol
pay to see water
flow in the form of river
at Finn and Porter
despite the regret
despite what it does to you
Wendy’s, I love you
no more Food for Thought
omelets on the patio
and hungover cooks
they named it Faceclub?
why did they name it Faceclub?
what a silly name
outside the food truck
bros man-handle each other
red bull and vodka
Good Food Store is Holy!
blessed be what emanates
from its divine glow!
to puke on your shoe
is to be at the Food Farm
when you shouldn’t be
nice food at Top Hat?
a far cry from drugs and booze
on Wasted Wednesdays
plunk drunk with Plonk talk?
shame walk or junk in trunk honk?
how about zonk-hump?
where is my Panera sun?
ah, Einstein Bros.
Syriza will you allow the wolves
to continue stalking the palisades?
they are hungry for more Athens blood
Syriza, will you stop them?
the wolves of Europe will not rest
the bear to the east extends its paw
Spain and Italy look on with hope
like dominoes they yearn to fall
Syriza watch your back tonight
a drachma in your pocket, for luck
the austerity plan to starve the land
keeps one foot in the grave
see the hawks fly in the air?
feathers dark, they scan for prey
but lo a creature with a gun
has designs to steal the day
this creature traveled from the east
pale-faced, he tricked and scammed
any who opposed his trek
to the northwest promised land
see the hawks rise above
almost uppity, some may say
how those beaks unloose those shrieks
all the while, he slowly aims
see the shot the Patriot took?
did the man take home the prize?
feathers flutter to the ground
falling through our warming skies
by William Skink
A great quote from the poet William Carlos Williams:
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
of what is found there.
WCW is one of my favorite poets, and this bit of verse has stuck with me over the years. What I think Williams is trying to get at is something poetry in America has been struggling with for a long time.
Americans don’t look to poetry to enrich our understanding of current events. Poems are more likely to be thought of as decorative, or ornamental, like a flowery escapist medium to be listened to but not heard.
Maybe it’s difficult to get the news from poems because really what cultural value do we place on poetry? Who reads it? Who buys the books or writes the reviews? Who knows Claudia Rankine’s book Citizen is a more potent engagement of “news” than anything cable news will ever be capable of?
It wasn’t always so. A book titled Partisans and Poets: The Political Work of American Poetry in the Great War documents how the lead up to America entering WWI was in part grappled over in verse. In searching around for material about this book I found this blurb:
In Partisans and Poets: The Political Work of American Poetry in the Great War, Van Wienen examines the historical, social, political, racial, and gender-based components of poetry production as they address America’s alienation from and subsequent participation in World War I. Van Wienen balances a number of perspectives on the war: progressive, conservative, patriotic, pacifist, and radical. As if addressing the poetic mainstream directly, Van Wienen says that the “status” or aesthetic of war poetry is not the focus of this book; but poetry’s service to politics and ideology is. Van Wienen argues that partisan debate over the war influenced poetry writing and vice versa. He demonstrates through sampling the mass press that the degree to which war poetry was published from 1914-18 in the popular press made it more representative of American culture than professional or academic poetry in literary journals.
Poetry published in the “popular press”? Indeed. I wrote about this book when I first got it 4 years ago, here. In that comment thread, and a few others, there were actual back and forth conversations in verse. Back in the day conversing in verse was a more common phenomenon. Poetic engagement of the issues of the day was not uncommon.
The problem, from the ivory tower academic standpoint, is that topical poems usually lack the staying power of the canonical poems. But maybe it’s the academic over-reliance on the almighty canon that has contributed to the slow disappearance of a more accessible form of poetry.
As a poet who wants his poems to be accessible and sometimes topical, I won’t shy away from putting out less-than-great topical poems for the enjoyment of readers here. I will soon unveil a series of Missoula food haikus I’ve been working on the last few days. Stay tuned…
extremist rainbow threat
how shall we prepare?
money from Homeland Security
to coordinate land, sea and air
the rainbow threat is real
see that river over there?
there are rainbows in the water
so now we must prepare
by building infrastructure
with bonds and pretty words
be weary, extremist rainbow
of what you think you heard
the state of the state is great
the poor still have tv
except state-sanctioned color
is all they’ll ever see
I’ve gone through some big changes the last few months, both professionally and personally, which makes now an ideal time to also change my approach to blogging. My first post on September 8th, 2010, was titled Poetry and Politics. In the last year I’ve essentially abandoned poetry and delved obsessively into geopolitics with a sprinkling of commentary on local issues. For now I think I’m done with that, especially the local stuff. Instead I’m going to refocus on poetry, which will probably mean less frequent posts.
I’ve appreciated seeing more posts from JC, and I hope he has the time and inclination to keep readers appraised of the nefarious developments of America’s goal of full spectrum dominance across the globe.
Pete Talbot has popped up as a contributor at Intelligent Discontent, writing a defense of the state of the fourth estate for his first ID post, a post that concludes with this:
I’ve been critical of my local paper and the print media in general, Lord knows. In the future, I’ll try not to pile on the reporters and editors. Being a journalist is a job and in a tight market, when you have a family to feed, one isn’t about to buck the system. They are doing their best to practice their craft under very trying conditions.
Freed from association with the pariah blog, I’m sure Pete will continue to illuminate ID readers about why people with jobs in a tight market are unwilling to buck the system that pays them.
I understand quite well why people must make compromises. For example, trying to work a system toward reform IRL while also trying to buck it online is like traversing a minefield sometimes.
So I’m going to write some poems. Stay tuned…
This week’s State of the Union Address by President Obama gives us another opportunity to peek into how America’s propaganda system works. While there are many places to observe this — foreign policy, the economy and employment — it is the constant isolationist drumbeat driving our country into a renewed Cold War with Russia that I’m going to focus on today.
Undoubtedly there will be those who will pooh-pooh me for a variety of reasons, but so be it. While our domestic situation with the economy, employment and debt is dire, I think that it is the specter of what the new Cold War brings that is paramount. So it is with interest when I hear that Barack Obama proclaims that Russia is isolated, and Congress and the American people cheer.
Except that it ain’t necessarily so. Thursday brought headlines that would surprise even the most ardent Russian isolationist:
Yes, we have isolated Russia so well, that it entered into an agreement with China to build a 7,000km high speed rail linking Moscow with Beijing, and augmenting a major section of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Yep, Moscow to Beijing in 30 hours. That would be the equivalent of getting on a high speed rail in San Francisco, going to Seattle, and then cross country to Washington D.C. in 30 hours. Oh, well, we’ve still got Amtrak, America’s version of the old Trans-Siberian Railway. And it carried a “record” 31.6 million riders in fiscal 2013.
The story is remarkable enough in its technical achievement. It will be the longest, largest high-speed rail system in the world, carrying over 200 million passengers a year. And the cost is phenomena, $242 billion dollars. Imagine what our country could do if it were to invest a like sum in 4,000 miles of high-speed rail! Montreal to D.C. to San Francisco and L.A. and down to Mexico City.
Sound like a country that is isolated? While Obama drives wedges between Russia and the west for failing to submit to American hegemony, Russia is furiously building relationships with the rest of the world: BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa); Turkey (oil pipeline deal to replace SouthStream through Bulgaria); SCO (Shanghai Cooperative Organization), Eurasian Economic Union, etc.
Russia and China are currently working out a deal to replace SWIFT, the western bank system for working out trade payments between countries and businesses. The petrodollar is moving to the petro-yuan/ruble. So sure, we’re succeeding in isolating Russia, but just from the west: Europe and the Five Eyes (Canada, U.S., New Zealand, Australia, U.K.).
Russia has already declared in many, many ways that it will not submit to western sanctions. So while the sanctions may work to create the appearance of isolationism in the west, it only serves to drive Russia into alliances more quickly with the rest of the world. We are assisting in the creation of an economic and military union between Russia and China that will most effectively counter the military of the U.S. and its allies.
[Russian Foreign Mister Sergei] Lavrov also opined that he considered the United States’ approach to international relations “outdated” and “not a proper thing for a great power.”
“I should like that all countries choose the path of cooperation, not the path of diktat disguised in some diplomatic form,” he said, adding the charge that the U.S. was actually too weak to go it alone – which is why it tries to form coalitions, as in Iraq.
Lavrov also expressed more doubts than hope that the United States’ approach would change anytime soon.
“It’s in their blood and flesh, they believe they are first, and this philosophy, this genetic code, is very hard to change,” Lavrov said, before expressing faint confidence that “the logic of partnership” between the United States and Russia would ultimately prevail.
While there are those “isolationists” who believe that what we are doing will suffice to intimidate Russia sufficiently so that we and NATO can consolidate Europe into one solid block to work to break Russia up and/or change its leadership, others more keenly tuned into Russian sentiment disagree. Unfortunately, the average American has little knowledge of Russia by which to gauge the effectiveness or appropriateness of such a strategy.
Dimitri Orlov recently wrote an excellent piece for the westerner to get a realistic look at how Russia views western expansionism and hegemony:
Recent events, such as the overthrow of the government in Ukraine, the secession of Crimea and its decision to join the Russian Federation, the subsequent military campaign against civilians in Eastern Ukraine, western sanctions against Russia, and, most recently, the attack on the ruble, have caused a certain phase transition to occur within Russian society, which, I believe, is very poorly, if at all, understood in the west. This lack of understanding puts Europe at a significant disadvantage in being able to negotiate an end to this crisis.
Whereas prior to these events the Russians were rather content to consider themselves “just another European country,” they have now remembered that they are a distinct civilization, with different civilizational roots (Byzantium rather than Rome)—one that has been subject to concerted western efforts to destroy it once or twice a century, be it by Sweden, Poland, France, Germany, or some combination of the above. This has conditioned the Russian character in a specific set of ways which, if not adequately understood, is likely to lead to disaster for Europe and the world.
Orlov’s piece is a great primer for any westerner that wants to get some context about U.S.-Russian relationships outside of Obama’s isolationist propaganda. It is this sort of propaganda that Obaba is advancing that jeopardizes world safety by falsely implying that his overt foreign policy of sanctions is succeeding, and eggs on neocons and Congress to double down.
It will be a continuation and expansion of these policies that will further drive Russia from any sort of meaningful engagement with the west, and into the solidification of alliances with China and India that will pit nearly half the world’s population and economy against the U.S. and Europe’s. Is this what we and the world really need?
And lastly, after beginning this piece talking about the newly approved high-speed rail link between Moscow and Beijing, and all of the symbolism it encompasses, I would be remiss in not mentioning how it all will be financed. After all $242 billion dollars is nothing to sneeze at.
First off, the new railway alliance has dumped the French contractor it had agreed to work with last year on developing the system. It isn’t hard to see that when the U.S. forces France into doing things like breaking its contracts to build and deliver two helicopter-carrying Mistral naval vessels, there would be some blowback.
So instead of paying France’s Alstrom around $40 billion for it’s part in the project (utilizing conventional wheeled high-speed rail), they awarded the contract to CRH (China Railway High-speed) and added on another 100 billion dollars to use state-of-the-art maglev technology to increase safety and speed.
But the coup de grâce appears to be that Obama’s “isolated” Russia is a little less isolated than it might seem in other areas:
Gennady Timchenko, a well-connected billionaire who after appearing on Western sanctions lists earlier this year was appointed head of the Russian-Chinese Business Council, told reporters on Thursday that he was optimistic that China would provide financial support for the project, which he said could carry more than 200 million passengers a year.
China holds over $2 trillion in U.S. Treasury bills that offer no real returns, but “investment in the railway would pay for itself,” Timchenko said. “Maybe not overnight, but we would create infrastructure connecting Asia with Europe for future generations.”
Yes, Russia and China are going to use China’s U.S. T-bond holdings to finance the railway. That’s some real isolationism for ya. Way to go, Obama!
It seems that if one strays beyond the bounds of what some consider to be “conventional wisdom” or CW, that one can be branded mentally ill. I was a bit surprised to read this from Turner about me, in a comment to a post I wrote yesterday:
JC, you can live in Opposite World only for so long before they take you away. Seriously, I’m worried about you.
Now I really don’t mind that I get sideswiped in comments. I get that all the time, and I know that Turner means well, and is having a hard time digesting all of the ugliness that we keep throwing out to folks about the corruption, lies and propaganda that our administration and Congress spew.
But it was an article at Zero Hedge, “If You Question Authority, You Are Mentally Ill”, Report Finds, that really got me going. It seems that the newest edition of the DSM puts those of us who don’t conform into a new category of mentally ill.
Is nonconformity and freethinking a mental illness? According to the newest addition of the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), it certainly is. The manual identifies a new mental illness called “oppositional defiant disorder” or ODD. Defined as an “ongoing pattern of disobedient, hostile and defiant behavior,” symptoms include questioning authority, negativity, defiance, argumentativeness, and being easily annoyed.
There’s no doubt that 4&20 has become a hotbed exhibiting the above symptoms. So I guess Turner is correct in his diagnosis that I “live in Opposite World.” At least according to the DSM. I wonder what the treatment (penalty?) for ODD is? The Mind Unleashed describes the dangers with an analogy with Soviet Russia and communism (not so unlike Democratic America and McCarthyism):
According to the DSM-IV, the diagnosis guidelines for identifying oppositional defiant disorder are for children, but adults can just as easily suffer from the disease. This should give any freethinking American reason for worry. The Soviet Union used new “mental illnesses” for political repression. People who didn’t accept the beliefs of the Communist Party developed a new type of schizophrenia. They suffered from the delusion of believing communism was wrong. They were isolated, forcefully medicated, and put through repressive “therapy” to bring them back to sanity.
Unfortunately, what happened in the USSR seems to be a harbinger of what is happening in America. People who don’t accept the notion of American Exceptionalism, believe what the government tells them, read exclusively the MSM and parrot it all back treading the straight and narrow, are ostracized from society in a variety of ways. It really is unfortunate that people who believe themselves to be progressive liberals can’t allow for freethinking amongst the proles.
Back to the treatment (besides ridicule and ostracizing). As the current DSM-V focuses on the disease in children, it also mentions that the “disease” progresses into a variety of conditions in adulthood, if not “treated” properly. A few of those diseases include ADHD, conduct disorders and personality disorders, all with a pharmacopeia of drug treatments. So yeah, let’s drug the freethinkers! Shock therapy! Reintegration camps (jail)!
So, I would offer that those who are attacked for being “freethinkers” ponder for a moment what it actually is that we are engaging in. Freethinking has been described many places, but here is a simple description from Wiki:
Freethought holds that individuals should not accept ideas proposed as truth without recourse to knowledge and reason. Thus, freethinkers strive to build their opinions on the basis of facts, scientific inquiry, and logical principles, independent of any logical fallacies or the intellectually limiting effects of authority, confirmation bias, cognitive bias, conventional wisdom, popular culture, prejudice, sectarianism, tradition, urban legend, and all other dogmas.
I can embrace that. Other co-occurring disorders with ODD are anarchism (he says tongue in cheek — at least until DSM-VI) and atheism. I definitely am of the anarchistic bent (having concluded from my time involved with Occupy that democracy and capitalism are mutually exclusive), and am most definitely irreligious. So I guess that really puts me in “Opposite World” according to some.
Freethinking is a field unto itself, and is fraught with controversy, from those who want to credit some of our country’s founding fathers with utilizing it (Thomas Paine, i.e.), to those who want to argue religion and science. I find it fulfilling though, to consider myself — and many of the people who blog and comment on posts like this — a nonconformist and a free (though occasionally sloppy) thinker.
And for those who might want to hear a podcast (included on The Mind Unleashed article) about the controversy between psychiatry and nonconformity/freethinking, I’ve included it below the fold. Continue Reading »