Getting TOZ’d In Zoo Town

by William Skink

Another cool million in public money will grease the development of another hotel downtown. We are told this will bring more tourists to roam the sidewalks, showering local shops with money. We are told a whopping 33 permanent service sector jobs will be created. And we are told it’s ultimately a benefit to Missoula taxpayers to use a million dollars extracted from Missoula taxpayers to help those cash-strapped developers because without that money being spent, that awful speck of blight just sitting there being economically unproductive would continue being blight.

So pats on the back all around.

Oh, but where will these 33 service sector workers live in Missoula that doesn’t cost-burden them with unaffordable rent? Solutions to that are forthcoming, we are told.

One idea floated last year to get some housing built is a by-product of Trump’s tax cuts, called Opportunity Zones. Liberals in Missoula may gnash their teeth in horror and dismay over Trump’s election, but that won’t stop the local candidates they vote for from supporting the use of a Trump-enabled economic tool to get a better return on real estate investment for investors.

The West Broadway corridor is a TOZ (Trump Opportunity Zone) that, we are told, could lure investors who then might develop housing. But it won’t be affordable housing for the poor people who make the TOZ a TOZ.

But what do I know? I’ll let the expert explain it:

Pehan said that subsidized affordable housing probably won’t see explosive growth in the area because those rely on grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“The level of subsidy needed to make HUD plans affordable, I don’t think those are the type of assets that are going to be invested in and replaced by the Opportunity Zone,” she said.

But, she said, if investors build more market-rate housing, that could bring up the total supply of housing and possibly drive down prices.

“Creating more housing provides relief on total supply and can help with displacement issues, but (HUD grants and Opportunity Zones) are two different tools,” she said.

What I am hearing from this is that the TOZ is going to entice development of market rate housing, which I presume will be multi-family housing complexes because that’s the kind of housing that provides a better return on investment. This is also the kind of housing people get stuck in because they can’t buy a home.

What middle-income people want is single-family housing they can actually afford to buy, not more apartments to be squeezed into because Missoula’s growth plan and investor expectations dictate this kind of development.

At least this TOZ is getting some critical attention that our elected leaders are actually paying some lip service to. In the article the “g” word—gentrification—was actually used to describe TOZ skepticism. Not only was it used, but it was used in the first paragraph:

There is anxiety about gentrification but also optimism for development in Missoula’s so-called Opportunity Zone, according to city officials who discussed the area in depth on Tuesday.

Later in the article we hear more lip service:

Missoula City Council President Bryan von Lossberg, who lives on the Northside, said he immediately got three texts from different constituents the morning the Missoulian ran an article explaining the Opportunity Zone.

“The first text included a picture of the newspaper and said it’s never good to be in an Opportunity Zone for rich people,” von Lossberg recalled. “That’s an important sentiment to hear and listen to and to share. It captures the angst on the ground. In this period of profound rapid change and development, there is wonderful optimism but also a profound sense of anxiety.”

The problem is lip service is not the same as action. Quotes in newspaper articles, well-intentioned studies, gathering public input, intentionality–it’s all just lip service to cover the fact Missoula is continuing to rapidly gentrify and it’s leaving more and more people behind.

At the end of the article the prize for the most tone deaf statement goes to Ross Keogh, an attorney already helping his clients take advantage of Missoula’s TOZ. Take it away, Ross:

A few people in the crowd expressed concern that rapid development by wealthy investors would turn Missoula into Boulder, Colorado, a town that’s seen so much growth recently that it had to put a moratorium on development.

“I’m also conscious that sometimes we look a lot like Boulder, but I like that I was able to ski last Friday at our local ski hill with some friends,” Keogh said. “And I think it’s important that we talk as a community about how this incentive doesn’t change our area.”

Yeah, the important thing is a lawyer can still have a ski day. I guess that means everything is just peachy in Zoo Town.

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Reserve Street Homeless Camp Update

by William Skink

I saw a woman emerge from her tent–no shirt, just bra–and comb her hair. Luckily I had already dodged the shopping cart, otherwise the image may have kept me from identifying the metal hazard in my path.

That was my experience today biking home from work. The woman and the tent are within rock-throwing distance from the Reserve Street bridge. I saw a new tent today not 10 feet from water that will soon get higher and wash a significant amount of trash (and the tent, if it’s still there) down stream.

There are laws being broken but they are not being enforced. The clean-up collaborations I used to help organize don’t seem to be happening with the same scope or frequency. The Clark Fork Coalition has their big Clark Fork Clean-Up this Saturday, but I doubt this part of the river is going to be addressed.

Not unrelated, I recently watch an interesting piece on what’s happening in Seattle. I suggest checking it out.

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Urban Renewal In Hamilton, Montana?

by William Skink

As I put together last Saturday’s post about gentrification in Missoula I noticed that the information I was most interested in was often at the end of, or near the end of, the article. The phrase that describes this phenomenon is “burying the lede”.

A local media piece in the Missoulian today about a national media piece in the Washington Post about Hamilton, Montana caught my attention. Not because a national rag was able to find Hamilton, Montana on the map and not because Hamilton seems to be bucking the trend of dying small towns.

No, what got my attention was the part of the article where Hamilton’s Mayor, Dominic Farrenkopf, talked about how he would like to see Hamilton grow, and, more specifically, what mechanisms are being considered to prime that growth:

Hamilton’s 40-year-old mayor, Dominic Farrenkopf, told the Post he’d like to see Hamilton grow by another 1,000.

On Tuesday, Farrenkopf said that’s right as long those new folks arrive over the next 15 to 20 years.

“I think growing responsibly is really important,” Farrenkopf said. “We have a lot of good things happening here and there is potential for more… But the key is that growth needs to happen slowly and responsibly.”

Working with the city council and county commission, Farrenkopf is encouraged by moves to create an urban renewal district and a separate opportunity zone in the community that could unlock potential for new light industry in Hamilton, with its promise of good paying jobs.

I’m sure Farrenkopf is encouraged. Developers and Real Estate peddlers are also probably salivating. But there’s a little problem: where exactly is the urban blight in Hamilton to warrant a URD? The article points out that downtown Hamilton is doing great and boasts not one vacant storefront downtown. To renew an urban district there needs to be something to renew. That is the “blight” the URD is designed to address.

While conventional thinking seems to view almost all growth as good, the notion that good paying jobs will automatically follow development needs to be critically examined. More growth and more people creates more demand for government services. If Hamilton starts going down the URD road its citizens could find themselves in a similar boat as their northern neighbors in Zoo Town, footing higher tax bills so developers can get sidewalks built for their project with public money.

Beware of what your elected leaders are planning, citizens of Hamilton. Missoula should be a cautionary example of how the mechanisms of priming growth can get out of control. You’ve been warned.

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Gentrified Missoula: Millions To House Bugs, A Few Thousand To House Humans

by William Skink

There is a screw the poor sentiment in Montana that is obviously deployed by Conservatives and less obviously deployed by Liberals. 

At the State level it’s the political wrangling over Medicaid expansion where this is most obvious. Conservatives throw fiscal conservatism out the window when it comes to punishing poor people for needing government-funded health coverage.

They don’t care if the State gets sued and has to spend precious resources defending work requirements in court.

They don’t care if emergency services and ER triage continues serving the under-served, adding to the skyrocketing cost of health care services for all of us.

They don’t care that turning down Federal funds for Medicaid doesn’t hand back the money to some general fund for savings, but will instead go to other states with legislatures less inclined to expensively punish the poor for being poor in America.

In Missoula screwing the poor is done more subtly, but if you look at where money goes and where it doesn’t go, you can see what the priorities are–and it’s not to make the lives of poor people in Missoula any better.

One recent article about County funds administered by the Salvation Army shows the disparity between need and available funds. Because of the harsh winter the small amount of funds went faster this year than expected:

Montana’s unusually frigid winter this year forced the Salvation Army to plow through its entire $39,600 rental and deposit assistance program by March 8, prompting the group to request and receive an additional $7,000 Thursday from Missoula County.

The money was supposed to last through April, but fell short almost two months early. They turned to a $10,000 rental assistant grant through the Emergency Food and Shelter Grant, but that only lasted until March 15.

“Since running out of that funding last Friday, we have 32 households on a waiting list hoping for a little help to stay housed,” Julie Clark, a social service coordinator at the Salvation Army, wrote in a March 22 letter to Nancy Rittel, a grants administrator for Missoula County. “With an extra $7,000 we could potentially help up to 20 more households and keep them in housing.”

And how much was actually requested of this program? That info is at the bottom of the article:

Clark added that the total amount of aid requested this year was $130,600, so The Salvation Army’s assistance was only 30 percent of what was sought.

To contrast this use of County funds, it was recently reported that millions of dollars will be raised to house bugs. Yes, bugs. Yes, millions of dollars. From the Missoula Current:
 

The Missoula Insectarium and Missoula County Extension and Weed District will build a learning center and offices at the Missoula County Fairgrounds, bringing more diverse uses to the property and restoration of the land and buildings.

The 29,000-square-foot building will house offices for the Missoula Extension Service and Weed District and space for local 4-H and family and consumer sciences programs. Those uses will occupy about two-thirds of the building.

Sounds expensive. So how much will this cost? According to the article, just phase one will be 20 million. But, Missoula tax paying citizens, at least the bugs will have a wonderful home in which to live, right?

I know our local elected officials can get a little touchy when facing criticism, and I say that from direct experience, having inspired a verbal confrontation by a City Council member because I wrote a poem about sidewalks that the Missoulian published. During that interaction I got a peek into how maligned that council person feels regarding how local media reports on local issues, like taxes. 

Well, wouldn’t you know, there is a convenient Missoulian article (just days after Jesse Ramos criticized MRA) that takes a look at local taxes, an article that conveniently doesn’t mention Urban Renewal Districts until the very end, and even then what is said is of little actual substance. First, here’s a little of the PR effort:

Missoula residents pay lower taxes, per capita, to the city than people in Bozeman, Helena and Kalispell, and slightly more than taxpayers in Billings and Great Falls, according to the city’s Finance Department.

Jessica Miller, the city’s citizen services manager, gave a presentation recently on the city’s taxes to a Citizens’ Academy, part of a series to educate people on city issues. It was organized by Missoula City Council members Heather Harp and Gwen Jones. The event was recorded by Missoula Community Access Television and reviewed by the Missoulian.

“Despite all the headlines you’ve seen in the paper and various other news media that Missoula has the highest property taxes, what a lot of those folks are commenting on is the number of mills that we assess,” Miller told the crowd. “That can be kind of misleading.”

And here, buried at the end of the article (notice a theme here?) is the part about URDs:

One person in the audience wanted to know if the city’s Urban Renewal Districts pay higher or lower property taxes than everyone else. In those districts, all the new property taxes generated since the day the districts were formed is administered by the Missoula Redevelopment Agency. That money goes back into those districts in the form of Tax Increment Financing and not into the general fund.

The city’s chief administrative officer, Dale Bickell, explained that everyone pays the same.

“Personal property pays the same in an Urban Renewal District,” he said.

The question is dumb and obviously comes from someone who doesn’t understand that it’s not that property owners within URD’s pay higher taxes, it’s that URD’s contribute to everyone’s taxes going up to feed demand for essential services that the general fund can’t keep up with because the benefit of increased tax revenue is being redirected to the MRA piggy bank.

These over-used financial mechanisms priming gentrification across the valley is a reality that our enlightened city leaders are trying to obfuscate with the numbers thrown around in this presentation. By the way, what the hell is this Citizen’s Academy anyway? An indoctrination camp?

I hate to break it to our enlightened city officials, but no amount of perception management will change the absurdity of spending $25,000 of our public money, mismanaged by MRA, on a dog statue. And no amount of perception management will change the problems of pushing big bonds for things like parks, at a cost of 39 million dollars, only to have Parks and Rec ask for more money (which they did last year) because they can’t afford to manage all the new green spaces. From the link:

The general fund budget for parks and recreation currently stands at $5.82 million, though the department is seeking a 7.5 percent increase to $6.2 million. The current budget, Gaukler said, isn’t enough to cover the department’s growing list of responsibilities around maintenance and upkeep.

“We understand this is a substantial change in numbers,” she said. “We wanted to show you, predominantly what that does, is keep the 60 percent for maintenance constant.”

Those maintenance costs continue to increase as Missoula grows. Last year, the city opened a downtown Art Park, the South Reserve Street pedestrian bridge and the Orange Street roundabout, among other additions, adding $88,000 in unfunded maintenance costs.

Gaukler said additional projects expected to come online this year will add an another $193,000 in maintenance costs. Other costs, identified as cyclical in the budget, are also mounting, including some that carry high dollar figures, such as the Northside pedestrian bridge.

The PR effort in the Missoulian shows that the majority of our elected officials still don’t get it. Considering how many economic indicators are screaming of a looming recession, if not worse, it would be nice to see a proactive reassessment of our community’s priorities toward real inclusiveness of all levels of income.

I suspect economically disadvantaged human beings would be more appreciative of assistance than bugs. Just a hunch.

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First Thoughts On The Arrest Of Julian Assange

by William Skink

Will the lawless US Empire get the revenge it desires against Julian Assange? A big step toward achieving vengeance happened today when Ecuador’s president allowed British authorities to enter the embassy and arrest Assange. Here is what the previous president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, had to say in a scathing tweet:

The greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history, Lenin Moreno, allowed the British police to enter our embassy in London to arrest Assange.
Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget.

Ouch.

What I find to be particularly disgusting is having to watch the same media that spent the last two years peddling bullshit leaks from anonymous sources in order to feed the xenophobic, anti-Russia hysteria now shift gears to report on Assange’s fate. Do any of those well paid faces and voices have any understanding of the potential impact silencing Assange will have for press freedom? I’d ask some real journalists, like Gary Webb and Michael Hastings, but they’re dead.

While it seems obvious to me I’ll still go through the motions by pointing out that the behemoth corporations that have steadily consolidated their control of the media haven’t done so in order to protect or promote press freedom, quite the opposite.

Even well-funded upstarts like the Intercept, who made their name thanks to Edward Snowden’s leaked disclosures about the privacy-destroying expansion of the surveillance state, is moving in the opposite direction of transparency by shutting down the Snowden archives after only publishing around 10% of the material Snowden leaked. Here is some speculation on why the Intercept is shutting down the archive, and it’s not the “budget constraint” reasoning offered by Greenwald:

A more compelling reason for why the Snowden archive failed to retain its value to the Intercept in the eyes of Greenwald, Scahill and Reed lies in the troubling government and corporate connections of their benefactor Pierre Omidyar, who — as the sole shareholder of First Look Media — pays their enormous salaries.

As journalist Tim Shorrock recently wrote at Washington Babylon, a likely motive behind the decision to shut down the Snowden archive was related to “the extensive relationships the Omidyar Group, the billionaire’s holding company, and the Omidyar Network, his investment vehicle, have forged over the past decade with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other elements of the national security state,” as well as “the massive funds Omidyar and his allies in the world of billionaire philanthropy control through their foundations and investment funds.” MintPress has recently published several reports on both aspects of Omidyar’s many connections to the national security state and the non-profit industrial complex.

Journalist Tim Shorrock goes further with his speculation in the following direct quote:

The Snowden collection had become problematic to Omidyar as he positioned himself as a key player in USAID’s ‘soft power’ strategy to wean the world from ‘extremism’ with massive doses of private and public monies. The classified NSA documents may not have been a problem under the Obama White House, where Omidyar enjoyed privileged status. But under Trump, whose Justice Department has gone beyond Obama’s attacks on whistleblowers by pursuing Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, holding on to the Snowden cache may had become a liability.”

So what is corporate media going to do? Wikileaks was a significant card in the house of cards known as Russiagate, despite evidence the was mostly ignored by the MSM, like Craig Murray standing up and saying he knew for a fact Russia wasn’t behind the leaked Clinton/Podesta emails. This was first reported by the Daily Mail all the way back in 2016:

A Wikileaks envoy today claims he personally received Clinton campaign emails in Washington D.C. after they were leaked by ‘disgusted’ whisteblowers – and not hacked by Russia.

Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan and a close associate of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, told Dailymail.com that he flew to Washington, D.C. for a clandestine hand-off with one of the email sources in September.

‘Neither of [the leaks] came from the Russians,’ said Murray in an interview with Dailymail.com on Tuesday. ‘The source had legal access to the information. The documents came from inside leaks, not hacks.’

Who are you going to believe? Murray and Wikileaks, or a third party–Crowdstrike–HIRED by the DNC to evaluate their servers? Remember, the FBI never analyzed the servers the emails were taken from.

I doubt there will be any significant domestic outcry over the fate of Assange. Democrats and the herd that follows them think Assange is a Russian asset who deprived their Queen from the throne, while Republicans and the herd that follows them don’t appreciate that America’s war machine was exposed as the lawless, corrupt, tax-sucking monster that it is, a monster that can’t even win a war against the Taliban after nearly two decades.

Whatever happens to Assange, after today, anyone in this country who thinks there is such a thing as a “free press” is seriously deluded.

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Imperial Sellouts, Obama And Trump

by William Skink

Donald Trump, like Barack Obama, said a lot of shit to get elected, then transformed once in office. Plenty of Obama supporters couldn’t make the cognitive shift to acknowledge they had been played. Similarly, plenty of Trump supporters also refuse to acknowledge Trump suckered them with populist rhetoric.

Pointing this out won’t mean anything if it comes from a source with even a hint of liberal/left ideology. That’s why I’m glad Michael Krieger at Liberty Blitzkrieg wrote this post, where he says things like this:

Though not surprising, it’s nevertheless extraordinary to watch Donald Trump publicly and shamelessly morph into a George W. Bush era neocon when it comes to foreign policy, and a CNBC stock market cheerleader when it comes to the economy. Just like Barack Obama before him, Trump talked a good populist game on two issues of monumental importance (foreign policy and the rigged economy), but once elected immediately turned around and prioritized the core interests of oligarchy.

Trump doesn’t even give lip service to big picture populist topics anymore unless they’re somehow related to the culture war, which works out perfectly for the entrenched oligarchy since the culture war primarily serves as a useful distraction to keep the rabble squabbling while apex societal predators loot whatever’s left of this hollowed out neo-feudal economy.

The pivot toward status quo consensus when it comes to two of the most existential issues facing the nation should be deeply concerning to everyone, but particularly to those who thought Donald Trump would be different. When it comes to militarism and empire, Trump’s hypocrisy and bait and switch is one for the record books. Just as it became clear Obama was a fraud once he hired Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner (we later found out his cabinet was apparently chosen by Citibank), Trump placing neocons Mike Pompeo and John Bolton into key positions was a clear sign you could take “Make America Great Again” and flush it down the toilet. This administration is now laser focused on maintaining and even expanding imperial reach.

I know putting the names Trump and Obama in the same sentence and then suggesting there’s any kind of similarity short-circuit’s partisan brains, but there IS a dangerous continuity when it comes to the reckless imperial overreach of an empire in decline.

Take Libya. It amazes me, as I listen to “liberal” NPR, how casually the voices gloss over the fact Gaddafi was overthrown during Obama’s reign because fake news was used to claim an impending humanitarian crisis that was then immediately exploited with NATO peace bombs. Then, after Gaddafi was summarily executed, Libya was left to devolve into a nation where human slaves are sold in daytime markets.

Montana Public Radio is currently panhandling the public airwaves for money. If you appreciate how you’ve been lied to for 2 years about Russiagate, make sure to give them a nice handout so they can continue making Trump’s reelection prospects great again.

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Thank You Jesse Ramos

by William Skink

I commend Jesse Ramos for continuing to articulate valid criticism against the tax increment financed utopia MRA arrogantly assumes it’s creating with its Urban Renewal Districts. 

While the cost of housing continues to skyrocket, ballooning over 8% in just the past year, MRA thinks it’s prudent to spend the equivalent of some workers annual salary on an ugly dog statue. That is just one of the MRA expenditures Ramos referenced in his criticism. From the first link:

Several City Council members strongly defended the use of Tax Increment Financing in Missoula as the council’s lone Republican, Jesse Ramos, said Wednesday he felt the program had been misused in the past for projects that don’t benefit the majority of the community.

“I’m a Republican and I’m the only one on the council that’s opposed to giving $1.5 million to Stockman Bank, which is owned by one of the richest guys in Montana,” Ramos said, speaking by phone to the Missoulian after he said he didn’t get enough time to ask questions during a council committee meeting Wednesday.

Ramos also said he felt the Missoula Redevelopment Agency’s funding of $5 million for a pedestrian/bike bridge over Reserve Street, and $6.9 million for a new road, sidewalks, street trees and other infrastructure near Southgate Mall weren’t appropriate.

He said that money would have been better spent going to city police, schools, firefighters and road maintenance. Ramos also indicated he believes that the MRA purposefully extended the life of at least one Urban Renewal District from 15 years to 40 years so that they have control over tax revenue for a longer period of time.

Ramos is hitting some serious nerves with his criticism, especially asking the Queen of the Piggybank point blank if the pedestrian bridge was part of a justification scheme to extend the life of the Urban Renewal District from 25 years to 40 years in order to keep the money flowing to MRA and not the general fund.

Ramos’ criticism has been echoed here in more than a few blog posts, like this one from 2016. This is not to say there haven’t been good projects financed by TIF funds–aka the public’s money–over the years. There have, and could be more, but it’s also fair to question lining the pockets of bankers and the Lambros family, especially when the fruits of URDs and TIF money have already helped to transform Missoula into an unaffordable landing pad for coastal transplants who can afford the condos springing up.

As for the argument that without URD designation and TIF sweetener, downtown would not have risen like a phoenix from the mad max dystopian wasteland described by those who get paid to manage our public money, I don’t buy it. The trend of urban renewal was already reversing the previous trend of mall shopping in the suburbs before URDs came along, and a little mountain town with a river running through it was eventually going to be discovered by investors.

We need more critical voices questioning the intentions of MRA and the overall impacts of unaffordability that starving the general fund with URDs and TIF redirection is contributing to.

 

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Are The Reserve Street Homeless Camps In Missoula Getting Political?

by William Skink

With weather finally warming in Missoula, the need for a warming center will disappear with the snow.

One reason chronic gaps in services got more attention this past winter is because groups like the Democratic Socialists of America and Food Not Bombs showed up at City Council meetings to make sure the political leadership of Missoula understood that paying lip service to a plan is not enough.

While I appreciate what their additional attention accomplished in the short-term with the band-aid solution that will probably have to repeated next winter, something I heard second hand recently has me concerned.

I had already noticed the semi-permanent structures being built on earthen mounds west of the bridge before hearing that some members of the DSA, FNB and/or the IWW were possibly involved. If true, I wonder what exactly they think they will accomplish building out the homeless camp, especially considering the likelihood of flooding hitting the valley again this spring.

There is already a tremendous amount of trash visible from just the bridge that will be swept down stream if there is no organized effort to do a clean-up. There are also several varieties of shopping carts strewn about. Those carts are technically stolen property, but with the jail perpetually over-crowded, and a Sheriff’s Department (who runs the jail) apparently uninterested in addressing these camps unless someone gets stabbed or shot (which will happen again eventually), it will be up to volunteers and non-profit staff to mitigate the impact of systemic failure.

I really hope there isn’t involvement of said political groups in building structures at the Reserve camps. Besides the trash, the encampments have a history of violence, which tends to happen when you combine things like untreated mental illness and substance abuse.

Exploiting these camps to further a political agenda is stupid. It’s so stupid I am actually starting to wonder if there isn’t something else afoot. I saw first hand how Occupy Missoula was infiltrated. I hope something similar isn’t happening to the DSA.

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Where’s The Beef Rachel Madcow?

by William Skink

For the past week corporate media has been utterly consumed with the conclusion of the Mueller investigation. One could assume this news story is the most consequential thing happenning in the country right now.

But it’s not.

The midwest, especially Nebraska, is in the midst of a historically unprcedented flooding event that has already significantly impacted beef and agricultural producers across the midwest. In Nebraska alone it’s being estimated that a million calves have been lost to flood waters. Is corporate media even trying to contextualize this cataclysmic disaster? It doesn’t seem so to me. From the link:

According to Agriculture Secretary Sunny Purdue, there “may be as many as a million calves lost in Nebraska” due to the catastrophic flooding that has hit the state.

This is not a rumor, this is not an exaggeration, and this is not based on any sort of speculation. This number comes to us directly from the top agriculture official in the entire country, and it means that the economic toll from the recent floods is far greater than most of us had anticipated. You can watch Purdue make this quote on Fox Business right here, and it is important to remember that this number is just for one state. It is hard to imagine what the final numbers will look like when the livestock losses for all of the states affected by the flooding are tallied up. This is already the worst agricultural disaster in modern American history, and the National Weather Service is telling us that there will be more catastrophic flooding throughout the middle portion of the nation for the next two months.

The significance of what’s happening in flyover country can’t be overstated, yet for the past week it’s been virtually nothing but Mueller, Trump and the Russiagate scam getting all the attention. This is indicative of corporate media’s focus not just for the last week, but for the last few years.

Maybe those in New York and Wasington DC will start paying attention to this when their filet mignon costs $100 dollars a plate. Until then it doesn’t appear the lives of agricultural producers means as much as the loss of the Russiagate cudgel corporate media has used to beat the notion of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign into our heads since before Trump’s inauguration.

If only corporate media assets like Rachel Maddow understood ignoring the struggles of non-coastal Americans is one significant reason why Trump was elected in the first place, maybe they could adjust their focus a bit, but I seriously doubt that will happen. The ratings and the book deals were just too lucrative to pass up.

Other worlds actually do exist outside of the Beltway. And the people who live there actually do important things for this country, like, you know, produce food for us to eat.

Maybe, just maybe, if the generously compensated media personalities who get paid to peddle bullshit saw these people as their fellow Americans, and not just dumb hicks who voted for Trump, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

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Josh Manning And The Deluded Resistence Need To Stop, But Will They?

by William Skink

The premier blog cheerleading for Democrats in Montana, The Montana Post, made an initial stab at damage control after Mueller’s investigation fizzled. Doing the heavy lifting is combat Veteran, Josh Manning.

Before getting to the post I want to highlight Manning’s updated bio:

Josh Manning is a combat veteran who lives in Helena. His writing has appeared in Newsweek and Foreign Policy and he has appeared on MSNBC and CNN. He was a primary researcher to the recently published New York Times bestseller “The Plot to Destroy Democracy” by MSNBC analyst Malcolm Nance. He is part of a growing movement of progressive military veterans working to affect political change You can follow him on Twitter @joshuamanning23

I emphasized the part where Manning touts his role in a book by Malcolm Nance because I want to highlight how people like Manning and Nance have profited from peddling Russiagate. I’m assuming being a “primary researcher” comes with some kind of financial compensation. If Manning didn’t make any money, Nance surely did. And who is Malcolm Nance? Let’s see how Matt Taibbi describes him in his scathing acknowledgment of the Russiagate scam:

Failure to ask follow-up questions happened constantly with this story. One of the first reports that went sideways involved a similar dynamic: the contention that some leaked DNC emails were forgeries.

MSNBC’s “Intelligence commentator” Malcolm Nance, perhaps the most enthusiastic source of questionable #Russiagate news this side of Twitter conspiracist Louise Mensch, tweeted on October 11, 2016: “#PodestaEmails are already proving to be riddled with obvious forgeries & #blackpropaganda not even professionally done.”

As noted in The Intercept and elsewhere, this was re-reported by the likes of David Frum (a key member of the club that has now contributed to both the WMD and Russiagate panics) and MSNBC host Joy Reid. The reports didn’t stop until roughly October of 2016, among other things because the Clinton campaign kept suggesting to reporters the emails were fake. This could have been stopped sooner if examples of a forgery had been demanded from the Clinton campaign earlier.

I have written about Manning before because I think he represents a concerning trend of (former?) military intelligence operatives loudly and proudly entering politics to overturn the results of the 2016 presidential election.

Here is an NBC piece about this trend:

They put their lives on the line in foreign war zones, conducted secret missions to collect valuable intelligence and made enormous sacrifices for their country — only to see their former colleagues disrespected by President Donald Trump.

Now, driven by the president’s conduct, they’re taking matters into their own hands and gearing up for a different challenge: running for Congress as Democrats.

Fed up with what they see as Trump’s disdain and distrust of the intelligence community — and his refusal to embrace fully the conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election — an unusually large number of former intelligence officers and operatives are campaigning for office as Democrats in this fall’s midterm elections, according to experts.

For many — like Abigail Spanberger in Virginia’s Richmond-area 7th Congressional District and Elissa Slotkin in Michigan’s Lansing-area 8th Congressional District — it’s a matter of restoring respect for the agencies they gave so much of themselves to.

It’s interesting to read this after the dud Mueller delivered on a Friday during March Madness. Instead of restoring respect, pillars of the intelligence community, like James Clapper and John Brennan, now look like the real treasonous operatives in this sad saga.

For his part in the resistence, Josh Manning tried to get a foothold in electoral politics in 2016, running to represent district 40 in Montana’s State Senate, but he lost his primary race to Hal Jacobson. Will he try again?

If Josh Manning does make another political run I would like to know exactly how much he has benefited from promoting Russiagate. I am also curious how the resistence is planning to pivot into the next stage of distraction. Here’s a peek into Manning’s pathetic pivot:

As many have noted for a year or more, Mueller or any one man or woman, will not save us. Our institutions will help but ultimately may crumble from pressure above. Only we can save ourselves by holding our representatives in DC accountable and demand that we, the voting public, get the best and clearest version of how Trump became president in 2016 and what he has done with his power since then. It is not “Mueller Time” it is “Our Time.” If we abandon the sacrifice and effort the founding fathers made to protect this nation from a threat like Trump then we deserve the fate that awaits us.

Seriously, Manning, give it up. You and the rest of the deluded resistence have actually increased the chances of Trump winning reelection in 2020. And the media platforms you reference contributing to–MSNBC and CNN–won’ be seen as credible by half the country for at least a generation.

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