Open Spaces And Unaffordable Housing In Missoula

by William Skink

Another request to hit up the taxpayer piggybank is coming from the city of Missoula, this time for the never-ending desire to acquire and maintain more “open space”. If you want to read the cheerleading for this bond, you can read this Missoulian article.

If you read the article you may notice that at no point is affordable housing referenced, which is weird, because this bond will increase the cost of housing in multiple ways.

The first hit is the bond itself, which increases property taxes. These tax increases are almost always quickly passed down-stream to renters, who have been tremendously squeezed year after year as the cost of housing has sky-rocketed. If you are a renter voting for this bond will be voting to increase your rent.

Do you think your service sector job will also increase what they are paying you?

The second hit comes from what the bond is designed to accomplish: acquire more land to keep it safe from development. While that sounds good—and probably many would-be supporters of this bond and its designed intentions don’t connect that to the cost of housing—the law of supply and demand means that less available supply to develop will make land that can be developed more valuable, making the cost of development go up, which makes housing more expensive.

One might think developers would be opposed to this, but one would be wrong. Just look at who is being tapped to lead the campaign to convince Missoulians to support increasing the cost of housing in Missoula:

Ginny Merriam, the public information and communications director for the city, said there is not yet a campaign to advocate for the ballot measure. However, the plan is for it to be co-chaired by Rick Wishcamper of the Rocky Mountain Development Group and Tracy Stone-Manning of the National Wildlife Federation.

“The initiative is community-led rather than by local government, same as the last bond,” Merriam said. 

Sure, I guess a wealthy developer and former head of Montana’s DEQ are technically a part of Missoula’s community, but to consider them representative of the people who don’t benefit from their rent going up every year is disingenuous, almost like a bait and switch to take some of the heat off local government if this thing passes and the predictable increase in the cost of housing occurs.

Will local media cover the affordable housing angle of this open space bond? I hope they do. The Mayor claims he’s serious about addressing affordable housing, going so far as creating an entire housing office, yet he keeps supporting things that have the opposite impact on housing affordability.

Personally I think the entire premise of why an open space bond is “needed” should be given a long, hard look. Does Missoula really have problems attracting business, tourists and/or new residents? No, Missoula doesn’t have that problem, but that won’t stop Engen from making the following argument for why the taxpayer piggy bank should keep shaking out millions of dollars:

Engen said that having well-maintained open spaces for recreation provides an economic boost to the area.

“We had an Innovate UM symposium a month and a half ago, and we had executives from tech companies describing Missoula as a mountain headquarters,” he said. “All of this goes to quality of life. People want to live in nice places and want to do business in nice places. Open space helps attract and retain help in nice places where people can thrive and businesses can do well.”

Engen said he feels both the 1995 and 2006 bonds provided a valuable return on investment for city and county taxpayers.

What, exactly, is the return on investment? More people from the coasts moving to Missoula, driving up the cost of housing? More congestion on our roads? More tourists on our rivers? Larger property tax bills? More open space for homeless camps?

I wish the Mayor would be more specific about these returns on investment Missoulians supposedly get for financially enabling the purchase and maintenance of open spaces, and if those returns are worth the cost of making housing in Missoula less affordable.

Is it worth making more people on fixed income choose between things like groceries or medications? Is it worth putting a starter home for a young family further out of reach? Is it worth adding to the cost burden so many are already experiencing, leaving less discretionary money to do gratuitous things, like eating out once in a while or going to a movie?

Missoula has already passed tens of millions of dollars in bonds for schools and parks. But it’s never enough. There seems to always be more maintenance that is needed (and not budgeted for in the initial asks), or some new parcel to purchase, or some easement to obtain.

All of this contributes to the affordability crisis we are STILL EXPERIENCING in Missoula. If the Mayor wants people to believe he is serious about addressing this problem, he needs to stop advocating for the very things that have contributed to the affordability crisis in the first place.

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Kids Are In Cages And Americans Point Fingers On Facebook

by William Skink

Is outrage peaking over the Trump regime’s enforcement of immigration policies? I don’t know, but Facebook is cluttered with pic-click activism as indignant Americans find another reason to detest President Trump. But don’t try to provide context to how pre-Trump administrations are complicit in all this because they don’t want to hear it.

An executive director of a Missoula non-profit had this to say on Facebook: “I am really tired of hearing that this is a policy put forth by Dems. That is a complete lie. The “zero tolerance” policy was put forth this spring by the Trump Administration.”

It is not actually a complete lie to say the policy infrastructure existed before Trump to do what Trump’s border gestapo is now doing. Yes, previous administrations did not impose a zero tolerance policy, so the scale of what is happening now was not happening under previous regimes, but that is not to say it wasn’t happening at all.

The key distinction is between people entering the United States illegally and those appealing for asylum. What Trump’s gestapo is now doing is criminally prosecuting even asylum seekers, and that is why they are able to separate children from their families.

This Vox piece does a pretty good job describing what is happening. To answer the question “Is the policy of separating families new?” the article states the following:

Yes. But it’s building on an existing system, and attention to family separation has brought more awareness to problems with that system that have been going on for some time.

For the past several years, a growing number of people coming into the US without papers have been Central Americans — often families, and often seeking asylum. Asylum seekers and families are both accorded particular protections in US and international law, which make it impossible for the government to simply send them back. Those protections also put strict limits on the length of time, and conditions, in which children can be kept in immigration detention.

When the Obama administration attempted to respond to the “crisis” of families and unaccompanied children crossing the border in summer 2014, it put hundreds of families in immigration detention — a practice that had basically ended several years before. But federal courts stopped the administration from holding families for months without justifying the decision to keep them in detention. So most families ended up getting released while their cases were pending — which immigration hawks have derided as “catch and release.” In some cases, they disappeared into the US rather than showing up for their court dates.

The Trump administration has stepped up detention of asylum seekers (and immigrants, period). But because there are such strict limits on keeping children in immigration detention, it’s had to release most of the families it’s caught.

The government’s solution has been to prosecute larger numbers of immigrants for illegal entry — including, in a break from previous administrations, large numbers of asylum seekers. That allows the Trump administration to ship children off to ORR, rather than keeping them in immigration detention.

 

I am not looking into the context of this to try and provide any kind of cover for what Trump is doing because it’s despicable and cruel to terrorize children for any reason, and that is ultimately the consequence of this policy to separate kids from their adult family members seeking asylum.

But, I also don’t think it’s all that helpful to reflexively blame Trump without at least trying to understand how we got to this point, because if people don’t understand they will assume the opposite of TRUMP DO BAD is that DEMOCRATS DO GOOD (if only they can get your vote and ride that blue wave come November).

On Democracy Now Renee Feltz, a DN correspondent and producer, asked some important questions about what happens after the cycle of outrage runs its course:

We just heard from Michael, who is a young man who’s saying he’s fleeing, essentially, gang violence. And we’ve seen Attorney General Jeff Sessions say that that’s no longer going to be accepted as a reason to come here seeking asylum, as well as women who suffer domestic violence. Now, what are we going to say when we look at what happens after Democrats and Republicans are done being outraged about the separation of young children from their parents? What about slightly older children, such as Michael, who’s 17? What about children as young as 10 or 11? Many of them might go on to be characterized as potential recruits for MS-13, who we’ve seen President Trump speak out against widely.

Now, will the Democrats compromise and say we can agree to deport these type of kids or to put them into these juvenile detention centers, essentially, or will they claim that these young children should also be kept with their parents, in terms of keeping families together? And so, when we talk about following the money, some people are asking: If Democrats regain control of the House later this year, will they consider things like abolish ICE? If they’re so unhappy with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, will they cut off the funds? And if not, why?

Because what is happening at the border right now is so heart-wrenching there is mounting pressure to do something, and in these situations doing something is usually seen as preferable to doing nothing. What will that something be to stop this inhumane treatment of human beings? Billions for a stupid wall? Money to fight gang recruitment? Forced manual labor at a Trump Hotel?

For Democrats nervously thinking about November, there are additional questions to be asking, like how to leverage outrage into donations and/or votes. What they won’t be asking is how to change American foreign policy so countries like Honduras don’t become violent hell-holes people feel compelled to flee in order to survive. They won’t ask because their party has been complicit in destabilizing the very places now being referenced by asylum seekers as their reason for trying to come to the US in the first place.

I can’t imagine having my children taken from me, it’s almost too horrible to think about. And I can’t imagine the impossible choices involved in calculating if it’s worth the risk to stay and face narco-gangs and corrupt governments in the south, or make the trip north to the heart of the capitalist cartel’s most successful experiment in wealth accumulation.

The only hope is that by unleashing the border Gestapo Trump has provided the catalyst to legislative action. If Democrats win in large enough numbers, and they have massive public support behind actual reform, maybe something will come of it.

At the end of the day a government that condones putting children in cages is a government that should not be allowed to exist.

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Stop The Patriarchy!

by William Skink

While most people who heard the recent suicide statistics were probably alarmed and disturbed, for feminists and other social justice warriors who understand that the real problem in the world is men and the patriarchy we represent, there was some good news: men are killing themselves in significantly higher numbers than women.

If you have a problem with men killing themselves, just think of them all as misogynist douche bags who just want to die because they no longer can rape women at will. Even if they’re young men, don’t worry, because their deaths are even better—just think of all the raping that didn’t happen because they’re dead.

Some women are courageous enough to go even further and properly identify male members of our species as young as toddlers as just being rapists in the making. I don’t know why Julian Vigo thinks Feminism may have a misandry problem, it’s only natural to identify threats when so much historical trauma has been experienced. From the link:

This story of Cronus is what came to mind this past week when I found myself set upon by dozens of so-called “radical feminists.” I am obliged to put this term in quotation marks to refer to these women since this brand of radical feminism seems to have been hijacked by individuals who are very much out of touch with what feminism is about (eg. women), much less anything related to the tenets of radical feminism. By all accounts from what I have witnessed this past week, what these women believe to be feminism is merely a vindictive table-turning of history, dare I say a buffet of those women who are in any way tainted by their proximity to the male body—especially those women who have not spawned Satan’s seed: the male child.

What kicked this shit storm off was when a post I made last week on my timeline regarding a feminist event this summer which I might have been interested in attending. As a mother to two small children, my participation in such events is entirely related to my ability to bring my children with me, especially when an event is not a local one-day affair. So as with all logistical communications, I wrote and asked if I could bring my children aged two and five. This is the exchange I posted on my Facebook wall:
I just received this as an email for a “feminist” event:

“It is a female-only space so we do not allow male children.”

My response: “You have just written the most fucked up email I have ever received in my life. Happy not to attend. Wow!!!”

From this post I received comments like, “Why is that fucked up?” where I was expected to explain to an adult female who considers herself a feminist why barring a two-year old because he is male might present a moral problem for any group which not only calls itself “feminist” but which seeks to liberate all females from sex-based oppression whereby the mothers of these children are necessarily excluded. The irony in posing such a question made my head reel, but no sooner could I realize the incongruence of this assertion did another woman write, “I actually don’t understand, either. I’m not being snarky. I really don’t see why it’s wrong to have female-only spaces.” I had to underscore many times in these conversations that my objection had to do with being asked not to bring a two-year-old male to a feminist event, not the fact that, as per many social events, children in general were not welcome. My disagreement had nothing to do with “female-only spaces,” but dealt with the more serious matter of excluding small male bodies because of some deeply prejudiced views of males from birth.

I then reminded these women of the Facebook groups I have had to leave in recent years where some feminists had actually advocated for the abortion of male fetuses to counter the historical injustices of femicide and misogyny. I had left those groups upon reading this eugenical proposition and reminded these women last week that the disdain for and the planned elimination of male bodies from the site of the social is nothing other than eugenics. It was upon this basis that I protested the demonization of male bodies as a political strategy. I even, somewhat ironically, invoked the term “feminazi” demonstrating how a word so often misused by men’s rights activists, actually makes sense in this specific context of willing and orchestrating away males as a class, all under the guise of “safe spaces.” Certainly, “female-only spaces” is the lie these “feminists” tell themselves to commit to a essentialism of male guilt through birth.

Vigo wrote this piece last March, so she didn’t have the benefit of reading this Washington Post op-ed, written by Suzanna Danuta Walters, a professor of sociology and director of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Northeastern University. The op-ed is titled Why Can’t We Hate Men? It ends with this:

The world has little place for feminist anger. Women are supposed to support, not condemn, offer succor not dismissal. We’re supposed to feel more empathy for your fear of being called a harasser than we are for the women harassed. We are told he’s with us and #NotHim. But, truly, if he were with us, wouldn’t this all have ended a long time ago? If he really were with us, wouldn’t he reckon that one good way to change structural violence and inequity would be to refuse the power that comes with it?

So men, if you really are #WithUs and would like us to not hate you for all the millennia of woe you have produced and benefited from, start with this: Lean out so we can actually just stand up without being beaten down. Pledge to vote for feminist women only. Don’t run for office. Don’t be in charge of anything. Step away from the power. We got this. And please know that your crocodile tears won’t be wiped away by us anymore. We have every right to hate you. You have done us wrong. #BecausePatriarchy. It is long past time to play hard for Team Feminism. And win.

So what can we do locally? One thing we can do is change our perspective on things that may seem upsetting—like this old white man in Butte losing his housing voucher. Instead of being upset, let’s celebrate! Hopefully he will be homeless by the time the cold comes, then winter will kill him off! By that standard Missoula isn’t failing homeless men when we allow them to freeze to death on the streets of our gentrified utopia, we are simply allowing natural forces to balance the historical inequities forced on women throughout history.

And don’t mourn Dancing Guy, Missoula. The dancing woman who almost always accompanied him to live music events is clearly better off without him. Under that interpretive dance veneer of hand exploding fireworks in the sky and reeling in imaginary fish was surely a controlling member of the patriarchy who probably forced his female partner to join him in producing their weird spectacle seemingly adored by Missoulians.

Going through just today’s Missoulian front page there are even more opportunities to celebrate, like those four dead male hunters starting to wash up down-stream and a missing 3 year old boy. Whoopee!

Even the Indy is getting in on the action with this week’s street talk, following up the question about who your favorite pop-culture father figure is with an inquiry about what you are doing to dismantle the Patriarchy. Young white man David Schacht knows how to answer. His favorite father figure is Caitlyn Jenner, and to describe his efforts to dismantle the patriarchy, he says: “I assistant-teach about climate change in Brooklyn. We have climate experts come in every week. We only have women experts of color.”

Yes, that is the kind of attitude we need from today’s young white men. We need them to actively exclude other men from even discussing the existential threat of climate change, because even Nobel-winning scientists like Steve Running are obviously just doing their work to satisfy the ego of their toxic masculinity.

So, if you come across something about Steve Running, like this from his Wikipedia page:

“A recognized expert in global ecosystem monitoring, Running was invited to serve on the board of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In 2007, the IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”. Running made the following statement about winning the prize: “We’ve got to get past all the petty bickering and get to work. This is about a big transition for society over the next 50 years. The path we are on is unsustainable. What the Nobel committee is saying is that we’ve got to wake up. We’ve got to change the course of the whole world.”

Please remember, fuck that guy. Regardless of his accomplishments, he was born with the privileged cock of patriarchy in his pants and should therefore stop trying to influence the world around him. Right?

Which leads me to the cultural expectation that we should be celebrating Father’s Day this weekend. Why? What’s to celebrate? Masculinity is toxic. Phallic edifices of the patriarchy besmirch the earth. Also, Trump is a father, and anything Trump does is bad (like meeting with an evil dictator to deescalate nuclear tensions) so if someone like Trump can be a father, then clearly the entire role of fatherhood should be jettisoned to protect our children from toxic masculinity.

Or, to drop the sarcasm for a moment, how about we see the social wedges being imposed on men and women for what they are: part of a larger divide/conquer strategy to create and expand social divisions to fracture any sense of solidarity among the vast majority of the population not benefitting from rapacious, late-stage capitalism.

Happy Father’s Day!

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Give Peace A Chance, Democrats

by William Skink

The obsessive need of the anti-Trump resistance to oppose anything Trump does has created a disturbing space for Democrats to assert their hawkishness. This article in Counterpunch today explains why that is so dangerous:

If more proof was needed to persuade anyone that the Democrats are indeed a war party, it was provided when Senator Chuck Schumer and other Democrat leaders in the Senate engaged in a cynical stunt to stake out a position to the right of John Bolton on the summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un.

The Democrats asserted that the planned summit could only be judged successful if the North Koreans agreed to dismantle and remove all their nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, end all production and enrichment of uranium, dismantle its nuclear weapons infrastructure, and suspend ballistic missile tests.

Those demands would constitute an unconditional surrender on the part of the North Korean leadership and will not happen, and the Democrats know it.

But as problematic as those demands are, here is the real problem that again demonstrates the bi-partisan commitment to war that has been at the center of U.S. imperial policies: If these are the outcomes that must be achieved for the meeting to be judged a success, not only does it raise the bar beyond the level any serious person believes possible, it gives the Trump administration the ideological cover to move toward war. The inevitable failure to force the North Koreans to surrender essentially forecloses all other options other than military conflict. 

From NPR to my liberal friends on Facebook, these talks have been largely criticized as legitimizing a dictator who starves his own people. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that starving people to force political change is SOP (standard operating procedure) for US imperialists. It’s called sanctions, people, and the goal is to create enough misery to trigger a popular revolt.

Over half a million Iraqis died because of sanctions and Madeline Albright infamously said she thought the human price was worth it. In Yemen, with US support, Saudi Arabia is positioned to exacerbate the starving of millions of people as the last port falls to Saudi forces. Millions could die as a direct result of this barbarous war against one of the poorest Middle East nations.

But we’ll just gloss over all that because Trump. Trump is the clear and present danger, right? Even if he is making progress with a nuclear armed North Korea, the resistance must find a way to find fault. It has become pathological.

Don’t get me wrong, there is no altruism coming from Trumpland. I just don’t understand why taking a few steps back from nuclear brinkmanship can’t be applauded.

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Defending Identity Politics Will Not Lead To Electoral Success

by William Skink

Foot-shooting Democrats are doing some damage control to rally support for Kathleen Williams. There is apparent lingering sensitivity over the accusation of playing identity politics to get an electoral edge. Here is trusty Talbot doing the heavy lifting against the penile peers lashing out against half the homo-sapien species:

Merriam-Webster defines identity politics as “a tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics.”

In Williams’ case, it was her reaching out to women for their vote that generated critiques like “her ugly gender identity campaign.” Guess what, guys — and it was all guys writing this stuff — half the Homo Sapiens in the world are women. It’s hardly an exclusive group — certainly more understandable than the blind allegiance of Trump supporters.

Talbot does interesting things with this comment. He takes the technical definition of the term Identity Politics and uses that to muddy the criticism of identity politics as a political strategy by conflating it with the prevalence of woman who exist as a part of our species across the globe.

That women make up half our species has nothing to do with the criticism of using one’s gender as a valid reason to support that person. If voting for Kathleen Williams is good because she is a woman, doesn’t that imply that voting for John Heenan is bad because he’s a man?

Then Talbot references the “blind allegiance of Trump supporters” without including the recent historical context that we have Trump largely because of the blind allegiance of Clinton supporters who turned identity politics into a cult-like demand for loyalty where the ends justified the means–and the means were ugly as hell.

If there is any takeaway for Democrats as these primaries have unfolded it should be that the corporate/Clinton wing of the party is still actively fighting progressive threats to the status quo. They have learned nothing because their donors require that they learn nothing, so candidates that support policies like Medicare for all lose to candidates who know better and stay silent so as not to upset the party bosses at the DCCC and DNC.

This is partly why Williams’ use of Identity Politics is so maddening. Instead of defending a strategy that lost the presidency to Trump and will more than likely keep Montana’s Congressional seat safe for Gianforte, it might be helpful to acknowledge the critics have valid points, and then acknowledge that ignoring those points have not yet been a successful political strategy.

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Class War, Imperial War And The Blue Wave

by William Skink

The backdrop to the electoral competition getting all the attention right now after the primaries on Tuesday should be the class war being mercilessly waged against Americans, and the question for any Democrat dreaming of a blue wave tsunami should be what are you going to do to stop it?

The news that got my attention this morning wasn’t who won their primary, it was reports about Medicare and Social Security. Marketplace Report had that story, in addition to another story from the class war about HUD looking to raise the rent:

Our Social Security program will have to dip into its reserves to meet payouts — the first time since the early ’80s — and the primary trust fund for Medicare is expected to be depleted three years earlier than projected. On today’s show, we’ll look at some of the factors driving this trend, including last year’s tax cuts and changing demographics. Afterwards, we’ll look at news that the former CEO of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, allegedly withdrew $8 million from the company amid the Facebook data scandal, and then we’ll talk about a plan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that could raise rents for millions who get federal housing assistance.

Now, criticizing the tax cuts will be one of the preferred counter-arguments for Democrats to make because it allows them to score political points as the midterms approach, and it’s valid criticism because those cuts are directly referenced as a factor in the manufacturing of these looming problems with Medicare and Social Security.

But, what I suspect we won’t hear much about from Democrats is how our insane military spending keeps going up and up. You won’t hear about it because Democrats are absolutely complicit, as last September’s vote for the Defense Authorization Act proves:

In a rare act of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill, the Senate passed a $700 billion defense policy bill on Monday that sets forth a muscular vision of America as a global power, with a Pentagon budget that far exceeds what President Trump has asked for.

Senators voted 89-9 to approve the measure, known as the National Defense Authorization Act; the House has already adopted a similar version. 

Did you catch that? Trump was like, here’s what I want for the military, and the vast majority of Republicans and Democrats were like, no, Trump, we need to throw more money than even you are asking for at the Pentagon. And remember, this is the same Pentagon that can’t account for literally trillions of dollars:

The Defense Department’s Inspector General, in a June report, said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year. Yet the Army lacked receipts and invoices to support those numbers or simply made them up.

As a result, the Army’s financial statements for 2015 were “materially misstated,” the report concluded. The “forced” adjustments rendered the statements useless because “DoD and Army managers could not rely on the data in their accounting systems when making management and resource decisions.”

Disclosure of the Army’s manipulation of numbers is the latest example of the severe accounting problems plaguing the Defense Department for decades.

Instead of talking about how fucked up our national priorities are, and how propping up imperialism has hollowed out the social safety net, we continue to get stupid calls for more domestic gun control from candidates like Kathleen Williams, who slipped past Heenan last night in a pyrrhic victory for identity politics. James Conner has the best take on that unfortunate result:

During her campaign for the nomination, Williams refused to join Heenan in stating that healthcare is a right. She refused to endorse Medicare for All, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ single-payer plan. She denounced the National Rifle Association. And she urged women to vote for her as an act of gender solidarity, presenting herself as the reincarnation of Jeannette Rankin, the Republican who served two terms in the U.S. House many decades ago. It was a clever and successful primary election strategy.

In my judgment, Williams was the weakest general election candidate of all the Democratic U.S. House hopefuls. Her fundraising was anemic. Her shameless begging for gender identity votes reinforced the tribalism that is rending the Democratic Party asunder. Her attacks on the NRA, and proposals for stricter controls on firearms, will win the hearts of Democrats, but will chill the spines of firearms owning independent. And her repudiation of the principle that healthcare is a right will gladden the hearts of the fools who oppose single-payer health care.

Can she beat Gianforte on 6 November? If there’s a Democratic landslide that results in Democratic control of the U.S. House, she might win. Otherwise, I think she’ll lose with 40–45 percent of the vote.

John Heenan had the best chance of beating Gianforte, and was the only Democratic candidate to state that healthcare is a right and to say he’d vote for Medicare for All. But instead of nominating Heenan to take on Gianforte, Montana’s Democrats, by a weak plurality, decided it was more important to go down in flames with a candidate flying the flag of gender identity politics. 

If gun control meant stopping Democrats from shooting themselves in the foot, I’d be all for it. But that’s not what it means. It also doesn’t mean controlling the sales of advanced weaponry to violent, brutal regimes like the House of Saud and the Apartheid state of Israel.

Over-extending imperial ambition is one of the main factors that led to the fall of the Soviet Union. Combine that with the fact every empire throughout history has collapsed, and the reality for America is it’s only a matter of time. Will Medicare and Social Security survive the downfall of American Empire? If the only force standing between Medicare and Social Security cuts is Democrats, then it’s doubtful.

If you doubt my pessimism, you probably don’t remember that it was Obama who offered to put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block of Empire in 2011 as part of a grand neoliberal deal with Republicans. From the Washington Post:

President Obama is pressing congressional leaders to consider a far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to accept major changes to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican support for fresh tax revenue.

At a meeting with top House and Senate leaders set for Thursday morning, Obama plans to argue that a rare consensus has emerged about the size and scope of the nation’s budget problems and that policymakers should seize the moment to take dramatic action.

As part of his pitch, Obama is proposing significant reductions in Medicare spending and for the first time is offering to tackle the rising cost of Social Security, according to people in both parties with knowledge of the proposal. The move marks a major shift for the White House and could present a direct challenge to Democratic lawmakers who have vowed to protect health and retirement benefits from the assault on government spending.

This country is in serious trouble, yet our political class has become too calcified with corporate cash and hollow virtue signaling to deal with the rot at the core of our national malaise.

For aging Boomers who thought selling out and cashing in would mean a nice retirement one day, I’m sure the Trumpian phase of America’s decline has been an especially difficult shock to the system to absorb.

But the system needed a shock, and now we have a choice: keep going in the same direction, or change course.

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Israel Comes To Missoula, Current Of Praise Is Strong, While Criticism Is Non-Existent

by William Skink

I want to know how they do it. The media helps, of course. Americans aren’t confronted with images the way they are with the latest White Helmet production. But that’s not a good enough explanation, by itself.

How does he do it? I didn’t expect a response on Facebook when he provided a link about how he explained the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism. I just asked to be pointed to any thing he’s written explaining that Israel is an Apartheid State.

Crickets.

I guess stopping Missoula’s Day of the Dead festival is more important than acknowledging Palestinians are once again being slaughtered by Israel.

Executing a 21 year old Palestinian medic, is that a tipping point? #Hertoo? I don’t know, is it getting any traction on CNN? MSNBC? Getting buried by all brands of corporate media is brutally effective. And if the body count gets too big to ignore, call the one-side slaughter “clashes”.

Criticizing the blockade, criticizing the overtly racist dehumanization fueling Apartheid, engaging in the BDS movement, discussing the function of corporate media and the bipartisan stranglehold on the majority of the political class in providing cover for atrocious war crimes–it can all disappear if you make the magical claim of anti-Semitism.

Poof.

They want to make Ahed disappear because no, not her too. Wonder Woman is Gal Gadot.

They want to steal more land modeled after the great colonial theft of the new world and who is going to stop them?

Palestinian refugees can’t come to Missoula because if they even dare to approach the walls of their open-air concentration camp they are now being executed by snipers. Even if they are reporters. Even if they are medics.

Where is the outrage in Missoula? It’s definitely not at Missoula Current, where I think the 3rd or 4th article about an Israeli Tech firm has just been published. This one lavishes praise on the role of the Montana World Affairs Council in bringing 100 jobs to Missoula. This after an article just 4 days old, titled A strong handshake, talent and a gut feeling led Israeli tech company to Missoula.

This from the first article:

David had several objectives for his trip. His primary objective was to develop business relationships between Montana and Israel. At the completion of his first trip, he asked, “What do I have to do to build relations between Israel and Montana?” I responded, “Andy, you need to commit to coming back to Montana. Montanans need to see you, they need to develop a relationship with you.”

With that, David did return to Missoula, again and again and again. The council introduced him to the Montana World Trade Center and to Missoula Economic Partnership. We helped make the proper introductions to officials at the governor’s office as well.

David, with the cooperation of Paul Gladen from the Blackstone LaunchPad team at the University of Montana, did a presentation on Israel’s secret sauce for business success. This was the essence of Israeli business success, the collaboration between the private and public sector. It was this cooperation and networking that went on in Missoula, that led to the Montana World Trade Center sponsoring a trade mission of Montana businesses to Israel. The rest as they say, is history.

Would all these Montana institutions be as eager to do business with Apartheid South Africa? How about Nazi Germany? Because those are increasingly becoming valid historical comparisons to make.

And when you make them, prepare for the accusations. If you’re a politician, prepare for AIPAC. And if you’re anyone else, get ready for the Anti-Defemation League.

Is this how they do it? And is anything capable of changing what is happening?

In the meantime, maybe the Israeli tech firm blessing our valley with 100 jobs can develop technology for the IDF to better identify people who shouldn’t be executed by their snipers, like medics, reporters and the 14 dead children not being shown dead on CNN.

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Missoula Leaders Need To Figure Out The Difference Between Needs And Wants

by William Skink

In response to a KPAX piece about city leaders looking “for further input on citizen survey”, Lead Based Saint had this to say on the Twitter (commas added):

Prioritizing, a basic function of municipal govt, takes a survey and an open house? How thick is the bubble around City Hall?

Instead of paying $24,000 for a stupid survey and now soliciting more feedback, City Council and the captain of our municipal ship, Sailor Engen, should do something simple: prioritize needs instead of wants.

Needs include everything the city of Missoula requires to function, and surprise, streets are definitely a need. When I see all those poor bastards lined up on Flynn Street hoping to take a left onto Mullan, I think some basic infrastructure needs are taking a back seat as the housing density creeps into the County.

And here are some things that are not a need: a play wave, a baseball stadium, and an art park.

If City Council would just start there–prioritizing needs over wants–I think there would be less citizen anger and less chances of committing municipal malfeasance, like the art park bill.

You don’t “need” an open house to understand that needs are not the same thing as wants.

And you don’t need to pay a dime for this valuable advice. I offer my consulting services for free.

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Is Missoula Experiencing Drunken Sailor Syndrome?

by William Skink

Before launching into another brief tirade on city finances I will admit I am not the financially responsible one in our household. I don’t run wild and put our sustainability at risk, but I am more susceptible to impulse buys than my partner is.

One thing I don’t do is run up credit card bills I can’t afford. When I splurged on a Courtney Blazon original, the Dana Gallery was nice enough to allow me to pay in increments. If I had deeper pockets I would have no problem finding ways to spend money.

The dynamics of running a household with dependents (children, dogs, cats, chickens) compared to running a city is made all the time, and probably not fair, but I’m going to do it anyway. I’m going to ask you what you would think of me if I maxed out my credit card buying art instead of making sure my kids had enough food to eat.

You would think I’m an asshole, right? I certainly wouldn’t have a willing partner anymore if I behaved that way. Nope, I’d be shown the door and searching for a divorce lawyer.

You see where this is going.

Last week City Council learned taxpayers are on the hook for $175,000 for the art park between the MAM and Adventure Cycling downtown. And because we’re not just paying off this unexpected debt the cost will be much more:

The Art Park celebrated its ribbon cutting outside the Missoula Art Museum on April 22 last year. The project was initially approved by the City Council in 2016 at a cost of $668,000, though the project’s costs increased to around $900,000, which the council also approved.

As part of those costs, Bickell said, the council increased its general fund participation and the fundraising committee increased its amount, both intended to cover the anticipated $900,000 cost.

“What happened at the end of the day, the project ended up overspending about $50,000 that didn’t have initial City Council approval, and the fundraising side fell short,” Bickell said. “Those two things compounded and created this issue.”

While most of today’s City Council members didn’t have a hand in the project, they still expressed dismay that fundraising efforts have stopped and that taxpayers will cover the bill.

“We’re stuck with a bill we never anticipated, and now we’re financing it for 20 years, and that bill will be even more as a result of the financing,” said council member John DiBari. “This doesn’t sit very well with me. I want to support the police station and the legitimate part of the Art Park, but not the chunk of money the city bore no responsibility for originally then got stuck with.”

Add this to the growing pile of examples that the city of Missoula is financially incompetent. The park bond, Max’s wave, the pedestrian bridge, Southgate mall bailout, baseball stadium bailout, litigating the stupid gun ordinance, throwing money at Arts Missoula to hire some sensitivity trainer, and now the library, which the Mayor is urging MRA to throw money at because–THE HORROR–a fourth floor community room might have to be sacrificed!!! From the link:

To date, the library has raised $4.6 million in private philanthropy, along with $705,000 in other revenues, plus $30 million from the bond that passed in 2016, according to records provided to MRA.

“We were showing we were about $1.25 million over what they could deliver,” Ellingson said. “One of the logical ways to shave off that $1.25 million was to shave off the fourth story. But as someone who has worked really hard on this library and wants it to be an iconic establishment for downtown, I was not very willing to let go of that fourth floor, and neither was the board or downtown.”

Set on keeping the top floor, the foundation approached Missoula Mayor John Engen and MRA to discuss the funding shortage. With encouragement from the mayor, the foundation proceeded to include the top floor in the final design.

“We had to make a decision at that point about whether we could move on, because you have to decide early on if it’s going to be four or three stories,” said Ellingson. “We felt in order to make a decision to go ahead with that fourth story, we needed to pursue help from the MRA.”

The foundation approached MRA last month with its request, which was originally higher than the $500,000 agreed upon Thursday. They also found support from Engen, who lobbied for the funding on the library’s behalf.

Engen said the city supports the project and voters do as well, evidenced by the passage of the $30 million bond. The top floor, which has been indicated in renderings since the project’s inception, is intended to serve as a community meeting space.

“Deleting the top floor of this facility as a function of a commitment to the community doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me,” Engen said. “I have faith in the library that we’ll get a building that matters to this community for a long time. It’s a minimus pledge today. It’s perfectly reasonable.”

I guess in Engen’s mind the voters passing a bond also means the voters signaling yes, please, use more public financing to make sure that crucial fourth floor community space stays in the plans.

I would suggest maybe soliciting some feedback from the public, but even when that happens the Mayor finds a way to spend $24,000 dollars:

Nearly 80 percent of Missoulians think they have an excellent or good quality of life, according to a city survey, although that satisfaction depends somewhat on income.

Missoulians who make more than $75,000 a year are much more likely to say they have an excellent quality of life, though only 15 percent of those who make under $15,000 think they have a poor or below average quality of life.

Those results are from a phone survey commissioned by the city of Missoula and completed by researchers at the UM Social Science Research Laboratory for $24,000.

The data can help Mayor John Engen and City Council budget with clearer, citizen-driven, priorities.

Ah, so the city spent money on a survey that discovered people who make more money are more likely to say they are satisfied with the quality of their life? Brilliant.

Boy, it sure is a good thing there is no budget crisis here in Missoula. Carry on, Sailor Engen.

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Waiting For The Final Solution

by William Skink

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