Quick Hits, July Edition

by William Skink

Since I don’t have time to write more involved posts about the myriad issues swirling around that concern me, I’ll try to touch on a few of the issues briefly with the hope of writing more down the road.

The first issue I’ll mention is the problem of homeless camps around the Reserve Street bridge. After the fall clean-up last year homeless campers returned in numbers not seen since the first clean-up in 2013. In response, a clean-up is scheduled for August and from one of my contacts on this issue, police are having to more frequently go out there. Driving home today I saw a fire truck and two police cruisers parked along the Reserve Street bridge.

This week Missoula approved another annual tax increase. While Emily and Jon traded barbs, what isn’t being talked about by council members is the role of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) in keeping the benefit of development from expanding the value of the tax base. Dan Brooks has a good piece on the TIF scheme as it relates to the Marriott project downtown, but it just barely scratches the surface of TIF shenanigans. I definitely hope to write more on this topic soon.

At the state level, low revenue is going to trigger brutal cuts to DPHHS. How badly this is going to hurt people is not quite clear yet, but it’s going to be bad. Meanwhile, Montana’s Governor and the stupid partisans who support him seem to think it’s a good thing Steve is grooming himself for higher office. This ridiculous piece at Cowgirl made me want to puke. Here’s a taste:

News came last week that Steve Bullock has started a political action group to amplify his voice nationally and perhaps even lay groundwork for a run for president or senate. This welcome news to democrats in Montana and nationally. Bullock is one of the most popular governors in the nation and could also bring red-state progressive chops to the 2020 contest.

Amid this news, it’s hard to imagine how utterly frustrated Republicans must be by now, given that Democrats in Montana seem always to be led by star power, by politicians who get strong mention as presidential timber or otherwise are able capture the country’s imagination (Bullock, Schweitzer, Tester). The GOP, meanwhile, now must settle for Steve Daines and Greg Gianforte. Can you imagine any of these duds trying form a national PAC and get 2020 buzz?

When will the Governor find time to do his actual job while he travels around the country and makes cable news appearances? Montana Democrats sacrificed a lot to ensure Steve won his reelection. Beyond that election, Democrats in Montana got their asses kicked. With the State of Montana on fire and the most vulnerable getting hit with budget cuts, anything that takes the Governor away from his duties to the people of this state is going to be a dangerous distraction.

There is so much more I would like to delve into right now, but I just don’t have the time. That doesn’t seem to be a problem for the contributors at Logicosity, a great blog turning out posts almost daily.

I’ll leave it there for now. Thanks for reading.

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“A Better Deal”

By JC

With a brilliant rebranding effort, it seems that Democrats led by Senator Chuck Schumer think that Trumpism-lite is better than nothing.

“So what did we do wrong? People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.”

Ahem, I think that those democrats and independents that didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, or Congressional and Legislative democrats knew exactly what they stood for. And either didn’t go to the polls, or voted for someone other than a Democrat.

As long as Democrats just keep trying to rebrand themselves, and ram home the same old – same old BS, with a new marketing campaign, we can be assured that we will not have a “better” deal.

Until Democrats divest themselves of their neocon/liberal interventionist allies, work to reign in their Wall Street, corporate and elite overlords, and commit themselves to economic justice by vastly narrowing the wealth divide, they will remain a party in decline. To do this they will have to rectify themselves on trade, unionism, militarism including policing, the drug war and rampant prison privatization and forced labor, privacy, monopolies, financialization, health care… and on and on. Does anybody really see this happening?

In other words Dems are just setting themselves up for more failure. Or maybe that is really where success rests: in playing the victim, even if self-inflicted, while the country slowly burns. Always somewhere else to place blame rather than on their policies which benefitted others more than the common people of this country. Meanwhile elements of the party are comfortable in gated enclaves partying with the Trumpistas, hob-nobbing with wealth and power, laughing about how “better” than Trump means no meaningful change at all. It’s kinda like jumping from the fire back into the frying pan.

“A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future”

Not with Republicans OR Democrats. If nothing else, 8 years of Bush, then 8 years of Obama have brought us to this place… set up by 8 years of Clinton and 12 years of Reagan/Bush. Just another version of “When past is prologue.” Let’s see what sort of greatness Schumer, et al. have in store for us. I can’t imagine there is any “there” there.

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Ween, Alex Jones and Bon Iver

by William Skink

Summer break and light posting continues. Last night I went to the Ween show at the new Kettle House amphitheater. The venue was great, the sound was great, but the logistics of getting people in and out needs serious attention before someone gets hurt.

The biggest problem is pedestrian traffic leaving the show. Lots of people avoided paid parking by parking along the main drag, which meant lots of foot traffic in close proximity to vehicles when the crowd dispersed. I saw some very drunk people get very close to getting clipped by cars.

Speaking of the inebriated enjoyment of music, I recently ran across a brilliant re-working of Alex Jones’ ranting magically transformed into a Bon Iver-esque song.

I think this wins the internet. Like for the whole month of July. Enjoy!

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Clinton Supporters Seek Revenge Challenge Against Bernie

by William Skink

You can thank James Conner for bringing my attention to these bitter Bernie haters:

Vermont resident Jon Svitavsky announced on July 5 that he is challenging Sen. Bernie Sanders in his upcoming re-election in 2018. In his most recent race for re-election, Sanders won over 71 percent of the vote and the Democratic Party didn’t bother to run a candidate. In the 2016 presidential primaries, Sanders received over 86 percent of the vote in Vermont. Among the small percentage of people who voted for Hillary Clinton in the state was Svitavsky, a homeless shelter director who is beginning to receive support from other disgruntled Clinton supporters across the country.

This is astoundingly self-destructive. The idea that any energy would be put toward defeating Bernie Sanders in 2018 is almost too absurd to believe. Going after the progressive fall-guy you rigged the primary against is beyond bad taste. It’s pathological.

Challenging Bernie in Vermont takes some serious audacity. I wonder who Jon Tester would support in this scenario. Here’s Farmer Jon from just a year ago:

Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate for president, Montana Sen. Jon Tester said Friday, announcing his endorsement of the former secretary of state.

“Hillary is the most qualified person on the ballot to unite our nation at a time when dangerous rhetoric threatens to divide us,” Tester said in a statement. “I look forward to working with her to create jobs, strengthen the middle class, keep our country safe, and invest in education and infrastructure so we can move our nation forward.”

Tester thanked Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders “for running a strong grassroots campaign,” energizing young voters and addressing important issues but added, “Now it’s time for us to come together to win up and down the ballot this November.”

If Hillary devotees feel compelled to punish Bernie for forcing them to corrupt the primary process in order to put him down, maybe Bernie supporters in Montana should see to it that Jon Tester goes back to the farm.

Posted in Uncategorized | 20 Comments

Russia, The Media and Why I Think Jon Tester Will Lose in 2018

by William Skink

While Trump pressed flesh with Putin today for like so much longer than scheduled, which was like totally suspicious all by itself–I mean, like, hours, not minutes, which might be treason and maybe we should unfriend anyone on Facebook who doesn’t think so–you feel me?

Sorry, I’ll stop that. I think the heat and Russophobic paranoia may have short-circuited me for a second.

An example of that politically weaponized paranoia was on display today as Jon Tester, a CIA analyst and a law professor peddled their snake oil in Missoula this morning.

Someone has to have a good joke about a politician, a spy and a professor walking into a bar. Maybe something like the spy showed the bar tender a fake ID, while the professor used big words to confuse the bartender, and while that was happening the politician was shoving cash from till into his pocket.

Not funny, I know. It’s like House of Cards: too close to reality to be entertaining anymore.

Anyway, back to Russia meddling in our elections:

Tester said Russia’s efforts to interfere in U.S elections has emerged as the latest threat, and a very real one at that. While the FBI, CIA and NSA have all agreed that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, President Donald Trump this week raised the prospect that “it could well have been other countries.”

“It’s no secret that foreign entities have an interest in disturbing our democracy,” Tester said. “According to the intelligence agencies, the Russian government meddled in the 2016 presidential election. It’s not a partisan matter, it’s a patriotic one. We cannot allow foreign entities – foreign governments – to influence our elections.”

Tester said he was confident the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee would get to the bottom of what transpired during the last election. He was also hopeful the investigation would conclude before the end of the year.

The only thing about this investigation I’m hopeful for is that it’s broad enough to include the corruption in both parties. If Tester is honest in saying it’s a not a partisan matter, he won’t mind if investigators dig into what Democrats and the Obama administration did in the lead up to the election. Did Loretta Lynch lie about having no contact with the Clinton campaign? How about the unmasking of Trump associates by Susan Rice? And let’s not forget the rigging of the primary and the subsequent lawsuit brought against the DNC.

With Trump’s recent tweet about Podesta and the DNC server, the questions about why the DNC initially refused to give the FBI access won’t be treated seriously. Trump’s tweet’s are amazingly functional on multiple fronts. Not only can he distract from other issues by controlling the news cycle, he can also inoculate issues from serious scrutiny.

But with the server, there are legitimate questions about why the DNC behaved the way it did. Here is an old WIRED article from all the way back in January:

In a statement to WIRED, a senior FBI law enforcement official wrote in an email Thursday that “The FBI repeatedly stressed to DNC officials the necessity of obtaining direct access to servers and data, only to be rebuffed until well after the initial compromise had been mitigated.” This contrasts with what DNC deputy communications director Eric Walker told Buzzfeed in an email: “The DNC had several meetings with representatives of the FBI’s Cyber Division and its Washington (DC) Field Office, the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, and U.S. Attorney’s Offices, and it responded to a variety of requests for cooperation, but the FBI never requested access to the DNC’s computer servers.”

In its statement, the FBI agreed with the DNC’s implication that it had instead relied on data from Crowdstrike. But the Bureau points the finger for its lack of independent evaluation squarely at the DNC. According to the FBI official, “This left the FBI no choice but to rely upon a third party for information. These actions caused significant delays and inhibited the FBI from addressing the intrusion earlier.”

When Jon Tester claims the Russia-hacked-our-election conspiracy theories are not partisan, I imagine him back at the farm, shoveling horse shit.

And that’s not just because I think that’s what his rhetoric amounts to, horse shit.  It’s because the farm is where I think Jon will be after he loses his reelection.

I’m not the only one preparing to be vocal about not voting for Jon Tester, there are some environmentalists with good memories already getting vocal about not supporting Tester:

We 30,000 strong Montana environmentalists are looking for our champion, and it is not U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. He denies us our needs: Wildlife (especially grizzly bears and wolves) saved under the Endangered Species Act; more appropriate designated wilderness for wildlife habitat and their survival; and elimination of Montana “dirty coal” mining and the Keystone XL Canadian tar sands oil transmission pipeline causing severe climate change issues. He refers to us as the “lunatic fringe” enviros.

He is a DINO and behaves like a moderate Republican. We will abandon him on this next go-round, since we supported him the last two elections and he betrayed us. Do the math. We will organize ourselves. Without our support, he loses. So if he continues to ignore our needs, he loses.

Does Tester think he can replace these lost votes by continuing to blame Russia for Hillary Clinton’s spectacular failures? I don’t think so, because that would mean Tester is stupid, and I don’t think he’s stupid. Keeping the focus on Russia is just a convenient way to ensure the focus doesn’t go elsewhere, like Tester’s pro-Pharma, anti-environmentalist record.

Or maybe Tester is laying the groundwork to blame Russia for his defeat. By that time, will the MSM have been thoroughly discredited for its propaganda-fueled, anti-Russia hysteria?

On June 25th the New York Times was finally forced to retract its assertion that all 17 intelligence agencies agreed that Russia hacked our election. Here is Robert Parry’s take:

In the Times’ White House Memo of June 25, correspondent Maggie Haberman mocked Trump for “still refus[ing] to acknowledge a basic fact agreed upon by 17 American intelligence agencies that he now oversees: Russia orchestrated the attacks, and did it to help get him elected.”

However, on Thursday, the Times – while leaving most of Haberman’s ridicule of Trump in place – noted in a correction that the relevant intelligence “assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community.”

The Times’ grudging correction was vindication for some Russia-gate skeptics who had questioned the claim of a full-scale intelligence assessment, which would usually take the form of a National Intelligence Estimate (or NIE), a product that seeks out the views of the entire Intelligence Community and includes dissents.

The reality of a more narrowly based Russia-gate assessment was admitted in May by President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan in sworn congressional testimony.

Clapper testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on May 8 that the Russia-hacking claim came from a “special intelligence community assessment” (or ICA) produced by selected analysts from the CIA, NSA and FBI, “a coordinated product from three agencies – CIA, NSA, and the FBI – not all 17 components of the intelligence community,” the former DNI said.

So, when the MSM plays itself as the helpless little victim of big, bad political bullies, don’t believe them. They are not victims, they are willing participants in an information war being waged by the Deep State with the ultimate aim of delegitimizing and bringing down the president of the United States of America.

I don’t see much honest criticism of media in the Montana blogosphere, but I have to say Dan Brooks earned his best writer award (from the paper he works at) with this post taking CNN to task for bullying HanAssholeSolo into submission:

A news organization should not threaten to make one person infamous in order to avenge its brand. The news, like the government, should not settle personal scores. It only took that one sentence to push the network’s decision out of decency and into blackmail, and it’s a shame they included it. The online right will cherish #CNNBlackmail, as they cherish any evidence they have been unjustly maligned. HanAssholeSolo will watch what he says about corporate media. The whole, awful argument that the news is fake will seem incrementally more appealing to people who weren’t following the news anyway, and everyone will get a little bit dumber. Then it will be tomorrow.

Wrapped up in this concluding paragraph is the assumption that CNN’s bullying is bad because it will seem like evidence to the online right that they have been “unjustly maligned”. This just bolsters those people (the online right) in the “awful” argument the news is fake, which can’t be true because the NYT and Washington Post are infallible.

Referring to “people who weren’t following the news anyway…” is where the smugness seeps in. And the blindness. Because I have news for Dan Brooks: corporate media will lie, distort and omit when it serves the corporate agenda.

When, for example, another alleged gas attack in Syria was blasted by corporate media as being the result of a deliberate, intentional attack by the Assad regime, those of us who do follow the news with skepticism went to the non-corporate media and, once again, were better informed than the consumers of corporate propaganda. Vindication came recently when Sy Hersch reported on a much more plausible scenario by doing the kind of journalism CNN refuses to do because they are paid not to.

When Trump reacted militarily to what he saw on television after the alleged gas attack in Syria, the MSM media acted like the slobbering lapdogs of power that they are. Here’s Hersch’s recollection of that time (only 3 months ago):

After the meeting, with the Tomahawks on their way, Trump spoke to the nation from Mar-a-Lago, and accused Assad of using nerve gas to choke out “the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many … No child of God should ever suffer such horror.” The next few days were his most successful as president. America rallied around its commander in chief, as it always does in times of war. Trump, who had campaigned as someone who advocated making peace with Assad, was bombing Syria 11 weeks after taking office, and was hailed for doing so by Republicans, Democrats and the media alike. One prominent TV anchorman, Brian Williams of MSNBC, used the word “beautiful” to describe the images of the Tomahawks being launched at sea. Speaking on CNN, Fareed Zakaria said: “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States.” A review of the top 100 American newspapers showed that 39 of them published editorials supporting the bombing in its aftermath, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

Five days later, the Trump administration gathered the national media for a background briefing on the Syrian operation that was conducted by a senior White House official who was not to be identified. The gist of the briefing was that Russia’s heated and persistent denial of any sarin use in the Khan Sheikhoun bombing was a lie because President Trump had said sarin had been used. That assertion, which was not challenged or disputed by any of the reporters present, became the basis for a series of further criticisms:

– The continued lying by the Trump administration about Syria’s use of sarin led to widespread belief in the American media and public that Russia had chosen to be involved in a corrupt disinformation and cover-up campaign on the part of Syria.

– Russia’s military forces had been co-located with Syria’s at the Shayrat airfield (as they are throughout Syria), raising the possibility that Russia had advance notice of Syria’s determination to use sarin at Khan Sheikhoun and did nothing to stop it.

– Syria’s use of sarin and Russia’s defense of that use strongly suggested that Syria withheld stocks of the nerve agent from the UN disarmament team that spent much of 2014 inspecting and removing all declared chemical warfare agents from 12 Syrian chemical weapons depots, pursuant to the agreement worked out by the Obama administration and Russia after Syria’s alleged, but still unproven, use of sarin the year before against a rebel redoubt in a suburb of Damascus.

The briefer, to his credit, was careful to use the words “think,” “suggest” and “believe” at least 10 times during the 30-minute event. But he also said that his briefing was based on data that had been declassified by “our colleagues in the intelligence community.” What the briefer did not say, and may not have known, was that much of the classified information in the community made the point that Syria had not used sarin in the April 4 bombing attack.

The mainstream press responded the way the White House had hoped it would: Stories attacking Russia’s alleged cover-up of Syria’s sarin use dominated the news and many media outlets ignored the briefer’s myriad caveats. There was a sense of renewed Cold War. The New York Times, for example – America’s leading newspaper – put the following headline on its account: “White House Accuses Russia of Cover-Up in Syria Chemical Attack.” The Times’ account did note a Russian denial, but what was described by the briefer as “declassified information” suddenly became a “declassified intelligence report.” Yet there was no formal intelligence report stating that Syria had used sarin, merely a “summary based on declassified information about the attacks,” as the briefer referred to it.

Fake news is a loaded term. So is propaganda. But I’m not sure how else to describe the role of the MSM when they so brazenly exploit the misery in Syria in order to further America’s geopolitical agenda.

I know Trump and Breitbart news are alarming to smart people who vote the right way and still believe newspapers like the New York Times are credible producers of objective, journalistic content, but what I find more alarming is how easily well-intentioned members of the resistance are being played by equally duplicitous forces who would rather risk war with Russia than allow any alternative to their failed leadership to emerge.

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Missoula Mayor Walks Away From Jail Diversion Because Money Talks

by William Skink

Last night I fell asleep much earlier than usual, exhausted from neighbors with an apparent four figure budget for fireworks, the heat that’s taken hold, and the different demands of three kids in various stages of development and emotional maturity.

And then, earthquake. Not much sleep was going to happen after that disorienting wake up.

I almost started writing a post at 1am when it was clear I wasn’t going back to sleep any time soon, but after a week of no updates I didn’t know where to start.

I’ve been wanting to blast Missoula’s budgetary priorities, so that seems as good a place as any to start.

Missoula Current reported at the end of June that after spending tens of thousands of dollars on studying the jail overcrowding crisis at Missoula County’s detention facility, the funding for the programs the study recommended is on the chopping block:

The proposed budget, set for adoption next month, includes three new positions for Development Services to help it keep pace with the city’s robust growth.

However, the budget does not include the $82,000 requested by Parks and Recreation to cover the maintenance of several new greenways, including the Missoula Art Park and the pedestrian crossing at South Reserve Street.

Nor does it include $650,000 to fund the city’s Jail Diversion Master Plan. Among other things, the initiative seeks funding for a number of programs, including $38,000 for alcohol and drug monitoring, $62,000 for anger management and $17,000 for home arrest.

One reason I held off writing about this is because I was simply too enraged to write constructively about it. After sitting on my rage for a week, I truly think these three paragraphs exemplify how completely ridiculous Missoula’s political leadership under Engen has become.

The budget being proposed wants to bolster Development Services despite the whiny lament that Missoula’s building boom isn’t actually filtering into the general fund. Why? Here’s Dale Bickell trying to explain it:

Despite robust growth and record-setting figures in new building permits, which reached $245 million last year, the benefits of new growth have yet to be realized.

That has prompted city leaders to take what they say is a conservative approach to budgeting for basic services, leaving little room for enchantments.

“Our total taxable value growth has been pretty stagnant over the past five years,” said Bickell. “We’re not projecting a large number of newly taxable property, but we’re hopeful that with all the development we’re seeing that we’ll actually get more revenue than we’re projecting. We’re trying to be conservative.”

Understanding why new tax values continue to lag despite Missoula’s robust growth is difficult to dissect. Among the speculations, Bickell said, new properties don’t generally enter the tax base until 24 months after a permit is issued, meaning all the new projects coming online won’t be counted for months.

It might be helpful to explain the function of urban renewal districts and other tax-break schemes intended to prime the pump for development, but the article doesn’t include that angle in the “difficult to dissect” problem of booming development not stemming the still voracious appetite of city government for more fees and tax squeezes.

The second paragraph touches on the unsustainable, short-term stupidity of developing green spaces without budgeting for maintaining these spaces. This isn’t the first time Missoula has developed green spaces without accounting for long-term maintenance. This same issue came up after the 38 million dollar bond passed to develop the park at Fort Missoula.

The issue that angers me the most–the third paragraph–is not funding the programs recommended by the jail diversion master plan. The Mayor has no problem spending tens of thousands of dollars to study problems like jail overcrowding, but when it comes to funding proposed solutions, it looks like he’s walking away.

If that is the Mayor’s position, I hope everyone involved in the broken criminal justice system takes note and votes accordingly. I know I am feeling very motivated to do what I can to sunset the Mayor’s reign over Missoula.

I’ll leave it at that, for now. There are a dozen other posts I want to write, but I won’t have a new website to showcase my art if I don’t put in the work now, before the caldera blows and wipes us out.

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Big Sky Blogger Still Ignorant About Homelessness

by William Skink

It appears another post is necessary because willful ignorance does not rest. Where to start?

A year ago Greg Strandberg was trying to depict the homeless situation in Missoula as unique to the state of Montana, specifically blaming the new homeless shelter for “drawing them in”:

I feel the main problem is our homeless shelter’s policies which draw them in. We built it, and they come. Strangely, many other Montana cities with homeless shelters – such as in Helena, the numbers of which I put up last night – are not having these problems.

Why is it just Missoula?

I think GS may have taken my advice to Google “Billings transient problem” because now, a year later, he’s broadened the problem to being a Montana one:

Homelessness is a big problem in Montana.

From 2009 to 2011, for instance, the homeless population in America decreased by 1%…but in Montana it increased by 48%.

I would really like to know where these numbers are coming from because there is no link to a source to substantiate this claim. Is this Greg Strandberg just making shit up? Until I see the source, I’m going to assume yes.

When it comes to homelessness I know first hand that getting solid numbers is very difficult because homelessness is not an easy phenomenon to quantify, especially considering there are different definitions of what it means to be homeless.

That said, I feel pretty comfortable making the following assertion: homelessness is still a big problem in America and progress in the right direction is slow.

Next door, in the State of Washington, things are also not going so well. This article is from earlier this year:

OLYMPIA – An effort to get homeless people off the streets and into shelters seems headed for revisions after critics said it would criminalize homelessness in Washington and put extra burdens on police.

Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way, called homelessness “a statewide emergency.” He’s introduced a bill with several key changes to the state laws, including new restrictions on encampments and declaring homeless heroin users who refuse treatment “gravely disabled.” Parents who fail to report a runaway youth in 48 hours could also be charged with a misdemeanor.

“Things are getting worse, no matter what we’ve done,” he said, adding the state has spent about $1 billion on the problem.

There is a lot more I’d like to say, but I really am trying to get other things accomplished, so I’ll conclude with this simple observation: Greg Strandberg’s opinions are not original, and not informed.

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Beware The Opportunistic Populism of Politician Wannabe Greg Strandberg #MTPOL

by William Skink

When I said posting would be light at RD I didn’t give a reason why, but that didn’t stop the self-appointed ratings analyst of the MT blogosphere, Greg Strandberg, from assuming it’s because there’s nothing to write about:

I can’t think of anything to blog about.

I’m not alone.

“Posting at RD will be light for the next month or two,” another MT blogger is saying today.

Again, I think it’s because there’s not much going on.

Nope, there are at least a half-dozen posts I want to write, but, unlike Greg Strandberg, I have a full time job and not enough time to do everything I want to do.

Speaking of jobs, despite one blogger’s claim they aren’t out there for him, there is apparently a workforce shortage in Missoula. I assume Greg Strandberg knows this since he reads and comments on nearly everything Missoula Current puts out. Maybe those kind of jobs are just beneath the talents of Greg Strandberg.

One talent Greg Strandberg has is getting other people to write about him, which this post is evidence of. So that’s annoying because I know no matter what this post says about Greg Strandberg, its existence is what Greg Strandberg wants.

Another thing Greg Strandberg wants is to be a politician. He’s certainly got the part-time work ethic and full-time self-promotion thing going, so eventually he’ll probably win something. Add to that his shameless attention-getting tactics with fat-bashing the Mayor, and one wonders if the sky is the limit for this aspiring council person.

Since Greg Strandberg wants a political job so bad, I offered my assistance with this glowing endorsement, but since then I have had to entertain the possibility that maybe, just maybe, Greg Strandberg is a populist fraud looking for any foothold into drawing benefits and achieving a platform where people actually have to take him seriously.

My ability to take Greg Strandberg’s strain of populism seriously was greatly diminished last summer when he wrote an ignorant letter to the editor crediting the building of the new Poverello Center with the perennial transient problem downtown.  I tried correcting his ignorance with a post titled Self-Promoter and Wannabe Politician Greg Strandberg Doesn’t Know Squat About Homelessness, but despite my best efforts I wasn’t able to change this very wrong assessment:

We created that problem by building the newfangled homeless shelter, prominently placed on Broadway. My how it draws in the young transients that choose a rag-tag existence of handouts as opposed to hard work!

I reread the comment thread of that post the other day because I was thinking of writing something about the Reserve Street camps and the fact they are flourishing this year worse than I’ve seen since I helped coordinate the volunteer cleanups three years ago. When I read Greg Strandberg’s responses to my attempts to set him straight, what I saw was a complete inability of this politician wannabe to give any ground, despite someone with actual direct experience countering his ignorant and easily disprovable assertions.

I have to admit, part of me is disappointed in myself for writing this post because it feeds Greg Strandberg. But another part of me, the part that won out, feels compelled to use Greg Strandberg as anecdotal evidence of the direction this type of hollow populism is taking us.

Greg Strandberg, imho, is nothing more than a shameless opportunist trying to scheme his way into a government job with benefits. Ignorantly bashing a homeless shelter and calling the Mayor fat and stupid are just the means to the end goal of getting elected.

If knocking on doors for one of his opponents will help keep Greg Strandberg from obtaining that coveted government paycheck, I may have to carve out some time in my busy schedule to keep this type of person from succeeding.

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California Democrats Betray Single Payer

by William Skink

Posting at RD will be light for the next month or two. That said, there will still be opportunities to point out how duplicitous Democrats are.

Health care is getting lots of attention right now because Republicans are positioned to do some serious harm to this country’s most vulnerable people. This effort is, of course, disgusting and it’s made even more disgusting by the cowardliness of these Republicans to face the people they are going to screw over.

The problem with only focusing on what Republicans are doing is that their legislative effort is only half the story. The other half of the story I’ll frame as a question: will Democrats do everything in their power to advocate for a single payer approach to health care?

In California the answer is a very discouraging no:

Nothing better illustrates the political bankruptcy of the Democratic Party—for all progressive intents and purposes—than California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s announcement on Friday afternoon that he was going to put a “hold” on the single-payer health care bill (SB 562) for the state, effectively killing its passage for at least the year.

The Democratic Party finds itself in a bind in California. They hold the governorship and a supermajority in both houses of the legislature, so they can pass any bill they want. SB 562 had passed the Senate 23-14.

There was enormous enthusiasm among California progressive activists, who, with organizations like Campaign for a Healthy California (CHC,) and the National Nurses United (NNU,) and the California Nurses Association (CNA) were working tirelessly, and hopeful of success. After all, Bernie’s people were taking over the California party from the bottom since the election. I recall a night of drinking last year with an old friend who has been spearheading that effort, as he rebuffed my skepticism, and insisted that this time there would be a really progressive takeover of the California party, and single-payer would prove it. After all, once enough progressive pressure was been put on the legislators, the bill would be going to super-progressive Democratic Governor, Jerry Brown, who had made advocacy of single-payer a centerpiece of his run for President in 1992, saying: “We treat health care not as a commodity to be played with for profit but rather the right of every American citizen when they’re born.” Bernie foretold.

Unfortunately, today that Governor is, according to Paul Song, co-chair of the CHC, “doing everything he can to make sure this never gets on his desk.” And it won’t. Unfortunately, all the Democrats like Rendon, who “claims to be a personal supporter of single-payer,” will make sure that their most progressive governor is not put in the embarrassing position of having to reject what he’s been ostensibly arguing for for twenty-five years, of demonstrating so blatantly what a fraud his, and his party’s, progressive pretensions are.

Thus unfolds the typical Democratic strategy: Make all kinds of progressive noises and cast all kinds of progressive votes, while carefully managing the process so that the legislation the putatively progressives putatively support never gets enacted. Usually, they blame Republican obstructionism, and there certainly is enough of that, and where there is, it provides a convenient way for Democrat legislator to “support” legislation they know will be blocked and wouldn’t really enact themselves if they could.

Progressives take note, Republicans aren’t the only ones you are going to have to fight if you want to get progressive policies moving forward.

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New York Roy’s Orange Jumpsuit Ploy

by William Skink

Another special election, another Democrat loss. Apparently no amount of money can get Democrats across the finish line.

In Montana the party that lost the special election is really sticking it to Gianforte by, wait for it, sending him an orange jump suit on his first day of work.

This stupid stunt is one of the first media splashes under the new spokesman for Montana Democrats, New Yorker Roy Loewenstein. It’s important to note Roy is from New York because he’s now speaking for the party that made New Jersey a campaign issue. Here your new spokesman, Montana Democrats:

“As a convicted criminal, he will be hidden by his Leadership and not given any position of influence in Washington,” Roy Loewenstein, the spokesman for the Montana Democratic Party, said in a statement about the newest member of the House.

“So, we got Mr. Gianforte a welcome gift to help his new colleagues identify him.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) slammed the prank in a statement, saying the Montana Democrats’ move is “sad and petty behavior.”

The sad and petty Democrats in this state are going to squeeze anything they can from Gianforte’s misdemeanor assault. At Cowgirl (the once hotspot blog trying to stay relevant) this post shows how partisanship can blind one to the reality of how the criminal justice system functions. The problem begins with the title of the post: Why did the Bozeman prosecutor roll over for Gianforte? and continues with this:

A crucial question was tweeted by the MTPR news director yesterday:: Had Ben Jacobs been the body slammer and the candidate the body slam-ee, would Jacobs have avoided jail time altogether? The answer is almost certainly No.

And yet at Gianforte’s court hearing on Monday, Marty Lambert, the Republican Bozeman prosecutor who must run for election every four years, sought no jail time for Gianforte and put up little resistance to Gianforte’s defense team’s maneuvers. Lambert never even requested that Gianforte perform community service or anger counseling, as the Judge ultimately ordered. Lambert sought only a deferred sentence and a $385 fine. A traffic ticket, in essence.

The question leading into this event was whether power and wealth get Gianforte less punishment than an ordinary citizen would receive, and the answer is now certainly YES. First, Gianforte was not arrested initially for having body slammed Ben Jacobs. He was instead written a citation and allowed to walk, despite several credible witnesses telling cops that Gianforte violently attacked him unprovoked. Lambert praised this police decision.

Anyone familiar with how overloaded municipal courts function can see how ignorant this perspective is. Using myself as an example, when I was assaulted by a mentally unstable person on meth, my assailant was not arrested and taken to jail. After a few hours in court, he was released on his own recognizance.

Montana Democrats should probably avoid this line of attack on Gianforte. Why? They don’t want to hear it, but I’ll say it: Hillary Clinton. As distasteful as the Hillary cultists found the lock her up chants during the campaign, the reality is that Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information and subsequent destruction of evidence would have landed a less-politically-connected individual in jail.

Unfortunately I don’t expect Democrats to adapt and change their losing ways any time soon. They just keep doing the same thing expecting different results. The definition of insanity.

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