The Absurdity of Marching for Science as War Looms Large

by William Skink

I’m not sure the science of it, but after forest fires do their thing, delicious fungi emerge, but only when the ground gets warm enough.

This was the bounty from mother nature I sought today with my family, not the useless MARCH FOR SCIENCE I saw people plastering Facebook with.

I get the political context of marching for science. Trump and Republicans (and Christians) are lumped into the anti-science category, so of course the resistance to that now manifests as a march in the streets for that. For science.

I wonder how many people out marching for science today gave any thought to how the application of science in the pursuit of war has created weapons capable of destroying life on earth? Not all life, but definitely ours, which is all we really care about, right?

I’m not pointing this out thinking I’m any better. I’m really not. I have the same kind of phone my friends on Facebook have to post their pictures with, the same phone that requires certain mineral elements with fancy, scientific names, like lithium. Minerals that just so happened to have been “discovered” 9 year into America’s longest war, in Afghanistan:

WASHINGTON — The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

After getting dirty today hunting for mushrooms, I took a shower. But my hands are not clean. I type this post on a product that comes to me through the exploitation and suffering of others.

The way I deal with my complicity is by making art and helping others. Another thing I find helpful is refusing to allow myself to get sucked in to the dangerous political red/blue binary that blinds people to the anti-war consensus of the public, and the pro-war consensus (Republicans AND Democrats) of the political establishment.

Last weekend it was Trump’s taxes, this weekend it’s science. With war on our doorstep, what’s next on the march menu to nowhere?

When Trump launched missiles into Syria–missiles we wouldn’t be able to create without science–why did so many miss their mark? If it was a Russian missile defense system shooting them down, or a Russian hacking of the guidance technology directing the missiles, that means direct military action between two nuclear-armed nations has already occurred.

Why isn’t resistance to war the reason people are marching in the streets? We are on the verge of the lid blowing off, yet becoming cheerleaders for science on Earth Day is all the resistance can think to do?

What other conclusion is there other than we are fucked?

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Reptile Dysfunction Endorses Greg Strandberg for City Council

by William Skink

I don’t usually endorse political candidates, but when I do it’s because the candidate is Greg Strandberg.

I first noticed Greg Strandberg in the comment threads of Missoulian articles. Like walter12, any article was game for commentary. Here is someone with access to a computer and the ability to write complete sentences, I thought. The sky is the limit.

When the Missoulian shut down comments, I knew that wouldn’t phase Greg Strandberg. The few places that hadn’t banned him would surely become the recipients of his insight and wisdom. Now, many Missoula Current and Last Best News posts have one or two comments, and you damn well know one of ’em is from Greg Strandberg.

Commenting on other people’s content is not the only thing Greg Strandberg does well. At Big Sky Words one can clearly see Greg Strandberg knows how to work with people he doesn’t agree with.

Just last month, for example, Greg Strandberg stood his ground when legislation threatened to make his tobacco and marijuana more expensive. In the brilliantly titled post Fuck You, Mary, Greg Strandberg puts it all on the line to keep his vices affordable:

Mary Caferro is of course the dumb broad that’s foisting this cigarette nonsense on us.

Starting April 30, I have to pay more for the exact same thing.

This is typical Democratic politics.

What is Greg Strandberg? I’ll tell you, Greg Strandberg is not typical Democrat politics. For a few weeks Greg Strandberg was even a Republican, but sadly they wouldn’t have him either.

Greg Strandberg is going to be Greg Strandberg. If elected, Greg Strandberg will fill the shoes left behind by Harlan Wells, whom Greg Strandberg admires for saying no a lot while barely showing up for work. I have no doubt Greg Strandberg will show up. And, he will say things. He is not afraid to say things.

Take his position on the Mayor, for example. A lesser candidate would refrain from saying anything overtly offensive about the Mayor, but not Greg Strandberg. In another brilliantly titled post, Greg Strandberg makes it known he considers the Mayor of Missoula to be Fat, Drunk and Stupid.

This is the kind of boldness Missoula needs from its elected officials.

So, Missoula, get ready for Greg Strandberg’s campaign. He’ll be pounding the pavement soon, with signs and cards and the steely resolve to win so he can finally get a steady paycheck and good benefits.

And you can be a part of the change Greg Strandberg wants for himself. Help him out, Missoula, he obviously needs it.

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What You Are Not Hearing About the Homeless Problem Downtown

by William Skink

Spring is blanketing the valley with new growth (by growth I mean green and colorful things that grow, not banks and hotels). Easter has come, and gone, and the days are getting longer. Which means…

It’s time for Missoula’s annual complain-about-homeless-people-downtown discussion.

This year’s discussion happened at the state of the downtown luncheon, held at the Public House. You can read about it at this corporate rag, or you can read about here, at Missoula Current.

Before I got burned out and had to walk away, I was very involved in this discussion. And I do think there have been improvements in some areas. But there is a part of this story that is not being told, and it’s a significant barrier to improving the behavior of a VERY SMALL group of trouble makers.

As a member of the Mayor’s Downtown Advisory Commission, I was involved in doing some outreach with retailers that sold products like Steel Reserve and Colt 45. The idea was to see if there was any willingness among these retailers to consider a voluntary removal of certain products from single sale. Not a ban of cheap booze, but a minimal, voluntary effort to slightly reduce access to the type of booze the fuels so much of the problems downtown.

There was some willingness among retailers, but Tim France was not one of them. And that was too bad, because as the owner of Wordens and chair of the Business Improvement District, his decision carries weight, and that was that.

The failure of that effort was a contributing factor in my decision to stop jeopardizing my personal safety for booze peddlers who refuse to acknowledge their contribution to the problem downtown.

So when I read things like this:

Several downtown business owners, including Five on Black owner Tom Snyder, also expressed frustration over aggressive scofflaws, saying their storefronts have been urinated on and some downtown visitors remain fearful when approached by intoxicated panhandlers.

I wonder why Tom Snyder doesn’t follow that urine upstream and ask Tim France why he continues selling nasty, gut-rot booze only people with alcohol problems consume.

My suggestion to Tom Snyder and other concerned business people downtown is this: support an ordinance that restricts the sale of the alcohol products everyone close to this issue knows is a significant part of the problem.

I don’t think there would be much support for that approach, so downtown businesses should just prepare themselves for another season of dealing with our community’s chronic inability to understand this problem, and act accordingly.

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What’s Wrong with this Picture?


Missoula Downtown Association Director Linda McCarthy:

“…$850 million is being invested in downtown right now.”

Mayor John Engen:

“…homelessness is an almost unsolvable issue…”

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Why I’m Not Mourning the Sale of the Missoula Independent

by William Skink

Those of us still around writing posts have watched the media landscape change dramatically. The corporate takeover of the Missoula Independent is just the latest blow to an industry on the ropes and struggling for relevancy.

Corporate media is really its own worst enemy, and to provide an example of what I’m talking about, let’s take a look at Dan Brooks and his latest post.

Now, most people probably wouldn’t associate Brooks with corporate media, but give the guy credit: he’s been published in the New York Times. In that piece Brooks took an the artist Banksy, and in this post he’s mocking Alex Jones.

Personally, I could care less if Alex Jones is now claiming to be a performance artist for legal reasons. The more important story, imho, is how Alex Jones is used by corporate media, like the New York Times.

To get that perspective one must have the fortitude to explore non-establishment media, like the various sites slandered by this Washington Post hit piece.

One of those alleged “peddlers of Russian propaganda”, Consortium News, has a great post about the once credible New York Times and how it uses conspiracists like Alex Jones to ensure its narrative is the only one seriously considered by its oh-so-serious readers. From the link:

In the old days of journalism, we were taught that there were almost always two sides to a story, if not more sides than that. Indeed, part of the professional challenge of journalism was to sort out conflicting facts on a complicated topic. Often we found that the initial impression of a story was wrong once we understood the more nuanced reality.

Today, however, particularly on foreign policy issues, the major U.S. news outlets, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, apparently believe there is only one side to a story, the one espoused by the U.S. government or more generically the Establishment.

Yep, that’s what major U.S. news outlets do these days, and Alex Jones provides the ideal scapegoat to keep the American public consuming government/corporate propaganda. Here’s more:

A mocking article by the Times’ Jim Rutenberg on Monday displayed the Times’ rejection of any intellectual curiosity regarding the U.S. government’s claims that were cited by President Trump as justification for his April 6 missile strike against a Syrian military airbase. The attack killed several soldiers and nine civilians including four children, according to Syrian press reports.

Rutenberg traveled to Moscow with the clear intention of mocking the Russian news media for its “fake news” in contrast to The New York Times, which holds itself out as the world’s premier guardian of “the truth.” Rather than deal with the difficulty of assessing what happened in Khan Sheikhoun, which is controlled by Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate and where information therefore should be regarded as highly suspect, Rutenberg simply assessed that the conventional wisdom in the West must be correct.

To discredit any doubters, Rutenberg associated them with one of the wackier conspiracy theories of radio personality Alex Jones, another version of the Times’ recent troubling reliance on McCarthyistic logical fallacies, not only applying guilt by association but refuting reasonable skepticism by tying it to someone who in an entirely different context expressed unreasonable skepticism.

When it comes to impacting our daily lives, this Alex Jones story is significantly more important than whether or not Alex Jones believes the crap he peddles. The New York Times wants the American public to view any skepticism of its propaganda as being indistinguishable from the conspiratorial carnival barker known as Alex Jones.

Lines have been drawn, for years now, in this information war between corporate news and alternative news. I lost a lot of respect for the Indy after they jettisoned Ochenski’s column and wrote up this disingenuous assessment of Montana’s progressive blogosphere.

So I’m not going to mourn the selling out of the Missoula Independent. I think the sale to Lee Enterprises just makes official a process that has been ongoing for awhile now.

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Food for Thought

by William Skink

I recently put an old poem to new music and it’s got me thinking about the good old days of 2003-2007. I had just polished off my BA in creative writing at UM in 2003, so naturally I applied that higher learning to a kitchen job at Food for Thought because that’s how artists in Missoula roll, right?

During that time I worked with a lot of really great people. One guy who I talked geopolitics with (because he actually knew a few things) now runs a business on the hip-strip. Another guy got a stab at Top Chef and will soon be opening his own spot in Portland.

I worked with the Missoula Rabble photographer, an iron-woman triathlete, and many other talented people I’m sure are kicking ass and taking names.

The work, at the time, was far from glamorous. I started washing dishes and ended my tenure as a weekend breakfast omelet ninja responsible for delivering massive omelets to hungover college students as fast as possible. I was good, but also relieved when the job was over. The food industry is a difficult environment to sustain, as anyone grinding away within it can attest.

Now that nostalgia has taken hold, I go back to those years and think how much simpler the world was. George Bush was president, the economy had yet to collapse, and people knew where they stood with wars of occupation.

Taking a poem written back then and applying it to my limited musical abilities and video production skills has been fun.

So here it is, Putting Shoes On:

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Waiting for War

by William Skink

The opposition to Trump put their uselessness on display over the weekend by demanding Trump release his taxes. Instead of pointing out how over half over every tax dollar goes to America’s killing machine, the anti-Trumpers are maintaining their obsession over Trump’s taxes the same way conservatives frothed at the mouth for Obama’s birth certificate.

As tensions with North Korea ratchet up, where is the anti-war sentiment from Democrats? It’s conspicuously and dangerously absent. At Intelligent Discontent, for example, Nathan Kosted managed two posts back-to-back about Trump’s taxes but there is nothing about America’s path to a military confrontation with North Korea, just like there was nothing about Trump’s war crime against Syria.

Over at Cowgirl, there is similarly no substantive acknowledgement of Trump’s 180 degree turn from his campaign rhetoric against the interventionism that Hillary represented. Montana is in the middle of a special election for a Congressional seat, yet there seems to be no interest by local Democrats to discuss how Congress has abandoned its constitutional role in declaring war before, you know, bombing another country with missile strikes.

I guess Democrats are content with leaving the anti-war position to the alt-right. At Counterpunch today, Shamus Cooke ponders whether the alt-right will hijack the antiwar movement. From the link:

Society reeled from the newest war, but the fertile soil for protest barely produced a sprout. The establishment “supported” the new war, either directly by cheerleading or indirectly via silence.

The rest of the left was against the war but they didn’t bother to organize a protest. The only notable group that did — the ANSWER coalition — found little help from other left groups. The few protests that were organized were small or denounced by others on the left as being “pro Assad.” Trump was certainly pleased by the non-opposition and division against his new war.

Into the giant antiwar void crept the neo-Nazi “alt-right” groups, including leading white supremacist Richard Spencer, who loudly broke his support of Trump by protesting the new Syria bombing in front of the White House. Other alt-right-associated individuals or organizations — including and Infowars — loudly denounced their former Fuhrer.

In some ways the white supremacists protested more loudly and militantly than the left, which declined to ring any alarm bells, opting to minimize the aggression by dismissing the strike as “symbolic,” or “routine.”

While much of the alt-right unconditionally denounced the bombing, some on the left gave partial legitimacy to it by focusing half of their post-bombing energy on denouncing Trump’s target, Assad, helping to put the American public back to bed instead of agitating them into the streets.

Trump apparently silenced his critics by doing what they feared most. How did this happen?

It’s no mystery how this happened. Democrats gave up opposition to war once Obama was elected, and they were willing to elect an interventionist warmonger, so now that Trump is doing what Hillary would have done, how can they oppose it?

Democrats could admit they were wrong to give Obama a free pass to bomb a half-dozen countries, but they won’t do that. Here is a reminder of what the partisan conventional wisdom was like at the time of Libya’s destruction:

I don’t celebrate the death of anyone, but it’s hard to feel terribly sad about the fact that the Colonel is no longer in a position which allows him to torture and kill indiscriminately. Eventually, people rise up to take down despots. It’s often ugly, even brutal, but it will happen—and I’d prefer a national security policy which works to prevent those people from being slaughtered.

In the end, the US and NATO did an admirable job. They used a relatively inexpensive mission which gave the rebels breathing room in which they could defend themselves against a despot. And then the people of Libya did the rest. We can’t know what kind of government or future Libya will have, but I think we can be sure that it will be better than the past two generations.

As the years pass, these words get more and more disgusting. A few days ago The Guardian reported on the migrant slave market in Libya:

West African migrants are being bought and sold openly in modern-day slave markets in Libya, survivors have told a UN agency helping them return home.

Trafficked people passing through Libya have previously reported violence, extortion and slave labour. But the new testimony from the International Organization for Migration suggests that the trade in human beings has become so normalised that people are being traded in public.

There was no plan, post regime-change, to keep Libya from sliding into chaos. When it comes to opposition to American hegemony, American policy makers (aka, butchers) prefer chaos. It’s like the childish sentiment that if I can’t possess a toy, I’d rather destroy the toy than let another kid play with it.

It’s astonishing that the space left vacant by the left when it comes to opposing war is being filled by white supremacists. With the stink of the alt-right opposing America’s insane military brinkmanship, the chance of reviving the left’s opposition against military interventionism seems extremely unlikely.

So here we are, waiting for war.

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The Missoula Independent Not So Independent Anymore

by William Skink

The Missoula Independent has been bought out by the corporate media beast, Lee Enterprises. After turning Montana dailies into shit by firing, consolidating and regionalizing content, Lee has turned its corporate crosshairs on Missoula’s weekly alternative rag.

Will the Indy now bring us important, cutting edge stories like this one about how the Air Force is struggling to remove a Humvee stuck on a muddy road in Montana? We can only hope.

Selling the Indy to the corporate raiders at Lee is just one more sad sign of what Missoula is becoming. But don’t worry, Indy journalists, your new corporate bosses will let you keep your jobs, for now.

I guess when it comes to reporting on things like bonuses for the Lee executives responsible for degrading our media landscape we’ll have to rely on online startups like Missoula Current.

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Did the Merc Debacle Create a Lingering Rift Between City Council and the Mayor?

by William Skink

I wasn’t particularly invested in the efforts to save the Merc, but I can’t help feeling kinda sad seeing images of the walls being torn down. I do think the whole process of how this came to be is significant in ways that are just now starting to become visible.

When the plans to tear down the Merc emerged, lots of people were shocked and surprised. I suspect City Council members quickly realized they were now going to have to deal with the fallout over the Mayor’s secretive dealings that greased the wheels for this deal, a deal that was suddenly blowing up in their collective face.

Here is an article from Missoula Current that hints at this dynamic. From the link:

After the Missoula City Council threatened to cut funding to MEP over a perceived lack of communication earlier this month, the two sides have been working to improve both communication and collaboration.

Ward 1 council member Bryan von Lossberg praised MEP as one of several entities in Missoula that work toward economic development. However, he also said that the City Council remains the policy setting body and needed more understanding from MEP in that regard.

“It’s not so much about making sure there’s a scheduled presentation to the council, it’s about us getting around the table and working collaboratively,” he said. “Economic development has lots of different facets. One is policy creation by the council.”

Grunke said MEP was also looking to build a stronger partnership with the council.

“We want more engagement and they’d like to be more involved in the process and know the companies we’re dealing with, and communication is certainly part of that,” Grunke said. “It’s also about being at the table.”

While Missoula Mayor John Engen sits on MEP’s Board of Directors, Ward 5 council member Julie Armstrong said communication doesn’t always trickle down to the City Council. Adding a council member to MEP’s Board of Directors would help, she believes.

Unknown by the general public at the time, Mayor Engen was, by his own admission, extending drinks at lunch into a full-blown, alcohol-dependent addiction that ultimately resulted in an intervention and in-patient treatment. While the public wasn’t aware of the extent of Engen’s struggle with alcohol, many people close to him did.

After the Merc debacle, I think some Council members realized the Mayor couldn’t be trusted to include them in the scheming going on with the Missoula Economic Partnership. Despite the mea culpa/reelection announcement stunt the Mayor pulled, I don’t think that trust has been restored.

And that may be a good thing.

Without the Merc fallout, the gluttony of City Hall may have continued unchecked. Now, post-fallout, there are some glimmers that Missoula’s City Council won’t be the rubber stamp Engen once enjoyed.

Mayor Engen recently pulled funding for a workforce study (being done by the sycophants at MEP) from the council agenda. This may not seem like a big deal, but I think it’s evidence of a rift that has developed between Missoula’s City Council and the Mayor’s Office. From the link:

Intent on “not setting up anyone for failure,” Missoula Mayor John Engen pulled a $12,500 request to help finance a workforce study from Monday night’s City Council agenda.

Mayor John Engen pulled a request for $12,500 to help fund a workforce study from Monday night’s City Council agenda.

Whether it returns will depend on the answers to several questions he’ll ask city staff and the Missoula Economic Partnership, which is leading the investigation into local workforce shortfalls.

The study carries a $62,000 price tag, to be paid with a $25,000 state Department of Commerce grant, and equal $12,500 contributions from the city, Missoula County and MEP.

Last week, the City Council’s Administration and Finance Committee approved the city’s contribution and sent the request to the full council, but not without grumbling about the unexpected spending.

Ward 6 councilwoman Michelle Cares voted against the request, saying the $100,000 the city already pays MEP each year should be enough to conduct the study and pay the city’s contribution to administrative costs.

Thank you, Michelle Cares, for voting against this. There is little appetite left for funding these pointless studies that often carry bigger price tags than many people in this community make in an entire year of work.

I really hope City Council has permanently retired their rubber stamp. We need people who are actually capable of using some healthy skepticism when it comes to the Mayor’s vision of Missoula Metropolis.

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Glitter Bombs and Blowback

by William Skink

Recently I’ve been thinking about Anthony Burgess’s novel, The Wanting Seed, which directly followed Clockwork Orange in 1962. Here is a narrative summary from the LA Review of Books:

Burgess’s novel imagines a future England wrecked by overpopulation, packed with immigrants, and controlled by homosexuals. As the island nation becomes increasingly overcrowded, and Greater London spreads to the sea, the government takes up the task of population management with gusto. It encourages homosexuality, tries to control the number of children citizens can have, all but outlaws religion, runs Abortion Centers, and takes on the task of converting dead children into fertilizer. “It’s Sapiens to be Homo,” runs one of the Ministry of Infertility’s slogans. The “Homosex Institute,” we learn, “even ran night-classes.”

The novel follows a love triangle among Tristram Foxe, a hapless history teacher, his inconveniently fertile wife, Beatrice-Joanna, and his Machiavellian brother, Derek, who pretends to be gay in order to get ahead at the Ministry of Propaganda. Early in the novel, Derek impregnates Beatrice-Joanna, Tristram is thrown into prison during a riot, and Beatrice-Joanna is forced to flee to Wales to have her illegal children (she is pregnant with twins, which she names Tristram and Derek). The remainder of the story tracks Tristram’s attempt to reunite with his unfaithful wife and Beatrice-Joanna’s attempt to avoid arrest.

In this novel (spoiler alert) Tristram discovers the wars occurring are nothing more than a contrived slaughter to keep the population down. I hope our globalist overlords didn’t take notice.

Since Trump popped his presidential death cherry, naval assets are being positioned and rumors of massive Chinese troop deployments are making the media rounds. Considering this is the week Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ, anything could happen.

Case in point: the glitter bombing of Richard Spencer. From the link:

Richard Spencer appears to have been “glitter bombed” by an anti-fascist protester outside the White House over the weekend.

The white supremacist, who rose to fame for being punched at an anti-Trump protest, was in Washington to lead a protest against President Donald Trump’s decision to launch a cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase on Friday.

While Spencer, an “alt-right” leader, has long been a vocal supporter of Mr Trump, he has distanced himself from the president in the wake of the Syria strikes, calling the attack a “total betrayal”.

The wider so-called “alt-right” movement, which is made up of loyal Trump supporters, has also distanced itself from the president in the aftermath of the strikes. Accompanied by Spencer, who is credited with coining the term “alt-right”, protesters chanted “We want walls, not war!” and held signs saying “No more wars for Israel”.

Again, I am simply dumbfounded that the alt-right appears to be more consistent with their opposition to foreign intervention than all the screeching liberals who gnashed their teeth when Bush was waging war, but quietly got with the program once their guy streamlined the killing.

The glitter bomb isn’t the story here, the story is the fact white supremacists are out protesting this escalation in Syria while Democrats cheer and scheme to take out a courageous representative who dares question whether Assad was even behind this gassing in the first place.

America recently observed the 100 year anniversary of entering WWI. During the subsequent century American power peaked and is now apparently locked in a dangerous death spiral. Our economy is run like a battery-operated bubble machine and guess what, the batteries are almost dead.

War as fiscal stimulus seemed to help propel us past the shadow of the Great Depression during the 20th century, so why not take that page from the playbook and try it again?

As the petrodollar regime plays global cop with two oceans to buffer us from the blowback, Americans are apparently too busy being outraged over a man forcibly removed from an airplane to notice we are fast approaching a boiling point we may not be able to recover from.

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