Amerika Trifecta, by William Skink

by William Skink

Montana’s Festival of the Book is happening this week, and you can check out events here.

I always intend to go but never seem to make it. This year I can at least point to my own book of poems I just made available at Lulu. The book–Amerika Trifecta–is three separate collections of poems. The first collection spans 2003-2008. The second represent poems written during the Obama years. The last collection is a transition to writing songs. To purchase just click the button below.

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

My current work has been taking these poems from the page and bringing them into a different form, with music and images. I have four new videos. The first is an introduction poem. The second one is about my process. The third is about football and CERN, and the fourth is my fan-art homage to the show Stranger Things, which is coming back for it’s second season next month.

Enjoy!

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In Missoula’s Race For Mayor, Here Comes The Mud

by William Skink

It appears Missoula’s Mayoral contest is getting downright litigious with Engen surrogate Rep. Ellie Hill doing the heavy legal lifting. We’ll get to Rep Hill in a second. First, let’s take a look at the column in the Missoulian that sparked this legal escalation in the mayoral race. Here is a sample of what Wes Spiker thinks about the Mayor and the town he lives in:

But I’m tired. I’m 63, and I’m very tired. I’m tired of being told that bicyclists have more rights than me on Missoula’s streets. Because of how rude most of them have become, I’m the one who gets flipped off when they are not following the traffic laws. I’m tired of seeing the transients who come to town year-round for free handouts − free food, free health care, free shelter. Being a good Missoula citizen means I’m supposed to spread the wealth to people who don’t have my work ethic and passion.

I’m tired of being told that my property taxes will go up every year, despite my living in Grant Creek (within the city limits) where I get little to no city services. I’m tired of my staff struggling to find suitable affordable housing. Good affordable housing is rare in this community and it’s either overpriced or junk. I’m tired of my clients telling me they are coming to Missoula to see our world-class facility, and then find out it costs a thousand bucks or more to fly here on short notice. So they ask when I will be visiting them next, because they are not coming to Missoula.

This rant is like a greatest hits of the now defunct comments section at the Missoulian, and it plays into the overly simplistic notion that the business community is aligned against Engen. They are not, at least not the ones benefiting from all the development, like WGM and the Farran Group.

The transient smear also won’t stick to Engen. Why? Because Engen was behind the effort to criminalize sitting on sidewalks, just not visibly so. He used a political proxy–Councilwoman Copple–to give the downtown business community what they were asking for at the time.

Since that failed effort the police have gotten more resources, which has helped push the problem to other parts of town, like Reserve Street and Bonner. The County Courthouse downtown has also been de-transiented with all the fencing and construction going on. Removing the trees that provided shade to homeless people in the summer time, and all the landscaping that hid them along the walls of the courthouse, will also keep the area from being heavily utilized by the chronic homeless individuals who are still over-burdening city services, the hospital and jail.

So downtown won’t revolt against Engen, and neither will the developers who are massively profiting from current and future development. Their “progressive” Mayor is making them plenty of money and he’s got plenty of cover from “progressive” politicians like Rep. Hill who is willing to litigate for him.

Let’s get back to that effort. Here’s a blip from the MC piece:

State Rep. Ellie Hill, D-Missoula, contends that Triepke is not in compliance with state finance disclosure laws in her bid to serve as the city’s mayor.

“Ms. Triepke has submitted insufficient reporting and sometimes completely omitted campaign expenditures in violation of Montana law,” Hill wrote in her complaint. “In a race for Missoula’s mayor, where the city budget seems to be a much-debated issue, it seems that nothing in the Triepke expenditures is property itemized nor labeled.”

Hill, who helped pass the Montana Disclose Act in 2015 to reform the state’s campaign finance laws and rid elections of dark money, believes Triepke is hiding more than $10,000 in a “pass-through” expenditure made to Spiker Communications.

I don’t think this will get much traction. Supporters of Triepke can point to a member of the Democrat clique, T.J. McDermott, engaging in similar political sliminess during his campaign. Spiker himself pointed to McDermott’s campaign to excuse his own lack of transparency:

Spiker says he’s doing nothing unorthodox, pointing to a mudslinging letter published in 2014 by then-sheriff candidate T.J. McDermott’s campaign manager, Jim Parker, that didn’t disclose Parker’s position. But Spiker’s role in the Triepke campaign is more ambiguous. He and the candidate have insisted the agency’s work is limited to graphic design and ad buys, despite evidence suggesting a central role.

Sheriff McDermott did fudge on his campaign disclosures and had to pay for it. This quote from Motl in a Missoulian article last spring is worth noting:

“The in-kind activity identified in this matter was part of an embedded and practiced political culture exercised by some Missoula area businesses,” Motl wrote in the settlement. “That culture, however, failed to recognize the accompanying duty to report and disclose campaign activity. The Commissioner accepts that (McDermott) was caught up in the culture, including its deficiencies.”

McDermott has gone on to do some more shady things without his political clique showing too much concern for the murky ethical issues involved, and that’s because they are hypocrites.

Now, I don’t know a lot of details about campaign laws in Montana, but I’m sure the courts will work out how culpable Triepke’s campaign is. Maybe Triepke’s campaign should bone-up on some of those campaign laws. For example, let’s say, hypothetically, an executive director of a nonprofit uses a cell phone the nonprofit pays the bills for to coordinate a political campaign. Is that a violation?

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Democrats And Republicans Playing Chicken With People’s Lives

by William Skink

Something has been bothering me about how Montana’s state budget crisis has developed. There were questions about the accuracy of state revenue estimates in February when a report was released anticipating over 90 million more than predicted last fall. In May there were already some warning signs from state tax collections that revenue estimates were off.

In that article the burden of what to cut if revenue missed projections fell mainly legislators:

During this year’s legislative session, legislators decided which programs would be cut if the state didn’t bring in the revenue they projected. The legislation puts more of a burden on legislators, instead of the governor, to decide how cuts might be made since they are the ones who build the state’s budget each biennium. Senate Bill 261 establishes rules to make cuts when there isn’t enough money and how to save it when actual revenue is higher than projections.

Legislators spent the majority of the session deciding how to make up for a shortfall of $200 million in the last biennium. Senate Bill 261 was designed to prevent that from happening in 2018 and 2019 by creating new ways for the governor to respond to shortfalls more quickly and establishing an emergency savings account of sorts.

The bill had support from Democrats and Republicans and was signed by the governor on Monday. But Democrats remained critical of Republicans’ willingness to further cut essential programs and services instead of passing some of the governor’s tax proposals.

The potential to inflict pain on Montana’s most vulnerable was a bipartisan effort. I don’t recall the alarm going out during the legislative session about what would be axed if the revenues came in short and triggered the cuts hammered out in Helena and signed into law by the Governor. Instead, Democrats were complaining about not getting the tax increases they wanted, like the increase in the Tobacco tax.

What’s been gnawing at me as we prepare for these brutal cuts came into focus thanks to a comment from JC. The comment was in response to something Swede to me. Here is the exchange:

SWEDE: When it comes to “helping the poor” let’s just say that I’m way above the average Montanan.
What I find most interesting tho is the nature of the cuts. They always have to be directed toward the unfortunate and not anywhere else for the maximum effect.
Maybe we can get some news crew out on the streets jerking away some homeless guys sandwich.

JC: Do I detect a hint of compassion amidst the sarcasm?

Actually, I think that agency/dept. heads target the cuts at those populations they think will be most adversely impacted — and will raise the most agitation. The goal here being to force the Leg to come back and revisit the budget and funding mechanisms, so yeah “maximum effect”. Of course, if the gambit fails, then it is “the unfortunate” who will be made much more unfortunate.

If anybody would look at the nature of many of these cuts, they do several things, including: the loss of matching federal funds (so the cuts here are amplified); they force people needing care to discover it in jail or state institutions at a far greater cost to the state budget than community provided services; they exact costs directly upon communities through increased crime, family disruption, decreased productivity, etc.; and last but not least, the individuals impacted by the cuts lose what meager dignity and quality of life they have and are driven further into the despair of old age and disability, mental illness and addiction, irreparable felonious red sheeting, and suicide.

Of course, maybe this is the intended result. If so, it comes to our state, families and individuals at a greater cost than the provided services would have cost. But more so it seems to have been intentional, hidden austerity on the part of our governor and legislature, and the outcome is a game of chicken with the state’s most vulnerable in the crosshairs.

I think this comment gets at the heart of what’s going on.

So, Democrats failed to raise the alarm while the legislature was in session, and now, with drastic cuts looming, some Democrat supporters want those of us in the Non-Profit sector and the vulnerable clients we serve to make noise. At least that’s how Pete Talbot is describing a recent meeting of local Democrats:

Last night in Missoula, grim-faced area legislators talked to local Democrats about the budget’s repercussions and offered some solutions. It’s essential, they say, that a broad coalition of service providers — and their clients, and client families and friends — put pressure on legislators to raise revenue. That means Aging Services, Medicaid recipients, Children Advocacy Centers, foster care programs, hospice services, domestic violence shelters … it’s an exhaustive list of providers that help the most fragile and needy Montanans.

It will require a special session of the legislature, called by Gov. Bullock, to find additional revenue sources. I’m leery of this happening. Until Republican legislators start feeling the pain personally — reduced services to the grandchild with autism or grandmother in assisted living — they’re not likely to come back to the table. For many in need, it may come too late.

Was this the idea all along? Downplay the potential of facing cuts while the legislature was in session, let the fiscal time-bomb pass into law, then direct the resulting fear and worry when revenues fell short toward Republican State Legislators so the Governor can get his Tobacco tax in a special session?

I hope that wasn’t the plan. Because if it was it means the Democratic leadership in this state was just as willing to play political games with people’s lives as Republicans were.

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Tester’s Calculating Flip-Flop on Dreamers

by William Skink

Democrat apologists like Don Pogreba want us to think a politician like Jon Tester, up for reelection, has “come around on Dreamers“. That vote against Dreamers in 2010? That was just political calculation:

At the time, I speculated that it was a misguided political calculation that Republicans could successfully exploit a vote to protect these kids as there’s almost nothing Republicans like more than demonizing immigrants, especially if they are people of color.

Well, Tester won re-election against Dennis Rehberg despite the vote and criticism from the online left. And more importantly, he’s come around on supporting the DREAMers, issuing a statement arguing that Congress must act to protect them.

Immigration is an issue that has been politicized in Montana recently thanks to do-gooders in Missoula who think a community with an affordable housing crisis and low-wage job opportunities in the service sector is a good place to relocate refugees fleeing the chaos of American foreign policy. This will provide Tester cover for flipping his position on supporting Dreamers.

Non-collaborating environmentalists do not enjoy the same support, however, so don’t expect Tester to “come around” on his depiction of non-collaborators as extremists and his lies about litigation of logging sales. The calculation here is that enough of the environmental movement has been absorbed by the corporate path of collaboration, so chasing the support of the people who helped Tester first get elected is no longer necessary.

The “online left” that Pogreba thinks he represents has not stood up to Tester’s lies about logging and demonizing of non-collaboraters as extremists. Even now, when criticism is brought up, any smear that distracts from valid criticism is allowed.

A comment from “mtcreels” is a perfect example. Despite a commenting policy that asks commenters to stick to the topic of the post, and the claim that anonymous comments are policed more stringently, this conspiracy smear is still standing:

mtcreels: @JC: given the despicable September 11 truther garbage on your blog, you’re not in any position to be giving sanctimonious lectures about integrity.

This tactic continues to be useful to the useful idiots who think Tester is anything other than a corrupt politician with a broken moral compass that only points to maintaining power through electoral victory. If we are just crazy conspiracy theorists than anything else we say can just be dismissed.

Another tactic that will be trotted out is the lesser-evil argument. This is already happening, as evidenced by this comment from Pogreba:

I’m sure Matt Rosendale or Troy Downing will be good for environmental group fundraising, but they sure as hell won’t be good for the planet and the policies they’d help support would make the Tester Logging Bill look like the greatest piece of environmental legislation in human history.

The lesser-evil argument was also used to justify voting for Hillary.

How did that work out?

Democrat apologists seem to think doing the same thing will produce different results this time.

And we are the crazy ones?

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Flood and Fire

by William Skink

Air we don’t wince at breathing, flood waters receding. Victims of the fires don’t feel like they got enough of the national spotlight. They shouldn’t worry. We all move one. Football season has begun. More important things.

And soon, Stranger Things…

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Sixteen Years Ago Today…

by William Skink

16 years ago America was attacked by terrorists and to this day we see the power of America’s propaganda machine at work to persuade us the terrorists were from mostly Saudi Arabia and they pulled it off without any state support.

How many Americans still believe 3 buildings collapsed as the result of two planes hitting the Twin Towers? Today I discovered one of my co-workers–who is more aware of foreign policy issues than many people I talk to–didn’t even know building 7 came down on 9/11.

16 years and the wars of occupation and humanitarian intervention rage on. What Bush started, and Obama continued, is now in the hands of Trump, who immediately gave immense latitude to the military after surrounding himself with Generals.

A Mother of All Bombs can be dropped and no one can conclusively say if Trump even knew it was going to be used in the field.

A lot has happened in 16 years. Many incremental steps have been taken. Not only have we allowed this to happen, in many ways we have demanded it.

With the political crisis that has resulted from the election of Trump, instead of seeing the continuum it’s like zero hour of a collective freakout from a resistance that isn’t actually addressing core realities lurking beneath a vast manipulation of competing narratives.

It was similar after 9/11. The collective freakout didn’t leave space for grasping concepts like blowback from poorly understood Cold War moves, like arming the Mujahideen in Afghanistan to bleed the Russians.

Three buildings did not fall 16 years ago as a result of two planes hitting two skyscrapers. The fact that that absurdity can still pass as the official story, while skeptics still get smeared as conspiracy theorists, makes me more than a little doubtful a real resistance will ever materialize.

I hope I’m wrong.

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Violent Fun Balls

by William Skink

When I was putting together this video about violent fun balls, I had no idea how much fun the Chiefs were going to have beating the Patriots.

Go Chiefs!

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Where Are The Anti-War Protests?

by William Skink

When Trump declared more troops would be heading to America’s longest war in Afghanistan, the media did not flip out and the resistance did not march. There was more criticism directed at the first lady’s choice of footwear when Trump visited Texas than there was criticism of Trump’s flip-flop on deepening interventionists wars started by Bush and continued under Obama and Clinton.

There were marches for women’s rights and marches for truth and science, but with Trump unleashing the Generals and horrifically increasing civilian casualties, where the hell is the anti-war movement?

When Trump ordered the bombing of Syria, he was congratulated by the same media that continue, to this day, claiming Russia hacked our election like it’s a proven fact when the exact opposite is true. Russia didn’t hack our election. They may have influenced American minds with the help of Facebook, but they definitely didn’t hack the DNC.

With HRC out pimping her failure into more cash money, we, the people, will be subjected to another ride on the great blame carousel that just won’t stop spinning. Clinton actually claims to regret how she allowed her handlers to restrain her from more vigorous attacks on Bernie. Isn’t that funny?

Coming from a campaign that got caught rigging the primary process, I can’t imagine what more they could have done to mitigate the damage done by Bernie, who was a more preferable choice for a significant slice of the electorate.

There are many factors that contributed to HRC’s losses. Her well-known war-mongering helped sink her 2008 bid against Obama, then Trump came along and deceitfully positioned himself as being critical of the kind of US military interventions HRC supported throughout her political career.

Has the Democratic establishment effectively killed the anti-war movement? Why is there not more outrage being directed at Trump’s escalation of America’s killing machine? The time to oppose war is now. Once the nuclear genie is let out of the bottle it will be too late.

Wake up, America. We are the biggest impediment to a more peaceful world.

And the rest of the world knows it.

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Saving The Tree Of Life From The Joker: A Lego Movie

by William Skink

To combat the boredom of being stuck inside all Labor Day from hazardous air, I decided to show my kids how we could make our own Lego Movie. We positioned Lego figures in different scenes and took a bunch of pictures, then later, I wrote up a little script and recorded it with some sound effects.

Here is the result. Enjoy!

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Montana’s Mounting Fiscal Woes

by William Skink

While Montana burns the state’s fiscal situation is turning into its own version of a dumpster fire. Will there be a special session to deal with the cataclysmic budget cuts triggered by Senate Bill 261 made worse by the cost of dealing with a state on fire?

The cost of fighting fires will get a lot of attention, which makes sense. Republicans and Democrats breathe the same air, as do their constituents, so the need to fund the state’s effort to respond to wild fire will be a top priority.

What won’t get a lot of attention is the hot air Steve Bullock expelled in order to placate his party ahead of the disastrous SB 261 compromise they allowed to pass with nary a peep of concern.

Without the attention from Logicosity (Buyer’s Remorse Part I, Part II and Part III) I would have no idea how stragetically incompetent the Bullock administration was during this year’s legislative session. Here’s a snippet from Part I:

In the final days of the 2017 legislative session, Governor Bullock and his crew convened a low-profile meeting of legislative D’s to line up support for an end-of-session “deal.”

Senate Bill 261 (SB 261) was a central topic. The chief executive assured the assembled at worst the bill would trigger only the first two levels (of four) of cuts called for in the proposed legislation.

Level 1 and Level 2 and that’s all, he said.

With that assurance, the D dutifully rolled over and let the bill pass. A short time late, Bullock affixed his signature.

After the session was over, and all four levels of cuts were triggered, lowly service providers were suddenly blindsided by news of the chainsaw about to enact havoc on their budgets. By then it was too late, Bullock had already signed SB 261 into law.

Montana’s many destructive fires producing real smoke will also produce a smoke screen for Montana’s economic woes. The story that won’t be told is how loyal Democrats allowed their Governor, Steve Bullock, to create a budget time bomb in collusion with Montana Republicans that is now blowing up the critical services so many vulnerable Montanans rely on.

If there is a special session, what leverage does Bullock have left? I’m sure the State’s ability to fight fires will have an attentive audience, since anyone who requires breathing to live will probably be curious about what can be done to keep our air from being unhealthy, but what about all the people impacted by the cuts Montana Democrats let pass without a fight?

Will Montana Democrats simply blame Republicans, hoping the real story of how SB 261 became law stays contained to blogs hardly anyone reads, or will they do the right thing and acknowledge they got taken for a ride?

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