Oh, 44

by William Skink

War criminals and enemies of the constitution–Bush Jr. and Obama–took recent veiled shots in separate speeches at Trump. With a few American soldiers dead in Niger, conveniently the story became what Trump said to grieving family members, not what the hell are American troops doing in Niger.

I don’t have time for a proper post because I spend most of my limited free time making music and piecing together images for videos. Here is one of my latest, the 20th installment of my Tower series: Oh, 44.

As Trump ramps up the US killing machine I would hope we citizens who fund America’s killing machine remember the contributions of 44.

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New Lows In Missoula’s Mayoral Race

by William Skink

Here in the most special of places—Missoula—our specialness is under threat. But first, how special is Missoula? Well, take this quote from MP blogger Nathan Kosted:

Missoula is a great place for many reasons, one of those is that it is a singularly unique community. It is the only town in America that abuts a wilderness area (The Rattlesnake). The University of Montana is the only university in America that has a mountain that abuts it (Mount Sentinel). These are mere geographic features because the truly unique part of Missoula is its wonderful people, culture, welcoming nature, and prosperous community.

So, what is threatening our fair, welcoming, prosperous community? A dumb-sounding, welfare-snatching Palinesque woman who has the temerity to try and dethrone King Engen.

Regarding welfare-snatching, that part of Lisa Triepke’s narrative was recently told by the Missoulian. The title, of course, is primed to get clicks: Mayoral Candidate Bought Two Houses While Receiving Public Assistance. Say what?

I find this article troubling on a number of fronts. I get the deliciousness of this gotchya depiction of a conservative candidate on the dole trying to unseat an alleged “progressive” Mayor, but public shaming a woman going through a divorce for the faults of the public benefits system is a tad disgusting. Also, the Missoulian is actually helping to perpetuate the false impression that social supports like SNAP are not accountable to changes in a recipient’s economic status. Those of us who work in social services know that is not the case.

Another thing that bothers me about this story digging into personal details of Triepke’s divorce is the Missoulian’s lack of coverage of our current Mayor’s personal struggles. Not until the Mayor himself chose to use those struggles (after an intervention) to launch his reelection campaign did the Missoulian cover what many already knew—that John Engen is an alcoholic.

I think Engen’s alcoholism should be a part of this electoral conversation, especially now with the Missoulian doing this hit piece on Triepke. So, did Engen show up to work while drunk? Drive while drunk? Encourage the expansion of the convention center project while drunk? And what about Engen’s divorce? Or rumors of a fight on a plane? Or any number of other potential problems with an alcoholic in the position of power Engen has enjoyed for 3 terms?

Missoula’s progressive clique has enabled our Mayor for a long time. If I showed up to work under the influence of alcohol I would no longer have a job. That would be most people’s experience with an employer. I guess Engen is different and feels entitled to continue implementing his vision for Missoula–a vision of endless growth despite multiple systemic problems with health, housing, higher education and the criminal justice system

Now Missoula’s corporate rag is ragging on a single mom’s use of public assistance. Is this an acceptable media story for Missoula progressives? Maybe it’s ok because Triepke has not shown enough sympathy for the struggles of low-income Missoulians. Maybe it’s ok because she sounds stupid in interviews and lacks the experience Engen has booze-schmoozing with developers. As Triepke gets bashed for things like comparing Missoula to Bozeman, remember, it was Engen who actually connived with Bozeman developers to raze the Merc to the ground for a hotel.

Like last year’s election cycle, I see this race as being between two people I don’t want to support. I wish Engen was facing better opposition than what Triepke’s clique has been able to muster. With another Engen term Missoula is going to get more unsustainable development, more systemic decline in critical services and more empty lip service about fixing serious problems.

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What Academic Activist Tobin Shearer Is Missing

by William Skink

When Tobin Shearer, a UM history professor on a crusade to dismantle white supremacy, was put on a watch list last year he didn’t back down. Instead he used the publicity to raise his profile and further his agenda.

I agree that white privilege is a thing, and a white guy like me has benefited from that privilege. I also understand why it’s difficult to identify how one benefits from white privilege because it often entails things that don’t happen, like I can walk around a store without the retail clerk thinking I’m going to steal something.

Where I diverge from Professor Shearer is his priorities and tactics. The latter from Shearer seems to increasingly be that of a provocateur, as evidenced by the title of his recent lecture: How to Be a White Guy: A Last Lecture on Punching Nazis, Baking Pies and Not Being a Douche Bag.

I didn’t attend the lecture, but I have been following the emergence of this activist academic on the Missoula resistance scene. Though Shearer has experienced threats before for his views, this watch list, he says, is different. Because Trump:

I visited the site, noticed who else was on the list and immediately realized that this watchlisting was going to be different. A thin-skinned demagogue was poised to enter the White House. He had done more than any presidential candidate in the last 40 years to legitimize and embolden white supremacy groups. A watchlist designed to “expose and document … professors that advance a radical agenda in lecture halls” was going to have a much more chilling effect. According to Pam Vogel of Media Matters, Kirk has parlayed his post-list notoriety into a meeting with the Trump transition team. Suffice it to say that a meeting between the incoming administration and the chief author of a shoddy watchlist does not bode well. It could be very dangerous for those included on the list.

Here is another quote:

The problem is that we are poised on the brink of a breakdown of this country’s social safety net. We are about to have some of the most powerful positions in this country filled by people with direct connections to white supremacy groups. The incarceration of black men for nonviolent crimes has come to replicate the scale and scope of slavery. Civil discourse has been worn thin to the point of transparency.

The problem lies in the legislative and policy decisions that will be made in disregard of the poor and oppressed. The problem is found in the systems of white power and privilege that have been emboldened and strengthened anew. Historian Nell Irvin Painter observes that at this point in history, “white men in charge will not simply happen to be white; they will be governing as white, as taking America back, back to before multiculturalism.” An ideologically oriented watchlist is just one small cog in the larger engine that is threatening to overpower our constitutional democracy. Whether this is the last gasp of institutionally sanctioned white male privilege or a long-term resurgence of the same will hinge on which actions we collectively take in the next number of years.

What I think Shearer is missing with his focus on racism and white supremacy is the bigger issue of class and how the dynamic of rapidly increasing income inequality has directly contributed to the rise of Trump and all the ugliness that followed his election. It’s that dynamic, more than institutional racism,, that has already overpowered our constitutional democracy. Oligarchy is here and race is just one of many wedges used by our Plutocrats to maintain their strategy of divide and conquer.

The type of class issue Shearer is currently dealing with has nothing to do with one’s economic status, it has to do with an actual class Shearer is teaching. Apparently some unknown person or persons made a nearly exact replica of the flyer promoting the class, but with a few changes, like replacing “white supremacy” with “black nationalism”. The time and attention to detail is what makes this latest incident disturbing, according to Shearer:

University of Montana professor Tobin Miller Shearer, director of the African-American studies program, said he noticed something was wrong right away Thursday morning as he passed the bulletin board in the Liberal Arts building on campus.

The day before, Shearer had posted a flyer outlining a new class he is offering in the spring: “White Supremacy History/Defeat.”

But on Thursday morning, another sign — designed to look just like Shearer’s poster — had been put up atop his, this one detailing a fictitious course “Black Nationalism History/Defeat.”

Whoever made the new flyer had copied Shearer’s layout, including the font and location of a photo, and changing the bullet points of the course objectives from ones like Shearer’s “Implement and evaluate a project to dismantle white supremacy in the U.S.” to the same line directed at “black nationalism.”

The false sign said the class also would include group projects “aimed at dismantling race-baiting hypocrisy.”

“It’s very disturbing because of the amount of time that was put into making it look real,” Shearer said.

Later in the article Shearer says he reported this to the police. Considering much of the recent racial tension has come from the lethal use of force by law enforcement against unarmed black men, how ironic is it that a privileged white academic would use that privilege to document what he perceives as a threat with the authorities so they can…do what exactly? Find the perp who made this facsimile flyer? What would the charges be?

I don’t doubt getting put on a watch list heightens one’s sense of potential threat. When a bunch of alternative media sites were put on a list those of us who have resisted the resistance’s xenophobic hate campaign against Russia took notice:

THE WASHINGTON POST on Thursday night promoted the claims of a new, shadowy organization that smears dozens of U.S. news sites that are critical of U.S. foreign policy as being “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.” The article by reporter Craig Timberg — headlined “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say” — cites a report by an anonymous website calling itself PropOrNot, which claims that millions of Americans have been deceived this year in a massive Russian “misinformation campaign.”

The group’s list of Russian disinformation outlets includes WikiLeaks and the Drudge Report, as well as Clinton-critical left-wing websites such as Truthout, Black Agenda Report, Truthdig, and Naked Capitalism, as well as libertarian venues such as Antiwar.com and the Ron Paul Institute.

This Post report was one of the most widely circulated political news articles on social media over the last 48 hours, with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of U.S. journalists and pundits with large platforms hailing it as an earth-shattering exposé. It was the most-read piece on the entire Post website on Friday after it was published.

Yet the article is rife with obviously reckless and unproven allegations, and fundamentally shaped by shoddy, slothful journalistic tactics. It was not surprising to learn that, as BuzzFeed’s Sheera Frenkel noted, “a lot of reporters passed on this story.” Its huge flaws are self-evident. But the Post gleefully ran with it and then promoted it aggressively, led by its Executive Editor Marty Baron

What about this list? Is this attempt to censor legitimate media platforms disturbing to an academic activist intent on dismantling white supremacy?

Professor Shearer is well-intentioned in his crusade, but I see his efforts leading to more division and resentment. Being provocative to get attention may raise Shearer’s profile, but I don’t see it leading anywhere constructive.

White supremacy may be a legitimate target in the eyes of Professor Shearer, but to stop this country from instigating WWIII there is a more insidious phenomenon at work poisoning the entire political spectrum in this country: American Exceptionalism.

 

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On Mayors, Leaders And Sinking Ships

by William Skink

I have called Missoula home for 17 years. I finished school and started a family here. I slung omelettes for hungover college kids at Food for Thought and handled packages part time for Fed Ex. Then I worked at a homeless shelter for 7 years. That experience opened my eyes, not just to the need (and systemic dysfunction), but to my own privileges.

If it was up to just me, I would be done with Missoula. I would move on. I see where things are going and I don’t like it. But it’s not just me. Missoula can be an amazing place for kids if their families can afford to live here, and I can still afford to live here, so I want my kids to continue calling Missoula home.

The Missoula I remember is quickly disappearing. But that’s progress, right? I remember biking to Big Sky’s tap room on Hickory for a growler of barley wine, then heading over to the fields now being transformed into the Saw Mill District. The baseball stadium debacle was an early warning sign, to me, of things to come.

The preferred narrative of Missoula’s current political leadership is this: we got our water, and business is booming. In fact all this development swooped in to prop up the narrative of peaches and cream when it was joyously announced that the tax base is growing, finally satiating the tax beast, and just in time for election season:

The building boom playing out across Missoula the past few years has finally showed up on the tax rolls at the Montana Department of Revenue, essentially eliminating the city’s need to raise taxes to cover this year’s budget.

In fact, Missoula Mayor John Engen said on Wednesday, the owner of a $250,000 home in Missoula will actually see the city’s portion of their property tax bill decrease by $7.30 a year.

“We received our taxable values from the DOR on Friday and the news was good,” Engen told the Budget Committee of the Whole. “Record development is finally starting to show up on the tax rolls, and this year, we have an expanded tax base.”

If the only measure of a community’s health is the upward trend of its tax base, then Missoula is doing great. But if one asks a simple question, like is Missoula ready to adapt to this growth, things become far less certain.

The University’s problems have been front and center for a while now. Congrats and good luck to that handsome chap, Seth Bodnar, for getting the job of captain on a sinking ship.  At the link James Conner offers this blunt assessment of why flagship boasting rights have shifted from Missoula to Bozeman:

Bozeman is a fast growing technology and recreation center believed to have a high level of public safety. Missoula is an old timber town, its logging and smokejumper heydays behind it, with a reputation, possibly unearned, as a panhandler’s paradise and a rape culture on and off campus. Where would you rather send your daughter to college? Where would she prefer to attend college?

While the University holds its breath for the corporate smile and can-do military skill set to do his thing, St. Pats continues to struggle amidst growing uncertainty, especially considering the dire cuts to Medicaid programs that are looming. Add to that the inability to deal with jail overcrowding, since new programs will go unfunded and further cuts are coming, and one starts wondering how all this new growth can be absorbed.

An inescapable reality of more growth in the Missoula valley means more traffic, and Reserve Street is already a hot mess. Yet for some reason there is an effort to actually reduce lanes of traffic in parts of the city. There is also enough time and money, apparently, to do a deep dive on sign regulations and also enable the obnoxious complainers who live in the University District to “stave off McMansions“.  I remember this same neighborhood, 15 years ago, trying to impose occupancy standards:

The Missoula City Council put occupancy standards on the fast track to the front of the city’s agenda this week.

The proposed standards, drafted by a group of university-area residents, would limit the number of non-related individuals who can live together in the same house or apartment. The city is considering the plan as part of Growth Management Phase Two, the major zoning overhaul, but a close council vote on Monday sent the proposal to the Planning Board on its own.

The entitlement of people who live in the University District is impressive. That they continue to find enablers on City Council is not surprising.

The upcoming election is not difficult to predict. Engen will win, but it will be close enough to give the political status quo pause going forward. I assume that’s why this post popped up at The Montana Post.

JC has the only comment on that post so far and I’m interested to see if the author responds. Here is the comment:

Why just go after Wes Spiker? Sure he is despicable, but the whole guilt by association thing just obviates the need for Missoula to have a discussion about the issues. The problems Triepke brings up in the issue section of her website: homelessness, panhandling, lack of affordable housing or livable wages, property taxes/spending, accountability, city services, etc. are very real. Triepke is far from the rabid right-winger that Spiker seems to be, and she has a good grasp on some the issues that need to be talked about in Missoula. John Engen has had 12 years to work on these issues, and most have gotten worse, so something is wrong in Zoo-town.

Now I don’t believe that Triepke has the right answers, or would make a better mayor than Engen, and I don’t endorse her for sure. But most of us Missoulians would love an in-depth debate on the issues Triepke raises, and more — like gentrification, jail crowding and needed diversion programs, U.M. relations, addiction and mental health services, parking and downtown congestion (the push for high density downtown housing and “vibrancy” is already pushing businesses out of the district) etc. — in the hopes that Missoula’s next mayor (even if it is Engen) realizes that we have major problems that aren’t being properly identified or addressed and that good solutions need to be proposed and implemented. John Engen’s priorities and goals need to be adjusted, and he needs to be held accountable for his part in Missoula’s problems today. A healthy debate on the issues pre-election is the only way that ever is going to happen.

Is a healthy debate even possible in this current political climate? I don’t know. But we will be even more fucked if we don’t at least try.

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Resentment As Political Strategy

by William Skink

As the organizations that serve those who will be most impacted by Montana’s budget crisis get more details about how those cuts will be imposed, politician-wannabe Greg Strandberg is playing with the politics of resentment, as evidenced by this kind of rhetoric:

Maybe Democrats will wake up and realize that ‘me, me, me’ is how most Americans think. We live in the real world. We get up each day and go to work. We have little to show for it, and less to spread around. And when we mention this, Democrats belittle us.

Oh, how high and mighty they are.

In their own minds. We see our three branches of government – all GOP. Dems are great at complaining, but little else.

I’d say there are tens of thousands of Americans than have autistic children, and they’re able to take care of them. Same for aged relatives. These are responsible people – they made the right choices, were able to provide for themselves.

Greg Strandberg has no fucking clue what he is talking about. Medicaid programs that help disadvantaged kids, the disabled and elderly people who aren’t independently wealthy enough to afford the tens of thousands of dollars for long term care help more than just the people receiving services. Without these programs systems already over-burdened are going to become more expensive and less efficient. It will impact all of us.

Communities are interconnected, complex systems. I don’t expect a selfish douchebag trying to transform his petty resentments into a city council job to acknowledge that, but it’s true.

If hospitals fill up with elderly people because nursing homes stop taking Medicaid patients due to cuts, we will all experience the consequences of more expensive medical costs. That is just one example.

Greg Strandberg likes to complain about how politicians don’t make his life better. He complains about his low-wage, part-time jobs. I don’t know how he affords health insurance for his family if what he reports about his income is true.

And how about Mommy and Daddy in Helena? Are they ready for retirement? Does Greg Strandberg know Medicare doesn’t pay for long term care? Does he know how much services to keep aging adults in their home cost? Does he know that people don’t qualify for Medicaid if they have more than 2,000 in the bank? Or, if they make over $645 a month, does Greg Strandberg know that any income over that amount goes to the state? It’s called a “spend down” and it’s brutal, not just for the people who need those services, but for their families as well.

Greg Strandberg is using resentment because he saw it worked for Trump, so he’s trying it out to further his own political ambitions. And what are those ambitions? To help out Greg Strandberg, and fuck everyone else.

Well, I have a message for Greg Strandberg: fuck you too, pal.

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Too Much

by William Skink

I have wanted to write a handful of posts, but finding the time and motivation is hard right now. Last night I was going to write about the latest attempt by the PC police to shame Missoula’s Day of the Dead parade for cultural appropriation, but other things took priority.

Then today happened. The shooting in Las Vegas. And Tom Petty dead at 66.

I don’t have anything constructive to say right now. There is too much noise. Sometimes I wonder if being overwhelmed is not just a personal experience, but a political strategy.

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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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