Making Music Again

by William Skink

For most of the summer I have been locked out of using my ProTools recording software. My meager trouble-shooting abilities were not up to the task as the weeks became months. Finally, last weekend, with some help I re-subscribed and am up and running again.

For me, as an artist, I need to have creative projects to work on. This past week, with the software working again, I recorded a new song I wrote earlier this summer. I’m pretty pleased with the outcome, which you can check out below.

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Bakken Bunkhouses: Tale of Three Cities

By JC

Boom and bust; so goes the cartel capitalist cycle. But what to do when all of the man-camps start to dry up as the world saturates with the cheap oil of stagnant economies and petro-politics, leaving the expensive fracked fields of eastern Montana and North Dakota bleeding in the red?

Much of that temporary housing hauled in for the insta-cities and meth-fueled dens of oil workers is now being repurposed. And at least three cities in Montana are taking advantage of this unused housing. Missoula, Butte and Bozeman have purchased some of these units, but how they are being transformed into local housing speaks volumes about these towns. Their approaches differ radically for affordability issues, and associated homeless populations, the working and homeless poor, addicts leaving treatment looking for places to solidify their recovery, and convicts moving out of prison and back into communities.

Let’s start off with Butte. Some of you may know that the Butte Rescue Mission was forced to close in April due to code violations in the building they had used. So they purchased some of the surplus Bakken housing located in Watford City, North Dakota.

They acquired 11 units, each 720 square feet, and created a design with two pods — one with five units, the other with six, and where 56 people could live (more in the winter) and facilities like a commercial kitchens, dining area, restrooms/showers, and a children’s play area could be shared. There is room for offices for needed professional staff like case workers, counselors and mental health professionals.

Then they went on the hunt for land, and found 6.6 acres on Butte’s south side, where they are seeking a variance to assemble their new Rescue Mission. If all goes well, they hope to be up and running in October, a scant 6 months after losing their last facility.

And what is all of this going to cost the Butte rescue Mission? Well, they purchased the housing for $71,000 (that’s not a typo), and the money came from a donor. A quick look on realtor sites locates 23 acres for $385,000 about where the Mission said it is purchasing the land. Assuming they are taking 1/4 of this lot or similar land close by we can assume the price is around $100,000.

Mission Director Rocky Lyons said that they are looking for donors to help with the land purchase, and to move the units and set them up. I guess we can assume that Butte’s new Rescue Mission will cost next to nothing to the nonprofit, and house 56 people by October, given that all goes well.

That’s a pretty awesome deal, generating housing for 56 people on a shoestring budget of good will and donations, and the Rescue Mission should be applauded!

Let’s move on to Bozeman. HRDC, the nonprofit agency that is spearheading this housing effort, is thinking big. They purchased 75 of the new “cottages”  from Sidney MT through a broker. This is in addition to a proposed program to funnel a fixed percent of development costs in the city to a fund to subsidize land purchases and affordable housing, similar to that in Bend Oregon.

HRDC has gone to the trouble to quantify what each chronically homeless person in their community costs:

In fact, [the report] says, each chronically homeless resident costs Bozeman-area institutions, supported by taxpayers and charitable donors, a whopping $28,000 a year — more than twice the cost of providing shelter through the nonprofit’s rehousing program…

At the moment, HRDC is working with the Montana State University School of Architecture and St. James Episcopal Church to develop what they’re calling a “Housing First Village” — a cluster of comparatively cheap, tiny homes that could be an ideal setup for giving folks a path out of homelessness.

A “Housing First Village! Very enlightened idea, building tiny homes for less than $10k each. So how is Bozeman going to integrate Bakken housing into their vision? Good question. The costs and final plan haven’t been revealed yet. But Missoula also bought 10 of the same units as HRDC, and Heather McMilin, Homeword’s (Missoula) housing development director had this to say:

“We got them for what you would normally pay for the studs and the wires,” she said. “We got the units at a low enough cost that we can go in and work on landscaping and awnings and clustering and all that. It will be fun.”

So, they were cheap. The Indy priced them out at $35k each. Bozeman, which appears to have a good grasp on the needs of housing in its community, and the costs of homelessness, went all out spending several million dollars on a one-time great deal. Missoula bought 10 and just wants to have “fun” with its new units.

So what is Missoula going to do? Well, first off, 10 units is a drop in the bucket of Missoula’s housing crisis. And Missoula has a 10 year plan to address the issue. Here’s a story from the Kaimin earlier this year:

Now five years into the 10-year endeavor, Reaching Home coordinator Theresa Williams said the plan has shown no measurable effect on the homeless population.

So, Missoula’s Reaching Home program has had no success, yet Homeword wants to have “fun” with its 10 Bakken housing units. Sweet… And homelessness affects .75% of Missoula’s residents — somewhere around 1,000 people.

So let’s dig a little deeper into what is going to happen to the Bakken units. Here’s a snip from the same Indy article:

Homeword has identified a lot adjacent to the new Missoula Food Bank suitable for placing six of the units on permanent foundations in a “clustered” configuration.

Most important, [Homeword’s Andrea] Davis says, the project looks like it will make good on the structure’s initial promise as a good deal. Missoula residents need an annual income of $63,000 to afford a median-priced home in the city, but Homeword will use the federal HOME money to reserve five of the first six units for individuals earning only about half that much. After purchasing land, installing the units and sprucing them up, Davis says, Homeword should be able to sell them for $100,000 or less by the end of next year…

And with some resourceful touches, these little houses shouldn’t look like fire sales.

“There’s just an opportunity to make these cute,” Davis says.

So Missoula’s effort, having already spent $350k for the units, got a grant for $270k to renovate the new units, and prettify them with landscape and dolled up exteriors with awnings and color coordinate trim, plans to sell them for $100k each, or about a million bucks total. Which leaves a nice half million dollars of “profit” to the nonprofit.

I assume that those that can qualify for a $100k loan (about $30k per year according to Davis) to purchase one of these units are not homeless. After all, how can you apply for a loan when you neither have a physical address (“under the Reserve Street Bridge” don’t cut it), a job (flying a sign on a street corner or panhandling won’t work), a phone, or any sort of financial history? Of course you can’t.

But Missoula’s newest housing effort is going to have “fun” with its 10 “cute” Bakken units. And it’s going to place them next to the Food Bank:

“It would be an ideal location for people of limited needs, should they need the services of the Missoula Food Bank,” says Andrea Davis.

Can it get any more condescending than that?

Kudos to Butte for making home for at least 56 people by this fall and Bozeman for thinking big, and outside the box with tiny homes, developer fees, and Village concept (not to mention what the final plan will be for 50-75 of the Bakken units)! It’s back to the drawing board for Missoula with its pathetic nonexistent efforts to provide housing to people in desperate need of a new start in life, or for the working poor who are living out of their cars hoping that some day something will open up.

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Why Does Richard Spencer Think Zionists Should Respect People Like Him?

by William Skink

With all the recent attention on the rise of America’s white supremacist strain of fascism I’m curious if the anti-fascist resistance truly opposes fascism in all its guises, or just the American variety.

One of the more confusing aspects of America’s white supremacist movement is the coexistence of antisemitism with Zionism. Richard Spencer recently brought attention to this conundrum with an interview on an Israeli news channel where he said things like this:

When asked by anchor Dany Cushmaro how Jews should feel about the anti-Semitic nature of the protest, Spencer justified the racism, saying: “Let’s be honest… Jews are vastly overrepresented in what you could call ‘the establishment,’ that is, Ivy League educated people who really determine policy, and white people are being dispossessed from this country.”

Asked how he thought Jewish people would respond to that statement, Spencer replied: “…an Israeli citizen, someone who understands your identity, who has a sense of nationhood and peoplehood, and the history and experience of the Jewish people, you should respect someone like me, who has analogue feelings about whites.

“You could say that I am a white Zionist – in the sense that I care about my people, I want us to have a secure homeland for us and ourselves. Just like you want a secure homeland in Israel.”

For those who understand that Israel is an apartheid state, Spencer’s words shouldn’t come as a surprise. There is a lot about how Israel treats Palestinians that racists in America would love to emulate. For a deeply disturbing perspective on what it’s like to experience Israeli apartheid, Abby Martin’s recent interview on the Joe Rogan Podcast is worth checking out:

My suspicion is opportunistic politicians jumping on the bandwagon to score political points against Trump won’t risk their own political careers to extend their criticism to America’s support of the apartheid state of Israel. Israel will continue enjoying bipartisan support for its deeply racist policies and will continue receiving billions and billions of our tax dollars.

And white supremacists will continue admiring a nation that has so effectively institutionalized its violent, disgusting racist ideology.

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On The Need For Defining Narratives

If people really want to understand the persistence of white supremacist ideology they need to understand the powerful need people have to exist within the context of a narrative that transforms the chaos of life into definable structures of cultural value.

When dominant narratives break down and fall apart, like during times of national crisis, peripheral narratives have opportunities to seep in, especially if they claim restorative power in the face of national humiliation and defeat.

Nazi Germany, for example, emerged from the post-WWI conditions imposed on it by the victors. But don’t take it from me, here is a quote from a film featured at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website:

NARRATOR:

The humiliation of Germany’s defeat and the peace settlement that followed in 1919 would play an important role in the rise of Nazism and the coming of a second “world war” just 20 years later. What shocked so many in Germany about the treaty signed near Paris, at the Palace of Versailles, was that the victors dictated a future in which Germany was deprived of any significant military power. Germany’s territory was reduced by 13%. Germany was forced to accept full responsibility for starting the war and to pay heavy reparations. To many, including 30-year old former army corporal Adolf Hitler, it seemed the country had been “stabbed in the back”—betrayed by subversives at home and by the government who accepted the armistice. In fact, the German military had quietly sought an end to the war it could no longer win in 1918. “It cannot be that two million Germans should have fallen in vain,” Adolf Hitler later wrote. “We demand vengeance!”

The big news that capped another crazy week is the ouster of Steve Bannon. In the interview he gave The American Prospect, Bannon said something I happen to agree with (which of course to some will just further confirm I’m a card carrying member Alt-Right). Even though I’m opening myself up to further smears, here’s the part I agree with:

“The Democrats,” he said, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

I have been advocating for more focus on economic issues for awhile, but it just doesn’t seem to be in the Democratic DNA anymore. The lasting effects of what the Clintons did to the party in the 90’s is a significant factor in the rise of peripheral narratives gaining more traction.

In constructing my own fictional narrative (which I hope to start sharing soon) I researched two other significant factors contributing to what people are now seeing rise to the surface: the occult and conspiracy culture.

I’m not sure the reaction to what happened last weekend will lead to a better understanding of the elements at play, or a shift in focus from identity politics to economic populism. Instead, symbolic statues open to interpretation are being argued over, taking the battle in Charlottesville to dozens of different locations across the country.

With the media fanning the flames of conflict between Nazis and Antifa agitators, what happened last weekend will spread.

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Free Speech, Political Violence and American Supremacy

by William Skink

Protecting free speech is supposed to include speech we find repugnant. If it doesn’t, then shutting down all manner of expression will become easier.

Some efforts to shut down speech are not going to be effective. Take getting individuals who showed up at the Unite The Right rally fired from their jobs. What is that going to accomplish?

Dan Brooks took this up with a post that asks the questions Should we get white nationalists fired from their jobs? I commend Dan for eschewing the emotional reactions I am seeing everywhere on social media by actually using his brain to think through this ethical quagmire. And it is a an ethical quagmire.

Before getting to Brooks and his parsing of what constitutes being a Nazi who deservedly should get punched in the face and what is merely asshole white nationalism, this attempt by a GOP Congressman to punish a bank employee for her activism is worth noting:

The most powerful congressman in New Jersey, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, wrote a fundraising letter in March to a board member of a local bank, warning him that a member of an activist group opposing the Republican worked at his bank.

The employee was questioned and criticized for her involvement in NJ 11th for Change, a group that formed after the election of Donald Trump and has been pressuring Frelinghuysen to meet with constituents in his district and oppose the Trump agenda.

“Needless to say, that did cause some issues at work that were difficult to overcome,” said Saily Avelenda of West Caldwell, New Jersey, who was a senior vice president and assistant general counsel at the bank before she resigned. She says the pressure she received over her political involvement was one of several reasons she decided to leave.

Is this ok? I doubt anyone celebrating white supremacists getting fired would think this scenario is acceptable. It’s too bad they don’t seem to understand how their righteous efforts to shut down speech they don’t agree with will make it easier for anyone to shutdown speech they don’t agree with.

When I received a threatening letter at work, it was clear the anonymous author of the letter intended to negatively impact my employment. Did my opinions change? No. Was I more resolved than ever to continue expressing my opinions? Hell yes.

Getting back to Brooks’ piece, his conclusion is a little problematic because it still includes calls to violence for those real Nazis. I suggest reading the whole article because his conclusion probably deserves the full context of his argument, which ends with this:

I am trying to ask what we are willing to do to the people for whom we have almost no sympathy at all. We should punch Nazis, but maybe we should refrain from punching people who merely resemble Nazis. Otherwise, the mechanisms of our disagreements might overpower their content. If you had a button on your desk that electrocuted anyone you disagreed with, you could solve the Nazi problem real quick. Maybe, though, you would generate a new problem entirely.

Brooks is trying to remind us that slopes can be slippery. He’s hedging his argument with a casual reference to violence–we should punch Nazis. How about shooting them in the streets?

Former Missoula Councilman, Jason Wiener, recently posed a simple question (with a link to what happened in Virginia). The question he asked is What is the solution to this? Of the first three comments, two referenced violence:

Pete Youngstrom: When did shooting nazis in the street become a bad thing?

Heath Carey: Perhaps it’s time to give the “tree of liberty” its due manure.

It’s not surprising that some people are going to think more violence is the solution. It used to seem like the right had that market cornered, and while the death count still heavily leans toward the lethality of right-wing extremists, I’m worried there is increasing acceptance across the political spectrum that violence is an inevitable means of enacting political change.

The main reason I have a hard time taking all the moral righteousness over this violent rally in Virginia seriously is because there was 8 years of violent neoliberal foreign policy that American Supremacists who supported the Obama regime seemed to find more than acceptable.

The American-backed coup in Ukraine is a perfect example. One violent consequence of enacting a coup in Ukraine was empowering very real Nazis. This reality was brutally exposed in May of 2014 when this happened:

As much as the coup regime in Ukraine and its supporters want to project an image of Western moderation, there is a “Dr. Strangelove” element that can’t stop the Nazism from popping up from time to time, like when the Peter Sellers character in the classic movie can’t keep his right arm from making a “Heil Hitler” salute.

This brutal Nazism surfaced again on Friday when right-wing toughs in Odessa attacked an encampment of ethnic Russian protesters driving them into a trade union building which was then set on fire with Molotov cocktails. As the building was engulfed in flames, some people who tried to flee were chased and beaten, while those trapped inside heard the Ukrainian nationalists liken them to black-and-red-striped potato beetles called Colorados, because those colors are used in pro-Russian ribbons.

As the fire worsened, those dying inside were serenaded with the taunting singing of the Ukrainian national anthem. The building also was spray-painted with Swastika-like symbols and graffiti reading “Galician SS,” a reference to the Ukrainian nationalist army that fought alongside the German Nazi SS in World War II, killing Russians on the eastern front.

The death by fire of dozens of people in Odessa recalled a World War II incident in 1944 when elements of a Galician SS police regiment took part in the massacre of the Polish village of Huta Pieniacka, which had been a refuge for Jews and was protected by Russian and Polish partisans. Attacked by a mixed force of Ukrainian police and German soldiers on Feb. 28, hundreds of townspeople were massacred, including many locked in barns that were set ablaze.

After the violence last weekend, I saw lots of claims that THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE. I don’t agree. I think a country that willfully ignores its own history (who financed Hitler? who helped Nazi scientists get jobs in America?), and ignores or downplays its own imperial crimes, will inevitably be comprised of citizens who see violence as a solution to their problems.

The extreme right used to dominate in this area. Not anymore. The political consensus of pursuing a violent foreign policy across the globe is increasingly being reflected by a political consensus at home that violence against political opponents is inevitable.

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More Stink Coming From Glacier Hope Homes

by William Skink

The post I wrote about Glacier Hope Homes at 4&20 Blackbirds continues attracting comments that add additional odor to the stinking pile I first caught a whiff of in June, 2015.

When I had some conversations earlier this year with service providers in the Flathead area familiar with GHH, one person mentioned a shady funder in Great Falls. I didn’t get a name then, but now if you go to the GHH website, it seems there is a little more information about their funding:

Glacier Hope Homes, Inc. is financially supported by Veterans Seal Team, a non-profit from Great Falls, Montana that supports organizations that provide services to Veteran Organizations. Veterans Seal Team has provided capital for our monthly expenses as well as supporting our Veterans with supplements from its founding company, Safer Medical of Montana, Inc. Mr. George Ackerson, the founder and principle of both Veteran Seal Team and Safer Medical of Montana, Inc. is fully committed to supporting and reacclimatizing any Veteran that desires help and wants to be a part of society as a whole functioning body. George is a helicopter pilot from Viet Nam era. He understands the needs and has the desire to provide help to our Veterans.

According to the document at the original link (at 4&20, pdf), Ackerson faced indictment in District Court for forgery and counterfeiting in the 90’s. There are other allegations floating around as well.

Glacier Hope Homes recently moved and is now located in Columbia Falls. I am not sure why the move occurred. GHH also claims to offer a plethora of services, but from the people I’ve talked to, those services mostly don’t exist. So if you go to the website and see that services like career counseling, job placement, and assistance in filing for benefits is offered, be very, very skeptical.

I would also suggest any Vet interested in GHH ask how much labor around the property is expected of Veterans.

If anyone wants to contact me about GHH, you can send an email here: willskink at yahoo dot com. I received an email recently from someone who is interested in talking to other people with direct experiences.

I will also add that it would be nice if an actual reporter looked into this. I think there is a story here that needs to be told. If the allegations I’ve heard are true, people have already been taken advantage of.

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With New Evidence Proving Russia Did Not Hack US Election, How Will The Resistance Respond?

by William Skink

James Damore, the Google employee martyred by upper management for sharing his opinion internally with peers, is just the latest example of a liberal ideology grown increasingly brittle to criticism. Here is more Damore from an op-ed he was invited to write for the Wall Street Journal:

We all have moral preferences and beliefs about how the world is and should be. Having these views challenged can be painful, so we tend to avoid people with differing values and to associate with those who share our values. This self-segregation has become much more potent in recent decades. We are more mobile and can sort ourselves into different communities; we wait longer to find and choose just the right mate; and we spend much of our time in a digital world personalized to fit our views.

Google is a particularly intense echo chamber because it is in the middle of Silicon Valley and is so life-encompassing as a place to work. With free food, internal meme boards and weekly companywide meetings, Google becomes a huge part of its employees’ lives. Some even live on campus. For many, including myself, working at Google is a major part of their identity, almost like a cult with its own leaders and saints, all believed to righteously uphold the sacred motto of “Don’t be evil.”

Echo chambers maintain themselves by creating a shared spirit and keeping discussion confined within certain limits. As Noam Chomsky once observed, “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.”

But echo chambers also have to guard against dissent and opposition. Whether it’s in our homes, online or in our workplaces, a consensus is maintained by shaming people into conformity or excommunicating them if they persist in violating taboos. Public shaming serves not only to display the virtue of those doing the shaming but also warns others that the same punishment awaits them if they don’t conform.

As someone who has challenged the echo chamber of Montana Democrats from the heart of their liberal stronghold in Missoula, I can identify with what Damore is experiencing right now. But if I thought pushing back against the rationale to destroy Libya was tough, challenging the accepted narrative that Russia hacked the US presidential election appears even more difficult.

For those of us who didn’t self-segragate into the resistance echo chamber after Trump was elected, The Democrat/MSM/Intelligence campaign to scapegoat Russia for HRC’s shocking electoral defeat was obvious. Every new headline was anonymously sourced and inflated claims, like all 16 alphabet soup agencies agreed that Russia hacked the election, quickly deflated when scrutinized.

Unfortunately for all humans living on this planet, the resistance has been impervious to mounting evidence that the case against Russia has slowly collapsed.

A few days ago The Nation picked up on a report that should be the stake through the heart of this brazen propaganda campaign to de-legitimize Trump. Here are legitimate professionals in the field of intelligence providing forensic evidence that the emails from the DNC were leaked, not hacked:

Lost in a year that often appeared to veer into our peculiarly American kind of hysteria is the absence of any credible evidence of what happened last year and who was responsible for it. It is tiresome to note, but none has been made available. Instead, we are urged to accept the word of institutions and senior officials with long records of deception. These officials profess “high confidence” in their “assessment” as to what happened in the spring and summer of last year—this standing as their authoritative judgment. Few have noticed since these evasive terms first appeared that an assessment is an opinion, nothing more, and to express high confidence is an upside-down way of admitting the absence of certain knowledge. This is how officials avoid putting their names on the assertions we are so strongly urged to accept—as the record shows many of them have done.

We come now to a moment of great gravity.

There has been a long effort to counter the official narrative we now call “Russiagate.” This effort has so far focused on the key events noted above, leaving numerous others still to be addressed. Until recently, researchers undertaking this work faced critical shortcomings, and these are to be explained. But they have achieved significant new momentum in the past several weeks, and what they have done now yields very consequential fruit. Forensic investigators, intelligence analysts, system designers, program architects, and computer scientists of long experience and strongly credentialed are now producing evidence disproving the official version of key events last year. Their work is intricate and continues at a kinetic pace as we speak. But its certain results so far are two, simply stated, and freighted with implications:

There was no hack of the Democratic National Committee’s system on July 5 last year—not by the Russians, not by anyone else. Hard science now demonstrates it was a leak—a download executed locally with a memory key or a similarly portable data-storage device. In short, it was an inside job by someone with access to the DNC’s system. This casts serious doubt on the initial “hack,” as alleged, that led to the very consequential publication of a large store of documents on WikiLeaks last summer.

Forensic investigations of documents made public two weeks prior to the July 5 leak by the person or entity known as Guccifer 2.0 show that they were fraudulent: Before Guccifer posted them they were adulterated by cutting and pasting them into a blank template that had Russian as its default language. Guccifer took responsibility on June 15 for an intrusion the DNC reported on June 14 and professed to be a WikiLeaks source—claims essential to the official narrative implicating Russia in what was soon cast as an extensive hacking operation. To put the point simply, forensic science now devastates this narrative.

Once again, those of us outside the echo chamber expressing skepticism were absolutely right to be skeptical. But how will the resistance respond?

I know how partisan bloggers like Don Pogreba have responded to me in the past, and that’s to use mockery and terms like “conspiracy theory” to discredit my opinions and sources. Apparently establishment Democrats have no better response than something I would expect to read from Intelligent Discontent The Montana Post. Here is the DNC response to The Nation’s piece:

Editor’s note: After publication, the Democratic National Committee contacted The Nation with a response, writing, “U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded the Russian government hacked the DNC in an attempt to interfere in the election. Any suggestion otherwise is false and is just another conspiracy theory like those pushed by Trump and his administration. It’s unfortunate that The Nation has decided to join the conspiracy theorists to push this narrative.”

This is the response of a desperate political party still totally invested in the now discredited narrative that Russia hacked the election.

It doesn’t seem to matter how many investigations have so far produced no substantial evidence of Trump’s collusion with Russia to hack the election.

It doesn’t seem to matter how much money and time is being wasted focusing on this cooked-up scandal when so many other dire issues are literally begging our lawmakers for attention.

It doesn’t even matter that tensions with Russia have surged to levels unseen since the height of the Cold War.

Nope, the party of safe spaces and identity politics is too invested in this propaganda campaign to admit defeat now.

As the Democratic Party and its Deep State colluders continue pushing the world closer to another world war, the rest of the world continues seeing America as the biggest threat to world peace, just like they did back in 2013, when Obama was president.

It’s amazing the different perspectives that exist outside the echo chamber of the resistance. If that echo chamber isn’t dismantled and its prisoners liberated, I’m afraid those perspectives will be destroyed along with our ability to live on this planet.

If the resistance can’t admit the narrative they so desperately hoped would be their ticket to depose Trump is nothing more than a contrived intelligence op, then we are in real trouble. Anyone who has perpetuated this false narrative has a responsibility to bring attention to this new evidence.

If they don’t, and knowingly continue pushing this false narrative, then I hope they are seen as the dangerous ideologues they are–hopefully before a nuclear war with Russia or a civil war in the States breaks out.

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Remembering The Murder Under The Reserve Street Bridge The Summer Of 2014

by William Skink

When we bought our tickets to Colorado this Spring my wife and I wondered if an August departure date would be our ticket out of a smoke-filled valley. Well, I think we got our answer.

The last time our family had Summer Colorado plans the circumstances were quite different. We had one less kid, the trip was by minivan (not plane) and instead of leaving behind smoke, I was leaving behind the murder case of a homeless man I had a small role in assisting the authorities with.

That was the summer of 2014, and this year’s trip got me thinking about that summer and what happened to Jack Berry under the Reserve Street bridge.

My role started before Jack’s body was found in the river. I was told by another camper living in the area that his friend Jack had been shot, but at the time I didn’t believe him. He had mental health issues and was prone to inappropriate outburst during conversations, especially when under the influence.

About a week later I knew he wasn’t delusional when I heard a body had been found in the Clark Fork River. I had a weekly appointment to meet a client I was working with who lived in the area, and the day I heard about the body was the day I was supposed to visit him.

I biked toward Reserve early to try and catch him coming back from his daily convenience store stop. I didn’t want to go near the Reserve Street bridge that day. As I was biking I heard my name shouted out. I looked to my right and saw a group of people sitting against the back-end of what is now Jimmy Johns.

The guy who shouted my name was one of the only people I recognized. They knew me from my work at the shelter and asked if I had heard the news. I said I had and that I was worried it was someone I knew. That’s when Jack’s girlfriend spoke up, identifying herself and claiming to know exactly what happened.

With pen and notepad I took down her statement. She told me who was involved and described what they did to his body. He was beaten, then tortured, then shot and dumped in the river. I scribbled notes, trying to keep up as it poured out of her.

Later, after debriefing with my supervisor, I wrote up a report and hand-delivered it to the Sheriff. He told me the description of what was done to Jack matched the initial examination of the body. Hoping it wasn’t true, that confirmation sent shivers down my spine.

My trip to Colorado that summer became an escape. A few days after the initial shock, the same client who shouted me out ran into me at the shelter and warned me that one of Lino’s accomplices was sitting there listening as Jack’s girlfriend told me what happened. Knowing what I know now, I am almost certain it was Jonah Cook.

To put it mildly, I was slightly alarmed to hear that someone who may have participated in the torture and murder of another human being had been sitting within striking distance of me as I squatted scribbling down details of this horrific crime.

That was bad enough, but it got worse.

Before getting to what I know, let me back up and say there is an ongoing question about what happened to one of Lino’s followers, Missoula resident Monte Swanson. Monte fled Missoula with Lino, Lino’s girlfriend and Jonah Cook but has since gone missing. This article is a good account of events leading up to Monte’s disappearance. Here is a portion of that story:

After a month and a 100-officer manhunt involving police dogs, Lino was found in a river bottom near Shreveport, Louisiana, and subsequently extradited to Montana to face a deliberate homicide charge. Marchese was also picked up, but those charges were later dismissed.

While Lino was facing extradition for the murder charge he denied, Swanson and Cook remained in a camp outside Shreveport. The last time the Eldeens spoke with their son, a Shreveport sheriff’s deputy agreed to go out to the camp and give Swanson a phone.

It was early September 2014, and he told them he was fine and they were moving on to Maine.

According to interviews Dominick conducted with Marchese later, Cook told her that Swanson disappeared in Mississippi. He told Marchese that Swanson went to go panhandle and never returned, leaving a puppy unattended in the camp.

Let me fill in some additional context to this excerpt. There was a 100-officer manhunt to find this killer and his accomplices because several opportunities to catch him locally were missed.  I know because one of the calls trying to alert police to Lino’s presence at Kiwanis park came from me.

I left on my road trip knowing Lino and his crew had fled Missoula.  I didn’t know what direction they went, but I was unsettled hitting the road, enough to call my boss for any updates.  She told me they were ticketed in Colorado, just a half hours drive from where I was staying.  Police didn’t know who they had, so they were off again.

When I came across a guy panhandling in a parking lot, I gave him a buck and told him I worked at a shelter in Montana and that a homeless man had been murdered and his killer was on the run.  The guy looked up, nodding his head.  He told me police were all over the camps asking questions.

Lino was eventually caught, brought back and sentenced to prison.  Jonah Cook is a free man.  And Monte Swanson, as far as I can tell, is still missing.

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Does Sue Malek Really Think Montana’s Budget Woes Are Trump’s Fault?

by William Skink

Donald Trump gets to play the role of President for a reason, and I think that reason is to be the fall guy for the coming economic crash.

This line of thinking resonated with me before the election so much that I predicted Trump winning on Halloween. That he actually won can be seen as confirmation.

This notion will never get purchase with the resistance to Trump because they are either too busy looking for Russians under every rock to grasp this crafty set-up, or preparing for the next impotent march for science, or truth, or whatever the current fashion of the moment is.

When the bubbles the Federal Reserve quantitatively eased back into existence burst, Trump and all the ignorant rednecks who voted for him will get the blame.

It’s already starting over at “The Montana Post” with a piece from Sue Malek, titled The Trump Effect–there goes our economy. Let’s take a look at this attempt to view the economic swindle through the partisan lens of a member of the resistance.

I’m not too interested in the opening framing of Trump’s fiscal irresponsibility because he wasn’t president then. What I am interested in is how Malek pulls of tricks like this:

The author of CHICKENSHIT CLUB was recently interviewed on Charlie Rose. He contends that our super-bright and well-educated US Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys are failing to file criminal charges against white collar criminals like those who led the 2008-2009 financial crisis. DOJ is fining banks and corporations but not filing criminal chargers against perpetrators. CEOs whose unethical behavior resulted in hundreds of thousands of Americans losing their jobs, their retirements, their homes, and their health insurance walk free with millions in their pockets.

I’m worried about that policy, but currently I’m more worried that Donald Trump is in charge of our economy. A recent Rockefeller Foundation study notes that 21 states, including Montana, are experiencing a budget shortfall in income taxes. Rich people are not paying the taxes they usually pay. They are delaying taking profits waiting for Trump’s proposed big tax cuts for the wealthy. Economists call it the “Trump Effect.”

Is Sue Malek too chickenshit to acknowledge that until 7 months ago the DOJ was being run by Obama administration appointees? It would appear so, since that awkward fact is not explicitly mentioned. Instead we get a quick pivot to Trump and some simplistic explanation of why Montana, along with 20 other states, are facing budget shortfalls.

Articles like this really piss me off because this duplicitous partisan scapegoating of one political wing actually reinforces the corrupt political duopoly the billionaires and hedge fund managers and extractive industries effectively control.

Sue Malek and the other authors of The Montana Post want to direct righteous anger away from their team’s complicity and toward their political opponents. That’s just politics, right?

I get it, Trump is too much of a visceral threat for the resistance to have the cognitive capacity to also acknowledge the role Democrats played in the bailing out of Wall Street, and the specific role the Clintons had in selling out the Democratic Party.

When I think of the Trump Effect, it’s not some vague theory cooked up by un-named economists about rich people not paying the taxes the usually would. How does that even work? Sue Malek doesn’t really explain this theory, or offer even a link to which economists are making this claim.

It is a handy theory if you want to blame Montana’s fiscal crisis on Trump and omit the pesky fact Governor Bullock signed SB 261 into law without a fight, allowing his political opponents to be long gone from Helena before this delayed legislative time-bomb started going off.

Here is how Logicosity put it in a post titled A Better Way Requires an Iota of Leadership:

Governor Bullock believes Montana has a story to share with the country.

He’s very proud of his four and one-half record as chief executive. He frequently reminds listeners about the number of bills he’s vetoed to hold the line against right-wing extremism and assaults on the state’s enviable fiscal picture.

Maybe he missed one.

According to Dan Villa, the Bullock staffer sent to brief the media on Tuesday about mandatory budget cuts on Tuesday, the Governor doesn’t like a new law that contains revenue thresholds, which if not met, triggers progressive spending reductions. The first installment announced on Tuesday requires state government to ax $74.0 million and lay off 20 or so employees.

The distinct inference of Villa’s comments about the cuts is that the Governor had a better plan than the one spelled out in Senate Bill 261.

So why did he sign the damned thing into law on May 22?

Had he vetoed it, his administration’s concerns would have a hint of credibility – – – he could have claimed the policy high ground, even if lawmakers had overridden it.

Without that act, the complaints ring hollow.

Well said. And it will probably need to be re-said as Bullock tests the political waters for his next job while pretending to be attentive to his current job leading a state in fiscal disarray and literally on fire.

Montana’s budget crisis did not happen because Trump got elected. And when the next economic crash hits, it also will not be the result of Trump’s occupation of the White House.

But that won’t stop the partisans from using Trump as the fall guy for the corporate scams being run on zero-interest liquidity injected into these zombie institutions for nearly a decade.

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Quick Hits, July Edition

by William Skink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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