University Of Montana Posts Biggest Undergraduate Decline Of ALL Flagship Universities In Past Decade

by William Skink

A new report from the Chronicle of Higher Education highlights the uncomfortable fact that no other flagship University in the entire country has lost more students this decade than the University of Montana in Missoula.

Since 2011 the undergraduate count has dropped 30%. The only University that comes close to UM’s decline is the University of Alaska at 18%.

So what is contributing to this decade of plummeting enrollment? Is the curse of Jon Krakauer to blame? According to the article, in part, yes:

What’s behind the drop? One possible reason is a sexual-assault scandal.

Montana has faced intense scrutiny from the news media and the government for its handling of sexual-misconduct cases. In 2013, Montana officials agreed to overhaul the university’s policies after a joint investigation by the U.S. Departments of Justice and of Education.

In 2015 the author Jon Krakauer published a book about the scandal, Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, that chronicled the painful experiences of several Montana students who reported sexual assaults. And last year the Education Department imposed a fine against Montana of nearly $1 million for alleged Clery Act violations. The university has appealed that outcome.

Paula Short, a spokeswoman for Montana, acknowledged the challenges the university has faced since the start of the decade but disputed the idea that its struggles could be traced to a single cause. After years of transition within the enrollment and admissions units, Short said Montana had found stability and is prepared to vigorously recruit students, from both inside the state and outside it.

“The president has put together a new team focused on student success, and one that hopes to excite students with the UM story,” Short said.

I agree with Short, the rape scandal is not the single cause of UM’s decline, but I understand how those outside our community would take the unique factor of a popular author’s focus as an easy explanation.

While Universities are behemoth institutions that do take time to change, I can’t help but think that UM harbors some un-quantifiable degree of arrogance/denial that never effectively dealt with what Krakauer identified.

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Trump Derangement Syndrome Now Producing Impeachment Fever

by William Skink

Trump Derangement Syndrome has so crippled the thinking of Democrats that they are working themselves up into an impeachment frenzy again over a presidential phone call to Ukraine that an anonymous whistleblower heard about second hand and filed a complaint about.

It’s absolutely maddening to watch for a number of reasons, but also sort of amazing. The amazing part is all the recent historical context that will have to be kept suppressed by all the right legacy media platforms in order to keep the widespread corruption from infecting poor old dementia Joe.

It’s sad how many people sucking it up to support Joe Biden don’t understand how he monetized his Veep position just like Hillary did with her SoS role.

For those with short-term memory issues, let me offer a quick recap: five years ago Hillary Clinton and her neocon pal, Victoria Nuland, helped coercively transition Ukraine (also known as a “coup”) to the control of a different corrupt oligarch clique that included actual, real-life Nazis.

Just months after the coup, Biden’s son, Hunter, got a nice gig sitting on the board of a natural gas company, an area he had absolutely no experience in that warranted his handsome monthly payout. Robert Parry was all over this years ago, pointing out how hollow Biden’s lecturing of Ukraine’s parliament was. Here’s a meaty excerpt from Parry’s piece:

Worried about the continued corruption, Vice President Joe Biden, who took a personal interest in Ukraine, lectured Ukraine’s parliament on the need to end cronyism.

But Biden had his own Ukraine cronyism problem because three months after the U.S.-backed overthrow of the Yanukovych government Ukraine’s largest private gas firm, Burisma Holdings, appointed his son, Hunter Biden, to its board of directors.

Burisma a shadowy Cyprus-based company also lined up well-connected lobbyists, some with ties to Secretary of State John Kerry, including Kerry’s former Senate chief of staff David Leiter, according to lobbying disclosures.

As Time magazine reported, “Leiter’s involvement in the firm rounds out a power-packed team of politically-connected Americans that also includes a second new board member, Devon Archer, a Democratic bundler and former adviser to John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. Both Archer and Hunter Biden have worked as business partners with Kerry’s son-in-law, Christopher Heinz, the founding partner of Rosemont Capital, a private-equity company.”

According to investigative journalism inside Ukraine, the ownership of Burisma has been traced to Privat Bank, controlled by the thuggish billionaire oligarch Ihor Kolomoysky, who was appointed by the U.S.-backed “reform” regime to be governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, a south-central province of Ukraine (though Kolomoisky was eventually ousted from that post in a power struggle over control of UkrTransNafta, Ukraine’s state-owned oil pipeline operator).

In a speech to Ukraine’s parliament in December 2015, Biden hailed the sacrifice of the 100 or so protesters who died during the Maidan putsch in February 2014, which ousted Yanukovych, referring to the dead by their laudatory name “The Heavenly Hundred.”

But Biden made no heavenly references to the estimated 10,000 people, mostly ethnic Russians, who have been slaughtered in the U.S.-encouraged “Anti-Terror Operation” waged by the coup regime against eastern Ukrainians who resisted Yanukovych’s violent ouster. Nor did Biden take note that some of the Heavenly Hundred were street fighters for neo-Nazi and other far-right nationalist organizations.

All these players are corrupt. Do impeachment-crazed Democrats really think they can keep their lying white male presidential candidate from being trounced by the compulsive lying white male currently occupying the White House?

Is everyone fucking crazy?

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Sheriff McDermott’s LivePD Problem Could Become Missoula County’s Legal Problem

by William Skink

When I first heard that Sheriff TJ McDermott was bringing LivePD to Missoula County, I thought to myself, well, that sounds like a terrible idea, so of course everyone will just go along with it. Despite problems experienced in other states, McDermott chose to move ahead with this bone-headed idea to turn Missoula County residents into entertainment for profit.

I’m obviously not the only one who thought this was a terrible idea considering McDermott felt the need to write his own column in the Missoulian explaining all the due diligence he did, which you can read here

To step back from this for a moment, let’s recall some of the more pressing issues facing our County: we have holes in a bridge, an overcrowded jail, escalating property taxes and a thriving homeless encampment the Sheriff’s Department is actively ignoring. So LET’S BRING IN THE CAMERAS, says the Sheriff.  

I imagine there is some second-guessing amongst elected officials happening right now after an angry parent with a terrorized 15 year old wrote this letter to the editor appearing in the Missoulian today (online). Here is the letter in full:

On Saturday evening my son, 15, was sitting in his car in a parking area near Missoula, collecting himself before driving home up Evaro Hill. A Missoula County sheriff’s officer pulled up and asked him nicely how he was doing.

Then a camera crew from LivePD jumped out of a vehicle nearby and hustled over with cameras and lights, and the officer suddenly became aggressive and intimidating. He shouted at my son to tell him how much he’d been drinking, told him “Don’t lie to me,” and repeatedly made my son follow his finger with his eyes. The officer then rushed off to a car accident, leaving my son with a secondary officer.

My son was terrorized. He does not drink and was doing nothing wrong, which is why he was released to his parents when we arrived 15 minutes later.

This contract the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office has with LivePD has already damaged community relations with law enforcement, starting with my teenage son. As a teacher, I have always supported other civil servants and promoted their work. But the sheriff’s office, production company and network are turning our citizens into entertainment for others, and the byproduct of that is appalling and destructive.

Well, that didn’t take long.

The Sheriff’s Department is apparently covered by the show’s insurance in case any litigation happens, which if I was the parent of this kid, I would be calling lawyers yesterday. Missoula County, however, is not covered. If this becomes a costly lawsuit for Missoula County, will there be any accountability for the elected official who went out of his way to get this dumb show involved with Missoula County residents in the first place, despite concerns voiced by community members?

Accountability doesn’t seem to be a concept that applies to our elected leaders, so I don’t expect much will come of this. I would love to be wrong.

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The Dark Crystal, An Analogy

by William Skink

There’s this post I’ve been trying to write for awhile now, but every time I start it I get a few sentences in, then trash it. I can’t seem to find a way to articulate the direction my recent reading has taken me.

Instead of jumping in to the books I’ve been consuming, I’m going to start with The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance, a prequel to the 1982 movie currently running on Netflix.

For those unfamiliar with Jim Henson’s puppet wizardry, here’s a brief description of the world Henson created–called Thra–and the creatures that inhabit it:

The native species of Thra include a multitude of critters and beasts, giant worms and flying stingrays, adorable Podlings and, most important of all, the Gelfling. These vaguely humanoid creatures are the primary species of Thra. Seven clans of Gelfling exist, scattered about the world—in its deserts and caves, its deep forests and shining cities, even out on its glimmering seas.

But then, two thousand trine ago, the Skeksis came to Thra. This bird-like alien species fled their own planet and came to Thra, where they tricked its guardian, Aughra (Donna Kimball) to leave the Crystal of Truth under their protection. They gave her a device that allowed her to send her spirit out into the universe, to travel the stars while she slept. And while she slept, they began to draw upon the power of the Crystal of Truth, slowly corrupting it until it became . . . The Dark Crystal.

They also subjugated the Gelfling and other species of Thra, bending them to their will and titling themselves the Lords of the Crystal. By the time the story picks up, pretty much all the Gelfling revere and worship the Skeksis as something akin to gods. They serve as their guards and pay inordinate tithes. The Podlings do the more menial labor, and so a sort of caste system exists, with the deplorable, hideous, disgusting Skeksis at the very top, led by their cruel Emperor.

One of the main protagonists, Rian, witnesses his friend drained of her very essence at the beginning of the series. The Skeksis eagerly consume this essence to maintain their supposed immortality. This incident is such an atrocious contradiction of everything the Gelfling have been taught to believe about their lords that the initial struggle for Rian is to survive long enough for him to directly communicate what he witnessed through a sharing of memories called dreamfasting.

Right now I feel exactly like Rian, but without the ability to effectively share what I think is happening in the world today, in part because I can’t find language that avoids figurative landmines. You’ll know what I mean by that by the end of this.

In Thra the planetary imbalance created by the Skeksis is called the darkening. Deep down I feel something like that is happening here, but terms like climate change don’t come anywhere close to getting at the underlying imbalance and how to address it.

The language problem I am having is echoed in the strategy of 1984:

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thought-crime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by eactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. . . . The process will still be continuing long after you and I are dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller.”

An oppressive power structure doesn’t need to disappear words to maintain control, some words and terms can be so loaded with baggage that they become weaponized. Obviously the term conspiracy theory comes to mind.

A term that keeps coming up in the books I’m reading, books like Ultimate Evil by Maury Terry and Rabbit Hole by survivor David Shurter, is Satantic Ritual Abuse. That term alone will get most people to shut down, stop listening, walk away. Keep talking about this kind of stuff, and you’ll just look like a crank.

Even if people do accept the possibility of SRA being a real thing, the scope that starts coming into focus the more one researches this topic is incredibly difficult to accept. To go further and assert that Luciferianism is a commonly shared spiritual belief among the 1%, and that it produces actual results in terms of acquiring power, well…are YOU still reading?

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Is Homelessness In Missoula Getting Better Or Worse?

by William Skink

After the second sewage-line failure at Western Montana’s largest emergency shelter and soup kitchen, the Poverello Center, and nearly a quarter million in renovation costs, the men’s dorm is set to reopen later this week.

What guests of the shelter and staff have had to deal with this summer–with mattresses on the floor and a host of other disruptions and aggravations–reminds me of how the old shelter use to function. I worked at both locations and can remember how incredibly unsafe the old location became as the need increased.

Back then it was widely understood that we were sleeping too many people at the old facility. There are codes to follow, and yet to close down the old Pov, especially during winter, would mean someone else would have to step up and deal with the population the Pov was serving.

So, what happened when we were beyond the number of people we could safely sleep? Well, we’d get helpful feedback from the authorities, like a person sitting in a chair is not considered someone sleeping, thus we could exceed the maximum occupancy number.

When the new Poverello Center was designed, if I remember correctly, it was designed to serve, at maximum, 120-140 people. We quickly exceeded those numbers because, unlike the messaging from the Mayor’s office, the Pov is dealing with on-the-ground reality, and that reality is the persistent worsening of homelessness.

The Poverello Center has gone above and beyond its capacity to address multiple, chronic, systemic societal ills in ways that people without direct experience working there will never understand. The Pov staff make due, and they deserve massive credit for continuing to serve people through out this crisis.

So why did the crisis happen in the first place?

It was the design of the building that ultimately created this catastrophe.

In the Missoula Current article I linked to the use of the facility has increased because the need has increased. While the pipes were to code, the 4 inch sewage pipes were ultimately not able to handle the number of people using the facility:

“Our building was built with a certain amount of growth in the homeless population in mind,” said Thompson. “But in recent years, that growth has exploded well beyond what anyone who was involved with developing this building expected. This was especially true after 2016, when cuts were made to case management services across Montana. Suddenly we had people who were stably housed with case management services coming through our door because they could not maintain housing.”

The cost of repairs came to $240,000, and included increasing the size of some sewer lines, replacing all 90-degree turns in the plumbing line with 45-degree turns, and adding a sewer line back-up detection system along with an emergency shut off. Insurance paid $60,000. The rest was raised via community donations.

While the director describes the growth of homelessness in Missoula as explosive over the last few years, that’s not the message coming from the Mayor’s office. For example, in January of last year this is what we were being told:

The city’s Reaching Home coordinator Theresa Williams and Eran Pehan, the director of the city’s Office of Housing and Community Development, gave an update of the progress over the last five years and outlined plans for the future. They were joined by Jill Bonny, who manages veterans’ programs for the Poverello Center homeless shelter.

“We have seen homeless numbers go down by 350 people since 2011,” Pehan said. “We are seeing a decline, which tells us some of those efforts are working.”

I have been harping on this idea that the amount of homeless people has been going down because the numbers being referenced come from an annual point-in-time survey that DOES NOT provide an accurate portrayal of homelessness in Missoula.

To back up my assertion, I ran across some meeting notes where this point was made by none other than the director of the 10 year plan to end homelessness:

Concerning the Point in Time survey, Theresa explained they are also examining the question of how the homeless element can be measured. Current systems do not accurately capture this. Missoula receives 50% of statewide allocation for NOPA funds, of which The Point in Time count is a required condition. It takes place during the last week of January, and it is a literal headcount of the homeless population. The addition of real-time tech solutions greatly enhanced the logistical aspects of the count this past January. Despite program efforts which has led to a 10-20% reduction in homelessness in Missoula over the past several decades, Missoula still has the highest homeless population in the state, 27% by count, followed by Kalispell, Billings, and Great Falls. This is likely due in part to the availability of services in the Missoula area. Point in Time is a winter count, and the count is estimated to double in July, but despite any inaccuracies, the count satisfies HUD requirements.

So, by their own admission, the Point-in-Time survey is not an accurate measure of homelessness in Missoula.

After the last few winters and literal casualties from exposure, there is something that resembles a plan to get through the next few years until a more permanent solution is developed, although details are still not being provided. Here is the outline of the plan:

“We began meeting very early this year to ensure we were prepared for the upcoming winter season, “Pehan said. “We wanted to ensure we had a program in place, the funding and a facility to meet that need this year.”

Pecan said the necessary funding is now secured and the Poverello will serve as the lead provider. A host location has been identified for the season. No further details were available on the funding amount or the location.

I am eagerly awaiting those further details.

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18 Years Ago Today…

by William Skink

Today is the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It’s important to continue accepting the official story of what happened that day. To do otherwise is to become a conspiracy theorist–a label the authorities are doing their best to criminalize.

So, dear citizens, keep ignoring any evidence that contradicts the claim that two airplanes caused 3 buildings to collapse into their own foot prints, especially if it’s some kind of study that finds that something other than fire caused building 7 to totally collapse:

Today, we at Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth are pleased to partner with the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) in releasing the draft report of a four-year computer modeling study of WTC 7’s collapse conducted by researchers in the university’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The UAF WTC 7 report concludes that the collapse of WTC 7 on 9/11 was caused not by fire but rather by the near-simultaneous failure of every column in the building.

Ignore this report, good American citizens, because if you go down this rabbit hole you might discover who the real terrorists are. And we wouldn’t want that, now would we?

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Missoula Bridges, Man

by William Skink

Last month I wrote about a bridge to no where in Missoula. There has been no media about this $500,000 Missoula Redevelopment Agency investment since February, when work stopped because of “increment weather”.

Since last month’s blog post, the chainlink barring the public from enjoying their new bridge has come down and people are beginning to use it.

I assume there will be media attention at some point because bridges are a pretty big deal in Missoula. The shilling by County Commissioner Dave Strohmeier for anti-bridge property owners on South St. comes to mind, as does the big pedestrian bridge that conveniently extends the life of the URD to keep the cash flow to MRA going.

Missoula bridges, man. Scandalous!

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A Poem For The Woke Ones

by William Skink

woke not a joke you
bigot get chocked or
thrown off a boat
no dingy, no rope

I’ll soap out your mouth
then burn down your house
my woke hands around
your throat on the ground

get woke or get hit
with my tolerance fist
my letters are lit
as I spit righteous shit

in Tolerance Town
inclusion or die
the woke walk with purpose
the rest is a lie

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What Does Quarterback Andrew Luck’s Sudden Retirement Mean For The NFL?

by William Skink

With the sudden retirement of quarterback Andrew Luck, the NFL has a serious narrative/PR dilemma going into the 2019/2020 season. If you’re interested in the race/class implications, there is no one better than Nation writer Dave Zirin. Read the whole article. Here’s a taste:

This is a story that’s been unfolding like an onion, with many layers and no shortage of tears. There is the narrative about the toll this game has taken on Andrew Luck’s young body: a lacerated kidney, concussions, torn abdominal muscles, a shoulder injury that cost him a season, and mysterious ankle ailments that promised more surgeries and rehab. There is the reaction of Luck himself, someone whose reputation for loving football is renowned, saying that at 29 the sport had ceased to be fun. He commented in a choked-up voice, “I’ve been stuck in this process [of constant rehab]. I haven’t been able to life the live I want to live. It’s taken the joy out of this game… the only way forward for me is to remove myself from football.”

Then there is the palpable fear in the offices of the National Football League about what the retirement of Luck represents and the attendant public relations hit. Behind the pageantry, the war planes flying overhead, and the tailgating keg stands, this is a game largely played by black people from poor backgrounds for a largely white affluent fan base in the stands. Seventy percent of the league is black, and top tickets cost hundreds of dollars. A player like Andrew Luck masks that reality. He graduated from Stanford. He comes from an affluent family. He is white. He played football because he wanted to, not because he had to. And he chose to walk away. He decided that he didn’t need this anymore: that the game he loved—not to mention the fans he loved—didn’t love him back.

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Rejected Artist Cries MAMA!

by William Skink

I have felt like an artist without a community for a long time and it’s really starting to bother me.

I came to Missoula in 2000 to finish my English degree in creative writing. The people I met then were amazing, the workshops and professors were great, and Missoula itself captured me and didn’t let go. While most people I knew moved on, I stayed put.

For a time I was more connected to things. I did radio as DJ Chameleon for years on KBGA, made zines and facilitated a free poetry workshop. I participated in a few readings and had some poems included in an obscure Missoula publication edited by poet Mark Gibbons.

That period of my life seems like a long time ago.

Three kids and one midlife crisis later, I decided my inner artist needed some attention. Since I’ve been incubating/revising a story stuck at around 100 pages for the last 3 years, I thought applying to the UM’s stellar creative writing MFA program was a good idea. I got the rejection email last March.

More recently I’ve been looking to rent a space to show my mixed-media pieces (with an emphasis on Legos and other toy/junk found objects) while continuing to work on new poems and songs, videos, and still working on that website.

I thought I found a space that might work for what I was thinking called Wave & Circuit. I emailed the contact email and didn’t get response. Then I went to the website, read the FAQ, and submitted again. And again, no response.

I’m writing this butt-hurt, rejected-artist pity-party account of wanting to reconnect to some facet of Missoula’ s artistic community because I read this article in the Missoulian about MAMA–Missoula Area Music Association–and it sounds great:

A new group has formed to advocate for musicians in and around Missoula.

It’s a community effort “looking at all sides of the spectrum” to explore how “we can better serve the music scene,” according to Maria Zepeda, a musician and the organization’s president.

The Missoula Area Music Association, or MAMA, wants to create an open conversation among artists — whether new or veterans — and venues and businesses that host live music about what they both respectively need from each other, Zepeda said.

I’m going to go out on a limb and speculate that a major impetus behind MAMA forming is the monopoly-esque dominance of Nick Checota’s Logjam Productions in determining who gets access to Missoula’s main music venues.

While I totally support the idea of local artists getting together to better articulate their needs in a log-jammed music market, I wonder how prepared these members of MAMA are to be responsive to things like a potential paying customer inquiring about renting a commercial space. Here’s more from the article:

Zepeda said that “at the end of the day, we just want to empower musicians of any level, age, demographic, style, genre. There’s not any form of music that we don’t want to be a part of,” she said.

They’ve also reached out to advisers who can “provide other perspectives that we don’t have,” Brown said. Those include Barbara Neilen, executive director of Destination Missoula; Joe Glassy, co-operator of Wave & Circuit; Tom Bensen, executive director of Arts Missoula; Naomi Siegel, founder of Lakebottom Sound; Randy Rathert of Elevate Church and Matt Olson of Attack & Release Studios.

Good luck getting a better slice of the pie, MAMA.

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