Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Paying dearly for lapse in vigilance

Technology Breaktrhough!
Virtual Brain Imaging Reveals Stunning Photos of What  Ravalli County Commissioners Are Thinking When They Say "Land-Use Planning"

Note: I never posted this on-line, but it seems appropriate a week before the elections so here it is. I sent this to the Bitterroot Star before the last primaries, when Bitterrooters where lamenting that "if we could only get rid of Suzy...". My point then, as it is now, is that such  destructive, extremist politicians like Ravalli County Commissioner Suzie Foss are not the disease by a long shot. They are only the sad symptoms of public discussion atrophying into gangrenous dysfunction to the point where a confounding person like her could ever be in the position she was in. Wealthy elites generally don't like democracy, you see, and gangrenous dysfunction is O.K. with them for now. Getting rid of Suzie was like taking aspirin for hemorrhagic fever. The Northern Rockies, both its environment and its people, have suffered mightily for decades from far-right extremism packaged as "conservative values" by the deep-pocket developers who cash in on dysfunction, and they haven't gone anywhere. If you liked Suzie Foss, wait until you see Theresa Manzella.

Remember: you heard it here first.

Posted on March 6, 2014 in the Bitterroot Star: Letters
Remember Celebrating Conservatism? That good old Johnny Reb revivalist show that camped at our publicly-funded fairground for a couple years after the 2008 elections? You must remember them, especially if you want to understand how this county got itself into this current pickle we are all paying dearly for.
A reminder then. Celebrating Conservatism was the outfit that marched a hit parade of extreme-right rock stars through our county to “educate” us about various conspiracy theories that, according to them, warranted advocating for civil war or at least for threats of violence against those they disagreed with:
• Red Beckman, the Montana Freeman associate who threatened to shoot federal employees and who taught us that the Holocaust was God’s punishment on the Jews for killing Jesus.
• Richard Mack, the Sovereign-Citizen darling who taught us that the county sheriff was the supreme law of the land and has the right to conscript you, the citizen, at will to construct fortifications around Hamilton against the time coming when black helicopters land here with Belgian troops to enforce Agenda 21.
• Shaffer Cox, who was arrested immediately after being a featured speaker at Celebrating Conservatism’s “Liberty Convention” for plotting to kill Alaska state troopers and a judge and who is now serving decades of hard time for it (talk about not doing a background check!).
• Gary Marbut of Montana Shooting Sports Association, who shared the stage with Shaeffer Cox in Hamilton on at least one occasion.
• And many more.
Remember the secessionist manifestos Celebrating Conservatism circulated and that hundreds of Ravalli County citizens – including several who now sit on our governing boards – signed?
• The “Ravalli County Questionnaire”, the cut-and-paste, common-scheme paper terrorism threat to county employees that they would be tried by a “citizen grand jury” if they didn’t buckle to the signers’ paranoid demands?
• The “Second Amendment Declaration”, which threatened civil war if one more law they didn’t approve of was passed?
All three commissioners – Foss, Stoltz and Kanenwisher – as well as County Attorney, Bill Fulbright, who won their seats in the 2010 election, were either directly tied to Celebrating Conservatism, signed their secessionist threats or pandered to the groundswell of paranoia this group represented for their votes and support. Also directly tied or associated with this extremist group are:
• Terry Nelson, chair of the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee, who was appointed by ALL FIVE Republican commissioners to fill a well-paid government position (with health care benefits!) he was not qualified for.
• Jeff Burrows, who was appointed by ALL the remaining Republican commissioners after Kanenwisher pulled a Palin and split the country.
• Valerie Stamey.
• Her husband, Rick Stamey, who now sits on our Planning Board.
• Almost every other surviving member of the Planning Board.
• Members of every other county board that has had vacancies filled since the 2010 extremist coup.
• The “Ravalli County Tea Party Patriots”.
How did we allow ourselves to get into this mess? It didn’t happen overnight, and it isn’t the fault of one single treasurer or three single commissioners. They, as well as the local Republican hierarchy in general – Chilcott, Iman, Hawk, Thomas, etc. – are doing exactly what they told you, the voter, they intended to do. They are remaking our governing bodies into their own developer-beholden images.
Stamey, Foss, Ballance, Boulanger and, now, Theresa Manzella, are really only the point people for this reactionary movement that has been going on within the developer circles of the local and state Republican Party since the militia flare-up here in the Bitterroot in the mid-90s. Remember that one? When Bitterroot Rep. Matt Brainard introduced a “state militia” bill in the legislature days before Oklahoma City was bombed? When the Ravalli County Courthouse received a bomb threat on THE SAME DAY as Oklahoma City? When Conrad Burns brought Militia of Montana founder John Trochmann to a congressional hearing immediately after the Oklahoma bombing to “school” senators on county supremacy and state’s rights? Twenty years later, Trochmann’s Sanders County protégé, Jennifer Fielder, is the vice-president of the Montana Republican Party. The proof’s in the pudding. So-called “moderates” within the state and local Republican Party organizations have not only never distanced themselves or their party from those who suffer from the extremist paranoid views of Celebrating Conservatism and Militia of Montana, they have PANDERED to them for their votes so they can continue the percolation of wealth and limited resources to their developer-benefactors.
It is critical that enough Ravalli County voters, whatever their party affiliation or non-affiliation is, understand the Montana Republican Party’s history over the last two decades and the dire consequences – now playing out at your local county administration buildings – of the unlearned lesson of allowing one’s bigotry to get the best of one’s common sense. Ravalli County voters: pay heed to what these people who seem so laughable to you now expound upon in public before you cast your votes again in any election of any significance, because these point people not only mean what they say, they have the developer-bucks and the “moderate” Republicans to back them up.
A note to doubters: all of the above is fact-checkable for the very simple reason that neither you nor I could possibly make it up.
No kiddin’.
Bill LaCroix, Victor, Montana

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


October, 1983, Florence, Idaho

There is no Florence, Idaho really. Just a network of old ditches through the forest that the Chinese dug by hand with hundred-year-old Doug-firs growing in them now. The Chinese aren’t here anymore. Nobody's here, except us and the Land, which was well on its way toward making a full recovery if we could have just left it alone, which of course we couldn’t.
A chickadee sings its fall song along the fireline where I’m mopping up with a piss pump and a Pulaski and I agree with her. It is a beautiful day, or at least it would be without the smoke. This fire got away. It was supposed to be a controlled burn to clean up the slash from yet another monstrous clearcut hemming in the Gospel Hump Wilderness just a couple miles to the east. But the wind came up at the wrong time and the fire lipped over the original line we’d dug this summer. Now we’ve dug another, a fresh scar of churned dirt through the twinflower and the beargrass that a Chickadee would be naturally curious about. Chickadees don’t scare easy, and they aren’t philosophers, either, as long as there are trees and visibility be damned. They are party animals, they talk a lot, and that's why other birds like to hang out with them. They’re attracted to congenial people while they’re doing woods work, just like us, and if given the choice, they’d rather not talk about depressing things. A savvy nuthatch or warbler can spend a lot less time searching out its own lonely meal and a lot more time following their chickadee friends around from one gregarious insect potluck to the next, learning much from the laughing chatterings of their buddies. Did you know that a chickadee will even change the frequency of its song when ambient noise levels of, say, a bulldozer or a shopping mall, steps on its ability to tell a good joke? Cheer up, cheer-up-today, they say. Tomorrow will be better, and the other birds believe them, and follow them faithfully to the next bugfest. They’re happy like no other bird I know, and I love a chickadee above all other birds.
The sky is blue when the wind shifts, a blue that’s deep enough to allow you to see far past what you're doing, which in my case is the untouched forests of a protected wilderness just a couple ridges over. The drainage within which this clearcut was chopped should have been included within those protected boundaries. It was recovered enough, in my opinion, to merit that much respect, notwithstanding the old ditches, and its inclusion would have gone far in rehabilitating compromised wildlife corridors. But that would have been in a sane world, which of course ours isn’t, so I’m almost perversely glad when the wind shifts the smoke back and I start gagging again. The hemming in of wilderness with monstrous clearcuts is proof that our toxic relationship to landscapes has long been intentional in case one needs such proofs, which I don’t. I can see the malfeasance with my own eyes whenever the smoke clears. But right now I'm trying to focus on my work, and I don't want to see. The key to concentration here is poor visibility. Did the Chinese miners who dug these ditches so far away from home, so long ago, know that?
I squirt some water on a smoke, kick up a little black ash with my shuffling boot and I wonder. These Florence diggings, they precipitated the first gold rush in the Northern Rockies, and were the reason the Nez Perce lost their beloved country, if reasons were needed, which we know they weren’t. Florence boomed for a little while, with thousands of miners escaping the Civil War back east in order to take their chances with the dysentery out West. They surveyed and then christened the Nez Perce’s beloved mountains “Idaho County” and made Florence its county seat. They then proceeded to do their best to turn their spanking new county upside down with the limited tools available to them and, incredibly, they did a pretty good job in only a few short years.
But then the diggings played out, as placer diggings always do, and the miners moved on to the next placer strikes, taking the county seat with them, because these were white miners, and they were leaving Florence to the Chinese who were more inclined to work the diggings for less wages and who, in the departing miners’ opinion, didn’t warrant a county seat. Gold is worth a lot to us, in other words, because we have as hard a time finding it as dealing with it and that Golden Rule is universally applicable. So the diggings played out for the Chinese miners, too. Lacking the reasons of gold or a county seat anymore, they moved on as well. The ditches are what remain of their days here, built for moving the water from where it was to where they needed it to wash the gold they wanted from the dirt they didn’t, and they, too, did an incredible job of turning much of the Land upside down with their mere hands.
Once, in the 1890s, when a road was constructed up the mountains in order to facilitate haul routes, the diggings were tried again. But it didn’t last long, and Florence held on as a tiny forest community for a few more decades until postal service was finally stopped in the early ‘50s, and the remaining buildings were either relocated or burned down. Both scenarios were common among western ghost towns, and I don’t know know where Florence really went. But I do know that the Land sighed when Florence finally disappeared and started its slow rewilding. It’s really as obvious as it is simple. The Land always has its say in the end, with or without us and you can hear her if you’ve got an ear for such things, if you really are interested in a joyful survival. It’s a dependable thing, I think, that we should take under advisement more than we do in these days when dependable things are in such short supply.
Almost dark and I come across Alan, chunking in a slash pile by the road. A brass water nozzle lies in a random spot of bare dirt by his foot and he’s leaning on a shovel. His Forest Service radio squawks fuzzily from his hip in its leather pouch, and he tells me that we are going to spend the night here. I’m gladdened at the news, out of my shuffling reverie in pursuit of subsistence wages, by the thought of more overtime, but more by the certainty Alan’s forest companionship. It's more than just work, now. I sit on a stump and we both breathe in deep, trying to find the good night smells through the smoke. I see his honest face unperturbed, as though he may be dreaming, so I open a can of fruit cocktail out of my C-Rations and offer him a pineapple.
“You like these fires, Alan?” I ask him, and in the last light I see him smile.
“Have you ever taken the ride from Fenn to Slate Creek with Romeo and Juliet and a drunken smokejumper?” he asks back.
“Not yet,” I say.
“Ah,” says Alan. “You see? It’s like beer. You have to acquire a taste for it.” He chunks in the remnants of the slash pile we sit next to, trying to tease up a flame. “You have to wait.”
His face flickers in the reddening dark, and I’m reminded suddenly of a white cloud in the sky this afternoon, a solitary promise against the cerulean uncertainty, and I know that Alan is dreaming for sure. A nighthawk swoops overhead, the chickadees are silent, and metal clanks against rock as our tools fall away and we move closer to the fire.
It’s not something to wonder about really. The chickadees surely laughed at the Chinese miners, too.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Foiled Again

Recently-deceased rain forests above Drift Creek just upstream from Drift Creek Wilderness, Central Oregon Coast

Dear Reader,
If you are one of those who have been trying to post comments on this blog, please accept my apologies. I can't seem to post them due to a screw-up in my e-mail. I value your time and thoughts and I do want to stay in touch, even if only in a 19th Century sort of way. I probably need a webpage manager. In the meantime, please try me direct at blacroix@cybernet1.com      Give my regards to the N.S.A. and ask them if they know where I put my favorite ball cap which also seems to have disappeared (might as well get our money's worth out of them). Also just for the record: I'm not making any loans to Nigerian princes or princesses this month. My funding sources dried up for that sort of thing. If you are of that persuasion and stumbled on my blog in your understandable attempts to make ends meet, try the N.S.A.

Seriously, dear readers, my thanks and apologies, and do stay in touch.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Thank You, Howard Zahniser

Here's another music video attempt of mine. 

The pictures and documents displayed are from my friend Stewart Brandborg's personal files and records. Brandy took over The Wilderness Society after Howard Zahniser's untimely death in 1964, a few months before Zahnie's eight-year Foggy Bottom slog to get a Wilderness Bill through our ever-unholy Congress was finally realized. It was Brandy's task to implement it against bureaucratic reluctance and intransigence within all the agencies that managed our public lands. The long story is a book that hasn't been written yet (I'm working on it!). For now, though, the short story is this: Brandy's dad (Guy M. Brandborg, pictured on his horse with Zahniser and AnnaVee Brandborg in the video) was a progressive forester from the Gifford Pinchot mold and his grandfather (on his father's side), was what you'd call a socialist back in the early part of the twentieth century when farmer's unions were getting going. Socialism and its progressive cousins are as American as rhubarb pie, just as John-Birch-Society-style "libertarianism" is. Guess which one you can thank for the wilderness law, and for Democracy, too, while you're at it? 

Brandy, as with his whole family, was well-read, well-steeped in social altruism, and a natural believer in Democracy (with a capital "D", not the FoxNews "fair and balanced" kind). With such a rich heritage, Brandy naturally gravitated to Howard Zahniser and his epic campaign to get Congress to pass the singular law that admitted that humility was a good quality for a majority of them to confess they had a little of. After the Law was passed, Brandy pretty much wrote the book on grassroots organizing in the latter part of the twentieth century in order to get it implemented. Other laws, and other grassroots campaigns, followed the trails cut out by the original Wilderness Society organizers. Political hyperventilation from the extractors and their mouthpieces hasn't let up since, of course. It's been mean and incessant for decades, to the point where we can only bear witness to the inscrutable, nasty yet ultimately ephemeral Tea Party phenomenum here in the Rockies. 

The Land, always, prevails. Be on the right side of it. Here's to the start of it all for those of us alive today. Here's to Howard Zahniser, Stewart Brandborg and here's to good ol' Democracy.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Good Grief!

How does one deal with the 21st Century?! I’m not talking about such rabid declines into corporate fascism as peaceful anti-war activists getting put on Hilary Clinton’s thuggish “Be On The Look-out” list (BOLO)[i] while serious Clinton-haters like Bundy’s Army[ii] not only don't get arrested and roughed up but are allowed to continue causing their homegrown brand of armed, terrorist mischief [iii] Maybe I should.
            But not today. Today, I’m upset about my own deficiencies, more specifically about my not being able to figure out these *&^%#$!#! websites and cyber-gizmos and such.
            To point: Several people have commented on my blog without “my” blog informing me. I’ve tried to fix it and, so far, I can’t. To be fair to myself, when I ask for advice from a tech-savvy person, their directions sound something like this to me: “Why it’s simple! Just go to New York City and turn right on 4th Street!”
            But never mind, I'm admitting that this is my problem, and that I’ve let it go on long enough. Therefore, to all of you who are wondering if I exist somewhere other than in the vacuum of cyberspace, here’s my own, personal, unencryptioned email address: blacroix@cybernet1.com .
I know, I know I shouldn’t do this. I’ve just publicly called Hilary Clinton a thug and a hypocrite (and maybe misspelled her name which I refuse to look up!), and look what happened to Ray McGovern for doing less than that. I'll probably get hamfisted now at some airport by one of those people who took advantage of that wonderful T.S.A. government jobs program. For the record, please check out the links below and see if you don’t agree that things are truly whacky, but for God’s sake don’t say it out loud unless you’re a teabaggin’ terrorist who fancies snakey flags while riding a horse and pointing loaded assault weapons at real federal agents! They, apparently, can get away with it. You, if you're the peaceful sort, apparently can't.
      I think we're far past the point of fearing our government...our government or of blithely saying "Oh, all that stuff doesn't effect me. I'm not doing anything wrong." I hate to point out the obvious, but by now rationales like that have allowed us to degenerate to the point where you're probably doing something "wrong" enough to get put on some thuggish list just by reading this.

Once again, to point, all I'm saying' is: 
  • To the N.S.A., Screw you.
  • To my friends and readers, please call.
Whatever you say say nothin'
When you talk about you know what
For if you know who should hear you
You know what you'll get
They'll take you off to you-know where 
For you wouldn't know how long
So for you-know-who's sake 
Don't let anyone hear you singing' this song.

You all know what I'm talking' about
When I talk about you-know-what
And I fear it's very dangerous 
To even mention that
For the other ones are always near
Although you may not see
But if anyone asks who told you that 
Please don't mention me.


You all know who I'm talking' about
When I talk about you-know-who
And you know who could hear me
You know what she'd do
So if you don't see me again
You'll know I've gone away
But if anyone asks you where I've gone
Here's what you must say.


That's enough about so-and-so
After mentioning such-and-such
And I better end my song right now
I've already said too much
For the less you say and the less you hear
The less you'll go astray
And the less you think and the less you do
The more you'll hear them say.

Whatever you say say nothin'
When you talk about you know what
For if you know who should hear you
You know what you'll get
They'll take you off to you-know where 
For you wouldn't know how long
So for you-know-who's sake 
Don't let anyone hear you singing' this song.
                                                         Words and music by Colum Sands, Elm Grove Music